Archive for May, 2013
Memorial Day today
Kinda puts bike racing in perspective – so many people have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have here in America. Thank you all present, past, and future soldiers!
Yesterday, I ended up 9th in the road race after having finished 15th in the criterium on Saturday in a really strong pro/1/2 field. Would have liked to finish a few spots higher, but it was still a great start to the inaugural SRS series, with five races in five southeastern states spread out over five months. In the criterium, I missed the six-man move and ended up ninth in the field sprint to take 15th in the race. Then in the road race, I was aggressive to get KOM points managing two third place finishes in the sprints to get some early points in that competition. I fought hard to stay towards the front and ended up 9th in the race fading at the end having started my sprint too early.
The detailed adventure
The last time I raced in Albany was 2009, and I knew I wanted to bring my family back down with me some day. This year it was just me and my wife making the trip, but next year I definitely want to bring the kids with us to experience the River Walk, Riverquarium, and other fun stuff to do right there on the crit course. Even the drive down was awesome – I65 to Montgomery to AL-110 to US82 – awesome rural roads with long distances between the towns so you can make some pretty good time while enjoying scenic rural southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia.
We drove down Saturday morning with the relatively short drive (4 hours) putting us into Albany well in advance of the criterium. I spent a good two hours rolling around easy underneath the huge oak trees draped with Spanish moss getting my legs ready for the intense 75 minutes of racing. This was my first hot race of the year as we’ve had quite the extended cold, rainy snap hanging around the southeast for the early part of the season. This race was HOT, and as I was sitting on the start line excited to race the strong, large field I my heartrate was hovering around 120!
I started out towards the back and raced somewhat conservatively trying to stay towards the front but not trying to get in every move. There were a number of good looking breaks, but fortunately the field came back together. The break of six that eventually formed got away about midway through the race. Then about 10 minutes later, a large chase group formed that I also missed. I attacked a couple times to try to bridge across or at least get a chase going, but each attack got brought back and the overall pace in the field was high enough that we caught the chase group and made it to within about 10 seconds of the front group. But then towards the end (see the video of the last eight laps below), we had some slow-downs in the field and the break’s lead went out again to about 20 seconds by the end. Shawn Gravois took a flyer from the lead group with three to go, got caught, and then went again with two to go holding it to the end for the win. Andy Crater won the sprint behind for 2nd followed by Oleg Tanovitchi taking third. I fought hard to stay towards the front, but ended up sliding a bit too far back and spending a bit too much time out in the wind so I could only manage 9th in the field sprint, 15th for the race.
For the Sunday road race, I had planned on attacking literally from the gun but before I could even attack Finishstrong had already set itself up at the front. I figured they were trying to setup Crater for the KOM but as it turns out they were trying to set up a different rider for the KOM. Still I followed their train to a third place finish on the first two KOM sprints. Finishstrong controlled everything in the race for the first two laps as they brought back attack after attack. I stayed very close to the front to go for the KOM sprints and also to make sure they didn’t try to slip anyone into a break. On the third lap, Brendan Sullivan (Lupus Cycling) got into a strong three-man move that swallowed up the KOM points. Shortly after the KOM, we caught the group of three and started setting up for the finish.
