3/28/2011

Ben Damhoff's Fayetteville Race Report

This report originally posted at DamhoffRacing.com

Ben warms up for the road race Texas style

Time for my first bigger race of the year, and only the second race total. After months of training, countless 6 hr days in the saddle, and nearly 5,000 miles of riding since the first of January it is finally time to start racing. It has been quite the journey from back home riding in the snow and on the trainer during December to sunny Tucson during January to riding at altitude in the mountains here in Silver City NM. Although my training has been going very well and I have been feeling good on the bike, you never really know where you are at until you line up on start line.

On the schedule for the weekend is the Fayetteville Stage race which I am going to do partially in hopes of qualifying for the Nature Valley Pro ride competition. The Fayetteville stage race is a well-run two day event in Eastern Texas consisting of a 70 mile road race on Saturday morning followed by a short 6.6 mile Individual Time Trial in the evening, and concluded with a 96 mile road race on Sunday.

The race is well known in Texas as one of the state’s biggest races which coupled with the fact that it is a Nature Valley Qualifier race this year resulted in a strong field. The Pro/1 field included a Kenda pro rider, Garmin development rider, as well as former Tour de France contender, white jersey winner, and current Mexican national TT champion...(Apparently Raul Alcala is making a return to cycling?), a rider from Columbia, and a couple of strong teams from the Texas area.

The first road race was a little tricky tactically because it was followed by the ever important time trial later in the day. My plan was to play it conservative to save energy for the time trial. This plan didn’t work out quite as planned when a small break that went nearly at the gun end up staying out to the finish which I was not expecting to have happen considering the size of some of the teams in the race. This was frustrating but I felt good in the race and was in a serious two man effort to bridge to the break with the Kenda rider but the pack decided it wouldn’t be a great idea to let us stay out and we were caught after about 15 miles. The break ended up gaining about three minutes on the field on the day.

I was looking forward to the time trial coming into the race as I have always done well in time trials and about a month ago I got my first real time trial bike. With some of my goals for the season being bigger stage races later in the year, along with the elite national time trial championships, I have been spending a lot of time on the new bike in training and was excited to try it out in a race situation. The course was just under seven miles with several corners, hills, and a very strong wind on race day. I got in a solid warm up and felt good during the race catching my 30 sec man and nearly my minute man but felt I could have gone a bit harder for such a short course. When the results came out, I had finished in 3rd place just off the leaders (4 sec to second place). For the time of the year, and the fact that I am just getting out of base training and getting dialed in on a new bike, I was very happy with the result. And I had beaten a solid field including the Kenda rider, Garmin development rider, and the Tour de France contender (sure some would argue that he is not at his prime at the age of 47...) by nearly two minutes in a 14 min TT. Unfortunately the early break in the road race was still hurting my GC hopes and I sat at 7th place even after the good time trial.

Going into Sunday’s road race I knew I needed to do go on the offensive if I wanted to move up in the GC and have a shot at getting the Nature Valley Pro ride. I ended up getting in a four man break in the first 20 miles of the race after bridging a two minute gap solo to an existing three man. There were a couple of strong riders in the break and for the next 60 miles we worked very well together and had a nearly 5 minute gap at one point and with about 30 miles to go it looked like the break would actually stick. A couple of my breakaway companions began to crack at this point and we ended up with only me and the Columbian contributing to the pace and a strong chase from behind that had dwindled the field down to only 20 riders. We were caught with only 15-20 miles to the finish but I still felt good enough to make the final 15 man selection and finish the stage in 7th place. This result maintained my GC position of 8th overall which was not bad for one of my first races of the year. Getting caught so close to the finish was disappointing but the hard effort in the breakaway provided a perfect training situation for harder stage races such as the Tour of the Gila which will be here soon. After putting in another two hours of training solo after the race a perfect weekend of training was in the books.

With my first race and a solid result under my belt I am feeling good and it is back to Silver City to continue preparing for future races by training at altitude in the mountainous terrain. Only after a day of recovery at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico however...

Notice that Ben scared away any surrounding sun bathers.


3/23/2011

ABD fielding Women's and Men's Elite Teams in 2011

The cat has been creeping out of the bag for a while, but it's time to make it official. In 2011 ABD will field both Elite Women and Men's teams. In continuing ABD's pro development tradition (15 pro alumni to date), this year’s teams are made up of riders that are eager to work together to earn results and help each other take the next step. Both teams will race the bigger Midwest races and travel to select NRC events as well as Nationals in Augusta, Georgia. The team is receiving support from Prairie Path Cycles, Serfas (tires and sunglasses), Voler clothing and PowerBar.

