Friday, May 23, 2008

Tour of Atlanta Race Report

Stage 1 - ITT - Buford
The 7-mile TT course was not technical on paper, but it felt very technical while riding. There were constant small rollers, gradual bends, changes in pavement, intersecting roadways, steady swirling winds, driveways, manhole covers, potholes, traffic, etc. I found it mentally exhausting. I never felt that I got into a rhythm, and when finished, I didn't feel that I'd ridden well. But after discussing the ride with others afterward, I realized everyone felt that way. It turns out that I rode well after all, and so did my teammates. Competitive 35+: Me - 1st; Chad Davies - 2nd; Todd Wilson - 16th (with a wrong turn). Elite 2/3: Doug Ott, 12th; Jake Andrews, 16th. In yellow for stage 2!

Note added later: Please keep Tiago de Paula in your thoughts and prayers, and make a donation to help him out. He was severely injured warming up for the ToA TT yesterday. More at

Stage 2 - Sprints - Buford
The course was about 650 meters, slightly downhill with a gentle s-curve. The line was 200m from the end of the final bend. Todd rode in the 1st heat - I thought I saw him out front, but couldn't see well. Turns out he won going away! He used great tactics and had a strong sprint. In the 2nd heat, Chad was boxed in and didn't get into the top 3. I was in the 3rd heat (10 riders). We started slowly, jockeying for position. At 300m I was sitting 3rd wheel. I thought, "I'll jump at 250." At 275, 4 guys came around, two on either side, and I couldn't get out to even try to go with them. It was very disappointing - I wanted to go, but could not. After exceeding 1100 watts twice in warmup efforts, my max power output in a competitive sprint heat was only 748 watts - heartbreaking. I had no expectations to do well in the sprints; but in retrospect, I had the power to contend at least in the first heat if my tactics weren't so shitty. But that's obviously part of being a good sprinter - you have to have good instincts about how and when to use your power. I obviously do not have good instincts.

Todd took 3rd in the final round of the Competitive 35+ division.

Jake won his first round in Elite by half a bike length. He barely missed 3rd place on the 2nd round. Doug had a photo-finish sprint for 3rd/4th place in his 1st round, but ended up 4th and didn't get a chance to continue.

A very successful first two stages for Security Bank. I look forward to tomorrow.

Stage 3 - Circuit - John's Creek
Tough course - about 8 or 10 bends/turns with a couple of u-turns. My crit was hard (281W NP for first 15 min, 275W overall). I stayed near the front for the first 15 minutes, then started to fade more with each new surge. I was sort of dropped about twice, but chased back on. I finished 15th, in the back of the front group. Chad "Doc" Davies was right behind me in 16th, and Todd only lost a few seconds, I think. If the right folks picked up the time bonuses, I should still be in yellow tomorrow.

Jake fought hard and chased for a long time in no-man's land, but eventually lost some time in Elite. Doug was in a chase group that had closed to within 10 sec of the lead group when someone in front of him went down and took Doug with him. He broke his bars, got some road rash, DNFed, and had to get Bike Doctor to install new bars for tomorrow.

I think we can pick up a chunk of time tomorrow in the TTT. Ron and Bill will bring fresh legs and needed speed.

NP=275w (4.12 w/kg). Ave speed 24.9 mph.

Stage 4 - Team Time Trial - Monroe
The course was lengthened from 10 miles to 13 miles, which was good for us, I think. It was out and back with gentle rollers. Bill, me, Ron, Todd, and Chad ramped it up gradually and got to the turnaround in about 13 minutes, I think. Two cars were blocking the turnaround, which cost us maybe 5 or 10 seconds. Ron overshot the turnaround a little and had to hammer pretty hard for about 30 seconds to bridge back to us. We finished hard, with Bill doing a little more than his share of the work. Our time was 29:30, which puts us close to 28mph if the course was a little over 13 miles - I didn't measure it. We took 1st in the TTT by 61 seconds.

Jake, Doug, and Jeff formed a 3-man team in the Elite division, taking 11th, I think.

Stage 5 - Road Race - Monroe
Only about 2 hours after the TTT we started the 50-mile road race. There were no real climbs, just one decent hill for the KOM. I stayed in the front 20 riders all day to avoid crashes, etc. About 5 minutes into the race Bill reached down to adjust his speed sensor and lost about a pound of flesh from his hand in the front spokes. We all thought he would bleed to death, but he decided to surge and attack the group for the next 48 miles instead. He got away at about 6 or 7 miles to go and stayed away until about 5k to go. There was a crash at about mile 33 that took down about 15 riders from what I heard. The crash happened about 10 feet behind me. Todd and Chad just missed getting caught in it, I think. I raced very conservatively, finished safely in 12th place, and lost no time in GC.

Magnum Drew Slocum raced solo in the Competitive 35- division, and after freeing himself from the teammate baggage that had obviously been slowing him down, he broke away, stayed away for (17 miles maybe?) and took 1st! in a 2-man sprint. Congratulations Drew - job well done.

