RACING!

DEER TRAIL ROAD RACE – 4/23/11

Deer Trail was the first race I ever did two years ago and it was an eye-opening experience.  I did pretty well two years ago but had no idea what to expect so i was caught by surprise at a couple points, plus I had zero experience racing making me timid, something not good.  Anyway this year I had two Deer Trails under my belt and I knew what to expect, plus I was pretty confident of my form and ability to do well.  This race is out in Deer Trail, CO a small town on the plains that is always windy and cold.  It is basically an L shaped course made up of three out and backs, two on the short leg of the “L” and one on the long leg.  Every year the main selection in made on the first turn around.  This is where the peloton bottles up and the guys in the front put the hammer down after turning around.  So the goal would be to be in the front at the first turn around in order to make the first and most critical selection.  The course is a rolling course with several steep hills that aren’t hard by themselves, but combined together with race speed, wind and cold make them challenging.  The ride out to the first turnaround was pretty mellow, and in fact I was able to move up quite a bit so I was in the top 10 riders going into the turn.  About 200 yards from the turn a BRC rider attacked the group and this caused a huge increase in speed right before the slowing down that needed to happen at the turnaround.  I made it through without incident and hammered it up the hills in the front group.  I was able to stay within the first 10-15 riders the rest of the short leg of the “L” and halfway through the long “L” leg.  I was feeling strong and was doing a great job of staying out of the wind, conserving my energy. Unfortunately luck would again not be on my side.  About 2/3rds of the way into the long leg I allowed myself to drift to about 17th or so, enabling me to eat a gel and drink some water.  As soon as I had finished I was getting ready to head back toward the front when two riders in front of me touched wheels and one of them went down HARD! I’m not sure how I was able to avoid the fallen rider but I did barely and looked back to see one of the worst crashes I have ever seen.  There were guys all over the ground with bikes and bottles flying through the air.  I said a quick prayer of thanks and hoped everyone would be alright, then turned my attention back toward the race.  The lead group of about 12-15 guys was about 10 seconds ahead of me so I began my chase to try to get back on.  I made the turn to head back along the long leg and waited for my teammate Keith who was bridging to my group.  We tried to catch back on to the group, but we couldn’t do it.  It was so frustrating seeing the peloton 10 seconds or so up the road but not being able to catch back on.  Eventually another rider joined our whittled group of 4 guys and we began working well together heading back out the short leg for the last time.  We picked off several riders on the way and about 500 yards from the finish the BRC rider in our group attacked towards the line.  I had no idea why this was happening since I figured we would be racing for the 20’s or so.  Anyway turns out we were not that far off the winning time, and in fact were fighting for 14th place.  I ended up 17th, less than 4 minutes behind the winner.  Another day of hard racing, with good sensations, lots of potential only to be foiled by another crash.  I don’t know if I need to buy a rabbit’s foot or something but I have a feeling my luck has to change.  I hope it does since my big goals are coming up later in the year…if not oh well that’s bike racing.

MEAD-ROUBAIX – 4/10/11

Leading the Chase

This race scared me and excited me.  I knew going into it I had good legs and would be able to do a good race if I had the right amount of luck and skill.  The Mead-Roubaix race was one of the most challenging courses I had ever raced but it was soooo much fun! The course consisted of 3 laps of a 19.4 mile course with each lap having 3 sections of dirt and 950ft of climbing.  I had scouted the course the day before the race and while it was hard, I knew I would be able to handle it.  There had been a lot of talk going into the race about how sketchy the dirt sections were, in particular one dirt descent and the major dirt climb.

