Archive for March, 2011

Rouge Roubaix 2011 Race Report

18th last year, 9th this year, so does that mean I can aim for a top 5 finish next year? No matter what the result though, every person in every category who raced and finished yesterday raced 105 miles through some of the most grueling terrain and roads you can imagine – and all of it taking place under perfect weather conditions deep in the bayou of Louisiana. What an awesome way to kick start the road racing season! Team JuwiFirst-Solar took 1st and 2nd with Jonny Sundt (Kenda Pro Cycling) placing 3rd after crossing a gap of nearly 10 minutes and then suffering an untimely puncture late in the race.

The Details
Mike Olheiser was there with his new team, Team-JuwiFirst-Solar. Other strong teams included Kenda, Snapple, Metro-VW, Plano-PACC, Team La S’port, Herring Gas, and S3. Mike sent two of his riders up the road in the early suicide break as soon as we made it out of the neutral zone. One other rider (Plano-PACC) latched on making it a break of 3. With such a strong team having two riders up the road, there was much more racing at the front before the first dirt section than last year. No team wanted to commit to chasing, though. Instead, teams tried to launch riders off the front to bridge. Most of these moves came back, but eventually a chase group containing Jonny Sundt (Kenda Pro Cycling), Jacob Brewer (Herring Gas), and Scott Kuppersmith (La S’port Cycling) established itself. This was the situation leading into the first dirt section.

The first dirt section
With six riders now off the front in two separate groups, I was still in the pack of maybe 50 riders going into the first dirt section. I had worked (and fought) my way to the front of the group and entered the dirt in 3rd or 4th position. We hit the first dirt/gravel road hard even with a couple of loose sections, but we were able to plow right through and I stayed in the group but had slid back to about 20th position by the time we reached the logging truck. The truck was heavily loaded and moving slowly (2-3 mph), but the problem is that our lead car stopped on the side of the road. So to pass through there was only about a 4 or 5 foot wide space between the logging truck and the lead car. The first few riders made it through, but the richochet effect of slowing down meant that by the time I made it up to the narrow spot between the logging truck and the lead car, we were moving very slowly. During the process of accelerating back up to speed, I came off the back of the group and chased hard for the remaining portion of the dirt road (about 6 miles). The picture below was taken by Adam Falgout somewhere in the first dirt section when I was chasing by myself.

Chasing the chase group somewhere in the first dirt section. Photo credit:
Adam & Erin Falgout Photography

I knew that I was expending a lot of energy, but I also wasn’t sure if the group was going to slow down after reaching the paved road. The entire time I was chasing, I was riding through the dust and could see the group whenever the road straightened out enough. I looked back periodically and didn’t see anyone, although I knew that there would be chase groups forming behind me. When I made it back to the road, I put my head down and drilled it bridging back up to the group with just a couple more minutes of chasing. A few miles later, one more group joined up with us. And I believe that was it as we started to race again with lots of attacks and counter attacks.

The battle of wills between the first dirt section and the second dirt section
The first dirt section ends at mile 35, and the second dirt section doesn’t begin until 32 miles later at about mile 67. Last year, this entire section was pretty much cruised at 22-23 mph. This year, we had some real racing earlier on starting from about mile 40 until mile 51 where there were a number of attacks. During this section of the race, our average speed was just under 25mph with lots of attacks and then slow-downs. Tim Henry (Pacesetter Steel) got into a number of solo moves, but nothing would stick. Cesar Grajales (Real Cyclist / On the Rivet) tried to get away, but everybody in the pack was watching him like a hawk. He couldn’t go anywhere without the entire field responding. I attacked a couple times, too, but couldn’t make a clean break from the field. When that didn’t work, I tried a couple roll offs hoping that the group would just let me roll away – not happening. Once it was clear that nothing was getting away, our pace dropped with only a few riders setting tempo. I still held out hope of catching some of the earlier riders, but not if we averaged 18mph so I went to the front and helped ramp up the pace a few times trying to conserve energy, but keep the group moving. Our average pace from mile 51 to mile 67 was 22.5mph.

The second dirt section
It became clear by the time that we approached the start of the second dirt section 67 miles into the race that the early suicide move was going to stick this year as they still had a gap of maybe 10 minutes? What I didn’t know at the time is that by the top of Blockhouse Hill, Jonny Sundt (Kenda) had finished bridging across and joined the lead JuwiFirst-Solar pair of riders who had dropped the other rider that was with them. I also didn’t know that somewhere during this stretch, both Scott Kuppersmith (Team La S’port) and Jake Brewer (Herring Gas) had come off of the chase group leaving Jonny to finish the bridge alone. Quite impressive!!

