Thursday, June 28, 2012

For every bike race I've won there are a lot more that I have lost.

Nationals was this past weekend were in Augusta Georgia. The youngins picked me up with the team van on their way through from Chicago and we headed south. On the way we actually ended up stopping where I raced my first Under 23 road race 10 years earlier in Saluda, NC.  Riding the course, thinking about the race ten years ago and where I was I'm still amazed at how far I have come. I couldn't have done it without the great support system I have. That being said I am also very excited to see the guys we have on the team now that are Under 23 and seeing how much better off they are physically now then I was and trying to share everything I know in helping them get to where they want to get.

I used the criterium for more of a warm up and open up for the road race which would be two days after. I knew it would be difficult to pull of a result on the open fast course. I tried racing from the front and following a few things. I never made a good move or got into one. I missed the big move at the end and then even worse ended up on the ground in the last corner with 12 laps to go. I really didn't feel like jumping back into the race, but I did and really didn't do myself any favors to get a result.

Two days later came the road race. I haven't really been so nervous for a race before. The nerves didn't totally take control of me, but there were two things that really made me nervous. One, I knew I had a great shot at winning and was on form. Two, I've never done the race and there really wasn't any decisive section of race so knowing where the race might happen was almost impossible.

The race started off rather aggressive and after the first of seven laps a group of 12 had formed off the front. I tried jumping across at the top of the feed zone climb, but the field was on me. The following lap I did the same thing and this time got away with 3 other riders. Once we got to the group I went straight to the front to help get the group going. After a few miles I ended up yelling at guys for the first time in a bike race. Nobody really was working and a lot were sitting on. I was just really frustrated that we had 15 guys off the front at nationals and nobody wanted to work. Sure a few teams had multiple riders, but we could deal with that later.

We would hang off the front by a minute or two for much of the race. Guys would attack and then sit up. A few would rotate, most would sit on or attack. It was the most disorganized and discouraging break I've ever been apart. A few laps later another smaller group caught up, but things didn't change much. Going into 2 laps two go the attacks from the lead group came more often. The break was starting to split and I was doing a pretty decent job staying up front and following things. Soon enough I sat back as a group of 3 went up the road with 1.5 laps to go with the field a minute back and barring down. The field would catch us after receiving the bell for one to go. The 3 just sat out front with a 30second lead, which would hold to a 17sec lead by the finish. I didn't really get a great position before the finish and was far from the result I was looking for. I was happy though that I did race from the front and put myself in position to win, but just missed the right move. You can't make every right one.

Next up are three crits this weekend and then some much needed rest. Maybe not physically, but being able to leave my bag unpacked for more then 2 or 3 days will be nice.

Breeze On

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster." - Greg Lemond

There is a sticker with this quote in my dad's basement that I read every time I either rode the rollers or did some weight lifting (I'll give you a minute to stop laughing at that one) and until now have I really came to the same conclusion.

After I completed the Lumberjack 100 this year I said this was the hardest race I've ever done and I realized that I have said this quite a bit of late. I think just about every race can be that way if you ride it as hard as you can, but in this mountain bike race there isn't much hiding.

We drove up to the race Friday afternoon and rode a bit of the course after completing registration. We ended up doing 11 miles and it took an hour. After that ride is when I realized that the following day was going to a brute. I knew the winners took over 6.5hrs normally, and I would be out there for a solid 7. It didn't seem like such a bad idea in February on the couch but as the week went on I started to think about how long of a time that was going to be on a mountain bike. Unfortunately I hadn't been able to get much time on my mountain bike before the race as I was gone racing on the road every weekend, and the last time I actaully was on my mountain bike I crashed and broke my collarbone in March.

