Posted by: marissaridesbikes | August 22, 2012

Touchstone Occupies the Podium at 2 Wheel/Early Bird Criterium

Race Report time!
Touchstone Climbing’s Elle Anderson and Marissa Axell raced to the 1st and 3rd spots on the category 1/2 podium, respectively, at the 2 Wheel / Early Bird Women’s Criterium around Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park on Sunday, August 19th.

Touchstone's Elle Anderson wins the 2 Wheel / Early Bird Women's Crit

Touchstone’s Elle Anderson wins the 2 Wheel / Early Bird Women’s Crit. Photo by Mike O’Neil

Each lap of the course features a slight rise just before the start/finish line, not to mention a generous cross-wind on the backstretch of the course. Eager to animate the race, Elle launched an unexpected and strong counter attack to an early surge, just as the field started the second lap of the race. Her attack quickly gained 10 seconds and Marissa watched the peloton put in an earnest chase. However, when the initial chasers failed to bridge the initial gap to Elle, the chase quickly disorganized and her attack became a solo breakaway that won the race by over a minute.

Marissa not only sprinted to a third place finish behind Vanderkitten/Focus rider Vanessa Drigo, but she played an integral role in the team tactics by policing the front of the main field, quickly neutralizing bridge attempts and ultimately foiling any serious chase. With Elle soon ‘out of sight, out of mind’ ahead of the main field, Marissa heard several different riders ask “is that Touchstone rider sill up the road?”. Yes. Yes, she was.

Touchstone 1st and 3rd at the 2 Wheel / Early Bird Women's crit

Elle Anderson (1st, Touchstone Climbing), Vanessa Drigo (2nd, Vanderkitten/Focus), Marissa Axell 3rd (Touchstone Climbing), Kristin Drumm 4th (Cycles Fanatic), Laurel Green 5th (Early Bird Women). Photo by Mike O’Neil.

Even with the very strong headwind on the back straight, it was a fun and competitive race with another Touchstone-dominated podium!

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | August 9, 2012

Touchstone’s Elle Anderson takes 3rd at Fast and Furious Criterium

Mild temperatures, enthusiastic crowds, and a strange and loud cover band descended  on downtown Pleasanton, CA on Sunday, August 5th for the Fast and Furious Criterium. The ingredients for an exciting Women’s P-1-2-3 Crit were all there – We had a tent spot on “team row”, we had a solid crew from Touchstone, Carol, Marissa, Rita and Elle, and there was some great team representation to round out the field of 42. There were 7 Vanderkitten women, 4 Stevens p/b Pactimo, 3 Exergy-Twenty12, 5 from Metromint. The action didn’t disappoint!

The start line was packed with energy as we lined up ready to go. When the whistle blew, the racing started immediately at a blistering pace. For the first few laps, there was a lot of nerves and switching of lines as we navigated the tight first turn, the humped second turn, the long backstretch, and the tight 3rd and 4th turns. There were early attacks and short-lived breaks which meant a fast pace with surges and chasing to keep the pack together. Touchstone was attentive and active at the front, watching for the right moves. About half-way through the 55-minute race, Carol and Marissa were part of a large break of 8 women that looked promising for a few laps before being slowly reeled in. As the confusion set in after reabsorbing the break, Elle attacked on the backstretch, gaining a quick lead of about 10 seconds. At 13 laps to go, it was a tad on the early side for a solo break, however reinforcements came quickly when Alison Tetrick (Team Exergy-Twenty12) and Emily Collins (Vanderkitten-Focus) bridged up, forming a breakaway of 3. Hanging out in front of the main field at about a 10-second advantage for a while, the breakaway gradually solidified a lead of 30-40 seconds, mostly due to the hard work and strong pulls by the 3 leaders.

At one and a half laps to go, Alison took her chances against the sprinter Emily, and attacked from third wheel. The two battled it out for the line, with Emily winning in style in the sprint, Alison finishing second, and Elle crossing the line in 3rd a few seconds back. Meanwhile, the field was lining up for the field sprint – Marissa encountered an open safety pin in the road that gave her a flat just as she was navigating to a prime field-sprint position, with Carol on her wheel. With Marissa pulling off to the sidelines, it was up to Carol and Rita to regain position for the sprint. Mary Maroon (Folsom Bike) won the field sprint, with Carol finishing 18th and Rita close behind in 20th.

