Monday, April 30, 2007

...Athens pictures...

Ouch, ouch, ouch...
(Steve Boyette Photography)

Checking to see if the Karma girls saw me...
(Steve Boyette Photography)

Does anyone have a beer??
(Steve Boyette Photography)

Why are the Karma girls on the outside?!?
(Steve Boyette Photography)

The start...going into corner #1
(Bob Brussack Photography)

What's with that goofy look on my face?!?
(Bob Brussack Photography)

Athens Twilight Criterium (4/28/07)

Wow...where do I begin...Jeff, Curtis and I went to our favorite race of the year in Athens, Georgia. This race is held in the downtown section of Athens, right next to the University of Georgia. The course is 1 kilometer long, 4 corners, and anywhere between 25k-40k screaming, piss-drunk college kids and cycling fans. Racing the course is like being in a super loud tunnel constructed of people.

The race has been held since 1980, and I started racing it when I was about 16 years old in 1985 or 1986...jeesh I'm young! This was my first big race as a junior, and I got the cockiness beat right out of me...a great eye opener.

Morning Qualifier Races
On Saturday morning there are qualification races to do the Amateur Finals race, which is run before the Pro race. The last 2 years I have done the morning Masters 30+ race with Curtis...and the last 2 years I have taken 3rd, and Curtis has taken 4th in the qualifying race...EACH TIME (weird). Curtis has had better luck in the Finals race, and has come extremely close to winning on several occasions, with several top 5 finishes. Of the 4 times I've done the Finals I have placed 7th...EACH TIME (weird). This year they changed the Masters race to 35+, so Curtis was too young, and would have to qualify in the Category 2 race.

Jeff and I were first up in the Masters 35+ race, and they took the top 15 for the Finals. The race was pretty slow, with most of the riders concentrating on not wrecking and saving their energy for the final sprint up the hill. Two rider got away late in the race, and the rest of us sprinted for the remaining positions. I won the field sprint...for 3rd (again...weird), and Jeff was 7th. Curtis raced a couple hours later...stayed upright, and took 4th place (again...weird) in his race. Now we had all qualified for the Finals, and were one step closer to our goal.

Twilight Amateur Finals
The downtown course is always packed, and this year was no different. For our event, there were probably 15k-20k people lining the course...and they were lined up 4-5 deep along the entire finishing straight.

The entire race is only 20 laps making the starting position crucial, so we would forgo the warm up and stake out our spot on the starting line. There were about 120-130 riders with a mixture of categories. There were top qualifiers from each category, and many quality riders. I noticed a few ex-pro's and many Category 1's and 2's. Lined up next to me was Roberto Gaggioli, who has won the Pro event...and has had over 200 Professional victories. He's now "retired", and decided to do the race with us by qualifying in our Masters 35+ race earlier in the day...Oh, brother.

The starter's gun finally fires, and we sprint off the line towards corner 1. Corner 1 is pretty's very narrow, and is taken after blasting down the slightly downhill front stretch. I've crashed there a couple times, once giving me a nice black eye dealt to me by my racing glasses. Turn 2 is next, and once through is a nice uphill drag for half of the back stretch. Turn 3 is a fast one that heads very quickly into the infamous last turn...number 4. Many a pileup has taken place here, and I have had my own share of bouncing off metal barricades or the stray rider trying to move up in the final turn. Gaggioli and a couple riders had a slight break, and were closely following the pace car...I jumped across to them, but it soon fell apart and we were back in the pack.

On about lap 4, Curtis jumps into a small breakaway and takes a $40 preme. The break is caught a couple laps later. About lap 8 a rider makes a strong attack on the back stretch and gains a nice gap. He continued to stay in front and slowly gained small amounts of time each lap. Going into lap 9 they rang the bell for a $40 preme, and I decided to bridge across...I caught him right before turn 3. After exiting turn 4 I stayed on his wheel, then sprinted past him to take the preme. The best line of the weekend was shouted by one of the race announcers as I sprinted by the rider to take the preme, "...SOMEBODY CALL A COP...THAT GUY JUST GOT ROBBED!" I almost started laughing!
Call the Kopps?? Oh, COPS.

I tried to wait for the guy I just passed, but he seemed a bit tired from his earlier I decided to keep going alone. There were 8 more laps to go, but I decided that if I got caught then one of my teammates would have a great chance to counter attack.
Me suffering to keep speed up the hill...

