Archive for July, 2009
After a nice relaxing afternoon at Panera, it was time to ramp it up for the time trial. I wasn’t feeling great during my warm-up, but I was able to get my heart rate and speed up and I have finally made the timecut in a professional NRC time trial race! Here’s my heart rate data:
No pressure for me on this race as it is coming near the end of a very long family road trip. I’m here to have fun, hopefully win a little bit of money, enjoy hanging out with our friends here in the Chicago area, and get more experience for future racing. Here’s a map of our trip so far … only one more leg to go (from Chicago to La Porte, IN and then on back home to sweet home Alabama!)
What do you get when you mix a professional bike race with a Panera located just a few blocks away — a hilarious mix of shaved legs, compression tights, team cars, and young 20-something men surfing the free wireless internet with their laptops. I just finished picking up my packet and then headed over to Panera for a pre-race meal. I have seen no less than five different teams represented with the latest being Champion-Porsche. I also got to say hi to Matt Winstead (a fellow Alabamian) riding for Team Inferno. Also represented in Panera — Mountain Khakis, Rock Racing and myself TriaMarket/DonohooAuto.com. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be eligible for this race with an amateur/cat 1 license — but I’ve been given the all clear and I’m excited about the time trial starting in a few hours. The word from one of the volunteers at packet pick-up was 115 pre-registered, and 25 no-shows so far. I would expect that would equate to about a field of 100 riders — much larger than last year, but still a much more manageable number than the 185 at Cascades!
Today is the start of the 3-stage Tour of Elk Grove with over $152,000 prize money. I am hoping to crack the Top 25 on stages 2 and 3 to help pay for our trip in addition to the generous sponsorships I have received. With the overall GC likely to be separated by less than a minute largely determined by today’s 4.5 mile time trial, I do not have any GC ambitions unless I can sneak into an unexpected break tomorrow or Sunday. The field here is sure to be very strong with Chris Horner from Astana as well as strong teams from Kelly-Benefits, Rock Racing, Bissell, Jelly Belly, and maybe BMC?
I am out here with my family in beautiful Bend, Oregon racing the Cascade Cycling Classic. The field here is like a “who’s who” of whose not in the Tour de France. To give you an example, during one of the many “slam on your brakes” moments in Stage 2, I almost rear-ended Oscar Sevilla and Tom Zirbel. Freddie Rodriguez won the field sprint yesterday edging out Taylor Phinney, but there was a break of 18 up the road including Victor Hugo Pena, Rory Sutherland, Chris Baldwin, Darren Lil, and Ivan Dominguez. Francisco Mancebo got third in yesterday’s stage behind Ben Jacques-Maynes and Jeff Louder. Floyd Landis is here and riding well in support of his teammates (Chris Baldwin and Rory Sutherland are 3rd and 5th in the GC afer Stage 2). BMC has a strong team including Brent Bookwalter and former Postal rider Tony Cruz. Altogether, we had 184 starters for Tuesday’s road race, 177 starters for Stage 2, and 168 starters for Stage 3.
Here’s how the races have gone so far…
Stage 1 – Smith Rock Road Race … 71 miles, ETA 2:34 @ 27mph, Actual 2:23 @ 29.7mph (11 minutes ahead of schedule)
This race was mostly flat with the exception of one KOM. I’ve never ridden with 180+ riders in a field before so I was surprised by how smooth it went — no crashes that I could see or hear, but there was plenty of times we had to brake hard going into corners or if a car hadn’t pulled all the way off the road — sort of like a big river that ebs and flows as the river gets wider or narrower. Part of the reason for the smoothness though was the raw speed. We started out averaging well over 30mph. This kept the large pack strung out. Mike Olheiser attacked about an hour into the race to get away to go for the KOM points. Eventually 10 other riders made it into the break with him. Several riders bridged across at different times making a very large break of 18 riders. It was just the right composition of teams so nobody with enough firepower was left to chase meaning that the break stayed away for the rest of the race gaining 4’49″ on the rest of the field. We started up the KOM pretty fast (25+ mph) but then slowed down to maybe 15mph at the steepest part before accelerating to close to 25mph again across the top. The pace was fast but manageable. The hardest part of the race came a couple miles after the KOM when we headed up a long (5+ miles) false flat gaining about 500′. Garmin’s development team missed the break so they were up at the front at a very fast tempo – 28-32mph with crosswinds – that kept the pack strung out single file for miles. It was very hard because you weren’t getting much draft at all from the rider in front of you. Once they realized they weren’t going to catch the break, they turned off the gas and the break extended its lead. Everything else was relatively easy although it was very hot by the finish and staying hydrated was tough. I coasted across the line in 122nd.
