Monthly Archives: June 2009

Training for contact in Criteriums???

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Below is a photo from Velonews.com today.  It shows a USA Cycling coaching drill that teaches contact, in theory, I guess, for criterium racing.  Maybe this is one of the reasons that criterium racing is becoming a contact sport. I’m not saying that a good bike rider doesn’t sometimes get into contact situations.   But maybe USA Cycling should be teaching juniors  how to avoid contact first.

velonews

Skills on and off the bike
King and his fellow USA Cycling coaches Steve Campo and Michael Heitz impart both on and off the bike knowledge designed to take racers to the next level, be that domestically or in Europe. “We work on techniques and skills they wouldn’t normally get to practice” said King. Specific skills include negotiating race caravans, taking feeds from team cars and bike handling techniques which are practiced in parking lots and on grass fields.

Fifteen year old T.J. Isenhart finds them useful. “I usually race with the (category) three’s and I’ve been able to use a lot of the bike handling skills they teach us here. It has definitely helped me in the crits.”

Tour of KC Day 2 & 3

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I’ve been racing bikes for a long time and rarely have I been more surprised about my performance than this past weekend.  I have been riding pretty well.  No complaints.  Friday night I just plain melted.  Saturday was a little cooler, so I had some hope.  Then, it started raining mid-race.  I thought, perfect.  Cooler.  Rain.  I’m good.  Nothing was further from the truth.  I suffered more than the day before.  If it wasn’t for the corners where I was gaining a lot,  I would have been shelled.  Chris Hall rode a great race and lapped the field with 3 others.  But, it wasn’t to be.  Scott Monninger got into the field with two corners to go and came by on Dan Schamtz’s wheel to win.  Chris was 2nd and Jeff Hartman third.

Sunday it was only in the upper 80’s and less humid.  The course was barely a minute around.  Half up and half down.  Three of the corners were tricky.  Fun course.  Good race.    I had little motivation.  I felt spent from the previous two days.  It is weird.  Doesn’t it seem that when you are winning races and putting out a ton of energy, the sport should be painful?  And, when you’re riding bad and not winning, it would be less painful.  But, it is exactly the opposite.   It just doesn’t seem right.

Things got going quickly.  The overall was pretty much done.  Scott had won.  Our team plan was to win the race and try to move Chris Hall up to 2nd in GC.  Brian attacked a couple times and won a prime.  I won the next one.  I was mildly surprised again that I wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  Eventually, a fairly big group of 9 was away.  Brian had missed the move and was chasing alone.  We waited a couple of laps and he got on.  We went around and lapped the field pretty quickly, it being only a minute a lap.  Then it got pretty mixed up.  Lots of attacks.  It was a little hard keeping track of who was where.  Eventually, Chris Hall, Matt Ankeney and Jeff Hartman got away and were coming around again.  Matt jumped into the field first with just a little over a lap to go.  Chris and Jeff got into the field a bit later.  We kind of screwed up and didn’t get Chris up to the front in time to catch Matt.  Chris finished 2nd and 2nd overall.  They had pretty cool chip timing at all three races.  Chris rode the fastest lap of the race, by any rider, on the final lap and only lost by a couple bike lengths.  That was impressive. The rest of the team has to take responsibility for him not winning.  He rode great.

I have to say that no matter how much I was suffering, the Tour of Kansas City was a great weekend.  All three courses were excellent.  All had verticle gain and technical corners.  Just what a good criterium demands.  The results were out nearly as we were crossing the line.  As a rider, you can’t ask for much more.  After the race,  we went to eat at the Flying Sauer.  I saw it on Stefan Roth’s website.  The largest beer selection of anywhere I’ve ever been in the world.  Unbelievable.

So now, I’m trying to decide if I’m sick or just have really bad allergies.  I was riding much better on Sunday.  So, I have that narrowed down to either the humidity or the heat.  I need to do a couple more race day experiments to narrow that down to one.  But, this was my first race weekend in hot humid conditions the whole season, so hopefully next time, I won’t have the adverse reactions.   It’s only 3 days until the Tour of Lawrence.  You can still enter.  It should be an awesome weekend.

