Friday, March 31, 2006

Dear Stalkers...

If you're like me and can't read enough about Tom Boonen's total dominance of European cycling, Pez Cycling News has posted a good article on him. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A True Masterpiece

This is by far the best racing photo of me ever taken. Ever.

courtesy of Audrey Harrod

I wonder what I was so mad about. At the point in the race when this photo was taken, I hadn't even crashed yet. Clearly, somebody needs some counseling.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Photo Report: Clark State Forest

Once again, my darling friend Audrey Harrod agreed to waste her time taking pictures of guys in tights riding in the cold this past weekend at Clark State Forest. Below are five shots from the 3/4 race. The first three show the pack just past the hard left turn near the start/finish, the fourth shows the two guys in the break, including the winner Bill Eisner of the Barbasol team, and the last photo shows the pack sprint for third place.

For more, please visit Audrey's site,, and remember that these photos are her work, so credit her accordingly if you post them elsewhere.

all courtesy of Audrey Harrod

I'm in the second and third photos (I wonder who I'm yelling at in the third one), as these were taken prior to my acrobatic trip over the bars in a crash. Despite that, the race was definitely fun for me. And very photogenic, too.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Always Somebody Better...

During the Clark State Forest race, a little while prior to the crash that ended the day for me, I had a short conversation with Aaron of the Indiana Masters team about comparing ourselves to other riders.

He said that no matter how good a rider is, there's always somebody better. Always.

I thought about it a second and said, yeah, always somebody better all the way up to Boonen. At this point, he's the only guy who's better than everybody else.

Case in point, he crushed the field at today's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen to win the race for the third time in a row:

photo courtesy of Luc Claessen

There's always somebody better, all the way up to Tom Boonen. That's where it stops.

Race Report: Clark State Forest

After last week's total disaster, I really wanted to prove to myself that I was healthy and fit again by riding well at Clark State Forest. It's a circuit race on a 2.3 mile loop through the woods outside of Henryville, Indiana.

The 3/4 race was billed as an hour long, which the race official worked out to be about ten laps. Because of the relatively flat terrain, those ten laps were sure to fly by pretty quickly.

The field for our race was pretty sizeable, with a number of Barbasol Cat 3s (warming up for the later Cat 1/2/3 race) lined up along with us. Our team was a little under-represented due to some notable absences. Instead of the usual 10-12 guys, we started with just seven, which is still significant in a field of 35.

At any rate, the field took off and immediately jacked the pace, which was good for me since I wanted to prove I could hang with the pack after a full week of insecurity over illness and a perceived lack of fitness. Hanging on proved to be no problem for me at all. In fact, I felt stronger than I have all year. I was floating pretty effortlessly with the front group the whole time, and the two little hills (more like gradual rises) were no problem at all. I managed to skip a pedal on the hard left just past the start line, but that was really the only trouble I had.

That is, until just five laps to go. We were flying around the course, five teammates including myself in the front group, and I was working my way to the front, having slid back a few spots during the early laps of the race. Out in front was a guy from Barbasol and another dude, working to stay away from the rest of us. As we topped the first hill, some guys bunched up a little bit, and with the road so ridiculously narrow, somebody went off the pavement. Instead of just cruising into the leaves like he should have, the guy in trouble tried to immediately jump back on the road, but with the pavement's edge being what it was, he went sideways and hit the pavement hard. Right in front of me.

There's a split second before a crash where your mind is desperately searching for a way to avoid it, but with the speed of the group and the way the guy's bike went down in front of me, there was absolutely nothing I could do. I hit the brakes and tried to jump it, by my front wheel hit his bike and over the handlebars I went. I could have won a gold medal with the way I flipped. Lucky for me, I landed on my back in a huge pile of leaves on the side of the road, off of the pavement and away from any obstacles (like other riders). I took a quick body check and realized that I had landed on my left shoulder, but not with enough force to break anything, so I hopped up and took a look at the other unlucky jerks. The crash took out five of us, with the original crashee the worst off. Road rash had done a number on his hip. Everyone else looked okay, but the race was over for them, and me. I checked my bike and realized that it too had survived the wreck with hardly a scratch, so I got back on and headed home.

I cruised in with a Team Louisville rider and a teammate who had been dropped earlier, licking my wounds and feeling pissed. I had been feeling so strong. There's nothing worse than bad luck, especially when your fitness is good and you're having a great race. The crash was just plain bad luck.

I got back to the start/finish and saw that another of my teammates was bloody from an earlier crash. He was fine overall except for the shin he dragged across the pavement. I talked to him for a minute and then rode over to my buddies who had shown up to take pictures and watch the race. As I sat with them my shoulder started to tighten up, and now it's bugging the crap out of me. Nothing's broken, but I'm definitely going to be sore for a couple of days.

