- Cycling News
July 01, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 19:59 BST
I must have been a merciless deer hunter in my past lifetime because my "deer karma" is outrageous....
April 30, 2008
I must have been a merciless deer hunter in my past lifetime because my "deer karma" is outrageous. I'll explain what I mean later. Anyway, the past two weekends I raced collegiate races in Pittsburgh for the Steel City Showdown and in State College where we put on our home Nittany Classic race. The night before the road race in Pittsburgh, they were calling for a big snowstorm. Luckily, there was only a dusting of the white powdery anti-racing material and off to Pittsburgh we went. At the start of the road race, the officials decided to shorten it by one nine-mile lap because another phantom snowstorm was supposed to blow in during the race. But that snowstorm only turned out to be a few flurries.
Pittsburgh is the racing scene where I first started racing. So the punchy climbs and twisty roads felt very familiar to me. A few miles into the first lap, a Dartmouth racer and I went away over one of the climbs. We established a good lead on the first lap. By the second lap, my Penn State teammate Sean Melcher bridged up to us with another racer. We maintained our lead until the next lap when another teammate of mine, Clayton Barrows bridged up with another guy. By this time the break was established with six guys, three of which were my two Penn State teammates and myself.
The field was completely broken up after about three laps and the winner of the race was going to come from the break we were in. On the last lap Burrows and I attacked a total of six or seven times to try to escape. Neither of us got away. On the last hill before the finish a guy from Army attacked and the Dartmouth guy and myself got on his wheel. Right away a gap opened up between us three and the rest of the break that looked about 30 to 45 seconds. As we approached the line, I was getting ready to unwind my sprint when all of the sudden Barrows came out of nowhere and surprised us all by blowing by us on the right side. By this time the sprint had already started. Barrows crossed the line first by a hair followed by the Dartmouth guy and myself taking third.
The following day was a criterium in downtown Pittsburgh. The criterium basically went over a long bridge, turned around, then went across another bridge. It was the most unique criterium course I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I was racing an old wheel that day that wasn't functioning properly. The freewheel would skip every time I put too much pressure on it on the chain. It caused me to lose my balance several times and clip out of my pedals. After nearly crashing a few times because of it, I decided pull out of the race for safety reasons. I hate not finishing races, but I would rather not put everyone in danger or risk a pointless crash in the early season. The Penn State team did very well that weekend. It was a good warm up for the following weekend at our very own Nittany Classic.
Here is where the deer thing comes back into play. The Nittany Classic is a race weekend that Penn State puts on for the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. Our Weekend featured a Saturday road race with three 21 mile laps and almost 2000 feet of climbing per lap. Then had an Individual Time trial on Sunday morning and a criterium in the afternoon.
So we start our road race on Saturday. Right from the gun my teammate Chris Ruhl and a racer from The University of Vermont attacked and established a lead. I was back in the peloton that had dwindled down to about 20 people halfway through the second lap. The course was very challenging. We just made it up the 5 mile climb and we were doing a pretty good speed on top of the ridge. All of a sudden three deer jumped out of the woods and ran right across the road in front of us. I was sitting second wheel and I had to use my brakes. Luckily, no misfortune happened and everyone was safe.
But the incident made my heart drop in my chest. I immediately had a flashback to a year and a half ago when I actually did hit a deer on my bike. My deer collision is notorious in my circle of friends and I never hear the end of it. But to make a long story short, I was going upwards of 40 mph down a descent when a deer decided it wanted to conduct a physics experiment and see what happens when a cyclist hits a furry object at 40 mph. I hit the deer, flew like superman for a few seconds, got in a fight with the asphalt, helplessly waited until the momentum of my tumbling body achieved equilibrium through the resistance of the road, then I opened my eyes and wondered what the hell had just happened.
I must say that the deer got it much worse than I did. I'm not a veterinarian, but by the looks of it, it was pretty obvious that the deer had a broken back and probably wouldn't survive. Myself, I got a broken wrist, a few big bruises on my back, some road rash, and one damn good story to tell my grand kids. Just for clarification, I don't actually have grand kids, but you know what I mean. So with those three deer in our road race almost causing some trouble, I must apologize to everyone in the race for bringing my bad deer karma. Suicide Bambi must still have some beef with me.
