Keeping busy here at the Scandic Hotel

To keep sane during times of sickness and/or idleness, one must practice a well disciplined schedule. Executing this schedule on a daily basis, in a timely fashion, is crucial for maintaining mental health and staving off depression/suicide.

1) Wake up.

2) Walk downstairs for the breakfast buffet. I’ve described the tasty spread already in the previous post. I’ll do it again here though in a more thorough manner. First I cut a piece of bread with deli meat (usually salami) and cheese. Next, on the same plate mind you, I spoon on some baked beans, eggs, and 2-3 thin strips of bacon. One time I had pineapple instead of the open faced sandwich. It was a wild time. I then get a cup of coffee and sit down and eat that plate. After that I get a bowl of muesli with milk or yogurt and more coffee. If I’m really hungry, which I’m not since I haven’t ridden in a week, I get more beans and eggs. Usually one or two more coffees as well. Then I make two gigantic sandwiches and quickly run upstairs before anyone gives me the stink eye. Step 2 is the highlight of my day. It’s pretty much all downhill from here.

3) Put my sandwiches in my large Tupperware, making sure to break them down, separating the meat/cheese/lettuce/tomato/pepper section from the bread. I don’t want soggy bread. I WON’T stand for it.

4) Walk back downstairs with my book “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett and read on the couch while I drink more coffee and watch people eat breakfast.

5) After I have a strong coffee buzz going, I’ll make one more sandwich to take back upstairs.

6) Read more in bed or fool around on the internet or start downloading a movie.

7) Take a short sauna or go on a 30 minute ride. I’m still too sick to really be riding though so it’s usually a sauna. This is always followed by a trip to the sparkling water fountain, which I frequent about 6 times a day.

8) Talk to Adelaide on Skype while laying in bed.

9) Watch the movie I downloaded while laying in bed.

10) Talk to Adelaide on Skype again while laying in bed.

11) Take a shower. I forgot to mention that I’ll possibly take other showers throughout the day, just to mix it up and keep things interesting.

12) Read more or go to sleep. While laying in bed.

That’s basically my day. One time I cleaned my bike in the shower.

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Sandwiches (or “sandos” according to Chris) in their Tupperware container that I brought from home since I knew It would come in handy.

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Chris and Barry got back from Denmark last night so now I have two friends to do activities with. They aren’t sick though, so once they recover from their 30 hours of driving (and 2 hours of racing) they’ll most likely leave me to rot in my tiny cell when they go out training. One day soon I’ll be well enough to train, race, and explore the city.

Until then I’ll abide by my schedule.

 

 

 

I’m in Sweden, not Switzerland, you idiots.

You know when you’re at the pinnacle of your cold–that point at which you feel the worst you could possibly feel? Headache, fever, chills, body ache, constantly having to blow your nose every 30 seconds or else green mucus starts dripping down your chin? That’s the state I was in while I packed and ran errands the day before my flight to Sweden. Then, during the flight, I got worse.

The lack of sleep during my day of travel set me back a third step, so that when I arrived in Sweden, mid-afternoon on Friday, I was ready to call it a trip and head back home. Usually I’m stoked to travel to a new, exciting place. This time, not so much.

Luckily I had the always positive Chris Stastny to cheer me up. We exchanged pleasantries at the Stockholm airport (I wan’t very pleasant actually), and our team manager Goran drove us up to Uppsala. Once he dropped us off at our lovely Scandic Hotel, which has a sparkling-water spigot, we set off down the street for food. I hadn’t eaten a meal in about 20 hours since my damn flight didn’t serve any dinner or breakfast. Chris’ did, but since he’s a bike racer he was aggressively hungry all the same. We demolished two personal size pizzas at a Turkish Gyro place. Yeah, the first thing we ate here in Sweden was pizza. Mine did have fish on it though.

After that, Chris went on a short spin while I slept for 14 hours.

We woke up early the next morning, me feeling about 20 times better, and went downstairs for the free breakfast buffet. The spread was fantastic. Breads, jams, meats, cheeses, fruit, salad, different types of muesli with a bunch of seed toppings, yogurts, eggs, bacon, beans, oatmeal, plus good coffee. I built two massive sandwiches and snuck them away in napkins for lunch and dinner, since not working + traveling to bike races all over the States for the past two months + now living in Sweden = I’m incredibly broke. Note: I would have smuggled those sandwiches anyways.

