Sunday, April 26, 2009

Circuit race at Sea Otter

The final race of the Sea Otter PRO road races was brutal with the steep hill to get over on each lap of the 2.2 mile circuit. Early on, a group of six riders broke away and maintained a 1-2 minute lead before the catch was made after 18 laps or so of racing. My strategy of positioning myself near the front of the bunch before the steep climb of each climb was paying dividends and I was for the most part in the front split going over the hill. It was brutal as I had to output over 600 watts average power going up the hill each time and it was not going to be sustainable if I encountered problems during the climb. I managed to stay in the race for the first 14 laps, but on lap 15 I was starting to cramp slightly and was in need of fluid. However, no one in the feed-zone was willing to hand me up a bottle except the feeder from the Bissell Pro Cycling squad. The feedzone is right before the steep hill and I was gapped by about 10 metres due to trying to secure a bottle. I sprinted back on just fine, but half-way up the hill (I was already at max but holding wheels fine) some dude almost gives up and un-clips and starts coasting to the side of the track. I was trying to pass him on the outside and his line blocked my progress. When you stop pedalling and have to re-accelerate, it takes a huge effort to bridge the gap again. I clawed back onto the last wheel of the dissappearing peloton, but this guy dropped his chain and I was trying to sprint pass him on the outside but he swerved into my path and almost collided with me. So for the third time in the space of 90 seconds, I had to re-accelarate but this time I could not regain contact and the peloton dissappeared over the hill 15 metres in front. Out on your own without any help, it is almost impossible to bridge back to the main bunch. I could see them on the next straightaway fanning out and sitting up. I knew that if I could make it back into the fold, it would be easy to recover again for the next shot at the climb but the effort required to get back in was too great for my lactic acid filled legs. I ended up getting pulled a couple of laps later.

Not long after I got pulled, the main bunch that was left (about 40 riders) exploded into fragments with Levi Leipheimer leading the chase group of about 10 riders to try and reel in the breakaway of three riders containing New Zealander, Jeremey Vennell (Bissell), Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Luis Amaran (Colavita Sutter Home). The trio worked too well together to be caught again and Bissell had numbers against Levi Leipheimer to prevent him from bridging up to the breakaway. Andy Jacques-Maynes took a well deserved win by attacking over the steep climb of the last lap. Jeremy Vennell from New Zealand finished 3rd with Levi taking the bunch sprint for 5th.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sprint finish picture from Burlingame 2008

I finished 2nd, behind Chris Hipp in a frenetic bunch sprint finish that contained several big names including Eric Wohlberg and Jackson Stewart.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Racing in my new uniform

Cornering during the Fort Ord Road Race on Friday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Levi Leiphimer wins Sea Otter road race

Today's road race was tougher than the criterium yesterday and the presence of Levi Leiphimer (Astana) and the full Bissell Pro Cycling squad caused mayhem in the bunch.

The road race was 70miles long raced over narrow twisting roads through the Oak Forests of the Fort Ord backcountry, punctuated with numerous hills. The weather today was the best so far, with brilliant clear sunny skies and a slight breeze that helped keep riders cool. The neutral-rollout was brutal in itself, 4 miles of up and down and the green flag was raised as we crested the top of the first hill climb when on the 10mile circuit. I was already red-lining by this point when riders went off the front attacking. I survived the first lap onslaught of the Bissell team and Levi chasing with the bunch in tow, and made it over the first major climb in the 2nd chase group by the skin of my teeth. However, the guys I was with were intent on bringing the front chase group with Levi in it back so the pace through the forest was ferious and I could never really recover and shake out the lactic acid in my legs. We did reconnect with the front bunch and I was hoping for some respite but they kept going full gas up the next steep climb through the feed-zone. This was where my legs just popped and the lead bunch motored away from me.

I spent the rest of the race riding in small groups, early on for several laps I was with a couple of Successful Living riders, NOW and a Cyclepaths rider. But they all dropped off and it was just me and JD Bergman from Clif Shot Cycling trading pulls through to the finish.

Despite the formidable presence of the Bissell Pro Cycling Squad, they were unable to defeat solo Astana rider Levi Leipheimer in the end. He still had the superior fitness and tactical experience to outwit the Bissell team to win by 4 seconds up the long climb to the hill-top finish.

