29th April 2008
Lots of updating to do on the cycling side! First of all, Brian’s back to riding his nice, fast yellow Trek Madone. Amazingly, after several phone calls between the bike shop and the Trek factory, Trek offered to give Brian a new frame FOR FREE! Yipee! That’s $1100 that we don’t have to pay. I tell ya, if I ever have anything to say about it, Brian won’t ride anything but Treks from here on out 🙂 We are so thankful!
This past week, Brian was gearing up for the big Athens Twilight race. The main event is a 9pm pro/elite race that is CRAZY fast and furious and full of crashes in downtown, just blocks from the University of Georgia. Many of the downtown restaurants on the 2 block course set up beer gardens, there’s live music playing, and -I’m not exaggerating – there are 30,000 fans lining the course cheering. It’s unlike any other race. Last year’s race was highly eventful, as Brian got caught in 3 crashes, before his bike was too damaged to continue.
Brian upgraded to category 1 status at the end of last season, and that was supposed to help him gain entry into some of these elite level races. But for some reason, the "big" races have become even harder to get into. The Athens race was labeled as a Pro/Elite race, and when Brian contacted the race director, he was told that he could register later, after the pro teams had signed up. He kept calling and kept getting put off. The contact he had assured him that he was probably going to get into the race, so that’s all we planned for. Until Thursday of last week, he got word that he couldn’t register for the big race. It was so frustrating. He registered for the category 1/2/3 race, which had a qualifying race in the morning and a finals race in the late afternoon. Still a good race, but not the Main Event and not with the big names he’d been looking forward to riding with. He heard from a couple people that they were going to see if they could get him into the evening pro race, but we went up there planning for the other races.
So he raced the morning race, and got into a break of 7. It was a tough uphill sprint finish, and he got 5th. In the afternoon finals race, it was on the crazy fast downtown course with like 100 riders. He stayed at the front most of the race, and finished 12th. Pretty good! I’ll post his race report at the bottom.
But a bunch of people made some phone calls, Brian got moved to the front of the list, and just before the finals race, he got word that he was 1 of 3 people they were adding to the pro race! Unbeknownst to us, the pro race had actually filled up to the race capacity of 150 riders, and more than 250 riders had wanted to race. Brian knew the right people in the right places to make it happen!
So after already racing more than an hour and a half, he started the pro race, at the absolute back of the 150 rider field… I’ll just post his thoughts below…
Three keys moments that stand out to me:
1. During the amateur finals race, I heard a crash in Turn 4 somewhere behind me that sounded bad. Keep in mind how turn 4 works, you go screaming through it and then you come really close to the outer barriers. The memory that is most vivid to me is hearing several people in the crowd only a foot or so away making this sort of cringing “oh” sound right in my ear and another saying “did you see that?” It just made me realize that racing in front of those crowds is like being a gladiator where “the kill” is the crash.
2. Also in turn 4, but this time during the pro race, I was approaching the corner and I saw a couple guys go down in the corner. I had already committed to the outside and there were riders on my right so I knew I had to stop. I slammed on my brakes thinking that I had plenty of room to stop. Then as my rear tire skidded and as I got closer and closer to the guy laying on the ground, I knew that there wasn’t enough room to stop so at the last minute I just veered left, hunched over to the left and plowed into the barrier knocking it back into some people in the crowd. It was crazy – you don’t realize how fast you are going until you try to stop.
3. This last “vivid memory highlight” was in turn 2 and was very reminiscent of last year’s crash that brought the race to a halt. I guess it didn’t take as many people down so they didn’t have to stop the race this year. I was still near the back of the race slowly working my way up passing riders each time up the hill. This time fortunately, I wasn’t killing it through that corner to swing wide and pass people so I actually had time to stop. The vivid memory I have is seeing a bike literally flying up into the air, bodies rolling on the ground and people crashing. Miraculously I didn’t go down, but it was funny where I ended up — with my front wheel touching a barrier and the rear wheel of a rider down in front of me and also with several riders down to my right and several stopped behind me. I looked back at a Texas roadhouse rider who was stopped behind me, and said OK that was close enough for me, where do we get our free lap?
“Vivid memory #3”, unfortunately, was also the beginning of the end of the pro-race for me even though I didn’t know it at the time. Apparently, in the mayhem I had dropped a bottle either in that crash or the one where I went into the barrier. I got back into the race no problem and was doing great, passing people on the hill, thinking this is great I just need to move up some more and I’ll finish. People were gapping all the time or sitting up and I had to jump around them and catch on. But each time I was doing fine. I could feel my legs tightening up a bit so I knew I needed to drink more. I drank whenever I could – usually on the downhill just before turn 3. Then on about lap 30 of the 80 lap race, I was about out of Gatorade so I reached to switch the bottles and lo and behold I didn’t have a second bottle on my bike! With a very sinking feeling, I knew that the only way to finish the race would be to count on all the pre-race hydration I had been doing. It wasn’t enough though. About 8 or 9 laps later just under the halfway point, my upper legs locked up with both sides cramping at the same time and I couldn’t even pedal. That was it. Pulled out just past the beer garden on the hill. I’m happy that my fitness is there and one of these years everything is going to come together and I am going to get a top 10 finish in that race!
Earlier in the day the greenway race was a fun one albeit the hardest race I have done this year (even harder than the pro race!). I went with the break that launched itself after the second corner on the first lap. When that got caught, I covered another short break that got caught as I pulled through. Then the real break (a Toshiba-Santo rider) went on the next lap on the downhill before the first corner, and I couldn’t go with it. Fortunately, I was sitting on the wheel of Chris Butler (Hincapie U23 Development) when he attacked to bridge up. I tucked and held on as tight as I could to his draft and he dragged me almost all the way up. I had to take one pull on the hill and we made it up to the Toshiba rider. The guys I was in the break with just kept on killing it. Even though I was hurting pretty bad I was afraid not to pull for fear that they would attack out of the break and I would get dropped. So I would roll through whenever I could but I definitely skipped some pulls when I simply couldn’t go fast enough to get around the guy who just pulled off the front. My average heart rate for the race was 182 bpm (see below) — keep in mind that my Zone 5 starts at 175! For the finals race, my average HR was 171, and then for the pro race, it was only 169.
The HR data for the morning amateur qualifers race:
HR Data for the afternoon amateur finals race:
HR Data for the evening pro race (the Main Event):