Glad you could join me...

... thoughts and stories accounted by me as accurate as I deem possible. Sit back, tilt a pint and enjoy the journey.

Patterson & Humphrey

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All in a Day - August 24th

What a long day.  Bed by midnight, couldn't sleep, up at 4a, ate and bored but only wish I was tired.  Mine as well do the 5:15 local group ride.  35+ regular attendees that meet at Carmel & Colony each day, but Tuesdays & Thursdays being the fast days.  Always lead by Spencer Leuders, who is just a machine and always looking some friendly competition.  I would assume his motto is "ride hard or don't ride at all, especially if I have to get up at 4:30 in the  morning".

I was still asleep until we hit Park and I actually like to start on the back and move my way up through triathletes, rec riders and the like to see the players.   Woodworth, Hathcock, Cooley, Leuders, etc.   These guys don't waste time.  Not sure where they get the energy, but I understand the enjoyment (kind of), no traffic, cool morning, no lights because of no traffic and smooth sailing through the city.  Spencer is constantly pushing the pace and then throwing solid attacks.  My plan was not to attack, but to follow any moves bouncing from one to another and then bridging long to Spencer.  I believe he intimidates these guys although Hathcock doesn't mind giving chase and dishing out his own pain from time to time.  My goal wasn't to smart since I knew I would be riding hard again in about 12 hours.   I found myself expending too much energy, effort and pain, but I enjoy the game and somebody has to play with Spencer.  Great time, cool down solo with the Mayor, Riley Greer, and 40 miles later and home by 6:45a.

Training for the State Road Race Championship this weekend, so no need for Orr Road.  Went out to a local group ride where I knew there would be some road simulation games, attacks, varied terrain, etc.   The ride was rather tame in comparison to past weeks, but there was still a selection made and it ended with 3 roadies and 3 triathletes.  Before you laugh, these 3 triathletes are pretty darn fast and love to ride hard and show their roadie friends how strong they are.  It was fun watching them take those long manly pulls to pull over and expect us to contribute in that manner.  Our mo jo is to draft, draft and draft again until the end.  Their mo jo is no drafting and see who can pull the longest and hardest.  The roadies were game in watching and riding wheels.  We took our obligatory pulls, but they absolutely despised us for taking them on the hills and at the sprints.   What did they expect, right?  I do give them credit for putting it out there, allowing us to join their ride and for being good sports.   I am sure it is nice training for them too.  I don't think they realize how different our strategies, skills and abilities.  At one time I use to be able to time trial with the best of them, but this roadie thing has put a wrench into that specialty, or maybe I just put my own wrench into it.

We kept the pace high and consistent and it was nice turning average speed higher than normal.  The steady effort was great training too.   Just a nice variation to the normal weekday rides.   And the West side of Charlotte although not desirable to reside is a great place to ride and much, much safer than the North side and especially the South side of Charlotte.   The folks that live and drive out there are very respectful citizens and it is much appreciated by the local cyclists.   Dropped by a.m. Douger's place where Mr. Smith and I enjoyed an adult beverage on the way to the South side.  Home by 8:30p and 57 miles later.  What a day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Tri Shootout - Interesting Twist of Training - Sat, August 21st

Nick Frank is the Mastermind behind the Charlotte Triathlete scene and this new game of Shootout at the Spamerton Corral. Nick is a former professional triathlete and could certainly still be, but the fact that he got bored and frustrated dedicating so much effort to that sport and the most important fact is that he and his wife just had a child. Although Nick took quite a bit of time off, he has come back and appears on fire.

He runs this "shootout" on Saturday mornings from The Booty Loop at 7a - 62 miles - Spamerton route. And man does he have the rules in effect, published, agreed upon and quite an ordeal. Essentially it is Nick and his team of faithful (whoever shows up and is not wearing a Triple Threat kit) vs. the local elite triathlon team, Triple Threat. They are made up of some strong dudes, but unfortunately some of them have as strong an ego. 5 sprints, 3 KOMs and many other detailed rules that create a sense of competition, award for putting it out there and plenty of opportunity for anybody to stake a claim on one of the prizes.

This Saturday none of the Triple Threat guys showed up. Not sure if that was intimidation by Nick or they just had other races in other places, but none the less we had about 10 guys show up and Nick split up teams accordingly (he knows everybody). I captained one team and he the other - fair play. Keep in mind that I have known and rode with Nick for years. He is a fascinating rider who I truly believe could be something special on the roadie circuit, but his passion was around tris and is now around running races. The dude can ride a freaking bike, but he can run even faster, so no wonder he was a professional.

I dragged Lars along, the only other true roadie. I realized pretty quickly that we were at a slight disadvantage being the only two with road bikes. But that is why you play the game. We are neutral heading out West Blvd. A nice time to make sure we know the teams, have some quick chit chat, strategy discussion and a little trash talking. Once we hit the airport... game on. Nick and I sat on the front catching up for a mile or so before he took a pull. I sat second wheel and he gave me about 1/4 mile, but when he came off I launched the first attack and went solo. For rule purposes, if you are in a break without a member of the other team for 3 minutes or more, 10 points. I felt good and thought I could pick up 10, but on the downhill at Old Dowd (or whatever road as I can't recall the names of these country roads), Nick had to single handily bring me back. I believe I had 1:40, but certainly not enough. Today will be about learning the route, where the signs are, the players, the strategy, etc.

We got out near the Whitewater Center before the attacks began again. My job was to mark Nick all day. One of his guys attacks and one of mine follows. Perfect, but you can't just wait. Those two could possibly make it to a sprint or KOM and depending upon who is representing it may not be your best card to play. Nick jumped and went across and i was directly on him. The four of us made a pretty significant gap and stayed on it because the first sprint was a mile or two ahead. There is no way I should be beat in a sprint with these guys period. Well, today I was. I read the sign location wrong and Derrick got a great jump on me as I was watching Nick. I picked up 2nd and Nick 3rd, so his team is up 2 (1st=3, 2nd=2, 3rd=1). The others roll up on us in Mt. Holly or is it Belmont.

The next section is a false flat for about 7 miles. Nick jumps and my guy, Jeff, goes with him. I am comfortable with that since it would take too much work to get to them and worry about a point. I figured we would get 2nd and 3rd and cancel 1st out, which is exactly what happened. But I saved a bullet and when we accelerated hard, we popped Seth and David, but our slowdown effort allowed my other two teammates to catch back on.

The next points are on Spencer Mountain... KOM (1st=5, 2nd=3, 3rd=1). I am usually pretty good on Spencer, but granted I am not the best climber. It is steep in the beginning, but rather short before flatting out. Nick puts in a slow attack of acceleration and Lars follows. I tell him to stay with Nick. Jeff and I are sitting 3rd and 4th. Nicks pace pops Jeff and I and I am good with that since Lars can climb but can't sprint, so we have essentially 2nd and 3rd (since Jeff stays on gas and away), which still puts us down a point, but plenty to go in my mind.

We regroup and head towards Lowell/McAdenville and a sprint coming up. Again, perfect for me. Again, I screw it up with two triathletes on both sides of me trying to sprint on tri bikes and barely hanging on to control those machines. This is where I fully trust roadies to hold their line and play the game fairly. These guys I did not and am already down some skin. Not sure of the results on this one, but I either got 2nd or 3rd and the other two spots by Nick and his teammate. We are down 2 on this one. My mistake. My man Jeff attacks beautifully. Nick has to cover. I cover him and Jeff gets in a little over 2 minutes, so almost picks up points for us. I couldn't counter because Nick catches him at a red light. In the rules, and rightfully so, you can't take an advantage at a stop light or stop sign.

We all regroup and head into Christmas town. KOM coming up. This one suits me well because it truly is a power climb. I roll off the front before we make the turn to start the climb. Nick has a slight mechanical but quickly recovers and comes across. He accelerates. I get on his wheel and not long after attack him and solo up for KOM. Not sure of the order from there, so with all of this unknown it truly is hard for me to tally the score, but Nick doesn't miss a beat or a number. Rest stop.

Next up is KOM in Cramerton. This is typically not a good climb for me. It starts out mild, is medium to short distance and kicks up at the end near the school. Nick is surely aggressive and confident today. He accelerates again and takes the pack up. David is sitting second wheel and I am third. Nick is winding it up and creating some gaps. He looks back, David is on the rivet and cramping it appears. I jump Nick, but am not sure where the sign he. He is gentlemen enough to tell me as we battle to the top. I put in another acceleration and pick up KOM. Nick 2nd. Not sure of 3rd, but about lose my breakfast on that one.

Next up is a sprint on Armstrong Ford Road. Nick tells me how far and the terrain. Sounds like it is on a slight roller up a few miles down the road. Everybody seems to know where it is. Nick sends one of his guys off. My guy, Jeff, follows and Nick jumps on and me on Nick. Nick's other guy launches and Nick follows, so I figure it is near. Yes and I jump and am taking Nick to the line. We get the sprint and Nick and his guy take points that equal it all out. I keep the pace high until we get redlights and downtown Belmont and then we regroup.

The fireworks are soon to follow. We get near the last sprint and common theme today, I mis-read the location/distance of the sign and battle two triathletes that may or may not know how to handle their machines, but they do put a bit of fear in me as they sway back and forth. Sprint after the Gaston County line bridge is won by Nick and his guy, Derrick, gets 2nd and me 3rd. Embarrassing. It won't happen again.

