A culmination of things

Originally I had started an entry about Turkey Hill and the crash in the cat 3/4 race- going into detail about some suggestions on the matter. But I decided to stay away from my opinions and stick to just race updates.  Because you know what they say about opinions!!!

Turkey Hill Road Race

This is my second year doing Turkey Hill- both years I was fortunate enough to race the Pro123 race. Last year I raced right before getting my cat 2 upgrade.

Start of the race. How now black and white cow.

This year the field was very strong.  Scott Z. of Optum was looking to get some racing in after Joe Martin in preparation for Tour of California, Shane Kline from Smart Stop was there, and 2x Olympian Bobby Lea of pure energy.  Along with these three, there was a handful of other really strong riders.

This year, after a bit more experience with some NRC stage races under my belt, I’d decided keying off the full time pros was the way to go.  As expected, a break did go- but from the gun.  At one point it was close to 2 minutes up the road with almost half of the race left.  But the 3 pros were at the back chilling unconcerned with the time gap.  Eventually we started to move our way forward and that’s when the game of cat and mouse started.  We were all keying off one another attacking and counter attacking each another, not allowing any one rider to get too far up the road.

With 2 laps left the group was back together and the real fun started.  Coming up the hill on the second to last lap, Scott was driving the front and I saw my opportunity. I jumped with hopes that one of them would respond quickly.  They didn’t to my surprise and I was riding away.   Scott kept driving the front with Shane, and Bobby close behind. I saw a gap starting to form in the 20 or so riders left in the front group.  In this group was the 3 of them and two other riders, I knew this was going to be the winning move.

Gamber wall.

And that’s when I was abruptly stopped by the race official.   Apparently there was a bad accident in the cat 3/4 race and the roads needed to be cleared and ambulances called before we could finish racing.  Frustrating- as now the peloton was regrouping, but quickly I was put into perspective. It’s just bike racing and there were injured people on the ground.  The safety of those riders was way more important than our race, and seeing Sam Lear laying on the ground with his dad Matt holding snapped me out of my mood. It was pretty disheartening seeing a young kid laying there like that- probably because some other rider made an unsafe move in the finishing sprint.  (I went on to be told that this was the case).  Sam had to have surgery on his collarbone and it appears as if he has had a speedy recovery.

With that said, I guess it brings us back being neutralized.  There was some discussion as to whether the race should be called or we should finish.  After some grumblings, the race officials decided the last lap would be completed.  While the dynamic was being changed with recovery being thrown into the mix- I had hopes that I could get the race back to the way it was before it neutralized.

So when the officials started us I attacked. Really hard- like 5 minute all out hard. I quickly had a 30 second gap, and was hoping to hold it for as long as possible.  I knew it would be next to impossible to hold this gap, but I hoped it would bring out the strongest riders and eliminate a field sprint.  I made it to Gamber and looked back, I was being chased by Scott Z, Bobby Lea, Shane Kline, Craig Nichols, and another rider.  My plan worked but now I had a group of legit guys to worry about.  They caught me on the descent and I hopped in.  We all worked together for a 
few miles, but then the cat and mouse started.

Coming into the uphill to the long drag to the finish, Bobby attacked while I was on the front.  I jumped and was struggling to bridge, he had about 5 seconds on me going over the first kicker.  I was redlined and didn’t think I could make it.  I started to sit up but knew that if I wanted a shot at winning- this was the move.  I downshifted stood up and put my head down.  Coming across the final kicker I looked up and was a second from Bobby. I made it.

He put the hammer down and we came across the line 1-2.  15 seconds ahead of Scott, Shane, and Craig- who held the same on the chasing peloton.

Smoketown Airport Crit

Apparently the PA state championships criterium was going to be on an airport this year.  A pancake flat course with no elevation gain.  The race can be watched completely from one viewpoint, as the race is one big oval.  A pretty neat idea so I was excited to race.  This was one of those races I put zero mental energy into.  For me to get through seasons, sometimes I just have to show up and race- not letting my nervous energy get to me or use too much mental energy.

