Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fat Tire Classic

Ah yes, another 7 hours in the car was on the schedule for today and more 90 degree temps.....WTF? This had the potential to be worse than yesterday since mountain biking is generally hotter than the road. I met The Missile over at his place and we loaded up the bullet car. His Audi, A6 wagon, stealthed out with radar detector. He made quick work of the drive and before we knew it we were rolling into the Winding Trails venue in Farmington, CT. The sight of many epic cyclocross battles. It was weird to see people on the beach and swimming in the lake instead of skating on it. New England is so awesome!!! We signed up, $25 race day registration.....that's more like it! We rolled out and got in a warm up lap, more to re-con the course than to actually warm up, since it was 88 degrees. We raced the cat-1, 40-49 group. In front of us was the Pro, cat1 field, the 20-29 group, the single speed group, and the 30-39 group. 2 minutes between all starts. The start was insanely fast. I think everyone thought we were racing the cross bikes since the course is so fast and we used to race cross here all the time. The race went like this....


Turtle Head Road Race

Sorry to keep all of you eager fans waiting for this entry. I think I already told all 3 of you the story anyway, but here goes. We went from riding around in the 50's with legwarmers and gloves to racing in the mid 90's this weekend. This is just MENTAL!!! We skipped right over the 60's, 70's, & 80's and went straight into mid summer heat......actually a lot hotter than mid summer. Throw in some pasty white skin and still no leaves anywhere in sight on the trees and you've got a pretty miserable situation.

For some stupid reason, I decided to race the Pro, 1,2 in NH on Saturday in the Turtle Head Road Race. It was a 70 mile hilly affair with a pretty stout field. I rode up with teammate/tough guy Jamie Tosca, and former teammate Tobi Marzot. I nicknamed Tobi, Tobi Juan Kenobe about 7 years ago when he was on his way to winning the inaugural Crank Brother's Grand Prix of Cyclocross as a junior. He's now racing for the PRO team, Mountain Khakis. I did a race day registration. $45.....sa-weet! (NOT) The race went at 1:30 or so and it was about 90 degrees. The first hill was neutral and we went up it at about 400 watts....nice. Tobi attacked the first millisecond of the racing, and it seemed silly, but he went so hard that he gapped half the field off. The whole 1st lap was lots of attacking. I followed a move on the back side of the course and we had a small gap with about 5 or 6 guys. I pulled over the top of a climb and we descended fast. The group got back on but we were flying. I had been going very hard for at least 5 minutes when Robbie King blew by. He looked like he was just gonna rip the race apart so I jumped and got on his wheel, then pulled through. I flicked the elbow, thinking someone must have followed, but no one came through. I looked back and the entire field was on and it was all strung out. I was into the effort pretty deep and realised I better sit up and get a wheel to sit on and catch my breath. I moved into about 3rd or 4th wheel and looked up to see a volunteer pointing us to a right turn. Suddenly I remembered something about a new climb being added to the race this year, and I thought uh-oh. We went around the corner and there it was....a nice little wall that wasn't so little. The field absolutely assaulted the road here and the race blew to Hell. I was already pretty taxed from my foolish efforts on the false flats and I was taking on water badly on the climb. I instinctively decided to sag climb, (I didn't have much choice) but a gap opened near the top and I was left following a rider trying to bridge. He dropped me.....so did the next one, and the next. Finally the road came back out onto the old course that I remembered and I saw another rider coming across. I had a big gap on the field and I was able to get on the CCB rider. We got to within 3 or 4 seconds of getting on and then we hit the start climb again. We got dropped and caught by the field. I had done 1 lap, I had ridden as hard as I possibly could for about 5 miles over 2 big climbs, I was crawling at 9 mph up this beast of a hill with the sun beating down on me and we had 100k to go.....good times! I don't regret trying that hard to get there because I knew the race was gonna take place from that group and the rest of the guys would be the "riding around bunch". Jamie pulled up to me and said "this isn't too bad huh?" We laughed our asses off. It got hotter and hotter all day and we never saw the front of the race again, although lots of guys came back. Every lap we lost a few more guys since the parking lot was right by the finish. At the end our group was 7 guys. We were the main field of the race with the big group having split into 3 small groups up ahead. Tobi out kicked Robbie for the win, and it was 93 degrees when we left. We figured the thermometer in the car was off from sitting in the sun, until we went by a bank with a digital thermometer/clock that also said 93. Crazy! I was fully opened up for my mountain bike race the next day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hop Brook Mountain Bike Race