No more designated points, so now we are down three points and will need a breakaway to win. I send Lars off the front. He gets a nice gap before Tyler goes across to him. He probably was solo for 45 seconds. I am comfortable with Lars being up the road (assuming he knows strategy and what needs to be done) with Tyler. Nick and I can recover and prepare for battle. We aren't that far behind, but a couple of miles later I see Tyler unhitching Lars on the Old Dowd Hill and the clock has started. Lars is losing time quickly and I get to the front and start the chase. I am making ground but not enough to cover 3 minutes. I pull Nick up the hill and stretch out on the airport flat, but start cramping and my time window is closing very quickly. Tyler picks up 10 points. I blow and Nick attacks me. Perfect execution. David tries to cover, but Nick is a machine and has been waiting for this move. I put it down in hopes to catch him and have some help from Tyler, but not enough and Nick picks up 10 points. We finally latch on, but game is over and my team loses, but we certainly put in a valiant effort. Jeff, Lars, David and Seth - great job guys.

Get home with 75 miles and a great workout with a lot of fun and mental stimulation. Very refreshing to change up the route, the players, the antics and terrain. The Saturday morning BikeSouth ride is just too predictable anymore. At least Nick and I will be teammates next time out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CrossRoads - Harrisburg & Doping Control - Aug 7th

I wish I could tell you more about the events of the day since this seemed to be the highlight of conversation this day and the rest since.   The race was quite eventful in that Fraham watched Charlie's wheel so hard that he missed the fact that Grant went up the road with the ability to take over yellow and win the omnium.   Sometimes other's strategies puzzle me.  That is exactly what happened.   Grant picks up 4th and the yellow jersey and wins the omnium.  Grant has had a fantastic year.  He is the State Road Race Champion.  He is the State Criterium Champion.  And now is the yellow jersey and omnium winner of Crossroads.  Quite an accomplishment.  Bravo!  Fraham totally falls apart and Charlie takes over 2nd on the podium.  One point separates Grant and Charlie.  WOW!

Now as far as doping control, here is what I know - remember I wasn't there.  I was at home in bed sick from a week of tough races, one crash and nasty case of road rash, late nights arriving home from these rural towns, working full time and helping the promoter set up the race course.   As a matter of fact, I didn't ride my bike nor workout, on Saturday, Sunday or Monday.   I didn't hear, however, on Thursday of the following week that my number was one of the "random" numbers picked for screening.  Very interesting that I would be chosen since I was for all practical purposes last each night, even being dropped in Statesville.

Here is the interesting part... I received an email of a picture somebody had taken of the 35+ list and it contained 10 numbers, two of which were the same, thus bringing the total to 9.   I was told it consisted of the top 3 finishers from Saturdays race and 6 randoms.  Very, very interesting and frankly absolute bullshit that 4 of the 6 "randoms" were from Carolina Masters.  This is nothing but a disguised and cowardly attempt for a modern day witchhunt.   So, Grant, Charlie and Ryan peed in a cup so the world will now know they ride and race clean, as does our entire team.   I hope the others come out "negative" too... Bixby, TSmith, Dender, Tobbee.  And the other "random" was Shane Martin - could have been an error on whoever wrote the numbers down, but Shane didn't even race Crossroads, so not sure of the circumstances behind that one.   Oh well.  For the guys that might be considering or taking performance enhancing drugs, know that you might have escaped this time around, but there is always your next race.  I really do hope that all the Masters guys believe in the philosophy of racing clean.  There is absolutely no reason what so ever to race otherwise.  You are only fooling yourself, tainting your own body and absolutely without a doubt cheating the others you race against.  You are a coward and a disgrace to us, your team and sport.   Enough said!

Congratulations Grant McAllister for winning the Crossroads overall. 

1.  Grant McAllister
2.  Charlie Brown
3.  Aaron Fraham

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CrossRoads - Statesville - Aug 6th

Already Friday and three races under out belt.  This time we were running with a much smaller squad and had to change tactics a bit.  We had Grant, Charlie, Keith and I.  We realized that IHS (Bixby, Fraham and Craven) were just worried about Charlie and planned their entire strategy around him.  That left Grant to fly and we knew it, so we understood first in the omnium.  Now we had to race for 2nd.  Isn't that the irony here, somebody is always racing for 2nd and against Carolina Masters that seems to be an accomplishment. 

From the gun, I jump on the front and set tempo, a pretty hard tempo, single file, for 3 or 4 laps before seeing how things would play out.   I could tell real quickly that the wheels were getting ready to fall off.   I stayed on, pushed my way back through and up to the front for one more dig and had Charlie on my wheel for all I had left.  I really didn't want to pop, nor do we ever, but this night it was inevitable.   So, finally there I go, but not before Grant and Keith are in a move with two others.  Unfortunately the two others are not strong and one is The Cheat.   Why is he referred to as The Cheat you may ask... well, Mike clearly articulated to Grant during the break that he would not contest the finish since Keith and Grant were doing all the work to stay away.   I rode on the back of the break for a while and finally popped again.  Tactical mistake again as they could have eventually pulled me back to the pack.  The field lapped me and I stayed on the back to finish my workout.

Grant gets 2nd, Keith gets 3rd and the sprint finish from the field was the most important race of the entire series and it came down to this.  Charlie jumps Fraham and the field right after turn number five and has separation.  Fraham's teammates fight like hell to get him up there and here he and Charlie come to the line like a drag race.  The Judge gives Fraham a little bit of his own medicine and defeats him for the sprint and the yellow jersey.   OUCH!   Grant is only a point or so behind.  The guys looked great and I wish I could have contributed more.  I felt like hell and it had been a long week already including my crash in the Cat 3 field in Mocksville.  Oh, did I leave that off?  Yes, after that my body decided it wasn't going to participate in anymore Cat 3 races during the week.  I couldn't afford any more pain and the races were back to back.  Plus the Master's races are much faster than the Cat 3 races, so I had plenty to worry about.

CrossRoads - Salisbury - Aug 5th

Our home course in Salisbury and we came out in force, but not before watching a lot of unnecessary crashes in the 4/5 race.  I was extremely disappointed in the promoter and the officials for this because many guys were carted off, four with broken collar bones.  A little wisdom and experience could have prevented this instead of putting cones up in the middle of their freaking race, which obviously demonstrates fault.

We were ready to roll with deflated tires and needed a good showing in this one.   Started out fairly cautious just to make sure we all knew the turns, but it quickly picked up pace.   JP kept the pace very high for more laps than my legs realized.  I finally weaved through and made it up to the front to try and help.  He looked back and I attacked from 3 or 4 deep.  Solo suicide as I call it, but gave it my best for 2 laps before the sprint competition bell rang and the sprinters came forward to take over.   Again, bad tactical move to go solo and draw no one out. 

Not long after Ryan is able to jump free, solo, where he is a master time trialist (and obviously I am not).  He went on to win solo, which is great for him and for the team.  Ryan had just gotten back from Masters Nationals and put in a hard effort at Lowe's the night before.  He was feeling it.  On the other hand, I was not and just couldn't get my legs moving nor the mind after seeing all of those crashes and knowing I could go down, again, if not careful.  The Judge pulled out 2nd and JP 4th.  The Judge still wore blue and Fraham in yellow.  Grant is still in contention so we still have a few cards to play. 

CrossRoads - Concord - Aug 4th

Probably the fastest of all the courses and the favorite is Concord.  What a wonderful venue, town and spectators.   We had changed our tactic a bit and wanted to sit in and watch others to see how it might play out if we didn't take charge.  The usual onesies here and onesies there, but nothing serious or threatening.   Finally after keeping the field strung out and the pace high, a lull existed and Grant had the opportunity to roll off and pick up pace.   This is exactly how we discussed it and designed it, but it never happens like you discuss.  This night it did.  Grant is on great form.   Immediately, Keith and I got on the front and kept the pace tempo, which did it's job at preventing others from attacking.  Not sure why they didn't because it was a great time to do so, but I think the pace had been so high for so long that guys were glad to have a break, us in control and thoughts that one guy couldn't stay away solo for that long.  Guess again my friends. 

Grant soloed to victory.   Late in the race, Pat Raines made a great move to get away solo and looked as though he might have it timed to perfection, but good ole Marcus Morgan used the sprint point competition to launch himself solo.  He made it across to Raines and pulled out 2nd.  Glad for the Charlotte boy.  Again my finish left a lot to be desired.  The legs are already tiring.  I believe The Judge was 5th and still out of yellow, but we don't mind being the underdog.  It is how you finish that counts.

CrossRoads - Mocksville - Aug 3rd

This course has never been kind to me.  Last year I had season ending shoulder reconstruction surgery.  OUCH!   I always say you have to get back on that horse and chase the deamons away.   I had registered for the series for Masters and 3's.  That didn't last long - more to come.   Masters was the usual stacked field.  The field was mixed with 35+ & 45+.  Grant, Charlie, Keith and I were the only guys that were signed up for the omnium.   We also had Derrick and Mark racing this night.   Almost a full squad.  As usual the race started out with a bang although there was still a lot of watching going on to see which contender would strike first and how the cards would be dealt from there.  

