Monday, July 28, 2008

Superweek Fine

Hung out to dry

This is where Steve, our host works. The butcher shop is very old and similar to what it looked like when it open almost a century ago.

This is Steve. He has been a great host. The last three nights when we come home, after racing, he has made dinner which has included grilled tuna, tenderloin, sausage, braut, pork chops, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes......Im forgetting something.

This is where Steve smokes out

Steve wanted me to see what would happen to Carlos if he didn't make the podium

Friday night was the Chase Food Folks and Spokes in Kenosha, WI. This was to be the first of the last three races for the series and things were getting pretty tight in the hunt for the overall. There were also some challenges still being made for the sprint jersey. Riders like Jonathan Page and Ryan Roth had made their debut in the final week of the series and really made the racing a little bit faster if not harder. I needed to help Carlos make sure that riders trying to close the gap in the sprint competition were not able to. The field was stacked and I started near the back. About thirty of 100 laps I was just at the back end of the front group when my front wheel slipped while turning on the white crosswalk paint. I thought I flatted and sat up. I soon realized that I was not flat and would not get a free lap. I managed to grab on to the back of the 150+ field and nearly got dropped. The rest of the race was a slow progression of trying to get back up to the front. At 8 to go I made it to the front and was in the first ten riders. The pressure went up and I kept giving up my wheel and two laps later was about 25 from the front. With 3 to go a crash caused a split and I was right behind it. I chased but the field was motoring towards the finish and so I crossed the line half a lap down.

The Great Downer Avenue Bike Race in Milwaukee was described to me as the most exciting race of the series. The fans, the money and the field were all supposed to be top notch. It lived up to the hype. A $7000 prime lap with 12 laps to go kept the pace high until it was handed out. The fans lined every available space on the course and the field was close to 200 riders. All I can say about this night is that I survived. I finally made it on the results sheet at 50th place (woohoo!) and had a feeling at the end of the night like I had been free falling the whole evening.
Carlos finally moved up to 3rd overall and 1st best amateur when Adrian Gerrits of Khala LaGrange, the rider in front of him, touched wheels in the final lead out and went down. This was not the ideal way for Carlos to move up, but thats racing.
The Whitefish Bay Classic in Whitefish Bay, WI would be the final showdown. The field size had been reduced to about 75 because of the Chicago Crit which offered a better payout and shorter race. Tyler had decided to take a ride back to Texas after Downer Ave so we were now four strong. With only a few points above 4th overall, we were completely focused on keeping Carlos out of trouble and on the podium at the end of the night. A break of seven riders got away but things were going pretty well. Of the entire series, I felt like I had the best legs on this night. About 35 laps in I stood up to accelerate through a turn. My right had slipped on my hood as I lunged all my weight forward and I went right over my bars. I had no time to react but its weird to know as I was crashing that I was going to crash and that I was in the middle of a bike race. About six guys went down with me but I think I was the worst hit. I was so pissed. I couldn't believe that I had been responsible for such a stupid crash, especially since I had been feeling so good. My bike looked terrible. Bent derraileur, torn cable and housing, bent shifters, wheels rubbing, etc. I thought this would be it for me, there was no way I could ride this bike. But I wasn't going to go out like that. If it had not been the last night, I probably would have taken my bloodied body and broken bike to the nearest pub and had been a numb drunk before the finish. I had made friends with the SRAM mechanic and wanted to see if I could pull it off one more time. I went to the pit and told him that I could not ride my bike after crashing. He sighed, set up a neutral bike and three laps after crashing, I was back in the race on a sweet ass Orca with Zipp 404s. I started near the front and attacked up to a break. We were caught and then I went for a prime. It was not to be but about five laps later I was set up (i thought) perfectly for another prime. I got nipped at the line. The race blew up after this into three, maybe four groups. I was gassed and thought that would be it for me, but I had all the overall contenders in my group, so after three laps of chasing we got reattached. With six to go, Adrian (lost 3rd overall to Carlos the night before) attacked and got clear with a few others. Carlos and Barry started to bridge up and I got to the front to police. There was a lull in the field which helped Carlos' effort and then Bahati decided to chase it down. I sat on his wheel for about three laps as he strung out the field in pursuit. It was like motopacing. He finally sat up with three to go. Carlos made it up to the break and outsprinted Adrian to secure his 3rd overall and 1st amateur. I finished 40th (movin up!!)

