"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer
There was nothing going on behind the scenes. Sure, Roland. Transcript here, audio here.
Listen to his voice. And Rob sounds like a child molester trying to lure a kid into his van.
It makes my eardrums slimy.
(Thanks to Tankboy for sharing)
If you’d have asked either myself, Peter, Noelle, or Seth this question Sunday night in Muscatine, the sun setting on a hot, hard day over the fast food joints and strip malls outside our cramped hotel room, we’d have said, “no, it’s hell.”
Noelle was with us for her virgin foray up the Snake and in fact her first race of the year. I was going for the win after my top 10 in the 4s last year. Peter had the same aspirations for the 3s event, and while Seth was recovering from his recently broken ribs, he is still one skinny dude and a hell of a climber.
By day’s end, Noelle was dropped early, I’d finished 27th after starting in the front row, sweaty and snotty, slow and weak. Peter was strong early, riding off the front like a he-man, but fell back to the last money spot, and Seth only lasted five laps before getting pulled.
What form! What panache! (Photo by Ryan Fay)
Sunday in Muscatine was even worse, relatively. Noelle was off the back and time trialing alone. I finished 13th in the 4s, unable to get through the clusterf*** at the top of the hill (but the speed bump was fun, especially at 40mph - best part of the race...I am going to LOVE CX!)before the last turn. Then I doubled up for the open Masters 30+ lining up right next to Andy Crater and Dewayne Dickey, two former pros and got dropped in two and half laps. 2nd lap in I was right with them up the hill until Crater attacked through the tight chicane turn before the start/finish.
I tried to close it, triedtriedtried...died. They came around after turn 1, before the descent to the speedbump and I tried to recover. But after landing (yes, landing) the hammering started and the gap opened again like a battle axe wound up the hill. Past the line again the motorcycle passed me and left me for dead. One more lap alone, I couldn’t see them at all. I figured I better get out of the way and save them the trouble of pulling me since it wouldn’t be long before they did. Besides, the hot dogs smelled pretty good.
Peter was sitting in the 3s like a patient tiger, then working his way up when he had the worst luck in the world, crashing out sitting 4th wheel on the last turn before the finish.
Seth was dropped with 7 laps to go in the pros race. From my vantage point on the grassy knoll by the final, chicane turn, Crater and legend Steve Tilford would come by breathing like steam locomotives, chugging rhythm to their cadence, at 25mph. Everyone behind them was grimacing in pain. Recovering from broken bones cannot be easy at that level.
So come today in Rock Island I grudgingly put on the kit, and half-heartedly warmed up, while Noelle stayed with her group, and laid down a really powerful sprint. Meanwhile, I moped around the side streets...I won’t say just how low I was Sunday night, but it was down there. Yet when I saw Mike Seguin’s beaming face just off the course, with 30 minutes to go time for the Master’s 30+ 4/5, it couldn’t help but put me into a racing mood.
(Photo by Matt Dawley)
I guess I raced angry, or at least with out any self-applied pressure, never sitting further back than 10th wheel. My bike handling skills are immeasurably better this year after all the descending in SLO and Asheville. I maybe touched the brakes twice on one of the more technical courses out there (the HED Stingers I now own let me bank my Max Lelli into next Tuesday. I still can’t believe I own wheels like that). I did a lot of work trying to bring one dangerous break back - a counter attack by a much stronger rider who went off as a less threatening move easily came back - or maybe get off in it...but 3 laps to go we were back in. One to go everyone jumps. By turn five holes are everywhere as they run out of steam. Seegs is sitting 4th wheel, and I’m right behind, when maybe 50 yard to turn 7 they go four wide.
I remembered Randy saying to me, “first person through turn 7 and 8 wins that race. Do whatever you have to and be first.”
So I did. I came around, and took the turn inside, but clean, Seegs whooping and then yelling at me immediately to GO FASTER. Shifter goes clunk. I go faster. Seegs: “FASTER!!!” Shifter goes clunk. “FASTER!!!”
For the first time in my 3 years of racing I see the line. With nobody in front of me.
