Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wenger wins Driveway from late break

David Wenger from the Super Squadra racing team won from a late break that established a slender gap with three to go after Daniel Carruthers (Hansaton Hearing Systems) took the final cash prime on offer. The five escapees, including Chris Trickey (Austin Nationals), who pulled out a bag of tricks to win the most aggressive rider jersey award on the night, Loren Dodson (Park Place), Colton Jarisch (Volossimo Racing), Kevin Schaefer (Team Six) and Wenger ( Super Squadra). It was Dodson who made the final attack to bid for the top spot on the podium, but he blew up just before the hill and was swiftly picked up and disposed of by Wenger who came flying by and up the hill to take a convincing win over Colton Jarisch. Schaefer filled the final podium spot with Trickey coming in 4th and Dodson rounding out the top five. This win by Wenger gave him the top spot overall for the month.

The charging field was led home by John Trujillo (GCCA) who was delivered to the hill in good fashion by team-mate Joseph Lafico. He was closely followed by fast finishing Phil Wikoff (Super Squadra) and Tyler Jewell (Texas Tough) who is coming back from his horrific encounter with a drunk driver earlier this year.


My own perspective:

After starting at the very back of the field for several laps, I noticed a threatening break of about 8 or so strong riders had formed and were starting to ride away. I decided to put in an attack to try and bridge across when going out on the back side of the course, but everyone had quickly responded to my move and when I looked back it was all single file behind me. I kept digging it in for a few more seconds so that the damage from the break would be limited. I got within 30 metres of the tail-end of the break and then swung off to allow others to finish of my work. This caused a momentary lull in the pace, however guys who had momentum from behind started jumping across to the break and then it was all back together again.

I come into most criteriums with the objective of riding positively and this means going for the primes that are on offer, getting into breaks and also try to recover in time to finish well at the end. Since I don't have any team-mates that can help with lead-outs and/or blocking the field, its all on me to exploit situations as they arise. Which means I can be riding reactively or instinctively. Whenever I realise it is a prime lap (sometimes I don't know as I missed "seeing" the bell ring, I can't hear the bell!) I endeavor to move up as efficiently as I can but sometimes I just power up to the front on the outside into the wind. Sometimes I get lucky and get a free ride to the front by others who are moving up to get into position. Most of the time, I have managed to be in contention for primes I choose to go after. It is usually the same guys that have the upper hand over me in the decisive point by the hill. Sometimes, if I can't make it close enough to the front, I will just follow the moves during the prime lap and then try and follow the counter-moves that are made straight after the prime lap. In this particular race, on one of the prime laps I was moving up to get good position and David Wenger had left a gap of more than a bike length open when going through the S-bends before the hill. I decided that I wanted to slot into that gap but Wenger for some reason was not happy about me doing this, so he got a bit argy bargy with me and could have caused a crash with his pushing on me. I was not going to concede my position so made myself a little bigger on the bike and this caused him to sprint on ahead in a huff. Sometimes, if you let gaps open up, they are free for anyone to slot into if they can do so safely. In my view, I thought I was doing this quite safely and smoothly but the other had other ideas.

With about five to go, I was the very last rider but was feeling reasonably ok, and decided to move up to the front. In the space of one lap, I crested the top of the hill on third wheel. Going through finishing straight the front two guys power away and I decide to follow them, the bell was rung by Bob Daniels for the last cash prime with 3 laps remaining in the race. I looked behind and saw that the three of us had a slight gap and I stuck with them. But after going down the downhill section going out to the back-side, I noticed that the pack looked like they were going to catch us. For this reason, I backed off and soft-pedalled for a few moments as I seriously thought the pack was in full flight. But I checked again and the bunch was starting to fan out and there was no single file speeding to catch me. I immediately sprinted back to those two, caught them again just before the top bend, led them coming out of it and charged down the straight. I could not drop them, so I slowed and eventually got both of them to pull through. As I was slotting on the back of them, I turned to check on the progress behind me. I saw that the several guys were charging hard, including Jen McRae (Team Type 1) and Loren Dodson (Park Place) so I had barely two seconds on the back of the two guys I was with, that I launched my final attack to try and nab the prime. Passed the two guys easily and crested the top of the hill with a slim advantage over charging McRae.

In the end, it was a prime with a comfortable margin but it took the sting out of my legs that I was unable to respond to the attacks that formed the winning break. With two to go I was still recovering and close to the back of the field again, but on the final lap I was able to slowly move up inch by inch. I was watching for the opportunity to make that move that would take me back to the front of the pack to vye for the sprint for 6th place. That opportunity presented itself halfway down the back straight when the field fanned out slightly and I saw a guy make an attack down the right side. I latched onto his wheel and was taken straight to the lead-out train. But the speed was not very high and thus I was momentarily stalled. The two Super Squadra big hitters were on my left forming their train. The rider who had got me to the position I was now in, made another attack and I chose not to take his wheel this time for some reason. However, Wheeler (Super Squadra) happily jumped onto it with Wikoff in tow followed by Tyler Jewell. I slotted behind these guys to follow them up the hill. It was all meyhem at the top with riders taking different lines to avoid the blown riders and continue their sprint. I stayed on Tyler's wheel the whole time and finished 4th in the sprint to take 9th overall.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Criterium racing tactics

