Archive for August, 2012
If you are looking for positive happy go lucky race reports, then skip over this one.
Quick summary of results
Time Trial – 46th, 10 seconds slower than last year, disappointing.
Criterium – Big crash with no more free laps. Instead of immediately telling us there were no more free laps so that we could chase, the official ushered us over into the pit to tell us to wait until the end of the race so that we could race two additional laps to sort out placings from 28th place on. I don’t think this got communicated to the results people, though, because as far as I can tell none of the people from my group are listed in the results. Very disappointing.
Road Race – 7th, best finish ever at this race, but disappointing to cramp so badly on the final climb and not be able to fight for the win. Disappointing.
Omnium – 12th. Surprised as my only omnium points came in the road race.
The River Gorge road race is amazing – entering three states (TN, GA, and AL) – and traversing a wild topography consisting of deep canyons and steep mountains. Click to enlarge – annotated power data for the Sand Mountain climb
Road Race details
I’ve included today’s (Sunday) road race details first. We started at the Covenant Transport Center headquarters about 2 miles down the road from the normal start, so this shortened the race from 62 miles to just under 60 miles. I started at the very back. It took until the righthand turn onto the first hill of the day for me to move about halfway up the large pack. The hill was a bit slower pace than previous years, so everybody was still bunched up. I moved up some on the long gradual descent after the first KOM. When we hit the wider road heading towards the Tennesse River, I was able to move close to the front not too far behind the BMC train as they chased an early 6 or 7 man move that I never even saw get away I was so far back in the pack at the beginning.
BMC timed the catch perfectly at the bottom of the Sand Mountain climb. I had slipped a little ways back and started the climb about 20 riders from the front. I chased around a few people who opened gaps and then latched onto a large group led by two BMC riders. I was struggling to maintain a good rhythm but hung on all the way up until the 200 meters to go sign for the KOM. I was really cooked, but fortunately Ryan Sullivan (United Healthcare/706 Project) had also just come off the group, and he and I were able to work together to catch back up to the group (with Ryan doing most of the work as I barely hung on).
A few more riders caught up to us before the long descent back down to the Tennessee River making our group about 15-20 riders with all major teams represented. We were not a harmonious group as there was an attack or two across the top of the mountain, and even one attack at the top of the descent. I covered that one and made it back down to the Tennessee River just behind John Murphy (Kenda Pro Cycling) and one or two other riders. The others in the group caught back up quickly, and nobody seemed like they wanted to work so I attacked hoping to get things goings – but little did I know what a firestorm of attacks would ensue. Attack, chase, counter-attack, chase, counter-attack took us into the medium climb up off the Tennessee River. I looked back expecting to see the rest of our group closing fast, but they were gone. At this point, I knew this was the move but I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it over the climb with the group. I dug as deep as I could and made it.
There was maybe 7 or 8 of us. The attacking didn’t stop as John Murphy really wanted to get away. This ended up dropping two riders from our group to bring us down to 6 riders. John eventually got away twice. Both times Oscar Clark (UHC/706), Shawn Gravois (Globalbike), Ty Magner (BMC) and I worked together to bring him back, although the first time was before the stair-stepper cat 3 climb and Shawn did most of the work to bring John back. The second time, it was all four of us working together while John’s teammate, Robert Sweeting (Kenda) was able to get the free ride with his teammate up the road. We caught John right before the turn into the TVA area on a gradual hill. Immediately, Oscar put in a hard dig taking Shawn, Ty, and Robert with him – whereas John and I went straight out the back. I had bad cramps in my right leg. These cramps subsided fairly quickly so I hit it hard to catch back up to John and together we chased on the descent (hitting 58mph) back down to the TN river before the final climb up Raccoon Mountain.
John joined back up with the other four right as the road pitched up. I, on the other hand, started cramping again so I didn’t catch back on. As the climb steepened, both legs locked up and I had to coast to a stop up the hill, unclip, and wait for the cramps to subside. A few seconds later I was rolling again for another couple minutes. But right as I caught back up to John again, my leg locked up again and I had to coast to a stop again. This time after the cramp subsided, I was able to pick up the pace to catch and pass John. I thought for sure I had 5th place locked up, but 500 meters before the finish Tanner Putt (BMC) caught and passed me. A few seconds later Jake Rytlewski (Astella/ABD) came by, too. Jimmy Schurmann (Globalbike) was closing in fast when I hit the 200 meters to go sign. Fortunately, the grade had lessened enough that I was able to stand up and hit it hard to stay just in front of him to finish 7th.