Yesterday we decided to get in an early season mountain bike race and it was race #1 of the route 66 series. The forecast was grim, but we never let that stop us. I was in Providence friday night so I met Kev just off the Mass Pike near rt. 146. It was dry for the moment even though it had rained all night. We got to the venue and got our #s and not 30 seconds after we started to kit up it started to rain. It rained steadily all day. We got in a lap for a pre ride before it got too bad and the course looked good. Mostly a fitness course, but getting slicker by the minute. We had 4 guys in the cat-1-40s field, which is pretty amazing in mountain bike races these days. Troy Kimball from Westwood Velo got the hole shot and was kinda drillin it early on. We followed and after hardly any time at all there was no one with us. I was a little surprised, but pleased too. Troy got gapped on the first extended steep climb, and it was just the Missile and me. I led up the climb and then Kev did his thing in the technical stuff. I pretty much rode like a pussy (this has got to stop) and he was gone. The beauty of it was that he is a teammate, but I wanted to be able to ride with him for a little while. I really studied the lines on the first lap and hit the power when I could. At the end of the lap we were completely covered in mud from head to toe and my bike wasn't working too well with the packed up casette. I needed to get rid of my rain cape and I did after a short struggle, and I set out to ride lap 2 much better. I took better lines with more confidence and suddenly I could see Kev again. He was way up there, but I felt really good. I bludgeoned myself on the power sections and got really close, only to watch him float away in the technical sections. Finally I got back up to him and even led for a lot of sections. He asked me if I was gonna slay him then or wait a while with a laugh in his voice, and I said "If you can stay with me through the fitness sections....it's all yours". Truth be told, I had to dig super deep to get back up to him and I was really smoked, but I felt like I'd have enough to ride hard to the end. I rode everything as hard as I could, and Kev just made it look easy following me. We're completely different riders and yet we're able to push each other which is a great buzz. In the end I think I was hurting pretty bad (based on how my legs feel today) and I think my 2nd lap was faster than my 3rd. At the top of the last tough climb before the final technical descent, I looked over my shoulder and Kev was right there. I waved him through and he asked if I was sure. I laughed and said "Positive". Here's the thing. If I was anyone else he would have eaten me up on that descent and won the race anyway. I wasn't really trying to drop him on the fitness sections, although I went as hard as I could. It's so great to race a teammate because we know we're gonna win the race. We don't have to plot and plan against each other. I thought he might pop, but hoped he wouldn't, and in the end he didn't, so why make him do what he was fully capable of doing, which was to smoke me on the last technical section. It was his turn to win anyway! We were completely drenched in mud, and I went straight into the pond for a bike wash and partial body wash. It was cold, but I got changed up quickly. We were very happy to hear from Johnny Mosher (our Corner Cycle teammate) that he took third from Troy and made it a complete sweep of the podium. Add in Gray Eldridge (our 4th rider of the day) in 6th place and it's a pretty impressive showing for the team. The awards were another endurance test, but we won't harp on that. Doing the results and promoting in those kind of conditions must be a tough task and they put on a great race and had a warm tent for all us to hang out in so waiting wasn't too bad. It was a long day, and a good day!
Next week is the world famous Battenkill Roubaix and I would dearly love to improve on my 2nd place finish there last year.
Until then.....JB

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Good Weekend, Part 2

So today was the King of Burlingame Mountain Bike Time Trial. Kevin and I had said we'd do this instead of Marblehead months ago, and we were both eager to race for the first time in our National Champion's Kits. Kev won the cross country event at Natz last year at Mt. Snow VT, and while I finished 2nd in my age group in the Cross Contry event, I won the short track event for Expert men 30 and older. I got up at 4:45, had a quick breaky and hit the road in the darkness. I had packed everything the night before on wobbly legs so it was a clean get away. We were shooting for a 7:30 arrival and we rolled into the parking lot at 7:30 on the dot. Good so far. It's a 7 mile individually started TT. So we knew we needed to pre ride the entire course since we had never laid eyes on the terrain. We had gotten reports that it wasn't very technical, but I was skeptical because RI has always been rocky in the woods whenever I've ridden there. Sure enough, the first section is what I would have to consider very technical. It stayed that way for a while and I tried not to be intimidated, but everyone that mountain bikes with me knows I'm more of a fitness rider than a technical ace. I do OK, but if the obstacles come at me in rapid fire like a rock garden or lots of roots and water, I lose my momentum and dab all over the place or stop....or crash. I try to pick my spots and I try to improve at it, but it's tough when it's your first look ever at the trail. Anyway the second half of the course opens up onto some faster single track and some fire road and even 2 short sections on paved roads. The last few K has a lot of thin wooden bridges that are a blast, but you have to be careful at the beginning and ends of them. Some water, some mud, lots of rocks & roots, several logs jumps/obstacles, and some gradual power climbing really made it a pretty complete mountain bikers course. Kevin breezed through the technical sections, and I struggled. I studied the course the best I could and decided I could potentially win the event with hard power riding in those sections if I didn't make any big mistakes anywhere else. I was there to win, since my teamate Mark Stotz had given us the low down on our competition. I considered Kev my main competition and if he'd had a normal week of training instead of a (work related) stress filled week, he'd have been the clear favorite in my mind. We were respectfully worried about the legendary Paul Curly and his teamamte, technical ace, Chris Borello. We finished our pre ride and I had a snack and pretty much rolled right up to the start which was a couple miles up the road and down the trail a bit. There was a great old timer (I can say that because I'm one) doing the starts and adding some very colorful commentary with a nice Irish brouge. He made me smile and relax. Guys were flying off the start in true time trial fashion and I kinda laughed to myself, because I've probably done 2000 TTs in my life, and never once on a mountain bike. I had decided the smartest plan for me was to get from point A to point B as fast as I could without taking the risk of the big mistake. I would do a planned cyclocross dismount before the spots I wasnt 100% confident with and run through and then remount cyclocross style. I knew I could win if I just rode the technical sections at my skill level and than kill it when I could. I also told myself to not think of it as a TT in the tricky spots, but to go into TT mode after I was done with the first part of the course where it was so challenging. I knew that would also help to prevent going out too hard and blowing up. I got my start and my teamates, (Kevin and Gray) were starting a minute behind me and a minute and a half. I more or less did what I planned. I made a few mistakes, but avoided the big one and I even rode a few sections much better than I had in warm up and on different lines. I really made myself suffer near the end and crossed the line thinking I had done a really good ride. Kevin rolled in just after me, and I thought he was around the same time as me, but he thought he had a bad ride. I knew he was close though, because I wasn't there for very long at all before he rolled in. I didn't time myself, so I had to wait to see the results. The beginners went last so we had to wait quite a while, but we had some laughs with friends and it was really a nice day, just a bit windy. In the end, I won the event outright and set a new course record and Kev was about 25 seconds behind me in 2nd. So we went 1,2 and took home the course record and a bunch of schwag, including this little gem...
It's good to be King!
C-Ya, JB

