Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More poduims? yes please!

We came to Dixon rolling 5 deep in the 3/4's and 4 deep in the 4/5's. With numbers like that in a small race you should be able to put together a team plan that puts one of your guys on the podium. I always try to make podiums the goal. With so many of our races coming down to sprints its so hard to produce victories in this sport it takes prefect luck. However with good team tatics and attentive racing it is very realistic to expect podiums if you have the fitness.  

The course was altered from the 8 corner gem of last year due to some serious construction. (it would have made for a good CX barrier). This year we had a wide open, but bumpy 6 turn course with a slight rise on the backside into a downhill final turn and a uphill sprint finish, extremely unique. The course was a blast, some technical areas, but nothing really dangerous. You could hammer through most of the turns when you felt the need.

3/4's Race
In the 3/4's race we lined up with 5 guys. Michael Shea, Dan Pollard, Matt Riezman, Brandon Diffenderfer, and I were going to work as a unit to take a podium spot. I felt terrible most of the race, breaks attempted to get off and the pace was rather brisk, Brandon and Shea were holding strong position; Dan and I were doing my classic tail gunning act and Matt was throwing up in some dude's lawn. Panda express as your pre-race meal really?

I took a free lap due to a mechanical with about 15 laps to go. Small breaks got away but the field remained attentive and brought everything back within a couple laps. With about 5 to go a two man group was about 200 or may 300 meters off the front and I thought what the hell I hadn't done anything this race I might as well try and bridge. I attacked up the left side of the rise and I saw Shea coming up the right side. I thought if I could get a small gap he could come over the top and block while I tried my bridge. However my efforts got me on the front of the group but no further. I thought I would take a long pull and see what happened. I pulled for about a lap and tried to pull off on the rise, and that I did. Directly off the back. I chased for about two laps until the group was out of sight. When the pack goes out of sight its like a punch to the stomach, you know your day is over.

I am told on the last lap Brandon took an outside line to attack the group grabbing a 3rd place finish, Shea took the inside line and got pinched finishing a respectable 10th. Shea commented after the race how impressed he was with Brandon's abililty to read the race on the last lap. For a Cat 4 rider to get a podium while racing against some really strong 3's is really impressive!

4/5's Race

In the 4/5's we decided we would ad-hoc the strategy with all the riders from the first race less Shea. I was really impressed how we stayed close to each other and talked during the race. It was 39 person field so moving around was going to be an issue. Dan, Brandon and I maintained mid-pack position and Matt hugged the front of the group in an impressive display of racing. With about 5 to go we knew it was time to start sticking our nose towards the front of the group.

We moved up for a few laps and then with three to go at the start finish line someone flipped the squirrelly switch and bike handling went to hell. A couple ridders tumbled into the fence, the pucker factor in the field was high. I got shuffled back and saw Bryan Cael he said "its getting nuts up there", I thought it sure is. So on the rise I attacked up the left side again. Same result, it ended at the front of the group. I saw a rider in front of us, he was chasing after his crash but I didn't know that. I got to his back wheel and he sat up. I soft peddled or two strokes and then dropped the hammer through the rise. I was trying to string out the group for a full lap to allow Brandon and Dan to spring attacks on the rise. I put everything I had through my bike and bombed each of the corners. I felt great about my lines and the pack snaked behind me. I dropped a maintained a strong tempo until we crested the rise, and then BOOM!!!!!! I blew up, and faded to the right as Brandon attacked just to the right of me and barely to the left of the curb. We grassed hands and he flew off the front of the group. I saw Dan follow from the inside and I knew my job was done. They were first two through the last two turns and we Brandon held on for 3rd in the long sprint with Dan holding his wheel for 4th. A great team effot nabs us another podium and another top 5.

We have had a great run as of late, we are really getting the hang of team tatics and figuring out proper execution. I am really proud of what we have accomplished this year. Now time for the chiCROSScup with a diversion for the Fall Fling and problably a rest week or two... probably not.