In the group ahead, Oscar took the win, followed by Robert and Ty. Shawn was fourth, although he should some award for all the work he did on the step climb to bring back John the first time.
Road race heartrate summary
Time trial details
This year’s Pro/1/2 field was one of the best ever at River Gorge, which has always had a strong field. This year there were more than 60 pros and cat 1s plus an additional 30-40 cat 2s. I knew that I had no shot of getting into the top 10 in the time trial for omnium points, so technically it might make more sense for me to soft pedal the time trial to save up for the criterium. But what would be the fun in that? Plus, how could I compare to previous years?
So I got a good warm-up in riding to the start with my teammate Borris. We headed up to the top of Raccoon Mountain via the finishing climb of the road race at a nice easy pace. Packet pick-up, several back and forths across the part of the reservoir dam not being used for the TT course, and it was time for me to go. I started out easier than last year, but then hit it hard on the short climb. My power average ended up being about 5 watts lower than last year (358 watts vs 363 watts), and my speed was about 1/2 mile hour slower (10 seconds slower). Last year I raced Mercx style with no TT equipment, whereas this year I raced with clip-on tt bars, an aero helmet, and a front trispoke wheel. I can’t help but think that the extra baggage slowed me down more than it sped me up. Definitely going to race this time trial Mercx style next year for another comparison.
You know what, this race was so disappointing I don’t really want to relive it by writing it up. Instead, I’ll just say that I need to work on paying a little closer attention to when the free laps end before the start of the race. I thought it was 5 to go, but apparently they had announced 8 to go. I got caught up in a crash with 6 to go and thought we had one more lap to get back into the race. I have included the annotated heartrate data below.
Downtown Chattanooga heartrate summary
Annotated power map
|Fast downhill turns
in Mountain Brook
One of the fastest deceleration
spots in town
Yesterday I put my race wheels on my bike to get ready for the River Gorge races this weekend. I have a hard time getting a wheel speed magnet to stay on my front race wheel, so most of the time I run my race wheel without a speed sensor. The Garmin is usually pretty accurate in calculating speed from satellite measurements. But if you pick the right route with really fast, sharp turns you can play a game where you are trying to outrun the satellite signal. You can get some crazy max speeds as the signal catches up to you. Once I managed to hit 80mph on a 55mph descent. On today’s ride that same descent registered as 64.6mph, when the actual speed was probably closer to 53mph. Here are some annotated screenshots from today’s ride.
Nothing like a trip somewhere else to make you see your own backyard in a whole new light. I recently returned from Leadville, Colorado and have been drawing comparisons between the climbing in the high mountains of Colorado vs the climbing in the really low mountains of Alabama. I came back to Alabama to find the prizes I won on the queen stage of the Rapha Rising competition (Read my ride report here – Rapha Rising Wednesday Mega-ride). I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite a while – so I’m going to let my annotated screenshots illustrate some conclusions I’ve reached from a quantitative perspective, but from a qualitative perspective I have to conclude that neither is better than the other. Climbing big mountains is just so radically different than climbing smaller hills that it really is like comparing apples to oranges. Fortunately for me, I like them both.
Hear is my heartrate data from this year’s Leadville race (read my race report).
Heartrate summary – note the lack of any time at all in Zone 5
2012 Leadville Heartrate data (click to enlarge)
A few things to note about the heartrate data … first, there is no time at all in Zone 5! I think this is mainly because of the altitude because my legs were fresh. Also, I think I may have been a bit intimidated by the length of the race – thinking that I needed to be really conservative. Next year (hopefully), I’ll have at least a few minutes in Zone 5, and spend a lot more time in Zone 4 and less in Zone 3. I know I can crack the top 25 in this race!!!
Here is the annotated map showing where we made a wrong turn that ended up costing me an extra 1.9 miles (exactly) and 5’32″. Note that would have made my time 7hrs, 30minutes, and a couple seconds – which surely would have bumped me up a couple places. Note that the 1st and 2nd place female riders would have still probably beaten me. Sally Bigham was in my group that missed the turn whereas eventual winner Rebecca Rusch was farther back and did not miss the turn. No arrogance or offense intended, but wow those women are world class fast!
