Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't Think Too Much

So I have been told by a respected figure: Don't think - race the bike! Good thing since I have enough to think about as I wrap up the semester. Right now I am working on a neglected independent study on the effects of land use planning on health, with help from Leigh. Happy riding, even though it's been in the 40s and raining these last few days in New England.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Joe Martin: Sunday Crit

I got dropped. Inexcusable. So disappointing to feel a lack of progress in/even loss of fitness over the last month - the fits and starts of getting sick might have taken a toll. Hiroko rode well and stayed in the front group. Robin also rode excellently. Cat Caroll won the overall. Infinite thanks to our hosts the Lisles and Carolyn and Marion for their phenomenal support and kindness. Major homework to do on the bike prior to fast crits in two weekends, followed by Montreal. For now, it's time to grade exams and term papers, write one myself, finish up the semester and be done. That will be a huge relief.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Joe Martin: Saturday Time Trial

With the two road races decided in bunch sprints, the time trial was sure to be decisive. Now was the time for Kathleen, Hiroko, and I to show what we could do. The course climbed 2.5 miles through the Devil's Den state park south of Fayetteville, a wild venue that involved 7 switchbacking miles of "highway" to access. The teams started in blocks, for logistical ease. It's more motivating and in many ways more fair to be chasing the person who is just behind you in the gc (and who is not necessarily on your own team), but so it goes. We started: Kathleen, Mandy, Andrea, me, Hiroko, Robin, and Leigh. I got to pre-ride the climb during the warm-up, and think I did a solid warm-up. I feel I did an ok ride. Maybe I went out a tad hard, since I was struggling in the last mile, which was where I had wanted to ramp it up, since it was flatter than the first mile of climbing. Greg described the approach to this time trial as "unrolling a carpet" as far as moderating the effort. This will take practice but I aim to improve. I knew my time wasn't spectacular, and I finished a reasonable but not great 24th place, a whopping 1:20 off the time of winner Alex Wrubleski of Colavita. The GC got shaken up, with Wrubleski in first by one second, followed by Katheryn Curi, then Cheerwine rider Brooke Ourada. Kathleen is now in 15th place overall, I am in 21st, Hiroko in 23rd (though we might all be one back since there seemed to be an omission of Cat Caroll in the results). None of these places is worth defending: today we go on the attack and aim to tear this crit apart. It sounds very selective and conducive to a breakaway. My guess is we aim for a podium on the stage and top-10 on GC. I think we can do it. I can assure you no team had a better post-race dinner than we did: we returned from the time trial to a buffet of pasta salad, green salad (vegetables!), grilled chicken to be decked out with tomato and avocado, garlic bread, fruit salad... Lucy Kate graduated from kindergarten today! Steve even arranged for Leigh to get some stitches in her knee and elbow from his personal doctor friend. The host family deserves some results!

Joe Martin: Saturday Road Race

The challenge of the three-day Joe Martin Stage Race seems to be in that between 2:30pm on Friday and 12:35pm on Sunday, you race four challenging stages. Recovery is key. After the Friday road race, we high-tailed it to the Flying Burrito for a recovery dinner. Northwest Arkansas really does measure up: gorgeous country roads, wild green scenery, patient drivers, fantastic people (a clearly biased view gleaned from the no-doubt exceptional sample of host families and race volunteers), a lively downtown Fayetteville, AND a top-notch burrito place. (My new team is just learning that every new race site brings a burrito quest... Good thing the teammates are kindred spirits!) I am almost ready to forgive it for being the home of Walmart, get myself a big Arkansas Razorback license plate, sign up for forty acres and a mule (and some football tickets), and start eating ribs and grits. Once again, bike racing forces me to throw some prejudice out the window. Anyway, today brought a 69-mile road race with some steep rollers, to be followed in the evening by an uphill time trial. Our plan was for Mandy, Andrea, and Robin to force the other teams to work by creating breakaways, and go for the stage win. Hiroko, Kathleen, and I would save ourselves for the time trial. Mandy, Andrea, and Robin rode fantastically: they lit up the race. At one point Leigh was off the front for maybe 10-15 miles, giving those of us in the field a comfortable cruise. Greg was awesome over the radio. Coming into town, Mandy forced a Cheerwine chase by a powerful solo break, which Kathleen countered. Hiroko and I tried our luck but it wasn't happening. I finished 11th, again needing a bit more of a killer instinct in the final sprint. Rebecca pulled out during the stage, needing a bit more training to be ready. The rest of us finished safely in the bunch. We need to work on positioning and countering directly off our teammates' moves, but we are coming together as a team. We zipped back to our host family's house to shower, rest the legs, eat some food, and watch the cinematic classic "So I Married an Axe Murderer" before leaving for the evening time trial. Over at the other house, Greg (shown in photo looking serious) doubling as director and mechanic, prepared 7 bikes for the time trial.