And then I see Seegs.
Another guy right on his wheel. I throw, just like Coach Randy taught me, and get 3rd by maybe 2 inches.
All the frustration and anger and bitterness came rushing out of me in two huge barbaric yawps that echoed off the river town’s brick downtown buildings.
It made all the pain go away - a team win.
We tried to turn it around, and we did to an extent in the 4s race, but those damn juniors in front of us, 5 of them, held their gap from the their jump with one to go. Rewind to the start: Seegs is off the front immediately breakin’ legs, then chasing down other nascent breaks, while I sit in. It was team work between the two of us all day long. 7 laps to go I come by and ask how he feels, and I can’t really understand what he’s saying, I realize he needs to recover. 2 turns later, I had to take a dig to bring back a junior when nobody else would chase. The Mesa 14 year old who took 3rd at Snake Alley and won in the Melon 4s was off in a growing gap while two of his teammates blocked. Once back in I went to the back to recover and it took me until turn 3 of the last lap to get back up to where I could yell at Seegs, “yo! Outside!”
He faded left, I jumped on his wheel, and we tried like hell to close the gap to the five strong juniors in front of us, but coming through the last 2 turns to the finish we just didn’t have enough time. And after five races in three days, just not enough gas.
Yet we still finished in the money twice that day, and both of us made the podium. I now had $120 extra in my pocket as well.
Peter stuck a break of originally four, riding two others into the ground, for 2nd place and talked the winner out of his champagne. The speed of their effort absolutely destroyed the field in the only race that received real rain. Early crashes in the wet corners left gaps everywhere, and when they were out of sight from the main field once it finally reorganized to chase, their gap grew to almost a minute.
And Seth stayed with the P/1/2 pack, and finished in the top 50 in a race where he really never used a gear less than 53X14.
The ride home from Iowa was indeed heavenly.
Joe Namath is a drunk and a pervert. Fuck him.
The weather here's been good. The company even better. But I'm looking forward to getting home as soon as possible.
While I'm sorry to say I'll be missing my first Bike the Drive since 2004, I'm proud to say, Joe Namath-style, that I will be picking up those ever-elusive Cat 3 upgrade points in Iowa this weekend.
I guarantee it. I may as well be calling myself out at this point. It needs to happen. I have got to get angry and hungry, and this is the weekend to do it. Snake Alley has always been good to me, and this year, I think a victory is within my reach. I've been climbing well for a non-climber, and this is a non-climbers race. The Snake is short and painful, and it needs brute strength and no brains. My kinda race.
I am excited to be staying the entire weekend, as we'll get to stick around finally and watch the pros (and Seth and JT) do the brutally hard 20 laps.
Sunday is the Melon City Criterium - two heats. A fast, hilly course that requires, according to my coach, a 100% all out effort on the last lap to stay no less than three wheels back. That's the podium right there. Any further back you will lose, he says, and worse, are risking a crash on the last turn. Again, my kind of race: my only two podiums have come during races in which I actually feared for my life.
Monday is a classic, the Quad Cities Criterium - also two heats. An eight-corner hourglass course, great practice for the State championship in Peroria, and packed fields full of hungry, competitive riders.
I've seen enough of the middle of the pack and the top-ten finishers sweaty asses. I am no longer going to be afraid of cracking, crashing, or choking. I will make my mark on these races, you can be sure of that. I have the strength. I put in the 8th best time in for XXX's fitness check time trial on Wendesday, and a new personal record for me. Now I just gotta use what I know I have. Spending the kind of money that a four-day trip for five races requires will put you in that frame of mind.
If you are sticking around town however, and haven't registered for Bike the Drive, do so now. It's the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the BikeFed) and as they go, so goes bicycling in Chicago.
And the Chicago Cycling Examiner has a new article up as well...How to make the most of your 2009 Bike the Drive.
trailing my fingers in the swirling eddies,
I've only known the bone dry driftwood
lashed beneath me - white, hot, hard.
