Monthly Archives: August 2008

Training Race Taxonomy

We race an absurd number of miles on the Tuesday night Westlake course each year. As I recall, someone once calculated that it’s in the neighborhood of 1000 miles for the ‘A’ race. After so many times going ’round and ’round on that course, I’ve realized there are a number of archetypal races that you can count on every year:

The “Fast Race Before Downer’s Grove”. That’s covered here.

The “Small Field With Mostly Fast Guys and Nowhere to Hide” race. Often happens early or late in the season. There is no sitting in for this race. A suffer-fest.

The “Everyone’s Fast Enough to Chase” race. Happens mid-season, where the fitness has equalized a bit. Or the Zipp demo night where everyone has fast wheels. High average speed, and sure to end in a field sprint.

The “We All Know Paul Martin Will Win Tonight” race. That’s, oh, about 95% of the times he shows up.

The “Tailwind on the Backside” race. This is when there is a strong tailwind on the back side of the course — the windiest part. 30+mph on this section is then a normal lap. Someone always wants to drill it through this section while looking down at their speedometer. Then they can say afterward, “yeah, I was taking this 31mph pull, and …”. Often results in very high average speed.

Then there is what I think is the hardest of all: the “Cross-Headwind on the Backside” race. This is when the wind is coming strong off Lake Erie, which is a mile or so away. You can’t just follow a wheel and get a draft. There is always some SOB who will put the field in the gutter to break up the race. Hmm …

Not being one of the bigger guys, I get blown around a bit in the wind. But I like these hard races. You have to pay attention all the time, because once someone opens a gap in the cross-wind, it’s hard to close it. I always marvel at how the bigger guys can ride through the wind, take sips from their bottles, while I’m just trying to keep from getting blown into someone else.

Last night (Aug 26) was one of these nights. The wind was strong, the field was strung out in the gutter, and the gaps opened up. A group got away, and everyone suffered. These are the races where, at some point, you just want it to be over.

It also could have been a “We All Know Paul Martin Will Win”. Except somehow he didn’t, as RGF’s Andy Moskal took the tailwind sprint from a group of 3 (that was me, “last in the breakaway”).

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Always willing to help out

Give guys a compelling reason, and they will race hard. Usually it only takes a little bit of money. And I really mean a little. At the Tuesday night Westlake race, even a $2 prime is enough to trigger a fierce sprint.

Sometimes the reason is to prepare for a big race. In past years, the Tuesday before crit nationals has been the fastest night (or one of them) of the year. Guys have some up from Columbus, or over from Toledo and Michigan, to get a last stretch of the legs before heading to Chicago.

We like to oblige them with a fast race. And then when someone like Jim Baldesare wins at Downers Grove, we get to take a (very) small amount of credit, whether deserved or not (not).

Last Tuesday, we didn’t have the really big guns that have come out in years past. But we did get a couple of out-of-town pros from the DLP Racing team. They were on their way from the Rochester race to Chicago, by way of Jim Behrens’ offer of a place to stay.

We gave them a reasonably fast and aggressive race. Not as fast as some, but a good tuneup for the weekend.

They didn’t win in Chicago, but each had a pretty good result (see below, #14 & #16). Next year? Westlake on the National Racing Calendar the Tuesday before crit nationals?

1 Rahsaan Bahati (USA) Rock Racing 2.21.21
2 Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies – Medifast
3 Mark Hekman (USA) Toshiba – Santo Pro Cycling p/b Herbalife
4 Antonio Cruz (USA) BMC Racing Team
5 Kyle Wamsley (USA) Colavita Sutter Home p/b CookingLight
6 Kayle Leogrande (USA) Rock Racing
7 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Jittery Joe’s Pro Cycling Team
8 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Toyota – United Pro Cycling Team
9 Jake Keough (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast
10 Stephen Kincaid (USA) Rite Aid Pro Cycling p/b Shebell & Shebell
11 Daniel Holloway (USA) Garmin-Chipotle p/b H3O
12 Maxime Vives (Can) Calyon Pro Cycling Team
13 Adam Myerson (USA) Time Pro Cycling
14 Owen Nielsen (USA) DLP Racing
15 Robbie King (USA) Rite Aid Pro Cycling p/b Shebell & Shebell
16 Tommy Nankervis (Aus) Toshiba – Santo Pro Cycling p/b Herbalife
17 Scott Jackson (USA) DLP Racing

