Monthly Archives: March 2010

Tour de Tuscaloosa Race Report

Again this year just like the past years, a lot of strong riders made the drive over to Tuscaloosa to be a part of the great early season racing action at the Tour de Tuscaloosa. I was amazed Saturday night at how many strong teams were there. Krystal, Locos, Herring Gas, Texas Roadhouse, Sonic and strong independent riders from Jamis/Sutter Home (Frank Travieso), Mountain Khakis (Oscar Clark), and Subaru (AJ Meyer). The weekend for me turned out to be a little better than expected on Saturday and then a lot of bad luck on Sunday with not one, not two, but THREE flat tires! I was happy to finish the race though and judging by how sore I am two days later, it was a much needed TT endurance effort.

Downtown Criterium
The evening crit starts just after sunset and finishes in the dark. Night-time racing makes the already fast speeds seem that much faster. I had decided ahead of time to let my teammates cover the early moves so I started near the back of the group. Sure enough there were some very early attacks and we were strung out single file for the first couple of laps. My teammates covered moves while I watched for the top riders to attack. I could sense something coming about four laps into the race because we bunched up at the bottom of the course by the river. So I used my momentum from the downhill to go from near the very back to off the front in a small group of about six riders. We had good representation from all the teams and a good gap, but when a couple more riders bridged up to the break — there were just too many people. So even with a short rotation going, the pack caught back up to us after a few laps.

This left us with about half the race to go and Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis) launched off the front for a prime and stayed out front solo sweeping up all the primes for the race. Behind, there were lots of accelerations that kept the pace high, but no organized chase attempts. In the closing laps, I worked hard to fight to stay at the front as the pace got faster. We reeled Oscar and Tiago (who had made a late solo attack) back into the group with a couple laps to go as the pace got faster and the jockeying began for the finishing sprint. I hopped onto the back of the Magner brothers train (Casey and Ty Magner riding for Locos) and moved into about 5th position coming across the top of the course behind Frank and the Magner brothers with only two corners left. There was a slight lull in the pace at the very front leading to a bunch of riders swarming up to us. We knew what was coming so those of us at the front attacked to accelerate again. But as I was accelerating back up to full speed, another rider came by and hit my foot with his foot. I had to stop pedaling for a second as I started to lose my balance. That was enough to let two riders pass me. I passed the same riders back almost immediately in the second to last corner by swinging wide which left me on the outside for the last corner as well – but the sprint for the race was already slightly ahead and so I was resigned to try to hold my position. I got passed by one or two riders at the finish to leave me in 7th place. That course and the finish are tough for me so I was happy with 7th but a little disappointed because I was in great position for a top 5 or top 3 finish before getting bumped and losing the main sprint train. But that’s racing!

Lake Lurleen Road Race
The forecast was for scattered thunderstorms, and as I drove from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa, there was some sunshine, but also some downpours and some dark clouds. It was sunny and warm for the start of our race, but by the time the official said “go” we felt a couple raindrops and within a few minutes of starting, it was a veritable thunderstorm/downpour. Frank Travieso (Jamis/Sutter Home) attacked and got away solo. Everybody knew that he was the strongest rider in the race so our pace went sky high as the group stretched out single file chasing. We spent the entire first lap chasing – well I spent the entire first lap hanging on towards the front watching for the stronger teams to chase / start a bridge attempt. Frank was still away when a chase group of 3 established itself on the feedzone hill towards the end of the first lap. I worked into a second small chase group of four riders through the start/finish hill. By the top, it was just me and Casey Magner still left across the top of the hill to finish the chase. But right about that time, the original chase group of 3 merged up with Frank and then because Casey now had a teammate in the break, he wasn’t going to be able to help me finish the bridge. I was tired and resigned myself to hoping that I could bridge across later with more riders from the group.

