Tag Archives: Blair Lamarche

A fun way to learn a lesson

Sometimes when you lest expect it things come together. On Saturday I really thought I would have a great day. I drove home a little disappointed with a 35th finish. That road race was the best opportunity, I thought, for a solid finish. The Sunday afternoon race… a criterium style race… has never been my strength.

I started out on the front, but once things settled down I slid to the back of the field. One of my errors from Saturday was that I kept up a steady effort moving from one surging pack to another. This showed on my Cadence Distribution graph. I was pedaling over 95% of the time. In a race, you should try to hide and work as little as possible — until you need to. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

There I am toward the back near the inside

I was feeling pretty good about myself. Better yet, I was feeling good. My legs were giving me messages that this race might have a better outcome than I originally anticipated. The question remained… would I be smart enough to close the deal?

There were only a couple of close calls. Once a rider’s foot came off his pedal and some bumping ensued several riders ahead of me. Thankfully, no one went down — though it was a close call. Only one other time around me was there any bumping. That one resulted more in words than wounds.

At about 26 minutes into the 40+ minute race, I was watching two riders off the front. There was a surge on the front straightaway and I followed it. However, when the surge began to slow, I kept moving. Something inside of me said that it was time to try a break.

In the final break

The three of us were not able to hold off all the chasers and some other riders made it across to form what was barely the winning breakaway. Me? I was hurting! When I first made it to the break, I told the guys to let me catch my breath and then I would pull through.

They didn’t like that and rather than fall back into the clutches of the field I moved up to take a turn on the front. However, that did not give me much time to recover at all.  Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before the chase group joined us and the break had more riders to work with.

Another thing I was thankful for was my teammates. Blair and Matt were back there holding a steady — but slow — pace on the front of the field. It was a wide road and anyone could have come around them to take control, but they preferred to complain. Of course, with POA and Globalbike having riders in the break, those teams weren’t going to be working to bring them back.

Still, with three laps to go, I was at my limit. Coming down the backstretch I nearly pulled the chute. However, I remembered all those times when I have been able to ride beyond that pain. “I will not willingly drop,” I told myself and just concentrated on holding on to the wheel in front.

Catching back on for dear life!

Heading into the second lap I was just about to get dropped. I could hear people calling my name telling me to “dig, dig, dig!” I gave one more effort to catch back on. Thankfully, the break slowed at that point.

Had they kept the hammer down, I think I would have exploded. However, I think everyone was starting to tire and they thought maybe we had it sewed up if we just maintained a pace. David Curran was urging everyone on because he knew better. Me? I was at the mercy of the break!

We entered turns three and four still with the lead. However, the field was gaining fast. I knew they were coming, but I just didn’t think I had the juice left to attack the break. I just put my head down and hoped that we could out sprint the fast gaining field.

Trying to hold on from the break

I actually advanced past a couple of my break mates, but I could sense that there was a rider from the field coming fast to my right. I threw my bike at the line and (I’m not exaggerating) I beat him by the width of a tire. In the picture above, he is the Greenville Spinners rider to my left.

I got fifth! It was so unexpected that I felt like I had won! To make it into a break and then to hang on to a points position in a field sprint was just incredible.

Afterward, I was brought back to earth. Steve Sperry congratulated me and then asked… “In the sprint, did you come out of your saddle?” I answered, “Nooo…” I knew where this was going! “Did you have your hands in the drops?” he continued. “Nooo….” “Did you work your bike to get everything out of it at the end?” “Nooo…” He gave me a knowing look, “I think you could have done even better had you done those simple things.”

Yes, I still have things to learn. Once again, I am thankful to all the people teaching me by instruction and example. Getting a fifth place finish on a day not expected… that is a fun way to learn a lesson!

A special thanks to Jimmy Helms for allowing me to use his pictures from the race.

You race and you learn: 1st Cat 4 criterium

Sunday afternoon I participated in the South Carolina Criterium Championship with my POA Cycling teammates. My category 4 race was the last one of the day at the Hampton Park in Charleston, SC – right next to The Citadel. It was a beautiful day – just a little windy when Billy White, Matt Tebbetts, Blair LaMarche, and I took the course.

My first category 4 criterium race

My first category 4 criterium race

First the bad news. I got 14th place. I did two stupid things that put me in that position.

One – a few laps into the race (19 laps total) I was near the front. I noticed a rider kept stretching his lead. There was some movement up front to bring him back. My turn came and, like an idiot, I pulled for about half a lap.

It is one of those things I have to learn. How do you get off the front gracefully? I don’t want to be in the way and cause an accident. Also there is that fear that I won’t have done enough of my part. Chalk that up as something to learn.

