je ne sais quoi

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ivan Dominguez's Slipstream

And how I had it.....but didn't.

Brentwood GP:

First, massive thanks to the string-pullers who managed to put a race on in one of my favorite parts of our city. Right in the middle of the busiest part of the westside...and no parking lot, either! Right there on San Vincente, and a full 2 mile circuit for us to do circles on. The races were short (80minute p/1/2), but hey. Awesome vibe throughout, and Superweek-quality (rather, quantity) crowds. Field....not so much. Most all of our usual contingent of crit superstars (Bahati, etc...) were out in the midwest, winning crit nationals.

But ho ho ho....who's this? Ivan Dominguez signs up. Justin Williams was here from track nats. Saw Dave McCook. Veggie Oils. Zack Morris. Yeah. Not a stellar field, but who cares? I wanted to do well. The sprint? Parfaitttttttt pour moi. Big long fast and straight, witha little uphill kick to the line to sort things out. The legs were good, the field not so good, just an Ivan Dominguez and Justin Williams to contend with come those last few meters. Yep, just those two. Sprints. Speed. Got it.

Fast forward. The race? Nothing happened. I hope it was exciting for the crowds assembled, cause it sure was dull for the racers. Ivan Dominguez attacked, and most had the same idea...let him hang for as long as possible. And he did, 3-4 laps perhaps? Things come back together, and the bell lap sounds. Swellllllllllllll. 100 fresh guys throwing elbows, chopping wheels, trying to get to the front. Madness. Annoying. It just makes getting up there more of a hassle. Down the first straight, nothing happened. It was kinda slow. I rounded the final corner (which is a good mile from the line still...nothing final about it) in 10th wheel or so, and found myself on the left side, on a 5 star guy's wheel. All bad. We inched forward, the speed was slow, the swarm came. I was probably 50th wheel at this point. Terrible! But with great legs, and patience. I actually "signaled" right to get out of that box. Slowly, surely, I got free and moved up. Speed picked up. Maybe 500 to go, I was in another box, but much further up, perhaps 20 back? I saw Ivan only a few wheels up, so I was in good position. No Justin. It was a messy slow-developing sprint. 250 to go, I'm 10 back, with Dominguez 2 wheels ahead. I saw an opening on the right, and blasted through it. Simultaneously, Dominguez made his move to the outside as well. Perfect!!! I was coming up on Ivan's slipstream! Madness.....this is second place, at a minimum, guaranteed. 200 to go. Green blur to my left...coming towards me fast. Who was that other guy I'd mentioned? Yep. What follows gets filed under "that's racing", but if we had an overhead helicopter view of it, there'd be certain DQ for going that lateral in a sprint with no regard for whatever wheel you might be smashing. My wheel was raped while justin made his move for Ivan's wheel. Since we were going 40+ at this point, the momentum helped me keep it up right, but my left pedal clipped out. I thank my lucky stars (and the predictability of the so-great Time RXS) that I found the pedal again on my next pedal stroke and managed to limp in for 12th.

Not upset at all. If it were anyone else (Bahati included), i'd be livid, but I know there wasn't any malicious intent here. Just another guy trying for Ivan's wheel. I didn't think i'd say this, but I'm sad to see the season end. Of course it'd be sad when you end it on good form. I have this crit game dialed, man! But hey, "all good things..." right?

Thanks for following. I don't know what else I'd blog about, so the blog frequency should drop. Maybe only french entries indefinitely. hahaa.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


Wednesday was an interesting one.


Left Hollywood to go ride up to Mt. Wilson with the wednesday morning crew. Nice. The descent from Wilson to Redbox never ever gets old. I'm a fan. Turned down, had a coffee/croissant for lunch, and got to work at the crack of noon. Nothing emphatic to report at work. Got off at 5pm to head to a downtown happy hour that I hadn't been to since I got back from Wisconsin...and with the season nearly over, why not? 3 drinks. 3/4 of a pizza. Home at 7:30.

