Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Prior to updating the blog with today’s post, I reread my last post.  It was April 30th, and I had just completing or close to completing Speedweek.  I was struggling with back pain at that time, but that was more to do with the intense crits at warp speed lasting 90 minutes.  My back was in better shape then, but that effort will leave soreness regardless.  I was planning to add some short and intense intervals similar to my training, but it never happened.  I took some good fitness into a few hard and long training rides on Tucker (Sat) and Tues Night Crit (Tues) which probably helped lead to getting sick.  My doctor wasn’t sure if nasal and ear infections would be tied to fatigue in training, but it is an interesting coincidence that I was peaking right when I got sick.

So, the hard and intense intervals were never started, and I piled 2 weeks of antibiotics instead.  Now that we are almost in July, it leaves an interesting decision on where to focus training.  One school of thought to focus on those harder intervals while the other thought is focused on adding a little more fitness.  So, I’ll try and split the difference.  I’m racing two crits this weekend which means less duration and fitness building in favor of harder and shorter efforts.  The surges in the crits creates exactly the training my body needs to get back into shape.   In last night’s crit, I had the fitness, but my 1 min – 5 min power was really low.  Ty Magner and Oscar Clark rode me off their wheels.  This isn’t surprising and would happen if I was in top shape, but if I was in top shape, I would have been able to get closer during my bridge effort and lasted several minutes longer prior to exploding.  Last night, I can see my 1 min and 5 min power down about 10 – 15% even though I came in decently rested.  With the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix coming in less than a month, I need to add 1 day a week of 1 minute and 3 minute intervals to regain at least 5% of that power without adding too much fatigue for racing.  I’m hoping to fit these into shorter 60 minute Thursday night training rides and then cruise around easy on the back of the Chastain Group Ride.   I’ll combine that with Saturday Tucker, Sunday Silver Comet Tempo, and Tuesday Night Crit + Kennesaw Repeats.

So, again, that’s the plan, we’ll see if I can follow the plan better this time and avoid injury / illness.  Step 1 is race #2 of Dingo Days Criterium tonight at 6:20pm in Flowery Branch.  Since Ty and Oscar are not racing tonight, it should a little different race.  Normally when they show up, it’s easy because they drop everyone, lap the field, and then ride tempo for the field.  Last night, the race started hard with attacks and counter attacks.  I was hoping to avoid going with any early attacks and await Ty and Oscar’s attack.  However, Ty or Oscar took turns going with each early move from the gun.  The first attack on lap 1 had Novo Nordisk attack out of turn 3 with Oscar alone for the ride.  I sprinted up to the move and it was brought back easily about a half lap later.  Immediately, Novo counter attacked and again it was either Ty or Oscar that was in the break of four.  I didn’t want to go again so early, but they started to roll fast.  I sprinted up to this move and noticed the field wasn’t chasing due to the representation.  Novo had two riders, Hincapie had one, Litespeed-BMW had one, and then there were two others.  This move was eventually brought back too.  This went on over and over for about the first 5 laps.  Each time, there was representation from either Ty or Oscar.  Finally, one of the moves got away.  It probably only took about a lap before both Ty and Oscar were off the front.  I chased hard for a half lap and then gave up.  Remind me never to do that.  If I’m in top shape then I have a 1 in 10 chance of bridging that move, but I knew coming in that my numbers were down 10 – 15% in 1 min and 5 min power, so it was stupid to even try.  People say you can’t race with numbers, but if you consistently are putting out numbers that are much lower than normal, it’s a good indication that any move which is normally hard for you will be nearly impossible to sustain the power required.  Again, you don’t need to be held captive by your power numbers, but you don’t want to be stupid either.  I often see guys with what I know is low power putting crazy hard chases while I’m picturing the story told in every elementary school about Don Quixote.  Maybe that is only California schools where I grew-up….  In any event, it was about a man who was a dreamer and couldn’t face reality.  If you put out 4.5w/kg and think you are going to chase down someone who puts out 5.5w/kg, you’re dreaming.  Even on a good day for you and a bad day for them, you’re dreaming.  Cycling isn’t all about power, but it is about power and w/kg for given durations under certain conditions.  There are a lot of variables, but every racer needs to be able to process those variables quickly and determine if they have a chance to stick the move or bring back the move.  Yesterday, I didn’t process that information on my most current fitness and power levels, so it was a move in futility.  Fast forward, I floated by to a chase group of six consisting of 3 Novo Nordisk, 1 Ridley, 1 DIY, and me.  With 8 – 10 to go, the Ridley guy crashed in turn 1.  I got caught behind the crash and skidded into the curb while the DIY and a Novo guy rode away.  I didn’t go down technically even though I softly hit head on into the curb causing me to unclip.  I checked my bike  and quickly sprinted after the two up the road.  I chased for about 1.5 laps before I latched back on exhausted.  I was thinking that it would stay that way and decide 3rd place until Ty and Oscar towed the lapped field back up to us about two laps later.  Then, they went hard off the front again.  With 5 to go, there was another group of about 8 riders.  I had a teammate attack with 4 to go, but he was pulled back quickly, and then there was a split as the riders pulled in behind the two caught riders.  I realized a little late that they were getting dropped, so I hate to sprint across about 50m to catch back on with 3 to go.  It got fast with 3, 2, and then at 1 to go it was very fast.  With 1 to go heading into turn 1, it was still slick and the crash was fresh in my mind.  I was running about 105psi on new tires, and I felt unsure in the turn with painted lines.  Two Novo riders came up on my side and tried to go two wide through the turn with me.  I didn’t chance anything and told them to take it easy while I braked and floated a couple riders back.  Going into turn 3 it was Oscar, Ty, DIY, and two Novo riders I let by me.  Then, heading into turn 4 the Novo rider attacked.  Ty and Oscar went off the front with Oscar leading out Ty and then sitting up.  I chased from turn 3 and got passed as I essentially led out Novo rider.  He took 3rd, and I got 4th.  I did way too much work prior to turn 4 to have any legs left to win a pack sprint.  Couple that with allowing two riders in turn 1, and my fate for 4th was sealed way before the actual sprint.  It is like I tell young riders, don’t talk about how you did in the sprint, tell me what you did in the last 3k leading up to the out of the saddle sprint.  The best sprinters are typically out of the saddle sprinting up the side further toward the front four or five times heading into the final sprint for the line effort.  That is often their fourth or fifth sprint, not their first sprint.  So, focus on developing the ability to sprint several times in a row and recover rather than being super efficient tucked into the draft perfectly placed to get boxed in.  The best sprinters are sometimes to the men with nerves of steel, but often they are the racers with the best recoverability and strength to sprint over and over with 1k to go.

