Thursday, June 25, 2009

A weekend of failure

Where do I start……

This last weekend was a weekend from hell as far as racing goes. Just 1 week ago we were shivering through mid 50’s temperatures with bone soaking rain. A mere 7 days later it’s as if the gravitational pull from my poor performance brought the sun closer ensuring a miserable weekend of racing as far as conditions go.

Setting up for the weekend I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to race both days so I registered for Cobb Park. Cobb Park had 2 races I could do….and it was only $10 for the second race. Guess what I did….yup.

Then Mrs. P says she no longer has to work on Sunday and that I can race – it is Father’s day after all. To top it off Fox River Grove is pretty close to the Psimet compound. Oh and look….they have two races I can do. Excellent. Guess I will sign up for both.

So it was some time later when it dawned on me that I was going into a 4 race in 2 days weekend. On top of that we were looking at record heat and humidity. Oh, and somehow I didn’t know but there was this thing called a “hill” on the course for Sunday. How big can it really be right? The directions to the course said, “at the corner of School and SKI HILL RD. That should have been my first indication.

So I was feeling good on Saturday. The race was too early for the family to embrace the idea of getting up and going with. No one needed a ride so I was on my own to the race. It was weird to drive to a race with no one else. I got in some good alone time. It was kind of nice.

Once there I quickly found the usual suspects all milling around. I felt strong and thought I might have a chance at a really good result. I hit the trainer and “warmed up” for a long time beforehand. I felt great as the race started. Chatting it up, floating around at will, felt like I had a ton in reserve. Then something happened.

There was an acceleration and it was like someone opened a drain plug on my tank and emptied it. The accelerations weren’t hard. The race was fast but manageable, but something in me just went limp. I got shelled.

I felt a little better as I ran into a lot of other riders I am usually contending with who also got shelled, but in general it wasn’t pleasant. Then I got lapped. Then I got chills and goosebumps….and then got lapped again. I was dehydrated. Bad. I finished the race but it was torture. A lot of people dropped so I finished up on a lot of guys but I was dead last in the field of riders that were placed.

I figured I should drink and do my best to get my temp down in between the races. I only had 6 bottles for the whole day and I was down to only 2 left for in between the races and the next race. I am sure I could have found more water but I didn’t push it.

For the Masters race I felt much better. The pace was slower and I found it pretty easy to hang where I wanted to. I even contemplated going for the prime when it was announced. Then with 3 or so laps to go I got a leg freezing cramp along my inner thigh. It locked up my leg completely. I was done. I tried another lap but I couldn’t push any gear so I just pulled off. I felt the pity look from the officials piercing me as I called it a day.

So needless to say after the poor performance on Saturday I was not hoping for much on Sunday. I was not disappointed by that. I got yanked twice on Sunday. So did a lot of other guys but still….it sucks. I found I got better each time up the hill and found I could descend and hold the corners in the mid 30’s – taking them without braking.

I knew I was in trouble for sure when I realized I didn’t know nearly as many guys on the line and started seeing jerseys from all over. That combined with the fact that the front of the grid looked like a forest of saplings made it sink in that the fat fast flat crit rider was going to embarrass himself very quickly.

In better news Little P almost won his race. He was kicking butt. Everyone was cheering him on and he was making a bee-line for me at the finish and then suddenly swerved at the last minute into the crowd. He then spent the next 45 minutes crying that he wasn’t allowed to finish riding the whole course, that he didn’t win, and that he might have hurt someone else or their bike. He didn’t even want his 3rd place medal.

Well….he has as much hardware as I have now.

Next up – vacation. 1 week spent in Gulf Shores, AL again. Yay. After this it’s Superweek. I have already signed up for Blue Island (2 races), Elgin (2 races), Arlington Heights (2 races), and Bensenville (2 races). Still thinking about Evanston for 1 race.

Then it’s the Chicago crit….maybe a Soldiers field race… just doesn’t end.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kid again

I rode last night. My plan was to recon an upcoming course. Little did I know that Noah was in town and God was try to wash the sinners from the streets. The downpour was intense.

...but I had planned on riding.

When it rains like that you just have to embrace it. The initial getting wet is the only part that really sucks. The part that always gets me is when the shoes finally fill with water.

While riding I noticed everyone was kind of giddy. A few even mentioned it. Something was different. We were like kids on our bikes riding around the neighborhood on a school night waiting for that moment when your mom yells out the door that it's time to come in. Only this time we knew it would be our wives, kids, or boss who would call.

