Since our ride originated in Nashville, I solved the transportation problem back to Birmingham by deciding to ride home to Birmingham starting Sunday and finishing late Tuesday night with the help of Boris Simmonds and Nathan Pocus who both rode way out to West Blockton and helped me crawl the last 35 miles home in the dark. Also, Trey Pounds hosted me in Brookhaven on that first day and rode out to find me out on Zetus Rd with a full bottle of gatorade that I desperately needed. We rode the 15 miles back to his house together and then 30 miles together leaving Brookhaven the next day.
Here’s a recount of the day-by-day including the LP Field criterium in Nashville the night before the big ride.
RACE Day 0 – LP Field Criterium, Nashville
24 racing miles in the 1/2/3/ crit followed by a short cooldown with the kids exploring the Nashville pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River. Kristine, the kids, and I drove up from Birmingham to Nashville Wednesday afternoon where we met our cousins in Franklin for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. I was planning on riding from there over to LP Field for the crit as part of my warm-up, but we were running so far behind schedule when we left Birmingham that there was no way I would make it to the crit in time. In fact, driving over we only made it there about 15 minutes before the start. By the time I had the kids bikes unpacked and my bike put together, I had about 8 minutes to warm-up for the crit. Fortunately, Jimmy Grant took a solo flyer and people were content to ride easy for the first several laps giving me an additional few minutes of warm-up before the attacks and counter-attacks began. It was insanely fast for a bit and eventually our field went from 30 or so riders down to about 15 left in the main field. A small group of three got away with a few laps to go and Tim Henry (Litespeed-BMW) went to the front and drilled it hard bringing the break back. With one lap to go, the break was just a couple seconds still in front of us. Ryan Sullivan (UHC/706) launched his sprint first with almost the entire last lap still left to go. Andy Reardon (Cumberland Transit) covered the attack, and then I bridged up to the two of them.
Shortly after bridging, I was ready to attack and swung out to go on the outside, but we were just now catching the break and so there wasn’t enough room to get around the riders from the break who were taking up the middle of the road with Ryan and Andy on the inside. I resigned myself to try to come around after the final turn knowing that the finish line was probably too close to get by anybody when Andy clipped Ryan’s wheel coming out of the turn. He didn’t go down immediately but it hit his front wheel hard enough to start a high speed wobble that saw him go into the curb and smash into it with enough force to scare the crap out of me and make me think that when we came around after the finish he would be lying on the ground seriously hurt. I heard afterwards, though, that he had immediately gotten up and grabbed his bike and started to run towards the finish! Wow, Andy is one tough dude!
I barely held on for second as I lost some momentum slamming on the brakes giving Travis Werts a chance to make it a photo finish at the line behind Ryan. Travis ended up third followed by Mark Miller and David Carpenter … full results here – http://www.usacycling.org/results/?year=2013&id=2301&info_id=67000
FAST Day 1 – Mile Marker 442 to Mile Marker 320
123 fast miles with the additional mile to get onto the trace from the Loveless Cafe. We started out the day at the Loveless Cafe. Kristine and the kids were there to send us off after we enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast at the Loveless Cafe followed by interviews with Channel 4 News in Nashville. The kids rode their bikes with me for just over a mile along TN-100 from the cafe up and around the long entrance ramp to get to the official start of the Trace. Waving goodbye to Kristine and the kids, I took off after the group after getting a couple last pictures and hugs from Analise and Josiah.
Starting out with breakfast at the historic Loveless Cafe near the Nashville terminus of the Natchez Trace.
Ben Day from United Healthcare Pro Cycling, joining us for the first two days of our trip, helped turn our 7 man team into an 8 man powerhouse. We got a great paceline going, especially with team captain Tim Hall pulling alongside Ben for 20 minute pulls when it was their turn at the front. I tucked onto the back of the group next to Rick Harris, who had also dropped back to take pictures as we rolled off.
We were absolutely flying, and when we stopped for water 40 miles into the ride we barely stopped for a couple minutes before rolling again. We established a two-by-two paceline that we kept for the entire trip. Except with each rest stop, we would inevitably roll-out with a different paceline partner so that kept the conversation engaging and helped us get to know each other a little better.
Our first night was spent near Tuscumbia, AL where we went out to eat at a classic restaurant – the Sweet Magnolia Cafe – and were surprisingly serenaded by the cafe owner who sang Frank Sinatra songs for quite a while. It was entertaining!
HARD Day 2 – Mile Marker 320 to Mile Marker 204
116 hard miles. Our starting point for the second day was Buzzard Roost Spring – a really cool, large spring bubbling up from an underground cave. We also started up quite an incline at a quite a pace. I was really struggling at the beginning of the ride wondering how on earth I would be able to finish that ride and the rest of the journey! As it turns out, everyone was struggling that morning including Ben Day who later commented that whoever was pulling that first pull was really putting the hurt on!
Even with as hard as our start was, we also added in a state line sprint less than 20 miles into the ride as we crossed from Alabama into Missisippi. Check it out in the video below.
Later in the day as we flew through Tupelo with a bit of crosswinds picking up, the ride continued to be hard and I would rate this day as the hardest of the four days on the Natchez Trace. Probably the most meaningful part of the day for me was the April 27th, 2011 tornado damage along the Natchez Trace.
Day 2 – riding through five miles of tornado damage from the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes. These large tornadoes really impacted a lot of Alabama, including the big ones in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Cullman, and Decatur. For my own family, Kristine was working in Huntsville and had to thread her way between the morning and afternoon Cullman tornadoes to get home. I was with the kids in the basement when one of the smaller EF-2 tornadoes came over our house. I rolled off the bed on top of the kids and pulled the mattress over top of us because the wind got so severe but thankfully for us it touched down a mile away. One big tree came down in our neighborhood right through somebody’s house – you could see their kitchen from the street. But Cahaba Heights where the tornado touched down got hit really hard with a bunch of trees (a vast majority of the larger trees) in the community knocked over. It would be more than a week before power was restored and some roads were re-opened.
That night, we spent the night in Starkville, MS home of Mississippi State University and ate a cool bar Bin 692 which was walking distance from the hotel.
RAIN Day 3 – Mile Marker 204 to Mile Marker 89
115 rainy miles. The next morning we woke up to really light rain and a cool coffee shop attached to a gas station instead of a convenience store. It was an interesting coffee shop, cold stone creamery, and gas station all rolled into one place. I found my coffee twin.
Even with the light rain, it was still a beautiful ride and scenery. The only part that got kinda miserable was after the roads got wet enough that you were riding in the spray of the rider in front of you. In fact, there was a little bit of an internal battle to be at the front to get out of the spray! After the rain stopped, we absolutely drilled it averaging 25mph for over an hour stopping 90 miles into our ride at our final rest stop of the day alongside the huge Ross R. Barnett reservoir. After the rest stop, we split up into two groups which helped us negotiate the busier Jackson-area roads in the second downpour of the day.
I was in the second group and we made it to the end of the day’s ride in Clinton, MS outside of Jackson, the first group (Tim, Travis, and Patrick) was on the ground doing push-ups as penance for leaving us behind!
EPIC Day 4, part 1 – Mile Marker 89 to Mile Marker 0
90 epic miles with the addition of the exit ramp and return to trailer. 444 miles total on the Natchez Trace Parkway! We knew that this day would be shorter than the previous days, so we weren’t necessarily trying to lay down a new land speed record, but we still had a pretty good pace going. As we got into the rolling hills near Natchez, I realized that this was by far my favorite part of the entire trace. There was beautiful huge oak trees covered in Spanish hanging moss lining the roads providing shade. Plus, there was some good hills, and also we were almost finished!