Stay tuned for further race up-dates. Final Sea Otter race is on tomorrow, held on the 2.2 mile speedway circuit.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bissell controlled Sea Otter Criterium

62 PRO 1,2 guys lined up at the start-line of the Laguna Race-way and there was a full squad of the Bissell Pro team along with good representation from the Liquid Cycling team, Land Rover-ORBEA, Successful Living, Slipstream and several other strong teams. From the gun, the pace was very high on the wind-swept raceway course that did not afford much recovery time and the corners on each end were 180 degree turns. This combined with agressive riding from Bissell Pro Cycling strung out the field and we were riding in the gutter in quite severe cross-winds. I was up near the front after 15mins of racing, but a crash on one of 180 degree turns broke up the field even further and it also un-settled me. My left foot was hit by the guy who went down in front of me, but I managed to stay up-right and then chased hard to get onto the back of the front group, looked behind me and the main bunch was about 50 metres behind and chasing hard. The effort of getting back onto the front bunch after the crash caused me to red-line for too long that I was gapped on the next 180 degree turn and found myself in no-mans land. When several guys came past me, I was unable to jump onto their wheels and on the next lap I made a tactical mistake of pulling out to the right (where the strong wind was coming from) and allowed the bunch, that was single file, to motor past me and I had no shelter from the wind. I tried my best to jump onto the end of the freight train but could not hold the power for long over the hill. I rode another few laps and a couple of strong looking guys came up to me and I started working with them to try and bridge back up to the main bunch that was only about 20 seconds up the road, but the Chief Official had other ideas. He pulled us from the race, I thought it was way too soon as the breakaway of three Bissell riders were still half a lap behind us!

For the short duration of the race (21mins) I had averaged over 315 watts, with regular spikes of 1000 watts!! I was definitely on the back foot in this criterium and will take away a few lessons learnt to apply to future criteriums. Positioning on this type of course is crucial, as once you are too far back or gapped it is almost impossible to survive due to the pronunced rubber-band effect through the corners. By the time I would go through them, the leaders were already back up to 30mph and I would still be doing 18-20mph and having to sprint just to maintain contact. Out of the 62 riders, only 33 finished and the ones that were dropped happened early and after half-way point in the race the pace was alot more steady and no further riders were dropped from the two bunches of 13 and 17 respectively. The Bissell Pro Cycling Team rode impressively to take the top 3 podium spots to start their Sea Otter campaign in grand style.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sea Otter

I am now in Monterrey, staying about 6 miles from Laguna Raceway. I volunteered my services at the registration tent for most of the day and did not get time to do my scheduled 45minute easy ride, but I figure that I will be ok. This Sea Otter event is going to be pretty amazing, about 8 or 9,000 athletes are expected to compete over the next four days (XC mountain biking, down-hill biking, dual-salom, road racing and various other fun events). Also approximately 50,000 spectators are expected to show up and support the events. Most of registrants so far are mainly young "no-fear" skateboard style down-hill mountain bikers! There is a wide variety of athletes showing up but the bulk of them are going to be streaming in over the next couple of days. Its also a big opportunity for companies to show off their products/services by having exhibits on display.

My first race is the criterium race which will be held on the smooth wide 2mile Laguna Raceway circuit at 3.15pm. I am going to be doing some volunteer work before-hand for a couple of hours but I feel ready for some good action. Since there is no NRC race this weekend, I expect there will be a good turn out of top riders from various US teams.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

