Monday, April 28, 2014

Joe Martin Stage Race, Stage 3 & 4

After our Saturday morning cruise with coffee & sticky Buns we took on Stage 3 of Joe Martin. Another 110miles but comparing to Stage 2 I knew it was going to be much harder. The Hogeye course is painful when really "being raced" and the constant winds (20-30mph) were an indicator of a hard 4+hr race.

At first, I pinned my number just like teammate & 'Ze Boss Ben Spies would have done ;-)  These cloth numbers are awesome by the way. Austin promoter Andrew Willis had them last year for Tour of Austin already. I hope other promoters catch on and we'll more of these throughout the season.

As planned, Adam took the initiative early and started the early break. 5miles in and he was up the road with 3 other guys with almost 2minutes to the field. JAMIS set Tempo and Tony and I tried to stay cool for the end. With these long 100+mile races, it's clear that the last hour of the race will be the hardest if the first 3hrs are slow/tempo-only. The break (w/ Adam) got caught after just one lap and the next 2 laps not much happened. Finally, with 1 lap to go on the Hogeye Loop it got harder & the attacks from other teams put the leader's team a bit under pressure as we raced full on that last lap. Going over the steep feed zone climb, a group of 5 or 6 was off the front and the field blew to pieces as the GC race was officially on with 30miles to go. Over the top of the climb Tony and I found ourselves in the front split with ~18 other riders and the yellow jersey. We did what we could and rolled through but it wasn't really our duty to chase the break down as the Yellow Jersey was defending all kind of attacks from Kenda & SmartStop & Optum. The rest of the pack was out of sight for 30minutes or so and at one point it looked like this was it. But, it's bike racing so a 2nd, larger group (what was left from the broken up field) got back on with us and now a group of 45-50 guys rolled FAST to the finish line. It came down to a sprint and Tony and I finished in the group, just happy to make it and be done for the day. Jacob & Justin Stanley got caught up in an early crash on lap #1 w/ Jacob flatting and not being able to finish. Stanley crashed hard on his (2013 collarbone-broken) shoulder and finished but probably can't race tomorrow. To give you an idea about the difference of speed/power. 1st lap: 51min, 23.9mph & 200W avg 4th (final) lap: 57min, 26.7mph, 265W avg. MVP was Adam today who was aggressive early on, made the break, got some sprint points, got us water just before the final time up the hill. Great teammate!
last lap & the field was slim. Adam (far left) still there helping us to position for the final time up the hill! JAMIS did an incredible job all 3days riding on the front. photo: Dean Warren

What hydration should look like during a NRC stage race: pan y agua! Had beers AFTER the crit on Sunday.

The final day, Sunday & Stage 4, was the Crit. Besides the Stillwater Crit at Nature Valley & Cry Baby Hill @ Tulsa Tough I think this is the hardest one day race/Crit I do all year in the US. A very selective, technical course and if you want to make it in a break you're usually paying for it later. Very hard to be off the front, and just hard jockeying for position in the 85minute Crit. Tony was still close to Top 25 GC and I was somewhere around 30th. Instead of just sitting in and waiting for a sprint  - and not having a true sprinter here for the Crit - we wanted to at least race. I sat in and felt decent but not great. With 10 laps (25min) to go they rang the bell for the final bonus sprint and a small group was up the road. I figured, now it's time to do at least something so jumped across on the S/F hill and got the prime the next lap. The race was so controlled (as most every year I've done that since 2006?), though that I knew a break is not going to make it. I just sat up and was back in the field while the "break" was caught 1/2 lap later. A new race started with 6 or 7 laps to go went it started to rain. I slowly felt the lactic acid in my legs and drifted further back. Tony & Adam held their own while I tail-gunned it for a bit and just rode the last few laps with a few other guys. Adam did a solid job getting 15th in what was left of the shattered field while Tony lost a few seconds on the day but still rounded out the whole weekend in 31st GC (me in 41st & Adam 57th). Great weekend all in all, though and I am looking forward to more racing with my 'broz at the end of May.

