Friday, July 27, 2012

Hot days, hot nights - National Life Criterium and Tour of Hilltowns

The past two weekends of racing have been plagued by ungodly amounts of heat and humidity.  Two things which would make any normal man cringe, whither and possibly create the urge to crawl under a rock until winter.  That said I would like to announce my retirement and retreat to under a rock until further notice... JUST KIDDING.

National Life Criterium, the place where it all began, was a hot day.  With about 20 or so riders in the field, there was no hiding on the hill.  Riders went flying ahead, causing chases and counter attacks lefts and right.  With about 16 laps to go I made an effort to bridge, bringing some of the field with me.  With about 14 laps to go, the bridge was made and the field was back together.  Two laps later, while grinding over the top of the course, things started to close in and I was forced out of the race.  While I didn't pass out, I was on the verge of catastrophic systems failure.  Sad to say, this was not the outcome I was hoping for.  After pulling out of the race, I drank as much water as possible in an attempt to refuel my system and begin recovering.

Tour of Hilltowns was one of the hardest races I have done.  The course was demanding through and through.  With a large 20 minute-ish climb in the middle, riders would be equalized and tested in strength and tactics.  This race was a reminder that inspecting courses is a must.  No matter how strong or fast you think you are, knowing your course and plan off attack is key in successful bike racing.
That said, I miss planned my attack on the climb, as I had not inspected it, nor did I really look into the overall length and difficulty of the climb.  About half way up, I launched an attack thinking I was near the peak of the climb.  To my surprise, around the up coming corner was the remainder of the climb and the end of my race.  My pace dropped and I watched the peleton ride away.  Defeated by the race, I still rode tempo the whole way back, ensuring that I would learn the remainder of the course for the future races at Tour of Hilltowns.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stafford Criterium - Stafford Springs, CT

Stafford Springs was the host of hoards of racers as they poured in to the Stafford Speedway, a usual host for Nascar and automotive race events.  On the weekend, a host to the slew of bikers eager to taste the line before the rest.
The course was simple, using most of the motor speed way, and a brief switchback through the pits to keep things interesting.  A headwind plagued the far side of the course, making for a pleasant tailwind boost coming into the finishing stretch.
Racing started off fast with the pace pushing through until the finish of lap 40.  I started with a leg opener off the front of the field for a few laps.  As the race went on, many took flyers up the road, causing a chase from the peleton.  After flyers were caught, it generally took a lap or two before another went, while the contrary should be true and it just so happened that the move that stuck was an immediate counter attack off a flyer which lasted with one rider up the road to the finish which with the peleton working together, was unable to catch by the final lap.
Coming in to the final 5 laps, I moved myself up through the field and was able to hold my position while we attempted to chase down the breakaway riders.  With 2 to go, we caught two of three breakaway riders and I was able to position myself still at the front of the field.  Coming hot into the final lap, a rider clipped a pothole.  While he didn't go down, plenty of riders were startled and thrown off their line by the sudden jump.  I was able to squeak around the rider and stay up at the front with just enough riders to create a draft and slingshot towards the line.  Coming up to the final corner, I started to ramp things up until the straightaway.  Up into the straightaway towards the line, I was able to let lose my kick towards the line.

2nd in the field sprint, and 3rd for the day.  A good finish, a great race.  Up Next, National Life, July 15th, Montpelier, VT.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

National Life Criterium

The National Life Criterium, a local race which I hold close since it was my first race ever, sent riders for a... well.. a ride. 1.2km loop with a giant hill in the middle of it, sent competitors in circles for the better part of 50 minutes in the A field on a hot and very sunny Sunday morning.  Going early from the gun off of the neutral lap, I was able to stay away with one other teammate Alberto, for 5ish laps, just enough to win a sprint prime. 

Once we were finally caught, I was able to sit in for a brief period in an attempt to get my lungs working again.  Growing up with asthma, my lungs has constricted at this point and were not looking to get any better.  Once an attack was thrown in, I was forced out for my free lap to let my lungs recover as much as they could before jumping back into the race.  Once back in, the leader and eventual winner, Bobby had already lapped the field once, and was going around for the second time.  A feat of strength, or strength of feet.
When push came to shove, I ended up finishing in 6th place.  Next time better planning and and proper fueling before the race are going to be important.  With the difference in temperature and physical exertion in said temperatures, the body is certainly doing more than it is used to.  With a history of asthma, it is going to be key to success to avoid triggering it however possible.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cliff Hanger Sprint Series

In the past week, there have been multiple chances at local glory.  Between the Cliff Hanger Sprint Series last weekend and the National Life Criterium both my hometown Montpelier, I couldn't pass up the chance to dive head on into the pain cave.