A Good Weekend

This is more like it. Long slightly warmer days and even a little time to blog about the weekend a bit. Yesterday was the final Charge Pond Training race in Plymouth, MA. It's a very useful workout in April and since it's the shortest commute of the year for me, it's hard not to go. I waited until I was sure the weather was gonna be OK, because there was a chance of showers in the forecast. When I woke up Saturday morning, the radar looked good, so I did my race day routine and headed out the door and onto my bike for the 31 mile warm up ride to the race venue. It was gray and brisk and windy. I learned a long time ago that if you don't embrace these conditions in the spring, you'll be a miserable person. So in my mind it was a beauty day. Jamie was still a little banged up from his endo last weekend, so I was on my own today until I actually got to the race venue. I went steady up and over the Sagamore bridge and up through Cedarville onto Long Pond Rd. and made my way to the park entrance. It's a long way from the gate to the venue and the now fierce headwind made me smile, because I knew I'd be surfing a nice tailwind at this point on my return ride a bit later on. I was early so I took an extra loop, and then ran into my good buddy Sammy, along with Manny Gougen and a few others, so I spun around and did the warm up loop with them. We got to the venue with plenty of time to get registered and pinned up and I was very happy to see the Missile pinning a number on a jersey too. He had said he probably wasn't gonna go, but decided to be social and go ride the roundy round with his boys. We went up to the line and I was chatting with long time friend (and promoter of this race series as well as the Myles Standish Road Race), Bill Sykes. We were chatting for a while when I realized we had been standing on the line in the wind for a good 10 minutes and all of a sudden I had a real chill going. As the official gave the instructions, I told Sammy and Kev that I was gonna hole shot the thing to get warm. They just laughed and said "Oh no". It worked wonders and at the end of lap 1, I was toasty. The race was punchy for a while with guys going off the front and some of the local, not so tactical savvy guys were just chasing everything that moved, so I just took a seat right behind them and let them do their thing....he he he Chumps! Finally one of the breaks gained a decent gap and it took them 5 or 6 laps to nail them back. It was still early, but it was a good time to counter and I was out to flog myself this day anyway. I shot off the front and hoped I'd draw 1 or 2 guys with me, but I looked back after 30 seconds or so and it was just Kevin between me and the field with a pretty healthy gap on the bunch. I eased off for just a second and let Kev get on and then drilled it up the finish hill and over. A gust of wind punched us in the chest and I flicked my elbow for Kev to help which he did immediately. I was wondering how the hell the whole field let 2 teamates go up the road alone. Kev looked good and did a good pull, I recovered quickly and came around him on a little descent and powered up the hill on the other side of it. I felt good and figured I'd take a nice long pull since Kev didn't get a good week of training on the bike and when I flicked the elbow 20 seconds later I realized I had popped him off. Shit, that was stupid Jon! He waved at me to just go. I wasn't going anywhere alone against a big field with a lot of strong guys, but I hoped a small group would bridge to me and we'd have something. I went for 4 or 5 laps flogging myself like I said I would and picked up a $10 preem for my efforts and then they closed in on me. We still had about 13 or 14 to go and it was getting pretty agressive up front. Old pal Tobi Marzot was riding very well and agressively and in support of his teamate Adam Myerson, who was wisely sitting tight and to my knowledge hadn't even opened his book of matches yet, let alone burned any. Jake Hollenbech started lighting it up on the next preem lap and I told him to take a leadout from me into the descent which he did. I put him around the finish corner 1st wheel and thought sure he had it, but the kid that beat Karl Menzies et all in the Burlington crit in the GMSR, didn't have the snap and some other poacher took it. That started the detonation of the field and I knew I better try to recover from all the efforts and get my old ass up there. There were IF riders everywhere and I followed one, I think it was Jon Bruno who was riding very strong and we got up there. We had a gap, but there was like 12 guys so it was likely that it would deteriorate when guys started to sit on, but I think everyone worked or at least pulled through. I was cross eyed for a bit, but I recovered. I guess it was about 8 or 9 to go when they rang the bell again for the 3rd and final preem. I knew to follow wheels during this