Joe Martin: Friday Road Race

So the climbing legs did not quite come through. I went with the initial group as the field started to split, then literally started moving backwards, then rode up the 9-mile climb easily in the laughing group, with a group of maybe 15-20 riders up the road. I was a bit bummed and considered my race done - I just sat on, knowing that this split benefited Hiroko and Kathleen up ahead and knowing that now I would get to go on the attack on Saturday. But my group had some motivation to chase, led interestingly by Cheerwine, the team with 10 riders in the race and 5 riders in the front group, and some strong riders from smaller teams that had missed the move. To my astonishment, we caught the front group, which had been riding lazily. Aaron's (especially Catherine Powers) controlled the front of the race on the flat and downhill run into town. Hiroko had filled me with horror stories of the potential for time gaps at the finish, given a "wall" of a hill just after a right turn. There was certainly a positioning battle into the turns. We turned up, my legs felt spritely and I finished 13th without a time split. Cat Caroll of Aaron's won the stage, quoted later as saying "Winning is contagious." That's what I need - a bit more killer instinct and higher personal aspirations. Kathleen and Hiroko also made it without time split. Some bad news for the rest of the team, however: Leigh, Robin, and Mandy were all caught in a crash right before the climb. Leigh got cut up pretty badly and they all lost major time they would not have otherwise, a disappointment for Robin especially. In other AWESOME news, our teammate Rebecca Much joined us for the race, after 2.5 weeks of training, and she finished the stage, in spite of having the freehub of a wheel implode. She has a fantastic attitude and I feel excited to be her teammate and take part in her return to the sport. Our wonderful host family, Steve, Chris, Jack, and Lucy Kate Lisle cheered us at the finish with this exquisite hand-drawn sign. We could not be luckier or better supported!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Joe Martin: Time to Climb

So I am going to move to Fayetteville, Arkansas, but more on that later. Today brings a 62 mile road race with a stair-stepping 10-mile climb. Follow follow and go with the key selections. Wish me legs. Here are my stylin' teammates Mandy and Leigh in the team car.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Crack-O-Rama at Jiminy Peak and Other News

Congratulations to those who rocked at Jiminy Peak - they got the last laugh and registered top results at one of New England's best road races, put on by my first team, the Berkshire Cycling Association. New England abounds in strong bike racers and new teams are out in full force - it's great to see! Hats of to Anthem-Blue Cross and to Team Terry for their aggressive racing and good results, even if Kate's red shoe covers did not zip across the finish line in top form. I woke up fighting off sickness, and to be honest struggling with exactly the point of the race - was it to be calculating and ride for a result or to attack-attack and get in some good training? When I know there are big races going on that I am missing - the Crit Series and Tour of the Gila - I can get impatient, conscious of training I am not doing. Nina did a great job, which was the highlight of the day. Hiroko and I did not play our cards right. This would be a tough race for us regardless but we didn't do it right. Best would have been to drive it up the hills (at least the finish hill on lap 1), make people work a bit (including us!), chill out on flats, know that a hard race benefits us but not take it exclusively upon ourselves to create it. Hiroko and I botched the finish something awful, both going way too early and blowing to pieces. Worst though was my attitude. I was very frustrated with what I saw as lack of aggressive racing. I haven't had so little fun in a bike race in a long time. But as I said, I didn't even finish in the top ten so someone else clearly had the last laugh. When I yell at idiot cars on the road, I have come to recognize that something is not quite right in me to be this irritable, and the same thing goes for my frustration with the bike race. Not to make excuses but being overtired, fighting sickness, and being a bit stressed with school seemed to contribute to a negative approach. I was really in rare form as a torrent of malcontent. I owe a HUGE APOLOGY to a lot of people.
In other news: My teammate Robina Farina made the winning break of the final race of the Crit Series and finished 4th - super job! Racers came out of the woodwork and Yale won the Ivy League Title for the second year in a row. I am sending them my legs for Nationals this weekend. Fred Drier of VeloNews, who rocks, referred to Tour of the Gila, my favorite sufferfest, as a battle of "the best of the rest" - ah hello!!?? There might be only 48 riders in the field but those racers are TOPS. Congrats to Mara Abbot! Power to collegiate racing, regional racing, and domestic (women's at least) racing, where we have purity of sport and cheating is the gross exception not the rule. Don't ruin our sport, lying dopers. Ok, I am taking an exam at 9am, then flying to Arkansas for Joe Martin!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Crit Racing and Redemption for the Peach State

