Greenville Training Camp

This past weekend was the official Panther pb Competitive Cyclist team training camp down home in Greenville South Carolina. I met up with Gabe Thursday after work for the 6 hour drive down to the cabin. The team training camp experiences I’ve had in the past have usually involved cramming as many guys into as small of a tent/crappy cabin as clown car logic will allow.
But this is the Elite Panther Cycling team, it’s the big time. Not only did pretty much all of us get our own bed, and bathroom, my room even had a vintage Donkey Kong/Centipede arcade system.

Goodies filled the garage:

In progress:

Camps are usually a good time to get to know the team and get a feel for the strengths people have. This was particularly needed for the 2012 team. After loosing several riders in the off season shuffle, there were significant holes in the diesel section of our team. The only returning riders from last year were Kirk, Ryan A, Ryan K, and me (all the truesport proclaimed fast guys). I only raced with Ryan A (the guy who probably pulled the studliest results last year at Joe Martin and Nature Valley) once last year at Gateway Cup, so he’s pretty much a new guy to me. The new additions to the team at camp were Bob Stumpf and Andrew Seitz from Pittsburg and Gabe Moss-Masaquiza from Columbus.

So our first day at camp was going to be a big insight as to how everyone’s form was going along for the season. The ride started out pretty quick, everyone eager to show their fruits of a winter spent suffering on the trainer. Being the closest thing to a Greenville local I plotted our first ride, going over the 6 mile climb Cesears head right off the bat. We clipped along for a good half hour to the base of the climb. Once we started heading up some of the newer guys were definitely going for the Strava segment, us ‘veterans’ joked about being a little over-eager, so let them go but kept things in sight. Then, after a few minutes, I blew up. I really blew up, like heart rate pegged at 180 struggling to put out 200 watts blown. Let me be clear, Caesars head is by no means a difficult climb; over 6 miles it struggles to hit a 5% average. So on the first ride of camp I went backwards so fast I finished a full 10 minutes behind everyone else in the group (you can check the strava segment). After some emergency Little Debbie snacks I was back on track to finish the ride.

Friday was another good ride through the mountains where we went north around the Greenville resovoir then descended Caesars head back to our cabin. Saturday we signed up for the Greenville Spring Training series race at Fork Schoals. This race was serious. Where else will you find 130 dudes in a spring race, with a full squad of BMC Devo guys and a Pro Tour rider by the name of George Hincapie. My own race was nothing too special, I flatted on the 3rd lap and was un-able to get a wheel change fast enough to catch back on (plus I got no love from the follow car). I was feeling somewhat crappy anyways, but if I hadn’t flatted, I would have won by 10 minutes probably. The rest of the team had some strong rides but the team cogs need some oil before we start spitting out some good results I think. Andy Clarke mixed it up with a guy who was a little afraid of the wind and took out a good portion of the field (how many folded Dura Ace rings have you ever seen?):

Sunday was our last day in Greenville, and we were all kind of looking for something short before the long drive home until our team sponsor Andy Clarke (who knows everyone and their cousin) gave us a real surprise; we’d be riding with the most decorated American cyclist still racing his bike: George Hincapie. After hearing this we spent the rest of the night as giddy as a bunch of middle school girls before a Justin Beiber concert.

We met up with George and another BMC Devo racer from Michigan, Larry Warbase, and proceeded to follow them around some quality back roads of Greenville. George would rotate through taking the time to say hi to each of us. When it came to my turn I was more nervous than talking to a pretty girl (just kidding I have no idea what that’s like). I couldn’t even think about what to talk about, he asked me about my racing, I though ‘Oh man, what do I tell him about, how I’m really looking forward to Hyde Park Blast, it’s way cooler than Paris-Roubaix’. ‘Does he really want to talk about bike racing considering he spends all his time doing it.’ With all these going through my head it was pretty quiet outside.

After about an hour and a half or riding some quality roads in Greenville we stopped close by to our cabin to asses where we wanted to go. “Well we could do the watershed climb, you guys could head back to your house, or we can do the ‘Epic’ climb” George had spent enough time around bike racers to know he had us at ‘Epic’. He cracked a thin smile as we all giddily volunteered for the Epic climb. We were all thinking ‘Hey, we just climbed Caesars head a few days ago, how bad could it be?”

We went back through our cabin community, rode literally 100 feet past our cabin, and turned on a road we drove past 5 times without giving a second thought to. From there it was big gear workouts for the next half hour.

