Tag Archives: Fork Shoals

I’ll take that!

Don’t think I was complaining in yesterday’s post. I’m willing and ready to learn. I’d much prefer to have someone teach me where I might be going wrong then to just let me go my way and make a fool of myself. I’m stoked to be in the great position of being a member of the POA Cycling Team. I can’t think of a better way to learn.

Rodney Dender waits for Fork Shoals race to start

Rodney Dender waits for Fork Shoals race to start

We lined up Saturday’s race with Thomas Smith leading the omnium points for the series. Joining him was Darin Marhanka, Rodney Dender, and Jae Bowen — any of which could win the race. Riding in support of these leaders was Phil Humbert, Mark Caskey, Phil Ball, and myself.

Jonathan Pait wonders if he'll finish the race

Jonathan Pait wonders if he'll finish the race

Before the first lap was over the race was pretty set for the remainder of the event. In the first group was Rodney, Darin, Thomas, and Phil H. Up there with them was Windsong Bicycle Shop rider Charlie Brown.

Thomas and Darin work in the winning break

Thomas and Darin work in the winning break

However, it should be pointed out that what helped set this up was a great early attack and breakaway by Mark Caskey. Not more than a couple miles into the first lap, Mark took off and built a break that lasted up near to the start/finish of the first lap. This made the other teams do the work while the POA team could counter and react.

Mark Caskey takes the pressure off with an early break

Mark Caskey takes the pressure off with an early break

Back in the peloton was Phil Ball, Jae Bowen, and myself. I felt bad that Jae was back here because it would mean that he would drop some in the omnium points standing. He didn’t seem to mind. He was busy working to make sure that Charlie Brown’s teammate Ryan Jenkins was kept out of the mix toward the front.

Phil Ball sits on Ryan Jenkins' wheel

Phil Ball sits on Ryan Jenkins' wheel with Jae and Jonathan following

Unfortunately, Thomas told me that he made a mistake that he thinks cost him the race. As you can see, it was close, but Brown took the win. But just as I am learning to race as an individual, the team is learning to work together as well.

Thomas Smith comes in second

Thomas Smith comes in second behind Charlie Brown

Well, the team must be learning. As I was typing this blog entry, I learned that in today’s Masters 35+ race the team finished 1, 2, 3, and 6. Thomas came home first to hold his position in the omnium. Phil Ball put yet another new name toward the top with a second place finish. I was unable to be there and even if I could have been at the event, I would not have been able to race it since we are allowed only 8 riders per team.

Can’t wait to hear that story!

You’ll notice @eddieheltonphotography.com on each of the photos. Thanks to Eddie Helton for taking pictures at our Greenville events. Check out his site here: eddieheltonphotography.com and see more photos from the races.

Racing can be humbling

I finished my first race of the season today. It was a 47 mile three lap loop of the Fork Shoals course. I participated with my teammates in the Masters 35+ field. It was a humbling experience.

I can’t say it was humbling physically. Due to the dynamics of the race, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Yes, there were some times when I was just hanging on, but I ended the race with something still in the tank.

I say it was humbling because I always seem to do stupid things tactically. I feel like I am out there spinning my legs with everything happening around me. Today was no exception.

We started off and right away there was an acceleration around the first turn. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I hope we don’t go at this pace the whole time!” However, as quickly as the acceleration started, it slowed.

I found myself toward the front. I sat on a wheel for a bit and then that rider rotated off which put me on the point. I settled in to a pace I felt comfortable with and waited for someone to come around.

That person was my teammate, Mark. He attacked around me with about three other riders. I let him go and started soft pedaling. I watched the gap begin to grow. “Hey, I’m helping!” I thought. “Mark is getting away.”

We made our first turn and my teammate Thomas got relegated to the back for crossing the yellow line. I slowed to see if he had any need for help. At that point, Rodney pulled up beside me, “Dude!” He exclaimed. “You can’t be pulling the whole field around like that!” Hmmmmm, I guess I wasn’t helping after all.

“We have the numbers,” he continued. “You, Mark, and Phil are supposed to attack, attack, attack.” They made sense to me. I said, “Okay.” “Also,” he explained, “we have a rider up the road. You should NEVER be on the front.” He pointed at the rider currently on the front, “He can’t cover any counter attacks from there.” That made sense to me. I said, “Okay.”

I started to watch to see when we would bring Mark back into the fold. If I was supposed to attack, then I would do it as soon as we overtook him. I was starting to feel good about myself again because I figured a good attack would redeem me.

