Tag: hot

Tour of Lawrence Criterium

Photo by LanterneRougeici
by  Michelle Moore
When I got talked into doing my first Crit race back in March 2012 (Gapers Block), I thought I’d be “one and done.”  While my amazing Spider Monkey teammates taught me about crits, and even rode the course with me, I wasn’t really a fan. It was cold, I popped off the back quickly and worked much harder than necessary since I was ALONE for 28.5 of the 30 min race. Not one to give up easily, I went out the next night and tried again. For the record, crits are a LOT more fun when you stay with the pack, not to mention a HELL of a lot easier!
When I learned about Le Tour de Lawrence, I was all in. Not necessarily because I was eager to “race” three different events, in three different days, in three digit temps. No, it’s because Lawrence is my alma mater. I have fond memories of the campus and my “glory days” there, and I knew the community would fully support this event. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!
So, after an evening of street sprints so colorfully painted by Mark, I took on my first circuit race (see Mikey and Hayes’ report – if they ever write them :).  It wasn’t great, but it was my first so I’ll always remember it – especially getting to ride on the campus I walked for four years (Dean was fortunate enough to get an extra year). J  I will not miss the hill by the Library though, she was a real bitch!
Sunday’s Criterium race is something I was actually looking forward to throughout the weekend. It was an event that I knew something about, and felt that I actually stood a chance at not being DFL (reference #1).   As I lined up at the start line with 28 other women, including my fellow crit racer, Kelly Clarke, we were showered with cheers and screams from our teammates:  Mark, Dean, Vanessa, Mikey, Rebecca, Scott , Roxanne and Hayes.  Such supportive Monkeys!
I’ve always had a fear during racing, and if I’m being honest – even during group rides – of being able to clip into my pedals in an appropriate amount of time, without causing a crash or looking like a complete fool. To my surprise, and after Mark making me practice over and over and over again, I got my foot on my pedal, kept pedaling and without looking down, smoothly clipped in. Nailed it!
I’d had a chance to ride the course a few times before the race started, so I felt comfortable the first lap knowing where the turns and hills were located. If there is one thing that most Americans have a misconception of, it’s that Kansas is flat. It is, in fact, NOT flat – at least not in Lawrence, KS.  It was a great course, forming a sort of Figure 8 around all the “hot spots” of the downtown area.
The first lap of the race I was just trying to figure out my positioning in the pack, how the pack would respond to the turns, how they would jump out of the turns, etc.  The difficult thing about crits is that it feels like you are constantly turning, and have very few straights to move up in the group. Oh, and that you’re heart rate is near 199 for 30-40 straight minutes. This race featured eight different turns, one right after the next.  After the eighth turn, the road straightened out, and sloped slightly downhill to the finish. This is where I turned my body inside out to jump on a wheel and/or move up in the group. It felt amazing!
Often I found myself along the gates on the far right side, which initially freaked me out because I was slightly terrified of crashing. However, once I figured out how to stay calm and carry on, I just stayed focused on the wheel in front of me. 
As I came around the eighth turn each lap, and sprinted down the straight away, I was rewarded with roars from my teammates.  It gave me the fuel I needed to keep pushing on. I wanted them to be proud of me, and it was really fun still be part of the peloton.
As they announced we had five laps to go, I think I threw up a little in my mouth.  Not only did it feel like we’d already been racing for an hour, it was ridiculously hot out – at 10AM!!  I’ve never had to drink during a race, and I wasn’t sure how to do it going so fast and turning so much. So, I kept an eye on the group and when they drank, I drank. With the temps being so hot, I tried to drink every lap where I could. I got real tired of trying to lick the back of my throat since it felt like I had a cotton ball in my mouth the entire race. Anyway, I told myself that I could hang on for 10 more minutes.
Photo by LanterneRougeici
So, the laps melted away, and all of a sudden we had two to go. I knew the next time we came across the start line, these women would be moving into position for a strong attack and sprint to the finish.  I was already happy with my performance since I was still with the group, but it sure would be nice to “place” in the race too.  So, as we started the final lap, I gave it everything I had. I felt myself gapping the group a bit, and I heard the words of Mark Zalewski in my ear “you do everything you have to in order to grab a wheel. Even if you have to puke.”  So, I dug in and gave every last bit of myself I had left. 
I wasn’t in a great position with a half lap to go. Coming into the final turn, a girl in the group took herself out on the fence (the very thing I was worried about earlier). I was far enough back that I was able to maneuver around her, jump out of the final turn and sprint my ass off.  I had no idea where I was in the pack, but I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face
My teammates celebrated with me, and I was once again hooked on racing. I love my bike, even if I ride 650s Oh, and I got 12th. So, not quite a top 10 finish, but it was my best race to-date.  When’s the next one?