You following this schedule? Days for me are normally over after that. But...Johnny comes with this email:

Free money. Bikes. Hmm...that link leads to this page:

MANO E MANO SPRINTS. I'm a sprinter right? I especially like the ambiguity of the purse/$ situation. Not too different from some of the more "civil" uscf/cbr crits we do out here. Still, I had no plans to attend. 8:45 I was still home. Bored, slightly buzzed, and curious.....I put on a t-shirt and cargo shorts. Sprinted down to the metro and the train came right as I got there -a good omen. They're usually once every 20 that time of night. Got to the bike path pictured above....the turnout was as expected. Fixed gear scenesters from the valley. A couple guys on geared bikes. One guy with a proper full-record torelli carbon bike. And one poser-looking guy with an SRM on a carbon specialized with Sram. This guy was also the only one with a helmet. Who does that?

So we line up. Geared category, and fixed categories. GREAT stretch of bike path on which to battle. Wide, smooth, flat....and lit. It was 10pm by the time it started. The money situation: I had a $20. Other people had less. I put it in, another guy put $20, some guy put some quarters. Really random stuff. I'm pretty sure that at no point did anyone suspect that I was a cat-anything racer. Just a guy with a pretty cool bike. Two distances on the day. One was no more than 100 meters, the other was closer to 300. We started with the 100. Of course, I matched up with the guy on the only other proper bike. Lined it up. 8 seconds later, it was over. I lost. Overgeared, by the time I got up to a proper cadence, it was over...

Weird. We did a second run, I clipped out my pedal. I've never clipped out a pedal. The bike and everything connected to it just gets totally wrecked and maxxxed out in something this short and violent. Both biceps and the left side of my chest were sore immediately afterward. Got me thinking about my sprint mechanics. The srm was hooked up. Max read "1.60". Mon dieu. Can't be right. I set the zero, and did the next run (which I was lucky to even get, given the pedal's 2 out of 3, and I wouldve been eliminated!). Second run I got a good jump, and kept accelerating to the line...not smooth at all, mind you, but there was definitely some juice going to the pedals. He got the jump, but I turned the rockets on in time and won by a wheel. Here's the stat sheet:

Yeah. New max. I bet the chain breaks at 1.70...anyhow. All the guys wanted to do a "winner take all" meaning I'd go up against the winner of the fixed gear group. Eh. I was pretty beat. Fixed winner had at least 5 beers on me. Tired all around, but hey. The crowd (of 11.4) wanted it. We raced, got an easy jump, soft-pedal, he comes up, hit the switch....and done...all his hopes and dreams? Plooop. Lets just say the guy wasn't the classiest loser...and leave it at that. Total purse: $53.75.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Butane in my Veins

The good clean natural kind.


Yesterday: The Elite US Road National Championship.

Before the report...a little background. My racing leans more toward the "quantity" than "quality" part of the performance spectrum. I race often. I don't play that "peak" game. I aim to get some form, and keep it going for a good long while, and my results often reflect that. I have "peaks" but it's never for a single event. I plateau. That's it. Yesterday's Elite US Road Race happened to fall into a bloc of that good form. I've been on it for a good while now, and any opportunity to exploit it I'm going to take. This is why I decided to race this thing...didn't hurt that it was a 40 minute drive from home, either.

After paying the procrastinator's special $ ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY $ at the registration tent, I got my numbers on. This would be my third national championship race. The previous two being: '04 Collegiate Nats RR (12th) and '05 Collegiate TTT (1st). I usually nail these things. I've never had a coach, but in the buildup to races like these, there's something inside that makes everything click a certain way so as to send the legs and energy levels soaring.

-Butane in my veins-

So. The lineup. Cal-Giant Strawberries had the biggest team out there. All their guys are either old or ex pros or both. So they know how to race. Karl Bordine and the vegetables lined up. Full complement. Lots of assorted locals whom I had no idea were cat 1s...and of course the guys that actually flew out to do this thing. Bummer for them. The course.....ahhh the course....if they said "Aram, we want to make a Road course tailor made to fit your riding style" this would have been it. Perfect stuff. Six 31km laps for 186 total K's. Some complications at the start: if any break gained 3 or more minutes, the remaining riders would be pulled. Whoa! So no TdF style 20 minute TV-time breakaways on this day. I'm sure the sponsors were upset with that one.

