Road Cat 3, Cross Cat 4, Former Triathlete, Occasional Gravel Gal, Mountain-curious,
Cindy Bracker joined Women’s Free State Racing in late 2015, shortly after winning the WFSR-sponsored Octoginta Time Trial, her second cycling road event ever. The next day, she participated in the Lawrence Bicycle Club’s 80 mile community ride and was shepherded through the entire distance by Free-Staters, Rochelle Schleicher and Jana Strait. She then volunteered to help out the Free State Cyclocross Race, Joules Cross. Meeting the rest of the team at that event sealed the deal for her. A couple of weeks later, she donned her Women’s Free State Kit for the first time, a hand-me-down kit of Glenda Taylor, given to her by Glenda’s husband, Joe.
2016 was her first season of racing on the team. She competed at and won many of her races, including the Bazaar Road Race, and the Velotek Grand Prix Stage Race. After those victories coupled with her second place in the Spring Fling series, Bracker had acquired enough points to upgrade to Category 3. She then went on to win the Sunflower State Games Road Race and the State Championship Time Trial, and had high podium finishes at Tour of Lawrence, Truman Cup Omnium and the Kansas State Road Race within her category and won Tour of Kansas City Omnium in the masters race.
In 2017, Cindy traveled to Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville Arkansas, and Bicycles, Blues and Barbecue Omnium in Clear Lake, Iowa to attend some larger races, as well as competing at Tour of Kansas City in the Women’s Pro 1/2/3 Field. These more challenging races and fields were great learning experiences and helped to propel Bracker and the Free State women to a Top-of-podium sweep at the 2017 Truman Cup as well as mutiple wins within the Wednesday Night Worlds series, The Sunflower State Games Criterium and in the masters race of the Kansas State Criterium Championship.
Why I joined Women’s Free State Racing
I was always encouraged in my athletic endeavors by Glenda Taylor. She was my friend and mentor in bikes, clay, and life. In 2011, I had decided to get in better physical shape and I started running, Glenda supported and encouraged me. I ran 5Ks, a couple of half marathons and then a full. In 2014, I decided to try a multipart event – an Olympic triathlon. Glenda gave me her old triathlon suit for my first event and when I qualified for nationals at that event, Glenda supported and encouraged me in that as well. Despite my years of running, the bike was quickly becoming my best (and favorite) event. Glenda and I went for a ride together. She generously opened her bag of tricks and shared them with me. Her guidance propelled me to a 3rd place finish at nationals. That year she went on to a 3rd place finish at Cyclocross nationals. I was so excited for her and inspired by her. Following in her footsteps, I continued to push myself in my athetic endeavors. I signed up for and trained for a half-ironman triathlon, with Glenda’s support every step of the way. The day of my event, she was to compete at the Kansas State Time Trial Championship. The following week, we planned to ride together and share stories. I was so looking forward to that ride and hearing more about cycling. I still believe Glenda had intentions of pulling me from triathlon competitions into pure bike racing. On that day, Glenda was taken from us. And I’m still just not ok with that. But I continue to follow her example. To honor her life, her memory and her impact on me, I signed up my first bike race, the sunflower state games road race. From there my fate was sealed. I was meant to race my bike. I think she knew that. Then I met Rochelle Schleicher and eventually, the rest of the team, and found out all of those ladies were as generous and wonderful and inspiring as Glenda…it was a whole team of Glendas. My fate was sealed. I was meant to race my bike on Women’s Free State Racing. I love this team.
Grady, Collin and the whole Sunflower Staff do a superb job of taking care of not only bikes, but their riders as well. The first time I met Grady, it was spring of 2016. I came in, frustrated beyond belief at my bike, myself, and just the world in general. I couldn’t articulate what exactly was wrong, just that something didn’t feel right…it felt like my bike was fighting me and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t me. (which I’m sure they hear ALL the time….it’s never the rider, right?). Grady was as much a therapist as he was bike mechanic. He listened to me, believed me, calmed me down, and even made me smile, most importantly, he assured me he would find and fix the problem, which he did (it actually WASN’T me!). I can’t believe how lucky I am to live in Lawrence where I can be spoiled by Sunflower weekly…ok almost daily, sometimes.
