Thursday, June 26, 2008

Austin: Thursday Night training race?

I'm BACK! Yes, was down and out. But now, like a phoenix rising out of its own ashes....

I flew into Austin on Wednesday night and stayed at the same house as in February. As always, Maureen was the coolest host anyone could ever ask for! My reasons for flying out so early was to reconnect with some friends and to race on the Driveway in Austin's very own Thursday night training race put on by Barry Lee and Team Hotel San Jose.

Training races are usually just that. Training. You may or may not pin on a number and usually you ride around in a race type setting with only glory and bragging rights as the prize for first place. At least that's the way it is in KC, where we pay $10 a pop/ $60 for the summer to race a non- USCF sanctioned event (without USCF rider insurance), on a course open to cars (but there are corner marshals), without any kind of prize money.

I met up with Stefan Rothe and Bill Marshall in downtown Austin and we rode the 10 miles to the race. As always, the weather in Austin in the summer is hot, hot, hot and this was no different (100F). We roll up to the race and what I see is definitely far beyond my expectations.

For starters, there's about a thousand people at the "training race." Racers, spectators, vendors. Oh yeah, there's vendors too! Beer, burgers, brats, beer, and Gatorade. Not only that, but we had an announcer, PA system, officials, the works! That night Barry found some cash primes and a bit of prize money for the top 3 (I think). We did the long course, which was probably good considering there were about 75 riders in the "Open" race; which included a few Women Pros, and a few Pro Men also. I found some footage from a Driveway Race here. It's not the race I did, but it gives you and idea of how cool it was.

I was pipped on the line 3x for cash primes, which really is a bit embarrassing. However, I did manage to ride up to the break with Bill Marshal at one point. However, I thought to myself, "I really want to get a prime tonight and they won't be called for the break." So I went back to the field. It was hard, but not too hard in the break, I just didn't want to work that hard. Big mistake as Doug Looney really let me have it from the heckling standpoint. Well, played Doug. When it was time for the field sprint, I did the first lead out for Barry, with Rashaan Bahati finishing it off as Bill Marshall swept Barry's wheel. By the time Barry came around, there was no one left for him to sprint!

We sat around for a while drinking some ice cold beer which, after a race, is fantastic! By the time we got done hob knobbing with the locals, it was basically dark. What followed was probably one of the most fun rides I've ever done. Stefan, Bill and I rode home, through the heart of Austin, with only the street lights to guide us. I've forgotten how much fun it is to ride at night! I wouldn't really recommend it as a good idea though. Most riders don't understand how traffic works, and how traffic can't see a bike at night, well enough to avoid crashes, injury and death. So on that note, don't ride at night, eh.

Maureen and I had some wine with some friends immediately after the race. Good place, fun people, no idea what the place was called now. But the food there wasn't so much on the list of, "good after bike race food" so we went on to the Rio Grande restaurant. This is the sponsor of the self named cycling team and the food is great! But for a real treat, try the Margaritas!

Both the photos above are by Dave McLaughlin.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Illness. What a "good" time to take a mid-season break.

In hind sight, I probably had this coming for some time....

It seems that the better you ride, the more prone you are to illness. My only examples are all anecdotal, but the theory seems to be right on. I probably got ill last Sunday the 14th. I had just "finished" the NVGP and came home early to do the Sunday ride in Lawrence. The ride was hard and I made it a point to do more than my fair share of the work, which wiped me out for the day. That's a bit unusual for me, but whatever. For the entire next week, I basically slid downhill the entire time. I thought I was riding myself into a funk, but I guess I was... Wait! I was right! I AM in a funk. It's just not a performance funk. Ha!

Okay, so what's the verdict? Basically, I've been running a bit of a fever since Monday afternoon with lots of drainage that turned into a soul wrenching cough. My sides, abs, back and shoulders are all sore from coughing so much. Ouch! The Dr. has me on: Z-Pack, Zycam, Emergen- C, Mucinex/ Pseudoephederine, and Theraflu cough syrup. He initially gave me Loritab, but I've had bad experiences with those before. Tilley was there in Nebraska, right Jen?

