Posts filed under ‘Racing’
Friday night crit – 6th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Saturday morning road race – 7th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Saturday afternoon time trial – 32nd in a time trial that ended with a sprint
Sunday morning circuit race – 6th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Stage race overall – 18th place (one spot out of the money)
I’m happy to have made top 10 in all of the races – excellent practice/preparation for all the positioning that is going to happen in the upcoming Sunny King and Athens Twilight pro crits. It looks like WordPress is starting to overlay ads on top of each of the videos … click the “youtube” icon on each video to watch a version of the video without an ad.
Friday night crit
New, fast course this year with a new combination of roads in the downtown part of Brookhaven. I brought my family this year, so after we finished the drive from Birmingham I left them at the hotel and biked over to registration so that they didn’t have to get to the race start quite so early. I was riding through downtown admiring everything before the race got crazy when a pickup truck passed me and clipped me with his rear view mirror. Other than a sore back (I was very lucky that his mirror collapsed immediately and it was tall enough to clear my handlebars), I was OK. What a crazy start to the weekend.
After a quick stop by registration, I continued my long warm-up by heading over south of town through the old antebellum homes underneath huge oak? trees. It was a nice relaxing way to warm-up for what was a pretty intense race. ThinkFinance was the primary instigator constantly sending riders off the front. I tried to get in a few of the moves and attacked once or twice myself (Kristine got this great picture of me attacking to bridge up to one of the ThinkFinance riders) but with many highly motivated racers competing in a timed stage race, everything was getting brought back together. Along the way I managed to lose a very close finish for a $50 prime sprint at the halfway point of the race.
With about 6 laps to go I was still pretty close to the front of the race, and I managed to find myself on the wheel of Michael McBrien (Bikes Plus Racing) a super strong sprinter from Pensacola – who himself was glued to the wheel of Mat Davis (Team La’Sport) another strong sprinter. I’m thinking “this is perfect!” – but then on the second to last lap I got pinched between two riders heading into turn 1, hit the brakes briefly, and lost several positions by the end of turn 1. I tried to work my way around again, but I had lost the good wheels and ended up starting the sprint from about 8th spot and finishing in 6th.
Colton Jarisch (ThinkFinance) took the sprint, followed by Michael McBrien (Bikes Plus), and then Mat Davis (Team LaS’port). The three of them were pretty much a photo finish for the first three spots. A few meters behind was Bryant Funston (Marx and Bensdorf), Woody Boudreaux (Herring Gas), and then me (Friends of the Great Smokies).
Saturday morning road race
This year’s race started out a bit slower than last year with me not attacking from the start line. It took less than a mile though before riders started launching off the front … Scott Kuppersmith (Absolute Racing) and Marx and Bensdorf had some initial solo attacks, but then it was a ThinkFinance rider and a Marx and Bensdorf rider (Brett Shanaman?) who finally broke the elastic sticking a two man move that got quite a bit of time on the field (maybe a minute or more?). Herring Gas and Team La’sport settled into a steady mode of chasing with a few attacks interspersed, but it took about 25 miles of the 27.5 mile lap before the two-man break was reeled back in.
Towards the start of the second lap, I got into one promising looking move, but then I ended up struggling a bit with some of the counter attacks and the cross-winds — hoping that none of those attacks would stick b/c there was no way I was going to be able to bridge across. Fortunately, everything was coming back together. By about midway through the third lap, it was pretty clear that nothing was going to get away. Again, I found myself in great position heading into the final sprint again on Michael and Mat’s wheel. But about 3K before the sprint started in earnest there was a surge and in the reshuffle I slid a few spots back. I started the sprint this time from maybe 10th wheel, but as it was a long sprint I was able to pass a few of the guys who were fading to end up in 7th.
Colton took the field sprint for his second win in a row. Michael was moving up fast but then as the sprint shifted over, Michael ended up off the left side of the road on the gravel (you can see that on my video). Blair Krogh (4D Fitness) flew up the right-hand side to take 2nd with Mat in 3rd. I was on Bryant’s wheel as we were passing everybody, but he made it around Andrew Hammond (Herring Gas) and Woody (Herring) to take fourth whereas I didn’t quite make it around either of them … if only the line had been 5 meters farther down the road … so I ended up 7th.
Saturday afternoon time trial adventure
As much as I love racing, and as much as I dread time trials – this was probably still one of the highlight from the weekend. And it has been for the past three years — from three years ago when Justin Bynum, Pat Allison, and I all did ghetto skinsuits (wear the bibb shorts over the jersey) to last year’s Strava climbing challenge where I did maybe 100-150 repeats on a tiny 30 foot hill to eek every ounce of elevation gain out of my 2.5 hour warm-up ride to this year’s adventure of riding to the start and back from the hotel on some cool backroads watching a beautiful sunset while my wife and kids went roller skating at the Brookhaven skating rink. The time trial always seems to pull through in the fun factor even if my legs cannot seem to pull through to not absolutely kill my standing in the overall. This year, I even had help from the awesome guys at 4D fitness (Blair Krogh, William Jones, Daniel Wisner, Dustin Drewes) with Dustin loaning me his disc wheel to replace my Reynolds with a broken spoke (I forgot to mention that in my write-up about the road race — I broke a spoke in my rear wheel in the road race, either just riding around or during the sprint).
Even with the disc wheel, tt bars, and a full-fledged skinsuit from FGS cycling, I couldn’t crack the top 30. The annotated heartrate data below pretty much tells the story:
Saturday time trial – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday time trial – heartrate zone summary.
Colton crushed the time trial to take his third win in a row, but behind him the times were pretty close leading to a somewhat tight GC battle for 2nd-10th spots.