And here is our annotated road trip data:
- Day 1 Wed – Hoover, AL to Wichita Falls, TX (795 miles)
plus 43.9 mile ride in Hoover, AL
- Day 2 Thu – Wichita Falls, TX to Salida, CO (593 miles)
plus 30.0 mile ride from Raton, NM to Trinidad, CO
- Day 3 Fri – Salida, CO to Leadville, CO to Silverthorne, CO (117 miles)
plus 32.0 mile pre-ride of Leadville race course
- Day 4 Sat – Silverthorne, CO to Leadville, CO to Silverthorne, CO (89 miles)
plus 107.7 mile race
- Day 5 Sun – Silverthorne, CO to Leadville, CO to Hoover, AL (1486 miles)
plus 7.8 mile recovery ride on Leadville Mineral Trail
- Day 6 Mon – Arrive back in Hoover around noon after driving all night
Grand total: over 3100 miles of driving!
I am very happy to have finished the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race today in 7 hours and 35 minutes in 39th place. I could really feel the effects of being so high up in the mountains (minimum elevation 9200′, maximum elevation 12,500′) so I had to really pace my effort throughout the day. Even so, I dug a bit too deep trying to keep up with the current world mountain bike champion, Christoph Sauser, on the way out to Columbine and ended up paying for it in the last 25 miles of the race. Still, I’m happy and hope to come back another year to try to do even better!
The detailed report
The Leadville race starts at 6:30 just after sunrise to give people as much daylight as possible to finish the race. This meant leaving our place in Silverthorne at 4:30 to drive up to Leadville and have enough time to get everything ready, have a short warm-up, and make it into the starting corral before it closes at 6:15. Everything was going pretty smoothly until with only a few minutes before the corrals were going to be closed, I realized I didn’t have my tools and extra tube. So I booked it back up to the car to get these and made it back just before the corrals were closed.
Because I got into the Leadville race through a qualifying race (the Barn Burner), I was able to start in the first corral. Still, once the race started there were a lot of people jockeying for position. I entered the first dirt road somewhere in the top 100 or so. By the time we made it to the double track, people were already starting to pop from their early effort on the way out of town. I had to sprint around these gaps to make it back up to the leading pack. One other person doing the same thing was Garth Prosser (Specialized), who I had raced with at the Southern Cross race in February. We chatted briefly before the start of the first climb – a nice 2.5 mile climb with some pretty steep sections. Eventually we ended up getting separated with me following a couple faster wheels and Garth making a much wiser decision to keep a nice steady tempo. I wouldn’t see Garth again until 78 miles later as I was pretty much crawling up the top part of powerline when I looked back to see Garth riding up it smooth and steady – eventually putting more than 4 minutes into my time by the finish.
By the top of the St Kevin’s climb, I got a time split of “5 minutes” to the leaders. I flew down the road descent to the valley below the Sugarloaf Pass climb catching a group of about 10 riders. They weren’t climbing as fast as I wanted, and I could see another group up the road so I left them crossing the gap solo to a faster group that helped push me up the last rocky double track part of the climb before the Powerline descent. Once we made it to the Powerline descent, I moved to the back of this group so I wouldn’t get in the way and started down the descent. Most of the riders from the group that I had left behind caught and passed me on the descent.
Once we were back out on the road, I joined a small group and went to the front to try to get a rotation going. This ended up with only one other rider coming with me. A mile or two later, the rest of the group decided to pick up its pace and reeled us back in. At this point we got into a pretty good rotation and started to catch some riders coming off the front groups. I was just following wheels in the pack when we started up a rough paved climb. After we had ridden a mile, we see a large group coming back down the other way! It had most (but not all) of the leaders, including world champion Christoph Sauser. Our group turned around and merged with their group making a group of more than 50 riders as we headed towards Twin Lakes.
I made the mistake of being too far back in this large group as gaps started to open up. Fortunately, there were other strong riders in the back and we worked together to bridge across the gaps to the group as it whittled down to maybe 20 riders. By the bottom of the dirt climb before the singletrack, we caught some of the riders who had not missed the turn. Sauser went to the front and lifted the pace immediately separating himself from the group. I lifted my own pace and bridged across to him as we tackled the first part of the climb. I didn’t know that it was going to be as big a climb as it was so I thought I could maintain the pace. But as the climb kept going, I realized I had to back off or I was going to be deep in both oxygen and energy debt. By the top of the climb I was in a good group of maybe 10 riders that drilled the singletrack. I was happy to be able to keep up with them.
