This past weekend was the third of the Ohio spring training races. After the race last weekend was neutralized at the finish, I was interested in getting some good racing in. Last week I rode to the race with Gabe and after short changing myself on the recovery bit of a 110 mile day (with racing) I made myself sick and spent most of the week getting over it.

Fortunately by the weekend I was beginning to feel better. Even more fortunately was the fact that Gabe and Ryan Knapp who were both racing, were also getting over some illnesses, so we could all be coughing up lungs together as a team.

The race was at Harrison’s tomb (no idea who Harrison was, but he had a sweet tomb), which was an awesome course. the course started with a 2 mile climb, then followed a ridge line that had a very distracting view across the Ohio river, before diving back down the other side of the ridge and rounding the end of the ridge to follow the river back to the start.

The race started out pretty relaxed, everyone knew the hill would be the deciding factor of the race. A small group of 3 got off the front early on, the move wasn’t gaining a ton of time so we were content to sit and let other teams do the chasing. With about 3 laps to go Nuvo went into all out chase mode, and cut down the 1:30 gap in about 5 miles. Ryan hit it on the climb to lead me out for an attack. My legs we’re feeling like bricks but I managed to get around him and attack over the top of the climb.

Like it usually goes for these hard courses everyone knows where to be on their game and we weren’t able to create a split. The final time up the climb we tried the same thing. Ryan was really putting the hurt on and not only could I not attack but he straight up dropped me. He continued pushing it up the climb and I tagged onto a chase group hoping for a free ride.

When we got back down to the flat river road running into the finish everyone had regrouped. There were still two guys off the front, including a Nuvo rider. That meant it fell to Panther to take up the chase. Ryan and Gabe both put it some massive efforts. I tried to tell them I was feeling like crap and I would work for them but Ryan told me to just sit in and wait for the sprint. I spent the next few miles trying to shake cramps out of my legs while the guys drilled it on the front.

We caught the riders within 2 km to go. After we caught things we’re a little disorganized since Gabe and Ryan just spent the last few miles chasing and were recovering a bit. I surfed the front of the field a bit, with around 500 to go I looked back and saw Gabe, I think he got the message and started coming up. I jumped on his wheel with about 500 m to go and yelled at him to sprint.

I opened up my sprint WAY too early, but figured since there was a bit of a chicane in the finish it’d be better to dictate my line and make others navigate around me. The technique seemed to work pretty well:

Now that I have one of those fancy pants quarq’s I can really analyze these sprints, which pretty much confirmed how crappy my legs felt:
Not even close to good sprint numbers I’ve done in the past. But it’s pretty interesting how the sprint broke down into two pretty distinct parts. There’s the initial jump to go around Gabe (and where I saw a guy starting to come around my left) for about 5 seconds at just under 1100 watts, but after that it’s just kinda cruising in @ 800.

And They’re Off!

Yes finally racing season has begun. I have made it through the dark tunnel of the off season. Although this winter’s tunnel normally, made dark by countless hours spent hooked up to the torture device we all call trainers, was surprisingly pleasant. Punctuated by bouts of good weather and some good trips down to the southern warm climates like Arizona, Greenville, and most recently Gattlinburg, TN, the winter went by faster than a Swiss TT champ with a motor in his bike.

I had the chance to go down to Gattlinburg a few weekends ago, some friends (not cyclists, oh the spandex jokes were a-flying) were heading down to the mountains to do whatever people who don’t ride bikes do in the mountains…(I still haven’t figured it out). Due to a blown tire I only got one serious ride out of the trip, but it was definitely worth it. I tried to hook up with a certain New-Vacuum-cleaner team who were also in Gatlinburg, but they were probably too intimidated by my exceptional power to weight ratio to ride with me.

It was a great one ride, crossed the Appalachian Trail…twice. And met up with some Michigan guys riding down there on vacation and rode a good part of the climb on the way back with them.

After a good rest week it was onto actual racing.

I drove down to Louisville Saturday for a short hour long crit. It was a rest week and if I had stayed home I’d just end up drinking with my roommates (St. Patrick’s Day and all). Anyway I botched the tactics a bit in the race. I missed a move containing the Elite national TT champ and a handful of Texas Roadhouse riders (of which there were 20 in the race). I attacked a bunch to try and catch back on but I was getting no love from the field with every other team in the break, good thing it was a training race.

After driving back to Cincinnati Saturday a friend cooked some traditional Irish food, which when coupled with beer is an excelent pre-race food, because Sunday went much better. The power of teammates was also pretty heavily highlighted Sunday as well. It was the first in the Ohio Spring Series up near Columbus. The very boring course was made slightly more lively with a pretty stiff wind and freak downpour that lasted 10 minutes.

Gabe and Andy Clarke were both at the race as well, and it highlighted pretty well how much easier it is to race when you have teammates. Out of 7 laps Andy spent the first couple off the front, at one point countering his own breakaway just as they were about to get caught to spend another lap off the front. When his group was finally brought back I went on the attack with Andrew Otte from Nuvo. Unfortunately no RGF guys came with us, this doomed our move as they were the other dominant team in the race. After half a lap we were chased down by RGF. Gabe took his turn attacking at got away in a group, but our numbers in the group did not look good, so Andy went back to the front and set tempo for a lap. Once we got through a headwind section I opened up the attacking again, a few counter attacks later we had caught the breakaway group and we were all pretty gassed going into the last lap.

I attacked on the finishing climb through the bell lap bringing with me one RGF guy. With just the two of us we had a good combo. Gabe and Andy set a good tempo and our advantage over the field swelled to winning margins. Jeff from RGF had been in breakaways nearly the entire day and was getting pretty fatigued. With about 5 miles left in the race he was reaching the end of his rope and quit pulling. I was able to gap him and solo for the win.

For having only 3 riders we executed team tactics nearly perfectly. Plus anyone who knows me knows that I hate riding hard by myself. Therefore there were surely team tactics at work forcing me to ride….nothing other than….a TIME TRIAL.

Another cool aspect is Strava is doing a competition for fastest laps for all the OSRS races. This is great because it combines my love of racing and totally unhealthy addiction to Strava.

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.


It’s Training Camp Time

All the cool kids are doing it going to some exotic location with abundant sunshine and warm weather to put in the miles, get equipment, get questionable team pictures taken:

Our Panther pb Competitive Cyclist is no different.
Our exotic location is Greenville, SC there we will encounter most likely not much sunshine, boat loads of BBQ, and some great local traditions of throwing all your junk in the front yard. Funny enough I was just living in Greenville a mere 7 months ago before getting moved up to Cincinnati.
We’ll be also racing locally in the Fork Shoals spring training race. I’ve done this race before. The last time it was 100 miles in 96 degree heat and about 1,000,000 % humidity, so it’ll be slightly different this time around now that it’s February.
Also our team kits have been updated to better represent our NOS (New Old Sponsor) Competitive Cyclist:

Also be sure to follow our team’s facebook page: Panther Cycling for updates on the team and our awesomely epic exploits.
Next stop, the American south