Monthly Archives: June 2008

Nature Valley Grand Prix Photos

Here is a quick post with some photos from one of our team managers (Tim Ramos).

2008 Nature Valley Men\'s Composite Team

2008 Nature Valley Men's Composite Team

2008 Nature Valley Men\'s and Women\'s Composite Teams

2008 Nature Valley Men's and Women's Composite Teams

Warming up for the Cannon Falls road race

Warming up for the Cannon Falls road race

Jason and I getting to the start line early - Cannon Falls

Jason and I getting to the start line early – Cannon Falls

Brady and I on the finishing circuits - Cannon Falls

Brady and I on the finishing circuits – Cannon Falls

Kristine and Analise in the kids race (in the background)

Kristine and Analise in the kids race (in the background)

What’s Next

I won’t hide that I am very disappointed about missing the timecut yesterday in the TT. A focus for me for the remainder of the season will be to work on my TT and improve my overall power output. I went for a ride today and felt miserable, so I believe I will take the next two or three days off the bike completely. As far as racing goes, the next race for me will be the Fitchburg-Longsjo classic in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It’s a great race that I did 10 years ago, and I am looking forward to being an active part of the race.

Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 – Wrap-up

I downloaded my heart-rate data this afternoon and was surprised to find my time trial time was slower than I had thought it was, and it turns out that with Ben Jacques-Mayne’s incredible TT performance, I missed the time cut by 14 seconds. So my racing is over. I am hoping to get a couple good rides in while the weather is nice and then we’ll be heading back down to Alabama. Thanks for checking in on my racing.

Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 – Day 3 – Morning Time Trial

June 13, 2008 – 10:30AM

Ohio St Time Trial

Quick summary: Felt awesome for the first part, getting close to my 30 second man, but after the turnaround I never saw my 30 second man again and started to fade. The hill on the course wasn’t too bad but the last part was into a headwind and I was cooked by the top – crawled across the line.

The details: I got to the race plenty early to get a great warm-up in, but I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course as riders had already started racing. This turned out to be a factor as I relaxed a little too soon before the finish and then had to try to ramp the pace back up again to finish the last 200m of the climb. The start of the race was great and I was rolling 28mph with a slight downhill but into the wind. Then my pace started to fall, but I was still feeling comfortable at about 26 mph. I figured I would be able to fly on the way back after the turnaround because there was a tailwind. Unfortunately, my pace stayed consistent around 25mph as I lost sight of the guy who started in front of me that I had been catching and then completely lost sight of before the end. I hit the bottom of the climb with good speed, but it fell quickly and I just couldn’t get it turning up the hill. Then the mistake with the finish and I could only manage an average speed of 13.4mph up the hill for a total time of 15minutes, 15 seconds with a overall average speed of 23.4mph. I am worried now, though, because Ben Jacques-Mayne rolled a time of 12 minutes, 32 seconds which would put the time cut at 15 minutes, 2 seconds. I won’t be able to find out until later this afternoon before the start of tonight’s race whether they relaxed the timecut at all or if I am out of the race.

Heart rate data:
Day 3 - Time trial

Heart rate notes:

  1. Rolling great through here
  2. The turnaround
  3. Downhill before corner into the hill
  4. Strong headwind near the top of the hill

Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 – Day 2

June 13, 2008

Cannon Falls Road Race

Quick summary: The field mostly stayed together even with lots of crosswinds on the course, a crazy dirt road, and very fast finishing circuits. With two laps to go on the finishing circuit I got gapped off by another rider and couldn’t chase around to get back onto the pack. I ended up finishing in a small group about 1 minute 11 seconds back for a finish somewhere in the top 100.

