Thursday, December 30, 2010

The façade of immortality crumbles

I’ve pontificated before on this blog about the spectre of death and my children’s conciousness. My wife and I sidestepped (a nice way of saying changed or lied about) death in several Bible stories read to our eldest. But what started a week ago as sighting a dead bird has snowballed in my daughter’s mind to questions of human mortality. “Who will care for my stuffed animals when I die?"

The event is more beautiful and horrifying than I anticipated. With death on the horizon we live life more ardently but seeing the mind opened to The Fall is enough to make one tremble. I encounter news of tragedy every day, however it’s a slow harvest of bad news (most of the time). For the first time vistas of pain and suffering are now clear to my daughter. Everything tragic introduced at once: all things decay and die. 3 weeks ago all animals were happy and likely people’s ages were fairly static for her. The world has changed. I’m sure she doesn’t fully comprehend our collective mortality (do any of us?), but real fear is evident.

My beautiful wife briefly explained the narrative of redemptive history to my daughter when she started asking questions about death. I thank God that my daughter was not in a daycare when these questions surfaced. I struggle imagining what response she’d hear or what uncomfortable brush-off she would receive. Label: morbid child.

As a coincidence (is there such a thing?) we’ve recently started reading a pericope or two a night in the gospel accounts. With each reading the Gospel is explained in part and the wife and I pray for this little one to take hold of it.

Chesterton pointed out that the attraction of children’s stories lies in the secret magic behind the ordinary. “These every-day beans grow a stalk tall enough to reach the giant’s castle.” OR: “At the stroke of midnight the carriage and men will return to a pumpkin and mice.” But there IS magic behind the ordinary (see: post-synapse protiens resistent to change). And so as terrifying as is death stalking us, her eyes will grow to see the beauty of this fallen world, still laden with magic…a man and woman reached for an apple and destroyed the world. The Man took Adam’s place dying on a tree, but lives.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Random Post-Christmas Stuff

*Read this very sad blog post by Druber today. His dad has had 5 M.I.’s (heart attacks) now?! What’s worse is the foolishness of the folks from his dad’s church – in my own town! I know people at this church and I have a hard time understanding the thinking as relayed by Druber: people seeking miraculous healing from God eschewing proper medical treatment. Granted, modern medicine doesn’t get it right every time but it does get things right a great deal of the time! Further, miraculous healings happen, but they are not the normal course of events. Consider in the Bible how often miraculous things happen. Perhaps while reading it will seem like something amazing happens on every page, and it does! However, that history involves millions of people over thousands of years. Sorry folks, but the normal course of things (in an athiest or thiest universe) is for infrequent miraculous occurances. The worst part of all is how Druber describes his own departure from some kind of Christian faith as a result of this well-meaning but foolish miracle seeking on the part of others. I think I would make the same decision: If this is what you guys are about, I’m out! People want signs and wisdom but they need Christ. An interesting aside is how athiest Druber attended more Christmas services than I did this year. Maybe I’m just being too cynical about all this and need to reread George Mueller’s bio? Not sure, but Druber’s attitude is quite a good example despite exceedingly difficult times.

*I’ve recently discovered’s “What’s New” blog. It is delightful. Literati with bike snobbery? My kind of people.

*My good friend The Dude started blogging again. I told him a few months ago that I deleted his blog from my reader because he never posts. What does he start doing? Posting again. Ha! Although I shouldn’t be too hard on him, he’s probably just experienceing some slight jurisprudence withdrawl or maybe outright shock.

*The wife read me an article from the latest New Yorker on the “Jevon’s Paradox” during our drive to Indiana. Fabulous stuff (in a sense; the article). Thinking about the piece during the drive and subsequent trainer rides there I see the problem as twofold. First, human nature is inherently sinful. We are engines of consumption. As a result efficiency gains through technology will only be leveraged to acquire and use more (- this is the “paradox” -) rather than use less. Our hunger will not be sated by getting what we are already used to – with less cost. Therefore I think Jevon’s paradox (this facet of economics) is a consequence of total depravity (theology/psychology). We can’t stop – we always want more more more, because we were made for God and we want to put other things in his place while nothing else will do. When thinking about it this way, it shouldn’t be that surprising a conclusion. Secondly, Jevon’s paradox underscores the fatal flaw of the cult of technology. (…still I love technology!) It is the belief that we can solve all of our problems by simply pressing forward into future technological advances. Of course our current problems are largely produced by our technology and the processes of procurement and advancement.

*The life of Steve Tilford is worth following.

*I’m pretty excited about the 2011 road season. I got a good bit of base riding in over the Christmas week without doing permanent damage to my marriage. Unfortunately I also ate my weight in chocolate, pastry, and meat. One step forward, two steps back.

*Read this after seeing the link on aomin. For the record – there is a universe of difference between A) “We don’t know, therefore God.” and B) “We see this is awesome, therefore God.” Don’t confuse the 2!

*WANT. Also, check out the sweet euro-van towards the end of this post here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ABD Sunrise Park CX & Campton CX 2010

Monday morning I rise with a slow burn. I’m not sure what it is, but after a bike race it seems your body is intent on continually burning fuel, producing an elevated temperature for some time. Is it an immuno-defense mechanism? The body rebuilding and repairing? Not sure, but it’s cycling’s afterglow.

The last two weekends I’ve raced cyclocross in Chicagoland. Here’s how it went (in agonizing detail):

Sunday (10/24/10) the wife dropped me off in Bartlett, IL to race the ABD Sunrise Park Cyclocross Race. This was the sixth stop on the Chicago Cross Cup circuit. It was my first race in the Chicago series and my fourth cross race ever. For all intents and purposes, I’m counting this as my first “official” CX race. My first three races were done in soccer shoes, in 2008, so the jump to clipless pedals in 2010 was only surpassed by the use of tubular cross tires. Oh my, how those things are magic. After training on the Kenda small block eight clinchers, the Challenge Grifo tubulars are heavenly. Bumps are suppressed yet you have more traction and better control. No pinch flats. Glorious. Forget about fancy frames and such; put your money into a tubular wheelset. Single biggest equipment benefit in CX (according to this novice!).

The Course and Conditions:
Overcast with intermittent drizzle. Temps in the high 60’s for most of the day. Not quite proper cross weather, but good enough. A fair amount of wind (10+ mph) was gusting over the course and made the “power sections” well, that much more power intensive.

The Field:
73 (according to results) guys and gals lined up for the 4A’s and 4B’s. The A’s had 2/3 guys who looked like racers, while the 4B’s had about 1/3 that looked like racers. I’m not making judgments here - everybody should be there - it’s just an observation.

The 4(Z)A race:
Starting from the third row (we lined up 30 minutes prior to the race, just silly!) I witnessed a crash in the first 100 meters. I rode over a guy’s rear wheel (not a Zipp, and by accident) as he went down right in front of me. It was bedlam. My teammate (who handily won the 1/2/3’s!) told me I took the first corner outside of the top 35. I jumped out of every corner and booked it through the straight-aways, working my way up to the top 10 by the start of the second lap. At this point I was competing with the guys who got call-ups. A little gassed from the efforts so far, (cat 2 teammate) Razzle Dazzle/Jason goaded me to move up and keep it smooth. I really appreciated it. Perhaps my calling out splits and encouragement helped him earlier? Well, I kept jumping during the straight-aways and while my back was tightening up pretty bad I worked my way into third place. I couldn’t shake the 14 yr old (Lombardo of Verdigris) off my wheel and when I washed out the front on an off camber 180, the kid took leave of me. I got back to his wheel once or twice but he was much better technically and I was running out of steam. I bled one more spot before the final twists and turns leading into “heckle hill” where I was promptly reminded from the bullhorn of my cat 3 road compatriot (and cat 2 crosser) Jason Knauff (Burnham) that I was beaten by a junior. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, I’m sure! Crossed the line in 5th a little disappointed at missing the podium when it was within reach. I still had a blast. It is so good to be back racing after coaching soccer.

The 4B(aggin’) Race:
After washing down a hammer gel I jumped in the grid for the 4B race. Seeing how I had to drive 3 hrs to get there, I was not leaving after 30 minutes of fun – and besides, it still says 4 on my license for CX. (Guilty conscience?)

I felt kind of bad hoping in there but I thought that the previous race would tire me and we’re all out there to have fun anyway, right? Well, I stopped feeling ashamed when CAT 4B CALLUPS started. Guys that take series result callups in the 4Bs? That is shameful. Now the guys in costume or the guy that youtubed his post race hurling from his helmet cam – those guys should get the 4B callup. Anyway, when I see homeslice on a full carbon Ridley/SRAM Force/Carbon tubie setup getting called to the front row of the killer Bs, I don’t feel so bad about beating him.

No start gate crashing in the B’s, and coming around the first turn in 20-30 something I worked my way up to start the second lap in 1st place. I attacked into the wind on the open stretch before the pit and opened the gap up to about 1:16 by the end of the 3 lap race. Disgusting? Perhaps. But not as disgusting as the hot dog, donut hole, and twizzler I consumed during the race via “Heckle Hill Handups.” It seems the 4B’s race is always a spectacle. Granted I was ridiculed as a dirty rotten sandbagger by a couple dozen folks, it was still worth it. But I won’t do it again. Regardless, between the 2 races I got an hour of racing in, and that’s why I came out. 1 hr of going hard, learning how to drive my bike, and all of it great fun.

(10/31/10) First Cat 3 Race:
Costumes got a callup since it was halloween. I wrapped myself in the lamest costume ever perpetrated on a cross race: white shorts, white base layer, 50 cotton balls taped to the front of the baselayer, black arm-warmers, white helmet w/ 2 black paper triangles taped to the sides. What was I? I was going for “lamb” but I would tell everyone that I was a wolf – in sheep’s clothing. Cue: groan.

The field looked much faster than the 4’s, mainly because they were. Guys that have been eating my lunch on the road all year were lined up around me - I was a little nervous.

