It’s been a few years, 3 to be exact, since I put the TURTLE shell through a circuit race. That 2011 effort was after a disastrous 2010 and a less than stellar (consistent) training effort. My closest circle know the real deal so I will leave it there . . .
Yet, near consistent training is a force multiplier and I wanted to be a force on the bike. Nerds can indeed dream big and bold. Lacking the genetic makeup of a true cyclist, I boldly told Coach Quest and others that “consistency will beat genetics” in 2014. While not as consistent as I could have been, I was still more consistent than any of the 5 years prior. So at the start of my 6th racing season, I was just as eager and hungry for the road. I eliminated every excuse I could imagine and now was the time . . .
|Evolution Cycling Club - European Division|
The Calm Before the Storm
The Schmolke Carbon Cup - Stage 1 was the season opener for a rag tag group of Americans and one token Brit that formed the Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long&Foster European Division (EVO Euro). The Reston VA based EVO crew has already started the season out well on the US East Coast. This was our turn to carry the name forward and add to a list of accomplishments. With 18 cats and kittens on the EVO Euro roster, a magnificent seven (Jenn Call, James TIPSTER Tipler…the token 20yr old Brit, Jake SHAFT Brittingham, Jim DAPS Dapper, Jeff HAMMER Pannaman, Erich DUMPER Schmunk and the TURTLE) took on the first stage of five in the series.
Registered under the “Jedermann” or “Everyone” open category, we had no idea what to expect. This was the first race of this sort for the majority of our band of seven. With the best weather we could hope for over our craniums, we rolled down in a small convoy, set up a 10x10, picked up our timing chips (well that makes scoring easy), and rolled through one lap to recon the course. We watched a few laps of the youngsters and were simply amazed at the size of the field. Young mean and lean kids hitting it hard on bikes the barely came above my knee. It was inspiring!!!
The course was a 2.3 km circuit with 4 turns. One was a wicked beast of over 115° . . . UGH!!! There was a 20 m rise right after that, another 90° at the top onto very rough pavement and 2 more turns (1 could be classified as a bend) before the line home. The wind at recon was pretty tamed. We al assumed a fast course and a jockey for position . . .
Poor planning allowed for only one recon lap before the start of the 1st race . . . UGH x 2!!! Need better control of the space-time-continuum in the future as a few runs at speed would have increased my confidence level and perhaps allowed me to recall bike racing of this sort. I recalled all too well the words, “those that fail to plan, plan to fail…” I wanted nothing of failing on this day . . .
Four of our seven lined up our trainers and it felt über good to be part of an organised team at a race again. We each went through our warm up routines. Christy Pannaman stood next to HAMMER calling out stages of his warmup routine. It was awesome!!! She even started yelling at me to pick up the spin on my legs: “…you drive fast but you ride slow. Now pick it up TURTLE!!!” I did what I was told . . .
|Preparing for Battle|
Our numbers were strong for the season opener. We were only missing our matching kit which had just arrived in VA. Once dawned (we will have it all by race 3), this will complete the visual and the true pressure to carry EVO forward in Europe will rest on our shoulders. But that’s a story for later. Right now we have to get through our first season, so back on point I go . . .
With 10 - 15 minutes to go we each made our way to the start. I had assumed that the Jedermann group (42 riders were listed) would start separate. WRONG!!! We were lined up with the German C-Klasse. For my non-Euro friends, the C-Klasse is entry-level licensed racing in Germany. Of the 3 Classes, the Germans tend to keep the A and B classes pristine. Once an A you stay an A but if you are a B and fail to have results, you are sent back to the C-Klasse. This is not the US Category 5. This is more like CAT 3/4. The field was at least 100 if not more deep . . .
As the announcer called the Jedermann to line up near the front I over heard one guy say something that translated like, “…those are some pretty fit looking Jedermann…” I let loose a TURTLE grin and was glad he noticed. The Winter Pain Cave had yielded its first result. I at least look the part of a bikeROCKstar. Or maybe the guy was talking about someone else. I was close by so I’ll take the complement and be happy . . .
The start was confusing even for my bad German. My crew would ask, “TURTLE, what is he saying?” I had no idea. It all sounded like a teacher from Charlie Brown. I heard a count down, saw the crowd of spandex start to roll with a few false starts and missed pedals, and off we went . . .
I shot up the first straight looking for the best line to take on the first turn. I went outside, instinct (not sure where it came from but it happen) told me to shift before the 115° turn to ease the spin out and keep position. Others mashed big gears and fell off as the pavement started the 20 m rise. Oh yeah, this is what I remember . . . I could feel the pressure build as I sprinted out of the turn to keep position.
