Tag Archives: Luis Sanchez

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.

Better to hit the grass than an SUV

In an effort to pull myself out of my funk, I decided not to do the Asheville race on Saturday. The plan was to go out and just have some fun riding with the guys. Turns out what should have been a simple effort turned into a ride of survival.

I showed up at the Hour of Power ride with my Garmin set to show only my speed and distance. No heart rate readings and no power data was going to distract me from just having some fun. I might ride hard. I might take it easy. I had no agenda.

Things started off well enough and I even did a number on the guys and took the Meece Bridge Road sprint in commanding fashion. Better yet, I was still feeling pretty good afterward. Perhaps this could be the day that things would turn around.

Between that sprint and the quarry road sprint, we have a section where we form a pace line and go for a couple of miles at a good pace. I got on front early on and started to pull the line. Looking down I could see I was holding a steady pace of around 23 mph and feeling more power was in the tank.

As we hit the base of the quarry road challenge, I wasn’t sure how I was going to work things with Tyler. He had said he was going to go for it on this one. It didn’t matter to me, but I wasn’t sure if he would prefer that I help pace him up for the win or if he would want to beat me. I decided he would probably prefer to beat me.

Turns out he wasn’t the one I needed to be concerned with. Randy Hutchison was there in his Greenville Spinners’ Race Team kit. He had given me a run for my money on Meece Bridge and now he was attacking right away on this climb following the wheel of Luis.

I love Luis, and he is a great guy to get behind at the start of an attack, but I knew he wasn’t going to sustain that all the way to the top. Randy on the other hand might easily use the pull to get a good jump on me. It was time to move.

They stayed ahead until we reached the false flat. By just putting out a steady tempo, I managed to pull myself and Tyler up to them without overdoing it. Then it was time to sit and recover before the next effort.

Randy was behind Luis (who was still there on the front as we neared the final turn) and I began to move out around them. My plan was to trap Randy behind Luis as I attacked. It would allow me to get a bit of a gap on him and that might be all the difference.

As I attacked I swung just a little too wide to the left and it opened a space for Randy. I just had to put the hammer down. It seemed to be working because a quick glance between my legs showed empty road. There was still some time.

However, rather than just spinning it out to the end, I eased slightly to shift to my big ring thinking I could bring that up to speed and put the nail in the coffin. Problem is, I never got the chance. Just as I starting to turn the pedals Randy came by me. Of course, I was in too big of a ring to respond. I let him go. He played that one well.

Then the ride went south.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

I have become experienced on the bike enough that I don’t cause other people to wreck. However, I have not yet learned those bike handling skills that help keep me from being wrecked by other people. Is there a text book out there I could study?

We were in an easy pace line between zones. I had moved to the back just taking it easy. My wheel was lined up right behind the rider before me. Suddenly, he slowed and moved to the left.

I avoided my brakes in attempt to keep from having the rider behind me plow into me. My bike shifted slightly to the right and my momentum carried my front wheel up near axle of the rider in front. This is called overlapping – or crossing wheels.

The ride ahead weaved back toward the right pushing me near the edge of the road. I was flirting with the edge of the asphalt when he served back toward the left. Ahhhhh, I slowed some and moved back away from the edge. Unfortunately, he moved back my way one more time and I couldn’t avoid it this time. It had only taken a couple of seconds.

My bike slipped off the road into the thick grass and I did a Jens Voigt into the shoulder of the road. The first thing I felt hit was my head. It turned and I felt my neck wrench. Then it was my right arm and shoulder. I was too worried at that moment about my head hitting to think about what was happening to my legs.

Embarrassed, I disentangled myself and jumped up. Because I went down in the grass, the bike appeared to be in good shape. There were no wounds on my upper body, but I could see blood pouring from my knee. All in all, I felt pretty good with the fact I hadn’t broken anything.

Then someone pointed out that my right shifter was broken. No way! This is the second SRAM Force shifter I have had to break in the same place. Yes, I know, I wrecked, but still! Two times in the same spot tells me that they could come up with a better design.

The day wasn’t over. Thankfully, the bike shifted fine and if I held the lever a certain way, I could still brake. There was still opportunity to salvage the ride.

Randy attacked early on the State Park Road sprint. I was pacing myself to slowly pull him back when Luis came around me and yelled for me to hop on. I did and it was fun to watch the space between Randy and us get eaten up without me having to work hardly at all.