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I’m not sure if that title is accurate for this post, but I wanted to provide insight into a few challenges I see with aging and racing.  I focus entirely on Pro/1/2 races and dabble in the Pro/1 NCC criteriums during Speed Week and sometimes a few other races on the calendar.  When racing regional Pro/1/2 races, the speed and attacks are strong, but nothing like the intensity of a large Pro field of dedicated Pro/1 riders who focus 100% on racing.  For me, the road races are not that difficult because they are hitting the endurance and aerobic areas of fitness where I spend the majority of my training.  If we are drilling it for 100 miles at 90%, I am in much less pain than the first 20 minutes of a tight or rainy crit where it is essentially 20 minutes straight of 5 – 10 sec all out / 5 – 10 sec rest.  Since I don’t like Tabata efforts due to the fact that they leave my legs and back fatigued for multiple days, I have a huge gap in repeatability.  If I had a huge base, I’d spend a couple weeks before the season focused on this top end training.  However, I’m typically still building in March and can’t realistically do 1 or 2 days of intense intervals without losing a ton of base fitness due to the recovery time.  If I do efforts like those in training, I may not be able to go hard again for up to three days.  This is where the difference between a young pro and an older masters racer really start to diverge.  I get frustrated when I hear masters racers say that they can’t ride fast because they are getting older.  It’s true, but the blanket statement isn’t correct.  It has more to do with picking and choosing your training to minimize long periods of soreness so you can maintain a high level of fitness.  If an older athlete attempts to build a lot of any single type of fitness (i.e. zone 5, zone 6, or zone 7), they leave themselves open to prolonged soreness that will erode their base fitness.  If you work full time with a family, it is very unlikely that you can regain the lost base fitness, so the cost / benefit of doing short intense workouts is minimized.


Part of me can accept the above statement, but part of me cannot accept that statement.  So, I’m planning to play with different types of intervals over the next few months to see which ones can build this repeatability while minimizing fatigue.  By definition, you need hard efforts to create training adaptations, so this isn’t completely logical.  However, I’m going to be pursuing the best workout that adds repeatability while minimizing fatigue.  I’m thinking of it as a sort of “anaerobic sweet spot” interval.  I also think that it will require a combination workout where some base fitness and FTP can be maintained while also working the anaerobic engine.  What I haven’t figured out is what it will look like in practice.  Next week I’ll head out and try some tabatas 8 x 10 sec all out / 20 sec off for 2 sets and then attempt to do an SST ride.  I’m sure that like anything in training, I will need to start slow and build up.  If the old saying of “no more than 10% increase in training per week” holds true, this all may just come down to starting intense intervals prior to rides at an almost embarrassingly short duration and slowly build up over time.  So, maybe it’s as simple as doing a quick tabata before every training session for two weeks, then adding a second set after two weeks, a third set after a month, etc….   We’ll see, but I’m icing my back as I type this post, so whatever I decide, I hope it fixes these soreness and fatigue issues so I can improve my repeatability while decreasing this pain.

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Athens Twilight Greenway – Cat 1/2 Race

This weekend marked the start of Speed Week in the Southeast.  I raced with the team on Saturday, and the team was incredible throughout the race.  They covered a ton of moves and allowed me to sit in looking for breaks.  I got in one decent break, but the field wouldn’t allow it to get away.  With two to go, we lined up a leadout train and did a good job of controlling the final two laps.  Hot Tubes countered with their own train which started to pull in front of the train I was leading for my teammate.  I probably should have dug deeper, but I decided that our two rider train would be better off tucking along the side draft of their leadout.  After we turned the last corner, we were positioned well for the sprint, but a rider I’ve never seen before took off up the side.  I quickly jumped after his wheel and was closing fast.  I think I may have eased up a bit to pace myself and allow the pass without blowing up which ended up resulting in me not passing and actually getting passed.  We did a bike through and were all separated by a few inches across the road.  It was a decent result and first podium of the year, but Roswell undid all that happiness.

Roswell Criterium – Pro/1 Race

It started pouring rain and quickly reminded me of my terrible confidence in the rain.  I brake a little harder than everyone else in the rain, but not too bad.  After 12 minutes, my day was over.  I was frustrated and swore off rainy crits.  Then, I went home and did some analysis.  Thanks to Strava, I can see that my power was a lot lower than the guys in the break.  Even if I rode more smoothly, I wasn’t going to be able to make the break with my current power.  The main issue is my 5 minute power which used to be extremely high and has slowly fallen every year since 2012.  How is that possible?  I went back and looked at the highest 5 min power files from 2012, and I noticed they were efforts when I was trying to get a couple hill climb KOM segments.  The process of trying “all out” efforts over the course of a few months boosted my 5 min power to levels almost 40 watts than my recent peak 5 minute efforts.  I’m sure I can do more than I’m currently doing, but let’s assume it’s a good 20 watts lower.  That 20 watts is the difference I need to ride faster at the beginning of a rainy crit when the strategy is drill it for the first 10 minutes then settle in.  


Next Training Plan:  More Strava…not a lot more, just the occasional focus once a week would help.


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I’m not planning to write a lot over winter.  My goals for 2014 are still being reviewed, and I have been swamped with work which makes cycling a low priority right now in December.  However, I know that I need to get closer to my 2012 weight to get to the next level in 2014.  I have allowed my CTL to drop lower this winter which hasn’t helped the weight issue either.  With lower CTL also comes lower FT which I felt during a family trip to Naples, FL last week.  I was able to ride several days with the great riders at Naples Velo.  All I can say is they are fast!  If I was in midseason form, it would have felt easy, but my low CTL combined with winter paced training left me hurting on a few rides.  I had no speed and no sprint which is fine in ATL in December, but not good in Naples.  The family was with me, so my rides were pretty short all week.  With the wife opening her new law firm, Gearhart Law Group, she was busy a lot, as well.  Her firm is focused on helping injured workers, so check them out if you get injured at work.  Otherwise, have fun this winter and stay safe on the roads.