The two-man breakaway started to get caught on the last climb of the race. I saw my teammate, Chris, who was in the breakaway the whole race, and he was about to get caught. So I decided to attack. I accelerated up the climb and put a big gap on the remainder of the field. I was all alone with just the UVM guy up the road. After I had been hovering off of the front of the group with about a one minute plus lead for about 10 minutes, I looked back and saw a chaser attempting to bridge up to me. He caught up to me on the last downhill section and had enough energy to sprint past me so that I couldn't get on his wheel. I had been in the red for quite some time and couldn't accelerate enough to get on his wheel. He went on to keep seven seconds on me and won the road race. Before the finish I had caught the guy who was off the front all day and held the rest of the field off to the line. I ended up getting second place.
The next day was the individual time trial in the morning and the criterium in the afternoon. That morning I had a decent ride and got third in the time trial. However, The criterium that afternoon was the showcase event. Coincidentally Illinois Senator and Presidential Candidate Barack Obama was speaking at the Penn State campus just two blocks from the race course. So the downtown area was pretty busy. Our criterium course had six corners and a very narrow section. The one-kilometer course was around all of the fraternities as well. So we had a decent "Greek" fan section with some very inebriated members.
I attacked about a third of the way into the race. I was off the front by myself for a lap before a guy from Princeton bridged up to me. We worked together and got a big lead. The fraternities offered me a few beers as we raced around the course, but I figured the Gatorade in my water bottle was better nourishment. We started seeing the tail end of the peloton as we were coming close to lapping the field. That is when both let off the gas a little bit because we didn't want to lap the field. With two laps to go, the Princeton guy attacked me after my pull. I had a feeling he was going to do that, so I made sure I didn't pull to hard. Once he attacked I was able to respond and get on his wheel till the finish where I sprinted around him.
If I can offer any advice for saluting if you win a race, it is to make sure there isn't uneven asphalt at the finish line. When I charged across the line, it was only reaction to put my hands in the air and solute. However, I threw my hands up to solute and did a Jimmy shimmy-shake as the uneven road knocked my front wheel out of balance. Nobody knew this white boy could dance.
- Cycling News
July 01, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 21, 2009, 12:00 BST
Well, I'm writing this from back at the Cycling Center or Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy, as it is...
May 20 , 2008
Well, I'm writing this from back at the Cycling Center or Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy, as it is officially known. The past few weeks have been really busy, I finished up the ECCC conference championships with my Penn State team. I also managed to finish up finals for the semester at school as well. And now I am back in Belgium, but I didn't just magically appear here.
Most people take for granted the fact that you have a full day of traveling to hope across the ocean and weasel into a small Belgian town called Hertsberge by train and car. There are actually three ways to get to the Cycling Center. The first way is by teleporting. I have to rule that out because I don't have a teleporter. The second way is by airplane to Brussels, an hour and a half train-ride to a town near the Cycling Center, and then a short car trip the rest of the way. That's the best way.
I, however, took the third way. The third way is the same as the second way, except it requires you to pace around in a few frantic circles after getting pick-pocketed in Brussels. I had my wallet stolen out of my back pocket only minutes after I bought a train ticket. When I realized I didn't have any money, or any way of getting any money in a foreign country, the "Oh darn-it!" factor skyrocketed to immeasurable levels on my Oh-darn-it-o-meter.
Not to mention, I lost my International racing license, my driver's license and a free movie rental at Blockbuster. I had 62 US dollars in my wallet at the time the stranger so slyly reached his hands in my back pocket. So my pick pocketing pal is going to have to go through the hassle of going to a bank and exchanging the dollars to euros. I feel bad for whoever pick pocketed me. Not only do they have to convert the money. When it's all said and done, they might have enough money to buy a loaf of bread with these exchange rates. If I look on the bright side then I guess that saves me the hassle of exchanging money.
I sat on the train wondering what I was going to do in a foreign country without any money or ways of getting money. I immediately made some phone calls when I got my computer setup back at the Cycling Center. I did everything I could do, so now it's just a matter of waiting until I can get my new bank card and credit card in the mail. I also have to be thankful for my roommate/teammate/friend Santiago Rosell, who is helping me until I get things straightened out.
It was a rough start, getting my wallet stolen upon arriving in Belgium. But it's not healthy for me to worry about it. It's now time to focus on racing, so that's what I intend to do. I raced a kermesse two days after getting back to Belgium. I had memories of my first kermesse last year and I was pretty nervous for this one.
