Archive for March, 2010
Again this year just like the past years, a lot of strong riders made the drive over to Tuscaloosa to be a part of the great early season racing action at the Tour de Tuscaloosa. I was amazed Saturday night at how many strong teams were there. Krystal, Locos, Herring Gas, Texas Roadhouse, Sonic and strong independent riders from Jamis/Sutter Home (Frank Travieso), Mountain Khakis (Oscar Clark), and Subaru (AJ Meyer). The weekend for me turned out to be a little better than expected on Saturday and then a lot of bad luck on Sunday with not one, not two, but THREE flat tires! I was happy to finish the race though and judging by how sore I am two days later, it was a much needed TT endurance effort.
The evening crit starts just after sunset and finishes in the dark. Night-time racing makes the already fast speeds seem that much faster. I had decided ahead of time to let my teammates cover the early moves so I started near the back of the group. Sure enough there were some very early attacks and we were strung out single file for the first couple of laps. My teammates covered moves while I watched for the top riders to attack. I could sense something coming about four laps into the race because we bunched up at the bottom of the course by the river. So I used my momentum from the downhill to go from near the very back to off the front in a small group of about six riders. We had good representation from all the teams and a good gap, but when a couple more riders bridged up to the break — there were just too many people. So even with a short rotation going, the pack caught back up to us after a few laps.
This left us with about half the race to go and Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis) launched off the front for a prime and stayed out front solo sweeping up all the primes for the race. Behind, there were lots of accelerations that kept the pace high, but no organized chase attempts. In the closing laps, I worked hard to fight to stay at the front as the pace got faster. We reeled Oscar and Tiago (who had made a late solo attack) back into the group with a couple laps to go as the pace got faster and the jockeying began for the finishing sprint. I hopped onto the back of the Magner brothers train (Casey and Ty Magner riding for Locos) and moved into about 5th position coming across the top of the course behind Frank and the Magner brothers with only two corners left. There was a slight lull in the pace at the very front leading to a bunch of riders swarming up to us. We knew what was coming so those of us at the front attacked to accelerate again. But as I was accelerating back up to full speed, another rider came by and hit my foot with his foot. I had to stop pedaling for a second as I started to lose my balance. That was enough to let two riders pass me. I passed the same riders back almost immediately in the second to last corner by swinging wide which left me on the outside for the last corner as well – but the sprint for the race was already slightly ahead and so I was resigned to try to hold my position. I got passed by one or two riders at the finish to leave me in 7th place. That course and the finish are tough for me so I was happy with 7th but a little disappointed because I was in great position for a top 5 or top 3 finish before getting bumped and losing the main sprint train. But that’s racing!
Lake Lurleen Road Race
The forecast was for scattered thunderstorms, and as I drove from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa, there was some sunshine, but also some downpours and some dark clouds. It was sunny and warm for the start of our race, but by the time the official said “go” we felt a couple raindrops and within a few minutes of starting, it was a veritable thunderstorm/downpour. Frank Travieso (Jamis/Sutter Home) attacked and got away solo. Everybody knew that he was the strongest rider in the race so our pace went sky high as the group stretched out single file chasing. We spent the entire first lap chasing – well I spent the entire first lap hanging on towards the front watching for the stronger teams to chase / start a bridge attempt. Frank was still away when a chase group of 3 established itself on the feedzone hill towards the end of the first lap. I worked into a second small chase group of four riders through the start/finish hill. By the top, it was just me and Casey Magner still left across the top of the hill to finish the chase. But right about that time, the original chase group of 3 merged up with Frank and then because Casey now had a teammate in the break, he wasn’t going to be able to help me finish the bridge. I was tired and resigned myself to hoping that I could bridge across later with more riders from the group.
It wasn’t to be though, because shortly after we re-merged with the group, my rear tire flatted. I was hoping for a quick change and then to be paced back up to the field. But the wheel truck was nowhere in sight as he had been helping another rider who had flatted. So by the time we got my tire changed, the field was already a couple minutes up the road. I begged the wheel truck to pace me, and he did but I couldn’t keep up at 40mph with the cross wind so he had to slow down and then on the feedzone hill I couldn’t keep up at 20mph so he had to leave me to go help anyone else who flatted in the group. I resigned myself to chasing as hard as I could in the hopes that a small break would get away from the field that the field was happy with and the pace would plummet. But that didn’t happen and the pace continued to be high and I continued to lose ground. Two laps later, I flatted my front tire about a mile before the feedzone and rode it in gingerly to where I knew my teammate Mike Lackey was watching the race. He gave me his front wheel and I continued on. I caught a few riders who were still rolling the race. The first I came to was Travis Werts from the new Sonic team who had also flatted and was still persevering to the finish. We worked together for a couple laps before I flatted again in the same spot. He waited for me as I got another wheel from Mike in the feedzone, but then in my exuberance and renewed determination to finish the race, I ended up dropping Travis on the feedzone climb. He motioned for me to just go on ahead when I turned around to wait so I drilled it and set out on my own again. At the start of the last lap, I came up to David McNeal (BBC) and we worked together for most of the lap. When we made it to the feedzone climb, he told me he was just going to roll it easy the rest of the way so I drilled it for one final push to the finish.
