Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Midwest, So Far.

I am Mr. Muscle Milk

MY HOSPITAL bill has arrived from my ER visit two weeks ago after the Air Force Classic.  I need to find a printer so I can fill out my USA cycling incident report to make an insurance claim since I am currently uninsured.  My electricity bill is due but I can't get a live representative to tell me my account number to get through the automated system.  I can't seem to shake this sinus infection and cold that my teammates have been passing back and forth the past two weeks.  I'm waking up every morning still sticking to my sheets or my underwear from road rash that just won't scab over or heal enough to make it a night without waking up in pain.  My bike needs a new chain and deraileur hanger and I need to warranty my Garmin computer and my Saris rack.

All the aforementioned is why I just can't seem to keep up with my journaling.  I'm distracted.  All of the day to day things you can normally take care of during a break at work or in the comfort of your home become very difficult and much more stressful while on the road.  I'm not complaining, okay maybe a little.  Eating PB&J sandwiches for lunch everyday and sleeping on a mattress pad that doesn't even fit in the floorspace of the room I'm sharing with teammate Ben Fogle with the coolest cycling couple in the Midwest are unusual comforts that get me through it.  Sure, I love my active-response coil mattress at home and have a multi-cultural palette for the finest foods the world has to offer... but the simple bare-bones lifestyle is a constant reminder that I am allowing myself to do what I love doing.  For everything I can complain about I have multiple things to be thankful for and can brag about.  I'm not sitting behind a desk.  I'm waking up when I want to.  I'm enjoying the finest coffee and beer the midwest has to offer and meeting wonderful people along the way.  

THERE IS so much to write about the Nature Valley Grand Prix but I'm just not in race recap mode right now.  I'll just highlight some of the better moments that are on my mind:
  • Played super domestique and coach for the guys during the race grabbing water bottles from the team car and launching riders into breaks and keeping the boys attentive and at the front as much as possible.  I got a little TV time myself but the immune system wasn't ready for me to go into the red zone.  Most importantly, I survived the week and I think that was a huge success given the circumstances.
  • The east-coast expo van driver David Brinsfield and James Weigand of Diamondback made us feel like pros with mechanic and race support throughout the week.
  • A 10-year old walked up to me at the Minneapolis Criterium and asked where my mustache was.  I'm famous.
  • I sang the National Anthem at the Stillwater Criterium.  I was nervous out of my mind and I'm pretty sure I blacked out because I don't even remember singing and couldn't bring out the operatic voice I've secretly been working on in my bid to become the next American Idol. This was my first time singing in public and it was a huge honor to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the start of the Woman's Pro race.  I hope I get the opportunity again. 
  • Steve Hed of HED Cycling and his wife hosted an awesome party after the NVGP including some extra curricular paddle board racing against the Optum boys and girls.  I wore a pair of Steve's swim trunks up to my chest ready for any potential boxing match.
  • Banana and Orange fights caused by 'hotel cabin fever'.
  • Toured the HED facility with Paul Ellis and Steve Hed getting some secrets on aerodynamics and seeing how our HED wheels are made.  We tried to work a deal to take the HED bus for the rest of the trip, but it might not have made it out of the parking lot. 
  • Went to a dive bar in Minneapolis that was playing BTBAM when I walked in and shared a pitcher of beer and fries with Zac and our host Louisa.  Metal!
To be 18 and traveling the country!
  • Ate 2500 calorie pecan-caramel sticky buns doused in butter cream before heading to Milwaukee.  Perfectly gross and exactly what I wanted at Isles Buns and Coffee.

Fore more about the race and our stay, the Aussie Sam Sautelle as a great writeup over at Sam's blog.

