Tag Archives: POA Cycling Team

Learning to act my age

Thursday evening was the first St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Series at the BMW Performance Center Test Track in Greer, South Carolina. My team, Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates is putting on the six race series the last Thursday of each month during the summer. I had forgotten how fun that track can be!

I was a little nervous because my coach was having me “double-up.” This means I would be racing in two criterium races back-to-back. The first would be Category 4/5 where I would be racing with guys half my age. The second race would be the Masters 35+ event when I would get a chance to race with a good number of my teammates — most of whom are close to my age.

BMW Performance Center Test Track

The course for the first race of the POA Summer Series

Going into the 4/5 race, I tried to balance the fact that I wanted to do well with the knowledge that I would have to race another race which I thought would be a much harder race. I stayed in the field for about half the race and then decided to go for a prime. Moving up to the front, I wanted to stay there going into the east side of the course. I knew if I could make it through there in the lead, the prime would be mine.

After a smooth right hand into turn three, you straighten out for just a moment before entering a chicane before coming into a sharper right hand turn. Once you exit turn four you find yourself coming over a rise and through a very shallow curve. The result is that you don’t get to see the start/finish line until you start coming out of this feature of the course. That factors into the story later.

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

My attack worked to perfection and I came out of the turn leading and then just put the hammer down to take the prime. Jake Strasser and Tyler Crotts were right on my wheel. When we crossed the line, we just kept rolling in the attempt to create a break. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long and we were brought back into the field.

Then it was time to think of the finish. My teammate, Billy White, got on the front and started to stretch things out. I put my eye on Kirk Flinte. He was sitting in most of the race and I could tell that he had his mind set on a good finish. It was time to try something new, so I decided to get on Kirk’s wheel and let him bring me to the front. It was time for me to come off someone else instead of the other way around.

It was working perfectly. We entered turn three and sure enough, Kirk started to make a move. I got on this wheel and hung there until we were entering the chicane. At that point my momentum started bringing up to the left of Kirk’s wheel right as we were entering the left turn portion of the chicane. He moved further left to set himself up for the sharp right turn. Unfortunately, this pushed me to the edge of road.

At that turn is a drop off where cars have worn a rut along the edge. I knew if I went off that, it would be trouble. So, I gave and “tip-toed” down the line. That caused me to lose my momentum and Kirk created a gap. To get wound up again, I came through turn four wide. The engine was winding up and I was closing on Kirk. I knew that I could catch him.

Then we came over the rise and started to come out of the shallow curve. Right in front of me was a lapped rider. Because I came up on him so abruptly, I couldn’t judge his speed or tell which way he was going. There was just enough space to his left that I could have squeezed through and to his right would have me going back into the field. I hesitated slightly to take it all in and decide what to do.

That pause cost me dearly. Four riders were right on my wheel and they went right. I picked up the pace again in an attempt to salvage what I could. The result was a 7th place finish. However, even Kirk didn’t take the win since Gordon Whittaker of Palmetto Velo had gotten off the front earlier and took the win.

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race (click to enlarge)

As it turns out, the Category 4/5 race was harder for me than the Masters 35+ — and the finishing results weren’t that far off each other. I averaged 251 watts in the first race. We finished with an average speed of 25.5 mph. However, there were many more accelerations as the pace would come and go. My heart rate got up to 191 bpm with an average of 173 bpm. Compare that with the Masters 35+ race.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph (Click to enlarge)

This race was completely different. First the numbers: I averaged 25 mph at 262 watts. My heart rate stayed below 187 bpm with an average of 171 bpm. Much of this can be contributed to two things. 1) the tactics were completely different. My job in the Masters race was to help control pace so that my teammates could form a break and get away. In other words, I was being paid to go slow! 2) the racing was much smoother. It was so much easier going through the turns. There was much less braking and accelerating. It was more of a constant flow.

