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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. After an illness-filled season in 2006, the 31 year-old Velo Bella rider is working to get her fitness back in 2007. Although 'cross is still the favorite discipline of the Marin County, California resident, Howe is returning to action by racing her mountain bike. When not training on and around Mt Tamalpais, she keeps busy cooking and sewing.

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

October 9, 2007


Where do I even begin? Perhaps that I'm still recovering, and I didn't even go out and party. It started Tuesday before dawn with a trip to the Oakland Airport, there's very little traffic at 5:00. Sheila Moon, my employer, had driven down with all of our stuff on Sunday and was just waiting for me to complete the group. Joining us to man the Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel booth was Gillian and her husband Greg. This was my first time at a trade show as a vendor, and it's really hard work.

I've got a love hate relationship with Las Vegas. So much of the city sickens me, the obscene overuse of precious water in the desert, vulgar humanity throwing money away, the smoke filled disorienting casinos and crappy service on overpriced goods. Sure, the glittering lights and massive themed casinos are impressive in a wasteful overdone way, but my preference is that of a lesser, more subtle existence. The parts I love are actually not in the city. Red Rocks National Conservation Area has stunning sandstone climbing (remember I was a rock climber in my former life) and the mountain biking near Blue Diamond is great. During the right times of the year you can find waterfalls cascading down tucked away canyons and chorus's of frogs beckoning you to refresh your feet in the cool water.

After a quick shuttle ride to the hotel, Sheila, Gillian and I trekked to the convention hall to put the finishing touches on our booth. This was followed by a fabulous lunch at Paymon's located off the Strip. Their baba ganoush had a subtle smokiness, the humus was light and creamy and the dolmas burst with lemony goodness. Just across the street the three of us indulged in manicures and pedicures – you have to look good!

A quick trip to the supermarket to stock up on breakfast and lunch food, and we were done working for the day. Jen Tilley and I headed out on an adventure ride to find the venue on Tuesday evening. We managed to find mud in the desert and make my previously pristine bike a mess. I didn't even try to find a bike wash outside the hotel. We rode on some rather busy boulevards and got laughed at by people waiting at bus stops. Did we really look that silly compared to the overdressed tourists and barely dressed cocktail waitresses? Judging by the amount of laughs and inane comments I guess so.

Wednesday started much too early as we got everything set up for the first wave of retailers. Once the masses started it was non-stop talking for hours. I did manage to sneak away a few hours early and get off my feet before Cross Vegas. Jen and I met up with Jenny, and rode out to the course, this time we took a better route and avoided the mud.

My first impression of the course was that of over watered grass grown on a giant sponge. After a few leg sapping warm up laps I could add that it felt like riding under water in slow motion on a giant sponge. It was dark with a giant harvest moon rising over Sin City when call-ups finally started. Since I didn't race last year I no longer have front row call ups and had to settle for third row. It took about half a lap to work my way through the masses and start making time on some of the ladies up ahead. I was joined by Rachel Lloyd and Shelley Olds; together we managed to bridge up to a chase group composed of current national, former national and multi time world champions. This was when my legs gave it up and I popped right off the back of that group.

After one too many laps riding around in no man's land, willing my legs through the pain my race was finally over (12th place) and I could get a drink of water. Living in a humid area and racing in the desert is hard on the throat, not to mention the lungs. Luckily tasty beverages were readily available to soothe my raw throat and dull the aching legs. Watching the men always makes me feel slow, they move so much faster than us ladies. By the end of the men's race I just wanted to shower and go to sleep.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling as if I had a cold – scratchy throat, clogged sinus's, smoker's cough. It wasn't a cold, just the after effects of racing in the desert. This was the busiest of our days at Interbike. The Sheila Moon booth was hopping from 9:00 to after 17:00; I barely had time to eat lunch and take bathroom breaks. My midday my voice was beginning to fade and I had to choose my words carefully so it didn't go away all together.

One of the coolest events I attended at the show was the OIWC awards where Sabine, Queen of the Bellas, was honoured with the First Ascent award. Her acceptance speech made Grammy winners look like bumbling amateurs, but perhaps I'm a bit biased because without her vision I might be on a team with ugly kits. Thursday was also the day for the Mandalay Bay parking lot criterium championship. Unfortunately the Sheila Moon entourage got there too late for the woman's race but did catch the end of the Industry Crit and the start of the Pro men's race. In search of a substantial dinner we bailed a few laps into the men's race. One delicious but overpriced dinner later, it was time to drift off to dreamland.

Friday couldn't have come soon enough. We were busy in the morning but things began to taper enough in the afternoon so that I could finally get around to some of my sponsors and say thanks. Challenge Tires is very excited to be working with the Bellas, so much so that they made us special pink caps. Kona, as always, has a whole fleet of beautiful bikes many of which they paint specially for us. I've already got my eyes on a new full suspension mountain bike for next season. Crank Brothers has made me very happy with their short spindles and super lightweight pedals. Easton's provided us with snazzy carbon bits, and SRAM with the newest coolest road components.

Late Friday afternoon, after the masses began filing out of the convention centre, we went to town packing up the booth and carpeting in anticipation of getting the heck out of there. I think the Norcal group set a new record in booth tears down time. We had all of the communal carpet and signs packed and ready for storage as well as our own stuff loaded into the van by 18:30! After a victory dinner at Paymon's and one drive through the traffic laden Strip, the final day in Vegas came to an end.


After three nights of sleeping eleven hours a night, plus naps, I'm almost feeling caught up on sleep. All of this without even going out and partying. Good thing Interbike comes only once a year. Stay tuned for next weeks adventures in the Hamptons!