Lying under the blue dome of mem'ry
The bright sunshine wipes clean any
Pain from past days, other lives, old friends
There is only the breeze and smiling clouds.
Only a scent on the air, full of promise
Or a squawking bird, giving a tease
That I may slake my empty longing
On a wet, sandy beach - with shade and drinking.
But I float on, trailing my fingers
Heartened by the smile in the vapors,
Those wispy, gleaming teeth above
Promising yet another day of only love.
Saturday, May 9th, 10:12 AM - ABD 2 Man Team Trial
Would like a do-over on this one. I had a great time riding with Stocky, but I think we were both in agreement that we could've gone harder. Speaking for myself, it was hard enough, but yes, I think I kept too much in the tank. I'll chalk it up to inexperience in a new event, and an ungodly headwind - a ferocious 25mph plus on the return trip.
We finished strongly - thinking at the time that we'd put a pretty good time in of 59' 13", but rolling back to the parking lot, we were met from behind by Mike Jones and Jim Host who'd completed it in under 54 minutes. With a dropped chain that they'd needed to stop to fix.
Upon reading Newtron's race report this morning, I could tell that where I was mentally on Saturday morning, his and Randy's time of 55' flat would've been out of reach, quite frankly. I don't think I went much past 90%, and with the length of the course and the headwind, I was too afraid of blowing up in that wind to push myself any harder.
I was indeed pegged the entire ride at least 87% and ran a normalized power of over 300 watts. My nose was a clotted mess of snot and sweat and I had a very hard time staying focused and controlling my breathing. The latter is a problem in much more than just bike racing; the former only during blind dates and job interviews. In retrospect however, I believe that had we been a little more prepared to suffer that extra bit, had we pushed it just a little more, closer to 94 -95%, communicated better on our pulls, and taken turns that much more confidently, we could've finished as much as 90 seconds faster.
There's a first time for everything, however, and if anything, I'm a patient learner. The biggest lesson learned was that I can't wait to do this again, hopefully with Stocky, so we can learn from our mistakes together. Equipment wise, I'm set. My Max Lelli bike is a great TT bike with the clip-ons, and how can you beat the HED Stinger 60s for a more versatile aero set of wheels? I have a brand new Rudy tear drop helmet, as well. While I've never been much of a gear whore, I realize quality the likes of all that helps save precious watts and seconds.
In preparation for the 50K edition of this event - July 12 - I will be much more ready to suffer, will bring a tigher focus - starting with my 20 minute x 2 intervals this Wednesday.
Later that evening, in my upstairs neighbor's apartment
Josef and Kayla invited us for their Polish Constitution Day party. We hung out, drank some Okocim, and ate some goodies - like keilbasa from the Montrose Deli and this delightful little number:
...and enjoyed one another's company with all the dogs - mostly - getting along. Once again my guy Jack kept pushing Pua's buttons until she decided she wasn't going to have any more of it. This is her stewing in the corner about it:
When we finally all settled down:
Sunday May 10, 6am
After getting to bed too late with thankfully a minimum amount of beer to drink, I was ou the door after a quick breakfast and trip to the yard with Jack. Jeff, Jacques, Moran, and Billy rode the Delucca route with me on a gorgeous sunny day. Ogden Ave was more potholed than ever, but once out on the smooth pavement of the far southwest side, I attacked the hills with a fervor and strength it seems I've never had - especially since Snake Alley last year, which is coming up soon. My regret from the time trial the day before pushed me hard up the top, getting there first more times than not.
And what can I say about the rest of the afternoon? I'll keep that to myself, but it did involve the Giro, some tasty treats, some serious lounging, and one slap on the wrist...
Once again, I missed National Poetry Month. So, here's a not-very-good poem for the month of May.