Last year was my first year at the Cycling Center, and my first kermesse was a brutal awakening to what real European bike racing actually was like. But I also remembered the mentality that I learned after spending a full season at the Cycling Center last year. It's a warrior mentality that you learn and apply to bike racing. At the race I was unsure about my physical condition, but psychologically I was ready to kill. I had no idea how I would feel. I didn't have the ideal pre-race riding preparation, I was still a little jet-lagged, and I hadn't raced in any warm weather yet. But the other thing ringing in my head was the idea that to be a good bike racer, you have to be able to race well on a good day, and race well on bad day.
On top of all that, I needed some money after having my wallet stolen. I hate having to be "that guy" who is always borrowing money. At any rate, I was hungry for a result and I had a bike race ahead of me. I was ready to race, even if my legs were not ready. At the end of the day I raced my legs off and walked away with 40 Euros and a 6th place. I wanted a result like that so badly last year, but I was able to nail it my second day in Belgium this year.
To me, that made it obvious how a full season at the Cycling Center had improved my racing abilities. My Belgian teammate - Steven Van Vooren, who has been with the Cycling Center for three years - has shown how the Cycling Center has cultivated him over the years too. That very same day I raced the kermesse, he was winning a stage at the UCI 2.2 Tour de la Manche. It wasn't just Steven that rode well at la Manche, the whole la Manche team; Vince Roberge, Christophe Vandesteene, Aaron Pool, Peter Horn and Ian Holt were making their mark amongst some very good professional teams at the race. Racing season is definitely at full kilt for everyone at the JBCA, and the biggest races are yet to come.
Up next is Tryptique Ardennais, one of the hardest stage races in Belgium. Stay tuned.
- Cycling News
July 01, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 19:59 BST
At this point in my cycling career, I can honestly say I have fallen into the right hands, the right...
June 19, 2008
At this point in my cycling career, I can honestly say I have fallen into the right hands, the right guidance and the best development path. I come to this conclusion as I reflect on my short cycling career and our team's recent success. Just recently the JBCA flew to the Galicia region of Spain for the Volta a Galicia. It was a five-day stage race in the northern mountains of Spain. We flew back to Belgium with the climber's jersey, the best young rider's jersey, a second place stage finish, six more top-ten stage finishes, and a top five in the general classification. Our success made us all realize just how far we have come, but more importantly it made us realize just how far we can still go. All I have to say is, Galicia was jive-turkey!
I remember back to last year, I came to the Cycling Center flying completely under the radar. I met other riders who came here flying under radar as well. Flying under the radar is not so jive-turkey. It's a tricky game trying to get noticed in the cycling world, especially in the United States with criterium racing as the main craze. I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I could race criteriums ok, but I wanted to really race my bike. Fortunately I came to the right place.
I met guys like Aaron Pool, Vince Roberge, Steven Van Vooren, David Nelson, Peter Horn; and I thought Aaron who? Vince who? Steven who? David who? Peter who? These are all members of the Cycling Center who spent multiple seasons with the philosophies and development of the JBCA that is breeding success. Little did I know that we would all be in Spain a year later raising hell and defending two jerseys. My teammates are world-class bike racers. We surprised the Spaniards and everyone else who took us for granted. By racing the way we did, we showed exactly what the JBCA has been cultivating over the years.
So often the Cycling Center gets the perception of a summer camp for guys who want to come to Europe and race their bikes from time to time. That is completely wrong. We are a hungry elite team, driven by the Johan Bruyneel philosophy, and competing head to head with top amateurs and professionals alike for every result at every bike race we enter. I was fortunate enough that my coach, Kristen Dieffenbach, knew what really went on at the Cycling Center when she recommended it to me. She knew where I wanted to go with cycling and she recommended that I try it out for a season.
Europe is truly the best place to develop to a professional cyclist, and the JBCA gives guys like me a legitimate chance at following my dreams. Here we live, eat, sleep, train, and race like professionals. Bernard always says to us, "Fake it until you make it." That means you do everything like a professional until you are a professional. Keep in mind that we don't expect to "fake it" forever.
So we started the first stage of the Volta a Galicia not knowing what to expect. Most of the team had taken a rest period previous to this, and we did not plan to be at full tilt for the first two stages. But that changed very quickly. Aaron Pool, David Nelson, Vince Roberge, Even Hyde, Steven Van Vooren, Ian Holt, and myself all lined up at the start of the first stage not realizing what we were getting into.