And so finish I did — turns out it was for 23rd place with only about half the riders who started the race finishing. 23rd is a long way from the podium, but I am still very, very happy that I was able to finish the race! My out of town friends Steve and Corrie and their son Steven arrived with my #1 fan and beautiful wife Kristine and our two kids at about Lap 6 or 7. So they were surprised to see me so far off the back of the group – but they stayed and cheered each time even as I got farther and farther behind the field eventually finishing about 5 minutes behind the remnants of the field. Meanwhile at the front end of the race, Frank Travieso dropped his breakmates and won solo by over 3 minutes! A small chase group emerged from the main field and finished next with a field of less than 20 riders finishing a couple minutes behind them.
Here’s my heartrate data for Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race:
Oh yeah – I forgot to mention that part of my Garmin mount broke during the crit on Saturday. So I had to take it off from under the rubber bands which kept it from falling completely off the bike and stick it in my pocket during the race. So I figured I would just race with it in my pocked on Sunday — but apparently it wasn’t picking up my heartrate readings correctly! Oh well!
Saturday – Union City Mall Criterium
Terry Duran and I drove over together in the afternoon with us getting there in plenty of time before the 6:30PM start. Jacob, Sammy, Philip, and Timo raced the combined Cat 3s masters race right before ours. Two riders got away late, and they just barely held on with a hard-charging field driven by Timo with Sammy leading out the sprint getting 2nd (4th overall) and Jacob fighting hard and finishing up high in the sprint too. They had a huge field with the last minute combining of the Cat 3s / Masters (about 85 riders!)
Our Pro/1/2 race was also really big (maybe 70 guys) and stacked with local pros and really fast amateurs. We lined up with six guys – me, Lennie, Darryl, Wes, Mike, and Terry. It was super fast from the start. I had a good start, fought stay up front, and went with small moves on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps. Then on the 7th lap, I made it into a strong looking move with about 10 riders. We had a good gap pretty quickly maybe 10 seconds after being away 1 lap. We were working pretty well together although with 10 riders there were a couple sitting on and not taking their turn at the front. A couple laps later, Terry came across to our break with a couple other guys. Even more people started sitting on and others started attacking. At that point, the break was doomed even with good team representation from all the teams. Sure enough a couple laps later we were caught. Our break lasted about 10 laps (see my heartrate data below).
When we came back to the field, I was discouraged and pretty tired. I felt like the field wasn’t going to let anything get away so I drifted way back in the group trying to recover. After spending a few laps there, I worked my way back up to the front to start covering moves again. Before I made it though, a good move got away with maybe 7 or 8 guys. They got a great gap on the field and started pulling away. But our pace was relentless and we were closing, closing, closing. I fought hard for position and with one lap to go was third person across the line in the front of the field. I knew the surges would start so I attacked to stay at the front and then fought hard for position on the downhill backside of the course. I came out of the last corner sitting about 7th or 8th wheel, passed a couple guys and didn’t get passed by anybody – but it was only good enough for 16th. Darryl finished right behind me in 17th with Terry and Mike just behind them in the top 25.
- Initial moves
- The nice looking break, away for 10 laps (1 lap was exactly 1 mile)
- Who knows
- The finish
Sunday – Union City Road Race
We woke up to cold and rainy skies. When we arrived at the start right outside City Hall in the quaint old town part of Union City, it was still cold and rainy. I warmed up 5 minutes under a big awning before heading to the start line. After a couple last minute instructions (while it was still lightly raining), we were off. And man were we off – attacks from the word “go”. We made it out of the town and onto the main road and I got into an early move that lasted about 200 meters. The pack was flying though so we were reeled in and more attack / counter attacks went. I was in some of them and Terry was in some of them. Eventually we made it onto the lap part of the course and coming down a hill pretty fast into a long gradual uphill, I knew something was about to go because everybody was tired and I could see a move on that hill getting away. Sure enough – a couple guys attacked the bottom of the hill and as I was desperately trying to get clear on the left to go with it, I got stuck behind the guys coming off a previous move. Fortunately though, Terry saw the same events unfolding and nailed it up the righthand side latching onto the break and they were gone!!!