on the front before the rain hits

Full results from last weekend here:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Joe Martin Stage Race, Stage 1 & 2

Back in Arkansas for Joe Martin Stage Race. Done that race now 6, 7 or 8 times? This year with ELBOWZ and it's pretty as usual up here. A few impressions from the last 3 days below:

beautiful day to be at Devil's Den State Park

added some extra weights to meet the 6.8kg UCI weight limit
party in the back, business up front. Ended up with a 9:01 for the TT
Day 2, easy pre-race spin: the Frisco Trail through Fayetteville is as good as it gets. No race photos today. Ended up 23rd after 100miles of somewhat easy riding and 10miles hard racing up Mt. Gaylor. Tony & I were safe in the bunch.
Day 3:  easy spin w/ Adam & Stanley. We're in Razorback Country!

They take their Tailgating seriously. Go Hogs!

Old VW on the Square
Farmers Market, sans Adam's face.
Farmers Market, with Adam's face. He's enjoying the scenery
If you're in Fayetteville, go to Little Bread Company and check out their Pecan Sticky Buns and Rolls. Funny crowd there, too. Mix of old and young, hip and not-so hip. This morning, kids playing guitars and singing....and dancing ("Flower Child Dance" by the guy on the left)
More updates from Stage 3 coming soon!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

From Within: Tour of New Braunfels RR

February 2nd, it's early in the year, it's cold (40F), you haven't raced a road race for 4+ month and yet still - it's time to pin on that number and get that first race of the season out of the way and into your legs.

After a good "winter" with a good mix of Cyclocross, strength training, and road riding I took a little (forced) break right after TX State CX Champs. The annual "cold/sinus infection/cedar-fever" hit me the first week of January and gave me a solid 7-10days off the bike. Once I was ready to train again I started getting in some good miles solo and with some of my new teammates on my new Specialized Tarmac SL4 bike and felt better from week to week. By the time January 31st came around I had 1000miles in my legs which is good for me that time of the year, especially given the week off in early January.

My goals for the year are not until late March/early April and the summer so I know that the first few races will always hurt, no matter what (the highest Watts / highest HR I reached in the last month were caused by angry dogs chasing me in Caldwell or Hays County and I had to sprint to get away!) Tour of New Braunfels was no different. I chose to skip the 90min circuit race on Saturday in favor of riding at home and avoiding all the usual-early-season-race-jitters which turns out DID happen "en masse"...

For the 81mile road race we had a small trio of Colin, Justin and myself. It was a decent P12 field with 70+ guys I believe at the start. Besides the Texas "regulars" there were a few heavy hitters from out of town with Joe Schmalz and part-time Texas-training-resident and 2012 Canadian Road Champion Ryan Roth (who won the "Omloop" the day before). The new course (used by race promoter Tobin Behling & crew since last year) - 3x27mile laps - is one of the best in Texas in my opinion. Also used for a Texas tradition - the Tour de Gruene - held in November each year. Riding down River Rd along the Guadalupe River and back up the rollers of FM2722 make for a scenic "ride" if you open your eyes while racing.