I glanced back on the straight aways to see if the pack was gaining, and on lap 5 I could see the entire pack lined out chasing. Luckily Curtis and Jeff were "enthusiastically" blocking, and helping disrupt the chase efforts.
The "Kopp" patrolling the pack...with an eye on Gaggioli

Each lap seemed soooooo long, and the hill on the back stretch started to take it's toll...but, it was amazing how you can push yourself with so many people screaming for you. While I was in front I took 4 more premes (That helps with the gas money!). I didn't know I truly had it until I came out of the last turn and looked back to see I still had a good gap. The finish was great, it was so loud I couldn't hear anything...then, more good news...Curtis dusted the field to take second place! Jeff rolled in 26th, and just 1 place out of the his first twilight race! ABRT, 1st & 2nd place (and 5 premes)! The victory lap was pretty cool, and all 3 of us were ecstatic.
Jeff strolling over to take part in the "scrum"

Having great teammates made all the difference in achieving our goal.
Am I really that short in real life?!?

Curtis, me, and a non-English speaking Argentinean

Posing with 2 of the Karma girls...mommy!

Now is a time for me to take some R&R, and get ready for the next part of the season. Ending the first half with a win was very nice, and hopefully the success will continue in the second half!

P.S. I'll post more pictures as they come check back.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jacksonville Cycling Classic NRC (4/14/07 - 4/15/07)

This weekend was a race in our home town of Jacksonville, Florida.

Friday - Trek Concept Store Grand Opening...

On Friday night we attended the grand opening of our main sponsors new Trek Concept store. The place is big...over 7,000 sqft of Trek/Lemond/Bontrager/Nike heaven! Jeff was a bit nervous opening his second bike shop, especially when the featured guest, Bob Roll, couldn't attend after being hit by a blizzard in Colorado. The plan was to have a question and answer session with Bob Roll and Sam Kouvaris, who is a local sports news anchor. On short notice, Jeff was able to have 3 riders from the Rite Aid pro cycling team attend (Bill Elliston, Michael Norton, Ryan Dewald). I raced with these 3 guys down in the Bahamas, and they were all super cool.

With catastrophe averted, the evening was awesome...with food provided by Native Sun, bike demo's, and a few beers. Everyone had a great time.

Saturday - Jacksonville Cycling Classic NRC Criterium

Last year this race was epic, with rain and wind like I've never seen. Florida is currently in drought conditions, and hasn't rained in weeks...until 1/2 hour before the scheduled start time! Our race began at 8:00 pm, so it was dark, rainy, and very slippery. The race took off quickly, with the guys in front trying to split the field up from the start...well, it seemed to work. Combined with the speed and slick surfaces, there were many crashes. I had a great starting spot, so was safe from most of the early lap melee...but the rest of the team wasn't. Andy decided not to wreck his pro mountain bike career, and smartly dropped out. Curtis crashed once, and Jeff crashed twice before calling it a day. Victor also got caught up in the crash fest, and pulled out. The worst of the lot was Clint, who crashed on lap 2 and dislocated his shoulder. Luckily, once he stood up it popped back into place.

Considering I was sliding on 3 of the 4 turns, I decided to stay in but be very cautious and not take any risks. Towards the end of the race it stopped raining, but I remained true to myself, and didn't take any risks. I rolled in for 31st, and all of my skin in tact. Out of the 140+ starters, 44 finished...a pretty rough night.

Sunday - Jacksonville Cycling Classic Road Race

Curtis called me earlier in the week and told me to look at the forecast for Sunday. High winds, with gusts between 30-40 mph...during our 100 mile've gotta be kidding me! Anyhow, he suggested that we group together on the crosswind sections, and form our own echelon. This means that if the wind is coming from the right hand side, the next rider will be behind and slightly to the left of the rider in front of get the best possible draft. The road is only so wide, so if there are 10 riders staggered across the road, then the other 130 are all lined up at the very edge with little or no draft...this is one of the ways a race breaks apart into smaller groups. The best way to conserve energy, at least for a couple riders, is for the team to form it's own echelon, and that way at least some members of the team are getting a little draft. This turned out to be a good strategy that for some strange reason was not used by any of the other teams. I would rather do some work and get a little draft, than be in the gutter all day! It took a couple laps, but we were finally able to dial in our team echelon in both of the long crosswind sections. We stuck to the strategy, and the team worked to keep me out of the if it came down to a sprint, I could give it a shot.

On the 2nd or 3rd lap of the race, we were battling in the crosswind section that leads to the start/finish area...and a rider crossed wheels with another rider and went down. He wasn't too far in front of me, and I had nowhere to go, but right into his back. Once on the ground I scrambled for my water bottles, and realized my rear derailleur was bent into my I gave it a good yank back over to get it close. I didn't take time to make it perfect considering the peloton was speeding away. Luckily, the follow cars had to stop and weren't too far ahead, so I sprinted after them. I made it onto the back of one of them, and they let me pace back to the pack (Thanks guys!!). Curtis, Jeff, and Andy had dropped to the back of the pack and made sure I made it back on.

