Tag Archives: Charleston

It was as it should have been

It was a great weekend! The POA Cycling Team had an okay Saturday, but an incredible Sunday. We got podium finishes in each category race we entered. I’m thankful to say that I was one of them winning the bronze in the South Carolina State Criterium Championships at Hampton Park in Charleston.

Now a word from my primary sponsor.

Waiting through the afternoon for my race to start at 3:30 PM, I knew that this race would be different from Saturday’s. The feeling of confidence was there and as I warmed up on the trainer before going out, I was getting in the zone. This would not be a 20th place finish.

On the line I felt very calm and was able to joke around with some of the guys I’ve come to get used to having around me in the field. Tebbetts was right there on the front with me and I knew he was ready to turn himself inside out to get me to the front. Billy was also starting a bit behind us, but it was a big help knowing that his experience would be out there to help keep me from doing something too stupid.

We rolled off. Tebbetts and I were on the front and kept an easy pace waiting for someone to come around and take over. They did and it was time to get down to work. As it turned out, there were several attempts at breaks and some actually got out there for a couple of laps. It was hard to hold one though because the course was flat and there were long stretches where you could see the person trying to escape. Each one was brought back.

Early on I went up and picked up the pace just to test the legs and also to take some of the turns at a higher speed. I knew I would need to be comfortable with that at the end of the race. However, after expending a little energy, I went back in the field to recover and wait.

With six laps to go there was a guy out alone with a sizable gap. The pace picked up to catch him I knew that it was time to start planning for the finish. At this point I was riding between 15 to 20 riders from the front. It was time to move up.

A couple of things made me more confident as the race wound down. One was that I was getting the hang of the turns. Rather that braking into the corner and then sprinting out. I looked for a line that would allow me to roll into the corner and in some cases keep my pedals moving so that I was easing out of the turn on the wheel in front of me without having to sprint each time. This saved a lot of energy.

The other was that I was learning to control my space. I concentrated on finding a line through each corner and then holding it so that the riders around me could trust me. However, a moment that sticks out in my mind was a time when I was between two riders and the rider to my right began to squeeze in on me. In the past, that might have made me nervous, but not this time.

Our bars bumped, but neither of us reacted. We simply rode along beside each other leaning on the other. However, I was not going to give up my spot. The reason why that moment stuck out to me was because it felt completely right. I was calm when at points in the past I might have overreacted. My thought was, this is my spot and you are not going to have it. It was fun!

Matt had been on the front for a couple of laps as we neared two to go. He was amazing! We were going at a pretty good clip and he just kept hammering. I moved to the front at that point because I did not want to get caught near the back when things started getting wild at the finish. It was a chance I was willing to take to avoid a crash.

Billy saw me up there and moved around me to get me out of the wind on the front. He laid it out to take the pressure off of me and then moved over once we started into the final lap. At that point, Matt moved up to continue his incredible work on the front.

Matt and I went through turns one and two with the front of the field right with us. However, as we came out of turn three, Matt lit the fuse and the rocket went off. He stretched the field and he and I entered the last turn as the point of the spear. Tebbetts was on the point and I was sitting right on his wheel enjoying to pull.

My emotions at that point were sky high! It wasn’t just that I was starting to believe I could win it, it was also because the way the team had worked together during the race was just awesome. To be here with Matt this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My only regret is that I could not have better rewarded him for his effort.

As we came out of the turn it crossed my mind just to stay on Matt’s wheel and we could just finish 1-2 for the race. However, I knew that the idea was for Matt to lead me out. I knew at some point he would expect me to come around him. It seemed to me that he was slowing just a bit and that perhaps it was time for me to go. So, I started to come around.

When I did, Matt also picked up the pace and it we were actually sprinting each other. However, at about this time, Benjamin Branton and Clark Gallivan (both of whom have beat me earlier in the season) started to move up. It was a drag race for the line between the four of us. I can say that this time I gave everything I had.

The result ended up the same: 3rd place. Branton finished first with Gallivan right there along with myself. Matt finished as he rode all race — strong — and came in fourth. Really, I honestly feel that it came out about how things really are — Benjamin is clearly the best sprinter among the Category 4 racers and Clark has come on really strong with some wins. Then there is me — “always a podium, but never a win.”

The SC State Criterium Championships podium

Now, I’m no Mark Cavendish, but I have an inkling of how he must have felt when he expressed his frustrations those times when he didn’t win a sprint after the Columbia-HTC train brought him up to the finish. They did their jobs perfectly, but he didn’t close the deal. My emotions where so mixed.

It was incredible to make the podium — my first literal podium, but it was eating me up inside that I had let the guys down. Over and over in my head I thought about what I could have done differently that would have given me the 5 feet I needed to close the deal — not for me, but for US. Thankfully, I have awesome teammates not just on the bike, but off the bike as well.

Thanks, guys!

Thankful now for the top 5 finishes

Saturday we were racing in the I’On Village Smackdown in Charleston. It was my first time to the course and I wasn’t sure what the result would be. I just want to give it my best shot and figured I would get a top ten in the Category 4/5 Masters race. I didn’t expect a smackdown.

Matt and I arrived about an hour before the start. We got turned around for a few minutes trying to find our way. I thought it would be fine, but what threw me off was that I was on my black Giant while I waited for the opportunity to break in my new Boyd Bikes wheels. I was trying to get the iBike computer running and I really got behind the eight ball.

Turned out I never got a chance to ride the course and did not get a full warm-up. I can’t help but think that came back to bite me later in the day. However, at the time, there was nothing to do but to line up and give it a try.

