Monday, November 21, 2011

Tulsa & Ft. Worth Cyclocross Weekend

I went up to DFW last Friday for another fun weekend of CX racing. First, up on I-35 to OKC to pick up former MSU-teammate Greg and then we headed to Broken Arrow, OK for the Ruts 'N Guts Cross race. It's just South of Tulsa and held on a very cool course around a park/church. For the 60minutes we climbed nearly 1000ft - quite a bit for a CX race. It was good seeing some of my Tulsa Tough teammates and catch up. The prize $$$ for this race was big, all of the 20 guys who raced walked away with some change. Joe Schmalz rode away from everyone to claim the $1K first place prize. The never-tired-of-racing Steve Tilford ran 3rd and I was happy to crack the Top10 in 8th place. On-the-road teammate Mat Ankney had to ride really fast so I don't catch him :-)

Nice little video by the promoters of the Tulsa CX Race:

After a long day of racing and driving I made it for the 2nd day of racing in Ft. Worth at Trinity Park. The course was for sure not a "true" cyclocross-specific course but still we had to race our bikes pretty hard to finish where we finished...Paul Bonds was yet again on another level and after riding with him for 30minutes at the front he simply dropped me and I rode the last 3 or 4 laps alone to come in 2nd place. Ouch, that hurt! It's amazing to see guys like Bonds or Tilford kick some major butt and drop guys who are 10-20 years younger like flies.

The only real challenging part of Sunday's CX course in Ft. Worth:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tour de Gruene TT's

The last 2 years I missed out on Tour de Gruene because of trips to New Zealand for Tour of Southland and last year to India. So going back to New Braunfels this year was really good. A new ITT with an uphill finish on Canyon Lake Dam was very interesting, and made for a challenging TT. Ian Stanford from HED came down again and after a 3rd place last year he got his win this year with a 19second advantage over my ride for the 16mile TT. The traffic on the course, an awards-ceremony which took way too long (think 2hrs) and a lack of a (previously guaranteed) shuttle service back to the start left a few people unhappy that day - understandably. Luckily I had a ride with some friends but I felt bad for the folks who didn't had friends or family out there and had to ride 16miles back to S/F on their race wheels, when it was nearly dark and getting cold.

Sunday was the 2-person TT - something my athlete Wes Jerman and I have been focusing on. He's a good time trialist, won the Cat 3 State TT and final stage of Tulsa Tough this year. Our "combo" was definitely able to win but in a time trial everything must go right so you can come in first. Warm-up, nutrition, equipment, course, etc..But it all well and according to plan and we were on the right track the whole race. The only challenging part was the wind and slight rain on the back in coming towards Gruene and with the 1080/Super9 - combo I felt the crosswind a bit but we could still go full throttle down HW 306.

Out time just around 58:50 was not record-setting but still a good 2 1/2minutes ahead of second place (Pincus/ Bentley). Fun weekend down in New Braunfels. And I didn't even use the Wurstfest tickets I got from the race and found a week later in my bag. I wonder if they're valid next year?

photo: John Buntz

it was worth waiting close to 2hrs for awards...

Monday, October 17, 2011

LiveStrong Ride

85miles through the Hill Country last weekend at the LiveStrong Challenge Ride here in Austin. Great time of the year to ride out to Wimberley, towards Blanco and back up to Drippin' Springs. Not much "racing" going on this year since only ~20 of us did the long route and LA & friends took the "short-cut" for 65miles. Last long ride of the season in the books.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Texas State RR

Last road race of the year, finally 2 weeks earlier than last year when we still raced 100mile RR in mid-October! Well, as usual, a small P/1 field of maybe 25-30guys (?) made for a tough 4+hrs on the bike in Ft. Hood. Racing solo here in Texas, I jumped with the moves which had the right guys & numbers and that was the case quite a few times. After some re-shuffling it came down to a group of 8 or 9 guys and instead of waiting 'til the very end I decided to go with ~15miles to go. Long way out, but I thought at least I don't have to deal w/ all the sure-to-be-happening attacks/counter-attack's etc. After "the wall" I had a minute gap and things looked fine. But I knew that would be very, very odd if nobody comes up. Sure enough, Brant Speed, G. Skinner and Logan Hutchings came up a few miles later and with maybe 3-4miles to go it was a group of 4.