The details: The race was only difficult in a few spots, but it was challenging to try to maintain your position or move up in the pack. Several times I would make it to near the front of the pack and then literally ten seconds later, I would find myself at the back again because the lefthand side of the road happened to be going faster and most of the peleton would pass on that side. The course was rolling and very windy. The “neutral zone” was hilarious because the pace car was going fast and everybody was jockeying for position. I topped out with a HR of 181 in the neutral zone. After we finished the mile long neutral zone, there was only 2.5 miles to the first KOH. I was very near the front at this point and I saw some people attacking so I thought I would give it a go. I hit my max HR for the day of 191 and couldn’t close the gap to the small group that was going for the sprint. I decided it wasn’t worth it and sat up and then tried to maintain my position near the front of the peleton. The crosswinds were pretty strong so there were several times where I found myself in the gutter trying to hang on, but these didn’t last long. I think if some of the stronger teams had kept at it, then they would have blown the race apart. Instead, they were happy to let a Bissell rider stay off the front on a solo breakaway to take the rest of the KOH points. The entrance to the finishing circuit was a half mile gravel road that was very sketchy because of all the rain over the past week. This was followed by a very steep descent into town on a narrow, wet road. Everybody made it through safely, although I was the last person through. I was able to move up on the circuits otherwise I would have been gapped off much sooner as people started coming off of the back of the pack on the first lap.

Heart rate data:
Day 2 - Cannon Falls Road Race

Heart rate notes:

  1. The “neutral zone” didn’t feel very neutral
  2. Here I went for the KOH points
  3. Lots of crosswinds and rolling hills on the main part of the course
  4. Dirt road, steep descent into town
  5. Finishing circuits

Our composite team had some pretty bad luck during the race. One of our strongest riders had a flat tire and after a slow tire change had to time trial the rest of the race outside of the race caravan. I think he was too far back for us to have brought him back up to the pack. All of us would have ended up finishing the race off the back of the group. Another one of our riders had a mechanical problem requiring a bike change shortly before the finishing circuits. I believe everybody made the time-cut though and we’ll be taking it to the streets of downtown Minneapolis tomorrow evening after a short time trial tomorrow morning.

Nature Valley Grand Prix 2008 – Day 1

June 12, 2008

St. Paul, Minnesota Downtown Criterium

Quick summary: cold, rainy, miserable, but I survived to race another day.

First corner, first lap
Photo credit: Steve Pottenger, Nature Valley Grand Prix website

The details: I made it 11 laps after a starting position about 30 riders from the back of what the announcer said was a 200 man field (I think the actual field size may have been somewhere in the range of 150-175 people). It was raining and 58 degrees at the start, and I basically had no hope after getting a starting position that was near the very back of the pack. The pace wasn’t that fast, but I found it nearly impossible to pass people on the six-corner course because there was only
one line to take through the corners and the race stayed single-file for the whole time I was in it! I also wasn’t passed by very many people though and I think I was about the 30th person to get pulled which was about where my starting position was in the pack.

Initially, the announcer made it very clear that the riders being pulled who hadn’t made it to the halfway point in the race would not be allowed to start the next day. But all of that changed when the lead motorcycle wiped out on one of the corners and the race was neutralized. Before restarting the race, the chief referee asked the riders if they wanted to continue, and with one voice, everyone still in the race shouted “NO!” as it continued to pour down rain in 58 degree weather in the middle of June! So they scrapped the race, donated the prize money to the Children’s Hospital, and said that everyone would be allowed to start tomorrow – even those of us who had already been pulled from the race. Whew!

Heart rate data:
NVGP 2008 - Day 1 - Downtown St Paul Criterium

Heart rate notes:

  1. Warmup-time, speedometer not working correctly at first but soon fixed
  2. Looking for teammates, talking to Kristine
  3. Staging at the back of the pack for 20 minutes in the rain
  4. The very short race
  5. Cool-down

Racing up north

June 7-11, 2008

Welcome to my new blog chronicling my cycling adventures. I am currently in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota racing the Nature Valley Grand Prix. This first post describes our travel up here from Birmingham, Alabama and a race I did in St. Louis along the way.

Tour de Winghaven – O’Fallon, Missouri

We left on Saturday, June 7 and traveled 10 hours to St Louis. Keep in mind we have two small children. A 500 mile trip will take a minimum of ten hours, so we actually made pretty good time. We checked into our hotel right in downtown near “The Arch” and I snapped a couple pictures of the kids before they took off with Kristine on a carriage ride. I went for a nice ride through downtown out to Forest Park near Washington University where I found some good roads to ride on. It was extremely windy and there were lots of traffic lights so it was hard to read how my legs were feeling. Definitely not tired, but definitely not fresh and springy.