Attacking or getting dropped?
Attacking or getting dropped?
Barely a blurr in the rain.  I felt like the picture.
Barely a blurr in the rain. I felt like the picture.
Dramatic backdrop on Sunday at the Power & Light Distric in KC.
Dramatic backdrop on Sunday at the Power & Light Distric in KC.
The Flying Sauer.  50 beers on taps.  Hundreds more in the bottle.
The Flying Sauer. 50 beers on taps. Hundreds more in the bottle.

Tour of Kansas City – Longview Criterium

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I had the worst riding day of the year.  It was completely unexpected.  I really hope it wasn’t because of the extreme heat and humid, because there is a lot of that yet to come!  The course was pretty interesting.  A bar bell shaped course with two short hills.  And two technical corners.  The field was pretty small, less than 50, but super high quality for a regional race.  And, the teams had pretty even distribution and strengths on paper.

I don’t have much to say.  Scott Monninger, who is just racing for pleasure it seems, showed up with a bunch of his Big Shark teammates. Scott took off pretty early on the 2nd lap or so.  His attacks have always been so subtle and smooth that no one seems to want to go with him.  I think a lot of the field didn’t even know it was him or that he was even in the race.  Anyway, I made a pretty big effort to “bridge” up to him.  It took me the better part of a lap, a couple minutes.  From then on I was pretty much useless.

I got a side ache.  Something like a runner’s stitch.  I don’t usually get those bike racing.  My breathing was horrible.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  The race was only an hour and I suffered the whole time.  It was like having  a super bad day on a MTB bike.  There was nearly no point on any lap that I felt recovered.   I have been riding pretty good for a while, so the pain in riding bad seems foreign.   Racing bikes when the pedals aren’t going over in any familiar or recognizable way is one of the most humbling and, for me, one of the most uncomfortable  things in life.  Something I try to avoid like the plague.  But, that isn’t the way life works.

So, anyway, we didn’t do very well, which was also surprising.  Scott ended up getting away with Alex Welch, Mercy.  Then Stefan Roth and Chad Cagle , also from Mercy, rode away.  Dan Schmatz, Big Shark, won the field sprint.  I ended up 8th.  Gassed.  Shad Smith was 7th and Chris Hall 10th.

I’m starting the race today with a completely empty stomach.  No food for 5-6 hours before the race.  Sometimes that works well in these extreme conditions, at least in my experiences in MTB racing.   And, that is what yesterday felt like to me.

Bromont watching me suffer.  Really suffer.

Bromont watching me suffer. Really suffer.

Tour of Kansas City #1

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The Tour of Kansas City race that been going on forever.  I could look it up, but I think it’s over 35 years.  This year, for some unknown reason, the race is being held twice.  Today thru Sunday.  Then again in August.  So, instead of being up in Wisconsin in the heat and humidity, I’m down here in a lot more heat and a lot more humidity.  I’m not big on using the heat index thing, but it is beginning to make sense.  Today, the heat index is predicted to be 116.  That is a pretty big number.  One that I’m not too thrilled about.  Seems like the short 2 hours rides I’ve done this week have been miserable.  And the heat index has been around 105.  Anyway, these are all new courses.  It should be interesting.  Next weekend is the Tour of Lawrence, which is going to be a really super 3-day race.  So, 6 races in the next 11 days.  Kansas bicycle racing is happening.

Tactics vs. Common Sense vs. Bike Handling & Pushing

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I’ve been perplexed for the last couple years about the way that the Pro teams ride in formation during road races here in the United States.  And now in criteriums.  I’ve discussed the practice with a few other knowledgeable riders and they say it is good bicycle race tactics.  I can understand the practice when there is a chance that they will need the combined power and shelter of their whole team.  Cross winds in road races.  Positioning leading up to a selection part of the race such as cobbles or leading up to a climb.  But, protecting your position when the field is JRA (just riding around) seems stupid to me.  And a waste of energy.  I haven’t had anyone explain it to me in in such a way that makes any sense.

Now this is being done in criteriums.  And other crazy “tactics” that are dangerous.  And break the rules of the sport.  I think I’ve explained this before.  The “tactic” of protecting the race leader in a criterium during a stage race.  The leading team puts all of its riders at the front and rides tempo.  That is pretty understandable.  But, the new evolution is that the “Pro” teams ride the race on the inside of the course.  And not at race speed.  They ride the inside of the course at a couple mph slower than the race would normally be going.  This causes a huge bunching of the riders behind the team that is leading.  When the riders in the bunch, individually decide they need to keep their position in the corner and start to move up, the team leading swings radically across the road to the outside to negotiate the corner and then back to the inside of the course.   This careening across the course effectively hooks the whole field at every corner.  This makes it an interval session behind the team that is leading.  Full on power, then full on brakes.  It is very dangerous and nerve racking.  Plus it is technically illegal according to the rules.*   The only explanation for this tactic is that it allows the leading team to ride slower than they normally would at the front.

