Tag Archives: Strad Helms

11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

Funny.  Just yesterday I was talking about how I was about to go into hibernation.  That post finished with me saying, “Sometimes all it takes to get you back going is a good ride.”  Well, I can definitely say I had a good ride, but I have to give the credit to the guys who made it happen.

First I was just hoping it wouldn’t be raining.  It was cool but a little humid.  There had been times of very light rain through the day, but for now it was holding off.

Then I was hoping people would show up for the ride.  As I pulled up to the parking lot, I didn’t see anyone or the cars of the typical members of this ride.  Maybe tonight’s ride would be solo.

I went inside and found Billy White.  He was putting down a Powerbar and looking around probably wondering the same thing I was… “Hey, where is everybody?”  It was good to know that there would be at least two of us.

Boyd Johnson rolled in about the time I was getting my Powerbar finished.  The three of us went out to check the parking lot one last time.  There we found Strad Helms.  Four is definitely better than one.

We headed out at a pretty nice clip.  I was talking with Boyd about his plans to import frames and build up his own brand of bikes.  We also had some of our usual unusual sightings.  One guy passed us on a moped and he had a huge knot on his head.  Another time we saw a guy out running – sweat dripping off him – with a beer in his hand.

It was a pretty typical ride until we made a turn onto a road and I went to put weight on my right pedal.  I heard a twang and felt my leg spin around with no resistance.  My chain broke.  Of course, none of us had a chain tool.

The good news is that we were very close to Boyd’s house.  We removed my chain and I remounted my bike.   Boyd then commenced to push me the distance to his street.  Before long, I was back together sans a couple of chain links.  John James happened by.  Now there were five of us and we were back on the road.

That road led us quickly to Paris Mountain.  We started up and I could sense John had designs to get to the top a bit faster tonight.  Billy and I tucked in behind the three other riders and tried to hang on.

It wasn’t uncomfortable.  I felt I was on the edge of too much, but not quite.  When we reached halfway, I knew why.  We reached that point in just around five and a half minutes!  Hmmmmm, this could be interesting.

As we moved past that point, John eased off to join a rider we were coming around.  As he did so, he said to Strad, “Fall back and let Jonathan on your wheel.”  Strad was a bit confused about John’s intentions and ended going behind me.  It was just Boyd’s wheel ahead.

I figured he (and Strad) would end up riding off to leave me in the dust.  However, I was staying with them.  The difference was I was laboring a bit and they weren’t.

We reached a point where I thought I was going to have to ease up a bit and at that point I realized these guys weren’t going to leave me.  They had plans to coax me to the top for my personal best.  Boyd turned around and coached me to shift down a gear and encouraged me to keep going.

We were at the dreaded blue post section of the climb.  It is the point where I normally begin to lose my rhythm.  However, the realization that I had a couple of guys expecting me to give my best motivated me to do just that.  I didn’t want to let them down if they were going to be there for me.

I settled down and just tried to get some oxygen in me while concentrating on trying to avoid gaps forming between me and the riders ahead.  No doubt those gaps would have come, but Boyd and Strad were keeping the pace just high enough to push me but not drop me.

“Keep your head up,” I heard Boyd say.  “Don’t look down.  It will defeat you.”  I jerked my head up to look at the road ahead of me.  I know it is psychological, but he was right.  I concentrated on keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead instead of myself or the bike — especially the computer!

“Two minutes to go!”  Boyd and Strad were now turning around to check on my progress and push me when they noticed me begin to ease.  My spirits lifted when Strad called my attention to the fact that we were nearing the yellow turn sign that marks the beginning of The Wall.

“Forty-five seconds…” Boyd called, “you’re going to have to stand the whole finish.”  I obeyed.  “Shift down,” he instructed and I put on more resistance.  “Good,” he said.  “Now, stand.”  He had to remind me one or two more times to get off the seat, but for the most part I was pushing hard for the top.

Strad now moved behind me and I could hear Boyd ahead and Strad behind.  They were willing me to the finish.  There was no way I was going to sit up at this point.