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This weekend simultaneously marked the end of my road season while kicking-off my cyclocross season.  It is a bitter sweet end to the road season as my legs have finally come around with my CTL settling into a nice all time high point while maintaining a fresh positive TSB.  



The field was stacked with a full squad from Hincapie Development including Ty Magner, Oscar Clark, Joe Lewis, and Joey Rosskopf.   In total, they had over 8 riders who each can impact or win a race.  Then, you add in several other large squads such as Stans No Tubes, Global Bike, and a lot of solid Pro riders mixed into the fray as individuals or pairs of teammates.  The course consisted of a 4 mile out and 4 mile back with 8 x 8 mile laps with about 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.  The pace on lap 1 was very fast.  I have to admit that I have been spending a bit of time getting acquainted with my new Litespeed CX bike, so I haven’t ridden any hills since River Gorge last month.  I felt good enough to go harder on lap 1 and attempt to get in the early break, but I was concerned that type of move would put me in the red and potentially result in getting caught or blowing up.  I was very glad that I didn’t hung back in the chase group as we quickly caught riders who tried to make the break and were shed at some point.  That would have been me, and it would have left me very fatigued with no benefit to my overall race position.  As we were racing, I assumed the Hincapie team would create the break by force and anyone in the pack would get put into race of attrition mode.  After the first 2 laps, we settled into a decent tempo with the occasional full speed 5 min efforts where the field was lined out, but for the most part, it was lap after lap, shedding riders slowly off the back every time we hit the midway up the KOM climb.  On the last lap, the pack was still pretty large with about 40 of the original 75 riders still in the main field.  It was clear that it was likely going to break apart into several large groups for a field sprint of several groups separated by very few seconds.  I crested the KOM around 10th wheel and desceded the hill pretty quick with the other riders.  It got scary as attacks and counter attacks went up the road and riders swarmed the narrow road from the back while trying to ride up the yellow line and far right side pavement shoulder / gravel combination.  With about 2 miles to go, riders finally attacked hard enough to line out the pack which allowed several open lines to move up.  After we hit 1k to go, there was a slight lull in the field, but the road wasn’t open until around 200m, so nobody could move at all.  There was no 500m sign that I could see, but we could see the finish line barriers.  In hindsight, I’m not sure what would have been a better move since there were few holes behind the first row of four riders.  I was sitting about 5th wheel and noticed Oleg take a flier, so I jumped his wheel.  He started to slow, so I went left around him at around 100m and threw my wheel just past Winston David for 4th in the field sprint and 14th overall.  2 riders snuck off the front somewhere, so we were sprinting for 9th or 10th place, I think.  It wasn’t a great result, but when you figure I had no chance to make the break of 9 guys given my inability to ride hills that fast, it was probably as good as can be expected for a heavier rider doing 6,500 ft elevation in 70 miles of racing.  The numbers were not that impressive for the day since it was all up and down with some rolling areas.  NP was decent, but it wasn’t anywhere near a peak.  The hardest part of the race was the first part of lap 1 when I recorded 416 watts for peak 5 minutes.  My personal best 5 minutes is 445 watts, so this was hard, but I wasn’t killing myself either.  It’s important to remember that peaks are peaks for a reason, and they are hard to achieve without a few minutes of rest afterwards.  If you are planning to go hard enough to get a peak 5 min or peak 20 min and then continue racing for the next 3 hours afterwards while doing another 6k ft of climbing, it may not be a good idea to go after the breakaway if it means hitting your peak.  That was my scenario as I probably had enough power to reach or stick the break, but not enough to stay in the break, so I chose to dial it back and do lap 1 well within my ability which meant I had plenty of sprint left after 70 miles and 6k ft of climbing.  Since I only had a few seconds coming off Oleg’s wheel in the wind, my sprint was limited to 3 seconds, but it was around 1,312 watts, so mission accomplished on conserving my efforts.  With the road season over, I’ll write a subsequent blog post on lessons learned and observations from this season.  Off the top of my head, I can easily see a few things bubbling to the top that are obvious.  First, my weight was too high all season.  I raced Sunday at 173lbs which was 11lbs above my low last season.  I planned to race at 160lbs this year, but I didn’t have the dedication to do it.  My results were just good enough most of the season that I never forced myself to diet really strictly and cut calories below 2k which is required to drop weight.  I’m not sure if I’ll have that drive next year, but if I want to drop the weight, I now realize it has to be in the spring before the hard racing.  When I’m racing long races, I can’t diet and recover.  Another learning is that I now have enough FTP to race well, and I need more repeatability and high end race fitness earlier in the year.  It was interesting how I got stronger when I added a few punchy group rides into my Thursday night training and chased a few Strava segments for fun.  Doing several 100% efforts for 30 seconds chasing a Strava KOM was actually helpful to my fitness.  In a perfect world, I’d do hard intervals, but I hate them so much.  If there are a few segments on a group ride that require 100% effort to get going, so be it.  I also realize that I need to work in Tucker Saturdays with 86 mile to/from efforts earlier into my spring.  I need 4 straight weeks of these Saturdays to built CTL.  Then, I need to add in one multi-day stage race to bump CTL way up.  I normally race in the low 90’s, but this season, I hit a CTL of 110 after the 6th race in 5 days at the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix.  I didn’t maintain that level, but it is so easy to maintain a high CTL in the high 90’s after you get bumped above 100 for a few days.  If it looked like I was stronger end of season, it was because I was starting races with a positive TSB and a CTL at 100 versus post injury races in March / April with a slightly negative TSB and a CTL of mid 80’s.  I’m not a math expert, but a 25% increase in CTL coupled with a move from negative to positive TSB will make any rider much better.  If I can stay injury free in the spring next year, then I’ll hopefully get to the 90’s before late summer and stay there all season with long Tucker Saturdays.

Now, I turn my attention to cyclocross where none of my road fitness seems to help me at all.  I need to quickly build muscles that I have been ignoring all season.  I need to develop off road skills that I don’t possess.  I need to go hard for 1 hour instead of pacing myself for 4 hours.  Let the fun begin….first race this Saturday in Chattanooga.