Steve Tilford, who is a bike racing legend in both road and mountain biking, has a number of very interesting points to raise about criterium racing here in the US. His article posting is quite detailed but I think it does hit home several key points about what various pro teams and riders who want to be "pro" are doing in the races to disrupt race proceedings. Check out his blog entry here: Tactics vs. Common Sense vs. Bike Handling & Pushing

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heat at Driveway criterium

Last nights Kenny Hill Autowerks Thursday night weekly race was held in the hottest conditions yet this year, there will be plenty more of these 100 plus degree heat days to come! The turn-out was not as big as usual for the pro 123 race, but most of the key competitors were present in what was a race of attrition due to the combined forces of heat, blustery wind, and the punchy city course with its 9 corners. About 40 guys rolled out in the sweltering Austin weather down by the Colorado River and the pace was on right from the gun.

I started at the very back of the field, moving up gradually and when gaps started to open up I would jump to close them. Eventually the constant attacks wore down the riders and allowed Stefan Rothe (Rothe Training) and Patrick McCarty (OUCH) to escape the clutches of the pack to leap out to a commanding lead. The nature of the course combined with the dynamic duo gave them a significant advantage and it was inevitable that they would lap the field.

I got myself into the lead chase group and at just over half-way point of the race, I was in the lead for the Most Aggressive Rider award :) Had a go for a prime, and was second wheel behind Heath Blackgrove.. he peeled off to let me go through but I slowed up as I was wanting to save myself for the sprint and did not want to lead out other riders behind me. I slotted again behind Heath at the hair-pin corner, but he kept a tight line which prevented me from over-taking him on the inside and he held me out to get the prime. I continued in the lead group for a while that consisted of Robert Biard (THSJ), David Wenger (Super Squadra), Steven Wheeler (Super Squadra) Colton Jarisch (Volissimo Racing)and Heath Blackgrove (THSJ). However some crafty tactics by the two Super Squadra riders present in the lead chase group took me out of the group and I was pedaling on my own for a while. I had missed out vying for an $80 cash prime on offer soon after I was dropped! I was caught by a group led by Jen McRae (Team Type 1) and Robert Biard (THSJ). Robert also fell victim to the Super Squadra tactics earlier in the race.

I was in a group of about half dozen riders and we eventually caught Wheeler near the end who just sat on the back mostly and in the closing stages, I was behind Wheeler and he let a gap open up to which I had to close down on my own. I chased back on pretty hard, but still had 2 laps to recover and try and sprint at the end. I'm riding at the back and Robert Biard is in third wheel and after turn two, he starts his lead-out for me, but peels off way to early (about 100 metres before the hairpin turn). I was in front too early and Jen McRae, one of the best female sprinters in the US was locked onto my wheel. I carved into the hair-pin as smooth as I could and started pedaling hard out of the corner to maintain my lead, but I made a rookie mistake of not keeping my lines tight. Jen McRae took advantage of this quickly and passed me on the inside of the final bend. I should have shot out wide as I came out of the second to last turn and hugged the right perimeter of the race course. I tried to close it off, to force Jen to come around me on my right which would make it a far more difficult sprint for her but she was quick and if I continued to close the gap, I would have bumped shoulders with her. I had no more legs left to jump around Jen once she opened her sprint through the final bend to the finish line. I held on to finish ahead of Kevin Schaefer (Team Six)and Robert Biard (THSJ).

Stefan Rothe (Rothe Training) and Patrick McCarty (OUCH) dominated the race, lapping the field and Rothe had the better sprint over McCarty. Blackgrove rode away from the chase group that I was in earlier to take third spot and the New York Life Brad Houston Law Most Aggressive Rider Jersey. Wenger (Super Squadra)finished in front of what was left of the group.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Adventures in Monterrey part 2

I also discovered a wonderful ‘sanctuary’ in the middle of the city, Arena Monterrey, this was a massive park that contained the old Monterrey power station that has been converted into a tourist attraction; there was a 2-3 mile loop that was twisty curvy with people riding bikes and roller-blading on it; lovers strolling among the numerous trees listening to the music that was being played in the park. It was a very peaceful oasis in the middle of Monterrey’s noisy polluted streets. While riding the bike or walking in the Arena, the mountains that surround the city are prominently featured in the backdrop. I was thinking to myself that this Arena would make for an awesome circuit road race either as part of Tour of Mexico or as a stand-alone race.

