Friday, June 20, 2014

I will title this post "blahbliddyblahdeedah" because I didn't choose a title BEFORE writing like I normally would

This is a great sport. Every race I go to reminds me of that simple, basic fact.

From afar, every bike race is the same. You pedal around, and someone wins. The sport is doing a tremendous job of reminding me that is about as far as you can get from the truth. I am amazed at how green I still am with this bike racing thing and am learning, what I consider to be huge things, at every race I go to. I've been racing bikes since I was 11! What a crazy, wild, incredible sport.

I'm nine races behind, so I am probably going to avoid the whole race report blahbliddyblahdeedah (very fun to say out-loud, try it) and instead go big picture style. Speaking of big pictures, I have recently watched, on small screens, Non-Stop and The World's End. Non-Stop was an entertaining movie featuring Liam Neeson. If you have seen ANY Liam Neeson movie, you have also seen Non-Stop. The World's End was, I thought, a different Genre of film. I enjoy British humor because they say silly words. All of a sudden they were fighting robots, and I was confused. So that's my world in a nutshell.

UCI GP Saguenay
OK, I wrote about Philly. We continued to drive North. We left the US, and somehow ended up in France. We had "lunch" at a Tim Hortons- not sure why people like this place- and I had a sign language argument with the cashier that didn't go well. I don't speak sign. This was a continued trend throughout the week: our hotel maid spoke no english and I almost certain that Stephen and I were getting yelled at for SOMETHING everytime that she came in while we were basically still asleep. I tried saying "merci" and "weeeeee", which caused her to give me towels and leave. I learned in France that WeeMerci means "we need more towels, please and thank you".

Besides the country change, this race also had a couple new experiences for me. Turns out that I have never done a UCI stage race, and some of the requirements for these events are provided meals and housing. Everyone from the race stayed at the same hotel, and ate the same race buffet breakfasts and dinners. This was a prime opportunity to try and sabotage other teams, but I learned quickly that by the time that meals happened I was so focused on consuming as many dessert creme puffs as possible to focus on other people.

The race was intense. It consisted of three ~160km circuit races and one 75km crit. With no time trials, the mid-race time bonus sprints were very important for the GC. Each day was full gas, all day, because at any given point everyone was a GC threat. We had a great week: JJ won the crit after every guy BUT me crushed it in the leadout. I was a victim of their speed and watched from the gutter. Luis and I spent the week sprinting for bonus seconds, and Stephen, Robbie, Carson and Tyler raced super aggressively to set us up for those time bonuses. Luis finished 3rd and I ended up 5th on GC.

One thing I did learn: there were MANY languages being yelled all weekend. English swearwords are the only curse words that are universal. Thank you Hollywood.

NRC North Star Grand Prix
Quite thankfully I took an airplane from Quebec City to Minneapolis. Our 15 hour travel day is a blog post on its own, but I'll forget about that. It involved JJ being "randomly selected" three different times, and JJ and Luis paying $150 for their bike cases while the same lady only charged me $30.

I thought that this race would be an... easier... NRC stage race because although six stages, three of those were crits, one was a short road bike time trial, and the other two were gently rolling road races.

WRONG. The race started Wednesday morning. On Thursday night, I painfully rolled over and sadly realized that it was still Thursday and we somehow were only halfway done with the race. Ouch.

Wednesday was the short time trial in the morning and a twilight crit. Ben smashed the TT pretty well for 6th, and the rest of us were scattered in the 10s-30s. As is the norm with sub-11 minute efforts, I coughed for 3-7 hours immediately following my race. The twilight crit was relatively straight-forward. Optum let a break go, which Ruben surfed. He was 13th in the TT, so it was a good card for us to have up the road. Optum brought the break back, and with two to go Luis hit the front with Ben, myself, and JJ following behind. Luis did a full lap on the front, and Ben led us through the finish with one to go. He took it all the way to the second-to-last straightaway, and I slowly ramped up the speed into the last corner. I came out of the corner first, continued to accelerate, and held it to the line. JJ had backed off into the last corner, opening up the gap for me and giving me the opportunity to get the stage win. He didn't need to come around, so we were able to go 1-2 on the stage! 