With exactly 5 miles to go, Rick and I were at the front and decided to pull for just 1 mile since we knew there would be a big sprint at the end. When we pulled off, the group strung out single file with Travis Werts in the front I believe. Then with about 2 miles to go, Philip put in a hard attack which I covered. When he started to slow down, I countered his move hoping to get a jump and hold it to the line. But even with an 1100+ watt jump (new power record) I couldn’t get a good gap on the group. So when the group rolled back up to me, I soft pedaled the front. That’s when Scott put in his perfectly timed attack. I wasn’t going to chase since I had just jumped, and everybody else looked at each other so Scott rolled away with the epic sprint win. The rest of us sprinted it out for second behind him with us all basically finishing as a group, but sprinting instead of rolling across the line in some sort of procession. Loved it. Perfect way to end such an epic ride for such a great cause!
Jeff Rossini and Austin Bauman were as much a part of the team as the riders. They drove behind us the entire length of the trace providing us with rolling rest stops and lots of positive energy. Best support crew ever! Here they are with Tim Hall at the end (Jeff on the left and Austin on the right)
EPIC Day 4, part 2 – Vidalia, LA to Brookhaven, MS
87 epic miles. While the guys were getting ready for the long drive back to Nashville, I was prepping for the second part of an epic day – a ride to Brookhaven on the first leg of my journey home to Alabama. I was so pumped and excited after the finish of our Natchez ride that I think I underestimated a bit how hard the second part of this day would be. I started it out by riding across the Missisippi River into Vidalia, Louisiana so I could add a state to my ride and also get some good pics of the Mississippi River and the bridge across. Plus, this ride was a walk back in time as I had raced the Natchez Cycling Classic stage race back in 1994 as a junior and then again in 1998 as a cat 2 with my teammate from Clemson, Bert Hull. I rode the prologue portion of the course down to the Isle of Capri casino and then the steep climb back up the river bank. Tim Hall got this picture of me as I was getting ready to pull out – the backpack weighed about 10 pounds with my laptop, all kinds of cords and chargers (power, usb, etc…). This would be fine for the first day, but by the end of day 2 I was ready to be done with the backpack.
Day 4b – Tim Hall snapped this picture of me as I was just getting ready to pull out on my ride across the Mississippi River for a very short foray into Louisiana before returning back across again through Natchez all the way to Brookhaven, MS for a grand total of just under 176.8 miles for the day.
Once I left Natchez, I started back out on the Natchez Trace parkway to head to Selma Rd which I knew crossed over the trace and put me on a direct route over to US-84. There was no exit here, so I had to scale the embankment through the tall grass. After checking myself thoroughly for ticks, I continued on over to US-84. My original plan had me taking all the Old US-84 offshoots weaving around US-84, but the shoulder was so nice, the road was so smooth, and the traffic so light that I decided to just drill it on US-84 east towards Brookhaven. I averaged 21.5 mph for the 7.5 miles
I was on US-84 before turning onto Log Cabin Rd, which was really rough chip/seal plus sections of gravel where the road was gone. You had to pick your line a bit through here, but there was also a couple nicer short sections that had been repaved. I ran out of water through here, and given how hot it was and how dehydrated I was by this point in the day I knew that I needed to find water from somebody. I had planned on finding water in Hamburg, but there was nothing there. Most of the houses were abandoned or empty. Or because it was the hot part of the day, nobody was outside and I didn’t want to risk dogs and time going up to knock on houses. This was the only public structure I saw in Hamburg to give you an idea of how rural this place was.
Finally, I found a man at the top of his gravel driveway and hollered out to him to see if they had any water. The man’s mother came out as I was riding up the gravel driveway, and she gave me lots of 1/2 liter bottles of water – enough to fill up both my bottles (44 oz) plus drink some right there. I told them I was ready to drink from the next creek I saw I was so desperate. We talked for a bit and when she found out about my ride, she said they were honored to have me stop by and get water from them. She grew up in Natchez and then moved out with her family to the country to raise some cattle and other farm animals.
Refreshed and still full of energy I headed out on the next road (Oldenburg Rd) which was probably one of my favorite paved roads. Lots of short rolling hills and good pavement. At the end of this road, I turned onto Hospital Rd for a few miles north before hitting one of my favorite dirt roads of the trip – 15 mile creek rd. It was very rouge-roubaix like with hills (but not as steep as rouge-roubaix) and good gravel lines you could take around the turns.
I had planned my route around how to get across one of the particular rivers that I noticed had very few bridges across it. I ended up selecting Wright Rd, and sure enough as soon as I turned onto the road, I saw “bridge out” signs. Fortunately, I stopped an oncoming vehicle and asked them if you could wade across the river, and the lady and her husband said it was no problem that 4-wheelers drive across it all the time. When I got to the bridge, however, I realized that it was still intact and rideable if you were careful – one thin guard wire to keep you from falling into the river. This road was one of the bumpiest of the entire trip – see the bottom left picture of the instagram photo below.
About a mile or so across the bridge on brutally rough pavement, I intersected with Choctaw Rd that was perfect dirt – far easier to ride than the Wright Rd pavement. I was actually quite a bit ahead of schedule because my GPS had routed me to Wright Rd and then u-turned before the bridge before routing back to the other side of the bridge adding 10 miles to the trip. When I crossed the closed bridge, this chopped 10 miles off my route. Trey had texted that he wanted to ride in with me, and we ended up meeting on Choctaw shortly after it turned from dirt back into pavement. I was out of water AGAIN when we met, and he had a full 24 oz cold/iced bottle of gatorade for me. It was perfect.
We rode together through Brookhaven back to his house where we jumped in his pool to cool off and then ate BBQ paninis that his wife and mother-in-law had made for us. I ate SIX paninis.
HOT Day 5 – Brookhaven, MS to Meridian, MS
153 hot miles. This day was the shortest, but probably involved the longest combination of rural roads. I spent the day tagging all my instagram photos #huntforwater because that’s what I spent a lot of time thinking about! Trey and I started out together leaving his house on the MS Gran Prix TT course, heading to the old MS Gran Prix RR course and riding Heucks Retreat road backwards on the course for a few miles before it turned into Bahalia Rd (dirt) for a couple miles. Then we wandered over on a nice, hilly (a few 12% max hills) road which eventually dumped us out onto MS-27 which Trey could take south back towards his house. I was continuing on east so we split up at that point with me heading east over the Pearl River.
When I planned out my route a couple weeks ago, I had just assumed I would be able to find water whenever I needed it. This was a partially correct assumption. Just about every time I needed water, I would come across a gas station or country store. The only problem, however, is that those gas stations or stores would be closed, boarded up, and abandoned. One town (Pinola) had two gas stations. One was closed permanently. The other was closed for remodeling. The nice lady at the post office though had cold bottled water she gave me – filling up both my water bottles (44 oz). The gas station that was closed for remodeling kept its large tanks above ground permanently – one labeled “REG UNL” and the other “HWY DSL”. First time, I’ve ever seen that.
Still, the roads were absolutely amazing – some of them were really smooth chip/seal, others were a bit rougher, but all of them were crazy rural with maybe one or two hunting cabins dotting the entire road. I remember one stretch of road shortly after Pinola, which was perfectly smooth chip/seal and lots of rolling hills twisting and diving with lots of curves. It was a blast of a road to ride.