I wasn’t so much nervous about the speeds or the close racing as I was about doing something tactically stupid that would cause me teammates to exclaim, “What were you thinking!?!” So, I started the race toward the back. I was feeling great as the 4/5 race was a good warm up. I found the wheel of John James and sat there.

If you have ever watched Rudy, you’ll know what I was feeling like. Things were happening around me, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to interpret it all. I was just glad to be there with the guys. I only knew that Rodney had gotten in a break and it was our job to hold a pace that would allow him to get away.

Then from behind me about halfway through, I heard Rodney yell, “Jonathan! Move to the right!” I immediately did what I was told and Rodney came blasting past me on my left. We were getting lapped. I was getting really confused. I couldn’t tell who was lapping us and who was in the field with me.

Not long after this, I started to feel really good — except that my mouth was getting very dry. I had used up most of my water in the first race and had forgotten to pick up a second one before this race. I asked John if I could have a swig of his and he handed his bottle over. It was just what I needed. After getting John his bottle back and started to move up to the front.

For nearly four minutes, I moved to the front and pulled the field up to catch some of the riders who had earlier lapped up and now were falling back from the winning break. Of course, I didn’t even know they were actually a lap ahead of us! I just knew that Rodney was long gone and it was time to pick up the scraps.

Yes, there was no way I was going to win, but this was my first ever Masters 35+ race. I wanted to go in the records with a decent finish. It felt so good to be there on the front just tapping out a tempo. Of course, when we got within a lap of the end, things around me picked up and I decided to play it safe and moved into the line.

Coming out of that last turn, I was still with the front of the field and starting to sprint with about 10 other guys around me. Some passed me and I passed some others. I set my mind on beating Steve Baker to the line. I kept closing on him and then threw my bike at the end. I really thought I had him by a tire width, but alas, the camera showed I was a fraction of a second too slow. I’ll get you next time, Baker!

It was a blast! I was very pleased with my 11th place finish — more pleased with it than my 7th place earlier. Mostly, I was glad that I didn’t get in anyone’s way or do something tactically stupid. I’m ready for the next one! Can we have another race next Thursday?

Less critical of the crit

Billy White told me it would happen. It has taken awhile, but what he predicted has come true. I’m actually starting to warm up to criterium racing.

It is a good thing too. Criterium racing is the primary way American cyclist compete against each other. When the summer months arrive, all across the country you will find racers going round and round on short courses. That time has come!

2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red

My crit weapon of choice: 2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red & Boyd wheels

The big daddy to kick off criteriums here in the Southeast is the Athens Twilight. No, it has nothing to do with vampires. The sucking going on will be competitors trying to gain an advantage – or merely survive – by riding the wheel of the racer in front of them.

Athens Twilight is now in its 30th year. The race has consistently brought over 30,000 spectators to watch the racers compete under the city lights. It is an atmosphere the fans and riders enjoy.

However, there is another criterium series kicking off. The 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series kicks off tonight at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC. The series returns to the track after a year away with racing at the old Greenville Braves Stadium. The performance test track was a favorite venue and you can expect fast racing — depending on the winds.

Check out the event page over at POACycling.com to learn more about the race. Especially if you are a cyclist just beginning to race, consider cutting your teeth out at BMW. Rather than really sharp turns, the Summer Series crits feature more sweeping turns that allow you to get more comfortable with the speeds often associated with crits.

What exactly was it I didn’t like about this style of racing? Part of it was simply that I’ve always thought that road racing was the purest form of bicycle racing. Varying terrain, distance, and team strategy over the course seemed more like the types of racing you see in the Tour de France.

However, more than that, I was scared. Crits typically are under a mile in length and involve at least four turns. Depending on the course, these turns can be rather abrupt. So, you have 40 guys going 25 mph into a 90 degree turn and it can be a recipe for disaster! My first ever race was a crit and I went down alone in one of these turns and dislocated my finger.

