Monday, March 23, 2009

Fayettville Stage Race

This past weekend was a tough way to end a nice and relaxing spring break. This was partly because of the always hard Fayettville Stage Race which consisted of a four lap 65 miles road race on Saturday followed by a 6.6 mile time trial, and a 6 lap 95 mile road race early on Sunday. With teams coming from many different states the racing was sure to be extremely tough, but I was nothing short of ecstatic when I took my first P12 victory in the time trial.

Saturday Road Race
My main goal for this stage was to conserve energy, so that I would still have some gas left in the tank for the later races. I moved up to the front early on in the race and just tried to stay there for the majority of the race. I was never really put into difficulty and was able to stay up there. I saw a few friends that I haven't seen lately, such as next month's Jr. National Team Member, Alex Battles-Wood, and "gossiped" a little. With about one to go a group of five including, Steven Wheeler (Super Squadra), Carlos Vargas and Robbie Robinette (both Team Hotel San Jose), Chad Haga (A&M), and John Korioth (Team Six). I didn't see them roll of the front until it was too late. With Texas Tough not represented in the break, Stefan Rothe got to the front and set a steady tempo to try and limit the losses to the break, while I sat towards the front to keep safe. With about one kilometer to go the break had gotten about 40 seconds up the road and there was no hope of catching them. I tried hard to position myself towards the front for the sprint and with about 500 meters to go I found myself pretty far back in about the top 20. When the sprint opened up with about 200 meters to go I found myself being able to pass many riders on the left hand side and finished sixth in the field sprint (later moved to 5th) for 11th on the stage (later moved to 10th). During the sprint, about halfway through the pack a gap had opened up which left everyone in the group seven seconds behind. Steven "18-Wheeler" Wheeler ended up winning the stage ahead of Carlos Vargas and John Korioth.

Saturday TT
The course was a fairly challenging course with rolling hills for the first half with a headwind and then a crosswind before you turn right on a flat road with a tailwind with about four or so kilometers to go. I definitely excited for the TT mostly because it would be my first TT on my one week old Cervelo P3C (thanks again mom and dad!!). With a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back I knew that I could start hard and still be able to finish fast. This is exactly what I did and I came through the finish with a time of 14:08, two seconds shy of the course record set by two years ago Tejay Van Garderen, at an average speed of 28.6 mph (unfortunately my SRM wasn't calibrated properly and my power was incorrect). With still a lot more strong riders still coming in I was hoping it would be good enough for a top three finish. It was. I ended up taking the win which catapulted me into fourth place in the GC.

Sunday RR
All I can say is "Ouch!" With my longest race I had ever done I was expecting it to hurt like no other, but still...It's a day after and I was having trouble walking all day during school. The race didn't start out to hard, which I was thankful of, and I just sat towards the front trying to conserve energy. With about 40 miles left in the race a group of eight containing David Wenger and Ian Dille (both Super Squadra), Stefan Rothe (Texas Tough), Heath Blackgrove (Team Hotel San Jose), Joshua Carter (ABD Cycle Club), Micthell Comardo (Bike Barn), and Kolt Bates and Joseph Schmalz (both Mercy Cycling Team). With most of the major teams (major teams!!! Only Alan will get this...) represented in the break the pack was happy to let them go and they quickly opened up a four minute gap. About 60 miles into the race I was really hurting. I found myself in the very back almost crying in pain with fellow juniors, Alan Ting and Alex Battles-Wood. I then just tried to recover and hang on so that I could finish in the pack. With one lap to go, about 17 or so miles, I got a second wind and was able to move back to the front. I covered a few moves to try and salvage a top 20 placing, but was unable to go with the move that stuck which involved John Korioth, 18-Wheeler, and Pat McCarty (Ouch-Maxxis), and three others. With about 10 miles to go, another group of about six rolled off the front. I missed this move and was force to chase by myself. With about five or so miles the group had gotten about 20 seconds when I decided to put in a solo attack. I quickly opened up a pretty big gap on the field and started to close the gap on the group in front of me. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fully close the gap down by the finish, and was finished about 10 seconds behind that group, but I was able to hold the pack off by another 10 seconds. I ended up 22nd on the stage which dropped me down to 16th overall. I was definitely happy with my performances this weekend, especially since it shows I have good fitness for my first European trip coming up on March 31st to April 14th. Well, until next time!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lago Vista Day 1

