Superior Morgul–Racing Like a Fool!

I came soooo close to winning this past weekend’s three-day Superior Morgul omnium, Colorado’s biggest race (other than the USA Pro Challenge). In the end, the three of us on the podium were tied on points, each with 99. It came down to the final day’s stage placing. I can look back on every day and see errors, especially on the last day, where I could have done better. Despite this, I’m still pleased with my race and happy to still be having good form. I was pretty worried early last week that I’d already peaked and my fitness had vanished overnight. Then I stopped dehydrating myself in the sauna. My legs came back two days later, just in time for Friday’s time trial.

The time trial goes like this: you start out on the top of a hill, ride really hard for about 300 meters, go down a hill into a busy traffic circle during rush-hour where traffic is NOT stopped by a couple half-wit police officers who don’t know what the hell they’re doing, go up the steep Wall, climb over some more rollers, then briefly descend towards the finish line before one last short false flat stretch to the line. In total, it takes 15 to 18 minutes depending on how slow you are. I was fairly not slow on Friday, coming in at 15:30. 15:30 was good enough for third place! It was also good enough for sixth place, which is what I got. Third through sixth were within one second. Scott came in just ahead of me at 5th.

For me, the highlight and lowlight of the ride was getting tagged by a car (or visa versa) in the roundabout. I have a tire mark of the white SUV that done it right on the side of my shoe as proof. I didn’t crash or get hurt, but I got real angry. And right there, clipping back in, was the one second and handful of points I needed!

Day two was the crit, which snaked its way through a small neighborhood alley street, took a quick descent and fast left-hander, then gradually climbed towards the start/finish. I wasted no time getting things going, attacking out of the first corner and pulling hard for a full lap before looking back. The pack was all lined out behind me. I pulled off to the side. A few laps later I took another dig, this time getting away with two others (Jesse Goodrich of Cal Giant and Drew Christopher of Primal). We didn’t stay out front for long, but when we were caught it was by a group of 10 guys, including Scott.

first move in crit

Drew, Jesse, and I.

Scott helped peg it while I recovered for a lap. I thought we might have the winning move right there, but a few minutes later and we were caught. I think I attacked again right away or something, got caught, then followed Robin Eckman (Cal Giant) as he went for a prime a lap later. I lost out on the prime, not being able to outsprint him, but we had a gap. Chris Winn (Horizon), was with us as well. Sweet. Arguably the three fastest guys right there. Robin and I drilled it for 20 minutes before Chris took a real pull. By then our gap was up to 30 or 40 seconds. Pretty soon it was over a minute and we eased off a bit.

move going in crit

Someone got the perfect shot of the move right as it went.

other pic in move

Making the gap grow.

nick and scott in the crit

Nick and Scott patrolling the field. Nick got into a two-man move with a lap to go and took 5th.

crit behind

With five laps to go the announcer called a points prime. I attacked at the top of the lap in the alley way street and held on to take maximum points, sitting up a bit before the line because I didn’t have the confidence to go the rest of the way alone. I figured Chris and Robin would sit 10 seconds behind me and work together while I burned myself to the ground, then I’d get destroyed on the last lap as they came around. In hindsight, I should have gone for it because I don’t think they would have cooperated.

Four laps to go and we began playing cat and mouse. I hate that analogy. I truly hate it. It’s so over-used I can hardly stand NOT punching a cute baby gerbil in the throat every time I hear it. I hate it almost as much as I hate the phrase “youthful enthusiasm.”  Paul Sherwin and Senial Man…SHUT UP already!

So anyways, we did some attacking and whatnot and came to the final lap going about seven miles an hour, all three of us parallel with each other, waiting for someone to jump. Of course I jumped first. I smashed  it as hard as I could for about 200 meters up to the neighborhood alley way street, where I looked back to see Chris a few bike lengths back with Robin on his wheel. I swung off all the way to the right side of the road and coasted, hoping to jump in behind them or have them sit up so I could attack again. Instead, Chris lept up, distancing himself from Robin during his slight moment of inattention. He  looked over at me and I looked over at him, both simultaneously thinking, “Ahhh shit. Racing for second now.”

