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Barbarella: The Barbara Howe diary

Just as Barbarella bumps through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Barbara Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. But with a stable team and strong results in recent years, the 29 year-old Velo Bella rider looks set to navigate her way to the top of the US 'cross tree, where she hopes to be crowned 'Queen of the 'cross Galaxy'.

Follow the fortunes of this free-spirited individual here on Cyclingnews.

A week in the life of

Whitemore's Super Cross Cup weekend, Southampton, NY, USA, October 1-2, 2005

Wednesday

Sheer heart pounding stress, that sums up today. Josh and I went into work on our normal day off to make sure out paycheck isn't too small this week and it was busy. Put this on top of our first away race of the season and it is almost too much to bear. We did manage to get all four bikes, excessive clothing, a large bag of tools and spare parts and wheels with the best combination of tires packed before midnight. In addition to that, I made sure we had plenty of extra food to make it through a six-hour flight. I think I woke up only twice in the night with a gasp thinking about a tool or pair of socks not to forget.

Thursday

A pleasant sunny morning, no traffic on the way to the airport, an on-time flight - what more could a girl ask for? We did have to pay extra for our bikes at the airport, it seems that the United bike vouchers are only good for oversized bags under 50lbs. Two bikes in a case are at least 80lbs so the vouchers plus $25 got the bikes onto the airplane. I am always amazed at how loosely airlines follow their own rules. Oversize/overweight fees seem to be at the discretion of the employee, you get a surly one and you'll be paying. Sometimes you sign the insured for loss not damage waiver, sometimes you don't. I always hope for a chipper happy airline employee in a benevolent mood who doesn't want to charge some nice bike racers.

Josh and I navigated JFK airport, the Long Island Expressway and several smaller roads and arrived at our host housing without a hitch.

Friday

Waking to clear skies and sunshine we assembled the bikes and got a crack of 3pm start to pre-race training and course recon. My teammate Sami (aka the Flash) and her husband Jon showed up from Washington DC just in time for dinner. I got to play the part of Santa Claus to Sami, all of our Easton sponsor stuff had arrived earlier in the week and Sami's cut was packed into my bike case along with a new Limar helmet. Our host had a great setup in the garage. Several repair stands, a high pressure hose and even an ultrasonic cleaner for chains. While our bikes needed little more than a dusting, I will be wishing for these amenities next week in Portland.

Saturday: Whitemore's Super Cross Cup #1 - C2

Race day!! Finally, after waiting all summer the real 'cross season has begun. I was quite nervous about the race but once staging started I felt better and got to chat with several women that I hadn't seen in months. Mo Bruno and Mackenzie Dickey took off up the hill and I sat on their wheel not wanting to ride in the wind. When we came to the corner before the steep hill I traded places with Mo twice and got the hole shot on the hill. This was a decisive move because several women got caught up and had to run the hill. My legs felt invincible, up the hill, across the bumpy turf, on the off-camber, there was nothing they couldn't handle. Winning today felt easy, lots of wins feel that way. It is when you finish mid-pack or so that the race feels like it was trying to kill you. Pitting for Josh was pleasant; he didn't need any bike changes so I got to lounge in the sun and drink water. After a couple first lap mistakes he rode back up to the action and finished seventh while Mark McCormack effortlessly chalked up the win.

Results

Sunday: Super Cross Cup - C1

The race started much like yesterday's, I got the hole shot on the steep hill then Mo came around me on the barriers. I jumped in front of her right before the log run-up and worked really hard to stay ahead. The legs of yesterday were, well, so yesterday. Today's legs just didn't have the same spunk. I couldn't put myself into the red zone, maybe it was the heat (85 and sunny), maybe it was something else. What ever it was the race was hard today. Rolling across the line first was a relief, the whole race was a struggle to make the body function. Josh had a tougher time today also, he also suffered in the heat but still finished a strong 10th.

Results

Monday

Home sweet home. Kitty was glad to see us after sleeping for four days straight. The best part about this week is that we don't have to unpack all the bikes, two of them didn't even get ridden. We fly to the northwest Friday for the first two US Gran Prix races. I'm looking forward to slogging in the mud and lots of bike cleaning.

- Barb