Archive for April, 2009
Updated – Historic Roswell Criterium Report added at the end
Wow – what a rush! It is so hard to describe racing 80 laps of a 1k course lined with 30,000+ fans screaming from the rooftops of buildings, inches from your face on the corners, and on every square inch of the course. You could hear waves of noise as you rode past certain sections of the course. Cameras flashing constantly throughout the course, the smell of cigars, cigarettes, and beer permeating the start/finish area and the hill on the backside of the course. And last but not least — speed, pure speed.
I started at the very back of the 150 rider field because I couldn’t take off from work to make it over to Friday’s computrainer grid qualifying race. So I knew that my strategy for the race was simple — pass as many people as possible as quickly as possible and at all times possible. The wait on the start line was somewhat excruciating with at least 20 riders called up one at a time to the front row. A rider would be called up, a small gap would open up where the rider was, and there would be a surge in the group to fill the gap and move up — keep in mind that this is all *before* the start of the race. Finally, shortly before 9:30PM, the fog horn was blown and we were off. Zero to 20mph in about 10 pedal strokes, slam on the brakes to a near stop in Turn 1, a crash that takes out maybe 15 riders in Turn 2, and a quick decision to keep on going around on the inside — so up the hill on Washington Street going from 9mph to 25mph by the crest of the hill and 35mph heading through Turn 3 at the bottom of the hill, slam on the brakes again for Turn 4 and then accelerate up to 34mph again through the Start/Finish. That was Lap #1. Within the first 30 seconds of the race, my heart rate had gone from 112bpm to over 180bpm.
The “excitement” of Lap 2 was hitting a pothole right after Turn 4 and hearing/feeling/watching my bottle sail out of my back water bottle cage and under the wheel of the rider next to me. Fortunately, nobody went down – but that meant that I was down to two water bottles, the one in my front cage and the one in my jersey pocket.
I stuck to my strategy and passed people as often as I could. I found that the outside of the course was the best place to pass people. There always seemed to be a hole even if pretty small that you could squeeze through. Still by the end of the first 10 laps, I couldn’t believe how hard it was and as I passed through the Start/Finish line hearing the announcer say “Oh – these guys may never see the front of the race” and “Look at the damage being done back here…” I thought that it was going to be a challenge just to finish the race. The next 10 laps seemed to fly by though at 1’15″ per lap and before you know it we were 20 laps into the race exactly halfway to the halfway point (40 laps) of the 80 lap race.
By twenty laps, I had passed tons of people … but a lot of the people I passed were heading for an early exit out of the back of the group — so it still felt like I was near the back. Also, I could look up the road on the really fast laps and see the front of the group flying into a corner with all the other riders strung out behind in single file or two abreast and think “oh wow – it is still so far to get to the front of the group!”. I kept pushing though and there were a few laps were the group bunched up on the downhill going into Turn 3. I believe lots of people would sit up thinking that they could grab a few seconds of rest, but I knew that the benefit of passing people and getting closer to the front would far outweigh the few seconds of rest — so I would come out of the draft and surge by as many riders as I could on the outside as long as the hole stayed open.
By the halfway point of the race (40 laps), I had worked into the part of the field known as “the washing machine” about 40 riders or so back from the front of the group where riders are now battling for position not only to advance but also to keep from losing position. I kept on fighting to make it to the front though knowing that the safest, easiest place is as close to the front as possible. Finally, by lap 60 I had worked my way to just a few riders from the front of the group. A break of 5 riders had established itself with a 20 second gap on the field. On the climb up Washington Hill, I saw a rider attack on the leftside of the group so I drilled it as hard as I could to latch on thinking in my head that I was just pulling the field up — but I looked back and saw that we had a good 3-5 second gap and that the group was spread out. So I hung on for dear life as we took Turn 3 at 36 mph, managed to pull through at the Start/Finish line and then sat on for a lap as our break had swelled to 8 people and we were closing in on the break of 5 in front of us. I managed to pull through one more time before we caught the break with about 10 laps to go. Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman) attacked and only Mark Hekman and Heath Blackgrove (who won the Mississippi Gran Prix that we raced last weekend) responded. I was gassed and desperate for someone else to take up the chase, but nobody did and so our break only lasted a few more laps before getting swallowed by the field with 6 laps to go.
I fought hard to stay as close to the front as possible and managed to finish 27th in the race. I was ecstatic to not only have finished, but also to finish “in the money” (top 30 spots), and to have been a factor in the final outcome of the largest, fastest crit in the country!
