Posts tagged ‘race’
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.
The road race was cancelled for tornado warnings halfway through the race. My teammate John Hart and I had both made it into the break of the day – the only team with two riders in the break. For the time trial, I was desperately trying not to get passed by Paul Tower (Donohoo-Infinity Racing), my 30 second man and I ended up just missing a power record for 11 minutes by 4 watts – although the previous record was on a long KOM climb where you can use much more of your upper body. For the criterium, I ended up winning the field sprint to take 3rd in the race with Nate Brown (Bontrager) and Bryant Funston (Marx and Bensdorf) already having lapped the field. This was enough points, however, to move me up to 3rd in the omnium behind Nate and his brother Johnny.
A very strong field lined up in the rain at the start of the road race. I drove up from Birmingham before the start and had just enough time to pin my numbers on in heavy rain and roll to the staging area. It was a very nice drive through rural northwest Alabama, northeast Mississippi, and southwest Tennessee.
The race started out neutral down the longest downhill of the day in a cold steady rain. The attacks started immediately after the neutral. I was towards the front and covered the first one or two. My teammates took turns covering the next set of attacks. Several moves got quite the gap on the field, but each one had one or more teams missing (but never ours!) – and it was amazing how fast the breaks got brought back in response to counter attacks from the field. After the first lap of constant attacks, a group got established when I covered a move by Johnny Brown (Hot Tubes) and Andrew Hammond (Herring Gas). I think there was one other rider with us initially bc I remember there being four of us in the initial rotation.
Then a few more riders bridged up to us – including my teammate John who got the free ride across covering an attack by Anders Swanson. We settled into a very good rotation immediately, but our gap to the field stayed not more than 20 seconds or so. You can see in the heartrate data how hard we were pushing it throughout the entire lap. Several times I thought we were going to get brought back, but then whoever was chasing must have given up bc our gap ballooned up pretty quickly to maybe a minute by the start of the third lap.
The rain had stopped by the start of the third lap, but you could see a wall of clouds approaching. Even before it hit, the wind had picked up substantially and our group was able to echelon and extend our lead as the weather really started to go downhill. Still, it caught me by surprise when they stopped our race – not much anyone could do about it bc the police wanted us off the course with the approaching storm having the potential to drop a tornado. We huddled under a covered entrance to the school at the staging area – probably 30 or more of us crammed in there to keep warm. Crazy for the first day of June! Disappointing to miss out on some good omnium points, but sometimes that’s just the luck of the draw with bike racing.
The sun came out in the afternoon for the TT. I’m always looking to explore new roads (one of the reasons I ride) so I decided to ride over to the start. Fun ride through some neighborhoods, followed by warmup on the tarmac track around the football field. I had 15 minutes until my start when I decided there was enough time to ride to the bottom of the downhill on the road race and turn around come back up it to match a strava segment. About halfway down the hill, I felt the rear wheel was squishy and sure enough I had a flat. I thought there was enough air to make it back, so I turned around and booked it back up the hill with it eventually going completely flat about a tenth of a mile before the parking lot.
I borrowed a teammates wheel and headed to the start where I only had to wait a coupled minutes before it was my time to go. I kept a close eye on my power meter trying to keep the average power around 365 – a bit unrealistic for that distance, but still I ended up with 352 watts for 11 minutes, 6 seconds – 4 watts shy of an all-time power record for that length of time.
Critical power curve with TT overlay
I think it’s somewhat comical that a power record for me doesn’t even get me a top 10 in the time trial – testament to how strong the field is and also how amazingly un-aerodynamic I am on the bike. So no points for me in the TT, but my teammates John Hart, Kurt Page, and Jeff McGrane all rocked it with John taking a close 2nd behind Nate Brown (Bontrager), Kurt in 4th (first cat 2), and Jeff in 9th.
