We had our 2nd @thecyclehub women’s beginners ride this morning at the Al Qudra cycle track and I’m sooo proud of the women who came on the ride with us! We’re doing it every Saturday at 6am!

AAAND I couldn’t wait to wear my new #Maloja cycling kit from @thecyclehub!! Love, love, love the colours and the fit! My first ladies specific cycling kit and it’s JUST RIGHT!! Next step is to order the new, sleek @velovixens kit! Did you pick up from all this how much I love #Cycling??❤️🚴❤️🚴
#womenscycling #cyclelikeagirl #uaecycling #uaecyclingfederation #alqudra #cycledubai #dubaicycling #igerscycling #specialized #specializedwomen #mydubai #myuae #dubailife #dubaifitness #thecyclehub #uaefitnessmovement #uaesportysisters (at Dubai Cycling Course, Al Qudra)

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@Regrann_App from @ann_tedder - Пусть эта будет последней фотографией велолета. К большому сожалению пора обратить внимание на холодную осень и подготовиться к зиме😟
#грузия#georgia #specialized #diverge #велотрип#девушкинавелосипедах#travelling #travel#travelstagram#doyoudiverge#bikepacking #biketouring #specializedbikes #specializedwomen#cycle#cycling #cyclist #cyclotouring#bike#instabike#specialized - #regrann www.pedalnorth.com #globalcycling

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The Start…the Finish…and the Journey Between

I’m finally coming down from my Sawtooth Mountain high, and am trying to compile my thoughts and pictures from an amazing week spent in Sun Valley, Idaho with my Asphalt Green Cycling Team teammate, Danielle Kosecki, at Rebecca Rusch’s Gold Rusch Tour “Reba’s Ride Camp”

When I told my husband that I was going to Idaho (at the last minute, I might add), his response was, “Ummm….you don’t mountain bike!” We’ve been together long enough that he should have known that the fact that I don’t actually mountain bike would not have stopped me…and indeed it didn’t. I don’t know about you guys, but I enjoy a good challenge, and I think doing something that you are ‘scared’ of is actually a healthy thing. 

So, I finally got to use my mounting frequent flyer miles, and boarded a flight to the land of potatoes…Idaho. I’m not sure what I expected as far as terrain, but I was absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of the state. From flat desert land as you drove from Boise, to the rolling green mountains in Ketchum (like straight out of the “Sound of Music), I was constantly craning my neck to look at the scenery. It was simply awe-inspiring. But, that’s not why I was here…to look at scenery…I was here for a crash course (literally, in my case) in how to ride a mountain bike. Luckily, I had my partner in crime, Danielle, with me…and if we were going down, we were going down together.

On day one we rolled out on our sweet Specialized Women Fate bikes – Danielle was actually riding one of Rebecca’s personal bikes, and Specialized had been kind enough to send me a loaner. Honestly, I don’t think we knew how good we had it, since I had no other mountain bike experience to compare it to, but dang…these bikes were so light they came close to the weight of my road bike! After riding it, all I could think was, "I WANT ONE!”

We met Rebecca, and her amazing assistant coaches, in the town center to head out for a lovely ride on Greenhorn Mountain and Mahoney. As a self-professed 'sprinter’ I was not looking forward to the climbing that was involved in the weeks training and the race…but one downhill on a mountain bike and I was about to change my name to Froome…holy crap, going downhill on the side of a mountain is scary. On one side the mountain runs up, and on the other the singletrack drops off the side…I know they say 'don’t look where you don’t want to go,’ but I couldn’t help but imagine myself taking a flying leap off the side of the mountain. When I have time I will post the 'blooper’ video from that first day…essentially though I would speed up, hit some gravel, freak out and fall over…REPEAT. My shins and arms were NOT happy when that ride was over, and to be honest I think I almost cried out of relief when we got to the bottom and the high speed descents were over. I haven’t been that scared on a bike in a LONG time, nor had I ever been challenged so much. I LOVE the challenge of trying to master something new, so although Danielle and I were beat up…we were also excited to get back out there.

That night we went to the Ketchum Pump Track, and watched kids as young as 5 years old school us on the art of riding a mountain bike. We also got a lot of sideways glances and wide eyes at our poor bloodied and bruised legs. One woman approached us to ask what happened, to which we responed that we were learning to mountain bike in advance of the MTB Marathon Nationals…the poor woman’s eyes go so wide and she about spit out her water as she responded, “WHAT?! Seriously? You guys JUST learned how to mountain bike and you are racing on Saturday?! Good luck!” That doesn’t exactly instill confidence…but I just kept telling myself, “If Rebecca believes we can do it…we can do it.”

