Are you getting enough protein??
As I head into the off-season I look forward to transitioning this blog from race reports to a little more “about me” and my thoughts of off-season training and the continued growth of women’s cycling. With that said, here is Part 1!
I’ve lost count how many times people have asked me this blog title question and I want to debunk this myth once and for all! I became a vegetarian three years ago, mostly because I finally stopped looking the other way from the way animals are inhumanely raised and treated in factory “farms” and slaughterhouses. I won’t rant about it all here, but it truly is so, so sad that in 2016 we still treat animals with this kind of cruelty. Now, I may not be able to convince everyone to become vegetarians, but I hope I can at least show other athletes that you don’t have to eat meat in order to compete at the highest level of athletics.
In order to keep my protein intake up I have two eggs (pasture-raised, mind you!) every morning with spinach along with my daily iron supplements. Luckily for me I LOVE peanut butter so I also layer on the peanut butter onto my whole grain toast. For lunch and dinner I always make sure to have plenty of beans, nuts and of course tofu! Speaking of tofu, it has come amazingly far since the days of that slimy square slab of cardboard! There are many fake “meat” companies out there now producing the most delicious options. My wife and I have a favorite tofu and meat grain company called Field Roast. Now, I do not represent Field Roast (not yet!) but I have to say that their sausages, burgers and meatloaf taste amazing while having 26 grams of protein! Because of the delish flavor and high protein we put them in almost all our dinners!
You might be thinking thats all fine and dandy but say “I race lots of stage races and at altitude; I need my red meat to boast my hematocrit back up!” Well I say to you, I raced 35+ races in three months this season, four of which were stage races at altitude! Throughout all that racing I never felt like my plant-filled diet held me back in any way; if anything, I felt like my body actually ran cleaner and leaner!
So there you have it: next time you are craving protein, remember that there are other great, humane options out there that can give you more than enough protein!
Cascade Cycling Classic UCI 2.2 07/20-07/24-2016
My final stage race of the year is in the books and boy, was it a tough one! The 2016 edition of the Cascade Cycling Classic was a UCI 2.2 event so there was a lot to be excited about, including racing with my awesome teammates and getting great support from Portland Bicycle Studio. The PBS ladies brought a very strong team of Jen Luebke, Nicole Pressprich and guest rider Brenna Wrye-Simpson. With just the minimum of four team riders toeing the line, we knew we would have our work cut out for us!
Stage 1 - McKenzie Pass Road Race - 12th
As we kicked off the 90 mile race we had a very strong international field of 85 women with both the USA and Canadian Olympians (Kristen Armstrong & Tara Whitten) headed to Rio in just a few short weeks. Things started off pretty mellow before teams began launching attacks, but nothing was really sticking as everyone seemed content with waiting until the last 12 miles of climbing up to McKenzie Pass and the scenic lava fields. Headed into the base of the climb and summit finish, the pace quickly increased as expected while a break of ~5 riders had about 1 minute. There was a lot of jockeying for position, causing a lot of nervousness and even a few crashes so I did my best to stay up in the top 10 as the road began to pitch up. Once into the heart of the climb there were a few strong attacks but the pace was too high for anything to stick as we swallowed up the remnants of the earlier break. With 5k to go the lead group was down to about 25 riders as I began to really feel the burn and have to dig deep with every acceleration to stick with the group. Headed into the last 1k with the group still all together, a small bunch sprint was inevitable. With just Jen and I left in the lead group we did our best to stay near the front as the speed increased leading to the uphill sprint. In hindsight, I should have launched what little energy I had left into an attack with 500 meters to go as there was a bit of a hesitation in the group as everyone looked at each other. However, I did not and waited too long before someone else attacked as everyone else wound up their sprints. I don’t think I ever got out of the saddle in my sprint as my legs yelled “no more!” but I was still somehow able to manage a 12th place finish just behind Jen in 11th.
Stage 2 - Crooked River Time Trial - 16th
This stage consisted of a 16 mile out and back course on mostly flat roads with a few rollers. With this being the longest time trial of the year for me, I tried to start slow with the goal of ramping it up in the second half. I think I achieved that and I felt pretty content with my effort, especially given that I had not trained or raced much on my TT bike this year. Tara Whitten smoked the course, taking the win, with Jen as the top placed PBS rider in a very solid 10th place.
Stage 3 - Cascade Lakes Road Race - 24th
This was a really tough stage for me as my legs just never felt good. The race starts with climbing up from Bend to Mt. Bachelor and Team Twenty16 drilled it up the second half of the climb which really put me into the red zone. Towards the top of the climb I got dropped from the lead group of around 25 riders but after a big chase on the decent I was able to get back onto the lead group. As we began the lead up to the final climb of the day there was a flurry of attacks from a lot of teams and a breakaway finally formed with about 15 miles to go. As we hit the base of the climb I found myself in perfect position with Jen but I just didn’t have the legs to follow the accelerations up the steepest grade of the climb. I tried to ride within myself and limit my losses. I ended up finishing a little over a minute behind the lead group that contained Jen; she moved up into top ten in the GC while I fell to 19th overall.
