Posts tagged ‘road 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
SATURDAY’s Sunny King Pro/1 Criterium
A five man break gets away about one/third of the way through the race. A four or five man chase with Frank Travieso (Mountain Khakis) and eventual winner Carlos Alzate (UHC) gets away a few laps later after my own very short-lived bridge attempt. I watched them go from near the very front having just been reeled back in by the field thinking that looks like a good move, but no way I can do anything about it right now. Our pace in the pack plummits as UHC now has Karl Menzies in the original break and Carlos in a strong bridge move. Brendan Cornett related to me at the post-race dinner how amazing (and painful) it was as Frank and Carlos traded pace ramping up the speed insanely after giving each other a short rest. Two or three guys end up getting dropped from the break, which doesn’t surprise me given that it takes practically no time at all for the break to lap the field. Once the break laps the field, UHC goes to the front and controls the pace for the rest of the race to make sure that nobody from the original break has a chance to try to escape again. Perfect leadout train for Carlos leads to another UHC win. Sergio Hernandez (Predator Cycling) takes second followed by final leadout man from UHC (Karl Menzies) in 3rd.
Meanwhile, back in my part of the race, fighting elbow to elbow with everyone behind the UHC leadout train, I end up in decent position maybe mid pack 25 riders from the front when two guys run into each other in turn 3 – right in front of me – with maybe five laps to go. They don’t go down, but I end up having to chase around them to close the gap. Tired from this, I lost a lot of places and end up towards the back of the pack with three laps to go. By two laps to go, people in front of me are starting to sit up and a gap opens up about five riders in front of me after turn 1 across the top going into turn 2. Nobody (including me) closes it down quickly enough, so the field slingshots itself down the hill a lot faster than those of us who are now suddenly off the back. I’d say at this point there’s about 30-35 guys left in the main field with another 15-20 of us gapped off. There is still almost two whole laps left, so I end up chasing hard with a small group. One of the things about the sunny king course is that in order to control the field, you have to keep the pace super fast since it is a really wide course in spots. This means that when the leadout guys are done – they are done, I mean really done, put a fork in them done – so it’s pretty easy to catch and pass all the leadout guys after they sit up. My small group ended up catching and passing about 15 guys from the front pack who had sat up on the final lap and I ended up 4th in that group to take 21st for the race.
About 75 starters and only 40 or so finishers. Here’s a video of the last three laps and another one of the call-ups and the first 20 minutes of the race:
Here’s a short video of me attacking and trying to bridge … and if you look very carefully you can see towards the middle of the video where the successful chase group including Frank and Carlos has separated itself from the field. I’m heading backwards by this point.
SUNDAY’s Foothills Road Race
A key part of this race is summed up by the picture above I took during the race. Why did I take a picture during the race? Well, long story but I accidentally brought my phone with me when I forgot to drop it back off by the car after my warm-up before the race. I realized this about an hour into the race. A little while later as Team Lupus was chasing I had just moved up and noticed that three teams were lined up at the front (Team Lupus driving it, a couple guys from Predator Cycling behind them – but not visible in this pic, and then the Mountain Khakis team). Much later, 1K from the finish when I was dropped from the break with bad cramps, I missed another golden opportunity – to call Kristine and chat with her towards the end of a race – since the field was several minutes behind.
Oh well, now back to the race – Lupus was chasing because they only had one guy (who was not a climber) in the original break. They knew their best chance to win the race was with one of their strong climbers (Mike Stone) who I think had missed the original move. Lupus has a number of strong riders, proved by the fact that they were able to bring back what I thought for sure was the day’s winning break. It took a long time, though. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the third big climb of the day (Cottaquilla west to east) that the catch was made. I was in good position towards the front having been following Frank Travieso around in the field thinking that he was going to launch for Mountain Khakis but several other people attacked first and had a small move. When that move was brought back, the pace eased up a bit, and I found myself on the wheel of a different Mountain Khakis rider who attacked. I was right there and saw him shift to attack, so I just went with him up and over the top. This attack ended up splitting the field so that there was about 25 of us left by the bottom of the awesome switchback descent (end of the first video below). It was at the bottom of this descent back in the field, though, that David Carpenter (Village Volkswagon) was t-boned by a dog that darted out into the road. He was air-lifted back to Birmingham, but I’m happy to report today that he has been released from the hospital already once his ct-scan came back negative.