I dodged slow wheels and followed my way through the mass to move closer to the front. It was on and I was in it as the terrain steepened ever so slightly. My legs began to recall the Carmichael Training System (CTS) Climbing Speed DVDs loaned to me by BLINKY (James Stroud) before I went to Afghanistan in 2011. I answered the pitch change, kept my power, and pressed ahead. I was determined to stay in the middle of this pack and out of the wind that had picked up on the course . . .
I made turn 2 in a great position and took more prisoners as I whipped through the final turns back to the start. First lap down in under 4 minutes with 55 minutes of racing to go. The TURTLE sticks and new bike were all in sync. This felt good . . . really good!
But wait . . . with the throttle full open and the heat on, I was over cooking the engine. Adrenaline was rushing through my veins and my cross check with the rest of my body was failing. I turned a deef ear to my instruments and on on lap 2 I threw a piston, blew a gasket, and just ran out of air. I remember this feeling too . . .
My lungs began to explode and pieces flew in the air adding to the fertiliser already covering the grounds and fields we were racing around. The TURTLE sticks started to smoulder under the pressure. I went past my limit. I had failed at John Braynard’s opening lines to VeloBeats, “…on one day, at one time, you can go over your limits…” I was well over my limits and phat bill was about to come due . . .
I could not hold contact with the group I was in and started falling back. TIPSTER was the first Teammate to head up the road…this I expected as youth would have its day and TIPSTER could bring heat. SHAFT, who is training for Ironman Zurich was next. His training is focused and his fitness is beyond reproach. He was crushing it. HAMMER followed and I was having flashbacks from last season. DAPS, a tenacious commuter in all weather conditions came next. This was his first race and he was giving it his all. I was fading and losing wheel after wheel . . . UGH x 3!!!
It took another lap or two for me to settle in and recover. I refused to go out like this. I sacrificed hours all winter to train. I had to suck it up and find the strength and super glue to put the shell back together and finish this race strong . . .
|Back on it!|
Found a group and started working it as best I could. I would set the tempo on the slight rise and my band of three merry men would take the pulls into the wind on the flat. My rhythm had returned . . . TURTLE got his grove back. I kicked the tires, relit the burner cans and pressed ahead. Together we began moving up the field one rejected straggler at a time. Some would join in, other would let us pass. Forward we went as forward we had to go . . .
After about 40 minutes or so the lead group of 6 - 8 lapped the field. These guys were on fire! In their group I saw one cat wearing a Jedermann number . . . BEAST!!! This must have be the guy the German was talking about as being fit. He was rocking it!!!
Some time after that a second group with TIPSTER claimed a lap on me as I led my little group up the slight rise on the course. His shout out of “way to lead up the climb TURTLE” gave me energy to dig deeper as I tried to latch onto his group for the remainder of the race. It just didn’t happen . . . youth had its day and the old man TURTLE was already in his top gear.
The lap counter said 3 to go and I dug as deep as I could. Managed to roll back up on HAMMER as we hit turn 2. I put my head down and sought to leave nothing on the road as suggested by one of my Cycling Mentors Jay Davis and SPORT (Jeffrey Ritter) suggested I do . . .
Final lap bell rang and folks started getting cheeky. I was amazed at guys sprinting to the finish from the back of the pack. Bikes were rocking from side to side on the narrow farm road. This did not look safe at all. So, I kept my line straight and just peddled as hard as I could to the line and stay out of the way from the crazies . . .
Crossing the line I dropped my head, said thanks to all for making this day possible and soft peddled to our team staging area to repair the damage done to my body. My remain lung fragments were burning and my TURTLE sticks were a bit wobbly. It was over and a time for reflection, repair and replanting was needed. Finished 31th in my group of 42 and not sure where in the larger C-Klasse. Our best placing for the Team was put down by our young TIPSTER who finished 23rd.
The journey from 2011 had been a rough one. That season my race ended with a very broken TURTLE. History shows an average of 165 watts for the race for a beaten TURTLE that would go through fire in 2012 and 2013. Yet on this day my average was 229 watts with a normalised power (NP) of 259. As my EVO Teammate Kent Le mention, I truly was “on the gas” the entire time. Though crushed by the European field, this is a step up in my game and a foundation to build upon.
I will miss the second race of the series as I trade it for Mathias, West Virginia and Evolution Cycling Training Camp. I will return for the Saturday / Sunday back-to-back efforts on 22 and 23 March. I’ll will not redline the engine out the gate but I will run tithe throttle wide open and take as many prisoners as I can. This will be the best year I have ever had on the bike . . .
The 2014 Season and Lanterne Rouge Season VI is in full swing . . . time to blur those red lines and bring some heat!