Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nature Valley: The Rest of the Week

Now that I'm firmly planted in reality, I feel like I can give a decent recap of the rest of the events from the NVGP. I'm sure if you've made your way to my blog, you've probably already seen the results, so here is a little background on each day of racing in Minnesota.

Thursday was supposed to be a 65 mile road race, but mother nature had other plans. The race typically breaks up pretty significantly under normal circumstances, but with tornaders brewing off in the distance, the winds were whipping around at 30-50mph all day. With the conditions like this the field was amazingly antsy. I've never seen a field of confident professionals fight for position like this. Everyone was really nervous and sketchy even during the neutral rollout because we knew that in the crosswinds the field should be blown to pieces in no time. I just kept wondering if this was what it was like in Belgium or Holland. We raced nervously and defensively for about an hour with no smaller groups really developing. Soon we heard the moto referee coming through the field yelling about tornado's and he said he had to turn around and go home.

I "bridged up" to the "lead group" of people hammering back to shelter. Rory Sutherland was driving the pace and I sat on, amazed that he was just cruising at 27 mph or so dragging us all around on our way back to town. I guess Rory's JRA pace is similar to my Time Trial pace. So THATS why he took 1:30 out of me over 6 miles...

Once back to town, the Start/ Finish area had been torn down and everyone was high-tailing it outta there. We did the same. The race refs just decided to act like the day never hap pend and we moved on to the next stage.

Friday was another criterium on narrow streets and at high speeds. Not much going on for me here. Paul took his call up and used it to go from the gun. He started a break that stayed out front until; the halfway prime, some solid face time for the team. I felt more comfortable that the first crit of the week, some of that probably had to do with not hitting a parking meter. The finale approached and the chaos commenced. I participated to a mildly lame extent and was able score myself a "Top 23", a result that I'm sure got the attention of all those pro teams.

The Menomonie Road Race was on Saturday and it was a new course with a handful of steep climbs that the promoter intended to break of the race. We didn't really race the harders climbs hard enough to cause the devastation the promoter had in mind, but the cumulative effect of all the climbing over the first 80 miles did start to wear down the field. As we approached Menomonie, after a series of decent little climbs the field finally started to break up. I was on the good side of these splits and with the front group. My legs felt decent enough and we started the decent into town and I must have hit something because I blew out my rear tire. I drifted backwards out of the group with my arm in the air.

I pulled over to wait for out team car. All of thr groups and team cars passed me as I stood with my rear wheel in my hand. When our car arrived I got it changed and started to attempt to motorpace myself out of DFL on the road. I got a solid 30 second of helf from the car and then we hit the 5x2 mile finishing circuits, where no motor pacing was allowed. Shit. I waved our driver away and set out alone to complete the last 10 miles. Needless to say I went significantly slower than the field. Being realistic with myself, I decided chasing in vain wasn't the best idea, considering the damn Chilkoot Hill was looming in the next days crit. I rolled the 10 miles at a steady but conservative pace and conceded 7:30 or so to the main field, plus another 20 second penalty because I didn't get out from behind the car soon enough once we hit the circuits. Aaaand tack on 50 bucks to USA Cycling for my infraction. Annoying day to say the least.

Prior to the day's debacle I was steadily climbing the GC into a spot in the money, but that was out the window with the most recent developments.

Sunday was the infamous Stillwater Crit with the 20% grade Chilkoot Hill and 150 ft of climbing per 1.2 mile lap, we were slated for 20 laps. Some say this wasn't as bad as Snake Alley, but I think those in that department must have had better legs than I on Sunday because I thought it was brutal compared to the Snake Alley and the Joe Martin Crit. Either way, the mission was simple: stay with the front group as many time over the hill as possible.

I felt pretty decent for the first 10 laps and was able to climb it as fast as anyone in the front group and feel like I had a bit left in the tank in case of emergency. After lap 11 I began to feel the burn. I started to go backwards each time up it and lost contact on the 13th or 14th time up. I rode a few more laps with Phil Gaimon and we caught up as we were waiting to be pulled and given a time. Phil got tired of waiting and gave the commisares the "throat slash" and pulled off to the side. I did another lap alone and was allowed to retire and still get a spot in the overall, even it it was a poor one. I watched the last few laps and waited for Rory to deal his death blow. It was as impressive as I'd imagined it would be. 53x15 or so at the base of the climb and he made the rest of the field look like the belonged in the kids race. Impressive sir.

I was glad to have completed the NVGP without too much difficulty, but definitely left myself plenty of room for improvement. Plenty. My legs still feel pretty good after a few rides this week, so hopefully I can parlee the racing up there into some good from down the road.

Off to Maderia, Hyde Park and Grandview this weekend.

