Tag Archives: Billy White

King of the Mountain and Pawn of the Sprint

I’m tired. The good news is that it is a taper week and this 42 year-old body is going to get some rest! One thing for sure is that it didn’t get much on April 10, 2010.

It started early with my alarm going off at 5 AM. Just before 6 AM Bryant Young and I were loading up his car for the drive up to Rock Hill, South Carolina for the Rock Hill Classic Road Race. I would be racing the Category 4 race and Bryant would race in the 4/5 35+ race.

The Garmin got us there on time. We had the opportunity to leisurely get stuff together and to warm-up. Turns out Bryant had even more time as they split his field and put him at a start time more than an hour later than his original time.

My field, which also included the 50+ Masters racers, left right on time at 9:45 AM. Unfortunately, the musketeer who was supposed to fire his black powder gun to start our race misfired… twice. Finally, Chad Andrews, who was calling the race, said “BANG!!” and we rolled off.

My teammates Billy White (Cat. 4) and Randy McCreight (50+) rolled off with the field. From that point until about mid-way through the race, there isn’t much to report. The terrain was rolling and initially there weren’t that many turns we had to make. I was simply sitting in and taking it easy in anticipation of an attack by some of the 50+ Masters guys.

Then we started to approach the King of the Mountain zone. I was about 15 back at that time. When looking at Google Street View, I picked the location. Now that we were out on the road, I wasn’t so sure. Once I thought we had passed it. Ahhh, there was a 1K to go sign.

Two 50+ riders had a slight gap going up to the top. I put it in my “climbing Paris Mountain” gear and settled into a steady pace. Before long, I was at the front. Then I was going off the front. It wasn’t really an acceleration. It was just that no one was coming with me. Then I passed the two riders leading and crossed the KOM with a gap of about 20 yards. It was rather anti-climatic.

Once over the hump, I grew concerned. What if someone launched an attack while I was still recovering? Things did speed up, but not enough to cause much trouble. Before long, I was fully recovered and actually feeling better than before the KOM. Maybe I just needed to get my legs warmed up with a good climb.

We all settled in for a bit, but then Dave LeDuc went off the front and got a pretty good gap. Then Chris Calder went after him. Basically, no one wanted to go after LeDuc and we figured if Chris was man enough to go after him, he would have to be man enough to STAY with him!

I’ll hand it to Chris. The junior racer stayed up there much longer than we anticipated. I was impressed. However, we did reel him in after he dropped back from the elder pro.

I spent some time at and on the front at this time. The idea was to make sure that I was there should any break begin that I wanted to be a part of. I also wanted to be near the front as we made the final turns of the day. It did wear me down a bit and I had to back off to recover some before the final push.

It was then that we entered a section of the course where there were two quick right-left turns relatively close to each other. We had captured LeDuc by this time and field was all together. It was in the final fourth of the race and people were starting to get tired — but also antsy and faster. It is a dangerous combination.

In the first section I made the first right-hand turn and was setting up for the left when I heard people yelling. Looking into the next turn I could see a rider sitting on the asphalt with his bike. Off of the right side of the road was another rider who overshot the turn. Whew! Billy and I made it through that one okay!

Before you knew it we were back into another one. I was right on Billy’s wheel as we made the right turn. I recall thinking how synchronized it all looked as we were leaning to the right. Suddenly, the rider beside Billy got out of shape and bumped my teammate. The way he wobbled, I thought he was going to slide tackle Billy.

That would be bad enough except when Billy slowed, I came on his outside. Billy had to correct which sent him straight and I had to react as well. We straightened out together and then leaned hard right to get back in line for taking the left-hander. My heart was in my throat as we managed to make it through unscathed.

Then it was just a matter of being in the right position for the right-hand turn into the finishing straight. It is about a 2K distance from the turn to the line. I wanted to be in the first ten around that turn. Then the goal was to lead Billy and Randy to the front if possible and get as many of us in the top 10 as possible.

The turn found me about 15 or so back. I was blocked on the right side of the field. The pack was so thick, I knew I wouldn’t be able to work over to the left side for when the yellow line rule was pulled giving us the whole road. The move was going to have to happen down the white line.

Really only one rider was keeping me from making the move. As the field begin to surge to the left of me, I began to have that feeling of panic that things were getting away from me. Finally, I gave up waiting for the perfect hole and muscled my way along the sandy and rutted line to get around the blocking rider. Now, I saw an opening to move toward  front.

Problem is, it turns out I got there a little too soon. Suddenly I was on the front with about 500 meters to go. I knew I wanted to wait until around 200 meters to go. I saw a rider to my right attack and by that time we were just outside the 200 meter line.

I launched with him and we drag raced down toward the finish. Then he started inching ahead. Then he was moving in front of me. I was spinning away, but not gaining… just losing ground slowly. It hit me that I was not going to win… again after coming so close.

I sagged. Then I saw him ease. I picked up the pace, but he reacted and held the gap. Then another rider took advantage of my momentary lapse of fight and moved past me. I tried to hold him off, but it was too late. My disappointment at not getting the win led to me not getting second either. NEVER EVER QUIT ON A SPRINT AGAIN!

Photo by Eddie Helton

Bryant started after we finished our race. He rode strong for the first half of the race and then got caught out after an acceleration from a turn. After that he was left to finish the ride pretty much alone. Then he bonked. It was the first time ever for him. Two and a half hours later he rolled into the finish.

I really try to see Bryant as just a regular guy riding his bike. However, every time he does something like this, I am just amazed. It was fun and inspiring spending the day with him.

Overall, it wasn’t so bad. I won enough money to pay for the registration and some food for Bryant and me. Even the third place – with the it-doesn’t-count-for-anything KOM seems better the farther I get away from it. Besides… now it is time to start planning for the next race!

Now, THAT was a sprint!

When I woke up Saturday morning, I didn’t really have any feelings about the race. The morning blog post pointed out that I was feeling confident – quietly confident. That all changed when I pulled up at Fork Shoals.