Stage 4 - Downtown Twilight Criterium - 17th
Downtown Bend definitely comes out for this stage with awesome crowds so I was really looking forward to this stage to hopefully step onto the podium but it was not to be. I started near the back of the field but I was able to quickly accelerate through the field within the first lap. The race was full gas from the very beginning, making it very difficult to move back up if you drifted back through the field. I did my best to try to conserve by riding the waves as I looked towards the finish and ignored the intermediate sprints. At some point during the race I hit one of the nasty potholes on the back stretch of the course but everything felt fine so I continued on. However, with a couple of laps to go I could feel my front tire going low. I did my best to move to the front but it was going to be almost impossible to contest the sprint so I had to settle with just staying safe while not losing any time. Definitely a disappointing finale on a stage in which I was really looking forward to doing well. After swimming in my own sorrows for a few minutes I bounced back and turned my focus to tomorrow’s final stage and new hope!
Stage 5 - Awbrey Butte Circuit Race - 23rd
Wow, this stage was the fastest 2 hours of racing I have ever experienced. It was full gas from the very beginning of the race all the way to the finish. I felt really good the during laps 1 and 2 of the 3 laps around the 16 mile circuit. It was about mid-way through the second lap that Kristen Armstrong accelerated with a teammate up one of the many short climbs. Only Tara Whitten was able to follow and I was just behind them in the 6 girl chase group that formed. Unfortunately, no one wanted to work except for a couple of us so we were caught by the very dwindled peloton as we headed into the third and final lap. I’m not sure if it was the heat or just the constant pressure on the pedals, but as we progressed through the third lap my legs began to fatigue badly. Leading up to the final climb and finish, the break of the 2 Olympians was still up the road by 2 minutes and the lead chase group was down to just 25 riders. I dug extremely deep and made it over the main climb with the group but unfortunately I had nothing left for the short finishing climb and couldn’t contest for the finish. Jen powered up the final climb, finishing 10th on the day and 9th overall. Meanwhile, I finished 23rd on the day but because of the relentless speed and heat I was able to jump a few girls in the G.C. and finish 16th overall!
This race was definitely the toughest of the year for me, from the quality of the field to the altitude and the many long climbs. I felt very content with my final placing with all things considering. However, never content, I’m always striving to become a stronger and better rider. This race proved that I can more than compete with the very best, domestically and internationally. All this makes me extremely excited and optimistic as I looks toward the 2017 racing season!
Baker City Cycling Classic 06/24-26/2016
Jen, Nicole, Dawn, (Christine in the Masters 1/2/3) and I headed to the old town of Baker City in Eastern Oregon for the Baker City Cycling Classic, which consists of 5 stages in 3 days this year — a new 1 mile uphill TT was added to the stage race. With back-to-back double days and then the final tough “alpine” road race, recovery was going to be key. After some tough racing in Minneapolis at the North Star Grand Prix I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond with yet another stage race, but sometimes you can “ride” that stage race fitness right into another race.
Stage 1 Things started off with a mostly flat and short 40 mile road race. There was one 2 mile gravel section to contend with and two small climbs. Along with a little wind and fresh legs within the peloton we knew we had our work cut out for us, but I felt confident if it came down to a field sprint. After our neutral rollout we turned into a cross/tailwind and the pace picked up as Jannalyn Luttrell drilled it at the front and over the first QOM. Her effort was enough to drop most of the lower category riders so we were down to around 12 riders headed into the second half of the race and the gravel section. Jen did a great job leading us through the gravel, keeping Nicole and I safe. Right after the gravel section there was a bit of a lull and Nicole took advantage of it by getting a gap by herself as we headed into the second small climb of the day. Nicole stayed off the front for several miles before eventually getting reeled back in by Jannalyn with about 8 miles to go; but she did a great job in forcing a chase while Jen and I just sat on and saved our legs for the end. With about 1k to go Jen went to the front as planned and began her lead out with me on her wheel. She metered her effort perfectly in the long straight tailwind finish and I came around her at 200 meters to go and held it to the line for the win! Perfect team execution resulted in a true team win AND 3rd place for Nicole!
Stage 2 Later in the evening was the new 1 mile uphill TT. The climb was short and never really all that steep, which suited me well. I went hard from the beginning and just kept the throttle at full gas all the way to the end. I had never done such a short TT effort so I had to consciously keep telling myself not to “meter” my effort and just GO! I gave it everything I had and sprinted to the line well enough for a virtual tie for first with Jen! When everything was all said and done, the next closet girl was 20 seconds behind Jen and me.