I had slid farther back than I wanted to, but then there was a crash in the middle of the field that unfortunately took out Michael McBrien (Bikes plus racing). In the crash chaos, I ended up sliding up a few spots and then continued to move up for the next several miles until we made the left turn with 2.5 miles to the finish. I was able to ride all the way up to back of the High Country Devo team sitting right behind their sprinter. They had a great train going, but it wasn’t quite fast enough to stem the surge from the field that sent me maybe 15-20 riders back from the front. When the big surge went up the lefthand side of the road, I swung out even farther to the left and was able to start my sprint with a clear line to the finish. It was at this exact moment when I went left that there was a bad crash on the right taking down Birmingham rider Payne Griffin. I was thankful not to go down, but I had started my sprint too early and even with a clean shot at the line I faded back to 9th by the finish. You can see the crash and the last 2.5 miles of the race in the two videos below:
Not quite the results I was looking for, but I was very happy to race against some of the strongest riders in the southeast and am very excited for the rest of the series! Here’s all my data from the races …
Criterium heartrate zone summary – note the high average speed
SRS - albany criterium Pro/1/2 - 15th place Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:38 295 871 151 86 24.9 2 1:26 221 752 164 82 28.6 3 1:24 301 833 163 90 28.9 4 1:24 224 884 168 83 29.2 5 1:27 234 768 168 83 28.2 6 1:24 260 848 165 85 29.5 7 1:26 187 694 164 82 28.5 8 1:30 223 790 159 83 28 9 1:25 248 583 166 85 28.7 10 1:22 264 762 167 80 29.5 11 1:27 238 770 165 82 28.9 12 1:27 255 579 163 88 28.4 13 1:28 246 608 165 82 28.8 14 1:27 252 822 164 81 28.6 15 1:29 225 629 163 86 27.8 16 1:26 270 700 164 85 29.1 17 1:22 294 704 173 85 30.5 18 1:28 324 1084 176 83 28.9 19 1:27 233 546 173 83 28.5 20 1:30 272 616 166 83 28.2 21 1:25 352 927 175 81 29.7 22 1:27 255 786 182 79 28.8 23 1:30 245 858 167 81 28.4 24 1:26 410 879 183 81 29.5 25 1:24 230 731 182 80 29.5 26 1:28 272 949 172 79 28.6 27 1:29 274 834 172 79 27.8 28 1:23 336 877 179 81 29.3 29 1:28 312 996 184 84 28.1 30 1:29 264 597 185 81 27.6 31 1:32 204 636 172 78 26.7 32 1:27 246 745 171 79 28.1 33 1:27 253 863 169 81 28.3 34 1:25 266 691 179 80 28.9 35 1:21 282 867 180 77 29.5 36 1:27 233 593 177 74 27.6 37 1:31 292 1044 170 76 26.9 38 1:27 301 985 179 79 27.7 39 1:32 258 610 179 84 26.8 40 1:31 228 728 170 77 27.1 41 1:26 227 739 173 77 28.7 42 1:24 319 689 174 83 29.4 43 1:30 285 833 176 81 27.5 44 1:31 282 817 179 75 27.4 45 1:27 286 749 180 78 28.3 46 1:26 225 573 179 79 28.2 47 1:29 303 707 173 81 27.8 48 1:30 303 756 181 82 27.4 49 1:27 310 872 183 82 28.1 50 1:26 302 886 183 84 28 51 1:18 409 1016 192 82 30.5
Road race heartrate zone summary – note the amount of time spent in Zones 2 and 3
Epic. This year’s race was highlighted by the most epic course of the season and an epic battle for the win between me and Kyle Taylor. I ended up on the losing end of that battle, but I’m still really happy with the race. I gave it everything I had attacking Kyle eight times on the forest road and double-track knowing that he was going to ride the singletrack much faster than me. You can see the entire race (including the epic climbing) in the annotated heartrate plot below.
How awesome is the course? Let’s start with the starting area — a giant boat launch area with room for maybe 25 or more riders on the front row! After a short mad dash up the hill, you enter the sylaward trail system which is very fast singletrack with hardly any roots (woo-hoo!) I entered the singletrack fifth. Kyle got the hole shot and was gone. Behind him two other riders quickly separated themselves from the next group — which consisted of Jayfer Bezier, me, Jamie, and Will Fyfe in that order. Jayfer was riding the singletrack at just the right speed – so I was content to follow him … until Mike Lackey tacked onto our group. I knew he was fast in the single track, so I was nervous that people were going to start trying to pass so at the next opportunity I went ahead and passed Jayfer so I could attack the uphills faster even if I wasn’t taking the corners or downhills quite as fast as him.
I led through the singletrack for the next few miles and we eventually caught one of the riders who had been ahead. When we finally made it through all the singletrack, we started to paceline it and got distracted missing the turn onto the new double-track that Brent had cut this week. Kyle had also missed the turn. We had ridden the singletrack much faster than expected so we made it to the tricky turn before the volunteers.
This cost Kyle more than the rest of us because the lead he had built in the singletrack was gone. Brent got us straightened out though and our group of about eight riders entered the double-track together with me in second position behind Jamie. I was nervous about the new doubletrack, but in the end was able to ride everything including the epic eight foot high entrance ramp which descended down into a huge mud puddle (hidden from view on the other side). In fact this double track was one of my favorite parts of the course because it was completely rideable and yet super challenging with some muddy steep gradients.
