Category Archives: CREDO Racing

The Euro New Year

September is lazily rolling to a close and calendars everywhere are running out of pages: the last monument of the World-tour calendar, the Giro di Lombardia is a few short weeks away and the Texas State Championships concluded the official TXBRA calendar last weekend.  The end of one calendar year always brings with it the start of the next; a time of year I like to think of as the Euro New Year.  Racers everywhere are getting ready to hang up their race bikes for a couple of weeks before starting to build toward the fresh spring races; only a few more Driveway races remain to entice the Austin-area peloton to continue throwing legs over the top-tubes to ride out whatever fitness remains from State.

For some, the Euro New Year means a much needed vacation from the bike, after close to 9 months of sacrifice, to let the mind recover; time spent with our ladies and our friends (or our lady-friends, if you’re following me) enjoying beers and other divine treats that were feared and avoided during the season.  Others will ride the fitness wave into Cross season and get exposed to crazy things like hecklers, cow-bells, barriers, high-side primes and run-ups.  Personally, I’m in the former camp and not the later, although I will be doing my best to mix the former with the later by making appearances at the cross races (ladies, friends and beers in tow) to heckle the suffering masses.  Regardless if the plan is completely removed from the bike or is a simple change from calipers to cantilevers, the basic goal is still the same: immerse a tired mind in something relaxing; bring fun back into the equation.

Enjoying a drink or two while not sweating my ass off.
Notice the relaxed posture, the beverages (Belgian style, of course) and the lack of form-fitting clothing; this man is ready to celebrate the Euro New Year. 

As I’ve mentioned, during the weeks around the Euro New Year, it is customary to relax one’s lifestyle slightly; possibly even smiling during what rides there are.  Oddly enough (or predictably if you are of the initiated) this period of relaxation brings with it an inner consciousness, resulting in an almost automatic reflection on the past year and projection of riding goals into the coming months.  The hours that were once dedicated to endeavors such as riding and racing will be dedicated to talking and thinking about these endeavors; a minor difference indeed, but a very important one.  So vitally important because reliving past successes give us an idea of what greater success will taste like, while every failure is used to stoke the motivational fire that cooks that wonderful fire-grilled success pizza.  Hopes and dreams are born during the Euro New Year.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  -Maria Robinson.

I got this quote with my check at Blue Dahlia Bistro (kind of like a fortune cookie…except at a French bistro, and the bill isn’t a delicious cookie) and found it very fitting to the New Year.  It is impossible to change the events of last season, but ripping legs off next season is the fastest surefire way to forget about them.  So, to all my friends, “Happy New Year!”  Or, as they would say in Flanders, “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!”

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Filed under CREDO Racing, Crushing Souls, Lessons Learned, Off-season, Racing, Relaxing

Texas State Road Race Championships

The weekend’s race can be summed up in 3 words: “margin of error.”

The higher the category, the smaller the margin of error.  Often, a small amount of fatigue or a bad move during the race won’t end a race, but as the stakes get higher, the price one pays for these small mistakes tends to also get much larger.  Competitors are able to pick out small blunders and will strategically exploit them.   In order to win, or even hang onto a race like this one, not only does someone need to be fit, they also need to be smart.

Looking back on the race, I see places that I could have made different choices to put myself in a better position to finish stronger.  At the end of the 2nd 33 mile loop, the pace picked up substantially on the finishing stretch and the peloton got guttered.  I was the last to get dropped off the leaders as Michael Pincus went to the front and slaughtered everyone.  Instead of looking back to see the other 12 guys chasing, I focused intently on the last wheel of the leaders’ group, approximately 50 meters in front of me, and tried to time-trial my way back on.  Eventually, the momentum of the large chase group boiled over and they caught the leaders and me.  I was able to get on as they went by to get a bit of recovery, but I had burned too many matches trying to chase solo.  When we reached the 5th category 5 climb of the day a couple of miles later, I was out of gas.  Dunzo, off the back.  I spent the rest of the day chasing.  Had I spent more time recovering in the chase instead of trying to do all the work on my own, I feel confident I would have gotten over that climb.  I’m not sure I would have had the legs to finish strong on the day, but I would have been part of the race longer than I was.