Coming out of the singletrack, there was some rolling double track and some hills that led to me and one other rider, Justin Lindine (Medline Bicycles), entering the Twin Lakes feed station at mile 40. I stopped for the first time, got two new bottles, powergels, and a cliff bar from Kristine before taking off again up the Columbine Climb. I was not feeling great for the Columbine climb so I settled into a slow rhythm. Even though my time up Columbine was pretty slow, I was very happy that I was able to ride the entire climb including the super steep sections in the middle and towards the top. I kept expecting to see the leaders coming back down, but it wasn’t until the steep sections near the top that the lead 3 including Jeremiah Bishop and Christoph Sauser came flying down the other way. Next up was Tinker Juarez and one other rider. I was counting the riders as they came down and think I was somewhere in the top 30 by the turnaround – where I grabbed some pretzels and potato chips.
I thought I was doing fine on the long steep descent back down to Twin Lakes until Pua Mata (Sho-air) came flying by me easily 15mph faster than I was going. This actually helped me because it inspired me to try to go faster. I let go of the brakes and took off! It was a really fun descent – especially with all the riders doing the climb. Several called out “Go Brian” … thanks to all of you because that really motivated me to pick up the pace after Twin Lakes where I grabbed another bottle from Kristine and another cliff bar. I caught and passed Pua telling her what a great descender she is. Earlier I had passed Rebecca Rusch (Specialized) shortly after the feedzone (she had passed me while I was getting a bottle from Kristine). It was really windy so I thought about slowing down to work with Pua, but then I felt that wouldn’t be fair to Rebecca so I drilled it and set my sights on a rider just ahead of me thinking that if I could just dig deep enough to catch him, then we could work together. The rider I found out later was Peter Smith.
I ended up catching Peter twice! The first time was after what they call “the wall” after the singletrack. I decided to ride it whereas I could see Peter was walking up it. So at the top I caught up to the back of him just as he was remounting and taking off. I went to catch his draft and suddenly realized that I couldn’t breathe or pedal because clearing the wall had required just about every bit of oxygen and energy I had left. So Peter easily put 10 seconds into me, which took another few miles to reel back. We started working well together to the powerline feed station where we both stopped. Kat and Katie were there and gave me a bottle of coke and some more powergels. Peter and I got back together after the feed station and worked well into a really stiff headwind all the way to the bottom of the Powerline climb.
I was not feeling well at all and after riding the first part of the climb up to the crazy steep section, I decided to get off and walk/run/crawl up the steep section instead of riding it. Meanwhile, Rebecca Rusch had been closing in on us, and she caught me shortly after I started walking. I decided to try to keep up with her running behind her while she rode, but that only lasted a couple hundred feet before I had slow down and walk. I walked, crawled the rest of the way up the climb and was completely exhausted by the top. I could never get back up to speed and spent a lonely 10 minutes or so just spinning in my granny gear. About 3/4 of the way up the rest of the climb, I looked back and saw Garth catching up to me – he saw me look and gave a friendly wave as if to say “hello again!”
Garth was the only one to catch me through that section, but then on the Sugarloaf descent Sally Bigham came flying by me, shortly followed by Jamie Mcjunkin (Marc Pro – Strava). Jamie had to stop to fix his rear derailleur halfway down the descent and I could see Sally just in front of me so I thought I would possibly catch her on the road climb back up St Kevin’s. I was catching up to her, and Jamie was catching back up to me, and then all of a sudden Sally was pulling away from both of us. Jamie and I were both cooked by this point so we chatted through the rest of the climb eventually catching one rider and getting passed by another – Trapper Steinle (Lifetime Fitness). Jamie descended much faster than me, but I caught back up to him just as we exited the dirt double track at the bottom of St Kevin’s. We worked together and were pushing the pace hard when we saw a rider catching up to us. We wanted to try and stay away so I went to the front to pull and looked back to find the other rider, Dereck Treadwell, had caught up to us. Up ahead we could see a group of about 4 riders. They looked like they were going slow, so we gave it everything to try to catch them, but in the end they still had about 30 seconds on us.
This made for a really hard and slightly disappointing finish as I was pushing it as hard as possible to try and catch this small group, but came up short. Still, just to finish was very rewarding and I’m already looking forward to come back another year to try to do better – I’ve really got to work on my descending. I was losing several minutes on the long descents and a couple minutes on the shorter ones. All those minutes add up! Part of the problem is that when I started racing mountain bikes in 1993 you couldn’t just bomb over rocks at 40mph. You had to pick and choose a good line through the rocks. With these new 29ers, you can just roll right over anything. I have to get over the fear I have of losing control and/or flatting while bouncing over rocks at 40mph.
