Cycling in a Toque

Cycling in a Toque: May 2011

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Legend of Jim Thorpe

Travel days can be long, hot, and torturous or short, easy and mentally refreshing. I've spent plenty of time in vans throughout my athletic career so day-long travel days aren't anything new and I've actually started to really enjoy them. Like the skill of napping, the skill of zoning-out is critical to survival on the road.

When I started traveling, the van involved a 12 hr haul from the west coast of British Columbia to the heart of the Canadian Rockies, packed to the brim with ski equipment and over excited teenagers. Although travel these days is much more civilized with a full trailer to free up leg-room, the trips can still be long and difficult.

Fortunately technology has also improved. Where it was once 40second anti skip CD players (remember those!) and a small TV jammed into the side door for that Nintendo64 blasting RUSH (car driving game), it's now individual computers for movies and smart phones filled with the latest YouTube craze. And as long as you've remembered your AC adapter, the fun never stops.

But there is something to be said for just unplugging. And when in the van, with moving scenery just out the window, it can be a lot easier to justify zoning out than when chilling at a homestay next to a TV, a pool table or a WIFI connection. There is too much distraction in our lives. If a criterium is anything as stressful as life working in the real world, well then I know that we all just need some quiet time. Besides, how can you come up with an original thought if you don't give your mind a chance to calm down and explore the experiences of the past week.

So if you feeling like you can't get away from technology, just remember you're still in charge of the power switch.

See awesome Team Exergy rider attempt at Penny Farthing Here


Monday, 30 May 2011

2011 US Pro: Caravan Car

This week I am in Greenville, South Carolina helping my teammates compete at the US PRO National Championships. Well actually, I haven't been able to give up all of my time as I have been completing my preparations for the Philadelphia Invitational on June 5th but I did get a chance to ride in the car with Team Exergy Director Sportif Tad Hamilton during Monday's 5hr National Road Championship.

It was my first day in a car in a real race and wow was it tense. It is a totally different experience than racing in the peloton. Packed full of 150 bottles, boxes of bars, bags of ice, bunches of pantyhose (for ice socks) and heaps of gels, we rolled 7th wheel in the caravan of fourteen. Right from the start the attacks started despite averaging 32mph for the first 45 minutes. Each time the radio blurred out race bib numbers, I'd furiously cross reference calculate the composition of the break. Exergy needed a rider in the move.

Without radios, our riders would quickly discuss the race situation as Tad and I handed bottles and food to the riders. At 100 degrees, the attrition was high and the demand for ice socks desperate. Quinn threw down with the big boys and survived in the breakaway for 100km. In the finale, Cooke suffered through extreme race conditions to finish just outside the top 15. An awesome day for the team since only Matt had done the race before. We raced well and fought hard.

In other news, Greenville, South Carolina may be hands down the best place I have ever ridden a bike. Small, uninhabited roads are everywhere. I was fortunate to go for three big rides during my week in the area. These included the two below: The first with a 1hr climb and the second with an amazing 8km descent along a deserted highway! GO THERE!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Wilmington Grand Prix: FIRST PRO PODIUM!!!!

BAM! I did it! I grabbed my first NRC podium as a professional! So stoked!

This year the Wilmington Grand Prix expanded from a prestigious & punishing one day criterium to a multi-day omnium featuring the classic stages of the Tour de Pont. Fresh off of a one week vacation, I was very excited to go for big results despite facing 6-man teams from UnitedHealthCare, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Kenda Pro Cycling with only 1 teammate for support.

Tour de Pont: More than just a race, the Tour de Pont developed into an American classic through the early 90's. It's list of champions include some of the top international cyclists and featured difficult and diverse stages such as the cobbled Monkey Hill time trial and the Dover Air Force road race.

With near perfect preparation, I was extremly determinded to post a strong result in at least 1 of the 3 stages. It was time to start taking a little bit more risk when appropriate so when the skies opened up during the prologue time trial, I turned off the brain and ramped up the instinct. Although the prologue was included in the omnium for all other categories, it was excluded from the Pro men's omnium to the surprise of many riders. This meant that only the weekend's 90 minute criterium and 111 mile (173km) road race would count towards the overall omnium.

What is an omnium? An omnium is a points based competition (similar to a King of the Mountains [Polka Dots @ TourdeFrance] or Sprint Competition [Green @ TourdeFrance]) as opposed to a stage race general classification which is decided by time. This means that if a rider wins the first event by either 1 second or 1 minute, they can still lose the overall race if they miss the top end of the field in the remaining events. So consistency is important.

But the lack of omnium points and thus prize money for the Friday afternoon exhibition race did not deter my intentions of giving it everything. Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for the start of the Pro men's category. I was first out of the start hut so the very wet surface did make for some difficult conditions but at least I could see my lines.

