Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mont Ventoux and the Shleck Bros

All I gotta say is the Tour de France sponsors and promoters should thank their lucky stars for the Schleck brothers. These two are just what professional cycling needs. They are interesting, and between the two of them, there's a certain dynamic that wouldn't exist if it was singular. I like their style and character - something that Contador seems devoid of. I especially liked when Andy was being interviewed and talk turned to Armstrong (of course) and he said, Armstrong should be more worried about him than he should be worried about Armstrong. Amen.

I have always found the brothers interesting to watch but what really sealed my membership in the Schleck fan club was the way Andy made every attempt to help brother Frank secure a podium spot on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. Even though, despite his best efforts, this wasn't to be, Andy still gave it his best. The brotherly bond helps to provide a bit more drama to the cycling scene.

What would happen if Andy and Frank were to ride for different teams? Now that would be some drama!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Maillot Jaune Road Race - Aftermath

Update: Here's a funny pic that Hans Nyberg at Ten Mile Media took of me finishing this race. That's the face of a very discouraged racer...

What a crappy race today. The legs were bad. Couldn't hold a wheel. I was plagued by bad mojo from the start. Flatted while warming up with 10 minutes to start. I can honestly say, I have never changed a flat that fast in my life. That was about the only thing I did fast today. My racing was anything but. To add insult to injury, once I got dropped by the main group, a corner volunteer indicated the wrong way on a turn and I ended up riding an extra 8th of a lap. Great day. I guess we all have them, but it makes me question why I invest so much time and $$ into this sport. I love it but, for 34th place? When's the form gonna come around? I guess there's always 'cross season.

On a lighter note, the LOOK is now back together and ready for the road. No more 'cross bike on the road! Yipee!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Maillot Jaune Road Race

The Maillot Jaune Road Race is one of my focus races of the year. It's a hilly race, with a couple of decent climbs (decent for SE Michigan) and for us Cat 4 racers will consist of 3 laps of a 13 mile loop. I had the pleasure of checking out the course yesterday with three of the fellas from the team. We rode a couple laps of the course to do some recon and put in another 40ish miles getting to and from the course.

I had to ride my cross bike, which was a drag. The LOOK is basically in pieces, it needs a new crankset and BB. If it's not fixed before Friday, I will be racing my cross bike, so maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. The gearing just takes some getting used to (46/36).

The course has the type of hills that sprinter-types have trouble with because they are too long to power up, yet are too short for pure climbers to gain an advantage. These are the type of hills I like.

The only problem is, the roads are shit. There are several stretches of "Michigan Pave" (chip seal and potholes). These occur all over the course, on uphills and descents, making for an interesting race. Maybe the 'cross bike is the best option...

I'm looking forward to this race next Saturday and it's one of my target races. I'm shooting to crack the top ten. I think my form is coming around, so we'll see if I have the fitness.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Race of Truth

Ahhh, the time trial. "The Race of Truth", as it's so often referred to. I haven't done one in about 6 years. Last night I had the opportunity to get reacquainted after the extended hiatus. It was just as tough as I remembered and definitely made me rethink my two-hot dog dinner. In the end, I had a finishing time of 17:49 with an average speed of 23.6 mph. This was good enough for an 8th place finish. Not too shabby considering I was using my LOOK sans aero bars, or any sort of deep dish or disk wheel. The form's coming around...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been a few weeks since my crash and bruises have faded to a nice yellow and scabs have fallen off to reveal the rosiness of freshly formed skin. Recovering from a crash is tough. It's tougher than doing 2 hour's worth of lactate threshold intervals - probably because it's all a mental thing. Your body needs time to recover but your mind has gotten awfully accustomed to time in the saddle and the intensities of racing. If your not careful, it's really easy to slip into a funk.

And that's exactly where I found myself. In a funk. It kinda sneaked up on me, creeping into my psyche over the last 2 weeks. I found my motivation waning, I was eating more, the quantity of food wasn't really the issue, it was the quality (junk food city). I probably put on 15 pounds over the course of 3 weeks... Feeling like a lazy fat ass was all the motivation I needed to start training again. So off I went, logging a good 2 hour ride last Saturday.

To help things out, my beloved LOOK came back with a clean bill of health (thank the bicycle gods, since I couldn't even think of affording a new one right now). It's back on!

Well, fate had other plans. The job got hectic, and I had to put in some serious hours at the mill (my pet name for my job in advertising). Long hours at work = no training.

Our Thursday Night Worlds was coming up and nothing gets you motivated like a little racing. I decided that would be my come back, and despite my dilapidated fitness and form, I would just hang on as long as I could and get in a good workout.

For me, the first race back after a hard crash is always fraught with self-doubt. Will my nerves overcome my ability to race? Will I be able to ride at the same intensity? It's a struggle for me to put faith in something that has yet to be tested. Even if that thing is myself.

The Thursday Night Worlds race takes place on a car racing track so the pavement is great and plenty wide. A great venue for someone to get their race-legs back. I got there early and did a few warm up laps. Well, the LOOK wasn't doing so well... It seems that, despite the "clean bill of health", my rear derailleur was coming dangerously close to my spokes when in the upper cogs of my cassette. This in itself wasn't that big of a deal. To make matters worse, my chain was slipping in the top 5 (17 - 25 tooth cogs) of my ten speed cassette. I tried fiddling with the barrel adjuster on the derailleur, I even tried bending the derailleur back, all to no avail.

As if my post-crash nerves weren't bad enough, now I had to deal with technical problems nagging at the back of my mind. Great.

The race went off with out a hitch and I got in an early 4 man break (very early, about 1/2 a lap in). I had one team mate with me and all four of us took even pulls as we made our way around. We had a good 1/2 lap lead when me and one other rider (John from the Wolverine Cycling Club) started to fade. My teammate and the other rider pulled away and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. It was John and I pulling each other around the track for the next 45-60 minutes, while the inevitability of the encroaching pack loomed a turn or two behind us.

Neither of us had the strength to keep them at bay, and, as we approached a long windy straight, we were swallowed up and spit out the back.

From then on, it was just a matter of survival and I managed to latch on to the back of a group of stragglers for a lap or two only to be shelled out the back as my calves cramped up. I was cooked. I threw it into the 39 and spun the remaining laps until I got lapped (and pulled) with two laps remaining. Welcome back.

Even though the outcome wasn't what I wanted, this race definitely served it's purpose. Consider the cobwebs blown off and my funk officially de-funked.