Chris pulled the perfect move and neither Robin nor I wanted to drag him back for the other to then just go right by. Robin did eventually go for it a few moments later, but it was too late. I got on his wheel and he sat up. I should have attacked him right then and there. Instead, we rolled to the finish line together, with him taking me by a bike length in the sprint for second place.

I wound up sitting second overall going into the final day. Robin was first and Chris was third. Chris won the overall as well as the road race last year and Robin was second in the road race, just inches behind Chris on the uphill sprint on the iconic Wall. The way the points were spread meant that in order to win the overall I would have to beat Robin by two places in the road race and also beat Chris. I knew I could take just about anyone on that length of steep climb, especially after eight times up it. It’s false flat leading up to the Wall for about four minutes, then for the last minute and a half it pitches up to 8 and then 12% before easing off over the top. The finish line is right before the top. A marvelous place for a finish line in my opinion.

The night before the road race, a cone and sign company that does all of Colorado’s cone and sign stuff on highways went out of business. This prompted a very quick change to the road race course, which all of us were very grateful for. It was either that or the road race was going to be cancelled. Hats off to Lance and the rest of the organizers who made this happen.

And, even better, the new course turned out to be vastly superior to the old Superior course. See what I did there? The new course took out the boring, flatter section of the race. Now we just did out and backs along the top section, which is where all the exciting stuff happens anyways. As a bonus, the wind decided to come out and play as well, even more than normal.

Our pre-race meeting was all about me being conservative and waiting, waiting, waiting while the rest of the team took control during the first three quarters of the race. I was to be lazy, to not pull through hard or often if I was in the move, and to let others close gaps and attack. Sounds easy…in theory. In practice? Well, remember I didn’t win now did I?

I followed moves and did some minor attacking in the first couple laps. I think by the third of seven and a half laps Nick was the only teammate of mine left in the group, which was already half its original size. Horizon, Chris’ team, had started with 11 guys and was down to six or so at that point and still ripping along pretty strong. Jim Peterman, the local TT phenom who crushed Haga and Zirbel a few months back in a TT and had also won Friday’s TT stage had been up the road with Jesse Goodrich for the first three laps. He was back in the fold now, most likely hating life, his legs, and his over-zealous move on the first lap. Robin still had teammates Jesse and his strong brother, Yannick by his side.

RR

rr 2

I got all the photos from Adelaide and facebook, including these two images taken by SportifImages. Thanks for all the great photog work everyone! Check out Dejan’s SportifImages website for a ton of great quality pics of all three stages.

Luckily, I had Nick, who was riding like the Hulk, crushing fools and getting in heated arguments with those who didn’t pay respect. He did a ton of short-lived attacks and followed even more, keeping things together when needed and ripping things apart as well,  softening the field all the while. Midway into the race he got away at the base of the Wall (just after we descended it) with one other guy. They profited from the draft of a dumb, slow motorcycle and got 30 seconds on the field in no time. If the moto aint movin fast enough, get on it! Don’t even try to argue with me that you haven’t done the same thing when given the chance. Just don’t. Don’t even.

After the turnaround a mile later we headed back towards the Wall, where I bridged up to Nick with a few other guys, including Chris and two of his teammates. Robin was nowhere to be found. This was it! This was the move! No it wasn’t! We got brought back after the false-flat headwind section. I didn’t expect that, but I’m guessing Yannick and Robin and Jesse killed themselves once again. That’s some good teamwork right there.

A lap later and I took the Wall from the bottom to the top and dropped everyone by a good margin without having to go all out. At the top I looked back, deciding that to go for it there would be stupid. There were two guys way off the front by over a minute so they would be pretty hard to bridge to. Plus, the top of the course, which was the direction I was heading, had a strong headwind. To face it alone would be stupid. Only a stupid person would do that! I rode easy until I was caught, hoping someone would try to bridge to me but they didn’t. I was playing it smart.

on the wall

Attacking on the Wall.

My smartness came to an end five minutes later after a series of hard attacks over the top of the next roller. The small group was shattered and echeloned over the yellow line in the cross wind. A few more attacks ensued and I followed on the wheels. I was waiting for the perfect moment–a slight lul just as everyone’s legs cracked. It happened and I squeezed through a small gap and got away by myself. Damn it. It was too good of an attack at too good of a moment. Everyone was too gased to follow or try to bridge up to me, so I stuck my head down low and decided to go for the long haul. Typical Kennett tactics. Dumb missile.