Day 2 saw us doing a loop of the Marathon Nationals course on Bald Mountain. We met up with the other 'campers’ and headed out to Bald Mountain to practice the ascent and descent. After yesterday, I was SO happy that we got to climb for a while…I was literally petrified of the descent. I had heard from others that it got very technical towards the bottom with a lot of switchbacks…so needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to that part. The climb was beautiful and we stopped along the way for pictures…there were definitely technical and steep sections, but overall nothing terrible. However, what goes up must come down, and once again I was slamming on my brakes, screaming expletives, and falling over…A LOT! Rebecca and a few of the other coaches patiently rolled at a snails pace behind us and kept coaching us on cowboy legs, relax your arms, get off the saddle, shift your weight back, your bellybutton is your eye…and slowly…VERY VERY slowly we got a bit better. I even thought that this descent was easier than the day before. After returning to town though, our work wasn’t over…that night was the Ketchum Costume Crit, and as luck would have it, a road crit as well. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I popped over to a great shop in town, Sturtevant’s, and rented myself a road bike…because hey, why not ride for 3 ½ hours, race a costume crit on a fat bike, and then do a women’s open race…my entire week was literally a week of, “Why not?” And honestly…that brings the BEST adventures. The town center was bumping, as the festivities rolled on through the evening. The costume crit was an absolute blast…Danielle brought the mustaches for our team, and Rebecca supplied the sweet feather boas and knee socks. Each person completed 4 laps of the sprint course in a constant team rotation. After completing my first lap I thought I might pass out I was breathing so hard. That race HURT! The worst part was, we were going to get to do it again, in the women’s open race…except faster and more laps. Ugh…what was I thinking?!?! We got a bit of a reprieve while the Masters Men raced, and then it was our time to line up. I was SUPER PSYCHED to see some amazingly strong pro women in the field, including crit star Tiffany Pezzulo, who was fresh off some amazing results at Tulsa Tough. One word describes that race…OUCH! Luckily, I stayed with the pack (Tiffany and her break mates lapped us…), and survived, but my legs were hating me.

The next day was a low key day, as we rode the ski lift to the top of Bald Mountain and worked on the descent portion of the course. That was terrifying (as going downhill still was for me), but it helped to see it again and try and work on some of the skills that all the instructors were trying to teach us. That afternoon, we had a really nice time at Zenergy Spa as we did a Restorative Yoga class and had an amazing lunch by their pool. It was nice to just relax and get a chance to talk with some of the other ladies attending the events. It’s so nice to hang out with people who are as passionate about bikes (MTB or road) as you are…and with the common bond of 'bikes’ we were all fast friends.

Friday was our 'rest’ day as we did a leisurely spin and then made our way to one of the many riverbanks to ice our legs down. It was painful, but ultimately helpful, to dip my legs in the icy cold waters…and Danielle took the opportunity to collect some rocks to bring back to NYC to remember the trip by. Afterwards, we rode over to the Specialized truck and as part of the camp, we were signed up to have our bikes professionally tuned up. It was so nice to drop the bike and come back and pick it up all shiny and purring like a kitten. We headed to reg and got our race numbers, and then proceeded to feel sick to our stomachs about what was to come, and we kept looking at each other saying, “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?!?!” That night, Rebecca came over to our condo, along with a couple of the other 'campers’, Nicole (but you can call her National Champ Nicole, since she won her age group at Marathon MTB nationals!) and Sarah, to eat our pre-race dinner. Rebecca had whipped up a fantastic meal of Chicken Tikka Masala, straight out of Allen Lim’s amazing, “Feed Zone Cookbook.”– that’s right, 'The Queen of Pain’ cooked US dinner. How frickin’ amazing is that…I almost had to PINCH myself. Honestly, the entire week I felt like I needed to pinch myself. Here was this AMAZING and ACCOMPLISHED athlete, taking time away from her training, etc. to run this “Camp” for all of us…and she couldn’t have been more patient and down to earth – trust me, it takes PATIENCE to go that slow downhill for her, I’m sure.  I honestly don’t have words to describe what an amazing athlete and person Rebecca Rusch is, and her dedication to getting women into the sport is truly awe-inspiring. It was an honor to get to spend the week learning from her…and I HIGHLY recommend people taking advantage of her camps and programs. ANYHOO, I got sidetracked….not only is she an amazing person and athlete…she’s also a pretty killer cook! The food was fantastic…we kept saying it was the 'ride fast’ food…honestly, my only hopes during the big race were of the 'don’t crash and hurt myself’ variety, but hey, “eat like Reba…maybe ride like Reba,” right?

