Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tour of Hermann 2012

The Tour of Hermann has been a staple of my spring road season for the last 3 years. Sadly, it is going away next season. I will certainly miss this race and the almost 10k ft. of climbing over the three stages.

JB and I rolled over on friday for packet pickup and to get settled in. The weather on tap certainly favored me better than last season's meltdown, highs in the mid 60s Saturday and mid 50s Sunday. The field was certainly of a higher caliber than in years past. Jonathan Jacob (US Elite TT champ), Joe Schmalz, Austin Allison, (and teammate Chris Winn), plus the full Dogfish and Mercy teams all came to play. I was pretty excited to see that there were about 60 guys signed up to ensure that racing would be tough.

The TT went pretty bad. I'm not sure what happened, but ended up feeling bad until about 11 miles into the race. The problem was that it wasn't a useful type of feeling bad, more just like the legs had no energy. This becomes a problem when the race is only 14 miles long. I ended up about 25 seconds off my time from last year. I probably need to spend a little more time on the TT bike. The good news was that teammate Brian won the Masters TT and set himself up well to fight for the overall omnium.

The criterium had an interesting change to the course, It removed a block worth of the course making the left hand turn at the bottom of the hill come a block sooner meaning you could really overcook things if you didn't watch your speed. My legs continued to not come around during my warmup so I resigned to sitting in the group. Things broke up pretty quickly. I ended up being in the second chase group on the road, and we were racing for maybe 10th place. From years past, I knew that some people would come back out of the lead groups, so I just played things patiently. It was interesting that our group seemed to grow and shrink lap by lap. Finally with 5 to go I started to get my legs underneath me, so I attacked out of the group and no one came with me. So I rode the last few laps alone to get 7th place. This ended up being the right move as I was one of the last people not to get lapped by the leading trio. I got lots of comments about my sweet Kuat NV rack at the Stone Hill Winery as we got a good parking spot right by the main entrance. I've always been a roof rack guy, but this tail rack is so much easier to load/unload.

The road race was what I was a bit apprehensive about. Last year I finished, but just barely, with the most severe cramping I'd ever experienced. It probably had to do with the heat, or the fact that I was still eating foods with gluten, or possibly from drinking lots of coffee, or maybe because I didn't eat or drink enough.... Anyway, I decided to take away all the variables and took lots of food and drink, avoided coffee just to see what happened, and the weather played nice (and even drizzled a little to remind me of Seattle). Plus the gluten free diet that has really aided my recovery. But I digress. Justin had found super volunteer Kim Kage to help out our team in the feed zone, so I was set up to have more than enough food and drink.

The race itself was interesting. The group stayed mostly together except for Justin Maciekowicz going solo somewhere around the halfway point through the lap. This meant that we were either going pretty easy or going full out. My goal was to make it to the last lap then see what I could do from there, so I tried to float around the pack and not accelerate too much. At the very start of the second lap, after the Gutenberg wall I was sitting pretty good, but I bobbled my feedback trying to get it over my shoulder and lost some spots. This was bad because I ended up being near the back of the field for the second half of the climb out of town. So I ended up being in a chase group with about 15 others. Interestingly, we caught back onto the main group after not much effort about 15 miles later. On our way back up to the group we saw that Austin Vinton had broken his collarbone and was out of the race. I didn't hear what happened there but it was really unfortunate because he had been riding really well. The main group seemed to have some negative racing going on or something, because after we got back there were several big surges followed by more slow riding. The stretch back into town was the worst, where we were going 12-15 mph for a long ways. Plus it started to drizzle at about that time. Several wily riders went up the road at this time, but none of the "big 4", so nobody was interested in chasing.

Finally getting to the last climb up the wall, I put myself in really good position and ended up about 5th wheel behind Joe, Austin Allison, Chris Winn and Jonathan Jacob. I just stayed there until Joe dropped the hammer on the second half of the climb and Austin and Chris were the only two that could stay on. Jon Schilling and Jonathan drilled it over the top, but we were losing ground fast. I had nothing but took a few little pulls as best as I could. When the dust settled, I was in a group of about 10 and we just kept the pace pretty good and figured out a rotation eventually. Guys kept popping out of the group at the front, so I knew the pace up there must have been brutal and that we were not going to catch back on. I guessed at some point our group would start attacking each other, but wanted to be as close to town before I made a real move. There were several surges but nothing serious. Finally, about 10 miles from the finish, two of the stronger guys in our group jumped away. No one really responded, and then another guy jumped out and was dangling in no-mans land. So I jumped up to him and we worked our way up to the other two. We all were working together pretty good and we caught up to Justin M who had finally gotten dropped out of the front group. He jumped in but said he couldn't do any work. So the four of us kept driving the pace. Finally at the last climb before town, Jared Osterloh jumped and took a big dig at the front and we split Justin and Brian West out of our group. So that left Jared and Brian Eppen with me. We still had to keep the pace high because Justin was chasing hard over the top to get back on. There were only a few miles left and we kept a good rotation, while saving some for the end. I ended up leading into the final corner and decided to open the sprint off that. I think I must have gotten just a little separation on the corner and I was able to get the sprint for 7th.

