Monday, March 30, 2009
I found myself kind of light-headed on the first two laps. I really don't know what was going on with me but I plowed on and into the third lap when things got nasty. Going up the steepest and longest of the hills that day someone set a hard pace. I was riding about 30 guys back at the time so I couldn't see what was going on but I could feel my legs slowly coming a part. We crested the hill and right into the headwind. I plunged down the steep twisting descents determined not to lose grip on the field. To be honest that grip was tenuous at that point and I was well above my lactate threshold praying for the speed to let up just a bit.
After about 10 minutes of chest-on-to-top-tube riding the pace slowed enough to catch my breath. At that point in time any light-headedness I was having was gone. I had made the split and the field had shrunk to less than 50 guys. I finished out the 3rd lap in relative peace. A teammate rode up to me at that point and asked me to shadow him and make sure he kept contact with the field. He's a much better sprinter and given the conditions of the day it was likely that the race would come down to a field sprint; so the answer to the question was pretty simple. Implementation proved fatal to my bike racing on the day.
I couldn't get him forward into the field and spent a couple of hard minutes keeping him in contact. A slip up in the feed zone on lap 5 proved to be the undoing of a bunch of people. Someone at the front put the pace down right then. I found him and put him on my wheel. He was solidly attached to my wheel as we went up a several mile long false flat which proceeded the biggest of the hills. We turned the corner and I made it my mission to make sure he got up and over the crest. When he did, I popped...hard. After trying to fight into the head wind for a mile or two I sat up and rode in.
I'm a little disappointed in how I fared. I had a lot of momentum coming into the race and wanted to keep it going. Plus, I was inspired by the idea of finally having teammates in the field. It's a good feeling not being the only guy wearing the stars and bars. However, given that I survived longer than a lot of people who last year beat me senseless a couple weekends a month, including some pro riders, I feel good. Had I not have been in the role of helping a teammate I may have survived but I was cashed and would have been of little use in the field sprint that ended the race. Another teammate, Jeff Dickey, had a solid performance and an 8th place finish to lead our squad. Greg Faber also had a great race and out lived the madness.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I flew back to DC today from my Thursday trip down to Ft. Lauderdale. The sun and warm air was a nice change. I jumped on the bike for my noon-time training ride and set out to do a little recovery loop around Hain's Point. I don't like the "Point." I go down there to do one lap and then get out. I don't turn laps down there or join in the noon ride. I don't have anything against anyone that does, I just find it mind-numbing going around the same 3-mile loop when I have access to miles of beautiful open roads elsewhere to train on.
Well, in my leisurely pace around the Point, I acquired a kling-on. You know, the guy who rides up behind you and starts drafting off you and just sits on your wheel without saying a word. The same guy you wouldn't even know that he is there unless you looked behind you and then you ask yourself "how long has he been there?" It would be one thing if I was going fast and it was the 10AM or an actual race; but I was on a recovery ride. I would have had no problem if this guy had ridden up to me and rode along side with me and chatted. I enjoy the occasional bike ride random chat with a dude that I don't know. Bike racing is much more fun when you have people to talk to while doing it.
What irked me is that he just started drafting and he was intent on sitting there like this was his personal version of Paris-Nice and I was leading him out for the world's slowest sprint. At first I hoped that he would come around me and go away. I even slowed a bit to facilitate this event. However he just stayed there. I swerved a bit in the lane to take him off my wheel but undeterred he stayed there. Then I started riding slalom down the dashed white lines- back and forth and back and forth. That finally broke him of his kling-on-ness.
Here is the moral of the story. Don't ride up to a guy you don't know and draft off him without at least saying something. A simple "hey how you are doing, do you mind if I sit on for a second?" would have changed this entire episode from an annoyance to something acceptable.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I looked back and saw nothing but a long train of red and white jerseys from KC's Team 360. I was a marked man and they let me know it. I resigned myself to riding in the field for a couple more laps. The third rider never made it up to the two leaders in the break and spent a long time dangling out in front of the break. One by one the field shrank as the crosswind took its toll. Only in Kansas can one design a race course that has absolutely no tail or head wind, only cross wind. Eventually the field was down to 10 guys with all the GC riders still left.
