Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the end of the last entry. I think I touched on the subject of mental health, but was too afraid to dive deep. It’s important to be forward and honest about what we struggle with, though.
No man is an island.
Really, I just haven’t been feeling myself over this winter. Not like “I don’t feel like myself,” but looking the mirror and feeling disappointed. Like I said in the previous post, it’s a downward spiral of poor choices. Making excuses, justifying poor training regimen, and then making poor decisions ((repeat)). A few things helped me step out of the funk and they were materialistic–two new bikes over the winter. It definitely gave me a little kickstart, but it’s not sustainable to be honest.
Over the last couple of winters, I was able to stave off a heavier season of depression by having a focused training schedule and a solid set of goals to keep me on track. This year, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what I wanted to target. I had a fantastic time at Tour of the Gila, but it was a tough race to pay for out of pocket. It’s about a weeks worth of being off of work and then there is travel cost and food cost for riding that much. Last year, I got pretty lucky. The owner of Pedaler’s Pub fixed me up with a ton of food for the week and sent me off with a pretty awesome care package. This year I would have to race in the Cat 1/2 race, and would’ve been about 50 miles more than last year’s Cat 3 race. It’s fine if you’re in shape and ready for it, but I hadn’t put in the work this year. Looking at the results now, I’m filled with a bit of regret. There were only 24 entrants, which would’ve given me some good opportunity to get some upgrade points for my Cat 1 license.
Regrets aren’t the most productive of emotional responses, though. What I know now is that the sun is out and I’ve been riding my road bike a lot. I’ve fallen in love again. I no longer resent the sight of my Tarmac. I’ve been putting up some decent power numbers and starting to remember what makes me confident and comfortable on a bike. When I focus on mountain biking or cross or gravel, it’s not that I’m not comfortable–I just lack the confidence. The power is fine, but when it comes to technical terrain it’s hard for me to mentally wrap that “I can do this.” Repetitive “failure” might not be mentally healthy. I’m the kind of person that thrives on reinforcement of value.
Speaking of reinforcement of value, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to my amazing friend network. There were quite a few nights where it was a blessing in disguise just to get asked to join friends out and about. It was important to me to enjoy a social setting without having to focus on the micro struggles through the day. I’ve had quite a few friends who have been more than gracious and more than charitable. I am aware of how much I ask for and there’s never a question. I’m still trying to figure out how I can race consistently and be able to financially afford this lifestyle. Thank you guys, from the very bottom of my heart. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel when I get to be around my crews. When I first moved down here, I was pretty nervous it would take me a while to make friends. That was the case for a while–being a self employed web designer who works out of his home and rides a lot solo definitely gets pretty isolating. Solitude can be healthy in doses.
Dating has been pretty tough. Either I can’t bring myself to be consistent and commit time and effort or I do and end up needing to readjust my emotional investment. I’m probably being a bit too selective.
Part of it is that I have a problem with alcohol. I know this to be true at this point–it really comes in waves. When I was living in Kansas City there was a period where I wasn’t drinking as much, so I know it’s possible. I’ve been pretty consistently abusing recently. Genetically, I have a pretty big pre disposition to I think general addiction, but 100% alcoholism. It’s at my emotionally lowest points that I tend to revert to self destructive tendencies like abusing alcohol. Another downward spiral–self loathing leading to alcohol abuse which leads to more self loathing and alcohol abuse is never good for overall mental health. It’s a really shitty bandaid. I’ve been considering sobriety for a while. I’ve really been thinking about the last time that I’ve been sober for more than a week and it’s definitely been a while. At Land Run I had a conversation with John Prolly of The Radavist about his recent article about sobriety. Granted, I was a few beers in when we talked, but I told him that the article really struck a cord with me. Part of my fear is what my social life will look like sober. I’ve gone to bars sober before and it’s mostly obnoxious. I don’t want to miss out on time with friends because I can’t go to a bar and not drink 6+ tallboys.
Seriously, that’s how bad it’s getting these days.
I’ve been making mostly good decisions at the end of the night and using Uber, but that doesn’t excuse how I’m ignoring my mental health. Maybe I need to have a Designated Drinking Day once a month? Like, the 15th of every month, you’ll find me probably at the Pub getting my swerve on. Drinking heavily is also a huge strain on my wallet. I’ve always joked I would hate to get a monthly tab from the Pub because it would make me feel too much shame. Imagine how many sweet bike parts or races I could’ve done if I had saved that money. Also, when I drink I tend to crave cigarettes and I end up being a bum at the end of the night and it just isn’t a good look. People can be very kind, but I absolutely don’t need cigarettes in my life. Earlier in the winter I heard an interview with Stephen Hyde, cyclocross national champion and he talked about not taking cycling seriously and smoking and just being a general rascal. At a certain point he realized he needed to get serious and he did it and went all in. At first, I was able to justify where I was with my addiction because “Well, Stephen Hyde did it like this for a while.” But, that’s just it. It’s not a permanent plan and if I’m not careful, it could end up being permanent.
How soon is now?
I’m starting to feel myself again. Being on the road bike, I remember what the speed feels like and how to carve corners and put my head down and do work. Today I made my way through the west side of Bella Vista, averaging 22 mph for 19 miles and 1,700 ft of climbing. That’s on point with some numbers from last year and maybe a bit better. I think this job with Rapha really woke me up, too. I’ve had a distinct obsession with vintage cycling for a while and I think getting to know this company’s philosophy has been an inspiration. I think I’ll be primed for some summertime criteriums. With my new cornering confidence from mountain biking, I think I should be able to hang pretty good.
Thanks for sticking with me through this. It means a lot to be able to let this out. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take something from it as well.
It’s definitely been a while. I had every intention of consistently writing this off season with training updates and off season races, but that’s all part of this story. Hell, I wanted to write in this thing every day when I first made it.
By the end of last year I had done somewhere along 42 races, starting in mid March and reaching all the way into November, including mountain bike & cross races. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty burnt out. In 2016 I had done about 30 races. I’m aware that many elite racers have 40-50 race seasons, but I don’t think I was mentally prepared for that long of a season. By the time it was all said and done, I was mentally, physically, and financially fatigued. But, it was also my most successful season to date. I am very proud of what I was able to accomplish in 2017–many wins, many podiums, lots of big races and a category upgrade.
In all honesty, I know a big thing that I’m lacking–a coach. Someone to structure my season so that I have adequate rest weeks and not end up resenting my bike by the end of the race season.
I did get to race my first mountain bike race last fall, The Slaughter Pen Jam. It’s all of the trails that are directly in my backyard, so I figured it would be a safe first race. I ended up winning my age category by about 2 minutes. It was a really good day to be on a bike. GPP gracefully let me borrow a Scott Spark rental bike to race. My Niner’s front fork was pretty shot and I feel pretty lucky to still get to race that day. I think I had been working for GPP all of two weeks before this race, so I feel pretty blessed.
It was a gorgeous October morning for my first mountain bike race. I was in *full celebration mode* by the time this podium photo was taken.
I also got involved in cross racing last fall. That was an awesome experience. I spent a lot of time talking trash on cross over the last three years. During a road race in my first year road racing, I had overheard someone saying “I’m just using this road season to get in shape for cross,” and it just felt so dismissive of the current racing season. If that’s the excuse that someone falls back on for not doing their best, that’s pretty lame. I raced a handful of cross races this year, and I’ll have to admit that it’s pretty fun. It tested a skillset that I’m notoriously lacking (just ask Ben Craig–he’ll rub it in.) The old personal adage “Honda with a Hemi” still rang true. I got a win in a Category 4 cross race in Kansas City and then requested my Category 3 upgrade. I ended up racing Hurtlands as a Cat 3 and got my teeth kicked in. But, I got to race with Nicholas Petrov, Spencer Petrov’s little brother. Spencer raced last year for Aspire Racing with Jeremy Powers–Nicholas is well on his way in his brother’s footsteps.
In December, my friend Stephen Harrison put together a gravel race in the Ouchita mountains with his promotional company, SHAM Events. It was really badass. Chris Many drove down to Hot Springs and we did an out and back course on some mountain logging roads. There were some brutal climbs and beautiful descents, with the gravel being small and very manageable. I even rode my stock 33cm wide, knobby CX tires on that course. I ended up coming in 2nd after almost 4 hours of racing on the remote logging roads.
I was so tired I took a 30 minute nap in Chris Many’s car. This is like 2 minutes after waking up.
My new Specialized Crux from High Roller Cyclery. I feel extremely blessed to be racing such a badass machine for gravel and cross. I don’t think I quite do it justice just yet, but I’m working on it.
Over this next year I decided I wanted to focus more on skill-based bike racing. It became apparent at the end of last year that I was lacking a lot compared to others in category 1/2 criterium and road racing. This winter I’ve been focusing a lot on mountain biking and gravel, building up a Santa Cruz Tallboy V2 in the fall.
