Monday, March 26, 2012

Ohio

Last weekend we had a big group (10 racers) head down to that school in Ohio for another weekend of collegiate cycling.  Some highlights include the Men C's (Brad, Eric, Kevin, Zack) winning the team time trial again, Tim N. riding his first race in a "Team Gumby" jersey and aviators, Clay finishing top ten in the 40 mile C road race, me narrowly avoiding this:

video
 and John and Tim B. not getting last in the B's road race despite the Hincapie curse of a broken chain and not training respectively. If you look closely at the video after the crash you can see Novak of Lindsey Wilson completely overshoot the last corner and just ride off the course. What follows is Jared's account of the weekends events.


--Adam





Jared's D Road Race: 


I gained spots on the first climb to take myself to the front four of the group. I still need to put out more spontaneous power at the top of the hill, preparing myself for the descent, but I made my self to the top, switching off with three Cincinnati large riders and a Marian guy. After thinking the hills were done, at about halfway I decided to pull the front because I'm not confident at winding downhills when I'm drafting those in front of me, especially with random patches of dirt trails along the otherwise asphalt road. 



The focus of champions.
I was really enjoying the scenery and those behind me seemed fine with letting me ramp up the pace and get some of the sloppiness out of the way behind us. Lo and behold though, just as I'm getting ready to drop back, we hit a pretty intense climb that I was not expecting or prepared for. I need more weekly mileage and my pull had to be the worst spot to do it in the race. Dozens of riders shot past me up the hill. Struggling to find my lost rhythm by the top, a decent descent didn't arrive in reward, rather, more rolling high-elevation occurred, not letting me get out of the pain cave for a good three miles. After the front group shot past me, the aftermath was every man suffering for himself. I eventually got in a rhythm with some bigger ratios, allowing me to smoothly propel myself with some momentum to carry me through more rolling. 


Last weekend Eric wasn't the only one sporting those fluorescent shoes.
I caught up behind a guy with five miles to go, just as the pavement decided to be awesome for once. We worked together really well, breathing at the backs of each others necks for about a minute at a time. I focused on road signs to pull me towards them before I switched off. With a mile and a half left, six guys caught up to us and we reclined back into the blob of smooth, smooth speediness. The sound of air swooshing past us was hypnotizing and I got in a really good zone of concentration, swirling around in circles without missing a beat, all while keeping perfect momentum like the Matterhorn ride at Cedar Point with the swirling cars on the rolling hyper-fast merry-go-round. 


Clay prefers shoes with holes.
Just as we could peak to the lake, knowing salvation from suffering was near, the intensity really smacked down on the collective whole. I was able to sprint to the backs of the attacks, and I didn't look behind me for fear of my life in front of me. I figured the explosions were over and we'd just keep draining ourselves to the last few hundred meters, just staring at the back of the front rider, trying to focus on my composure amidst the pain. A blue t-shirt guy shot out from behind me, taking the lead with a huge oomph, I was just able to sprint to catch his back by a few feet. I was able to finish second of eight in that group; I wasn't able to overtake the blue guy in the final stretch.



The most stylish D rider ever ... and Jared too.













Jared's D Crit:



Mixing drinks for the crit.
 I thought a parking lot crit was only a figure of speech until I saw this one in person. Nothing whatsoever to see, but that seemed to make it more intense, as everyone consented to the mutual delivery and celebration of utter pain. The turns were very interesting and I was just starting to get good at cornering in the drops. I was leading at a slower part for a bit, and closed about five gaps. I was a little too far ahead with a few laps to go, in third or second. 


Turn 4 was the hardest.  I know I went outside the cones on this one a couple times.
The line was only one wide, really stretched out, and we hit a crosswind. A line of riders shot up along the side and there was nothing I could do, since the guy ahead of me was too slow and those beside me I could only get behind once they finished going forwards, which is what I had to do. From there, I kept in the top ten for the final two whirls, but for no points, and no ability to truely overtake anything.  A bit of bad luck tied with needing to improve my riskiness/explosiveness in the last laps. 


Sprinting.


