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Archive for the ‘Georgia Cup’ Category

WBLLitespeed-BMW sponsored the Winter Bike League this past weekend which made for the perfect team camp.  Originally, I had agreed to go to Louisville with my wife to watch the Cyclocross World Championships, but some last minute work items late Friday/early Monday made that trip too difficult to pull off.  With the wife still upset about the cancelation of our trip, I headed up to Athens on Saturday for my first Winter Bike League.

It was really enjoyable to ride in a double paceline for several hours at a time and catch up with so many friends along the way.  I was riding mid to back of pack with a nice draft, so I was riding very low wattage around Level 1 in my power zones.  There were a few times that we crept up into Level 2 Endurance, but for the most part, I was riding in the heart of Level 1 recovery for a lot of the ride.  In hindsight, I should have ridden on the front for much longer.  For the last 20 miles, I rode 2nd wheel which was close to low Level 2 Endurance and a much better place to position myself.  Next time, I’ll rotate on the front to a few riders back and do that the entire ride.

It was announced that there was a final attack zone that would be 9 miles long with some hills, so I was not really sure what to expect for my first time.  With about 15 miles prior to the attack zone, I moved to the front and sat with the first two riders so I would be in position when the fireworks went off.  Without knowing the course, it was a little hard to gauge was what real and what was just senseless attacking ahead of the real moves.  Like usual, I went with every single move.  The first move was a hard attack followed by three riders bridging up.  I latched on and rotated with them to pull back the first rider.  We rode off the front for about a mile until someone counter attacked.  I did the same thing with the next group.  This year, I am smarter than prior years, and I remember to look back and see if the pack is chasing or not.  When I first started racing P/1/2, I’d get the blinders on and hammer in these small moves without realizing that the pack was 50 meters back and charging hard.  Now, I have a better feel for when to give it 100% versus 90%.  I’m stronger now so my 90% is decent enough to continue lifting the pace for a small break without leaving me exhausted when we’re caught a minute or two later.  Now, I have a better feel when we are likely to get caught and ride the attack and break accordingly looking for the counter move.  After three separate moves and catches, Joey Rosskopf of Hincapie attacked hard past the front group.  There was a chase group of two consisting of Jake Andrews (Georgia Neuro Cycling) and Chad Madan (Litespeed-BMW).  Thanks to my teammate, Tim Henry, suggesting that I go with that move, I bridged up to them about 50 meters up the road.  The three of us worked together about a half mile before Frank Travieso from Smart Stop/Mountain Khakis attacked the chasing pack and bridged up to us.  I looked back and could see Frank bridging hard, and I knew he was going to fly right past us.  So, I jumped hard to get my speed up and latched onto Frank’s wheel.  Frank and I spent the next several miles crushing out 450 watts in a nice rotation and quickly built a decent gap to the field.  After about 5 minutes, I started breathing hard and noticed that my pulls were down to high 390’s.  I rotated off and Frank took a hard pull as we hit a slow riser.  I started to redline and come off a bit.  At this point, I couldn’t see the field behind us and computer showed only 2.5 miles from the finish.  I knew that I could solo that if I didn’t blow up.  So, I let Frank pull away and hovered about 30 meters off his wheel.  With about 1.5 miles to go, the pack was breathing down my throat.  They were about 100 meters back, but I had settled into a decent, yet slower rhythm.  I was struggling to push mid to low 300’s which meant that I had blow.  My 20 min power is around 370 watts, and I was pushing around 300 – 330 watts depending on the terrain at this point.  I had clearly blown and didn’t have enough to hold the move as I was caught with less than a mile to go.  As I was caught by a front group of four who rode off the front of the pack, I jump their wheel and tried to ride with them.  That lasted about a half mile before I came off the back of that pack and was swallowed up with less than a half mile to the finish line.  In the end, I realized a few things.  First, I could have easily stayed in the rotation with Frank had I not gone with three or four early moves.  Frank is a much, much stronger rider, but those early bridging efforts in the first two miles of the attack zone were difficult.  Second, I can easily hold about 370 watts for 20 min with a steady pace, but I can’t hold that wattage after multiple jumps and bridging efforts.  My undeveloped Level 5, 6, and 7 were clearly the limiting factors.  Now that we’re into February, I’m going to continue Level 3/4 intervals, but I’m dedicating one day per week to focus on the hard jumps that take so much out of me in crits.  My major limiter is jumping hard three or four times followed by a hard 20 minute above threshold interval.  This is the key limiter in my racing and training right now.  If I can train that area, I’ll be able to have a strong 2013.