It was a great break with good team representation so at that point all me and my teammates had to do was watch the front and cover any moves that materialized. Mike Lackey and I took turns covering lots of moves. Eventually, a strong rider (I think maybe John Stowe?) rode off the front solo. He looked really strong, and the field didn’t respond at all. In fact, the pace was really slow so I thought hey let’s see if I can get up to him without bringing the field with me. I attacked hard and sure enough, only one rider came with me – Jan Kolar (Birmingham Bicycle Company).
This was perfect because the field let the three of us go. Jan and I worked hard to bridge up to John who was still ahead of us. Then once we came together we started putting time into the field and chopping into the break’s lead of just over 1 minute 15 seconds. Eventually we made it to about 45 seconds in front of the field and 35 seconds to the lead group. We were bombing down a hill when we came to an intersection and a police officer directed us the wrong way! None of us thought we were supposed to turn, but we knew the break had just come through so how could he direct us the wrong way??? Well, fortunately I had pre-programmed the course into my Garmin and so I convinced the other guys to turn around when the distance to the next turn began to increase instead of decrease. So we turned around just in time to see the field go flying straight across the intersection which we had turned at. We chased hard and eventually caught on to the back of the field.
I was pretty cooked at this point so I was thankful to have a little while to rest at the back of the large field with a nice draft to pull me along. I knew, however, that a move could go at any moment so after a couple miles rest, I started to work my way all the way through the field to the front again. This in itself probably took about 5 miles so I was lucky that nothing got away during that time. Right as I made it to the front, AJ Meyer put in a hard attack which I went with. It was a strong attack but lots of people were watching him. By the time he motioned for me to come around, the field was already on us. AJ was relentless though and attacked several more times eventually getting the right composition of riders to satisfy the field. I made it into the break, too, and we were off. With several strong engines in our chase, we extended our lead pretty quickly. We had maybe 10 guys though so there were a couple guys sitting on. This disrupted our rhythm a bit as people didn’t want to put in maximum effort given that a few riders were getting a free ride.
Even with the somewhat irregular rotation, we were putting time into the field and quickly closing in on the break who were having their own share of problems. My teammate Terry who was in the break told me after the race what was going on. He said that there were only about 5 guys pulling in the group of 9 riders. The others were just sitting on. This happened when the moto-official told them their gap had grown to 2 minutes, 15 seconds. So apparently a number of the guys either thought that the break was going to stick no matter what, or they wanted to save up energy for the finish. Well, the in-fighting that started because of the people not pulling allowed our group to catch up to them with about 20 miles left to go in the race. Let me interject a little op-ed piece, though, I was totally impressed with the Mountain Khakis team this weekend. Even though they didn’t like their odds in the break with Emile Abraham (Aerocat) being such a strong sprinter and their main sprinter back in our chase group — they still continued to roll through to keep the rotation going. That is perfect strategy because they were still saving up energy to work something out for the finish, and they were also giving their sprinter a chance to make it up to the group. Then in the end, Oscar gave the perfect leadout for Thomas and won the race!
Ok, back to the report – I knew that once our chase group merged with the break that the resulting merged group was way too big for a happy harmonious rotation until 1k to go. Sure enough, even as we were rolling onto the back of the group, the attacks began immediately. It was pretty relentless too for a few miles which kept our pace overall pretty high and gave us enough of a gap on the field to stay away to the finish. There was a lull for a little bit when a small group motored by Frank Travieso (Jamis/Sutter Home) bridged up to us. My teammate, Darryl Seelhorst, saw the move and rode across with it to give us 3 guys in the group of about 25 to battle it out for the last 15 miles. Those last 15 miles were hard with attack after attack and a few steep rollers that shattered our group. The headwind was pretty strong though and people were tired so each move kept coming back to the group and riders who had been dropped kept bridging back up to the group. Terry and I took turns covering moves while Darryl recovered from the bridge he had made from the field to our group.