In this way, the race rewards smart decisions, and penalizes the bad ones, which starts a chain reaction of post-race decision analysis.  Would I have been better suited to going with the break-away that went off in the first 4 miles of the race?  The long, steady miles of the breakaway could have suited my riding style better.  Instead of the surging of the chase/stall game that the peloton was playing, I could have just set the cruise control and let my legs do their thing.  In the end, I had a plan for how to approach the race, and I followed the plan.  Was this a good plan from the start?

I could 2nd guess the decisions I made for the entirety of the off season, but it doesn’t do me any good to beat myself up about it.  On that same vein, an integral part of the improvement process is to seek feedback after a race;  mistakes and weaknesses from Saturday’s race will be used in the off-season to fuel the motivation.  Reflecting on errors will ensure that those errors are not made in the future.  But it is a precarious line to walk; venturing too far down that rabbit hole could get one lost with Alice forever.

My lack of a result on Sunday doesn’t put a black mark on my season.  I still feel I had an amazing year, and anyways, winning all 3 of the state championships this year would have been just plain greedy.  As Meatloaf says, “two out of three ain’t bad.”

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Driveway – September 15th

Two weeks ago, somebody anonymously sent me a comment about my September 1st post: “Dude, you’re doing a WEEKLY TRAINING CRIT. Get real!”  At first, I was taken aback by this, but it has had a couple of weeks to sink in now.

My objective, by writing this, is not to say anything negative about Holland Racing or the amazing, weekly event that they have turned The Driveway Race Series into, but rather put onto paper (does anybody use paper anymore?) something that I have been trying to avoid admitting over the last 2 weeks: the fact that The Driveway is still a weekly training crit.  There, it is out on the internets and I can’t take it back.  It kind of feels better to get it out.

Granted, Thursday night is bigger than almost all weekend races while being faster than most (where else can you race in a 90-starter field every week); a Thursday at the Driveway just can’t match the pure aggression of a full P/1/2 field that is racing with 100% tactical savvy.  The stakes are lower.  This week, a number of the racers that animate the race skipped in favor of making the trip to Philly to race the Univest GP.  I thought about these as I circled the non-technical Speed Loop 27 times on Thursday night, seemingly in slow motion compared to other races.  The Pickle and eRacign Stigma crits were fast and technical.  The Chappell Hill road race was just wicked fast.  I get a chance to dig deep, but I don’t get absolutely shredded just trying to hang on in the “A” race like I did in those P/1/2 races.

In the break with National Elite Criterium Champion, David Wenger.  He doesn't really look like he's suffering.  Me on the other hand...

As a training race, like with any form of training, different people are going to approach it differently.  Some need added intensity of a race to motivate themselves to come out and get a workout in.  Some are just sadists that like to crush everybody with attack after attack every week, paying no attention at all to the result at the end of the night.  Without a doubt, there are some that come out to the Driveway every Thursday fully kitted out for a full-on race.  They are going to carefully ration their efforts while trying to make a conscious effort to improve their racing from week to week.  I admit that I fall into this group.  I don’t wear a skin-suit to train; I wear it to race.

Full race kit.  I just need to get my rear-wheel back and I'll be fully aero.

Results at the Driveway are there as a weekly reminder that improvements are being made.  When each weekend race offers a chance for me to get annihilated by the cream of Texas racing, any little sign of progress is welcome, even if it has to come during a “training crit.”  One only has to look at a list of Driveway results from the year to get an idea of that progress: 6th, 7th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th.  Those are just the top-20’s.  Undoubtedly, there are a few DNF’s and pack finishes sprinkled in there from the beginning of the year when I was getting dropped from the P/1/2/3.

