Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tour of PA, here we come!

Amanda and I strike a pose in front of my newly-acquired 2006 Vespa GT200 (it does indeed hit 90mph on the freeway!)

an inopportune photo at Cap Formals in May

After a tough Nature Valley, where most of the team was fried after Philly Week and 20+ hours in the van, I have taken some rest and recovered quite well. I am the only guy doing both Nature Valley and Tour of PA, but I have been building back to form after my car accident on May 5th so hopefully Nature Valley has helped me get that old pain threshold back up there!

I have been living at our sponsor Jamie Bennette's under-construction house for the past week, all by myself because the guys are either in Austin for the USA Crit or at the Tour of Ohio. It has been a bit lonely, but very relaxing and restful--especially with Jamie's sick TV, PS3, Blu-Ray movies and espresso machine! It has been very nice to just relax, get my bike all fixed up, and mentally prepare for the team's biggest race all season.

I am going into this race, and the entire season, a bit off my game after the accident. I am extremely lucky that I have even been able to do all of my scheduled races, much less walk, so I am looking at everything as a positive. I am really focusing on learning how to race at the top level of domestic cycling (and it isn't really even domestic at all if you look at the riders!), and as Erik and Jamie have told me lately, "cycling is not a fitness sport!". I have always approached cycling as a test of strength, but I am finding that at the top level, everyone is within a few percent of everyone else! You can have great legs one day, bad legs the next, but the winner is ultimately the smartest rider--the one who best uses his own energy, the energy of his teammates, and the energy of his competitors, to win the race. I have not been in many races where I was not one of the strongest 10 riders . . . it is definitely a learning experience to not even be one of the fast guys and then have to figure out how to contest the race!

I am a young rider, and this is really my first season doing NRC races even though I have been strong enough to participate in them for a few years. This lack of experience has reminded me of the primary reason I joined TIME Pro Cycling--it is a development team focused on teaching fast, strong young riders how to race their bikes in the top events in the U.S.

Thanks for reading--I have to ride out to Auto Shades where our team van is ready to pick up after getting the windows blacked-out!

In the meantime, check out this excellent article describing the Tour of PA (and you can watch it every night on Versus at 6PM est (Tuesday through Sunday).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Somerville, Philly week, and now Nature Valley and a monsoon

Wow has it been a long time! So much has happened, but I will just do a quick summary:

After getting back from the Time camp, I finished finals and moved out of the dorm with help from my dad who flew in for the weekend. That was a GREAT time! We had some nice dinners and some good racing, my first since the crash in May 5th.

I did the Hills of Somerset road race on Saturday: INSANE rolling enclosure, single-loop RR with some serious hills in the second half which I did not end up doing due to a flat, so I just sat in the sag van for 2 hours and watch :-(

Then I did the Bound Brook criterium on Sunday: cool flat course with a chicane, basically just worked a lot at the end to bring back a 12-man break then sprinted in for a measly 14th but felt pretty decent.

The weekend culminated with the Somerville Criterium on Memorial Day. We had a full Time team and were ready to win. We did a great job setting up a leadout train, just did it a few laps early and had nothing left with 4 to go when Colavita and Inferno set up a great couple of trains. Our sprinters Adam Meyerson, Tom Soladay, Eric Barlevav, and David Guttenplan were all positioned very well in the top 20, but all either crashed out or almost crashed out in the last three laps. Our only success was The Gutt wining the $500 gambler's prime on the penultimate lap. We got some good press for it, though!

On Wednesday I did the Ricola Twilight Criterium in Basking Ridge, NJ with the Time team there as well as Kelly, Type 1, Inferno, Batley Harley Davidson, and Dominique Rollin (who won, of course!). It was a super hard race, but we did pretty well in the final getting 10th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, and 26th when only 40 guys finished out of ~100! That is a great course, very technical, and hard to do with a healing collarbone, but I could tell it was getting better every day.

We then drove down to Richmond, VA to stay with Mike Stoop, and I went to Virginia Beach to pick up my 2006 Vespa 250cc scooter from my good friend Amanda Scott. Again, AWESOME time! It was great to see her (haven't seen her since skiing together with Nicole Clarke after Christmas last year out in Breck, CO). We had a nice Italian dinner with her parents and then I crash that night before driving the scooter back to Stoop's house the next morning . . . that was a scary and exhilarating experience, to say the least. I was drafting trucks at 80mph, having a blast and getting a sunburn. Good times.

Since then, the team has been up at Stoop's parents' house in Philly doing the CSC Invitational, Allentown, Reading, and Philly races. I only did the latter two after resting up from my previous week of races. These races are the biggest, highest-quality fields that we will see all year, and it was SICK racing against High Road, Liquigas, Slipstream, and some of the other top teams in country and the world. We held our own and were aggressive, but Daniel Ramsey definitely came through for the team with some excellent performances, finishing Reading just behind the front group and making the early break in Philly.

The races were insanely fast, but to be honest it was the heat that got to me the most. The legs were good on Sunday for Philly, and I even crested The Wall in the top 10 the first time up, when EVERYONE wanted to be in the top 10, and I was hoping the break would go then (see my power file picture below for the first time up The Wall).

Unfortunately, it didn't go until three laps in, when I had been toasted after following a big move into the base of The Wall and struggling to just get up to the top. The early break went and Dan was in there, so we were psyched, but my core temperature was basically a ticking time bomb . . . the top teams were getting socks with ice in them to put down their jerseys, as well as fresh frozen bottles of water each lap, while I basically couldn't get feeds and ran out of anything to drink, much less pour on myself. I detonated after breaking my rear Zipp 404 leading into the finish and chasing back onto a 30+ mph field and catching just 2 miles before the 7th time up The Wall. You know it's over when you can't get your heart rate below 160 even when coasting and you TT at 172! It was definitely the coolest race I have done in a LONG time, and a great experience.

After crashing at the race hotel Sunday night, we (Dan, Tom, The Gutt, and Duncan) drove in the van from Philly to Minneapolis all day Monday and part of Tuesday to race Nature Valley. It looks like a sweet race, I have never done it before, but it feels like home up here! The parents are coming up from Des Moines for the TT and crit Friday, and then the final Stillwater monster on Sunday. Unfortunately the midwest has been having monsoon conditions with rivers cresting their Flood of '93 levels and much more rain expected these next two days. Should be interesting racing!!! I'll try to get some good race updates as the stages go by. Thanks a lot for reading!