Sunday, August 15, 2010

Capital Region Road Race Report

Another race of attrition is under the belt, this time with a dropout rate of greater than 50%. Why? The race was only 83 miles with about 5k of climbing. It wasn't very hot, around 85F peak, and humidity was tolerable. The wind...I hate the...yeah, well it was there and very noticeable for half the race course. The hills were steep and packed tightly together during the first 7 miles of the course. A twenty mile loop took us on a tour of the northern Catskills near an industrial looking town named Ravena in New York. We were north of the big mountains but there were hills aplenty, and we managed to hit a few of the good ones. One climb was a 15% switchback for about a half mile that we had to go over 4 times during the course of the race. The other notable climb was not as steep but still no cakewalk, and was twice as long as, if not even more than, the steep one. They came one after another leaving no time for recovery. The second half of the course was wide open and rolling with a stiff headwind blowing straight in our faces. What could've been a very fast and somewhat easy second half turned out, for me at least, to be even more difficult than the hills.

I toed the line with a few of the usual suspects, a smaller group than normal with about 40 starters, but the ones there were all solid racers. Roger Aspholm was the obvious choice for who to watch and follow. An incredible cyclist at the age of 42, he is consistently cleaning up at any race where endurance reigns supreme. I chatted with him for the first few miles about cyclocross racing and his future race plans, and after the 3 mile neutral start we were off. The group stayed together for the first lap but it was clear when and where everything would fall apart, at least to me. Roger said we should attack on the two big hills on the 2nd lap to ween the pack some and I agreed. Coming in to the longer climb, the first of the two tougher ones, I stood up and cranked up the power for about one minute then eased back to a still high pace but sustainable for a longer period of time. About 10 others came with me including Roger while the rest of the pack dropped away. We quickly built a gap, and going in to the 2nd climb we upped the pace again. This shed about 5 more riders leaving 5 in total.

We worked together for the remainder of lap two with the exception of one guy who tried to get a free ride in the rear. Going in to lap three Roger attacked on the hills. He went away with one other guy but didn't get far away from the rest of us. I was thinking maybe he should get away and he'll get tired and since we had the numbers we would catch him later on. Going in to the second climb, the other guy with him fell off and back to us so Roger was on his own. I really didn't think he'd be able to stay away for over a lap by himself. We worked together well for most the 3rd lap then it all started to fall apart. We still had the guy not wanting to help, and now everyone else, including me, was starting to feel the wear and tear of hard climbing and windy rollers. The chase fell apart with Roger off the front by over a minute. Going in to the 4th lap's 2nd, steeper, hill I turned around and saw another chase group of about 6 riders. They looked fresh compared to us, and quickly caught up. We rode together as a nice group of 10 riders and now I thought Roger would be caught. Going in to the rollers 3 broke away while I was at the very rear of the group. My legs were pretty beat at this point, dehydration was taking it's tool, and it didn't seem like I'd catch them so I decided to just stay where I was. A few miles later 3 more went off leaving four of us. We limped our way to the finish and gave a half hearted sprint at the line and crossed at roughly the same time about two minutes behind Roger who managed to solo and take the win. Very impressive!

This race was tough. From registering to racing to results the event was handled perfectly. The power meter software says the effort required was even greater than the previous weeks Tokeneke race.

Stats copied from Golden Cheetah software:

Duration: 3:37:48
Time Riding: 3:36:24
Distance (miles): 81.9 (forget to start it until a bit in to the neutral beginning)
Work (kJ): 3548
Elevation Gain (feet): 4724

Speed (mph): 22.7
Power (watts): 272
Cadence (rpm): 93

xPower (watts): 311 (similar or same as normalized power)
Relative Intensity: 0.840
BikeScore™: 256
Daniels Points: 181

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tokeneke Road Race Report 2010

Starting with this past weekend, and for the next few weeks, I'm in experimental territory, or perhaps it's normal (this is all new to me!) and I'm just fine tuning for the Green Mountain Stage Race coming up over labor day weekend. This weekend started out with a a 2.5 ride on Saturday with 2x10 at what we think is my threshold (since learned it's a bit higher) and then 1 hour at 320-330 watts with a few breaks mixed in to make the hour a bit more enjoyable. On Sunday, I headed up to East Hartland, CT for a race where I was supposed to break away early and hammer away until I couldn't hammer any longer - hopefully that's at the end of the race!

The distance was 66 miles with about 6,000ft of climbing on roads ranging from smooth to very bumpy. Fortunately the bumpy roads were mostly climbs. It seemed to me like the race would be very similar to the Pawling Mtn Road Race I did about a month ago, but with a deeper, stronger field. The course was basically down a hill then up a smaller hill then back down then up a bigger hill then back down then up a big hill then back down. Repeat 3 times.