Stage 2 – Three Creeks Road Race … 80 miles, ETA 3:09 @ 25mph, Actual 2:54 @ 27.5mph (15 minutes ahead of schedule)
Today’s race was a bit more hilly. We started out very fast again with a gradual rolling descent for the first 30 miles. I looked down at my speedometer at one barely downhill section and we were going 43 mph, full out. The fast speed lasted all the way through the second feed zone when a split happened and the front group turned into a group of about 40 and the back group had the rest of us — about 138-140 riders by that point. I was near the split so I ended up getting into the rotation to help chase it down. Eventually everything came back together. We hit the KOM at a very manageable pace and then really slowed down for a bit to about 23-25mph. The first of two crash near-misses came when a narrow bridge slowed the pack at the front suddenly. At the sound of squealing brakes, I slammed on my brakes and still nearly rear ended Oscar Sevilla and Tom Zirbel. Shortly after the bridge as we approached the bottom of the climb, the pace really started to pick up. Then a few riders got tangled up and went down right at the base of the climb right in front of me. I skidded to a stop just barely before hitting them, but the damage was done as the main field sped away at close to 30mph while a bunch of us towards the back were still getting clipped back into our pedals and around the crash. I worked with about 5 riders to catch and pass another group and we had the main field in our sights about 30 seconds ahead, but the pace eventually got to me and I got dropped from that group and started surfing different groups … sometimes able to stay with them and pass people from groups ahead and sometimes falling off again to the next group. I finished 108th 7’35″ back from Oscar Sevilla who ended up winning the stage and taking over 1st on GC.
Stage 3 – Skyliners Time Trial … 16 miles (8 miles out/back), ETA 38.5 minutes @ 25mph, Actual 40.0 minutes @ 24mph (1.5 minutes slower than expected)
It was a very disappointing TT for me today as I missed the timecut by 37 seconds. It’s small consolation but so did 13 other riders including Freddie Rodrigues from Rock Racing. The long climb on the course was a real power climb averaging 3% gradient, which also meant the descent was a power descent where aero equipment was hugely advantageous. All I had was my tt bars and I just could never get up to speed on the way up or the way down. I was surprised because my legs felt OK during my warmup run on the course, but they were just dead during the race. I got passed by 4 or 5 people starting at 30 second intervals. Not a very impressive performance, but I am hoping to rest up and have fresher legs for Elk Grove in Chicago next weekend.
Not exactly the same as biking all the way across the country, but I am getting to enjoy a number of spectacular rides during our trip out west to give a presentation at a conference, to visit friends and family, and to race the Cascade Cycling Classic. Here’s some highlights from our trip so far:
East Texas- on the first day of our trip, we drove from Alabama to Tyler, Texas to stay with friends of ours from Mercy Ships. This is also where I met my wife 8 years ago. I rode a 45 mile loop on roads that I used to ride that included passing through YWAM Tyler (Twin Oaks) and the Mercy Ships headquarters from a starting point in Van, Texas.