I bridged the minute gap to the most recent breakaway up the road and made contact within seven or eight miles. I thought we could take on the peloton and what was left of the Horizon and Cal Giant gangs  if we had three of us and I took extra big pulls. Unfortunately, one of the guys, Drew, dropped off right away when I made contact with them in the feed zone, just before the Wall. Biomechanical I assume after spending too much time in the strong wind. Now it was just me and the other guy.

We held the pack off for another 20 miles but got caught with eight to go. Now I was hating life and my over-zealous move. At least it had taken a good amount of work and numerous pairs of blown legs to bring me back. I sat on the wheels and let Nick to the chasing until we got to the base of the Wall for the last time. Nick lead it out perfectly, with me right on Chris’ wheel…until I lost it and he moved up on the left while I got slightly boxed in on the right. I can’t really say I got boxed in all that much considering we were down to 15 guys out of the 80 starters, but anyways I lost his wheel in those final couple hundred meters of run-up and opted to stick near Robin instead.

Moments earlier, it got dark and began raining, adding just the right mood of doom to go along  with the high-stress finish climb looming around the next couple bends. As the rain came down we dodged cones set in the middle of the lane, dumbly intended to keep us safe on the way down by allowing more space for the descent than the climb (umm, cones in the middle of the lane aren’t safe). No one paid any more attention to the annoying honks of the moto official as we bounced off the cones. It was time for pure aggression. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started.

Chris attacked on the left just as it got steep. I responded a bit too slow but came around five guys just as Nick yelled GO KENNETT! I was bogged down in too big of a gear. I ground most of my drivetrain into metal filings as my derailleur fumbled to get in the right gear. No matter, it only lost me a half a second.  I let out a roar, straining for everything I was worth in all-out furry. Chris already had a two second gap on me but I thought I could close on him.

Nope. The finish line was approaching too soon and my legs were dying too quickly. I let out another roar with 50 meters to go, giving it absolutely everything I had up the steep slope just in case someone was about to come around. Chris held it to the line with a clean gap to me as I crossed in second. After that there was a considerable gap to third-place Clayton Feldman and fourth-place Robin. My last roar was for nothing.

My form is pretty darn good right now even if my tactics aren’t. At least in pro races (like Philly) all I have to do is sit in and follow wheels. It makes things so much simpler. 

wining

With the second on the road race I stayed second on GC as well, with Chris and Robin trading places for first and third. I came to a sudden stop on the side of the road after crossing the line and collapsed on top of my bars. Pretty quickly I was surrounded by friends with congratulations, so there was no time to be angry. I guess I wasn’t that upset anyways. With the time spent off the front, to finish second like that was a pretty huge feat. Had I sat in instead of attacked, do I think I could have won? Yes. Of course. I know I could have. But I’ve never been one with the patience to pull that sort of thing off. Someday I will. I hope.

adelaide

Chris and his team had a very smart, well-executed weekend of racing to defend their 2012 victory. Robin and Cal Giant rode super strong as well. Having this sort of top-end local competition is a rare thing–something that, in the States, only exists here and So Cal. I’m looking forward to the next show-down with these guys.

I was very pleased and humbled with how everyone on Rio rode on Sunday, even if it was just for the first lap or two. Colt, Jake, Scott, and Trevor were selfless, helping me position and chase down early moves. I owe Nick the biggest thanks of all. He was outstanding. I’ll take one strong Nick over ten regular-strength humans any day. With a fifth place in the crit and ninth in the road race, Nick wound up 7th overall after being one of the main agressors in the road race.

podium

While we waited for the podium presentation and the cash to be divvied out, the rain suddenly came back, this time pouring. I scrambled underneath a truck to take cover for about 10 minutes while it passed over us. As if by some crazed plan of a phantom demon white a white beard up in the sky, the promoters gave us podium sweatshirts just as we we began to shiver. Superior Morgul is how races should be: hard, fun courses, good viewing for the crowds along with beer and vendor tents, good sponsors, and LOTS of prize money.

