Monthly Archives: June 2010

Racing the Ohio Triple (Madeira Centennial Crit, Hyde Park Blast (USA Crits), Tour de Grandview)

Whew – what a hard weekend of racing … 120 miles of criterium racing in only 3 days. Today’s Tour de Grandview criterium was 42 miles long and had over 2000 ft of climbing cumulative for the race! It was by far the hardest race, not only because of the long hill on the course but also because of the hot, humid weather with heat index hovering around 100. My heartrate data tells the story, but I went from thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to finish to by the end having a shot at the top 10. But before all the details, here is the quick summary:

Quick summary and heartrate data
Sunday, June 27th, Tour de Grandview (Columbus, OH)
14th place, 80 starters (25 finishers plus another 10-15 placed on time), tough course with long hill and very hot, humid weather
2010-06-27 Tour de Grandview Heartrate data

  1. Easy first part of the race, break of 5 gets away
  2. Attacking to bridge – two laps chasing solo
  3. Caught – tired
  4. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  5. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  6. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  7. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  8. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  9. Hurting bad, figured I would be gapped off or dropped
  10. You get the idea…
  11. Field down to 25 riders by this point
  12. Recovered, starting to figure out how to get top 10
  13. The finishing laps, last rationed gatorade gone, a few accelerations, cramps, cramp in finish sprint, 14th place

Saturday, June 26th, Hyde Park Blast USA Crits Stop #3 (Hyde Park, OH)
11th place, 100+ starters (38 finishers), tough course with short steep hill up narrow alley
2010-06-26 Hyde Park Blast (USA Crits) Heartrate data

  1. Good start, near the front, not unmanageable
  2. Crash on last turn – forced into barriers – free lap
  3. Field split – only 55 riders left in the race – still hard with lots of attacks
  4. Good break got away – steady chasing by Kenda
  5. Moving up for the finish

Friday, June 25th, Madeira Centennial Criterium (Madeira, OH)
28th place, 100+ starters (60 finishers), very tough 6 corner course including two 180 degree turns, highest power average for the year
2010-06-25 Madeira Centennial Crit Heartrate data

  1. Started near the back, very difficult with the 180 degree turns, struggling, full water bottle popped out on rough pavement
  2. Neutral section after rider clotheslined by a finish line cable and attended to by EMTs. Stopped to pick up my water bottle
  3. Fast finish, moved up to about 40th, couldn’t move up any further

The Details
Friday’s Madeira Centennial crit was on one of the most unique courses I’ve raced … see annotated topocreator map below …

  1. First 180 degree turn at top of small hill
  2. First active railroad crossing, carpet laid over tracks
  3. Second 180 degree turn at top of small hill
  4. Rough pavement
  5. Second active railroad crossing, no carpet but not too rough

And by active, I mean that a train was scheduled to pass through anytime between 7:30PM and 9:00PM. Fortunately, the train was late and didn’t come by until just after we finished at 9:30. The callups were decided by order of registration, so I ended up starting near the very back because I had only decided a couple days before to register. This wasn’t a good course to be at the back because both 180 degree turns required slowing down to about 5-10mph if you were at the back as the riders in front bunched up trying to squeeze through the turns shoulder to shoulder.

About 20 minutes into the race, one of my water bottles popped out when I hit the rough pavement coming out of the second 180. As if to taunt me, the bottle (or maybe somebody helped it) had rolled into a standing position right on the side of the course. So each time through that part of the course, I would see the bottle as my one remaining bottle was just about empty. But then, there was a really bad accident (a rider was clotheslined off his bike by an air compressor cable being held up after the finish line blow-up area fell over). This neutralized the race for about 4 or 5 laps while the EMTs immobilized and transported him off the course. This accident, while terribly bad for that racer, did provide a stroke of good luck for me because it meant I was able to stop and pick up the bottle that I had dropped.

When we started back up, the organizers figured out that we would have just enough time to finish our race before the train came. This was good news because we crossed the train tracks twice on the course! I moved up pretty far – from near the back to somewhere in the top 20 riders or so but lost position in the 180 degree turns on the last couple laps, starting the sprint in the top 30 and finishing 28th. I knew the race was hard, but when I downloaded my heartrate and power data, I couldn’t believe how hard it had been — average power of 394W and average heartrate of 176bpm and 53 minutes in my Zone 5 heartrate.

Saturday’s Hyde Park Blast (USA Crits)
110 riders lined up for the start of this race. Tim Hall, from Nashville Cyclist, leaned over and said this was the “Athens Twilight” of the north — and he was right. Good, hard course, thousands of spectators in a party-like atmosphere, and a survival-fest of a bike race. Sounds like Athens Twilight to me! I had a fourth row starting position, but the guy in front of me clipped in really well and I followed him past two rows of riders immediately as soon as they blew the whistle to start the race. The pace was fast, and I was in zone 5 pretty quick, but everything was smooth and steady at the front of the race. Then about 5 laps into the race, there was a crash a few riders in front of me on the super fast downhill out of the alley. I had no place to go, so I decided it was better to run into the barriers than running over the riders on the ground.