After almost dumping it entering the third corner (a long blind mossy left hander with potholes), I tapped the breaks for the first cobbled section. ZING! And the bike is sideways! And it's way out there! Some woman screamed. But the rear wheel came back (Kenda tires, Williams wheels and a balanced Felt F1 road frame = one hell of a racing machine) and I muscle the front wheel into the apex of the cobbled corner for a smooth exit. Actually there was a bump in the cobbles 1.5ft from the right curb (right turn) so in the morning's pre-ride I figured that you'd need to be on the inside of that bump (essentially creating a massive banked corner), otherwise you'd hit the barriers on the outside (it was only a half lane of cobbles because the other side of the road also played host to the final 200metre drag to the finish). Already in the big ring, I threw the gears down to the 11 and churned out some big watts. The bike battled underneath, my teeth chattered up above.

Down on the smooth cement bridge I could take one calm breath before a few big pedal strokes brought my speed back up to 30mph for the entrance to the main climb of the day. A small 15 foot cobbled section brought the speed down though following the bridge so it was big power right from the base. Twisting up and to the right, the 5% grade was smooth and enclosed under a canopy of green. This was one of the few places to ride extremely hard. Essentially a 90 second effort, I tried to get as aerodynamic as I could while trying hard to break my cranks. Good thing my FSA Kforce Light's are way strong!

A small descent into a fast left right complex would take me down to the river (the 2nd section of fast pedaling) but despite slowing down, the off-camber apex sent my rear wheel way out once again. But with patience the rear wheel came back and I slowed down a little bit more for the dipping, blind-apex right hander leading down to the water. Kask helmet tucked, I pressed my FootDynamic footbeds into my Speedplay pedals as hard as I could, yanking my heels up against the thin heel cup of my white Bont shoes. Tree branches littered the roadway after the day's high winds and thunderstorms, then I rode into a massive puddle! It was way deeper than I was hoping too! What is this? CYCLOCROSS!

The roadway swung to the left and right as the final turnaround point neared. Left, slightly blind, white paint-covered and lined with orange cones, only 1km remained. A slight 2% drag led into the final 200metre cobbled finish, but a mossy, pothole filled uphill right hand swing made sure that each rider started the glossy cobbles with no speed. In the pre-ride I rode the finish twice in the 53.25, staying to the smoother right-hand edge. But after only three pedals strokes along the cobbles my chain dropped off the big ring! PANIC! OH WAIT...I'm good! Thanks to my K-edge chain guard, the chain slotted right onto the small ring so a few clicks of my fast-action, custom painted Microshift shifter and I was still rolling up the hill as if nothing'd happened. The crowd was pretty good too and they was some serious noise as the line approached and the power in the legs faded. Halfway through the field, I held the 3rd fastest time but the sun came out and dried the course for the final 15 minutes. UnitedHealthcare strongman and Northwest Collegiate Alumni Adrian Hegyvary crushed the course just over six minutes. A very impressive ride!

Saturday's figure eight criterium course included some significant elevation change but the layout's flow and peloton's attitude made for a smooth race that discouraged a breakaway. But that doesn't mean many didn't try! I felt great and covered/initiated a few moves in the first twenty minutes, including a quick bridge to a promising group with National Champion Dan Holloway (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and one UnitedHealthcare rider. Essentially, no breakaway would be allowed to survive if UHC didn't have the odds (2 riders in a group of 4, 3 in 6, etc). So we were back quite soon.

There were no prime sprints in this race either which made for a bit of a boring dynamic (it took the field a while to figure out that they weren't calling any!) and after losing my last water bottle after a near-catastrophic crash at the halfway point, I started to develop a salty mustache. Being a midday race (my first since I graduated college last year) it was hot so without water, it definitely required a little bit of "hardin up and get this shit done" attitude.

The backstraight was very fast. It's 2% downward slope and tailwind made for some brake burning and nervous jockeying (aka, diving down the inside and hoping someone opened a hole by accident) each time we entered the 2nd last corner. If taken at the front, one could almost coast the entire way up to the final corner (1 block away) leaving a 400 metre drag up to the line featuring strips of cobbles and a roaring downtown crowd. In the finale, UHC lined out the field and I positioned myself just at the edge of the top ten. A gap opened up at 5th wheel along the backstraight though so after some crafty go-kart tactics (passing 3 guys in the final two corners) I got a grip on my Microshift shifters to edge out Kyle wamsley (Bissell Pro Cycling) in the drag to the line for 6th on the day. A solid result and the best of my year so far!

