For 14 years, Jill Gass, owner of Revolution Coaching out of Solvang, California, has been putting on performance cycling camps for women with a staff of some of the most elite and decorated women cycling champions in the world. A competitive Master’s endurance cyclist, Jill has won National titles and set records in some of the most prestigious endurance-cycling races in the world – including the Race Across America (RAAM), Race Across the West (RAW) and the Hoo Doo 500. But her passion and genius lie in mentoring and coaching. From veteran elite racers to women entering cycling for the first time, Jill empowers them to meet and exceed their personal athletic goals, thereby promoting and elevating the sport of women’s cycling.
Jill Gass and partner Liz Inglese
Galvanized by the limited opportunities afforded herself and other female athletes before the passage of Title IX, Jill has created and promoted countless opportunities for other women to excel. In 2011 she established B4T9, a non-profit organization whose mission is to foster equality in cycling and get more women and girls of all ages on bikes. The name, a clever and personal acronym referring to “before Title Nine,” is in some ways, a call out for women from that era and younger generations, to unite behind a common cause of dismantling the barriers that still exist for women in cycling.
As a USA Cycling Licensed Level 1 coach with a background in Sports Medicine, Jill has trained and mentored all levels of athletes for over 25 years, including some of the best women cyclists in the country. In 2006 she started her coaching business, Revolution Coaching. Shortly afterward, along with the help of former mentees, collegiate and professional racers, athletes, and world-class coaches, she put on the inaugural Women’s Performance Cycling Camp. The camp, which Jill runs with her partner Liz Inglese, is now in its 14th year. It is designed to support the recreational rider and racer who’s interested in boosting their performance and personal cycling goals. Regardless of skill level, participants access and learn from elite and world-class cyclists and coaches during the week. Riders obtain individual instruction and specific training advice during and after various training rides – all designed to take their cycling to the next level. The prestigious staff, along with a small coach-to-rider ratio, makes this camp unique and highly respected in the cycling community.
The amazing line-up: Laura Van Gilder, Jill Gass, Liz Inglese and Katie Hall
This year’s camp held on November 06-10th, was an overwhelming success. Eighteen women cyclists converged from different parts of the country with diverse backgrounds and skill levels to experience and enjoy the five-day and four-night camp held in Solvang. The year’s line-up included guest coaches Laura Van Gilder, the current World Master Cyclocross Champion, and Boels Dolman professional Katie Hall, the 2018 Amgen Tour of California Women’s Champion and one of the world’s best female climbers
Featuring Laura Van Gilder, the winningest American woman in professional cycling and Katie Hall, one of the top climbers in the world.
Participants were treated like pro’s and received specific tips and instruction from the world-class coaching team. Cyclists rolled along vineyard-bordered farmland roads, sprinted in pace-line assisted groups, and climbed and descended the scenic vistas showcasing the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Evenings dinners gushed with enthusiasm and personal accomplishment as the group shared meals and connections at some of the best restaurants in the area. Also included in the camp was an entrance into the epic Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo. Riders broke off into loose groups with some touring the valley, while others climbed 3000+ feet along the steep road to catch a glimpse at the summit of the stunning views of the region.
2019 Women’s Performance Cycling Camp
Sistership, provided support for the event. Sistership is an organization that supports and promotes the stories and bold ventures of active women who choose to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.”
2019 Race Across The West Ultra-Cycling
(L to R) Karin Wheeler and Sylvia Maas
Team In Our Prime, the 2-person female duo, comprised of Karin Weller, 57 and Suzy Maas, 56 completed the 2019 Race Across The West (RAW). The women left Oceanside, CA at noon on June 11. They alternately cycled west along the 928-mile route and rolled into Durango, Colorado on June 14. The team averaged 342 miles per day at a pace of 14.3 miles per hour. Their official time was 65 hours and 5 minutes. Just to put these numbers into perspective, at that pace, it’s like riding from Los Angeles to San Jose in 24 hours. That’s amazing! Not only that, but competing in the 50-59 age category, their age didn’t seem to slow them down in the least. In Our Prime, crossed the finish line 40 minutes ahead of their younger competitors, Team Workhorses, Molly Cripe Brit, and Sandy Taylor.
