Tour of Hampton Roads

This past weekend was long, tiring and incredibly fun and I would like to thank the promoter and organizer for putting on an excellent event despite numbergate (to be explained later).

If you remember Trevor from earlier in the season, we’ve become very good friends over the course of the year and he was gracious enough to host me for this past weekend’s event.  So, after a successful job interview, I loaded up my car and headed straight into friday afternoon Baltimore-Washington corridor traffic.  Trevor and I went to do leg openers after I got there and I experienced Richmond as any city should be explored, on two wheels.  Riding back into the city after a loop through some expansive battlefields gave us the opportunity to see some great vistas of the city rising over the James River.  We got the obligatory selfie with me in my UMD kit and him in his VCU kit and Richmond in the background.

The weekend omnium consisted of a Time Trial, Criterium and Road Race with the crit and TT saturday and the RR sunday.

Saturday, we packed the car and awaited the arrival of Trevor’s friend Andrew who turned out to be an excellently entertaining traveling companion.  We had some spirited discussions in our various drives.  Now, the TT was run out of some school and I consider myself at least decent at time trials so I was kind of excited to see if I could do any damage and put myself near the top of the omnium.  Then we got there and saw that a bunch of people had legit TT bikes and I was like “oh, crap.”

Now, here is the big thing that pissed me off when we got there.  The promoter had posted on the FB page that our troublesome times of trying to preserve a paper number for the entirety of a weekend omnium are over because they got cloth numbers.  So imagine my surprise when I get there and they hand me a paper number.  “wtf is wit dat yo?”  Here they got me all excited for cloth numbers and they give me this crap.  So, I asked why and apparently the promoter initially had the Category 3 numbers printed in a separate series than the 4s (300s and 400s).  Then they went and combined our road races because the 3s didn’t have enough people or something.  The officials, meanwhile, don’t want to deal with 2 different series because they usually only note the last 2 digits.  So as a result, they gave the Category 4s, their biggest category by far, the paper generic numbers because they didn’t have enough 3s.  This got me way more angry than it should have but it was a real bait and switch.

Anyway, after warming up, I completed the 10.5 mile course in approximately 25:40 which was good for 12th place.  Not quite as high as I had hoped but not terrible either.  Andrew, Anthony (another of Trevor’s friends), one the PTS guys and I went for a warm-down up the road as the Kelly guys were warming up by flying along in their super-aero positions.

After some lunch, we made our way to the crit course just in time to watch the 3 person Junior race (guaranteed podium).  I was told this crit was the same as the brambleton crit except that they put the finish line in the middle of the arc which is on cobbled brick.  So needless to say, I wasn’t too excited for that sprint finish.  Before we got started, I realized that our friendly neighborhood squirrel was there from the JMU team.  He caused a crash at Tyson’s and one other race from what I had been told.

We went off and I hung around the front making bridges to potential early moves.  I was mainly watching Jason from Hagerstown/AVC because he podiums in every race.  After nothing got away for the first half, I went back to tailgunning for a while. With 5 to go, I started making my way through the pack.  One lap, we were coming into the corner after the straight 4 wide so I backed off because I knew what was about to happen.  Sure enough, 2 guys went down in the field and I had to duck around the cones to get back to the field.  Unfortunately, this cost me a lot of positioning and I ended up in 26th.  Hearing some accounts after the race, the JMU kid divebombed the corner and forced someone into a bad line.  After some mexican food, we drove home and had some spirited discussions.

Sunday meant it was time for the road race with its touted gravel road section (about 1 mile out of 12 on this course).  Everyone was also kind of nervous due to a 4 mile neutral rollout that turned out to not be so bad.  We finally got to the course and today, I decided to stay near the front but not at it, hoping that no moves would get away.  I only made one mistake and that was when the asphalt suddenly fell off when I was on the side of the road.  I hit the ditch but kept it upright and thought that everything would be fine after that because that’s the worse thing that can happen barring someone nailing me.  Two miles later, I reached for the bottle in my seat tube to find it missing.  People behind me were chuckling and someone told me that it must have fallen out during my little fiasco.

Moving forward a few miles, I was sitting at the front, forcing my way onto the wheel of the front rider because I had no idea where the gravel section started.  I hit it second wheel but the guy in front of me tried to pull an outrigger and flew into the woods, leaving me to lead the pack through that section.  Apparently we dropped 10-12 guys through there.  After that, I sat on and watched for Jason to go up the road again.  I got caught a bit too far back at one point and he got away with 3 cat 3s so I went to the front and assisted Anthony in organizing a chase which never got anywhere.  As a result, they stayed up the road and I paid dearly for the loss of my water bottle.  Without the skratch that my body usually gets, my body started to cramp and even though Alex graciously gave me a water bottle, I couldn’t keep going.  I pulled out after approximately 47 miles out of 51.

