Posts tagged ‘epic’
Race summary via a video (watch the whole thing (it’s worth it) or scroll to 2’20″ to watch George Hincapie’s first puncture, scroll to 4’40″ to watch a glimpse of what my race was like yesterday – Hincapie alone with two Domo-Frites riders who have a teammate alone in the lead up the road. Then scroll to exactly 5 minutes to watch Hincapie’s second puncture and watch from there until the end and you have a good summary of my race at Rouge Roubaix yesterday. Even the finish placing at the end was the same — we both got a disappointing 4th place.) Disappointed? Yes. Happy? Yes. I have always said that just finishing Rouge Roubaix is a victory.
Race summary in words It was a smaller than normal field with maybe 40 riders and several teams represented, but the strongest and deepest team was clearly Plano Cycling from Texas. With a strong tailwind and constant attacks, none of the early suicide breaks would stick so it was pretty much all together with a small break about 30 seconds ahead going into the first dirt section. I entered the dirt in second or third position and came out of it first after we caught and passed the small lead group somewhere in the middle of the dirt section. I attacked the last hill to get a good 5-10 second gap on the field for the Strava segment challenge. 40 miles and LOTS of attacking later, I was sprinting (and grabbing) the $100 bill at the top of Blockhouse Hill so I think I was fastest on the Blockhouse Hill challenge segment. I was with another rider (Eric in green jersey) and we worked well together for the next 20 miles all the way through the third dirt/gravel section. At the end of the third dirt section, eventual winner Adam Koble (Plano) caught us and just as we were getting into a rotation I pinch flatted my front wheel. The motorcycle neutral support was right behind me, and I was riding again 34 seconds after stopping. I started riding just as a chase group containing two Plano riders and Jason Snow passed. I quickly caught back up to them, but Jason was cooked and the two Plano riders couldn’t work because they had a teammate up the road. I was starting to bonk pretty bad and Jason gave me a Clif bar (thanks!!) which I ate as I sat the front driving the pace hard to try to catch the two leaders. Then the Plano riders started to attack to try to get away so that they would have another rider up the road instead of just Adam. I believe Jason came off of our group during one of these attacks. We were closing in on them when I see Eric pull off to the side of the road just ahead of us with a flat. This motivated me to push the pace even harder because now Adam was having to work by himself as the lone leader up the road. So here I was pulling the two Plano riders back up to their leader when “psssssssttttttt” I get a puncture on the replacement front wheel. The motorcycle wheels were behind us again so I was up and rolling 24 seconds after stopping. Eric caught me right after I got started again so the two of us worked together to catch the Plano riders. This was less than 3 miles from the finish with one more hill left (Mahoney Hill) – I hit the hill hard to try and pop one or both of the Plano riders but only ended up with Eric coming off the pace. I was first wheel going into the sprint when Plano #1 (Ryan Dromgoole) attacked out of the corner with 500 meters to go. He got just enough of a gap that I couldn’t grab his wheel and even as I closed in on him 25 meters from the line, Plano #2 (Corey Ray) who had been on my wheel came around me to take the last step of the podium. Kudos to Team Plano for riding an awesome, aggressive, strategic race. Kudos to the whole team! I wonder if two records were set yesterday? 1) fastest rouge roubaix ever 2) podium sweep by a single team
The detailed report with pictures, short video, maps, and power data
The first 25 miles
Normally in this race, there is a 3 or 4 mile neutral section, followed by a number of attacks that fairly quickly establish the early suicide break. This year we had a strong tailwind and a smaller field so even though there was lots and lots of attacking, nothing would stick. I rode aggressively and tried to get in a move but couldn’t do it – and my legs felt awful – I thought for sure I had a flat or that something was binding in the drivetrain. A few miles before the first dirt section, a break of 3 finally established itself with Stephen Mire (S3), Scott Kuppersmith (Indian Cycle Racing), and one of the Plano riders taking a 45 second gap into the first dirt section.