The chance never came. About halfway through the first lap everything just started going crazy! There were attacks and counter attacks. I didn’t know which ones to go with. I had teammates covering several moves at the same time and I was afraid I would do something stupid and mess things up.

Finally, I just had to put that out of my mind. With a couple of teammates forming gaps in groups ahead, I just waited for the next wheel to come by and jumped on it. I kept doing that trying to discourage anyone from bridging up to them.

Going into the second lap, things began to settle down. There were now three groups on the road. The first group contained three of our guys. The second group had two or three. Then there was our group with Phil Ball, Jae Bowen, and myself.

In that set, Jae was our lead man. Phil and I would work to help Jae. He was having to keep an eye on Ryan Jenkins who had missed the breaks and was now stuck in the field.

Everyone in the field was watching those two riders. They were playing a game of cat and mouse. For almost the entire second lap this continued.

Once we reached Dunklin Bridge, Ryan attacked and I covered his wheel. I looked down and saw 500 watts flashing across my Garmin. I knew I couldn’t keep this up for much longer. Just about the time I thought he was about to ride me off his wheel, he looked back at me and said, “You’ve got to ******* contribute!”

I was torn. The male in me wanted to pull through. However, the thought that I would be helping a threat get farther down the road didn’t seem like the right thing to do. “This is my job,” I said meekly. Exasperated, he let up and we were swallowed in the field.

Then I started to think about it. We were two minutes behind the second group. The front group was, in the words of the motorcycle official, “long gone.” What would hurt to catch the second group? Maybe I should have pulled through — with what little power I had left.

As we turned onto Cedar Falls road, I pulled up to Jae, “Hey, should we try to get up to the second group?” “No,” he replied emphatically. “We just watch Jenkins. If he goes, I go with him and you and Phil cover anybody trying to bridge up to us.” This made me feel a little better about my earlier decision. “So, we just ride in controlling the field?” I asked. Jae nodded.

Jenkins attacked once again as we neared the start/finish line for the third loop. I got caught behind a slowing rider and then had to work hard to catch the end of the group. In the process, I pretty much pulled the rest of the field to them.

Thankfully, things slowed just long enough for me to recover, but after the turn by the fire station Ryan Jenkins let it all hang out! He started pulling and the field stretched into a single file line. I was just trying to stay on the wheel in front of me.

On the back side of the course which is full of rolling hills, I looked down and saw that riding the wheel in front of me — in the draft — I was putting out 400 watts. I was about to get dropped from inside the field!

I recovered on a downhill and started up the final climb before we turned right again on Dunklin Bridge. “I’m going to make it!” I thought to myself. This would be the first race back since I broke my neck that I would finish. I started to think about the finish.

We went into the turn onto Dunklin Bridge in a wide arching line. As I entered the apex, it felt as though my rear tire was about to roll off the rim. I corrected and once we got straight I looked back. “No way!” I thought, “I’m going flat!” Knowing that we had some tricky descents ahead I didn’t think it wise to try to stay in the field.

I threw up my hand to indicate I had a problem and then moved left to the yellow line. As the field streamed past me and on ahead I took a closer look at my tire. It was not completely flat. It seemed to be a slow leak. I knew I had been having some trouble with the stem, so I figured that must be what was causing it.

Thankfully, there wasn’t much more distance to cover. As the tire got lower the effort it took to pedal increased. I was now alone with a slight wind and a flat tire. I was only hoping that the tire would stay up enough for me to ride to the finish.

Finally, I crossed the line with a sheepish look on my face. The desire was great to do something to let people know that I finished so far back because of the flat. I saw someone I knew over to the side of the road and pointed back at the wheel. I’m not even sure they saw me because everyone’s attention was turned to the Masters 45+ field that was coming up to their finish.

Being humbled isn’t always a bad thing. I learned a lot out there today. Being humbled and learning is wisdom. Being humbled and repeating your mistakes is stupid. I’m sure next race I’ll be humbled again… I just hope it won’t be because I’m stupid.

Now, THAT was a sprint!

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jimmy Helms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll go to bed happy!

Ready to race at Fork Shoals

It’s that time again. I’m getting ready to load up the car and head over to Fork Shoals. Looks like it is going to be a beautiful day for some racing!

First, I am going to be servicing the feed zone for my Master’s teammates. The USA Cycling rules allow for feed zones when a race is over a certain length. These guys will be passing that line and will probably need some fluids in the mid to later half of the race. Hope I make the hand off smooth!