It wasn’t to be though, because shortly after we re-merged with the group, my rear tire flatted. I was hoping for a quick change and then to be paced back up to the field. But the wheel truck was nowhere in sight as he had been helping another rider who had flatted. So by the time we got my tire changed, the field was already a couple minutes up the road. I begged the wheel truck to pace me, and he did but I couldn’t keep up at 40mph with the cross wind so he had to slow down and then on the feedzone hill I couldn’t keep up at 20mph so he had to leave me to go help anyone else who flatted in the group. I resigned myself to chasing as hard as I could in the hopes that a small break would get away from the field that the field was happy with and the pace would plummet. But that didn’t happen and the pace continued to be high and I continued to lose ground. Two laps later, I flatted my front tire about a mile before the feedzone and rode it in gingerly to where I knew my teammate Mike Lackey was watching the race. He gave me his front wheel and I continued on. I caught a few riders who were still rolling the race. The first I came to was Travis Werts from the new Sonic team who had also flatted and was still persevering to the finish. We worked together for a couple laps before I flatted again in the same spot. He waited for me as I got another wheel from Mike in the feedzone, but then in my exuberance and renewed determination to finish the race, I ended up dropping Travis on the feedzone climb. He motioned for me to just go on ahead when I turned around to wait so I drilled it and set out on my own again. At the start of the last lap, I came up to David McNeal (BBC) and we worked together for most of the lap. When we made it to the feedzone climb, he told me he was just going to roll it easy the rest of the way so I drilled it for one final push to the finish.

And so finish I did — turns out it was for 23rd place with only about half the riders who started the race finishing. 23rd is a long way from the podium, but I am still very, very happy that I was able to finish the race! My out of town friends Steve and Corrie and their son Steven arrived with my #1 fan and beautiful wife Kristine and our two kids at about Lap 6 or 7. So they were surprised to see me so far off the back of the group – but they stayed and cheered each time even as I got farther and farther behind the field eventually finishing about 5 minutes behind the remnants of the field. Meanwhile at the front end of the race, Frank Travieso dropped his breakmates and won solo by over 3 minutes! A small chase group emerged from the main field and finished next with a field of less than 20 riders finishing a couple minutes behind them.

Here’s my heartrate data for Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race:

Oh yeah – I forgot to mention that part of my Garmin mount broke during the crit on Saturday. So I had to take it off from under the rubber bands which kept it from falling completely off the bike and stick it in my pocket during the race. So I figured I would just race with it in my pocked on Sunday — but apparently it wasn’t picking up my heartrate readings correctly! Oh well!

Union City Georgia Cup Race Report

Saturday – Union City Mall Criterium
Terry Duran and I drove over together in the afternoon with us getting there in plenty of time before the 6:30PM start. Jacob, Sammy, Philip, and Timo raced the combined Cat 3s masters race right before ours. Two riders got away late, and they just barely held on with a hard-charging field driven by Timo with Sammy leading out the sprint getting 2nd (4th overall) and Jacob fighting hard and finishing up high in the sprint too. They had a huge field with the last minute combining of the Cat 3s / Masters (about 85 riders!)

Our Pro/1/2 race was also really big (maybe 70 guys) and stacked with local pros and really fast amateurs. We lined up with six guys – me, Lennie, Darryl, Wes, Mike, and Terry. It was super fast from the start. I had a good start, fought stay up front, and went with small moves on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps. Then on the 7th lap, I made it into a strong looking move with about 10 riders. We had a good gap pretty quickly maybe 10 seconds after being away 1 lap. We were working pretty well together although with 10 riders there were a couple sitting on and not taking their turn at the front. A couple laps later, Terry came across to our break with a couple other guys. Even more people started sitting on and others started attacking. At that point, the break was doomed even with good team representation from all the teams. Sure enough a couple laps later we were caught. Our break lasted about 10 laps (see my heartrate data below).

