Tag Archives: Spring Series

First race of 2010 is Saturday

It is time to start thinking about this weekend and the first race of my 2010 season. The feelings I’m having are kind of hard to read. Seems that part of me is looking forward to mixing it up again and another part is saying, “Do you really want to do this again?” Well, ready or not… here it comes.

The first race for most people here in Upstate South Carolina is the Greenville Spring Training Series race at Donaldson Center on Saturday, February 20. I went back to last year to check out my post for that race and realized I didn’t participate in that race. On February 16 of last year, I broke my pinkie while filming going downhill on the Furman side of Paris Mountain.

I did make it out to the course on that first day and you can see some video of the field here. The emotions and thoughts of that day are coming back to me now. It was really weird being a spectator and not a participant. I’m very thankful that I’m healthy for this year’s event!

What about Donaldson Center? I’ve never really done well there. Yes, it is home to the Tuesday Night World Championships and I’ve participated in numerous training races there. However, I’ve never seemed to get the rhythm right. Only once have I ever “won” a TNWC and that was one of the last times I rode in the B group.

Check out these videos to get a sense of the course…

First half of the second lap of a five lap ride

Second half of the second lap of a five lap ride

Here are the shortcomings that I believe I must get past in order to be successful.

  1. Be patient. Out there on that course I have a tendency to get real antsy about breaks. I’ve got to be patient and let things unfold a bit without jumping on the front to pull an early break back. The great unknown? How do I know which break to go with?
  2. See the wind. It was said that Dale Earnhart could see the wind while drafting on the super speedways. It is a skill that I obviously was not born with! I’ve got to recognize the effects of the wind and then position myself to take advantage of it in the field.
  3. Ride through it. This is one area where I am very curious to see the results of my training. Typically on this course I go through a challenge on the first or second lap. Most likely because I’m not accomplishing 1 and 2, I find myself really struggling. I have learned that if I just ride through it, I improve. The great unknown? Has my training made it so that this won’t be an issue?
  4. Don’t quit. There have been times in the TNWC races that I have been in the top 5 – 10 within sight of the finish. However, I’ve watched riders go around me. I always chalked it up to, “You’re just not a sprinter.” I’ve also had an amount of fear at the close riding and fast speeds. Well, experience and training has given me some confidence in both of these areas. On Saturday, I’ve just got to let it all hang out.

Of course, having said all that, I realize I will be racing on a team. I don’t know yet how many of my mates I will with me in the Category 4 race. This isn’t an A race for me. It very well could be that my job will be to set things up for a teammate and it won’t be my job to go for a win. Even if that is the case, I do have a low rung goal of finishing above my only official race finish there – 18th.

Video and wattage

Here is some video from the River Falls road race of the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series. I’m sorry there aren’t more angles and more categories covered. My concentration was more on my own race. Even so, there are a good number of the starts included, so you might see yourself in there.

I got a chance to look at my power readings for the race. Funny, I almost always have a higher overall wattage average from my typical “training” ride than I do from a race. Here is a comparison:

River Falls: Entire – 173 watts / 5s – 784 / 10s – 666 / 5m – 280 / 20m – 229

Last Ride: Entire – 181 watts / 5s – 652 / 10s – 467 / 5m – 280 / 20m – 242

What I take from that is race situations actually allow you to conserve your energy much more than just going out to ride by yourself. If you are riding alone and pushing yourself, you most likely are going to be able to put out less energy for the race — saving it for the time you really need it.

Hope all of you heading out to Donaldson Center tonight have a great time. I will not be able to join you, but I’m looking forward to getting out there soon. If anyone wants to send it a report from the evening, I would love to publish it here. Just send it on!

River Falls Race Report

Here is the race report for the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series race at River Falls. The result was a fourth place finish. Six laps were ridden for a total of nearly 40 miles by about 50 riders

Lap 1: There was a good sized field when we started off. I jumped in about mid pack and just tried to get a feel for the route and the riders around me. More energy was expended on my warm-up lap than I put out on this first one.

Lap 2: It was taking me a bit to get my race legs back.  There was some trouble holding my line through the first lap and then going into a turn on lap two I had a guy go off the road right in front of me.  He tangled with two other riders and fell into and off of the road.

