I get to race a nice bike at cool places thanks to these guys:

Friday, August 17, 2012

One, Two, Skip a Few

...99-One Hundred. I've been a little bit busy with curricular the past few weeks, which has kept me off of my blogger account, but I've found a small window of time this Friday morning to sip on some coffee and recount my bike riding through a keyboard.

A few weeks ago I raced out in West Virginia at Jay Moglia and NCVC's Lost River Classic Road Race, a semi-epic hill-burner held in the towering hills that sprinkle the mountainous ridgelines traversing the town of Mathias. I was pleased to see fairly full fields in most of the races, as this event was at its third year and really needed to break even with solid registration numbers in order to ensure future editions. I was also pleased to see my teammate Bruno Neto turn out to race.

 Bruno is around my age and was racing against me as a 4 when I first started racing. The first race I really traveled to was the Altoona Stage Race, and I vividly remember hanging around Bruno and Nate Wilson in the parking lots, as they were friendly and familiar faces. This year, Bruno has been riding like a beast, but he's been having trouble finding time to attend races. When I found out he was doing Lost River, I was happy to sign up myself and slog it out in the hills in hopes that I could help him in some way, shape, or form..

Me setting up the ole' one-two

While the end results of Lost River were not super fruitful, Bruno did land himself in the initial dangerous breakaway and got to ride his own race. As for myself, I made it a lap further with the field than I did last year, and was only pulled with 1 to go.

 Races like Lost River are more of 'completion challenges' to me: I go to experience a different type of race, and also to humbly accept the will of the climbers, as they spend much of the spring time on the opposite end of the totem pole dealing with guys like me dishing out the hurt on the flatter terrains. To not show up and accept my own beatings, and more importantly, not experience and support a GREAT race course, would not fit the archetype of a sportsman.

 More recently, I raced at the Millersburg Stage Race, but that report is worthy of its own entry.  Right now, I'm mostly focused on my season's end.  With the last MABRA series races occurring this weekend, I find myself with a plane ticket to the Gulf of Mexico in my hand.  I leave today.  Bike racing is certainly not over for me this year: I will be racing the Mayor's Cup in Boston again, and I'm leaning towards participating at Iron Cross.

I'm amazed that I've been 'on' for the entire season and never got tired of it.  I accomplished a lot personally (whether or not I intended to), and I think I've helped my teammates accomplish some personal goals of their own.  It is only fitting that I once again express my sincere thanks and appreciation to not only my teammates, who rallied around me to send me to the Nature Valley Grand Prix and were instrumental in my victory at the All American Road Race, but also to my team sponsors.  The folks at Bike Doctor made it EASY to keep myself and my teammates rolling all season long with proper equipment, fast repairs (we took a few spills!), and how about our SWEET Caad 10s?

Elite Endurance was the final component in a 'perfect storm' of aspirations, expectations, and mutual motivation in the Bike Doctor Racing Team's continued ascent this year.  A lot of the guys trained under Elite Endurance, and, shocker, a lot of guys had awesome years.  Another Shocker: I'm working with Elite Endurance now, after I realized at Nature Valley that 'I have no idea what I'm doing.'

DigiSource (the logo on our side panel) threw in to the pot to complete the picture.  Aside from providing support to the team, they are my employer, and deal with my bike racing 'problem' with grace and generosity.  Also, I get to take my mind off of bikes for 8 hours a day and play with high end computer equipment.  Legal-types in D.C. be aware: we have the equivalent of a P5 with 808 Firecrests for E Discovery equipment and services.  I've been upgrading the speed of more than just my pedal stroke this year!

Finally, I've been helped out at races by Igda, Emir, Kat, and Katie G.  Most importantly, though, my wife, who deals with me missing half of our 'visitation time' that I blow up by attending all of these events and racing with the team.

Coffee's done, and I've got to get back to work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cycling is too Win-Centric

This is a topic I've been spouting off with my buddies for some time now. Road Cycling puts far too much weight on achieving 1st place. Why am I on this thought? Let's start here: it is late in the season, and I'm seeing race registrations on many categories boil down to a few 'core' riders, and riders who SPECIALIZE on the type of course being raced on the day. If you put that in contrast to spring and early summer-time races, you will see a huge difference; full fields, chock full of racers who might not have a great shot at placing high. Here is where I am disappointing in my fellow roadies: so many get tired of being beat in the early season, that when the days are dog hot and the courses are dominated by little birdie-sized men, a good chunk of the spring-bloomers decide to stop showing up for races. I'm sure there are plenty of logical reasons for shutting down the race schedule (financial/time/too many weekends spent riding bikes), but I can't help but think that there is a mental attrition going on. Just how many times do you expect you can drive for hours, ride your heat out, and get STOMPED on by faster guys/gals? I had a heated discussion with a family member about my attendance at races where I have absolutely zero chance at doing well, and a low chance of even finishing the distance. "Why would you waste your time? Why would you waste your energy? I don't know any dogs who are good cats." My answer was immediate. I didn't even have to think. Just as I love the thrill of making a winning break, or surprising people in a sprint, I get a huge amount of satisfaction in the PERSONAL achievement in finishing or even contesting a race that is massively difficult for me. I feel like being a no-show to the difficult summer races we have on our calendar would not only hurt our local race promoters' bank accounts, but I'd also feel like a kid who started getting beat in a game of HORSE and runs home, taking the ball with him. Being an athlete means working hard and striving for success, but it also means TAKING YOUR ASS KICKINGS, AND TAKING THEM WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO SERVED YOU THAT SLICE OF HUMBLE PIE. With the attitude of so many cycle racers, I'm not sure if other people notice when I'm out there trying in total futility, but still giving it my all, but I'd like to think there are some. I, for one, definitely notice you if you are gutting it out like I do at so many of these shindigs. At the end of the day, winning a bike race won't get you any more QUALITY friends or TRUE respect than being DFL, but riding your heart out, and going until the officials pull you from the course, kicking and screaming to be allowed to complete another lap. In short, I do the bike racing thing to COMPETE, not WIN. Winning is fun, awesome, thrilling, etc, but the thrill never sticks with me for very long. In my first year of racing, I won a bunch of races, usually on Sunday (because I had to work Saturdays). By Tuesday afternoon (the time of my local group ride), the satisfaction from the win was gone, and I was already antsy about re-proving myself at the next race, or looking towards another challenge.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Euro Crit

Robbie Mac gives us this bell lap video of a post-TdF parade crit. Rarely do you get to see your favorite Pro-Tour riders mix it up in a crit, and Robbie gives us a 1st person perspective on the action!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Part 2: Franklin RR

I've been excited about the Franklin Road Race for a few weeks.  A long, flat course probably suits me better than most courses, and the Franklin course was just that!  In addition, the race was promoted by my friends from Celerity Cycling who live just a hop across the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel Roadway Pavement Traffic Jam.

Regrettably, I couldn't partake in the Franklin Omnium, which featured a flat TT and a crit on Saturday, due to my participation in the MABRA Monument Giro di Coppi.  Still, I could bank on a weekend of extreme leg-hurtingness with the level of competition present at the Franklin Road Race.

Despite a substantially smaller field turnout than the Giro di Coppi, the Franklin Road Race proved to be chalk full of strong competitors.  The usual Southern VA fast guys were there like Marc Warner, Walker Owen, Dan Netzer, sleep-deprived Frank Cundiff, and oh-my-god Evan Fader!  There were a number of D20 based riders as well, namely the Kelly Benefits Strategy squad, Dave Fuentes, and Justin 'Mach' Mauch.

The race began in earnest, with the full Kelly team stepping up and dictating the race.  With the wind and flat terrain, attacks became such a show of power that the peleton was quickly blown up.  I did a lot of early work rotating through to keep the pace high enough to discourage Kelly from sending people up the road, but this would prove foolish.

Paul Ward took off about midway through the race on a solo voyage, joined by no one.  We let him roll away into the horizon and the pack started to picnic, share stories, and follow Blair Berbet, who was more interested in eating a powerbar than riding quickly.  I was getting impatient, as I knew that Paul was a fast dude that shouldn't be given too large of a leash.  Coming around a corner, my new found momentum from Minnesota gapped the field.  I looked back at the group and saw no reaction to my sudden lead.  I got out of the saddle and gave the bike a wag.  Still no reaction.  I started to give it the beans.  STILL no reaction.  I  was something like 30-35 miles from the finish, WELL outside of my ideal range of 150 meters to give a race winning move, but decided to throw the chips on the table and hope for something good to happen.

