Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thinking about some MTB Racing

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Nothing like this though. Lots of risks here. I hope the rewards were comparable.

Athens Twilight Criterium

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I vowed not to return to this race after crashing twice the last time I rode it. I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve done the race, but, for sure, have a over 50 % crash ratio. That isn’t acceptable. I’ve been laying in this very spot more times than I would like to remember. One year, when I rode for Levi’s/Isuzu, I rode directly into a pile of guys and next thing I was doing was trying to stop a spray of blood coming out of a severed calf muscle. Anyway, bad things happen in bike races, we don’t need to exacerbate to them by adding stupidity.

Joe Martin Criterium – Final Stage

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Yesterday was the 4th and final stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race. The weather was all around Fayetteville, but it kept splitting around the city nearly all day, so we all were lucky.

The final criterium is a pretty hard race. It is on a hill and is pretty technical. It has a substantial downhill, approaching 50 mph, with a hard corner at the bottom. Lots of brake pads are in need to be replaced today, I’d think.

The Jamis Pro Team was going to tempo all day. They had everything to gain by keeping the race together for a field sprint, with the race leader, Ian Crane, enough ahead to win, without a time bonus putting him in danger. So, when we started, they went to the front and just set tempo. Even so, the race wasn’t all that easy being one of the followers. The problem with being in a race like this, is the further you get back in the field, the more the slinky effect affects you, so you end up doing a series of all out sprints downhill and then chase and finally coast into the field on the hill. Just to start all over again.

To show you the difference between riding at the front or back, I looked at Ian Crane’s Strava. His max speed in the race was 40.1. My max speed in the race was 48.1. That is huge. And I stayed in pretty good position during the race.

Anyway, there were lots of small attacks, but no one got too far up the road. The Jamis guys did a great job of keeping it under control. With about 10 laps to go it started sprinkling. I recognized the danger pretty quickly and moved up to the top 20. It seemed to be getting pretty wet, but no one was falling, which was a relief. With about 5 laps to go, my rear wheel slid out on the fast downhill corner. Then the next lap, it happened again and I realized that I had a rear flat.

I moved over and rode to the pit. At the pit, the officials told me that I could either get a wheel and chase or get the field time, which was going to be the leaders time. I chose the later. Watching the end of the race, there were riders getting dropped the last 3 laps. It didn’t seem right that I would receive the winner’s time when the race was breaking up. But, that was the rule and, for the most part, a pretty big group came to the finish. A group of guys, led by Eric Marcotte, fell on the fast downhill corner, and they got the same time too, so I guess it was okay.

Everyone seemed to be riding pretty polite, which was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t once see anyone touch another rider and no one was really chopping or riding too weird of lines. Brad Huff, who won the stage, dove the bottom corner a few times, but he does it with class. I was more into taking that corner on the outside, but it is much less safe. It was a pretty great win for Brad. It was a hard race.

It was lucky that the weather held off. It was super ugly all around. The drive back to Topeka was sketchy. We nearly stopped because we were driving directly into a tornado that was on the ground. It was supposedly just 4 miles directly ahead of us. All the cars on I-44 just pulled over and each exit had an ambulance and firetruck parked, waiting. We, luckily were heading north, so we exited and headed up I-49 to Kansas City. But, the storms were constant all the way back.

I’m pretty okay with how the race went. I must have been off on Thursday, in the Hillclimb, so that was the reason I only finished 30th overall. But, it was great riding with the Boneshaker guys. It is strange jumping into a group of guys that you normally race against. I’ve known a couple of the guys for a few years, but met new friends. Michael Sheenan, a rider I didn’t know before, is going to be good. He finished 2nd in the U-23 overall and had 3 top ten finishes. Nick Torrca, who is just 18, rode awesome. He bridged a gap from the 2nd group to the front group, the last time up the hard feed climb on the Hogeye loop. He was the only rider in the race to do that. Pretty stellar bike racing for a first year Elite rider. And Heath Blackgrove was a true mentor to the the young guys, sacrificing his own results for the younger riders. Pretty cool. Anyway, it was a great experience.

It is supposed to be sort of cool and rainy the next few days here in Kansas. I think I’m staying around here this next weekend. The Velotek Grand Prix is here locally. It is a two day, 3 stage race in Lawrence. The TradeWind Energy Team is doing a local Lawrence elementary school, Woodlawn, visit Friday morning. We’re giving every kid a free helmet doing a little talk. Should be fun.