Logan killed it yet again, and added another 1st place to his Texas results list for 2011. He got me in the sprint and I rolled in second ahead of Brant. With the rules of USA Cycling, Logan got the first place cash but wasn't eligible for the jersey and I got that jersey this year. I would have like to win the race outright but Logan was - again - the strongest in the final dash to the line.

photo: Lee McDaniel

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cotton Patch Omnium

I haven't been here since in 2009 so with a RR, TT and Crit I was looking forward to some good late-season racing as prep for State RR just a week later. My "wing-man" Jay Blankenship came down from Kansas so we had two Tulsa Tough guys in the mix. The Road Race worked out as usual, after 10 miles an early break goes and makes it to the end. Contrary to 2 years back, I wasn't able to out-sprint my break-away buddies Carlos & Crozzy (who won) but a 3rd was good going into the TT.

The time trial was on a new route, along Highway 69 north of Greenville. A bit too much traffic in my opinion for a safe TT but it was a hard TT with plenty off headwind. I never felt really fast because of the wind and a new saddle I was trying out but still I was able to score the best time of the day and take the lead in Omnium. So I had to make a phone call North to Oklahoma and call-in another wingman for the Crit: Jason Waddell.

A guy who won PLENTY of Crits on his own and raced pro ~10 years ago as a helper for a Criterium? Why not. That's what teamwork is all about. Two weeks ago I was getting him to the front at Gateway-Cup and gave him a good last lap he's riding at the front shutting things down so we make sure we can take home the Omnium win. Classy teammates. I ended up in a break with Carlos & two local PACC guys and third on the day. Plenty enough to win again and between Jay & Jayson we had a nice pay-day/weekend.

(photo: Lee McDaniel Photography)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Déjà Vu in Wichita Falls

Going back to Wichita Falls was great. I lived there for 5 years and it was awesome to see so many friends from the past and present. The race, Hotter'n Hell 100, went good, too although you always strive for the top spot.

Update: Three different days, three different races, three different podium "scenes"...

Friday Night Crit (photo: Dan Apgar,

Saturday's Road Race (photo credit: Richard Cleaver,

Sheri victorious at Sunday's Crit (photo credit: Scot Montague)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From the woodshop...

I was always amazed how much money you can spend on toys for your pets. Especially a cat tree. Petsmart has one for $279...and that's with free shipping! Ouch. So on a Saturday I thought about it and Sunday afternoon I started building one from scratch after a visit to one or two hardware stores.

It went like this, starting at 4pm with some carpet, 2x4's, 90deg angles, screws and carpet/wood glue:

5pm :

6:30pm :

somewhere in between:

around 9pm:

done at 11pm!

A happy cat...

That's MY tree!

having friends over...

Ok, I think I fit in here...

Next to putting things together so it withholds a 10+lb pet (who loves to jump & move!) I had to think a few times how to put the most creative building together so it's a) functional and b) still "exciting" from a cats perspective. From the first looks the cat "accepted" it as a new hangout.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We got back from Europe about two weeks ago and I finally found some time to go through some pictures. It was good going "home" to the "Old World". Traveling is so easy these days, and we flew via Atlanta directly into Venice, Italy. With only a backback on your back you can roam around pretty easily in any country. A 5min walk from the airport Exit doors gets you to the ferries or water taxis waiting for passengers to go from mainland Italy to the island Venice. It takes 20min and - Boom -, you're there. We had a nice little place/hotel 5min from San Marcos square and spend a day and a half wandering around the city. I was there in the Spring of 1991 the last time so it was good to be back. Seemed more crowded now, though.

taxi in Venice...

firefighters Venice-style...