No rain on the radar, but the day started out with a light rain mist from low hanging clouds. I started my warmup with 80 PSI rear tire and 70 PSI front tire in anticipation of the streets staying slick until our race. About an hour before our race, though, the sun was out and not hiding again before the start of our race so shortly before the start of our race I pumped up the tires to 95 psi back and 90 psi front – still a little low just in case it did start to rain. I enjoyed my warm-up through the hilly neighborhood on the north side of the course – seeing an albino squirrel running across a yard chasing another squirrel and I also stumbled across storm damage from Saturday’s storm and saw the Hillbilly outdoor stage and mural (see pic gallery at the bottom)
By the start of our race, it was hot, and there was attacks from the beginning. The speed stayed so high with some tricky corners that gaps started to open up. I chased around a few gaps and eventually found myself on Nate Brown’s wheel going into the backside hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize he was about to attack b/c as the group bunched up I went to the left whereas he shot off to the right. I was blocked in and missed the perfect opportunity to get away. I tried to bridge anyway attacking a few seconds later, but the closest I could pull the gap back to was about 4 seconds. With no one to help in the chase, I sat up after three laps off the front and waited for the field to catch me hoping that somebody else would be able to drill back the break. The video below shows Nate’s attack to bridge up to Bryant – and then me attacking to try to bridge up to them for several laps.
It didn’t happen so I spent the rest of the race trying to help my teammates cover moves to get a chase group started. Jeff, John, and Kurt all got away at some point – but there was always one or two strong riders left in the field who would bring back the move. I tried to get away twice – once to get a prime and another time with Anders Swanson (Litespeed BMW) late in the race. Again, though, somebody was always able to bring it back. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to recover and position for the final sprint with Nate Brown having lapped the field and drilling it at the front leading out his brother Johnny.
Having attacked on the backside hill to get the prime, I knew that was where I wanted to attack for the final sprint. I pulled out of line towards the bottom of the downhill and attacked hard up the left to make sure I had a lot of speed heading into the corners — almost too much speed — I was on the brakes hard through half the final turn but still carried 30mph out of the turn and then ramped it up again trying to hold on, but half expecting a surge to come around before the line. Apparently, I had enough of a gap though to hold on to take the field sprint for 3rd place in the race. That was good enough to bump me up to 3rd in the omnium since the crit was weighted more than the time trial.
Huge shout-out to Adam Morris, Cat 3 rider for Absolute Racing, who took 2nd in the road race and then won the time trial and looked to be heading for a win in the criterium when a rider went down in front of him in the last corner. In addition to his great results, Adam gets the good samaritan award for the weekend as he helped me jump my car after I left my windshield wipers on with the keys in the ignition during the race. 100% absent-minded professor.
Here’s the rest of my data from the weekend – starting with the criterium:
Rockabilly criterium heartrate zone summary
Rockabilly time trial heartrate zone summary
Rockabilly road race heartrate zone summary
Finally, here’s a gallery of all the pictures I took over the weekend – in reverse chronological order.
Memorial Day today
Kinda puts bike racing in perspective – so many people have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have here in America. Thank you all present, past, and future soldiers!
Yesterday, I ended up 9th in the road race after having finished 15th in the criterium on Saturday in a really strong pro/1/2 field. Would have liked to finish a few spots higher, but it was still a great start to the inaugural SRS series, with five races in five southeastern states spread out over five months. In the criterium, I missed the six-man move and ended up ninth in the field sprint to take 15th in the race. Then in the road race, I was aggressive to get KOM points managing two third place finishes in the sprints to get some early points in that competition. I fought hard to stay towards the front and ended up 9th in the race fading at the end having started my sprint too early.
The detailed adventure
The last time I raced in Albany was 2009, and I knew I wanted to bring my family back down with me some day. This year it was just me and my wife making the trip, but next year I definitely want to bring the kids with us to experience the River Walk, Riverquarium, and other fun stuff to do right there on the crit course. Even the drive down was awesome – I65 to Montgomery to AL-110 to US82 – awesome rural roads with long distances between the towns so you can make some pretty good time while enjoying scenic rural southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia.
We drove down Saturday morning with the relatively short drive (4 hours) putting us into Albany well in advance of the criterium. I spent a good two hours rolling around easy underneath the huge oak trees draped with Spanish moss getting my legs ready for the intense 75 minutes of racing. This was my first hot race of the year as we’ve had quite the extended cold, rainy snap hanging around the southeast for the early part of the season. This race was HOT, and as I was sitting on the start line excited to race the strong, large field I my heartrate was hovering around 120!