This is my racing steed–Santa Booze Cruz Save Me A Tallboy weighs in right at 25lbs with pedals, cages, Garmin mount. Planning on a few more upgrades and a full suspension rebuild.
The original John Denver version of this song is the theme song for LandRun100. I thought this was interesting and couldn’t abandon the theme.
First race of the season was the Land Run 100. I took the Whorecrux and she performed beautifully until I launched off of a little one foot drop and I slammed down on the seat, tilting it to the sky. I was probably sitting top 15 at this point, a couple of hours in. I was riding solo, though, which I didn’t like at all. I rode my bike like that for about a minute and decided to just take the time to loosen the seat clamp and put it back flat. It took a lot to remind myself that this was indeed a different style of racing and I just needed to be patient and open to learning. I got back on the Whorecrux and rode into Gentry, Oklahoma, about 60 miles from the finish. At that point we were 2.5 hours in and had averaged almost 20mph–ON GRAVEL. I grabbed some nutrition from Kim Levitsky and dropped off some unnecessary gear. I could have been more fluid with my transition, but I ended up getting in with a group of four including the current leader of the women’s race. We made good pace and smart decisions, trading pulls and trying to keep the group somewhat together. A few times I definitely thought we could’ve thinned the herd and been a bit faster, but there were so many hours left that it didn’t seem the safest. Amanda Nauman, female DK200 champ, ended up catching our group and there was this awkward moment where a male teammate of the women’s leader had to figure out how to not interfere with the female race while still being able to make strong contributions to the group. It ended up getting settled eventually, with Amanda coming out ahead and Janne Hamalainen getting dropped off the group. We picked up the pace a bit and about 20 miles from the finish we picked up my teammate, Mike Levitsky. He was an excellent contributor in our eventual group and we finished really strong. I actually finished a bit too strong. I sprinted for the finish (I don’t think this is typical for LandRun–the two mottos are “Don’t be a dick” and “Unlearn Pavement.” Largely, this race is an accomplishment of attrition.) and the finishing chute was pretty short and I ended up coming to a panic stop, with someones tire burning into my leg and some curse words directed my way. Afterwards, I found out that I was racing against two guys who were racing for 1st and 2nd of their age group. If I would’ve known that, I would’ve just rolled in with Mike and let them duke it out. All in all, it was a gorgeous day and Mike and I ended up 24th and 21st, respectively. We were about 22 minutes off the winning time. Maybe with better coordination we could’ve cut that down to 10 minutes or so. Next year!
This is serious.
Me: “You know that was a really hard course, right?” Bobby: “Buck up, Sally. Next year is going to brutal”
Post race with the best friends anyone could ask for. I would do anything for anyone in this crew. They honestly mean the world to me. Zack was going to cut his beard if he didn’t finish this year. THE BEARD LIVES!
I just want to bitch about something real quick about the Whorecrux. Why the heck would Specialized have their cross bike have a single bolt seatpost clamp? Utterly crazy to me. In cross or gravel you’re getting pushed around a ton and if that bolt loosens even a little, it’s going to end up moving up or down with a hard bump. You would think with such an aggressive style of bike riding, they would rather it be secure. This is actually the second time that the seatpost clamp had shifted on me, the other time during a cross race last fall. I’ve got a double bolt that I’m going to switch over from road bike and use that one on the road bike.
A couple of weeks ago I raced the Ouachita Challenge. It’s a pretty legendary bike race with a rich history of fast racers showing up. It’s 58 miles with 5600 ft of climbing. Shit, most of the climbing was done in specifically two sections of the race–towards the very beginning with a tight, technical ascent that really tested my mental fortitude and then a second one right smack dab in the middle. I told myself that I would be happy with a sub 5:30 and I got 5:07. I was hoping that would translate to a top ten, but unfortunately the course was much, much faster this year. My teammate Olivier Lavigueur ended up getting 2nd and my other teammate Austin Morris got 4th, so that was pretty badass. Luckily, I ran into Eric Haynes a few times on the trail and he stuck with me for the last half of the race, keeping me mentally still in it. It was definitely my first marathon race and it was very apparent what I needed to work on–bike nutrition and general bike handling.
Last week I raced Pedaler’s Bash Marathon Race. It’s an amazing race put on by my dirt team that races through all of the trails that are in my backyard and that I’ve been practicing this year. At the end of the race, Kevin, the team director, had planned for a big party with four bands, lots of food and beer. Originally the date was set for New Years, but the weather was downright nasty this year, so they moved it for April 21st and the weather actually turned out great. The start was a hectic mess, with a bunch of mountain bikers trying to ride in a group at 30+ mph. There were two sketchy moments right in a row that seemed like it was going to take down a lot of the pack, but luckily everyone stayed upright. Five miles in, I went over my handlebars and landed on my elbow, separating my shoulder. Honestly, it’s a section of trail that I’ve ridden dozens of times and I know the line that I’m supposed to take through the rock garden. I was frustrated, thinking I was in bad positioning (I actually wasn’t. I just needed to be patient. A perfect analogy for my life.) and I followed a guy through the choppy section and he came to an abrupt slowing which lost my momentum. I should have known to firstly take my line through that section and secondly a different line from the guy in front for specifically that situation. I ended up riding through to mile 22 and just couldn’t take the pain anymore. I was sitting in 25th, but I was being overly cautious and the pain was building and I was only 1/2 through the race. I called it and bushwacked my way to the pavement where Kevin came and snagged me from the road. I freaked at first and thought I broke my collarbone, but I know I couldn’t have ridden 17 more miles on it if that was the case. My mom brought me a sling and some Advil. At the end of the day, I was the only physical sacrifice to the MTB gods. Austin Morris ended up slashing a sidewall on his bike after establishing a big gap on the rest of the racers. He had to make a mechanical sacrifice. The race turned out to be a huge success–we aimed for 100 entrants and got 156. The rain predicted for the day started literally right when the after party did. We had a tent setup and a lot of awesome people to hang out with. Kevin actually ended up giving out tires to everyone who flatted out of the race. It was a really fun atmosphere of camaraderie. I really can’t wait for next year.
I’ve been taking care of my shoulder. I just learned how to tape it and I keep it in a sling all day, taking Advil to keep the swelling down and using ice when I have access. It has gotten significantly better over this first week. I don’t think I’ll be able to mountain bike for a few more weeks, though. I really couldn’t stay away from the bike and have been riding my road bike exclusively. I know I would get pretty depressed if I had all of this gorgeous weather and wasted it.
I have trouble investing a lot of my identity into one idea. I know I’m talented at aerobic suffering, so it’s an important identity. When I don’t have that identity, I tend to fall back on self destructive tendencies. It’s the difference between positive self destruction or negative self destruction. I could be putting myself in pain and suffering building aerobic and physical strength cycling or I could be drowning in self-loathing with alcohol and cigarettes. Two sides of the same coin, really. Unfortunately, I sank into some old habits this winter and didn’t have nearly the structured training during my offseason that I had done the previous couple of years. It was the easy way to justify after all of the hard work I had done over the last few years.
“I deserve this reward/time-off/R&R”
I don’t deserve that. I deserve to treat myself better. Over the next week I want to start structuring some rules and habits to get myself pointed in the right direction. I have such a wonderful network of friends and family and amazing opportunities appear every day. A little bit of loving kindness could go a long way. Sorry, but this blog is going to end up serving as a confessional booth sometimes.
I’ve read a couple of sports/performance psychology books recently. It’s extremely interesting and I find it pretty applicable. In one book, I read that linking external goal with your sports goal in a silly way can relieve pressure but also be a reminder.
So, I gave myself a dumb haircut. Actually, I didn’t cut it, the fantastic Kristen Duch did. She cut it a few times and it grew into exactly what I wanted–a stupid long mohawk. My hair is pretty soft and flat, so a mohawk is pretty uninteresting on me. The point was to link my vanity to my racing. After my first win of the season, I would be able to cut it all off. It’s ridiculously long now. Not that I look out of place in this state with a mullet. I think a mullet and spandex is confusing residents, though. Especially when I start wearing my camo kit. My plan is to infiltrate the Good Ole Boys inner circle and convert every one of them to bike nerds. Irregardless, I’m contemplating buzzing my head for the summer. My first win may be delayed with this shoulder injury and it’s getting frickin’ hot.