Suddenly I started feeling nervous. I won’t belabor it, but the last time I was on this course I was wrecked with 500 meters to go. It wasn’t that I was scared that I might get wrecked again. What I was nervous about was that because of my issues last year, I realized that I really, really wanted to do well.

As you are prone to do, I looked around at all the guys surrounding me. Some had an amount of bravado and other quietly waited for our time to pull up to the line. Everyone looks fast. It is easy to start thinking… “Wow, these guys look like they are ready to go! Wonder if I’ll be able to handle them?”

That is where experience gives confidence. No matter how fast these guys looked, I know that past finishes prove that the majority of them would finish behind me.

We rolled off for three laps. My teammate, Billy, and I started out near the rear. This would be a 40+ mile race and it wouldn’t be won from the start line.

Photo by Jimmy Helms

The course is rolling with a few pretty tough climbs. Each time I might find myself too far back, I would move my way toward the front. I also practiced making my way up through the center of the pack. I was having some success with my attempts, I might add.

At one point a couple of riders got off the front. The field began to stretch out to bring them back and a large pace line started up. I reached the front and backed up. Then I found myself up there again. I could see that the break wouldn’t last. They were riding with no organization.

I stayed on the front for a bit as we were going downhill. However, when we started to climb again, I slowed. I was not going to pull the whole field up to those guys! I just eased up and rode at a reasonable wattage. Still, no one came around. I glanced back and there was no movement. Finally, I slowed to the point where some guys had to come around.

That was right as we were starting our second lap. However, what happened was that one of the Charleston riders had bridged up to the break. His buddies were sitting on the front for a Sunday evening stroll. This could be bad.

In the past, I would have taken matters into my own hands and started moving around them. This time I looked over at the rider beside me. Obviously, he knew I had been on the front for sometime. It was time for someone else to do the work. I said to him, “These two guys have a rider up in the break.” He shifted and went around after them. The field started moving again and I blended in.

We caught them on the back side of the course. When we did, David Curran counterattacked and I went with him. We got a few seconds gap, but it was obvious we would fail. So, we allowed the field to bring us back. That was the last time I was on the front.

From that point forward I tried to stay near the front and exert as little power as possible to maintain that position. I was encouraged looking around to see a lot of riders climbing the hills in bigger rings. Often they were standing pushing up the hill. I don’t think I stood once. I remained seated, got in a comfortable gearing that let me pedal at about 95 rpm, and eased up the hills. Even if I backed up a bit, that was okay. I knew I could make it up later.

Finally we were going into the last lap. I was starting to get excited. On the last climb up to the start finish line I felt really good! I could also tell some of the riders around me were starting to show signs of exertion. I continued to stay in the mid-to-front portion of the pack. Billy pulled up beside me. “All you have to do now,” he said, “is to match any moves.” That is how things unfolded until we reached Dunklin Bridge Road.

Here I got on Billy’s wheel. I knew he would turn himself inside out to get me in the best position. There were only two of us, but Billy is an experienced rider and I knew he could lead me to where I needed to be.

Then the Globalbike boys started organizing to our right. Billy and I were boxed in as they began to move. This was the beginning of the end. Curran was on the front starting to stretch things out and it was obvious he was setting up something for this Globalbike teammates.

The field began to stretch out and Billy made a move. Unfortunately, a big guy who had been crowding me for the last half mile bumped me and physically moved me off the line. I got moved into a box of slower riders and suddenly found myself about 20 riders back with the front of the field way up there!

I started to panic. At first I wanted to just put the pedal down and push my way into contention. Then I looked ahead and saw that the break had been reeled in and that really the entire field was together, we were just stretched out. Soon we would have to turn and – at least in this cat 4 race – the field would bunch up again.

I slowly began to work my way toward the front. Curran had tired and no one was really wanting to force the issue. By the time we reached the turn, I was in fifteenth. Better yet, I was feeling pretty fresh and there was no doubt in my mind that I could pass at least ten of these guys on the final climb.

Turns out, I didn’t need to. The rolling nature of that section started popping riders. By the time we turned onto the final stretch, I was in about eighth place. In the turn I passed another three and about 200 meters in, there were only three riders ahead of me.

The lead riders had a good sized gap since they had started a break away after we turned off of Dunklin. I knew immediately I would catch them. Without too much effort I was closing the gap and there were no riders immediately around me. I passed the one rider between us and now they were my final carrots.

At 300 meters to go, I knew it was time to move. I didn’t go into a full sprint, but I stood and started around them. It felt good to make the move and literally hear the air go out of them as I passed. They couldn’t counter.

However, I could sense there was traffic coming up behind. At 200 meters, I went into a full sprint and was actually starting to believe that I was going to get it! I knew I couldn’t let up. There was someone starting to inch up to the right of me.

Closer and closer we got to the line. I was digging out of the saddle with my hands in the drops. Still the rider kept inching up beside me. It was like we were in slow motion.

About five feet from the line I knew I was going to be second. Jonathan Leifer moved past me and I could not get more speed. We passed the line with the front of my tire right behind his front skewer. I was the first loser.

I didn’t even think about being disappointed. I had beat Fork Shoals! The last time I was there I limped around the line in 37th on a busted bike and bruised body. For me, the demon had been exorcised!

Icing on the cake? Afterward while I was talking to my teammates, Steve Sperry came over. He grabbed my hand with what appeared to be a bit of excitement and said, “Now, THAT was a sprint!”

I’ll go to bed happy!

How I came to be on the POA Cycling Team

What did you do New Years Day? I went for a ride in the morning with my mates from the POA Cycling Team. It was a great way to start off the year. I think it is going to be a good one!

I should point out (because I didn’t in the video) that not all the team was there. We were missing eight other riders. Hope we can get everyone together for our team picture which will have to take place soon. It is needed for the launch of our new web site in February.

Also, you will notice that two of the guys weren’t wearing POA kits. Hopefully, that will be taken care of this week when our new duds come in. Rodney and Paul are two of the new guys (though Paul is actually returning to the team after a year away). Eric is also new, but there was an ’09 kit left that fit him.