Eisner from Barbasol ended up winning the race in impressive fashion, and my team finally cracked the top five by finishing third in the group sprint.

So in the past two weeks, I've been hit by a car, got sick and crashed in a race. Hopefully this unlucky streak will end soon so I can finally post a decent result. We'll see.

Photos of the race to come...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Spent an hour and a half on the trainer today, trying to test my health after coming down with a chest cold this past weekend. Seriously, I was weazing like an old man at one point.

Felt pretty good in general, so tomorrow when the weather warms back up, I'll ride outside for a few hours and see if I'm over the sickness. If not, well, who knows...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Race Report: St. Peter's RR

Not much to talk about today. I blew to pieces on the second big climb, couldn't catch my breath and tasted blood in my mouth, finished the first 16-mile lap far off the back and pulled out. Sat around and waited for the group to come through after their second lap, cheered on my teammates and then went home, tail between my legs.

Today was probably one of the worst days I've had on the bike in my short competitive history. I was climbing and riding strong all week, too, which makes the fact that I got sick on race day that much more disappointing.

Oh well, it's just March. There's a whole season ahead of me.

In much better news, three of my teammates placed in the top 14. At least somebody had a good day today. It sure wasn't me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Movin' On Up...

Got this in the inbox this morning:

The following request to change your USCF category has been approved
and processed by USA Cycling:
2006-03-15 16:04
Member: Joe ------
License: Road Racer
Request to change category from Cat 5 to Cat 4

That was easy. Now just three more upgrades to go...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cycling Style 101

Young Thomas Dekker of the Rabobank team demonstrates both the correct and incorrect ways to wear a cycling cap beneath a helmet during today's 6th stage of Tirreno-Adriatico (which he leads by 14 seconds).

photos courtesy of Sirotti

Tsk, tsk Mr. Dekker. Everyone knows that the only direction a cycling cap's bill is allowed to go is down. It's a good thing Cipo was on hand to police the atrocious fashion mistakes so frequently found among the peloton:

photo also courtesy of Sirotti

Cipo, I had the exact same reaction.

Spinning In The Rain

I couldn't take it anymore. I had to get outside and ride today. Nevermind the fact that it was still raining with wind gusts of 15-20 mph.

With the temperature so mild today, I couldn't resist a little spin, even if the pavement was completely soaked by periodic downpours. I rode for an hour in the parks, along my usual route. Along the way I saw the usual park crew, as in Glenn and Brad from the PJ team---at least I wasn't the only guy crazy enough to brave the rain and wind. I got back home drenched completely.

On a side note, it's amazing how strong my legs feel when the temperature gets above 65 degrees. Compared to colder weather, it's like night and day. I just wish this weather funk we've been in since the beginning of February would finally change for the better.

Now I have to go drain the bike.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


This weekend has absolutely sucked, weather-wise. It's been non-stop rain and thunder for two full days now, with no end until Tuesday. The race yesterday was cancelled, and riding outside is just plain out of the question.

I should be riding the trainer but it's starting to make this weird thumping sound with every revolution of the back wheel. It's not the bike/wheel causing it, so I don't have any idea how to fix the problem. It's really annoying.

So at this point I'm sitting inside not riding my bike at all for the second straight day. I can almost feel the fitness oozing out of my body...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Race Day Weather

Sure enough, the amazing weather we had last weekend was short-lived. Waking up to a thunderstorm complete with heavy rain, high winds and constant lightning is an excellent way to get motivated for a road race...

Did that sound like complaining? Let's race!

EDIT: Well, strike that. Race was cancelled.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Recovery Day

After yesterday's run-in with a car on top of a difficult three-hour training ride, I needed a good recovery day.

There's really no substitute for an honest-to-goodness recovery day---a short or moderate duration ride at very low effort. A lot of racers make the mistake of riding too hard when they should be resting. It's difficult sometimes because you get used to riding hard all the time and get bored or antsy when riding at a slow pace between 14 and 16 miles an hour.

I used to think a slow day on the bike was a wasted day, but I know better now.

Today I rode for an hour and never once reached a pace that made me breathe hard. I cruised through local neighborhoods and parks just admiring the scenery and enjoying the warmer temperatures. The deep bruise on my left thigh caused by the car's rearview mirror didn't hurt me at all, and while I'm a little sore all over, the overall experience was comfortable and relaxing.