The 2011 rosters are:

Women
Stacy Appelwick - Naperville, IL Sarah Demerly - Ypsilanti, MI
Elena Dorr - Chicago, IL
Jeannie Kuhajek - New Zealand
Kristen Meshberg - Lyons, IL
Jessi Prinner - South Elgin, IL

Men
Ben Damhoff - Sterling, IL
Waylon Janowiak - Michigan City, IN
Ryan Freund - Lake in the Hills, IL
Bryan McVey - Naperville, IL
Bryce Mead - Rock Falls, IL
Danny Robertson - Rolling Meadows, IL
Hogan Sills - Champaign, IL

Stacy, Sarah, Elena and Kristen are kicking their season off locally over the next couple of weeks and will be joined by Jessi before she heads to Europe and China with the US National Team. Jess's schedule currently includes both the women's edition of Fleche Wallone and the Chongming World Cup. Jeannie is wrapping up a full season in New Zealand, where she recently wore the green jersey in the Tour of New Zealand, and will arrive stateside in the end of May to join the team at the Quad Cities weekend.

On the men's side, Waylon, Danny and Hogan are still in school so will join the team on a more permanent basis in the end of May. Meanwhile, Ben Damhoff is training this winter in New Mexico while he prepares for the Tour of Gila and will make his way home in May and will meet up with Bryan at the Joe Martin Stage Race along the way. Bryce is returning to ABD after three seasons with Jelly Belly and will share his experiences with the younger riders as they try to make the same jump he did. The team will also be joined on occasion by Dylan Lewis and Mike Ebert, who will also direct both teams.

All of the riders will be filing reports through the ABD Blog and below are their Twitter ID’s (for riders that have them) if anyone wants to keep up with them 140 characters at a time.

Bryan: @bryanmcvey
Danny: @bikerdanny
Elena: @elena_dorr
Hogan: @hogansills
Ryan: @ryanfreund
Sarah: @femdem
Waylon: @waylonjan

3/22/2011

Appelwick Report: Tucson Bicycle Classic

Hey ABD'ers!

Mission accomplished!! I've just spent the last three days getting my teeth kicked in down here in AZ racing the 3 day Tucson Bicycle Classic. It consists of a TT, a road race and a circuit race.

Chris Mosora, my fiance, has made an annual trip down here for the past 6 years now to Tucson to get some early season racing under his belt. I joined him last year and raced with the 4's and took 5th in the GC, and actually winning stage two. This year, I raced with the big girls. I knew it was going to be an excellent learning experience for me and boy I wasn't disappointed!

We headed down last Thursday since the race started on Friday, and as an interesting side note on the connecting flight to Denver we sat next to a fellow, Brian Brown, who said he was Ron Kiefel's brother-in-law, and we had a very nice conversation covering many topics among them including cycling, diet, and his daughter who is an aspiring triathlete, which helped pass the time on the flight.

Day 1: The Prologue

All of you TT'ers out there know the drill. Go as hard as you can for the distance. 1.5 miles downhill, 1.5 miles up. I ended up 7th in a field of 26 with a time of 9:03. I was OK with this just coming off the computrainer. Thanks for all those great indoor events ABD holds! They really make the difference!

Alisha Welsh of the Peanut Butter & Co. Pro team came in first with a time of 8:42. WOW!

Day 2: The Road Race

The road race was 60 miles consisting of three 20 mile loops with about 1000' of climbing each, including a solid sustained climb and a few rollers with a LONG, straight, rapid descent. Cara Bussell of the Trisports Team and Lisa Turnbull of the Riverstone team made an attack within the first 5 miles and were gone! The Trisports team was the only one with any presence, so no one chased. We never imagined it would stick since they went so early. Cara dropped Lisa about half way through and held a 2 min lead for the remaining 30 miles. What a performance! Jeannie Kuhajek just informed me Cara is riding so well since she just spent the last 2 months training in New Zealand. --Lucky gal!!

The field hung together until the long last mile uphill to the finish. The attacks came early and often from several girls. I've never experienced such a long sprint. I managed to make my way past a few gals in the last 50 meters for an 8th place finish and hung to my 7th placing in the GC. Lisa managed to win the field sprint.

