Monday, May 19, 2008

U23 Camp went off with a bang!

I just got back last night after a great weekend of testing, riding, and talking with other under-23 cyclists at the Time Pro Cycling U23 camp. It was a great time for all involved: we learned a lot (the 3 Ps: Performance, Personal motivation, and Professionalism), rode a lot (Conconi test, three outdoor time trials, and a mass-start hillclimb up Pilot Knob!), and chilled a lot (excellent dinner at the Magic Mushroom with Jamie Bennette, another dinner with all the guys at Biaggi's Italian restaurant).

I had a ridiculous night/day of travel on Friday with a 6:15AM flight, meaning a 3:30AM taxi/train/shuttle to the airport. Then Erik and the guys picked me up in the big green van and we were off to Per4mance Training for a fun Conconi ramp test. The guys were super motivated and I hear that we pulled off some excellent numbers, but Erik and Pat wanted everyone to be friends, not competitors, so the numbers were kept secret. After some excellent Italian, we all shacked up with the Hawthorne Inn, a quaint hotel in Winston-Salem with EXCELLENT staff and a great breakfast buffet!

Going further with the them of "keeping us on our toes," Erik had us out in the parking lot the next morning at 7AM for an unknown ride. The roads are AMAZING in Winston, and I am psyched to be living with Jamie this summer and will have some excellent training. We headed out for an hour before pulling off into a parking lot and being told the plan: a time trial of 3-5 miles, straight on a rolling course, with a finish line wherever Erik decided to stop the Durango! I set the benchmark, which was probably not a shining effort after just getting back on the bike Wednesday with a broken collarbone, but I raced it nonetheless. The TT took just over 7 minutes, then we rode back to the same parking lot for another, longer one. Then we rode back again for yet ANOTHER, final TT that would be the same as the first.

This protocol was done in an effort to see how consistent people were, how they fatigued, how familiarity with the course affected their rides, etc. Pretty interesting, as I cut 15 seconds off my first time. I know I was super tired, and the more tired I get the longer it takes me to "open up" to race pace efforts, so I guess it is what I expected. Then we all rode back to the hotel for some lunch and then a lot of time in the conference room in the afternoon.

My roommate Will, a mountain-biker-turned-roadie from Lees-Mecrae, is a very gregarious guy and was always keeping me in good spirits throughout lunch and basically keeping a smile on my face at all times. We had some nice pitas and headed up to the conference room where Pat and Erik talked at length about what it takes to race for a living, what riders should look for in a team, what teams expect from their riders, etc. We also heard from John Gamble, the owner and founder of Dedicated Athlete, best known for their super product Ep-No!. He told us about nutrition and refueling both on the bike and off. Then I wrapped things up with a little speech about how I have been able to go to school full time and also improve as a cyclist and get onto Time Pro Cycling. I hope it wasn't a snoozer! I think some of the guys got a bit out of it, because I definitely talked one-on-one with quite a few of them afterwards and I am giving out my email and cell to them all for future questions.

After a quick nap we all went to the Magic Mushroom for an excellent pizza dinner, and Jamie Bennette, our team's main sponsor and behind-the-scenes man, sat at my table and talked to us a lot about what things were like back in the day. It is pretty cool to hear about how they raced back then, sleeping in cars at the race and couch surfing, racing just to eat, etc. I have great respect for them and it really gives me a good perspective when things get tough.

Sunday's 7AM ride was again unknown, but we were accompanied by John and Jay, a supporter of the team and the owner of a sick local bike shop, respectively. They led us on some beautiful roads out to Pilot Knob where we had a mass-start hillclimb! Ouch--but not too bad for me since I went up solo 7 minutes ahead of the pack to get times! I definitely needed that, as the legs were TOASTED--thanks, Pat! The top finishers were quite impressive and unexpected, and it really gave us some good information along with Saturday's time trial results and Friday's Conconi test. The climb is pretty sweet, with an inconsistent pitch and beautiful forest surrounding it--I was in the 27 most of the time (broken collarbone=NO PULLING ON THE BARS!) and it takes 12-15 minutes to climb depending on pace (and abilities!).

Sunday was followed by a great talk with Ronny "the Rocket". He was around in Davis Phinney's days, from '72 to the mid-80's, but he still races and is basically an amazingly experienced, talented, super-fast racer. He won literally hundreds of races, 12-15 a season, at the highest levels, and it was very cool to hear about him and absorb his advice: stick with it, Stick With It, STICK WITH IT! The Rocket also told us how to make connections and how incredibly important it is to build a solid reputation, thank your sponsors and promoters and fans, and be a professional no matter what. Then Pat and Erik talked more about racing tactics and we even ran through hypothetical race situations. Those guys have so many years of racing experience that you can't help but learn from them, which is one of the main reasons I joined Time Pro Cycling, and I know the guys got a lot out of that talk. Then Erik finished things off by giving us a talk about doping and making choices, as well as his own experiences in Europe, before making an open offer to help each and every rider at the camp in the next year with racing, getting to races, making connections, getting experience, etc.