A pretty big field was assembled with lots of talent. Bobby Lea was there again so I figured he would be the guy to key off.  Right before our race started, it began to rain.  HARD.  It was actually pouring. I didn’t even want to get out of the car.  That’s when I got to experience extreme braking into went corners. Guys definitely did not enjoy being in the rain, so our turning was super sketchy.  A few moves were made trying to get up the road and I made a huge effort to bridge to one.  Then Bobby jumped that move so I had to recover and go again.  That’s when I started to get super light headed and couldn’t catch my breath.  I had to sit up and wait for the peloton to catch me.   I then hopped in for a few laps but still couldn’t catch my breath. So I dropped out.  First DNF of the season.

Wilmington Grand Prix
I went into Wilmington relatively fresh and excited to race, it would be my second NCC crit ever.  My break was approaching so I was hoping to finish off the first part of my season on a positive note.  The course is really technical, and suits my style of riding.  The pace was pretty fast from the start and I struggled to maintain the position I wanted.  I ended up completely missing the winning break and had to rely on the chasing from UHC.  In the end we got within 10 seconds of the break but they stayed away.
I ended up 20th overall, with 12 riders already up the road. So 8th from the field sprint.  Just a mediocre result, and nothing really to write home about. (But I blogged about it so that’s kind of ironic)
Dear 6 lb 8 oz Baby Jesus, please don’t let me crash.
Somerville is unlike any other bike race I have ever done.  The venue is awesome. The atmosphere is great.  And the crowds are huge.  But the race itself is downright terrifying.  I am convinced that my 79 year old grandpa could be given a bicycle and keep up with us on this course.  It’s flat, has four turns, and is 1 mile long.  It’s practically impossible to get dropped, so everyone and their GRANDPA, is sprinting at the end.
My grandpa preparing for Somerville.
After skidding to the best save of my whole entire life, I avoided a terrible crash.  But sadly, the stop was so abrupt and fast- that I ripped a hole in my tubular.
I went into Sram neutral and got my new wheel.  So there I am back to bike racing thinking that was my scary moment for the day.  Nope- I’m out of the saddle down the back stretch, and a guy that looks like the incredible Hulk decided to chop way over to the left.  To my luck I am, getting sandwiched in between the Hulk and this poor woman trying to watch men in spandex on Memorial Day.  I miss the woman, scrape the curb but keep it upright.
So back to bike racing, again thinking that was my last scary moment of the day.  Nope.  2 laps to go and the pace is heating up.  I’ve worked my way to the front and am now a few wheels back on UHC. We are heading down the straight into the final lap, when I hear carbon cracking and dudes yelling.  A poor UHC rider is in the fetal position and I have no where to go but into him.  My wheel hits his back and I somersault into the air, landing directly on Champ Sys rider Gavy Epstein.  He cushioned my fall and we both got up relatively okay.
Left the day with a flat tire, some mild whip lash, and a broken derailleur hanger.  All in all a pretty typical Somerville from what I’ve heard.
My grandpa celebrating his sprint finish at Somerville with a PBR.  (This is actually my grandpa)
Air Force Classic
Clarendon Cup
These races are the staple of MABRA racing.  It’s 2 NCC criteriums in downtown Washington DC.  The crowds and venues are awesome, which makes for a really fun weekend. It was a Van Dessel Factory Team scheduled race so I was obligated to attend.  The week prior was my break, but I figured I would at least come down and give it the old college try.
I’m trying but it really hurts. Cycleboredom with the sweet shot.
The first day, is a really technical and long race (100km). So 100 laps on the 1k course. To add to how hard it was, it was 90 million degrees out.  They announced there would be feeding right before the race start, so lucky for me I planned absolutely nothing when it came to extra bottles. (Thankfully my girlfriend came through huge with some bottles mid way through the race).
SO HOT. SO TIRED- Thanks for the Shot Scott Kingsley
The pace was fast from the beginning, and as expected- a complete shock to my system.  I felt downright awful.  It didn’t help that running late forced me to drink coffee leading up to the start. So it was a fun mixture of super hot and my heart feeling like exploding.  I struggled to hang in the pack the first 30 laps, but my legs were slowly coming around.  A big group got up the road, so I figured I needed to try and at least bridge (DO IT FOR THE SPONSORS I SAID). I made my way up through the pack and made my effort.  Succeeding in making it, but dragging the whole field with me.  It hurt terribly so I went back into mid pack mode.