I had to take evasive action to miss them. Fear gripped me at that point. I was out there with a still healing broken finger and I got gripped with the feeling that I was going to get taken out. I had to get a hold of myself. By the time we reached the second climb I was feeling much better.

Lap 3: After spending a little too much time up toward the front, I remembered my goal of just bringing the body home with the fenders still on it.  I backed off and slipped again to the mid pack. This climb I was feeling even better that the first two laps.

The main issue on the climb was the fact that everyone would rush to get started on the climb and then it was like hitting a wall of riders.  The reaction caused us guys behind them to almost come to a stand still. We would then work around them and catch any of the leaders coming down the other side.

Lap 4: I was starting to settle in. I realized I only had to climb two more times. It was the first point where I realized I really wasn’t going to get dropped out the back and I might finish this thing. I started sizing up the people around me thinking that I might even get a top 10.

The people around me started to come more into focus.  I heard a voice behind me.  It was Peter Mathern.  Peter is a guy I have ridden with many times before. He was starting to move toward the front with his teammates and I was seeing him as a real threat.

Lap 5: The good news was I also heard the voice of my teammate Luis Sanchez right behind me. He asked me how I felt, and I replied that I felt surprisingly good. I could tell from his tone that he was there to help me get a good finish.

I’ve ridden with Luis (or as we call him “Louie”) for years. He was one of the reasons I was so excited about joining POA Cycling. He can make a big hole and has some incredible power. He isn’t much of a climber, but if you want a steady workhorse, Luis is your man.

Lap 6: Coming up the climb on lap 5 I eased waaaay up and came over the climb pretty far back, but that allowed me to conserve energy for the final push.  Luis was right there with me once we got over and then he moved around me.

I was feeling a little weak legged at that point. I could tell it was just because I had not ridden this far in over three weeks! I had no fear of bonking, but I was certain that at the finish I wouldn’t be able to put up a lot of wattage. Then my teammate took over.

All I did was get behind Luis and he started opening holes for me and taking the wind. In theory I always knew having a teammate work for you was a great help physically. I’ve never had the opportunity to experience it. While it was a help physically, I was surprised by an unexpected benefit.

Luis was making all the decisions for me. All I had to do was make sure I was connected to him. A couple of times he saw a hole and pulled us through it. I just made myself as small as possible and prayed I would make it to the other side! Still, mentally, I was able to concentrate of the decisions ahead.

I approached the last climb feeling physically and mentally relaxed. The only negative was because we were coming up from the back, we did not realize that there was a rider off the front. So, when I was delivered to the bottom of the climb, I thought the only riders I had to beat were the ones right in front of me.

As I came around Luis he looked over and asked, “This okay?” I gave him the thumbs up and moved forward. Thankfully, this time the riders on front started to attack and I was right there with them.  The log jam wasn’t there. I was able to go unimpeded for the final effort.

I waited… waited… I could several riders ahead really pushing. I knew they were either really strong, or they were over doing it. I planned to go for broke when I reached the final turn warnings at the top. However, before that happened, a majority of the riders ahead of me started dropping. I began to pass them without really putting out the effort.

As I neared the turn before my planned attack, I saw who I thought was the leader ahead of me. If I was going to beat him, I was going to have to pick it up a bit. I started after him and was gaining until he looked back and saw me.  He picked it up a bit and now I was in a battle for my spot.

A junior rider in a Carolina Cyclone kit came up on my left. We rode together for just a little and then he moved pass me. I stood to counter and that is when my jello legs hit. I started searching for a gearing combination that might help me catch up to him. Then I started just hoping I would hold on to my current position.

I put my head down and just ground it out. Turns out the Cyclone rider took the line ahead of both myself and the guy we were both chasing. I rolled across in what I thought was third, but turns out it was fourth.

It turns out the winner had gone off earlier before the climb. The leaders of the field at that point did not attack him because they felt they would catch him on the climb. We didn’t.

Overall I was very happy.  I can do this in category four. Let’s get it on!

Let the pictures do the talking

The race report will have to come later.  I’m just too tired to sit down and type it out right now.  So, for now, we’ll just let the pictures tell the story.