My bike is not dead. The SRAM mechanic fixed it while I bled all over the course. I missed the awards ceremony cause it hurt to undress. Me and a bottle of Jameson made out last night. It kept me pain free until about six this morning. I cannot really say for sure what I am going to take away from this experience. I will not try now, except maybe to say that I will sacrifice whatever I can and dig deeper into myself until there is no more me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rest Day

On Tuesday we raced here in Cedarburg. Andrew woke up sick and decided to cut his superweek campaign short and flew back home the next day. You will be missed, Andrew. Steve hasn't been the same. Being able to roll to the end of the block to get to the race was a nice change. The course (on left) was pretty simple on paper but the first turn had a few wrecks before things got settled. I went down in one of them when I came around the corner and someone was going over the curb to the left. I stayed in my drops and just tried to make sense of the chaos. Suddenly, an opening in front of me was really two riders that I hit and fell right on top of. Very soft landing, but a bit awkward with the bodies and bikes tangled up with each other. I took my free lap and jumped back in. The second turn was also a dicey one cause the course would go from a wide boulevard to a narrow neighborhood road. Everyone would bottleneck. The next turn had an indented manhole right on the preferred line. You could go over it but risked broken carbon after several times. By about thirty laps in everyone knew what to expect, but at the start, everyone was still trying to establish order and these nuances to the course were like paying toll booths on the freeway.
I made it to the front several times past fifty laps in. At this point guys were making big efforts to get away. The front would string out during the chase and then like a snowball on impact, fragment in anticipation of another move. I tried my best to ride in the wake and not let any danger moves go. But they all seemed like danger moves to me! With about 15 to go I realized I would finish my first race in a while, a huge accomplishment for me. I hung on and got through the pain by reciting lyrics and telling myself I would do "just one more lap," thanks willis.
After the race I met the kid I fell on, Logan. I apologized for falling on him but told him it was a soft landing. He is 18 and just coming back from being sick all year. He is a little pudgy, but it was not my intention to point this out to him, but he did.

Whitnall Park Road Race
Held in the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corner, Carlos and I almost didn't make the start when I got us lost (Missing Andrew already for his integrated gps mentality). The excitement of the previous race kept me awake all night. Seriously, I guess I was so tweaked from the exercition, I finally stopped trying to sleep around 3am and just listened to music until the Alpe d Huez stage started. I got two hours of sleep (9-10 and 1130-1230) before the race. The temps were up, there was a power climb every two miles, and we arrived 30 minutes before the start, so I was not expecting to even finish. Before Andrew left, he had been performing like a 1st lieutenant for Carlos. In Cedarburg, Tyler assumed this role. In Hales Corner, after 8 of 27 laps it would be my turn. I chased, got into moves and initiated breaks. The field caught the break with six to go. I attacked with a rider from the colombian national team. We were caught and Carlos countered. Khala LaGrange organized a chase cause their rider is barely beating Carlos in the amateur points. They brought it back and up the hill with two to go I attacked again and got a gap. Rock Racing chased me down and then it was lights out. Carlos got fifth, moved up in the overall to maybe 7th and is looking set to win the best amateur.
I'm taking today off then racing the last three days of superweek.
I had a big cup of wine last night and then slept hard.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Holy Hill

Holy Hill in Hartford was the first road race of Superweek. Ten laps on an eight mile course was reduced to eight laps when the start was delayed an hour. As I was warming up I realized my bars kept slipping since my crash cause they were cracked. No problem, few days before I made friends with the SRAM mechanic for this very reason. New Orbea Orca with Zipp 404s, oh yeah!! Only thing was I had never ridden, let alone raced, sram shifters.
I found the road race exactly what I needed. Plenty of time to recover and not so much fighting for position. I even bridged up to a very short lived break at the start of the second lap. At about two to go Carlos started floating back through the field and I asked if he was ok. "No! Wait for me."
That's what I'm here for I thought.
He changed bikes with Barry and I drilled it back up to reconnect with the peloton. I was pretty gassed and then noticed my neutral bike's stem had shifted a few degrees so that my handle bars and my front wheel were no longer aligned. The course was sketchy and there was no room for bike mechanicals on the mind so I pulled the plug. Later, Carlos thanked me for the help.

After driving to North Shore to visit Wheels and Sprocket to replace my bars, I returned to our host house where Steve, the butcher, had bbq'd four types of braut (apple braut was the best, no joke!), tenderloin and made pie. Little dinner, wine and pie, I felt like the day was a success.

"keep pedaling hard and staying strong in your mind. Mind is everything."
-ms mercedes orten

"the test of one's principles is his willingness to suffer for them, and the test of this willingness-the only test-is actual suffering."
-John Barth "The Floating Opera"

"...I can see the end is the begining,
so I'm not racing, I'm just sprinting.
Cause I dont want to finish.
They diminsh, I replenish....
That's how u let the beat build, bitch!
and the beat goes boom!
ba boom! ba boom!"
-lil wayne "Let the Beat Build"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

the well and the lighthouse

where does the water end and the sky begin?

