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.