The race starts early to give everyone enough daylight time to finish and I eventually made my way to the start with 10min to spare. By the time I got there it was 20 rows deep and spread across the whole road and onto the shoulder to the edge of a ditch. I did my best to squeeze on on the side and waited for the start thinking maybe on the 2 mile road section I'll race to the front. Well that never happened as it stayed edge to edge the entire way till we hit the right hander into a van that was blocking the entrance to the trail head parking lot and finally onto the trail. I entered around 60th into the woods which was mostly single track. There were riders bossing off everything including each other.

One of my biggest fears of the race came into play not even 5 miles into the race. We hit a faster downhill section and soon enough there was that dueshbag who said, "Don't use your breaks." Followed shortly by, "Go faster." Irritated by this and considering there was 95miles to go I yelled back, "Shut up as$whipe." Then I proceed to take off on the next hill and never saw him again. It's not like I yell at people to go faster on the road section, flats, hill sections, and etc. I know your not out there purposely blocking the trail and going slow.

I spent the first lap going from group to group. I would sit on the tail end of guys in the single track and let them pace me. I few times it was pretty wild, especially when the trees are close and you are right behind the rider in front of you. Things seem to go by really fast. Then if we hit a hill or one of the few wider sections I would take to the front and go hard up to the next group. By the end of the first lap my dad said I was in 30th.

The next lap I was on my own the entire way until I caught a few guys here and there. I would let them hit the single track first but soon realized that they weren't going as fast as they lap before and that I could faster through it on my own by keeping pressure on the pedals like I do out training on the road. Of course there were a few times when you do long sections of tight single track that I start to doze off and the speed drops till I realize oh yeah this is a race! I'm not use to cruising through the woods on my own. Also that's the thing I love about road racing. I can just turn my mind off and go hard. I can't do that mountain biking. I have to stay focus or I'll crash or hit the same tree twice with my arm like I did.

By the start of the 3rd and final lap my dad said I was sitting in 15th place. I got pretty excited about this and continued to cruise on my own. I started to pass more guys and started to count what place I was in. By the time I got to 12th I was really excited about the possibility of finishing in that place. Then I hit 11th place. Funny thing about that was the guys who I passed for that was sitting on and asked me if I had a mechanical or something because I was flying. Then I soon caught up to 10th. Eventually I passed 9th and 8th on a wide section and they didn't even bother trying sitting on.

Then I hit the last hour of the race with no water left and temps in the 90's. I started to fade a bit, and then really started to slow a bit with 30minutes to go. I guess I can get through 4-5hrs without eating on the bike, but after 6hrs it really catches up, along with having no water left. I just did my best to keep pressing on. Soon enough I got to the finish and was so excited to get off the bike.

How tired was I after the race. Never in my life have I chose walking somewhere as opposed to riding. No matter how close something is I usually rode, but not after this race, I walked. Of course my dad asked if I wanted to do that again directly after and I didn't have a positive answer for him. But driving back to Indy the next day I actually started thinking of the next one and how I could improve and maybe get a top 5. I must be really stupid.

Breeze On

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Le Tour de Mont Pleasant

I always love being able to race close to where I grew up. Not only do I get to spend the time with my family up there, but I also get to see all the great guys I've grown up with in Michigan. My dad was there supporting us at every race, my Uncles made it out to the criterium, my mom was hollering during the road race, my former junior teammate and fried JB filled up bottles was in the feed zone and took pictures, and two of my favorite Michigan crew were there in Papa Tony and Big Ray. And that is only the tip of the iceberg as there is also the deli, pasta, and ice cream shops I love up here, just ask my teammates.

The time trail was pretty straight forward. It was a short 4.1 mile course that went through the campus of Central Michigan University. The only rule was that you must start with equipment that was mass start approved, so no time trial bikes and etc. Of course just about everyone showed up with a time trial helmet as those are pretty standard in mass start races. Anyways I felt really good in the time trial, but maybe took a few of the corners a touch slow and finished of in 6th. Not as good as I wanted, but I was happy with my effort.

