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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.
Heading East – a tale about fitting everything in
October 26, 2005
I'm on the East Coast for six UCI races over the next few weeks. Josh and I flew into Pittsburgh (my hometown) on Thursday, the 20th in time for a birthday dinner with my mother; early enough to go for a short spin to get the airplane out of our legs. Our arrival coincided neatly with the start of cold weather and rain. Typical.
Friday was our travel day to Philly, we're staying with my teammate Liz Begosh and her mom. Two things stand out in my mind about Friday. First Josh and I were able to fit 4 bikes, 4 wheelsets, our luggage and several bags of food (thanks Mom!) into my mother's Mazda sedan. I'm a person with spatial talents and enjoy packing as much stuff as possible into the smallest space possible. Bike racing has really given me the opportunity to exercise this talent. The second really good thing about Friday was the ease of driving to Philly. Last year we were on the Turnpike somewhere in central Pennsylvania when suddenly the road was closed and everyone was diverted onto secondary country roads. Normally this sort of excursion would be delightful, but it turned a five and a half hour drive into an eight hour drive. This year everything went smoothly and we arrived in just over five hours with very little traffic.
Saturday's race (Wooden Wheels) was north of Wilmington, Delaware on the Granogue Estate. The venue is located on private property in a beautiful area typified by large old gray stone buildings. Friday's course was influenced largely by a few inches of rain. It was a slippy, sloppy, slidefest of off camber turns and deteriorating turf. In my typical start style I found myself in tenth place or so going onto the grass. A long, off camber stretch on the very top of the course took its toll on all riders, as very few were actually able to ride the entire section. Every chance possible it seemed like the bike was taking a different trajectory than my body; like it had a mind of its own and was determined not to remain underneath me.
I fought the bike and the mud and finished fourth; behind Lyne Bessette, Georgia Gould, and Mo Bruno-Roy. Mentally the day was hard because my legs felt great, but the course and conditions just weren't conducive to pedaling hard and making good forward progress. As always there is a silver lining though; I did get valuable mud riding practice, something that is in short supply back home. Thanks to Mark and Chris from YBR racing for hanging in the pit, cheering and having a warm jacket at the end of the race. I'll be seeing those guys again in two weeks at their race in Camp Hill, PA.
The rain started during the last lap of my race and made Josh's race even messier than mine. He was riding well in the top 10 using his childhood-in-Maine mud skills until he took a bike change and the tires were just a bit too hard. He slid out on an off camber and his saddle took a large chunk out of the turf and pulled the rail out of the back of the saddle. I skedaddled up to the pit and put my seat/seatpost into his bike. Between the panic, confusion and cold hands the measurement of saddle height was botched a bit and I sent him off on a lap with the seat too high. A few bike changes later we got everything sorted out and he finished fourteenth. A big thanks to Eric and company who helped Josh in the pit.
We spent a relaxing evening changing cables, cleaning wheels and lubing chains; some of which were already showing signs of rust. We were even able to wrench the damaged seat rail back into the saddle and it is nearly as good as new.
Sunday (Wissahickon Cross) was a completely different day (thank goodness!). We woke up to clear skies and wind. The course was located in a horse park/fairground complex and made use of the horse arenas. It wound back and forth on itself in a dizzying manner and then shot off through some long straight road sections. My favorite part was where you made a left spiral of decreasing radius and then a right spiral back out. Once again I hit the dirt in about seventh place but a crash in front of me let several women around. I powered back towards the front with the desperate hope of getting close to Lyne before she took off but was too late. The first time through the barriers I tripped and felt my seat hit the back of my helmet tipping it right over my eyes. I recovered from the momentary blindness to find myself up front with teammate Christine. Lyne was already off the front and we did what we could but couldn't close the gap on her. Christine and I lined up on the final straight for a mano y mano sprint. I took the sprint and we made a Bella sandwich of Lynne on the podium.
Josh once again had a good start in the top ten and then spent most of the racing duking it out with Matt White (FiordiFrutta). Matt took Josh in the sprint for 10th. One of my favorite things about ‘cross is the general friendliness of the competitors - we ended up driving to Princeton, NJ for an Indian food buffet with a good group of east coast ‘crossers. The food was a bit out of the way, but what else did we have to do on a Sunday night?
Monday is my day to rest and catch up on everything I've ignored for the past several days; including sleep and internet time. Last year in Philly I wanted to see the Liberty bell and I forced Josh to walk with me to see it. It wasn't a bad idea; it's just that the map made the Bell seem deceptively close. What I thought would be a pleasant thirty minute walk turned into a windy, chilly, three-hour epic. We did get to see the Bell and lots of other interesting things on the way but a three hour walk however isn't the best training for bike racers. Even though it is 'cross season and we do walk and run to prepare for racing, our highly developed pedaling muscles easily succumb to fatigue when subjected to walks of more than 30 minutes! The Liberty Bell expedition sent both of us into a deep afternoon sleep. This year I am expressly forbidden to go on anymore walks across the city. Fortunately Liz lives in a great part of the city where all amenities are nearby and we only have to walk a tiny little bit.
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week will be spent resting and doing easy practice till we head up to Gloucester on Thursday. I did hear about a neat old boat that is only an inch away on the map, maybe we'll check it out tomorrow!