Mandatory day off. Barry texted me this morning as CSC unleashed on the yellow jersey. He wanted me to take a day off and spin easy so I could be fresh for the road race. Pedaled to Port Washington via the Ozaukee Interurban bike trail. Today was about rest, but one result I needed reminding of was that my bike still takes me places I have never been.

From the bottom of the well

So much to say. My rest day of several days before was anything but that. Woken up to Lori telling our room that we were supposed to be out of our rooms in thirty minutes. Rushed out the door and into a cramped car. A two and a half hour drive turned four hours thanks to standstill Chicago traffic. We arrive in Cedarburg Wisconsin where Carlos, Andrew and I are staying with Steve, a gay butcher (how do i end up with the gay hosts?). I got a sweet spot in the basement, no kidding. Amenities include washer, dryer, toilet, tv with the tour and stereo. All I have to do is wear long socks and a hoodie so I dont freeze at night.

Ah, my first espresso since I left Austin.

The bike path literally runs right behind Steve's backyard. Oh yeah, on the other side of the path is a cemetery. The night we got here Carlos was supposed to be sleeping in the room upstairs. I was in the basement, up late, talking on the phone. Carlos thought he heard voices from the graveyard and was ready to get outta there until he checked the basement.

One day we will all grow old and die or in his case roots.

Before we left the Extended Stay, Tristian and I were going to the grocery store. The elevator was bare walled and I could tell he was ready to put a fresh pair of sneaker prints up. At the last minute I held the elevator for someone coming down. This meant Tristian would have to wait.
The guy got in the elevator and an ominous silence ensued with everyone looking down. The stranger broke the silence asking Tristian if he was the one putting the shoe marks on the elevator walls. It was then that I noticed Tristian and this guy were both wearing the same shoes. How this guy knew what the soles of his shoes looked like leads me to believe there are some things in life that escape me.

Now we're at the bottom
My racing of the last couple of nights has been nonexcuscable. Fortunately, getting pulled from Friday's race could have been a blessing since it started to rain and the field saw mass amounts of wrecks that resulted in a concussion and ambulance ride for the yellow jersey. I just wish it hadn't happened to me in the first twenty minutes. Was I frustrated? Yes, I had finally felt my preperation had been optimal but I rode the next hour and a half in the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin.
Last night was a little worse, if that is possible. I will say in my defense that I really had no warm up, but I did get a start right at the front. On the turn to the start/finish I kept getting gapped and after two laps was unable to close it down and required about five guys to close it for me each lap. About the sixth lap I was off the back and two laps later was getting pulled.
From the outside, looking in, this was to be expected. Now I start improving...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Superweek Day 3 and 4

The last two nights of racing were on the same course, in the same direction. The Ray Basso Bensenville Criterium was a flat course with a couple technical turns and a straightaway that broke me both days. The first night near the back of the field a rider went down in front of me and took me out with him. I landed on my tailbone, stumbled off the road and laid back down in the grass. A few seconds later I realized I would be ok, went to the wheel pit and was back in in two laps. Carlos had gotten in a break and looked unlikely to get brought back. I jumped back in and went up to the front. The crash made me realize I had more to lose in the back than near the front. I covered a few moves and then Andrew informed me that Carlos' break was about to lap us. I decided to drift to the back to help him move up, but when I got to the back, I noticed his group had already lapped us and he was up near the front. A few laps of feeling stupid, bars slipping from my crash, guttering, and then lights out for me. 75 min. Carlos got 5th.

I had been feeling like I had not been eating right, so I went to the grocery store and hooked it up with some liquid calories (thanks Kate) to cover that base. Also replaced the jam Barry took out of our room, haha. Prerace was going pretty good until I went to sign in and discovered the race about to start, 30 min earlier than usual. This was entirely my fault, and it meant I got no warmup. I started near the back and got to the front in no time. I was a little surprised at how good I felt, even the motivation was up. I tried to go with a move but just ended up pulling the field on my wheel. That was enough flexing for me so I began to drift back. I must have drifted too far back cause next thing I know I'm faaarrr back, strung out breaking and accelerating like a car in rush hour traffic. After a few laps of this the peloton must have gone tranquil cause I recovered and found a groove. About the time I decided to start moving up, Rock Racing strung out the field for the sprinter's points competition and I just focused on hanging on. But that was pretty much it for me. I had one more chance to move up but only grabbed onto the last wheel and when I got gapped, could not close it down. I chased for about four laps with two others and then got pulled. 60min.

