Road Trip

So towards the middle of the season I was starting to get antsy about what was going to happen next year. Not with cycling mind you (I’m going for the 90+ yr old hour record if I survive to that age FYI), but with the whole, you know, career business. I was considering graduate school.

Now aside from the obvious reasons for going to graduate school, namely racing collegiate again, I genuinely would like to further my education in Aerospace, ideally in orbital mechanics.

With the primary mission to check out gratduate schools, secondary (ish) mission to visit friends and see the country, Katie and I decided to road trip around America.

We left on October 13th (I know great day). Drove up to see my parents and show her my hometown. We spent a few days there then drove to the west coast of Michigan and camped at the Warren Dunes state park (it was cool, but freezing).

After that it was off to visit my friend James from High School who lived in Iowa City. After that it was a long haul from Iowa to Fort Collin’s Colorado. We stayed with a friend of Katie’s then went down to stay in Boulder with my friend Chris for a few days.

Boulder was awesome, we checked out Rocky Mountain NP, the Flatirons, Golden, and Denver, but before long it was off to beautiful Wyoming.

We stayed in Medicine Bow for the night and severly underestimated the temperature drop when camping at 9000 ft.

After that restless night we drove up to the Grand Tetons, obviously a super beautiful park.

Yellowstone is a park arranged with a large ring road. From the entrance we took to Old Faithful is a roughly 15 mile drive clockwise around the park.

Of course that 15 mile stretch of road was closed which left us with the only option of driving 80 miles counter-clockwise around the park to see the geysers…we skipped it.

From there we drove to Boise for a night of drinking, then a hung over drive through the Saw Tooth Mountains to Sun Valley to stay with my old Panther teammate Gabe for a couple days.

We did some riding and a short hike there.

At this point we changed our course a bit. Originally we had California slated on the calendar of driving. However when we checked the weather, our first destination: the Redwood Forest was rained in for the duration of the weatherunderground.com forcast.After some learning was done on the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest we decided to nix California (we were also getting pretty tired at this point).

So we decided to B-Line straight down from Sun Valley to Southern Utah. After a day of driving we arrived in Zion National park. The next few days we drove around visiting a few of the national parks around there including the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, before heading down to Tucson to stay with my college roommate Joey.

In American cycling, everything goes through Tucson at some point, so does our road trip. We’ll spend a few days here before heading back to Greenville, hitting up Austin along the way.

 

ROAD TRIP

ROAD TRIP

ROAD TRIP

The goal of this trip was originally to visit new places and see the country, but by far the best part has been visiting with old friends. I’m glad to be doing this for that reason alone.

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Crit Nationals

So I will do another Belgium post but in the meantime I just want to say a word about Crit Nationals. I won’t be going. There’s a wedding I have to go to up in Asheville on Saturday instead. And I’m not really bummed about it for two reasons.

First, last year was kinda dumb. I was away, by myself, for about an hour. Now, I love breakaways as much as the next guy, but I’d really like to have some company, plus I’m no diesel engine. The fact that I got 2 minutes on the field (half a lap) should indicate to you how easy things were going in the field. If you want to see how to wait for a field sprint, watch crit nationals. With big teams like Optum and UHC wanting a field sprint last year, a breakaway had a snowball’s chance in Hell to stay away. Plus, I didn’t get a SINGLE PRIME…thanks Chad.

Also, even if I were to go race for a sprint, there’s almost no chance to compete with some of the big name sprinters or teams.

Second, USACycling, and most Pro teams for that matter could care less about Crit nationals. Yes it’s obviously a big deal if you as an individual win, but as a team, it doesn’t count for much. How many times did Eric Young get to wear his jersey last year? And how many times were Holloway and that U23 kid line up in their kits at Crits this year. The fact that you could potentially have 3 guys wearing a national championship kit in a race sort of devalues the jersey.

I’m with most other pro guys that think it’s shitty that USA cycling is allowing Amateurs into the event. Don’t get me wrong,  the amateur teams going to Crit Nationals deserve to be there MORE than most Pro teams (Champion System, UHC, and our Astellas guys being the exception). You want to know why? It’s because teams like Athlete Octane, Stan’s-No Tubes, KHS, CRCA, and SeaSucker that believe in Criterium racing and have actually sent teams to do all of the races.