I rolled off with a guy from MOB, Mike, who will be referred to as The Cheat from here on out because of a card he played in Statesville - more to come.   We stayed away for what seemed about 8 laps or so building as much as a 20 second gap, but two problems here, first Crossroads race, weaker guys from our two teams and not the right mix or enough in the mix.   It came down quickly, but unfortunately I had cooked the legs quite a bit being in the break.  It wasn't the smartest move for me and would be followed by small other tactical mistakes during the course of the week.   And this year a Sprints point competition was sponsored to shake things up and add another jersey to the mix, so that changed the dynamics of the race and created a different race within the race. 

Before The Cheat and I got caught by the field, we were also caught by a 3 man break, which should really have been a two man break.  The officials let one of the POA guys in the break from the pit, when he should have been placed in the field.  Charlie and co. came up to us and I gave a hard effort, but just couldn't match their pace after our 8 laps, so tactical mistake blunder.  Back in the field, we just kept an eye on any other moves making sure Charlie stayed away.  I did get into with SWaddle, who has to be one of the biggest pricks in the sport.   A total jackass this guy is.  We had some words and battled for a wheel before Waddel had the nerve to purposefully come over 3 or so bike lengths and run right into me and tryed like hell to hook me.  I kept it upright and finally the jackass, who has obviously got some anger management issues and is obviously on something that causes his temper and outrage as well as ability to throw in multiple attacks beyond what most of us can do.    My finish was not good and the night ended with AFraham in yellow and The Judge in Blue (sprints).   The irony in that is that Fraham beat The Judge in the sprint.  Much more racing to come.

Plantation - Sunday, July 27th

I don't frequent the Plantation ride often, but happened on it this morning because it was going to be 100 degrees that afternoon.   Nice crowd and good time to socialize because the first 8-10 miles are warm up. I never know where the first sprint is, so I never have an interest in playing, but Vigna, Marcus, Keesler and the gang sure enjoy it.   It provides them good team practice, which between you and I will never happen in a real race, but it is nice practice.   I am sure one of them got it.

But I do like to participate in the second sprint and I knew the leadout would be for Vigna.  We all played a pretty good game of look around and wait to call each others bluff.   Finally someone lead out and had two of his teammates on him, Matt, Marcus and Vigna was the set up.   I was on Vigna and the front got bunched by the roll offs, but somehow at the last second I found an opening with about 25 meters to go and was able to get Vigna.   I decided to continue my momentum and stay on it through Waxhaw and even up Rohobeth Church.  I saw a group of guys chasing, Scott Staley, Trey Miller, Matt Botting and one other.   I held them off until on the water tower road, which i was happy with since i am obviously not much of a climber.

We regrouped for hitting 521.  TFenig decided to roll ahead of us and gave it a go.  I bridged across and Tom didn't seem to be in the mood to play and was forthright in letting me know.  But Trey was and he came across and we stayed away a while longer before he popped me (will be a common theme for a while I am sure).   A little cat and mouse amongst the group and Trey kept taking digs.   I played for a while, but was ready to head home.  Game over.

Friday, August 6, 2010

2 Saturdays of BikeSouth - July 24th & July 31st

Did BikeSouth (new school calls it Carolina Bicycle on 51) on Saturday, July 24th and July 31st.  The recollection is becoming more blurred as the dates pass, but we'll give the memory a go.  On the 24th, we probably had the largest group I have ever seen out there, with what I thought was at least 75 guys.  Obviously no races or at least none close enough to worry with.  I swear I counted at least 26 Preferred Parking kits.   Don't recall the Doby Bridge sprint, but on the finale, the valet train was in full force, Matt, Gordon and I believe Rick leading out Trey.   I had to bridge across to make it on Trey's wheel.  I was surprised no one else made the junction, but I enjoyed the ride as each clicked off 500K or so to set Trey up.   Now, on occasion I have beaten Trey in a sprint, but the young gun has been training hard and is riding the best I have ever seen him, so I stuck on his wheeel and gave thought of trying to come around, but dude was drilling it and I had no other choice but to enjoy the ride across the line.  Could't be beat by a nicer, and humble, guy.   Time to visit Brueggers on East with the usuals, RSmith, DEngle, DKessler, etc.   Nice time to catch up get junk miles in and enjoy the sights and sounds of Dilworth.

On the 31st, it was much tamer with multiple races going on in Reidsville and Black Mountain.  I believe Matt got away solo on Doby Bridge (with fresher legs) and then on the finale, he goes again solo and no one chases until Hatchcock takes a dig, but can only get halfway across.  I jump and take Jeff Hunter with me.  We catch Joe and I get on the front to two and almost there, we go ahead and gift it to Joe since he worked so hard going across to Matt.  But no, Marcus wants that 2nd place glory and takes Joe on the line.  Oh well, what would we do without teammates?   To backtrack a bit, I couldn't sleep much the night before, so had gotten up at 4a and took the dog for an hour walk before getting on my bike by 5:30 for the booty loop where the infamouse 24 Hours of Booty was going on.   Nice to have so much company on a Saturday morning at 5:30.  Had 25 miles by the time I got to BikeSouth at 7a.   After the ride, we went to Brueggers again by way of the Booty and just an impressive sight for such a wonderful cause.   All in I was at 85 miles, way to many approaching Crossroads.  Now the fun begins... Crossroads.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday Night - Orr Road - July 20th

I had missed the previous Tuesday night due to a work function, so was itching to get out there for some real time crit training.   Every week it seems like there are new faces.  I have no idea where these guys come from, but they aren't all just from Charlotte.   Orr Road attracts guys from Winston, Spartanburg, Raleigh, etc.

I told BMiller on the way over that my goal was to sit in and conserve for the end.   Never a chance.  I found myself in a move with several other guys, one including my teammate The Judge and some other distinguished riders, so I really thought it might stick, but to no avail.   Just never know what the mix or art needs to be other than raw power from enough racers.

Lots of attacks and The Judge did spend quite a bit of time off the front tonight which certainly eased my burden, but I also found myself on the front often setting false tempo.  Many of those guys read that like a book and continue to attack on the mound we call a hill on the course.   It is very hard to cover from the front and more difficult to cover so many.  

Finally did decide to settle down myself and give it a go for the final, but with 5 laps to go or so Ben does attack and gets across to The Judge and MBotting (i believe).  Sometimes I don't even realize who or how many are up the road.  I give C Vigna credit for a massive one lap pull from there to bring it all back together, but it just didn't happen.  Of course we get all the usual surges and people thinking they are sprinters with two to go.  It is crazy how many folks actually think they will be in contention for the sprint.   Confidence is obviously not lacking in this world.

At this point, any effort would be for third, but coming into the homestretch, the three man break was in sight.  We were too late to catch them, but did manage to pass Ben, who had led The Judge out.   Charlie, Matt and the field.   RJenkins led me out and once I jumped it was in the bag, but you just never know who is behind you lurking on your wheel.  Luckily this day it didn't matter nor did I ever look back to find out.

Man was it hotter than hell out there.  I was fatigued, cramping and had 4-1/2 bottles and never felt great.  I believe somebody told me on the way over that it was high nineties to 100 this afternoon.  Heck it was 90 degrees at 9:00p this evening.   Welcome to the South!

Bike South - Goezler Funeral - Saturday - July 17th

Not racing French Broad in Asheville this day, so stayed and rode local.  Bike South is only 2 miles from my house and too convenient to pass up for a 7a slugfest.   Although on this day it was pretty tame and not far in there was a crash.   I had just gone to the front to set a blistering tempo up one of the rollers and heard the crash behind.   I called off the surge and circled around to check out the damage.  I heard one "Fred" overlapped a wheel and went down causing DKessler to go down on his new bike.  He was pretty banged up, but a tough guy so after a few minor adjustments and new tube we were on our merry way again.   The pace remained calm.  I tried to keep it active and strung out on a few sections, but knew where the flurry would begin and where our two sprint points were, so there is no doubt that these will self instigate.

Coming up Doby Bridge, guys always sit in, take fewer pulls and/or shorter pulls to reserve for the climb and sprint at the end.   And since Preferred Parking has 15 guys there, most others expect them to do the majority of the work.   Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.   Not many of their guys were rotating through on this day, but enough finally did to get us to the bottom of the climb.  No fireworks.   Steady and coming on the sprint of course guys started posturing for position and the speed amped up.   Rafik offered to take me to the line, but it was too early and I knew Marcus would jump right on my wheel as I was marking him.   As soon as he jumped out of line to start his maneuver, I followed.   He did a look back and knew I was there so he jumped right and around one of his guys to start his sprint and create a distraction.   I jumped left and accelerated just as quickly without distraction.  I had the acceleration on him after a few seconds and I saw him ease up, so sprint one checked off.

Again, back down 521 the pace was moderate, but enough to have split the group in two for a few hundred meters.  It came back together and we started back down Dorman where the fireworks would surely begin.   Diego, Hathcock and another guy went off the front pretty early.  I almost didn't realize, nor did I really care at that point.   But once we got a few miles from the final sprint, Andrew and M Hill started to create separation.  I saw and was willing to let it go since Mark is my teammate, but when Marcus bridged across it was my turn to join in.  Another guy tried to bridge and after sitting on his wheel and realizing he wasn't going to make it, I jumped him and finished over to the trio.   We were steady going and starting the assault.  Mark took a turn on the last hill, which is typically an eye opener and leg breaker if we are going hard.   He put in a solid effort and rolled off.  I took over and put in another long dig.  I rolled off and of course Marcus attacks us.  Andrew had been dropped.   Marcus put a 100 meters on us easy and had killed my spirit since I had just worked my tail off.   Mark wasn't about to let that move go unanswered, so he started again.  I jumped on his wheel.   His effort was almost heroic as he pulled him at least a quarter to half mile to close the gap considerable to Marcus.   Enough so that I was able to jump hard from his wheel and close in on Marcus.  Of course I got another look back, but Marcus didn't respond.  I jumped to his wheel for a half second and had a chess game ahead... Hathcock, Diego and the sprint finish.   I jumped each and realized RMasset had latched onto my wheel somehow with the help of his team.   I blew him off and passed Hathcock and Diego for the 2nd and final sprint.   Mark deserves that win for his efforts on my behalf.  Teamwork!