The first stage started off with a 26-kilometer climb. From the first kilometer Steven took off up the road and almost immediately had a 30 second gap on the peloton. After a few more kilometers of racing, he was joined by a group of 12 including David Nelson. David was leading Steven out for the KOM points and before they knew it, Steven was the KOM leader on the first day. Unfortunately the main peloton caught the break five kilometers from the finish. It would have been nice to see Steven and David in a top placing on that day because they definitely deserved it. Instead, Aaron Pool took 7th on the stage in the final sprint.
The second stage was more of the same. We helped Steven get more points for his jersey and we had a guy in nearly every break that went up the road. In the last 15 kilometers of the race, Aaron Pool attacked and joined a group that was a minute or two up the road. They were able to hold off the peloton and Aaron was able to take over the light blue colored best young rider's jersey. So at the end of the second stage, we had two jerseys to defend and we were in full battle mode.
At the beginning of the third stage Bernard told me that it might be a day for me. I just said, "alright," not knowing if I believed him or not. Little did I know it was about to be my day. The last 23 kilometers of the stage really shook up the GC. That was when we started a category-two climb with another category-three climb right after it. There was a break up the road that still had about a minute on the field but would soon be caught on the climb.
A few minutes before we started the climb the peloton was really nervous. Everyone wanted good position for the climb, as it was about to reshape the race. Then all of a sudden, there was touch of wheels and someone went down right in front of me. I had to unclip and rejoin the peloton, but I completely lost my position. I had to make a big effort to get back near the front, but it gave me enough adrenalin and anger to dig as deep as I would need to go in the next few moments.
We then took a sharp left hand turn and there was a wall in front of us that we had to climb. I'm not Spiderman, but I managed to make it over the top of the category two climb with a lead group of four other guys. While my heart rate was through the roof, I took a look out over the crest and saw a beautiful panorama of the ocean and the Galician town of Moaña about a thousand and a half feet below us. I can't describe the feeling of breaking away with a small group over up the climb, then thrashing down a dangerous twisty decent. We pushed the envelope of every turn as a group of 13 was chasing hard behind us and the GC was battle was being fought.
When we got into the final kilometers, the stage win was well on my mind. With a kilometer left, someone threw in the first attack of our group. We all responded and I found myself sitting third wheel for the final sprint. As the final charge to the line unwound, I passed the two guys in front of me, but the guy behind me got a bike wheel in front of me at the line and took the stage. I got second on that stage, became fourth overall in GC, and the best young rider's jersey changed hands within the team from Aaron Pool to myself. In the following two stages we successfully defended both jerseys with guys like Ian, Vince, and David making extremely big efforts to secure our jerseys and GC. We only lost one GC spot on the fourth stage.
At the end of the race it was our perfect teamwork to control the race, and our precision of executing our plans that set us apart from every other team. Those aspects also generated the success we had in Galicia. This goes the whole way back to our February training camp in Albuquerque, NM where we constantly worked on getting bottles from the car, wheel changes, riding behind vehicles, and all the little details that are majorly important. These are the little details that others take for granted and make things go so smoothly for us in races.
When someone gets a flat tire, there is perfect communication on the radios and the entire team gets into the right position to get that guy back in the peloton. When we need to go to the car for water bottles, we all know the drill and it gets done perfectly. The best part is that we do it without having to think about it because we practiced it too much. The JBCA is not summer camp by any means. We learn to race like professionals until we are professionals.
Another big advantage is that we all live together. We have a tight group of guys who would all fall under the sword for any teammate. For example, after Galicia I was having problems with my girlfriend. And it didn't have anything to do with kissing podium girls. The whole team gave me great advice and lessened my stress. It's really amazing the way we all function together and have each other's backs.
And the support of the staff is phenomenal. I was a little stressed with my situation and my immune system was weak from racing so hard. I started to feel a little bit sick. I went right up to Bernard and he immediately called the Astana team doctor who was at the Tour de Suisse. I talked with the doc and he gave me advice on how to get better. It doesn't get anymore professional than that.
I should be back and kicking pretty soon. Now with the Tour of Pennsylvania hot in our radars, Fuji Bicycles is having Steven fly to the US early to do wind tunnel testing for a new time trial prototype bike. Fuji has been an amazing sponsor and its unbelievable the level of support they are giving us. As riders we are on amazing bikes and can definitely tell that Fuji believes in the program. We don't hear too much of the management chat, but it looks as if things are being lined up with our sponsors for a professional team for the JBCA next year. That is only my speculation, but it would not surprise me because the whole program is going in a very positive and professional direction. On that note, we can't be thinking about next season too much. We still have some big fish to fry, and they have JBCA written all over them.
