Monday, October 4, 2010

Glahsta 2010

New England Worlds. The greatest nickname for the greatest race on the East Coast.

I LOVE THIS RACE!!!

My back hates the chicane/barrier get offs but it's an excellent feature. I'm feeling it today though.

The field was stacked as usual in the 35s. On top of the usual hard hitting North Easters we had the Canadian National champ along for the weekend, Peter Mogg. I like most things Canadian, and Peter was no exception. A hard nosed, strong racer, confident in his strength and a friendly guy after the races. The rest of the group was Roger Aspholm, teamates Kevin Hines, Jamie Tosca, & Bill Shattuck. Kurt Perham, Curtis Boivin, Matt Kraus, Rob Hult, Steve Proulx and lots more.

Day 1 saw an untraditional start line at the top of the hill going down, a quick horshoe off to the right and then back across the street into the sand and then lots of the usual stuff we typically see at Gloucester. They managed to create a longish lap and we only had to race 5 of them.

It was hard to get a good start and I was buried around 12th or so. I moved up a bit, then made a mistake in a tight chicane and lost a spot and a big gap. I stayed cool and rode hard, at least I had a good look at the lines while I was gapped off. I got back on near the end of the seawall section and tried to recover a bit. Jamie was just in front of me and Roger was just in fron of him. Kevin was somewhere behind me, and it was the Canadian champ on the very front, but there were a lot of bodies between me and him.

After a slight recovery I went by Jamie and Roger into a tight S turn between 2 trees. Just as I entered into it Kurt Perham and Matt Kraus tangled a bit in front of me. I braked hard and managed to sneak by them both on the inside absolutely clean. I passed a couple more before the next turn and then it was only Rob Hult and Peter Mogg in fron of me. I figured Roger hadn't snuck through the tiny door that opened for just a second like I did, so I was eager to get to the front......and off of it. I had to wait until we got through a lot of twisty stuff, so I just breathed as deeply as I could because I knew I was about to go very deep.

When we came off the "backstop chicane" the lane opened up and I drilled it. I went past both guys and into the lead right at the finish of lap 1. From there I just did what I do. I drilled it where I could, tried to recover in the more technical sections while picking good clean lines and monitoring what was happening behind me. Mogg was tough, he hung close for a while but was never in my draft. If I made a mistake he'd have been right back in business though. Eventually he faded a bit and I took a brief break from "full gas" in hopes that once I recovered I could hit it again, and hopefully be able to keep the throttle open all the way to the finish.

As Mogg faded slightly, Kev came up and put him away. I'm not sure how he had gapped Roger and all the others but he was now just clear of Mogg and about 10 seconds behind me. Roger made it up to Mogg also and a good battle ensued between those 2 guys.
I kept the gas on and so did Kev, we made it to the line in that order, me first and Kev about 10 seconds behind me. Mogg separated himself from Roger and took the last poduim spot by 5 seconds over the "Flying Finn".

That was win #5 for me at Gloucester and the only thing as perfectly satisfying as that to me, is an ice cold Sam Adams Octoberfest. Which I am presently sipping.

The podium was 3 National Champions. 2 USA and 1 Canada.
That is pretty cool! Not to mention that Roger was National Champ last year and is presently National Champ on the road.

Day 2 would be the same cast of characters plus Marky Mac (Mark McCormack, former USPRO road and cross National Champion) AKA "Mark the Shark". The course was the classic and legendary course that we've come to know so well over the years. Boilerplate fast, TOUGH run up, lots of twists and turns with varying surfaces, off camber chicanes, windy as heck with big competition and big crowds. Lately the 35s have become a bit of a show stealer in terms of spectators. They put us at noon time, right after the 45s and 55s race together. Most of those guys are our buds and we've known them for years and still race a ton of different races together. So what happens is lots of those guys finish their race and then change up and grab a cold beer or two, since it's now noon time AND they're done racing, and then they wanna watch the 35s race, which is sometimes as exciting as the PRO race that happens later in the day. Not nearly as fast, but exciting. Since there are SO many UCI races in the US these days, we don't always see a super deep field in the PRO races. But thats much later in the day anyway and lots of us have "honey-do lists", or other family obligations to get to. That being said, I myself love to watch the PROS race. I not only watch.....I study (and drink beer of course).

So anyway the whistle blows and we charge up the long paved section into the bottle neck at the top. This start is so hard, but it's my favorite because I don't get off the line like I used to, but this run out gives me time to get the engine fully involved and up after the finish line I usually start going faster while everyone else is slowing slightly. Thats exactly what happened yesterday, and I rode into the narrow entrance onto the upper field in 1st place. I never know where the big players are when I win the hole shot because I don't have eyes in the back of my head, but I have a good idea in my mind who's on my wheel.....cue the Jaws theme now.

There are several tricky corners with roots involved in the rythm section that brings us out to the seawall, and I don't allow myself to check on the competition until I get onto the cinder road and can safely look back. Just as I suspected, Mark 2nd, Roger 3rd. Onto the run up and this high speed get off is tricky.
Last year as I swung my right leg back and over my saddle I actually hit some part of Mark's bike with my foot. Thank God it wasn't his front brake lever! Somehow I think if that was about to happen to Mark, he'd just knock my foot off to the side with his hand while preserving his race and skelital system in a calm, cool manner. I was actually thinking "I hope I don't hit anything with my foot this year". I'd be willing to bet he remembered it too.

Well I poured the gas on for all I was worth for 3 laps. In that time I don't think I got Mark more than 2 feet off my wheel and down the long backstretch along the ocean he rode just inside of me on my left as the wind was from the right. I know what you're thinking, I should have pinned myself to the course tape on the left side, but I hated that line. When I'm on the front I ride my preferred lines. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, we were going pretty damn fast down there and he was getting a much easier ride, yes, but I wasn't gonna ride some piece of crap line full of loose sharp rocks. I had managed to pop everyone else off and I was pretty pleased with my day 2 legs. Roger was off, but never by much,
and as we hit the pavement at the beginning of lap 3 I asked Mark for some help. No answer. I worked hard up to the finish line and got the 4 to go card as the crowd really started to grow. It's hard not to notice this at Gloucester. I simultaneously moved to my right and flicked the elbow, but like we were on a tandem he moved right with me. OK, I sorta figured that, but I was starting to pay the price of 2 very hard laps and Roger was still very close. 1 lap later, it was about the same, but Roger had gotten closer at some point and then I stretched it out again.

We were halfway through the 6 lap race and Kevin had shaken the Canadian Champ, but a fiesty Rob Hult was still on him.
They were getting close now too, and I was obviously slowing down a little. It's really hard to ride from the front, because I'm trying to make it all the way to the finish line and the chasers are looking at me as the finish line. They can see just in front of them where they want to be. But I love it! In one race last year in RI, Roger and I were separated by 4 seconds for 4 straight laps, both guys going full gas. That. Is. Racing! But so is being in a 4 man front group that we would soon become.

Near the end of the 5th lap Roger had reattached to Mark and me, and Kev was almost there too. I knew I had to get off the front and I knew Mark wasn't gonna pull through. I also knew Roger wasn't gonna come take a nice friendly pull without attacking the shit out of us, so I kinda soft pedaled all the turns on the way back from the far end of the lower field. This let me get some oxygen that I was gonna need shortly into my lungs and also let Kevin get attached after an incredible race long bridge. When I went through the last corner near the sand pit, I moved way over to the left and slowed as I looked right. Mark didn't take the bait as expected, Roger launched a hard attack as expected. I was ready, but it still hurt like hell. He doesn't do one of these wimpy attacks where he goes hard for 10 seconds and looks back 6 times. He NEVER does that! He hits out hard, usually on a hill and dares you to try to follow it, then he just keeps going. It's great to see! If you have the legs, then shuv it down their throats and make them take what you're dishing out. It may sound corny to you, but it's some manly shit that I respect and appreciate.....and try to emulate. I pretty much had it covered and then we hit the super tight chicane after a small uphill that we actually had to hit the brakes on because we were coming in so hot. Mark was on my wheel and Kev was just slightly off. Roger kept the pressure on coming out of the chicane and directly into the backstop chicane, which was a tunnel of noise and cowbells, just like the barriers right next to the beer tent had been for the last few laps, and down onto the approach to the pavement.

On the pavement Roger lit it up again. This was SAVAGE! You can see how
he has a small gap on me and everyone is full on at this point. We flew past the line and got the bell, and I swear it seemed as loud as Nationals last year. Roger started to fade ever so slightly and after a check over his shoulder to see we were there he eased slightly. Now I'm not gonna lie, I was cross eyed and in agony, but this was a golden opportunity to counter attack. My mind was sharp, but my legs were pretty worked not to metion a maximum heart rate pounding my chest wall. Still, it had to be done. This is where I try to emulate that manly shit I was talking about...he he he.

I punched it around Roger and crushed the cranks as hard as I could trying to break them. I told myself I had to maintain it up onto the field and to the corner where it'd be easier to look back to see if I had earned the gap I wanted. I did the best I could and looked when I got there. Mark had responded and was on me and Roger was close too. Kev was still tacked on as well, but everyone looked like shit, including me. That 2 minutes that I just described is what made this one the best races I 've ever been a part of. That and the last 2 minutes of the race too.