I’m always feeling like a tag-along on these rides. Perhaps part of it is because of how I came to be on the team. I’m not sure I’ve ever shared the story, so here goes.

I have ridden with several of the POA Cycling Team members for years. John James, Billy White, Luis Sanchez, and I have ridden together since I started riding road bikes. When the ’09 team was being put together I learned all three of these guys would be on the team. Secretly, I wished I was good enough to be invited on.

Shortly before that, I completed the Ride to Austin on a team with Joey Sullivan and Matt Tebbetts. Joey was a current member of the ’08 team. After returning from the trip – which was a great one and created a friendship with my teammates – I learned that Matt was going to join the POA Team. Seemed like everyone around me was going to be riding in the red suits!

Then one day after the season had started I was on a ride with Matt.  He mentioned that Joey might be talking to me about coming on board the team. Joey’s wife was battling cancer and he was not able to devote time to the team and he was going to ask if I could fill in for him. He would still be on the team, but would not be able to participate as much.

I had mixed emotions. One of the reasons I wanted to be on the team was to ride with Joey. I didn’t like the idea of coming on and him not being there. Also, I would be joining the team on Joey’s recommendation – not because I had shown myself worth having. Those thoughts were trumped by the excitement of knowing I would get to join the team for which I hoped to ride.

My feelings of inadequacy were compounded by my not so good ’09 season. Soon after joining the team I broke my finger and missed the first races of the season. I was feeling like maybe I could help out when I placed fourth in my first race back. That turned out to be my highest finish of the year.

The team did great. We were always in the mix in the local races. We managed a couple of championship jerseys. It was a good year.

In 2010, I would like to shake that feeling. It is something I have put on myself and the only way I’m going to be able to get rid of it is to have some good finishes. Looks like I’ll have my first chance at the Paris Mountain Time Trial coming up on January 30.

Coach says I can work it into my schedule – only it won’t be a targeted event. What that means is that I have to do the climb without tapering up to it. I will have to follow my normal training plan even if that means the day before the TT I have to do a hard workout. Still, I’m ready to “turn my legs in anger”. They are starting to feel a little antsy.

Hello, dear, I think I’m going to die.

The morning started out with the typical Sunshine Cycling Shop Hour of Power ride. However, that ride was colored by the thought I planned to do a second ride during the day with some of my teammates. That ride turned out to be something a little different. The day ended with me completely on empty.

The HOP was a little different since I decided that I wasn’t going to go very hard.  I moved to the back and watched how other riders would move to take control.  I might as well, on Meece Bridge I didn’t have a chance anyway.

When I replaced my chain last week, I didn’t replace my rear cassette.  Several of the gears in the cassette were worn to the old chain.  As we headed up toward the straight on Meece Bridge, my chain kept popping when I went under load.  I dropped to the rear of the field as I tried to find the cog that wouldn’t drop my chain.

It was a bit of a handicap for the rest of the ride, but at least I was up there to see some of the action as we continued.  Tyler was a happy man as he took Meece Bridge and then the quarry road.  I’ll take a little credit for that last one as I paced him on my wheel up much of the climb.

My biggest effort of the morning came leading out on the State Park Road sprint.  It took a long time to get organized, but I was able to pull the field for quite a while.  Unfortunately, I think I dropped the leaders off just a little too soon.  It was kind of fun to watch the sprint to the top from a distance.

Back at the shop John switched out my cassette and I was now good to go for the afternoon’s ride.  I went by the house to get down an egg salad sandwich before getting back on the bike to head over to Furman University where I planned to meet Reece Jackson (who had issued the invitation) and some of the other teammates on the POA Cycling Team.  It was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to spending some time with the guys.

I didn’t time things very well so I was really having to put some effort out to make sure I made it before they left.  Thankfully, I made it into the parking lot just as they were mounting their bikes to start the ride.  No opportunity to catch my breath – it was time to roll.

Hmmmm, I was starting to get a bad feeling about this.  Reece wasn’t there nor were a number of the other teammates.  The only rider in the group that was on my level was my teammate Billy White.

The three other guys on the ride were Eric Christopherson, Rodney Dender, and Darin Marhanka.  Then there was Billy White and me.  I kept telling myself, “It’s okay.  You can ride with these guys.”  Fact is, I know I could ride with these guys, only several things conspired to make this one of my worst days on the bike.

The three seasoned riders set a pretty fast pace in the beginning.  Billy and I were just trying to sit in and get used to the speed.  Then it came my time to pull through and take the front.  I was there with my teammate, Darin.  He was moving along enjoying the ride and asking me some questions about my son.  I was trying to stay with him and trying to control my breathe so I could answer him.

I’m not sure when it happened, but we were more than an hour and a half into the ride (for me it was about two hours from the time I left the house) when I started to feel bad feelings.  I had been sucking water and sports drink.  Still, I was feeling the power go out of my legs.  I needed something more, but all had was some blocs.  I had planned on this being a two hour ride – and it was looking like we were headed for four.

Breakfast was an egg muffin sandwich.  That was probably about 300 calories.  Lunch was that egg salad sandwich.  It was around 400 calories.  Hmmmm, 1000 calories plus the calories stored in my body don’t quite equal 6000.  However, that was where I was headed.

I decided I had to get something more in there, so I pulled out my package of blocs.  I had a bear of a time getting them open and finally had to take my hands off the bar to try to get into the thing.  Finally, I got one in my mouth as we were going downhill.  The problem is that opened a pretty large gap between the other guys and me.  I had to work to catch back on and that signified the end of my day.

From that point on I could stay with them – even at speed – as long as we were on the flats or a slight climb.  Any climb that required an extra effort left me pushing my legs to respond and causing me to drop off the back.  I would then ride at my own pace until I caught the others at a stop sign.

I kept telling them to go on without me.  I could find my way home from here.  We were near Caesars Head by this time.  They kept waiting for me anyway.  At least once I was glad.