Tour Of Lawrence: Street Sprints

Spidermonkey Sprinters
by Mark Zalewski
I’m sure that you, like me, have explained to your non-cycling friends what a criterium is and the difference between that and the Tour de France — as well hold back your laughter when they ask you if you “think you’ll ever ride the Tour de France someday?” (Seriously, I get that question A LOT.)
But even cycling friends gave me looks when I said that the Tour of Lawrence started with street sprints. “What is that?”
You don’t see these too much at races anymore but they used to be a staple back-in-the-day at races like Quad Cities over Memorial Day. 
To give you a visual, think of the critically acclaimed film featuring a feel-good performance by Vin Diesel The Fast and the Furious. It’s a drag race, plain and simple. (Not that kind of a drag race… though this one also features shaved legs.)
200 meters. Three or four riders per heat. An official blows the whistle and you turn yourself inside-out to go as fast as you can. First one or two over the line advance to the next round; the others go and cry in their free locally brewed craft beer. Rinse, wash and repeat.
Oh, but here’s the ‘FUN’ part. It’s not like other races where it’s broken into groups like “Master’s/Women/Category 3/55+…” Oh no my friend, it’s only separated by men and women — otherwise it is OPEN. That’s right kids, you see the rider next to you wearing that Jelly Belly Pro Cycling kit? No, he’s not a ‘fred’ pretending to be a pro; that is Brad Huff, former U.S. National Criterium Champion. So grab your man onions and see how you measure up. 
Seriously though, the amount of times Trent has brought up being manhandled by Steve Tilford in 2010 and is sooooo excited to tell everyone about it illustrates just how much fun it is to race against the best. You won’t have this opportunity anywhere else except on Strava.
The Spidermonkeys featured Kelly Clarke and Michelle Moore in the women’s bracket; Brandon Diffenderfer and Hayes Sanborn flew the flag on the men’s side. Oh and someone talked me into doing it at the very last minute, WTF?
The key to a street sprint is the start. You cannot necessarily win it here but you certainly can lose it. It’s also a ‘standing start’ meaning that there is a someone standing behind you to hold your bike, allowing you to clip in — just like a time trial in Le Tour. But unlike a time trial you do not get a surly fat French guy giving you a countdown. 
You wait… and wait. And try not to tip over while standing on your pedals waiting for the jackass in lane 2 who cannot clip into the second pedal.
Requisite Teachable Moment:
Standing is a better option than staying seated as you will have more power. Hands in the drops is also better as you’ll be pulling damn hard and this allows you to stay over your front wheel more, keeping it on the ground. 
Gear selection is key as too large a gear and you’ll take longer to get up to speed — too small and you’ll have to shift more frequently which disrupts cadence and increases potential for mis-shifts.
Big ring in front, for sure. Brandon gave the small ring a try and had a great start because of it but said he ran out of gears approaching the line.
‘Back in the day’ friends of mine would alter their rear cassettes. Instead of having a smooth progression down the cluster (i.e. 23-21-19-17-15-13-12-11) they would put the 21 next to the 15 and 11 so they would only have to shift three times. Though this was before the integrated shifting we have now where it’s all up front, but you see the point — 200 meters is a short distance to do much of anything put pedal your tookas off.
The ladies went first. Both Kelly and Michelle were new to standing starts but learned quickly. (Look at Michelle’s textbook start in the Tour of Lawrence video!) The first round both took a close fourth in their heats. In the second round both again took fourth but not by much. Time for beer.
The gents were up next. We were three-up in our heats and like the ladies the first round was gratis with the results used to seed the second round. Brandon could not wait to go and was in one of the first heats. I looked at my row and saw this: A 20 year-old elite amateur from the Horizon Organic team with a crazy power-to-weight ratio AND Eric Bennett, a professional on the Wonderful Pistachios UCI pro team and former BMX national champion (where getting the ‘hole shot’ is rather vital.) Awesome.
Ok, I did not have the best start and got third in that round but was ONLY a half-wheel from Bennett at the line, so I’m taking that as a win. 
Next round I am behind Brandon in the ‘bronze medal’ lane and chatting with Brad Huff, last year’s winner. At that point Brandon does the math and sees that Mr. Huff is in his heat and somewhat jokingly asks if anyone wants to swap spots. (Smart move!) And someone actually does. (Not a smart move.)
In the end we each rode admirably, had fun and broke a sweat doing so, showing that we gave it our all. Or maybe it was the 101F on the bank thermometer?