Maybe the terrain suited me so well that the pack wouldn't have enough gas to catch me?  Maybe at this range they would accidentally give me too much time and I'd finish well!    All sorts of ideas were rolling through my head, but I was too busy listening to my heart:  today was my turn to do the stupid solo move.  Onward I journeyed along the cornfields of Franklin.

Almost precisely 20 minutes after I departed the peleton, I caught up with Paul Ward.  I didn't pause at his back wheel, I immediately came around him and got up on the hoods to give him a 'Cadillac draft.'  Poor guy had been solo for something like half an hour longer than me!  The race personelle driving alongside Paul gave us the splits:  90 seconds to the peleton, SIXTY SECONDS TO THE LEADER.

"I thought you were first place!"  I said

"No, Ben Frederick is still up the road,"  replied Paul.

"Oh."  -me

No wonder I was let go.  When Paul took off from the pack about an hour earlier, I didn't realize he was in pursuit.  I had just spent a LONG time riding up to what I thought was 1st place, only to discover that there was another 60 second gap to close.

Paul asked for a few minutes recovery time on my wheel, which was totally understandable.  He must've been pretty lonely out there.  It was around this time that I stopped sweating.  'Awe, crap' I thought.  As Paul and I started rotating, my body was giving me the usual alarm bells.  Knowing how far we were from the finish, I started giving Paul hints that I wasn't feeling super awesome.  The last thing I wanted to do was to screw up the pace and ruin BOTH of our races.

I was resisting the voices in my head and the signals from my body.  I kept riding, kept pulling, kept trying, but the numbers shown by my Powertap and HR monitor were burning an unmistakable truth into my foggy, overheated brain.  No more steam in the engine room.  Still, I kept going, riding on pride, understanding that today was my day to go down swinging.  Paul Ward was an absolute Sir to me during this meltdown, giving me plenty of positive vibe to help me extend my range just that little bit longer.  He was fine with me sitting on for the ride, and gave me no negativity to my imminent failure.  Thanks, dude.

I finally blew up at the exact same spot on the course where I had initiated my departure from the field.  I came to pull through and my legs felt that same wobbly, powerless feeling as I felt the day before on the finishing climb, like a newborn Wildebeest attempting to walk in its first minute of life.  I had ridden to failure.

It is never easy quitting a race.  You have to come to terms with the fact that you were unable to complete the competition that you signed up for, paid money for, drove a long way for, and brought your wife to give you water bottles for.  As I've grown up in the bike racing world, I've realized that, as long as you impact the race, or take on some crazy duty, it is okay to not finish.  At the Coppi Road Race, I never intended to make it to the end when I found our team in a bad situation.  When I blew up, I was passed pretty rapidly by the groups or riders who were left in the race.  The Fuentes/Mauch group gave me a shout so I could accellerate and join them.  'Sorry guys, I'm done' I thought, and waved them off and bid them good fortune.  A second group rolled past, with Blair Berbert sitting on the back.  He gave me a little word of 'good try,' and coming from Blair, that was all the confirmation I needed to know that I went down swinging.

After that, I was just trying to ride back to the parking lot.  Just make it home.  Bonked, dehydrated, dizzy, cramping, and confused, I thought of the look on Melissa's face during the run portion of IM Cozumel.  Being on a bike only 3 miles from the parking lot, I realized that things were fine, and I started thinking about that cold chocolate milk I was saving for after the race.

I got back, downed water, downed milk, and sat in the back of my car for a few minutes.  Suddenly, I erupted in sweat, and the level of 'normal-ness' in my head increased dramatically.  I felt a lot better, and started to pack my car up and share some laughs with a few other DNF'd riders as we watched Ben Frederick finish off a 40 mile solo breakaway in dominating fashion.

That was a great race.  It was a gentleman's race out there: highly competitive, but honest.  I hope we see another edition of this race, and I'd encourage anyone from D20 to give it a shot.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Make Your Own Stage Race Adventure

Day 1: Giro di Coppi

The race started with two riders, DJ Brew and Nick Bax, gaining a 3 minute and 30 second advantage over the peleton!  Yowzers!  Stuck at the back, I only had a glimpse of the duo going away before the first turn, (and I honestly thought it was just people riding around in front of the race).  I didn't really give them any attention until the information that DJ and Bax were up the road disseminated through the group.

Letting the two guys 'out to dry' would be a huge gamble.  DJ and Nick are two of my favorite local riders (if you can classify them as 'local'), and aside from their sheer talent, they've got the INTESTINAL FORTITUDE to see a suicidal, mile-0 attack pan out to the finish.  I knew that my team and I needed to pull back the break as long as we were still riding for 1st place, but it took MILES to get up to the front of the field.  With a centerline rule in effect, the front 1/3 of the race seemed to be populated by blokes who were interested in staying 'at the front', but not doing any work.  Like a magical 60-mile leadout.  RIGHT.  

I had to be VERY vocal in order to get guys to LET me up front, so that I could give them that magical 60-mile leadout to the finish.  When I got close to the front, I caught a glimpse of Lindsay Bayer riding very comfortably, at the front of the peleton, with lots of dudes sitting on her wheel, perfectly happy with her endurance warm-up pace.  I also heard murmers from the same people about how Bike Doctor was the biggest team, and we were supposed to be chasing.  AS THEY HAD THE DOOR SHUT ON ME, WHILE I WAS ASKING FOR SPACE TO MOVE UP IN ORDER TO WORK.

Ok, I got that off my chest.

Anyways, my hopes to race for an individual result went down the toilet, and I resigned myself to work 100% for two of my teammates, who would stay as much out of the break-pulling-backage as possible.   Many miles later filled with Bike Doctor teammates rotating with me and XO riders doing a crafty job at blocking our rhythm, we brought back DJ and Nick.  Thanks to the MASSIVE firepower of my teammates, we had a new race!  And the race was good!  There were the usual brutal fireworks that you can expect from the super-fun Giro di Coppi course, and I was staying in the race as a 'just-in-case-i-can-help-more' measure for two of my mates.  

On the last lap, I dragged myself to the front of the race to help out Nicholas Taylor, who was outnumbered and isolated at the front of the race.  Nick Bax had thrown himself off the front AGAIN and was flying the coup.  Another XO rider took off, and the field didn't seem interested in following, pursuing, or even pedaling after him.  I took up this task, and as soon as I joined him, he went backwards to find my wheel, as I was obligated to pull, seeing that he had a friend in Nick Bax still up the road.  I was happy to see Tony Abate and Kevin Gottlieb bridge up and give me help.  Two super strong, super cool dudes.  I was SUPER deep in the pain cave after the early-race work, and was keeping my speed up for the sake of not getting dropped, but hoping the whole time that we'd be swallowed up by a hard charging peleton and my misery could end.

Didn't happen.

We were joined by a late bridge from Tim Rugg, who took a quick breather, then proceeded to pound us to the ground.  Tony and I benefited the least from Tim's anti-gravity tricks, but we hauled ourselves back up TWICE when the roads tilted downward.  As we rolled to the finishing hill, I attempted to give it one last rev and possibly podium, but Tim's pro-strength and Steve Gordon's euro-race pedigree proved far too fast for me.  As I tried my best to match their sprint, my legs began pedaling in some sort of triangular-octagon style, rather than the usual smooth circular pattern.  I rumbled my way up the hill to a 4th place finish and promptly laid down in a ditch and hoped to feel some sort of normal again.

Major Kudos to Nick Bax, who was by all aspects the deserving winner.  Also cool to see was Lindsay Bayer mixing it up in the Men's race.  It did not look at all like a stretch for her :)

Up next, I drive 5.5 hours to home and prepare for another road race the next day in Franklin, VA!

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Drove to the Iron Hill Twilight Crit

The title is about as much excitement as I have to report back.

The race: I had terrible luck at staging and started at the very back.  I did at least keep to my habit of finding a kid along the barriers to give a water bottle to, but that's as much entertainment as I could give the spectators.  After FIFTEEN minutes of call ups, the race began, as did the process of gap-closing.

When you start that far back, all you can do is ride hard, pass as many people as you can, and hope that there isn't a field split.

Just my luck, I reached a point far enough forward to find that field split.  By the time I was there, we were about 25 minutes in to the race, and the action was settling down a bit.  I was at the front of my groupetto, and could take the corners at full speed.  We were closing to the field, but the officials decided it was time to chop the race.  We were pulled, and that was that.