A few weeks ago I started a short term job with Rapha. They are a high end retailer for cycling apparel. The quality is pretty amazing. When I learned that they were opening a pop up in Bentonville, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. It’s been incredible to look behind the scenes at what makes such well known brand. It’s about quality and presentation militancy. Rapha’s motto is Ex Duris Gloria–Glory through suffering. Are you there Rapha? It’s me, Luke. The owner even has an obsession with nostalgic 50s-60s cycling culture. If you’ve ever seen A Sunday in Hell, you’ll have a good idea of the allure and aesthetic. I love dreaming about the “glory days” of cycling. The title of this site and the quote below it is from a book by Tim Krabbe, The Rider. It’s written about an amateur racer during the sixties and it’s a brilliant read. The stories are what make this sport interesting, from amateur to the pros. We go into battle and come out with tales of either heroism or failure. I’ll definitely be purchasing this book, Kings of Pain before my time is up with them in June.
//**Covering four races in this post. There will be plenty of soundtrack, but you’ve been warned**//
I had a friend give me the Good Burger VHS a couple of years ago and I remember I was so excited to relive those childhood memories. I think I must’ve watched it 50 times on my friend’s vintage VHS all-in-one TV that summer. The cassette itself was bright orange and the opening credits immediately brought back memories:
This movie is fantastic. It has some really funny writing, good music, great guest appearances (GEORGE CLINTON!!), and 1990s innocence.
Also, this song:
Rogers Cycling Festival–1/2/3 Race–Saturday
I think this is the second year for the Rogers Cycling Festival. This year it was also the location of the Arkansas state age based and category based road race championships. The course was one that the whole team was familiar with, we had done a few races out there in a local bi weekly road race series. We did the counter clockwise course on Saturday, making for a longer climb right before the finish. Jared and I entered the 1/2/3 race because Arkansas does not have a jersey for anyone from the age of 20 to 29. Shanely and Joel entered into the age based 35-40 category–going 1st and 2nd respectively.
Our race was largely uneventful, Jared helped me keep it together and even though there was a longish hill nothing was getting away from the group of twelve of us. At one point, Andrew Evans launched a solo attack in the valley 4 laps into the 9 lap race and had a good sized gap with probably a good group of 4 of us chasing hard to bring him back. Turns out he was sprinting ahead to take a pee break. If he would’ve just said something, I’m sure we all would’ve been fine at keeping the same pace until he caught back on. Instead a few of us had to use up our energy in what we thought was an attack. On top of that, Andrew had 2 other teammates in the race with him, which meant that he would have someone able to sit back with him and help him get back on and someone to sit on the back and slow us down. Since we had already started on this wild goose chase for 0 reason, I got a little ticked and decided to go ahead and put in a hard effort up the climb and through to the finish line. Why should it be easy if you’re pulling shenanigans like that?
This gets under my skin for a couple of different reasons. One, there is an expectation that just because your name is XXX, then the group should respectfully neutralize and wait for you to join back on. Bullshit. Again, I’m sure if he would’ve just said something, none of us would’ve had a problem with keeping it steady until he came back. Also, pee break neutralization largely occurs in a stage race and is called by the general classification leader. Secondly, it’s a 2.5 hour race. If you gotta pee that badly an hour into it, learn to pee off the bike or hold it. It’s arrogant to have an expectation that everyone should just wait up for you. Would he or anyone else in that group have neutralized if I needed a pee break? Probably not and nor would I expect them to.
I know that my actions would be perceived as poor taste, but to put it bluntly, I don’t give a fuck. I was already in hammer mode and I wasn’t going to let up just because. He ended up catching back on just fine, I just hope that he had to work hard for it. We all stuck together for the rest of the laps, with a few light hearted attacks here and there, shutting down after a few seconds. On the last lap, Andrew attacked on the long downhill and we got up to 41 mph. The pace slowed for a few seconds and Jared sprinted in the valley and opened up a big gap rather quickly. He can be a really surprising rider–he’s got both a sprint and a really good 5 minute power. I rested in the draft of the group while they worked to bring him back in, catching him at the bottom of the climb. Shortly after catching Jared, Andrew launched another attack on the hill and I quickly got on his wheel. He saw me on it and relaxed a bit and I launched my attack as we crested the top of the hill, giving it everything I had for the next 2 minutes. I could see that there was definitely someone on my wheel, but it was the only move I could really execute. My sprint is mediocre and was not going to win in a head to head. We railed the last two corners and I was immediately overtaken by Kevin Soloman and a kid from Dallas, Fred Vincent, ending up in 3rd place. I was really happy with the day overall. Jared and I coordinated really well and I was able to get on another podium for the year.
//**Edit: Apparently, Andrew did say something about a nature break and Jared had heard him. Obviously, was not very clear communication because there were three guys who were legitimately chasing him down like he was attacking. I’m leaving in my dumb rant to provide context and I really don’t want to rewrite a bunch.**//
Apparently, this guy is the son of Hugh Everett III, the originator of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory. The theory says that in an alternate universe, I started racing bikes a lot earlier.
Rogers Cycling Festival–Arkansas State Category 1/2 Road Race Championship–Sunday
We knew that this race was going to be really hard. Some of the guys competing didn’t race the previous day and Oklahoma Bike Project showed up with 4 guys. They’ve all been racing really well this year with plenty of podiums and cool achievements. Jared and I knew that it was going to be vicious attacks until they could get away. This time we had Shanely in the race with us. The plan was to try and keep it all together until the last lap, where Jared would have the best chance out of the three of us to get a result. That plan quickly went out the window once the race actually started. From the very beginning OBP was very active and throwing down attacks. By lap 3 we had let one of their riders and a Tyson rider off the front. At some point, the other three OBP riders and another Tyson guy broke off and bridged up to their teammates. The whole group was in trouble. We started getting organized, creating a rotating paceline and taking short turns on the front of the pack, driving the pace. I heard plenty of chatter from Tyson about how the race was shot if we couldn’t get our act together, yet when it came time to do their duty at the front of the race, they wouldn’t pull through. I asked why at one point and was told that it was because they had a guy up the road with the OBP guys. If 4 out of the 6 guys in your break are from the same team, you’re screwed. There’s no way you’re getting out of there alive unless you cut a deal. Really, for Tyson to have a good opportunity to get on the podium, they needed to help pull the break back and reshuffle the groups or try and send a couple of guys up the road to bridge the gap.
I think we went 4 or 5 laps of the time gap between the groups staying right around 30 seconds. It definitely started feeling futile. 30 seconds isn’t a lot, but an hour of chasing at a high pace and not making any ground is frustrating. Eventually, we burnt out Shanely and Jared trying to bring the group back and we were left with a group of six of us or so, including a few guys who I had raced with the previous day. At one point, Andrew Evans was in between our group and the breakaway and OBP dropped one of their riders back and sat on Andrew’s wheel. We could see them at the hairpin turn and it felt like it was so close, but it was probably 20 seconds vs 30 seconds. Eventually, we caught Andrew again and slowed down the pace a ton. We all understood that bringing back the break was just not going to happen. Right before we had given up, I had averaged 320 watts for 20 minutes, working so hard just to catch them. We had maybe 4 left (about an hour) and we could not get Andrew to just pull through and share some of the duty on the front of the group. We weren’t even going that hard, maybe 220 watts on the front, 18 mph average? Honestly, I know everyone in the group just wanted to finish the damn race. It was hot and starting to get really boring. It’s not like Andrew taking a turn at the front of the group would’ve helped reel in his teammates. I’m surprised we didn’t get lapped while we were going that slow.
On the last lap we were approaching the hill before the hairpin and I was on the front and the kid behind me let me float off, probably trying to bait Andrew into chasing me down. When I looked back I already had a good 5 second lead, so I put my head down and went for it, making it all the way to the line for 6th place. That last effort hurt so bad after that many miles in the heat and then 370 watts for 6 minutes. The tactical error this time was looking at the wrong wheels to follow.
Summer Waffle Series #5
A couple of weeks ago Chad, Shanely, and I drove up to Springfield to help defend Shanely’s waffle jersey that he controversially won last Tuesday. There were a lot more Kuat jerseys and even a couple of guys from Tyson showed up from Fayetteville. It was Chad’s first race since his vacation in Mexico and his first Waffle race. The whole group stayed together for basically the whole race. There were some half hearted attempts at attacks, but nothing too serious. At one point the two Tyson guys, Andrew and Ben Gramling put in a big dig and quickly got a 5 second gap before Ben dropped his chain, getting it actually too tangled to ride. With a half a lap to go it was a group of 8ish, including Shanely and I. The whole goal of the race was to set Shanely up so that he can get the points that he needed for his upgrade. Andrew launched an attack and I had thought it was early and that I would get some assistance to bring him back in, but it seems that the groups only goal was to just not see Shanely win again. I time trialed on the front, closing down the gap slower than I should have. By the time that I delivered the group & Shanely to the bottom of the short, final climb the gap to Andrew was still too large to make up. Shanely still beat out the rest of our group for second place. If you didn’t gather from the Road Race State Championship, Shanely applied for his Cat 2 upgrade and got it the same day. Super excited to have another super talented guy to race with next year.