The Bissell “Pro” team road this way at all three criteriums during Nature Valley.  The problem for them was that Tom Zirbel, their race leader, wasn’t able to stay at the front on the back of the train, so he rode each race white knuckled, like the rest of the field,  50 guys back.  If they would have just ridden at full speed on the outside of the course, Tom could of sat at the back of their train and no one would of bothered him.  He would of been much more rested and safer.  Isn’t that a big priority of the team aspect?  Protecting your race leader.  They were just putting the race leader in a much more dangerous situation.  Plus, it makes for some boring-ass criterium spectating for the crowds.  Big one hour  TTT.  What a great way grow the fan base.

This “tactic” used to only be  used during the leadout the last few laps of a criterium.  I think the first time I can remember it is maybe at the end of the Saturn team era.  Healthnet perfected it.  Now, everyone does the same thing.  I guess the reason that none of the pro teams complain is that when/if they get into the situation of having to protect a race lead during a stage race, they want the option of using it.  And they all do it for their leadouts if they can control the last couple laps.

Another criterium  discussion.  I’ve verbally received a fair amount of shit in a couple criteriums this past month from a couple different guys.  Michael Creed, Team Type 1, and I had a pretty long conversation during the Uptown Criterium during Nature Valley about me moving up on the outside up against the curb.  We’ve known each other for quite a while and it was just a discussion, nothing more.  He said that I was the worst at it.  I said I was the best at it.  He said it was uncalled for.  That I had enough power/strength, that I could move up when it was more open in the wind.  My question – why move up in the wind, using energy, when I can move up coasting, using no energy.  This wasn’t diving the inside of a corner.  It was coasting around the outside of corners and on straight sections up against the curb.  I don’t get the problem with passing riders on the outside of corner.  Actually, I’m a pretty big proponent of passing on the inside of corner if there is room.  But, giving someone shit for passing on the outside is just nuts.  It shouldn’t even bother anyone.   If there is any danger, the only person at danger is the rider doing it.

I know that at the speeds that some of these races are going nowadays, it is nice to have a little bit of space around you.  Riding at the edge of the field sometimes allows this space.  Sometimes.  But, if you leave too much space on the edge,  it is completely fair, in my opinion, to use this space .  In a criterium, the course is from curb to curb.  Not  3 feet from the curb to 3 feet from the curb.  I do realize that when someone passes me when I’m not expecting it, it sometimes scares me.  But, there is eventually a point when every rider gets scared.   Riding in the rain for example.  If I can go through a corner at 30 mph in the rain and it scares the guys behind me, then they have a choice.  Go through the corner slower or follow me through the corner and hope that I am riding the correct speed.

Moving up through the field is another issue.  I think every rider has a obligation to try to ride in a safe manner.  The main responsibility of this is that they don’t make radical/abrupt motions.  Either left to right.  Or sudden braking.  It always happens eventually in a criterium.  Usually towards the end of the race.  But during the majority of the race, each rider needs try to keep these to a minimum.  I move around the field  a lot.  I admit it.  I try the left side of the course.  Then the right the next lap.  I move up on the side, through the middle, anywhere that it isn’t dangerous.  And, I realize that is my opinion of what dangerous is.  If it scares someone, that doesn’t make it dangerous.  Not even close.  If you abide by the non abrupt motion rule, then most everything else is okay in my book.  As a rider, you need to have the ability to move around the field if you want to be effective during the race.  Whether you’re riding on your own or for a team.  I think I move around the field pretty effectively.  I might scare some guys, but that is their personal issue.