I rode hard and got into the top ten on the first lap, even passing Whipple (Tati) and Luke (xXx-Athletico) [who had enough breath to yell “sandbagger” as I passed!]. But like most cross races I was all “fly then die” and by the second lap I needed a tourniquet I was bleeding spots so badly. Goodbye top 10 - it’s been great. There were countless passes and repasses, miny duels that make CX unique in cycling. (Perhaps some track events are like this? I don’t know.) I crashed once, in traffic, during the off-camber heckler packed section. Needless to say I was appropriately mocked. Rob (Psimet) laid it on heavy throughout. I’m pretty sure he heckles because he loves us.

By the end of the race I finished 12th out of 50 some riders, my back cooked and my mouth parched from the smoke. Did I really expect to line it up with the 1/2/3’s in an hour and have anything to put to the pedals?

(10/31/10) First 1/2/3’s Race:
Warming up I caught a chat with Liam (xXx-Athletico) and then introduced myself to Barry (Kona). Both are nice guys. Both are faster than me. I asked for tips since it was one of my first CX races, Wicks’ words: “go fast and have fun.” Good advice indeed. I was looking for barrier hopping tips or something bike-ninja-esque, but “go fast and have fun” seem like things I should strive for out there.

Since there were only 26 of us in the race it wasn’t too hectic at the start and while my goals coming in were: 1) don’t get lapped and 2) don’t get pulled, when the whistle blew I forgot about those goals and cranked on it. I even worked my way into the top ten I think, passing Jason (Burnham) after a bit of braggadocio between us. But per the usual, the blood loss began until I was even passed by a triathlete. Oh the shame! We dueled for at least a lap where one or the other would take the lead. Eventually I blew myself up and drifted backwards.

Bryan (ReCycling), a cat 1 on the road then caught me – but not before calling out: “I’m reeling you in!” I said something like: “you’re a cat 1!” while sprinting out of each corner. Who knows what I actually said as I was pretty crosseyed at that point. He passed me after a barrier and opened up a gap. On the last lap there was a technical section (4 or 5 off camber up and down the hill-side deals) that I rode better and better as the race went on. Bryan had to dismount and run them and I heard him yell: “I left the door open!” Forget the technical misstep, those words were his chief error! My confidence soared and I ignored the pain in my lower back, standing to close the distance. I caught him on a climbing section and took him on the inside of a 180 (something a MTBer did to me in the 3’s race earlier!). We headed downhill, left, into a super-technical 180. The surfaces changed from grass to pavement to sand+rock to grass then to loose gravel. Oh, and the sandy/rock part was a bridge over a creek. Yeah – scary pour moi. Surface changes are not my bag and this one was always a really slow corner for me. Bryan didn’t accelerate around me coming out of the previous 180 since the downhill was kind of a “recovery section.” Knowing this I got in front and moved him to the left side while coasting. Since we had to enter the turn from the right he was “pinned” where I wanted him and I could rest before swinging out to make the turn. It’s a small thing, but I’m pretty proud of it. I guess you had to be there. I survived the turn and held him off to the finish.

Another interesting (to me, ha!) point of the race was following Barry Wicks (Kona) for a bit. Barry’s bike was acting up and the single speed he was killing us on kept droping the chain. When the chain was on, he would ride away from me instantly. Then I would pass him while he was stopped on the side fixing it. Anyway, entering the “single track” wooded section, he was blocked by slower riders in front. This gave me the opportunity to take his wheel and see how the section aught to be ridden. The realm of the possible expanded. The first thing I saw was the whoop-de-doo after entering the single track. If you went over it in the standard way you came out aimed at a tree on the right and had to brake or hope you didn’t slide out banking hard left. Barry made the line straight by ramping over the much higher dirt pile/vegitation on the left, something nobody else was doing (based on the absense of tracks, etc), maybe caught some air, and carried way more speed through the section. It was smashing. I copied his line thenceforth. I also saw how he rode the roots, finding clean lines when during the entirety of the 3’s race I was convinced there weren’t any. Again: copy cat. Afterwards the wooded section was one of my fastest – something I didn’t realize until I was stuck behind 2 other riders thinking: c’mon grandma, let’s go! I even passed a guy on the whoop-de-doo taking the high side!

I finished 14th of 26, beating PRO road racer Alex (Team Type 1) and PRO Barry Wicks. To be fair to Barry, his bike did most of the beating. But lest you think it’s Kona’s fault, my Kona didn’t drop any chains. Woot.


The last two Sundays of racing were awesome. The events are extremely enjoyable (both the races and the people) and they were great workouts. If I can just figure out how to push through the back pain some more I might be able to hold position better (is the answer to buy a Stevens carbon frameset? Lol). Currently I’m nursing my war wounds, but I hope to get back out there asap. I can’t wait to get to the next CX race.

Special thanks go to Nick Dornick who continues to lend me his front EA70X tubular with Grifo. It is perfect bro! Thanks also to my wife for letting me play bikes!

Hup Hup!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THF Realty Gateway Cup (2010 - cat 3's!)

Driving back from St. Louis I was grinning ear to ear and blowing kisses to my wife. She had supported me through a hectic end of the road season, and it was quite a fun way to close it out. I’ll spare all of the gory detail that I’ve been dishing out in these race reports, and instead hit the highlights.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Lafayette Square (Day 1)

The cat 3’s went off at dusk, and finished in darkness. To say it was scary is an understatement. It was stoopid. Stoopid fun, but stoopid. The course was a flat box with hundreds of fans along the outside - great atmosphere – just in need of some more light!

Bryan from Sound Pony countered a move on the last lap and we let him get a gap. He won by a good 5 bike lengths. I took 2nd in the field sprint for my first (legit) cat 3 podium. I was very happy with the result.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – St. Louis Hills (Day 2)

Another wide open 4 corner crit, this one with a little rise after the start/finish and the corresponding drop on the backside. Breaks were attempted but none succeeded. The peloton’s penchant for entering corners 9 abreast continued. I think this race equaled the scary factor of Lafayette Square solely because in the dark, one was ignorant of much of the foolishness going on. In the daylight however, it was harrowing.

I spent too much time on the front (tried a couple breaks) and did not put myself in proper position at the end. Coming into the final corner a rider on the inside slid out and tagged my rear wheel on his tangential journey to the curb. I stayed up and still sprinted for 12th (payout was to 15), so I was glad to get money even if it wasn’t as stellar as the day before. I do believe there were 6 crashes in the last 8 corners of the race. We were trapped in a b-list horror flick: “Whew, we survived that chainsaw guy!” (Ominous music…) “Ah, there’s a guy in a hockey mask!”  You get the idea.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Giro della Montagna, a.k.a. The Hill (Day 3)

This course was pretty cool and felt as european as any race I’ve participated in so far. The Italian neighborhood has been hosting this shindig for 25 years now, and there was plenty of beer, wine, and gelato floating around the place. Very good times.

The rectangle went up a small rise, 1 block over, then back down and around. The 3’s continued to log jam the corners on the inside, I’m pretty sure I actually heard an accordian playing throughout the race. The hill was pretty tough as we had a headwind on it, so we would usually be strung out for 3/4 ths of it, but the front rider(s) would tire and the bunch/swarm/cluster would begin.

With 3 to go, Ryan (Soundpony) attacked in a bid to stay away. Given that his teamate beat us all with the same schtick (and Ryan himself had finished 2nd and 5th previously during the weekend), nobody was letting him go. The result though was that the field was strung out, which was perfect for that point in the race for me to keep a top 20 position. In the melee to stay at the front, the wheel I was on was slowing as the pack surged up the left side. Homeboy in front of me was letting a gap open and there was about 3/4ths of a handlebar open to his left, so I snuck my bars in there and pushed the guy right with my forearm on his hip. I couldn’t believe I did it, and that at speed. It was a highlight of the weekend.

Coming around the final corner, Nick Hand said I was sitting in 30th position. I think I may have been a little farther forward, but regardless, with 500 meters to go, it was a long sprint to the line. I opened it up next to Nick Ramirez (Burnham) and moved up the right side passing a lot of people with flames coming off them. There was room on the left side and guys were boxed in up the middle, so I changed lines and powered along the barriers, throwing at the line. I hit 40.9 mph in the process, and nabbed 6th place by millimeters. As I went through the start finish I could tell I was going much faster than most of the guys at that point and I heard the announcer exclaim something as I came through – I have to think it was his surprise at the scorching finish. ;)
As always the lesson for this lazy sprinter is to move up! While I’m pleased with another top 10, I had more coulda-woulda-shoulda as far as positioning entering the sprint.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Benton Park (Day 4)

Day 4. At this point, I’m pretty tired. The kids are tired. The wife is tired. But at Gateway, they saved the best for last, a big (1.7 mi) figure ‘8’ with a chicane tossed in on one of the legs - by far the best course although NOT the best pavement. It was the demilitarized zone between the Koreas! Every turn had potholes galore. Here’s just one example:

TURN 1: cresting a little rise, the ideal line for this 2 lane left hander was up the right side, which was obscured by a 1.5x4 foot patch of cut pavement that was filled in with GRAVEL. There was a manhole at the apex of the turn, but before you got there you had to slice across through 2 “lumps” in the pavement (the variety that are caused by heavy trucks driving in the same ruts thousands of times). It was rear wheel skippin heaven.
Oh, and if you botched any of the 10 turns per lap, you were looking at a 9 inch cement curb in all but a few locations. It was harry, but fun.
Everyone was thinking the same thing: great course, tired legs, lots of turns – maybe a break will stick today? Well, many tried and only one succeeded. I think I had my head down the entire first 35 minutes. The group was nice and strung out which meant the turns were safer and faster, while I assume attacks were going off the front. I sat in about 1/3 of the way back, looking up to spy Newt (Ritte Racing), Nick (Burnham), and Bry-Ry the Soundponys in the 10-15 range, basically, where I should have been.

On the last lap I was moving up from the 20’s or 30’s and took the last corner nice and hot. Trey (Dogfish) – the Mavic Xellium shod 200+lb sprinter – opened a gap on me at the start of the sprint and I knew I was done. That guy goes fast on flat/downhill sectors! I dug deep anyway and passed several folks up the right side, throwing at the line for 10th. I thought I had 8th but it was too little too late.

