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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.

The damp Northwest

October 10, 2005

Friday: Scoring at the yard sale

Just when things were becoming normal again after returning from New York, it starts all over again. Friday's flight necessitated a before-the-crack-of-dawn start. Driving to the airport at 4:30am is great; there's no traffic in San Francisco or on the highway. Josh and I met Melodie at the airport and had an uneventful flight to Portland.

We found our host house with only minor confusion and met Brent and Simon (Josh's Rock Lobster team-mates). After some serious napping and eating we got ourselves together enough to get to the venue. After an extended tour of Portland's bridges in search of I-5's on-ramp, our little caravan arrived at the Alpenrose Dairy for some mudding. Our arrival was perfectly timed with the start of the rain. Every race I've done here has been a tenebrous mud massacre starting with '03 Nationals. This year promised to be no different. While doing some race prep on the roads near the venue, I saw several signs advertising a "hot sale". Curiosity peaked, Mel, Simon and myself follow the signs and did indeed come across a hot sale. I scored several towels/rags for $0.25 each, a few paperback books and a mini beer stein. Josh found a very choice Ranier Light beer poster, which he purchased for a quarter. But Mel was the true winner of the weekend, as she went home with a functioning waffle iron for only $4 as well as a flour sifter for a buck.

Saturday: Search for the Grail and the no-tell motel

Stumptown Classic - C1

My goals for this race were to not crash, get hurt or damage my bikes. California racers don't get regular practice riding in mud; most of our racing consists of dust, gravel and redwood duff. The start was scary with two 90-degree wet pavement turns before a sharp turn into the dirt. Starting, not being my strong point, paid off in this race as there was a crash in front of me in turn two that had slid out of the way by the time I got to it. We hit the dirt and charged along a bumpy downhill before I was able to make forward progress. I eventually caught up to Rhonda Mazza with Ann Knapp and Lyne Bessette off in front. Rhonda eventually gapped off behind me and I was stuck in no-man's land for a few laps. The bell lap couldn't have come at a better time, just when Rhonda and Melissa Thomas were closing in behind, the race was winding up. I held them off for a surprising third place finish. I couldn't believe that I had podiumed at this race.

My post-race recovery consisted of cleaning my bike and then joining the girlfriend's club in the pit for Josh's race. Josh had a fantastic race; he spent a few early laps on Geoff Kabush's wheel till Geoff's tubeless tire popped off. He rode with a strong chase group for the rest of the race and a had a 12th place finish. Post-race entertainment came in the form of watching Kabush and his mechanic attempt to kidnap Grail Della Grunge a.k.a. Steve (explanation of the Grail here) from atop the 'Cross Crusade RV in the center of the velodrome. They were thwarted by the height and slipperiness of the wet RV - and some diligent crusaders.

The I-5 North was partially closed so we had a slow detour in pouring rain. There are great rest stops along I-5 with signs advertising "Stop for safety, Free Coffee." There's an idea to promote. Arriving in Tacoma was a relief, Mel found a double room no-tell motel just 10 minutes from the venue for $50 a night. Between five people that's an economical option! With six bikes in the room though, things were snug, but spirits were high as we enjoyed some pizza from Godfathers at the mall next door and checked out some cable till the time came to hit the sack.

Results

Sunday: Chasing Bessette

Rad Racing GP of Cyclocross - C2

This morning we have been treated to a parade of sketchy characters. Starting with our Old E' guzzling neighbor, a lady of the night working the early morning Starbucks crowd, continuing with Chevy-Nova-parking-lot-maintainance man and a host of other questionable motel patrons. This crowd explains last night's regular police patrol.

Mild weather and clearing skies greeted us at the Steilacom park. The course had some changes since last year but still included the truculent "Knapp time run-up", a relentless, steep, sandy leg killer. Mo Bruno took the hole shot and I made sure to be near the front on the first run-up. I jumped around a tree and passed a few runners and found myself in Lyne's dust. The last I saw of her she was riding the rollers at the top of the hill. A lap later I found myself in the Kona zone. Ann Knapp, Wendy Simms, and Georgia Gould (all Kona riders) had me surrounded. Our little group spent the remainder of the race riding around together. A long summer of road racing paid off, Ann gave me a fantastic lead-out for the sprint and I came around her for second place!! The podium presentation was so quick after the race that my head was spinning, vision blurry and breathing not yet normal while on the podium stumps.

Another race recovery spent in the pit watching the men's race play out and praying for no bike changes. Josh had another great race and a top 15 finish. The parking lot packing commenced shortly after Josh finished. We only had to pack two bikes in a case, easy compared to Brent and Simon's challenge. They wedged 10 bikes, three trainers, numerous wheelsets, an air mattress or two, Mel's waffle iron, three toolboxes, two sleeping bags, a few pillows and a cooler filled with leftovers into the trusty Eurovan.

Since the van was packed the bikes spent the night in the parking lot. Brent was up several times in the night looking out the window just to make sure $50,000 worth of bikes were still there. The regular police patrol was most welcomed in hopes their presence would keep the riff raff calm on a Sunday night.

Results

Monday

Home sweet home. Next weekend is a home game promoted by my own team, Velo Bella. Check out the Surf City Revival Series, it has the coolest winner's jersey ever.

- Barbarella