When we made the turn back onto the main highway back into Union City, the headwind was just horrific. Still, even after all the attacks on the rollers, people launched attack after attack. I covered a couple moves and then even launched once of my own. I think we were all just going crazy. Everything was coming back though so as we approached the lefthand turn off the highway into the streets to make a series of 90 degree turns to the finish, I knew that you had to be way towards the front if you wanted a chance to sprint so I fought hard to stay at the front and managed to be about the 5th rider back with 1k to go. At that point Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis) got to the front and ramped the pace way up to lead it out for his teammate Thomas Brown. We were single file behind Oscar through all the turns until he pulled off next to the railroad tracks with about 300 meters to go. I was still sitting in 5th position when I heard a horrific crash just behind me – that terrible sound of metal/bikes/bodies hitting the deck hard. It was 300 meters to go though so everybody in front of it started to sprint. Emile Abraham (Aerocat) came around me right away and I latched onto his wheel. I got a little confused and thought for a second that our turn was a parking lot right before the actual turn so I left off the gas just a tiny bit enough to lose Emile’s wheel. Coming out of the corner though I still had a lot of speed and felt surprisingly good (I think we had a hard tailwind as soon as made that final turn) and hit it as hard as I could passing a couple people to finish what I thought was 4th but later ruled 5th.
Darryl and Terry were caught immediately behind the crash. Thankfully, Darryl dove to the left and Terry dove to the right bouncing off of people and bikes and managed to stay upright and both place in the top 15!!! (12th and 14th). Mike and Wes hung on in the field which had really closed the gap to us so they must have been riding hard. Mike finished high up in the field sprint even after covering a lot of moves throughout the race and Wes hung on and kept it upright. Great racing guys!!!
Here’s a picture of my teammate Philip and his wife Catherine at the start of the TT yesterday morning — which they won! Great job Team Thompson!
- Large roller on the way out to the course
- Covering attacks – during this time, Terry got into the day’s main break
- Chasing in a chase group of 3 with Jan and John
- AJ Meyer’s attacks
- Working in the chase group, merging with the break, and the final sprint
Small turnout today with the cold and rain, but at the last minute a Velocity rider rolled to the line to make 10 riders for the A race. We had three riders – me, Sammy, and Phillip. Moontoast/Tristar had two riders (Travis and Mike Lanham). Velocity had three riders, and then there were two independent riders. Sammy rolled off the front early on in the first lap and extended his lead so that Tristar and Velocity had to share the work chasing. Initially (actually for about the first lap), it was just Travis riding at the front setting a hard tempo and reeling Sammy back in. There were some attacks during this time and Philip and I took turns covering them. Sammy had such a big gap though that he carried his lead well into the second lap, and it wasn’t until Velocity started helping out with the chase that we finally caught up to him 2/3 of the way through the second lap. I launched an immediate counter attack and got away solo but with nobody to help share the work, there was no way I was going to be able to stay away until the end with 30+ miles left to go. So I shut it down and we had a series of attacks and counter attacks. During all these attacks our group was whittled down to six. I tried attacking a few times and each time we would get a small break, but with me knowing that Sammy would easily win the sprint I couldn’t commit fully to any of the breaks. Eventually though Mike Lanham and Tim Carboneau and I got a substantial gap and we started rotating through. With Tria and Tristar both represented in the break, Ed Whitehorn (Velocity) was left to do the chasing — and chase he did — for something like 15 miles nonstop until he brought our break back with less than 2 miles to go!!! At that point I was already near the front so I ramped up the speed going into the last corner with Sammy on my wheel knowing that Sammy had the win locked up and that if I sprinted hard enough I could maybe stay in the top 3. But almost immediately out of the corner, Sammy saw that we had the gap and so he eased up to let me take the win. A Tria 1-2 finish! I believe Travis rolled across for third. Cool course – here’s the topocreator map and elevation profile for one lap of the course…
Epic. Yes, that word may be overused by me and many people. But, that’s the only word to sum up Rouge Roubaix. What an experience! My teammate Lennie and I drove down from Birmingham, Alabama to Zachary, Louisiana – the nearest town to the start in St Francisville with hotel rooms still available – but still about 25 minutes from the start. The Best Western we stayed at was awesome – with a great breakfast the next morning.