After taking a free lap, the official put us back in at the very front of the large field. This turned out to be pretty important because only a few minutes later there would be a field split that eventually saw half the field pulled from the race. There were a lot of breaks and moves, but I decided that my best chance at finishing well was to conserve energy for the finish by working to stay close to the front. Coming into the final laps, I had moved up to near the front of our dwindling field (down to about 30 riders) and fought hard to stay there by accelerating hard out of the 180 degree turn on the course. On the last lap, there was a split in our field with 13 riders in it. I was about 5 riders back from the split so I attacked hard and nearly completed the bridge by the start of the final sprint with the rest of the field splintered a few seconds back. A crash took out two riders in front of me meaning I was able to squeeze through for 11th.

Check out my annotated topocreator map with highlights of the course and race:

  1. Lots of spectators here – I think the estimate was a few thousand people!
  2. Live band playing some loud hard rock music we could hear each lap.
  3. Shift into the little chainring in prep for the steep climb up the alley.
  4. The alley climb – narrow, steep, nicely paved cement – felt like a driveway.
  5. Beer and $ primes from the spectators.
  6. Crazy fast downhill – location of crash where I went into the barriers.
  7. Location of finish line crash.

The alley climb was a really unique part of this course. The alley was behind people’s houses, and so there were a lot of people grilling out on their back porches and lining the already narrow road at spots where there was some place to stand just off the road. They were giving beer and money primes later in the race after the field had thinned down. The trees lined the alley with branches hanging out into the alley. There was one evergreen tree with a branch hanging about 2-3 feet into the road that people (including myself) would brush up against on every lap. On one lap, I was preparing to brush up against the branch again when a rider passed me on the outside just before the branch. So he ran smack into the branch pushing it back out of his way. Well – guess who was there when the branch snapped back into position – me! I got hit hard on my face and arm and was a little bit stunned, surprised, and upset at first. But that quickly turned to laughter on the way down the hill as I realized what had just happened. You don’t see that in a race every day!

I really enjoyed the race and was happy to finish 11th which has moved me into 6th place overall in the USA crits series which means I will probably get a call-up at the next USA crits race in PA and maybe even the big NRC rate in DC on Pennsylvania Avenue!

Tour de Grandview, Columbus Ohio
The last race of the series was by far the hardest because it came at the end of a long weekend of crit racing, was in the hottest weather and humidity, and had the most climbing (2000ft!). Still, I was proudest of this race because less than 15 minutes into the race, I was half-hoping to get dropped or gapped off so I could call it a day. So in the end I was elated to have been able to hung on and have a shot at the top 10. Plus – any crit that has a feedzone because the climb is steep enough and the race is long enough to warrant one has got to be tough!

The race started out relatively easy as I had a good spot in the second row. Riding at the front, it was easy to fly through the corners and make it up the climb. Plus, a small group had gotten away on the first lap that had most (but not all) of the major teams represented. A large part of the field was happy to let them roll away, and I thought for sure that with everyone being so tired they would lap the group. I was feeling good enough that I wanted to make sure that I at least gave it a good shot to get across to the break. So, on the third time up the hill, I attacked 100% hard and got a clean gap on the field. By the top of the climb I came flying by another rider who had been chasing and continued my pursuit. I made it to where I could see the break at the top of the hill when I was about 3/4 of the way up meaning that they had about a 20 second gap. This was as close to making it as I came though, because on the next lap, the break wasn’t visible and the announcer said they had 30 seconds. Since I only had a 10 second gap on the field, I eased back and pushed it hard to make sure that I didn’t get caught until the top of the hill on the next lap. So now that I think about it, I must have been away chasing for 3 laps.

The field did catch me – and fortunately it was at the top of hill. I made sure to ride as much as possible in the middle of the road so that when the field came by 5mph faster, I could catch a draft from riders passing me on both sides. Then I eventually latched on near the very back of the pack. Also, fortunately, the next time up the climb was relatively tame so I basically had two full laps to recover before the guys in the front went into “blow the race apart” mode. Each time up the climb, somebody would attack in the flat leading into the climb – which meant that those of us at the back of the pack who had to slow down for the 90 degree turn leading into the climb, had to accelerate even harder up the climb. The only thing that saved me was that most of those attacks would be caught by the top of the climb — which meant there was usually a slight lull in the pace where those of us who had gotten gapped off or dropped could catch back up. This must have happened 10 times — including during the middle of the small thunderstorm which passed through the race. Yes, it started to rain for less than one lap — and only on 1/2 of the course – so we had about 5 minutes of relief from the heat before the sun came out and was blazing hot with what felt like 100% humidity. The top part of the climb was dry even though it had rained pretty hard at the bottom! About two laps later with the blazing sun, the bottom part of the course was dry again.

