Friday, March 10, 2006

Gent Ieper Prerace Training

Gent Ieper Prerace Training Ride
The Gent Ieper 1.12 Top Competition race is always an early season favorite for the most Belgian bike racers. The U23 Natty team headed out for a little bit of a reconnaissance mission on Thursday before the race. It was 8 degree’s Celsius (about 46F) and raining as Matt Crane, Zach Taylor, Ryan Keels, Chase Renick and I ate our breakfast in our cozy Izegem team house. As the 5 of us quietly ate our meals, we all sat typing at our laptops thinking the same thing. “Are we really going out in this nasty weather to do the 165k race loop? F**K!” We all thought this, but nobody said it. We all knew we were going. With the two local Belgian riders Chris and Stijn, for sure we were preparing for an epic day of training.
For a little background on these guys, Chris has been working with the team for the past couple weeks. He is an ex-pro who has not only raced in countless pro races, but also won Gent Ieper when he was 20 years old. He’s nothing short of a bad-ass. Stijn is a local racer who is good friends with Noel, our full time director. He joins us on many training rides to make sure we are riding hard enough and not stopping for pastries too often.
We started the ride shortly before 1pm, with Chris and Stijn immediately setting tempo on the front in an effort to get warm in the cool weather. We hit the course at the 25k marker, which was about 10k from the house. With the beginning of the race being very exposed and open, wind will play a major factor in the race. The first climb is about 85k into the race, so the race will have most likely shattered by then. We do a 30k loop consisting of the three climbs, the Baneburg, Rode burg, and the Kemmelburg. The Kemmelburg being the toughest climb, with gnarly cobbles up and then even sketchier cobbles on the backside. At almost 1k, the Kemmelburg is just long enough to crack riders, so it’s important to save some effort to be able to tackle this climb. I went hard over all three of the climbs to get a feel for how the race would be. I felt good, driving it hard over the climbs. We did the loop twice to get a good feel for the run in to the climbs. It’s very important to be at the front before the climbs, because the roads are narrow and gaps open up very easy in the group.
Once we finished riding the 30k loop for the second time, we began our journey to the finish in Ieper. We had already logged 110k at 3.5 hours, so we were moving. With 30k to go to Ieper, we started to get rained on. Luckily Lionel, Chris brother, was driving the van behind us with all our rain supplies, as well as food, bottles and spare wheels. We all pulled our rain jackets on and continued to ride.
Once in Ieper, I stopped for a bottle from the van. When I looked up, the guys had left me, so I followed Lionel through the town. Apparently we took a different way through because we totally lost the other guys. It was straight home though on the road, so Lionel just followed me for the next 25k’s home. It had stopped raining, but my gloves were soaked along with everything else. With darkness closing in, I rode a good tempo to make it back as quick as I could. With 10k’s to go to the house, Lionel drove in front of me and put me at 50kph behind the van all the back. With daylight fading away, I made it back just in time. It was a great finish to a solid training ride. 4000 Kilojoules later, it was time for a warm shower and dinner.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring Schedule

February 24 Brussels Opwijk 1.13 Belgium
March 4 Vlaamse Pijl Belgium 1.2 Belgium
March 5 Brussels Zepperen 1.12 Belgium
March 12 Gent Ieper 1.12 Top Competition Belgium
March 19 Trognee 1.12 Belgium
March 22 Waregem 1.2 U23 Belgium
March 26 Sint Truiden Aalst 1.12 Belgium
March 31-April 2 Triptique Chateaux Frasnes 2.2
April 8-9 Gaverstreek 2.12 Belgium
April 12 Cote Picardi 1.2 U23 France
April 16 Zellik Galmaarden 1.12 Top Competition Belgium
April 17 Ruisbroek 1.12 Belgium
April 23 Tour of Flanders U23 Belgium
Full U23 National Team Schedule

Race Results

2005 Results
1st Valley of the Sun Road Race
1st Superweek U23 Overall
3rd Wakkin Kermesse Belgium
4th Tour of Antwerp Stage 4
5th Superweek #1- Beverly Hills Cycling Classic
6th Athens Twilight Pro 1 6th
6th Tour of Orlean- Stage 2 France
10th Tour of Orlean- Stage 1 France
10th Tour De L’Avenir- Stage 2
13th Paris-Roubaix Espoir
U23 USA World Championship Team Member

2004 Results
1st Georgia Cup Overall
1st Georgia Cup Most Aggressive Rider
1st Georgia State Time Trial Champion
7th Univest Crit
8th Tour De Toona Stage 2
8th Tour De Toona Stage 4

2003 Results
1st Tour of Ohio Stage 5
11th Tou of Ohio GC

Monday, March 06, 2006

Brussels Zepperen 1.13 U27

March 5, 2006
The next day after Vlaamse Pijl, we were heading out for our next race, Brussels Zepperen. The 147k race started out on a rolling 124k course taking us into the 4 X 6k circuits in the town of Zepperen. With a cobblestone section 15k from the start, it was from the gun like usual. The rain and snow mix that had been coming down all morning made the cobble nice and slick. It was the first effort of the race, and all our riders (Matt Crane, Zach Taylor, Ryan Keels, Chase Renick, and I) made it through unscathed. A break of about 20 riders got away after that section, so Crane and I were very active, following many moves. About 40k in, we hit another cobblestone section. What we were told to be 500 meters of ‘not bad’ cobbles, turned into 4k teeth rattling pave’. I told myself that this was my chance to bridge to the front group, so I drilled it over the whole section. When we came out, I was with a group of 4 riders chasing the driving break. After 5k of chasing our asses off, we finally made contact. A few other riders from behind made the front group as well and the race was split. The two top teams, Beveren and Davo, both had 5 riders in this front group of maybe 30 riders. To my misfortune, Crane and Keels just missed making it up to the group, so I was alone. All I could do it that point was sit at the back and hope for a group sprint.
We hit some gnarly crosswinds soon after and Beveren and Davo put it in the gutter. I was fighting for my spot in the echelon, and made it through without too much energy spent. With 20k to go before the circuits, the attacks started going. I had to be conservative, so I watched a break of 8 riders go up the road. Our group did a half ass chase because Davo and Beveren both had 2 riders in the break. We hit the circuits and we could see the break still, but they were pulling away. Our group had swarmed to about 50, so there was still a chance in it coming back. I gambled on that and just waited. Some flurries of attacks went and again I missed a chase group of maybe 10 riders. I had to hope the other teams in the group would chase them. On the final lap of the circuit there was still no chase, so I jumped with 8 other guys. It was good choice because the group just let us go. I was second in the sprint from our group at the finish. I finished 40th.

I was happy with the race for how my legs felt, but of course I was discouraged not to be more active at the front. There is a lot of gambling in these races (in terms of tactics) that has to be done as a sprinter. I hate watching the race go up the road, but you have to be aggressive and conservative if you want to win. Next week is Gent Ieper, which is a 1.12 Top Competition race. It’s one of our big races on the calendar this spring, so our team will be looking for an improved performance there. Hopefully my legs will continue to get stronger. Until next time…