Unfortunately the next part of the day consisted of Matt Goezler's funeral.   Matt was a friend  that I had met through our days riding for Moto Velo and me knowing his brother Tim.   The first time I met Matt was at the Ride Around Wilkes cookie ride, which he won.   He was a superior mountain biker, a very good roadie in his day and a wonderful person.  Last year, we went to the mountains a few times to train and Matt's sense of humor defined him.   He had a zinger for everything and everybody.   Just seemed to enjoy life and loved the sport of cycling like nothing else.   Would give the shirt off his back.  But in the end, he took his own life due to what we think are some issues stemming back to his 2000 bike crash and head trauma injury.  We'll certainly miss Matt, his pranks and all the wonderful nicknames, stories and butt whoopings he unleashed.   God speed!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lexington, NC - Crits & Road Race, July 9th & 11th

Thought I had crashed out for good did ya?  It does seem like about this time a year, I do suffer tremendously from some crash and either end up with something broken or a major ailment.  This time around it was just serious fatigue and the end of good fitness.  Unfortunately it started and stayed with the North Carolina Crit Championships in Salisbury - our races of all things.   From there I took two weeks off and forgot I wasn't suppose to drink that much beer, eat that much ice cream and not do anything but walk Cooper.  And then... get this... my come back is for Blood, Sweat and Gears.  Call me crazy, but call me slow and pained too.   My worst showing at BSG and probably my last.  I knew I couldn't climb but somehow I needed to validate it.  I did do some swimming and running while on vacation - does that count?

So we fast forward a few weeks and I feel like my fitness is coming along, but no real way of proving it other than the booty loop, BikeSouth, Plantation and Orr Road - all crap simulation races.   

I am then excited about the Lexington Criterium because it is flat, fast and not technical, but I do have some ghosts of past that haunt me as I was dropped there last year and reminded of that last week.   The team is locked and loaded to roll.  Race starts, I go straight to the front for prescence and take the groupo around twice before the attacks start going.  I even took a little dig myself and pulled across a couple of guys for a lap or two, but there is too much horsepower, too many teams and too much muscle to flex this night.   

KJohnson counters me and gets away.  Not sure how two Clif Bar guys wind up in the break - still puzzled on that one, but he pulls across Harkey and that is all she wrote.  We set tempo, chased things down, even chased each other down - taking a little a page out of the Preferred Parking playbook.   Our team timing wasn't impressive and our results were average for CM, but we had all had some time off from racing, other than cookie rides.   Even the rain didn't slow the finish, but Keith got 2nd and I believe The Judge ended up 2nd in the field sprint, 4th overall along with other top 10 results from the team in a combined 35/45 race.

Two days later was the road race with a Sunday start time of 3:15 and a heat index well into the upper 90's.  A short to medium race on a pretty easy course, although I would beg to differ any time there is a hill involved.   We knew the ominum, the players, points, guys to cover and a general strategy, but it rarely goes to plan.   Gordon jumped first, but gosh it was too early and I jumped with for a mile or so and back we come - thank goodness.  A few attacks but nothing serious or threatening.   About 8 miles in at the first hill, I start setting a tough tempo to see what gives and of course here forms the break. 

Ric Masset comes across and accelerates hard up the hill. I follow.  We have Jim Mead in tow.  And then Craven comes across.   A pretty good group although we could have used one or even two more.  Craven is the strongest in the group, but we are all working together for a lap and a half.   We extended out to just over a minute on the field and then that started coming down quickly, probably due to the multiple CM attacks.  It was 20 seconds at one point.  RJenkins comes across solo and when he attacks, I light it up for a mile or two and almost cook myself (i have a bad habit of doing that) and then we rotate.  Mead takes us up the first hill - solid effort.  I take on the second and am really trying hard to save Ryan from making as much effort until later.  Unfortunately it was probably my dagger.   About three or so miles up the road, JP is coming across solo.  Ryan tells me to jump on and give it 5 minutes hard effort.  I have about 30 seconds left in the tank and his momentum and power put Mead and I off the back.   Deja Vu from an early Greenville race.   As much go and desire as I had in my mind, me legs wouldn't take me there even after several attempts to get to the back of that break.  I am still surprised Masset got on it but it was only because he stopped taking pulls and rode like a coward once Ryan got on.   He cetainly didn't represent Preferred Parking well regardless of his result.  I know the likes of Stiehl, Botting, Morgan, Vigna and I doubt those boys would pull such a BS move.  It is what it is!

I knew that break was gone but didn't realize how strong Craven really was.   He was the ultimate break partner though.  He never skipped his turn, he rotated well and never said a word even when Massett and Mead were skipping pulls.  Come to find out he has quite the history on the pro circuit back in the day.   Not to skip ahead, but he pulled off a great win over JP.

Back to the pack we go, I sit in for a couple of miles, recover somewhat and start making my way back to the front hoping to continue contributing to the team effort and trying to get Charlie off the front.  I get right beside Keith who is setting a great tempo starting the first climb and I am ready to start stretching it out when one of my spokes breaks off and the wheel starts rattling.  My day is over.  No wheels in the truck and the team didn't talk about team wheels.   I am now a big fan and spectator of the Carolina Masters Cycling Team.   Dressed, hydrating and sitting in the shade at the finish line here comes Craven and Patterson.   Craven takes it pretty good - excellent finish and well deserved since he rode from the original break, matched Patterson's surges and attacks and kept enough in the tank to finish strong.   And then about 45 seconds later after sitting in for the last 20 miles or so, Ric gets the best of Ryan at the line. 

The pack is almost 4 minutes behind and they were absolutely on fire... flying.   Of course Frahm takes the field sprint but The Judge does enough to take first in the omnium.   Great job team as Keith and Derrick put in great tempo to set the stage and keep any attacks minimized.   Mock Orange missed out.  POA only had one representative and didn't see Outspokin at all.  

I believe the team enjoyed the post race beverages more so than the race.  Derrick didn't hold back as he unloaded a cooler full of cold and imported beer.  We also enjoyed the humor of one team or individual protesting Patterson's attack - that he attacked over the double yellow line.  We consulted counsel and have no comment at this time.  But we would advise that instead of protesting, just come across to the move. :)  All is fair when upright and amateur.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

NC State Crit Championship - Friday - June 11th

Category racing tonight in hot and sticky Salisbury, NC.   The course was L shaped, fast, technical and a bit suspect, both in the neighborhood it went through and the roads and turns.  I am sure The Judge did his best at making sure it was patched and prepared well, but it was still with challenge.   As a matter of fact, one of my teammates went down, JPatterson "The Kid" and although all I saw was road rash and a cracked frame, I certainly hope he will be fine and be able to race again this weekend.  

In any event, I wanted some Cat 3 points so I can eventually move up since I seem to be getting quite a bit of crap from the friends, but after tonights performance it may just quiet them for a while.   A race that I really wanted to be super competitive in and quite possibly win to claim another State Crit Championship (won as a 4 in Fayetteville a few years ago).   It was all but that tonight.   The race started and I sat on the front from the gun just to make sure I got through the turns okay in the always nervous beginning of a race.  It worked and then I let others take their turn on the front. 

It started out extremely mild paced, but I am sure mid to back was challenging from having to go single file through turns 2, 3 and 4 (all night long).   There were a few minor jumps, not even sure I would call them attacks, but probably more for positioning.   I found it interesting that with at least two visible teams (Clif Bar and Bennissimo) there was very little to no teamwork.  Santana threw some attacks, but no one countered or let it go more than a few seconds.   At some point it was a given that this was going to be a sprint finish, so just sit in and wait your chances.

This is typically a good thing for me, but tonight, like Tuesday night at Orr Road, I just wasn't feeling it.   I thought with the mild pace and disposition for a sprint that my legs would come around about 30 minutes or so, but they didn't and I just didn't even have enough to put myself into a position to challenge.   I was sitting 12th wheel or so coming out of corner 4 and not much in the way of order was changed from that point forward based on the narrow and technical turns.  I gave it a go, but all I could muster this night was 10th and that was a challenge in itself.  My dreams of a championship were dashed as quickly as the race ended. 

Something has to give at some point in either my snap and fitness start coming around again OR I need to take some time off the bike and re-focus on the next wave of training.    It is always dangerous to be a self coached athlete that knows their body well.  They ignore so many signs and tell themselves it is something other than what it really is.

In the Pro/1/2/3 race, which I had pondered lining up for, but wanted upgrade points instead, it was ON!  From the gun, single file for about 1/4 of the course.  OUCH!  If  you were mid pack to back, good luck hanging on that train.   Started with 80 guys and dwindled to 40 or so.   Our team was well represented and was in every move or attempting most moves, but at the end of the day the race was controlled by Global Bike.   There were certainly strong guys, but not so much strong teams, so everyone appeared playing off of Global Bike's moves.   Charlotteans Ben and Alder raced their tails off to set up their man, DForkner for the sprint and of course he delivered since he was fresh and delivered to the line.  