Day 3: Circuit Race

This course is a blast!! It's a 5.6 mile loop with a nice climb and a fast descent with another uphill finish. The field was very active today, but in spite of all the attacks, nothing got away. I hung in there for the first 4 laps. Laps 5, 6 and 7 were another matter. Through the feed zone where the last of the climb starts is where I started to get dropped. Alisha of the aforementioned PB & Co. team attacked right here on every lap. I managed to catch back on down the descent on laps 5 and 6, but on lap 7 the girls got serious and my flatlander lungs and midwest winter legs caught up with me. I just couldn't close the gap and got dropped for good. I ended up 15th on the day and 14th in the GC. I lost 47 seconds in the GC. Anna Sanders of the TriSports.com team won the field sprint and Alisha took 2nd. Here's a link to the full results:

http://www.tucsonbicycleclassic.com/2011results/

A big thanks to our Prez and the club for sponsoring us ladies, to Ebert for EVERYTHING he does. Last but not least, to Chris who is my coach, shrink and mechanic. He makes sure my head is on straight and my machine is running smooth.

To finish off our trip here we wanted to climb to the top of Mt. Lemmon today (monday), but due to the sudden cold (for Arizona) and windy weather we decided to stay on the lower slopes and just do some climbing intervals, which thoroughly exhausted me.

Then we're back home tomorrow until the next big adventure at the end of April for the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, NM.

I hope to see many of you out on the road very soon!

Stacy

3/15/2011

In The Homestretch: Prinner's Final Tucson Report

Editor's Note: This report is reposted from The Prinner Posts

It still hasn't quite occurred to me that I'm not actually in Tucson anymore; I continue to wear shorts and run outside on random occasions only to realize it's not 70 degrees. Though I'm in serious withdrawal from Tucson paradise it had become obvious in my last week there that it was time to go home:for one, most of my waterbottles have grown cultures of microorganisms due to both my own neglect in cleaning them out and Accelerade's reluctance to detach itself from plastic.Plus my supply of earplugs had diminished greatly as they always seem to mysteriously disappear in the night, never to be seen again. My back wheel wobbled precariously (I still insist I had nothing to do with it) and my handlebar tape continued to unravel despite my attempts to fix it. I sensed the urge from some greater being that it was my time to move on as the Tucson pavement continued to attack me relentlessly (although it's more probable that I keep attempting to attack the pavement and never seem to learn that I will always lose).

A fortnight ago my Wednesday night training crit was short lived as I succeeded in embarrassing my cat. 2 status in blatantly trying to pedal around a 180 degree turn and paid the price in even more skin.So not only did I bear the scars of the Shootout crash on my left side but I now had a full set on the right side to complement it.So I dejectedly rode home that night kicking myself for such a novice mistake as I now had no clean side to crash on.Of course my next option would be to wear arm/leg warmers in the stifling Tucson heat in my next race as I didn't feel like having road rash on top of my road rash.But at this point most of my wounds have healed and have that wonderfully pink hue that you just know will turn purple and stay with you for the rest of your life.

On my last week in Tucson I was joined by my dad as he was to help me drive 27 hours back to Chicago.I decided to take him up Mount Lemmon for less sadistic reasons than you think, and as it was a high of 90 degrees that day I was confident I wouldn't die on the side of the mountain as I almost did several weeks ago.I could only shudder as I passed that scenic pull-out where I had sat huddled in the fetal position waiting for either 1) death to find me or 2) a friendly ride to hitchhike down with.Seeing as though I have lived to write this you can probably infer that option two occurred.Roughly 25 miles of climbing later I arrived at the Cookie Cabin, arguably the point that's considered “the top” for all cyclists daring such an endeavor.The idea is to suffer and toil endlessly for 25 miles and then stuff your face with a giant cookie and perhaps a Dr. Pepper and then refrain from throwing it all up on the swift ride down.What a wonderful life.

And then my time ended in Tucson and I prepared for a marathon drive back home. After driving through the night, the sun rose the next morning to display gloomy overcast skies in Missouri, though I still refused to exchange my flip flops for shoes. I'm not devastated, though, as some may think, because in two and a half weeks I begin my next European adventure on the National Team.

Name Dropping the Prez

Chris Mosora just passed on a link to Steve Tilford's latest blog post discussing "deals" in cycling and talks about the Chicago Crit Series when he was racing for ABD President Mike Farrell.

http://stevetilford.com/?p=10428

We've asked the boss what he remembers about that race...

3/02/2011

Jim Nowak's Birkie Report

Well, my ski season has officially come to a close with the 2011 American Birkebeiner (aka The Birkie).  Some of you may know about this, but my guess is that most of you have no idea what The Birkie is all about.

The Birkie is the LARGEST cross-country ski race in North America.  This year there were over 8000 participants in the three different races: Prince Hakkon which is 12K, Korteloppet which is 23K and the Birkie which is 50K.  This race draws people from all over including European countries.  There are also several other events that are happening during the week leading up to the races, but last Saturday was race day.

