Posts tagged ‘race’
Hell of the South 2013 Pro/1/2 podium – Me, AJ Meyer, Tommy Schubert. Photo credit – Tim Hall – I love that he got the Berlin Community Fire Department sign in the photo. You can see the registration tables in the background. Bike wheels on the inside … perfect for this race.
An epic race deserves an epic race report … so here is the quick summary for those who don’t have time to read the novella that follows. I managed to snag a podium spot (3rd place) from a rather large 10 man break that formed as the result of three smaller groups merging near the end of the race. At the beginning of the last lap, I rolled off the front with Tommy Schubert (Cumberland Univeristy Cycling Team) and Brian Baker (Texas Roadhouse). We didn’t attack, per se, but when the field didn’t respond and our gap grew to a few seconds, we put the hammer down and got out of sight fairly quickly. We joined a solo rider, David Worth (Cumberland Transit/Swiftwick), who had already rolled off the front a few miles before us. We worked well together, but AJ Meyer (Village Volkswagon) was able to bridge up to us, pulling Tommy’s CU Cycling teammate Ryan Sullivan with him. Ryan put in an immediate attack, which I thought I had bridged up to but in fact had pulled the rest of the break with me. This new larger group of 6 riders rolled OK but with so many people it was hard to get everyone to commit. Eventually, my teammate, Jeff McGrane bridged up with Dirk Polhman (Texas Roadhouse) and two other riders making for a break of 10. This group had no cohesion, but there were several attacks that kept the pace high enough to keep us from getting caught by the field. In the closing miles, Jeff drove the pace so that I could just sit in the group and position myself for the finishing sprint. I positioned myself well, but the sprint opened up at 500 meters to go — much farther out than I had expected so I misjudged when to try to come around the people in front of me. I started my sprint so far out that the people who came around me as I slowed down ALSO went too far out. So I was in good position to recover for a few seconds and come around them again just before the line to take third. That doesn’t happen very often in a sprint … an epic sprint for an epic race. AJ timed his sprint perfectly for the win.
The details – Friday preride
I was excited about this race the moment I saw where it was on the calendar, and that I would be able to race it. I have never ridden that far south in Tennessee before, but I have driven that stretch of I-65 between Nashville and Birmingham probably 50 times and have always been fascinated with the topography and ruralness of the area. A couple years ago, Kristine and I were driving up to Franklin to see a concert with our cousins when the interstate was blocked by a wreck. With traffic at a complete standstill, we made a u-turn and headed back to the previous exit. I dropped a pin onto the next exit north hoping it would be past the accident, set the Garmin on bicycling directions, handed the Garmin to Kristine and we proceeded to rally car drive through the hills south of Lewisburg. The hills were incredible, the roads were tiny, and the views amazing. That experience made me want to ride in that part of TN even more, but the opportunity never came — until I saw that the 3rd annual Hell of the South would be held there.
This past week was spring break for Samford University, so theoretically I should have had a nice restful week with lots of riding. Instead, I spent the week working well over 40 hours on a couple side projects, in addition to several long, fun rides out to Double Oak mountain on some gravel roads to make sure that my wheel/tire setup would be able to survive the Hell of the South. Friday morning arrived with a cold rain here in Birmingham. Analise’s teacher had asked for parent volunteers to help with video book reviews her class was doing, so I hopped on my mountain bike and zipped over there in the rain to surprise Analise and help with the videos. I zipped back home, but then realized my wallet was still in Kristine’s purse so we decided to have an impromptu lunch date at Taziki’s on my way out of town so she could give me back my wallet.
After lunch I headed north up Hwy 31 stopping by Brick Alley to drop off my Reynolds race wheel for Craig to true for my next non-roubaix style race and also stopped by Starbucks to grab a coffee for the road. It rained pretty much all the way up to Huntsville, but then stopped. By the time I made it up to Lewisburg, TN the streets were dry and it was considerably warmer (over 50 degF) than the cold 45 deg rain I left in Birmingham. I drove right to the middle of town, parked in the city hall parking lot next to the square, and then set out to explore the hills where Kristine and I had rally car drove, and also to do a pre-ride of the course which is a little farther north in the Duck River valley.
The hills outside of Lewisburg are amazing … some super steep climbs on really rural country roads with only a few farm houses scattered across huge areas. I saw two separate wedding parties taking pictures on the front steps of huge farmhouses … on a FRIDAY afternoon! It was quite picturesque. I wanted to ride super easy to rest my legs, but it was hard not to get excited just riding someplace new in such a beautiful area. This was the first climb – 22.4% max gradient up Collins Hollow road -
Then after three good climbs and a very cool switchback descent that I really wanted to turn around at the bottom and climb back the other way (but didn’t), I headed north to join the course a few miles in on New Cut road … along the way I got this gem of a video (caution: profanity) … it is kinda funny b/c when I was planning out my route I saw the massive junkyard in the satellite view and wondered if there would be any junkyard dogs. I didn’t anticipate a teenager hanging halfway out the window of his truck yelling “pedal m/f”
I knew that the course would be rough, but I had been on rough roads for a while by the time I joined up with the course so the only difference I saw is that the course had a lot of potholes that you had to constantly be on the lookout for. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the course for me was the two interstate crossings … I’ll always be able to remember this ride and the race whenever we drive under the two bridges … and the two crossings of the Duck River — one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country (I remember reading this National Geographic article back in 2010. So whenever we cross the Duck River on the interstate, I always remind Kristine and the kids that it is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country. Now I will also be able to point out the two bridge crossings for the Hell of the South race course on our drives from Birmingham up to Nashville, Indiana, or Wisconsin.
