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

Monday, June 7, 2010

Connecticut Stage Race

The Connecticut stage race is a thing of beauty. I feel bad for the promoter, Jim Thompson that he was up against Killington this year. Ya, Killington was last weekend, but lots of people won't do 2 stage races in a row for lots of reasons, and with Killington having such long history, more people went to that race. What great problems we have in New England for bike racing. Some reasons you might want to choose CT over VT next year, or at least choose to do both are these:

1. It's a better race. The circuit race is awesome with 6 hotspot sprints (for master's) and a stout climb. 10 laps of the 3.5 mile circuit were a lot more action packed than that much too easy, much too dangerous circuit race in VT. The time trial is a wash, but the 91 mile road race on Sunday that doesn't go by a single commercial entity and is in the heart of the Berkshires is one of the most beautiful rides you could ever do. It's hilly but nothing brutal.

2. The cost. It's less than half the entry fee of Killington, and also pays out just about the same amount. Enough said.

3. The promoter. Jim Thompson is a racer's promoter, a guy's guy. He is committed to the event and actually asked Kevin and I in a sit down conversation "what would be the one, or two things I could do, or do better to make the race even better"? Thats as good as it gets if you ask me.

Now I'm not trying to knock Killington here. PLEASE don't get that impression. I am very fond of Gary Kessler and all he does with GMSR and now also Killington. I realize everyone has different cost's related to their events and they set the entry fee to accomodate those expenses. I get it, and I will be back over and over to race in VT. All I'm saying is this is a great race to do and if you're a true New England bike racer you owe it to yourself to have the experience.

Now onto the racing.

Kev was back from Italy while Sammy was taking a much needed break, so we had 3 guys again, with Bill and myself. This race is a little different. There are 2 master's categories, 40's & 50's, but they combine the fields to race together and separate results later. Prize money is equal.

The TT is a tough one, like all of them. You could make a TT downhill with a tailwind and it would still hurt like hell. Classic out and back. 8 miles a little up a little down. I was able to win since Fast Fred stayed in Maine this weekend by 36 seconds over Troy Kimball who was alone from Westwood Velo, while a couple of eligable teammates decided to race the PRO, 1, 2 field??? Girard O'Shea did a great ride to hit the podium in 3rd exactly one minute back. Teammate Bill Shattuck was in 4th at 1:10. In the 50's Kevin finished in 2nd, 9 seconds behind the World Champion, "The Russian Concussion" Dmitry Buben.

It was close to 11 am and stage 2 started at 1:30. We packed up and drove to the hotel in nearby Torrington, took showers, ate some food, put our feet up for 45 minutes and then went back to the venue.

Stage 2 is the circuit race and a LOT was at stake. There were points available for the typical KOM and Sprinter's jersies. BUT (theres always a BUT) the points also represented time bonuses for GC. That meant a guy could conceivably gain 36 seconds by winning all the sprints. We had a solid plan for how to deal with this and executed it pretty well. The KOM sprint suited me better, so I was gonna go for that and hope Troy didn't have enough energy to go for both. Lots of little breaks went up the road that gobbled up points, but I always got 2nd at the line, so I ended up winning the poka dots at the end of the day with 12 points. Bill was in 2nd which meant he'd wear it the next day. Kevin was able to follow the surges at both lines all day and was able to win the green jersey and was also tied for the poka dots. Bill and I actually slipped away after the last KOM and tried a jailbreak for 2-1/2 of the last 3 laps. We got caught on the climb on the last lap and I was toast. Somehow, Bill was able to muster up one more big effort and finished 2nd in the stage! That was unreal, as I was just swingin' on the back of the bunch at that point, after the break away attempt. To say Bill is riding well is a ridiculous understatement. He's killin' it!

Here's a shot of 3 old geezers with the jersies we earned, about to go to the start line for the 3rd stage.
I know, I know..... we look like huge douche bags.

The queen stage in all of New England bike racing (ok maybe App. Gap trumps it, but 91 hilly miles is the real deal) was on tap for Sunday. We had an interesting forcast. Rain, heavy at times, thunder showers possible, with tornado warnings thrown in. We left without any precip but that changed soon as a steady, cooling rain began to fall. It was super humid and somewhat warm so the rain actually felt pretty damn good.