Everytime around it was the same. "another loop?" "Sure. Why not."

It was one of the slowest rides I have done all year. I had a blast.

I love riding my bike.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sherman....I heard he destroyed a bunch of stuff?

When you wake up at 4am to make a bike race but have a hard time getting up at 6am for work...that's when you know you're a roadie. Saturday marked just such an occassion. For the first time we 'burbers had to wake at the butt crack of dawn to slog our way into the city for a race. I had heard so many people complain about the neighborhood that the Sherman Park crit was in that I anticipated the worst. I was sadly disappointed. It was fine.

That same kind of talk kept a lot of people away from the Lansing cyclocross race last fall too. That's just sad. Oh well.

Under the calming blue flash of the light on top of the security camera I parked my car and began the process of pre-race routine - pick up my number, BS with everyone I see, engage in nervous chit-chat, visit the facilities about 5 times, suit up, pre-ride, discuss tactics doomed to failure in the heat of the moment, warm up, tell everyone I suck and am not ready, and then toe the line.

The Sherman Park Crit was a race put on by xXx. That would be the black and white armada of Chicago cycling. Pretty much in every race its usually xXx and everyone else. This being their race, in the city, etc it was fair to guess the fields would be slanted their way in terms of sheer numbers. How does of 50% of the field sound. Yup. *sigh* Thank God there are some pretty cool guys on the team. :)

Our 5's toe'd the line looking like the crew out of Resevoir DOgs.

We like to refer to ourselves as the fatest team in Chicago racing.

We watched the 5's rollout and then went to continue warming up. We got back in time to see TQ win in the sprint as I was putting my wheels in the pit. 2 wins and a 2nd in his last 3 races. Nice.

After that we rolled up. This was Joel's first USAC race as a 4. It was him, Riccio and myself. I was feeling VERY strong. Haven't been that confident in a while. As we were lined up we got a safety lecture in typical xXx fashion. ;) It was a memorial race as well so we all took a moment of silence. I remember reading about the guy it was for when he died at Matteson last year. I took that time to think about my coworker who was killed while riding a few years back. That's when the rain started falling.

Fast, flat, no-corner crit protected from most of the wind....and it's KNEW there was going to be a wreck. We started out pretty gingerly. Nothing major. The pace of the race was really fairly easy for most of it but it became a race of position. As water started to pool and rooster tails started throwing sand and mud on you each lap got a little more dicey, a little colder, and a little faster.

I found I kept getting boxed in on the inside. I was always on someone's wheel when they popped and started floating back. It sucked. I had the juice but couldn't turn it loose. A couple of times I thought of attacking just so I could ride at my pace, but I knew that was suicide on this course.

I saw Joel wanting to jump on a few moves. I told him before the race to sit in. Nothing was going to get away. He knew that already but his instinct is to pounce. I yelled his name once when I saw him move for the kill and he sat up. The move came back a few seconds later too. I don't really like giving Joel advice much anymore because only he knows what he can and can't do...and right now there isn't much he can't do. I just get frustrated when I see him waste energy he doesn't need to waste...and yet it hasn't affected his riding yet.

Due to poor positioning I was always about 5 riders behind Joel. Riccio was always behind or next to me as well. I saw Joel sit up and start coasting back. As soon as the rain started to really dump on us the flats started. Joel had one. I floated back with him to talk to him. He looked ready to throw in the towell. I told him to get to the pit, take a lap and use my wheels - I brought them for the team. I said I would pace him back up....

....yeah....fog of race there. It took me a bit to realize that with a free lap he didn't need pacing back up. Now I was OTB for no good reason. Ooops. I quickly chased back on and was fine. I yelled to our guys in the crowd that Joel had a flat in hopes they would watch over him in the pit and yell advice if he needed it.

Next thing I knew he was back in the mix. Mission accomplished.

After that I found that I was getting covered in sand. Especially in my eyes. It was horrible. I couldn't see crap. At times your were riding by feel. You could sense where the other riders were and just tried to maintain your position with respect to them. We could have ridden off the course and into the lake and no one would have stopped it. The yelling slowed as everyone got colder and more miserable.

I got sick of my position and finally got a couple of good looks outside as the pace finally picked up. I used it as an opportunity to ride to the front. I would get on Joel's wheel and then next thing you know I would be back in the middle of the pack again. Suck.

I finally heard "2 to go" as we came over the line. Up to then I couldn't see the cards - wasn't looking honestly - and couldn't see my timer. i was shocked that was all we had left. I had the gas so now I was looking for position. I didn't want to push anything in these conditions so I was kind of waiting for some opportunities.

