Tag Archives: Donaldson Center

Tuesday Night Worlds – Just call me One-Hour Wonder

I left Watopia for a ride in the real world. It would be my first Tuesday Night Worlds with the Greenville Spinners. It would be my largest group ride since I raced back in February on the same course. I was interested to see what would happen.

I got off work and the wrestling began in my mind. It would take me 30 minutes just to get to the location for the ride. Once there I would be a bit of an outcast since I am not on a team and do most of my riding alone. The social aspect of the ride would not be a major attraction.

The other thing that caused me pause was that the group is a very mixed group with semi-pros to juniors and everyone in-between. Everyone is supposed to have race experience, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been wrecks on these ride/races. On a windy day, it can be pretty hairy! Note: I just learned that a rider did go down and suffered multiple injuries (abrasions and broken bones).

The easy thing for me would be to just hop on the trainer or go out and ride my normal routes alone. I knew at 6PM the Tuesday Night Worlds training race would start on Zwift. Doing that would save me over an hour of my evening.

As I walked out the door of my office, I knew what I would do. The weather was beautiful and the wind was low — unlike it had been in the days leading up to this one. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t head out to Donaldson to ride.


Once there I paid my five dollars for the police escort, porta-johns, and rental of the parking lot. I ran into some folks I knew right off the bat and enjoyed some conversation before heading into the field to get ready to roll out. Here was going to be the test of the work I had been doing on the trainer.

We rolled off and I expected that on the first lap we would allow everyone to get their legs loose. Well, I had to amend that to less that half a lap! Things started picking up right away and it was on.

At first I played it smart and just sat in the field hiding from the wind and trying to find good wheels to follow. I was only able to do that for a little bit. It just isn’t my nature to just sit there and ride around in a training ride.

The way I see it is that if it is a training race, I should be learning something. I’m not going to get an education sitting back in the back. I would rather get up there with the fast guys and hang on for as long as I can. When I get into a real race, then I’ll think about sitting in and conserving.

It was on the second lap (of five) that Matt Tebbetts moved up to the front. We were climbing “Golf Course Hill” when he attacked up the white line. I saw him moving past and I was about fifth wheel. I jumped over and followed his attack.

We had a gap almost immediately. I looked down for a moment and saw my heart rate at 174 bpm and by computer reading a steady 400+ watts. We were nearing the turn at the top of the hill when I exclaimed, “Matt, I can’t hold this.”

Matt and I go back. We were on the same team together. I remember fondly our last Category 4 race together. It was a criterium in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We went one-two with Matt winning with me marking any moves to attempt to bridge over to him. With a kilometer to go I attacked and took second.

After that day things changed. I crashed and broke my neck in my first Category 3 race. That set me on a path out of competition. Matt took a different path. If anything, he became more committed to the bike and it shows in the way he looks and the way he rides the bike! Here we were in the break, a guy who just rides his trainer and another who had just the week before won the 40+ amateur race at the USA Cycling Professionals Criterium Championships.

We held the gap down off of the the Golf Course Hill and up the next climb to the right hand turn to follow. Matt had been coaxing me along taking longer pulls as we attempted to maintain our gap. I took a fugitive look beneath my arm to see the field. They were closing. I was just a dead weight on Matt’s wheel.

Here we were two laps in. I was well into my threshold. There was just absolutely no way I could maintain this pace for three more laps (each lap 7+ miles long). Perhaps if there were more of us we could manage, but not just two. “I’ve got to go back!” I shouted up to Matt and then waited to be enveloped by the group coming up fast.

Not much exciting to add from that point. I got in and recovered. Before long I was feeling better so I moved back up to the front. I chased down two breaks bringing the field with me. Then finally I covered a break that was followed by a counter attack that I also tried to follow. I knew at that point I was in trouble.

Every racer has a certain number of matches in his box. Tonight, I was out to find out how many I could strike. Well, I slid open the cardboard box of my fitness and looked inside. It was empty.

Realizing I was hurting, I let up and tried to recover some as the field started to pass me. The problem is I couldn’t find a gap in the line and I kept fading back. When I finally did get in, it turned out I got into a group that was falling off the back of the main field.

I tried with one other rider to bridge over, but it was a futile attempt. At first, we seemed to be making headway. Then we just seemed to be stuck one hundred yards off the back. Finally, the field moved away.

It was time to call it a night. Still, I felt pretty good about the effort. As usual, my fears about the ride were unfounded. It was great to once again ride with guys I’ve ridden with over the years. Pushing myself up on the front assured me that I can still do this.

Next goal? Do what it takes to finish.

Good, better, but not quite best

Sitting in my office at around 4PM I brought up the weather map. The forecast for the next several hours called for potential thunderstorms. Walking outside and taking a look at the sky showed clouds north of Paris Mountain. To the south things didn’t look so bad. Looked like the Greenville Spinners Time Trial at Donaldson Center would be on.

I rushed home to get ready. All the while the clouds continued to mass. I could hear thunder in the distance. It would be my luck that I would be all ready and get there just to get dumped on. Still, it was worth the chance.

What a surprise to find that when I arrived it was overcast, but not threatening. The bigger surprise was that normally windy Donaldson Center was dead still. The flags hung limply from their poles.

Hmmmm, low wind and cloud cover easing some of the oppressive heat from the sun just might be a good setup for a good time. The only weather condition that might be an issue was the incredible humidity. You really could feel the air around you.

