Tag Archives: Matt Tebbetts

Always a bridesmaid – never a bride

You’ve heard the saying, “Always a bridesmaid – never a bride.” Of course, for me it should probably be “Always a groomsman – never a groom.” That doesn’t sound right either… maybe “Always a podium – never the top.” I lived the saying once again at the 2010 Spartanburg Cycling Classic on Friday evening.

Bib 963

Spartanburg Cycling Classic 2010

Once again I was going to attempt the double. I would be racing the Category 4 race and then pull back up to the line for the Masters 35+ race. It worked last time… this time would be different!

In this race POA Cycling Team would have Billy White, Matt Tebbetts, and myself. I was a little late getting there and only got a lap in before we pulled up to the line. It also meant that the three riders didn’t have the opportunity to talk about what we would do. Turns out, it wasn’t necessary.

Right off the bat, Tyler Crotts attacked and a couple of riders went with him. Then Matt worked his way up there.  If I wanted to win, I should have got in that break. However, Matt was there and it was early. Either Matt was going to manage to stay away to win, or he would get pulled back into the group and then I could start to work for the win. Either way POA Cycling Team wins.

Tyler Crotts leads Matt Tebbetts

Matt Tebbetts makes it into the winning break

At first I was watching closely to see what would happen in the first few laps. It wasn’t that I didn’t think Matt was strong, I just didn’t know who all the players were in that leading group. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the gap could grow if Billy and I could control the pace. So, we adjusted our approach and I began to focus on getting the win for Matt.

Jonathan Pait and Billy White

Jonathan and Billy begin to control the race

When I put winning out of my mind and started to work for Matt, it started to get fun! At first there were a number of attempts to close the gap. With each attempt I would jump up on the wheels of the attackers. It was a constant leap frog. The goal was to stay on the wheels of anyone who was a challenge, but always stay off of the front.

Matt Tebbetts

Matt Tebbetts begins to go solo

It was working… and Matt was doing his own working! The gap continued to grow. I could sense the riders around me deflating. It was as though they knew Matt was up the road, but they knew if they worked to bring him back they would only be allowing me to rest to come along to finish things off. It was like a one two punch.

However, Matt is the one that made it happen. It wasn’t long before he simply rode the other riders into the ground. Toward the end of the race, the other members in the break dropped off. Matt never let up. He actually increased his lead. Once we got within 10 laps to go, I knew he was going to win it.

Matt Tebbetts

Matt Tebbetts takes the win for POA Cycling

Everyone in the main group knew Matt was going to win. The balloon had no air in it. No longer was the field in single or double lines. We were three sometimes four across. I found it hard to stay off the front. So, I began to make my plans for the finish.

This time I had no plans to get caught in a field sprint. Already I had seen a rider go down. Once I bumped the rear of a rider as I overcame him out of turn into the slight climb on the back side. Once again I was reminded of the confidence that comes with experience. A year ago, I might have gone down. This year I simply controlled my bike and kept going.

Jonathan Pait

Jonathan takes second with a gap

I waited… and waited… and then we passed the start/finish line with one to go. I moved to the front and entered turn one with one rider. I moved wide around him and passed him in turn two. Now we were entering a slight climb and were also facing the wind. If I could get a good gap here, I could ride away for second place.

I attacked at nearly a sprint pace and then tried to settle into about a 400 – 500 watt average. By the time I reached turn three, I had it. What I didn’t know is that as I was negotiating turns three and four, a big crash happened on the back stretch. I crossed the line with a sizable gap over the main field.

The POA Cycling one-two punch was complete. There could have been a very good chance for a one-two-three knockout only Billy got caught behind the accident. That would have been awesome. Even as it was, I had to celebrate a bit after crossing the line. If I wasn’t going to win, I was extremely happy to see Matt do it.

Masters 35+ power file

Heart rate and power data from Masters 35+ race

The above graph tells the story of the Masters 35+ race. We were scheduled to start immediately after the Category 4 race. I rushed over the line and racked up with the others. Then we waited… and waited. They were still cleaning up the wreck on the other side. As we waited, my legs got stiffer and stiffer.

