Monday, December 22, 2008

Super-Driveway & Finale in Macau

Day 7 of ToSCS took us to Zhuhai, a town deep in South China know especially for it's 4.5K car race track called ZIC. For you Austin readers, this is like a HUGE version of the Driveway. They usually run car races out there but today us two-wheeled "motorists" took over and did 25 fast laps (105K) on the asphalt.
The circuit race was pretty fast from the gun and I tried to keep getting in a good workout by attacking and trying to make the early break but to no avail. After 20minutes I went back into "chill-mode" and went with the flow of the peloton which mostly kept steady at 44Kph. There were a few attacks from some serious GC contenders at one point and we went hard for a couple of laps but everything came back together. Nothing better than going 35mph all strung out on a race car track with 90 guys. Finally, a group of 8 got away and finished 10econds ahead of the bunch (in which I came in, too).

Now they "real" Tour started as we had to pack all of our stuff together and send stuff via truck to our Macau hotel where the final stage would go down on Sunday. We headed by bus to the China/Macau border, went by foot through immigration + customs, and back onto a different bus to our hotel. That was a 3hr "hike" after doing 60+miles circuit race. I was ready for bed. But first we had to wait for our bags and bikes to arrive - which they did around 8pm.

The final stage of ToSCS always takes places on the Southern Island of Macau on a 9K loop and finishes on top of the Coloane Hill. You do ten 5mile laps which are mostly rollers and a few short climbs before they send you up the 3K hill for the mountain-top finish (switchbacks a la Mt. Scott for those Wichita/OK readers). Knowing that it will come down to a "sprint" to the base of the climb, I just rolled with the peloton and let the attacking go by and counted down the laps from 15th wheel behind the Shanghai, HongKong, and China Nat's Team. It felt like getting ready for a bunch sprint as we approached the final left turn up the hill and I was somewhere in the middle of it. I knew that the GC will be decided with how you'd finish today since so many guys had the same time...I had to find my way around a bunch of guys and was glad to have the 39x25 going for this type of finish (see picture right). I ended up 20th on the day and 21st in GC. I'm definitively happy with that considering that I almost got shut out completely on Stage 4 by that motobike.

A part of my team and the manager went to some fenzy awards dinner at the Macau Tower before we went gambling with the few prize money we actually made over the last 8 days. Macau is a mini-version of Las Vegas; they have The Venetian, a MGM, etc. just like over in the US of A. Now I'm off to another 20+hr trip back to freezing Texas (Yikes...I'm still a bit sun-burned from the last few days where we always got to race in 80ish degree sunshine).


Pong and I at The Venetian, Macau

Macau Tower before sunset

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stage 5 & 6 - Two more days at the office

We're heading more South towards the actual "sea" of the "Tour of South China Sea" and stopped in Guangzhou for Stage 5 yesterday. The course was in a huge University/Urban area without a lot of spectators but nevertheless it was a cool race. We did 25laps on a 5K course which equals roughly 70miles of criterium-style racing. Felt like riding on a velodrome except we actually had some 90degree turns and small uphill section. I was of course a bit sore from the previous day's crash but once you're on a bike racing you forget about it. This stage looked like it will end in a field sprint so I was a bit conservative at first and only put my nose a few times in the wind. I got in a move with a China National Team rider for two laps but like in the past days, every break-away attempt got shut down somehow (photo right with '06 Scratch World Champ Wong Kam Po). We did the 73mile course at a 27.8mph average but it didn't feel that fast quite honestly when you can "hide" in the bunch a lot. I got my crashing out of the way and stayed on the right side during the final sprint whereas a HongKong Pro Team rider went down hard and had to go for head injury treatment to the hospital. Ouch.

After the stage we rode our bikes to the hotel which was located in the same university area. There must have been ten thousands of students living there as it was clustered with 25+ story doorm buildings, libraries, teaching buildings (see pic below), and highways.
Today's Stage 6 in Zhongshan was supposed to be a 70mile road race but again we just raced on 3 lane wide concrete highways and the "climb" was riding over a huge bridge. The fice 23K laps were quite uneventful. I mainly chilled in the middle of the bunch, at ~200W and a HR of 130bpm while the Chinese guys kept a early 3-man break in check. Things got a bit faster when the break got caugfht with 20K to go and it was "gutter-time" but there's no real, control-taking team here so the entire field stayed together and the crosswind didn't do what it might have done in another race. It was field-sprint time again, so I took it easy and "tailgunned" it for the last 5K while seeing two nasty pile-ups in front of me. Geeez. Lots of sketchyness going on over here. While riders out of contention for the sprint ride tempo at the end of the bunch in countries, sprinting all out for 37th place is very popular at this race.

