Friday, May 30, 2008

What's for Lunch ?

3 working days, 3x Mexican, 3xtimes plenty of food, 3 different prices...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Can Ignatiev Stick it ?

Make sure to check out the Live Video Feed from the Giro here on the site. If you right click on the the little video-stream you can see the coverage in Full Screen Mode by clicking "Zoom".

25K to go and Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) + Yann Huguet (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) chasing down Ignatiev while the peloton chases with 1:40min back.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Times in Arkansas

The last race on my 3 week stage-racing trip was the inaugural Tour of Arkansas, held in central Arkansas and promoted by our Mercy Cycling Team. I had a blast. We raced mainly on the previously used Tri-Peaks courses but the race seemed to be harder, more aggressive and less controlled. Two mountain-top finishes and a new, blistering fast criterium made it a real challenge for everyone.

Stage 1 turned out to be the decisive one, a 110mile affair from Russellville to Hector. After a 15mile neutral rollout and some mist and slight rain we hit the major climb 30 miles into the race. I made sure to be up front before that and got in a couple of moves but nothing really materialized so I just set behind the Team Type 1 train going up the 3K climb and once we reached the top, there were only 34 other guys left around me, including my teammate Alex Welch. Our "group" worked very well together, Type 1 had most their riders in there so they set a lot of pace and Jelly Belly was riding off of them. Some attacks went but they ended in nothing as everyone was too concerned to lose the race on the first stage and everything got chased down. Just at the end there was one serious move incl. Type 1's former Olympian Kobzarenko and 2 Canadians but thanks to the colorful Jelly Beans they got caught with 1K to go and I ended up 13th in a fast downhill sprint of maybe 25-30 guys.

pre-race preparations by Brice Jones (left) and Bill Marshall (right)

Well, if Stage 1 was labeled "EPIC" then Stage 2 should be named "Nebodiculous ", as we raced for 95miles over Petit Jean back-to-back before sprinting to the base of Mt. Nebo. Here, the team did an AMAZING job helping to pull back a dangerous break of 11 guys. Most teams were represented in that break about 40miles into the race and no one would take the initiative to chase. We messed up on that one. So we sent Mat, Adam Mills, and youngster Kolt (expect more from him in the future) to help Toshiba chasing the break down. It worked. The field was back together just before we hit the back-side of Petit-Jean and the next 20-30miles we raced like the base of Mt. Nebo would be the PMU Sprint Line in last year's Champ d'Elysee final ;-) My teammates were again amazing. Mat, Adam, and Kolt kept me out of the wind and literally launched me to the front of the field once we hit the climb. All I had to do now is going all out to the top and making my way through switchbacks and 18% steep grades. It went well; instead of going backwards like last year I actually settled into a good rhythm and could pass a couple of guys. Of course, I didn't had anything to match stage winner Glen Chadwick's or Mike Lange's pace but I ended up 15th on the day and was sitting 14th overall after that one.

unfair competition on 3 wheels (left) and at the back of the peloton at Mt. Nebo (right)

Yeah, it took everything out of me (left) while Texas Teams were represented on and off the road (right)

Stage 3 looked like it would be not too big of a problem, we only had a downhill from Mt. Magazine, 80miles of flat, and 8miles back up the south side of Magazine. Well, those last 8miles were probably the roughest 8miles I had in this year's Tour as I simply couldn't go with the front group once some attacks started to happen. I rode the last 5miles by myself and my GC spot "shuffled" from 14th to 25th or something. That was disappointing, especially since all my teammates (Kolt, Justin, Scott, Mat, Bill, Adam) sacrificed their own chances by protecting me from wind, wild Canadians who fight for every wheel, and getting me bottles in what was a gutter-fest for most of the race. The headlines of the day belong to teammate Alex Welch, though as he ended up in a 130K break-away with "10 Menzies" and Buck Miller for most part of the race. That was an awesome situation for us and his riding took lots of pressure off of our backs.

Crits in big stage races are usually very controlled if they happen halfway through or at the end of a race. That's how it was Sunday for the final showdown in Downtown Van Buren on the course previously used for the Celebrity Classic held at the end of the year in that area. team Type 1 had Chadwick in GC so they just rode tempo (for some threshold, for some VO2max intensity) the entire 75minutes. I started at the back and slowly worked my way up but when I finally saw the front of the race the race was already gone. Huff & Co. had 50 seconds and Type 1 was riding hard tempo so any attack would have been suicide. I tried but of course I was marked. Well, I settled in in 20th wheel and we went single-file through the 7-turn course, averaging 26.8mph and a HR average of 177bpm. Yes, it was one of the harder crits I've done this year, just behind Joe Martin last Sunday. Just to finish with the main bunch of 40 riders was a accomplishment today so I was not too upset with 39th place. Congrats to Brad Huff who is has an amazing comeback after a rough first part of the season!