Much later in the ride, when I made it closer into Meridian, it became easier to find water as the area was much more heavily populated. I did find a cool two-combo stretch of dirt roads (Graham Harrison and Cedar Grove) which were a couple of my favorites on the trip. Here’s a video:
Kristine booked me a hotel in Meridian while I was riding, and here’s a collage of my arrival at the Baymont Inn. (the astro motel was NOT where I stayed)
HC Day 6 – Meridian, MS to Hoover, AL
170 HC (hors categorie) miles. It’s hard to describe how hard this day was. I’ve ridden 250 miles in a single day before with 42,000+ feet of climbing. But that ride for the rapha rising competition in 2012 was “cake” compared to this ride. This ride was easily the hardest ride I’ve ever done. It was also the closest I’ve come to riding myself to hospital-level exhaustion. I laid down in the road twice, laid down on the stoop of a church once, begged for water twice, and involuntarily stopped riding twice. To give you an idea of how rural some of the roads were, I was probably laying in the road with my head resting on my helmet on Haysop Cemetery road for about 10 minutes. No cars. Just me and the flies, mosquitoes, and ants and I didn’t care if any of them bit me. Same thing just a few miles later at the historic Haysop Church (183 years old). Just laid on the front stoop thinking how beautiful the sky was and how pretty the cemetery looked and how on earth would I ever get moving again. I ate a payday candy bar when I first laid down at the church, and I think by the time I got up that had started to make it through my digestive system with some energy. Plus, somewhat miraculously as I was taking a picture of the Haysop Baptist Church historical sign, my daughter’s music started playing on my iphone … peaceful worship music from Christy Nockell’s Ever Lifting album. It was the sweetest music I’ve ever heard. This helped me get going again — plus a couple strangers gave me water along the road, which was very rough. My rolling average on Haysop Church dirt road was 11.5 mph (not including my stops) and then on the even rougher chip/seal torture road (Crystal Lake) I only averaged 9.5mph not including one stop along the road. The video below shows me begging for water from one car that rolled up beside me and stopped I was going so slow.
Exhausted from the previous days riding I had slept in a bit (although fitfully waking up every time the air conditioner kicked on starting at 6 in the morning). I wish when I had first woken up at 6 that I had just gotten ready and left at that time b/c it would have saved me at least some of the heat-related problems I would have later in the day. As it turns out, I slept in until 7:30, ate breakfast at the hotel, and was rolling out of the hotel shortly after 8AM. The ride started out really well with lots of shade through a cool Meridian neighborhood on a road with some good hills and a switchback descent that crossed a major highway and immediately turned into really rough, rutted dirt/gravel. That only lasted about 200 meters before it turned into much nicer dirt and eventually into good pavement again after it crossed underneath I-20.
The day turned bad, however, once I hit the US-11 / US-80 combo road about a mile later. This road was FILLED with logging trucks. No exaggeration, I probably saw 50 or more of them over the next 50 miles of the ride. But the problem wasn’t necessarily the logging trucks, it was the Wisconsin-style lateral cracks that ran the length of the road every 10 meters. Unlike Wisconsin where these cracks form due to the extreme cold, these were heat cracks caused by the expansion of the road under hot sun and then compression when it cools off at night. The 15 miles or so I had on this road until Alabama were really rough because of those cracks. But as soon as I hit the Alabama border, the road was beautifully paved with a perfect shoulder with a rumble strip about 18 inches of the white line so that I could safely ride to the right of the white line on a debris-free shoulder and still be left of the rumble strip.
It was so hot and humid by this point that I couldn’t take iphone pictures without first stopping and pulling my tshirt out of my backpack to wipe the phone and my hands. Just constant streams of sweat pouring off of me and/or just rolling around on my skin. Not much shade on Hwy 11, but I made some really good time averaging well over 20mph. Then I detoured off of Hwy 11 at Livingston and headed over to Co Rd 21 which had some amazing views of the Tenn-Tom waterway from a couple hundred feet higher in the hills.
After Co Rd 21, I was back on Hwy 11 and almost out of water and the one gas station at the crossroads was abandoned. This, combined with a severe lack of shade, had me adjusting my speed to match any clouds that happened to be heading in my direction (fortunate). So sometimes I would slow down or even stop to make sure I didn’t outrun the shade provided by some of the thicker clouds. I’ve got some fun video of that if I can ever sift through it all and find it.
Eventually, I made it across the flat river floodplain and into Boligee. There I stopped and refreshed at the Boligee Cafe, where another customer asked me where I was going and when I told him he asked me what I thought about on long rides. I told him that about half the time was spent thinking / wondering / worrying about where I would find water next. I should have ordered a BBQ sandwich at the cafe but I wasn’t hungry. It wasn’t until about 20 miles down the road when I was hungry that I realized I didn’t have any bars or gels left in my backpack! At this point in the day, I was hot, starting to overheat, and out of food. Fortunately, I ran into a Dollar General at a crossroads where I got some ice cream and food and spent a few minutes in the air conditioning to cool off. I’m really fortunate because the Google satellite imagery shows me rummaging around in a forest where there was actually a Dollar General. I got pictures of the whole thing otherwise I think I might have second guessed that I was hallucinating and who knows what I was actually eating! My bike computer registered 101 degF by the time I started riding again in the sun.
Day 6 – proof that there actually was a dollar general there! I got the ice cream to cool off, but I made a mistake with the pecan log roll – i thought it was solid pecans, but it actually was mostly sugar and led to a sugar-related crash later in the day
This was probably the first time I started to question whether I could make it all the way as I still had more than 90 miles to ride in what I knew would be hillier and hillier terrain. Sure enough, when I got to the Talladega National Forest outside Greensboro, the terrain started to get substantially more hilly. The problem was that it was early afternoon, and there wasn’t much shade. Plus, with a 10 pound backpack, I had a hard time making it up the hills at anything more than a snail’s pace so I wasn’t even getting a consistent wind from moving blowing to cool me down.
Fortunately, at the Pleasant Valley crossroads, there was a thriving country store that was not abandoned. That store literally could have been a life-saver. And this was ALL before I got to the even harder parts of the ride where I had to lay down in the road, etc… I hung out in the store for 30 minutes downing a cold coke and some water. The store also had 3G phone service so I instagrammed and facebooked a bit while I let my body cool down and let the sun get farther down in the sky.
After about 30 minutes when I was actually starting to feel pretty cold/chilled, I decided to pack up and head on. I left the store, and headed north on perfect pavement of AL-25 … perfect until I hit the Bibb County border at which point the road became a very rough chip/seal for about five miles before I turned onto a county road which was perfectly paved again. Wonder if it was some kind of dispute between the county and the state over whose responsibility it was to maintain that stretch of AL-25. In any case, I was very glad to get off of it onto a nice county road. The warm sun felt really good through here, but I could tell that I was not doing well. I contemplated stopping at the bottom of one of the hills to rest before tackling the hill. That is not something I normally do. I opted instead to crawl up the climb at 5mph – a climb I could easily have done at 15+ mph without a backpack, without severe dehydration, and without 750+ miles in my legs from the previous days of riding.
