Archive for April, 2010
Kristine snapped this photo of me in the middle of a huge field right before the start of the 2010 Roswell Criterium Pro/1 race. I was only three or four rows back from the start line, so I had a pretty good start. One of the unique things about this course is that there is a built-in radar detector on the course. The first lap reading was 35mph — very fast with a tail/cross-wind through the start-finish. The pace stayed very high topping out at almost 38mph by the end of the fourth lap. Keep in mind that is the speed of roughly the front third of the pack during the race — not for the finishing sprint. The poor guys at the end of the pack would have been going maybe an additional 1mph. Our average speed ended up being 28mph when factoring in the hill and bunching up that happened in Turn 3 on just about every lap. I fought hard to stay towards the front, which usually meant looking for opportunities to pass people using momentum on the backside hill, or whenever the pack would bunch up going into a corner. Still, I was never really happy with my position and never once made it close enough to the front to attack in pursuit of a prime or to try to make it into a break. Kristine said that she was impressed with my position in the pack as I was always in the front third. That should give you an idea of how large the field was — considering as how I thought I was in the middle or back 1/3rd of the field! In the final few laps, I ended up maintaining about my same position and ultimately finished 45th. Not a great race, but good training, good experience, and fun racing with the pros.
Finally, here’s my heartrate data — a little bit lower than expected considering as how I should have been pretty fresh for the race. This is probably represented by the fact that this race was more about jostling for position at high speeds than a flat out drag race all the way around the course. Only the start/finish stretch was super fast.
Even in the pouring rain, this race is awesome. I raced the computrainer qualifiers on Friday and placed 83rd, but that still meant I was starting towards the back — maybe 10th row on the start line? After all the call-ups, we were finally off and the race went well for the first two corners — bunch up on the first corner, faster through the second corner, and then a big crash on turn 3. I made it through but it was single file, strung out, and very fast coming out of turn 4 where more guys had gone down (keep in mind this is lap #1 of 80!!!). By this point we had already lost 30 guys or so and I was at the back of the pack. I came out of Turn 2 on the second lap and passed some guys and started to move up – but there were a lot of guys taking the corners tentatively so gaps were opening up everywhere. I eventually had to chase around a couple gaps and then found myself chasing around a gap I couldn’t close about 15 laps into the race. I chased hard for 5 or 6 more laps before it became clear that I was not going to catch back on and so I pulled off at the top of the hill as the pace car and lead motorcycles came into view at the bottom of the hill. A couple positive things from the race — I love my Specialized All Weather Pro rain tires — I could take corners pedaling at full speed even in the pouring rain and my tires did not slip a single time in the race. The other positive thing is that I survived without breaking anything on me or the bike — so I’m ready and excited to be a bit fresher than normal for the Roswell crit tomorrow! No heartrate data b/c I didn’t feel it was worth the risk of my Garmin bouncing off the bike during the race — plus no guarantees that it would have been working right in the pouring rain. Thanks everyone for cheering out there – I heard people screaming on Turns 1, 2 and 3 — you guys are awesome!
Sunny King Criterium – NRC Pro Race
With Sunny King bumped up a couple weeks from its normal spot on the calendar, this turned out to be my first NRC race of the year. There were lots of strong pro teams represented in the field, and there were lots of people lining the streets, making lots of noise, and watching the race online and on the jumbotron tv. My teammate Terry Duran and myself lined up at the start to represent our team. I had a great start and worked hard to stay towards the front, but eventually the surges leading into turn 3 saw me lose position and drift farther back than I would like to be. It’s nearly impossible to survive on that course if you are at the back of the pack because you have to maintain such a high speed through the corners to maintain contact with the people in front of you who are already accelerating up to full speed — sometimes this is called the slinky effect. So after about 15 laps, I was starting to really struggle far back in the field when a break of 15 riders separated themselves off the front. Our pace in the field slowed down which gave me a bit of time to recover and then work my way back up to the front of the race.
