Interview by *Jeremy Dunn* Photos by *Abby Watson*
Abby Watson is a staple in the world of Rapha, her consistency has left everyone for dust. Whether it be the infamous pizza race of 2010, the 2013 Rapha Rising Challege or holding down her duties at the Head of Finance for the North American office Abby rises to every challenge set in front of her.
This Saturday she will lead a fantastic group of women into the 2013 Rapha Gentlemen’s Race in Southern California. Earlier this month she and a few of the team completed their final big training ride, a two day push over the Nestucca River Road – to the coast and back – here in Oregon. We sat down with Abby to talk about the upcoming event and this specific preparatory ride.
What was the point of all this? Just extra training before the Gentlemen’s Race in Los Angeles this weekend?
It was Gentlemen’s Race training, sure, but also the route that we did, Nestucca River Road, is a route that I had wanted to do for a number of years now. It was part of one of the earlier Rapha Gentlemen’s Races here in Portland. Well, not the exact route, it had a few more gravel excursions and deviations to it.
Was your whole team with you? Who did you ride with?
Not the whole team, just those of us that were available. I rode out there with Susan Peithman and Cindy Lewellen, and the back with Susan and Rachel Bagley. Myself, Cindy and Rachel have a history of doing big rides to the coast as a part of training and then this came up as a sort of double-header to cram in a few more miles before the race.
What has your training been like so far?
Well, it is tricky this time of year because I’m not used to putting in lots of miles. There is cyclocross going on, maybe some riding in the woods but not anything really long. It is late for a Gentlemen’s Race, we don’t usually think of them this late in the year. I personally hadn’t done 100 miles since… well, since June or even earlier when we did the Women’s Prestige this year in San Francisco.
Why is it important to train with your teammates instead of by just long miles by yourself?
The first day was easy, more of a social ride for us to spend sometime together and log some miles, but the second day was unexpectedly hard. We woke up in Pacific City to rain, which wasn’t forecasted, and a massive headwind which meant that we were going to need to work together. Heading into one of these things – a race like this – no one wants to be the weak link and you have to learn when and how to help each other. A big part of the training together is emotional. Just riding together and getting to know each other in relation to the road.
So you have a good idea what these three will be like to ride with, what about the others?
Priscilla Calderon from LA is a wildcard. But, she is also a CAT 1 on the road – she’s a racer and she has done some big races, like Cascade Classic here in Oregon. So, I’m not really worried about her too much.
Ok, so you’ve mentioned Priscilla, let’s break down the rest of your team.
Susan Piethman – She has been on winning teams of two of the regular Gentlemen’s Races as well as taking the cake at the Women’s Prestige in 2012. She will be the organizer, a role that she will play well.
Cindy Lewellen – The Most Reliable. We have done two #RGR races and both of the Women’s Prestige together. She is hands down the most reliable person that you could have on any team.
Rachel Ryan – The Spirit Guide. Rachel has also done something like 3 or 4 #RGR. She has sort of been around all this since the beginning, she gets it. She is also a natural endurance athlete, so she has that going for her as well.
Julie Krasniak – Road Captain. Julie has experience on the road, road racing and riding in big groups all day. She kept us in check during the Prestige this year. Motivated. Always eating and drinking. And Real food!
Abby – me? Maybe I’m the optimist of our group? I think I’m just consistent, and I don’t get too wound up.
Is there anything in LA, besides the riding, that you’re looking forward to?
Ha. There’s the Rose Bowl Flea Market that we are hoping to check out. Susan’s parents have some history there, they used to live nearby.
Honestly, I have never been to LA. I always had this picture in my head of what it was and didn’t want to go there or ride there, because of the traffic, or whatever. But, in the past couple years, after seeing and hearing all the riding that Cole and Ben have done around there, I’m looking forward to it and seeing what it is all about. That, and we don’t have this kind of climbing here in Oregon, so I have that to look forward to as well.
What about the Gravel section in the middle? People have been talking about how hard this is. What do you have to say about that?
You mean the one that everyone is saying is going to kill us? Well, most of us are fairly confident with our handling skills, maybe it is just a precautionary tale to make everyone over think it so that they are overly prepared? I think it is mostly scary because no one really knows what to expect.
The thing that is scary is that it happens so early on. Being shelled halfway into a hundred mile race sounds horrible.
We did talk about pedals though…
To that point, was that the only gear question that came up?
My whole mantra is “New brake pads, new chain, new tires and you’re good to go.” I did switch out my pedals though. If the possibility of some hiking exists I didn’t want to do it on Speedplays, so I switched them out for some Shimano’s just in case.
And what about clothing?
Versatility became the necessity, especially from a practicality standpoint. Well, that and we wore the Classic Jerseys for the Prestige so we wanted to mix it up a bit. The Souplesse Jersey is the one that we settled on. It is super versatile when it comes to temperature and it has the best pockets. That’s always what it comes down to for the long rides. How much stuff can you put in the pockets.
As it turns out, you’re not just the only women’s team, but there’s a good chance that you’re the ONLY women participating in the event itself. Well, there is one lady on the Oakley team, but, how does that make you feel? That a heavy cross to bare?
Well, I’m proud of us, and confused about the LA cycling scene at the same time. I know there are tons of ladies riding down there. I’m guessing that it says more about the fact that people are not familiar with the event than it does with the caliber of women riding down there.
We will try to lead by example.
Let’s get back to this ride itself. Did anything interesting happen while you were on it? Some notable experience?
We had this rainbow thing happen. We had been riding for a long time in the rain. Climbing, descending, climbing. But then when we got to the top of Nestucca River Road we turned around and there was this massive, actually two, rainbows going across the valley behind us. I had never seen anything like it.
Ok, this is all leading up to the big question. How do you feel going into this?
We’re ready for this!
The 2013 Rapha Gentlemen’s Race will take place this weekend in Los Angeles, California. As with past versions of the race we encourage people to follow along with the antics via Instagram and Twitter. We have urged the people and teams participating to use the hashtag #RGR to more easily allow participation. Watch as the teams of Southern California gather to tackle some brutal climbing that is the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. You may follow Abby at @AbbyLWatson on Instagram.