Meanwhile, back in our group, I was watching my Garmin as it ticked down the miles until the lefthand turn onto the second dirt section. I was able to move all the way to front with less than a half mile to the turn. Then when we hit the turn, I entered in about 3rd or 4th wheel. This second dirt section starts out with a mix of paved road, dirt road, gravel road, and potholes. So it is crazy fast leading into Blockhouse Hill, which is 0.6miles long @ 7.8% with really steep pitches in the middle. The entire climb is loose dirt and gravel. Last year, I had to walk it when a rider fell over in front of me, and it was too steep to remount. This year, I was near enough to the front that I was with all the riders who are capable of riding the climb, and we were able to fly right up it (11.4 mph average speed with heartrate of 187). During this crazy-fast ascent, Mike Olheiser and Cesar Grajales separated themselves with maybe a 20-30 second advantage. Immediately behind them, Christian Helmig (Metro-VW), another rider from Metro-VW, and a Bissell Pro Cycling rider coalesced into a chase group by the top. I was just barely off this group by about 5 seconds. I chased for about a mile on the dirt before I was able to catch them. We started working together even before we made it out of the dirt section to try to chase down Mike and Cesar. We could always see them just ahead, and it looked like we were gradually closing down the gap. I was at my limit pretty much the whole time with an average heart rate of 178 for that entire chase (almost 15 miles!). Then as we approached the third dirt section, the gap really started to came down. We got stuck behind about four cars that had lined up behind the follow-car. It was almost like the race caravan at a pro stage race.

The third dirt section
We were getting ready to go around the cars when we realized that we had made it to the start of the third dirt section. We had to wait to see if any of the cars were going to turn left, and that was just enough time for us to not make the bridge to Mike and Cesar, who had turned back on the gas for the dirt. We also lost Christian who was the fastest from our group on the steep initial climb. I struggled on the climb and panicked a bit because I could see Mike, Cesar, and Christian nearing the top of the climb when I was struggling at the bottom. I wanted to go faster, but I couldn’t. I was just struggling to stay upright so I hopped off the bike thinking that I could run up it faster than ride up it. As Mike, Cesar, and Christian disappeared out of sight, I thought for sure Christian had made the juncture to finish the race with Mike and Cesar since we were so close (50 meters?) – but it turns out that he never did catch them – which meant that he rode the last 25 miles by himself!

The long finishing section
Meanwhile, we were still pushing it and eventually caught three riders individually over the next 20 miles – Scott Kuppersmith (Team La S’port) and two Plano-PACC riders. Each rider latched onto our group, but all three were pretty cooked after a really long day in breakaways. At this point, I felt like I was pulling the hardest in our group, so I wasn’t sure if that was because the other riders were struggling – or if it was because they were saving up for the finish. When my Garmin said we had 3 miles to go, I attacked hard on one of the short steep hills. We lost one of the Plano riders and Scott, but unfortunately for me, it became apparent that the other Metro-VW rider and the Bissell rider were just saving up for the sprint because they had no problem closing the gap to me. So I stopped working hard and started to save energy for the finish. Unfortunately, I didn’t save enough energy because the Bissell rider and Metro-VW rider had no problem coming around me in the sprint. The remaining Plano-PACC rider was dropped.

It was during this finishing section that the most unusual thing of the race happened. We were flying around a corner shortly after crossing a cattle guard, when there was a big cow in the middle of the road. We didn’t slow down and just went flying right by it within a couple feet of it. I’m glad we didn’t spook it enough to charge us or kick!

The finish order (updated)
1. Greg Krause (Team JuwiFirst-Solar)
2. Ben Blaugrund (Team JuwiFirst-Solar)
3. Jonny Sundt (Kenda)
4. Cesar Grajales (Real Cyclist)
5. Mike Olheiser (Team JuwiFirst-Solar)
6. Christian Helmig (Metro-VW)
7. Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell Pro Cycling)
8. Stephan Hirsch (Metro-VW)
9. Brian Toone (Tria Cycling)
10. Adam Koble (Plano-PACC)
11. Scott Kupersmith (Team La S’port)
12. Michael Lalla (Plano-Pacc)
13. Tim Henry (Pacesetter Steel)
14. Robert Binkley (Krystal)

19. Andrew Reardon (Nashville Cyclist)
20. Matt Davis (Team La S’port)

The Stats
This will probably be the longest race of the year with the most calories burned (4923 calories). The Strava stats indicate a 242 watt average, but that doesn’t take into account all the effort on the loose, rocky dirt sections. My heart rate average was 160, which is a couple beats higher than a typical road race. But my typical road races are 20-30 miles shorter than Rouge Roubaix!