So basically I've been on the couch so sick I couldn't even concentrate long enough to watch a 3o minute show on the TV. Blah. It's amazing how much I take an athlete's energy for granted. In the past, it's not that I "can't" do something such as mow the lawn, clean house, walk the dog, etc. It's more that I wasn't motivated enough to do it. I had the energy, I just didn't want to spend it. As it stands right now, I simply can't do any of that stuff. I've no energy for anything besides sleeping on the couch, futon, or bed. I definitely have an appreciation for those with any sort of health problem which saps energy.

On that note, I've got about 3- 4 posts in mind/ in progress about my week in Austin. I just need to muster up the energy to finish them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nature Valley Wrap Up....

When last we left Adam he had completed a 15.05 10k Time Trial with the final 1k at a 15% grade. “Good enough to beat the time cut” I thought. Well, that wasn’t so much the case. Ben Jacques- Maynes rode a 12.32 and with the 20% time cut I needed a 15.02 to stay in the race. Obviously, there’s a numbers problem there. Josh Crow, Team Director, made a trip down to the officials stand and pleaded our case (we didn’t really have a case), but to no avail. At the end of the day, myself, Steve Tilford, and Nick Coil were not good enough to make the time cut and thus our 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix campaign is finished.

Time Trial thoughts. Historically, the time trial hasn’t had much impact on the overall G.C. of NVGP. This time is no different. There is too much time lost by too many people on the road stages and in the Stillwater Criterium (final stage on Sunday) for the TT to matter much. However, the TT does set up the primary protagonists for the fireworks that will come. But again, my problem was that I just couldn’t go fast enough.

I’ve never really been a fan of the TT. I don’t really consider it a legitimate bike race. Cycling, to me, is a craft. It’s a skill that needs to be honed and refined. It’s like poker in a way. Once you get good enough at it, the cards only matter to a degree (watch Rounders) after which you are just playing your opponents. The same holds true with cycling. The real beauty comes when you’re not racing the course anymore, but when you are racing the riders. It’s rider vs. rider and the moves are made because they have to be made not because the corner is coming, or whatever.

I made the decision to neglect any and all TT equipment assuming that I was gong to be fine in the TT. That’s was my downfall. I guess the TT bike is becoming a necessity. I figure even a disk wheel would have been 30 seconds faster and there it is. I’m in. That’s my own fault and I had to face the Team and the Team Director as I was Time Cut.

The racing here was a bit stressful. I think everyone was nervous, which is strange for professional bike racers. I can’t tell you how many crashes I saw on that first road stage. For that reason, I’m not too upset that I wasn’t racing. But I am upset that I wasn’t racing on Friday night. This overwhelming feeling of inadequacy rolled over me and it’s not a comfortable feeling. I’ve never ever come close to missing a time cut in my life and I don’t intend to repeat this “performance.”

Downtown Minneapolis Criterium.

Of all the races in the NVGP, this is the one that I wanted to do the most. Fast, technical and fun. It was on Nicollete Mall which has numerous outdoor shops, pubs, etc. I basically sat and drank beer at Brits all evening and watched. And watched. And watched. The crowd was crazy! 5- 8 deep everywhere yelling, screaming, spilling beer, leaning over the railings and absolutely phenomenal. I wish I would have ridden 3 seconds faster in that TT.

Mankato Road Race.

Today was hot and windy. Great weather for a bike race! From the accounts I heard, the field would blow apart, come back together, repeat. When they entered the circuits there were two groups of 60 guys. We had Bill and Chris in the front group and as the group unraveled, they managed to each get good places among the best riders in the country. These guys are indeed the heroes of the team.

Meanwhile, Steve, Nick and I went on our own ride. 30 miles, easy and lots of chatter. Sometimes that’s the best thing for a weary bike racer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NVGP Stages 2 and 3

Cannon Falls Road Race.
Nothing got away, no wind, not hard. Basically it was a free ride until I flatted about 1k from the gravel section leading into the circuits. Crap. Finished a few minutes down, and with the TT I may very well be battling for the DFL jersey.

I hate TT's for anyone that doesn't know me. I have no idea how fast I rode but I'm only hoping to make the time cut. I hope Rory Sutherland rode, "slow" this morning.

In the meantime, this is where the sleep deprivation begins. 1030am TT, 745pm Criterium tonight, 11am Road Race tomorrow morning and 1pm Criterium Sunday. Gotta love it!

At some point I'll give my take on Minneapolis. When I get a chance.