I've been pondering the douschiest maneuver I saw performed by any pro during the week's racing, and it's been tough to sort through the many I catalogued. Nick Frey was at it again, but even though he hearly killled me once and wrecked his own dumb ass out off Stillwater solo, he doesn't get the D-bag Maneuver of the Week Award. That honor goes to Phil Douschejachek (Zajichek) of Fly V for blatantly shoving Alex Wiesler for no apparent reason at the least critical moment in a very boring part of the Menomonie RR. Alex was not in his way and Phil had absolutely no grounds for dousching it up so severely. Get off your high-horse Phil, you're a dousche.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nature Valley Grand Prix

Yesterday was the first day of the NVGP, an it was a double day. We had a 6.1 mile TT in the morning, then a 75min crit downtown in the evening.

I felt decent in the time trial, but couldn't manage to get my pacing right.  The course was a bit tricky because it was downhill with a tail wind on the way out, and obviously the opposite on the way back, plus you had a little kicker and a 0.7 mile climb to the finish.

I really tried hard to conserve, but I just couldn't get myself to o easy enough.  I went way too hard on the uphill at about 1.2 miles to go and then was too far into the red at the base of the climb and was basically crawling up it. I thought it would never end. My legs did feel pretty good, but I need more TT practice.

I finished around 100th out of 150, but the times were so close that if I'd have gone just a bit faster I could have moved up 30-40 spots. Oh well, one of these days I'm going to crack the top 50% of an NRC TT. And I know that's still not great, but its slowly coming around.

Paul and I went back to our host house for the afternoon and hit the grocery store and tried to kill some time, a tough thing to do with no cable or Wi-Fi.

We ended up watching the Disney DVD, Earth. If you've seen one nature show, you've seen em all. This one was no different.  Needless to say, my Droid has been getting a workout this week (this post is coming from my phone too).

The Downtown St. Paul Crit was seriously downtown, a cool scene for bike race.  Paul got a call up because he's in the Best Amateur Jersey for the race. Looks like we'll be riding the front all day in the road races to protect "the Jersey"... psych. For the most part I don't think there will be much Jersey defending for that jersey. Anyway,  back to the racing. It was hard as hell to move up. I started mid pack and went full gas for the first 10-15 minutes to crack the top 30 or so riders. Every time I looked down my heart rate was near 200. I eventually made it to a spot where I was satisfied to hang out, but it didn't really get any easier because it was a full time job just trying to hold that position.

This crit was cutthroat. I don't think it was due to the quality of field, because I've raced with these guys before, but I think this tight downtown course really contributed to the chaos. The fighting for position in the field was insane. Everyone was chopping everyone, elbows and fists were flying, it was pretty gnarly. I avoided most of the drama and had started creeping towards the back of the pros train at the front when a wreck happened on the inside of one o the corners and send a wave of bodies my way and eventually launching me an my bike into a parking meter, head first.  My body and bike are fine for the most part, but when I rammed the meter with my bars it broke my SRM head, so that's pretty annoying.

I took a free lap and got myself back in there. They wouldn't let me back in at the front so I had to work my ass off to get back up in time for the finish. I never regained my position at the front, but I was able to avoid most of the carnage and roll in just inside the top 30. I think with the right luck and enough stupidity on my part, I can get amongst it this week.

Paul and I are off to the Mall of America to kill some time. Check ya later.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Update from The Bearded One

No, my brother isn't writing this entry, I am. So why then am I claiming to have a beard? Because recently I've received no less than 5 comments about my increasing level of facial hair. I haven't really been trying to grow any fuzz, it's more that I'm just trained to only shave once a week, if not less. With my new found pubescence, my old shaving rate doesn't seem to be cutting it (get it... cutting it). Although I may now be capable of growing what is generally accepted as "facial hair" I dont plan on shaping it into anything or changing my methods, I guess I'll just be looking slightly more white trash than usual.

Any-who, back to the normal bull that I write about on this thing. I raced in Kentucky this weekend, instead of going to Tulsa. Tulsa would have been some serious critting and some serious driving, but Kentucky had a nice little Omnium to offer. with Nature Valley coming up in just over a week, I figured that an Omnium with a TT and a 90 mile road race would be better prep.

The race was in the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky and the race took us through the foot hills of the Appalachian mountains.

Friday evening was a 7.4 mile TT in which I participated. I performed as I usually do in that discipline, mediocre at best.

Sunday was a 51 mile road race with a few small rollers, but nothing like the map in the race bible would lead you to believe.