I got registered and started warming up for my 6:09 PM start time. As I followed the course I took note of the road surface and the various flags and trees around the course that could give me an indication of the environmental factors. Another objective was to map out in my mind how I would approach the terrain.

When I got to the turn around spot, I hoped to find the cone so that I could practice making a quick turn around it. Unfortunately, the cone had not yet been placed. Also, traffic was heavy at that point and I had to stop with several other riders to wait for it to clear so we could start back.

Arriving back at the start I just had enough time to swallow some gel and jettison one of my water bottles before I was called to the line. I would be about fifth out. I slotted in and waited for my turn.

The track start still was uncomfortable for me. I’m sure I gave the guy holding my bike fits as I couldn’t seem to get my pedals positioned correctly and my weight shifted around. To make matters worse, I shifted my weight on the aero-bars and pushed my elbow rest down. The count down got closer to “Go!” and I tried to put all that out of my mind.

Then I was off! My goal was to beat my time of 23:32 from the previous TT I did a year ago on this course. I wanted to do well on the finish sheet, but that was not my primary focus. The person I wanted to beat the most was myself.

I had started in my big ring and about the middle of my rear cassette. I tucked in my aerodynamic position and started shifting the gears into a consistent cadence. I worked to hold myself back a bit in this first section to around 300 watts.

Immediately, I could tell this wasn’t a warm up anymore. As I started up the first incline my breathing began to change. I focused on avoiding quick draws into my lungs and tried to bring my breathing into a rhythm with my pedal strokes.

Alone, cutting through the heavy air around me, I was suddenly elated! This time a year ago, I was on pain killers with a neck brace and sleeping in my recliner. “I’m alive!” I thought to myself. “I’m not just alive, I’m competitive.” Sure, I wasn’t back to the point I had reached last year, but I was better. Suddenly, it didn’t really matter how I did. I was just enjoying the moment.

Crossing the tracks I reached a straight section where I could see ahead to the next turn. There was my minute man. Hey, maybe I could catch him. “You’ve got the majority of the whole course to do it,” I had to tell myself to keep from accelerating too quickly.

I didn’t really have an idea of how I was doing with my time. Unfortunately, all the uncertainty with my start caused me to forget to start my computer until a number of seconds into the effort. How many seconds I did not know.

My minute man got closer as I made the turn that would bring me to the turn around. I could also see several other riders ahead or coming toward me. I might not have the best time, but I certainly was going to have a time better than most.

As I got to the cone, my minute man was just starting off on his return. Going into the turn I found myself coping with another participant who was just passed by the rider in front of me. I had to negotiate around him, but my turn was still waaaay better than last year!

So, I had already overtaken the rider who started 2 minutes in front of me. By the time I made it to the first turn that would take us to 3M hill, I passed my minute man. Up ahead, I could see yet another rider. It was encouraging to have some targets.

At the same time, I was starting to feel it. I found myself wanting to mash on the pedals instead of pedal in circles. As I would get my legs back in form I could feel the lactic acid begin to build. “That’s not pain,” I would repeat to myself. “That is power.” A grin came to my face as I found myself actually enjoying that swelling feeling that comes into your legs as your heart rate nears its threshold.

I passed the third rider before I reached the rail road track. I was struggling a bit at this point and the thought of the final climb began to affect my effort. It was at this point I probably lost time that I could have gained. My power average for that section was a dismal 209 watts. My thought was on saving something for the climb.

As I started up, I could see the fourth rabbit up ahead. I put my head down and went after him. I caught him at about 1K to go. Then I knew it was just me to beat. I had the sensation that if I continued to sit I would start to fade, so I stood and began to push toward the line.

I knew immediately that I had left something out there. My calculations left me with a bit in the tank. Of course, the number one rule of time trials is to leave nothing there.

Looking at my clock, I could tell that it was going to be close. I cooled down and made my way back to the officials’ tent. The more I figured in my head, the more I began to think I might end up with a time very close to my personal best. At the same time, I wasn’t sure I beat it. Just how long was it before I pressed the start button?

I pulled up to the tent. “Could I have an unofficial time?” I asked. The volunteer took a look at the spread sheet… “23:08” Yes! I had beat my time!

Still, I knew I was far from the fastest time. People regularly turn 21:00 to 22:00 lap times. Turns out there were two Cat 4 racers with faster times (22:38 and 23:00). However, since there were only three of us in the Pro/1/2/3 field, I got a second place. I trailed Eric Christophersen by 57 seconds.

My evaluation? It was good. I followed my plan and accomplished my goal. It was certainly better than last year. However, it was obviously not my best. My power average was well below what I know I can turn out for 20 minutes.

Well, now I have a goal for when we take to the course again in July. It won’t be a time goal. It will be one simple objective: Go for broke.

One man’s hell is another man’s heaven

On a beautiful Sunday morning the Masters 35+ field lined up for the start of another day of racing during the Greenville Spring Training Series. One of my teammates, John James, was waiting for the pre-race officiating announcements to end when he overheard a comment that set the stage for the day. “Welcome to POA Hell,” quipped a rider near by.

POA Cycling Team prepares to race

POA Cycling Team prepares to race

Phil Ball starts the action with a break

Phil Ball starts the action with a break

It started right from the gun. POA rider, Phil Ball, made it up with another rider to start an early break. For a while, the field let them go. Then about half-way, the attacks started coming fast and furious. The end result was that by the end of the first lap the race was busted into about four groups.

