Friday, October 26, 2012

Product Review: ROL Wheels

Since 2 years I’ve been training and competing using wheels made by ROL Wheels, a local Austin-based company. I’ve raced on many, many wheels in the past – alloy, carbon, clincher, aero, deep-dish, low-profile, tubular – you name it. Having lived and raced bicycles in Texas and the region it is good to have the support of a local company. Not only do they provide me with their latest products but I feel like they actually care about my feedback and want to know how their wheels endure under my daily training and weekly racing. I don’t have to call the customer service of some wheel company; I can just go straight do Sean Lambert, the CEO of ROL, check into the office, chat with the wheel builders, “talk shop”, and built a good athlete-business relationship. It’s awesome and I’m very thankful for their support and help in the last 2 years.

ROL 58 Carbon Tubular
The ROL 58 Tubies are my standard “go-to” wheel when I do road races or fast, technical crits. At 58mm they’re aerodynamic but still not too deep for the Texas wind. Mine have a set of in-house 3D forged ROL alloy hubs, Sapim spokes, and a basic 58mm carbon rim.  The Japanese steel bearings are super smooth and don’t require much maintenance. Those wheels weigh in at 1465grams and I’ve ridden them to race wins on the road and even in Cyclocross. The 21mm wide carbon rim usually meets with a Vittoria EVO SC 23mm tubular tire as my preferred wheel/tire combination. When used in Cross, I put on 32 or 33mm Challenge Grifo tubies (with the “Belgian tape” method for added support). Even with bumpy Crits (think bricks) or Cross (think dirt, logs, sandpits, roots) I’ve never been able to get them out of true or break a spoke on these wheels!
Carbon 58 all blacked out. Only shows it's true decals with flash at night!
Sporting the 58 Tubular Rear and 38 Tubular up front at 2011 Ruts 'N Guts in Oklahoma
The new ROL logo becomes visible with flash
ROL C58 Carbon Clincher
If you’re looking for a nice, lightweight, stiff carbon Crit wheel yet don’t want to mess with gluing tires then this is what I' would recommend. Why spent $2700 on a set of ZIPP 404 Carbon Clinchers when you can get these for half the price? I use a set with DT Swiss 240 Hubs and I race pretty much every local Thursday Night Driveway Crit on it. I’ve never owned a pair of carbon clinchers until Sean gave me those to try and I love ‘em! They are very durable, stiff, with 20 spokes up front, and 24 in the rear. The Driveway is a race course where you can see some of the highest power numbers all year long, given the nature of the race course and the competition. Lots and lots of force being pushed onto the pedals but these wheels never failed on me. No hassle in case you flat riding out to the Driveway, you can change your tube like a regular clincher yet you have a nice carbon race wheel. I also raced a pair of these in a 7-day stage race in the Dominican Republic, where we encountered many potholes and some rough roads....But except one flat these wheels held up on Central American roads (and off-roads!). I usually run Michelin Pro 4’s (23mm) on these rims; again they’re 21mm wide.
C58 - Crit wheel!
The C58 Carbon Clincher is a great every day crit wheel, aero yet light and quick to respond
ROL 38 Carbon Tubulars
Just like the ROL 58 Tubies, the C38 wheels are made for road racing, with the slight difference that they’re a bit lighter, more low-profile at 38mm and good for hilly road and circuit races with climbing. I raced a set of these wheels - with Vittoria EVO SC 23mm tubular tires mounted -  all year in 2011 and won a few P12 races with them (road and cyclocross). They have crossed the Continental Divide at 7080ft. in the Gila National Forest at the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico and were my wheel of choice at the Tour de Depot in Salt Lake City, UT. In Utah, I put them to a test in freezing temperatures and sleet & snow. The perfect wheel if you’re looking to save some extra weight and aerodynamics don’t play a huge role. Weighing in at an amazing 1225grams!
The C38 carbon tubulars are a great mix of aerodynamics and lightweight. Here after winning Tour de Depot Stage Race in Utah
1210grams for the C38's!
ROL C25 Tubulars
Best climbing wheel I’ve ever ridden. No question, period! They feature the already mentioned DT Swiss 240 hubs, a 23mm wide and 25mm high full-carbon rim. Similar to a pair of Corima's. Weighing in at just 1100grams, too! You put a 23 or 24mm tubular tire on these bad boys and they’re a great wheelset to have when it goes uphill. I raced those at UCI Tour of the Gila for all stages (except the TT), including the downtown Criterium. Also ridden at the Joe Martin Stage Race's final hilly & 13-turn Crit – and no problem on these! Super stiff, supple and perfect in the corners. With the wider, 23mm rim you can run lower pressure and I usually would air them up to ~100psi combined with a 23mm Vittoria EVO SC tubular tire. These are still prototype and not in full production. But you might be able to score a pair to test-ride if you ask Sean nicely…!

