Tuesday, May 20, 2008

2008 Speed Week

Athens Twilight Criterium
Saturday April 26th

Our team got to the venue 2 hours before the race which started at 8:45pm. We went to sign in and had to push our way through an enormous crowd of partying people along the finishing straight of the course. After a solid warm up we rolled to staging on the back half of the course.

After much jockeying for position (moving from the back of the course to just behind the start line) two officials held us about 50 meters short of the start line. They proceded to start calling up numbers one at a time and wouldn't let you go unless your number was called. When I realized that they were going to go all the way down the start list I started to get frustrated because my number was 109. We had already been staging now for 30min and there was nothing I could do to get closer to the front.

Finally we got on the start line and BANG!! $250 dollar prime first lap! I go to get clipped in and some dude crashes in front of me, I have to track stand for a minute and then go, I was dead last going into the first corner. From there I held it full gas and drilled it through every corner passing 5 to 10 guys on each one. By lap 5 I was safely at the front. I chilled out there feeling super comfortable despite the big effort I had made to get there. I was involved in a crash about 25 laps in and had to bunny-hop someone in front of me. I came off the bike but stayed mostly upright. I took a free lap, a few deep breaths, and a gel, and jumped back in the ring for round 2.

The most insane aspect of this race is by far the spectators. This was a Saturday night in a college town, with school about to end, and at 9:00-midnight downtown! The crowd was so loud you couldn't hear crashes just around the corner, the only way to know you were going to pile into a crash was the ooooohhh! the crowd made! The entire course was a tunnel of noise, from the 30,000 spectators.

I got to the front again and stayed there. With 10 to go I was cramping a bit do to the heat but managed to hold it at bay until the sprint. Just one more gel would have done the trick to combat the electrolyte loss. On the last lap I couldn't quite get to where I needed to be because of the cramping, I needed to be, maybe 2 wheels up. Coming out of the last corner I was probably positioned 10th wheel, and did a good sprint despite cramping the entire drag to the line. I did a decent sprint and finished 7th and 2nd best Young Rider. After the race I was treated like a celebrity by the 30,000 drunk screaming fans.

Tuesday April 29th
Beufort Memorial Cycling Classic

After staying at a mountain house in NC Sunday night we drove to Walterboro SC on Monday and grabbed a hotel. We drove to the race and got signed in for the night. Tonight's race was not quite as crazy, crowd wise, as Athens but the racing did prove to be insane.

After a good warm up I rolled up to staging, but this time for a "call up". I was sitting sixth in the series and the top 15 riders get called up to the start line on the first and second row. Tonight this would prove to be crucial.

Again the race started with the sound of a gun followed by "$250 dollar prime!" I rode the first few laps in the top 5 then settled back to the top 10. The course was super narrow with the second straight only being two or three riders wide. A big break got away early with everyone but Symmetrics represented. They quickly gained time, but Symmetrics got on the front and TTTed for like 30laps. At one point the break was only 20 seconds from lapping the field. As they started to fade the pace got faster in the field. Meanwhile I was sitting just behind the Symmetrics train feeling comfortable and hoping the break would come back. Finally the gap was down to 5sec and we could see the break. In another 3 laps we came upon the break on the finishing straight, I am still siting top 10 when I see about 40 riders directly in front of us. I didn't have much time to think but as a was flying by all these riders I saw Nick for a split second. Once things strung back out and I was back at the front of the field I tried to put together what all that was about. I realized that we had been going pretty fast to bring the break back and it made sense when I found out that half of what was left of the field got lapped by a group of 20!

With 2 laps to go I was too far back and knew it. With no team mates to get me to the front I had to rely on my dare devil style of riding to get up to the front(The story of my week). On the last lap I had Hilton Clarke's wheel(our directors pick for the win, good pick!) I lost it when another rider started pushing with his hands off the bars. Unfortunately this kind of thing does happen in Pro bike races, but that rider will push the wrong person and will be put into the barriers, too bad I had more important things to do tonight! No worries though, I came out of the last corner and had awesome legs but was just a touch too far back. It seems that once I get open road in front of me at the finish or these races I can really open up my sprint and close a huge amount of distance before the finish. I ended up 5th. Slightly frustrated at the foul play but happy with the result none the less.