The second Cliff Hanger Sprint series was held in Montpelier, where riders went 4 at a time in dead heats to compete for the fastest spots up the stupidly steep hill.  I was able to top the first two of my heats with a PR of 1:40:00 or something like that up the hill.  Between my heats I watched as other riders dug themselves deep holes in attempts to launch the hill faster than those next to them.  Making it into the final round, I was feeling good and sitting on the wheel of the eventual Cliff Hanger Champion, Kip, when my stomach said "that's enough."  Though in fewer words, I had to let up my effort and fall back for a 3rd place finish.  Next time I suppose I'll try to devour food much earlier... rather than an hour before a competition like that.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smoketown Airport Criterium

Causing trouble.
The Smoketown Airport Criterium was a stretch for a busy weekend.  Between seeing family and going to a Bar Mitzvah, I was somehow able to sneak away to Intercourse, PA where a small private airport was kind enough to host a very well put together cycling event.  Races were of all categories, and the race was even well organized enough to allow planes to land and take-off between races.  On top of some fantastic organization, the venue itself was just unique.  Not many times can you say you've racing on the runway of airport or watched the races from inside a private hanger.   I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin and his wonderful energetic troublemaker of a son (who now knows the joy of wet willies).

Opening up the legs a little...
The race was held in warm conditions, just under 80 degrees.  I warmed myself up doing laps around the airport hangers while my cousin and his son checked out airplanes and tore up the runway on a razor scooter.  While airplanes took off, we lined up and were rolled out for a neutral lap.  The course started on an uphill straight away with a headwind and took two 90 degree left hand turns before entering an S-bend to a gentle slope of the backside with a tailwind and completing a lap with a full 180 degree corner which from the second I saw it, knew someone was going to hit it too hot and either go into the grass or just wipe out on a hotter lap.

Legs opened with a can of WHOOP ASS on the side
The race started with eager racers making small breaks off the front.  Including myself, I was able to stay away with another rider for 3 early laps, which was a good chance to open up my legs and really get a feel for the course.  Throughout the remainder of the race some team blocking was involved to help riders stay away for longer than 3 laps, but with 5 laps to go any breakaways were reeled in and the field stuck together until 2 laps to go when a crash in the 180 degree corner split things up.

Legs still open... yee haw
Coming into the final lap I was sitting in a fantastic place.  I was the third wheel of an unintentional lead out train, next to many other riders jockeying for position.  I could see my sprint line when two riders cross wheels, went down and took out enough riders that forced me to make a quick maneuver into the grass.  After pulling myself back onto the pavement, there was enough space to sprint back up through some slipstream action and finish in 9th place.

All in all, this was an awesome race and I hope I can do it again next year.  Next up on the calendar is Watertower Hill in Colchester, VT on Tuesday May 22nd.  A fun local criterium for some #localglory

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Quabbin Reservoir Road Race - Ware, MA

The Quabbin Reservoir Road Race started early, even possibly the night before, but most likely early in the morning.  We left the humble abode of self proclaimed Master of the Universe, Bobby Bailey's house at 5am, to find freshly fallen snow on the car and eventually the road before us.
Bikes got to sleep the whole way there...

Races started early, between 9 and 10 and took racers around a 64.9 mile course starting and ending the Quabbin Reservoir State Park.  The 64.9 miles had lots of small hills, nothing larger than a category 3 according to Strava, but nothing larger than a category 5 according the Map My Ride.  Having only looked at the Map My Ride profile before the race, I went in thinking that the hills were no larger than anything we would come across on a Tuesday Night Worlds loop.  That said, I made the mistake of making some larger digs early on in the race and had to recover and hang in tight until the end of the race.  I am proud to say that I was able to make moves and play cards throughout the entirety of the race.  While I felt tired about midway, because of proper fueling I was able to rally and pull through to the finish and sprint for a 23rd place result.
Feed zone provided by BONK! Support.  Thanks guys!
Arriving at the final finishing climb back in the park and up towards the tower, I put in a large dig thinking the finish was near by.  Had I been correct, the victory could have been mine, however because of my premature attack, I cramped and was not able to recover with enough strength to pull off my goal of a top 10. The strength is there, but the tactics clearly need work.

My next race with be May 8th in Colchester, VT at Water Tower Hill.  This will be the first of the newest Vermont Criterium Series, one which I am very excited to be a part of this season.  Local races will make the season much more enjoyable, as they will not require anything more than a 2 hour drive, as opposed to the 3-4 hour minimum of any other race in MA, NH, CT or ME.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Myles Standish State Park Road Race