My lovely wife, looking dapper in her new hat, was there to feed me bottles so I was able to have a nice, cool, fresh bottle each lap! Very much appreciated and it’s noticeably more refreshing to have a cold liquid entering the system. The race started with the sun at its hottest, around 12:55 with temps in the low 80s. I was near the front from the beginning, and had plans to up the pace at the first big climb and see who decided to come along with me. When we hit the first long climb I cranked it up to about 450 watts, in retrospect probably too high, and quickly separated the field. A four man break was formed with me, Emerson Oronte from Team Ora, Justin Lindine from BikeReg, and Jeremy Powers from Jelly Belly. I’ve raced against all these guys a few times now and Emerson I knew to be as strong or stronger than me over a long, hilly endurance based course. Jeremy I knew would eventually drop off – something I should’ve dwelled upon a bit during the start of the break – and Justin was the wild card although I knew he was a strong rider in the hills.

We worked well together, non-stop cranking out the power, and Jeremy was the first to pop leaving us after the first lap. That left the three of us so almost no time for recovery and the course was such that it required nearly constantly pedaling even on the descents. The pace was incredibly high. My average watts for the first 44 miles, about two hours, was 373! I was pretty sure I could not maintain that pace for much longer, and was also wondering how the hell the two of them were managing it, too. Emerson seemed strong and Justin I could not tell. I was beginning to struggle to maintain the pace and was wondering how long I could hold on. Sure enough about eight miles in to the last lap we hit the steep, short hill and my legs said no mas. I was still able to hold about 300+ watts ascending, but I needed 400+ to stick with the two of them. They quickly pulled away and I was on my own. After about 5 minutes I was caught by the chase group of roughly 10 guys. I hopped on the back and was looking for a free ride to the finish. I felt like crap. I managed to stick with them and had enough time to recover so when they quickened the pace I could still hold on. We hit the last climb and there appeared to be no one in site behind us so I just plugged along at a comfortable pace not contesting for 7th place. I’m not sure I could’ve had I wanted to, but I didn’t try. I was shelled. A few guys dropped off but the majority were relatively fresh and pulled away a bit. I finished. That’s about all I can say about that! I was glad it was over.

In retrospect, I see a few things I should’ve considered during the race, and think I could’ve done better had things gone differently. One, when I saw Jeremy was one of the guys in the break I should’ve thought ahead and known he would not be able to hang with us in the hills, so did I want to ride with just two others for 50+ miles at a very high pace? I think it may have been better to ride with them a bit to set them up enough where they would not want to drop back then just fall off the pace and return to the chase group. There I could’ve drafted most the race and really cranked it up in the last 10 miles. We almost caught the two of them near the end so I think I may have been able to do more damage and even pass them for the win. But, it didn’t happen and of course this is only speculation so who knows how it would’ve turned out. Two, I have this fancy power meter so I should pay more attention to it. I know what I’m capable of for an hour at full speed, although perhaps that needs a minor adjustment after yesterdays performance, but, anyways, when I’m running at 100%+ going on two hours I should sit back and think, hey, wait a second, you can’t do this for another 45 minutes!! After the first lap average of 380w, and still only a less than two minute gap on the chase group, I think, again, it would’ve been smart to just fall back to the chase group. With just the two of them out front they would’ve had to work even harder to stay away. And, finally, a major factor to my petering out, perhaps even the factor, was my nutrition. I did not consume enough calories the day before the race for a few reasons, and then I did not consume enough for the first hour of the race. I must focus on calorie consumption in the future!

So that’s it. I’m glad I went, I learned more, and got a great workout that should only make me stronger. Normalized power of 330 watts for 3 hours. 50 watt drop due to the last 45 minutes of poking around the roads of East Hartland, drafting, struggling to maintain even that connection to the guy in front!

An addendum to this, a few hours after writing the bulk of this report, after speaking with my coach, it's been pretty much confirmed nutrition was my downfall and not my legs or the high, constant power output.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tour of the Catskills report

My first stage race with the big boys in the pro 1 2 field took place this past weekend. My wife and I headed to Hunter, NY Friday AM for the Tour of the Catskills. The Tour consisted of an individual time trial on Friday followed by two ~80 mile road races over the weekend. I was facing my biggest challenge yet with some stiff competition from various parts of the country along with some foreigners from Canada and Europe. Floyd Landis was also rumored to be attending, and attend he did. My biggest concern was the Canadian team Garneau. They’ve been cleaning up at most of the big events in the NE, and their leader is a former Tour de France racer.