Carlsbad Caverns, Carlsbad, New Mexico – on our third day, we headed to Carlsbad Caverns to watch the bats fly out at sunset, spend the night, and then explore the caverns the next day. In the morning, I got to ride from our hotel in the town of Carlsbad to the entrance of the caverns at the top of a small mountain. I had been wanting to do that climb since I first visited the caverns as a teenager. It was fun to finally do it, fly up it, and realize that it wasn’t such a hard climb after all!
Flagstaff, Arizona and the Grand Canyon – In Flagstaff, we stayed with Kristine’s cousins Kip and Beth. Kip and I got to go for an awesome ride where he guided me up Snowbowl, a six mile climb at the base of the mountains containing Arizona’s highest point. I turned on the gas for the last two miles and couldn’t believe how hard it was to breath for the last part of the climb rising well above 9000′ by the turnaround point — but it was still a good sign that I could maintain a low zone 5 pace for that entire two miles. We flew down the mountain and then headed towards the Grand Canyon. The road was wide, well paved, and surpisingly little traffic. After the gradual climb to the Nordic ski center, Kip turned around to head back to Flagstaff and I went on to the place where I had planned to rendezvous with Kristine and the kids before heading into the canyon. It was an awesome ride hanging out with Kip, doing an epic climb, and then absolutely flying towards the canyon with a tailwind and a long gradual 2000′ descent. The last five miles was really tough as the road changed direction just enough to have a hard sidewind and started to roll upwards. Also, the sun came out at that spot and I quickly drained the rest of my water finishing my bottle just as I sprinted to meet Kristine at the Flintstone campground.
Las Vegas, Nevada – This was the next stop for us as I was presenting a research paper at a conference. We stayed at the conference hotel, and I was able to ride twice from the hotel to a very cool national conservation area called Red Rock Canyon just outside the city. I saw lots of other bikers, and the road was like none other that I have ridden – a 13 mile scenic loop on a one-way road with no oncoming traffic! So you could fly down and truly enjoy the descent after a tough 5 mile climb. The geography was breathtaking with exposed “red rocks” and towering canyon walls. On the highway bordering the conservation area, there was one spot where you could see the entire 13 mile road laid out before you on the mountainside.
Davis, California – I lived in Davis for six years while I got my Masters and PhD from UC Davis, but it has been four years since our last visit — so my rides over the past three days have brought back tons of memories. From a homebase with my college roomate and his family, I’ve gotten to do rides in three of the four directions leaving town. My kids enjoyed riding in the Arboretum and taking breaks to feed the ducks. I also rode the Tuesday/Thursday training route that leaves from Sutter Davis Hospital, and then today got to do a short ride all over town.
Tomorrow it’s on to Oregon for the Cascade Cycling Classic. Fun riding and hopefully some great racing!
Wow – what a great weekend of racing in Oxford, MS. The organizers did a great job of picking fun courses, having plenty to do for the family and kids, and making this an enjoyable race weekend. This was my first time to Oxford, MS. Mike Lackey and I got up early Saturday morning to drive 3 hours before the start of his Category 3/4 race. My race was a little bit later so I ended up having plenty of time for a good long warm-up that turned into a bit of a training ride itself. Here’s how my race (P/1/2/3) played out:
Saturday, Circuit Race – 2nd place
Eric Spina and his Absolute Racing team had a tent set up near the start/finish with fans blowing cooled air. It was the perfect place to warm-up on rollers with it being very hot and sunny outside. Thanks Eric!!! I warmed up for over one and a half hours and during that time drank four large bottles (20oz) of gatorade. The race began, and the largest team was Marx and Bensdorf with about 5 or 6 riders. Herring Gas had a couple riders (Frank Moak and Clark Butcher). I was by myself representing Tria Market. Eric Murphy was there by himself for Myogenesis. On the first lap, Frank Moak put in an attack and got away solo. Marx and Bensdorf responded by sending a number of riders on the attack. I pulled back each of these as none of the other riders in the field were responding except for Debbie Milne (recently crowned women’s road race champion mixing it up with the 1/2/3 men!). Finally, after a couple laps of this and as I was getting pretty tired, Eric Murphy put in a hard attack to which I had to respond — the end result was dropping everybody in the pack except for Clark. Behind us, M&B were organizing a chase, but they were tired and losing ground. Eventually we all came together to form a break of 4. There were some attacks from within the break and we got separated again with Frank and Eric up the road, and me and Clark behind. I tried and tried to close the gap but I was keeping it steady at 5-10 seconds and no closer. Some unexpected help came from Eric Spina who drilled it right as we were getting ready to lap his group. This gave me just enough rest to then put in one more hard effort to finish the bridge to Frank and Eric Murphy. Thank you again, Eric Spina!