I cannot remember a single car once I hit the course. There were definitely some cars on the surrounding roads near Lewisburg, but once I picked up the course route I kept wondering where all the cars were! I do not think I got passed by ANY cars on the 23 mile course … that’s how rural the area is. I stumbled upon a herd of deer IN the road and managed to get my camera out to take a picture of the last one as it lept off into the woods. We are talking VERY rural … ah, now that I think about it there was one car on the 2nd Duck River crossing – but I spent something like 10 minutes there getting pictures of the bridge and riding down the access ramp to explore under the bridge. I ended up riding about 55 miles in just over 3.5 hours making it back to Lewisburg not too long after sunset, a nice leisurely exploratory recovery adventure ride.
It was nice to take in the scenery and enjoy the area on Friday – because there was no time for any of that on Saturday during the race.
The details – Hell of the South 2013
We stayed with my teammate Kurt up in Murfreesboro the night before, and he had last Sunday’s Milano San Remo on DVR so I fell asleep watching the classics riders slog it out in the miserable weather thinking that it would inspire me to face the weather in the morning for our race. But in the morning, it was chilly and dry with temps in the 40s. The start of the race was at the Berlin Community Fire Department a few miles outside of Lewisburg so we had about a 45 minute drive down to the start.
Having seen all the potholes on my pre-ride of the course the day before, I knew that I wanted to stay towards the front. I got a good start and after a mile or two decided to attack to see if people were cold enough to just let me go. That wasn’t happening, though, as the field strung out. When they caught me, there were counter attacks and the pace didn’t slow down so I quickly drifted way back in the group. By the time it bunched up again I was near the middle back of the group thinking how on earth am I going to move up. That’s when we hit the first bad section of potholes, Paul flatted, and I realized that I was in trouble so far back in the group unable to see the potholes ahead. I decided my best bet was to leave a little bit of a gap in front of me to have as best vision as possible – but then people kept passing me b/c there was a hole in front of me. So pretty soon I found myself towards the back of the group.
After we crossed the interstate and got closer to the downhill before the gravel, I started to panic a bit and moved up on the far righthand side. This worked a little and I had made about mid pack by the start of the downhill. This was still way too far back so after the downhill on the next set of rollers I moved up on the left. People were still leary about using the whole road (too narrow for a yellow line) so there was just enough room for me to squeeze by all the way to the very front. I entered the gravel in second wheel knowing that the best line was to stay completely left through the gravel. I pushed the pace hard to try to be at the front in case there was attacks, but there only ended up being one attack through the gravel and I was able to catch back up on the downhill. The gravel section was much shorter than any of the Rouge Roubaix gravel sections so I didn’t expect much would come out of the gravel (i.e., field split, break, etc…) but I had never done the race before so I wanted to be sure to be there if anything did happen.
After the gravel, you have a rolling downhill and a sharp turn taking you down to the Duck River. Since I did my pre-ride really slow with lots of breaks for pictures, I didn’t realize that once you cross the river you are starting a long climb. This proved NOT to be decisive for this year’s race, but it almost was decisive on all three laps. On this first lap, there were attacks immediately after the bridge. I covered one with Ryan and Tommy (both from CU Cycling) and we had a tiny gap, but everyone was still too fresh in the field so we were reeled in fairly quickly. Coming across the top of the long hill, we had a good break with good representation (2 CU and 2 Texas Roadhouse) but we didn’t have quite enough of a gap over the field so that on the next steep downhill, the field was able to roll back up to us before we could get a break established. [I'm omitting details from the rest of the 1st lap, let's just say there were a ton of attacks, but they all ended up being too big so were always chased down].