We ate a great breakfast and then drove over to St Francisville. My day was already made within 2 seconds of walking into the registration area as I immediately noticed a 3 foot tall printout of the TopoCreator map I had made for the race. I was surprised and elated to see the organizers had found and printed the map for everyone to see!!! Check out this picture I took of it after the race -
By the time we finished getting everything ready and rolled to the start line, the official was giving last minute instructions. Two minutes later we were off for a somewhat agonizing 23+ miles of “scrum” — fighting for position and to maintain position near the front of the pack before the first dirt road. An early break with three riders rolled off the front and established a 5 minute lead as the pack was content to roll along at a very leisurely pace. None of the big players (as far as I could tell) were up the road, and a couple big teams were not represented in the break — so I knew that it was doomed. Still, when you hear of a 5 minute lead, it’s hard to imagine bringing that back!
I had pre-programmed the entire route into my Garmin – so it was giving me turn-by-turn directions. I knew exactly how many miles we had left until the 1st dirt/gravel road. When we got within a couple miles of the turn onto the dirt road, the pace really picked up as did the scrum (battle for position). A small crowd was gathered at that first turn and we dove into it and blazed ahead. It was exactly what I expected for about the first 15 seconds. Then I realized that there were two definite “lines” that you needed to take either side of the center. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I thought “ok, no problem” just get into the line and don’t lose the wheel in front of you.” Well, that lasted for about another 15 seconds before we hit the first really loose stretch of gravel/sand/rocks and my bike started to fish tail like crazy. It was hard to ride in a straight line as your wheel would slide out from under you and push you off of the two main “lines”. If you strayed too far then you got into really loose sand and could fall or scrub all kinds of speed. I made it about a mile holding on for dear life to the wheel in front of me with my heartrate pegged in the 190s when I moved a little too far left and hit a deep section of gravel. My wheel slid out and I had to stop pedaling and basically coast to a near-stop to keep from falling. I got started again, but I had gotten passed by a lot of people and lost not only my momentum but pretty much all of my nerve. I was much more tentative and riders continued to pass me and pull away.
Eventually a small group of riders caught up to me, and I decided that I was going to do everything I could do to stay with that group even if it meant falling and breaking something. I struggled to keep up mostly on the flatter sections as they tended to have pockets of sand/gravel, and I would fishtail losing momentum and have to push it really hard to either catch back up or keep from falling off the back of the group. My Garmin beeped at me two times to let me know that we were coming up on a turn. Each time I thought, “Surely, this must be the end of the first dirt section”. But instead, we simply turned from one dirt road onto another one. It was the most agonizing 8 miles I have ever ridden. Several times I thought I had reached the end of my limit and was going to get dropped, but each time I was able to either rest for just a couple seconds or push myself just that little bit harder to keep from losing the wheel. I also realized that I was pushing too small a gear and that you could make it through the sandy sections easier if you were pushing a big gear and reducing the number of pedal strokes which impart a sideways force. By the end of that section, I had ridden 25 minutes with an average heartrate of 186. Keep in mind that my LT heartrate is only 180, and my max is 197!!!
Finally, my Garmin beeped for a third time, and we could see a group of people gathered up ahead so I figured surely it was the feed zone at the end of the Louisiana “pavé” — and sure enough, it was! I grabbed a neutral water and drained it as we started to roll on the pavement. There really was no chance to recover as we drilled it to try to catch up with the main group. At this point, I thought for sure that there was no hope of catching the group, but I also thought there’s nothing to lose – so I pulled 100% as several riders also were just completely burying it with every pull. Within 10 minutes, we caught sight of the peloton at least a mile up the road. This motivated us even more and we pushed even harder. A few minutes later we could see that they were spread out across the road not going very fast so we knew that we were going to be able to catch them. We made it and still had about 20 miles to rest and recover before the next dirt section.
There were a few attacks early in this long stretch of the race, but they were brought back and the pace settled down into a fairly steady pace. It was still pretty slow, but faster than the long 23 mile rollout before the first gravel section with Hotel San Jose setting the pace. They weren’t happy that nobody else was helping them – so with less than 10 miles left to go to the second gravel section. They began attacking the group. This led to a number of accelerations that were fairly quick brought back, but eventually they got a rider away. I bridged across to a small chase group with two more Hotel San Jose riders and an Aerocat rider (I think it was Emile Abraham). Emile put in a hard pull, then I pulled through, and then the Hotel San Jose rider barely pulled through. Even though we had a good gap on the field at this point (maybe 10 seconds?), they didn’t want to do anything to help bring the small group of us up to their one rider. So with two of them not working, our chase was doomed and the pack caught up to us a couple minutes later.