Once we crossed over Highway 11, I started to hear an odd rattle coming from my bike.  I didn’t have too much time to worry about it because I was chasing.  However, now that I was alone, I noticed it even more.  It even kept getting worse.  Then I heard a “twang” and knew one of my rear spokes was broken.

Thankfully, it was easy for me get off and after catching my breathe, I got back on and continued.  The problem was that I wasn’t sure which way the others had taken.  About the time I thought I would have to pull out the GPS on my Garmin, Rodney came back for me.  They had taken a right turn I’m sure I would have missed, but with Rodney leading me I was back on track.

Once again I managed to stay in and keep up until we reached a significant hill.  By this time every stroke where I had to put out power I neared a cramp.  By the time I reached the top of this hill I was cramping.

The others rode on without me and I didn’t see them again.  I was glad!  The pain of the embarrassment of making them wait for me was worse than the pain in my body!  I would much rather suffer alone.

Finally, I made it to Marietta.  I stopped once more to refill with water and started off for Travelers Rest.  I kept envisioning the road ahead.  However, I had to stop that because there wasn’t much encouragement in that process.  I still had close to 20 miles to go!

Rolling through TR I looked down at my kit.  It had several lines of white all over.  It was the salt from my sweat.  My feet hurt.  My legs were cramping.  I fingers were getting tingly.  My rear wheel was wobbling and rubbing the brake pads even with the levers open.  I felt like if I drank another swallow of water or sports drink I was going to get sick.

I reached Old Buncombe Road and reached the point where I had to decide between two roads to home.  One way was a little longer and the other way was shorter but had more traffic.  I NEVER take the route with more traffic.  This time I would.  Traffic be hanged, I needed to get off this bike!

It wasn’t that far to home, but a couple times I almost stopped to call my wife to come pick me up.  “Hello, dear, I think I’m going to die.  Could you come pick me up?”  Of course, by this time I was talking in a hoarse whisper.

Finally I pulled into home.  Turns out a ride I thought might be 40 miles ended up being over 70.  Add that to the 30 plus miles I did in the morning and I had over 100 miles.  Even that isn’t so bad except I had put out a good amount of energy in the morning and then to turn around and ride with those guys was more than I have done in months.  I definitely didn’t eat expecting that kind of ride.  I ended up losing almost 8 pounds!

For the rest of the day I lay on the couch drinking and eating.  I felt like I had a fever and any movement of my legs could cause a cramp.  I have not felt this bad since Mount Mitchell.  In some ways, it was even worse than that ride.

From now on before I go on a ride,  I’m going to want to know who is on it, where they plan to go, and how fast they plan to ride.  Maybe I can be better prepared.  At the same time, I think I’ve learned that I can have a major bonk, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to die.

11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

Funny.  Just yesterday I was talking about how I was about to go into hibernation.  That post finished with me saying, “Sometimes all it takes to get you back going is a good ride.”  Well, I can definitely say I had a good ride, but I have to give the credit to the guys who made it happen.

First I was just hoping it wouldn’t be raining.  It was cool but a little humid.  There had been times of very light rain through the day, but for now it was holding off.

Then I was hoping people would show up for the ride.  As I pulled up to the parking lot, I didn’t see anyone or the cars of the typical members of this ride.  Maybe tonight’s ride would be solo.

I went inside and found Billy White.  He was putting down a Powerbar and looking around probably wondering the same thing I was… “Hey, where is everybody?”  It was good to know that there would be at least two of us.

Boyd Johnson rolled in about the time I was getting my Powerbar finished.  The three of us went out to check the parking lot one last time.  There we found Strad Helms.  Four is definitely better than one.

We headed out at a pretty nice clip.  I was talking with Boyd about his plans to import frames and build up his own brand of bikes.  We also had some of our usual unusual sightings.  One guy passed us on a moped and he had a huge knot on his head.  Another time we saw a guy out running – sweat dripping off him – with a beer in his hand.

It was a pretty typical ride until we made a turn onto a road and I went to put weight on my right pedal.  I heard a twang and felt my leg spin around with no resistance.  My chain broke.  Of course, none of us had a chain tool.

The good news is that we were very close to Boyd’s house.  We removed my chain and I remounted my bike.   Boyd then commenced to push me the distance to his street.  Before long, I was back together sans a couple of chain links.  John James happened by.  Now there were five of us and we were back on the road.

That road led us quickly to Paris Mountain.  We started up and I could sense John had designs to get to the top a bit faster tonight.  Billy and I tucked in behind the three other riders and tried to hang on.

It wasn’t uncomfortable.  I felt I was on the edge of too much, but not quite.  When we reached halfway, I knew why.  We reached that point in just around five and a half minutes!  Hmmmmm, this could be interesting.

As we moved past that point, John eased off to join a rider we were coming around.  As he did so, he said to Strad, “Fall back and let Jonathan on your wheel.”  Strad was a bit confused about John’s intentions and ended going behind me.  It was just Boyd’s wheel ahead.

I figured he (and Strad) would end up riding off to leave me in the dust.  However, I was staying with them.  The difference was I was laboring a bit and they weren’t.

We reached a point where I thought I was going to have to ease up a bit and at that point I realized these guys weren’t going to leave me.  They had plans to coax me to the top for my personal best.  Boyd turned around and coached me to shift down a gear and encouraged me to keep going.

We were at the dreaded blue post section of the climb.  It is the point where I normally begin to lose my rhythm.  However, the realization that I had a couple of guys expecting me to give my best motivated me to do just that.  I didn’t want to let them down if they were going to be there for me.

I settled down and just tried to get some oxygen in me while concentrating on trying to avoid gaps forming between me and the riders ahead.  No doubt those gaps would have come, but Boyd and Strad were keeping the pace just high enough to push me but not drop me.

“Keep your head up,” I heard Boyd say.  “Don’t look down.  It will defeat you.”  I jerked my head up to look at the road ahead of me.  I know it is psychological, but he was right.  I concentrated on keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead instead of myself or the bike — especially the computer!

