Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SE Crits Series, Beaufort, SC

Here is the race report from yesterday's race in South Carolina...ouch!

"We, got our butts handed to us tonight in a huge way. The race was so freakin fast from the gun. I can't even put into words how fast things get in these races. One thing this Crit series is doing is setting the bar a an entirely new level. Beaufort is a gorgeous small town in the South Carolina Lowcountry but I had lactic acid in my eyes so I couldn't see it very well. 142 riders started 47 finished and only 20 were on the lead lap. The main problem.....ok.... major problem was turn one. The start/finish stretch was really long, slight downhill grade, and two lanes, so we were going 35mph single file into turn one which was 90 degrees and down to a very narrow single lane, we called "The Alley". There were two layers of hay bales and then some giant cushions up against all the street signs and telephone poles. Good thing that they were there!! Huge crash early in the race in turn one almost neutralized the field, approx 40 riders went into the pits including Karel and myself. Turn one very was sketchy from that point on. I have never scene riders blow up like they did last night in the middle of a lap. Literally 5-10 riders would get dropped because one riders could not hold the pace. Curtis lasted about 20 minutes as did Karel. I made it 32 minutes. I was cutting deals with myself at 27 minutes to make it one more lap. All three of us were pretty mentally crushed after that performance but we I rolled off the course things were put into perspective. There were full domestic pro teams sitting on the sidelines watching the race just like us. We thought, heck, they do this for a living and lasted as long as us so we now are understanding that these races are a roll of the dice. A good position is the difference between lasting 20 minutes and finishing. In the end Hilton Clarke from Toyota United won in a sprint just edging out Kyle Wamsley from Colavita. We will find out more about levels of suffering tonight in Waltorboro, SC.


Article on Athens Twilight

This year I didn't go to Athens Jeff, Curtis, Karel, and Ryan will be filling out the race report about that race and some of the others that they are doing in the "Speedweek" series.

But, Athens is the original...the fastest...the most fun (and painful) criterium that I've ever done (and 99% of the crit racers will agree). Below is an article written by an ex-Pro rider from the Athens area. It was published many years ago, but I think it helps capture the atmosphere that is the "Athens Twilight"...

Road Rage
What It’s Like To Be On A Bike In The Twilight

The Athens Twilight Criterium is, by consensus, the fastest one-hour of bicycle racing on this planet. The speed is insane. The maniacal speed is a direct result of the course - it's a one-kilometer rectangle that riders can whip around without braking, even through the corners. If a rider even feathers the brakes, he's (she's) losing ground. The Twilight is an opportunity for a rider to slap his chain onto the big ring, open the throttle and flat-out haul arse. The insane speed is also a direct result of the racers. These are the adrenaline junkies, the ones with the need for speed, the fastest guys and gals in the world over short distances. These lunatics can lean their bikes, and their bodies, around this one-kilometer rectangle at precarious angles and ludicrous speeds that defy Sir Isaac's general principles, and maybe one or two of Moses' ten tenets. Going this fast must be a sin. But if you think this race is all fun and games, think again.

Easy Riders
You see them before the race - glabrous and glistening, heavily oiled, gliding philosophically on their bikes through the parking lot. They're wearing a tan fit for a bejeweled and bedaubed country club wife with a heavily insured husband. They look cool; they look calm - like an unprepared, but veteran trial attorney. But look closely: inside they're falling to pieces; they're coming undone. If you took their shirts off, you'd see: their brittle torsos are as white as cotton. The tan's a façade. They may even be smiling now, but as Conway and Loretta would say, "It's only make believe." The Twilight averages over 30 miles-per-hour for one solid hour. This is no joking matter. Does a condemned man rejoice in the moments before placing his back to the wall and his chest towards the muzzles of a dozen pointing rifles? It's absurd to think so. These aren't nihilists. These are disco sprinters (vainglorious fools) who think getting dropped in this race, in front of everyone, is a fate worse than death. These moments of dread and despair before the race feel like a hundred little rats chewing on the inside of your stomach. In these worrisome moments, many riders realize that they, like Henry Fleming, might fling the rifle and head for the hills in a moment of impending catastrophe - their red badge of courage a poop stain in their pants. When a racer is standing at the starting line, he does his best impression of a relaxed rider. But relaxing when thousands are staring laser-guided missiles through you ain't easy. And, it's too noisy to concentrate - this Rabelaisian crowd is cackling like a henhouse full of lusty roosters. The pretend-unperturbed rider's heart is actually beating against his chest like a sledgehammer pounding on a thin tin roof.