Fortunately, I had a chance to rest as I was expecting a huge counter attack when we were caught – but it didn’t happen. We had closed the distance enough to the lone rider, and we were now only a few miles away from the next section of Louisiana pavé. The counter attack didn’t materialize, but our pace was noticeably quicker as we approached the dirt. My Garmin counted down the miles and beeped at me with 0.2 miles left to the turn. We made the sharp turn and flew up the road. This section was only three miles long, and the first half mile alternated between pavement, dirt, gravel, potholes, and even a few mud puddles. During this section, Mike Olheiser (Warp9/Moonstar) flatted and pulled off to the side. I found out later that his teammate, Travis Sherman, saw it happen and traded wheels to get Mike back into the race as quickly as possible. This all happened about a quarter mile before the base of the day’s longest climb – a 0.83 mile climb with an average grade of 6.4% and a maximum pitch of 10.5% for a quarter mile. The hill was sandy and rocky, but rideable at the bottom. Mike Olheiser caught up to me and passed me, and I decided that I was going to hang onto his wheel for as long as I could up the climb. Well, that lasted about a quarter mile when we made it to a deep sand pit and Mike was able to power right through but I got tangled up with another rider and had to stop. The road was too steep and the gravel too loose to get started again. So I ran and pushed the next tenth of a mile up the hill before there was a hard packed section where you could remount your bike and continue up the hill. By the top of the hill, the race was completely shattered with riders everywhere and small groups forming across the rest of the gravel section. This one wasn’t too long so by the end I was in a group of about 6-8 riders. We pushed the pace very hard and picked up riders coming off of groups ahead of us. Knowing the final outcome, I now realize that we must have been the fourth group on the road. In my head, though, I was thinking that we were either the second or third group. So I was very, very happy with my position after this gravel section compared to my position after the first gravel section.
We pushed really hard and got a good rotation going with a long gradual downhill section for the next 10 miles before the last section of pavé – but we never caught sight of any groups in front of us – only a few riders who had gotten dropped from the group(s) ahead. By the time we reached the last section, there was maybe 12-15 of us in our group. This last section of pavé was by far the most fun. It was basically a path through a national or state forest area with lots of banked corners that you could fly through even on the dirt/gravel. The road was constantly turning and a good chunk of it after the first couple miles was downhill. Midway through this section, Emile Abraham caught up to us by himself and started to blow right by our group – but that helped rally us and we notched it up a bit to keep up with Emile through the rest of the forest. Even after we made it back onto paved roads, the roads were still constantly turning with lots of sharp uphills and downhills. Emile continued to drive the pace along with a strong Warp 9 rider and two Myogenesis riders. I helped pull, but I was also starting to conserve energy thinking that we weren’t going to catch any other groups and that I needed to have something left for the sprint within our group. Also, my Garmin was faithfully ticking off the miles left in the race – 10 miles, 9 miles, 6 miles … and with about 6 miles to go as we rounded a corner, I see another Aerocat rider coming back to our group. It was Andy Crater. He and his teammate, Emile, who was in our group ratcheted up the pace again driving really hard. And for about 3 miles I couldn’t imagine why they were pushing the pace so hard. Then it dawned on me, that Andy’s group must have just been up the road – but out of sight because of all the turns! Sure enough, with about 2 miles left in the race, we caught their group of 6 riders (including 3 Hotel San Jose riders).
But shortly before we caught that group, the craziest, coolest, scariest thing of the race happened. We were approaching an intersection and I saw a car entering the intersection ahead of us. We were still about a quarter mile away so I thought “no big deal, the car will be long gone ahead of us by the time we get there”. Well, about a minute later we see the car stopped in the middle of our lane. I had no idea why so as I am sitting in third wheel in the rotation, I yell “go around”. So we fly around the car, around a corner and immediately see why the car was stopped. There was a 75meter long one-lane spillway bridge around the corner and a rather large pick-up truck already on it crossing the bridge. We had already committed to going onto the bridge, as we were going 25-30mph around the car. The two guys in front of me decided there was enough room so they motored ahead and so did I but at the last second I realized that with the truck’s mirror sticking out you had to pull your arm in to keep from hitting it! So right after I did that, I cringed waiting to hear the sound of one of the riders behind me plowing into the mirror, then over the side of the spillway into the river and eaten by alligators – but it didn’t happen. We all made it safely through and with that bit of adrenaline pumping through us we quickly closed the rest of the gap to the small group of riders in front of us.