Well....this report can get unnecessarily long. I'm gonna blast through it as efficiently/quickly as possible. First lap, my first around this course, I just felt everything out. So did the peleton. No break got more than 100 meters. It was definitely tense out there. People with some serious game faces and all that. There are 2 U turns on the course. At the first one, there were two girls, clothed, cheering like mad on both ends of this turn. Hey, good on them. See you in 31 kilometers. We passed through the start finish. Got my feed nice and smooth. We came up on the aforementioned U: same two girls, alot less clothing, even more cheering! HEY. Yes! Loosened the peleton up a bit for a change. DEFINITELY see you on the next lap. [really, there is nothing else noteworthy here...sagged climbed the climbs, no attacks, pack together mostly, eh.] So the only logical progression here is even MORE cheering and, well...can't really undress further I think. So we get there. The place is completely barren. I can only assume they were arressted. And I never did get a gooood look, but they were undoubtedly the grandest daughters of the land on that day. GRAND. So, serious time started again. It was around this point that a break got up the road. A break too big to take seriously, and we could see them up the road the whole time. No cohesion...they weren't even single file. I was unalarmed, but it was here that I saw the front for the first time -a couple times. They remained as they were...not too threatening. Bordine was there...a couple Cal-Giants, of course, with teammates shutting things down in the peleton...

[picture here if i get one]

On the next lap, with 90k still to go, I foudn myself next to Thurlow Rogers. "Thurlow, how are the legs today?" "Eh, they're good, but the race is riding away from us." I mentioned that they were just a few hundred meters up the road...and shortly after this moment, I never saw Thurlow again. He attacked. I saw the attack, but.....

The next few laps were frustrating. I told myself, "hey, whatev, you'll be in the next move and every other move thereafter. legs are swell and good. no sweat." There was no next move. Those guys just stayed a steady minute ahead. The strawberry team shut it down, the elastic broke, and we went into the last lap barely inside the 3 minute DNF window. I didn't think I'd sprint. I was tired and upset. More upset, however. I had exxxxxxxxxcellent feedzone support, and for the first time ever, was adequetely hydrated throughout a RR. I put away a good 1500 calories on the bike in addition to a gallon and a half of water. For this, my stomach is completely out of whack at the moment...but anyhow...The elastic was broke. 3 minutes turned to 6 real fast. There were 15 up the road. 13 in the break, 2 snuck off on the last climb and no one cared, so a sprint for 16th. I guess a top 20 in a National RR is good resume filler (not that I still care for those things), and 16th paid the same as 1st. We're all suckers. Pardon the the good legs come around, even if the mind wasn't too stoked on it. Once the peleton [pretty large still @ 50-60] starts jockeying, the legs just take over. Reflexively. You know this. Allright...Ken Hanson was the guy to mark. Random Trivia: He won the Cat 2 san dimas RR the year before I did. And I can't forget him completely coming off his line to take a measley $20 prime at superweek '06. That was when I learned that "hey, officials don't care about sprint rules during primes. anything goes." There's a pearl for the aspiring crit-monsters out there. Anyhow, the guy can ride...and had 44 fresh Stawberry teammates who also cared enough for that minor placing that they started an early leadout. I took his wheel with 4k to go. In a little bunch up, I lost it to an older fellow, and kindly, simply, said "guy, you can't even sprint." I'm a jerk, I know. It's probably better if blog readers stayed ignorant of this facet, but hey...he can't. I've seen this guy. Whatev, at the end of 186km, one rider between me and another isn't gonna make a difference, and I gave up the wheel. In a kind karmic twist, he gave it back to me with about 500m to go. Tip of the hat, big-wheel. It was an easy, though unfulfilling sprint. Hanson timed it perfectly and took it by a bike or two, I jumped at 300 and came around a little blob of riders and had a bike or two on the guys behind me. 17th. A total waste of great legs...but not entirely disappointing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Superweek Redux + More

Superweek's done. The break from blogging is done. It was a hell of a trip...for reasons beyond the results. I can't say it was the most fun one, but definitely the most productive and organized. Really, a huge huge shout out and thank you to the LaGrange guys who made the logistical puzzle much much easier for this bike bum. They even brought my bike back...HUGE...since it enabled me to take the metro to the chicago airport, and then the metro from Long Beach (LGB) to hollywood.

Top guys.