Finally we started off and it was a different ball game from the Category 4 race — or even the first Masters race I participated in. These guys were fast right off the line! I got in behind a Carolina Masters rider. I figured I would just follow him and mark him.

I managed to stay with him for about two laps. Then I got cut off his wheel in a turn. Before long even though I thought I was holding my own in the field, I looked around to find I was on the back! Then the yo-yo effect set in. I was hitting 600 to 800 watts accelerating out of the turns.

It was wearing my legs down. My heart rate was doing okay, but my legs started to get tired. I would work to get on the rear of the field on the straight. I would get there and then have to adjust as we went into the turns. Then it was right back to playing catchup coming out of the next turn onto the straight.

Each time the gap I had to close began to get longer. Finally, I realized that I could stay here, get dropped, and then get in the way the field; or I could get out of the race and cheer on my teammates. That is how my race ended.

I don’t feel disappointed about it. I needed the experience to see what it was like to ride in a field with speeds that rival some of the pro 1/2 races. I’ll take that experience into my next Masters race. I do know that I won’t do the double before the next one.

Thanks to Jimmy Helms for the race photographs.

A fun way to learn a lesson

Sometimes when you lest expect it things come together. On Saturday I really thought I would have a great day. I drove home a little disappointed with a 35th finish. That road race was the best opportunity, I thought, for a solid finish. The Sunday afternoon race… a criterium style race… has never been my strength.

I started out on the front, but once things settled down I slid to the back of the field. One of my errors from Saturday was that I kept up a steady effort moving from one surging pack to another. This showed on my Cadence Distribution graph. I was pedaling over 95% of the time. In a race, you should try to hide and work as little as possible — until you need to. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

There I am toward the back near the inside

I was feeling pretty good about myself. Better yet, I was feeling good. My legs were giving me messages that this race might have a better outcome than I originally anticipated. The question remained… would I be smart enough to close the deal?

There were only a couple of close calls. Once a rider’s foot came off his pedal and some bumping ensued several riders ahead of me. Thankfully, no one went down — though it was a close call. Only one other time around me was there any bumping. That one resulted more in words than wounds.

At about 26 minutes into the 40+ minute race, I was watching two riders off the front. There was a surge on the front straightaway and I followed it. However, when the surge began to slow, I kept moving. Something inside of me said that it was time to try a break.

In the final break

The three of us were not able to hold off all the chasers and some other riders made it across to form what was barely the winning breakaway. Me? I was hurting! When I first made it to the break, I told the guys to let me catch my breath and then I would pull through.

They didn’t like that and rather than fall back into the clutches of the field I moved up to take a turn on the front. However, that did not give me much time to recover at all.  Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before the chase group joined us and the break had more riders to work with.

Another thing I was thankful for was my teammates. Blair and Matt were back there holding a steady — but slow — pace on the front of the field. It was a wide road and anyone could have come around them to take control, but they preferred to complain. Of course, with POA and Globalbike having riders in the break, those teams weren’t going to be working to bring them back.

Still, with three laps to go, I was at my limit. Coming down the backstretch I nearly pulled the chute. However, I remembered all those times when I have been able to ride beyond that pain. “I will not willingly drop,” I told myself and just concentrated on holding on to the wheel in front.

Catching back on for dear life!

Heading into the second lap I was just about to get dropped. I could hear people calling my name telling me to “dig, dig, dig!” I gave one more effort to catch back on. Thankfully, the break slowed at that point.

Had they kept the hammer down, I think I would have exploded. However, I think everyone was starting to tire and they thought maybe we had it sewed up if we just maintained a pace. David Curran was urging everyone on because he knew better. Me? I was at the mercy of the break!

We entered turns three and four still with the lead. However, the field was gaining fast. I knew they were coming, but I just didn’t think I had the juice left to attack the break. I just put my head down and hoped that we could out sprint the fast gaining field.