After the race I rode home with Adelaide in the drizzle on the verge of bonking just in the last mile since I hadn’t eaten anything for an hour and a half. I basically bonked right as I sat down at the dinner table with a plate of leftover, homemade pizza, muffins, peanut butter, and honey. Later we had the team and Adelaide’s sister Lydia and her boyfriend Jeff come over for a BBQ to top off a great weekend with lots of meat, beer, and smores over the fire pit.

fire

smores

Finally, Sarah Kuta of the Daily Camera has been doing some fine reporting on this race. It was cool to see this sort of in-depth coverage in an actual hard copy newspaper every day. Thanks Sarah! Here are all four links to the articles she wrote:

Road Race

Crit

Time Trial

The pre-race guide

sarah reporting

Now it’s time for another day of rest before the most intense block of training yet to top off my legs for Philly. I will destroy myself if no one else.

Attention Everyone, I have Extremely Bad Herring Farts Right Now

That was a lie. While I have been eating quite a lot of canned herring lately, I do not, in fact, have bad herring farts. That red herring title (thanks for giving me the idea of this awesome pun, Tim) was just to get your attention.

Post stage race depression has left and in its wake, newborn excitement for the next big one has come.

I was depressed after Gila, despite having a much better result than I should have reasonably thought possible. 30th is good right? Wrong. I became upset because now I know just how miserably difficult it really is to sign a pro contract. If you have no “in,” like me,  you’re pretty much screwed unless you can bust out multiple stage podiums or a top 10 on GC at an NRC or UCI stage race. So with that knowledge bitterly stuffed in my back pocket, and my two brief days of sulking behind me, I’ve come up with a brand new plan: WIN Philly at the beginning of the next month.

Yeah you heard right, breh. I’m fortunate in the fact that I do have a few hook ups in this sport, which includes a guest ride at the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic. I got a call from my old director, Joe Holmes, asking if I wanted to race for the Firefighters Elite Team, which he’ll be directing at Philly. The Firefighters team is one of three amateur squads attending the UCI 1.2 race, so to get an invite to such a big event was pretty awesome. Of course I said yes.

The race will be 120 miles for a total of 10 laps, which includes storming Lemmon Hill and the infamous Manayunk Wall 10 times each. I Rode With GPS’d the route and the course has over 9,o00 ft of climbing. Hey-oh. The Manayunk is a 2-3 minute climb with terrible, cracked, nasty pavement and pitches of 20%. To make it even better, the finish line will be at the top of the climb, where literally tens of thousands of people will cheer and throw beer on us. Philly will be hot, humid, extremely attritious, and rowdy. It’s a race made for a Kennett.

To prepare, I knew I’d have to rest hard after Gila in order to start fresh and build back up with plenty of V02 and anaerobic work in the following weeks. I’ve accomplished step number one already. Step number two depends entirely on the weather. I’m counting on it being really hot. I NEED it to be hot. The hotter it is the worse everyone else will do. I, on the other hand, have a secret weapon up my sleeve: the sauna.

After hearing about some guys in the NRC peloton doing this, I decided to give it some thought. So I did some thinking, some internet searching, and finally some emailing to our hydration sponsor, Osmo Nutrition. I got an answer from Osmo founder, Dr. Stacy Sims, who has done extensive research on physiological response to heat and hydration. She also happens to be one of the main experts on heat adaptation from sauna therapy. Therapy is the wrong word. Torture is more accurate.

The procedure goes like this: end your ride at the gym, preferably entering the sauna no more than 30 minutes after you get off the bike. Don’t drink anything other than the minimal amount to get your recovery drink on. Spend 30 minutes in the sauna at 180 degrees F, and then don’t rehydrate for 3-4 hours post sauna. Sounds easy enough. And it is. You just have to be prepared to suffer. Stacy told me to start out for a short duration and that I might only last for five minutes the first time I went in. I did 35 minutes. I think I was able to last so long because when I first got in I was cold from riding over in the rain. (Side note: the rec center has a co-ed sauna, meaning it’s not kosher to be neked in it. While I wasn’t neked, my towel mostly fell off when I was laying down on the bench, legs spread open wide. I opened my eyes with 10 minutes to go to check on the time and saw a girl sitting next to me who must have gotten more than she bargained for. Or less. I kid. Later, I farted and cleared the place out. Also not accepted sauna etiquette from what I’ve subsequently read).

