je ne sais quoi

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How Great Was The Track Last Night?

Very very great

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What's with it?

Once a week updates? Forgive my negligence, I'm a jerk. Gotta strive for more regularity...but that's how the blog game goes. I don't know how some people do the daily updates...if I force myself to write when I'm not up to it, it's rubbish, and not fun to write (or read).

foto: Me

So, like many, I've been consumed with the Tour Of California. I realize there may be some bias, as i'm from here, but shite, that was a really fun race to watch. It showcased all that is good and weird and confusing and beautiful about our sport.

Each day had a new twist:

Day 1-Jason Donald's revelation
Day 2-The finishing circuit's controversey
Day 3-That wicked breakaway that 30 superstars couldn't pull back
Day 4-Bettini! Saluting, even though he only won by 1 mm! And Ciolek's headbangin' sprint!
Day 5-Jens Voigt and Levi Lephiemer can Time Trial? Really?
Day 6-Health Net: Why on earth did they chase that break down? Weirdos. And JJ!
Day 7-Menzies in a breakaway. Bob Roll's Style & Grace. Ivan Dominguez doin SoCal proud.

Each day had something going. Le Tour, for instance, always has a couple dull days. Nothing about the TOC race was a formality. And bang up job to Priority Health! I'm sure some were wondering if they deserved the start, and they proved they did -with great style. And some teams (Starts with a "B" ends with a "C"), well...they just ended up being a really expensive marketing lesson for their sponsors. Health Net wasn't stellar, but the coverage on the web was great! I really was gunning for Karl to pick up a stage win (or five), but ah well.

foto: me

Funny story: A friend of mine gave me his "vip pass". The race was almost over, and I had the whole course to cross, so I bee-lined for the finishing area. I never made it to the vip area, but instead was stuck right in the middle of the course, right where all the press photographers were hanging out. ON the course. It's amazing how these camera guys just plop themselves right there, no barriers, and only 10-15 meters from the line. Insane! And I was there, and got that shot with my little camera. But it's one of those moments where you're just not sure where to look, and you cannot be decisive or anything, as it's over in 1/1000th of an instant. But still, so cool. The Toyota-United staff was all over the place afterwards, high-fiving, smiling, the whole bit. As they should be. Without that W, it would've been a disappointing (at best) tour for them.

I was one of these guys, except closer! Madness!

What the hell's goin on from the waist down, Ms. Specialized Angel? No, really, I'd like an explanation.

Oh...I raced too, in the morning. The race report begins with a flat tire -on my car. I flatted just as I entered long beach. Rolled on the flat for a couple minutes 'till the next exit. Gah. Still a couple miles from the registration area. The tire was shred, and I couldn't safely go above idle speed any longer. Ah well, things like this don't effect my racing as much as it would others...I'm well-trained for procrastination. Later in the afternoon, I ran into Brent an hour or so before his race. I was tired, and asked if he'd change the flat for me, but he said that he was a bit tired himself. Tired from what, guy? It isn't even a Grand Tour. Ah well. He missed out on some fun times....ugha. Also, what Velonews won't tell you is that 99% of the time, if Brook Walters says "i'm tired" before a race, he goes on to win it handily. Sunday fell into that 1%, somehow...perhaps he wasn't tired enough??

Anyhow, the amateur race: big field, sold out. Successfull Living was the only pro team out there, and an isolated Priority Health guy, who'd dropped out of the tour a couple days earlier. A couple laps in, it was clearly evident (after no one could get more than 10 seconds on that course) that it'd be a field sprint. There were plenty of crashes, all bad. One of the polish guys (yep...they're everywhere) crashed and somehow caught back on (there were no free laps), and raced the rest of the race with half his gleaming-white ass floating in the wind. The course was nice and wide, but lots of variance in pavement, and lots of dots! We LOVE those. Last lap came, I was fresh, but so was everyone else. with 500 meters to go, it was basically curb to curb! A "lottery sprint", as my DS termed it. Not my scene, not on this day, at least. I finished somewhere between 10th and 20th. And If I was in the money, please let me know! The results tent was gone by the time I got back from the trip across town to my car. Oh, the solo Priority Health guy won, beating out at least 6 successful living guys. How does this keep happening?

