Saturday, May 31, 2008

Put a fork in it

The first part of the season came to an end today at Murad. Not much to report from the event, other than the crash looked pretty ugly and I managed to get through it by mere luck. Now it's time to pack the bags and head first to Dallas and then to Miami for some fun in the sun. "Lucinda" will receive some TLC from one of the best mechanics in the world, my dad, who will arrive in DC in a week's time. Oh, and I turn 35 tomorrow, so if you see me at the CSC Invitational, no jokes about getting old.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


The pesky cold that has planted in my chest seems to want to hang on a little longer and really enjoy the ride. After the debacle that the So. Maryland Crit was for me, the week leading to Bike Jam was not perfect preparation. Then again, I don't have a coach, don't own a heart rate monitor, SRM, Power Tap or any other technical gadget that's used to improved someone's form. I followed the prophetic words of Eunsebio Unsue (director sportif of Caisse D'Espargne, formerly known as Banesto)when he referred to one of his most important pupils' training: "What Miguel needs to get in shape are three things: 1) Bike, 2) Bike and 3) More Bike". When I heard those words in the autumn of 1991, my training routine for the next two decades was drawn.

So taking three days off because of work and my body needing some time to fight the aforementioned cold, riding pre Bike Jam was a battle in itself. Good thing Dani called me on Thursday to go to Hains because I would have bailed. 48 miles later, I was coughing all kinds of crap out of my chest and came pretty close to breaking a rib with the intensity of the hacking. Legs and lungs were not fully operational and I was fighting the bike, instead of feeling as one. Friday, Jose joined Dani and I for another stroll to Hains, this time at noon. Some frisky stuff there, but I kept a tight pull on the reins, not wanting to get too carried away. Again, coughing like crazy.

Jose and his parents picked me up at around 1PM and off to Baltimore we went. It took a while to get there because of some traffic issues and a route change, but eventually we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Not feeling up for the task at hand, I let myself slip into thinking that getting dropped was not a bad thing, since I was sick and all. Another half ass warm up around the park and then off to see the big guns finish. On the way there, Jose's dad kept telling me to just let the legs do the talking, but I was not sure the legs were wanting to talk.

Good thing we only stood at the start/finish for a short time and then the cat4 bunch was off. The pace was relentless from the word go, with a long line of single filed riders. Lap one I used to check out the direction of the wind and learn the turns. After a self check it became apparant that I wasn't feeling bad at all and proof to that was the gear ratio selection for each lap, spinning on the 16 or 17, a sign that the engine was firing in all cyclinders and most importantly, I wasn't fighting the bike. Despite the wind, I found it easy to move on the right side of the uphill section, however, I decided to sit at the back and just enjoy the race.

People were getting dropped thick and fast and in more than one occassion I could hear a rider about to lose contact with the pack, panting and grunting, with the fast pace claiming casualties on every lap. With 5 to go, my activities at the back were coming to an end and as the pack was in full flight, on the hunt of some fugitives that had left the comfort of the group. Again, picking the right lane up the hill was working fine for my now stealthy approach to the front, although I did have to hit the afterburner once when a few other fellas found the pace too hot to handle. Two to go and I was about to latch myself onto a good wheel to follow. I had a few choices, but the idea was to make the final assault on the right side of the uphill and my leadout man had to have the same idea. Riding like this is always fun because one has to improvise at the last minute. On the last lap, Jorge from Artemis was the wheel picked for the job and the selection of a gear that could propel me to the front was made. The accordion stretched on the 120 degree turn and I lost contact with Jorge, crap.

A hard jump out of the turn had me back in business, with the ever popular right lane wide opened as I approached the hill, and better yet, Jorge was just in front. And right when I stood to unleash hell, the crash happened to my left. Things turned into slow motion and I could see and hear trouble to my nine o'clock. Bodies hitting the deck and a bicycle without a rider was cause for concern, as it bounced, unsupervised, towards the path I wanted to follow to avoid any mishaps. Once again improvisation was necessary, this time to get me out of a rather dangerous situation. Jorge was still to my twelve o'clock, somehow he got through the mess, but my only option was to drastcially change my flight plan, turning to my right and getting on the grass, since the now riderless bike was an obstacle I was not wanting to deal with in any way. I'm not a fan of cross or mountain biking, but my short foray off road was necessary to keep my team kit and bike intact. Another quick jump and safe back on the tarmac and accross the finish. Jose was 4th, another good result for my Puerto Rican friend and I was delighted with my 16th. Before that race, I would have never thought that Bike Jam was going to be fun, with the way I was feeling before the start, but in the end, a little improvisation made for some good times.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I'm not making excuses, not at all, but the First Annual Southern Maryland Crit was not my event. After a recovery week last week, coming back from fighting a pesky cold, things were looking good on Thursday, that was until I saw "The Wagon"take a nasty spill. Friday, my friend Chance arrived from Atlanta for a business trip which included some riding. Chance is a product developer for Blue and I have known him and his better half for years. Since it had rained most of the morning on Friday, the crowd at Hains was minimal.

