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Saturday, October 5, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: TURTLE Rumpus!



After 3-days of Rothaus Riderman, only one race in the Germany Cycling Cup remained, the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro.   An awesome venue to conclude the Jedermann (non-licensed) race circuit.  On this day the best riders and teams in Germany would receive recognition for a season of service to the bike.  I on the other hand just wanted to complete the task I started and commited to last November . . .  

With only 3 more days since my last race, my legs were tender to the touch before I even started the planned 120 km of cycling madness.  This was going to hurt so good . . . NOT!!!  I needed a walker to get down the hall at work and was chewing Vitamin M (Motrin) like candy.  I had no idea how I was going to make it . . .

The Münsterland Giro fell on a Thursday and the German Holiday of  “Tag der Deutschen Einheit”  or German Unity Day in which the unification of Germany is celebrated.  After driving 6.5 hrs north for the race the only unification I felt was with my car seat.  Tender legs and a tender backside does not make a bikeROCKstar and I was starting to listen to my growing  list of excuses . . .

Claudia had decided to join me on this day and I have to admit that I needed the moral support.  I was a lone TURTLE in event riding along and very much afraid.  My previous performance in long road races had secured me a slot at the front of the bus.  Of the 5 start blocks, I was in BLOCK B and while I was happy to be near the front, I also knew the pace would be fast and furious.  I would have to dig deep to keep the TURTLE legs from snapping off before the 120k was done . . .

I met race day with a head cold, temps in the upper 40s (it was around 7C), and low on the TURTLE happy scale.  I took my time at breakfast and getting ready.  I was dragging as TURTLE pace took on a whole new meaning . . .

I started looking for wheels to follow right out the gate.  I was determined to just sit in an survive.  In my age group of over 1000 riders, I was sitting in place  150 or so.  The year had been a great lesson.  I just wanted to make it to the end of class . . .

Tired TURTLE Sits In
Sitting in a pack has advantages and disadvantages.  While the draft was my friend and savior, some cat clipped a guy in front of him and although I avoided the crash, I could here the carbon, metal, and bodies hitting the pavement at 40 kph just over my shoulder.  At 20K in, it took a bit of grit to stay on my rig.  I was actually hoping my bike would fail or I would get a flat or something.  Again, I was tired and my excuses were starting to make sense . . .

We covered almost 38 km (about 23 miles) in the first hour.  I closed the gap on a few groups as I had to.  I just wanted to stay out of the serious wind that was howling around the course.  I got dropped once or twice but got lucky as the chase group that caught me took me back to the group I had just left.  On this day I was the biggest wheel sucker there was.  My pulls were short and I happily drifted to the middle of the pack . . .

After 2 hours I began to believe I would indeed finish the race in one piece.  I was safely tucked into the middle of a large group and happy that I was not chasing wheels ahead.  I had told Claudia to expect me back in 4 hours.  We crossed the line just over 3.  I was done and then some.  I was toast just from sitting in as the average pace was just under 38 kph (23 mph) for the 3 hours.

But done I was . . . I finished what I started.  The sacrifices were many but it was finally done and over with for now.  Time to reflect, regroup, and get my party back on . . .

This was my first true racing season in Germany.  It was long and I have learned much that I will apply next season.  As I posted not to long ago, over 4900 km trained  and over 1100 km raced . . . this TURTLE is DONE!  So, as I live in German and October is Fest month, in the words of Max, from “Where the Wild Things Are” . . .

“Let the wild rumpus start!”

Happy Hour lasts for a month in October!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: TURTLE Staging


The 2009 Tour de Ephrata, in the great American state of Pennsylvania, was the last time my TURTLE sticks attempted a 3-stage race.  That race include a road race, a hill climb Time Trial (TT), and finished with a criterium.  I believe that event is no longer held but it most certainly deepened the cycling hook into my side.  So when I saw the Rothaus Riderman on the race schedule last year, my mouth once again wrote a check that my legs would have to pay the balance on in full . . .

Rothaus Riderman is event 14 of 15 in the German Cycling Cup.  The three stages, a TT and two road races of 92 and 85 km marked races 16 thru 18 for me.  I was tired thinking of the effort ahead but forward I went.  Silly TURTLE!!!  I had set the event apart as my primary race for the season.  All roads were to lead to Riderman and I was going to crush it.  Oh yeah, my mouth was in full projection mode . . . my knees on the other hand were shaking.

Initially a mass of riders stepped forward to race under the “DragonQuest Racers presented by SLACRs” title.  But as with all things extra on our plates, life steps in, schedules change, and commitments go to maybes and some excuses like, “I don’t do that race thing” are thrown in as a nice way of saying “shut up TURTLE and leave me alone…I just want to ride my bike.”

Well, I too had a list of excuses why I should have stayed home.  Unfortunately my legs were compelled to push the TURTLE Shell forward and make good on the smack my mouth continued to talk.  Four others dedicated to the task and a Fabulous Five made the drive south to the closest race venue of the GCC series.  While far from the eight we had in our 1st race, the math had improved over our average of two riders per event so I was happy to have the companny.  We even talked race strategy . . . we were sooooooo foolish!

Despite our bravado, the Rothaus Riderman is a class act.  There is an overall leader’s and best young rider jersey for both sexes.  With real-time GPS tracking and over 3000 m of climbing, there is also a King of the Mountain jersey for both sexes.  And to top the chain . . . there are leader jersey’s for each age group (Masters I - III) male and female.  These blew me away and strengthened my resolve to one day wear yellow as a bikeROCKstar in my age group.

I looked at the course profile and consider the Friday TT a short and sweet affair in which I would make happen averaging as close to 40 kph as I could on the first run of my rebuilt TT rig.  I was dreaming!  
Riderman Climbing!

While short, the bitter climb out the gate began to chip away at the tiles on the TURTLE shell.  My attempts to turn the cranks on the large chainring was quickly becoming a concept my legs were simply refusing.  Half way up the grade I wondered why was I not on my road rig.  This was not for the faint at heart or the ill prepared.  I was ill prepared and it was starting to hurt my heart.  Although my SKY TT Warm Up was picture perfect, my lower back wanted nothing to do with the climb.  Yet I pushed on, up, and over.  Rocketing down to a traffic circle I was quickly reminded that this was a TT rig and not my road rig as I over cooked the turn and headed for the curb.  The Cycling Angels swooped down and kept panic to a minimum as I grabbed for breaks . . . UGH!!! Brakes doing a TT are a bad thing.  This was bad!!!  Somehow my transgressions were overlooked, I kept the bike up, executed the turn around, and headed for home (up the backside of the intro climb).

