Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Mustache: Ride.

I cringed when I set my alarm on my cell phone last night after the long trip back from Bend, Oregon and the Cascade Cycling Classic.  The phone displayed a message indicating "3 hours and 22 minutes until alarm".  I was home after a delayed flight back into DCA and had to scavenge some sleep before work.  If my car hadn't broke down a few weeks earlier, it might have said 4 hours - but now my extravagant bike/metro/walk/run commuting lifestyle had begun.  Back to reality... again.

I'm tired.  It's just after 8am and I am on my third cup of coffee.  I just finished a morning meeting but can't shake the images of the Cascades and the lava fields still fresh on my mind.  On paper, it doesn't look like I had a very good race - and if we're looking at the results... that's pretty much true, but I experienced some of the best bike riding to date. 

Two days ago I was dropped on the final stage of the CCC, the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race.  I raced for maybe 25 miles when everything went dark in the 83 mile conclusion to the 6-day race.  My heartrate was maxed, my breathing strained, and my ability to turn the pedals over had suddenly became a struggle with no fight left in me.  I had just came back from an attack - I don't know why I had attacked... I never have a very good reason except I love doing it. 

The night before I attacked randomly with 5 laps to go in the Downtown Bend criterium and scored myself $200.  I had spent most of that evenings race accumulating cheering sections for "Mustachio!... 99!... STACHE'!...Rugg!..." while surfing around the back of the race, that I felt compelled to give them a little more to cheer for.  It was a short-lived attack, doomed from the get-go with Kelly's train poised to run right over me for their lead-out.  It was a short-lived attack that made the whole trip worth it.  I was with high-fives from kids telling me I was there favorite! ...Me? ...Someone's favorite?  People wanted to take their picture with me.  And yes, I was asked for my autograph.  Their is no bigger award than knowing that somebody is cheering you on.

I was going through the feed zone for the second time during the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, and I knew that my race was coming to an end.  I rode myself silly for days, probably doing a lot more than I should have, thinking I would still be able to pull off some final hour miracle.  But the miles had taken their toll and my legs weren't up for the impossible.  I had put so much pressure to do something awesome to impress others, and there I was, riding alone, off the back, dropped... riding for noone but myself.  At first I thought I'd just finish the lap.  Then I thought, one more lap for training.  And then I started riding hard.  And then I wanted to make it back to the valley road where you had to look behind you to see the Cascades, and had I not been dropped - would have missed the incredible view. 

And then I wanted to finish.  It was just me and my bike for almost 60 miles.  The final lap I saw only a few course marshalls picking up discarded bottles and the occasional field mouse.  I mostly thought about how lucky I was and how crazy this year has been for me.  It had been a long time since I got to spend time riding alone, and I remembered how much I loved just having that time to think about anything and everything.  I came across the finish line 38 minutes down from the winner and I had fell in love with riding my bike all over again.  If I never go pro, at least I got some high fives along the way.

PS - The mustache is gone.  For now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Season Peak: What a ride this is...

"Allez! Allez!" ...I heard a man shouting behind me as I had my bike checked by officials to ensure it met UCI standards.  Allez translated from French is simply, "Go".  But spoken in French, this interjection commonly heard among the cycling community is beautiful and utterly encouraging.

I was lining up to race the clock against the likes of Bissell, Pure Black Racing, and Team Type 1 Development.  I hadn't rode the TT bike in almost two months and it was the first time ever racing on it.  The course was 5km with 15 technical turns through the business district of Altoona, PA.  I took the time to preview the course multiple times and now sat perched on my TT rig awaiting the countdown on the starting ramp replaying in my head over and over the advice I was just given by the bystander on the course, "Go".

I ripped through the 5k course in 05:15.9 averaging over 35mph missing an NRC podium by 3 seconds.  I finished in 6th place as the 1st amateur but was only immediately satisfied with my result.  When I look back on it, I only almost crashed twice and was a bit confused trying to find the finish line.  If I would have almost crashed 5 times, I surely would have found myself sharing a step with Bissell and Pure Black Racing.  I'll try harder and risk more next time.

Game Face

The rest of the Tour de Toona was a lot of fun with our 5-guy squad composed of two composite riders, David Glick and Steven Gordon.  These guys along with my teammates Sean Barrie and Keck Baker made for an awesome stage race full of tons of eating, racing, and bad TV to pass the time at the Blue Knob Ski Resort.  To wrap up the Tour de Toona and move on to other exciting news, I had a few more good results:

15th - Blue Knob Road Race
9th - Blair County Road Race
14th - Overall Standing after 4 stages

The Cascade Cycling Classic starts next Tuesday and I couldn't be more excited.  It was always a question whether I could fit it in my work schedule and then still coordinate the logistics required to race on the other side of the country, but it's all coming together. 

I've been working 50-62.5 hour weeks for the past month and have the green light from work to go, so I've purchased my airfare into Portland, OR next Monday.  I haven't figured out how I'm getting from Portland to Bend, so PLEASE reach out to me if you or anyone you know can help me with this!  My friend Troy Cross, contributor for Great Uncle Pappy's Cycling Almanac, will be coming to see stages 4 and 5 - bringing me back to Portland at the end of the race.

That brings the question about what to do about water bottle feeding during the races and transportation to the races.  That's where it gets interesting.  I'll be guest riding for a very well respected team, RideClean p/b PatentIt.com.  As long as I can get to where the team is staying - I'll have some race support and awesome company thanks to an invitation from one of their riders, David Glick (Guest rode for XO Communications/Battley Harley-Davidson) at Tour De Toona.

The RideClean mission "is to promote Clean Sport, facilitate discussion of this topic and support avowedly clean athletes through an organization of solidarity and in an environment that allows development according to individual potential."  I am honored to be riding for a team with such an awesome mission and am equally glad that RideClean doesn't include CleanShaven requirements, so the mustache ride will continue.  Note:  The mustache and myself have been tested negative and are just as passionate about Clean Sport as RideClean.

Tour of Elk Grove has been on my calendar all year.  I never thought I'd get into it... but I was always hoping I'd stumble across a way in.  Elk Grove is a UCI 2.2 Stage Race right outside of Chicago August 5th-7th.  To give UCI 2.2 meaning - it's basically a whole level higher than the NRC Pro Races that I've been doing.  At Tour de Toona, I got wind that Jonathan Adler Racing had been given an invite to race at Elk Grove, so I let them know I was interested.  They immediately extended the offer to ride with them and now I'm anxiously trying to book my flight and figure out how I can get my dad to come see me race for the first time.

I had my best cross-country result in high school when my dad came to watch.  It was something in the 19 minute range - I wasn't fast - but I was motivated to dig deeper.  My dad lives 3.5 hours away from Elk Grove in Battle Creek, MI.  It's never really been a possibility for him to come see me race, since most of my races, until this year, have been concentrated to the Mid-Atlantic region.  This race is a huge opportunity for me and I'm very excited to be racing for Jonathan Adler Racing.  I hope I can dig deep and make my dad proud in what will likely be the hardest race I've ever competed in.