Sunday morning circuit race
The one potential benefit of a lousy time trial is the chance for more freedom in the circuit race. Unfortunately, there were a lot of riders close in the overall so ThinkFinance needed to watch pretty much everyone. When Kenny Bellau (Herring Gas) geared up to attack into the headwind on the backside of the course on the first lap, I was already right behind him so I went with him to test the waters. We never got more than a few seconds before being reeled back in. This played out a few more times before it became clear by the end of the first lap that ThinkFinance was going to ride the front of the race at a fast pace to discourage attacks and then if anybody got away, just continue to average about 26-27mph until the break was reeled back in. This was a very effective strategy. When I went to position myself for the bonus sprint at the end of the third lap, I realized that there was no way to get around the ThinkFinance train. With all of the fighting for position happening behind the train, I realized that joining the ThinkFinance train and helping to work would be more effective than all the jostling/fighting for position behind. On the fourth lap, I worked my way up the left side waited for an opening and then surged the remaining few spots to pull alongside the ThinkFinance team leader, Colton Jarisch, who was riding behind the rest of his team plus Stephen Mire from Team LaS’port who was employing the same strategy to help keep his teammate Mat Davis second in the overall. I asked Colton if I could help work in his train – he said “sure” and let me in front of him. One of the smoothest trains I’ve been in, we rotated well for the remainder of the fourth lap and then all the way through the rough road on the fifth lap. Then, the pace wasn’t quite fast enough and several riders drilled it up the sides causing quite the reshuffling. I ended up a few spots behind the train, but it did make for some great video of the lead-up to the final sprint as I watched Mat and Colton positioning themselves a few riders ahead of me. I ended up on Mat’s wheel for a while trying to move back up. Then I made a big mistake of trying to come around Mat when it seemed like he was too far back. Mat went on to finish 2nd behind Colton (who completed a clean sweep of all the races), whereas I ended up 6th so I would have been better off just staying on Mat’s wheel. Andrew Hammond (Herring Gas) had a strong sprint to take 3rd – good view of the sprint in the video below.
Here’s all the data from my races, including the lap power data from Friday’s crit.
Friday night criterium 6th place, 1/2/3 Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:37 316 790 157 90 26.4 2 1:33 259 941 166 82 27.2 3 1:28 324 971 171 87 28.6 4 1:27 322 808 177 90 28.8 5 1:31 257 854 175 83 27.9 6 1:31 328 745 169 86 28 7 1:30 272 972 177 85 28.4 8 1:28 266 643 172 84 28.9 9 1:34 308 983 169 82 27.4 10 1:30 280 978 177 85 28.2 11 1:30 355 920 180 85 28.5 12 1:37 251 981 173 80 26.1 13 1:30 271 773 175 84 28.3 14 1:29 282 901 171 83 28.6 15 1:34 246 755 170 83 27.3 16 1:28 271 590 171 85 29 17 1:28 271 689 174 85 29.2 18 1:25 393 1061 170 85 29.9 ($50 prime sprint) 19 1:34 270 719 179 86 27.3 20 1:33 267 742 170 85 27.5 21 1:33 242 797 167 83 27.1 22 1:31 262 838 166 81 28.2 23 1:27 318 907 171 87 29.4 24 1:33 275 652 178 82 27.4 25 1:33 242 837 169 82 27.5 26 1:30 349 669 176 88 28.4 27 1:31 302 713 180 86 27.7 28 1:31 256 615 177 85 27.6 29 1:32 247 628 169 87 27.7 30 1:32 270 834 164 86 27.4 31 1:32 280 822 168 84 28.1 32 1:34 262 769 174 81 26.7 33 1:33 282 754 174 86 27.7 34 1:32 285 815 171 85 27.6 35 1:33 249 680 173 86 27.6 36 1:30 279 702 175 85 28.4 37 1:32 288 821 172 87 27.5 38 1:29 288 959 180 83 28.4 39 1:23 382 915 186 83 30.7
Friday night criterium – heartrate zone summary
Friday night criterium – heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday morning road race – heartrate zone summary
Saturday morning road race – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday time trial – heartrate zone summary.
Saturday time trial – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Sunday morning circuit race – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Amazing race on Saturday – great job Chain Busters Racing! I ended up winning my very first 12 hour mountain bike race … barely! Tyler Murch nearly closed down a 30 minute gap that I had at the start of my next-to-last lap. But it was dark and pouring down rain for those final two laps, and the trail became pretty much an ice rink for the front tire that I had on (Specialized Renegade 1.95″). He knocked off 17 minutes from my lead on the next to last lap and then another 12 minutes on the final lap … leaving me with an advantage of just 51 seconds by the end of the race. I could see his lights behind me as I crossed the bridge into the iron works area. Fortunately, I had enough energy left to kill it up the final climb and down to the finish. A 12 hour race decided by less than a minute!
Strava screenshot showing epic “suffer score”. My previous high suffer score was from a 249 mile, 20 hour, 42K feet of climbing road ride, and it was only HALF of this suffer score! (click to enlarge)
Heartrate zone summary – note the calories burned. I think this might be a little high, Strava only calculated 6700 calories burned. Let’s split the difference and call it 7250 – that’s a lot of oatmeal!
Sorry if I get any of this recap wrong, my brain is still a little bit hazy from the race …
My fastest speed for the race on a mostly single track course (two short sections of double-track) was just under 25mph in the dash for the hole shot leading into a steep, tricky opening singletrack climb. I didn’t get the hole shot, but I believe I was 4th wheel going into the single track. Two guys had some separation immediately on the single track and were pretty much gone. David Darden (Smith/Lock) was next, followed by me, and then Chad Hungerford.
David was going just a tad slower than I wanted on the climb, so Chad and I worked our way around. I was slowing up Chad though, so I let him by, but then it kicked up again and I thought about passing him back, but I told him I didn’t want to pass him if there was anything technical coming up … he said he didn’t know — it was his first time riding the course. It was also my first time, so I decided just to sit his wheel as long as I could, which wasn’t very long because he dropped me on the downhill before the sharp right onto the short steep climb up to the pine forest screamer.
When I saw the steep double-track climb, I let out a little “whoop” b/c I knew I could make up time that I would lose on the leaders in the fast single track sections. Sure enough, I immediately passed a couple guys that I had let by after I had let Chad by. At the top of the double track is a long, straight gradual slightly rolling downhill through a pine forest. I switched into my largest gear and ramped it up as fast as I could to put as much time as possible into everyone else. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to catch the original two guys and it didn’t put me far enough ahead in the next singletrack to stay in front of the people who I had passed. So I had to stop a couple times and let people by.