- Cycling News
March 24, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 12:00 BST
Despite the naturally seasonal, yet perpetually unwelcome weather we have in Pennsylvania, racing...
March 5, 2008
Despite the naturally seasonal, yet perpetually unwelcome weather we have in Pennsylvania, racing season is here. That is, not in Pennsylvania quite yet, but the racing elsewhere has begun. The Tour of California just finished up, and two former Cycling Center members got a taste that action. Some of my JBCA team-mates just finished the Valley of the Sun stage race in Arizona. And Johan Bruyneel, despite having his hands full with the Tour of California, still took the time to check in on the JBCA squad at Valley of the Sun. The team had a couple of instances of bad luck, but from what I heard, everyone is in good form and ready for a great season.
Personally, I will start racing in about two weeks on the collegiate circuit, as there aren't too many local races nearby at this time of the year. Therefore, I decided to shave my legs the other day. My legs haven't seen sunlight in months; and they are so white that my eyes hurt to look at them. I figured it is probably about time to convert them from sasquatch-status to silky smooth since I will be racing soon. Don't get confused, I had semi-trimmed hair on my legs, but the white skin shined through so brightly that I had to wear sunglasses.
However, looking through the sunglasses in the shower, with shaving cream and a razor in hand, I noticed that up on the shower ceiling was the letter "N." This "N," however, was spelled out with daddy long leg legs. Yes, daddy long leg legs.
To give you some background, we had a friend that lived in our shower for a while. We even gave him a name, Squiggly Bo-bo. Squiggle Bo-bo was a daddy long leg. If you want to get technical, he was the Pholcus phalangioides species of spider. He was probably the coolest phalangioides, excuse me, coolest daddy long leg there ever was. Squiggly Bo-bo would tell you when you were taking too long in the shower. He never liked too much steam. He would also tell you things such as when you forgot to wash between your toes. It was to my dismay to see that some heartless soul took Squiggly Bo-bo's life. Now all that remains is two and a half of his legs stuck to the ceiling in the form of an "N." No one knows who the killer is, but if you have any leads then please don't hesitate to inform the authorities. It's a cruel world out there. We are going to miss you Mr. Bo-bo. Rest in peace.
Regardless of the loss of Mr. Bo-bo, I still have to train. Today I was out training with a friend when we came to a stoplight and some man started mumbling at us from his car. He said, "Hey guys! I just want to say that I've ridden mountain bikes, I've been on the road, I've even ridden 150 miles, (slight pause) on my motorcycle, and I think you guys should read the traffic laws. You are supposed to ride single file." I will admit my guilt, my training partner and I were riding side by side. A heinous crime, I know. But then I remembered Pennsylvania vehicle code 3505, section (e) to be exact, and swallowed my guilt. Long story short, we didn't do anything illegal.
I tried to correct the gentleman, as the state law for Pennsylvania permits cyclists to ride two abreast on roadways. I hope I was polite as that sounds, but I don't think I was. However, the man kept dismissing my suggesting with a "talk to the hand" type of gesture. Clearly this man was qualified to explain the law given his credentials. Let's review them shall we: 1) He rode a mountain bike a few times. 2) He has ridden a bicycle on the road before. And 3) He rode 150 miles one time.. on a motorcycle. Despite his outstanding qualifications, it is possible that one could deem him unable to read, or unable to count. Since he had studied the traffic regulations to the point of utter confidence, he either could not read the traffic regulations or could not count my training partner and myself. I did the calculations: one cyclist + one cyclist = two cyclists. This proof deems it mathematically impossible for my riding buddy and I to be more than two abreast. This gentleman is one of many motorists around State College, Pennsylvania who have what I call cyclefuria (fury of cyclists).
As it happens, I was on a group ride just yesterday when a pickup truck started driving absurdly slow in front of us after he had to wait to pass us. One of the members in my group ride, Joe, chased the truck for a while, but I suppose the driver did not want to stop for a brief discussion. Joe is a local to State College. He is notorious for cyclefuriamotorphilia (love of cyclist-hating motorists). And I say that in sarcasm.