The thunderstorm was a bit of a psychological blow for me as the lightning flash and almost instantaneous thunder had been a cue for me that they were going to stop, delay, or call the race right then. The next lap around though, the official yelled “laps” or something like that so I thought that meant we were down to 5 laps to go. The pace was fast and I had trouble figuring out where the lap card was. It took me a few laps and by this point I was thinking we only had a couple laps left. When I finally found the lap card, it read “22 laps” and I thought “you’ve got to be kidding me”. We still had almost an hour of racing left!!! So I was a bit demoralized at that point, but the only problem was that I kept on recovering enough on the downhill to be able to hang on or chase back on at the top of the hill. It was like an endless interval session…

That is, until a good break got away with about 6 or 7 riders. Then things seemed to slow down a bit. I thought we would be sprinting for 7th or 8th because our pace really dropped. But the guys in the break weren’t working well together, or they must have just been plain exhausted because we caught them with about 5 or 6 laps to go. Two riders got off the front of our group in a strong counterattack (Andy Crater and a Panther rider) and I was already in survival mode so I was happy to let them go. Almost everyone in the field was just so exhausted that you didn’t care if somebody attacked to get away, so two riders slipped away independently with three and two laps to go, respectively and they stayed away for 3rd and 4th. Basically, if you had any legs left you could attack and the small field of 20 exhausted riders was going to let you go. Unfortunately for me, I had no legs left and was just hanging on trying to move up so that I could try to get a top 10 finish. It didn’t quite happen though, because I cramped up really bad up the climb to the finish sprint having run completely out of water/gatorade with 3 laps to go – and even though I had a bit of luck in that the muscle relaxed just enough for me to reengage my right leg and pass three or four people before the finish, it was only the people who had already passed me at the start of the sprint when I had cramped so I ended up in about the same position I started the sprint – with 4 off the front meant 14th for the race.

  1. First corner – pace slow down as attacks up the hill usually petered out by here.
  2. Hard second corner because you came from a sidewind and turned directly into a headwind.
  3. Fast downhill corner.
  4. Another bunching up spot before accelerating downhill.
  5. Very fast, rough pavement, downhill corner. First lap, the first rider didn’t make turn went straight off the road between some park bleachers and fell on the grass.
  6. Slingshot corner, accelerate hard up the climb
  7. The feedzone
  8. Lots of spectators shouting encouragement and throwing water on riders.

The long (4000 mile) journey home

We’re leaving after dinner tonight to start our long trip back home to Birmingham, AL from Minneapolis, MN. By the time we make it home, we will have logged over 4000 miles round trip, 8 bike races, and only 5 nights in hotels staying the other 11 nights with family and friends scattered throughout the upper midwest where Kristine is from. Check out my annotated topocreator map of the trip!

  1. Birmingham, AL – Home
  2. St Louis, MO – Midtown Alley Criterium 22nd, Tour de Grove NRC 8th, Kids races
  3. Dubuque, IA – Hotel Julien – arrived at 1AM after finishing Tour de Grove
  4. Shell Lake, WI – The Cardwell House – Kristine’s home in the northwoods
  5. Minneapolis, MN – Dale’s weekday apartment
  6. Cottage Grove, WI – Shelly’s and her family – traveling to Tour of the Dairyland
  7. Grafton, WI – Giro d’Grafton USA Crits 14th
  8. Green Bay, WI – Rick and Robin’s house – two nights while racing Dairyland races
  9. Appleton, WI – Appleton Criterium Tour of the Dairyland 79th
  10. Elkhart Lake, WI – Road America Tour of the Dairyland 4th
  11. Minneapolis, MN – Back to Dale’s weekday apartment
  12. La Porte, IN – Grandma Vivian’s house in Indiana
  13. Cincinnati, OH – The Atrium Hotel – two nights while racing the Ohio Triple
  14. Madeira, OH – Madeira Centennial Criterium 28th
  15. Hyde Park, OH – Hyde Park Blast USA Crits 11th
  16. Columbus, OH – Tour de Grandview 14th
  17. Birmingham, AL – Finally back home!!!

It’s been a great trip with some great races — only three more to go — hoping for at least one more top 10 finish!

Update – we made it back home – and I came oh so close to a top 10, placing 11th in Hyde Park.

Road America Tour of the Dairyland report

Not quite as large a field as the previous days, but still well over 75 riders lined up for Stage 5 of the Tour of America’s Dairlyland. This course is very similar to the Barber’s course that we race every year in Alabama, but maybe a couple miles longer. Check out the topocreator map below:

In the first 5 laps, there were a lot of small breaks/moves/chasing, but everything would bunch up on the course’s 2 main hills. I knew from experience at Barber’s that it’s really hard for a break to stick, so I wasn’t going to go with any early moves — or at least that was the plan. But at the beginning of the 6th lap, I found myself pretty far back in the field and wanting to move up. I saw a rider who looked like he was getting ready to move up, so I hopped on his wheel. As he ramped up the speed, I realized he was intending to attack to bridge to a chase group of 3 that was chasing another break of 3 that was still up the road. It wasn’t part of my plan, but the opportunity was too good to miss, so I quickly grabbed onto him and together we bridged to the chase group.