Steve Badger slipped away alone early and was going pretty fast. Poor Bill was part of a 3 man team, and the other 2 had leader's jersies on. You know how the leader is not supposed to work and his teammates just ride tempo at the front all day.... Well this is 91 miles in the hills and pouring rain and NOBODY was helping him. He loved it though, and was tough as nails. He eventually brought back Badger, but before we got much farther Ed Angelli slipped away and made a nice gap and eventually went out of sight on us. I came to the front and was helping Bill a bit. I was on the front for a pretty good spell feeling very good actually, when Bill came up and said "we have a problem". That's never good. It turns out that Kev's electronic Dura-Ace crapped out in the rain and he no longer had rear deraileur capabilities. Thankfully he was in about the 15 and did have the front deraileur. I went back to see if I could mess with the cable where it entered the deraileur, but the cable is different than regular housing and it's real flimsy and limp so I couldn't do much with it, but it didn't look like it had come away anyway. He was gonna stop to mess with it and I said "don't you dare, you might get off only to achieve nothing and then have to chase the field for 20 minutes". He stayed in, and we hoped it might come around. It never did.

After the first lap (the 1st lap is 51 miles, the 2nd is 40 miles and a completely different loop with the last 20k overlapping the first) the sprint and KOM points were mostly all gobbled up by Ed and a couple other guys that attacked just for the points without much of a reaction from the field, including the sprint leader, which surprised me. To me you have to defend a jersey, you don't just sit there and do nothing when it's seriously threatened. But thats just me....whatever. I did sprint at the KOM just to get the last remaining point, hoping that would seal my KOM jersey, but really not too concerned with it since I was more focused on the Yellow jersy. It turned out that I had the math all done properly in my head. Ed had 6 points to start the day. I knew he won the KOM line so that gave him 12, but I got 1 so I should retain it. BUT (there's always a BUT) the screw up from the day before at the KOM line bit me. They had only recorded 4 finishers from the 1st sprint in the circuit race, but in fact it went 5 deep. It only said "Unknown rider" on the official results in 5th place on the 1st sprint, when we started the 3rd stage. Later I learned the "Unknown rider" had stepped up and claimed his point, it was Ed. So he actually had 7 points to start the day, so now we both had 13 and he won the last sprint, so thats how that story went. Ed also got enough points to win the Green jersey too. Now thats a fruitful break away as each competition paid $75 for 1st place, not to mention 2 sweet jersies for his wall.

Kev, jumped away before the KOM line also and easily won that sprint as well as the overall competition for the 50's KOM. Shortly after that in a particularly heavy downpour, we got a very bright lightning flash and almost an immediate thunder boom. It was very close and I feared they'd stop us and call it a day with Ed possibly winning it all if they took the results from the situation on the road at that moment. Luckily there was no more lightning and the rain let up a bit. We were riding pretty hard tempo and still no sign of Ed. The official car came up and told us that at mile 70 we were gonna be neutral for the steel bridge that had caused about 30 riders from the PRO, 1, 2 race to crash. I happened to ask the official in the car if he could tell me the gap to the leader and he said 2:35. I almost shit! TWO FREAKING THIRTY FIVE!!! Thats a HUGE gap. We had 30 some odd miles to race and I intended on defending my jersey and winning, but at that moment I was no longer the leader. I went to the front and rode hard. Kevin was right by my side as well as Bill, who I was worried was gonna run out of bullets at some point. It got pretty quiet, and it got pretty hilly. What was left of the field was in a long straight line. On one long steep uphill Kev came by me on his 2 speed and proceeded to mash the crap out of the hill. He had to, that was the only gear he had. I was comfortable on his wheel, but pretty damn close to being uncomfortable. He stayed on the gas and split the field. I looked back and there was carnage all over the hill. Several guys hung on, and near the top I pulled through and kept the pressure high. More high speed descents and a few rollers followed and I looked around to see who had made it. The first thing I noticed was that Bill didn't make it. We had Kevin and me, Dmitry (ccb), Bill Thompson (Keltic), Troy Kimball (Westwood), Monte Frank (Cyclefitness), and Carl Reglar (Danbury Audi). Carl was the stage winner at Killington last monday on that queen stage. We caught Ed just before the Neutral bridge where they actually made us dismount and walk over the bridge. That was a good decision by the promoter, because as every cyclist should know.....wet steel is like ice!