I started out towards the back and raced somewhat conservatively trying to stay towards the front but not trying to get in every move. There were a number of good looking breaks, but fortunately the field came back together. The break of six that eventually formed got away about midway through the race. Then about 10 minutes later, a large chase group formed that I also missed. I attacked a couple times to try to bridge across or at least get a chase going, but each attack got brought back and the overall pace in the field was high enough that we caught the chase group and made it to within about 10 seconds of the front group. But then towards the end (see the video of the last eight laps below), we had some slow-downs in the field and the break’s lead went out again to about 20 seconds by the end. Shawn Gravois took a flyer from the lead group with three to go, got caught, and then went again with two to go holding it to the end for the win. Andy Crater won the sprint behind for 2nd followed by Oleg Tanovitchi taking third. I fought hard to stay towards the front, but ended up sliding a bit too far back and spending a bit too much time out in the wind so I could only manage 9th in the field sprint, 15th for the race.
For the Sunday road race, I had planned on attacking literally from the gun but before I could even attack Finishstrong had already set itself up at the front. I figured they were trying to setup Crater for the KOM but as it turns out they were trying to set up a different rider for the KOM. Still I followed their train to a third place finish on the first two KOM sprints. Finishstrong controlled everything in the race for the first two laps as they brought back attack after attack. I stayed very close to the front to go for the KOM sprints and also to make sure they didn’t try to slip anyone into a break. On the third lap, Brendan Sullivan (Lupus Cycling) got into a strong three-man move that swallowed up the KOM points. Shortly after the KOM, we caught the group of three and started setting up for the finish.
I had slid farther back than I wanted to, but then there was a crash in the middle of the field that unfortunately took out Michael McBrien (Bikes plus racing). In the crash chaos, I ended up sliding up a few spots and then continued to move up for the next several miles until we made the left turn with 2.5 miles to the finish. I was able to ride all the way up to back of the High Country Devo team sitting right behind their sprinter. They had a great train going, but it wasn’t quite fast enough to stem the surge from the field that sent me maybe 15-20 riders back from the front. When the big surge went up the lefthand side of the road, I swung out even farther to the left and was able to start my sprint with a clear line to the finish. It was at this exact moment when I went left that there was a bad crash on the right taking down Birmingham rider Payne Griffin. I was thankful not to go down, but I had started my sprint too early and even with a clean shot at the line I faded back to 9th by the finish. You can see the crash and the last 2.5 miles of the race in the two videos below:
Not quite the results I was looking for, but I was very happy to race against some of the strongest riders in the southeast and am very excited for the rest of the series! Here’s all my data from the races …
Criterium heartrate zone summary – note the high average speed
SRS - albany criterium Pro/1/2 - 15th place Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:38 295 871 151 86 24.9 2 1:26 221 752 164 82 28.6 3 1:24 301 833 163 90 28.9 4 1:24 224 884 168 83 29.2 5 1:27 234 768 168 83 28.2 6 1:24 260 848 165 85 29.5 7 1:26 187 694 164 82 28.5 8 1:30 223 790 159 83 28 9 1:25 248 583 166 85 28.7 10 1:22 264 762 167 80 29.5 11 1:27 238 770 165 82 28.9 12 1:27 255 579 163 88 28.4 13 1:28 246 608 165 82 28.8 14 1:27 252 822 164 81 28.6 15 1:29 225 629 163 86 27.8 16 1:26 270 700 164 85 29.1 17 1:22 294 704 173 85 30.5 18 1:28 324 1084 176 83 28.9 19 1:27 233 546 173 83 28.5 20 1:30 272 616 166 83 28.2 21 1:25 352 927 175 81 29.7 22 1:27 255 786 182 79 28.8 23 1:30 245 858 167 81 28.4 24 1:26 410 879 183 81 29.5 25 1:24 230 731 182 80 29.5 26 1:28 272 949 172 79 28.6 27 1:29 274 834 172 79 27.8 28 1:23 336 877 179 81 29.3 29 1:28 312 996 184 84 28.1 30 1:29 264 597 185 81 27.6 31 1:32 204 636 172 78 26.7 32 1:27 246 745 171 79 28.1 33 1:27 253 863 169 81 28.3 34 1:25 266 691 179 80 28.9 35 1:21 282 867 180 77 29.5 36 1:27 233 593 177 74 27.6 37 1:31 292 1044 170 76 26.9 38 1:27 301 985 179 79 27.7 39 1:32 258 610 179 84 26.8 40 1:31 228 728 170 77 27.1 41 1:26 227 739 173 77 28.7 42 1:24 319 689 174 83 29.4 43 1:30 285 833 176 81 27.5 44 1:31 282 817 179 75 27.4 45 1:27 286 749 180 78 28.3 46 1:26 225 573 179 79 28.2 47 1:29 303 707 173 81 27.8 48 1:30 303 756 181 82 27.4 49 1:27 310 872 183 82 28.1 50 1:26 302 886 183 84 28 51 1:18 409 1016 192 82 30.5