As we neared him, I saw him glance back. He was aware of us and I knew he would tried to accelerate and get in our train. I needed to break his draft. As Luis began to come around him, sure enough Randy sped up. However, I swung wide left which disrupted the draft for him. Once I saw we had gapped him, I moved back to Luis’ wheel. It worked.

We really needed one more rider, but I had to do what I was dealt. Luis had to drop off before the descent to the bottom of the dam. I was going to have to work a bit for this one. I put the hammer down and came around the turn that is followed by the quick descent.

Up ahead I saw a truck in the road. He looked to be driving slowly along. I was moving at nearly 40 mph by this point. There were no brake lights, but suddenly it dawned on me that the guy wasn’t moving! The distance was closing fast.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop. I looked ahead and saw there were no cars coming. About that time he saw me and put his truck in gear. All I could do was swing wide to the left and come around him.

My momentum was messed up and my timing was as well. I have the timing down for exactly when I need to shift my gearing for the climb. The truck incident messed me up and I was caught in too big a gear with no momentum. Tyler came around me and there was nothing I could do.

Still, the success was in the fact I didn’t plaster myself to the back of an SUV!

This morning I am soooooore. My neck is stiff and my right shoulder hurts. It will work out. Maybe yesterday was just what I needed to purge myself of the bad vibes. You’ve got to think that things will turn for the better at some point.

A race in pictures

I have the pleasure of having my own photographer for my races at the POA Cycling Summer Series.  My wife’s brother, David, has shown up for nearly every race and sometimes brings his camera.  He has a pretty good eye for good shots, so I look forward to what he comes up with.  Here are just a few of the shots that help tell the story of the race from July 30, 2009.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

One of the best things about being on the POA Cycling Team is that it allows me to race with some guys that I have been riding with for years.  Luis is one of the guys in my category that I have ridden with the longest.  We go back some time on the Saturday morning Hour of Power rides.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

I’ve learned that you need to have some calories in the old tank if you want to have the power toward the end.  Taking a gel just before the start allows it to start kicking in during the second half of the race.  Now, if I could just figure out how to put extra oxygen in a gel pack…

In the scrum at the start.

In the scrum at the start.

I got to the line a little late and ended up with nearly 20 riders in front of me as we left the line.  There were a good number of teams represented with only a couple of unattached riders.  My teammate Sam was one of the three ladies in the race.  The ladies and the Juniors were mixed in with us 4’s and 5’s.

Four POA teammates all together.

Four POA teammates all together.

The above picture is one of my favorites from the night.  You can see Matt coming into the center of the picture.  Luis is behind him and to his left.  I am coming up on his inside.  Between Matt and me you can see Billy in the background.  We just needed Sam in there and all of us would have been in this one shot.

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

That is Jae on the front.  He ended up winning the race.  Matt is right behind him and he took second.  Third in line is Peter.  He was in the break for a bit, but ended up sliding back.  I don’t know what his finish ended up being, but I know it was in front of me!

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Part of the fun of the night was helping to control the front of the chasing field while the break built up a lead.  Of course, we were hoping that Matt would be able to take care of himself.  This was a pretty hot corner.  Later in the Pro 1/2/3  race a GlobalBike rider went in too hot and realized if he tried to hold it, he would take out most of the field.

He straightened up and bunny hopped the curb.  The only problem was that there was a water retention area on the other side.  He went over the curb, hit a root, and then slid down in the hole.  Thankfully, he missed the rocks at the bottom, but his back and knee got pretty skinned up.  Wonder how he has been sleeping lately?

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

If you click on the above image, it will enlarge.  If you look closer at me, you can see I am blowing out.  I’m trying to pull as much air into my lungs as I can.  Unfortunately, this night it was almost as though I had asthma.  I just couldn’t seem to get enough air into my lungs.  That is why I look like a blow fish.

A picture of me blowing up

A picture of me blowing up

Speaking of blowing.  This is where I blew up.  This would be in the last five minutes of the race.  I’m trying to hang on.  It seemed like every time I thought I might be recovering, it was time to climb that dratted hill again.

Well, I have one more chance at this course this year.  I need a new picture.  I need one of me coming across the line celebrating a win.  That is a picture I like to see in my mind.

What is wrong with me?

Before I jump into today’s post let me remind everyone here in Greenville that while you’re eating lunch, Bryant Young will be starting off on his individual time trial out in Bend, Oregon.  He has been keeping us informed of his attempt to earn a spot for the Para-Cycling World Championships at his website Amputeeinaction.org.  His start time is 9:35 out on the west coast. Give out a cheer for him!