Three abreast with Meyerson and G Dawg. An awesome shot form Cycleboredom
 At about 60k in, I still felt awful, and found my way into a crash.  Skidding into the fallen rider, and having to put my feet down, I made my way to the pit for a free lap.  This is when I saw good friend and teammate JARED FREAKING NIETERS, hammering away behind a UHC rider.
GO NOODLES!!! Cycleboredom photo credit
Good ol’ Noodles had just found himself behind one of the best riders in the peloton, and was putting some serious time on the field. I was so pumped for him.  Eventually, he was joined by four other strong riders (just your everyday mix of olympians, philly champs, etc.), and the six of them proceeded to lap us with about 30k to go.  From then it was my job solely to protect Jared.  I sheltered him the rest of the race.  I followed him like a lovestruck boy following his crush at a middle school dance.  With 10 laps to go, Jared started to have some cramping issues.
He didn’t have any Midol available so we had to make due with easy accelerations out of the corners. In the end we arrived safely, and Jared finished sixth!!! The result of his life, and the cheers he got from fans were amazing.  I was super stoked for him, and seeing him so happy was totally worth it.
Artwork done by yours truly.
Jared Nieters himself arriving across the finish line on his Bengal Tiger in 6th.
Crystal Cup
To say I felt like a new man is an understatement.  I actually felt like 2 new men. Clarendon, woke me up and blew out whatever awfulness I had in my legs the day before.  From the gun I was able to stay near the front, so I was pretty aggressive. I was feeling out moves, but they weren’t sticking.  Mike Chauner made a hard move on the front, Stoop from Starlight and Clarke from UHC countered him, while I chased, and Demis Aleman from Jamis followed.  The four of us worked really well together getting the break started, and after 3 laps we were joined by Bobby Lea, and the philly classic champ Kiel Reijnen.  This was the move, I just had to not get dropped.
Hey guys- just hanging out in the back. Darrell Parks photo
Another awesome Scott Kingsley shot. BLACK AND WHITE YO. OTB
I took a few more pulls, but eventually figured the guys who get paid a lot more money than I make racing bikes and working at the store combined, could do the rest of the work.  And that they did.  We ended up holding off a pretty strong chase pack and then lapping the field with 20 laps to go.
Recently, they found an unexpected issue with my grandpa that will require surgery so he was pretty down that week.  Thankfully, the issue was caught before it would have lead to him no longer being  with us.  A miracle in itself.  He really is my biggest supporter, and has to pick up my shifts when I travel for races.  He doesn’t get to watch me race very often, but last year when he watched me- I made sure to put on a race.  (I ended up lapping the field at Grandview Grand prix).  Halfway through Crystal Cup I yelled to my girlfriend in the feed zone to make sure my grandpa was watching. Which he was! Apparently he was watching from our store office with my grandma.  He later thanked me saying he got absolutely zero work done. 
Still in the back. Scott Kingsley shot.
With 20 laps to go, I knew I just had to stay positioned, and beat one rider to make podium.  5 laps to go, we were lined out with UHC driving the course (later to be given a run for their money by local elite team DC Velo). My teammates did a great job making sure I was protected, and set me up to finish well.  With about 20 meters from the line Mike Stoop passed me.  At that point I just assumed I was sixth on the day.   I was happy but figured I missed the podium.  Then I heard my name over the intercom and they told me to report to the podium tent.  USADA was all over the place so I figured I was getting drug tested.  So I sat there and waited.  Then I was like well maybe I got the most aggressive jersey.  But then a USA official told me I was 5th (I beat Johnny Clark who was working for Kiel)! I was pretty elated to be honest.  It felt so pro to be on that podium.  The podium girl kissed me on my cheek and I pulled away- she was like I need your other one.  I laughed and told her this was my first time.   It was cool standing up there with those guys, and I hope there’s more to come!
Darrell Parks- capturing probably the coolest moment of my short cycling career.
Thanks for reading!!
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One thought on “A culmination of things

  1. yea i remember that year you finished 2nd at turkey hill. I won the 3/4 race that year you mention in the top of the post, but haven’t returned to turkey hill because of the finish. I remember you looking pretty stoked behind Lea.


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