Friday, May 30, 2008

Snakes, Speedbumps, Snowfencing

I'm starting to find that the best place for me to update this blog is when I'm on the road. When I'm home there's always something going on that distracts me from finishing a post. I've raced mostly non-stop since the Joe Martin Stage Race. And Then Tour of Arkansas, And Then all the Quad Cities races over Memorial Day weekend. And Then the Tulsa Tough Races.

Snake Alley Criterium

For all the times I've done this race, it's always been epic. Of the 100 or so starters, everyone has a story to tell of something that happened to them and only them. For anyone who has never been there, click here.

The hard part is the uphill, but the fun/ scary part is the downhill. Downtown roads, 3 off camber corners, and if you do it right, 38-42mph. I found myself at the back of the front group 0f 35-40 early in the race. From there, you can see and experience the carnage. This large group basically exploded. Guys ride up the snake, only to pull off the course and puke or hang on their handlebars in defeat. Others drop chains, blow tires, or just blow up.

The beginning 15 laps were spent just riding hard and positioning myself to do well. Get in a group, jump to the next group. Ride so hard you're cross eyed. Rest on the downhill. Repeat.

With about 4-5 laps to go, Myself, Shadd, and Derek are in a small group sprinting for 9th place. I've always dreamed of a Top 10 placing in this race for myself, but results for the team are equally important. With 3 laps to go, Shadd takes a flyer as I keep the rest of our group from giving chase. Nearly works, but alas, Sean Bradley (Current US Amateur Road Champion) nails back the move and we're left to "field sprint" for 9th. In a group like this, with the team mates I have I decided to lead out the sprint starting on the Snake. Ride up it hard, bomb the downhill and hit it full gas until Shadd or Derek come around. It works and Derek ends up finishing 9th myself 15th and Shadd 16th. Not bad. A little bittersweet for me, but not bad for the team.

Melon City Criterium:
Uphill, hairpin, straight, turn, downhill, Speedbump, Uphill. That's pretty much how the whole race went. We didn't go that fast and everyone was still falling apart in the heat. I can't wait until Tulsa (I'm here now but play along). I was in one good move of 12 with Steve and Shadd making us with 3 of 12 which is great odds for us. But that one didn't work, mostly because of my apparent hearing problem. In the end I started flailing with about 3 laps to go. I just couldn't get up the hill. I thought: Is my wheel out of true, are my tires flat, are my brakes on? Nope. I was just sucking. Maybe it's just the racing the last few weeks. Maybe I just sucked. Both are entirely possible.

Rock Island Criterium: (Adam 4- Rock Island 5)
I've started this race 9 times and have crashed out of it 5 times, with 2 hospital visits. Needless to say, this isn't really one of my favorite races.

I started in the back, again. I kind of like starting in the back now. It makes you move up and it's not really that hard to do so why not?

I covered a few moves, but wasn't really in position very often. I'm not really sure why. Maybe I'm a bit gun shy, maybe it was an off day. I never really was gassed, just not really in the moment. In the end, when it got dicey, I made the decision that I just wanted to finish the race and that's exactly what I did. Drift to the back and ride in. It's strange. I was happy to finish and not fall down, again. But on the other hand, I shouldn't be happy to just finish. Maybe next year, I can make it to the 50% mark. Here's some footage of the sprint:
The Finish.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Raccoon Eyes and an Airline Pilot

Tuesday afternoon I get a phone call from the one and only Bill Marshall. The Mercy Elite Cycling Team was a rider short and I was on the short list of guys who might be able to fill in. All I had to do was get to KC and jump in the car on Wednesday evening. 24 hours later I was in the Honda and heading back to Arkansas to do another 4 day stage race: The Tour of Arkansas. This time on a different team. This would make 8 days of racing out of 11. Time to get “fit.”

The Team, and Crew.

Me chilling out before stage 1. Note the TEAM VAN!

Bill Marshall everyone, Bill Marshall.

Stephan Rothe, Alex Welch, Bill Marshall, Kolt Bates (Devo rider who earned his stripes this week- if you ask me), David Sojo (The Spaniard) with a guest appearance by Adam Mills.

