Thursday, March 28, 2013


Well, I'm back in Colorado after a successful trip to Portugal! I'm just gonna give you snippets of observations and experiences from the trip, and many photos. Enjoy!

I had a blast racing over there and the country was great. The food was delicious, and every town we stopped in (or bounced through on cobbled streets) was beautiful, and the general public loves to watch bike racing.

The language was hard to understand--written Portuguese looks fairly similar to Spanish, so I was able to discern many of the words. Spoken, though, the language sounds like a German or Dutch imitating Spanish. More than a few times, the language barrier had us scrambling to communicate, and we found ourselves speaking broken Spanish in the hopes that maybe it would work. It didn't.

Trans-Atlantic flights are long, but they go a lot faster when your personal TV works. The Life of Pi was a great movie.

We didn't get to do a ton of touristy stuff, but a few of our easy rides found us duck-walking through castles in our bike shoes. Castles are awesome! The castle at Marvao (the location of the stage 1 finish) was built in the 9th century.

Some of these photos were stolen from Tom and Jesse.
Cobbled streets led us to the castle along the route of our first race

We had some fun with the iPhone 5's panorama feature
The basilicas in Fatima had many skanks and no trumpets!
A cool road...we're looking at the Marvao castle in the distance
Cool castle is cool. 
Coolest ride I've ever done
We were definitely waterlogged that day
So devastated. 
Just another day at the office.
Here are the race summaries I posted on facebook, along with the videos of each stage.  For some more photos, check out the cyclingnews article about the trip.
Today was our first race here in Portugal, my first in Europe. As I understand it, the race was part of Portugal's national race calendar, but not a UCI race. 171km with 3 categorized climbs towards the end. The racing was awesome. Very aggressive, constant attacking for almost the whole day. I was in several moves, including one big one that stayed away for a while. Then Salas got away on the first climb in a small group and didn't come back until after the second climb. We prerode the finishing circuit yesterday, so we knew the climb and the run-in to the finish well. The last time up the climb, just 6km from the finish, I gave it a go but could not get clear, so we reverted to our field sprint plan. It was crazy and chaotic, and our train got broken up. With just two turns to go, gaps were opening and a few riders were slipping away. I saw Ken was about to jump to close the gap, so I took a run up his inside with 2 turns to go and he slid in behind me. With him on my wheel, I jumped into the u-turn with 700m to go and sprinted out of the turn, getting him to the small group ahead of us with about 400m to go. He moved over behind them as I dropped anchor, then dusted them in the sprint for the win. When I say dusted, I mean they posted the results with a time gap between him and 2nd place. In summary, Portugal is awesome, and bike racing is quite fun.
My legs were great today. Going into the cat 3 climb at 150k in, Jesse and i got caught up in a stupid crash caused by others. I got going again faster than him, and was able to make it back to the group. Then I wasted a little bit of energy following moves up the climb. Hit the final climb in good position, had really snappy legs and was on anything that moved. One guy slipped away while I was boxed in, and the group spent a lot of time looking at each other. With a bit more than a k to go, I attacked and was clawed back. I recovered a little, and with 500m to go hit it again, getting clear. I blasted past the last two from the all-day break and closed the leader to 15m in the final switchback as the road leveled off with 150m to go. I didn't have the snap to kick again, and was passed in the final meters by 2 guys. Had I waited just a little longer to attack, that race would've been mine. Live to fight another day....

Getting closer.... Crosswinds today made for an active and feisty field, with lots of groups coming and going. At 85k in, I managed to slip into a 10-man break. The winds gave us the advantage as the field splintered behind us. We worked well together until guys started to fade. With 10k to go, we still had over a minute lead. Inside 2k, I followed the first attack, then countered in the gutter going into a roundabout, which opened gaps like I hoped. Only 1 guy followed, and it turned out to be the one guy I knew I couldn't outsprint, Stuyven from bontrager. We were committed, though, and he out kicked me in the finale. I've moved into 2nd in GC, and the real fun starts as the weather turns for the worst. Yeehaw!

Today's stage was exciting and boring at the same time. 20 minutes before the start, we were huddled in the van as waves of pea-sized hail rained down. Then the sun came out, although we were rained on a few times during the race. Being 2nd on GC (and wearing the points jersey) meant I was to stay protected in the field all day. There were several very fast sections with mild crosswinds, so the 11-tooth got a lot of time today. The break didn't get away until 120k in, and we slowed to a crawl for half an hour. The guys kept me out of the wind, though, and I averaged 134bpm for the whole day. The last 20k were downhill with a tailwind, so you can imagine how much fun I was having while fighting to stay at the front at 70kph. Our leadout train assembled, but was swarmed with 3k to go and then it became a fight for survival as the road plunged on a technical descent into town. Ken freelanced it, taking the win like a boss and I came in 20th or so after closing gaps the last 2k to get same time on the stage.

