Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jan's New Ride

Jan Ullrich unveiled his new line of self-named road bikes recently, to much fanfare.

Photo courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Though the display model appears to be a sleak carbon fiber racing machine, looks can be deceiving. The bike is actually constructed out of a high-tech blend of strudel and Bavarian lager, and weighs 195 pounds.

At least it's rolling Lightweights.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

2006 Results To Date

Below are my results so far this year. The format is: name of event, category, place, and number of riders in parentheses.

Mentor/Maysville RR - 3/4 - 20th (40+)
L'Esprit RR - 3/4 - 35th (55)
St. Peter's RR - 3/4 - DNF (35)
Clark State Forest Circuit - 3/4 - DNF (35)
Lexington Circuit - 3/4 - 22nd (37)
Lexington Circuit - 4/5 - 20ish (70)
Ceraland Crit - 4 - 25th (50)
Eagle Creek Park Crit - 4 - 12th (35)
Da Vinci Fest Crit - 4/5 - 9th (35)
Da Vinci Fest Crit - 3/4 - 21st (50)

I definitely have to be one of the most average bike racers on the planet, judging from my results this year. I've definitely earned the title "peloton fodder"...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Photo Report: Da Vinci Crit

Here's a good pic from the recent Da Vinci Criterium (4/5 race):

Photo courtesy Audrey Harrod

I'm second in the photo, following the eventual third place rider with the second place rider, Sean from Team Louisville, on my wheel. Just after this photo a three-man break got away and our chase group unfortunately never caught them...

Thanks so much to Audrey Harrod for the great shot.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Basso Goes A Little Too Far

Photo courtesy of Sirotti.

Know Your Limits

I've really increased my endurance this year. I can go hard three or four days in a row without serious weakness, whereas last year just two straight days of high intensity and/or long duration would wear me out completely.

That said, I'm still no stage racer.

I've ridden every day for the past ten, with a couple of good recovery rides thrown in the mix. But with multiple 3+ hour rides on top of high-intensity climbing and sprinting intervals throughout that ten day period, my legs are getting pretty fatigued. Yesterday, during another 3+ hour ride, I started to feel it.

I forgot how nice a full day off the bike can be. Sometimes you just have to climb off and recharge the tanks---the worse thing I could do is over-train with two major objectives of my racing season just around the corner. Know your limits, and always train AND rest with them in mind.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Giro d'Basso

I haven't posted at all about the Giro this year. I'm not sure why, since it's been a really great race and promises to be even better over the next couple of days. The Plan de Corones climb tomorrow will be a spectacle unrivaled by any grand tour stage in many, many years.

But, let's focus on the present, shall we? Today, in Stage 16, Ivan Basso once again rode away from all the others with strength and grace unseen since, well, the last seven years when Lance Armstrong did it in the Tour. Watching Ivan Basso climb is kind of misleading, since he doesn't really look like he's climbing. More like he's taking a leisurely recovery ride through the local park.

Today was no different. Though Gilberto Simoni was able to hang with him for a while, Basso eventually rode the midget off his wheel and won his second solo mountain top finish in the Giro so far. I could write a lot more, but we'll let pictures (and clever captions) tell the story:

Photo courtesy of AFP. Captions courtesy of me.

Basso, besides being ridiculously graceful, rarely if ever seems to be straining or suffering on even the highest of mountain passes. In the 2004 Tour, as he rode to victory at La Mongie ahead of Lance, he never stopped smiling---the whole way up.

He doesn't bob like a sick pigeon (a la Francisco Mancebo), he doesn't look like his head's going to explode (see: Jan Ullrich), and he doesn't even open his mouth very far (Armstrong looked like a fish half the time). In general, all Basso does is smile, or at least grin.

That's why nobody likes him.

Photo courtesy CorVos and PezCyclingNews

Barring a major disaster, Ivan Basso has this Giro wrapped up.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Race Report: Da Vinci Fest Crits

The Da Vinci Festival in New Albany at this time last year was the site of my first race ever. Naturally, I was excited to return, this time as a Cat 4 and a member of a strong team rather than an unattached Cat 5 with no experience whatsoever. Just as last year, the weather was fantastic and the course looked great.

The 4/5 race was first up, and my teammate Larry and I made sure to be on the front at the start. Our plan was to sprint from the line and drop half the field if possible. Sure enough, the whistle blew, we jacked the pace, and the field was shredded before they knew what hit them. Larry and another teammate were off the front through the first turn with Matt from Team Louisville and another guy or two, with me and Sean from Team Louisville not far behind. We bridged to them fairly quickly, but while I was content to hook up and form a bigger group, not two laps into the race did Sean and Matt from Louisville take off in a bold attack. They took one guy with them and shot off the front---I didn't realize this at the time. Left behind was me, two teammates and three other guys in a chase group of six. So right then we had three guys in the top 10, with the pack behind us nowhere to be seen.

