Monthly Archives: February 2009

Walburg Road Race & Pace Bend Road Race – Austin, Texas

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I’ve come down to Texas the last few years to get some early season fitness.  There are two back to back weekends that have two 80+ mile road races each.  So, that adds up to nearly 320 race miles plus a gob of miles Monday-Friday between.  It doesn’t hurt that that normal high temperatures are in the lower 80’s. I traveled Tuesday thru Friday last week and didn’t ride much at all.  Plus, I haven’t done any intensity since cyclocross season, so it was going to be a effort as usual.

The Walburg Road Race is an 3 lap race.  It starts way too early in the morning, 8am. and is usually really windy, which is OK with me.  Bill Stolte and me are the only two riding here from our team, so it was going to be a long stretch to win this race.  Bill did his normal first lap effort here and got into a 5 rider move.  The wind was pretty calm and nobody seemed too concerned.  But, towards the end of the first lap, a storm came through and the wind picked up to around 30mph.  Needless to say, the field blew to pieces over the next 10 miles.  I made a split with ex Toyota-United teammates, Heath Blackgrove and Chris Wherry.  But, instead of working they decided that attacking would work out better.  I don’t understand the tactics, but it worked to remove me from the mix.  At the time, I thought they were picking on me, but upon reflection, I wasn’t fit enough to participate in the move.  So, Heath and Dave Wenger went up the road and I went back.  I was in the remainder of the field, but it got into the gutter seriously.  I was riding on the right of the white line and eventually was riding in gravel which was not a good thing.  I ended up riding the next lap with 5 guys and realized that it was going to take forever to finish the next lap. I have been feeling kind of out of sorts and under slept, so I bagged it.  I don’t think it is a good precedent to quit the first race of the year, but intellectually it was the right decision.  Emotionally, it is still a sore point, but that will pass.

Anyway, Blackgrove and Wenger went up to the first group, blew it apart and Bill was the only guy to stay on.  He ended up 2nd on the day behind Blackgrove.  It is his worst result at the race.  Two years ago he won, so it’s a step down.  But, an awesome finish considering.

Pace Bend is a 6 mile rolling loop in the Texas Hill Country.  I’ve won the race, never finished worse than 5th.  It is a good course for me, but it rolls pretty fast and a break nearly never succeeds.  They move the finish line around and this year the finish was on an uphill, which is better for me.  The race went as it normally does.  A few small groups got away throughout.  4 laps to go, a serious 3 rider group got away.  On the next hard climb a big group with most of the best riders formed.  I was in the group of around 10.  We hardly stayed away for 4 miles before getting absorbed by the rolling mass.  But, the speed had picked up and the break was consumed on the last lap.  Stephan Roth made a solo move out of the break and made it to less than 2 miles from the finish, but it wasn’t to be for him.  A few leadouts tried to form, the the road leading up to the final climb was very curvy.  There was a sharp sweeping corner at around 400 meters.  I was 5 or 6 back when Heath Blackgrove jumped to lead out Chris Wherry.  I was getting bumped around a little and ended up behind Phil Wikoff from Squadra.  He jumped and I decided to stay on Wherry.  But, when Blackgrove swung off, Chris kind of stalled out.  I had to back off alittle and go around on the left.  But, when I tried to get back up to speed, I was over geared and under powered.  I barely got past Wherry just as Josh Carter was passing me for 2nd.  So, I finished 3rd on the day.  And I wasn’t that happy with that results.  The sprint was winnable, but I didn’t execute.  Bike racing. So, 5 days of sleeveless riding now.  Not a bad way to spend a week in February.

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Random Observations

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I was at a fashion show in a mall last week.  Actually, I was at a mall that had a fashion show going on and I couldn’t believe how tall the heels were on the shoes the models were wearing.  The shortest heel couldn’t of been less than 4 inches.  Every model was wearing these.  Then I started looking around the mall and realized that virtually every woman there was wearing something similar.  The models were walking pretty good in those things.  They had a little issue right at the end of their step when they twist their legs like models do.  But, the average shopper wasn’t nearly as adept.  I hadn’t noticed before, but nearly all the women there were walking in some sort of abbreviated state to stay on top of their heels.  It was not a pretty sight.  Anyway, I don’t get it.  It has to be horrible on your legs.  Not to mention your feet.  Someone needs to explain it to me in practical terms.