With the Philadelphia Invititational only two weeks away, I grabbed some food and fresh water for more training. Saturday's racing and training made for a big day so dinner at the local buffet was very welcome, afterall, Sunday's 111 mile road race would be tough without feedzone love (no neutral!).

Overcast conditions on Sunday were a welcome change and after the main break of the day went (it took a while), it was a game of staying out of the wind and near the front for the difficult crosswind sections. The first hour the peloton averaged a touch over 30mph, so fast that breakaway attempts demanded the hardest of efforts. There were two KOM sprints and 1 intermediate sprint at the turnaround point near Dover Air Force Base. Although the KOM sprints (both on the Reedy Point Bridge at 15miles and 15miles to go) didn't offer omnium points, the intermediate sprint did. Fortunately, the first KOM created the day's 3-man break, which also swept up the 3,2,1 points available at the intermediate sprint. Starting the day I sat 6th overall at 25 points. Each of the two stages included a point breakdown of 1st: 30, 2nd: 29, 3rd: 28 and etc so those intermediate sprints could have been very important to the overall. Once the break was established, UnitedHealthcare's five man squad took over and rode strong and fast for 50 miles. With 10 miles remaining, Kelly Benefit Strategies took the front and wheeled in the final rememants of the break (one rider solo). The wide road made for some great surfing practice.

Surfing? You may hear racers talk about The Wave. This the section of riders in the peloton who are overtaking the riders currently at the front of the race. If the peloton is 8 riders wide, imagine 5 of those riders (or rows of riders) holding station (all those directly behind are essentially blocked); this means that 3 rows of riders can overtake those five by passing on either side. But those driving the wave or stuck on the outside of it, are in the wind. Thus a rider wants to find just the right balance of riding the wave without sticking their nose in the wind. So if you can find the row that divides those holding station and those in the wave, you'll have the option of staying put or moving up without wasting energy.

As our 172km trek neared an end, the tall towers of downtown Wilmington appeared. The finish was located at the same point as Saturday's criterium so the peloton would have to make its way over a few small steel bridges and a tight left-right before the final 650 metre 5-7% drag up to the line. Many crashes and surges occurred in these final tense kilometres but as we hit the 1km to go banner, Kyle Wamsley (Bissell Pro Cycling) hit out. Kelly Benefit Strategies couldn't follow the move and before I knew it we were taking the first to two corners. Positioned poorly in the mid-front pack, I took the outside line and surged quickly along the inside of the peloton, moving up to the top 15 for the final corner. But my speed was high and I had no where to go so I took to the sidewalk. Back on the roadway I started my acceleration with the banner still well out of sight. When should I sprint? How far is it? There were no markers. Wamsley still held onto the lead, taking the final corner with a 5 second advantage; two UHC riders drove the pace. The top ten riders strung out in the straight line, opening a three foot gap on the right side. I took it and surged up, fast approaching the UHC riders. Where is the banner? Now in the top five I realized that this was going to be a good day so I better harden up and take it. The banner came into view. Should I go? 400 metres. Out of the left, a Jamis rider appears and we quickly met side by side. Jake Keough (UHC) now fully kicks at 250 metres. Wamsley holds on ahead by 15 feet. The Jamis rider and I are kicking now furiously for 3rd place on the day. At 100 metres he starts to edge out and we take it right to the line. 4th on the day! Very good!

After a few tense moments, the points were tallied and with two consistent results, I moved up to 3rd overall! BAM! AWESOME!!!

But I still haven't found a photo of the podium! Anyone have one?


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Wilmington Grand Prix: Inbound!

My Next Race: The Wilmington Grand Prix! Expanded from 1 day criterium race, this NRC omnium event will feature full squads from UHC, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Team Type 1 Development. Chris Hong and I will be out for blood this week. It starts with a 5km undulating time trial in the heart of Wilmington. There are single lane roads, half lane roads, cobblestones, fast corners and hopefully many spectators. Time to Ride the Wind!

Looking up towards the final 200 metres, also corner 2 (turning right and towards us) so there will be barriers down the middle of this road = NO TT BIKE! TOO MUCH CRAZY!
Featured climb off the day: 600-800 metres at 5% (Section C)
Fast downhill corners leading into the straight and fast finale 1.5km.
Start Finish (Cobbled finish towards us, start off to the right)


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Mid-Season Break @Northeast

Northampton, Massachusetts is rad! If you ride bikes, definitely bring one if you find yourself heading to the east for business. The staff members at the local shops were great and helped me clean my bike after two long days of travel, so a big thanks to Competitive Edge Ski & Bike and the Noho Bike shop!

There is something to be said for just cruising around on a bike, stopping at coffee shops and taking way too many photos. Definitely therapuetic after many months of structured training and stressful racing.