After reflecting on my form and inability to solidly finish races, I have decided to bring an end to my mass start season and begin resting for next year.

New Kicks

This week, I am regrettably retiring my 2.5 year old Mavic Avenir shoes.  These shoes have taken me somewhere between 10-12,000 miles.  I couldn’t be asked to track it.  They took me up climbs along the Ironman Kona route and god knows how many times along Park Heights Avenue.  They survived multiple crashes and so much more wear and tear.

This season I’ve found out something really amazing about this sport that swimming just doesn’t have.  You get really attached to your gear after so many miles and countless hours using it.  In doing so, you gain almost a respect for the gear that you don every day for the training ride as you discover your limits with it and learn its kinks.  I almost sold my bike earlier this summer because it was being so temperamental but I couldn’t because I know it too well.  In swimming, you would use a set of jammers for a year then usually throw a couple out because they were worn and get a couple new ones.  I didn’t remember which one was getting too saggy or loose, they were all just jammers.

So, I was torn to discover that my shoes developed a good sized hole in them (pun pun pun).  Adding gorilla tape did nothing, as I tore right through that.  They were telling me that retirement was near.


Gorilla Tape is my bitch

Probably the best part about being a collegiate cyclist (aside from the travel, racing, people and food) are the benefits you get with an account on Promotive.  One of these is at Pearl Izumi and I found a sweet deal on these babies:



I never knew road shoes could fit this well until now

I never knew road shoes could fit this well until now

I will break them in for the next few days and be ready for the Tour of Hampton Roads this weekend.  Going to stay with my buddy Trevor down in Richmond.

The case for running or for high intensity?

Considering the amount of riding that I do, I’m always looking for ways to improve the time I spend in the saddle.  Earlier this summer, I found that I would need to start doing a lot more intensity if I wanted to continue improving.  So, I started doing the Worlds ride in northern Baltimore more often and I think I’ve been able to improve a little bit even if I don’t have the results to back it up.

Now in my internet trawls, I have found a study published last month which reports that adding running into a training regiment can have a huge benefit to cycling performance.  The gist of the study is that a Norwegian pro (who chose not to be named) replaced a good amount of his base training volume with high-intensity running for a season.  Compared with his previous season, “his VO2 max increased by 10.3 percent and his time trial performance was lifted by a remarkable 14.9 percent.”  That is a huge difference, equivalent to going from a 60 minute 40k to a 51 minute 40k.

Read the rest of the article here, I’m gonna try to find the direct link to the paper.

Edited: Original Paper

One of the commonly used anecdotes in cycling is that Lance started out as a triathlete when he was a teenager and even before he started doping, he was head and shoulders above the people he competed with in several cases.  When he wasn’t he was usually with the best.

Doing a little more trawling led me to this article on Breaking Muscle which talks about why running is the universal exercise.  The author, Andrew Read, discusses how humans are evolved to become great runners and that because of that, running is the best overall way to improve fitness.

While that could absolutely be true, the study seems like it really shows the effectiveness of high intensity training as opposed to simple volume.  The idea is that in Norway, winter training is impossible on the bike a good amount of the time and most riders hate being stuck inside on the trainer.  So, this particular rider turned to running as a form of cross-training and saw some huge gains.

Tryna mess wit mah cru?

Because this rider has chosen to remain anonymous, we have no way of knowing if this training had a big effect on his results.  This leaves us wondering whether they were able to effectively peak for target events and then perform during a competitive season.

So, does this study show that we should run more or that we should be doing Z4 training all winter?

A broken Spokes’ broken spoke

So as you might be able to guess by the title, I didn’t have a great race at Fort Ritchie today despite the course being entirely flat and us having beautiful weather.  The drive took about an hour and 10 minutes when at one point on my route, I was driving behind another car who was going above the speed limit, but not enough for my impatient 6:30 mind.  So, I arrived at the course though I didn’t realize it because no one was there and the freaked out because I thought that I had to get through to a part of the town that was fenced off but then had it explained to me the that registration was not 100 yards from where I was freaking out about being lost.  duh

While being registered, I heard a great quote from someone working one of the tables, “category 4 is the only categorized race today, aka the only one that makes money.”  Which I found to be amusing because no one forced AVC to take age graded champs, but I digress.  After that, I tried to get my bike on the trainer, failed and relegated myself to warming up on the course while intermittently stopping to go to the bathroom (not that easy in a skinsuit)  Have I mentioned how much water I’ve been drinking at races since my cramping problems started?  I drank a 2 liter of water and 24 oz. of skratch on the drive up plus another small water during my warmup.  Needless to say, I had to go really badly.