Annotated heartrate data for Rouge Roubaix 2011 (click for full graph)

Strava segments with calculated power data (click for full graph)
Or you can also view the ride interactively on Strava here –

My day was made as soon as I showed up at registration and saw my TopoCreator map printed out on a 3 foot poster alongside the trophies to be awarded!

Close-up of my topocreator map with annotations added by the race organizers. I like the section labeled “Mo Fun”.

We drive nearly seven hours from Birmingham to arrive and end up parking right next to a car from Pennsylvania with the same MOPS sticker that is on our car!

March 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm 9 comments

More racing and climbing

Climbing – Cheaha Mini-Challenge
On Wednesday, I had an Alabama Academy of Science meeting at Jacksonville State University, which is not too far from the highest point in the state – Mount Cheaha. So, after my morning classes, I drove on over to the foothills just off the interstate and then went for a mini-Cheaha Challenge ride. Here is my route and climbing data from Strava -

Mini Cheaha Challenge Strava climbing data.

Got lots of on-the-bike pictures for the ride. See the gallery after the training race recap below.

Racing – GSMR Camp Sumatanga Training Race #3 – 2nd place!
The training race yesterday (Sunday) at Camp Sumatanga turned out really well for Tria Cycling, with our team taking 1st through 5th place! Of course, we did have half the field on our team (literally) as only 14 people showed up for the race with 7 from my team. A quick race summary is that we tried to animate the race early to get several riders in a break. Eventually, my teammates Sammy and Wes made it into a break with me and Joe from Madison. We worked together, but we didn’t crush it because we wanted to see if more of our team could bridge up to us. About a lap into our break, my teammate Justin Bynum bridged up to us by himself. Another half lap later, my teammates Chris and Pat Allison bridged up to us by themselves. So this led to the day’s break with 6 of the 7 riders in the break from my team.

At this point, we were trying to figure out how to get a podium sweep because Joe was riding very strong and looked like he could certainly spoil the party on the climb. We had a good rotation going, and everybody (including Joe) worked well together. The temperature was plummeting, and by the time we finished the race it was below freezing (31.7 degrees Fahrenheit on my Garmin). Here’s how the last lap played out. We wanted to try to get both of our sprinters up the road well ahead of the climb, but Chris was cramping up so we decided to send Sammy first and then a few miles later send Wes to bridge across. So Wes and Sammy reached the bottom of the climb about the same time, while back in our group Joe was having to set the entire pace. I let him lead us to the first switchback in the climb, but when he started to slow down, I accelerated and took Pat and Justin with me. Joe was dropped after all his earlier work chasing, so Pat, Justin, and I were free to set a hard pace without fear of pulling him back up to Sammy or Wes. We caught Sammy just before the Eagle Eyes Cycles bar/shop about 500 meters from the finish. Pat and I decided no matter what that we were going to give Wes the win if we caught him, but we couldn’t catch him because he was crushing the climb. I ended up pulling away just slightly from Pat at the end to finish 2nd (I think because Pat sat up a little early) with Wes crossing the line about 25-50 meters in front of us. Sammy held on for fourth with Justin coming in for 5th in front of Joe giving us a sweep of 1st through 5th place! We started to head back down the climb and turned around when we saw Chris who was still plugging away on the climb despite cramping really bad. We escorted him up the climb for moral support, and then turned around to head back to the start before we froze to death.

Note the temperature in the Garmin Connect data below! Also, the US-231 climb was so beautiful with all the waterfalls from the previous day’s heavy rain.

Garmin Connect data for the race.

Chandler Mountain finishing climb heartrate data.

Pictures from my mini 50 mile version of the Cheaha Challenge

March 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

Riding and climbing in the North Georgia mountains

The beautiful view as soon as I arrived at the cabin near Dahlonega.

I spent a weekend of riding and racing in the North Georgia mountains. The Southern Cross race was on Saturday morning (awesome race – read my recap here), so I drove up on Friday. More specifically, I biked to work Friday morning, taught two classes, biked home, and then drove 4 hours to a cabin at the base of the Woody Gap climb just north of Dahlonega. There was still about a couple hours of daylight, so with the excitement of being in the middle of all the beautiful mountains, I got my bike out of the car as fast as possible, changed clothes right there beside the car, and went for a 2 hour ride climbing Woody Gap twice from the south side and once from the north side (much shorter climb) making it back to the cabin just after sunset. So that made for three bike rides and one four hour drive all in the same day.