Jennifer Orr, 2019 RAW Overall Solo Champion
Jennifer Orr, 42, riding solo in the under 50 age category against four other female solo riders, turned in a super-star performance. Against the entire field of single riders, both men and women, she earned the prestigious title as the Overall Solo Champion of the race. Not realizing she was in the lead for most of the race, Jennifer beat the fastest of the male solo racers by nearly 3 ½ hours. Her time was 68 hours and 30 minutes. Without a partner to share the work and provide even a short reprieve from the grind, she trailed both two-person females teams by only 3 hours.
Jennifer, a Sports Physical Therapist, entered the race coming off a big win in the 6-12-24 World Time Trials in October 2018. She has set her sights on racing in the 2020 Race Across America (RAAM). This week’s RAW race was merely a qualifying warm-up for what’s to come for this champion ultra-endurance cyclist.
Race Across America (RAAM) – Starts Saturday, June 15
Team Serpentine Golden Girls (Photo Serpentine MySpace)
Speaking of the RAAM, the 3000-mile granddaddy of endurance cycling racing started this week. The solo racers started on June 11 and are currently traversing the country towards Annapolis, Maryland. The team RAAM riders will start their race Saturday, June 15, from Oceanside, California. Be on the look-out for all the competitors, but Sistership’s eye will be on Team Serpentine Golden Girls. This team is comprised of four females from the U.K. who are competing in the 70-79 age category. If you think you’re old after age 50, tune into this race and prepare for an attitude readjustment. These women ride for a cause – to defy the limits of age and to show the world what that looks. Follow the Golden Girls on the race tracker and be prepared to shave at least 20 years of your perception of “old.”
Click here to see live updates on the riders of the Race Across America.
Sylvia Maas (Photo from RAW Team Roster)
It starts today, June 11, 2019 at noon. The Race Across The West (RAW) is an ultra-cycling event across 930-miles of the western United States. The race in Oceanside, a Southern California beach town just north of San Diego and traverses across undulating terrain of the Coastal Mountain ranges, along the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. After climbing into the Rockies of southwest Colorado, the ride ends in Durango, Colorado. Two all-female teams were set to compete in the over 50 age category up until last week. After six months of intense training, Team Revolution Coaching, a two-female squad competing in the first ever over, two-female 60+ age category had to pull out unexpectedly. Team In Our Prime, a two-female team in the 50-59 age category, is set to take off this morning and Sistership will be following their progress over the next two days. Teams have 68-hour time limit to complete this grueling 930-mile road race with over 56,000 feet of elevation gain.
Karin Weller (Photo from RAW Team Roster)
Karin Weller, 57 and Sylvia Maas, 56 have joined forces and experience to build an impressive female team of women over 50. Both women are veterans of the RAW and are coming off an impressive, record-breaking cycling race this past October 2018 at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championship in Borrego Springs, CA. The goal of the time trial is to cover as much distance as possible in 24 hours. The women covered 451.2 miles and averaged 18.9 miles per hour, coming in one minute before the two-person male team.
Veterans of the Race Across The West
Both athletes are veterans of the RAW. Karin, an insurance accounting supervisor in Turlock, California, has found a way to juggle work-life with the many hours of training on the road to compete in several endurance cycling races over the past several years. In 2016, she competed in a two-person mixed team under Team Eland and decided to go do it alone in 2017. Karin placed 5th in the 50-59 age category. She found a winning combination with her 2018 teammate Sylvia Mass, a high school biology teacher from San Diego. Sylvia also competed as a solo competitor in 2016. After the team’s success this past fall at the World Time Trials, they are racing across the west and challenging themselves in the event that over the past 9 years, has become one of the crown-jewels of ultra cycling.
In a quote Karin shares on her website: stravagirl.com, she offers us a clue as to what drives her: “With ultra-cycling, I think it’s the distance I like and I like challenging myself. It’s not easy, it hurts but feels so good to know I’m keeping my speed up, and I’m pushing myself…I love how you feel, the freedom, the nature, the things you get to see.” Her statement summarizes a similar theme with most ultra-endurance athletes we’ve followed. These races seem to serve as vehicles in which the human spirit finds an excuse to see just how one can push themselves.
“I love how you feel, the freedom, the nature, the things you get to see.” (Karin Weeler)
Sistership will follow the race and particularly these two women, as they seek to set another record and find out once again, what lies on the other side of their current limits.
You can follow the race which starts at 12:00 noon on the official Race Across the West Race Tracker.