Merced this weekend! Praying for good weather and subsequent good times!

That's all I've got...


Monday, February 19, 2007

Dios Mio!!!!!!!!!!

The TOC!!!

That was the most exciting bike racing i've watched on TV ever. ever ever. I did it the proper way...didn't check the results live on the internet, and let Phil and Paul and Bob do their thing, and when Levi was coming up to the line I felt like my heart was gonna explode! Madness! I can't tell you how cool it is to follow a race in which friends and old teammates are participating's great, and motivating, the only thing cooler would be to participate alongside these guys.

Interestingly, the little clip of Jason Donald showed that he was the only guy that didn't use a disc rear wheel. Isn't it blatantly obvious that you don't need one on that course? Geez. And the hilarity of Phil continuously wondering if the timekeepers made a mistake on Donald's time....Top points for embarrassment but so flattering at the same time. Tell me there are others that found that hilarious?! Also, it was great to see that lots of the euro superstars (Cancellara, especially) weren't holding much back and strutted their stuff properly, despite the chronological challenge of riding a 5 minute prologue in friggin' February. Bravo.

The plot gets thicker...there's an Amgen "breakaway from cancer" commercial that aired once tonight (and will likely air a couple more times during the tour). There are a group of riders riding along and this guy gives the kid in the window a thumbs up. I'm one of those riders! I'm in the frame for just a second or two, to the right of the guy who's [pretending to be] breathing hard (Mike Dansk). Rockin' my old bike, white track gloves, and Rudys with clear lenses. A big thank you, again, to Mike for getting me the gig. It was good fun. I showed the clip to my dad and he just started laughing....this TOC stuff is one big festive event all over.

And the most trivial part of this entry...the race report:

Today's cycling match was in Costa Mesa: CBR 100k Criterium. I was at a wedding yesterday, and wanted to have a couple drinks and get home late, but couldn't. Was home by 1:30, and had only a single glass of wine. So no excuses for me on the wedding front, no safety nets. Ah well. Things were running late, so the race got shortened a bit from 100k to 90 minutes. I really thought it was just going to be a bunch of local folk mixin' it up, as most of the SoCal scene was either at the TOC or at Valley of the Sun. Well, to my surprise, 4 Sierra Nevada guys came out, and 800 guys from the Polish national track team. The Poles somehow missed every break and didn't chase a single one down, despite their numbers. I was alone on the day, missed the early move, the late [winning] move, and tried to get into a couple, but i'm marked pretty good now, it's nice. To be honest though, I wasn't feeling too fresh today...both my mind and body.

Long story short......the early break (1 Sierra, 3 others) was off for a long while, and just got tired and came back. There never was an organized chase of any kind. The Sierra Nevada Team almost raced as good as The Time Team a couple weeks back...heheh...but still got the result. They got another move up the road with 5 laps to go, and it was game over. The Poles missed the move, of course, but still lined all their guys up for a leadout with 3 to go. I was in good position, but the Polish leadout was huge! 8 riders! So I was about 11th wheel behind them and the Sierra Nevadas. Happy to report that there were no kamikaze moves to take me out on this day. I took a conservative line through the final corner, and wound up 8-9th in the field sprint for 13th on the day. I've got a big March around the corner...and yeah, i'm not about to chop wheels, dodge dots, and bunny hop curbs for 6th place in a local crit...I'm surprised I was even 13th.

Rest week (10 mellow hours) scheduled for me, and with the shite weather on the forecast, looks like it shouldn't be too difficult to carry out.


Monday, February 12, 2007

"We are The Police and we are back"

The Police, '07

The Police. They've reunited. Rumors circulated for months, and it became official at the Grammy's last night. I'm happily not alone in my ecstasy at this reunion. Rumor is that they'll play coachella...if this is the case...I might have to start selling stuff. It's wonderful that they've got tour dates comin up, and probably at least one "The Police Live in '07" DVD...but as a longtime fan, what I'd want more than ANYTHING is a new album. C'mon boys...And check out Andy Summers!! he's 10 years older than either Sting or Stuart, but has hardly aged!