Meanwhile in our race, I noticed that there wasn’t very many of us left so I tried to rally the troops to keep the split open. Instead, there was a number of attacks in quick succession that led to a break of 9 separating itself from the field – me, David Guttenplan, two globalbike/706 project riders (shawn gravois and another rider), two mountain khakis riders, Sergio Hernandez (Predator Cycling), one Astellas rider, and one other rider I didn’t know with an Australian accent – making for a total of 9 of us in the break. We worked really well together for a long time and yet our first time split from Bill was only 40 seconds. I was nervous that the break wasn’t going to make it, but our next time split was a minute. Then it went out to two minutes. But then when we turned left to head back into the steep rollers, the gap had come down to 1’30”. A few minutes later it was down to 1’25”. Then it was back up to 1’30” and held steady there all the way until we started attacking the crap out of each other (see endgame video). At one point towards the beginning of the video before the first set of attacks, I try to convey this with “come on guys, sell out!” meaning fully commit to the move instead of holding something back for later.
I was on Sergio’s wheel when he launched the first attack. I went with it b/c I saw him get ready to attack. I didn’t pull through b/c I was thinking we still needed the break to work together to make sure we stayed away from the field. Instead of a counter attack, we went back into a rotation for a couple minutes before there was a series of attacks leading all the way into the bottom of the final climb. During one of these attacks, I started to cramp and I thought “that’s it” I’m not working any more. If we get caught, we get caught but I cannot put any more effort into the break. I didn’t need to, though, because the attacks kept going constantly. I would get dropped by each attack, then catch back on during the ensuing cat and mouse. Sergio’s final attack towards the top saw him go clear with one other rider. The rest of us crossed the top together (I couldn’t believe I had survived the climb after cramping at the bottom). After a nearly 50mph descent we were closing in slowly on the leading duo when somebody hesitated (wasn’t me b/c I was just sitting on the back by this point) and Shawn Gravois rolled off the front. He finished the bridge up to the leading two and eventually finished third while the rest of us slowed down and started attacking each other again. I would get dropped with each attack and then roll back onto the group. Eventually, David Guttenplan rolled off our group and nobody was able to cover. He didn’t quite make the bridge but finished fourth just behind the podium sprint. I don’t know what happened in that sprint they were so far ahead by the time I crossed the line about a minute or so later having come off the remnants of the break just before they started their sprint for the line.
What a crazy race with the break getting reeled back in by Team Lupus over a distance of maybe 20 miles and then the second break forming straight into the nasty headwind. And then the finale with so many attacks and a blowing up of the break … I guess if you think about it — the break finished in four groups – the top 3 sprinting it out, David Guttenplan just behind for fourth, the next four guys sprinting for fifth, and then me by myself for 9th.
This video below has the last part of the chase led by Team Lupus heading into the two back-to-back climbs (White’s Gap and Cottaquilla west to east). It also has the switchback descent. David Carpenter was taken out by a dog somewhere in the runout after all the switchbacks. You can see from my video how high the speed was through there! This is all late in the video … the descent starts at 15:00 (15 minutes) into the video and finishes at 18 minutes.
This next video shows the formation of our breaks – including the series of attacks that led up to the formation of our nine-man break.
This final video shows the last 30 minutes of the race – including a 52 mph descent and then a bunch of attacks and then me getting dropped with about a mile or so to go.
Lots and lots and lots of data
Here’s the data from all the races — starting with the Sunny King criterium.