Thomas and Phil form the winning break

Thomas and Phil form the winning break

Out of this emerged Phil and Thomas Smith in a two man break. The other POA riders – Rodney Dender, Jae Bowen, John James, Cleve Blackwell, Mark Caskey, and Gen Kogure – were spread out in the various groups. By the end of the second lap the race was pretty much decided.

Rodney and Jae at work

Rodney and Jae at work

I asked Thomas how things happened from his vantage point, “Phillip and I were away from about mile 5.  So I simply asked him to stay with me… no matter how much he was suffering and sure enough he did and we took the podium. He will say he didn’t do anything… but he did, he stayed with me.” That is saying something. That means those guys were out there – the two of them – for about five laps of the course.

Phil showed some true grit by staying in there after working to form the break. He then would come through to give Thomas a break from the front now and then. In the end, it worked out great for both of them.

Rodney and Jae were there following up any moves to reach their teammates in the break. That allowed Rodney to have the position he needed to bring home the podium sweep for the team. Jae was there to notch a seventh place finish as well.

Farther back, the rest of the team was dealing with a field that seems to have lost its will to race. The Masters 45+ field caught the Masters 35+ riders. The official neutralized the first group about two minutes before the second group caught them. Then all kinds of confusion ensued.

Cleve controlling what is left of the field

Cleve controlling what is left of the field

Once the 45+ riders passed, Cleve got a little tired of just soft pedaling around the course. He attacked the group with the intention of trying to catch the 45+ group, ride through it, and then exit the field. John James was there with him when Cleve attacked. John pinned the field in the gutter as they came into a crosswind. The remaining field began to shatter.

Before long Cleve caught the 45+ group and the rest of the 35+ riders caught the 45+ group trying to chase him down. However, rather than neutralize the 45+ field, the officials let them go and the two fields started getting mixed as the 45+ group started accelerating in the midst of the 35+ riders.

So, it would appear that even some of the POA riders got caught up in the results of “POA Hell.” However, for Thomas and Phil – and Rodney – it was a totally different story. I guess when it comes to days like that, one man’s hell is another man’s heaven.

Well done, Thomas and Phil!

Well done, Thomas and Phil!

Once again, Eddie Helton does an incredible job telling the story with his camera. Be sure to go by Eddie’s web site to see more photos from the weekend events. If you find yourself in a photo, Eddie’s prices are VERY reasonable for you to get your very own copy.

Hey! You are going backward!

The Tuesday Night World Championships shaped up last night to be lots of fun. The weather was great and there was a good crowd on hand. The old legs were feeling pretty good and I even had a little bit of time to warm up for a change before the ride started in earnest. Little did I know I would finish out the evening riding alone and backward on the course.

As usual things started out just a little slow. A small group started off right away to attempt a break. However, by the time we passed the golf course and headed for the turn onto 3M hill, John James started to move up toward the front with me on his wheel. On the hill itself Eric Christophersen went to the front to close down the gap. By the time we were reaching the next turn there was a lot of close racing. You could feel a little bit of nervousness in the group. It made it fun, but a little scary.

Things sorted out and the first lap was finished without incident. We were certainly up to speed by that time and now more people were making moves in an attempt to get some separation. The main field wasn’t having it and for much of the second lap the small gaps that would form got shut down in a hurry.

We were nearing the railroad tracks and I was in the front group of the field. A sizable group was beginning to form a gap. One by one another rider would bridge up the lead group. None of the riders in the front group were from POA. However, there were three of us in the front of the field.

My thoughts were that this early in the ride the break would probably not survive. However, I wasn’t sure exactly who was up there. If some of the better riders were up there they could use the group as cover to attack off the front and build more of a gap on us. Of course, it was the job of one of us to represent the team in a possible break, so I started to bridge over myself.

I hit the railroad tracks hard and immediately began to hear a strange thumping sound coming from my bike. I was still rolling so I didn’t think about it much and just kept spinning away to get on the back of the group in front of me. I got there soon after we reached the smooth pavement after the tracks.

It was then that the sound started to get on my nerves. My initial thought was that perhaps I had broken a spoke. Ahhhh, then I realized what it was. The speed sensor for the iBike had gotten knocked askew and the magnet hit it with each revolution.

Knowing it wasn’t a structural problem, I first decided to just keep going. The field had followed me up to the break and now I was on the front with some pretty heavy hitters. Now as we were beginning the third lap, a lasting break could possibly form. I was in a position to get into it.

Now I was on the point and setting the pace. I started to look down to assess what was going on with the sensor. The thumping was getting worse. Boyd Johnson rolled by and I heard him say, “You have the sensor turned the wrong way. That is your speed sensor making that noise.” For a second it crossed my mind to slow and reach back and adjust it on the roll. Nah, that would be stupid. Then I considered just going on with the thing banging away. However, I didn’t want to mess up the sensor — or possibly the bike.

As we neared the fire station, I went to the yellow line and slowed. My decision was to stop fix the sensor and then ride slowly until I was overtaken again by the A group. I could then at least get in at the rear of the field and get some good laps even if I wouldn’t make a winning break. I guess I should also mention it did cross my mind to fix it and then attempt to chase back on. That thought didn’t last long!

I adjusted the sensor and started off. Looking at the iBike I realized it wasn’t reading correctly. So, I had to stop again reposition the sensor once more. Finally, it was working and rolling along. Now I just had to wait to get caught.

Just as I reached the golf course I could see the pace car of the B group coming up behind me. At this rate, I could be back around to the railroad tracks before the A group caught me. I guess I would be well rested when I got back in!