The Category 4 race starts at 11:15. Looks like it will be just my teammate Billy White and me bringing our bikes to the line. It is going to make for some interesting racing. Billy and I are not really in a position to control anything. Like last week at Donaldson Center, we are going to have to play off the riders around us.

My strategy? I really don’t have one. The course itself might help to cut the field a bit. I’ve just go to stay out of trouble and look for opportunities. Hopefully, I’ll be smart enough to recognize when one of those comes my way. My guess is we’ll end up in another field sprint.

I feel much more confident this week. It isn’t a “I’m going to go out there and kill everyone” confidence. Instead it is a more quiet “I’ve been here before. Now, let’s get the job done” kind of confidence. We’ll see what that brings me.

I’ll be reporting my race report here tomorrow morning. Good luck to all the racers out there. Keep the rubber side down!

Saturday will close the door on 2009

Saturday is fast approaching. Time to start thinking about Fork Shoals. Here is to hoping I actually make it to the course.

As I mentioned yesterday, I started feeling pretty rotten in the very early morning Wednesday. After basically confining myself to the bedroom, I woke up this morning feeling a bit weak and empty. The good news was that things seemed to have settled down. Of course, as I type this the breakfast I ate is starting to give me some warning messages.

Hopefully, this will pass today and I’ll only be a little worse for wear come Saturday morning. I certainly plan on giving it my best shot. It is an opportunity for redemption.

I’ve always enjoyed the Fork Shoals course. It was the first race where I had a meaningful finish. I was racing Category 5. Looking back I see that I was disappointed with a 7th place. Well, let me assure you, I now realize how much you should appreciate any finish in the top ten!

That same year I raced again at Fork Shoals. This time it was in the SC State Road Race Championships. My understanding of bicycle racing had grown a bit during that year. I remember that race as one of the most fun races of my life. It was one of those where I seemed aware of everything going on around me and it didn’t hurt that I got a podium finish in my first SC Road Race Championship.

I was looking forward to my first race on the course as a Category 4 rider during the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series. Unfortunately, I broke my finger in a cycling accident and was unable to compete in that event. I would only get one chance at the course during the SC Championships later in the year.

While the Cat. 5 race was one I enjoyed the most, the Cat. 4 race was one of the most frustrating. The field was dangerous that day. There was a lot of checking and swerving. A couple of wrecks happened as the race progressed. However, as we neared the finish, it was shaping up to be an exciting conclusion for the POA boys.

Once again on the Fork Shoals course, I was clearly in contention. There is no doubt in my mind I would have kept my top 10 finish streak alive. Unfortunately, I was taken out by a rider from behind.

Looking back, I know my error. I was on the front of a line of POA riders. My thinking at that moment was to save myself so that I could get a good finish. I measured my output waiting for another team to make a move.

What I should have done was buried myself for the team. Had I been going all out at that point, I would have set my teammates up perfectly. It would have stretched the field out and Matt or Billy could have slingshot around me for a win – or at least a podium finish. As it was, I placed us in a dangerous position where our finish was taken out of our control.

Having said that, the positive is that once again, I was there in the mix on this course. I can only assume that physically I am better prepared to improve my finish. The numbers tell me that I am stronger even here in the beginning of the 2010 season than I was at that point near the end of the 2009 one.

It all comes down to my mind — and my stomach. First I have to get over this virus and then I need to get my mind in the game. I’m looking forward to my coach’s input as to how he thinks I should approach the race.

Last year’s finish was a fluke. I have a desire to show that to all the people teasing me about wrecking – or as it was in truth being wrecked. Fork Shoals 2010 is about redemption and closing the door on last season.

At least I didn’t break my shifter this time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finger talking

I mentioned I would give an update later today about my doctor visit.  I’m very happy to report that I got some good news!  Looks like I’m moving ahead of schedule.

Tomorrow (or today – depending on what time this thing uploads) is the Spring Training Series race in Fork Shoals.  Weather report isn’t looking so hot.  It actually appears to be getting cooler as the morning progresses.

I like this course.  It is a true road race in my opinion.  The terrain is varied and there is just enough climbing involved to keep the sprinter types at bay.  Of course, I’ve only raced the route twice and that was as a category five rider.  My first race there was a seventh place finish.  My last race there was the South Carolina Road Racing Championships where I grabbed a third place.