La Primavera at Lago Vista is probably Texas' top race. This year's edition attracted the Kelly Benefits professional cycling team. This year was my first time racing Lago with the P12's for 80 miles (both days) and my only goal was to finish both days. The course at Lago is pretty much all climbing on the way out on stair-stepping climbs, then it's straight down with a downhill capable of hitting 60 mph. The race on Saturday was extremely tough with only 37 finishers out of 110-120 starters, and I was one of them. For the race on Saturday, I unfortunately got a terrible starting position way in the back. This meant that the first few miles of the race would be focused on moving up. Fortunately, I was able to find a lot of holes in the pack and found myself up at the front in no time. I tried my hardest to stay up there as much as I could and even felt strong enough to put in an attack at one time. With about five laps to go the pack had really shrunken. I started to become a little more aggressive and attacked a few more times. When I realized that there was no way for me to get off and stay off I just sat in towards the front of the pack trying to conserve energy. By the time we had one lap to go (about 5.5 miles) a few people had slipped off the front including Heath Blackgrove (Team Hotel San Jose) and Stefan Rothe (Texas Tough). On the first half of that lap with all the climbing I probably had the best wheel. I was sitting in second behind a Texas Tough guy that was setting a tempo for the up-hill, crosswind section. But, when we did the U-turn to start the extremely fast downhill section of the course I lost a lot of places due to my junior gears. I made a few of them back up on the next small hill, but lost them all again on the downhill right before the finish line hill. I ended up 32nd out of the 37 finishers, but I was definitely happy with my performance especially since the average speed for the last minute of the race was over 40 mph. I'll try and have day 2 up soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rules, Rules, Rules

I've recently been submitting monthly articles for Texas' top cylcing magazine, The Racing Post. Here is the article for this months issue. I am currently working on the Lago Vista race report where I succesfully finished both days...

Rules, Rules, Rules

A couple of weekends ago, at the Alsation Country Omnium, there was a fair amount of frustration and disillusionment when the results came out showing that a number of riders had been relegated in the P1/2 Road Race. I fully agree with the decisions that the officials made and also think all the racers that crossed the yellow line, myself included, during the race should have been relegated as well.
Before the start of the race when the officials were calling out the rules, they stated more than once that if anyone crossed over the yellow line and advanced positions that their day was over. They also forewarned of the heavy cross winds and if you were already in an echelon and straddling the yellow line then to start a second or a third echelon.
For the first two laps of the race everyone was doing a good job on staying on the right hand side of the road, but at the beginning of the third lap a few of the strong riders got to the front during the cross wind section and really ramped up the pace. This move shattered the field into numerous groups leaving the lead group with about 20 or so racers in it. Before long, a few guys started to venture on to the left hand side of the road, and the next thing you know about 95% of the field was on the wrong side of the road. In fear of being shelled off the back I too made the wrong decision to take shelter from the wind on the wrong side of the road. The blatant abuse of the yellow line rule caused the follow vehicle to stop the group, allowing all the dropped racers to catch back on. I’m not saying I was ecstatic when the officials stopped us, but looking back I agree 100% with what the officials did.
These kinds of rules are made for the safety of the racers. We are not Pros, at least most of us aren’t, and don’t have the privilege of having the entire highway shut down for us to race on. The officials should have relegated everyone that crossed the yellow line during the race, no matter who they are or what place they got.
As a junior racer in the P1/2’s there are a lot of people that I look up to as role models and guides, and when I see some of them crossing over to the “dark side” I automatically think that it’s OK to follow suit. After the race finished and I had talked to my dad about what happened, I realized how dangerous our actions were. What if as we were cresting the top of a hill a car was driving on the correct side of the road? Most of Texas’ top racers would have been immediately hospitalized or worse and then where would all the role models for the junior racers be? The officials had every right to disqualify us and send us home, but were very generous with only relegations. This was an excellent lesson for an early season race to remind us of what is at stake out there, why there are rules, and what we need to do in the future.