But, the new way that is replacing just good bike handling skills is the hands off the bars hip tap/push.  Every race guys are taking their hands off the bars all the time.  They justify it by saying  it is a way to tell the guy beside them that they are there.  Or worse, to make a hole for themselves to move up or keep “their” position.  The “I’m just telling the guy I’m there” explanation is stupid.  If you have enough time to take your hand off the bars and tap their hip, you have enough time to pull your brakes.  And if telling the guy is the reason, then just tell the guy.  You are about 3 feet from his ear.  The pushing to make a hole is just wrong and illegal.**

I had a talk with Nick Frey, collegiate Division 2 Road Champion, ex U-23 TT National Champion and Princeton University graduate, about it.  I like and respect Nick.  I said something to him during the race about using his hands.  Nothing major, just a tap.  He used the “just letting the guy know I’m there” rational.   I told him that there isn’t a circumstance where it is acceptable.  He doesn’t realize that he is making the race less safe.  For him and everyone else.  Say he hits a crack or pothole with his hand off the bars.  Not good.  Say the guy is on his right and starts to move over on him. The reason is because the guy next to him is moving over and the guy next to that guy is moving over.  He only has use of his left brake (front).  Not a good thing.  So, he decides to not let the guy come over any further.  The reason the “pack” works is because it is fluid.  If you stop it from being fluid by physically stopping the movement, then it screws up the whole field.  The guy 3 riders over from him could have an issue because the movement wasn’t allowed to develop.  The morphing of a pack of cyclists is super cool.  The close proximity that the riders can attain is something that baffles the general public. (And sometimes the riders.) This can’t happen if this hand checking/pushing keeps happening.

Racing The Tour of the America’s Dairyland Race this past weekend was so refreshing.  I was so used to riding the criteriums at Joe Martin or Nature Valley with the stupid tempo riding.  Waterloo was so nice.  A race, going fast, in line.  Cornering at speed without getting jammed up by riders on both sides.  I’m not sure how you stop something that has become common practice.  There are not officials in the field, so the pushing thing is going to be hard to stop.  I haven’t heard of a case in the US where a rider was disqualified for pushing.  And I see it dozens of times a race.  The tempo riding deal is different.  The problem is the officials don’t have the ability to understand what is happening.  And when informed of it, don’t have the incentive to enforce the rules.  No one is really complaining publicly.  This is an official public complaint.  If you’re an official that officiated a NRC stage race, feel free to comment or contact me.

*1Q6. No rider may make an abrupt motion so as to
interfere with the forward progress of another rider, either
intentionally or by accident [relegation or disqualification;
possible 20 days suspension if a crash results].

**1Q8. Pushing or pulling among riders is prohibited in all
races except the Madison and then only between members of
the same team. No rider may hold back or pull an opponent
by any part of his or her clothing, equipment or body
[relegation or disqualification].

Tour of America’s Dairyland, 3rd Place – Manitowoc Criterium

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I was still thinking over going to the NRC race in Winghaven yesterday. But, it was way too late after the race finish in Grafton to head down there. It was supposed to be in the upper 90’s and humid in St. Louis. The rest of my TradeWind Energy team was racing there. Ben Raby was there driving the Sram car behind the lead group, and was calling, giving me minute by minute updates. Brian Jensen got away early, going for the KOM, most laps led prize. He was away virtually the whole race and by the time it came to crunch time there were only 6 riders left that catch him. He got away again with Andrew Bajadali, Kelly Benefits, at the end and finish 2nd in the race and won the KOM. Pretty phenomenal result. Off the front all day in the heat and getting away again at the end. He was cramping during the race. I would of been seized the way it’s been going recently.

Anyway, here, another dusk criterium finished. This one was in Manitowoc, a small town an hour North of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. It had a very pretty downtown. The course was a little over a km. Four left corners. Flat. Almost like a track race.

The course being what it was, the race was going to finish in a field sprint. It was apparent early on that I was going to be marked by a million guys from the teams with a rider in overall contention. So most of the race I just hung out half way back in the field and chilled. The race was going pretty quickly. It wasn’t hard, but towards the end when I was messing with my odometer, I had a 29.6 mph average. That was mainly because there was little to no breaking at any corner.

Nothing much to say until the last lap. It got going pretty good. I was near the front. On the back stretch, Adam Bergman and a Rio Grande guy got into a serious head butting contest. It wasn’t just for an instance. It was nearly half the back stretch. The finish line was 150 meters after the last corner, just the way I prefer it. I had planned to jump from the next to last corner, but got jammed up a little and missed the window of opportunity. Adam Bergman got the jump with Frank Pipp right there. I was drag racing a guy from the Panther team and ended up going way too wide through the corner and was never connected to the front two. I managed to hold on for 3rd.