50 deg and raining hard at the start of today's stage. We embro'd up and rolled out for a thorough soaking. It dumped rain on us for 60k, and nothing interesting happened until we reached a town with a raised railroad crossing at a very oblique angle. Guys went down everywhere, and I managed to slow significantly and alter my approach, but still ended up on the ground. Not sure what happened, maybe somebody's bike hit my wheel. No big deal, jumped up and rejoined the field. Mild winds excited the field as we changed directions frequently along the coast, but we stayed together. Then after the final sprint of the day, Zirbel and Zwiz attacked together on a tailwind false flat climb and the Portuguese teams whose race-losing tactics have baffled us since our arrival let them go. just let two big TT guys roll away with 15k downhill to the finish.... Spoiler : they would never come back. At the top, the field started gearing up for the sprint and we took control of the front to stay out of trouble. Thankfully the roads were dry by this point. We kept the pace high but under control, and the other teams let us. About 4k out, I heard the giant pileup that would whittle the field down to 40 riders. We delivered Ken (and ourselves) safely to the beginning of the technical descent into town. Rather than fight for position, I floated the turns, taking good lines and avoiding the multiple crashes. Sandy final turns persuaded Ken to call it a day--we already had the victory--and I finished same time with the group while Zirbel moved way up on GC. Tomorrow's stage is short but tough, I can't wait!

In today's final stage of Volta ao Alentejo, we went all in to try and seize the overall from the Bontrager team. The circuit featured a fast cat4 climb that we would do 4 times. The guys were attacking from the gun, keeping constant pressure on bontrager to chase. 20k in, we assembled on the front before a good crosswind stretch that we checked out before the start. After making the turn, we put it in the gutter and went full gas for nearly 10 minutes, knocking the field down to about 50-60 riders. From that point on, nobody really want to race besides us. Our guys continued to flog themselves, but bontrager held strong. The 4th time up the climb, we put in a team attack to launch me. Unfortunately nobody followed, so we adjusted the plan to go for the stage win with me. I flatted with 30k remaining, motor pacing back up to the caravan. Because of a couple of flats and exhaustion, I only had Salas helping me into the base of the climb. Once it pitched up 2k from the finish, I was on my own in the scrum. I forced myself to stay patient and allow the other racers to pull back the little attacks as we twisted upward. The final turn was a 500m to go. The front of the race came back together just before the turn. I was 10th wheel, had momentum as the road flattened out temporarily, and the inside line was open. I'd had enough patience and didn't want to leave it to a group sprint because there were still better sprinters than me in the group. I jumped hard up the inside, just making it past the leader before he dove into the corner. I took it hot, coming out of the turn with a 10m gap and stretching it. 300m to go, one rider caught me and started to go by. I slid in behind him, and he exploded. So I jumped again, desperate for the finish to arrive. I just kept sprinting, checking between my legs and seeing a wheel back there, but not getting any closer. So I kept sprinting, still leading. 50m to go, I refused to slow down. Then 20m before the line, an orange blur (I was crosseyed by this point) came by me. I actually found the breath to scream "Nooo!" I was caught so off guard. I nearly fell off my bike after I crossed the line. So I wrapped up my euro debut with two 2nds, a 4th, and 2nd in GC in a UCI stage race, hungry for more.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Checking in and catching up

I can't believe I busted my hands up over 7 months ago. A lot has happened since then....

Hands busted on July 18. Crazy expensive surgery on July 20...thank you, insurance + parents!

In the following weeks, I watched way too much Olympic coverage. But the Olympics weren't on all day, so I watched way too much TV...including all of Breaking Bad, Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, etc. I was in a low place and couldn't do much besides lay there. I had permission to ride the TT bike on the trainer (not putting weight on my hands). I had multiple days of preparing for a trainer session, climbing on, then climbing down after 2 pedals strokes because, well, what's the point?

To beat me down further, I watched my team race the Tour of Utah online--a race I was supposed to be in--while learning that my efforts in 2012 helped the team secure a start in the TTT World Championships.

...and that concludes the depressing part of this post.

Just a week after the surgery, they removed the big casts and fitted me with more functional splints. I definitely got light-headed when I saw the pins in my thumb...
The day after getting my new splints, I was flying with my parents to Colorado to get my truck out of airport parking and help with the already-planned move to Colorado Springs. We were probably the least useful moving crew ever. I had two busted hands, my dad's back is delicate, and my mom is a tiny woman. Nonetheless, my dad and I did much more than we should have (while being as smart as possible about it--for instance, I had been off painkillers entirely for days, so I knew instantly if I did something my thumb didn't like).

We got the move completed, with most of the thanks due to Ian's overworked back, then drove back to Texas.

Just before my 24th birthday, the doc told me I could stop wearing my wrist brace, resume driving, and pulled the pins from my thumb along with trimming down the splint. The icing on the cake was the permission to ride outside again with my splint.

With that news, I concluded my month of couch potatoing and returned to Colorado. I was riding my TT bike almost exclusively because it was the most comfortable, and helped Creed train for the TTT championships with what little form I had remaining.

As my thumb became stronger again, I started doing epic road rides and just enjoying the fall weather. Of course, my injury had happened right as I was coming into form again, so I picked up where I left off and started getting really fast again just chasing Strava segments around the Springs. Because I had nothing else to focus on, I worked hard at eating really well....and lost 5 lbs. I got down to 158lbs, the lowest I've been in years. It's tough to lose the weight during race season with all the traveling and eating out, but now I know how to do it. As a result, I was in the climbing form of my life.

I was finally cleared to race in mid-October, and I kicked things off with two weekends of cross racing. I did both days of the USGP in Fort Collins, actually doing pretty well even though my skills weren't too sharp and I had a lot of hair getting in my way.

Then I spent a weekend with my Grandma, racing in Oklahoma, where my extended family got to watch me race for the first time (and they saw me win!). My parents even came up to see me race, which they haven't been able to do for a long time. I had my own personal photographer that weekend--I was glad to see my Dad out playing with his camera again!

Then I got an awesome new mountain bike and hung up the road bike entirely for a month while I played around. I jumped on the hardtail 29 train and never looked back.

Then I rested up even more leading into Thanksgiving, when I kicked off base training for the new season. I piled on the miles, rested a week over Christmas when snow covered North Texas, and then piled the miles on again. Between Thanksgiving and Feb 1st, I rode 3500 miles (and dropped a little more weight), a personal best by a long shot.

After another week of rest, I headed off to California for team camp, where I saw just how much faster I can go uphill without carrying around a little extra weight. The big test for me, though, was the time trial day, when I would see whether I'd actually lost any power while slimming down. Survey says...nope.
Climbing the brutal Deer Creek Canyon on camp-champ day
To make camp even better, I got to spend the last day at the San Diego wind tunnel with HED aerodynamics guru Dino, fine-tuning my time-trial position. It was a rare opportunity for the bike racer and engineer in me to both come out and play. Anemometers, strain gauges, CdA, yaw angles, testing protocols...I was right at home.

Dino adjusted my TT position significantly last year to an already-fast position, so our time in the tunnel went very quickly as we made small adjustments to find the perfect position. They sent me home with discs of data, photos, and video, including this cool one with all the different angles... Keep in mind, this was only the 6th test, the position just got faster from here.

On a related note, I stumbled upon an old photo of me time-trialing in 2010. I was pushing so much wind back then!

As aero as a brick compared to my position now
After a week back in Colorado after camp, in which I had to ride my cross bike in the snow on multiple occasions, I was off again to the Merco Classic. The TXBRA racer in me couldn't believe I didn't start my season until March, but that's life now. I definitely was fighting some demons at the start of the first stage (and throughout the race for that matter). My last race had ended, ah, poorly, and I was finally getting back on the horse 7 months later. I had to yell at myself to get out of my own head and race my bike. Then I jumped into the race-winning break.

The time trial there was my first in my new position, and I loved it. Zirbel and I both went significantly faster this year than last, and again were separated by only tenths of a second. Nobody could beat Ben Jacques Maynes that day, though, but I was happy with my performance all weekend considering it was my first race of the year! I ended up finishing the race in 3rd overall, a good start to the year.

And now, I look forward to an awesome year of racing. There has been a lot of hype around me, including cyclingnews and velonews articles, but I'm just too excited and thankful to be healthy and on good form to think much about those.

In just two more days, I'm leaving the country for a 10-day trip to Portugal, my long-awaited European debut! Stay tuned....