Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walton Park Criterium: First Cat4 Race

Walton Park Criterium @ Garmin Connect

I'm happy to say my first Cat4 race ever turned out to be a win. Better yet, I won it honorably. No drafting, no sitting back waiting for a field sprint, no feeding off other guys' work. I pulled away from the peloton only 4 laps into the 25 lap race and it turned out to be the right move to make.

I was by myself for nearly the whole race, initially gapping at about 20 seconds, then building that lead up to 45 seconds by the end of the race. It was an awesome win and I am really happy about the result. Its also nice to get my first 7 points towards catting up to 3, and snatching some extra cash.

I'd like to thank the two teammates I had in the race as well, Matt White and Patrick Nagler. They were at the front of the peloton the whole time I was away, covering attacks and making sure my lead stuck. Thanks guys! We made HAYMARKET BICYCLES proud.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The #4 Win Of The Season: R.I.R. Criterium

Richmond International Raceway Criterium @ Garmin Connect

I came into the Richmond International Raceway Criterium today wanting to redeem my self for yesterday's fatal mistake for my 3rd place finish at the Black Hills Circuit Race. As you can probably guess this was on a car racing track, a very fast sloped-turn track with a pretty bad headwind for anyone off the front. Going into the race, I knew no one was strong enough to get away here by themselves. And if more than one man went I'd be right up front to go after them. My plan for the race was to sit top 3-5 the whole time taking a couple pulls my self on the inside line and setting my own pace. My goal was to keep everyone together so that there would be a pack sprint which I was 99% sure that I could win.
The first half of the race went completely to plan until there was a crash in the middle of the pack. Well over 20 riders went down and the race was stopped for the ambulance and the broken bike parts to be picked up off the course. It took a good 10 minutes for the race to start again with a neutral lap followed by 5 remaining laps of the race to the finish line. I did the same thing I had done in the beginning of the race and stuck with my plan. With a lap to go I got out to the front and was able to position my self perfectly on the inside of the track. This was exactly where I needed to be because I was setting my own comfortable pace before the sprint, and I was covering all inside attacks plus any outside attacks that I could see very clearly.

With 500m to go, two riders, both on the same team, jumped from the outside. The one leading was pulling his teammate toward the finish, I recognized this and kept calm. I knew that they would be wasting a lot more energy than I was to cover the same amount of distance, because they attacked on the outside of the turn where there is more track to ride. I waited till the end of the turn to jump off and sprint. The sprint was much easier than I thought it was going to the time I had gotten to the line first, I was almost 30m in front of 2nd on a 200m sprint. I'm really happy with the result today and especially the fact that I didn't crash. This was my type of race and I felt in control the entire time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Disappointing Finish @ Black Hills Circuit Race

Black Hills Cat4/5 Circuit Race @ Garmin Connect

Today was the Black Hills Circuit Race. I signed up for the Cat4/5 race instead of the 5 because I wanted a bit of extra competition to try out my strength. This was a 10 lap, 15 mile race, with a 750m 10% grade climb on every lap (including the finishing sprint.) After the first lap I realized this was going to be a tough finish, not because of the hill, but because of the way my body was feeling. I felt nauseous for the entire race and it didn't help at all.

------------- Leading the pack up the climb. -- Photo By: Tim Kelley ------------

I pulled quite a few times during this race and brought the pack with me to catch a couple solo attacks. I was pretty worn out but I wanted to win. I decided to jump off the front with 600m left and try to go solo to the line. It was working as I gapped the group with about 30 or 40m of road. As I got to the base of the climb I was dead but had only 200m left. I picked entirely the wrong gear for this hill sprint finish and it cost me the race. I couldn't get enough rpm's up the hill to move my self fast enough to hold off the two riders that past me in the last 20m. It was a devastating finish and I am still angry with myself about how amateur of a mistake that was to be in the wrong gear. 3rd place isn't bad for almost an 80 man group...but its not what I wanted.

------------------------- The Sprint. -- Photo By: Tim Kelley -------------------------

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

5:30 PM Haymarket Bicycles Shop Race Ride

It took me an hour and a half of traffic and lights to drive from my house down Route 50 to make it to the Haymarket Bicycles Shop for the 5:30 Race Ride with Joe Dombrowski and a few other Haymarket guys. It was about a 15-20 man group. The ride consists of 3 tempo segments with a sprint at the end of each one. The first segment was on rollers, the second on flat ground, and the third beginning on a climb then rolling.

