Saturday, May 24, 2008

A few of the Rite Aid boys brought our Fuji's over to the local Fuji dealer of Bay City, Jack of Jack's Bicycle Shop. We go way back and he was just so glad to see me on a Fuji again. He even brought out his Fuji, which is 1971 with full Dura-Ace. That was the first year that Fuji bikes were introduced to the United States.

Frankenmuth was awesome again as the weather was almost perfect, the turn out was decent, and it is a beautiful place to hold a bike race. The race didn't go as planned and we let the gap to the break get to big and didn't have enough time to bring everyone back. I was pleased with the way I felt and had the race been a few miles longer I'm fairly certain a win would have been possible. Just the way it goes sometimes when the numbers aren't in your favor and your trying to save yourself for the next day.

Thanks to all of those who I talk to at the race who gave me encouragement, congratulated me and wished me luck on all I was doing. It really means a lot to me and I appreciate it. I really, really love coming back to Michigan to race because it brings me back to when that is all I was doing and everyone is just so supportive. Thanks, and see you all again soon hopefully.

Now onto Leelanau. Only a few short hours away before the start of one of the nicest course's we will race on all season. It will be an exciting race I guarantee. Not looking forward to the early morning drive however. Better get some sleep.

Breeze On

Is it just me, or does it stay light out rather late in these parts. It's almost 10 and it isn't all the dark?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

12 total days, 8 days of racing, 1,600 miles of driving, and 700 miles of racing and the Arkansas swing is over. It only took me 1 1/4 stage races to feel like I was ready to race and like I had the fitness I was hoping to have when I started.

The last two days of Arkansas went pretty much as planned, but unfortunately that came without the win, but we showed signs of getting closer. Hopefully all the race entry blogs don't turn into just getting close. Ok from here on out no more about getting close because if your not on the podium, it's basically just a lost.

Anyways the stage up to Mt. Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas, was a fairly typical stage race stage. The early break went and the team with the lead took to the front for the next 120km or so. I sat comfortably behind the big boys of Clayton and Robbie and enjoyed my free ride to the finishing climb. I attacked towards the bottom of the climb with 12km to go, built up a gap of 45 seconds, but then I hit the rollers and wind towards the top and the Type 1 driven group of 9 caught me with just over 5km to go. Finally though I went out and gave myself and the team who put the work in for myself a chance of really winning, even though I felt short. Who knows what will happen next time.

The following day was the crit on a very rough, narrow and tight course. Though it felt rather safer as the break went in the first few laps and Type 1 again took to the front. Everything was lined out for pretty much the entire race as the break closely approached lapping the field. Clayton went to front and helped Type 1 pick the pace up just as the break was within 15 seconds of lapping. They held them off from lapping and before I knew it the race was over.

I finished 7th overall, and the team had a top 10 finish in every stage. To bad they only payed top 3 in every stage.

Next up for the team is Tour of Leelanau, but for myself I think I will take part in what is a hometown race, Tour of Frankenmuth.

Time to wake up the boys, as the sun is coming up and the birds are chirping, so we can go ride. I'm sure the guys won't mind getting up at 8.

Breeze On

Friday, May 16, 2008

Halfway through with Arkansas, well that is days wise. Most of the kilometers and climbing is behind us, even though we have a 15km finishing climb tomorrow. It's pretty amazing the differences in this weeks even to last weeks NRC event. Such as in prize money, but also in like preparation, such as this week there are no start or finish barriers, nope just some good old fashion orange cones. Some of us like to run over these cones, and I think you know who you are.

The first two days have been decent. Yesterday was close to 180km with over 10.000 feet of climb as was brutal. It was fast race with lots of attacks for the first 120km. Maybe it wasn't super hard, but I wasn't feeling 100% either for some reason. Anyways, Clayton did awesome and ended up 5th in the sprint and Robbie was a hoss in doing some work and rotating at the front to help bring back the break. So a pretty good day.

Today we had two small climbs before the finishing climb up the steep Mt. Nebo. This thing had some sweet super steep switchbacks and is pretty narly. We drove it the night before and it looked crazy, but actually once we were going on it, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I started off pretty good with the leaders that quickly was down to 5, but loss contact in some of the steeper sections and loss a bit of spots. The top came quickly though as I was catching back up a bit after there was a drop in the gradient before the final pitch in last km. I think I just let up on myself a bit to much in the middle and lost some valuable time/places. Of course this is easy to say sitting comfortable on the couch. Well at least now I know and tomorrow is another day. Robbie and Clayton rode awesome again today and Clayton wouldn't go anywhere with out me. It's pretty awesome being my size and being able to ride behind someone that is well over 6' tall.