This beautiful county road crossed US-82 and turned into the Haysop Rd which started out with a long climb. It was across the top of this climb that I laid down in the road the first time. I think I was pretty close to passing out because I didn’t intend to stop. I just went from feeling not great to feeling light-headed really quickly so I just coasted to a stop, unclipped, laid the bike down in the road, laid myself down in the road and rested for about 10 minutes. No cars. Nothing. Ironically, I could hear cars on US-82 probably 1/2 mile away through the woods. After I started riding again, I stopped again with another few minutes (maybe less than a mile) when I came across the Haysop Baptist Church. My thought was to spray myself with water, but before I tried to find a hose or faucet I decided to rest again on the front stoop. Then when I found a hose, I traced it back to the faucet which was located underneath the church and would involve crawling through a crawlspace to reach it. I was a bit afraid of passing out doing that so I decided to take a little bit of water left in my bottle and dump it on my head and then beg for water next person I saw. That turned out to be the two people in the car in the video earlier in this post. Here’s an instagram I posted from West Blockton at the next store I came to while I was resting (10 agonizing miles later)
Through here I got an encouraging text from Boris saying that he was riding out to meet me on South Shades Crest. Then a little bit later when he and Nathan made it to County Road 1 and I was nowhere in site, he called and I told him that I was about 20 miles behind schedule. That was no problem for them, they just continued backwards on the route I had given them and eventually found me on Bishop Ridge Rd. This was after a stop in West Blockton where I got one last drink refueling – probably 300+ oz of fluid for the nearly 13 hour day.
I gave my heavy backpack to Nathan and we started riding again. I was painfully slow on the uphills, but still able to drill the downhills … basically I could sustain about 150-175 watts and nothing more. On one of the longer downhills on Bishop Ridge, I was at the front drilling it down when I noticed a rough section of road. I pulled my big toes up (they were killing me) to relieve some of the pressure from the bumps, but in doing so I managed to lock up most of the muscle groups in my legs with cramps. Fortunately there was enough downhill left that I didn’t need to pedal and I was able to coast to a stop at the bottom where my legs had relaxed enough that I could unclip. I dropped the bike on the ground and fell over laying on the road (2nd time). I told Boris to call Kristine and tell her to come get me. A nice lady who came up behind us shortly after that stopped and asked if she could help or give me a ride to Green Pond. After a few minutes while Boris was still on the phone with Kristine, I decided to give it one more try. We were almost through the rough Bishop Ridge rd and onto the smoother, relatively flat Co Rd 12/13.
We went slow enough at this point with Boris in the front, Nathan in the back, and me in the middle that I never felt any more cramps coming on. We even were able to make it up the Cat 4 Co Rd 52 climb to South Shades Crest where Nathan left us for his house. Boris and I continued on up to Hwy 150, left through the Preserve, and then through Green Valley finally making it back to the Krispy Kreme in Hoover located where the old Putt-Putt used to be right next to my old elementary school. Boris had arranged for his wife Hahn to meet him there to take him back to his house. This was a great place to end the ride. Definitely would not have been able to make it wihout Boris and Nathan. It started to rain as we were driving the three miles back to my house.
444 miles. #epic444 – the entire Natchez Trace – a challenge with a cause. I’m riding the trace to support Team Red, White, and Blue – a cool organization which supports veterans as they return home from war and integrate back into society. One of the things that I treasure about cycling is the freedom that it gives me – freedom to explore, freedom to travel, freedom to experience life. This is just one of many freedoms I enjoy because of the sacrifice that many soldiers have made for this country. Please join me in supporting this cause by donating a small amount for each mile that I ride or any amount at all would be fantastic!
1 penny per mile – $4.44
1 nickel per mile – $22.20
1 dime per mile – $44.40
1 quarter per mile – $111.00
1 dollar per mile – $444.00
Use the link below and donate right now before you forget!
Follow along as I’ll be updating our progress here throughout the challenge. Thanks!
National Road Race – Blue Mound
Whew. Tough race at the road race. Hot. A cat 3 climb at the end of each lap plus six times up a steep hill in the middle of the course plus a final finishing climb only a couple hundred feet short of a cat 2 climb. This should have been a dream course for me, but it wasn’t happening. I’m a few pounds above my ideal racing weight right now so that doesn’t make for great climbing. Still, I’m happy to have stuck it out and finished 90th out of 200 people with over 100 people DNF’ing.
We started out up on top of Blue Mound which rises 1000 feet from the valley floors with amazing views. The official kept us neutral on the long four or five mile descent, which made for a crazy amount of braking on the way down with at least one tire explosion from overheating. Once the race was on I had already lost a lot of positions and with 200 riders in the field — even with a rolling enclosure — made it challenging to try to move around. Our field was so large that when we hit the bottom of any steep hill, the guys at the back (including me) had to come to a complete stop before proceeding forward up the hill.
I had a 39×28 so it wasn’t too hard to start spinning again up the steep slopes, but I still feel like it was quite an advantage to be at the front and start the climb at 15 mph instead of being at the back and starting the climbs at 0mph. I made it up the 2.5 mile end-of-the-lap climb (cat 3) the first time still connected to the back of the field – but just barely. After flying across the top flatter section trying to keep up with the front of the field already charging down the descent was crazy hard. Pretty much the same story the second time up the climb, but this time the elastic snapped somewhere in front of me and there were about 20 or 30 of us who had to chase back on the descent and through the valley. We finally made the juncture with the back of the field after chasing in the caravan for quite a while right before the start of the third time up the climb. It turns out I had a great view for the race-winning move as I could see the attack stringing out the front of the field while the rest of us were still bunching up going into the steep part of the climb. I was at the very back and pretty much cooked but it didn’t matter b/c huge gaps opened up in the back of the field as many people started to drop out of the race.
I continued a steady hard effort and found myself with another group that swelled to maybe 20 riders at its largest, but people started coming off our group as the heat started to get to people. I was really struggling, too, and amazed how hard it felt to be going so slow with such little wattage (well under 300 watts) on the climbs. We eventually caught Brendan Sullivan and Johnny Brizzard who had survived in the field longer than I had. After two more laps, our group had shrunk to just seven riders. I wasn’t sure how many people would be left in the race, and I was hoping it was maybe as few as 50 people so I went hard on the final climb coming in 2nd behind Brendan Sullivan out of our 7 man group which pretty much exploded at the bottom of the hill. It turns out, though, that enough people had stuck it out that our efforts were for 89th and 90th places with only 99 people finishing and 101 people DNFing.
National Criterium – Madison Capitol Building
My confidence level after six disappointing races (including the five races at the end of Dairyland the week before) was pretty low heading into the crit. Still, I had done really well on this course before (9th place in the final stage of the 2011 tour of america’s dairyland) so I was hoping for a good result. I started out towards the front and then slid backwards gradually. I think I never made it farther than 3/4 of the way towards the back of the 150 rider field, but it was hard to tell. I didn’t think the race was too hard, but it was still tough to move around until people started to get tired. Then you could move up fairly easily coming out of the last turn as people slowed down after drilling it up the hill into the turn. I used this strategy to move from about mid-pack with 3 laps to go all the way into 38th place by the time it was all said and done. Definitely my best result of the two weeks in Wisconsin, but as I detail below with some of my favorite instagram pictures the trip was a fun family vacation despite mediocre race results. Plus, I was happy to race with the best amateur racers in the country and spend a week exploring Madison – I ended up riding 441 miles for the seven days I was in Madison!
Also, a big shout-out to racers from the southeast … Nathan Brown (Memphis) and Ty Magner (Georgia) both took home national championships. Brendan Cornett did well in the crit (9th place). Andy Scarano, David Guttenplan, Winston David, Brendan Sullivan, and a bunch of other people from the southeast were all up there racing and had good results … way to represent!