That morning I woke up early and went through my typical pre-race ritual. We packed our CamelBaks, lined up our nutrition, and sat nervously as we waited to leave. As we rolled up to the line my nerves REALLY set in. The event seemed so HUGE and there were so many people there. I feel like at that point, the only thing you can do is just take a deep breath…and just go…no thinking, no worrying, because at that point you’re committed, and Danielle and I were committed. We made the decision to stay together for at least the first part of the race and then we’d decide later if we wanted to split up. As the gun went off the girls in our field took off and I raced to just clip in and stay on a wheel. We immediately began our climb, and I knew I was in for a rough time. I don’t know if it was the bronchitis, the elevation, or just nerves…but my legs did not want to function. My HR was soaring, my breathing was labored, and we’d barely started the race! Halfway up the first ascent of Bald Mountain the emotion and self-doubt started to creep in. I went from thinking to myself, “I can do this,” to “Oh sh*t, I don’t think I can do this.” It was so overpowering that I almost got off my bike and sobbed. I don’t think I’ve ever been that overwhelmed in any race…but I was barely 25% done and I was literally on the verge of quitting. I kept looking ahead and pedaling as best I could, and tried to concentrate on drinking. I thought about what Rebecca said to us, “there’s a start and a finish, and the struggle is in between,” and I tried to think about that, to concentrate on this 'struggle’ that I was on. Slowly, as I looked ahead, the white tent at the summit of Baldy was getting bigger and bigger, and I knew were reaching the top. Every day this week I was dreading the moments of downhill, but I can’t tell you how elated I was to see that white tent and to start going back down. I even PR'ed the descent on both times down, mainly because I think I was so tired and delirious that I just sort of 'let go’ of a lot of the inhibitions and fear that were dominating my other attempts at it. Once we came around the for the 2nd lap, I knew that if I just took it slow…like SLOW, granny slow…that I would be able to make it to the top and back down again. DK and I both ran out of water about part way up, so when we reached the top of the mountain we were PARCHED and even more delirious than the first time. When we crested the true final climb of the day, I actually stopped and made Danielle give me a hug…the relief in knowing the hardest part was over was simply overwhelming for me. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt so terrible on a bike, or done something so challenging in my recent memory…so knowing that we were actually going to make it (unless we fell off the side of the mountain) was satisfying.

We flew down the final descent, and Rebecca saw us coming as we weaved our way through the final switchbacks. I could hear the music thumping, and as we came around the corner for the finish line, there was Rebecca – Polaroid camera in hand – cheering like a maniac for us. I believe I might have even shouted out, “Never again” multiple times as we rolled in – but that changed quickly to a “Well, maybe with better preparation.” Danielle and I rolled across the line together and I literally wanted to cry in relief. There were a LOT of hugs, and lot of congratulations, and a lot of pictures taken. For all the struggle and self-doubt, we had done it. We had stepped off the plane in Boise having pretty much never ridden mountain bikes…and somehow Rebecca, her crew, and the Gold Rusch Tour had turned us into USA Cycling National MTB Marathon Championship Finishers – and to top it all off, we were informed that we came in 4th and 5th…so we even nabbed a couple of podium slots for our efforts – much to our disbelief! Rebecca, of course, had finished hours before us and had handily won her Singlespeed Division as well – it was inspiring watching her grind out that hard gear as she flew past us on the first lap.