Here I am 15 minutes into the race, and I had already gone through the whole range of emotions dealing with the uncertainty of racing my mtb on an unfamiliar trail — nervousness about how technical/tight the turns would be, seeing the steep initial climb and being able to keep up with the better skilled riders, elation at having a steep double track section and a super fast non-technical singletrack through a pine forest, to my then-current state of “oh crap, there goes the race” as people kept passing me and riding away from me.
It was in this panicked state of death grip on the handlebars, sprinting after every turn to try to close the gap that had opened up to the person who had just passed me that I began to relax and switched into a different mode of thinking “you don’t have to keep up with the leaders, just relax and outlast them, hold onto the handlebars lightly, take a deep breath, and drill the next hill that you see”. Sure enough, eventually after what seemed like an eternity of tight turns a few tiny creek crossings, the trail started to kick back up. This was by FAR my second favorite section of the trail (the first being the pine forest screamer). Ironically, it was also on the same ridge but going in the opposite direction towards the pine forest screamer. After you climb back up the ridge, you have a small rock garden section (basically just one ledge drop-off) down a FAST downhill with only one turn where you had to brake into a rooty downhill that was also fast when dry because the few roots on it you could hit mostly squarely without braking … in the rain, this section was torture because the mud was super slick.
I made up some more time on the leaders all the way through the end of the course, and I think I crossed the line after the first lap in first position from the solo riders with one team and Scott Staubach (solo singlespeed) still out in front. Towards the end of the second lap, I must have been completely out in front of everyone — because there was nobody on the trails in front of me for the next 10 miles or so (well into the third lap). Shortly after passing the last rider in front of me, I saw two deer on the side of the trail. They bolted parallel to the trail and then jumped across the trail not too far in front of me.
After my third lap, I made my first stop – I had finally run out of gatorade. At this point I was lapping riders and when you are always coming up on riders – eventually you forget that you are leading the race. During the fourth lap, I had noticed a rider with a low number (indicating solo rider) on the trail behind me – but with the trail weaving in and out and doubling back on itself, I didn’t realize that they were actually really far behind me. Since I hadn’t seen any riders behind me and couldn’t remember passing this guy, I was thinking that he must be closing on me. This lit the fire under me again and I hit it as hard as possible for the end of the fourth lap. I was very relieved to find out by the end of my fifth lap that I was nine minutes ahead. At this point, I backed off the pace quite a bit and made sure to eat and drink as frequently as possible on the course. This was challenging though so I found two good spots on the course and made sure to eat and drink a lot through there.
Somewhere towards the middle of the 7th or 8th lap, I started to wonder how I would hold up mentally for 12 hours on the mountain bike. I’ve ridden much longer (20 hours) on the road bike before, but the level of constant concentration on the mountain bike is quite a bit higher than the level of concentration required to ride a road bike — although I do tend to pick out road routes with a high amount of cornering, descending, climbing, and general insanity. Even so, I got to the point where I was having some mental difficulties navigating the bike correctly. I would start drifting to one side of the trail and found it unexpectedly difficult to will the bike back into the middle of the trail. That’s when it started to sprinkle. I think the few sprinkles towards the middle of the 8th lap and then the light rain at the end of the 9th lap were good wake-up calls for me. The sudden shot of adrenaline motivated me to push the pace as hard as possible to try to extend my gap. This renewed drive to ride fast again turned out to be more important than I realized because during the Lap 10 downpour, I completely burned through my rear brakes. Fearing burning through my front brakes as well, I decided to ride really slow to avoid having to brake at all.
Towards the beginning of the second climb, I ran into Brent Marshall again and asked him if he had any brake pads I could borrow back at the start/finish. He told me exactly where to find them, and recommended I get Jason Barksdale to throw them on there for me. I took off again with a bit more abandon because I felt a bit safer using the front brake knowing that if I did burn through it I would have new brake pads for the rear for the next lap. It turns out that I had been pulling so hard on the brakes to try to get anything out of the rear pads that I had pushed the pistons in so far that the new pads wouldn’t fit into the holders. Jason worked hard and then Craig joined in, too, and they eventually got them in far enough but with the brake pads rubbing pretty hard on the rotors. That was fine, though, because with the conditions the pads would wear down shortly into the lap to stop rubbing. In fact, they only made it half a lap before being completely gone again. So I was back to just my front brake for the second half of the 11th lap. Being cautious again with the front brake, I started to get passed by a few riders. It was hard to tell whether it was riders I had already lapped or team riders or what … Scott Staubach caught and passed me during this lap (solo singlespeed) and this gave me some renewed motivation to try to hold off whoever else might be charging up behind me.
Kristine had made it back to the course by the end of my 11th lap. She helped a panicky me (b/c I knew that whoever was behind me would be making up gobs of time with how slow I was riding) get started on the final lap. I had really been hoping that I would still have enough of a time gap not to have to do one more lap in those conditions — but it was pretty clear that I had enough time to do one more lap and whoever was behind me could probably do another lap as well.
Even though I knew I needed to pick up the pace, there was nothing I could do on the final lap except hit every uphill and straight section as hard as possible and then ice skate through the mud everywhere else. It was interesting how several sections of the course still seemed sticky even with the conditions, but other sections of the course were super slick. It was hard to tell entering a corner whether it was going to be slick or sticky so I ended up guessing. I had a few close calls with the front wheel sliding, which on a road bike would spell instant doom but on these wider tire mountain bikes the wheel can grab again. This happened a few times and rattled my confidence so I kept getting slower and slower. I still was passing some lapped riders, but eventually I got caught and passed by one of the team riders.
Towards the middle of the lap, I caught up to Jonathan Soto (one of my students at Samford who graduated a couple years ago), and that was super important because it was encouraging to ride together for a while and chat instead of being alone in the dark wondering if the race would ever end. I ended up riding away on the second main climb on the course just a few miles from the end. I pushed it hard through that section b/c the course was relatively straight — but then you had the rock ledge and the long downhill to the tri-county marker. I started out super slow b/c there were some slick muddy turns, but eventually I started to get more confidence … too much confidence b/c I got up to 16mph in one of the turns, and it was slick, and even though the trail turned left my bike went straight off the trail down the side until stopped by a rock or a stick and I went superman style over the bars. A quick assessment of everything and short hike back up to the trail and I was on my way. If my lights had come loose, I would have lost the race b/c it would have taken me a while to get them tight again. Instead I was able to ride again immediately with the only consequence to my bike that I was stuck in the little chainring for a bit. I eventually did get it to shift up to the big chainring after bearing all my weight down on the left shifter.