We agreed all around it was a fantastic race for the team, with everyone working and riding well together, and having a blast. Favorite part? The team huddle where, despite the ups and downs of the day, we were all just excited to have raced a great race together. Go team!

Results found at:
NorCal Blog:

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | June 27, 2012

Touchstone scores another victory at Burlingame Crit!

What a race for the blue and gold colors of Touchstone Climbing! The team made a plan, raced aggressively and tactically, and blazed to another win this past Sunday, June 24th, in downtown Burlingame. Five Touchstone riders took to the line: Carol, Heather, Elle, Marissa and Rita. There were strong showings from Red Racing (5 riders), Tibco II (3 riders) and riders from Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo and Metromint Cycling among others for a field of just over 20 women.

TS Carol, Rita and Marissa

Touchstone riders Carol, Rita, and Marissa at Burlingame Crit 2012. Photo by John Wilde.

The first two thirds of the race saw half a dozen attacks – Heather put in a great attack early on, and was joined by Red Racing and Stevens for a break that looked promising. But the group of three was eventually reeled in. Carol and Rita took turns attacking the field and softening up the field as well. Many of the attacks were short-lived because the field seemed eager to chase quickly as Touchstone kept the pace high with well timed counter-attacks.

TS Marissa and Elle

Touchstone’s Marissa and Elle at Burlingame Crit 2012. Photo by John Wilde.

The announcer started counting down the laps with 8 to go as the field was strung out reacting to another acceleration. As the field rounded the corner into the backstretch, the pace eased up just enough, making a perfect counter moment. Carol and Elle both attacked simultaneously with Carol attacking up the left side, and Elle swinging wide to attack up the right. The confusion caused by the double attack allowed Elle to escape from the field and quickly gain nearly a minute on the field.

TS elle win bgame

Touchstone’s Elle wins Burlingame Crit! Photo by John Wilde.

With Elle off the front for the final 8 laps, Touchstone set up to win the field sprint. The field sprint had an element of added confusion as Red Racing’s Juliette Olson was still in ‘no mans land’ but in second place ahead of the charging peloton. The main field nearly caught her for the finish sprint, but Juliette Olson held off the field for 2nd, with Amy Chandos (Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo) sneaking into 3rd and Kimberly Sperling (Red Racing) taking 5th.

The Women's 1-2-3 Burlingame Crit podium

The Women’s 1-2-3 Podium at the Burlingame Crit. Kim Sperling (5th-Red Racing), Amy Chandos (3rd-Stevens), Elle Anderson (1st-Touchstone), Juliette Olson (2nd-Red Racing), Marissa Axell (4th-Touchstone)

At the end of the day, it was a proud moment for Touchstone. The team came together to execute the winning plan, and everyone contributed and raced excellently. Touchstone is off to a great string of races!

TS team at Burlingame crit

Touchstone riders win at Burlingame: (L-R) Heather Nielson, Elle Anderson, Marissa Axell, Carol Irving, Rita Szeto

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | June 18, 2012

Podium Sweep at Pacific Service Credit Union p/b PG&E Crit

On June 16th, Touchstone arrived in Pleasanton, to find it was “not-so-pleasant” as temperatures hit 102– in the shade.  A field of nearly 40 women toed the line at 12:40 for the Pacific Service Credit Union Powered by PG&E Criterium. The course is
flat and run in a clockwise direction and consists of four very wide corners, with the final corner 150m from the finish. The corners are so wide, they may trick riders into taking some irregular lines, hence there are usually some silly crashes here – fortunately none for the women’s field.  It’s the kind of industrial park criterium that usually leads to a big group finish and no breakaways, especially on a windless day. But the Touchstone team, inspired by Rita Szeto’s “Most Aggressive Rider” award from the previous weekend, was determined to create a breakaway race.

Touchstone’s Marissa Axell harbored a dream of attacking from the start, and with a great clip in, attack she did – taking a CyclesFanatic racer with her. After 1 lap, they were reeled in. Just as Marissa re-entered the field, Touchstone’s Emily Thurston –with yet another Touchstone rider, Elle Anderson on her wheel — attacked up the inside, quickly establishing a 12 second lead on the field.  Red Racing and Tibco II attempted to bridge, but neither rider was able to close the gap. As the peloton slowly reeled in the Red and Tibco II rider, another Tibco II, Adrienne Belleveau, counterattacked with Marissa on her wheel. After a half lap, Marissa looked back to see that they had significant separation from the field.  With the two Touchstone riders still up the road, Marissa wouldn’t contribute to the pace-making, but she attacked into and out of a corner to bridge up to the break on her own. Suddenly, there they were, with looks of astonishment on their faces, three Touchstone riders alone together in a breakaway with a significant advantage over the field. It was just a few laps into the race. With the addition of a third rider and new energy, the breakaway of Emily Thurston, Elle Anderson and Marissa Axell drove the pace and increased their advantage to 45 seconds over the field.

