Tag Archives: Steve Sperry

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.

Drawing with Crayons: My first UWBL of the winter

It wasn’t until this Saturday that I was able to make it to the Upstate Winter Bicycle League. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to earlier, but it seemed that something kept coming up that kept me away. The first one was canceled due to weather and then I was either out of town, sick, or had another obligation. So, it was with a little bit of caution I approached my first one.

Why the caution? One reason is the fact that I hadn’t ridden over 60 miles since October. This one was slated to go 84 miles with three sprints and attack zones thrown into the mix. I was seriously wondering if I might just come dragging in behind the SAG after the four hours on the bike.

My second reason for caution is the fact that I had not ridden in a competitive group since the POA Cycling Team Fall Extravaganza. Let me tell you… UWBL A group is a competitive ride! It is a training ride not just for getting in your base miles. It is a training ride of practicing race tactics and sprint technique. It takes a little bit to get back in the swing of things going nearly 40 miles an hour down the road only a foot away from people on either side of you!

At least the weather started out nice. It was in the mid-40s, but after the days in the 20s and 30s we’ve had recently it seemed like a heat wave! By the time we finished we were in the 50s, but the rain set in and we were all wet.

I figured there were at least 80 riders out. There were a good number of POA Cycling Team members representing. It had been awhile since we had that many at the event. Jae Bowen was our man for the ride seeing how he had points towards the Pink Jersey.

It was fun to get back out there. However, it wasn’t supposed to be all fun for me. I had training to do. My instructions from coach were to 1) stay near the front and be efficient, 2) amass 350 TSS points, and 3) play around in the final sprint if my legs felt up to it.

With the final sprint in mind, I tried to tuck in and hide for a good portion of the ride. I still had memories of last year in my head.  It seemed that anytime I attempted to participate in a sprint, I would come dragging home. I didn’t want that to happen on this day.

I was helped out a bit in the first sprint. Just as we neared the attack zone, we approached an intersection. There were cars coming on our right. Some of the cyclists went on through, but as I got closer to the road so did the traffic coming toward us. Perhaps I did the wrong thing, but 1) I don’t want to get hit by a car, and 2) I don’t want motorists to hate us for being on the road. So, I disengaged my left foot and called, “Car right!” as I slowed to come to a stop.

Suddenly, I felt the force of someone running into my rear. I knew something bad had happened to my bike. However, I checked things out and it appeared that I was good to go. I got across the intersection and started going through my gears figuring the rear derailleur was going to be the issue. Sure enough, I found when I tried to go into the big ring I got a grinding sound and the chain was not moving smoothly.

I caught the rear of the group and then other guys arrived. We had a continuing “conversation” about the incident. Finally, I knew it was best to just shut my mouth and ride. However, there was a bit of pent up energy I was hoping to release on this first sprint.

It didn’t matter. First, I was at the rear of the pack when the attack started, and second, I was having to participate in my small ring. I was spinning like a mad man just to stay with the main group! The positive thing was that I moved up into the group and ended the sprint to Ware Shoals in sight of the winners.

Once we stopped after the sprint, I had time to take a look at my bike. The rear wheel was true and it didn’t seem that my hanger arm was bent. Still, I had that grinding sound. It appeared to be a front derailleur problem. As I was looking at it, Boyd Johnson came over to help me out. He just reached over and twisted the front derailleur just a fraction. The sound went away. Turns out my right foot must have jammed against the arm and bent it. Now, with Boyd’s help, I was back ready to go.

The mist started to feel a little more like rain as we neared the Dunklin Bridge attack zone. I figured we were heading for some rain ahead. I didn’t want to mix it up in a rainy sprint. I figured if I was going to “play around in a sprint” it was going to have to be this one. The Highway 20 finish would probably be soaked.

I started out near the front as one guy attacked forming a gap. I stayed with the guys at around me which included Thad Dulin and Steve Sperry. In my mind, it made sense to stay near them and see what would transpire. Then the jostling began as there were attacks and counter attacks.

“Watch and learn,” I said to myself and stayed close on Thad’s wheel. Patiently I waited staying close to him. Then he moved over to a group that was counter attacking. I hesitated because it was a little early in the attack for what I thought I could handle (it is a five mile attack zone). Looking back, I realize I should have just laid in on the line and chased after him.

The result of my hesitation was that I was now toward the front of a larger chase group. This meant more traffic. Ahead I could see the main competition flying along in a single file. Here I was with riders all around. My thought was, “Well, no way are you going to get anything out of this… just hold your position.” Some of the other riders started falling away as they must have come to a similar decision. I ended up passing a few riders ahead and finished in the first 20. I wonder what might have happened had I stayed with Thad.

Very soon after the rain started soaking the road and rooster tails were coming up from the bikes in front of me. The ride leader, Steve Sperry, stopped us to explain that the final sprint would be shorter in order to allow us to avoid some slippery train tracks that crossed the attack zone. That was fine with me, I was planning on just keeping the carbon side up!

