Tag Archives: John James

Giving my fingers a rest

Here is a heads up for regular readers of Low Cadence. I’m going to take a break here for several days. No, this is not the beginning of the end of the blog. This is a planned break and I’ll pick up again in about a week.

Part of it is because I sometimes need to get away from describing rides and such because I lose a little bit of the passion for it. It gets tiring to tell similar stories over and over again. I’m sure it is even worse having to read them!

I’m not able to spend as much time on the bike as I have in years past. Typically I only have a max of 2 hours to spend on the bike. Normally, I have less than 1.5 hours. This means I’m covering the same roads over and over again. There are only so many times I can describe climbing Paris Mountain!

Saturday, I did get a little more time out on the bike. I worked all morning at a conference. Following lunch I took an uncharacteristic nap. It was good for me though and I was feeling good when I finally got on the bike.

I just set my sights to head out on some old roads I had not ridden in some time. I remembered some Thursday night rides I used to love. A bunch of us guys would go out and hammer out in the Travelers Rest area and then finish up the ride with a climb up the mountain. There were some epic battles racing up to the top on those late Thursday evenings in the fading light.

Once out there I made left turn on a road that I normally would have turned right. I was glad I did. At first the road was a little rough with the type of asphalt they used. However, soon it smoothed out and started a long gentle descent. I was exploring roads I had never ridden.

That road led me back to Faris Bridge road. I kept looking for spurs off of this main road to avoid the traffic and to find more roads that I could experience for the first time. Each road kept bringing me back to Faris Bridge. I knew if this kept up, I would end up in the city limits of Pickens.

Thankfully, I was able to turn off towards Dacusville and continue my search for new roads to travel. I was not disappointed. No training plan, no Strava and little to no traffic. The roads wound through rolling terrain under trees and by old mills and houses.

All too soon the time came for me to head back home. Of course, though I was on some new roads to me, they were branching off of more familiar roads. I wasn’t lost and knew how to get home.

So, I set off. Along the way I knew I would head up Old Hunts Bridge road. I remembered seeing there was a Strava segment on that road, but I wasn’t sure where it started and ended. I also had no idea what time I would need to land in order to show up on the leader board.

I decided to just put in a good effort all along the road and see how my time would stack up with those who had already ridden it. The thing about Strava segments is you never know if it is a segment that people really even care to put out an effort for or if it just is a part of normal routes. So, it is very possible that the times represent someone just leisurely riding along.

Well, I get it a bit of a push. There was nothing leisure about it. At the same time, I wasn’t killing myself on it. It was just an effort to gauge how other people had approached the route.

Once back in Cleveland Park, I needed to get a few more minutes it. (Coming back into town always seems to take less time than getting out.) So, I did a couple of laps in the park. Here again, I went with a pretty good effort, but with no intention of laying down a PR around the 2.5 miles circuit.

Wouldn’t you know it, when I got home I found I had landed the Strava KOM for the Hunts Bridge climb and had also bested my KOM time in Cleveland Park by about 10 seconds. I was surprised. It shows me that I have definitely improved my fitness since early spring when I first set the KOM in the park. Now I’m thinking I could pull off a sub-six minute time.

Of course, I logged in to find that John James had smoked the climb up the CVS side of Paris Mountain. I was so excited that I had finally gotten under 15:30 and was in striking distance of the KOM time of 15:15. John then goes and throws down a 14:43!

Enjoy riding! If you just have to have your Low Cadence fix, just head back in the archives. There are plenty of stories back there. Having written here off and on since 2006, there are over 1,600 blog posts! Yeah, I think I’ll give my fingers a rest.

Hope springs eternal

Jim Cunningham is a great coach and he has helped me out a lot. However, he doesn’t know me nearly as well as my “bicycle psychiatrist” John James. I know I’m going to get some good post-race advice from the guy I’ve chased around northern Greenville County for years. So, I head over to Sunshine Cycle Shop to hear that famous post-race question, “Well, do you know what you did wrong?”