If you come here looking for video from the day, I’m afraid you won’t find it.  Most likely I will not be going down to Pelzer.  If I could race, I’d be there.  There are no plans though to take my equipment down there in the rain to get a little bit of video at the start finish.

I am seriously contemplating doing one of my races this year with a camera on my bike or helmet.  That would be pretty cool!  The main problem would be the weight on my head.  I’m going to look at some ways to mount the unit on my bike.

Good luck to you racers tomorrow — especially the POA Cycling Team!

Well, I wasn’t the winner

I arrived in Pelzer around one o’clock.  It was nice to get there early so I wasn’t rushing around trying to get ready.  Turns out I had more time that I thought I would.  Our race didn’t get started until more that 30 minutes after the announced start time.

It was soooooo hot.  I had started warming up after checking in and then learned that the race was delayed.  I didn’t want to keep riding around in that heat, so I went and found some shade and tried to stay as cool as I could.  Finally, they called us to the line.

We started off in the neutral zone.  I heard Jimmy Helms yell, “Ride smart, Jonathan!”  I was determined to do exactly that.

I started right up on the start line.  It took nearly the entire neutral zone to get my left shoe clicked in.  I’ve been having some trouble with it lately.  Thankfully, I got hooked up before we started picking up the pace.

The first lap was pretty uneventful.  I kept making sure I stayed in the top ten.  I would do this by riding up near the front until I noticed the front riders starting to get antsy.  I would then allow a rider or two to come around me and I would ride their wheels up past the guys falling off the front.  Doing this, I avoided doing any pulling on the first lap.

I came across the line in fifth place as we started our second and final lap.  Only about 37 minutes to go.  The pace picked up and I noticed some much stronger riders moving to the front.  I couldn’t play my little game as much this time.  I just tried to cover any large number of riders trying to break away.

It wasn’t a large group that ultimately messed me up.  I was near the front and watched two riders go off the front.  One guy looked like he was a pretty fit.  The other guy, to put it simply, was a pretty stocky, older looking guy.  It has been kind of fun riding around guys I knew.  I have ridden with them enough to know who I could let go or who I needed to watch.  However, when it came to these guys, I was in the dark.

I was at the mercy of the field at this point.  I kept myself from trying to chase them down.  I sat in the field watching the two riders sometimes 1000 meters in front of us.  They never really got out of our view, but we never seemed to bring them back.  They were doing a good job.

On the rolling hills of the back side of the course, I thought for sure we would catch them.  Indeed, the gap shrank, but again, we could not come up to them.  We simply could not get organized.  A couple of times a pace line formed, but it went away just as soon as it formed.  It was like everyone was wanting to race for third.

What I was thinking was, “I will not go out there and then have people tell me, ‘There you go again!'”  I wanted to go, but knew I would probably regret it.  I kept trying to go with riders that I thought would try to close the gap, but again and again they just fell apart.

On Dunklin we caught the Cat 5 -34 riders.  They neutralized their race and allowed us to go around.  This allowed the two breakaway riders to get even more distance on us.  We turned right and me and two other riders began to chase in more earnest.  We didn’t have much more time before it would be the moment to turn onto the final climb to the finish.

Just as we neared the left turn to the finish we really started to close.  It was a climb and I saw them start to push it.  I had the choice to try to climb up to them or ease up.  I made the decision to ease up.  At that point with the heat, I was afraid that I would use my last bullet and then end up losing multiple spots.  I still held out hope that the two riders ahead would crack.

I eased up and three riders went around me.  I settled in behind them and set my pace.  There is a spot on the climb when you go over a hill and up ahead you see the 500 meter sign.  I was in a small group at that point.  I moved around them and when I hit the 500 meter mark I started to drop the riders who had passed me earlier.  At three hundred meters I could see the two riders up front and I again picked up the pace.

At two hundred meters I went into a full sprint.  It was actually kind of fun to watch the nearest guy to me just deflate when I started to sprint. I was shocked at the power I still had in my legs.  When I launched I left the other guys in the dust, BUT I didn’t catch the guys ahead of me.  They did a great job and got what they deserved.

Talking with the winner afterwards, I learned he was a tri-athlete and time trials racer for the last eight years.  That would explain his ability to go off the front and stay there.  The other guy was just stout!  I don’t mean in stature, but in endurance.  He did a great job staying with the winner.  The two of them worked as a team while the field couldn’t do anything to counter them.  Good job, guys.  You deserved it.