The crit is also hard. In road racing, you can more easily sit in and cover the distance waiting for the final move of the day. In criterium racing, you have to know how to handle your bike but you also have to know how to accelerate. Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Pedal… Pedal… Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Over and over you go.

However, I have come to enjoy the race as I have come to understand it better. Admittedly, it is also more fun as my bike handling skills have improved and my training has helped me learn to manage the acceleration. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is that there is continual action. There is very little of just sitting in and getting pulled along. You must be fully engaged for the entire distance.

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Peformance Center

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Performance Center

Tonight I should have double the fun. My coach has me doubling up racing the Category 4 race as well as the Masters 35+. I’ll finish the first race and then line up immediately for the second race. I’m glad he has confidence! Hopefully it will be contagious.

Come on and give a crit a try. You might find you like it… after awhile.

It was as it should have been

It was a great weekend! The POA Cycling Team had an okay Saturday, but an incredible Sunday. We got podium finishes in each category race we entered. I’m thankful to say that I was one of them winning the bronze in the South Carolina State Criterium Championships at Hampton Park in Charleston.

Now a word from my primary sponsor.

Waiting through the afternoon for my race to start at 3:30 PM, I knew that this race would be different from Saturday’s. The feeling of confidence was there and as I warmed up on the trainer before going out, I was getting in the zone. This would not be a 20th place finish.

On the line I felt very calm and was able to joke around with some of the guys I’ve come to get used to having around me in the field. Tebbetts was right there on the front with me and I knew he was ready to turn himself inside out to get me to the front. Billy was also starting a bit behind us, but it was a big help knowing that his experience would be out there to help keep me from doing something too stupid.

We rolled off. Tebbetts and I were on the front and kept an easy pace waiting for someone to come around and take over. They did and it was time to get down to work. As it turned out, there were several attempts at breaks and some actually got out there for a couple of laps. It was hard to hold one though because the course was flat and there were long stretches where you could see the person trying to escape. Each one was brought back.

Early on I went up and picked up the pace just to test the legs and also to take some of the turns at a higher speed. I knew I would need to be comfortable with that at the end of the race. However, after expending a little energy, I went back in the field to recover and wait.

With six laps to go there was a guy out alone with a sizable gap. The pace picked up to catch him I knew that it was time to start planning for the finish. At this point I was riding between 15 to 20 riders from the front. It was time to move up.

A couple of things made me more confident as the race wound down. One was that I was getting the hang of the turns. Rather that braking into the corner and then sprinting out. I looked for a line that would allow me to roll into the corner and in some cases keep my pedals moving so that I was easing out of the turn on the wheel in front of me without having to sprint each time. This saved a lot of energy.

The other was that I was learning to control my space. I concentrated on finding a line through each corner and then holding it so that the riders around me could trust me. However, a moment that sticks out in my mind was a time when I was between two riders and the rider to my right began to squeeze in on me. In the past, that might have made me nervous, but not this time.

Our bars bumped, but neither of us reacted. We simply rode along beside each other leaning on the other. However, I was not going to give up my spot. The reason why that moment stuck out to me was because it felt completely right. I was calm when at points in the past I might have overreacted. My thought was, this is my spot and you are not going to have it. It was fun!

Matt had been on the front for a couple of laps as we neared two to go. He was amazing! We were going at a pretty good clip and he just kept hammering. I moved to the front at that point because I did not want to get caught near the back when things started getting wild at the finish. It was a chance I was willing to take to avoid a crash.

Billy saw me up there and moved around me to get me out of the wind on the front. He laid it out to take the pressure off of me and then moved over once we started into the final lap. At that point, Matt moved up to continue his incredible work on the front.

Matt and I went through turns one and two with the front of the field right with us. However, as we came out of turn three, Matt lit the fuse and the rocket went off. He stretched the field and he and I entered the last turn as the point of the spear. Tebbetts was on the point and I was sitting right on his wheel enjoying to pull.