All in all, it was an excellent camp and I had a blast--the guys really impressed me, and it is super encouraging to me personally to know that I can give advice and act as somewhat of a role model to other riders. It really motivates me and keeps me honest and professional when things are tough.

Now I just have to get through my last final this Thursday and I am home free!!! Next big race: June 3rd, the Commerce Bank Lehigh Valley Classic!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

USAF Classic went well, but the morning after was not as fun!

Hey friends,

A lot has happened to me since May 1: the team and I killed it at the US Air Force Classic, I was almost killed the morning after by a car passing a bus and broadsiding me, I was back on the bike 48 hours later and on a plane to Nationals in CO 72 hours after the crash, I supported the Princeton team and road in the mountains a couple days, then the body started to recover from the trauma and really caught up with me so I am now off the bike and trying to rest as much as possible.

The USAF Classic was balls-to-the-wall from the gun, and I was in 50% of the breaks for the first half of the race because the team thought for sure something would split off (look at time 13:24!)  After we tried desperately to get something established, it became apparent that every team needed the PERFECT break, so nothing would work, and instead it would be an insanely fast 95 miles in just over 3 hours.  The legs were great, and my form was really showing through . . .

Then the next morning, on a recovery spin, I was hit from the left while pulling out of a gas station.  The car was passing a bus, just flying, and could not see me until it was too late.  I hit the windshield with the whole left side of my body, from my knee to my forehead, and sustained a fractured (distal third) collarbone, lots of bruises, and a huge gash in my forehead with a bunch of glass for a souvenir.

I was rushed to the ER where I was worked upon by my good friend Lou d'Amelio, the head trauma surgeon and main man at the Capital Area Regional Trauma Center.  It was so great to be around a friend, and he made sure I was very well taken care of.  I also called my parents myself and made sure they heard the news from ME.  After a lot of CT scans, x-rays, morphine (hey, I'm allergic--who knew?), and stitches/glass removal, I was back at school in time for dinner, answering dozens of concerned emails through my trauma/pain-med-induced haze.

Since then, I have traveled to CO for Nationals with the Princeton Team (SOOOO hard to watch those races!!) and even gotten in some hard training on the bike (mistake: the body let me know a day or two later, and I have been off since trying to recover).  I go back in tomorrow for more x-rays (I am going to try to get some JPEGS to post!) and a recovery update.  It looks like I can train (once my overall system is healed and ready, probably another couple of days) but racing is out of the question for at least a couple weeks.  My goal is to be back in time for Philly week, which starts three weeks from today.

Now I have been working my butt off at school, getting a robot and its report finished with my best friends in Sol Cycles (yes, we do all of our group projects together!) as well as studying for two finals in the next week.

Thanks a lot for your wishes, I hope to be back soon and then get stronger and faster than ever!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Easterns win and US Air Force Cycling Classic on Sunday!

I'll keep this short because I need to go to bed.  Last weekend went very well--the Princeton team kicked things off with a decisive win by 30 seconds over Dartmouth in the Team Time Trial at their home weekend hosting the Eastern Conference Championships.  Then I went away solo in the crit after about 10 minutes and lapped the field before going off the front again to win it handily.  I was hacking up a storm as I had been sick for the past couple of days, but the legs went well and the team worked things to perfection!  It is a great feeling to finally get towards my racing form, and this win does a lot for my confidence going into my first season as a professional.  I was also psyched to see a new record 1hr normalized power of 390 watts, with 376 average, for a nice FTP of 5.20 watts/kg.  Not bad for a big time-trialist!

On Sunday the road race from Hell began: 102 miles and two 1500 foot climbs each time around the two laps.  Nick Bennette and I pulled out 65 miles in to keep from burying ourselves, while Austin trucked away in the front group before going into the sprint blindly and finishing in the middle of what was left of the field.

I have been taking it super easy this week and am now feeling excellent!  I have been doing a lot with school and Sol Cycles so it has not been a stress-free rest week, but the legs are feeling completely fresh now.  I will do some openers tomorrow, then drive down to Arlington, VA on Saturday afternoon for the US Air Force Cycling Classic.  This is a USA Pro Tour race, UCI 1.2, with all the major teams from Georgia.  It is 150km on a 12.5km circuit with only one 100 foot hill in there at about 5%.  Basically it will be a super-fast circuit race but probably finish in a sprint.  I am excited to do my first BIG race with TIME, including Jon Hamblen, Dan Ramsey, Tom Soladay, Jered Gruber, Erik Barlevav, and Andy Baker.

Here is a map and profile of the course.  It looks pretty sweet, as it travels around the Pentagon and includes the Armed Forces memorial roundabout!

I'll have an update after this Sunday.