I attacked and got away from the main field with about 16 laps to go in the race. I managed to stay away for two complete laps before getting caught. I was hoping that the announcer would ring the bell to indicate a cash prime — plus I wanted to get some good exposure for our sponsors! I was caught, though, and settled in near the front of the field and resigned myself to hanging on and placing as high up in the field sprint as possible. Terry and I surfed the pack together, constantly fighting for position and passing people wherever we could find room. In the final sprint, I placed in the top 20, but with the break having lapped our field it worked out to 27th in the race. Terry finished a couple spots behind in 29th. Good start to the upcoming crit racing series!
- Incredibly intense first 20 laps
- The breakaway of 15 riders got away here, and our pace slowed
- Bahati attacked here and the pace ramped way up as the field chased him
- My two-lap getaway
- The intense finishing laps
Foothills Road Race
New this year for the weekend was the addition of a road race on Sunday. The start location was the same as the Cheaha Challenge century in Piedmont, AL, but we did a different course that was still very challenging with nearly constantly rolling terrain a few steep kickers. I lined up with Stuart, Wes, and Paul in the field which still had all the same pro teams represented as the crit last night. The route did have a couple miles of flat roads towards the beginning, and the attacks were pretty much nonstop until the first big hill at which point our pace up the hill was fast enough to prevent most attacks. A small group of 3 or 4 guys did emerge across the top with a small gap and extended their lead on the downhill and next few rolling hills. Then we came to the steepest hill of the course, and a group of 5 more guys chased onto the original breakaway making a total of 9 up the road. I had drifted too far back and couldn’t get around people on the hill to go with them.
So this group of 9 is off, and I was thinking the race was over because all the pro teams were represented in the break. So when Michael Stone (Hincapie Development) attacked a couple miles later, I went with him. One other guy went with us and the three of us had a nice gap on the field and were working hard to cross the gap to the breakaway. It looked like we were making progress, but after we turned a corner we saw that the field was strung out and closing very fast. Once they caught us, however, the pace dropped off again and the break re-extended its lead. A bit frustrated I rolled off the front on the next hill and three guys bridged up to me — Travis Sherman (Moontoast/Tristar/Warp9) and two other guys. We worked really well on some rolling uphill terrain and caught the leaders by the top of the last hill.
The lead group wasn’t working well together, though, so I thought the field would be joining us shortly. Instead, there was some attacks right as we joined the back of the group and our pace skyrocketed for about 5 minutes. Then a United Healthcare rider flatted, which meant the other United Healthcare rider wasn’t going to do any more work until his teammate rejoined our break. So the break was somewhat neutralized until he rejoined the field. In the meantime, four or five more guys had crossed the gap between the field and our break, including one more Kenda rider. Kenda had 3 or 4 guys in the break against United Healthcare’s two so they were super motivated and drove the pace. Unfortunately, there were too many people and we never got a smooth rotation going. Several times I would pull through, and instead of the next person pulling through, they or somebody behind them would attack. So our break consisted of numerous small attacks, breaks, chases, etc… Eventually we extended our lead to over 5 minutes as the relentless attacks kept our overall pace pretty high. Also, eventually a group of three got away with Fly V, Bahati Foundation (Cesar Grejales), and United Healthcare represented. So it was up to Kenda and Team Type I to chase, but the attacks had tired everyone — so the three strongmen up front extended their lead.
I made it into a small group of about 8-10 riders who crested the hill together. I was next to Karl Menzies (United Healthcare) when he saw we had a gap and launched himself off the front of our group. I just watched him go, legs burning too much from the climb to try and catch onto his wheel. It was amazing though – 5-10 hard pedal strokes, tuck onto the top bar of the bike, and he was easily going 5mph faster than us on the descent. Oscar Clark (Mountain Khakis) worked hard and eventually brought back Menzies and a small group of riders who had bridged up to him. So we were all together going into the final corner with 500 meters to go, and I was sitting 5th wheel, when the rider in front of me opened up a gap on the first 3 riders going into the corner. In retrospect, I should have immediately come around and closed the gap, but I was hoping somebody from behind would — but nobody did so those guys sprinted it out for 4th, 5th, and 6th just ahead of the rest of us. When the surge finally came, I lost some position and then regained a few spots to finish 5th in our sprint — 11th for the race. Overall, I was happy with the race, but disappointed with not being aggressive enough to immediately jump across the gap at the finish. Sometimes you have to be patient, sometimes you have to be aggressive — it’s really hard to know how to play out a sprint finish. It helps to have really fast legs, but experience can usually buy you a few places as well. I’ll chalk this one up to experience and next time will hopefully place a few spots higher!