As legend has it, a few weeks ago, a guy in a Porsche tried to drive Joe off the road. I'm not sure what happened next, but it led to Joe punching the mirror off of the Porsche. I will end this entry to congratulate Joe. I have chosen Joe to be my training bodyguard. If it comes down to car/truck vs. Joe, Joe is going to win. I solute you Joe. It's people like you that make dudes in Porsches think twice about running cyclists off the road. Now the roads are that much safer.
- Cycling News
March 24, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 12:00 BST
Until recently, the last time I raced my bike was in Belgium. I remember the thick summer Belgium...
March 25, 2008
Until recently, the last time I raced my bike was in Belgium. I remember the thick summer Belgium air. I remember the fight to be at the front of the pack as we approached the Kemmelberg. I remember the feeling in my hands as we scoured up, then barreled down that cobbled monster. I remember how the race never let up its intensity, leaving you a feeling of true expenditure in your body when you crossed the finish line.
I didn't remember any green portable bathrooms or a guy with a beard on roller blades sporting ripped jeans shorts while he skated around waving a giant American flag to cheer on the University of Vermont. Perhaps the "port-o-potties" and the Vermont guy with the flag was a good reminder I was back in the United States at a collegiate race. My first race since coming back from Europe, and my first race of the year, was in Philadelphia at the Philly Phlyer collegiate race weekend with my Penn State team-mates. It obviously highlighted the stark differences between the racing scene I was used to, and the brief racing scene that begins my 2008 season.
I can't criticise collegiate racing by any means. It provides a venue for college students to race, who are generally at a disadvantage just by being at school. Generally, college students are strapped for cash and can't easily find transportation and housing for races. The collegiate venue makes it so much easier for us "scholar"-athletes to get to bike races altogether. Although there is a wide range of racing ability in collegiate racing, there are always good racers. It's typical for national champions and professional cyclists to mix it up in the collegiate races.
Speaking of the collegiate racing, my JBCA team-mate Colt Trant won his first collegiate race of the season, the Tunis-Roubaix road race. My other JBCA teammates are starting to show their form as well. Aaron Boyleston won Rouge-Roubaix, which is also known as the Hell of the South. And in Belgium, Steven Van Vooren got fourth in the GP Steve Vermout in Ichtegem. At our training camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February, it was very clear that our JBCA-director Bernard Moerman and Team-doctor Dag Van Eislande were paying special attention to our training programs.
Bernard, Doctor Dag and Johan Bruyneel are also following up on our individual race results as well. It's a great feeling having them overlooking our training and racing, but at the same time it means that there is no slacking off. We have to show that we are worthy to be selected for the big races. So there is a healthy pressure to do well, knowing that nothing can be taken for granted at the JBCA. So perhaps I need to show my fitness in the coming weeks.
My first collegiate racing weekend of the year started off with what was supposed to be a road race on Saturday in the Philadelphia area. However, due to absurd and mind boggling amounts of rain, part of the course got flooded. I am still trying to figure out where all the water came from. So instead of canceling the race altogether, the organisers threw together a last minute criterium course for us to race on. It wasn't just any criterium course, though.
The course was a typical one-mile four-corner crit with a few unique characteristics. Turn one was a pond, turn two featured enough elevation to rise out of the water, turn three was a downhill paint-covered test of faith; and turn four, if you made it this far, was a slip-and-slide. Needless to say, I am 21 years old, and I have only ever seen it rain that hard for maybe one or two other occasions in my life. It wouldn't have surprised me if the winning break in the race included Noah's Ark and Christopher Columbus.
Once we arrived late to the venue and found a parking spot, we took a moment to watch the racers on the course before us. After we got sick of seeing all of the carnage in one of the turns, we figured it was probably best to go register to race because we were already running a little late. The registration table changed locations, so before we knew it, we did a fair amount of walking and we were soaking wet. We then rushed back to my team-mate Justin Brown's car to change. We threw on our Blue and white jerseys, pinned our numbers, lathered our legs with warming oil, and attempted to get in a warm up. We only warmed up for three to four minutes before it was time to line up. Getting to the startling cold and waiting for them to start us as the sky spewed rain was not my idea of fun.
I wish I could say that the heavens opened up and God sent warm beams of sunshine to caress our race, but I would be horrendously lying. It rained, and it rained hard. I won't bore you with the lap-by-lap details of a circular race. So in summary, it rained until it couldn't rain anymore, it hurt not getting a warm up, I didn't crash and managed 11th place, my form told me I wasn't peaking in march (good sign), we got another hour of training in after the race ended, and then it rained even more. Did I mention that it rained?