So I didn't earn a gap, but now everyone was gassed and we were on the last lap. I was pretty sure no one was gonna try to take the front spot from me for at least a minute or two. I actually recovered and felt my adrenaline come up, because I love this shit so much. Last lap at Gloucester with 4 strong guys and a frantic crowd, and a win from the day before already tucked under my belt. I felt like I could roll the dice and no matter what happened now there wouldn't be a reason to not hold my head high when the dust settled. I kept the pace reasonable as we all recovered a bit, then I tried to work out what to do. The Jaws theme was getting louder now. I had to smack him in the mouth (obviously figuratively) before the sprint or he'd win. The barriers were absolutely deafening with people screaming at the tops of their lungs just inches from my, about to burst head. I stayed on the front through the remainder of the lap down to the far end of the field again. After all the twisty turns I tried to accelerate into the last one and take a small risk going through it faster than I had all day, clipping it with my leg as I went by. Instantly I poured on the gas and held it all the way past the pits and up the hill into the tight chicane. Mark was slightly gapped off. I should have hopped off my bike and run it there to attempt something different and faster to throw him off, but I only got that idea later when I saw Jerome Townsend do it in the PRO race. Instead I slowed to practically 0 mph to tiptoe around like we had all day and then gassed it again into the backstop chicane. When I came out of that I stole a look and the Great White was starting to lick his big pointy teeth. I hit the pavement and looked to see where he was going and he went wide right out to the fencing, I reacted well, but he was already by me. It was still a long way to go and I fought as hard as I could, while my mind played a flashback of him sprinting Jackson Stewart in the same place years ago in the Saturn Colors. Jackson actually came back on him in that sprint and pipped him at the line for 2nd place. I would have to try that, although I'm no Jackson Stewart, but......theres always a "but", he wasn't the same Marky Mac either. I needed to get along side him with 50 meters to go to have any chance, but I simply couldn't. I ended up just staying on his wheel and riding his draft to ensure a 2nd place over Roger. UPDATE: It looked like this.I patted him on the back just after the line as well as Kevin and Roger. All 4 of us were smiling ear to ear after we caught our breath. It was an awesome race to be a part of and I sent them all an email today with a picture attached thanking them for such an epic battle.

My back went up in flames from those high speed get offs so I retreated to the Corner Cycle Compound for some advil and to spin on the trainer a bit. Shortly after podium we were hanging back at the cars, having some laughs and doing some bench racing, when we got the ultimate visitor. I had gotten to know Tim Johnson a bit when we rode a bunch of hours together at Jeremy's "Grand Fundo Ride" back in July. I had asked him on Saturday if he'd take a picture with Kev and me, with all 3 of us in the Stars and Stripes kits. He said sure, but I didn't have my camera with me at the moment, so I said maybe tomorrow would be easier.
We were planning on stopping by the Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com trailer, but he did us 1 better and stopped by our spot down by the start line. He was awesome and had us laughing with just typical guy/bikeracer type stuff.
Bill had finally had enough from behind the camera and decided to jump in front of it. I told Tim that Bill was our
"Resident Wise Guy" and they shared a laugh. We all did actually. Thanks for stopping by Tim, that was way cool. You made the weekend that much better, and then better again when you mopped the floor with the entire field in the PRO race. Jeremy and Jamey were the only 2 close, making it a cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com sweep of the podium. We'll be cheering for you guys all year! go get 'em New England!

Thanks for reading, JB

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oh Hey, This Thing Is Still Here Huh?

Well like always, Green Mountain Stage Race takes a lot out of me, both before and after, but what a great race. I saw Fitchburg scaled back to a one day crit. I hope that doesn't happen to GMSR.

So Cross season is here and in full swing. It's the eve of the biggest race in this country with the exception of Natz, but with Natz being on a revolving location/venue format, I'd have to say the best race you could ever win is "Glahstah".

The PROs are exciting to watch thats for sure, but this is a place where the gray haired old farts come to read about "their" races. In the 35+ race over recent history winners have included Jim Brown, Rich Maile (3), John Verheul, Richard Feldman, Roger Aspholm, Mark McCormack, Chris Peck (2), Jonny Bold (4), and Kevin Hines. Thats quite the list, I'd LOVE to add #5. At the moment it's pouring out and thats good for me, so we'll see how soggy old Stage Fort Park is in the morning.

But lets back up. The season started at Quad Cross 3 weeks ago. Deep field for a local race as everyone needed a tune up before heading to the first Verge races in VT a week later. I separated early on, but there was a certain "Mark the Shark" lurking
in the early laps and while he was skilled enough to ride the sandy corner, I wasn't. He brought me back and then later attacked in the same place, sucessfully gapping me off with 2 to go and held it all the way to the line. A good rust shaker, now it was time for the real deal.

So just 2 weeks after being just south of Canada for GMSR we were back for the Catamount Race Weekend. The first stop on the 2010 Verge New England Series. Kevin was fresh off a silver medal performance in the Master's World Mountain Bike Championships in Brazil. He would be strong, and Roger.......well, he's Roger, and VT is pretty hilly. He was also fresh off of winning US Master's Road Natz, and a trip to Austria for Master's Road World Championships, as well as a little R&R.

Long story short. Roger killed us. Over a minute on Saturday to Kevin in 2nd and a little more on me in 3rd. Sunday it was deja vu. Kev stayed closer, while I faded, and a very strong Kurt Perham hung onto Kev's wheel until half way through the last lap. He clinched 3rd while I hung on to 4th. Kev is 20 points off the series lead and I'm 35 back. Ouch!

Last weekend Kevin and I raced Adam's new race at Loon Mt. It was tough and technical, and heavy with lots of climbing. After a so so start I took to the front and turned it up. I earned a gap over Rob Hult and Kevin and kept checking it often. Pretty soon Kev detached from Rob and so I waited a little on one of the long paved sections. When he got on I started drilling it again. We were hoping for a nice 2 man show in our flashy new National Champ's Kits, but in the next technical section I put a little gap on Kev. OK, that just doesn't happen. He's way better at cornering than me. I though he might have just made a small mistake, but it turns out he was just on a bad day. So I just rode. After a while Rob went back by Kev and all of a sudden I started to feel horrible. The climbs started to really slow me down and I pretty much cracked. Rob tasted blood and came back from a healthy deficit to overtake me and win going away.

After the race, Kev and I were starved to death and we realized we didn't do such a good job of feuling up for the 3 o'clock race. Not to take anything away from Rob. He rode great! But we learned a little something about the late afternoon start. Good thing too, because our race the next day was at 2:30 in the Elite Race at Sucker Brook Cross.

We had an actual lunch this time and felt a lot better racing. Not a lot of guys on the pre reg list, but at the line we had 4 Corner Cycle Riders, (me, Kev, Jamie, and Bill) plus Synjen on the Bay Hill, CL Noonan, Corner Cycle Squad and also Nate Morse on the same team. Dylan Mcnicholas, Al Donahue, Josh Dillon, Josh Leahman, Brian Wilichoski, Chandler Delinks and more were all on the line. Good field.

First lap was fast as expected and extremely dusty. Theres a great sand pit feature near the end of the lap and that thinned things down a little. I was near the front with Dylan and the next time through the sand I led in. I rode it and gapped the field a bit which was already pretty strung out. Dylan closed the gap back up to me over the paved start/finish area and as we went into the serpentine sections on the fields I said "let's just work this thing together". He was cool with that and we worked hard like teamates to get away from a few guys nipping at our heels.

We stretched it out pretty well over the next 4 laps and it looked at that point like the group behind (Al, Josh Dillon and Kev) were racing each other. We had a solid 35-45 second lead I'd guess. With about 3 to go Dylan ran the small stair section really well and also remounted very fast, with a solid click in of the pedals he attacked hard down to the grassy, loose dirt 180 degree turn. I fought to limit the damage, but he slowly pulled away. That was just about the 45 minute mark of the race which is what I'm used to racing and he also was simply stronger and had another gear. He put a solid gap into me over the next 2-1/2 laps to easily win. I was very satisfied with 2nd. Al Donahue attacked late to gap off the others and finish out the podium in 3rd.

Highlights of the day were Solobreak dropping by while we warmed up and entertained us with some hilarious cheers/heckles. Also a nice surprise were the podium girls!

The course was the best yet at Sucker Brook in my opinion. Jack Chapman and crew do such a great job at this race. I look at it as a sort of "Canton North". With so many big races around it's nice to see one with this vibe.

That brings us up to speed for now. Hopefully I'll have something worthwhile to say after G-Star.

Thanks for stopping by, JB

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Green Mountain Stage Race

There is no place more beautiful than the Green Mountains of Vermont in late summer. This place, this race are my favorites.
It's hard to make this race your favorite, because it's so damn hard. The Corner Cycle Master's Racing Team had 4 strong guys for this one. Myself, Wild Bill, Sammy, and Dave Connery who's been spending most of the summer doing tri's. Dave is local to GMSR.

