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Archive for the ‘Road Racing’ 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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Despite the countless posts on Facebook telling everyone that we should be riding “winter pace” right now, this weekend marked the 2nd weekend of the race season in the Southeast.  Last weekend, the Greenville Spring Series kicked off with some great riders, and I was not surprised to see Winston David take his first win.  He is a massive talent for Lupus cycling, and he has put in a ton of work this winter.  I know he has worked hard over the winter because I follow him on Strava and shake my head everyday I’m not riding, and I see that he has completed a 100 mile ride already that day.   With the wife starting her own law firm, kids catching multiple colds, and my work travel picking up, it has been a struggle to get quality training this winter.  When you add in the bad weather, it was even harder.  Luckily, Brendan Sullivan, Andy Lougher, Kirk Corsello, and John Atkins were crushing the Airport Ride every Sunday, so I was able to get in some hard sustained efforts at least once a weekend.  I started to add in the occasional Six Flags ride on Saturday morning when it was too cold to ride alone, and it allowed me to create just enough fitness where I’m only about 10% – 15% below last winter.  If I can stay healthy, I can make up some of that difference in March assuming the weather isn’t terrible.

The theme for last year’s posts were basically centered on one topic, weight loss.  Unfortunately, I never motivated enough to lose the weight that was required to take my season to the next level.  I knew that my legs were strong enough to get me through the rolling hills, so I would only get massively penalized on a few courses.   I guess that’s one way of looking at it, but if you are serious about cycling, carrying around 10 – 15lbs of extra weight over and above your prior season weight is not smart.  So, the question is whether I’ll motivate to lose the weight this season.  It’s interesting to watch me try to lose weight.  If I am riding a lot with a ton of repeatable structure such as same breakfast/lunch/dinner, no illness, wife’s healthy too, kids healthy, work stress is at normal levels, etc….then I can lose weight.  Sometimes, I’ll put together a week or two weeks where I can feel that I’m headed for success.  Then, something happens like business travel, sick child, wife sick, etc…whatever the case, life happens, and I turn to food to deal with it.  We’re not talking about turning to food like the TV show “Biggest Loser” or anything like that.  It’s just that I can’t lose the weight and quickly gain back whatever was previously dropped.  So, it is a “mental” issue and a level of focus that I lack in most cases.  That’s an excuse, I know, but trying to be honest about it.  I raced well in 2012 between 162lbs – 164lbs, but I’m sitting at 173lbs right now.  I raced most of last year between 171lbs – 176lbs, so I should be able to get down to 166lbs – 168lbs without too much effort by April.  Once I get there, it’s easier to have a dedicated focus prior to a hilly race in two weeks or whatever immediate goal is ahead.  When you’re over 10lbs from your target, it’s too easy to give up.  I think a natural race weight target should be 165lbs which allows me to easily drop down to 162lbs for a climbing race or slip a little up to 168lbs during heavy crit periods.  Let’s be honest, after not racing more than a couple races in the 167-168lbs range last year, I’d happily accept that all season over last season’s weight.

On the bright side of last season, my 60 minute power was much higher.  My 20 minute power did not improve between 2012 and 2013.  It hovered in the 365 – 370 watts range during peak early season testing, but my 60 minute improved dramatically with a peak around 340 watts.  In the past, I struggled to hold anything longer than 20 minutes and really couldn’t deliver 2×20 minute intervals without massive power drop-offs on the 2nd interval.   The issue was due to bad execution in training.  I was so focused on the first interval hitting some target number for 20 minutes that I failed to have enough left over for the 2nd interval.  Once I pushed my ego out of the way, I was able to dial back the 20 minute targets to levels that were not impressive, however, they allowed for the completion of two full intervals without any decrease on the 2nd interval.  The numbers were not good at first, but over time my body was able to push harder and longer with slow incremental power increases on the 2nd interval.  It was the classic case of pacing and by going easy at first, I was able to go harder in the end.  In this case, it meant that I needed several weeks of targeting numbers that were too easy until I could consistently hit them and repeat them in multiple intervals.  The key to intervals isn’t how hard you can do them, the key is how many you can do at what level of effort.  I learned that it’s better for a rider to hit numbers 10% below their peak ability for several weeks and focus on completing 2 and 3 intervals in row.