We were moving fast and half a lap later, our group of five had caught the leading trio, making our group a break of 8. With almost 50 miles left to race, it was going to be a long day. But by the end of that lap our gap was already 45sec, and one lap later, it had grown to 1:05, where it stayed for the next 9 laps. Then the main field started to chase in earnest, and our gap had shrunk to 25sec with 3 laps to go. We flew around the course on the downhills and straightaways during our breaks, but we crawled up the uphills — so I was surprised that our break had lasted as long as it had. With 2 laps to go, Johnny Sundt (Kenda) attacked hard on the start/finish hill. This split our group in half with me and two other riders able to go with him on the climb. We got into a rotation, but the other four riders bridged up to us by the end of that lap. Also by the end of that lap, our gap had ballooned back up to 1minute, 20 seconds so we knew at that point that we weren’t going to get caught.

In the ensuing cat/mouse game, a rider slipped away solo and stayed away with none of us making an organized effort to chase. In the final mile, another rider got away solo with too many of us eyeing each other to see who would chase. So he ALSO stayed away which meant, six of us would be sprinting for 3rd place. Mike Sherer (ABD) attacked at the bottom of the climb, and I bridged up to him and countered hoping to win the sprint up the 10% gradient by dropping the group. I dropped everyone but Sundt who stayed glued to my wheel and came around about 100 meters before the line to take third with me coming in just behind him for 4th.

Me leading the break through the start/finish hill

Me leading the break again on the start/finish hill

The eventual winner making his attack with one lap to go

Me at the front of the sprint for third place

  1. Bridging up to the break … and the start of our 50 mile breakaway
  2. Responding to Sundt’s attack with 2 to go
  3. Responding to another attack with 1 to go
  4. The final uphill sprint

2010 Giro d’Grafton race report and heartrate data

Quick Summary

  1. 2nd on 1st $200 prime
  2. 3rd on $750 prime with 7 laps to go
  3. Narrowly avoided crash in final 100m to finish 14th.

Heartrate and power data for the entire race

  1. Going for the $200 prime
  2. Struggling to move forward from towards the back of the pack
  3. Easier once I made it to the front
  4. Attacking to go for the $750 prime
  5. The finishing sprint

Heartrate and power data for the last seven laps

  1. Attacking for the $750 prime
  2. The actual sprint for the $750 prime
  3. Hitting it hard to keep my position at the front of the pack
  4. The 39mph crash in front of me with 100m to go
  5. The actual finish of the race, tied my current known maximum heartrate

I just found this youtube video online that has some good clips of the race. At about 34 seconds into the video, I am the first rider around the corner with Andy Crater behind me. Andy had just won the $200 prime, and I decided to keep rolling in case a break came up to us. It did, but our break only lasted for maybe half a lap before the field caught back up to us.

Detailed Summary
Nearly 140 riders lined up for the start of the race. I got to the staging area real early, but after all the callups and people rolling in front of the staging area, I ended up on the third row for the start. Better than at the back, but not ideal. Fortunately, somebody in front and to the right of me had trouble clipping in, and this opened up a hole so I was able to zip around him and into the top 15 or so. The pace was fast, but manageable. Then at the start of the sixth or seventh lap, the announcer rang the bell for a $200 prime. I wasn’t intending to go for the prime, but I was already at the front when Emile Abraham (Aerocat) attacked with his teammate Andy Crater on his wheel. I was right there so I jumped in third wheel as we got a small gap on the field going into turn 5 and 6. Out of turn 6, Emile peeled off and Andy launched his sprint. I tried to come around, but couldn’t do it and had to settle for second (i.e., nothing).

I was happy to be in contention for the prime, but it was a lot of wasted energy. I spent the next 20+ laps trying to recover and work my way back to the front of the group. It was pretty crazy back in the pack and it took a really concerted effort to work my way all the way back to the front. A few thoughts kept running through my mind:

  1. “The #1 rule in moving forward is to NOT move backward”
  2. “Gee, it’s still a really long way to the front” when the group was strung out single file ahead of me
  3. “How on earth am I not to the front, yet? Who is passing me and when?”

Finally, with less than 15 laps left to go, I had worked my way back into the top 20-25 riders. It was much smoother, and not too hard to maintain that position as long as you made sure to pass people on at least two different parts of the course. This was the status quo for the next 8 laps when with 7 laps to go (no more free laps), the announcer rang the bell for a $750 prime. Coming through the start/finish line, I was sitting maybe 20th wheel but carrying some momentum so I swung to the outside, moved up to maybe 10th wheel when the group in front veered right opening a hole for me on the wind-protected side of the group. Without hesitation, I attacked as hard as I could hoping to get a gap that nobody would want to close. Unfortunately, I brought two riders with me – Rahsaan Bahati and a Mountain Khakis rider (Myerson or Howe). Nevertheless, I knew that Kristine would be excited to see me off the front so I drilled it and we absolutely flew through turns 2, 3, and 4. Turn 3 was a right turn, followed by a short 1 block straight away and then a left turn. I was going so fast through those corners that it felt like a corkscrew instead of two 90 degree turns! Plus I caught the pace car coming out of Turn 4 so we did get a little bit of a draft up the hill. By the end of those turns, we had a 5-10 second gap on the field. I was in the front and coming off turn 5, I coasted hoping that one of them would come around, but they didn’t. We gradually slowed down and started our sprint for the $750 prime from about 23mph with a comfortable gap on the field. I’d like to say that I crushed the sprint against one of the top sprinters in the country and walked away with $750, but what actually happened is that Rahsaan won by maybe 15 bike lengths, the Mountain Khakis rider was next, and then I trailed in maybe 3 or 4 seconds later with the field coming up hard.

