Thursday, June 30, 2011
Six laps of the Canadian Masters Time Trial course in the two days prior to the race and you'd think you had it pretty much dialed in. Think again.
With my finish in last year's championship, I was the last man to start in this year's race. If my memory serves me right (I'm on the road so don't have the results at hand), and at my age that's always questionable, the man starting a minute in front of me today finished 11 seconds slower than me last year but that was after I dropped my chain shifting to the small ring on the last hill on the course so 11 seconds isn't really apples to apples. Nonetheless, I had a great carrot in today's race.
It was a 21.5 kilometer loop with five corners, I caught him with 3 dead straight kilometers to go and decided to bury it from there, perhaps a little far out to give it absolutely everything. At the 1k to go sign I remembered an intersection. I took a quick peek and noticed a course marshal flailing his arms, especially the one holding an orange flag. Totally asphyxiated and seeing stars, my reasoning abilities weren't at their best but for some reason the orange flag caught my attention and I sat up. With the reasoning capacity of an intelligent door knob at that point, the best I could figure was he wanted me to turn right.
Now in the six training laps in the prior two days, never once did the course turn right here, it was dead straight to the finish line. Why the hell did he want me to turn right??? As I braked and started my turn, I yelled at him "which way do I go?" With a surprised look, he yelled "go straight, go straight!"
Correcting my turn to get back on course, I destroyed myself to the finish line but was deeply puzzled by what just happened. I started to convince myself that it didn't matter because I still finished in front of my minute man and no way would anyone best his time?
Cooling down I saw a course marshal that looked like the guy with the orange flag, surely he wasn't an identical twin. I asked what happened out there? He apologized and said he was waving at the cars to make sure they didn't enter the course and assumed no rider would be paying attention to a course marshal, especially with 1k to go. Darn, my survival instincts got the better of me. At least my wife and daughters can draw comfort from that notion.
Well, to make a long story longer, here I sit in my Maple Leaf jersey, Canadian Time Trial Champion in the Masters 50 to 59 category, a mere 1.33 seconds faster than the second place finisher. Being the winner, I can forget about the man with the orange flag. Had I lost by 1.33 seconds, it would have haunted me to my dying day. Every second counts.
Before I sign off, I have to give a big shout out to my man John Hunt. A year ago at this time, after years of trying, he finally convinced me to come and see him so he could get me in a better position on the time trial bike. I finally listened and after he made some major changes, I now have two National Time Trial jerseys. Oh yeah, he just had surgery on Monday to repair a hip he broke a few years ago. Thanks John and here's to a speedy recovery!
Monday, June 27, 2011
My whole season has come down to this one moment, Nationals. All of my hard work and training leads up to these races. It is a test of strength, ability, and knowledge. You are racing with many junior racers you have never seen before, everyone is a threat. You hope and assume that your coach has brought you to the highest peak so you will be at top form at Nationals. This is how I view Nationals, my 2011 Nats were bittersweet, but my encounters unavoidable.
It was bright and early and my group (17/18) were 1st up. The humid air hit all of us as we warmed up on our trainers and rollers and even with ice on our backs, we were still melting. I got out on course and felt good compared to most TT's that I've done. I ended up placing 34th out 108 riders and I was satisfied enough with that result considering that I got there a day before.
The criterium was the next day and I was the guy for everyone to work for in the 50km race. It was fast from the start; as expected and it was hard to move up. We had guys follow all sorts of attacks but nothing was getting away or getting more than 10 seconds. Unfortunately, an attack went in the closing laps and we missed it. We started to set up for a field sprint, so I had Jeff Perrin help me move up into position for the sprint (he crashed bad earlier in the crit and still managed to help lead me out). Hot Tubes came up right before turn 3 and I jumped on their train and sprinted to a 6th place overall (3rd in field).