The scale is wack. There really was hardly a hill you couldn't roll over. Anyway, a group of 8 or so rolled off kind of late in the race and we had Greg in it, but didn't really like our odds so we decided to chase. Other teams had similar numbers to us, so we thought they might help us chase. No one did. Kirk, Chris and I tried to bring it back, but we fell a little short and the group had about 5 seconds on us at the finish. Greg sprinted to 4th place, so it wasn't too bad, but it would have been nice to give Chris a shot at the sprint.

Sunday was the Queen Stage, as they say.

The scale on this one is less wack, but it still didn't have as much climbing as I was hoping for. The race was pretty standard, a group of us would make our way to the front and get a gap over the field, then we would get dragged back. This happened over the first 3 of the 5 "major" climbs, then we finally hit the longest climb of the day and got rid of the field for good. The front group had the usual suspects represented, with Rolf, Greg Strock, Erik Hamilton, some other dude who raced like a pussy, Greg Christian, Wes and another Nuvo, and Niel Forbes, a 17 yr old from the Turner team. The omnium made the racing kind of lame because some were interested in racing for the win and some were just racing each other.

The rain was off and on all day, making the descents pretty sketchy. Rolf crashed early on and took out Uberti, and Dan crashed solo off the front and dropped out too. Bummer, because those guys would have been in the front group for sure. Greg and I took turns trying to get away from the group. Greg ended up launching a counter to one of my moves at about 4 miles to go. He is such a monster. He had a good gap immediately and I knew he was gone. I just surfed around the remainder of the group and watched the "GC guys" attack each other. I helped drag back the guys I didn't like even though there was nothing in it for me. I was just sick of the way a few of those guys had been racing.

We sprinted it out and I got 2nd in the sprint from our group, giving us 1st and 3rd on the day. It was definitely nice to have a break from all the hour long crits around here. I think with a little bit of rest I should be in decent shape for the NVGP in a week's time.

Melon City/ Quad Cities

It's a week late, but here's a brief update from the second half of the Iowa weekend.

The Melon City crit is a mile circuit located Weed Park in the majestic Muscatine Iowa. There is a bit of a climb before the finish and obviously a descent on the back side of the course. Traditionally this is a tough finish to play because the back of the field has so much momentum at the base of the climb that the people from the back can almost coast around the people at the front who have just hit the hill.

Temps were in the 100 degree range, so I was employing the ice sock tactic like I used the day before. We were took our usual turns covering moves and rolling off the front. Soon enough we had Chris Uberti off the front in a nice group with all the necessary components and plenty of horse power. We were content to let it ride. While the rest of us were just hanging out in the field, I swore that I saw a guy in a Panther kit standing on the side as we passed through the start finish. Next time by I confirmed my fears, it was Chris. It turns out he had wrecked out of the break and with no free lap, we were up a creek.

Greg and I took some pulls to try to bring the gap down and Paul took off to try to get across. Nick "I'm gonna sit on and not work then sprint you like a bitch" Frey followed Paul. Paul got to within 5 seconds but couldn't close it. So he stayed away, between the break and the field, while "professional" Nick Frey sprinted him for 7th and Paul rolled in for 8th.

Us low-lifes back in the field were left sprinting for 9th. I managed to play my cards decently at the base of the climb and came into the final corner at the top of the hill in 3rd wheel behind Andy Crater and Steve Tilford. Crater crushed us all, but I was able to come around Tilly for 10th, one spot worse than I got there 2 years ago... I thought I was getting better, but I guess not.

I don't feel like writing another recap from Quad Cities, so you get the copy and paste from the Panther team site...

The Northern Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist contingent celebrated Memorial Day with a day of good, old fashioned crit racing. The eight corner, hour glass shaped course is a notoriously fast track where positioning is crucial. We lined up with 6 guys as well as had sponsor Andy Clark from Panther joining us, fresh off his win in the masters race earlier in the day.

Our goal was to be represented in any moves that rolled off the front early, as well as be prepared to get organized is the event of a field sprint. We did our jobs early and raced aggressively as did the other contending teams. The pace didn’t have too many lulls, and couple that with the hot spot sprints and crowd primes being thrown in, no groups got much more than a handful of seconds in front of the field. In the closing laps Greg and Paul were attacking and countering each other which resulted in Paul off the front with one other rider. It was looking good for Paul’s break to go to the line, but as the leadouts kicked in Paul’s group was swept up inside the last 2 laps. Chris and I were trying to take care of each other over the final few laps, but the chaotic nature of those laps found us both jumping to the Aerocat leadout with a half lap to go. The mad dash for the second to last corner ensued and Chris and I both made it through upright,(no small feat) but a shade too far back. The short stretch from the final corner to the finish wasn’t quite enough for us to make up the ground and Chris and I had to settle for 7th and 9th respectively. Despite Paul’s late lap efforts he was able to hang on at the front and sneak into the money in 23rd place.

Well, that wasn't all that brief.