Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Race Report: Redhook London

By Sammi Runnels

Redhook London was actually my first trip outside of the country. It’s very fitting that cycling would be the reason to go to the UK. I was super excited to get an offer from Aventon Bikes to race the European Redhook.

Our team director, Sean Burke, put the team up in a hostel near the race. It was my first time meeting the team, most of whom are based in San Diego: Gretchen Stumhofer, Kym Perfetto, and Esther Walker. We had the whole day before the race to get to know each other and explore the city. We went to the pre-race party at the Oakley residence, which was pretty wild. I’ve been finding it really interesting how the bike scenes differ. From road to mountain, the various disciplines are fun to observe. The fixed scene I would definitely compare to the cyclocross scene—lots of tattooed, trendy riders, and it seems the party is just as important as the race itself.

To prepare for the race the following day we did some tactical discussion. It had been decided we would work for Gretchen. Though she’d never done a fixed gear crit before, she’d competed in a lot of pro races and had been invited to the Olympic training center twice; she’d also recently won the SRAM Chicago Criterium, part of the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series. Gretchen never received her bike when she landed, however. It turned out her bike never made it on the plane. She was able to use our teammate Lucas’ bike thanks to the similarities in fits (a quick stem swap was required between races). Obviously the circumstances were not ideal, but we made it work, and she was able to race. Gretchen still put in the best qualifying time for our team, so the original plan was on.

The qualifying race is about four hours before the main event. I just want to explain how qualifying works real quick. (It was never explained to me in my first Redhook event in Brooklyn; at first I was under the impression it was like any other crit or mass-start race, and during the qualifier I went hard the whole time thinking it was first over the line versus the individual fastest lap time.) In the qualifier your fastest lap time determines your start position for the main race. You have 20 minutes to do a lap (about 1.2 miles) as fast as you can. Everyone starts together, you get used to the turns, and then you take your hot lap whenever you feel ready. The problem is, not everyone will be taking a hot lap at the same time. So during your hot lap you will be dodging riders that are going easy. This makes getting a fast lap time a little more difficult.  Gretchen qualified third and I qualified sixth, so we both were able to line up first row.

Generally, I don’t let myself get nervous before racing.  I wait till about a minute before the race starts to let myself be nervous, and at that point there is no time for doubts. 3, 2, 1, GO! We strung the race out from the gun, really taking advantage of our start positions. Breaking a fixed gear crit up from the beginning definitely felt like the safer option. While I don’t find these crits especially different from a road crit, it still takes some getting used to. Surely a brakeless fixed gear is less forgiving when you take the wrong line, I thought. So when there was a crash, it wasn’t super surprising. I just didn’t expect it to be the girl directly in front of me. On the third or fourth lap coming around turn two Gretchen went a little too wide and went down. Luckily there were strategically placed hay bales to break her fall. I was right on her wheel, and with no brakes to slow me down the only thing to do was hop and roll right over her bike. While I completed this task without much trouble, I let out a pretty loud yelp, as I figured I was going down at that point, too.

Kacey Lloyd (Rockstar Games) and Ainara Elbusto Arteaga (Conor Wrc) took this opportunity to get away. Ash Duban (Affinity) and I chased for two to three laps before catching on the back. At that point I figured we should keep the pace high, though it didn’t seem like we organized ourselves well enough, as Fleur Faure (Poloandbike) and Jo Celsco (Team Cinelli Chrome) caught on after four or five more laps. The rest of the race was very much cat and mouse. No one had teammates to rely on, thus it was in no one’s best interest to pull. I tried putting in a couple of hard attacks to possibly drop off some of the girls, but the pace would slow down again when they caught me. With one to go, Fleur attacked and led the final lap. At about 500 meters to go, Kasey attacked and led Ainara to the win. When Kasey attacked, Fleur shot backwards, forcing Ash and me to pass her on opposite sides. I finished just behind Ash in fourth place.

The Aventon team pre-race, Sammi posing at far right.

I am happy with my result in my second fixed gear crit, but I always strive to push myself hard. In retrospect I should have gone from the final turn. It was about 800 meters from the finish. I don’t believe I could have held it for the win, but I might have pulled off a better result. I feel that my teammates and I have learned a lot from the London race. Aventon will be sending five ladies out to Barcelona. We’re preparing ourselves to step up in this next race and take the win.