I probably only lost 30 seconds to a minute because of the wreck, but I lost even more time on the next downhill which was the rooty downhill before the end of the singletrack and the start of the 3/4 mile long double track back to the finish. I was torn because I knew I was so close to being done with the muddy single track, but I also knew how slick that section was going to be in the mud. I crawled through it — toying with the idea briefly of hopping off my bike and running it — but instead opted to just ride slowly. As soon as I made it through the single track, I gave it everything I had left up the double track steep climb, down the other side, gingerly through the short section of single track to the bridge and then up the final rocky double track through the ironworks, down to the finish, across the concrete creek crossing, and then finally splashing through the real creek crossing up the bank across the line to take my first 12 hour mtb win!
Tyler Murch was next to cross the line just 51 seconds later to take 2nd place. I had seen his lights behind me as I made that lefthand turn onto the short singletrack before the bridge crossing. I didn’t know if it was Jonathan catching back up to me or someone else, and as it turns out Tyler had passed Jonathan not too far from the finish and was catching up to me rapidly. Thankfully, the end of the race from the bridge to the finish was not technical and I had enough left in the tank to hammer up it and stay away for the win. I wonder how many 12 hour races are decided by less than a minute!
As far as the course goes and a little reflection on what I like (and don’t like) about mountain biking … I really liked the first half and the last third of the course. If I do my math right, that means there was 1/6th of the course that I was not a big fan of — basically a “flowy” section of trail where the turns were too tight for me (off chamber rounding a hill instead of going over or down the hill) but if I had grippier tires and more practice I think I could grow to like that middle 6th of the course as well. As it turned out though, I had to constantly scrub speed and then reaccelerate. On Strava, the section of course that I did not like is a segment called “Never never land”.
Also, I could see improvement in my cornering confidence as the race went on … at least until it started to rain. As I got more familiar with the course, it was easier for me to identify which parts of the course I liked and could make up time. I could also identify the part of the course where I would lose time on everyone (even the people I was lapping). This helped tremendously on the mental aspect of a 12 hour race – because during that first lap I was blowing out of proportion that part of the course that I didn’t like from what it actually was (1/6th) to what it felt like — at least half of the entire course.
Also, the atmosphere from mountain bike racing is so much better than road racing from the pre-race registration to the end-of-race awards ceremony… road racing can be so serious and cliqueish! Mountain bikers seem to be much more laid back, friendly, and all around willing to work together to see everyone do their absolute best. In any case, Kenny from Chain Busters Racing did an amazing job organizing this. The BUMP organization has done a fantastic job building and maintaining the trails at Tannehill (amazing single track and carved into the side of some cool topography in a historic location … the one short section of trail i didn’t like is simply because i haven’t learned how to race it yet – would be fun just on a ride or if i was better at cornering at high speed!)
Other highlights from the race -
- following brent down the never never land section
- jason, brent, and craig helping me with my rear brakes
- hanging out / talking with people before the race and after the race
- just the beauty of the area … the fact that the appalachian mountains geographic end is inside the park
- the tri-county marker on the course
Animal highlights -
- shortly after taking the lead towards the end of the second lap – came across two deer right beside the trail – bolted forward parallel to the trail before crossing it in front of me – called it out to the rider who I had just passed to finally take the lead.
- third or fourth lap – saw a single deer standing next to the trail. Didn’t bolt until I was almost past it
- moths in the fog and light mist attracted to the headlights when the rain let up for a bit briefly somewhere in lap 11 or 12
One more gallery of pics from before the race started with my short warm-up to take pictures of the cool entrance signs:
Hell of the South 2013 Pro/1/2 podium – Me, AJ Meyer, Tommy Schubert. Photo credit – Tim Hall – I love that he got the Berlin Community Fire Department sign in the photo. You can see the registration tables in the background. Bike wheels on the inside … perfect for this race.
An epic race deserves an epic race report … so here is the quick summary for those who don’t have time to read the novella that follows. I managed to snag a podium spot (3rd place) from a rather large 10 man break that formed as the result of three smaller groups merging near the end of the race. At the beginning of the last lap, I rolled off the front with Tommy Schubert (Cumberland Univeristy Cycling Team) and Brian Baker (Texas Roadhouse). We didn’t attack, per se, but when the field didn’t respond and our gap grew to a few seconds, we put the hammer down and got out of sight fairly quickly. We joined a solo rider, David Worth (Cumberland Transit/Swiftwick), who had already rolled off the front a few miles before us. We worked well together, but AJ Meyer (Village Volkswagon) was able to bridge up to us, pulling Tommy’s CU Cycling teammate Ryan Sullivan with him. Ryan put in an immediate attack, which I thought I had bridged up to but in fact had pulled the rest of the break with me. This new larger group of 6 riders rolled OK but with so many people it was hard to get everyone to commit. Eventually, my teammate, Jeff McGrane bridged up with Dirk Polhman (Texas Roadhouse) and two other riders making for a break of 10. This group had no cohesion, but there were several attacks that kept the pace high enough to keep us from getting caught by the field. In the closing miles, Jeff drove the pace so that I could just sit in the group and position myself for the finishing sprint. I positioned myself well, but the sprint opened up at 500 meters to go — much farther out than I had expected so I misjudged when to try to come around the people in front of me. I started my sprint so far out that the people who came around me as I slowed down ALSO went too far out. So I was in good position to recover for a few seconds and come around them again just before the line to take third. That doesn’t happen very often in a sprint … an epic sprint for an epic race. AJ timed his sprint perfectly for the win.
