It was 95 degrees, windy, and smelled like slaughtered cattle in Ontario. With the dry/hot conditions I was glad to have the hydration and fuel of Hammer Nutrition on my side.
By lap two of the 75 minute event there were 12 guys off the front. Three SoCal Cycling riders, myself, and the rest were from one man teams. The guys were rotating nicely and we were easily putting time into the field. I launched for a prime and rode off the front to see how the other 11 other riders would react. They kept the rotation going so I settled back into the group. I went and got another prime, then a third. As I was off the front just after taking the third prime, Shawn Wayland from Serious Cycling came with me. I said, this is good, lets go.
Why this win and day was so special to me…
The entire weekend was a tough one for me. I learned Friday I had lost a close friend, Mike Herdman. Mike wondered off after his dog and suffered a critical head injury during a backpacking/camping trip with his buddy. I decided to race not knowing if I had the legs or if my head was in the right place, I headed out anyways to see what I had. The entire drive out to Ontario that day I thought about Mike and how we carpooled to so many races. I envisioned myself winning and dedicating it to him. That’s what I did!! The entire time I was in the race I was thinking about Mike. He was surely with me on this day as I had better legs than I’ve ever felt. I had mine plus his for the day. I dedicated the win to my good buddy Mike Herdman.
Thank you KHS, Maxxis, JAKROO Custom Apparel, Shimano, Serfas, Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, IRT Wheels, Xpedo, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Rennie & Associates, Q2, Bike Religion, Chamois Butter, WD-40 Bike, Bicycle Blue Book and the Management of IPA sports.
This is an event that sounded very enticing after hearing about it from countless people over the last year. From the crowds, $1000 primes, technical difficulty of the courses, to the overall stellar competition that frequents these races, I had been chewing on the possibility of attending someday. Well, that opportunity presented itself, and I jumped! After racing Tulsa Tough and The North Star Grand Prix, my travel plans were designed to have me return home to San Diego for two weeks in order to train for National Championships in Madison, WI. One thing led to another, with a confluence of events leading me to the idea that racing ToAD, only 90 miles from Madison, would be better training, less travel, and more importantly – great race experience. I am relatively new to this sport and the majority of my experience comes from road racing, ToAD would provide a tremendous opportunity to gain a wealth of experience with 11 days of racing. Ten of which are criteriums that last 90 minutes, around 6 to 8-turn circuits on city streets, with rough roads, manholes, etc. The focus here is on speed and technical prowess. This is where being physically fit only takes you halfway, with the other half residing in the importance of technical skill as well as courage (cojones)!
The events have been well-attended with some of the best competition in the US. As you all know, cyclists have a tendency to be able to retell in detail every microscopic detail of a race with all the nuisances that one should experience while racing. To save you the reader in this journey of inconsequential details, I will attempt to be a little more concise. Simply, the racing is HARD! To the competitor (me), this is great news. I want it to be hard. I want to be a little in over-my-head at times. I want to be pushed to my limits, for this is the only way I will continue to progress and reach the heights of what I am capable of. There have been times that I have been pushed near my physical limits, but I would say I have been pushed beyond my comfort level everyday with regards to courage and the limits of fear. Many times thus far I have put myself in situations that I have been truly uncomfortable, only to come out on the other side unscathed. As teammate Dave Santos has told me countless times, “If the guy in front of you make make the turn at that speed, so can you. Just do it”.
Thus far as I am writing this journal, we are in the 8th day of racing, seven of which I have competed. All but one day has been that of the criterium-style racing, and of those seven, six have been really technical. On the second day of racing in East troy, the course was 1K in length with six tight turns. We did 87 laps, in 90 minutes time, and you can trust me that at no point was this race boring. Every second the focus and intensity were palpable. If you do the math on this one, you will also see that it was wicked fast. An interesting discovery in how the racing changed when the best NCC team (United Health Care) attended both Saturday and Sunday’s NCC races. Interesting in that I expected the racing to be physically harder, but the opposite was the case. All of a sudden, the other teams that had been uber aggressive the previous days, now became quite a bit more tentative in their race tactics. This resultedin an overall slower race pace, making the technical-side all the more important. These races highlighted the importance of positioning and the battle for that position resulting in a dog fight among everyone behind the 6 man UHC squad. Frustrating to say the least, but lets not fool ourselves, UHC is on of the best and they are so for a reason. There is absolutely no ignorance in their tactics, for they know exactly what kind of chaos they are creating.
Beyond that, we raced the only road race yesterday in Elkhart Lake, WI at Road America which is the same track that Nascar competes on. In summary, a lot of fun, not very technical nor mountainous, yet very fast where we covered 70 miles in 2 hrs 19 minutes. I finished sadly where I have been most of the week, between 30 and 40th place. All of the races have had well over 100 competitors each day, and I have fought hard, but have yet to reap any of the rewards. The objectives for this trip are to: Learn, continue to fight, gain experience, enjoy, have fun, never quit, and expect both success and failure. Essentially, get better all the way around as a bike racer. Yet remember to enjoy “the ride”, for the ride is the best part of life. It is life…
A special thank you has to go to my Director Paul Abrahams for giving me this opportunity to become a better bike racer, by attending this event. Without the KHS-Maxxis pb JAKRRO team, I would not have the ability to receive all the compliments everyday on how great looking and bad ass our new bikes look. The one moment I get to be prideful! And but of course to all our sponsors who support this teams endeavors to achieve what many might deem impossible- THANK YOU.