It is funny how your brain takes snapshots and sometimes those images don’t match up with reality. This was the case when I came upon the following photo from fellow racer Edward Couvillion’s Facebook profile. I could have sworn I was closer to Clark as we neared the line. Perhaps it is that Clark slowed going across and I closed quickly to his wheel just after this photo was snapped.

SC State Criterium Championship Category 4 finish

Photo thanks to Edward Couvillion

This time John didn’t get a chance to ask the question when I walked into the shop. I popped out with the answer before he could ask. “I went too soon,” I said as I saw him begin to form his first word. “Who told you that?” he asked. “No one,” I replied. “Well, that is what you did wrong,” he continued. “When you came up out of the saddle the other guys were just sitting there and you gave them a free pull closer to the line.”

Then John pointed out something I didn’t realize I did. He told me that as Clark and Benjamin came into my vision I hesitated just slightly. Bottom line is that I never truly committed to the sprint.

This was borne out as I talked with Jim about my power file from the race. In the final sprint, my max power was only 840 watts. That is nearly 300 to 400 watts what I typically hit in a final attack to the line. I may have felt that I was giving all I had, but the bottom line is I never fully committed 110% — and you basically have to commit 120% to win!

Talking through it with Jim and John I came to this conclusion as to what happened. 1) It was the first time I had a lead out. I was hesitant not knowing how to play off my lead out man. When Matt slowed, I attacked, and then he came up to sprint with me; I questioned whether I was going at the right time (Hesitation No. 1). 2) When the other sprinters came off my wheel and entered my vision, I further questioned my decision and let up on the sprint ever so slightly (Hesitation No. 2). That led me to start playing catch up and I was unable to put out the “pop” with which I typically start my attack.

So, does this discourage me? Nope! It gives me renewed hope that I can do this. It isn’t physiological. It is tactical and mental. I CAN beat guys like Clark and Benjamin. The tools are there, I just need to learn better how to use them.

Last race I lost in a field sprint, I determined that I would not quit and lose a spot at the line. I feel that I carried that through in the State Championships. Now, I’ve just got to START correctly.

It is a learning process. Sometimes I think I learn a lot slower than some other people. However, I am learning and even though I may not get an A+ on every exam, I’m always close. Maybe next time… hope springs eternal.

Good luck, John

At 9 AM my friend, John, will head into St. Francis for surgery to repair a broken collar bone. It will be his first time to go under the knife. When I talked to him yesterday, he was nervous and excited — but more just relieved that it would soon be over. Here’s to quick and solid healing to one of the guys that has most influenced me on the bike.

John James

John James awaits the 2009 SC Criterium Championshps

I first met John in the early 90s when I was in grad school. Newly married with no kids, I got me a mountain bike to ride some of the trails that existed back in those days. It was the first time riding a bike since my early childhood.

It was Mike McMillan that invited me to join the shop crew on some of the rides on Piney Mountain (yes, there used to be mountain bike trails where George Hincapie’s house is now located) and sneaking into the back of Paris Mountain State Park to ride on the fire roads. John was in the group, but I thought he was a mute. He didn’t talk much and he seemed to have one expression on his face all the time.

After a time, I eased off of the shop rides. They were just way to fast and technical for me! I started to do more riding by myself as I tried to improve my handling and endurance. Of course, the headquarters for all of this was Sunshine Cycle Shop.

Then I had kids, started a business, got involved in politics, and all kinds of other stuff. It wasn’t long before the bike was gathering dust in the garage. It was actually a vintage Vespa that brought me back into the shop. Mike McMillan was trying to help me get it running.

That introduced me once again to the bicycle. However, this time it was a road bike. I found it was a bit easier to keep up with the group and that is when I started to get to know John a little better.

At first it wasn’t very positive. I thought John was a snob. Turns out, he didn’t think that much of me either. He thought I was one of those flash-in-the-pan riders that would never learn anything and just be in the way.