From a training perspective, the day was pretty good.  Since I rode in the pack sheltered from the wind, I only achieved 225 TSS which included 10 min at 375 watts –> 20 min at 340 watts.  I can’t imagine how low my TSS would have registered if I hadn’t jumped in the final attack zones which were 9 miles long.  My take on WBL is that it is an awesome experience.  If I was a pro rider and trained 20+ hours a week, it would be a nice way to add 5 to 6 hours on a Saturday without adding any fatigue.  Since we rode easy except for the last half hour, I didn’t have any fatigue on Sunday.  This is ideal as you build up winter base hours in the saddle.  However, I would suggest that a time crunched cyclist who is training for less than 8 hours a week should likely consider a higher intensity ride.  This ride is great if Sunday is a hard zone 3/4 ride followed by two midweek zone 3/4 rides, or if this ride is part of a 20+ week.   Given that I left the house at 8am and returned home at 4:30pm with no stopping in the car to achieve 230 TSS, I think my family prefers me doing those dangerous hammerfest Sunday rides where I get 240 TSS in 2.5hrs while leaving our house at 9:45am and arriving home at 12:55pm.  However, I highly recommend WBL and will definitely make it up there once or twice a winter from now on.

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Litespeed L1R Review – December 15, 2012

Litespeed L1R

Litespeed L1R

Litespeed states that they spent four years designing their latest road frame, and it shows in their results.  The Litespeed L1R is extremely stiff while maintaining a comfortable all day ride that will please any competitive rider.  Equally important for racers, the Litespeed L1R provides an oversized bottom bracket and the revolutionary new BB386 design that results in immediate power transfer.  For riders looking for an all around light, stiff, fast, and comfortable race bike, you’ll find a winner in the Litespeed L1R.

Ride & Handling: Power, power, and more power….and precise handling too.

 

The Litespeed L1R’s defining characteristic is its ability to go fast when you put down the power. The drivetrain efficiency is incredibly high and provides immediate benefits when sprinting and climbing.  However, I felt the biggest difference when performing my weekly 2 x 20 min power intervals on a pancake flat Silver Comet Trail outside Atlanta, GA.  Since this is a paved road that I ride several times a week and use for interval training during half my rides using a Powertap, it was easy to quantify the immediate benefit of the Litespeed L1R’s increased stiffness.  Let it be known that I think professional bike reviewers and magazines compare so many different level bikes that they may be easily impressed when presented with a higher quality ride every now and again.  However, I’ve been racing the last 2 years on one of the top bikes in the industry in the Specialized Tarmac Sworks SL3.  The Tarmac Sworks is widely considered by all reviewers as one of this decade’s best race bikes for stiffness and speed coupled with light weight performance.  So, it should be noted when I write about increased stiffness and power transfer that I am comparing my observations to a top of the line race bike with top of the line race components.

Stiff and Confortable

Stiff and Confortable

The Litespeed L1R’s frame rigidity should be most noticeable when you’re sprinting, but I found the biggest power (i.e. improvements in watts) from more common riding such as closing gaps, bridging up, and solo breakaways. The Specialized Tarmac SL3 was responsive and stiff, but compared to the Litespeed L1R, it had the slightest delay in power transfer.  Since I am using the same Boyd 58mm Carbon Clincher wheel, it is even possible to view the power transfer improvements in my Garmin 500 head unit.  The Powertap seems to show slightly higher power numbers in the initial pedal stroke than the Tarmac Sworks with identical components.  While Litespeed deserves all the credit for these frame improvements, they are likely standing on the shoulders of giants by using the new BB386 bottom bracket.  I have no doubt that what I am feeling is a combination of the Litespeed L1R’s 60 ton carbon vs. Specialized Tarmac Sworks 46 ton carbon and the L1R’s BB386 bottom bracket compared to the Tarmac Sworks BB30 bottom bracket.  Several other noticeable differences are the rear seat stays that look more substantial than the toothpick thick seat stays on the Tarmac SL3.  Since I’m comparing my experience to the SL3, some might wonder how it would compare to the newer SL4.  Luckily, I have also ridden the SL4 on several test rides, and I can honestly say that I didn’t notice any difference between the SL3 and SL4.  The frame geometry is the same and frame tubing is very similar, so I am confident that my perceptions of the Litespeed L1R would be very similar regardless of SL3 or SL4.  To be fair, I have not ridden the Venge, but I have a former teammate who owns a Venge and L1R.  He confirmed that the L1R is a superior bike to the Venge which can’t be ridden for long periods of time and doesn’t provide any improvements in bottom bracket stiffness or power transfer given the smaller BB30.