The road, which was fully encompassed in this golf community we were staying in, was by no stretch of the imagination a safe or legal road. With at least 5 sustained pitches of 20% or more and switchbacks as tight as any one lane crit corner, this climb was harder than Brasstown, and pretty close to being harder than Nebo. During the climb I transitioned my mentality from ‘Elite’ racer to recreational cyclist. I was no longer concerned with my watts or saving the legs for the next race, I just wanted to finish the climb. As our group scattered across the road, I’d occasionally glance back to see if anyone was close enough to see me get off and walk for a while.

At one point during the climb George rode up next to me. I spotted his red kit out of the corner of my vision and immediately stopped paper-boying, wheezing like a fat asthmatic kid and put my game face for George. Then his phone rang, and while I’m at the peak of mental concentration to not fall over, he takes a hand off the bars reaches around his back and answers “Oh hi honey, yeah I’ll hurry home” all not sounding like he’s doing anything harder than a recover spin. After hanging up and riding on past me, I got back to my paper-boying.

We polished off the climb (which was our namesake: Panther Mountain) and snapped a few pics. After a death-defying descent off the mountain back to the front step of our cabin we said our farewells, packed up our stuff and headed back to the Midwest.Overall it looks like a great season ahead of us; everyone is super strong and really enthusiastic. Should be a good year.


First Races of the South

Time to double up on some race reporting action. There’s been a whole mess of racing going on the past two weekends including the first two races that I have EVER just spectated at.

My first race as a working stiff was the High Point twilight Criterium in North Carolina. It started Friday night at 9 so I got my car all packed up on Thursday night ready to go straight from work, that way I’d have plenty of time to get there and warm up. I got out of work at 4:30 and hit the road to High Point, ideally a two and a half hour drive. Halfway between Spartainburg and Charlotte I stopped for gas and a Subway dinner, then as soon as I got back on the highway I hit a gigantic traffic jam.

No problem, I thought, I have plenty of time since I left early. After about 30 minutes I had gone roughly a mile and spotted a news helicopter circling at least a mile a head. The situation looked bleak, I spied an exit to the middle of nowhere a quarter mile up the road so I cut across the stopped traffic and drove up the shoulder. My planned detour took me a good three miles down the highway before getting back on. By this point I was sweating a few bullets as my ETA crept closer and closer to 9, so I was driving, well, a little fast. I came upon a pickup frontage road that was going well under the speed limit and clearly rubbernecking at the accident on the highway (a rolled semi and several ruined cars). As the frontage road crossed a single lane wooden bridge the driver of the truck slammed on the breaks in the middle of the bridge which was wide enough for his car alone. To my horror a large shirtless old man, with foot long white hair covering every inch of his totally sun burnt chest and back. I was panicked, “Oh god, I’ve only been in the South two weeks and I’m already in a Deliverance scenario.” That was a worse case scenario; he might have just had a gun. Anyway with my path blocked he walked up to my car yelling something about what the speed limit was and how if I kept on tailgating him I’d own his bumper. I just said “yes sir” and hoped he would just walk away. After some lecturing and me looking very sorry with a few “yes sir won’t happen again”, he sauntered back to his car satisfied he taught me a thing or two. He pulled off the road just past the bridge, and I gassed it and didn’t look back.

By that point my ETA was about 40 minutes before the start, not too bad if I didn’t hit any more slow downs, but of course I did. Just past Charlotte I ran into another shirtless southern tradition: NASCAR. Little did I know, the Charlotte NASCAR race took place that weekend and the track was right on my route to High Point causing another mass of stopped traffic. This time I really panicked, I was already late and had already been driving for 3 hours; I was now on a mission to make it to the race. I routed a detour around the traffic with the handy Google maps traffic function. This re route was longer, at 20 miles, but funny enough it took me right in front of the Charlotte NASCAR track, where a giant mass of humanity, RV’s, Tents, and Budwiser had amassed. Fortunately I had entered the back way to the track and was now headed back to the highway opposite the gigantic mass of traffic.

From that point onward I was clear of traffic and it was a game of making the ETA on the GPS go backwards in time. I finally got there with 20 minutes to spare before race time, I even got a 5 minute warm up in.