Many people don’t know this, but Shanely is a blood relative of Rick James.
Summer Waffle Series #6
The last race of the series, Chad, Shanely and I decided to make the trip one last time for the summer–plus they gave us a heads up that there would be free ice cream at the end of the race. It ended up being pretty similar to the week before where there just was not a whole lot of action for most of the race, or if there was action, it didn’t really result in much. In the last two laps there was a freak wind and rain storm on the backside of the course for about a mile that made things a little sketchy and annoying. On the last lap, Chad took over leading duties and ramped the pace up to 32 mph on the raining backside. It was hard to even hang onto the wheel in front of me. He wanted to keep a high pace so that there would be no attacks in the last part of the race. We got onto the last stretch leading into the final hill and Chad retired, playing the best role he could. I stuck to Andrew’s wheel all the way up, passing a couple of people to have a clear shot at the corner at the top of the hill and then the rolling downhill finish. I pulled up alongside him on the downhill, waiting for him to make the first jump, which was pretty silly. All I was doing was wasting at least as much energy as he was by putting my face out in the wind. I’ll take ‘Silly Ego Flexing’ for 400, Alex. When he did make his move, I was late he beat me by the same length that he jumped. That’s what you get when a climber gets into a sprint situation. A smarter move would’ve been to let a tiny gap open between Andrew and I and then launch on the actual hill right before the corner and try and hold it to the line. C’est la vie.
This picture says everything about how I felt about that finish. Mostly it says ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’
//**Hey, thank you for taking the time to get this far. I always feel a lot of wonder when I look at my Google Analytics and see how many page views a post will get. I really appreciate you taking any amount of time out to read a 2300 word diatribe about a bunch of adults playing a kids game. Feel free to leave an anonymous comment or link to something. Next post won’t come for a few weeks**//
This is my new Nick obsession. Been watching all the old episodes and there are some strange character dynamics going on.
Tulsa Tough has put up replays of all of the races from the weekend up on Vimeo. It’s cool to see it from another perspective, but after a while my midwestern modesty kicks in and it feels strange watching myself. The Sunday video will autoplay (Seriously, Vimeo, no control over autoplay? Lame.) so be sure to give it a pause if you want to read the race report from this weekend first. I’ve started the videos of Saturday and Sunday right around where the action happens.
So last night Shanely and I went up to Springfield to win the Waffle Jersey for the fourth weekend in a row for Bentonville Racing. My role again this week was to be domestique for Shanely–his goal is to get as many upgrade points as he can before August 15th ish. He’s really close to his Category 2 upgrade, so every little thing counts.
There was a two man jump about halfway through the 1st lap and one of the guys is the Kuat guy who had been in breaks with us every single week. Shanely jumped and I followed his wheel, coming around him when we approached the two breaking away. They had slowed considerably, so Shanely and I trucked on for the rest of the lap, eventually coming back to the group. Because it was just the two of us, we probably wouldn’t be able to stay away, or at least the chances would be really slim. The other teams in the peloton would have the firepower to take turns bringing us back in and when we do get back in, we would be too exhausted to respond to attacks from the other teams.
The second lap I helped reel in a solo break, letting him hang out in the wind for a bit before closing down the gap. Eventually, Cale the Kuat rider, made another move on the 2nd lap. Shanely called to make the jump, so we bridged up to Cale and the other rider from SBS-PDG. We rotated well for a while and then I noticed we were slowing down quite a bit when the other two got on the front. With two riders from an opposing team in a 4 person break, you try to do as little work as possible to have the ability to counter attack when the time comes. But, we couldn’t just go back to the group, so I decided to take longer pulls at the front to keep us away from going back to the pack. I took a short lived rest before the downhill descent right before the last climb where the magic happens. I got on the front of the 4 person group and laid down 430w for the last two minutes, setting Shanely up for the jump up the steep climb. He held back a bit and let the other two guys go before following their wheels and and then eventually passing them and taking the win.
Not without a bit of controversy, though.
The centerline rule in cycling is a weird rule. It makes sense for all intents and purposes, but it is not a black and white rule–it’s a grey rule that needs context for proper discipline. Shanely had passed Cale (the series race director who was fading hard on the final climb) on the left and Shanely’s front wheel ended up crossing the first line in a double yellow line. Technically, any break in the yellow line is a violation, but crossing the yellow line happens frequently within a race (for example: sometimes you come out of an apex of a curve and end up over the line or sometimes a rider is going left and your option is to either run into them or cross the centerline [aka what happened to Shanely]) and if it’s going to be enforced with a disqualification, it should be enforced as such for every rider.
But, in reality, this is a training race series. Something we should all be taking pretty casual. For sure, it’s good to go into the race with objectives and goals and to race safe, but to cause a huge scene in front all of the other racers, including a large group of juniors, isn’t a good look for the sport. Shanely’s other options would have been to crash out Cale and himself or slam on the brakes and then restart his attack by going to the right. He wasn’t putting anyone in danger (in fact, lessening danger for both he and Cale) as he was already traveling at a much higher rate than Cale.
After the race, some other official came up and gave Shanely a talkin’ to, antagonizing him even more. Shanely has been racing for quite a few years, he’s well aware of the rules and doesn’t need two other grown adults talking down to him. It should’ve been resolved in a peaceful way, but instead was made into a problem with threats of disqualification. Largely, I think this has to do with Bentonville Racing coming in from out of town and dominating 4 weeks in a row. Even our juniors got a win in the B race. It’s okay, that just gives us all the more incentive to come up and mop up for the rest of the series.
Edit: It has been brought to my attention that Kuat has “zero interest” in winning any of the Summer Waffle Race Series, so this was not a reaction to dominating their local race 4 weeks in a row. All the same, we have fun at those races and look forward to finishing out the series competitively.
There is nothing like a local race to get you all revved up. There are streets that you’re familiar with, people you know screaming your name as come around a corner, it’s always so much fun. There was a chance of early rain during the Cat 3 race that cleared up and kinda dried up off the roads by the time it was time for the Pro/1/2 race at 10:00 PM. Night racing is cool (literally) because everything feels twice as fast in the dark. The course was pretty well lit up except on the back straight away before the chicane leading into the start finish.
A few laps in and we had already started to average 28 mph. Luckily, I had gotten a decent start with a good position from the gun. If Kansas City only taught me one thing, it was that tailgunning criteriums were not going to be a viable game plan anymore. I was going to have to nail my start/clip in and get going. It’s not that it’s a particularly hard thing to do, it’s just that when I’ve got the race jitters, I sometimes miss clipping into my pedals and getting going. After about five laps the rider in front of me slid out in the final corner and I didn’t have very much room to miss his bike so I ended up going straight and unable to correct my line. I hopped up onto a 5 inch curb and then went right into a rose bush. Honestly, I was just thankful that I didn’t have road rash or a broken bike/wheels.
I couldn’t figure out my chain right away, so I ran down to the mechanic’s tent/wheel pit and they got it sorted out and looked over the rest of the bike, sending me back out when the group came back around. A half a lap later I realized my front tire was going flat, so I went into the wheel pit for the last time and got a new tube put in in no time. Phat Tire’s bike mechanics were really impressive, ready to fluidly handle all of the carnage of that race. I hopped back in with the lead group this time around and settled into 15th wheel or so, holding my position really well for a couple of laps. My luck ran out again just a couple of laps later when there was a huge pileup of 5 guys from Oklahoma Bike Project on the far side of the course. The rider in front of me was probably right around 18 years old and just kept staring at the pileup, even though he had a clear exit. I yelled at him to get his shit together. It was really frustrating. I ended up solo for a bit before they pulled me and placed me 24th. It was a fast, technical race, so it got a bit sketchy, but my parents were there to support and I had a lot of local friends yelling so that was really cool.
This was probably my favorite of the whole weekend. Roughly a quarter of the race was bricks and cobblestones with a short rise leading into the finish line. It was also at night, so there was a section of the course that was pitch black while we were going up to 39 mph. The whole course required the full attention of all the racers. I had said previously that there were going to be some big shots showing up to this weekend’s races and boy were we in for it. Three guys from Elbowz Racing out of Austin, Texas cleaned up the entire weekend. It was definitely impressive to see, but I felt like the difference was more ability and timing than power. They were super active and animated the whole race. I got into some good positions for most of the race staying between 20th and 1st, even helping chase down a break. It wasn’t really my responsibility, but I was nervous and felt like I was racing like a Cat 4 again. With three laps to go I was sitting in the top 5, but my legs were definitely feeling tired. I was taking corners pretty sloppy (pretty sure I got yelled at, but who can tell for sure) and had to sprint out of the corners to catch back on. Soon I had filtered back and ended up 28th. Having power is only half of what makes up a good racer in this sport–execution is the other half.