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Every racer should time trial

When I wanted to learn to snowboard, a friend described it as “strapping your feet to a board and throwing yourself down a hill”. If someone were to ask me about time trialling, I might describe it as “riding until you feel like puking, then you keep going until someone says ‘stop'”.

Who would want to do that?

Yet when I first started racing, 20 people would regularly show up on a Wednesday night for a Summit Freewheeler club time trial in the valley. At first, no one used any aero gear. It was all “Merckx-style”. There was something oddly compelling about getting on your bike and suffering to see how fast you could go. We knew it would make us better racers.

Some of the guys who show up at Jim Behrens’ time trial ride that way. Just get on your bike and go fast.

I think every racer would benefit from doing time trials. Here’s why.

It makes you tougher mentally

If you can keep your focus and suffer through a 40km time trial, it makes a lot of other races seem easier. Then when you find yourself in a solo breakaway in the closing miles of a race, you are familiar with suffering by yourself. You can tell yourself, “it’s just a time trial.”

More than just mental toughness, it’s also about the ability to focus during a race or during training. If you want to do well in a TT you have to keep your focus. During a 40km race you might find your mind starting to wander: mmm, pizza will taste good later … when will this be over? … why did I ever think this was a good idea? … I suck … etc. After a while you learn to bring your attention back to what is at hand — something that’s useful in all kinds of races and training sessions.

It makes training more interesting

No question, training for racing requires some significant time. And doing it year after year, well, it’s bound to get a bit stale. Since doing more time trials the last 2 years, I’ve noticed that specific TT training has made my overall training more interesting. It’s something different — different bike, different type of training, different training events like the Thursday night TTs. Over the winter, it’s easier for me mentally to do a hard trainer workout on the TT bike. If training is more interesting, you’re more likely to do it.

It makes you a stronger rider

I’ve had a couple of people ask me recently how old I was, and how I managed to keep training and riding well. I think the TT training I’ve done the last couple years has made a big difference. When you get on the TT bike to do a workout, it’s all about going fast. You generally don’t get on and just casually ride around (although I will confess to having done several 3 hr + rides on the TT bike). Those are workouts I just wouldn’t ordinarily have done without the TT bike. This year I’ve been in quite a few races where I’ve found myself in solo or 2-man breakaways. This is where the TT training really pays off — when you can put your head down and maintain that TT threshold speed and see yourself pulling away from the field … and more importantly, when you know that you can hold that speed.

You get to buy cool equipment

I guess this one is all in how you look at it. One the one hand, you get to buy cool equipment: TT bike, disc wheel, aero helmet, etc. On the other hand, you’re always wanting to spend money on cool equipment. It doesn’t seem to end with the TT bike and wheels. There’s always something more. But having the TT rig seems to make you want to get on it and ride. After having spent all that money, you have to ride it to get that $$ per ride ratio smaller and smaller, right? And there is no question, showing up to a big TT and seeing all that heavy artillery is quite a sight, and pretty cool to take part in.

But I’d also like to say: you don’t need a TT bike. Clip on some aero bars. Or better yet, just show up to a TT and ride “Merckx-style”. I saw a few guys do that at the State TT: a 38km TT on a standard road bike. That’s hard-man racing.

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Epilogue:

I guess the word is out. About 12 people showed up for the Leroy Township TT Thursday night. A mix of TT bikes, Tri bikes, road bike with clip-on bars, and a couple Merckx-style. Nice turnout!