This week, my teammates from CREDO did well.  Adrian, Michael and I finished 13th, 11th and 6th.  Adrian won two primes and took home the mohawk for most aggressive rider while I got to haul a case of Honey Milk home with me in my backpack from winning a prime.  I spent a couple of laps off the front, mid-race with Wenger in a break-away to get my legs warmed up for our second attempt at the “speed loop lead-out.”  Adrian and I didn’t actually get to execute this week because he got pushed off my wheel during the penultimate lap, but it is better that we try and fail during a weekly crit than make mistakes like this one during a bigger race.  While living in Corpus, I had to wait for weeks and drive countless hours in between opportunities to make up for mistakes that I made previously.

September 15th pack sprint.

As the Driveway fits into my training plans,  I will continue to try my ass off to pull around Phil Wikoff in the sprint while he is sitting up.  Next week, Phil.  Next week my 100% effort will overcome your obvious indifference to 5th or 6th place.  I just feel fortunate that I get to race like this weekly.

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Tour of Austin Day 3 – eRacing Stigma Crit.

or Recipe for taking yourself down a notch. First, find some success on the bike. A win is best, but something courageously epic (see Day 2) will work just as well. While you’re riding the wave from your win (or your 19th place finish in a super-fast race), start putting yourself in a head-space for an upcoming race. Think about the primes you’re going to win. Invite your friends to come see you race. Have your friends invite their friends. Maybe a few family members should come to watch you race for the first time ever; the more the merrier. This is the critical step: the morning of the race, completely misinterpret everything everybody has ever told you about warming up for a race; ride to the race but don’t really do any efforts. Line up for the race and let’er rip. The quicker you fall off the back of the group and spend a lap or two chasing, the better.

With the correct outlook, a crushing loss can be the ultimate motivation. A good, old-fashioned beat-down keeps things in perspective and teaches a man to be humble. There is no sense letting the ego get bigger than the legs that need to re-accelerate it after every turn. Humility is important, and learning to deal with defeat is one of the most important aspects of learning to race. I have an idea of how far I have come, and got a glimpse of how far I need to go.

Photo courtesy of Dave McLaughlin.

At least Dave McLaughlin can make me look fast during a race.

Now that I got that out of the way: a little about the race. I’m not going to be long-winded about this one. This was the most technical race of the weekend, so there is no surprise that it was the race I struggled with. The tight, technical course was less suited for somebody still trying to find the confidence to corner at speed with the P/1’s. Getting gapped on every turn didn’t help the fact that I did not have the leg speed or the power to repeatedly sprint with the accelerations of the group after every turn. More than that, I did not have the mental toughness to finish the race like I did at the Pickle; not two day in a row, and not through the amount of fatigue that I had from the rest of the weekend. Plus, a good warm-up would have helped. Lesson learned.

Picnic at the State Hospital.

Anyways, the box of wine and the case of beer my cheering section brought were calling my name.  And, in the end, family is still family and friends are still friends.  They don’t care if you win or finish dead last.  Especially when they have a box of wine and a case of beer on the first day of cool weather during one of the hottest summers in history.

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Tour of Austin Day 2 – Pickle Crit.

This was, quite possibly, the hardest race I have ever done. The course was in the wide-open J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Combine the challenging course with a 30 mile per hour wind out of the north and things got complicated very quickly. High winds and crashes at a few unfortunate places caused the pack to shatter almost immediately, forming the break and a few unorganized chase groups. Close to 50% of the starters of the race didn’t finish. Fortunately, I was able to stick with the “stay towards the front” part of my plan for the day and I was not caught out behind the crash.

In front of the crash.

In a race like this, race goals very quickly get modified on the fly; “finishing well” is replaced with “well, finishing.” I spent the middle 45 minutes trying to convince myself that there would be no shame in dropping out. I repeatedly got gapped in the technical section on the backside of the course, which left me with no hope of finding shelter on the cross-wind false flat stretch before the finish. Every lap, at this point, I promised myself I would drop out of the race.  Sometimes, promises just aren’t realistic.  So I dug deep, put my head down and time trialed back to the back of the peloton during the head-wind section.  Every lap I made it back on. As I got more comfortable diving into turns, the gaps got smaller and I actually started to get a chance to recover. Granted, that could have been the pace slowing down, but not opening a gap in the first place certainly wasn’t hurting anything.