I won the first sprint after a lot of solo attacking/pulling out of pure luck seeing as how I had no idea where the start/finishes were for any of the sprints. The second one didn't go quite as well. Someone got off the front after a descent and I spent a minute or two catching him by myself with an attack. After I caught him the group caught on and we started to pace line for a few miles. At the very start of the sprint to finish up the 2nd Tempo segment I had done a really hard pull for about 30 seconds and was pretty hurt. As everyone started to sprint I pretty much said "screw it," sat back, and relaxed. The 3rd Tempo segment/sprint is what really made the hour and a half drive totally worth it though...

...The start of the 3rd Tempo segment and final sprint is on a nice half mile 10% grade climb. This is Joe D's kind of riding. He is a climber, and a serious threat on any hill. Not surprisingly he attacked near the beginning. He got about 10 or 15 meters on us and I watched him pull away as no one made an effort to chase. I had had enough, stood up out of the saddle, and went after him. I caught on and went by him beginning to pull and allowing him to relax and regain some energy. At the top of hill it was evident that we had pulled away from the group...considerably. The next 7 miles was filled with pain and uncomfortableness all over my body as me and Joe took 20-40 second intervals of pulling each other. We never saw the group again until the end of the ride.

After seeing the stats from the Garmin tonight I now realize why the group never even had a chance of catching us. For the entire 7 miles we were coughing up a 26-27mph average breakaway with hills included. I was well above my threshold @ about 190+ bpm for my Heart Rate and hit a max of 197. We split 2 full 5ks of just around 6 minutes flat (a little over 2 minutes per mile). The agonizing drive from DC to Haymarket was TOTALLY worth it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Update: Haymarket Bicycles Team Camp

Friday: Haymarket Team Camp Day1 @ Garmin Connect

Today was a relaxed ride to be able to have time to chat it up with the guys and get a feel for the Team House and of course figure out where each person was sleeping. I spent the night on Friday for Saturday's ride but had to be home Saturday night for school related responsibilities. Its awesome riding out in Unison, VA and its only an hours drive away. I never knew how hilly and beautiful it was out there...and the 50kph gravel descents are pretty gnarly too haha.

Saturday: Haymarket Team Camp Day2 @ Garmin Connect

Besides the infinite number of flats that the group got today, which of course lead to multiple annoying stops, the ride was quite enjoyable. We hit up one of Chuck's favorite climbs, Firey Run, a 3-4km all gravel climb with some ups and downs. We did a couple other shorter climbs on the road that were fun. I was attacking as much as Chuck and Eli would let me and showing the team why I got picked up and what I can do with my bike. Regardless of the stops to fix flats (I think there were 6?) and some problems of my own with my shifting, this really was an amazingly fun day.

Sunday: Haymarket Team Camp Day3 @ Garmin Connect

Today was the longest ride I have ever done, and it was awesome! After yesterday I realize just how much food my muscle mass body needs on long rides in order for me to not bonk...A LOT. During the 4:30 hour ride and 135km I ate 5 gels, 4 energy bars, a bag of chips, a glazed donut, a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and drank 1 bottle of gatorade, 3 bottles of water and a can of Mountain Dew. Now that really is a lot of food!

There were times on this ride where I was feeling a bonk coming up, but I always spaced out my eating and drinking well and regained energy every time I felt down. I was attacking on every single climb, every single descent, and even won the group sprint we had to the coffee shop (Sorry Steven Black...haha). This was a really fun ride and I absolutely loved the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top of the 3 major climbs that we did. It was also really neat to finally get a close up look at Harper's Ferry. This is a day I'll remember for a long, long time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mid Week Update + An Exciting New Team

I planned on training easy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week but it seems I've come down with a pretty nasty cold. Fighting off sickness means thinking it through and making the right choices for your body. I've made the obvious choice to skip out on training before this weekend's rides. So, looks like I'll be catching up with the bike on Friday.
The weekend before last, after finishing my second week of the Greenville Spring Training Series with an 8 mile solo break away win at Donaldson Center, I was given the opportunity to become part of the Haymarket Bicycles Development Team for Harley Davidson/XO Communications. I have taken the offer and I am very happy with my decision after meeting most of the team this last weekend. Everyone is so nice and so awesome, I'm very excited to be spending the season with them and to be racing with the guys once I Cat-up. Its going to be an amazing first year for me and I absolutely cannot wait!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An End To An Amazing Series: 3rd Win In A Row

Its been quite a crazy last 3 weeks during the Greenville Spring Training Series. Well over 60 hours of long distance driving, days filled with pouring rain and others filled with sunburns. I've met a lot of people along the way as well and its really been an experience of a lifetime for me.