- Faulty readings, HR probably in the red zone
- The first climb where the group of 4 got away
- The next climb where a chase group of 5 formed
- Working in the 3-man chase group
- Attacking and then bridging up to the break
- Notice all the HR spikes — lots of attack,chase,rest,repeat
- The final climb
- The finishing sprint
We just finished up a great team dinner here at our house, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s big race in Anniston. Live coverage will be streamed on the Sunny King website – http://www.sunnykingcriterium.com – Check it out! The action should be hot with lots of pro teams represented. Bahati Foundation and United Healthcare will be duking it out to settle up last week’s Dana Point crit. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hang in and fight for the front – aiming for a top 10 finish!
I was looking for top ten finishes and a qualifying spot in the Nature Valley NRC Stage Race, but instead I came away 2nd in the Nature Valley competition and two 15th place results instead of top ten’s. Disappointed? Not in the least! 800 miles of driving for a bike race. Are you for real? Totally! The whole story doesn’t always make it into the final results. The highlight for the weekend was catching up and hanging out with my college friends Darol and Donna and their family. Our kids got to meet their kids and have an awesome time playing together on Saturday while Kristine and I were at the road race. When we got back to the house, I played basketball with Jonathan, Elizabeth, and Benjamin (who are amazing at basketball!) who easily defeated me in “Horse”, “Toone” and knock-out. Analise joined in a couple times, too, while Abigail and Josiah played on the backyard playset. The only thing missing from the weekend was that our Sunday race was too early for us to be able to go to church with them and still make it to the race so we had to say goodbye all too soon, and I am sure Analise and Josiah are already looking forward to next year’s race!
Here’s the scoop on how the races went -
Patriot Trail Road Race
The road race consisted of two laps of a 47 mile rolling course through the historic and beautiful York County countryside making for a long 94 mile day in the saddle.
My teammate Wes and I lined up on the front row of a 90+ strong field with 3 pro teams (Kenda, Team Type I, and Mountain Khakis) and several strong amateur teams (Global Bike, Subaru/Gary Fischer, Hincapie Development, and others). Wes rolled off the front a mile or so into the race and got away solo before an attack from another rider in the field brought the whole field along and reeled Wes back in. I went with the next move, but our break lasted only a minute or two before we were caught. Then there was another counter attack and three riders made it into a good looking break — although Team Type I and Global Bike were not represented in the move. The break quickly extended their lead to nearly two minutes ahead of the field by the KOM at mile 24. But the attacks associated with the minor points from the KOM and then the subsequent counter attacks through the hilliest section of the course saw the break’s lead shrink down to below 45 seconds.
It looked like we were sure to catch the break thanks to Global Bike’s steady efforts at the front of the field, but then the break’s lead quickly shot up again. Global Bike felt like they had done enough work, and it was time for other teams to help share the work of closing down the break. Instead, nobody came to help them so our place plummeted again. I expected attacks to try to get across to the break, but only one materialized — a Hincapie Development rider (Michael Stone). He quickly got a good gap on the field since our pace was slow with teams trying to work out who was going to drive the chase. It was at this time I realized that we were quickly approaching the end of the first lap and that I was farther back in the field than I wanted to be. So I was a little bit worried about trying to find Kristine in the feedzone and her being disappointed that I wasn’t in the break — so I found my opportunity, worked my way to the front, and attacked hard to bridge to the Hincapie rider. It worked — the field let me go without chasing, and I made the bridge pretty quickly up to Michael. We had a slim lead of maybe 10 seconds by the time we made it to Kristine in the feed zone a couple miles later at the end of Lap 1.