My emotions at that point were sky high! It wasn’t just that I was starting to believe I could win it, it was also because the way the team had worked together during the race was just awesome. To be here with Matt this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My only regret is that I could not have better rewarded him for his effort.

As we came out of the turn it crossed my mind just to stay on Matt’s wheel and we could just finish 1-2 for the race. However, I knew that the idea was for Matt to lead me out. I knew at some point he would expect me to come around him. It seemed to me that he was slowing just a bit and that perhaps it was time for me to go. So, I started to come around.

When I did, Matt also picked up the pace and it we were actually sprinting each other. However, at about this time, Benjamin Branton and Clark Gallivan (both of whom have beat me earlier in the season) started to move up. It was a drag race for the line between the four of us. I can say that this time I gave everything I had.

The result ended up the same: 3rd place. Branton finished first with Gallivan right there along with myself. Matt finished as he rode all race — strong — and came in fourth. Really, I honestly feel that it came out about how things really are — Benjamin is clearly the best sprinter among the Category 4 racers and Clark has come on really strong with some wins. Then there is me — “always a podium, but never a win.”

The SC State Criterium Championships podium

Now, I’m no Mark Cavendish, but I have an inkling of how he must have felt when he expressed his frustrations those times when he didn’t win a sprint after the Columbia-HTC train brought him up to the finish. They did their jobs perfectly, but he didn’t close the deal. My emotions where so mixed.

It was incredible to make the podium — my first literal podium, but it was eating me up inside that I had let the guys down. Over and over in my head I thought about what I could have done differently that would have given me the 5 feet I needed to close the deal — not for me, but for US. Thankfully, I have awesome teammates not just on the bike, but off the bike as well.

Thanks, guys!

POACycling.com goes live

The Worthwhile Company is proud to be a supporting sponsor of the Greenville, South Carolina based Palmetto Orthopaedic Associates Cycling Team. Known in the Southeast simply as POA, the team has made a name for itself in two years and is poised for even greater success in 2010. Worthwhile captures this success by providing the team with a website that conveys the drive and teamwork with which POA races.

The new site allows friends and fans to follow along with the team as they campaign in the 2010 cycling season. Users can learn more about the team members by visiting the roster page to read bios and see individual race results. The site also catalogs the team’s overall successes on the results page. 2010 promises to have a lot of data!

Team manager, Blair LaMarche, will be keeping everyone up-to-date with what is happening within the team at the site’s blog. The entire site is designed on the WordPress framework and this allows the team to easily keep not only the blog current, but the blogging process is used to maintain the entire website. Follow along with Blair (and other riders) as they record the events of the season.

On the events page you can see the races in which POA team members will be racing. However, POA Cycling is about more than just racing bicycles. The team also supports the cycling community by providing a series of races during the year including the St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Series, the South Carolina Time Trial Championships, the South Carolina Road Racing Championship, and the Fall Extravaganza (now in it’s second year). Information about these events will be presented on the site in the Events section. Information about the team’s involvement in charity events will also be presented here.

The team knows all this takes support and that is why the sponsors receive exposure throughout the site — not only on each page, but in a unique sponsors’ section devoted to the various sponsors who help the team receive the very best equipment and support. Sponsors get exposure on the website, but also the team’s uniforms, printed materials, and through various social media outlets.

The visually appealing site also provides a glimpse at the action throughout the year as users are able to view photos from the various events. Once again Worthwhile makes it easy for the team to manage this section by integrating Facebook galleries into the WordPress framework. More social media integration will come as The Worthwhile Company team continues to enhance the POACycling.com experience.

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.

35th and I am still smiling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan leads the field through a turn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That thought has me smiling.

POA Cycling gets first win of 2010

Congratulations to Darin Marhanka of POA Cycling Team on his win in the 2010 Dade City Criterium. He crossed the line first in the crit after breaking from the field with a lead over 20 seconds. That was accomplished the day after snagging a second place finish in the road race.