What was really cool is that my Aunt and Uncle had come from out of town to visit my parents and it timed perfectly with this series, so they got to see this race and the next race. They were really blown away by how fast we were riding (30mph average on some laps) and how tight the pack was riding.
Initially, this race looked like 100% rain and there is a ton of road paint on the course from crosswalks and lane indicators. If it was going to be wet, I would’ve been fine with not racing. Luckily, it was sunny and actually rather hot. I noticed a lot of people seemed tired from the Bentonville and Rogers races. My legs were definitely sore, but I quickly loosened up and was feeling pretty good. I floated through the pack really well and felt more confident in my cornering during the day. It didn’t matter too much, though, on the last lap I didn’t have the best position going into the last few corners before the finishing straight. There was a crash on the outside of the corner, taking out a few riders and I knew I didn’t have a very good chance of getting higher than 20th. In the end, I was 22nd. There were around 40 riders in each race, so I was right around mid pack for all of the races. Going into the weekend, I had decided that all three of the races were going to be more of a learning experience than anything else. If I could hold on, finish well and not blow up, I would be happy. I wanted to get comfortable with cornering at high speeds and getting into good positions within the pack. Definitely a successful weekend.
This album is one of my favorite Beastie Boys albums and it’s all instrumental. The production just sounds unreal and I always imagine how much fun they must’ve had making it.
I don’t have too much to talk about since I just made a post, but there isn’t anything scheduled for a couple of weeks until The Natural State Criterium Series. Natural State was started last year and drew a bunch of big teams with it’s large prize pot. This year added another day of racing and is even bigger with some really exciting, national level racers showing up. We really need some volunteers to keep this race going.
With all of the heavy hitters showing up, I thoroughly expect to get spit out the back of the pack all three days.
Summer Waffle Series #3
Made my way up to Springfield yesterday with a van full of junior racers and their mother. Shanely had gotten into a wreck at the Tour of Kansas City and was feeling too sore to ride the Waffle. I have a blast being around people that are just starting out. There is a fire in their bellies and a thirst for knowledge. One of the juniors, a Cat 4, decided to race with the A race last week and opted for the same this week. Always put yourself out there in the tough situations, that’s where you will see the most personal growth.
The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end.Ralph Waldo Emerson
We started off and I found myself immediately leading the group. It wasn’t out of choice, I just happened to roll out first and everyone filed in behind me with the Waffle Leader’s Jersey. I took the hand I was dealt and made the best of it, resting for a bit and then hammering on a series of 4 or 5 rollers. I wanted to set the tone early for how hard the race was going to be. It hurt, but it was definitely worth it, we eventually created some natural separation right after the first lap. The race was playing out very similar to the week before. We ended up with 4 Springfield Brewery riders, 3 riders from Kuat, and a junior from my team, so nine total in the break. I knew that with 8 riders, my chances of winning from the break were going to be low, so I pressed hard on the hills in an attempt to drop some people from the other teams. We ended up dropping a Cat 1 female, Danielle Dingman of Springfield Brewery Company, who apparently also recently won the Sprint and Standard distance duathlon National Championships, both in one day. Unfortunately, in the process we also dropped the junior rider. It was down to 3 guys from SBC, 2 guys from Kuat, and 1 guy from A+B Cycles, which is a sponsor for Kuat as well. They could’ve very well been on the same team, just in different generation of jerseys.
We hammered for the next couple of laps, with the guy from A+B Cycle and one guy from Kuat occasionally throwing attacks to make us work harder. With a half a lap to go, SBC threw a big attack while I was on the front and I was too late to catch and follow his wheel. I put my head down and increased my wattage by a little, slowly time trialing the group back up to him. He probably stayed out solo for 5 minutes, but the key was making sure that he used enough energy to not be a factor during the finish. There was a short hill that I knew I could make up a lot of ground and by the time we got to the top, we had almost brought him back. With maybe 3 miles to go, we got him with an immediate attack by a Kuat rider leading into the biggest decent on the course. I’m pretty good with the first couple of left hand corners, but then struggle with the immediate right, usually scrubbing too much speed, or going too wide on my exit. I got out of my saddle and brought back the small gap of two riders that had opened up. The group soft pedaled on the road going into the last two turns, waiting for the first person to make their move.
I was still soft pedaling on the front when we took the second to last turn and let a couple of riders start accelerating up the 8ish% average grade hill, with my eye on one SBC rider in particular. I knew for sure I needed to make it to the final corner first, but I just needed to time it just right. The SBC rider had a moment where his head dropped and he looked tired, getting up out of the saddle to get more power. This was my opportunity, 10 yards before the corner. I got up out of my own saddle and gave it everything I had, accelerating past the SBC rider and into the first position going into the final corner. I just prayed that no one had caught my wheel going into the downhill, ready to nip me at the finish line. Accelerating all the way to the line, I had gotten my Waffle win two weeks in a row. I don’t think there was the minimum amount of Cat 1/2 riders to qualify for upgrade points, though.
On paper, my last two seasons have been similar, but I can say things have felt a lot different. I feel more confident in a lot of different aspects that I was lacking before. I’ve been able to identify my shortcomings and my tactical execution has been refined. Last year I had 26 race days and I’m already at 24 right now and there looks to be roughly 10-15 more race days left in the season. By the time September rolls around, I’ll definitely be ready to take some time off.
If you haven’t noticed, I have a weird obsession with Nickelodeon, both it’s nostalgia and it’s various shows. I have a long running game where I can usually know what you grew up watching as a kid–Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network or PBS. It’s easy to tell once you start looking for the different signs–television shaped the personality of my generation growing up.
Anyway, bike racing.
Tour of Kansas City
This last weekend was my third year of racing the Tour of Kansas City and my first big race in Category 2. Usual category 2 races are combined category 1 and 2 together. Typically, this is because there just isn’t large enough fields to individual, but it’s almost like a double upgrade when you move into category 2. Not only are you having to adjust to ability of cat 2, but also guys that have been racing for 5+ years and are cat 1 or pros. I almost didn’t sign up because I kept thinking that the field size was going to be 60 something and that’s not something that I wanted my introduction to racing in Pro, Cat 1, and Cat 2 fields. I kept watching the entries and I very drunkenly remembered to check it the night registration was closing. The field size was only around 30 per event (Time Trial, Circuit, and Criterium). It would be a great introduction race because I knew quite a few guys in the field from the racing scene in Kansas City and had raced the courses a few times. So, I signed up.
My teammate Shanely was also going up to Tour of Kansas City, but with a different purpose and that was to gain points as a Cat 3 for his Cat 2 upgrade. He is currently at 15 and has another 15 to go before mid August. It’s entirely possible, but it takes a lot of smart racing with very focused goals. We stayed with my old GP Velotek teammate, Trevor and his weeks-away-from-having-a-new-human wife, Erin. They live in a really cool house in North Overland Park and the commute to the race courses was right around 25 minutes. It was great getting to sit around talk to them and play with their super smart Australian Shepherd, Percy.
The time trial is an interesting course. You start off going downhill into a 90 degree right turn that immediately goes into a 90 degree left. There are a couple of long straight aways, and then a big turn around and back again, eventually climbing a 40 ish second hill lovingly called the Gooseneck. I wasn’t sure what my goal, just that I knew that I had done around 368 watts for 6:18 last year. This amount of time is my bread and butter and my 5 minute power had made a big jump this year. I knew I wanted to at least be over 400w for the whole thing, and 440w would let me know that I had executed to my very best ability. You can’t lay down full power through every corner, though, so there is some watt loss from that. In any case, I couldn’t find the right screen for the first 2 minutes of the race. When doing an out and back time trial, Eddy Merckx style (no time trial bike, or deep dish wheels, or aero bars) I tend to look at what everyone else is doing and overthink my position on my bike. It’s something that I definitely need to focus on.
By the time that I had started and stopped my Garmin 520 on the finish line, I had 5:57. The timing results ended up saying 6:03, which I’m not sure how that happens, but it seemed to be pretty standard amongst a lot of categories, you can only hope that the 6 seconds or whatever they were off was across the board. I ended up averaging 409w. Stoked and I was right around the middle of the field at 14th place.