We had a rest day before the road race but it was still an early start at 8am. It was only 95km long but it was sure to be a tough race. We were up there in almost every big attack and it looked to be a field sprint with only 10 miles to go. That is until 2 guys got up the road and I realized it was a Hot Tubes guy and nobody was chasing. I attacked out of the group through a small hole where only few could fit through and was able to bridge solo right away. We worked together for 4 miles or so but that's when I realized I couldn't keep doing those kinds of pulls if I wanted to win a National Championship. I took a short pull and got yelled at; I took a pull off completely to catch my breath and really got yelled at. Eventually, the non-Hot Tubes rider kept riding and the Hot Tubes rider sat on me while I was waiting for just to pull through so that I can catch my breath but instead he attacked me to bridge back up to the other rider. I didn't have the jump at the time and went onto time trial mode trying to chase them back. I was averaging 28-30mph trying to catch back up to them but I just stayed at 10 seconds behind then. The field was also charging hard, trying to catch the lonely 2 up the road and myself trying to chase. There's a hill that lasts for 600 meters in the last 1.2km and at 800 meters to the line I got caught by the field and my chances at podium and top 3 and possibly winning were over. Marcus went on to finish strong for 8th place.
Overall, it was a good trip for the team as Jack Maddux won his TT in his age group (13/14) and we had a couple other podiums. I would like to thank all the parents that came out and put their time and hard-earned money to let us race our bikes to have the chance to win a National Championship. I would especially want to thank Darryl and Tania Smoth as the adults for the house I was in as they everything organized and everything was smooth. I also want to thank Larry, Wyatt, Steve, Fred, all of our sponsors, and anyone else who contributed to this amazing trip and experience. I'm looking forward to returning to Augusta next year for U23 Nationals!
Thank you for reading.
(written at Augusta Regional Airport)
Monday, June 13, 2011
Ten days away from the start of the 2011 USA Cycling Junior Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia. Fourteen teammates in total and we’re highlighting our 5th athlete in this blog.
Dean Haas (racing age 17), hometown: Lakewood, CO, 1st year with Team Specialized
Dean caught everyone’s attention when he pulled in the fastest climbs at the USA Cycling National Camp in October 2010. USA Cycling coaches use these two tests to gauge a riders development and to peg them with a power to weight ratio (at this one a point in time). Thankfully Dean had already caught the attention of Team Specialized masters teammate Billy Innes while Billy was directing the USA Cycling National Team in Belgium during the summer of 2010. We invited Dean to join our team. He's been a solid addition to our squad.
Similar to a professional team our juniors may not have a teammate to ride and race with. Unfortunately, Dean is about a thousand miles away from his teammates. This fact tests the motivation of a teammate and forces one to change and adapt to new routines. Think about that for a minute. Would you put in as many miles as you do today if your favorite ride or best friend just wasn’t there for you? Would you start up a new ride? Move on to new friends?
Dean spent a little over two weeks racing in Europe in May 2011 with the USA Cycling National Program and learned just how passionate (and fast) the Europeans are. It’s been fun for me to see his confidence and drive return. I'm confident that he’ll be a threat in the road race and criterium in Augusta.
Good luck in Augusta Dean Haas! Cheers, Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Director
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Eleven days until the 2011 USA Cycling Junior Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia. Teammate number four of 14 as we count down to the first day of championships.
Matt Valencia (racing age 15), hometown: Los Altos, CA, 2nd year with Team Specialized
Matt Valencia brings a lot of attention to the team, and not always in a good way. Let me explain. Matt is one of the youngest and smallest riders on our team. He races often. Eighty times in 2010 and 37 so far this year. He often races with his category 3 peers, which is to say very few are 15 years old, most are in their twenties. Well, when a junior rider is completely comfortable in the middle of the pack of riders going through tight corners at 30 miles per hour it offends riders that have been trying to perfect these skills for so many years. The truth is, adults don’t mind competing with children, they just don’t want to lose to them!
Thankfully, Matt is gracious when he beats them to the line, as he often does! Matt has enough points to upgrade, he's just waiting for that big win.
For our team, we want to see our juniors get comfortable in large packs of riders, we want them to race often so they gain as much experience as possible and we want the juniors to be gracious when they win, place or get dropped.
