(Kinley Gibson is a U23 Juventus member, currently riding for Trek Red Truck, and Cycling Canada's NextGen Women's Track Endurance program.)
There’s always an element of surprise for me when racing comes around again. When I’m in the midst of winter training, the San Dimas Stage Race always seems like a far-off, intangible event - completely separate from the rides and intervals of the day.
This particular off-season saw the start of the Women’s NextGen Track Endurance Program, which added a whole new dynamic to the year, and took some getting used to. There were moments this winter when training seemed a bit endless: a busy cycle of CompuTrainer workouts in Edmonton, long road days in California, and double track days in Milton.
Yet now that it’s the end of March, I can’t believe it’s already race season again – I feel like I was just here!
2016 will mark my third entry into San Dimas, and my second into the grueling race that follows, the Redlands Bicycle Classic. A large and aggressive field, difficult climbs, and some of the top riders in North America put these races in a class of their own.
As a first year elite in 2014, these races were my introduction to racing a women’s field in the USA; and to put it as nicely as possible, they were a complete kick in the pants. With a DNF in the San Dimas Criterium and a time cut at Redlands, it was pretty clear my junior days were done and gone.
2015 followed up with an even more disappointing turn of events – burned out before the race season even got off the ground; I once again DNF’d San Dimas and failed to even start Redlands. With this kind of early season resume, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a certain amount of trepidation heading into the upcoming races.
However, the past few weeks of training in both Edmonton and California has replaced some of my nervousness with a cautious optimism. The tough interval work, careful nutrition planning, long road miles, and (of course) Jeff’s famous roller sessions seem to be coming together. For the first time in the early season, I’m feeling the benefits of both reasonable fitness and the confidence of two years elite racing experience.
So - that hard work I’ve been mentioning: I’ve done the bulk of it with a group of very cool ladies as part of the NextGen track program. Lead by my coach of three years, Cameron Jennings, the four of us (Jamie Gilgen, Meghan Grant, Ariane Bonhomme, and I) have been putting in some serious time in the gym, on the track, and out on the road.
It’s a very diverse group – Ariane and I are both twenty-one, slowly chipping away at school, while Jamie and Meghan have about ten years on us (not to mention, you know, little things like degrees and jobs). We’re from all over the map too – BC, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and believe me, our personalities could not be more different. Despite everything, we’ve grown really close over the last few months: I guess the adversity of double workout days has that effect on people.
After spending the bulk of the winter bonding with these girls over everything from lifting weights to recovery day coffee spins, I’ll be transitioning from my NextGen family to my Trek Red Truck Racing family – my road team for the third year running. TRT has a great lineup this year (including Juventus’ own Anna Talman) and the team always provides really solid support for us. I’ll be sad to bid farewell to my NextGen teammates for the next few months, but a change of training environment and racing partners will bring an exciting new challenge.