At first I just avoided him on rides. However, as I slowly started to get stronger, I would end up around him more and more. I also started to hang out at the shop a bit asking questions about how I could be a better rider.

It wasn’t long before I learned that first impressions — even ones that go on for awhile — can’t always be trusted. Ultimately, it was John who ended up making me believe that I could actually ride the bike quite well. He was the one that took me under his wing to explain how you are supposed to behave in a group ride — or race.

That is really one of the great things about cycling. It is an activity that gives you common ground with people across social, cultural, and personality divides. Before long you find that you are knocking down some of your preconceived notions and you discover a friend.

John will probably kill me for posting this. He doesn’t like the attention. Maybe that is why I’m enjoying doing it!

Thanks, John, for being a mentor and a friend. Get that collar bone set and get better soon. Summer is coming and I’ll miss you on the Thursday night death march!

Seeing Red

It took awhile for my part of the team order to arrive from SRAM. It gave me time to consider the bike on which I would put the components. I finally decided on the white Giant.

SRAM Red is finally on the bike

SRAM Red is finally on the bike

John James, at Sunshine Cycle Shop, normally puts my bikes together, but he is out of commission with a broken collar bone.  John isn’t going to be building bikes any time soon! He broke it Sunday and won’t have surgery until next week. Thankfully, Mike stepped in and built up the bike yesterday.

Ouch!

Ouch!

The only bad thing is that I was stuck on the trainer yesterday for my hour and a half session. Thankfully, there was a program on National Geographic Channel about the Bugatti Veyron.  Wow! The speed is impressive, but the technology behind it is incredible!

Bugatti Veyron - top speed 253 mph

Bugatti Veyron - top speed 253 mph

The technology behind the SRAM shifters is pretty cool too. It took me a little bit to get used to the double-click action when I first switched over a couple years ago. Now, I can’t imagine using any other option.

Yes, it looks great and that is part of the allure. It also has saved me several grams in weight. Besides, any cyclist will tell you there is nothing like a new set of components.

I’m ready to roll for 2010. Even on the trainer the shift action felt great. The road is going to feel even better. Stay tuned for some pictures as soon as the weather cooperates.

How I came to be on the POA Cycling Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Max Heart Rate

Today was Tyler Crotts’ last official Hour of Power ride before he heads off to Brevard College for the year.  I don’t think it will be his last Hour of Power for the year though.  I’m sure he’ll be coming back so his elders can help keep him humble.

I was still feeling the effects of Thursday night’s ride.  It was a tough one, and I didn’t sleep that well Thursday or Friday night.  I knew the alarm was about to go off before it rang.  After an inner battle, I finally rolled out so I could be there to kick Tyler’s you-know-what.

The first order of business was to pump up my tires that had been switched a bit.  I had taken my tires from my race wheel set and moved them to my training wheel set.  My regular riders were starting to show threads.  It seemed like a good idea to get some more out of the race tires while getting my race wheels all prepped with new rubber for the SC Road Race Championships.

Wouldn’t you know it… the tube exploded at 100 psi.  I didn’t have time to change the flat.  I just threw my front SL on the bike and headed for the shop.

Pulling up I found a good crowd ready to roll out!  There were several levels of riders represented.  Of course, the ones I noticed first were the number of Greenville Spinners Bicycle Race Team members.  Randy was bringing some reinforcements!

Hmmmm, John James was the only other POA guy there.  It would be just the two of us.  Oh boy, and there was Jeff Cash.  Tony was there as well, but he was riding his cross bike.  The sprints could be interesting today.  I’m sure Tyler would be gunning for one himself.

The first test came at the pee-tree sprint on Meece Bridge Road (click to see the infamous tree).  The Spinners started the train.  Looking ahead, I saw Jeff, Randy, and one other rider breaking away.  John was sitting holding a steady pace and letting them move.  I decided to bridge up so I could recover a bit before fighting it out.

