Joe Martin Stage Race

Joe Martin was the second big test of the team for the year after mid-April’s Tour of the Battenkill. I had previously competed in the race in 2010 and was pretty excited to measure my progress as a rider since then. 
The highlight of the trip though happened before the racing even got under way. Former Panther rider (2010) and Arkansas local, Kris French, got in contact with the team about guest riding and put us in touch with the Hazel Valley Ranch for host housing. This place has to have been the best host housing experience we’ve ever had. That’s saying something, we’ve been very fortunate as a team to have some great people open up their homes to us so we can race. Not only was the housing itself super nice:

(After the TT we were feeling pretty perky and took a ride on some Gators). 

(The ranch had 4 Buffalo!)

But he people who operated the ranch were super hospitable. Needless to say it was a vacation
(staying slammed in Arkansas)

On to the racing…
Stage 1 of JMSR is always a 2.4 mile uphill time trial. I’m personally familiar with the climb out of the west side of Devil’s Den State Park from many spring breaks spent with the Purdue Cycling Club in Mountainburg AR. Unfortunately that did not make things any easier when riding uphill. My own time was a full 15 seconds slower than in 2010. I’m going to go ahead and chaulk up the poor performance to lack of rest from a hectic week of work before and travel before the race since the rest of the race went much better.
We woke Friday morning to 25 mph winds and we knew that’d be the defining factor in the race. Paco Mancebo of our big brother team Competitive Cyclist (ok maybe more like brother from another mother that never talks to you) had the lead from the TT and had tempo setting duty. The first half of the race was relatively tame, 2 riders getting off the front. As we tacked into the headwind with CC at the helm , most of the riders were getting the easiest ride of the year (try 170 watt average for the first 2 hours). However once we turned east into a cross wind the race was actually on. Kelly Benefits started throwing it down. After a short cross wind section along twisty roads we turned back north towards Fayetteville on 71 and things got really hard. Kelly continued to throw down the gauntlet, guttering the entire field into the far left shoulder. As we were tucked in chewing our handlebars, I managed to peak a few times up the pack and started to see the CC team being worn thin. After setting tempo for 2 hours into a headwind they we’re gassed and Mancebo was totally exposed. We started the decisive climb up Mt. Gaylor in a state of total oxygen depletion and I though things would seriously split. I was only partly right, the attacks continued to fly up Gaylor, and the burden of chasing things down fell to Mancebo himself. Had he not possessed some inhuman strength to chase down every single attack he would have lost the lead. Incredibly everytime I looked up the road for some sign of downhill relief I saw teammate Andy Seitz following the attacks of the pure mountain goats.

As we descended the back side of Gaylor back into town the field had really split into 3 distinct groups but eventually came back together on the gradual downhill run into the finish. With a false flat downhill and massive tailwind running into Fayetteville, the last hour of the race was unbelievably fast (averaging almost 34 mph). Most of the time was spent single file on the 4 lane highway. With 5 k to go a curb jutted out as we were riding the gutter. With guys in the red and heads down a crash was inevitable, a rider swerved to avoid the curb and took our Seitz at about 40 mph. A few wheels back Ryan A and I narrowly avoided the wreck and sprinted back onto the pack. I actually managed to get into the last turn before the finishing climbs in like 20th wheel but was totally blown by the positioning effort and finished 41st.

We were all hurting but Saturday was another harder and longer day in the saddle. With 4 loops of 22 miles plus an out and back the total on the day was slated for 114 miles. Normally in these races a rhythm settles in, but teams were not content to let Mancebo walk away with the win. A group large group got away on the first lap, but the CC team, weakened by Fridays hard stage, was unable to control the race. Attacks we’re pretty much going away the entire race, the only thing holding the field together were guys fearing they’d miss the decisive move. I’d say only the second lap was really tame, the rest of the laps were a constant flurry of attacks. We did eventually bring the breakaway back just as we made the turn off the loops towards the finish. I had recovered pretty well from the climbs and was feeling good for the finish and finding my positioning skills significantly improved from the 2010 edition. Ryan A, the only other teammate left in the field took to a two man flyer with 10 k to go and stayed away until only a handful of kilometers remained. I managed to put myself a few wheels behind the Bissell train with 2 k to go, which turned out to be a bad idea since they all crashed. A rider at the front of their train looked left breifly to check on some swarming riders and drifted ever so slightly causing the entire train to cross wheels.

