Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting dirty...

It's been a while since I did a MTB race, 2years Wichita Falls. So Sunday's Mellow Johnny's Classic out at "The Ranch" was definitively a litte bit rough for me but I was there for the fun - and a lot of fun, and pain it was. Those 2:20min off up-down-left-right-jump-descent-mud-log-slippery-rocks will for sure rank in the tough top 10 of things I've done on two wheels. Hats up to the guys who seemed to fly over that course and made a roadie look awkward out there. Finishing 30min down to the winner (JHK) over a 24mile course (in 28th place) would get you a automatic downgrade in some road races...but I guess in XC it wasn't too shabby.

Congrats to Bryan Fawley who showed everyone how it's done in Texas (only current US XC champ JHK was quicker).

Monday, November 9, 2009

20 years ago...

...I started watching Baywatch & Knight Rider. I tasted Mars and Snickers for the first time. Matchbox cars and LEGO became regulars among my "tools". Coca-Cola and Sprite tasted pretty sweet. And best of all: I got to go to West-Berlin, and slowly the rest of the world.

Here's a pretty good video/slide-show of "The Wall" coming down 20 years ago, November 9, 1989:

Final Days at Southland

Stage 8 marked the final day here in New Zealand at the Tour of Southland. We were still in the hunt for something special but Mike started to get a bit sick and it seemed doubtful that we could walk away with a stage win. BUT...Bang, Stage 8 ended up being our day as both Mike and I made it over the KOM (where I got 4th) of the day along with Chadwick, Heath, Bauer and U23 leader Findlay. The rest of the field started to split off the back. We were hammering in the tailwind and I got a new speed-record I believe: 38.2mph for 24minutes. We did the 79K (50m) stage in 1h29min! I was red-zone towards the end and had to let Mike and the other 4 guys roll away after I sprinted for some intermediate sprint points. I settled in a group of ~25 guys with the Bissel duo, Landis, MacCauley and the 2nd GC guy + teammates Greg + Kevin of course! Mike took the stage ahead of Chadwick and I ended up 10th on the day. Peter Jackson was one happy plumber that day!

After a few hours of rest at the Middle Pub in Winton (without the beer or fish'n chips) we got ready for the final 65K into downtown Invercargill. This was NOT a easy, all-things-set, last stage. As soon as the official's flag goes down, 100 guys start racing = attacking. The gale winds were ridiculous once again and 15k into the stage we had probably 5 different groups all over the road. After I gave it my all this morning to help Mike I was officially "fried" for the rest of the day. We were going 8mph on a downhill section at one point...that's when I realized this will be a tough one and I decided to "just ride it out" with a group of ~30guys to the finish @ Queens Park. Mike ended up 13th or 14th on the day and both Greg and Kevin finished a few spots ahead of me. I ended up somewhere in 41st GC and 12th in the Sprints. Oh well, it's over now. Thanks to Robert, Graeme & July, Sue & husband, Peter & wife, and everyone else involved in making things easier for Mike, Greg, Seth, Kevin and me down there.

I decided I definitively have to come back to this beautiful country one day. Probably without a bike and 3 weeks of time to explore everything here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stage 6 & 7 - Up and down into the wind

Lots of action on yesterday's Stage 6. After 100k of rather uneventful racing up towards Queenstown we hit the "Wall" with 20K to go and a little selection (including the yellow, Mike and I) was made but 30 or so guys rolled back on after 10K. The break of 4 was up the road and we raced for 4th place. Mike put the hammer down on the uphill slopes to the Crown Range to finish 7th while I barely squeezed into the Top 10 with 10th place. Beautiful scenery, too. Mike now sits 15h GC.

Today's Stage 7 was another 160K trek to Te Anau, in the Western Hills of the South Island. A break including some big guns and GC threats went off 5K in and we never saw them again. The field (incl. the Yellow) was desperately chasing but to no avail. Mike and I made it over the top of the big climb at 115K with the Yellow and the Bissel Boys and Bauer (yellow) was flat out riding 45kph trying to catch the dangerous break with 40K to go. Kevin and Greg rolled up to our group with another 20 or so and suddenly all 4 of us were in a 30-40 strong group 2minutes behind the Blackgrove/Landis break. Unfortunately, Mike missed the split when Bauer (again) attacked and rode away with 2nd place GC guy and Yates to catch the leaders. They never did and Blackgrove is back in Yellow now!