I caught them and moved onto Jeff’s wheel.  He was the one I was watching out for.  The plan was to match his acceleration until we crested the small rise about 300 meters or so from the finish.  Then I would attack from third wheel.

It never happened.  John came flying around and Jeff jumped on his wheel.  I held my pace to let those two guys go for it.  I figured my chances were pretty good with John.  I might as well save myself for the next battle.

It came sooner than I thought it would!  Before I knew it we were pulling onto Grove Meadow Road.  This is the “pace-line road.”  It is a long stretch without stop signs.  We typically end up getting in a single line pace-line and move along at around 22 – 24 mph.

I got on the front first.  I figured I would get my pain out of the way early so I could recover before turning up the quarry road.  It worked like a charm.  As we turned onto Keller Road, I was about 10th and sat in for the next couple of minutes before we hit the bottom of the climb.

John started them up with a nice steady pace.  I stayed in my 53 and just launched a do-or-die attack from behind.  Looking back was not an option.  However, I know now that John picked up a “false” pace as though he was coming after me and others sat on his wheel.  It bought me some more time.

My goal was to stay in this attack mode until I reached the false flat.  I didn’t make it.  I had to shift down and recover about 50 meters from my target.  Later I noticed that my computer had me pegging 197 bpm at that point!

Once I did make it over the hump, I hazarded a glance behind and didn’t see anyone.  I was now moving at around 16 mph and trying to recover a bit.  Then I looked back again to see a lone rider coming up behind me.  It was Jeff.  He was just coming around this corner – this picture is from the vantage point about where I was.

No way was I going to give it up after suffering so much!  I grabbed some more gear and tried to stay over 20 mph. Thankfully, it worked and my go-for-broke attack paid off… but I’d say two matches went up in smoke at once with that one!

It took me until the State Park entrance sprint before I was recovered enough to give it another go.  Right away I messed up because I got separated from John’s lead out because I got caught behind some slower riders.  Things worked out though because the break came to a halt due to a car stopped in the middle of the road.

Seems that these folks stopped to talk to some people standing on the shoulder of the road.  As we came up on them and began to make our way around the stopped vehicle, we noticed that the people on the shoulder of the road were attempting to coax a pot-bellied pig to move out of the ditch.

The pig out of the way, we started ratcheting things up again.  I got on Jeff’s wheel as he was following Tyler.  Web Fitton and Randy Hutchison were also in the mix at that point.  However, as we hit the bottom of the climb… it was Tyler, Jeff, and me.

Then things got dicey – and it had nothing to do with a pig.  Jeff and I had momentum taking us right onto Tyler’s wheel.  I could see Jeff was getting ready to move on Tyler, but I realized I could get the jump on him by pinning him behind Tyler while I moved up the right side.

I made my move, but Tyler must have been aware of Jeff because he moved to the right.  That brought Jeff over to me and for a moment the three of us were bar-to-bar with me tight-rope-riding the white line.  Thankfully, none of us touched and Jeff and I drag raced for the line.

After that, John played spoiler for Art and took Oak Leaf.  On Nature Trail Jeff finished strong by holding off John.  We all rolled into the shop pretty tired, but with lots of stories to tell.

It was such a beautiful day, I decided to put in some extra miles and did an easy spin down Chick Springs to Main Street.  From there I did a couple laps of Cleveland Park and then went home.  A very profitable 45 mile morning.

Speaking of beautiful…  If you get a chance, click on the links I’ve placed in the post.  They are Google Street Views of some of the points on our ride.  Of course, these were taken in the winter, but if you play around with the views, you can get a good idea of the terrain and scenery that we get to enjoy around here.

Punch drunk

One of the enduring aspects of the Rocky Balboa character was that he never won with good technique.  The boxer, played by Sylvester Stallone, would basically wear his opponent down and frustrate them by presenting himself as a human punching bag.  Well, last night, I was Rocky the Rider.