Mad Dash
A couple hundred corralled cyclists are bobbing and bouncing like a field full of insaniatics, waiting for the gate to fall so they can escape from the asylum. The riders on the front row don't dare look back; they don't want the riders behind to see the terror raging in their eyes. Their common consideration? They might be trampled to death in the very near future. When the gun finally fires to start the race, a rider sprints to the first corner as if his life depends on it. It might. It's the maddest dash of the entire race - the dash to the first turn. If a rider makes it to the turn first, or near the front, he can hit the throttle and floor it out of the corner and accelerate down the road with no obstructions. Clear sailing. If he gets to that first corner too late, its like a bucket of sand poured into a small funnel; it just takes a little time to get all of it through. The point: in the Twilight, if a racer comes out of the first turn too far back, his race is over and it's only 10 seconds old. Finis. Finito. The End. Good Night, Irene! In order to survive 60 laps, the total distance of this race, a rider must get through the first lap unscathed and well placed. He can't be too far back from the front. Generally, only 50 or so will finish. The rear of the field is like the tail of a whip. The unfortunate souls at the wrong end of the single-file line are getting whipped and tossed about like a fly in a tornado. If a rider can't hold the wheel directly in front - that is, keep his front wheel about six inches from the forward rider's rear wheel, sometimes while traveling at speeds topping 40 miles per hour - his night won't last long. It is impossible to bridge gaps in this race. If a rider 20 places in front of you allows a gap to open, he and everyone behind him will be out this race in a matter of seconds. It is a modern-day example of Darwinism: to live, one must keep up with the herd. Become separated, and the vultures will soon feast.

Speed Demons
If the racer is still alive at the end of the first lap, and not too far in arrears, then he must bury his muzzle in the crack in front of him and hold on for his honey's life. During the first 10 laps, a rider's pain meter is quivering at the far end of the red zone. He is feeling the scalding lactic burn in his legs caused by excessive speed. The fastest riders in the world are uncorking the top-shelf bottles of high-octane. These merchants of speed know that in the first 10 laps they can cause an explosion in the field. Over half the field will get dropped, quit the race or crash in the first five laps. The disco sprinters want to shred the field and dump as many riders as possible, now. This leaves fewer to contend with later. In most criteriums, if a rider survives the first 10 laps, he knows he will survive until the end. In most criteriums, after the initial frantic, escape from the Titantic-like frenzied free-for all, there is an ever-so slight decrease in speed. A small incremental drop in speed can do wonders for a rider's ability to stuff his lungs back down his esophagus and recover his runaway breath. But the Twilight is not like "most" criteriums. In fact, it's most unusual. The speed does not drop. It is relentless. It is like trying to play chess while your heart rate is a constant 200 beats per minute. Riders carry out silent disputations with themselves in the first five laps. See one grimace; his inner self, the rational one, has just scored with a cogent point phrased as a question: this is fun? But these two-wheeled warriors, at least the ones that are left, are also master magicians, real Svengalis. They've been outwitting pain for years. Pain, they know, is strong like a bull, but smart like a tractor. They trick pain; they confuse pain; they endure pain like a visit from a mother-in-law. They force pain to a back row. And just when they think everything is under control, the race becomes faster. A rider is pedaling 37 miles per hour and is struggling to hang on. He looks up the road and sees a group of four riding away from the front of the field. He looks down at his speedometer on his handlebars. He's going 38 now. The four are still riding away. This can't be possible.