Touchstone Climbing Riders Elle Anderson, Marissa Axell, and Emily Thurston commit to the breakaway

The three Touchstone riders settled into a solid rhythm of taking turns, drinking, recovering and pulling through in the 104-106 degree temperatures to the cheers of the crowd. All three riders endured some terribly low feelings, something akin to a tender cut of meat being basted and roasted for a holiday dinner. Finally, after an eternity, the three riders saw the lap cards counting down to 5. With an actual end in sight, the pace quickened slightly. Elle kept the pace high into the final lap, Emily sprinted for all she was worth with Marissa on her wheel, bringing Marissa to the final corner for the win, completing a Touchstone Climbing podium-sweep.  To put the icing on Touchstone’s cake, Carol Irving contested a furious field sprint, winning fifth by a bike throw. Massive props to the team, selflessly riding to take 1, 2, 3 and 5 on the day, and possibly one of Touchstone’s best finishes in recent memory! Thanks to NorCal Cycling News for the media coverage!

Touchstone sweeps the podium at Pacific Services Credit Union p/b PG&E Crit. (LtoR: Kim Sperling, Emily Thurston, Marissa Axell, Elle Anderson, Carol Irving)

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | May 10, 2012

Touchstone Climbing: Rider Profile – Rita Szeto

Over the past few weeks we’ve introduced you to many of our Touchstone Climbing teammates.  We’ve only got two teammates left to introduce to you.  Stay tuned for inside information about the riders, both on and off the bike.

Name: Rita Szeto

Rita Szeto at 2011 Davis 4th of July Crit

Rita Szeto (Touchstone Climbing) on the front of the peloton at 2011 Davis 4th of July Crit.

Do you have a nickname?
Ritz… Ritz Cracker… Reetz… something along the lines of lovely Rita, and meter maid… but usually it’s just plain Rita

Hometown: Montebello, CA (So Cal) but currently I reside in Crockett, CA

Alma Mater and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, UCLA; Master’s in Statistics, University of Michigan

Category : I’m a category 3, and 2012 is my 10th year of racing

What’s playing on your iPod right now?
Soundtrack from “Midnight in Paris”

What’s your favorite NCNCA race?
Santa Rosa’s Apple Pie/Corporate Crit
Wente Vineyards Road Race  – I love it and hate it

What do you do for a living?
I work in IT at Backroads Active Travel Company

When I’m not on my bike you might find me….
Working, or spending time with Winter—the best dog EVER

What’s your favorite quote?
Hmmm… “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”
“A fresh start is only two wheels away”

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | May 9, 2012

Another Podium for Touchstone at El Dorado Town Center Criterium!

On April 22nd, Touchstone’s Ann Stuart and Carol Irving lined up in a small but active  W-1,2,3 field at the inaugural El Dorado Town Center Criterium.  With an array of restaurants and retail shops lining the streets, plus a course with some twists and turns, the race offered some interest and fun for both spectators and competitors.

Tibco II, Metromint, and Rio Strada all had team representation in addition to Touchstone.  After the first lap, the race kicked into gear with a prime lap, which did it’s job to quicken the pace and string out the field.  Despite the small field of 14, the teams kept the racing exciting! Touchstone’s Carol Irving jumped off of a long lead-out by teammate Ann Stuart to win a prime lap, providing the set up for one of the  breakaway attempts of the morning.   However, the vigilant field consistently reeled in all breakaway efforts.

As the field jockeyed for position in the bell lap, it was Metromint’s Jane Robertson that led the charge through the corners with Irving and Tibco II’s Heather Ross hot on her wheel.  All three riders knew that the winner needed to be the first one out of the last corner, but it was Robertson who made the corner first and claimed the victory as Ross and Irving  rounded out the podium in second and third.  Touchstone’s Ann Stuart finished a solid 8th place.