I’ve been riding a lot, so I might cut back some. I’m approaching 2000 miles for the month, nearly 100 hours of riding. And there is still 3 days left. That is big mileage for me, considering how little I’ve been racing. I need to race more to get some leg speed and more top end. Or motorpace, but I haven’t done that for years and years, so it is going to have to be racing. I’m riding okay, but was surprised I didn’t have the snap to stay in the front on the last climb on Saturday. I had to chase back on, which I hate to do. So, I need more top I guess.

The allergies and burning in Northeastern Kansas are always a concern for me now. They are both going to be pretty horrible this week. It just depends on how much it actually rains. That helps for both. Okay, lots of pictures below.

They called lots of guys up to the final podium.

They called lots of guys up to the final podium.

Brad Huff nearly to the line for the win.

Brad Huff nearly to the line for the win.

Ian Crane, 3rd on the stage and overall winner.

Ian Crane, 3rd on the stage and overall winner.

Brad celebrating.

Brad celebrating.

Here is Lauren Stephens, my Boneshaker team mate's wife, winning the criterium.  She won 3 out of the 4 stages, plus the overall.

Here is Lauren Stephens, my Boneshaker teammate, Mat Stephens wife, winning the criterium. She won 3 out of the 4 stages, plus the overall.

Me and Mike Sheenan on the bottom section of the course.

Mike Sheenan and I on the bottom section of the course.

Nick and I after the race, me bumming about flatting a new Vittoria CX.

Nick and I after the race, me bumming about flatting a new Vittoria CX.

Alerts were going off on our phones continually on the way home.

Alerts were going off on our phones continually on the way home.

The skies were always looking scary.

The skies were always looking scary.

I-49, the road we were driving is directly under this line of storms.  I love thunderstorms in the Midwest.  I just don't like driving in them.

I-49, the road we were driving is directly under this line of storms. I love thunderstorms in the Midwest. I just don’t like driving in them.

Bromont was very unconcerned during all of this.

Bromont was very unconcerned during all of this.

Overall GC results.  Click to enlarge.

Overall GC results. Click to enlarge.

We got back to Lawrence in time to get some food at FreeState.

We got back to Lawrence in time to get some food at FreeState.

Pollen count the next few days here.

Pollen count the next few days here.

Joe Martin Stage 3 – Hogeye Road Race

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I’m a little short of time, so I’ll probably just finish the whole Joe Martin thing tomorrow. Yesterday was a hard race for just about everyone. It was definitely really hard for the Jamis guys. The were put under a lot of stress by the constant attacks and especially a late move by the SmartStop Team. But, as usual, it all came back together in the last 10 km. By this time there were less than 50 guys left in the front. The field had split into two groups of 25, I was in the back group, but after a 1/2 a lap chase, it was back together.

It got a little dicey the last 5 km, with a hard sidewind. The Boneshaker guys, mainly Heath and Nick, went to the front and kept it strung out in the gutter. I finally got in front of Michael Sheehan, who is the fastest of us all, with less than a couple kms. to go. When the sprint started, Bradd Huff was leading out Jesse Anthony. I got into a little tussle with Travis McCabe. He has been riding too many criteriums with the UHC guys and was pretty rude to boot. But, he won the race by 1/2 a wheel anyway. Full results here. Michael was 6th, getting pinched off in the final corner. I rolled across in 19th.

Okay, it is supposed to be crazy weather this afternoon. Winds up to 80mph and golf ball size hail. That was what was forecast last night. Hopefully it holds off for today’s final stage, a technical criterium on a hill. Okay, I have to go.

deanwarenThis photo is by Dean Warren. He has lots of photos of all the races at his facebook page here.

I rode the 10 miles back to Fayetteville to loosen up my legs.  I went to Chipotle and got the biggest burrito ever.  So big they had to put it in a bowl.  I was surprised to see the 5 Hour Energy gus eating at Taco Bueno and then the Optum Pro Team getting burritos too.  Must be the food of choice for professional cyclists.

I rode the 10 miles back to Fayetteville to loosen up my legs. I went to Chipotle and got the biggest burrito ever. So big they had to put it in a bowl. I was surprised to see the 5 Hour Energy gus eating at Taco Bueno and then the Optum Pro Team getting burritos too. Must be the food of choice for professional cyclists.

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It was pretty hot all day. Bromont was hot here at the feed zone. I heard they took an Optum rider to the hospital for dehydration.

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Trudi got the van stuck here a couple years ago. A couple farmers spent two hours jacking her out. Pretty nice.