Road Runners If a rider can hang on and hold out for half the race, something happens. The demon of self-doubt is put to sleep. Confidence begins its slow drip into the veins. You don't need to see a rider's face to know: look at the way he handles his bike. A rider with confidence does not ride with his fingers over the brake levers; he's down in the drops, gripping the bars. He's sailing through turn one in a perfect arc, coming out of the corner in front of the Georgia Theatre cruising comfortably two inches from the curb, intentionally coming within centimeters of the heads of the habitués that are stretched out over the barricade. (No one's ever been beheaded.) He's smiling. He's entered the Zen-zone. This is special. If a rider makes it to the end, there is another factor to consider. Pro teams are expected to win. This is no longer about sportsmanship and fair play, if it ever was. Riders bump and grind and jostle for position. Various invectives are hurled. Psychological tactics are employed. The best sprinters in the world play a terrifying game of chicken: hit the brakes or hit the fence, take your pick. Back off Jack! Riders may be at The 283 Bar afterwards downing a cold beer, but at this point in the race, this is a job. This is a paycheck. This is thousands in prize money. This is winning. These boys are living. The last two or three laps of this race are spectacular. The big teams are amping up the speed as high as it can be humanly maintained. The reason: it's impossible for a rider to move up if he's 20 back and already pedaling at his limit. The disco sprinter on the team - the one expected to win - is sitting forth, fifth or sixth wheel. Out of the last corner, the sprinters have moved up and are now second, third or fourth wheel. These are the spots the winner will come from. The last 200 meters is simply a stripped-bare example of sheer speed. Racers look as if they are trying to tear their bikes apart at the seams as they pull and jerk and twist and pedal in a violent display of inner angst. They cross the line. It's all over. All smiles. That was the greatest race they've ever done. They can't wait to do it again. Have you ever watched film of mountaineers climbing Everest? They're miserable. Their teeth chatter like a jackhammer. Have you heard them speak of their experiences after they return? They can't wait to go back. They're sick, the whole lot of them!

-David Crowe

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Georgia Cup #3 - Chattanooga, TN

Karel Sumbal made the 12 hour drive from Tampa up to Chattanooga to take part in the 3rd stop of the Georgia Cup series. He was alone and up against a stacked field of Pros and elite amateurs, but still managed to unleash his fast finish in his favorite event...the criterium.

Our European cycling phenom "Czechs" in with his report below.

"Last week I went to Chattanooga for the GA cup race. It was 3 stages race. In TT I got my usual bad result 65th out of 75 riders. But in the night crit I did better. There was over 90 guys on the start line and they were announcing all the "big guys" names and saying that it is the most competitive field in the GA cup this year so far. Among the regulars there were 8 guys from Toshiba with Frank Travieso and Mark Hekman (last year Athen's winner) and Keith Noris (National Champ U-23) leading the squad. The Inferno Team with Jeff Hopkins had lots of guys too. The DLP racing, Team Type1, Jittery Joe's and BMC were presented as well.

The race started very fast and stayed like that until the end. The loop was pretty technical with 6 corners and long wide open straight road up to the finish line. There was several breaks but nothing stayed away for very long so the main field was getting ready for the last sprint. Toshiba started their lead up train with 5 laps to go and they really push very hard pace to avoid any jumps from the field and secure their sprinters. I was trying to get to the end of their train where Frank Travieso was sitting but everybody else wanted exactly the same thing so it was very scary elbow to elbow. One second I was almost there next second I was 15 places deeper in the field. But in the last lap I manage to get right on the Travieso's wheel in the last corner. The sprint was pretty long and I was sprinting with few other guys head to head. Frank won, Jeff Hopkins get second Chris Scott got 3rd, Oscar Henao got 4th and I got 5th. I was happy with my place in that competitive field but at the same time I was a bit disappointed because I was so close to be on the podium!!! Oh well maybe next time...