My legs feel strong and responsive, my heart rate the same. Tomorrow I'll do a harder effort with trainer intervals if trapped inside due to rain or with hill climbing if able to get outside. The recovery ride today will help me get the most out of my hard work tomorrow. And come Saturday, I'll be in great condition for the next race.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Wish For The Best

I just wanted to make a post wishing Linda Burry of Team Louisville the best of luck and a speedy recovery. She was seriously injured in a crash during the L'Esprit race this past weekend.

Get well soon, Linda.

Two In A Row

Tom Boonen is having a "nice" time in Paris-Nice, isn't he? Har har.

photo courtesy of Luc Claessen

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Just A Matter Of Time

When you spend so much time riding within city limits, in city parks and on city streets, it's bound to happen. It's just a matter of time.

Today, about two and a half hours into my three hour training ride, I got hit by a car.

Seneca Park here in Louisville is a big, 1.5 mile loop that makes for an excellent warm up/cool down cruise before or after a long ride. It's flat, peaceful, and usually full of attractive, athletic women doing attractive, athletic things. I start and end most of my rides in Seneca.

Seneca is a little dangerous, though, because the park allows automobile parking on both sides of the road. That means cars must cross to the right through the bike lane in order to park in the gravel that borders the grass of the park itself. Generally there is plenty of room and clear views for both cars and riders to avoid close calls, but every once in a while somebody isn't paying attention.

Like today. I had just rounded the Western edge of the loop and was heading East towards Canons Lane when a white Honda pulled up next to me. Without a turn signal or any kind of warning at all, the car swerved to the right, directly into the bike lane. Going 20 miles an hour, I had no chance to avoid it and slammed into the side of the Honda, taking a rearview mirror to the thigh and falling off the bike into the grass on the side of the road. Thankfully he hit me before the gravel section, or it really would have been messy.

It's funny, I always think about how I'll react in these kinds of situations, and always come up with logical, level-headed strategies should I ever find myself, say, hit by a car in the park.

When it actually happened, all I could think to do was scream obscenities and kick the shit out of the guy's door. I picked myself off the ground and immediately started banging on his window, scaring the crap out of the dude in the passenger seat. Of course, two spoiled teenage boys climbed out of the car, as I continued my obscenity-laced lecture on proper mirror use and defensive driving techniques.

They honestly looked terrified of me. It was beautiful.

I picked up the bike and found it to be relatively unscathed, as was myself, so I hopped on and rode away, trying to get away from them before I did something stupid and violent. I used the adrenaline rush as fuel for a quick ride to the bike shop, where my mechanic trued my slightly-bent front wheel. I then finished the rest of my ride despite a sore quad and some frayed nerves.

I'm pretty lucky to have come out okay, and very lucky to have come out with an undamaged bike. Other than a bruised thigh and a scratch on my chest, I'm fine.

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ending The Drought

For the first time in 25 years, the reigning World Champion has won a stage of Paris-Nice. Today, Tom Boonen beat Allan Davis to take stage 1 of the notoriously cold, early season stage race known also as "The Race To The Sun".

photo courtesy of Sirotti

And of course, Boonen won in his typically photogenic style. The jerk barely even looks tired.

An Epiphany

About an hour and a half into my ride today, with the wind chill in the high 30s and a steady headwind in every direction, my toes frozen and my fingers throbbing, I realized something:

I'm about ready for this winter crap to be over.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Photo Report: L'Esprit RR

Below are three photos of me during the 3/4 race at L'Esprit yesterday. The first is the start, with me at the front on the far right. The second is just after the start, and the final photo is me rolling into the finish at the back of the main group. In case you care.

All photos courtesy of

Thanks Audrey! Your photography services are always much appreciated!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Race Report: L'Esprit RR

Let me start off by saying this: if the "yellow line rule" is not going to be enforced by race officials, it should not be in effect. It puts those willing to follow the rule (the smart ones) at a distinct competitive disadvantage to those who are willing to risk their lives in the wrong lane on open roads. Those of us willing to obey the rule get stuck inside while everyone else gets a free pass to attack---as long as they don't get hit by oncoming cars...

Anyway, about the race. The turnout was unbelievable, with every category starting with at least 40 riders each. Even the turnout for the women's race was nearly 20, and that's almost unheard of around here. We lined up with 12 guys on our team, but it didn't seem like we had anyone there, the size of the field was so large---probably because the weather was cold but sunny with minimal wind. All in all we had perfect early season race conditions.

The plan was for our team to attack in twos straight off the line, but with so many in the field and so many strong riders, all we did was drive up the pace. That was the theme for the entire race, actually. The strength of the field prevented any attack from developing into anything but a clinic on bridging gaps. Nobody got away for more than half of a 9-mile lap.

