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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel correspondent
November 12, 2010
Link to Sentinel article

Cyclocross National ChampoinshipsWhile some may indulge in second helpings of pumpkin pie over the holidays, more than two dozen Santa Cruz County cyclists will be staying in shape to compete at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Bend, Ore., on Dec. 8-12.

Over five days of racing — with levels ranging from beginner to elite — cyclists will test their stamina in cyclocross, a niche sport that combines elements of mountain biking and road riding and requires riders to leap on and off their bikes to negotiate obstacles placed on the course.

Races are short — 30-60 minutes — and intense.

The sport originated in Europe and continues to gain traction in the U.S. It has been extremely popular in Santa Cruz for more than two decades. At recent weekend races in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin counties, the buzz has been about the upcoming trip to the country’s most prestigious event.

One local racer is especially happy to return.

Santa Cruz’s Janel Lodge, 48, and her husband Mark Howland, 46, are veteran cyclocross racers. Both compete on the team Bay 101/HRS Rock Lobster, launched by local bike frame builder Paul Sadoff.

Howland has made 15 trips to race at the cyclocross nationals, which were also held in Bend last year. For Lodge, this year will mark her second time at nationals; although, she has been competing in cyclocross for 10 years and before that was a competitive runner and triathlete.

“I’m extremely excited and looking forward to it,” Lodge said. “I’m hopeful there won’t be ice. There was an unusual arctic storm that came through last year.”

The ice Lodge was talking about led to some broken bones. But no matter how tough the conditions may be, Lodge has faced
bigger challenges.

“I feel fortunate to be able to race nationals,” Lodge said. “I am grateful to be racing my bike again at such an intensity after coming back from cancer.”

Lodge lost both of her parents to cancer and, four years ago, received the terrifying news that she had ovarian cancer that was metastatic.

“One of the main things I wanted to do once I got through my surgeries and chemo — when I was building my life back — one of my main goals was to return to racing,” Lodge said. “That was my way to have some normalcy. It took a year before I felt like I was racing near my old self. But by my second year back, I felt better.

“I like cyclcocross racing because it tests so many things: your fitness, your technical bike handling skills and requires super intense focus. It’s like so many things in life. It’s tough and difficult but you have to get through it.”

Lodge’s experience with cancer and training with her bicycle help her professionally. She’s a certified personal trainer with 19 years of experience and owns Janel’s Total Fitness. She also teaches an exercise class through the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where she
works with men and women who are battling cancer.

“That’s one of the best things as a personal trainer — to help people as they are going through tough things,” Lodge said.
“…I just feel so thankful that I survived and that I am living a full life. My biggest mantra is: Keep moving, live well.'”

As for racing, she knows that the challenges on the course amount to “good pain.” She is looking forward to racing again at an elite level and will enter the masters women’s division for her age group.

For information on the race and other events happening at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships, visit www.usacycling.org and click on cyclocross.

Karen Kefauver is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. She blogs about
cycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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