Bike Racing:

Just one race on the calendar for me. Was going to go up north for a big $ crit, but the weather was erratic, so stayed here, where the weather was even more erratic. Sunday was the Brea Roger Milikan Memorial Crit. In the morning, it was pouring and dark. An hour or so later, it was sunny. This cycle repeated itself intermittently, but we ended up having perfect race conditions. This race always draws a huge field, and this year, despite the "chance of rain," was no different. 100 starters maybe? Some good names. Ivan Dominguez, Kyle Gritters, Couple other Toyota-Uniteds, some full socal-squads, and all the other scenesters.

I had no teammates on the day, but it wasn't a bother on a course like this. Little chance of anything getting's too fast. I got to the race with about 20 minutes to the start. Rode from my car to the start as a warmup (at least 200 meters), and we were off. Smooth and fast. No threatening moves, until Chris Valenzuela and Ivan Dominguez slipped off the front. They got almost 30 ticks, and would be the biggest break of the day. Hi-Tec-Bikes-Fish...or whatever they're called...did a bang up job in bringing the break back by themselves. There were plenty of other "complete teams" who didn't do a lick of work in bringing this move back...way to show your strength, boys...

So as expected, a bunch sprint was in the cards. 5 laps to go sounded. Legs are fine, unscathed by lactic acid, by anything. I was riding with Health Net's Kyle Gritters during the "5 to go" period. Studying him, in some respects, to see what type of lines a top crit guy like him takes during the last stages of a crit. As expected, he was calm and collected. Also, he was never on the inside. Always on the outside, where it's easier to move forward, and he stayed in that "sweet spot" about 10 wheels deep, just floating there, with me in tow. So into the bell lap, it's Toyota, Toyota, Dominguez, Gritters, Tony Cruz, and Aram. In that order. Legs still perfect, thinking about the sprint and nothing else.

In the last lap of a Pro/1/2 crit, you'd think it'd be insane, out-of-control madness. It's actually quite the opposite. At the front, it's a really controlled and calm atmosphere. And it's always the same guys up there. You know how they ride, and while bumping and the occasional tap is common, 95% of the time nothing erratic happens (unless Bahati's racing...). It comes down to strength, not "lets see how stupid we can be". Sure, all the "crazy out of control" guys are doing their thing -in the back...usually. On this day, one of these guys managed to slip beyond his known realm and into the front. To be more specific...he did not slip...he plowed...and to be even more specific not "into the front" but into me. Yeah. Game over. The funny thing is, just before the guy smashed into me, I heard a faint "Aram!!!". I'm very fortunate to have stayed upright. And Captain Smooth? He finished in the top-5. A result (and subsequent cash) that wouldn't have been bad to have, and just seconds earlier were an absolute formality.

I was a bit steamed after the race, and I apologize to anyone who might have heard me vent the frustration afterwards. It's just a shit feeling to have good form, and miss out because of another's mistake. The guy was profusely apologetic afterward, saying "I had nowhere to go", and then came with the classic "that's racing". But guy: if you'd been following the wheel in front of you like everyone else, there's no way you could [almost perpendicularly] plow into someone on a straightaway (!!!) like that. No way. Enjoy the result of your life and the smooth rep that's come with it...

I'm over it. Looks like it's all crits for me this month...won't be going to Valley of the Sun because of a wedding on Saturday night. Ah well.

What would Sting do?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Peach of a Weekend...

[Photo by Mark Shimahara]

Killer photo, huh? But let's keep it chronological and start with saturday's deathmarch...

I said it before, I'm saying it again: "Most stacked non-NRC road race in USA cycling history." And the story begins with the "staging area". There were about 80 or so sheep in the staging area for the Pro 1/2 race. USCF officials were pacing up and down the long line of riders, barking orders. I had my number neatly and tightly folded up. You could clearly see the number, but I didn't want confrontation (and subsequent unpinning/repinning of the number), so I hung out on the side, with some of the Health net guys, who ALL had their numbers neatly folded (and still clearly visible). The race started, and we just rolled in without bother. I only mention all this because the whole "let's give the riders a hard time for folding their numbers" game is just a ridiculous waste of time and energy.