Stage 1 is the road bike only TT. There's a tough hill on the 10k course and then a tough uphill finish. It's all big ring, but not for everyone. I had a tremendous ride and felt like I managed the course and my pain well. I won it 3 years ago and was 2nd to Roger last year. I figured when I was done that I had won it based on how strong I felt. The one and only guy I wasn't sure about was Fast Fred Thomas. It turns out I had good reason to worry about Fred, as he pipped me by 3 seconds. Doh! No leader's jersey. Great ride Fred!

Stage 2 is the longish, hillyish, hotish circuit race. It was pretty lame really. The whole bunch rode around in HIGH winds and stayed together the whole way. KOM points were up for grabs as well as sprint points at the finish line each time through. 2 kom's, 3 sprints including the finish. There was a bad crash coming to the line on lap 1 which was truly a waste because there were 2 guys just up the road that took the first 2 spots for points and there was only 1 spot left. It happened right in front of me and I was able to jump over the yellow line and avoid it as guys went tumbling. Thankfully there were no cars coming or I would have dove into the pile as a "lesser of 2 evil's". The biggest name caught up in the crash was John Funk. He was sore, but not injured too bad and soldiered on avoiding the time cut, but it was a long day for him and a few others.

There were time bonuses on the line that went 5 deep and any one of them would leap frog me over Fred and into the leader's jersey, so that was my goal for the day. I had excellent support from my team all day and while Bill grabbed a few sprint points, he was able to start the leadout on the final run in. Dave lost the wheel and wasn't able to contribute, but good ole Sammy took it up from about 1k to go. He was building into his sprint when the "Fuji train" came by. I immediately jumped left to follow them and Gary Aspenes was there too, we fought for the wheel, but they were too quick and gapped it. I settled in behind Gary as he buried it for 3 or 4 seconds, then, even though I didn't have much oxygen left, I jumped around him and pounded the pedals as hard as I could. I wasn't gonna catch the front 3, but I didn't have to. I hung on for 4th and beat some good sprinter's in the process as Fuji went 1, 2, 3. I scored a 5 second bonus and leapfrogged Fred into the GC lead. So we were 100% successful on the day in terms of our goal, but everyone in the field was a little red faced about Fuji sweeping the podium for the stage. Good on ya Fuji, that was awesome!

Carefull what you wish for. It was stage 3....the MONSTER Queen stage of the GMSR. 70 miles with 3 major climbs (2 of them Gap roads)and tons of other little leg breaking walls, along with dirt road sections and HIGH winds. The team was prepared to defend the jersey and ride for me. I love you guys!

The first climb is a new one that we used to get around a major section of rt. 100 that's in bad shape. It's actually the descent we do after the finish of the TT. The team was all over the front here and at the bottom of the descent, Wild Bill took off, eventually Carl Reglar and Cary Moretti bridged up to him. Those 3 would define the stage as they stayed away from most everyone all day. Bill took maximum sprint points and pulled on the green jersey as a result. Over Middlebury gap we had passed the 3's neutralizing them, only to have them come back on us and neutralize us. The officials only made them sit at the road side for 1 minute. We had caught them for 10 minutes. That always worries you with a break up the road, especially when you're in yellow.

We went over Middlebury with a big group and it got bigger on the descent, then we rode some trash miles before we came to the right hander onto Notch Rd. which is a major 500 meter steep wall, that leads right into the dirt road section. That was FUN, FUN, FUN!!! Nothing like drilling it at the front of a 50 man group over dirt roads and looking back and seeing dust and carnage and a long straight line of riders with gaps all over the place. Coming off the dirt there was a new climb going up into Bristol. This is where things got interesting. At the start of the dirt road the moto ref told us the gap was 2:30 to the lead 3. That sort of worried me (OK I friggen shit!)as Carl was only 30 seconds or so behind me. I knew Bill would no longer be working up there, but it was time to go! I led onto the new climb and put in a small dig, John Funk brought the tempo up again and then David Taylor drilled it hard. It was that effort that I knew I had to follow and I was able to, but I went deep. The field was blowing to bits and all the heads of state were up front. This is when the group ride turns into a race. When the break is starting to go up the road, thats when it's a race. I live for that moment. We split it and it was Taylor, Rob Lattanzi, myself, Mark Pohndorf, John Funk and David Ghazi. I guess I made the decision to work before the split even formed. I was scared the race was gonna slip away and Carl would run away with it. Plus I know how it works with 1 guy sitting on a break, it usually kills it. I did have Bill up the road, but I didn't think it through enough. I visualized Carl and Cary still driving it hard with a 2:30 lead. I guess I had the right to sit on the move and play poker. I wish I had been so coy. We absolutely crushed it for what seemed like 25 minutes, when we came to the right hander onto Rt. 17 that starts Baby Gap. Just in front of us were the 3's again, but just in front of them was our 3 leaders. They looked close on the climb, but were still probably a minute ahead.

We slowly reeled them in near the top of baby gap, but they all still looked pretty good. We hit App Gap with 4k of brutal climbing left to go and I was a little low on bullets. I usually use the "lead in" miles to fuel up a bit, but instead I was in a 6 man paceline with some of the best masters riders around. The only guy missing was Fred, that's because he flatted on the dirt road, or he would have been there for sure. I felt good at first, but it's not that steep. I actually went to the front because that's what I did at Catskills, so I figured I'd ride my own tempo again. Slowly Taylor and Ghazi came around and made a stronger tempo. I couldn't match it, but I had time on both of them so I just had to cope with it and do the best climb I could. Next Lattanzi (who's tough as nails) came by and then Funk. They pulled away, but not a decisively as the 2 Davids. John lost tons of time on GC the day before so he wasn't a concern for the overall. Lattanzi was pretty close though. Moretti went out the back and Bill, Carl and Pohndorf were in the same boat with me.

I kinda cracked with 2.5k to go, and it was a battle to say the least.

Taylor did a great climb and won, Ghazi was 2nd, Funk 3rd, Lattanzi 4th, Carl got around me on the final 500 meters and took 5th, I was 6th, Bill 7th, Pohndorf 8th and Moretti just held off the field. I lost the jersey to Ghazi and Taylor slotted in in 2nd, I was 3rd, Lattanzi was 4 seconds behind me in 4th and Bill was 7th.

Lots of time bonuses up for grabs in the crit. It went back and forth a bit between me and Lattanzi, but I was able to pull away from him and actually close on Taylor, but not enough to overtake him.
Marky Mac took off and won the crit, Ghazi won the overall, Taylor 2nd, me 3rd. Mark also took the green jersey with the points from the finish.

The highlight of the weekend and maybe the whole season was watching Jamie in the cat 2 race (crit) in a super fast race. They did 25 miles in 41 minutes!!! I swear they were faster than the PRO's. He was in absolutely perfect position all day, and nicely danced his bike around a nasty turn 1 crash. With 1 to go he was 4th wheel with 65 riders strung out in a LONG line. He came around the last corner and while everyone went pretty wide he was the first to get inside and start his sprint. I've tried (ridiculously) to sprint with him in hundreds of trainging sessions. It's a friggen joke! He puts 30 meters on me in 5 seconds. I could tell by his focus late in the race that he was possesed with winning it. He was 3rd last year and knew he could win it. When he made his run a few guys were able to get close, but there was no way they were gonna get around him.
He accelerated all the way to line and shuvved a fist into the air as he won that shit!!! That was his LAST race as a 34 year old. Ya, you know what I'm saying....

Overall I'm really pleased with hitting the podium at this race. Thats the first time I ever made the final podium. This is a super hard race to win, but I hope to try again next year. After breaking my collarbone 4 weeks from the start of the race, I'd be crazy not to be stoked with that result. David Ghazi, Fred Taylor and I went head to head in 3 different stage races this year. Fred won Killington, I won Catskills, and David won GMSR, and in this race we all wore the leader's jersey for 1 day. Good stuff.

Now it's time for some fun in the dirt.

Thanks for reading, JB

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's In

Not to be out done by Gewilli My Stevens is back from being painted, right in time for Cross season.

I'm 100% focused on Green Mountain Stage Race at the moment, but this is pretty cool. I can't wait to rip it on this rocket ship!