The melted cold is falling from the sky
Our frozen breath and icy memories
Of nights by the heater, warm scotch and wine
Now dampens my hair with sweet juicy berries
A dew grown heavy by months of longing
For a sight of her skin, a scent of musk
To hear her laugh, and feel the relieving
Warmth of the sun on your neck, and the husk
Of her breath in your ear, an erotic brush
Like the breeze blowing through the new green lush
I've seen pictures of riders cresting that first hill at the Circuit of Sauk in Baraboo, Wisconsin - a narrow depth of field from a powerful zoom lens blurring out the road that drops seemingly miles down to a steep canyon below. Even though I climb relatively well in training, it's easy to pat yourself on the the back after a grueling two hour mountain. There you can only hope to do your best, because no one's wearing a number and the payout is the same: dinner and a massage. Antipating a hilly race gives visions of any chance at a top ten glide by as I curse and grunt up to the top in my smallest gear. Cracking on a climb is very damaging to your psyche.
As Luke, Seth, and I approached the race in the white Toyota on Saturday morning, he pointed left and said, simply, "that's it." Yeah, it wasn't as big as it grew to in my imagination, but it still reminded me of some past road races where I'd lost all my chips on an all or nothing climb. It stretched up like a black ribbon, splitting the green pastures and trees, and disappearing at the top to who-knew-what waited. Like a towering escalator leading to street level from a subway station in a completely new city.
A small flashback: at camp this year, before entering Peachy Canyon, I asked Luke what his secret was. "Let everything go loose," he said. "Sit up straight over your butt, and let the legs use all your energy."
Or something like that. Just as we entered the first really painful stretch, he started chanting some incantation and making some quasi-religious hand gestures and then I didn't see him again until 5:30 or so back the hotel. I think you get it from your mother's side?
I hadn't planned on doubling up for this race, something I'd been targeting since planning for Asheville. That's something you do with crits, cheeseburgers, and espresso. Not in a race known the Midwest over for it's leg-breaking climb. But when Luke said he'd play two, and had done it in the past with success, I thought I might as well make the most out of the long drive and overnight stay in Madison. It was back to back, as well, but then again, I'd just gotten back from Asheville, and 60 miles in south central Wisco had nothing on the Smokeys.
So planning for optimum success, I would do my best to shelter Luke in the run up to the climb, and try to stay with the group on the way up in order to see him off before sitting to muck up any chase and save myself for the Masters 4/5.
It went exactly according to plan, until I found myself halfway up the hill, seeing nobody passing me yet, and still climbing strong, right on Luke's wheel. When I finally started really feeling the effort about three quarters of the way up, he turned around, looked at the gap we'd caused and gasped, "easy!"
I wasn't thinking about cracking, or not cracking - only the zen spinning and emptying my mind of thoughts of the top, just keep going, going, going.
Just before the crest I reeled myself back from the edge, to save myself and let Luke off with the gap while I floated back to the pack and task at hand. For the next two or three miles consistently riding 3rd wheel, letting two guys (I really to work better on marking who I am riding with) trade pulls until they began to scheme about getting away themselves. Which was fine with me. Luke was now just visible up the road with one other rider, and I thought, "four gives him a better shot to stay off."
Only one complaint surfaced, shortly after the two rode away from us: "you on the left! We can't get by! You're hosing us up!" I just half-cocked my head back and replied, "yeah, I am."
They got around me but I stayed in the middle of it all and when we came through for lap number two I heard Seth yell that Luke was a minute up the road. Success, hopefully. Now I just hoped that the first time up the hill wasn't a fluke.
I hit the top of the climb ahead of the pack again. Three riders came around and we were racing for 5th place. We'd been in the false flat in the heavy wind since cresting the hill when it flattened out a bit, and we shifted up to the big rings. They shifted, actually. My chain just whirred flaccidly against my derailleur and stayed stubbornly down there. I tried again. Nothing. When I started swearing the rider behind me came around and grabbed what had been my wheel and my chances of a top five drifted away with my cursing into the wind.
I frantically twisted my barrel adjuster for to no avail, and then just tried spinning it, and then went back to trying to fix it. I watched them get further and further up the road, twisting and shifting and swearing, when the chain finally went up. For a mile of so I though I could catch them, but I got a face full of the 30 mile and hour wind as then down the other side of a roller and I realized I was on my own for the rest of the day.