After crossing the creek, we climbed a steep hill and this is where Jamie, Kyle, and I separated ourselves from the rest of the group. The top of this hill dumped us out onto the forest road where the three of us pace-lined it and were gone. I was a bit uncertain at this point about strategy because I had been planning for a long chase thinking that at least one or two people would have a huge lead coming out of the singletrack and doubletrack. Jamie came off our group towards the bottom of the Cat 2 climb up to the Skyway. Kyle and I settled into a hard steady tempo, and I debated about attacking once or twice but I remembered how absolutely spent I was last year after attacking at the bottom of the climb to get the KOM. Kyle, too, was wanting to pace for the long race so we decided to split the KOM money but sprint for it anyway — the best of both worlds, neither of us has to blow up going for the KOM from the bottom of the climb — and yet we still had the competitive aspect of sprinting for it to see who could be the KOM. It was really foggy by this point as we had basically climbed from the valley right up into the cloud layer. It turns out that we started sprinting at about 500 meters (1/2 K) from the line which is a long way on a rocky climb, and then we both thought when the 200 meter marker appeared out of the mist that we were at the finish. Quickly realizing our mistake, Kyle attacked again and I couldn’t quite catch him before he reached Anna with the $100 bill at the top.
Making it to the top of the Cat 2 climb, you might think the next part would be easy – but I’d say the most epic part of the course is the skyway itself … epic ruts, epic puddles, and epic views (not today, though) with epic rollers some of which make it all the way into the Cat 4 climb category on Strava. Bike racing is such an interesting combination of camraderie, strategy, passion, endurance, skill, and strength – and that really played out in this race. Kyle and I worked together throughout the skyway with Kyle pushing the pace on the descents (faster than I would normally take them) and me pushing the pace on the rollers.
Both of us wanted to win the race, though, so Kyle tried to dislodge me on the long descent, and then I ended up attacking him eight times on the forest service road and double-track – but I couldn’t shake him. He probably would have distanced himself from me earlier in the double-track except for an epic crash. He had pulled ahead of me and was heading fast down the double track when he came to one of the large puddles — catching his wheel on a rut he wiped out landing in the puddle sending water/mud high into the air. I had a front row seat to watch it – epic. I made it through the puddle opting to ride through on the left since he had wiped out in the middle.
Across the first dam, I attacked again and tried to shake him on the next steep hill, but it just wasn’t happening. I let him by right at the entrance to the singletrack knowing that the game was over, and all I could do was ride fast hoping to hold on for second. I’m glad I did because Jamie was approaching fast and ended up finishing less than a minute after me.
Heartrate zone summary.
Epic race. Epic course
The photo below is taken from just south of Birmingham on one of my training rides last Sunday. Click to enlarge – you can see the annotated ridges with Skyway rising high above the surrounding valley. There is over 6000 feet of climbing in the race with over 1200 of that coming on the main climb from the valley to the top of the Skyway – one of about a dozen Cat 2 climbs in the entire state of Alabama. The Skyway ridge line is a single ridge line rising high and then dropping down into valleys on either side of it. And it is very long – snaking its way from just southeast of Sylacauga all the way up to Mt Cheaha – the highest point in Alabama. You can see how prominence of the ridge line in both the photo and the topocreator map below it.
The course traverses about 12.5 miles (25 miles roundtrip) of this long ridge line. The jeep road is rocky and rutted in spots (particuarly the descents and climbs) so you have to pick your line carefully – even at high speeds on the descent. It was great following Kyle on the descents because I could follow his line and watch how he handled tricky sections. Even with the rocks and the ruts, the skyway is fast and relentless – constantly rolling so that it is hard to settle into a good rhythm. At the bottom of each roller is a large mud puddle (width of the road) so that you have to snake around on the outside. There is just enough room to make it around if you brush into the bushes right next to the puddle … unless you end up trying to go on the wrong side. On one of the puddles on the way back, it looked like the line was on the left so I headed left and then realized that the puddle extended all the way out to the edge of the road so I had to ride through it — and it was DEEP! I had enough momentum to clear it, though, and catch back up to Kyle who had seen my mistake and taken the correct side.