The plan is to either get in another good training weekend next weekend or possible head up to Greenville on Saturday for Fork Shoals Road Race.   Now, I haven’t done a single interval yet this season, so if I had any brains at all, I’d take my own advice and start training before I drive off to these races….but, I’m not that smart, so we’ll see.

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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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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 written about the illness and injuries that have derailed this season so far, so it’s becoming a bit of a broken record.  I was in pretty good form in February with low weight and high power coupled with tons of rest days.  I was getting ready to add shorter / harder intervals in March when I got injured ( 1 week), then sick w/ cold (1 week), then sick with stomach flu (1 week), and then medicine related cramps (1 week + still having issues).  So, the last six weeks have been pretty pathetic training weeks.  I’ve had a few good Tuesday workouts on rare healthy days that have luckily kept me from falling too far out of shape and a couple of bad races thrown in, as well, that kept some partial race fitness.

However, it is obvious when I enter a crit like Sunny King last week, that I don’t have any anaerobic power or ability to make repeated efforts.  To be fair, I could have spent more time training these areas on the rare days when I was healthy enough to train.  However, I’m a strong believer in building the house on a solid foundation.  I’ve raced Pro/1/2 at a CTL in the low 80’s with decent anaerobic power, and it is very hard to do well in the low 80’s in P/1/2 road races.  On the flip side, for a 60 – 90 min crit, it is better to have high 5 sec, 1 min, and 5 min power with the ability to do hard repeats over and over.  For a solid all around rider, you really need a decently high CTL coupled with a high FTP that gets layered with strong 5 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min power and repeat efforts.  A lot of coaches call it icing the cake.  I’m not sure if that is the best analogy, but I’ve raced P/1/2 road races with low CTL, and it is as frustrating as racing P/1/2 crits without any anaerobic training.  There’s no shortcuts unless you want to focus on just crits or just road races.  I decide to always rebuild using longer 30 min and 45 min SST intervals that only help with long road races.  They don’t put you in position to do anything other than hang around, but it’s a launching point that will better support anaerobic training at a later date.  In a perfect world, I would have several weeks to add anaerobic power now that my CTL is back into the high 80’s and getting closer to normal (about 10% below normal right now).  Unfortunately, a lot of crits are scheduled in April, so it was a case of race into shape.  That can work fine if you don’t care about results, but it is a slow process that takes many races over several weeks and is better done in late February / early March than late April.

Sunny King was a tough Cat 2 crit for me.  I got in one move, and I was gassed after the effort.  No ability to recover, and no top end power.  I sprinted for a midpack finish and was frustrated.  Without doing any interval training under 20 minutes this season, it was to be expected.  The next day, Foothills Road Race was easier since I hid out in draft and was never put in a position where I needed to go above high end level 4 the whole race.  I finished 22nd out of about 70 starters in a pretty good P/1/2 field, but I was not a factor and couldn’t go with any of the real moves, essentially pack fodder.

