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"