So now it obvious I need to take a day off. I've got no qualms with not finishing, but I know I race better than this. It's the heroic martyr moves that I know I am capable of that I want to have the opportunity to display before I get dropped.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's My Life

Tristian was here

Even the kiddos are feeling the gas price pinch

Lyric of the day: "this time I'll close my eyes and really wish you'd come."
Quote of the day: "sometimes i talk shit and don't even realize im talking shit."
This is my life right now:
Wake, ride, eat, sleep, wake, eat, race, eat, sleep

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Players

As some of my dear readers may or may not know, back in Texas I race for Velossimo pb Jack and Adam's powered by Chann McCrae. Well, for the big Superweek I thought guest riding for a rival team up here would be a great way to get a first hand account how the enemy operates. Here's what I have discovered:

Tyler Jewell
Age: 21
Hometown: Austin, TX

Upon entering room 304 at the Extended Stay Hotel, Tyler, as is his custom, scanned the room for any oddities and discovered a brand new Chicago White Sox baseball cap perched atop a lamp shade. Without hesitation, Tyler assumed the identity of a native Chicagoian and can now be seen giving directions to the hippest joints and hi-fiving all the local playas.

Andrew Dalheim
Age: 20
Hometown: Dallas, TX

Andrew is a walking GPS device. Maybe he can't remember the girl he supposedly kissed or have enough patience to play along with her text messages cause he's navigating us without fail to every race site.

Carlos Vargas
Hometown: Colombia

Carlos is all about business. He is not the type to sit around and wait for the move. Carlos is the move. Carlos is at Superweek to improve on his fitfth overall from last year.

Tristian Uhl
Age: 20
Hometown: Smithville, TX

Not much is known about Tristian other than his hobbies. Placing footprints high atop elevator doors, sticking flowers in obscure locations and playing lazer tag in moving vehicles, to name just a few.

Barry Lee
Age: 43
Hometown: Austin, TX

What else can I say about Barry? He's living a dream. He owns a development cycling team, races all the time and is responsible for the biggest cycling event in Austin. But oh man, can that guy snore!

Then there's me. You know me already. No? see here

Alright, about tonight's race.
Richton Park Criterium
90 laps
Rock Racing in the leader's and points jersey. Kelly Benefits back after a day off. Very fast course with optimal evening temperatures.
At about 45 to go, Carlos broke away with Texas' Ryan Wolhrabe. Some time later they are joined by five others and our team does a pretty stellar job keeping shit together. Personally, my life was simplified by Carlos being in the break. I covered and covered until I finally popped at about 25 to go. Carlos' group eventually got caught and another group of eight got away and lapped the field. Carlos finished about 15th but was still not pleased. I'll keep riding the way I am right now. I feel better and better. I'm focused on grabbing my breaks less.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

SuperSketch Day2

Tonight's race was held in a developing neighborhood in southern Chicago. Olympia Fields, to be exact. The course tonight (see here: tonight's course) was condensed due to the undeveloped nature of some of the road surface. Start was on Hermes and the danger area was shortly after the left onto Eros. So officials redesigned the course so that racers continued straight on Messina. This meant the course was .4 mi and there was a more than 90 degree turn with tailwind about 300 meters from the finish. Before our race started there was a meeting held with the participants of the p12 field. I guess there were enough accidents in the previous races to warrant serious consideration of canceling the premiere event. Some voted for heats, some for a seperate p1 and 2 race but most really didn't seem to care. In the end, the announcer preached about how it was back in his day and gave those not wanting to race a credit or refund. The race was also shortened to 80 laps woo hoo!!
So with about 100 racers I didn' t want to get caught in the back, gapped and pulled. I got a good starting position but then couldn't get clipped in and was immediately near the back. Fuck.
I'd like to pause here and simplify my race report. From the back, I would fight and fight and finally get up near the front. "Whew, I made it." And then I would realize I had taken one too many mental breaks and be back near the back.
At about 50 laps I found Barry's wheel and found a nice groove. About two laps later someone crashed at the fast turn and there was a split that took a few laps to close down. After this I never felt the same groove. Seventeen to go, I'm coming around the fast turn and there is a rider face down, seemingly asleep, near the curb. They stop the race as the ambulance comes in. About fifteen minutes later the race resumes with the four man break half a lap ahead. I started near the front and finally felt like I was surfing some familiar waves. The whole team seemed to be riding much better with several breaks, tempo setting and bridges. At three to go I moved Carlos up to the front and then riders surged around me. I finished in the pack and Carlos improved his placing to 11th.
Special thanks tonight go out to Chelsy for sending a bit of the south through my phone, Billie Holliday for singing me a love song and Marsha... you just gotta check her out: Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Austin couriers: drink an espresso for me and somebody finally talk to "Ticket City Girl!" I mean she's dating a dude from Tiff's, how intimidating can she really be?!