The circuit race was in the same area and used the same Gooseneck for the finish. The P/1/2 field had 13 laps, or right around 36 miles. The guy who got 3rd in the time trial that morning had also won Joe Martin Cat 3 GC that year, so I knew that he was on a roll this year and very strong. I wanted to target him because I knew if a break left with him that was well represented from other teams, then it would probably stay away. I missed my opportunity. It was right after a “KOM” or prime lap where you could get extra points for the weekend’s omnium prize. This is a pretty ideal time to start a break. Either you are a part of the charge to get the points or prime prize, or your sitting right behind them and when the pack sits up after crossing the line, just keep going and hope that you have some people come with you. I believe they ended up having a break of 5 guys. I tried chasing them back a little bit and even trying to bridge across, but it didn’t work. I really just expected to be shelled off the back. I fought hard up the last hill to the finish and got 19th. Probably could’ve finished a little higher, but tactically, I’m not quite ready for this level yet.
Sunday was the last race in the series, the criterium in the Crossroads Art District. I don’t like this course. The first year, the course was out at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. Awesome setting, while not very technical, had a long steady 2% hill to at least make some moves on and an incredibly fast straightaway into the finish. They changed it the second year and it ended up being an 8 turn course that was really difficult to move up on. Last year as a Cat 3, a local team got on the front and drilled it for the entire race and I barely moved any spots. This year was a completely different beast of masochistic/sadistic tendencies. I was sitting 2nd to last wheel and halfway through the first lap, the guy sitting 4th to last wheel sat up and decided he had enough and wasn’t going to race 75 minutes, but only 45 seconds. A huge gap immediately opened up and we worked our asses off to close it up and get back on. The first 5-6 laps of a criterium are always balls to the wall fast. Eventually we got back in and I was last wheel and immediately got spit off the back again. I spent 30 minutes chasing my ass off, averaging 328 watts, an absurd amount. There was a lot of encouragement from the crowd, which was really cool and helped me continue. Even when I had caught back up to the group, there was no resting because I would just get dropped again. I told myself that I wouldn’t quit, though. I was about 5 seconds down from catching the group when there was wreck in corner 1. Passing by, I saw a recent category upgrade and Tulsa Tough comrade, Leo on the ground and one other person with 4 people around him.
The organizers paused the race for 25 minutes and they brought down an ambulance and a firetruck. There were a lot of rumors and jittery people all around, the whole thing was pretty unsettling. When they restarted, they started the 3 man breakaway, the main peloton and then my group of five guys that was trying to chase back on all together. I think otherwise I would have been suffering those last ten laps alone. We worked together and reeled back in the peloton, I even had a decent position for a half a lap before I got shuffled to the back again. It was a weird sprint to the finish, but I ended up 21st.
It’s times like these in which I think, What Would Steve Tilford Say? He always had something to say about something. Didn’t matter the subject matter, he had an opinion. What happened to Casey Saunders on Sunday was a shock to all of us in the cycling community, local, regional and national. This doesn’t happen all the time in bike racing. Sure there are crashes and the worst of it is a broken bone or some stitches. We assume this risk when we put on our helmets or go out for group training rides or go to the local cemetery to practice cornering. All of us want to mitigate the danger of crashing as much as possible. We have a lot of time invested in the sport and taking any off is like not getting to eat pizza for 8 weeks. We have a lot of money invested into our bikes and our kits and it sucks replacing wheels or framesets or bib shorts. We have a lot of camaraderie in the pack because we are all out there suffering and in the end, it’s just adults playing a kid’s game in a very organized fashion. From what I’ve heard and read about Casey so far, I am confident that he is still riding a bike wherever he is now. Bicycles were Casey’s life and while tragically also his death, I doubt that he wanted to die at 79 of heart disease or cancer. It’s really just all too soon. Much love to you Casey, you’ve had such a positive influence on so many people.
I’ve been talking it over with friends and events like this definitely make you reconsider the risk vs. reward in this sport. For myself, my alternative is to give up cycling and go back to being an alcoholic chainsmoker with no direction. Cycling gave me back my life, gave me drive, gave me confidence again. I can’t ever quit this sport, I’ve got too much time, too much money, and too many friends to say goodbye.
Summer Waffle Series #2
Last Tuesday I raced up in Springfield, Missouri. As I said above, Shanely is trying to get upgrade points to move in the 2s and he won the start of the series the week before, gaining 4 points. The goal was to work the field hard so that he had a chance to nail it at the end on a climb that was perfect for his power profile. Unfortunately, I hammered it a bit too hard at a couple of different points and accidentally ended up in a break after the first lap that stuck for the remaining laps. The two main teams Kuat and Springfield Brewing Company were both represented, so their teams played defense and Shanely could never break out to join us. I played dead dog for the remaining two laps, pulling through with little effort and even skipping turns. I tried what I could to bring back the group to the pack and give Shanely a chance. Halfway through the last lap, I knew we weren’t going back because the pack was nowhere in sight. It eventually ended up being myself and a Kuat racer, and when we turned onto the road that lead into the final climb he told me he didn’t have anymore gas in the tank. I immediately took off and finished the last 3/4 of a mile solo for the win. It was really cool to go into my first “A” race and get the win, even if it was technically a training race series.There was the minimum of 5 people in the race that were 1s and 2s so I got 3 points towards my Cat 1 upgrade for a criterium win. There were a lot of tactics at play and it was fun to try out new things. I got the leader’s jersey and will be back tonight to try again.
Today is the Monday after Tulsa Tough, which means I’m going to take the day off. If you don’t know about Tulsa Tough, it’s one of the biggest weekends of racing in America. People travel from all over and the top categories always sell out their maximum entries. Today, my legs feel like utter shit. After 2 weekends of 3 days of racing in Oklahoma, I am really glad to have this next weekend off to go off on a nice, 5 hour ride.
Friday night is the Blue Dome district at Tulsa Tough, kicking off one of the biggest bike parties/weekends of criterium racing in the United States. My friend Jake accurately described it as “A party that just happened to have a bike race also.” The atmosphere on all of the courses have their own flavors, but all equally great. ANYWAY
Friday night is also notoriously fast. There’s not a lot of climbing and the corners are super wide–so it’s easy to go full throttle the whole time. My start wasn’t so great, so I began at the back and knew I needed to work my way up to the front by the end of the race to be in contention for some money.
*SIDE NOTE* Before this race started, the infamously famous Manual for Speed threw down a competition for select criterium races in the United States, calling it the Knife Fight. Basically, it’s a most aggressive rider for the whole weekend and the prize is a silly cool kit with wild animal patterns. Knife Fighters needed to wear these cool socks in order to know who they were throwing down against.
Right up my alley.
Sweet socks and vicious attacks.
So, slowly but surely I worked my way into tight spots on corners, sprinted down straightaways, held tight on people’s wheels and moved from the back of the 93 person field to the top 15 with 5 laps to go. I was feeling really confident! The start finish arch was pretty narrow and going into 4 laps to go, the pack squeezed to the right and I lost about 15 spots. Maybe 10 seconds after that was a corner that people decided to get real tight on and I went up on the sidewalk and lost another 15 spots. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty dejected. Because we were so close to the end, I knew everyone would be fighting for every position they could get, so I knew my race was pretty well over. I knew it would be better to rest up and try again on Saturday and Sunday, so I came in 50th ish on Friday. After crashing all three days last year, I was honestly just stoked to survive one. I felt confident in the corners and comfortable in the big pack. I didn’t show up in the results, which was weird, but whatever, right?
That morning I had a great breakfast at Antionette’s Bakery with a family that I had hosted at my Airbnb in Bentonville. Literally the sweetest family I’ve ever met. The 4 kids are all ultra polite, intelligent and funny. The parents are honest, authentic, wonderful people. I really couldn’t ask for better new friends. They were all really interested in race dynamics and watched a bit of the Master’s racers that morning. Later, they texted and changed around plans to come watch my race. Literally, the best.
My teammate Joel and I decided that morning to spend as much time in the shade rather than staging in the gates for 45 minutes before the race starts. Rather be hydrated than have good position at the start. We tailgunned from the very back to mid pack and then the first 1/3rd of the race. He gave me a wheel to sit on and then towed me along for a lot of first half of the race. By the time that they put 10 laps to go on the board, Joel had floated back and I knew it was going to be important to get my butt up into the top 10 and then the top 5. A couple of laps later and I found myself off the front with four other riders. They all looked to be in good shape and I resolved that even if I got 5th, I would feel pretty stoked about that result. We had one good rotation and it fell right apart. We floated back to the group with 5 to go, I sat in for a lap and rested. I was sitting second wheel and the guy on the front was a talented time trialist out of St Louis. I let him float off the front with a gap of a few seconds and everyone in the pack was comfortable 1) letting Leo go and 2) having me on the front burning energy.