I still need to move up! I know how, it’s just getting myself to burn the matches at that point that is hard. That tipping point of pushing oneself into the red, yet not blowing up is a fine art. The powertap doesn’t really help in those situations as the adrenaline is flowing and you push through the limits you thought you had in training. I haven’t had a look at the tap data just yet, but I’m excited to see what the legs put out in this super fun weekend of racing. No doubt these will be early season benchmarks for 2011.


With the road season now officially shut down, I’m excited about coaching soccer (it’s in full swing!) and hopeful I’ll make it out to a CX race or 2. With my strong finish to the season, I’m only more excited about next year. Equally great is how Nick Hand and Mike Rickey raced this weekend. Always in the mix, at the front, animating the races and mixing it up in the sprints – they are going to be strong 3’s. I think we’ll have a pretty good squad that will function well as a team.

One final note – with all the racing in the past month (and training!) I’ve been pretty hard on my body and equipment. I’ve been using Enzo’s ButtonHole Chamois Cream during this end of the season run (since the Glencoe Grand Prix) and I do not have a single saddle sore, etc. I like that a lot.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lincoln Trail State Park RR

Cliff’s Notes:

5 guys were in the 54 mile cat 3 road race. I finished 3rd. I crashed once, but am ok. The end.

War and Peace:

On Saturday I packed up the fam and bike and headed over to Marshall, IL for the Lincoln Trail State Park RR. The cat 3 edition was 12 laps of a 4.5 mile loop (54 miles total) on mostly wooded, rolling, twisty, state park road. Great course, great conditions. Each lap featured 4 kickers in the 5-10 second range, and the start/finish was set up after a mile of rollers trending upward from the lowest point on the course. With all the twists and turns you couldn’t see much more than 75 meters in front of you for most of the laps. Like I said, great course.

The field was 5 deep. Yup, 5 cat 3’s dragged themselves out of bed (at 11:10) to line it up. 2 guys from Dogfish (black jerseys) and 2 guys from IN Hand Center (white jerseys) went up against your’s truly. I had hoped that the field would be larger and more diverse but all year I’ve been racing in fields with numbers dominated by xXx and Burnham, so naturally - I was at home. I’m used to getting tag-teamed every Saturday morning.

A collective smirk was shared at the intensity of the send-off and the fact that with 50+ miles remaining, nobody was attacking at the gun. After an anticlimactic “Go!” and some softpedaling from our group, Dogfish and IN Hand began trading pulls. Later on the first lap, an IN Hand rider yelled at me to take a pull while a Dogfish grumbled about “being out here all day.” I laughed and retorted that “everyone had a teamate but me” and “there is no good reason for me to pull right now.” IN Hand repeated to me that I “should be pulling” and I said that if they want to go faster, they are more than welcome to. “If you want to drop me, then drop me” I shared. So he attacked. And that was the way it was going to be. Everyone was fresh so we watched each other and I rejected the notion that I would pull guys who had me outnumbered 2 to 1. This isn’t earth-shattering stuff, it’s bike racing 101.

Coming into the end of the 3rd (or 4th?) lap, John (IN Hand) was pulling on the rollers and I was sitting 2nd wheel. John was struggling a bit as he had done some work so far and launched a few attacks at our little love fest. His teamate attacked up the last climb, launching himself for the $25 prime on offer (he had won the previous prime, too). One of the Dogfish riders (we’ll call him Dave, but I’m not sure of his name) followed to contest it. Realizing the opportunity this offered I hit the gas too, not to contest the prime, but to try and drop John. I bridged up to the 2 off the front and went over the top holding a high pace. I kept the gas on for several minutes before yelling at the Dogfish to pull through. It had worked. The 3 of us rotated through and we were 1 IN Hand Center rider fewer. Now if I could only get Dogfish to continue pulling while I relaxed, I could try to drop both of them. Scott (unsure of name - IN Hand Center) was sitting in, and had no reason to work, what with the hope that his teamate would catch back on. We kept the rotation up for 3 laps, keeping the tempo between 23 and 26, so with each pull the likelihood of John rejoining was smaller and smaller. I felt really good during this section and noticed that I was taking longer and harder pulls than the Dogfish. [Read: you’re a darn fool, Frenchy!]

With 7 laps in the books (or was it on the 7th lap?) I decided enough was enough and stopped pulling. This angered the Dogfish, and the cooperation and steady pace we had enjoyed ended. We went back to Dogfish relay attacking, which was fine, although tiring. Which was the entire point. Generally, I was forcing Scott (IN Hand) to chase down the Dogfish flyers first, and then following his wheel. Obviously he wasn’t interested in doing the lion’s share so at one point, called my bluff, letting a gap open. Dave had a decent gap and realizing the opportunity, kicked it up a knotch to tempt us with 4.5 laps to go. I realized I had made a mistake as now both riders on my wheel had disinsentives to chase. Brian (Dogfish) wouldn’t chase his teamate, and Scott (IN Hand) could say he was waiting for his dropped mate. I was in a pickle. So I pulled. Once Scott saw I took a long hard pull, he pulled through, but not as long and not as hard. Ufh. Just before the rollers I ramped up the pace to close the last 30 meters to Dave and therein made my second tactical mistake. I should have attacked. Dave had been off the front for several miles, and since we had to actually work to catch him, he was probably the weakest of the bunch at that moment. I should have attacked hard through the rollers to try to shed him. Alas, I grabbed his wheel and we slowed down. [Read: c’mon Frenchy, work!]

We were now back to Dogfish relay attacking and being a little tired from all the chasing found myself with Brian and Scott up the road a bit with me sitting on Dave’s (a Dogfish) wheel. I tried talking Dave into chasing his teamate. Explained at length how tired I was from chasing him, but he was having none of it. So of course I sprinted as hard as I could to open a gap on him and went over the top of Scott and Brian off the front. I had a gap on all 3 and they were strung out themselves, not working together but struggling to get on terms individually. And here I made my third mistake – on a kicker I let up after seeing that everyone was intent on chasing hard. I should have kept it going for another couple minutes (even at a lower intensity) in order to shed someone or significantly weaken the other riders. As it was, I only tuckered myself out. Stoopid!

Sitting up in the group Dogfish attacked again (a good move) and I found myself back with Brian (the other Dogfish) with IN Hand up the road. Same situation, and I had let a gap open up. This time I didn’t know if I had the sprint to close the gap again, and it was clear from the pace that the guys up the road were digging deep. I jumped during the longest flat section after a significant gap had opened, in an effort to shed Brian the Dogfish. Unfortunately, while churning in my 53x11, at 34mph, I closed my eyes for a split second (this was not the course for such things!) and put my rear wheel into the gravel shoulder. The next second I exercised some kind of ninja insticts of which I was heretofore unaware – I bunnyhopped out of the gravel at 30+ mph, stabilizing myself in the roadway on my front wheel. During the process I had torqued my right shift hood inwards and unclipped with my left foot. Surprisingly I didn’t soil myself. I really did think I was going to go into the gaurdrail to my right and die. Needless to say, as I regained composure (and Brian caught me and shared that he thought I had certainly cheated death) I lost momentum and after taking the next corner, saw the 200 meter gap to the leaders grow. Now into the rollers I was not ready to power ahead at 400 watts for 2 minutes to make the catch. Surprisingly, neither was Brian. He didn’t try to jump me on the hills and get up the road solo. I assume he was either too tired to do so or too timid, thinking I would be able to follow. Regardless, this was his first mistake. I kept the pace as high as I could for the next mile and would catch glimpses of the leaders before they disappeared into the trees but I didn’t have it in me to reel them in and I certainly didn’t want to get too close only to have Brian bridge and drop me.

My pace slowed considerably at this point and Brian just sucked wheel – as he should. With just over 3 laps remaining, I was not too chipper about the situation. I resolved to recover and outsprint him at the line, so I pulled at 18 mph. The gap to the leaders ballooned out to over 3 minutes by the finish. What I didn’t know (but REALLY wish I did) was that up the road Scott (IN Hand) had started cramping and fallen off the pace of Dogfish. I have to think that had I known that fact I could have mustered Brian to chase with me and we would have been racing for second and not third. Alas, the fans were either too ignorant or unwilling to share this critical info. Here was my fourth mistake. Keeping a higher pace might have meant that we would have caught him, but I didn’t want to present Brian with an opportunity to attack me – there’s the rub.

Entering the last lap, my dear wife (who was not giving us splits!) made a bid for wife of the year as she approached the road (unbidden!) with a fresh bidon. We had discussed the possibility of a feed earlier, and we even practiced handing off a bottle in the parking lot (once), but she executed it to perfection and I now had fresh water in 90 deg. heat. Bless you woman. On top of that my (nearly) 3 year old yelled out a “Go Daddy Go!” reinvigorating my tired carcass. Brian asked me if that was my kid and we began a brief over-the-shoulder chat about our kids. It was while looking back at him (not the time for such things!) that I departed the roadway for the ditch. I kept it up through it and on the return trip back to the roadway caught a rut and fell over at about 12 mph. Scratched up, I was pissed. How could I have let this happen? Brian, in a class gesture, waited for me as I loosened up my rear brake to avoid the rim strike on the whobbly wheel. After a minute of righting myself, I went back to pulling.

With 2 miles remaining I upped the pace a little to speed the end of this march to the line. Coming into the rollers Brian attacked up the left side and began to swerve back and forth across the roadway in an effort to drop me. I held his wheel and he found himself in the unenviable possition of leading me out in a match sprint. While I have ZERO track experience I think I’m pretty good at this kind of thing. He made several mistakes (that I will not elucidate here – in hopes that others will perpetuate them) and I jumped him with about 200 meters to go and won by a bike or 2. I threw at the line just in case, nabbing my first podium finish in a cat 3 race.

Not winning in such a small field was rather humbling considering I’m on the best form of the year. While I “trained through” this race, the power numbers I’ve seen in the last week are quite good (for me). It goes to show me that I need to be more subtle in the tactical department and wiser before I begin winning races at this level.

I can’t believe you read all that. Next up is the Gateway Cup, which serves as the end of my road season.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Winfield Criterium (Cat 3, ABR Criterium National Championships) OR The Coulda Woulda Shoulda

On Saturday the family celebrated my maternal grandfather’s 80th birthday. Good times. We stayed the night in the Chicago suburbs which afforded me more time with my siblings and parents, as well as an opportunity to race in Winfield on Sunday.