The C25 Carbon Tubulars are great for hilly, technical Crits like Joe Martin Crit or Stillwater at Nature Valley
ROL Race SL Clincher
When it comes to every day riding, this is my wheel. Durable, durable, durable! A alloy clincher with a fat 23mm wide and 30mm high rim makes for a super comfy ride on asphalt, chip ‘n seal or even on a dirt or gravel road when you’re way out in the country. Weighing in at just 1520grams it’s the perfect training wheel. They’re very stiff (spoke count: 24R, 20F), corner really well and I feel very safe going down a fast, steep descent at 45+mph. For a rainy Crit I choose these wheels, too because I know they’re indestructible in any weather conditions, the brake surface is very robust and my SwissPads have good grip in rain and sunshine. I’m running some 23mm wider Continental Gatorskins with these wheels and combined with the wide rim I can run a comfortable 95-100psi for a normal day’s ride. They tire itself is actually 2-3mm wider once put onto a wide rim (see pic below). It’s pretty much impossible to pinch-flat these if you put a thick, heavy-duty tire on the rim. Note: these are tubeless compatible, too!
Race SL's
The Race SL's are great for dirt riding, as shown here at the 2012 Wooly Mammoth Ultra Provocatorio Invitationale
Put a 23mm Gatorskin on a 23mm rim and get a 25mm tire!
ROL Race SLR Clincher
Just like the Race SL, this wheel set features a 23mm wide rim and is tubeless-ready, too. Key difference here is the spoke count: SLR has 24 up front and 28 in the rear. In my case, they’re both double-laced in the front and rear as these are my Cyclocross wheels for every day riding. Super stiff and the double-laced spokes in the front make the wheel great for Cross where you tend to hit some objects pretty hard sometimes when out on trail. I’m running these as tubeless, with a 32mm wide KENDA Slant-Six tire and some Stan’s No Tubes sealant. The wide rim with the 32mm tires make for a great combination when I go out on some rough trails which usually feature roots, some rocks and other obstacles. I can ride over them at speed and keep up with my buddies on Mountain Bikes because I know I won’t flat on these bad boys. They’re my spare wheels for Cyclocross and on my pit bike. So in case I flat my ROL 58 Carbon Tubulars I know I got a set of the Race SLR tubeless wheels in the pit waiting for me :-)

My new favorite: The Race SLR with double-laced spokes front and back (24F/28R) and KENDA tubeless tires. Awesome wheel for every day riding on the trails, grass, sand, gravel, dirt etc.
And there’s more exciting stuff to come from ROL Wheels soon. For example, a new alloy tubular wheel is being tested right now and soon out for public release. Check them out at or call the office at 512-219-1145

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

US Elite Track National Championships

This year, the end of my cycling season looked a little bit different: Instead of 3-4hr road races I focused exclusively on the track. Yes, correct...track! People ask me: "I didn't know you raced track". And also "There's no velodrome in Austin, or"? True, there's no velodrome in Austin (not yet) but I grew up racing left-turn only and fixed gear. My hometown track was in Heidenau and I spent a TON of time there training and racing when I was a Junior and U23 racer. I remember doing 160lap Points races pretty much every Wednesday during the summer when I was a Youth(15/16) and Junior(17/18) rider. As a junior rider in Germany it's pretty much standard that you race on the velodrome so I did Nationals a few times but never with outstanding results. It was more to work on speed, learn how to race in large fields w/ out brakes and become a better rider overall.

