Thursday, July 16, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

All of the things.

Whoa, it's March already. Time flies when you're having fun, and I've been having a lot of fun. I've been meaning to do a proper update for a while, but I kept putting it off for a few reasons. First, there are exciting new things in the works (read: a proper website). Secondly, I've got a writing gig now with I want to save the good stuff for them. That's only logical, right? That means that what you're getting here is just the quick and dirty update for my real followers.

Speaking of my Velonews journals, if you haven't already found them, here they are:

There have also been a few articles about me, which is always exciting.

I'm amused anytime I'm asked for an interview, because what do I have to say that could be interesting? But if people want to know what's going on inside my head, I'm happy to share. I'm also cracked up by how much attention my appreciation of the Oxford comma has received. I included that tidbit in my twitter bio long ago simply as a joke because I was rattling off a long list of things I like. And, well, I do like that little comma. I also do not claim to be a grammar expert, but I do make an effort.

Now then, time to get caught up.

Tour Down Under was great; I really enjoyed getting to race on a new continent. Riding on the left side of the road was bizarre, but I especially couldn't get used to the race caravan on the left. I was nearly pulled off my bike the first time I went back for bottles because I'd never experienced that force on the left side before. We didn't win any stages in the TDU, but we did walk away with Marcel's win in the People's Choice Classic...the hardest hour on a bike in my life. My average and max HR for the crit were only 8bpm separated, and my max was the highest I've seen in over a year.  The racing all week was hard, the field was strong and motivated, and I left with a good boost in fitness after struggling post-flu.

Dubai Tour was another fun one. Just the culture alone was interesting to see. I was ogling every exotic car that passed by, but by the end of the week they were all blurring together. Oh, look, another Bentley/Lamborghini/Ferrari/younameit. The racing was also an adjustment, as there is no terrain besides overpasses until you get way out there. The hardest adjustment was racing in a field with only a few ProTour teams. TDU was a field full of guys who knew how to handle themselves in a peloton. They can be crazy, but they're at least predictably so. Many of the racers in Dubai were just crazy. You simply never knew when they would do something stupid.

Stage 3 of Dubai will be my lasting memory--that's what a perfect team effort looks like, and John certainly knows how to seal a deal. We narrowly missed out on winning the whole thing, which is always disappointing, but there are much bigger things to come.

Next up was the Vuelta a Murcia, another fun one. I made the 12-man selection over the first climb at 15km into the race when things went nuts, but the move was a bit too dangerous for its own good and was chased back eventually. I didn't have quite enough left to get over the top of the double-cat-1 climb with the lead group, but an exciting descent saw me rejoin them at the bottom. In the group of 40, it was just me and Daan, and I used the last of my legs to set him up for the finishing climb. The finish would've been good for me, had I not spent my legs in the early move. That's racing, though.

My last race was the Tour du Haut Var in France, a 2-day stage race featuring a pair of tough rolling/climbing stages. No major climbs, but plenty of intermediate ones all day long. The first day was cold and raining the whole day. I wasn't so excited about that, but you can't always race in sunny Australia or Dubai. Once I got over being wet, I did have a lot of fun. The race and the rain meant that we had to be focused all day long, so it flew by. I got to be a protected rider for the weekend, which was an adjustment--most of all when it came time to sprint at the end. Protecting someone else going into a sprint is something I'm very good at, but positioning myself at the end after my teammates have all done their work...I'm a bit rusty. As such, I was a bit too timid, letting others dictate the race and then I got caught up by a leadout rider who had dropped anchor. A missed opportunity there, but I was encouraged by my legs.

A moment from the race:
"How are you feeling, Chad?"
"Good, I think. I can't feel my legs, but I'm not breathing hard. I guess I'm okay!"