Thinking about how I was going to get out of the way of the groups coming behind me, I noticed a number of riders off in the distance with similar red kits. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself. “Why are all those Hincapie riders going the opposite direction?” I then started looking down and playing around with the iBike computer and checking periodically behind me to see how the B group was progressing.

The next time I looked at the group coming toward me, they were almost next to me. I realized it wasn’t a group of Hincapie riders. It was a number of my POA teammates. What were they doing? Maybe they had plans for an alternate ride? John was one of them and he yelled to join them. Well, that wasn’t the plan, but he was now dropping back to pick me up and I was curious what was going on.

I turned and then caught up with them. Turns out they were just finishing out the evening going backward around the circuit. I looked at my clock. I still had nearly an hour and a half to go in order to meet my training goal for the evening. Maybe I would just hang with them until the A group came by and then jump in.

Of course, we then got caught up in conversation and I was discussing iBike issues with Eric as the break off the front of the A group went past us. It crossed my mind that I could have been in that group. The field followed and I just let them go.

The next lap most of the other riders dropped off and it was just Thomas Woodson – a Gamecock Team rider – and myself. Once again we passed the break and then I saw the field with Rodney Dender near the front trying to pull them back. Billy and Reece were also still in there. I was feeling some pangs of regret that I wasn’t there helping them out.

There was nothing to do about it now. I just had to get another hour of riding in. Finally, Thomas also dropped off and I ended up doing a couple laps alone. By the time I reached the parking area the sun was starting to drop on the horizon and there were hardly any cars left.

I did ride past Steve Sperry talking to Rodney as he was driving out. I overheard, “… and your team is going around backward…” I only caught that phrase and I could only assume that Rodney was talking about the effort he put out toward the end and the fact that he had no teammates to help him out. The pang or regret hit again. Yes, I had a “mechanical” that was a reasonable excuse for stopping. However, fact is, I could have gotten back in.

Oh well, that is just the way it worked out. I’m looking forward to this weekend’s race聽 and then an opportunity to redeem myself next Tuesday night!

Ahhhhh, a rest day

After only three days back on the bike after a rest week, I’m very happy to announce that today is a rest day! It has been a hard start to my next segment of training. Tomorrow I get back at it with repeats on Paris Mountain. Someday I think I’m going to take a real rest day.

Saturday was my FTP — a 20 minute all out time trial with a build up and cool down. Sunday really wasn’t that bad. It was my opportunity to cleanse my quads from the effort of Saturday. With the weather the way it was, I ended up doing some easy spinning on the trainer while watching some TV.

Monday was a different matter. I did my VO2 max workout with some 30-30’s. The 3 minute and 2 minutes were all over 300 watts. Then it was time for the 3 sets of 5 30 second bursts. I managed to average over 500 watts for first two sets and over 450 watts on the last one. By the end of the last one my chest was hurting. I might have thought I was having a heart attack, but the pain was on the wrong side. Maybe my right lung was getting ready to pop out!

Then last night it was time to head out to Donal… I mean, SCTAC… for the World Championships. Before the race (and it is a race, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) I was talking with Jim, my coach. He was telling me that my power was looking good and that I should have a good opportunity to participate in the action. At that point, I was wishing I could share in his optimism.

My legs were tired. They felt good… that bad kind of good… where they feel heavy and relaxed. As a cyclist you want to feel that your legs have snap. Instead my legs felt like they were on cold medicine.

To make matters worse, I had not time to warm up. The first lap was going to have to be my warm up lap. On a night when we planned to do only four laps, that is not good. The hounds would be unleashed early and things would get moving soon.

It wasn’t until about 2 and a half laps in that I felt good in my legs. Up to that point I was really struggling to stay up with the pace. My heart and lungs weren’t giving me much trouble, but my legs felt like they were working really hard. Finally, in the third lap I was able to ride at pace without feeling like I was about to drop.

By that time the break of the day had happened. Thad Dulin, Boyd Johnson, our man Hank McCullough, and a couple of other riders had a sizable gap. I wasn’t even aware that Hank was up there, so I was working a bit to help close that gap. Had I known, I would have backed off a bit.

What I discovered in the fourth lap was that while my legs were working well enough to pace in the group and even do some pulling on the front, I did not have any power to launch. This was evident as we entered the final kilometers. The pace picked up and the group surged. My legs felt like they were moving in slow motion. I ended up fading back from about 10th in the field on the last incline and just hanging onto the rear of the field.

My computer tells me I averaged 25 mph for the nearly 30 miles of racing for 1:08. The average power was over 250 watts.  It still makes me chuckle to think that an A group “ride” at Donald… I mean SCTAC… is faster and requires more power than your typical Category 4 race.

That brings us to this morning. No bike for me today. It is a rest day. My instructions for a rest day are, “Relax, nap, take a bath. Go to bed earlier. Avoid your bike and the world of cycling as much as possible today to refresh your mind as well.” Yeah, right!

I do think that on a week during my taper for an A race, I will take a REAL rest day. I’ll take a day off work and sleep in, relax, nap, get a massage, skip the blog, avoid the bike, and get to bed earlier. It would be interesting to see what a real rest day could do for me.

All I know is that after the last four days, I’ll take what I can get!

