Category Archives: Racing

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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Chappell Hill Bank Classic Road Race


Up until a few days before the race, the fires in Bastrop were spewing a tremendous amount of uncertainty into the air along with the plumes of smoke, blanketing the capitol in a acrid haze.  Chappell Hill is the perfect chance to get race miles in the legs to polish off preparations for the state championship road races at the Ft. Hood Challenge, although the added intensity is not worth the risk of tearing up the lungs by riding through smoke.  On Friday, the weather reports were looking favorable so I started to ask around.  The decision to race was last-minute, and I finally decided to green-light it when Trickey confirmed that he had room in his car to drive up the morning before the race.  “Be at my house at 4:35 am.”  Ouch.

On Sunday morning, waking up early was the least of my pain.  The race was fast from the gun as riders attempted to form a break, averaging 27 mph over the first hour of racing and the pace didn’t let up until the field finally let the break go 90 minutes into the race.  I use the term “break” very loosely.  The final selection usually starts as a 3 or 4 man breakaway from the main field, swelling as riders make the jump across the gap.  Eventually everybody that is strong enough to bridge makes it across and those that couldn’t settle in for the ride home.  In some cases, as was mine, the ride home even proved to be too much in the long run, as I got dropped in the hills leading back into town, only 4 miles from the finish, ultimately finishing 23rd on the day.

I’m not disappointed with this result at all.  I raced aggressively and made the winning break, although I got dropped by it after only 10 minutes.   The energy expended to ensure that I was in the position to make the split probably cost me the rest of my race.  Despite this fact, I would not change the way I raced on Sunday.  I emptied my proverbial matchbook; I had none left when racing really started in the chase group.  I suspect that had I not raced as aggressively at the onset of the race, I would have had more matches to burn in the later stages.

Hunter Allen defines a match as anything over 120% lactate threshold power for one minute.  Using that simple criteria while analyzing my power files from Sunday’s race, I popped off 18 matches during the first third of the race.  What’s worse, I couldn’t manage a single effort that met that criteria during the remainder.  Anything approaching that effort level sent me straight backwards.  When the break picked up the pace slightly on an uphill on the back side of the course, I got shelled.  When I was attempting to bridge to Beau Edwards when he attacked from the chase group, I made it half way and stalled out.  When the chase group hit the final run-in to Chappell Hill, I completely died.  Each of these were efforts I could easily have done two hours earlier, yet I just didn’t have a 19th, 20th or 21st effort in my legs.  This should not come as a shock to anybody that has ever raced a bicycle.

I certainly could have raced smarter, but now that most of my races are with the P/1’s, where the race is decided by a selection in the first hour (usually) of racing, the experience of being there when it happened will prove to be invaluable in the future as I continue to make progress.

edit: I can’t believe I just realized the irony of starting a post while talking about a forest fire, and then continuing on to talk about “matches” during my post. The connection just slapped me in the face. I mean no disrespect to the victims of the Bastrop fire, and have them all in my thoughts.


Filed under Lessons Learned, Race Report, Racing

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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Bike the Bricks II Race Report

Bike the Bricks 2011 from Brett Fene on Vimeo.

Some thoughts about the race:

– I hate staging for a crit.
– I hate finishing a warm-up to stand around for 30 minutes.
– I hate people backing into staging at a crit.
– I hate when four whole rows back into staging in front of me.
– I hate it when I don’t think to back into staging at a crit.
– I hate it when I start in one the the last rows in the fastest crit of the year.
– I love it when the whistle finally blows and the anxiety of waiting is forced out of the forefront of the mind to let the legs seek resolution.

Such is the way of things, sometimes, and as a result I set myself up for a nice little lesson in positioning and matchbook maintenance for the entirety of Bike the Bricks.  It made the race hard, but it reminded me what it was like to be on the ropes during a race.  The pace was unrelenting on what felt, to me at least, a pretty technical course.  Five right hand turns followed by one left hander immediately before the finish line.  Different road surfaces with brick and concrete; expansion joints and material transitions thrown in to keep things interesting.  In the back of the pack (the sperm-tail of people threatened to be dropped every lap), the surging of brake-sprint, brake-sprint; turn after turn took it’s toll.  But eventually the body found a rhythm and began to settle in and the legs became accustomed to going hard, but it wasn’t enough time to wear down the hammers that had been driving the pace for the 50 minutes of the race.  It was a positioning game, and I simply did not have the handling confidence to move up and maintain positioning lap-after-lap coming into the finish.

Racing a night crit for the first time was a lesson in concentration.  90 Cat 2’s and 3’s, going balls-out through islands of washed-out floodlights separated by vast expanses of impenetrable darkness.  Eyes adjusting to the darkness to be blasted by light.  Green, yellow, red; the stoplights adding visual stimulation to an already overly stimulated brain.  Spectators…oh God why are so many people watching us race our bikes in circles for 50 minutes, in the dark?  It was wild.  People zooming backwards in the corners of ill adjusted fields of vision.  Flashing lights and screaming in the periphery fought to steal attention away from more pressing issues: holding onto while not crashing into the wheel in front.  And the lightning was the worst, at least I remember thinking it was lightning mid-race.  Perhaps it was just a camera flash going off in my face in the middle of turn four as my wheels were fighting to maintain traction over the bricks as I railed the corners WAY harder than I felt comfortable doing, just to hold onto the race.

In the end, CREDO did respectably against very fast crit racers from Dallas.  Mike and Zak represented in the three-four race and then stuck around to cheer on Brandon, Adrian and I as we raced in the dark with the two-threes.  Both Mike and Adrian did extremely well, racing up a category and showing that they will very soon be joining the Cat 3’s and the Cat 2’s respectively.  I was just happy to have finished intact after a very close call on the 3rd to last lap, and we’re all relieved that Brandon is recovering from his dance with the hay bail 2 turns later on that very same lap.  The biggest winner of the night was the Town of McKinney, as they put on an extremely successful race that is sure to be back even bigger next year.  Bike the Bricks has the potential to turn into one of the biggest races in the region; we are definitely doing this one again next year.

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Filed under CREDO Racing, Night Crits, Race Report, Racing