Fast forward 12-15years and I'm in Carson, CA for my first US Elite Track National Championships. Well, I already did the Omnium Elite Track Nats in August (which USA Cycling separated from the regular Nats for the first time this year) and came away with the Silver there. But racing in L.A. at the Velo Sports Center at the "regular" Nationals was a bit different. Olympian Bobby Lea, who raced the Omnium in London 2012, was in attendance and several other heavy hitters (mainly road pro's) so the competition was a bit stiffer in L.A. But I was confident and knew I trainer hard for my 2nd National Championships as an US Citizen - finally, at age 31!

Individual Pursuit #1: Go as hard as you can for 4 1/2 to 5min and don't blow up or go out too fast. That's the rule of thumb. You can prepare pretty simple for it, on the track and off the track. I did a bunch of 5min intervals (see the screenshot of a training ride below), over and over, back-to-back with some short breaks. At Nationals you race a qualifying round first, and if you make it into the Top 4, you go on into the finals. I thought Top 5 (American Podium as I call it) was possible. I've done 4:55 in Houston on a bumpy track 2 weeks before and with the power numbers I was hitting in the intervals I knew I can go faster. I ended up 3rd into the qualifying around after I rode high 17's and low 18's for the 4K. I got a bit too excited and caught the other rider just 1K into my pursuit but I was able to pretty much hold the speed and didn't blow up. 4:43. 1.5seconds away from the 1-2 final, which Bobby Lea and Donoghue (guy who won Pursuit at Omnium Nationals) were going to contest. 

Scratch Race #1: For the Scratch we had qualifying heats not much after my pursuit. Change bars, gears and get going again. For those of you who never done a Scratch race, it's basically a Crit on the track. First rider across the line wins. So if it comes down to a sprint you gotta be in the Top 12 if you wanted to qualify for the Final in the evening. Halloway lapped the field solo early on after everyone in my heat let him just ride away. I figured I don't want to risk anything and wait until the final sprint and try to get Top 12. With 8 or 10 laps to go I went for it, attacked hard from top and just solo'd in for 2nd in my heat and ahead of the bunch. Morning session complete, back for more in the evening! 

Individual Pursuit #2: Back to the track for the "Little Final", where I raced Ian Burnett (Competitive Cycling). Basically you're trying to go as fast as possible again, just have to dig deeper. It's been a while (10+ years?) that i've done two 4K pursuit races in one day but I knew I had to go a bit faster than 4:43 (my morning time) to make sure to get that Bronze medal. Both of us rode very equally and made it a race. It was pretty awesome actually. For the first 2000m I looked over and saw Ian hitting the s/f line at back-stretch the same time like I did on the home-stretch. Since I started a bit more conservative and only rode a 1:11 for the first 1000m I knew I had something left in the tank. With 8 laps to go I dug deep and I came in w/ 4:41 and a new PR and secured 3rd behind Lea and Donoghue. 

Scratch Race #2: 15 minutes after my IP little final we already race the Scratch race final. I could tell I had a long day already. I didn't really have time to change gears so I raced a bigger gear than usual for that race and combined with some heavy legs that made for only a mediocre Scratch and a 9th place. Kind of disappointing but besides Lea (who placed 5th) all the other guys who raced the IP finals didn't do so well. Friday: off-day! Sleep-in, Ride to the beach and checking out the $$$$$$$ homes along Torrance Beach etc. Relax.

Points Race #1: As for the Scratch race, there were two qualifying heats for the Points Race. With Lea and Dan Holt (two-time Elite National Points Race Champion) in my heat I knew I had to pay attention and go with those guys to make sure I roll through easy. That's exactly what happened. 30 laps or so in 5 of us, including Lea & Holt) got off the front and ended up taking a lap to secure our spot in the Final in the evening; I ended up 4th.