Darin Marhanka

Darin salutes after taking first place in the criterium

Florida was good to the 2009 South Carolina Criterium champion. It will be fun watching him and the team tackle the 2010 season. POA will be defending a South Carolina Criterium, a South Carolina Road Race, and a South Carolina Time Trial jersey.

Darin Marhanka

Darin also made the podium in the Road Race

Congratulations, Darin! Here’s to a great 2010! Way to get moving with POA — Cycling Team, that is.

In other POA Cycling Team news, the new POACycling.com should be launching this week. Over the season it will be a great place to keep up with the team. We’re planning on it being one of the best amateur racing team web sites anywhere.

A Cat 4 brain in a Cat 3 body

If you saw Friday’s Twitter Trail, you probably know that I wasn’t looking forward to Saturday morning’s Upstate Winter Bicycle League. I did it anyway and after a very rough start, I’m glad I did it. I’m learning a lot, but sometimes learning isn’t much fun.

There were several things that happened during the week (not related to the bike) that had me emotionally and mentally reeling. To make matters worse, the weather had me stuck on the trainer except for Monday. All I wanted to do was sit by the fire and read a good book!

I got on the bike anyway and started out from home to the new location for the start of the UWBL. Before I could even get down East North street I was beginning to feel warm. That was a good sign! Perhaps it wasn’t going to be as cold as predicted. Not only that, but I could see blue sky on the horizon. Hmmmmm. This might be good.

We rolled out with a slightly smaller group than some. Perhaps there were other people not really wanting to ride for 80 miles! I wasn’t complaining. A smaller group often means faster speeds and less trouble.

Jim had given me instructions not to participate in the sprints unless I did so in the final one. That being the case, I sat in most of the time, but did go off the front one time on a hill. It was my way of letting loose some of the pent up emotions from the week.

As I was doing so, Andy Baker came up beside me. “Are you doing intervals or something?” he asked. I replied, “Why not?” Sometimes I get really tired of the “Peloton Rules.” I just want to ride my bike. We weren’t sprinting. I was gaining no advantage. I just wanted to go hard for a couple minutes! What is wrong with that? I did my thing and then slowed to wait for the group.

Later Andy came up to explain that he just didn’t want me to shoot a wad in the sprints and then be frustrated at the end when I didn’t get a finish that I would like. I did appreciate his willingness to offer advice and I know what he said was true. However, I had to point out, “I’m not supposed to be going for sprints today.”

Well, the first sprint did come. I was a little frustrated. Not because I didn’t think I could mix it up, but because my team was trying to get some points for Eric. I felt like I was hanging back on them.

I decided I wouldn’t go hard, but would try to stay in contact with the leaders and finish as close to the front as I could. However, I started out pretty much toward the back. Moving my way toward the front I saw a group of my team mates sliding back. They had given what they could to stretch things out and here I was cruising along.

I then moved into a six man group with one of my team mates. Feeling that it would be good for me to help in someway, I motioned for him to get on my wheel and I would try to help move him closer to the front. He is a very strong rider and I thought just a little bit of help might get him in contention.

He didn’t follow. I was a bit confused at first. Then I looked ahead – I could now see the lead group. There was Eric and another POA rider. Ahhhh, I thought to myself. He didn’t follow because we had two guys up front. So, I backed off as well.

Later at the store stop, we were talking about how we were feeling. I joked, “I’ve got a lot — for about 30 seconds.” My team mate expressed he didn’t care for the way I worked in the attack. I explained that I went back because I realized the situation and didn’t want to pull the group up to our guys. Finally, I just rode away. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready to deal with this.

I think most people will tell you I want to learn. I will take advice. However, I’m not going to get run over. I’m willing to learn — just be willing to teach.

It was crushing. I’m sure all the other stuff of my week had something to do with it, but I felt like just riding off alone to home. Forget the team.

The back of the group is where I sat for sometime. Eric came up and put his hand on my back, “Don’t let the words get you, man.” He said, “We’ll get this stuff worked out.” I really appreciated that and it lifted my spirits a bit.

