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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Cycling’

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.  

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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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This last weekend was the Georgia State Road Race Championship which was held near Rome, GA on a rolling hills course consisting of two 41 mile laps for a total of 84 miles that includes a couple miles rolling to the course from the race start line.  With several races going on in other states, it was mainly local racers looking to contest a jersey.  Most of the faster masters racers in Georgia decided to race the P/1/2 race which was good to see as sometimes you end up with too many Cat 1/2’s in Master’s races which I think creates large disparities between masters racers.  I lined up with the team for the P/1/2 race as a Cat 2, but my focus was on the Cat 1 jersey for the team.  We had a good plan and executed well all day.  Everyone on the team had a role and rode very well which makes it fun for everyone.  I was watching for the typical moves that looked dangerous.  There were a lot of heavy hitters hanging back early in the race, so there was a nice mix of different riders trying to get up the road.  An early break of about ten riders got away about ten miles inot the race and stayed away for about thirty minutes or maybe closer to forty-five minutes.  It was out there a while, but eventually it was pulled back by the field.  I knew that the big guns would look to counter this move since it was really the only move of the day, and we were approaching an hour of racing.  Immediately, Mike Stone (Lupus) attacked and I followed his wheel.  A couple guys jumped my wheel, and we were off the front.  I was sitting on, and so were a couple other guys, so nobody pulled through.  Mike sat up, and was immediately countered by someone on his team.  I went part way and then noticed that I didn’t recognize the guy and had just jumped a few seconds earlier.  I waited to see what the pack would do.  A couple guys bridged up, but it was quickly followed by ten more riders on their wheels, so that move was harmless.  There were a couple more surges, but nothing was happening.  Then, we turned a corner and there was a long gradual stretch of road.  Brendan Sullivan (Lupus) drilled it off the front and quickly got a gap.  I was a little unsure if it was Brendan or someone else at this point.  I watch him quickly get 15m, then 20m, then 30m, then 40m.  At that point, I realized it was Brendan, and I could see he was heads down going for it.  I jumped harder than I wanted looking back at my power file.  I jumped at 1,375 watts and then rode 5 sec at 1,175w, and 10 sec around 1,000w, and a minute at an easier 560w.  I could go much harder than that, but this was an effort that is just hard enough 25 miles into an 84 mile road race to avoid most people in the pack to discourage following the move or at least thinking twice about it.  Brendan was going hard and we had a very long way to go, so I dangled a bit and tried to figure out what I wanted to do as I rode about 20m off his wheel bridging up.  I looked back and was happy to see Mike Stone bridging up with my teammate Tim Henry on his wheel.  They brought Buddy Spafford, Erik Kirk (recent Cat 2 upgrade, kudos to him on the bidge…), and another guy I didn’t know.  The six of us worked well together for the next hour.   It was not a hard break with 20 min power at 325w and 30 min at 310w, but we knew that we had about 2.5hrs left to race, so it was the perfect pace.  I did about 355w for the first 10 min, so we were not crushing it, but it was hard enough to get 45 – 60 sec in the first 10 min.  We settled in nicely and worked well rotating for the next 1.5hrs with near a 2 min gap until my teammate, Tim Henry, had a flat. That is when things got a little dicey for the group.  After losing one, everyone had to do a little more work since Village Volkswagen and Atlanta Cycling were not in the break and chasing from behind. We lifted the pace a bit and got the break back to 1:30, but we popped Erik off in the process.  Now, we are down to 5 riders with two Lupus riders.  At this point, Lupus had 1st and 2nd place in Cat 1 wrapped up if we finished the break.  The other two riders and me were Cat 2’s, but Buddy (I think it was Buddy, maybe someone can clarify if it wasn’t) was from Florida, so no jersey potential for him.  If the break held, I was competing against another rider for the Cat 2 jersey.  