All-in-all it was a really great day amongst the huge towering peaks of the high country of Colorado. Kristine got some good videos I’ve posted below these pictures from the race:
Day 1 – Birmingham, AL to Wichita Falls, TX (800 miles)
Day 2 – Wichita Falls, TX to Salida, CO (600 miles)
Day 3 – Salida, CO to Leadville, CO (60 miles)
The highlight of the first day was driving I-20 through East Texas where Kristine and I first met 11 years ago. 9 years of marriage and 2 kids later, we stopped at the same Dairy Queen where we used to hang out together. We ended up at 1:30AM in Wichita Falls at a Holiday Inn called “Holiday Inn – Wichita Falls (At The Falls!)” including the exclamation point.
The second day had lots of highlights, including a rural rest area at the foot of a volcano outside of Raton, New Mexico. But the main highlight of the day for me was when Kristine dropped me off in Raton, and I rode the Old Raton Pass into Colorado on a 30 mile ride to Trinidad, Colorado.
I had used topocreator and initially was going to try to ride alongside the railroad up and over the pass, but then I found a dirt road leaving Raton called Old Raton Pass. This road climbs from within Raton up past a start on top of a hill overlooking a city all the way up to the old “Port of Welcome” for New Mexico. Along the way, there is this sign:
I was really curious, so I went around the corner and found a burnt (maybe from a forest fire) informational sign talking about the KT boundary, which relates to the layers of the earth before and after an asteroid impact millions of years ago. I continued climbing until I came to the abandoned New Mexico welcome center – and the mother of all barricades (for motorcycles, atvs, etc…) complete with a trashed ATV perhaps as a warning and also a full-blown moat. I knew that it probably was supposed to keep out bikes too, but I needed to get across the border to Kristine in Colorado.
After the moat and a long gradual descent, there was a long gradual climb up to the pass with old stonework from the original road. Shortly after the top on some rolling double track, there was a barbed wire gate with the barbed wire attached to a thick stick held in place by two metal rings. The ring at the top was held top by a latch mechanism. I figured out how to open (and close) the gate continued on about a quarter mile to a fork in the trail with two gates – both the same type of barbed wired gate. Once through this gate, the trail really started to descend.
The double track was perfectly smooth, and I had just started to pick up the pace when I came across a few cows grazing next to the road. They didn’t seem to think twice about me so I kept on going and that’s when I entered into the middle of an elk herd. That is quite an experience. Elk were diving for cover around every corner. At one point there was elk running alongside and in front of me. There was elk of all sizes, too. I would guesstimate that there were maybe 50 elk in the herd. I only saw one bull with a full rack of antlers. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time to be so close to these large animals scattering every which way.
After the elk, it was pretty much a straight shot down and out of the area, a thick metal gate to climb up and over, a railroad tunnel, another gate to crawl under and finally out onto the interstate. Yes, I ended up riding on I-25 north for a few miles, but per the picture below, I was allowed to be there. Plus, the interstate was really deserted – maybe 20 cars and 5 tractor trailers passed me during the few miles I was on the interstate.
The final stretch into Trinidad was amazing with the sunset sky and layers upon layers of HUGE mountains glowing orange … my camera phone picture doesn’t even pick up all the high mountains in the distance.
I met up with Kristine where we ate at a fancy Italian restaurant complete with some really amazing singing waiters and waitresses. I got a video I’ll try to remember to upload when we get back to Birmingham.
Day 3 (today) was check-in day at Leadville. They have a really well run organization and we breezed through the long lines thanks to all the great volunteers. After picking up everything we went to the gym for the motivational and informational meeting. It was inspiring – highlighted by the Wounded Warriors and the Ride 2 Recovery – veterans and active military wounded in action who will be racing Leadville tomorrow. Also, Lance Armstrong made a surprise visit to encourage and motivate us (plus, I think he may be racing tomorrow?)
It was a great meeting, but towards the end it did get a little long. After the meeting was the highlight of my day – Kristine went for a run and I went for a ride on the opening 20 miles of the course including the powerline descent. Powerline wasn’t bad at all if you take it slow – but I can see how people could get hurt because the trail itself keeps begging you to let off the brakes and fly. I went down it slow and nearly fell once so I’m going to have to be careful tomorrow if I’m with people who are trying to bomb the descent.
I needed to have some work done on my mountain bike in preparation for Leadville – so I thought I would throw the kids bikes in the car and have a little fun on the Lakeshore Trail and the Vulcan Trail. Into the car went both the kids bikes, my mountain bike, and my road bike. Josiah’s bike went in the front passenger seat, and the other three bikes went in the back behind the kids. These are the pics I got of our journey.