As we came around - heading towards the line to take the bell it happened. It was a chain reaction. Two guys pinched each other out. They hit and the sound of them hitting set it off. It was like everyone was waiting for the wreck to happen so when they heard it they freaked, hit the breaks, and all hell broke loose.

I have found that when I get into these situations I have this weird sixth sense that allows me to get through. I don't think much about it my body just does stuff. I made it all the way through everything - and it was ugly. I was thinking I was going over the bars for sure. I was just about clear when a rider on the ground slid into my line. I rode up and over the bike t-boning his chainring with my front tire. *PSSSSSsssssss*!! SUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKK!

I was out for sure. No injuries - for that I was happy. I surveyed the mass of bodies on the deck. The yelling, swearing, walking wounded, bike throwing, etc. I almost wanted to laugh at how serious some of us cat 4's take this stuff. It's bike racing. I yelled, "everyone who can get up - do it and get off the course. they'll be coming through again. Fast." I then thought I could get back into it because I had wheels in the pit. I rode my flat clincher (don't ask) all the way back. Before hitting the pit I realized that on the bell lap that pit was going to be closed. Oh well. Turns out joel had taken my front wheel anyway.

"Is the wheel pit still open?"

"Sunnuva..." - check out the flat front...

Riccio came in after me. Covered in head to toe in mulch and mud. he looked like he had just stepped out of Paris-Roubaix. Turns out he went cyclocrossing and was clear until the last second when someone smacked him at full speed from behind. Then he hit a tree. Ouch.

We were able to watch the end from the pit. We looked up in time to see Joel outsprint Slim_77 for the win. NIIIIIIiiice. Joel won't be long for the 4's. I told him when he started he was only going to be limited by the time he was able to put into this sport. I still stand by that.

So....we won both of the first races. I was registered for the Masters but honestly I felt like I had already pressed my luck and torn up enough equipment. I was anxious to head home and kiss the family. The two winners hit the town and lit up my phone with drunk text messages all night. You lightweights.

Still....we're the working man's team. The fatest team in Chicago racing. ...can't wait until cross.

-pictures from Mark Keller

Monday, June 8, 2009

Winfield Take 2 - Little P teaches me a lesson...

You know you're a sick roadie when you wake up, see the horrible weather report and your first thought is "YES! Maybe the field will be a little smaller!" Then it dawns on you that the fast guys are just as serious as you and will still be there to tear your legs off...only now you'll also be wet.

The rain held off.

TQ placed second after messing up and pulling on the way down the straight. #2 jumped and TQ reacted too late.'s bike racing.

Our 4's crew was still busy licking our wounds from the day before. Every conversation make ample use of the word "suck". "We sucked yesterday." "That hill sucked!" "RR, when I followed your wheel up that hill all I was thinking was man this sucks." "I couldn't even outsprint Lund at the line...triple suck!"

I warmed up actually. It made a big difference. Right before the race little P showed up with his nana and grandpa. They were coming for his race later. They just happened to make my race. As far as little P was concerned though there was a bounce house and nothing else.

Race went about as expected. I have lost my aggression. I just find I am too concerned about burning too many matches too early so I don't shoot gaps to move up early enough and find I am swinging on the back. In racing if you aren't moving up then you're being passed. It's that simple. It becomes a self feeding frenzy where the pace picks up as a result.

I was climbing OK but kept getting jammed up in the corner. Never carried enough speed through no matter what line I took and found myself working when I should have been resting. sprint for me. I picked up a few at the end but I was OTB on the final straight. Better than the day before but enough to make me decide it's time to pay attention again. I can't just go out and ride once a week and then expect to race well.

Then it was little P's race. He was racing in the 4 and under category. He's 3 so half of his cat was older than him. He was woefully undergeared on his trike. No worries about passing rollout. One kid had a wheel so big he could cover the course they had laid out for them in 3 pedal strokes. He also looked like he was 7. f'n sandbaggers....

Little P was excited. I was amazed at how into it he really was. I figured they would start the race and he'd be all looking around at everyone and I would have to be coaxing him down the course. Instead I had to hold him back until they started.

They had to race down to Snoopy. Try explaining what Snoopy is to a 3 yr old who has been raised on Dora, Diego, Blue, Bob and Jack. He gave me a big WTF look. "The dude at the end dressed up in a white costume that is supposed to look like a giant dog" - we have recognition....