Now, about last night… It was a fun race and yet a discouraging one.  It was great to see my teammate Matt Tebbetts fight it out with the winner and take a well-deserved second place.  It was discouraging because I actually saw him cross the line as I was being lapped.

The race started with me feeling pretty neutral. I had only ridden once since Saturday and that was an easy ride with my son. The reason for that was out of concern that I was worn out.  I have not been riding well lately and I hoped maybe that was the fix.

I got started a little toward the back of the field of 37 riders and it took me a number of laps on the .47 mile course to work my way toward the front.  So far so good.  It would have been better had I not needed to work that extra bit, but here I was in the first quarter of the race in a good position.

Blair was going prime crazy – he called a prime on the very first lap of the night.  Kirk Flinte decided that it was the night to rack up on all the goodies. He worked for most of the first half of the race winning them from out of a three rider break that dangled about 8 or so seconds off the front of the field.

For a portion of that I had a good view because I was pacing the chasing field.  I figured they would be coming back, so I didn’t push very hard.  I just felt more comfortable going through the corners when I was on the front.  Looking back, that might have been one of the things that got me later in the evening.

The reason why is because it was very windy.  The headwind was pretty strong and being on the front allowed me to get the full brunt of it.  The wind seemed to be the worst right as you were finishing the climb into the turn at the start/finish line.

Then I did something else not so smart. Just as we were catching Kirk, Blair called for another prime.  I saw that there was just a small gap between us, so I decided to make sure Kirk earned this one.  I attacked out of the group and put a little pressure on him.  He still won it as we crossed the line with my wheel about at his pedals.  There was some more energy needlessly burned.

Things got fun when three other riders went off the front.  One of them was my teammate Matt Tebbetts.  I could tell from the make up of the riders that though it was a small group, it could be one to stick.  I started backing off and simply covered the front of the field.

Just as I was getting a little tired, Billy came up and took over the duty of controlling the front of the field.  Luis was there as well.  We alternated several times in the last third of the race.  It was cool to watch Matt and his group get farther away as we worked to control the pace.

I did feel sorry for the GlobalBike guys.  They are a strong team and you could tell that most of the riders were expecting them to do all the work.  Two of them moved to the front to try to get something going and I moved onto their wheels.  They gave it a valiant effort for several laps, but I would not pull through — no one else would either. Finally, they backed off.

Billy came back to the front and I went back. Then someone up front (maybe the GlobalBike boys again) ratcheted it up again.  We were nearing the last eight or so laps.  Then it hit me.  I couldn’t breathe.

I don’t mean that I was gasping for air and about to die.  I mean that I couldn’t seem to pull enough air into my lungs.  It was as though my diaphragm had tightened up and wouldn’t allow my lungs to fill.  My mid-section felt as though it was starting to cramp.

Perhaps it was the heavy, hot, humid air.  Whatever the case, my legs were feeling pretty good, but without being able to breathe I could not keep up the energy.  I slid toward the back.  I was trying to gulp in air and not get dropped.  It wasn’t working.

One time just as I was losing contact, Paul Mills came around (he was doing some warm up laps) and pushed me from behind.  It got me onto the rear again and I managed to stay there for a couple more laps.  Then things just shut down and with about three laps to go my motor just quit.

I got lapped two times before the race ended. I tried to help Matt out even then by calling out split times and cheering him on as he came by.  I took comfort in the fact that I had helped build those time gaps. It just was disappointing that I was unable to finish in the field.

There is something wrong.  I just don’t have it anymore.  Earlier in the year I was doing much better.  My first race was a fourth place finish.  The first POA Summer Series crits had me finishing 11th and 13th – in contention.  However, now I seem to be croaking at the end of every competitive ride I try.  Even the Saturday morning Hour Of Power rides have me sucking wind by the end.

Do I need to ride more? I don’t think it is that I need to ride less. Is it just that I need to make better use of the time that I do ride?  It is true that I race to ride, but I hate losing.  More than that, I hate not being in a position to win even if I don’t finish first.

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!

A tale of two rides

I woke up before the alarm went off.  The light of the already rising sun was coming through the window.  Over on the dresser were the various items I would need for my morning ride.  After a bit of psyching myself up, I rolled out of bed to get ready to head out to Sunshine Cycle Shop for the Hour of Power.

Friday’s recovery ride had my body feeling pretty good.  The calf that has been giving trouble still hurt slightly, but not nearly as bad as the morning before.  I figured after getting a bite to eat, I would be ready for some fun sprinting.

