Posts tagged ‘road race’
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.
Each year for the past 10+ years, Bill Seitz and his GSMR team have put on an excellent “kick-off-the-year” training series up in a rural valley near Gadsden at the Camp Sumataunga. I signed up to race all three races, but I forgot about a church program Analise and Josiah were going to be in for the 2nd race. I won the first race in a tight field sprint after numerous attacks from me and plenty of other riders all failed to produce a lasting break. Will Hibberts took the second race this year from a race-long break including Mark, Jacob Tubbs, and a few other strong guys that ended up setting the new course record fastest lap time. In the last race, Mark Fisher, AJ Meyer, and I got into a late race break with just one 10 mile lap left to go before the finishing climb. Then on the finishing climb (as you can see in the video below), Mark dropped me and AJ like a rock to win on the Chandler Mountain climb. I ended up holding on for 2nd with AJ just behind in third.
CHANDLER MOUNTAIN FINISHING CLIMB Dist: 1.00 mi (0:07:01) Climbing: 607 ft Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 348.5 602 W Aero 0 15.2 74 W Speed 5.3 8.6 14.9 mi/h Elev 136 467 745 ft Slope 0.2 11.03 18.4 % Caden 45 64.7 92 rpm HR 156 182.5 189 bpm NP:367W IF:1.24 TSS:18 VI:1.04 3/3/2013 4:43 PM 35 degF; 990 mbar
Saturday marked another great end of the season ride/race/party at the Tour de Cullman. The ride starts out as a motor-cycle led neutral social ride before we hit the start of the 18 mile race portion of the ride. It was fun meeting people and catching up on a year of bike racing. As you might imagine, the Lance Armstrong saga dominated a lot of the conversations going on during the ride.
Once we made it to Co Rd 26, the green flag was dropped and Philip Thompson set the early pace at the front. We got into a short rotation before making the left onto Co Rd 11 where the race really gets started with a steep 1K, 9% average 15% max wall. Boris lifted the pace at the front causing the group to explode. Only Stuart Lamp, Darrell O’Quinn, and I were able to keep up with Boris across the top.
Shortly before the next intersection, Stuart came off the pace. Darrell hung tough through the rollers before another surge by Boris saw the lead group whittled down to just me and him. We worked together well through the steep rollers heading downhill towards the Warrior River. But it was no holds barred once we turned right onto the final 4 mile skyball climb. We set a pretty good pace up the climb with not quite as strong a headwind this year. Then when we hit the always steep Fat Dunn road, I surged and Boris couldn’t quite hold my wheel. I turned on the gas even more as we hit the dirt and eventually extended that lead out to 1 minute by the end. I was able to get this video of Boris coming in for 2nd:
Here is my annotated power map:
And here are some more pics and videos from a great day of racing, riding, and having fun.
Quick summary – really tough race with attacks from the gun. I ended up initiating the race winning break about halfway through the first of three 25 mile laps coming across the top of the largest hill on the course. Initially, there were seven of us, but on that same hill 25 miles later on the next lap we were down to 6 riders. Then on the same hill 25 miles later, Serghei Tvetkov (Team Exergy) and Ruben Companioni (Team Coco’s) dropped the remaining four of us. We chased hard eventually losing one rider so it was Stephan Hirsch (706 Project), Jan Kolar (HomeSmart/L5Flyers), and me (Tria Cycling p/b DonohooAuto.com) to fight it out for the last step on the podium. Stephan came out on top for 3rd, and I was next for 4th just edging out Jan who took 5th.
The details – there were lots of attacks right from the gun which strung out the field and enabled me to move from my position towards the middle of the pack up to the front. I watched carefully and ended up in a couple moves. One really good looking move had both Team Coco’s riders and at least one UHC/706 rider. We had a gap and were absolutely drilling it but we just couldn’t extend our gap more than 20 seconds from a hard chasing field.
Still, we were away for quite a while so when we were caught, it was only a mile or two before we made it to the course’s big hill (0.4 miles at 5%). I had been in a lot of moves by this point in the race so I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any hard attacks on the hill. There weren’t. In fact, the pace was slow enough that as we made it towards the top of the steeper section I decided to attack – not expecting much, but knowing that last year this is where our break got away.
