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Pescadero Road Race

Illi Gardner

Pescadero is a race I had been looking forward to all season; it’s nice and hilly and our team was planning on having a good showing. I rode around the course a decent amount in the weeks leading up to the race, mainly because there are amazing views and great roads! Although the field was small, it contained a few strong riders that we had to watch out for. I was joined by Melanie, Senders and Sara B. We were mainly keeping our eyes on Elle Anderson who had dominated the Mt. Hamilton stage race the previous weekend, along with some unknown riders who we hadn’t raced against before.

We raced 2.7 laps of the roughly twenty-seven mile lap. Each lap contains a few notable climbs, Stage Road and Haskins Hill (the top of which is the finish), with some long blustery stretches in between. The first set of climbs up Stage road were relatively tame but a few riders were shed. As soon as we turned on 84 the attacks began–thankfully they were from my teammates! Melanie and the Saras did an amazing job of forcing individuals to chase while I sat in. Elle was forced to do just about all of the chasing. Towards the end of the 84 stretch, Sara B took the lead and set a hard pace. After we crawled through the feedzone (unfortunately I missed the artichoke bread that someone was handing out!) it was straight into the 1.5 mile Haskins climb. I got a bit excited and went hard up it and soon Elle and I had a gap on the field. A kilometer or so from the top, Melanie whizzed past from a monster bridge up to us and set an even harder pace. The three of us finished the technical descent with a decent lead on the pack. We all took even pulls and I was confident that the break would stick until I glanced behind us and saw that three riders had caught us! Luckily one of them was Sara Enders, but with her were two riders who we had never raced against before. The second lap went much like the first lap, though with a reduced field, as Melanie and Sara attacked like crazy. They just kept going! This time up Haskins, Danielle Morshead (Team ERRACE) attacked and I went with her. We got away and I knew that there were really only two riders who would be working to chase us, since the others in contention were my teammates. However, we still had a 27+ mile lap left, so anything could happen. Danielle led the descents and took very strong pulls and we worked well together. We rotated evenly until the final climb where I got a bit of a gap and pushed it, managing to hold on to the finish. Melanie came in third and Sara fifth! I was so grateful for their selfless work and was really happy that it didn’t go to waste.


First time up Haskins






Cat’s Hill Criterium

Illi Gardner

Cat’s Hill criterium is one of NorCal’s most well-known races with its steep, punchy hill that gets harder every lap. This year I was joined by Amy and Melanie with the rest of the field consisting of a few doubles from other teams and a lot of strong singles. Our start was delayed due to a crash in the previous race, so the first lap was a bit of a shock to the system as Megan Alderete (Hagens Berman–Supermint) charged up the hill and immediately shelled a few riders. It took a couple of laps to get into the rhythm of maneuvering poor road surface and getting into the right gear for the 23% climb. A few laps in, I crested the hill towards the front while Melanie and Amy let a gap open. I went off the front for four or five laps and collected some primes (they were offered nearly every lap!) while Amy and Melanie controlled the pace. Once I was reeled in, Amy attacked and stayed off for quite a while, getting a ton of primes. Eventually we were all back together but the pack had whittled down to seven or eight riders. A few more hard laps and there were five left: Megan Ruble (Cycle Sport-Specialized p/b Muscle Milk), Naomi Hester (JLVelo), and us three. We kept the pace high for the last few laps. Amy and Melanie were great at encouraging me as I tended to ease off as the climb leveled, which is a vital place to keep pressure on the pedals. Going through the right hand turn to the downhill section on the last lap we were strung out. I was sitting third wheel behind Megan and Melanie, with Amy just behind me and Naomi a little further back. I’d been advised to go through the last turn as close to the front as possible since the finishing straight is so short. I risked it and attacked down the right side, rounded the turn first, and held on for the finish with Melanie and Amy right behind. Megan Ruble, who had done a ton of work, finished fourth followed by Naomi. We were really happy with how we worked as a team, especially without any real predetermined plan, and it was, of course, a really fun race!    71388004-5A4A0135Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 2.05.34 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-17 at 2.05.41 PM

Bariani Road Race

Illi Gardner

Bariani road race this year was very hot and very busy with our combined P/1/2/3 field containing around sixty riders. Last year it was incredibly windy and rainy, making for very tough conditions and a shattered field. This year was completely different; wind was low and we knew that breaks would be difficult to stick given the flat nature of the course. Six of us lined up for the 3pm start: Diane, Liz, Senders, Melanie, Amy and me. Sara let us stay over with her in Sacramento after racing Land Park the previous day, which was super fun and convenient. Since we knew that breaks were unlikely, our plan was to hold off on attacking until the latter half of the race and then formulate a leadout train in the last kilometre or two while I conserved energy for the sprint.