Thanks for to Dixon, great event! Look forward to a return trip. Thanks to Julian, Justeen and Brandon's family for the cheering sections. And Juilan when you yelled move up, I really was trying but I was really tired.

All photo credit to Justeen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why you should watch the Vuleta...

As Neil Browne so eloquently stated "The red-headed stepchild of the Grand Tours is almost here

Yes its time for the grand tour that lacks the luster of the Tour and the Grio, but that doesn't mean its not going to be an exciting race, here are ten reasons to watch the Vuelta de Espana. 

10) Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) - This kid is the best hope for another American GC contender (sorry Levi you have to attack to win). After a strong spring this is his first Grand Tour, maybe looking for a stage win?

9) Cervelo's last stand - With the demise of the Cervelo Test Team will the current roster look to show off for other directors or will a unified unit work for Sastre on the GC and set up Hushovd on the sprints? They sure ask a lot out of their team.

8) Menchov's investment in his future - With Menchov leaving Rabobank at years end a third win at the Vuelta would make his paycheck next year just a little fatter. My guess is he will follow wheels and grind out another Grand Tour Podium, but will it be the top spot?

7) Play along on Rouler Derby - What you don't play rouler debry? You are missing out! I still don't quite understand how the betting odds work but its a lot of fun, and when you run out of points, you just borrow more. And if you have the best ROI on the Vuleta you won't win a spanish bottle of wine just like my roommate didn't win a french bottle of win for that AG2R pick he pulled out of his ass....

6) The Schlecks are back together again - Andy is racing for Frank, and well I was just looking for an excuse to use this picture again. Sweet pose guys, it really shows off the noodle arm syndrome many of us cyclist suffer from. But seriously they are pretty good and they are racing, its their Saxo Bank swan song.

5) Its still a grand tour - This is the last Grand Tour of the year, there will be drama, there will be great summit finishes, and explosive sprints. Not to mention every stage is on US TV on Universal Sports.

4) CVV - He has hit the ground more than anyone over the past two seasons, he considered retirement after crashing out of the tour, after crashing in the tour de sussie, after crashing out in the giro... you see what I am saying? If he can just stay upright that would be a good start. In an mind blowing development CVV is a among the favorites to show at the Vuelta on rouler derby, who is making that bet????

3) A Liqiugas double? - Can Nibali or Kreuziger win another Grand Tour for the underrated Liqiugas team. They bring one of the strongest teams to the race and people forget they won the team TT at the giro.  They already have two podiums this year at the Giro can they get two more?

2) HTC - Garmin butt heads again - That's right folks the mighty train of Mark Cavendish will go head to head with the improving train of Tyler Farrar in final km's of the sprint stages. It got downright violent at the Tour when Renshaw and Dean famously butted heads repeatedly and then Renshaw tried to pin Farrar on the boards. Lets watch them battle it out again, but hold your lines guys.

1) Team TT Late Night - Starting at 1000pm (GMT) the back drop for the opening team TT should be amazing. And how doesn't love a team TT, if done right its a thing of beauty, if done wrong its hillarious. It starts tomorrow at 3pm on Universal Sports. I will try and avoid the results until after my races it Dixon tomorrow afternoon.

Enjoy the Vuelta

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is there rehab for this addiction?

I read a fascinating interview with former US Postal/Discovery and Rock Racing rider Michael Creed. He is currently looking for a new team as his current contract with Team Type 1 is not cutting it. I highly recommend you read the interview. It is heavily laced with a discussion of doping, which is annoying but there are some really amazing quotes littered throughout the interview. I found the quote below the most interesting:

“When I do quit the one thing I’m really going to miss from racing is that exhausted feeling after a race,” he says. “If you’ve ever been at a stage race and you drop out and you can’t fly home immediately there are these things that give you pain and every pro will tell you that it hurts. When the guys eat their race meal, or walk to the bus. The worst is being in the bus after the race and hearing them talk about the race. They have that really dehydrated sunken look and you want that so bad. It’s addictive.” Michael Creed (From a cyclingnews interview posted 8/18/10)

Until you have experienced that feeling of complete exhaustion you can't understand just how addictive it truly is.... 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ask and you shall recieve