Screaming down the climb that said, “Wake up TURTLE, this is bike racing in Europe!” bugs were slamming across the frontal lobe of my helmet . . . OUCH!!!  I narrowed my profile as much as I could.  My back was locked and the key was nowhere to be found.  I could only get so low.  This was not looking good . . .

Coming across the line, the results were less than spectacular.  I was over 6 (almost 7) minutes off the leader.  My hopes of “crushing it” were crushed.  I was crushed.  I dropped my head in my hands.  This was not how I wanted to end my season.  I moped for a few seconds and refused to give in.  I would make up time on Stage 2.  My climbing has improved all year long.  I was ready for this and this was mine to have.  My mouth was writing more bad checks . . .
My number flopping in the wind was the least of my problems . . .
Stage 2 was a beast in hiding.  Yet I felt confident I could slay the 92 km demon as I have raced over this distance all season.  My confidence calculations violated simple math rules as I failed to factor the amount of climbing ahead.  My poor TT performance had relegated me to the back of the bus.  I tried to look at the positive . . . I had lots of targets up the road.  Reality said I would have to chase them down.  I had hoped to have a teammate at my side for this effort but a misjudgment of the time and space continuum had one of our riders arriving late and chasing the field on his own.  Thus I was once again the lone TURTLE in the pack.
Where's TURTLE?(...at the back of the bus!!!)

The first climb woke my legs up and I started to find my groove.  It was all going well.  I was with a good group and even taking my turn on the front to keep the pace up.  We were catching others and the ride from the back of the bus was showing promise.  My little TURTLE brain said I was making up time.  OH YEAH! This is bike racing and I was on top of the world . . .

Well . . . on top until the 70K mark.  At this point my world started coming to an end.  Math said 20K to go so pick it up.  Legs tried to go into action but my lower back got a vote and shut down the move.  It was a pure suffer fest as I lost contact with my group and hung out in “no man’s land” trying to catch any wheel coming by.  It was riding backwards.  When done, I had given up serious ground on the race leaders and questioned if I could ride the final stage.


At home I took a bath (I hate water), popped fluids, vitamin M (Motrin), RECOVERITE, and anything I thought would help.  I grabbed my recovery tights (Claudia did not find these sexy at all...she once again questioned my maleness) and tried to roll out the pain in my legs.  Sleep that night sucked.  Stage 3 was no going to be fun . . . I was having nightmares!

I did not even look for my start block for Stage 3.  I knew I was once again at the back of the line.  However, this day was different as the event was expanded with a number of day riders.  Fresh legs covered the field and I would take advantage of them all.  Or so I thought . . .

I stuck to the plan the first hour of madness and felt great.  TURTLE sticks were tender but far from the breaking point.  I found myself with the same crowd as Stage 2 and we worked the field.  The first 60 K went like clock work as the climbs seemed a bit less painful than the day before.  At 20K to go I knew I would survive this beast . . .

But that was before a serious pitch in the road . . .
Breaking TURTLE!

The picture here does not do this climb justice.   We were in a valley and could see riders ahead on a ridge line.  The run up to the ridge line cracked the TURTLE shell to pieces.  At the top, I had nothing left I was beyond burnt as I once again watched my group ride away from me without even blowing a kiss goodbye.

I limped my rig to the finish line and exited the stage beaten by the 3-headed beast.  Yet Rothaus Riderman is an epic event and one I will conquer.  I survived my beating this year and with that comes wisdom.  I will not stay down and I will return as that is what I do . . .

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: Consistency is How TURTLE Rolls


Last year Coach Quest (Eric Cole . . . Dragon Quest Coaching) put the German Zeitfahrcup (a 3-event Time Trial series) on the Team bucket list.  We dreamed of podiums as individuals and as a team under the DragonQuest Racers p/b SLACRS banner.  I pushed all my TURTLE chips across the table, entered a Martini Madness hiatus (OK I slipped up a few times but the year has gone well below previous levels of consumption performance), and dedicated myself to the call to ride.  It was on, and I was in to the end . . .

Some guys (and gals) are sprinters, some are climbers, some a time trial gods and goddesses...I’m simply TURTLE.  I consistently ride, semi consistently train, but consistently drop serious coin and time to race.  My wallet follows up on promises and commitments made by my mouth even when my legs can’t.  Next month I will total up the year, take out a second mortgage on the house, and perhaps find a part time job waiting tables during base training.  Bottom line . . . I’m in this crazy sport for the rest of my life!!!

We had a great showing for the 1st TT in the series with six riders.  This dropped to a lean two for the 2nd event and those same two (Coach and me) set out for TT 3 of 3.  Words spoken and action taken.  The call to ride was answered . . .

The final running in the Zeitfahrcup, OELLES-Bergzeitfahren was all about the commitment to the series.  For those living in Germany we all know the word “berg” very well.  To our legs it means climbing and shout outs of pain over long steady grades made with German precision.  The third TT of the series was a steady 5.4K hill climb.  Average grade was 6% with 7 and 8% in the turns.  Short, sweet and straight up was the painful menu for the day . . .

Oh how I wished I had stayed on my diet (had put on 5 lbs of beer and bad food in the last few weeks) and had the power to dance on the pedals in time and tempo as I float to the top of the climb.  I had planned to be light, lean, and lethal for this event.  Truth was far from reality as my discipline had slipped.  I was neither light or lean.  Instead of a show of elegance and grace on the bike . . . this was a planned suffer fest and then some.  I know the path to greatness . . . why do I stray to the dark side of beer, schnitzel, and other less helpful items?  Why do all of them just taste so good?  Next year I will do better . . . maybe.

But I am again digressing and need to get back on task.  With that note, here is where I must give serious props to Coach Quest.  He too is far from a natural climber.  However, he is as dedicated as they come.  Commitment made and as it was written it would get done!!!  And getting done meant a 4+ hour drive, and overnight stay, a race of last than 20 minutes, and a 4+ hour drive home.  Yeah, we were committed.  We should be committed . . . to a mental institution!!!