California up-date

I have been here in the Bays Area now for several days and have been putting in some good quality miles and meeting lots of new people. I am amazed at the sheer number of riders that bike around here, people from all walks of life, ages and sizes. I've been based in Santa Clara which has been very handy to get to the popular group rides without transportation. My first ride was on Saturday morning at 9am - the Spectrum Ride, a very fast large bunch ride that leaves from Starbucks on Homestead and Hollenbeck Ave. I had left a little late and I had about 8 minutes to cover 3miles but I went over and missed the group by 5mins. I did not give up, so I took to the chase to try and catch them however they were long gone. Large bunches travel considerably quicker than one lone cyclist, due to the forces at play you get sucked along in a vacuum of movement. I had done a similar route previously (last time I was in the Bay area) so I figured if I rode the opposite direction I would catch them on the return leg. I found myself at an intersection full of bakeries and numerous cyclists munching away on pastries and sweet foods. Rolled up to one of them and asked about the Spectrum group - and was told they would be back through here. I eventually hooked up with the group and started racing with them. They were going full tilt with breakaways off the front and people attacking and trying to bridge up. I was feeling strong and had some good pulls on the front and some good attacks also. It was amazing to see all the different characters in the group, you had guys that were on retro bikes and wearing retro gear, old guys, guys that looked like "euro pros" without helmets, just their euro style caps; several fast women were up the front including Brooke Miller. Including all the hills, the average speed was a brisk 23.2mph! At the end, I was invited by several guys to hang out for coffee at Peet's on Homestead Rd.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New bike fit

I managed to secure a new bike in the nick of time to go on my trip to California where I am racing at Sea Otter next week. Thanks to Eric Benz, I was able to get a new bike that was in show-room condition! The exact same bike as my previous one but it is the 08 model with better components on it (Ultegra SL's). I went down to Source Endurance for a bike fit by Dave Wenger and he made some radical changes! My seat height has been raised 4cm! My stem-length is longer and the handle-bars have been dropped a couple of cm's so that I am now more stretched out and when riding in the drops, I am more aero. I also had a brand-new seat from my new sponsor, Selle SMP Composit Strike, fitted to my bike and wow it feels very nice and surprisingly comfortable despite the hardness! Will write a full-review after I have had more rides and races under my belt. I raced the Driveway criterium on my new set-up and it felt very different and maybe a little too "roomy" in the cock-pit for me and the saddle height feels slightly too high. My coach, Stefan Rothe (Rothe Training) mentioned perhaps I need to do the changes in steps so I am going to drop saddle by 2cm and then raise 1cm each week till I am used to the set-up. I felt new muscles firing in the race last night, and thus was feeling stiff and worked over that evening! I did reasonably well in the criterium, contesting all 3 primes that were offered, but was always outsed by an in-form Bryan Fawley. At least I was up the front and gave it my best shot. After the first prime, the winning break of eight rolled away while I was recovering in the bunch and we could never bring them back since they had too much firepower with Heath Blackgrove, Dave Wenger, Sol Frost and Stefan Rothe all in the break. I finished 5th in the pack sprint for 13th overall.

I am now at the airport in Pheonix and about to board to fly over to San Jose. Keep tuned to my blog for my racing updates on Sea Otter next week!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cracked frame and 5th place

I was all decked out in my brand-new Hansaton uniform that I had recieved from Champion System a couple of days ago and felt like a brand new rider wearing smart looking Nalini Grand-Prix shoes. I felt like the new shoes gave me more instant transfer of power to turning the pedals faster that I was regularly riding off the front, either bridging up to new breakaways or establishing my own breaks. I felt like a had a good set of legs, a nice new professional looking uniform, and the hunger for success. One of the breaks that looked like it might stick lasted for a full lap and a bit with Pat McCarty (OUCH), Joseph Lafico (GCCA) and one other rider. Initially, the riders did not really work together since we thought the main bunch would catch us in no time, however when I looked behind me and saw the bunch fanned out and no one taking charge to chase us back, I started yelling "GO GO GO" and the 3 other riders responded by taking some decent pulls to establish our gap. But the main bunch had other ideas and brought us all back in quick fashion.
Unfortunately, about halfway into the race, I went down when Joseph Lafico crashed in front of me. I had no where to go but straight into him. After getting up and examining my bike for damage, initially I saw that my brake hoods were bent in and the caps were broken plus my rear derailuer was bent. I straightened all this out and the bike seemed to be fine. I also examined myself and was VERY pleased to see that my brand-new uniform was not torn. I just had a slightly bleeding left knee. After the free-lap, I jumped back into the race but immediately noticed that my chain would skip every time I laid out the power, whether jumping out of corners or responding to attacks of the front. This up-set my rythym quite a bit.
With about 15 minutes left in the race, a fairly large breakaway without me rolled out and this was allowed simply because I was on front and chose not to chase down but coast for abit, but then half a lap later I decided that I needed to pull hard on the front to help bring back the threatening break. Jen McRae from Team Type I was on my wheel when I peeled off and she continued the good work I did to bring back the break. We were set up for an exciting finale which did not dissappoint the small crowd that was gathered to watch. I bided my time in the pack, after doing alot of work earlier in the race, and moved up gradually so that I was in 7th-8th position behind a Super Squadra train (they were setting up the sprint for Phil Wikoff) and some other riders. I still had some great legs with about 300 metres to go, so I opened up my sprint and burst out to the front of the train but unfortunately when I wanted to really sprint, my chain kept skipping and I had no choice but to sit down again. I eased up to try and catch Phil Wikoff's wheel as he went past, but when I tried to jump on to hi, that skip skip happened again! So I lost a bit of momentum but was able to hold on for a 5th placing. Stefan Rothe (Rothe Training) showed some fine sprinting skills to take the win over Wikoff (Super Squadra). Chad Haga and Joseph Lafico,who had passed me in the final metres, placed 3rd and 4th respectively.
The next day, I took my bike to Mellow Johnny's for repair (to fix the chain and the derailuer) and when I called to find out about my bike, it was discovered that the frame had sustained a massive crack in the downtube! Wow, and it was not even a big crash and the bike is now rendered beyond repair and un-safe to ride. So, now I am without a bike and can't go training or racing till I sort out a new bike. Fingers crossed that I will be able to secure a new bike before I go to California next Friday to do Sea Otter and other racing.