The race was late Sunday afternoon so Kristine took the kids for a stroll over to the arch while I packed up the car and rested. She told me later that when Josiah was under the arch, he kept on pointing at it and saying “tunnel”, which I guess is true if you think of it as a very tall (height) and very short (width) one. When they got back to the car, it was about noon with a 30-45 minute drive to O’Fallon where my race would be starting at 2:30, which would give me plenty of time to check in, warm-up and get ready to race. Well, unfortunately, the midwest is known for having two seasons: “winter” and “construction”. So as we were driving to the race, we found out that the interstate we needed to take was closed for construction. Not just one or two lanes, but the entire interstate was closed! We backtracked and tried to take some side roads but in the end discovered that the only way to get there was to go back. All of a sudden our 30 minute drive turned into a nearly two hour fiasco. We arrived at 2:10 and I dropped Kristine off to run to the sign-in table and get my number and timing chip while I kept the kids entertained with a movie and unpacked my bike from the car — all in a blazing hot sun with no shade and a temperature of over 95. Kristine came back and pinned my number on while I zip tied my timing chip to my bike. I grabbed a couple water bottles, gels, and rode straight to the start line and plopped down for a front row starting position as they called the riders to line. My warm-up was the ride from the car to the start line, only about 1/10th of a mile!

There is no other way to describe the race other than as a race of attrition. There were nearly 120 starters and only 40 finishers! It was not only very hot with no shade on the course, but it was also very windy (15-20 mph steady wind with higher gusts). The race was 25 laps of a 2.9 mile circuit, and it had two European style traffic circles on the circuit. Part of the peleton would go around one side of the circle and the other part would go around the other side before everybody would merge back together in a high speed sprint out of the circle. The race was basically a really long crit course — for nearly 3 hours! I was in a couple of breaks early that didn’t work. Then I bridged up to a few breaks which were well-represented bringing the field with me. Nothing more frustrating than that. What I learned from the race is that I was riding too close to the front. Somebody from a team would attack and then the other teams would cover and within a second or two I had to cover it or let it get away since the break would have good representation from the large teams at the race. It would have been better to have been a little farther back (7th or 8th wheel instead of 2nd or 3rd wheel) so that I could see attacks as they happen and go with them directly instead of having to bridge across. Anyway, I was extremely happy to finish the race , albeit in 23rd just out of the money (top 20).

Nature Valley Grand Prix – Minneapolis, Minnesota

By the time the race finished, and after I finished repacking the car (which was fully loaded with Analise’s bike, my bike, wheels, suitcases, backpacks, a stroller, and more!) it was nearly 6:30pm. We still had a five hour drive ahead of us north to Dubuque, Iowa but I was elated to get the phone call I was waiting for to hear the good news that I had earned a coach’s selection spot for the Nature Valley Grand Prix “Pro Ride” team! More on that in the next post, but for now I’ll say that this finalized our travel plans to continue on up to Minneapolis after visting Kristine’s sister, Anna, and her husband, Hal, in Platteville, Wisconsin. We made it into our hotel just before midnight, and the kids lets us sleep in until about 7:15 the next morning. We spent the next night in Platteville after having a fun cookout with Hal and Anna and lots of playing on the playground. We then left late the next day to head up to Minneapolis. We met our friends Tammy and Ryan and their kids along the way at a Pizza Hut in Prairie du Chen, Wisconsin and had a great time hanging out and letting the kids play together. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen though because the flooding in eastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin is incredible and some of the main roads and bridges are closed because roadways and bridge supports have been washed away! They made it, though, and we had a great time. After dinner we continued on up to Minneapolis and made it in just before 1 AM.

All told, the trip was nearly 1200 miles from Birmingham, Alabama to Minneapolis via a bike race near St Louis!

Heart rate data:
Tour de Winghaven HR data