Joe Martin “Long Road Race” Stage Two

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I don’t really like to surprise myself in the sport of cycling. Well, that isn’t really true, I like to surprise myself to the upside. Over the years, I’ve had to tweak the equation over and over again to make up for changes in myself/age. I think I might be near that stage once again, other than I don’t have enough information to have any idea what to do.

Yesterday was perplexing. After the time trial/hillclimb, the day before, I had no idea what I was riding like. The race was 110 miles long, with just one big climb at mile 73, but it was 10 miles long. There were lots of places that some might consider climbing, but they were more just big rollers.

The race started pretty fast for the first 15 miles. Lots of mini-moves to establish a break. I felt like hell. I actually felt pretty horrible the first two hours. Maybe a little longer. I was having a really hard time catching my breathe and was continually coughing little mini nodules out of my lungs. It had to be allergies. Or maybe asthma, I don’t know. All I do know was that I was pretty depressed and not feeling it. Plus, I had a crazy headache as soon as I clipped in.

A break rolled and the Jamis guys went to the front and set tempo. Eventually, I started feeling better, which I still don’t understand. The Smartstop Team started a series of attacks right before the feed zone, at 47 miles. They eventually got 4 of their guys into a move, plus a 5 Hour Energy rider too. This rattled the Jamis guys, just a bit, but they held steady and chased the Smartstop break down. I have to applaud their efforts. The race would have been really boring without the efforts.

This whole attack, chase thing sort of split the field, but most everyone eventually caught back on and were there for the start of the big climb. Man, guys are really elbowing and riding what I’d consider “dirty” to hold position getting to the bottom of the climb. I thought it was a total waste of energy. The climb is 4 lanes wide and you can move up where ever you want. I find it that the guys that have the least chance of staying in the field seem to use their elbows the most. It is one of the worst evolutions of the sport during my time in it.

The climb was complete tailwind. We were climbing continually over 20 mph. A lot of riders got shelled on the early pitches. The climb goes up in short pitches, followed by short downhills. It was pretty strung out the whole way up, lots of micro attacks, the speed was high. I couldn’t believe how easy it was though. Not once on the climb was I in the least bit of distress. I’m not sure if I was just feeling really good, or it was just that easy. A pretty big group crested the top together, so it probably was pretty easy.

The last 25 miles was generally downhill and tailwind. We were coasting along at over 30 mph nearly the whole last hour. I was pretty optimistic about the finish. The Boneshaker Team that I am guest riding for had 4 guys in the front group. During the pre-race meeting, the plan was to set up Michael Sheehan for the sprint. I raced against him last weekend in Dallas, he won on Sunday and was going good.

Coming into the sprint, I got caught a little out. I got stuck on the right side of the field and decided to just go with it. The problem with that is that I didn’t have much control of my own destiny. Historically, the right side gets squeezed up against the curb and there is a ton of braking and sprinting. It wasn’t quite that bad this year, but by the time we hit the left corner with 1.6 km to go, I was buried. So buried, I knew I was screwed.

So, I just kept moving up. The finish is hard. A series of hills, two or three little short hills, with short rests, then a right corner and 300 meters uphill to the finish. I was maybe 40 riders back. I moved up to the top 25, but by the time I got to the last corner, I was pretty much done. I just rode up to the finish, hoping that no splits in the field happened. Once again, historically, the field has a lot of time splits in this stage. They didn’t put a split in the field until 52 guys back. I was 36th. Michael finished 10th, pretty much free lancing the finish after Heath got him into position at the bottom of the hill. Here’s a link to the complete results, women too.

I really enjoyed the last half of the race. I pretty much hated the first two hours of the race. I need to try to figure out how to get riding well before two hours into a race. Some races aren’t even two hours long, so that won’t work. I have another chance to figure it out again today. Another 110 mile road race. Yesterday was pretty hot, mid 80’s and it’s supposed to be hotter today. There were a lot of guys covered completely in salt yesterday, so I put a ton of it on my dinner last night. I want to join the crusty salty rider club. I didn’t have any at all on me. But, I hardly felt like I was going to cramp much at all, so that is a good sign.

A couple of in race deals –

I was humored, like I said above, watching these “teams” of riders trying to line it up at the front all day. Especially before the climb, all these teams were trying to emulate the Tour and ride in some sort of formation heading into the climb. These guys waste so much energy fighting for position when there is no reason to do it.