My number for my first Category 4 race

The number for my first Category 4 race

Not sure why it wasn’t a 4** number.  This is definitely a number that will go in my collection. It represents my first Category 4 race.

My pinkie survived!

My pinkie survived!

I made a special glove to keep my left pinkie finger attached to my ring finger.  It worked perfectly.  The road was rough and when I was warming up before the race I didn’t use the glove.  The vibrations hurt.  With the glove, I didn’t feel a bit of pain!

My first "pay check" from racing.

My first "paycheck" from racing.

I finished in the money and got a $20 check.  Let’s see… registration: $25 + online registration fee: $1.98 – race winnings = $6.98.  Hmmmm, I guess I would have to win in order to cover the expense of the race.  Of course, I say that tongue in cheek.  I’m not racing for the money.

I’ve lost my memories!

Tomorrow is the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series race at River Falls.  Finally, it looks like we’ll actually be having an event in weather that really feels like spring!  It is going to be great.

When approaching a race, I like to look back and see my blog entry for the previous year.  It is hard to believe that I have been blogging almost daily for that long.  First at StackOfStuff.net and then GreenvilleOnline.com (the Web site of The Greenville News).

Well, I did find my entry at StackOfStuff.net where I wrote about the events surrounding the race (now here), but when I went to see my tactical race report that I had posted at GreenvilleOnline.com — It wasn’t there!  As a matter of fact months worth of blog posts are lost.  It felt like you feel when you open your wallet and realize our credit card isn’t in there anymore.  All my archived posts are no more!

I’m going to start more aggressively moving my remaining posts from GreenvilleOnline.com to LowCadence.com.  My ultimate goal is to move all of my cycling posts from the two other sites to this one.  Then I’ll have those years of memories in one place.

So, what about River Falls?  I still remember that it was one of the first races where I felt as though I understood what was going on around me.  It was also a course suited to my style of riding.  No criterium is this course!  It has rollers and climbs — more like Fork Shoals only it has one serious climb that takes you right up to the start finish line.

I had learned by this race who were the riders to watch.  So, I just marked the guy who had been cleaning our clocks in the earlier races.  On the final lap he lead us off on a break.  There were about nine of us in it.

I stayed back toward the back and kept rotating off to stay back there.  I wasn’t the only one doing this.  Some were riding right up and sitting on the leader’s wheel and staying there.  I kept trying to keep from getting that close.

This caused the smaller break to begin to shatter.  However, we had a big enough gap on the rest of the field so it was going to come down to just us.  Basically, the race would be decided by the person who got up the finishing climb fastest.

We started the climb and I got boxed in on the right side by the inevitable shift backward by the riders adjusting their gears.  I determined to be patient and wait until the final 200 yards before doing anything drastic.  Slowly I worked my way over to the left of the road.  By 500 meters, I was getting beyond the slower riders.

However, as I did this, I noticed the guy I had marked earlier building a gap with two other riders.  Suddenly my patience went out the window because I knew that soon they would crest the hill and I would have a hard time closing the gap.  I attacked.

I crested the hill myself giving it the full gas.  I was encouraged by the fact that I was closing in on the three riders ahead of me.  Even though I realized I had responded late and would not challenge the top two, I did see the possibility of passing the third rider.  I put a little more into it and passed him crossing the line about half a wheel ahead.

That was the race where I realized that I could do this.  Had I made a few different choices on that last climb, I could very well have had my first win.  That race has come to my memory several times since that day.  It is one of those positive thoughts I bring to mind when the going gets rough.

I’ve always loved River Falls.  I hope I can continue that love affair tomorrow.

A different kind of bike Fit

Well, this weekend, I will be heading up to River Falls for the last Saturday race of the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series. I’ll be taking my bike with me because I plan to race it. The weather will be nice and my finger is feeling much better, so I am pretty confident about giving it a go.

I thought I would use today’s post to show you how I get there. I have a 58cm Specialized Tarmac Pro and have the choice of carrying it in a Chevrolet Suburban or Honda Fit. With what it costs to go racing now days, I figure I need to save where I can. I’m taking the Fit.

