Monthly Archives: November 2007

$200 Apple?

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This wasn’t the best travel adventure that I’ve experienced.  It is nearly 35 hours travel time total.  Everything seemed to go wrong.  Cramped middle seat for the 12 hour flight from LA to Auckland.  No bikes arriving at the final distination.  But, the suprise of the trip so far,  was the apple. 

Trudi threw some apples into a food bad for the trip.  I ate a couple on the flight and knew I had to get rid of them before entering New Zealand.  It’s an island and they are super adverse to foreign fruit and dirt.  Anyway, I thought I eaten all the apples, so after spending nearly and hour and a half in the passport control line and missing our connecting flight, we got our bags and went to the final X-ray, agriculture check.  They asked me if I had  any fruit and I said no.  But, an apple was in my backpack.  The guy was pretty nice as he was escorting me over to the place that “criminals” such as myself are taken.  Long story short, $200 on my Visa card and they let me into their friendly country.

Now it the day before the race, Sunday.  I caught some crud on the flight and am hacking up brown stuff.  Slept from 6pm to 7 am last nite and woke up feeling bad.  Assembled our bike this morning and rode for 40 miles, mainly in the rain.  Now I really feel really rotten.  It supposed to be 48 degrees and raining all day tomorrow.  Welcome to sunny New Zealand and the life of a cyclist.

Crazy Weather!!!

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OK.  I’ve been down to The Tour of Southland  a few times.  And there have been some epic days.  This was one of those plus some. 

The time trial is around a park.  It was super windy with storms blowing in off the coast.  One minute it was almost sunny and then hail and rain and wind.  I got an OK weather break or I would of been way worse than in the 70’s. 

2 hour break and then an 80 km stage that finishes on a wall.  A 2 km wall.  But, that wasn’t a problem compared to the weather.  These races go from the gun.  I mean before you clip in.  And the wind was more.  40+ I’d guess.  Within 10km the two best teams went to the front before a sidewind corner and I saw the threat.  Long story short, I made the front group of 13 that rode away from the field.  Only to be dropped after an hour of so.  If I was well, it wouldn’t of been a problem at all.  My lungs are about done.  I rode for a long while by myself, in the 38 degree rain and sleet until a big group of 40 guys came up.

That group was going considerable slower than the front.  Like 5 mph.  So, it wasn’t hard to stay in it.  Going out to the town of Bluff, you have to ride 15 miles out a narrow stretch of land.  That is when the weather got really nuts.  The wind was howling and then it started hailing.  Hard.  It was crazy how hard it was hitting our bare skin.  It stung.  I think our group might of broken up some, but can’t be sure what happened.  I know a lot of guys got blown off the road and a few crashed.  But, I have no idea how many.  Anyway, about 5 miles from the climb, Brian took off with one other guy and put a fair amount of time on us before the bottom of the climb. Maybe as much as a minute.  But, I haven’t seen the results, so I can’t be sure.  I was around 5th or so of the remaining guys.  Has to be somewhere in the late teen’s, but like I said, it was pretty hard to keep track of things.  I do know that we lost a massive amount of time, the last I heard was 7 minutes, to the leaders.  Nothing I could of done about that. 

Anyway, went to the pharmacy and got some medicine.  Hopefully, I can track down the race doctor before bedtime.  I’m not sure my lungs can take a 100 miles of this again tomorrow.  I’m pretty sure the weather is not predictable here.  So, maybe it will be 70 and sunny. 

OK.  That’s it from here.  It is so strange that Monday is over here and it’s still Sunday in the states. 

Check out The Tour of Southland or cyclingnews.com for the massive time gaps!

Tour of Southland, NZ-Stage 3

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I’m really not sure what I’m doing down here.  I thought I knew when I left, but things took a 90 degree turn and I need to think it out.