On the second lap at the exact same spot shortly after the gravel and almost immediately after crossing the Duck River bridge, I got into a good move with Tommy again, and a Texas Roadhouse rider, and one other rider. We got into a good rhythm and our gap grew, but it never got far enough to get out of sight. So coming across the top of the long gradual rolling hill (maybe 3 or 4 miles later?) we were reeled in. There were a bunch more attacks that ensued and my teammates Jeff and Kurt were in several moves, but everything was getting brought back. Towards the end of that second lap, David Worth (Columbia Transit / Swiftwick) launched a solo move that nobody responded to. He quickly got a good gap as the field was tired of chasing everything down. As we started the third lap (last lap), I was towards the middle of the group when I saw a Texas Roadhouse rider roll of the front. My teammate Kurt had just been on the front and was coming back from covering a small chase group. So I went across to him just to make sure that we didn’t have to chase it down later. As soon as we started rolling, Tommy from CU cycling came roling up to us. It turns out that we had a good gap by this point as the pace and the group had gone down just as we had picked up our pace. Here’s a video of how our 3-man chase group was formed. David was so far up the road by this point that you can’t even see him in the video. You can hear me say about 1’40″ into the video “we’ve got the teams and the gap, let’s go”
It took us about 8 or 9 miles to catch David … on the hill leading up to the switchback downhill before the gravel. I led through the downhill, and that was really fun although it did end up splitting our four man group in half. We made it through the gravel section and then settled into a good rhythm. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the last part of the climb, we could see some cars and riders behind us. I thought it was the main group, but apparently it was just AJ Meyer (Village Volkswagon) and Tommy’s teammate Ryan bridging across to us. Ryan, knowing how strong AJ is, was getting the free ride across since he had a teammate in our break already. AJ finished the bridge right before the last finishing part of the climb. Ryan launched on an attack, and I killed it to bridge back up to him thinking how this was it … it’s either bridge up to him now or the race is over … so I’m drilling it up the hill closing in on Ryan thinking “sweet, we’re gonna two-man team time trial this thing to the end” when I look back and everybody in the break was still there!!! Here’s a video of Ryan’s attack, my chase, my realization that everybody was still there, and then me asking (begging) Ryan to work with us.
The smooth machine, which was our four-man break, was now a less than smooth six-man break. We still basically worked together for a while, but people would skip pulls every now and then — understandable given the composition of the break. This could have spelled doom for our break, but fortunately a small four-man group had gotten away from the field, including my teammate Jeff McGrane along for the free ride, Dirk Polhman (Texas Roadhouse), Andy Reardon (Cumberland Transit / Swiftwick), and Austin Ulich (Prima Tappa). Still we had enough of a gap as a six-man break that it took a while for the 4-man chase to catch up with us. Once the groups merged, I again thought our break was doomed b/c our pace slowed to a crawl. I attacked once (or twice), my teammate Jeff attacked a couple times and covered a couple other moves, some other people attacked too — and this was enough to keep us rolling along ahead of the field. Eventually we got close enough to the finish that it became apparent we were going to stay away. About 2.5 miles from the end I was marking Ryan when he put in a hard attack, I covered it fine but failed to pull through knowing how far we had left. Looking back, I regret not working with Ryan to try to stay away — my instinct was that there were too many people who would be able to close the gap and then I would be too cooked to try to do anything in the end and Jeff who had been doing a lot of work keeping the break moving and covering moves would also be too tired. So I hedged my bets hoping that Ryan would continue to pull hard for a while longer or if that didn’t happen then regroup to go with the next attack a bit closer to the finish. Ryan wisely sat up instead of pulling me to the finish, and that was pretty much the last attack because Jeff came back to the front of the group and set a high enough pace to discourage any attacks.
This gave me plenty of time to maneuver into position marking Ryan again. Unfortunately, my camera battery died at about this point with maybe 1-1.5 miles left in the race. I was in what turned out to be pretty good position maybe (6th or 7th wheel) going into the sprint b/c people started the sprint from so far out. I think the first person to open up their sprint was maybe 500-600 meters from the line. The entire group strung out, and I ended up on Tommy’s wheel when there was a bit of hesitation after the first guy was caught. I opened up my sprint, but immediately saw that it was way too far out, so I swung back into line behind the people who counterattacked my jump … since we were still 300 meters from the line, there was just enough room for me to come around some people as they started to fade to end up with a third place finish. AJ had taken the win and when I rolled up to him, he stopped and pretty much laid down on the ground – having bridged up to our group and then taken the sprint. Tommy was just in front of me for second.
Here is the last 19 minutes of the race … including Ryan’s attack with 2.5 miles to go at 14’40″ seconds into the video … I think the camera battery dies with about 1 mile left in the race.
Finally, here is all my data from the race:
Hell of the South Pro/1/2 - 3rd place Dist: 70.48 mi (2:57:25) Energy: 2729.2 kJ Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 256.4 1025 W Speed 8.6 23.8 41.0 mi/h Wind 0.0 20.7 45.9 mi/h Slope -13.2 -0.01 14.7 % Caden 30 81.7 117 rpm HR 123 162.5 188 bpm NP:297W IF:1.01 TSS:299 VI:0.98 3/23/2013 9:32 AM 48 degF; 991 mbar
Heartrate zone summary
Note: I started this blog about Union City last week (March 16-17), but I’ve been crazy busy all week and haven’t been able to post it until now.
Day 1 – Shannon Mall Circuit Race
I’m still trying to parse what just happened in today’s circuit race, but however the outcome we had a great showing in our first Friends of the Great Smokies team race. Jeff McGrane got things started by rolling off the front solo on the first lap. He got a huge gap forcing others to chase. A lap later he was back in the field, but my teammate Kurt Page covered the next move. This move came back too, and Jeff got into another break – this one stuck. A few laps later, John Hart covered a move from Igor to make his way into the break, too. A few laps after that, I saw Shawn Gravois (Uniteed Healthcare) gearing up to attack so I hopped on his wheel and we quickly got a gap.
