Tour of Atlanta – Memorial Day Weekend



Tour of Atlanta Stage 2 - MAR Prime #1
Tour of Atlanta Stage 2 – MAR #1 (Photo credit: Georgia Cup)

I participated in an exciting four days of racing this past weekend at the Tour of Atlanta. A professional cycling team from Australia (Fly V Australia) as well as top amateur teams from the Southeast made for some fast, hard racing. Seven stages in just four days meant that we were racing twice a day except for the last day — where we only had one epic road race to survive. The highlight of the long weekend for me was the “Most Aggressive Rider” competition (MAR). I had an early three point lead in this competition after making it into the Stage 2 breakaway and placing either second or third in each of the MAR sprints. Unfortunately, Fly V and Myogenesis had their eyes set on this competition, too, so despite my hardest efforts I could only manage 3rd place in the competition. Still – it was an exciting “race within the race” and I frequently found myself sprinting it out with the top two sprinters in the race! A couple times I came out on top, but most of the time I had to settle for 3rd or 4th. Here are my abbreviated race reports and heart rate data.

Friday afternoon (2:08pm)- Stage 1 – 1km prologue time trial
Down the hill, turnaround, and then come back up the hill. Sounds simple, right? Well, the only complicating factor was a nice downpour to make the 180degree turn at the bottom of the hill treacherous. I think all the times were a bit slower because nobody wanted to break a collarbone on the very first of seven stages! I rolled 2 minutes flat — good enough to tie for 16th place.

Friday evening (7:15pm) – Stage 2 – 1km criterium, 1 hour
The course for this race was the same as the time trial except with an additional 180 degree turn to make a loop. The announcer rang the bell right at the start of the race on the first lap for the first MAR prime. I had a great start at the front of the race and thought that I would have a go at it if I could keep good position. Well, one rider attacked before the 180 degree turn at the bottom of the hill, and I got swamped going into that turn so I thought my chances were over. I still had good position though when a Global Cycling rider attacked right in front of me as the field sat up about 250 meters before the line. I rode his wheel and then came around just at the line to take 2nd place on that prime with the one rider already up the road — good for 3 points in the MAR competition. Only one or two laps later, I found myself off the front with a fairly large group of 14 riders with no less than SIX Fly-V Australia riders including the current Australia national criterium champion — Bernie Sultzberger (read about his race winning ride here). This was the hardest break I’ve ever been in because Fly-V constantly attacked the break knowing that it was probably too big to survive. Nevertheless, each attack was reeled in and fortunately for me always before a MAR prime lap. I managed second on one more MAR prime and then third on the final two primes. Also, fortunately for me, the relentless attacks kept our pace just high enough to stay clear by about 10 seconds from the pack at the very end. I was tired from chasing the MAR primes and could only manage 10th in our sprint.

Saturday Afternoon (1:15pm) – Stage 3 – 1 mile criterium, 1 hour
This was a hard circuit race course with about 75 feet of climbing per lap all coming in one long stretch with a corner in the middle and another corner at the very top. Then it was downhill for the rest of the course, including a downhill right-turn at the bottom of the hill — think MS Gran Prix Friday night crit with that downhill 90 degree corner. The course had a lot of variability from 5 lanes to 2 lanes, to 1 small lane, but the pavement was great. I worked hard for MAR points, but I believe in the end I was only awarded 1 point and placed 4th (no points) in ALL of the other sprints (four sprints total). This took a lot out of me, but there was always enough time to recover before the next sprint and for the finish. I was able to get 9th in the field sprint (11th for the race with a late race 2-man break staying away to the end).