Photo from Velonews.
One of my goals going into this season was to be part of a successful leadout for JJ. This was the first full leadout that I've been a part of and it was an incredibly cool experience. Luis and Ben were amazing, and made it so the team would be in a position to win. JJ backed off, and made it so I was in the position to win.

At the end of the day, anytime there are two Jamis HB jerseys on the podium it is a good day. 
credit: Joe Holmes

Thursday's road race was the hardest race of my life. I think. Heavy winds for 3.5 hours blew the field to shreds, and 12 of us (5 Optum and 4 of us!) went onto the final circuits 4 minutes up on the remnants of the field. Luis made the select front group of four and finished second on the day, moving up to 2nd on GC.

Friday and Saturday were predictable. The GC race was down to the 12 guys who finished in the front split on Thursdy, so the race leader's team could pretty much let any breakaway go to the line that didn't have one of the 11 other guys from Thursday's front group in it. Friday I practiced guarding JJ's wheel, and Saturday I rode in the rain freezing for what felt like two hours but was probably closer to 30 minutes. We all attacked like spider monkeys on the closing circuits, but the 2+ inches of standing water on the course and the 100 corners per lap made attacking difficult.

Photo: BMW Dev Team
Sunday was the Stillwater Crit, another race that I've always wanted to do. Any race that finishes with a front group of 18 guys is alright in my book. We had Luis 16 seconds out of the lead, but also had JJ, Ben, and myself all in the top 10. We had to put pressure on Optum early, so Ben went in the breakaway. They had to chase all day to keep the gap at 20 seconds, and the rest of us tucked in behind them and waited. With 6 to go we were about 8 seconds back and Luis had me attack. I went hard up the hill and went across the gap with Travis McCabe, integrating with the break then forming a new split. We were brought back, but I was happy to see that Optum was down a couple riders. Luis attacked HARD with three to go, splitting the group into less than ten guys and isolating the yellow jersey. I knew that this was an optimal time to counter-attack, and as I started to get out of the saddle to accelerate up the right side, McCabe went up the left. The group moved right, pinching me on the curb, and Travis rode away. He held on to win the stage, and a group of 17 of us sprinted for the rest.

We weren't able to get the seconds we needed, but we raced very hard. Luis was second, and JJ, Ben and myself all finished in the top ten.


That took a turn for the race-report-style-blog-post pretty quick, my bad. Minnesota was fresh in my mind, unlike Saguenay. I didn't post there because there is no internet in Saguenay. That was a lie, there is. Sorry.

I'm back in Seattle for an extended amount of time! About three weeks, so I'll see you cats on the flipside.

What does that even mean?

This is what happens when you search "cats on the flipside"

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's been, one month since you've looked at me

Ooooh. That’s right. I have a blog where I am supposed to write stuff that comes out of my brain whenever things happen that I consider worthy. Not that nothing has happened to be worthy, but instead of blogging I have been doing more productive things with my days: riding, sleeping, and watching Workaholics.

If you were curious, I have functioned as a member of society since the last time I focused. That is again a bit of an overstatement on my part, since my functioning role has been that of the lion at a zoo. Very fierce activities for short amounts of time (mainly involving eating) and then a fair amount of sleeping.

The real reason that blogging hasn’t happened is I was home, not racing, for most of the month of May. I had a bit of a mid-season break and I needed every minute of it to recharge for my next big block of racing. In one trip, I’ll race US Nationals, Philadelphia Cycling Classic, GP Saugenay, and the North Star GP. I haven’t done the counting, but I think that is about 47 race days over the four weekends of racing.