Chris took off for the 12-hour drive south to Denmark shortly after breakfast (wait, Sweden isn’t conveniently located in central Europe for easy travel to bike races?), while I went back upstairs to build my bike. I rode downtown in search of a bank and an Apple store for a new computer charger since I’d left mine back home. The charger ended up costing more than my computer is worth.

It’s flat, cold, gray, and drizzly here in Sweden. The people are beautiful though. Everyone is fit, friendly, and out on their bikes or walking, despite the weather.

Catching this cold has pretty much made this trip not worth it, since I’m now missing out on the main reason I came: Loir et Cher, a 5-day UCI 2.2 that starts next Wednesday. Couldn’t I be over my cold by then? Maybe but it’s very doubtful. If I were to do the race I’d have to spend all day driving one of the cars down to Denmark today for the two local races that the team is doing, after which I’d drive the rest of the way to France on Monday. The travel and jet lag to get here to Sweden combined with all that extra race travel would have left me with crappy legs even if I were healthy, which I’m not. The smart decision was to stay here in Uppsala, the home base of the team, and recover.

Unfortunately the race schedule for our team is very sparse this spring. The next race weekend won’t be until the beginning of May. We have a couple UCI 1.2s, then our home race the following weekend, which is another 1.2 and a crit. The week after that, I plan (hope) to head back to North America for US pro nationals, Philly, Sagueney, and Beauce. I guess I’ll try to treat my time here in Sweden as a recover/building block for the next big chunk of racing back in the States and Canada. It’s kind of a long way to travel for training in the rain but hey, it’s something new and when else in life am I going to get to live in Sweden of all places?

While in the past I’ve gotten sick quite frequently, I did make it almost 11 weeks of staying healthy this winter and spring. That’s pretty decent for me. Along that line of trying to make myself feel better, I’ve had some fairly good results and 18 days of racing already this year. It’s hard but I’m really trying to stay positive while I lay here sick in bed. Goodnight. Or good morning. I have no clue what time it is wherever you are.

Final Depressing Days of Redlands

If you didn’t read the last post, I’ll give you the low-down: I rode poorly and got upset about it.

The low down of this post: I rode ever worse and got even more upset about it.

The final two stages of Redlands didn’t go any better than the first three. I guess the first two weren’t terrible and I was feeling fine. It’s just that Beaumont stage that I was pissed about. Anyways, during the crit on Saturday evening, after about 10 laps of failing to move up enough to get to the front, I decided to just pack it in at 60 minutes to make the time cut. My legs weren’t good enough to get in moves anyways, I wasn’t going to get in the top 10 for the stage, and I knew I’d need every ounce of strength to avoid getting dropped on Sundays Sunset circuit race.

Back at home we ate enchiladas, rice, beans, tri tip steak, and salad. Probably too much tri tip, but our hosts were amazing cooks. I hoped that a big meal with some red meat might help transform me into a less shitty rider. I had my doubts.

Let me quickly introduce the my Landis-Trek teammates since I failed to do that earlier:

Michael Dziedzic
Tim Carolan
Cole House
Drew Miller
Tyler Coplea
Jared Gilyard
Lewis Elliot

We had Brian Lemke as team manager and director, and Scott Price as soignier. It was a pleasure riding for Landis-Trek and meeting this awesome new group of people. I just wish I’d had the legs to repay them all.

Anyways, the synopsis of Sunday’s stage 5 circuit race will be short and sweet: I was in the red leading up to the climb, got popped on the flatter section of the climb mid way up on the first lap,  got passed by 50 or 60 guys while I tired to regain my legs, sort of recovered, blew up again a minute later at the KOM, then chased until I got caught by a group of like 10 guys. Mind you, this all happened within six miles of racing. There were still 90 to go.

My legs sort of came back since the small group I was with was riding slower but my motivation was completely gone. We were already a minute and a half back from the lead group of 50, with probably another 70 guys in between that group and us. There was no way we were ever seeing even the middle, let alone the front, of the race again. I chose to cowardly fall off the back and take a short cut home to wallow in self pity and contemplate giving up bike racing. At least I’d be giving my legs the rest that they hopefully needed in order to get out of this slump.

I flew home the following Monday and I leave for Europe tomorrow so there’s packing to be done. All I want to do is sleep and get back massages from Adelaide though. I ended up getting sick. On top of it all, I saw the dentist today for a teeth cleaning and I had two cavities! The cavities were just small voids (cavities) in my last two fillings that needed extra glue, so I can’t really complain about that. The being sick part does suck though.