When we got to the bottom of Soundpony Hill, I sprinted to catch up with Leo and as soon I caught him, I yelled some expletives for him to catch my wheel and we would do this thing together. He looked up and just shook his head no. I had zero choice but to put my head down and bury it, hope to hell that nobody wanted to do the work to chase me down. By the time that I came around with 2 laps to go, they said that I had a 9 second gap. When I came around for the bell lap, my legs were screaming. Everything hurt so bad. I could hear my name being shouted by my friends at different points down the straight away. The crowd was a deafening roar. I took the three turns leading into Soundpony Hill as safe & fast as I could and then charged up through another roaring crowd. I knew the pack was coming closer because I could hear the timing between yelling. Took two turns and then headed down the downhill into the headwind. I cursed it while racing, but it might have been the thing that saved my ass. The headwind probably made people shy about getting on the front to work hard and chase me down. I got down into the last corner, going faster than I had taken it the whole race. I was mentally and physically shocked. Mentally, I couldn’t believe they didn’t catch me before the last corner. I stood up and tried to give it everything I got, quickly realizing that my legs were not going to function that way. I sat down, put my head down and buried it popping up to give a victory right hook. Literally as soon as I passed the finish line I got passed by 2nd place. A bit of panic went through my head–I had a flashback to my move at the FullGas Omnium where I got passed at the last second.
But I had won out of 70 racers. Somehow. Didn’t have my Garmin recording, so I don’t have any power numbers, but it would be really interesting data.
(You’ll see me at the very end of this video, they almost had me.)
My dancing music:
There was a huge mess with getting my race winnings and not having me on some sort of registry. It took an hour to sort out and all I could think about was a cold beer and the fountain a half a block away. Those kind of things happen when you’re managing such a huge event, though. It also explained why I wasn’t in the results the day before.
Last year and this year I had so many people tell me “Crybaby Hill is your race to win. Perfect for you.” People assume because I like climbing that I like climbing punchy, 45 second hills. Nope. No way. Hate it. I need more time to make people suffer. Again, I figured, “Hey, if I get out of this race with no missing skin or fucked up bike, I’m gonna be really happy.” I knew the key to Crybaby would be to vibe off of the gigantic party that happens at the top and just have fun. Be goofy, give high fives, do anything but think about how hard that race is going to hurt until the very end. Trickiest part of Crybaby isn’t even the hill, it’s the right-hand off camber corner that people end up sliding out on.
Couple of Crybaby pointers:
Part 1 of the hill going into turn 2 ALWAYS gets clogged. Back off a bit leading into it and then hit the gas hard for 3 seconds and use that momentum to make up some spots and get into good position for the turn. Sometimes the outside is a faster line if it’s super crowded.
Smile and enjoy the vibe. This doesn’t happen everywhere and we are lucky to riding in one of the nation’s biggest criteriums. It’s a legendary party, so just have fun.
The downhill into the shitty right hand corner sucks. Scrub speed early, let off the brakes, stay on the inside line, follow the wheel in front of you and coast it until it’s time to go. People will hammer coming out of that corner, right up to the finish line. So, pay attention because that’s when you should start pedaling, too.
You can move up on the finishing straight, but there’s a good chance the pack will just shuffle again on Crybaby Hill, be patient.
Once again, I started off from the back and worked my way up, bit by bit. Out of 73 riders, only 36 guys ended up finishing with 37 guys getting pulled or dropping out. The first half was definitely super hard and competitive. I was hanging around the top twenty after the first half and looked up and was surprised that much time had already passed. I stayed zen until the posted the 10 to go and knew I needed to start formulating a plan. I’m not a sprinter. I won’t out sprint someone. But, maybe I could make the sprinters work really hard for 6 minutes and not have anything left for the long straightaway. With 4 to go I had really good momentum going up Crybaby and found myself shooting to the front. I wasn’t going to waste energy leading them around the course, so I decided to just put in a dig and go for it.
Image credit: Justin Davis of Team Tom’s
My legs were weak. My arms were heavy. I wish I had just a big bowl of spaghetti and wasn’t racing in the humidity. I expected them to close it down any second. The crowd was just as rowdy as the day before, if not more. They love drama in a bike race. A lot of them may not entirely understand what they are screaming for (or even where in the Universe they are located), but it’s amazing to go through a tunnel of screaming fans while you’re putting out your hardest efforts. I crested Crybaby and my legs were completely gone. I turned the second to last corner and really thought that I might be able to pull off a repeat. As I headed down the downhill I looked back and two racers were right on my wheel. I let them pass into the corner, figured I could at least follow their wheel and then get on the podium. Everything about that plan went to shit because I had zero energy left. Soon I was passed by 5 more and then an extra 2 right at the line. It’s emotional laying it all out there and risking it just to get passed at the end, but that’s just bike racing. There are so many other factors that are out of your control. I ended up getting 9th and still had my bike and skin still intact. I managed to record my ride that day, but nothing really stuck out as particularly enlightening.
Tulsa Tough? Best weekend I’ve had in a while.
Oklahoma City Pro Am Classic
I know. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably like “Oh no way. Another 3 day weekend and he’s going to write a huge diatribe about every race. HOW EXCELLENT.” Or, something to that effect.
I’ll try to keep it tight.
Basically, Friday we rolled into OKC as a tropical depression was settling in. I wish someone had thought to give OKC it’s medication, because that would’ve made for a better weekend. Joel or I didn’t race Friday night because it looked like it was going to rain at any second and I didn’t want to be risky going into Tulsa Tough. Turns out, it didn’t rain at all and it was the hilliest race of the weekend, making it the one that I could’ve done the best on for the whole weekend. Luckily, Jared got to the last corner in the first position and sprinted for the win. Apparently, he was pretty close to being forced upgraded from category 3 to 2 and got a call in the morning that he was going to have to race category 2 that day. There wasn’t a whole lot of heads up, so Jared ended racing in the 3s.
Saturday was flat, wide, and fast. As soon as we got on the course it started raining, eventually making for some pretty sketchy corners. Joel had decided that it was going to rain and didn’t want to risk it. Correct choice. Jared and I got caught behind two crashes within a minute of each other and we got separated. Eventually, Jared pulled out and my dumbass, with worse positioning, kept going and eventually got pulled. It’s the first race I’ve ever been pulled from, but I wasn’t even mad–I was miserable. Joel ended up leaving to go back to Bentonville and Jared & Crew & I celebrated his mandatory force up.
Sunday was sunshiney and gorgeous (Sorry, Joel. Maybe you brought in the storm clouds). Perfect racing weather. I stayed patient and made my way near the front when they started the lap counter at 10. Held tight for 6 more laps and then launched with three to go after a break had just been brought back. I stayed away for 2.5 laps and they caught me on the slight uphill and I knew I had nothing left to give. Even if I could have gotten on a wheel and hung tight through the last corner, I wouldn’t have any power to do anything.
(Also, it is ideal to attack when it’s slow. Someone needs to talk to this kid’s coach)
(Same guy who videod the Tulsa race)
I’ve learned a ton about execution these last couple of weeks. Timing is everything, but it’s also nothing when you don’t have much control. The best part about my skillset is that all I can do is execute and hope like hell that it sticks. If it doesn’t I gave it my best and that’s all there is to it.
This morning I applied for my upgrade to category 2 and had it approved in an hour. Really excited to move up to the next stage and improve my skillset.
I have, like, a lot to talk about because it’s been a while. *remember to insert that shitty Staind song from 2003*
Well, for one, here are some excuses. First excuse is about why I haven’t been posting and at first I just wanted to take a pause because I…moved to a new city! Second excuse is that I let my domain registration lapse and I kept putting the renewal on the backburner. So my brother transferred the domain and I setup a Google Domain transfer. And now, here we are, back for talk therapy.
As I mentioned, I moved from Kansas City at the beginning of March for a wide variety of reasons.
My parents live on Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas. Over the last 10 years, I haven’t been able to spend a whole lot of time with them and every time I visited it was a great time. Lately, they have been talking about eventually moving to Florida and I know if they move to Florida we won’t get to see each other but twice a year.
Every time that I would come visit, I would usually bring my bike and go on group rides with friends in Northwest Arkansas and lament about how much I enjoyed riding here and wanted to live here. Eventually, my friends coaxed me enough and I got a benefit offer from a local developing team, Bentonville Racing. it seemed like our objectives and ideals were in line and it would be a good fit.
I’m a web designer, so staying in one place isn’t that necessary.
I’m also an Airbnb host, and I really wanted be a host for cyclist. With Northwest Arkansas’s burgeoning mountain bike scene, it was a no brainer that I could start to really see that as a reality.
I really appreciate how much the city of Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas in general reinvests back into it’s community with outdoor activities and arts and culture.
Kansas City was starting to feel stagnant, to be honest. I had been living there for 6.5 years and no doubt enjoyed my time and my friends, but started to feel the itch to move and start again. When opportunity knocks, you either answer the door or just wonder if you should answer the door.
I had a personal relationship that I needed physical distance from.
