Winston Salem Classic Recap

It was a big weekend of racing this past weekend up in Winston Salem NC. On tap were a repeat of last years Winston Salem classic kicked up a notch. In it’s first year of the event, our Smart Stop team got pretty dusted in the crit, but Dan Patten and I went 1-2 in the Road Race.

However this year the Crit was bumped up to NCC/USA Crits and the Road Race was elevated to international status as a UCI 1.2 race in addition to being NRC. This meant that all the Pro teams were going to be in attendance.

Friday kicked off with a road race following the same course as the previous year’s. However last years race only completed 12 laps of the brutal 7.2 mile course (with only 9 finishers out of 150+ starters), this years edition did 15.

You can watch the entire thing here, but to get a jist of things the race was full gas for the first 2 hours. Astellas was well represented in nearly every move. Only after 2 hours of continuous attacking did a breakaway get off the front. Luckily Matt Green was in there for us and gave us a chance to take a break.

A few laps later, everyone had apparently rested up enough and the group really started splitting on the difficult Pilot View climb. I had just followed some small attacks and was gassed when the group went up the road (poor tactical choice on my part). Fortunately Brecht got up into the lead group going over the top of the climb. The large group had all the teams represented and the remaining field became groupetto. Matt dropped back after a hard day in the break and Brecht managed to hold on for 11th.

I rode off the front of the field because everyone was finished racing in the last lap and came in 24th.

The next day was the twilight crit in downtown Winston Salem.

The race last year was pretty easy to control and ride at the front…not the case this year. What would seem like a relatively open course that would be easy to move around was the course with one of the worst whip lash effects I’ve experienced all year, just watch the vide of the race:

There is literally no point in this race where the field isn’t strung out single file, I remember passing the big billboard some 100 meters after the finish line and still seeing guys coming out of the final corner nearly every lap.

With all the big teams sticking around from the UCI race the previous day, we knew it was going to be fast. I managed to get into an early move of 4 that was a little too early, we got chased down in short order.1908261_675083375861372_1995002056913752458_n Thankfully Brecht got into a move right afterwards of 3 riders that built up a 20 second advantage fairly quickly. Thomas and I spent most the rest of the race covering and killing, the rest of the team being taken out in a large crash early in the race (go to 1:58 to see nearly the entire field getting pushed back into the race), and Ryan getting taken out by a 24 hr flu bug.

I got in some bad swarms and got shuffled back when UHC started chasing. Due to the tight nature of the course (and huge downhill headwind), they had a hard time bringing things back, however the break of 3 were in the cross hairs going into 1 to go. They actually got caught at the uphill on the backside of the crouse, that’s when Brecht attacked and provided us with the biggest victory of the year:Brecht Winning Winston Salem for Astellas Cycling10245564_835115283168844_3066675718220017947_nThis is a pretty big upset for us. I’d like to say that Brecht had a lot of help from us, but he had a phenomenal ride Saturday and timed his attack perfectly. The upset of UHC is a big deal, even if the like’s of Cycling Illustrated call it “Unhearalded”

It’s time to keep the momentum rolling as our team splits up to tackle Joe Martin and SpeedWeek. I’ll be doing Athens Twilight, which is definitely a bucket list race for me.

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Del Ray Twilight Criterium

First race of the year is in the bag…with both good and weird results (watch the entire replay below!!).

The USA Crits season kicked off this past weekend in Del Ray Beach Flo-Rida. Del Ray is a super fancy bar district right on the Atlantic coast. I mean fancy as in “I’ve seen more Masaratti’s, Ferrari’s, Tesla’s, and Bentley’s in the past two days than in the rest of my life” fancy.

The Del Ray Crit itself was pretty much your standard 4 corner Crit with a very narrow alleyway between turns 3 and 4. The tricky part about this race would be the power vacuum left by UHC. Not only was it the first race of the year, but the dominating team from last year was absent due to a change in race calendars.

It was also a first real run for our Astellas Crit squad. We went into it with pretty open expectations, being the first time most of us had ridden together (except Me and Thomas). We had Hogan, Justin, Stephen, Michael, and Thomas there.

Astellas Team Photo

The race kicked off and from the gun Stephen was in a 3 man breakaway. Hogan, Stephen and Michael had first shift in covering moves so we were pretty happy we were represented. Stephen in particular had a nasty knee injury in the off season and said before the race he would only be useful in the first hour.

The break built up a half lap lead pretty quickly. Hogan and I went to the front and tried to slow things up. The break got REALLY close to lapping the field, Thomas even went to the back in anticipation of the eventual catch. However thanks to some poorly timed primes the gap fell back down to half a lap. Then Stephen got popped off the break after turning himself inside out to stick on. I was feeling probably a little too antsy and started rallying Hogan and Michael to start chasing. We brought back some time, then after some more primes the field started to split up a little bit. All this action brought the breakaway BACK to within 15 seconds…but we just never were able to close it down.

We kept trying to bring things back, but oddly enough the other big teams that weren’t represented (Champion System, Jamis and InCycle) didn’t really contribute to chasing (or riding in the field split for that matter), so the break went back up to 20 seconds and stayed away to the finish.

Thomas and Justin were riding for the sprint but had some miscommunication about shooting gaps and got separated.

Overall though I’d say it was a successful race. We raced as a team and did a great job controlling the race as much as we could. We had some obvious kinks that are fairly easily fixable. I know I  was feeling pretty nervous about my form going into the race (especially after my shoulder surgery). I definitely rode too much and should’ve both saved some legs till later in the race, and attacked a lot more instead of drilling the front. However any doubts about my legs are pretty well buried after the weekend, so next weekend will be a different story.