“Fifteen seconds,” Boyd was counting the time.  “You can do anything for fifteen seconds.”  I still had enough pride left that I didn’t want to sound like I was dying – even though I felt like I was.  I tried to contain the grunts and whimpers that I felt trying to come out.

Pride be hanged!  I was riding with a guy who just days before had raced up this mountain as part of the professional peloton during the USA Cycling Professional Championships.  Of course I was going to have a harder time making it to the top!  Then there was Strad still calling encouragement from behind.  He races with the Hincapie Development team and my guess is it won’t be long before you’ll find him on one of the teams now racing in the Tour of Missouri.

I let out a grunt and what probably could be classified as a whimper.  That kind of whimper that comes from a kid getting beat up by bullies.  However, I stepped on it and attacked that last kick up to the finish.  Only once did I drop to my seat, but I was immediately up at the command from Boyd.  Finally, I pushed that infernal bike across the line.

It took awhile for me to see the computer screen in front of me.  I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  As it came into focus I saw 11.  That was awesome!  However, I actually felt a chill as I noticed what followed the “:” – it was a “35”!  I had crushed my best time by 30 seconds!

I didn’t know what to think.  A goal I had been trying to break for two years fell on a night when I had no intentions of trying.  The thought crossed my mind what my time could have been without the two nearly full water bottles.  Then I wondered if I could really claim the time since I got it by being paced up the mountain.

I’ll take it.  I worked hard enough to get that time.  Take off 20 seconds as a penalty for pacing and I’ll still have a sub-twelve minute climb.  Of course, as Boyd told me as we eased up on the other side, “The bad thing about this is now you know you can do it.”

I kept waiting for some sort of feeling of elation to come over me.  It never did.  It was more of a matter of fact feeling of relief.  There was no immediate feeling of, “Okay, now I need to get an 11:30!”  No, for now I am happy with having broken 12.

As I helped my six year-old break into the bathroom that had been inadvertantly locked so he could get the all important reach extender so he could rescue a toy out of a hole, it crossed my mind how much more time and devotion it would take to knock off another 10 seconds.  “Thanks, Dad!”  Hey, it is just a number.  If it comes, it comes.  If it doesn’t?  There are more important things in life.

From the Red River Gorge to the French Broad River

There is some interesting Tour news today. You can go to any number of sites to read about it. I can’t talk about it here. I’ll just say, “Bummer, Levi, heal soon and come see us at the USA Cycling Professional Championships.”

Here is another update on the Hincapie Development Team that today will be finishing up their Tour of the Red River Gorge UCI Invitational.  They have to be super pumped right now and who knows what will happen going into tonight’s criterium.  Good job guys!

In the 91 mile road race a break of about 20 riders formed and built a two minute gap on the field.  HDT made the break.  It was Ty Magner who made the winning break and with 2K to go there were 13 of them. Unfortunately, he got detached in the sprint at the finish and was 11th.

Tyler Karnes was in the next group and finished 17th while Strad Helms (34th) and Blair Turner (51st) were in the next group.  A.J. Meyer broke a pedal but still managed within the cutoff. Aubrey Moore was ahead of him in 58th.  With the solid finish by the team, they moved up a spot to 6th in the team classification.

Of course, what might have been of more interest to them was the fact that they are sharing the facilities at the University of Kentucky with a bunch of cheerleaders who are there for a camp.  1300 of them to be exact! That could explain the look on Tyler Karnes’ (front) face in the below photo. Blair Turner is seated behind him.

Photo by Joan Hanscom

Photo by Joan Hanscom

I’m leaving today to head up to Asheville for the French Broad Cycling Classic.  I hope to catch some of my teammates participating in the time trial and then take a car along tomorrow’s route.  I hear it is super tough.

I do believe I am ready to give it a go.  Last night I went out for a ride with friends along the base of Paris Mountain. It was hard to hold back at times, but I knew I couldn’t push myself.  Just once did I get in behind Louis and unwind it a bit. Still, by the time we started up Altamont, I was feeling pretty good.