So, after a few tempo laps with some sprints thrown in for good measure, I go to line up and who of all people shows up but Zach, my teammate at UMD.  I got a little bit worried because Zach was known to launch attacks on C fields all season and basically destroy everyone and I wasn’t sure I could stack up.  So, we got started with a field of 40ish and I sprinted around a few slow clip-ins to sit myself in the top 10.  After sitting there for a while, an RCV rider attacked and got a small gap but went nowhere.  Coming around an off-camber, downhill turn which happened to feature a bump which was basically a transition from driveway onto road, my spoke snapped and the ping radiated through the pack.  I raised my hand to indicate stopping and after cursory inspection, I knew that I was done.  I could have pulled out the spoke and opened my brake but I didn’t want to risk going through those corners with a hop in the rim.



After walking back and watching the finish, I did some socializing and I realized just how many friends you can make in the region.  I spent a good hour talking to people, some I already knew and some I met.  OOH, and I met Collin M. of MABRA gopro fame, hope he has some good footage from his cyclocross excursion (see below for details).

As I was leaving, the car that I had passed on the way up there was leaving at the same time and I kinda hid my face so that he didn’t say anything.  Still an awkward teenager, at least partly.


Bike Racing: The Resurrection 2: Electric Bugaloo

So, I crashed at the Duke race weekend at the end of March and it was not fun.  I don’t know exactly what happened but a Navy rider and I went down.  Both of us got road rash, me all down my left leg and knees and elbows.  In addition to that, my shoulder was sprained badly enough that I could barely lift it for 4 days.  After an MRI and a month of physical therapy, I was able to return to racing a the Turkey Hill Country Classic where I continued to have the cramping problems that have plagued me for the entire season.  After that, I decided that I needed to find a good drink mix that I could rely on.  So, after a bit of research on various commercial and homemade recipes, I finally settled on ordering a couple bags of Skratch.

Good stuff

Now let me tell you how awesome this stuff is, I have been using a half scoop in each bottle and have had almost no problems with cramping when I drink it.

So anyway, races since my recovery:

Navy Weekend/ Conference Championships were a lot of fun, the road race was beautiful but I had problems with cramping on the 5th lap and was unable to finish.  Events of note: Two of the women’s A riders breaking away and all of the Navy and Duke women’s teams breaking the yellow line rule to follow them and getting relegated.  Admittedly, we were going incredibly slowly and not really trying.  The crit was on the Dawg Days circuit, my race was entirely uneventful, Eric was doing really well and was almost in the break when someone hit his derailleur and completely bent the hanger.  Zach won the individual omnium for Men’s C, which was awesome.

Stealing VCU’s stuff

Turkey Hill Country Classic is a race that I have wanted to do since I heard that they have a bunch of free Turkey hill products for race participants.  What I didn’t hear about was the massive crash in the 3/4 race last year.  Regardless, I was dropped on the 3rd lap up one of the climbs and decided to continue on anyway because you don’t get beautiful closed course riding in Prince George’s County.  Gamber was hard, yada yada but the last time around the course, I saw all of the ambulances and heard about the massive pile-up on the finishing sprint.  Jacob, my friend who had driven me up there, was involved in the crash and had messed up his right elbow which was a problem but we managed to overcome.

The Gamber Roar.

Kelly Cup is a race that I really like because I can take advantage of my strengths in weight and technical skill.  I signed up for the 4/5 and 3/4 this year which was great because I didn’t have to get down there until 10ish.  So, I rode down and watched the Juniors and kind of just messed around, doing some sprints on a side road to warm up.  The 4/5 race was the typical formula of not serious enough breaks until 4 to go when everything pretty much fell off and it was clear that a field sprint was inevitable.  I rolled up next to John Wertz, who was still in the field with me, and asked if he had a sprint left.  He responded in the affirmative so I prepared for a lead-out which involved going from right after the downhill turn all the way across the straightaway and to just before the final turn when I had to pull off.  I wish I had made it all the way to the turn because when I rolled across the line, Aaron told me that John managed second after an NCVC guy got around.  Oh well.  So, I messed around a bit more until the 3/4 start, where a break including Anthony (thank god) got away and I hung on until the end.  I told myself that I wanted to be in the field in case Anthony needed a lead-out when they caught us.  In reality, I got the offer to break away and I was just far too lazy.


So, onto the summer season.  I am excited.

Spokes out.