Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lindenwood Crit

With the struggle that was the road race out of the way it was time to focus on my bread and butter, the crit. The weather took a turn for the worse as it hung around the mid 30's with TONS of wind, but the precipitation held off and left us with safe racing conditions.

Lindenwood's crit course was set in downtown St Charles, MO and featured a bunch of cobbles. Even better, there were plenty of coffee shops and restaurants along the course that we could hop into and watch the races without having to be out in the cold and wind.  Course shown below:

The course had 3 corners. The two at the bottom of the screen were nice and fast while the top one was usually much slower as everyone was tired of slogging through the headwind featuring 20+ mph gusts.

The race started pretty uneventfully with everyone just kind of hanging out. Marian quickly grew tired of this and sent two guys up the road. Sadly without teammates I had to just watch them go and hope that someone would work to pull them back. Meanwhile Marian's other riders went to the front to sit up and try to disrupt the chase.
Eventually Lindenwood countered this attack by sending 2 of their guys up the road to chase. Again I just had to watch this go. I got tired of this and put in a little attack coming down the home stretch one lap to bridge up to them. Of course, as soon as I caught them one of their guys sat up and the other attacked again. Good teamwork on their part. So now there were just 3 guys up the road.
Photo by Harvey Elliot
The solo Lindenwood rider eventually blew up and it became apparent that the Marian guys were gone. With less than 10 to go it looked like it was going to end in a field sprint for 3rd. With a few laps to go I started trying to decide who's wheel I was going to try to grab to set up the sprint. I didn't have teammates, so I'd have to try to snatch a leadout from someone else.

I heard some Minnesota guys conspiring so I figured that they'd try to get organized. Coming down the backstretch with 1 to go I gently stole the Minnesota wheel from a Nebraska guy and put myself 3rd wheel. The Minnesota leadout guy hit the backstretch and pulled hard. Things were looking promising at first as no one was coming around, but sadly he blew up before he could get us to the last turn. In hindsight I probably should have seen this coming. He sat up and of course drifted right back into me, getting me boxed in with like 50m to the last corner.

I was able to get myself free and into open air coming around the last corner, but the damage had been done since I was probably in around 12th place exiting the corner. I unleashed my trademark sprint and managed to pass a bunch of guys, but it wasn't enough to catch the Notre Dame and Minnesota guys that would end up 3-4. I crossed the line in 5th. As I was getting ready to cross the line I heard a BANG and then the sound of carbon and pavement. Unfortunately there was a crash back in the field, but luckily I was able to avoid it.
Coming into the finish. Note the mess on the right of the screen in the field.
Photo by Harvey Elliot
Crits are always fun and this was no exception. We grabbed a bite to eat before hitting the road back towards Ann Arbor. Next up is a pair of crits (one collegiate and one USAC) at Case Western in Cleveland!

Lindenwood Road Race

It had seemed like forever since we raced at Lindsey Wilson, so we were eager to get back out there and race at Lindenwood. After a long drive late into the night we finally made it to St Charles, Missouri.

The race had a reputation for being hilly, and the guys in the c/d races confirmed this as I was warming up. I still didn't know the extent of "hilly" but oh boy was I about to find out. 

The B race was slated to be 3 laps of the 21 mile course for a total of about 63 miles. The course map and elevation chart is shown below. You'll probably notice that the finish and start don't match up, but that's a bridge we'll cross a bit later.

The race started off gentle enough with everyone kinda just hanging out until the first climb. This proved to be the calm before the storm. The climb was way steep (avg 8%, but kicked up higher than that) and seemed to go on forever. The leaders opened up a bit of a gap on me, but I was able to catch them quickly after the terrain leveled out. After a bit of meandering through flat land we hit the descent. It was a fun and fast one, but unfortunately I had to ride the brakes all the way down since I was in the field.

After a smaller intermediate climb everyone started preparing for the big one at around 10 miles in. This one was another beast. Unfortunately I wasn't able to hang onto the field and got shelled out the back about half way up the climb. I kept pushing up the climb and eventually it finally ended, but I had some work to do.

I teamed up with a guy from Minnesota and we traded pulls in an effort to catch back on. At first I thought our effort was hopeless, but then a group of 2 came into view up the road. I dropped the Minnesota guy on a descent and bridged up to the Notre Dame and Lindenwood guys that we had seen earlier. Now we formed a group of 3 and kept pushing on, sharing pulls at the front. Eventually another group of 3 became visible up the road and they became our new target. 