Things other than my race were the highlights of the day.  For one, the drive to West Chester was beautiful.  I was picturing myself retired, driving an Aston Martin, and on my way to SPECTATE the bike race along the roads that lead you to the town.

As always, the race was well organized, and cycling fans (new and experienced alike) were having a great time.  People were very interested in what was happening in the race, and when the field nearly pulled back the solo rider towards the end of the race, the spectators at the backside reacted with a loud "OHHHH WOWWW!" when it was announced.  When people who don't race bikes are that into a criterium, you are doing something right.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hooray for Bike Racing at Luray!

Last weekend was another edition of the Tour of Page County, hosted by Page Valley Cycling.

This is a race that I love to attend.  This is also a race that I am not very good at.  With the steep, hilly terrain of Luray to contend with, I'm often left blown out the back of the race and pedaling to earn tough-guy points for seeing the race through and finishing (or at least riding until I am forced to stop by the officials!)  While most cyclists are not used to getting dropped out of a peleton, the Page Valley events almost require that participants find themselves dropped at some point as a right of passage.  There is no shame, the courses are tough, and are raced hard.

This year's edition of the stage race featured a brand new road race course, which we were unable to race on due to a freak thunderstorm unleashing chaos across the region on Friday night.  Based on reports from racers who rode the course anyways, it looks like the race will be a big hit if we get a chance to race there next year.

Is that a perfect cycling road or what?

Apparently it has a really fun mix of hills, speed, smooth pavement, and mountain views.  Sounds like some other classic races of our region, like Jefferson Cup, Giro di Coppi, and All-American (aka Murad).  Hard enough to be difficult, but within the ability levels of a broad spectrum of riders.  For any Mid-Atlantic area cyclists who feign away from registering for the Page Valley Cycling events, I highly encourage you to try the stage race out next year if we are lucky enough to see a 2013 edition with that road course.  Fun for all ages/weights/power profiles!

With the road race scrapped, the stage race came down to a single day: a 9 mile time trial, and the now infamous Luray Crit.

The time trial started at the crest of Cavern Hill, at the Luray Caverns parking lot.  You begin by SCREAMING down a smooth, safe decent, ride to the airport, and make a right hand turn.  From there, the road starts to roll on you.  The hills are enough to make you think long and hard as to what the best pacing strategy is, and the speed is absolutely high enough for TT specialists to see benefits from their equipment and abilities.  In my race, the results sheet reflected this:  GiroBio winner Joe Dombrowski of Bontrager/Livestrong won by 1 second over Josh Frick of DC Velo.  My own teammate Scott Giles from Bike Doctor was 3rd, close behind.  I placed 6th.  The results sheet looked a lot like what you would see from the same riders at Church Creek, our local pancake-flat 40k jaunt.

After the time trial, I spent a few minutes soaking in our motel's swiming pool before packing up my car and prepping the sound equipment I brought for the crit course.  Some sweaty time later, I had wires, speakers, mixers, and beats connected and pumping down at the Hawskbill and Main St. corner.  (Sorry if it was too low; the acoustics on Main Street are pretty bad as the sound echoes 3 ways and is not particularly pleasing to the ear unless you are RIGHT in front of the speakers).

Approaching our race, the one word to describe the setting was HOT.  With the mountains quite literally ON FIRE behind us, we embarked on our 60 minute crit amid 102 ground temperatures.  Early on, DC Velo, one of our region's best teams, put their chess pieces into place.  I was a little bit too focused on holding onto the wheel in front of me, so my details here might not be accurate, but here is my recount:  DJ Brew of DC Velo solo'd away from us for a very solid number of laps.  I think there were one or two chase attempts that Ben King of DC Velo (I think that's his name) had marked, but those chase groups didn't quite make it to DJ.  Back in the field, I came to the front for a good number of laps to bring DJ back to the fold for good, but I had some XO riders sitting on my wheel and not giving me any help.  I think they were waiting to spring, but the gap to DJ was too far for me to close on my own.  A bit of organization would have helped seal the deal, but it didn't matter, as a few accelerations from the Cutaway/Hottubes kids and Joe Dombrowski pulled the last handfuls of seconds to my old teammate DJ, and his job was done for the day.  The next significant move was Ryan McKinney being up the road.  I think Ryan may have been off before we caught DJ (like I said, foggy recollections).  My Bike Doctor teammates and I followed attacks and covered moves, making sure to keep things together to give Scott Giles a smooth ride wherever he was in the field.

A wide-angle view near the finish line atop Main St.  In the distance are the mountains, and somewhere further back might be me

At some point, everyone in the field was really tired, but Scott was good to go, so he took off.  I think he joined one of the Cutaway riders up the road and did his best to make it as far away from the field as possible.  Once Scott was away, we rode circles around the course, Dave Fuentes (only a few seconds behind me in the GC) took off and I tried to pull him back (but couldn't!) and then we eventually finished.  I was much pleased to have the first good sprint effort of the year on that lap, but I was at the back of the race, so it didn't make a difference.

The GC battle came down to Ryan McKinney and Scott Giles.  Scott had a solid chunk of time on Ryan before the start of the crit, but Ryan rode so fast in the afternoon that his solo efforts combined with the time bonuses he won gave him a very solid margin of victory over our own Scott.  Sorry Scott!  Joe Dombrowski finished 3rd in the GC (racing with no teammates!) and gave two local racers the photo opp of a lifetime by sticking around for a podium shot.

A beaming Ryan McKinney atop our proud Scott Giles and Virginia's pro-bound Joe Dombrowski.

After the race, I stuck around and cheered on other people I knew who were out to do battle with the heat and hills.  Some people did well, others had a difficult race, but at the end of the day, everyone felt that they had accomplished something just by participating in that event.

A fun side-quest in our already-race-within-a-race was a competition on Strava to produce the fastest time on the Main St. hill during the criterium.  Visit here to see the ride segment.  As I'm posting this, I'm in the lead/tied with my teammate from last year, superstar DJ Brew!  Full admission, if no one posts a faster time, I give the gentleman's victory to DJ, as I think he made that time somewhere in the BEGINNING of the race, and rode like a champion for the rest of the hour in 100+ degree heat.  I popped mine at the very end.

Oh, also shout outs to my friends Emir Crnovic and Kat Klausing.  Emir participated in his first Cat 5 race (he's 15 years old and plays soccer) and did really well!  Thanks to the Cat 5 field for being a cool crew and NOT arbitrarily shouting at the junior rider :)  My buddy Kat did her thing and was an absolute stud, despite having a journey to Luray that was nothing else but epic, slept on a chair, spent Saturday clearing road debris off county roads in the heat, slept on a bike shop floor, road guarded the morning races in the heat, and then got THIRD in the crit.  I think the women's field is lucky Kat spent all of her energy and sweat on helping to make the race happen rather than actual pedaling.

Kat, David, Jacob, and some Whole Wheel Velo friends clear the road so that you can race and not flat your tubular wheels.  Thanks!

Finally, thanks to Page Valley Cycling and the Town of Luray.  I know first hand that the town is highly involved in helping to make the Page Valley bike races happen, and each year they seem to be enthusiastic about opening/shutting down their town for us to pedal around in silly spandex outfits upon far-too-expensive bicycles.

Please have us back for another year!  We love your town (and your roads!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Clarity of Trailblazing

I'm sitting here on the couch, watching the US Olympic Trials for swimming.  It is fun watching the flow of a top-level swim meet, and seeing the superstars do their best to do 'just enough' to qualify, but not drop hints about their form and physical capacity.

Hearing the interviews of new Olympic team members is riveting.  These are athletes reaching the very pinnacle of their sport, punching a ticket to The Big Show.  Watching this, I can't help but think that there is a fairly clear path for the Olympic hopeful swimmer.  Find out when and where Olympic Trials are, figure out what time cuts are required, MAKE those, register.  Show up in shape.  Race your heart out and cross your fingers that Michael Phelps is getting old.

I'm a little bit envious of this system.  I'm on the warpath in a sport that has a less-clear pinnacle.  The path that one takes to get to that pinnacle?  I have no clue.

Do you network your way onto teams that have phantom connections to a larger-scale teams?

Do you podium at certain high profile races?

Do you get important people to vouch for you?


The same goes for triathlon.  Where is the top of that sport?  Kona Qualification is something big, but doing an Ultra-Distance World Championship is more of a split between insanity and athletic endeavor.  Worlds are cool, but there are regional races that are more competitive (and more covered) than Worlds.  Even earning a 'Pro' card is not as 'there' as being a SPONSORED Pro.