With good tires and good brakes you can hit nearly 40 mph on the long descent back down from the skyway. The rollers across the valley are also steep so you can pick up some good speed to carry you into the next hill as long as you pick the right line heading around the corners. We only had one oncoming car the entire race and it was easily passed.
Finally, there is the Sylaward singletrack itself. I think Brent has described it as some of the most “grin-inducing” singletrack in the south … and even as someone who is not a big fan of singletrack, I would totally agree. I could go much faster on the singletrack then I normally would risk because the turns are banked and the penalty for failure is not severe (i.e., no huge drop-offs along the side). Part of the reason is that there is a good bit of climbing on the singletrack … there is some contour following (which usually means there is a drop-off to your left or right depending on the direction of the trail), but a contour bend around a ridge is usually followed by a drop-off from the ridge or climb back up the other side of the ridge – meaning that there is a place for me to make up time that I lose when delicately handling the bend around the ridge.
Really finally, the topography of the area is epic. I already described it, but here is some maps I made including a zoomed in view of the singletrack and doubletrack, a map of the entire course, and a zoomed out map showing the course and the ridge line extending all the way up to Cheaha. There is lots of good potential to make this a 100 mile race over to Adam’s Gap and back. I’m planning on doing a 120+ mile ride of an out/back to cheaha some time later in the summer. Will report on some course options then! Already looking forward to next year!!!
Only one week to go to the Skyway Epic … I’ve been working on the course map, and this year’s race is going to be “epic”!!!!
Quick summary – chasing after avoiding early crash, riding in a cold hurricane, slideout crash with five second slide, another near-crash, 20th place!
The details – I drove over from Birmingham past all the craziness that is talladega – partly cloudy and I’m thinking that it’s not going to rain. By the time I make it over to Sandy Springs, it is sunny and HOT. I thought about moving my car to find some shade, but by the time I picked up my number and changed clothes the clouds were starting to get much thicker. Still, there were periods of warm sunshine as I was riding over by the Chattahoochee River. When it started to get closer to race time, I headed back towards the course and suddenly encountered very wet streets with steam coming off them b/c it was still sunny where I was. Apparently while I was out warming up it started to downpour on the women’s race — whereas I didn’t get a single drop of rain or even know that it was raining just a couple miles to my east!
The sun was out, though, with no rain clouds anywhere close (although there were some ominous looking clouds visible south of town). The firefighter’s race scheduled between the women’s race and the men’s race was cancelled b/c of the wet course so there was about 20 minutes of time to ride on the course. With a bunch of riding laps easy on the course, it was drying out pretty quickly. Still, the course was by no means dry on those first laps. We did a reasonable 23 mph on the first lap even with a $200 prime on the line – but apparently that was enough to give the guys at the front confidence to ramp up the speed for the second lap. Unfortunately for those of us at the back, that means even faster speeds around the corners to keep from having a gap open up. So that second lap was absolutely insane. The course was drying out pretty fast, though, but not quite fast enough as there was a nasty crash at the front of the race about three or four laps into the race. I was far enough behind it to maneuver around, but ended up in a second group with people not chasing very hard.
This only lasted for a few seconds though b/c a rider behind me attacked seeing that this group was not going to make it back up to the field. Sergio Hernandez (Predator) and I both followed making for a three man chase group. The rider who attacked never slowed down and did all of the work. Fortunately for us, the course was almost dry by this point so the three of us could fly through the corners whereas the field was a bit more tentative. So after almost 10 laps we finally made it back up to the lead group that had maybe 30 riders still left in it. Sometime during our chase, Frank Travieso (Mountain Khakis) and Karl Menzies (United Healthcare) escaped. Since these were the two strongest teams in the race, they were happy to let them go meaning that the overall pace of the field dropped with only Empire Foundation (NYC) chasing. The next five to ten laps were sporadic with various surges, but the pace always seemed to ease up. I came off the back once or twice through the start finish with the moto-official even passing me, but just steady chasing through the corners meant that I was able to catch back up to the field.