Strategically, going for the prime wasn’t the best thing I could do — but I had the opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away and wonder what would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, etc… The only strategic advantage about going for the prime is that it meant I was at the very front of the race with 6 laps to go. When the pack came by, I knew that it was going to hurt, but I drilled it as hard as I could and slotted somewhere into the top 20 riders. The pace was fast with Aerocat, Bahati, and Mountain Khakis riders at the front drilling it. Even so, there was a lot of shuffling where riders from the back would carry more momentum and push forward ahead of the leadout riders. I tried to anticipate those “surges” and ended up in the top 15 with one lap to go.

The last lap was really fast, but I was able to move up a couple more positions going into the last corner and the downhill sprint. So I already knew at this point that barring an accident, I was going to place in the top 20 maybe even top 10. Well, with 100 meters to go, there was an accident — a bad one. According to my bike computer, I was going 39mph in the downhill, tailwind sprint when the accident happened. The sole BMC rider in the race, Cole House, got tangled up with a Mountain Khakis rider and the two of them went down at the front of the sprint — immediately in front of me. A third rider in front of me and to my right went down as he collided with another rider trying to avoid the original accident. Since I was going 39mph with very little time to react, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I was going to fall when I realized that if I punched it I could maybe squeeze between the riders and bikes on the ground to my left and right. The only obstacle was the BMC rider’s bike which was currently up in the air. It was just off to my left though so I ran into it with my shoulder and pushed it out of the way and very, very luckily no part of it got tangled up with my bike. So I made it through, but according to my computer I had slowed down to under 30mph. A lot of people were having to hit the brakes and slow down because of the accident, but there was still room for some people to come around carrying speed so I ended up getting passed by 3 or 4 people in the final 50 meters while I was trying to get back up to speed. Still, I was very happy (and lucky) to have stayed upright and finish 14th.

Brent Mahan (Nashville Cyclist) finished 11th riding a great race and has now moved into the green jersey for best young U25 rider! Congratulations Brent!

Tour de Grove 2010 Heartrate data

My Garmin has just finally dried off enough for me to connect it to the computer and download the Tour de Grove heartrate data. I’ve been having problems with the Garmin in the rain — and it definitely rained as you can tell by the goofy altitude readings at the end of the race.

  1. Lots of short lived breaks and maybe one temporary field split
  2. The field split leaving less than 30 riders in the race
  3. Steady, easy part of the race as Jelly Belly led the chase
  4. The self-neutralized field after Jelly Belly crashed at the front of the group
  5. The fast finishing laps in the midst of a large thunderstorm

Tour de Grove 2010 Race Report

Always a great weekend of racing, this year’s Tour de Grove (formerly Tour de Winghaven) was awesome — even with all the bumps and bruises along the way. No, I didn’t crash at all, but my poor kids were on the pavement as much as they were off of it. Read the quick summary below or scroll down for the detailed write-up!

Quick Summary
Saturday’s Midtown Alley Kid’s races – Josiah – 1st place (3-4 year olds)! Analise – 1st place girl (5-6 year olds)!

Saturday’s Midtown Alley Pro/1/2 Criterium – 22nd after flatting with two laps to go (no free laps), getting a wheel change from the awesome SRAM neutral support and almost chasing back onto what was left of the field, passing a few of the leadout guys who had already eased up to finish two spots out of the money. See below for a detailed write-up.

Sunday’s NRC Tour de Grove Circuit Race – 8th place after a thunderstorm shortened the race by about 4 laps (11 miles). Kelly Benefits took 1-2 after a race-long breakaway stayed away. Jelly Belly was keeping the break in check, but the weather moved in before they could reel the break back in. See below for a detailed write-up.