I feel like there is no path for me.  If there is, I missed the sign a long time ago, and am too deep into the woods to just turn back and find the trailhead.  Instead, I'm trailblazing through the bush carrying a machette and a compass.  Sometimes things work out well, other times i metaphorically go hungry.  I'm sure I'll eventually rendezvous with the trail far along, or fall off a cliff, or get eaten by lions on the way.

Any way it works, I'll continue blazing through the jungle, swinging away.  If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Home from NVGP and I Ramble

Better late than never.  Happy Trails!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

NVGP: Minneapolis Crit

This is a few days after-the-fact.  I will get to the delay later...

The Minneapolis Criterium was an AMAZING event.  I have no idea how many hours of planning, labor, and stress went into pulling that race off, but whatever it took, the sport of cycling is better for it!  The course itself was awesome.  Tight enough to give spectators some really cool viewing angles, but open enough to fit 146 riders safely.  Can I talk about the JUMBOTRONS for a minute?  Live video feeds were broadcasted from a bunch of the corners to a Jumbotron so that spectators could watch the ENTIRE lap and not miss a second of action!  Couple that with a great audio setup, feeding music and commentary to all ends of the event, and you have yourself a grand bike race!

This go-around, my race story STARTS at staging, but does not end there!  I managed a front-row start for the amateurs, which still put me around 20th.  I wasn't very nervous before this race.  Two of our host families were in attendence, my wife Melissa, and with long-time friends Geoff and Laura Beatty who used to ride with me but now live in Minneapolis.  The 'home' support felt great.

The race started without much incident, but my struggles began at lap 3.  A rider biffed it two wheels in front of me as he cornered and pedaled over a divet.  I slowed up to avoid and then sprinted as hard as I could to connect back to the leaders.  For a VERY short while, I was the only one who stayed on that group after the pile-up, and I had glimpses of thinking that I had accidentally made an important race split.  Those visions faded in about 10 seconds when the field did glide up to us without much panic or incident.  This left me with a serious match burned, and now thinking I need to be more cautious through the corners.

This caution caused me to start slipping places.  Two laps later, I found myself maybe 30 back.  It was at this point that two Competitive Cyclist riders decided they NEEDED to get to the front (to be fair, they were going to influence the race, whereas I was just trying to hang on).  The first guy says something to me in spanish (sorry dude, no comprende) and I saw what he wanted.  I was in no mood to escort professional bike riders around a professional crit, so I just squared out my arms a little bit, knowing he would try to navigate his was THROUGH me.  I was wrong!  He gave me the ol'e Grab-Back-of-Jersey-and-Pull-Backwards trick to give himself a hole in the field in which he could advance.  I quickly closed the hole up once he left, but his partner in crime was expecting similar courtesy.  Seeing that I was not keen to give up my spot, Competitive Cyclist number two grabbed my handlebars and gave them a back-and-forth wrenching and then shoved them off to send my flying to the right.

At that moment, three things simultaneously happened.  The second Competitive Cyclist dude moved to where I had been a split second before and continued his conquest up the field, I saved face by NOT crashing onto my face in the middle of a professional bike race, and after three crazy safety-related incidents in a VERY short stretch of time, I was nothing short of SPOOKED.

The next, I dunno, 10 minutes I spent braking into corners, giving up positions, and moving backwards FAST.  After that I settled down, and focused on getting my groove back.  I did, and began a very slow surf  up the field.  As the laps counted down, the efforts along the two straightaways on the course started to take their toll.  When Kenda/5 Hour Energy started to drill the pace at the front, a handful of riders IMMEDIATELY ejected, leaving some nasty gaps to close (which I did in futility).  At 3 to go I was squeezing the last bit of juice out of my legs when I noticed that there was a gap about 5 riders up from me, and I finally pulled the ripcord.  I rode the final two laps at a comfortable tempo, weaving left and right to high five any kid along the course who would put their hand out.  I paraded across the line thinking I was the laughing stock of the race, until I later found out that their was a groupetto behind me, and I ended up moving up a few spots in the GC.


Major kudos to the young guns of the Nature Valley Pro Chase team, Conner, Tyler, and Tony rode like animals and looked cool and composed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NVGP Round 2: St. Paul Criterium

The story of my race starts and essentially ends at race staging.  In a professional-level criterium, your starting position is of the utmost importance, as the speeds quickly become too high to move up without spending tremendous amounts of energy.  

Typically I relax for criterium staging and use my legs and lungs to move up during the race.  Given the caliber of riders I was up against, however, I staged about 45 minutes beforehand, and was determined to be sneaky about it.  Eventually I found myself following Micheal Creed and Mike Friedman of Kelly-Optum, and I think Ivan Dominguez was in our little staging group as well.  I figured I was in like flynn.  The race officials saw us and moved us to THE OFFICIAL staging coralle.  There were about 50 of us.  The full field consisted of 146.

It was only after the released us onto the course that we saw the other 90-some-odd riders who must have been already parked on the course, exactly where we were before we were all moved.  That's how it goes sometimes.

While we were in the coralle, a photographer wearing press credentials was snapping a personal pic using his  iphone: he was holding out a Barbie doll and posing her in front of us.  Must be a photo-collection thing.  In any event, we all noticed, and the photographer asked a rider if he wouldn't mind holding the doll for a shot.  The rider, who was non-other than Mike Friedman, awkwardly agreed and was obviously not in practice for doll-photo-taking.  Some of the other riders told Mike to get her to do a pose, and I suggested he have her Tebow for the camera.  Friedman informed me that he did not know what it was to 'Tebow'.  

Like, totally for serious?

A few awkward minutes later, our photographer had his picture of Barbie Tebowing on Mike Friedman's handlebars, and we all gained a great new memory of the most awkward photo a famous pro cyclist had to take.  I hope that shot surfaces up somewhere.

Back to the race.

As the gun went off, my plan was to weather the early panic that would likely ensue with riders frantically sprinting their way to the front.  On lap 3, I hit a modestly sized pothole, but at the speeds we were going I felt like I had fallen into the Grand Canyon.  This strike caused my handlebars to rotate downwards by a few inches.  Those few inches felt like MILES to my back and lungs.  Fortunately, I was caught up in a small crash perhaps 5 or 6 laps later.  I didn't receive any battle damage, and used my time in the pits to correct my handlebars.  AHHH, RELIEF.

Upon re-entry I focused once again on picking a smart time to move up.  Some riders were starting to fade and fall in-line, but others were still very antsy.  I reasoned that as soon as the guys around me tired out a little bit more, I would begin my slow charge to the front.  It was around this time that Kelly-Optum decided to throttle the race.  Where I was riding, their effort was noteable.  The field went from about 2-4 wide towards the back to single-file and gapped in an instant.  This pressure remained for the entire race, and there was no opportunity to move up efficiently.  I was sure that SOMETHING was going to happen up the road that would cause a regroup and a slight respite in the pace to allow me to cruise up front, but as it would turn out, there would be no easy way to advance.  

At around 15 to go, guys started blowing up and leaving wide gaps to close.  Making up these spaces did some damage to me.  Beginning at 9-to-go,  I started channeling Lindsay Bayer's in-race-through-process on focusing on a single goal: finish this race.  I was perfectly fine where I was, but the chance of there being a major split was very real, and I wanted to finish in the main group.  Fortunately, nothing crazy happened in the closing laps, and I rolled in with my first Pro-1 Criterium under my belt.

I felt a little bit like a chump thinking that I could sag at the back of a pro race and then make my way to the front late.  The reason guys were going ballistic early is because that was the only good time to move up.  I know of two riders who were where I was and made it to the foward part of the field: Tim Rugg (who finished 6th), and my teammate Conner McCutcheon.  

Another sour thought is how little I was able to help my teammates.  I found Evan Fader a few times, but I couldn't drag him up to a better position.  The same happened with Conner.  I spent a lap trying to shield him from a crosswind when he was half-wheeled.  He was able to advance a few positions from this, but I never did get back up with him to help out some more.  For most of the race, I was about 15 riders back from Tony Olsen, another Nature Valley Pro Chase teammate.  I saw him battling hard and I desperately wanted to go give him a big body to sit behind (he's our resident featherweight).  Unfortunately, I kept being chopped in corners by the same 3 or 4 guys when I was trying to claw my way up to Tony.  While Tony ended up finishing just fine on his own, that 'sheparding' instinct I have was driving me nuts: seeing him get pushed out into the wind was bugging the crap out of me, and I wanted to put an end to that.