I kept getting called up for all these podium presentations. Leaving the podium for the last time, I slipped on the aluminum steps and twisted my knee and scuffed up my shin. Bike racing is a dangerous sport.

No race today. I’m trying to decide whether to go home and get ready to race in Kansas City Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or hang here for a few more days. I’ve raced 9 out of the last 12 days starting with Nature Valley. It’s not like I’m going to get much fitter. The temperatures the next couple days in Kansas are supposed to be over 100. And probably pretty humid. It’s already humid here in Wisconsin, but yesterday it was hardly 70. We only really have 6 riders on our team. Splitting up the weekend and finishing on two podiums in different National caliber races is a pretty good result. Not sure that will happen that often on a seasonal basis.

Way back out of the last corner.

Way back out of the last corner.

Adam & I rehashing the sprint.

Adam & I rehashing the sprint.

Podium for the day.  Frank Pipp, Adam Bergman, and me.

Podium for the day. Frank Pipp, Adam Bergman, and me.

Another podium shot. GC this time.  (It's not like I have a bunch of different photos to choose from.) Me, Frank Pipp, & Chad Hartley.

Another podium shot. GC this time. (It's not like I have a bunch of different photos to choose from.) Me, Frank Pipp, & Chad Hartley.

Tour of America’s Dairyland – Grafton Criterium

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This night criterium racing is throwing off my sleep schedule again. I thought I was trained for the late night racing from Tulsa and Nature Valley, but this isn’t going as well. I’m never getting over 6 hours. Sleep is pretty important in athletics. Anyway, Grafton is a great race. I will have more time tomorrow on the “rest day” to write more. It ended up a field sprint, catching an 8-rider break with 600 meters to go. I was 10th. But, not without controversy.

I got hooked up with Frank Pipp in the last corner. There seems to be a major disagreement as to what happened. From my perspective – I went around the break on the left side and took the 2nd to last corner on the outside behind Chad Hartley. A couple hundred meters later there is the last corner. Just when I started to lean into the last corner, Pipp, who had gone around the break on the right and on the inside of the 2nd to last corner came up on my inside at the completely wrong angle to turn the corner. He wasn’t “willing” to pull his breaks, so he decided to dig his elbow into my side as he was saying “don’t do it Tilford”, whatever that was supposed to mean. I tried to keep turning; but, he had to go straight to negotiate the turn, the whole time having his elbow hooked under my ribs. This took pretty much the whole field, minus the 3 riders in the lead, straight through the corner instead of turning. I ended up all the way across the 4 lane road skidding into the outside curb going no speed at all. I had to shift a bunch to get back up to speed and ended up 10th. No one fell, which was unbelievably lucky; or, more accurately, it shows how jacked up the field was by the contact.

Immediately after the race, Pipp and I had some words. Pretty heated. He beat me and is winning the series overall now. I thought it was a pretty shitty way to accomplish that. He implied that I was at fault. Loudly, in front of most of the front of the field warming down, he said that I hooked him from the outside. My question to him, which I wish I would have asked him last night, is that if that was the case, why weren’t we going toward the inside of the corner instead of going straight to the outside. Since it was a right hand corner and I was on the outside/left, if I had “hooked” him as he contents, we would have been going right toward the center of the course. Instead, he was slamming me and everyone else into the far left curb. How can I be in control of the situation if we end up crossing four lanes and ended up on the outside corner. That isn’t anyway I would chose to take the final corner in a criterium. There can be no hooking from the front on the outside when the field ends up on the outside. He was nearly T-boning me, trying to squeeze into a hole that wasn’t there. I understand the desperate move somewhat. What I don’t get is his attitude trying to blame me for something that he did. He made the most, absolutely the most, dangerous move in the whole race by any rider in the race. Then, he has the nerve to try to put blame on me for his screw-up. I guess that is the “Professional” way nowadays. Whatever, it’s over. There is another race tonight.

More friendly before the race with Mr. Frank Pipp.

More friendly before the race with Mr. Frank Pipp.


Overall podium presentation.

Overall podium presentation.


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Riding back to my car at night with Bromont.

Riding back to my car at night with Bromont.