The Stone Pony was in attendance for the master’s race and gave me the scoop on the course. In a rare move he told me this circuit was tailor-made, and that the way I’ve been riding in the local slugfests, I should do well. I certainly appreciate the encouragement from a racer of Dave’s stature. The man is half horse. (He handily won his master’s race.) I did tell him about my training and “poor” prep for the race, but he brushed it off – “you’ve got 2 good days in your legs.”

The weather was fair, temps were warm but it’s August and we’re all used to the heat by now. The course was a 4 corner crit, with wide corners. The back side had a block-long two-tiered kicker, followed by a rough “descent” into a smooth wide left hander, with 500 meters or so to the finish. I liked the course. Breaks were a possibility, but if it came to a bunch kick, there was plenty of room to sort things out on perfect tarmac.

The field was small with 18-20 of us lining up in the cat 3’s. Burnham and Psimet had 2 riders, while Tower had 3 or 4 and ABD fielded 4 or 5 I think. The rest were solo guys like me. There was definite quality in the field as Tim (Psimet), Nate (Burnham), and Kyle (Tower) were racing. I got to catch up with Keith (unattached) during the warm-up, which was nice.

The legs were a little stiff during my warm-up as I had ridden hard Saturday morning (both pushing a big gear and doing my first “micro-burst” workout). I hadn’t originally planned on this race, but when the opportunity came, of course I jumped at it. The legs started coming around but I still felt “slow.” The race kicked off and Ben (Powerbar) went off the front on an early glory-flyer that wasn’t getting away. He stayed off for a lap or three, but everyone silently agreed: if we let him dangle, he’ll be done for the day. We caught him and he tried again, but soon after he was recovering in the pack for the duration.

I stayed in the top 5 wheels most of the time and waited for other guys to close gaps, conserving energy. I noticed I wasn’t breathing hard and most of the time I was breathing through my nose. A good sign. In the second half of the race more moves went but unrepresented riders and teams pulled them back. Nothing too dangerous got more than 50 meters.

With 7 laps to go (or thereabout) Kyle (Tower), Tim (Psimet), an ABD, and one or two others (maybe Chris (xXx)?) got off the front with a little gap. They started rotating through and I thought the move might have the impetus to stay away, so I jumped at the start-finish and bridged up without any hangers-on. Sadly, by the time we came over the kicker the field had caught us. Coming back down the finishing straight, I recall mentioning to Nate: “so glad I just bridged to that!” In retrospect, I wasn’t hurting too bad as I was chatting up my competition. Nate’s been injured and after the stunning form he had earlier this summer, I think he’s ready to hang up the bike for 2010. Not that it’s been a bad year – winning the cat 3 state crit champs and all. He didn’t look too hot at the time though and just gave me a nod.

Soon after I saw we were looking at 5 to go. Being in the top 5 or 6 wheels, I was happy with my position, and tried to keep attentive to moves coming up the sides. The pace started to hot up a bit and ending the fourth lap, I fumbled a bottle while coming into turn 2. I got it in and made the turn but opened a gap to the rider in front. I hammered for a second to close the gap and noticed the front end bounce with each pedal stroke, the type of motion you would expect on a mountain bike with no front shock lockout. Hmmm. It didn’t register at the time; I was only interested in closing the gap. Into the kicker I stood and maintained my position as the field was lined out. Coming around the left hand bend at the top of the hill it felt as though my front rim was locked against my brake pad – “what is going on?” - I thought. I look down to see the front tire deflated. I was incensed. There was sailor talk – and I don’t mean “talk like a pirate day” type sailor talk. Raising my hand I pull out of line and begin to slow. I took the corner to the inside (sorry guys!) and slowly pedaled to the pit. It had just closed. The official asked me for my number while I said I had a front flat. He asked me again. I showed him my back and walked off the course. My race was over.

The next time through, Tim and Kyle had a 200m+ gap on the field, entering the (next to?) final lap. I cheered for them despite the sting of fresh legs. Coming into the finish it looked as though Tim attacked on the climb or opened the sprint up really early trying to shell Kyle, but Kyle jumped him with 175 meters to go and Tim sat up exhausted. It was an earned victory for sure as Kyle had attempted a few moves earlier in the race.

Sitting in the land of would-have-beens I have no doubt that without the flat, I had a podium spot. Nobody likes the jerk who opines that he would have won had the mechanical/spectator/teammate/meteorological event not taken place – but I find I AM THAT GUY right now. I strongly think I would have won. How annoying. But I didn’t. Kyle did. I clapped for him, and later shook his hand in congratulations while honestly meaning it. I’m not sure if my 3-year old will remember this or not, but I have to think she got a lesson in how to lose. I hope that at some point I could, you know, change it up a little and show her how to win, too.

On the drive home I was reliving the race in my head, imagining sprinting with Kyle and Tim head-to-head (to head) in the finale that wasn’t. My wife would notice that I gripped the wheel intensely for a moment, and know that I was thinking through the critical moments of the race. My mind also wandered back to the Tour of Hermann. Not for comfort (I won an omnium – yeah!) but to remember Dave Stone in the criterium. The man had the field by the balls. It was his race. He jumped for an omnium points prime from the breakaway and made it look effortless. Nobody could respond. But on the last lap we watched him limp in last in the breakaway with a flat tire, ceding the omnium overall in the process. That’s bike racing.

P.S. I have a set of Ritchey WCS Protocols for sale for $75. The front wheel has gone flat on me in 2 races this year and I hereby consider it accursed. It is leaving the stable never to return. I’m sure it will carry you to dozens of solo victories though, so contact me, this wheelset is for you and priced to move!

P.P.S. Avg HR during the race: 158. That hurts, and not from being too high.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Glencoe Grand Prix Race Report

I wasn’t originally going to write a race report for the Glencoe Grand Prix, as my result was lackluster, and really, how many reports can you read about pack finishes? But, it is a personal/family blog, so here goes – another “my story.”
After 2 weeks in Phx for work (with weekend breaks for cycling in AZ and NM) I had been off of training for some time. Regardless, my goals (The Gateway Cup) remain the same for the late season, so I knew I needed to kickstart my training for this finish to the season. Glencoe was lined up as a competitive crit to gauge my fitness before beginning a block of intervals. Though I always think of raising my hands while crossing the line (it’s only happened once!) I knew it was a big ask given the circumstances. I was not a little intimidated to see the usual suspects at the start: what seem like a dozen burnham and xXx riders together plotting the demise of the pack. To see (Big) John Whipple (Tati) my friendly nemisis this season (though the competitive vibe is definitely one-way, as he continually beat me) cat’d up to the 2’s was a bit sad. Alas, I was hoping to have a(nother) crack at him at Hillsboro next spring and I highly doubt I’ll be rolling with the P/1/2 field come April.

The Glencoe course was a tight 10-corner route through a depressed neighborhood. If by depressed you mean $600K+ homes. To futher illustrate what I mean, I will only add that our pace-car (which I didn’t see very much), was a Jag. Tough times these.

We got underway and immediately I noticed 2 things: 1) after taking a racing hiatus since the Peoria Cycling Classic in late June, I was not used to such close quarters on all sides; and 2) everyone was braking about twice as much as I expected for the turns. It was as if we were trapped in a cat 5 race for the day. The funny thing about these observations are their seeming contradiction – usually someone unused to racing brakes too much into corners. What can I say? I’m a paradox.

The race was cruising at a good pace and I was content to sit in the bunch. I complained to Newt (Ritte v. Vlaanderen) about the braking and he probably told me to get a life. Attenuated by the wind, my complaining and his responses went unrecognized so I think we’re still friends. Newt finds himself singled out since he is one of the few “too cool for school” cat 3’s who is willing to chat with his competitors. And I am always up for chatting (unless recently, completely, sploded). The legs didn’t feel too bad, but I wasn’t going to start going for primes or probing attacks, mind you. I couldn’t afford to crack in that heat over the next 30 min. Regardless, there were some who did feel the “good sensations” and I watched a Flatlandia go and a xXx’er follow. Turns out, that was the winning move. I recall whining to Newt later on that “they had 30 seconds.” Like a papa-bear he gently demurred that we were both racing solo, and it was up to teams not represented in the break to bring it back. “You’re right” I thought, but the laps ticked by.

I stayed on Newt’s wheel for a while but when I woke from a short nap I found myself 20 riders back of him with 5 laps to go. My plans had unravelled. Moving up was difficult on the narrow streets, and was exacerbated by the field’s penchant to grab fistfulls of break into every corner, followed by a low grade sprint back up to speed. (Really though, I likes crit racing!) Entering the final 2 laps I just told myself to look for opportunities to move up and grabbed a few spots during the kicker of a hill on the back side. Entering the final lap I was too far back to fight for a significant placing, but I thought I might be able to get in the money (que the “lowered expectations” themesong). Going into the 1st corner, the wheel I was on belonged to a young man who decided the pavement would be a better kisser than any podium girl and promptly “ate it” after touching shoulders with the gentleman to his right. I am very glad I did not crash, however, I was not pleased with losing several spots and scrubbing a lot of speed in the process. You can see the crash on the left side of the screen at timestamp 10:34 in this youtube video.
Yelling (while sprinting) “way to keep it up!” at the guy ahead of me, I worked myself back into some kind of a draft and REALLY started looking for opportunities to move up. Obviously everyone (and their [insert cliché family member]) was looking for the same at this point. However, I sprinted up the kicker (while everone else was also keen to move up) and grabbed a couple of spots. I then kept the gas on through the false flat and surprisingly kept picking guys off. I was delighted to find this moment also captured in this video @ 12:16. In a way I felt my lackluster finish was somehow better, seeing as how I was fighting at the end, and I had the legs to move up.
Coming around the last corner I sprinted for a middling place (I know, I know, sprinting while out of the money, in my case 4 spots out of the money, is lame, foolish, and dangerous), moving up another 3 or 4 riders. However, I wasn’t sure how many riders were ahead so, while keeping it safe, I gave it a go.