Sunny King Pro/1 NCC Criterium 21st place Note that there are only 59 laps, because the field got lapped. The break did 60 laps. Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:40 320 938 148 86 25.4 2 1:28 315 888 167 84 28.3 3 1:28 282 822 169 83 29.0 4 1:30 289 864 166 83 27.7 5 1:28 288 813 169 82 28.2 6 1:30 270 1021 171 85 27.7 7 1:25 284 886 170 86 28.7 8 1:26 285 978 172 82 28.7 9 1:26 301 913 175 81 28.6 10 1:28 302 846 178 88 28.0 11 1:27 292 859 176 85 28.3 12 1:26 301 948 176 86 28.9 13 1:28 281 768 173 83 28.2 14 1:27 294 923 175 81 28.4 15 1:30 262 842 177 79 27.8 16 1:40 225 829 166 83 24.9 17 1:33 252 876 168 78 26.9 18 1:26 285 771 174 81 29.0 19 1:29 318 653 177 87 28.0 20 1:27 260 870 175 84 27.9 21 1:32 250 783 171 82 26.9 22 1:33 263 812 164 78 27.0 23 1:30 300 972 170 81 28.0 24 1:28 303 947 174 82 28.5 25 1:28 270 947 170 78 28.3 26 1:32 342 787 177 82 27.1 27 1:38 195 768 174 80 25.4 28 1:40 234 692 159 80 25.1 29 1:37 286 914 160 78 25.7 30 1:38 261 833 170 82 25.9 31 1:35 226 800 164 80 26.3 32 1:33 268 855 163 82 26.6 33 1:31 269 897 168 82 27.4 34 1:33 246 806 168 81 26.6 35 1:32 265 856 167 83 27.1 36 1:39 184 674 156 78 25.0 37 1:34 271 929 159 83 26.3 38 1:31 288 734 167 82 27.6 39 1:30 256 966 168 79 27.3 40 1:38 244 785 158 83 25.2 41 1:30 253 899 163 84 27.8 42 1:28 264 893 167 85 28.1 43 1:28 266 851 169 81 28.2 44 1:31 274 927 168 81 27.4 45 1:29 260 850 168 83 27.8 46 1:29 290 793 170 79 28.0 47 1:28 274 869 173 79 28.5 48 1:29 289 812 173 80 28.2 49 1:30 269 870 173 80 27.4 50 1:29 269 934 170 80 27.8 51 1:31 259 834 171 77 27.3 52 1:27 306 790 170 80 28.5 53 1:26 272 797 173 78 28.6 54 1:27 307 939 174 81 28.4 55 1:25 299 856 178 80 29.0 56 1:25 311 782 178 79 29.1 57 1:25 298 790 179 77 28.9 58 1:26 303 803 180 76 28.9 59 1:26 343 741 181 77 28.6
Sunny King heartrate summary – lower than previous years – probably b/c of the cool temps
2013 foothills road race heartrate summary
On the grand scheme of riding and racing, the road race was kinda short (less than three hours) so I wanted to get some extra climbing in, and when I told Mark Fisher about my plan to go climb the Bain’s Gap cat 2 climbs, he was all-in. So after enjoing the nice post-ride pasta meal, we drove off down the Cheaha Challenge route about 15 miles, parked and did a crazy adventure ride through a bomb range (now open to the public as part of a national wildlife refuge) up steep 20+% gravel roads. Ironically, the closest climbs by comparison in terms of steepness and looseness are in the bayou of Louisiana/Mississippin on the rouge roubaix course — although those climbs are shorter. The gallery of pics below is from that ride with Mark:
Friday night crit – 6th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Saturday morning road race – 7th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Saturday afternoon time trial – 32nd in a time trial that ended with a sprint
Sunday morning circuit race – 6th in a race that ended in a field sprint
Stage race overall – 18th place (one spot out of the money)
I’m happy to have made top 10 in all of the races – excellent practice/preparation for all the positioning that is going to happen in the upcoming Sunny King and Athens Twilight pro crits. It looks like WordPress is starting to overlay ads on top of each of the videos … click the “youtube” icon on each video to watch a version of the video without an ad.
Friday night crit
New, fast course this year with a new combination of roads in the downtown part of Brookhaven. I brought my family this year, so after we finished the drive from Birmingham I left them at the hotel and biked over to registration so that they didn’t have to get to the race start quite so early. I was riding through downtown admiring everything before the race got crazy when a pickup truck passed me and clipped me with his rear view mirror. Other than a sore back (I was very lucky that his mirror collapsed immediately and it was tall enough to clear my handlebars), I was OK. What a crazy start to the weekend.
After a quick stop by registration, I continued my long warm-up by heading over south of town through the old antebellum homes underneath huge oak? trees. It was a nice relaxing way to warm-up for what was a pretty intense race. ThinkFinance was the primary instigator constantly sending riders off the front. I tried to get in a few of the moves and attacked once or twice myself (Kristine got this great picture of me attacking to bridge up to one of the ThinkFinance riders) but with many highly motivated racers competing in a timed stage race, everything was getting brought back together. Along the way I managed to lose a very close finish for a $50 prime sprint at the halfway point of the race.