As I pulled into the lot, I could see a good number of riders.  A quick glance showed that the normal sprinters weren’t around.  Luis was the only one I could see.  Bob sometimes mixes it up, but there was no John, Tyler, Tony, Peter, or any of those guys.  Hmmmm, this could be interesting.

Then Mike came out and announced that we were going to do the traditional route backward.  I guess there would be no need to have anyone there going for the sprints – we wouldn’t know where to attack.  Suddenly, my morning was taking on a whole different feel.

Turns out it was okay.  It was a pretty good workout.  You think that the route will be easier because there are so many long climbs going the traditional route.  However, what goes up must come down.  The difference is that the backward route has more short “popping” climbs.

The one negative was that our stops to wait for the slower riders were much longer.  It was much harder to get the feeling of a sustained effort.  Most times it was Luis, JWinn, Billy (who joined us after the ride started), and myself building a gap and then waiting.

I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t had the down times I would have averaged some solid wattage for the entire ride.  What that means is that this route is not easier.  As a matter of fact, my average wattage was 189 watts for the entire ride.  Compare that with 162 watts of one of my recent Hour of Power rides.  The climbing?  This morning we climbed 3038 feet cumulative.  The traditional route takes us over 3020 feet.  This route is looking harder all the time!

Still, it just didn’t seem as fun and it didn’t seem to be as good of a work out.  For most part, though, it was good to mix things up.  I’m sure we’ll be doing it some more in the future.

Once back at the shop I hung out for a bit, but I was feeling like I needed to get a bit more in on my legs.  I mentioned to Bob that I was planning on getting in some more miles and he decided to go with me.  It was a simple ride, but it was a great one.

It wasn’t the route.  It was basically an over and back of Altamont Road.  The one change was that Bob decided to take us on Audubon Road.  Other than that we headed over to Furman to cool down in the shade before heading back up to the top and then returning to the shop.

First, it was fun to hang out with Bob.  It seems like a long time since the old crew had been together on one of these rides.  With just the two of us it was kind of like old times.  We were taking it easy, so there was time to talk.

After cresting the top, I started down at an easy pace.  Bob followed.  The air was cool because of the shade and the wind created as I descended.  Over to the right I could see out toward the mountains in the distance.  The bike shifted easily beneath me as I carved my way through the curves.

It was during this section that I got hit with that thought.  It is a sensation that every cyclist experiences.  It is that almost giddy feeling that comes to your upper chest and pops up on your face as a smile.  I call it the “everything’s right with the world” feeling.  You might want to call it a “Now THIS is why I ride my bike” experience.

Of course, we had to turn around and head back.  As we started up Altamont, I told Bob I wasn’t going to press my lap button to time the climb.  This one was going to go unrecorded.  We discussed what we thought our times might be.  I guessed it could be anywhere between 16 and 18 minutes.

What a difference it makes riding with someone!  The climb seemed to go much faster with someone to talk to and get encouragement from during the hateful sections.  As we neared the top, I saw a lone rider ahead of us.  It was an encouragement to keep my pace up and perhaps we could catch him before the top.

He must have heard us talking because he picked up his pace.  As we neared the wall I said to Bob, “He can have it.”  Then we turned onto that final climb.  I put my head down and just began to pace it up.  When I glanced up, I saw that the rider ahead was much closer now.  Then I went around him.  Whew!  He was suffering!

At the top I glanced at my computer.  Yes, I didn’t use the timer, but I couldn’t help but notice the time of day as we started the climb.  Turns out we covered the two miles in 15 minutes and 30 seconds.  That really wasn’t so bad for not trying.

Right there at the first turn from the top was a dad and his two daughters with a lemonade stand.  The Life’s Little Instruction Book says to always stop and buy lemonade from these young entrepreneurs, so we pulled up and got a couple of cups.  Wow!  That was some great lemonade!

From there is was an easy ride back to Sunshine Cycle Shop.  That second 22 mile ride took as long to complete as the earlier 28 mile one.  We climbed nearly as much, though we didn’t work quite as hard.  If I had to rate the two, I’d have to give the second one the higher score.

Overall it was a good day – and a good week.  I’ve finally started getting in some +100 mile weeks.  Yep, I haven’t had a 200 mile week in ages.  This month has been my biggest month yet for the year with over 450 miles.  In the past, July has always been a good mileage month.  I’m looking forward to it.

Brain dead

It was the June segment of the POA Cycling Summer Series last night.  I arrived a little fearful.  My calf muscle had bothered me for the last couple of days and I had visions of it seizing up early on in the event.  Turns out it wasn’t my leg that cost me a good finish.  It was my brain!