The details – Friday preride
I was excited about this race the moment I saw where it was on the calendar, and that I would be able to race it. I have never ridden that far south in Tennessee before, but I have driven that stretch of I-65 between Nashville and Birmingham probably 50 times and have always been fascinated with the topography and ruralness of the area. A couple years ago, Kristine and I were driving up to Franklin to see a concert with our cousins when the interstate was blocked by a wreck. With traffic at a complete standstill, we made a u-turn and headed back to the previous exit. I dropped a pin onto the next exit north hoping it would be past the accident, set the Garmin on bicycling directions, handed the Garmin to Kristine and we proceeded to rally car drive through the hills south of Lewisburg. The hills were incredible, the roads were tiny, and the views amazing. That experience made me want to ride in that part of TN even more, but the opportunity never came — until I saw that the 3rd annual Hell of the South would be held there.
This past week was spring break for Samford University, so theoretically I should have had a nice restful week with lots of riding. Instead, I spent the week working well over 40 hours on a couple side projects, in addition to several long, fun rides out to Double Oak mountain on some gravel roads to make sure that my wheel/tire setup would be able to survive the Hell of the South. Friday morning arrived with a cold rain here in Birmingham. Analise’s teacher had asked for parent volunteers to help with video book reviews her class was doing, so I hopped on my mountain bike and zipped over there in the rain to surprise Analise and help with the videos. I zipped back home, but then realized my wallet was still in Kristine’s purse so we decided to have an impromptu lunch date at Taziki’s on my way out of town so she could give me back my wallet.
After lunch I headed north up Hwy 31 stopping by Brick Alley to drop off my Reynolds race wheel for Craig to true for my next non-roubaix style race and also stopped by Starbucks to grab a coffee for the road. It rained pretty much all the way up to Huntsville, but then stopped. By the time I made it up to Lewisburg, TN the streets were dry and it was considerably warmer (over 50 degF) than the cold 45 deg rain I left in Birmingham. I drove right to the middle of town, parked in the city hall parking lot next to the square, and then set out to explore the hills where Kristine and I had rally car drove, and also to do a pre-ride of the course which is a little farther north in the Duck River valley.
The hills outside of Lewisburg are amazing … some super steep climbs on really rural country roads with only a few farm houses scattered across huge areas. I saw two separate wedding parties taking pictures on the front steps of huge farmhouses … on a FRIDAY afternoon! It was quite picturesque. I wanted to ride super easy to rest my legs, but it was hard not to get excited just riding someplace new in such a beautiful area. This was the first climb – 22.4% max gradient up Collins Hollow road -
Then after three good climbs and a very cool switchback descent that I really wanted to turn around at the bottom and climb back the other way (but didn’t), I headed north to join the course a few miles in on New Cut road … along the way I got this gem of a video (caution: profanity) … it is kinda funny b/c when I was planning out my route I saw the massive junkyard in the satellite view and wondered if there would be any junkyard dogs. I didn’t anticipate a teenager hanging halfway out the window of his truck yelling “pedal m/f”
I knew that the course would be rough, but I had been on rough roads for a while by the time I joined up with the course so the only difference I saw is that the course had a lot of potholes that you had to constantly be on the lookout for. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the course for me was the two interstate crossings … I’ll always be able to remember this ride and the race whenever we drive under the two bridges … and the two crossings of the Duck River — one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country (I remember reading this National Geographic article back in 2010. So whenever we cross the Duck River on the interstate, I always remind Kristine and the kids that it is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country. Now I will also be able to point out the two bridge crossings for the Hell of the South race course on our drives from Birmingham up to Nashville, Indiana, or Wisconsin.
I cannot remember a single car once I hit the course. There were definitely some cars on the surrounding roads near Lewisburg, but once I picked up the course route I kept wondering where all the cars were! I do not think I got passed by ANY cars on the 23 mile course … that’s how rural the area is. I stumbled upon a herd of deer IN the road and managed to get my camera out to take a picture of the last one as it lept off into the woods. We are talking VERY rural … ah, now that I think about it there was one car on the 2nd Duck River crossing – but I spent something like 10 minutes there getting pictures of the bridge and riding down the access ramp to explore under the bridge. I ended up riding about 55 miles in just over 3.5 hours making it back to Lewisburg not too long after sunset, a nice leisurely exploratory recovery adventure ride.
It was nice to take in the scenery and enjoy the area on Friday – because there was no time for any of that on Saturday during the race.
The details – Hell of the South 2013
We stayed with my teammate Kurt up in Murfreesboro the night before, and he had last Sunday’s Milano San Remo on DVR so I fell asleep watching the classics riders slog it out in the miserable weather thinking that it would inspire me to face the weather in the morning for our race. But in the morning, it was chilly and dry with temps in the 40s. The start of the race was at the Berlin Community Fire Department a few miles outside of Lewisburg so we had about a 45 minute drive down to the start.
Having seen all the potholes on my pre-ride of the course the day before, I knew that I wanted to stay towards the front. I got a good start and after a mile or two decided to attack to see if people were cold enough to just let me go. That wasn’t happening, though, as the field strung out. When they caught me, there were counter attacks and the pace didn’t slow down so I quickly drifted way back in the group. By the time it bunched up again I was near the middle back of the group thinking how on earth am I going to move up. That’s when we hit the first bad section of potholes, Paul flatted, and I realized that I was in trouble so far back in the group unable to see the potholes ahead. I decided my best bet was to leave a little bit of a gap in front of me to have as best vision as possible – but then people kept passing me b/c there was a hole in front of me. So pretty soon I found myself towards the back of the group.
After we crossed the interstate and got closer to the downhill before the gravel, I started to panic a bit and moved up on the far righthand side. This worked a little and I had made about mid pack by the start of the downhill. This was still way too far back so after the downhill on the next set of rollers I moved up on the left. People were still leary about using the whole road (too narrow for a yellow line) so there was just enough room for me to squeeze by all the way to the very front. I entered the gravel in second wheel knowing that the best line was to stay completely left through the gravel. I pushed the pace hard to try to be at the front in case there was attacks, but there only ended up being one attack through the gravel and I was able to catch back up on the downhill. The gravel section was much shorter than any of the Rouge Roubaix gravel sections so I didn’t expect much would come out of the gravel (i.e., field split, break, etc…) but I had never done the race before so I wanted to be sure to be there if anything did happen.
