Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Motivation and enthusiasm run high at a race like the Tour of California, but as fatigue sets in the signs are quite a bit less visible.

Day 1. Getting ready to race in 20 degree weather, wind, and snow. Everyone is dressed early, ready and giddy to go. It's cold and wet, but we know when we go it will warm up with the racing. Unfortunately the race was canceled. What do you do with all this energy? We go ride anyways. We headed out where the weather was slightly better till we topped a pass and we jumped into the car before having to bomb a decent in horrid conditions.

Day 2. We have to drive 2hrs to the start as conditions over and down Donners Pass we not conducive to racing. Stemper was dressed before we entered the RV. The rest of us dressed the second we parked and were off to sign in quickly.

Day 3. The only person dressed before leaving was Day, but that is because he didn't want 7 other guys naked butts in his face as was the case the day before. Everyone in the RV seemed to be moving slower, not quite Roman pace yet.

Day 4 and 5. Things are definitely slowing down in the RV. Some get ready before others, most are trying to relax as long as possible. It's a little cold out in the mornings so nobody wants to hang outside. It must have being only in the 50's. There is no sense of urgency. We may all be dressed 30minutes before start, head straight to sign in, and quickly back to the RV to sit and relax the last few minutes. One guy did ask if we were going to warm up. I smiled at him and said no worries there is a 5km neutral section.

Day 6. It's the TT day. Stemper, Day, and myself have later starts so we leave an hour later then everyone else. I was pretty excited for that extra down time. Time was wisely spent on the bed watching tv.

Day 7. Once again guys are dressed about 30minutes out, but only because we figured we should roll around before the start as it is 10 miles straight up out of the gate. Even we know when we should warm up. Luca said it would help hurt less during the race. I don't think I could have hurt anymore. I wonder how it worked out for him?

Day 8. We get to the start area in plenty of time. The RV parked and nobody even moved. We hassle Phil about how we may have just passed a Chick-fa-la but since it is Sunday it is closed. The kid loves his sweet tea. 30 minutes to go and nobody flinches. We are all working at Roman pace. We finally get dressed roll out of the RV ask an official where the sign in is at, as it is not visible. He informs us it's at the start which is by the stage like everyday. Clearly, but where would that be? He points it out and tells us we better hurry. I started thinking oh man we are pushing it this time. I signed in and noticed that only one other team had signed in as well and Andy Schleck. However I don't think it was really Andy who signed in unless he signs in as HOMO. I could be wrong.

The other thing I noticed is that as the race went on the neutral sections seemed to be shorter, not only that but also quite a bit slower. Although when the flag dropped the racing always began right away.

On stage 7 up Mt. Baldy Frankie told us after that as soon as we finish a race we should move to the RV right away. We informed him that we did that, but on the 15 mile decent to the RV we were in no way going to pedal at all.

The most important thing during a stage race is to stay as relaxed as possible. We could have probably all saved on 2-3 spots on GC if we went in with the same demeanor as we had in stage 8. Don't move until completely necessary.

Breeze On

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The food of California. There are not to many races in the US that supply you with your meals for the day. I've only been to a few including Tour of California and Tour of Missouri. However I have been to many races in Europe and Asia that do the same. Of course those are completely different.

So what did the meals consist of. Well many of the same things day after day. Before you think I am ungrateful for the meals we were provided I am very glad the organization plans these out. I couldn't imagine trying to do the hassle of going out, or cooking.

The morning consisted of fruit, oatmeal, some type of egg substitute, a breakfast meat, bread, pasta, and red sauce. Bonuses at a few included granola, french toast, and a toaster.

For after the races we had box lunches provided from deli's/sub shops. These consisted of a sandwich, chips, apple, and a cookie. For some reason our team seemed to get only 2 turkey sandwiches and a bunch of ham and roast beef. Either that or I didn't get to them soon enough to choose.

Dinners had salad, bread, pasta with red or white sauce, rice, a meat, and of course dessert also sometimes referred to as the DNF bar. Some bonus were the day they had turkey and stuffing, the occasional beef and mashed potatoes, and ice cream.