There was a lot of celebrating, laughing, hugging, and maybe a tear or two (I got champagne in my eye!). We returned our bikes to the Specialized trailer – mine was being shipped back to Specialized HQ (THANKS for the loaner), and my Idaho adventures were coming to an end. It’s hard to truly express all the emotions that I felt during my experience at Reba’s Ride Camp…grateful, I think is probably the foremost one. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to challenge myself, I’m grateful for where my bike has taken me (once again), I’m grateful to have had an awesome teammate and friend to share the crazy experience with, I’m grateful for all the amazing and inspiring women I got to meet and get to know in my time there, I’m grateful to all the amazing sponsors of the Gold Rusch Tour who support women’s cycling make these events possible (SRAM, Buff, Smith Optics, Specialized, Gu Energy, Pro Gold Lubricants, Light & Motion, Beyond Coastal), I’m grateful for the pain, I’m grateful for the struggle, and I’m grateful that there are women out there like Rebecca Rusch (and all the people that helped her pull off the camp…Karoline, Michelle, Jenn, Muffy, and many many more) who dedicate their lives not only to athletic achievements, but to the goal of getting more women on bikes!

I keep going back Rebecca’s credo, “There’s a start, and a finish and the struggle (journey) in between,” and honestly this week was exactly that…an epic journey, a struggle with fear and self-doubt, but ultimately a rewarding and unforgettable experience…and for that I am most definitely GRATEFUL!

Thank you to Rebecca for making this week one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had, and for being a role model for not just young women, but us older ladies too! :-D

Completely IN LOVE with my new bike from @thecyclehub and @iamspecialized
Best gift for any active girl out there! The first black and pink Specialized bike on the road in Dubai and can’t wait to see more girls on bikes!!

Happy Saturday everyone!! 🍓🚴🚴
#cycling #cyclelikeagirl #dubaicycling #cycledubai #uaecycling #alqudra #uaecyclingfederation #thecyclehub #thecyclebistro #igerscycling #specializedwomen #womencycling #chicksonbikes #velovixens #TD2015

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@Regrann_App from @sciencebikegirl - @phunkt capturing the moment the stealth bike comes in for the overtake…. 💨💨 #braap #mtb #mtbchick #mtbgirl #mtbchixtrails #loves_mtb #lakesmtb #lakedistrict #redbullfoxhunt #ninjabike #ilovemybike #iamspecialized #specializedwomen #ridelikeagirl #shredlikeagirl #boundlessbetty #sheshreds #wonderfulwildwomen - #regrann

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Ride and Dine with Team Specialized-Lululemon: My Evening with the Ladies of the S-L Team

***see bottom for picture captions***

It’s no mystery, I’m a BIG fan of women’s professional cycling, and an even bigger fan of the @velociosports (Specialized-Lululemon) racing team. Evie Stevens got her start, as a lot of you know, right here in NYC,  racing in the same CRCA (Century Road Club Association) races that I have been competing in for the last three years. She is the quintessential ‘Cinderella’ story of someone who picked up a bike and found that they had a hidden talent – a talent and ability that was laying dormant all that time. – Check out this CBS News piece on Evie and what an amazing talent she is: http://cbsn.ws/11MyLYc.

Getting the opportunity to meet 4 of the amazing members of the team was a highlight for everyone on my team (as you can see!). We had the pleasure of riding with Evie, fresh off of her win at the Tour of California TT; Carmen Small the newly minted USA TT champion; young talent and phenom, Tayler Wiles, and the ever amazing and #1 domestique, Ally Stacher – whom I got to talk with a lot and realized we had a lot in common…YAY rock climbing! :-D

Now me, on the other hand, I don’t have that 'hidden’ talent for cycling. Look, I get by for sure…and I have always been 'athletic’ and an 'athlete’ at heart, but for me, it wasn’t enough to just pick up a bike and BAM I was fast. Oh no…hah…I was slow…painfully, painfully slow, and compared to most people I still am. I have to work hard and train hard just to keep up with the girls in my field, and it feels like sometimes the work is never ending. My best friend, Sarah, visited me and on multiple occasions was like, “What the hell are you doing? How do you stay motivated?” Well, honestly…I stay motivated because of these ladies up above. In women’s cycling the life of a professional rider is not easy. Many have full-time jobs and are forced to train around those jobs and race because they can’t make enough money to pay the bills. I can’t help but admire the struggle and determination that it has taken each and every one of them to realize their dream of being a professional cyclist. 

Do I think I will be a professional cyclist, you ask?! HECK NO! Hah, I know my limitations, but it’s still fun getting out there and pushing my body to limits that I never thought possible, and to see the return on that sweat-laden investment, and I love being able to see myself improve…even if it’s only incremental. It has honestly been one of the most challenging, yet empowering, athletic journeys that I have taken in my life…and wow has it changed me and my life for the better.