After the gravel, you have a rolling downhill and a sharp turn taking you down to the Duck River. Since I did my pre-ride really slow with lots of breaks for pictures, I didn’t realize that once you cross the river you are starting a long climb. This proved NOT to be decisive for this year’s race, but it almost was decisive on all three laps. On this first lap, there were attacks immediately after the bridge. I covered one with Ryan and Tommy (both from CU Cycling) and we had a tiny gap, but everyone was still too fresh in the field so we were reeled in fairly quickly. Coming across the top of the long hill, we had a good break with good representation (2 CU and 2 Texas Roadhouse) but we didn’t have quite enough of a gap over the field so that on the next steep downhill, the field was able to roll back up to us before we could get a break established. [I'm omitting details from the rest of the 1st lap, let's just say there were a ton of attacks, but they all ended up being too big so were always chased down].
On the second lap at the exact same spot shortly after the gravel and almost immediately after crossing the Duck River bridge, I got into a good move with Tommy again, and a Texas Roadhouse rider, and one other rider. We got into a good rhythm and our gap grew, but it never got far enough to get out of sight. So coming across the top of the long gradual rolling hill (maybe 3 or 4 miles later?) we were reeled in. There were a bunch more attacks that ensued and my teammates Jeff and Kurt were in several moves, but everything was getting brought back. Towards the end of that second lap, David Worth (Columbia Transit / Swiftwick) launched a solo move that nobody responded to. He quickly got a good gap as the field was tired of chasing everything down. As we started the third lap (last lap), I was towards the middle of the group when I saw a Texas Roadhouse rider roll of the front. My teammate Kurt had just been on the front and was coming back from covering a small chase group. So I went across to him just to make sure that we didn’t have to chase it down later. As soon as we started rolling, Tommy from CU cycling came roling up to us. It turns out that we had a good gap by this point as the pace and the group had gone down just as we had picked up our pace. Here’s a video of how our 3-man chase group was formed. David was so far up the road by this point that you can’t even see him in the video. You can hear me say about 1’40″ into the video “we’ve got the teams and the gap, let’s go”
It took us about 8 or 9 miles to catch David … on the hill leading up to the switchback downhill before the gravel. I led through the downhill, and that was really fun although it did end up splitting our four man group in half. We made it through the gravel section and then settled into a good rhythm. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the last part of the climb, we could see some cars and riders behind us. I thought it was the main group, but apparently it was just AJ Meyer (Village Volkswagon) and Tommy’s teammate Ryan bridging across to us. Ryan, knowing how strong AJ is, was getting the free ride across since he had a teammate in our break already. AJ finished the bridge right before the last finishing part of the climb. Ryan launched on an attack, and I killed it to bridge back up to him thinking how this was it … it’s either bridge up to him now or the race is over … so I’m drilling it up the hill closing in on Ryan thinking “sweet, we’re gonna two-man team time trial this thing to the end” when I look back and everybody in the break was still there!!! Here’s a video of Ryan’s attack, my chase, my realization that everybody was still there, and then me asking (begging) Ryan to work with us.
The smooth machine, which was our four-man break, was now a less than smooth six-man break. We still basically worked together for a while, but people would skip pulls every now and then — understandable given the composition of the break. This could have spelled doom for our break, but fortunately a small four-man group had gotten away from the field, including my teammate Jeff McGrane along for the free ride, Dirk Polhman (Texas Roadhouse), Andy Reardon (Cumberland Transit / Swiftwick), and Austin Ulich (Prima Tappa). Still we had enough of a gap as a six-man break that it took a while for the 4-man chase to catch up with us. Once the groups merged, I again thought our break was doomed b/c our pace slowed to a crawl. I attacked once (or twice), my teammate Jeff attacked a couple times and covered a couple other moves, some other people attacked too — and this was enough to keep us rolling along ahead of the field. Eventually we got close enough to the finish that it became apparent we were going to stay away. About 2.5 miles from the end I was marking Ryan when he put in a hard attack, I covered it fine but failed to pull through knowing how far we had left. Looking back, I regret not working with Ryan to try to stay away — my instinct was that there were too many people who would be able to close the gap and then I would be too cooked to try to do anything in the end and Jeff who had been doing a lot of work keeping the break moving and covering moves would also be too tired. So I hedged my bets hoping that Ryan would continue to pull hard for a while longer or if that didn’t happen then regroup to go with the next attack a bit closer to the finish. Ryan wisely sat up instead of pulling me to the finish, and that was pretty much the last attack because Jeff came back to the front of the group and set a high enough pace to discourage any attacks.
This gave me plenty of time to maneuver into position marking Ryan again. Unfortunately, my camera battery died at about this point with maybe 1-1.5 miles left in the race. I was in what turned out to be pretty good position maybe (6th or 7th wheel) going into the sprint b/c people started the sprint from so far out. I think the first person to open up their sprint was maybe 500-600 meters from the line. The entire group strung out, and I ended up on Tommy’s wheel when there was a bit of hesitation after the first guy was caught. I opened up my sprint, but immediately saw that it was way too far out, so I swung back into line behind the people who counterattacked my jump … since we were still 300 meters from the line, there was just enough room for me to come around some people as they started to fade to end up with a third place finish. AJ had taken the win and when I rolled up to him, he stopped and pretty much laid down on the ground – having bridged up to our group and then taken the sprint. Tommy was just in front of me for second.
Here is the last 19 minutes of the race … including Ryan’s attack with 2.5 miles to go at 14’40″ seconds into the video … I think the camera battery dies with about 1 mile left in the race.
Finally, here is all my data from the race:
Hell of the South Pro/1/2 - 3rd place Dist: 70.48 mi (2:57:25) Energy: 2729.2 kJ Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 256.4 1025 W Speed 8.6 23.8 41.0 mi/h Wind 0.0 20.7 45.9 mi/h Slope -13.2 -0.01 14.7 % Caden 30 81.7 117 rpm HR 123 162.5 188 bpm NP:297W IF:1.01 TSS:299 VI:0.98 3/23/2013 9:32 AM 48 degF; 991 mbar
Heartrate zone summary
Note: I started this blog about Union City last week (March 16-17), but I’ve been crazy busy all week and haven’t been able to post it until now.