Northampton is also home to a third of the WetBandits crew this spring so my trip was filled with some serious sounds! Check out this most recent find: the ultimate mashup!

Over the weekend I traveled down to Manhattan to visit another Wetbandit. Since I'd never been to the Big Apple (or the east for that matter), riding the train and the subway were cool. After some spicy Indian food and a bit of a party, Sunday included a trip to the International Comtemporary Furniture Fair since Straus is in the industry. Check out the big swing between conventional and just plain wacko! Who needs a carbon fiber chair anyway?

On Tuesday it was back to riding and BAM! did I find one hell of a road. Mt. Holyoke (right in town featuring a 7% average for 12 minutes with long straight sections in the first half and a dizzying mix of switchbacks in the finale kilometre) served as an ideal location for some difficult intervals before dropping down into an "all-day rythme" for the remaining 70mile loop west of Northampton. The loop included four monstrous climbs, the final of which included an 8 minute section at 45rpm! Near the end of the 100 mile ride I started to get into that special "just want more pain in the legs" place so I tried to breaks my cranks on the way home, arriving home in just under 5.5 hours with just a touch of bonk.

Nothing really to novel to report. It was a much needed mental break, something that I think a lot of athletes forget to plan into their plan. You can't push on the pedals everyday unless you are doing so sustainably; Mind before Body, Body before Bike.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Oh look...I found Baltimore!

Just finished my travel up to Northampton, Massachusetts. Feels great to finally arrive! So I guess that means I am officially on vacation for one week...but

I am in one of the country's cycling meccas. Good thing I ride bikes!

Time to explore on two wheels....


Sunday, 8 May 2011

St.7 @Sandy Springs

We rolled into town yesterday evening quite late but thanks to some adrenaline carry over from the race in Dilworth, the drive was smooth sailing. In the morning we went out for a spin of the legs and found the annual Mother's Day festival in the town of Gunwoody. I found two extremely cool booths: a glass art and a photography exhibit. Here are link to the booths and there are photos below. Lisa's Glass Studio, Stan Susky Photography. Check this out! It made my day and it just might make yours.

The Bike Race:

Day 7 of USA Crits Speedweek located in the hilly area of Sandy Springs (small town north of Atlanta, GA). The course featured a 400m uphill drag (3-7%) along the start-finish line, followed by a quick right flick before 4 very fast downhill corners leading back to the base of the lap. Carlos started in the blue Lap Leader Jersey and we were looking to take some mid-race points and hopefully get a jump on Keogh (UHC) in the finale. After Dilworth, Carlos sat 2nd in overall points, only 4 points back but also tied with Hilton Clarke (UHC). I had moved up to 13th overall so Team Exergy still firmly held onto 2nd in the Team Classification. With a solid day today we could walk away with a great week!

It was definitely one of those courses/races that after the first lap you don't ever think you'll finish. Fifty laps of that! I just did one and I'm fried. It was the most humid day of the week and the most vicious with that hard start finish climb. I watched the early moves from mid-pack as Barley and Remi helped Carlos near the front. A few small moves went off the front but nothing really looked good until I luckily followed one rider off the front 15 minutes into the 60 minute race. It was the move.

Our group started as two, bridging up to a solo rider. But quickly riders from behind came up. Over the course of the next 6 laps, our breakaway grew to 15 riders with Carlos bridging on as one of the last to sneak away. Unfortunately UHC had five riders in the break, Exergy 2, Pista Palace 2, Bissell 1 and other solo riders. The pace was high as soon as the UHC riders lined up at the front of the break but I was able to sneak past them all for the mid-race prime, taking valuable points away from Keogh and netting a nice dollar prize. My rear started going flat though so I moved to the back and slingshoted the last rider into the group as I peeled into the pits.

Aside: If you are riding in the pack and the pace is high (single-file) but you need to pit or are moving to the back for whatever reason it is very rude to just pull off and create a bike-length gap in the middle of the pack. Instead you can hold out your hand next to your right hip and when the rider behind connects, you fling them forward sacrificing your momentum for theirs. This isn't always appreciated by the officials and such a maneuver during the leadout can result in a disqualification but for situations such as flats, it is usually a welcomed gesture between riders and officials alike.

Thanks to the SRAM pit crew I was back out after one lap, just in time to mitigate a move out of the breakaway with 3 UHC riders and only Carlos. No way I was leaving him out to fry today. Two laps later we lapped the field (77second laps) and the pandimonium began. For the most part the leaders are given room to come through the peloton but it is always a fight to get through the group and attack again. These attacks didn't happen but the speed went up as we rolled over with 10 laps to go, just over 13 minutes. UHC had the pace pinned and the entire peloton strung out in a long line. A $250 penultimate lap prime mixed those lapped riders with those going for the finale and overall title so it was an absolute dogfight. Carlos finished 4th right behind a UHC podium sweep, securing 3rd overall for the week and 2nd in the team classification. A 10th place on the day moved me up to 12th overall so Team Exergy had a great showing at Speedweek 2011. Our small and fast squad worked extremely well against all of the full D3 Pro teams and despite UHC's big D2 power took away the overall in the closing days, we are walking away with some big smiles and excitement about returning to the criterium's with a full 8-man squad of our own!