It was a lot to take in and contemplate. There was a lot of risk involved, but I had some really good ideas on how to mitigate the risk and make the move easier. The process of moving definitely messed up training schedule leading into the Joe Martin Stage Race, which was really unfortunate and created a lot of anxiety. One of my biggest races of the year and I may not even have the fitness that I needed to compete well. It turns out that it wouldn’t even matter. I also decided to commit to Tour of the Gila (which proceeds Joe Martin by two weeks) at the beginning of last year.
A few weeks before moving, I went to a team camp with GP Velotek at Mt Magazine, Arkansas. The year before was a blast and I didn’t want to miss out again, so I became a Velotek club member. This year was really foggy instead of being super cold. I had a 1 hour power personal best of 352 watts climbing up the North side of Mt. Magazine (missed the KOM by only 26 seconds) and set some PRs on the south side while having a really good time with my old teammates. I also rode my first century!
I kept positive spirits and thought about all of the long, winding roads I was going to ride in Arkansas before Joe and Gila. Confidence is a helluva performance enhancing drug. I had some really good rides after I got settled in and training consistently. It was almost like I tapered for my move to Arkansas. I picked up a mountain bike before I left town, too! It’s a 2013 Niner Air 9 RDO with SRAM XXO and a Rockshox SID fork. It’s a beastly hardtail that’s meant to tear up single track XC trail, which is perfect for Arkansas trails.
Before Joe came, we did a road race in Skiatook, Oklahoma that a decent bit of climbing and good competition. There were quite a few early attacks and surges, but nothing really stuck. I got in a couple of the attacks and even chased down a couple of breaks. The last attack actually happened after chasing down a break, a couple of the guys kept going and the peloton let us slip away. We quickly got organized with 7 miles to go. We were holding a really high pace and even started seeing some of our gang dying. We held it together all the way to the finishing hill where I went early and had a good lead, but got nipped at the line. It felt good to start the season off with a podium. Somehow, with my second place that day, I also got 2nd in the omnium for the weekend, despite not riding the day before, so we made some $$, too.
Joe weekend came fast, and while I was nervous, I knew there wasn’t much else I could do to prepare anymore at this point. I got to the time trial course Saturday morning at what I thought was a reasonable amount of time to get ready and warmed up, even lugging along my gigantic trainer. I set up my alarms and when it went off, I quickly got ready and rode towards the start line. I got a little ways away from my car and went back to grab a GEL. A stupid fucking gel that would not have made any difference. When I got to the start line, they had already called my name, so technically my TT had already started. I was about 45 seconds late–which is everything in a short, hill climb TT. I rode so hard for that first half, like way harder than I had planned, but I was anxious and angry. I ended up with a 9:18 (13th) and lost the TT by 45 seconds exactly. Luckily, my teammate Chad was in 2nd, only 11 seconds down from the GC. The road race was later that day and I helped reel in a break with the GC leader that was gone for 30 miles of the road race. I didn’t have any finishing power, but luckily my teammate Jared did and he won the road race. The downtown criterium was a hard fight with big surges and ripping corners that the GC leader ended up winning. By the time the weekend was over I had moved up two spots on the GC to 11th, Chad got 3rd and Jared got 10th. It was an okay turnout, but we all knew we had the firepower to have two people up on that podium. I learned a really hard lesson in being on time and being prepared.
The important thing about racing is that you can’t let the stink hang on you. Bad weekend? Tough luck, there is going to be another weekend with good luck. Gila was in a week and a half, it was time to wipe the slate clean and focus on the future.
Gila was an 18 hour drive, 5500 ft of elevation, and a 5 day stage race. It would be radically different than any other race I had ever done. The first stage was a road race and we let a two man break get away. At the bottom of the main climb they were 1:30 up the road and by the end we had closed the gap down to 25 seconds. On day 2, there was a hard early climb that I pushed a lot of and we shed about half the field. We descended on a very technical, crappy road and I almost lost the group. In the valley we brought back one break and then I somehow ended up in a break with a really good junior and the guy who was 2nd in the GC. We worked hard back and forth, and eventually dropped the guy in 2nd on the GC because he was too tired from the day before. The junior ended up dropping me on the final climb, winning by 3 minutes and I hung onto 2nd place by an extra 3 minutes. I had moved into 2nd place on the GC with a good amount of cushion. I rode the time trial the next day Merckx style and ended up in 10th, but still kept my 2nd place in the GC. Stayed safe in the stage 4 downtown Silver City, New Mexico criterium and had no change in GC. The last day was Sunday and it was going to be a monster. There was an early move 6 miles in to the stage and then we let two teams that had guys in the breaks control the pace. By the time we had hit the bottom of the finishing climb, we were over 9 minutes down from the break. That was honestly the most I’ve ever hurt during a race. It was a sustained climb with a dip in the middle. At one point, someone took a corner too hot and slid out, taking out the guy in front of me and myself. I immediately got back up and chased on with another crasher, but it was too late. The GC was shook up and I got bumped to 4th with two of the guys in the break taking 2nd and 3rd. I was a bit disappointed with a tactical error, but still super thrilled with my overall fitness and performance. Our times climbing that day were in the top 30 for all classes, including pros. I felt on top of the world.
The next weekend was Velotek Grand Prix. The time trial was too short to be in my power wheelhouse, so I finished 8th. I threw out a big attack on the last 5 laps of the criterium, but got pulled back, so it was a pack finish. On the 2 lap road race, I knew I would have to do some hard work be able to make up spots. After cresting the finishing climb on the first lap, a junior and I kept pushing to a 2 man break up the road. We worked together well and kept the pace high. In the last 6 miles we dropped the two we picked up and it was just going to be a head to head finish for the junior and I. In the end, I made and early move and kept it for the win, my first of this season. I even moved up into 2nd place on the GC, so an excellent weekend after Gila.
The following weeks were really good. I set a new personal power best for 20 minutes (385w), 5 minutes (488w), and 1 minute (701w). It had been roughly a year since I had seen improvements. I’ve put on a little more weight since then, but it’s still a higher watt per kilogram ratio. I had a really good century on my birthday, averaging around 265w for 5 hours (I didn’t catch the first hour).
I’ll start another post for my Oklahoma adventures.
Swingin’ for the fences with consistency, right? It’s cool, I haven’t given up.
Went on an outside ride with a couple of GP Velotek team mates. We rode on K32 to Desoto, south to 83rd St and then back to Kansas City, aiming for Holliday Drive to take us home.
I was scheduled for 2.5 hours on TrainingPeaks, so it ended up working out great. We all three got flats at different points during the ride, though. It kind of killed my Saturday. On the way there, They helped me set some important PRs. If I was sticking around, I would focus on a specific segment on K32 and get a group of 5 to smash it out. Without the flats, we would’ve been 3rd on the whole K32 segment. Whatever. I’m not bitter.
I’ve been keeping my ‘active recovery’ wattage pretty low, like 120w, which is only 39% of my FTP. I didn’t know if this was too low–in my TrainingPeaks workout that I wrote, it just says less than 74% of FTP. Maybe I was just leaving myself some variability depending on fatigue? I’m not sure now because 54-74% is Zone 2, which is actively pushing on the aerobic system. I’ve also been working on trying to do blocks of 420w. Right now, I’m working on a two minute block. Eventually, I want to be able to do 420w for 8 minutes. Working on that capability after a 2 hour+ ride even for a short amount of time is going to be beneficial.
These really hurt at the end of a long workout, but I can only see the benefits right now.
My desk is a mess. Completely uninviting to sit down and write.
Had my first real base workout today, a pretty standard two hours in power zone 2. Yesterday, I found Zone 2.9 to be right around 230 watts. I was right in Zone 2.5 with an average power of 205.
I’ve been reading Joe Friel’s The Power Meter Handbook and it’s really easy to digest. Sometimes, Dr. Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Power Meter got a little too technical. I learned a lot from it, don’t get me wrong.
For instance, take this race:
It was a bit of a rough race, super high intensity from the start and I was being a huge wuss through the corner. I need to find one similar in Kansas City to drill a bunch. Anywho, if I can pull up the power chart from that race:
Normalized power for that race was 303 watts! At that time the intensity factor for that race was .83. Typically I feel like I’ve raced conservative and smart if the intensity factor is closer to .7 with a good result. Anything between .8 and .9 means I was probably trying too hard. Only in Time Trials is a good thing to be close to 1.0. What I found out from the data from the New American Town Downtown Twilight Criterium was that I was in Zone 6 (442+ watts) for almost 13 minutes for that whole 54 minute race. Excessive, yes, BUT I’m happy seeing a number like that, knowing that I have that ability. I immediately went and setup a ‘RACE’ screen for my Garmin with ‘Time in Zone 6’ right at the top of the page. I may setup one as a ‘CRITERIUM RACE’ and one as a ‘ROAD RACE’ at a later date.