Went to the race doctor last nite for a hour.  I guess I have a sinus infection in my chest or something like that.  I’m now taking antibiotics for the millionth time this season.  I thought it was the best course considering my ultimate goals this winter.  I guess Henk Vogels was there before me.  I talked to him for a while during the race today and he suggested that I quadruple the dosage for the first couple days.  He feels 50% better already.  I feel 75% worse.  But, that is usually how it goes with me and antibiotics.

Today’s stage was 170km.  Rolling, a few KOM’s, but nothing longer than a couple K.  Of course, cold, windy, and rainy.  There is no easy racing here.  The peleton is edgy always because of the wind and chances of crashes always. 

These guys start from the gun.  There were 3 points sprints in the first 2 miles of the race.  Instantly into the gutter.  I just about quit less than 10 km into the race.  I was 80 guys back in line with no control of anything.  My lungs are the size of peanuts and I am severely lacking motivation.  But, my main problem I figured out on the drive back after the race was the amount of concentration it takes during these races.  I had a wicked headache and didn’t have any ablility to concentrate.  And you have to at all times.  When you’re racing in the wind, gutter, rain-there is no time just to ride long and daydream. 

Anyway, I didn’t quit.  Brian was determined to make the front group today.  He made a bunch of good moves, but missed the real move.  I saw it going, but no one can understand what I”m saying on the radio.  My throat is so sore and I have virtually no voice, so the race radio for me is for information only. 

Anyway, the field split a million times into small groups.  Brian and I made each split in the front.  The most important split was with about 60 km to go after a KOM.  It got down to 15 or so of us.  But, I flatted a km later and waited way too long for a wheel.  I was in no man’s land and screwed.  But a couple miles later, the race leader was standing on the side of the road with his wheel off.  I noticed the front group all stopped and relieved themselves, waiting for him to get back on.  Very fortunate luck for me. 

The front group of somewhere between 5-8 guys, didn’t contain anyone of danger for GC, so the stayed off the front all day.  I was 5th in the sprint for whatever place we were going for.  There are 20 paying places each day and I figure why ride 4:30 in the rain and cold just to roll across the line. 

So, tomorrow is a double stage day.  First, a super hard stage up the coast.  Then an hour off and back in the saddle for a 80km dessert stage.  Should be just what the doctor ordered!  Til then. 

TOS-Stages 4 &5 +

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Double stages today.  Not sure if I’ve mentioned it’s cold, rainy and windy here.  It was all three again.  Don’t have a ton of time, but here’s the short version. 

Brian rode most of the first stage off the front and made the front selection as a reward.  But, he bonked with 10 km to go and barely hung onto the group.  I rode in the gutter for almost 3 hours.  It was a 101 km stage and we averaged 35km an hour.  For all you Americans, that is around 21 mph.  And we were going super hard. 

It cleared up for the 2nd stage.  Just cold and windy.  Barely any rain.  It was a mear 88km.  Side wind most of the day.  Around 30mph or so.  Maybe more.  Brian and the rest of my team decided to rotate up the front with the race leaders team, so they didn’t have to grovel in the gutter.  I like grovelling, so that’s what I did.  With about 30 km to go, it all went to hell and all of us ended up in a group that didn’t really have any purpose.  I had a purpose, which was to get to the finish line as quickly as possible with expending as little energy as possible.  Didn’t quite work that way, but it could of went worse.  I kind of bonked with 10 km to go and ate a bunch and dug deep. 

I’m in 14th Overall now.  It amazes me that I’m moving up in GC each stage when I’m in totaly survival mode.  Maybe more guys than I can imagine are in that very same mode. 

Random thoughts, observations-

It is really, really windy here!

Slept upright on a couch from 3-5 am, not to wake Brian up and to not cough anymore.  Got booted to the “sick”room.  Didn’t seem like punishment to me.

New Zealand Bicycle Racers use the F*** word at least 4 times each sentence.  It must be the way they were taught English in school.  Most of the time, it is the only word that comes out of their mouths.

I forgot how nice it is to get a massage each day. 