Team 360 was the motor in the remaining field as they had about half of it. It was easy to spot the one rider on their team that they were riding for as he was typically the guy who would latch on to me when I jumped. And I jumped repeatedly one lap in the cross-headwind section underneath the dam. I didn't know this at the time but those jumps appear to have hurt him. On the final lap his team threw it in the gutter hard. The strange thing about it was that their GC rider was back behind me and I was sitting about 4th wheel virtually riding in the grass. I slowly let a gap open between me and the rider in front of me and a couple of guys jumped around to get back in the draft. I tagged along and got back with the group but without the GC leader. His own team had dropped him with their gutter riding. A pair of them dropped back to try and bring him forward but by the time he rejoined the group we were at the base of the final climb and he finished well behind the winners.
Benn Stover from GP Velo Tek lead out the final sprint by ramping up the pace at the base of the climb. We quickly tagged him back as the road flattened out a bit then the final attack came quick. In the final sprint the field caught one of the riders who had been in the break with about 100 meters to go. He was shattered and couldn't respond. I came around Benn who finished right behind me but I was overtaken at the very top and finished 6th overall. I was blown up at the end of this one; much more so than the week previous. Two straight weeks on the road was just about all that my body could handle. So back on the big jet airliner and home to a soft bed and a good night sleep.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I've done training crits in a lot of places and most of them are pretty tame and not well attended but tonight was not the case. It was 50 minutes + 3 laps and there wasn't much time to sit back and relax. because the racing pretty much went from the gun. Again, the stars and bars on my team kit were recognized at the start line. It's really entertaining how many people recognize a DC-based team when you're not in DC. It's really a boost of confidence that folks have the respect enough to acknowledge NCVC/Inova Health System.
Coach Adam was a marked man pretty much from the jump. He tried a few moves early on but was instantly countered. I spent the first half of the race curbing my nasty tendency to...well attack in the first half of the race. I've been consciously trying to make my attacks more focused and less desperate this season and a big part of that goal is to improve my timing. We were turning laps at about 1 minute intervals which made the first half drag on for a while.
After the 25 minute mark I started to play a little bit more. Adam got up the road with a group of about 6 guys. They were working together pretty well and fighting off the field. I jumped across to try bridge as we headed into the downhill. Two guys tagged on and I pulled them about half way there. I signaled for one of the guys to pull through but instead of pulling through he jumped both of us. This made me just a touch angry and sent me back into the field.
Adam's break eventually came back and the field began in earnest attacking itself. I bridged up to a group of two who had established a move off the front. The moment I arrived the two of them just quit racing, which led to a little more anger and then me quickly being caught by the field. The race ended without much more from me.
I was really impressed by how the entire training race was run. It was smooth and professional and everyone took it serious. The pace never really slackened and overall it was a great workout.
Monday, March 16, 2009
This is the four-man breakaway going up the hill with one to go. Who says that bike racing isn't fun. I was having a great time, riding above my lactate threshold and even got to shoot the cameraman the thumbs up.
A few seconds later. It looks like a smile, but in reality it was a grimace. The result of climbing out on the West Coast and hours going up the Blue Ridge has made me much more comfortable when the road turns up. Still, there is nothing like a Kansas headwind to make you feel small and your legs feeble.
That's Tom Price in the blue and orange Lincoln kit. This is lap five going up the hill and he is setting a killer tempo. Tom finished the race with a solid 3rd place. The GP Velo Tek rider is right over my shoulder. It was right at this point that I realized that the race was about to get painful and we were about to get our sprint on.
I realize now that I need to get cooler sunglasses.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Today was the Spring Fling crit, 29 laps of one-mile fury. It was identical to last weekend but this time there was no wind, which in Kansas means less the 15 mph. All I gotta say is "seriously, what does it take to break a field?"
Thinking back now I realize I have never been in a breakaway in a crit that has actually stuck for the win. I've made the selection and ended races in small fields, but never off the front. Five times today I rolled off the front. Five times I found myself attacking the field. Five times they dragged me back.
The professed theory of bike racing, at least n the Midwest is that the 3rd attack will be the one that sticks. Three attacks in a row and the field will let the third one go, at least for a little while. It's what you do when you get up the road that matters.
