Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back in D.C.

After a week-long trip to St. Louis and a few warm days of riding, reality kicked back in as did 50 degree temps. I must have been overzealous in the idea that Summer was coming because on Tuesday I did some massive Spring cleaning. In the process I took all my winter clothes out of the closet and put them into storage for next year. Thanfully I saved a wind vest, a pair of arm warmers and some light gloves just in case . . . .

Tonight I got to ironing and found myself watching a show on SciFi called Eureka. It's not the best show but it was a heck of a lot better than Dancing With the Stars, Idol or countless hours of CNN retelling the same story. Why can I not find bike racing on TV right now? But I digress, watching Eureka instantly got me thinking of my trip this past Fall to California's Wild Rivers Coast, tall redwoods and thick fog.

I in no way feel the need to break out the bike box and head back on out on the road; however, northern California has grown on me. It's not as beautiful as the green hillsides of the Virginia hunt country, but I can definitely see the charm of San Francisco, Sonoma and the wine country. Especially, the fact that you can wear a suit coat every day and not freeze or burn. Looking back on some of my other travels in the past year, I've really gotten to ride my bike in some cool places. Looking forward to my upcoming race schedule the next two months are all local races. That'll definitely save my back the pain of dragging cycling luggage around airports.

There is something great about riding in DC. The idea of leaving my front door in the heart of a real city and within 10 minutes being on an open road headed toward the countryside . . . well that's just a great feeling. I cannot thinmk of another place like it. It's fun to be a part of other cycling communities as a visitor for a while; which is why I wish I could figure out a way to bridge the gap between different communities. We seem to get so focused on our own district whether it be MABRA or LaMBRA (LA/MS) or MOBRA (Missouri) or whatever your home calls it, that we forget that there is so much else out there. Or just how plan fun it is to try some new routes or races.

I am extending an open invitation to all my bike racing friends from across the country to come here to DC and ride. I guarantee you that it's some of the best riding around and our races are legit too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tour of St. Louis: Carondolet Park

Stage Two (for me) of the Tour of St. Louis was the Carondolet Park Circuit Race. The course was created by adding an additional 3/4 mile of road to the Tuesday Night World Championship course. It's a course which features swooping curves, almost no corners and one steep descent followed by a quick rise back up. It also featured a swirling wind which bounced through out the park's trees. In fact it was so windy that water from one of the park's fountains traveled over a 100 meters and misted the riders as they went along.

Most of the early part of the race was uneventful. I took a few digs and bridged up to a couple breaks which were ultimately pulled back. The wind knocked a lot of eager breakaway attempts down and the speed of the ascent/descent made it hard to get away unless you were intent on just putting down a nasty tempo until everyone around you abandoned all hope.

Before the race started I was warming up with the boys from the Mercy Cycling Team and talking about how to attack this course. Joe Schmalz made a passing comment that if you took the slightly less than 90 degree corner at the bottom of the fast descent at 40 mph that no one would follow you. With two laps to go I put that theory to the test. Given the grade and the tailwind it wasn't that hard to push the pace up to 40s. I tucked through the corner and out the other side with only one guy on my wheel. I punched it up and over the first part of the hill and the other guy took it from there.

We had a solid gap on the field and it was growing quick. He went down into an aero tuck with his arms on the top of the bars and I put my head down and my hands in the drops and we charged off. I was pretty gassed from the effort going up the hill and had just about caught my breadth when he popped in the head wind. I came around him but a quick gust knocked down the mirth of my jump. At the start/finish line with one to go I got caught by the field.

I thought my day was over but surprisingly the pace really slowed down and I didn't get swarmed. I made a few aggressive moves to put myself back into the top 25% of the field going into the final couple hundred meters. I started my sprint too late for anything grand but ended up in the top 20.