Coal smoke (they heat their houses here with coal) is not a pleasant thing.

Even though I feel like s***, I seem to be getting better each day.  It is so weird what stage racing does to your body.

Tomorrow finish is at the top of the hardest climb of the race.  Seems like most these guys go great on the flats and are bad uphill.  Guess we’ll see for sure tomorrow. 

It is really, really windy here!

Stage 6-Day 4

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It was only one out of the 3 complaining weather items today.  Windy.  And not that, compared to the prior 3 days.  The stage was 135 km and finished on a 4 km climb.  But before the finish climb there were two or three 1 km walls than a 27 in the back was mandatory.

The Zoo Keeper/Trek team is protecting the race lead, so they rode tempo the first 100km with the help of a bunch of individual “friends”of Hayden.  The smack came down with 35 km to go.  Side wind, Uphill.  Game over for 80% of the field.  Three of us made the final selection of 17 or so.  Which is good for our Team GC of course.  3 GC guys got away in the flury of attacks during the 20 km run in to the climb.  We started the climb as a group, that split up immediately.  I have not ablility to breath deeply, so I instantly started riding my own speed.  Brian looked good the first km, but kind of ran out of steam.  I haven’t seen the results, but it seemed like a good day.

Tomorrow is a long hard stage to Teanu.  It is super windy always and has a pretty good climb 40 km or so from the finish that usually splits the field.  I can hardly wait until this is over.  That is how much fun I am having.

Go to cyclingnews.com or tourofsouthland.com for results.

Observations-

Cycling shorts that are all one color, other than black, such as orange, red, white, make the riders butts seem huge.

There are zillions of sheep in this country.  If you ask a New Zealander what they do with them, they say they export them to the US.  I don’t think so.

This race has a huge attrition rate.  I think over a 1/4 of the field has dropped out during the first 3 days ( and I don’t blame them).

The roads here are chip and seal, with huge rock.  So bumpy that I’m riding only 90psi and my right shifter rattled apart today.  No extra Shimano levers, so I’ve got a right Sram Force lever and rear derailluer.  Good time to test them out.

New Zealand looks like a huge garden in the spring. 

It is windy here!

Meet you after the race!!!!

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Today was the longest single race. Something around 170km. The weather wasn’t horrible. Actually, the last couple hours were really pleasant, but still breezy. There was a climb with about 55km to go and that was where it was going to really start.

JR from our team got in the early break, that ended up staying away all day. It got down to just two guys, but two more bridged up after the climb and he ended up 4th. It was just tempo in the gutter for the first 3 hours. I have to say these riders are the rudest prick bike riders in the world. Bar none. Early in the race, we were just riding along and a guy beside me thought I was getting too close to him. So he sticks his elbow into my side. That wasn’t such a problem, other than I was overlapped with the guy in front of me, so I got leaning on his rear wheel. I pulled my brakes and backed off, but then the guy that started the mess started the normal talk- bla, bla, bla.

Then Hayden Roulston, the race leader, started giving me shit. I listened to his rant and then asked him what he had been doing in the sport of cycling the last 3 years. Must of been a sore spot, ’cause it really set him off. Exactly the reason  I said it. He then rode up to me and told me he was going to take care of this after the race. I said sure, no problem. A hour or so later he called me a cheeky c***(women’s body part). (That is their 2nd favorite word.) I’m not sure what it means, but I’m sure it’s not a compliment. Anyway, it’s after the race and I haven’t seen him. Dang.

The race split up pretty good on the climb. Brian had got away 10km before it and had a minute, but his group didn’t climb very fast and we caught them right over the top. I was in a group of 7, but the climb didn’t split the field much. It got all back together and then the normal gutter riding, echelon, gutter riding thing ’til the end. I was 2nd in the field sprint, so ended up 6th for the day. Felt pretty good even though I don’t get breathing very well until I coughed up a bunch of stuff after the first hour or so.