Annotated heartrate data from both days
National road race – heartrate zone summary
National criterium – heartrate zone summary
2013 National Criterium Lap data ... auto-lap missed a few laps as indicated Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:25 326 838 151 86 26 2 1:18 292 806 167 84 27.5 3 1:16 297 828 171 84 28.8 4 1:17 292 774 173 83 28.9 5 1:12 284 844 173 82 29.9 6 1:15 280 864 175 83 29.7 7 1:11 258 892 174 80 30.6 8 1:16 238 825 173 79 28.8 9 1:14 250 831 173 78 29.3 10 1:17 259 830 172 79 28.9 11-12 2:27 268 888 176 79 29.8 13 1:11 283 718 179 81 29.9 14 1:15 274 835 178 81 29.3 15-16 2:29 264 943 177 78 29.7 17 1:13 255 827 176 75 29.9 18 1:16 241 768 178 79 28.8 19 1:19 241 821 173 82 27.6 20 1:19 259 836 174 78 27.5 21 1:17 231 810 176 73 28.1 22-24 3:44 260 884 178 76 29.4 25 1:16 237 787 177 77 28.7 26-28 3:51 246 867 177 76 28.4 29 1:23 249 773 177 78 25.7 30-32 3:48 243 820 177 76 29 33 1:11 265 693 176 77 30.4 34-35 2:20 293 815 181 79 31.1 36 1:17 231 937 180 72 27.9 37-38 2:32 249 756 178 80 28.2 39 1:12 259 778 179 74 30.2 40 1:15 221 715 176 76 29.1 41 1:14 249 773 177 77 28.9 42 1:17 243 809 175 75 27.4 43-44 2:24 249 790 177 74 29.8 45 1:18 246 777 178 73 27.9 46 1:17 240 885 178 76 27.7 47 1:14 235 546 179 79 28.3 48 1:12 242 653 177 79 29.7 49 1:15 226 744 175 72 28.4 50 1:13 264 646 175 77 28.6 51 1:14 204 648 175 73 28.7 52 1:14 215 757 170 72 28.6 53 1:13 247 794 178 76 28.4 54 1:13 263 775 176 78 28.7 55 1:17 231 794 176 79 27.4 56 1:15 252 730 178 79 28 57 1:14 242 758 177 77 28.5 58 1:15 224 805 177 77 28.1 59 1:14 216 873 174 76 28.3 60 1:14 242 919 169 76 28.6 61 1:11 249 778 178 73 30.1 62 1:10 255 821 178 74 30.1 63 1:11 245 914 177 73 29.4 64 1:19 211 688 178 78 26.6 65 1:17 243 729 172 75 27.5 66 1:15 209 716 170 75 28.4 67 1:13 239 679 171 74 29 68 1:17 214 770 169 71 27.1 69 1:14 232 690 174 72 28.6 70 1:12 231 741 173 72 29.2 71 1:11 244 923 178 73 30 72 1:14 227 805 177 73 28.4 73 1:18 252 833 181 80 27.4 74 1:17 242 736 183 73 27.5 75 1:16 213 718 178 75 27.8 76 1:12 256 721 175 76 29.2 77 1:14 224 759 180 75 28.4 78 1:16 248 783 182 74 27.9 79 1:14 295 855 185 77 28.8 80 1:08 348 921 189 74 31.6
iBike data from the road race … this was recorded on Wednesday before the race when I pre-rode a lap of the course with Jimmy Schurman.
Me with Josiah and Analise after our cool-down lap riding the course together.
Our cool-down lap … Analise and Josiah are on the far right of the picture behind me.
Between turns 3 and 4 climbing the hill (I’m towards the left of the pic)
Just before the start of the race – 150 cat 1s ready to take off
A little bit of bike path, a little bit of alley, a little bit of climbing, and a whole lot of awesome warming up for #roadnats criterium in Madison WI
One of my favorite pics from the trip – Analise and Josiah crossing a creek
Josiah had to wrestle @ktoone for the packers horse – Ella’s Deli
Me and Josiah after the road race
Quintessential Wisconsin country-side and rolling hills
Spent a lot of time at the Holiday Inn waterpark
The Blue Mounds finishing hills
Awesome bike paths in Madison
Got a chance to ride with my friend Lennie who happened to be up there on a day-trip
Celebrating 10 awesome years together
Wednesday – Fond du Lac road race – 70th out of 150 starters, 124 finishers
Thursday – Road America road race – 94th out of 150 starters, 102 finishers
Friday – Fond du Lac criterium – 59th out of 105 starters, 61 finishers
Saturday – Downer Classic criterium – 62nd out of 150 starters, 116 finishers
Sunday – East Tosa Grand Prix – 37th out of 119 starters, 86th finishers
Somewhat disappointing results, but still some great racing/training over the past five days. I missed the first six days of the series so I could race the SRS race weekend in Montgomery — hard to pass up on such a great venue so close to home. Still working on a race report for that weekend, but I thought I’d go ahead and finish this one up first. We started driving up immediately after the Montgomery race on Sunday expecting to make it 700 miles up to La Porte, Indiana but instead only made it about 400 miles up to Elizebethtown, Kentucky. On Monday we finished the drive up to La Porte to stay with Kristine’s grandmother. Then on Tuesday we finished the drive up to Wisconsin where I dropped Kristine and the kids off at Kohler-Andrea state park to go camping on the shores of Lake Michigan while I headed back down to Milwaukee to race the last five days of the 11 day Tour of America’s Dairyland.
Wednesday – Fond du Lac road race
First day of racing at the 2013 Tour of America’s Dairyland
I finished near the back of what was left of the field in a field sprint after our race was cut short by the county sheriffs for center line rule violation. This was my first race of the series as we started our drive up on Sunday immediately after the Montgomery SRS race but didn’t arrive in Wisconsin until Tuesday. On Tuesday, I had a nice ride starting from Saulkville and heading west into the hills.
On Wednesday, I headed up to the race where I found out there was a waiting list to race (field limit of 150 had been reached). Fortunately, I had pre-registered but that meant that our field was huge with 150 riders. As you can see in the rollout video below, there was no pre-race instructions that I could hear and so I wasn’t sure if we had the whole road. For a field of that size and roads that small you have to have a rolling enclosure. Even though we weren’t supposed to have the whole road, that is how the race ended up playing out as you can see in the videos underneath the jersey pic above.
During the race, there were several breaks but with such a large field there was always somebody chasing. This kept our pace extremely high as we averaged about 28mph for the race, but that was only because of the slow uphills. The rest of the time we spent well above 30mph including bouts of closer to 40mph with some nasty crosswinds that had us guttered. I heard several people comment that this is what a European race probably felt like. I managed to get in one chase group that worked well for about 2 or 3 miles but we got caught shortly before the field caught a small break that was still off the front.
It was crazy being in a field that large, at one point I crested a hill with most of the field stretched out in front of me. It was amazing to see so many riders strung out over a distance that probably measured a quarter mile and 30 seconds of ride time. In the end, there was well under 100 riders left in the main field as many people had been guttered and dropped in the heavy crosswinds. There was several times that I thought I was going to open up a gap with how hard I was working to just barely hold the wheel in front of me while also trying to get as close to the edge of the road as possible without hitting debris or holes.
With about five miles to the finish, I was moving up on the left when the field swerved left and I ended up going off the road on the wrong side of the road (that’s how closely the yellow line rule was being observed). At this point, I realized I was the very last rider in the field! So I tried to move up again and stayed attentive to see if there was any chance of blasting up one of the sides and passing a lot of people — but the opportunity never presented itself and so there wasn’t much point in contesting the sprint from the very back.
