Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm back

Have not been writing for a while as you can tell. Just didn't have much to talk about at the time. After the L10 national championships where my athlete did very well, I have been pretty burned out. Normally we at the gym take the week off to recharge the batteries. This year however St. Louis is very lucky to be hosting the Visa National Championships and we decided to take the week before so the staff and athletes could all enjoy the competition.

I was not really able to ride over the last couple weeks while I was coaching. I was home for such a short time, and too busy at the meets. This meant my fitness was dropping. I was a little concerned with this as I have worked hard to get where I am and didn't want to lose it. There was a race that I was going to be able to get into once home from Virginia, and I was excited and scared to see what was going to happen.

MO Pro, or Tour de Grove as it was once know as, is Missouri's biggest race during the season. It brings in many of the countries top pro teams, and showcases some of St Louis' best neighborhoods. I was going to race in the last day of the event in the Dutchtown Classic. Now I have lived here for 3 years and never knew about this place. I had never heard about it, never been there, and it was GREAT! What an awesome neighborhood! It was small, close-nit community that was very supportive of the race.

The day before I heard of the races on Friday and Saturday. They were tough, fast, and dangerous. Multiple racers from the team went down in crashes, one broke a carbon frame. Luckily know one was too seriously hurt, just a lot of scrapes and bruises. For Sunday we were ready for more of the same.

The field was large, and had a ton of fire power with a good number of Cat 2s. There was a plan for the team, and after about one lap it was scraped and most of us were just trying to hang on for dear life. With speeds so high and so many riders there was a lot of fidgeting and moving in the bunch. I hear often how there are a lot of young riders that have come up with tons of power but not a lot of control. I don't know if that is true but it seemed there were a lot of young guys and not many seemed too comfortable.

I started to notice that I was in over my head pretty quick. I wasn't able to move up in spots that I usually do like turns, or if I did happen to get moved up I couldn't hold my space. It was taking too long to recover and I know that stupid things happen when people get tired and try too hard. So with about 20 min to go in the race I called it quits. I was disappointed in myself, as this was my kind of course, technical and fast turns. But after a few minutes I decided to stop pouting and get on with getting back in shape.

This weekend the team was racing at the O'Fallon Cup in O'Fallon, MO. It is put on by Momentum racing in a very nice park and they offer free beer! The course is a rolling park road with great pavement, no real turns, and two hills that on their own really are nothing to write about, but after 20 laps and just about sprinting up both, they get hard. Momentum tried a new lineup for their race which I thought was pretty cool. In an effort to get more people to see the top level race, Pro 123, they put it in the middle of the day with the Cat 3s going last. I thought it went well, their hosting of the race, and our racing in it.

The first race I was in was the Cat 123. I was still not sure about where I was in terms of fitness so I was just going to wait and see. Also both of our team's Cat 2s were not in the race so that left it pretty open for the rest of the team to see what would happen.

I remember DogFish lighting things up right away. At one point I tried to get in a move with Cameron Rex and Zach Reed, I was dropped almost immediately when we hit the hill at the start finish. That hurt, mentally and physically. That was the move of the day and I think it was in the first 5 laps of an hour and fifteen minute race. Justin Maciekowicz and Jim Vandeven bridged later as well as another Gateway Harley rider made their way into said break and left the rest of us to pretend we could catch. Team strongman Eric Finks did get into a small 4 man break that looked strong and would also go the distance. And it seemed that every time the pace slowed just a bit there were more attacks. So to me it seemed like to me that there were 20 guys up the road.