Matt is heading to Augusta with a solid confidence. He medaled twice at the 2010 Road Nationals, and is the current Track National Champion. He also has helped to execute perfect teamwork with Diego and Phil. We’re looking forward to the show!
Good luck in Augusta Matt Valencia! Cheers, Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Director
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Twelve days before the 2011 USA Cycling Junior Road Nationals in Augusta, Georgia begin. We’re taking a closer look at the fourteen teammates that make up Team Specialized over the final two weeks leading up to Nationals.
Diego Binatena (racing age 15), hometown: Playa Del Rey, CA
Diego Binatena attended the 2010 USA Cycling West Coast Development and Talent Identification Camp. As the camp manager/ head coach Diego quickly caught my attention. Diego can climb like an angel, and sprint like a demon. This is a powerful combination to take into any event. His time trialing has improved so much over the past year that he is catching the attention of all of his rivals. Seeing his time trialing improve is not a big surprise to us as we witnessed his solo breakaway victory at the Sea Otter road race. That was impressive!
Diego is generally a quite person in a large group. When you get to know Diego you realize how thoughtful and analytical he is. He can replay specific details of the last lap of any event he’s done and is always appreciative of his teammates. In fact, Diego, Phil, Jack and Matt have shown impeccable teamwork when they raced together at Valley of the Sun, San Dimas and Sea Otter.
Team Specialized believes in learning from your race experience. Do a lot of racing and you will gain more experience than one would simply talking about racing. Live the experience. In that regard, we also love to see riders prioritize races. We’ve been working on this with Diego. You see, he wants to win every race he enters! We love that about a rider, but to best prepare for the important races we want to see work on specific skills and tactics in less important races. For Diego it turns out to be a relief because he was putting pressure on himself to win every race. Better to learn a new trick every event and have fun than to be disappointed in losing more than you win (a harsh reality of our sport).
For Nationals we are looking forward to seeing what Philip, Diego and Matt can do against eight Garmin Holowesko teammates and 100 other top USA riders. Sacrifice for the good of the team and the ability to deliver the win are of high importance with our team. We look forward to the show!
Good luck in Augusta Diego Binatena! Cheers, Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Director
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thirteen days until USA Cycling Junior Road Nationals and we’re rotating through the fourteen riders that make up the 2011 Team Specialized junior squad. Youngest to oldest. On to the 15-16’s
Philip O’Donnell (racing age 15), hometown: Suwanee, GA
I met Phil less than an hour after his winning the 2010 USA National Criterium Championship. The team was at the 13-14 year old criterium cheering for Jack Maddux and Matt Valencia. The two put on a show taking 7th and 5th place. We were celebrating over dinner in Bend, Oregon when Matt introduced us to Phil, who had wanted to talk to us about our program and 2011. Team captain Andrew Lanier Junior grilled Phil but he was unfazed and still wanted on the team. Think about that. We have this 23 year old professional and masters program, and a new junior program and this 14 year that has just won his 2nd national championship title of the 2010 Junior Road Championships wants to join out team! Not too long after that meeting we learn that Phil’s mother helped to publish the “Coaching Junior Cyclists” book. Think about that. The O’Donnell’s wrote the book on Junior cycling and they want to join Team Specialized!
Phillip has been a pleasure to work with. Firstly, Phil is highly motivated. Being on Team Specialized can mean that teammates do not live near you. Just like a professional cyclist, the onus is on Phil to stay connected to friends and group rides that will push him to new heights. Secondly, Georgia is a popular place to ride, but the junior numbers are relatively low. Our team asks its juniors to compete with their category peers because the larger field sizes help to prepare the riders for international racing.
On the bike, Phil is a rare “triple threat” in that he can sprint, time trial and climb. He also carries a calm leadership in him that helps to bring out the best qualities in his teammates. Not only has he proven himself in team events at Valley of the Sun, San Dimas and Sea Otter, but he’s been racing with the pros in the south which have helped to get Phil ready for Nationals in his home state of Georgia. Everyone that supports the team wishes you well Phil!