Trying to hold on from the break

I actually advanced past a couple of my break mates, but I could sense that there was a rider from the field coming fast to my right. I threw my bike at the line and (I’m not exaggerating) I beat him by the width of a tire. In the picture above, he is the Greenville Spinners rider to my left.

I got fifth! It was so unexpected that I felt like I had won! To make it into a break and then to hang on to a points position in a field sprint was just incredible.

Afterward, I was brought back to earth. Steve Sperry congratulated me and then asked… “In the sprint, did you come out of your saddle?” I answered, “Nooo…” I knew where this was going! “Did you have your hands in the drops?” he continued. “Nooo….” “Did you work your bike to get everything out of it at the end?” “Nooo…” He gave me a knowing look, “I think you could have done even better had you done those simple things.”

Yes, I still have things to learn. Once again, I am thankful to all the people teaching me by instruction and example. Getting a fifth place finish on a day not expected… that is a fun way to learn a lesson!

A special thanks to Jimmy Helms for allowing me to use his pictures from the race.

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.

Closing a door to open another

Sometimes it seems that I have been riding my bike forever.  That could be due to it being the end of the season, but it also could be because I have packed a lot into the last two years.  Now as the 2009 season comes to a close, I’m having to start thinking about 2010.  I don’t know if I am ready.

My first year riding a road bike, I pretty much meandered around the Upstate and tried to ride fast around the Cleveland Park circuit.  That year of 2006 doesn’t really count.  I started riding in August.

2007 was the year with my first ever goal.  It was to start the process of working toward my first Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Back then it seemed so huge!  Funny, but the fact that I competed in my first race didn’t mean much at the time.  I figured it was a one time experience.

In 2008 I turned 40 and my focus was that climb to the top of Mitchell.  Training for that climb brought me into a close relationship with the back of Paris Mountain and so the obsession with breaking my personal best there was born.  Racing factored into the year as well, but more for the sake of getting ready for my assault.

The Assault on Mount Mitchell lived up to its billing, but the win during the Downtown Greenville Cycling Classic was the highlight of the year for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it got me hooked.  It put me on a high as I headed into the 2008 Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride.

While on the ride, I met Joey Sullivan and Matt Tebbetts.  We formed a bond during that ride and then early this year, Joey contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a space for him in the POA Cycling Team.  Secretly, I had been hoping for a spot on the team.  I tried to act like it was no big deal as the guys would talk about it, but coming on board was another one of those unexpected surprises in life.

So, in 2009 my goals shaped around racing – but included the Assault and Paris Mountain.  My goal in racing was to win my first Category 4 race.  My goal for the Assault was to finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes.  My aim for Paris Mountain was to break 12 minutes.

I’ve only got one of those goals – the sub-twelve up Paris.  I finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes on the Mt. Mitchell ride.  My highest place in a race was 4th – in my first race of the year.

Was it a bad year?  Well, I guess if you base it on outcome, one out of three would not be that great.  However, if you consider the goals a means to an end and not the end itself, I would say it was a successful year.  I had fun and learned a lot – not to mention that I am nearly as fit as I have ever been.

One important thing I learned is that if you are going to set goals, you need to have a plan for each of them.  The better the plan, the greater the opportunity for success.  The plan needs to take you beyond your norms.

So, as I close the door on 2009, I’m thinking about the new year.  I’ve decided to have a coach to help me formulate the plans that will help me reach the goals I hope to set.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared of the commitment.  Then again, I was scared when I set my sights on climbing Mt. Mitchell.  I was scared when I pulled up to the line for my first race.

I never have regreted turning that crank to start either of them. I’m guessing 2010 won’t be any different.  Now, what will those goals be….?

Thank goodness for Matt’s helmet!