Rolling North the roads were wet and temps were dropping.  My body started recalling the Zeithfahrcup Prolog in which we raced in a cold wet rain.  We were destined to end like we started.  I was not happy and the lack of happy TURTLE puts me in a bad place.  I started looking for excuses but could not man up enough to listen to them.  So I just drove faster and ran down every Audi I could find on the Autobahn.  I was taking my frustration out on the road at over 200 kph . . . AWESOME!!!

I met Coach late on Saturday and we drove the course.  This was a blessing.  We marked the turns and the final K.  Even though we sat 23rd and 26th in the series for cats that had done the first two events.  We dreamed of breaking into the top 20 and looked at the start list and the times. I believed it was in the art of the possible.  We moved the goal post away from a podium finish many races ago.  A top 20 was in the cards as we did it at the 24-hour Nürbergring race.  We could do it again here . . .

The sun started to break through the clouds race morning.  Temps were mild to cool.  The day was coming together and I started kicking myself.  I was not mentally or physically prepared for battle.  My legs were not going to keep up with my mouth once again.  Yet to the front line I was going because turning around and going home takes more guts than pedaling up hill.  Well, that’s the logic I was using and it seem to work . . . a little.

Coach and Jackie had to wake me up as I fell into a deep sleep after breakfast.  I was out in TURTLE dream land.  Like I said, I was not mentally or physically ready to compete.  My body was tired from the drive and non-stop week of that crazy stuff called “work.”  I wanted to stay in bed and be lazy while the river rushed below my window.  Darn commitments.  I need to learn to keep my mouth shut for more than just food . . .

We arrived with over an hour to go before the first rider was set to start.  I was lucky number 13 on the start list.  UGH . . . I just remembered some rule about wearing 13 upside down.  Maybe it would have helped my legs a bit.  Too late now . . . Next year (again).

I set up my trainer and began an easy spin.  I had not touched the bike since the 24-hour Nürbergring race and my legs reminded me of that fact.  It was painful to just spin a low gear at 85 – 95 rpm.  I started my Warm-Up play list to drown out my excuses.  It was working.  About 30 min before my start time I started my trusted TEAM SKY TT Warm Up that I had learned about during EVO training camp . . .

The Warm Up was on like clockwork.  I hit all my target zones with ease.  The sun started shinning more and I was working up a sweat.  This was looking better than expected.  The feelings of optimism were helped along by “Audio Slave,” “Five Finger Death Punch,” “Seether,” and “Godsmack.”  My angry music was turning my legs into action.  In some strange way I suddenly felt ready to “BRING IT!”

As I lined up Coach point at number 12 and said, “there is your target.”  I took note and aim right out the gate and headed for the guy.  My heartrate jumped to 195 and parked on the upper deck.  I decided to ignore it and press my TURTLE sticks into action.  Being near the start of the TT train (over 100 cats were lined up) there were plenty of folks that would see my heart flopping on the ground and call for medical help if it popped out.  So I just dug in and turned the pedals.  Previous experience told me 85 rpm is my sweet spot, I was hitting the mark as I went . . .

On the 5% grades I started closing in on my target, at one point I thought I had him.  The second set of switch back turns closed the door on my quest as the unlucky 13 failed to merge on the objective ahead.  I should have stood through the 8% grades.  Nevertheless I continued to ride hard and refused to give up any more ground.  Being so close to the start had me worried that the masses would pass me.  Only one cat was able to accomplish this . . . rider #14 closed the 30 sec gap on me but that was it.  I held the others off as I put in my best climb to date.  I averaged 255 Watts over the 17 minutes at an average heart rate of 192 bpm.  For you non-power junkies, this is a lot for the little TURTLE engine.  My little suffer fest was done . . .
Heart Rate lat lines on the upper deck!

I rode back down looking for Coach and watched him slug through a serious migraine to finish.  He too decided to leave any and all excuses behind.  He was pushing through a migraine up the climb.  BEAST!!!

The series was complete and a chapter closed.  And as far as making up time and space, I moved into the top 20 by finishing the series 18th out of all riders completing three events.  A top 20 finish in my first European TT series . . . I will take that and set the bar higher next year.  In the final listing I drop down to 34th as the rules say something about throwing out your worse score . . . LAME!!! I stick by my rides and will not discount any.  Like I said, the bar is set for future greatness.

My 2014 goals are already starting to develop.  I need to be careful and not over sell my future.  I have come far but the bikeROCKstar road ahead is much further still.  With two events (four races) left to go, I am looking forward to a little Martini Madness or more to close out the season.  Feel free to stop by and join me as I shake the season away and reflect of how to make a faster, stronger, more rabid TURTLE as I pop a few olives in my mouth and continue talking trash . . .

. . . because that is what TURTLE does!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: Sleepless Cycling Madness


Evolution Cycling Club’s PB&J (Alex Mata) has on more than one occasion suggested that join him at one of the 12 Hours of The Cranky Monkey, a mountain bike (MTB) race in Northern Virginia   He follows the invitation with, “...it’s a party...”  but I fail to commit.  While most, if not all, of you know TURTLE never turns down a chance to have fun.  Yet an uneasy fear takes over at the thought of racing 12 hours and I back down into my shell and try to hide until the event is over . . .

Well I failed to hide this time . . .

A few months ago DUMPER (Stuttgart Local Area biCycle Rider (SLACR) Erich Schmunk) mentioned the 24 hour Rad am Ring effort at the famous Nürburgring Grand Prix and supercar course.  The Rad am Ring (literally “bike on the ring”) is event 13 of 15 in the German Cycling Cup (GCC) series.  I initially planned on putting in 150 K of madness (6 laps) to continue my bikeROCKstar quest.  But after some digging I noticed the 24 hours of craziness was also part of the GCC series.  At that point DUMPER’s peer pressure pulled me from hiding in my shell and quickly turned into TURTLE action.  With DUMPER’s help we quickly built an 8-man effort to attack the ring.  Rad am Ring . . . BRING IT!

I dropped the cash (just under 1000 bones . . . OUCH!!!) to register the team and turned organization of logistics over to DUMPER as Team Captain.  It was his idea and we would follow his plan as that’s how we roll . . . well at least that is how we started.

After social media exploits and emails threads as long as a peloton of bike chains we rallied at the Auld Rogue (local Irish Pub) to discuss details over pints.  Introductions were made and as the beer flowed, we are started to gel as a team.  This was looking good!!!

As with all things folks sign up and then bail due to a multitude of reasons.  But the spandex gods accepted the offerings I placed on my bike stand and rider replacements were in good supply as we picked up two aces . . . SHAFT (Jake Brittingham) and Ryan Stoffer (who for some strange reason I kept calling RAY-RAY).