Obviously I never like catching a cold but this time it’s sort of a relief finally figuring out why my legs were so bad for the second half of the race. In the back of my mind I’d kept wondering if I was fighting some sort of low grade infection, and sure enough I started feeling a trickle in my throat Sunday night. It better pass quickly because I have two races in Denmark this weekend, followed by a five-day UCI in France starting next Wednesday. At least it’ll be sunny and warm over there.

Some suffering going on during Stage 3′s Beaumont road race:

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Redlands First Three Stages

I’m here in the land of paradise with Landis Trek, racing Redlands and just loving life! HA. No but seriously, I’m incredibly depressed.

This is not going to be an uplifting post. Nor will it be an interesting or exciting post. It will not even contain that many facts about the race. The few details about the race won’t even be accurate. Due to my incredible amount of suck, I haven’t even seen the front of this race. Pack fodder is my name.

Being a worthless pile of human excrement is my game. Day 1: I sucked. I rode like a wimp, positioned poorly, and screwed up what was probably my best chance at a good result. This first stage consisted of a 2.8-mile circuit that hit a steep climb and a winding neighborhood descent each lap. We did 20 laps. I felt uncomfortable and my legs weren’t happy, but the race didn’t feel too hard. I came into the final climb far back, like 80 guys deep, which meant that I was out of contention for the sprint at the top of the hill. I went hard and passed quite a few guys to get 42nd, which was 15 seconds off the winner due to time gaps. I was pissed off mainly at my lack of positioning, not yet realizing the worst to come: shitty legs.

Day 2: The Big Bear time trial. What more to say than “Oh man that would be awesome if they cancel it due to snow because this is the stage I’ll most likely lose the most amount of time! Damn it they didn’t cancel it. What the hell, these new UCI rules are BULL! Are they trying to give me scoliosis and ED? Crap I didn’t warm up long enough. Yep, this hurts. Probably shouldn’t have gone out at 488 watts for the first minute and a half. Crap now I’m only averaging 350. I suck. Done. Despite knowing that my time is mediocre, I REALLY need to see the results! Why’s it taking them four hours to get results posted!? Oh, I was 44th. Crap. That confirms it. I suck.”

Day 3: The Beaumont road race was the day I was looking forward to the most since last year I was just barely off being able to make the front selection of eight guys that vied for the win. This year was a whole different story. The gist of it is that my form from last weekend miraculously vanished. I suffered all day long. On the climbs, on the flats, coasting, just looking at my bike before the stage started as I sat in my chair…nowhere was I comfortable and I was always in the red. I don’t know what happened to my legs the past week. Possibly external non-race related stressors are the cause, yet I don’t know. Sometimes you just suck. Coming to terms with it is hard but it’s the only thing that will get you back to sanity after four and a half hours in the saddle playing mind games with yourself, wondering if every good race you’ve ever had was just a fluke and you’re destined for poor performances for the rest of you days. I finished 82nd. Last year I was 12th. I’m now 52nd on GC out of 201 starters (Man, some guys must REALLY be having a bad week! I kid, I kid).

If I get a chance at it, I’m going all in on Sunday’s Sunset loop and making the breakaway, even if it’s just for a lap. Doing that would be better than just sitting in until I inevitably get dropped. And if by some miracle I get in the move and end up having good legs, well I guess that would be pretty nice too. Hmm. I must be in a constant state of denial/fantasy land to believe some of the things I tell myself. It’s a necessary mindset for this sport. My next post might contain some pictures and more descriptions of my teammates and the happenings of our week here. Might not though. Depends on the motivation.

In all seriousness though, I am enjoying my time here and I’m very grateful that Landis gave me an opportunity to race. A bad race is still a race, and all races make for a good time, one way or another. The team support has been fantastic so far with a great host house, awesome food prepared by our director Brian Lemke, and perfect feeds and logistics provided by Scott and also Brian. The team is in good spirits despite a lack luster showing, and while I’m suffering a bout of bad form, I assume it will only be temporary and I’ll bounce back sooner rather than later.

San Dimas Part 2

Mid-race mantra: “Don’t go to bed with any regrets tonight Kennett. You won’t be able to sleep. Don’t go to bed with any regrets tonight Kennett. You won’t be able to sleep.”

