Posts Tagged ‘Grant Park Criterium’

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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