Before long, it was time for the next attack zone. This time I decided to forget my instructions (Forgive me, Coach) and try to help the team if I could (and hope I didn’t unintentionally do something I wasn’t supposed to). I found myself toward the front with some of my team mates including Rodney Dender.

As the two of us moved on the front I said, “Okay, what am I supposed to do?” He replied, “Just get in the line and hold a steady tempo while pulling through.” That is exactly what I attempted to do.

Cleve Blackwell was way off the front as I settled in with two other riders in front of me. They kept pulling, so I kept sitting on. Finally, they shifted over and I moved on point trying not to push too hard.

It wasn’t long before I noticed the gap to Cleve was dropping. I picked it up just a tad and then glanced back. There was a good sized gap. So, rather than sitting in no man’s land, I sped up to get behind Cleve.

Before long I felt the presence of some other riders. There were now about five of us and it appeared Andy Baker and Cleve were working together. I knew I wasn’t going to be there at the finish, but I wanted to stay with these guys until some of my team mates showed up.

Finally, they did and I knew that it was time for me to get out of the way. Still, I felt I had helped by keeping one of our kits up on the front and allowing the team to let others do the chasing. Even so, in the back of the mind I wondered if I had done the right thing. Let’s just say that I didn’t have a lot of mental confidence at that point! By the way, Eric won that one.

Now it was time for the final sprint of the day. This was the one I was actually supposed to get involved in IF I was going to mix it up in any of them. Earlier I had heard Rodney talking. He said, “Guys, if there is a break, let me go. I can stay with them and you guys won’t have to work so hard.”

Well, at the beginning of the attack zone, I found myself on the front. This was not where I planned to be. It wasn’t where the people around me planned to be either! They all disappeared. I just kept spinning along easily waiting for riders to come up with me. Not wanting to get freight trained, I began to ease into a tempo I thought would keep me safe.

Suddenly, Steve Sperry came flying around me. I expected more to follow, but no one did. Looking back, a gap had formed. I then looked ahead and thought, “Okay, I’ll go with Sperry and I’m sure I’ll get caught at some point. Rodney knows I won’t be able to hold it, so he will be in position to allow others to chase and then take over when he gets here.”

You know, I like Steve Sperry. He has always been very kind to me and when we’re out on the road, he gives me very good tactical advice. It was kind of neat to be up there with just the two of us taking the wind for each other.

“We’ve got to make it to the golf course before they catch us,” he explained. I did my best to help him accomplish that. Unfortunately, just before we reached it, we got caught. Once again it was Andy and Cleve towing some other riders. I was happy to see one of them was Rodney.

Rather than backing off, I tried to stay with the group so I could be there to help the odds with Rodney. I was starting to believe I could do it as we turned onto Highway 20. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the transition onto that road can be tricky.

You have to climb up to the turn and then there is a short downhill before you go into a sweeping left turn that puts you (at least on this day) dead into a headwind. I tried to catch my breath for just a second as we made the turn and the other riders accelerated. Too late I tried to match it and a small gap formed as we went into the headwind.

It was over at that point. They were sooooo close, but I just didn’t have the juice to close it down. I realize now I should have just gone into the pain locker when we made that initial turn and hung onto the group until we all got into the wind together. At that point I could have been shielded and might have recovered a bit.

As it was, the second large chase group came past me. I let them go and watched the race unfold before me on the long stretch of straight road. I watched them cross the train tracks as two groups. Then they crested the hill that took them out of my view — still two groups.

By the time I crested the hill, the only riders I could see ahead were the ones that were spit out the back of the field. Later I learned that the second group was never able to close the gap. Rodney went on to lead out Sperry who took the win. Rodney did that because he knew he did not have the points to affect the overall lead.

You know. I am improving physically. I am doing things that I would have never dreamed of last year. Sure, I got dropped on that last attack, but I went farther than I ever have before and I was racing with the Pro-1-2 guys. I wonder what it will be like when I’m back with my Cat 4 brethren?