Holy crap! Never in my life have I had anyone go to these lengths to say such marvelous things about me. Thanks a bunch, Ben.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nature Valley Grand Prix, Stage 1

Saint Paul Crit: Men

Due to negative weather events, the St. Paul Criterium stage was neutralized and will not be included as an official stage in the race. No sprint points, king of the mountain points or time bonuses will be awarded. The Cannon Falls Road Race will be treated as stage one of the Nature Valley Grand Prix for 2008.

I'm not really sure what the deal is here, but I can sure speculate.....

Basically, the circuit was very short, the field is very big and when you stretch it out to single file, it probably takes about 90 seconds from tip to tail. This means that the front guy is nearly lapping the last guy and everyone is still connected. As the race started to shatter the officials lost track of who was where. Basically, any results that were posted would have been wrong. If accurate results can't be posted, then what's the point? Result: Cancel the stage! So, tomorrow is the REAL Stage 1.

Steve Tilford will probably post a more vivid account of the Non-Stage. He saw much more than I did of this race.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hair Dryer

Road trip! Once again, I’m throwing my bike, and race bag (which hasn’t really been unpacked since April) into the team van and away we go. The destination, St. Louis. We decided that because there was such good prize money and Cathy Walburg was racing early, that going Saturday night was the best option. This way we wouldn’t be driving so early we see everyone getting home from the bars. I had a bit of a long night Friday, and an early Saturday. Couple that with leaving kind of late, and I was pretty tired when I got into the car. Needless to say, I was excited to get to the hotel and go straight to sleep.

Steve Tilford has been on a mission lately to get the best hotel possible for the least amount of money. This one was a Marriot in some business park in Chesterfield and it was outstanding! Marble floors, revolving front door, valet parking, bell hop and that’s just the lobby. AND the room was incredible too! But, I don’t really remember much about the room other than the upgraded linens. Just a bit of advice, always get the upgraded linens. The pillows were labeled “soft” and “firm,” and there was a throw. I guess that’s some sort of blanket that’s not long enough to be functional, but it does look pretty. I would say that was probably one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever been in. The way, Priceline. The cost $46. Retail, $179.

The following I can not condone in any way shape or form. Especially being the upstanding citizen I am. However, it would be a good story to tell if it were to ever come to fruition. AND I think that only a bike racer is savvy enough to pull off this maneuver because it would take a combination of movie watching, quick talking, self confidence, and a bit of panache. I’m giving away a great idea here, so if any of you do this please send me an account of the story with any pics and I’ll post it here…

With all these nice hotels we stay at, there’s bound to be a wedding reception, or two going on. Right? So, for all you single guys, or girls throw a “dressy” outfit into the race bag “just in case.” Can you say, “Wedding Crashers.” Sure, you probably won’t race so well the next day. But………

Tour de Winghaven

Myself, Steve, Bill, Nick, Chris, Joe, Jay, Shadd represented the team. Also, this was the first time we had our Team Director, Josh Crow on the radio.

The race was, hot, hot, hot today. The thermometer read 94 degrees just prior to the race. Windy too... sort of like riding into a hair dryer. Good for me! I have a history with this race. The first year it was hot and windy and I managed a 5th place in the winning break. The second year, I was in a late race maneuver that almost worked and finished in the field sprint. This year, who knew…..

This race started out slow, nearly backwards even. Everyone was very lethargic. I’m thinking everyone was just hot. This means that all the attacks were short, but very hard. If you didn’t get any kind of gap immediately, you couldn’t really keep the throttle open without melting yourself. There were probably a few dozens attacks and the team did a pretty good job of covering the moves until……

Carlos was the first to break the peloton. He was quickly joined by Alex Welch and the current US Crit Champion, Halloway. This move had a chance, but at only 15 miles into the race I didn’t think it could work. Then Alex Boyd and Jeff Schroetlin (sp) left the field, right beside me and rode up to the move. It wasn’t easy by any means when it happened but it wasn’t really ridiculous. I was right there and I could have just slid over and been on Jeff’s wheel as they went across to The Move.

But I didn’t. I decided that the move was doomed. I thought, “it’s only 18-20 miles into the 70 mile race, it’s hot, this move won’t work, it would be a really hard move to make and really hard to be in, I’m not really sure I can stay in that move.” Basically, I made a wrong decision and a bad read on the field. I’m almost positive I could have gotten in the move, but honestly, those guys were the best in the race and I would have been hard pressed to stay in the move.