I lost 9 pounds doing the Usana Reset program

I completed this USANA 5-day Reset program to see how much weight I could lose and eliminate cravings for the wrong kinds of food. I started the week right on 187 pounds, which is getting on the high side for me as I flutuate between 182-84pounds on any given day. I did feel like that I had been gaining weight lately, probably due to eating too much icecream and bread! All high-glycemic food, foods that you need to avoid if weight loss is one of your priorities as a serious competitive cyclist.
This Usana Reset program focuses on providing you with low-glycemic foods for the initial five-day duration so that your blood-sugar level is not spiked and maintains a sustainable level of energy throughout the day. Many people think that the point of this Reset program is to "diet" and "starve" yourself so that you will lose weight. However, if you take this attitude, then the weight loss will in fact be temporary and once you revert back to your old eating habits, the pounds will come back. You should never go hungry during this 5-day program and it does have provision for you to eat extra if you should find yourself hungry or feeling lack of energy. For me, since I am an athlete with training/racing demands, I needed to eat an extra nutrition bar each day plus extra fruit (such as apples and bananas). I did stick with the required 3 shakes a day, occasionally blended with strawberries and bananas. I did notice that I was more tired than usual but this was to be expected since I was consuming less calories than I expended while training, but I still felt a good level of energy during my rides and the times I felt tired were mostly in the mornings.
Since this was my rest or recovery week, my training volumes were alot less than normal and this worked out perfectly for this Reset program. I completed only 5hrs of training including a one hour criterium race on Thursday night. So, for any athlete who is interested in losing some extra pounds, I would recommend doing this program in a recovery week so that you receive the full benefits without over-exerting yourself on less calorie in-take. My final result was a 9 pound weight loss, weighing in at 178 pounds this morning which is my lightest since I was in my early 20s. I want to continue with the USANA transform phase, which is replacing two meals a day with the shake and eating a nice healthy low-glycemic meal in the evening. My target weight is to get 78-79kgs (172pounds) and when you consider that I now weigh 178, it does not seem a too un-reasonable target. Just got to limit the icecream and bread! :)
The race I did was on the 4th day of my Reset program and I felt excellent during the race, that I was regularly off the front, bridging up to breakaways and establishing breakaways. At the end of the race, I still had the burst of speed required (38mph) to have a shot at the win, but had to settle for 5th position in a race that averaged over 27mph. So you could say, that this week I was definitely "powered by USANA" as this is all I have been consuming for my main meals!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Balterra and Manda racing

Andrew Willis put on 3 races in 4 days in the Austin area which was great for all of us to get in some good speed-intensity work in!