When we came back to the field, I was discouraged and pretty tired. I felt like the field wasn’t going to let anything get away so I drifted way back in the group trying to recover. After spending a few laps there, I worked my way back up to the front to start covering moves again. Before I made it though, a good move got away with maybe 7 or 8 guys. They got a great gap on the field and started pulling away. But our pace was relentless and we were closing, closing, closing. I fought hard for position and with one lap to go was third person across the line in the front of the field. I knew the surges would start so I attacked to stay at the front and then fought hard for position on the downhill backside of the course. I came out of the last corner sitting about 7th or 8th wheel, passed a couple guys and didn’t get passed by anybody – but it was only good enough for 16th. Darryl finished right behind me in 17th with Terry and Mike just behind them in the top 25.

  1. Initial moves
  2. The nice looking break, away for 10 laps (1 lap was exactly 1 mile)
  3. Something
  4. Who knows
  5. The finish

Sunday – Union City Road Race
We woke up to cold and rainy skies. When we arrived at the start right outside City Hall in the quaint old town part of Union City, it was still cold and rainy. I warmed up 5 minutes under a big awning before heading to the start line. After a couple last minute instructions (while it was still lightly raining), we were off. And man were we off – attacks from the word “go”. We made it out of the town and onto the main road and I got into an early move that lasted about 200 meters. The pack was flying though so we were reeled in and more attack / counter attacks went. I was in some of them and Terry was in some of them. Eventually we made it onto the lap part of the course and coming down a hill pretty fast into a long gradual uphill, I knew something was about to go because everybody was tired and I could see a move on that hill getting away. Sure enough – a couple guys attacked the bottom of the hill and as I was desperately trying to get clear on the left to go with it, I got stuck behind the guys coming off a previous move. Fortunately though, Terry saw the same events unfolding and nailed it up the righthand side latching onto the break and they were gone!!!

It was a great break with good team representation so at that point all me and my teammates had to do was watch the front and cover any moves that materialized. Mike Lackey and I took turns covering lots of moves. Eventually, a strong rider (I think maybe John Stowe?) rode off the front solo. He looked really strong, and the field didn’t respond at all. In fact, the pace was really slow so I thought hey let’s see if I can get up to him without bringing the field with me. I attacked hard and sure enough, only one rider came with me – Jan Kolar (Birmingham Bicycle Company).

This was perfect because the field let the three of us go. Jan and I worked hard to bridge up to John who was still ahead of us. Then once we came together we started putting time into the field and chopping into the break’s lead of just over 1 minute 15 seconds. Eventually we made it to about 45 seconds in front of the field and 35 seconds to the lead group. We were bombing down a hill when we came to an intersection and a police officer directed us the wrong way! None of us thought we were supposed to turn, but we knew the break had just come through so how could he direct us the wrong way??? Well, fortunately I had pre-programmed the course into my Garmin and so I convinced the other guys to turn around when the distance to the next turn began to increase instead of decrease. So we turned around just in time to see the field go flying straight across the intersection which we had turned at. We chased hard and eventually caught on to the back of the field.

I was pretty cooked at this point so I was thankful to have a little while to rest at the back of the large field with a nice draft to pull me along. I knew, however, that a move could go at any moment so after a couple miles rest, I started to work my way all the way through the field to the front again. This in itself probably took about 5 miles so I was lucky that nothing got away during that time. Right as I made it to the front, AJ Meyer put in a hard attack which I went with. It was a strong attack but lots of people were watching him. By the time he motioned for me to come around, the field was already on us. AJ was relentless though and attacked several more times eventually getting the right composition of riders to satisfy the field. I made it into the break, too, and we were off. With several strong engines in our chase, we extended our lead pretty quickly. We had maybe 10 guys though so there were a couple guys sitting on. This disrupted our rhythm a bit as people didn’t want to put in maximum effort given that a few riders were getting a free ride.