Road race heartrate zone summary – note the amount of time spent in Zones 2 and 3
Epic. This year’s race was highlighted by the most epic course of the season and an epic battle for the win between me and Kyle Taylor. I ended up on the losing end of that battle, but I’m still really happy with the race. I gave it everything I had attacking Kyle eight times on the forest road and double-track knowing that he was going to ride the singletrack much faster than me. You can see the entire race (including the epic climbing) in the annotated heartrate plot below.
How awesome is the course? Let’s start with the starting area — a giant boat launch area with room for maybe 25 or more riders on the front row! After a short mad dash up the hill, you enter the sylaward trail system which is very fast singletrack with hardly any roots (woo-hoo!) I entered the singletrack fifth. Kyle got the hole shot and was gone. Behind him two other riders quickly separated themselves from the next group — which consisted of Jayfer Bezier, me, Jamie, and Will Fyfe in that order. Jayfer was riding the singletrack at just the right speed – so I was content to follow him … until Mike Lackey tacked onto our group. I knew he was fast in the single track, so I was nervous that people were going to start trying to pass so at the next opportunity I went ahead and passed Jayfer so I could attack the uphills faster even if I wasn’t taking the corners or downhills quite as fast as him.
I led through the singletrack for the next few miles and we eventually caught one of the riders who had been ahead. When we finally made it through all the singletrack, we started to paceline it and got distracted missing the turn onto the new double-track that Brent had cut this week. Kyle had also missed the turn. We had ridden the singletrack much faster than expected so we made it to the tricky turn before the volunteers.
This cost Kyle more than the rest of us because the lead he had built in the singletrack was gone. Brent got us straightened out though and our group of about eight riders entered the double-track together with me in second position behind Jamie. I was nervous about the new doubletrack, but in the end was able to ride everything including the epic eight foot high entrance ramp which descended down into a huge mud puddle (hidden from view on the other side). In fact this double track was one of my favorite parts of the course because it was completely rideable and yet super challenging with some muddy steep gradients.
After crossing the creek, we climbed a steep hill and this is where Jamie, Kyle, and I separated ourselves from the rest of the group. The top of this hill dumped us out onto the forest road where the three of us pace-lined it and were gone. I was a bit uncertain at this point about strategy because I had been planning for a long chase thinking that at least one or two people would have a huge lead coming out of the singletrack and doubletrack. Jamie came off our group towards the bottom of the Cat 2 climb up to the Skyway. Kyle and I settled into a hard steady tempo, and I debated about attacking once or twice but I remembered how absolutely spent I was last year after attacking at the bottom of the climb to get the KOM. Kyle, too, was wanting to pace for the long race so we decided to split the KOM money but sprint for it anyway — the best of both worlds, neither of us has to blow up going for the KOM from the bottom of the climb — and yet we still had the competitive aspect of sprinting for it to see who could be the KOM. It was really foggy by this point as we had basically climbed from the valley right up into the cloud layer. It turns out that we started sprinting at about 500 meters (1/2 K) from the line which is a long way on a rocky climb, and then we both thought when the 200 meter marker appeared out of the mist that we were at the finish. Quickly realizing our mistake, Kyle attacked again and I couldn’t quite catch him before he reached Anna with the $100 bill at the top.