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The season isn’t over yet, and I have one more criterium and road race this weekend in Greenville, SC before I hang up the road bike and switch to the cross bike.  However, I quickly scanned some posts from June and noticed the fatigue issues that bothered me back in June.  I think the biggest difference between then and now (recovering quickly) is the introduction (or reintroduction) of punchy group rides.  I focus on a lot of SST / FTP type efforts in the early Spring to raise FTP.  Once you go down that path, it is very painful and uncomfortable to add in intensity.  I added in intensity via Tuesday Night Crit, but it isn’t the same type of intensity that you find on a Strava segment where you go 100% for 1 min, recovery for 5 min at fast tempo and do it again.  The Tuesday Night Crit has attacks and counter attacks,  but they are short 5 – 10 sec efforts followed by hard 5 – 10 min efforts off the front.  It is working more VO2 and FTP.  The other major difference was the lack of Tucker rides prior to June this season.  There was a lot of rain this year, and I also had a lot of Saturday’s booked with racing, so I didn’t get a stretch of Tucker rides until late June.  I find that 4 weekends in a row of 86 miles to/from Tucker with hard efforts off the front plus a few hard midweek / Strava chasing group rides can be a nice ying/yang with hard / long mixed with short / hard.  That combination (long Tucker and shorter intown) is a nice mix if I’ve already built up FTP in January – March.  So, hopefully Mother Nature and maybe a little less March racing will get me in better shape faster next season.

Next Up: Greenville SRS Championship Finale Race Weekend September 14th and 15th.  Then, it’s on to September 28th Rocky Face, GA for Georgia Cyclocross race #1.  It never ends around here….

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Last Saturday marked one of the last races of the season, and it was also one of the hardest road races on the calendar.   About 80 Pro/1/2 riders lined up for the start of the River Gorge Road Race in Chattanooga, TN.  The start list was strong with a strong representation from top riders such as Michael Olheiser (CashCall Mortgage), Wintston David (United Healthcare 706 Project), Shawn Gravois (United Healthcare 706), Jonathan Jacob (Bissell-ABG Giant), Stephen Bassett (Texas Roadhouse), and many other top riders.

