Here we have yet another guest feature from Erin Ayala, a member of Stamina Racing Collective x Machines for Freedom, a team succeeding in their mission to diversify cycling.
This past June, I packed up my car and hit the road for some bike racing for the first time in two years. Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) is an 11-day criterium racing series in Southeastern Wisconsin that provides different courses in different neighborhoods each day. This race series is near and dear to my heart because I was raised in eastern Wisconsin. It provides large field sizes and high-quality competition, which allows me to come back as a stronger and smarter racer each time I participate. I have also worked closely with the executive director over the past 2 years to add more women’s fields to their racing schedule. This year, they had five separate omniums for those racing in the women’s field! It was exciting and gratifying to find my racing legs, reconnect with old friends, and apply new lessons learned after each race.
This year was my third time I competed in the series. Knowing I would be racing in the pro/1/2 field for the first time ever (yikes!), I came more prepared than years prior. I brought extras of everything I could fit in the car (shoes, wheels, helmet, you name it). Wolf Tooth Components, known for their high-quality tools and components, was pivotal to my success as a racer this year.
Before hitting the road, I replaced my bike tires, bar tape, bar end caps, and chain. Wolf Tooth’s new Alloy Bar End Plugs served as the perfect way to personalize my road bike and add a bit of flare for a final touch. The installation was quick and easy, and the bar end caps stayed put while racing on some unforgiving city roads later in the week. The best part is that they match the spacers and water bottle cage bolts to create the perfect gold accents on my bike.
I set up my team’s tent alongside two other teams, STKD! Racing Squad and The Abundance Summit grantees. We shared resources throughout the week to make things easier on everyone: shade under the team tents for warm-ups, foldable lawn chairs, a collapsible table, coolers, a bike rack, a pizza delivery, and more. Though some of these items were not completely necessary, they made everything run smoothly in between races and we were never in a situation where we set “I should have brought…”.
Wolf Tooth’s Travel Tool Wrap was undoubtedly one of the most popular items in our small tent village. It fit perfectly inside my 35L backpack that I took to the races with my helmet, shoes, kit, and my other gear. The tool wrap has plenty of pockets and rolls/unrolls easily, which made for quick set up and take down each day. It stores more than you would think, given how compact it is once rolled up. I included extra tubes, sunscreen, Wolf Tooth’s 8-bit pack pliers, bar end plugs (just in case), WT-1 Chain Lube, Wolf Tooth Microfiber Towels, extra water bottle cage bolts, and more. I set it on the team table each day and the team members went to it frequently for quick fixes and adjustments.
A clean bike is a fast bike, and this guideline certainly applies when racing 10 days in a row. Wolf Tooth launched their new WT-1 Chain Lube and Wolf Tooth Microfiber Towels just in time for ToAD. I applied the WT-1 Chain Lube prior to leaving and was excited to see whether its cleaning properties held true. We had some great weather for the first half of the series, which made bike cleaning and maintenance easy. The chain lube pushed out the dirt and debris from the chain’s nooks and crannies, meaning all I had to do was wipe it down with the Microfiber Towels every few days to keep things running smoothly. Wolf Tooth’s lube is created for all conditions, so I got to test this out on Days 7 and 9 in the rain. Being new to the Pro/1/2 peloton, I hung in the back while I adjusted to racing with the big kids. This meant I was on the receiving end of a WHOLE LOT of backsplash for the 75-minute races. Despite riding through all the road grit and debris, my drivetrain remained quiet and happy (my rotors were a different story…).
Overall, it was a wonderful series and all of my planning and preparation contributed to plenty of success on and off the bike. I found my way to the podium for 2 races, and was top 5 for another 2, which helped me secure 2nd place in the overall Women’s 2 / 3 omnium. During the second half of the series while racing with the pros, my goals were to simply settle in with the pack and find my groove. I finished 2 out of the 4 races and was able to learn something new each day! Aside from the importance of preparation and taking care of the bike, my biggest lesson was one of positioning and willingness to take up space and to move up the pack. I’ll be using these lessons for Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago where I hope to work some more on positioning and finishing with the field amidst some strong and smart competition!
I’ll be hitting the road again for a gravel race with a few teammates in August. I look forward to packing some more gravel gear in the tool wrap for that trip!