Saturday Chance met with the company's reps for the area and we did a leg of the MS150 in Loudon County. Very scenic loop, with some great views, and spectacular weather. As per custom, the harrassing was full on through the 60 or so miles covered, which translated into a great time on the bike.

This morning right as we were arriving in LaPlata the rain came, and it was on and off all darn day. I quickly made note of how the packs were breaking under the influence of pace, wind, wet road conditions and the odd crash, but still, I didn't know what to expect. It was without a doubt the smaller pack so far in any of the races I have taken part, and some familiar faces were present. Right off the bat, I had trouble clipping, and like I said, I'm not making excuses. I caught back on, and worked my way towards the middle of the pack, and it took me longer than I wanted. As soon as I got there, another accleration sent me backwards, so again, I worked my way forward. On the downhill/90 degree turn, another rider bumped into me as we were exciting the turn. The impact moved the computer which started to hit the magent on the wheel, making a very annoying "thung-thung" sound every time the wheel went around.

Now a bit pissed off because of the little things above mentioned, I thought I would give it a stick and try to reattach my sorry self back to the group and by God, I did, with the "thung-thung" blasting in my and everyone's ears. The effort took a bit more than I thought, and the Chicken Teriyaki sandwich I had for lunch almost made an appearance, going the reverse way it went in. And that my friends was it for yours truly. I made a half ass effort for one more lap and graciously waved at the chief ref as he signaled me to exit right at the start finish area.

Chance, who was witnessing the events unfold, wasted no time to start his famous bashing, which did nothing but improve my mood and no soon was he in full bashing mode that Jose rolled in, head down, disgusted at his performance, which only added wood to the fire Chance was feeding. Nothing like good friends around after a tough outting. Both Jose and I sat down, exchanged excuses as to why we rode so poorly, heard Chance bash us some more and watched the finish of the cat4s and gave a few of the guys some shouts to continue the fight. Kylelooked in control and had a good ride. The 1,2,3 was insanely fast, guys dropping left and right, due to the intense pace and constant attacking, it sure was fun to watch but even then, it looked really hard.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


After Poolesville I came down with a cold, perfect timing, right at the start of the busiest racing month of the year. Even though I wasn't completely out for the count, I had this nagging cough, congestion and overall crappy feeling all over, although and thankfully the fever stayed away. Hoping that a few days would take care of things, I didn't think twice about it and last Wednesday the early ride helped things, or so I thought. That night it seemed I took two steps back and the congestion was getting worse. Add to that the fact that the weather went pear shape and racing at Fort Richie was going to be a game time decision.

Saturday morning came and the rain was relentless, which sank all hopes I had to race. I cancelled with Jose since he was picking me up and instead I sat around and watched the Giro's TTT and came across Stefania Andriola, and just like that the rain stopped, things started to dry out and for a brief moment I thought of going to the race, such was the effect of Stefania. The bag was packed and the girlfriend did all she could to offer some support and encouragement to go racing. But knowing that with only one easy day of riding in the last 8 days, I was going to be easy prey, I decided to sit this one out and just get better for the next few events.

With only two stages so far in the Giro, all the main contenders are showing their cards early and that just makes the racing fun. I'm following the race on RAI, and aside from the video fee stopping every 14 minutes or so to reload, the commentating of Davide Cassani and Auro Bulbarelli is outstanding, and although my italian is limited at best, it sure makes for some interesting stuff. And of course, there's Alessandra De Steffano covering the interviews, and did I mention Stefania?.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


This morning I woke up feeling like royal crap. Even though I have managed to contain the virus (cold/flu) in my head, I still have that not so good feeling all over my body. So "Lucinda" (the bike) and I will not go out for some fun and games today. Instead I'm under the influence of Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine putting up a good fight. Because of the free time, I surfed the net and saw this piece of news. The more I read it, the more confusing the story became. He's guilty, yet he doesn't get the full suspension and we are taking some of his victories but he can keep some. WTF?.

Then there's good old Patxi Vila and his just slightly high testosterone level. What gets me is the quote from the Lampre press officer: "He is an exemplary rider and we have faith in him," but if for some unexplained reason the B sample comes back positive, I'm affraid the feeling will not be the same and he'll get the boot. Just the law of the cycling jungle.

And last but not least, Astana is going to the Giro. Whatever the reason given for the last minute invitation, it would be interesting to see Levi and Alberto work for Andreas, who on paper, seems to be their best bet after his recent success in Romandie. Of course, if Alberto decides to make a point as to why they should go to France in July, that third week will be en fuego.

Alright then, time for me to take another dose. By the way, is Alka Seltzer in the UCI banned list of products?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In the trenches

Last year's Poolesville race was pretty much over for me from the word go. Sitting dead last was not the place to be, and I found myself having to pass people and close gaps in the dirt section, which took a lot out of me. Lesson learned.