The Birkie course has been described by many as the Autobahn of ski courses.  It is quite wide and fast in good conditions.  There is quite a bit of climbing with a total of about 2600 feet of climbing over the 31 miles.  The first 5K is fairly flat but then the hills come fast and furious.  There are several significant climbs on the course, with 4 of them happening from 10K to go to 3K to go.  The last 3K are then skied across Lake Hayward with the finish being on Main St which is filled with snow and packed.

I went up on Friday with a group of 4 other people, and got to Hayward around 2pm.  The temp was a whopping +9F degrees.  We got our packets and bibs, I picked up my skis which I had sent up earlier in the week to have a race wax service do for me and then headed over to the Birkie trail for a ski to stretch the legs.  We skied from "OO" which is the halfway point for the 50K race.  The groomers had not done the final grooming, but we got a good sense that it was not going to be a super fast day due to the coldness and abrasiveness of the snow, but it wasn't going to be a slog either.

Sat morning the alarm went off at 5:30am.  I got some food into me for the day and we made our way to the parking lot to board buses to the start line.  Logistically the Birkie is a nightmare, but having gone through the routine many times, I knew what to expect.  So the 2 mile long line of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot didn't phase me in the least.

We made it to the start area, I made my final "preparations" for the race, and got into the chute and waited for the next 15 minutes until my wave started.  Luckily it wasn't windy as the temp at the start was -9F degrees.  The plan was for me and one of the guys I came up with to ski together for the first 5-6K easy and then when the hills start begin to ramp the pace up slowly.

The gun went off and my skis felt really fast.  I took it easy, but with the speed of my skis, I was able to move around people and make my way forward.  Once the hills started it began to thin out and people were now skiing in groups.  There was about 10 people I was with and various people would set the pace.  I made it over the high point at 13K in good shape and started to push the pace a bit more.  On the big hills before "OO" I again pushed the pace and felt really good.  I quickly got a gel down and continued working hard.  At about 35K I started to fell a bit taxed, so I grabbed another gel.  At this time it was pretty frozen, so I had to take a bit, let it melt in my mouth and then finally swallow it.  It took me some time to do, but I finally finished it just in time to hit the first of the last four climbs (Mosquito Brook Hill).  This is a LONG hill that seems to go on forever especially when you are in a bad spot.  I told myself to just keep the people in front in sight and once the gel kicks in I'll be able to catch them.  Sure enough once I got over the hill and made my way over the rollers, I was good to go.  The second hill (aka Bitch Hill) was next and I didn't have any problems.  This is a shorter hill, rises only about 80ft or so in about 1/2K, but is steep and tough.  Once over that, again more rollers and onto the next hill.  By this time I had pretty much caught everyone I was skiing with earlier except for one guy.  On this hill I pushed the pace and ended up catching him at the top.  Once over this hill you go through a field, and cross Hwy 77 and start the final climb before you come out to Lake Hayward.  The "Hwy 77 Hill" is one of the toughest climbs of the race.  It is quite long (1.5K or so) and has a pretty good pitch to it.  It also comes at about 45K into the race.  I was feeling good and was able to keep a nice tempo up the whole climb.  Once to the top it is a quick shot down to Lake Hayward and only about 3K to go.  I skied as hard as I could catching and passing groups on the lake as much as possible.  Off the lake you get onto Main St. which is just a wall of noise from the fans on both sides of the street (much like a Tour climb).  I skied as hard and as fast as I could and I crossed the finish line feeling spent yet happy with my race.  My time of 2:55 was not my fastest but my placing in both the overall and age group where good (753 overall and 90 in my age).

The temp at the finish was +5F degrees.  There were quite a few people that had issues with frostbite, myself included but only a small area on my cheeks.  As I reflect on the race, one of the things that I was really happy with was that I never panicked, never got down, but always kept positive.  I think part of that is that I have finally figured out this race as this was my 13th Birkie.

I've already started thinking about 2012 am excited to continue to push myself with this event.  The Birkie is like nothing else I have done including bike races, marathons, triathlons, etc.  I truly do have "Birkie Fever"!

Thanks for reading,
Jim

3/01/2011

Prinner Post: Random Notes and Race #2

Originally posted at The Prinner Posts

A bunch of random events + an account of my second real race of the year

After a week of bad luck I felt it was about time I got a stroke of good fortune. As if my randomly broken spoke in the middle of a ride wasn’t frustrating enough some greater being decided it would be amusing if I got stung in the neck by a bee as soon as I pulled over to analyze my first misfortune.