A few minutes later we caught the group and formed a group of 6. And alas, the main field was in sight! We had about 2 miles left in the first lap so we inserted ourselves back into the field and accepted the draft. At the finish we discarded our empty bottles and grabbed new ones from our teammates before embarking on the 2nd lap.

The 2nd lap started much like the first with everyone loafing it towards the first climb. About a mile before the first climb I clipped a big rock sitting in the middle of the road. After hitting it I thought, "oh great, that'll probably be a pinch flat." But the climb was coming so I set my mind towards getting over that. I put myself towards the front of the field so I could fall back as we climbed, but it wasn't enough as I quickly got spat out the back with the other big guys. I grouped up with a few Minnesota guys as we suffered towards the top. We finally made it and I sat down. Uh, oh. I felt the rim hit the road. Sure enough, the pinch flat happened. I didn't bring anything to fix a flat so I just sat there till the broom wagon took me back to the start.

All in all I wasn't really too upset. I was probably going to DNF after the 2nd lap anyway since I was out the back and wanted to save some of my legs for the crit. Apparently a bunch of guys thought the same as 14 guys DNF'd out of a total of 34. Over 40% of the field didn't finish the race. Dang.

Oh well, the crit was always going to be the focus of my weekend. We headed back to the hotel before heading out to St Louis to get some frozen custard and check out the arch.
Michigan Cycling - Album Cover Edition.
Photo by Harvey Elliot

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lindsey Wilson Crit

The road race on Saturday was fun and it was great to race again, but I'd known all winter that the crit was going to be my target for the weekend. This lead to some weird emotions as we were lining up. Saturday I had no expectations or pressure since I knew the climbs would get to me eventually, but Sunday I knew I wanted to win and believed this was a reasonable expectation.

Lindsey Wilson's crit course made for some pretty fast racing. It was really only 3 corners, with none of them being incredibly sharp. The only real things of note were a steep little kicker hill going through the 3rd corner and heading back towards the finish and some cross winds. Course map below:

No, I didn't ride through the grass, just some gps drift.
As a whole the crit was pretty uneventful for the first 40 or so minutes. The guy that won in a solo break Saturday went off the front again. A group of 3 tried to get away as well, but the field organized and brought them back. With 5 or so laps to go it became pretty apparent that the guy in the break was going to win and make it a double win weekend, both in solo breaks. Me thinks its time for someone to upgrade.....

Coming up the little hill in the 3rd corner.
Anyway, with about 2 laps to go we got ourselves organized and made a nice little Michigan train. Danny was up front, then Stephen, then me. Stephen was going to be my leadout guy, meaning that he was going to turn himself inside out in order for me to be positioned well for the final sprint. This little plan went better than we could have ever expected, and then some.

With 1 to go our train was locked and loaded. However, the pack unexpectedly sat up on the back stretch when it hit the crosswind. Everyone was trying to play cat and mouse for the sprint and no one wanted to work on the front. A gap opened on the left and I yelled, "Just go around it all!" to Stephen. We were way further from the line than we ideally wanted to be, but the move presented itself and we couldn't turn it down. Stephen blasted around everyone with me right on his wheel and we were sitting in 2nd and 3rd with about half a lap to go. Being on the front allowed us to chose our own lines and hit that 3rd corner hill at full gas, losing no momentum and not having to touch the brakes. 

The final sprint! The gap was more decisive than it looks from this angle.
After cresting the hill we accelerated again for the final drag race to the finish. I looked under my arm to see who I'd be sprinting against and found a nice surprise. No one was there. Stephen's leadout had opened up a pretty sizeable gap on the field. I yelled to him to keep going to the finish and then kicked around him to start my sprint. I knew I pretty much had 2nd in the bag barring a Cavendish like sprint from someone in the field, but I couldn't let up.

Eventually the finish line came. I crossed 2nd, Stephen managed to stay on for 3rd, and Danny was able to see our move and latch on to snag 4th. Teamwork at its finest. Results from top 20 below:
Such teamwork. Wow.
The women's B team had a great crit too as Cat and Kayla grabbed 2nd and 3rd respectively. So we managed to grab 4/6 collegiate B podiums spots. Not bad. 

Overall it was definitely a successful weekend for the team. I can't remember grabbing so many podiums and top 5's in a race weekend like that last year, especially in the upper categories. Sadly it was time to say goodbye to the warm weather, load up the vans, and head back to Michigan.

Go team!