Adam's A Crit: Jared's Perspective:


Zack on the line for the crit.  Needless to say, he beat the big LWC dude in the skating helmet.
It always seemed one or two people would take their turns being stupid, trying to get a breakaway that just fell flat each time. One might think it was for the preems, but those situations were much closer in competition. Some laps were a bit slow, which may have explained the breakaways for restless legs. There were zeros cars or buildings blocking anything, with fog clouds overhead, so the wind was always swirling a bit, making things strange. The last three laps were played pretty smartly by everyone, and Adam got from the back of the stretched-out pack to the front third of it. There was another breakaway, leaving the stragglers in disarray, but they regained their composure as another slow lap developed out of thin air, forcing a guy over the side curb as they all mooshed together. From the rest period, the last lap and a half was high quality entertainment and it seemed anyone had a chance. 



Pulling through.
Paradoxically, the equal oppurtunity for everyone blocked out almost everyone from winning, because the pack densed up and then had to stretch again for such a sharp final turn considering the high speed. A Lindenwood and a Notre Dame(?) racer collided against the final side curb after they both tried to get a wide cut on that super-fast corner. They disappeared into the grass in an instant, just missing a steel street lamp. Adam finished around tenth, everyone sprinting just fast enough to separate from each other, with nothing left to do but pretty much keep ones spot built from coming in after the turn.


Fuck yeah.
--Jared

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Lindenwood

I'm too tired to write anything about the crit, but here are some more photos from the weekend:

Starting lap 2 in the road race.

Eric finishes the road race 6 spots ahead of Tommy Peng.

Hani sprints for 15th out of 61 in the D road race.

Waiting for the race that never happened.  The attitude on display here is what I like to call the "A swagger."
Jared in the C crit right behind the eventual winner Jackson Parr of Iowa (with the stache).

Blurry photo of Hani just milliseconds before that Marian kid takes him out.
Jared at the front.

Brad in the C crit.

Zack rolling on the bricks.

Kevin with his multicolored handlebar tape.
Forgot to put this with the last post. Notice Zack's average hr of 188 bpm and the official Strava status of "Sufferfest."
--Adam

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lindenwood TTT


The A road race got cancelled today because of the storm that started 10 minutes in, so I ended up with a 20 mile easy ride in pouring rain instead of a nice sunny race.  Anyway, today's post is from Zach about the Team Time Trial.
-- Adam

Hani is blissfully unaware of the impending storm.

Lindenwood TTT:
Today was the first day of the second race that the cycling squad travelled to: Lindenwood. Lindenwood University and their race course reside in St. Charles which is on the western outskirts of St. Louis. The road race courses had a similar flair to that of the Lindsay Wilson course but with noticeably less hills (although similar amounts of total climbing – close to 1200’ per 21-mile lap).  The first event of the day was the Team Time Trial where Michigan unveiled their newly assembled Men’s C Team: Kevin Schumaker, Brad Stark, Eric “Bones” Jones, and Zack Benet.
3/4ths of the C Team
These brave and courageous riders attempted to practice the week prior but rider miscommunication lead to multiple problems.  This was not the case in their first race. Nervous about the next 35 minutes of anaerobic pain, they lined up at the start at 9:13 A.M. and quickly assembled into a tight pace line once given the signal to enjoy the pain. Shrugging off the 9 hour drive and the hardwood box beds that they had slept on the night before, the first 5-km of the 20-km race went by in a breeze with Brad Stark taking the first pull that set the pace at a brisk 23.5 MPH (37.8 KPH for those engineers and ultra-euros out there).  
Brad and Kevin working in the TTT.
Near the start of the 6th kilometer began the first and only hill of the race – 254 feet over .7 miles. The team stuck together during the climb making sure not to drop a single racer – something they had done in training – and passed their first C squad of the day which had started one minute before. In fact, they briefly held King of the Mountain on the Strava segment.  Taking 30-seconds to 1-minute pulls, the team continued to put bike lengths between them and the team they had just past while closing in on one of the NCCCC teams that was also at the race: Minnesota.  Minnesota, having started about 2 minutes earlier, was overtaken at around 17 minutes into the race and was left to stare at the maize block M on their jerseys and incredibly well defined calves of its rider. 
Zach and his incedibly well defined calves.
With confidence from passing two rivals, the team picked up the pace as the entered the second half – hammering a pace that would have given Fabian Cancellara a run for his money. Entering the final 5-km, they caught sight of just one more team ahead wearing the blue numbers of C-racers. Determined to add to their list of downed squads, the team switched to quicker pulls that upped the pace to around 25 MPH. They caught only a glimpse of the third team that they passed – possibly a team from Missouri, possibly a second Golden Gopher team, or maybe just a figment of their imagination due to a mix of lack of oxygen and lactic acid build up. 
Eric's distracted by the mirages.
With confidence that they were going to at least secure a respectable placing, there was one more call to pick up the pace as they began their last mile. Zack lead out the squad in the first pull – setting a pace of 31-32 MPH, with subsequent pulls being as fast. With the finish line in sight and Adam ready to snap a few pictures, Brad and Kevin picked up the pace one more time on the final straight away and crossed the line, laying down a time (33:36 over 12.9 miles) that gave a victory of about a minute to Michigan. Congratulations to Kevin, Brad, Eric, and Zack!
Congrats guys.
Here are some more photos from the road race:
Brad leads out the C race and a Minnesota asshole pushes Zach off the road.