Stage 2 was even tougher, but nice and sunny all day. After an hour of constant attacks, a large break got away and we settled in to an uncomfortable pace as AG2R set about chasing them. Our guys focused their effort on delivering me and Luka into the final climb fresh and at the front, and they're certainly the best in the business: I started the climb second wheel. 8 painful minutes later, the field was down to 15 riders. We would be joined by 10 more in the few kilometers before the finish. I was covering the dangerous attacks, but AG2R and BMC were keeping things under control. Luka chased back to our group with just 3k to go and told me he didn't have the legs left to sprint.

I moved up next to Luka as we got around the last turn with 1200m remaining. Somehow I knew that a sprinter's legs would perk up under the flamme rouge... "Wait," he said, then one hundred meters later, "Okay, Chad, go!" So I steadily ramped it up to move him the final 10 places into a perfect position to sprint. The final K was false-flat downhill, so at nearly 60kph I held him next to Gilbert until he could secure Gilbert's wheel, at which point I slid in behind the BMC rider driving us to the finish. I had just a tiny bit of energy left and my legs were twinging, hinting at cramps on the way. I was suprised at how fast the finish was coming up. The BMC rider started to fade, so I opened up my sprint just as 3 sprinters came blowing past. As I faded back, I watched Luka get boxed in, work his way to an opening on the right, and then kick again to take a handy win over Gilbert.

As I write this, I have one day left of a short training camp in Spain. It's been nice to train with teammates, but I can't say it's been the most successful week for me...I caught some sort of stomach bug that has tried to keep me down for a few days. Nothing to keep me from training for more than a day, though. I also got my first crash of the year out of the way with an entirely new experience: being literally blown off the road. Our group was slightly echeloned on an already windy day up in the mountains. I was at the back of the group, just left of the center of the small road when we were slammed by a gust of wind so hard that all we could do was get low, lean hard into it, and hope our front wheels stayed on the ground while we all moved a meter to the left. When the next gust hit, I didn't have another meter of road. So I ended up in the ditch, flipping over a thorn-filled hedge. No damage to report besides some scratches, thankfully.

In other news, I've settled into a little apartment in the heart of Girona with Carter Jones. I'm finding Spanish living to be more my speed so far, aided in part by the 4 years of high school Spanish that are slowly coming back. The community of pro cyclists (Americans especially) is huge, so there's always somebody available for a ride or dinner on those rare occasions I crave human interaction. Most importantly, I've already bought a keyboard for my cramped room. I think it's a magic piano, as it looked so small in the store that I had to double-check that it had all 88 keys. But when I got it into my little room, it suddenly became a full grand. Magic, I say! Between reading, writing, piano, skype calls with my girlfriend, training, racing, cooking, eating, and sleeping, my days stay pretty full.

Consider yourselves up to date! Here's a picture:
Watching Luka bring it home

Monday, November 17, 2014

Knobby tires, swinging hammers, and trainer time.

Well, I've made it through the first week of training for 2015!

My off-season went by way too fast, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I got to spend a few days with my parents in Texas before returning to Colorado where I had barely parked the car before I was on my mountain bike. My skills re-acquisition could have gone a bit smoother, leaving me with some minor scrapes and bruises, but hey, it's mountain biking. The good news is that my skills were sharp before we hit the road for Moab, one of the most famous mountain biking locations in the world. Our merry crew was filled with collegiate teammates from years past, and we enjoyed the scenery and incredible riding. For those wondering, we made sure to use our 3-days of riding well, hitting Slickrock, Klondike Bluffs, and Porcupine Rim. 29ers all-around, and most of us on hardtails. It was punishing at times, but a ton of fun.

Trying to look tough

Slickrock is nothing but an enormous sandpaper rollercoaster!

Pick a line, any line
 After another few days of trails in Colorado, Shane and I were on a plane bound for California, where we'd board a bus and drive to Mexico for my second house build. Of all the opportunities that cycling has given me, these builds are my favorite. This weekend was on my calendar before last year's build was even finished, and I knew that I had to bring Shane along this time. You can read Shane's take on the incredible trip here. The weekend ended far too soon after many friendships and memories were made, and I can't wait to go back. And there's no substitute for the perspective and thankfulness gained on a trip like that.
Hanging drywall with Tanner Foust
Our build team with the family
Shane and I returned to Colorado as Snowpocalypse 2014 hit and ended up spending the night in a hotel room just 60 miles from home after driving for 2 hours without even reaching the ring-road around Denver. After getting back to Colorado Springs the next morning just as the next snow storm started, I kicked off my 2015 season with a ride on the trainer. Then I spent the next 5 days on the trainer, too. You know it's bad when you actually go through the trouble of putting on the trainer tire. That's accepting that you won't be outside for a while!

As un-enjoyable as all that trainer time was, I got through it with relative ease with this thought: I just helped a family in Tijuana with nothing build a house, and they were so thankful. Can I really complain that I'm being paid to ride my bike inside for a week?

The first week of training is always a big adjustment, though. Mentally, it's getting back in the routine of training. There's also the readjustment of eating like a professional athlete again, moving away from the off-season indulgences. The most difficult adaption is physical, however. After a three-day block of riding, lifting weights, and running, I was moving really slow. I felt weak on the bike, fighting off the fear that I'll never regain the fitness I once had. But I've been here before and know that I just have to push through the first week. Sure enough, by the end of the week I was riding 30w higher and 10bpm lower. Training at this time of year is addictive for me because the gains come so quickly and easily. I'm so excited for next year!

Thanksgiving is coming up, and I have so much to be thankful for. I get paid to do what I love and see the world in the process. I get to meet incredible people and call them friends after a weekend spent building a house for a family in desperate need. I'm thankful for the time I get to spend with friends and family before I leave the country in 7 short weeks. Today, specifically, I'm thankful that my dad gets to celebrate his 55th birthday. He's riding a tumultuous rollercoaster, still fighting his cancer for the third time. The doctors can barely agree on what to do with him, as he's in uncharted territory. He is the cutting edge of treatment, as it is a rare patient that gets to the five-year mark. My dad is a rare one, though, and we Hagas are fighters like you wouldn't believe!

That's all for now, I hope you can all enjoy time with family next week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Winding down

My last race of the season was two weeks ago, which is hard to believe. I was considering not even posting anything about it, but changed my mind because I’ve written about every race so far this year and wanted to finish it off.

Milano-Torino was my first road race in Italy, and my first since the Vuelta. At a 1.HC ranking, that meant that there would be several continental teams racing. The race was almost completely flat for 170km, then featured two trips up a nearly 20min climb to finish. The plan was for Daan and I to save it for the finish, while the others were free to go in the break.

The race started (albeit a bit behind schedule because of protesters whose cause I couldn’t quite figure out….it involved a tractor in the road, though) and I realized just what a Grand Tour does for your legs. Attacks were constantly going for over 30km, and I was effortlessly floating in the bubble. I was watching many of the attacking riders burn themselves out after several failed attempts to escape, whereas it felt like I had no chain on my bike. Granted, I wasn’t attacking, but I had grown accustomed to it taking 400w to just hold the wheel for the first hour of a bike race.

After the break finally got away, we were in for a long ride before things got exciting again. The fight going into the climb the first time was a big one, and it highlighted the progress I’ve made this year. What should have been a straightforward positioning battle turned dirty when the Tinkoff team hooked the whole field three times on a straight road. It was a fast run-in and they couldn’t hold the speed required to hold off the waves trying to roll over them. As a wave was coming up the side, they abruptly swung to the other side of the road to shut it down. It’s irresponsible and dangerous, and it caused chaos behind. Out of anger and determination to give myself the best chance for a result in my last race of the year, I did what I needed to do and started the climb with Daan and Thomas in the first 20 riders.

In the end, I was unable to get a result, but I’m happy with my race. How can that be? Well, that climb was the furthest thing from suiting me as it could possibly be. I’m a time trial climber, meaning I like to settle into my rhythm and gradually increase the pace all the way up. That climb was steep and pitchy, meaning there was no rhythm to be had, and we started it with a 2 minute sprint. Even despite all this, I barely missed making the select front group of 30 riders over the top. Part of that was due to not knowing the climb. I had one big effort left to get over the top, but with the climb constantly changing pitch I used it too soon and then got hit with another steep section.

I spent the few rolling kilometers at the top in a chase group, knowing that we were steadily losing time. I couldn’t ride the front the whole time, but we were losing time in every turn. I wasn’t taking risks on the damp-at-times road, but if the next turn looks like a possible u-turn, do yourself a favor and set up on the outside, eh?

Anyways, after a disjointed chase effort and doing the final climb at a manageable pace, we only finished 4 minutes down. If I had only made the front group the first time up….

My feeling about my race only improved when I downloaded the power data from the race. It’s a good thing I had the power on my SRM covered up, as my head would have exploded the first time up. After 170km of racing, I started the climb off with a 2-minute power record. Then I kept going and matched my 5-minute record. Then I kept going and set a new 10-minute record. Then I kept going and almost matched my 15- and 20-minute records. All on a climb that didn’t suit me.

So while I failed to get a result, I’m happy with my last race of the year. I needed to start the climb at the front, and I did. I didn’t make the front group over the climb, but I posted some ridiculous power numbers doing so. The only time I ever set power records late in the year was in 2012, after my season prematurely ended in July with double hand surgery. To be setting records in October after such a heavy race season and go into the off-season without being in desperate need of rest, well, that can only mean good things are on the way in 2015!

After learning that I was definitely not going to Beijing, I decided to go into the off-season with one final crazy ride. I’m going to live in Girona next year, but there were still a couple of destinations around here I hadn’t hit yet. The weather deep in the mountains was no good, so I was headed South to Volterra. Wanting a real challenge, though, I made it a ride to remember: 200 miles (325km). I was on cruise control from sun-up to sun-down, finishing the ride in 10:15, plus 45 minutes of rest from stops for water, pastries, and a bit of sight-seeing in Volterra. It was an awesome ride, my longest by a huge margin. My first 6, 7, and 8000kJ ride, finishing at nearly 9000kJ. And I wasn’t dead at the end!

The best part is that I awoke the next day fresh and ready to go again. Life as a stage racer, I guess. After a couple days of rest, I went for a run. Almost 5k in 20 minutes. I was sore after that! Since then, I’ve gone running a few more times, and have adjusted well. I know I’ll be doing some trail running and playing soccer in the weeks to come, so this transition will help prevent injury.

Today is my last day in Lucca, and I’ll be home in less than a week! Just a handful of days with the team for sponsor meetings and getting set up for next year, and then I get to see my family again!

I’ll conclude with a treat for the data dorks out there: a picture of my CTL for the 2014 season (starting in November). In layman’s terms, this is the level of fatigue I went through from training and racing. You can see the steady build and rest periods in the first third, becoming more saw-toothed as racing starts. Catalunya, my first WorldTour race, appears just before the middle of the graph. After Circuit de la Sarthe, and I had a bit of rest, which is followed by the triple peaks of California, Belgium, and Dauphine. Then begins the long slide of my summer break, which is followed by camp in the French Alps and Vuelta a Burgos. Finally, the real purpose of this graphic: that is what a Grand Tour looks like. It’s no joke!

I wish you all a happy end to 2014! I'll be bouncing around visiting friends and family, playing in the dirt on my mountain bike, and helping build another house in Mexico before getting back to work for 2015.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

An American in Europe

Before moving to Europe this year, the sum total of my time on this continent was 3 weeks. If that was dipping my toe in the water, this year could only be described as jumping into the deep end of Euro-life. In 2014, I have spent only 40 days in the US.

As my time over here this year winds down and I become increasingly homesick, I’ve thought about all that I will and won’t miss from this side of the pond. I made a list of everything that is quintessentially American—seemingly insignificant facets of the country I grew up in, but that I find myself missing now.

It is likely no surprise that the thing I miss most from the homeland is food. Not just American food, but food in America. Want Thai food at 6pm? Got a sudden hankering for pancakes in the afternoon? Can’t decide if you want Italian, Mexican, Chinese, or juicy steak? In America, you just find a strip-mall with all of the above restaurants at whatever time the mood strikes and go for it.

I have dozens of incredible Italian restaurants just a short walk from my apartment. I could eat myself into a pizza-and-pasta coma (but only after 7pm) any day of the week without visiting the same place twice. It doesn’t matter what I’m in the mood for, I’m having Italian for dinner. Variety is the spice of life, but the spice rack over here has just basil and oregano. Thankfully, mercifully, the supermarket has a few racks of imported foods that give me a taste of home. Of course the prices are premium, but BBQ sauce and Thai sweet chili sauce go a long way when it comes to sanity. Side note: Italian grocery stores have pasta AISLES. Plural.

Speaking of, I will never understand Europe’s widespread avoidance of condiments. It only seems logical that your sandwich of awesome bread, great meat, and tasty cheese would be well-complemented by some spicy chipotle sauce, but maybe that’s just my typical American decadence speaking?

Just because the supermarket has imported foods, though, doesn’t mean they’ll be good. I have left the Mexican rack alone--I can’t even see the expiration dates on the salsa because they’re so dust-covered. Maybe I’ll crack in another week, though.

I celebrated the end of my season with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (they actually have it, and it only costs as much as a pizza!), which is how I learned not to buy American ice cream in Italy. It’s been sitting there so long that it crystallized from so many thaw/freeze cycles of being moved from freezer to freezer while awaiting a particularly homesick bike racer.

Say you’re going out for dinner in Europe. You can sit inside, but it’s a lovely fall evening and the weather is fantastic. Of course you’d like to dine outside, and why shouldn’t you? Oh, right, because your dinner might be ruined by the smoky intermingling of cigarettes and two-stroke scooter exhaust.
I miss America, where cigarette smokers are the rightfully vilified minority (I may be a bit biased on this topic, as their disgusting habit is why I must preempt any judgment on my Dad’s cancer with the oft-repeated “no, he never smoked”), rather than the behind-the-times majority who can’t be bothered to account for the wind’s direction or the sensibilities of other humans. Side note: I hate few things in life as much as somebody having a smoke upwind of me while watching me warm up for a time trial. It happens way too often.

In America, your dinner is accompanied by unlimited free water in a glass that is filled to the brim with ice cubes, even though the AC in the restaurant is cranked to ‘Arctic’. You finish dinner and drive to your hotel in your big SUV that would lose its mirrors driving through any of the small villages around Italy, and lay in your oversized hotel bed while flipping through the myriad TV channels, all of which feature the original audio track rather than the dubbed-over versions that dominate European media. Your phone is charging while you watch How To Train Your Dragon for the third time (because you only caught the second half the first two times), because you don’t have to choose between recharging your phone and watching TV, as the hotel room has 37 outlets to meet your electricity needs from any location. The movie finishes and it only takes 2 seconds to check your email because the internet in America moves faster than a door-busting shopper on Black Friday. Caught up on email, you feel like taking a shower before bed.

You wouldn’t think it would be such a big deal, but I really miss American showers. Showers that make sense. American showers are big enough to bend down and shave my legs without banging my head into the door or bumping into the handle and turning the water to freezing cold. European showers that actually have a door are just small vertical tubes that Americans who find themselves on the right side of the waist-size bell curve would vehemently protest.

Odds are, however, that the shower is one of the open-air bathtubs with the plastic divider as a half-hearted attempt at keeping the water in the tub. If the shower head is actually high enough to stand under without bending over, it’s assuredly one of those adjustable-height numbers that is worn out and constantly slides down while rotating to spray the wall instead. The lukewarm water, in the short time that it sprays you before returning to the wall, fails to combat the cold air attacking you from all sides, as the absence of a door or shower curtain allows any warming water vapor to escape. 

Dissatisfying shower completed, you go to step out, but realize that you forgot the floormat on the other side of the bathroom. Now you nearly bust your head because every European shower is a foot (that’s right, an American measurement) above the floor, so you must awkwardly step down onto a surface covered in water because that little plastic divider works about as well as a mesh umbrella.

And that’s just the AVERAGE European shower. I’ve seen some truly baffling ones this year. At our altitude camp in the French alps, I spent 3 weeks trying to figure out how I was supposed to use the shower. I have an engineering degree and was confounded by a shower. The plastic divider reached no further beyond the slanted back of the tub, with the faucet at the other end, where the mount for the shower head was at waist height. I found that if I took my showers sitting down while holding the shower head with the water barely flowing, I could limit spillage to just what the towel could absorb.

In America, you can go out in public without considering your future restroom needs, as nobody is going to charge you for a visit to the Water Closet. I have never paid to use a toilet out of principle--my American pride would rather suffer a bladder fit to burst than pay for the privilege of using a public toilet!

I hope you enjoyed my tirade. I really do enjoy Europe and its culture, and my litany of trivial gripes will be quickly forgotten after an evening of watching real football while eating a big juicy burger at home. I’m counting down the days!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Post-Vuelta thoughts, Worlds TTT, and more

I realize that the World Championships TTT was the better part of a week ago, but cut me some slack! I think I broke the blogging world record by posting 24 times in as many days. 15,000 words while racing a Grand Tour.

Speaking of, I’ve got some final thoughts about the Vuelta, now that I’ve had some time to digest it. First, I still can barely grasp the significance of what I/we accomplished. My longest bike race ever was 10 days and it was far from the level of the Vuelta, and it destroyed me (with the aid of a nasty South-American bacteria, to be fair). My longest WorldTour race was 8 days. So it was a reasonable expectation that I would be able to contribute for the first half of the Vuelta before shifting into survival mode. I and my coaches anticipated finishing the Vuelta with the ability to do nothing more than curl up in bed until the end-of-season team meeting, which is why I’m only a reserve rider for most of the post-Vuelta races.

But that’s not what happened. Thanks to a lot of hard work on my part and the careful training/racing schedule planned out by my coaches and trainers, my legs did much more than survive their first GT, and I’m pleased as punch about it. We fought as a team for every chance we had and came out with a staggering 4 stage wins, very nearly getting 3 more. I have to say that the last 200m of stage 4 was my happiest moment on a bike ever. There are only a few times in my life I’ve had the thought “we’re going to win this bike race, ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it,” and that was one of them.

There’s also something that those outside of bike racing usually don’t consider, and that’s all the extra bike riding we do. What, isn’t a GT enough? 10km of neutral before every road stage adds up! Plus all the riding to/from sign in, and the ride to the bus after the finish. The race was officially 3232km(1995mi), but over 23 days I accumulated 3677km(2270mi). I covered that distance in 103 hours, 10 hours more than my GC time.

Like I said, we thought I’d be dead after the Vuelta, so I was only a reserve rider for Worlds TTT. But then John had to be hospitalized for an infection and I got the callup. Every TTT I do just makes me love the event that much more. I’m a perfectionist, and the TTT is an event in which perfection pays huge dividends. I also find it to be the most exciting/terrifying event because of the skill required. We were rolling at 60kph for the first 15 minutes of the race. We’re going crazy fast, nowhere near the brakes, and each of us only able to see the wheel in front of us. To recover at all at those speeds, you have to fully commit to the wheel and trust that the guy 5 bikes ahead of you will pick a good line and that the director in your ear will warn you of dangers with enough time to do something about it.

The TTT is also one of the most painful events. Unlike a long TT, where you can just dial up the pain to a sustainable level and hold it there, the TTT is an hour-long over/under interval. In the first 15 minutes, on the flat ground, I was doing nearly 550W on the front for close to 30 seconds (I kept forgetting to look at the timer when I started my pulls and went too long). Then I swung off, soft-pedaled for 5 seconds, then sprinted to get back on. Then I had 2 minutes at 300W before I had to do it again. And that was the easy part of the course. Then we reached the hills.

I was really in the hurt locker for 10 minutes before the top of the climb, but I was pleased to have made it into the final 4. Our efforts were rewarded with the top-10 placing that we were seeking. We’re constantly getting better, which bodes well for the future!

The TTT was my first race with Marcel—I hadn’t even seen him since the first week of January—so it was nice to get to know each other.  I still haven’t done a race with Tom Veelers or Bert de Becker (although I got to know Tom well at camp). That’s how big the team is, there are guys that I haven’t seen all year!

I still have at least one race remaining, so there’s still some training to be done to maintain my form. I mentally can’t do intervals anymore, and even just telling myself that I’m going training cracks me a bit. So yesterday I covered up the power and went for a bike ride. When I’m supposed to go hard, I’ll just chase some Strava KOMs.

Want to know what a GT does to your legs? I can’t go easy anymore! It’s either 150 or 300W all day, I can’t find the in-between. 300W is just cruising speed now, nearly nose-breathing. Also, 21 days of WorldTour racing is a lot of speedwork, and now 90rpm feels like grinding.

So, I’ve got at least one race remaining—Milan-Torino, plus I’m reserve for a few others. I’m hoping to get bumped up, though. I’ve got good legs at the end of the season for the first time ever, and want to use them. Also, I’m not going home until after the team meeting in October, and racing makes time go by much faster!

I said in an interview earlier this year that, as riders, our job is to race our bikes and leave the team management to those in the office. We can’t be stressing about sponsorship issues if we hope to perform well, and our team office rewarded that trust by securing a new major sponsor, Alpecin, for the coming years. Sponsorship stability is such a big deal in this sport! I also love that the sponsor of the team with the rider most synonymous with fantastic hair (and Marcel, too) is a shampoo company.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 21: Done. And. Dusted!

Just a short report today, for a short stage.

We got a lap of the course in this morning. Once again, the course profile was incredibly misleading. If they tried to present that profile to an engineering professor, they’d be very disappointed in their grade. Scale, scale, scale!

What looked like a fairly flat course was actually either up or down with very little flat in between. What was obvious, though, is that the possibility of rain would seriously affect the outcome on the technical course.

Warming up for TT’s is the most bizarre part of bike racing for me. The best part of riding bikes is actually moving, so I naturally hate trainers. But there I am, pedaling and going nowhere. While I’m coming to terms with the necessity of this misery, there are complete strangers just arm’s length away looking at me and taking pictures like I’m a zoo animal, and all I can do is just pretend that they aren’t there.

After 3 weeks of racing, I don’t have much left in me, so I certainly didn’t want to leave my best effort on the trainer. I opted for a longer, easier warmup instead.

All was good until I got to the start house and it started to rain. I immediately reached over and lowered my tire pressure. On that course, it was impossible for a wet time to come close to the top of the leaderboard, but I gave it my best try anyways.

I didn’t take crazy risks, but I definitely pushed the tires at times. I wanted to have a more steady effort, but with the rain, I was just sprinting from corner to corner. By the time I was through the corner, I was recovered and ready to sprint again.

In the end, I finished 1’04” down on the winning time. I actually had a really good ride with good power numbers, and I’m pleased with my ride technically. Among everybody who raced in the rain, I finished quite near the top, so I can’t be too disappointed.  I did everything under my control perfectly, but there’s nothing I could do about the weather. Oh well!

But then Wawa had the ride he needed to hold on to 8th on GC, and John won the points competition! 4 wins, a top-10 on GC, and the Green Jersey?! I’m scared that the bar has been set unreasonably high for all future Grand Tours!

And just like that, it’s over. It’s going to feel really weird for the next few days, I think, as I adjust to life outside of this bike race again. Nothing important has happened while I’ve been away, right?