The first dirt section
The first dirt section was really rough – especially at the beginning with some nasty washboard. I lost a full bottle of gatorade (175 very important calories) here. And even though it was really rough, we were still going fast. Plus, unlike previous years where you had one or two strongmen laying down a killer pace that keeps the group strung out, this year the pace was more manageable opening up the opportunity for attacks – of which there were plenty even on the dirt! I covered some of these moves. Each one would shed more riders from the lead group. Towards the later part on one of the downhills, my speed sensor fell down the fork and was bouncing into the spokes. I thought for sure it was going to get lodged between the spokes and the fork causing the front wheel to stop or breaking some spokes, but within a half mile or so the speed sensor settled down so that is was hanging down sideways outside the hub but no longer hitting the spokes. Towards the end of the first dirt section, I had moved to the front and attacked hard on the last hill to try to get some time for the Strava challenge segment and ended up finishing a few seconds in front of the group.
The long, hard 40 mile road section between the first and second dirt sections
Back out on the road it was constant attacks from many different riders including me, but mainly from Plano riders. I would chase some attacks and try to counterattack, but I think I was being watched too closely. All of the attacks, though, did create a split in the group with about 8 of us in the front split and 10 in the chase group. I was in the front split which worked well together but we were eventually chased down by the chase group. Once the two groups merged again it was attack/attack/attack. This time I instigated a lot of the attacks as I was really tired of trying to respond to the Plano attacks. Nothing was getting away, though. Then as I was sitting on the front pushing an easy 175 watts and admiring the big flood plain off the to right, I turned around saw that I had a 50 meter gap! Once I realized I had a gap, I immediately attacked knowing that the turn was coming up in less than half a mile.
The second dirt section – Blockhouse Hill
I had a small lead and was pushing a steady tempo when Eric Stubbs (GearLink Racing) caught me. He rode my wheel for a second and then attacked hard. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing, but then I remembered about the $100 sprint at the top of the hill. So I pulled it together to try and chase back onto him. I caught him about 2/3rds of the way up the hill. He was still pushing hard though and he came over to my side of the hard-packed mud double track. He was still with me as I approached the man holding the $100 bill, so I had a brief thought wondering if we were going to physically battle for the $100 but I put in a little surge and got there first to grab the money and stuff it as far as I could inside my jersey pocket to make sure it didn’t fall out. My coffee shop cleat covers which I had brought in case I needed to run up any of the hills acted as a nice paperweight. We worked really well together through the remainder of the short dirt section and out onto the paved roads again. I was hoping we had insurmountable lead by this point, but every time I looked back you could see a lead vehicle for a chase group. We got one time split shortly before the start of the third dirt section, which indicated we had a 50 second gap.
The third dirt section – Tunica Hills
I struggled in the 3rd dirt section not from lack of energy but from lack of technical skills. The gravel was kinda rough this year with a bit of mud, too, and I found myself taking the worst possible lines. Even on the opening steep climb, I was on the wrong side of the double track and my rear wheel slid sideways in some gravel about halfway up the climb. Fortunately I was able to push through to the harder packed side, make the nearly 90 degree turn back up the hill and resume pedaling in my 39×28 all on a 12-15% incline at 4-6mph. Across the top it didn’t get much better as I ended up off the road at least twice coming to a near stop before having to sprint back up the next hill to catch back up to Eric who was descending awesomely showing me the perfect lines which I would proceed to not take b/c of some sort of technical brain malfunction.
Flat #1 – front wheel pinch flat
Towards the end of the third dirt section, the lead vehicle that had been behind us was nearly up to us. There was only one rider, though, eventual winner Adam Koble from Team Plano. Just as we were getting into a rotation, I pinch flatted my front wheel on one of the washed out gravel sections that we hit at close to 30mph. The motorcycle neutral support was right behind me, and I was riding again 34 seconds after stopping. I started riding and latched onto a chase group containing two Plano riders (Ryan Dromgoole and Corey Ray) and a third rider – Jason Snow. Jason was cooked and the two Plano riders couldn’t work because they had a teammate up the road. Jason offered me a Clif bar as I was starting to bonk so I was able to drive the pace and begin to close the gap to the leading duo of Adam and Eric. As we got to another hilly section, the Plano riders tried a few attacks, but I was able to chase down each one and even put in a counter attack or two. Jason came off during this section.