The next day was harder since I’d done more of a ride beforehand, still not a hard or long ride though. The last five of the 31 minutes were rough. I was growing increasingly disy and disoriented. When I got out I almost began walking into the pool ( I still had no swimsuit–just a towel since I’d ridden there). I  came to before I did this and made it into the locker room for a cold shower, having to hold onto a railing to keep my balance. It felt like I was really drunk. Later I had the brilliant idea of putting a strobe light in a sauna with extremely loud dub step, maybe even the whole room is supported by large springs underneath so it sways back and forth. With that sort of disorientation peyote would seem reeeeeally weak.

Afterwards, Adelaide and I rode to the grocery store, rode home, then made a delicious salad and sweet potato fries—the whole time I salivated over the thought of drinking a cold glass of ice water.

Today I did the entire protocol correctly. I did a ride beforehand, entered the sauna already dehydrated, sat upright in the highest bench the entire time with my legs up too, I refrained from a cold shower afterwards, and I didn’t drink anything at all for a half hour. I drank a small glass of juice once I got home, but since then I still haven’t drank anything. The goal of sauna training is to increase red blood cell volume, plasma volume, and capillary density. If I can get just one of those things I’ll be stoked. If I can get one of those things AND the race is super hot, I’ll be really stoked.

The third step to winning Philly (okay even a top 10 would be acceptable with this sort of field) is to pile on the VO2 and anaerobic work. I have 23 days until Philly. With plenty of recovery days thrown in, a three-day stage race, and two local road races from now until then, I’ll be left with roughly 7 hard days of training, so they have to count. My focus for those hard days will be to sharpen my top end to perfection. I can bust out some pretty big power for 1-3 minutes, but the repeatability of that power is the important thing in a race that’s 120 miles long.

Looking at the team start list for the race gets me pretty hard. It will be the best field I’ve raced against and on one of the most demanding, famous courses in the States. As long as I don’t get sick beforehand and nothing bad happens during the race, I think this could be the one for me.

 

Gila Final Day

Today was harder than the last four stages combined…times seven. On paper the stage didn’t sound too hard: 100 miles, 10,000 ft of climbing at altitude with two cat 3 climbs, two cat 2s and one cat 1. Wait, that does sound hard. Well, it was harder than even that sounds. Having not finished this stage in 2011, then finishing 84th last year, I was hoping for a slight improvement this time round. I set my sights high, hoping to make the early break of the day on the first climb and get enough of a head start on the hard climbs that I could finish somewhere in the top 10 or 15–a very lofty goal.

As we approached the KOM of the first cat 3 climb, I followed a move that I was pretty sure would only stick if the field sat up like last year. The field did not sit up. In fact, the field didn’t sit up once today. Over the top of the climb and on the descent I ‘attacked’ by tucking into a ball and capitalizing on my weight, soon bridging to a group of 10 who’d gotten away at the crest of the climb. I went through them at the base and attacked with Marsh Cooper of Optum as the field caught the tail end of us.

We went hard for a few minutes in the crosswind but didn’t make it, even with the help of others who’d bridged up. After that, since we were now in the flat valley, I decided to save my matches and sit in. This turned out to be a good choice since the break didn’t get away for another half hour, and with a lot of attacking. 15 guys got up the road; all but two were caught at the base of the cat 2 climb, still only half way into the race.

I felt okay for most of the cat 2 climb, but got popped off the back with 1.5K to the KOM. I suffered pretty hard to keep the gap small and caught back on, with others, after the descent–narrowly escaping the back end of a car or two as I picked my way through the caravan on one of the fastest, most technical downhills we ever race on. I did the same thing last year too so I was prepared for it.

At the base of the descent, having just caught what was left of the peloton, I shifted into my little ring as we went up a roller, only to never get out of it again. My front shifter decided to take a nap for the remaining 40 odd miles. Fortunately (or unfortunately actually) most of the rest of the day was uphill and I wouldn’t need the big ring.