The Elite division of Security Bank had a tough road race. Doug and Jake got caught behind a railroad track crash in the rain and burnt all their matches on a long chase back to the main group. Doug took a KOM, but then his overworked, recently-crashed legs froze up on him with cramps. The broom wagons were all full with other elites, so he rode back to the start in the back of a sheriff's car like the common criminals he'll be prosecuting in a couple of years. Jake had better accommodations back to the start in Kristy's Tahoe. Jeff avoided the crash at the tracks, hung in there, and took, 25th.

Our Director Sportif, Eduardo Hudspeth, riding for Economy Honda, launched multiple attacks, but could not get them to stick in the Masters Road Race.

As far as we know at this point, Chad and I lead the GC by about a minute over the chasers. The scorers messed up Randall Roland's time and put him ahead of us, but he told me he rode a 32+ minute TTT solo. The results say he bettered us in the TTT by a minute. Todd moved up to 9th in GC, so that's 3 for Security Bank in the top 10. We have two difficult crits yet to go.

Stage 6 - Crit - Gainesville
I was a little concerned about the Gainesville crit. I raced the exact same course this spring(Gainesville Georgia Cup) and was hurt pretty badly early. My NP had been 310 or so in the first 10 minutes, I faded to the yo-yo back, and I couldn't hold the pack. I lost lots of time in that race.
This time was different. I started fast and absolutely would not let myself get more than about 10 riders from the front. If I felt 11th spot coming, I'd jump out of the saddle and do whatever it took to get back to about 5th. The strategy worked. I didn't have to hit my brakes on the turns and I could pick my own line most of the time - a much more efficient way to ride. About 20 minutes into the race, Ben from Cycleworks/HDR took a flyer off the front. He was sitting 3rd in GC. He's a big guy for a cyclist and if you didn't know him, you might not take his attack seriously, but I knew he could roll. Nobody seemed to want to chase, so I went to the front and worked hard for about a lap to prevent the small gap from growing. When I looked around for some help, I saw two of his teammates on my wheel. The only way to solve the problem was to completely turn off the gas. I did, and he was eventually chased down. It got pretty fast in the last two laps, I faded back a little and finished about 20th. Chad and Todd finished safely as well. Kudos to Todd for doing a lot to keep me out of the wind up front. Still in white with one crit to go. NP=275w (4.12 w/kg). Ave speed 24.8 mph.

Stage 7 - crit - Buford
I arrived just in time to see Drew's crit and snap a picture of his road race podium - he took 1st in Monroe.

The Buford course was a long rectangle. Turns 1 and 2 were smooth and easy. The back stretch had a small roller, but was mostly downhill. Turn 3 was tight and a momentum killer as the little 75m, 6-7% climb started. Turn 4 was at the top of the climb 250 m from the finish. I used a different strategy for this course than in Gainesville. I was concerned that if I tried to kill the climb on every lap, I'd go too deep into the red and might get dropped if there was an attack or prime at the wrong time (concentrating on not getting dropped is a really bad strategy for winning races, but I wasn't trying to win this one); so I used the back straight to move to the front on almost every lap. It was easy to move up in that area because the wind was from the left and everyone would swing out to the left as they came around turn two. I took the inside line if possible, moved to the drops, and went pretty hard down the right side as the leaders recovered and got organized for the next climb.

I often entered the climb on 2nd or 3rd wheel, and without blowing myself up, could come out of it no worse than 10th or 15th. I'd move back to the front again and repeat - I did that roughly 15 times. The only times I didn't do it were on time bonus laps, when the pace was too high to move up.

There was a crash in front of me at about 15 minutes in - a clipped pedal, I think. I was lucky that the the guy fell straight down and allowed me about a 2-foot gap between him and the curb to get around. I knew turn three would be dicey on the last lap, and I had 90 seconds on everyone but my teammate, Chad Davies, who was 10 seconds back. So Chad and I moved to the back of the group on the last back stretch, sacrificed a few seconds, and stayed out of trouble. Sure enough, on the last time through turn 3, all the riders turned together but one, and the guy to his right went straight into him. Because we'd let a 1-second gap form in front of us, Chad and I had time to get around him without stopping. I shot left through the exact same 1-foot gap as I had 15 minutes earlier. Chad and I finished together a few seconds off the back. Mission accomplished - 1st and 2nd in the Tour of Atlanta for me and Chad. Todd took 9th to give us three in the top ten. NP=282w (4.22 w/kg). Ave Speed 24.5 mph.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Good Omen

There's an effect that obvious to anyone who rides with a power meter, but it's a pure truth, so I'll describe it anyway.