The Judge and The Don were extremely active as RJenkins did his own patrolling of the front, but in the end, no breaks, no concerted effort from other guys and a great photo finish.  The Judge, and local Salisbury hero, claimed 2nd place and The Don snuck in for 5th.   Tough race and good team effort!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Orr Road - June 8th

The last Orr Road before the North Carolina State Criterium Championships in Salisbury, NC this weekend so everybody had the itch to come out and get that last real practice in.   The rest of the week will be used to settle down and allow the body one last rest before all hell breaks lose in Salisbury.   Category championships on Friday night, age groups on Saturday and good ole City Park Criterium on Sunday.  

The start was pretty ordinary in that you had a couple of guys attacking, but as usual nothing sticking.  Carolina Flyers were definitely dominant in number with perhaps 25-30 guys accounted for.    I tried a few moves but nothing doing, but also watched The Don (JP) patrol the front until he retired from the festivities and turned professional photographer.  Remember he had crashed at a Rock Hill time trail a few weeks ago and broke a rib or two, so he is warming up but certainly not 100%.   He is still dangerous at less than full capacity.   The Judge sat in for a while and you had to wonder what was going on there.   Mr. Jenkins was resting for the Lowe's TT on Wednesday night, so no Orr Road on schedule. 

I guess "the move" went with about 12 to go or so.  AMartz blasted off with MKelly on his wheel and me on Mike's.  Not sure how the others came across, but I am sure it wasn't long after because it was a strong move.   Alder pulled a 1/3 of a lap, motioned for help and Mike wouldn't pull through.  I pulled through and ripped it on the flat stretch and once I came off it was "blow up" city.   Then I saw the break come by and left the station.   Not sure who all it included but The Judge was there with Alder, MKelly, SMartin, TMiller, DLeatherman, maybe NBoyd and another.   They seemed to be working well together, although I can guess 3 or so that probably did not pull through expecting The Judge to carry their weight too.    All the major teams were represented, so it was up to Salsarita's, Harris Teeter and most of the unattached to do the work, although we all know that Carolina Flyers has the reputation for pulling their own guys back, so I saw some of that too.   

The break was keeping their time gap pretty consistent until 6 or so to go and the pack was inching back slowly.   Oh yeah, where was I you might ask... well after blowing up I decided to spectate and enjoy the view from the sidelines with the Patterson family and many others who got popped, thought they might get popped, or just wanted ringside for the drama to come.   And remember my lap counts, although I was watching, are at best a guess.  With 5 to go, there had been 7 or 8 in the break and the next lap, there was all of a sudden 2, The Judge and Shane.   I have no idea what happened, but when you can pop Alder, Trey, etc. then somebody obviously jumped... my guess, The Judge.   I thought they would have it with 3 to go, but Shane probably did the best he could, which probably wasn't yielding much for the break.   The pack was more quickly pulling them back and with 1 to go, it was about 5 seconds and we all know last lap creates excitement and chaos.   They came around for the finish and The Judge had to re-attack on the back side to hold Marcus and the field off.   The Judge wins again.  Impressive rally by the field.  Not sure who was putting in that effort, but I guarantee you it was a mixed bag trying to keep it all together.  

I heard we averaged 27.5 for an hour, which is our typical speed these days with a little longer of a session.  I think there were some tired cyclists after this heat and humidity has been setting in and some long training rides and races over the past month or so.   I know it was my worst Orr Road in quite some time.  I still don't think I was over 3 Mountain Madness, but just love the thrill of participating in Orr Road.  I remember when I was just starting out I would choose BikeSouth over Orr Road on Tuesday nights and man how that thought has changed.

Hats off to Gordon, Rick and Matt (yes, our rivals) for some consistent and solid results at Roan Moan last weekend in TN.   Nice to see our local guys fare well at races when we are not racing against them. :)  As well, Congrats to RJenkins for winning the S.C. Time Trial Championship over the weekend too. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

3 Mountain Madness - Sat - June 5th & Misc

Thursday, June 3rd - local Lowe's ride (road race simulation)... small group on the "A" ride, about 20 or so. Pace was being pushed none the less as we opted for a route that looked less likely for thunderstorms. Hot and humid was the cause for dropped riders. BMiller, SNavritil, JHathcock and myself formed a 4 man rotation with a little help here and there, but most hanging on to get back by dark. Came back to 521 with about 10-12, but at Sun City, BMiller punched it, Hathcock bridged across. I started late, but floored it and carried Navritil across. The four of us rode off into the sunset. 61 miles later...

Friday, June 4th - quick booty loop ride, from home, a few loops and back... 25 miles.

Saturday, June 5th - Well, well, well... the mountains and i just don't mix. Went up North to do a cookie ride, 3 Mountain Madness... Sauertown, Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain. My primary purpose was to get one last mountain ride in before BSG for training, but you always hope to do well. I guess well is relevant and by all accounts I did not.

Had two teammates there, but teammates don't mean much in one of these rides. The Judge, who typically wins this one and most others and MHill. The other team represented well was Triangle Velo out of Chapel Hill with three strong riders. Big group together for a while, til we got near Sauertown and a split formed. Sauertown is not that steep or long, so the group remained together, although a few of us were dangling on the back. Once we got to Hanging Rock at mile 29 or so, there was more selection, one of which was not me. I, along with a few others, got caught behind a park ranger driving like a grandma on the descent, so we were forced to slow, which gave plenty of opportunity for the lead group to put in some time and they did.

The chase group got somewhat organized and about 5 miles later saw the lead group in sight. I was hanging on the back fighting fatigue and heat when our group decided to put in a hard effort to re-attach. I popped, mile 38. I chased my tail off to get back on.  I caught back on at the bottom of a hill and popped not more than 5 seconds later when they were climbing again.  Bye, bye!  Mile 40.

What a lonely and windy countryside in Surry County soloing a cookie ride from mile 40.  Does it really build character or just show weakness and possibly stupidity? Don't answer that.  I looked back many a time to see if there was a chase group I could join up with, but I think we had already put too much time on them. So, then the game became how long could I hold off somebody... anybody?

I got 2 bottles at mile 32 and didn't refill until mile 68 (the next rest stop that was handing out full bottles), which meant I had been out, as was the heat and sun... 91 degrees and direct sunlight mixed with a nice breeze (called headwind). The fun of the ride was over early and often. I thought several times about taking the turn to the right called 75 miles, but then again I came to train, climb and paid my cookie entry, so to the left and 94 miles here I come, solo.

Finally saw a guy behind me about mile 65 or so, but didn't want to concede too early, so I punched it again to keep the game going. Thought he would eventually make the catch, but just didn't happen. If I put time on him the way I was feeling and climbing, then there was no use of waiting up for another wheel.

Got to Pilot Mountain and wish I never would have. I was already screaming obscenities to myself for even attempting it when I could have just gone straight and won the race. :) As I entered the park, here comes Keith and Charlie. How depressing, since I know on a good day it takes me 19 minutes to get to the top. Today I don't even want to know how long, but probably double that. Got to the top and thanked God. That was the end of my ride... kind of. Now only 10 miles to go.

I found some renewed energy on the flats, felt a few rain drops at 90 and hoped for a lightning strike to my carbon frame. No such luck. Working down my 8th bottle and still wondering why I was cramping and just physically falling apart. Counting down the miles, thinking about the free cookies and wondering how many beers Charlie had already put down. Really wondering why I even left the house at 5:00a to do this freaking ride, but kept good company with my friend, DEngel.

Finished at last and had no care or concern what my time was. Ready to lay down and sleep. After Doug and I regrouped, ate and cooled, headed home with bikes we don't deserve. We should have to ride BSG with steel bikes and a 19 cassette. Okay, I will speak for myself and won't try it with a 23 this time.

I believe Lexington is on the way home, so of course we had to stop for Lexington BBQ. At least something good came of the day. Home by 5:15 and wife tells me we have to be at some friends for a cookout at 6:30. I am learning to internalize. Just another day on the bike....

Sunday, June 6th - too many "to dos" around the house today, but was able to get on the bike at 7:15p for 25 miles. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rain Rain Go Freaking Away - Tuesday - June 1st

How many days can it continue to rain in Charlotte? I am getting started on the ark tomorrow. I crossed my fingers and gave it a wish that the forecast would be wrong. The sun gave me hope, but of course 19 minutes into Orr Road the sky fell out and the downpour started as we floated back home down the River Tryon on two wheels. But first...

A sparse crowd of those not smart enough to believe the weather forecast. Got to Orr Road and got started just fine. MHill went from the gun, solo. Very impressive, but never have I seen an early move last, and certainly never a solo move. I think Mark just wanted to hit us quick and get his workout in before he headed off to the gym, or this night to celebrate his anniversary. And as always a few moves here and a few moves there, but nothing sticking and we never really made it long enough for legs to start fatiguing and giving up a little on attacks and covering attacks. I flatted about 15 minutes in and to be honest was somewhat thankful as I wasn't feeling it tonight, but it does take me some time to get the old body moving well. I had been in one of those early moves and didn't have the horsepower or representation needed to work that hard. Sorry, but it is a fact and why blow your load when you know the chase and catch will soon follow and the attacks will continue long after you wish you had those bullets back.