With one to go, Clark was keeping a steady pace at the front and I would pull through at 85% but Frank and Eric were getting ready for the finishing sprint and not working. Clark put in an attack to which I expected Eric to respond, but instead Clark was motoring away. Eventually Eric attacked and I was able to hop on as Eric brought Clark back. So we were all back together with a little more than 1 mile to go. Clark stayed on the front and rode at a high pace. Eric put in the first attack with maybe 1k to go. Frank grabbed his wheel and I was in third position as Clark had finished his work for Frank and went off the back. I thought this was the perfect situation, but coming out of the last corner (there were three corners close together) as Frank and I split to pass Eric on either side, Eric stepped it up again just enough to finish maybe a bikelength in front of us with me getting second only inches in front of Frank.
- Covering attacks from Marx and Bensdorf
- Covering Eric’s cover of Clark’s attack
- The finishing sprint
Sunday Ole Miss Criterium – 2nd place
This was a fun long crit course on the Ole Miss campus. The start/finish line was near the stadium and the course climbed a longish hill with a chicane in it followed by a 90 degree left at the top, another 90 degree left, a gradual right, one more 90 degree left, a short straightaway and finally a 90 degree left to the 400 meter finishing sprint straight downhill with a tailwind. There were more riders in the field today with several of the 3s including my teammate Mike Lackey deciding to join the 1-2-3 race since it was the last race of the weekend. Several riders from the Memphis Velo team were in our race, the same Marx and Bensdorf riders were there, and Herring Gas had one additional rider in the race.
Mike covered a lot of the early moves forcing other riders to chase since I could be content to watch the other omnium threats. Mike also helped me monitor the position of the other riders in the race. And then finally, Mike pulled out a second place in the field sprint for sixth in the race. Thank you Mike! Eric Murphy instigated the attack about halfway through the race that led to the same selection of four riders (me, Clark, Frank, and Eric) in the break. We worked together well to establish the break. With three laps to go, Eric put in an attack on the hill right after I had pulled. The three of us started to work together to bring Eric back, but we couldn’t do it. With one lap to go, I attacked on the hill and only Frank could come with me. The two of us made the last turn with me in the front and 400 meters of a downhill sprint, I watched and listened and moved to the opposite side of the course from which the wind was blowing so that when Frank started his sprint he would have to come around and block the wind for me. 350 meters, 300, 250, 200 … he still hadn’t attacked and I had purposefully kept it in an easier gear for jumping quickly since I knew that I was going to have to lead it out. So at 200 meters, I attacked as hard as I could pedaling as fast as I could without shifting gears. Frank started to come around but the finish line came first, my cadence must have been 130+, and I had again beaten him by inches. So the order of finish was the same as yesterday with Eric taking the win, me second, Frank third, and Clark fourth.
- Watching everything, letting Mike cover the early moves – note the mostly Zone 3 heart rate
- Initiating an attack myself, short-lived
- Covering an attack from Eric
- This was the decisive move started by Eric
- This is where Eric attacked our break and got away
- Attacking on the last lap to separate the Herring Gas riders
- The finishing sprint
All-in-all a good strategic weekend of racing. We leave on Wednesday for our big trip out west. I’m looking forward to riding in a few different places along the way, and I will definitely be taking a few pictures to share on my blog. Until then…