This weekend I flew down to Georgia for the Athens Twilight and Roswell Criteriums. Took a while to update the blog, given a 3:00am return home and need to gain some perspective. We are all our own worst critics. Expecting a lot of ourselves is certainly a factor in performing well, but it doesn't help you ride well if you lose sight of the joy in racing and are overly critical and never pleased. Athens is a SCENE - a hip college town filled with local businesses and statues of Uga, the University of Georgia's bulldog mascot. Uga can take on Yale's Handsome Dan any day. I don't think Uga wears a letter sweater. You might have read about the Atlanta's horrible sprawl and traffic - how when during the Olympics residents were urged to take public transportation to improve air quality, emergency room visits for asthma declined precipitously, then rose again once people began driving. All this is true, and I have to say I went into the trip with Atlanta as my vision of surburban hell, a place exemplifying all that is wrong with the American supersizing mentality. So I was pleasantly surprised: a lively residential suburb of Decatur where my teammate Leigh lives (albeit with air-conditioned parking garage), drivers with infinitely more patience for cyclists than in Connecticut, gorgeous country roads, Jittery Joe's (an Athens coffee shop that is the enthusiastic title sponsor of a pro men's team -, and a few last holdout pedestrian-friendly locations. As for Athens, I could almost live there! As for the racing, well, I did rally to race Athens Twilight at 7:45pm, a major feat given my normal sleep schedule! Andrea, Mandy, Kathleen, Leigh, Robin, and I made up the Targetraining team. Was getting a call-up and carelessly did not participate in the sprint to the start line, a pushy and obnoxious ritual I increasingly hate. Then I was the last call-up and started the race stuck in the back, something that unfortunately set the tone for the whole race. I never solidified my position and never put myself consistently in the race where I was able to follow moves. Aaron's took the race by the horns, driving it, attacking, taking almost every prime, and eventually winning the race out of a break with Cat Carroll. Anytime a break makes it to the line I feel a missed opportunity because that is a break I should have been in. Launched one good attack but going solo in a race of teams is simply not going to happen. Away for one lap and took a prime, but that was my one moment of glory. We didn't have a super showing as a team. My teammate Mandy spent a lot of time on the front, rode assertively. We need to ration the energy more, but at least we had presence, and Mandy is getting stronger and stronger. Sunday morning we went out for a ride on some country roads, did some motor-pacing to open the legs. The Roswell course was less technical than Athens. Robin was going to be our finisher; Kathleen, Andrea, and Leigh were all under the weather for a variety of reasons; Mandy and I would ride at the front and cover attacks, maybe do some instigating ourselves. All good except no team wanted a break today given what happened at Athens, where the big-name sprinters had not had their chance for the win. 20-20 hindsight tells me I should have been more chill during the race and tried to do a good finish. It's tough though since I do not really have the power now (or ever against the pure sprinters) to contest a bunch finish very well (especially with a super long 400m finishing straight), so I like to gamble for a break rather than ride conservatively for a mediocre place. And that's team racing too - we want and need to be in the breaks. Robin finished 15th. We can do better. At this point we might be in that no-man's-land of learning team racing where if we all raced as individuals we would do better than we do trying to race as a team. We are all committed to making our team a force on the national circuit, and we can, but it's going to take some time and a lot of hard work. My teammates are staying down in the Southeast racing the entire U.S. Criterium series, which presents a great opportunity to progress. I am trying hard not to be too jealous as I write term papers and study for exams. At least the weather is nice and I am enjoying a personal training camp. In one week I will be done with school and flying to Joe Martin, a stage race in Arkansas. Along the way I will race my hometown race Jiminy Peak. I am mad because they have shortened the women's race to a ridiculous 60k (the same length I raced as a Cat 4), probably because the field has made a habit of noodling. I intend to tear the race to shreds, whatever place I come in. Here's a photo from Roswell, with Mandy on the front in the mini-break and me visible on the right of the photo. Also a photo from last year's men's Twilight Crit, which is the best I can do at this point.