The worse thing about it is that the guy was going to get swallowed up anyway. As we got closer to him, I could see him glancing back and starting to soft pedal. That was a bunch of energy for nothing.

Two – just before the start of the five lap countdown there was a prime. At first I was thinking correctly to myself, “Don’t worry about the prime. What you want is the podium.” However, as we came out of the fourth turn I saw a gap that would take me past about 20 riders who had decided not to contest it. There wasn’t much of a gap to the sprinters.

I shot up the gap and actually gained on the two guys going for the prime. I ended up third. As soon as we crossed the line the announcer called, “Five laps to go. Five laps to go.” Oh, great. Now I just had five laps to recover and those would probably be the fastest five of the race.

Now the good news. I got 14th place. It could have been worse.

Thankfully, I was able to back up a bit after the prime attempt and recover. By the time we reached the final lap I was sitting in the top five riders. My teammate Billy was right there as well. My goal was to stay in contact with him. Hopefully, we would set things up for a good finish.

One of my fears of criterium racing is the turning. Thankfully this course had two very sweeping turns and only two corners that were close to ninety degrees. Corner number two was one of those sharper turns.

I started feeling comfortable about the turns and was finally feeling confident about holding my line. It helped that there were road markers and it gave me something to concentrate on as we went through the corners in a pack.

During our final time through corner two I was setting up to accelerate out of the turn and move into position to sweep through turn three. It would be very important to be near the front going into turn four. That would all start here in turn two.

Suddenly I heard some commotion behind me. Next thing I knew a rider – who I could not see – banged against my left hip. It was a hard enough of a jostle that it knocked me out of my lean. That caused me to straighten in the turn and the bike to wobble as I started to tip over my center of gravity.

I didn’t even think about what might happen. I just gathered my Giant after a bit of squirrelliness and then smashed the pedals to try to make up the ground I lost. I kept waiting to hear the dreaded sound of riders going down behind me.

Billy was still up there, but I was now stuck on the outside with riders streaming around me. I was now in the top 20 riders, but was not in a good position. After turn three I started to attempt to move closer to the front. After getting boxed in a bit I was forced into turn four on the outside.

Going into turn four I lost more positions as riders took the shorter inside turn. Now it was time to let it go. Thankfully, the outside was open because the field was stretching out for the sprint. I started moving past riders and moved into the top ten just as we were passing the restrooms on the right.

At that point I started seeing some riders coming up to my left. I tried to increase my cadence to stay up. It was then I noticed I was about three rings above my 11. I shifted a couple of times and things leveled out. However, the momentum couldn’t get me past them.

It was about 30 meters from the line when I felt the earlier efforts. I saw riders going past me on my left – one of those was Tebbetts. I gritted my teeth to try to beat him, but he and one other rider got past me to take 12th and 13th. I immediately rued the two earlier efforts. Not a doubt in my mind I could have had a top 10 – even with the near crash in turn two – had I not put out that needless energy.

Observations: It is great racing with a team. Granted, Tebbetts and I don’t know a thing about strategy. I’m sure we were frustrating to Billy. Still, it was great to know they were there. There is a comfort that comes going into a tight corner when you know the guy beside you.

Tebbetts is strong. Early in the race he was right on the front for multiple laps. Then on the final turn he was pushed off the course. He still recovered and came back to put pass me.

Billy is one competitive dude! This was his second race of the day, but when the line was in sight he wasn’t going to go down without a fight! It earned him an eighth place.

What can I say about Blair? He is the consummate promoter. It was obvious that the fast, flat Charleston course was right up his ally. The greatest thing about Blair was his excitement over the success of the team as a whole. I’m sure he’ll have a blog entry up at POACycling.com soon.

Final observation… I’m not a criterium racer. I don’t have the high end speed you need. The max the Quarq CinQo recorded was 1132 watts on a lap where we averaged 356 watts. I sure hope I get a chance at a couple of road races this year.

Excuse the long entry. It was really an exciting race for me. The whole weekend was a blast. Thanks POA Cycling Team!

POA Cycling Summer Series is back

This post is currently out of date. Learn more about the POA Cycling Team and the team’s sponsored races at POACycling.com.

It might not be the same venue, but POA Cycling Summer Series is back in Greenville, South Carolina.  You think Blair had multiple configurations to work with at the BMW Test Track?  Let’s see what he’ll do with the tarmac at the old Greenville Municipal Stadium (otherwise known as the old Greenville Braves stadium).

The Web site for the event is up at the POA Cycling Web site.  Six races during the summer for $80.  Who says racing is getting too expensive?  Of course, Blair will be out there callin’ for the primes.