Not quite Champs-Élysées

Sunday’s final race of the 2010 Greenville Spring Training Series was for me a tiny bit like the final stage of the Tour de France ending on the Avenue de Champs-Élysées. The omnium was in my pocket and all I had to do was finish out the race without any scrapes and bruises and this would be my best month ever on a bike! My only goal was to stay up right and have a respectable finish.

When I woke up that morning, I began to wonder if I could accomplish those goals. Something had started settling in my chest the day before after the River Falls race. I was coughing a bit and feeling my sinuses grow tight.

I headed off to teach Sunday School and then sat in the morning service starting to feel more and more tired. Actually, it felt as though I was very, very relaxed. It was that way you feel when you lay in bed after a hard day of manual labor and feel like you are a stone.

However, by the time I got in my car following the service, I was no longer coughing. I rolled the windows down on the car and got some cool air going and that seemed to revive me. The adrenaline was starting to flow as well and that helped.

Quickly I changed, loaded up the car, and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich as I drove toward the course. I arrived with about 20 minutes to warm up. As I headed out onto the course, I saw Eric heading the other way in route to a third place finish in the 35+ Masters. Soon behind him I saw Hank on his way to a second place finish in the 45+ Masters race. POA Cycling was already getting off to a great start!

As I lined up with Louis, Matt, and Billy, I felt no pressure. I was just taking it all in. I appreciated the people who congratulated me for winning the omnium. It was fun to chat with some of the other riders. However, as the start approached, I really just wanted to be a spectator and take in the sights and sounds.

Then we rolled away. What a relief! The field started out at a nice clip. It is so much easier to ride in a fast group than a slow one. For almost two laps we enjoyed the speed.

Then things began to slow a bit. There would be someone who would go off the front and the field would act to bring them back and then we would start doing our yo-yo moves. By the fifth lap it was as though the word had gone out and no break was going to be allowed — and no meaningful one was attempted. This was going to come down to a field sprint once again.

I had a chance to communicate some with Jon Leifer and the two of us talked of connecting for the final sprint. His main concern was finishing in front of Wade Greene and I really don’t think he would have minded too much had I ridden his wheel for the finish… if he could out sprint me then he would win… if I could come around him, then I would. Either way he would get his second place in the omnium.

Mid-way through the race I was starting to feel great! I was breathing clearly and my legs felt great. My fears started to fade and I started to think that perhaps I could finally get a win.

My focus was on staying out of the wind and avoiding riders that might cause me problems. It was all very clear to me. As we moved around the course, I followed the advice that Mike Askew had given me about the wind. Sure enough, I could see the flags pointing the directions he mentioned. With each turn I would set myself up to allow riders to block the wind for me.

As we moved into the final lap, I was setting up for a strong finish. I thought it was interesting that what wind there was came from our left and that was where the lines were forming. By riding to the right, I was feeling no wind at all. Riding in the draft of the rider in front of me, I wasn’t putting out much effort.

As we entered “the dip” things started up in earnest. I noticed Leifer went left and I stayed to the right. I’ve learned that while the field tends to start to the right, it then shifts to the left along the yellow line as we make a left turn just before the fire station. If you are patient, the road will open before you.

I was coming along the white line with two riders on the same team right in front of me. One came around the other and the one being passed said, “Go!” The first riders took off and the second one went over to the white line and slowed. Unfortunately, that was right in front of me with the field streaming to my left!

For a moment I hesitated and finally to avoid losing any more positions, I went around him in the grass. Once I did get around him the road was open. His teammate was heading up the road, but I knew he went too early. He was going to be swallowed up before the line.

I then moved up like I did in the last Donaldson Center race and sat on the hip of the fourth placed rider. I wanted to wait until after the 200 meter line before I attacked. Again, like Saturday, I was wondering where Leifer was. In my mind I was thinking he would come around and I would ride his wheel.

Moving now to the front, I kept waiting for someone else to make the move and I planned to counter. However, that was a mistake. The reason why is that by the time you move to counter it is normally too late. The people coming around you already have the acceleration. From that point you are playing catchup — which if you have enough road might not be a bad thing as you can catch his wheel and pay him back.

Knowing I made a mistake and trying to fix it - Photo by Jimmy Helms

However, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t have enough road. Two Greenville Spinners split me on either side. I dug after them, but bottom line is they got to the line faster than I did. Clark and Robert both beat me and I finished third.

Lesson learned? When sprinting, don’t think — DO! When you go — GO! Hey, I finished third. Had I not tried to analyze the sprint in progress and just turned myself inside out after 200 meters I might have still gotten third. However, I wouldn’t be sitting here saying, “I shouldn’t have waited to counter.” Who knows I might have gotten my first win of the year.

It pays to stay up front – maybe

Crashing is not fun. I’ve been there and done that. Once you’ve experienced it, you never look at a crash the same way again. It is impossible not to empathize with those involved.

As I was leaving the race Sunday afternoon, I talked with a fellow racer. He was limping up to his vehicle pushing his bike. I had heard that there was a crash, but didn’t know all the details because I was having to leave immediately following the race. So, as I was changing my shoes he explained that he had run into the fallen riders and went over the handlebars.

I asked him if he was okay and the condition of the other riders. He said he was okay and that he thought the others were as well except someones bike got really messed up and the first rider who went down got run over. However, I didn’t realize just how the crash went down until I saw the following photo sent to me by Jake Strasser of Team Metro.