I got confused though, thinking that we only had one rider up the road with several Hincapie and Lupus riders. So I worked with Shawn and the two of us started closing the gap. Andy ? from Lupus was along for the free ride with several teammates up the road. Had I known we had two riders up ahead, I probably wouldn’t have worked quite as hard. Although, honestly, Shawn was doing a bulk of the work and I was struggling just to give him a break. Eventually we picked up another of Andy’s teammates who was coming back from the lead break. After a few more laps, they started help us chasing. Then as we got really close, I realized that I actually had two teammates in the break (Jeff and John) so I stopped working — although again, I was already pretty cooked from just holding Shawn’s wheel.
Half a lap later, we caught the lead group … except Joey Rosskopf and Ty Magner had already taken off from that group. There wasn’t much respite in the lead group b/c attacks started pretty quickly. I worked hard just to hold on. What I didn’t know is that we were actually starting our last lap. So when people started attacking coming up the last hill, I was thinking there was no way to hold that pace for however many more laps we had. I drifted backwards just as Joey and the field that he had lapped caught us (I didn’t even know they were closing in on us!!!) and ended up finishing towards the back of the group. My first thought was “thank God it’s over” instead of “oh crap, that was the finish”. Quite a confusing race, but I got the whole thing on video so I may watch it later to try to figure out what all happened in a less oxygen-deprived state (my average heartrate for the hour race was 181bpm, and my average power was 284 with a normative power probably in the 300s)
Day 2 – Union City Road Race
This race turned out really great as a team training race, despite some misfortune. My teammate Jeff again rode aggressively initiating an attack early and then covering another move. When that move came back, a counter attack went that got some daylight (maybe 20-30 seconds)? Lupus was represented well, but there were some teams missing. I happened to be on Ty Magner’s wheel right as he attacked to bridge across. I could barely hold his wheel and only ended up pulling through one time right as we were joined by another rider. The three of us worked together for another 15 seconds before a few more riders bridged across including Ty’s Hincapie Devo teammate Joey Rosskopf. At this point, we had great team representation in the chase and a good, growing gap. But unfortunately with everyone at their limit trying to reach the break, we missed a turn (no corner marshall, small sign off to the left). It took more than a mile before anyone from the race could track us down and tell us we were off course.
So instead of joining the lead group, I found myself in a chase group about 3 minutes behind the main field. We didn’t give up hope, though, and got into a good hard rotation to settle in for a long chase. 22 miles of chasing (and caravan drafting) later, I found myself back in the main field as it was bearing down on a split that was chasing the main break. Jeff was in the split so I got a chance to recover. Ty was driving the chase from the main field, and after we caught the split I initiated an attack that didn’t really get anywhere. There were a bunch more attacks on the last lap that led to temporary group splits, but with the field always coming back together. My teammate Kurt Page put in a move late in the last lap that got some daylight, but the rider he bridged up to didn’t want to work so they came back to the field. Shortly after that, my teammate John Hart attacked hard and got away solo. At that point he switched into time trial mode and held it all the way to the finish to take 10th (with a nine-man break already minutes up the road). With John off the front, me, Jeff, and Kurt rode the front of the field covering moves. Ty managed to slip away with about 2 miles to go with such an effective attack that there was no “covering” it. The field strung out setting up for the field sprint. About half a mile later (1.5 miles to go), Michael Stone attacked in an effort to bridge to Ty. I stayed 2nd wheel as a Lupus rider drove the field for the field sprint. He lasted until about 1000 meters to go. When he sat up before a series of turns, I decided it was now or never and attacked hard. I quickly caught and passed Mike and drove it to the finish to try to take 12th. Unfortunately, Andy from Lupus had my wheel and he was able to come around for 12th with me holding on for 13th.
All-in-all it was a great race as a team with what could have been John making a winning move had a break not already been up the road … a break that I would have been in if our chase attempt hadn’t been led off course. Once we had merged with the break, either the break would have failed or it would have worked. If it had failed, then the scenario that played out in the field could have been the end game for the win. If it had worked, then it would have been up to me to try for the win. Either way, I feel like, we gelled well as a team in our first team race with everybody working hard and racing smart. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
Heartrate/power data for both days
Union City Road Race - Pro/1/2 - 13th Dist: 74.40 mi (2:53:43) Cals Burn: 2416.2 kcal Braking: -6.2 kJ (-0.2%) Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 242.5 1037 W Speed 0.1 25.7 45.3 mi/h Elev 33 205 343 ft Slope -10.6 -0.01 10.5 % Caden 0 81.5 113 rpm HR 107 155.6 186 bpm NP:287W IF:0.97 TSS:273 VI:0.95 168 lbs; 3/17/2013 8:53 AM EDT 58 degF; 991 mbar
Criterium – heartrate summary – check out the zone 5 time!