One of the cool things about the ride and happy hour with the Lulu ladies was our shared love of our Specialized Women’s Amira bikes! It was so funny to see them look down at my bike and realize, “Hey! We have the same bike.” I know they are probably encouraged to say it, but every single one of them, without prompting said the same thing that I have been thinking since I was given this bike in April – “Don’t you love it? It’s honestly the best bike I’ve ever ridden!” And I wholeheartedly have to agree. I don’t buy in to a lot of the marketing hype on bikes, but the Amira is a bike that you have to ride to believe. Specialized didn’t make a 'women’s bike’…they made a badass fast as hell women’s race machine. The bike is so responsive and so stiff that merely a shift of your hips shoots the bike in the direction that you want to go. Climbing is where it REALLY stands out for me – as a self-proclaimed non-climber – as when I stand on this bike it just shoots forward effortlessly. There is never any backward motion or lost effort on this bike…it’s just truly amazing. It was going to take a lot to get me to sway my allegiance from my previous race bike, and ever since getting on the Amira I haven’t looked back a single time or wished I had my old bike back. So…hats off to Specialized for not just shrinking and pinking, or only making a relaxed geometry bike…they’ve done it all! 

We are now mid-season here in the Northeast and there are a lot of races still yet to come. I’m 'rebooting’ my season a bit and taking a fresh approach to my training…I’ve even added in some *gasp* RUNNING to my schedule, and to my surprise–although some days my legs hurt like a mother–I’m able to push through that pain to the other side…the stronger side. This could also have a lot to do with my newly acquired purchase of the “Roll Recovery” device…it’s like a rollerblade/torture machine that digs in so hard to my legs it almost makes me want to cry, but I’ll be damned if that thing doesn’t work like a charm and render my legs from useless trunks to fully-functioning limbs. I highly recommend checking them out, as I don’t normally swear by a product, but this one I do.

Another great by-product of this event was the launch of our women’s ride series – in partnership with Bicycle Habitat and Specialized Women – myself and Emily Samstag will be leading women’s rides in Central Park and Prospect Park every Friday morning at 6 am. They featured a lot about this ride, and a little about me in their new “Strong Legs” blog series. Check it out here, and you can learn a little about what motivates me and why I’m so stoked to be involved in doing my SMALL empower and motivate women to get on bikes. Want to join for our women’s ride? Join our FB group to keep up to date on the times/meeting locations here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/139989382863081/

Anyways, the season is wearing onward…there is much to look forward to, and much to focus on. I just found out from my good friend, Danielle Kosecki, that I’ve been invited to tag along on her adventure to Idaho to hang out with Rebecca Rusch and learn how to mountain bike at Reba’s Ride Camp. This is a dream come true for me, even as a dedicated roadie. Not only is Rebecca Rusch one of the baddest ladies on a bike, but she is an inspiration for the way that she promotes and supports women’s cycling. I imagine that I will not only come back with a lot of bumps and bruises from all the sweet single-track I will be learning to shred and AMAZING stories and pictures…but I will come back inspired and motivated to tackle the rest of the race season. 

Alright, I digress…a HUGE thank you to the ladies of Specialized-Lululemon, Specialized and Bicycle Habitat for making this ride and greet event happen. With over 70 women in attendance it was TRULY a site to see us parade through the park in the after work hours…so much so that a child watching the mass of us ride turned to his mom and said, “Mommy, look at all the bikers…and they’re all girls!” That alone was worth it all! 

Thanks guys and stay tuned for more adventures!

Captions provided by @dkos7 (top to bottom, L to R):

(1) Despite our excessive enthusiasm, Kristy let us get thisclose to the girls for a pic (!)

(2) It’s embarrassing how happy this picture makes us.

(3) Cops were cracking down on red-light runners in CP, but over 70 lovely ladies managed to ride hassle-free.

(4) Me and Ally Stacher – Amira buddies! 

(5) Spats for everyone! Great for making Skratch Labs rice cakes. Ally Bars, too!

(6) The ladies paused before pushing off while Tayler showed off her handy flat-fixing skills.

(7) Tayler gets spatted up thanks to Asphalt Green Cycling Team sponsor, Product of GIR!

(8) Riding through Times Square—the one place on earth bright enough to mute our high-viz kits.

(9) Officially part of the AG family (in our minds anyway).