Category 4 finish Donaldson Center - February 28, 2010

A wide view of the final sprint - and crash (click to enlarge)

As I began to piece the story together this is what I discovered. Soon after Wade Greene and I launched the sprint a rider went down. “For no apparent reason,” I was told by one racer. That caused a chain reaction as riders scattered across the width of the road to avoid getting caught up in the mess.

Closer view of the lead and the crash

Closer view of the lead and the crash

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to avoid it. Ryan Newman, of Velosports Racing out of Hendersonville, got the worse of it. He hit the riders at speed and flipped over coming down to separate his shoulder and break two fingers. The rider who initially went down broke the frame of his bike.

Ryan Newman goes for a ride

Ryan Newman flips after running into fallen riders

In the photo above, you can see Ryan still attached to his pedals getting ready to basically body slam into the ground. His rear wheel is up higher than the riders’ heads around him. Others narrowly escaped sharing his fate. Michael Trivette, from Concord, commented, “The guy flipping hit my back while he was in the air. I was so close to hitting the deck!”

Of course, the best place to be in all of this was up front. Though I do believe it is misleading to say that it is always safer up front. Crashes happen there as well.

Field sprint 02-28-2010

Photo by Eddie Helton - http://picasaweb.google.com/Eddie.Helton

How do you avoid crashes? Well, I can hear some of my friends snickering as they think of me trying to answer that question. However, I think these suggestions are reasonable.

  • Realize that the field is like an organism. Everyone is interconnected and the slightest move you make can be magnified several riders away from you. Racing while aware of the people around you for the purpose of keeping them out of a crash is one of the best ways to avoid one yourself.
  • Learn who you are riding with! As soon as the race starts, begin cataloging the behaviors of the riders around you. Some you won’t even notice because they will be smooth as silk. Others will stick out like a sore thumb because of their brake checks, switching lines without clearing, and crossing wheels. STAY AWAY – WAY AWAY!
  • Practice your skills. One of the things that has helped me has been learning how to take contact in a race. You cannot be afraid of being touched. Invariably someone is going to bump into you. Do not over react. “Receive” the contact – don’t react away from it.
    Also, don’t get verbal. I know it is hard to keep our mouths shut, but when someone makes a mistake, it does not help at all to berate them verbally. All you do is raise the intensity and level of frustration — ultimately raising the probability of an accident!
  • Know the terrain and conditions. Donaldson Center is a great example of this danger. First, there are several potholes and the famous train tracks. Second, there is the wind that is always a crosswind – then a headwind – then a tailwind. Third, there are the hills.Immediately after gathering speed down a hill, it is time to start climbing the next one. That guy that just went flying past you suddenly begins to fade on the climb. Another rider tries to go around him on the edge of the road and ends up riding in the grass just as a crosswind pushes him back toward the field. You get the idea!

If everyone rode with these ideas in mind, that would take care of many of the crashes that happen in amateur racing. Of course, even professionals crash and 60+ people on bicycles riding inches away from each other at 25 – 40 mph are bound to have some problems.

I’m empathizing with Ryan and the other guys that went down. Hopefully, they will all be back on the bike soon. Me? I’m staying close to the front!

Second place feels like a win

It is late Sunday as I write this. I’m sitting here after the Things Three have gone to bed. It is time to reflect a bit on the day and give a report of the race. My legs feel happy… and so does my mind. It was a good day.

Field sprint 02-28-2010

Photo by Eddie Helton - http://picasaweb.google.com/Eddie.Helton

The day started kind of harried. I had to get up and get everything ready to go so that I could make it to Sunday School on time. I’m teaching a series and the class started at 9:30 AM. The morning service started at 10:30 AM and I figured I would be starting for home shortly before noon. That gave me just a small window to get home, get ready, and then make it to the start at 1:05 PM.

Pastor preached a little shorter so I was actually on the road home before 11:40 AM. Because I had everything ready, I was able to make it to the race with time for a 15 minute warm-up. The fact that things worked out better than I thought they would had me more relaxed on the start line. I was ready to roll.

I’ve mentioned before that I simply do not race well at Donaldson Center. The simple reason is the fact that I have always worked way too hard out there. I determined that today I would not show my nose on the front until the very end. Sure, that meant I was risking a breakaway, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

Well, I did it. Of course, it made the first three laps very boring. It was so tempting to want to stretch the legs a bit or to go up front just to get us moving a bit! Instead I played games… How little can I actually pedal? How long can I go in my small ring? (Two laps) It also gave some time to chat. Other than that, those first laps gave me nothing to report.

During the third lap, we were warned that the Pro-1-2 field was gaining on us and that there was a potential we would be neutralized to let them around us. At that time there was a rider off the front within our sight. For a while it appeared that we were going to avoid being overtaken. However, we didn’t escape.

My teammate Billy moved to the front and we did pick up speed for a bit, but no one seemed to want to help him. Again, it was tempting, but I was keeping my eye on Jonathan Leifer. He was the one ahead of me in the omnium and he also had beat me at the line Saturday. I wasn’t working if he wasn’t!

However, when the official’s vehicle came around us, I realized that we might be about to be neutralized. I wanted to make sure that I was in a good position for any restart because we wouldn’t have much time to get organized afterward. Turns out I was pretty happy because they did slow us and at that point, Billy, Matt, and myself were right there at the front.

The only bad thing is that when we were neutralized, the one guy who was off the front was not. Basically at that moment we were all racing for second. Again, it was the risk I was willing to take, so I couldn’t complain. I would do my best for second.