lap, because there was a fair amount of suffering showing on some of the faces and I'm sure mine was one of them, but I was still thinking clearly....I think. Sure enough there was an attack on the back side and even though I didn't have it I followed. I was on Queer St. but with any luck it would ease a bit and I'd find my way back to Main St. It was only about 30 seconds of misery and I looked back and there were 5 guys who didn't even try to follow the surge because it was so hard at that point. I don't remember who made the surge, but it had to be either Tobi, Adam, or Jake. We got near the final turn and I was riding 3rd wheel behind Bruno with Adam on the front, Jon didn't look too good, and I'd bet I looked worse. I feared we'd dick around and end up letting the others back on, so I told Adam to just take the preem, but keep working. I sort of spoke for everyone and I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing anyway. I mean Adam was the freshest, the strongest, and probably the best sprinter, so why not encourage him not to destroy the unity of the small group and get on with staying away til the end? He shook his head and that was that, he took the preem and also a nice long pull. We still had a long way to go and each lap was pretty painful. With 6 to go it was a vicious throw down. We had whittled down to 6. Adam, Tobi, Jake, Todd Y from IF, an NEBC rider and myself. Adam attacked on the back of the course and then a short chase, by the 3 of us caught out. As painful as this is, I just LOVE this shit....THIS is bike racing. There was a quick counter by Tobi, well duh! I was ready for that. Well I knew it was coming anyway, I don't know how ready I was..... but I was able to cover it. We were all pretty shredded and even though the attacks were the right thing to do, no one had enough legs left to hold it. I followed Tobi around the finish corner and even though I had almost been dropped twice in the last 2 minutes, I went hard up the hill in an attack. The others won't remember this as an attack, because I gapped nobody, but I did go as hard as I could when I didn't have anytjing left. My legs were cramping and I was back on Queer St. Crap, what did I do? If someone hit it then I was done. The bunch went by and there was a surge that just about killed me. I almost rode off the edge of the road and I went into "emergency mode" red lights were flashing and loud buzzers were sounding. We had just gotten 5 to go which is still more than 10K. Now thats not that far, but consider the state I was in. I chirped at the group and said "c'mon guys we can't do this to each other for another 10k". After the attacks there were big slow downs and that might lead to us getting caught. Once again I think everyone agreed and I backed up my plea with an honest pull and thankfully everyone fell back into a working paceline for another 3 laps or so. It was getting to be a long day and I wanted it over, so I could suffer all the way back home. I guess it was 2 to go and Tobi made a great attack and Jake was right on him. We didn't even flinch, and they had an instant gap. Todd, myself and the NEBC rider rotated while Adam sat on the back. We stayed about the same distance for a while and I knew I had to try to force Adam's hand which I pretty much figured was gonna screw me. Just after the bell for 1 to go, I didn't pull through and let the 2 in front of me gap me off with Adam behind me, almost instantly he punched it and had way more pop than I could even hope to muster up, so I just rode hard enough to get back on the other 2. Adam bridged easily to Tobi and Jake and I'm not sure, but I think he hit them straight away with Jake getting close, but not on, although he gapped Tobi. I sat on the others and the NEBC rider attacked, but it looked pretty week and it was too far out, so I sat on Todd. Todd seemed to be waving the white flag, since he didn't really have a response to the attack, so I knew I had to go. I jumped and my legs sent cramp messages to my brain....which I ignored. I closed on Mr. NEBC and caught him on the little rise before the descent and went straight through going as hard as I could until I was going down hill. I recovered as best as I could on the hill and went around the final corner. I looked up through my crossed eyes and saw Adam casually cross the line for the win with Jake about 2 or 3 seconds behind him, Tobi was another 4 or 5 seconds behind him, and I was about the same behind Tobi. NEBC was next and then Todd. None of us finished on the same time, it was brutal! I had sucessfully flogged myself, and then I rode the 31 mile warm down with my pal Nick Keough who had only been at the race to watch. He was kind to the old man and it was way better than riding alone. I totaled out with just over 5 hours ride time and 96 miles for the day. I was fully opened up for my first mountain bike race of the year tomorrow!