Good luck in Augusta Philip O’Donnell! Cheers, Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Director
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Fourteen days until USA Junior Road Nationals begins. We have fourteen juniors on our squad. One day at a time, I’d like to introduce you to my young teammates and share some of the experiences I have enjoyed with them. I’ll start with our youngest teammate.
Jack Maddux (racing age 14), hometown: Fresno, CA
Jack joined Team Specialized in 2010. His 2nd place in the individual time trial at Junior Nationals in 2009 in the 10-12 age-group caught the attention of our team, but it was Jack that sought us out. After meeting Jack and his family, it was easy to see that taking initiative came naturally to him. I share this with you because reaching for what you want is a strong characteristic common to all good cyclists. Jack’s tenacity on the bike and his willingness to listen and learn from his teammates off the bike is exactly what we are looking for in young recruits.
Jack’s personality helps to define our team. It’s obvious to outsiders that our team works hard and has fun. We can always count on Jack to play both roles. On the bike, Jack has had a dramatic 2011 racing season. He did some cross racing and put in some good base miles in the winter, including long drives to Fremont in January to mentor new racers in the Early Bird Crit Training Series (thank you Maddux family!). At the first race of the year he got caught up in a crash and was banged up internally. If that was not enough, a car broadsided him a few weeks later. He lost his Specialized SL2 and broke the driver’s front windshield! Thankfully, Jack bounces back. Since March, he’s made great strides in his confidence, strength, speed, position in the field and ability to read a race. He’s worked hard with his time trialing, his position on his Specialized Transition and went on to win his third consecutive California state time trial championship.
Good luck in Augusta Jack Maddux! Cheers, Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Director
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The track is different than the road. The bikes have no brakes and you cannot coast. They call it fixed gear. After a couple of sessions of basic training I was given the okay to participate in the nightly group warm up of 40 laps or so. After the warm up we would do various exercises from sprint training to intervals to time trialing and mock races.
Keep in mind I went to the track to improve my sprint but found out the track is really a lot of fun and a great workout. I increased my top-end speed, developed a smoother pedal stroke and improved my bike handling skills. Sure enough with my new found track workouts, I was able to sprint for wins in local races, sometimes with total dominance. Especially for crit racers, there is no better training for the road than racing on the track. Bottom line is, if you ride the road you should ride the track, and if you ride the track you should ride the road. Fast forward to 2011, I’m still training at the track and winning some crits and road races thanks to cross training at the track.
See you at the track….
Monday, June 6, 2011
On Saturday, Marcus Smith raced at Dash for cash by himself in the wet weather and braved himself to a 9th place and earned him $100 for being the 1st U23 accross the line. Congrats Marcus! With nationals coming up soon, it's great to see our strengths starting to come out.
Thank you for reading,
Sunday, June 5, 2011
...the cows, they are so big in Belgium, they MUST be on something…
Now back to what I was originally going to write about, my trip to Europe with the US Junior National team. I set off to Europe on a Monday morning. The travel day went as smoothly and hassle-free as possible. All was good as I arrived in beautiful, sunny, warm Brussels. It even said gullible on the ceiling of the airport! In all seriousness, it was a typical Belgian day, cold, wet and cloudy. I met up with other juniors that had been invited on the trip. Dean Haas, my friend and teammate from Team Specialized, Ben Wolfe from one of the states on the east coast that isn’t New York so I could never remember it, Austin Boswell from a place where they shoot animals to feed themselves (Bend OR), Eric Volotzky from one of those small cities by LA that isn’t LA and where there are always wildfires, and Kristo Jorgenson from that place up north where they grow potatoes (Boise ID).
Now that we know who I spent nearly three weeks living and sleeping with, let me tell you how the actual trip was. Racing in Europe is literally having someone else’s’ handlebars brushing up your hind side and a crash/some kind of traffic furniture/attack/150 guys in front of you at all times. Sounds fun!