We wanted to have a mix of riders up the road and riders in the field so we could ensure representation in the final climbs.  We started the race off with a flurry of hard attacks.  My Litespeed-BMW teammates, Hank Beaver and Tim Henry, were lighting up the front with hard sprints and counter attacks that were even harder.  Hank crushed a few massive sprints and almost got away.  Just as he was caught, Tim countered and made it off the front in a 2 man break with a rider from Max Bendorf.  As one of the riders tagged to get up the road, I attacked the pack around mile 8 at the first climb.  I crested with a few other riders and then attacked up the left side just off Olheisers shoulder right inside the yellow line.  There was an immediate response from Olheiser and a few others.  Mike came to the front and nobody would pull through.  There were a bunch of guys yelling at their teammates “Don’t work, he’s a pro, don’t work, he’s a pro.”  I thought that was a little silly since the guy was all alone and everyone knew he’s a strong pro, but I’m not sure you need to call it out like that so loudly.  In any event, I could see that he realized the entire pack was focused on him which meant that he wouldn’t try to get in a break right at that moment.  I attacked again on the next small climb, and he let me go this time.  I was followed by Brendan Sullivan (Lupus) and a United Healthcare p/b 706 rider who I assume was Ryan Sullivan.   Brendan came to the front immediately and then we all started rotating up the road.  We were gone quickly and left the pack within seconds of our attack.  More importantly, they let us go and focused on Olheiser as we rode away from them over some steep rollers.  After about 5 miles we reached my Litespeed-BMW teammate, Tim Henry, who was already up the road.  I realized that most of the guys who were on the front when I got away were not the same guys who were on the front when Tim got away, and I was confident that nobody realized there were now 2 Litespeed-BMW teammates together in a break of 5 riders now.  This quickly becoming a nice race strategy, but we were still only about 12 miles into a hilly 60 mile race with several steep climbs ahead including a very steep 2.5 mile climb at mile 28.  We rotated as a 5 man breakaway and built up at least a minute gap over the field by ~ mile 18-ish when suddenly another Litespeed-BMW teammate, Chris Brown, arrived via a bridge move that included Jonathan Jacobs from Bissell.  Now, we are around 18 – 20 miles into a 60 mile race with about a 90 second gap and 3 Litespeed-BMW teammates in a breakaway of 7 riders.  I have to admit that it was probably at this point that I lost my head a bit and focused entirely on driving the gap wider.  I’m not sure that was the best strategy, but all I could think about was extending a gap that I thought was hovering at 1 min.  In reality, it was likely 2 minutes and growing.  The 4 non-teammates decided that we were too dangerous with 3 out of 7 riders, so they sat on the back and forced the 3 of us to form a team time trial rotation in front of them.  I tried to gap them off a few times for not helping, and that prompted a few rotations of participation from a few riders, but I should have done that several times to create more teamwork.  They needed us to keep it going and should have contributed to the rotation by at least pulling through.  On the other hand, both 706 and Lupus had strong climbers in the field, so they could argue that they didn’t need to work.  However, if you keep that line of thinking, we had our protected climber in the field, as well.  So, I’m not sure how all that plays out, and we didn’t bother to discuss this with them anyway, so it doesn’t matter.  I think my teammates were thinking along the same lines as me in terms of extending the gap, so we started drilling it a bit on a few climbs which opened up small gaps as the other riders in the break either realized how much climbing was ahead or just didn’t want to allow us to dictate a hard pace up the climbs.  If we fast forward ahead to Sand Mountain, we reached the tough climb with close to a 3 minute gap.  We thought that the field was chasing and only 1 minute back, but I now realize they were likely almost 3 minutes back at this point and not chasing at all.  The officials didn’t give us a time split, so I was flying blind and assumed it was a 1 minute gap to the field.  The goal was to get over the climb ahead of the field and join the front chase group on the descent of the climb.  I knew that I was 10lbs heavier than last year and also had just spent 1 hour helping to drive a fast breakaway that built a nice gap, so my gut was telling me that there was going to be a good chance that the front of the field would catch me at the top of the climb.  I decided to push it was hard as I could climb and see what happens.  Now, if we stop and analyze what would have been ideal, that would have been a slow tempo climb to allow me to recover and save my already tired legs given the massive gap.  I didn’t have a time split, so I rode the hill with a lot of the reserves left at this point.  Unfortunately, I did not eat enough (or at all?) in the break during the prior hour, so I created a bad situation going into a tough climb.  I did drink both of my bottles, but that isn’t enough calories at the front of an hour breakaway which probably burned around 1,000 calories alone.  I think 2 bottles may have given me 200 calories since I decided not to make it too strong that day.  As we started the climb, our break split into two groups.  The front group of Brendan Sullivan, Chris Brown, Ryan Sullivan (I think), and Jonathan Jacob went ahead.  I latched on the back, but I was focused on riding a slightly slower pace.  I tried to keep them within about 20 yards for the first 1k, about 40 yards in the next 1k, etc…for 4k.  By the top, they were out of sight and about 45 seconds ahead of me.  I was riding about 30 watts below my 10 min peak on a 12 – 13 min climb, so I wasn’t going too hard, but given that I was in a breakaway the prior hour, it was pretty hard.  I crested the mountain, grabbed two bottles from Tim’s dad, and then started waiting for the others from the break.  He’s the deal….why ride ahead of the others at a faster pace only to sit up and wait for them while alone at the top?  What was I doing?   My thought process was that a minute gap required me to ride at a certain pace that was harder to crest with the leaders in the chase group likely coming up behind us from the field.  In reality, I waited for about 10 – 15 seconds, then I soft pedaled for another 30 seconds before I could see anyone cresting.  Finally, I saw a group of four way behind me at this point.  I continued to soft pedal, and they reached me a couple minutes later.  At this point, I was reunited with my teammate and breakmate Tim Henry plus a friend from Alabama named Brian Toone.  There were two other riders with them.  Even though I was soft pedaling, I suddenly realized that I was bonking.  I quickly got on the back of their group and started to eat instead of rotating.  I told Brian that I’d start pulling as soon as I could eat some food.  I always feel more comfortable eating on the back when I’m with guys who know I’m not playing games and legitimately need to eat.  When I was done, I came to the front to pull as we started our descent.  As soon as I pulled off, Mike Olheiser (CashCall Mortgage) flew, and I mean flew, by me at about 50mph.  We were probably going 40mph, and he came by at 50mph about a few inches to my left on the descent.  I didn’t see or expect him, so I’m glad I didn’t do anything stupid as I pulled off.  Then, it was on, and the descent was suddenly a swarm of fast climbers who were rested and recovered and ready to race the final 30 miles of River Gorge.  With about half the race left, I could feel that I was still tired, but I was recovered (I thought) and ready to follow along.  I sat in the draft of the next 17 miles until we hit some stair steps.  I came to the front to help cover moves, and I immediately felt very little energy.  As soon as Mike Stone and Olheiser attacked the front group of now 15 riders, my legs locked up for the first time all day.  It was at that time that I realized one of my best races was going to quickly disintegrate into something terrible if I didn’t conserve immediately.  I tried to stay to the front with my teammates, but more cramping followed.  I didn’t try to survive, just stayed there a few more minutes and faded off the back.  I did my job well, but I also rode too aggressively and was paying the price.  I don’t have the time to hit the gaps on long training days due to work/life, so my longest climb is 550 feet at Kennesaw Mountain at 1.2 miles in length.  The 2.5+ mile Sand Mountain at the end of a 1hr break filled with climbs was just too much climbing for me, and my legs were now making me pay the price.  I came off and soft pedaled with a teammate in a similar situation.  We soft pedaled for about 3 minutes recovering before we saw the next chase group of 15 – 20 riders who had no idea how far back they were from the lead chase group which contained most of the top 5 riders in the end.  They were going pretty hard, so we let them and another group of stragglers go ahead.   That was essentially the end of the race for us.  It was my first race riding in a break ahead of one of the most crucial sections in a lead break or chase in 5th position only to end up near last.  The casual race fan doesn’t understand that this is all part of racing as a team and the reason why riders go off in breaks only to get caught and finish near last as the pack swarms them.   However, they have a rested teammate who didn’t have to chase the entire race as a result of their effort, so it is more important than sometimes apparent.

The race finished well for Litespeed-BMW.  My teammate who made it over the climb from our original 7 man break, Chris Brown, was caught in the final section of the finishing climb to get 12th and our best climber, Anders Swanson, finished a very strong 7th place.  When we get top results like that, it makes all the hard work and sometimes bad personal finishes all worthwhile!

Next up is a little time on my new Litespeed cyclocross bike to get used to dirt again while continuing road training with a final race on the calendar in Greenville, SC on Sept. 14th and 15th at the SRS Southeast Region Championship Series crit/road race.  Then, the first cyclocross race is two weeks later in Dalton, GA…..  No rest for the working and racing man…..


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In my day job, we constantly speak to our clients about capturing their baseline/current state metrics and then tracking their improvements or “lift” after they implement our software solutions.  Selling software which captures and tracks sales, customer service, and marketing activities helps me get into this “measurement” mindset, and I try to apply those same concepts to cycling training.  Without a doubt, everything I know and have learned is based on Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen’s booked Training and Racing with a Power Meter.  If you train with power, and you should, then this book is the equivalent of the bible for power training.  