In the cat 4/5 race we do 35 minutes plus 2 laps.  This means we normally get 35 laps or so in on the near .5 mile course.  We’ll finish up in less than 40 minutes.

Last night there were 37 of us lined up for the race.  There were a good number of GlobalBike club team members on hand and I figured they would give a good showing.  I had Sam, Luis, and Matt with me.  Oh, yeah, Tyler Crotts was there as well.  He factors into the story later.

Right from the start things got hopping.  Matt took off to start a break and I followed.  Five minutes into the race we had a gap on the field.  Unfortunately, my old body has to warm up before I can start doing things like that!

As we were rotating through, I started to struggle and said to my break partners, “I’ve got to back off.”  I didn’t want to hold Matt up if he was feeling good.  I realized I would just slow them down.  Later I learned that they thought I said, “Let’s back off.”  We all slowed and were caught.

It was time to go to mid-pack and recover.  One thing I’ve learned it that no matter how you feel, you cannot go to the rear of the field – at least not on this course.  I sat in and tried to recover.

Honestly, 15 minutes in I nearly pulled off the course.  I felt really, really bad.  Thankfully, I’ve been there before I knew I just had to ride through it.  I began to concentrate on staying near some of the GlobalBike riders and that took my mind off my body enough for me to effectively recover.

Twenty-five minutes in I started to find that I was unintentionally starting to make my way closer to the front.  I don’t know if it was because other riders were slowing or I was feeling better and speeding up.  Perhaps it was a combination.  One thing for sure, I was feeling much better.

That is when I started thinking about the finish.  It entered my brain that the race was 30 minutes plus two laps.  I decided that at 30 minutes, I would attack going up the slight incline on the backside of the course.  If I could get a good enough gap, perhaps I could hold on for the two or three laps I would need.

Around the time I started my move I looked ahead and saw there was someone else who had already attacked off the front.  It was Tyler Crotts – my trash talking nemisis.  Maybe the two of us could connect and help each other out.

The first part worked.  I came out of mid-pack and got a gap before there was any reaction.  I went through turn four and started to climb.  About mid-way up the climb I caught Tyler.  I looked back as I came around him to see if he was able come along.  Tyler wagged his head and stuck his tongue out.  He was done.  I was now alone.

Oh, well, I would just have to put my head down and give it a go.  After the first lap, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  As I would make a turn, I looked back to see the field.  As I came around turns two and three, I didn’t see any chasers.  Good.  Just nail out a steady pace and try to hold on.

It had registered vaguely in my mind that our race announcer, Blair, had not been calling out any lap countdown.  As I came around to finish my first lap on the break, he still was talking about me breaking away – not the amount of laps left.  Could I stay out here for two more laps?  It did help that I also heard the voices of people on the sidelines cheering me on.  I can’t remember who or what exactly they said, but it was a cool feeling.

The next time around was a heart break.  I had started feeling a little tired and wasn’t pushing it nearly as much as before.  It was about 33 minutes in and I heard Blair say as I passed, “5 laps to go.  5 laps to go.  Can Jonathan hang on?”  Funny, hearing those words completely demoralized me.  “No,” I thought to myself, “He can’t.”  Perhaps I could put pressure on the field to chase and allow Luis and Matt to sit in and then make a move.

I hung in there and lead another lap.  I made it around turn one and looked back.  When I was halfway between turns one and two I could see the field coming out of turn one.  I was done.  They caught me between turns two and three – right where I had started my attack.  I tried to stay on, but remember what I said about avoiding the back of the pack.

Three laps to go and Tyler and I were now riding along together.  We talked and still maintained a respectable speed over those last laps.  The last thing I wanted to do was to get lapped.  Number one, I just hate the idea of not finishing on the lead lap.  Number two, I don’t want to be in the way when the riders pick up speed!

We avoided getting lapped and as we crossed the line, we did it wheel-to-wheel so neither of us could say we beat the other (though I do have to point out that I was scored in 20th place – the last possible scoring position, I didn’t see Tyler on the scoring sheet).  It was a fun night.  Yes, I didn’t get the finish I wanted, but I definitely wasn’t just field fodder.

Had I not been brain dead and started my attack a little later, who knows what the evening might have held?  Oh, my calf muscle?  It felt great during the race.  However, by the time I cooled down afterwards, it was already tightening up again.  The Beautiful Redhead tells me that it is trying to send the message that I need to be on the bike more.  That would be nice…

Remember the joy of “just riding”

I have a confession to make.  My bike sat in the basement from Monday to this Saturday morning.  Actually, I didn’t even know where it was.  Was it in the basement or was it still in the back of the Suburban?