Sammi Runnels is a bike messenger in Austin, Texas. A native of Tennessee, she started riding when she was 19 and has been racing for three years. She enjoys road cycling, cyclocross, mountain biking, and fixed crits. Sammi is a reptile lover, owning a snake and a roughneck monitor lizard. In her time off the bike she enjoys modeling and drawing.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Disneyland for the Bike Racer
An ATC Racing report from the Driveway Series

by Christie Tracy
Christie Tracy celebrating the win with a well-earned bottle of champagne
 from Driveway sponsor Whip In 

This is my first year racing on the ATC Women’s Racing Team, and it has been a year full of learning, growth, and achievements, both personally and as part of a wonderful team.

I started the 2015 Race Season as a brand new cat 3 who had never raced on a women’s racing team before. I had one solid year of racing as a cat 4 under my belt, but had been racing as the solo female bike racer on a team comprised of primarily triathletes and male bike racers. As a result, I was entirely unfamiliar with how team tactics "worked," and I had a lot of learning to do when it came to basic racing technique and learning how to read a race as it unfolded.

My teammates have been an invaluable asset this year – they have helped me to learn so much in such a short period of time through the celebration of achievements and constructive criticism of mistakes used as teaching moments. I feel that my knowledge of bike racing techniques and tactics has grown tenfold this year, and has contributed significantly to my personal successes recently, as well as my ability to work for my teammates and support/back up their efforts during races, and our overall success as a team.

Most local Austin Bike Racers know me as "the registration girl" at the Driveway because I spent most of last year volunteering at the local Driveway Bike Race Series in an effort to stay involved with the racing community while I recovered from not one, but two, collarbone breaks. As a result, the Driveway Series, as well as its volunteers, spectators, and those who come to race their bikes, are very special to me. When I started racing again this year after recovering from last year’s injuries, it frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t pull out a decent placement in any of the Driveway Series Races! Don’t get me wrong – I learned SO much in the early season races, and helped to support many successful finishes by my kick-ass teammates, but for some reason I just could never seem to pull out a podium at the Driveway for myself!

That is why, when asked to write up a short piece on my racing successes this year, I chose to focus on my recent first place finish in a Driveway Series Women’s Open race. This win was so special to me first because it required such a team effort in order to earn it, and second, because it happened at my favorite place on earth – Disneyland for the Bike Racer – The Driveway Bike Race Series Austin.

My first win ever at the Driveway came on July 2 in the Women’s Open 5 p.m. race. (If you’ve never come out to watch this race – you have no idea what a good show you’re missing! What are you waiting for? Come check it out this Thursday!!) It was Ladies' Night, and there was a pretty decent field size, thanks in part to the additional primes and prizes generously donated for the ladies' races by local businesses. We were racing the speed loop, which started out with a climb up the corkscrew followed by a long, fast straightaway with a gradual descent.

Christie's race-winning attack up the corkscrew

I lined up in the 95-degree sweltering heat next to about 30 other ladies and looked around to find my teammates. We had five strong ladies racing: Marla Briley, Chelsea Smith, Katie Kantzes, Estefy Gonzales, and myself. The whistle blew, and I attacked hard from the line. I looked over my shoulder as I crested the corkscrew and saw that I had a small gap, so I just tucked my head and poured on the gas. The field caught me just before the turnaround, and Marla launched a counterattack, flying off the front of the peloton and forcing the other teams to grit their teeth and burn matches in order to chase her down. Marla built a decent gap as well, but was eventually reeled in, at which point Katie attacked, shooting off the front like a cannonball! I heard someone mutter under their breath at this point "C’MON, REALLY??" and I knew that our attacks were already starting to take their toll on the competition. Katie’s attack also resulted in a gap, and when it was closed, Chelsea countered with the force of a charging bull. Once again, the peloton was forced to redline it in order to prevent a solid break. When Chelsea was caught, I countered, and we continued this cycle of attack/counter/attack throughout the race.

Fast forward to the final lap. The peloton closed the gap on one of Marla’s attacks just after we crested the corkscrew, and I countered with every last ounce of power that I had left in my legs. I went all-out for about 30 seconds before daring to glance back, at which point I saw that I had a HUGE gap on the field! In the back of my mind, I started questioning myself: "Did I hear the bell right? Is this really the last lap? Was there an accident? WTF is going on????" After two seconds of second-guessing myself, I just said "Screw it, I’m all in anyway," and buried my head, giving everything I had until I came through the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, I didn’t even have the composure to celebrate – I was toast. I just gasped for air, and had just enough breath to yell to the official and ask if I had actually just won?!? He nodded his head, confirming, and I limped up the corkscrew into the arms of my wonderful husband who hugged me and whispered in my ear, "Congrats babe – you just won your first Driveway race!" That made it official. Huge grin, tears of joy, and the post-race interview, in which I profusely thanked my teammates. This was truly a team effort, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time on the final lap to launch that final counter attack at just the moment that the peloton had finally had enough of those damn ATC attacks and decided to give up the chase. :)