It is Thursday night as I type this.  I just got back in from a trip to Columbia where I spent some time with my sisters. The only thing that kept it from being an absolute best day was that I missed the last POA Cycling Summer Series race of the year. Perhaps for my safety, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

My friend and teammate, Matt Tebbetts, was in the front killing it going into the final turn on the final lap.  No doubt he would have taken the final Cat. 4 race with the POA colors flying proudly.

John James told me what happened then.  Matt came in so hot that he started skipping his rear wheel. He was not able to gather it in and went down hard into the curb.  “He hit so hard there were pieces of helmet laying around,” John said.  He went on to tell me that it didn’t appear that Matt was knocked out. He was certainly in pain.

Matt ended up with three broken ribs and a collapsed lung.  I’ve got to think that he had some concussion.  I am certainly concerned about him.

I couldn’t help but think what if I had been there?  Most likely I would have been a bit farther back in the pack.  However, Matt and I do sometime try to hook up together.  Perhaps it was Providence that I missed my first Summer Series race of the year.

Get well, Matt.  Your Giant frame is on the way.

7 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1115 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!


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.

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.

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!

Getting slapped by French Broad

Saturday was the French Broad Cycling Classic in Marshall, North Carolina.  It is one of the few road races around the area this season.  I wanted to be a part of it.

I met up with my teammate, Matt Tebbetts, on Friday evening.  He and a couple other of the POA Cycling Team riders were participating in the Time Trial portion of the three stage race.  John James and Mark Caskey were also there in their alien helmets.  We talked for a bit and then headed out to dinner.

We debated going out to view the course in our cars.  However, it was starting to get late and I figured I needed food and sleep more than I needed to drive the course.  Looking back, I’m kind of wishing I had!

My number for the Frend Broad Cycling Classic Road Race

My number for the Frend Broad Cycling Classic Road Race

Turns out I didn’t sleep that well.  Perhaps I was too keyed up for the event.  Word was the the course was pretty tough.  However, I was feeling pretty good and really thought it was going to be a good day for me.

Matt and I headed from Asheville to Marshall.  While in Asheville, we tired to find a place to eat, but it seemed everything was closed.  We settled for an egg sandwich from McDonalds.  It wasn’t what I would have preferred, but it was something in the stomach.

Marshall is a cool little town.  It reminded me just a bit of a small Swiss town.  There was the main street running along the banks of a small rushing river with a bridge crossing it and then heading up in the mountains overlooking the town.

Things were well organized.  I was able to get registered in no time.  The only issue was the fact that there were only two portable toilets for the hundreds of people on hand.  I waited in line for sometime, but finally gave up and rode into town to use the facilities at a local coffee shop.

Matt, Randy McCreight, and I then went out for a warm up.  Matt started having trouble with this shifting and after we tried to make some adjustments, it only got worse.

Still, we had to line it up as it was about time to start out.  Around 8:41 AM, we rolled off.  Almost immediately after we rolled out of town we started a climbing a slight elevation.  This set the stage for the entire ride.

Randy moved up to the front – he was racing with the Masters 50+ group that was racing along with us Cat. 4 riders.  Matt and I hung around about 20 riders behind him.  Our goal was to sit in there until the first climb when we would move toward the front to join him and try to stay with the leaders to the top.

It was interesting in there!  We had a good amount of easy climbing and often we would find ourselves on larger four lane roads.  There were some sections with some downhill runs through winding roads.  At those points, it got a little scary as you did not know how well the guys around you would be able to control their bikes.  Thankfully, there were no incidents.

On one climb up a larger road, I heard someone yell out, “Chain!”  I wasn’t sure, but I thought it might be Matt.  The good news was that we were just about to crest the hill and I knew he would be able to catch back on.

Before long, we were nearing the bottom of the first climb.  The only real incident up to that point was the dog that came running out in to the peloton.  It happened while someone was calling out that there was gravel around.  It led someone to joke that the dog’s name must have been Gravel and he came running when the rider started calling out his name.

Matt and I started making our way toward the front.  Randy was moving back a bit and before we started the climb, the three of us were together.  Then it was time to select the guys who would be there for the final climb.