When all was said and done, we did well.  No mishaps for our team, and Jamie and Conner moved up a few positions in the General Classification.  Our host house family came out to cheer for us which was a HUGE motivator.  Having a friendly face on the sidelines really does make a difference!  A few of the Nature Valley Pro Chase girls also hung around after their race to see us in ours.  Little Bri was there because she had retained her top-amateur's jersey, and Lindsay Bayer cracked a top-10!  They helped talk me down from my post-race blues (not because I was particularly dissapointed in my result, but more of being a non-factor for my mates and just being drained and wiped in general).  

After a relaxing van ride with Tony and Conner in which much pasta was devoured and many beer-mixed-drink recipes were exchanged, we arrived at our host house in Stillwater and shared our war stories with our gracious host family. 

I could get used to this :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NVGP Round 1: Time Trial

The quick and dirty:

12.4 km
100th place Stage / 99th place GC (don't ask me how or why)

The night before the Time Trial, Bart Bowen issued all of us Nature Valley Pro Chase riders our bib numbers and did up our team's start order.  I would be one of the later riders to start, 4th out of six.  What a whirlwind experience this morning was.  I haven't been that anxious for a bicycle event in....I can't quite remember.  The realization of the magnitude of the Nature Valley Pro Chase experience was completely sunken in and FULLY etched on my mind.  I was thinking about how lucky I was, how cool it felt to be 'one of the pros', and how many people back home I was representing, that I never really fully focused on my ride, which is probably a good thing.

I was on a good day.  The week of no-riding before I flew up here to Minnesota put me right where I need to be for a 5 day stage race.  Coming off the start ramp, I was flushed with adrenaline (which has been absent in my body for some time), and within minutes I was seeing heart rate numbers pinned in the 190's.

With my mind [on my money and my money on my mind] on what lay ahead through the next five races, my in-race thoughts consisted of 'ease back.  ease back.  ease back.'

Not much interesting to report.  I rode well, stayed within my limits, and finished well.  My placing was towards the rear, but in the middle of the amateurs, but in all honesty, I'm in over my head.  Making time cuts and being ready for the next ride is what is important!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Camp

After we finished up our ride on the first day of our team camp at Amery at Jay and Sue's house, my bike was finally delivered from the airport.  I have to admit, the slight discomfort of riding a foreign bike for 3 hours was worth the sight of my bicycles arrival:  the courier showed up to the house in this car:

This, but in a classic purple color!

They don't make'em like they used to.  My bike bag was sitting in the back-seat, in the least efficient direction, and still had tons of space to spare.  THAT, my friends, is a five-seater!

After being treated to a couple of casual seminars by Physical Therapist Alynn Kakuk (Jay and Sue's daughter) who is studying at the Mayo Clinic.  She gave us a lot of information that is important for cyclists to know and be aware of that can help us both on and off the bike.  Thanks, Alynnn!

I am attempting not to begin each paragraph with the word "After".  AND THEN we had a GLORIOUS dinner of turkey, expertly smoked by resident chef extraordinaire (and fellow Alton Brown fan) Jay Kakuk.  

AND THEN we had a night cap of team building out back at the fire pit, roasting smores, drinking beers (my first and last one for a while), sharing stories and laughs.  As some of the Nature Valley Pro Chase riders and staff began to turn in for bed, the night sky slowly became ablaze by the night's starscape.  I've been to some pretty cool spots in the world that had an AMAZING view of the heavens:

Savute Elephant Camp: Kalahari, Botswana
Massai Marra, Kenya
Far Side of Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico
Access Road of Mauna Kea, HI

and I now submit that Amery, Wisconsin joins my top list of places to lie down and stare up at the night sky.

That was only our first full day at the Nature Valley Pro Chase Team Camp.

Day two was more of the same.  We started the day with breakfast for 16 cyclists (12 Nature Valley Pro Chase athletes and 4 Collegiate All Stars) and a slow lolligag over to the bikes to embark on a ~50-60 mile ride.  This time around we had a team videographer join our Team Director Bart Bowen in the car to take video of us riding.  At the end of 3 hours, we arrived back at the Kakuk's, hungy for food, and a bit more of a team after sharing miles with each other.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


My trip to our host housing in Wisconsin was nice and smooth.  I slept through half of the flight, brought plenty of water with me, and was not within earshot of any screaming babies on the aeroplane.  The only hitch came at baggage claim.  You see, fellow JeffCup qualifier Lindsay Bayer was set to arrive 5 minutes after me in the same terminal, so I hung out and tried to make a rendezvous by taking the long way to the baggage claim area. By the time I got to baggage claim, my flight had been loaded onto the roundabout belts and only 3 bags were left: one belonging to myself and the other two to fellow stragglers.  I then waited patiently for my bike bag to be brought to the door where they place the oversized luggage.

And waited.  And waited.  A whole new flight had been loaded and picked up from the same baggage carousel, so I went to talk to the baggage claim service desk.  The helpful folks there got me the information I needed, but only after a nervous 30 minutes of investigation.  Much to my relief, they were able to track my bag.  Much to my amusement, the bag was still sitting behind the check-in counter back at BWI-Baltimore.

90 minutes in a van later, 7 Nature Valley Pro Chase/Collegiate All Stars athletes (including myself) arrived in Amery, Wisconsin at Jay and Sue's house (sorry, I forgot their last name at the moment).  Jay and Sue are our 'host parents', opening their house to a group of around 20 bike racers and staff.  They have an awesome AWESOME house, and they are an awesome couple.  So far, Jay and I have exchanged some of our best stories of dumb stuff we've done while drinking too many beers, and Sue taught me how to play shuffleboard and where to find decaf coffee beans.

More to come...

Thursday, June 7, 2012


This is all Melissa's fault.

 When I started racing bikes in 2007, I won 8 races and found the podium a handful of other times. I seemingly stormed through the Category system set in place by USA Cycling and earned a Category 2 promotion. So stoked was I to be invited onto a local elite team that, in my sophomore season of racing, I forgot to bring with me the form and focus that earned me all that freshman success.

 For sure, the story is more complex than not progressing in fitness, but at the heart of my slump of that year was my inability or ineptitude to continue doing the hard work and keeping the fire in my belly stoked.

 Intent: an important word not for athletes, but for everyone. What was my intent that year? I didn't have any. I did not intend to do anything.

 In the winter of 2007, my cycling goals for 2008 seemed to be already achieved when I received a shiny new team kit and spent all of my money on a team bike. Surely, I would look the part of an elite cyclist! At first, I was blind to the lessons my sinking results provided. The whole of 2008 was a blur, including a fantastic string of DNF's in July at Criteriums, a discipline that was allegedly my forte. And so the season progressed with my head hung low to match my morale, until the worst possible thing happened: I won a race at the end of the year.

 Why was this bad? Because I immediately relieved myself of the pressure that was building from my lackluster season. I chalked the win to 'finally finding my legs' or 'needing more time to get used to the heat.' The win fed every single stupid excuse I had given myself. 2009 was essentially more of the same. My morale didn't slump so low as my personal expectations had since readjusted after my difficult transition to Cat 1-2 racing, but there were sill many lessons that I had not yet learned. It took a force outside of bike racing (although not far from it) for me to experience the Newtonian 'apple on the head' moment.

 That force was my then-girlfriend Melissa, preparing with her Army buddy, [also] Melissa, for a Marathon. The Melissas had plenty of 5k and some 10k running experience, and wanted to scratch 26.2 from their bucket list. With their perpetual enthusiasm and a training guide for new Marathon runners that was probably ripped out of a copy of Runner's World, they began meeting up a few times a week to train together. I didn't hear much about the runs; I barely realized that Melissa was in the middle of a marathon training block. She would come home from a run and we'd have brunch, and I was never the wiser as to what was going on. One morning the girls returned home on a HOT day and were slamming cold water from the fridge. "How far did you guys go today" I asked. "Today was 20" said Melissa. TWENTY? How did that happen? Since when could she run twenty miles? The thought slipped out in speech and the girls divulged their little 'complete a marathon in 3 months' worksheet. Listening to their build-up in mileage, it all seemed so...reasonable and achievable. It was all about making slow progress in a consistent manner.