Somewhere on this jersey, there are 2 numbers...can you spot them?

Okay. So the race was billed as "hardest race ever" by fellow racers. What people don't realize is that it's only going to be hard for as long as you maintain contact with the lead group. Once you're dropped, it's the same as any other race in which you get dropped, you follow? Right. So the pro teams came out, full force. Buses, soigneurs, giant caravans, mechanics, tents, the whole bit -all for a local road race in the middle of nowhere with a meager (for them) $2000 purse. The ratio of racers to spectators was something like 100:1. Really cool to ride with all those chaps...reminded me of Gila last year...the "pro-ness" of it all. I got to hang out with my old collegiate teammate, Taylor Tolleson, shared some stories, laughs...also said hi to Mr. Menzies, who said "'s gonna be a smashfest today, huh?" in his fresh-off-the-boat (and synonymous with -fast-) Australian accent.

Chasing back on after a flat...but the spare wheel had an 11, so it worked out
[photo UCSD]

The pros did their thing in the early going, and once a break got established, the pace really slowed, and it was comfortable. From that point on, attrition made the race. The break's gap came down (maxed at 3 minutes), and the field shrunk and shrunk. I struggled each lap on the downhill section...a 53x12 just wasn't cutting it. I eventually got dropped on the 3rd (of 4) lap. Gah. The group just blasted through a long flat straight, it echeloned and I was in the wrong end. I also flatted, gut-rotted, but "sucked" is the verb of choice here. I've no excuses, the legs just weren't there. I rolled in for 46th on the day, close to the last classified finisher. Teammate Chris Walker finished 14th (1st Amateur). Mr. Tolleson was in the early break and i'm pretty sure he was just doing one-leg intervals the whole day.

That guy in last wheel? Such an amateur...
[photo from UCSD something? Thanks Rich]

Which brings sunday. There were two races on the schedule. Red Trolley in San Diego, or the Mothballs Crit in Santa Barbara. The Time Factory Team is based in Santa Barbara, so it was the natural choice for us. We fielded a solid 4 guys at the start. Conspicuously absent were all the pro teams from the previous day (they were at Red Trolley), but there were some solid California guys out, and the purse for both was similar. I'm certain some guys (**cough-o'reilly-cough**) skipped Boulevard and set out to destroy the guys who'd raced the previous day...but that's cool, the dude abides...

Wasn't a huge field. 60? 70? Nowhere near the 125 from last weekend. Last week's winner was at the start, some classic old-guys (Thurlow, etc) mixed with some Nor-Cal dudes, and some glorious SB weather. The course is pretty basic. 4 turns, some sketch pavement, some smooth, 1000% flat, yeah. Allow a quick tangent....

Way back in '02...this same exact race was my 2nd race ever. Cat 4/5. I came into it cocky and confident, and wound up crashing in the sprint (likely for 28th place or something dumb), getting a concussion, dislocating my shoulder, and momentarily walking around with my junk hanging out of my [borrowed from Marcelo] shorts. Crazy to be back in a slightly different scenario and mindset. Anyhow...let's get back...

We all met before the race. I volunteered to "captain" the thing, call shots, etc. We all just decided to keep it textbook, and use the numbers to our advantage. 100 meters after the start, some guys rocket away, right in front of me. I wanted nothing to do with it, and even yelled at them for being so foolish. They kept motoring, and 3/4ths of a lap later, teammate Nick started a bridging effort. He got there after a lap or two. I was left at the front of the pack, ready to mark anything that moved. Right away, this guy darts out. I marked it, and with only 1 other guy for company. 3 of us. I told them I wasn't working (as Nick was up the road). They understood, and the guy in first wheel chased and chased for almost 3 full laps, and brought us to the break. A nice tow. and what? We have a gap? Aww geez. The breakaway game isn't what I had in mind, but it was me and a teammate in an 8 man move. Good odds. The cohesion was terrible at first, but eventually we settled into a nice rhythm and time gaps grew. [Some petty race advice: When you're in a breakaway, and rotate out of a paceline, get AS CLOSE to the advancing line as you can, both for your benefit and the guys about to pull through. Learned this from Paolinetti during our rose bowl battles...the guy practically drives his elbows into you after pulling through...and it works].