The road race was pretty hard too. Again the field close to 100 guys and pretty challenging terrain in Chattanooga hills in front of us. We did 92 miles (4 loops). First 3 of the 4 loops were OK. There was some break at the front but Toshiba team kept it with in 1min to secure Travieso's over all lead. In the last loop the break got back to the field and the real race started. It was very windy and the field stretched to a single file. After several hard moves the field started splitting and I was in the second group. I tried very hard to bridge back to the front group but it was very hard. I got help from other 4 guys but we still couldn't close it for several miles. We were very close but couldn't quite close that gap. Than when we got close for few bike lengths I jumped across and got back there but I was pretty much done. I gave everything I had in that moment and need some time to recover. Unfortunately in the next hill one guy from BMC launched very hard attack and split the field again this time into many small groups. My vision was pretty blurry and I was just hanging on some wheel in front of me. I had no idea on what position I am. After few miles we formed into a bigger group and were heading to the finish. Somebody said that there is like 30 guys in the front group and that we are racing for 30ish place. I decide to sprint anyway and got 3rd from the main field. After the results came up I realized that there was only 10 guys and I got 13th out of almost 100 guys who started. Frank Travieso won again, Mark Hekman got second and Tod Dullin from DLP racing gets 3rd place. My over all place wasn't that great because of my TT time. In the crit everybody gets the same time and so did the guys who were in my group in the road race so I got 32nd place over all."

-Karel Sumbal

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SC State Criterium Championships

The following report was submitted by Jeff Kopp. Great job this weekend guys!!

"With the South Carolina State Championship Criterium Title on the line Curtis, Jeff, and Clint decided to throw Florida’s hat in the ring. The Crit was held in Hampton Park just off of the Citadel Campus. A flat fast 1 mile loop looked like it would be a good course for us. We knew it was going to be a tough race when we looked at the start list and noticed riders from SC, GA, NC, TN, OH, and FL along with one Professional Team DLP Cycling. The race was fast from the gun with attacks going off non stop. Each team was constantly sending riders up the road in order to establish a break. We had decided as a team since we were only three strong we would sit in for the first 15 minutes and get a feel for which teams were worth watching. We each took turns getting into a move in which the Pro Team DLP Cycling was involved with because we figured nothing would go without them. It turned out DLP Cycling was killing all of the breaks in order to set things of for their sprinter Boyd who was from SC and had also won the day before. With about 8 laps to go a group of 10 riders formed off the front of the field and for some reason the large field was content to just let them hold a 10 second advantage for a few laps. With about 3 laps to go Clint decided to try and get the field to close down the gap and tried jump across the gap into a stiff headwind. After a strong push the effort got to him and he decided to come back to the protection of the peleton. With two laps to go Curtis decided that Lindner Capital better be represented in the group off the front in case the field got lazy and jumped across. DLP Cycling and others finally organized at the front and quickly shut down the break. Jeff grabbed Curtis’s wheel as he skillfully powered onto the back of the DLP Cycling lead out train. It was a really good position and several teams tried to bust in on the DLP Cycling train but Curtis and Jeff held strong. Out of the last corner with about 600meters to the line we were in perfect position about 7 riders from the front. As the sprint started Curtis stood up to start the long lead out and pulled right out of his pedal!. Jeff dove to the right of Curtis to avoid any slow down but Curtis skillfully clipped back in without missing a pedal stroke. We guessed that was probably a 1 in 10 shot. At 35 mph clipping out is REALLY SCARY! The sprint was on and Jeff having lost Curtis’s wheel the deal was to both sprint for results. Lindner Capital ended up 6th (Curtis) and 7th (Jeff) for the day"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Atomic Race Weekend Road Race

Thirty five pro/1/2 racers headed to Quincy, Florida April 6, 2008 to race in the Team Atomic Race Weekend Road Race. After the criterium was cancelled the night before due to lightning, the racers were chomping at the bit to get on their bikes and mix it up. Lindner Capital was represented by Jeff Kopp, Clint Bridier, Curtis Long, Karel Sumbal and Ryan Saylor and was the largest team in the field with five riders. Other major teams present were Naples Cyclery and Velo Brew out of Jacksonville. Though they were there without strong team representation, the men to watch were obviously going to be Joel and Daniel Chavez (Preferred Alliance) as well as professionals Emile Abraham and Joe Eldridge of Team Type-1.