After such a hectic drive over I was really amped up and raced pretty well. Since the race started at 9 it was pitch black the entire time, and the back of the course was really dark with no street lights at all, however the finishing stretch went through a covered bus terminal which was brightly lit with a block party and a ton of live music, it was a really awesome course. The mile long course also had a pretty decent amount of climbing per lap, so the field got whittled down pretty quickly after the start. With a pretty technical course and a 300 m climb out of the last corner to the finish the course was really perfect for me. A large breakaway/field split rolled off midway through the race that was pretty well represented with 3 Mountain Khaki riders an RGF rider and a smattering of others. I attacked to bridge across after it was pretty clear the field wasn’t going anywhere. Another Mountain Khaki rider tagged along for the ride up, and of course attacked me when we were about 5 seconds off the back. I made it across after a lap so I wasn’t too worried. From then on out it was team MTN Khakis against everyone else, they would send a guy up the road and everyone else would pretty much take turns following. Going into the final lap a MTN Khaki guy got a pretty good gap on our group, the RGF rider, who was pretty much going one speed the entire breakaway, kept on diligently working even on the last lap. We all queued up behind him going into the last corner. The MTN Khakis had a good 50 m coming around to the final stretch. I was sitting 3rd wheel and started my sprint right out of the corner to try and catch him. Lucky for me he looked like he was totally blown and I had enough room for a victory salute (he still finished 2nd).

I headed back to G-Ville to watch the US Pro TT, which was cool but kinda boring to watch.

Sunday I raced the South Caroline State RR. It was 92 miles in the 95 degree humid heat. I’m not much a heat of summer racer, so I suffered pretty good. On a side note, regardless of what your silly thermometers say, racing and riding in the humidity is WAY worse than the dry Tucson heat, I think it was best surmised by the opinion of one recumbent rider I met in Tucson. When I asked him about the whole riding at 5 am thing he said, “Yeah they’re a bunch of wimps, sure it’s hot, I just bring a camelback and drink a lot of water.”

Hear that, you Tucson guys were getting dissed by a ‘bent rider.

Anyway back in the RR, Kelly Benefits showed up to the race to do their opening efforts for the next days US Pro road race. This meant for the first laps they would take turns doing about 10 minutes of tempo on the front of the field before all dropping out en masse at lap 4. This left things in a state of disorganization: there was a solo rider 7 minutes ahead of the field, followed by 6 chasers who had their own two KBS riders abandon.

By the time I had realized what happened I was on the wrong end of everything, I attacked for a lap of 15 miles but got caught by a field that only numbered six (after 50 some starters). It was over, I stayed in and did a few more efforts in the last laps to finish things out and get some good hot miles in for the Nationals RR next month.

On Monday I met up with fellow Purdue Alum Stephen Sehr who’s riding like 4000 miles across America this summer to watch the finish of the US Pro Road Race. It was even hotter today, I was pouring sweat just standing around, and the state of the field showed the heat. By the end of the race the field of 100 some riders was totally decimated. I took this vid of the finish from the last corner, it’s a great quality on my iPhone, but as soon as I uploaded it, it turned to crap

And yes I know I called it…wrong, thanks one commentor

On to the People’s Community Bank Omnium. This was a medium sized 2 day 3 day stage race. It consisted of a RR, TT, and finally Crit. What wasn’t standard was the fact that the 55 mile RR ended in a 7 mile climb

Because of this, and the decent tailwind prevalent the entire route out to the climb, the RR Saturday morning started off really relaxed and stayed that way until the base of the climb. There were a few crashes, more than should be in any road race, but the group made it to the base of the climb in mostly one piece. Once we started climbing the climbers started hitting it and the group totally shattered by mile 2 of the climb. It became painfully apparent how much of a climber I am not. I was able to stay with the front group perhaps longer than I should through maybe top end power, then got dropped and passed by a good number of people before settling in with my appropriate group. From there it was a totally relentless 5 miles of climbing at 6% to the finish. If you’ve never done a 7 mile climb with a 6% average in a race, which I’m pretty sure 99% of people haven’t, let me tell you. It’s really hard to stay with the group, but pretty much the outcome of the race will remain unchanged by any amount of suffering you do, somewhat like a TT. I garuntee that if the climb had ended after 2 miles, the results would have been identical as they were at the end of the 7 mile climb. Anyway I suffered my way through it and finished 24th out of 70 some starters. The stage was won by Scott Stewart from TT1 who was only training for the Tour of Switzerland.

The afternoon was a short 3 mile time trial. Luckly it was short and I suffered through it. I would have skipped it but in order to qualify for the omnium you needed to register for all three events.

The way the omnium was scored only 12 people from the RR and 10 from the TT scored any points. That way at most, there’d be only 22 people with any points going into the crit (where only 15 finishers recieved points). This meant that potentially any single decent result would produce a good overall.