For now, I'm off to Baltimore for 1 day before taking a much needed vacation in Northampton, MA (home of the WetBandits). So check this newest mix out, it's right from the source. You know I'll be listening to these nasty beats during some much anticipated long easy days in the saddle.

EPIC FRIDAY's Wetblog: Wow! All I can say is download this for your next big workout. 90minutes of smooth and dirty beats!


Saturday, 7 May 2011

St.6 @Dilworth

BAM! I got legs!


Two Prime sprints and time at the front of the race. It was a hectic day with a very slow bottom corner followed by a long uphill drag to the line but the power is coming and I am feeling very confident on the tires and wheels.


I awoke to the forward surge of the parking brake. The car felt hot and stuffy, I guess that's what compression tights do to you when it is 85 degrees outside. The Women's Pro race was already on course so as soon as the mid-afternoon nap-fog lifted, I was out getting bikes off the roof and kitting up. I was a bit worried though that I hadn't eaten my sandwich with enough time to digest before the race (usually 3hrs is the absolute limit, 4hr is preferable) so I was still feeling slow during the prep phase.

The course featured the most hotdog shape of any of the criteriums all week. Lapping around a small park, the start-finish line was positioned 600metres from the last corner, 3/4 of the way up the climb (3-4% grade). The top left hander was flat and broad so bunching of the peloton was minimal but it still proved a good place to move up. Mind you sometimes the side to be on changed. Down the backside, the peloton weaved right, left, right, left, and left again leading into the 2nd and final corner. The inside was the side to be on except you had to be good enough to slot in and avoid the pinch as the front riders could take the corner at close to 30km/hr. So it was a very uphill/downhill criterium.

Early on in the race I knew that I was feeling good compared to a lot of riders so I was fortunate to ride the wave very well and stay near the front. This allowed a few small breakaways to occur, out of which I scored two prime sprints. Both occurred out of small breaks of six riders and with small great confidence in my equipment, I was able to gap most of my breakaway companions out of the bottom corner. The first time no one could match it and I took off but the second prime was for quite a bit more so 1 rider held my wheel. He attacked right out of the corner as I knew he would so I let him give the draft until 200 metres when I easily came around. The announcer was screaming about Exergy all day. It was rad!


Friday, 6 May 2011

St.5 @Spartenburg

Chromeo - Hot Mess (Ride The Universe Remix) by Ride The Universe

Check out Dilworth tonight at 4pm (EST) LIVE VIDEO FEED

We drove up to Spartenburg yesterday during our second of two rest days. The historic post-race festivities in Walterboro (some bike riders lit the hotel roof on fire last year due to an unexpected beer+fireworks combination), didn't occur this year for one reason or another so we are all able to get to bed early and take off for our 4hr transfer to Charlotte, NC very early in the morning. I can feel the efforts of the past four races adding up now and upon our arrival at the hotel, both Remi and I just rested. We did get DQ for desert though!

This morning we rode into town and happened upon one of the fanciest Starbucks I have ever seen. Unfortunately the coffee was quite regular. After a rest day yesterday, it took some very high cadence riding to wake up the legs. In Beaufort, I realized that Carlos has been spinning during our rest days at an extremely high cadence. His pedal stroke is very smooth despite turning over a light gear at +120rpm. When I tried this myself it was hard not to bounce right off my saddle! But in the three days since, I've already felt an improvement. It is as if I have been riding the track bike almost. So my leg speed as been improving not only in the races but also in training.

The Race:

Wow! What a party! The street was lined with thousands of people with all of the streets adjacent to the course closed. These streets were filled with cotton candy booths, three live bands and many hamburger stands. Fortunately I found the only coffee shop in downtown with just enough time to chug a small mocha before the women's pro race finished and the guys elbowed one another on the way to staging.

The course, a 4 corner clockwise circuit, was very similar to Athens. The pace was very high with a little head wind on the back straight which made moving up quite had to just ride the surge on the backstraight and dive deep on the inside going into corner 3. The road kicked up at this point, coasting into a tight corner 4 before a 2% drag up to the start-finish line. A small area after the S-F line was cobbled.