“Two minutes to go!”  Boyd and Strad were now turning around to check on my progress and push me when they noticed me begin to ease.  My spirits lifted when Strad called my attention to the fact that we were nearing the yellow turn sign that marks the beginning of The Wall.

“Forty-five seconds…” Boyd called, “you’re going to have to stand the whole finish.”  I obeyed.  “Shift down,” he instructed and I put on more resistance.  “Good,” he said.  “Now, stand.”  He had to remind me one or two more times to get off the seat, but for the most part I was pushing hard for the top.

Strad now moved behind me and I could hear Boyd ahead and Strad behind.  They were willing me to the finish.  There was no way I was going to sit up at this point.

“Fifteen seconds,” Boyd was counting the time.  “You can do anything for fifteen seconds.”  I still had enough pride left that I didn’t want to sound like I was dying – even though I felt like I was.  I tried to contain the grunts and whimpers that I felt trying to come out.

Pride be hanged!  I was riding with a guy who just days before had raced up this mountain as part of the professional peloton during the USA Cycling Professional Championships.  Of course I was going to have a harder time making it to the top!  Then there was Strad still calling encouragement from behind.  He races with the Hincapie Development team and my guess is it won’t be long before you’ll find him on one of the teams now racing in the Tour of Missouri.

I let out a grunt and what probably could be classified as a whimper.  That kind of whimper that comes from a kid getting beat up by bullies.  However, I stepped on it and attacked that last kick up to the finish.  Only once did I drop to my seat, but I was immediately up at the command from Boyd.  Finally, I pushed that infernal bike across the line.

It took awhile for me to see the computer screen in front of me.  I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  As it came into focus I saw 11.  That was awesome!  However, I actually felt a chill as I noticed what followed the “:” – it was a “35”!  I had crushed my best time by 30 seconds!

I didn’t know what to think.  A goal I had been trying to break for two years fell on a night when I had no intentions of trying.  The thought crossed my mind what my time could have been without the two nearly full water bottles.  Then I wondered if I could really claim the time since I got it by being paced up the mountain.

I’ll take it.  I worked hard enough to get that time.  Take off 20 seconds as a penalty for pacing and I’ll still have a sub-twelve minute climb.  Of course, as Boyd told me as we eased up on the other side, “The bad thing about this is now you know you can do it.”

I kept waiting for some sort of feeling of elation to come over me.  It never did.  It was more of a matter of fact feeling of relief.  There was no immediate feeling of, “Okay, now I need to get an 11:30!”  No, for now I am happy with having broken 12.

As I helped my six year-old break into the bathroom that had been inadvertantly locked so he could get the all important reach extender so he could rescue a toy out of a hole, it crossed my mind how much more time and devotion it would take to knock off another 10 seconds.  “Thanks, Dad!”  Hey, it is just a number.  If it comes, it comes.  If it doesn’t?  There are more important things in life.

At least I didn’t break my shifter this time

It is late on Saturday night as I write this.  I am tired and sore.  So, let’s just cut to the chase and get to the “good” stuff.

Today was the South Carolina Road Race Championships held in Fork Shoals.  It was about a 13 mile loop of rolling hills.  My Cat. 4 teammates and I would be doing three laps with about 60 other riders.

I was kind of nervous because I really wanted to do well in this race.  Matt Tebbetts has been really strong as well.  So, I was hoping to be there at the end to lead him out and finish strong – or if he didn’t have it, go for the win myself.  Finally, I was going to get to race something other than a criterium!

We rolled out with the POA Cycling Team toward the back.  This wasn’t so bad because we knew we had plenty of time to work our way to the front.  The key was to time things properly.

The first lap seemed so slooooooow.  I think I will invest in a brake pad company.  I’m not sure what it was but riders would be on the front going downhill and be braking!  I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let it roll.  It wasn’t like they were having to work while they were coasting.

Nothing really changed during that lap.  I did move up a bit in the beginning.  However, there was a wreck that happened when a rider got moved over to the edge of the asphalt and his wheel slid off the edge causing him to go down.  Just as I was passing him, a rider in a Clemson kit t-boned him right in the side. Ouch!

Well, that caused the referee to neutralize the field.  It also caused me to get shuffled back and I lost all the ground I had gained to that point.  Finally, after an announcement about the yellow line, we were underway once again.

It was starting to get frustrating because I kept getting behind guys who would not close up gaps.  I would be stuck behind them (there were just a few, but it seemed like I always ended up near them).  No way was I wanting to be back here for the final lap!

The final lap did come and I moved quickly to the top ten or so.  No more Mr. Nice Guy – I was going to hold my position and not get shuffled back.  My teammate Billy made it easy by going off the front and stretching things out just a bit.  This allowed me to sit back a few wheels from the front.

When Billy came back, a GlobalBike rider went off the front and formed a good gap.  I picked up the pace just a little and started to slowly pull the field back toward the rider.  Matt kept holding me back.  He was hoping we could stay together.

Billy attacked once again and I tried to move with him.  However, I was blocked and it took me some time to work free.  Meanwhile, my teammate Luis came through with a hope to stretch things out with a counter attack.  Before you knew it, we were in a pace line finally picking up some speed.

On the new climb that was added about halfway through the course, I got on the wheel of Kelly Lowry and followed him up.  This put us in the top four riders at that point.  It wasn’t my goal to break away on the hill.  I was just wanting to make sure there wasn’t a break that I wasn’t there to cover.  It didn’t happen, so we got engulfed by the field.

Only once after that did I slip out of the top 10.  I did get boxed in a bit, but finally worked free to be there at the turn with 1 K to go.  Things looked good!  I felt good!  The team was there and the yellow line was lifted on this narrow road, so we should be able to do something.

I held my pace knowing that often riders attack to hard to early on this climb and then don’t have it for the sprint at the end.  My plan was to help lead our team up to about 200 meters with a measured pace.  We could let it all hang out after that.