Here is the iBike data for the two Category 2 (Strava) climbs –

------WOODY GAP (from Damascus Church Rd) ------
Strava:      Cat 2
Dist:        9.00 mi (0:41:38)
Climbing:    1816 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  260.1   387  W
Gravity  -520  163.6   485  W
Speed     6.9   13.0  35.2  mi/h
Wind     12.6   17.1  34.1  mi/h
Elev     1514   2272  3242  ft
Slope    -5.9   3.67   8.4  %
HR        133  145.7   159  bpm
NP 264 W; IF 0.951; TSS 62.7
2/25/2011 3:37 PM
56 degF; 1017 mbar
------WOODY GAP (from R & R Ranch) ------
Strava:      Cat 2
Dist:        6.71 mi (0:30:43)
Climbing:    1651 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  289.9   608  W
Gravity -1127  202.6   483  W
Speed     0.0   13.1  39.6  mi/h
Wind     12.5   15.6  35.2  mi/h
Elev     1673   2433  3265  ft
Slope    -8.4   4.50  16.1  %
HR        107  156.2   178  bpm
NP 302 W; IF 1.088; TSS 60.6
2/25/2011 4:43 PM
49 degF; 983 mbar

And here is the graph for the entire ride:
iBike data for the entire ride.

Sunday’s ride was even better with me accomplishing what could be considered a dream of mine from over 15 years ago when a friend of mine asked if I would ride 200 miles with him in preparation for a tour across America that he was going to be doing. Well, he ended up having to back out, but I went ahead and completed the 200 mile ride from Clemson, SC to Brasstown Bald (highest point in Georgia) and then back through the Highlands, NC area. The only problem was that Brasstown Bald summit is not accessible by bike during the peak visiting times. You can either hike up to the top or take a shuttle. But they specifically disallow people from biking to the very top of the mountain. You can bike to the parking lot which is about 350 feet below the true summit, but you cannot bike to the top. I tried three years in a row at the end of each racing season, but I would always get chased down by the park workers. Well, guess what? In the middle of winter, the shuttles don’t run to the top, so you can bike up without any problems at all!

So I left our cabin early on Sunday morning, biked over to US 129 and climbed Neels Gap before turning onto GA-180 and climbing Jack’s Gap before turning at the top onto the 180-spur which takes you up three very steep miles to the highest point in Georgia. The ride started out kinda blah because it was really humid and warm when the sun was out, but cold whenever the sun went behind a cloud. So I kept on breaking out into a sweat and then getting cold. Plus, my legs were pretty cooked from the Southern Cross race the day before. But as soon as I made it to the Brasstown Bald parking lot and saw that the shuttles weren’t running, I knew that I might just have a shot at making it to the top – and I did! Strava categorizes the climb as an HC climb. Here is the elevation and gradient graph from Garmin Training Center:

Brasstown Bald elevation and gradient data.

And here is the Strava stats on the climbs (Neels Gap 2x and Brasstown Bald):

Strava data for the Brasstown and Neels Gap climbs.

And here are two pictures from the summit of the climb:

View looking south from the summit of Brasstown Bald.

The Tour de Georgia queen stage always finished on top of Brasstown Bald.

After having the opportunity to finally make it to the top of Brasstown Bald, I immediately forgot about how bad I had been feeling and thoroughly enjoyed the return trip back to the cabin before driving home to Birmingham. Also, I stopped at Turner’s Corner store on the way back and got to talk to the owner, who is on the Six Gap Century committee. His gas station and convenience store is the first rest stop for the Six Gap Century, and there is a corner of the store that is dedicated to biking with all kinds of biking equipment. What a fun adventure in the beautiful North Georgia mountains.

Here are more pictures from the rides on Friday and Sunday:

March 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm 2 comments

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Lots of repeats today. CAUTION - gravel washout at the one lane bridge at the bottom of Caldwell mill. I didn't see it until I was in it so I nearly lost it into the ditch. Stopped at the no-fun-bucks to cool off.

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March 2011
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Quick reference stats

Anaerobic Threshold:
Power:315 watts
Heart rate:180 bpm
Power:1097 watts (5s)
Heart rate:198 bpm (5s)
AT power estimated by critical power curve in Golden Cheetah, which predicts I should be able to maintain 315 watts for 1 hour.

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