Two top 20 finishes in a weekend is a good result but not something that I'm overly happy with right now. My focus is sharp and my form is on, but I'm not seeing the sprint the way I was a month ago. I made very simple mistakes in both races in the Tour of St. Louis, mistakes that I shouldn't be making at this stage in the season. What it comes down to is that right now I'm missing the sprint before the sprint or that time when you ramp your speed up to get good position to sprint. I've been sitting back for too long waiting to go. I need to remedy this mistake and then just let my sprint flow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tour of St. Louis: Delmar-velous Crit

Stage one of the Tour of St. Louis was the .8 mile Delmarvelous Crit. It was four-corners, flat and crosswind filled. It started with more than 50 guys and finished with just about as many. There was nothing particularly hard about the race and none of the guys in the field were prepared to make it hard. That was trouble for me.

I jumped hard a couple of times but ended up bringing with me someone who was much weaker than me. I'd pull through and gap the guys who were in the break with me. I'd try to drop them but they were strong enough to stay with me. However, when I ended up alone I was not strong enough to fight off the entire field.

With about 5 laps left to go in the hour race I resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be a field sprint. I fought through swarm after swarm when the pace slowed down. I went into the final corner just too far back. In the 300 meters to the finish I passed a couple of guys but finished 17th on the day. It's a better result than I had been posting this month but still not what I wanted. I know where I made my mistake today and I won't let that happen again tomorrow. It's just frustrating to know that I was strong but not strong enough. Tomorrow is a new day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Live from St. Louis

I've made it in MABRA cycling!!! I thought I had made it when my blog was linked to by one of the area's fastest bike racers and someone who has dropped me on more 10AM rides than most. However, it's official now because I finally found my picture among Jim Wilson's photos this past weekend.

Notice the determined look; however, I still I think that I can use a new pair of sunglasses. As long as I can keep my photo off You Got Dropped, I'm happy.

Hayden and I packed up and left again.
This time to St. Louis for work and then the Tour of St. Louis this weekend. Anyone who knows me knows that I travel more often than most people. It comes with the territory of my job. I enjoy the opportunity to ride and race in new and interesting markets. Plus, it's fun to be an ambassador from a far away place or just a rogue rider in the peloton. My bike racing travels began about a year ago when I escaped the clutches of a succubi who threatened to suck out my very will to live much less my love of bike racing.

I've flown my bike to about 10 different cities across the US and on almost every major domestic carrier a couple times. The one consistency in those travels is the inconsistency in the fee that I have been charged. The prices have ranged from no charge on US Airways, from National to New Orleans; to $225 on United from LA to Dulles. It makes no sense.

Today was no different. Today I was informed that it would cost me $175 to fly my bike from Dulles to St. Louis (silently I was outraged). This was radically different from the last time I flew from Dulles that time to San Francisco on United in the Fall where I was charged $50. On the return flight from Seattle I paid $0 and with no explanation for the difference. Today I asked the gentleman behind the "Special Assistance" counter that I had been routed to by someone at a regular counter who said that they couldn't handle my bag, another first for me, why the difference in price. He was dumbfounded and couldn't come up with a good justification or answer. It took him 10 minutes to produce a rate sheet that showed the bike fee, which stated that it was effective as of 2008.

There was no fee charged for checking my wheel bag or my suitcase today. That was different than my recent flight from Kansas City to DCA on Midwest Airlines where I was charged $80 for my bike and an additional $40 for 2 excess bags (my bike box and my suitcase). That charge was again different than the $100 I was charged on the way to Kansas City on the same airline, which was limited to just the bike box. $80 is also what I paid when I flew from Denver to LA on United but $50 is what I paid when I flew from National to Denver.

This is just a few examples of how arbitrary these fees are. I honestly feel that it's dependent upon who checks you in behind the counter. When I flew to SF and was charged $50 it was by a uniformed employee from United. On the return no-charge flight from Seattle I was checked in by an airport employee who had no connection to an airline. When I wasn't charged when I flew to New Olreans on US Airways I was standing in line behind CNN's Wolf Blitzer so I'm sure the woman behind the counter was just star struck and forgot her standard procedures.