On Thursday night, a decent Pro 1,2 field turned out to race at Driveway. Some notable absentees included Stefan Rothe, Chris Wherry and Heath Blackgrove, who were all racing at Redlands in California. Fireworks were on right from the start with a flurry of attacks going. I jumped with Austin strong-sprinter Phil Wikoff to establish the first breakaway of the race, we were joined by others but the field were not giving us a long leash! I counter-attacked once the field was back together and sprinted away with Bryan Fawley on my wheel. Several others also came, including Austinbikes Sol Frost and we formed a breakaway that stayed away for a couple of laps but then it fell apart when the bell went for the prime. I was wanting the break to work together so I did some hard smooth pulls in the lead up to the prime but no one was working. With 250metres to go, Bryan Fawley attacked and took the prime easily. I waited for the pack to catch up again and did a few more attacks but nothing stuck for me. When Dave Wenger (Super Squadra) and Pat McCarty (OUCH-Maxxis) counter-attacked, I did not have the legs to go with them as I was still recovering from my earlier efforts. So, all I could do was watch 7 riders form a nice breakaway, including Pat McCarty, Dave Wenger, John Korioth (Team Six) , Jordan Smothermon (Austinbikes) , Ian Dille (Super Squadra), Colt Trant (RBM) and Colton Jarisch (Velossimo). It was a bunch sprint for 8th place and going into the final lap, I did most of the work on the front and led-out Phil Wikoff (Super Squadra). I managed to recover quickly and take 3rd in the bunch sprint behind Wikoff and Will Ross (THJS) for 10th overall.

Belterra circuit race

This was a very challenging race with the two steep hills featured and a powerful head wind to contend with on the hill-climbs. About 65 riders started the race with less than 30 actually finishing. I was doing fine in the race till the 45th minute when someone in front of me popped and let wheels go. I was already in the hurt-box, so closing the gap was almost impossible and I found myself riding with Evan Lambert from Austinbikes. We worked together for several laps before he dropped back. I was determined to finish the race without being lapped by Wenger, McCarty and Trant. I kept riding at a good tempo and still feeling reasonably strong on the hills and finished the race just 10 seconds ahead of the winner! My position was 27th, not so good but its all good for training for the bigger races to come later this year.

Manda road race

It was a brilliant day, another cloudless blue sunny Austin day. Perfect for racing out in the Manda country-side. The field was a bit smaller, but still very competitive. About 40-50 riders for the Pro123 event started the 77 miler. We had 6 laps of a mostly flat to undulating circuit with a couple of shortish hills. Right from the gun, three riders including John Trujillo (GCCA) went up the road and established a good 90 second lead on the field. No-body seemed concerned about them for the time being. Going into the second lap, before the cross-wind sections, John Korioth attacked and I powered away with him to establish what was the race winning breakaway. Dan Opdyke (THJS) and Travis Burandt along with a couple of others bridged up in quick succession. It was a powerful break and we were pulling away from the main bunch quite rapidly. I was red-lining and was struggling to jump back on the echelon as the last rider came through. After a couple of minutes I turned around and saw Jordan Smothermon bridging up so I let him come around me but I did not have the legs to jump back on so I drifted back to the bunch. Dave Wenger and Pat McCarty were working hard on the front to try and bring the break back, so I jumped up to the front to help them for a bit. We had the break within 30 seconds, but Wenger and McCarty decided to stop working and let the others who had not been working on the front to take over. But no one did, and the break gap ballooned out to 2mins 45seconds by the end of the race. The bunch kept getting smaller and smaller so that in the final lap there was only 12 riders left. With half a lap to go, McCarty attacked and two riders went with him. Soon after that, Robert Biard, Chris Trickey and several others tried to bridge the gap. I did not try and follow as I thought Dave Wenger would try and bring them back. I was doing some good pulls on the front of the small group I was in but most of the others were not keen on working. In the last 4-5miles I was feeling good and pulling hard and was bringing the group of five back within striking distance. With about a mile to go, after I had did a pull on the front, Wenger opened a gap on me and Raurri Day-Stirrat (THJS) was blown and would not close the gap for me. I was left without a choice but to try and chase them back down. This was not successful and I finished 14th. I pleased with my finishing efforts though despite not having any fluids for the last two laps of the race.