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Thomson Bucks County Criterium

A little video I put together from the Contour camera I had on my stem from the Thomson Bucks County Criterium. Forgive my poor video editing skills, I will improve for next year.

Thomson Bucks County Criterium Finish

This race could’ve gone better, but our team did put on the best showing. We let a breakaway go late in the race and put the entire team on the front to chase things down. It was a great showing of teamwork and the race promotor was slathering the complements both during the chase and afterwards.

I’m working on getting some stuff setup to simplify the whole video on bike thing, with maybe some interesting different applications with the video. We’ll see (SPOOKY)

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2013 USA Crit Season Recap

How did the 2013 Crit season play out?

Predictably. After my surgery I had to spend A LOT of time on the trainer. Lucky for me I had on hand the entire USA Crit Series to watch on demand thanks to the live streaming of the events. You can watch it all here

I’ve watched all those races at least once, if not more than once and feel like I can state the overarching themes from the season: UHC is way better at crit racing than anyone else, especially after they got their tactics dialed in. So here we go.

The season started out predictably enough at Old Pueblo. At that point in the season everyone’s card had not yet been shown. UHC definitely played things safely, not really forcing breakaways and chasing back for the sprint, which was easy on such a flat course, then winning the sprint.

chaddock_Frank

Del Rey was a little more chaotic. A bunch of crashes lead to some field splits that got closed down largely thanks to the SS guys. The UHC guys were a little more active in driving the pace but the result was the same a UHC win with Shane coming in second.

At Charlotte UHC were similarly active, getting in a large breakaway and driving it for a good part of the race, totally gassing our Smart Stop Guys.

Athens is where UHC changed their strategy, because frankly they screwed up.

Let me reiterate some perspective here: UHC is a DII team, they COULD get into a grand tour. These guys are getting paid a full (actually livable) salary to race bikes. They are racing, with full team strength, against guys who are either working and racing, or making next to zero dollars to race their bikes professionally.  Trust me,I’m not griping, I wish a ton of pro teams had that kind of interest in real American racing. But the fact remains that the skill discrepancy is quite large and they honestly should win every USA Crit race they do.

Smart Stop Athens Twilight

That said, they raced Athens like they weren’t the dominant team. They let two breakaways go (one that ultimately won) that they weren’t CERTAIN of winning. The final break with Frank, Alzate, and Mullervy played out as predictably as one could imagine.

There wasn’t a great chance the Elite Champ-Sys rider could have beaten Alzate or Frank (both great sprinters) and his attack was somewhat inevitable. Also being on an Elite (but pro for 2014) team meant the team would have considered 1st or 3rd a victory, so he had much less to lose by going down swinging. Frank and Alzate however both knew each others sprinting skills well and knew whoever pulled harder would get 2nd. However they were playing a 2 player game, while the 3rd player went up the road. Alzate, being on UHC which is a larger team than Frank’s Smart Stop team arguably had more to lose/more incentive to pull Mullervy back. If he had brought Mullervy back, he probably would’ve still gotten 2nd at worst to Frank winning. 

The Athens was not only a turning point in how they approached races, it was also a turning point because of SpeedWeek. After Athens happened there was an entire week of racing they did together to get their team tactics really dialed in. We raced a full squad at SpeedWeek as well. As we were the ONLY other pro team committed to the NCC, UHC had to play it cautiously around our team. However they found out that week that they could beat us outright in every permutation of a crit. Instead of just winning the crits, they figured out that they could easily go 1-2 or even 1-2-3 with the correct lead out.

They raced WAY more conservatively after that. I recall in the two remaining USA Crit races I did (Thater and Glencoe) how they were playing the “Cover and Kill” race tactics to a T. When you watch the videos you can clearly see that as well.

Every race after SpeedWeek played out exactly how you’d expect it to go with Glencoe being the single outlier. Freterer was THE driving force in establishing that break (it was a good attack at a very difficult portion of the race). Only once they looked back and realize they had two out of three and a gap did they really start driving the break.

Next year will be a different monster. It may be harder with more pro teams, but by the same virtue the teams that turned pro aren’t exactly brining in new riders that weren’t racing last year. Also the USA Crits races (Athens included) are no longer NCC, meaning UHC won’t be able to participate (as last I heard, this may have changed 3 times by this point).

Next Post? How to beat UHC

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US Pro Crit

So it’s been a hectic couple of weeks since my last blog post. a little over two weeks ago we all flew out to Oregon for the Cascade Classic, you can read a full description of that race…um…somewhere else…haven’t written anything….it’s probably going to be a bunch of philosophical comments on what it takes to be a domestique, how NRC is so much faster than NCC, yada yada yada. Regardless it went pretty well: Flavio, a new addition to the Smart Stop squad, took the KOM jersey.

This past weekend was the rather local US Professional Criterium championship. This was my first experience doing the P-R-O Crit. I’ve done elite crits before, first at Downers Grove (which I think everyone misses a little) and then down in Augusta (don’t miss so much). Not going to lie: when I did elite crit nationals last it was a wee bit harder, I got straight up dropped on a flat for corner crit. It was also 98 degrees and roughly 100% humidity.
This year’s race was in High Point, NC. It’s a very cool course, the finish is under a bus terminal, and I’d raced here before with pretty good results, so I was stoked. The course had a few hills and while a figure 8 style course, was SUPER wide open. It’s narrowest point came in the final two corners. This made the race play out more like a road race in format (easy for teams to organize, chase, and bring back the breakaway).
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