Next stop was Florence, just 2hrs South-West by Eurstar, the Italian version of France'sLink TGV or Germany's ICE. Great town and not as crowded as Venice. You have to see Michelangelo's "David", the Uffizi Gallery of Art, and the Ponte Vecchio. If you're into traditional Italian cooking, then go to "Vini e Vecchi Sapori"- a TripAdvisor top-rated, but small, family-owned restaurant in the center of the city. I had "Trippa alla Romana" which translates to cow's stomach". A local delicacy.

Ponte Vecchio

David by Michelangelo

View from the Piazza Michelangelo onto Florence
AirBerlin took us then to Dresden via Duesseldorf. Unfortunately, there's no direct flight between Florence, Italy and the "Florence of Saxony" as what Dresden is called sometimes because of the similarity in architecture and buildings. After a late-night stop at the local Kebab place it was time for some rest.

What Germans love about Turkey....their Kebabs!

The rest of the weekend we mainly visited with my family and also went to my HighSchool reunion which took place conveniently that weekend. It was a small crowd since it was thrown together kind of late but still a lot of fun and it was good catching up with friends I have not seen for years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

4th of July Weekend

After a little time off it was race-time again this past weekend before heading to Europe for a quick trip "home".

It was another 100+F Thursday but it treated me well and somehow I was able to come up with a decent sprint at the Driveway.

On Saturday, July 2nd, we went back to the Firecracker 100, a Russ-Walker-World Championship-Qualifying RALLY (not race) in Stephenville, TX. I think it was 2005 (?) the last and only time I was there before. Back then, Surfer Nick & a few others showed me how to not lose a rally ride ;-) Russ, Scott S, Thomas, some young 18y/o kid, and me rolled 55miles together and thanks to Hoka Hey Fine Arts of Dublin, TX, I got the coolest trophy ever - a Bronze Boot!

with Louise and Sheri

A day later I did a little Crit South of Dallas promoted by King racing Group and Ginny King. It was probably around 100F again by the time we started (noon?). The field was small and the course featured 0% shade - not ideal conditions for a 90minute circuit race with some good hills. Nonetheless, I found myself in a move with newly crowned 15/16 Junior National Criterium CHampion Danny Parks about 20min into the race. That kid and ride! We just did a 2-man TT and shared equal pulls and a dozen (?) water bottles. The uphill kick to the finish wasn't super steep so you could ride the big ring up and that helped me to sneak away for the win. Otherwise I might have been in trouble the way Danny was riding ;-) Long-time friend and Texas racing icon Chris Powers finished 3rd that day. I hear he bought a Porsche that same week. Fast biker, even faster cars!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nature Valley Grand Prix is a wrap!

Last week was fun, looking forward to a week off now. It was great to be part of the NVGP Team and meeting some new and old friends. I had all kind of team directors in the past, different nationalities, ages, etc. but to be honest never a woman, a french woman :-) ! But Marion Clignet definitely had her stuff together and is a great motivator, coach, athlete, etc.

As a team (Tim, Brandon, Stephen, Alec, Scott & Scott) we had no impressive results and I wasn't able to accomplish what I had in mind but Timothy Rugg, aka Mustache, saved the day for the team with his awesome ride in Sunday's Stillwater Crit which earned him the Most Aggressive Rider Award.

With Tim & Scott after Stillwater. Photo: Lyne Lamoureux

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tulsa Tough > Minnesota, NVGP

After some racing down in Texas over Memorial Day Weekend we wrapped up Tulsa Tough yesterday. My team had some highs and lows, with a "crashy" Friday night but some good sprints by Jason Waddell to place Top10 twice in a stacked field of 130 guys. Cry Baby Hill was crazy, as usual, or maybe even rowdier and more crowded then the years before.

Party on "Cry Baby Hill". Can you spot the P/1 peloton?

(Photo by Lyne Lamoureux. Check her website for full coverage of the race.)