The Ghost Of O’Fallon

All photos by Brian Keller

by Sarah Rice

Like everyone else who raced the Tour of Galena, I came away thinking it was a terrific, tough, and humbling race series. I enumerated my mistakes to Kristen Meshberg: “Corners are a touch tentative. I still think about the facial fractures… On the TT I was just sloppy. At the crit… I got demoralized and made more mental mistakes… Ugh.” Those Galena mistakes haunted me like ghosts. But in bike racing you can always line up and try again next week, and depend on the camaraderie and hospitality of others to get you to the next start line. Sue Wellinghoff’s parents offered us a place to stay, so I packed up the car with two xXx riders, Bill Barnes and Sandra Samman, and headed down to the O’Fallon Grand Prix.

First stop: Time trial. The keys to success are precision and pacing. I dialed in the new TT bike till it was perfect, looked up the course, the wind, and the heat, and figured it should take me about 35 minutes. But even after the 5 ½ hour drive that day, I came in 34:06, very fast, very smooth. I blew up and threw up right at the end. Well done! Galena ghost #1 exorcised.

After having stomach cramps and vomiting at Galena and at the O’Fallon time trial, I thought maybe I had a problem with HEED. So I decided to try out a home-brew race beverage. Here’s the recipe:

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon lite salt

Makes 1 gallon.

This is approximately the World Health Organization’s rehydration beverage for adults with cholera. Be aware of 2 things. #1, it tastes crappy and #2, you must NOT overdo the baking soda. Baking soda is a laxative in slightly larger amounts than is in this beverage. Try it on a group ride first, and I don’t mean Judson.

I made a gallon of home-brew, and froze two bottles of water solid for my back. The next day Bill and I were driving to the races and the car got a flat tire. Bill put the little donut tire on the car and we drove 50 miles to the race at 45 MPH with our hazard lights on, just missing the conclusion of the W4’s race. I admit, I was surprised to see a smiling Vanessa Bucella wearing the State Champion jersey. She and Half Acre teammates Annie Byrne and Erica Gaddy worked extremely well as a team, and they were smart and let others pull for most of the race. I took mental notes: one can take advantage of being underestimated. Go Lil V!