Bariani consists of three 13.7 mile loops, flat except for rollers followed by a slight uphill leading into the finish. Centerline rule was enforced until the final straight so we made sure to move to the front as quickly as possible to prevent missed moves. We had a tailwind on the first straight, then we took a right turn on the overpass before another right turn onto a slightly bumpy section with a headwind. Positioning was vital here: attacks were likely and it is always safer to be further up. Melanie, Sara and Diane put in some powerful attacks that were chased down mainly by singles such as Liza Rachetto of Hagens Berman, Lisa Cordova from Cycle Sport, and Clarice Sayle & Amanda Seigle from Jakroo. JLVelo also had a strong showing of 20+ riders.

Melanie put in a very strong attack in the rollers which nearly led to separation but was brought back by the large field. The first part of Lap 2 wasn’t too eventful, although four of us did get a bit of an echelon going in the crosswind. There were a few attacks but it was clear that nothing was going to stick. Unfortunately, ~27 miles into the race there was a big crash which took down around twelve riders including Amy. Some riders managed to chase back on but there were some pretty bad injuries. Hope everyone is okay and healing well!!

Attacks died down on the last lap and the pace was very slow leading into the rollers. Then Melanie and Diane launched a series of attacks along with Sara and Liz. It was getting quite crazy as everyone scrambled to chase and a small group nearly got away. We rounded the final corner with only a few riders shed, but everyone was much more tired so attacking had been a smart more. After the turn was a 1.7 mile slight uphill stretch with a bit of a tailwind. I was meant to get on Sara’s wheel but somewhere along the way I got caught up with other riders and got stuck at the back. Diane rode super strong at the front while Melanie and Liz got on her wheel. I was surrounded on both sides and realized that I had to get out if I wanted to contest the sprint. There were no gaps for me to jump in so I had to brake and come out the back and to the right of the pack. I pulled up till I was around fourth wheel back, but I was stuck to the side with no draft. Sara was just about to help me when I saw Sandra Freeman (JLVelo) come shooting up the right side. I jumped on her wheel and stayed there until the finish was within reasonable distance, then pulled to her left and continued that long, long sprint that seemed to go on forever! Liza Rachetto very very nearly passed me at the finish but I managed to barely hang on. Close behind was Lisa Cordova and Nicole Pressprich (Audi) followed by Sandra Freeman.

Although our leadout train didn’t quite work–completely my fault–it was fun to try new tactics and, apart from Amy’s bad luck :(, it was a good day. Melanie, Diane, Sara, Liz and Amy did a great job tiring out the rest of the field and helping me with positioning. I have a lot to work on but I’m very excited to continue the season with this awesome team. It was great that we had such a large field and it’s clear that races and tactics are playing out differently than last year with the size and strength of various teams. Thank you to Sacramento Golden Wheelmen and Bariani for hosting such a great event. Now onto the next race–San Dimas begins next Friday!!


Chico Stage Race

Illi Gardner


A few weeks ago Amy, Melanie, Liz and I headed North for a fun weekend at the Chico stage race. This was my first time doing it and all I really knew about it was the infamous gravel section of the Paskenta road race. But that was on Saturday, and first we had the Thunderhill circuit race on Friday. It was a rollercoastery hour of fun. The course was different than previous years, so the first few laps were spent figuring it out. Hagens Berman were pretty aggressive and grabbed all the hot-spot sprints, but no breakaways succeeded and it came down to a bunch finish. I tried to follow riders as they formulated their leadout trains and got into a good position for the finish. I came 7th with Melanie, Amy and Liz rolling in at the same time. It was a good start to the weekend but we knew that the next two days was where our position would be determined.


Saturday was the 90 mile Paskenta road race. The day was off to a good start with a delicious breakfast made by Melanie. That’s the good thing about stage races…you can eat as much as you want!

I was extremely happy to find out that the four-mile gravel stretch was shallow and apparently much better than previous years. The first lap was tame until a couple of miles before the gravel where everyone began fighting for position. A five-person breakaway group had gone very early in the race which contained a rider from every big team, so no one was working to bring it back. It was going okay until we hit the horrendous pothole section before the gravel, about two hours in. I hit a particularly bad hole and got a pinch flat right when the field was starting to split. Luckily I got it changed quickly and got up to a chase group–we worked hard to catch back on but it turned out that everyone was stopping for a pee break anyway.