This race was a reality check for me. Regardless of what the powermeter says, how do I match up in a big crit similar to what I’m targeting in September? The good news was that 1) I didn’t have a terrible day (getting dropped or crashing) and the fitness was alright; 2) I was able to move up, even during the last lap, which is usually hotly contested and 3) I genuinely enjoyed myself while racing, though there were moments (like the split second before the dude crashed in front of me) where I thought I would have been better off on a couch somewhere. The bad news (or critique, if you will) was that 1) I was waaaayyy out of position with 5 to go; 2) my fitness was NOT there to go off the front with the winners* (and trust me, there ARE winners and losers here – myself being the latter.); 3) I spent a lot of money to race bikes on the day without much to show for it. Oh well, that’s bike racing.

*Though I wonder about this point. With all the accelerations at the corners, I wonder how much less effort I would have used in the top 5 or off the front in a small break? Perhaps someday I’ll have the guts and legs to try it.

Tour of the Gila Recon Notes

After 2 weeks of long hours in Phoenix, I took off for Silver City, NM intent on riding the Tour of the Gila course. The drive from Phx to Silver City was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t the most boring 5hrs I’ve spent in a car (thank you Western KS!) but it was up there. That is of course, until you start to climb upwards west of Tucson. It gets pretty real quick if you enjoy mountains. The drive from Lordsburg, NM to Silver is quite picturesque, cresting the continental divide.

I linked up with Chris at the Mimbres Café (closes at 8:30 on Friday night, so plan your reveling accordingly) after downing a veggie sandwich. My avocado consumption skyrocketed during this trip, and all those (healthy) fats surely came back to get me in the hills.

For those of you who haven’t met him, NYChris is an affable young man. He is mature beyond his years and strikes me as a truly thoughtful person. I appreciated his hospitality for the weekend.

Chris led me from the café to the place he’s been house-sitting for the summer. After a few single-lane bridge crossings on gravel back roads, we pulled in front of this little house. Sliding around these mountain roads in the dark, I won’t deny that the thought occurred to me that this was all a set-up for a pistol to the face and an emptying of my admittedly meager wallet. Instead I was invited into this (off the grid) fine home and shown the separate guest bedroom/art studio where I could crash for the next 2 days. With minimal light pollution, the national forest, and a nearby creek as the backdrop – even in the dark - the place was beautiful.

We chatted for a while then headed to bed as the group would leave from Silver City early the next morning.

Gila Monster Stage (~79 miles, serves as the final stage of the TotG)
On Saturday I rode with Chris and some local guys (3 young Navajo XC runners turned cyclists – I have more body fat than the three of them combined). We set off from downtown Silver City to ride the “inner loop” counter –clockwise, which is the course used during the Gila Monster stage (final day) at the TotG. Starting altitude was just under 6000ft.

The route opens with rollers of the sort you can expect in southern IL or Missouri. The descent into the Mimbres area (on 180 or 152, I can’t quite recall) serves as the decisive climb on the inner loop road race stage (stage 2) as it is almost the same course, but run clockwise. Descending was fantastic as the views were stunning and the speed was pegged at 40+mph into a headwind. I jumped once or twice to get past the other guys, and while there were turns, the pavement was good and road broad. Coming back up the climb would be quite difficult and serves to form the selection in most races on the clockwise route. NYChris expects the climb to eliminate all but the top 10-20 riders in the fields, with the rollers on the run-in to Silver serving to separate the top 10.

Turning north into the town of Mimbres, the race sees some flats and should be protected from the wind. Scenery remains beautiful. There are a few rollers and shorter climbs before you pass the “Breathe Inn” and are faced with the big climb of the Gila Monster stage – [insert name here]. At this point we were in our third hour of riding and I was starting to really feel it. The lower slopes of the climb are the steepest, and the switchbacks see grades above 13%. Usually, I don’t get too worked up about grades since in the midwest it’s going to end in the next 5 minutes. It doesn’t in NM. It keeps dishing it out. I cracked pretty early and finished the climb in 24 minutes. (For reference, the top cat 3’s summit it in just under 17 minutes. NYChris did it in 20, while the climbers – Dustin, Marcus, and Kempton - uncorked times between 17 and 18:30. Of note, I popped really badly and was turning over a 39x26 @ 50rpm, showing the world a measly 215W. So, to give an idea, if you absolutely explode and there is no life left in your legs, you won’t do much worse than 24 or 25 minutes. ) The climb itself is beautiful and the pavement isn’t too bad going up. Coming down the other way, however, one should use prodigious amounts of caution. Several of the switchbacks do not have guardrails, and while you may get lucky and stop yourself on a tree, if you go off road here you may be going off a cliff. Don’t schleck. I didn’t actually do the decent (though my time suggested I did), but studying the road at 6mph, it’s safe to ride, but be very cautious. I would not be surprised if I gifted 1-2 minutes to competitors on the decent to preserve my life. Frankly, I think there is enough road left on the stage that you can get that time back. (Someone may prove me wrong!) Also, as you’d expect, you’ll want to be towards the front going into the decent. Descending 3 abreast would not be cool.

After topping out, your legs get a little reprieve but the climbing isn’t done yet. There are several more climbs in the 5-10% range. Just before the finish, a 10-15% ramp welcomes you home. It wasn’t too hard (more of a sprinter’s hill) but at the end of the day, it could produce seconds-wide gaps.
The route takes you over 7000ft, so any ability to get to Silver a day or so early will benefit your body.

Chris and the guys were gracious to this fat flatlander and waited for me repeatedly in the final hour(s) of the ride. Even more gracious was their humoring of my belly-aching (I haven’t slept for 2 weeks, I’m not acclimated to this altitude, I’m fat, I’m slow, I’m I’m I’m…etc). It’s been a long time since I’ve been the first one dropped on a group ride, so the day went down as a big piece of humble pie. Regardless, even on a good day, I would have been put into difficulty on the major climb of the route. I have a lot of work to do before next April!

After getting back to Silver (by descending the 1000ft+ over 7 miles from Pinos Altos) we grabbed burritos and checked out the Gila Hike & Bike. Wherever we went, Chris was greeted warmly by a different cyclist. It seems like a cool scene.

Mogollon Climb (~38 miles, 77 miles from Silver to the Mog serves as stage 1 of the TotG)
After my terrible climbing the day before and my upcoming 5 hr drive back to Phoenix, we decided to shorten this stage a little. Starting from a scenic overlook near Cliff, NM we rode north on 180 through Glenwood, turning right (and up!) to climb the hors catagorie Mogollon.

The start of the stage in Silver is followed by a “neutral” climb out of town that is equivalent to the opening climb of the Tour of Hermann RR route (yeah, ouch). I would put it at a 5 minute climb (guessing, we drove it). Just a little something to warm up the legs! With just a few rollers from there, you enter the flattest racing you’ll see during the stage race. The next 50 miles are pretty darn flat. Winds will play a factor here, but there is some cover from nearby hills. I wouldn’t be surprised to see echelons form if a stiff crosswind presents itself. Near the town of Cliff, you’ll enter some rollers. These rollers are tough. They are long and shallow enough that maintaining momentum up them is a challenge. They aren’t really “rollers” but “slowers.”
The town of Glenwood is quickly followed by the second feed zone (on an incline during which I didn’t want to remove my hands from the bars!). A couple miles later, you hang a right over a cattle guard to enter the Mogollon climb. After a false flat, the climb begins for 2 miles at 8-11%. I felt good through this section and thought perhaps I would put the hurt on NYChris. We crested that section together and entered a 1.5-2 mile false flat. After the 10% sections on the lower slopes, it felt like we were riding downhill. This might be a place to go over the top of the group if there isn’t any wind, and test the other racer’s legs. Most people will be conserving every thought and watt for the punishment ahead. Once the road kicks up on the upper slopes, it doesn’t relent, save a 3% section, until you hit the cattle guard at the finish line. The climb was awesome from a cyclotouring perspective: great views, constantly wrapping around the mountain. However, racing it will be quite difficult. With about a mile to go I gave up the ghost as the lactic burn was too much. The right side of the road is marked for 1 mile, 500m, and 200m remaining. At 500m, stand up and finish like Cadel in the 2009 World Championships, cuz you shouldn’t leave with anything in the tank. Chris beat me to the line by a good 30 seconds on the day (hey, I’ll take it over 4 minutes the day before! So we think he was on a bad day, and I was getting a little better). Because of this climb, I would recommend having at least a 39x26 on the bike. If you are a spinner, consider compact gearing. You may not need it if you’re a grinder, but it’s nice to have while trying to keep the cadence up out of the 50-60 range. The upper slopes average 11% I think. The fact that the cat 3 RRs all extend beyond 70 miles means you’re not going to have your best 1 hour power on the climb.

The climb wasn’t “that bad” for me; compared to the day before it was easier. Perhaps it was the shorter run-up to the climb, a good night’s sleep, and/or my body beginning to adapt to the altitude (not likely) but we rolled fairly quickly up this climb (10+mph on the lower slopes, and 8+mph on the upper slopes). At the tail end of a 70 mile RR, I can’t see going much faster up the climb without significant fitness/acclimation improvements. But, as I mentioned, I wasn’t having a good weekend on the bike (from a performance standpoint).

The road is very narrow, and there was some fallen rock and wash across the road. Descending (after the race) is a little sketchy through these sectors (especially with other racers coming up), so frequently scrubbing speed is recommended.

There are some logistics to work through regarding the return trip on this stage of the race. Chris and I discussed leaving a “team car” at the base of the climb, and having us all pile into it for the return to Silver. The race organization has a bus that takes guys back, but I would want to have my post race stuff (recovery drink, change of clothes, etc) available instantly, and dictate my own schedule. Something to think about.

After shedding the jackets we donned for the decent, we rode through Glenwood and the rollers to our launch point at Logan’s Lookout (or some such thing). I will say that one of the highlights of the weekend was putting NYChris into difficulty during this stretch. I took my longest and strongest pulls of the weekend through here. It’s a bit sad, that at the end of the trip I was starting to show some legs. After he had laid the smackdown on me all weekend long, the shorter, steep kickers suited my high-power/short duration efforts. Hooray for midwestern crit racing.