BB386 Bottom Bracket

BB386 Bottom Bracket

Handling is not an area where I notice any differences between the L1R and Tarmac Sworks.  The L1R is an excellent handling bike, but the Specialized Tarmac Sworks bikes also do well in this area.  I definitely feel this bike handles as well, and my personal bike handles slightly better due to a more exact bike fit that is only possible because Litespeed built additional sizing options.  I was riding a 56.5 cm top tube on the Tarmac Sworks, but I am actually best fitted to a 56 cm (ML) Litespeed L1R.  Litespeed offers both an ML (56 cm) size and an L (57 cm) size. This is the most common area where riders find in between sizing, and Litespeed allowed many riders like myself to dial in their exact fit.  Downsizing just that small .5 cm has resulted in a much better handling bike for descending and cornering at high speed on my 56 cm L1R.

Litespeed L1R Frame

Litespeed L1R Frame

I do not have a scale at home, but the bike feels about the same weight as my previous 14 ½ pound Tarmac Sworks without pedals and spec’d with DA7900.   Since Litespeed isn’t spending millions on marketing like Specialized, I’m sure they opted for a slightly stiff bike in certain areas that I would assume adds a few grams, but it is nothing I can feel as a 162lbs rider when climbing hills.  Litespeed lists the frame weight at about 1,000 grams, and the current SL4 at 56 cm is within 50 grams of this weight.  I’ll happily trade 50 grams for the increased stiffness and power transfer from the Litespeed L1R.

Litespeed L1R Seat Stay

Litespeed L1R Seat Stay

 The Litespeed L1R is the best road bike that I have ever ridden.  The combination of comfortable all day ride coupled with the immediate power transfer from the BB386 bottom bracket make this bike a bargain and the best overall value in the professional level race bike category.  While it is important to remind readers that I race for the Litespeed-BMW Cycling elite race team based in the Southeast, I am not someone who writes a lot of reviews or advocates products based on team sponsorship.  My review of the Litespeed L1R is based on firsthand experience and analytical power analysis that tells me this is the fastest bike that I have ever ridden.  For that reason, I thank Litespeed for their efforts and look forward to using this new bike to achieve strong results in Pro/1/2 races in the Southeast in 2013.

L1R Down Tube

L1R Down Tube

The BB386 bottom bracket adds significant stiffness that is very noticeable when climbing and pushing out watts on flat sections.  My first ride yielded a 2% increase in 20 min peak power with same Dura-Ace components, Boyd 58mm Carbon Clinchers, and Powertap perfectly zero’d and calibrated.

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At the end of April, I was finally seeing months of hard work on power and even harder work on dieting finally come together to produce some results.  However, with just under two laps to go, my brake hood caught was caught by an untied barrier balloon, and I was thrown to the ground at 27mph.  The weeks following the crash have been long and slow to rebuild.  Almost seven weeks later, I am still in pain every morning until I take some Advil.  I cracked ribs, and they seemed to heal in four weeks, but whatever collateral damage occurred has left me sore everyday since.  At this point, I don’t think I’m going to ride pain free for months, so it is time to start racing again.  My power is off around 5% from the peak at this point, but that is better than the initial 10 – 15%.  With very little post-crash training, my weight went up about 9 lbs, but I am now only 6lbs over and plan to get within a couple lbs  from peak low by July.   With some good fortune, I can hopefully achieve near peak condition again by cyclocross season in October.  Either way, it is time to toe the start line again, so I’m planning to start my first race back this weekend in Covington, GA.  I’m not looking for any results, and I’m going to be happy with finishing.  Out of the saddle sprints and hard surges still hurt since they pull on the rib area, so I’ll likely be the guy hanging next to the motorcycle marshal all day.   Hopefully, it will be an uneventful return this weekend.