- Lap 1 crash in Turn 2 – accelerate from 9mph to 25mph by the top of Washington Hill
- Altitude – each peak on this orange line is the top of Washington Hill and so you can use it to count the laps in the race. You’ll see that there are 80 of them!!! The reason for the gradual decline is that the barometric pressure must have been rising during the early part of the race (which would make my Garmin think that the elevation was getting lower and lower)
- Notice the gradual decline in my heart rate — direct evidence of how the race is easier the closer you get to the front of the field
- Here is the late race breakaway that I made it into.
Historic Roswell Criterium Report
With 150 riders again lining up for the start in Roswell, I knew that the race was going to be fast. I managed to finish 38th in the race, but I somehow blew very good positioning at the front of the pack with about 10 laps to go to wind up so far back in the sprint. This race course is a bit more technical than Twilight with a few narrower streets, steeper hills, and some sharper corners. I again had a pretty poor starting position near the back of the back, but managed to work my way up to the front with about 10 laps to go. The hardest part about this course is that the pack usually bunches up on the course’s main downhill — and it is very easy to lose 15 positions if there is a surge around the side of the pack. Your best bet is to be very vigilant and aggressive on this course. I’m still learning and can’t wait until Saturday’s race in Anniston and Sandy Springs on Sunday — vigilant and aggressive.
I am very excited to be heading over to Athens, GA to kick off the USA Crits Speedweek tomorrow. Tomorrow night at 9PM, I will be racing for nearly 50 miles in front of 30,000+ screaming fans with an average speed of close to 30mph. It is without a doubt the most exciting race of the year. Check out this video describing the race that was filmed at last year’s race that includes highlights of the race:
Also Velonews has a really nice write-up about the 2009 Athens Twilight criterium.
Sunday’s race is the Historic Roswell Criterium in Roswell, GA and will feature mostly the same competitors, a great crowd, and a challenging course with a little bit more climbing. Then the racing continues throughout the week, but since I still have a day job that I love (teaching at Samford University), I will be missing all of those races and then picking back up for the last race of the series next Sunday – the Sandy Springs Classic. Also, I am looking forward to racing next Saturday in Alabama’s only nationally ranked race – the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston. Hope everyone can make it out to the races!
The Mississippi Gran Prix is awesome. Next year, I am for sure bringing the family down to watch the race, participate in the Friday activities, and watch the racing which is fast, aggressive, and exciting! Here is an edited version of the race report I sent out to my team.
Friday night crit – fast, fast, fast! There were one or two laps that felt like the night pro race in Athens Twilight. Turn 2 was downhill off-chamber onto a small street so the whiplash effect was pretty bad in the back of the group. The key was working to stay towards the front and then finding a good place to pass people if you found yourself sliding back. For me, the place to pass people was on the front straightaway going into Turn 1 on the outside so I was able to stay near the front for most of the race. I flatted right when the winning break got away. The sprint was super fast, and I thought I had good positioning but I could only manage 13th in the field sprint for 16th in the race.
Saturday road race – lots of attacks on the hilly course — 3 twenty-five+ mile laps for a very fast 77 miles. On the first lap, there were a bunch of attacks and we spent a lot of time strung out. My teammate Wes worked his way into the day’s major breakaway towards the end of the first lap. They stayed away for a long time (maybe 20 miles?) and were caught about 3/4 of the way through the second lap. A Hotel San Jose rider and a VW Metro rider (the two strongest teams in the race) attacked on the climb with 4k to go to the end of the second lap. I attacked hard to try to bridge and made it about 1/3 of the way to them when I decided that Myogenesis, Herring Gas, S3 Racing, Tristar/Warp9, and Memphis Motorwerks had all missed the move and would eventually chase it down — so why expend the energy to finish the bridge.
Well, 20 miles later I was regretting my decision as the pack had still not caught the breakaway with only 5 miles left to go in the race even though we had reduced the gap to maybe 20 seconds. That’s when my teammate Mike Lackey put in an awesome move with two Myogenesis riders in a bridge attempt. The field sat up letting Mike’s move get a 5-10 second gap, but then the pace picked up again. I was sitting fourth or fifth wheel at the bottom of the climb with 4k to go when I saw two Hotel San Jose riders drill it. I hopped right on and went as hard as I could to hold their wheel up the climb. Only Mike Olheiser (Warp9 Bikes), a VW Metro rider, and an S3 rider were able to keep the pace and by the top of the climb we had caught and passed Mike’s move and had a 10-15 second gap on the field that had eased up with most of the major teams represented in our breakaway. Mike Olheiser drove the move after the Hotel San Jose riders pulled off, and I held on to his wheel to make sure I didn’t get dropped.