It sucks because USACycling is basically saying: if you’re a low budget Professional team, like many that exist below the resource level to do the big Cali, Utah, Colorado, or International tours and focus on American Racing, you’re wasting your money.

American racing IS criterium racing. Crit racing is exiting, it’s fast, it’s dangerous, and there’s usually drunk people watching; you can’t deny the entertainment factor. With all the live streaming and easy promotion that you can do street level, it has the kind of grassroots potential that is difficult to ignore.  Just look at how many people are spectating at Tour of Alberta or how long you can stand to sit and watch a stage for.

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Belgium Part 1

We’ve now been in Belgium over 2 weeks and have done 4 races.  We flew in a day before our first Pro Kermesse, got promptly lost on our first day riding around Aarchot. We lined up in downtown Buggenhout (don’t worry none of the town names make any sense) still very much jet lagged not knowing what to expect. Giddy with excitement and nerves my heart rate was pegged at 160 just sitting on the start line from adrenaline. I’m not sure if it was the jet lag, the different riding style, course itself or combination of everything, but I only made it 60 of the 100 miles.

It was a little disheartening to only make it halfway through the first race here in Belgium but I reserved judgement knowing that a continental flight the day before at least had SOME factor to do with it. The next race on the docket was the UCI 1.2 Havenpijl Antwerpen race. But that was nearly a week after our first race, so we had some time to overcome the Jet Lag and get acclimated to the country.

Matt Green took us on our first legitimate ride around the Belgian countryside without getting lost. My first reaction was how crazy the riding is here. There’s no Froome-ing it riding around here in Belgium, if you put your head down for a second you’ll catch a gutter, hit a car, slide out on cow turds, you name it. There’s almost no steady riding, you’re continuously turning and hopping curbs (just on a ride!); a ride around here is more like an alley cat race.

I did my first big solo ride a few days later and decided to get really lost and figure my way back home eventually. To my suprise it’s really easy to get around here. The trick is this: If you have particular roads or a route you want to ride, you WILL get lost, but if you just head in a general direction you’ll be fine. There are no dead ends in the Belgian road system, ever road leads to Rome, or um Aarschot. Also there are literally bike routes every where you go. This not only includes paths along canals and rail-trails, but touring routes. All you have to do it pick up a numbered sign that are usually zip tied to traffic signs and follow a given route.Pave IMG_3233

Back to Havenpijl Antwerpen, our second race. By that point we had started to get the hang of cleaning our bikes and washing our shoes every day (it rains a lot). The 170km race did two large 50km circuits then a bunch of small 17km circuits. There was also a large storm that was the remnant of a hurricane that almost hit America, decided to head East instead, and rain on our race. This meant 20mph wind and torrential rain. Also this was the first race with cobbles! I know I was nervous at the start, I had pictures of Roubaix and Flanders in my head, with pave splitting the field. We rolled out got to the first cobbled section and things, um, slowed down. I thought, whatever, it’s early in the race, not a decisive moment. The decisive moment, it turned out, was to happen 20 km later because of….corners. Running into the last 2km there were 6 corners on some very tame brick roads, however it had started raining. I was probably in the top 50 guys (not bad in a field of 200), and when we hit the corners, guys were dropping wheels in the corner like it was their job, the Belgians were bad at cornering.

I’m not sure where the difference came from, maybe it’s that in America every dude is willing to crash in every freaking corner not to drop a wheel, or the fact that they’re all running at least 120psi in their tires at all times (long story), but the Belgians were taking the wet corners very gingerly. So the field split, and the winning move of 25 got away because a guy dropped a wheel in the corners. The thing the Belgians are VERY good at is positioning, there is NO space to move around in the field, you’re always bumping guys in the field but not in a dangerous way. Because of this they don’t do the whole leaving space in front of you before a corner thing, or take a good line through a corner, they just do this:

Marching Band Turn

Since this sort of field split thing has happened to us several times, I’ll address it, we are flying totally blind in these races. I mean we know generally what teams are good and where the decisive sections SHOULD be, but it’s easy to underestimate how big a factor knowing the course and riders around you have. I mean in the US we race every weekend with the same guys, but here it’s 90 race days out of the year, and they’ve all been racing since before they could walk and know the courses inside and out. To us, ever attack is just another bunch of huge Belgian dudes going up the road.IMG_3329

The rain really started coming down after that point, we attacked and chased to try to get the break back, the field split a bunch of times, but in the end it stayed away.