Sistership highlights and supports active, adventurous women who show what it looks like to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.” If you want to support our cause and spread our message, visit our Sistership Store and we give a portion of our profits to supporting selected women adventures and non-profits that align with our mission.
Looking for a way to push your physical and mental limits beyond your wildest reaches? Look no further than the Race Across the West (RAW), a 930-mile bike race across the rugged American West. No, not “bike” as in motorbike, but a human propelled bicycle race.
On June 11, 2019 cyclists from around the world, all ages and genders are given less than 4 days to compete in this ultra cycling race across four states. Tackled by men and women alike, and ages ranging from 15-75, the RAW is a grueling and exhilarating test of the human spirit of grit and perseverance.
Starting on the beaches of Oceanside near San Diego, Southern California, riders start at sea level and look east. They propel over undulating terrain of the Coastal mountain ranges into the scorching heat of the Sonoran and Mojave’s deserts. As soloists or 2-4 person teams, they ascend into the Rockies of southwest Colorado to the final destination in Durango, Colorado. Although the route they cover is amongst the most spectacular scenery of western America, I can assure you, there’s not much sightseeing happening. These athletes are serious. They pay for the challenge of a race, not a back road touring vacation with optional sag wagons to help you up the hills. They train endlessly to endure sleepless hours in the saddle, stopping only when necessary and never longer than 30-minute stretches, if that.
The RAW and the RAAM
The prize? That varies. For some, if they complete the race within 92 hours (individuals) or 68 hours (team), they qualify for the honor of participating in for the infamous Race Across America or RAAM. The RAAM is the big brother to the RAW and the oldest and longest (3000 miles) bicycle Race Across America. Imagine that – killing yourself for a prize that allows you to do it all over again, but this time for three times the distance. For others, the reward is not as much to say “I did it,” but to test the boundaries of their limits. How far can a person really push themselves? The RAW tempts riders to answer this question. Yet for even those who finish, I doubt if the question ever gets answered. The bar just gets pushed a little further into the unknown, and so many come back the next year, trying to answer the elusive question of “what are my limits.”
Team Revolution Coaching Joins The Sistership
Sistership is a growing network of active, aging women and we select several team and individual ventures to promote each year. This year, we can’t wait to highlight the world of women endurance bike racing. We are thrilled to support and promote Team Revolution Coaching. Women, known in distance racing for the stamina and endurance have been populating the rosters of ultra cycling events over the past decade and setting records. Unlike most sports centered around the strength, speed and agility of youth, when it comes to endurance cycling, age and gender barriers are beginning to blur.
Women Breaking Records Across The West
In 2010 Denver Spokes (USA) set the record on the 858-mile course, competing as a four-person, all-female team in the 50-59 age category. In 2015, another team record was established in the 60-69 age category by Spokeswomen (USA), another four-person, all female team. In 2011, as a solo woman over 50, Seana Hogan (USA) smashed the 858-mile RAW in 3 days and 53 minutes. She’s set to do the 3000-mile RAAM this June, her 7th time – this time as the first entrant ever in the women’s solo 60-69 age category. She’s still an animal! Last year, Karen Wheeler and Sylvia Maas of the two-female team, In Our Prime, set a new record of 451.2 miles coming in one minute before the two-person male team. They are set to repeat the race in the 50-59 team category in 2019 and Sistership will be following them closely. But perhaps most intriguing to us is the repeat RAAM team, Team Serpentine Golden Girls. This is a 4-female team from the UK who completed the race 10 years ago and are returning to see if they can do it again, this time in the 70-74 age category.
Jill Gass and Liz Inglese
Team Revolution Coaching, another two-female crew, will be competing in the RAW in the 60+ two-person, all-female team category. In response to an ever-increasing field of competitive master’s women, the race organizers decided to add another age group in this category, just as they did for the RAAM. The categories consider the combined average age of team members. Team Revolution Coaching is the first team to sign up. Aside from age, these women riders still hunger for the thrill of cycling and competition. They just keep coming back for more. Jill Gass, 63, is a veteran of 3 RAAM challenges. In 2010, she and her three teammates of Team Kalyra completed the race in just 7 days and set a new Master’s Women’s Transcontinental Record. In 2014, Jill competed with Frazier Hazlett in the mixed-doubles RAW as Team B4T9 and crossed the finish line in 2-days, 2 hours and 52 minutes, just 28 minutes behind the all-male doubles team. Jill, along with her teammate Liz Inglese (57) are training fiercely and setting their goals to break this impressive time.
