Monday, June 27, 2011

Race Report: Road Race National Championship 2011


I never gave my report about Stillwater and the rest of NVGP because I have been going nonstop since leaving for Minnesota, returning back to work, heading to Georgia for Nationals, and getting back this morning at 4:00AM.  I left for work this morning at 6:30AM.  I'm writing more to stay awake than anything today, but I want to replay the race while it's still fresh in my mind.  I apologizing for not completing the final part of the NVGP series: Dreams... but let's just say that dreams came true and new ones are developing.

 Stillwater Criterium - Initiating the break of the day.
 Most Aggressive Musta...err Rider
 Honored to be up there with those guys.

Road Race National Championship

Located on the Fort Gordon Army base, I started the race at the very back to keep myself from being anxious in the beginning and burning up at the high noon, 100 degree start with 219 Elite National racers from all over the country.  Chuck attacked from the gun, because he is about as inpatient as myself, but he does an awesome job getting exposure for the US Military team and for our team.

Laps 1-3
I kept it cool and surfed the back for the first say, 40 miles.  My numbers won't be accurate, because I stopped using a computer in May and started listening to my body more and trying to focus on the race as it is happening.  Despite my numbers discrepancy, I can guarantee this to be a lot more accurate than the online cycling journal reports available.  I sometimes wonder if they are even at the races.  

Lap 4
A threatening 7-man move was up the road on the start of the 4th lap.  I had tried to bridge up solo on the start of the 3rd lap unsuccessfully as teammates from those represented in the break were trying to shut down any attempt to get across to the move.  This worried me, so I discussed with one of my teammates the need to bridge across.  I told him I would do everything it took to get there and keep it away, or just work to bring the field back together later if I can't, since he had a better chance in the field sprint than me.  I saw my chance on the first substantial climb of the lap and bridged the 40 second gap in a matter of minutes and immediately began taking extended pulls, getting our gap up to 1:15 by the start of the 5th lap.  

Lap 5
On the 5th lap it was me, Rick Norton, and a Monster Media rider trying to up the pace.  I had started this off with aggressive pulls up the climb with moaning and groaning behind me about keeping it smooth.  In any other race... I would have probably chilled out... but this was the National Championships!  We had 8 guys and this was probably all of our best chance, and guys were still trying to conserve energy... And for what?  Every guy in the break had teammates.  Bury yourself, if not for you... then for your teammates, make the field suffer chasing.  Luckily Rick and the Monter Media guy understood the since of urgency and we rolled most of the lap quicker with less participation than the previous lap.  Two riders bridged up near the end of the 5th lap.  I forgot to mention that these were just over 14 mile laps and their were 7 laps of racing.  We came to the feed zone near the end of the 5th lap and we had split our group down to 5 riders through the start/finish with the field charging at 35 seconds back.

Lap 6 
The writing was on the walls but the Monster Media rider, myself, and Rick would not give up.  I was loving it.  We had a couple stragglers that eventually led to everyone but myself willing to work.  I made my last cry for our glory expecting that to be the end of our day and a job well done, and drilled it on the front for a few miles while the remainder of the guys were soaked up by the field.  I didn't stop going until the field caught me.

I took a deep breathe and on the next hill I ramped it up again with a Cal Berry and Metlife rider.  After about a minute I looked back and we were gone

Here we go again! Probably about 24 miles left to go at this point.  We rotated at a quick rate, both of the riders doing a fare share more work, myself never missing a pull... but beginning to fade.  Halfway into the lap we were joined to make a group of 15 riders with a 50 second gap.  I was a bit heartbroken to find out none of my teammates had taken the free ride up and relented to the rear of this large group realizing I had to do whatever possible to stay with this move as long as possible.  We came through the feed zone near the finish at an alarming rate and the group got a little smaller.  

Lap 7
The field was on our tails and after a couple strong attempts from riders to get away, we were dangling out front with about 8 riders remaining.  For sure this was it for the breaks of the day and it was surely going to come to a field sprint now.  So I did the only thing I know how to do.  Attack.  I went solo.  Most of the remainder of the break was being swept up while I was increasing my gap and I just kept thinking to myself, "At least I gave it all", when 4 guys came charging up about a mile later.  I latched on to the group including Max Korus, Jesse Moore, Greg Krause, and Austin Roach.  