After packing up the bikes we drove the 50 miles back into town and perused the crit course again.

Crit Course Recon (day 4 of the TotG):
Chris and I drove the crit course two (2) times, and it looks like a really nice circuit in downtown Silver City. Pavement wasn’t too bad (check back after the winter!) and the turns seemed reasonable. There were 2 turns where the pack will have to squeeze from 2 lanes down to 1, and I’m sure those will get interesting. Also, there are 2 short kickers on the course which will tire the legs as the race unfolds. Not sure as to the history of breakaways on the course, but I could see a break sticking if teammates are blocking and the will of GC hopefuls is broken. The final corner is a good 400 meters from the finish, so the winner will be top 5 out of the last corner, maybe top 10, depending on everyone’s sprinting legs if it comes down to a bunch.

TT Course Recon (day 3 of the TotG):
Coming into town on Hwy 90 from Tyrone, I was hoping to find a fast and flat TT course. I kept looking but didn’t see one. Instead I found long rollers and constant climbing and descending. I think I will probably forgo any TT accoutrements beyond a helmet, as this route is all about going up and down quickly.

The road cycling scene there is not the largest, but it is quite friendly and competitive. I think a spring training camp in Arizona and New Mexico would be ideal for midwestern racers. The Tucson and Phoenix areas have (thousands of) riders ramping up in fall and spring for races, so group rides in Jan. and Feb. would be pretty good riding for early season training to bring the intensity up. If anyone reading this is interested in going down there early on in 2011 (Jan/Feb/March), please contact me. I’ve been in PHX and Tucson frequently in the past 2 years for work and as a result I’ve collected a list of group rides and made friends with many a racing cyclist. I’ve been to dozens of bike shops and I’ve ridden the local routes. Furthermore, NYChris has said he’d be happy to join in the fun and tour the AZ-NM routes. In fact, Chris and I discussed the possibility of a no-frills cyclotouring operation down there. Let’s just say, there’s a reason all the pros relocate to Tucson during the winter. :)

For those of you who are interested in joining me at the TotG in 2011, feel free to email me specific questions regarding route/altitude/equipment/etc. If I can’t answer it, I’ll forward it on to Chris, who did the 4/5 race last year and intends on upgrading to do the 3’s race next year.

Thoughts on Idiocracy OR “Brawno’s got what plants crave!”

[Whoa, haven't updated the blog in a long time, so here's some old posts that have been in the que. Probably need editing, but oh well.]

The wife and I watched Idiocracy this weekend on the recommendation of a friend. I was skeptical (with adequate warnings
of silliness), but as it is a Mike Judge film (Office Space) I thought I’d give it a go. It was difficult to watch (with little to no
dialogue), but we made it through. Before I get to my thoughts I must say a word about social commentary and farce.

Anyone who watches Idiocracy realizes one of the goals of the film is to be silly and make people laugh. However, the film
is a social commentary, and therefore deserves critical thought about its statements and apparent goals. The danger here is
to take too seriously that which was not seriously intended. But this puts commentators in an awkward position to criticism
themselves – not unlike Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. You see, Brown offered in his preface that the facts of the story
were well researched and implied that his distortion of Biblical textual history was correct, though it was presented in a fictive
form. Anyone who critiqued the claims in the text was lambasted as “taking a novel too seriously.” I’m sure something similar
could be said about this silly little blog entry; however the film did make (“an assload” – to adopt the parlance of the film - of)
statements about society and civilization, though they were through a silly medium.

Briefly, the plot is centered on a dystopian future wherein stupid people out-reproduce intelligent people. Without checks on
this process for 500 years, culture is reduced to a farting buttocks on screen for 90 minutes (the acclaimed film Ass), language
is reduced to catch phrases and grunts, and the American consumerist mentality is taken to its glutinous extreme: lard-suckling
corpulent masses and trash mountains overwhelming the landscape. Into this depressing milieu an average sluggard from our era
is inserted via an Army experiment neglected (not without a few laughs proffered by glamorizing illegal prostitution in the US –
a cruel modern slave trade).

The film presents an atheistic future. I’m not sure if this is intentional or just the product of the writer’s/producer’s worldview,
but the 26th century is a world without God. More surprisingly, it is a world without religion. The only cult is the cult of
personality, as “President Camacho’s” image is plastered everywhere and celebrity recognition exists for “Beef Supreme” (a
correctional department officer, and the new nick-name of my pudgy 5-month old son) and “Hormel Chavez” (the star of the
hit sitcom – “Ow, my balls!”.) I find this particularly fascinating as the old canard of “religion is for the ignorant/stupid” and
the use of god-myths as a means of explaining the mysterious aspects of reality, seems best suited to this fictitious age. I can
only assume that this has been forgotten by the film-makers and thus as gods are not on their minds, gods do not feature in the
future. The universality of death, one would think, would retain supernatural explanations in the consciousness of any society,
whether you think such things are correct or not. And while on the subject of death, it is interesting that while guns and phallic
battle cars – both clearly designed to kill – are invoked, I can only recall one person dying on screen in the film. Even the one
fatality I can recall (wherein a convict is run over by a Zamboni-style lawn mower/execution device) seemed disassociated
from death as 1) his actual death was obscured by the machine and non-descript “parts” were ejected from the mower and 2) his
death was presented in a comedic/entertainment format (a lá The Running Man.) In sum the execution seemed rather “clean”
considering the rest of the film’s filth. Regardless, a teenage “live forever” mentality appears present in the film, perhaps as
another consequence of the “hormone amped idiot teenage patriarchy” back-story that got humanity into the situation in the first
place. The atheistic vision was quite stark though, similar to the film Castaway.

Beside the atheistic future, or perhaps as a consequence of it, the base nature of people as animals was demonstrated in a near
total moral bankruptcy. The assumption that stupid people would behave without moral compass is a little off-putting and mean.
Sadly, many extremely intelligent people have been extraordinarily selfish and evil over the centuries, so this assumption seems
poorly placed, however, it sure gets a lot of cheap laughs when Starbucks becomes a bordello and each man’s existence (and it is
a MAN’s existence as women are further reduced to sex objects) is summed by eating butter and exercising his loins.

Not only is the world solely for a man, apart from god(s), but it is an exclusively “Uhmerican” vision we are offered. While
multi-ethnic, it was not multi-national. Apparently American awesomeness destroyed or overran other nations. However silly
that part of the plot might be (though unstated in the film), I think this aspect is more a commentary on the current American
audience for whom the world does not extend beyond what CNN/Fox/CNBC and E! tell them.

Another observation from the film was the surprising resiliency of the American corporate sector. Despite the complete
destruction of foundational social relationships (of which a corporation is a sort of artificial offspring), corporations appear to
have increased in prominence and control in a sort of “leftist nightmare” wherein government regulators are co-opted to advance
corporate interests. But really, is it going to take 500 years for us to spray our fields with Brawno! - the thirst mutilator - when
we’ve already attempted (THE ONCE FDA APPROVED!) feeding of our cattle the ground parts of other cattle (producing
MAD COW DISEASE!), and we continue to feed our animals and ourselves in ways which immediately imperil our health
but provide short term profits? Will it really take us that long to kill ourselves when we subsidize the destruction of farm
land, our air, and water? The “funny” thing about Idiocracy is how little has to change in 500 years to get from here to there.

The entertainment focused future of Idiocracy appears to be the best polemic I can think of against the age of Television. The
future is devoid of reading, and the life of the mind is reduced as described above. I don’t consider myself literati, but after
watching this film, I feel I owe it to myself to read more. For the love, as it were.

I will not watch Idiocracy again, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are on a serious Mike Judge kick or are ready for

countless crude gags – perhaps redundant conditions? Wait, I take that back, I do recommend this if for a good time, and
encouraging maximum cognitive dissonance, you first watch something like Glengarry Glenross in the same weekend. Joking
aside, I don’t think it was Judge at his best, as this critique of Uhmerica lacked the subtlety of the brilliant Office Space.
Laughing at stupid people grew old quickly for me, but perhaps I am a cruel person and enjoyed it longer than I ought to have.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cobb Park Criterium and Gateway GI Extreme Circuit Race 2010

This past weekend I planned to double up on the bike racing Saturday and Sunday while mixing in family activities all over IL. Saturday I took the wife and kids up to Chicago to visit one of Michele’s good friends from college. They’re expecting their first child and so there was lots of excitement with that - and the world cup. After a leisurely lunch at a café in downtown we headed to Kankakee for the Cobb Park Criterium. This is Michele’s favorite race of the year. The shaded park along the Kankakee river provides a very comfortable location for family viewing. Furthermore, the short laps taken at (relatively) high speed make it more fun to watch than say, Hillsboro.

Burnham lined up 6 guys in a 30 man field. I think XXX did the same. Needless to say, these teams have been having their way with the cat 3 races lately. An early move went and so did Nick. It got brought back and Jason (Burnham) went again. The move had a XXX racer in it and Nick took off to catch this one, too. He took a Psimet rider with him and they were out of sight for a long time. Eventually, John (Tati) decided it was time and went, and that was the cue for those in the know to not miss out. The rest of the field was split and I was the last man in this group on the road. I shouted that we had a gap, but John realized he was pulling the field and sat up. The split ended and XXX and Burnham went back to blocking. In the hours since I consider this moment a mistake on my part. After John’s big pull and subsequent field split (though it only lasted about a lap) I should have countered and taken whoever was hungry with me. We could have had 4-5 guys in a chase group. However, Nick was up the road and I thought I should sit in. I’ve still got a lot to learn!