I spent some time last week reviewing a few old blog posts from 2008-2009, and I was surprised to read my posts with old baseline and target metrics.  For example, in 2008, I was estimating my FTP at 300 watts, and I was targeting 330 watts for 2009.  In reality, I now realize that my FTP was closer to 285 watts in 2008, and maybe it was 300 watts in 2009.  Based on my peak 60 minute power numbers, it was nowhere near my estimates at the time which explained a lot of the challenges I faced when I first started doing 2×20 minute intervals.  At first, I could never hold my power for the full 20 minutes mainly because I had overestimated my FTP in the first place.  In very punching group rides, I could generate a NP above 300, so I made some incorrect assumptions which made some of my expectations and measurement improvements somewhat skewed.  I was improving faster on 1 min, 5 min, and 10 min power than I was in the 20 min and 60 min power mainly due to a training plan that consisted of mainly intown group rides which have zero hard efforts longer than 5 min.  If we fast forward to 2013, I now see the difference between peak numbers and consistently achieved numbers.  In 2012, I achieved peak numbers that have not been repeated this season in 5 minute power.  However, most of my 5 min peak power numbers achieved last year were not at that peak outlier level.  This season, I have not exceeded peaks in anything except 60 minute power, but my typical 5 min power is about 7 watts higher than a typical 5 min power on a typical ride last season.   So, it highlights that I’m now chasing an 1 – 2% improvements as realistic goals.  On the flip side, when I first started training in 2008, I would see 10 – 15% annual gains, but over time that shrinks to 1% as you get closer to your ultimate potential.  Since I was fat and reduced weight from 195lbs in 2008 to 162lbs in 2013, there was a second factor driving w/kg improvements.  Now, my weight has moved back into high 160’s and power is increasing slowly at .5% to 1% annually.  On the bright side, I don’t need a lot of wattage improvements anymore, and I can instead focus on repeatability.  I can now go hard, get in a break, get caught, go again in the counter move, get caught, recover in the pack for 60 seconds, and then then go hard again with the final move that likely sticks.  It is far more important for me to have this repeatability than a few more absolute watts or a little less weight (higher w/kg).  Unfortunately, road races with big climbs like this Saturday’s River Gorge road race are one of the few races where it’s all about higher w/kg, and my repeatability is less important than the fact that I’m heavier this year.  As a result, I’m realistic about the challenges associated with a few races on the calendar where I’m just not built for strong results.  
Net/net, it’s important to capture your baseline every year, create achievable targets, and then measure success every month or every year.  Racing is much more than measuring power, but the combination of power, w/kg, and repeatability will give a rider a clear blueprint for their likely success or challenges in a variety of races.

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Been a few weeks since the last blog post, so I’ll recap the last three events and my Cat 1 upgrade.

State TT – Serenbe

The Georgia State Time Trial Championships was held at a cool planned community in Serenbe called Serenbe Farms.  If you’ve never been down there to see it firsthand, it’s definitely worth a quick trip south.  This was my first real time trial of any decent distance, so I was a little concerned with pacing.  I took the old, but very new to me, TT O’Flames bike out and gave it my best.  I ended up with a time of 52s 59m for 40k which was 4th fastest on the day and 2nd in Cat 2.   Since it was only my 3rd TT and maybe 4th time on the TT bike, my fit is terrible and my Adamo Road Racing seat is way too wide.  I have no clue what I’m doing with my TT setup, but I hate the idea of spending more money on a fit than the TT bike cost.  I’m going to race TT O’Flames another year before I invest in a new bike and fit.  However, the wide Adamo stretched my groin to the point where I could be barely bend over after the race and took me at least a full week to repair those muscles.   Based on the pictures from the race, I do know that I have to shorten up my reach so I am less stretched out next year, but I don’t want to worry too much about something that I’ll maybe do three or four times all season.

Litespeed-BM East Atlanta Twilight Criterium

By far, this is one of the coolest races on the calendar.  Our team and sponsors host this race, but I’d say that regardless because it is an incredible setting for a criterium.  The atmosphere down there at night is electric, and it is a perfect venue for spectating.  We had bad weather all day, but it was clear with only damp conditions for the Pro/1/2 race at 8pm.   I’m a good bike handler, but I am not a confident bike handler.  There is a small distinction, so I’ll explain.  If you told me that I would be paid to rail a specific tight corner in the rain at 30 mph which was extremely dangerous, I could probably stick it perfectly.  However, it would require extreme focus and confidence that I can’t seem to generate for every turn throughout a race.  My natural instinct is to play it safe on corners, give up spots wherever I feel there could be danger, and try to use my sprint to close the gaps that I’m creating for myself with an overly cautious approach.  I think that I do this more than most riders on a dry course in a P/1/2 race, but it is less severe differences, and I can jump harder coming out of turns to make up the gap faster.  On a wet course, my gaps were hard to close since I was uncomfortable stomping on the pedals until I was more upright to avoid sliding out the rear which is common when riders start pedaling hard on a wet corner.   I think this contributed to my struggles at EAV, but there was another factor that I felt.  I train very hard on Tuesday Night Crit and Tucker to sprint for 10 sec out of the saddle and then settle into a VO2 / level 5 zone at what is a very high 5 minute – 15 minute wattage.  However, I very rarely train where I’m jumping hard out of the saddle and sprinting for 5 seconds every 10 – 15 seconds.  I felt totally overwhelmed by the repeated jumps and felt my body unable to sustain the pace only 12 minutes into the race.   The interesting thing is that it felt just like the start to a cyclocross race, and I could feel myself having that same sensation that I get in cx when I get the hole shot and start to blow by lap 2.   So, I know that I probably have nowhere near the anaerobic condition required for cyclocross nor for shorter distance criterium courses.  Unfortunately, this means I need to start doing short/hard intervals after River Gorge is complete next weekend.  I hate doing those intervals, but it’s clear that I need to do them to fill this hole in my training.