Trey's mention of it on "The Other Woman" made me think of it again. I’ve read it elsewhere and I’ve noticed it many times myself: A surefire signal that your form is good is when you look down when warming up or riding and you are surprise by how high the power number is for a given effort. It seems basic and overly simplistic, but that relationship between your perceived exertion and your power output reading can provide tremendous insight regarding your form if you’ll pay attention to it. If you ride a lot with your meter, then you have probably developed a very good feel for the power/perceived exertion relationship. When that ratio goes up, it's a very good omen.

But I'm still surprised every time that it happens.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Progression

Aspiring Cat5


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bullseyes Over and Over Again

Does this picture look familiar?

If so, you're probably one of the many that regularly visit the "Belgium Kneewarmers" blog I've read it on and off for a year or more, and I'm constantly surprised by the diversity of the topics and the quality of the writing on the site.

The posts that each of us likes the most will vary depending on our interests and our approach to life. But there's something over there for most everyone, I think. My lovely wife, also a cyclist and a baker, really enjoyed the recent "Baking" post. I thought the "Bike Room" post nailed perfectly my unarticulated feelings toward my bike room - if one can have feelings toward a room. And the finish of "The Balance" is about as close to a work of art as cycling blogs get (or as close as we'd want for them to get):

I’m slower for drinking wine, there’s no doubt. I’m also poorer for it. Nonetheless, my life has been enriched by it as much as it has been enriched by cycling. It has taught me to take my time with meals, the value of slow food, and in a world being inexorably homogenized by big box retailers, bringing home a bottle of wine from my travels can be a way to bring home a real reminder of a place, an actual taste of the place itself. Long after my memory of the roads begin to fade, I can open that bottle to bring out the sun of a perfect day.

Kudos again to Padraig and Radio Freddy - I hope you keep up the good work for years to come.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cumming Race Report

Security Bank had a great showing in the Cumming TT on Saturday. The 7-mile out-and-back course was very hilly - there wasn't a flat spot on it. There was a 1/4-mile 6% hill right off the bat, and at the top I was concerned that I'd taken the first climb too hard and blown up. The back side of the first hill was the longest downhill section of the route. As I crested the hill and dumped the rear derailleur into the 11, I heard a clicking sound and realized that I couldn't use my 11 cog. I had changed lockrings, causing the chain not to engage fully on the 11. So a good portion of the ride involved either painful climbing (most climbing on a TT bike is painful) or 120-cadence spinning on the downhills in my 12. Who knows, maybe avoiding the 11 saved my legs for the hills.

Anyway, we had four riders in the top 11 of the Competitive 35+ division: Ron Hill, 11th (riding the Hill Classic and dominating the homemade bike category); Todd Wilson, 6th (ROLLing with his deep sections); Bill Causey, 2nd (powering his neuvo-waifish 6'3" frame over the hills); and I won it - my 1st ever win - finally.

Christian finished well (find out why). He was 6th in the Pro-Am, and was the top 'Am.'

I had fun in the Masters RR (had to leave early and couldn't race the Comp 35+). Sitting in the field was not too difficult - a little harder than a fast Competitive division race, but there was lots more activity up front. There was constantly one or two groups of two to four riders going off the front and others trying to bridge. That kept the field in a long single- or double-file line much of the time (unlike the Comp division). There was a 2- or 3-rider crash in front of me on the 1st lap, but I went around it. About 8 or 9 riders eventually got off the front (I didn't know it at the time). On the 2nd KOM I worked with a Jittery Joes rider to pull my way up to a small group (he did most of the work). I looked around soon after and I was in a group of about 7 riders - but because of all the carnage I didn't know if I was racing for 15th (accurate) or 55th. I guess we were in a chase group, but I never knew it - and I guess the others either didn't know it or had no more gas. I guess it was just what was left of the peloton. That was the biggest difference about the masters race - it became hard lots of times, but I never got the 'oh crap I'm about to be dropped' vibe from the group. It seemed to be more of a silent, controlled aggression, if that makes sense.

We weren't going fast in the small group, so I knew we would soon be joined by others behind us. I didn't have the legs, myself, to go off the front of the small group, but tried to go with every surge hoping to get separated from the small group, but nothing ever gelled. In retrospect, I should have made much more of an effort to get away when the group lulled - I think I could have done it. I didn't know at that time that there were only 8 or 9 riders in front of us. We were eventually caught by a few other riders from behind, swelling the group to about 16 riders. I finished last in the field sprint with toasted legs in 24th, but had a fun race. I'm sure I have more Masters field racing in my future.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


It's unusual; almost unheard of: A 2.5-hour out-and-back constant tailwind. Betty Jean and I spent the weekend at George T. Bagby State Park in southwest Georgia. We rode to Eufaula and back on Saturday. The out section was toward Eufaula directly into a brewing thunderstorm, and the wind was being sucked up into the thunderhead, giving us a strong tailwind. We left Eufaula right as the storm came into town. It chased us all the way back to the park with a stiff tailwind. We rode at TT pace for over 50 miles and barely broke a sweat.