Flat #2 – front wheel puncture
So it was me leading the two Plano riders back up to their leader when we went through just a tiny bit of gravel when I hear the dreaded “psssssssssstttt” of a front wheel puncture with less than 10 miles to go. This was an even quicker change than last time (24 seconds from flat to riding again). Eric caught me right as I was pulling out, and the two of us worked together catching the Plano riders again with about 3 miles to go. I pushed the pace super hard on the last hill (Mahoney Hill) hoping to drop one of the Plano riders, but only Eric came off leaving me again with the two Plano riders. I led them into the sprint hoping that they would make some mistake that would enable me to get onto the podium – but when Ryan attacked with 500 meters to go, he gapped me and I spent nearly the entire sprint trying to catch his draft. When I caught his draft maybe 25 meters from the line, he gave it one more burst that not only prevented me from coming around but also allowed his teammate Corey who had been on my wheel to pass me for third.
Kudos and records
Kudos to Team Plano for riding an awesome, aggressive, strategic race. Kudos to the whole team! I wonder if two records were set yesterday? 1) fastest rouge roubaix ever 2) podium sweep by a single team
Pedal force – velocity graph – all over the place even more so than normal
While Kristine finished up her work yesterday at Fort McClellan, I biked home to Birmingham from our hotel in Oxford by way of Mount Cheaha. I climbed Cheaha three different ways — including a new Cat 2 climb starting at the low point on the Adam’s Gap side and climbing all the way to the lookout tower inside the state park. This brings Alabama’s Cat 2 climb total to 8 — including the two new climbs I discovered in my ride on Saturday. The eight climbs are labeled on the map below.
I am sure there are more out there to be found … I know that climbing Moorman Mountain from the west would also be a Cat 2 (I climbed it from Bain’s Gap on the east) — so if there is anybody adventurous out there who wants to get to it before me – have at it!
I left Oxford shortly after 7AM in a fog, very light rain mist all the way through Friendship Rd, up to AL-281 and the first ascent of Cheaha from AL-49. Everything went smoothly until my first descent from the lookout tower. I had been climbing for 7 miles in heavy fog – and since it is all uphill, I hadn’t touched my brakes AT ALL and forgotten about how much water would have accumulated on the rims. As I headed into the first switchback and applied the brakes, absolutely nothing happened except for an instant realization that there was no hope of making the turn so I simply straightened up and looked for an escape route that didn’t involve running into a cabin or cliff. Fortunately, the brakes dried off fast enough that even before I left the road, they had started to grab and I only ended up a few feet off the road next to a cabin.
This first bit of excitement on the ride led to the next bit of excitement less than a mile later. I continued down out of the park and turned right onto AL-281 to descend down the Adam’s Gap side of the mountain. I had only made it half a mile or so and had just reached max speed when I heard the sudden “psssssssss” of a tire puncture. I didn’t panic, but I knew I would be in big trouble if the air leaked out before I could slow down. The roads were wet so I couldn’t exactly slam on the brakes either. I just pressed as hard as I felt comfortable pressing on the brakes and slowed down to a stop. Fortunately, the puncture wasn’t a complete blow-out so I still had air left in the tire to keep the tire from rolling off. At this point, I’m only 29 miles or so with well over 100 miles left to ride so I took my time and made darn sure that whatever had caused the puncture wasn’t still in the tire. In fact, I think I spent more time running my finger around the tire and digging out a couple tiny pieces of glass than I actually spent changing and reinflating the tube. It was well worth the effort, though, as I was able to use my pump and CO2 cartridge to fill the tire up to maybe 80 psi and complete the rest of the ride with no more flats. It might have just been coincidence, but I’m thinking that I may have picked up the glass when I went off the road in the switchback previously.
After changing the tire, I finished the rest of the descent and after reaching 45 mph with no thumping or any other signs of a bad tire change, I felt pretty confident that all was good. I attacked the Adam’s Gap climb hard so I could get the KOM on it … my legs were definitely feeling the 400 miles that were already in them for the week up to that point — including the hard climbing ride from Saturday, but I was able to get the KOM. Adam’s Gap ends at the transition to a gravel “scenic road” that if you followed long enough would take you all the way over to Bull Gap and Brent’s new skyway epic course. Turning around, I snapped a few pics and then headed back up Cheaha also pushing it hard to try to get the KOM on this side. By this time, the fog had lifted significantly so that only the very top of the climb was still foggy/wet. At the top, I turned around and headed back down the Adam’s Gap side, but this time I turned at the road to Camp Mac and headed down to Lake Chinnabee to do the climb one last time stopping to take pictures of the mountain from Cheaha Lake (over 1000 ft below the summit).