Austin was the Metlife rider from my earlier 3-up self counter attack.  He was a big strong man on the flats along with Greg while Jesse and Max pushed it up the hills.  I contributed as much as possible but I was all but finished, I knew it, and I couldn't hide it... but I wanted to keep trying to pull through... because I don't care how tired I am - I'm always going to contest the finish.  I just wanted to make sure they knew I was working while not accidentally popping myself.  

We had 50 seconds going into the last mile of the race.  It was certain we'd stay away and I was fairly certain I'd finish 5th because I was barely able to pull through and sometimes unable to on the flats... but there was a 500 meter kicker before the 500 meter drag to the line.  I covered the first attack to the right by Greg, surprisingly, while Austin had fell off the change of pace on the incline.  On the other side of the road I watched my chance at the Stars and Stripes jersey attack up the road with Max Korus being towed by Jesse Moore up the climb.  I made enough of a dig to grab separation from Greg before the road flattened out, but I would never see a chance to contest the two riders claiming Gold and Silver.  Huge congrats go out to the young Max Korus, 23.  Keck, my teammate, finished 4th in the field sprint to get himself in the top 10 at 9th.  Not bad for a team to send 4 guys and have 2 finish in the top 10!

I am happy with Bronze and am happy knowing that I raced with all my heart and strength and probably had one of my best rides ever on a bike.  I am happy to have shared the podium with some really strong guys and to have had the learning experience.  The weekend was long and hot but thanks to the support I have had as of late from my team, cycling community, friends, and family - it has been a fun ride and I hope it continues through July where I will be racing Tour De Toona in Altoona, PA and the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, OR.  Just look out for the mustache and you will find me.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Work, Life, Cycling - Scaled to fit. (NVGP - Part 3)


The Balance  

The highs and lows of cycling for an amateur cyclist like myself are a lot different than what the pros experience.  Personally I find my highs to be times when I have nothing to worry about but riding my bike:  not having to worry about if I'll have my suit dry-cleaned in time for work, or if I am going to have time to make it to the grocery store in between my Sunday race and my Monday workday, or if I'm going to be able to fit in any quality training or enough sleep throughout the week.  Obviously, lows would be defined when it's stressful to get to a race because I have too many other things to focus on outside of cycling. 

Racing my bike is a privilege and if it weren't for work and other responsibilities, I could imagine myself riding a high for as long as I can turn the pedals over.  Maybe this is a childish dream, but it's still a beautiful picture, a simple one with lots of fresh air and beautiful views; there are a lot worse dreams to pursue than this.  Alas, unless I win the lottery, I will be tip-toeing the delicate balance between work, life, and cycling.   
Things seem to change pretty rapidly and almost always unexpectedly for me, so I'll use the past few days up until now as an example of what this balance looks like. 

I am at work.  Sounds tough right?  No no, let's be clear, I'm using my break time to write this.  I just possibly had my last coffee for quite a while.  I've been struggling with acid reflux and heartburn for over two weeks, regardless of what I eat or drink.  I've got a doctor's appointment in a few hours during my lunch break to see what the Doc thinks.  I'm very tired today.  I raced two NRC criteriums over the weekend and got a lot of good speed training in.  I raced as expected, trying to attack and get in moves as much as possible, but no fruit for my labor.  I'm saving that for Nature Valley.  I didn't really want to race yesterday with all the things I had left to do at home.  I spent last night doing laundry and organizing what items were okay to move into storage because of the basement flooding, and what items I would need when I get back from Minnesota to get me through the rest of the month before moving into a new place.  I also started making a list of items I'm hoping to recover from the damage.  I'm headed to a final round interview immediately after work tonight for a group house in Columbia Heights that I'm very interested in.  I broke my retainer.  Krazy Glue seems to have saved it, but tastes funny... that's probably really bad for me.  I need to make a list today to make sure I don't forget anything tomorrow.  My flight leaves at 6:15 AM.  I'm going to have to get a cab because of the timing.  I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there.  But I'll have to spend 6 hours working remotely from the host house.  I just sent in my request for time off for the big stage races, Toona and Cascade, in July.  That'll likely mean more crammed work schedules and graveyard shifts.  I need to book my hotel for Nationals and my flight for Cascade. 