On the final hill to the finish, the VW metro rider attacked with 500 meters to go and I rode his wheel to a 5th place finish as we caught the breakaway right on the finish line. The time gap to the main field was 19 seconds. Sammy rocked a killer sprint to take the field sprint for 10th place. Darryl and Stuart got tangled up when another rider swerved into them as they wound things up for the start of the sprint. They both went down, but Darryl took the brunt of the fall with nasty looking gashes all over his arm and back. Since the crash happened with less than 3k to go, they were both awarded the same time as the field.
For the road race, I was VERY pleased with how well everyone on the team did in this race — at one point I think I was sitting maybe 20th wheel and ALL of our team was in front of me and I never once felt like I was alone at the front of the race trying to cover everything. Instead, I got to cover a few moves and let everyone take their turn covering moves. It was perfect teamwork!
Saturday time trial – harder than last year. I think it was because there was a slight headwind, and the road race was much harder this year. I went as hard as I could but still sucked. My teammates Wes and Darryl rode good rides finishing 8:34 and 8:35 respectively moving them into the top 20 on GC.
Sunday circuit race – way faster than last year. I think a number of teams wanted to blow this race apart today, but it also seemed like they didn’t want to commit to a breakaway. It was a weird strategy that led to a very fast race with less than half of the starters finishing the race. A cold downpour while we were all lined up waiting on the start line was not a very promising sign for the race — but the sun came out on the first lap and the streets were dry by the fourth or fifth lap. Those first laps were sketchy though, and I was very glad to have gotten a good start and stayed in the top 10 riders for pretty much the whole race. The race really broke up with the hot spot time bonus prime at the halfway point of the race. I was sitting maybe 10th wheel going up the hill for the sprint and carried a lot of momentum through the line so when I saw a Myogenesis rider attack right after the sprint, I went right with him. We were joined by a Hotel San Jose and VW Metro rider and I thought that it was the perfect break as the field sat up and we instantly had a 5 second gap. Well, unfortunately, only the Myogenesis rider and I would work so the move only lasted a lap.
When we got caught, there was a bunch of attacks and the pace stayed really high. I was still feeling really good so I covered the next two or three break attempts. Then I wasn’t feeling so good and yet another break attempt went up the road and my teammate Darryl covered it perfectly. I got a nice rest for a few laps but still fought to stay as close to the front as possible. With two laps to go, I got run completely off the road on Turn 4 about three feet into the grassy field next to the road but I was carrying enough momentum to ride back onto the gravel and then onto the road at the parking lot side entrance. I lost about 10-15 positions BUT fortunately the pack sat up as an attack had just gotten caught. I had already been hitting it as hard as possible to get back up to speed so I kept right on going and attacked to move into 5th wheel at the back of the Hotel San Jose leadout train that had just formed and had just started to put it into turbo mode. The last lap was so fast that nobody attacked until the tailwind section on the back side of the course going into the last 90 degree corner when a VW Metro rider took a solo flyer up the right side. This caused a bit of panic in the San Jose leadout train and they ramped up the speed even higher which meant that nobody was going to surge around on that downhill before the hill to the finish. I started my sprint right at the bottom of the downhill and passed two or three guys before the start of the climb – then I was carrying enough momentum to pass a couple more guys across the top putting me into sixth place for the race.
The rest of the Tria Market / DonohooAuto crew had an exciting day — Stuart hung on to the very end when he got caught up behind one of the crashes and finished just off the back of the field sprint. Mike got ran off the road once and flatted twice before calling it a day (pulled by the officials) near the end of the race. Wes, Darryl, Brandon, and Sammy fought to stay in as long as possible but each eventually succumbed to the whiplash effect, and aggressive riding of a very aggressive field. Good learning experience, good training, good stepping stone for continuing to build a very strong team!!!
Here is all my heartrate data from the four races, as well as a topocreator.com map of the road race and time trial courses:
- Covering a break
- Flat tire near the start/finish line
- Moving into position for the final sprint
- Covering a break on the 4k to go hill at the end of the first lap
- Solo bridge attempt on the 4k to go hill at the end of the second lap
- Making it into the final breakaway which launched on the 4k to go hill
- Going out too hard?