Road race – heartrate zone summary
I have been wanting to write this race report from the moment the race was over, but it has been a crazy busy week at work. I am finally caught up enough that I can sit down to reflect on what for sure was the most epic Rouge Roubaix ever.
Rouge Roubaix is epic every year, but this year’s edition was off-the-charts epic. Let me set the scene. Tucked in the elbow of Louisiana wedged between the Mississippi River and the Mississippi state line is West Feliciana parish — with St Francisville nestled on the edge of the Tunica Hills on the eastern bank of the Mississippi.
The area is so rural that many of the roads, especially the ones through the hills, are unpaved. With this race taking place during the spring classics season on a number of dirt/gravel sectors and a start location only 30 minutes away from Baton Rouge, the name of the race “Rouge Roubaix” is perfect.
This year’s race featured four sectors. The first section was a new addition this year because one of the paved roads normally on the course was closed with a washed out bridge from the heavy rains that have been plaguing the south for most of January and February. So add an extra rugged dirt gravel road, combined with three other dirt/gravel sections that were in rougher than normal shape, along with a really stacked field with four previous winners, the Kona mountain bike / cyclocross team, and you have the makings of an epic race. How epic? By the end of the race, the wheel trucks were patching and replacing tubes on already flatted wheels so they would be ready to hand out to the next rider who flatted.
I also got a chance to race with my FGS Cycling teammate Kurt Page for the first time. He got caught up in a nasty early crash, but still managed to finish the 105 mile race — with blood streaming down from his leg and hip — in 17th place! He Jens Voigted the heck out of that race!!!
With the new dirt road coming early in the race, and a narrow rough road leading up to it, we flew through the neutral section at close to 25mph average. Once we made the left turn signaling the end of the neutral section, our speed skyrocketed to close to 40mph with a number of attacks. Shortly after making the next left, two guys rolled off the front and had a very small lead. But they didn’t get very far b/c our field was riding hard jockeying for position leading into the first gravel section. At the beginning of this video, I move up following a Giant rider on the outside but I was still a good 10-15 riders back by the time we hit the climb and sharp turn onto gravel. Things started out ok, but then I got stuck in some deep gravel going off to the side. This happened a couple more times, and I was really starting to lose positions when my friend Jesse Gaudet passed me. I hopped on his wheel, knowing that he knows these roads better than anyone else and just simply followed him whichever lines he took.
By the end of the gravel section we had picked up one more rider from ahead of us, and Christian Parrett (5 Hour Energy) had caught up to us. Almost immediately, Christian flatted so it was back down to three of us chasing the leaders. Just before entering the second gravel section, a small group of three or four guys caught up to us. Then our group kept swelling because we kept on picking up guys who had flatted out of the lead group. All of this is in the second video. The lead group had shrunk to just 4 by the end of the second gravel section. Meanwhile, our group kept swelling with people catching up from flatting. Just Mike Olheiser (Cashcall), Oscar Clark (Hincapie Devo), Ty Magner (Hincapie Devo), and one other rider were all that was left in the lead group. Our chase group worked really well together with me, three riders from the Kona team, Jason Sager (Jamis), Johnny Brizzard, and a few other riders working together. We were flying and caught up to the lead four about 10-15 miles later. This is the third video.
Almost immediately, I got into a break with one of the Kona riders and Corey Ray from Herring Gas. Then after a few minutes, Oscar Clark, and a Giant rider (Russ Walker?) bridged up to us. This got our group really moving and we extended our lead to maybe 45 seconds. Somebody was chasing behind us, though, because we got caught with about six miles to go until the third dirt section, Blockhouse Hill. This is the fourth video.
Oscar Clark attacked a few miles later (about a mile or so before the hill) and easily rode away to take the KOM. I was near the front, but unfortunately started drifting back through the mixed gravel, paved section. This was a big mistake b/c I needed to be much farther up at the base of Blockhouse. The riders in front of me were not going nearly as fast as the leaders, and it was difficult to pass. I passed a few people, but the leaders were gone. To make matters worse, I really goofed up the sand pit at the bottom of the first hill after the summit. Not only was I not able to ride it, I didn’t remount cleanly and had to stop one more time. By this point, the race for first was over for me. This is all on the fifth video.
Still, I knew we were doing well, and you never know how many people ahead might flat. A few of us merged together and chased all the way through the next long paved section, but it was kind of half-hearted. When we made the left onto the final dirt section (Tunica Hills), last year’s winner Adam Koble rode away from us. Jonathan Brown (Hot tubes) and I hit the next climb together – that lasted for about 30 seconds before the gradient was too steep and the gravel too loose to ride. We weren’t alone pushing our bikes – up ahead I could see Adam pushing his, Jason Waddell (Tulsa Tough) remarked on the irony of us being in the middle of a road race, walking our bikes up a hill. Jason Sager caught back up to us and made it the farthest of any of us, but eventually he too hit a loose spot of gravel and had to start walking. Across the top, we coalesced into one group again, but only for a couple minutes when Jason Waddell flatted. A few minutes later, I flatted.