At some point Sean from Louisville pulled off the course to check his bike after a slight crash, and since he was the only rider I thought to be off the front, I came to the (incorrect) realization that our group of six was alone on the front of the race. My teammates Larry and Jack were leaving a lot of work to our chase group companions, so every indication was we were the leaders. Unfortunately, this was incorrect. Sean was soon back in the race and he and Matt ended up crossing the line together in first and second, with our group coming through 20 seconds behind. At the time I didn't know this, and celebrated the finish like our team had won the race. In reality, Larry won the sprint for fourth, Jack got eighth and I pulled down ninth. Not too shabby, despite my overreaction.

Later in the day I did the 3/4 race as well, despite having ridden very hard in the earlier 4/5 and the impressive strength of the field. A lot of the Cat 3s had skipped the 1/2/3 race, apparently, because the pace was again crazy right from the starting whistle. I had the foresight to again be on the front of the pack at the start, and around the first two turns was in fifth wheel. My legs weren't having any of it, though, and I quickly fell back. With all of my strength I clung to the back of the front group, and was the only member of my team there for a little while. Luckily Andrew and Nate from my team (who had both skipped the 4/5 race) bridged up with authority and maintained good position throughout the rest of the race. I just hung on to the back. How I managed to do that I'll never know.

The race was 50 minutes long, which translated into something like 30 laps of the course---eight turns including a fast, sweeping downhill right into another right back up a short but steep little rise. Very technical, and very fast. By the last 5 laps I was just barely keeping contact with the leaders, trying to stay as close to the wheel in front of me as possible.

In the end Andrew got a great 11th place, with Nate a little behind him and me rounding out the lead group in 21st. Out of 50 guys, that's not too bad, especially since I already did one race earlier.

I had a great time and scored my first top 10 placing of the season. I'm really happy with my form right now and looking forward to the upcoming downtown Louisville crit and Cherokee Park race the second weekend of June. Hopefully I'll be even stronger by then.

Special thanks to my girlfriend, her brother and his girlfriend and my two best buds for showing up and cheering me on. You guys know I appreciate it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

My Racing Birthday

Today marks the first year anniversary of my illustrious amateur bike racing career. Today I'll be racing in the annual Da Vinci Fest in "downtown" New Albany, which was the site of my first ever bike race almost exactly one year ago today. I finished fourth in the Cat. 5 race in a field of 25.

This year, though, the fields are much larger, the competition is much stronger and the racing more dangerous. The Da Vinci crit features a fast, sharp downhill right turn that always gives everyone the jitters. I like technical, frequently-turning courses like this one, but a lot of guys panic at the thought of changing direction while going fast. Hopefully everyone can stay upright.

I'm doing the 4/5 race first and then finishing the day as pack fodder in the 3/4 race (judging by the strength of the pre-registered riders). My legs feel good and the weather is fantastic, so hopefully all goes well.

Wish me luck.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Choo Choo

Train, train, train, train...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Rain Man

The weather has generally been lousy for the past week. Rain non-stop. Luckily I had planned a recovery week anyway, so my training hasn't really suffered at all. My first big goal of the season is next weekend, and then two weeks after that is my "A" race, the Cherokee Park Race here in Louisville.

I consider Cherokee Park to be my "home turf", especially since I ride through it almost every single day I'm on the bike. Along with my usual riding compatriots from the Papa John's team (as well as a few from other teams as well), we do countless loops of the hilly urban oasis. We could ride the Scenic Loop in our sleep, we do it so often.

The race promises to be extremely challenging. The Scenic Loop is 2.3 miles with rough pavement in places, a tight downhill hairpin turn and two big ring climbs of less than half a mile each. However, the total climbing elevation of each loop is 220 feet, meaning ten laps is equivalent to more than 2000 feet of climbing. Here in the flat Midwest, that's no small amount.


Luckily, the Cat 4 race is only a half hour long. It will be difficult to complete more than six laps in that amount of time, I imagine. That said, the race will probably have an average speed around 24 miles an hour, even with the climbs, since all the flat sections are really fast. I foresee either a strong early attack that stays away or a very late attack on the second-to-last climb. Those will be the tickets to victory, I imagine.

Or maybe not. Anything could happen, but hopefully the end result is me riding across the line first with my arms in the air.

Ha. Yeah right.