Camping on the Ring
DUMPER did an outstanding job of organizing the masses and the convoy North.  We even had a rider rotation plan ready for first contact.

The awful thing called “work” split the convoy a bit but 3 fully loaded vehicles took to the road.  We were one of the first to arrive in our area and immediately started to setup camp.  Trent Minter was our savior as he provided A++ accommodations in one WORLD CLASS tent.  This was 5-star camping at its best . . . the tent had two bedrooms and a carpet in the main area.  How KOOL ‘n da GANG is that?  We thought we were kings . . .

Having a few hours of day light we suited up, rode to packet pickup and planned on doing a course preview.  That was the plan . . . but there again a branch/plan change was required as the course was not open yet.  So no madness preview.  I was slated to ride second in the rotation to allow HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) the opportunity to debrief the course to the rest of the Team.  Yet HAMMER missed the debarkation window and I moved up to take his place.  My TURTLE sticks would get the first taste of the Grüne Hölle (Green Hell) . . . 1000 ft of elevation change from the lowest to the highest point on the course.  This was a TURTLE shell test like no other . . .

SLACRs am Ring
With six of our eight members present and accounted for, we walked the grounds noticing the extensive setups.  Cats started filling up the place in mass.  We thought we were 5-star . . . we were far from it.  We were amateurs that had just stepped into the big leagues.  The grounds were full of campers, tour buses, and even a few converted semi-trailers complete with bunk beds.  There were fest tents, military tents, and more.  This was serious!!! We started taking copious notes and looking forward to next year before the race had even started.  We certainly needed to update our living conditions . . .

There was a “cheap” pasta dinner and a ticket for a free beer.  So we ate a little (a lot), had a few beers (maybe too many as we brought 2 cases with us) and settled down for the night just after midnight . . .

I have not camped since RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Greater Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) and had forgotten what sleeping in a bag on the ground (even if it was an air mattress) feels like.  I woke hurting and barley able to walk to breakfast.  This was not starting out good at all.  The crew next to us rented a camper for 70 € a day.  We missed that memo.  My back was telling me not to forget it next time . . .

After breakfast we started pumping the espresso (with a little Baileys) and ensuring our rigs were ready for the challenge.  The WX report was not good.  Rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast.  I was thankful that I brought extra kit and rain jackets but it did not look like enough . . .

At the Team Leader meeting directions were given in German AND English.  SKIRT (Alex Ferguson) was the ace I needed.  He was awake enough to type notes on his phone.  Type?  I was not even awake yet and needed more coffee.  I learned I need to up my game yet again.  For some reason I thought I was coherent enough to relay important facts.  WRONG!!!  SKIRT saved me . . .

It felt just as bad as this looks!


TURTLE on the Move
Coming off a trip to the US I made time to warm up on my trainer.  I needed to shake my legs and lower back out for the climbing ahead.  The profile said a lot.  I knew it was going to be worse.  I wanted to be ready . . .

Over 1300 riders took the line at the start of the 24 hour event alone.  There were well over 6000 total riders for the 24 hour race with 82 of them being 8-man teams for the road event.  We met a few guys doing the 24 hour race solo . . . BEASTS!!!

There was a 24hr MTB event, a 5, 10, 15, and 25K run as well as 25, 75, and 150K races.  In total, there had to be 10s of thousands of folks on these ground. Did I not say this was going to be epic?  This was a massive tailgate party with bikes and runners.  The triathletes on our squad were looking around for a pool to complete their trip to Mecca.  Awesomeness fails to explain the atmosphere . . .

At the start, I took off like a mad rabid TURTLE as I wanted to clear the mass of people and find a few strong wheels to follow and get out of the rather strong winds.  I recalled the crashes at Hockenheimring that actually stopped the race to medevac cats and wanted no part of that . . .

The get away!
The course was a great and FAST! Hit over 90+ kph (~ 56 mph) on the descent to the lowest part of the course (roughly the 10K mark).  It was at this very point I and mostly everyone else began to pay for the 10K joy ride.  The next 4-5 K was just about straight up with grades over 10%.  My legs screamed and almost cried.  Hell, I almost cried.  But this was part of the bikeROCKstar quest I my climbing has improved all season.  I dug deep and spun to freedom . . .

There was a rest stop at the top of the climb.  I promised myself I would have nothing to do with such madness.  While others slowed at the crest of almost every rise, NOT TURTLE . . . I grabbed gears and raced for the line.  Dropped the 1st lap in 48 min . . . less than an hour was my goal.  Made it . . . YES!!!  One down and more to come.  

Our first timing chip exchange left something to be desired.  But this too was part of the learning experienced.  While we got the “put the chip on a water bottle” memo we noticed other teams doing hand offs on the bike.  Lesson learned and action incorporated (during day light hours) . . .

RAY RAY (Ryan Stoffer) took lap #2 while I debriefed the Crew.  He also crushed it in 48 min.  The going was good . . .

The good turned to poor as weather rolled in on our last few riders.  Trent Minter took it right on the chin as he rode into the sunset and heavy rain while I spun my legs on a trainer under our popup canopy . . .

As of 2000 (7 hours of racing) we were sitting at 20th (recall 82 total 8-man teams) with just minutes out of the top 10.  This little piece of info was a force multiplier.  The thought of a top 10 finish for a bunch of rookie Americans competing in Europe could be a dream coming true.  It motivated me to turn myself inside out on the bike . . .

I took the timing handoff and went for two loops.  While the rain had slowed to a light sprinkle, I was uneasy about taking the descents at max speed on the wet payment.  The imaged of grounded TURTLE at 90 kph won over the top 10 dream.  I pulled my wimp card and used my breaks a bit more than lap 1.  I told myself I would make it up on the climbs . . .

Fog had started to roll in and visibility went to crap.  Trent had warned me of the fog so mentally I was prepared but that did not help me see.  But that was a good thing on the climbs as I just dug deep and climbed.  I was making up time as I had promised myself.  While a few would pass as I rode, I would pass the majority of cats that caught me on the descents.  It was almost like the Bochum race all over again.  However, this time I was able to get away from most of them and fade into the fog and darkness.

As I completed my first lap I rolled by our camp site and yelled “TURTLE for two!” in the darkness with the hope the crew would hear me.  DUMPER did . . .