Well as the nature of collegiate race weekends are, there are generally races Saturday and Sunday. So we went back to Justin's house in the Philadelphia area where his family graciously hosted us for the weekend. However, I think Justin's family was plotting to kill several of us. I was sleeping in the basement with two other team-mates. After about an hour of sleep, I woke up to someone sloshing around in the water. The basement had begun to flood as a result of all the rain that I may or may not have mentioned. What if I didn't know how to swim? I have to thank my mom for the swimming lessons I got when I was four years old. Thanks mom! After the Brown's assassination attempt, I was able to snag maybe three more hours of sleep until we had to get up for an early morning team time trial. That event was followed by a circuit race in the afternoon.
After finishing the time trial, we had some down time. So we checked out the Manayunk Wall where the professional Philly race goes up, since it was nearby. Then we got some breakfast at a diner and relaxed for a while. After a little more much needed coffee and a decent warm-up it was time for the afternoon circuit race. That race in the afternoon was a bit more exciting. I managed to get into a break of maybe 10-12 guys that stayed away until the finish. On the last lap, two guys attacked our break and stayed away for the finish. The rest of the break had a sprint finish. I ended up finishing seventh. I could definitely feel a lack of top-end power in my legs. But that is to be expected this time of the year and I can't complain.
After the circuit race ended, we packed up and headed home. It was the start of our spring break from school. I arrived back to my hometown of Johnstown with soggy chamois, a water-corroded wheel, and the flu. It doesn't surprise me that I got sick. I didn't eat as well as I needed to, I was soaked to the bone all day Saturday in the cold rain, I barely got any sleep, I raced three times, and I did a lot of traveling in the car. I guess that's the rag-tag lifestyle of collegiate racing. I hope every racing weekend isn't that exhausting. Next up I race in Pittsburgh, and then we host our home Penn State Nittany Cycling Classic. Stay tuned.
- Cycling News
March 11, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 12:00 BST
I finished up my workload for the week at Penn State University and headed to a small airport with a...
February 6, 2008
I finished up my workload for the week at Penn State University and headed to a small airport with a big bike box. I was heading to the conjoint Astana/Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy (JBCA) training camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am now a second year member of the former Cycling Center, which is run by Bernard Moerman of Belgium, and is now overseen by Johan Bruyneel.
I thought I had some idea of what to expect, but I really didn't. The past few years, Bernard [Moerman] has had his team camp in Albuquerque. I attended the camp last year as a first year Cycling Center member. Albuquerque is great city. However I think some people might be scared of the name. It took me a few times to learn how to spell it correctly, but I got used to it eventually... Albiquirklee, bubakirky, Alba-turkey... Albuquerque Bingo! Now that word is definitely going on my spelling-bee arsenal.
Albuquerque is the perfect place for a training camp. It's got altitude, attitude, mild winter weather, nice roads, friendly people, green chili, Johan Bruyneel, and everything a cyclist could ask for. I would say I'm getting the better bargain coming from the cold and snowy hills of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a place that's threatened many cyclists' phalanges, metatarsals, digits, and what-have-you with weather so cold that Santa doesn't even want to visit. The Santa thing might have been due to my behavior, but that's beside the point. The climate is often too cold for reindeer and cyclists alike. And I can't blame the reindeer. Speaking of Santa...
Santa, if you read cyclingnews.com, and I know you do... I just want to say that I will be a good boy this year, do all of my intervals, drink all of my water bottles, not swear at road-rage cyclist-hating motorists, I will keep my bike as clean as a whistle, and I will not taunt the Buffalo behind the fence when I pass them on training rides - even though Buffalo are very funny looking. And if I'm a good boy this year, I want a Daisy Red-Rider BB-gun, and a Radio flyer wagon if you can swing that too.
Anyways, Bernard greeted me at the airport in Albuquerque after I flew in. In the car ride back to the hotel, he told me that the camp was a lot different than the previous year. He was definitely right about that. The next morning I was in line to get silverware for breakfast behind Alberto Contador. It was one of those moments were you think, "Ok, that guy won the Tour de France. But that's cool I guess. I suppose Chuck Norris and Mike Huckabee are probably behind me in line if Contador is in front of me."