The series and its great, great fun may be over, but I sure as hell went out with a Bang. With an upsetting first week I came back the next weekend and pulled out a 2nd place finish followed by my first win of the season the next day. Hyped up and hungry for wins, I went into the 3rd and final weekend with ferocity despite the rain, fog, and down right dangerous conditions. I pulled out the W on Saturday and my 3rd win of the season today to get me going on a nice 3 win streak.

The whole race today was rainy, cold, and gloomy but I loved it. I was comfortable the whole time, talking with other riders and making jokes to lighten the mood. I got serious of course in the last mile when I surged to a few attacks and really played my hand of cards smarter than I have before. With 500m left someone began to sprint, immediately I said to myself, "thats a mistake." I sat in behind him for 100m or so and started to sprint as hard as I could for a good 400m. It was tough but an awesome finish to a truly amazing Race Series, and an incredible start to the 2011 season!

Heres how the race went down -- GSTS: Donaldson Center RR#3 -- 1st place (3rd Win of the Season) by darionfleming at Garmin Connect - Details

Saturday, March 5, 2011

GSTS: River Falls RR - 2nd Win Of The Season

I woke up today in the Haymarket/Harley Team House in Asheville, NC to pouring rain and ruthless fog. The drive over to the race was almost just as scary as descending down the wet, fog ridden hills during the ride. When I got to the start I had decided that regardless of what place I came in this race, I was not going to kill my self on the course and put myself in any danger of very likely crashes. It is a Cat5 race, the season really hasn't even started yet, and there is no prize money. So, my goal going into it was...survive.

This being said, I am quite surprised that I won. All I really did was go with the flow for 20 miles until the 30 man group split into a break of about 6 riders. I moved my way up into 2nd on the final climb, a 1 mile long hill that ended at the Finish Line. As we neared the top I saw the pain in everyone's faces and the way their bodies were moving up and down on their bikes. There was 200m left and I knew the finish line was right around the corner. So, I did what I know how to do very well, I stood up on my pedals, although in extreme physical and mental pain, and pushed to the line as hard as I possibly could. Luckily I came out on top with no crashes or season-ruiners. It was a good day, on a terrible day.

I didn't log this ride on the Garmin, my thinking was that it would just be another distraction apart from the pouring rain and foggy, wet roads that would raise my chances of crashing. Sorry...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Great Rider. An Even Better Friend: Robbie Wade

I've known Robbie for about 3 years now. We met when I first started working at Pacers Running Stores in Clarendon. Robbie is an elite Irish triathlete dedicated to bettering not only himself but others around him as well, he is just that type of person. He's one of the nicest and friendliest guys I've ever known. He is an absolutely BEAST rider as well (I mean every capitalized letter there...) but as the title says, he's an even better guy. If I ever have a problem, either at home or on the bike, he is there for me to call and talk it through with, and for that, he's like a father, a real life hero.

A little while ago Robbie told me he has made the decision to move down to Austin, Texas with his fiancé to give 110% of his focus to Triathlons and building his Professional Career on the bike, in the water and on the trails. I'm really happy for him to be able to make such a life changing (literally) decision like that. It takes a person with an insurmountable amount of strength to leave his friends, home, and job for a dream that I am 100% sure will soon be a reality. For that, he has my utmost respect and support and I can't wait to see him rip it up in Austin and around the world!

Robbie, this was supposed to be a blog about the ride we did today...but screw it. This is what I wanted to write about so there it is. I know I tell you all the time, but I want to let you know one more time that I appreciate everything you have done for me and worked with me through in the last year. I honestly couldn't ask for a better coach, mentor, leader or friend. You're awesome dude!

Oh! Here's the ride if anyone's interested...but who really cares?
MacArthur Ride With RW by darionfleming at Garmin Connect - Details