Stage 3 We started the morning with an 11 mile pancake flat TT. Not a lot to do here but go as hard as you can for ~25 minutes and don’t blow up. The first half was super fast with a tailwind; whereas the second half was slower with a cross/headwind. I passed two riders and at the line felt pretty content with my ride. Jen absolutely killed it and took the win, beating me — in second place — by 36 seconds while putting big gaps on the rest of the pack. Nicole was riding a good TT until she missed a turn and ran off the road! Luckily she was able to get back on her bike and still finish with a decent time. Unfortunately, Dawn had a rough day out there and never felt like her usual strong self.
Stage 4 The crit followed the TT later that afternoon. Unfortunately, we lost a rider, Dawn, as she was not having the best race and couldn’t get her body to perform at the level of which she is capable. It was definitely a big hit to the team but with Jen and I having a stranglehold on the GC we would solider on! Our goal going into the crit was to get EVERY prime and the win — we just about did that! We literally got every prime but one and I sprinted for the win, giving me my third win and the team’s fourth win in as many stages.
Stage 5 This was the queen stage of the BCCC! 85 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing, mostly all coming in the last 10 miles of the race where we finished at Anthony Lakes Ski Resort at 7,000 feet. The race started out SLOW and continued that way as no one — not even us — really wanted to work much. Everyone was keen with waiting until the final 12 miles and making the race into a hill climb. So with no attacks we all rotated for around 70 miles before the pace started to get upped as we headed into the lower slopes of the climb. Just after the feed zone Jen and I went to the front (as planned) to go hard from the bottom and hopefully whittle down the group and discourage people knowing they still had 10 miles of climbing left. We did just that! Jen started it and I took over while still being careful not to blow up with so much climbing to go. Looking behind us I could see only single riders spread down the road so I began to back off the pace some to make sure we had enough for the last few miles. Unfortunately, at about 5 miles to go Jen couldn’t quite hold my pace and dropped back. At the same time, Alison Frye rode up to us solo and was looking super strong. I stayed with her for the next couple of miles before I began to yo-yo off her wheel as we headed into the last 3k. Alison started the day over 8 minutes down behind Jen and I so it wasn't a huge concern if we lost a minute or two from her. Luckily I think I actually brought her back some in the downhill and flat section leading up to the finish and lost only 23 seconds to her in the end. Jen rolled in about a minute behind me and Nicole rolled in for a solid 6th place. Jen and I ended up swapping spots in the GC, with me taking the win and Jen in second!
In the end, Team PBS walked away with four stage wins, three seconds and two thirds while placing in the top two in the GC. Doesn’t get much better than that! The team was awesome all weekend and I felt so lucky to be part of such a successful 3 days of racing! After racing back-to-back big stage races consisting of 11 stages in 14 days, I am now looking forward to a much needed short break from racing. After some good rest, I'll then begin a big training build up for the now UCI sanctioned Cascade Cycling Classic coming up in about 3 weeks! PBS is sending a super strong team and I'm so excited to see what we can do against the world's best cyclists!
High Desert Omnium 06/11/2016
The High Desert Omnium consisted of 3 races in 2 days. A 9 mile time trial kicked things off with a 40 minute criterium later that evening. Portland Bicycle Studio had great representation with myself, Jen, Nicole, Steph (crit only) and Christine racing in the 3’s.
The time trial was mostly flat with a few rollers on the backside but was actually pretty technical and during the race I was wishing I had pre-rode or driven the course! This was my first TT with my new Focus bike, wheels and helmet so I didn’t exactly feel super comfortable out there but it was a great first test! I started strong with my focus on not going out too hard and holding a good position on the bike through the tailwind parts of the course. I lost my focus and rhythm in the rollers section of the course and it was tough to keep my head down with all the turns and not knowing when the next one was coming! With about 1500 meters to go there was one last downhill left hand turn into a crosswind. I went into the turn way too hot and just as I rounded the corner the wind took my disk wheel and unweighted it, which caused about a 50ft rear wheel power slide through the corner. I somehow managed to stay upright but scrubbed off almost all my speed. After thanking the cycling gods I tried to regain my focus into the last kilometer, which wasn’t easy now that my heart was about to pound out of my chest! Even with my close encounter with the asphalt I pulled out the win by 0.4 of a second! So close and I was extremely happy to be on the winning side of it! Jen took 3rd while Nicole pulled off 5th.
The crit later that evening was at the Bend Airport which was actually a really fun and fast course on some of the taxiways there! It was fun to race at a venue where I have spent so much of my life. It combined two of the things that I love — flying and bike racing!