The attack worked, though, because we got a good gap with good team representation: Ruben Companioni (Team Coco’s), Stephan Hirsch (UHC/706 Project), Jan Kolar (HomeSmart/L5Flyers), Tim Reagan (Herring Gas), Serghei Tvetkov (Team Exergy), a rider in black kit I didn’t recognize, and me (Tria Cycling p/b DonohooAuto.com). We were flat out from that moment on. The field was chasing hard, but I think people were tired from the previous chase. So we very slowly pushed out our lead. By the end of the first lap, I believe we were up to about a minute. On the second lap, we were out to two minutes, and then by the start of the last lap we were about 4 minutes ahead.
We never let up and with the windy conditions it seemed like you were always getting hit by a crosswind or pushing it really hard with a tailwind. I never felt good so halfway through the last lap as we reached the hill I knew there was likely to be an attack but had already given up on it even before the attack happened! I was just focusing on trying not to get dropped. Serghei initiated the move and Ruben covered it with no problem. I was expecting Stephan to go with it too leaving Jan, me, and the other rider to chase – but he stayed back with us opting to wait until the top to really start chasing. I was cooked by this point and we tried to get a good rotation going but Stephan was clearly stronger than the rest of us – and I was wanting it to come down to a sprint for 3rd as I might be able to pull something together for the uphill finish.
As we came into the finish, Stephan was on the front with 500 meters to go when he pulled off. I went through next and decided to hit it as hard as I could on the uphill with about 400 meters to go. I didn’t get a gap, and Jan came around with 300 meters to go. Stephan came around Jan and then with about 100 meters to go I was able to repass Jan to take 4th.
I was COMPLETELY exhausted after the sprint. Not breathing well, not able to get enough air, not able to think straight, I found a tent where somebody had some ice cold water (THANKS!). Then I very, very slowly pedaled back up the hill to the car, cranked the AC up to maximum and sat there for a while trying to cool off before heading back to check the results and get my spare wheels from the follow vehicle.
Now it’s time to head out for the time trial – will probably have 110-115 miles total for the day after it’s all said and done. At this point I’m hoping to hit the TT hard enough to hold my 4th overall position. We’ll see how it goes!
If you are looking for positive happy go lucky race reports, then skip over this one.
Quick summary of results
Time Trial – 46th, 10 seconds slower than last year, disappointing.
Criterium – Big crash with no more free laps. Instead of immediately telling us there were no more free laps so that we could chase, the official ushered us over into the pit to tell us to wait until the end of the race so that we could race two additional laps to sort out placings from 28th place on. I don’t think this got communicated to the results people, though, because as far as I can tell none of the people from my group are listed in the results. Very disappointing.
Road Race – 7th, best finish ever at this race, but disappointing to cramp so badly on the final climb and not be able to fight for the win. Disappointing.
Omnium – 12th. Surprised as my only omnium points came in the road race.
The River Gorge road race is amazing – entering three states (TN, GA, and AL) – and traversing a wild topography consisting of deep canyons and steep mountains. Click to enlarge – annotated power data for the Sand Mountain climb
Road Race details
I’ve included today’s (Sunday) road race details first. We started at the Covenant Transport Center headquarters about 2 miles down the road from the normal start, so this shortened the race from 62 miles to just under 60 miles. I started at the very back. It took until the righthand turn onto the first hill of the day for me to move about halfway up the large pack. The hill was a bit slower pace than previous years, so everybody was still bunched up. I moved up some on the long gradual descent after the first KOM. When we hit the wider road heading towards the Tennesse River, I was able to move close to the front not too far behind the BMC train as they chased an early 6 or 7 man move that I never even saw get away I was so far back in the pack at the beginning.
BMC timed the catch perfectly at the bottom of the Sand Mountain climb. I had slipped a little ways back and started the climb about 20 riders from the front. I chased around a few people who opened gaps and then latched onto a large group led by two BMC riders. I was struggling to maintain a good rhythm but hung on all the way up until the 200 meters to go sign for the KOM. I was really cooked, but fortunately Ryan Sullivan (United Healthcare/706 Project) had also just come off the group, and he and I were able to work together to catch back up to the group (with Ryan doing most of the work as I barely hung on).