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's been a while

Somehow I visualized more free time to do some blogging, but it sure hasn't turned out that way. I'll recap a few of the highlights since my last post.

The racing has started back up again, and even though it's mostly just training races right now, the bottom line is that here in New England you can now race your bike every weekend, as well as lots of weeknights in the summer, from now until mid December. Training races are perfect. We need to re familiarize with riding fast and also doing so in a big bunch. It's always great to see some of the guys (and girls) that you haven't seen since the end of the season.......and not so great to see some others!

The first race at Charge Pond was the first day of my week long vacation. We (Corner Cycle) had a strong group. Sam Morse, Kevin Hines, John Mosher, Jamie Tosca and myself. The pace was hot early with lots of failed break away attempts, but it felt like one was gonna stick sooner or later. Eventually Tobi Marzot, got up the road with Toby Schultze and one other. When they dangled off the front for a couple laps there didn't seem to be much urgency to go across, so I decided to stay put. Just as I was thinking we should put someone up there "just in case", Sammy jumped out of the bunch with a nice burst of power. He got there quickly and took a seat at the back of the break to recover. It was an impressive bridge and I had a good view of it since I was sitting about 4th or 5th wheel ready to follow and foil anyone else that tried to go across. The bunch seemed content for a while as the break slowly pulled out of sight on most of the course. A few attempts were made to bridge and I shut down a few, by following, but not working, Jamie did the same and the laps were winding down. It looked good for the break and we were very happy to have Sammy in there after he had an especially hard week of life. I suspected Marky Mac might try to go across near the end of the race, so I was keeping a close eye on him, and told Jamie to watch Frankie. Mark did try to go a couple of times and they were big efforts, but both times he shut it down fairly quickly. However we could all of a sudden see the break right in front of us by about 10 seconds with 3 laps to go. Luckily they didn't get discouraged and kept working hard and the bunch seemed to anticipate a catch, but eased off a bit. That was it, the gap went back up to 20 seconds or so and they made it. On the last lap Tobi M. attacked and Sammy was waiting for it, he followed and they gapped the other 2. Sammy took a good line through the final corner, jumped ahead of Tobi and headed for the line, but the young legs under Tobi brought out the needed snap and he took a good win, with Sammy 2nd and the other 2 also surviving. The bunch was ripping the last lap and I was too far back I thought, but I decided to practice moving through where I could and found myself about 6th or 7th wheel with a couple twists of the road and the final sharp left hander to go. I knew I had to get into the corner 1st for any chance, so I gunned it into the descent and got around the last (first) guy. Problem is, that guy was Frankie Mac. I went pretty good through the corner, didn't fag out too bad and started sprinting out of it. It's a long uphill grind to the finish maybe 175-200 meters. I had a good gap on all but Frankie and he EASILY went around me for 5th and I sorta quit on the sprint near the line and one other guy got me on the line. Good early season lesson for me.....sprint or fight all the way through the line.

The next day I spent in RI eating good food and riding with the main squeeze, Nancy. She's getting stronger and can stay on the wheel on the flats and even a few of the shorter hills, soon she'll be able to hang everywhere and I'll have to attack to get some "me time". We had our favorite dinner (Sushi) and I was off to NC for a week of training in Winston-Salem and then in the mountains in Asheville. I had Kev's bike with me, and he'd fly in on Wednesday for 3 days of hilly stuff. I drove for about 6 hours well into PA and stayed at the Super8.

Monday I finished the drive to Winston Salem. I got out for a gorgeous 55 miler on farm roads with little or no traffic and good pavement. They get cold down there at times in the winter, but my logic figured that it's not as extensive as our winters and so there's less frost, less snow plowing, and less salting, all resulting in better roads, or at least longer pavement life. Do you ever think of this stupid crap when you're riding? I didn't want to "ipod" my 1st ride there, because it's nice to experience all the sensations of a new place. Plus it was drizzling when I started, so I figured 1 less thing to deal with if the rain got worse. Worse it got! I got fully soaked, but I was committed to a loop I got from "Map My Ride" and it was warm enough (55 degrees) so I soldiered on. I got wetter and wetter, until I was soaked to the bone, but I was smiling ear to ear. I got a nice salad and lasagna to go, from a little Italian joint and headed for the Days Inn. (Xanadu).