I have to single out the Astellas Oncology team. These guys rode in line for hours, behind the Jamis guys that were pulling. I have no idea why they thought they needed to do this, but they did. I watched one of their guys, Matt Green, who I don’t know, but saw his number, throw an elbow into Chris Winn, Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros., who I sort of know, just to try to follow one of his team mates through the field. Chris was eating a gel and he didn’t say anything to the guy. I asked him if that it bugged him that the guy put an elbow into his hip for no reason and he said, “You have to pick your battles.” I told him that there wasn’t really a battle going on, it wasn’t an important time in the race. It was just a guy trying to follow his team mate and the group shifted, so he made a hole by contact. I hate it. I have no idea when it became okay to make holes with contact, but it seems common nowadays. I was a little apprehensive about calling these guys out publicly, but maybe it will be a start to an end of all this stupid contact. You can click the results link above to see how well it worked out for them.

The best save of the day has to go to Fabio Calabria, Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros. It was after the last climb and we were cruising along at 35 mph. He hit something on the shoulder, something substantial, and blew out his rear wheel. Whatever he hit, it threw his rear wheel off to the right about a foot. Normally, a guy would have high-sided, but Fabio corrected accordingly and kept it up. For sure he would have fallen if he would have been riding clinchers, with the rim hitting the asphalt, he would have no ability to control the bike. He got a wheel, rode back to the field and went on to finish 9th at the end. Pretty good bike riding.

I was talking to the kid, Jordan Cheyne, who finished 2nd in the hillclimb. He rode super fast and is just 23. I was asking him where he was from. He said Vancouver and I said something like, following in the footsteps of Roland Green? He said a firm No! I told him that Roland was a pretty good cyclist before he got super charged. And at least he quit the sport while he was still kickin’ ass. I thought that was pretty admirable. I told him a story about after Roland finished 3rd in the World MTB Cross Country Championships, I congratulated him and told him he was officially on my cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater list. He asked what that list was. I told him that it was for anyone that finished on the podium of any world championships in cycling was impossible to do without doping, back then. He took it a little harsh and asked me outright if I was accusing him of using drugs. I told him that he made the list, so by default, it meant that. But, making the list, being the top 3 in the Worlds, was really important, so it might offset being on my personal list.

Okay, I hope I feel the same today as I felt at the finish yesterday. Well, not at the finish, because I was really winded, but the last 2 hours. The course is pretty good for me. It has a hard steeper climb, and it’s 4 laps, so it should be interesting, but it most likely will come down to a field sprint. Why would the Jamis guys want it any other way. And by the way they rode yesterday, they shoudn’tshouldn’tany problem keeping it together again.

Trudi fed our team, so she is even working when she officially "not working".

Trudi fed our team, so she is even working when she officially “not working”.

Here's Heath talking to Frankie Andreu.  They got back to the Toyota days.

Here’s Heath talking to Frankie Andreu. They got back to the Toyota days.

Having a beer after the finish with the rest of the Boneshaker Team.

Having a beer after the finish with the rest of the Boneshaker Team.

I went by a Braum's ice cream after dinner and had no idea that they had a complete  meat department.

I went by a Braum’s ice cream after dinner and had no idea that they had a complete meat department.

If you haven't had the pleasure to come down to Arkansas, or Oklahoma for that matter,  the soil is super red.

If you haven’t had the pleasure to come down to Arkansas, or Oklahoma for that matter, the soil is super red.

Joe Martin Hillclimb Time Trial

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Yesterday could have gone better. But, I’m trying to shake it off and just get on with it. I was hoping to ride 15-20 seconds faster than I did. I rode 9:18, which wasn’t even close to what I felt I should have done. I’m not sure what I did wrong. Maybe started too hard, or maybe allergies. All I know is that when I got about half way up the hill, I could hear my breathing, a little wheezy, squeak with every breathe. That kind of rattled me. But the lung burn was worse.

The morning was pretty stressful. The drive from Topeka to Fayetteville was through thunderstorm, after thunderstorm. I didn’t think I was so stressed out until I got out of the car in Joplin, Missouri and felt all twisted up. Plus, I only slept 5 hours. I was planning on sleeping over 6 hours, but the thunder woke me and I thought that I should pack up and use the extra hour just in case the driving was super slow. It was slower, but not that bad. I got here with plenty of time to spare.

I thought I warmed up good, but I must not have. That is one thing about getting older, it takes so long to get going good. I used to do some much better in the time trial when it was held after a 100 mile road race. I could ride it better, for sure, after tomorrows road stage.