At the top this time, all was sunny and beautiful so I snapped this panorama of the view from the Cheaha restaurant (which is about 250 ft below the true summit)
From there all the way back home was an awesome ride, which I could spend hours describing — but instead I’m going to just let the pictures tell the rest of the adventure.
Riding today was easily the most fun I’ve had on the bike in four or five years. Considering how much I love to ride all the time, that really is saying a lot about my ride today. I guess the thing that strikes me the most is how many times I was just flat out surprised on the ride – not just “oh I didn’t see that coming”, but more like “are you kidding me? are you for real?” in a really good way. I summarized the ride in terms of 10 surprises, listed below. I also took a bunch of pictures and Garmin screenshots I will post later.
A few things to set the background for this ride: Kristine and I are in Oxford for her work this weekend, and the kids had separate sleepovers last night at friends’ houses and again tonight at my parents house. Kristine had the idea last week that maybe I could come up here with her and enjoy some riding while she worked and a weekend getaway when she wasn’t working. Some of Alabama’s tallest mountains are right out the door of our hotel, so I thought – “sure!”
Surprise #1 – no rain!
The original plan was for me to leave work on Friday and ride part of the way over here where Kristine would pick me up along I-20. I documented yesterday’s ride, which also included a surprise climb up to a radio tower that I hadn’t planned on doing. Then today I was going to bike back home via a long 150 mile climbing route over Mt Cheaha (the highest pt in Alabama). But the weather forecast all week long indicated that most of today would be spent with heavy rain showers and even thunderstorms. So I changed my plan to do a shorter ride (60-70 miles) today and then do the longer ride tomorrow when the rain was supposed to have cleared out. I woke up expecting to find rain and was instead greeted with partly cloudy skies and no rain.
Surprise #2 – an empty interstate-like climb
The route I had created ahead of time had me climbing up Henry Rd and then into some neighborhoods that looked ultra-steep on the map (and a little bit later in the ride when I did get to the neighborhoods, they were even steeper than I had imagined). So I’m following the route and then I realize that I’ve ended up on a divided highway not on the map that for all intents and purposes is a full-blown interstate that looks like it may climb up higher than the neighborhood route. There was practically no traffic, so even though I could see where I needed to turn, I wanted to just keep on going and see how far the climb went. You could tell where they had dynamited through the mountain and there were some killer concrete drainage ditches with 40-60% gradient that I really, really wanted to try but there were concrete blocks at alternating angles to slow the flow of water. I’m 20% sure you could ride it on a mountain bike with a 1-1 gear ratio while dodging the blocks, but I wasn’t going to try it on my road bike with a 39×28. I crested the mountain and of course there is still this tall divider for the interstate so i’ve got to figure out where/how to turn around.
So I’m on the descent on the other side when I suddenly I realized that the whole thing is still under construction and the road ends at a spot in a valley before another mountain climb where the road hasn’t been finished yet. For whatever reason, I just found this all to be hilarious … I guess I was giddy with excitement for the ride to begin with, and then to be only a few miles into my ride on a four-lane divided interstate-like road that is still under construction with no cars in the middle of a beautiful mountain valley was just so awesome that I couldn’t stop laughing until I had to focus on the 180 deg turnaround at the bottom. I went back up and over the mountain and halfway down to take the original route I had planned which fairly quickly led to surprise #3.
Surprise #3 – GPS “fail” bigtime
My Garmin worked great as I picked back up my original route, which had all kinds of turns in it as I was looking for contour lines closest together when planning the route — which often means making a bunch of turns from street to street through a neighborhood. I was surprise by how steep the Lynn Rd climb was — the first of maybe thirty or more 20+% gradients for the day (I tried to take a screenshot of all of them so I could count them later – and I know of at least three or four that I missed because I couldn’t take my hands off the handlebars to hit the button to take the screenshot).