Celebrating after the race: ATC Racing's Estefy, Marla, Katie, and Christie

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ATC Turns 20

This summer, Austin Tri-Cyclist is celebrating its 20th year in business. Jon Hill started the shop in 1995 near Koenig Lane and Lamar Boulevard, moving to ATC's current location on Barton Springs Road in 1997. (Fun fact: Soon after the move, the current ATC Saturday ride was born; since then, the 8:30 start time and route of the "ATC world championships" have never changed.) Don and Missy Ruthven, shop customers from the beginning, purchased ATC in 2001, and the rest is history! Meet the current crew of ATC, still going strong after two decades.

Missy and Don Ruthven
Co-owners of ATC for 14 years
“In charge of pretty much everything but the bike,” Missy is one of ATC’s friendliest faces. She’s known as ATC’s shop mom (often baking a cake or cookies for employee birthdays) and resident wetsuit expert. Missy competes regularly in endurance events, from marathons to bike races; this is her 26th year of racing triathlons. Don is a triathlete as well and an ATC fixture, always easy to spot—a review once referred to him as “the guy who looks like Mick Jagger.” Don and Missy are the parents of two teenage girls, Taylor and Emily.
Adam Stroobandt
“Presidential Executive Director of Retail Operations”
ATC employee since 2006
Adam came from a running background, turned triathlete, turned cyclist, reverted back to triathlete, and finally came full circle to runner again. He has completed two Ironman races (at 18, he was the youngest competitor in his first one) and currently spends his time chasing two kids, which he says is equally exhausting.
Kaleb West
Store manager/chief director "of something"
ATC employee since May 2011
Kaleb has worked in the bike industry for six years. He's a very-soon-to-be dad. Interesting fact: As a side job, he installs craft brewery systems; he has installed breweries in Canada, North Carolina, and Florida for Premier Stainless. 
Allison Atkinson
ATC employee since 2012
Allison rides for shop team ATC Racing, teaches spin at Pure Austin Fitness, and is a certified USAC coach and brand ambassador for Castelli Cycling. Her lengthy experience in group fitness training makes her an expert in motivation and coffee consumption.
Andy Newton
ATC employee since March 2015 
Andy studied music at the University of Texas as an opera singer, and can play many instruments. He enjoys racing and riding road bikes.

Benjamin "Big Bo" Killen
Mechanic, Sales 
ATC employee since May 2015
Bo has worked around bikes for “half a decade.” When not riding bikes, he likes to crosstrain, trail run, camp, and watch cartoons. He was once in a Chuck E. Cheese commercial, and he raises two turkeys every year for Thanksgiving (always named Chobegoblin and Faceblast).

Brandon Smith
Mechanic, Sales
ATC employee since 2012
A former bike racer turned adventure cyclist, Brandon has vowed never to own a gas-powered vehicle again and has been using his bike as his primary form of transportation for the past eight years. He recently finished a 1,400 mile ride from Seattle to San Francisco.

Chris Warren
ATC employee since 2012
Chris Warren started riding in Central Florida, splitting his time evenly between road and mountain bikes. He has a long mechanical background, teaching himself automotive maintenance via the restoration of a first-generation Camaro. 
Derek Willms
Key Grip
Started at ATC about 1.5 years ago
Derek's claim to fame is that he has "better hair than Donald Trump" and the second best mustache at ATC.

Jef Cooksey
Mechanic, Sales
ATC employee since 2012
An interesting fact about Jef: Last year, he converted a Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck to run on vegetable oil and traveled the country, pulling an Airstream on Highway 1 along the California coast. 
Kara Uhl
2nd summer working at ATC
A college student, Kara will be the Graduate Assistant for the Union College Cycling team next year to assist with coaching and racing.

Kimble Martin West Esquire
Astronaut Elder (Sales)
ATC employee for 2.5 (thousand) years
Kimble once ventured to the edge of the Universe for breakfast, in 2014 won the Cat 5 Walburg Classic, and has the longest hair at ATC.

Robert "Speedao" Dao
ATC employee since 2014
Robert is a former Texas A&M triathlete and current triathlon coach. His ATC claim to fame is that he once sold seven bikes on one ticket. For more info on his coaching business Driven Endurance, visit or

Tristan Uhl
Mechanic, pro mountain biker
Employee at ATC since 2011
Tristan is ATC’s token pro cyclist, a mustachioed man who has been racing bicycles 23 of the 27 years he has been alive. He says he’s been around so long that he remembers the days when Don would do the ATC ride!