I spend my Wednesday nights taking part in the MidWeekGem alongside Chicago Cross Cup Director Jason Knauff. This year will be my first year participating in the cross cup and I asked Jason to announce that on the website, and he did just that (see post below). Check out the cross cup this fall, if you don't ride come heckle! 
"- And finally… apparently we were wrong and no one is getting ready for CX season which is a crying shame because we were really looking forward to another great season. Lucky for us, rumor has it Andrew Zens (of CBR fame) will be racing for bacon in the 4B’s. However, if you’ve ever seen Andrew near Pratt and Ridge after the Wednesday night MidWeekeGem then you know Andrew might be looking for something besides bacon during the carnival. Will this be your first season racing CX? We’d love to hear from you and what you’re doing to get ready. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below."

 Check out the ChiCrossCup website today for a big announcement....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grayslake Race Report: By Dan Pollard

This past Saturday was the Grayslake Cycling Classic located in the Prairie Crossing subdivision in Northern Illinois. The course is approximately 1K long and is in the shape of the letter U with three wide, sweeping turns and two tighter 90 degree right handers. This course layout allows the pace to get and stay high, as we would find out soon enough.

Andrew, Drew and I would make the trip north together, meeting up with Brandon at the race. Drew has been on excellent form lately and had some great results during Superweek, including his first win at Geneva. And Andrew was coming off a podium finish last week so we agreed the team would do what it could do to put me in a position for a result.

The race started off with call ups for the top 10 in the Illinois Cup standings since this was the final Cup race of the year. After staging well the last few races, I got stuck towards the back and knew I would spend the first part of the race working my way to the front. When the whistle blew I set to work getting up to the front. The pace immediately was high and the field was strung out single file working its way around the course. On the first three laps gaps already started to form as the pace was slowly spitting people out the back. I could see Drew and Brandon sitting in great position in the top 10 for most of the first half of the race, but I didn't see Andrew. I didn't think anything of it until the pack came around through the start finish and I saw Andrew in the SRAM neutral support pit. I would find out after the race that he clipped his pedal and went down on one of the first laps, luckily, outside of some more road rash, he was ok.

Before the midpoint of the race I had finally made my way up to the front and comfortably settled in the top 10. A few small breaks would try to go up the road but would never get more than a few seconds on the field and the crosswinds on the backside of the course made it extremely difficult to maintain a breakaway. The race was pretty uneventful from there until 3 laps to go when the pace visibly slowed as everyone seemed to be saving themselves for the final sprint. Drew went to the front a couple times to keep the pace high and the field strung out. The main field was still together as we crossed the start/finish line for the final time. Drew, Brandon and I were all sitting top 20 at this point and we started to move up the field to try to position me for the final sprint.

On the final straight-away Drew took a strong pull and went to the front and gapped the field, with me right on his wheel, according to our pre-race plan. Turns out Brandon was the victim of someone taking a bad line through the final right turn and he was pushed off the course into the grass, so the Monkey lead out train was now just Drew. He pulled into the cross wind and put me in great position to start my wind up for the final sprint into the inside of the U. I wasn't sure how big my gap was when I pulled around Drew, but I may have taken off a little early as the finish would prove to be about 50m too far for me. I came around the second to last bend in first place with John from Rhythm Racing on my wheel. John took a quick pull on the front and then I rotated to the front and saw Quentin from Project 5 go flying by. I tried to spin up to catch his wheel but couldn't catch on, and a gap slowly was opening up between him and I. Coming into the finishing straight I was in second place. I didn't look back because I was hoping I would have enough to hold on. Turns out, I didnt as I got swarmed just before the line and rolled across for a 9th place finish.

Even though I didn't end up with the result the team and I wanted, I'll take Saturday as a learning experience and put the lessons learned to use in my next race. Thanks to Drew, Andrew and Brandon for the team effort, next time hopefully I can get the result. Thanks also to the residents and volunteers of Prairie Crossing and all those involved for running a well organized and on time event.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grayslake Race Report Cat 4

The pavement won today. I clipped a pedal in the second 90 degree turn. I wasn't able to hold it up hit the ground again.