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | May 7, 2012

Podiums & Promoting Women on Bikes at Sea Otter Classic

Touchstone riders Marissa Axell and Beverly Chaney took on NorCal’s finest at this year’s Sea Otter Classic Bike races.  While Marissa battled world-class riders in the epically tough 4-day Pro Women’s Stage Race around the famous Laguna Seca motorway track and all around Fort Ord’s killer climbs, Beverly took on a strong group of 35+ master’s racers in the criterium then participated in the Women’s Outreach program as a panel member in the “Fierce, Fabulous, and over Forty” forum.

Marissa at SOC2012_SteveAnderson

Marissa races her Leopard Cycles DC1 on the Laguna Seca Race Way in the Women’s Pro Stage Race at the 2012 Sea Otter Classic. Photo by Steve Anderson.

Women’s 35+ Criterium Report:

The weather was warm and breezy for Thursday’s late-afternoon criterium as a combined field of 35 Master’s 35+, Cat 3, and Cat 4 women lined up for the 40 minute, 2-hairpin, hilly criterium race course on the smooth and fast Laguna Seca race track.  Recognizing the potential for a first lap crash in the hairpins, Beverly took the “hole shot” and enjoyed a clean line through the first tight, off-camber turn even as a starting line crash affected several riders.  The pace was quick for most of the race causing the majority of the racers to get dropped on the repeated climbs.  With 5 laps to go it was down to a lead group of 10, and they took ample opportunity to tear the legs off each other with repeated attacks over the climb and down the fast tailwind straightaway.  With the pace very high on the final lap, Beverly found herself in 9th place coming into the final hairpin.  Taking the fastest line through the corner, she moved up two spots and prepared for the long headwind drag race to the finish line, clinching a second place with a sneaky fast bike throw at the finish line.

35+ Womens Criterium Podium

Women’s 35+ Criterium podium with Beverly Chaney (2nd), Maryann Levenson (1st), and Raegan Lunsford (3rd)

“Fierce, Fabulous, and over Forty” forum

The Sunday Women’s Forum was made up of women from all aspects of cycling, and was meant to help get more women onto their bikes! It was also informative and a lot of fun.  Each panelist gave a general overview of their backgrounds and cycling histories followed by question and answer period with audience participation.  Topics of discussion included mental toughness, motivation, nutrition, switching to cycling from other sports, time and race/ride management, and supporting women’s and master’s cycling in general.  Afterwards everyone enjoyed  wine, chocolate, and fresh berries at the informal reception.

Thanks to Lorri Lee Lown for organizing the forum and the additional women’s specific outreach programs at the 2012 Sea Otter Classic!

“Fierce, Fabulous, and over Forty” forum.

“Fierce, Fabulous, and over Forty” forum with (L to R):professional mountain biker and 3-time winner of the Leadville 100, Rebecca Rusch; Road Bike Action writer and owner of Women Cyclist, RaeLynn Milley; marketing guru and super cycling advocate, forum moderator Karen Kefauver; owner of and randonneur extraordinaire, Susan Otcenas, and Touchstone Climbing’s Beverly Chaney.

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | April 18, 2012

Touchstone Climbing: Rider Spotlight – Ann Stuart

Over the next few weeks we’ll introduce you to each of our Touchstone Climbing teammates.  You might be surprised to find that in addition to training many hours per week, most every teammate holds down one (or more) jobs! Stay tuned for inside information about the riders, both on and off the bike.

Ann Stuart -Touchstone Climbing

Name: Ann Stuart

Nicknames: Slew (short for Slewitzke my maiden name) given to me in college. I was on the collegiate women’s rowing team and my coach came up with that!

Hometown:  Merrill, WI.

Current Town: Sacramento.

Alma Mater:  University of Wisconsin–Madison, with an MBA Marketing

Category: I’m a Cat 3, 2012  is my 5th season

What’s playing on your iPod right now?
I don’t have an iPod! When driving I listen to talk radio. At home I’m probably on my MacBook working. And on the bike, I enjoy listening to nature.

My favorite NCNCA race is…
I don’t think I can pick one. There are many fantastic races. We’re very fortunate to have so many options. I like stage races, windy races, and TT’s.

What do you do for a living? 
Multi Line Sales Representative based in Sacramento, covering the Central Valley/Redding/Reno. I sell mid to high end commercial furnishings through dealer distribution channel. I call on interior design firms/specifiers as well.