 Later that year, the apple crashed down on my head. Melissa and I were on vacation in Kona, HI during Ironman week. That trip is worth a book on its own, but the short story is that I was absolutely blown away watching the amateurs compete. It wasn't just about the speed at which even the 'slow' ones were going, but knowing and understanding how much work and sacrifice went in to placing them in this event at the Big Island. Perhaps more impressive than competing in the event was seeing all of these people out and about the day after, accompanying their families and travel partners on touristy-stuff while they are probably still feeling like they are in a body bag from the prior day's race. If these people can make an Ironman World Championship happen for themself, perhaps I can make some improvements in my cycling thing.

 My 2010 season was good. Not bad. Not great. Blue-collar, head low, soft-spoken, solid. 2011 saw a Renaissance of my 2007 self as I helped make a 4 man team a force to be reckoned with in a region containing teams of 14 in local Category 1-2 races. I was happy with things in races that were NOT results, and I was learning lessons each week about racing, training, and listening to my body. The floodgates did eventually open. I had a stormer of a weekend at Wilmington, DE, tearing up a crit to leadout my teammate DJ Brew for a convincing win, and going on to win the 80 mile road race the following day out of a breakaway with my training partner Pete Warner. A few weeks later, I hooked another win at Altoona against some of the biggest talent in the east including Reid Beloni.

 As I pack my bags for the Nature Valley Grand Prix, 2012 continues forward from where 2011 left off. I can't help but think that this long road of lesson learning all started with something really really simple. In 2007, I wanted to make sure I didn't start my racing career as pack-fill. In 2008, I didn't want anything. Ever since Melissa showed me how simple hard work is, I knew I could prove myself, and I desired to make it so. I had all of the intent in the world to make it down this road, and I intend to see how far this road goes.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting Close

I'm getting antsy. On a rest week, my body is starting to come back to homeostasis from a solid month of pummeling training. With this rise back to the surface, I'm finding energy again, and with that energy comes ANGST! I'm nervous! Keeping with the spirit of documenting the Pro Chase experience, I produced a moviefilm which exhibits my thoughts and mood. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stop That Noise

"This is only a test" I reason with myself. The Nature Valley Grand Prix looms next week. Legs and Lungs are all fine, I've stocked the barn full of hay, and I'm ready to rip-roar across Minnesota. Why then, has everything got to be so wacky? Ever since I received a 10 pm. phone call from Nature Valley inviting me onto the Pro Chase program, all of my focus has been eat, sleep, breathe race preparation. I've made the most of my time, but my candle has been burning at 4 ends. Home in D.C., Work, Home in Hampton, and Training. That amounts to a scorching hot candle once you include travel time and bike racing time. I've been making sacrifices in all of these aspects of my life: my room in Washington is a mess with bike tools scattered about and cell phone and laptop chargers lay hidden underneath my 'inbox' of clean cycling gear. I've possibly alienated my housemates, and one of them is still waiting for me to help him fix his bicycle brake. I've spent far less time in Hampton with my wife then I intended this summer. That aside, there is yardwork to be done, 'the bike cave' to organize and stock, and I still haven't had a day to spend on the beach. It seems as though every time I arrive home in Hampton, I've forgotten something important at my room in D.C. and visa-versa. Bike racing has been an absolute blur. I can't exactly remember when the last weekend race I did was. I omitted this past weekend's events (two criteriums I always do well at) in order to sort some at-home affairs (as well as delay the inevitable timing belt work and new brakes needed on my automobile). This of course meant leaving my teammates with less help, and missing out on all the fun! "It is all a part of the experience" I tell myself. "I wanted the pro experience!" As I think this, I'm suddenly reminded of my ride the other weekend with my training buddy Kat. As we marched on to mile 90 in the heat and needing some food and drink, I started to slip into the 'bummed out' zone. "This is what I asked for; this was what I wanted to go through, and it felt like a great idea this morning!" Of course, a few minutes later I would be feeling right and cheery. I can't help but think I just hit that rough part of the journey where it feels tough. The journey is, of course, beyond the Nature Valley Pro Chase, and I expect that the Pro Chase week is going to be that Milky Way bar and bag of chips I bought in the rural gas station that brought me back to life on that eventful ride of a few weeks ago.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Having a post ride chat


Chilling out in the back yard after a fun group ride here in Washington, D.C.

I have videos from said ride, I just need to edit and add music.

Speaking of music, credit goes to Outkast for the instrumental version of Slump (edited and looped by me on my ones-and-twos....well, I only needed a one)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bike Racing is Cool: an Essay

Some of you who read this blog are bike racers yourselves, and have your own reasons for liking (or maybe being addicted to) the sport of cycling. Others who have found their way here are friends and family, who I so often hear say that they think my biking hobby is cool, but I'm not so sure I've ever given really tried to pitch the sport to them. HOPEFULLY, some of you who are skimming these sentences found my site by clicking on some links from the Nature Valley Bike Festival/Pro Chase/Grand Prix's sites. Of all you guys, I'm not sure of how many will be already familiar with the site, and how many are just reading up on the event before they go watch a bike race in their hometown for the first time.

 If you have the chance to come and watch the Nature Valley races in June, I suggest you do it. Spectating a high-caliber bike race, no matter if it is pro-level or strictly amateurs, is fun! On a pleasant summer day, picnicking alongside a bike race course is a great way to burn a couple of hours: chowing down feet (or less) from a huge mass of people hurtling down a street at high speeds is as mesmerizing as auto racing, but with more sunscreen and less eardrum-bursting.

 In bike races, you will see a lot of in-shape people. Sure, all of them obviously spend a lot of their free time riding bikes, but every single rider is bound to have a life that is more interesting than you think. Despite the seemingly large chunk of cash that is up for grabs at major bike races, I can promise you that no one in a peleton is pedaling solely because there is cash to be won at the finish line. This post is about my own reasons for riding my bike (and racing it).

 For starters, riding bikes is a great activity to stay fit without hauling yourself into a gym, mounting a treadmill, and attempting to stay motivated while you watch Wolf Blitzer on CNN (or whatever your local sweat-house likes to put on the TV around the cardio equipment). I can think of no more enjoyable and seemingly non-exercise-like activity to keep your body running smoothly than driving down to your local bike trail with a friend, saddling up and pedaling a ways to get to an ice cream shop, 7-Eleven, or BBQ joint for a quick refuel/chow-down stop before turning around to head home? Getting a little deeper into 'why bikes are fun' leads me to describe the multiple levels of awesome that are experienced in a bike race. The obvious route to find enjoyment in bike racing would obviously be 'winning a race', but that isn't what I'm going to tell you. ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS are what makes racing a USA Cycling event fun - winning is a thrill, but is still just the icing on the cake.

 -Racing a bike on closed streets.

Gettin' my lean on along Pennsylvania Ave.  Yes, THAT Pennsylvania Ave.

So awesome. Cut apexes, bomb descents, challenge yourself to increase your entry and exit speeds on corners! Because you are on a bicycle, the feeling of speed and momentum is enhanced, like how a roller coaster drop looks like a fairly steep angle when you are not on the ride, but from the front car, it seems STRAIGHT DOWN. I kid you not, the speeds at which you ride through corners in a bike race prompt very serious thoughts of just how far your 23 millimeter tires can hold grip through a lean. 20 mph on a bike feels like 50 in a car, and 30 mph feels like 80.

 -Race tactics.

Driving a breakaway is a tradeoff between increasing your chances to win and using your energy before the race ends
Once you have the fitness to compete in a race and are sufficiently bored with learning the art of bike handling, you have a whole new world of improvements to make by learning all of the small tactical options you have in a bike race. I'm not going to begin to explore this area, but I have a great analogy that non-bike racers might be able to appreciate. The Daytona Speedway was recently resurfaced to allow NASCAR drivers to drive 3-wide through the massive banked curves, where they had previously been maxed out at racing 2-wide in years past. The difference this made in racing was immense. As I watched the Daytona 500 begin, the auto race looked like it developed EXACTLY like a bike race. Because there was more space to move up through the curve, groups of cars would initiate breakaway groups in the exact same way riders do in a bike race. They hang out a few spaces back from the leaders, sitting safely in the draft, and just when the leaders are about to have the hardest time pushing their way through the wind, the racers sitting in the back use their momentum and the lack of air resistance to burst out of the field and off the front. In order to bring them back, other cars will have to launch off the front, and the more drivers who get away, the further their cars 'chain' back to the main pack. The same gambit is played so often in bike racing and, in essence, is the exact same thing as what you see in NASCAR, just human powered, and a few (okay more than a few) MPH slower.