It was cold at the start, with serious wind coming out of the west, meaning that a good portion of the race was going to be into a headwind or a crazy crosswind.  My team and I rolled to the start and had a good staging position, but I was more nervous for this race than any other, because of the nerves I had trouble clipping into my pedal and lost a few places right off the bat.  I knew that the peloton was going to shatter on the first dirt section and that in order to make the first selection it was important to get to the front and stay there.  I was able to make my way to the front fourth of the race right before hitting the first dirt section.  Unfortunately for me, luck wasn’t on my side that day, about 100 yards onto the dirt a rider in front of me crashed, causing me to come partly off my bike. I was able to clip back in but the first selection had been made and I had missed it.  I resigned myself to chasing with the second group on the road of about 15 riders.  We eventually hit the dirt descent and I made it through without much trouble in fact I was the first rider from our group to crest the hill and hit the pavement creating another selection with 2 other riders.  On the first climb up the steep dirt section towards the end of the first lap I was able to grind it up and stuck with my 2 companions.  We continued the hammer into the headwinds and crosswinds on the second lap where I was joined by one of my teammates, Greg.  Together we continued to pick off riders who were strewn all over the road.  The crosswinds in this race were crazy.  I saw multiple riders who were blown off the road because of the wind.  Couple the crosswinds with the loose dirt that made up almost half the course and it really became a big test of bike handling skills.  I ended up getting through the third lap with Greg and another couple riders, dropping them on the final climb up the dirt hill.  Greg and I rode into the finish together happy to have finished.  I was glad I made it through the race without crashing and without any flat tires.  I was disappointed though because I was still feeling good at the end of my race and I knew that if I had been able to be in the front group I would have been able to get a top ten finish.  That’s how bike racing goes though, you need both luck and skill.  I ended up 23rd out of 77 guys.  Again I was satisfied with how I raced but disappointed with my bad luck.

LOUISVILLE CRITERIUM – 4/2/11

This would be the first criterium of the year and only my second time racing a criterium ever.  For those of you that don’t know a criterium or crit is basically a whole bunch of laps of a short course usually lasting 45 minutes to an hour.  The course for the Louisville crit was basically a big circle with half of the course being downhill and half being uphill into the finish.  Going into the race I was definitely nervous, my whole family was going to be there, plus some of my friends so I didn’t want to disappoint. The race was extremely fast right from the start and I was able to stay toward the front with several of my teammates.  I was very encouraged by the fact that I was able to move up through the pack with relative ease, while expending little energy.  I found myself toward the front on most laps during the uphill portion of the race. About 3/4ths of the way through the race, there was a Prime lap, which is basically a lap where the first rider across the line gets a prize, it keeps the racing interesting and serves as a reward for aggressive racing.  At this point in the race every lap was playing out the same way, super quick downhill section, hammer through the bottom portion of the course, and take it easy up the climb back to the start/finish. I wanted to test my legs and I was feeling good so I figured I would try to get the prime, I knew the pace was going to slack as we hit the incline up to the finish line so I waited until we started to climb and attacked as hard as I could from about 3rd position.  I managed to immediately get a gap on the peloton and kept my head down, but it turns out I went a little too early, right before the line two other riders passed me, but the three of us had gotten a good gap to the peloton and my attack had inadvertently formed a breakaway! I could hear the crowd yell that we had a gap and to hammer it, so I began to try to increase our advantage on the peloton.  Unfortunately my other two breakaway companions had other ideas and did no work, eventually we were caught after about a lap off the front.  At this point I was in survival mode, just trying to stay in the peloton to the finish.  This turned out to be too much and a few laps before the end I got spit out the back.  I could have hopped off my bike at this point and called it a day, but I wanted to finish the race.  I ended up 24th out of 64 starters, and while I didn’t finish in the first group I got a good confidence boost by being in the breakaway for a lap and not crashing.  All in all a good day.

FROSTBITE TIME TRIAL – 3/5/11

Time Trials are referred to as “The Race of Truth.”  I love this.  The Race of Truth means there is no hiding from a time trial, no excuses for why you sucked, no way to slow down the clock so you can catch your breath.  A time trial is bike racing in it’s simplest form.  It’s you and your bike against the clock.  This last weekend was my first time trial ever.  The Frostbite TT is usually the first event on the ACA calendar and is a good test of early season form, a way to stretch the legs to see how you stack up against other riders in your category.  The past few years I had never considered doing the Frostbite TT, mainly because I didn’t feel like getting destroyed that early would do anything positive for my confidence that early in the season.  But this year, with my new bike, new team, and new goals the Frostbite TT fit perfectly into my early season preparations.  I decided to suit up for Frostbite for two main reasons this year:

  1. Test my form against some of the other Cat. 4 racers that I would be seeing later in the year.
  2. Ride my first time trial to get practice for the time trials I would face at the Dead Dog Stage Race and the Steamboat Springs Stage Race, my goals for later in the year.