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It’s coming

I’ve dreaded this day since the first day in April when I rode without arm or knee warmers.

This is the first day when I’ve felt the hint that, before too long, the weather is going to change. First it will be arm and knee warmers. Then heavy jerseys, tights, booties, and lobster mitts. Then those of us who live east of the Cuyahoga will curse the decision to live where obscene amounts of snow fall.

Last night I drove out to do the Leroy Township time trial. When I got there it was warm and sunny. Hot actually, and I was sweating as I got ready. I rode the course to the turnaround and saw what was on its way: dark clouds, sheets of rain, and streaks of lightning. My time trial for the night consisted of hammering the 4 mile trip back to the car, just in time, before the monsoon came.

I drove home, where the weather hadn’t yet hit, and went out again on the bike. The sky had that dreaded lake-effect look to it, with the heavy clouds that roll from northwest to southeast carrying the moisture from the lake. I was not hot while riding for the first time in weeks.

I know, we’ve still got weeks of good weather and racing ahead. But when I feel that snap of coolness in the morning, I just can’t help thinking about what’s on its way. Sorry to bring it up.

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Epilogue:

I didn’t have to wait until December to curse the lake effect. I’m already doing it on August 10.

Leaving the race in Orrville, it was warm and sunny, with some puffy, white clouds. By the time I got off I-271 I could see the cloud deck hanging over eastern Cuyahoga and Geauga counties, like the rain clouds over Schleprock. Stupid Lake Erie.

Then the rain came. If this were December, we’d probably have a foot of snow. To the south, probably 5 or 10 miles away, I could see the edge of the clouds, and sunshine beyond. Did I mention that I hate Lake Erie?

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The Devil Came to Zoar

I’ve seen The Devil in person, let’s see, 5 times now.

1. 2002 – UCI World Championships, Belgium
2. 2006 – Deutschland Tour, Germany
3. 2006 – UCI World Championships, Austria
4 & 5. 2007/08 – Zoar Road Race, Ohio

To the majority of cycling fans, The Devil is Didi Senft. He’s the crazy German guy who dresses in a devil suit and manages to get on TV during the Tour de France and other big races. He also smells really bad.

The other devil shows up at the Zoar Road Race, put on by the Stark Velo cycling team (this is from 2007):

Didi Senft may have spawned a few imitators, but none as charming as this kid. I know it brought a smile to my face each time we came by, no matter how much we were suffering (last year in the pouring rain, this year trying to keep the breakaway successful).

We should all be grateful that races like this can still happen. Good road racing courses seem to be disappearing. Ask anyone who’s tried to put on a road race, and you’ll hear about complaints from residents and hassles with the local governments. Anyone who’s willing to face that unpleasantness deserves a little appreciation. Hats off to the Stark Velo team for putting the race on. It’s a great road course.

We go to a lot of races where the only spectators are the racers changing clothes after their race. Then everyone gets in their cars and drives away.

At Zoar you’ve got the devil, people at the top of the climb cheering, people willing to hand water at the feed zone, Don Cernanek riding moto support. And you’ve got the Zoar Harvest Festival that is going on.

Something I noticed while racing in Germany 2 years ago (and in Italy several years before that): most of the local races were held in conjunction with some kind of festival. The Kenosha race at Superweek is like that too. There’s a different feeling to the race when you’ve got some kind of community event going on. And at the same time, it likely helps build support in community at large. Might it also preempt the annoyance at being inconvenienced by those damn cyclists?

The race itself? It worked out well. I suppose it’s easier to write about races that go well. Otherwise you’re mostly complaining. Tom Dominic (Spin) and I got away, earlier than I would have otherwise expected. It didn’t seem that the break would end up succeeding, but we put everything we had into it, and in the end it worked. I took the sprint for the win.

I think it helped having the devil running by us each lap.

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