Kat Hunter
Freelance writer
Writing/managing the ATC blog since 2010
Though not officially a staff member, Kat has blogged for ATC since 2010. A longtime member of ATC Racing, this year she rides for national pro team Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good

Monday, July 13, 2015

Adult Onset Swimming

By Missy Ruthven

Missy's early days (at center with 90 degree bend in elbow)
Ever since high school I knew I wanted to do a triathlon. I also knew, being a runner and cyclist, that the swim portion would be a challenge. I had been around water all of my life but had never become proficient in freestyle. This became obvious when my (awesome!) high school track/cross country coach had us swim and run in the pool a few days a week to avoid run injuries. I could barely make one lap (25 yards) of freestyle swimming. I couldn’t get enough air!

Fast forward to after college when I am ready to do my first triathlon and have still done almost no prep for the swim. I figured I could resort to sidestroke and/or dog paddle if needed. Of course, my dog paddling skills were, in fact, needed a minute into the swim. I had the “can’t-get-enough-air” panic attack. I stopped swimming, treaded water, let everybody get away from me, took a lot of calming breaths, and examined the distances to the shore and turnaround buoy. I seemed to be in the middle of the two so I dog paddled, side stroked, and eventually “swam” my way around the buoy and back to dry land.

(As an important side note, I was comfortable being in open water—I’d been in too many lakes and oceans in my youth to have a fear of drowning. I knew I could be safe. I always ask newbies, when they express apprehension for the swim, if they can “save themselves” in the water: can they tread water, dog paddle, sidestroke, or otherwise do something that allows them to calm down if they have a panic attack or feel overwhelmed? If they don’t answer with a strong “Yes,” then I ask more questions; they may not be ready for an open water swim.)

My first triathlon race experience taught me two things. Or more, really, but for today’s article I will go with these:
1. I needed help learning how to really swim (freestyle swim), as I didn’t ever want to experience that again.
2. I loved triathlon so much that I was willing to work on my swim.

After that first race (New Braunfels, June 1990!), I met with some friends and training partners to get help on the swim. I did a few more triathlons the following years, and even just having minimal help on swim technique I was more comfortable, though still slow in the water. (Let’s just say it was pretty easy to find my bike in the transition area, as it was usually one of the last ones to leave.) I began to focus more on duathlons over the next five years.

I’d been successful competing in duathlons, but I wanted to start doing triathlons again and really needed to bring my swimming level up (I was competitive in the run/bike portion, but I would give up 10+ minutes in the swim for an Olympic distance). My husband, Don, who I was dating at the time, suggested joining a masters swim team. I had not heard of that and assumed from the name it was for “older” people, but I soon found out it was just coached swimming for adults. I was working at the University of Texas at the time as a nurse in the Exercise Physiology department, so I joined a masters team there—not Longhorn Aquatics with the big-time swimmers, but a group that was geared toward beginners.

Missy circa 1990

The group’s coach (thank you, Riggs!) was very patient with my stubbornness. I didn’t like to kick, was resistant to flip turns (after all, there are no flip turns in open water swimming), and didn’t see why I had to learn other strokes (since triathlon was freestyle). Of course, I understand the importance of these tasks now. It's true that during open water swimming the kick isn't used much for propulsion, but an effective small kick helps maintain good body position in the water. Becoming familiar with all of the strokes helped me to learn how my body moves through the water. And even flip turns are worth the time and trouble. In lap swimming, especially when sharing a lane with others that flip turn, it's more efficient, but the process of learning flip turns also taught me to be calm when my body (or mind) tells me to BREATHE NOW. In doing flip turns and also swim drills, I couldn't just breathe when I wanted; I had to time my breathing. Practicing this day after day, I found I could "roll with the punches" in any open water swim or race situation. If I couldn't get a good breath on one stroke, I could just wait until the next stroke.

I learned the basics of freestyle swimming with that first masters swim group, and continued learning even more with my next (and current) swim coach, Jimmy Bynum. I found that I became the most proficient in swimming when I had frequent (at least three times per week) coached swim workouts. The focus during these workouts is technique, not distance: the idea is to concentrate on your best technique as long as you can in a workout, really paying attention to and remembering how that technique feels.

Missy circa 2014

Even if you don’t have the time or money for masters swimming year-round, I would highly suggest one month of dedicated, coached swimming in a group if you really want to improve your swim. Also, the more open water (mass) starts you have, the easier it gets!! In my early triathlon years the swim was very stressful. Now I can handle anything that is thrown my way, even an elbow.