As we got back in town, it appeared dryer and once to the booty loop (that is another story) it hadn't even rained, so Santana and BMiller hit the loop for a few laps. Mr. Miller was on a single speed cross bike (again, another story), but he is strong enough to do so. We caught on with the local triathlete team.. some sort of threats - not real intimidating, but certainly look dangerous with those little funny bars sticking out ready to poke and prod while trying hard to hold a straight line. Just kidding. I can say that since I am a former tri guy and now wear sleeves and like to ride very inconsistent speeds. We took to the loop for a few laps at single file pace to keep the heart rate high and the legs in a spot of bother. A little game of cat and mouse to keep everybody entertained.

Rolling home and 55 miles later, I was still soaked from the earlier downpour. No way it can rain again tomorrow, right?

A little soapbox and if you are a metric or power driven geek and you know exactly who you are, then turn away and don't continue reading or you will be beside yourself in disbelief, but remember this is my blog and my opinion.  And yes I have a power meter and these things can be quite useful IF used correctly.  I certainly don't use mine correctly, but is is mine, right and I can do anything I want with it including not using it.   I do use it, but not with all the bells and whistles and graphs and plots and dots and colors and in the land of make belive of "what ifs".   As a matter of fact, I get questions about why I don't report my data and share some of those files.   I don't because I don't over analyze it and don't want to get caught up in data that keeps the mind from telling the legs to go until you blow.  I raced Saturday night at High Point and never looked down once to check speed, distance, power, cadence, etc.   It wasn't important.  What was important is that I keep the wheel in front of me and that I keep an eye (from the break) on what is behind me and stay consistent when need be and pick up power or pace when need be.   You get a feel for these things.  You become insightful and maybe even intuitive as a bike racer.   Use wisely and don't let power slow you down.  Gosh, I can hear CAndrews lecturing me right now.   Retract it all. :)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Soaker Ride - May 31st

I'd like to recognize this day and it's significance... Memorial Day... a day many take for granted, but one to stop and realize how many men and women have fought and are still fighting for our freedom and safety around this world so that we can take pleasure in doing the things that we do in our everyday lives. God bless those countrymen for all they do and for those that lay to rest in honor of our great nation. Happy Memorial Day!

Cyclists are allergic to rain, but more from the need to keep the equipment clean and their shoes dry. If we think it might rain, we break out the rain bike, rain shoes, rain everything. Today was suppose to be nice in the a.m., showers in the p.m. Boy was that forecast further from the truth. And meteorologists get paid for this type of prediction.

Started out at 8a with a few local guys for a 2 hour ride. Easy pace, just spinning the legs and enjoying the holiday. Lead by RGrier, we did some sightseeing of some old JReavis routes that are too busy these days and not well maintained for bikes. Nice change of pace though and kept the showers away until we started down the backside of Dam Road. It looked like we were heading right into the eye of the storm (remember, we are cyclists and not necessarily known for our intellect), but we wanted a piece of Dam Road (a nice little climb close by and always splits the group on local rides). We got absolutely drenched going up Dam Road and back through Fort Mill. As a matter of fact, from that point on it rained non-stop. We decided without even a conversation that it was a B line back to the shop. But it was absolutely horrible conditions getting back, with huge puddles everywhere. Brakes weren't working well, road markings were dangerous to get near and we couldn't even see at times from the barrage of rain and splash from passing cars (i think they secretly got a thrill out of splashing those darn cyclists - little did they realize that we were already wet).

What a way to spend your day off and early morning up, but 40 miles later I am sure each of us was glad to be back at home spending Memorial Day with our family in dry clothes. An "A" for effort and an honorary degree in meteorology bestowed to all that finished today. Great job!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Double Up Day - Sat a.m. Nationals & High Point Criterium - May 29th

Started in the saddle at 6:45a, wet roads and hopes to stay dry for the Tour de Fort Mill without getting too beat up by the big local team, who coincidently enough showed up with 11 guys this morning. The ride was actually tame. I threw in a couple of attacks on the hills to get the legs fired up, see who was paying attention and to keep the others on the defensive. Keeping my eyes peeled to MBotting and GStiel. Never know when those motors might go or put you in the pain locker. TFenig got the Doby Bridge sprint - go Tom. And MBotting wasn't feeling it today obviously because he didn't give it a go at Doby Bridge (the most significant hilltop finish on the route - about a 1/2 mile that starts with some elevation, levels off for a while with a slight pitch and then steps up again for the finish). And in the finale, MBotting decided to lead it out and I assume set up GStiel, but everybody got clustered because it almost seemed like nobody was going to jump and start their sprint (it usually starts 300 meters out or so). Today it probably got started 100 meters out. I got caught looking, but not for long, as GStiel and JHunter were the players. It looked as though Gordon had it, but he started fading quickly. Jeff jumped from Gordon's wheel to mine and just couldn't make the pass. Score! And as all Saturday bike rides should end, five of us headed for coffee and bagels in town - RGrier, DKeesler, RSmith, DEngle and myself. Gentlemen they are and great perspective on life. To home and 53 miles later...

Later that day and with the uncertainty of my riding for Sunday and Monday, my lovely wife gave me the green light to race in High Point this evening, so we packed the car and headed up North 1-1/2 hours. It was pouring when we left and was wondering how the weather would hold up in HP.  I have a great wife!
Racing Masters 35+ and never know who will show up. We certainly have some powerhouses in the Masters field in the SouthEast. Unfortunately only 14 guys lined up. Threat of rain, holiday weekend, late start...who knows? 3 teams were in force and some individual contributors mixed in. RJenkins went from the gun with one follower, they came back, The Judge went and took three I believe (i thought all the teams were represented) and that was the move, but they couldn't organize and were brought back. RJ goes again with one and that is the move of the day.  There were a number of vicious attacks in between.  Another attack comes and I go with - guy from Carolina Bicycle (Michael) - that is the second move of the day. The Judge tries like hell to get away, but he is the most marked man in the sport and rightfully so.  Both breaks are working together well and maintained their speed & distance, so there are the top 4 - racing for 5th is everybody else. WBixby gets Ryan at the finish, but Ryan certainly doesn't claim to be a sprinter, but has wicked horsepower so be careful of his ability to TT away from you. Michael and I worked great together until that last lap and all of a sudden we are playing, watching, waiting and get to the final turn and he jumps. I jump immediately not knowing how well he sprints. Lucky for me, I was able to close it down and come past for 3rd - again, no points. Good showing by Carolina Masters... 2nd, 3rd and 6th. On to Lexington BBQ for dinner - wouldn't miss it for the world if I am in the neighborhood.

All in a days work!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Charlotte Nationals - Orr Road - May 25th

Ahh, another night with a slight threat of rain, but this historic weekly event must go on regardless. And the troops come from every direction to take their pain, shock their legs, blow their heart out and feel good afterwards that they gave it a go, again.

How exciting would be if I just wrote the usual suspects showed up, rode around in circles for 50 minutes and called it a night? Okay, not far from the truth, but it is all about those little decisions each person makes during this ride, i mean race, that gives them that thrill of exhilaration and accomplishment, meaning how many folks do they move up on, how many laps do they last, where do they finish, what was their max heartrate, did they take the corners without braking and are their shoulders and wrists relaxed after the ride, did they beat their arch rival, did they do better than last week, did they get yelled at by some elite snob, etc., etc.

Shout out for the guys who put up the cones each week. We use to divide and conquer with volunteers, but not sure who the hero is these days... they deserve "saint" status in the racing community though. There is nothing worse than showing up at Orr Road and see no cones set up. We are such an entitled crowd for what reason I have no idea. Have you ever met a racer that didn't think they were pretty good, if not great and certainly wanted swag for free?

Sometimes it is hard to keep an eye on the race with so many folks out there, who has been lapped, how much distance you give a couple of guys before pulling them back, what moves to go with, at what point on the course you burn that match you have been saving up, etc.

Tonight was no exception. Breaks here and there, but not much sticking. I was in a couple of little moves, but could tell in each that they weren't sticking... either to small, not enough horsepower, a teammate with me (which has stayed away on occasion), not the right teams represented (usually the case), etc. I thought the move of the day was done with The Judge and a pretty substantial group got away and started putting time in on us as I was setting tempo on the front, but several guys saw the same and didn't want it to last so after about 3-4 laps it was pulled back. A few more attacks and nothing doing.

And with about 10 or so to go, The Judge gets away again (who can believe that, right?) with TMiller, Sheehan and DFuller. Some old school horsepower with The Young Buck (TM). Looks solid as long as all are motivated and working together. Seems they were although CVigna, Salsarita's and AMartz were working hard to pull them back. Too many years of experience in that pack.

Not sure how the final flushed out, although I know The Young Buck got away on a little move and won Orr Road - put that on your resume my man and tell USA Cycling to come sanction this baby. I would assume The Judge pulled in second. Sheehan has been doing very well at Orr Road over the last month or so, so no surprise to see him in the mix and reading the move - must have something to do with that secret mountain training. And certainly no surprise to see DFuller up there - crafty veteran and that has a pounce too.