The bicycle of teammate Peter Warner
Gear heads unite! If you think a bike racer spends a lot of time training and obsessing about what flavor of gatorade to select for their bike rides, wait until you get into the equipment side of cycling! There is so much here for a tinkerer to get lost with building/improving/enhancing their bicycle machine it is crazy. You can change your bike fit, you can get lighter components, you can get aerodynamic wheels, you can get a custom plush riding bike...and don't get me started on cyclocrossers and their FANATICAL obsession with tires and air pressure :) Bicycling could sell itself to people who would LOVE to spend $20k on a weekend having their car supercharged, but maybe can't put up that kind of money. Don't believe me? Got to slowtwitch.com and browse the forums: most of that is gear optimization strategies...thousands upon thousands of pages of discussion! And what is better than this ease of access for tinkerers? Most tinkering can be done with a small little multi-tool. No car lifts required!


These guys welcomed me along their rides on a chilly winter morning in the Mountains!  Smiles everywhere!
If you race a bike most weekends during the summer, chances are you will see the same people week after week. You make friends. You grow rivalries. You get over rivalries. You have your own epic competitions with each other. When the season ends and it is time to put your race number away until the spring, you wish your friends well and can't wait to see who comes into next spring in shape, who gets a cool new bike, and who went and had a crazy awesome vacation!

That's all for now, I've got some loose ends to wrap up at the office before the weekend; Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Saturday marked another D.C. area 'monument' race: Poolesville. This course is a blast as long as lady luck is on your side. With a key feature of a dirt and gravel road, riders who complete this race will either beam in excitement over how much fun they had, or scowl about the nth flat tire they've endured at the race. The thing about Poolesville is that when you are not busy frantic about being pinned behind the centerline-controlled field, you are gliding through the most excellent sweeping turns that rural Maryland has to offer. Sure, there are some potholes in a few places, and the pavement is less-than gentle, but this is the type of course where people will buy a set of tires JUST FOR THIS ONE DAY. How cool is that? Our own little Faux-Roubaix! My day went well. Once again, I found myself at the back during staging (despite my best attempts to use my street cred to waltz in front of the line) and remained at the back for a very, very long time. Many gaps had to be closed, a few crashes or incidents to avoid, and I even had the pleasure of witnessing a rider run off the road at the feedzone and collide with my wife. That was not the most fun thing to see. Melissa, who was fresh off of celebrating a crash-free day in her own Poolesville race, was unable to spectate unscathed. Bike racing will always get you, one way or another. With about 30 miles to go, I FINALLY emerged out of the bowels of the field and, or the first time in the race, could see some scenery rather than the hubs and butts of other riders. My teammate Pete Warner and I went nuts attacking the field, and eventually out teammate Scott was able to spring free with another rider (a good buddy of mine, Jose, from a rival team) and I sat back to catch my breath. Fortunately for my slightly tired legs, the duo rolled out of sight and that was the last we would see. I waited for the field sprint, but right when crunch time was starting, I was pushed out off of the road by some riders who desired my spot too far back in the group. I kept upright, got back on the road, pedaled really hard, and finished in something-place. Smiles were had by all, as we soaked in the 77 degree sunny day of bike racing accomplished.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What day is it

It is Wednesday, and I'm in D.C. I'm not ALL here in D.C., I think I left my head somewhere else. Absurd sleep and travel cycle I'm on right now. Later this week should be a few sales meetings, a server room security tour, and eventually, a bike race. Oh, let's not forget Mother's Day. It feels like finals week all over again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turkey Hill Country Classic

I finally made it out to Turkey Hill! Ever since I've heard of this race, each passing edition sees me respectfully abstain from participating. It is usually one part lack of road-race fitness, one part lack of climbing prowess. With the Nature Valley Grand Prix on the horizon, however, there was no question about my willingness to show my face at the event this go around. AND ICE CREAM. I had no personal goals for the race, aside from wrenching my legs for a few hours and seeing what happened. I got into some early junk-moves, did a few short minutes-worth of work towards the middle of the race, and then attempted to survive the attrition (which I did!) The race course is fantastic - nice roads with some fun corners, a rolling enclosure for most of the course (except for two clearly marked short stretches of road) and a rather packed start/finish area! It is wild to feel like there are spectators at a road race, but with Turkey Hill promoting the event complete with large inflatable cow and moon bounce, I'd hope that some people came out to see what the commotion was! When I wasn't feeling like daggers were sticking into my quads, I had a lot of fun in the race. Everything went great, except for the last km. A rider who is well known for his devastating kilometer ability decided to launch himself out of a cannon at the 1 km mark. The rest of the field was just a little bit too fast to be caught off guard by this, and caught his wheel, single file. After about 10 seconds of hammering, the rider in the lead looked back, saw the shattered peleton take the form of a snake behind him. Not enjoying this sight, the lead rider whipped to the side of the road, took a quick pause, then whipped across the road two more times pretty violently. As you might expect, the following riders were drafting each other single-file, and the rapid whipping motion caused a pretty nasty crash about 10 riders back. I was at the tail end of the guys who fell down. I personally did not fall (and I think I managed to support another guy who was in the act of falling into me), but all I could do was shake my head at what had just happened. Sadly, the field wasn't even sprinting for the win, as two riders were up the road. Big props to Rick Norton who flew the coupe and held everyone off. 'Slick Rick' is a rider that I don't think ANYONE minds getting beat by; his rides are always ballsy and dramatic! Oh, and I should mention that I was so tired/fired up about that calamity at the km attack that I FORGOT to get any ice cream.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My New Whip

Thanks to Cannondale and Bike Doctor for hooking the team up with some FINE one-off Caad10 frames for us to roll through the season in style and speed! I've been frame-material-neutral for some time now. Some of my friends might have seen me switch from a Giant TCR Advanced to an aluminum Scott last season. Both were great bikes. The Giant was super light and well balanced, but when I switched to the Scott, it ate corners like it was on rails. This past winter, however, I had a little experiment. I built up my old faithful Giant TCR Carbon and did some rides. Not gonna lie, the weight advantage of the higher-end frame was definitely noticed. Still, I got those Giant frames when I was sizing myself all crazy-like, and I just could never get comfortable on their whippy front-ends. Enter Bike Doctor and Cannondale, getting me aboard the new Caad10. Things I like: -Stout front end: push it into a corner and it will not shake or waiver -"Standard Geometry": it looks like a classic bicycle, not sci-fi bike -It is made out of metal -People can buy this without getting in trouble with spouses/debt collectors This is my first 'Dale, and assuming I'm a good fit with the geometry, I'd be really curious about the Evo if I ever win the lottery :) The build as shown is incomplete. I'm on a size 58, but I have a really short reach, and the only stems I had available were 120's. I'll probably find a cooler stem/handlebar combo to get this baby JUUUUST right.

Storylines for the Nature Valley Pro Chase

I don't think you can ask for a more Cinderella story than the season the Pro Chase riders are having. For me, I had the race of my life in qualifying on a course that I've always had problems on. I followed that up with a win at the All American Road Race, and - all things considered - a very solid performance at a stage race last weekend. Look at Conner McCutcheon who is killing it out west, finding the podium and wins at some major races! Last night's results are the icing on the cake. Lindsay Bayer is exemplifying what it takes to make the jump to pro racing at Speedweek...check out her race reports on her blog (and incoming I'd hope is a post about her results from last night. No spoilers here!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Back to Business

I'm mostly healed up, which is great news! I can get back to training hard for the Nature Valley Grand Prix! Not riding for a week left me in a little bit of a rut, but I stayed patient and thought of the layoff as not a setback, but rather a forced break to get me ready for some real crank-twisting over the next few weeks. Full disclosure: I searched out GPS files of the race courses to see exactly what I'm up against. That little bit of recon along with some wise pointers from past Nature Valley Pro Ride qualifier Tim Rugg has me feeling confident that I'm on the right track. This evening, I'm kicking off this next training block with a local 'Wednesday Night Worlds' event that we are lucky to have near D.C. The Route 1 Velo Club puts on a sanctioned training race at Greenbelt park, which is a cheap, fast, and fun way to get in a hard ride on a Wednesday night. Game on!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rock Tour Lititz