Wednesday April 30th
Downtown Walterboro Criterium

This morning we rode down to the race course from our hotel to see tonight's course. It is super wide open, unlike last night, and only has one tight corner coming onto the finish straight.

Tonight I rolled up to staging with the number 4 on my back, and got another sweet call up. Tonight's race was really tame with the only mayhem really coming from the back side of the course which was terribly lit, I mean pitch black. You couldn't even see where you were going. Racing in the dark really doesn't bother me at all, it just adds another element to the race where bike handelng and confidence reigns king. Tonight the sweet spot was slightly further back than it has been due to the wide course. I was in a few moves one of which went on the half way prime and quickly gained a large advantage. I looked back and couldn't see the field. I talked to a few guys and we started to drill it but before we could really get up to speed the field was on us again(fine with me) Going into the second to last corner I drilled it up the out side and slotted into the corner just off of Alex Candelario's wheel, who let me say had his Kelly train doing a super fast lead out for the last few laps. Each night it ends up being Colavita and Kelly drag racing on the front, with a few vultures like myself, Hilton Clarke, and Rahshaan Bahati, fighting for position. Tonight I came up just short of the podium finishing 4th, however I beat the Best Young Rider leader and I became the new Best Young Rider, and did the podium after the race! Happy with the result and knowing that I can win these races I fell asleep.

Thursday, May 1st
Uptown Greenwood Pro Cycling Challenge

We drove from Walterboro and checked into our hotel in Greenwood. After making some cold cut sandwiches in our hotel we headed to the race. My director Matt went to sign in as we got ready. Nick decided to sit tonight out as his back has really been bugging him. We made the decision that it would be better to sit out tonight and try to salvage the rest of the week rather than hurting his back even more. When Matt came back with the numbers I found out that I was leading the series,#1. Tonight I got the last call up indicating that I was the series leader. The course was super fun with some sweeping rights and a fast tight chicane to down hill. The sprint was slightly uphill but fast, and suited my sprint. With 3 to go I again had to do some "BMX skill" riding to get to the front but made it there again with no team mates in sight.

Going into the second to last corner I was in the perfect position on Adam Myerson's wheel, when he easily, too easily, slid inside Bahati. I thought to my self that Bahati was positioning himself for the sprint putting myself in an even better position! However coming out of the last corner he sat up, by the time I reacted there was a huge gap to Adam with about 250 meters to go, I killed it and passed everyone but Candelario who was just out of reach for the distance I had to work with. Just before the line a Jittery Joes rider passed me for 2nd. After the race he told me he saw the gap that I had to close and he felt bad for coming by. No worries. 3rd was a big result and finally landed me on the podium also opening my lead in both the Overall and U25. That's a good day at the office!

Friday May 2nd
Steadman Hawkins Cycling Classic

May Day after May Day! Tonight was rough. After getting signed in and getting a good warm up it was time to get to staging for the nights event. Tonights course was super easy. Wide ope with four right hand 90's that you didn't even have to break for. I was still very comfortably leading the series overall and best young rider and so got called up in the poll position again, with AC DC Hells Bells blaring and the crowd screaming. I was slightly nervous for tonights race because some of the bigger teams had left to go to the NRC's this weekend. This meant that the racing was going to be much slower and more dangerous. My worries were not needless. The average race speed was 5 mph slower than every night this week, and consequently there were guys who have been getting dropped in the first 10 laps no diving into corners at the front of the race. The race was a crash fest and with 7 to go some dude came flying past me up against the outside curb going into turn 3 which was a downhill right. just as he got by me he crashed and I had no where to go. From there everything gets spotty. I know I hit my head hard because my helmet is smashed to bits. I remember getting up and grabbing my bike only to realize that it was in two pieces and the wheels were no longer round. I knew I had to get back in the race because I was leading the series, but it was inside the free lap and I was on the opposite side of the course. Somehow in the dark I saw Nick, I asked him if he was ok and he told me to take his bike and finish. Couldn't argue with that! I jumped on his bike and started to chase. I chased for a few laps and got into a group that had been split off during another crash. All this time I am on Nicks bike which is almost identical to mine but has only the remains of his seat (rails with a broken body) due to the crash!! I finished in the front of that group in 55th place. I retained my lead overall and did my best not to get the podium jerseys all bloody. After the race there was some confusion with the results because I crossed the finish line on Nicks bike with his timing sensor on. Once I got that taken care of we went back to the hotel. After a quick shower Nick said that his side was swollen and he thought he should go to the hospital. We rushed him to the hospital and spent the next 2 hours making sure that he had no internal bleeding. Matt and Adam Branfman graciously went to a Wal Mart to get supplies to bandage me up. Imagine that, I'm in a hospital bleeding out of my elbow hip and knees, with a grade 3 concussion, and the nurses won't give me advil or anything to clean up with! Anyway by the time we found out that Nick was going to be alright it was already well past midnight and we hadn't eaten anything since 4 in the afternoon, were starving. We met Matt and Adam back at the hotel, and ate crappy Papa Johns Pizza. We finally fell asleep at almost 3 in the morning with blood and pizza boxes all over the hotel room. Just another day at work!