I didn’t ride at all two days prior to the prologue time trial. I felt pretty good when warming up, and had an average watts goal to shoot for during the TT. The TT was short, only 2.3 miles, with a steep, short 10% grade at the beginning followed by a false flat uphill. It took me 7 minutes to complete. I did not hit my average watts and really felt spent, like my lungs were lacerated, after finishing. I didn’t really understand what was wrong, but since then I think I’ve figured it out with the help of my coach, and hopefully will not under perform again for such an important event. My time still landed me in 12th position of 102 riders going in to the first road race, and I was 26 seconds behind the leader Passeron from the Garneau team and aforementioned TdF rider. He cleaned up, beating the 2nd place rider by 16 seconds. I was pretty satisfied with the overall results, know I could’ve done better, but that’s how things go sometimes and since there was a wicked climb at the end of the last day I was confident I could make up some time.

Going in to day two’s road race I just wanted to finish with the lead group. I didn’t expect any breaks to stick, but knew the field would be whittled away with all the climbing so just focused on staying near the yellow jersey. The route Saturday went around the Windham, NY area and had a little less than 7,000ft of climbing over 82 miles. I found Saturday to be the hardest day. Lots of climbing, and with every climb came attacks from various teams and individuals. So, basically it went from difficult to very difficult over and over again for a little over three hours. The finish was especially fast with everyone battling it out hoping to squeeze a few seconds off their time deficit to the leader. No such luck. After the 2nd big climb of the day roughly 60 miles in to the race the lead group had been reduced to about 30 riders including me. All the heavy hitters were still present, and the overall leader had great support from his team. It looked like it would be a pack finish in downtown Windham and we didn’t disappoint. Our average speed was probably 30mph or greater for the last 10 miles over slightly rolling terrain. I felt strong throughout but was definitely approaching my limits for how long I could tolerate such a high speed coupled with even greater accelerations every minute by people trying to escape. So, we finished together after an intense battle and all went in to stage three with the same times. All the guys who were above me after the TT were in the group so I stayed in 12th position. Passeron won again so added a 10 second time bonus to us mere mortals.

Day Three. The feared climb 66 miles in to the race had everyone nervous and questioning their gear selection and/or sanity before the start of the stage. The climb has a name, Devil’s Kitchen - a three mile battle straight up the side of a mountain with 15-22% grades all the way up. The race leading up to the climb was relatively easy, a walk in the park some might say, and I found it to be the perfect 2.5 hour warmup for a really hard effort. Leading up to the climb, we were on a narrow country chip and sealed road with unfinished gritty edges. I was roughly mid-pack, perhaps a bit towards the front, and knew that was not the place to be at the start of the climb, but didn’t really see how I’d weasel my way up without a serious fight. Luckily I did not have to deal with the situation, and my teammate Tom Bencivengo took control, had me hop on his wheel, and did one hell of a job depositing me right at the front of the race just when the climb began. When the grade went to 15% Tom rolled off the front and said something like good luck or don’t fall off your bike, or something like that, and off I went. Peter Hurst from Axa set a stiff pace at the beginning, and I followed at his heels along with a few others. The field was shattered in a matter of seconds. Peter eventually petered out along with the yellow jersey, and fell off the front and was replaced by me. I was then passed by Cameron Cogburn who maintained a five or ten second gap over me for the remainder of the climb. So Mr Cogburn cleared the infamous climb first and turned it over to TT mode – something he’s extremely good at – and was probably pipe dreaming a solo win right about then. I gave chase riding at and slightly below my 1 hour threshold throwing an occasional glance over my shoulder to see who might be nipping at my wheel. Sure enough after a few minutes the yellow jersey train, about 5 guys in total, was slowing approaching and it looked inevitable I was going to be caught. I throttled down a bit and let them catch up quicker so I could take advantage of the drafting. After I was swallowed we set our sights on Cameron. We caught him just as easily as they caught me and we were a nice wholesome happy pack of 7 riders heading towards the finish. Pretty much all the guys I expected to be there were with one notable exception being Floyd Landis. The last 10 miles were a bit anti-climactic after such a tough climb – too bad it couldn’t have ended there – we’d have seen some gut-wrenching battles! Passeron won again. Surprise! I finished with the lead group and moved up to 6th position overall in the GC.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the results especially considering the competition, and can’t wait for the next big event in a month – the green mountain stage race in VT.

My coach, Chad Butts, took the time to create some cool info using my power data from the races. Check it out here.