We ended up 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd on the Stage - a unique and great thing for the Jackson Plumbing Team and our Sponsor here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stage 4 & 5 - battling the wind

Another double-header today with Stage 4 & 5 in the west of the South Island. The 50miles up to Tuatapere didn’t look too tricky on paper but everyone knew going in it will be a battle with the wind today. Lots of crosswind and 100guys trying to get to the front made for a pretty hard stage. I’m feeling that my body is still a bit banged up from that crash a few days ago and the legs don’t quite have the “snap”. But…to open up the legs I decided to go for the first few intermediate sprints. To explain, they have about 10-15 intermediate sprints in EACH stage for the sprint points jersey and a few bucks from local businesses (usually $25-$50). That was a bit taxing but I felt better afterwards actually. I almost got in trouble a few times but was mostly in good company with some good teams so we made it back quickly to the bunch.All of us from Jackson Plumbing finished all in the field of about 80 guys. The sprint points got me in 8th place in that competition now. But that’s all just for fun to be honest. Hopefully we’ll see the prize one day…

The 2nd part of the day was a bit more brutal with 50 of the 100K being raced right on the west coast of the South Island which made for plenty of gusty wind and some rain. Not as bad as in previous years, though where guys got blown off the road. The short 1 1/2hr break between stages was a bit odd, you try to rest a bit but don’t want to have your body too much in “rest-mode” as another 60miles were ion tap. 10-15K in the Sh.. hit the fan and guys started going everywhere. I was positioned well but could tell the legs are worn out and slowly faded and ended up in a group of about 25guys who were still going fast. After 20miles, the field – or what was left of it – was about 3minutes up the road but the guys don’t call a grupetto down here; they just keep going hard even if it is for 45th place. Well, it finally got me and I ended up riding in with 3 other guys (one of them Heath’ teammate and a world-class rower who just got recruited for this Tour). Finished 15min down on the winner and moved down to 68th place in GC. I don’t care too much about that anyways but will try to help Mike Olheiser in the remaining stages as he sits Top20 and got a few seconsds on the field today.

3 days and 4 stages to go!

Check out and for results, pics, and live updates from the Tour. Also, teammates Mike and Seth have blogs up here:,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stage 3 - the easiest 100miles so far

After the double-header on Monday, Stage 3's 100miles from Invercargill to Gore felt somewhat "relaxing". A few "gutter"-action in the beginning and once the break got off we just rode Tempo towards the finish. Well, Heath' Zookeepers/Cycle-Surgery team did the work and 100 of us just rode behind at a manageable 40kph. A few of us (Kevin and I) tried our luck in an attempt to catch the final break but w/ out luck. Mike almost made the final break of 4 guys who ended up stating away to sprint for the win. He got 14th as best-placed rider for Jackson Plumbing today. There were one bridge-crossing and three left-hand turns within the last K of the race. 4 guys stayed away to sprint for the win and the four of us all finished safely in the bunch. 4days and 6 stages to go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turbulent start down in Southland

The Tour started at Queens Park in Invercargill with a short 8k Team TT on a 4-corner course in the morning. Our Motel is only 5minutes away from most starts here in town so we got plenty of time in the mornings usually. The TT was a good warm-up and we did a 11:01 which put us in 15th place of the day out of 25 teams. An okay result considering we (Seth, Kevin, Greg, Mike + I) never really raced together, especially not a TTT. Actually, Mike and I did a Team TT together just over a month ago at Univest GP. But, who would have thought, the conditions are way better here down in Southland than back at Univest where we had rain and 50mph gusts.

After a quick lunch we headed back to the Park for Stage 2. Yes, double-days are quite common down here. The toughest climb of the day was thrown into the first day and we got to race up Bluff Hill, a 20% steep climb on the very end of the “South Island” and at the end of Highway 1. That was not the toughest part, though as we all figured out about 45K into the 80K stage. After a crosswind section (one of too many that day) a Subway rider lost it right in front of me once we were at full-speed with a nice tailwind, going around 50-55kph. He slid across the whole road and took out a bunch of guys including me. I haven’t wrecked like that for a long time. I went straight over the bars upon impact with his (now trashed) Avanti bike and found myself on the ground with probably 40 other guys. I checked myself and the bike and besides some cuts+bruises on the knee and a nice road rash on my cheek everything seemed fine. After some quick adjustments to a twisted saddle + bars we got rolling again until they stopped the entire race for 25minutes because of the large number of riders involved and the severity of the injuries of some guys. I actually fell on my head a bit and had to ask my teammates + Robert, our DS, for some basic stuff, like “Where are we”, “How did we all got here to NZ”, and such things. I never had crashed so hard on my helmet/head before and was “out of it” for a bit for sure. It was tough getting rolling again but I started to get back into the flow. It was weird for sure. I ended up talking to Landis for a while as he broke his bike in the wreck, too and somehow we even talked about the two hip replacements of my grandma. I barely remember that now, though :-) Well, the field ended up splitting into pieces towards the hill climb thanks to some – now in full force – winds and gusts coming off the Ocean. I dug deep in my 39x28 and made it to the top without having to get off my bike like I saw some folks do! My average cadence was around 48 for the last 600m I believe. That crash definitively took more out of my body than I had thought.

Mike finished the day in 20th and is our GC guy now. I think he can get close to Top10 over the next 5 days. Seth is out unfortunately, as he ended up breaking his nose in that nasty pile-up. Better than a collarbone or leg, though as some apparently did.

Tomorrow should be a bit more “relaxed” with a 165K stage and a bit more mellow elevation profile and a sprint finish.

Invercargill Velodrome, brand new, 250m indoor track. Nice!