Now I'm "back" in Minnesota for another edition of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Like in 2007 I'm racing on the Nature Valley Team, a group of amateurs compiled from across the country. Instead of the composite team of '07 where we had Jonathan Page, Olheiser, me and ? (forgot their names) this team is made up of guys who each won a regional "selection" P/1/2 race. Thanks to my trip to snowy Utah I'm here today and the crew around promoter David LaPorte are already taken good care of us. We have some professionals with great experience as team directors (Michael Engleman for the Ladies and Marion Clignet for the guys).

This will be my fourth time up in Minneapolis/St. Paul for NVGP and even though I'm a bit tired from the last 3 nights of racing I'm already looking forward to a "stinging" Wednesday morning Time Trial by the Smith Ave bridge.

Flashback: Racing for Nature Valley Team back in 2007 with Page & Co.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teamwork pays off at Joe Martin Stage Race

The Tulsa Tough team had an amazing weekend at Joe Martin Stage Race. We ended up with 4 wins in 4 stages with 3 different riders in the Cat 1-2 race. It wasn't easy by any means but our group of guys bonded very well together and everyone rode for the team. Jay Blankenship even raced with a L1 separated shoulder he suffered 3 weeks ago at the Matrix Crits. Chris Zenthoefer, one of our main sponsors and "brain" of the team, worked hard in the early part of the road races. Janne Hamalainen, recent Master's winner of Sea Otter Classic Stage Race rode himself inside out for the team. Most Valuable Player award goes to 21-year-old 'kid' Zach Earnest for doing some serious work up Mt. Gaylor and riding himself into the ground for the team in Stage 3's break-away. Will Gault did another lightning fast TT, and hung on for 3rd place GC. Chad Cagle won two stages, and un-retired ex-pro Jason Waddell added some great horsepower to the team and finishing 2nd in Sunday's Crit to make it 1-2 on the day. Mat Ankney rode through a few cramps and always came back to the front leading 2laps non-stop in the final minutes of the Criterium. That's what teamwork is all about and while it was great to be standing on top of the podium, all those guys deserved to be up there with me (not only Will and I).

Looking forward to Tulsa Tough in 4 weeks!

Top 8 GC Joe Martin Stage Race, Cat 1/2

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trip to snowy Utah

What do you think of when you hear Utah? Great Salt Lake? Mormonism? Olympics? Rocky Mountains? Park City? Sure, all those things came to my mind when me and the wife were heading up North to visit friends in Sandy, UT and race the 2-day, 3-stage Tour of the Depot Stage Race in the greater Salt Lake City area. One thing I was not really thinking of – well, at least not in April - was snow, LOTS of snow. More to that a bit later, though.

Upon arrival to SLC we were treated to some “balmy” 50˚F and we had some spotty sunshine. Later that day, though the winter came back and we were reminded that we are indeed in the Rocky Mountains and snow is always a possibility – even in mid-April. So it was trainer time for 2days. Riding in the basement I felt like I was back home in Germany. We made the best of it, though and headed up to 7000ft. to Park City and checked out the snowboarders & skiers enjoy the fresh white stuff.

ready to race?

Friday night before the race we’re waiting to see if the race get’s canceled or not. It was in the mid-30’s and still snowing strong. A race in those conditions probably would have been called in any other state, but not in Utah! Our race was shortened by 20miles, though - eliminating a snowed in mountain pass in return. Between Sheri, Paul (our host), and I we probably had at least a dozen layers of clothing to stay warm and dry for what was coming up. So I lined up at 9:30am for a 70mile P12 Road Race with about 40 other guys. It was a bit above freezing and still snowing lightly. The local Team Canyon Bicycles had about 10 guys in the race, and Team Exergy from Idaho brought 3 guys down. I followed wheels and tried to ignore the facts that a) I was racing at 5000ft b) it was snowing/sleeting and c) we got 70miles to go. After 15miles a break of 3 was 30seconds up the road and besides a few random deer and cattle crossing the road not much excitement was observed. The Exergy boys finally made a move to bridge to the break and I jumped on with it to make a break of 6 complete. Everyone worked, and we quickly established a one-minute lead. I was happy to actually “race” and stay warm instead of pedaling along in the peloton and getting cold feet. While up in the break, I noticed some more weather characteristics: Snow from the left and right. Water from below. Snow pellets in your face. Even some random sunshine. And back to snow-shower. Eventually, 3 guys got dropped from our move and it was down to one Exergy rider, a Canyon Bicycles guy, and me. I was barely holding on, the two of them drove it. The altitude and cold made my legs hurt pretty badly like I haven’t felt for a while. HR was at 180bpm now for the last 20 or 30minutes. But getting dropped out of the winning break was not an option. 42-year old Dave Harward (Canyon-Bicycles) schooled us at the finish but I held on for 3rd, 17 seconds down. Good for the TT later that day. Sheri finished the 50mile Road Race in 8th place, and was on same time with 5th in GC. She didn’t like the snow at all and I have no idea how she survived that race but very proud that she did. I raced in the rain & wind of New Zealand, at close to 100% humidity in South East Asia, and some pretty rough & chilly rain in Western Europe….but 3hrs in the snow just above freezing tops that all for sure. Thanks to whoever invented surgical latex-free gloves which were like a second layer on my hands.