Thankfully, I felt pretty strong even toward the end of the effort. There was something left in the tank even after the earlier efforts and several pulls on the front of the group. The day showed me that my fitness is coming. If I can just work on my sprint knowledge and confidence, I bet I could land a top ten on one of these rides. I’m really starting to believe that it isn’t so much a matter of my legs as it is my head.

As Sperry said to a guy riding near me, “Sprinting is an art.” Then he added, “Right, Jonathan?” Yes, it is an art, but I’m still drawing with Crayons!

Upstate Winter Bicycle League won’t miss a beat

Even the local cycling scene has it’s silly season.  It is that time when team realign and riders will move from one to another. This go around we have a major change in one of the larger teams in our peloton. However, the silliness is settling down and things are looking good.

No need to go into all the details, but the GlobalBike team here in the Upstate has changed it’s focus away from the Master’s level and is trying to move into a higher level race team.  That meant that a number of the better known riders on the team were looking for new rides.  Some other riders who were going to move to the master’s team were scrambling to get back with their previous team or a new one.

None of this affected me directly, except I did know that Steve Sperry was one of those guys who raced with the masters riders.  He and his teammates headed up the Upstate Winter Bicycle League. While I wasn’t too concerned that the ride would disappear, I was wondering if it might be a little less organized if things moved to a new team or Steve wasn’t involved.

I met up with him at the Hincapie Sports Warehouse Sale and asked him about it.  He assured me that UWBL was on and would be as good as ever.  He himself was staying on with GlobalBike to help with the realignment and he would be organizing the winter rides once again.  The difference will probably be that the ride leading duties will be spread around among riders on various teams.

My own team – POA Cycling Team – has managed to come through all of this with only one loss.  We had a scare there for a bit as we thought we would lose a mate to GlobalBike and some other prospects to that team as well.  However, with the realignment we with that organization we have been able to hang onto him and pick up some other incredible riders.  Our masters team is going to be smokin!

We were sad to lose Sam Smith, but she is moving to a new team that is forming that will have more ladies on it.  I wish her well and hope she will still consider letting me ride with her crew during next year’s 12 Hours of Tsali.  Hope I don’t regret saying that!

The new team appears to be a creation that will include a number of riders from the Hincapie Development Team.  I have not received an official announcement, but I believe that team will not be fielding riders next season.  Don’t worry though, we’ll still have to deal with the same riders!

Right now, I’m ready to put some of this silliness behind me and focus on my Ride For Mike.  Right now I am at $1815 raised toward my $5000 goal.  I’m thankful to those who have continued to give.  My drop dead date for having donations in is October 17 at 2:30.  That goal isn’t silliness!

That race over in France

I decided not to add my two cents worth to the racing taking place across the pond.  There are plenty of sites offering coverage and commentary of the event.  Since there is nothing really unique for me to add, I figure to spare you all from constant updates about stuff you already know.

However, there are two blogs you might want to check out.  These will give you a unique perspective from some Greenvillians who are actually there to see the race.  Check them out!

Steve Sperry and Elizabeth Brady have been in Europe for some time now.  They got to see some of the Giro and now are taking in the festival that is the – you know, that bicycle race going on where they are.  You can find their descriptions (and pictures) at Tour of Europe.

Then there is Rich Hincapie and his dad.  They are over watching a certain relative do massive lead outs for the fastest man on two wheels.  Rich is able to give some insights that you don’t always get from Versus or a typical fan.  So, head on over to the Rich Hincapie Blog and enjoy.

What is your favorite way to keep up with the race?  It was nice for it to start on a holiday weekend as it made it possible to enjoy the first couple of days live.  Now it is back to work.  I’ll have to wait until later in the evening to catch the action.

But, I’m not going to talk about it 🙂

Upstate Windy Bicycle League

Maybe I should wait until I’ve had a good night sleep before I do a ride report here at LowCadence.com for my Upstate Winter Bicycle League ride today.  The legs are pretty stiff and sore.  I can smell the roast the beautiful redhead is cooking for dinner and I’m having to restrain myself from going in there and eating half cooked!

The day started with great promise!  By the time we rolled out the temperature was probably 50 degrees and the forecast called for a high in the upper sixties.  Without a cloud in the sky, it was going to be beautiful.

The first hint that things could get interesting on the road was the fact that there weren’t as many riders as usual.  A number of those fewer riders were pros.  Typically, that means things are going to be fast.

My plan for the day was to participate in two sprints – the Princeton Hill and Dunklin Bridge sprints.  The plan for the final sprint of the day was to just finish the ride in the pack.  I didn’t have any plans on winning one!  I just wanted to hang in there as long as possible to get some good video to show how the sprint progressed.

It wasn’t long after we got out of town that a new element was going to enter the picture — wind.  If you were tucked in, you could still feel the turbulence.  If you got out of line, it was at times buffeting.  At other times, you could be in a pace line and still feel the crosswind.