The first race we started was “3 Ettapen de Rundfarht”. This was started off with an 8km time trial through a park near Frankfurt. With 3 turnarounds and 5 turns, this sure seemed like a tough little course. I finished around 50th on the day. Not very satisfied, I was greatly looking forward to the next day, a 113km road race with approximately 5,000 feet of climbing. (I must have overlooked the climbing part to be so excited about it). Unfortunately that was not a fantastic day for me either; I got dropped going over the cat. 1 climb around half way through and rolled into the finish with a gruppetto. Now would again be a good time to state that gruppettos are not really easy. In order to make time cut, we non-climbers still have to go pretty hard throughout the remainder of the stage. Now to the final stage, a 100km or so out and back road race with only two cat. 3 climbs, not too bad, except for the rain. By that time, I started to get acclimated to the feeling of racing in Europe I sat pretty well that day and finished with the pack.
The second race we did was “Driedegaase van Axel”. Another 3 day race, this time in Holland, with testing factors such as cobbles, massive crosswinds and extremely narrow roads. Excited about racing in such conditions that would suite my strengths more as a “rouleur”, I readied myself for stage one, a hectic 120 kilometers with six sections of cobblestones, the first one coming just within 8 kilometers of the beginning. I finished in the top 60 on that day, unsatisfied again but it was an improvement. Unfortunately, that day had taken a lot out of me and I never felt as sharp or fresh the remainder of the stages.
In the end I was proud of being able to race at such high level races in Europe and being given the opportunity to do so was exceptional. The amount you are forced to self-teach while racing in such tough, fast and arduous races is second to none. I am able to bring all the knowledge back here to the United States, and with nationals just around the corner, I could not feel anymore ready to succeed. Hopefully I will be given more opportunities to keep moving up in the cycling scene and return to my home continent in the near future.
Finally, I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible and ran it as smooth as possible. Ben Sharp for giving me the opportunity to race in Europe, Viggo (soigneur) for always being there at the races and around the house for just about anything we needed including massages! Aaron Fairley and Andrew Haggerty for being great mechanics and van drivers, and Nicole for making us some incredible meals while we were at the house! At last but not least, I would like to recognize Billy Innes. The amount of work and time he put in the make sure everything went perfectly and all of us need not to worry about a thing was amazing. Even when we ran into trouble that was out of everyone’s control (top secret story, will divulge in return for money) he kept his cool and still managed to get us to the race almost seamlessly.
Thanks for reading!
Junior riders look for early race successes and the opportunity for a selection to the US National Team abroad. Mid-season (now) means District Championships and in a few weeks, Nationals. For masters this is pushed out even further with Districts in June and August, and Nationals in early September followed by Worlds.
Such a racing schedule means it’s nearly impossible to have good, let alone peak, fitness for the duration. Cushing early season races is great for confidence but brings the risk of being too good too early, and flat later in the year when it really counts. Conversely, going out and getting beaten over and over in the season’s opening weeks is as challenging as the hardest workout, and requires an unwavering discipline to keep moving forward without losing motivation.
Over the past couple weeks we’ve seen hard work and patience pay off. The juniors have won District road race, crit and TT championships as well as taken top podium honors at nearly every other race contested. All this bodes well with Nationals just around the corner, where the culmination of fitness, confidence, racing skill and patience will pay off.
-Chris Lyman, masters teammate
I sent a note to the masters encouraging them to share more stories on their racing -and- I gave them an update on the 2011 results: 35 wins for the juniors, 15 wins for the masters. Oh, that must have gotten under their skin because the masters went out and won the P/1/2, M35, M45 and M55 events at the Dunlap time trial today!
Chris Lyman 1st P/1/2 and 1st M35; Craig Roemer 2nd P/1/2 and 1st M45; Kevin Metcalfe 3rd P/1/2 and 2nd M45; Rob Anderson 1st M55.
Add in the NCNCA district championship rides by Torey (17-18) and Jack (13-14) and we had six wins in one day!