Shortly after that there was a loud voice in the group announcing "Thats right mo-fo's I'm back"! It was our boy "Wild Bill". I laughed my ass off as he was super animated, and now we had all 3 of our team members in a 9 man break at the front of the race. We had closed the 2:35 gap in a matter of 25 or 30 minutes. It took a little while, but eventually everyone was working in the group. With 10k to go we made a hard right, and for the 2nd time in the race we climbed the steady grade back toward the finish road. Carl Reglar drilled it here and the rotation went away since it was pretty hard to just follow him. He kept it pretty hot most of the way. Near the top of the road is where the hill really kicks and it continues onto the finishing road and the last couple kilometers of the TT course. It flattens out some but is still up hill until a short descent before a final uphill to the line.

Bill and I had reconned the finish on Friday afternoon when we got there. I told him if I still had legs at that point in the road race that I'd try an attack there on the steep part just before we turn left onto the TT course. It's probably 2 or 3k out or so. When we got close, I slid toward the back and told Bill I felt good and was gonna go. I told him to be ready and just follow the inevitable chase. If it worked I'd win, if it didn't, I'd force the others to ride way harder than they wanted to at mile 89 while pulling Bill and Kevin with them, in effect forcing them to burn their last matches while they lead out my teammates. Isn't bike racing awesome? You have to think of this stuff ahead of time, because when you're racing and cracked like a spring egg, it's hard to have good coherent thoughts.

Well it worked, and then it worked some more. I gapped them when I hit it, and maintained my effort up onto the last part of the TT course. I felt great and still had lots of energy left....somehow. I settled into my TT mode and committed to my 2nd jailbreak attempt in 2 days. This kind of move is 1 in 20 at best, maybe more like 1 in 50, but what a day that 1 makes for! I looked back and Troy was on the front drilling it and it looked like a few hadn't been able to match their acceleration. I drilled it up over the false flat where another very similar section of road went slightly uphill to the beginning of that final little plunge. I looked again and the gap was holding. "Could I do it?" I wanted it so badly. I told myself "this would make one hell of a first road race win". Yup thats right.....I've NEVER won a proper road race. TTs, crits, circuit races, mountain bike races, cross races yes, but never a road race. I hit the little plunge and went onto the uphill to the finish. I looked once more, and even though I had a good gap still, I was scared shitless. The last 200 meters of a sprint the chase can make up huge ground and eat you alive. I've been there before too. I went as hard as I could to the line and didn't dare put my arms up. I was maxed. The guy that finished right behind me and was screaming with joy was none other than "Wild Bill". He rode the train all the way to the end and then jumped it for 2nd. Kevin was right there too, getting 2nd to Dmitry in the 50s, and at the same time locking up all 3 jersies in his race. He walked away with the GC, Sprinter's, and KOM's jersies in the 50's.

We've had a great couple of weeks for the team and will now take a little rest.
Thanks for reading if you got this far, JB

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Killington Stage Race

I wasn't racing bikes when the original Killington happened back in the day. Actually I was, but it used to be prefaced with a swim, and followed by a run. What was I thinking? Anyway thats a story for another day.

Corner Cycle had a 3 man crew for the race since Kev was in Italy with Roger doing another awesome training camp. It was Bill Shattuck, Sammy Morse and myself for this one.

In an interesting twist they put the TT in the middle as stage 2. I liked the dynamic, because it felt like a lot more was on the line in Stage 1 on Saturday. And indeed there was. 3 jersies were up for grabs. 3 uphill sprints for the KOM jersey and 3 downhill/flat sprints for the sprint leader's jersey. Of course the stage winner would be the race leader in the Pink jersey.