Tomorrow we have another Circuit race in Zhuhai on the schedule before heading to country # 3 during this Tour: Macau. That's where the GC will likely be made since as of right now 60+ guys (incl. me) are all at the same time like 18th place. I'm not so sure if I can find my climbing legs, though for Sunday.
Ready to protect us...

Pong fits in any sedan's trunk

What was on the plate at today's lunch...You guess what that stuff is!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stage 3 & 4 - 1st crash since 2 (?) years

We're getting deeper into mainland China. You can tell by the increased number of motobikes, bicycles and just simple pedestrians walking on the streets. Transportation by car is for many Chinese not a given thing. Walking, riding bicycles (+carrying tons of stuff on it), or using the scooter is a standard over here.

Dongguan was host for Stage 3's 115K (that's 71miles) Circuit Race. A fast course with 4 turns and 2 road bumps each lap...which resulted in 90+ guys bunny hopping those for a total of 60 times at 25+mph (see pic left)! The course was wide open and it made for a good race. Each of my teammates outweighs me by ~40+ lbs so flat, fast circuit races are not a specialty of our team as a whole ;-) I did my best and jumped with a few moves here and there but we never gained more than 10seconds over the bunch. Half-way through, a group of 20+ rode away and gained 2minutes but the Chinese National Team with the yellow missed it so you could see the leader of the bike race charging after the break, having the whole field in tow. Interesting tactics to observe here. After China convinced all other Chinese teams to help them the break was caught but not for long and another group rode away, this time making it to the line. I'm still adapting to the type of speed I haven't had since Tx Tough (?) in September. All of our guys made it safely in the bunch and this was just another day - 5 to go. We could ride our bikes directly to the hotel today and ended up in a nice 5-star place at the Exhibition Center in Dongguan. The difference between rich and poor is definitively not to miss over here (picture right).

After a 1.5hr bus transfer to Foshan we were set to start Stage 4's Road Race. I was hoping for a actual road race but it was 100K on mostly 4-lane wide highways. The day already started "great" as the organizer led the entire field neutral through the city but kinda "forgot" where we actual start for real. Once they had this figured out, we riders sat on the highway for 30minutes waiting for the team cars to show up which were not filled up with gas at the start...which resulted that the had to see a gas station first...Finally, 1hour after the planned start we officially started racing, going 50kph for the first few minutes until I hear that "zsssshhhhhhh" again. I hit on of the bridge-flex metal things they install on huge bridges - usually no problem but I must have it it funny. No circuit-race rules anymore so after getting a new wheel from the guys in blue I was off on my own, 95K to go and the field hammered away at 50kph. The end of the caravan was still around me so combined with some serious VO2max time trialing I made it somehow back in the peloton. Things were getting better then...just constantly attack and counterattack if you're riding at the front with no break getting more than 10seconds on the "Autobahn" stage. After 55K I finally had the worst and best moment of probably the entire year. WORST, because I got full-on tail gunned by a f@!%ing race motorbike (see pic left by Andrew Kozak) and BEST because I didn't break anything and could continue riding after I had the Chinese doctors convinced that I was fine. With two new wheels, a few cuts and bruises (photo by Pong), and the desire to catch back on I got some moto-pacing by our team car. The motorbike driver was left behind, turns out he broke (!) his arm in the wreck...Back in the race I just stayed out of trouble and it looked like a field sprint but the day ended how it started in chaos. The main bunch didn't make a 90degree turn and missed the real course and instead rode over the finish line in the opposite direction. After another U-turn we all figured the stage was a mess and riders were going in each directions trying to cross the finish-line in the right direction. The stage was officially neutralized and everyone got the same time. No winner, no loser and prize money being equally distributed. Kind of sucks for the few guiys who actually made the right turn but denied their stage "win".

That was an exciting day and now we're sitting at the XINJUNYUE hotel in Foshan enjoying some www time before heading to bed for an early transfer to Guangzhou for Stage 5. Broke one wheel today, one helmet, trashed one jersey, banged up my CSK pretty good but AL7075 held up very well. If I would have ridden a carbon frame today I could have left it right there on the road on the concrete barriers....since even the motobike got trashed pretty good and had to get hauled off the road.

my crazy team/roommate Pong

...just like in Bentonville, AR

ride a bike!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stage 1 + 2, Latex tubes and broken 3K to go signs

After arrival in Hong Kong at 1am Saturday I got to sleep in for a little bit and went for a easy 2hr ride in Sha Tin, a suburb in northern HKG. The temps are in the 50's in the AM but by the time I got back the sun was out and it felt like a humid 'Houstonish' 70 degrees.