Saturday May 2
Dilworth Criterium

Today we had to drive about 3 hours to get to the race in Charlotte NC, which is the first race that was in the afternoon rather than twilight. We left early and I felt like crap. I can't lift my arm up off my side, my hip is badly bruised swollen and still bleeding and my head is pounding. We got to the race our usual 2 hours ahead of time but today I could barely warm up. It is nice to have a routine when you get to a race because with out it I would have been a mess today. I am still way out of it and did not get enough sleep at all last night. During the race I rode in the top 15 and just cruised around. With 3 laps to go I got to the front and just hung on. I just gritted my teeth through a tremendous amount of pain from my shoulder and hip, and sprinted in for 6th. With a little more help from the team I may have been at the front going for the win. Regardless I conserved enough to keep the lead in the series for another day, or so I thought.....

Sunday May 4th
Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge

This morning I found out that I was now in second in the series by a few points. What was really screwed up was that yesterday I was leading my 184 points and rode well, getting 6th. I couldn't figure out how Mark Hekman gained all of those points. After much discussing with my dad on the phone we figured out that the previous points tally was wrong and I only had a slender lead going into yesterday over Hekman. Had I known that I would have raced yesterday only to beat him and focused on the series overall. Also there were points for the overall on every lap and with halfway to go that I was never told about. Regardless Matt went to bat for me against the officials(which I really appreciate) and got it so that Mark and I were tied for points starting the race and whoever raced better on the day would take the overall. Although I was pissed about the point confusion which was to cost me the race, and the fact that I was beat to crap after pumbeling myself friday night, I put on my game face and got ready for the battle royale which was about to go down. The course was super fun with and uphill finish and pretty mush the rest of the course downhill fast corners. I got a call up again, and rode the first few laps second wheel. I dropped back onto Hekman's wheel and began to follow him. I knew I just needed to get points on him before the finish. He jumped for a sprint lap and I followed. With my new knowledge of these pointed laps, I easily came around him to get 1 point. That left the score me 1 Mark 0. I continued to follow him, until a break of 5 went up the road. This was the ideal scenario for me because they took the 5 deep midway points away from Mark and I so there was no contesting them. With 5 to go Tosiba got on the front and started their leadout for Mark. I was getting pushed around by some of the other teams up there because I was on my own. I fought back hard with the usual banging of bars and headbutts, but when you are fighting by yourself you need to balance energy used fighting for wheels and energy saved by giving up wheels. With one to go I was on Jeff Hopkins of Inferno racing who was behind Adam Myerson of Time who was behind the Toshiba leadout of Hekman. Going into the second to last corner Hopkins dove inside Adam, and I couldn't get by. In the last corner I got inside and lit up my sprint coming by Hopkins and closing in on a fading Hekman who had jumped just before the last corner when I was stuck behind Jeff and Adam. I lunged at the line and he was just a few centimeters ahead. he gained 5 points on me for his 8th place over my 9th. That put the final score at Mark 5 Me 1. Overall the racing was a great experience and I feel like with a little more experience, OR a few leadout riders helping me in the finish I will be winning these big Crits.

Next on the calender is the Bike Jam, Somerville, Ricola Weekend with a podium at Somerville being one of my season's objectives!

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