At that point, the pace plummeted as the cat and mouse games immediately began. By this point our group had over 20 riders in it – and with one mile to go, Andy Crater rolled off the front of our group with a Myogenesis rider. There was no immediate chase, but we caught them with 1k to go and there was a bit of a lull before the pace went up again and we flew through the last series of 90 degree corners taking you into the 500 meter to go hill. I was sitting in fourth wheel, but got swarmed going into the final corner. I came out of the corner in 8th or 9th position going into the base of the hill. You could tell the 101 miles had worn on everyone though, as I started picking off riders all the way up the hill — even as I was cramping myself. We must have been the most awkward-looking group of riders sprinting. At the top, I came across the line in 5th place for our group which later turned out to be 18th overall. Pat Allison finished just ahead of me with Eric Murphy just behind me. Whew, what an awesome, fun, epic race. Tired, exhausted, but already looking forward to next year.
My teammates Mike and Lennie did well to finish the race – as there were many, many strong riders that weren’t able to do that. Both of them stayed upright, pushed it hard, and persevered to the finish. Good job, guys!
Lastly, here’s my annotated heartrate data.
- Easy aerobically, but stressful fighting for position and or wondering if I would be able to move up to the front by the first pavé section
- The first turn, several short-lived attacks. Eventually a group of three gets away without key teams represented
- The first pavé – heartrate jumps from 155 to 194 in less than a quarter mile
- The end of the first pavé – average heartrate of 186 for the 8 mile section
- Chasing and working hard to catch back on
- Attacks in the middle of the long road between the 1st and 2nd pavé sections
- The start of the second pavé section
- The start of the third pavé section
- Responding to an attack on a hill
- The final sprint
I am in the midst of last minute preparations for the first big race of the season tomorrow – Rouge Roubaix. Lennie and I are going to drive down together to spend the night in the closest town with a hotel with rooms still available (Best Western, Zachary, Louisiana). I just looked at the list of preregistered riders, and there are 74 people with lots of strong teams represented tomorrow. We will have to be very attentive to make sure that we are in the moves that have riders from the strong teams. Plus, I think the bigger issue is making sure that we are towards the very front of the group when we hit the first gravel section and going into each subsequent gravel sections. I’ve added them to my topocreator map below:
Here is a tale of two teams and two training camps culminating in the second race of the annual Camp Sumataunga training series put on by GSMR. Travis Sherman and his Moontoast/Warp9bikes.com/Tristar cycling team held their spring training camp in Birmingham this weekend as did we at the Tria Cycling / DonohooAuto / Infinity Med-i-spa cycling team. Our camp was at Lake Logan Martin with Dan Taylor hosting us for good hard riding on Friday and Saturday. Both our team and Tristar decided to cap off a hard weekend of training going head-to-head along with about 35 other riders in the second race of the GSMR training series.
I figured the start would be slow, but Tristar turned up the heat as soon as we turned the first corner with a strong series of attacks that saw a small group establish itself off the front including Mike Olheiser (Tristar), Nick Housley (Tristar), Wes Douglas (Tria Cycling), me (Tria Cycling), and maybe one or two other guys within the first two and a half miles of the race. I didn’t have time to take notice of who all was there because Nick (Tristar) attacked the break shortly after it was established. I covered the move chasing hard to bridge up to Nick taking just over 1 minute to get there (see heart rate data #3). After I pulled through, Nick who was apparently very eager to get up the road alone, attacked catching me completely by surprise and dropped me like a bad habit. I felt that the race had still yet to develop so I let him go and waited for the rest of our breakaway group to catch up. I realized that it was pretty much all together behind me, and I knew that it was “do or die” on the course’s longest hill so I wanted to make sure that I was not caught until near the top of that hill. If I was caught anywhere towards the bottom of that hill, there was a near certainty that the break would be leaving up the road without me! So I pushed it hard up the hill, caught my breath for about 10 seconds just in time to see Mike Olheiser (Tristar) come flying by with my teammate Wes close on his wheel. I dug as deep as possible knowing that this move was not coming back to the pack.