Seconds after the race ended. “You’re getting no sleep tonight.”

When you’re out of the running and roll in mid-pack or off the back, you get depressed. When you’re close but just off the mark, you dwell. Dwelling is harder to get over. For one thing, it takes longer to finish a solid dwell session. What if I’d done this? Why didn’t I do that? If I’d only done this instead. All the sheets would be ripped off the bed and wrapped tightly around my legs by morning. I was in for a long night of tossing and turning.

How it went down:

Since I was at the front for the start, I decided to attack immediately once the race was de-neutralized. It didn’t go anywhere of course but I continued to set easy tempo on the front for the next five minutes just to stay out of trouble for the first couple turns, which are littered with cones and potholes. Like I’ve said with every bog post account of this race, the San Dimas circuit is an incredibly sketchy day. While I do love the course, every year it’s dangerous enough for me to question whether I’ll ever come back. The answer is of course yes, but I still do consider it. There’s road furniture, positioning is important to not get gapped off so everyone rides aggressively, there’s cones everywhere, there’s oncoming traffic around blind, downhill corners, and the road surface is less than smooth. This is my fifth time here yet I’ve never crashed, so I guess it’s not as sketchy as it seems. Ha. Tell that to Phil Gaimon.

I lost position on the second lap due to my fear of crashing and going fast through corners, and was too far back on the KOM climb. The race broke into three groups, with me in the third and largest group. For a few kilometers I worried that I’d blown the race and my day was over. It all came together on the feed zone climb though. Everyone was still fresh. Good. I tried positioning better for the KOM climb that third lap and did slightly better, but still missed out on the small front group that got away for the next couple miles. Shortly after the two groups merged back together, I attacked on the feed zone hill. Actually, that was on the fifth lap. It seems that I have no recollection whatsoever of the fourth lap.

Looking back after the feed zone hill descent, I saw a massive gap opening up already. I put my head down and kept going. A group of six or seven caught me right before the toll-booth, which is situated in the middle of the road, and we worked well leading up to the KOM climb. A few more guys bridged to us there and I think we might have lost one guy as well.

I’m terrible at keeping track of who’s in the break but I know that for the majority of the race we had 10 guys:

Anton Varabei (Jet Fuel)
David Santos (KHS)
Luis Amaran (Jamis)
Serghei Tevetkov (Jelly Belly)
Clement Chavrier (Bissell)
Kit Recca (Horizon)
Daniel Eaton (Canyon)
Bruno Langlois (5-Hour Energy)
Coulton Hartrich (Unattached…somebody pick this guy up!)

Most of the bigger teams were represented so the field was left with little reason to chase. That was a good thing since our cohesion was shaky for the next lap or two.

As usual, my desire to not get caught outweighed my desire to win, which meant that I took some extra pulls to help ensure we stayed away. I had great legs and never felt under pressure or tired the whole day. If I lost, it wouldn’t be because I was getting dropped, that much I knew for sure, so I figured working it for the next few laps wouldn’t hurt.

One guy who had the opposite idea and decided to sit at the back all day long and never come to the front except to take KOM and sprint points was Amaran. Maybe Jamis didn’t want the move to stick since none of their GC guys were in the move. Who knows, but it annoyed me.

Over the next five laps I didn’t go for any of the sprint or KOM points, just to make sure that I was as fresh as possible for the finish. My plan was to attack balls out on the final climb or follow moves on the last lap. I was going for the stage win, not a jersey.

We heard that our gap was over two minutes with a lap to go, which meant that we’d stay away. We began sitting up a bit and conserving, looking at each other, skipping pulls, and getting ready for the first attacks.

Daniel Eaton of Canyon was the first to go. He chose the feed zone climb and I was quickly on him. I pulled through super short, not really wanting to get away since I figured Clement (Bissell) would just sit on the front no matter what and pull. He’d been the most ambitious about keeping the pace up in the break since he was the best placed GC guy out of all of us and was just going for time. Eaton and I were swallowed up on the descent and the attacks flew for the next kilometer or two, then that was it. Everyone realized Clement was just going to sit on the front and keep the pace up, killing all but the most ambitious attempts to get away. Besides, we only had a short downhill section and then the KOM. That’s where the real action would take place.