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I know many cyclists will disagree with the basic premise of this post, but I’ll explain my thought process below.  The concept is to challenge the commonly held belief that we peak for races and put forth our best efforts in races.  I’ve owned a powertap for 3 years, but I’ve never raced more than a few races with it.  Some will argue that races produce your best numbers, but I will challenge that concept by suggesting that training should almost always produce your best numbers if you are racing correctly.

The concept that races should produce your best numbers and races should produce your best efforts is based on the idea that races are hard and “motivation” is highest in a race.  However, I’ll challenge that concept with the following two points.

1. If you have never trained at a certain effort/duration (i.e. 450 watts for 5 min), then don’t expect to be able to produce that effort in a race for the first time.

2. If you are producing your highest efforts constantly in races, then you are probably doing one of the following:

Not training hard enough.  

If you can produce 320 watts for a 60 min crit, yet you have never achieved that number in training, then you are probably not training and testing with a structured approach.  Peak efforts should be pleasant surprises built on foundations of peaking numbers near race day, not anomalies produced only during races.  Go back and review your peak efforts.  If more than 1/3 of them are happening in races, then I’m going to suggest that you are not training hard enough to prep for race efforts.

Riding too hard in races and burning matches.

If you generating peak numbers in races, then you are either racing above your ability (i.e. may need to downgrade if you see peak numbers prior to getting dropped in a race), or you are burning matches in races.

In races, it is common to see riders struggle with the pace.  Maybe family, work, or injuries have made the season very difficult compared to past years.  So, a rider may be riding what was once their proper category, but now it is beyond their training level.  They can either ride out the season or downgrade until they can hold the pace.  The WKO+ / Coggan / Allen Power Profile Chart is a great way to quickly get a feel for a rider’s strengths and weaknesses for a given category.  While I find that the chart can vary depending on your weight (i.e. heavier riders are slightly over penalized more than real world conditions), it is a very close indication in my experience.  If you are touching the top of the category below you on the chart, you’re likely fine and need to improve.  However, if you are nowhere close to your category on the chart, you may want to downgrade until you can ride efforts closer to your peers at that level.

The key is that most races should ridden at efforts below where you have trained.  For example, if you have trained and tested correctly, then you have ridden an all out 20 min effort.  There are very few cases where you will be replicating that effort in an actual race.  I can only think of one, a solo breakaway 8 – 10 miles from the finish.  Anything else would leave you depleted and unable to continue racing.  Unless you are throwing down an end of race effort, you should never produce a peak 20 min effort.  If you do, then that tells me you have never tested an all out 20 min in training.  An all out 20 min training effort is designed to leave everything on the road because it is training, however, if you do that in a race, you’ll have nothing to finish.  So by definition, only a race ending effort should even remotely have the possibility of a 20 min peak.   If you are in a two or three man breakaway, I’d suggest that you also need to hold a little something back to sprint at the end, so I’d question if that would produce a peak effort either.

The net/net is that training is the time to test, train, and extend your peak efforts.  You have the ability to test and train your 1 min, 5 min, 20 min, and 60 min in a variety of conditions and often with different levels of freshness so you are prepared to race on race day.  You should always try to make your hardest training days harder than your hardest racing days.  While this may not be possible for the entire race effort, it is definitely possible and suggested for shorter efforts.  If you find that all your peaks are coming in races, then try to determine if your training isn’t hard enough, you’re racing too hard in races, or your racing above your ability/fitness level.

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After doing intervals on and off for the last few weeks, power is finally above 300 watts FTP.  Last year, I peaked around 310 which seems like something I can surpass if I continue to do short intervals and add 5 min / 10 min intervals.  My 5 min is close to peak numbers, but 1 min is still 50 watts low.  5 sec sprint is near peak numbers at 1500 watts. More importantly, race weight is down to 181 lbs.  I would like to see weight below 178lbs by Gwinnett Bike Fest in July.  If I can raise these numbers a bit more and drop another 5lbs, the results will improve dramatically and put me in position to get upgrade points.  My goal is 1 podium and 1 win this season, but a bigger goal is a Cat 2 upgrade so I can race US 100k this season (or next) and Roswell Criterium 1/2 next season…that is a definite bucket list item for me and would trump any wins or podium finishes.  As a result, I am going to have to start entering Cat 3 races moving forward.