Day 1 – Shannon Mall Circuit Race
I’m still trying to parse what just happened in today’s circuit race, but however the outcome we had a great showing in our first Friends of the Great Smokies team race. Jeff McGrane got things started by rolling off the front solo on the first lap. He got a huge gap forcing others to chase. A lap later he was back in the field, but my teammate Kurt Page covered the next move. This move came back too, and Jeff got into another break – this one stuck. A few laps later, John Hart covered a move from Igor to make his way into the break, too. A few laps after that, I saw Shawn Gravois (Uniteed Healthcare) gearing up to attack so I hopped on his wheel and we quickly got a gap.
I got confused though, thinking that we only had one rider up the road with several Hincapie and Lupus riders. So I worked with Shawn and the two of us started closing the gap. Andy ? from Lupus was along for the free ride with several teammates up the road. Had I known we had two riders up ahead, I probably wouldn’t have worked quite as hard. Although, honestly, Shawn was doing a bulk of the work and I was struggling just to give him a break. Eventually we picked up another of Andy’s teammates who was coming back from the lead break. After a few more laps, they started help us chasing. Then as we got really close, I realized that I actually had two teammates in the break (Jeff and John) so I stopped working — although again, I was already pretty cooked from just holding Shawn’s wheel.
Half a lap later, we caught the lead group … except Joey Rosskopf and Ty Magner had already taken off from that group. There wasn’t much respite in the lead group b/c attacks started pretty quickly. I worked hard just to hold on. What I didn’t know is that we were actually starting our last lap. So when people started attacking coming up the last hill, I was thinking there was no way to hold that pace for however many more laps we had. I drifted backwards just as Joey and the field that he had lapped caught us (I didn’t even know they were closing in on us!!!) and ended up finishing towards the back of the group. My first thought was “thank God it’s over” instead of “oh crap, that was the finish”. Quite a confusing race, but I got the whole thing on video so I may watch it later to try to figure out what all happened in a less oxygen-deprived state (my average heartrate for the hour race was 181bpm, and my average power was 284 with a normative power probably in the 300s)
Day 2 – Union City Road Race
This race turned out really great as a team training race, despite some misfortune. My teammate Jeff again rode aggressively initiating an attack early and then covering another move. When that move came back, a counter attack went that got some daylight (maybe 20-30 seconds)? Lupus was represented well, but there were some teams missing. I happened to be on Ty Magner’s wheel right as he attacked to bridge across. I could barely hold his wheel and only ended up pulling through one time right as we were joined by another rider. The three of us worked together for another 15 seconds before a few more riders bridged across including Ty’s Hincapie Devo teammate Joey Rosskopf. At this point, we had great team representation in the chase and a good, growing gap. But unfortunately with everyone at their limit trying to reach the break, we missed a turn (no corner marshall, small sign off to the left). It took more than a mile before anyone from the race could track us down and tell us we were off course.
So instead of joining the lead group, I found myself in a chase group about 3 minutes behind the main field. We didn’t give up hope, though, and got into a good hard rotation to settle in for a long chase. 22 miles of chasing (and caravan drafting) later, I found myself back in the main field as it was bearing down on a split that was chasing the main break. Jeff was in the split so I got a chance to recover. Ty was driving the chase from the main field, and after we caught the split I initiated an attack that didn’t really get anywhere. There were a bunch more attacks on the last lap that led to temporary group splits, but with the field always coming back together. My teammate Kurt Page put in a move late in the last lap that got some daylight, but the rider he bridged up to didn’t want to work so they came back to the field. Shortly after that, my teammate John Hart attacked hard and got away solo. At that point he switched into time trial mode and held it all the way to the finish to take 10th (with a nine-man break already minutes up the road). With John off the front, me, Jeff, and Kurt rode the front of the field covering moves. Ty managed to slip away with about 2 miles to go with such an effective attack that there was no “covering” it. The field strung out setting up for the field sprint. About half a mile later (1.5 miles to go), Michael Stone attacked in an effort to bridge to Ty. I stayed 2nd wheel as a Lupus rider drove the field for the field sprint. He lasted until about 1000 meters to go. When he sat up before a series of turns, I decided it was now or never and attacked hard. I quickly caught and passed Mike and drove it to the finish to try to take 12th. Unfortunately, Andy from Lupus had my wheel and he was able to come around for 12th with me holding on for 13th.
All-in-all it was a great race as a team with what could have been John making a winning move had a break not already been up the road … a break that I would have been in if our chase attempt hadn’t been led off course. Once we had merged with the break, either the break would have failed or it would have worked. If it had failed, then the scenario that played out in the field could have been the end game for the win. If it had worked, then it would have been up to me to try for the win. Either way, I feel like, we gelled well as a team in our first team race with everybody working hard and racing smart. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
Heartrate/power data for both days
Union City Road Race - Pro/1/2 - 13th Dist: 74.40 mi (2:53:43) Cals Burn: 2416.2 kcal Braking: -6.2 kJ (-0.2%) Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 242.5 1037 W Speed 0.1 25.7 45.3 mi/h Elev 33 205 343 ft Slope -10.6 -0.01 10.5 % Caden 0 81.5 113 rpm HR 107 155.6 186 bpm NP:287W IF:0.97 TSS:273 VI:0.95 168 lbs; 3/17/2013 8:53 AM EDT 58 degF; 991 mbar
Criterium – heartrate summary – check out the zone 5 time!
Road race – heartrate zone summary
I have been wanting to write this race report from the moment the race was over, but it has been a crazy busy week at work. I am finally caught up enough that I can sit down to reflect on what for sure was the most epic Rouge Roubaix ever.
Rouge Roubaix is epic every year, but this year’s edition was off-the-charts epic. Let me set the scene. Tucked in the elbow of Louisiana wedged between the Mississippi River and the Mississippi state line is West Feliciana parish — with St Francisville nestled on the edge of the Tunica Hills on the eastern bank of the Mississippi.
