Thursday, July 17, 2008

3rd place in Louisville NRC, and then an unfortunate left turn

Matt Winstead and Hilton Clarke follow as I get the winning break going.

I almost took out Mark Zalewski ( in the fast Turn 3 in the break.

Here is an SRM power file overview of the Louisville Metro Police Foundation NRC criterium. I put a threshold line at 380 watts and smoothed it a bit, but notice that the first 2/3 of the race are much harder and faster--I was in the break almost from the gun! Also notice the last two laps were just balls-to-the-wall and over 30mph the whole time.

Here is where the break was initiated. Again, I took a page out of Steve Tilford's book and ramped it up from 10 back just before a turn, then put my head down and killed it for a few straightaways without looking back. Luckily the move looked good to Hilton (Toyota), Matt (Inferno), and Bergman/Albers (Roadhouse). Notice it only took 1.5 minutes to settle in and start working just above threshold--that is when you know a break is going to work! We got the gap and then settled into a pace just faster than the group, and I knew we were down for the long haul without having to burn all my matches in the beginning getting it to stick.

This is the penultimate lap . . . you can see where I almost crashed and then started to give it the stick to salvage things at 2:40:27.

The final lap was just an all-out 2-minute drill. Notice that my heart rate was just about through the roof (consider that I TT at 170-172!) and the speed was also pretty good considering there were many turns and headwind sections. For the final two minutes I averaged over 460 watts including coasting through some turns, and my 5-minute record is 460 up a climb with no coasting . . . not too shabby for the end of a 100-degree criterium!


What a weekend! The guys and I traveled up/over to Louisville, Kentucky for a $15,000 NRC criterium on Saturday and another local $5,000 criterium on Sunday. Adam Myerson had worked with the race promoter over the winter during the 'cross season, and we had been hooked up with a tight suite at the Galt House just a few miles from our races! After Tom Soladay and Adam arrived Friday afternoon at the airport after flying in from Boston, Eric Barlevav, David Duncan, Mike Stoop, and yours truly rolled in and we suited up for a nice cruise to a local park with another friend of Adam's, Brian.

We all went out to dinner Friday night, and unfortunately chose a restaurant that Brian had recommended which was more popular than EPO at the Tour. We waited, and waited, and got some beers . . . and waited some more. Finally at about 10PM we got food and a cool little magic show from a restaurant magician! We quickly headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

After sleeping in until 10AM and getting out for a nice morning spin, we all chilled out in the hotel until it was time to leave for the race that started at 4:45. The weather was quite insane, with temperatures hovering close to 100 and rumors of 70% humidity to boot! I filled two plastic Subway bags with ice and put them in a musette bag to carry to the race, and after a very short warmup I stopped in the shade and packed my bottles, jersey pockets, and a Zip-loc with ice. I learned this from Steve Tilford, who has probably done more 100+ degree races than I have raced TOTAL: bit a small hole in the corner of the Zip-loc to let it drip down your back as the ice melts, giving your evaporative cooling and also preventing the need to carry around a large bag of warm water for the majority of the race.

My cooling strategies helped a lot, but I still knew that a race this hot and this long (90 minutes) in blazing sun and wind would require a good amount of pacing--go over your threshold too much or too often and the legs will just evaporate. I also had a feeling that an early break would go because some people would do well in the heat and most would feel sluggish and paralyzed. We were aggressive in the first few laps, getting off the front for primes and during the lull just after a prime, but it was my attack on the fifth lap just before Turn 2 that initiated the winning break.

Two roadhouse guys (Kirk Albers and Adam Bergman), Hilton Clarke on Toyota-United, and Matt Winstead on Inferno all came into the break, and then things got really good just a lap later when Tom Soladay made it into the move. Two of seven ain't too shabby! However, after some tactical miscommunication, Tom had thought the move was going to get brought back and attacked the move solo, hoping some others would come up to it as the group was catching. The break never came back at all, and instead Tom sat out in the wind, solo, for a number of laps and burned himself badly, later having to drop out of the break and the race altogether. Things got even worse for us when John Puffer, an excellent sprinter, bridged up to our group solo . . . things just went from TWO in seven with a strong sprinter and a strong leadout to ONE in seven with just a strong leadout, against THREE Roadhouse guys and their top sprinter! Don't even forget about Hilton, who was pulling so hard he almost dropped the break each time he hit the wind . . .

I knew once Tom was out of the race that I had no duty to pull in the break, so I bided my time and tried to save my legs as much as possible. Sure enough, the group sat up a little when it was clear that we were gone for good, and we were quickly approaching the tail end of the field. I knew that this was a crucial moment: Hilton didn't want to take the break with him when we lapped because he was outgunned by a stacked Roadhouse team and many Inferno guys. Roadhouse didn't even want to lap at all, because three in seven is much better than being caught up in the big field. Therefore, Hilton was going to attack the move soon and try to get to the field, then work with Heath Blackgrove and Sean Sullivan to drive the field and prevent Roadhouse and our break from making it a lap up. I also knew that I couldn't wait for Hilton to attack because I probably wouldn't be able to follow his acceleration . . .