It was great to finally finish that road race with a pretty good result. I even ended up being 8th overall in the omnium. Brian wrapped up a great weekend with a win in the masters RR with JB and JP playing the domestique duties well all weekend. On to Sheehan and some more TTing this weekend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bazaar RR

I've been in Kansas for a couple of years now but have never made it to the Bazaar RR. I've heard lots of wild stories of agricultural burns, motorcycle rallies, people being hit by cars, and of course, WIND.

This years edition of the race did not disappoint on the wind front. 28-35mph with 45+mph gusts from the SSW made for an interesting day. There were about 27 guys in the 1/2/3 race, but only nine or ten 1/2's, so I had an idea of who to watch. We headed out pretty slowly into the wind and there were some solo attacks into the wind that didn't mean much. I thought that making a move shortly before the turnaround might be the way to go, and tried one move with Rob Bell of Team Undiscovered thinking that his 6 teammates would shut things down behind us. That worked for a few minutes, but everyone wanted to get into our move, so we got brought back. A few miles up the road there was a hard crosswind section where Jay Blankenship of Tulsa Tough went to the front and drove the pace causing a split. I saw it coming but was hiding near the back, so I had to make a bit of an effort to bridge up. Right as I got on it turned back into the headwind and Kyle Skinner pulled off the front hard and almost took out my front wheel. I ricocheted my wheel off his quick release, but kept everything in good shape and went to the front and drove the pace a bit more to establish the split, right ahead was the cone showing the turnaround and we went through it as a group of about 8 or so and had the bit tailwind to push us the other direction. Back into the crosswind Kent drove the pace again splitting our selection down to 5. At that point, Rob Bell decided to sit on because he had a teammate chasing our group. With the tailwind, it was hard to do anything but just go as fast as possible, so 4 of us rotated pretty well all the way past the start area. After that the course gets a little more interesting as there is a climb, descent, the other turnaround, then climb back to the finish. Jay turned the screws up the climb dropping Jeremy from Undiscovered, but not unlatching Rob. By the time we got to the base of the climb, Jeremy had caught back on using his gravitational advantage and we turned back into the wind for the final climb. We were going pretty slow, but I wasn't feeling very well, so I skipped a few pulls and hoped that Rob would go early and I could catch on. Instead, we all sat in for a very slow sprint. Kent opened it up and tried to gutter everyone against the centerline. Jay was on his wheel on the line, and Rob was well over the line. I had nothing and didn't want to go all the way across the road to get a draft, so I just sat up for 4th.

Behind Brian got the group sprint for 6th and Justin avoided the crashes behind that and rolled in safely as well. Then we got to sit around for almost 2 hours while they figured out results and finally payed out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

God's Country MTB Race

Yep, I did a mountain bike race. Yes, I just got a mountain bike. No, I hadn't ridden it on trails yet.

A couple seasons ago in Cross, I realized one of my limiters was handling in the dirt. I decided it would be a good idea to get a MTB for training and occasional racing, but didn't pull the trigger on a bike until recently. I've been looking at a 29er hardtail for some time, and really liked the sound of getting a 2x10 drivetrain. All that came together nicely in the 2012 Stumpjumper Comp. Nice M5 alloy frame, all the current "best practices": tapered headtube, BB30, 2x10 gearing, etc. Anyway, I finally picked up the bike from Springfield on Sunday after the NWA RR. I rode it into work on Monday and intended to hit Shawnee Mission Park after work for some dirt time. Unfortunately, work got crazy and I didn't leave till after dark. So I ended up not getting to really ride in the dirt at all prior to the race.

Fortunately, the Lawrence River Trails are very friendly. I've ridden out there on my cross bike before, so I knew that I wouldn't have too much technicality to worry about. Got on the first couple of miles of course prior to the race just to have them fresh in my head. It drizzled a bit before the start and there was a chance we were going to get really dumped on. The marathon category was first and we had a pretty good field of about 15 guys. I got a good start and took the holeshot onto the trail. It started raining a bit harder at this point, but the first half of the course wasn't slick at all. Roger Williams passed me before the course started to get a bit more technical, but that was good for me as I could just follow his lines. Once we made it around the very back corner of the course, things got a little more interesting. It was still raining and I was starting to notice my tires were not hooking up in the corners well. Josh Taylor was right on my wheel and wanted to get by because Roger was getting away. 