The race started under overcast skies. Lindner Capital decided to be aggressive right from the start. Since Curtis Long had been under the weather the last couple of weeks and it was questionable whether he’d be able to finish well, he decided to go out on the attack early to put pressure on the other teams. Someone attacked hard right off the start line but the group reluctantly followed and chased him down. Then Long counter attacked and with such a long race ahead, the group decided one person could not make it on his own and let him go.

Over the next 10 miles, Clint Bridier and Jeff Kopp set tempo on the front to discourage chasing and bridge attempts up to Long while Karel Sumbal and Ryan Saylor focused on going with and sitting on every attack. Eventually, Gary Yates (Naples Cyclery) recognized that, being on one of the largest teams in the field, catching up with someone from the largest team would provide lots of support in the field to discourage chasing and stifle attacks. Lindner Capital had the same thought and let Yates go to help their lone teammate up the road. Sure enough, Yates caught Long and the two worked well together and were quickly out of sight from the field.

Bridier and Kopp continued doing an outstanding job setting tempo and covering attacks until Kopp suffered a flat tire. He drifted back through the pack and waited for the wheel truck. Bridier dropped back to help Kopp pace back up to the field while Sumbal and Saylor continued their jobs of covering attacks. The value of Bridier’s and Kopp’s presence was immediately felt once they were absent from the group.

Sumbal, who has had bad luck in many of the races so far this year, was determined to get a good result today and was covering almost every single move that came from the field and eventually found himself off the front with current Master’s National Criterium Champion Jason Snow (YSG/Metrahomes/Wendy’s) and Daniel Domingo (Velo Brew) and worked diligently to stay away and catch up to his teammate.

At this point, it was looking very good for Lindner Capital with 2 guys in the top 5 on the road. However, the Chavez brothers were none too happy with racing for 6th place and chased and attacked relentlessly to bring back the chase group. Saylor successfully stifled these attacks for probably 15 miles but they were taking their toll on him. Finally, Joel Chavez attacked and Saylor cracked and could not answer. Chavez gained a gap on the field with a couple cohorts. With perfect timing, Jeff Kopp sprinted past the field and up to Chavez group. Kopp had just caught back up to the field after chasing for 15 miles with the help of Clint Bridier. Unfortunately, the mammoth effort required to get Jeff back to the field cost Bridier his race as he selflessly sacrificed himself for teammate Kopp.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Kopp and Saylor the Chavez brothers were eventually successful and almost single-handedly brought back Karel’s chase group of three while Long’s and Yates’ lead had grown to 4 minutes. After several more moves were unsuccessful, a group of seven riders slipped away including Jason Snow, Emile Abraham and his teammate Joe Eldridge, Joel Chavez, a Velo Brew rider, Andy Holland (Naples Cyclery) and Ryan Saylor. Because Saylor and the Naples rider both had teammates up the road, they had a free pass to not help in the effort to chase down the breakaway. Even still, the five others in the chase group worked together enough to bring back the dog-tired legs of Yates and Long bringing the breakaway to nine riders with 15 miles left in the race.

The miles were taking their toll on everyone, especially Curtis Long and Gary Yates who had spent almost the entire race off the front. With about 5 miles left in the race Emile Abraham attacked on one of the climbs causing Long to lose contact with the break. Only Joel Chavez could respond to Abraham’s attack and the two were not to be caught by the remaining 6 breakaway riders. Abraham, who has won many national level races out sprinted Chavez to take the win. Eldridge attacked on the final rise before the finish and no one could respond to him either, leaving the remainder shooting for fourth place. Young Andy Holland put in his last dig at the top of the same rise. S aylor followed but could not come around him in the final meters and took third 5th place finish of the season. Impressively, a spent Long was able to hold off a chase group of three and hold on to 9th place while Sumbal was only bested by Daniel Chavez for the group finish and took a respectable 14th place.

-Ryan Saylor