The rain had fully stopped for the second lap but the fog got worse.  I failed to get my negative split but finished the lap with good legs and a strong effort.  I was actually pumped and could have gone for one more if I had food with me.  Next time I will . . .

Trent was my savior once again as he met me w/ a plate of pasta.  I was so hungry I almost ate the paper plate . . .

I hit the mat at 0100 for a quick nap as the rain came back with a vengeance.  DUMPER and Trent took the worse of it yet again.  At 0400 RAY RAY and I flipped a coin for the next run and I won so I slammed a few expressos, power bars, and got ready to ride into the sunrise.  My light was dead as a door nail and the power to our tent was off.  I grabbed the light I borrowed from Coach Quest and set off to attach it to my bike with strips of duct tape.  It was seriously hillbilly but I needed to see . . .
All dressed for the prom but no date!

SKIRT and I heard sirens and made the call to race central.  While the sirens were not for us, the race was put on hold due to visibility.  UGH!!!  I had just put on layers of wet stinky clothes only to have the prom cancelled.  No dance into the darkness, no threat of kissing the wet pavement or dodging of lightning.  I had to stand down.  Well, that was enough to crush my espresso buzz . . . 

At 0800 the call was made to resume racing at 0830.  RAY RAY took the point.  We were in 15th place before the break and just seconds out of the top 10.  Adrenalin push through veins as the last few cats took to the road . . .

RAY RAY and HAMMER put in serious efforts to get us into 10th place.  Cham and SHAFT kept the effort going by digging deep in the light rain.  SKIRT was last man to take the line with DUMPER joining him for the final lap.  We should have all joined them on the final lap as this was DUMPER’s goal.  Yet I pulled another wimp card and decided to avoid wet and stinky kit.  Next year I will bring an extra set of kit just for this purpose . . .


We packed up and left in 10th place and happy as a group of kids on Christmas morning.  Finally results put us in 11th but the joy remained.  We have a goal for next year . . .

The season is just about over with only three more events remaining (one of the events is a 3-day stage race).  I need to dig deep to find the energy to continue.  My legs are tired, by body and bike are bit broken and worn, and mentally I am reverting back to pre-school.  I have come far and know some of my limits but refuse to give in just yet.  I will need to push through the madness taking the month of October off the bike and break out my beloved martini shaker and relax a bit . . .

1 November I start the ground work for next season and continue the quest for bikeROCKstar status . . .

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: Taking One for the Team


I originally wanted to take a pass on the 4 Aug Škoda Velorace in Dresden (German Cycling Cup event 10 of 15).  I did not think I was up to a circuit race in Germany.  However, after riding strong during the Bochum, SpakassenGiro, I had to make this happen.  After all, it was a series and I was up to completing the task.  I started committed and I will end just as committed . . . so went the “Plan” 

Two distances were offered and the original plan called for Coach Quest to complete the shorter distance (63 K) and I would drop the longer distance (105 K).  Well, my lack of true German skill needed for registration had us both signed up for the longer (105 K) event.  So, to make good on my mistake, I promised to stay with Coach Quest and ensure he made it through the distance.  I put aside my Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster and packed my Stuttgart Local Area biCycle Riders (SLACR) kit.  I was all in for a DragonQuest Racers effort.  That was Plan Change 1 . . .

I reached out to the Ponies that carried me over the roads of the Neuseen Classics back on  19 May in Zwenkau.  Team Steile Wand would be in the house and I looked forward to catching their wheels.  A great solid crew and legs of pure heat . . . this was taking into consideration as I added an amendment to Change 1 of the Plan . . .

Coach Quest got a late start (it took me longer to get pretty) on our 5+ hour drive north by northwest.  We loaded the bikes in the car and made great time on the road thanks to well manicured Autobahn in the former East Germany.   We hit Dresden in a little over 6 hours after a stop for grub.  PERFECT!  The Plan was in full swing . . .

Dresden . . . what an awesome city!!!  The rebuild since the fall of the Wall is simply majestic.  Despite the intense heat (97 F) this is renaissance living at its best.  An awesome venue to as Jennifer Call stated...“Bring the Action!”
Majestic Dresden!
Coach and I walked the START/FINISH noting the slight uphill after a long straight away along the river.  Regardless of where we were in the field, I planned to lead Coach out on a good sprint finish.  In my mind he would take the field spring of whatever group we were in.  This was plan Change 2.  It was going to be epic . . .

Race day temps were in the mid 80s so this was doable.  As we pedaled up to the START/FINISH  my ears were blessed with a load “TURTLE!” from Team Steile Wand (a.k.a The Ponies) great Dirk Dießel.  It was good to see the crew and the Pony ranks were swelling.  Team Steile Wand was sitting no less than 8  or 10 deep and ready to bring the heat.  SWEET!!!

We quickly found out that they were staged a block ahead of us . . . I had to hide the UNHAPPY TURTLE FACE.  In my rather extensive day dream, I believed we could catch them and sit in.  Oh how I was dreaming . . .

We hung out in the shade waiting for out start.  Once again I dreaded the “line up and wait” but was becoming use to it within the German Cycling Cup series.  Right on queue, cats started moving to the line 30 minutes prior as stated in the program.  There are rules and rules must be followed . . . say that with a German accent and laugh with me.  I need the humor . . .

The sun was baking us.  My farmer’s/biker’s tan was becoming even more defined.  My mocha brown base was receiving a few milk chocolate sections or razor sharp tan lines (Rule #7 // Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp).  I was loaded down with no less than 4 water bottles to ensure Coach would make it through the 105 K without dehydrating.  King domestique I thought to myself.  I planed and was executing the plan.  Did I not say this was going to be epic?  It was . . .

We added to The Plan a concept of sitting in the first lap to get a true feel for the course.  As the course went against traffic in sections it was impossible to pre-ride.  We had 5 laps to make 105 K happen and leveraging public math in my little TURTLE brain, plenty of time to move up in the field.  This was Plan Change 3 . . .

All Aboard the TURTLE Train
The start was a typical German Cycling Cup “shotgun” with cats hammering off the line.  I made sure I knew where Coach was and starting sitting in.  I took turns wide to get away from crazy wheels . . . I was surrounded by crazy!!!  I had enough strength to sprint out of every turn with little to no effort.  It was on and I was in it . . .  

I tried to organize a few groups and failed.  Perhaps I need to work on my German to clearly articulate my intent as it was just not working at all.   At some point Coach had enough of the slow pokes and started to bridge up to a group up the road.  I went with him.  It was impressive!  He was hitting it hard on the first lap to close a gap . . .