All of this ignores some of the things in life that most people value:  friendship and meeting people off the bike.  I hope I'll be able to squeeze in a date in the next couple months.  That's part of the balance severely suffering right now.  This is why people use online dating websites, right? 

At least I performed a masterful job on my beard, trimming it into a mustache for the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  The handlebar didn't turn out as originally planned, but I'll take the monopoly guy look.  My priorities are just fine.

I'm really looking forward to sharing my dreams for the NVGP during my layover in Wisconsin tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting ready for Nature Valley (NVGP - Part 2)

The fine folks at Nature Valley just sent me an awesome care package!  The swag has inspired me to carry on the this mini-series of pre-race hype as planned.  This is a beautiful relationship we have.


Getting ready for Nature Valley

I didn't race over the weekend and haven't touched my bike since last Thursday.  Part of this is by plan, part of it is by necessity.  I'm taking a much needed rest week followed by some tune-ups before I leave, but I'm also doing logistics.  

Bike racing is like war--it's mostly logistics.  For the past week, I've been arranging my life so I'll be able to duke it out with the best in the country in just over a week.


Of course, none of this is very sexy or interesting.  For example, I can think of more thrilling things to describe than, say, the act of booking my flight leaving for Minneapolis - Saint Paul leaving next Tuesday at six in the morning.  I wish I could say that the experience starts then, but I am still obligated to work a half-day remotely when I arrive.  Hot stuff, right?

Fitting this race into my schedule has been my biggest barrier in getting ready for Nature Valley.  I'm not complaining, since I'm doing what all amateur bike racers do who attempt to take the leap into professional bike racing.  It's hard--actually, impossible--to complain about the chance of a liftetime. 

I'll be staying in host housing from next Tuesday until the following Monday, where again I'll have to work (remotely) a half-day before flying back to DC.  I worked two 12.5 hour graveyard shifts this past weekend to allow myself to take off the time needed for this event.  I raced the Tour De Somerville on Memorial Day and BaseCamp International this past Thursday while still cramming in a 65 hour work week.   


My living situation has recently come under duress.  Actually, under water.  A faulty water line in the house I'm living in left my basement room in six inches of water.  For the past week I've been trying to salvage as much of my stuff as possible while figuring out a new living situation.  Couch surfing and Craigslist rental ads have been my focus, when I really wanted to focus on my bike, my fitness, and my dream. 

Also distracting my excitement for NVGP is getting the logistics squared away for Nationals the following week in Augusta, GA.  I'm signed up to take a shot at the crit and road race, but still haven't nailed down the logistics for that trip.  And even though it's early, but not really early, I'm trying to get my schedule opened up to allow me to travel to Tour De Toona and Cascade Cycling Classic.  Again, I'm fortunate, even a little wet and mildewy.  I really have very little to complain about if these are the problems I have right now.

To Do

Rest.  It's not going to come as easily as planned.  Hopefully, just taking a week off the bike should really help.  Other things pending:

-Dentist Appointment.  Hopefully, he will not have to recap all my teeth, as a dentist did for Tyler Hamilton after he gound his teeth down to nubs riding the Tour with a broken clavicle. 

-Doctor Appointment (Physical/Health Assessment):  My resting heart rate is absurdly low, you say?  Oh, maybe I forgot to tell you--I have the heart of a horse and the circulatory system of a...let's just say I race bikes, Doctor.

-Air Force Cycling Classic - Two NRC Criteriums in Arlington, VA this Saturday and Sunday.  I can't think of a better tune-up.  Scott Zwizanski credited his form at NVGP last year to these two races and I'm hoping I'll benefit as well.  It's high caliber, high intensity criterium racing.  Come out and watch!

-Work:  I did mention that I work, right?

-Pack:  Have to keep reminding myself, "no 1 gallon tub of D'Z Nuts in carry-on."

