Thursday, August 27, 2009

I’m on the plane right now, trying to get some sleep but the 6-hour layover will kill me later (it’ll be like pulling an all-nighter, right?). So I figure now is a good time to document my thoughts on Fitchburg.

After spending about $350 to race CTSR (boat fees, gas, registration, food, supplies etc.) I convinced myself I could not drive off-island to race Fitchburg. Luckily, I have some great friends and teammates, notably Steven Hopengarten for coming down to Woods Hole to grab me, put me up at his place in Lincoln for the long weekend, drive out and provide race support for GLV, and lend me his car to drive back to Woods Hole with Keith. We would have liked to have him racing with us in the Cat.3 field, but he was logging a long season already and needed a break (which some of you might have read already). I would also like to extend a thanks to Steve’s parents, who were great hosts for the weekend providing the team plenty of sleeping room and breakfast/dinner after the long and hard days.

Day one: ITT – I forgot my aero equipment in CT, which only consisted of clip-on bars and helmet, but in general those were huge benefits I wish I had. The weather was misty and cool, the roads a little slick but I had hoped to perform better than I did in the CTSR TT. I of course (again) went out a little too hard, and noticed that the course would be mostly false flat/small rollers after the turnaround. I was passed right before the turnaround by a fellow who goes by the name Austin Moran (no relation) but its always cool to see someone with pretty close names be racing the same field at a NRC event (and he was also rocking a nice TT setup as well). I struggled on the way back, placing late-seventies, 20 seconds in back of Keith and 25 in back of Lachance. As a lot of us expected, the Soul Train blasted through the course to grab the TT win. We thought he maybe should have been a 2 beforehand, but why not sandbag a big stage race, win some money and upgrade after? Genius.

Day two: Circuit race – This race ended on a nasty little drag up to the line, rumored at about 15% for the last 400 meters of the circuit. I had no ambitions with that climb at the end; just hoping to not get gapped and finish with the pack would be fine by me. I found it hard to maintain position for this race (not that I can climb anyway, but I can hold my own powering up it if it only lasted a few hundred meters. On the backstretch you could make up some considerable position and move up on the left side of the divider, though there was a decent headwind and some sketchy riders making me nervous. In the end I stayed out of trouble, finished with the pack and conserved some energy for the next day.

Day Three: Road Race – After driving this course the day before, I knew this was not the road race for me. The major climb leading up to the finished kicked up three times without any real place to recover, but I was going to give it a good shot nonetheless. Keith nabbed some point in the Circuit race, and was only 5 points off the jersey lead, so I was going to try and help him get some more to see if he could be in contention for it going into the crit the next day. On the first of six laps, I got to the front with Keith and kept an eye on things, taking turns with the pace making. As the climb started, I felt good until the last kick before the finish turn. I started dropping back a bit, but I noticed Keith ahead of me, but dropping back fast than me. I went alongside him, saw if he was alright but he seemed to be in a lot of discomfort. I tried to pace him to keep up with the pack but we were gapped going into the feed zone, and after a downhill saw the field pulling away from us. We continued to go at it together, picking up and dropping stragglers, hoping to catch back on but we knew it was a bit too late. Even the field getting neutralized wasn’t enough for us to get back on. I was taking the long descent conservatively, with the speed wobbles becoming a nuisance I didn’t want to risk losing control like I did at CTSR. On the lap 4 climb coming into the finish line, Keith noticed my rear tire was losing air. I hadn’t felt it while climbing but he easily could see it. When we got to the top of the hill before the descent, I told Keith to go it alone because I was going to take absolutely no risk on the descent (with no neutral service behind you, you might as well keep going, right?). So I took the descent at like 25-28mph and by the bottom, the tire felt pretty low, and I was just praying for some neutral service to come and save my day. By the time I started climbing it was pretty much flat, and I had some nice words for the race officials at the finish line when they informed me I still had to complete the final lap despite my flat. Whatever I said must have garnered some reaction, because by the time I got to the end of the feed zone, the SRAM car came speeding up behind me, gave me a new 404 and I bolted down the descent and the rest of the final lap to finish only 25 minutes down. Great. Keith finished maybe 10 or 15 minutes ahead of me, and Lachance managed to stay in the pack the whole race (great showing for him in his first Cat.3 race). At least I was in the time cut, but I got thrown towards the back of the GC. Afterwards Steve took me to a post-race BBQ at Frances’ (Mt. Holyoke) place in Fitchburg. There were many collegiate racers on hand, most notably the UVM guys, so it was a good end to a good day, despite the poor finish.