For me I never felt comfortable, and really I was ready to quit about 20 min in and couldn't believe we had so long to go still. But every time I though my race was over, it eased just enough to let me back in. After a strong attack up the start finish hill halfway through the race the field was destroyed and I was left chasing. Finally a group of us got together and with guys trying to jump off the front of our group over and over we kept getting closer to what I thought was the second chase group. Then they were there, right in front of us. We closed the gap and things got easier. I still thought there were men up the road but when I saw Finkszilla I didn't know if they had lapped us or we had caught them. I still had no idea who was still up the road but I was happy to just try and finish in the field. Then we rolled through for a $100 preem. I have never gone for a preem this high before. Most of the time they are hotly contested and with the firepower still in the field I just put it out of my mind. That is until I was on the wheel of Finkszilla. He kept looking back at me, I gave him a nod and off we went! Up the right side of the road at a blazing speed. We had a small gap on the field and I was really thinking I had this one. I was barking at Eric to give me everything he had and he did that and more. It was just a little too early for me to go but I had to jump. I started sprinting while turning around a long sweeping left hand turn. This is a strange sensation and kind of scary. The bike dips and wants to turn left hard every time I rocked the bike and I thought for a second I wasn't going to have enough road to complete the turn. When I did though I was still in the lead and saw two front wheels coming at me on both sides. The one on my right closer than the left. Perhaps my mistake was not taking the whole road as the rider on my left (Matt Brant) snuck through and beat me by a wheel at the line. I was dejected and super tired, but I just thought "what would Finkszilla do?" and the answer to that was he would jump back in the race and hurt some more. So I jumped back onto the back of the pack and held on. Then end of the race for me was more anticlimactic as I was just able to finish in the field. But Jason Wulff and Murphy held their own and sprinted for the field spint and did very well.

We had a few hours to rest before the Cat 3 race so in the mean time I messed around with my headset that was creaking like crazy and driving me nuts. I also had a chance to watch one of our Cat 4 riders who I coach Grant Erhard demolish his race. Grant was looking crazy strong last weekend but didn't have the best results. He was a little unlucky, and made a couple mistakes. He is very determined and wanted to make sure he didn't make the same mistake again today. He was going to save his matches and made sure he won on this day. Well he did it in one of the best ways a racer can, on his own, and just about lapping the field. When Grant took off, myself and teammate BJ Keane were going to yell at him that he was wasting energy, but BJ yelled if he was going to go to go hard! And boy did he! In one lap he had 25 seconds. By the end of the race he was 20 meters short of lapping the field! His only mistake was he didn't zip up his jersey when he posted up for his finish pose! This guy could be pretty good, and I am excited to see how he does over the next few months and years.

For the last race we had almost the entire 3 team lined up. We were only missing Chris Connolly who had to work at our great sponsor shop Mesa Cycles. The plan was to make people hurt. About halfway though the race Keith Vogl took off. Keith is a diesle engine and he put in some good distance and stayed away for quite some time. Next I took off, then it was Brian who took second earlier in the day during the Masters 35+ race and won the first cash preem of the race. After that, Eric took off, he was quickly way off the front and was out of sight before people finally started to chase. After that we all caught our breath and started to get ready for the finish. We were all feeling the fatigue from racing multiple races during the day. Then Jason Wulff looked over at me and told me he was going, and BAM he blasted off the front. Everyone was all over it and he sat back in for a lap and then BAM he did it again! This time only a few guys could go with him and the rest of us were racing for the last 3 spots in the money. I'm not quite sure how it ended but Wulff was able to pull off a 3rd place. At the same time the rest of the field was rolling down the back stretch and Finkszilla was once again right in front of me. And once again we took off, and again I was yelling at Eric and trying to get every last ounce of strength I could get out of him. This time I rounded the last corner seated and headed right for the left side of the course. Luke Bligh however snuck between Eric and the opposite side of the road and another rider came up on my left to both beat me in the sprint. I was able to make it in the money however, and the team raced as a team better than ever. It is the right time for things to come together as we get ready for races over the next few weeks.

I'm pretty excited about the rest of the year. We are only going to get better and have more fun. I am also pretty pumped about this week at the gym. I have had the girls taking it easy for the last couple weeks and now we are going to get back to learning skills. I get just as bored as they do doing basics. Time to start dreaming about next year's National/Western Championships.

photo credit: Elizabeth Rangel. Proof of me being dropped by the winning move.
Grant posting up for the win, no one else in the frame. Didn't do up his kit though.......
He got it right her however. Looks good on the top step.
Brian Smith took 2nd, it was a great result.

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