We caught a nice sized group and instead of sitting in to recover, we went straight through them.  I went to the front and started to set the tempo.  I motioned for help and go little to none so I just plowed on.  Coach took advantage of the effort and sprinted out in front of me and the group on the lap before sitting back in right behind me.  So there we had it, the two of us leading the pack and chasing Team Steile Wand up the road.  I asked Coach how many was I dragging and his initial answer was 50 . . . it was more like 30 but I took the 50 and got even more motivated.

I was learning to suffer and it felt great!  I have not had this level of focus in a long time.  My legs did what they were told without complaint.  It was on!!!

The course had a few rail road crossings and cobblestone sections.  I hit them hard and made ground as others went for their brakes.  It was all coming together and this was my time.  The last time I felt this good during a race as the Ride Sally Ride Criterium in Sterling VA.  I was determined to make this a solid effort . . .

I sat out on the front of the main group for a large portion of another lap.  I drifted back to recover a bit and noticed Coach moving to the front as the tempo slowed down.  This is where communication started to breakdown.  What should have occurred is an effort to leave the slower group and bridge up the road.  What happen was far from that . . .

Domesticated TURTLE
Coach burned the entire match book to include the wet ones.  Nothing was left.  He was cooked after the effort and I drifted back with him.  I sat up to make good on my promise and watched the group I was leading ride away from me.  I was stronger than every rider in the group and it was hard to let them go.  But I made a promise and I would stand by my word.

On our next to last lap the leaders of the field caught us.  It was awesome to see the power and speed fly by.  I will be in that group next year.  I need to build on my current base and it will come.  It will come.  Of this I am certain . . .




The Plan survived first contact but fell apart near the end.  A great learning experience and lesson in communication within a team.  Lesson learned . . .

The year of the bikeROCKstar is within my grasps.  Sunday’s race showed me just how close it was.  I will not let this opportunity pass.  As one guy stated as we waited to start, “Anyone can watch a bike race on TV . . .” 

No further words are necessary . . .

Thursday, August 1, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: TURTLE on a String -- SparkassenGiro (GCC 9 of 15)


I find myself truly missing the US Criterium racing scene.  Lots of go fast, turn without touching your breaks, and go faster.  The previous German Cycling Cup event on the Hockenheim Formula 1 track brought some of that back and this past weekend was a bit more sweetness on the bike. . .

The SparkassenGiro in the northern German town of Bochum set the stage for pure racing madness as riders covered a 13 Km lollypop circuit through town.  Two lone members of our DragonQuest Racers p/b SLACRs took the 4+ hr drive to make this happen . . . dedication to the cause at its best.

After a late start getting on the road, we opted for a early packet pickup and got an early glimpse of the START/FINISH complete with distance markings and barriers.  With Elite and Pro racing on the docket, a couple of stages with live music, and a scheduled fireworks show in the evening . . . this was a day in cycling heaven.  I was so happy to have fresh shaved legs.  Their test would come.

Warm-ups for races in the German Cycling Cup Series are almost impossible as once you line up; you are often standing around for 45 minutes or more.   This was no different.  Coach Quest had the fortune or placement in BLOCK 1 of 3.  I was at the back of the bus in BLOCK 3 and at the very back of that.  And we were at the start 30 minutes early . . . UGH!!!  Over 1000 cats lined up and I was sitting in position 999.  Need to have someone show me the algebraic formula to get near the front of the bus.  Fighting from the back was getting old.  But I digress . . .

At the start gun I slowly began to move forward, cross the START/FINISH and hit the TURTLE TURBO . . .

Much like Hockenheim, the fist turn was NASTY!  I knew this and planed accordingly . . . I decided to take the outside and avoid the bunch up.  It worked! Something finally worked.  Happy TURTLE DANCE on the pedals.  Confidence started to swell.  This was a good thing.

After a few more turns we started a slow burn up.  WHAT?  I thought this was a flat circuit!!!  I was not mentally prepared to climb.  I should have done a better study of the website.  I had no idea where the rise would end.  NOT GOOD!!!  However, I found myself in a group and not going backwards so I stayed on the big ring (a compact) and pushed on over a stair step and to the top turn around.  I’LL TAKE IT!!!  There were even markers on the side of the road calling the distance to the top of the climb.  I’m a guy and visual aides are KOOL ‘n da GANG.  I was not only going to survive this, I was going to make it happen.  Oh yeah, confidence was hitting a new high . . .

Making the turnaround at the southern most point of the course I noticed that we did not loop around the traffic circle.  We cut it short with a hairpin 180 and down the climb we went on a virtually straight shot to the START/FINISH with only one 90 elbow at the 250 m marker.

After one lap I knew how I needed to ride the course and started doing my best to work up from the back of the bus . . .



Coach on the other hand was rocking the house.  Being at the front of the bus has its privileges and he took liberty of them all to channel a cycling hero, the German, Jens Voigt . . .

Coach attacked off the front and led for a few hundred Ks.  There was strong Kung Fu in the Peleton and they pulled him back spinning up the climb at almost 40 kph.  A moment is glory is a moment in glory and it was simply awesome . . .

Working hard myself I began my leap frog effort from the back of the bus.  Bridge to a group, recover, bridge to the next group, and so on.  All while trying to stay out of the wind.  Not easy to do.  I was in NO MAN’S LAND way too much . . .

About lap 2 of 6 I latched on to a group that was moving along pretty well.  On lap 3 I found myself leading the group of 20 up the climb.  I looked under my arms and I had gapped them.  I almost fell over.  This has never happened.  I have never gapped anyone on a climb . . .

Well, not wanting to waste the effort I made the turn and buried it.  Well at least I thought I did.   I was swarmed by the group I broke away from.  I jumped behind the largest guy and hoped to put his gravity advantage to use in my favor.  NOT!  The cat was hitting his breaks!!!  Who uses breaks in a straight downhill?  

I wanted nothing of this and passed as hard as I could only to lose the Force = Mass x Acceleration (F = ma) battle.  The giants (and there was more than one of them) easily pulled me back to the fold.  I was not happy.

On the very next lap I once again led up the climb.  As we turned my led from my little group was pulled back.  We were moving along and picking up riders as we rolled.  On this lap will picked up Coach on the first descent.  He blew through our group and I latched on to his wheel.  I could barely stay on it.  He was crushing it!  We picked up a few more riders and I took a few pulls as he and I led the growing mass.

