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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.
February 25, 2006
Life goes on after 'cross season ends. Kind of.
It's hard to come down off a season that ends with world championships without feeling like the party ended while you were still having fun. Coming back home to California, I was treated to warm sunny weather and my mystery illness taking a turn for the worse. After getting over what felt like a wicked head cold I thought I would get better, I still felt run down and eventually made a trip to the doctor to spend a wad of money on antibiotics for a sinus infection. That cleared things up somewhat but now I'm on round two.
I always have great plans for my precious few weeks of off season: riding my long neglected mountain bike, washing the truck, doing something cool in San Francisco and going to the climbing gym. But each year, I seem to get sick and not do anything fun at all. Even though my physical activities were limited, I made the most of my time off of riding and got some fun activities in.
I did ride the mountain bike once and was treated to an amazing day on the dirt. It was one of those days where the ocean shed its normal black color and took on hues of brilliant turquoise. The Farallon Islands often obscured by haze were visible on the horizon and all the plants are blooming.
After Wednesday's ride, I had the opportunity to speak to the Redwood High School Mountain Bike team regarding nutrition and bike racing. The kids' attention span was surprisingly long; I was supposed to speak for only 30 minutes but babbled on for nearly an hour. Northern California has an extensive high school mountain bike league. The kids get to travel and race all over the place. This program could produce the next U.S. or world champion.
Thursday brought a different experience as I spoke at Bayside school in Sausalito. Very few of the kids here have bikes and since the Tour of California is starting right in their town, the school district wanted them to learn about bike racing. A program through the Parks and Recreation Department involves the kids working and doing community service allowed 76 kids to earn their first bicycle. I joined Mike McCarthy and Colavita riders Gustavo and Sebastien for a show and tell about bike racing.
Our first group of kids was very young, first through third grade and had short attention spans. Mike did a fantastic job keeping them interested and I was mostly a prop demonstrating clipless pedals at work. The kids had nearly endless questions about everything ranging from crashing in general to how often Mike crashed to how long the upcoming race is.
The second group of kids was older (fourth and fifth grade) and they were able to stay quiet the entire time. When asked about the possibility of me racing in the Tour de France, several girls were noticeably upset upon learning that women can't be in that race. Seizing the opportunity, I told the girls that maybe if more women raced we could have more races. At the end all of the kids who earned bikes were presented with their bike certificate. It sounds egotistical but if just one kid remembers the assembly or me and is inspired to race a bike some time in their life, I'll feel my work was successful.
Friday was the big gala in Sausalito combined with team presentations for the Amgen Tour of California. Since starting a tour stage costs a town lots of money for extra police work, organizers, etc, a fundraising gala was organized to raise money for the town with extra proceeds going to several charities.
My job for the gala was to gather female cycling models/racers from the area for a fashion show. Since the Tour doesn't include women, the goal was to feature female racers so people would know that women race bikes too! Local teams responded favorably to my request for a lady or two and we had representatives from Webcor Platnium, Velo Bella, Velo Girls, Mt Tam Cycling, California Road Club, Left Coast Cycling, Squadra Ovest, and my new team, McGuire Cycling. Men from RH Villa, California Giant Strawberries, California Road Club, and a rider from the junior development team Team Swift represented for the men.
None of us are actually models and it was rather nerve racking to walk down an actual catwalk in front of 800 people. It started with five of the ladies being chosen to wear the tour jerseys - leader, sprint, KOM, most aggressive, best young rider - for a stroll down the catwalk. After that, none other than Paul Sherwen himself presented the teams! One of the voices of cycling on TV was in Sausalito talking on stage; it was eerie.
Immediately following the team presentations my group of models strutted their stuff on the runway. The pink wig made an appearance on stage to compliment Sheila Moon's spring line. After everyone was done on the catwalk we were all supposed to go out on stage to take a bow. Paul came over to the backstage entrance to see what was going on and then I lost my nerve. 1,600 eyes ready to watch every move of the pink wig froze my feet to the floor. Paul noticed my hesitation and sudden fear, took me by the hand and led me onto the stage so everyone else could follow. It really wasn't that bad after all.
Saturday was the Tour of Sausalito crit hosted by the California Road Club. The course is a butt kicker with steep hills, fair to poor pavement and terrible weather. All of last week's good weather was long gone, replaced by rain and bone chilling temperatures. I spectated for a few hours with layer upon layer of warm clothing and still got chilled. My new road team, McGuire Cycling, did themselves good winning all of the primes and taking 3rd, 5th, and 7th place. Way to go, ladies! I'll be joining the McGuire Cycling team for racing action on the road in April.
Speaking of racing, the first few long training rides after cross, illness and time off are brutal. My weakened body had only been trained to race for 40 minutes. The first few 4+ hour rides are hell on your neck, butt, and metabolism. The best way to get started is to go on a do or die ride.
So here's part of my secret training plan. Go to an area you are unfamiliar with, meet up with people who are already racing, head out on a mellow ride, have your ride hijacked by masters racers on their way to Sunday world's, get your slow self dropped going up a hill, get even more dropped going down the other side into a headwind with only a 46 tooth big ring, spend quality time alone in the wind wondering if the groups had turned off the road because you can't see them anymore, worry a bit about having no idea where you are, eat your fifth bar of the day, offer part of said bar to the wonderful person who came back for you, finish the ride with only enough energy to lie on the floor.
Till next time,