Case in point, during the third lap (of five), I attacked off the front on a long downhill stretch and actually caught a lone rider several dozen yards ahead of the pack. I topped out at around 36 miles an hour, but couldn't shake the group. I did manage to stretch everyone out, though, but it didn't matter because as we neared the last corner into the start/finish zone, we were waved down by a guy blocking the road. Around the corner we could see an ambulance, which is never a good thing in a bike race. As we slowly passed, we saw most of the women's field standing or sitting in the road, with one girl on a stretcher and wrapped in blankets. Apparently a crash had taken down most of them, seriously injuring two. Luckily all three of the gals on our team had made it relatively unscathed, but the race was pretty much over for all of them.

We passed the crash site and slowly rolled into the start/finish as a group, reforming and slowing down as we began our fourth lap of five. The pace stayed relatively steady for the rest of that lap, with only a couple of weak attacks to keep things interesting. About this time a lot of guys started getting anxious for action, and the blatant yellow line infractions started up. By the final lap, guys were just riding in the left lane of the road full time with no regard for anything resembling common sense or sportsmanship. It more or less became a free-for-all.

Unwilling to risk my hide for a Cat 3/4 amateur bike race in rural Kentucky, I sat in on the right side, fairly far back from the front of the pack. With the left side of the road clogged with brave/stupid riders, I had no clear path up.

This situation continued until the final stretch of road just before the last turn and the finish line. On the same downhill section that I had launched my first attack two laps earlier, the group started to really speed up, and with so many guys braving it on the left side of the road, the inside route on the right opened up completely. I found myself with a clear path to the front just in time for the final turn!

As I started to move, an oncoming car became visible, forcing all the guys on the left side of the road to the right real fast. At 34 miles an hour, disaster was unavoidable. Sure enough, a guy to my left touched somebody's wheel and went down with that sickening metal and flesh sound that still makes my stomach hurt thinking about it. I'm not sure how many guys were involved, but I know at least two or three guys went down just to my left, forcing me far right, off the road and into the grass. I managed to stay upright, but unfortunately, the little off-road excursion slowed me down considerably, and those lucky enough to be ahead of the crash got away. I cruised in at the back of the front pack, probably 25th or so. It sucks, but it's better than crossing the line in an ambulance. How I managed to stay rolling through that grass is beyond me, but I'm thankful I pulled it off.

To my knowledge the best the team pulled out was seventh, again. Disappointing, but decent.

As for my own performance, I'm pretty happy with my fitness at this point in the season. I'm not having any trouble at all hanging with the 3/4s at this point, which is impressive considering how short a time I've been training and racing. And the best part is, I can only get better.

PS - I want to thank my dad, my stepbrother, my girl and my two best friends for coming out to the race today. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. "Let it rain!"

EDIT: Some additional information has come to my attention: 1) Apparently it was nine riders that went down in the 3/4 race, including Joe Sohm of Cycler's Cafe, who rode an extremely strong race. I haven't heard any more details, but no one was seriously injured in that mess. 2) The best our team was able to pull out of the race was ninth. Oh well.

FURTHER EDIT: According to the official results, I finished 35th. I really wish I hadn't been so far back when those guys crashed---I would have done much better. Such is life.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

For My Birthday...

My birthday is Saturday, and there's really only one thing that I want:

For an extremely affordable $1200, the Cervelo Soloist Team is a hell of a bike. Even with full Dura-Ace, the total cost is only $3000. That's comparable to my 2 year-old carbon Trek 5200 with full 9-Speed Ultegra. Not bad for a rig actually used by Team CSC a couple of years ago.

And that flat black color would look pretty sharp with my black team kit. Hot damn.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mid-Week Training

Today was my high-intensity training day as I warm up for the next race on the calendar, L'Esprit Road Race in La Grange, KY. La Grange is just outside of Louisville, so it won't be the long drive we faced last weekend.

I'm excited about this race, not only because it's the opening race of the Kentuckiana Spring Series (very popular among local racers), but also because it's on my birthday and in the town where my dad lives. I'd love to win it, but I won't get ahead of myself. After all, I'm racing in the 3/4 race and I'm still technically a Cat 5.

In an effort to prepare, I did a series of tempo intervals, sprints and high-cadence jumps, and made sure to jack as many of the hills I could. In two and a half hours I covered just under 50 miles and felt strong the whole time. I'm really starting to see the benefits of the base miles I rode in January and February, because I'm not getting winded anymore and my heart rate is staying steady and lower than before. More power at a lower heart rate is a very good thing.

Tomorrow I have a long, steady endurance ride (minus the crazy stuff) followed by a light recovery cruise on Friday in preparation for the race. Saturday's weather is looking fairly mild and sunny, so I won't be struggling to stay warm like last Sunday. Should be a lot of fun.