The course was a really great course with classic Wisconsin farm fields covering rolling hills with cool barns dotting the landscape. There was hardly any traffic (maybe saw three or four cars the entire race) so it really would not have been hard to have a rolling enclosure with one lead moto ahead of any break, an official with the field, and then the support cars behind the field. That’s actually pretty much how the race played out, but the sheriffs were not happy since I’m guessing they were told we would be on one side of the road. They cut our race short by two laps (20 miles).
Thursday – Road America road race
The last time I raced this race (2010), I was much more aggressive staying towards the front, and the field was quite a bit smaller … maybe 100 guys instead of more than 150 which we had in the race this year. I ended up 4th having made it into the day’s break. I figured there would be a break again this year, but I was too far back to make it into it when the break went, or when any of the several chase groups established themselves. I always seemed to find myself finally making it to the front just as another chase group had already left. So by the time our field was sprinting for the end, there were more than 30 guys up the road. I had been fighting off cramps so I didn’t bother sprinting the uphill finish and risk locking up my leg and throwing off the rest of the weekend. The one highlight of the race was finally making it into a chase group with about 3 laps left but we only lasted a lap and a half before getting reeled back in by the field.
Saturday – ISCorp Downer Classic criterium
View of downtown Milwaukee on my ride back to the hotel after the race
Fun commute to/from the race … huge field again, raced well until big surge on inside late in the race. I remembered this from two years ago and was on the correct side moving way up the field, but this year I opted to stay on the easier, safer, slow side and lost tons of position. Finished mid-pack of the field sprint. Awesome commute back on North Avenue – lights were easy to time and even in the dark it was really well lit. Rode right through the finishing stretch of Sunday’s criterium.
Sunday – East Tosa Grand Prix criterium
Awesome warm-up on the bike paths of Wautosa
Fun neighborhood criterium. Definitely my best race of the series – missed the break though. Rode well near the front until again a surge on the inside saw me lose a lot of positions. I favored the outside and found it easy to move up each lap on the downhill between turns 2 and 3 – but the problem was how many positions I would lose through the start/finish on any slow laps where everyone would surge up the inside. Felt great during the race, though, so this was a good way to end the series in preparation for the elite amateur national road race and criterium this week in Madison, WI.
Tons of data, these are all in chronological order: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
2013 ToAD, Wednesday Fond du Lac road race summary
Two years ago, I raced all of the Tour of America’s Dairyland including the Fond du Lac criterium. I raced well and crossed the line in first at the start of the last lap trying to maintain good position. Unfortunately, I managed to get passed by 20 people during the last lap to finish just out of the money. I was quite distraught after the race having blown such good position to end up outside of the top 20. I was hoping to redeem that performance with a top 20 finish this year, but with huge thunderstorms and rain showers all across the sky and approaching Fond du Lac before the start I was not very optimistic. We managed to start the first few laps dry, but then it started to rain, and I drifted to the back, off the back, and then expecting to be pulled was told that I could continue to race. I am never going to willingly pull out of a race again after a disasterous race in West Virginia in 1996, so I raced for another 20 minutes or so getting lapped 3 or 4 more times by the field. I used the opportunity to continue racing to work on my rainy cornering skills, as I have had several recent rainy slideouts losing a lot of confidence in the rain.
It was barely halfway through the race by the time that the officials decided I had raced enough and pulled me from the race. I just checked the results, and I was rewarded for my efforts by being placed in the results instead of a DNF — 59th out of 105 starters. Afterwards, wanting to get some kind of training in, I started wandering towards the hills, first looking for some good climbs, and then seeing windmills in the distance riding to try to get a good picture. The windmills are huge so that they appear closer than they really are. And then even when you start to get close to one, you find that the road is gated off or unrideable in the mud or the windmill you were heading towards was actually on a different ridge beside a different road. Eventually, as it was getting dark and as I was getting farther and farther away from Fond du Lac, I started to feel like Don Quixote chasing windmills, and I began to suspect that somehow for many people including me such is the lot of the bike racer. Finally, I found a cool valley with a bunch of windmills with a farm gravel road that was not only rideable but also quite pictureesque. It was amazing to be standing underneath something so gigantic and hearing the whoosh of the three blades as the passed overhead. Standing directly underneath it as the blades headed towards you was a bit disconcerting as you wondered unreasonably that you might have misjudged the length of the the blade and it would suddenly hit you standing there on the ground.
So, anyway, even as I was chasing the windmills I thought of Don Quixote. I don’t know the story all that well, but I believe the basic idea is that poor Don thought that the windmills he was chasing and trying to defeat were actual enemies that needed to be defeated. He continued to pursue these windmills never realizing that they were unbeatable. Comparing this to bicycle racing, the idea is that we as bike racers try so hard to win or at least do as well as possible romanticizing that one good result to the point that it lures us back for more even after a series of really bad results. Often the level of competition is so far above and beyond our own capability that it is truly like Don Quixote chasing windmills – an impossible and illogical vain pursuit.
Again, I don’t know the story all that well, but Don Quixote must have been fulfilled, fully alive, full of purpose as he chased after those windmills even if it made no sense to anyone else. The danger though is the damage that Don was doing to those around him as he sought after those windmills even as he tried to do good and help/rescue/save the world. I am fortunate that my family is supportive of my windmill chasing, and I do everything I can to turn bike races into family trips and family experiences, and I think the good far outweighs the bad, but the very real danger is pursuing too far without putting everything into context.
As I was trying to find a windmill I could ride right up to and set my bike against on my 10 year anniversary with my wife 100 miles away camping with her family in Door County, I realized both the beauty and the danger of bike racing. I had spent the night before camping with them and the morning of our anniversay was awesome with a nice trail run/ride with Kristine and the kids finding a cool boat landing and then a climb up to a tower overlooking Sturgeon Bay and the entrance to Green Bay followed by a little bit of caving with Josiah and then more trail riding and finally capped off joining Kristine’s dad as he finished 1100 miles of hiking the entire Ice Age trail which ends at the tower we had found earlier in the day. All of this before leaving my family to go get dropped in a bike race, but then finding beautiful rolling hills, picturesque farms with barns, cows, and fields of corn, big sky with clouds from various storms on all sides aglow with lightning and the setting sun — surreal, almost perfect, forgetting that an hour or so earlier I had just gotten dropped and pulled from a bike race – I was content realizing that bike racing in the context of life is so small, but in the moment if you look in the right places you can still find something worth pursuing even if it looks like windmills to everyone else.
Pictures from earlier in the day camping with Kristine and the kids -
Epic. Awesome. Classic. Wow. Whatever your favorite exclamation word is — this weekend was it! The criterium Saturday night had the feel of Athens Twilight with a fast course, lots of people lining the course, and a huge field. I ended up in OK position (top 20) for the start of the last lap, but got stuck behind a crash with three turns to go. After coming to a complete stop, I went around the crash and ended up 27th. Meanwhile, Team Predator Carbon Repair swept the podium. The road race was the highlight of the weekend for me, though, with a downtown circuit on a closed course (rolling enclosure) that featured a steep 16% climb towards the end of each lap and two separate 50mph descents. I rode conservatively, so I survived the race – but I also missed the key move. In fact, I watched it go away thinking that it was still too early (about halfway through the race). The move stuck, and a few laps later I ended up in a five-man chase group. We worked well together and stayed away from the field, but I was fighting off cramps and ended up last in the chase group for 14th in the race. Daniel Patten (Mountain Khakis/Smart Stop) attacked the break and ended up winning solo. Chris Uberti (Mountain Khakis/Smart Stop) also got away and soloed in for second.