The area is so rural that many of the roads, especially the ones through the hills, are unpaved. With this race taking place during the spring classics season on a number of dirt/gravel sectors and a start location only 30 minutes away from Baton Rouge, the name of the race “Rouge Roubaix” is perfect.
This year’s race featured four sectors. The first section was a new addition this year because one of the paved roads normally on the course was closed with a washed out bridge from the heavy rains that have been plaguing the south for most of January and February. So add an extra rugged dirt gravel road, combined with three other dirt/gravel sections that were in rougher than normal shape, along with a really stacked field with four previous winners, the Kona mountain bike / cyclocross team, and you have the makings of an epic race. How epic? By the end of the race, the wheel trucks were patching and replacing tubes on already flatted wheels so they would be ready to hand out to the next rider who flatted.
I also got a chance to race with my FGS Cycling teammate Kurt Page for the first time. He got caught up in a nasty early crash, but still managed to finish the 105 mile race — with blood streaming down from his leg and hip — in 17th place! He Jens Voigted the heck out of that race!!!
With the new dirt road coming early in the race, and a narrow rough road leading up to it, we flew through the neutral section at close to 25mph average. Once we made the left turn signaling the end of the neutral section, our speed skyrocketed to close to 40mph with a number of attacks. Shortly after making the next left, two guys rolled off the front and had a very small lead. But they didn’t get very far b/c our field was riding hard jockeying for position leading into the first gravel section. At the beginning of this video, I move up following a Giant rider on the outside but I was still a good 10-15 riders back by the time we hit the climb and sharp turn onto gravel. Things started out ok, but then I got stuck in some deep gravel going off to the side. This happened a couple more times, and I was really starting to lose positions when my friend Jesse Gaudet passed me. I hopped on his wheel, knowing that he knows these roads better than anyone else and just simply followed him whichever lines he took.
By the end of the gravel section we had picked up one more rider from ahead of us, and Christian Parrett (5 Hour Energy) had caught up to us. Almost immediately, Christian flatted so it was back down to three of us chasing the leaders. Just before entering the second gravel section, a small group of three or four guys caught up to us. Then our group kept swelling because we kept on picking up guys who had flatted out of the lead group. All of this is in the second video. The lead group had shrunk to just 4 by the end of the second gravel section. Meanwhile, our group kept swelling with people catching up from flatting. Just Mike Olheiser (Cashcall), Oscar Clark (Hincapie Devo), Ty Magner (Hincapie Devo), and one other rider were all that was left in the lead group. Our chase group worked really well together with me, three riders from the Kona team, Jason Sager (Jamis), Johnny Brizzard, and a few other riders working together. We were flying and caught up to the lead four about 10-15 miles later. This is the third video.
Almost immediately, I got into a break with one of the Kona riders and Corey Ray from Herring Gas. Then after a few minutes, Oscar Clark, and a Giant rider (Russ Walker?) bridged up to us. This got our group really moving and we extended our lead to maybe 45 seconds. Somebody was chasing behind us, though, because we got caught with about six miles to go until the third dirt section, Blockhouse Hill. This is the fourth video.
Oscar Clark attacked a few miles later (about a mile or so before the hill) and easily rode away to take the KOM. I was near the front, but unfortunately started drifting back through the mixed gravel, paved section. This was a big mistake b/c I needed to be much farther up at the base of Blockhouse. The riders in front of me were not going nearly as fast as the leaders, and it was difficult to pass. I passed a few people, but the leaders were gone. To make matters worse, I really goofed up the sand pit at the bottom of the first hill after the summit. Not only was I not able to ride it, I didn’t remount cleanly and had to stop one more time. By this point, the race for first was over for me. This is all on the fifth video.
Still, I knew we were doing well, and you never know how many people ahead might flat. A few of us merged together and chased all the way through the next long paved section, but it was kind of half-hearted. When we made the left onto the final dirt section (Tunica Hills), last year’s winner Adam Koble rode away from us. Jonathan Brown (Hot tubes) and I hit the next climb together – that lasted for about 30 seconds before the gradient was too steep and the gravel too loose to ride. We weren’t alone pushing our bikes – up ahead I could see Adam pushing his, Jason Waddell (Tulsa Tough) remarked on the irony of us being in the middle of a road race, walking our bikes up a hill. Jason Sager caught back up to us and made it the farthest of any of us, but eventually he too hit a loose spot of gravel and had to start walking. Across the top, we coalesced into one group again, but only for a couple minutes when Jason Waddell flatted. A few minutes later, I flatted.
I pulled out my tube and got the wheel off my bike and started to change the tire when Jason came by saying that the wheel truck was just behind. So I started stuffing everything back into my jersey just as the wheel truck caught up to me. About a minute after flatting, I was up and rolling again with a new wheel. Our exact same group merged together again. This section of the race goes from good pavement to mixed gravel, rough road several times so it was hard to get in a really good rotation rhythm. It seemed like people were really tired, and eventually a couple more riders joined our group. A few miles later, Jason Waddell and the Elbowz rider attacked our group. I was just coming off my pull at the front, but still I chased hard and almost caught up to them before blowing up. The rest of the group caught back up to me and I was pretty miserable that two more places just went up the road. By the end, four of us were sprinting for 10th place. The Kona rider led out the sprint with me on his wheel. I feel like I was boxed in a bit and could only come around the Kona rider after the other two riders had come around me. So I got third in that sprint to take 12th. But then there was a strange protest about motorpacing from early on in the race that led to two riders ahead of me being relegated to the back of our group. This bumped me up a couple spots to 10th.
This final video below shows us entering the final dirt section, all the way through my flat, subsequent chase, regrouping and working together on the pavement for a bit. But my battery died before the end.
Overall, it was an epic day, I had a blast, great training, fun times suffering with fellow bike racers, already looking forward to next year. Disappointed a bit at where I finished especially since I feel like if I had been a little bit farther up going into Blockhouse, I could have made it through that section with the leaders. Won’t make the same mistake again next year, and I’m already looking forward to it!
Here is all the data from my race.
Annotated heartrate zone summary
And lastly, here are some photos I took during the weekend.