The Mercy Devo Squad was represented by: Scott Barnes, Justin Jackson, Brooks Branhan.

Brice Jones (Team Director), Rob Engels (soigner- sp?), Catherine Walker (not sure what designation she gets, but this girl kicks ASS!).

For anyone who has never had a Team Director on a radio in a race, it's a definite luxury. Someone to call out the turns, tell you time splits, etc. Brice is one of the best I've ever had the luxury to work with. And on the radio he's never anxious or irritated. In fact he sounds like an airline pilot! The first time I heard him, I thought, "should I fasten my seatbelt? What's our cruising altitude?"

Stage One. Saw- teeth and Tricycles.

10, 592 feet of climbing over 110 miles in the Boston Mountains. We rode through the Ozark National Forrest. The only flat parts of the race were the first 14 miles of Neutral and the last 6 miles of run in to the finish. Everything else was….. up or down. But mostly up.

Mile 0.50. Bill Marshall has a mechanical which requires him to change bikes. The neutral support gives him a bike that’s a size or two too small, with a seat that’s too low. Basically, he felt like he was riding a Big Wheel.

However, it was better than the alternative, which was to go sit in the car for 4 days. Just a reminder that your bike is the best bike you can ride, because it’s yours.

Back to the race. There were three big climbs that could split the peloton, then it rolled, and rolled and rolled. Side note: Rollers in the Boston Mountains are anything under 2k long. If they’re steep, they get a different name. I made it up the first two climbs okay. Usually, I’d be on the back of the front group. Good timing and good tactics to start in the front and end in the back of the front group. On the third climb, I wasn’t as far in the front as I would have liked, and by the top, I was about 10-15 seconds off the pace with 6 other guys. We chased for a while but couldn’t quite close the gap. More guys came up from behind and then there I was, in the second group.

The second group grew to about 60 guys or so and everyone was yelling for each other to pull. I worked for a while to try and minimize the “damage” before stopping. Who was up the road? Two Mercy guys, Stephan and Alex along with the strongest 29 guys in the race. We weren’t going to catch them unless everyone cooperated. So, I sat in and finished 10 minutes back of the front group.

Warning: Soap Box Moment.

Almost Guy

I’m getting a little sick of being the “Almost” guy. I guess it’s my calling in life. I almost got a top 10 finish at Lago Vista RR in Texas, almost got 2nd by winning the sprint in the second group in Hell’s Kitchen, almost made the break in Flint Ridge, almost made a break stick in Joe Martin and almost made the break in the Joe Martin criterium. Oh, and let’s not even talk about all the crap in the “real world” which ultimately is probably more important than bike racing. Almost. I’m getting a little sick of it. I’m stepping off my soapbox now.


I told the men about the Mexican’t food I endured last week and everyone agreed that I should rectify the situation. La Huerta.

The outdoor facade.

The Front Door:

The Menu:

The MexiCAN food!

Day Two: Huff and puff and get the hell up Nebo.

Discussing the strategy for the day:

Again, note the TEAM VAN!

The day started out with another neutral roll out. I’m becoming a fan of these as they give you a chance to spin out the legs a bit. Brice wanted some of us to look for the early breaks since we had a bit of a leash. Okay, we had a really long leash. Look for the early break I did. Something about being in a move with the fastest guys in the country makes me say, “Momma, I’m goin’ fast!”

But alas, we missed a nine man move. CRAP! The result, Kolt, myself and Matt were called to the front to chase with the Toshiba team to chase back the move. I hate chasing and I promised myself that once this move came back, I wasn’t going to let this team get in that situation anymore. The next 7 moves I was in. Oh, and it hurt. But I figured it was better to waste one guy than to spend 3 to chase. It worked and we hit Nebo Groupo Compacto- which I guess means everyone together.

Myself, Kolt and Matt were there to get Stephan and Alex to the base of the Mt. Nebo in the front. And that's just what we did; Kept them sheltered and out of the wind so they could go up Nebo "fresh." For anyone who hasn't ridden Nebo, it's 20% for 2.5 miles or something ridiculous. I'm not even really sure how they get asphalt to stick to the hill. But it's steep. I had the pleasure of riding with the one and only Brad Huff all the way up the hill. That's the one way to make a very unpleasant tolerable. I'm not really sure why some guys decided to race the hill flat out. No one was putting 10 minutes on the front 30 guys and the race only pays 20 deep. There's really no difference between 31st place and 64th place (which is where I was!).