The peloton was already down to around 50 riders at the base of the cat 1 climb. In recent years the race hadn’t been this selective or this fast, especially that early on. The finishing time was 20 minutes faster than last year. Anyways, as we headed up the steep base of the cat 1 climb I firmly planted my front wheel onto the back of the small bubble of guys with fight still left in them. For a few minutes I began dreaming about surviving in this group to the top, happy that the pace was only hard and not incredibly hard. Yet.

Just as I thought of this Mancebo or someone fast attacked and split the group into bits. I trailed off slowly, getting shed from a group of strugglers at the feed zone when the guy in front of me got a power feed from his team car. As the altitude increased so too did my breathing. I was panting and wheezing like a dying dog with asthma. Alex gave me a power feed and I finally found a wheel I could sit on. I grew very accustomed with every detail of Kiel Reijnen’s rear hub.

We were caught by five or six others just before the top of the climb. From there it was a relaxing descent, with me all the while hoping that I could tuck and stay on the back of the group without pedaling, due to being stuck in the small ring. It was a long, slow struggle as we worked together on the next cat 2 climb and the final, never-ending series of climbs to the finish. I ended up 29th on the stage and 30th overall. I wish I was happier about today. Goodnight.

Gila Stage Four 2013

I’m on a roll here, pumping out these excellent race reports each day within minutes of the finish. I’ll keep this up at least one last time tonight, as tomorrow evening I might be too cracked and/or drunk to write. It’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow and I plan on celebrating hard, assuming I win the race of course. If I don’t then I’ll eat a small bowl of iceberg lettuce and hop on the trainer for 4-6 hours in the basement and stair at a mirror, never blinking or breaking eye contact with myself. That’s the only way to properly build mental fortitude.

It was warm this afternoon, which was a pleasant change from yesterday’s unwelcoming frigidity. It was so hot, in fact, that someone must have had a minor heat stroke and lost their luggage near the start line in their desperate search for water and medical attention. Poor bloke. Just a few minutes before we took off, a government satellite spotted the abandoned bag and someone pressed the Red Button. Homeland Security dropped down upon Main St. from a flock of black, stealth helicopters. An abandoned suitcase? No. More like a terrorist BOMB! The race was delayed by half an hour as 172 highly trained bomb sniffing dogs consulted on the matter. Their concentration was broken for several minutes when a poorly thrown Frisbee accidentally sailed past, resulting in a mad chase and one completely mauled Frisbee. Authorities deny the incident and the Frisbee’s owner will not being reimbursed.

The race started, I attacked and got away for the first three laps but was brought back when cooperation among the break disintegrated. I wasn’t too bummed since I’d planned on conserving for tomorrow. After that I pretty much just sat in and stayed out of the dusty wind. 90 minutes later the race ended and I crossed the line somewhere mid-pack, not having felt like I’d just finished an NRC crit, which is a good thing. I’m excited for tomorrow–especially for a post-Gila Monster Blizzard.

Gila Stage Three 2013

There are goals. And then there are goals you say out loud. Today I accomplished the second (top 50), but not my real goal of a top 40. I ended up 46th, which is heaps better than I’ve done in the past, just 2:28 minutes off the winner, Tom Zirbel. My progress on the TT bike has been pretty rapid this season considering most of my riding on it has been one-hour easy rest days, so I’m hopeful that with three months of real TT training I’ll be in a good spot for Cascade in late July. I need to get properly fit on it and buy a new saddle because my hips start to ache when I spend too much time in the position. If I were a woman I’d probably have to have a C-section because of my non-child-bearing hips. I have premature child bearing hips at best–not like a teenager’s hips, but like if I were to have a premature baby. I’m pretty confident I could squeeze out a baby that was 9-weeks premature. Although in that case I’d definitely offer it up for adoption because a premi that severe would certainly have a weak immune system and underdeveloped lungs, so it would make a terrible athlete. I was premature by six weeks but my mom decided to keep me (barely). Six weeks is just on the cuff. Another two weeks and I’d have had underdeveloped lungs for sure. Luckily mine are pretty huge at 7.5 liters, which makes me wonder if I’d have gotten an extra half liter or so if I wasn’t premature.