Tuesday, was a better day on the weather forecast, but it was gonna take a while for the fog to burn off, so I took a casual approach to getting started. I had a big breakfast and then went on line to map out my loop for today. I decided on a big loop out of town that took me to (and up) Pilot Mountain. It wasn't overly warm and so I put on an extra layer and my wind vest, which was perfect because the fog was in no hurry to go. As I rode through Tobaccoville.....yes that's the name of the town, all I could smell was the disgusting weed. I sort of have an attitude about smoking, and cigarettes and people who smoke and ESPECIALLY people that throw their butts out their windows, still lit no less, onto the earth. Don't get me started! But it was still cool to experience this strong aroma, clearly signaling my senses that I was far from home. Eventually I found my course to Pilot and just as I got into the state park the sun was burning through. It felt so good to be warmed from the sun while on a bike. It's been a while since I felt that. Flash forward 2 minutes. "I wish this sun would go away so I could climb this little beast of a hill without sweating to death"! It's not a big mountain, but it's a lot steeper than anything I've seen since App. Gap (Green Mountain Stage Race)in September. It takes about 15 minutes, and I lose the vest and unzip the jersey, but I'm in a full sweat and close to the top when a fawn (baby deer) is suddenly standing right in front of me in the middle of the road. I stop to appreciate this and am a little surprised to see it so fearless of people. I suspect the deer up on this auto road are used to people and not used to being hunted, so they probably end up being fed, much like the deer in Yosemite. The top of this bizarre mountain has a huge rock formation with lots of climbing routes and huge buzzards surfing the thermals. http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/pimo/main.php The ride back is enjoyable with the sun out, but I start to feel a little twinge in my belly, something very out of the ordinary for me. I finished up and got a nice lunch, and then drove 2 hours west to Asheville, to the luxurious and beautiful Red Roof Inn. My stomach was still a little funny so I decided to go ahead and eat a bunch of raw fish anyway. I found a great sushi place and the beer was nice and cold too.

Wednesday Kevin's flight was AOK until he tried to leave Charlotte in the fog......he was delayed. But no worries, with daylight savings and being so far south and west the sun doesn't set til about 8 oclock. We got on the bikes around 3 or 4 oclock I guess and went right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. What a road!!! If you're a cyclist or an outdoors man you need to experience this road in this lifetime. It's over 400 miles long so pick a section and be fit enough to climb a lot. The grades aren't too steep, but it's either up or down and you hit some pretty decent elevation. http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/ Kev's not one to mess around if he feels good, and he went about an honest pace on the road. I was feeling the 4 straight long hard days in the saddle as well as 900 miles of driving thrown in there, and the stomach was a little funny all morning too, but I seemed OK for the moment on the bike. Of course like any bike racer I was scared I'd get sick. After a long gradual climb (about 30-40 minutes) I started feeling noticeably worse. We crested the hill and went down the other side a ways until we came to a turnoff that went back to Asheville. We ran into the Dartmouth Cycling Team right there and rode briefly with them until we turned off onto Beaver Dam Rd. which was right out of the Giro with lots of switchbacks and very wooded. I was glad to be descending, although even that worried me as I knew I didn't have my full abilities with the stomach virus now causing me to feel flush and at times dizzy and nauseous. Not what you want on this road! I made it back to the hotel....BARELY and felt like I was gonna die. I showered, and got in bed. Kev couldn't believe I didn't want to eat dinner (I'm sort of a world class eater), but he went ahead and got some Sushi without me. But before he went to the restaurant, he bought me some Mylanta and Tylenol. What a good friend!!! I slept and slept but was constantly awake and aware of the stomach pain.

Thursday, I still felt horrible and I knew I had to get food in my system. I went to Waffle House with Kev and had half of what I ordered and hoped I wouldn't see it again. There was no way I was gonna be able to ride. Bummer, but worse things could have happened. Kev went off and did a mountainous 5 hour ride solo. I felt bad for not being his ride mate. I felt jealous for not experiencing the ride, and I felt sick and still had lots of stomach pain. I couldn't see how I'd be able to ride again on the trip. We went off to the Sushi bar and I just got a huge bowl of Mi so soup with chicken while Kev had the usual yummy sushi. I went to bed hoping for a miracle.