The final day...whitefish bay. Don't remember a whole lot. It was one of the smallest fields of the series. Interestingly, Superweek organizers said "if you don't show up and race the last day, you don't get paid." Lots of guys were absent, because of the $ chicago criterium the same day, BUT.....the guys behind the GC riders that didn't show didn't move up a spot. Where does that cash go? Being the last day, It was a free-pass to bury the legs, go for primes, get in moves, etc etc...that it was a smaller and slightly weaker (slower) field was just a bonus. Legs=must be on drugs. So great that they can go this well after EIGHT consecutive days of critting. Anyhow, highlights: About 4-5 laps in, I was riding behind one of the Columbians and said "Ay guey, vamos para isquierda...juntos." Something along the lines of "guy, i'm gonna attack on the left, lets go." So I attack....sure enough, brought only one guy with me.'s the yellow jersey. Everyone was pretty surprised by this, me especially, but he drilled it as well, and we were away for a couple. Other highlights......saw my single highest wattage figure of the series -while losing a $100 prime to Carlos Alzate (COL). 1400 W's for nothing. That's it for highlights. A break of 7 lapped, then a group of 6 slipped off, and I finished 3rd in the bunch for 15th on the day.

Superweek Results:
Stage 1-15th
Stage 2-5th
Stage 3-21st
Stage 4-16th
Stage 5-DNS
Stage 6-10th
Stage 7-23rd
Stage 8-24th
Stage 9-DNS
Stage 10-18th
Stage 11-21st
Stage 12-19th
Stage 13-13th
Stage 14-19th
Stage 15-8th
Stage 16-11th
Stage 17-15th

Amateur Overall-5th
Pro Overall-14th

15 races. 15 placings. Zero crashes. Money: lots.


Came back to LA where the races are slower, easier, and I don't do nearly as well. CBR final crit was this afternoon. Impressed with the turnout (60), despite a lack of a purse on the day. Entries were cheap at least. Almost a full bearclaw-reunion as well. Side on the grass before the race, a guy (Tony Cruz's soigneur?) asked the group I was with (myself included) if we were gonna watch the race 'till the end. Um...yeah...i'm in it. The guys said " you're gonna watch it hanging on the back, eh?" Hmm...even if I am not legs MOST certainly look I jokingly took offense..."yeah...hanging on the back after I lap the field. hah." Then, matter-of-factly, the guy says "Actually, you're not. There are 2 riders from the Italian National Track Team here," and he left. I was a bit annoyed, but eh. I ride for Bearclaw, damnit. We're kinda a big deal around here. I think. Sure enough, there were a pair of Italian super guys. Small, but with massive doses of Italian style and just plain fast-looking. They even had their own scenesters/translators/soigneurs to cheer them on. I'd later learn that they were madison guys. But anyhow...

Race started, and I didn't attack. I respected the field for this one...and my fitness. Not gonna lie, felt horribly. Rudy N from rock was out. "guy, how are your legs....." "noodles." At least I wasn't the only one. They came around though...I followed the Italian guys pretty close...smooth. Didn't really flex their muscle, but eh. Nothing was allowed more than a few ticks. People shutting everything I didn't bother with attacks...only followed wheels when a teammate was up the road. At the halfway point, there was a points prime...I went for it, got the points and a pretty big gap. As I was coasting and recovering, Tony Cruz found his way up to me, solo. We picked up the guy that tried to sprint me for the points, and started rolling. Nice. Had a full straightaway pretty soon. The SDBC guy with us popped, and Tony and I exchanged some pulls. He clearly wasn't giving it the gas, so I didn't either, but it was steady. A group of 5 came up to us, including an Italian and a vegetable man...and that killed the move. Ah well. It was 20 mins to go at this point, so I just recovered a bit. The pace was really slow. Sub 40, easy. We entered the bell lap joke....33 k's an hour. No attacks, no lifting of the pace. I was near the front here. "Guys, it's the last lap." Nothing. Found teammate Mike, and I told him to follow me with about 1/2 lap to go. Finally, a Vegetable guy attacked. I put my head down and slowly brought it one came around. I went around the last turn in second...with the Veg guy blown up just ahead.

#$@^$#%@#$%$@#.......beautiful crash symphony behind me. It's always beautiful when it's coming from behind. Except...a quick glance...and was my teammate who was 2 seconds away from the easiest win of his life. I shifted focus, and smashed on the pedals. Caught the guy who'd attacked, and thought I had the W......but.......the Italian dude blasted through and won cleanly. 2nd. Funny out-of-scale cell phone shot courtesy of Johnny:

Clean set of Italian wheels up ahead. Not pictured: massive carnage behind. And a decent one of Ton and me up the road. Don't the BMC kits looks bush leauge with the cell phone camera?