Birmingham to St Louis ~500miles ( map)

Saturday morning – Moonrise Hotel

Friday’s Travel Day
St Louis is only about 500 miles from Birmingham – a reasonable 7-8 hour drive – even with nice long stops for dinner, stretching, etc… My 5 year old daughter Analise was in a girl scout day camp all week and participating in her “end of the camp” performance on Friday at 2:30 outside of Chelsea which is about 30 miles on the opposite side of town from St Louis. So we knew we would be rolling in to town late. What we didn’t count on was Analise waking up at 4 in the morning after having gotten bit by a spider at our house. Her leg was swollen Friday morning, but we gave her some Benadryl and she was happy and excited for camp so Kristine drove her out to camp. About an hour later, Analise was not feeling too good and her spider bite had swollen even further so the camp nurse called for us to come get Analise. Kristine went back out to pick her up, take her around camp to say goodbye to all her friends and then straight to the doctor, who confirmed the spider bite was probably not a brown recluse – but he drew a circle a little larger than a SOFTBALL on Analise’s leg and said if the redness expanded beyond the circle to call back or take her to the emergency room. With the change of plans, we hadn’t had a chance to pack so we weren’t able to leave until about 4PM. The drive was long with a stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner and we made it to the Moonrise Hotel at about 1AM. The kids loved all the cool quirkiness of the hotel with a rotating moon on top of it and fancy lights of the 4-star hotel (great deal on Expedia with coupon) so it took them a few minutes to settle back down to go to sleep.

Ready for the Midtown Alley Kid’s race

Analise finishing the 5-6 year old race.

Jelly Belly driving the Pro/1/2 Midtown Alley Criterium (photo by singer)

Saturday’s Midtown Alley Kids Races and Pro/1/2 Criterium
We knew it was going to be hot when it was almost 90 degrees at 11 in the morning when the kids were finishing up playing and riding scooters in Forest Park. My 3 year old, Josiah, took a bad tumble right as we were getting ready to leave and cracked his lip wide open. After a few minutes of screaming bloody murder, he settled down sucking on snow cone ice. We debated taking him in for stitches, but the last time we tried that we ended up waiting for nearly 3 hours for them to finally “glue” his forehead back together without any stitches. Totally not worth it as kids are so amazing in how quickly they heal. Sure enough, Josiah’s lip had stopped bleeding within a few more minutes and then scabbed over by dinner time and was looking really good by Sunday. But before all that, we had a kids race and I had a pro/1/2 crit to race.

We made it to the start of the kids race at 12:45PM, and it was already in the mid 90s with high humidity. Blazing hot. I was going through water bottles like crazy and drenched in sweat. It was worth it, though, as Josiah won his race riding super fast (check out the video!) Analise almost won her race, too! After a rough start on the uphill, she passed everyone except one boy who had gotten a clean start and stayed just in front of her. The kids were so happy though because they got a black ribbon they could redeem for a Build-a-Bear bear after the race – along with a t-shirt and jelly belly water bottle with jelly beans inside!

You could see lots of popup thunderstorms/rain showers in the area, but they were just skirting the race course until about midway through the women’s race when the first of a series of storms hit the course dead on. The pro women’s field raced through the storm as we continued to warm up on the wide course or on the rollers. The sun had come out and started to dry out the course by the end of their race. Then, just as we staged at the start line for the start of the Pro/1/2 race, the next storm rolled in. I was shivering a bit by the time we left the start line in a heavy downpour. The cold didn’t last long though because I was first off the line and determined to be the first rider through the first two corners. I made it through with I believe at least one crash behind in the field. Then on the back downhill stretch into a tremendous headwind, the first of a series of attacks that would take us through the first five or six laps, launched itself. Attacks, chases, field splits were common as the rain abated and the sun came out. Two Jelly Belly riders made it into a break of 3 that started to distance itself from the field. Chases, attacks, crashes, kept our pace highly variable — but fast. I was really struggling through the start/finish hill with its tailwind.

Midtown Alley map

The next storm rolled in about midway through the race when either one or both of the Jelly Belly riders in the break flatted. Even though they got their free lap and were put back into the race in front of us, the rest of the Jelly Belly team had moved to the front to block and look for opportunities to bridge up to the break with any rider who would attack. Still, the break of 3 held a lead of maybe 20-30 seconds when the final, most severe storm rolled in with maybe 10 laps to go in the race. The wind was truly amazing with our entire group snaking across FOUR lanes of roadway with sidewinds, headwinds, tailwinds, all buffeting us on the same stretch of road. Our initial field of almost 60 riders had been whittled down to just 25 riders left when we caught the breakaway that was basically stopped cold by the strong winds and heavy downpour. The stretch of road that we had settled into taking during the race between turns 3 and 4 was completely under an inch or two of water so once we caught the break our pace really settled down. It was dangerous so nobody wanted to attack or take any big risks.

I was resting, waiting, hoping to keep it upright as we went through 5, 4, 3, 2 laps to go when I ran into bad luck and flatted on the back straightaway. There was enough air left to let me roll with the group back to the pit, grab a wheel from the SRAM neutral support and start chasing back on. With the pace slow b/c of the storm and wind, I was almost able to chase back on by the end of the lap. But once the group made it past the start/finish line again, the pace picked back up and I couldn’t quite close the gap. Still, I was able to pass a couple leadout guys who had eased up after pulling off the front and one guy who had crashed to finish two spots out of the money in 22nd. I was hoping to have made it into the top 20, which would have redeemed the day despite the bad luck, but instead I was happy that one of the SRAM support crew said when I returned the wheel that I was his favorite rider for the day since I didn’t quit even after getting the flat.