-Manscape the Handlebar Mustache:  Currently leading the poll, I have no say in this decision.

-Get to airport:  How cool would it be to ride my bike there?  

Getting ready for Nature Valley just consists of "getting my ducks in a row."  I just have quite a few ducks to get organized, and I've probably stepped on a few ducks along the way. 

Next up I'll talk a little more about balancing everything, and when it comes time to race, I promise to give you the good stuff instead of just a visit to the dentist's.

Thanks for reading!

I found this gem from last cyclocross season giving a preview of what to expect from the poll so far:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who I am. Why I race. (NGVP - Part 1)

Today marks two weeks until the start of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  My e-mailbox is starting to fill up with updates and excitement from my NVPR coach Marion Clignet and the rest of the NVPR staff.  From a joke, to a dream, to a goal... I'm almost there.


Who I am.
My name is Timothy Rugg.  Most of the local cycling community refers to me as Ruggles.  The name doesn't make, because there's nothing cute about me.  After a fierce battle at Speedweek with a metal barrier, sinus infection, and women in general... the name has evolved into Struggles.

I am a bike racer.  I currently race for the Elite National team, XO Communications/Battley Harley-Davidson.  I started racing exactly three years ago.  I remember seeing Harley at races and group rides and thinking about how awesome it would be to one day get to ride on the squad.  It was a feeling much like Dave Stoller's interest in the 'Italian Cycling Team' in Breaking Away.  Thanks to a lot of trust, guidance, patience, and no frame pumps in spokes from their riders and team management - I've rapidly developed and am now working towards my next step.  I owe a lot to getting to ride for this squad and am very thankful for the support the team has given me.

I haven't always been a bike racer.  I spent 9 years playing the trumpet before I gave up on the dream of Cruise Ship Jazz Performer or High School Band Director.  I switched from music to computers and completed my B.S. at East Carolina University.  During my latter college years I played ultimate frisbee and was the vocals/throat for a post-hardcore/screamo band that did a little touring and recorded one album.

Music is still a huge part of my life and I've been lucky enough to play my trumpet with a couple outfits in the DC area and hope to pick that hobby up more and more as I continue to find things to cram into my already busy schedule. 

I also miss the years I spent immediately after college working for non-profit/humanitarian aid organizations such as Invisible Children, Krochet Kids Intl., and World Concern on the West Coast and in Uganda and Kenya.  These were days when I felt like no matter what I was doing or trying to do, at least I was trying to give something where something was needed.  That sounds generic, but that is all I really want out of life.  
Why I race. 
It was the The Bike Rack and the shop's club team that first took me under their wing.  The friends and support I gained from them is invaluable.  A team composed of men and women, old and young with everything from weekend warriors, cycling enthusiasts, and novice racers created an atmosphere that let its members decide what exactly they wanted out of riding a bike.  I wanted as much as I could get.  I dreamed out loud to my teammates quite often about the possibility of one day going pro while still a little fish in the big Cat 5 racing sea.  It was such a big idea back then; it couldn't be fathomed as a goal.  I had only just watched the Tour De France for the first time and just started learning the names and teams beyond Lance and the Postal Service team.  At most, it may have just been a joke that I bounced off guys to spur some sort of encouragement or reality check. 
I'm racing because I want to achieve this definite dream of becoming a professional bike racer.  I am definitely the kind of person that tries to prove anything is possible.  The more I've been told it's not possible, the closer I've gotten.  I am late to the game at 25 years old, but still new enough to the sport to have the determination and development potential that a pro team could utilize.  
Maybe it's the appeal of travelling the country and possibly the world, of seeing a dream come true, as my job!  I love training hard, racing hard, and resting hard.  The life of a bike racer, hard and impoverished as it may be, seems exciting, simple and challenging. 

Whether I race for my rent money or do it for the joy of racing, I love to ride and race.  I've become more and more in love with the sport.  The thought of having an opportunity to drop everything and take a chance on trying to become a professional bike racer or riding for a professional team is why I've trained and worked as hard has I have.  I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to make this dream, if not a reality, at least a possibility.