So since I scored zero points in the first two stages the Crit was my last chance. It was a very techincal 8 corner 1 km crit with some funky brick pavement in a few of the corners. I lined up at the back, so when the start came it took me a few laps to get settled into the front of the field. The winning breakaway however rolled off the front on the second lap. There were definately some teams underrepresented in the breakaway, but in a course that was whiplashing any rider outside the top 10 to death, it was difficult to mount a chase. I worked a bit with the RealCyclist team (who had 2 riders) and a smattering of others. We wern’t able to close the gap below 30 seconds, and the Hincapie Development team, which was the only team consistently at the front of the field, had a rider up the road.

It came down to a field sprint, I was sititng a few wheels back in good position but got swarmed by a few guys with 2 corners to go. I surged back up to 4th wheel by the final corner, but finished 3rd in the field for 6th place in the race.

With my points from the 6th place I placed 8th overall in the omnium.


Welcome to G-Ville

So the first week of full time employment is finally complete. Don’t be too alarmed though, my first week tasks consisted of mostly setting up my email account and mapping network drives. I’m already off to a good start as I tied the record for fastest setup of an email account (3 days!). The norm is something on the order of one or two weeks to finally get access to your own email. I suppose it might have something to do with proprietary export controlled data. That was my second “action item”, to read a bunch of documents about what an “export” actually is. By the way if you’re not in the corporate world, difficult terms like “action items” seem like a foreign language at first (it means an item you take action on…to do). Anyway you wouldn’t believe the kind of stifling restrictions that are placed on the content of my work. Not only cant I discuss gas turbine engines with foreign countries like Iran, but if I travel abroad I’m expected to keep my work laptop within my control at all times. They’ve obviously made a terrible mistake in hiring me, I’m not James Bond here, and I don’t know if I can handle this kind of Top Secret operation here.

Anyways I got moved into my apartment for the most part, I don’t have a TV, a couch, any chairs, or table. But I have a bed and a washer and dryer, so I’m pretty set now. I even got internet yesterday, so the apt is pretty deluxe.

The complex has a pool and hot tub.
Just sayin’

When I first got here and started riding I was pretty let down. It seemed like all the roads I was riding were really heavily trafficked and hard to follow (name and direction changes are very frequent on local roads).

Turns out my entire riding philosophy has to be adjusted to Upstate Carolina. Back in Wild West of Tucson, there were a total of about 4 roads you could ride on, all of which were shit. Before that in Lafayette you literally couldn’t get lost on the infinite grid of farm roads.

Since all the roads twist and turn all over the place, and frequently T into other cross roads, you need to take on a totally new method of riding in Greenville. Fortunately the result is awesome. The method is going wherever the hell you feel like going and you will 99.9% end up on a road that is awesome. As long as you know which direction you’re going and which direction you need to go (thank you Garmin GPS), you can take any road you see that doesn’t have a dead end sign and it’ll twist, turn, swoop around until it ends, then you take another awesome road. Every road is literally smooth as butter and absolutely beautiful, especially out towards the mountains.

This past Sunday I even skipped a race to just go riding, I drove up towards Table Top Rock and road the local big climb in the area Caesars Head. I started off towards the climb on a pretty main road just north of Pumpkinville (look it up it real), then decided it was slightly too busy, and took off on some totally random side road. The random side road was perfect blacktop with a canopy of trees that twisted through the forest following a river.

It’s cheesy but I’m pretty sure I was a little caught up in the whole “training” thing in Tucson and forgot how much fun riding bikes could be. Trust me I can go on, the entire ride I was thinking about one-liners I could throw up on the blog or twitter to show my enthusiasm for the riding here. The only people I know here so far, my co-workers, don’t really appreciate my tangents about the riding here and I’m pretty sure have learned to stop asking me how I like it here.

This Saturday I rode my bike out to the US Pro TT course to check out some of the action. I gotta say I was pretty disappointed about the lame-ness of the course, which went on some business roads behind a bunch of hotels. They had to do like 4 laps or something like that, which included about 5 trips through round abouts per lap. It is a TT and people like their TT’s boring I guess. None the less, it was cool to go and check out the atmosphere and hear David Towel get super excited about a race I wasn’t in. There were actually a ton of spectators around the start finishing area, and probably enough digital SLR cameras to out value the bikes present at the race. I snapped a few pictures with my own fancy camera…which I can submerge in water, take that digital SLR’s.