The race started off with the usual early attacks and lots of shuffling. I spent the first 20-30minutes in the last third of the pack catching up with a few friends I haven't seen or talked to for a while. It was good. I think the 1/2 espresso I had right before the start got me all "chatty"....and I was just waiting until something "promising/real" goes up the road. There was one move up on FM2722 (25mph head/cross winds) but 787 brought it back as far as I remember. Coming into Sattler we went single file starting to go down River Rd. It was fun & fast. Somewhere after bridge crossing #4 there was a lull moment in the front after a attack was just brought back. Colin & Justin were in the front 1/3 of the pack being attentive. I "smelled" something needs to go NOW. So I went. Not real hard, 1150W kinda hard up one of the tiny ascent on the mainly flat/descending River Road. I drilled it for 20-30seconds and looked around to not really see a reaction. I was solo and we were barely 20miles into the race. I thought: "okay, someone join me so I don't have to be out here solo and be brought back in 3minutes and waste my matches since I only have so many right now." After 5minutes or so I saw Ruarri (787) and Justin (!?) coming from behind, chasing hard. I thought "mhh, okay why not." Sure enough they won't let two guys from same team and 787 get away, though and once Justin and Ruarri made contact I could see Boneshaker and a yellow helmet ride up from behind. It was Heath (who won ToNB 2011 & 2012) and Carlo Villarreal, a kid I used to coach back when he was 14years old and crushed grown-man in the Cat 4's (now riding for Volharden/Williams Racing Academy). We went fast down to the end of River Road and the gap was growing.

We worked well together for the next lap. The gap was at 1:30 but I didn't think this was it; for sure someone else/the teams who missed out on the break would be chasing hard and bring us back or at least we could get company. But no, nobody in sight. I told Carlo to skip some of the downhill/tailwind pulls/turns since he was on junior gears. Amazing that he bridged up w/ Heath on the false-flat of River Road in the first place! He told me he's getting a bit cold towards the end of lap 2 (no leg warmers, it was 40F and 25mph North winds!) and unfortunately flatted right after we finished our 2nd lap. We had a decent gap still at 1:30-2min at that point but no follow-vehicle. So Carlo called it a day. Tough luck.

Going up FM2722 for the last time we checked in with moto-ref-extraordinaire Mike Gladu on the gap: he just signaled us to look back and 'Damn', the field was split and strung out chasing hard maybe 45seconds or so down. I thought, 'yeah, too good to be true I guess'. We were going steady, somewhat hard but not "pinning" it the whole time. Apparently Roth, Pincus and Tristan Uhl (787) were chasing hard (TUhl didn't know his teammate Ruarri was in the break until AFTER the race). I figured we need to up it a notch in order to stay way. I think everyone realized that, too and even though we were in the small ring most of time on the rollers on FM2722 we went a bit harder. I think that gave a blow to the chase as we started to gain time again and by the time we got on River Rd the final time we had a solid 3min gap to the chase/what was left of the field. I started to think about how (edit: we) can win this race. I know I don't have the legs to just ride away. 80miles steady at ~300W is no problem but "kicking it" hard at the end was going to be a bit of problem. Rolling down River Road, ~5miles from the finish I told Justin to attack soon. Well, Heath is smart and he did attack first just before the 2nd bridge/water crossing. I had my "standard" 1100W again but that wasn't enough when Heath went (he's on incredible form right now already and just a level above everyone else; he won Copperas Cove 2 weeks ago solo, too). Justin, Ruarri and I did damage control and we rotated but I knew we were just racing for 2nd place. I put in a small dig in to make sure we get the rest of the two podium spots; Justin came in 3rd, Ruarri 4th.

Well, you might look at the results and think "why didn't they win? they were 2:1 in that break". Well, that's easy said if you were not IN the break. Going ball$ out to the wall in early February is not everybody's game, certainly not mine. And while Justin is riding really well this early season, and my form is coming along Heath is a bloody smart racer and super strong. No matter what part of the year. So credit to him. 2nd and 3rd in the first race of the year is a solid start for our "new" team. I was proud of how the three of us raced.

A few random stats you might be interested in:
  • 4 out of 4 riders in the winning break on clincher wheels/tires
  • the top 3 were Specialized Tarmac SL4's bikes (54, 56, 58cm - in that order)
  • 4 out of 4 guys in the break rode with a Power Meter (one SRM, two Quarq's, one Vector).
  • Numbers: 81m / 3:32hr / 3500kJs / 315W NP / 280W Avg / HR avg. 162 / TSS: 304 / 3900ft climbing / Temp avg: 41F
1 lap to go (photo credit: Philip Shama, Shama Cycles)