Superweek Day2 (Day1 for me)

It had been about three weeks since I last raced, so I was a little nervous about stepping to the plate of Superweek. I was not even expecting to finish my first race, I just wanted to put in a couple of supportive moves for Carlos, our teams protected rider. I got a pretty sweet spot near the front at the start and for about ten laps managed to hold it there.
The lap counter really screwed with me though. I'd much prefer to walk blindly into a world of pain than to slowly tick away at it.
Ten laps in and I realized I was sorta mid pack. Another 8 laps and I go to the front just as a move goes. Carlos was near the front too, so I chased for about a quarter lap, peeled off and managed to grab on to the back of the field. Another twelve laps and I am back at the front. Carlos tells me to go and I go with a move that lasts about two turns and then back to the back of the field for me. With three to go, I am back up front and try to bridge to a move up the road, not happening. I finish at the back of the field.
I'm definitely pleased that I finished and was able to play a little, but I want to make smarter moves now that I know I can make moves without getting shelled.
I miss Batman.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Time to leave Austin

Wednesday was to be my last day in Austin for over a month. The day before, my last day as a courier, I fired my friend I was training because he was late. So I had about 24hrs to finish getting my shit together and maybe find someone to take my place downtown. My neighbor, Christopher Bejger, suggested his friend, Chavo. I had met Chavo a couple of times and he seemed like a good fit, so why not? Fifteen minutes after our conversation, Bejger calls me from Chavo's house, where he cannot get him out of bed. I bike over, peer into a crack in his window, and realize Chavo is probably lying dead in his bed. I rip a panel of his shanty, break in and walk into Chavo's room where his dog had shit everywhere. Apparently, Chavo had been dead for a couple of days. He lay in bed, on his back, with only his blue american apparel underwear on. He must have died in his sleep. Two hours later, detectives tell me they will probably not need to talk to me again, but I can't help feeling a little sketchy telling them that I'm leaving town the next day for a month.
It's so early driving to San Antonio in my mom's truck the next morning, I almost fall asleep at the wheel. She's crammed in the back with my bike and dog, Batman, while her friend, Mike, sits up front. We get to the train station and the ticket man tells me I am too late to check my bike. I almost cry as I explain the only reason I am catching the train in San Antonio and not Austin is because I need my bike. He gets me a tag and they load it without a box. I'm sure my bike will arrive in Chicago in pieces.
The train ride is by far the most cormfortable way to travel. Lots of leg room, a lounge, dressing rooms and a tiny store. My preferred way to travel now. I sleep the first 20hrs and then spend the next 14 reading, writing and texting.
I arrive in Chicago around 5pm. The first race of Superweek starts at 530, so I am focused on just getting to the race site where I can find the team I am to race with. Originally, I planned on catching a cab, but as we're exiting the train, the guy who sat in front of me interrupts his diatribe on the world to suggest I wait for rush hour to subside before I take a cab that far. This is Chicago.I decide me, my bike and luggage should be able to get anywhere with a little help and mass transit. I'm pointed to the Red Line, a subway line ending at 95th. I am going to 107th and Longwood, so worse comes to worse, it's a short cab ride. I walk about ten blocks and catch the subway. Once at 95th, an attendant in a booth eating pumpkin seeds tells me what bus will take me to 107th. The bus driver points me in the direction of Longwood, and 12 blocks later, I'm here.
My legs still ache from running with Kate on Wednesday. My neck is sore from walking so far with all my luggage. I get to share a sofa sleeper with Barry Lee, he's snoring right now. I haven't felt this excited in a while.
Special thanks goes out to Loren Dodsen for being such a good frined.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Test Ride

Its pretty late, Mon morning. I gotta get up soon and train two guys to help take over my job while I go race my bike. I am a bicycle courier in Austin, TX. My co-worker, Ian, will also be going away for a while, hence the training of two subs. I got a guest spot on a pro/am team from here and will be racing at superweek , Tour of Elk Grove and the Tour of Kansas City. Ian is doing a European tour with his former band, The Unseen. Our bosses hate us right now but we work so hard for the company, they are willing to give us a little string right now.

I plan on making this blog a spot where many can keep up with me. I'll try to do my best to post my progress as I take a plunge into a higher level of racing bicyles.