Of course, a time trial is all about putting out YOUR best effort and less about the placing (really!) so a big congratulations to Chris Laberge (10th place and 32 seconds faster than 2010); James Laberge (9th place and 16 seconds faster than 2010); Marcus Smith (5th place and 55 seconds faster than 2010); Andrew Lanier (3rd place with a 42 second improvement); Matt Valencia (2nd place). Congratulations to all for some big efforts in the "race of truth"
Larry Nolan, Team Specialized
After a few days of good jet lag removing training Aaron F. (mechanic) and Viggo C. (soigneur) packed up the White Sprinter with all of our gear, which was extensive, and headed over to Koblenz, Germany for a night in a hotel. This would leave us a small drive time to Frankfurt the morning of the first stage. Spirits were high and the dinner at the hotel was excellent, even though we’d used the wrong bowls for salad. The waitress was visibly perturbed, but we’re not from there, so…
Of course, the following morning the Sprinter wouldn’t start and after a moment (or 5) of panic we adapted, got the boys into Seal Team 6 mode, stripped down gear and went light. Viggo went to talk to the hotel manager, who went above and beyond to help us. We packed only the bare essentials and the entire team into the Passat and drove slow to the Hostel where all the teams were staying. Viggo and Aaron dealt with the Sprinter mechanic who showed up to diagnose the van and the team and I hoped for the best. I crossed everything I could cross, for luck.
The other team directors asked me where all our gear was, where the van was, where our soigneur and mechanic were and I explained the situation. “Oy yoy yoy, this is not possible.” they said. “Oh, very possible” I replied, “But it’ll work out.” I told them. Secretly I was a mess, but what can you do? Just keep calm and cycle on, right? The guys got settled into their rooms, they ate lunch, I attended the director’s meeting, had more coffee and still no word from Aaron or Viggo. It was time to go, so we packed up our gear once more, stuffed ourselves into the Passat and headed over to the TT course.
The guys unpacked their kit and prepared to race when I got a phone call from Aaron explaining that it was a bad ‘O’ ring in the fuel line and they were on their way. 4 hours and 400 Euro later the big white sprinter appeared out of the forest, kicking up a cloud of dust as she came vaulting over the lot, just as the course was closing. There was an overwhelming sense of calm that spread amongst the guys. Maybe the trip was looking up after all!
The time trial was a short effort around a park that was just outside the Frankfurt airport-about a 12’ effort. Time trials in Europe are staged so each director can follow their riders one at a time, in a team sequence with about 10 minutes between sets of riders. After the first round it flows very well but it still takes all day to do. TT’s are a draining affair. Warm ups, spread across the bulk of the day, riders going, coming in, checking bikes, checking times, checking race radio, talking to the riders, getting guys into and out of the car, eating something, finding a place to pee, wishing success, and off we go! Blast out of the start gate, down the ramp, right turn, straight, honk the horn, scream out the window, 180 turn, get the car sideways, blast back up to your rider, megaphone from another team car, two honks-you’re below 45kph, speed up, right, traffic furniture, 180, straight, find that 14, watch the bump, faster, 180, hard right, chicane, through the trees, horn blaring, right, hard left, watch the dust and gravel, sprint finish. Repeat x 6.
Kristo posted the best time and now he sat in 9th, just a handful of seconds behind the leader. The guys did extremely well, considering the stress of not knowing what was to become of our van and I was pleased with their calmness throughout.
Pack up, drive back for dinner, wait for results and ponder strategies for the next day over another cup of coffee.
Billy Innes - USA Cycling 17-18 Juniors Director Sportif / Team Specialized Masters
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Europe really is a different place; the food the culture and the customs are different than ours in the United States. The biggest thing I found that was different was the roads. Although they still drive on the right side of the road, I found the road to be extremely confusing which I have to say is a good thing I wasn't driving! I found myself very confused most of the time in Europe surrounding simple things like roads. Pasta, bread and oats in different form became a staple of my diet (not that they aren't already). During my stay at the hostel in Frankfurt I had pasta for every meal for three days straight and I actually got sick of it! Europe all and all is a great place to visit and I found it a huge honor to be invited to race there. Staying at the house is really a great lifestyle. Your only obligations are to ride your bike, eat and do an occasional load of laundry. I am looking forward to my next opportunity to race across the pond! I want to thank USA Cycling and Team Specialized Racing for making my Euro trip possible!