I won’t go into all the politics of it, but before we ever reached the finish line the decision on what to do was changed a couple of times. We had already been told that the race was called. At that point, I was in seventh place. I was actually pretty satisfied with that. 1) I was ahead of Leifer, so I knew he didn’t gain any points on me, and 2) seventh place would be my best ever official finish at Donaldson Center.

Then we were told we would race one more lap to decide 2nd. Then we were told we would not. Finally, as we crossed the start-finish line we were informed that indeed we would have one more lap to decide the remaining finishing order.

At first I was excited to see the field pick up speed and it looked like everyone was going to let out their frustrations with a fast final lap. Then I was scared as I considered the adrenalin and frustrations of the riders. It was time to keep my eyes and ears open to avoid problems.

It didn’t last long and we were back to our nice Sunday evening group ride (we averaged 22 mph for the race – on a typical A group Tuesday Night World Championships ride we average 25 – 26 mph). I continued to teach myself patience and kept trying to stay out of the wind and trouble. This was going to be a field sprint, boys.

After we crossed the railroad tracks, things started to accelerate a bit. I tried to ease into my power so as not to shock the legs too much. I stayed close to Leifer and then as we moved into “the dip” I started to look for ways to advance my position.

I was nervous because I was a little farther back than I wanted to me as we began the final climb toward the finish line. About two kilometers out, I got in behind Billy and Louis. The field was starting to stretch out and the line was starting to form along the yellow line. Right ahead of me on the white line was the big dude that had bumped me out of position yesterday. He was coming back fast, but in front of him was open road.

“Louis, once we get around him,” I called to my teammate, Louis Sanchez, “Go!” We made the move and Louis pulled us closer in to the group. However, it gave me a clear view of the front. I could see the Globalbike boys lining up a lead out for Wade Greene. At this point, we were about 1K out and I was in 20th.

I wanted to be up in fifth or so before we reached the 200 meter line. So, for the first time in the entire race, I put my pedal down hard. “Coming on the right!” I heard people call as I spurted up toward the front of the field. However, instead of going to the front, I settled in to side draft off of the rider right behind Wade.

For a moment, I was able to recover a bit. Then at the 200 meter mark Wade made his move. I went with him and then around him. This time (unlike Saturday) I made sure I was in a gear that felt just a tad too big.  I set my eye on the line and went all out.

I heard a commotion behind me and people talking about the riding habits of a particular rider. Then I heard nothing except the swoosh, swoosh of my own tires as the finish line grew closer and closer. This time, no one was inching up beside me. I was putting out over 1000 watts and nearing 40 mph.

Once again, I was the first loser, but it really felt like a win. As a matter of fact, I’m glad I didn’t throw my hands up in the air in celebration! The winner in the break just wasn’t on my mind at that point.

Still, this second place really did feel like a win because of the odd circumstances. It could have played out very similarly only after we brought the breakaway rider back into the fold. However, that is not what happened and that’s racin’.

Second place, in a way, was winning. It moved me into 1st place in the overall scoring for the series with only two races to go. I believe those races set up well for me and I’m looking forward to defending that lead with my mates.

35th and I am still smiling

There is this nagging feeling that tries to rise in my mind. It is a message from inside my head that I should be upset and disappointed. However, it keeps getting obliterated by the smile on my face!

Yes, today was my first race of the 2010 season. I honestly did not know what to think when rolled to the line. This race was going to be a “let’s see what happens” kind of an event. Tebbetts and I waited while all the announcements were made. There was a lot of chatter around us, but we were pretty quiet.

It had already been an awesome day for the POA Cycling Team. The 35+ Masters guys dominated the race. There were eight of our guys out there. We were stacked!

After the first lap I started to walk to my car to get some stuff ready for the race. As I did so, I looked over to see Eric (one of our strongest guys) riding back the opposite direction! Turns out he had broken a spoke. Well, now there were seven guys… though it does make me wonder what would have happened had Eric not had the mechanical!

It was text book. We sent guys off the front right off the bat and when he got caught, another one of our guys would attack. Paul got off the front for two laps. However, it was the Rodney and Darin show at the end. Rodney stretched it out and Darin waited like a cat until the perfect time to go for the line. We got 1st and 4th!

Hank and Randy rolled off for the 45+ Masters race. I kept seeing Hank right up there close to the front lap after lap and then he was there at the end as well. He brought home a 3rd place for the team.

Jonathan leads the field through a turn

Now Matt and I rolled off to see what we could do for the team. We had 5 laps for about 35 miles. We started under beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the 60s.

As usual in this type of category race, nothing really happened for the first four laps. During that time I simply tried to stay in the top fifth of the field. Looking back I think I might have tried a little too hard.

Much of the time I was jumping from one line to another. Often I was in the top 3 to 5 riders. Finally, I realized that was a little too aggressive.  I then tried to stay a bit farther back and concentrate on pedaling as little as possible.

Then things started getting really dicey. A couple of times I had to correct to avoid a rider coming across my front wheel. However, there were three instances that were just too close for comfort!

One time I had a rider on my right and another rider came up beside me on the left. I’m not sure why – perhaps he was pushed over – but he came into me. I held my ground and leaned against him to keep from getting pushed over on the rider to my right.

Another instance I was on the white line and a rider came around my left. He didn’t even look when he cut across my front wheel. I just had to go off the road. Thankfully, the rider behind let me in quickly and I didn’t lose a spot.

Then there was the time we were going downhill and a rider up in front of me checked up. The rider directly in front of me grabbed his breaks. I had no option but to put a pedal down and brush past him to his left.