Ben Dover! Seriously?

Ahh, Arkansas....

Day Three: Mount Magazine.

Yet another mountain top finish. With the stage being mostly flat with just a few "stingers," as Brice calls them, in the beginning. It's amazing. Brice is calmly talking us through the "stingers" as I'm slogging my way up them at 25mph! WTF? I'm not warmed up, breathing through my eyeballs and here's that calm pilot voice, "just about 300m more and then you're going downhill for about 4 more miles." Or it says, "on left you'll see a PT Cruiser, with flames."

With Alex in an early break, far off the front, the rest of the team put themselves to the task of keeping Stephan out of the wind and relatively stress free for the entire stage. This meant that we spent all day, in the wind and in formation while Team Type 1 put everyone in the gutter for 85 miles. At the bottom of the mountain, we hand the baton to Stephan to do his thing. At the end of the day, David finished 0:40 behind the leader and Stephan was a bit off the pace. I was thankful that the day was over.

Stage 4: Van Buren Criterium.

HARD! FAST! I got a bit complacent and was "satisfied" with my spot in 50th place or so. I should have concentrated on moving up, but I didn't. In the end, I got shelled about 45 minutes into the thing, which is probably where I deserved to be. It was a pretty novice mistake to make and I have no idea why I did it other than, brain fart.

Now, I'm home for a few days until Memorial Day. Then, ROAD TRIP!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Joe Martin Stage Race and Mexican’t

For the next few weeks, starting the weekend of May 10th I’m going to be on the road lots. Lots. It’s weird because when I’m home, it’s a mad panic to get ready to go race again. Then when I’m on the road, it’s relaxing. As far as stress goes, racing is much easier than being a job holding home owner. The next weeks including last week: Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of Arkansas, Quad Cities (or TX racing), Tulsa Tough, Tour of Winghaven, REST WEEK, Nature Valley Stage Race. I guess I’ll be “fit” then…. Or totally nuked for the remainder of 2008. Okay, HERE WE GO!

Team Car and Gas Mileage. We put the roof rack on the Saab for this trip. 4 bikes, 3 wheels and 4 riders all crammed in the car. It was a true, "Team Car." But the gas mileage is crap. 33 normally. 20 with all the crap on top.

Joe Martin Stage Race?

For anyone that hasn’t done this race. The Men 1,2 race is much more fun than the Pro, 1 race. The Pros are just that, Pros and the races are way too controlled for my liking. The guys have it down to a science. Effectively, they eliminate the road stages and make the race a 2.5 mile uphill Time Trial, with a super hard criterium to finish the General Classification on Sunday. The road stages aren’t hard enough to break the Pro field up and thus they are destined to be field sprints (aka: boring until the last 12 miles). Oh well, I’m not in that one!

I’m in the 1,2 race! It’s totally a free for all. No team is really strong enough to control the race and the premium is placed on your ability to race.

First thing is first. Never, ever, ever, ever travel to Arkansas without having your camera at the ready at all times. Ever. AR is just too entertaining to forget a camera. I saw it all…..

For starters, our Hotel. Really nice hotel. Really new hotel. I mean, new. We unwrapped the sheets from plastic wrap when we got them. And, there was only about 5 cars outside each night. Perhaps NW Arkansas has overbuilt just a bit....

Don't forget about the typical AR stuff. Pick up truck with 7 kids in the bed. I seriously saw it. Seriously.

The squad: Bill, Nick, Adam, Joe. Some call it the B Squad. Screw you guys. We rock our faces off!

Uphill TT:

It seems that no matter how light you are and how light your bike is, everything is too heavy in an uphill TT. Blah. Did I mention that I hate TT’s? Well, I do. Results: Nick- top 10, Joe- top 13, Bill- Top 20, Adam- 33rd or something. Not great, but not bad. It seems that Nick and Joe’s times were a bit surprising to everyone except the team. I knew they could do it. Good ride men.

Stage 2: 110 miles, Mount Gaylor.