With 2-3 laps to go Curtis was in a VERY promising move with riders from Rite Aid, Aerospace Engineering, and Preferred Alliance. The Preferred Alliance rider didn't seem as interested in staying away for a podium finish, so didn't do a lot of work...which, along with a chase by the Kelly Benefits team, spelled the demise of this breakaway. Then with 1-2 laps to go a break of 8 riders got away...Curtis tried to make it across, but after just returning from his previous efforts, didn't make it. By the last lap Curtis, Jeff and I were all starting to cramp up. I rode as conservatively as possible to save some for the finish. A Pro triathlete friend of ours, Danny Domingo, was still in the race near the end...and he helped pull me closer to the front of the pack. Andy covered a late breakaway that was just off the front. Then Victor came by and took me near to the front going into the last 600-700 meters. A rider from Herbalife attacked up the right hand side of the road about 400 meters out, and Chris Scott from Locos had a go up the left side. I decided to go now instead of getting swarmed by the remaining riders and jumped about 300 meters to go...I passed Chris, but didn't catch the Herbalife rider. I ended up second in the field sprint, and 10th overall.

This placing was an incredible team effort by each ABRT rider. We stuck to the game plan by forming our own echelon on every crosswind section, and kept me out of the wind as much as possible. This enabled me to sprint to a top 10 finish against a very high quality field. Everyone should be proud, not bad for a bunch of guys with real jobs...


Friday, April 6, 2007

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Perry-Roubaix Stage Race (3/31/07 - 4/1/07)

Our adventures this week took us to Perry, Georgia. Home of the famous Perry-Roubaix road race. We had Victor, Curtis, Jeff, Clint and myself ready to face this new challenge. Unfortunately for me, I had started to feel the effects of a cold on it hit me this weekend. On the bright side, I'll have it out of the way before the big races in Jacksonville and Athens.

The first stage was a time trial, approximately 9.6 miles, out and back. It was on a rolling course, which added to the difficulty. Jeff and Curtis had great rides, getting 14th and 10th respectively. I managed 17th, with Clint and Victor a little further back. Curtis' form is starting to come around, and his time proved it. The pay went 10 deep for the overall, so he was holding onto the last money spot.

Later that afternoon we did a circuit race, about 3 miles per lap, for 20 laps. Dan Larson had won the morning time trial, so Cyclescience kept an eye on anyone close to his time. I wasn't feeling well, so decided to try and attack as much as possible to make everyone chase. Through the course of the race, I put in about 5-6 pretty good attacks, only to have them all brought back. The course made it easy to sit in, and hard to get up the road. Clint patrolled the front, chasing down several breaks and was in several himself. Towards the end, the pack let 2 guys get away that weren't racing for the overall classification. In the ensuing field sprint, Curtis and Victor took 8th and 9th overall, with Jeff and I in 13th and 15th. The overall stayed the same, so Sunday's road race would be the deciding factor.

Sunday brought the famed Perry-Roubaix road race, 88 miles, with two good hills and about 2 miles of Georgia orange clay/dirt. This section was pretty rough, with rocks, holes, sand, and a few narrow strips of hard packed clay. If you were able to ride at the absolute front, or the absolute last, then you could pick your line...otherwise, you could end up in some thick sand...and then in a ditch. A break went early as we all were waiting for the chaos of crossing the dirt road for the first time. The first rider to the dirt section crashed, and from there it was a mass scramble to try and stay toward the front. Everyone seemed to make it through ok, and as we passed the start finish for the first of 7 laps they told us the break had 4 1/2 minutes! As we went through the dirt section each lap, it became softer and softer. This made it more important to be at the front each time, I tried to guide Curtis the best I could through a couple of the dirt sections, so to keep us both out of trouble. Jeff and I took turns attacking in different breaks, but couldn't find the necessary horsepower to stay away.

With 2 laps to go I got in a break with Jason Snow, David Guttenplan, and one other rider. We rode pretty well together, but I started noticing the effects of my cold...cramps. My legs were cramping up the long climb before we headed to the dirt section. I hung on, and we started picking up the last remnants of the early breakaway. We went through the dirt section, and got caught at the end by a small group of riders. By this time I really started to have some cramping problems, but hoped they would go away. We made the last turn going into 1 lap to go...and my legs seized! Just as they did, the remainder of the field caught the break, and they started their last lap. My race was done.

At the end 2 riders got away, with a couple single riders between. 36 riders finished, spread out over 21 minutes. Curtis took 7th (3rd in the field sprint), and retained his 10th place overall. Victor finished in the same pack, while Jeff, Clint, and I called it quits with 1 lap to go.

The road race course was challenging and fun...and really dirty, especially with the orange Georgia clay! Everyone rode well, with Curtis stepping up and salvaging our weekend with 3 top 10 placings, and 10th overall. Combined with Victor's placing we had 4 top 10's and 10th overall.

Next up is the NRC race in Jacksonville...ouch!