To change the subject, I was at the local farm store here in Topeka and the chicks are in.  Every February they get in boxes of small chickens and keep them in cages under heat lamps.  They are so cute.  I’m not sure if these are chickens that lay eggs or to eat.  I’m thinking the latter.  But, if they are the ones to lay eggs, I’m thinking of getting a few to wander around my backyard and eat the leftovers.  It might take some initiation time to get the dogs and cats under control, but I think it is manageable.  Maybe.

And, I got this photo and a bunch more on an email  There are schools of stringrays in the Gulf of Mexico that number in the 10,000 range.  I had no idea that so many stringrays would mass together to migrate.  I would pay anything to personally witness that.

Bike racing.  I’m going down to Texas to do 2 weekends of racing.  I’ve done these races for the last few years and it’s a good way to get a jump start on the season.  Very painful though.  I guess that a few of the Toyota-United guys that didn’t get sponsorship are riding for San Jose, an Austin team. And the Kelly Benefits Pro squad is in San Antonio for a training camp.  So there should be 14 or so of those guys there.  That might just make the racing a bit stupid, but it doesn’t really matter in February.

Is it possible to Fly with a Bike anymore?

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I flew out to the West coast a couple days ago for a meeting.  I couldn’t believe it when the guy at United told me it was going to be $175 for a bicycle.  I had some old bike vouchers.  A couple were expired.  I had a couple that had no expiration dates.  He told me they were “expired” too.  I said I didn’t think so.  He say that “they” should of stamped an expiration date on the voucher.  I said who he was referring to when he was saying they.  I told him that they was United, who was the voucher issuer.  I showed him the expired vouchers.  They had stamped expiration dates.  And the other one didn’t.  If it was an error, then it was their error.  Long story, I paid the “grandfathered”  rate of $100 and he gave me a $100 voucher good on United.  Fine.

But, that doesn’t negate the fact that I’ll never, ever fly on United again with a bicycle.  It is like they were so much behind the sport and they go 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  I don’t know who makes these decisions for the company, but that amount of money, $350 roundtrip, is enough that anyone that is familiar with their charge not ever going to use their airline. The charge needs to be an amount that will not “scare” off their customers.  That isn’t the case.

I’m a big Southwest Airline fan right now.  It is kind of weird how over the years you have favorite airlines.  Originally I had a ton of Continental miles.  Then with Specialized I started flying American.  Then United.  Through all those years, I frowned down upon Southwest.  I felt badly for the people that “had” to fly it.  Now, I am so depressed when the city I am flying to isn’t served by Southwest.  The two main reasons to fly Southwest.  1) You can miss the flight and you have full credit still for any other Southwest flight in the next calender year.  You don’t even have to cancel your flight.  Whenever I think I might fly somewhere, I just go ahead and buy a ticket on Southwest.  I know if  I don’t go, I will use the $ later.  2) That the bike charge is $50.  That still is a lot.  But, cheaper than all other airlines.  And half the time they don’t charge anyway.

OK.  This all just reconfirms my driving lifestyle.  It used to be anything under 600 miles.  Now it is creeping up to nearly a 1000.  The longer times, costs and humiliating hoops you have to go through to fly to races is making it a no brainer to drive.

Skill or Luck?

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I was riding with Bill a few days ago.  It was cold and there was a bunch of sand and salt on the roads left over from the last snow.  We were out on county roads doing a 2 hour loop.  I came to a corner that I’ve went through a million times.  I saw there was a bunch of sand on the inside and then it looked pretty clear, like nearly swept.  Anyway, I went into the corner pretty “hot”, maybe 20 or so, riding over the sand upright, then leaning into the corner soon after.  I didn’t realize there was a bunch of sand in the middle of the road between the lanes.  I was leaning over pretty good when both my wheels broke loose.  My bike was going out from under me pretty fast, but I managed to unclip and tripod through the corner with my left leg down and then clip back in and go along as if nothing had happened.  I’ve done this alot in various situations, mainly MTB races or rainy criteriums.  I had nearly this same situation happen a few years back in a mountain bike race.  I got to the bottom of a steep descent that had a U-turn at the bottom and the course then went back up a steep climb.  When I hit the bottom of the descent my front tire washed out because it was flat.  My bike was sliding out from under me.  I had immediately unclipped my inside foot and put it on the ground.  What amazed me was that I was shifting both my front and rear derailluers simultaneously  preparing for the climb.  So, unconsciously I was unclipping and shiftings with both hands.  The only thing I consciously remember was that I had a flat and needed to get off and fix it.  I had no idea that I had those abilities until it happened. It truely never ceases to amaze me how fast your unconsciousness can react to get you out of immediate disasterous situations. Or maybe it is just luck.