At the start he pealed out. His cadence was....3 yr-old kind of high. We initially got a hole shot but quickly lost advantage due to gearing. He was soon dead last and I started to think of ways I could keep him interested in the sport after coming in DFL. Then the rider in front of him stopped cold and started crying. "GO! P! GO! YOU ATTACK WHEN A RIDER CRACKS!" - he responded with a burst of speed.

The crying sandbagger came back around and quickly passed P again only to crack again a few feet further. This only served to get me going more. Little P just kept cruising along on his trike.

3rd was his. There was a quick moment of hesitation at the line as he sized up the poor dude in the dog suit debating whether he was good or evil. Then he kept going.

I told him the race was over. He kept going. He said, "NOOOOOoo!! No it's not!" I turned him when he reached the cops blocking the road - just before he made it into oncoming traffic. I pointed him into turn 1. He took off.

I tried to coax him into stopping all down the second short straight. By the time we reached turn 2 it dawned on me that he was on a mission. He was riding the whole course. I figured he would give up on the hill but he didn't. He just kept riding. I walked along behind him raising my hand as riders approached while warming up.

I had to put my hand on the seat on the hill to keep him from going backwards when he stalled but he would always come back and motor on. He took a quick breather at the top and then started the descent. After a couple of wrecks - you saw that pavement....try doing it at speed on a 12" tricycle - I picked him up. He was beat.

By the time we made it back to the gazebo they were calling his name for his medal. He took 3rd after all. He insisted on sitting on my lap on the podium but did raise his hands in triumph upon presentation - jersey zipped and all.

In the end he taught me that it's not that Psimets suck at's that we just need longer races.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


OK so I didn't wrap everything up. I have been uber busy the last couple of weeks. Building a TON of custom wheels. I am importing some hubs from Taiwan and will be importing some carbon 50mm rims too. Both full carbon clinchers as well as tubulars. Full custom hub, spoke and lacing options for you as well. Pricing will be pretty nice as well.

ANYWAY...instead of going back to cover everything I missed let me just say Joel has done well lately. 2nd at monsters, 4th at wheels on willy, won all 3 races at Matteson, and took second at Wonder Lake. He finally was upgraded as well.

Bryan won in the 5's at the Masters Weekend races. We also took 1st in the 40+. Wonder Lake was a boatload of 'meh' for me. I did something like 16th in the cat 4 race and then I flatted in the 4/5 race. Got back in with Joel's wheel but it was a 9 speed. Shifting was OK for most of the gears except the last couple meaning I couldn't sprint. I got 26th of something like that.

I only rode on Tuesday this week. I rode pretty easy too. I have been putting weight back on - rather fat back on. I am the same weight but not working out in the gym and not running has left my form pretty weak. I decided I have been racing pretty solid though and that I should be able to do something today as long as I made myself be aggressive.

So...I got to Winfield late. Got registered and dressed and on the trainer for about 15-20 minutes of warmup. Most I think I have ever done. Wilke set me up with a video camera on my bike to record the race. I didn't pre-ride the course. Always a mistake, but I figured it wouldn't be a big deal this time.

I got to watch Tim win the 5's race. That's another podium for Bicycle Heaven. it's getting crazy. I am the weak link now for sure. We actually had 5 guys in the 4's race. It was a shock. I was finally not racing alone.

Right off the start I got a jump. Again. Never mean to but just end up in front. I held back enough to end up on RR's wheel. Next thing I know we were on a "hill". I heard there was one on the course. RR nailed it. I followed. That hill was long. A lot longer than I thought it was. I opened my bank account and drained it on that first lap without even realizing it.

The downhill was awesome fast. My kind of fast. Corners at 27-30mph. Hells yes.

RR and I were done on the second lap - on the hill. From there we were dropped and just riding around. Everyone was serious fast right off the bat. It took me about 1/2 of the race before I started to get into a groove. At that point I started picking people up.

Wanna know what it felt like? Check this out:

Picture from J-Dub at peloton-pix

That one is going on the mantle.

Sad race for me. I got lapped. That hasn't happend since last year. Don't know what the deal was. Everyone exploded though. It was like everyone went the speed of a normal Chicago style crit but they put some sort of Wisconsin hill in there and we were too stupid to slow down on it like the cheeseheads do.

They placed me 26th or something - getting me confused in the finish I think. meh. Tomorrow is more of the same. Different course. My body does better after a beating. I think I have more in me. We'll see.

After the race the family took in a Cougars game. My father-in-law's business has been doing well and he got a luxury box to share with the whole family and company. Little P enjoyed the show.