[Photo: Marco]

After what seemed like forever (an hour, almost), we lapped the field. There was a group of 7 riders (w/Thurlow, O'Reilly, etc) a good 30 ticks up the road. C-Walk (term coined by Tay Tolleson for Chris Walker) put the hammer down and closed that thing down almost by himself. Stellar. So when the gap came down to about 10-15 seconds, and while making sure Chris saw me, I attacked in an effort to bridge. Got a gap, solo, and bridged it in one lap. That felt good, won't lie. The move got brought back, but hopefully it pulled a match or two from the 6 other breakaway guys. The rest of the race was wild. Lots and lots of calories were incinerated. I decided to completely bury myself in order to have Nick (who also lapped) rest up for the sprint. Attack, attack, attack, and I looked back each time to find the other breakaway chaps chasing it down. Teamwork....I'd missed it for so long, and here it was, in large doses. with about 10 laps to go, I stopped the insanity with hopes of delivering a proper leadout. 5 to go, 4, 3, 2...Nick is on my wheel, we're in the sweet-spot about 10 wheels deep. Bell lap, he's still there. Then after turn one, I did response. Tried again..."Nick?! you on?!". Nothing. Incredibly, the legs were allright. Was pretty far back out of the last corner, but it's a good 400 meters from there. I kicked down a couple gears, and started the gallop. I was almost boxed in (my own fault), but kindly (well, as kindly as is possible in the middle of a sprint) asked the lagrange guy boxing me in "umm..guy? I'm up a lap, can you please let me through?". Surprisingly, he did. And with that door open, I won it. I was 3rd in the field sprint, and ahead of the other breakaway guys. Not the flashiest way to win (shoulda won the field sprint, but......), but after a quick calculation at the line, put up a little salute.

How massive is that guy to my right?
[Photo: Marco, Again...thanks, man]

[photo: Steve Weixel]

So all in all, a peach of a weekend. Rough Saturday, tactically beautiful Sunday. We finished 1st, 3rd (Nick), and 10th (C-Walk). Walker gets the MVP award, without a doubt. A big thanks to all the photographers (and those who linked me to the photogs) for making this a pretty colorful blog entry.

And of course, these guys:

(L-R) C-Walk, Me, Nick H-H, Mike Easter
[Steve Weixel...lots more fotos here]


1 for 3....

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Boulevard Brevity

It sorta lived up to the hype.


I'm sayin it...that was THE most stacked non-NRC race in US History. I proudly made it to the end of the first sheet.

Dios Mio.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Daisy of a Ride


Don't have a lot of time (actually, none) to blog this. But I took a camera with me, and so i'll post the photos and put some fluff words in between the photos to make this look like a proper entry.

This is where my Thursday mornings usually start. Barry Ride. They roll through the los feliz entrance of griffith park at around 8:50. I made it a bit early, so I had a digital camera sesh...
Will the narcissism ever stop? Yo, I don't know. So that's the stop sign I use to wait for the group to come down the hill. It'll be famous one day. It even says "Hammertime" right underneath it (though it's obscured by the prettttttty plant).

So after messing around with the group for about an hour, I turned off and went up and up... Mount Wilson...aka the coldest spot in SoCal. Visibility was 10 feet. An interesting and freezing descent was had shortly after this foto was taken. Those dirty white things in the background? Snow. In SoCal, it makes us feel tough to ride in (well...near) the stuff, right? What am I doin? I'm showing off my 6000' one-hand-track-stand-bottle-drink trick that makes girls the world over swooooooon....yehhhh. dig it.

And that's it.

my 3 minute entry.

i win.