The following day was the criterium and it was all about not missing a move that would hold some of the stronger riders. The race was fast from the get go and never really let up. I got away with 20 or so laps to go and had one Nate Williams from Bissell chasing between me and the group solo. With a ways to go in the race and Bissell being the biggest teams in the race I decided to slow up and wait and hope we could work together to stay away. Well it didn't work and we got caught with 8 to go. Then it was field sprint that was led out by the Panther team. I was hoping I could take Brandon into the 2nd to last corner first, but there was no going around Paul Martin who was leading out Chris before that corner. Chris had a great jump out of the last corner and basically coasted to the finish as Brandon finished off on the podium in 3rd and I was 4th.

The last day was the 120mile road race. One of the longest, if not the longest road race of the year for just about everyone. That didn't deter anyone from attacking from the start. The pace was high. After 5miles however the field was stopped and warned not to cross the yellow line or they would be DQ'd. The pace quickly continued with moves rolling off and coming back. The wind was making things difficult. Even though not overly breezy it was enough as there isn't hardly anything out there to slow it down.

After a quick neutral pee break we had caught Brandon who was riding off the front solo and the counters went. It was awesome to see a few teammates up there as well ready to go and the ones countering. I took my turn and got a small group going. A few bridged up and then I went again. This time I ended up by myself. I rolled it for a while till I noticed a group of 3 in between. Just as in the crit I waited as there still was almost 90 miles of racing to go.

I took a few harder longer pulls which I think deterred the others from really pulling through. They wanted it steadier, but I really wanted to get a gap opened up. I got a bit of help from one other rider for the first few miles and the gap increased from 30sec, to a minute, and ballooned to 4 after 10 miles. We hit the feed zone 60 miles into the race with around 5minutes. From this point forward I was pretty much on my own for pulling. I'd occasionally swing off and look at the others and they would either just quickly pull through and swing off or just sit up behind. Every few minutes I tried to take a breather.

Around 80 miles into the race I had just taken one of my long pulls and looked back and noticed that we had lost two of the other riders. I asked the other rider, Derek Graham of Bissell, and he said that they just gave up, and this was with 40 miles to race. Derek told me I was a machine and that gave me a bit of more motivation to keep rolling. By this time our gap was down to 4minutes.

We rolled through the last feed zone with 30 miles to go and our gap was still around 4 minutes, but with a solid headwind to go back south into Mt Pleasant for the finish. All I could think about was Paul Sherwan's formula for catching a break, for each 10km they can bring back 1minute. I knew if I could get a few more miles in without the gap coming down to much I'd make it to the finish. I had been doing some pretty solid power the whole day, but in the last 30km it wasn't coming as easy as it was earlier.

We really didn't get much time gaps from point on. I was just hoping that if I kept the pace high enough and the power at 300+watts, that there would be no way they could close the gap. We got one last official time check at the last sprint line which was with 15km to go, which was 3:30. We knew from there we had it. I rolled across the line solo and exhausted for the win. It is weird though for that last 500 meters there was no pain, but 50 meters after the line I came back to reality and the pain set back in. My legs have never hurt that bad in a very long time.

Even though I was the one off the front for most of the race it was a big team effort. With everyone following moves earlier on it made it easier not to do to much in the first 50km of the race. It just so happened that it was me who made the move. Then the team got to sit back and enjoy the ride behind the chasers.

It was also awesome having the family there and for them to see the whole thing. I really makes the wins more enjoyable. I mean who wouldn't love this.

No official podium as there was a mass disqualification of the field with 10km remaining for crossing the yellow line apparently 10km before that. Confusing, I know, and I still don't exactly know what happened or why. But anyways Maddy and I still wanted our photo opt.

Next up is Mountain Bike Endurance Event with the Lumberjack 100. It will be my second time on my mountain bike since breaking my collar bone on it. The first time will be the pre ride the day before. I really wish I would have gotten out more, but I've been on the road so much this season. There will be some more mountain biking as the road season schedule lightens up after nationals. There should be some good stories to come.

Breeze On