Points Race #2: Saturday Night was pretty crowded, a lot more spectators, live-video coverage on the internet, and some big finals (Men's Keirin, Women's Sprint etc.). The Points Race was pretty much the last event of the evening so it was a long time before we actually got to race. warm-up, staying hydrated, eat some but not too much, keep mentally focused until 8:30 or so for 160 laps of Points Race fun. Again, I was confident I can pull of a podium, but it was going to be a bit tougher than just racing 4000m all out like in the Pursuit. Nothing would go far for the 1st 3rd of the race and I stayed conservatively. I rode in a bit smaller gear then the Scratch, too which allowed my a higher cadence and being able to jump/react quicker. At one point, Lea and 4 or 5 others got 1/3rd lap, then a 1/2 lap and looked like to lap the field. I wasn't there and not happy. Lea was the only rider who managed to gain a lap on the field, the rest came back. So we were racing for 2nd. I managed to win 5 points going off the front once. I sat out one sprint, relaxed, and went after another rider solo, caught up, got the sprint/points and was back in the field. With 10-point I sat 5th or 6th with maybe 30 laps to go. To be on the podium for sure, I need to get some more so I went off the front with another ride and we timed it just ride and I got the full 5 pts again, getting me to 15 pts, tied for 3rd before the last and final sprint. 3rd, 4th, and 5th was all at the same points and 6th wasn't far down, 1 point. I figured I won't be out-sprinting Halloway, Lea & Co. in the final sprint so w/ 2 laps to go I went after Moir who was off the front since 4 or 5 laps to go. I caught him with a lap to go but there were too many guys still trying to get onto the podium and I was caught with less than 1/2 lap to go and got no points. Still, 5th at the end of the day behind Lea, Halloway, Donoghue, and Holt.

The Madison: For the final day I teamed up with my main "rival" from Omnium Nationals earlier in August: Zak Kovalcik. He's got a sprint/acceleration I don't have on the track so we knew we could be in the hunt for a Podium spot. Only thing is: we never raced a Madison together! Last time for me was at Texas Cup at the Superdrome in Frisco a few years back and before that as a Junior back in Germany. So we just had a little bit of time to "sync" our throws and make sure our technique is good enough to give each other enough momentum. And we knew we had to make up our lack of never having raced together before by just pedaling harder! The Madison field was not too big, 9 or 10 teams; pretty normal for Nationals actually. Still, it was fast from the start and we it took us a while to make things smooth. Once or twice I ended up having to sprint whereas we had planned to have Zak for it. That cost us a bit but Zak did win the points when he was in position and we were sitting 5th or 6th for most of the 200 lap/50 km race. Several teams tried to take a lap but just came up short by less than 30 meters or so. That evened the way for Lea/Simes to take the win by 5points. We were doing okay, nothing stellar but had to fight hard for 5th. Zak scored another 2 points when he was "on duty" and we ended up 5th, just 2pts ahead of TeamTyper1's Holt & Eldrigde in 6th. Whew. Overall, not bad considering it was our "first rodeo" together. But yeah, we both know that with a bit more specific training and a few Madison's together we can compete for the Top3 rather than fighting for 5th place.

All in all a successful first trip to L.A. for Elite Track Nationals. Special thanks to my team, Tulsa Tough pb ICEdot, for their year-long support; the Superdrome and Alkek crowd for helping me at the local track/races etc., Shawn from Laguna Beach Cyclery for letting me use one of their Colnago road bikes while in L.A.; Todd Minehardt for donating some of his track gear to me; Max Bookman of MAX Training for helping me with some core/strength conditioning to get ready for Nats; and last but not least Wes for letting me use his super slick Speedsuit for the Individual Pursuit!

Now it's time to take some time off, and get back to some basic strength, conditioning training and a bit of Cyclocross here and there!

interval training example leading up to Nats. Goal: 375-380W for 4:45, and repeat!

IP Qualifying (photo: Erika Fulk)
IP Podium

Points Race Action (photo: VeloImages)

Felt, time to sponsor someone ;-)

Points Race Podium

My "cubicle" for the weekend

Torrance Beach

Was looking for "The Hoff"
Torrance Beach

Madison Podium with Zak

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday Nighter Road Clean-Up, Saturday, October 13, 9am

Yep, you heard it right: Fall Clean-Up for the "Nighter"! We're planning on giving the traditional "Tuesday Nighter" a little face lift.

City of Austin/Travis County recently cut & trimmed a bunch of trees & bushes along our favorite Tuesday Night course. Only problem is: there's tons of trash left and right along Thaxton Rd, Old Lockhart Rd, and Nuckols Crossing Rd. on the 9mile loop.

If you care about riding in South East Austin, and like to ride along "green roads" please come out or share this with your friends. This coming weekend is no CycloCross Race, no MTB Race, and no Road Race happening in Texas - and it's off-season! (Okay, it's ACL weekend but you can go later).