I admit that my bike box at 53 lbs fully loaded weighs more than most luggage, barely. I don't like the fact that I have to pay an additional fee to check my bike but I'm willing to do that because I realize that's just how the game is to be played in our world where airlines feel that they can oversell flights and cut the quality of their service to almost nothing. However, I live by a budget. I budget everything because that's how I have determined I can best manage my money and afford those things in this world that I enjoy, including my addictions to bike racing and nice suits. Budgeting however is made difficult when you cannot predict how much you are going to be charged for a particular service. When the baggage fees appear arbitrary it's hard to budget for it. When I can in the future I think I'm just going to drive to a few more places rather than fly. At least I know how much it's going to cost me to put my bike in the trunk of my Jetta and roll.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Syn-Fit Criterium

"At least it was a good day of training," it's totally an excuse or better said a way you justify a hard day of racing with no results. It's also how I've felt about my races in April. I doubled up again today for two crits out in Chantilly, VA. My first race, the cat 3 swerve-a-thon, was a testament to shaky riding and inept attempts at breaking away.

My teammate, Karl and I spent our day at the front trying to start or join breakaways. Our efforts ended up being in vain and the race turned into a field sprint with no good result. I rolled up for the 1/2/3 race with a different and looser attitude about things. I'm very focused on bridging the points gap and becoming a 2. I'm closing in on it and a good result should put me over the top. So I've approached my two MABRA 3's races with tension but when it's a 1/2/3 race I've been looser and more free because I'm playing the role of a supporter. As a result, I'm having much more fun.

I started the second race on the front and stayed there.
(remember the goal is to look tough because cycling is all about the tough guy image). I covered break after break for the first 10 laps. I sat up after putting in a good effort and rolled back about 10 spots to catch my breath. A few guys got up the road and I thought to myself, "that sure looks like a good break to be in." I didn't chase as I was gassed and they were sure to come back. As luck would have it they didn't come back. Even though the break got so close a couple of times. One of my teammates was up in the break and that's a solid bonus for me.

The pack chased for a long time and I spent the rest of the race following wheels and wondering when the next big effort would come. I went after a pream but wasn't able to come around the last guy in front of me. With 13 to go the officials decided that the lead group of about 10 was going to lap the rest of the field and gave us 3 laps to go. With no money left in the race I rolled in with a set of weary legs.

I had joked before the race started with DC Velo's Jason Meidhoff that I was sure he had peaked for this early season race. Well, it might not have been a season focus for him but he had a great ride, dropping the hammer on the break and soloing away for the win for at least 10 laps. My teammate in the break finished solid in and among the district's big sprinters. Now on to a little rest phase and the Tour of St. Louis.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Belgian Days

Today is already a wash. I declared it a no riding outside day a few minutes ago. It's in the 40s, it's raining and there is no sign that it'll be stopping any time soon. To say the least, I'm not pleased. I hate riding the trainer. I dislike everything about it.

I rode yesterday in the two-hour break in the weather that we had. Winter feels like it is holding on for a little too long this year. It's not that it's been cold or snowy or anything like my boys out in Kansas have been dealing with. It's just not getting warm. Riding in 40-50 degree cloudy and rainy weather just wears on you after a while. Especially here in DC where there air is almost always filled with just a little bit of humidity. It gets through your wind vest and clings to your base layer like a lobbyist to the teat an omnibus spending bill.

April has been a disappointing month for results, especially following on my March results. I've got four more starts left this month and I'm gunning to turn things around starting this weekend. May is on its way and there is going to be some mad racing in May. I'm just hoping the weather starts to cooperate. I dig Belgian style beer and Belgian style racing but I'm losing my love for the Belgian weather.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hunt Country Easter

I had a great plan for a bazillion base miles on Saturday out in the Blue Ridge. Mother nature had some other plans. It rained all day long and I was only able to escape around 5 o'clock for a couple hours of riding before the sun went down. Topeka-rules say that you don't ride outside in the cold rain. The logic is that the worst thing that can happen to fitness is getting sick, so one weekend of bad riding is just sacrifice.