By and large this stage was hard, but not ludicrous. Ian, from Nebraska, got away with 30 miles to go and ended up winning by 45 seconds. Solo. Awesome ride. I was in a break from mile 92- 109.76. We got caught about 3 blocks from the finish line. Too bad we had to go uphill to the finish. I lost about a minute and was totally blown. But I gave it a try. If there would have been a “Team Classification” we would have won it on this day. HRRC was the only team with a full contingent of riders.

Stage 3: 95 miles, Hilly.

This one ended up being a Field Sprint with one Lone Star off the front winning by 15 seconds. Carlos Vargas is indeed back in form with his 20 mile solo effort at the end of the race.

Mexican’t Food!


The following is an algorithm for choosing a Mexican Restaurant when you’re staying at a hotel in a strange city. And also how we violate all those rules. It’s a wonder no one died.

1. Under no circumstances will the hotel restaurant be good. Never have I eaten in the hotel and been satisfied. Don’t even consider eating the Mexican food at a hotel. EVER.

2. ALL Mexican restaurants must have some sort of Latin or Spanish name. If not, don’t even walk in the door. Glasgow’s” does not count. But we went in anyway.

3. It’s preferred that the motif of the establishment be updated. Not necessary, but it does inspire confidence. “remodeled” 1960’s motif ain’t cuttin it.

4. Mexican restaurants have latino employees. Not Old Fat Ladys. If no one speaks Spanish, walk out the door. Glasgow’s= Old Fat Ladys.

5. The menu will be all Mexican food with a hint of American for all the lame- O’s who are too scared to eat some good food. Glasgow’s= 1 page “Mexican,” 5 pages other crap.

6. Mexican restaurants DO serve margaritas. If you can’t buy a Margarita then you’re not at a Mexican place. Hell, at least beer! Glasgows= no liquor on the menu.

So, there I was…. Eating Chips and canned salsa waiting for our “Mexican” food. What came out was, amazing. Never have I seen a bunch of Mexican food that was so tasteless, so bad, so lame. Basically, all it did was give me a stomach ache and gas. Our team, affectionately called the food, Mexican’t Food. It was…. Horrible.


It was unanimous that we needed some good desert after that experience so we headed over to the local Braums. Now, I’m not really sure just what in the devil the interior designer was thinking because it was a new store but when you walk in; BAM! You’re in 1986 hanging out with Doc Brown and Marty McFly. Seriously! The pictures, the styles, the product. Just everything. It was weird.

But the best part was the bathroom! Who would have ever thought of making the exterior walls of a bathroom out of windows? Ahh, Arkansas! Sure, they were tinted, but were they THAT tinted?

I wish I would have had a camera. Priceless.

Stage 4: Criterium. Really freaking hard criterium.

I’ve done this stage a few times and never once finished it. I guess I’ve just needed a few years to hone my criterium skills. This race is HARD! You’re either screaming through an off camber corner, sprinting on the flats, or sprinting up a hill. Ouch.

The first split happens nearly immediately and Bill and Nick are in front of it. I’m getting ready to ride across the gap when I hear, “Joe’s behind the split” on the radio. Bad news for the Away team. I drift back for Joe, then make a stellar move to leap- frog him across the gap. He gets there and I thought it was over, but it’s not. The back part of the split suddenly motivate and pull it all back together.

Next is a few really hard moves consecutively that Bill covered. Three hard moves and Bill covers them all. This course is difficult to the point where it’s almost too easy to overextend yourself and covering three moves will do that. The way this criterium works is that you’re either “on” you you’re dropped. Bill was “on.” For sure! He covered three serious moves in a row. Then was blown as fourth attack came and he went out the back. I consider that my fault as much as anyone’s. If I could have been in position to cover any of those moves, then Bill could have sat in and not blown.

In the end, a group of 8 got away and we were riding for 9th place and to not lose too much time. We protected the position of Nick and Joe. Both got some upgrade points and I got into the top 20… barely.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The McFlurry Incident, Part Trios

Dinner at the Mexican place, Saturday night. All I have to say about this is that the place had great food, which was odd because the building had a gaudy amount of neon signs. But it did meet all the requirements of a Mexican restaurant and passed all the levels of defense against crappy Mexican (I'm alluding here but you'll have to read the next post to understand, mu-hahahahah).