Then the rain started again – fairly gradual at first – so that we had about two or three laps of rain with a course still dry enough to go pretty fast. Then it was a crazy downpour / hurricane. Very hard rain with some high wind gusts dramatically slowed down the field – but because I was at the back, I had to risk the corners at a bit higher of a speed to keep from getting gapped. The last turn was the trickiest. About every other lap, I would be gapped off b/c I would still be taking the turn slowly while the front of the group was already attacking up the hill. This meant that a gap would open up, and it would take me about half a lap to close it back down. The irony was that once I was off the back, I could actually go faster through the rest of the course then when I was with the group because it was easier to pick a line.
Eventually, during one of the laps where I was chasing and hadn’t quite caught back up yet, I tried to take the final turn a little bit faster to carry some momentum up the hill. Without warning, though, both wheels slid out from under me and I ended up sliding on the ground for a good five seconds through the turn. It took me a while to get my chain back on the bike b/c I didn’t realize I had bent my rear derailleur and the chain was off the pulley wheels. Once I figured that out I was able to get the chain back on the bike and pedal back to the pit where I thought I was going to have to use one of the SRAM neutral bikes. One of the mechanics was putting zero pedals onto the neutral bike while the other mechanic worked to straighten out my derailleur. Amazingly, he got it working so I was able to hop back on my own bike and into the race with 9 laps to go.
I got put in on a particularly fast lap b/c everyone was strung out single file through the pit area. I quickly drifted to the back tentative through the corners not wanting to crash again. A lap or two later the rider in front of me went down on the same corner that I had fallen. I was able to get around but there was no way I was going to be able to go fast enough to catch back up to the pack. I settled into a pace that I was hoping would keep me far enough ahead of the leading duo of Frank and Karl, but with three laps to go the head official pulled me. The field was so small by this point that I ended up in 20th place, anyway!
Sandy Springs USA Crits Speedweek Finale May 5th, 2013 20th place Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH Comment 1 1:34 274 808 140 77 23 Wet 2 1:21 265 836 160 84 25.8 Insane 3 1:23 273 883 164 78 25.2 4 1:22 241 932 169 77 25.5 5 1:23 256 871 171 75 25.1 Chasing after crash 6 1:19 292 864 177 74 26.3 Chasing 7 1:19 252 909 177 77 26.4 Course starting to dry out 8 1:19 226 876 174 77 26.1 Chasing 9 1:19 294 846 177 77 26.7 Chasing 10 1:19 232 865 177 79 26.3 Chasing 11 1:19 266 890 175 77 26.5 Chasing 12 1:17 272 893 176 79 26.8 Chasing 13 1:18 239 892 176 77 26.8 Chasing 14 1:20 224 981 173 76 26.2 15 1:26 212 872 169 78 24.3 16 1:21 230 1009 169 78 26 17 1:18 244 893 173 80 26.5 18 1:23 188 873 171 77 25.3 19 1:18 248 913 171 78 26.8 20 1:21 227 875 170 77 25.7 21 1:22 210 946 171 76 25.2 22 1:24 212 972 168 83 24.8 23 1:23 207 896 168 75 25.1 24 1:21 228 824 171 77 25.7 25 1:27 202 913 168 75 23.9 Heavy Rain 26 1:30 231 906 167 76 23.2 Heavy Rain 27 1:31 217 894 166 71 22.9 Heavy Rain 28 1:30 214 866 167 77 23.1 Heavy Rain 29 1:27 198 680 170 78 24.1 Rain 30 1:31 233 803 168 80 23.2 Rain 31 1:27 214 845 169 74 23.9 Rain 32 1:27 206 832 167 75 24.1 Rain 33 1:24 221 876 168 73 24.4 Rain 34 1:27 204 667 167 77 23.9 Rain 35 1:27 219 744 166 75 23.7 Rain 36 1:24 198 818 164 75 24.5 37 1:26 202 889 164 75 24.2 38 3:22 73 491 155 60 23.7 Crash 39 3:43 73 816 128 66 6.2 Crash 40 1:32 185 784 154 70 5.3 Bad speed 41 1:31 209 587 160 74 5.8 Bad speed 42 1:37 199 644 157 75 5.8 Bad speed 43 1:34 187 642 156 75 19.2 44 1:42 149 603 155 72 20.4
Heartrate zone summary