That being said, I’m not really going with allergies because it had rained earlier in the day and that should have taken the pollen out of the air. So, I guess I have to go with that I don’t know how to pace myself for 9 minutes uphill. I rode pretty exactly 400 watts for the 9:16. That is the highest wattage I’ve had for that time period since I’ve had a power meter. It was 5.65 watt/kg, whatever that means.

I rode up the hill a couple times before I raced it. I rode it just medium hard and did a 9:52. I don’t understand how I can only ride a little over 30 seconds faster when I’m going as hard as I can. This sport is fickle.

I was talking to Frankie Andreu and a guy came riding up and Frankie asked how it went. He said horrible. That his power meter crapped out ride before the start and he had no idea how hard to ride. Both Frankie and I just said something like, wow. But, like I wrote above, I obviously didn’t know how hard to ride either, so I guess I’m in the same situation, just a different boat.

The winning time was 8:07, so I was 1:11 behind. I like that number, so it’s not all bad.

Today is 110 mile road race at 2:00pm. I caught up on some sleep, so I hope to be fine. I’d like to go out for a ride this morning, but I don’t really see any reason to add more miles into a moderately long day already. It is not supposed to be so hot today, just 80, so that is good. On Sunday, for the criterium on the hill, it is supposed to storm all day. That is always something to look forward to.

The numbers at Joe Martin this year might be the nicest numbers I've ever pinned on.  I told the promoter, Bruce Dunn this.  They are made of cloth and are very artsy.

The numbers at Joe Martin this year might be the nicest numbers I’ve ever pinned on. I told the promoter, Bruce Dunn this. They are made of cloth and are very artsy.

Driving to the race was sketchy.

Driving to the race was sketchy.

This was the corner that I fell on two years ago.

This was the corner that I fell on two years ago.

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

Starting.

Starting.

Talking to Frankie after the race.  There must be something pretty interesting to see here.

Talking to Frankie after the race. There must be something pretty interesting to see here.

Joe Martin Bound

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I had been kind of waffling about what to do this weekend. Brian had too much work to take Thursday and Friday and I really didn’t feel like doing a triangle drive to Hillsboro – Iowa City – Topeka, so was sort at a standstill.

Then yesterday, Heath Blackgrove, out of the blue, called me and said he had an extra slot on his team for the Pro race at Joe Martin. So I emailed Bruce Dunn, the promoter of Joe Martin and made sure it was cool that I registered late. It was all good, so right now I’m driving the 6 hours to the start of the time trial at 1 pm. I’m gonna be a little stiff for the 2 mile hillclimb, but I never seem to have much of a stellar time, I’ve only broken 9 minutes a couple times, so it will be fine.

I need to do more stage racing to get to another level of form, so this is a good place to start. Heath and his guys race hard, very aggressively, I like it. When Heath is in good form, he’s very capable of winning any race he’s in.

I haven’t done Joe Martin for the past two years. 2 years ago, I fell at 47 mph, warming up for the time trial and destroyed my left shoulder. Then last year I had shoulder surgery from crashing at Cyclo-X Nationals, so couldn’t do it.

The first time I did the Joe Martin race was back in 1979. It wasn’t called the Joe Martin race then, Joe was racing it. I was a first year Elite and was 2nd to John Howard in the hillclimb. I was stoked. I’ve never won the race overall. I finished 2nd to Thurlow Rogers one year and 2nd to Jason McCarthy too, but I was racing MTB and was just using the race for training. Kind of wish I would have took it a little more seriously now.

Yesterday, Catherine came back into town for a day one stop, on the way to Florida. I rode to Lawrence with her on gravel. Not the best rest day before a 4 day stage race, but I hadn’t seen her for a while and would rather do a good ride with a friend that worry about being fresh for a race. At least that is what I’m telling myself right now.

Of course it is raining like crazy right now, before 6 am. I think it is going to be a shitty drive.

Today is only 2.5 miles uphill, so it is really a rest day, but very important for the race overall. I’m pretty light right now, but am not thinking I have enough in me to do a real time today. But, you never know until you do it.

From 2 years ago. A little racy. This is how I came back from the hospital. I wasn't too ripped up considering, other than my butt is not good also.

The gravel wasn't all that smooth along the river, but it was still great.  It was pretty warm, 20 degrees warmer than Catherine's Seattle weather, so she was a bit hot.

The gravel wasn’t all that smooth along the river, but it was still great. It was pretty warm, 20 degrees warmer than Catherine’s Seattle weather, so she was a bit hot.