By this point, the break was a whole eight and a half minutes ahead. Eventually the pace picked up and I started to regret not drinking or eating very much. We all stayed intact the last time through the gravel which ended just a few miles before the finish. Bottles were flying and energy was building. The pace surged on the little hill coming out of the gravel and Melanie and I just barely made it over with the first group and hung on till the finish. We were slightly gapped coming over that little hill and if Melanie wasn’t there to help bridge up I don’t think I would’ve made it!

I had been wearing the white jersey but lost it because another junior was in the 75 mile breakaway.


We were extremely thankful to Sara E for coming up to help in the feedzone and bringing our awesome Oakleys!!


The last day was the TT and crit. The TT was shortened to an out-and-back 8 miles due to flooding. This pretty much determined our GC positions, as our times were all close together leading into it. We all rode pretty well and then caffeine-loaded before the crit (thanks for the great mocha Amy…I basically spent the entire weekend eating other people’s food). The crit was just forty minutes of a six-corner L through downtown. I started at the back and was never able to move up, so I wasn’t too happy at the finish. Most importantly, we all stayed upright and our GC positions remained the same.


Overall I learnt a ton and had a super fun weekend. Thank you for being amazing teammates! Staying with a host family was also a new experience for me and I loved it.

Now we’re doing a few local races before heading to San Dimas at the end of the month!





British Track Nationals

Illi Gardner

A few weeks ago I flew over to Manchester for the British track nationals. Most of the winter was spent doing track-specific workouts (a lot of time in trainer hell) rather than long base miles. We signed up a few months ago – I’m unable to compete in the US nationals as I’m not a citizen so we decided to just go for it. It seemed like a crazy idea then and was an even crazier experience but I’m really glad we went.

The level of competition in the UK is high. There is a massive focus on track in the BC system and everything is very structured. They were all experienced and relaxed while I was freaking out about warming up next to Katie Archibald (and trying not to fall off the rollers).

This was (slightly worryingly) one of my first track races. I started doing track in August for the Bi-National games in October, which I loved, but the field was small. We went down to the LA track a few times, which is similar to Manchester, but nothing could quite prepare me for this!

The first few days were spent adjusting and testing out the track. I got to join a team GB session which was quite scary but very cool! I also had the opportunity to test out the starting gate, which I had never used before.   

My first race was the 3k individual pursuit on Friday. I was terrified. I had a good start for the first time ever but ended up completely fading (first lap was 23 seconds instead of the usual 25…then 17…a few 18s…and into the 19s by the end…). It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I know better for next time.

The next day was the scratch race. Qualifiers were in the early afternoon and finals in the evening. The top half of the two heats moved on to finals. There were twenty-something people in my heat and throughout the race I made sure to stay relatively near the front. Qualifiers were half the distance of finals; 20 laps, which took five minutes or so. With five to go it got a bit out of control. I found myself right at the back and panicked. I was desperately trying to move up, but so was everyone else around me. Suddenly there was one lap left and I was definitely not in the top half and so wasn’t as careful as I should’ve been. I’m not entirely sure what happened: we were at the first turn and I think I was trying to get in the same space as the girl next to me and we bumped shoulders. Phew, stayed upright–or not. I hit the wheel in front (really? How did I manage that?) and went down along with two others. Physically I was alright but really embarrassed. There was no reason to crash, and I obviously couldn’t finish the race because it happened in the last fifteen seconds. To fly all that way and waste everyone’s time, money and effort…I was really angry with myself. I broke my helmet but managed to borrow a spare – everyone was very supportive.

Next, and last, was the points race. My positioning was terrible; I left giant gaps and just wanted to make it through upright with yesterday’s crash still on my mind. Hopefully with experience I’ll be able to move on from things like that with less difficulty. It was a pretty fast heat but I could’ve done a lot better.

We watched finals which was fun. The velodrome was packed. I wish I had gotten to ride in them but it was all down to me so I can’t complain!

Although my results weren’t good, it was a crazy and fun experience. I got to race with those at the highest level, meet lots of nice people, and learn a massive amount.

We wouldn’t have even been there if it wasn’t for Beth and Jakroo – her help with training and support during the trip was amazing – thank you! I will learn how to do all the bike maintenence soon, I promise…

Now on to the road season!