Kristine did an excellent job screaming encouragement and handing me a water bottle at the same time as Michael and I passed by at nearly 25 mph. Kristine told me later that it was chaos in the feedzone as riders came to nearly a complete stop to make sure they got their bottles since there wouldn’t be another chance to get bottles before the end of the race. Up ahead, we extended our lead so that they pulled an extra pace car ahead to lead us and sent the original pace car back to lead the pack. Michael and I worked well together averaging 26.5 mph for the 10.5 miles that we were away on our break. As it turns out (and unbeknownst to us), we were actually the two leaders on the road for that entire stretch of road. We never saw the original break ahead of us because the police escort in front of them had led them significantly off the course when they missed a turn.
When the pack caught us, they were flying and there were lots of small attacks. Having spent a lot of energy in the break, I was content to sit in the pack and recover and hope that nothing would get away during that time. Fortunately, all the attacks during that time were brought back fairly quickly. As we came into the closing miles, a small break of four got a good gap on the field. I missed that move, and it looked like it might work — but within the last couple miles, Global Cycling finished reeling them back in to set up the finale for their sprinter who took the win. Behind him, the field sprint was rather chaotic with riders bumping into each other and trying to maneuver through riders coming off the leadout train. I managed to stay upright and finish 15th although I could hear at least one or two crashes in the sprint behind me. I was in the top 10 riders at the start of the sprint with 1k to go, but I didn’t realize that we had the whole road from that point on so I got passed by at least 10-15 riders who crossed the yellow line while I stayed in the center of the road. By the time I realized what was going on, I was only able to work my way back up to 15th. C’est la vie!
- Faulty data (error-corrected)
- KOM for Lap 1
- Our 2-man, 10.5 mile, 26.5mph break
- KOM for Lap 2
- Good recovery and low HR before the final sprint
Winthrop Lake Criterium
I can’t say enough about this course. I wish every crit course was like this one. We had another large field — this time with 90 riders and 4 pro teams represented with the addition of Jonathan Clarke from United Healthcare. Yet we were able to safely navigate the course at high speeds — even with several sharp corners a short, steep downhill and a gradual uphill. The key element was smooth consistent roads of about the same width for the entire course. My teammates Stuart and Wes both lined up with me for the start of the race. Stuart launched himself on a prime lap and found himself quickly joined by a small group. They extended a small lead before the field gobbled them up. I went with a counter move that looked pretty good, but we only stayed off the front for a few laps. Wes got caught up behind a nasty crash on the second lap on the uphill and wasn’t able to catch back on. I heard the crash as it wasn’t too far behind me towards the front of the field. It sounded like several riders went down hard. Stuart ended up flatting and unfortunately for him taking my rear wheel from the pit. Let’s just say that the wheel he was using wasn’t adjusted very well for his bike. Works great for me as it’s my daily commute wheel, but he could only get his rear derailleur to stay in place for two gear combos – 53×11 and 53×16 (probably where some extra grease was built up).
At about the halfway point of the race with 17 laps to go (out of 35 laps), a Subaru/Gary Fischer rider (Sam ?) attacked and got a small gap on the field. My legs were still feeling really good so I attacked on the short steep downhill leading into the last corner. The field let me go, and I rode hard for half a lap to bridge up to Sam. By the time I made it up to him, we had a good 5-10 second gap. By the start of the next lap, our gap was up to 15 seconds where it hovered there for about the next 6 or 7 laps. We worked very well together and settled into a rhythm where I would pull the uphill portion of the course through the steep downhill with Sam taking over for the headwind section back into the bottom of the uphill where we would trade places again. After 6 or 7 laps, our gap slowly started to come back down – 10 second lead with 8 laps to go, 8 second lead on the next lap, 5 seconds for the next 3 laps and then finally caught with only 3 laps left to go in the race. Fortunately, I was able to tuck in and get a good recovery (see HR data) and then ramp it up again in the final sprint for 15th place. During our break, Chad (@TotalCyclist) rang the bell for a $40 prime which Sam and I agreed to split.
So 15th isn’t the result I was looking for, but I am not disappointed as we made the race really exciting, and it was a lot of fun to be flying along the course in front of the crowd and getting encouragement from Kristine and people all over the course with the hope that we would be able to stay away to the finish.
- Early attacks and pace changes
- First breakaway group
- Our 2-man, 10.5 mile, 27.1mph break
- Recovery before the finish