I pulled out my tube and got the wheel off my bike and started to change the tire when Jason came by saying that the wheel truck was just behind. So I started stuffing everything back into my jersey just as the wheel truck caught up to me. About a minute after flatting, I was up and rolling again with a new wheel. Our exact same group merged together again. This section of the race goes from good pavement to mixed gravel, rough road several times so it was hard to get in a really good rotation rhythm. It seemed like people were really tired, and eventually a couple more riders joined our group. A few miles later, Jason Waddell and the Elbowz rider attacked our group. I was just coming off my pull at the front, but still I chased hard and almost caught up to them before blowing up. The rest of the group caught back up to me and I was pretty miserable that two more places just went up the road. By the end, four of us were sprinting for 10th place. The Kona rider led out the sprint with me on his wheel. I feel like I was boxed in a bit and could only come around the Kona rider after the other two riders had come around me. So I got third in that sprint to take 12th. But then there was a strange protest about motorpacing from early on in the race that led to two riders ahead of me being relegated to the back of our group. This bumped me up a couple spots to 10th.
This final video below shows us entering the final dirt section, all the way through my flat, subsequent chase, regrouping and working together on the pavement for a bit. But my battery died before the end.
Overall, it was an epic day, I had a blast, great training, fun times suffering with fellow bike racers, already looking forward to next year. Disappointed a bit at where I finished especially since I feel like if I had been a little bit farther up going into Blockhouse, I could have made it through that section with the leaders. Won’t make the same mistake again next year, and I’m already looking forward to it!
Here is all the data from my race.
Annotated heartrate zone summary
And lastly, here are some photos I took during the weekend.
My first experience in timed endurance mountain bike racing went really well – I came away with a win in the solo expert class. But more importantly I think the switch flipped on during the first lap of the race, and I discovered how to ride a mountain bike over technical terrain. I still have a long ways to go with a mental battle to trust the tires on tight turns, but I have much more confidence rolling the 29er over rocky and rooty terrain. I got the hole shot into Mr Toad’s after nearly running into the back of the lead vehicle. I got passed by one rider (a 6 hour solo rider) in the tight switchback turns at the end of Mr Toad’s, but I had no problem catching back up on Johnson’s Mountain. I decided not to pass, though, because I knew he would be fast down the descent, and I wanted a firsthand view of how to ride the Johnson Mountain descents fast. It was awesome. I kept up through most of the descent, but lost him in the tight turns just before crossing Peavine. Also, Eddie O’Dea and one other rider had caught up to us at the road so I slowed for a second to let them by on the road rather than entering the next twisty section and having to let them by there.
I lost some ground on the initial technical part of the Bump climb, but then caught up to Eddie and the other rider by the big berm before the bumpy steep part of the climb. They let me by and I flew up the climb. I wanted to try to have a big enough gap so as not to get in the way on Jekyll. I ran up Blood Rock and continued running through the switchbacks where I had fallen and hurt myself last Wednesday. Plus, for me it’s actually faster to run that section than ride it … especially if you don’t clear the switchbacks. I entered Jekyll nervous but fast which turned out to be key to riding that section (thanks John Karrasch). I rolled over stuff that I had to walk previously. And other stuff that I wanted to walk I came onto too quickly to stop so I had to ride it. And after not falling through each tricky drop or rock section, I got more and more confidence. Then shortly after the switchback that separates the two technical sections of Jekyll, I bobbled and unclipped right as Eddie was catching up to me. So I let him by and then tried to follow his line. I had to unclip two more times, but I was close enough to see some of the lines he took and also see that he was riding everything which gave me the confidence to try everything. This was hugely important for me eventually winning the race. If I had done all of Jekyll on my own then I may have not even attempted some of the trickier sections, let alone seen the lines to take. Huge thanks to Eddie!
Also, while I’m thinking about it – huge shout-out to Jacob who convinced me on Thursday night during our practice run on the course to run much lower tire pressure than I have been running. I ended up with 25PSI front and back for the race instead of my normal 30PSI. Also, thanks to Boris Simmonds for showing me the fast lines at night down the Hyde portion of Jekyll and Hyde and also for teaming up to share resources in the pit. I loved the sign he made “Borat & Toone” and wish I had gotten a picture of it. And thanks to Lennie Moon for coming out and cheering with his family. Also, a big thanks to John for the advice about just tackling Jekyll one section at a time and not looking too far ahead, this was hugely important later after I got more comfortable so that I stayed focus on the immediate section. I basically learned that the bottom portion of Jekyll only has three sections which are tricky and knowing that meant I could roll the stuff in between faster and use each of the tricky sections as benchmarks for the descent. Also, thanks to Roger Byrd from Bob’s Bikes for loaning me his awesome headlight.