Pretty soon I overcooked a corner and slid out letting Josh by as well as an Iowa rider. I got back up and had to pick my way through the rest of the lap. By the end of the lap I was back in 5th place and the first 4 were going away. But the rain had stopped. I knew that the course was supposed to drain well and hoped that would be the case. The second lap was pretty uneventful and I was starting to get more comfortable on the trails. My third lap was pretty good, though I was starting to catch up to lapped riders. I also caught 4th place. That was a good sign to me, so I started picking up the pace. The trails were getting pretty good again by the end of the 3rd lap, and coming through the open Finish area, I saw that 3rd was not too far ahead. So I drilled it and caught him early in the lap. He was going pretty good, so we rode together through the end of the lap. The tires were really starting to stick now and up at the Finish area, I saw Roger and Josh just heading back onto the trail as we were coming off it. So I drilled it.

The Iowa guy I'd been riding with sat up at the top so I chased alone. By now I had a really good feel for the trails and things were hooking up really nicely. So the mantra became "relax and trust the tires" I knew that the front half of the course would be where the most ground could be made up. I caught Josh and he told me Roger was about 45 second up. So just kept it going. I caught up with Roger just after the halfway point of the lap. He turned and asked if it was me. "Yep". He was still riding pretty well, so I sat on for a little bit until there was a section of double track then attacked. It worked, though I almost careened into a tree coming into the next section of trail. A few more accelerations and I was alone. This was where I realized I might still have to do another lap. My left hamstring wasn't too happy with all the acceleration, so I had to tone it down a bit. Coming through the finish line they said go another, so I took off again, but in a little more reserved fashion. Now I just needed to ride very smoothly, not make any mistakes, and conserve energy in case Roger or Josh came back up to me. Fortunately, the last lap went as planned. Lapped riders were even very good about moving off the trail as I came though.

So I ended with a win with Roger less than a minute back and Josh just behind him. Turns out it was a good day for the rest of the Ethos squad as well, with JP and Travis going 2-3 in the Cat 1 field, Jason taking 1st in the Cat 2s and Karen winning the Womens catagory. I may have to try this whole MTB racing thing again....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NWA Spring (SUMMER) Classic

Justin, Ben, and I opened the road season at the NWA Spring Classic RR. After staying with Steve Auchterlonie and other Bike Shack Alums on Saturday, we got up early and rolled to the race sunday morning.

In past years, this race was cold with strong winds from the north. This year was the opposite, with strong south winds and temps in the mid to upper 80s. After racing cross well into January, I've felt a little behind the curve with regards to base milage. With such a mild winter, it sounded like OK, AR, and TX racers were coming into the season with some very good base fitness. 50 pretty strong dudes started the race, so I knew it would be an interesting day.

Immediately, Justin M. from the Dogfish team was off the front solo. I tried to stay tucked out of the wind for the first lap, while Justin covered a bunch of moves. At the end of the lap, I tried to get into a couple of chase moves. Things started to get really animated in the second lap and after about a half dozen failed chase moves, the pack started to break up a bit. I figured at some point there would be a split in the field, so I tried to stay up front and get in the front half. Unfortunately, nothing stuck until another Dogfish rider went solo up the road. After a long bit of hesitation, about 8 guys went up the road, but most of the strong guys missed the move.

About halfway through the last lap I was starting to feel pretty bad in the heat. I didn't want to just sit in the group, but also realized I didn't have much left if I was able to get into a chase group. At just about that point, Austin Vinton and Will Gault got a gap up a little climb, so I bridged to them knowing they could actually make it to chase group #1 if that bunch started messing around. Unfortunatly, as soon as I made it to them, Will said he wasn't going to pull because he had teammates up the road. So Austin and I traded pulls. I was not going good, but then we picked up Kris French who was out in no-mans land. I'm not sure what happened to him, but I guess he got dropped out of the group up the road. Anyway, this helped our rotation. However, we then hit a climb and I started to cramp badly, stayed on and started to recover a bit on the descent. We turned into the wind and the paced slowed, so I was starting to feel a little better, but I knew I wouldn't make it over the wall with this group, so i took a few more meager pulls up to the climb, then had to little ring it over. By the top, I was fully locked up and had to coast and breath to finally be able to pedal again. So I got swept up by the pack and tailgunned to the finish. Ouch.

Afterwards, we went to the Flying Burrito, then picked up my MTB in Springfield. Justin and I also enlightened Ben about all the wonderful fishing techniques in the midwest, like noodling and hunting for spoonbills.