Going into the ride I had no plan except to try to stay near the front.  By the end of the first lap of five at Donaldson Center, I was sitting on the front.  The “warm-up” lap went easy until we were past the golf course.  Then things picked up and I’m not even sure exactly how I ended up pulling through.

I moved over to the right to let those behind me go.  I moved over to the  left to allow someone to pull through.  Finally, I just sat up and rode at my own pace.  At last someone moved up in front of me.

The second lap was more of the first.  I was trying to stay near my teammate Reece.  Chances were that if a break formed, he would be in it.  I had delusions of being there with him.  We were behind about four other riders when he said, “You can go with any of these guys.”  What he meant was these were the riders who could start a break and make it stick.  Later he told me they were all pro/1/2 riders.

Toward the end of the lap – just over the railroad tracks – Brian Flinte and I bumped as we were wanting the same piece of real estate behind a particular wheel.  It was no big deal.  Our hips bumped a bit, but we both kept it under control.

Of course, behind us, you would think the world was coming to an end.  “Whoa!” “Watch it!” etc.  I heard Pappy grumbling behind me.  I felt like turning around and saying, “Right, and you guys have never bumped into anyone?”

It never pays to let something like that get to you.  Pappy came around me and pulled in between myself and John James, whose wheel I was trying to stay on.  Then coming out of the dip up the hill to the fire station, he just up and took off after a couple of riders that had broken away.

Jumping on his wheel I made the stupid decision to follow him up.  Why?  I don’t know.  I guess it was because I was going to annoy him.  The two of us actually got a gap on the field and neared the two riders ahead before Glenn moved over.  I pulled the short remaining distance.

When I got there, one of the riders sat up while the other one counter-attacked.  No way was I going to be able to go with that one.  As a matter of fact, my thought to myself was, “Why on earth did I do that?”  It wasn’t long before we were overtaken.

That began my Rocky impression.  I would move into the front riders and mix it up – sometimes pulling and one time attacking in hopes that the field would stretch and Reece with his pals could go off the front.  However, I would expend a bit too much energy and have to slide back to recover.  As I did, invariably I would come near John James.  He said the same thing every time, “Don’t go any further back.”

The good news is that each time I was able to work my way back to the front.  Finally, in the fourth lap, I decided to back off a bit.  I knew I only had about three matches in my matchbook.  Two of them had already gone up in flames.  I needed one for the end.

I settled in behind Paul Mills knowing his wheel would be a safe one and one that could guide me through the crowd.  The end came and I was pretty far back – probably thirty riders were in front of me.  However, I was feeling pretty good as we started into the dip.  Coming around on the left side I was making up ground quickly.

By the time we reached the buildings, the line was strung out and there were only fifteen or so riders ahead of me.  I was joined by my teammate Matt Tebbetts.  Once we reached the fire station, I determined I was not going to take the first position and I sat up.

It was a fun night!  A couple times I was encouraged by the reaction of riders around me.  The first time was as we were finishing the first lap.  I was kind of staggered out to the side of a line.  From behind me I heard the voice of a local pro saying, “Come on in the line, Jonathan.”

Later in the evening I got pinched over to the side of the road.  I had to move over and then over and finally I went in the grass.  It was tricky getting back on because the asphalt was several inches high at that point.  Once again, I heard a voice, “Come back in, Jonathan.”  Someone was opening a spot for me to get back in.

If you ever ride in a competitive group, you will understand why it meant a lot to me to have the guys do that.  I try my best to be courteous and not over react when someone does something stupid around me.  I’d like to think that those feelings are reciprocated when I do something immature.

The State Road Race is the next thing on my agenda.  I’ll be taking it easy in the next POA crit (is that possible?).  If I’m riding as well then as I was last night, I think that I will have a pretty good chance at a nice finish in Fork Shoals.  Well, that is unless I go and pull a Rocky Balboa!

Time for a break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour De France Fatigue Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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