After 2 days our doctor Jason Brayley was so kind to provide us with a 'breakfast' box. Basically a box full of food that we could eat at any time. This included cereals, rice cakes, peanut butter, bananas, nutella, and such. I brought my own personal peanut butter that my dad sent me from back home. It's natural peanut butter made right there in Michigan. Also my wonderful wife put in my bag my nightly snack of dark chocolate.

On the final night the team treated the all the riders and staff to a huge dinner at a local brewery. It was awesome to sit back, relax, and reflex on the weeks worth of work. Oh and the clams, burger, beer (root for myself) and fries weren't bad either.

Breeze On
Stage 4 Amgen Tour of California

The first day in the mountains with the cancellation of stage 1 and half of stage 2. The only good thing about today was the later start because of the shorter distance on the stage. But the shorter distance came at a cost of 9,000+ft of climbing.

My job along with two other teammates was to get into the early break. More specific I was to go right at km 0, and that is what I did. Unfortunately that didn't work like it had the previous day. I was soon back in the field waiting for my turn to cover the next. It came quick as Roman flatted. Now it was up to Jim and I to cover moves. After swapping off turns for a while and thinking I didn't know if I was going to be able to get the next one, Jim ended up in the move. Things settled for a while before the first short KOM a few miles away.

From that point on the race was on and up. As we crested the KOM the pace never settled and Radioshack kept the pace high and the field lined out. After two small KOM's we came up to the first big climb of the day, Mt Hamilton. The field strung out and those that could followed and those that couldn't settled into their own pace or that of the groupetto. Over the top I was in the second group on the road. We bombed the decent as some Type 1 riders were full throttle down it. It's been a while since I've bombed a decent that took 20+minutes. It's easy to loose focus for a second and freak out a bit. It was a lot of fun though as the descending basically took us to the bottom of Sierra Rd., the uphill finish.

Our group just rode it to the top, some a little harder, and some easier. The crowds on it were amazing. I could only imagine what it would be like to be some of the first riders up, as the crowd had died a bit 8 minutes later as we rolled up. Still it was pretty amazing.

Then came the scariest scenario I ever imaged. Imagine yourself descending a 4mile mountain that averaged around 10% with race vehicles, riders, 100's of spectators walking, riding on mountain bikes and cruisers, and tour buses coming up. If I only had a GoPro camera for that decent. That would have been the best footage taken all week. To bad one spectator was out of control and smashed into the Sram car around a corner. Word is he was critical, but ok. Please people be safe, you are not impressing anyone with your descending skills or lack there of through a crowd.

From there it was off to the hotel for food, shower, massage, food, and sleep.



Breeze On

Monday, May 16, 2011

For the first few days here in California it's been hard to say whether we were here for a bike race or an eating competition. My jaw has been far more tired then my legs.

Yesterday was a tough decision to make. Going into the evening we knew there were two options.
1. Race the full race at scheduled start of 10:15.
2. Race only 50miles a delayed start of 1:15 in hopes that the road conditions would improve if the bad weather came to be.

Well we did wake up to snowy conditions and walking out to the cars to head to breakfast the staff was hard at work brushing and scraping the snow/ice off the vehicles. It's been a while since I've seen that. We still hadn't heard the official word on the race. But as soon as we finished breakfast we received meal tickets for the Casio buffet 3hrs before the new start time of 1:15.

The snow would come to end and the sun would make a brief appearance. But before you knew it again another squal would move in. Like this one on the way to the brunch, which so happened to be 2hrs after a solid breakfast.



It was hard to believe a race would actually happened. We ended up eating just a little bit more to prepare for the race that was suppose to start. We got word an hour before that the race was a go so we prepared to race in the sub freezing temperatures.

I headed to the line at the last possible moment as it was freezing and another squall had moved through, but the streets in town were dry so I figured it was going to be a go. We had 3minutes to go as the national anthem was being sung. 1 minute to go was called out. With about 30sec to go Levi came over the PA to announce there wasn't going to be a race as conditions out on course were dangerous and the safety of the riders was a huge priority. The crowed was receptive of the news and applauded. It was awesome that they came out in the freezing conditions to cheer us on.

As a rider I was ready to race, and felt bad for the spectators at the start, on the course and at the finish ready to see us. But we have to be safe and the course was to dangerous to race. 6 race motorcycles ended up crashing on the course. Luckily all were ok.