During the race, Analise and Josiah would ride down the sidewalk on the back side of the course as we would pass by. It was fun to see them each lap. Eventually during the rain storms, Analise decided she was cold and wet enough to seek shelter. Josiah, on the other hand, kept riding through the torrential rain until Kristine dragged him away from the course on the final lap. When I got back to the car after the race, we had quite a mess to deal with as I was shivering and soaking wet along with the kids. Kristine is an angel though and managed to get us all dry and back into the car as I loaded up my bike, the kids bike, and everything else for the drive back to the hotel to clean up.

Josiah finishing the Tour de Grove Kids race on Sunday (photo by singer)

Tour de Grove finish (photo by jay beauvais)

Sunday’s NRC Tour de Grove
We found the race course just in time to unpack the kids bikes, register for the kids race, and watch the finish of the Men’s 2-3 race with the kids race to immediately follow. Again it was sunny and blazingly hot when the kids started so I am glad we hadn’t gotten there way ahead of time to bake in the sun and humidity. This time there were more kids in the race. Josiah and Analise did well and had fun, but struggled starting up the hill. No problem though as this time they got cool ribbons and t-shirts for racing.

I debated before the start of the men’s Pro/1 race whether to put on my rain tires. Then right before the pro women’s race, there was a brief downpour so I went ahead and switched tires. But then it got very sunny and very hot, the course dried completely out, and there was only a few small clouds in the distance. So I switched back to my normal tires since the rain tires have a bit more rolling resistance — and what good would they be if I was dropped before it started to rain?! I think I made the right decision even though it did pour down rain for the finish of our race, I had no problems keeping up during the insanely fast crazy first part of the race. Again, I was first off the line and first through the first of 13 corners on the course before a series of attacks saw different breakaways emerge from the field before each one was chased down again. I decided that my best bet for finishing well was to conserve as much energy as possible.

NRC Tour de Grove 2010, 13 corner circuit race in St Louis

I only went with one breakaway, and shortly after we got reeled back in the break of the day went during a particularly fast lap. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits) attacked and got away solo. Shortly thereafter, Andy Crater (Aerocat) attacked to bridge with David Veilleux (Kelly Benefits) taking the free ride on his wheel. The two of them bridged up and established a gap. Eventually Crater came off the break and back to our field leaving two Kelly Benefits riders up the road. This turned out to be the perfect scenario for the field because Jelly Belly got to the front and rode fast (but steady) to keep the break within striking distance and prevent others from attacking to try to bridge across. I kept waiting for Jelly Belly to try to send its own rider across, which would mean a series of attacks and skyrocketing pace — but I think they were hoping for a field sprint to let their top sprinter Mike Friedman clean-up for the win.

So our pace stayed steady, manageable, even easy (see heartrate data) as the break stayed at about 30 seconds. I believe that at any moment, the pace was about to skyrocket as Jelly Belly was going to turn on the gas to bring back the break riders who would then be too tired to be a factor in the sprint. But, unfortunately for Jelly Belly, it started to rain with about 10 laps to go. The rain was light at first, but it was enough to make it slippery, and going into one of the sharper than 90 deg corners, the first Jelly Belly rider fell taking out the next two Jelly Belly riders and derailing the chase efforts.

The field neutralized itself for pretty much the rest of the lap when the fallen Jelly Belly riders were inserted back into the field (the 2.8 mile circuit race was run as a criterium). Right as the Jelly Belly riders were put back into the field, it started to downpour. Two riders from an amateur team attacked and in the ensuing chaos there was a field split. I found myself on the front side of the split since I had been fighting to ride towards the front immediately behind the Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefits trains. With six laps to go, the storm worsened with heavy winds, thunder, and lightning. Dave Towle had announced a couple laps earlier that they would ring the bell for one lap to go if lightning was seen on the course so I knew at that point that we really only had two laps to go (even though the lap card said 6 to go). Sure enough, the next time around, they rang the bell for one lap to go and our pace stayed super hi only slowing down for the corners. I didn’t have to fight hard to stay up front because the pace was fast enough on the straightaways that nobody wanted to pass anybody else. This included the final straightaway leading into two sharp corners making a nearly 180 degree turn heading into the 250 meter sprint uphill to the line. We came screaming down the straightaway with a tailwind at nearly 35mph before braking at the last possible second to slow down to 15mph for the corner before accelerating again up the hill to the line. I got passed by one person in the sprint, but passed two other people before the line, meaning I finished 6th in the sprint and 8th for the race — a top 10 in a national race — woohoo!!!

Kristine did awesome, too, managing to feed me four or five bottles during the race while keeping the kids safe and entertained in the feedzone, too. One of my water bottles had popped out when I hit a manhole cover on the second lap, so I needed a water bottle within the first few laps of the 28 lap race. She heard me yell and left to drive to the feedzone a few laps earlier than we had planned, negotiated her way to the feedzone, and had a bottle ready to go on the next lap. Unfortunately, it was impossible to take a bottle at 30mph on that lap so I waited until the next lap when the pace had slowed down to a more reasonable 20mph to try to grab the bottle. She did great, and four bottles later I made it to the end of a 75 mile crit (shortened to 65 miles) with no cramps!