I narrowly avoided some flying bikes and bodies, when I regained my composure I saw a group of 20 riders only 50 meters ahead. Total anarchy ensued, every pro team’s lead out had been compromised. Elbowz was the only team to make it through the chaos with the majority of their riders and capitalized, leading out their man Eric Marcotte for the win. I managed to weave my way into the top ten for 8th place on the stage.

(Power during the crash and then sprint)

The final stage was a very difficult crit course. Usually most amateur riders shoot for the half way point of the race as that’s how long you have to make it in order to not get time cut. This was again my goal since I was pretty unsure about my form. I managed a 2nd row starting spot and settled in for some suffering. The hill wasn’t so tough the first few trips up, but as the laps clicked off I either started getting more tired, or we started going faster. However we hot to and passed the halfway point and I was still there. By the last 3 laps there was no strategy just hanging on. Since this was my first big crit of the season I was a little rusty on my positioning skills. On the last lap I had dreams of glory but was still 30 wheels down and decided to move up on the descent (bad idea). I burned the last match I had moving up a whole 5 wheels and was pretty gassed for the last trip up the hill losing a fair amount of spots for 32nd spot.

Overall I finished 5 seconds outside of the last money spot of 40th place. I don’t know how I finished in 2010 overall, but I know it was a hell of a lot more than 2 minutes off the winners time. I came away from the race with a big boost confidence on my form. I started a little slow and un-rested but got fast by the end of the week. The team rode really well too. Hopefully Andy heals up quickly and can return to the good form he had on Friday. This race should also produce some good fitness for the rest of the May’s races.

Next up Tour of C-U.

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Getting to Post

It’s been a hectic week. After getting back from JMSR I had to scramble to pack up a good portion of stuff from my room for the parents to take back and get ready for graduation. Yes, believe it or not, they for some insane reason gave me a diploma.
It was fun seeing my parents and brother again, even though I’ll probably end up moving back in due to lack-o-job. That being said, take notice the lack of job part, so if anyone out there has the power, give me a job!

We had the usual graduation party on Saturday night after everyone from the Bike house was all set and graduated. It was fun, got to finialy party with my bigger than me little brother before waking up the next day for brunch with the parents before they all took off. After they were gone it was back to work, and by work I mean bike racing since I make more bike racing than in legitimate work.
The plan for Joey and me was to ride our bicycles down to Indy for the Eagle Park Contemporary Crit on Sunday, but partly to forgetfulness on my part and mostly to to hung-overed-ness we just decided to drive. It worked out alright, we rolled up late, got registered and lined up with a pretty small local field of 30 guys. Texas Roadhouse and Nuvo were both well represented and constituted a majority of the field. The course itself twisted through some narrow wooded roads, so out of sight was roughly 5 seconds.
Since the course seemed obviously suited for a breakaway, no one let any breakaway go. No group got more than a handful of seconds over the field, and the right combination of riders never seemed to get together. Not having teammates, I was content to follow moves that contained both Nuvo and Texas (which were chased down every time). So it came down to the field sprint, which was very civil compared to the crazed racing I experienced last weekend at Joe Martin. I stayed on John Puffer’s wheel, the sprinter of Texas Roadhouse, expecting him to make a move and get lead out. He opened up his sprint pretty early before the last corner and I was able to tag along before sprinting around his leeward side for the victory.

I was pretty stoked with this since Puffer’s a pretty well established sprinter in the Midwest and I’ve always wanted to see how I stacked up. Plus it’s nice to get a good result after getting your ass handed to you for four straight days.
Speaking of ass handing, I found more media from my southern excursion last week:
Like the most terrible hill ever put into a crit:


Wade testing out the quality of the pavement:
Another painful hill:
Look, if you look really closely there is actually proof that I was in this race:

Another angle of Wade crashing on the corner of doom that about 30 people went down on, also note that the pack takes a full freaking 30 seconds to go by:

So we rode to and from every stage, and on the way back we got some moto pacing work done, just so we could get an extra few hard K’s in after the 110 mile road race:
The start of the worst 9.5 minutes of my life:
Gettin’ prepped and working on blue steel:
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Joe Martin Stage Race!!!