When Tim reached the field, it was clear that our team was in a tough situation.  Our goal was to get a Cat 1 jersey, so we quickly assembled the troops and starting pulling the break back.  In the break, we didn’t realize the pack dynamics, but we did know that our gap was coming down quickly.  With about 15 miles to go, we got a 1 min gap time check.  It went from 2 min to 1:30 to 1:15 to 1:10 to 1 min in the hour since we lost Tim.  When you see a gap come down like that, it’s obvious that you’re in trouble in the break unless you can really ramp it up.  With about 15 miles to go, we were under 1 min, and Mike started to push the pace much harder.  I was working really hard in the first 1.5hrs of the break when we had Tim with really strong pulls, so that was making my legs tired in the final 45 min of the race.  We hit a decent climb and Mike got a small gap.  We chased back on the descent, but I got a time check from the Marshall about 10 miles to go that said the pack was at the top descending.  Quick calculations let me know that was about 30 sec, and we were likely getting caught very soon.  It went from 1 min to 30 sec in only a few miles, we looked doomed.  As soon as the road straighted and started to incline the pack could see us up ahead.  Mike looked back and saw the field about 30 sec back, so he started to attack pretty hard.  I came off with Buddy, and I couldn’t figure out if it was smart to fight to get back on or pull the plug as we were still about 8 miles out with a charging pack riding much faster ready to swallow us in less than a minute or two.  It didn’t matter as any out of the saddle effort caused cramping, so I needed to stay seated and grind out the effort.  I haven’t done a lot of road racing this season, and it requires a lot more effort than I can get from a long training ride.  After getting swallowed up, I was almost spit out the back, but the marshal encouraged me to ride back onto the back after telling me there was only 8 miles left.  My legs hurt, and I was in pain since the pack was going faster than my legs could handle.  I sprinted back onto the back of the pack where there was a strong draft.  I sat back there for the next 4 miles recovering.  With about 4 miles to go, I decided to move up slowly.  I wanted to see if I could just get midpack for the heck of it.  My legs couldn’t do an out of the saddle sprint, but there were able to do a decent spin in the drops.  I followed a few wheels closer to the front.  I was near the front by the time when a move went off the front.  I didn’t know who was in the move or whether or not I could even go with the move.  Given the cramping, I decided to sit in and hope it comes back.  It didn’t come back, so that was the top 7 spots.  I moved over behind a few good riders, and then sprinted to the line behind the first row of pack sprinters to finish 5th in the pack sprint and 12th overall.  

There are a few takeaways for me from Saturday’s race.  First, my race weight is still way to high.  I raced last week about 12lbs overweight, and then dieted all week to start this race about 8lbs overweight.  I’m now writing Monday morning about 6lbs overweight.  My plan is to get back to last season’s low weight by Georgia Games road race.  Since I didn’t travel last week and will likely not travel this week, I should be able to get very close.  I’ve traveled out of town almost every week this season with several multi-day/night trips to NYC, Miami, etc…not easy to avoid weight gain when every meal is in a restaurant with colleagues and clients.  However, this two week stretch without travel will allow me to essentially lose water, fat, muscle, heck, I don’t care what it is, I need to lose it and worry about the composition later.  

The other takeaway is that my legs finally got some intensity in April / May from crits, but June was the first month of long road races.  I am now getting race legs with the ability to go long and hard, so the 2nd half of the year should have fewer days of legs that give out around 3hrs…

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Saturday’s Circuit Race in Blairsville, GA was a case of some bad luck and very bad prep on my side.  I was using some new tires that were too tight for my bike.  I pinched the tire and blew the tire at the start.  So, my wife, Beth, offered I take her wheel.  Good tip:  If you wife offers you her wheel, don’t take it.  It is the cycling couple equivalent of the wife saying, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”   Equally stupid to fall for that trick, as well.  So, I took the bait, or in this case, I took her rear wheel and raced.  Beth is about 115lbs and only inflates her tires to 95 psi which feels pretty flat to me…  I normally run at 115 psi, but I can run 120 psi on most of my tires.  No, I didn’t blow the tire due to psi, it was due to these new Vittoria Open Corsa EVO clinchers that are very, very, very tight on my Mavic Ksyriums SSC SL’s.  It should have been a tipoff when it took me 15 min to get them on the rim…   Anyway, I put the wheel on and headed to catch the group as they were starting off.  I road in the back most of the race and moved up with 2 miles to go.  The last 2 miles were fast, and I finished 4th in an uphill sprint finish at the end.  This was not a great result given there were only 16 – 17  riders and none that I recognized from other races.   Today, they are racing the more important gaps road race, and I really wish I could go race it.  However, I used up all my wife’s goodwill….

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Yesterday was my first day joining the Team Cycleworks Cat 4 team for a race in Rome, GA.  So far, the criteriums in the Georgia Cup this year and other races like Roswell Criterium have been typical crit type flate courses.  However, the Rome course featured a nice hill follow-up by another short incline after a quick right hander.  I felt pretty decent for the first 30 min, but this race was scheduled to go 35 min + 3 laps.  At 35 min, my body told me that it was done.  Whoops, didn’t budget enough energy for the extra 5 min of racing…so, that didn’t end well for me.  If that race was 5 min shorter, I had plenty in the tank.  I used up quote a bit of energy trying to work a little harder this race since I was trying to assist the other team members who were actually riding for something other than fun.  They won the morning team time trial, so it was important to help wherever possible.  I wasn’t able to position myself very well to assist much, but I spent a lot of energy trying to get into position to assist in a few situations.  In hindsight, they would have been better served with me conserving energy and being in the thick of the race at the end to help lead out or block.  Oh well, it was a fun race either way.   Coming up…Georgia Games on July 12/13th, Elberton on Aug 2nd, and Gwinnett Bike Fest August 26th/27th.  I might do both road race and crit at the Georgia Games, not sure, we’ll see….

