Saturday, March 18, 2006

With the Help of my Soigneur and Mechanic

Tomorrow we have our next race, Trognee. It's a 1.12 U27 race consisting of mostly rolling hills. Tyler Farrar won the race last year, so we have big shoes to fill for this one. We have John Devine and Mike Wolf just back from a stage race in Spain, both of which are going very well. We have high hopes for this weekend, with our strongest team we have fielded yet. With the help of our trusty soigneurs, Chris "The Fox" De Vos and Els, and our kick ass mechanic George, we will be looking for a really good finish.

Today we went our for our traditional prerace ride on the "Veldroute". It's a 50k loop that we usually go out and ride chill, knocking it out in 1.30-1.45 hrs. Today it was very windy, so we were pushing 1.45. After a couple efforts, we were ready for the race tomorrow. Our team is strong consisting of John Devine, Mike Wolf, Matt Crane, Zack Taylor, Ryan Keels and me.

This is the first race of 3 this week. On Wednesday we have GP Waregem, which is an 1.2 U23. It's a very prestigious race with all the best Espoirs in the world. Farrar was 2nd here last year, so it's another race we are really shooting for.

Next Sunday we have Sint Truid Aalst 1.12, to cap off a solid few days of racing. This week will be a true test for our team. We will be trying show the form that has been somewhat lacking over the past couple weeks.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gent Ieper 1.12 Top Competition

Gent Ieper 1.12 Top Competition
March 12, 2006

The day started out with the usual breakfast closely followed by the pasta race meal. The race started at 1pm, so 10am we were all shoveling down our pasta like it was our last. We crowded in the team van and headed to the start of Gent-Ieper. The race is 165k, with an 80k run-in to 2 X 30k loops. Each loop consisted of 3 climbs, 1 of which being the cobbled Kemmelburg, which I talked about in my pre-ride report. From the pre-ride, wind was going to play a major role in the race, with most of the 80k approach being crosswind, it was sure to explode.

The difference was today the wind was from the back in the approach, so we hit the 30k loops all together. 4 guys got away just before the first climb. We decided to follow anything bigger than 8 riders, so we let it go. The first climb was about 700 meters with a steep kicker right at the end. After only 200 meters of false flat highway, the 500 meter second climb snaked its way through a roughly paved wooden section. We hit the first climb all towards the front, but another group of 8 riders rolled off over the top of the second climb. I was close, but my group was trying to chase, so I helped and thought we could bring them back. Of course, the chase was unsuccessful and the front break swarmed to 12. Great, now we had to chase/bridge. Matt Crane and I were attentive at the front, trying hard to bridge. I couldn’t do it. We hit the Kemmelburg 10k after the first two climbs, and our group exploded again. I was a little bit far back, maybe like 40th, so the climb was sure to be tough. Ryan Keels was right next to me, with Zack Taylor and Matt Crane right there too. Chase Renick and Ulrich De young were caught in crashes early on and were dangling off the back, eventually sealing their fate in the broom wagon (BW).

The group split a little bit and I was caught in the second group over the climb. I tried to catch the front of our group, but it was such a small gap I thought it would come back. 20 riders were now chasing the break of 12, with our group right behind them. Taylor and Crane were caught behind a pile up at the beginning of the Kemmelburg, so they were the next group back. Keels was right with me in my group. The 12 riders had less than 1 minute, and the chase group less than 20 seconds up from Keels and I. Our best bet was to keep it close with hopes to close it down in the 3 climbs on the next loop.

On the second time around, I was ready to jump over the climbs. I needed to look for a small group to bridge up. I had the legs to do my part; I just need a few guys for the help. Crane made contact to our group right at the beginning of the second lap, only to be caught behind some immediately shelled riders. Crane joins the BW. Keels was suffering from stomach pains, also putting him in the BW early into the second lap. Taylor was in a small group a bit behind my group. So after the first two climbs, I was on my own. I tried a solo move. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be bridging to a driving group of 20, so I sat up and came back. I had to wait for the Kemmelburg, and try to break the group up again. When we hit it, I could see the group just in front of us. I started drilling it and accelerated flat out over the top. We had a group of four with a Beveren and a Davo rider. It was a good group, so I again was driving it. Maybe I pushed a little too hard because they were content to just sit on me. Damn, had to wait for the group again. With no real climbs left, I had hope there was a team here that wanted the group back.

In the last 25k approach to the finish, the race was still on. The leaders on the road had now split to 4 riders, and the front chase group was now 26 strong. It was a big error in my part in not being in the group. Man, I’m tired of missing this stuff. In the last 15k’s guys were attacking a lot. I went with a group of 4, and we were drilling it. We made a hard right and I heard a loud ping come from my chain. “That was weird,” I though to myself. Immediately after we made another hard left, and when I stood up to accelerate, I my chain was popping all over the place. Apparently I had ripped one of the links and it was soon to break. I couldn’t stand up; with every pedal revolution my chain was popping. This made it impossible chase flat out. I had to wait for the group and just ride it in. We never caught the front group, so we were sprinting for a measly 33rd place. I knew I couldn’t stand and sprint, so I had to keep it easy on the gears; with a k to go, I put a seated attacked to see if they would let me go. I almost stuck it, with only 5 riders coming by me in the last 20 meters. My chain was popping and screaming at me the whole time! I finished a disappointing 38th place. Taylor soldiered on to finish a few minutes back on my group.

The team rode great today. Despite still not putting a rider in the front group, we are getting closer and definitely showing signs of improvement. Everyone was up front before the climbs and being active. I am proud of the guys today, everyone doing a good job and starting to get a feel for these races. We are a young team, with half the riders today being first year espoirs. This team is going to be good and we keep getting better every weekend.

Next weekend is Trognee 1.12. We will have a stronger team with John Devine and Mike Wolf returning from Spain. Tyler Farrar won this race last year with Devine, Wolf and I helping, so we have high aspirations for next Sunday. Like always, we will be hoping for some better luck and results for the upcoming week.

Thanks for reading.