Or so I thought. Clement continued setting the pace on the climb, albeit pretty easy on the lower slopes, leaving everyone with too much oxygen and punch in their legs for me to get away when I attacked half way up. I looked back at the top and saw Bruno Langlois gritting his teeth just 10 meters back with the rest of the group strung out behind on his wheel. Damn it. Should have gone earlier on the climb.

I sat up on the flat headwind section at the top and we rocketed down the quick descent to the finish straight. 2K to go. Clement went to the front again and drilled it. I should have gone with 500 meters, just for the hell of it since I knew I wouldn’t win the sprint, but I didn’t and started from last wheel with 250 meters. I finished a disappointing 7th but at least managed to avoid a nasty crash after the finish line. A group of photographers, who were standing in the middle of the road just 100 feet after the finish line, forced us to swerve around them at the last second as we grabbed brakes at 40mph. Eaton, Varabei, and Santos crashed into a parked truck in the process and destroyed themselves and their bikes.

The point of a telephoto lens is to capture images from afar, meaning you don’t have to stand ON the finish line to get a good shot. This was total mindlessness from the photographers. But, just like the riders, photographers, officials, volunteers, etc are all part of the race too, and are bound to make mistakes, just like us.

Top three on the stage:

1st Anton Varabei (Jet Fuel)
2nd David Santos (KHS)
3rd Daniel Eaton (Canyon)

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Varabei won the race to the finish line and also to the side of the promoter’s truck. Poor truck. He’s a big fellah.

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That’s a Jet-Fueled Varabei-sized dent in the side there.

 

I apologize for the lack of pictures. I feel worse and worse about inserting others’ work into my blog. But I have no moneys! Some day when I’m above the poverty line I’ll buy them I swear. There’s more images of all the races and all the categories and all the stages at Cycling Illustrated.com.

Here’s one on the KOM climb that highlights my good side. In hindsight I wish I’d gone for the KOMs. Oh well. You know what they say: “There’s always next year. Unless you die first. Or stop racing, which are basically the same thing.” I’m pretty sure that’s a saying.

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Colin, Tim, and I had Dan in the feed zone with endless bottles of sweet, sweet Osmo. Every hand off was effortless and perfect. So for that, thank you Dan. Colin spent the day in the pack, surfing through the carnage that would see only 45 guys out of the 150 starters make the main front group. Tim, who also made the main front group, spent multiple laps off in no man’s land by himself, just 50 seconds behind us at one point. He got caught on the last lap at the top of the KOM. Just needed one more guy to bridge the gap.

I was hoping to at least move into the top 10 GC since the field was a minute back, but I only managed 11th. Today I have the crit to make up a few seconds, though my chances of that aren’t great.

Written later after the crit:

The crit didn’t go great. Didn’t go terribly either. I never made it to the front to go with any moves. I just wasn’t aggressive enough to get up there. I moved down a spot on GC to 12th. It was a good weekend of racing though. Colin, Dan, Tim and I capped it off at the Inn N Out Burger with my friend, Will, who’d come to watch the race, then later we teamed up against a poor girl on a 4 vs 1 blind date at the frozen yogurt place (set up via Tinder), and ended the night at Del Taco. We binged on fast food like frat boys drink. The end of a stage race often calls for this sort of behavior. It’s the cyclist way of life. Plus, with Redlands starting just three days later, we had to pack those sugar and saturated fat stores to full capacity! I’m happy to announce that I’ll be racing with Landis Trek for the week. The temporary wolf pack of Colin, Dan, Tim, and I has sadly been disbanded. Another will take its place in the coming days. It’s a strange lifestyle being a lone composite racer. Redlands will be my last hurrah in the States until May. Sweden is calling at last and my composite days will come to an end as well.

To the race promoter of San Dimas, all the volunteers, officials, and everyone else, thanks for making this weekend great and I’ll see you next year.

Oh, and as a footnote, I’d like to thank Josh Berry and his mom for driving out from Redlands to pick me up from the Azusa Super 8, and in doing so sparing me the 4-5 hours worth of bus rides and transfers I’d have had to take in order to get here to Redlands. I owe him a couple tows to the front of the peloton now!

San Dimas Part 1

“Dude, I passed out in the tub. I had to crawl out man. It’s not funny. I wasn’t breathing for like five minutes. I ran out of oxygen. Oh man, it was waaaay too hot in there.”