Arc en Ceil was active and agressive right from the rain soaked start. It eventually dried out, but Arc never stopped being agressive. I love the way these guys race. If everyone raced like that it would be awesome!!! Every race would be a shootout, instead of "don't work contest". Lots of attacks stayed out for a while, but in the end it was a sprint finish. When the dust settled it was our man Bill Shattuck in the KOM jersey, John Grenier (who's old enough to qualify for the 50+ field) in the sprinter's jersey, and Ron Bourgin from O&A uncorked a hell of a sprint for the stage win and a nice new leader's jersey. Ron's teammate and TT favorite, Fred Thomas played it as cool as a cucumber and never showed his face at the front of the race. He burned no matches and finished in the same time as everyone else, leaving him as fresh as possible for the TT on Sunday.

The hardest thing about the TT was waiting until 3 o'clock to start. The next hardest thing was the wind. Man it was brutal! 11 miles uphill into the wind is a really good test of strength, speed, aero position, and mental fortitude. I had a very good ride and caught some pretty quick guys from behind. I knew Fred had been faster than me in recent TTs, but I was hopeful that I nipped him or that I was at least close.

Well it turns out I was neither. Fred was the class of the field by A LOT and pummeled me by 43 seconds. I was 2nd, Canadian David Ghazi was third, and Teammate Sammy was 4th. Bill had a great ride on his new TT rig and look for him to continue to improve in this discipline, as Corner Cycle riders pride themselves on all disciplines of the sport. Ron Bourgin also had a strong ride and combined with his 12second time bonus he slotted into 4th overall on GC while the top 3 from the TT were top 3 on GC.

I had a hard time swallowing the TT loss, but I give Fred all the credit in the world. The guy is as tough as nails and very dedicated and talented to boot. So O&A took the first 2 stages and traded the leader's jersey within the team. Pretty dominant I'd have to say.

Stage 3 was an opportunity to put the pressure on. We had driven the course the day before, while waiting for the TT to start. It was a beast! Pretty easy at first, but then the hills start and there were a lot of them and some pretty steep pitches to boot. It eventually came back out onto rt. 4 where we made our way back to the skyship base area and took a hard left onto East Mountain Road.

Now this isn't a gap road, but I promise you it's just as serious. When the top is reached you're not done. There's a series of rollers that looked like they'd really hurt and the the dreaded left turn onto the famous Killing acces road, where we would ascend up the mountain until the pavement stopped and the ski hill began.

It was nice and cool in the morning and we rolled out at 8:50:00. At 8:50:15 Randy Rusk from Arc en Ceil attacked hard (I told you they were awesome), Corner Cycle rider and KOM leader Bill Shattuck quickly grabbed the wheel and a Danbury Cycling Club rider also followed. No one did a thing! Except those 3. They proceeded to drill it for 100K. Most people never saw them again. O&A took to the front and made steady tempo, Sammy spent time near the front interrupting the flow of their chase, and I sat back in the sweetspot and coasted as much as I could. Fred Thomas, and David Ghazi were doing the same though. The gap went out to 1:45 and eventually 2 minutes. Bill was gobbling up maximum KOM points along the way.

Back in the bunch it was pretty civil over the halfway climb and also the feed zone climb. We hit a nice dirt road section and that went uphill pretty sharply for a while too. Then it was a pretty fast descent on dirt and gravel, but it was fine and everyone kept their cool. We popped out on rt. 4 with a good size field still together. The sight lines were pretty long and we also had a slight headwind. To my delight the break was not in sight. O&A wasn't in the best of shape as they only had 2 guys left, and they looked like they took a few punches in the hills.

After some snacking and some high speed wizzin' off the bike, the chase got serious and Fred's last 2 guys went to work at the front. I really give that team a tremendous amount of credit for being a TEAM. Ron was in 4th overall and completely sacrificed for his leader. I'm not sure who the other guy was, but the 2 of them had us in a straight line for what seemed like 15 miles. It hurt a lot, but every time we went around another corner and didn't see the break, I got more and more excited that they'd make it, and Bill, being the highest place GC rider in the break would steal the entire stage race, and walk off with the climber's jersey and also the leader's jersey.