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Cherokee Road Race was 65mi on a rolling hill course that included a good mix of strong teams and riders.  A group of five 45+ riders got away and the 35+ riders were content to let it go.  No other breaks were allowed to go in the race.  So, the 35+ race came down to a field sprint with Andy Lougher, Kirk Corsello, and Michael Burns rouding out the top 3.  I got 4th which was fine with me after cramping most of lap 4 since I dropped my only bottle left at the end of lap 3 leaving me with no water for the last lap in the hottest part of the race.  It was a beginner move, and I realize that I need to use proper cycling bottles for extra bottles in pockets rather than being lazy and tucking a couple publix disposable bottles in my pockets that become slippery.  Next race, Rome Road Race….

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First, the good news from this weekend.   The Georgia State Road Race Championships experienced decent weather with a nice temp and no rain.  Unfortunately, there was a crash in the Cat 3 race which left several people injured.  I raced the Masters race which was the typical Masters style road race.  There were no crashes or even any close calls which is how a road race should be raced given the longer course.  I spent the day chasing break after break.  Myogenesis started the breaks really early, maybe mile 1.5 or 2.  I probably went after at least 5 – 7 breaks and was able to pull the field in at least 3 or 4 of them.  In several breaks, the field didn’t want to come, so I went up the road further which typically caused another team to chase.  My goal was to keep things together for Andy in the final sprint.  He got boxed in and was marked anyway, so the team couldn’t get the win on Sat in the end.  I was tired from chasing breaks and ended around 20th or somewhere in that area.   I think I could finish pretty well if I sit in more often, but I like working for the team and having something to do during the race.

Sunday was a downpour in the rain for the crit.  I knew that I shouldn’t race it, but I did anyway.  I had great legs and wasn’t being pushed since it was wet and people were forced to go slowly.  So, with 1/3 lap to go sitting 2nd wheel, I slid out my front wheel on the 2nd to last turn.  Dumb move.  Just pushed it a hair to much on the turn and it slid out in the rain.  I took air out of my rear tire for the rainy conditions, but I got pulled away from my bike and never took air out of the front.   Rear was 105 psi and front was 112psi….likely made the difference in the rain.  Oh well, it happened and I can’t change that now.  Bike needs new bar tape, work on controls, and a rebuilt Powertap wheel….overall, not bad.  My body only has some scrapes on the knuckles and shins, not bad.  It was slick and a tight uphill turn-around, so speeds were down around 15mph, nothing serious on slick roads at slow speeds.  Clean crash, but wish it didn’t happen.   It is my first crash as I am a very careful rider and keep a smooth and steady line, but this was 100% my fault and will not happen again…at least it was a graceful slide out and pop up.  I was up in about 1.5 seconds.

So, the question is whether I’ll race Tour of Atlanta this weekend.  Maybe the Sat circuit and Monday RR in the Masters.

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Next weekend is the Georgia State RR championships in Canton, so this morning I went out with my team to review the course.   It is very similar to last year with a few of the neighborhoods removed due to permit and issues with permission.   Currently, I am tired from a solid training week with less recovery days than normal.   My TSB is currently – 15 and CTL is now 78 TSS/day.  This is about six points above my previous peak, and my body doesn’t like it.  I’ve struggled to properly taper for races this year with my days off approach, so I’ll try to “spin” my way to revovery this week rather than complete days off the bike like I normally do leading up to a race.  Hopefully, this conventional easy spin recovery approach will work for me, we’ll see Saturday in the Masters 35+ RR and Sunday’s Cat 3 crit.

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All in all, it was a pretty uneventful weekend of racing which is exactly what I wanted given that I upgraded two days before my last race to Cat 3.  So, Athens and Roswell represented my first two criteriums racing with much more experienced and faster racers.   I decided to do Athens at the last minute as a “warm-up” for Roswell. 

I entered the Athens Twilight AM Masters 30+ race and found the pace to be very moderate since most of the fast racers were saving their energy for the evening event.  I ended up spending too much time upfront for most of the race and the small field easily came to the front on the last lap to make it a bunch sprint.  I was not riding as aggressively as normal knowing that there were stronger sprinters in the field, and I quickly got boxed in during the final uphill sprint.  I was able to salvage a 9th or 10th which qualified me for the evening race, but I had already decided the evening race would have to wait until next year when I am more experienced at those faster speeds.  