With about 6 laps to go I was still pretty close to the front of the race, and I managed to find myself on the wheel of Michael McBrien (Bikes Plus Racing) a super strong sprinter from Pensacola – who himself was glued to the wheel of Mat Davis (Team La’Sport) another strong sprinter. I’m thinking “this is perfect!” – but then on the second to last lap I got pinched between two riders heading into turn 1, hit the brakes briefly, and lost several positions by the end of turn 1. I tried to work my way around again, but I had lost the good wheels and ended up starting the sprint from about 8th spot and finishing in 6th.
Colton Jarisch (ThinkFinance) took the sprint, followed by Michael McBrien (Bikes Plus), and then Mat Davis (Team LaS’port). The three of them were pretty much a photo finish for the first three spots. A few meters behind was Bryant Funston (Marx and Bensdorf), Woody Boudreaux (Herring Gas), and then me (Friends of the Great Smokies).
Saturday morning road race
This year’s race started out a bit slower than last year with me not attacking from the start line. It took less than a mile though before riders started launching off the front … Scott Kuppersmith (Absolute Racing) and Marx and Bensdorf had some initial solo attacks, but then it was a ThinkFinance rider and a Marx and Bensdorf rider (Brett Shanaman?) who finally broke the elastic sticking a two man move that got quite a bit of time on the field (maybe a minute or more?). Herring Gas and Team La’sport settled into a steady mode of chasing with a few attacks interspersed, but it took about 25 miles of the 27.5 mile lap before the two-man break was reeled back in.
Towards the start of the second lap, I got into one promising looking move, but then I ended up struggling a bit with some of the counter attacks and the cross-winds — hoping that none of those attacks would stick b/c there was no way I was going to be able to bridge across. Fortunately, everything was coming back together. By about midway through the third lap, it was pretty clear that nothing was going to get away. Again, I found myself in great position heading into the final sprint again on Michael and Mat’s wheel. But about 3K before the sprint started in earnest there was a surge and in the reshuffle I slid a few spots back. I started the sprint this time from maybe 10th wheel, but as it was a long sprint I was able to pass a few of the guys who were fading to end up in 7th.
Colton took the field sprint for his second win in a row. Michael was moving up fast but then as the sprint shifted over, Michael ended up off the left side of the road on the gravel (you can see that on my video). Blair Krogh (4D Fitness) flew up the right-hand side to take 2nd with Mat in 3rd. I was on Bryant’s wheel as we were passing everybody, but he made it around Andrew Hammond (Herring Gas) and Woody (Herring) to take fourth whereas I didn’t quite make it around either of them … if only the line had been 5 meters farther down the road … so I ended up 7th.
Saturday afternoon time trial adventure
As much as I love racing, and as much as I dread time trials – this was probably still one of the highlight from the weekend. And it has been for the past three years — from three years ago when Justin Bynum, Pat Allison, and I all did ghetto skinsuits (wear the bibb shorts over the jersey) to last year’s Strava climbing challenge where I did maybe 100-150 repeats on a tiny 30 foot hill to eek every ounce of elevation gain out of my 2.5 hour warm-up ride to this year’s adventure of riding to the start and back from the hotel on some cool backroads watching a beautiful sunset while my wife and kids went roller skating at the Brookhaven skating rink. The time trial always seems to pull through in the fun factor even if my legs cannot seem to pull through to not absolutely kill my standing in the overall. This year, I even had help from the awesome guys at 4D fitness (Blair Krogh, William Jones, Daniel Wisner, Dustin Drewes) with Dustin loaning me his disc wheel to replace my Reynolds with a broken spoke (I forgot to mention that in my write-up about the road race — I broke a spoke in my rear wheel in the road race, either just riding around or during the sprint).
Even with the disc wheel, tt bars, and a full-fledged skinsuit from FGS cycling, I couldn’t crack the top 30. The annotated heartrate data below pretty much tells the story:
Saturday time trial – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday time trial – heartrate zone summary.
Colton crushed the time trial to take his third win in a row, but behind him the times were pretty close leading to a somewhat tight GC battle for 2nd-10th spots.