The race organization has been decent so far, and pretty good after the glitch of the caravan being directed the wrong way at the start of yesterday. Oh yeah at the 15 mile neutral roll out yesterday was a bit on the long side. It took us nearly 50mins to complete!

Also Big Willy has been stellar behind the wheel with the absence of J.W.

On a last note we are back in the hotel we are at 2 days ago and we started fairly hard on the cookies. It's amazing how once you are in a middle of a stage race, how much less guilt you feel about eating a cookie or two. It's great staying at LaQuinta hotel because unlike other hotels that will leave the light on for you, this one keeps the cookies coming out of the oven.

Breeze On

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Do you know where we are? We're in the jungle baby. We're going to die. Welcome to the jungle.

Ah some good ole Guns n Roses comes to my mind when we first walked into our new home for the next few days. Saying that our host's hobby is hunting would be an understatement. He has practically traveled the world and from what I can see successfully hunted just about every kind of wild game there is.

We are in the pool/guest/trophy house of this place and it is amazing. It looks like it was an old barn at one time that has been beautifully converted into the guest house. Once again we have found another awesome host to stay with and they have been very accommodating, just like the previous place.

Here is the place we are staying at from the outside.

I knocked, but the King was very reluctant in letting me in.

Luckily he finally let me in, but told me to watch my head.

View from the inside, very spacious.

Robbie and mine bedroom.

A very hungry, hungry hippo.

Here I am finding myself on the hunt. I have a prefect shot on the Bongo, but unfortunately for me and lucky enough for the brown bear he found a perfect place to hind behind the lamp.

Oh crikey, where do you get that wallpaper.

Ok I have to go now. We have to make it over to the main house for dinner and Robbie is being a real Rhino.

Tour of Arkansas starts tomorrow.

Breeze On

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Well now we are in Fort Smith, Arkansas in a hotel for a couple of days before heading to host housing for Wednesday and Thursday, and then back to the same hotel for Friday and Saturday. So a bit of moving around.

It's a pretty nice place, free breakfast, internet, microwave, fridge, and cable television. Also free cookies, and apparently all you can eat free cookies. Just what we need. As we checked in the lady at the counter told us we could eat as many cookies as we wanted and if she ran out she would bake some more. How's that for service? So now I have to avoid the lobby at all times so I don't eat my weight in cookies. But of course this strategy failed. The lady brought us up some blankets and sheets for the fold out couch, and Robbie asked if she was going to make more cookies as he noticed they were out when we arrived back from dinner. She said she would call when they were done. What does she do instead? She hand delivers us a box of fresh warm chocolate chip cookies! Ugh. I don't even let my wife make me cookies because I know I'll end up devouring them.

So I'm rooming with Robbie right now and had turned on the tv before he came back up after breakfast and after flipping for a while I landed on Walker, Texas Ranger. Now I know it may not be the best tv, but at the time I believe it was, and I'll be honest I don't hate it. But anyways Robbie asked if we could watch something else and see if something better was on. I told him there wasn't but knock yourself out. What does he end up watching? Some sort of service program with this lady doing math problems on a white board showing you how to solve equations. Much better.

Here's some photos I snapped fast. Some pre race some post race. Nothing to exciting.

Start of stage one. Walmart now officially has everything including bike races!

Rich putting his game face on.

Robbie doing some pre race ritual.

Bikes at the finish of stage 2.

And as promised here is the bolt/allen unit after removal.

Breeze On

Cookie count: 3

Monday, May 12, 2008

Joe Martin is done, and I think so our my bike problems. After my final mishap yesterday with 6 laps remaining I believe I have everything squared away now. So now that I don't have to worry about those issues anymore and I can focus on the racing. One thing is for certain though, I do feel more comfortable moving through the caravan now.

I have to give some accolades to Ken Nowakowski who can be found at the Indy Velodrome who came up with a solution to removing a cracked bolt head in a crank. I'll post some pictures since the outcome is pretty silly looking, but it was a practical solution to the problem. All it involved was some epoxy and an allen key that you didn't want anymore. Thanks again.

Robbie and myself went out last night after the taco night at Joses to get ice cream while the other boys finished off some business there. I don't think I have every been with someone who has been more indecisive than myself, well maybe not more, but at least the same. Nah, maybe more, well I guess people find me very indecisive as well. I guess maybe the same. Who knows?

Anyways we went to this strange ice cream place that we both have never been to before. The name of the place is at a lost, but anyways it was not just an ice cream place, it was also a burger joint/mini grocery store. Weird. Anyways we stood away from the register to decide. I pretty much had my decision made in 3 minutes, while Robbie on the other hand stood there going back and forth, and started to think of other places he might rather have gone. A few minutes later he came close enough to making a decision so we jump in line. Of course it was the wrong line for the ice cream and the one lady who was manning the indoor orders was in no rush to services everyone, probably all 3 or us. So finally we make our way to the correct line and she takes Robbie's order and he gets is deliciousness and she walks away leaving me standing there. I stand there for a few more minutes before she came back, which is good because I couldn't decide between Oreo and Reeses, and ask, "Oh did you also need something as well?" Either she's not the brightest light in the lamp or she thought we were on a date and were going to share. Robbie's a good looking guy and all, but I'm happily married to a lady.