Photo Report: Eagle Creek Park Crit

Photographer John Bennett has been taking some really great shots from this year's Indiana Race Series. I've already posted photos he took from the Ceraland race back in the middle of April.

He took photos from last Saturday's Eagle Creek Park Crit, as well. Unfortunately, I only appear in two of them, and I had to do a little Photoshopping to make myself visible to the casual viewer. For your enjoyment I've posted those two below:

Again, thanks to John Bennett for being at all the races to document the team in action, and just taking great shots in general!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Race Report: Eagle Creek Park Crit

The ride up to Indianapolis from Louisville was uneventful, and we arrived at Eagle Creek Park northwest of the city with plenty of time to warm up before the start of the Cat. 4 criterium. The weather was sunny but chilly considering it's May. Most everyone was decked out in arm warmers and knee warmers, but those got peeled off pretty quickly once we got warmed up and ready to race.

At the start I guessed somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 guys were in our race, with our team as the most heavily-represented followed by a decent number of Mob Squad gentlemen. I recognized a few of our competitors from the Ceraland race a few weeks ago. The field looked fairly strong in general.

The start was quick with a decent pace from the whistle, but it was obvious nobody had been able to warm up on the course itself. The first lap was slow and nervous, with the pack nearly making a wrong turn as we all tried to figure out the route through the woods. In general it was a pretty simple loop, but the pavement was in pretty bad shape all over the place. Gravel, potholes and weird bumps made for a rough ride. One left turn in particular had both holes and gravel on the surface, which would prove disastrous at least once.

By the second lap the group calmed down a bit and the pace started to rise. My legs were fine and I had no trouble sticking with the leaders. Apparently this wasn't the case for a large portion of the pack, and as the laps ticked off, so did the weaker guys, until the front group was down to around 20. An early-race crash in the gravel turn contributed to the thinning-out, and at least one of our team members was taken down (or at least slowed considerably) by the early smash-up.

I stuck near the middle of the pack as much as I could, but typical of my lack of experience, I found myself slipping to the back again. However, this time the course was wide and the pack was small enough that it didn't have much of an impact on me, and I was still able to slip back to the front with relative ease whenever I felt it necessary.

The race in general was pretty predictable, being a totally flat crit. A few break attempts here and there but no success. Near the last third of the 45 minute race, I moved to the front ready to put in some work, and attacked the hesitating pack up the small rise to the finish line. I got away solo and was able to stick a strong pace past the line and through the first two turns. I looked back and saw a teammate had bridged to me, and as he passed for his turn up front, I told him I still had the legs to stay away. We seemed strong together and had good speed. Much to my surprise, though, the group was on us fast despite our efforts to keep a fast pace, and our valiant break was over.

The group pretty much stayed together from then on as we reached the final two laps. Again, nervousness set in and everyone got overly anxious. On the last lap the front pack made it safely through all the most dangerous turns, but on a slight dip in the pavement just before the rise to the finish, somebody made a stupid mistake and then BOOM! Directly in front of me five guys went down hard. I was able to brake and barely avoid hitting anyone, but the remains of the pack had gotten a gap, so I rode in to the finish pretty much solo.

None of our guys were involved in the last crash, and we managed to pull some decent placings. Our captain and current Mag 7 points leader finished a strong fifth place, with others from our team in sixth, tenth, eleventh and me in twelfth, my best placing yet this season.

So we had five guys in the top 12 in a field of 35 or so, and we made our presence felt with some good attacks and some strong pace-setting on the front. We're really starting to gel, I think. All in all, a great race for us and a really good one for myself. I'm pretty pleased.

(Photos and a link to the results to come soon...)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Back To Hoosierville

Today the team is headed up to Indianapolis for another round of the Indiana Race Series, a crit just northwest of the city. Though I'm not looking for any kind of result (my big goals of the season have yet to come), I will be doing my best to defend our team captain, who is currently tied for the lead in series points. As long as he is able to finish in the top 5-10 consistently, he should be able to win it all (we hope).

After the race we head back home for the real race on everyone's mind here in Louisville---The Kentucky Derby. I've lived here all my life---with the exception of four years away at college---and I've never once been to the Derby. Like all good Louisvillians, I'll just avoid all the crowds and have a cook-out at a friend's house.

Get the soy patties and the tempeh strips, it's grillin' time!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Road To Good Form

Long endurance rides. Hill repeats. Fast pacelines. Tempo intervals.

Such is the content of my days as of late. Not much to talk about really. The Giro starts Saturday, so most likely I'll be blogging a bit about that, but with two races this weekend and lots of training to do, I might be a little behind on the posts. I'm sure you're crying on the inside.

Oh, and if you're not rooting for the Ivan Basso Double this year, you hate America.