Archive for May, 2009
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:
- Erroneous reading (raining)
- The turnaround
- More erroneous readings
- The finish
- MAR #1 – Lap 1 prime, 2nd place
- MAR #2 – 2nd place, already in breakaway
- MAR #3 – 3rd place
- MAR #4 – 3rd place
- The finish
- Neutral after bad crash on the first lap. Three riders down and at least one not moving. Ambulances and rescue squads on the course
- MAR #1 – 3rd place, my only points for the MAR competition in the race
- MAR #2 – 4th place :-(
- MAR #3 – 4th place :-(
- MAR #4 – 4th place :-(
- The finish
- MAR #1 – 4th on this early MAR prime
- MAR #2 – 3rd on this MAR prime
- MAR #3 – 4th again :-(
- MAR #4 – 1st, proudest moment of the race! :-)
- The finish
- The point at which the altimeter on my Garmin stopped working because of the rain
- MAR #1 – guttered, couldn’t contest
- MAR #2 – 4th, nipped at the line :-(
- MAR #3 – 4th again :-(
- MAR #4 – 3rd, nipped at the line for 2nd
- The finish
- MAR #1 – 3rd place
- MAR #2 – 1st place, woohoo! :-)
- MAR #3 – 4th place :-(
- MAR #4 – 3rd place
- The finish
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Quick Summary: 2nd place in 55’12” (21 seconds slower than last year). View full results on the COGS website
The Details: The conditions were not so good this year with a steady light rain falling all morning. Last year’s race was held at the end of July in hot, humid, sunny conditions. Today was rainy, chilly, and a bit windy. Check out the radar from late morning and also my heart rate data … the interesting thing about my heart rate data is that it was raining hard enough that the accumulation of water disrupted my altitude readings. I overlaid last year’s correct elevation profile (yellow) on top of this year’s (orange).
- Low initial heart rate … cold and rainy and trying not to overcook the first climbs
- Very low heart rate for how hard it felt like I was working my legs!
- Ummm… not sure what happened here – I definitely tried to push it hard over the top of the climb, but I think the spikes are bad readings from the heart rate monitor
- Good, high, gradually increasing heart rate all the way to the top of the climb
- I was very happy with how I was able to push it all the way up the long false flat, gradual climb … little chain ring spinning 22mph all the way up the climb
- I decided to attack the bottom of each of these hills on the way back to take advantage of downward momentum from the preceding downhill
The full collection of Eric’s photos is available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diddlee/sets/72157618373256398/.
I’m excited for the Bull’s Gap TT tomorrow … check out my topocreator.com map!
Click on the link below to go to my topocreator.com “coming soon” page with links to maps I have created for the Giro d’Italia, Joe Martin Stage Race, and the Tour of the Gila. For many of you, it is probably a joke now that my website will forever be “coming soon” — but believe it or not it is very, very close to going into beta.
http://topocreator.com – coming soon
- Crazy fast first few laps, mid-pack
- Attacking hard to close gap opened by another rider and then move up to near the front through the Start/Finish area
- Steadiest part of the race with fast tempo set by Kelly Benefits as they worked to bring back the break. I stayed positioned towards the front of the field
- Lots of variation here because of surges in the group, reshuffling at the front, and having to attack to regain position
- The insanely fast final two laps
- Low initial heart-rate … not surprising for me after the previous night’s hard race.
- Steadily rising heart-rate as I work harder each lap to move farther up in the pack.
- Settling in nicely near the front (top 15-20 of the pack)
- Attacking through the Start/Finish area to move up to the front of the pack
- Attacking to attempt to bridge to Frank Travieso.
- Fighting hard for position as the pace gets fast for the final laps with a surprisingly high max heart rate for a “Day 2″ race
What an exciting finale to the USA Crits Speedweek series! This was the first year that I was able to race the Sandy Springs crit, and I really like the course which is very hilly. Here is a topocreator map and elevation profile I made using the beta version of topocreator.com (coming very soon!!!). The satellite imagery is a little bit old, but the topography hasn’t changed much as you can see the “colorful” nature of the course where different colors represent different elevations.
The top 25 riders in the week-long series were called up first while the rest of the 100 strong field waited behind the barriers. Once the callups finished, the first row of riders took care of pushing the barriers out of the way in what I am starting to call the “pre-race scrum” where everybody races to the starting line to try to get as close to the front as possible. The reason why this is such an intense battle even before the start of the race is because of the “whip-lash effect” and the “roller-coaster effect” that corners and hills have on a very large peloton. My wife, Kristine, took an excellent picture that visually illustrates the “roller-coaster” effect. I’ve included it below:
Notice how the end of the group strung out after coming over the top of the hill whereas the front of the group has already started to bunch up in uphill Turn #1. What happens with the “roller-coaster effect” is that after the riders at the very front of the group crest the top of a hill, they start to accelerate very quickly on the downhill. Meanwhile, the riders at the back of the group are still on the climb — but because drafting is so important in cycling it is very important that no gaps open up between you and the rider in front of you. Therefore the riders at the back of the group need to be going at nearly the same speed as the riders at the front of the group. Because the riders at the front of the group are going fast down the hill, this means that the riders at the back of the group need to be going that same speed up the hill! Then the reverse process applies the next time you come to an uphill. The riders at the back are going faster than the riders at the front — so you have to either slam on your brakes to prevent running into the person in front of you — or you have to look for a hole to let your momentum carry you past as many riders as possible.