I could've just relaxed until I got a draft again in the second group, now visible when I turned my head back for a look. But now I was angry that the mechanical had taken my placing away from me, and now my task was not to get caught.
Photo by Seth Meyer
I time trialed it in to the finish, holding them off, and never losing sight of the three in front either. I saw their cat and mouse game being played out on the final false flat to the line with envy, but alternately elated to see a huge gap behind me to the next group. 8th place. Not bad for a non-climber in a hilly race, blocking for his winning teammate, and having a mechanical.
Mechanicals. Since the second half of the first lap my saddle had also come loose, and during my effort to stay away to the finish, I had basically been riding on the hard plastic end of my Specialized Toupe.
Photo by Seth Meyer
After an excruciating trip to the mens room and getting my bike adjusted during the 20 minute break, I was back on the course with Bob and Dave Thomas for the Masters 4/5. The pack was much bigger and by time I was able to get up to the front half on the climb, four riders were riding off the front. The scene ahead was total chaos, riders everywhere. Two bridge attempts later I was in the chase group and we started working together.
Another look at the saddle as we frantically try to the get the bike ridable for my next race in about 10 minutes. Photo by Seth Meyer.
We tried to get a pace line going in the wind, but it was frustrating. After so much work at camp with Randy and my teammates, I take it for granted that everyone will keep pulling though. But it sputtered and stalled, and we didn't really gain any momentum. I took a hard, spiteful pull after one such hitch and got scolded for not being smooth enough. That figured. The rest of the pack was far behind us however, and maybe we didn't much motivation.
Soon however, I felt a cramp coming in my right leg and clung to the back, the rubber band stretching. We hit a roller and it snapped. The cramps just kept coming, and finally on the other big hill before the descent to the start line, I had to unclip and stop to massage my leg.
Riders behind began to file past me and I fell further and further back the whole way to the start of lap two, where I drifted left and rolled past the official with the words, "I'm out," and found a seat on the grass and I laid low in the sunshine, finally out of the wind.
After a stop in Madison to treat Rick Dearworth - an ex-pat teammate who'd put the three of us up for the night - for dinner, we arrived home about 10pm very tired. I was in bed shortly after and seemingly within minutes my alarm was going off - screeching at me to be ready for Jeff, who'd arrive at 7:30 to leave for my next races, the Vernon Hills Grand Prix.
Not much to report here, at least up until the finish. It was just lap after lap of staying out of the wind, trying to stay up front. With a lap and a half to go, there were two dangling off the front on the back stretch, while I soft pedaled in the wind waiting for another jump. Get a Grip came screaming up and I grabbed his wheel, passing the other two quickly. Then GG sat up, and the pack was there.
One to go: "Hmmmmm, what's this? Four black jerseys all in a line."
I think I need to get on the end of this. The lead out train was on, and on the back stretch the pack was about two lines wide. Approaching turn three, Seegs was screaming at Stocky to get there first, and now I was was looking at turn four from fourth wheel. Things got pretty fuzzy at the point except it was clear I didn't have enough to stay on the Stocky, Seguin, and Wiberg Express. Pinched to the left and out in the wind again, I gapped and fell off - not really in pain but my legs just wouldn't go, and came in 14th as I was passed on both sides. However, the train worked in spite of my weakness - Stocky and Wiberg put Seguin onto the podium.
Even without the team success, it was not a horrible ending, as I was there, but your legs aren't always going to do the same. Baraboo had been my target all along, I wanted to put my time, money, and energy spent in Asheville to good use. And a top ten finish blocking for my winning teammate is what I would call a return on investment. The whole weekend, and Vernon Hills specifically, just showed me I am coming along further with my mental awareness during races - my most severe weakness.
Today will be an easy recovery day, with a ride to the team meeting at Goose Island Brewery, before a hard week of training in advance of the month's remaining races: the 2 Man Team Time Trial on the 9th, Monsters of the Midway on the Southside the week after, and then it's hard to believe that the Iowa Crits of Memorial Day, including the infamous Snake Alley, are now upon us.