Pain faces for sure.

In the end, I finished 19th thanks to a little bit of selfless riding from Adrian; when I was hurting my worst, he helped to tow me back to the peloton. He sacrificed his race to save mine. Much obliged, amigo.

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Tour of Austin Day 1 – Grand Prix Loop.

Right off the bat, we’ll file this one under lessons learned.

Photo courtesy of Jim Hicks.

I’ll have to hand it to them, Elbowz showed exactly what it means to race as a team, putting on a clinic over the 3-day Tour of Austin. After the winning break went off, Elbowz took turns bridging up to the break while taking as few people as possible, or shutting down everybody that attempted to bridge up. Every bridge attempt was accompanied by one guy in a blue and white kit, and he sat 2nd wheel and cooked the would-be bridger. Nobody was willing to pull around, so the person off the front was effectively isolated…dead in the water. As soon as that person was done, the Elbow(?) would attack, bring the punchiest follower or two with them and then repeat the process as somebody else moved to the front of the chase group. Rinse and repeat. If they made it across, Elbowz gets a free ride and one more teammate in the front group, otherwise, no problem for them.

With 3 laps to go, I burned every match I had in an attempt to salvage my race, leaving Adrian alone to try to make his.  After our successful foray into teamwork on Thursday, we fell back into the usual pattern of wearing the same outfit while racing separate races.  In retrospect, and now that I have had a chance to really digest what was going on in the races, I realize that those matches would have been better served for the team. Lesson learned.

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Driveway – September 1st

Last week, I got this e-mail from Adrian: “Speedloop leadout for me i guarantee I’ll win the sprint.”

I’d been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks while our Cat 2’s were scratching at top-10 results in the P/1/2/3 race while landing a few 7th place finishes. If we were racing solo getting top-10’s, what would happen if we could put together a little bit of team-work coming into the finish? This was the week to try.

Seventy-five racers lined up at the start line on Thursday night; everybody looking to test legs for the upcoming Tour of Austin. The field was a little deeper than usual, Elbowz Racing and Super Squadra brought full squads and the obligatory pro or two showed up: this week it was Andrew Dahlheim of Bissell Pro Cycling and Chad Haga of Kelly Benefits Strategy. It is so cool to see pros come and mix it up at a weekly crit. CREDO Racing was represented by Andy, Colin, Brendan, Adrian and myself; a full squad.

Photo used with permission of Jim Hicks.

The race started fast from the gun with Elbowz Racing and Super Squadra lining up to string the field out for the $50 second-lap Hot Lap prime. After that, the race fell into the usual attack/chase/counterattack pattern, with all of us taking our stabs at primes and breakaways, although nothing materialized from this; not for the lack of trying. With five laps to go, I found Brendan and Adrian in the pack and we started moving into position. The pace began to pick up and other teams started getting organized while Brant Speed and Heath Blackgrove made a last-ditch, and ultimately successful, go at a breakaway.

With two to go, Elbowz was at the front of the strung-out peloton, driving the pace. I made sure Adrian was on my wheel and then surfed the waves of the surging peloton to get into position. Before the race started, Adrian told me he wanted to be 5th wheel coming around the far bend on the last lap and we were dead-on; 5th and 6th wheel of the peloton at the turn. Elbowz continued their ramp-up and with 500 meters to go, Adrian started yelling at me to go. I grabbed a gear and bucked as hard as I could just before the Elbowz train kicked it into their final gear. I pulled clear and as I started to fade, Adrian launched his sprint, coming away with 3rd in a very, very close field sprint. Brendan was just behind him, taking 6th in the field. I got swarmed and finished mid-pack after blowing my legs wide open.

Our plan was executed to perfection. CREDO came away on the day with 5th and 8th in the P/1/2/3 race for our best finish so far this year. In the points and in the money. Plus, we came away with a little more confidence in each other.

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