Nick eventually made it up to the break with psimet, but popped. This is a familiar scene in the 3’s this year. One of us will get to the move of the day and then blow up. Leaving the other to counter or chase. But, Nick lasted until 7 to go. His fitness is right there. One of these races he’ll connect, I’m sure. Anyway, Nick comes back. ½ lap later I go. I get a gap but as it turns out, we’re at 5 or 6 to go. I don’t have the juice to go the distance, and the pack is not interested in letting me go at this late hour. Alas. I did get a “pizza prime” while off the front, but with a 50 second gap to bridge, well, it didn’t happen. After getting unceremoniously caught, a lap or 2 went by and I started telling myself that I “needed to check the lap count”. 2 to go. At this point I am SO glad I burned a couple matches off the front for nothing! I start thinking about how I can move up but we’re on the last lap. Going into turn 2 I’m on John’s (Tati) wheel. John is a big rider and I watched him win the drag race at the Urbana Grand Prix, so I figure he’ll move up and I’ll have a great leadout. John rubs the wheel in front of him coming out of turn 2 and sits up. He kept it up but I moved ahead for another wheel. I see Chris (Burnham) who I know has a good sprint, but he’s 4 riders ahead of me and I do not want to chop the last turn. Some other dude decides that IS a good idea and he proceeds to clip a pedal coming out of the turn, sending his rear wheel into a little slide in one of those slow-motion moments. I was looking through the turn so I was essentially watching it happen. Homeboy kept it up, but it was pretty harry for a moment. Newt (Ritte v Vlaanderen) checked up a bit to avoid homeslice’s powerslide – not something he was pleased about after the race. Well, if you’ve raced or seen Cobb Park before, you know that at this point it’s full gas for the last 200 meters around a gentle left hand bend. Everybody was up out of the saddle, but I was able to move through the group “easily.” I say “easily” but my HR was above 180, so that should be put into perspective. I saw Chris (Burnham) ahead of me move up the left side, and seperated by about 3 bikes I followed his line. He then cut right to the outside and I began going in that direction, too. I kept the gas on to the line but he still had some distance on me. Probably a bike length or two. I honestly think I was gaining on him, but not enough to matter without another 50 meters. He crossed the line having just overtaken the first two who took the last corner (we had started from outside the top 10 around the last corner). I came out of it 4th in the field sprint and 7th overall. It was a fun sprint but there was a lot to (re-) learn.

First, I was not in the correct position for the sprint. I knew this and had hoped to get a “leadout” from other racers, but still, I should have been 4th or 5th wheel around the last turn, not 12th. Second, while shifting down the cassette in the finishing stretch I was ready for one more shift but decided not to hit it. Why, you might ask? Well, on the previous Wednesday I had shifted into my 11 while sprinting for the Urbana town sign (at approx. 37mph on flat ground) and my chain began jumping. Being the fastidious bike mechanic that I am I neglected to do anything about it between the training ride and the race. In the finish I didn’t want my chain to start jumping, so I was “only” in my 12 tooth cog. I realize that I am entering an entire new world of whiney-bitchdom by saying I would have done better in an 11 tooth cog…but I would have. Having clocked 39 mph in the sprint in the 12, I’m confident I would have gone a little bit faster had I shifted into a reliable 11. Needless to say, I will get this fixed before the state criterium this weekend. New chain? Clean chain? Cabling? It’ll get sorted tonight!

After the top ten finish at Cobb Park, Sunday brought new challenges. My brother, who had been visiting for the week, needed to be sent by rail back to KS. I found the Gateway GI Babler Extreme Circuit Race flyer earlier in the week and thought I could put him on Amtrak in the morning and then do the race in the afternoon. Perfect, eh? There were 2 problems with this plan: first was the 4AM departure from the house that would deliver my bro to StL., secondly, I try to avoid close associations of the words “gastrointerology” (a.k.a GI) and “extreme”. Weighed in the balance I thought it was worth it for another race start, and frankly, racing in Missouri has been very very good to me this year.

After my bro was on his way and I had passed a few hours of work time at Panera, I showed up at Babler State Park. There were no signs of bike racing. Zero. I drove around, reread the flyer, and drove around some more. Nothing. The park ranger confirmed: race cancelled. The explaination was the lamest in cycling history: recent rains made the field planned for use as a PARKING LOT un-usable and therefore the race was cancelled. Beautiful pavement: check. Secluded, closed roads: check. Great course with a monster hill: check. Bike racers: check. All the essentials were present for a great race. For crying out loud, I will park 5 miles away and ride to the start if I must. Regardless, the race was cancelled. So I made the best of it and rode 6 laps around the park while thoroughly enjoying the terrain. The big hill would be difficult to get up in less than 2 min (I climbed avg 400W for 2:15 and ~10mph, to give you an idea; and I weigh about 190 w/ bike + bottles + etc). I imagine in a race scenario I could give a little more to hold a wheel while jamming out of the saddle (and weigh a little less – frame pump, spare tube, multi-tool, extra food), but it would still be a brutal climb at race pace. Most trips up I was riding in the saddle in a 39x21 or 39x23. I don’t think a 25 or 27 would be necessary unless the group is crawling (sub 8mph avg), you were doing 10 laps, or you just love to spin spin spin. On one of the downhills I clocked 47mph. I wasn’t “trying” to go fast by sprinting into it and then tucking, I was just in the drops. Yeah, fun times in a pack of 40 of your best friends, right? Well, it would have been good racing, but I got some good training in anyway. According to the StL forum (which I didn’t check before the race – doh!) they are trying to reschedule. A BIG thanks to my wife who gave me the Father’s day present of time – time to go play bikes in StL.

Next up: State Criterium Championships in Peoria, IL. THE race of the year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

O'Fallon Grand Prix 2010

I’ve started 4 races now as a category 3 racer. I’ve learned a few things. Here are the highlights in bullet format:
• Cat 3 races are tougher than Cat 4 races.
• Cat 3 racers are MUCH cooler than you. Especially if you wish to speak to another cat 3 racer during a race.
• You (ok, I) can’t win a cat 3 race while making stupid mistakes (unlike in a cat 4 race, when you – I – can kind of come back from them).
So how did the race go? Let me tell you.
O’Fallon hosted the state championship road race. Typically, this has been my worst race of the year. I say typically because I’ve only raced the state RR twice previously, and I’ve crashed once and almost quit once. My first attempt at State road racing glory was way way back in 2007 – my first race ever. I finished 13th in fact. Out of 17. I got dropped at the end of the first of 2 laps, turned around, and headed for the car until a friend who got dropped before me, found me and talked me into riding it out. I passed 2 more guys to get that 13th finish. Maybe it wasn’t that bad then. In 2008 I returned to the road race, this time in Oak Brook, but unlike the late gain in placements from 2007, I was sitting 2nd wheel about 300-500 meters from the line. The rider in front of me pulled off to the right, taking out my front wheel, and about 10 of us hit the deck. My first crash in a race. Sadly, my teamates and I were stacked 3 or 4 deep in the top 10 going into that crash. None of us came out of it in the top ten.  With the background out of the way…
The O’Fallon course was a 22.5 mile loop over a mix of terrain. I wouldn’t call it rolling, nor flat, just a hodgepodge. There were some headwind sections, but the wind was pretty tame at a sub 10mph breeze. There were (if memory serves) 3 climbs of note on the course, each taking between 10 and 40 seconds to complete. Clearly, sprinter’s climbs.  However, this course was to be run 3 times in the cat 3 race. At 67 miles, it is the longest race of the season for me (by 9 miles!). And we all know what happened last time I was in a long, semi-hilly road race.
The Race:
We rolled out with about 50 combatants under hot and humid conditions. The pace was pedestrian, and it was clear a lot of guys were thinking something similar to me: 67 miles - 3 laps – is a long way, better sit in for a while. That’s just what I did. Sit in the top 20 or so guys and keep an eye up the road for trouble. Trouble found me anyway on that first lap, at about 30 minutes in. Going into a sharp left hander, I felt my front tire give. I was about to lean into the turn fully when this sensation registered, so I immediately yelled “flat!” and went straight through the turn into a gravel shoulder. By the time the pack had passed me, I had already taken the front wheel out and was waving it franticly at the wheel truck. Hooray for spare wheels. I fished my spare out of the truck, and asked for a free lap. After a small push from the driver (on foot) I was chasing the pack. Free lap denied. So much for saving energy the first two laps! I was pretty fresh at this point, but in the heat and starting from a dead stop at the base of the 2nd longest climb - I was pegged pretty quick. I just held a hard pace until I could see the back of the pack. As I got closer I could see my teamate Nick tailgunning it, waiting for me to get close enough and then he’d lend a hand. There was no sense in him taking himself out of the race if I wasn’t strong enough to get back in it, yet he was ready to help me out. Quite the class move. After about 10 minutes of hard riding I got a break in his draft and we traded pulls for a few more minutes until we were back on. I immediately began working my way forward as the accordian effect would surely sap all ability to recover.
It turns out that Nick wasn’t as fresh as I thought. He told me later that he had crashed in a corner after I had the flat and was forced to chase back on himself. He was at the back because he had just made the catch! Clearly he was strong that day.
With our first lap plan of resting in the pack completely shot, we hit the “big” climb of the lap. Pushing the little ring I spun up it and advanced several places. I was very pleased with the ease with which I moved up considering I had prepared myself mentally for sag climbing the hill. This would continue to be the case with the climbs on the next 2 laps – each time I would advance positions without much “work” beyond what I felt was keeping pace. Now I am no grimpeur, but this is a massive change from a year ago when any pitch up in a course meant I was sailing out the back of a group – and that in the cat 4’s!
The second lap saw some serious attacking from the bunch as the race was officially on. I went with a promising looking one, which got brought back pretty quick. Nick bridged to the next big move (which included Joe of Verizon) and it stuck. 8 guys were soon up the road with a big gap. Like 30 seconds big. I was pleased with the situation, as Burnham, Bloomington, WCC, and Verizon all had a guy in the move, with ample bodies to block. I was trying to keep cool and eat as appropriate, but in the heat, my stomach did not feel comfortable at all. Even drinking regularly was upsetting me.
After several miles of block and chase (most with me sitting in the top 15, only occasionally directly blocking), I saw a couple riders coming back from the break. Sadly, one of them was Nick. The group had stopped working together and Nick got popped after a pull. It was a shame as he was away for a good 20 miles – 1/3 of the race! As I saw him up the road I moved next to Scott (ISCorp) who is a big young motor. I asked him if he had anything left (since he had been animating the race a fair bit) and he said he did if I had a jump. I of course answered “that’s the only thing I’ve got man.” Since it’s true. I started tempoing up to the front with designs of countering Nick’s move before he got caught. The idea being that I would go “up over the top” of Nick and hopefully take a TT monster like Scott with me to the break and keep that funk alive. As I approached the front I heard guys calling me out, but I jumped anyway. I got a gap but after a few seconds of hard pedaling I checked my six to see Scott pulling the whole field up to me. I sat up at that point, and we soon caught Nick. Lame. I just didn’t have the legs to go all out for 2-3 more min. to try to shake the pack. Nick slotted back in the bunch and looked comfy while I was a few wheels hinter. It turns out my little flail began to exact a cost I couldn’t pay.
I began throwing up. It’s never happened in a race before. Actually, it’s never happened on a bike ride before of any kind. But it happened. Did I eat too much? With 1 gel down after 60+ miles, I doubt it. I think I was succoming to the heat again. You can guess what happened next …I started loosing positions in the pack faster than I could spew excuses or stomach fluids. On my way out Nick (WCC) and Keith (Unattached) shouted encouragement to “hang in there”, “dig deep”, and all of that. At mile 63, I was dropped. Now, it wasn’t just my tummy troubles which sent me out the back, though I think that was a primary cause. At the front of the race things were heating up as the break had completely shattered by then and the pack was greedily reeling riders in one by one. Attacks were flying (I would guess) and the race was getting tougher. What surprised me most though was how quickly I lost myself. From top 15 to out the back was less than 3 minutes. It was there one minute and gone the next. Slowing down to 15 mph and turning the pedals at 60 rpm helped me begin to recover. Getting some water made a huge difference. I tempoed up the final climb noting that I still had decent legs but sheepishly crossed the line alone in 37th.
This summer has not been the cycling-results-love-fest the spring often was. Since upgrading I’ve had a flat, a crash, a heat wimp-out DNF, and been dropped in a RR. Woohoo. The cat 3 races are more demanding and punish weakness. And as I’m sure you know – I have a lot of weakness(es). However, I have to say it was my best state road race attempt yet. I had hoped for a lot more, and frankly, the flat tire definitely reduced my chances. Therein lies a major difference of cat 3 and cat 4 races (for me at least) – if you make a big mistake, you won’t have enough juice to recover. When I dropped my chain at the base of the big climb, also on the first lap, of the cat 4 Springvalley RR, I caught on after some hard riding and still finished 4th – despite attacking the field another 4+ times. At O’Fallon I attacked the field 2 more times yet couldn’t finish with the pack. L’Ouch. I know I’m a strong rider (my powertap and my mommy tell me so), but I need to take the game to the next level between the ears if I’m going to be standing on a podium any time soon. Until I have fistfulls of increased fitness, the margins are just that tight.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tour de CU