When: Saturday, October 13, 9am (plan on 2hrs or so)

Where: traditional Tuesday Nighter starting point on Thaxton Rd and Alum Rock Dr, Austin, TX (Map here:

What to bring: some solid shoes and good attitude! If you drive out, carpool and bring your pick-up truck.

We'll provide some heavy duty trash bags and gloves. Some refreshments, too. You can ride your bike out, too but make sure to bring a lock or even better, take your commuter bike.

Any questions? Email me stefanrothe81 at gmail dot com

See you Saturday morning!

Note: in the case of rain, we'll postpone for another weekend in the Fall/Winter and post something on the www in advance.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Elite Track Omnium Nationals

Whenever USA Cycling announced last Fall to hold the Omnium Nationals separate from the regular US Track Nationals and at the brand new, 250m Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill I knew I'm going! At least I was planning on. I just had to take care of one thing: get that blue passport in time. And it came; 3 weeks before I rode for the first time on the smooth concrete of Rock Hill's newest cycling track I was standing in San Antonio giving the oath and getting my US citizenship. Just in time.

Giordana Velodrome, Rock Hill, SC

It's been a while that I raced track so I knew I had to put in some work to get my form just right in time for the two-day, 6-event race. You never forget riding fixed gear and turning left, but the leg speed, high cadence, and accelerations is something you need to train if you want to get on that podium. And I did. Quite a bit. I went out many times doing multiple 4:40-5min efforts on S. Mopac here in Austin, trying to hold 400W on the road bike in a 92-96inch gear. Followed by a all-out flying Kilo. Couple that with a few moto-pacing sessions behind the car driven by Jen P. The local Thursday Crit, the Driveway, was another key component of my preparation. Lots of hard crit racing stuffed in 50-60minutes attempting to just go hard and setting new 20min wattage and TSS records. But most importantly, it was hitting the boards at the Superdrome in Frisco a few times, doing the local Friday night race, and some specific Flying Lap and Pursuit practice. Tim Goodwin gave me some sprint advice, whereas Suzie Tignor Goodwin made me chase her on her moto on the track. I also ventured to Houston to the Alkek Velodrome twice, never haven't raced there before all those years I lived in Texas. It's a a bit of a rough track but great for practicing and it sure helped doing some timed events there.

Omnium started with the 250m Flying Lap, a combination of skill and leg speed. I'm not a sprinter but with a good enough, fast lead-out I can sprint pretty okay. Riding on the track the day before and finding the line helped for sure. I ended up 5th w/ a 14.7 which I was happy with since I expected this to be my hardest challenge. Kovalcik, a former bike messenger from Protland, OR won easily with a 14.2.

In the evening we started with the Points Race and I was looking forward to it. 120laps is 40laps shorter from the format they do at Nationals or what I used to do back home but still, 30K is a good fit for an endurance guy like me. I was conservative early on and stayed busy keeping track of what's going on in the race. There was a time board but no intermediate results or standings were displayed. So you try to pay attention to the announcer and keep an eye on who's off the front and who's got a lap or not. That's the great thing about the mass start events, besides the physical strength and fitness you need to be on top of things in terms of tactics and knowing what's happening in your race. A guy from Chicago (Liam) ended up taking 2laps and I went with him once about half-way through. We were sitting 1st (him) and 2nd (me) after that. He had 17 or so more points. I was good with 2nd and just made sure nobody is trying to leap-frog me. After the Points, I was sitting 2nd to Kovalcik. The Elimination race was going to be a fast drag-race to the line, with 1 rider being pulled every other lap. I was sitting by the blue line, just making sure to make it to the last 2 or 3 riders. Everything went according to plan until it got down to Kovalcik and Dan Holt (Type 1). Both have a good kick, which I couldn't answer and I ended up 3rd. Still 2nd Overall, a few points behind Kovalcik. Day 1 was in the books.

Scratch Final (That's Wes Jerman's Speedsuit!)