I was also pleased to see a lot of day-of registrants in the Womens Open race! We had about 12 riders, including a very strong Cat1 (Jenna) from California! It was 95° at high noon for the start of our 60-mile, 3-lap road race. Right before the race, I got my jersey and hair soaking wet. I put one of the ice bottles in my rear pocket, and had two bottles of home-brew on the bike. Lap 1 was chill. I ate half a clif bar, wet my head and mouth with ice water, and downed a bottle of home-brew. No tummy issues, and despite the heat I was sitting in and feeling great! THANKS, xXx riders Sue Wellinghoff and Sandra Samman for feeding me. On the first hill of Lap 2, Jeannie Kuhajek threw down a good attack. I countered into the wind. Cali Cat 1 Jenna followed suit. It split off all but 5 riders, me, Jeannie, Jenna, and two others. We worked to create a gap. I looked back, and two other riders were a pull away from us. I yelled up to tell the others. We had a snippy little gal on the front taking a very weak pull—her first. As she rotated to the back, she said “you can’t yell at people to go harder from the back!” So I said I’d do it from the front then, pulled out of line, and attacked. Not super-hard, just enough to punish Snippy and intensify the pace to make sure those riders didn’t catch on. By the second hill of Lap 2, I was sick of Snippy and this squirrely triathlete, so I mimicked Jeannie’s attack. Jeannie countered into the wind this time. Jenna went, then I went again. The three of us formed a tight paceline and said goodbye. It stayed like that for most of lap 3. About 5 miles from the finish, Jeannie and Jenna fell off a bit. I had maybe a 5-second gap, so I punched it a little. 10 seconds. Harder! I settled into a fast TT pace. I looked back, they were sitting up a bit. I COULD WIN THIS THING! But they were just baiting me. They caught back on and both of them attacked at the next (last) hill. I fried my legs to close the gap. Jeannie had been smarter than me. She had only attacked twice. I hate when out-of-staters win our state championships. So I whispered to Jeannie that I’d lead her out. I really would have, and I think I could have led her to a win. But Jeannie jumped early with 1200 yards to go and then Jenna jumped. We were too far out, and way out of position for a 2 on 1 Illinois leadout, so I sat up. Jenna won, then Jeannie, then me. Boo. A disappointing finish, but I was pleased that my attacks were effective. I was also pleased that I had fared very well in the heat. Galena Ghost #2 exorcised.

The final sprint of the O’Fallon crit

The heat on the road race had been so intense, it melted tar on the road. My tires were really screwed up by it- in fact, there was a gash in my rear tire that I did not notice till the crit on the next day. Dave from Chicago Velo Campus fixed it with Shoe Goo. I practiced cornering on my shoe goo tire a little ways from the course, round and round, smooth, in the drops, at speed. I didn’t feel the repair. In fact, the cornering felt PERFECT. Too bad only a few riders were signed up for the crit…

But when I got back to the course I saw lots of strong gals warming up! Jenna was still in town, Jeannie was there, several Missouri riders, I was counting, 10, 11, 12… and then I saw a woman in red, riding a bike while carrying another bike on her shoulder. Wow, it was Carrie Cash! The race did not disappoint. It was a white-knuckle, foaming-at-the-mouth, attack fest on a technical course with 10 turns. It felt like a roller coaster ride. I’ve never cornered that fast, and only had about 3 bad ones the whole race (for me this is kind of incredible). Galena Ghost #3 exorcised!

I tried to maintain good position, 5-ish wheels back, while Carrie, Jeannie, and Jenna beat each other up at the front. I remembered Lil’ V’s win and and devised a strategy. On the last lap, I’d go early and hard, take my own path FAST through the last few sketchy turns, then just blast it and try to hang on. Someone would have to ruin her sprint to catch me, no one would want to. Maybe no one would. I punched it, hard. No one followed. Gunned through the sketchy turns. All out sprint! I COULD WIN THIS THING! But no. I got caught, it turned into a huge bunch sprint, and 5 of us crossed the line within a bike length of each other, 3 others just behind. 5th place. It was a good move, but the timing was not quite perfect. Last night I kept playing it over and over in my head, thinking if I had gone a second earlier and a touch harder… haunted by the ghost of O’Fallon.

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