Road Race finish line view...

BMC all frozen after RR finish

Well, turns out the afternoon TT was canceled, the officials thought time trialing in the snow with some turns and possible ice is not a good idea. Good call! Even so, I was hoping to race the TT since I got Paul to bring up my TT rig from Texas. It (the bike) got so see some mountains, though at least!

Sunday’s final Circuit Race was held in much better conditions. We actually got to see the mountains this time, and the lost sun was back – making it a nice 50˚F again for the 5mile circuit, to be raced 8 times. 250 ft. of elevation per lap wasn’t bad at all. With the time bonuses etc., I was down 26 seconds to first and 10 seconds or so to 2nd GC. With my handmade clue sheet taped to my stem, I was ready for 90minutes of tactics to be played. Attack after attack went and finally Pinkham of Bissell got away with a Canyon-Bicycles rider (they still had 8 guys in the race) while 1st and 2nd GC looked after and at each other. Perfect. 5 laps in, I thought if I wanted to win that thing, I’d better be start doing something. So after a bonus-second sprint with 3 to go (which 1st and 2nd GC went for at 100%) I upped it up a bit and took another Canyon-Bicycles guy (7th GC) with me. Nobody reacted really so I put my head down and kept going. 2 laps to go and we’re about to catch up to the break of two which been out front most of the stage. After sitting on for 1 ½ laps my “armchair-ride” companion decided to attack and tried to bridge solo to the break. Well, that didn’t sit well with me so I digged a bit deeper and after 5minutes I catch him just as he caught the break. The Bissell guy (Pinkham) was still riding well and the two Canyon guys were sitting on, hoping that their GC man would come up eventually. So it was my turn again, pulling for most of the remaining 1 ½ laps and telling Pinkham that he should go for the win since I’m just looking for the GC. He finally made his move with 2 K to go, won, and I crossed the line 10seconds back in 3rd. No reason to celebrate yet, as I had no idea how far back 1st and 2nd GC guys were. They didn’t cross line for another 1:30 minutes so it was finally in the bag.

snow had to be in the podium picture

Thanks to the following people: Paul & Tanna for being a great host in Utah; Jeremy Smith for putting on a great event and despite the conditions keeping his head clear and delivering a fine race weekend; ROL Wheels for giving me a comfortable ride both days on the Carbon 38mm Tubulars.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ronde von Manda / Ronde von Manor

Good weekend for Tulsa Tough. Two wins after making the right break both days. Manor: lucky in the sprint coming up on the left side. Manda: windy! Video is the Manda finish:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thoughts on Arriagada

Dude who finished 3rd GC, won the KOM, and Queen Stage 5 at the Vuelta Independencia Nacional last week got popped for anabolic steroid at Vuelta a Chile. I wrote a commentary for German cycling news web site here.