I went into the last lap with a plan. First, I wanted to get back up toward the front. Unfortunately, for the first part of the last lap I was once again too close to the front. At some points, I was the lead rider “chasing” two riders who had gone off the front with two laps to go.

David Curran then bridged up to the two riders and I followed. We were all together as we left the golf course behind. I was just trying to make sure I was getting my legs in form. I settled in and tried to get oxygen in preparation for the finish.

It was at that point – on what is called 3M hill – that the rider came over on me. Things were starting to get very scary. I am afraid that is what caused me to make the major mistake of the day.

Jim had told me Friday night to go for broke by the railroad track. He and I both didn’t think the best option was to try to advance out of a field sprint. If I was to have a chance, I was going to have to go and hang on before the field could catch me.

Well, all the sketchy riding broke what patience I had. I moved out of about ninth place and tried to build some separation. Looking back I think I should have put a little more into the attempt, but even as I launched I started to second guess my move.

Glancing back I could see that a rider was right on my wheel. Then taking a better look I could see that even though I definitely had the field stretched out, I wasn’t dropping them. I made the decision to pull the chute so I might be able to recover enough to do something at the end.

A positive was that even after that effort, I was able to jump on the wheels of the lead riders. I kept in the front portion of the field over the tracks, into the dip, and then starting up. Matt came flying around and was pulling the field up the hill. I was about five back as we crossed the 1K to go banner.

I was starting to believe that maybe Matt could get a top 5 finish himself. I wasn’t thinking that for myself. I was just hoping that the field behind me was feeling as much in the red zone as myself.

At 500 meters it was about the same. However, then Globalbike and some other teams started coming around me. I countered…

Then I knew it was over. It wasn’t like I gave up. It was just that I felt like I was pumping my legs as hard as I could and I just wasn’t moving fast enough. It was as though I was in slow motion.

At that point I was just trying not to be in the way and salvage what position I could. I felt like a swimmer at the ocean with a wave washing over me. To bad I couldn’t just surf in on them!

I came in on the rear of the field. Talking with Jim afterward he said, “Well, we learned that didn’t work. If it had worked, it would have been awesome!” Yep, it didn’t work, but I’m not complaining.

1) I stayed up. I can’t overstate that. This was one of the first races back after getting back on the bike from last year’s crash. To have contact the way I did and stay clean was a great confidence booster.

2) I was there. Yes, I did not finish well, but no one can say that I wasn’t participating. Perhaps I was participating a little too much!

3) I did have power. I did recover. In the past had I tried that 3M hill stunt, I would have come riding across the finish all alone — way off the back. That I was able to attempt that move – recover – get back in – was a minor victory.

So, what is my take away? I’ve got the legs. I just need the brain. I’ve got to let opportunities come to me. When that opportunity comes, the legs can get me there.

That thought has me smiling.

First race of 2010 is Saturday

It is time to start thinking about this weekend and the first race of my 2010 season. The feelings I’m having are kind of hard to read. Seems that part of me is looking forward to mixing it up again and another part is saying, “Do you really want to do this again?” Well, ready or not… here it comes.

The first race for most people here in Upstate South Carolina is the Greenville Spring Training Series race at Donaldson Center on Saturday, February 20. I went back to last year to check out my post for that race and realized I didn’t participate in that race. On February 16 of last year, I broke my pinkie while filming going downhill on the Furman side of Paris Mountain.

I did make it out to the course on that first day and you can see some video of the field here. The emotions and thoughts of that day are coming back to me now. It was really weird being a spectator and not a participant. I’m very thankful that I’m healthy for this year’s event!

What about Donaldson Center? I’ve never really done well there. Yes, it is home to the Tuesday Night World Championships and I’ve participated in numerous training races there. However, I’ve never seemed to get the rhythm right. Only once have I ever “won” a TNWC and that was one of the last times I rode in the B group.

Check out these videos to get a sense of the course…

First half of the second lap of a five lap ride

Second half of the second lap of a five lap ride

Here are the shortcomings that I believe I must get past in order to be successful.

  1. Be patient. Out there on that course I have a tendency to get real antsy about breaks. I’ve got to be patient and let things unfold a bit without jumping on the front to pull an early break back. The great unknown? How do I know which break to go with?
  2. See the wind. It was said that Dale Earnhart could see the wind while drafting on the super speedways. It is a skill that I obviously was not born with! I’ve got to recognize the effects of the wind and then position myself to take advantage of it in the field.
  3. Ride through it. This is one area where I am very curious to see the results of my training. Typically on this course I go through a challenge on the first or second lap. Most likely because I’m not accomplishing 1 and 2, I find myself really struggling. I have learned that if I just ride through it, I improve. The great unknown? Has my training made it so that this won’t be an issue?
  4. Don’t quit. There have been times in the TNWC races that I have been in the top 5 – 10 within sight of the finish. However, I’ve watched riders go around me. I always chalked it up to, “You’re just not a sprinter.” I’ve also had an amount of fear at the close riding and fast speeds. Well, experience and training has given me some confidence in both of these areas. On Saturday, I’ve just got to let it all hang out.

Of course, having said all that, I realize I will be racing on a team. I don’t know yet how many of my mates I will with me in the Category 4 race. This isn’t an A race for me. It very well could be that my job will be to set things up for a teammate and it won’t be my job to go for a win. Even if that is the case, I do have a low rung goal of finishing above my only official race finish there – 18th.