Tim Rugg lay on the rug…carpet I mean, having just crawled out from the bathroom while Dan and I watched from the bed. It’s a tight living space here in the Super 8 with four guys and 13 bikes strategically crammed into every nook and cranny. Rugg had been “salting,” according to Dan, in the bathtub with Epsom salt while we’d been out riding.

Left on his own, Tim had himself a little picnic of sweet potato while watching Breaking Bad on his laptop, salting his legs with that magical Epsom. Somehow he lost track of time for an hour and sat in the tub a little too long, apparently passing out, face up I assume.

When he emerged from the steaming bathroom, struggling on hands and knees, then curled into a ball on the floor, Dan and I offhandedly asked if he was okay. Getting no response, we assume he was fine. He lay on the ground for about 10 minutes before he came to.

“What the hell guys? Thanks for being heroes.”

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I’m counting on more of these memorable events take place this weekend here at San Dimas. The four-man pack includes Dan Wolf, Tim Rugg, Colin Gibson, and myself. For the last month, Dan and Tim have been on a cross-country journey, hitting up road and mountain bike races along the way from Harrisonburg Virginia to California. Funding has been provided in part by their own wallets as well as an assortment of sponsors back at their home base, including Pro Tested Gear. I got to test out one of the Pro Tested skinsuits in today’s time trial. They’re nearing the end and grand finale of their journey, which includes San Dimas and Redlands to top it off.

Colin picked me up at the airport late on Wednesday night. Our journey here was a little less fantastical.

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Tim and I rockin some Pro Tested Gear.

I pre-road the Glendora Mountain Road time trial course on Thursday. I felt fine for having jet legs. Chipotle served as lunch and dinner. There’s really no cheaper, easier, and race-nutritious way to get meals on the road than Chipotle. They should really think about sponsoring a cycling team at some point because, for some reason, basically every cyclist I know loves Chipotle.

Stage 1: the dreaded uphill time trial. I hate this thing. It’s a 4.3-mile hill climb with switchback after never ending switchback. Historically, I’ve gone out way too hard, thinking I could do a top 20 or something unrealistic like that by holding 460 watts. I always blow up half way through. I took a different approach this year and underrated my legs’ ability instead. While I’ve hoped and thought about a top 20 placing in years past, this year I planned for a top 40 and rode at a conservative pace. When things started hurting real bad at the half way point, I backed off, fearing the traditional implosion which would see me piddle in at a measly 370 watts. I backed off and kept things uncomfortable, but realistic. With 2K to go I realized I’d gone way too easy and immediately lost motivation to even pick things up at the end. I finally mustered up some courage for the final 50 seconds and sprinted in like an idiot. I’ve done two other time trials this year, and I went 100% for those, collapsed over the bars and coughed up bile afterwards. After this one, I felt like I’d done a moderately hard interval. I knew I’d wasted the day.

I came in at 53rd place, three whole places better than last year. Wow congrats Kennett, you pansy! I won’t make excuses; I rode like a damn wimp. Like a man with everything to lose and nothing to gain. Like a guy who’d been working on a company project for months on end, putting in early mornings and long nights, then, at the eve of the deadline, he’d gotten a call informing him that he’d just inherited $100 million from a recently deceased, long-lost uncle, so therefore he just sort of packed it in and drifted through the final days of work, soft pedaling and dreaming about sunning himself on his yacht in the years to come.

The only difference is that I DID have something to lose and EVERYTHING to gain, since I haven’t won that lottery yet. Every race day is an opportunity to put those long hours in the saddle to use, to show what you’ve been up to that winter, and to earn your keep. So yeah, I completely fucked up my entire 2014 campaign already.

While I rode like a frail-legged jerk, my former teammate Ian Crane of Jamis smashed that hill to oblivion with a 6th place! Now that was cool to see. I love it when friends and former teammates get a taste of success. I do risk entering a dangerous zone of contentedness though, since, unfortunately, every year I make new friends in this sport. Pretty soon I’ll be happy after every race no matter how I do since someone I know will have had a good ride. I hate this new compassionate limp dick I’ve become.

That night, as I was talking to Adelaide on the phone outside on the motel patio, I felt a rumble. An earthquake. I got downstairs into the parking lot, hoping the shaking would pick up a bit so I could see some carnage, some explosions, some double story collapses, car collisions, explosions, blood, guts, last screeching screams of life. I’m only being honest hear. While I don’t want people to get killed, I do love me a good natural disaster, and living through one would make a great blog post. But sadly, things calmed down pretty quickly. A panicked Japanese couple came running out of their room to the parking lot 10 minutes later with their shoes off and their suitcases packed. A little late if they’d actually needed to abandon the building. Their delayed, half-hearted reaction reminds me of my time trial effort. There’s always tomorrow, which is actually today now.