Then, Chad Cagle came flying past me and rode right up to the move like he was on a motorcycle! Chad is riding crazy fast right now, like he’s on a mission after getting screwed over by a bunch of a-hole Toyota guys. So, that was it. 1-6 gone. Josh recognized this and pleaded for the team to go to the front and reign this dangerous move in. However, as hot as it was, no one had any ability to organize and no one could manage any sort of repeated effort. We were on the “one and done” plan. Surge once, and you need 5 minutes to recover.

The next lap the field started to unravel again. I looked up and saw, Jeff Hartman, Clark Priebe (who had already raced the Master’s Race), one guy I didn’t know, and Barry Lee from Team Hotel San Jose. I jumped across the gap, Dewey Dickey joined us and that was it. 7-12 place. One problem, we had a loooong way to race still. This is when it starts to get ugly.

Everyone now has their own story to tell. From the accounts I heard, the field behind me would shatter, reform, shatter, reform again. Steve Tilford usually has very accurate details of races so I’ll let him recap this. As for me…..

We rotated evenly for quite a while, only dropping the fading Clark (but he was on race number two in the heat). I think everyone started getting tired because we started going slower and slower. I was taking an ice cold bottle nearly every lap. Pour a little on me, drink a little, repeat. Even still, it was hard.

With about 2 laps to go we were joined by one other rider and then the attacking started. When it all finished, I was 10th. Normally, in that scenario I wouldn’t be too happy with myself. However, considering I was riding with guys I haven’t historically been able to ride with, I’m not upset with the place. Sure, I always want a better result, and sure I had an opportunity to something amazing earlier in the race; but that was about the best place I was going to get. I was thinking with 2.5 laps to go that I could win a bunch sprint if it came down to it. The problem was that it never came down to a bunch sprint.

I would say that I’m not capable of too many performances of that caliber in that weather in one year, and the aftermath tells the tale. For starters, the entire team sat on the curb after the race completely shell shocked for 20 minutes and didn’t move. As for me, I was too nauseated to eat or drink that night. I couldn’t really sleep either and I was basically hot all night. The next day, I was dizzy from when I woke up at 6:45am until 11am which was fun, but probably not the best thing in the world.

Next up, Nature Valley Stage Race.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough

And Then…… Tulsa Tough. This race started 3 years ago as a brain child of some very creative guys with a passion for racing. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite races. I would say, at this point it has surpassed the Quad Cities Races in about every facet of the races. Better riders, bigger atmosphere, harder courses, faster races and bigger and better venues. Again, that’s overall. I’m going to hedge my bet though and say Snake Alley is one of the top 5 races in the country. I can do that, because this is my blog and I get to say whatever I want.

Day 1: Blue Dome District.

I’m not really sure why I chose to do the Men 1,2 race vs. the P,1 race. It was an amalgom of reasons really. I wanted help the younger/ newer guys on the team. We’ve got some good kids on the team that are on the cusp of becoming some tough as nails riders. Reality. With Toyota United bringing 9 guys, is it really realistic that I could walk away with any prize $$$$$? Maybe, but maybe not. BUT there is $75,000 up for grabs and it’s not mathematically possible for Toyota to take it all. But I digress….

50 minutes, 90 riders, good $, 830pm start, fast course. We had a team meeting with myself, Joe, Nick, and Chris before the race and discussed some strategy. We all had radios so we should use them. And I tried to stress the importance of getting in moves as they form, vs. bridging to them. I started in the back, again. I really am starting to like the moving up process. We missed some moves, made some moves. I bridged to a move that I thought was good. I thought that was it and we were going to ride to the line. But again, it was not to be. We were caught and I allowed myself to shuffle back too far. In the end I was so pathetically out of position that I finished well out of the money. Chris scored a 16th though, sneaking into the paying places.

I think our biggest deficit this evening was our inability to hook up early on prime laps. But this is a relatively inexperienced squad so that comes with the process. But the horsepower is there to do some good things.

Day 2: Brady District.