Thankfully the beautiful redhead was watching out for me and had moved the bike out of the truck to its spot downstairs.  I crawled out of bed with just enough time to wake up a bit and then go look at the Giant that was waiting for me in the darkness of the unfinished portion of basement.

It was unchanged.  I looked at it for a bit.  Did I really want to go out there?  Unlike a dog, the bike couldn’t wag its tail and act excited.  The desire to get back on that thing had to come from within me.  I’d like to say that at that moment the desire washed over me.  Nope.  What made me get on the bike was the realization that the guys were going to be waiting for me and I would soon be late.

My Saturday morning ride

My Saturday morning ride

It was the Sunshine Cycle Shop’s Hour of Power ride that I was leaving for.  Almost immediately after getting in the group I started to feel better.  Group riding isn’t just about how “I” feel – it is really like an organism.  Sometimes you can receive strength and encouragement from those around you.  Yes, on the flip side, it can also be a drain.  However, with these guys it is always good.

There is plenty of time for socializing as we ride easy during the “neutral” sections.  However, as we neared the first sprint of the day, John talked to Luis and me about the upcoming effort.  “Let’s do this like a race.  One of us go for it and the others cover any moves that come.”  Tony was nearby and I got the impression he figured something was up with those POA kits grouping together like that.

Sure enough he went uncharacteristically early.  Luis went with him.  “Oh good,” I thought.  “I don’t have to work on this one.”  John and I sat back to let Luis go man-on-man with Tony.  Just for good measure I did a short sprint to see how the legs would do.  Hmmmmm, not bad – at less than 100% I put out 1100+ watts.

Tony held off Luis at that point.  I determined he wasn’t going to get the next one.  That one would be the quarry road.  We made the left turn out of a pace line and then headed toward the base of the climb.  Bryant had taken the lead so he could get a head start up the climb.  I drafted off of him – he just never ceases to amaze me.

As the road kicked up, Web moved to the front and I sat on his wheel.  Earlier I told John I would try to stretch out the field and let him conserve for a final sprint at the top.  However, I had enough of a lead that as I went around a right hand bend that would obscure me from their view, I attacked in hopes that I could get a lead before they realized what happened.

Sure enough as I topped the false flat and made the left hand turn toward the uphill finish, I could not see anyone behind me.  I eased up to rest.  My heart rate was knocking on 180 bpm at this point and there was no need to make things worse.

I looked back again and here they came with Tony at the lead.  I picked up the pace just slightly.  There was a full on field sprint coming behind me!  I tried to time it so that I could go as slow as I could and still make it before the group.  As I was passing the finish, John came out of nowhere to take second.

The State Park finish was fun as usual.  Tony and I had another battle on that one.  It was one of the funnest of the day for me as it was neck and neck to the finish.  Mt. Mitchell hadn’t taken the kick out of my legs and I was able to barely hold Tony off.

Nature Trail has always been a climb I hate.  However, I’m finding that it is coming to me.  I started near the end of the group today and still managed to work my way up to finish 1-2-3 with John and Luis.  I’m starting to enjoy that little stretch of road.

At the top most of the guys headed toward the shop, but John and I headed toward Paris Mountain.  He was on his way home and I was enjoying riding so much that I didn’t want to call it a day quite yet.  We talked as we climbed Altamont and then separated as we neared his home on the way to Travelers Rest.

I went on to TR and stopped at Leopard Forest Coffee Shop.  It was nice to sit for a bit with a muffin and coffee checking my Twitter and e-mail (have I mentioned that I am LOVING my new iPhone?) before heading back home.

I hopped on the Swamp Rabbit Trail right there and started home.  I wanted to see how far I could go.  The trail went quite a ways out of TR, through the back of the Furman campus, and then finally to section where they said not to enter.

At that point I wasn’t sure where I was.  I turned in the general direction of Greenville and started pedaling.  This led me to Berea.  Things seemed a little more familiar as I continued until I got to Highway 25.  This was a section of Greenville I don’t frequent every often.

At long last I came upon a sign telling me that Greenville was only 3 miles away if I would just take a turn.  Otherwise, I would end up in Easley.  I made the turn and after a solid 3 hours on the bike I arrived at home after 53 miles.  I didn’t see that coming while I was looking at the Giant in the basement this morning!

Sometimes it just pays to get on your bike and ride.  No big event.  No big goal to train for.  Just ride.