Grant Park Criterium

Grant Park is one of my favorite races every year.  The location, beer vending trucks, picnic atmosphere on a Sunday, you just can’t beat it.  I got a call-up at EAV and Grant Park for leading the GCS standings in Cat 2 this season.  It is great to start at the front for most riders, but when I start front row, it’s similar to giving Anthony Weiner a camera phone and asking him not to use it.  I want to be patient, but I want to cover dangerous moves so our team has someone in the break if an early move gets away.   If I’m starting upfront, that person is going to be me early in the race.  I covered a ton of early moves and joined several small moves that didn’t get very far.  This year, I can recover quickly and go again and again.  Unlike a the short EAV course where the front was being drilled and driving the bike was important, this was more my speed where we road at 26mph with breaks going off around 30mph.  I like the Grant Park turns because my heavy body maintains a high speed through the sweeping turns, so it takes much, much less effort to get my bike back up to speed.  Since I weigh 10lbs more this season and likely 20lbs more than the top riders, it is so hard to take a my bike from 21mph  – 22mph up to 30mph compared to a sweeping turn where we never get below 24 – 25mph.  My ideal crit course is Oak Business Park where there is really no turn that can’t be taken at full speed with a hard lean over and smooth pavement coming into and exciting the turn.   When I’m off the front there, I can ride the whole course and never get below 26mph on any section with speeds just bouncing between 26mph – 35mph….ahhh heaven!  Midway through the race I saw my teammate Gary Gomez attack on the straight.  Emile Abraham (Predator) went with the move.  Then, Thomas Wrona (Hincapie Development) chased so I marked him by chasing after him.  We were about 20 minutes into the race, and Gary was tired from the prior day, so they passed him, and I came through underneath him at turn 1.   Thomas, Emile, and I got a quick gap, but Thomas wouldn’t work.  He was marking the move for Ty Magner (Hincapie), Joey Rosskoft (Hincapie), and Oscar Clark (Hincapie).  Emile took the downhill section slowly without expending energy with Thomas on his wheel and me sitting third wheel.  Unless you are a top NCC/NRC rider like Emile, it’s really hard to stick a move that early with a guy sitting onto two other riders wheels.  I knew that Emile was thinking he was stuck with a nice gap, but one guy sitting on and another guy without enough power to stick the move.  However, if I knew if we were given enough of a gap, I could get into TT mode and help drive the break a lot faster than expected since I ride faster outside the pack where I get to choose my lines and have smooth accelerations.  I came to the front at the bottom of the hill after turn 3 and proceeded to pull most of the front stretch.  Unfortunately, the pack could see that we were getting a gap, so guys started launching.  I was pulling hard enough that most were not making a ton of ground, but it put the pack into more of a chase mode which meant they were not sitting up.  For our break to succeed, we needed the pack to sit up and look at each other a bit longer.  Emile and I rotated a couple times, but we were caught at the bottom of turn 4 on the next lap.  I have mixed feelings about moves like that since it was nice to give it a shot, but wasting a couple matches only to end up back where I started two laps later is frustrating and a recipe for failure.  The break went shortly after this effort as I was recovering in the middle of the pack.  A few laps later, I came back to the front since I could see a potential chase group was forming as guys were getting tired as we approached the 35 minute mark.  A group of 5 with my teammate, Tim Henry, got off the front.  The group contained Charles Planet who won the night before at EAV from Team Novo Nordisk and a few other strong riders.  I could see that Novo was looking to drop guys back to create a blocking move for the pack so this group could slip off the front.  I yelled at Tim to go with the move when I saw they were riding tempo and already out of sight behind us.  My immediate thought was to sit up with the Novo Nordisk rider on my left and let the 5 go ahead without us.  Often times, when the pack can’t see a break and they chase only to reach a couple “dropped” riders from the pack, they assume the break is far ahead and the riders are collateral damage of that move.  It suggests the break is long gone, and most of the guys on the front of the pack will ride up to the riders who were dropped and look to draft off them if they are moving at a good clip still.  At this point, the break will stay away.  That was my thinking, I could seal up this move of 5 and get my teammate in the move if I just sit up.  Unfortunately, I looked back again and didn’t see the pack after several more seconds, so I just decided that 7 riders with two riders from Litespeed-BMW was even better.  I sprinted up to the back of them, and we headed down the back stretch.  Unfortunately, this group of 7 went across the road spread out at the turn and fanned across the road as nobody wanted to pull.  Without the Novo Nordisk rider and myself in between, I think the pack kept flying down the hill and gained several seconds on the break so they turned the corner only 6 or 7 seconds back.  Finally, the move with 7 of us got a few guys to drive it, but it was too late at this point.  With the gap still around 5 seconds, a few guys started drilling it uphill, but the pack was too big and motivated, so we were caught near turn 1.  This was probably my fourth or fifth failed break attempt, and I was now starting to feel my back hurt from so much jumping, bridging, and pulling up.  I was riding way to conservatively on the bottom of turn 3 and creating gaps for myself every lap.  It wasn’t until the last 2 laps that I concentrated on staying close and keeping my momentum coming out of turn 3.  Wow, did it make a huge difference when I tried to focus on sticking my wheel further up going into turn 3 so I was nicely drafted coming out of the turn.  Prior to the final 2 laps, I was just downshifting, floating bike a full bike length, and then sprinting as the guy in front pulled to around 2 bike lengths from me coming out of the turn.  In the final 2 laps, I was concentrating and kept that to 1/2 a bike length and noticed how much less effort it took to close down.   With 1 to go, I sprinted up the side of the pack, came through turn 1 about 10 riders back, then sprinted across the top and pretty hard down the back side.  I was flying, so when I want to go hard and fast through the turns with concentration, I can do it, but usually I am not focused on picking spots and smoothly riding aero until last lap when I’m already tired.  I bridged up to a group who pulled ahead on the downhill and came out of turn 4 in about 9th wheel.  I got passed by 3 riders and passed on myself to finish 13th overall since  Ty and Joey lapped the field.

Cat 1 Upgrade

Last week, I finally upgraded to Category 1 which was an end of season goal.  The upgrade points required this season changed so there were more points required to upgrade, but points didn’t expire like past years.  However, I had a solid number of P/1/2 podiums and had plenty of points to upgrade under the previous points system and a lot of points under the new system.  Several people have asked me why I wanted to upgrade.  I don’t have a good answer other than I had accumulated enough points and felt that I could ride consistent with many of the local Cat 1’s, so why not upgrade.  The idea of staying in a lower category to win the occasionally offered Cat 2 only or Cat 2/3 race doesn’t interest me.  I’d prefer to race in the Pro/1 races without dealing with invitation wait lists and invitation only approvals.   Those are usually easy to handle, but it’s much nicer to plan for your race by using the normal registration process.  I think that I’ll do Athens Twilight next year, and I’m looking forward to using the normal Speedweek registration site and joining the grid qualifiers if I decide to go that route and do the race as planned.

Next Race: River Gorge Road Race

Next weekend is the River Gorge Road Race in Chattanooga which is a great race, and usually one of my favorite races.  I’ve only done it twice, but it is a ton of fun.  Unfortunately, I’ll be racing it 10lbs heavier this season compared to last season, so I am not expecting to do quite as well this season.  On the other hand, hopefully I can avoid some of the things from last year who made the race harder for me.  I’m hoping that fewer issues, more experience, and a little more power can help to offset some of the weight.  In the end, the lower w/kg will play out, and I’ll struggle, but I’ll still have fun.