Saturday Evening (7:25pm) – Stage 4 – 1 mile criterium, 1 hour
With a tropical low just off the Gulf Coast dumping tons and tons of rain in Florida and Alabama and Southern Georgia, it looked like we were in for a very soggy weekend. But as it turns out, only the opening Time Trial and this stage (#4) were rainy. It started to rain about 30 minutes before the start and continued to rain for the whole race. We did the same course as in the morning, but the finish was moved to near the top of the hill. There is something crazy about screaming down a 4 lane highway down a relatively steep hill knowing that at the bottom of the hill awaits a 90 degree turn with lots of paint for crosswalk and turn indicators. The highlight of the race for me was the last MAR prime when I was able to out-maneuver a full Fly-V leadout train and then outsprint Fly-V’s Jonathan Cantwell who was 1 point ahead of me in the MAR competition. Unfortunately, Jonathan got points on an earlier prime and I wasn’t able to get any points on any of the other primes (although I got 4th on two of them). So he had a two point lead going into the last two stages with MAR points. I was a little bit too far back for the finishing sprint but was able to come around a few people for 14th.

Sunday Afternoon (1:15pm) – Stage 5 – 1 mile criterium, 1 hour
I saw my MAR competition hopes fade with the very first MAR prime. I moved into the top 20 coming into a hill before the finish line when the front of the group slowed down. It looked perfect for me carrying a lot of momentum if I could just find a way around the traffic. I went right hoping that something would open up — but nobody moved so I had to take me and my momentum into the gutter where there was a two inch drop that I didn’t feel confident enough to bunny hop back onto the course. So by the top of the hill I not only didn’t place in the prime, I found myself at the very back of the pack. Even though there were a lot of attacks, none of them stuck for more than half a lap. Out of the remaining three MAR primes, I placed 4th on two of them and got 3rd on one of them for 1 point. Jonathan Cantwell extended his lead by winning three out of the four primes. Going into the finish, we were all together and I was in pretty good position, but still a little too far back, so the best I could do was 14th again.

Sunday Evening (7:25pm) – Stage 6 – 1 mile criterium, 1 hour
Oneal Samuel (Myogenesis) had moved just ahead of me into second place in the MAR competition with Cantwell having a commanding lead by this last stage where MAR points were available. When the first MAR prime was called, I was pretty far back in the group but my motivation to do well to secure 3rd in the MAR competition or possibly overtake second helped me move all the way to the front by the last corner. I followed an attack before the last corner and then committed 100% from about 300 meters out, but Cantwell and Oneal were both able to come around me so I only got third for one point. The next prime though went much better as I tried the same tactic. This time it worked perfectly with me getting a gap on the entire field except for one Fly-V rider who I was able to outsprint. For the final prime, I found myself in perfect position behind Cantwell and Oneal for the sprint — but that’s exactly where I stayed taking third in the sprint. I guess I realize that the only way I’m going to win a sprint is to get a headstart by jumping early. It was a perfect end to the MAR competition, though with Cantwell, Oneal, and myself earning points in the exact order that we finished for the overall MAR competition. As far as the final sprint went, it was crazy with nearly everyone together. It was very fast, and I was in good position but not quite aggressive enough to place in the top 10 — finishing just outside in 13th place.

Monday Morning (9:00am) – Stage 7 – 90 mile road race, the queen stage
The 6:30am wakeup call came very early for this stage. A couple hours later, I was ready for the race, which started near Dawsonville, GA — not too far from Dahlonega, where we will be next weekend racing the next Georgia Cycling Gran Prix event. I was thinking that if I was in position for the KOM when we made it there that I would go for it. But a small break rolled off the front early in the race and so I just tried to mark attacks. It was a frustrating race though as I not only missed the initial break but also missed the second chase group that eventually caught and merged with the first. Frustrated with not much else to do, Matt Winstead decided to push the pace. I joined in and helped out a bit and eventually several other independent riders joined in too. Then there was some more attacking — we started to make time on the break, but they had such a huge advantage at this point that it was a lost cause. Eric Murphy (Myogenesis) put in a late race attack and got away solo. When we hit the bottom of the climb, Fly-V set an early quick tempo and then Cantwell attacked. Travieso was able to cover so the pace slowed down again. Still – it was a fast enough pace to drop many of the people that were left in the field. I was in perfect position for the sprint behind guess who — Cantwell and Oneal — and that’s right where I stayed to finish third in the field sprint — 13th in the race.