US Nationals in Chattanooga came first. I was very excited to have the opportunity to race both the TT and the RR. No one else from my team was racing the TT, so I flew to Tennessee several days earlier than the rest of the crew. This is where Workaholics came in. I finished my pre-race ride and it was noon, so I watched TV the rest of the day. Like any good member of society would do. I made another big decision while I was hotel living on week one of this trip. I was making an Aeropress directly into the provided Styrofoam cups, and was using my hand to spread out the pressure, just like any ape would do. However, my hand must’ve been too weak or my pressing muscles too big because the Styrofoam cup crumpled and coffee went everywhere. I decided that I couldn’t deal with a month of Styrofoam, so I went to the Walmart and bought a real mug for $1.75. I really wanted to get a mug that had a handle made of brass knuckles, but I could not find one. Now my new mug lives in my roller bag.

I was optimistic going into the TT. I knew that if I rode to my capabilities a good result might be achievable. What followed was my worst TT of the year, and I averaged about 70 watts lower than what I was hoping to do. I chalked up this race into the experience pile and let myself be grumpy for about 12 minutes, then moved on. I was mostly disappointed that time trials ruin your body with heaving aches of red-hot hatchet mutilation regardless of your result. Win or lose, you’re pretty much broken for the rest of the day.

On Memorial Day we raced the US Pro RR. It was hot, the course was hard, and the field was strong. Tyler made the break, and the rest of us tried to stay fresh in the peleton while Garmin went hard up the long climb every lap. I was riding decent- not amazing, but better than the TT – when I flatted on the descent on the third (of four) lap. I had came off the front group near the top of the climb, but was in site of the group when I flatted. I tried to chase back on, but to no luck. Who knows if I would’ve survived the onslaught over the next lap and closing circuits, but I was happy that my legs were starting to come around after a very sluggish TT. Tyler and Carson rode really well, with Tyler staying off the front the whole race, and Carson being one of the only 4 riders who wasn’t in the original break to make it across to the front group.

Tuesday we drove through four states in thirteen hours. I thought that was special until we drove through three in two hours on yesterday. Which was Sunday night. I don’t know when I’ll have internet to post this, so use your imagination.

Carson, Stephen, Tyler and myself drove from Tennessee to Pennsylvania with Hugo and it took a long time. We drove through Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and finally Pennsylvania. I had four Starbucks iced drinks from Gas Stations. I also went to the bathroom in four different states, which I consider a fairly big accomplishment. We stayed at Tyler’s parents house for several days, which was a relaxing week of quiet country riding.

Saturday we met up with the rest of the team in King of Prussia, which is apparently a town name in PA. Sunday was the Philly Cycling Classic, which is a race that I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. It was indeed everything that I hoped for in a bike race. The day started off great when we pulled up for team parking and were placed directly in front of a lawn party. It was 10am and they were already far into their beer consumption for the day. I then had the opportunity to pet a wonderfully far French Bulldog, and it confirmed my thought that I like that breed of dog.

I really enjoy this style of racing: one long day of aggressive racing. The feature of this course is the Manayunk wall: a steep, 600 meter climb up to the finish line. I got the chance to race hard. One of my tasks for the day was to try and split the field up the climb with three to go. Carson and I lit the group up, forcing a small selection over the top of the climb. I’d like to hope that it led to some people being dropped, because it certainly almost made me get dropped the next time up the hill. On the last lap I tried to fight to keep the guys in position, and cracked spectacularly about a K from the climb. This allowed me to ride the climb slow, high-fiving hundreds of drunken spectators. I crossed the line completely wrecked, and collapsed into our chairs. Where I was promptly told that I had been randomly selected for Anti-doping. This was my first Anti-doping test where I wasn’t doing well in the bike race. It’s slightly less satisfying to pee in front of someone when you finished 45th instead of first. Except I had been needing to go to the bathroom since two laps to go, so it was actually pretty satisfying. Bathroom humor.

Now we’re back in the van, heading North-er. Last night we drove through PA, NJ, and into NY. At some point we’ll be in Canada. I don’t know, man.

You do you, friends.