So, we all played our cards for the sprint finish. I knew AMartz was out (young Cat 1 who was taking full lap pulls to bring it back) and probably CVigna (since he was putting in attacks late). Knew my competition was some of the Masters riders (Morgan & Knitche, etc.) Never know when the attack will come with one to go, but it typically is always right before the start/finish with one to go and sure enough there it goes, but it is always too early and short lived. I got to 8th wheel or so and felt pretty good there - just never know who will pop, who will attack and who is on your wheel. I saw some hesitation after the first turn and knew I needed to be to the right in a position to jump on a wheel (never fails). And sure enough DLeatherman jumps. He is pretty strong and hasn't been racing the last few years, so not sure his mojo yet, but I knew enough to find his wheel. I didn't think he would be able to hold it from turn 2 to the finish (there is no way), but figured he was leading one of his Carolina Flyers boys out. They missed his wheel though. I took it thinking he would sit up once he saw me on but he had committed so time to blow it up. It really was the perfect leadout for me, but I figured his guy was on my wheel so when I jumped I dug deep hoping like hell no one could come around. I know Vigna has a lightening 100 meters but I knew he had blown his load already. Digging deep..... Knitche on my wheel.... can he come around.... not this time my man. 5th place on the resume - just kidding.

I enjoy the ride home almost as much visiting with friends, recovering and riding right through Uptown on the way out South. Great time and great weekly event to hang out with the guys and put your body through measurable pain in the process.

Monday, May 24, 2010

DMac Death March Mountain Excursion From Hell - Sunday, May 23rd

Really wanted to continue my mountain training and DMac put together an informal ride from his cabin in Landrum.  Ended up being 13 of us, with local legend and current NRC ranked #5 in the nation, our very own, R Farina.  Joined by ChrisS, Lars, ChrisD, Hardy, Andy, Addy, Meredith, MariAnn, Rachel, David and DMac. 

Started out fine, fairly mellow, warm and talkative bunch.   I felt surprisingly good.  Our first real climb was Hog Pen, about 5-1/2 miles in length - not steep, but just kept coming.  To be honest, Rachel and Robin set tempo for a few miles.  I thought I could help out, came through, started setting tempo and a half mile later popped like a cannon and that was pretty much the story of my day.   It really got no better even though on occasion I thought it would because of the flats and downhills that I could power through.  But at each climb I started with the lead group and always found a place to pop again, usually early on. 

I was so far off the back on the big climbs that I couldn't even see folks in front, which took the pain and frustration out of the mix.   I was able to make my way up, over and the waiting pack was ready to motor on.   I have to say, I couldn't have had better company with Meredith, but not because she is slow, but because she has been off her bike and doing quite a bit of running.  Going back to her roots I see.  And for the record, she coached me up the Green River and Old Camp Indian climbs.  Green River was absolutely brutal with 19 switchbacks, plenty of traffic coming down, dirt, gravel and plenty of debris.

Made it up over Old Camp Indian (barely) and almost home, but knowing full well that Dmac's driveway awaited me (it is a magnificent ending to a tortuous ride including very steep incline and a couple of switchbacks).  The big talker that I am, I was ready for the challenge, of course, until I stopped pedaling from all the freaking cramping and quickly unclipped, lay on my back and knew the day was over with 75 miles.  I didn't mind pushing that freaking Fuji up the driveway.  Day over... my worst mountain ride in ages, but couldn't ask for a more beautiful day to ride my bike and have some of the best company a man can keep.

Saturday Nationals (BikeSouth) & Rafik's Torture Moto Pacing - Saturday, May 22nd

I am not a fan of the local Saturday a.m. BikeSouth ride ... too early, to short and frankly to much squirrelly testosterone. A good mix of racers, strong recreational riders and some pretenders too. In any event, it usually shakes out the cobwebs in the legs, starts the heart through the roof and puts an order to the peloton very quickly. I only go if there is no race, no cookie ride, no mountain opportunity and I am just plain bored. I decided to go this day because of the above mentioned and threat of rain around lunch (Mother Nature delivered right on cue).
I always tell myself to chill, watch moves unfold and enjoy from the pack. Never seems to be the case with so little self control. And anytime there are two or more cyclists, there seems to be a race. We actually got further out than I thought before attacks started flying. At least we got a warm up in. One of the local college kids jumps on the first real hill and the flurries begin.
As much riding as I do out South you would think I know the names of these roads and local highways by now. I know them well, but not by name or number, simply by right or left. We were somewhere in Fort Mill near the US Foodservice distribution facility - flat stretch, great TT section. I jumped on and filed it out for another warmup. I pull over and one of the local bike shop employees jumps (Cat 2) and the college kid goes with (Cat 2) and there forms the break. Do I even need to say that Carolina Flyers missed the move and had over 10 guys there? I guess I do. I was waiting for them to pull it back and they certainly gave effort, but I closed it down (remember, it is my blog and my recollection of how the events occurred) on Doby Bridge.
Once it came back, the pack put it on chill as they always do on that stretch in fear of the Doby Bridge climb. Everybody sits in and recovers and waits and tries like hell to pounce, to cover and to hang on for dear life. Four or 5 guys broke off the front for the sprint. Don't know who picked it up because obviously I wasn't there. I believe the mix was Matt, Marcus and Andrew in some order.

And on 521 back in, the pace seemed chill again because of the threat of the finish and the final sprint. Two guys were allowed to go off the front, one was Jim Andrews who seems to have converted to triathlons and another guy I didn't know, but seemed fairly strong. Those two put a good 1/4 mile on us over that 6 mile stretch. But as usual the final hill produced attacks and four of us got separation and oh yeah, Rafik was out there sagging with his scooter. So, once Andrew, Matt, Marcus and I got separation, Rafik moto paced us to the sprint. We were gaining so fast on that two man breakaway that it was scary and we were coming into the sprint around 40 mph. It was a give me and Marcus gestured for me to take it, knowing I was sitting on waiting as last man.
I turned around to ride back out South with the 8:30 group and Rafik joined in on the scooter. We decided to venture out on our own for some moto pacing - not what I had on the plan, but certainly couldn't hurt (until tomorrow of course) and once in Van Wyck, we started. Rafik killed me and has gotten very good at motor pacing, lines, speed, signaling motorists, reading facial expressions, motivation, etc. I caught myself going down Van Wyck to the brick plant at 49 mph - OUCH! We continued on for 35 miles or so before I had no more. 85 miles later I am home, sweating like a pig from the high humidity and rain coming in. Job done by 11:30a.  Thanks Rafik!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tour of California - Stage 3 - San Francisco to Santa Cruz

Top- Lance , Center- Robin Williams and Bottom- Fabian Cancellera

What a beautiful day to watch the start and finish of Stage 3 of the Tour of California.  The Shack came prepared to defend Levi's reign on this event.  Saxo came with their powerhouse world champion and TdF contender.  Columbia brought their overall leader and the world's fastest man.  Garmin brought a solid team.  Big George came with his BMC boys.  Cervelo, Rabobank, Quickstep, Liquigas and several domestic pro teams.

Cervelo started the day in yellow with Brett Lancaster, but everybody knew the burden was on The Shack and Levi.   There were 2 sprint points and 4 KOMs on the way to Santa Cruz, the last KOM being Bonny Doon where the separation always occurs.   The break consisted of the domestic pro teams looking for sponsorship glory and that little bit of hope they might be a hero after this day.  Five guys got away with a small but always manageable leash.

The Shack and Cervelo started reeling them in before Bonny Doon.  Levi, Mick Rogers and DZ were the only three that cleared and made final separation.  Interesting finish that saw DZ throw his arm out instead of his bike to nip Mick at the line.   Levi had done most of the work, but even as they had claimed as much as a minute and a half on the climb, Liquigas and Cervelo brought it back on the descent to about 10 seconds.

DZ sits in yellow from time bonuses, Mick second and Levi third.  That is the battle of the ToC GC now. 

Great seeing these guys up close and realizing how good they really are in our sport.  Leaving Cali for reality and back to the local cycling scene, but not without a cycling fix by watching some of the top guys in our sport duke it out in California in preparation for the Tour in 6 weeks. 

And great to see two of my favorites although they haven't fared to well in Cali and probably have different strategies than to win... Fabian Cancellara, who has been at top form this year winning the Tour of Oman, the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and of course the famous Tour of Flanders and Perry Roubiax and Jens Voigt.

Who Am I?

I am a 39 year old professional racer who is known for my aggressive nature and determination to shake things up and keep others honest in the peleton.  I ride for one of the top teams in the world.  I don't win many races, but have certainly won my share of big stages and stage races.  I ride in support of my teammates.  I don't take myself to serious and still enjoy racing my bike for a living, but my 5 children are ready for me to retire.  I am German and currently ride for Saxo Bank.   Who am I?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blood Sweat & Gears - A Little Practice Ride - Sat - May 15th

A long freaking day indeed, out the door at 6a and back at 7:30p.  103 miles, 8500 feet of climbing, temps in the high 80's and lots of sun, but overall an absolutely beautiful day to ride your bike in the mountains.  

The adventures of Randy & Doug were quite entertaining and kept the time passing to and fro Valle Cruis.  Thank goodness not a lot of adventure on the ride though.  All went well and we pitted at the convenience store at Meatcamp, at the base of Snake.  We could tell at that point, mile 57, things were starting to slow and fatigue setting in a bit.   Time to march on though, because the good stuff has yet to come, including the venomous Snake Mountain, a little climb into Tennessee, George's Gap, a climb up River Road to 421 and finally Mast Gap.

There was an organized cycling race in Boone today and it ended at the top from the backside of George's Gap.   Saw several of the groups racing that and was darn thankful that I had not participated in that little monster of a climb with those little skinny rockets.  