Even with the somewhat irregular rotation, we were putting time into the field and quickly closing in on the break who were having their own share of problems. My teammate Terry who was in the break told me after the race what was going on. He said that there were only about 5 guys pulling in the group of 9 riders. The others were just sitting on. This happened when the moto-official told them their gap had grown to 2 minutes, 15 seconds. So apparently a number of the guys either thought that the break was going to stick no matter what, or they wanted to save up energy for the finish. Well, the in-fighting that started because of the people not pulling allowed our group to catch up to them with about 20 miles left to go in the race. Let me interject a little op-ed piece, though, I was totally impressed with the Mountain Khakis team this weekend. Even though they didn’t like their odds in the break with Emile Abraham (Aerocat) being such a strong sprinter and their main sprinter back in our chase group — they still continued to roll through to keep the rotation going. That is perfect strategy because they were still saving up energy to work something out for the finish, and they were also giving their sprinter a chance to make it up to the group. Then in the end, Oscar gave the perfect leadout for Thomas and won the race!

Ok, back to the report – I knew that once our chase group merged with the break that the resulting merged group was way too big for a happy harmonious rotation until 1k to go. Sure enough, even as we were rolling onto the back of the group, the attacks began immediately. It was pretty relentless too for a few miles which kept our pace overall pretty high and gave us enough of a gap on the field to stay away to the finish. There was a lull for a little bit when a small group motored by Frank Travieso (Jamis/Sutter Home) bridged up to us. My teammate, Darryl Seelhorst, saw the move and rode across with it to give us 3 guys in the group of about 25 to battle it out for the last 15 miles. Those last 15 miles were hard with attack after attack and a few steep rollers that shattered our group. The headwind was pretty strong though and people were tired so each move kept coming back to the group and riders who had been dropped kept bridging back up to the group. Terry and I took turns covering moves while Darryl recovered from the bridge he had made from the field to our group.

When we made the turn back onto the main highway back into Union City, the headwind was just horrific. Still, even after all the attacks on the rollers, people launched attack after attack. I covered a couple moves and then even launched once of my own. I think we were all just going crazy. Everything was coming back though so as we approached the lefthand turn off the highway into the streets to make a series of 90 degree turns to the finish, I knew that you had to be way towards the front if you wanted a chance to sprint so I fought hard to stay at the front and managed to be about the 5th rider back with 1k to go. At that point Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis) got to the front and ramped the pace way up to lead it out for his teammate Thomas Brown. We were single file behind Oscar through all the turns until he pulled off next to the railroad tracks with about 300 meters to go. I was still sitting in 5th position when I heard a horrific crash just behind me – that terrible sound of metal/bikes/bodies hitting the deck hard. It was 300 meters to go though so everybody in front of it started to sprint. Emile Abraham (Aerocat) came around me right away and I latched onto his wheel. I got a little confused and thought for a second that our turn was a parking lot right before the actual turn so I left off the gas just a tiny bit enough to lose Emile’s wheel. Coming out of the corner though I still had a lot of speed and felt surprisingly good (I think we had a hard tailwind as soon as made that final turn) and hit it as hard as I could passing a couple people to finish what I thought was 4th but later ruled 5th.

Darryl and Terry were caught immediately behind the crash. Thankfully, Darryl dove to the left and Terry dove to the right bouncing off of people and bikes and managed to stay upright and both place in the top 15!!! (12th and 14th). Mike and Wes hung on in the field which had really closed the gap to us so they must have been riding hard. Mike finished high up in the field sprint even after covering a lot of moves throughout the race and Wes hung on and kept it upright. Great racing guys!!!

Here’s a picture of my teammate Philip and his wife Catherine at the start of the TT yesterday morning — which they won! Great job Team Thompson!

  1. Large roller on the way out to the course
  2. Covering attacks – during this time, Terry got into the day’s main break
  3. Chasing in a chase group of 3 with Jan and John
  4. AJ Meyer’s attacks
  5. Working in the chase group, merging with the break, and the final sprint