I made my first attack at 21 to go when the field slowed after a sprint point. It was a lame attack in the neighborhood of 500 watts, but it got me up the road. I took a couple guys with me but we were dragged back 20 seconds later. My second attack was when a group of four established a break. Each big team was represented and before they got too far away I knew I had to get to them or else my rogue racing self would spend the rest of the race chasing. I made the juncture bringing one guy with me. Somehow, my presence in the break was too much for the field to bear and they dragged us beak half a lap later.
My third and fourth attacks were close in time to each other More than anything these attacks broke the will of the largest team to attack the field in a coordinated manner. For the previous five laps they had repeatedly assaulted the field. One of their guys would get up the road and then the field would chase just long enough for them to launch a counter attack. It was a pretty sweet plan until I put them on the defensive. They stayed there the rest of the race.
Another guy from a KC team came to the front and laid a nasty tempo down. It started as a breakaway attempt but he was swept up quick. He slowed up after two strong efforts in a row and then I made a jump for it. It was about 5 to go and my jump wasn't powerful. I only hit mid-400 watts but then I stuck my wattage between 300-350. I know I can hold that pace for ten minutes. I know that if need be I could stay there for the final 5 laps, heck maybe someone would jump to me.
I was all alone and 50 meters ahead of the field. I looked back and the big team I had put on the defensive sent a guy off the front to bring me back. I sat there at above 300 watts undeterred. I broke him. I broke him like he was a little girl. The field recoiled and I dove through another corner faster and stronger. I had been off the front for a lap. Down the little hill and up the hill again and a second surge from the field came. This one came up within 10 meters of me before the surge slowed, but they were too close and a couple guys lept across the gap and tagged on.
I wasn't about to bury myself any more to pull them around the course so I sat up and they swarmed me. I stuck it out in the field and was in position to take the final sprint until I got chopped in the final corner and found myself going in reverse quick. I was out of position and just rolled in. So another field sprint and a 1700 calorie day. Tomorrow back to the uphill finish.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
We were discussing me moving back to Lawrence and whether or not I could see myself living here. As I ride around Lawrence these last couple of days I realize that I could move back and that I would enjoy certain aspects of it just like the old days. However, I paused when I thought about my life, the dream house I wanted to build and how things here were just foreign to my "vision" of myself.
I enjoy wearing a suit and tie everyday, I enjoy the hustle of the Metro and the warm smells o f stores in Georgetown and I dream of one day owning a house that looks like a plantation home of old. These things are foreign to most in Lawrence. Given it's laid back nature and Midwestern farmhouse appeal, these parts of me would probably appear a little out of sorts. At least that's what I stressed to the other members of my foursome at Free State Brewery.
Kathi shot back however with a genius thought, nothing in Lawrence ever really looks out of place. Anything goes here and that was part of the charm which drew her back. It makes Lawrence the equivalent of paisley and black. Absolutely nothing goes with paisley and everything goes with black. In some sense that is just what Lawrence is, it's the place where things make sense even when they don't make sense. Maybe that was the allure that guided my ill-formed thoughts to chose this place for college. Who only knows what I was thinking about at that time. I'm glad I did.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Terrain is not biggest obstacle in Kansas racing, the 20 mph wind and the gutter however do cause some troubles. I'm a rogue rider here but my kits stars and bars are easy to see in a field and led to me being marked. The race started quick but I started in the front and after learning my lessons at Valley of the Sun, I didn't relinquish that spot.
There were 3 strong teams in the field and they kept taking shots off the front. I kept leaping to the breaks and the field kept coming with me. I found myself in a break of two which was working but my cohort let me drag him around in the tailwind section and then jumped me in the head wind. This of course drew an expletive from me and I sat up and let the field catch me. A solo rider is not going to survive in this wind.
Somehow a 3-man break got up the road about 5 to go. It was one of a bazillion breaks but this one somehow stuck. So the field was sprinting for 4th and I was determined to fire it up in the sprint ala NCVC days of old.
The finishing stretch was in a head wind and down a slight hill for 300 meters and then up for 100 meters. I hit the final corner in the field in about 5th wheel and drafted down about 250 meters. The guy two in front of me jumped and we rolled with him. I put my sprint down and jumped. I ended up passing someone right at the line and finishing 3rd in the field sprint and 6th overall.