I arrived early to the race this year, (it turns out having adequate time to warm up is an essential part of racing well…go figure) my start time was 11:03.  After chatting with some of my new teammates I got down to it and set up my trainer, put in my Ipod began to get focused.  I discovered that riding on a trainer before a race in order to warm up your legs sucks a little bit less than riding your trainer indoors because it is snowing outside.  Anyway after a good warm up I took my last sip of water and rolled over to the start.  Now because this was my first time trial ever, I didn’t have a TT bike, skinsuit, or aerobars.  But I did have my new Swift 838 ISP bike and some borrowed deep dish carbon wheels, and I figured this was enough for me.  As I rolled up to the start I began to get nervous for the first time.  The race was going to be short, only 11.6 miles, but in the last half hour the sun had hidden behind the clouds and the wind had started to pick up.  I really didn’t want to have to suffer in a headwind for any amount of time, but really the wind direction wasn’t and still isn’t under my control so I put it out of my mind.  Everyone started at 30 second intervals, and my goal was to catch my 30 second man (the guy starting just in front of me).  If I did that, I told myself, it would be a good day and the race would be a success.  Being that my goal was to catch the guy starting in front of me, as I was waiting to start I began sizing up my competition.  What bike is he riding? What shoes does he have?  Are his legs bigger than mine?  What team is he on?  Thinking about all these questions really didn’t do anything positive, in fact in made me second guess my goal of catching him.  Screw it, it doesn’t matter how you look, what you ride or how big your legs are.  The only thing that matters is how YOU ride, this is the Race of Truth after all…I told myself.  And then I was next in line to start.

“30 seconds” I was told.  I clipped in, took a deep breath and began to think about what was ahead of me.  Man the guy ahead of me isn’t that far away, I can do this.  “20 seconds” Am I forgetting anything? How hard should I go initially? “10 seconds” Oh whatever go HARD! “5…4…3…2…1…” And off I went.

Out of the gate I hammered it out of the saddle for the first 250 meters then sat down and settled into a good race pace.  The only thing I could hear was my breathing and the 60mm deep wheels turning over as I was propelled forward.  My target (the guy in front of me) didn’t seem to be getting any closer.  Just keep hammering.  Just keep hammering.  Crap, I forgot to start the timer on my watch, oh well, just keep hammering. About 1 mile in I realized I was gaining on the guy in front of me.  Slowly yeah, but I was gaining on him.  Just keep hammering. Soon the guy in front of me was only 250 meters ahead of me and slowing.  I’m going to pass him!  And before I knew it my goal for the race was achieved.  Now just keep hammering. Time to turn around.  That was quick, oh well time to catch the next guy. I kept my head down and kept pedaling, trying to set a consistent pace, soon the guy that started a minute ahead of me was only 250 meters ahead of me, and I passed him!  Nice now keep going, keep pedaling, keep working.  Soon I saw the minute thirty guy ahead of me, within reach.  I might be able to do it.  Keep hammering.  At this point I was feeling pretty good, actually really good, I had met and exceeded my goal, and was on my way to finishing my first time trial.  Then out of nowhere someone blows by me on a fully kitted out TT bike, going way faster than I was.  WHO WAS THAT?!? I couldn’t tell, I hadn’t seen him before, but the thing I did see was an Ironman tattoo on his calf, and triathlon shoes.  Crap, why is an Ironman triathlete racing against me?  Oh well, just keep hammering. Before I knew it the finish line was in sight and I knew I wasn’t going to quite catch my minute thirty guy, but I was still going to have a pretty decent time.  And like that it was over.  I was totally out of breath at the finish, coughing, struggling to get more oxygen.  But honestly I still had some gas in the tank.  I was cooked yes, but I knew I could have gone harder, gone faster, my pacing was just a little off.  Rookie mistake.  Turns out I did pretty well.  I got 9th place, but was a full two minutes, thirty seconds behind Mr. Triathlete.  Still a good showing, a good test and good experience.  Plus the team killed it.  Our Cat, 4 team took 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 13th.  A good showing for our first race of the year.

My goals were exceeded, I was able to test myself and I gained some valuable experience in racing a time trial.  Not bad for a saturday morning in March.

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