Athens Twilight AM Greenway race was this last Saturday.  Same story again in that race.  Only a week later, so Sunny King and a couple interval training days added fatigue without allowing time for muscles to repair and get stronger in less than a week.  I marked several moves and got away in a 2 man break with some DIY racer dropped just as a team Novo Nordisk rider bridged up.  We were off the front for about a lap before the pack caught us. My power file showed 4 separate hard moves with 2 long moves including the breakaway where my power was high end Vo2 for several minutes and burning at least a few matches. I had some weird muscle cramping in the quad this time.  Since it was raining earlier, I pumped my tires to 85psi, and then let out two large pushes on the valve upon arriving.  It dried up quickly, but I never put air back in.  It felt great in warm-ups, but taking turn 3 at 30mph could feel my rear tire getting squishy and folding over.  I could have probably raced, but when I looked down at my rear wheel after turn 4 at around 25 minutes, it looked almost flat.  I pulled into the pits to get a wheel changed.  The pit crew asked if it was flat.  I put my thumb on the tire and felt a pretty firm tire.  In other words, it was likely at the psi level that I started the race which was too low to race in dry conditions, but it wasn’t flat yet. I am pretty honest and said kind of…started to explain.  He was sort of shaking his head, so I shut up and left the pits and headed straight to the car.  I hate people who use the pits for their mistakes rather than true mechanical problems.  I was not going to be one of those people.  He was about to deny the request, so I made it easy for him, no further discussion required.  The frustrating part was two fold.  Later that night, I put a gauge on the tire, and it was down to 30psi.  So, I probably had a slow leak, but knowing that I started the race at too low a psi made that case pretty weak.  The other frustrating part was the 4 hard efforts had me stuck in the back and likely not going to be a factor for the rest of the race. However, I felt better than I did the following day in Roswell, so who knows…

The following day was the Roswell Criterium, so I lined up for the Cat 2/3 race in pouring rain.  The course literally had small creeks and rivers flowing across it.  It was raining hard with slight breaks throughout the race.  However, the amount of water on the course made it impossible to go fast in turns.  Turn 1 was very slippery and caused an early crash where nobody was hurt or even had trouble getting back in the race.  I felt terrible.  The lack of anaerobic power made slowing for each slick turn and ramping speed back up after the turn very hard on me.  For the first time in my life, I was creating gaps in the field that I couldn’t close.  I didn’t have enough top end power to close down the gap I was opening in each corner.  I was very afraid of crashing, so I’m sure I took turns at least .5 mph slower which opened gaps that I struggled to close down coming out of corners.  However, the front guys were attacking over and over and over.  This was a 60 minute crit, so with 15 minutes left to race, the pace of the field and jumps out of corners dramatically dropped.  My power files show my average power in the first 15 min was very high, then next 30 min very low, than last 15 min was very high as I came to the front and rode in the top 4 slots the last 15 minutes.  It started to feel like a road race with fewer hard attacks, so my legs felt pretty good.  Also, 5 minutes into the race, I had terrible cramping in my quad again, same pain as Athens.  It was so bad, I almost dropped.  I’m still blaming Cipro because this has never happened to me in 5 years of racing, not 5 minutes into a race.  It went away with about 15 minutes to go, so that helped out a lot as I was favoring my right leg this time (left leg at Athens and prior week at Foothills).  With 1 to go, I was sitting 3rd wheel behind Evan Murphy (CRCA Foundation) and another ride.  My teammate, Benji Coil, went to the front and drilled it on the back section to line things out and keep us positioned.  He took us through turn 4 and 5 together, and then pulled off.  Evan took off quickly and got a nice jump.  I misjudged the distance and came out of the draft early and pulled even with 2nd place rider, but I couldn’t pass him.  I reality, I tried to come around 2nd place guy way to early.  Also, I was very high up, and I need to be lower when sprinting and more aero.  However, my power file showed me that it was one of the lowest power sprints I’ve ever done.  That’s a combination of poor fitness, no sprinting this year in training, lots of fatigue, and maybe even cautious with wet roads so no rocking the bike hard.  It was so low, I will not even say, but let’s say that my 20 sec sprint power was close to what I did for almost 1 min last year.  So, I got 3rd.  Yes, it’s a podium, but I was cramping and wanted to drop most of the race.  I was mentally prepared for a 20th place finish and frustrated that I couldn’t make any moves.  I got lucky, and had a great teammate, but it was not a good race, and I am nowhere near podium form.

This weekend is Sandy Springs, then there’s a nice two week break.  I’m hoping that a decent Tues Night Crit plus Sandy Springs will be the final few workouts to get the anaerobic power starting to build prior to some rest and longer SST blocks again.  This time, I’ll do at least one anaerobic workout during rebuild in prep for late May races.

Below is a picture of my teammate Benji Coil in the wet race conditions at Roswell Criterium.

Roswell 2013

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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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