So quite naturally, I didn't make any sudden movements that would startle Chuck Norris into ninja-panic mode if he were indeed behind me. God forbid he accidentally round kick Huckabee in the heart, or anyone else for that matter. And on that train of thought, I didn't jump at Contador and introduce myself like any other cyclist would have either. I had to remember: I was at this camp as a racer and not a fan. Don't get me wrong; I like bikes just as much as the next guy, but I came to Albuquerque for different reasons. The Johan Bruyneel philosophy is all about hard work, discipline, teamwork, loyalty, organization, etc. This was exactly what I was here to practice at camp. So right away, I made and effort to ignore the prestige and high profile aura surrounding the entire atmosphere at the camp. It was time to train, but to train the right way.
So we began camp.
I'm not going to lie; you do not get these opportunities like the ones I had anywhere else. In the week and a half I was at camp, I had some very phenomenal experiences. We started every day with team rides going out in the morning. We always rode 2 x 2 and we worked on various skills like rotations, echelons, wheel change drills, and race strategy drills. We fine-tuned and perfected all of the things most cyclists in the United States take for granted. Skills that you have to be masters at in Europe or things get rough. At the same time, we got to ride the beautiful mountainous terrain of New Mexico.
A few days into the camp we all got lactate tests with Astana team doctor Dag Van Elslande, who also cam over from the former Discovery Channel team. Essentially, we just pedaled an SRM machine and had "the vampire man" take blood from our ears at specific wattage increments. The test lasted until we couldn't push any higher wattage. He sat down with each one of us individually to analyze our fitness and training. How is that for top of the line training consultation? I sometimes forget that I am still an amateur in the JBCA.
Camp was very busy. When we weren't riding, we had other things to do. I often found myself occupied with random obligations from morning to night. Hopefully by the time you are all reading this, my grades are still OK and my girlfriend isn't too mad... Hi Amanda! Don't worry, I haven't eloped my new Fuji bike and run away. It's not like that, although it is tempting with the Sram Gruppo...
We also talked with the representatives from Fuji bikes and Sram, our new sponsors, to learn all the ins and outs of our awesome equipment. We even went to a production studio to shoot a promo clip for the Tour de France for the Versus TV network. If you get to see it on TV, you will see a guy in a yellow jersey with a small group of guys sprinting after him. Those guys sprinting after the yellow jersey are me and my boys. I think I can speak on behalf of my teammates that this role really felt personal to us. We don't like to let the race leader get away. Don't be surprised if we win an Academy Award for our heart-felt performance. I already have my thank you speech prepared.
Anyways, while we waited for our time to shoot our part, we watched as Bruyneel and Contador shot their features and interviews in the gigantic studio. It wasn't something you see or experience everyday. We also attended the Astana Team Presentation. Some people paid $500 for their seats, but we were guests. And after the presentation, Astana and the JBCA all attended a dinner. I can admit that I rejected a piece of Ekimov's birthday cake. I probably would have taken it if Bruyneel and Dr. Dag weren't watching our every move with their laser-precision observation skills. But I doubt they would have cared that much on such an occasion.
As for training, Astana did their thing, and we [JBCA] did our thing for the most part. There was one day at camp where we did get to ride with the Astana guys. It was probably the first time in my life I ever had a police escort and rolling enclosure for training ride. Although the rolling enclosure is a good idea when you are riding with guys like Levi Leipheimer or Alberto Contador. It would not make sense for us to train with Astana every day though. However, my teammate Steven Van Vooren, who has been in Bernard's program, got to ride several days with the Astana guys. Through the Cycling Center, he has shown that he is only a step away from making the jump to the next level. He is a true example of the riders that the academy is molding. It shouldn't be a surprise to see big names coming out of the JBCA in the future.
For this upcoming season, I will fine-tune my training in Pennsylvania and race with my Penn State Collegiate team. Riding back home is also an adventure and provokes some interesting events. Then in May I will fly over to Europe to race the top amateurs, continental, and professional continental teams over the famous cobbles and classic race courses. This is looking to be a very exciting racing season for the JBCA and myself. I will start my season with collegiate races, the Tour of the Gila, and I will end up doing races such as the Tour of Liege, and the Tour of Pennsylvania this summer. I am expecting a hell of an adventure and I will fill you in on every detail.
Lets go for a ride...
- Jim Camut
American Jim Camut is entering his second year in the newly-minted Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy. Formerly known as the Cycling Center, the Belgium-based program turns out sophisticated, smart and strong bike racers. Australia UK USA