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I’ve been planning to recap the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix for over a week, but I was too busy to get it done. In my prior post, I was honest with a lot of the challenges facing me heading into 6 races in 5 days. The biggest issue was my weight was back up to previous high levels for the season which makes all racing harder and steep climbs nearly impossible to keep with the front group. Luckily, there are no steep climbs at the GCGP, so it didn’t end up being a factor at all. In fact, I was able to recover better than usual since my CTL was at an all time high heading into the race. I did notice the weight on the first race of the series at Road ATL race course.

Road ATL – Day 1:

Road Atlanta was a circuit race with a steep kicker ridden about 20 times, and it was pretty tiring by the end. The race was very frustrating for me as I made several breaks early in the race only to have the pack chase them down. I did a good job of following wheels, but I was often trying hard to make a break stick when it was really the counter move that I should have put my focus on. Usually, I can see the flow of a race very clearly now, but this race is still fuzzy in my head. I can see the break going, and I just didn’t go with it this time. I know that I wasn’t being marked, but every time I got in a move, it came together. Every time I chose not to get in the move, it went away. I wasn’t too tired to make the moves or not make those moves, so it’s curious why I felt like I was constantly the last guy in or out the breakaway. In any event, I let the first break go without me after I grew tired of bridging and getting chased down. Then, I let the second late break go again. I still had strong legs and was very fresh, but I can’t explain what I was seeing in that race. Every bridge effort was marked, and every time I let a gap open, nobody would come around thus creating another break that would stick. I’ve seen that happen to really strong riders, but I’ve never felt that before in a race.

Day 2 – Circuit Race

The Thursday circuit race was another hot day. We were racing for 60 miles and the field was pretty good size with the inclusion of the Cat 3’s. The early part of the race had a break containing 706. After Mike Stone (Lupus) bridged up solo, I went about 30 seconds later with a very hard attack. I went from the base of the hill and reached Mike just past start/finish. I could see that he was solo and starting to slow up for me. There were two riders chasing me, so I waited for them, and we became a 4 man breakaway. We could see the leaders up the road, and it would have been a great time to drill it. In hindsight, I probably should have done that. However, I rotated through with the four riders who realized that we were being chased down by several teams. The other three went back to the pack, and I should have done the same, but part of me was thinking that they’d leave me out there if the others returned to the pack. My hope was that one solo rider was no danger, so they’d slow it down and potentially give me the chance to bridge up to 706’s Shawn Gavois and Winston David. No such luck. I was caught a little while later. I could see a couple strong riders like Calixto Bello and Mike Stone getting ready to counter my catch by the field. I knew that I should go upon the catch, but I also knew that I didn’t have a lot of energy left. So, I did the smart thing and recovered in the pack. I did that for the next hour. With less than 20 miles to go, a group of 10 riders slipped off the front, and got away. I thought about going with them, but I didn’t make the move. It worked out well as we caught them with a 2 miles to go. I came to the front and pushed the pace a bit. On the final turn, I sat 4th wheel behind a Novo Nordisk leadout which seemed a little too slow for the last 1k. I decided to attack on the 3% grade from about 700m and won the pack sprint for 5th place with a nice gap crossing the line.

Day 3 – Road Race

The 60 mile road race was a tough day for me. I was having terrible GI distress, so I tried to hide out as much as possible. With about 20 miles to go, my stomach improved, so I came to the front to race. I had two teammates in the break which made the race much easier since the pack allowed that break to hold. At lap 6 of 7, we caught 9 of the 10 riders in the break, so I knew there would be a counter move coming. I thought it would come immediately on the catch, so I came to first position expecting someone to launch. In reality, I should have created the move and allowed strong riders to bridge. Instead I rode the front and likely looked like I was going to chase moves down rather than get off the front with a move. Whether or not this impacted the race, I have no clue. However, nothing happened until almost a lap later when Shawn Gravois and Winston David got away with a Novo Nordisk rider. That was the exact move and riders that I wanted, but I missed it by being so far forward and going with every surge so the ebb and flow of the pack caught me out a few riders back when they attacked. After missing that final move, I was way too antsy riding upfront and not remembering the finish. I was caught behind some slow riders at 250m which allowed the front to get their sprint started without me. I sprinted for 13th.

Day 4 – TT ( Morning Race )

I lined up in my first real TT not counting the 6 mile corner-fest at the Oak Business Park. This was only a slightly longer TT at 8 miles. I raced my new to me, 10 – 15 yr old aluminum TT bike with red flame decals. It looks like Tour de France meets Boogie Nights all in one bike. I’ve never been fit on it nor have I trained on it. The good news is that TT races are just like 50% of my training rides on the Silver Comet. I finished in 17:43 and got 4th in Pro/1/2.

Day 4 – Covington Criterium ( Evening )

This was a long 90 min technical crit at night under street lights. I jumped in an early break with 706, Lupus, and Novo Nordisk, but we were only 10 min into the race. It was likely the move that setup the break which went away on the catch around 15 – 20 min into the race. I slid back and then came to front with 2 to go, but I was sprinting for 11th and ended up 17th.

Day 5 – Circuit Race

Our final race was a 50 mile circuit race. Prior to the race I was sitting 6th in omnium points, so I needed a top finish to break into the top 5. On the 3rd lap, Shane Braley (Champion Systems) and Igor Rudalev (Lupus) attacked so I bridged up and then the three of us drilled it for the next hour and a half. I was pulling very hard and not holding back because I planned on resting when we reached a 2 min gap. We were stuck bouncing between 1:15 – 1:30 gap, and then we caught the pack….??? That means that we were actually 4+ min on the pack and 2.5 min on the chase…. So, instead of conserving with a huge lead in a 50 mile circuit, we lapped the field and burned a ton of matches. With better time splits, I could have regulated efforts, still lapped field, and left something for the sprint with a full team available for the lead out. Oh well, I finished 3rd and ended 5th overall in the omnium behind Mike Stone, Calixto Bello, Winston David, and Shawn Gravois. My personal goal was one podium and top 5 overall, so I was pleased and likely have enough points to apply for Cat 1 upgrade soon.

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