Thanks for stoppin' by, JB

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010 D2R2 Pure Bonus

Thats what this was to me. Pure Bonus! As you know I was pretty sure 2 weeks ago that the D2R2 was off the schedule for me. I hoped to get back for Cross at first, but then after quickly feeling a lot better, I figured I'd be able to race Green Mountain Stage Race. Then after more healing and more ride time, I decided in the 11th hour that I'd be saddling up for D2R2. With this being billed as the hardest century ride you'll ever do, which is actually well over 100 miles at 113 or so, it wouldn't seem too hard to believe. But.....there's always a "but", this is no road ride. This is a "dirt road randonee" that starts in Deerfield, MA, in the "hilltown" region. Hence the name D2R2. It is 85-90% dirt roads, some of which are basicly cart roads that you couldn't drive a 2 wheel drive car on. It is hillier than you can imagine. 13,000 feet of climbing. With that comes descending, lots of descending on dirt roads. This year was gonna be tricky because with the dry summer, the dirt roads have turned into washboards in lots of places. Not great for a broken collarbone with 2 weeks of healing, but as I told all my mates, my ribs were actually the worse injury in terms of feeling pain while riding a bike. I knew I had to be safe and easy on the descents, but I have to admit to feeling the thrill most of the day and letting go of the brakes a fair amount. I had one close call when I almost overcooked a left hander that entered a small bridge. I managed it OK though by putting an outrigger out (clicking out of the pedal and leaning the inside foot out in case of a tire slide) and measuring what distance I had left to complete the turn. I made it with a couple inches to spare, and then told myself to go back to being more careful than that again. I'm very sorry to report that 2 very good friends from the ccb team had 2 separate cases of bad luck, and went down hard, both breaking collarbones. Well I don't know that for sure, but I know Tyler Munroe did for sure because he was back at the finish tent, drinking a beer, (atta boy Ty) with the tell tale signs of a clavicle fracture. Then we heard Jim Nash had also gone down and it was said that he had also broken a shoulder and was at the hospital. Many speedy recovery wishes to you guys. I hope it's not too bad for you. This is RUGGED terraine, and it has demanded respect from lots of men.

At any rate, I was on an absolute high just being there with this crew. I had been somewhat depressed since my Louisville trip, and I knew this was the sort of thing that could snap me out of my funk. I hate the hot weather and Saturday was calm and cool with a hint of cyclocross in the air. Had I stayed home because of the injuries, I would have woken to that cool dry autumn air and instantly gotten more depressed, knowing what I was missing. So in the start corral at 6:30 after letting all the tough guys go at the early 6 AM start time, we had Solobreak, Dougie, Kevin Buckley, Sammy, Kev, Synjen, John Funk, Tim Grosbeck, Steve Roszco, John Mosher, Chris White, Chris Peck, and our fearless leader who knows the entire route by memory and was also our gracious host Friday night....Jay Gump and lots of others.

It was cold starting out so we started with arm warmers and thin vests. After about an hour we stopped and dropped any extra clothing items by a covered bridge and Jay's wife Megan picked it all up later and put it another car that was coming down later for the shorter 100k ride. A BIG thank you to Jay and Megan for making our adventure as fun & friendly as it could be. By that time we had already done some serious climbing. I highly recomend Dave's report for a much better description of some of the technical aspects of where we were and what kind of grades we faced, and of course Dave's unmatched humor. But this is such a huge ride that we really hadn't even scratched the surface yet, especially since we were still fresh. 1 hour into a 9 hour "Hellride" means squat! The first few descents were a litmus test of sorts for me personally. The climbs were hard, yes, but the descents were where I'd have to absorb more vibration and shock into my injured skelatal system. I'm not a big believer in pill popping, but for this extreme effort under extreme circumstances, I'd decided to have as close to 800 mg of ibuprofin coursing through my blood as possible. So I had advil with me and took 800 mg before we started and again 3-1/2 hours later and then again 3-1/2 hours after that. The first few washboard sections were unpleasant, but I finally decided I wasn't doing any more damage and was just holding on too tight making things worse, so I loosened up a bit and it made all the difference in the world. Like all sports, the key is to do it in as a relaxed state as possible.

We were climbing a very tough hill in the woods at one point and as we looked up there was a calf (baby cow, not Sammy's lower leg) in the road and more or less trotting right at us with a somwhat disgruntled look on his face. I had told myself I wanted to enjoy this ride more and take some pictures, but when you're climbing these brutal dirt climbs and you've got one bad arm that doesn't reach pockets on your back very well, it's well.....hard. I faded back though and made the attempt, I fumbled with the pocket and the cliff bars on top of it but managed to get it out and turn it on and fire one off just as "Norm" (Cityslicker's) got off the edge of the road. It turns out I videoed him by mistake which I have no idea how I did it, but here he is.
video

We eventually hit the food/fluid stop at the sunflower field. This was one of the main reasons I had brought the camera along. Last year this was a sea of 8' tall sunflowers that were all in full bloom. The ride was about a month earlier last year, and this year they had planted a different kind of sunflower, they weren't as tall and had gone by just a little bit by the time we arrived. It was a better snapshot last year, but that will have to live on in my memory, unless someone took a shot in 2009 that they'd like to share. Thanks to Rosey, we can now see the difference...


There were countless climbs and descents. The steepest was easily Achambo, the longest was probably Hillman, but the hardest of all was Patton that falls at about the 90-93 mile mark. We had an extraordinary group of climbers. Most of the day, the only somewhat competitive times were on these hills, and I was able to be at or on the front for all of them.....until Patton. In 2009 I famously attacked Kevin here (and by famously, I mean he and I remember it) after he waited for me numerous times earlier in the day, only to have him counter attack me and club me to death on the final steep wall that is more or less 20% on golf ball sized gravel. I survived the first half OK with Kevin and Chris Peck and John Funk who I have a mountain of respect and admiration for, then it lessened in terms of steepness and I repeated my attack from a year ago.....kind of. I was able to recover and go between Chris and Kev and put in a surge, but I gapped no one, and I laughed to myself as Kev said "oh no, not this again". I'm even laughing now as I write this, because it will be tradition from now on of course, but I was pretty close to being toast at that moment and the kill was imminent. Those 3 took off and I was left in the dust and backward rolling golf balls as I suffered up to the top, but while this is where my suffering was at it's greatest, it was where my happiness was at it's peak. I was here, I was in the late stages of the ride on the last killer climb with a food stop at the top and as long as I kept my head, I was gonna do this. I promise you I wasn't trying to be a hardass when I decided to ride it, rather I needed it. I wouldn't risk furter injuring myself if that was a possiblity. Of course it's a possiblity for anyone to injure themselves on this ride, but I didn't feel as though just participating would injure me, so I trusted my instincts again. Ya, that let me down last time, but I could list hundreds of thousands of instances where it didn't so I wasn't gonna check my confidence at the door now. I say I needed it, because this is my drug. People like anyone reading this right now inspire me. People like you Dougie, that live life like it's a one time chance (because it is!). I'm more comfortable in my skin with all of you masochistic nutjobs than I am anywhere else. I mean that affectionately of course!

The rest of the ride wasn't uneventful, we had 3 flats, one of which was mine, but no crashes and when we came off the last, possibly hardest dirt road sector, we were all smiles. The group was fragmented a little but it was more or less all together for a good size portion of us that started together.
I felt like I was on drugs! I'm so greatful that I was able to have this day with everyone, with absolutely perfect weather. I thought for sure it was gonna be wiped away after my crash, so it only served to emphasize how much I do love the spiritual side of cycling. Racing is great, but I won't always race, I will however always ride. I have to, I need it like a junkie needs the needle.

They do SO much for you at this event. The food along the way is unreal and the friendliness is off the charts. The organization is flawless, and when you're done they offer a shuttle to the school where we can shower and then back to an incredible dinner and beer. I would have sat there and drank with Solo 'til they threw us out, but my pal Sammy was driving and he needed to go, so we left after only a few. I'm sure it was for the better anyway.

If you like tough rides and dirt roads and you think the Battenkill race is the big deal, you're dead wrong. That's a silly little flatish spin with a circus atmosphere compared to this baby. This is THE challenge for anyone looking for one, and it supports a great cause. You also get more than your money's worth throughout the day.

Thanks for reading, JB

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Progress Report

Well, it must have been all the well wishes, because I've been healing at a very pleasing rate. My hand remained swollen and tender for a quite few days after getting home, but the collarbone was less and less painful as long as I didn't do anything stupid. I was really good about trying not to move it the whole first week.

During that time I went to see my local orthopedic surgeon that helped me through the much worse, displaced right side (the other side and dominant hand) clavicle fracture at the end of 2004. He was on vacation, but his P.A. Jim Thomas, who happens to ride for NEBC and is really, really strong, and is also an occasional training partner took super care of me. It was so cool to have a familiar face and an actual bike racer to be able to talk to. No eye rolls, no looks like I'm a crazy man, just a friend reaching out to help. That alone brought my spirits way up. He looked at my hand as well and noticed that a few of the stitches were "matress sutures" and that the continued swelling of the hand had more or less sent the stitches under the skin.

He had another X-ray taken at the PRO sharp shooter angle and then he brought me some good news. The bone had already started to heal a bit and it hadn't slipped at all. It wasn't likely that it would now. It's right in the middle of the clavicle between the sternum and shoulder. He said it broke upward, but then returned back down to it's (more or less) normal location. All this was good news and I knew he knew the next thing that was gonna come out of my mouth. "When can I ride outdoors"? He said "Well Tyler Hamilton did it the next day, and this is probably similar to the break he had" he went on to say "it's not gonna feel real good and I wouldn't reccomend any mountain biking just yet, but if you can take the discomfort, the bone isn't gonna move."

Yee Ha!