Normally I do a long write up of everyting I can remember from the race, but this time I’m starting with the data, which connected to at least part of my write-up anyway. The lap data for the criterium is messed up because the Garmin was struggling with keeping a satellite signal given how fast we were going underneath the skyscrapers in downtown Winston-Salem. So the autolap feature wasn’t kicking in every lap as shown below in the lap data:
Winston-Salem downtown criterium Pro/1/2 27th place GPS didn't handle skyscrapers well Auto-lap wasn't correctly lapping every time Lap(s) Time Miles AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 2:15 0.91 350 946 166 81 24.8 2-4 5:42 2.71 307 979 178 82 28.5 5-8 7:39 3.75 272 996 181 81 29.4 9-10 4:00 1.87 252 1011 180 82 28 11-26 31:30 14.27 264 1026 180 82 27.2 27-28 3:58 1.84 263 894 180 83 27.9 29-30 3:59 1.76 254 894 179 80 26.4 31-33 5:58 2.62 263 932 181 82 26.4 34 1:52 0.84 269 939 181 80 27 35 1:58 0.89 270 954 181 82 27 36 1:48 0.83 271 1000 183 80 27.6 37 1:58 0.89 266 884 183 81 27.2 38 1:54 0.9 276 905 184 80 28.4 39 1:57 0.88 322 896 187 78 27.7
You can tell from the data that the course was about 0.9 miles long and laps were a bit under 2 minutes long. The start/finish stretch was straight with a very gradual downhill into turn 1. This led into a slight rise all the way through Turn 2, which was a brick covered turn — no issues since it wasn’t raining but would be a bit tricky in the rain. You continued climbing out of Turn 2 until you crested the hill right in front of the Mariott (race hotel). The road dipped down sharply (about 8%), and we hit about 40mph every lap. There was a bit of a flat run-out before Turn 3, but you still had a lot of momentum, which you wanted to carry through Turn 3 because this was straight back uphill to the high point on the course. Turn 4 should have been a fast turn, but it seemed like we always bunched up there. Turn 5 was a right turn, followed very quickly by a left and 100 meters left to the start/finish line.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this race for me was how high my heartrate was. I’ve known that my threshold heartrate is about 180, but I’ve always kept my Zone 5 starting at a heartrate of 175. In this race, I averaged 180 for well over 1 hour, 15 minutes so I’m guessing my threshold heartrate might even be a beat or two above 180. The problem with changing my HR zones at this point in my life is that it makes it impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of time spent in heartrate zones from all my previous years. I guess I’ll just leave it as is. Anybody have thoughts on this?
Winston-Salem downtown crit pro/1/2 – heartrate zone summary
Winston-Salem Downtown Road Race Pro/1/2 - 14th Lap(s) Time Miles AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 16:50 7.19 248 853 160 88 25.7 2 17:12 7.18 240 813 162 88 25.1 3 17:28 7.18 223 817 162 82 24.7 4 17:23 7.16 233 747 160 81 24.7 5 18:05 7.17 200 749 155 81 23.8 6 19:25 7.23 191 682 145 79 22.4 7 18:49 7.21 196 718 148 78 23 8 18:02 7.2 237 714 159 82 23.9 9 19:17 7.18 212 631 151 78 22.3 10 18:33 7.15 223 649 160 79 23.1 11 19:28 7.13 211 731 154 76 22
You can tell from the lap data above that the road race course was around 7.2 miles long. The primary feature of the course was the fact that it went through so much of downtown Winston-Salem on a closed circuit (rolling enclosure). This was a hard race, but it was definitely one of the best courses I’ve raced this year. It was also quite hilly — with a steep 16% climb out of Hanes Park less than a mile from the finish.
Given how hot, long, and hard the road race course was I tried to be really conservative so you can see my heartrate data is much lower. You can also see why so many people didn’t finish the race — look how hard we started out before the times slipped down into something more reasonable.
Winston-Salem Cycling Classic heartrate zone summary
Kristine and I wanted to bring the kids, but their weekend was already full (Josiah was fishing with some friends) and Analise had something going on at church. So it was just me and Kristine making the 7.5 hour drive from Birmingham Saturday morning arriving about 3 hours before the start of the race. This gave me some time to warm up and explore Winston-Salem. I found some cool roads and some sort of boarding school (appeared to be closed for the summer) with a dirt road back to a farm. I also saw a few urban trails (you can also see on the road race map how many dedicated trails there are in Winston-Salem – the solid green lines). It wasn’t enough time to explore all the roads, though, and I’m already seriously thinking about an excuse to get back up there and ride some more!
I rolled back towards the course just in time to see Allison Powers take the crit win. I had already ridden the course a few times before the start of the women’s race, but I decided to spin around one more time before the start of our race. I think we ended up getting in a couple laps before people started to line up. I lucked out a bit because right as I finished a lap, they brought out the ribbon to block off our staging area. Almost instantly, there were more than 100 riders lined up behind it because everybody knew how difficult this course was going to be.
The start was fast, and the rider in front of me was unable to clip into his pedals. I ended up losing a bunch of positions immediately because of this and then continued to lose positions throughout the next few laps. I tend to start out way too conservatively. But it only took a couple laps to realize that it was time to either “move up” or “get gapped off”. I switched into Athens Twilight mode and made it my primary objective to pass riders wherever I could anywhere on the course. Still, it was tough to move around because the course was so fast. I never once made it to the very front of the race. It was a bit disheartening at the top of the backside downhill to work so hard passing people and then still see so many riders stretched out in front of you.
By the end of the race, though, I had moved all the way up to 19th (according to the chip timing) at the start of the last lap. A gap opened up in front of the rider in front of me at the top of the downhill, but I was able to hop on the wheel of a rider who came around from behind me. A third rider passed us both going into the last corner which turned out to be good for both me and the rider I was following because we could see him slam on his brakes to avoid people who had fallen just out of sight around the corner. I came to a complete stop, hunched over expecting people from behind to come plowing into me — but apparently there was a big enough gap that had opened up behind us that the other riders were able to slow down and pass us on the inside without stopping.
Unfortunately, it must have been about 12 or 13 people that made it around because I passed about 5 or 6 people after restarting and still ended up 27th having lost a net of 8 places on the final lap. Unfortunate ending to what otherwise was a great race. That’s the nature and excitement of crit racing – I could have just as easily been a couple riders farther back and been able to take advantage of the crash to move up a bunch of spots. Or I could have been a couple riders farther forward and gone down in the crash. One of the riders was hurt pretty bad and taken to the hospital. Does anyone have an update on him?
No start or finish videos from this race (yet) because I’m working with Gene to hopefully have my video integrated into the NBC/Universal sports coverage of the race that is going to air this Sunday at 3PM eastern time. I don’t think they would be interested in this video I got of Justin Williams (MRI Endurance) demonstrating some awesome cornerning and maneuvering skills on the downhill turn. Check it out -
We stayed at the race hotel — the downtown Mariott — and didn’t even have to move our car from the lot we were in. The hotel was awesome, and our room overlooked the start/finish for the Sunday road race. In fact, we were able to watch the women’s field roll out and come in for the finish of their first lap before checking out. Our race was scheduled to start as soon as the women finished, but the police needed to have a break (understandable considering how hot it was and how much work they were doing). So our race ended up starting about 30 minutes late, and we went through two separate scrums for the line.