I decided I needed to get to the front and DRIVE the break up to the field to make sure Hilton didn't drop us and let Roadhouse start attacking Matt and me. I pulled us up about 10 seconds on the field in two laps, and then got to the front and found my last teammate in the race, Adam (all the other guys had dropped out due to the heat!). I made sure to rest and recover as much as possible while staying glued to Adam's wheel and keeping out of trouble. The final few laps got a bit hairy, but we could see that it was being set up as a field sprint by Roadhouse.

A large gambler's prime was laid on the line (this is a big-money prize for the winner of the penultimate lap, given to shake things up in the race even more than usual!), and the race began to detonate . . . unfortunately I almost crashed after getting my handlebars clipped by an Inferno guy and dropped from the top-15 to outside the top-30 with just 1.5 laps to go! Thus began a frantic solo chase at eyes-bleeding-pace to try and salvage my sprint for the line.

Roadhouse guys were strewn across the road like a tornado had hit their leadout train, and I was just dodging guys right and left as I blazed though the shattered field to get to the front. With just two turns to go, I saw Adam on Matt Winstead's wheel, and I kept drilling it and reached them in the final turn. Adam had planned to sprint Matt and take 8th, first in the field, but saw me coming from behind and swung wide. I hit the turn hot and carried my momentum through to just barely edge Matt out at the line for the last podium spot!

It was an excellent race for me, and really boosted my confidence after a tough first season on the pro circuit and confirmed to me that I am actually coming back from my car accident on May 5th. It also salvaged the race for Time Pro Cycling, as I know most of the guys were really bummed about dropping out. Third is our top result in an NRC race to date!

Adam, BBQ and I went out looking for some dinner and some nice quality brews (Adam is a learned connoisseur, so it's always fun drinking $10 beers with him), then hung out a bit at the Third Street Dive after our cute waitress said it was a fun place and that she was interested in meeting up with us after work! Things didn't pan out, but we still had a good time and got to relax a bit after a tough day on the bike.


The next day's criterium was a more laid-back affair, with 1/3 the prize money and no NRC status, but most of the same guys from Saturday (save for Hilton) showed up. We knew that it would be a battle of the teams, Inferno vs. Roadhouse vs. Time. From the gun, the entire team was up near the front, guys swapping off being in moves and initiating moves and getting primes. I knew it was going to be a good race.

It was only 60 minutes, and not as hot nor as challenging a course as the day before, so getting a break to stick was going to be pure luck of the draw and timing. It didn't stop me from trying, though. At 45 minutes into the race, I had just sat up a little after being off the front and seeing a mad Roadhouse chase behind me. I noticed the Tom had been sitting on them, ready to pounce and counter my move, so I swung wide in the left Turn 3 to let him come in on the inside before I closed the door. This was the perfect place to go, as Turns 4, 5, and 6 came in quick progression and were very tight, so it was very easy to get a big gap and carry your speed while the group bunched up. Unfortunately--and I still don't know exactly what happened--I high-sided after clipping a pedal.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from motorcycle racing and happens when the rear brake is applied in a turn, locking the rear wheel for a second and sliding the bike a little, before being released and hooking up again. When the rear wheel regains traction, the bike is out of line and actually flicks the rider upright and over to the outside of the turn. This is a very serious problem, and often leads to the death of the rider on twisty mountain roads as he is thrown into or over the guardrail down into a ditch or down the mountain.

Luckily I was only going 24mph when it happened, but nonetheless I landed really hard on my right hip and the back of the head. I started screaming from the pain, and had to stay down in the road for three laps while the pack maneuvered around me. I thought my pelvis was broken . . .

I finally got helped off the course, had my slight road rash attended to, and then tried to walk around a little. The good news: no breaks or fractures. The bad news: incredibly stiff, painful to move, and painful to walk. However, Mike Stoop and Tom Soladay setup an excellent leadout for Adam and we won the race! I was very happy that the team was successful, and it definitely capped off an excellent weekend.

I am now trying to heal up and get ready for a final 15-day training block leading into U23 Nationals. The pelvis is getting better each day, but it is still very stiff. I can ride--it actually feels better to ride than to get up and walk around!--and I have just taken the past three days pretty easy. I don't think me preparation will be compromised too much, and I have the confidence from the past couple of weekends to take with me into my training block and Nationals.

BBQ and I have been hanging out at Jamie Bennette's house (our team's main sponsor) and dying of boredom . . . I am really looking forward to getting in some good rides and then doing a sweet racing schedule in August: Crossroads criteriums in late July, the U23 Nationals August 6-10, Downer's Grove USPRO Criterium the following weekend on the 16-17, Chris Thater and a couple other local NY races August 21-24, then the big show with USPRO RR and TT in South Carolina followed by the 100k Classic and the Univest RR and criterium!

Thanks a lot for reading, I'll try to post some updates on my injury and my training in the next week!

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