The only positive thing in my mind was the fact that I wasn’t the only one having to ride through it.  Still, I was well aware that there are some riders out there that know better how to position themselves.  It’s another one of those things I still need to learn.

I had the camera in my hand and tried to move it to my helmet in anticipation of the upcoming sprint.  I just could not get it on and was fearful I would cause an accident!  We approached a stop sign and I hoped I could stop, get it on the helmet, and then catch back on.

STUPID!  I did get the camera on and then realized they moved through the intersection much more quickly than I anticipated.  Thankfully, I thought I heard someone say, “Hold up for Jonathan.”  Even with them slowing the gap was pretty big.  Another good thing was I caught up with one of the Revolution riders who was also trailing.  Once I caught him, I was able to draft off him as we caught the group.

The worse thing about all this was we stopped soon after to wait on the SAG vehicle!  I did all the work for absolutely nothing.  Next time I’ll ask.

The next thing on the agenda was the sprint.  We turned off onto Princeton Hill road.  The good thing was we had a tailwind as we started.  The bad thing was the road was extremely rough and I knew that up ahead was 12% grade.

The road was so rough that I noticed the base of my Garmin was rotating on my stem.  Also, the roughness of the road coupled with the variated light of the sun coming through the trees caused my camera to freeze up!  I wasn’t able to record the entire sprint.

The way it unfolded was that I stayed with the leaders for a good portion of the attack.  I was feeling pretty good about myself when we crossed over a bridge and then the road kicked up.  I even managed to hang on at that point as well.

Once over the climb I knew there would be an attack and attempted to position myself to go with it.  Things split up at that point though.  Boyd and Andy were off the front and the other heavy hitters followed.  Then there was the group I was with close behind.

I ended up sliding off the back of that group by about 20 yards and was there when the riders behind me came up.  I jumped on that train and came into the finish with them.  I’m never satisfied with my sprints, but to hang as long as I did was a positive.

Next thing for us was the store stop.  The B group was waiting for us.  I got some Gatorade and some Fig Newtons.  Then it was time to roll out to the next attack zone.  However, before we got there, Mr. Sperry decided to take us on an adventure.

I saw him move up in front of the group and then motion for us all to take a left turn.  That turn sent us right into a dirt and gravel road!  Thankfully, I was at the front when this happened so I didn’t have a lot of traffic around me.  I kept waiting for my tire to explode on some sharp gravel.  One tire of a rider just behind me did blow.

That lead us to a very nice newly paved road.  The next intersection of Dunklin Bridge.  Get ready to rumble!

I was riding near Steve during this time and was listening to him talk to the other GlobalBike riders on the radio.  It caused me to stop focusing on the attack and just listen to the instructions he was giving.  Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the front with a single rider trying to form a gap.  I wasn’t going after him!

Several other riders attacked.  When I saw who they were, I knew it was doomed.  I slowed hoping that the group would come around me.  Then things really started hopping and I was moving within the group trying as much as I could to conserve in the midst of the wind.

I stayed in there with the main group until it became obvious I was simply going to wear myself down for no reason since the leaders were now out of sight.  However, the thing I learned was that to be a bandit (a single rider without a team) in an attack like this is pretty hard.  The pros in the group could pull it off, but the rank and file rider isn’t going to get a win without help.

The beautiful day continued, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of it as I had my hands down in the drops and was just following the wheel in front of me.  I’m not sure what was wrong with me.  Maybe part of it was that I had only ridden once in the week, had not consumed enough fluids in the days before the ride, and I had been fighting the wind all day.

Even so, by the time the final sprint rolled around, I was feeling much better.  It even crossed my mind that I might get pulled right along in it because the group was moving very slow.  Then I glanced ahead and saw the Steve Sperry was off the front with a pretty good gap!

The pace picked up slowly, but it did increase.  I was so proud of myself!  The pack wasn’t pulling away.  We passed Matt Tebbetts.  He was going back fast.  It concerned me because he had been having some hip issues.  I hesitated and a gap formed.  When my leg came down to accelerate, I felt a cramp hit my right quad that felt like a balloon expanding.

I eased up and started trying to spin it out.  The gap to the riders behind me started to close and I held up to wait for Matt.  He came by pulling the group!  Later I learned as we rode together that his hip bothered him most climbing.

We rode together until we reached Hwy. 20.  Once again I started feeling my strength coming back.  I started to pull with the riders around me.  Then I gapped them and was riding alone.  I managed to hold 230 to 250 watts to the track.

As we got to each stop light we picked up more riders so that by the time we reached Carolina Triathlon the group was pretty much back together.  As I swung my leg over the bike, the cramps arrived.  Oh boy, I still had to make a five mile trip home with some climbing involved.

Sure enough as I made the mild climb up East North Street from Stone Avenue every muscle in my upper legs started cramping — all at one time!  I have never had that happen before.  Still, I started spinning and mentally relaxed.  They cleared and I made it home.

Sorry for the long post.  It was a long day.