So anyway I make it back across Henry Rd after the Lynn Rd climb, and I’m diving down hills (53×11), climbing back up 20% gradients (39×28), and then I get to a spot where I’m supposed to make a turn and I see a sign that says “Dead End” … interesting. I pulled up the map screen on Garmin and saw another way to get around, but when I got to the next “road”, it was a steep grassy descent behind a curb and a gate. It looked rideable so I hopped the curb and rode around the gate, but after a tenth of a mile or so, the access road ended at a water tank that was gated off. I couldn’t see any path beyond it through the woods, so rather than risking poison oak so early in the ride, I turned around and headed back up the grassy climb. I looked at my map again and found another way around, headed down a steep descent and came to another dead end. This was getting to be laughable at this point. This turnaround involved a steep Cat 4 climb back up to the top of the mountain. I revisited the original dead end sign that my route was trying to take me on, and sure enough it really was a dead end – complete with a basketball goal in the road. Another steep climb back up to the top of the mountain, and I tried a third way off the mountain leading to surprise #4.
Surprise #4 – Awesome descent/climb with three different kinds of pavement
This was a mini-surprise, so I won’t spend much time describing it – but the descent that finally worked to take me off the mountain transitioned through three different kinds of pavement (chip/seal, tarmac, cement) with some cool switchbacks through a neighborhood into a city golf course. The descent was so cool, that I had to turn around do the climb. Hitting the top of this mountain on a road called “Hillyer Rd” (probably pronounced “hilly-er” road) for a fourth time (maybe fifth? i lost count), I turned around and came back down and hit my original route plan to head through a VERY hilly part of anniston.
Surprise #5 – upper 20% gradient in Anniston
I went through this really hilly neighborhood on the outskirts of Anniston and hit one section that was cemented b/c of the gradient which was probably approaching 30% … I wouldn’t know though b/c my speed dropped too low and the Garmin switched over to –% gradient. Easily steeper than Woodcrest in Birmingham which is in the upper 20s. Probably even steeper than Valley Hill, but much shorter (maybe only 1/10th of a mile).
Surprise #6 – Steep Cat 3 climb to radio tower in Anniston
Immediately after leaving the neighborhood with surprise #5, I started a climb that I had seen on the satellite to some radio towers just on the edge of the Fort McClellan boundary. I wasn’t sure the status of the road, whether it was gated, or what. It turned out to be a very steep gravel road with even more 20% gradients. Gates were open all the way to the top, and I was able to summit at just over 1500′, which I had not been expecting.
Surprise #7 – Woodland Park
On my way up towards Jacksonville, I road right past the starting spot of the very first century I ever did back in high school (the Woodland-Calhoun century). This was not planned at all, and was therefore quite a surprise that brought back tons of memories.
Surprise #8 – Cat 2 climb in Jacksonville
I had scouted this climb out, and knew that the current segment on Strava was on the upper end of the Cat 3 range but stopped well short of the actual crest of the climb. I knew that if you started the segment a little bit lower and went all the way up to the towers at the top, then it would probably be a Cat 2. So I scouted out the starting point and started on the climb. It starts out very gradually, but then gets steeper as you start to leave town. At the bottom were three college-aged girls (maybe from JSU) all decked out for running – and they were walking up the very steep hill. One of them shouted “good luck”, which kinda tells you how steep and long this climb is. It started out steep, flattened out a bit in the middle, then got really steep at what I thought was the end, but as you come around the corner, you see the road skyrocket up for the last 200 feet of climbing and a rather large fence with razor wire across the top blocking access to the towers. But, I was very lucky today in that the gate was wide open. So I was able to ride the climb all the way to the top – where there is an observatory, fire tower, lots of radio towers, and a beautiful view of the valley.
Surprise #9 – Mt Laurel neighborhood
On the Cottaquilla climb, which is on the Foothills Road Race course, there is a neighborhood off to the left called Mt Laurel that was surprisingly steep (I saw 26% at one point), plus a bunch of roller coaster like climbs/descents I wasn’t expecting inside the neighborhood.
Surprise #10 – stumbling upon a Cat 2 climb!