With very little bike racing this past weekend my Monday abesent of Gam Jams distractions and reading up on other people's blogs. Thank heaven that next week there will be plenty of bike racing to recount. On Sunday I spent some time at a hunt point-to-point; as such a recounting of horse racing could be in order. However, I have no idea what steeple chase is and I'm befuddled by horses and any description of what was going on is fruitless.

Despite that fact I had a great hat. If my grandfather's stories are true, I am genetically predisposed to wearing fedoras. There is no fear that I will trade bikes for horses any time soon.
Just a pleasant diversion for a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring Time in DC

Today was one of the nicer days that I've seen in a long time. My legs have been slowly coming around after this weekend's festivities and I've had two days in a row of solid interval work. Coming back into to DC around noon time today I was confronted with a wall of traffic. I have no idea where it all came from and no idea why it was there. There was a traffic jam in Georgetown all the way from one end to the other. At least a good mile of cars. I've come to expect that on weekends or during rush hour but at 1PM? I blame it on the ideal weather and people's truant disposition today. Let's hope the good weather stands for awhile longer. Winter has held on for a bit too long this year.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Tyson's Corner

Double-up Sunday for me-- two circuit races and I paid the price. My legs were fresher than most given that I had only done two hard laps at Walkersville the day previous before my bike decided that it didn't want to race anymore. I was focused on revenging that performance out in Virginia.

Tyson's is a long crit/short circuit race. It's a little over a mile in length and features a long downhill and quick uphill. There really is nothing more to the course than that. If five focused guys get it in their mind that the race is going to be a field sprint then they can make it into one. That's pretty much what happened in both races today.

My first race was solid. Greg Faber got up the road in a break that was looking like it might actually stick. Suddenly the break imploded and we saw guys stringing out the back in pairs. When Faber left the break, Drew Armstrong went to the front of the field and didn't leave it until he had nailed back the remainder. At that point in time I should have jumped, but instead of doing it right then when the pack was relaxing I waited a lap.

I jumped hard but might have gotten five meters off the front before I was tagged. I pulled the plug, and as it was 4 to go, sat back in for the sprint. Karl and I were in good position going into the final lap but the downhill was too quick and we got swallowed up in the surge from behind.

Race two was a lot like race one but faster, longer and harder. I dug early and got to the front of the field and stayed put. A few early breaks tried to establish themselves up the road but nothing was happening. One of the stronger Harley riders was riding right in front of me and jumped when a couple other guys went at about the midpoint of the race. I tagged on to his wheel and went. It wasn't the acceleration that hurt me but the fact that the acceleration never seemed to end. I clawed onto the back of his wheel and prayed for mercy.

Mercy didn't come because down the backside of the course the pace got even faster. I had hoped that once, maybe just once, that the pace would let up on the hill so that I could catch my breath. That didn't happen. No sizeable gap formed between the group I was in and the field and eventually it was all back together.

The hill would take it's toll on my legs and I had little left at the end of the race. I rolled in very pleased with my fitness and the knowledge that I can do more than just hang on when the big guys throw down. It's just gonna take some extra work to make myself a player in those fields.

I've got three weekends till my next race at the Tour of St. Louis. Perfect time now for some miles and a little regrouping.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


On lap two I had a mechanical. I was able to fix it quickly but not quick enough to keep up with the pack. I chased for a lap and then I retired. Time to fight again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Since my first race in February I've had 11 starts. In that time I've had 4 top tens and 1 win. I've also had 2 DNFs and the rest were pack finishes. By the end of this weekend I'll add 2 more starts to that total. Then I'm taking two weeks off of racing and gearing up for a long set of May and June races. By Memorial Day I'll likely have done more races than I did all of last season. I'm on a quest this season and I'm not stopping until I succeed in that quest.

I recently joined a new coaching service-- Source Endurance. The link to their web page is to the left. It's a great organization and I'm impressed with them. Coach Adam is one of their newest coaches, so it was a no-brainer to join up. I was looking through my training schedule for the week and noticed that it said "time to regroup." It's great to have a coach that is on the same frequency. It's almost as if I don't have to say the words out loud, he just knows instinctively.