As we’re sitting at the Blue Moon Bakery eating breakfast with the Mercy Men, we look up and notice that the sky is pitch black, which is bad because it’s 1030am. Apparently there was a rather substantial MONSOON heading our way. We scarfed our breakfast, jumped on our bikes and high tailed it back to the host house. Well, at least we high tailed it as much as you can with a belly full of coffee and breakfast. Some pictures:

Again I raced the Men 1,2 race. This time we did a much better job of riding into breaks and maintaining position. I think it’s better for the young guys when the two rock solid vets, Bill Stolte and Steve Tilford aren’t around to rely on. It makes myself and the other guys do it themselves. My belief is that if they can do it without Steve and Bill, then when those two are there, everyone is much more effective.

Everyone did a good job of covering moves and staying in position. I made a true tough man move on a $100 prime lap and rode across to a break away, then through the break to win the $100. However, the officials wrote the incorrect number and thus I was not the recipient of my $100. Depressing. Then later three guys roll off the front and we’re racing for 4th. I placed between 20-25th after practicing up on my “crash avoidance” skills. Not bad, but definitely not good. Joe placed 20th, which was the best place on the team.

Men P, 1. Some comments….

It’s no doubt that Toyota United is the best team in the country and it’s no surprise that they should and could win every race. But there's good winners, and a-hole winners. First, this was the only pro team in the race. And by team, I mean a full 9 Man squad. Second, their sponsor quit on them, meaning they no longer have an obligation to Toyota to race the big races. But it also means that they're all jobless as of Jan 1, 2009 and may be collecting unemployment checks. This means that they're all ready to go race for the $$. And race for $$ they did. I'm guessing they took home ~$57000 of the $75000 prize purse. Wow. Now, none of this is so much a problem until.....

Early in the Brady District Crit, Toyota had the horsepower in a break with 4 guys. Then along comes Cole House who makes a ridiculous move to bridge across to the break. Normally, the 4 will let the 1 stay there as a gesture of good will. But not today. Cole was told to leave the break and return to the field. When he declined the invitation, Toyota made it happen.

Next, the Mercy Cycling Team did the same move in a brilliant move that saw the entire team drill it on the front so that Chad Cagle could bridge across. Once he got there, it was the same thing. These guys wouldn't let Chad ride! Not only is the Mercy team the local Heros, BUT (I'm going to use big font now) Chad picked the Toyota guys up at the airport!!!!!!! How's that for a "Thank You?!!" I guess favors are only returned to other "Pro" riders.... You know, there comes a time when that sort of thing comes back to you. For some, it'll be Jan 1. For others... who knows. On a "karma" note, the crowd did pick up on the whole thing and actually started boo-ing the Toyota guys! Awesome.

So why did they do those un-cool maneuvers? Because, Toyota wanted 1-4 (break away) and they wanted as many money spots from the field sprint as they could get. Remember, they're on a Mission for Money.

Day 3.
I decided to "man up" as Matt Ankney puts it, and race the P,1 race. This race is basically, okay it's really hard. Big uphill downhill, uphill, turn, downhill hairpin corner finish line, then back to the big uphill. Oh, and it's hot. But that's good for me. Right?

80 minutes. Okay, here we go! Just as I suspected. It was hard. But I managed to make the "winning move" with 3 Toyota riders, Adam Bergman, and a couple others. I thought to myself, surely they'll let me stay on today after getting all that grief yesterday. Nope, i got taken off the back on the hill and dropped after about two laps. Then I coasted for nearly a whole lap before I saw the field behind me.

You know the worse part of being dropped from The Move isn't the getting dropped and being demoralized as an individual. The worse part was facing my team mates and having to acknowledge to them that, "yup, I sucked and couldn't hack it." It's humbling to get dropped, but I was down right ashamed to go back and see the team. I actually thought about quitting before the field caught me.

But I didn't. And I ended up in another move that didn't work out. then I was ruined and decided I was just going to finish. In the end I was so tired, I couldn't move up or really dream of trying to sprint.

The best part of the race, and the weekend was the party on the hill! You turn the corner and you're in a tunnel of noise and a maze or water guns! These guys had a sound system going, and the smell of beer was exactly what a tired bike racer needed to prompt a DNF! Afterwards I talked a couple of guys who said they were going to put a line on the road and have "Hill Primes" next year. Totally un-related to the race down below. Just their own thing. I can't wait!

So that's the year of Tulsa Tough. My only sticking point is that the race either needs to have multiple Pro teams so that the sour feelings of Toyota don't recur. Or they need to make it a UCI amateur race. I vote the latter. But that's just me.