This edition was going to be different for me, so I decided to stay towards the front this time. No sooner had we gone through the neutral roll out and a DC Velo kid had the group single file. I wasn't completely warmed up yet and could feel my knees popping, but the effort kept the group in check on the approach to the dirt section. I entered it and took the right lane, which turned out to be, in my humble opinion, the wrong lane. It became littered with flying bottles and the "holes", looked more like trenches, which put an end to several riders' day. The rest of the first lap was without incident for me, other than having to give one of my bottles to Jose who had lost his onboard water supply. NCVC had a lone rider just off the front.

At the start of the second lap, the group picked up speed through the section of rollers at the beginning of the course, when all of the sudden the breakaway NCVC rider was laying on the road and it didn't look like he was getting up any time soon (hopefully you are OK dude). On the start of the third lap, the group picked up steam and we went through the roller section quite fast, and on the approach to where the NCVC had gone down, the motorcycle referee almost came to a complete stop, trying to warn the group that we had to slow down due to the EMT trucks attending the NCVC guy and Rayman who had also tasted pavement in the 40+/50+ race. Because of the sudden breaking, a crash almost happened, and Jose ended up having his front wheel hit someone's rear deraillieur, which caused two spokes to bend and his front wheel was pretty much out of commission. He kept going though, but his luck was about to run out.

Entering the "rider/waterbottle/flats/crash graveyard", two riders went down hard and everyone had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with the two who had gone down. I got through it just fine, but Jose's momentum carried him in a different direction and he was on a collision course with a girl and a tree. Thankfully, he picked the tree and came away with a bruised lower arm and his day was now officially over. The size of the group coming out of the gravel section was now about 25 riders, and we faced one more crossing before heading to the finish. Teams were playing their cards now, sending riders off the front, which caused the pace to stay a little high, but nothing too uncomfortable. That's until the beginning of the last lap, when a group of about seven riders went off the front and quickly got down to business. All of big teams were represented (Artemis, Capitol Hill, AABC) and it was left to the rest to close the gap. A Haymarket guy, on his way to the front, was pretty much on the yellow line and almost took me and another guy down. He made it there alright and then he went on to tow the rest of the group back to the leaders. I'm sure he paid for that one at the end.

Artemis then went on the offensive and sent a rider off the front, with a NCVC guy in hot pursuit. The two stayed out there through the feedzone when the last two Capitol Hill guys went to the front and ramped the speed up. It was time to find a wheel to follow and I went with a AABC guy on a Cervelo, but next thing I know, Jorge from Artemis came by and I got on his wheel. I knew Jorge was on good form because I saw him sprint on the Sunday ride and he was strong. And it was no different today, because with about 150m to go, he jumped hard and quickly got a gap. I reacted and went after him, but I wasn't going to get him, he was by far the faster sprinter and crossed the line first, just ahead of his teammate and I came in third.

A fantastic result for myself and the team, which is now sporting the new colors (mostly black, with some red and a touch of white), a very nice look if I say so myself. Now, I'm down with a cold, but things should be just fine for next week. Guys are going to be out for revenge for sure, but all I need to do is continue to ride with confidence and be aggressive.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Full schedule

The next month will be full of racing, with a race happening every weekend. I'm looking forward to it. One thing that I noticed after I moved to Virginia from Texas is that getting into a race here is harder than the actual race itself. If you are not on the computer at 8PM EST on the day the registration opens, you are S.O.L. In Texas, you could decide the night before if you want to race, drive to the venue and spend about 5 minutes in registration, no problems. Here, it's like a mad dash for the line just to get in.

So I have kept myself occupied by doing the 10AM and the 8:30AM rides on the weekends, taking Monday and Tuesday off, Wednesday is usually a struggle to get on the bike, with my body not wanting a piece of the action. Thursdays are spent at Hains Point in the afternoon and the rides have gone quite well. Big groups, fast pace, dangerous moments but overall I feel like it's helping me position myself better. Friday is back to Hains for an easy spin even though the odd guy likes to crank it up every now and then.

Caught a bit of the Versus coverage of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Phil Liggett is a great guy (I know this because I once met him), but if I hear him call Alejandro Valverde, Alessandro, I may have to place a call to the studio in Stamford and have a talk with the man himself. I mean, for the past 20 years I have enjoyed his commentary along with Paul Sherwen's top class analysis of races, and who can't enjoy a Liggetism every time a doomed breakaway is about to get caught, and it's OK if every now and then he can't determine the identity of the riders at the front, middle or the back of the pack, come on, they are riding really fast and it's hard to catch those damn numbers, but for Pete's sake Phil (hopefully he reads my blog), it's ALEJANDRO when you refer to the Spaniard. Petacchi's name is Alessandro. Thank you.