People who have seen the video ask me why I don’t put my bike in there in “tall mode.” This seating configuration is where you flip the bottom of the back seats up exposing an area behind the front seats that goes from the floor to the ceiling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me.

It does work for a smaller bike. However, my Tarmac is just a little too long. My bike fits just fine height wise. It is just too long to fit across. Besides, I like having the larger space to work with when trying to load the bike.

Beyond the bike configuration, I really like my 2009 Honda Fit. It is fun to drive and good on gas. It has some pretty good options for an entry level Honda and it looks pretty cool.

Can you put racks on it? Yes, manufacturers of roof racks do have systems that work on the 2009 model. However, if you are looking for a hitch mounted rack, you are out of luck. At this time there are no hitch options that I am aware of — outside of fabricating your own!

The Fit is Go! and I am gone.

UPDATE: If you would like to see a close up view of the system, you can take a look at this post.

This amputee inspires and innovates on his bike

Saturday afternoon I was enjoying my first ride back on the bike since my surgery.  It was raining just a bit.  However, I was so antsy to get back on the road, I just had to get out for an hour or so.  It turned out to be a good and inspiring ride.

I headed down to Cleveland Park just to do some laps.  My finger felt great at first, but by the time I finished it was pretty sore.  The pain seemed to come more from the cold.  My altered gloves I made to help protect the pinkie seemed to work great, so there was no real stress on the finger.

Of course, I couldn’t just ride around.  The first 30 minutes were actually quite hard.  My legs felt awful.  Finally, I just decided to blow out the crud!  So on two laps I launched up the Woodland Circle climb.  I got two 10 second peaks on those laps over 1000 watts.  Shortly after my legs started feeling more supple and I made it home feeling great.

As I was finishing up, I came behind two riders.  One of them was Bryant Young.  Bryant leaves on the other side of my block.  He is a cyclist.  The only thing different is that Bryant wears a prosthesis.

That fact is never anything to hold him back. I could go into the history of what has brought Bryant to this day, but I’ll let you do that at his Web site.  What I was interested in last night was Bryant’s new crank arm.

Crank adapter for prosthesis

Crank adapter for prosthesis

The above photo shows the crank arm that he has been using.  There are certain rules about how long a crank arm can be when you are competing in paralympics, etc.  On the other hand, you don’t want the crank arm to be too long or it throws the leg around hurting balance.  No, the rider gets no assist from the prosthesis.  Go ahead, try pedaling your bike around Cleveland Park with one leg — or climbing Alamont Road! Bryant’s done it.

New crank arm by Ed Johnson

New crank arm by Ed Johnson

Enter Ed Johnson.  Ed is a machinist extraordinaire. Basically, if you can think it, he can make it.  Ed is also a cyclist.  Bryant and Ed met through Sunshine Cycle Shop. In discussions about the limitations of his old crank system, it was decided to have Ed machine Bryant a new crank arm specifically measured to stay within the guidelines and yet give Bryant the best positioning.  As you can see in the above picture, he did a beautiful job!

I followed Bryant for about half a lap before he headed home.  By the way, he was out there riding after having competed that morning in the Greenville Spring Training Series at Fork Shoals.  You should have seen the smile on his face out there in the rain!  You can tell he loves the sport!

Bryant is out there competing with all the other cyclists in the Greenville area. His goal is to move from training with these guys to participating in some disabled sports races.  Knowing Bryant, he’ll be there… along with his new crank arm.

You can read more about Bryant’s adventures at his Web site: bryantyoung.com. We’ll keep an eye on him here at Low Cadence as well. Thanks for the ride, Bryant!

Finger talking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Training Series Day One

I wish my fingers were in better shape so I could give a better report of the races yesterday at the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series presented by Hincapie Sports. Unfortunately, this brace they have on my left hand really slows me down. I’m feeling much too tired to battle through the process of getting my thoughts about the day down with one hand!

So, enjoy this video. I had hoped to have it up last night, but the data transfer was slow. You will see right away that the fields were quite large. Perhaps I’ll have some time later today to share my thoughts in a vlog. I will not be going out there for Sunday’s races. My birthday was yesterday, but I will be celebrating it tomorrow at lunch following morning church service.