So, that was that… I got a third place finish trying to chase down the winners.  Of course, I second guess myself as to what I could have done better.  What if I had gone with them when they first separated?  What if I had made the decision to chase them on that final climb before the finish?

I really, really wanted to win that race.  Well, there is always the BMW Summer Series… and the downtown race in October.

Thanks for reading.

Well, I wasn’t the winner

I arrived in Pelzer around one o’clock.  It was nice to get there early so I wasn’t rushing around trying to get ready.  Turns out I had more time that I thought I would.  Our race didn’t get started until more that 30 minutes after the announced start time.

It was soooooo hot.  I had started warming up after checking in and then learned that the race was delayed.  I didn’t want to keep riding around in that heat, so I went and found some shade and tried to stay as cool as I could.  Finally, they called us to the line.

We started off in the neutral zone.  I heard Jimmy Helms yell, “Ride smart, Jonathan!”  I was determined to do exactly that.

I started right up on the start line.  It took nearly the entire neutral zone to get my left shoe clicked in.  I’ve been having some trouble with it lately.  Thankfully, I got hooked up before we started picking up the pace.

The first lap was pretty uneventful.  I kept making sure I stayed in the top ten.  I would do this by riding up near the front until I noticed they front riders starting to get antsy.  I would then allow a rider or two to come around me and I would ride their wheels up past the guys falling off the front.  Doing this, I avoided doing any pulling on the first lap.

I came across the line in fifth place as we started our second and final lap.  Only about 37 minutes to go.  The pace picked up and I noticed some much stronger riders moving to the front.  I couldn’t play my little game as much this time.  I just tried to cover any large number of riders trying to break away.

It wasn’t a large group that ultimately messed me up.  I was near the front and watched two riders go off the front.  One guy looked like he was a pretty fit.  The other guy, to put it simply, was a pretty stocky, older looking guy.  It has been kind of fun riding around guys I knew.  I have ridden with them enough to know who I could let go or who I needed to watch.  However, when it came to these guys, I was in the dark.

I was at the mercy of the field at this point.  I kept myself from trying to chase them down.  I sat in the field watching the two rider sometimes 1000 meters in front of us.  They never really got out of our view, but we never seemed to bring them back.  They were doing a good job.

On the rolling hills of the back side of the course, I thought for sure we would catch them.  Indeed, the gap shrank, but again, we could not come up to them.  We simply could not get organized.  A couple of time a pace line formed, but it went away just as soon as it formed.  It was like everyone was wanting to race for third.

What I was thinking was, “I will not go out there and then have people tell me, ‘There you go again!'”  I wanted to go, but knew I would probably regret it.  I kept trying to go with riders that I thought would try to close the gap, but again and again they just fell apart.

On Dunklin we caught the Cat 5 -34 riders.  They neutralized their race and allowed us to go around.  This allowed the two breakaway riders to get even more distance on us.  We turned right and me and two other riders began to chase in more earnest.  We didn’t have much more time before it would be the moment to turn onto the final climb to the finish.

Just as we neared the left turn to the finish we really started to close.  It was a climb and I saw them start to push it.  I had the choice to try to climb up to them or ease up.  I made the decision to ease up.  At that point with the heat, I was afraid that I would use my last bullet and then end up losing multiple spots.  I still held out hope that the two riders ahead would crack.

I eased up and three riders went around me.  I settled in behind them and set my pace.  There is a spot on the climb when you go over a hill and up ahead you see the 500 meter sign.  I was in a small group at that point.  I moved around them and when I hit the 500 meter mark I started to drop the riders who had passed me earlier.  At three hundred meters I could see the two riders up front and I again picked up the pace.

At two hundred meters I went into a full sprint.  It was actually kind of fun to watch the nearest guy to me just deflate when I started to sprint. I was shocked at the power I still had in my legs.  When I launched I left the other guys in the dust, BUT I didn’t catch the guys ahead of me.  They did a great job and got what they deserved.

Talking with the winner afterwards, I learned he was a tri-athlete and time trials racer for the last eight years.  That would explain his ability to go off the front and stay there.  The other guy was just stout!  I don’t mean in stature, but in endurance.  He did a great job staying with the winner.  The two of them worked as a team while the field couldn’t do anything to counter them.  Good job, guys.  You deserved it.

So, that was that… I got a third place finish trying to chase down the winners.  Of course, I second guess myself as to what I could have done better.  What if I had gone with them when they first separated?  What if I had made the decision to chase them on that final climb before the finish?

I really, really wanted to win that race.  Well, there is always the BMW Summer Series… and the downtown race in October.

