Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1 Point

Here's the quick and dirty from Philly. Very bittersweet, as it was great to see my old Drexel teammates putting on a great race but I wish I had better legs. My brother, the race director, put on a fantastic weekend that has certainly become the highlight of the ECCC calendar. As an alum of the Beanpot committee, I can now freely admit that it's just a better race. No clue what happened on the RR, but I was quickly dismissed from the group after the first few laps. I felt awful. Had a lovely chat with Harvard's Anna McLoon though. After heading home, I headed out the local pub to have a beer and put it behind me. The next day, our TTT went along okay. Due to the wet weather, we took no risks and pulled in over a minute behind the winners. Look for that to improve, as I think we have the horsepower. The Crit was fast, but mostly boring. I managed to get into the day's main break (pictured above), but found myself closing too many gaps as the group was very disorganized. I managed to get 1 measly sprint point out of the effort, but was slowly dispatched back to the main field, where I was too drained to contest the sprint.

In other news, Kyle Bruley (aka Karl, or Creme Brulee) informed us that we actually have a Nat's budget. As it stands now, I'm not even close to qualifying for D1. Temple and Rutgers have been thorns in our side, but Natan and Brian are looking good. The next two weekends are crucial to potentially changing my situation and maintaining my teammates' position, so I'm focusing on recovering during the week and trying to race smarter. See you all at Army, and keep it rubber-side down!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bringin' down the House

Philly race in 5 days. There's been a lot of chatter via the interwebs about Drexel, Penn, and now Temple about "protecting their house" but BU is shipping down from Boston to bring down said house. We're itching for some big results, and the upcoming race weekend has it all: windy flats, short leg-burning hills, and a peloton that has long forgotten about the 'first-race jitters'. Sure, my own brother is the race director. Sure, I graduated from Drexel University. And, sure, I've lived in Philadelphia for most of my natural life. Does that mean that I'll have some unfair advantage? What?! Maybe! Just pretend not to be surprised when a rogue marshal leads the peloton off-course right after Natan attacks up Black Road.

Now for a quick recap of Delaware, so I can put a great weekend behind me and focus on the upcoming week. Really fun weekend, and I enjoyed traveling with the team for the first time this year. This group clearly had an affinity for Olive Garden, Panera Bread and Waffle House. Folks, the ECCC is treading dangerous waters when we travel far enough south to reach this food chain. I swear, the entire schedule is designed to try and convince UVM to forgo the hours of travel. We all know how that works out.

The road race was a big wild-card for the weekend, but turned out to be a blast. We drove the course early in the morning, which turned out to be very calming despite the rumors that the 'rumble strips' and narrow roads would ruin the day. From kilometer 0, I attacked straight away hoping to draw a few people willing to build up a lead and wait for a larger break to bridge. This was met with an audible moan from the peloton (and probably a few choice words). Haha. Brian from Drexel joined up, but he didn't inspire confidence so I sat up. Turns out, he was intent on joining the main break and was successful in doing so. Damn. Next up was Natan, who attacked on one of the last hills in a section of rollers after Brian and I drilled it to try to split the field. He dangled in front for a while, but UVM sent a helper his way and they were gone. At the beginning of the final lap, all I could think of was "fantastic, Natan is stealing the show and I'm forced to fight for paltry points with a large peloton with Lipka." I decided to attack about a half a mile from the feed zone, where the peloton would be less concerned with chasing and more about getting their precious water. I was smart enough to take a bottle the previous lap so I was good to go. Thanks to Preston, Rob, and Dave (Men's intro road race winner) for the feeds! After a mile or so on my own, the peloton was out of sight and I could see an Army rider in the distance. We worked together for a while, then I started to feel my legs falling apart. Thankfully, Brian bridged up with a few other riders to share the pace-making up the rollers. On the back stretch, I cramped up hard and was forced to drop off. However, I had a large enough gap to finish ahead of what was left of the peloton in 15th. Although there were missed opportunities throughout the race, I was very proud of the fact that all 3 BU riders finished in a breakaway.