This past weekend I traveled up to the Lancaster, PA area for a two-day stage race called Rock Tour Lititz. The stage race comprises of 3 races held over 2 days: a road race on Saturday followed by a Sunday morning team time trial and a Sunday afternoon criterium. The road race was not the most fun I've had on a bicycle recently. I'm still favoring my right hand, which took the brunt of my little celebratory tumble at the All American race, and I had JUST put together a new bike the night before and hadn't gotten a chance to dial in the fit coordinates. Fortunately, I had a teammate/friend Jim Weinstein with us, who got me PROPERLY bandaged for my first ride since the crash. I can't recall much from the road race, because I spent a good chunk of it attempting to claw my way up from the back, which is difficult to do on a course with a yellow-line rule. Perhaps half-way through the race, a fairly large group of riders rolled away, and that was that. My teammates and I tried to stir up a chase group, but no one would bite. We did as best as we could in the field finish, and then hurried back to the hotel to get all relaxified for the next day.
The next morning, we hit the TTT, which is held on a course that has a flat, technical section, followed by a ramp up to a little berg. We went fast, but came up a little short on the results. Thinking the race over, we could have performed slightly better, but we had a handicap of only having 5 riders instead of a full crew of 6.
At the crit, we were greeted with a really well done-up downtown Lititz, with buzzing spectators, Joe Jefferson MCing the race, and even a National Anthem singer! I thought I had done enough sneaking to get myself a good spot at race staging, but as is often the case, small dudes kept sneaking underneath armpits and after a few minutes I had gone from 3rd row to the very back. This resulted in a rather chaotic and painful first 20 minutes of the race for me, as I pedaled like a maniac to overtake riders and escape the chopping block at the back of the pack. Once up front, I did help to make the race a little bit. My teammate Scott Giles got himself into the break of the day, and I [gladly] helped control the pace of the field. With about 6 laps to go, that break lapped us, and I dropped back into the field to go help Scott get back to the front of the pack. As I'm slipping back, I see Ryan Dewalt of XO Communications (a rider who was now a lap up) SPRINTING along the left side of the field, staring laserbeams through the pack. I look to my right and see SCOTT, ROCKETING along the right side, also gazing on his breakaway partner, matching pedal strokes. The two met at the front and battled for the next few laps until Dewalt won the field sprint outright. I never made it back up to help Scott, but it was exciting to watch a teammate make a display of strength like Scott did. Amazing! Just for kicks, here's a picture of me to prove that I was there:
Next up, Turkey Hill Country Classic! This will be my first time doing that event, I've heard loads of good reviews over the years! Can't wait! Bike Racing! Ice Cream! [I will have to update this whenever I can find some good pictures of Scott on the podium. He was a hero out there!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DC Sports

Caps over the B's in 7, Nationals with the best record in baseball, and tomorrow, the Redskins draft this guy:
I am a happy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Saturday full of DoubleYou

At the All American Road Race (formerly known as Murad) on Saturday, the Bike Doctor boys and I rolled DEEP all day! No need to hold back the results; I got the W! I think it would be a little bit too cumbersome to provide a recap of the entire race, because there was WAY too much action for me to even remember properly, and it would be easier to watch a race-length video! The short story is that we had a very active race from start to finish. There were lots of breakaway moves rolling in and out of the field all race long, and I was happy to see that my Bike Doctor teammates were doing a good job of making sure we always had a few people in position to respond and properly cover these groups! We didn't have a specific plan, per se, which is how I like to race: just wait for the race to unfold and make the best out of the situations you arrive at! I was able to make a very good situation for myself by getting into a late breakaway with a bunch of really strong guys from the local racing circuit, including one Ryan McKinney, a guy I've looked up to and admired since I got into racing. On the last lap, he and I both had a teammate in the breakaway, and were both trying to break up the group by attacking again and again, forcing the other racers to respond and letting our teammates follow wheels and have an easier ride. Eventually with about a mile left, one of Ryan's attacks dealt a deathblow to the break, and I was the only rider able to follow him. We had a very cool drag race to the finish in which I edged him out by a fraction! I then pulled a Custer (as it will undoubtedly be referred to as from now on): I put my hands in the air and then totally biffed it! If anyone who reads this ever played Counterstrike or Quake, the precise thought going through my head was the "Humiliation" soundbyte. Essentially, this happened in front of all the DNF's and FeedZone Peeps at the Start/Finish line: I'll be hearing about this for EVER, I'm pretty sure :) Protip: I'm pretty sure there is something in the USA Cycling rulebook about keeping your hands on the bars, and I exemplified that. (Also, don't ride on an indexed headset) To cap this off, here are some photos, and an appropriate soundtrack
Shortly after this shot, I laid down on the pavement in an ungraceful manner
We decided that the best way to chase the nasty taste of swallowing one's pride is an ice cold beer won from a preeme last week! (I'm the guy in the Caps shirt) Thanks again to the buys at Bike Doctor, who are getting me a cool new ride with appropriate fit, handling characteristics, and some training wheels which they mandated after my performance on Saturday!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ready for a Race?

I can't remember if I've given you my allergy dissertation on this blog, so I'll proceed with the short story: I am allergic to everything, and my symptoms make everything in my life terrible. I underwent a year of immunotherapy which has helped the immediate symptoms (runny nose, hayfever, sinus infections), but the underlying effects of seasonal allergens STILL manifest. This week, I've been absolute crap at work. I fall of task quickly, I mistype in emails, and read instructions incorrectly. It only dawned on my this morning that its the allergies. Despite not having significant 'mucal' symptoms, I'm still as tired and lethargic as a three-toed-sloth-on-opium, but I haven't realized it because this spring I've been relatively healthy. Today in particular was a bad day. I tried to summon some focus by stuffing my face full of chocolate bars and green tea, but that did not work, and my appetite didn't ease. I'm sure there's a specific tree that must have popped this morning, because I DID wake up with swollen sinuses, and I feel like I've been overtraining for months (I've pedaled my bike with force for 2 hours this week). On my bicycle ride home from work, I usually keep my power under 200 watts, as 'racing' in and out of work doesn't help me get faster on the bike, but it does make me too tired to race well. Today, I kept it under 100 watts, keeping my chain in a 39x28 gear and never moving it. I subsequently took a 10 minute nap in which I could swear I experienced a full-length dream. I'm excited to race tomorrow in Maryland! After I received word that I had qualified for the Nature Valley Grand Prix, I started taking training seriously. I've put in a few really long rides, so my usual issues with range shouldn't be an issue for tomorrow's 80-miler. Aside from the race, I'm also excited to ride with my teammates. Given my transient living situation, I don't get many chances to ride with them, and they are a really cool bunch! So far I really like all the racers down in the VA Beach area, but nothing beats the feeling of 'home' in the MABRA/D20 fields.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last Weekends Results!

Work is keeping me too busy to blog, but I got a little breathing space to catch up and share some excellent results from the Bike Doctor camp last weekend! First off, a HUGE congrats to Pete Warner for his huge ride at the Tour of the Battenkill in upstate New York. He survived the course, the riders, a tumble, and a very nervous finale to earn an excellent 6th place in the Category 2 race. The rest of the team has an equally epic story, littered with misfortune and grit. Check out the details here. Those Cat 2 races are always very nervous. Rarely do you have a Cat 2-only race, and the races are usually held at showcase events, so you attract a field FULL of elite-level riders who are prepared to take risks to rise above the rest and prove themselves for glory, attention, and upgrade points. When I first started racing as a Cat 2, I secretly wished that there were more opportunities to race against 2's ONLY. After a few choice events, however, I realized the merit in a combined 1-2 field. On Sunday, the Bike Doctor crew made the annual pilgrimage to the Carl Dolan Memorial Circuit Race in Columbia, Maryland. This race is one of the keystone events of the Mid Atlantic Region. Promoted by the DC Velo club, the race does an excellent job of mixing 'predictable' and 'low key' with 'fun' and 'exciting'. That, combined with the EXCELLENT job DC Velo routinely does in playing race host, makes Carl Dolan an 'A priority' event for many competitive racers in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland cycling scene. That said, our boys stomped it. SPOILER ALERT: Awesome race winning shots included! As for myself, I was in Hampton for the weekend visiting Melissa, and the local race there was the Langley Speedway Criterium, a SUPER fun event held at a local race track about a half a mile from the Langley Air Force Base! I did well, lapping the field and earning a 5th place for my efforts.
Melissa did awesome! She doesn't have much pack riding experience, but kept cool, followed all the accelerations through the race, then did her best Fabian impression and strung out the field on the last lap! Only 2 or 3 women were able to come around her by the end, but she earned a 1st place in the Cat 4's! To celebrate, we went to the Crab Shack and bought ourselves the most expensive entree they offered!