And then several days later I crashed once again on the infamous Shootout. The torrential sidewind had the field battling for the inside wheel (even if it meant riding off into a ditch in order to get that sliver of draft) which equated to crashes and carnage. Remember, even though the Shootout is technically called a “ride” we all know what it really is. “Riding” the Shootout is also a very paradoxal experience: on one hand you feel elated to be hanging on for so long as the field is slowly evaporating and on the other you’re kicking yourself for actually volunteering to wake up at 6:00 am (which remember is like 3:00 am teenage time) and turn yourself inside out for three hours in hopes of hanging on for about half of that time. Or perhaps to end up running over another rider (who just simply decided to stop in the middle of the field) and transfer all that energy stored gravitationally and kinetically directly to my poorly constructed human knees. This was a week ago. My knee is still swollen. I am all but baking Ibuprofen into pies by now.

Fortunately a distraction arrived in the form of Leah Sanda, Gary Whalen and Katie Isermann that same weekend and I was like a goldfish reunited with water as my Chi-Town buddies and I had an adventure around Tucson. Gary received a flat not a mile from my temporary home, but it was a good thing he had all the tools necessary to change a flat including a spare 650 tire and a 700 that already had a puncture in it.

Plus I got to use my frame pump for the second time ever for Gary’s flat. After roughly three years to travelling beneath my top tube I had not once used my weathered frame pump. The moment of truth arrived on an easy Friday ride with my housemate Matt (the one with the Canadian accent that says a-boot instead of about) when I received my first flat of the trip and came to the realization that I seriously had no idea how to use my pump. Luckily Matt is a mechanical engineer, and after much tinkering (including sketching out diagrams on the pavement and doing some insane calculus and trigonometry calculations—to which I pitched in to remind him of Sohcahtoa) he finally decoded my frame pump and we were well on our way.

This past Saturday I also signed up for a criterium downtown at the University of Arizona, and with $900 dollars awarded to the top three women in the 1,2,3 race I was ready to eat some more pavement in an attempt to nab some of that cash. The field was small as usual (about 15 women) but despite such a harmless fa├žade it was a loaded field in terms of power including Julia Garnet (a National Team member for Canada), Erica Zaveta (a member of the USA Mountain Bike Team), three Trisport teammates, Chloe Forsman (last year’s winner), and a few other strong women who I simply don’t know all that well.

The race was fast from the gun, and with the wind picking up to over 20 mph, making drafting both difficult yet essential in this small field. The Trisport ladies were continually successful in counterattacking and consistently getting riders up the road, to which I had to pick and choose what to chase, bridge, or sit in and hope the others would close. Roughly halfway into the race a break of two consisting of a Trisport rider named Cara Bussell and last year’s winner Chloe Forsman escaped with over a 20 second gap. After attempting a failed attack to try to bridge I knew my best chance would be to wait for the perfect counterattack to clear the field. After a massive attack from Julia Garnet followed by a jump from Erica Zaveta I attacked in the gutter as the field sat up and clustered back together. It was more or less the timing of the attack that made it so successful as everyone at that point was in the “screw it I’m not chasing anymore” mood and I immediately racked up a large gap further discouraging chasing from the Trisport riders as they didn’t want to close on their own rider up the road. From there I put the hammer down and suffered for four laps to catch the two leaders who looked around at me startled as though I’d just fallen out of the sky. For the last 20 minutes of the race the three of us traded pulls (with Cara taking a $100 prime with 14 minutes to go) and the bell lap coming down to the typical cat and mouse game. The three of us were crawling at about 10 mph looking around at each other to see who would attempt an early jump and I decided to get the adrenaline and impulsive behavior flowing with a fake attack which prompted a jump from Chloe that got us back up to speed. With less than a half a lap to go Cara began to ramp it up as Chloe jumped around her in the second to last straightaway to start the sprint. I accelerated in third position, holding as much draft as possible. Chloe and Cara hit the last turn neck and neck and braked in nervous anticipation while I slid through on the inside brake-free with just a little bit of momentum and a slight distance advantage that I carried to the finish line, gritting my teeth and throwing my bike with a half a bike-length for the victory over Cara.

As a self-employed cyclist, I earn anywhere from $0 to $500 an hour. That day I was ballin’ with five crisp hundred dollar bills in my pocket. For the police officers reading this: If you happen to pull over an individual carrying a shady looking envelope containing ridiculously large denominations of bills, there is a very small probability that they’re just a poor, elated cyclist returning from a successful race, not necessarily a drug dealer.