I ended up in great position for both of them, but again started out too conservatively and lost a ton of positions in the first half lap of the course. By the time we hit the Hanes Park climb at the end of the course, I was probably 100 riders back from the front. Gaps were opening up ahead of me, but fortunately there were enough motivated people to chase back onto the group. During this time, a large break of maybe 10 or more riders escaped. I thought they were gone for good — especially when a secondary chase group of almost 10 riders formed. But there were a number of strong people left in the field (including me) who had missed the move and tried to get across. This happened enough times that we eventually brought the large 20 rider break back by about 30 miles into the race (the two groups had merged). This shocked me somewhat as I thought the race was pretty much over.
The merged field probably had less than 75 riders at this point, and the counterattacks that went eventually led to a break of 11. I still wasn’t in good position and found myself at one point as the very last rider in the field. I know this because I got squeezed out of one of the turns and had to take the long way around finding myself getting passed by the trailing motorcycle and having to catch back on. Each lap our field got smaller as people came off on the final climb and weren’t able to catch back onto the field as it flew through the start/finish, made a turn, and hit a head/sidewind through the feedzone.
With a few laps to go, there was maybe 20 of us left in the field. Andy Scarano (UHC/706) attacked and got away eventually joining his teammate Winston David who I believe was coming back from the break. I attacked up the first hill from what was left of the field, and Gavriel Epstein (Champion Systems) bridged up to me. The two of us bridged up to the UHC duo, and then the four of us eventually caught Curtis Winsor (Smartstop / Mountain Khakis) who was either coming off the break or had attacked earlier.
We worked well together, but still had a two plus minute gap to the break. With two laps to go, we were told that this would be our last lap. The police were ready for us to be off the course, and it didn’t seem realistic for us to catch the break. I had mixed feelings about it because I was fighting off cramps and ready to be done, but I was also still holding out hope we would catch some guys from the break which had dwindled down to 9 riders. With only one lap to go, though, our chase lost cohesion as we started to attack each other.
Eventually Winston got away and stayed away for 10th. Then on the final hill, Gavriel attacked and got away taking 11th. Then in the final sprint between me, Andy, and Curtis — well let’s just say I finished 14th in the race — you do the math. Less than 30 finishers out of close to 150 starters. What an epic race!
12th in the road race, soft pedaled the time trial for 50th, and 26th in a crit in the middle of heavy downpour – 17th overall omnium.
Wow, what a great race … epic location in the smoky mountains ending with an HC climb. A break of 7 riders formed on the loop part of the course. This break included eventual winner, super strong climber Jimmy Schurmann (Champion Systems Pro Cycling) plus former winner Scottie Weiss (Veloshine) as well Andy Scarano (UHC/706 Project), Dirk Pohlmann (Texas Roadhouse), Birmingham rider Payne Griffin (Marx and Bensdorf), and two other riders I didn’t know – Nick Jowsey (Brevard, NC) and Jake Arnold (Fort Collins, CO).
My teammate Jeff McGrane rode aggressively and helped keep the pace high at the front of the field. The break never got a huge gap to us as we could always see them so I figured that it would all come back together before the steep part of the climb. I stayed near the very front to look for any promising moves, but still managed to miss Shawn Gravois (UHC/706) when he attacked to bridge to Brian Sheedy (Globalbike) shortly after the turn off the loop onto US-19. The High Country Devo team set a fast tempo, and it looked like they were going to bring Shawn and Brian back by the top of the Cat 4 climb on US 19, but across the top Buddy Spafford (Asheville, NC) attacked and the High Country Devo team sat up. Seeing this as an opportunity to try to chase back up to Shawn, I attacked bringing one rider (Brandon Freyer – App State) with me and the three of us were away. We got a time split of 1 minute to the break shortly before we made the turn off of US 19 to head towards the base of the official climb.
We had lost sight of the main field behind us, so we were going to start the climb with a pretty good gap. Looking at the strava data later, I calculate that our gap to the field must have been about 1’30” by the start of the official 7 mile climb to the finish. Talking to Shawn and Jimmy after the finish, here’s what was happening ahead – Shawn and Brian’s chase group had indeed caught the lead group. By the bottom of the climb, Jimmy had gone ahead taking Shawn and Scottie with him. Eventually it was just Jimmy as Shawn and Scottie came off his pace. Meanwhile from behind in the field came a flying Cameron Coggan (CCB) who eventually caught and passed everyone except for Jimmy and Shawn who went on to take 1st and 2nd with Cameron in 3rd. Cameron went ahead and climbed all the way up to the top of the mountain as well.
Much farther down the mountain, the three man chase group I was in had been soldiering on working well together for about 7 or 8 miles all the way to the bottom of the climb. At the bottom, I settled into tempo to try to pace myself all the way up the climb and still hopefully catch people from the break. Chris Uberti (Smart Stop / Mountain Khakis) caught me about 2 miles in. I stayed with him until Cameron Cogburn (CCB) came flying by. Chris was able to stay with Cameron for a bit, but I only lasted a few seconds. I wasn’t exactly disheartened, though, because I felt like I was climbing at a good tempo. I kept Chris in my sight for a long time, but he would eventually finish a minute and a half ahead of me. I caught Payne Griffin (Marx and Bensdorf) at the spot we had compared to Karl Daly (from there to the summit) after he had come off the lead group. I caught one more rider before getting caught myself by Daniel Patten (Mountain Khakis) with about 1K to the finish. I saw him coming, so I eased up and then latched on to him until the sprint for the finish, where I cramped and then immediately sat up to finish the race in 12th. Afterwards, Kyle Taylor (Team Bikers Choice) convinced me to climb with him to the top. It was well worth it for the view and to experience the microclimate of the Great Smoky Mountains above 6000′ in elevation (we maxed out at just over 6200′).
Not the result I was looking for, but it was still a good race. I ended up setting an all-time power record for the duration 1 hour 5 minutes up through 1 hour 17 minutes with a power of 290 watts or (4.5 watts / kg) for that duration of time. Even though it was an all-time power record, I believe that I’ve got another 10-15 watts or so in my legs but just didn’t have it on Saturday. My CP curve predicts that I should have been able to maintain 304 watts over that same length of time. Another year! Although, if Tulsa Tough conflicts again with this race, I think I’m going to hit it up next year and then switch back to Johnson City the following year … hopefully the schedules will be different next year to allow me to do both!
Road race heartrate zone summary
With so many strong riders here, I knew that even a max effort for me wouldn’t get me any omnium points. So I decided to take it easy on the time trial – especially since I had cramped hard at the end of the road race. I really enjoyed warming up with a few riders and contemplating bike racing and taking in such a crazy awesome view in the Nolichucky Gorge outside of Erwin, TN. Then I started the time trial with my camera out and took pictures of all the riders who passed me during the time trial. I also tried to shout encouragement to each of them (and stay out of the way). My teammate, John Hart, smoked the time trial ending up falling less than 2 seconds short of the win behind Brian Sheedy and a half second behind Shawn Gravois in second place.
Sunday’s criterium was on a technical course. I did warm-up laps on it when it was dry, and the first few laps of our race were dry, but then it started to rain and the wrecks started to happen and eventually I dropped off the back – taking the corners ultra slow but trying to drill the straightaways to delay getting lapped (and pulled) as long as possible. I got pulled late enough to be placed 26th – no omnium points, but it still counted as a finish to keep me in the overall, where my road race points alone were good enough for 17th overall. Got a good video of the first wreck after the rain started.
Here’s a selection of videos from the races – starting with the rainy crit and working backwards to the road race.