The last surprise was the best of all. I had seen a climb called Bain’s Gap, which was on the Fort McClellan property, that I assumed would be inaccessible because of the military. So when I passed the turn-off for the road and didn’t see a gate, I decided to just turn and see how far I could make it up the climb before encountering a gate, or road block. Instead of a gate, I found a national wildlife refuge, amazing waterfall, more 20% gradients, a nearly unrideable gravel road that I was able to ride (barely) and a friendly local at the top who was able to tell me a shortcut to get back home – oh and it worked out to be a climb with over 1200′ of gain putting it well into the Strava cat 2 category.
Another amazing day of riding up here. This time I braved the snow-covered roads leaving the Telemark resort having gained confidence riding in the snow yesterday for a mile or so. It was well worth it to be in such a remote location on winding, hilly, beautiful roads and trails that pretty much paralleled the Birkie trail all the way to Hayward. If I had done the Seely fire tower climb, then I might have even crossed part of the trail. But, unfortunately, I had to turn around shortly into my ride because I had forgotten to upload the course to my Garmin. So, I turned around and headed back to meet Kristine just as she and the kids were driving out to head back to Shell Lake. Right there on the side of the Telemark entrance road, I connected my Garmin to the laptop and transferred the file. Then I set off again on what was an 83 mile, 5+ hour, mountain bike adventure.
I spent most of the morning with a good internet connection while the kids went skiing again with Kristine and Poppa Dale. I plotted out a course that would take me from Telemark back to the Cardwell house in Shell Lake over an hour away by car. The course took me onto 9 miles of untreated snow covered roads and trails behind Telemark that were just amazing and fun to ride. Spider Lake Fire Lane started out well packed from cars driving out to cabins along the road. But eventually, once I made it past the last cabin, the snow got really deep and loose since not very many cars had driven over it. Still, it was possible to go slow on the downhills with minimal fishtailing and then crush the uphills. I would imagine that my speed on some of the uphills was faster than the downhills. It’s amazing what the extra traction of a spinning tire will do. Theoretically, I suppose you could hammer the downhills and achieve the same effect but the consequences of a fall at 30+mph make me choose the more saner option of riding the rear brake gently down the hill at a comfortable 10-15mph.
For those of you who have ridden through sand, but never ridden through snow, think of packed snow the same way you would think of packed/wet sand. Loose snow, however, is just like riding through loose sand with the same fishtailing effects. The only difference is that you are expecting the fishtailing in the sand, but not on the snow when it has been hard packed and suddenly transitions to loose or when you lose the car track you were following. Also, turning on the snow is tricky. On one downhill, I was running out of room for the turn and ended up all the way on the side of the road – but it was pretty heavily banked and I ended up sliding through the turn with my wheel still pointed off to the side. This got to me to a straighter section where I could straighten out the wheel.
I only had one bike problem on the ride, when I couldn’t shift back into the big chainring. I spent a few minutes about an hour into my ride trying to figure out what was wrong and eventually just cranked the inside limiting screw until it would shift back up and that worked for the rest of the ride although I had quite a bit of chain rub on the front derailleur so that was a little annoying to have to put up with for four hours.
Here’s the ride map and interactive data from Strava -
And here is the super hi-res topocreator map -
Finally, enjoy the pics and Garmin screenshots that I took on the ride –
I left Birmingham, Alabama yesterday at 6:30AM and a little over 32 hours later we arrived at the Telemark ski resort in Cable, WI. To get here from Alabama involved an epic 123 mile bike ride and over 1000 miles of driving. Kristine started about 6 hours behind me in the car and caught up to me just south of Faulkville, AL north of Cullman. I started out doing a normal climbing route through Rocky Ridge, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, and Birmingham before merging in Gate City with the route that I had tried out last week on my way up to Smoke Rise.
This time I wanted to try out more climbs on the same ridge as Smoke Rise and Skyball so I diverted my route near Kimberly to head up through Trafford towards AL-160 and all the climbs that start on 160 and climb up the ridge. I had intended to do 4 different climbs and 4 different descents off the ridge, but on the way over on ??? rd which turned into ??? rd I was chased by numerous dogs. I decided since I was also running a bit behind to skip one of the climbs and only ended up doing Graves Gap, Co Rd 45, and Skyball.
I’ll let the pictures (and captions) tell the rest of the story. Clicking on a picture will take you to flickr where you can flip through all the pictures.
Trip to Wisconsin 2012, a set on Flickr.