We headed out the other way on the other side of the lake which was a bit better shape to spin the legs. As soon as we started heading up the weather conditions worsened again and we were riding in a good snow burst. As we crested the climb we pulled over and jumped into the cars so we wouldn't have to take the decent in the bad conditions. The temperature in the car said 23. Brrrr.

Well we drove to the condos we were staying at in Northstar and headed to dinner. We ate some more, slept, and then headed to breakfast before driving to the start shortened stage 2.
Stage 2 Amgen Tour of California.

1. Team missed the break. Major no, no for us.
2. Shaun Milne was 10th which is good, but it would be great if we could improve.

Today was a shortened stage due to the wintery conditions. It's unfortunate because on the drive into the new start 60miles down the road the scenery and roads were phenomenal. On the other side after driving in we could see why we weren't riding it.

Nevada City was a great little city and a nice host for the start. We got an awesome send off. The first 40km were mostly downhill and the last 40km before the circuits were a head wind. The circuits were done almost as fast as you could ride. Would have been faster if it wasn't for the bit of rain and wet roads on some of the corners. I also became acquainted to my 53x11.

The crowds for this race is unbelievable. I expected big crowds with this being a big race and all, but it is crazy.

Scott of 5hour Energy came out for the past few days to see the racing. It's to bad yesterday had to be canceled and today was the only day of racing he got to see before heading back. Thanks again for the great support and product!

Here is today's race on Strava.



6 more days of great racing to go.

Breeze On

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cyclingnews ran a piece the other day on contendars for the Amgen Tour of California. I was a little shocked not to see my name and even more not to see anyone from my team, The Kenda 5hour Energy p/b GearGrinder Pro cycling team. The article can be found here.

I wasn't the only one shocked. I received an email from Chad Burdzilauskas ( I think he rides for Logan Steakhouse Cycling Team) with a quick edit to the article with an addition. This is straight from him, and I thought I should share.

"

Jake Rytlewski (Kenda 8 hour energy)

Watch out bitznaches! Jake “The Snake” Rytlewski has been hiding in Brownsburg the last few years and is coming out to the big time again. He has been specializing in 5 second down hill sprints and training with “The Light You Up” specialist, Chad Burdzilauskas. Jake 2010 victories were Troy Classic, which at the finish someone threw a rock at him and he still won. What a tough tough tough dude! He also finished a close third place to Chad and Greg Strock in the Wilbur hill climb, watch out LEVI.

Those are just a few accomplishments, he also can finish an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies while not even putting Madelyn down, multitasking specialist. He can also chase down the entire radioschack team, just as long as you tell him that the birdman is up the road.

Bring it TOC 2011 !"


Breeze On

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Only a few days till the Amgen Tour of California starts. For the exact number of days just check with Kenda 5hour Energy p/b GearGrinder Pro Cycling twitter and or Facebook accounts. They've had a daily count for over 80 days. I haven't really freaked out till I saw 4 days, and tomorrow I'll actually be packing my bag for the trip.

I head out Friday morning and fly to Reno, NV. From there we will drive to our first hotel in Lake Tahoe. The scenery up there is phenomenal, and from what I've heard, signs of winter are lingering around. They might even linger into the race start as the forecast is for 30's and snow. So as I pack my bag tomorrow I'll be loading it with all my warm Hincapie gear. Speaking of Hincapie gear be sure to be on the look out for our new team kits sporting the 5hour energy log.

The last few days have been anything but cold around here in Indiana. Today was right around 90. I stopped 3 times for water in 4hrs and drank 8bottles. Yet it still wasn't enough. I felt like I was in a huge oven as I rode around farm fields with no shade anywhere. It almost feels like there are two cycling seasons. 1-Complain that it's to cold. 2-Complain that it's to warm. Pretty sure my wife has had enough of both.

That's it for now. I'm hoping that we have good internet throughout California to give those interested a low down on my accounts. If you want to know how the end of the race goes you might want to check out Versus daily live coverage at 5pm (EST) (expect saturday 8pm EST). That way you don't have to count on my view of chasing Levi and etc up Baldy and Sierra Rd. It might be a tough view from my position, but you never know. As Birdman would say "I'll light them up!"

Breeze On