Thanks for reading.

A disappointing seventh

After finishing somewhere around 13th last week, I was looking forward to getting out on the course at Fork Shoals and giving it another try. I learned somethings during that race and I wanted to put those lessons in action this Saturday.

Number One: Get to the starting line on time! This week I warmed up by going backward on the course to check out the finishing stretch. I made sure I was back in plenty of time to get to the front. I lined up right behind the Cat 5 34- riders and so I was on the front row when my group came to the line.

It was nice to get at least one of the lessons right.

We were in a neutral zone until we made the first right turn. Though I started on the front row, I didn’t want to stay there. Thankfully, after the turn several riders went around me and I started working to stay in the top ten.

The new wheel set and Force components — if nothing else — made me feel more confident going into the ride, but the shifters were my undoing on the first lap. It happened soon after we turned onto Stockton Road.

I was staying in the top ten and then a rider slowed in front of me. As soon as I eased up behind him several riders accelerated and formed a gap. I moved to cover it. The SRAM was awesome as I shifted from the small front ring to the 50. I moved around the slower riders and bridged the gap in no time.

Then I hit my first problem. I went to shift back to the easier gears. When I shifted I jumped down to the easiest rear gear and the easiest front! Just like that I was pedaling along at 180 rpm. Needless to say, they moved away from me like I was standing still. By the time I got things corrected, I was dropped out the rear of the field!

Don’t panic, just get back on — and don’t try to do it too quickly. By the time we reached Hillside Church Road I was catching the rear of the field. Now it was time to work my way back toward the front.

The good news is that I was feeling much more confident with my riding. I wouldn’t say I was being aggressive, but I was owning my space. There were a couple of times it got dicey. Primarily when we started to climb. Some riders have a tendency to start weaving back and forth and in a tight group you have to time things just right to get past them.

By Dunklin Bridge Road I was back with the top ten. Things were pretty uneventful from that point until we reached the start finish line. I was running seventh as we started the second lap.

I’m sure I used some energy trying to get to that position, but for the most part I was feeling good. Had I stayed smart, who knows what might have happened. As it is, I think I made a fatal error in the second lap.

Because of getting trapped in the pack on the field sprint last week, I wanted to make sure I was in position to 1) break away should the opportunity present itself or 2) be in a position to find a lane in a field sprint. Where I think I erred was getting it in my head that I needed to do this at the start of lap two!

Several riders really picked up the pace and I moved to cover the acceleration. I stayed with these riders up through Cedar Falls Road. Right before we turned off of Dunklin Bridge Road onto Cedar Falls, the front accelerated again. I was there to cover, but so was a group of about 15 other riders.

On Cedar Falls Road things went back and forth. I could tell people were regrouping for the final sprint. It might have been a good time to go, but I was doing the same thing! Looked like it was going to be another field sprint.

As we started up Turner Road I got shuffled back a bit. This time I was on the right hand side. I saw Chris Chapman go flying by on the left and I knew things were starting! We were about 500 meters out at this point.

There was a little window of room along the “white line” (on this road there actually aren’t any lines) and I decided to jump through it. I stood and by the time we got 400 meters out, I was starting to pass on the right. Then with 300 meters to go, the window closed.

Dale Earnhardt would have been proud. I didn’t even let up. When the guy moved into my lane I just eased off into the grass and got around him. 200 meters to go and I was running in the top three!

“I just might win this thing — or at least place!” I thought to myself. At this point I should have gone down in my hooks and thrown my heart rate to the wind. Well, I didn’t go down to the hooks, but I did try to give it my all.

Then I started seeing riders move around me. I knew my legs weren’t doing what they should. I hit a max speed of 27 mph in the sprint. My heart rate only hit 189, but my speed just dropped. I crossed the line at about 22 mph.

I saw a guy coming up behind me on my left. I knew he had a chance to take me at the line, but I just couldn’t seem to get the legs to turn the crank fast enough to hold him off. Right at the line he did me in — by about the width of your tire and wheel rim.

I was disappointed and I am still discouraged. I know I goofed by riding too hard during the early sections of the second lap. However, I don’t think that would have made all the difference. It is my training that needs to step up. Unfortunately, I only have a week before the next race and there isn’t much I can so in that amount of time.

Bottom line is I have got to extend the time I can give an all out effort. I know the bright side is that I improved from 13th to 7th from my first race to my second one. Hey, maybe if I improve that much next week, I’ll win! 🙂