Iowa City, Old Capital Criterium April 27

This would be the main event of the weekend. $2500. Fast and furious. I admit, I spent the first 4 laps or so remembering how to turn a corner fast. Bill was on fire. Racing how you race a criterium by covering moves and not drifting too far back. But the attacks keep coming. We try to cover everything, and go for some primes.

Speaking of primes. Why would you offer a prime of a gift certificate that expires that day, to a store that closed before the race ended? How does that work?

Moving along with the race.....

The race can be broken down into a few defining moments.
#1. I had to relearn how to go around corners fast. That took 3-4 laps. Got it.
#2. Primes. I already ranted a bit earlier. But is what makes it even better is this: At the P,1,2 level the riders will listen to the announcer and learn what the prime is, then decide if it's worth sprinting for. The basic rules: >$20= usually, >$50= yup, merchandise= depends on what it is, schwag= usually no- there's a reason it's not called "product," gift certificates= Never- when are we going to go shopping in the town?
#3. The moves. Again, Bill was on fire. He covered more than his fair share of moves. The nuances of criteriums are countless, but it's important to stay, "in play." Bill nearly always does that. The rest of us didn't and the result...
#4. The move. Two guys away, Dierking rides up to them and like a flash, they were gone. Now we're racing for 4th.
#5. Last Lap. Two guys drifted off the front and nearly caught them. But alas. It didn't happen. Shadd placed 7th, everyone got in the paying places and I scored a 16th despite throwing my chain off through the last corner.

Not the best, but not the worst either.

Finally. Drumroll please...

The McFlurry Incident

I should start this at the beginning. First. We finished the Old Capital City Criterium and tried to use our expiring that day gift certificates. The outdoor store, closed. But the restaurant was open so we ate some food. Not really the best food, but we had to use the gift certificate right?

On the way home we made a decision that we would stop and eat ice cream at the first DQ we came across. Sounds simple right? NO!!! Traveler beware. If you are traveling from Iowa City to Kansas City, there is not one single Dairy Queen "just off" the highway until you get to mile marker 92 in Missouri. Not a single one. I know, I know you don't believe me do you? Well....... Click HERE!

So, there we were..... it was getting late and STILL no DQ to be found. Gawd! What to do? Okay, McDonald's. Crap. It's not the same, but we can get a McFlurry or something right?

Well, it's not so easy.....

Shadd and Joe walk up to the McDonalds counter and order a McFlurry. Now the picture is important so use the link. Got it?

Mind you, Shadd is about ready to eat a baby and Joe is craving ice cream.

Joe: I'd like a regular McFlurry.
McD manager: We don't have those.
Shadd: ExCUSE me? What do you mean you don't have those?

At the time, there were about 3 employees making McFlurrys behind the nerdy McD's manager, and they were ALL making McFlurrys!

McD: Yes, sir. We do not have the ability to make McFlurys today.
Shadd: What the hell are those guys making behind you?!
McD: Sir, those are not McFlurys.
Shadd: What the hell are you..
Joe: I would like to order a regular sized chocolate McFlury.
McD: yes sir, coming right up.
Shadd: I would also like a large, chocolate McFlury.
McD: Yes sir, coming right up!

The guy makes a Chocolate McFlury for Joe and Shadd. The only thing is that I'm not so sure he ever realized you could make a McFlury with chocolate. His one track mind was stuck on vanilla ice cream.

Then Bill and I walk up to the counter. Shadd's got this cheesy grin on his face as he says, "you guys are in for a treat." Bill and I think Shadd's out of his mind.

Anyways, Shadd goes to Men's room, Joe stays to watch the comedy and Bill orders. Mind you, Bill and I are completely unaware of what transpired just a few moments before.

Bill: I'd like a Chocolate McFlury. (Bill blindly ordered the proper way for this joker to underdstand).
McD: Yes sir. I'll get right away.

Joe is bummed. Not what he expected.

Adam: I'll have a regular McFlury.
McD: Sir, we don't have those today.