- The gradual dip in the heartrate through the middle of the course means that my legs were giving out before my aerobic system
- Covering a break
- Making it into the four-man breakaway right after the halfway sprint
- Solo attack (I was hoping somebody else would join me)
- Getting run off the road
Affectionately called “Tuesday Worlds”, these rides exist all over the country. I remember from my days at Clemson University the Donaldson Center Tuesday World’s. When we were particularly crazy, my teammates and I would ride from Clemson to the start of the ride (about 50 miles), and then ride the intense training race (about 50 miles) for a nice 100 mile workout! Gone are those days, and I am happy to report that Birmingham, Alabama has an awesome Tuesday world’s. The route can vary slightly from week to week, but the typical route is pictured above. Over 2200′ of climbing are packed into the 30 mile course and there are three distinct sprint lines. The first is the bridge on John Rodgers drive, which comes at the bottom of a long gradual descent after a short steep climb. The second is the top of the Karl Daly climb (the highest point on the course). The last is the “traffic light ahead” sign at the end of Old Leeds road.
Well – enough thinking about it, I am off to go ride it!
Wow – it is not every day that you get a chance to race your bike on a spectacular speedway normally reserved for cars and motorcycles going well over 150mph! My top speed for the day was just over 40mph, but that was fast enough to make the podium of the Pro/1/2/3 race.
It is also not every day that you get to ride your bike from home to the start of a race. With the race start only 20 miles from my house down a very popular cycling road, I couldn’t resist leaving the house at 7AM to ride Sicard Hollow / Rex Lake road to the Barbers Motorsports park for the Masters 30+ race at 8:30AM. I made it to the front entrance just after 8 and around to the registration area, up the stairs to the registration desk right at 8:15 and was the last official person to register for the race! I ran into my college cycling teammate and friend, Bert Hull (check out his new Warp 9 bikes and components!!!) who graciously pinned on my number. I made it down the stairs and onto the track in time to do one warm-up lap and then the start of the race! Kristine and the kids drove out to make it just after the start of the race to cheer me on.
The Masters 30+ field was very strong with about 30 riders and constant attacks. I covered a lot and launched one or two of my own. It all came back together when Travis Sherman (Warp 9) and Terry Duran’s (Citigroup) late race attack got brought back with half a lap to go. I found myself on Terry Duran’s wheel going into the sprint, but when I pulled out to come around him I just couldn’t quite get on top of the sprint to do it and managed to get passed by two other people in the process! It was still very close with a photo finish separating all of us in the top 4. Terry Duran was the winner, and he deserved it as he was riding super strong. A pixel-width (maybe 1 mm) separated him from Will Hibberts (Alabama Masters/Bob’s Bikes). Check out the amazing photo finish on the ride to live website:
After the race, I cruised home at a very easy relaxing speed taking almost an hour and 15 minutes to ride the 20 miles back home while Kristine and the kids drove down to Highland Lakes for our church easter egg hunt. I spent a relaxing day working on topocreator.com and then at about 2:45, we loaded up the kids’ bikes and my bike to head back to the track for my second race – the Pro/1/2/3 race.
Here’s my race report that I sent out to the team:
We had a strong contingent of six riders lining up at the start of the P/1/2/3 race. Lots of riders in the race with probably close to 60 guys. Team Type I had three strong riders. Hincapie Development had a squad. Tristar/Warp9 had a lot of riders, too. Our pre-race strategy was to cover moves early and then be aggressive in the second half of the race. Sounded perfect to me since I had raced earlier in the day in the Masters 30+ race. Everybody rode strong covering moves. Every time I saw somebody launch off the front and then one of us cover it – I thought to myself “I sure love having a team strong enough to be in every break!” I only covered maybe one or two moves and bridged across to Ty in one of his many break attempts. On the last lap, I worked my way to the front and hopped onto the back of the Team Type I train but then realized that would push Sammy one farther spot back so I decided he would be better off on the back of their train and I would go for it on the last hill. I attacked hard and got a good gap on the field except for Darrell O’Quinn who saw the jump and got right on my wheel. I drilled it as hard as I could not knowing at the time that Darrell was on my wheel. I kept waiting for the sprint to come around, but it only ended up being Joe who saw the move and left his leadout train to bridge across and then take the victory and Darrell coming around me at the end. So I came in third with Sammy winning the rest of the field sprint for fourth. Lennie and Stuart made it into the top 20 with Darryl attacking a lot and making it into a lot of breaks – but the field was reeling everything in. Jacob survived the beatdown!
I’m still trying to get used to the Garmin Edge 705 features and every now and then I think that Start/Stop will take me to the next Lap even though there is a nice button labeled “Lap”. So suffice it to say that I managed to record my HR data for the ride to the race and my HR data for the ride home from the race, but I exactly missed my Masters 30+ race data!!! Grrr. But I did get it straight for the P/1/2/3 race, so here is my HR data for the afternoon race:
- I attacked here to bridge to a break with Ty Stanfield (Kenda Pro Cycling)
- Here is my attack on the last hill, look at the spike in my heart rate. Amazing what adrenaline of the moment will do!!!