Heartrate data to follow as soon as my Garmin dries out (two days later!!!)

Tour of Atlanta Wrap-up

First, my heartrate data from Stage 3 (Saturday’s race) …

  1. Initial easy part of the race, just letting everything get chased down
  2. Attacking at start of 2nd lap and working with Jan Kolar to chase leaders
  3. Attacking our small group with 1mi to go, staying away for 8th place

Stage 4 – 54mi Circuit Race – Sunday 11AM
This race was the most disappointing for me of the whole series. The course was unique and challenging, but I completely missed my opportunity to stay in the top 3 or 4 riders overall. The course was a lollipop style course with a 5 mile circuit through a national forest that we did 9 times. There was one steep climb about 3/4 of a mile long on the circuit. There were some attacks on the first couple laps and eventually a small group of maybe 2 or 3 got away. Then on the 3rd time up the climb, somebody attacked and it was superfast up the climb. Coming across the top, I made it halfway to the race winning breakaway that had formed, but when I saw one of the top riders not making it into the break I figured that I could ease up and let that team chase. Big mistake! For some reason, they were fine with that rider not making it into the break. If I had drilled it at that precise moment instead of easing up, then I possibly could have made it into the break. Then what would that team have done? I’m not sure, but now I have to live with making that mistake until the next time the same situation comes up and hopefully I will have learned NEVER to hesitate in a situation like that. Live and learn! I relaxed for several laps to save up energy for one “catch-them-by-surprise” attack, but it didn’t work and I only stayed away for a couple miles before being reeled back in at the base of the climb. I resigned myself to saving energy for the finishing sprint to try to get some minor omnium points, but I ended up losing the wheel I was on and then sitting up dejected instead of sprinting all the way to the line. Another lesson learned – NEVER give up!

Stage 5 – 41mi Circuit Race – Sunday 6PM
I was a bit happier with how this race turned out. I had two teammates make the drive over from Alabama for this race, and that helped a lot with them covering moves and forcing other teams to expend energy chasing them down. I knew that again I was going to be pretty marked so I didn’t try to attack unless I was joining a rider from a team who would be happy to let us go. This never really materialized and so we ended up sprinting for 10th place. I got third in the sprint, giving me 12th for the race. My garmin was working for this race so I’ve included my heartrate data below – no zone 5 efforts – even in the final sprint.

Stage 6 – 55.6mi Road Race – Monday 9:30AM
This was a very challenging race, even with the extended 10mi neutral section leading out to the lollipop portion of the course. The challenging part of this race was the topography of the course including a 4mi climb up Burnt Mountain with an average gradient of nearly 6% and a maximum gradient of 11% for over 1/4 of a mile. But even before we hit the climb, we went over 10 climbs of a minimum length of 1/4 mile (most were over 1/2 mile) and a minimum gradient of 5% (four were in the 7-9% range). Check out the map and elevation profile below:

Team Ion/United Healthcare decided to prevent all attacks by sacrificing two strong riders (Oneal Samuels and Pat Allison) early in the race by having them maintain a steady hard tempo that nobody really felt like attacking. Once we made it to the steep stairstepping hills before the start of the 4mi climb, there were several attacks and our pace would skyrocket and then ease as everybody caught back on across the top and on the steep downhill. Cesar Grejales put in a hard solo attack shortly after we reached the bottom of the 4mi climb. Nobody could follow him, but our pace upped dramatically. Eventually a group of 3 or 4 got a short gap on the exploding field. I followed Brendan Sullivan (the current race leader) as he surged to go across the gap. He made it and then a little while later I caught up to the group with a few other riders joining up on a false flat and short downhill before the next step of the climb. This part was the longest, and it saw our group of about 10 riders shatter. I started out on the front side of the shatter but then by the top of the climb, I had fallen back to one last group of three riders including Tiago Depaula right as we crested the climb. Tiago was driving the move and encouraged me to help him chase. The two of us bombed the downhill tucking and reaching speeds of close to 60mph! Towards the bottom of the 4.5 mile descent, we came flying up into the back of the group of 5 or 6 riders in front of us. By the time we made it all the way down the mountain, our group had increased in size to 13 riders. I was trying to pass two Team Ion riders in the overall and I just needed to get 3 more points than them in the finish to do it. So I was watching them pretty close, and when an Ion rider went up the road – I thought it was one of them so I helped chase pretty hard. Imagine my surprise though when the rider I was watching out for pulled up beside me. I thought to myself “oops!”. I then sat in and watched people attack as we made our way to the finishing sprint. In the sprint, I tried to be patient but ended up being on the wrong side when the lead riders slowed up. The attack went up the right-side and after I made it around the slower riders on the left, I made up some ground and ended up 5th in the sprint for 6th in the race — with Cesar Grejales having already taken the win solo.

So all-in-all it was a great weekend of training and racing! 4 days, 6 races, 275+ miles of racing!!!