Was very happy to get back to Valle Cruis Elementary School with legs still in tact.   OUCH!   Now, time for beer, beer and more beer at Macado's in downtown Boone.  A good place and way to soak your pain and recount the stories of the day from each's perspective.  I certainly wouldn't call the pace fast, but we motored and stayed consistent and just tryed to keep cool and hydrated.  Strength in cycling is built in the mind as well as the legs and today was a great mental challenge to conquer BSG early.

Off to Cali for a few days to watch Stage 3 of the Tour in Santa Cruz.  Look forward to seeing Spartacus and my man, Jens.   Should be a good time to get off the bike and enjoy being a fan of the sport.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Charlotte Nationals (Orr Road Crit) - Tuesday - May 11, 2010

Well, we dodged the threat of rain tonight and were able to get Orr Road in. 

Seemed like a slightly smaller group than normal and a slightly slower group than normal.   Not sure of the average, but it was very managable and I heard several others comment afterwards about the managable pace.  All the usual suspects and teams accounted for.

Because of the pace there were many attacks, but nothing ever really seemed to stick.  Just not the right mix nor obviously the right strength.   However, with four to go The Judge got away with Trey Miller and only one of the two survived.   The pack picked up Trey with less than 1/4 lap to go and The Judge crossed the finish line no more than a second or two ahead of the field finish.  I picked up the sprint finish for 2nd, so Carolina Masters rolls again with 1st and 2nd.  Not sure where The Don or The Kid finished up, but both were very active tonight.  At the end of the day, no podium, no points, no money and no memory of who won or placed the week before.  

I guess the down side of this weekly summer ritual is that you get to know the players, their moves, the course and what to expect almost the entire practice race, so we get slightly content or maybe even too bold, but it is what it is, a free, fun and safe place to practice criterium training with your friends and local competitors.

Thanks to all that keep it organized (Rafik) and those that continually provide, house and set up cones for the course (Darren, etc.). 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mountain Training & BSG Preview - Saturday May 8th

Left Charlotte at 6:30 this morning with Randy Smith for Boone to do some recon on BSG (not like we don't already know every inch of this course from a painstaking view), but also to start prepping the legs, the heart and the mind for what is to come on June 26th - the real Blood, Sweat and Gears.

We met Ladd Lumpkin at 8:45 and were on the bikes by 9:00 for a 75 mile day with a few feet of climbing.  We were climbing Snake Mountain within 5 miles - not necessarily a smart way to start your day or get your body acclimated to these hills.   Temperature at the start was chilly, about 62 degrees.  It had rained  an hour earlier, so the roads were still damp and the wind was teasing.  By the end, the temp was much better at 75 degrees, the sun was out, the roads were dry, but the winds howled something fierce and about took us off our bikes several times with outlandish gusts from nowhere.  I had not seen wind that bad up there before.

Did two climbs up Snake and mixed in some other climbs with some kindness of flat roads and easy rollers but we were in the mountains, so what could we expect.   It was painful, but that is what we signed up for.   Ladd crushed the climbs looking for a little vengence on the "Mexicans" from Florida (not really trying or care to be to politically correct here) this year, but he knows his descents may make or break him.  Randy took in the scenery, snapped some pics and took it at his pace.   He can do that, he is the reigning N.C. State Road Race Champion.

Finished up with burritos at Black Cat in Boone.   Great post ride fix.  Nice day to enjoy doing what it is we love to do in our free time.... just another day on the bike.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Charlotte Nationals (Orr Road Crit) - Tuesday - May 4, 2010

Has to be the fastest Orr Road of the year thus far.  The first five laps seemed easily faster than the last five with Carolina Masters taking some hard and long pulls to keep everything in single file and prevent those obnoxious early attacks of guys who just want a little attention.  After that there were numerous small attacks either always with a CM rider or covered by a CM rider.   Granted we were missing a few of our local heavy hitters but there was plenty of horsepower there.  

Excuse me for a little soapbox chatter, but I must recognize guys/teams that get out front and mix it up (whether they have any business doing so or not is just your opinion)... Harris Teeter had three guys tonight either attack, attempt to bridge or get in a move.  They aren't dangerous, but a few of them try and should be given some credit.  Salsaritas and the three amigos, Tom, Dan and Charles always give it a go too.   And the unattached or smaller team riders should be encouraged to work together and form alliances to keep everyone, even us, honest.   The dynamics could and usually are much different in a real race.  Shane Martin and Scott Staley took some massive pulls tonight.

The other part of this soapbox and I must bite my tongue somewhat is that Carolina Flyers/Preferred Parking has a very large prescence in the field (although fewer of that number are on the race team), but I wish they would communicate better and work together better and they could really make some great strides in pulling moves back and keeping more folks on the defensive.  There is no reason they should miss moves and they missed all of them tonight.  They should be attacking at every opportunity.  They have enough strong riders to be reckoned with and should be more active instead of waiting until they are at another weekly ride where it is obvious they are in domination and the sheer number, not the strength or race savvy, keeps them always in front and on the offensive.  Enough already.

So, the moves that went tonight were Grant McAlister (my teammate from Winston who was riding Orr Road for the first time) and Neal Boyd (Neal is coming off an injury and has had a tough year already).   Once they had some distance and CM shut it down, Charlie Brown was able to get away with Andrew Raab.   Not exactly sure what happened ahead, but I am sure Andrew and Charlie got up to Grant and Neal quickly and Neal probably popped pretty soon after and somehow the screws were put on Andrew and he popped (strong rider so Charlie and Grant must have teamed on him).  That left Charlie and Grant up the road for 1st and 2nd.

Back in the back, Carolina Flyers/Preferred Parking were certainly on the defensive and trying to bring it back, but I believe they finally called mercy and pulled their guys for the sprint.  With 3 laps to go, Ryan Jenkins (who had been chilling all night sitting in because he is doing the Lowe's TT tomorrow night) got on the front and kept the pace high and consistent.  He put 2-1/2 laps in at that pace and it was quick enough to prevent any attacks.   Mike Kelly was sitting behind Ryan, but once Ryan pulled over with 1/3 of bell lap left, Mike took a 2 second pull and moved over himself.  That left me on the front WAY to early so I hesitated to see if anyone would jump me and I could grab a wheel, but after only a second or two I launched and said what the hell... the furtherest I have ever launched at Orr Road and probably the longest sprint I have ever attempted.  I knew there were guys all over me licking their chops and I really didn't think I could hold it that far and that long particualary going up that small rise to the finish.  I knew I had to dig and hold as long as I could and figured Marcus would be sitting on me ready to come around, but at the point I knew I had it, I looked over and saw Sheehan second.  We were freaking motoring!

Great job in practice CM... Grant, Charlie, myself.  Time to put practice into race form.  

p.s.  kudos to Julian Patterson (John's son) for taking that last ditch flyer with 5 to go or so.  it might not have lasted long but it certainly made a statement that somebody has arrived on the scene and is ready to climb the ladder from Cat 3 at age 15 to Cat 2 after Crossroads and racing in Belgium this summer.   Great job Julian!  Watch out Pro/1/2s... the kid is coming up fast.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dylan Mitchell Crit - Ft. Mill, SC - Sunday, May 2nd

What a beautiful, BUT HOT, day to race your bike.   The Masters 35 wasn't until 2:30 and I believe the temps got up to 90.   Plus the newly (and greatly improved) paved course was awesome but even hotter from the newly paved asphalt just bubbling up on your tires and body.  

A little more tame field, but still South East Masters racing, so started out pretty mild and one dig was brought back before Jay Charles launched at the Start/Finish.  I was on him and he is dangerous.   He got us through turn 1 and 2 and I gased it on the headwind backstretch creating an unexpected gap so I slowed to see who was latching on.  Not sure of the details on how it formed from there, but Jay and I were obviously there, Darren from POA, Marcus from Carolina Flyers, Todd Clapp from Clif Bar and my teammate, Ryan Jenkins and not long after another of our teammates came across, Grant McAlister.   Seven man break rolling and rolling hard.   Picked up 15 seconds on the field in no time.  Carolina Masters started throwing attacks to losen things up but couldn't get any separation.   Strong break and a long way to go, so settle in.

Once we realized we had the field in sight to be lapped, our guys knew we had no desire whatsoever to lap, but the other guys had plenty to gain, so here come the attacks.    They were shortlived, but still happening if we drove the pace to slow.   POA and Preferred Parking had everthing to gain to get to the field and unfortunately we did with 2 to go and all hell broke loose as the POA guy had two former teammates waiting on him and dropped the hammer.  Very good tactical move, but that means they intentionally slowed and dropped from the pack and there is some that may argue that although legal by all accounts, it is just not the best etiquette, but a win is a win and that is what Darin got from it.  

Jay saw the move and jumped but could never get that close and Ryan marked Jay a bit late, but with all the commotion and choas from being back with the lapped field, it created havoc and some sketch weaving in and out of traffic.   Jay 2nd, Ryan 3rd and my local favorite, Marcus, 4th.  I had his wheel and some lapped rider sprinting for 15th-20th got in my way at the finish and one brake check is all I needed to get 5th.

Good race.  Good workout.  Hot day.   Did I say hot day?  Wow, how the body just isn't use those temps yet.  And 3-1/2 hours in the yard upon arrival at home.   What a day.