Having teammates in the Omnium does not help too much but it was good to have some Texas folks around. Andrew Armstrong and Jake Boone (both of RBM, Dallas) were racing, too and we had some fun in our stall and it was great having someone around to give you splits for the Pursuit which started Day 2, the final day of Nationals. I knew this was going to be a event where I could make up some points on the current leader, Kovalcik, who's a much better sprinter than me. Since we were leading 1-2, we were seeded in the last IP heat. Liam of XXX Racing from Chicago had set a fastest time so far, a 4:46, pretty quick on that outside track. It's been a while that I did a true 4K effort on the track (besides the training on the road bike w/ the power meter) but I found my legs pretty quick and mainly 18's to come in 2nd with a 4:51, 7sec quicker than Kovalcik. 6seconds faster would have given me one less point in the Omnium and tie for first but that wasn't in the bag. It came down to the Scratch and Kilo later that evening. Fun Fact: Both Liam and I rode FELT TK2 alloy bikes to 1st and 2nd in the Individual Pursuit. Same goes for the Points race the night before, the FELT alloy bikes went 1-2, too. It is or is not about the bike I guess!?!

Pursuit. Thanks to Greg Saxon for the Assos Speedsuit :-)

The 60 (?)-lap Scratch is kind of a hit or miss - especially when it's an Omnium. If you mess up and finish 15th then you're Overall hopes are gone pretty quick. If you do well, you can stay at the very top. It was a fast race with lot of attacks but the race got tactical very quick. Holt was 3rd Overall and Kovalcik's teammate was not far behind. So we all chased each other down a few times and also Liam (the guy who won the Pursuit & Points) tried to get away; so did Holt who looked like to win w/ 10 laps to go but he got brought back. I did what I could and rolled in 8th in the field sprint won by Andy Crater. Still 2nd, a good cushion to 3rd, but the Overall was pretty much gone by now where Kovalcik had a 4 or 5pt lead now. Having the Kilo TT last, takes away a bit of pressure because you don't have a mass-start race to worry about for the last event. You just have to be motivated to do one last HARD effort against the clock and be done with it. I never went quicker than 1:13 on wood or concrete in the past and I saw some quick sub 1:10 times while warming-up. I thought I'd really have to dig deep to make sure I stay "on track" for Silver and not get leap-frogged by someone because of a messy Kilo. The Kilo was done in heats again and Kovalcik and I did the last heat again. I went as fast as I could and it was a painful minute and change but I surprised myself with a 1:10 which was good enough for 5th, secured 2nd place and a 3sec PR for this endurance guy.

There was no way I could have beaten a on-form Zach Kovalcik. So very happy with 2nd place in my first Elite Nationals. USADA intentionally picked the Top3 from the Kilo and I was happy to save some time and get out of there. But then they realized they made a mistake and needed the Top3 Overall so I had no time to pack my stuff together. My chaperon was like: "Let's go upstairs." Okay. Upon arrival, USAC guy said, "No, let's do podium first." Okay, down again in the elevator. Yes, you take the elevator down to the tunnel. Pretty cool with some tired legs. Finally, after the podium it was back upstairs and let USADA do it's thing. It was a short night, with packing all my stuff together, and we got up really early to drop off some wheels etc. at 24hr FedEx, return rental car at the airport, and get to the Terminal for flying back to Dallas. My Accelerade powder almost got confiscated by TSA, but they finally figured it wasn't 'coca' after they did some testing right there in front of me.

final podium (Holt, Urbanski, Kovalcik, me, Donoghue)

Special thanks to Thad Fischer, a good friend of and former DS of mine for making the Giordana Velodrome a reality and hosting a great Omnium Elite Track Nationals there.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tulsa Tough #7

An "original Okie" - teamate & superman/dad Chad Cagle is kinda big here in Tulsa
Another Tulsa Tough in the books! Since the first time Chris and the guys in Tulsa put on that race in 2006 I've been coming back every year. The 7th time now for me. And it gets better every year. The competition, the crowd, the support/involvement of the local community, and - of course - the payout.

We (Team Tulsa Tough) had an "Tulsa alumni" racing with us - Alex Welch - for some extra horsepower to support Chad and Jason in their quest for results in the sprints. Both those two did well all weekend, never finishing outside the Top 15 each day, and Chad getting 6th in the P/1 Omnium with Jason in 9th.