WHAT THE FUCK!? I have three team mates with McFlurys in their hands and this yahoo tells me that I can't have one. I don't understand. Joe leaves. He's laughing so hard, he can't fake it anymore. He runs into the Men's room and tells Shadd. I can sort of hear laughing from the bathroom. Turns out Shadd is laughing so hard he's pissing all over the walls.

Adam: I'll have a chocolate McFlury.

So there you have it. Proabably the most asinine McDonalds episode I've ever been part of.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The McFlurry Incident, Part Duex

I know, I know. I've gotten some, "where the hell is the rest of the story?" questions. For all ya'll...

Okay, here WE GO!

Iowa City RR

The Road Race is a bit south and west of Iowa City. The race flyer directions say to take I-80 into Iowa City and back track on IA-1 or something of the sort. However, our New Plan had us heeding the rules of the road. Oh yeah, that also meant that we were, indeed, running late. Luckily though the New Plan only was in place for the interstate highways. It has yet to be rolled out for the back roads. Which meant...... The Old Plan.

Yes, once we got off the highway, we were indeed back to hauling ass! Woo Hoo! So we take a couple hot routes through some corners, hit the gas a few times and made up some time in the Team Car. Pull into the race, 46 minutes to sign in, assemble bikes, dress and line up. Ready, GO!

Wind. It was windy! I don't mean Kansas wind. Note: Kansas operates by the BWF (Base Wind Factor- Ben Coles). This implies that 10mph sustained winds are the "Base Wind" for KS. So... a "wind" of 8mph actually is equivalent to 18mph sustained winds for anyone not of Midwest origin. Now that we've had the background...

The winds were sustained 25-30mph in KS terms (yeah, get your Math on!). So, that means, as Shadd puts it, "This wind is so strong, by the time we're done racing there won't be any paint left on our bikes." HA! I didn't think he was serious, but he was.......

Okay, take note: We actually had a team meeting! The idea was simple: stay out of the wind and use each other to do it. I guess this race started at warp speed last year with a crazy cross wind blowing into the gutter. There's nothing quite like getting gutter ridden at the word "Go!" right after getting out of the car after driving for 4.5 hours. Nope. Nothing quite like it. We decided that the same thing was going to happen today and that we needed to find each other, set up our own echelon and rotate to protect each other.

Right as the gun fired... yup. In the gutter. I was about 15 guys back, Bill about 3 guys in front of me, Shadd about 5 guys in front of him. EVERYONE was in the gutter. Beautiful. Oh, wait. I mean, Blah. I ride up to Bill, there's two. Then we make our way to Shadd, three. We start rotating as a second echelon. It wasn't really easy, but it did make the initial cross wind much, much easier. Nick and Joe made their way up to us after a couple of minutes. Five. Four guys rotating and Joe acting as Gatekeeper preventing anyone from getting in the rotation and fouling it up.

We turn. Tailwind. Whew, man that part sucked! But now we're on the tailwind section. I had an 11 tooth cassette so that's good for about 40mph. But Joe is on Jr. gears (100" maximum). And a 53x 11= 133". That means that While I'm cruising, Joe is spinning like these guys. But Spinning does keep you young.

Turn, crosswind. Short 300m. Turn, headwind. Holy crap. It was so windy! The P, 1,2 field was doing about 12-13 mph with many riders in their little rings. Can you imagine? Finish line, turn, crosswind again.

Bill got himself in a small group of 5 that rode about 20 miles off the front at the beginning of the second lap. They were caught in the tailwind section by a stellar, 43mph sustained effort by one guy. Impressive. But Bill is harder to keep a reign on than that. Like a cannon, BOOM! There goes Bill again. This time without the help of anyone else. Great move. Bill was caught with about 10k to go in the race. The solo move didn't really work, but it did get many people's attention.

In the end, the race was a field sprint into the wind. Crazy hard, like riding into a hurricane wind. Nick free-lanced the sprint to a 6th place. Excellent job! I set up the lead out allowing everyone to cue up on me. Joe took the first lead out and Bill followed. BUT... Shadd was put into the wind way, way too early and got passed by two guys in the last 10m.

Shadd did a hell of a job legging out the sprint, but in the end, a 3rd place for the day. Not bad.