Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Finally, some good legs at the U23 Nationals!

Right now I am in the team van rocking out to some techno with my teammate Eric Barlevav and another rider, Miles, driving from Binghamton, NY to Philly then Richmond then Winston-Salem. I figured now would be just as good (read: terrible) a time as any for my latest (and very late) blog entry!

I have been traveling pretty much three weeks straight now, save for a few days of training in Winston-Salem. Young Andy Baker and I were in California at U23 Nationals with Eric Barlevav and Jackie Simes, then we flew back to NC and drove home before packing up again to fly to Chicago for one of my favorite races: the Downer’s Grove USPRO National Criterium! We had a stacked team there, but only Tom Soladay and Eric stayed with me afterwards in a far-south Chicago suburb for a few days before high-tailing it across the Northeast to NYC for a night and then up to Binghamton, NY for the Chris Thater Invitational today.

I do not profess to be a cycling coach—rather, I learn by experience, trial, and [much] error. Example: the drive from Chicago to Binghamton is only 11 hours, but we decided to save a few dollars on a hotel room and Tom wanted to see his sister in NYC, so we drove for 13 hours on Friday. Not bad . . . until we found ourselves on the road (and in a ton of traffic) for another 5 hours BACK ON THE SAME ROAD up to Binghamton on Saturday! NOT good for the legs, and I definitely felt it during the first hour of today’s race at Thater.

So, do as I say, NOT as I do! But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the Cali trip . . .

Andy and I were the only two on our team slotted in for the U23 TT, and we gave up our spots at our team’s home races (Charlotte and Haynes Park). The team ripped it up at those two races, and I was very jealous that I could not take part in the glory (and the incredible dough!) . . . just more motivation to kill it at Nationals, right?

The TT course was definitely not your daddy’s run-of-the-mill flat out-and-back! To get the legs nice and seared, there was a 1000+ foot climb from the gun, then a fast but short downhill followed by mostly flat with some spikes before a turnaround and a final leg to the base of what was the downhill on the way out. I thought long and hard about how to ride my fastest race, although I knew going into it that my preparation was far from optimal or even close to what it was last year when I won. However, a time trial is just you and the clock, and you have to figure out how to get from A to B as fast as you can without worrying about where others will go faster or slower. I always have trouble with “slow” time trials, where the average speed is low and there are many areas on the course that require super-threshold efforts followed by sub-threshold recovery periods, and this course definitely favored climbing and unsteady pacing. I decided I would ride fast but steady on the hill, recover on the descent, and hold back until the turnaround because the headwind, uphill final leg would be the most crucial portion of the race.

I ended up 7th, which I was satisfied with, all things considered. It was disappointing to go into Nationals without the TT preparation that I had hoped for, but I was super happy to be right up there with small time gaps to truly standout riders in the U23 category. In retrospect, I would have only changed a few things: I needed to start out with an ice pack under my jersey and drink more water during the race, because it was super hot, and I also needed to go harder after the climb and before the turnaround because there was never any wind to make one section much harder than another. I kept telling myself that the most time would be won or lost after the turnaround during the final 8k of the TT, but it turned out to be just more of the same, coupled with intense, stifling heat.

Andy and I found respite back at our swanky hotel right next to Disneyland and then we had an excellent dinner with my parents (who FLEW TO CA FROM IOWA!) at a hole-in-the-wall home style Italian restaurant: wonderful service, an incredible beverage menu, and amazing food. We got a nice night’s sleep and then spun around the next morning with my old Hottubes teammate Spencer Beamer and his DLP teammate Scott Jackson. We checked out the criterium course and watched the finish of the U23 Women, and I also ran into Avery May, the Webcor soigneur and our savior at the Tour of PA. It was nice to catch up, although we wish she were still working for us!

After killing some time, and then twiddling our thumbs, and then people watching, we left our internet oasis at the Hilton and went to race in the middle of a gigantic asphalt parking lot. Apparently this is quite common in LA: erect a bunch of barricades in a very sketchy, snake-like configuration and watch the fireworks and carnage ensue as Lycra and skin are shredded! I had amazing legs after getting opened up in the previous day’s TT, and was very active off the front with the obviously-dominate Slipstream. I basically followed most dangerous moves, the counters to those moves, and then finished most attacks off with a solo effort in the hopes a little group would come up to me. Well, none of those three things worked by the end of the race, and our only hope was getting our sprinter, Eric Barlevav, a clear shot at the win.

Well, the last few laps were some of the most dangerous and twitchy of any race that I have done this season. Basically, the race was too short and way too easy to cause any selections, so everyone went crazy at the end, which is even worse in the U23 category because many riders do not know how to handle their bikes very well. I soft-pedaled the last lap after almost crashing three times and watching an excellent rider on Toshiba, Bobby Sweating, go down in a gnarly wreck with two to go. Eric came in for fourth in a photo-finish for the books, but he never even got the chance to get a true sprint off when the eventual winner, Justin Williams of Rock Racing, shot the gap between Jake Keough (Kelly Benefits) and the barricades. He was frustrated, as using brakes and sprinting are not supposed to happen at the same time, but I was happy with our overall result: Andy and I were in tons of moves and I felt great, Jackie was active, and Eric was in the perfect position to win—it just wasn’t his day.

Thanks for reading, and check back soon for my report on the road race, followed by Downer’s Grove and Thater in another post!

1 comment:

Lincy said...

Looking at the start sheet, its a true championship field with 77 riders including those on the Great Britain Olympic Development Programme.

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