The day started with super comfy beds, too many fluffy pillows and egg sandwiches convient enough for the fastest of truckers.  We tugged ourselves out of the hotel, reloaded the car and make a quick jaunt down the road to the Myles Standish State Forest, the hosting ground for what would usually be a cold early season race.
Because many others had taken it upon themselves to conquer the mighty Battenkill the day before, fields would be small and the roads would be open for matches to be burned, cards to be played, and bikes to be raced.  We arrived in the park and quickly did a recon of the five mile course which allowed us to see where winds were coming from and the best places to attack and best places to sit in and recover (if needed).
By the time my race came around, the temperature had risen to about 70 degrees, making the Blindato Flamebrocation I had put on to stay warm earlier in the day, somewhat irrelevant, but it was still a nice feeling during the race.  The race would be 5, five mile laps around the park, with full road.  This was especially nice on the twisty and turny sections of the course next to the ponds where racers could B-line from one turn to the next.
The race itself was fast pace, with break aways on every lap, and a chases to follow.  There were enough racers that some teams were able to send flyers up the road and block until the break returned, only to send another up the road.  For me, the race was odd, there were riders who the pack would let away, but on every attack I made to pull away, 4+ riders would be on my wheel, and on them would be the rest of the peleton, making it frustratingly hard to get away.  I was able to ride strong through the whole race, regardless of an abnormally high heart rate between 160-175 throughout the duration of the race.  The race came down to bridging a breakaway in the final Kilometer, however, riders from the break still topped out the results and dominated the downhill finishing sprint.  The peleton was able to bridge just after the final descent, but not completely overtake the break into the finish.  Earlier in the lap I had made an effort to bridge and had not recovered in time for the final sprint.  That said, I was able to put in a massive effort and slingshot myself up the right side of the road to finish in 6th place, a top result for the season so far.
Overall things to remember for future races, stay out of the wind, let other people work, and attack from the back if you want to bust some NUTS.  In any case, the future races look promising... Next on the list is Quabbin Road Race, in Ware, MA.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Season of the Apocalypse... Grant's Tomb Criterium

Heading to NJ before NYC.
The season of the apocalypse is upon us.  While the first two months of 2012 have managed to whip by, the cycling season has just begun.  The riders this seasons are looking to follow the trend of the year thus far,  whippin' on by fast as hell.... one might say, they've gone plaid?

Friday evening, Joe, Chebbi and I piled in the car and took to the road towards New York City.  We spent the 5ish hour drive to our hotel in Fairfield, NJ chatting strategy and exchanging racing stories.  Being my second full racing season, I only had reminiscent and top secret stories of tom-foolery from last seasons time spent among UVM Cycling.  After hearing stories of pro riders from the 7/11 and Stowe-Shimano days, I was more than excited to get on the bike and start the season off on a powerful stroke.

Saturday morning started early.  We packed up our trainers and bikes from the hotel room where we had managed to squeeze 30 minutes the previous evening before sleep.  Once we got on the road, finding the race was as simple as navigating a cheese maze.  As all know, mazes become much easier with a prize at the end, and with the scent of a race at the end of our NYC maze, the path was an easy one to follow.

Opening the season with a 31st in the 3s.  A good gauge of
things to come....
The cheesy finish was a good one... the course before us had 5 corner and a long straight away.  Cross winds plague the hardest sections of the course.  Riders with tasked with three corners before a brief 50 meter climb into a straight away before a gentle corner into the finish stretch. Now riders, remember, 45 minutes, rinse and repeat.  Going into the race, Joe and I planned to try to simply stick in the field and set each other up for a sprint at the end.  Being the first race of the year, and trying to get a gauge for the season, this seemed like a very reasonable goal.

Hopping back into the field
takes some adjusting.
Once the race went off, tactics changed.  Fitness levels were not as expected for some riders, and I lost site of teammates and friends in the field.  Once I realized the position I was in, I was able to jockey a little and play with the field for positions.  It eventually became apparent that riders hammering the brief climb were wasting energy, as they would end up in the same position they started the climb on.  It was more beneficial to hit the climb with energy enough to clobber the back stretch.  As the race went on and laps counted down, I felt my legs warm up to the point where I could stick in the peleton without straining efforts.

2012 here we go....
Coming into the final 500 meters, I was able to move myself through the field quite easily.  At least 30 positions were gained from an in the saddle effort at the line.  Because of poor planning I wasn't able to get a top 10, but the power showcased this early in the season are what I see as good things to come.  With a little better planning, this season could prove to be one with a view from the top.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Since NE Championships and Looking Ahead...

Since I last blew myself up at the New England Cyclocross Championships in late December, I took some time off to get my legs back under me and recover from 51 races over 9ish months. Now late January, I have begun building base miles for upcoming 2012 season. There are a lot of projects and plans in the works this year.

With no collegiate season ahead, I have turned my focus to a few early races after a pre season venture to South Carolina for training.  In addition, I have teamed up with Bobby Bailey of 1K2GO Sports to build speed and gain my place on top step of the podium.

January thus far has been building as many base miles per week as unreasonably possible.  In other words, hours and hours on the bike.  Additionally to time spent on the two wheeled battled axe, I have managed to squeeze in some time skiing slalom at Cochrans for two evenings during each week.  The quick and twitchy movements from skiing slalom have managed to make their way in to my cycling.  Cadence has increased with proportional power increase.  Each slalom has had huge benefits to what will be climbing and sprinting muscles.  Come time for racing, I can only hope to hold on to, and build on the new found quick twitching muscles.

Looking ahead to the season, I have my eye on the podium for as many races as I can enter.  A large goal, and a tough one to meet.  Building off of last season, up seems like the right way to go.

On equipment; I have a new battle axe for... well, racing, riding and anything else you'd do with a bike.  Based off some awesome new designs, Flahute has released a brand new more aerodynamic sprinters bike.  Tubing shape has also changed, in addition to a new cut out which allows the stem to sit lower and shrink the effective steerer tube, creating a stiffer cockpit which reacts to all movements that make up that minuscule amount at the line.  Full specs on the new bike to be released in late February after on road testing has been completed.