Day two of the weekend featured the Perry Dam Race. Nothing like warming up for your race by riding for an hour and twenty minutes into a 30 mph head wind. The race is only about 15 miles from Lawrence and we always ride out to it because the route is bone flat and along the Kansas River. Today the wind was blowing right into our faces and I was in a group of 3 going 300 watts and holding 14 mph.
The race itself takes the shape of a golf club and goes along an Army Corps of Engineers dam. You head along the top of the dam and then take a sharp right hand corner down a quick hill to a parallel road right underneath the dam. That road then heads left and then right into the club part of the course and into the kicker...a short steep stair stepper.
It was a 4 lap circuit that in total took us about an hour to do. The field was a combine 1/2/3 field and there were a couple boys from Mercy Cycling team. That didn't bother me because one of them was Coach Adam. Lap one was uneventful but saw a third of our field get shattered on the stair stepper.
Lap two was were I put myself in harms way. I had been riding behind Coach Adam, who was a well marked man, and I was content to wait until the hill again to shatter some more of the field Under his breath, or at least I think so, as we are heading down the road under the dam I hear him say "go now, go now." I jumped and got clear of the field. One of the local 3s jumped across to me and we were gone.
We crested the hill and then down onto the dam with the tailwind. We spent the entire lap 3 off the front and just at the crest of the hill Mercy boys joined us and plunged us down across the dam again. From stories afterwards I found out that one of the local squads put together a lap long coordinated effort to catch us in the break. After the catch, they were never seen again.
The lead Mercy rider was holding 450 watts across the dam and we were gutter riding anyone that could stay on, the outside of my foot was literally scrapping the guard rail that separated us from the abyss and I was the 5th rider. The pace let up as it was clear that the field was back together.
Coach Adam then started unleashing repeated attacks and was dragged back each time. One, two, three, four attacks came and it was clear no one was letting him go. The field let up after it caught him a little over 2 miles to the finish. I jumped the field right into the head wind. They let me go. I got up a head of steam and they just let me go. I turned back to look and I was clear.
I couldn't believe it, my stupidity of just throwing myself off again and again. was working. I began the climb and I was spinning and spinning up. I reached the false flat in the middle of the stair stepper and I was still alone. 300 meters to go and I had it in hand. Then from the back right I hear the most unpleasant sound in the world . . . shifting gears.
The field swallowed me hard and spat me out. I wanted to accelerate and jump up the last of the climb. I wanted to launch an assault that would end all assaults, but I didn't have it. My legs were fried my body was dumped. I was 300 meters from winning in a solo break. 3 out of 5 times I would have won.
I spent the better part of half the race off the front either in a two-man break or by myself. If the finish had been flat it would have been over. If I had jumped into a cross wind rather than a 25 mph head wind it would have been over. There were 3 times in the race that I thought I had broken the will of the field. Damn bike racing, when will I learn.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I'm heading this weekend to Tulsa to race with Coach Mills in what I want to be a breakout performance for this season. I echo statements made by Mr. Tilford recently in which he recounted a race down in Texas and draw encouragement for it. My performance at Valley of the Sun was good but my results didn't match what I was hoping they would be. I felt fit and I was in the mix but it didn't click when I needed it to. It's a great sign for my fitness but it's time to take that fitness and make results out of it.
I reemerged at the end of last season after about 5 years of moping around. I put together my first set of top ten results since returning to the sport in earnest and I want to continue this trend this year. It's time to stick my nose in the wind at the finish line. I've got a sprint and I'm determined to use it.
After Tulsa we are headed back to the bastion of cycling in Lawrence for a couple of days of hard riding followed by a solid race that weekend in St. Louis. The weekend afterwards will feature my return to racing on Kansas soil in the Spring Fling and Perry Races. A set of races that as a rookie I used to catapult myself up the ranks and out of being a Cat 4. These races are nothing fancy and the scenery pales in comparison to the epic mountain races to come or the crits on Pennsylvania Ave. None of that matters to me. What matters is that I drop the hammer and get this season going the way last season ended.
The MABRA season starts at the end of the month and the Jefferson Cup looms like a dangerous thunder cloud on the horizon. By the time I reach that race I should have 8 starts in my legs and a dangerous head of steam. All that remains is to keep the focus up. Pictures and race stories are sure to follow.