Carlos started in the orange leader's jersey for the 3rd day in five and Barley also receved a call up for 7th overall. Remi and I started with good position and after 1 lap, all four of us rode in the top 20. Remi immediately went to the front after Barley snatched the opening lap prime. Unfortunately Barley had come down with a sickness earlier in the day so that initial effort really hurt him and he eventually had to call it a day. Kind of like a self-proclaimed Bob-Roll-strategy: a few years ago I was watching the Tour coverage and Bob admitted that in his early days in Europe he would show up for local races only to win the first prime and then go buy groceries.

Back to the race. This venue was by far the second loudest of the week. It was dark very soon and by the end flashing cameras and glaring street lights stung our eyes. I was able to cover a few moves but missed a few prime sprint opportunities. In the finale I was riding with Carlos behind the UHC train with 2 to go but the swarm on the back straightaway caught me out and I was push back to 20th wheel with 1 to go. Again there was a massive crash on the 2nd last lap so when we came through for the sprint finale, the barriers out of corner 4 were 10 feet farther back than they had been the lap previous.

Carlos managed to still finish 6th on the day, holding onto the leader's jersey by 4 points. Tomorrow's race is in Dilworth, a small historic region outside of Charlotte, NC so we'll have to work hard to manage Carlos' advantage despite fielding a smaller team.

Every day here at Speedweek I have continued to learn. Yes, if we had radios I could learn more during the race but in talking with Carlos, Eric and Remi each day I am starting to get a grasp of what I can do and what I need to do. With each race I become more confident but it is the combination of many small things that have made this confidence boost possible.

More than anything it's just learning how to race each criterium as best as possible given the ever changing set of circumstances we deal with on the road. Whether this be mitigating the threat of a beer-covered corner, a mechanical problem, losing a teammate halfway through the race or re-finding your teammates in the bunch after a crash to gesture to one another on who should go for the next prime or who is feeling good. Using my energy in the race is also crucial so I've slowly learned when to relax, when to attack, when to ride the front and when to take absolute risk. Of course understanding when to do something and actually getting it done are two totally different things. I have two more days to apply what I've learned. It's go time!


Thursday, 5 May 2011

St.4 @ Walterboro

Very fast course! Very dark...see the picture here of the back straight away. After numerous attempts by various smaller teams, it seemed apparent by lap 20 of the scheduled 37 laps that the midnight crit would end in a bunch kick. The front half of the course was bumpy, tight and twisty with 3 sweeping corners leading to the back straightaway. And it was very difficult to stay near the front throughout the race as this section (a 4-lane 500m avenue dimly lite) easily allowed the top 20 riders to change in a flash.

I worked hard in the beginning of the race to watch for breaks, often riding fast along the backto lead the group through the final corners and stay safe.

With 20 laps remaining one rider launched a solo attack and although the UHC train lined it up with 9 remaining, the rider managed to stay away until the final lap.

The fast pace (topping out at 63km/hr) and dark corners made it a real fight for position and it was easy to loose focus. At 5 to go, the UHC train peeled through the streets with Barley, Carlos and I following, the Kenda train behind. But the wide avenue of the back straight made it too easy to swarm. With 4 to go I was back in 20th! At 1.5 remaining, the peloton speed along in the dark when sparks flew and bodies became silhouettes....10 riders ahead and to my right suddenly hit the deck. The next time through I couldn't believe there was only 1 lap remaining.

Every time we hit the brakes into corner 5 (of 6 and the one following the back straight), it would bottleneck. The final lap though was so fast that the top 15 managed to string through undaunted. Carlos attacked the UHC train and was 2nd wheel with 1 corner and the 220metre drag to the line but ran out of fuel with 100m to go. Barley, who was shuffled back in the back straightaway, carved through the final corners like a cat to regain position in the finale. I finished the day in 15th. Remi, after barely surviving the crash and in talking with an old teammate decided: "let's just finish for our ten points shall we?" and immediately almost hit the fence as a pothole in the dark knocked his hands clean off his handle bars.

It was a fist fight in a closet! But we all survived. Carlos 4th, Barley 5th, Ben 15th, Remi 67th. Carlos back in the orange leader's jersey and TeamExergy 2nd in Team Points! BAM!

HeyBuckShot was also here for the race so look for some photos from Walterboro in the HBS' next segment!


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

St.3: Beaufort Criterium Recap

Awesome ride for the team! Tight, dark and well-attended dog fight in beautiful Beaufort. Team Exergy worked very well as a unit tonight and after Carlos jumped in the break of the day, Barley and Ben prepared for the final laps to set up their teammate and Speedweek Points Leader for the finish.