The Tyrone time trial today is held on a fairly difficult course. It starts out with a very gradual, stair-stepped climb, which I hammered decently hard. After cresting the climb you descend down the backside at a good clip, during which I tucked and saved my legs for the next couple rollers. The wind shifts all the time on the course, and a large open mine to the right lets in a nasty gust of wind that sometimes threatens to blow you across the road. This year I was fine and stayed in my aero bars the whole time, which didn’t work out so well for Mancebo, who I heard crashed. (He still beat me).

After the turn around you get a tailwind for those rollers and also for the steeper side of the cat 3 climb. I passed my one minute man before the climb but my thirty second man (Robin Eckman of Cal Giant) was loooong gone. So instead of pacing myself against him, I battled a guy from Predator (Cesar Grajales I think) who must have had a mechanical because he popped up out of nowhere after the turn around.

The long descent back to the finish always sucks. You have to pedal even though your legs are blown to bits by then, especially this year since it was a head wind. I wasn’t even close to spun out in my 56X11, but was glad to have it nonetheless. There’s no way I could have spun a 53X11 at 110 cadence at that point in the race.

After the TT I moved up to 37th on GC, which is a pretty good spot to launch from. I’m still intent on finding the breakaway on the final day, but if I don’t make it I still believe I can move into the top 30 by just suffering it out in whatever chase group I end up in. Top 30 at Gila…not as outstanding as my Redlands result but I’ll take it.

Chris Winn, one of our guest riders, put in the best Rio time today with a 34th place. Pretty solid. With Nick one spot ahead of me on GC and Garrett Suydam a little was back in 53rd, we’re sitting 12th on team GC and intent on moving that up to the top 10 by the final day. Tonight both of our host houses are combining efforts to feed us a lasagna dinner. I haven’t eaten in two hours so I’m HUNGRY!

I hope you enjoy this hilarious sea lion video as much as I did.

Gila Stage Two 2013

Sorry for the bad news but today was disappointing.  I’d hoped for a good sprint finish but I was out of contention before I had the chance.

There’s not a lot of today I feel like writing about, as most of it’s negative. The stage was pretty tame, aside from my time spent holding onto the car at 50 miles an hour. I’d stopped after the first KOM climb to fiddle with my rear derailleur, which was so messed up that I couldn’t stay in the same cog for more than a few pedal strokes. I knew my attempt to fix it had failed wen I rode back up to the peloton before the next KOM, gears clanking and grinding away.

After the Gila Monster descent (the more difficult and interesting section of the race) I got off right away and signaled SRAM for a neutral bike. They changed the pedals and raised the seat in a hurried panic, but by the time I got going again I was way behind. Like five, six, maybe seven minutes or more. I drafted the car for a while at an easy 500 watts but ended up having to hold onto the door for dear life just to get back on. From there it was a big effort up and over the small feed zone climb to get through the whole caravan and latch onto the back of the peloton. Stupidly, I’d taken on six bottles in my back during the bike transfer, deciding that I should be of some use to the team while I got the mechanical sorted out.

This was my biggest effort of the day by far. Luckily the officials didn’t give me a fine or time penalty, even though they almost scared our driver, Alex, into leaving me behind, which would have meant I’d finish out of the time limit and my week would be over. I wish officials had to race for at least a year as part of their training. Of course that would mean there’d be zero officials. But this sort of thing happens time and time again. Someone flats, has a mechanical, crashes, etc and they get disqualified, fined, or time penalized for using a car to get back on. It’s not like we purposefully have shit go wrong so we can “take it easy” behind the car. It’s always a much bigger effort having to pace back on than to sit in the peloton. Sorry, rant over.

My new bike was better but I still could’t use the 11-tooth because the shifting on it was messed up too. No worries. The finishing straight is all about positioning and grinding out a long effort.

I bided my time in the flat valley, moved up for the final climb, helped pull up some teammates with me on the sides, sat in comfortably on the climb, took it easy on the highway descent, kept well-positioned but not too far forward with 10 K to go, and then made a well-timed move to the very front with 3K to the finish. I got to the front during a lull and coasted a bit when I realized I was too far up, a few bike lengths ahead of the field and out in the wind by myself. The breakaway was still 40 seconds up the road, if that, and a big lead out effort was needed if we were going to catch them. I figured we would, since they were easily visible and the windy finish would be hard to stay away on. (Three guys from the break did stay away by the skin of their chin–Scott’s words not mine. Just three seconds).