We’ll see what happens next weekend… but for now, I hope everyone enjoys this “raw” video from the day. There is no voice over and it can get pretty confusing trying to figure out which group is coming through. Unfortunately, I only have a couple of short clips from the Masters races. I had to run home and pick up my boys during those events.

Thanks to all you out there who mentioned you hoped I would heal soon. Special thanks to my POA teammates who made me feel welcome. Also, I wish the best to all the guys who were injured in the crashes – especially my bro Matt and my long time Hour of Power partner, Owen.

Spring Training Series starts tomorrow

If you have the opportunity, head out to Donaldson Center tomorrow for the 2009 Greenville Spring Training Series.  Already into cycling? Then you already know this is the kick off event for bicycle racing for the Upstate — and beyond.  New to cycling? This is the time to come out and see what it is all about.

Here is a map of the location. Check out the entire schedule at HincapieSports.com.  Here is the scedule for Saturday, February 21, 2009.

Category Start Laps/Distance Prizes Place
Cat 5 34- 9:00 AM 3 laps/21 mi. Medals 3
Cat 5 35+ 9:04 AM 3 laps/21 mi. Medals 3
Women 9:06 AM 5 laps/35 mi. $200 4
Masters 35+ 11:00 AM 6 laps/42 mi. $250 6
Masters 45+ 11:02 AM 6 laps/42 mi. $250 6
Juniors 11:05 AM 3 laps/21 mi. $150 3
Pro, 1, 2 1:00 PM 8 laps/56 mi. $499 10
Cat 3 1:02 PM 7 laps/49 mi. $300 8
Cat 4 1:05 PM 5 laps/35 mi. $200 6

An explanation to the uninitiated readers (Hi, Mom!). In cycling all rders are divided into categories.  This is determined by experience, ability, and politics.  Category 5 is pretty simple.  You are just starting to race.  After finishing 10 races or by placing high and winning races, you can move up to Category 4.  In that category you begin earning points. 

To move up to Category 3 you must earn 20 points in any 12-month period. You also have the option of starting 25 races with a minimum of 10 top ten finishes with fields of 30 riders or more, or 20 pack finishes with fields over 50. Get 30 points in 12 months and the officials will automatically upgrade you.

Most riders are aiming for at least Category 2 status. At that point they may end up at times racing against pros. Making the jump from 3 to 2 is much harder than from 4 to 3. The explanation is simple: 25 points in any 12-month period, but the execution is much harder. That is where the politics come in!

Moving from 2 to 1 is very similar. You need to amass 30 points in any 12-month period. If you can do that in a 2 field, you are pretty good. Of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat. You can get fewer high placed finishes, or you can find every race possible and get lower places in more races. The emphasis is on experience and points, not only only finishing high.

What about those juniors? Here is where it gets interesting. Juniors are riders under a particular age. However, some juniors may be racing as Category 2 and 1 racers. Don’t let the baby faces fool you! You will often see a junior double in the Junior race and another category race.

The Masters are the same on the other end of the spectrum. They are racers who are past a particular age. However, don’t think that makes things any easier! The Masters fields in the Greenville area are often the toughest to ride in. Like the Juniors races, you will have multiple categories involved and it is painful to watch former national champions thumping the less experienced guys. That is why, even though I could race Masters, I will take my chances with the younger guys in Category 4!

You will notice there are prizes given out. The category 5 guys get medals. The rest get money. I guess it is kind of like your initiation. Until you prove yourself, you don’t get the cash. I think the organizers also want to discourage sandbagging – the act of staying in a lower category just so you can keep winning.

This prize money goes to the top finishers. You can see the top finishing places in the right column. As you can see, there isn’t a lot of money. You hope to get enough to pay the entry fee and your expenses for getting there. However, for guys at Spring Series, it isn’t about the money.

Plan on joining us.  The morning will start out kind of cool.  By the time the Pro, 1, 2, and Cat 3 and Cat 4 riders get out there the temperatures could reach the 60s.  So, throw on a jacket and come join the fun!

Stay tuned to LowCadence.com as we plan to bring stories and finishes from the first day of the rest of the season. On a personal note, I’m going back to the hand specialist today to have my big bandage removed and a smaller splint put on.  May be getting on the trainer tonight!