Passed by a hipster alongside UW campus.
WE LEFT Minneapolis unsure of our plans heading to Milwaukee other than knowing we had to be ready to race for 11 days throughout the city and surrounding area.  We were extremely tired and in desperate need of some R&R if we were going to be able to hit the next series of racing with some form.  Like an angel from the sky the infamous Great Uncle Pappy reached out and offered a host family, his own, in Madison, WI.   There was a bed for all of us and all the food that we could manage to eat cooked and prepared at no effort of our own at Le Chateau De Cross.  Mr. Cross, the Chancellor of UW colleges, kept us entertained with his stories of working in various educational institutes and about his children with Mrs. Cross being the most generous host you'd ever meet.  She was unwilling to let anyone on the team engage in any effort that kept us from relaxing for the next two nights.  She even prepared us to-go bags of monster cookies for the road.  We were spoiled.

I haven't been in Milwaukee long and already feel a strong attraction to this city.  It's probably the hint of beer and cheese in the air from all the brewery's.  But it's most like the small town, big city feel of a vibrant, young area with all the colleges, bars, parks, and coffee shops.  There's a huge music festival taking over the city along with the bike race, Tour of America's Dairyland.  I'm hoping to Catch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and maybe the Cold War Kids during part of our stay when we aren't racing or touring the brewery's.  It's time to enjoy the road for more than just the racing as I use the next series of racing to hone some racing skills and take advantage of the speed-work the sort of racing 90-minute criteriums offer.  Hoping to come back to my pre-crash form soon to continue the campaign I've began to ride and race my bike as long as I can.

Ride Safe,

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 1 - Hitting the Road. Literally.

We are on our way.  I'm sitting in the passenger seat of a mini-van with teammate Kevin Gottlieb at the wheel and our guest rider, Sam Sautelle from Australia, riding caboose.  The Who is playing on the radio with Justin Mauch and Zac Felpel a few cars ahead leading the way in the first leg of the trip towards Minneapolish, MN.  To continue the tradition of every race we've driven over two hours to this season, it's raining.  

My mind is all over the place after my first crash of the year.  I had been knocking on wood a lot lately attributing my form to the fact I've been able to train and race with less time on the deck than last season.  

This crash is just insane.  For years I've been saying that there would be a serious crash in this out and back section of the Crystal Cup course in the Air Force Classic and of course I fall victim.  What the video doesn't show is a cyclist from the main field clipping the official as the official seen laying on the road tries to clear out of the way to allow the breakaway that has about thirty seconds on the field led by the Volt pace car is about to come through.  The incident is unknown to anyone in the main field and we come out of the final corner of the course upwards of 30mph causing a whip that creates a chain reaction of the riders behind having to accelerate out of the corner to maintain position.  I always took the outside line due to the shield from the draft and of course having no idea the field would have to jump three car lanes right to avoid the chaos the crash caused right in the middle of the course.  

Honestly, I don't know how I didn't break anything besides my bike trying to bunny-hop the official, whom I've heard is okay.  I rolled over my handlebars and the instinct to try and bunny hop kept me gripping the bars saving me from breaking a wrist or collarbone.  I walked away and got cleaned up in the ER with tons of road rash and a deep gash in my elbow being the worst of my injuries.  

I hate that the crash is my race report for Crystal Cup.  I was very much hoping to write how I managed to sprint to a top ten and move up to a top 5 in the overall omnium for the 2-day event.  I raced a very patient race and kept myself out of trouble as much as possible and had literally just warned Sam to "stay safe" because with less than 10 laps to go in the race the pace was increasing and I was expecting it to get a little dodgy, but not like that.  Never like that.

The Air Force Classic might as well been a venue for a new discipline of racing, cyclo-criterium or crit-cx, with the amount of obstacles and potholes in both courses.  I had a run-in with a motorcycle official the day before as well:

KBS from Patriot on Vimeo.

I had just lapped the field with seven other riders in the 100 lap, 100 kilometer, and 500 turn Clarendon Cup and was making my way towards the front following Clay Murfet as best I could.  He saw the moto while trying to make a move up the outside and with myself having the same idea and less visibility,  I instinctively locked it up and had to power-slide narrowly missing a catastrophic crash at close to 30mph.

Clarendon Cup ended a lot better getting to pull on the Most Courageous Rider jersey on the podium in front of my friends, showing them that I wasn't completely crazy for quitting my job.  I finished 6th on the day.  It was my third year doing this race and I was dreaming all week prior about getting a result.  The harder the race, the better my chances.