Then before I left, he took a closer look at the sutures and said that the wounds, were more or less healed, at least enough where they weren't gonna split open again, and that if he wanted me to have him take the stitches out instead of doing it myself one handed, that it wouldn't be a problem. I said "sure, have at it". It was a good thing too, because those matress sutures really were a little trickier than any of the ones I've ever taken out. I couldn't imagine wasting a trip in Cape Cod summer traffic to have someone cut a few tiny stitchs and then pull them out, so it was great that he took care of it there and then.

That was Thursday and I decided to wait til the next day to try a ride, making it a full week off the bike, which I was really kind of due for anyway. Friday I ended up really busy and didn't get a chance to ride til later in the day and at the last minute I decided it would be best to give it a go on the trainer, just to see what everything was gonna feel like. It was a smart decision, unlike many I make, and it turned out the hand was the hardest injury to deal with since I really had no strength in the hand and it hurt to try to close it. I just sort of sat it on the top of the bars and it supported some of the weight that I was allowing to be on that side which was probably only about 25% anyway, so it was good enough. I rode for an hour and was thrilled to be able to ride, but my hatred for the trainer was firmly in place.

The next day Jamie dragged me around for a couple hours on the roads. I took a few feeble pulls, but not much. The collarbone definitely lets me know it's busted, but I'm more or less in a fixed position. Trying to look back can be more painful than hitting a bump. The hand was slightly better too, and I knew it was good to be trying to use it. The skin is actually a lot tighter since the holes in my skin weren't lacerations, but rather deep abrasions, and had to be pulled together somewhat unnaturally to close the wounds. So I guess I got a "hand lift". That isn't gonna help these old catcher's mitts any.....trust me. After being a cyclist and a carpenter all my life, my hands are a bit weathered to say the least.

I've been able to ride each day and the hand is now almost completely back to normal size, except for the middle knuckle that stuck out the most and absorbed most of the impact. It's a lot stronger and the skin is starting to feel like it won't tear when I try to make a fist, which I still can't do. Having this happen to my non dominant side is more than a big relief. Having injured that side of my body before, I know full well the pitfalls of trying to do life's little things with the useless hand. Try wiping your butt with the "other" hand sometime and see how that goes. I hope you're not a fingernail biter! Thats just the beginning of it, it goes on and on. So things are a lot better than they could be!

The one injury that isn't cooperating is the ribs. They seem to have actually gotten worse. I think the soft tissue damage is starting to rear it's ugly head and combined with the ribs themselves, it's pretty sharp at times. When I first get on the bike it's like having just gotten off the deck after crashing. The pain is sharp, as I'm not used to the lungs expanding that much and thats what pushes against the inside of the ribcage. Eventually after a few miles it gets a little better, or I just get more used to it, but it's hard to get the oxygen to the muscles when the breathing is handicapped. It's fine though, it'll get better in time and for now I can actually ride.

I'm just getting a little stir crazy though (I didn't have far to go). Today I took the cross bike for it's first voyage since Belgium and it was nice to have a little more upright position and a softer feel from the tires. I figured I'd make sure to give it a shakedown before I try to ride it Saturday. I thought I might take a little spin on it in Western MA on Saturday with a few friends. There's this little group ride called the D2R2 that is lots of fun, so I think I'll go do that since I already entered and all. I need to ride with the boys more than anything and see all the smiling faces to really get me back on my feet. I hope to see you all there, be sure to come say hi.

Thanks for all the shout outs and for reading, JB

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ahh Crap

So I was out to improve on my 5th place in the TT, at the Natz Road Race. The course is super technical and lots of little hills, also lots of hard corners, and of course 100 guys all wanting to ride near the front. I had seen a few races already, including Kevin's race on Tuesday when he finished a fine 5th. Also the race right before mine was the 40-44 which Roger Aspholm handily won from a ten man group. All of the races had blown apart due to the nature of the course and agressive racing. It had been well over 100 degrees all week, but by Friday it was in the low to mid 90's. That hardly seems great but the humidity was also down making the "feels like" temperature a good 20 degrees cooler than Wednesdays races.

We hit the line at 2:30 in the heat of the day and it was fast and frantic right away. I was able to get to the front just in time to avoid being in or behind a pile up about 2/3 of the way around the 1st lap. We hit the hardest climb and I was 3rd wheel feeling fine. I fought the urge to attack when the guys around me were clearly breathing a lot harder than me. Over the top a couple guys shot to the front before a hard off camber left hand turn. I had ridden the course the day before and got all the corners dialed in, so I was confident in my lines. When the 4 or 5 guys in front of me slowed way down and took it real wide, I thought "what pussies". I held my speed and at the last second dove hard for the inside apex of the corner. I had a beautiful line and a clean line of vision. In that split second I thought "this is how to ride that corner ladies". Before that thought was even gone from my mind, I heard and felt an interuption at the base of my rear wheel. I was going fast and railing the corner. The wheel made a boney scrape and I slid a bit. I reacted well and got the bike back under me for an instant, then my rear wheel felt like the brakes had been squeezed hard and i went into a washout skid. I seemed to actually pick up speed as I pinwheeled around the bend. I couldn't save it again although I tried all the way down. I hit the deck hard and bounced a bit then slid, still on the inside of the turn and taking out no one else.

I hopped up instantly and scurried off to the inside on the sidewalk. The group sped by as I took inventory, shoulder hurts bad. I tried to move it and it wasn't too too terrible. I felt the collarbone, nothing obvious. My leg had a good size patch of roadrash at the calf. No worries. My hand hurt a lot, but it was at the knuckles under my now crimson gloves. The index finger that was on the front break in the ready position looked like hamburger. The pavement was that chip seal crap that just destroys flesh. All in all I was up on my feet and not in pure agony.

The back of the bunch went by and I was now looking at my rear wheel. I had rolled a section of the tire off the rim. That was the initial part of the loss of control. In the time it took for the wheel to rotate up to the brakes I had regained control, albeit for a nanosecond, but at that level of hyper awareness I knew I had saved it. Then in the next nanosecond when the part of the tire that was off the rim lodged itself in the brakes forcing a lock up and skid, I had "re-lost" control and this skid lasted long enough due to my velocity that there would be no saving it at that extreme body lean angle.

The wheel car was right there which surprised me, because the other pile up was only minutes before. I think there may have been 2 wheel cars. At any rate those guys were on it. I knew I took a hard hit and my hand was bleeding really bad. I told him I was all set as I was rolling the tire back on the rim. He looked and said "Oh you rolled it".....and so my embarrassment began. Thats just SO non PRO. Theres actually a penalty in the rulebook for rolling a tire. Or at least there used to be, I don't know if it's still there, but it should be. I'm so greatful that I didn't take anyone else out or hurt them. Then I'd feel 1000 times worse. The wheel guy asked what I needed and I said I'm done. I knew I was injured pretty bad in the shoulder area and my hand was seriously messed up.....actually worse than I realized at the time. I was in the drops and my fist took the initial impact ripping 3 big holes in the knucles from the pinky to the middle finger. The index finger that was forward, on the brake lever was spared at the fist knucle, but was not so lucky on the middle knuckle. That was the hamburger spot.

I got back on my bike after everyone had gone and just spun back toward the finish area. My plan was to start my drive home after my race. I figured I'd better have the paramedics clean me up a bit before I saddled up to drive. I had to ride half way back around the course to find one of the ambulances, and when I came to a little punchy hill I stood up to pedal a bit and thats when I started to really think I had broken the clavicle too. I've done it before, both "greenstick" and "displaced". Displaced is very obvious and ver painful immediately. Greenstick can vary, but it basicly means the bone is in tact structurally, but it has a crack in it. I self diagnosed it as a greenstick fracture at that point. My white handlebar tape was now bright red as was my Dura Ace shifter. When I got to the ambulance. I took off my helmet, shades, and gloves. I didn't like what I saw when my left glove came off. The 3 holes in my knuckles were VERY deep. There was white inside at the bottom of the wounds and I said "Oh shit, thats right down to the bone". The paramedic looked and said,"Ya dude, you're going to the hospital. I said, "maybe, lets just clean me up for now".

As I sat on the steps to the Ambulance and got the wounds washed up, I started to feel a lot worse and I was hopeful the collarbone wasn't busted but I knew it was. I was right. I decided to skip the ambulace ride and drive myself to the hospital. I was able to change and load my bike without too much pain and then took a walk up to turn in my timing chip and then over to the feed zone to thank those that were gonna feed me and grab my cooler.

At the hospital, they actually had a hand division at the ER. They eventually got me in there but I had to have lots of X-Rays done, on the hand and clavicle, and ribs which were now giving me a ton of pain and making it real hard to breathe. My race was still going on back at the venue. Eventually the surgeon decided my hand was not broken and after some painful tests it was determined that there was no tendon or joint damage. It turns out the white at the bottom of the wounds was the tendon, not the bone. He was straight from China and his english wasn't very good at all. I didn't care as long as his medical knowledge was good. The nurse told me was an outstanding hand specialist and that was good enough for me. Well he may be a great surgeon but his bedside manner and awareness of other injuries was a bit lacking. He proceeded to make me his bitch as he stabbed at my ripped apart hand with the anastesia. Squeezing the back of my hand that was extremely tender and jerking my arm to the position he desired. I have what I consider a very high pain threshold. I can sit there and suck up the pain that came with my injuries, but when I start getting tortured at those specific locations, it gets a little......shall we say.....aggrivating. I finnaly had to scream with one particular movement, and then in a very BOLD voice I yelled. "Does this guy even know I have a broken collarbone?"
It turns out he didn't. He works on hands and in his mind the hand is it's own entity. I'm laying there with road rash all over my leg and hand, and it took me quite a while just to get down on the table and get my arm out to the side where he needed it, with the ribs and collarbone shooting pain signals all through my body, and it never occured to him that I may have other injuries. After that he was better, but not by a lot. The hand is a delicate area to have to work on, I didn't realize it was gonna be so bad, but I aged a couple years in that little room.