Just two days later we raced a Kermesse that was formerly the world Kermesse championship (totally unofficial, I think). By this point we were actually starting to get the hang of Belgian style racing, plus the short 7km circuit was the closest thing to a crit we were probably ever going to get.

We stayed super active in the first part of the race. I eventually made it into a move of 14 some guys and we rotated through, and it was hard. We got a minute fairly quickly, then we all got Ice Bucket challenged by a 5 minute torrential freezing cold rain storm, but our gap just stayed up there at one minute. Here’s another difference: there’s apparently no sitting on in the breakaway here, you ride until you’re cross eyed and then just get dropped from the break (it’s a noble death). I was rolling through pretty good for most of the race but most the guys had a foot and 20 kilos on me and I was really starting to hurt, so I started skipping pulls. This prompted all sorts of, what I assume were Flemish curse words, hip slings, and even a poke in the butt (not on the side by the way although he may have also just thought I was cute).

Breakaway

We eventually got caught, and I noticed ANOTHER particularity of Belgian racing. In America, when you get dropped almost EVERYONE applaudes you: “Good job”, “You gave it your best”, etc. Maybe this is because cycling isn’t an American pastime, or it’s just a cultural thing. However in Belgium, when you drop out, all the old people just stair at you like this:

I couldn’t help it, I really felt embarrassed rolling around the course after getting dropped. Although it could have also been caused by the fact that at one point I had 20/6 odds on me to win at the bookies and they just lost their money…

We had a few days off before our next race so we took a couple rest days and train-ed it up to Amsterdam for a night so see the sighs, have a few beers, etc.

Amsterdam

Once back we did a little bit more training and a day trip to Brussels before our next race the UCI 1.1 Zottegem (could you imagine a UCI 1.1 race just being on a Tuesday in America??).

Zottegem was a 190km race in the Flanders region. We even did a climb from the actual Ronde. I wasn’t feeling super this race, we missed the break, chased, didn’t catch it, the usual. There were cross winds and actual climbs this time. I flatted and had the pleasure of going through the caravan…which is WAY more enjoyable than doing it in the US (more experienced caravan drives I think here).

Anyway we walked away with no results there as well, but had a good race as a team (we tried hard).

Today we’re racing the Dutch Food Valley Classic complete with not just one World Tour team but 3: Belkin, Cannondale, and Movistar, NBD.

I THINK there’s also a live stream to watch the race (although you might have to be in Belgium…no idea):

http://www.arnhemveenendaalclassic.nl/profkoers/live-stream/

Race starts at 9am EST and should finish around 2pm EST

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Road Race tomorrow

We’re doing this one tomorrow:

<iframe src=”//player.vimeo.com/video/71731336?byline=0&amp;portrait=0″ width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/71731336″>NL. Antwerpse Havenpijl full report</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user1841390″>Motomediateam.be</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

I’m holding off on a full report on Belgian racing for now since I’ve only done one so far and want to do one not jet-lagged before I make any verdicts on the racing here, check back for updates.

Oh yeah and it’s supposed to rain and be super windy…SWEET!

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First Belgian Race Today

So we’ve gotten into our Belgian house here in Aarshot Friday morning. It’s a super nice house, and looks like it’s right out of an IKEA show room. We had our first legitimate ride that afternoon and promptly got VERY lost, stopping at least 10 times to check our saved maps on our phones. Belgium has the 3rd highest road density in the world. This isn’t even counting the endless network of bike paths and random goat paths. So basically there’s roads everywhere you go in every direction you could want…but none of the roads are longer than a km (only slight exaggeration). It generally makes for very confusing and and heads up riding with all the pedestrian and car traffic: think of doing an Alley Cat race on every single ride, forget the idea of zoning out in a ride.

Toe-ing up for a Pro Kermesse race today. It’s going to be 20 laps of an 8 km course.

I’ll be sure to have a good write up on the race come Monday or whatever, so in the meantime enjoy this video I finally put together from the GoPro I had at Athens Twilight, complete with sweet music track and more importantly: Audio from our self neutralization:

 

 

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