The D field rolls out...



... with Hani.  Sorry I didn't get a picture of you Jared.






Lead pack of the C field finishes lap 1 ... and a hottie from UIC.  Notice there is no hail or lightning. The A's weren't so lucky.

-- Zack

Monday, March 5, 2012

Georgia

So we just got back from one hectic week in Helen, GA.  This maybe the only town in the world where the locals wear cowboy hats and hang out in fake Bavarian farmhouses.  But we came for the mountains and on this particular day (I think it was Thursday) we were going to climb them all. This is a standard route we do every year that goes over Hogpen, Wolfpen, Woody, Neels, Jacks, and Unicoi gaps in that order.

The weather looks alright.
We left in two groups with the one group leaving an hour later and hoping to catch the first group.  I guess I was with the "fast" group, but after a sleepless night of constant stomachaches caused either by some bad salmon or the shitload of hotdogs I ate in Hotlanta, I definitely wasn't feeling it.

Too many hotdogs.
 Hani, Kevin, Zach, and Eric J., and I hit the bottom of Hogpen pretty hard.  Hani was leading the charge as has been par for the trip so I was pretty happy about being able to catch him despite the lingering effects of food poisoning.  As it turns out the only reason Hani didn't ride away from all of us was that he was rolling on a flat rear tire which he didn't notice until the top - Johan Vansummeren style. At this point we got a call from the first group who'd gotten to the bottom of the Wolfpen gap only to learn that the road was totally closed for construction.  The worker blocking the road was quite friendly and even left us with some helpful advice: "Don't let the hillbillies get ya." Uh ... thanks for the warning?

Eric bunny-hopping; not letting the hillbillies get us.
Change of plans: we were now going to tackle the infamous Brasstown Bald.  Now I'm not going to claim that I know a lot about the hardest climbs in the country, but I have gone over several climbs used in both the Tour of California and the Pro Cycling Challenge (including Independence Pass) and although Brasstown is only 3 miles long, it's average gradient of 11% with max gradient of about 24% make it harder than any other climb I've seen.  The two groups met up and ascended Jacks to the base of Brasstown, with John and Zach pushing the pace at the front while the rest of us tried to save energy for the steepness ahead.

The whole group together and yes, Tim has a plaid jersey.
Let's fast-forward to halfway up the climb when the effects of the previous night have worn off and I'm starting to feel good - that is until I hit the wall (the 24% section).  I've ridden up this thing three times before and each time there was a moment when I thought I wasn't going to make it; "Why the hell didn't I bring a 34t cog!?"

Sprinting calf.
The fourth time is no exception and as I start to contemplate slashing my own tire I look back to see Hani just 20 meters off my wheel.  Now we all know how silly it is to compete during training rides, but on the other hand there's no such thing as a race that doesn't matter so I sucked it up and just hammered the rest of the climb.

Eric at the top.  If the Appalachians are the Pyrenees of North America then Brasstown is the Col d'Aubisque?
Marleigh said she just wanted "to see how far I can get." Yeah right...
Everyone ended up making it to the top which is pretty awesome and we also all made it down with bones intact.  On the descent back down Jacks, John, Jane, Eric J., and I decided to do a little downhill racing.  Eric claims were cruising along at about 52 mph for most of it.

Go Jane!
After Brasstown the last climb up Unicoi was a piece of cake.  I took the time to enjoy some of the scenery since our last day wasn't going to be quite so sunny.  The Appalachians really are something.

The last few icicles melting off the top of Hogpen.  These were completely gone by the end of the trip.
After a ride like that there's not much else to do but relax in the hot tub and eat all the food.

Classy jersey Zach.  And nice shorts - did we win the Brasstown Strava segment?
And maybe I should mention the aquarium and its huge whale sharks.

There's no MWCCC race next weekend, but on the 17th and 18th we've got Lindenwood so expect some good news then.

-Adam