A few more riders caught up to us before the long descent back down to the Tennessee River making our group about 15-20 riders with all major teams represented. We were not a harmonious group as there was an attack or two across the top of the mountain, and even one attack at the top of the descent. I covered that one and made it back down to the Tennessee River just behind John Murphy (Kenda Pro Cycling) and one or two other riders. The others in the group caught back up quickly, and nobody seemed like they wanted to work so I attacked hoping to get things goings – but little did I know what a firestorm of attacks would ensue. Attack, chase, counter-attack, chase, counter-attack took us into the medium climb up off the Tennessee River. I looked back expecting to see the rest of our group closing fast, but they were gone. At this point, I knew this was the move but I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it over the climb with the group. I dug as deep as I could and made it.
There was maybe 7 or 8 of us. The attacking didn’t stop as John Murphy really wanted to get away. This ended up dropping two riders from our group to bring us down to 6 riders. John eventually got away twice. Both times Oscar Clark (UHC/706), Shawn Gravois (Globalbike), Ty Magner (BMC) and I worked together to bring him back, although the first time was before the stair-stepper cat 3 climb and Shawn did most of the work to bring John back. The second time, it was all four of us working together while John’s teammate, Robert Sweeting (Kenda) was able to get the free ride with his teammate up the road. We caught John right before the turn into the TVA area on a gradual hill. Immediately, Oscar put in a hard dig taking Shawn, Ty, and Robert with him – whereas John and I went straight out the back. I had bad cramps in my right leg. These cramps subsided fairly quickly so I hit it hard to catch back up to John and together we chased on the descent (hitting 58mph) back down to the TN river before the final climb up Raccoon Mountain.
John joined back up with the other four right as the road pitched up. I, on the other hand, started cramping again so I didn’t catch back on. As the climb steepened, both legs locked up and I had to coast to a stop up the hill, unclip, and wait for the cramps to subside. A few seconds later I was rolling again for another couple minutes. But right as I caught back up to John again, my leg locked up again and I had to coast to a stop again. This time after the cramp subsided, I was able to pick up the pace to catch and pass John. I thought for sure I had 5th place locked up, but 500 meters before the finish Tanner Putt (BMC) caught and passed me. A few seconds later Jake Rytlewski (Astella/ABD) came by, too. Jimmy Schurmann (Globalbike) was closing in fast when I hit the 200 meters to go sign. Fortunately, the grade had lessened enough that I was able to stand up and hit it hard to stay just in front of him to finish 7th.
In the group ahead, Oscar took the win, followed by Robert and Ty. Shawn was fourth, although he should some award for all the work he did on the step climb to bring back John the first time.
Road race heartrate summary
Time trial details
This year’s Pro/1/2 field was one of the best ever at River Gorge, which has always had a strong field. This year there were more than 60 pros and cat 1s plus an additional 30-40 cat 2s. I knew that I had no shot of getting into the top 10 in the time trial for omnium points, so technically it might make more sense for me to soft pedal the time trial to save up for the criterium. But what would be the fun in that? Plus, how could I compare to previous years?
So I got a good warm-up in riding to the start with my teammate Borris. We headed up to the top of Raccoon Mountain via the finishing climb of the road race at a nice easy pace. Packet pick-up, several back and forths across the part of the reservoir dam not being used for the TT course, and it was time for me to go. I started out easier than last year, but then hit it hard on the short climb. My power average ended up being about 5 watts lower than last year (358 watts vs 363 watts), and my speed was about 1/2 mile hour slower (10 seconds slower). Last year I raced Mercx style with no TT equipment, whereas this year I raced with clip-on tt bars, an aero helmet, and a front trispoke wheel. I can’t help but think that the extra baggage slowed me down more than it sped me up. Definitely going to race this time trial Mercx style next year for another comparison.
You know what, this race was so disappointing I don’t really want to relive it by writing it up. Instead, I’ll just say that I need to work on paying a little closer attention to when the free laps end before the start of the race. I thought it was 5 to go, but apparently they had announced 8 to go. I got caught up in a crash with 6 to go and thought we had one more lap to get back into the race. I have included the annotated heartrate data below.
Downtown Chattanooga heartrate summary
Annotated power map