With 500 meters to go, I realized that the sprint might start happening a bit sooner.  However, I picked up the pace just slightly so I would be able to react if needed.  Matt was on my wheel and Billy was behind him.

Just about that time a rider came careening into my left side from slightly behind.  My first reaction was to lean against the blow.  However, he was coming with such force that it forced me right.  I then thought I could steer right away from him.  However, it must have been that something on his bike stuck to mine.

All I remember at that point was being thrown violently to the ground.  The first thing I thought about was my shifters!  Then I thought about my hip.  I knew immediately I had a bad case of road rash.

Where was my bike?  I looked up to see the bike that hit me wedged into the frame of my bike.  My bike was on it’s wheels at that point being held up by the other bike.  My shades lay broken at my feet.  I let out a good “Dog gone it!” and then tried to get back on my bike.

Billy was there trying to calm me down.  Those who ride and race with me know I don’t lose my temper that often.  This time I was angry!  Well, I was certainly going to finish the race.  So, we messed around with the chain and I limped it across the finish line.

It was there I learned the extent of the damage.  Cracked frame.  Cracked helmet.  Road rash on bruised shoulder and bruised hip.

Matt also went down and cracked his frame.  I’m hoping his wrist is okay since it was giving him some pain at the time.  Billy didn’t go down, but was basically taken out of contention and he was kind enough to come back and help us out.

Later this evening I learned from Wade Greene with GlobalBike that what happened was the guy who hit me first hit a GlobalBike rider with enough force to cause that rider’s seat to get twisted.  Wade’s teammate stayed up, but that is what must have sent the rider so violently into my side.

I’m really pretty sure that Matt could have made it into the money (maybe me as well?)  I certainly felt that with the legs I had and the position we were holding that I could have nailed down a top ten.  Instead, I rolled across the finish in 47th.

The silver lining?  I learned what great teammates and friends I have.  I’ll lick my wounds and see what I can do about getting back on the bike.  I know there will be people there to help me.

A race in pictures

I have the pleasure of having my own photographer for my races at the POA Cycling Summer Series.  My wife’s brother, David, has shown up for nearly every race and sometimes brings his camera.  He has a pretty good eye for good shots, so I look forward to what he comes up with.  Here are just a few of the shots that help tell the story of the race from July 30, 2009.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

One of the best things about being on the POA Cycling Team is that it allows me to race with some guys that I have been riding with for years.  Luis is one of the guys in my category that I have ridden with the longest.  We go back some time on the Saturday morning Hour of Power rides.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

I’ve learned that you need to have some calories in the old tank if you want to have the power toward the end.  Taking a gel just before the start allows it to start kicking in during the second half of the race.  Now, if I could just figure out how to put extra oxygen in a gel pack…

In the scrum at the start.

In the scrum at the start.

I got to the line a little late and ended up with nearly 20 riders in front of me as we left the line.  There were a good number of teams represented with only a couple of unattached riders.  My teammate Sam was one of the three ladies in the race.  The ladies and the Juniors were mixed in with us 4’s and 5’s.

Four POA teammates all together.

Four POA teammates all together.

The above picture is one of my favorites from the night.  You can see Matt coming into the center of the picture.  Luis is behind him and to his left.  I am coming up on his inside.  Between Matt and me you can see Billy in the background.  We just needed Sam in there and all of us would have been in this one shot.

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

That is Jae on the front.  He ended up winning the race.  Matt is right behind him and he took second.  Third in line is Peter.  He was in the break for a bit, but ended up sliding back.  I don’t know what his finish ended up being, but I know it was in front of me!

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Part of the fun of the night was helping to control the front of the chasing field while the break built up a lead.  Of course, we were hoping that Matt would be able to take care of himself.  This was a pretty hot corner.  Later in the Pro 1/2/3  race a GlobalBike rider went in too hot and realized if he tried to hold it, he would take out most of the field.

He straightened up and bunny hopped the curb.  The only problem was that there was a water retention area on the other side.  He went over the curb, hit a root, and then slid down in the hole.  Thankfully, he missed the rocks at the bottom, but his back and knee got pretty skinned up.  Wonder how he has been sleeping lately?

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

If you click on the above image, it will enlarge.  If you look closer at me, you can see I am blowing out.  I’m trying to pull as much air into my lungs as I can.  Unfortunately, this night it was almost as though I had asthma.  I just couldn’t seem to get enough air into my lungs.  That is why I look like a blow fish.

A picture of me blowing up

A picture of me blowing up

Speaking of blowing.  This is where I blew up.  This would be in the last five minutes of the race.  I’m trying to hang on.  It seemed like every time I thought I might be recovering, it was time to climb that dratted hill again.

Well, I have one more chance at this course this year.  I need a new picture.  I need one of me coming across the line celebrating a win.  That is a picture I like to see in my mind.

What is wrong with me?

Before I jump into today’s post let me remind everyone here in Greenville that while you’re eating lunch, Bryant Young will be starting off on his individual time trial out in Bend, Oregon.  He has been keeping us informed of his attempt to earn a spot for the Para-Cycling World Championships at his website Amputeeinaction.org.  His start time is 9:35 out on the west coast. Give out a cheer for him!

Now, about last night… It was a fun race and yet a discouraging one.  It was great to see my teammate Matt Tebbetts fight it out with the winner and take a well-deserved second place.  It was discouraging because I actually saw him cross the line as I was being lapped.

The race started with me feeling pretty neutral. I had only ridden once since Saturday and that was an easy ride with my son. The reason for that was out of concern that I was worn out.  I have not been riding well lately and I hoped maybe that was the fix.

I got started a little toward the back of the field of 37 riders and it took me a number of laps on the .47 mile course to work my way toward the front.  So far so good.  It would have been better had I not needed to work that extra bit, but here I was in the first quarter of the race in a good position.

Blair was going prime crazy – he called a prime on the very first lap of the night.  Kirk Flinte decided that it was the night to rack up on all the goodies. He worked for most of the first half of the race winning them from out of a three rider break that dangled about 8 or so seconds off the front of the field.