Follow Their Story
Sistership will follow Team Revolution Coaching as they prepare for this event and during the 4-day challenge. Follow the story and these amazing women. See what it takes just to get to the start line and cycle vicariously through them as they race like the wind across the West, just because they still can.
For more information, get the most recent updates on our Sistership Facebook Page
Even when you think all your trip plans are set, it’s easy to toss them out when tempted with a bit of local knowledge from a perfect stranger. After abandoning our original Plan A, a 4-day trip around the White Rim Trail (WRT) due to weather, we moved onto Plan B. Our group of 6 women was set to ride the first leg of the WRT in an “up and back” 25-mile day ride. I was okay with this. Less distance but still on the type of road I had planned for. Months before agreeing to go on this adventure, I did my homework. The “trail” was a wide, packed-dirt fire road. That was key to a road biker. “No problem,” I thought. I envisioned the route as “asphalt covered with dirt” and thought confidently “how hard could this be?”
Blue and Black Diamonds Guaranteed
Enter the stranger. He was a Moab local and knew all the thrilling mountain biking trails in the area. Apparently, the fire road of the White Rim wasn’t one of them. He recommended the more exciting Intrepid Trail System at the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park. Blue and black diamonds guaranteed. Mixed terrain of slick rock, short dips, hairpin turns, super fun and challenging. To pure mountain bike enthusiasts (five out of the six of us women), this information was intoxicating and without hesitation, it was decided – onto Plan C.
The problem was I wasn’t in on the conversation. I hadn’t arrived yet when the plan was changed and the “minor” detail of my fire road mandate was lost on the group. Yet the consequence of this decision wasn’t evident to me or the others at first. None of us cared at the moment. We were just elated a decision had been made and we were on our way to a trailhead. Nothing else mattered but the spectacular views of sandstone mesas inviting us to visit.
The Dreaded Single Track
Smothered in sunscreen, tires pumped and GoPro mounted we rode onto the trail. Junipers and pinyon trees greeted us as we rolled single file forward. It was a narrower path than I expected, but I knew it would open into promised fire roads. But it didn’t take long before I realized this route wasn’t a trail at all. Large rocks lay dead center in our path, which was more like a track – a single track. The group jumped and bounced readily over them while passing me, “whoop-whooping” as they picked up speed. “Oh no,” I thought. The dreaded single track! “What happened to the fire road?
Out of My Comfort Zone
With trepidation, I continued to pedal, but I was out of my comfort zone. I soon found myself walking around the rocks that the others had effortlessly scurried over. I couldn’t imagine doing this for 20 miles. I tried to hold myself together. Fear entered my mind and it didn’t seem like it would be leaving anytime soon. I had signed up and practiced on fire roads. I never considered single tracks. I dreaded them, or at least my memory dreaded them. I recalled my last mountain bike experience 20 years ago – falling, mostly walking the bike, my knee hurting. It wasn’t a picnic for sure.
Deep Canyons of Colorful Stone
I’m not really the type to whine out loud, but I for a moment – I thought about it. Yet, it didn’t matter. The group was ahead of me and what good is whining when there is no one around to listen? So, I stopped moving. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, taking in the smells of sagebrush and the purity of the air. I slowly exhaled and then opened my eyes. The barriers of fear that had clouded my view were replaced by the visual artistry around. I was standing on sheer-walled monuments of rock. They slanted towards deep canyons of colorful stone, all sandwiched between layers of time. I could hear the echos of my friends in the distance as they yelled out sounds of joy at the beauty of it all. “Screw this,” I thought. I had to be a part of this.
Like Being a Kid All Over Again
I got back on my bike. I unclipped from my pedals, so my feet were free to react to my unsteadiness and caught up with the group. They were waiting for me at the edge, snapping photos at the jaw-dropping vista. They looked at me and they knew. After a few minutes, without anything said, we got back on our bikes, but this time they waited. In fact, they surrounded me, giving me tips and encouragement until I was following their lead. “Use your rear brake, stay clipped out, shift down, lower your seat, power up, you got this!” We lost the track, ended up on loose sand and hiked our bikes back up the hill and got reoriented. It was a blast! Within a few hours, I was trusting my instincts. My natural strength became an advantage, especially given my lack of technique. I wasn’t just maneuvering around rocks, I was jumping over them. It was like being a kid all over again and all of my athletic skills, which I thought had all disappeared, were coming back to play.