Well a few more days before the stage race begins here in Arkansas. This one includes a fair bit of climbing and should be very demanding. I think we are all looking forward to racing again and are glad our season is in full swing.

Thanks to Molly our host for the week here in Fayetteville for being for hospitable and allow us to basically take over 3/4 of your home.

Breeze On

Friday, May 09, 2008

Another stage down, and unfortunately no result yet, but two stages to go. Just feel like I need some more racing at this level before I truly believe I will get that results. That is what happens really when you start racing the circuit in May. I'm sure I and the rest of the team will continue to do our best as our real goals later in the season start to approach.

The team did ride a decent race today and we did ride like a team. We unfortunately missed the early move, but once Health Net started controlling the race we set up our team train near the front. It was awesome seeing all 7 of us riding together like a team. Rich did an awesome job retrieving quite a few bottles, and the rest of the boys put me in position at the bottom of the long grueling climb. Halfway up I dropped a chain, but luckily Robbie was there to help pace me back, and that may have hurt him about, but the trooper that he is he hung right in there to help Rich and myself at the finish. One funny thing at the finish is we are following Robbie around and before we know it we were siting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th wheel with 4km to go! I'm not sure what they were thinking, but I was like this is a good position, but I don't think we can hold them off, nor were we even going to try. Soon enough it was sworm city again and it was hard to get the position without some of the numbers the other teams had. Like I said before 2 more days.

Ok time for bed as tomorrow is a bright and early start at 8am, which is really nice considering we finished at around 6:30pm this evening.

Breeze On

Thursday, May 08, 2008

After another 10hrs and 600 miles of driving Miles, Rich and myself arrived yesterday to a rainy Fayetteville, Arkansas. The mental case that I can be about training hopped on my bike right after the drive and went for a little ride and did an openar for the following days TT. The others thought I was crazy, but at least mentally I felt better, and maybe a bit physically as well.

Today was the tt, and I won't lie I had some high hopes for this one, but it was not meant to be. After riding the course twice I was looking pretty forward to the race and thought a top notch result wasn't out of the question. I had a decent start and felt great. Unfortunetly during some the steeper pitches at the bottom of the climb for the TT I backed off a bit in fear of going out to hard and not having anything for the end. This may have been costly as I loss some valuable time. I finished 26th, 40 some seconds down. Oh well, thats bike racing. But fear not as there are 3 days of racing to go.

Tomorrow is the longer of the two road races and from what I know the more difficult if I'm not mistaken. We will see. I'm planning on either myself or one of my Rite Aid boys getting the top result we are looking for.

Time for bed to rest up for tomorrow.

Breeze On

One quick shout out to our director who turned a young 38 today, well young when compared to a rider or two on the team. Ha. I'm sure Jon will be happy to know I pointed that out.

Monday, May 05, 2008

So some of you are probably wondering how the race this past weekend in Arlington went. Well I crashed in the first 3 miles and I didn't have the opportunity to get back in. Absolutely frustrating and that's all I want to say about that. But thanks to Dr. Matt for fixing me up lickidy split riding in the back of the car in the caravan. No easy task. Although the back seat looks like a crime scene.

Next up is Joe Martin and I am really hoping that I along with the rest of the Rite Aid boys can come through with some awesome racing/results.

So while staying at Jon's house over the past week he asked if I would take the team car to get it's yearly state check. So I decided to just do a ride from the car place and pick up the car when I was done. Jon lives in a subdivision that is basically in the middle of nowhere and this car place was 10 miles to the west of nowhere. Anyways it was like a walk in the past. How you may ask? Well I get back from my ride, get the keys to the car in my kit and the dude ask me, "Hey you going to do the Tour de France and be the next Greg Lemond?" I stood there speechless, confused, and looked in a nearby mirror to make sure I wasn't wearing some huge shades and a box shaped helmet that would be in bright neon colors. Once I composed myself I finally just did the usually thing of chuckling it off and saying maybe one day.

One more note: After doing this race this past weekend and my past two season's at the CSC crit which is also in Arlington I've decided that I would be best off not to ever race in that town again. My worse races every year are in the same city! How is that one even possible.

Breeze On

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Time to Replace?, originally uploaded by breezermerckx.

Wirsing had to bring this to my attention. I knew it was bad, but I didn't look close enough to notice about 80% of the threads were showing right down the middle.