For a portion of that I had a good view because I was pacing the chasing field.  I figured they would be coming back, so I didn’t push very hard.  I just felt more comfortable going through the corners when I was on the front.  Looking back, that might have been one of the things that got me later in the evening.

The reason why is because it was very windy.  The headwind was pretty strong and being on the front allowed me to get the full brunt of it.  The wind seemed to be the worst right as you were finishing the climb into the turn at the start/finish line.

Then I did something else not so smart. Just as we were catching Kirk, Blair called for another prime.  I saw that there was just a small gap between us, so I decided to make sure Kirk earned this one.  I attacked out of the group and put a little pressure on him.  He still won it as we crossed the line with my wheel about at his pedals.  There was some more energy needlessly burned.

Things got fun when three other riders went off the front.  One of them was my teammate Matt Tebbetts.  I could tell from the make up of the riders that though it was a small group, it could be one to stick.  I started backing off and simply covered the front of the field.

Just as I was getting a little tired, Billy came up and took over the duty of controlling the front of the field.  Luis was there as well.  We alternated several times in the last third of the race.  It was cool to watch Matt and his group get farther away as we worked to control the pace.

I did feel sorry for the GlobalBike guys.  They are a strong team and you could tell that most of the riders were expecting them to do all the work.  Two of them moved to the front to try to get something going and I moved onto their wheels.  They gave it a valiant effort for several laps, but I would not pull through — no one else would either. Finally, they backed off.

Billy came back to the front and I went back. Then someone up front (maybe the GlobalBike boys again) ratcheted it up again.  We were nearing the last eight or so laps.  Then it hit me.  I couldn’t breathe.

I don’t mean that I was gasping for air and about to die.  I mean that I couldn’t seem to pull enough air into my lungs.  It was as though my diaphragm had tightened up and wouldn’t allow my lungs to fill.  My mid-section felt as though it was starting to cramp.

Perhaps it was the heavy, hot, humid air.  Whatever the case, my legs were feeling pretty good, but without being able to breathe I could not keep up the energy.  I slid toward the back.  I was trying to gulp in air and not get dropped.  It wasn’t working.

One time just as I was losing contact, Paul Mills came around (he was doing some warm up laps) and pushed me from behind.  It got me onto the rear again and I managed to stay there for a couple more laps.  Then things just shut down and with about three laps to go my motor just quit.

I got lapped two times before the race ended. I tried to help Matt out even then by calling out split times and cheering him on as he came by.  I took comfort in the fact that I had helped build those time gaps. It just was disappointing that I was unable to finish in the field.

There is something wrong.  I just don’t have it anymore.  Earlier in the year I was doing much better.  My first race was a fourth place finish.  The first POA Summer Series crits had me finishing 11th and 13th – in contention.  However, now I seem to be croaking at the end of every competitive ride I try.  Even the Saturday morning Hour Of Power rides have me sucking wind by the end.

Do I need to ride more? I don’t think it is that I need to ride less. Is it just that I need to make better use of the time that I do ride?  It is true that I race to ride, but I hate losing.  More than that, I hate not being in a position to win even if I don’t finish first.

Time for a break

Three tough rides this week have left me pretty tired. Throw in some late nights with the Tour De France and I’m ready for a break. Sitting here after the morning ride before lunch, I feel like going and crawling into bed for a looooong nap. Yeah, I’m tired, but it has been fun.

There was a good group out on the Hour of Power ride this morning. I thought with the Tour being on we might have less people.  However, most of the regulars were there – and some fast men to make it interesting.

The first thing I realized was that apple butter is not a good thing to put on your toast before going on a ride. Basically, for me I’ve found that any type of fruit substance before a ride doesn’t sit that well.  By the time we got off of Tanner Road onto Reid School Road, I had indigestion.

Of course, this was right before the Meece Bridge Road sprint.  I got into the group, but didn’t even try for it.  Luis and John were up ahead and then I saw John pulling the pace line.  Jeff Cash was on his wheel.  I was afraid at that point that we had put John in a bad situation.  However, he controlled it and scored one for the POA boys.

By the time we reached the quarry road, I was feeling much better. I eased to the rear of the group and tried to get the heart rate down and catch my breath.  We hit it and there was John ahead of me again with Jeff marking him.  I eased up to them but didn’t go on the front.

Then Jeff went forward and I followed him up toward the false flat.  I moved to the front and tried to stamp out a steady cadence.  My idea was to narrow down the players and then see who would be left.  I wasn’t surprised when those players ended up being John and Jeff.

Jeff came around and then John.  I accelerated to get on John’s wheel.  Then John pulled off after bringing me to Jeff’s.  I sat there for a bit and then attacked around him.  After a short gap, I looked back to see that neither of them reacted.  Score two for POA.

It was on that climb I realized I needed a break.  I had no snap at all.  Plus by the time I reached the top I was in recover and survive mode.  For much of the next portion of the ride, I was just trying to hang on.

There was a small sprint point soon after the climb.  Billy moved to the front and followed a Spinners rider who attacked.  He was able to move around him and reach the fire hydrant first. Score three for POA.

Next up was the State Park gate sprint. As we were making our way toward that zone, I pulled up beside John near the front. “Save yourself for Mont Vonteux,” he said. I replied, “I was wanting to ask you if you could take the State Park sprint. I don’t think I can do it.”  He didn’t want to do it, but said that Billy could probably take it.

I rode up to Billy and he was good for the try.  Then it was just a matter of letting Luis know and then setting him up. Billy sat in and got ready for the train.

As we moved into the zone, Tony moved to the front.  He pulled for just a bit and then moved over, saying as we sped by him, “Just kidding!”

Luis moved to the front with me on his wheel.  I wasn’t exactly sure who was directly behind me, but I knew John would be there taking care of Billy.  Our job was to stretch out the field and leave John and Billy to launch up the hill.