One great open water race opportunity coming up is tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14, at Pure Austin's Quarry location (Pure Austin Open Water Race Series). Pure Austin also holds a “Splash-n-Dash” the third Tuesday of each month, which is a swim/run. And the Marble Falls Triathlon, currently in its 15th year, will be held July 19 (online registration closes this Wednesday, July 15).

Coached swimming opportunities in Austin: 

Western Hills Athletic Club
Location: Rollingwood pool
Coaches: many

Pure Austin
Location: 4210 W Braker Ln.
Coaches: Peri Kowal, Julie Stupp

Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy (new)
Location: 5513 Southwest Parkway
Coach: Brendan Hansen

Texas Iron
Location: JCC Austin
Coach: Andrea Fisher

Location: Lost Creek Country Club & Circle C Swim Center
Coach: Maurice Culley

Longhorn Masters
Location: UT
Coach: Whitney Hedgepeth

Missy and Don Ruthven have owned Austin Tri-Cyclist for 14 years. An elite-level triathlete and former pro duathlete, Missy is currently in her 26th year of competing in multisport events and is also a member of ATC Racing’s road cycling team. She’s the mother of two teenage girls, Emily and Taylor.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How to Help a Woman on a Bike

by Kat Hunter

I’m not one to complain about men opening doors for me. (I’m usually carrying a 34-pound toddler.) A little gallantry now and again, as long as it’s not expressed in a way that undermines and insults, is a great thing.

But in the world of cycling, some men can be overly “helpful” to women cyclists. Nine times out of ten it’s well meaning, which is why we nod and smile at the advice-giver instead of bludgeoning him with a water bottle. I’ve had strangers ride up and comment freely and critically on my fit, equipment, and even gearing. In my first year of riding, one older gentleman told me I should stay out of the big ring for a few years to save my knees. I know men cyclists encounter these annoying authoritarians, too, but the frequency with which female riders attract their attention seems to suggest that we’ve been flagged: clearly, not having a penis is indicative of a physical and/or mental disability.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the men who are aware of how even the purist chivalry can be perceived; they don’t want to be “that guy,” so they hang back even when they genuinely just want to help. So how do you approach a woman without coming across as condescending? It’s not as difficult, and we’re not as sensitive, as you might think.

Is it necessary? The first rule of thumb is, make sure your assistance is warranted. If it’s some minor point and you don’t know the woman well, it’s probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Would you say or do the same thing if the cyclist was a guy?  

Be an authority. I have a litmus test for people who are welcome to give me unsolicited advice: they need to be in a higher category and/or have raced longer, have a career in or related to cycling, or be extremely smart and tech savvy. I also much prefer if they actually know who I am and where I fall on all those scales, too. A cat 5 telling a cat 1 woman how to ride her bike is annoying; I don’t care how much of a cycling prodigy he is.

Be humble, even if you are an authority. A little dose of humility and respect goes a long way. Everyone is new sometime, and everyone makes mistakes, so try to put whatever it is you’re trying to help with in the context of your own failures and foibles. Most women will pick up on the fact that you’re treating them like an equal and not an idiot, and they’ll listen and learn.  
Ask nicely. Some women will want your help with mechanical issues and others won’t—your best bet is to ask. I like the ambiguous “Need anything?” In the case of changing a flat tire, for example, that question could mean anything from “Do you need a tire lever?” to “Do you need me to do that for you?” You can avoid feeling like a jerk, and she can avoid feeling like a damsel in distress. I used to prefer it if the guys I was riding with changed a flat for me because I knew they were standing around waiting and I’d be slow. To each her own.

Never touch. Or not unless you know her well enough to know that it’s okay. Touching (when it’s not necessary or isn’t in a race situation) can come across as demeaning or just plain creepy. Elbow, hip, bike…doesn’t matter; that’s very personal space. Some guys will give a woman a friendly push out of the blue in a race or a fast group ride. Personally, I’d like to say thanks but no thanks on that one. The gesture is nice, but most of the time it just succeeds in surprising me. I’ll use your wheel any day, though, so come around and motor me back up that way if you’re feeling generous.

The key, always, is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. I’d say “just treat us like one of the guys,” but we’re not one of the guys, and that’s okay. Letting us have a wheel, leading us out for a sprint point, not shoving us off the road or yelling at the other guy who just tried to—as bike racers, we’re primed to take advantage of every opportunity we get, to capitalize on the strength or weakness of others, so any woman with sense isn’t going to complain about a helping hand or wheel. White knights are welcome and appreciated! Just don’t be surprised if our manners aren’t very ladylike in turn and we pull ahead of you at the line, okay?