This was motivating and on the next lap and just 2 to go, I decided I was going to leave and push off the front of this group.  I once again gave it a try but failed.  UGH again!!!  I was feeling pretty froggy and perhaps a bit full of myself so at the 1K flag and my heart about to jump out of my chest, I buried it.  I called out the name of one of the strongest guys in my group (our names are under our numbers) and told him to come with me . . .

TURTLE Heart Rate vs Elevation -- Guess who won?
We took some short, fast pulls but soon found out we lit the afterburners a bit too soon.  With 300 m to go we both faded and the group that had keep me on a string for 4 laps let go and shot to the finish ahead of me . . .

In short, this was perhaps the best venue of the Series to day.  An awesome course that I will do my best to dominate next year.  My confidence on the bike is at an all time new high.  Need to keep it that way as I will lay it all on the line during the 3-days of Rothaus RiderMan . . .

My quest for bikeROCKstar status is in reach . . .   

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: Dancing on the Pedals with the King

With no races from the German Cycling Cup or Zeitfahrcup series on the calendar, I decided to inflict serious pain on my legs and compete in a hill climb time trial (TT) series in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest).  Most of you know climbing is far from my thing so I know you are already wondering what the hell was I thinking . . .

I wasn’t . . .

Normally a three race series, permit issues cut one race from the list and shortened another.  However, 2 hill climbs was more than enough pressure on the TURTLE shell . . .

The series began with the “Belchenkönig” --  at 1414 m ( ~ 4640 ft), the Belchen is the third highest peak in the Schwarzwald.  The original course called for a 10K race and 750m of climbing.  It was cut short to 4.5K and about half the climbing.  Again, that my friends was enough . . .

Determined to give it my best I arrived early, set up the trainer and pushed through my TEAM SKY TT Warm Up Protocol.  I arrived at the line warm and ready for the effort.  Unfortunately for me my poor German skills failed to recognize that a time delay was in effect.  I stood for almost and hour waiting to start.  Not good . . .

Yet being a social butterfly TURTLE I used the time to meet and greet my neighbors.  Topping the list of new members of the TURTLE CREW is the ROCKSTAR Team Kai and Charlotte Becker.  These two cats made both climbs on Tandems.  The first one together and the second one with their equally ROCKSTAR 3 and 6 year old kids on Tandems.  AWESOME!!!

But back to the rest of the story . . .

So after about an hour making friends and working on my TURTLE TAN, I started up “Der Belchen” like a rabid turtle.  Fifteen second intervals on a hill climb are KOOL ‘n da GANG!  You see the entire string of cats in front of you as little carrots requiring you to dig deeper into your hurt locker.  I caught one, and then another, and then another . . . YES!!!  I was on it.  This was my day.  I was catching more cats then were catching me.  Who said TURTLE could climb?

Recall some poor soul decided to claim my Garmin 705 a few weeks back and thus I had no idea how far I was going or where the climb ended.  There were no markings on the side of the road.  So I just pushed on.  I was feeling great on the bike . . .

I looked up a saw the road fork with equal accents up the mountain.  I looked like I had another K or more to go.  With my legs on fire I hit a serious steep section of the climb that I was ill prepared for.  I started a backspin.  Cats were passing me in waves.  Where did they come from?  Where were they all hiding?  I was getting a mental smack down as each passed . . .
 

Belchenkönig -- Here they come!!!

The each rode smart and kept the wheels on their buses.  Another lesson learned . . . know thy course!  I was kicking myself for not paying attention to the race profile.  I fell deeper int he hurt locker as my little stick legs began to snap . . .

The finish snuck up on me.  No sprint, no fan fare, just one broken TURTLE in search of a piece of cake . . . YUM!!!
 


After a sugar rush, I took the time to increase my social network of fellow crazies and all was good and grand again.  I was already planning my week to prepare for the second hill climb.  I found the lost wheels, put them back on the little bus, repaired my broken legs and made my way home.  One down, one to go . . .

Running up to the second TT in the series, the “Schauinslandkönig”  -- Der Freiburger Schauinsland climb was almost picture perfect.  The climb is the highest peak in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) and was calling my name.  I had a few good training rides and was ready for greatness.  I was not tired but I felt trained . . .

Coach Quest (Eric Cole --  Dragon Quest Coaching) decided to join me on the drive down and the company was much appreciated.  We were joined by LINK (Matt Gonzalez) and his family fresh off the Frankfurt Ironman in or convoy south.  As I woke, I could feel a good day beginning . . .

Making a few final checks of my race info I quickly realized I misread the info and we were behind schedule.  So after hooking up I lowered the pedal to the floor and made up 30 minutes of time.  It was awesome!!! 

Well, as awesome as it could get when your GPS sends you down a narrow dirt mountain road.  We were a lost as one could be with four different GPS units reading four different locations and routes.  After driving around and missing my start time, I was ready to bag the day.  LINK and his crew were awesome sports.  They took the misdirection in stride and just rolled with it.  All were calm and collective.  Coach Quest was the only think helping me keep it together.  My start time was on display on my truck radio . . . UNKOOL!

But the cycling Angles would have nothing to do with me bagging the day.  We made a few turns and lucked into the start area.  I quickly sent LINK my location in a text and picked up my race packet.  Unlike a licensed event, I was told I could start as soon as I got ready as each person was timed by a chip attached to their numbers . . .

I did 5 min of fast pedals and a few hard efforts and went to the line.  Just about 500 meters into the start I saw a sign saying “12% grade.”  I just about fell off my bike and cried.  I should have spent 20 min doing a proper warm up.  I was not ready for the road ahead.  My goal of doing the climb in under an hour was starting to fade . . .

Laughing at Schauinslandkönig start


Yet the Cycling Angels once again showed me some love and got me over the first section.  At this point I felt pretty good and was even able to grab a few teeth and push up the climb.  Seeing markers and paint on the road counting down the Ks to the finish was motivating.  I was back and making it happen.  YES!!!

I caught up to TEAM Becker and used what little breath I had to give them all a shout out as I passed.  Kia was on a Tandem with one daughter and their 8-year old making the climb alone.  What a little stud!  A true bikeROCKstar in the making.  Charlotte was up the road a bit with their 3-year old.  Seeing them motivated me and I grabbed more teeth to dig deeper . . .