Day four: Crit – This crit course was fast and furious, with a lot of jostling for position and a brutal headwind in the finishing straight. Keith had a very active race up from netting a few prime points here and there. I was up there at the beginning, but a crash in turn 3 coming out of a long downhill caused me to hit the guy in front of me while slowing down, and the guy behind me also hit me but we were back enough that we stayed upright, and rolled over to take our free lap. I took a rear pit wheel for safety, and once I said I had campy, the guy pulled out an 808 from the piled, what an awesome wheel to race on! I felt like I could accelerate a lot better (probably because my 404s are older), and I made my way back to towards the front again. I saw Lachance long enough to have him flat right in front of me, but I got around him just fine, at least it happened in a straight part off to the side. I got to the front with 4 to go and prime lap, and chased down an attack from a Westwood Velo guy on the downhill with Keith on my wheel. Keith proceeded to counter attack right before turn 3, but took it a little too hot, hit a bump, knocked his seat off the rails and went down. I was third wheel, so I slowed down as much as I could to hit the hay bails and keep moving , but by the time I regrouped, the pack was gone, people were pissed off with no free lap and I rolled in behind the pack after three cool-down laps to get awarded the same time as the finish. So at the end of the day, we weren’t in any position to hold our heads high, but it was fun for my first Fitchburg nonetheless and I hope to come back next year in better form and with a big Cat.3 GLV turnout.

I’m gonna try and get some sleep now, lots of buildings to see in a few hours.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer racing and the Vineyard

Two more days and I'll be in Amsterdam. Great way to start off a study-abroad semester I think, four days based based there with day trips to Rotterdam and Utrecht, should lead to many fun times. I'll be sure to take up the Heineken Brewery Tour, I hear its a blast when big groups take it together so I hope everyone will come out for one of the nights there. From there we'll move on to a road trip day, stopping to see and sketch a few prominent buildings, making it to Paris that night. Three days in Paris, seeing alot of Corbu along the way, and then a travel day to Basel. One full day there, and then a half a day in Zurich, with our flight to Berlin that night. What a way to start eleven days in a three month abroad semester. We'll also have a three-day trip to Prague in September and a six-day trip to Rome in October, and numerous day-trips to other German cities. We have two optional travels as well, so I'm going to try and work in going to see a big Belgian cyclocross race.

My relocation to the Vineyard for this past summer (and all the previous summers) put a hinder on my intended big summer of racing. But, I had two races that I set my heart on for the year, the Connecticut Stage Race (being right next to my hometown of Torrington) and Fitchburg. I was able to get off island for CT, driving back home and hosting a couple of the GLV riders at my house, and getting amenities for those I couldn't fit at my place. I was hoping for a good GC result, but that also means you must have at least a top-10 in the time trial. I had a hard time transitioning from shorter 2-5 miles TT's to the 8-mile one, like the ones at CT and Fitchburg. It has alot to do with the courses, but I also felt like I wasn't warming up right and going out too hard, finding the last 2-3 miles hurt alot. I finished mid-field, got passed by two monsters in full TT-bike setups. As a key to stage race success, I hope to work alot on my time trialing ability over the winter and through collegiate season. At least I got a cool snapshot:

The circuit race was a bad experience, it reminded me of a certain circuit race at Rutgers where I had a mechanical the second lap. However here, I dropped my chain first lap before the drag up the finish, it took the neutral support guy almost a minute to pull my chain from between my crank and frame, left a nice chip in the paint, dropped me off the back for the rest of the race, and the guy gave me a nice hand print of grease on my new GLV bibs. I had to put some serious hurt down to finish within the time limit, so I could do the road race the next day. I saw nobody for the whole race, except the pack lapped me on their sprint up to the finish while I kept chugging away with one lap to go. I saw one guy ahead of me halfway through my last lap, somebody who must have gotten dropped awhile back, and managed to pass him on the last climb up to the finish to save DFL humiliation. I guess there were a few DNF's too, but it sucks to lose ten minutes on GC just like that. At least I got within the time limit and could race the next day.

The road race was a bit of an epic, 91 miles for all fields (even cat 4's!) but I expected it to be hard for me, being there some steep rolling hills in the second half, and hurting a bit from the circuit race effort. Five miles in, there was a really long desent, and I caught myself with my hands on the hoods, and kinda panicked when I got some violent speed wobbles. I thought I flatted, but I knew I was losing control, and didn't want to go down in the middle of the pack and on the pavement. There was some nice meadow grass on the side of the road, and I proceeded to hit the brakes and slow down as much as I could while gliding into the tall grass, eventually landed gently (about as gently as you can slowing from 55mph), recollected myself, surprised that I wasn't flat, and was paced back into the pack by neutral support. I only had a few scratches on my knee and a nice hole in a new jersey from the number ripping off in a corner. I continued on trying to relax at the back of the pack, and soon felt the need to make my presence at the front and stay near Keith and Mark. I got gapped in the feed zone looking for a feed, not noticing my teammates had grabbed everything for me, and Keith came back to pace me back in. As soon as the steep rollers started, I knew I was in trouble. I made it over the first few, but soon just accepted the pain I was in, from all factors, was too much, and I dropped off the back to solo the last 37 miles, coming in maybe a half an hour down. Not the result I wanted, but it was a good experience racing near home and hosting the team at our first big stage race weekend. We as a team were pretty well prepared, I thank all the GLV teammates and supporters for a great weekend all around, we had some awesome results for the Cat 4 field.

Wow that took awhile, I'll talk about Fitchburg tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blog Resurrection

So, its been awhile...

I ended the collegiate racing season in less-than-good form, basically riding maybe once a week and just racing on the weekends. My final project kinda took over at school, and called it a season. Next year I am planning on going back to A's and staying there the whole season, whether or not I get shelled. Maybe I'll get lucky one weekend when nobody shows up because of some big USCF race and I'll score points for nationals, I heard it worked for this one kid at Union.

So came my summer, and having a required co-op led me to search all over, despite the rough economy. I ended up going back to Martha's Vineyard for the NINTH STRAIGHT SUMMER. Don't get me wrong, I love the vineyard, its a great vacation spot, but dealing with a disconnect from the mainland and dealing with the boatloads (literally) of tourists gets to you after nine years. However, it wasn't all that bad as I got to go back to the great job I had last summer interning at Hutker Architects. I got to work on a lot of cool projects this summer, and on top of all the work they have despite a turning economy, they're getting ready for an office renovation, a website update and a book coming out soon, so I forward to seeing great things from them in the coming months.

Now, the main reason why I have decided to pull up this blog again is for my coming semester abroad trip. I want to keep my friends and family updated on the cool stuff we're doing around Europe, with plenty of photos and talk on how much we're (not) focused on studio work. My flight for Amsterdam is this coming Wednesday, and from there we'll head to Paris, Basel, and eventually Berlin for the rest of the semester. I just got an awesome new camera to help in my travels, finally getting past a point + shoot and moving up to a sweet Canon Rebel XSi DSLR system.

I'll update tomorrow with some details of my racing season (and all other misfortunes) of this summer. Off to bed, last day of work tomorrow.

Gute nacht (I'll attempt to learn German at some point)