Friday. I knew it the minute I opened my eyes. My appetite was back. I smiled and said "let's eat". The stomach was still a little funny, but the pain was gone and the hunger was there. My legs felt lifeless the day before, and now felt fine. I destroyed my breakfast and was very excited to be looking at our projected ride route for the day. We set out on the BRP again but this time we went South instead of North and we did the most beautiful ride you can imagine, we went through countless tunnels and every square inch is a breathtaking view. Stopping for picture taking was kinda gay and it also kills the rhythm of the ride so I attempted a few "in the saddle shots" and we did stop a couple times, but it really was messing up the ride , so we chilled on that. Besides the pictures really don't do it justice. All along the parkway road, rhododendrons grow naturally, and I can only imagine how insanely beautiful the parkway is when there in full bloom, which is probably right about now or in the next couple of weeks. They were already mowing the grass down there, so they're quite a bit ahead of us in the Spring season. The day was sunny and a bit cool, but it was still morning so we figured it'd warm up, but we threw the thin vests on anyway. The first 30 minutes of the ride was all uphill, we went easy since we knew it was a long day we had planned and I was still worried about my less than 100% stomach. It got consistently colder as we climbed and by the time we reached what seemed like the top, we were pretty cold. There's a big resort at the top that was just getting the place opened up and aired out for the upcoming season. We found a very helpful guy that hooked us up with some cardboard sheets for putting under our jerseys for the descent and also a better map than what we had been using up til now. We plunged off the top and exited the Parkway onto a very hairy, gravelly descent. The roads going up to the parkway are nasty! They are mountain passes with lots of switchbacks and marginal pavement sometimes. Whereas the parkway is really a ridge running affair (hence the name) with more gradual grades. You can let loose almost everywhere on the parkway without fear of going off the road, but the access roads are the extreme opposite. We went very tentatively down this road and all I could do was laugh and smile when Kevin yelled up to me that "his hands were friggen frozen". Mine were too and the cold tears were running out of the corners of my eyes. It was serious shit and we had a job on our hands to get down this thing safely and get to warmer altitudes where we could get warmed up. We got it done and were rolling across the valley floor and decided to take advantage of a rare country store since we figured we wouldn't see another all day. The usual snickers from a few good ole boys about guys in lycra and we were back up and running. We warmed up nicely after I pushed the pace for just that reason. I was so happy to not be laying in bed again and I was starting to feel sure that I wouldn't have any ride ending stomach issues, and I had good legs too. Yeeha! We did a valley loop and slowly started our climb up a different access road back to the parkway, and it was a tailor made pass for me. The grades were steep, but not super steep, we big ringed it for at least 25 minutes and then it got a little steeper and we finally dropped into the little ring. I felt great, and poor Kevin (who usually kills me on the climbs) was feeling the 5 hour ride from the day before, that I slept through. It went and went and finally we got back to the parkway with a long way to go back. We ended up keeping that cardboard with us all the way. It was over 5 hours and tons of climbing. One of the best days of my life on a bike! We showered up and I dropped Kev at the airport for his flight home. My original plan was to leave Asheville that night and forfeit the last night's room fee and take a big chunk out of the drive to get half way home. That way I could unwind for a day (Sunday) before going back to work. I like that at the end of a vacation, because it's tough to travel far and unpack and get ready physically and mentally to go back to work the very next day. But I decided that I wasn't gonna have a chance any time soon to ride such a beautiful road again, so I changed my plan. I had a huge burger and salad and cold beer at a great local brew pub and settled down for the night.

Saturday, while the boys back home were warming up for Charge Pond #2 (Jamie got 2nd.....2 weeks in a row we got 2nd) I was driving to a more Northern section of the Parkway. I had seen the Linn Cove Viaduct in lots of pictures and it was more or less on my way out of town. So I drove to one of the thousands of big pull off parking lots that have scenic overlooks and parked. Once again the pictures do it no justice. I was pretty smoked from the week of increased training and decided this would be an easy day and I'd try to take more pics. It was cold though only 35 degrees and it didn't warm up much, but there was a strong late March sun beating down on me which felt good, and soon the vest was coming off. I did a little more than 2 hours and really enjoyed the experience. I was very happy with my decision to take in another day of this gorgeous place.

The rest of the day and a good part of the night was spent in the car driving, and texting Nancy (bad boy, texting and driving). I pressed on til about 10 o'clock and made it back to the same hotel I stayed in on the way down in PA. I figured since I knew it was a good clean place, so why not go there again.

Sunday, I did the job I didn't want to do and drove another 7 hours home. I stopped in Providence and had a nice early dinner with Nancy which consisted of a big rack of ribs and of course a cold beer. I think my choice was a Blue Moon. I finally made it back home around 6 or 6:30. I was tired, but it was well worth it. Next time I fly, I got the road trip out of my system. The big advantage was that neither Kevin or I had to fly with our bikes, I had my own car the whole time, not some piece of crap rent-a-car, and I had the comforts of my own vehicle which always becomes a little bike racing home field advantage. The drawback was 26-28 hours of driving. Thanks to Jamie's radar detector the trip was without a single speeding ticket! Bonus!