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I completed the Union City Circuit Race the first weekend in June, but I failed to include a race report due to my tactics that were somewhat questionable at best.  Right before the start of the 4/5 over 35 race, I was warming up in the mall parking lot with some easy riding and a few sprints to open up the legs.  When the prior race finished, I easily rode toward the starting line to line up for my race when all of a sudden I heard a hissing sound.  Yes, I was quickly on my way to a flat tire.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a pit wheel for either my front or back nor did I bring a tube kit or spare tube.  So, I was in a tough situation with about 90 seconds until line up for the race.  Luckily, I found a guy that I ride with on Wednesday Night Atlanta Cycling group rides named Muhammed who loaned me his front wheel (Mavic Cosmic).  That was a very nice gesture considering those are expensive partially carbon race wheels.  I’m not sure if the wheel helped improve my speed with the aero design up front, but it sure felt like it rolled faster.  I am sure that was in my head, but it was a great motivation trick if it was in my head.  I raced Union City in my old PenVelo kit because I didn’t have any generic shorts and only had a jersey top from Cycleworks at this point.  I could have gone Penvelo shorts with Cycleworks jersey, but I wasn’t sure about that approach, so I went PenVelo kit for one last race.   Also, due to the flat right before the start, I didn’t get a chance to meet any of the Cycleworks guys at the start line to introduce myself as a new member and potentially someone who could work together with them.  I know that could have been done during the race, but I kind of liked the idea of one last solo effort anyway.  So, I started out thinking this was going to be a chance to have fun and realistically just finish mid pack.  My fitness is still nowhere near race level, but I was getting stronger.  As a result, I sat near the front for the first few laps and jumped out quickly about 1/2 mi into the first preem lap.  Only one guy chased me and he was pretty far back most of the time without the ability to hold that power the whole way, so I took the first preem for $25 pretty easily.  However, I knew very well that I just burned a couple matches that I would need later in the race if I hoped to compete for a top 5 finish.  Fast forward to the end of the race, and I am about 1/2 mi from the finish again when I notice two guys coming up the left to move to the front to get into position for the finish.  So, I jump behind them and move up to the front with them.  When I reached the front I jumped out again for a solo breakaway with 1/2 lap to go.  This time, everyone up front chased since we were 1/2 mile from the race finish.  I was pretty far up the road as we approach the first right hand turn followed by another right hand turn on two small uphills prior to a slight left slightly inclined straight away into the wind.  I had about 20 yds on the pack on the first uphill and second uphill, but I could feel my legs burning as I took the left toward the last 100 – 150 yds to the finish line.  I reached deep to come up with something, and I had nothing.  If I hadn’t gone for the first preem, I am sure that I would have had a lot more energy at the end…  So, I had nothing and accepted my fate to be swallowed up shortly by the pack as they surged toward the line.  Sure enough, with about 125 yds to go, I sat up and let the pack pass me by without making an effort to jump in…because I had nothing left at that point.  So, what did I learn, not much.  I knew that it was going to be nearly impossible to go solo after doing it on the first preem when nobody chased, but I wasn’t having much success working with anyone in the front anyway, so I figured I’d end up mid pack finish anyway.  At least, this pathetic attempt at glory allowed me to finish in the back on my terms.  Plus, I will work with the other Cycleworks members in future races, so it was a solo effort that I don’t expect to repeat in the future on a circuit course unless it is a special race with a designated 5 only group where they don’t work together as well to pull in breakaways.   

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Today’s Wednesday Night Group Ride (Atlanta Cycling) Silver Lake Loop was finally a turning point in my training.  I finally past the 300 Watt mark for my Functional Threshold Power.  The norm power for the entire 1hr 30 min effort came in at 311 watts.  Unfortunately, I have not been able hit my weight loss goals, so I am still at around 191 – 192 lbs.  If I can somehow lose those last fifteen pounds, we are talking about some serious improvements and potential strong race results.  If I can add another 10 – 20 watts to my FTP, then at least I’ll still be front of pack at most races and in position to enjoy the event.  May 4th – is the Nalley Roswell Crit and shaping up to be  my first race of the season and my first criterium ever.  I am a little worried about my first crit since there are a typically a lot of crashes in criteriums.  However, I have now missed the first two races of the season due to various excuses (rain, too far, etc…), so I am going to do this event whether I think I am prepared or not.  At tonight’s group ride, a rider who did the race last year said that the crits are not any tighter or more crowded than our Wednesday night ride, so I guess it will be fine.  We’ll see…  Below is my latest power profile chart. 

April 16th Power Profile

 

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