This past weekend was the highly anticipated (by me) Tour de CU in Champaign-Urbana.  The Champaign course was the same as last year’s research park crit (a fast rectangle with a slight rise through the start/finish) while the Urbana course was a giant bubble letter “L” when viewed from above.  A box with a long straight ending in a 180deg turn, then back into the box.  Needless to say, fun fun fun.


The conditions were harsh.  Not by absolute standards (80 deg. Sat. and 90 deg. Sun.) but when one considers that we’ve been racing in 60deg F temps, a sudden 20-30 degree increase really raises the workload on the body.  It seemed very few were ready for the heat.  Otherwise the wind wasn’t bad, and the roads were ok.

The Field:

The Cat 3 field had about 40 guys both days.  Plenty of fast guys were there.  Of particular note for me was one John Whipple (Tati) who drove the break that popped me at Hillsboro-Roubaix earlier this season. 

Nick and I were racing for WCC and it was quite a comfort to have a teamate in the races – knowing I could cover a move and he would get the next one.  Plus, I lean on his experience a lot.  The Verizon guys were familiar faces and their friendship out there was cool, too.  The big surprise at the start line was Dan Penner (of Portland, OR) who was in town for a wedding.

Saturday’s Tour de Champaign:

Nick went with the first move or two while the pace was pretty quick.  Joe (Verizon) and I found ourselves on the front blocking for Nick (WCC) and Mark Sills (or Ethan Stone?) (Verizon).  That move got brought back and an ISCorp rider (Scott, orange Madone) went off the front.  He was looking good up there with Joe (Verizon) and another couple guys for company.  I was riding next to Nick at the time and he said “that looks good” or “we need to be in that”.  I don’t really remember, but I took off and bridged to the move.  I took some hard pulls to help establish the break and we seemed to have a decent gap.  Unfortunately that’s about all I could do and I started to get fatigued. 

Eventually I got popped out of the breakaway.  That’s twice, I want some butts! (Film quote.)  I had this moment of indecision in the finishing straight, as the group rode away, but as Don Hiles, John, and John (WCC) yelled at me to keep going I jumped on it and chased for half a lap and caught back on.  Needless to say, I was gassed. Perhaps the same was true for the other guys (save Scott) as it became the Scott show: him dragging us around.  Every once in a while one of us would pull through, but it was not enough to keep the field at bay.

After about 5 laps, on the headwind stretch, the field was within 5 seconds of our break and Ryan Zook (Start 2 Finish) attacked out of the pack and while flying past our disintigrating party shouted: “You boys done racing?!”  Scott answered his acceleration and they were off.  As 3 of us were absorbed into the pack Nick went across and the 3 of them were away.  Turns out, that was the break of the day.

Nick dropped out of that break (I think) and I tried to bridge up to it later and popped in the headwind section halfway across (which was a pretty crappy thing, let me tell you!), so Nick went again and I think that finished him off.  I sat in for a few laps to recover.  I maintained good position but got swarmed with 2 to go.  Sprinting out of 15th, the long false flat tired many a rider, as most did not have a 300 meter sprint left in the legs, so I was able to come around 9 guys and take 6th.  Not bad for my first full fledged 3’s race.

The heat was definitely a factor; I could not go hard for that 3-5 minute duration as I was already panting and feeling like garbage.  C’est la vie.

Lessons (I should have) Learned:

-Early breaks usually die.

-The heat kills early breaks (if nobody is acclimated).

-Don’t bridge unless you’re going to make it.  And you best make it!

-You MUST be in the RIGHT position for a sprint.  It’s worth it – move up!

-Don’t kill yourself with hard pulls in the break.

-If other guys aren’t pulling, you shouldn’t pull either.  One man can’t make an early/mid race break unless he’s a monster.  And monsters are rare.


Sunday’s IL Cup Urbana Grand Prix:

Same players, new board.  The figure 8 was edited in a last minute change to avoid some unpatched pot-holes, with a longer straight and a 180 deg turn added (a nice touch), the figure 8 became a “bubble letter ‘L’.”  Also, the temps were another 10 degrees hotter.  I was sipping water all day, but 2 laps in I was parched.  Yikes.

Nick covered the first few moves as I didn’t feel great during the warmup.  Not sure if it was the heat or Saturday’s racing in the legs.  All eyes were on Scott (ISCorp w/ the orange Madone, who pulled out the win the previous day). 

In a repeat of Saturday I found myself bridging with Joe (Verizon) up to Scott and another rider (or 2/3/4?) in an early move.  We knew Scott could ride away with the race and even more than the previous day, the course, with it’s 5 corners and short straights, favored a breakaway.  Not surprisingly, Scott powered the break, doin his thang.  The pack was strung out in chase and eventually our group ballooned to 15 (?) or so as I think a field split was occuring.  I watched as out of turn 3, John Whipple (Tati) accelerated to catch 2 who had just attacked our group.  Thus, the break du jour.

Scott, Joe, myself, and one other guy chased for several laps in a replay of the previous day’s break.  We were all very tired in the heat and Scott was getting fed up with pulling our lazy butts around – for the second day in a row no less.  He would holler for someone to pull through, and I think I was the only one to oblige him.  Granted, my pulls were short and sweet (1/4 lap? ½ lap?) but I figured if I could give him a little rest, it would go a long way for our group.  Besides, everybody feels like poo currently, right?  Well, Scott eventually had enough and the field caught us while Whipple was pushing the break to an insurmountable lead.

I remember bridging solo to a move later in the race (halfway?) but the details are blurry in my mind.  It wasn’t pleasant, but I made it across, unlike on Saturday.  +1.  Like every break prior, we got caught after not working well together.

I sat in and noticed I was drifting further and further back in the field.  Efforts to move up brought cold chills and I started to think about pulling the plug.  After a few more laps I decide I had enough and I let the group ride ahead.  After the 180, off the back, the breakaway lapped me.  Within 5 laps they would lap the field. Whipple ended up winning the sprint and the race by a millimeter (NOT an exageration – Rob took some slow-motion footage at the line, and it was too tight to call after 3 viewings!).


The Sunday Pro/1/2 race followed the 3’s in more ways than one - more than 50% of their field dropped out, just like the 3’s.  After my race I felt like crying.  I haven’t cried about a sporting event since middle school soccer (as a player – not a coach!).  I didn’t, but that’s probably since my body knew it needed the water elsewhere.  The words of a certain narrator keep coming to mind: “Sometimes you eat the bar (bear), and sometimes, the bar eats you.”

Bike racing is fun but hard.  I’m happy with my result from Saturday and I’m glad I rode hard in the Sunday race and helped animate it while I was in it.  I certainly have a lot to learn in this game and can’t bank on superior fitness to make up for naïve tactical decisions.  Frankly, I’m brand new at this breakaway stuff as I don’t think I was ever in a break that lasted very long in the 4’s.  The heat was a factor all weekend long and I hope my body has begun acclimating to it as the June races aren’t going to be any easier.  A further positive is the fact that I’m active in these races and see the winning moves happening.  As Joe (Verizon) commented after Sunday’s race: “We were too early in the race for the breakaway.”  And he’s exactly right.  The next step is moving from the 2nd best move of the day to the winning move.  This incremental increase I doubt is easy to attain.  Yet, I feel I was on the cusp of the fitness and tactics necessary to be in that elusive right place and right time.  I hope I can continue to get fitter and smarter here in the cat 3’s, and for crying out loud – it’s only my second weekend in this category.

Finally, my wife was super patient letting me participate in the crits, help out here and there, and cheer on my teamates in other categories.