Here is my heart rate data and analysis:

2009-05-22 Tour of Atlanta Stage I - Westside Time Trial2009-05-22 Tour of Atlanta Stage I – Westside Time Trial (Raining, downpour)

  1. Erroneous reading (raining)
  2. The turnaround
  3. More erroneous readings
  4. The finish

2009-05-22 Tour of Atlanta Stage II - Westside Parkway Crit2009-05-22 Tour of Atlanta Stage II – Westside Parkway Crit

  1. MAR #1 – Lap 1 prime, 2nd place
  2. MAR #2 – 2nd place, already in breakaway
  3. MAR #3 – 3rd place
  4. MAR #4 – 3rd place
  5. The finish

2009-05-23 Tour of Atlanta Stage III - Webb Bridge Crit2009-05-23 Tour of Atlanta Stage III – Webb Bridge Crit

  1. Neutral after bad crash on the first lap. Three riders down and at least one not moving. Ambulances and rescue squads on the course
  2. MAR #1 – 3rd place, my only points for the MAR competition in the race
  3. MAR #2 – 4th place πŸ™
  4. MAR #3 – 4th place πŸ™
  5. MAR #4 – 4th place πŸ™
  6. The finish

2009-05-23 Tour of Atlanta Stage IV - Webb Bridge Crit (Raining, downpour)2009-05-23 Tour of Atlanta Stage IV – Webb Bridge Crit (Raining, downpour)

  1. MAR #1 – 4th on this early MAR prime
  2. MAR #2 – 3rd on this MAR prime
  3. MAR #3 – 4th again πŸ™
  4. MAR #4 – 1st, proudest moment of the race! πŸ™‚
  5. The finish
  6. The point at which the altimeter on my Garmin stopped working because of the rain

2009-05-24 Tour of Atlanta Stage V - Windward CritTour of Atlanta Stage V – Windward Crit

  1. MAR #1 – guttered, couldn’t contest
  2. MAR #2 – 4th, nipped at the line πŸ™
  3. MAR #3 – 4th again πŸ™
  4. MAR #4 – 3rd, nipped at the line for 2nd
  5. The finish

2009-05-24 Tour of Atlanta Stage VI - CritTour of Atlanta Stage VI – Windward Crit

  1. MAR #1 – 3rd place
  2. MAR #2 – 1st place, woohoo! πŸ™‚
  3. MAR #3 – 4th place πŸ™
  4. MAR #4 – 3rd place
  5. The finish

2009-05-25 Tour of Atlanta Stage VII - Epic Road RaceTour of Atlanta Stage VII – Epic Road Race

  1. Neutral roll out – extremely low heart rate, which persisted throughout the entire race. I never even made it into Zone 5 for the finishing climb and sprint.
  2. KOM #1 – end of the first lap, I sprinted for some of the minor points only to find out later that only the first 3 places were scored
  3. KOM #2 – no sprint for me this time, but the pace was fast with somebody attacking halfway up the climb establishing a split in the field — the field mostly came back together
  4. KOM #3 – I led the entire way up this climb during one of the sections where I was helping to chase the break and keep our tempo higher. I tried to maintain a pace that was fast enough to discourage attacks, but slow enough that I still had a little something left in case there was an attack.
  5. The finishing climb and sprint. The pace eased a bit — I am second guessing a bit wondering if I should have attacked the sprinters — not confident enough to think I could drop them on that short of a climb, though


2 responses to “Tour of Atlanta – Memorial Day Weekend”

  1. Kristine Avatar

    A great weekend of racing! Everywhere we turned, people were commenting on how strong you’re riding. Way to go!

  2. Kristine Avatar

    A great weekend of racing! Everywhere we turned, people were commenting on how strong you’re riding. Way to go!

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