I took my free lap and got gapped off the lead group. Joe from psimet and I tried to get to the back of the group. We lost sight after a couple laps and that was all she wrote!

26th place finish and a really sore body... Ugh!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, August 2, 2010

We came this far, we might as well make a statement!

Alright so 6 weeks back some yahoo from Wisconsin rode up under my teammates Bryan's handlebars and crashed him out resulting in a broken arm. After five weeks of recovery and one week on the bike he was ready to roll up the start-line again. A three man wolfpack (Bryan, Dan and I) ventured to Indiana for Parkview Cycling Classic put on by the Men of Steel Racing team. We would throw down in 3/4's race followed by a 4's race.

The course was really nice, huge corners and relatively smooth, besides the 6th corner where there was a bunch of road furniture. If you want a better description of the course check out our preview.

3/4's race
We all agreed after the race that was a pretty uneventful race. We had 50 starters and guys were getting dropped quick! Dan held tight up front most of the race, but then he dropped his pink Vision Quest water bottle. Bryan and I moved around a little bit but settled towards the back of the pack. We were all together coming into the last lap, but we put it on cruise control when a rider in front of us clipped a pedal in the downhill corner and somehow remained upright. The pucker factor was high on this near miss. I finished 20th, Dan was 23rd and Bryan 25th. One more race to come.

Between races Dan and I decided with a small field anything less than a podium spot would be a failure in the 4's race.

4's Race
We were on a mission. Dan and I line up on the outside or the front row and on the whistle we come over the top of the group. Dan starts setting the tempo. As we approach the rise I takeover.  We are trying to show that we are going to be the guys that dictate the race. I attack, we stay off the front for a about 2 laps, maybe less. Dan attacks, Bryan gets hung out to dry on his attempt, nothing really sticks. We were all over the attacks from the start. After about 15 or 20 mins the race settles.

Early in the race some guy rode right into me and starting freaking out and screaming. I said "I need you to clam the fuck down!" And then everything was fine, thanks to my 2 Randy Warren safety clinic's I don't freak out when someone starts bumping me. He later told me he thought we had locked bars, no harm no foul. 

For the first time we rode together all race. With about 12 or 13 laps to go we all go to the front and push the pace. Pre-race their had been discussion about trying to split the field, and this was our best attempt. We all pulled through once and then settled about 5 wheels back. With 6 laps to go the pace slowed again, Dan hammered to the front took control. At this point Bryan tells me "I'll get you to turn 5". Dan comes back to me and tells me he's done. I tell him to stick Bryan's wheel.

These guys were setting me up, I started to get really nervous. I thought if Bryan gets me to turn 5 what the hell do I do between 5 and 6?

With 1 to go the bell rang and Bryan went to the front and did his best George Hincapie impression. He killed it, at the top of the rise he looked back to make sure we were still close to his wheel we sate 3rd and 4th wheel. He hammered the downhill and we were single file coming into turn 4. He picked up the pace as we came into turn 5. He peeled off and Dan kept me 4th wheel as we hit turn six. However somehow a lapped rider was in the way. He actually took the inside line! I jumped outside and a rider came to my inside. I was 4th coming into the finishing straight which had a stiff head wind. I exploded out of my saddle. I checked my inside and it was clear so I swung to my left, I opened it up. I passed the rider directly in front of me and I was now on the podium but then I ran out of real estate. The computer said I got it up to 35.7 mph in the sprint, I'll take that. Had the last turn been cleaner who knows what happens.

Dan and Bryan both finished in the top ten giving us 3 top tens for the day. We achieved our goal of a podium and we really races strong. Not to mention we finally figured out what to do at the end of a race. All and all it was a good trip even if we did sit in my car for 7 hrs. 

Thanks to the Men of Steel Racing Team, Parkview and all involved in this event. The opportunity for a 3/4's race was the best part of this event. I really enjoyed the low cost racing as well 2 races $38.