I love the ride out to Lone Star Lake. In the warm months, that ride usually includes a jump into the lake too. But any time of the year, it’s a beautiful ride. Sometimes you might see Bald Eagles flying. Definitely try to race them if you can, just don’t go so fast that you take any of my strava segments, especially the last climb into lone star. I worked hard to get that crown, even if I have to share it with 3 other ladies….for now. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Lawrence, you can drive to and park at the Rotary Arboretum. The complete loop, (which you can find here on Ride with GPS) is 37 miles. There’s a great stretch of the route that is pretty flat, so it’s great for doing 20 min threshold intervals. As of summer 2017, a good chunk of the road is closed while they work on improving the road and adding 6′ shoulders plus rumble strips, which will be great. In the meantime, I’m exploring other great routes in Lawrence. Another favorite is the 2015 version of the Lawrence Bicycle Club’s Wednesday Night “Taco Ride” route. The current route starts a little differently, but I still love the original version that I first started riding, trying for all of 2015 to not get dropped when I went on the longer route with the fast guys and I still remember the first time I made it to the Vinland Airport with the lead group. It’s a beautiful route that is fun going in either direction. I also like doing Hill Repeats up on Pleasant Grove Hill. It’s a .7 mile gradual climb of 150 feet (about 3.5% average grade I think), which equates to about a 2 1/2 minute hill when I’m really going hard, or about a 3 minute hill when I’m tired. Wellman Wall out in North Lawrence is another good hill for repeats. There are lots of great places to ride around Lawrence. Hit me up if you are coming into town and want to ride!
Still relatively new to the sport, as of 2017, Cindy has only. 4 bikes. Her first road bike, purchased from Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, is a Specialized Allez Compact, size 58 with a 52:36 Crank and 11:28 cassette, with Mavic Ksyrium clincher wheels. It’s name is the Red Flash and it was the bike that she rode regularly for training and most of her races in 2016, and the bike that helped her to win Kansas Road Category 123 All-around Rider of the Year. It’s name is Red Flash.
In September, shortly after the end of road season, Cindy bought her second official bike – a used Trek 9.5 Time Trial Bike with Bontrager Aeolus Wheels. The “Silver Streak” was Cindy’s 2017 Truman Cup Time Trial record-setting, strava-segment QOMing bike of choice.
In October, Cindy acquired her third bike….BlackJack is a beautiful matte black 56 sloping carbon Colnago. She test road this bike at the 2016 Kansas State Time Trial, bringing her home a gold medal and setting a course record women’s time of 1:04:50.54. When the bike’s owner decided to sell it, he called her first. She bought the frame from him, and stumbled into a great deal from another friend on a full di2 component set plus a set of HED Ardennes Wheels. A saddle from Sunflower and the new Specialized S-works Aerofly Carbon Handlebar set completes her setup.
In January Cindy officialy bought her teammate Renae Weaver’s older cross/gravel bike. The 55 Felt is a lovely bike and perfect for the level of commitment Cindy has for off-road bike events. This bike doesn’t have a name yet, but it often gets referred to as “renaesbike,” which sounds an awful lot like the name of the half-vampire child in the Twilght series. Cindy refuses to agree to that as the name of the bike and is accepting suggestions… ***Update. As of September, the bike has an official name. Presenting……
Notre Nesmae….or just Notre for short.
For liquid hydration during a race, I use Skratch Raspberry or Pineapple in one water bottle and straight water in a second. In the hot times of the year, I always start a race with frozen bottles. I also make sure to increase my hydration 24 hours prior to a race and completely double my water intake 1-2 hours before the start, this culminates in fully draining a water bottle during my pre-race warm-up.
I don’t really do much for food during a race, nothing in a crit or a time trial, but if it’s a long road race, I’ll bring a couple of things as options. I used a lot of Gu when I was running and doing triathlons. There are a ton of flavors and and really any of those energy gels are easy to consume on the bike. I also really like the Gu chomps. I can basically suck one out of the package and hold it in my cheek and take my time eating it.
What i really love though, is real food. I have found that those soft-taco size flour tortillas work GREAT for both sweet and savory wraps. My go-to versions include 1oz of melted mozzarella cheese, spread with about a half tablespoon of hummus or a thin layer of avocado and a couple of thin deli slices of smoked turkey. I take these a lot on long training rides. There’s a great balance of carbs, fat and protein….the tortilla provides the carbs, the avocado or hummus gives calories from good fats, and turkey is lean protein. I also LOVE to put some peanut butter and brown sugar on a tortilla, Peanut butter has both protein and good fats and a lot of easily digestable calories. The brown sugar I sort of stumbled on. I often see PB and Jelly at Sags and my kids like PB and honey, but one day we were out of both and I was hungry. In a wacky experiment, I tried some brown sugar and found it actually kind of reminded me of chocolate chip cookie dough. Plus, that brown sugar also has carbs which give me an energy boost in a race!
After a hard workout, if I don’t have some good ready-to-consume protein in the fridge or pantry, I’ll make a protein shake with some protein powder, peanut butter, greek yogurt (I LOVE the Greek Gods brand of honey yogurts……YUM!) and crushed ice. It’s possible that I occasionally add a shot of bourbon or vodka to that mixture…work hard, play hard, right? It’s all about balance.