After that I got a sling for my arm and then I had to ask them to dress the "dollar bill" size road rash on my leg so it wouldn't harden up while I drove. I walked out of there at 8pm. I had been there over 3 hours, and now as I walked out into the parking lot with fading daylight in Louisville, KY after an incredibly long and draining day I looked at my car and realized it was gonna be my prison cell for the forseeable future. I went to Walgreens and got my anti-infection antibiotics, and then went next door to a sandwich shop and got a sub. After I ate it, it was 9 o'clock and almost dark out. I headed East. 1000 miles from home.

I drove for 4-1/2 hours and stopped at a rest area after seeing way to many deer on the highway. I got out and walked around a little and started to realize that I was pretty jacked up. I didn't fill the Vicoden scrip, and I won't. That stuff is pure evil. I'd rather feel pain any day over what that crap does to you. I wondered if I should have accepted Nancy or Jamie's offer to fly out and drive me home, but I could never let them do that. I'm independant to a fault. I climbed back into my cell and reclined the seat to try to sleep a little. I had already decided that it would actually be easier to sleep sitting up and that I wasn't gonna get a good nights sleep no matter what. I actually went straight out, and surprisingly slept off and on for almost 5 hours. I was really wrecked.

Wakeing up in a world of pain in a West Virginia rest area with a dark gloomy fog all around and big rig diesels idleing nearby was unpleasant to say the least. Every little movement brought pain to something, but the ribs were the most acute area at the moment. I managed to get out and take a walk and have a squirt. My breath and body stunk like shit, and I felt sorry for myself as I walked back to my cell.

Then something happened. I thought of the vets that are coming home from needless, pointless wars. They're missing arms or legs while life back home really goes unchanged. They risk their lives and lots of them lose them too. So I figured they'd love to wake up in a car in West Virginia with a broken collarbone and some hand wounds. They'd be so thrilled to be able to drive to their home on that very day. And so thats what I decided.....to be happy. I decided to shut up and drive. I'm not gonna lie and say I had that attitude all the way, but during the bad patches I made myself think like that. At times I thought, "boy I should have just driven home from the Catskills race on a high and I'd be all good right now. But then I said "No, you don't know that, you could have been in a fatal car accident if you went that way, or some other thing. Theres no way to know, you just have to go out there and live life. The decisions I made led me here. Thats fine, I'll heal and rest and come back stronger.

I finally pulled into Nancy's place around 7:30 Saturday night. She was at her high school reunion that she had planned for months. (I told her not to cancel her plans to look after me). It was a tough couple of days, but the're behind me now. Thanks for all the calls, texts, and emails from friends and family.....you know who you are. I couldn't take calls on the road because my left arm was slinged hard against my body and my right arm was stuck to the steering wheel

About my tire rolling off. I can blame no one but myself. I've glued hundreds of tires on in my life and never rolled one off. Some of the thoughts I have are that I left the bikes and wheels in the car most of the time I was out there. It was well over 100 degrees in the shade (where the temperature is taken) but in the sun in a black SUV, it was probably 150 or so. I was careful to let air out of the tires so they didn't explode, but I honestly never considered the liquifying effect that the heat may have on the glued up tubulars. My bad. I also rode the course the days before the race getting the corners dialed in on my training wheels which are aluminum rimmed clinchers. It's not possible to roll a clincher. I was very confident in my speed and line entering the corner, I had done my homework, I knew the corner perfectly. I threw it in there hard, but not dangerously.....I didn't think. I'd do it again, because thats what I've always done. I recon the corners and know all the geometry before I get to it in a race. I practice them at speed so I don't get surprised in the race. My gluing method is similar to all the expert articles you can read on the subject. My tires were new right before the Hilltowns race, where I had no issues and also none at the Tour Of the Catskills, although there was never a corner as severe at those races. Either way you slice it, if I did a bad glue job, or stupidly allowed the glue to "cook" off the rims, or if I just overbaked the turn it's my fault, no one elses, so that, believe it or not, makes it easier to accept. I'm very embarressed about it and so glad I didn't hurt anyone else in the process.

So thats it, my road season is now over. I'm very sad to be missing D2R2 (anyone wanna buy my entry) especially after talking about how much fun it was gonna be with Sammy and Kev and John Funk and Jay Gump etc. I'm very sad to be missing GMSR, which is maybe my favorite stage race. I've got the best climbing legs of my life and to have a go at the overall there would have been a dream. As it is though, this is easily my best road season ever. So I'll take rest, and heal up and try to get ready for the Cross season. (The real season). I'll be on the line in VT at the first Verge weekend, ready to rip in the Stars & Stripes.....and you can be damn sure I'll have the corners dialed in!

Thanks for Reading, JB

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tour of the Catskills

This is late, but thats because I'm in Kentucky for Master's Road Natz. It's been over 100 degrees here since I got here Monday, and real humid on top of it all, but more on that later.

I went into Catskills hoping to be in the mix. All I had heard was horror stories about all the climbing. Even the 2 mile prolouge (individual start TT format) looked like it went straight up on the web site's profile. I spoke to a few people that had done it and they said TT bikes were mostly not used, but they were allowed. I put mine in the car anyway, because I thought I might drive from NY to KY for Natz, but hadn't yet decided.

When I got to the prolouge course I was early enough to ride it a couple times. I went out on my road bike and it was uphill, yes, but not super steep. I thought I could lay down more power on the TT bike so when I descended back down I switched bikes and gave it a test run on the TT bike. My decision was fast. TT bike it is. I'm not big on following the masses, so the fact that everyone was using a road bike only made it better for my head. I've often said "if everyone is going left....I'm going right". Take a drive on any highway in the US and look at the driver's in the left hand "speed" lane and you'll see what I mean. Just a bunch of sheep following each other. You have to break free from that and stand alone. Well I do anyway.

The field was more stacked than any race I've been to this year. I had a good ride, I knew that, but I was surprised to hear I had won. I thought Fast Fred Thomas was gonna take some time out of me, but he slotted in down in 7th. I was 12 seconds clear of Carl Reglar from Danbury Audi, and a few more on the Canadian stud David Ghazi. Troy Kimball, John Funk, David Taylor, John Gee, and Wild Bill filled out some of the top 10 spots.

Stage 1 looked hard on paper, but after the TT I figured it wouldn't be as bad as it looked. I was right.......It was worse! Bill patrolled the front early on and a few things went away briefly, but Bill brought them back. He actually had a slight gap with Carl Reglar for a K or two but others pulled that back as well. Shortly after that we hit the base of the hill. It was steep too. I figured it would be about 2 miles of climbing based again on the profile. Bill's big effort just beforehand shuffled him to the back and soon a select group of 15 were at the front. It was most of the names from the top 10 in the TT but also present were Rob Lattanzi, Eric Gutbier, and Harry (Kip) Stover. At times it was very hard as the pitch kept changing and in turn the tempo. Eric was having a great day climbing and it was him on the front setting the hard tempo. After 2 miles of very difficult, hot climbing we saw KOM 5k written on the road. I almost shit. Thats still over 3 miles to the top, and lots of times theres more climbing after the kom line. That was the case here too, but as it got steeper near the top I actually felt better and by then I didn't think anyone was gonna drop me. We crested the hill and there was no one there to record the KOM points, no one at the second one either about 15 k later.

We had a long way to go and David Taylor tried a solo attack that wasn't gonna go anywhere. I went to the front and just rode tempo and left him hanging out there about 100 meters and laughed as he looked back constantly. David is not my favorite rider, I'll leave it at that. A few other things were tried and none of them went anywhere, so we were just dickin around really. Finally I said, "Hey lets just rotate for the next 10 miles so we don't get caught" I wasn't worried about the overall at this point because lots of guys were thinking about the stage win and so nothing was gonna get away on flat roads with 10 miles left. To my surprise, after a while, everyone fell into place and was working. It was really cool to be in a 15 man group working it right. I figured we were gonna make it to the line no worries. At that instant we got caught by 6 or 7 guys, one being Wild Bill.

We were told that we'd have a 2 mile road closure to the finish and that there would be no yellow line rule at that time. We kept looking for it because our odometers were at 50 miles and then 51 and counting. The race distance was advertised at 52 miles. Still cars were coming toward us and no 1k to go signs or anything. Suddenly we came around a corner and the line was 120 meters in front of us. Everyone went at the same time and the guys on the front stayed on the front and Kip took it. Carl Reglar was 2nd, jumping him 6 seconds closer to me via the time bonus and Fred Thomas was 3rd. Now my lead was only 6 seconds going into the "Devil's Kitchen Stage" on Sunday.