Marco Arriagada

Another cheater, just like all the other guys before. When guys get busted during races I did, too it even pisses me off. Just like Mitch Comardo about 1 1/2years ago. He cheated me and other riders. In Comardo's case, he got 3rd in the ITT and cheated everyone 4th place and lower. He was also part of the winning P/1/2 Team Time Trial team (BikeBarn) at TX State Championships. He got caught shortly after with Tamoxifen, 4-hydroxytamoxifen, Anastrozole, Letrozole and Clomiphene! I finished 4th that year with our team. So him cheating and taking all kind of chemicals cost us a podium spot and my teammates the chance to get a bronze medal for their hard work. It sucks. Those guys should never be allowed in our sport again.

Vuelta Wrap-Up and Pictures

Stage 6 was split in two parts. A 120K in the morning, and a 10K TT in the afternoon. Pan-flat TT course at the Mirador del Sur park, one 180degree turn-around. I wish I'd had brought my TT bike after all, but would have been another $300 out of the budget. Ended up 10th with some clip-on bars, and a Retro helmet courtesy of Nathaniel. Thanks! Loaned my Front ROL deep-dish wheel to Rob Squire of the U23 National team and he went on to finish 8th and got he got his hand on the U23 Leader jersey with that ride. Congrats!

Stage 7 featured a few hills towards the Western part of the D.R. (Bani etc.) but nothing to challenging. Very windy. A 5-man break was up the road and we missed it. So I tried for some redemption and a Dutch guy and me went clear with 20K to go, chasing the break and staying away from the field. Well, almost. Thanks to the "nice roads" of Bani I flatted my rear tire with 1.5K to go...Dutch guy ended up finishing 6th, and I rode the flat (clincher) to the finish but only to get caught with 300meters to go. On a flat run-in to the finish it shouldn't have been a question about making it, but with two 90degree turns and some nice metal-crossings in those turns it was hard to stay upright on a 0psi clincher. Tubulars would have been good today.

The final day was a pretty challenging actually on a park/urban course in Santo Domingo. Quite a few "kickers" in there and a lot of guys got dropped (and lapped) on that final day. The Colombians won the field sprint (again) and I ended up 14th on the day. Felt good, but not great. 8 days of racing caught up with me.

The next day it was off to Miami for some quick R&R before heading back to Texas later the same day. Pictures from the whole trip below:

Vuelta continued - Stage 5 (Jarabacoa)

Stage 5 to Jarabacoa was the toughest stage in terms of elevation with 3 KOM's and a finish in the mountain city of Jarabacoa. Usually, this is where GC is made during this Tour and so was it today. I remember 10years ago we rode that thing in the pouring rain and the climbing wasn't too bad. Today, though it was sunshine and 90F so another hot day in the saddle. I figured I can't climb with the on-form South Americans and *maybe* get Top 30 if I really push it. So I decided to try to get in an early break and work on some Meta Volantes and try to make it as far as possible before the field catches us. The first 10-15minutes of the stage was an all-out effort as I tried to get into the right group. It took forever. I already gave up and started to fall back a bit when I decided to give it one more try and just slowly pushed the 53x11...nobody seemed to take me up on it so I ended up doing 65miles off the front by myself. At one point, I had 4minutes on the US-lead peloton but I knew it was just a matter of time before they caught me. At 120km, just before the first KOM I got caught and rode in the gruppetto with some US boys & Zach. Good day on the road and got myself 15 points for the MetaVolante jersey. The hotel in Jarabacoa was nice! a 5-star resort and a huge improvement to the bunkbeds we stayed in 10years ago on that stage.

my view for most of the day

Jarabacoa housing

Video recap from Stage 5:

Wes had his Garmin 500 for this stage and if you're interested in some geeky elevation, heart rate, and speed profiles then check out the file from Stage 5 here.

Vuelta continued - Stage 3 & 4

Stage 3 saw us going back to Santo Domingo mainly through the countryside and then a bit on the beach-front road with a finish at the Faro a Colon, the monument where part of Christopher Columbus' remains are being stored. It's a giant concrete building which was finished in 1992 as part of the 500-year anniversary of the discovery of the New World. The stage was not too exciting, USA U23 controlled the front and no break got anywhere and it ended up being a field sprint. It was also the longest stage with close to 170km. Nate had a bad wreck and I got to see everything right next to me but that kid just bounces back and back and finished the race just a minute down even though his chin required stitches after landing face first on the tarmac. Zach learned how to pace int he caravan (and behind it) today....well done!