Making it to the top of the Cat 2 climb, you might think the next part would be easy – but I’d say the most epic part of the course is the skyway itself … epic ruts, epic puddles, and epic views (not today, though) with epic rollers some of which make it all the way into the Cat 4 climb category on Strava. Bike racing is such an interesting combination of camraderie, strategy, passion, endurance, skill, and strength – and that really played out in this race. Kyle and I worked together throughout the skyway with Kyle pushing the pace on the descents (faster than I would normally take them) and me pushing the pace on the rollers.
Both of us wanted to win the race, though, so Kyle tried to dislodge me on the long descent, and then I ended up attacking him eight times on the forest service road and double-track – but I couldn’t shake him. He probably would have distanced himself from me earlier in the double-track except for an epic crash. He had pulled ahead of me and was heading fast down the double track when he came to one of the large puddles — catching his wheel on a rut he wiped out landing in the puddle sending water/mud high into the air. I had a front row seat to watch it – epic. I made it through the puddle opting to ride through on the left since he had wiped out in the middle.
Across the first dam, I attacked again and tried to shake him on the next steep hill, but it just wasn’t happening. I let him by right at the entrance to the singletrack knowing that the game was over, and all I could do was ride fast hoping to hold on for second. I’m glad I did because Jamie was approaching fast and ended up finishing less than a minute after me.
Heartrate zone summary.
Epic race. Epic course
The photo below is taken from just south of Birmingham on one of my training rides last Sunday. Click to enlarge – you can see the annotated ridges with Skyway rising high above the surrounding valley. There is over 6000 feet of climbing in the race with over 1200 of that coming on the main climb from the valley to the top of the Skyway – one of about a dozen Cat 2 climbs in the entire state of Alabama. The Skyway ridge line is a single ridge line rising high and then dropping down into valleys on either side of it. And it is very long – snaking its way from just southeast of Sylacauga all the way up to Mt Cheaha – the highest point in Alabama. You can see how prominence of the ridge line in both the photo and the topocreator map below it.
The course traverses about 12.5 miles (25 miles roundtrip) of this long ridge line. The jeep road is rocky and rutted in spots (particuarly the descents and climbs) so you have to pick your line carefully – even at high speeds on the descent. It was great following Kyle on the descents because I could follow his line and watch how he handled tricky sections. Even with the rocks and the ruts, the skyway is fast and relentless – constantly rolling so that it is hard to settle into a good rhythm. At the bottom of each roller is a large mud puddle (width of the road) so that you have to snake around on the outside. There is just enough room to make it around if you brush into the bushes right next to the puddle … unless you end up trying to go on the wrong side. On one of the puddles on the way back, it looked like the line was on the left so I headed left and then realized that the puddle extended all the way out to the edge of the road so I had to ride through it — and it was DEEP! I had enough momentum to clear it, though, and catch back up to Kyle who had seen my mistake and taken the correct side.
With good tires and good brakes you can hit nearly 40 mph on the long descent back down from the skyway. The rollers across the valley are also steep so you can pick up some good speed to carry you into the next hill as long as you pick the right line heading around the corners. We only had one oncoming car the entire race and it was easily passed.
Finally, there is the Sylaward singletrack itself. I think Brent has described it as some of the most “grin-inducing” singletrack in the south … and even as someone who is not a big fan of singletrack, I would totally agree. I could go much faster on the singletrack then I normally would risk because the turns are banked and the penalty for failure is not severe (i.e., no huge drop-offs along the side). Part of the reason is that there is a good bit of climbing on the singletrack … there is some contour following (which usually means there is a drop-off to your left or right depending on the direction of the trail), but a contour bend around a ridge is usually followed by a drop-off from the ridge or climb back up the other side of the ridge – meaning that there is a place for me to make up time that I lose when delicately handling the bend around the ridge.
Really finally, the topography of the area is epic. I already described it, but here is some maps I made including a zoomed in view of the singletrack and doubletrack, a map of the entire course, and a zoomed out map showing the course and the ridge line extending all the way up to Cheaha. There is lots of good potential to make this a 100 mile race over to Adam’s Gap and back. I’m planning on doing a 120+ mile ride of an out/back to cheaha some time later in the summer. Will report on some course options then! Already looking forward to next year!!!