We got to within 1/2 a mile from the turn onto East Mountain Rd. and the 2 O&A comrades were done. I actually gave them both a pat on the back as they faded back through the bunch just before we made the turn. They did a great job being a team. I was glad we were able to put pressure on them along with Arc en Ceil and the other rider, but I really admired thier team work, and also our's.

So now it was on! Fred was straight onto the front with David glued to his wheel and me and 6 or 7 others right behind them. Fred amazes me on climbs. He looks like he's about to blow and he pushes a huge gear. Just when you think he looks bad, he rides away. He makes me feel like I don't try nearly hard enough. A poker face he doesn't have. But he doesn't care. He rides as hard as can and wears it on his face, and ignores you and dares you at the same time. If I put that much pressure on the pedals I'd cramp terribly in 100 meters. At 180 lbs. I have to try to emulate guys like Big Mig Indurain. I try to stay at my limit at my steady effort and limit my losses.

4 minutes into the climb after the big U-turn, Fred and David started to gap me. Mark Gunsalis, Rob Lattanzi, Bruce Diehl, Fabio Piergintelli, and several others formed the "rest of the best" bunch and everyone else was officially out of it. The hill isn't consistent, it changes pitch lots of times as it winds up the mountain. At one point Marky G. found a "good patch" and it looked like he might ride away from us. The next pitch wasn't as good for him though and he came right back to us as Fred and David inched away. When the pitch changed again a few minutes later I found some oxygen and grabbed another gear and discovered my own "good patch". I soon found myself off the front of the remainder bunch but still losing a little ground to the front 2.

All of a sudden Randy was in front of me and I hadn't seen him for 2-1/2 hours. He didn't look completely blown either. Still fighting in fact. Thats the sort of thing that really motivates me and it couldn't have come at a better time. In my mind his effort was heroic and I felt the adrenaline come up when I thought about what he had willingly put himself through for the last 2-1/2 hours. I was so focused on my own suffering that I had forgotten about the break entirely. I had in fact forgotten everything in my life except the hill, my body and my bike. It was absolute. NICE!

Fred and David slowly gained more time, and it was clear I wasn't gonna get back to them, but I was riding well and wanted my best possible performance. I hit the KOM line, and I hoped Bill had gotten there first also. I know he was at 2nd at the worst because I could see Fred and David go over it just ahead and Randy was behind now. The rollers at the top were a difficult challenge. Once I locked into the suffering it was as if I just wanted to climb right to the top. The downhills played tricks on my body, but I made sense of it and found the best rythm I could. I made the left turn onto the access road and saw the 1k to go sign. I also saw 1000 meters of steady machine graded 7 or 8% pitch. I could see Fred an David and others too. I hoped it wasn't Bill because there were lots of dropped cat 3 riders finishing up also. I held my gap to the finish and even tried a bit of a sprint, just in case my time cushion to David was still in tact, but I thought he had probably leap frogged me.

As I crossed the line I saw Bill being held up by a volunteer, but he had a big smile on his face and screamed for me. It turns out the other guy that was in the break with him, Carl Reglar, dropped him early on on the final climb, and held on to win the stage. That is AWESOME!!! He went 100k in a break away from kilometer zero in a mountaineous stage and stuck it to the end. Bill was about to finish 2nd and looked back at 100 meters to go and Fred & David were right there. After 100k in a break and surviving the killer climb he gets caught by 2 guys with 100 meters to go. Cruel!!! It was scarey too, because Carl got maximum points on the last 2 KOM's and just when Bill was about to get 2nd place points at the finish he ends up with 4th place points. It turned out he finished with 33 points and Carl finished with 32. Oh Man! I crossed the line in 5th place and slipped from 2nd to 3rd overall on the final GC. Still very happy to be on the podium at such a prestigious stage race. Bill's huge effort moved him all the way up to 4th on GC. Sammy crossed the line a short time later and we were all smiles. We congratulated everyone else and the descended at 50 mph to our rented house, that just happened to be off of East Mountain Rd.

What a great weekend. Bill and I are off to race the CT stage race, and while we won't have Sammy, we will get Kevin back. We'll need him too as we're out to defend my overall title from last year and maybe even have a crack at the other jersies as well.

Thanks for reading, JB