The goods:

Windy day with a strong headwind along the sweeping left mainstraight away. Turn 1, goes from 3 lanes to 1, very tight with walls of haybales on both sides. Turn 2, choppy at turn-in and apex with some loose stuff on the exit. Back straight, very dark with bumps and holes on outside near turn 3 turn-in. Corner 3, very fast with drainage at apex followed by sweeping corner four with hole at apex. 1km lap, about 70-75 seconds per lap. Smaller field than previous days but all teams still well represented.

Carlos and Barley got the call up, the field started before the gun though and the officials let it slide...tossing Carlos and Barley behind Remi and I on the first lap (even though Remi and I started at the back on the left side!). Panic! Regroup at front in time for Carlos to make it into significant break of the day. Eleven riders, including 3 UHC riders quickly pull out a gap. Of the 75 laps, it only took to lap 50 to get around and reconnect with the peloton.

At this point, we tried to get ready for the mid-race prime (10points and money 3-deep) but were caught offguard when the bell rang before it was expected. Carlos just missed the prime to Jake Keogh (UHC: 3rd overall in points at the time). Then a 2nd small breakaway went of five riders but without UHC representation, it didn't have much of a chance. With 30 laps remaining UHC led the field with its entire 8 riders, while Barley, Carlos and I followed with Kenda lining up behind. Although there was some elbowing for the UHC train, eventually we claimed our place there for the finale.

It got very dark with 15 laps to go, only 3 or 4 large lights brightened the course but going through the tight course single file thanks to the blue train made for a relatively stress-free run into the finale. The course was quite large too, especially along the main straightaway, through corner 1 and even down in the treacherous but well-lit corner 2. On the finale lap, I accelerated past 4 of the 5 remaining UHC riders along the backstraight, but there wasn't enough distance to get over top. Into corner three, the speed was very high and it was dark as Barley and I tried to disrupt the UHC train in Carlos' favor. Out of corner 4, UHC, followed by myself and Karl bidding for second wheel. Thankfully he gave me enough space to survive the corner albeit I forfeit any continued leadout. Barley slammed on his brakes in corner three as he was boxed but this allowed Carlos to sweep through with full momentum. In the 250 left-turn sweep to the line, Carlos launched around the outside but Jake Keogh reacted and moved towards the barriers. Hilton Clarke (UHC) came through on the left, followed by Luca Damiani (Kenda) to finish 1-2. Carlos managed to squeak by for 3rd place on the day.

Now Luca leads in points by 2 (only 2!) ahead of Carlos.

I found another beautiful cinematic adventure from TesoPhotography.


Monday, 2 May 2011

St.2 @Roswell Criterium Recap

(Written in 3rd Person for the Team Website)

Day 2 at Speedweek: Pretty solid day in the office for Team Exergy. Carlos finished 3rd and Barley 4th in the bunch finish, landing our first team podium of the week. United Healthcare controlled the race from start to finish and then led it out over the final 6 laps to propel their two finishers to the top two steps of the podium.

How it played out:

After falling asleep at 4am last night (a lot of caffeine and a lot of adrenaline left over from the racing in Athens from 9-11pm), the team ventured out into the bright morning for a spin at around town at 10am. Shortly afterwards, the Volvo team car hit the road for the 1hr transfer to Roswell. Unfortunately it took almost 2 hours with traffic but still had enough time to find lunch at least three hours before the race start. Remi dropped Carlos, Barley and Ben off at the hotel for a nap before taking the bikes over to the venue. The team's new friend Sean Rudzinski from Felt Bicycle's New York office helped get the bikes all shiny and working like new after a bumpy race in Athens.

The temperatures were very pleasant with a moderate wind blowing against the flow of the race along the start-finish straight. Two tight left handers later, a longish 2-3% drag took the peleton up to the top of the 70 second lap, followed by two very fast and tight corners (off camber too!) to return the riders to the waving uphill drag to the line. Here is a photo from 2010.

Carlos and Barley received call ups after finishing in the top ten the night before, while Remi and Ben started front-mid pack. The pace was easy the first lap as Kenda and UHC tested out the corners, then it all full gas the second time through. Small moves developed off the front, most commonly all the front straight when the field was strung out in a long snake-like shape. But after 20 minutes it seemed apparent that a small break would not survive the day as UHC looked very strong in defense; only a move with many blue jerseys would be allowed to break free. Carlos was riding really well again and animated the front of the race, claiming many prime [pre-em] sprints in the early going before attacking solo 30minutes in. Ben and Barley also tried to cover moves and follow during the prime laps but had troubles with the legs.

However with forty minutes remaining, a large move developed following a prime sprint including both Barley and Carlos. The move also included riders from each team including four UHC; thus with a gap of over 10 seconds, the race looked like it was over!