 

I finished the climb in under an hour at 53 min and change.  STRAVA has the #1 cat covering the same ground in 35 min.  I have some work before I am allowed to dance with the king.  I’ll used my time as a peasant a bit more wisely this fall with my eyes on the crown (or getting a little closer to the throne) next year . . .

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

LANTERNE ROUGE Season V: Summer School Madness!

I believe it was the Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long &Foster President, Vic BRICK Siegfried that once told me, “…you learn to race by racing…go race!”

 
Well, school was back in session as I packed my car for a short drive north to the Hockenheim Formula 1 course for race 8 of 15 in the German Cycling Cup.  I had already convinced and prepared the TURTLE shell for 90 km of pure speed on a course that would loop through sections of the track.  No hills and only a light breeze in the forecast . . . the conditions were set for a power play of legs, carbon, and spandex.  I would need my A++ game to ride smart, find solid wheels, and cover the 90K in just over two hours . . .
Yet, my run up to the event was again less than ideal as my ability to balance all things TURTLE is becoming increasing difficult.  I was only able to get two training rides in early in the week and this is just not good enough.  I considered bailing on the day as I was just not prepared as much as I wanted or should have been.  However, that would mean bailing on a DragonQuest Racer p/b SLACRs teammate and was in itself a non-starter.  I recalled BRICK’s words and to the Ring I went . . .
As I said, the weather conditions were perfect!  After all of the races in rain and cold, I was considering applying sunscreen for the first time in months as I got ready.  Wrapping a towel around my waist to slide my bike shorts on I looked around and once again realized I was no longer in Kansas . . . this was Europe!!!
While I was trying to be a bit indiscrete, my fellow racers would have nothing to do with that.  Guys and gals were dropping clothes and changing in public.  While I am pretty secure and open, I did not expect a trip to “Naked Land” in the Hockenheim parking lot.  I considered doing the “when in Rome . . .” but decided to remain indiscrete and behind my towel.  This gained a few stares as I was the only idiot hiding his private parts.  So once again a TURTLE stands out in the crowd . . .
Hockenheim Formula 1 Track
Dressed and ready to roll I waited for HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) to arrive and start and easy spin around the parking lot with a few fast pedals and a few accelerations prior to going to the line.  In hindsight, I should have found a shaded area and hit my full warmup protocol.  This was yet another lesson relearned on the day . . .
As we made our way to the start I noticed that everyone was grouped together in one massive bunch.  With two races going on, a 60 K and the 90 K, our numbers separated us into two groups at each distance (an A and a B).  This seems to have been all ignored and we all lined up together.  The mass resembled a large CAT 4/5 race x 100.  Way too many cats on the course at one time . . . my TURTLE shell was starting to tingle.  This did not feel right.
I was and remain spoiled by the first few races in the German Cycling Cup series.  Well organized, orderly line ups . . . VERY German.  This did not the case and far from my expectations.  Having no chance to pre-ride the course, I assumed all would be good.  I was soooooooo wrong!
An announcement was made on how the 60K riders should exit the course and after a delay the starting gun fired and we began our slow roll forward.  After picking up a bit until we reached the start line and the official timing for our laps were on . . .
Guys and gals were joking for position through the mass.  As we reached the 1st turn I had a CAT 5 flash back as cats began standing on their brakes to turn.  Bikes were moving accordion style from right to left.  Lines were broken and shouts (in German) were made.  UGH!!! Why did I blow off the cornering drills the past few weeks?  I was again out of practice in this domain.  One wrong move and to the pavement I would go leaving scratches and scars on the TURTLE shell.  I thought to myself . . . “this is going to leave a serious mark!”
After pushing to get away from a few wobbly riders, I started looking for solid wheels to follow through the turns.  As the turns went both right and left, it was hard to find the best position in the pack.  Add some very narrow sections of the course made being in the pack a bad idea.  My attempts to get up to the front were failing.  I was burning every match in the book . . . to include the wet ones in this ordeal.  Lining up in the back of a mass start is a lesson I should have remembered.  Another re-learned activity.  More demerits on my grade sheet . . .
Crashes were starting to happen on almost every lap.  The cringing sound of a “curse word” (by the way the word “sh**” seems to be universal) followed by carbon and aluminum hitting the payment echoed through the masses.  Focusing forward I rolled up behind a guy missing the entire backside of his shorts.  Not a pleasant sight for anyone on the back of the bus.  I made my way pass the guy as he shoved his number in his shorts to cover the hole.  He was determined to keep racing . . . of this I have to give serious props!
After about 5 laps the race was neutralized to allow a helicopter to medevac out a fallen rider.  At this point I had already expended every watt of power from my body.  After 20 minutes turned into 30 and then 40, I started to head to my car to drive home.  HAMMER convinced me to stay and I lined back up to finish the race with 4 laps for the 60K riders and 7 laps for the 90K crew.  By my math, this was cutting the race short.  I figured I could man-up to make it happen for the shorted distance.  I gave in to peer pressure . . .
The restart was a “kindler gentler” affair for the first lap.  I was fortunate to find a solid group of three cats and join them in setting a tempo around the course.  I have no idea how long the train behind us was but it was surely much safer being in the top 4 – 5 positions as we hit turns.  Corning muscle memory begin to wake from its deep slumber as I geared for sprints out of the turns to either remain in position or take over a few others.  Our group of 4 added a few others to the pace making and we started covering more ground.  Taking my turn at the front and drifting back a few bike lengths, I felt like a bike racer again . . .
Taking my turn  . . . but still at the back of the bus!
Things were going great until the final lap for the 60K riders.  A few were mixed in our group and started a surge to the line.  Riding the wave was fun . . . the cats sitting up after crossing the START/FINISH line was not.  As some cats sprinted for 500th place . . . another CAT 5 flash back, wheels locked up to avoid crashes as riders slowly moved off the course.  This was another accident waiting to happen.  By the grace of the Angel I so little deserve I made it through the mass, regained my group and pushed to the complete the last few laps.
At this point I was riding hard and strong.  I should have been this way out the gate.  Circles in the parking lot are not a proper warm up.  I need to listen to my Coach and my growing instincts and do what I know and believe to be right and true.  I racked up way too many demerits at this race and know I can do better . . .
So, my grade on this assignment was a C-.  I passed but only because HAMMER talked me into getting back on the bike.  I have a race every weekend for the next 5.  I will improve my score . . . I will finish the season a bikeROCKstar!