Indeed, it was the decisive move and here were the ones that made it: Mike Olheiser (Tristar), Mike Lanham (Tristar), Mark Simpson (Velocity Pro Cycles), Wes Douglas (Tria Cycling), and me (Tria Cycling). Nick was still up the road ahead of us and gradually extending his lead. Mike and Mike both pushed the pace hard at the beginning of the break with Mark, Wes, and I rolling through. The pace was very hard and we ended up losing Mark (who made it into the front group two weeks in a row) towards the end of the first lap. At that point it became a Tristar / Tria battle for the top five positions. Tristar was in a funny position because Nick was still up the road, but it was also to their advantage to keep our break away from the main group. So Mike Olheiser continued to push the pace hard while the rest of us just rolled through. On lap 2, shortly after the long hill on the backside of the course, Mike Olheiser put in a monster attack catching me completely off guard. I set off in pursuit all the way across the rollers approaching the turn onto the rough finishing road. I was closing the gap ever so slowly and then covered the final ground by basically praying and closing my eyes through the turn at not 20, not 25, but 30mph swinging all the way to what had to have been less than an inch from the side of the road! I knew that if Mike O still had a gap coming out of the corner it was over for me – but I came flying out of the corner and closed it down within a few more seconds hitting my max heartrate for the day (see heartrate data #6).
When I caught Mike, again he was faced with a tough decision because he couldn’t just drag me up to his teammate, but he had successfully gotten me separated from my teammate Wes. In the end he decided to soft pedal until his teammate Mike Lanham and Wes caught back up to us. At that point, I was in desperate need for a rest when Mike Lanham wisely launched an attack. Thankfully, Wes covered it with me barely chasing back on. Then it was a stalemate for the next 1/2 mile as we made it back onto the smooth road with the order being Mike O, Me, Wes, Mike L. I knew that Mike L was resting and getting ready to attack again so I told Wes to get behind Mike L. Mike L didn’t want that so as Wes slowed down so did Mike L. Before long, Mike O and I were at least 20 seconds up the road ahead of them. In the end I think this was the best possible scenario as Mike L and Mike O would have continued to attack us until either one or both of us had gotten dropped. So instead of that happening, Mike O started to ride tempo and I tried to pull a little bit extra hard when it was my turn to help close the gap back to Nick who had started to soft pedal when he saw us coming. From that point on it was two Tristar against me. Keep in mind that at this point we still had over 25 miles left in the race.
I knew it was in my best interest to help work with them to maintain our break to discourage them from attacking me. I kid you not, though, for the next hour and 15 minutes I had one thought running constantly through my head — “no gaps”. So whenever it was my turn to pull, I would pull at 85-90% and try to pull a little bit longer than what I normally would. And I was always watching shadows even early on in the third lap when I wasn’t suspecting that they would attack me yet. I am very very glad though that I was paying attention because halfway through the fourth lap, going into the long hill on the backside of the course I heard and saw Nick’s shadow move abruptly. I had been waiting for it for the past 30 minutes so I was ready. Even though I caught onto his wheel nearly right away, Nick didn’t let up on his attack all the way up the hill with me snaking across the road to stay in his draft at over 20mph across the top of the hill. This actually worked out well because Nick caught Mike O by surprise too and Mike had to chase back on meaning I had about 10 seconds worth of rest before Mike O counter attacked and it came on a slight downhill and I saw it coming so I closed it down immediately and Nick was too tired to attack again. So I got a nice breather plus I also got a psychological boost knowing that Nick had just punched my ticket for a free ride the rest of the way. Plus, I was angry. I no longer had any ethical, tactical, or logical reason to pull. As indicated by the heartrate 7 region, there were several attacks but I shut each one down by anticipating and jumping it even in the middle of the first pedal stroke. So we sort of reached a stalemate for the final lap with Mike O pulling the ENTIRE lap at a moderate pace with me in second and Nick in third. Mike put in one last attack coming up the hill in the middle of the rough road section. I was caught out of position a bit but was able to pull him back by the bottom of the downhill. I would have been in trouble if Nick had counter attacked right away but I think he was struggling a bit too. So in the end Mike was forced to lead it out and I was forced to try to anticipate Nick’s jump in the final sprint. I couldn’t do it though because when Nick jumped, he jumped incredibly hard opening up a huge gap that I couldn’t close so I came across in 2nd with Mike just behind in 3rd.
Wes was able to outkick Mike Lanham for fourth. Sammy came through about 30 seconds later taking the field sprint. So in the end Tristar came away with the team victory taking 1st, 3rd, and 5th – and we came in second taking 2nd, 4th, and 6th. Kudos to them for a good strategic race, and I am already looking forward to a rematch as it was great training and a great learning experience for everyone.
- Easy first 2.5 miles
- Tristar’s initial attack
- Chasing down Nick’s counter attack
- Catching on to the second break
- An attack from somebody towards the end of the first lap
- Chasing down Mike O’s attack, maximum HR for the day
- Nick’s attack halfway through the 4th lap plus additional attacks from both him and Mike O
- An attack by either Nick or Mike
- Mike’s final attack
- The final sprint