Tomorrow is the last day. Double stage back to Invercargill. There is a medium climb in the middle of the first stage, but I think it is pretty much set, unless it is super windy again. Kind of hoping for it. Man, that is a big change. Wishing for wind.

Tour of Southland, Invercargill New Zealand-OVER

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Finally. Actually, the last two days haven’t been so bad. Today was 2 stages. 2 controlled stages. Mainly, by Hayden Roulston’s team, but also by just about anybody he could talk into going up to the front and pulling for him. Real professional. Guess you can tell I have very little respect for his riding style. I should explain my comment yesterday about what he’s been doing the last 3 years.
Hayden Roulston rode for Cofidis the first time I came down here in 2004. Then he got a contract from Discovery. But, he got into a couple bars fights and was arrested. Because of the fighting issues, he had a problem racing out of the country for awhile. Obviously, Discovery was not too pleased, so they didn’t rehire him. He then came down with some heart problem that was “uncurable”. But, a few months later, late last year, he used Eastern medicine and acupuncture (or something like that) to fix this dreaded heart problem. So now he is a big fish in a small pond so to speak, but doesn’t have the self confidence to race bicycles correctly.

A friend that lives in England sent me this in an email last nite. “A: your assessment of Kiwi athletes is pretty much on par with my experiences in the running world here–and can be extended to their Aussie brethren as well: pricks. I’ve been intentionally stepped on, tripped, shoved, more times by Antipodeans than anyone else–though, my observation (again, based only on my own experience) is that they are quite easy to crack because they race like Texans with an inferiority complex, so they start way too fast, blow up and then complain about it later. “I can’t be slamming Australian riders, since I’ve never raced there on the road, but it does fit my observations of the riders here. They take their hands off the bars and push more than anywhere else I’ve experienced.

I was pushed at least 30 times just today. They have no understanding of how the dynamics of a echelon works in the wind or they wouldn’t be pushing people around like they do. But, I think the core of the problem is that they have so little self confidence and have to act like something they aren’t. It seems each one thinks on a second by second basis during the race that they are going to fall, or get dropped on a climb or whatever. It is a stressful type of bike racing they’ve developed here and it seems to be making its way over to the states with all the import riders from down under racing there now.

Anyway, back to racing. The morning stage was good. Calm wind mainly and no knee warmers. Yeah. A group went up the road, with Curtis Gunn from our team in it. They were less than a minute up with 10km to go. We started to go pretty fast those last 10km and the gap disappeared quickly. With 2 km to go, we were catching them and Curtis took a flyer. He made it to about 20 meters from the line before we swallowed him. He was oh– so close. I was 10th.

I had a Sram shifting learning experience today. My experience was shifting up into a 13 instead of down into an 11. That is the 3rd time this year I’ve blown a shift at a crucial time in a race. First, MTB racing in Chequamegon, the 2nd time at a UCI Cyclo-X, and now here. I seem to be developing a pattern. Huh. But, my initial observations of the Sram Force vs. Durace is that the Shimano shifter is by far a better shifter. Even taking into consideration the fact that the Sram shifter is super light. Hopefully, the new Sram Red shifter coming out soon will improve upon their original ideas.

This afternoon’s stage was only 70km. Pretty windy, so lots of gutter riding and the field broke up a bunch, but nothing serious. It looked like it was going to come down to a field sprint until Tom Zirbel took a flyer with 8 km to go. He had a couple guys with him, but dropped them and won impressively. I was 5th in the field sprint, so 6th on the stage. 15th Overall, I think. So, the race is over.

I’m not sure what my thoughts are about the whole experience. I still have a hacking cough and am eating antibiotics. I have a 35 hour flight back to Kansas tomorrow afternoon. But, I do seem to have gained a ton of form, which is the reason I came here in the first place. So I’d have to say it was a sucess in that respect. Ok. We’ll see in a couple of weeks how this helped for the remainder of the ‘cross season. Better go for a run on the beach tomorrow before I fly. That way I can be super sore for the flight home.