Kolt after Stage 3, Faro a Colon

Stage 4 was a 135km leg from Santo Domingo's Velodrome towards the inner country - to San Francisco de Marcoris to be exact. As far as I remember, that was a stage my teammate Rene Obst won back in 2001. The stage profile was a bit more rolling hills today but nothing spectacular. A group of 5 or 7 got away early and by the time we go to the highest point of the stage we caught them thanks to Venezuela and Colombia driving the pace on the 4-6% steep highway road going 26, 27mph. Wade & I made a front split of about 60(?) guys. Venezuela took it in the gutter for the last 30km of wind-exposed roads into town but it was okay to just sit in there. Ended up 27th or so on the day after a very exciting and dangerous finish with a nice 90degree left turn with 300(!)m to go. Of course, a crash in the last 500m was there, too but luckily that was behind me. After lunch, we rode our bikes on dirt roads to our hotel - trying to avoid 10ft deep manholes...I think someone just stole the steel covers! To our surprise, at the end of the dirt road was a nice resort/hotel!

post-stage 4 housing

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vuelta Independencia Nacional (UCI 2.2)

Back in 2001 the Vuelta Independencia Nacional was my first UCI race outside of Europe and I remember a pretty exciting trip for a 19-year old kid. So when I was asked to go down again I thought it would be good to see how things are 10 years later and maybe get to see some old friends. Most importantly, though doing a 8-day stage race in mid-February is a great way to get ready for a long domestic season in the US. There's no much better way to get the "moto" going then doing a week of medium-intense racing in. The racing is not easy by any means but not too intense to crack you or make you dig too deep. So as long as you stay off the pavement and don't get sick you get a great training effect out of it - mostly done at 43-45kph for most stages. Most of the Latino teams (Venezuela, Colombia, etc.) have done quite some races already and the local teams from the D.R. are eager to show themselves at the front at the highlight event of Dominican Cycling throughout the year - culminating with the last stage being held on February 27, the "Independence Day" of the DR.

back in 2001...

...and 10 years later in 2011

I was guest-riding with a young group from Texas (Park Place) and even with me, the "old" guy, our average age of the team 22.5years! Zach, Nathaniel, Kolt, Wes & Wade, and Leo as DS made for a entertaining group for the whole trip. Stage 1 started with a 120km, 4-corner, circuit-race close to downtown. It was a short, traffic-eventful, ride from the hotel and even at 10am we already had 90F. After a short & light week of training and a day of traveling the legs felt a bit rusty and I was definitely not up to normal form. Kazakhstan showed up with 12 riders this year (on 2 teams) and were racing like mad-man out there. I don't know why the UCI allows 2 pretty much national teams from the same country in a race. They sure won't race against each other and in my opinion made the race a bit less open as you always had the "Borat-green" countering any moves - at least for the first few stages. A break of 13 stayed away and last year's Overall GC winner (and local rider) Sanchez won the stage. But we all made it through w/ out problems.

Park Place p/b ROTHE Training at start of Stage 1

Stage 2a was the first "real" stage when we hit the coast East of Santo Domingo and rode along the highway all the way to La Romana. Within the first 30km Team Kazakhstan (12 dudes, not 6 like all the other teams) took over at the front and put it in the gutter. It was hard but good and suddenly we're only 50guys left in the front group. I rear flatted right then hitting some metal piece on the shoulder. I stopped and 45seconds later the rest of the field browses by. After a wheel change I make my way through traffic thanks to our Hyundai Piccolo(sp?) back to the tail end of the large field which got dropped by our front group from earlier. I was not a happy camper, especially since some Colombians decided to take this group in the gutter while trying to catch the front 50guys. After a few pulls and some "organized yelling" we caught up the front again. Wade and I made it to the finish in the front group. The race commissaries didn't like my pacing after my flat and gave me a 1min time penalty...:-( It was a rough stage. We got to hang out for a few hours at a local Museum with pool (?), eat and sleep.