Coca-Cola bike at the Burger Barn in Ft. Smith

I ended up 22nd Overall after 350miles of racing over the past 4 days. Considering that I had my little "off-day"on Stage 3 I can still be happy with the result. Now my focus shifts towards some crit action, as we have State Champs and Tulsa tough coming up. By then I will know if the past 3 weeks of solid race-pace paid out or not.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Joe Martin

After Gila I headed NorthEast towards Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the 31st annual Joe Martin Stage Race. Alex, Chad, Mat, Mat, Davide, Bill and me made up the team this time around. Having the TT on Day 1 made the rest of the race way more exciting and we actually "raced" for most of the time.

I did okay in the opening Stage 1 Time Trial and posted a 9:03 which had me in 30th place. Comparing to the two previous years I was actually 25 seconds faster this time around so I was happy with the time, although guys like Rory Sutherland are simply AMAZING when you take his time and compare it to the rest of the field.

Mat, el mechanico; the "Team Car", and "Cream", the host housing cat, checking out my stuff
Day 2 was a bit more exciting as we hit Mt. Gaylor and attacks came from left and right trying to crack the HealthNet train. Best moments: chasing down any serious escape attempts by himself and Huffy's bold solo move trying to reach top of Mt. Gaylor ahead of everyone else. I'm glad he's back in the peloton. I felt comfortable going up but raced a bit more conservative this time around and finished in the pack.

Day 3 was like Day 2, early break goes, HN chases, catch is made, field sprint. Almost. One guy from Bissell fooled them all and rode to 'V' in his 54x11. I tried to save a little bit, knowing that Sunday's final stage is the toughest one.

The Crit was actually not too bad until 5 laps to go when I got "in trouble" and had to ease up with 3 to go and finish in 38th place, making me lose my pre-crit 25th GC place to a now final 33rd. Oh well, I was at least doing much better than the last two years and could pick up a prime, too.
(wanna race 90minutes single-file? Come to Joe Martin Stage Race next May!)

Next week should be fun: Tour of Arkansas is finishing up my 3 week stage-racing-period. I'm looking forward to some R&R after this stretch.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Help him out

From Velonews:

Fausto Esparza Munoz (left, with me at the start of the Crit), the Tecos-Trek rider who crashed Sunday at New Mexico's Tour of the Gila, remains in an El Paso hospital paralyzed below his midsection. Doctors say the likelihood of a full recovery of movement is "discouraging," according to a source familiar with Esparza's condition.

Esparza is in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit of El Paso's Thomason Hospital, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday. He told responders at the scene that he could not move or feel his legs, according to responders at the scene and a team staffer.

Doctors operated on him Sunday to try to fuse the spine near the T7 vertebra. But following the operation Esparza's lower body remained paralyzed and without sensation, the source said.

Esparza, whose helmet shattered in the crash, apparently suffered no serious head injuries. He told responders at the scene that he never lost consciousness and he has been talking to family at the hospital, the source said. He did break several ribs and suffered a collapsed lung.

Esparza, 33, finished second in the 2006 Univest Grand Prix in Pennsylvania and has a number of top results in Latin American races. His teammate, Gregorio Ladino Vega, won the Gila overall, while Esparza was in 19th at the start of the final stage.

The crash happened on the longest stage of the Gila, the 106-mile Gila Monster race. On the first major climb Ladino had attacked the lead group, which contained race leader Tom Zirbel. Ladino said later he attacked to try to avoid riding the very high-speed descent in a pack. He started the descent with about a 40-second head start.

At least six members of a chase group, including Esparza and Zirbel, crashed on a right turn about half way down. Zirbel broke his collar bone, some ribs and a finger. He was released from the Silver City hospital Sunday afternoon.

Esparza was driven a short distance in an ambulance and then flown by helicopter about an hour to the El Paso hospital. It was the most serious accident in the 22-year history of the Gila.

Supporters in Silver City have established an account for Esparza. Donations can be made to:

Wells Fargo Bank
1201 N. Pope St.
Silver City, NM 88061
Attn: Fausto Munoz Esparza Donation Fund.

Letters can be sent to:
Patient: Fausto Esparza, ICU/12
c/o Thomason Hospital
4815 Alameda Ave.
El Paso, TX, 79905

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gila Monster Wrap

Well, the "Monster" didn't suit me so well yesterday as I simply had to call it a day after 55 miles and got into the team car. I was simply exhausted and couldn't apply any power to the pedals. Was kind of frustrating but I caught a little cold and my legs just said "no" as soon as the "vertical challenge" towards the Cliff Dwellings started.
But, I was still somewhat relieved that it was over because of A) I missed the huge crash which sent several guys to the hospital (incl. a Tecos who most likely will be paralyzed) and B) did my best in helping Mike O. to accomplish his impressive ride which I C) got to witness from the team car right behind him. Mike ended up getting 14th on the stage while dropping a bunch of pro's and finished 15th Overall, taking the "virtual" Best Amateur Jersey.