Saturday (today)—Stage 2 and the whole reason I’m here racing at San Dimas. The circuit race is going to be a throw down since the winner of yesterday’s TT, James Oram of Bissell, only has two teammates. I’m expecting Jamis to go monkey poop today. Ape shit.

My last weekend of Colorado racing

That is, assuming someone gets me on a gall dang team for Redlands gosh darn it all! Jeez lo-wheeze, dag nab it. Okay that’s the last time I beg and plead about it, shoot. Sorry for all that dirty language. I have a foul fucking mouth I know.

If I can’t do Redlands I think I might get one more race weekend in Colorado at either the Front Range Classic or the Louisville crit before heading off to Sweden. Either way, Redlands or no, I have zero real complaints in life these days. It’s pretty awesome to ride every day and race all the time, even if I’m living off a dime (yeah I rhymed that on purpose). To all the idiot pros out there that say, “it’s just a job,” shut the hell up. Working in a toll booth is just a job. Typing on a computer all day is just a job. Waiting tables is just a job. This is a privilege and I won’t forget it.

I hate it when someone starts out a sentence with “so.” It does nothing except increase the word count, which I’m not wholly against as you can tell by this completely off-topic, unnecessary paragraph. Tacking on ‘so’ to the beginning of your sentence adds no value to whatever it is that you’re trying, yet failing, to say. Yet, I catch myself doing it all the time. Usually I go back and delete it, but sometimes it slips on by. So from now on if you see me doing it, please let me know.

Okay, onto the races. The first was the Candelas circuit race, which is put on by the CU cycling team. It’s an out and back race that goes up a hill, down a hill, repeat. We were slated to do 11 laps, but then this happened and they shortened it to 9:

 

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I received many compliments about my googles. They worked perfectly. And no, I was never cold during this race, despite how miserable it looks. In fact, at one point I even tried to unzip my jacket a bit to cool off. No joke. Photo courtesy of Dejan Smaic of Sports Images, who looked to be having as much of a blast out there as us.

The snow was no surprise since it had been coming down for hours before the race started. But what I didn’t think about happening was this (the bike freezing up):

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Even by the first lap I’d already lost the use of my cassette’s 11 tooth cog. More would come.

I set a hard pace up the second pitch of the climb on the first lap and got away with one other guy briefly, then it was just me until mid-way into the descent. A different rider bridged up, then we were both caught on the climb. I got away again, this time with former teammate Nick Bax of Rio Grande. I figured this was the race, done and over with. The field, which was small to begin with, was in tatters and the first chase group’s impetus looked to be waning.

We could see them every time we rounded the U turn at the top of the hill and passed them by, going the opposite direction. And when I say ‘see’ I mean we could peer into their quickly fleeting souls and smell the figurative blood from the gaping wound we’d gleefully torn. Making eye contact with your prey like that is the ultimate satisfaction because you get to witness the damage you’ve done from the front instead of only hearing it from behind. The stare down went both ways I guess. And for that matter, we were the prey, not them.

We got caught a few laps later by a group of three that contained Matt Gates of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, Taylor Shelden of 5-Hour Energy, and Jon Tarkington of Natural Grocers. Once they caught us, the carrot having been consumed, the pace slowed down quite a bit. It didn’t look like the next larger group behind had a chance of catching us, so we all shared turns grinding out a slogging tempo in the hard-blowing snow, losing more frozen gears with every passing minute.

It must have looked like a junior race on the downhill, with everyone quickly spinning out in their 18-tooth cogs and tucking. And on the way up it probably resembled a master’s race with everyone slowly grinding away at a cadence 40, cross chained in their big ring…that is, if you were lucky enough to have access to your big ring. I lost the ability to shift to my small ring half way into the race, while I heard that others got stuck the other way around.