I recovered pretty poorly for the next day and struggled through the ITT. Great course, but no legs. Next up was Alan Atwood's Crit of Death. Even the moto-ref crashed! To be fair, the officials were clearly concerned with our safety and used their best judgment by weighing possible alternatives and pleading with riders to use caution. However, I was not impressed with their judgment. After debating whether or not to start after watching some spectacular crashes, I decided I'd line up and at least check it out. I consider this a mistake, not because the course was really that dangerous but because you should never race half-heartedly. After witnessing some silly crashes, I sat up in the corners and was quickly left behind. Not worth it. Natan slid out on the infamous corner, but took a free lap and murdered himself to get some sweet, sweet points. Brian apparently loves these up/down crits, and killed it for the second week in a row. I still had fun heckling Drexel Timmy with Doug, and hanging with my Dad, Collin, and Denise. Their advice - "don't chance it!" Time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the total suffer-fest that will be Philly.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Adventures on the Old New Jersey Turnpike

With two weeks of racing under my belt, I don't even know where to begin. After some quick research, I now believe that I am legally married to the NJ Turnpike. This is unwelcome news to my fiancé, pictured above modeling the enormous metal statue of the Princeton tiger. Now off to the races!

Rutgers / Princeton

It all began with the ITT. I practically soiled my new skinsuit (pictured left) when I saw Mark A. pick up the microphone near registration. Over the past few years, I've become an easy target for ECCC announcers who wish to remind everyone of how difficult I make this stuff look. I actually arrived in time to pre-ride the course and get on the trainer for a while. One soaked skinsuit later, thanks in large part to what can only be described as global warming, I was off! For wattage nerds, my goal was to keep it above 370 and meter my effort out while I kept a low profile. Well, turns out that this was woefully inadequate considering the lack of any wind and the near-perfect conditions. I finished with way too much in the tank, after pushing an average of 374 Watts. Lesson #1: Nothing can or should replace perceived effort. Leave it all on the road regardless. Natan put over 10 seconds into me, finishing 15th. How 'bout them apples?

Next, the crit. Awesome course. Took some getting used to riding in a group again at speed, but I was comfortable and was actually enjoying myself. Unfortunately, we dropped very few riders, and I couldn't find the right lane to open up a sprint. Lesson #2: Pack finishes are meaningless if you don't have to legs for the top 20. A slight disappointed, but nobody died and it was awesome seeing how comfortable Brian and Natan were riding with the A field. Natan cramped up hard, but this only seemed to light a fire under his saddle for the next day in the circuit. Not only was he involved in a significant break, but also jockeyed for a great position in the finish and held on to sprint into the top 20. I was a total waste of legs that day. Hanging around the back, basically forgetting how to race my bike. Legs felt fine, but I was mentally unprepared for the race. Lesson #3: Fitness is no substitute for mental toughness. While my legs would recover after a few hours, the disappointment in my performance lasted for all of spring break...

Spring break was busy, but not very bike-relevant. Drove down to DC to apartment search for a few days, jammed my finger in a metal door, and then spent a few days riding around Philly. Got to do the points race with all of the local hammers, including Andy and Johann from Penn, and Joe, Brett, Timmy, Dan, and Ryan from Drexel. All were intent on blowing the doors off of the locals. The gear restriction was 53-16, which felt downright weird after spinning out my 53-12 the weekend before. Moving on!

Columbia / Stevens

Just like the weekend before, this race consisted of day-trips from my parents house in PA due to family visits. Lesson #4: The ECCC is way more fun when you sleep over. I missed out on hanging w/ my teammates, and pre- and post-race discussions. Great way to feel like an outsider. With Rutgers fresh in mind, I actually raced my bike at Columbia. Attacked hard at least once, hit the front a few times, and gave it my all in the end. At the end, I got caught behind a group content to sit up - my fault for choosing the wrong wheels. Brian rocketed to the end, easily finishing in the top 20 in front of his fam, including his brother (who immediately answers the question, "what would Brian look like if he ate a sandwich?"). Nice.

Stevens was the nail in the coffin for me. After arriving late, struggling to find parking, and warming up for all of 5 minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief at the start line. Everything had worked out. After the not-so neutral lap (weren't we supposed to stop at the bottom?), I found myself lying on the ground after Drew from Rochester took a bad turn and hit the curb in front of me. Not even thinking twice, I untangled my bicycle and hopped back on. I was too interested in downshifting to realize that I was passing the wheel pit and completely forgot about a possible free lap. Rookie mistake. I was soon pulled, forced to watch as Brian absolutely threw down the gauntlet on the course. Taking some sprint points, and finishing 6th in A's! What of Natan? 8th! They can absolutely smell the sweet air of Ft. Lewis, but I need to get my act together and get some results. Delaware and Philly are up next, and I'm giving it full gas.

Thanks for reading, and see you in Delaware!