I crossed the line in third after the first lap, but the two riders in front of me were a six hour solo expert rider and Eddie from the Eddie/Namrita six hour team. So that meant that I basically led the 9 hour solo expert race from start to finish! I ate a powerbar each lap and drank a full bottle of gatorade each lap. So I felt like I stayed on top of my nutrition better than I have in previous long mountain bike races (Leadville and Fool’s Gold, particularly). Still, I was really struggling on the 7th lap and by the time it got dark I got nervous that I was going to see Jeff Clayton’s lights approaching me. But when I made it up Blood Rock and could look down the entire bump climb and not see any lights I knew that barring a mechanical or bad fall I was going to win! That last time down Hyde was a bit tricky because I got into the mode of thinking “don’t fall, don’t fall” rather than just flowing with the descent.
Here’s my data from the race.
Annotated heartrate zone summary
Analise and Josiah got to participate in the racing action as well. The day started out with a kids race at 8:30. This was the first time for my kids to ride on real trails apart from the 0.2 mile section of woods on the way to school, which is pretty much a straight shot downhill. So this time they got to ride uphill, around corners, over bridges, around logs, and roll over small roots on a mile long portion of the family trail. They loved it!
Finally a couple frantic (me being the frantic one) videos from the pit and gallery of pics from the day:
The Pro/1/2 podium for the Six Gap criterium. L-R: Scott Kuppersmith, Lucas Wardein, and Brian Toone
Analise wake-boarding with Brad
Josiah and me about to start jet-skiing
Josiah giving us the hang ten sign while wake-boarding with Brad
These photos above are my favorite from a great family weekend of hanging out with friends, racing and riding bikes, and enjoying the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Analise and Josiah wake-boarded for the first time. I got to ride a jet ski for the first time. And we had a great time hanging out with Brad and Brenna and their kids at their family lake house on Lake Lanier less than 30 minutes from Dahlonega. Here’s how the racing went on Saturday and the epic riding went on Sunday…
Saturday @ 7:30PM, Six Gap Criterium
The course was the same three corner course plus the downtown square which is small enough that I heard at least one person describe it as a roundabout. So the course was either three corners and a 180 or 7 corners depending on how you count the square. Either way you go, the course is really fast with two uphill sections and two downhill sections. I was slow in getting to start line so I started on the back row of a small field of about 25 pro/1/2 riders. The layout of the course meant that there was really only one spot to pass people – just past the start/finish all the way through the top of the hill after turn 1. The rest of the course was so fast and had turns coming at you so quickly that it was difficult to pass anyone.
I had to watch the early breaks on the first couple laps go as I was still working my way to the front. Fortunately, none of those stuck, and I was able to get to the front by the fourth or fifth lap. A few laps later I went with a move that didn’t last long. A few laps after that was another move that I was in – this one lasted a couple laps but never got a good gap. Only a couple laps after that, I bridged up to a move started by Brendan Cornett (TBB Sports), who has been riding super strong this year, and one of the UHC-706 riders (Jonas?). Brendan was clearly the strongest and drilled it hard, but we never got our gap out to more than 5-10 seconds. Even so, we held that gap for quite a few laps (about 1/4 of the race) before getting pulled back in.
Then there was a flurry of attacks that eventually saw Scott Kuppersmith break free. A lap or two later, Lucas Wardein (Florida Velo), attacked and bridged to Scott solo. I think at that point everyone looked to UHC to bring back the move, but the gap had ballooned to nearly 30 seconds so it was too late to bring it back in the last five laps. Johnny Brizzard (Subaru) raced aggressively but couldn’t get a gap to stick. He was at the front drilling it hard at the start of the last lap when I decided to attack as soon as the pace let up. Going into turn 1, we slowed down just a bit and it was now or never so I attacked as hard as I could hoping to hold it through all the corners. I was able to just barely hold it to the finish with Brendan and Oneal Samuels (UHC-706) coming up fast behind me for 4th and 5th. Kristine got a good video of the finish starting with me charging through with about 500 meters to go…
She also got a video of the field rounding the square earlier in the race…
I was really happy to finish my last criterium for the year with one more podium! All my power/heartrate data is below:
Six Gap Criterium Pro/1/2 – heartrate/power data (click to enlarge)
Six Gap criterium pro/1/2 power map (click to enlarge)
Six Gap criterium pro/1/2 last lap power data (click to enlarge)
Six Gap criterium pro/1/2 heartrate zones