Mat during the "fireworks" on Friday Night At Blue Dome District © Cycling Illustrated
My task was to help out where I can and especially Saturday evening Mat & I were needed to help bring back a late break. For Chad and Jason but also because our ex-teammate Brad Huff was "a bit alone" at that point and I like see him doing well. We could do a bit of damage control and rotated for a few short laps before Jelly Belly & Optum took over. Chad got Top 10 again (9th I think) and Jason 15th. It ended up being a longer night again with a visit at the Brady Tavern for post-race dinner and a visit to the Soundpony - a must on a Saturday night in Tulsa if you're a cyclist and a Tulsa Tough is happening!
Brady Village Crit, with Huff in tow - © Cycling Illustrated
Soundpony - packed as always during Tulsa Tough

Sunday's race is the last and the hardest day of racing of the weekend. Besides the Stillwater Crit at Nature Valley GP probably the hardest Crit you can do on the NRC circuit. On that course, it's maybe 90% about fitness and 10% of getting in the right break at the right time. I usually go well, or really bad. 2010 I got 4th and my best NRC result to that point. Last year I was out long solo & chasing primes and such but ultimately called it a day on top of "Cry Baby Hill" before the race was over. This year was nothing special in performance...I waited 5 or 6 laps before I moved up to the front and found a good break-away partner in Eric Marcotte. We started riding well together for 3 or 4 laps and quickly established a 10, 15second gap. But I had to dig pretty deep going up "the hill" while he seemed to be smiling. Not sure what was going on but I realized I can't stand that pace on the hill much longer without "overheating". I had a okay Diesel that day, just no "Turbo". Eric seemed to have both as he ended up winning the race after getting caught by the field on the last lap and still won the sprint easily ahead of Ken Hanson and Brad Huff.

Chad and Jason both finished in the Top 15 again and Mat & I rolled in together with what was left from the "field". 75minutes equals 37(!) times going up Cry Baby Hill. It was hard. But you didn't really feel the pain because the thousand (?) people on the hill make so much noise that you kind of riding through there in "trance". It was getting out of control. Riding in the middle of the pack gives you some "safety" in terms of riding straight and not having to dodge 45year-old fathers in speedos, with blonde fake curly hair holding baby dolls. Or other grown man in cheerleader's outfit. Or Wonder Woman. It was good fun, though and I never felt "endangered" by the crowds. Most of them are cyclists or know about cycling and are aware of the fact that we're trying to ride a straight line up a hill and need some space to do so. The water hand-ups', water hoses, etc. were very welcomed for sure. I lost out on any big primes this time around BUT the folks are getting creative and while there's no more cash KOM on the hill anymore I was able to snag a dozen dollar bills from a number of "fans" who offered them in a "variety of places"...hand, mouth (?), back pockets, and others...

All in all, a great party again and I think I'm safe to say that a crowd like this on Cry Baby Hill is something I haven't seen anywhere else in the World before. I might have seen more people standing on the roadside or watching a Crit. But the way those fans get behind the race and into is amazing. There was some planning on going beforehand, even a stage was built days before on top of the hill to accommodate a live band. And the creativity of the crowd when it comes to outfits is great, too. Check out some of the best action shots here and in the below video by Keith Walberg (husband of Catherine Walberg, who races for the Tulsa Tough Women's Team).

Crowds on Cry Baby Hill
"Go Random Stranger! Go!"
And I thought it "stung a bit"... "smiling is his game face" I was told. Congrats to Marcotte on a stellar ride on Cry Baby Hill.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Back in Wichita Falls & OKC Crits

with "Pops" and Sheri before the ride at TCC

Thursday TCC Ride in WF

at the MSU Cycling statue just outside the Admin building on campus. Good memories leaving here for some punishing group rides with Mark Ernsting and the boys (and girls).

Mt. Scott in Wichita Mountains is always worth a stop.

Blurry finish at OKC ProAm Classic. 4th place, again :-(

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monster Energy vs. Red Bull 1:0

Heath "Heathy" Blackgrove fueled by Monster Energy got the better of me at the end of a hot & hard Glickman Crit on Saturday. The (sugar free) Red Bull lost this battle by a few inches... Thanks to Dan Apgar for the picture, though :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back in Ft. Davis and riding in El Paso

After skipping the "Hammerfest" last year to go to Utah's Tour of the Depot (and having to deal with snow!) we went back down to South West Texas for another edition of the 'highest' TXBRA race of the year - held at 5000-6800ft.
Friday evening spin with Bicycles Outback ;-)
Long-time promoter David Ham handed the race over to Holland Racing recently and Andrew changed the format up a bit, making it a 11mile TT up to the Observatory, a afternoon road race and another road race Sunday (that was the plan at least).