Good times on hot summer nights.  Check out the info on the site and then be sure to register.  Hmmmm, I wonder if I could get those wheels?

It was like an evening time one day classic

Last night I managed to get out on a group ride. Wednesday was a short spin for me, but that was the first time back on the bike since Sunday afternoon. It has been even longer since I had ridden in a group.

This was just an unofficial ride with some friends. Eight of us headed off toward the base of Paris Mountain and over near Travelers Rest. We would turn around out there and then head up Paris and then back home.

John James was out of the blocks fast. Matt Tebbetts, Matt Turner, and I were hanging on. Before long, we were away from the other riders.

Understand, this is not a No Man Left Behind kind of ride. It varies in purpose. Sometimes in the past it has been a conserve and then see if each member of the group can get his personal best up Paris. At other times it is simply a hammerfest to see how many riders are left at the end.

This ride was one of the later. Turns out John was working to keep his average power for the ride over 250 watts. Several times I looked down and saw numbers of 300 to 400. On one section where John and I were pulling up the road together I saw sustained wattage of over 500.

The four of us went looping through some roads between Furman and TR. On the way back, we turned onto the Swamp Rabbit trail and did some rough riding in honor of the classic going on over in Belgium. That was a lot of fun.

As we flew along the road we had John, Matt Tebbetts, and I in POA Cycling kits. Matt Turner was the odd man out with Les Amis colors. John slid back to me once and said, “I feel like we are away off the front in some one day classic.” If so, Mr. Turner was in trouble. Actually, he was riding very well and had put a hurting on me during a couple of pulls.

As we neared the base of Paris for the climb up, we saw Mike, Art, and Blair going toward Altamont on the Frontage Road. By the time we got there, they had already turned up for the climb. Too soon it was going to be our time to follow them.

I knew there would be no personal best for me tonight. My hope was that I could just make it to the top without the other riders creating to big of a gap on me. As soon as we turned up I knew that was going to be tough.

Before long it was just a line of red going up the climb as Tebbetts, John, and I got around Mike and Blair. Art was no where to be seen. I didn’t expect that we would catch him before the top.

Tebbetts kept talking about how he would see us at the top. I was jokingly accusing him of sandbagging. I know he wasn’t. The issue is that he just can’t stand not being with the leading group. He was going to work to stay there regardless of how he felt.

John and I were starting to get put into trouble as Matt just kept tapping out a steady cadence. Then John eased up a little to recover some energy. Then he moved to the front and created a gap between the other two of us.

When we got to the wall, I was behind the other two guys. I could see both guys ahead of me. John was going to get to the top first. Matt had a pretty good gap on me as well. Perhaps if he slowed I could catch him before the top.

I shifted to a slightly harder gear and slogged along after them. Matt beat me to the top, but I had gained on him enough to cross the line close to his rear wheel. Still, it was a bad night with a time of 13 minutes.

After waiting for Turner to join us at the top, we started down the other side. Now the group was larger with Mike, Blair, and Art joining us for the ride down. Blair and John took to lead. The rest of us followed.

Blair then went way off the front. I could tell that most of the riders decided that we were not going to allow him to make it to the bottom first. Turner moved up and started pulling us through the rolling sections. By the time we reached the downhill portion, he had brought us even with Blair.

There were several attacks before the final turns, but then it was just Blair on the front with me right on his wheel. I sat there and let his draft suck me down the road. No need to work here. It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment to go around him.

We made a right turn and then started into the final left sweeping turn. I slipped out of his draft and put the hammer down. My bike went by him with ease. It is amazing what the draft can do for you. I came through the final right turn onto the straight with lots of speed.

I’m sure I was hitting close to 50 mph at that point. My WKO+ says I registered 71.8 mph as my max speed. Obviously, the satellites got mixed up on that one! Looking back at my Garmin I see that it registered a top speed of 50.18.  Hmmm, I wonder what makes the big discrepancy?

There was one little sprint to close out the night. Once again I got in Blair’s draft and nipped him at the line. Then John came flying pass me saying as he passed, “I’m not trying to be a pill, I’m just trying to keep my power average high for the ride.” I took a breath and jumped on his wheel.

We finished together and had amazingly similar power averages. He uses a Powertap and I use a Quarq CinQo coupled with the Garmin 705. He is about 5 pounds lighter than I am, but was putting out more at some points. Had we switched power systems, I believe the results would have been the same.

That was a big effort. It was easily harder than any Donaldson Center ride I have been on this year. Come to think of it, that was probably the most effort I have put out in an hour and a half for a long, long time. You know what? It was a blast!