Sunday there was an early KOM line and a very hard move went from 500 meters. It looked painful, but it was clear that it was for points and not for a break attempt so I sat tight. Just a couple meters before the line, Rob Lattanzi went hard for 4th place points and kept on going right through the other's that had sprinted so hard. One other guy tacked on and they split. Good old Westwood Velo was bringing the race to Corner Cycle. The gap went out pretty good right away and then Marky G. and Mark Pohndorf got together off the front of us as well and they were also working well together. Bill was getting pretty smoked, both from Saturday and now Sunday doing lots of work. No one was helping at this moment. I knew I had to ride, so I did. Bill and I were taking pulls and we brought back Mark & Mark, but Rob was still way up there. We stayed steady and got some help from a few others. I remember John Funk taking some very good pulls. We had them right in our sights and then Rob's break away mate sat up and came back to us. Rob continued on. That sort of lulled us into a non chase mode and then we descended forever! Rob was outa sight and we were all eating and drinking and wizzin' off the bike. It was really a slow few miles. The pace never really hotted up again and this concerned me because there were places where we could see a LONG way and we couldn't see Rob. Bill was working his tail off, and getting no help. Finally when he took a breather and we slowed down even more I had to go to the front again and lay down some tempo.

Bill pulled along side of me and asked if I thought it was wise. I said "it was necessary and I didn't want to gamble". I said "Westwood did a good job putting us against the wall so it was time to tip my hat to them." I felt great though and the miles on the front with Bill were easy and it felt good to finally ride. We were getting close to Devil's Kitchen now. We had driven it the day before and it made App Gap look a roller. Hardest thing I'd ever seen, including Switzerland and St. Thomas. A few miles before we got there I went back a bit and munched on some food and gels. Poor Bill was now in full sacrifice mode burying himself to the base of the hardest climb we'd ever seen. I really admired him at that moment and look forward to returning the favor. I had commented at Killington how much I respected the O&A boys for doing the same for Fred, well this was even better because he was alone and he was doing it for me. It inspired me and I told myself I'd show my gratitude for his hard work by doing the best possible climb I could.

We hit the base and we didn't get the split, but we later heard Rob was 3 minutes up. Bill said "JB send a car for me". I gave him a fist pump, but I also knew he'd never quit and climb into a car. Of course he didn't and soldiered on to a very respectable finish. It was instantly the same 15 guys from Saturday climbing the first wall, and soon it was 12 or so, then 10. I was fine at the moment, but knew it was a long way to go. John Gee who was 4th on GC moved slightly ahead and I was surprised that no one matched him. After a minute I went around the left side and rode a bit faster and went right up to him. It was super hard, don't get me wrong, but I was still in my comfort zone. He quickly faded and then I was alone. A minute ago I could hear 10 guys breathing like crazy. Now it was silent, my own breathing disappeared into my mind and there was this beautiful absolute feeling. It was just me and the bike and the mountain, I relished it and thought of Bill's efforts and my word to honor that work. I was very inspired that I was riding ahead of all the best master's climbers in New England and Canada. A few minutes like this went by and suddenly I could hear breathing again. I had just about reached the worst part of the climb a savage 22% section with bad pavement. John Funk pulled up on my right and David Taylor on my left. I actually snuck a peek back which is hard to do without tipping over and I was happy to see it was just those 2 that had made it up to me. All the others were dropped, some were weaving now.

The 3 of us crested that section together and the hill lesened a bit, I recovered and set a harder tempo, actually grabbing a couple bigger gears before the next wall. Finally John pulled through and looked over at me and said "It's just us". I had popped Taylor off. That was the best thing I could have heard because he wouldn't have worked at all once over the top (I'd bet my life on it) and I still needed to ride as hard as I could to catch Rob and win the overall. The worst of the hill was behind us now, although it was still massive suffering, but John and I worked well together all the way to the KOM which I was happy to not contest him on. Then we started to descend, but thankfully there were lots of little uphills on the way down. I say thankfully because thats where I was able to hit it really hard and I think after 60k alone Rob was probably not enjoying those so much. I was riding as hard as I possibly could, saving nothing. Finally on a slight corner I caught a glimpse of Rob and knew that I just had to avoid a mishap now. We caught him pretty quickly after that and still had about 3 or 4 miles to go. He jumped on and couldn't work. I know Rob would have if he could have, but I didn't care either. I was riding for GC so I was content to hammer away. Funky John matched every pull I took and finally at 1k he decided not to come through. I wasn't gonna slow down and mess around with it, I wasn't in the mood. I just stayed on the front and drilled it. We could see the line from 1200 meteres out, so there were no surprises on this day and there were also signs every 100 meters. I drilled it all the way to 200 to go when John pulled through and accelerated and Rob followed. John held it to the line, Rob was 2nd, I was 3rd.

We had more than 30 seconds on the chase group of 4 or 5 too, so John moved into 2nd overall and Rob 3rd. That was easily my greatest win ever, and a jersey that I'll probably frame. This is one of those races that you have to do.....put it on the bucket list.


Oh and then I drove to Louisville, KY and promptly stunk up the joint with a 5th place ride in the TT. It wasn't that bad really, but I had different aspirations. I had a bad patch in the race and you can't win Natz with a bad patch in the TT. I hope to do better tomorow in the road race, but it's still over 100 degrees.....we'll see.

Thanks for reading, JB

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NOW THAT WAS FUN!!!

A few weeks ago I was looking at the schedule on bikreg and something caught my attention. It was the Jeremy Powers Grand Fundo. Now, being a cyclocross addict, anything with his name automatically catches my interest so of course I read on. It turns out that he and 2 buddies started this fund for supporting young riders that might not normally be able to get to bike races. They were putting on a "fun ride" in the beautiful hills of their home riding area in and around Easthampton MA. Lots of it was gonna be on dirt roads and when I saw that I was in for sure. I was able to get Sammy (Morse) on board and Nate (Sam's son) just might be Jeremy's biggest fan, so he was in too. Synjen Marroco also made the trip, and he's always good to have on any ride. Always a good spirit and a smile and laugh, not to mention how strong he's gotten. So Corner Cycle was well represented, although I'd be lying if I said a lot of people didn't ask where Kevin and Bill were that day.

From the minute I pulled into Ed Hamel's horse pasture across the street from his gorgeous country home overlooking Mt. Tom and 100s of miles of longviews, I knew it was gonna be a great day. The crew already had the advertised pig roast well under way and a big tent was set up that would be critical for keeping us out of the sun after the ride while we partied for a while.

Of course Jeremy's Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com teamates supported him in this venture. So with Jeremy, Jamey Driscoll and Tim Johnson on board it was definitely gonna be a case of riding with our heros. Jeremy's road teamate from JellyBelly, Brad Huff also lent a hand, and it was colorful to say the least. That guy is a riot! Lots of local PROs and strongmen also showed up. Eric Schildge from Mountain Khakis, and Dylan McNicholas from ccb, and a very strong man named Chandler who I'd never had the privledge to meet before to name a few. It turns out Chandler is from Ipswich, and the North Shore connection to Tim made sense when he displayed his strength.
Of course Tim's world famous wife Lynne Besette was also along for the fun. One particular wirey guy was very vocal and seemed to have endless energy and spirit. That turned out to be the famous Anthony that Jeremy met while riding one day and has (from what I read on his blog) sort of mentored ever since. Anthony was the heart and soul of the ride, and kept us all laughing..... and working.

So not to be a namedropper or one of those geeks that gets too excited by all these bigshots, but let's just say it was a huge privledge to ride with this group. I had to really think about it, but I decided to wear the stars and stripes. I didn't take too much abuse for it, but some good natured ass busting is always good for everyone.

There was a pretty wide range of ability level in the 100+ rider group, but after a few climbs in 90 degree heat we had a smaller bunch up front. It was a fairly lumpy route, both in terms of course profile and also the occasional loose rock or pothole in the dirt road sections. That being said though, the best part was the dirt sections, especially when it went uphill. I wish the entire ride was on dirt. They had a nice water stop set up for us at about 25 miles or so and boxes and boxes of jelly beans. Yum! At the halfway mark there was an icecream truck stop. The dirt sections were where we ramped it up a bit and then we'd slowly regroup afterward. There was town line sprints and even a convenience store stop late in the ride. We rolled back to the start area and people slowly trickled in while we "showered" under Ed's garden hose. Then we drank some beers (after lots of water, gatorade & watermelon) and then we ate the pig. along with lots of other delicious side dishes.

After some laughs and storytelling Jeremy and Brad took to the microphone and announced a raffle of lots of sponsor schwag. We bought a bunch of tickets and when the winners were drawn our crew cleaned up. It's like Brad said "You reep what you sow". It was a super hot day and a super fun day. It was more or less a mini D2R2 so that was perfect preparation for that. They put it on the perfect weekend, because there were no major races conflicting with it. I really hope this happens again for years to come. I often comment on other people's blogs about riding for enjoyment vs. training out of a sense of responsibilty to a structured plan. This was exactly that, and at the end of the day it was perfect training too.