Lining up was its own issue. I was about three rows deep when they sent us off. It made for some excitement as I made my way around the course for the first time in a crowd. I just kept my eyes focused a couple of riders ahead of me trying to anticipate how I would need to enter the turns.

Several laps in I started to feel like I was beginning to warm-up. Then they started calling primes. I had told Matt and Billy that on one of the primes I was going to go off and see if I could get a break going. They would then be able to sit in as the other teams worked to bring us back.

They called two primes in a row. I decided to set up for the second one to be my break starter. There was one rider with a gap on the field and I caught him just as we came out of the final turn. I passed him with about 10 meters to go and took the prime (a bottle of Hammer gel). Then I kept on going.

After turning it on for about 50 meters, I looked back to see that no one was coming over to me. I was alone. Then I turned onto the back portion of the course and got hit by the crosswinds. It was near the end of this section that I got caught.

It was the wrong place to get caught because this put me getting passed just before the hardest turn on the course. I ended up having to accelerate out of the turn without being recovered from the break effort.

It all went down hill from there. There really isn’t a lot to report. I was just trying to hang on for dear life. Then to make matters worse, I went through a turn and thought I was getting a flat. My rear wheel went “squishy” and I moved over to the gutter with my hand up and dropped to the rear of the field as I made sure I was okay.

It must have been that I had lightened the weight on my wheel in the turn causing it to slide. This made me think it was going flat. However, it wasn’t and once again I was fighting to get back on.

Thankfully, Billy and Matt were riding well. I could watch them up near the front from my position in the back. As we counted down the last 4 laps, I watched Matt go to work. He moved to the front and basically pulled the field around the final two laps.

“I knew I wouldn’t win a sprint,” he said. “the only chance I had was to stretch everyone out and keep the sprint at bay for as long as possible. Then I would hang on for the best finish I could get.” he did exactly that. He crossed the line in forth – just about a wheel off of the winner.

Billy was also moving his way to the front and came home with a 6th place finish. I really did have a surge of relief as I saw there places. The success of the team had nothing to do with me. I wish I could have given them some help, but I was extremely pleased that POA had once again put two riders in the money!

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that I had finished 20th. I knew I was finishing with the field, but it felt like I was the last guy in the group. The whole experience has me scratching my head. I really am not certain what happened.

Today we go back to Hampton Park to race the SC State Criterium Championships. It would be great to see the POA colors on top of that podium. I’m certain Billy, Matt, and I will be giving it all we’ve got. I just hope I have more to give than I had Saturday’s race.

Great teammates and a dangerous Volvo

Yesterday I posted the race report for the weekend.  Still there was more to the weekend than just riding bikes.  There was time to spend with friends — both old and new.

Some of my mates at SC State Criterium Championships

Some of my mates at SC State Criterium Championships

This was the first opportunity for me to spend any amount of time with my new teammates.  My first race with the POA Cycling Team was a quick up and back to the River Falls road race.  Since I was a late comer to the team, I also missed the early training times.

Because of my kids’ activities on Saturday, I was unable to be there with the team for the Saturday races.  I headed down later that day with plans to join them for the afternoon races on Sunday.  So at 6 PM I rolled onto Kiawah Island to join a number of the crew.

Matt and Reece met me as I was driving onto the island.  I followed them in my car to the Kiawah Island Club where I unloaded my bike for a ride.  I just wanted to go out for a quick 30 minutes to loosen up a bit.

As I headed down the road back toward Charleston I was moving along 25 and 30 mph along the four lane divided highway through a mixed residential and commercial area.  I had spun for awhile and was now opening things up a bit.  My plan was to do several of these accelerations before heading back in.

About this time I noticed a car to my left in my peripheral vision.  It was flying up in the inside lane beside me and I could see the flashing of the right turn signal.  The car suddenly slowed and I could see the driver about to turn right – across the two lanes of traffic – and at the same time I saw the passenger grab the armrest.  The driver made a move on the wheel and I saw the car swerve toward me and then brake.

Thinking back, I tried to figure out what I might have done wrong as I continued along my way with the driver’s horn blaring behind me.  I was traveling along the white line with the flow of traffic.  I made no motions to indicate any turn or change in speed.

What I think happened was the driver was wanting to make a right turn into a street off the road.  He completely misjudged the speed at which I was traveling.  He thought he could get past me and then turn into the street before I got there.  However, because I was going much faster than he thought, he didn’t make it around me soon enough.

So, why the horn?  Frankly, I think he was scared and embarrassed.  Of course, he wasn’t going to take that out on himself.  He had to aim it at the stupid cyclist – who was obeying the rules of the road.

I returned to connect with Matt and Reece before heading to the place where we would be staying the night.  There I found a good number of the crew.  Matt was working on some sort of pasta dish and Samantha was loading garlic into another one.  I had stopped by Chic-fil-a on the way down, but this looked like a worthy second dinner.

As we ate we talked about the races that day and various other topics from social media to our favorite dog chase stories. It was nice to get to know everyone a little better. Later several of the guys and gals actually sat down and watched NASCAR with me.  Now that is the beginning of a great relationship!

Cycling is a team sport.  The POA Cycling Team showed how it can work in the 35+ Masters race the next day.  Not only is it important for strategy, it is also good to have trust in the fellow riders around you.  When things get dicey, it is nice to see that teammate beside you.  Building that trust happens both on and off the bike.

Thanks for a great weekend, POA Cycling.  I appreciate you all letting me come onboard.  Here’s hoping I can get a couple of good results for the team this year.  Even if I don’t, I’ve got your back – that is unless I get taken out by a baby boomer in a Volvo.

Oh, and a huge thank you to the Petersons for opening their homes to us.

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!