The Moment I Became A Mountain Biker
Three hours into it, the final challenge came. We were looking at a “relatively” steep downhill of rocks, requiring some technical skill to keep from tumbling our handlebars to the harsh landing below. I knew it was a challenge, even the two experienced women of our group, Nickki and Debra, hesitated. They negotiated their attack, got a game plan and flew down. They then immediately turned around and rode back up to do it again. They were badass and that, in and of itself, made it even more tempting for me. I watched them for a moment. I studied their descent, their route, their speed. Then the group saw it – a twinkle in my eye and in unison they began to cheer me on. “You can do this Jo!” they chanted. Nickki pointed to the best path. Michelle held the video. Lisa stood to the side in case I needed steadying, Debra marked the endpoint downhill and Nancy waited in line behind me. “I can do this,” I told myself. “Why not now?” I positioned my bike, pumped my rear brakes a few times and sat way back on the seat. Then I went for it. In what seemed like slow motion, to the cheers of my friends and my teachers – I nailed it and I knew this was the defining moment. The moment this self-proclaimed “roadie” who was fearful of the mountain and the playground it offered, had finally faced and conquered it. This was the moment, with the help of a village, I became a mountain biker!
For more related articles on Sistership’s Adventures in Moab, click here.
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be invited on an epic bike ride through the Canyonlands National Park in Moab. The journey, a 4-day trip supported by 2 vehicles, starts this weekend. Its a “bucket list” type of ride and requires permits and camping reservations which some wait up to a year to get. I couldn’t say no.
A Re-introduction to Mountain Biking
I had all but given up on my dream of riding a mountain bike through Moab, Utah. I had purchased my first mountain bike in 1984, a cherry red Diamondback MB1. It was in the early days of mountain biking. The introduction of the mountain bike in the ’80s was like the key that opened Pandora’s box of adventure. Unexplored fire roads, hidden trails and mountain passes were waiting to be discovered. A national “Disneyland “ for bikes just opened and cyclists were going crazy. I just hopped onto the frenzy. Yet despite the thrill of exploring the wild, I never really got comfortable with riding alone off the road. It wasn’t always convenient to find riding partners, so I defaulted to the road bike. When I got the invite for this ride, I quickly scrambled to find a decent mountain bike. My vintage MB1 was just not going to cut it for this adventure. I wasn’t about to miss my chance to experience the thrill, adventure and majestic beauty of riding the White Rim Trail.
Planning for the Adventure
Our ride organizer, Lisa from Grand Junction, Colorado had spent several months planning this trip. It was on her bucket list and being the “can do” woman she is, Lisa was making it happen. She had secured the permits, the campsites and had planned every last detail of the journey. The group started with a total of 14 riders, both men and women. Water jugs filled, tents packed, bikes tuned up, we were all excited for a great adventure. But by the time we arrived yesterday we were down to 6 women. There was just one small detail we couldn’t control – the weather.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were posted throughout the WRT website Friday morning. The rangers predicted portions of the road could be closed if the Green River flooded. We began to pull up Plan B, but then the reports changed again. Back to Plan A – yeah we’re tough women – we’re doing this! Two hours later the wind picked up and the clouds grew dark. Lisa started receiving texts from friends in Grand Junction. Hail, lightning and big winds had just passed through the town 90 minutes from Moab. They were warning us not to proceed. The local police we passed on the street said there’s a monsoon predicted on Sunday which could cause sudden flash floods below the rim. Crap! We rechecked the weather reports. Like anything you read, you tend to take away what you want to hear. If you don’t like it, you keep searching – even with the weather.
Plan B – A New List in the Bucket
It’s Saturday morning. We’re going! But our carefully packed bags, our sag wagon, our big plans to cycle this 100-mile dream trail are staying behind. We’re doing the first leg. 30 miles up and back and then returning to Moab today, so we’re not caught in the potential storm that is brewing (or not). As far as the next three days, we’ll see how the weather moves and we’ll move around it. Life takes its turns and you’re left with making decisions, even if they’re speckled with doubt and dismay. But in the vast canyons throughout this big state of Utah, I’m confident with these 6 women, the disappointment will quickly dissolve into sheer wonder at the majestic glory that surrounds us.