Thanks for reading, JB

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fitchburg Stage Race

Well I've been trying to win this race since I started racing bikes in 2003. I don't remember how many attempts I've made, but there have been a few. I know the roads well. Fitchburg has the distinction of being the 2nd oldest (still running) race in the country. I have no idea what the first one is. Anyone?

It's always followed the typical format of TT as stage 1, then the dicey circuit race as stage 2 with it's brutal uphill finish climb that we hit 9 times for a 28 mile race that usually last's just over an hour and finishes in a bunch gallop. Stage 3 is usually the equally brutal Road Race that has always finished at the top of Mt. Wachusett. Last year the road was being repaired from the horrible ice storm in December of 2008, so we finished in Princeton center with an extra lap thrown in for good measure. This year the finish would also be in Princeton and maybe for 2011 also as they continue to do a "beautification" project on the road. Stage 4 has always been the downtown crit, and for some reason the most prestigious crit wins you can ever get are those within the stage races like here and in Burlington, VT in the GMSR.

This year they did a shake up, which I believe is good. They put the circuit race 1st, road race 2nd, TT 3rd, and Crit 4th. You need to try to keep things fresh and this was a new twist. Another new twist was the implementation of a "40+ Master's race", rather than 35+. I like this too as I get older, but before I ever did a bike race I understood "masters" to be 40+. Thats how it is in running and also in Triathlon. Last year, Chris Fischer, former Saturn PRO, and 35 year old, showed up on some very good form along with some very strong support riders from CA to open up a can of whoop ass on us. They even handled Roger the Rocket. Maybe that had something to do with the promoter's decision.....I don't know. At any rate, Roger, who is 42 decided to go to the race in Cananda this year that's gaining popularity and #s of entries.

With all the changes in place we had a relatively small field, (for Fitchburg) about 50 guys, ready to go. You can say it was a diminished field, but with lots of New England tough guys lined up it sure as hell wasn't gonna be a gimme. I raced in CT at Housatonic 2 weeks ago which I consider a must do race if you're gonna have a crack at the hills of Fitchburg. I discovered a very fit Max Lippolis there and he was signed up for Fitchburg, so was the current 50-54 Time Trial World Champion, Dzmitry Buben, and his teamate Paul Richard who's also been riding very well this year with lots of wins. Mark "Soups" Suprenant was on board and also some "imports". Sean Coleman from US Military cycling, who was packing a mean sprint, and a few other out of towners. Cyclonauts had 2 strongmen, including Zen. Benidorm had a very strong squad and we (Corner Cycle) had a strong trio as well with myself and Sammy and also Ron Jacobs.

Stage 1- The circuit race. Very painful the first few times up the hill, as we sprinted for points on lap 1 and again on lap 3 I believe. I was ready to sit in all day and take the day off. I even told Sammy that at one point. But......there's always a "but". I started to feel better as the race went on and then I started feeling down right snappy. Every time there were points up for grabs the sprint up the hill did damage to the field, but those that sprinted were so gassed that they sat up soon after and we always regrouped. I had decided that on the last lap I was gonna have a go. As if Sammy read my mind, he kept it hot down the descent into the corner at the bottom of the hill and arched a beautiful line with no brakes around the corner which allowed us to have a nice roll into the beastly climb. He took it halfway up to where there's a slight plateau. From there I attacked up the right side and blew by 2 riders that had tried an ill timed jailbreak. Max jumped on my wheel and at the top we had a solid gap. I snuck a peak as we took the hard right hander and liked what I saw. We had a good gap to a couple of stragglers that appeared to be having some real difficulty with breathjing and pedaling. Max knew that the next 2 minutes were where we'd break it if we were going to and I knew it as well. He pulled through and worked his ass off for a solid 25-30 seconds. Then my turn, then his......all the way to the line. On the final corner I led through and started up the hill I was dreading. Max let me roll onto the plateau and then went through. He didn't even really attack, but I was smoked and I couldn't hold him. 200 meters to go and he did the right thing and went up as hard as he could and won. I hung on for 2nd and for the first time that I'm aware of, a break made it to the line in the master's race. He got a bigger time bonus and the leader's jersey, and I slotted in 2nd on GC.

Stage 2 is the monster road race with tons of exposed climbing and 64 miles long with the heat coming up. It was pretty tame at first and we got caught by some of the junior field and were neutralized. I saw Max hop off his bike for a squirt and I followed suit. Antime you can relieve that pressure it's sooo nice! We got right back in with no hard effort at all. We had another opportunity again later when we went neutral for a 2nd time and I yelled "Pee Break". All 50 of us pulled off for a natural break. Nice! The hill was hard of course, but I was having a pretty easy time riding the front of the group with Max, Dzmitry, Bruce Dhiel, Gary Jasdewski, Sammy and a few others. On the 2nd to last lap Max hit the wall before Princeton center extremely hard. I mean SAVAGE! I had to follow, to protect my standing and also Sammy's who is also a very strong time trialist. Our plan for the day was to be defensive and make sure we don't lose ground before the TT. He gapped me, but I limited the bleeding. Richard Fries was very excited to see the race opening up right at his vantage point and animated it like no one else can over the PA system. Over the top, up by the feed zone I had him in check about 10 meters away. He wasn't gonna get away from me now and we both knew it. Suddenly Bruce and Dzmitry came through and we bacame a 4 man group. The first thing I did was to appologize to everyone for the fact that I wasn't gonna work. I wasn't gonna help strong men put time into Sammy before the TT. They understood and were cool. They tried a couple of jumps, but I covered them and soon a couple more guys got on. The group, led by Sammy was getting closer and I was checking on them often. Just before the big Mountain Rd. descent they got back on and I gave Sammy the fist pump. The rest of the lap was a little punchy with lots of guys taking a shot at a break away. Benidorm forced me to burn a few more matches while they attacked and set up their man for the day, Arlen Wenzel. We came to the last hill and Gary Jazdewski was looking strong and ready to go, as well as a few others. But it was Mad Max that lit it up again and it was just as fierce as the lap before. I hesitated, because I was in the hurt locker already and then I just went because I knew I had to. I fought my way up to the corner 10 meters behind and just then Arlen came by and had a surge to offer. I did not. Sean Coleman went by and then a couple more. I had to fight it to the line and minimize the damage. With 50 or 75 meters to go Sammy came by and he filled up the open space in front of me allowing me to get the same time as the small group. We lost 10 seconds to Max, but he also gained another 10 second bonus with his 2nd straight win. Very impressive!

Sammy finished 6th on the stage and I was 8th. I was in 2nd on gc at 29 seconds and Sammy was 4th at 44 seconds.

The TT is pretty straightforward. Go hard alone.....compare times later. I won in 18:39, Dzmitry was 2nd in 19:03, Sammy 3rd in 19:20. Max lost a solid chunk of time (and the jersey) with a 20:00. I was in the lead with Dzmitry 2nd at 39 seconds, Max at 52 seconds in 3rd and Sammy in 4th at 56 seconds. So we had to get Sammy a time bonus in the crit to leapfrog him over Max and onto the podium.

We had a solid plan for the crit and actually executed it pretty well. After covering attacks throughout the race, with some very timely help from Ronny J, including a pretty hard double hit from the 545 boys on the last 2 laps I led it out from about 700 meters. I took it through the last 2 left handers and onto the finishing stretch and pounded the pedals for another 100 meters before blowing up. That was the plan. David Hilenbrand had jumped my wheel when the 545 attack came on the last lap and he was still there when I pulled off. He went right from there which was probably about 250 meters out. Sammy went too, but Paul and Max were right on him and both snuck by at the line, with David holding it. Sammy was 4th place, and Max got 3rd and another 4 second bonus, so we didn't get it done, but I give Max a lot of credit. He rode brilliantly all week and defended his spot right to the end. We still had a decent result and it's something we can build on.

I rolled over the line torward the back of the bunch with my arms up wearing the leader's jersey at Fitchburg. I hadn't even thought about it all day because I was so focused on our team plan, which was an absolute blast to do. It sunk in a little while later that I had won the race I've been after for a long time.
Fitchburg is as true a staple of New England Bike Racing as there is and I'm pretty stoked to add the feather to my cap.

In a rare race appearance I had Nancy along as a spectator which was perfect because I got flowers on the podium so I got to look like a nice guy when I gave them to her. I had been making the trip back and forth each day to her place in RI, which was just under an hour each way and well worth it compared to paying for lodging. Not to mention the PRO leg rubs I got each night. Thanks Baby!

So thats it. Thats all I got.
Thanks for reading, JB

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pictoral Of Some Recent Rides

Lately I've been trying to enjoy the rides for all they're worth. Especially on easy days, which there have been lots of due to back to back stage races. Here are a few photos of some of the scenes my rides have offered up recently.



......and then there's this one that I took for my biggest fan. You know who you are...
That's all I got.
See ya at the races, JB