The P/1/2 race was a bit slim with only 19 guys, but still it hurt enough going up to McDonald Observatory in the TT. Pacing yourself was the key here, as it was just man/woman vs. time. I was lucky to have some guys in front of me to keep me motivated in ~40min of uphill-tt-mode. It was enough to win but just by 5seconds as Kiwi Ryan Wills (THSJ) rode a perfect TT, too and Kiwi Logan Hutchings (THSJ) took 3rd 1:30 back.
TrainingPeaks File here
This made for a fun road race in the afternoon since it was basically me vs. 4 THSJ boys but all I had to do was just to follow Wills and watch out who's going and who's not. Phil (SS) took off early with another THSJ guy and Troy Dunton so that worked perfect. Everyone just rode steady Tempo up the hill and it didn't really shake up much. We were maybe 10-15guys coming over the first pass. From there it was pretty negative racing since nobody would ride and the only time I had to jump was when Logs or Ryan went. Once we made the turn-around to go back towards Ft. Davis the air got a bit "sticky" and you could feel the smoke actually. Phil still had 3minutes or so but was no GC threat. A few other guys were dangling in between. There was one major climb, maybe 1.5-2K long and I went all-out up it and only Wills and Mario Arroyave were on my wheel. We started riding, but Wills wouldn't pull through. Just Mario and me. I didn't had to ride since I was leading but what should I do? Sit up and wait so the group re-groups and Wills has 2 teammates to work me over and let Phil get gain more and more time and take over GC? OR ride it with Mario and Wills and make sure we stay in sight of the leaders on the road but risk getting jumped by Wills and if he just gains 5seconds on me I shuffle down to 2nd GC. I decided for the latter, rode hard with Mario and Wills was sitting on for the majority. He tried jumping me probably 3-5times on the flats / rollers and Mario got dropped. I was able to respond every time, though. Once we got some guys who were in no-man's land he still refused to work (don't blame him, though) and that gave Logan and a few others time to catch us on the descent. THSJ attacked left and right - even on the downhills but I felt good and was able to respond. "Heartbreak Hill" - our finish line - was close so we all just sprinted for 3rd place and I just made sure I finish ahead of Wills, which I did. So all good for the day.

Unfortunately the wildfires in the area got worse as the weekend went on and the officials had to call the final stage on Sunday (73miles) which was a major bummer. The smoke was just too dangerous and all Emergency vehicles/sherriff's in the area where busy dealing with evacuating the Davis Mountain Resort etc. With the race canceled, there was no stage 3 and I ended up winning. Never had that happen before to walk away with a GC without racing the last day/stage. Kind of weird. I sure wish we could have raced and get in another 3 1/2hrs of hard work on the bike in before heading further West to New Mexico.

fires in the distance
Friday evening fire/smoke looking from Prude Ranch West

I drove to El Paso in the morning to get out of the already thin smoky air and ended up riding there for a few hours there. It's been a while (6years) that I rode a bike in ELP but it was actually not too bad at all. TransMountain Rd into the Franklin Mountain State Park is the place to go for some climbing and I did a loop from the East to the West over the 5280ft Pass back down towards I-10 (10-13min of descending at 30-40mph!) and the Valley and then back to town via HW85/Paisano Dr along the Rio Grande. That was actually quite interesting. You can throw a rock to Mexico from the sidewalk. There's some high fencing everywhere and every 1/2mile a border patrol car. People (on the other side) are hanging out at the river, listening to music (loud) and kids are playing in the Rio Grande river. There's a small road (Anapra Rd) which actually crosses the Rio Grande and you can ride your bike over and you're pretty much in Mexico. I stopped by the "Camino Real" - a historic site/point which settlers/travelers used back in the 16-19th century to cross from the Gulf of Mexico towards the Pacific or just to settle in the (now) New Mexico area since it was the lowest (elevation) of crossing the Rockies to go West.

riding up Transmountain Rd East to West
view from above, looking South
view for the 10minute descent heading down to I-10
Rio Grande looking from Tejas to Mexico

view to Mexico right from HW 85