Stage 1 was the same course like 2years ago on a 2.5K loop on wide open roads. Half-way through the race (80K) it looked like 'business as usual' with a field sprint but a group of five rode away at the last-minute. Of course, a Chinese guy won while I finished "safely" in the bunch. It's not easy to go to 50mile circuit races with having a lot of base miles and a handful of 60min CX races in your legs. But I'm not just here for vacation so I got in a few small breaks but everything got brought back. I could feel my lack of V02max training when it came to riding "flat out" in the last 5laps. At this race, the real chaos begins after the stage when you go back to the hotel, shower, eat, pack, wrap your bike in bubble-wrapper and put it on a semi-truck to the next city for the following stage. The riders get to ride in buses - quite comfortable actually. Yesterday we went over the border to China and believe it or not immigration/customs goes quicker for me here then trying to get back to the US. Not that I support their government...but they are actually very efficient and organized over here...Something you might not really expect when reading/hearing about China in the US or the rest of the world....and not so conservative as you'd think either...see picture left)!

Today's Stage 2 on the outskirts of the mega-million city Shenzhen was a similar 80K affair like yesterday. Except that I ended up with two rear flats within in 3miles which never happened to me in a race before (see our DS + mechanic airing up tires pre-race in left pic). First the latex tube gave up (after flatting the front one during warm-up) and later the Shimano neutral wheel with a brand-new, beefy Vittoria Corsa went 'zshhhhhhh'. Thanks to criterium-style rules even in those circuit races I got a free lap and got back in quickly. The race was fast but nothing got seriously away so it was field sprint time and 'chill time' for me. I got confirmation about my lack in fast-twitch fibers one more time as I finished somewhere near 50th in the bunch. Almost didn't make it there as Asian riders go Kamikaze for the last lap and one guy hit the 3K to-go sign right in front of me but somehow I missed his bike and other rider's crashing around me.
Cycling fans in China are quite young

There are 2 road races coming up over the next 6 stages so I'm more looking forward to those rather than doing long crits on 3 lane wide, communism-style architected, concrete roads.

Government Building in Shenzhen

post-race lunchbox (one of them features tuna inside)
that guy was our personal guard for the stage from China's Special Police Force

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hong Kong after all

Until a few days ago I was not really sure if I'm heading Far East for the Tour of South China Sea (UCI 2.2) stage race but now I'm sitting in Seoul International Airport waiting for my final connection leg to HKG.I originally had planned to race here with a strong international composite team but that got called off one week ago by their Swiss D.S. so I was left w/ out a ride. At the last minute (Tuesday) a friend of mine in Hong Kong and some friends at Champion System offered to help me out so I'm good to go. I'll be the german "token" on an all Hong Kong/Chinese team. More to come...
Airport Fast Food in Korea...

Monday, December 8, 2008


Help out local Austin photographer Dave McLaughlin and vote for his Driveway picture in the "The Racing Post 2008 Best Photo Contest". You can do that online here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ice hockey, SIX, and Austin Bikes Ride

My buddyLalla would have been proud of me as I went to watch a Dallas Stars icehockey game Friday night at AA Center in downtown Dallas. I really only watched the last 5minutes of the game where the Stars won the shoot-out vs. the Colorado Avalanches (?).
Saturday morning I joined the local "diesel's" Crosby, Surfer, Chopper & Co. on a modified RBM South Ride which ended up being the hardest effort I've done since my last CX race a few weeks ago :-) I got to Austin just in time for the TXBRA Award's Night Dinner/Party at SIX Lounge in Downtown. Was good to chat with a few folks I haven't seen in a while and catch up on things. Bonnie even had a trophy and a jersey for me to take home! Thank to Team AT&T/Brain and Spine for throwing the Party and offering a FREE Tap while I was there...Good times.
I did the Austin Bikes ride today and it looks like this ride is going to be my favorite ride to do on weekends these days. Lots of people (today there were like 60+ because of the TXBRA thing last night), mellow pace (at least early on before Sol hits it towards Dripping Springs), and good routes out West of town. Did 4 1/2 hrs today in the morning and spun around another 1 1/2 in the late aftternoon.