The sky finally cleared up.  We're already passing Hagerstown with Youngstown, OH being the end of the first leg only four hours away.  This isn't how I wanted to start the trip.  It's not easy.  But I'll finish this trip better than I started.  And I think that's the point of this trip.  If you can end up better than you started, you're headed in the right direction. 


Monday, June 3, 2013


The more I open myself up to the idea that I can do something, the closer I get to thinking I'm capable of anything.  From the day I put in my two weeks notice in at work and every day since I've been affirmed that I am making the right decision.  I'm going to be a bike racer.  

I read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho a little over a year ago and I'm a strong believer in the theme that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."  I want this, and everything is falling into place.

The last few races I've done have me chomping at the bit eager for the long summer that will include about 28 days of racing in a two month period.  Here's a recap:

Wilmington Grand Prix - NCC: Wilmington, DE
One more week of Work!

Monkey Hill Prologue - 3rd place, Sharing the podium with two Hincapie Development Pro riders.

NCC Criterium - 25 minute solo breakaway picking up 5 premes and still being able to finish top 20 after the hard effort.

Killington Stage Race: Killington, VT
First Race Unemployed!

Stage 1, Circuit Race - 1st place: Attacked 2km before KOM to solo for 15km finishing 37 seconds ahead of a charging peloton.
Stage 2, Road Race - 1st Place: Came into final climb 1:30 behind small breakaway with about 9 riders left in our group.  Took the climb full gas up and over the final climb catching all riders and then finishing solo ahead of the next placed rider by over a minute pushing my overall lead going into the final stage to around 2 minutes.
Stage 3, Time Trial - 2nd Place: Did the first half at about 90% to keep from blowing up and then went all out the second half to surprise myself with a second place result wrapping up the overall GC and another day on the podium.

Base Camp International - NCC: Basking Ridge, NJ
Almost does count...

Base Camp is another pro race on the National Criterium Calendar I wanted to tune up with before my trip.  It's ridiculously hard and fast and requires a lot of discipline to get a result.  I did everything exactly as planned until about 14 laps to go on the 1.1 mile course where I found myself following one other rider through the start finish with a small gap on the field.  Next thing I knew we were clear of the field and rolling very well together.  We had opened the gap up to 22 seconds with only 8 laps to go and I knew we were not going to be joining the field again to elicit a result and our glory would be had making UnitedHealthcare reel us in at the last moment.  Like clockwork the blue train of UHC rolled by us on the back stretch of the last lap.  I sat up immediately not worried about trying to hang on for a top 20.  I felt like I had made my mark on the race and I hope the right people took notice, because I'll be doing it again.  And again.

Time to go!

That leads me to this week.  I'm finally taking a rest week.  I need it because I've been going pretty hard  and trying to get everything together after quitting and before traveling.  I took a couple days out in Green Ridge State Forest and now I'm just focused on trying to recharge and sharpen up with the invaluable support of my new coach, Jeremiah Bishop, to have me throwing some blows at the Air Force Cycling Classic - NCC in Clarendon at 12:05PM Saturday and Crystal City Sunday at 11:00AM.  Both of these races are in my backyard in Arlington, VA with the Clarendon Cup being the MAIN EVENT along Clarendon and Wilson Blvd's where I'll tow the line for 100 1km laps of arguably the hardest criterium racing in the country.  Plenty of places to grab a bite or drink along the course and a full morning of amateur racing and expo area for additional entertainment.

Please come out and support me, my team, and the event before I set off for next couple months.  Me and a few of my teammates are leaving immediately after the Crystal Cup on Sunday to make our way towards Minnesota.  We start the 5-day 6-stage Nature Valley Grand Prix the following Wednesday and want to get there as soon as possible to loosen up the legs and because we're all ready to start this adventure as soon as possible.

Muscle Milk showing me love!

Ron Knox - Camper Extraordinair!

A rooster-duck.

We saw a turtle.

Karma by the cup.