You all allow for my core philosophy in life to be truly put to the test- “we are limitless, and nothing short of hard work, determination, perseverance, and passion can hold us back from achieving what at one time was only a dream”. Your continued support allows for the only limiter to be that of myself.
Four more days to go. Wish me luck! I am positive I am getting better, and the results will follow.
The North Star Grand Prix (which used to be called the Nature Valley Grand Prix) is an NRC race consisting of six stages over five days. It starts with a time trial and a Criterium on the same day, then a 97 mile road race, followed with a Friday night Criterium in uptown Minneapolis. Saturday is usually a road race, 101 miles finishing in the town of Menomonie, and on Sunday we finish up the race with the Stillwater circuit which entail twenty-three times up the 24% Chilkoot hill.
Going into the race, our team decided to see how the time trial played out before we decided on an overall game plan. In the TT, I finished 16th place, eight seconds out from the best amateur jersey so it was pretty straight forward what we were going for. Over the course of the next couple days, I rode aggressive. I made the break in the St. Paul downtown Criterium but with Optum controlling the race and motivated to keep it together, we were caught with 1.5 laps to go. In the Cannon Falls road race, thirty mile per hour winds and echelons stretching across the roads completely imploded the field to pieces. Fortunately, the front group did not contain any of the guys in the best amateur competition, so again, I remained eight seconds down.
The next stage was the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. When I went to sign in, I noticed my name was highlighted on the sign in sheet and meant I would be getting a call up. It is not too often I get a call up at an NRC race so I was certain to take advantage of starting in the front to make the early break. After three laps, I noticed two guys got off the front and Optum was letting them go. I took the opportunity to use my momentum to attack out of the field and ride solo across to the break. The three of us rolled through for another lap before two more riders joined and then all five of us worked together. Over the course of the race, we increased our gap to almost a minute. I took the time bonus that was offered with sixteen laps to go and we all continued to work together. With five laps to go and still a forty-five second lead, I knew we were going to make it to the line free from the field and I would not be leading the best amateur competition by thirty-two seconds.
Now that I had the green jersey, I just had to keep an eye on the other two riders who were closest to me. As long as they didn’t get away from me, I was good. During the Menomonie Road Race, a break of riders got away after about twenty-five kilometers into the race. None of the riders in the break were a threat to my jersey, so all I had to do was sit and conserve as much energy as I could for the final stage.
All week, my legs felt great. I was recovering well, getting enough sleep, and was feeling great. Mentally, I was ready for Stillwater and even more ready to solidify winning the best amateur jersey. For the first seventeen laps of the Stillwater Cirterium, I felt great, the pace was easy, I was climbing up Chilkoot hill well, and I was excited to see what would happen when the race heated up in the final laps. I was feeling confident I had the legs to finish the job and that none of the other amateurs would be able to ride away from me. However, bike racing is not always about who is the strongest, it’s not all about fitness, tactics, diet, recovery……it’s also about luck. For whatever reason on this day at Stillwater, my luck ran out with six laps to go. Coming off the downhill into the last turn, somehow my chain came off. I had taken this turn seventeen times already with no problems. As I tried to pedal, I just spun my cranks while coasting towards the base of the Chillkoot climb. Fabi pushed me while I tried to carefully shift it back into the big ring and back to the small ring. Eventually I ran out of flat ground to coast and found myself at the bottom of the hill. I decided to just get off the bike and put the chain back on by hand as I watch the race ride away. I immediately got back on the bike, tried to get the momentum going again as I zig-zagged up the hill, and then began chasing with everything I had. I chased for five laps, caught two smaller groups who had split off the front group, and laid everything I had out there to keep my jersey. In the end, it wasn’t enough. I lost the best amateur jersey by forty-eight seconds and was humbled by the sport of cycling. You never know what can take place in a bike race and the race is definitely never over until you finally cross that finish line.
Overall, the North Star Grand Prix was a great race for the KHS-Maxxis pb JAKROO Team. We were tested in many ways over the week, and in the end, we did everything we could. We used the experience as a lesson, turned negatives into positives, and used this race to reiterate the face that we are going to be ready to go at Nationals in two weeks.
The KHS-Maxxis pb JAKROO Cycling Team raced the three day NCC (National Criterium Calendar) Tulsa Tough last weekend. Fabrizio Von Nacher won the overall omnium for the three days which is the teams best result ever. This is also the first leader’s jersey the team has won this year, and it did not come easy.
Friday and Saturday the races take place at night in downtown Tulsa where the fans come out in droves. Sunday the event caps off with Cry Baby Hill, a technical criterium course that has an electric party atmosphere. Our roster for the event was Brian McCulloch, David Santos, Fabrizio Von Nacher, Steven Davis, Shawn Daurelio and Sergio Escutia. Joy McCulloch competed in the Pro Women’s events as well.
Friday Blue Dome District Criterium: