Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 Reflection

Going into the 2009 season, I was very excited for many reasons; the first being I was going to be at the top of my age group and also I would have five other teammates to race with, all of whom were very strong and smart riders. Two thousand and nine looked very bright and full of gold medals for Team Specialized Racing Juniors. Both the 15/16 and 17/18 teams would have the numbers and talent to control and dominate the local races. 2009 was also a year of learning many valuable lessons.

In September I had surgery to remove the plate and screws that were in my femur. As a result, my winter training started a bit later, however, my leg is now 100% healed and I was able to put that injury behind me.

Come February the race season was here! Like always, I started my racing season with the first NCNCA Junior Points Series race, Cherry Pie. This year they made a change to the course, they added a chicane at the bottom of the hill. Even before the race, many were not in favor of this addition to the course and some would be even more opposed after the race. With 56 competitors, this was a large field for a Northern California junior race, which meant crashes were bound to happen. James, Chris and I went down in a crash in the lovely chicane and Marcus was taken out with less than a lap to go. James, Chris and I were more fortunate than Marcus was, because the worst that happened to us was a DNF placing for a race, where as Marcus ended up with a broken arm. This did not stop the team from victory. A fine example of teamwork was demonstrated when Joel towed Peter up to a break and David was able to catch on. Peter was able to win the sprint and David was the only 15/16 in the break giving him the victory for the 15/16 race and a 4th place overall. Besides the crashes, Cherry Pie showed good signs for Team Specialized Racing Juniors. Lessons were learned, and probably the most obvious one for Cherry Pie was not to ride in the back of the pack.

Two weeks later it was time for the Merco criterium. Known as a fast race, it was also one of the earliest and coldest races of the year with a 7:30am start time. However, Peter, Joel, James and I were able to fire up our engines and show how a team works together. The race started with many attacks and every time there was a big white S in the break following the attack or attacking. Nothing was going to get away without at least one of us in it! About half way through the race, James and two other riders were able to get away and stay away. That left Joel, Peter and myself to control the pack, and boy we did. One of us followed every attack and not one single rider was able to bridge up to the break. As a result of our teamwork, the break was able to get a big enough gap to lap of the field with one lap to go! This lead to the positive result in that James one the race, but both Joel and I, both of which race often on the track, did not think about what happens when the field is lapped. No one in the field sprinted and the race was over. Lesson learned.

However, the true test of our strength and ability to work as a team had not been fully tested because our goals were to dominate national races and to win those races. In April, we had our first chance to dominate a national race, Sea Otter. Looked at by USA Cycling, Sea Otter has been an important junior race for many years. Not only are the courses challenging, but also many people from across the country come in for the race. The first of the two races was the circuit race. This year was the first time I have ever done this race. Previously something had always interfered with it, but this year the calendar was clear! One of the best things about the race is the Laguna Seca racecourse. Known for the corkscrew decent, the racecourse is very well known and I had raced it countless times on Gran Turismo for Playstation. I had also seen the course on my favourite (spelling dedicated to the nationality of the show) TV show Top Gear (http://www.topgear.com/uk/videos/nsx-v-playstation.) However, racing a bike on this course was very different from driving an animated car or watching someone else driving a car around it. The first big difference was the hill. On the bike, the hill hurt like heck! However, every time up one of us Specialized boys put our nose in the wind and controlled the pace up to the top of the hill. However, in the sprint we were unable to dominate and bring home a win. This was disappointing but we fought hard. We would strike back with the wrath of the gods in the road race! The road race was longer, harder, and hot as he-double hockey sticks. However, this proved to be good for us. Early in the race, Yuma Koishi (San Jose Bicycle Club) and I broke away. My loyal teammates controlled the field and Allistar was able to bridge up to Yuma and me. However, Allistar kept the pace high on the main climb and I said so long farewell, auf weidersehen good-bye (wait this is not The Sound of Music) this left Yuma and Allistar in the lead, me about a minute and a half behind them and then the pack. Yuma had a wheel problem and I was able to pass him before neutral support reached him. After changing wheels Yuma was able to reel me in, but when we hit the hill, he was dead and I was able to ride away from him. Allistar finished first, me second and Yuma third. The teamwork definitely paid off!
My legs continued to operate correctly the next weekend at Wente road race and criterium. The race stayed together until the second time up the finishing climb when the field completely blew up! There was even a little mushroom cloud. I was dropped and went into chase mode. Allistar was the only one with the leaders. I was able to ride back up to the leader about three fifths away around the course. However, I did not sit up; I just rode right by them. They all got on my wheel so I sat up. There was a little bit of attacking, but nothing got away. We then formed a pace line and when we passed the start line and went under an overpass, I pulled through and I do not know how but I had a gap. This was not the first time this had happened (three years ago at the district road race, the same exact thing happened but I did not step on the gas and I ended up getting caught very easily) and I had learned my lesson from the first time, so I hit the gas hard and did not look back. I was able to get a good gap thanks to teammates controlling the pace in the pack, but not blocking. When I hit the finishing hill, it was as if I hit a wall. I lost quite a bit of speed and a group of strong and fast riders were reeling me in. I dug deep and went as hard as I could. Thankfully, I was able to cross the finish line first, but only about two seconds ahead of Bjorn Fox (Above Category Racing.) Teamwork was definitely a big factor in this race once again. The next day in the crit, we almost had a full team, and Specialized dominated, but we had some mistakes … okay I made a very big, ├╝ber mistake at least I guess they consider working at the front when you have a teammate off the front a bad thing; who knew? (for those who do not get the sarcasm, I realize I was being a horrible teammate.) Moving on, Peter was off the front for ever and then some more, but was caught and with two laps to go, I became an eagle or bought a bagel, aka attacked and when I came around to the front stretch I heard Mr. Ruggy Holloway, the master himself, yelling at me to go faster or something along those lines (I guess oxygen deprivation makes it harder to remember what people said hehe) I shifted to a harder gear and really started to go into the pain cave. The last lap felt like one of the longest laps ever! However, I held my lead off until the finish line and was able to take the win. We went one, two, three in the 15/16 race and Mr. Peter, I’ll just ride a majority of the race off the front Taylor, sprinted in for first place in the 17/18 race.

May brought the team’s second chance to race at a national level at Edgar Soto Classic in Nashville Tennessee. Not only was this the world championship qualifiers for the 17/18 and the winner of the 15/16 would be guaranteed a spot on the Belgium team. Obviously, there was a lot at stake for this race. The race was divided up into two days and scored as an omnium. The first day was the time trial and the course felt good after the pre-ride. It was an out and back course with a steady uphill on the way up with two little descents. I rode to a fourth place, Marcus and David both placed in the top ten too. However, the road race was going to be a hard race. Not only was the course very difficult, but the competition was VERY fast, but we were too! The race was very hard with somebody always attacking when we hit a hill. The field ended up breaking up. David suffered a flat within the first five kilometers and was out of the race. Marcus and I were able to stay with the leaders until part of the last lap. I finished 6th and Marcus 7th. All of us were had a good fitness level, but needed to get faster if we wanted to do well at nationals.
In July, Track Nationals came and I was ready. Along with Joel, I traveled down to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Ca to the ADT Track for the second year in a row. This is the only wood track in the USA besides the track in Bolder, Colorado. I was registered for the team sprint, and 15/16 omnium, which consisted of a sprint tournament, scratch race, points race, and five hundred meter time trial. The main highlight was my points race. I rode away from the pack and was later joined by two other riders. We lapped the field and I won my first at national race! (video can be viewed here: part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ai7yY06CBo and part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9t7a9-uiO0&feature=related) Three weeks later was road nationals in Bend, Oregon. Unfortunately I did not have as much luck there. In the road race I had a flat and the wheel change took over a minute for a front wheel. I was unable to chase back to the field and my race was over. In the time trial I rode to an eleventh place.
After nationals I did a couple of Cal Cup races in an effort to earn upgrade points, this did not go as well as I had thought, but it could have been worse. However, in September I had the chance of a lifetime to go train in Colorado and stay in at the Olympic Training Center for part of the ten days. I was allowed to attend a national junior Madison camp! Another bonus was Larry was attending as one of the coaches. At the camp I learned a ton! The Madison is a very complicated race and a very popular one on the international level. The camp was also a blast! It was fun training and learning with people I usually only see once or twice a year. This was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Overall, 2009 was a good year, but it could have been better. Without the support of the team sponsors, many of the things that made the year would not have happened! Their support is priceless, to me at least. I am very thankful to all of them for their support and time. I am also very thankful for my excellent teammates. It gives me great pleasure to say I suit up in the same kit as all of you guys. Your support means a lot to me and I greatly appreciate your help at races and hope my support and help is beneficial to you too! I am very excited for 2010, and all of the opportunities that open up and look forward to an excellent season!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

--Andrew Lanier, II

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