Lindsey Wilson Road Race


Its finally here! We got our collegiate season underway Feb 22 with the first road race of the year down at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY. After everyone got out of class we hopped in the vans and made the trek down to our cabins near the course. After getting settled, opening up our new kits (and coming up with as many puns as possible), we hit the hay to get ready for the racing in the morning. The TTT was ridiculously expensive, so we skipped that and set our sites towards the road race.

I was somehow convinced to upgrade to the collegiate B category for this season, so I'd be doing 50 miles on a fairly hilly course. GPS/elevation data below:

The course. Click to enlarge to readable size. 
The race started off pretty mildly with no one really wanting to take up the work at the front of the field, which was partly due to the fact that the first climb was coming up at mile 4-ish. On the way to the first climb we had a twisty, gravel strewn downhill that saw an Indiana guy blow the corner and ride through a field. To his credit it was a nice save and he made it back to the field.

Start of the RR - Photo cred to the folks at Murray State
The first few climbs were pretty uneventful, but a few guys snuck away form the field. We let them go because we figured they were "stupid solo break away guy" and kept it at a smooth pace. After all, the final climb of each lap was going to be a bear.

As we grew closer to the big climb you could feel the tension in the field. Luckily Danny eased this tension by "breaking wind" and subsequently getting called out on it by another team. Before too long we hit the bottom of the big climb and things got real.

I was never really expecting to make it over the climb with the field, and this was somewhat true as a small group of 10 or so put a good sized gap into us on the climb. About a mile and 300 feet of climbing later the suffering wasn't over as we had some work to do in order to catch back up. Stephen and I worked together to bridge up to the main field, and eventually we made it! We were a mix of surprised and incredibly happy that we'd made it and not gotten dropped. But our work was not done.

Those "stupid solo breakaway guys" were still up the road and no one seemed interested in pulling them back. Danny is our climber extraordinaire, so we wanted to catch these guys to give Danny a chance to win it on the final climb. Accordingly, Stephen and I went to the front and pulled the field along as fast as we could. We were hoping one of the other teams without a guy up the road would help us (I'm looking at you IU), but alas no one wanted to. We got a bit of help from a Lindenwood guy, but not nearly enough.

About 40 miles in we hit the 3rd climb of the 2nd lap and my legs said no more. I sat up, let the field go, and accepted that my race was essentially done. All that was left to do was putt towards the finish with Stephen and hope that we had done enough to allow Danny to catch the guys in the break.

Unfortunately he wasn't able to as no one wanted to work after we got off the front. He did win the race from the main group though and ended up taking home 3rd on the day. A great result, and just a bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Introducing: Acinonyx

My previous steed treated me the best she could, but it was time that Gravitas Libertas and I went our separate ways. I had been lusting for carbon for a while and finally let myself use the old bike's badly bent rear triangle to justify the purchase.

After a somewhat sketchy feeling transaction with the folks over at Dengfu and some not so patient waiting my new frame finally arrived.

Here she is on her first day out of the box:
She's a FM098 in size 58cm and a matte 3k finish. Went with the BSA bottom bracket. I didn't really know what to expect ordering direct from China, but I'm more than pleased with the way it looks (and rides). I named her Acinonyx, which is the genus name of the cheetah. I think sprinters are pretty comparable to cheetahs as we can go way fast for a short burst, but expect a long effort out of us and we're toast.

She arrived in the middle of trainer season, so I was in no hurry to get it built up. Plus, I was waiting on new cables, bartape, and the like. Additionally, I had ordered some custom decals from Marco in Brazil that I was still waiting on.

Eventually the time came and I sat down to build it up. Everything went fairly smoothly, although the internal cable routing was a pain. I had hoped to get some solid outdoor miles on it before our first race at Lindsey Wilson, but the weather had other plans. I ended up only being able to put 13 miles on it before we headed down to Kentucky.

So needless to say I was a little nervous when I lined up for our 50 mile road race. The frame didn't explode into a billion carbon shards and passed the crit with flying colors as well. I don't want to give too much away though since those race recaps will be coming soon!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Present from the Postman

The mailman brought a present today!

My CX State Champ jersey finally came! The event took place back on Dec 8th at Addison Oaks. Since then I've been patiently waiting for the jersey to get printed and shipped to me, but it came today. 

I don't really know the proper context to wear a jersey like this, but its definitely cool to have and will be a nice keepsake of my first year racing cx. Congrats as well to Danny and Phil, the two other UM students who took home a State of Michigan CX Championship. Once everyone gets their jerseys in the mail we'll have to get a nice little team pic.