The “whip-lash effect” occurs coming out of corners. Again, the riders at the front are already accelerating out of the corner while the riders at the back are still braking for the corner. This means that riders at the back have to find some way to either take the corner as fast as the riders at the front or expend extra energy to accelerate up to top speed more quickly coming out of the corner.
This course with its six corners and large start/finish hill exhibited both trends and one other that I am calling the “magic disappearing rider corner”. This is an interesting phenomena that happens sometimes on downhill corners. This is where you appear to enter a corner at a higher speed than the rider in front of you, but because of the downhill nature of the corner, the rider in front of you is actually accelerating and will “disappear” from you causing a gap to open if you don’t accelerate at a speed that looks like is going to cause you to ram into the back of them as you enter the corner. This course had a disappearing corner at the lefthand Turn #4. I noticed this after the first few laps and then settled in comfortably to the corner knowing that I could start accelerating as I entered the corner without fear of hitting the rider in front of me — instead of waiting until after the corner. This saves some energy by reducing the amount of acceleration needed after the corner.
I had an OK starting position about mid-pack and then gradually worked my way over the first half of the race to the front of the group. A break of 8 riders with all teams represented got away within the first few laps of the race when I was nowhere near the front. By the time I made it anywhere close to the front, their gap was already up to 30 seconds. Still, I worked diligently to pass riders as often as I could — mainly on the Start/Finish hill and in Turn 1 on the outside. Everywhere else on the course was a battle just to hold your position. I would tend to get passed by a rider or two on Turn #2 if the inside track ended up being faster. Once I finally made it to the front, I fought hard to stay there. With about 10 laps to go Frank Travieso put in a hard attack through the Start/Finish line. A couple seconds later a hole opened up on the left and so I attacked as hard as I could and made it about halfway across, but saw that my gap to the hard charging peloton was only 2 or 3 seconds so I sat up and was swallowed pretty bad — maybe back down to 30th or so in the field? By this point the pace in the field was fast enough that it looked like we were going to bring back the break — but unfortunately the break of 8 just barely survived. I moved up a few spots by the final lap and then passed two or three people on the finishing sprint to finish 29th in the race.
What an awesome event attracting many of the nation’s top crit riders right here to Alabama’s only NRC ranked race! The Sunny King criterium is awesome. The traditional break that laps the field never materialized — although there was a large break with a gap hovering between 10 an 20 seconds for a large part of the race. The smoothest part of the race was after the break established itself and Kelly Benefits set into a tempo to gradually bring the break back. With about 20 laps to go we had closed to within a few seconds of the break and the attacks in the field started again. I had worked my way to a good position near the front and tried to go with one or two attacking riders, but the riders were just advancing their position closer to the front. After a few laps, a break of four with Karl Menzies (OUCH presented by Maxxis) and Kyle Wamsley (Colavita Sutter Home) and two Bissell Riders (Andy Jacque-Maynes and Kirk O’Bee). Kirk attacked the break with five laps to go forcing Karl and Kyle to chase, but when the catch was made a strong counterattack was launched that Kirk couldn’t follow. A lap later, it was just Karl and Kyle vying for the win.
For us back in the pack, the 5 to go, 4 to go, and 3 to go laps were fast but then the pace would slow and everybody would fly around on the sides when the pack bunched up. I fought hard and passed people in the middle or up the sides. I think the decisive move for me was with three to go when I decided to stay on the inside leading into Turn 3 — I shot around maybe 10 or so people which isn’t a lot but if I hadn’t done that then I would have been passed by 10 or 15 people. This moved me up into the top 20 or so and fortunately the last two laps were super fast so it was hard to advance your position, but it was also hard to lose it. I passed about 5 people in the finishing straight to finish 15th in the field sprint (17th in the race with Karl Menzies and Kyle Wamsley the only survivors of the 4 man break).
The highlight of the evening though was the VIP dinner after the race that Mike Poe provided for all the pro racers. Also, Cesar Grajales and I had a nice chat about how we both think that Sunny King is a harder race than Twilight because of how hard it is to find a place to recover on the course. Then Rahsaan Bahati and congratulated me with a ‘good job’ as he walked by. And then finally, we got to eat dinner with the Bissell team and chat. Andy was super nice and gave me an update on how his brother and the west coast squad was doing out at Gila.
After a late night drive to Atlanta, we got into our hotel in Sandy Springs at 1:30AM. We’ve had a nice leisurely morning and now we’re about to head to the USA Crits Speed Week series finale. I’ll report back on how that goes later tonight!