On the mountain, I simply tried to find a cadence that would allow me to keep a steady tempo.  Tyler was right on my wheel talking smack.  I just grinned to myself and keep going.  He stopped talking, but I could glance back and see his wheel right off of mine.

Then I heard him start breathing. I did my best to control my breathing. I wanted him to think I was breathing easily through my nose.  Still pacing myself I kept the pressure on him.

Then I heard him exclaim, “Pait!” I knew I was dropping him at that point.  Soon I was alone with the main group behind and only Art in front of me.  Since I wasn’t pushing it, I figured Art would be waiting for me at the top.

Well, coming around a corner near the top, I saw Art going into the next one.  By the time we reached the yellow sign that marks the beginning of The Wall section, Art and I were on the same straight.  I figured I just needed to keep the same pace and I could get him by the end.

Once on The Wall, I realized Art had picked it up a bit.  I had to stand and pick it up myself if I hoped to match him.  We went into the final pitch upward near neck-and-neck.  Finally, I inched ahead and came across the line.

The climb gave me lots of confidence going into the race Saturday.  It wasn’t my best time (13:29), but that is only a minute and fifteen seconds or so off my best.  The good news is that except for that final 20 meter push, I had kept my heart rate at a reasonable average on the climb and really did not feel I worked that hard.  I’m happy with the base of fitness I have.

My WKO+ seemed to confirm this.  The ride put my the graphs on my Performance Management Chart into positive territory.  If the chart is telling me what I think it is, I should have a good day tomorrow.

Here’s hoping! Of course, there will be a report here at LowCadence.com.

Checking into another race going on

Most of us are aware of the race going on over across the pond.  However, just because the biggest cycling race in the world is going on in France does not mean there aren’t other events taking place around the world.  Some a bit closer to home.

The members of the Greenville based Hincapie Development Team are stretching their legs out at the first ever UCI junior race to be held in America.  The guys are acquitting themselves well at the Red River Gorge UCI Invitational.  They are going up against some stout competition in the Hot Tubes guys who are on the National Team and have a season of European racing under their belts.

Photo from tour-rrg.com

Photo from tour-rrg.com

In the prologue – a 1.2 mile individual time trial – A.J. Meyer took 6th and Ty Magner also scored a top 10 with a 9th place finish.  The rest of the guys finished well among the 120 contestants.  Blair Turner 34th, Strad Helms 40th, Tyler Karnes 46th, and Aubrey Moore 51st.

Stage two was a road race.  Tyler Karnes was right in there with the winning break, but had a mechanical forcing him to fall back.  The rest of the guys were back covering in the main group with Strad having domestique duties.  Of course, that isn’t something that many of us racers get to do because of the nature of our stateside races.

Unfortunately for Strad, who is just coming back from a collar bone injury, it was during one of the times when he was going back to get a feed for the team that the group accelerated.  Strad had a chance to see how his fitness is coming along as he chased to get back on.  Blair, Ty, and A.J. managed to get into a chase group 1 minute behind the break and about 1 minute in front of the peloton.

They all finished in the chase group or the peloton.  Strad was able to get back into a group of about 30 riders with Aubrey and finish well.  Tyler managed to get back in, but finished in 84th after his blazing start.

Yesterday they competed in the time trial.  Ty and Tyler showed their stuff by coming in with the 17th and 18th best times on the day.  Aubrey and A.J. continued the pairing theme by finishing 45th and 46th.  Blair and Strad finished with respectable times within the top 80 on the 28 mile course.

Today they go into the 91 mile road race in 7th place as a team.  They are 7 minutes behind the strong Hot Tubes team, but with some close competition ahead of them.  There is plenty of opportunity to move closer to the team podium with a good finish.  Hopefully, the climbing around this area will help them on today’s stage.

Here is hoping for a strong day for Ty Magner who is currently the highest placed HDT rider on GC.  He’ll have the opportunity to move up as the events in Red River continue with today’s road race stage and conclude with a criterium race on Friday night.

What a great opportunity for these young riders.  I’ll try to give a short update when it is all done here at LowCadence.com.