There in is my greatest weakness. I definitely have the power of a Cat 3 racer, but I have the tactical knowledge of guy who just moved up from Cat 5 to Cat 4. I’m still trying to get a handle on my bike handling skills and race knowledge.

At the same time, I don’t think I’m foolish — that would just be true if I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I REALLY AM TRYING TO LEARN! Before the season is over, I hope it becomes obvious to more than just myself.

POA Team Camp woes

Well, we had a good night at Matt’s house last night, but the second day of team camp for the POA Cycling Team isn’t going over so well. Woke up this morning to find ice all over the place. Don’t think I’m going to be riding outside today!

Most of the team gathered at Matt's place

Most of the team gathered at Matt's place

Of course, one visit to Twitter and you see all the transplanted Northerners making fun of our “snow” here. Go ahead, I’m glad snow is so unusual here. I’ll trade it for having to deal with the stuff all winter long. Also, understand, this isn’t nice, fluffy, play-in-it stuff. This is hard crunchy ice.

That being said, we had plans to all connect at Paul’s house for some fun watching old races while spinning on our trainers. I was getting ready to load up and go out to brave the ice covered roads to get there when I got a text message from our manager, Blair. He said the event was canceled because the roads were even worse out near Paul’s place.

So, looks like I’ll be spinning on my own today. We’re hoping the roads will clear well enough by this evening so we can go through with our sponsor dinner. It will be my first chance to meet some of our sponsors and I’m looking forward to that.

While I’m typing this I get another message from Blair saying that the ride and photo shoot for tomorrow is now also in doubt. Oooo, that doesn’t make me happy. We needed to get those photos so we could get the ball rolling on the roster page for the new design of POACycling.com.

My plans for the day are now getting redone. I’m contemplating doing some of the workouts that Jim gave me in anticipation of the Time Trial that also got postponed due to the weather. That would include an hour warming up and then a hard 12 minute effort.  Then I might climb back on the trainer later to get in some more time. Today was supposed to be four hours or more on the bike. Don’t think I’ll get that much!

The race season is underway

With the start of the Tour Down Under yesterday, the professional racing season is officially underway. Wow! That came quickly. I wonder how the professionals feel about their off-season getting shorter and shorter? With their season underway, it won’t be long before mine will start up.  Looks like I’m going to get an early start as well.

Here is my schedule for the year. Of course, it could change – especially those races that fall on Sunday. If the race time isn’t one that allows me to attend church services, then it is out. However, if these races follow previous start times, I believe I will be able to pull it off. I’m sure there will also be other races that come on the schedule for which I will find myself mounting up.

Paris Mountain Time Trial – 01/30

Spring Series Donaldson – 02/20
Spring Series BMW Test Track – 02/21 (My 42nd birthday!)
Spring Series Fork Shoals – 02/27
Spring Series Donaldson – 02/28

Spring Series River Falls – 03/06
Spring Series Donaldson – 03/07

ION Village Crit – 04/17
SC Crit Championships – 04/18
POA Series – 04/22
(Meals on Wheels) – 04/24 Designated team charity ride
Spartanburg Classic – 04/30

Domestique Criterium – 05/08
Domestique Criterium – 05/22
POA Series – 05/27

SC TT Championships – 06/05
Beaufort Road Race – 06/19
POA Series – 06/24

French Broad TT – 07/16
French Broad RR – 07/17
French Broad Crit – 07/18
POA Series – 07/29

POA Series – 08/26

SC RR Championships – 09/18
POA Series – 09/30

POA Fall Extravaganza – 10/01
POA Fall Extravaganza – 10/02
POA Fall Extravaganza – 10/03
Greenville Classic – 10/10?

Follow along and enjoy the ride! You can also follow my team – POA Cycling Team – at POACycling.com. A new site is coming soon and it is going to be sharp!