Charge Pond #3, I was tired Saturday morning (March 28th) as the week after vacation was hard to get my rhythm back on timing. But I got to sleep a little extra Saturday morning and that helped. The plan was to ride to the race, race, ride home. I met Jamie up the road and we were off. About 34 miles for a warm up and we got there early so we ended up spinning around some more before the A race started. The race was fast from the gun and I felt reasonably good and decided it would be a good day to dig very deep regardless of the result. Ted King and his brother Robbie had showed up as well as Team Fuji led by a just back from FL and very fit Frankie Mac. A few laps into it I threw down a hard attack and there was an immediate response by several guys. We were slightly away with Ted, Robbie, Frank, David Potter and maybe a couple others. We drilled it for a lap and a half or so, but it was too early and lots of guys still had fresh legs and they nailed us back, but the sharp end of the race was very active for a few more laps and I followed a couple hard surges. Just after a hard effort Ted drilled it and Frank was right on him looking easy. I knew this was it because it was primed perfectly, I knew it would hurt to try and follow and my reaction was hesitant so I instantly decided I'd follow the first guy to chase, this all happened in 3 seconds. David Potter went hard and dug deep and I was right on him, he stayed the same distance for a while and my plan was to wait for him to fade and then jump across, if he made it with me great, if not......also great. I was hurting on his wheel, and knew the moment of truth was about to come, but I wasn't ready to go yet. Just then Robbie came out of nowhere (David and I had a good gap on the field) and he blew right by us and was clearly gonna get there. That seemed to deflate David and he faded and I knew it was now or never. I went as hard as I could and watched Robbie finish his impressive bridge. My hope was that he'd need to recover and that would mess up the flow of the three of them for just long enough for me to get there. Half a lap went by and David and the field were out of sight behind me. Robbie only skipped 1 turn and then went right to work, I felt like I was gonna get on, I was only about 30 meters from them if that, and then big Frank hit the front. He was turning that big gear over like nothing at all and I was hitting the wall.....that was it.....curtains. I sat up and took my helmet off so I could remove my headband that I foolishly left on for the race, and then put my helmet and shades back on and tucked the headband away. The bunch came along and I went right to the back for at least 8 laps to recover. It was kinda losy racing after that. Guys were trying to get away, and other guys were chasing everything down that they could. They couldn't chase down the front 3 earlier and they weren't going to now either. Those guys were the class of the field and they were GONE! Late in the race I was near the front and figured everyone was probably feeling pretty bad, so I took a flyer, Paul Richard (ccb) got my wheel and then he took the front and we had a small gap. I looked back to see how we were doing and my legs were not so great at the time either. I saw Marky Mac on the front chasing us down and he was pretty much right on us with the field right on his wheel. I shut down the attack and looked over at Mark as he rode up and he said "Big Crash". I thought "Oh No, where are my boys"? None of my teamates were there, but there were a few more guys coming across that must have got slowed down, but didn't crash. One of them was Sammy and the only other guys we had that day were Jamie and Gray. I asked him where they were and he said he thinks Jamie was in it. Yikes. We get around the course and the officials are yelling to us to "move to the right, riders down". The first guy I see is Jamie walking with his bike on his shoulder and his eye ripped open in the eyebrow, forehead area with blood running down his face, and no shades to be seen. Swelling is already visible. Sammy and I say "Oh no are you alright?" He says "ya" and I tell Sammy I'm going back. He says no don't go backwards on the course just go around. Next we see about 20 guys standing off both sides of the road with broken bikes and some, but not a lot of road rash. Half the field was wiped out if not more. We get around again and Jamie rides by on his bike just before we get to the last corner, he seems OK and theres 1 lap left. We all more or less stopped racing and just rode it out, at least thats what I did. It was a bummer. Thats usually a safe race, but thats bike racing. Jamie was more or less fine, he thought, but took a lift home from good friend Jeff Craddock (ccb). I decided to stick with my plan to ride home, and Gray was also riding to Falmouth with another guy.... Mike. As we roll out Frankie is also rolling out and it turns out he left his car at Kev's place in Wareham. So we rode with him that way. I still felt reasonably good and I had some food after the race and had a little more with me as well as money. Frank and I rode the front all the way to Kev's and we were going pretty fast. I had about 70 miles when we left and we more or less pushed it pretty hard, all the way to Wareham. I was starting to crack when Frank turned for Kev's place and we still had a long way to go to the Bourne bridge. We got to the bridge doing a nice rotation and then the bridge killed me. It's stressfull! The sidewalk that you have to ride on is about 18"-20" higher than the road and the cars are flying by at 60 mph or so. The wind is always galing, trying to blow you into traffic or the suicide rail on the other side and the damn thing is a stout little climb too. Usually some bonehead has thrown a bottle into the suicide rail and smashed glass and sand aren't an uncommon sight either.....lovely. We got through it fine and stopped at a store just onto the Cape. I more or less guilted the other 2 into riding along the canal with me over to Sandwich so they could help me home and still get in some respectable miles themselves. (They drove to the race with a third party). They did and I was so relieved.....until I absolutely ripped a brand new Michelin Race Clincher to shreds on a clamshell the seagulls left on the bike path for us. I replaced the tube and then used my race # as an emergency tire liner to get home. That worked really well. I might even keep a folded up number in my saddle bag from now on for just that reason. They're made of tough synthetic paper, perfect for that sort of repair. We were back up and running in no time and the other 2 split off and left me to the last 5 or 6 miles on my own. Man was I cracked! It was well over a 100 mile day with a race in the middle of it filled with big, big efforts and a few crashes too.

Tomorrow is the last Charge Pond race and I'll go depending on the weather. I'm just not in love with the race enough to want to do it in the rain. Besides, Sunday is the first Mountain Bike Race of the year.....I can't wait to actualluy race in this....

Whew, thats all for now, JB