While everyone was certainly losing gears with every lap (the last time up some only had a single working gear left), I think I was the only one with a malfunctioning steer tube. I’d had this happen throughout the winter when it would be that perfect temperature where the pavement was 33 degrees and wet, and the air temperature and my bike were below freezing, meaning the thing would end up resembling a nasty popsicle (see above). The water gets down into the steer tube, expands as ice (Science Rules!), and seizes up the front end, making steering difficult and eventually impossible. On lap two I’d nearly crashed into the cones at the bottom of the hill and taken Nick out in the process. After that I took every corner at about 4 mph.

With two to go, Nick attacked our group. I watched him go and could have and really should have followed him. But it was a cross headwind on the climb and I felt that the other three guys were plenty motivated and strong to keep the gap in check as Nick flailed away, wasting energy in the strong wind. I wanted to attack with a lap to go, not two, since I thought I’d play things conservatively for once. Stupid me. Nick suddenly had a gap of 22 seconds by the top of the climb when Taylor climbed off his bike since he had no working gears left.

It was up to me, Jon, and Matt to pull Nick bax. Get it? Pull Nick bax. Like we’re pulling him back except I replaced back with Nick’s last name, which is Bax. Oh man. Good stuff right there.

Jon and Matt were dying a bit and I realized that I’d left things way too late. Nick now had 35 or 40 seconds and his gap was still growing as we began the final climb. We slowed down half way up the climb, silently and secretly watching each other. I attacked on the second steep ramp and dropped Matt and John but only managed to close half the gap to my former teammate by the top. Nick soloed to a well-deserved win and I took 2nd. That makes 3 second places this year already. Ughhh.

The winner, Strongman Nick:

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Oh well. It was good to see a friend win and I came away with some cash and seven pieces of pizza from Papa Johns that, for some amazing reason, decided to stop by with a bunch of free pizzas. Plus, this race had probably the best ever registration/post-race hangout lounge imaginable.

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Nick and Camillo warming up with cold pizza and a hot fire.

The second day of racing at the Stazio crit was, for me at least, much less memorable, though still a good day and a fun time. It was also like 90 degrees warmer and sunny, which I had no complaints about.

I showed up early to watch the finish of Adelaide’s race only to find out that just a lap before I got there, they had a bad crash that called for the race to be neutralized and an ambulance to be sent.

During this fiasco, I realized that I needed an ambulance, so to speak, for my bike. The shifting had just stopped working when I rolled into the parking lot, due to all the road grit from yesterday’s race. Luckily, a mechanic traveling with one of the collegiate teams took it upon himself to completely overhaul everything. Turned out that while the cable and housing were definitely gritty, the real problem was actually just a worn out shifter. My bike, with its components from last year (yes a FULL year old, oh my god!) is falling apart. Components these days are not meant to be raced and ridden hard for a full year, which is sad and pathetic in my point of view. While I do usually have what appears to be a fairly dirty bike, I clean the drivetrain every day and replace the cables and housing every two months. That’s more than anyone I know. Still, the shifters are completely shot, I’ve broken and had to replace my front derailleur, rear derailleur, and two brake calipers since last March. Plus I went through what, five frames last season? Those were mainly due to changing teams and whatnot, except for the frame that I broke in a crash. I’ve spent a small fortune with bike upkeep in the last year and I’ll be heading to Europe with a bank account that will allow only rice and beans. I’m fine with this though, since having races in the legs, a working bike, and a fast set of wheels is crucial for success. Even more so than being able to afford kale.

The crit got underway. I followed some attacks but was always on the back foot, chasing and bridging instead of being there when they first got away. My legs felt fine, but I somehow managed to miss the winning move of 10 guys half way into the race. I tried to solo bridge up there as it went but only made it half the distance. Throughout the next 20 minutes I took some pulls and yelled at some people (sorry) to get out of the way if they weren’t going to help pull through. Of course no one was, since half the teams had someone in the break and the rest were all too afraid to stick their noses in the wind for two seconds. Josh Yeaton of Horizon easily won out of the break, which finished 20 seconds ahead of the bunch. I sat up before our field sprint since I didn’t feel like risking a crash for 11th place. It was a good workout at least. Afterwards, Adelaide and I went to Sprouts, then I sat in the sauna for the 4th day of my Osmo heat training protocol (for San Dimas). Two to go. It’s getting easier.

Oh, and one last thing before I wrap this post up. Thanks to Clif Bar, I’ll be supplied with race food for a good part of the season. They obviously don’t need me repping their products to increase brand awareness or make a profit for 2014. It makes me pretty happy that they’re willing to help a little guy out just to be nice.

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