I got swarmed from all sides but was still in a good spot leading into the crucial right hander with 1200 meters to go. Someone crashed to the right as we rounded the corner, freaking everyone out for a split second. I hopped the center divider out of the corner and stood up to sprint onto the wheel in front of me when my foot came out of the pedal. Now my day was truly over. I got clipped in then hammered the rest of the way seated since the pedal was so loose. I finished 52nd. Ughh. I’ll have to wait for next year for a true crack at it.

Shit just went wrong all day long. This is what happens when you’re forced to build a bike the night before a race. Oh and to top it all off, after the race I took my rear race wheel to the shop to be dished and trued only to return home and learn that I’d just paid to have Scott’s wheel fixed, not mine. Stupid wheels all look the same…round. Nother trip to the bike shop tomorrow.

Now that my complaints are over I actually feel like writing something positive about today. I got to race my bike, which is always a positive. No one on our team crashed or lost time, so that was a positive. Everyone is feeling good and motivated for the next three stages, I have chips and salsa to eat, and it’s Thursday and I’m not at work. It was sunny and 70 degrees and the race, even though it didn’t go great for me, takes place in one of my favorite areas in the States. The Gila National forest is a beautiful place and I can’t get enough of the high, dry mountain air (literally can’t get enough) and the smell of baking pine trees. Gila is a great race. I’m really looking forward to that last road race. I think I might actually be strong enough to make the break for once. Time for chips and salsa.

 

Gila Stage One 2013

Well it turns out I didn’t magically turn into a climber over the winter like I’d secretly hoped. I feel like I’ve written that before. Today’s race was very slow and boring for the first two hours. Then it was nervous and twitchy for the next hour as we avoided crashes (not me) and fought for position in the crosswind. Then, finally, it was very hard for about 30 minutes up a steep climb. I did not like these 30 minutes very much.

Despite my favorite training being long climbs and despite me living at altitude, long climbs at altitude are my weakest point. Maybe one day this will change, but for now I’m much better suited to courses with power climbs, which Lang would call NARBRs (Not A Real Bike Race), so races like Univest and Redlands…you know, fake bullshit, easy races.

If you couldn’t tell already from the fat man excuses, I did not go super well today. I finished 43rd, which is actually quite a bit better than I’ve done here in the past. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Inner Loop stage, which is still difficult but ends with a flat sprint, for which I hope to be positioned perfectly and have the legs (but mainly the mind) for a top 10. If it’s windy tomorrow, things could be very different to what I’ve experienced here in the past. I’m actually hoping for wind…says the guy currently sitting in a comfortable chair and NOT breathing out his ass.

After that comes Friday’s TT, which I’m for once excited about after my good time trialing at Sea Otter. Then comes Saturday’s crit, which I’ll most likely sit in on and conserve because of Sunday’s final Gila Monster road stage. I’d like to be in the break that day since it’s only a matter of time before I get dropped on the cat 1 climb. Everyone does, except for maybe 10 or 15 guys. Making it in the break and staying away until after the cat 1 climb would give me a good shot at riding into a top 20 stage placing. Bold words.

Anyways, onto today’s stage:

We soft pedaled for a really long time, I drank water bottles from the feed zone, we started going faster, I attempted to stay near the front, I got tangled in a crash but didn’t get fall over until after I’d stopped moving forward, I caught back on with help from Alex in the team car, we climbed up a steep mountain and I went slower than I wanted, I stopped at the cattle guard finish line, I slumped over my bars for five minutes attempting to breath once again, I realized my hearing was impaired, likely due to lack of oxygenated blood flow to my ears, I drank some bright blue clothes detergent I mean Powerade and stood in front of a big fan blowing cold air, I rode down the mountain and got my Garmin from a nice woman who picked it up at the base of the climb where it fell off, and then we drove home. Done. Nick finished 34th, (USA) Garrett finished 42nd, Trevor was 62nd, Aaron, Scott, Chris, and (CAN) Garrett all finished together not too far behind in a group containing 78th to 83rd, so not a terrible day actually. Not a superb result but we got through it.

Here we are at sign in. Note my un-broken spirit in the form of a goofy face and Chris’ thumbs up.

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Here’s the finish…broken. My throat still hurts from coughing.

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