Luis wasn’t pulling his normal killer pace and I heard John yell from behind us, “GO FASTER!” Luis picked it up a bit for several yards and then pulled over.  Now it was my time to pull.

I pushed it up into the 30s and once on a slight downhill tickled 40 mph.  It didn’t last too long though.  I heard John say, “Pull over for when we start down the hill.”  In my tired state it didn’t register completely and I started to move to the left.  “Not yet!” he commanded.  I got back on the pedals and decided to smash it until I was told to move.

Finally, John said, “Now!” I gladly got off the front.  John, Billy, and Jeff went flying past me like I was sitting still.  I rode just fast enough to keep them in sight as they made the turns to start up the climb to the gate.  John dropped Billy off in a great position, but Jeff was right on his wheel.  For a bit they were right there together and then I saw Billy move ahead.  Score four for POA.

Once more I was just hanging on as we suffered up Oak Leaf. By the time I hit the 12% grade at the top, I was ready to call it a day.  However, after I caught up with the group and we made our way toward Nature Trail, John asked, “Are you going to try for this one?” I gave a noncommittal, “I’ll try.”

John then moved to the front and as we descended to the bottom of the road just before the climb up Nature Trail, I got all the gear I could and tried to build my speed for the ascent.  If I was going to try this, I was going to hit it and try to coast as far up as I could!  John moved over and I took a deep breath and went for it.

At first I was in the big ring and was climbing at 20 mph plus.  For a moment I felt really good and stayed there listening to the swish – swish – swish of my wheels as I sped up the climb.  Then it ended. Just like that I didn’t feel it anymore.

Glancing behind me I couldn’t see anyone between me and the first turn. No need to kill myself.  Hopefully John was serving as a buffer.  I shifted out of the big ring and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible toward the top.

Looking back again I saw riders coming around and not at a slow pace. I could see myself getting pipped right at the top.  I searched my gears for some more leverage.  Finally I decided I didn’t care.  If they caught me, they could have it.  Turns out I didn’t have to worry. I made it to the top with time to spare.  Score five for POA.

To be fair, I have to point out that while the POA members took all of the sprints, Jeff Cash with Window Gang probably took the points jersey for the ride.  We ganged up on him every sprint, but he was there in the mix 2nd or 3rd for each of them.  He made the morning a whole lot more fun.  Thanks, Jeff!

Now I’m off for that nap! You all have fun out there Tuesday night.  I’m taking a break.  Hopefully, I’ll have my legs back for the POA Cycling Summer Series race on Thursday evening.

Tour De France Fatigue Syndrome

I was in a bad mood as I prepared to meet with my Thursday evening riding buddies. Several things had happened over the few hours before the ride that had me operating with some negative vibes. It might be that I infected the other guys or it could just be that we are all suffering from Tour De France Fatigue Syndrome.  Whatever the case, it made for some interesting group dynamics!

Quite a few of the POA Cycling Team riders where there.  Luis, Matt, John, Billy, and myself were wearing the red and graphite kits. Tyler Crotts was there with a wheel set and power tap that belonged to someone else. Art, Gary, and Bob rounded out the group.  We were soon joined by Julian who had never ridden with us, but did more than keep up!

I was still in my funk and was either off up front or off the back for a good portion of the first 15 minutes or so. Then we started up Meece Bridge Road.  Maybe I just needed a good sprint to get me out of my bad mood.

I led out the train with the idea of moving over to let some guys come through and then attacking closer to the finish. Before my plan could be put into practice, Matt and John came up behind me yelling about a flat and that we needed to slow our pace.  Turns out Tyler had a flat.  We slowed and ended up at the finish without a sprint.

We waited and waited until we finally saw them in the distance moving up the road.  Turns out Tyler didn’t have any spares or tools with him. Thankfully for him, Luis and Art did.  They caught back up to us, but it set us back by a good seven minutes.

We would have to skip the quarry road and head toward Paris Mountain a bit earlier than normal.  The pace was pretty high.  It was putting a hurt on some of the guys.  Then on Little Texas Road it all came to a head.

I’m not sure exactly what happened ahead, but I believe Art slowed dramatically as we started a climb. Julian got moved to the right as he came up on him.  I was right on his wheel and rode right up the right side of his bike jamming my front wheel against the heel of his shoe.

Everyone was on edge. We sorted things out from that instance and continued to pick the pace up again.  Up ahead of me I heard some commotion and looked up to see John having an animated conversation with Tyler.  Then I saw John knock Tyler’s water bottle out of Tyler’s hand.

Well, if I have things straight, I believe Tyler was making some point about the pace and John was giving him a hard time about it.  Tyler brake-checked him and that didn’t make John very happy.  All the rest of us were steering clear.  I’m sure Julian was wondering what he had gotten himself into!

Next up was the mountain. Julian took off and left us in the dust. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good night, so I just decided to go up steady.  Before long it was just Matt, John, and myself.  For the whole second half of the climb, I could glance back between my legs and see two wheels following me… Matt and John.

I knew they were just toying with me. They could have easily come around and left me panting.  When we got to The Wall, I stood to do what I could.  John looked over at me and told me that he wasn’t going to do anything to me after sitting on my wheel all that time.

Matt continued on beside me and started urging me to put out to reach the top.  I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to do that since I knew I was way outside of a good time, but I didn’t have the breath to tell him!  It just made me feel all the worse that he was able to yell so clearly so late in the climb.

Bob and I came down easily afterward and came up to the rest of the guys talking in the parking area of the gas station at the base of Altamont Road.  They were discussing the “John vs. Tyler” incident.  By the time we all pulled out of the parking lot, things had been pretty much worked out.

The rest of the ride was uneventful.  We hung out a bit in the lot after we all got in.  The laughter and kidding had returned and the tenseness was not so noticeable.  The evening had been saved.

I got to thinking that we might have all been on edge because we have been staying up late watching the Tour De France.  I know I am tired from following the whole saga.  It has been a great Tour, but it is wearing me down.  Don’t think I could survive another week of it.  Just imagine how the riders feel!