guys catching a break between half-stages at La Romana Retreat-center/museum

Stage 2b to Higuey was going to be short and punchy. Only 48km with crosswinds and the famous little "valley" where you descent on a shitty road, cross a bridge, and then ride up a short, steep climb on - I have to say - very nice, wide open tarmac. We all made it over there but the flats hit us again and Wade flatted right next to me as he hit another giant pothole. USA U23's Larry hit the same hole I think, broke his carbon front wheel, and did a somersault but luckily didn't break anything and was able to continue. The crosswinds made it a bit tricky but I was able to stay up the front and just follow wheels until the finish. Funny note: Rob Squire was in the yellow jersey after Stage 2a but the old leader (local D.R. rider Sanchez) still got to wear it on Stage 2b while the USA controlled the field and rode at the front the entire 48K. Not sure what to think about that, but I think Squire was not happy. If you're leading a UCI stage race you should get to wear the leader jersey and not someone else.

the "hill"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fun on the MTB

The cold weather this week forced most of us (cyclist) to improvise a bit. Riding the trainer is one option but getting out on the CX or MTB was another. Thanks to Robert I had a Cannondale Lefty still sitting in the garage and that's how this week of training ended up being - MTB miles. If you gotta get in 3-41/2 hrs or so on the road and the weather is like this...then you might as well get in ~3hrs on the MTB. Best thing, you don't get cold as quick as you're moving the whole time (at least if you're off-road).

So after living for 3years in the ATX I finally went the first time down the Greenbelt. As a "true roadie" with a bit of CX experience it was lots of fun. Tuesday afternoon it was chilly around 30*F but at least the sun was out and we had blue sky. Great 2.5hrs down there:

On Wednesday it started to get a bit colder and the sun was gone but by now we had a good group together. Early afternoon super-sprinter Willy Ross & his friend (name?), Adam G, MMayo and I hopped on the 'belt and spent some time on trails I've never imagined we had in Austin. Very challenging for "roadie" again and they had to wait a few times for me :-) But it got better over time. So much to learn. When riding road bikes or TT bikes you often think you know it all but once you're off-road and some big dudes on fat tires ride away from you you're starting to doubt your own ability. Steep learning-curve for me for sure. I ended up close to 3hrs. Later that day we went to PURE gym and sure enough I see WRoss teach a intense spin-class only 3hrs after our "little" excursion to the greenbelt. He's got lots of energy!
quick photo-stop at a chilly 26*F with Ross + friend, Mayo and Adam's taking pic

a chilly Willy w/ Greenbelt drop in background. He tough a 1hr spin-class a few hours later!

Thursday it got even colder and I still had no intentions to hop on the rollers so I headed out to Slaughter Creek South West of town and did a few laps there. Almost missed the automated/timed gate-closure at 6:35pm but got in a couple of hours on a easy trail comparing what we did the days before.
down to 25*F now on Thursday afternoon

Then finally on Friday, the snow was here! Last time I got to have some fun in the snow on the MTB was a year ago back home in Germany with my old teammates. If you got the right bike, the right (lower) pressure in the tires, and the right trail it's even more fun than just riding on dirt. Most of Austin had a "Snow Day" and so had Adam, Kelly, and I ;-) I thought most the snow didn't make it all the way on the trail with all the thick trees etc. but it was actually pretty "white" down there. But my mid-day most of it started to melt already (at least what was exposed to the sun) so we got pretty dirty in the 2-3hrs we spent down there. Kelly got "skillz", that's for sure. I rode with him at the first Mellow Johnny's Classic 2 years ago and we were head-to-head quite a bit off the back but he spent some serious time off-road and I can definitely tell. I wouldn't even think about riding up stuff, and he just does it. Pretty cool. Some pics from Friday's "excursion":

Kelly smiling... comin' in hot....

Mulch Hill... Adam G taking a break