Remi at this point returned to the front of the race, joining Ben in the top ten to cover bridge moves. A very large crash occurred in the 50' left corner two (which has a nasty set of flower beds on the left and a large gutter with Armco and Willy bags on the right). Ben slipped through but Remi was caught and his derailer tagged. A few laps later, as those crashed riders (approximately fifty!) were awaiting the field at the pits to rejoin, another massive incident claimed the remaining bulk of the peleton at the summit of the circuit. Fortunately Ben was riding safely along the left side of the group as the Armco along the right collected a swath in a cacophony of screeching brakes and shattering carbon. As Ben jumped in a small bridge attempt the following lap, the race was stopped by the officials as riders remained on the ground near the summit, immobilized for neck and back trauma.

The field continued to the start-finish line to await the green flag from the officials, effectively neutralizing the breakaway. Stopping after 50 minutes of racing was tough for all the competitors as their core temperatures were very high and packed in amongst the 100+ jittery riders, any repreive from the wind was blocked. Almost out of water, it was a question of whether to drink now or save it for the remainder of the race. After 10 minutes, the race was re-started and thus Gruppo Compacto, it looked absolutely certain that the race would finish in a bunch sprint.

Most primes, more attacks. More tired legs. More crashes. Then it was the final 15 minutes and UHC looked like they were getting organized at the front. With 5 laps remaining, UHC led the field with all eight riders, followed by Carlos, Barley. Ben reached the guys briefly but lost contact after a reshuffling. In the finale, UHC took the top two spots with Barley leading it out for Carlos. A massive crash at 12th wheel around the final corner sent many riders in the Armco with Ben the first rider to avoid the incident, finishing solo ahead of the remaining riders.

Carlos' hard efforts all day also earned him the Most Aggressive Rider of the Day award. We'll be looking to support him as much as we can this week as we go for the top step. Monday is a rest day for Team Exergy, with a 5hr transfer to the beautiful town of Beaufort, GA.

Roswell Criterium : Cycling News Photos / Recap

Also a big shout out to Team Exergy at the Tour of the Gila who absolutely nuked the final GILA MONSTER stage to move up to 5th and 9th overall. Way to suffer Matt Cooke and Andres Diaz! Photo courtesy of CyclingNews

Also more breaking news: Sam Crushed A Mountain in March for all the world to watch. Get your inside view here! All the World Tour team will be checking this out in preparation for the Tour of California so don't miss it!


Sunday, 1 May 2011

St.1 @Athens Twilight Recap

Grid Qualifier

Multiple Scenes

The Wind Blows

I try to finish ahead of the pack after a mechanical dropped by a lap with 1.5laps remaining

Race Recap: Tons of People! 35,000 people! It was like a formula 1 race but with no runoff areas! I got the call up, so did Remi. Halfway through the 2nd lap, Carlos was already in front of me though and soon up the road in a two man breakaway with Pista Palace rider Eric Mercotte. They pulled out a maximum advantage of 40 seconds when the first crash of the night complicated matters, helping Carlos and Eric Mercotte (Pista Palace & Old Pueblo Grand Prix Winner) successfully lap the field. UHC got on the front and started to bring them back. Once back together with 55 of the 80 laps remaining (1km x 80laps), I had a mechanical problem on the home straight. From the front of the race, where I was feeling very good, I pitted. When I came back out further down in the field, the race at the front was going insane. It took me a long time, 20 minutes to get back up to the front at which time a 12 man breakaway had formed with both Barlevav and Alzate. Good! I sat near the front and watched for bridge attempts.

Four of the 12 riders eventually attacked again and completely lapped the field whereas the rest of the riders came back to the peleton. Unfortunately no Team Exergy guys were in that second breakaway. No, gruppo compacto, we raced together for the final 17 laps. With 4 riders in the bunch but a lap ahead, the main focus was to just race as best as possible in the final and the officials will figure out the placings later. UHC put their big train on the front and the crowd got louder and louder every lap, well actually, I think the first lap might have been the loudest as I wasn't prepared for the sheer volume. That crowd went insane!

Carlos, Eric and I all found one another in the top 12 riders with 2 to go. It was looking good. Bang, another mechanical for me. I was able to pull off to the side without causing an incident. It took almost an entire lap to fix the problem and as I remounted my bike to finish the race, I had to race the quickly approaching lead car and sprinting riders! Yikes! But the crowd went nuts cause they thought I was off the front solo.

In the finale, Carlos finished 5th and Eric 10th. Luca Damiani won the race from the break and finished in style winning the bunch kick to the line. Remi finished the race strong as well despite flying over the barriers head first during one of the race's many crashes. Every few laps there were 10-20 guys in the pits. It was a dog fight out there!

Awesome racing in Athens. Can't wait to come back next year.