So if you’ve ever wondered if collegiate racing is good prep for an NRC stage race, let me tell you, not quite. Since in the college races I was just able to smash my head against the wall and do well without worrying too much about tactics, I was a little rusty in that department.

Joe Martin is a 4 day stage race in North West Arkansas, Starts with a 2.5 mile uphill TT, then two road races, and finally a crit of death. It is also on the National Race Calender (NRC), which meant all the P-R-O teams were there (their A-teams too)
The Panther team had a full squad, Troy Wells guest rode for us and filled our 8th spot.
Stage 1
There are two things I don’t enjoy in bike racing, hills you cant sprint over, and time trials. So in day 1’s uphill time trial, I just wanted to not get time cut…which I didn’t since nobody did. Ryan and I finished with practically the same time, and narrowly avoided getting beat by the girls.
Stage 2
Stage two is a 110 mile race that does a big giant loop around some mountains and such. It also passes over Mt. Gaylor, the big daddy of the entire race.
The race started out really fast, as in I’ve never used my 53×11 that much in my entire life fast. We had a pretty decent tailwind which made it pretty hard. Through the first feed zone there was a decent climb, this split the field with 40 riders in the front group. I made it into this front group and things were pretty fast for a while. Then we turned into a long crosswind section and everyone slowed WAY down, and little attacks started going. One by one a large group formed off the front.
Then the field caught us once we turned back into the wind. We then caught the breakaway, not a mile later another breakaway went off with 16 riders which stayed away till the finish.

I thought we’d for sure be field sprinting, however I didn’t realize that since the Giant California Strawberry team had the lead, there’d be no serious chase to catch the breakaway. Not that they weren’t trying, but there’s not much their four man team could have done.
Then with about 20 k to go , I flatted my rear. I stayed pretty cool, got a SRAM neutral wheel and paced back on through the caravan. Now, let me tell you, going through the caravan may look easy when you see it in Le Tour, but that is by far the hardest I rode the entire race (might explain my poor TT time)
So I finally caught back on to the field and immediately hit an expansion joint in a bridge and pinch flatted the SRAM wheel.
So I go back again, SRAM passes and makes me wait for our team car. I get a wheel change, but this time I was waaaay outside the caravan. I could barely see the ambulance (last vehicle of the caravan) by the time I got back on the bike. So I did what any P-R-O would do, I held onto the team car, and ‘paced’ my way back to the caravan at 50 mph. Once we reached the ambulance I did have to ride myself through the caravan again.
I ended up back on the field with 5 km to go, and was totally gassed and got popped off the back in the finishing climb.
Stage 3
Another long road race, only this time it was a lolly pop with three circuits. Each circuit had a pretty substantial climb.
This stage was more what I had expected from an NRC race. Now that a Jamis, a full squad, had the lead they controlled the race.
I thought that big races like this just let the breakaway get away early on, so I tried following a bunch of early attacks. By the time we had reached the first climb, the field was still all together, and I had drifted back to recover. Over the top of the climb the breakaway of course got away.
So the race was pretty simple from then on, just riding along at 30+ mph, no biggie.

Running back into the finish I moved up front for the sprint, my legs were totally gone by this point but I figured if I had good positioning I could at least get a decent result.
I was doing a pretty good job of staying up front when my front wheel started to go soft, not super flat, just a little flat. I briefly considered riding it out, but then figured eating it in the over 40 mph downhill sprint because of my soft tire would not be a good life choice, so I drifted to the back of the pack, which was pretty chill.
Stage 4
The final day’s crit had 12 corners and a giant hill. All I had to do to not get a DNF by my name was to make it 45 minutes.
I got a good start, but since I hadn’t raced any big crits this year my ability to jockey around and stay at the front of a technical crit like this really sucked, so I drifted back. Then I got gapped by one of the numerous crashes of the day.
Finally I got dropped and did a few recovery laps with Dan before we were told to get the hell off the course. We then promptly joined the large crowd that had gathered at the corner that everyone was crashing in.
All in all it was a great experience, I didn’t exactly go into the race in best shape being sick the week before but I sure will be faster because of it. And more importantly I’ll hopefully be smarter, and not do more of the dumb stuff I did in the race.
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