  On Sunday, I entered the Roswell Criterium Cat 2/3 race to get a feel for a fast criterium and gauge where I am in my fitness and race form.  I found the pace to be a little faster than I could easily race aggressively, however, I had no trouble sitting mid-pack the entire race.  I started out the first 15 min in the front third of the pack, and I spent the next 30 min just in front of the back half of the pack.   Riders were getting pulled each lap, so it took some effort to keep my spot even though I wasn’t racing aggressively.  With 2 laps to go, I moved up to the front third of the pack and could have moved up further in the last lap, but I felt that I didn’t have enough energy to hold a position upfront for the entire lap.  Normally, I feel strong going into the last lap and prefer to be at position 2th – 5th wheel so I can see breaks and/or start my own finish line sprint.  In hindsight, I would have been better off to attempt that move at Roswell as everyone was equally tired, and I could have held a 10th wheel for the duration of the lap.  Instead, I sat around 20thwheel and didn’t have much for the sprint.   I crossed the line in the saddle with the back of the front pack at 23rd and in front of the back pack which included another 20 riders.  So, boring  finish for me.   Since I have been training/racing for about 12 months now with upgrades from Cat 5 to Cat 3 during that time, I am satisfied with 23rd place in the Cat 2/3 race at Roswell since it is probably one of the faster races of the season.

I now know that I have the speed to race with a faster Masters or Cat 2/3 race, so my goal is to increase my fitness a bit more.  There is a huge difference racing for 50 min (Cat 2/3) vs. 30 min (Cat 4/5), and I found that the faster pace and additional 20 min left me without a lot of strength at the end.  Since I really enjoy sprinting, I need to have a little more energy at 45 – 50 min to launch a break or fast sprint.   My training for this type of racing already started about 4 weeks ago when I started to train the Tuesday night crit in Marietta.   I thought that the crit training was fast, but I realize now that it is slower than a 2/3 race.  So, I need to spend more time training Tues night upfront in the wind or along side the group in the wind so my wattage is pushed higher.  I realize that any sitting in the pack on Tues night will only work against me.  Also, I need to start training Saturday morning Tucker rides.  Logistically, this is a problem, and I have opted for early morning rides instead.  I’ll likely end up doing the Sat morning Dunwoody High ride which is slower, but I can start with their 5:30am Saturday group as they pass my house in Vinings around 6am.   Although it isn’t as fast as Tucker, it will give me close to 70+ miles before 10am each Saturday.  You can’t beat that for life balance when you can get in 70 – 75 miles before your wife and daughter have even taken a shower.   A lot of people think cycling requires tons of hours and a flexible job, but I’m convinced that high intensity and proper rest can accomodate even the busiest schedules.  If I ride to/from the Tues night crit from Vinings, I get in 2. 2 hours and 52 miles plus 90 min of fast critracing close to threshold if I’m in a lot of breakaways.   That is after working from 7:30am – 6:15pm and leaving riding straight after work.  I noted the Saturday plan above, as well.  So, as long as I can continue riding Tues nights, I should be able to stay competitive with even the busiest schedule barring too much work travel.   I fully expect work/life to cause me to miss a lot of Tuesdays in the future, but at least it is working so far this year.  I’m basically training 2 hours Tues and racing on the weekends which means that my time required is greatest driving to/from weekend races, not actual time on the bike. 

I’d like to update the blog with my new power numbers, but I’m racing on Zipp 404 Tubulars this season without a powertap.  I am getting some improvements during training, but nothing that is worth sharing other than a few watts on FTP.  I think my FTP is probably around 310 watts now, so I am going to spend the next three weeks getting my weight down from 185lbs (actually got as high as 189 lbs last week) to around 175lbs.  If I can hold my power and drop 10 lbs, I’ll likely move from midpack to top ten finishes.  With Sandy Springs coming this Sunday, I have a short term target of 182lbs, and I would like to be 178lbs for the Georgia State Road Race Championships in two weeks.  After that, it’s all gravy….thanks for reading a long post this week.

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