Here's the VeloNews Article

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gila TT and Crit

Stage 3...
...was a relaxed one, as we only had to tackle a 16.4mile TT and that was it for the day. Unlike in the previous years, we started the TT early in the day and the wind was not too bad. My goal was to beat the 38:45 I did 2 years ago, hoping that the 56x11 I brought would prevent me from spinning out going down the last 3miles to the finish. After a quick bike equipment check (weight + dimesnions) by Bonnie Walker I did the "usual" warm-up and headed towards the start. It went pretty good, I was able to push the 56 all the way to the top and by the time I headed back to the finish I had passed 5 guys, but two of them just soft-pedaled up the hill. Mike ended up being the best amateur for the day, placing 22nd and posting a 37:05. I went a bit faster than 2 years ago and got 32nd, with a 37:55. The rest of the day was mostly R&R, including a visit to the Buckhorn Saloon, a very unique restaurant/bar built in 1865(!) and known for great Burgers and typical Western-style atmosphere.
Here's the VeloNews article

Stage 4...
...was another short and intense but fun effort in Downtown Silver City, NM. Bissel had the GC by 2 seconds so they did it "Tecos--style" and rode at the front all day, making sure to keep the "Maglia Rosa" of the Tour. The legs felt okay, but not good enough to do anything really. I tried a couple of times to do something by jumping in or to a break but just didn't had that "punch" today. Oh well, was probably a good thing as tomorrow's stage will be brutal, brutal, brutal. Today's stage winner, Henk Vogels, totally smoked the competition and pulled of a nice win. He'll be in Austin for the AT&T crit and told me that he's looking forward to it - and 6th Street of course :-)
Here's the Velonews article

I need to mention a couple of other Texas racers which are racing out here. Loren Dodson is sitting 9th in GC in the Cat 2's. Joel Grimmet is sitting 5th GC in the 35+ after a nice 3rd place up Mogollon climb on day 1. Velossimo's Draye Redfern is hanging in there in the Cat 3's, too.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gila Day 1 and 2

I finally found some time and dial-up (!) to blog a bit about Tour of the Gila in Silver City, NM. After a 13hour drive and a Motel 6 - stop in Pecos, TX, I got here Tuesday noon with my "one-week" teammates from the Marx and Bensdorf Cycling Team out of Memphis, TN. Thanks to Mike Olheiser a.k.a. "Tank", I get to race here and have a nice hook-up with host housing in the Gila Mountains at 6400ft.
They changed the format of the race a bit, and started Stage 1 with the Mogollon Stage instead of the "regular" time trial. That makes things more interesting in terms of GC and team-tactics since the race is more open and the guy who used to win the TT in the past, won't necessarily win the GC, too.

Stage 1
...was a rough one. The winds are crazy here with sustained 30mph and gusts to 50mph so it was a "Gutterfest" all the way to the base of the final 3mile climb. Imagine riding 2hours at threshold while making sure to stay out of the crosswind and riding on the shoulder. 25 guys DNF'd that day. The field is down to 94 riders. Personally, my job was to make sure Mike has everything he needs and protect + help him as much as possible. It worked out pretty good, except that 2 of my teammates and myself flatted 20miles into the race while going 30mph in the gutter. I got a slow wheel-change but luckily the SRAM Volvo motopaced a couple of us back on and I was back in the field 15-20minutes later. So was Mike, who double-flatted on two brand new Conti Competitions. Once we hit the loop I made the front split of 25 guys who chased the break but the field hit the "Panic-Button" and got us back 10miles later. After the right turn to Mogollon it was man vs. man and vs. asphalt :-) Some guys decided to crash in the middle of the front-group of 45 riders going uphill and I needed to clip out with both pedals to avoid going down, too. Oh well, I just rode up my own pace up the climb and ended up 49th for the day. Mike got 30th, a bit under his expectations but he had to chase hard after his double-flat.
Read the VeloNews article

Stage 2
...went a bit better. The "Inner Loop" Road race was "only" 80miles and 5500ft of climbing. Tecos, who won with their Colombian climber yesterday, took the front from start to finish. It was ridiculous. I never raced this race so hard before. We would be single-file going to the first feedzone, single-file after the first long downhill and 27-28mph in the Valley. Mike and me got comfortable, though and it wasn't too bad actually after a while. Our riding in the Top 25 definitely made our day easier today. There was a break up the road with Bissel, Mexico, and Vitamin Cottage but the Tecos guys just gave them max. 2minutes lead all day. With 10miles to go, we reached the last summit of today's stage and the now two up front were just dangling in front of us at maybe 20seconds. I felt okay going up the long climbs and Mike gave me the "okay" to bridge. Nobody had interest to catch those guys right away so I quickly joined Jaques-Mayne and the Mexcian guy. They've been out for 60miles there and I added a bit "fresh juice" to the break but it only lasted 5 or 6 miles as we got caught with 4 miles to go :-( Colavita, Toyota and Successful Living took over and the last 3miles were double-and single-file in the gutter trying to set up the sprint. I finally felt my legs with 1K to go and had to ease off a bit, finishing just behind the lead-group. Don't know mine or Mikes placing but it didn't matter really. I'm more looking forward to the Time Trial tomorrow and the Crit on Saturday. Those events should suit me more although the officials are going to weigh and measure all TT-bikes in order to meet UCI regulations. Kind of funny, because that's usually a "No-No" at most NRC races and after talking to the head official today, he admitted that different chief officials interpret the rule differently...Now that's makes me feel better :-)
Read the VeloNews article