When I’m not on my bike you might find me…. With family, my husband Steve and our 2 pugs Bodie and Phil!

What’s your favorite quote?
I don’t have a favorite quote. What inspires me? I believe that hard work, persistence, and performance lead to results. I believe in God. And I believe in love; my husband, family and friendships are most important to me.

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | April 17, 2012

Touchstone Climbing: Rider Spotlight – Josie Morgan

Over the next few weeks we’ll introduce you to each of our Touchstone Climbing teammates.  You might be surprised to find that in addition to training many hours per week, most every teammate holds down one (or more) jobs! Stay tuned for inside information about the riders, both on and off the bike.

Name: Josie Morgan

Josie Morgan races to the WIN at the Berkeley Crit

Josie Morgan wins at the Berkeley Crit. Photo by Alex Chiu.

Nickname: Too many! I get called Jo-Jo a fair amount.

Hometown: Oakland, and I currently live in Berkeley.

Alma Mater: I have a BA in Architecture from UC Berkeley (?)

Category: I’m a Cat 2 and on my 6th season of racing

What’s playing on your iPod right now? I can only listen to really chill music while working so…Cat Power, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith. I’m open to suggestions on happier mellow music!

What’s your favorite NCNCA race : Nevada City Cycling Classic is a fave as is Mt. Hamilton Road Race for the amazing course, even if it kicks my behind.

What do you do for a living? Graphic Design

When I’m not on my bike you might find me….glued to my computer.

Whats your favorite quote ?
“Life is like a cigarette: smoke it to the butt!”

Posted by: marissaridesbikes | April 16, 2012

Ride Report: Rapha Women’s Prestige

Our newest teammate, Elle Anderson, rode the inaugural Rapha Women’s Prestige event, based in San Francisco on Saturday, April 7th. Please enjoy Elle’s blog entry, highlighting her experience in this incredible endurance event!

Team Strava at Rapha Women's Prestige

At the start line, and ready for the 114 mile adventure. Left to right, Vanessa, Maria, Elle, Helena, Starla, Lea.

On Saturday April 7th, I participated in the first women’s only iteration of the infamous Rapha race events – this one called the Rapha Women’s Prestige. This is the perfect kind of Rapha creation, fitting into their hard-core branding and true “classic” cycling style. I didn’t wear a wool jersey, smoke cigarettes/drink while riding, or ride helmet-less, but this event certainly reminded me of the historic days of cycling and racing.

This Rapha event is structured around teams of 6 riders, all female, and is completely self-supported. You fix your own flats, bring your own food, and select your own places to stop and fill up on water, etc. Oh, and I almost forgot – the route is not only unmarked, but also 114 miles with nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. Definitely a prospect to keep you up at night leading up to the Event.

I led the team riding for, where I work. The roster turned out to be pretty impressive, but also diverse. I convinced my friend Helena to join, and at the time that I asked her, her longest ride EVER was 60 miles. She has recently picked up cycling, and I don’t know why she agreed to ride 114 miles with me, but she definitely has an adventurous spirit. Also on the team was Maria (a cyclocross/mountain biker); professional mountain biker, Olympic hopeful, and Strava Ambassador Lea Davison, and two professional road racers from Team Vanderkitten-Focus– Touchstone alum Vanessa Drigo and also Starla Teddergreen.

Team Strava climbing out of a valley during the Rapha Women's Prestige.

Team Strava's Vanessa, Elle, and Starla (from right to left) climbing out of a valley during the Rapha Women's Prestige.

All in all, this was an amazing event. I had no idea that 114 miles could pass with such great team spirit, team work, and laughs. Certainly a testament to our great team chemistry, but Rapha also put on a great event. Lots of positive energy and well organized.

Team Strava crushing some Northern California climbs.

The team out on the road, crushing the popular Alpine Dam climb. The Rapha Women's Prestige featured nearly 10,000 feet of climbing in 114 miles.

Without setting out to do so (our only goals were to get through the day and have fun) we tied for 2nd place in the event overall. The winning team–from Portland, Oregon–won by almost 30 minutes, but I guarantee they didn’t have nearly as much fun as we had.


The team toasting at the end of a great day at the Rapha Cycle Club. From left to right, Starla, Elle, Maria, Lea, Vanessa and Helena. The team finished a strong second place at the Inaugural Rapha Women's Prestige Event.

With all those great base miles in my legs, I’m looking forward to a great race season!


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