Six Gap Criterium Lap Data Pro/1/2 Third Place Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR MPH 1 1:16 301 796 165 25.7 2 1:15 255 725 169 26.2 3 1:14 266 849 170 26 4 1:13 301 877 169 27.3 5 1:08 381 874 181 29.1 6 1:12 324 711 185 27.6 7 1:17 280 651 177 26 8 1:17 247 570 175 26.2 9 1:22 233 806 165 25 10 1:14 304 955 166 27.8 11 1:10 359 801 181 29.4 12 1:20 219 644 176 26.5 13 1:20 210 779 165 25.9 14 1:20 233 882 162 26.7 15 1:13 325 884 167 29.3 16 1:11 344 921 183 31.1 17 1:09 352 691 185 29.5 18 1:15 300 655 186 28.4 19 1:21 234 594 178 25.5 20 1:15 239 777 169 27.9 21 1:16 217 813 166 27.7 22 1:18 259 920 163 26.3 23 1:13 271 756 176 28.6 24 1:13 352 890 180 28.5 25 1:11 296 696 184 28.6 26 1:13 317 661 183 27.7 27 1:15 279 631 182 27.4 28 1:14 294 643 180 27.4 29 1:17 291 837 179 25.9 30 1:16 228 630 177 27.3 31 1:19 192 738 172 25.7 32 1:20 214 746 164 26 33 1:15 221 745 166 26.5 34 1:27 195 767 163 22.8 35 1:21 241 973 161 24.9 36 1:16 240 807 169 26.2 37 1:17 235 872 164 25.5 38 1:23 206 873 166 24.4 39 1:21 234 890 166 24.4 40 1:15 249 852 165 26.8 41 1:20 282 887 166 24.9 42 1:21 262 810 180 25 43 1:15 285 912 177 26.8 44 1:13 287 917 175 27.4 45 1:12 235 715 176 27 46 1:07 463 990 185 29.2
Sunday @ 7:30AM, Six Gap Gran Fondo
Less than 12 hours later, I was lined up with close to 3,000 other people awaiting the start of the annual Six Gap century. There is a reason why this event draws so many people – the course covers some of the best cycling roads in the entire country. Huge climbs, awesome descents, and lots of fun awaits those who do this event. The century also has a KOM competition that was sponsored this year by the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (the pro tour race in Colorado). This year’s competition was based on your chip timing up Hogpen Gap – a 7 mile stair-stepper climb with sustained sections as steep as 15%.
The first few miles leaving the high school were a great time chat with people and enjoy the draft of such a huge group. When you get that many cyclists together, you know that there are going to be a lot of yo-yoing back and forth as the pace accelerates on the downhill and then suddenly slows on the next steep roller — so you do your best to pay attention and help each other out by calling out when the pace is slowing and everything is fine. The group takes up pretty much the whole road, but on a Sunday morning in a rural section of the mountains of north georgia, I can only recall seeing a couple cars the entire 10 mile section leading into the first large hill on the course.
I was pretty far back when we reached the first of the six major climbs of the day – Neel’s Gap. I worked my way close to the front by the top of the first section of the climb. Then shortly after the bottom of the next climb, I finally made it all the way to the front. My teammate, Boris Simmonds, accelerated a bit and got away from the group early on the climb. Jimmy Schurman (Globalbike) set a fast pace that eventually reeled in Borris and dropped everyone except Christian Parrett (Globalbike), Mark Fisher (strong rider from Birmingham), and me. Across the top, we slowed down enough that quite a few riders joined us on the descent with a group of maybe 20 riders starting the climb up Jack’s Gap together.
The pace up Jack’s was tame enough that most of us were still together going into the third climb of the day (Unicoi Gap). Mark pushed it super hard at the bottom. I was on his wheel so I initially went with him, but I was pushing 375 watts up the climb and wanted to save some energy for the next climb up Hogpen Gap. Mark went on alone and I joined the rest of the group cruising up Unicoi at a more leisurely pace. We stopped at the top and refueled with lots of PB&J sandwiches.
Our group pushed the pace hard heading into the Hogpen climb so we were down to less than 10 riders by the turn onto GA-348. Jimmy Schurman was drilling it hard at the front and pretty soon it was just me, Mark, and Christian again. We crested the first part of the climb together, but Mark came off our group on the next steep section of the climb. Eventually we caught a couple riders who had not stopped at the Unicoi rest stop. Last year, Jimmy had dropped me at the steep section of the climb where there is a pull-out and several portapotties setup. This year I was happy to be able to hang with him and Christian all the way to the last steep roller before the top (about 1K to go). I just couldn’t sustain an above-threshold pace anymore so I eased up a bit to finish the climb at right about my threshold power of 300 watts.
After a couple minutes of waiting for more people from our group to catch up at the top, we headed down the super fast Hogpen descent. I thought Wolfpen was included again in the KOM competition so I pushed the pace hard at the bottom, Jimmy took over in the middle, and then Christian finished it off. Wolfpen is not nearly as steep as Hogpen so there was about 10 of us who survived the climb together. It’s tricky passing all the 3 gap riders and my voice was kinda horse from shouting “hello, on your left” up the climb and down the descent on the other side.
The final climb up Woody’s gap is much shorter than all the rest, and the descent was mostly good this year. Last year, we got held up by more 3-gappers and more cars on the road. This year, we eventually caught a truck pulling a 4-wheeler on a trailer and had to wait for him for a mile or two. Then he decided to stop to let us by (which almost caused us to plow into the back of him) but I was thankful that we could bomb the remaining mile or two of the descent. The rollers were good, and Christian pointed out the start of the dirt climb up Woody’s gap so I’m going to try to hit that up for southern cross in february.
Another year, another fun time at Six Gap! Here is all my power data … the first map below has the six climbs annotated with power, time, distance and vertical elevation gain.
Finally, here is a map of our boating fun yesterday and a couple more videos of the kids wake-boarding with Brad.