On my last day, I managed to join a group ride with the local Mexicans. I first had to ride out to meet them in Enzstanzuela, which was 25km away through a maze of streets. I already knew the general way and it took just over an hour of riding. I was well within time and thought that I would be waiting for them, but a group had already left a couple of minutes prior. I took off in hot pursuit and caught one woman pro rider who had stopped to changed wheels. She drafted off me while I rode hard to catch the group that was up the road. Fortunately it was pretty easy to catch them since they were not going fast. Highway 85 after Enstanzuela was very smooth, the smoothest road in Monterrey! The ride was 45km each way, totaling 90kms. Going out was pretty easy, all downhill/rolling terrain but coming back was a gradual climb the whole way (false flats) and I had chosen to go with the fast group of ten guys after the 40km mark and some of the guys dropped the hammer and we were away. There was one old guy that looked really smooth and looked like one of the old school riders since he had no helmet on and his body positioning on the bike was that his back was almost completely flat. He kept attacking on the short rises and one of the times I jumped onto his wheel, as soon as he saw that I was on his wheel he sat up and I then went into time-trial mode going steady near max effort for the next 20minutes. All he could do was suck my wheel and not pull through. We dropped everyone else and whenever I slowed down enough i.e about 30km/h he would pull through and I would cruise behind him for a little while before I took another pull to increase the pace. One of the big Mexican dudes caught and passed us by drafting a big truck! He lost the truck eventually and about 10 minutes later we caught up with him and several other stragglers from the medium group. We blasted by and he jumped onto us and it was a three man drag back to the car-parking lot. The big Mexican dude wanted to race the last 5-6 miles (he told me so) and kept attacking and I kept jumping with him and the old man too. Eventually the attacks wore down the older man and he was dropped about 3 miles out. The big Mexican guy kept trying to shake me and then about 1mile out I threw in a big attack and he could not respond and I rolled up to the car-park about 500 metres in front! Good training ride with some race pace efforts in it! I hung out with a few of the Mexican riders, some of them could speak English and I drunk a couple of ice cold cokes. When the weather is hot and you have exerted yourself, sometimes the cold coke never tastes so good!! I had to ride another 25km back home, totaling 130km for the day.

My trip back to Texas via the Laredo US border went pretty smoothly and I was given another six month visa, but I won’t be needing the full time period as I will be leaving for Taiwan on September 1st to compete in the Deaf Olynpics!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Adventures in Monterrey

I was in Monterrey, Mexico for a week last week for several reasons, firstly to accompany a friend of mine who was getting surgery done and did not want to travel down alone; secondly to get my visa renewed when return to the US and thirdly to see and experience a new place by bicycle.

I took my road bike down on the bus in a bike bag without any issues and upon arrival we needed to change US $ into Mexican pesos, but there was no money exchange place to be seen, so I told my friend to wait inside with all the bags and I swiftly put the bike back together and went out riding on the chaotic Monterrey streets in search of a money exchange place. Found one pretty quickly and we then got into a cab to get to our final destination where we were staying with a 83 year old lady as our host. She was quite a character and still drives her own car and toots the horn at crazy drivers or when she is changing lanes.

My first training ride in Monterrey was on the 2nd day and it lasted only for 30 minutes since I sliced my tire right down to the tube. While leaning on my bike, eating a USANA peanut butter choc crunch bar and trying to figure out a solution, I decided to use the USANA wrapper in between the new tube and tire. This was brilliant, however I still needed to pump up the tire and the gas cartridge I had did not latch properly onto the valve so I lost a bunch of air and had none left to fully pump up the tire hard. Got back home and got the mini-pump and pumped up the tire. It stayed hard and I continued riding on this tire for the rest of my Monterrey trip without any further mishaps!

Riding in the city of Monterrey is not for the faint hearted. There is traffic all over the place, it is like playing dodgem cars for a fair portion of the time and the main sources of danger comes from the buses and the cab drivers. You need to take control and use gestures, eye-contact and confident riding to get around. Sometimes its safer to sprint, merge behind traffic and go with the flow rather than hugging the far right in the hope that nothing will push you off the road. I was continually checking in all directions and had a few close calls. Most of the drivers were friendly and polite when you waved at them. They would respond positively and a number of them slowed down to give way to me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Deaflympics in Taiwan

The Deaflympics will the be largest multi-sport event ever held in Taiwan and Taipei City is determined to make everything function as smoothly as possible. More than 4,000 athletes have registered, as have around 1,300 coaches, officials, medical personnel, and translators. This represents a 50 percent-plus increase over the 2,400 participants in the previous Deaflympics, which were held in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005.

"The Deaflympics are not exclusively for deaf people; to participate, athletes must have "a hearing loss of at least 55db in their better ear." In fact, hearing-impaired people sometimes live, not in a world of total silence, but with a disorientating and frightening cacophony of partially audible sounds set against a partially deafening thunder"

"The Games organizers have been using the upcoming Deaflympics to promote the learning of sign language and better understanding of hearing loss and other disabilities through a deaf-awareness program in Taiwan"

After great efforts at harmonization and compromise, there is currently emerging some kind of consensus around International Sign, an attempt to create an "Esperanto for the hearing impaired." So far it is too limited to be called a language — it is more of a pidgin sign language — but it is used for adjudication and inter-nation communication at the Deaflympics. As for the starter's pistol and referee's whistle of other sports, these are replaced by flashing lights and the use of flags, respectively.

For full article, click here: