Tulsa. It’s only 3 1/2 hours South of Topeka, but is very much different. It’s a very interesting place. I bet if you’ve never been there you have a preconceived idea what you think it’s like. I doubt you’re close. I think of red dirt and cowboys when I hear about Oklahoma. Nope. Tulsa is a city I’ve loved since the first time I raced there. Recently, they have been putting a ton of effort into the downtown. It seems it is continually under construction. The downtown is a collection of skyscrapers with pockets of old warehouse district type areas that house super cool shops and restaurants. It is really into cycling with lots of bike paths. It has a bridge that crosses the Arkansas river that is specially for bikes and pedestrians. Really nice.
Tulsa Tough is finally coming into it’s own. Now that it’s a NRC event, the field is matching the prize list. Most the PRO teams had representation there. But, not with 8 guys each, which made the racing better. I don’t want to go into the whole race story today. I was 11th the first day, 9th the 2nd and 18th the third. I finished 9th overall which was a nice check. Each race finished in a field sprint pretty much. Not one of the finishes went well for me. My biggest problem was breaking a spoke in my rear wheel Sunday on the last lap. I felt great and would have finished much, much better. It was a very hard course and very hot, so I was pretty happy to be having a pretty good day.
Driving down to Tulsa is directly South on Highway 75. It is a really nice road, through rural Southeastern Kansas. I had time coming home to enjoy the scenery some. I stopped and moved a turtle out of the road at dusk. I always stop on my bike, but sometimes in a car it is harder. I’m going to make it a personal mandatory action from now on.
Nature Valley starts a week from Wednesday. I’m thinking of getting a TT bike before then. It might be the only time trial I ride the rest of the year. $$$ per mile that is going to look pretty silly. Kansas State Road Race and Criterium Championships is this weekend. I’ll see how I feel by then. I’m going to ride to Kansas City a couple times this week. Tuesday for the training criterium. Maybe once more to go to the Apple Store to get my iPhone fixed. That will probably be enough miles to endure the one long road race at Nature Valley. Okay. That’s all for now. Ciao.
I’ve always seen racing bicycles as a privilege. Something that I love to do. I stayed with Jeff Bradley during the Quad Cities weekend. He used to ride for 7-11 back in the 80’s. He rode the Tour. The Giro. A lot of other European one day and stage races too. I was asking him how many times in his career that he set tempo on the front for his team. He said zero. The answer didn’t surprise me. I never set tempo. Ever. Up until the maybe Telekom in the Tour, the teams didn’t ride tempo all day. Riders raced. If you go back to the 1986 Tour when Lemond was having his issues with Hinault, Andy and Steve Bauer etc. didn’t ride at the front all day to set tempo. La Vie Claire riders finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the 1986 Tour de France. That doesn’t leave many to ride at the front. I feel bad for these guys that never get to race their bikes for themselves. It seems like a lot of domestic Pros are watching way too much Tour de France TV and want to race like that. What fun is that? Rotating at the front with 6 other guys for day after day. Plus, it is as boring as hell sitting behind these guys day after day.
I bring this up because Nature Valley Gran Prix starts next Wednesday. And the TT is the very first race, Wednesday morning. This is going to make the next three days into non bike racing. That’s too bad. On Saturday, the Mankato race finishes on a circuit that is too hard for any domestic Pro team to control. So, we’ll ride tempo up to the circuit for the first three hours and then race for an hour. Then back to the tempo thing on Sunday for the Stillwater Criterium. Stillwater has a course that climbs up from the St. Croix River. It is super hard. I’ve always said if you can tempo that criterium, you can tempo any race. And that has been the case the last few years. It should be carnage with a climb that hard. But, it’s just carnage for the back of the field because of the slinky effect for the tempo riding. I’ve suggested a few time to USAC that they need to limit the number of riders at a NRC event to 6 per team. That would alleviate many of the problems that are happening now in US racing. US stage races are normally 2-5 days long. They aren’t Pro Tour events with a crazy amount of climbing and/or days. Limiting the number of riders to 6 would make the racing more aggressive. It would even out the playing field (I’d guess that less than half of the teams at Nature Valley have 8 riders registered). And it would be much less expensive for teams to field at team at a NRC event. The bigger PRO teams, if the had the budget, could be racing at two events the same weekends. It doubles up their chances of results. Everyone is still racing their bikes. But, under this new structure they actually have to be racing their bikes everyday instead of letting their teams race for them.
Sorry for the rant, but I’m just having a hard time getting enthused about riding in line for most of next week. Maybe something will happen to surprise me.
Talk about a job. Contador is going to race again at the Dauphine’ Libere’. Velonews said he hasn’t raced since April. That sounds about right. Now that is a job. Training hard enough to win Pro Tour events without racing for month periods during the season. I don’t get it. I have never been able to train hard enough to race fast. I need to race to race fast. Wonder how many race days he’ll actually get this year? Bet I have more. Something is wrong with that.
I just rode my bike the 80 miles from Topeka to Kansas City. I needed to get my iPhone looked at by the genius guys at the Apple Store. Anyway, it was a perfect day. Mid 70’s, little wind, nice. It is around 30 miles to Lawrence KS, then another 30-35 miles to the KC outskirts, and the rest of the way through city. I was riding listening to music on my phone. I usually have a rule against riding with earphones, but this is a pretty isolated ride after Lawrence . Anyway, I hadn’t ridden my bike by myself for a period that long for quite a while. I usually train with other guys. Almost exclusively. I love riding in groups. That is one of the coolest things about the sport. A bunch of people with vastly different abilities can go out and train together and everyone gets a workout. Anyway, I was surprised how much I missed riding by myself. I was having a good day on the bike. The hills seemed small. Nearly effortless. But, that wasn’t completely it. It was the I hadn’t taken the time to look around and appreciate the surroundings recently. And I was now. This is one of the best times of the year for that. Everything is lush. Looks fresh. The creeks and ponds are all full. This route crosses both the Santa Fe Trail crossing and California Road, which preceded the Santa Fe Trail. The Oregon Trail also crosses here. It is amazing thinking that 1000’s of pioneers walked nearly 2000 miles to the West Coast 150 years ago. And I’m digging riding my bike 80 miles. The Apple Store is at the Country Club Plaza. It is a outdoor mall that was built over 100 years ago. It was designed architecturally after Seville, Spain. Super high end shops and nice restaurants. It is rumored to have more fountains than Seville. There are a ton fountain here, every corner. I rode through Mission Hills on the way. It neighbors the Plaza. One of the most affluent residential areas in the country. Winding roads. Mansions. Tasteful opulence. Anyway, the Tour of Missouri finishes at the Plaza. A women’s criterium is held right before the finish of the men’s race. So, you should go out of your way and try to make it to the end of the Tour of Missouri in September. Make sure you get a nice room right on The Plaza. I can’t think of a much better way to spend the weekend if you’re a bike race fan. And ’til then, make some time to go out and do a nice long ride. Alone.
Nature Valley started today. Having abit of a computer access problem so I’ll update more later. The weather is cool here in Minneapolis. Barely in the 70’s. Tom Zirbel, Bissell, won the TT this morning. 6 miles finishing on a 800 meter climb. I sucked. I generallly suck at Time Trialing now that everyone has time trial bikes. I swore last year I was going to get one. I almost did last week. I felt pretty good, just went pretty slow. Zirbel recovered pretty well from his big effort in Philly on Sunday. He beat Rory Sutherland, Ouch, by 13 seconds.
The St. Paul Criterium was tonight. Bissell had 6 riders finish in the top 12 in the time trial, so the race was destined to be a field sprint. The course was 1 km with one side having a slight climb and the start/finish stretch downhill. There were a zillion man hole covers that were recessed. It was stupid dangerous. Not because of the road surface. Mainly because of the way that Bissell was setting tempo at the front. They were only riding the inside of the course and swinging out for each corner at the last minute, jacking up the riders behind. A 4 rider break stayed away until the last lap. Colivita did a crazy fast leadout the last km and Haedo won. The front of the field shattered. I thought I was in pretty good position, but got tangled up and shuffled back. I had a bunch of juice still on the last lap, but the front of the field split. I was just trying to reconnect to the front and ended up 10th. There were huge gaps, but I’m sure the officials will score the field with one time. The average speed was pretty fast. I had something in the high 28 mph range at the end. Pretty quick considering how many times a lap you had to be fully on the brakes. It was starting to rattle a fair amount of guys. I was okay with it. That was just how it was going to be.
Tomorrow, the Cannon Falls Road Race doesn’t start until 5 pm. It’s less than 70 miles, so it will be a field sprint again. There won’t be any real bike racing until the last hour on Saturday in Mankato. The finishing circuit there is very hard and it will decide the GC.
I rode to the time trial and criterium and back, so it was a good mileage day. Not sure what I’m getting the mileage for other than I like riding my bike in new places.
Cannon Falls road race is a 55 mile loop out in the country. You turn onto a 1 km gravel section and then a screaming descent into Cannon Falls. From there you proceed to do 6 laps of a 2 mile circuit with lots of tight corners. The finish is up a slight hill for the last 300 meters. Pretty hard sprint. Historically there has be a ton of wind on the course. Not today. It was pretty calm and around 75 degrees. Good racing temperatures. That being said, it was destined to be a field sprint. Which it was. Nothing much got away. There was a little bike racing the last 5 miles before the gravel. Alot of the time we were just cruising along at over 35 mph. Nothing much is going to stay away at those speeds. I made a pretty good move and hit the gravel in 2nd position. Tim Johnson and another Ouch guy were 3rd and 4th. I punched it over the top and tucked on the rough descent. At the bottom, there is a sharp off camber 90 degree corner. I came up on the motorcycle official like he was standing still. He gunned it, but nearly knocked me down in the corner. I only had a 100 meters or so and sat up. The circuits were chaotic as usually. Lots of people trying to control the front and everyone else trying to move up. The last lap, I was in pretty good position considering the mayheim. I got up to somewhere in the top 20 in the last km. I made a pretty good move to the final downhill, but got taken out wide in the last real corner. That was enough to put me out into the wind sprinting to reconnect to the front of the field with 300 meteres to go. I was hoping it was going to ease up some, but it didn’t. I made a half hearted attempt to sprint and bagged it with 100 meters to go. But, the remainder of the field was so blown that no one passed me even though I was barely pedaling. I finished 16th. Whatever. Colivita was 1-2 on the stage. They have the leadout situation down to perfection. The speed is so fast the last km, that it’s nearly impossible to move up. Tommorow is another night time criterium in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. It should be pretty exciting. A awesome crowd will be there. Then the racing really begins with Mankato Road Race and Stillwater Criterium on the weekend. It should be pretty interesting seeing whether Ouch or Bissell comes out on top. Each of those teams has at least 3 guys in the top ten. I’d put my money on Ouch, but you never know. It’s bike racing.
We’re stay at host housing here at Nature Valley. I’m usually pretty adamant against that. Too many times there is a sick kid or something and the whole team ends up sick for the next two weeks. But, the few times it works out, it works out great. This is one of those times. We’re staying in Woodbury, a suburb Southeast of St. Paul. Super for riding. We’re staying with Bob McEnaney and his family. It is so comfortable. They haven’t had to go out of their way to make it that way. That is just the way they live. Their house is exactly like a house should be. Clean, but lived in. Really lived in. Sports equipment everywhere. A gym downstairs. Interesting projects in all different stages of completion. A household. Their yard is like a scuptured garden. A million different varieties of plants. Pool. Running brook. They are on the go all day. Ben Raby, guest rider, said it perfectly. Bob did more yesterday morning than Ben does in a week in Boulder. It’s true for me also. Yesterday they got up and exercised for a hours at 5:30 am. He went to the store and got a boat load of groceries. He went out and rode his bike for a couple hours. Vacuumed the house. And then mowed the lawn. All before noon. And I left out about 50 other things. It’s like watching the energizer bunny. He repeated it in the afternoon and then drove down to Cannon Falls for the finish of the race. As a cyclist, that is mind boggling. Bob took us to a killer bar after the race in some small town in between Cannon Falls and St. Paul. It was famous for their burgers. I don’t usually eat too much of that stuff, but the life experience is worth the trade off. If there is a trade off. Anyway, they did have 50 types of burgers. Everything you can imagine on a burger plus some. Nick Coil got one with peanut butter and mayo. Nick loves peanut butter. I couldn’t of stomached it, but he said it was great. I got a fried egg and blue cheese. Thought a little extra protein was in order. And the beer on tap was cold and plentiful. I think I’m going to have to change my mindset on the host housing thing. These life experiences make the suffering on the bike much easier to justify.
Peanut Butter burger.
Bob getting the stream flowing.
Weird mushroom where we parked in Cannon Falls.
Another tempo session over. The venue was awesome. The Uptown area of Minneapolis is great. There was a pretty huge, knowledgable crowd watching. Everything a big time criterium should have. The course was an 1 mile L shaped course with not much altitude gain. It was fairly open. The racing was nonexistent until the last two laps. Maybe the last lap. Bissell rode at the front all 75 minutes. They didn’t always ride the inside of the course, disrupting the field, but did the majority of the time. Jelly Belly tried to take over with 7 or so laps to go, but didn’t have enough juice. Finally Colivita did their crazy fast last lap and Haedo won again. I was never in the mix the last two laps. I made a few efforts to get up to the front, but couldn’t get into contention, so ended up not sprinting. I ended up 20th. A fair amount of guys lost some time. I guess there were some splits in the field the last couple laps. The average race speed was over 29mph, so the last couple laps had to be way faster than that. I wonder if the crowd had any enjoyment watching a 7 man Team Time Trial for the majority of the race. I’m not sure they even ever offered a prime. I know I’m wrong. Ben Raby won an 60 massage coupon early on.
Tomorrow is the deciding day in this stage race. 4 finishing circuits up a big climb in Mankato. If I was to guess, I’d pick Rory Sutherland to win alone, but who knows. I think if the Bissell Team sets tempo the whole race to the circuits, it would be a huge error. We’ll see.