The team plan going into the race was to have Steph and Nicole cover some of the early moves while Jen and I would try and save our legs for later in the race with Jen possibly leading me out if it came down to a field sprint. Just a couple of laps in Annick from Athletes Lounge attacked and Steph followed her and they got a pretty good gap for about a lap. A cash prime was then called and the pack began to reel them back as we turned onto the finishing straight. I could see Annick start to separate herself from Steph as she went for the prime so I reacted to sprinting up to her while using Steph as a bit of a “bridge” to get across the gap. I rode up to and through Annick and pulled hard for about a lap to make the gap stick. Annick and I began trading pulls with no hesitations and were super smooth breakaway mates. We very quickly gained 30 seconds on the field which had good representations of Athletes Lounge and, of course, PBS so this break was destined to gain lots of time. We continued to work really well together and all of a sudden I began to see the pack ahead of us! We eventually lapped the field with about 5 or 6 laps to go. On the final lap Jen went to the front with me in tow as she used her huge motor to lead me out for the sprint. Annick sat on my wheel as Jen continued to up the speed and I could sense that it was hurting Annick as Jen was laying the power down! As we turned onto the finishing straight I opened up my sprint and quickly gapped Annick and took the win! After Jen’s monster lead out she still managed to get second in the field sprint and third on the day! Super impressive and it capped off a great day of racing for the PBS ladies!
I had to head back to Portland that night to prepare for my flight out to Minnesota for the North Star Grand Prix so I choose not to race the final road race of the omnium. With that said, I still ended up 2nd overall in the omnium, even without entering the road race! This past weekend gave me a huge confidence boost heading into a big 5 days of racing at the North Star Grand Prix that begins this Wednesday and I can’t wait to see what I can do against some of the biggest names in women’s cycling!
US PRO Nationals 05/28/2016
I headed out to Winston-Salem, North Carolina last week for my first US Pro Nationals — and, since I would be there, the Amateur Winston-Salem Cycling Classic Crit — and it lived up to its reputation! I was fortunate enough to get out there a few days before for some course recon and heat/humidity accumulation. The course had lots of turns and was very up and down with very little respite or flat, straight areas. I knew with the combination of the course, length of race (9 laps for a total of 86 miles) and humidity that this race would be a race of attrition. Saturday morning finally came and I staged right up next to Evelyn Stevens and the defending US national champion Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) Hard not to feel intimidated against that kind of firepower! With such a quality field my plan was just to conserve as much energy as possible and stay with the lead group for as long as possible.
The race started hard right from the start — no surprise there! The first couple of laps I held great position over the main steep climb leading into the finish but as the laps ticked away it got tougher and tougher to follow the accelerations over the climb. It was extremely crucial to stay hydrated and fueled throughout so I focused on drinking and eating every chance I got; there were not many! With 3 laps to go I could feel the fatigue beginning to set in but I just continued to focus on conserving as much as possible. The 2nd to the last time up the climb Kristen Armstrong (Twenty16-Ridebiker) drilled it up the climb which was enough to put me in all sorts of hurt! Extremely determined, I dug deep into the pain cave to claw my way back to the lead group that had shrunk from 95 riders to just 60. After I reattached to the group, I was in complete survival mode and just hoped to stay with the group through the numerous climbs on the last lap leading up to final time up the finishing climb. Several girls attacked throughout the last lap, keeping the pace high, but I was able to hang on and was there as we rounded the turn into the final climb and last kilometer of the race. Unfortunately, I was completely spent at this point so I just rode the climb at my own pace and tried to salvage the best finish as possible. I ended up crossing the line 44th place, just 55 seconds down from the winner, Megan Guarnier.
I was extremely happy with my result and my perseverance in a race that only had 59 finishers! Knowing that it was probably the toughest race that I’ll do this year, I was very satisfied with where my fitness is and where it’s going for the rest of this season. It was an amazing experience racing with our nation’s best ladies and to know where the bar is set. I’m already so excited for next year’s race where I know I won’t just be surviving, but will be competing and racing for a top placing!
The next day was the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic Crit on a tough, hilly and unique course! The amateur field was very small with mostly just cat 3/4 ladies so I knew anything less than a win would be a disappointment. After more of a scouting first lap I attacked up the climb on the second lap and no one was able to follow. I settled into “TT” mode and continued to extend my lead as I began to lap dropped riders. By the finish, I ended up lapping the field and taking the win! As an added bonus, the win did get me invited to race the pro crit a couple hours later! Unfortunately, I had left it all out there in the amateur crit earlier, leaving me pretty empty for the Pro race. It was still a great experience on what turned into a very rainy and wet course, but was a great ending to an awesome weekend of racing!
Share this blog!
Mikayla is a tall cyclist living in Portland, OR. She is a vegetarian and animal lover. Mikayla is tall and uses her long legs as leverage.
Check out Mikayla Maier's cycling blog here!
Read about Mikayla Maier's cycling adventures, thoughts on off-season training and being a vegetarian cyclist!