Sunday morning circuit race
The one potential benefit of a lousy time trial is the chance for more freedom in the circuit race. Unfortunately, there were a lot of riders close in the overall so ThinkFinance needed to watch pretty much everyone. When Kenny Bellau (Herring Gas) geared up to attack into the headwind on the backside of the course on the first lap, I was already right behind him so I went with him to test the waters. We never got more than a few seconds before being reeled back in. This played out a few more times before it became clear by the end of the first lap that ThinkFinance was going to ride the front of the race at a fast pace to discourage attacks and then if anybody got away, just continue to average about 26-27mph until the break was reeled back in. This was a very effective strategy. When I went to position myself for the bonus sprint at the end of the third lap, I realized that there was no way to get around the ThinkFinance train. With all of the fighting for position happening behind the train, I realized that joining the ThinkFinance train and helping to work would be more effective than all the jostling/fighting for position behind. On the fourth lap, I worked my way up the left side waited for an opening and then surged the remaining few spots to pull alongside the ThinkFinance team leader, Colton Jarisch, who was riding behind the rest of his team plus Stephen Mire from Team LaS’port who was employing the same strategy to help keep his teammate Mat Davis second in the overall. I asked Colton if I could help work in his train – he said “sure” and let me in front of him. One of the smoothest trains I’ve been in, we rotated well for the remainder of the fourth lap and then all the way through the rough road on the fifth lap. Then, the pace wasn’t quite fast enough and several riders drilled it up the sides causing quite the reshuffling. I ended up a few spots behind the train, but it did make for some great video of the lead-up to the final sprint as I watched Mat and Colton positioning themselves a few riders ahead of me. I ended up on Mat’s wheel for a while trying to move back up. Then I made a big mistake of trying to come around Mat when it seemed like he was too far back. Mat went on to finish 2nd behind Colton (who completed a clean sweep of all the races), whereas I ended up 6th so I would have been better off just staying on Mat’s wheel. Andrew Hammond (Herring Gas) had a strong sprint to take 3rd – good view of the sprint in the video below.
Here’s all the data from my races, including the lap power data from Friday’s crit.
Friday night criterium 6th place, 1/2/3 Lap Time AvgPow MaxPow HR RPM MPH 1 1:37 316 790 157 90 26.4 2 1:33 259 941 166 82 27.2 3 1:28 324 971 171 87 28.6 4 1:27 322 808 177 90 28.8 5 1:31 257 854 175 83 27.9 6 1:31 328 745 169 86 28 7 1:30 272 972 177 85 28.4 8 1:28 266 643 172 84 28.9 9 1:34 308 983 169 82 27.4 10 1:30 280 978 177 85 28.2 11 1:30 355 920 180 85 28.5 12 1:37 251 981 173 80 26.1 13 1:30 271 773 175 84 28.3 14 1:29 282 901 171 83 28.6 15 1:34 246 755 170 83 27.3 16 1:28 271 590 171 85 29 17 1:28 271 689 174 85 29.2 18 1:25 393 1061 170 85 29.9 ($50 prime sprint) 19 1:34 270 719 179 86 27.3 20 1:33 267 742 170 85 27.5 21 1:33 242 797 167 83 27.1 22 1:31 262 838 166 81 28.2 23 1:27 318 907 171 87 29.4 24 1:33 275 652 178 82 27.4 25 1:33 242 837 169 82 27.5 26 1:30 349 669 176 88 28.4 27 1:31 302 713 180 86 27.7 28 1:31 256 615 177 85 27.6 29 1:32 247 628 169 87 27.7 30 1:32 270 834 164 86 27.4 31 1:32 280 822 168 84 28.1 32 1:34 262 769 174 81 26.7 33 1:33 282 754 174 86 27.7 34 1:32 285 815 171 85 27.6 35 1:33 249 680 173 86 27.6 36 1:30 279 702 175 85 28.4 37 1:32 288 821 172 87 27.5 38 1:29 288 959 180 83 28.4 39 1:23 382 915 186 83 30.7
Friday night criterium – heartrate zone summary
Friday night criterium – heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday morning road race – heartrate zone summary
Saturday morning road race – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Saturday time trial – heartrate zone summary.
Saturday time trial – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
Sunday morning circuit race – annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge)
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