This was a section I was looking forward to.  I still had a good feeling as I started up right on the wheels of my teammates.  However, the feeling didn’t last very long.  I tried to get in a cadence that I could maintain for the climb I had heard would be five miles long.  Watching the very front group take off made me concerned because I knew I could not sustain that for five miles!

My rhythm kept me there for a bit, but then I noticed that Matt and Randy were slowing moving away from me.  I fought the urge to go chase after them.  Red lining at this point would be bad.  I kept moving along catching some riders and being overtaken by others.  It was my hope that more ahead of me would falter and I would be able to stay in contact with the larger group ahead of me before we crossed over the top.

Then it hit.  I felt an empty feeling in my stomach.  I knew then that the gel, power bar, and egg sandwich were not giving me the boost I needed.  The accelerations were gone from my legs and I was just slogging to the top.  As I got over – it came up much sooner than I thought it would – I could see ahead of me that there was no group.  I had a rider just behind me and one up ahead.

The three of us hooked up and started to chase.  As we continued I would move in and out of feeling good and feeling like crud.  I tried to do my best to share the labor with the other two guys.  It was hard.

Then I saw a large group just going into a turn ahead!  With that encouragement, the three of us picked up the pace hoping to get to the group so we could recover a bit before the climb.  Then there were only two of us as our third member dropped.  We got ever so close – within 80 yards – but it was too close to the bottom of the final climb to try one last dash.  We would catch them right at the base and be too tired for the climb.

We started up and once again I tried to find a cadence to keep me going to the top.  I knew this one would be about two miles for sure.  This should be about like Paris Mountain.  However, as we continued the climb my Garmin showed that we were holding to a 9% to 10% grade.  This was tough!

I tried to pull myself up to the riders ahead.  My hope was that they would be the motivation I needed to keep going.  However, I found my greatest motivation in seeing the riders coming up behind me!  I did not want to add insult to injury by having people who I dropped coming around me.

I did get caught.  I watched a couple of riders come around me.  I looked at their numbers – each one started with a 7.  That meant they were Master racers.  Didn’t bother me to let them go.  Then a rider passed me with a 4** number.  I determined he would be the last one.  Through the 13% grade and on to the finish we continued.

Before the top I passed some other riders who had passed me earlier.  When I neared the turn at the top that would take us past the finish line, I stood and did my best to catch a Cat. 4 rider before the line.  Unfortunately, he saw me coming and held me off at the line.

I didn’t even stop at the top.  I just kept rolling knowing that the road would take me back to Marshall.  At first I was kicking myself and declaring that I would never race again.  Every decision of the day was second guessed.

However, it was a beautiful day and the road was enjoyable.  It was hard to keep a bad attitude in that environment.  I also had some riders come by me that I knew had finished behind me.  They were happily chatting amongst themselves and having a good time.

It was childish of me to throw myself in a funk.  Sure, I finished 34th – my worse road race finish ever – but at least I wasn’t last and I was closer to my teammates in the end than I thought I was.  The course that was unknown to me when we started was now more understandable and I know how to race it next time.  Yes, I’ll do it again.

What will I do differently?  I will give everything I have to stay at the front on that first climb.  The long downhill following will give me time to recover.  Trying to save myself during that first climb didn’t help because I had to give energy on the climb and then even more trying to chase back on.  I will also eat more during the first half of the race.

As I look at my data from the race, I realize that I did have more to give.  My heart rate during the 3 or so miles of the first climb was a high average 174 bpm, but I know that I can get away with up to 180 for that period of time.  On the final climb I should have just thrown myself at it like I do when I assault Paris Mountain.  I should have crossed the finish with a heart rate of 190 bpm – that would have been an all out effort.

Either way, the farther I get away from the race the better my feelings about it.  Shoot, at 41 years of age it was kind of cool to be racing up that final mountain with guys half my age – and beating a couple of them.  I’m also glad that I am not satisfied with my finish.  That is what gives me the motivation to improve.