Sunday, August 26, 2012

USA pro cycling challenge Stage 6

Stage 6 Golden to Boulder For a continental team, today is what it is all about. Serge (Serghei Tvetcov) was really coming into form throughout the week. After a tough first day with the Garmin boys smashing it from the gun, he finished with Cadel Evans 12:43 down. Day two’s greetings were much better, and he finished in 39th only 51 secs down on a very difficult finish at Crested Butte. Given the lost time on GC and plans later in the week to spring Freddie for a sprint win on Friday, Tad (director) instructed the team to ride smoothly to the Aspen Finish. The instructions remained the same for Beaver Creek where Jens Voigt benefitted from the peloton apparently having similar plans. We were anxiously awaiting Friday’s finish into Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, the combination of altitude, poor air quality from Colorado fires, and Freddie’s asthma caught up with him. Despite progressively moving into perfect position in the 3 lap criterium-like finale, Freddie’s lungs were not feeding the legs well enough to finish off the sprint. However, the only bright spot was Serge was able to pull him into position before Freddie waved him off, confirming his on coming form. There was some disappointment in the team meeting on Thursday night, but this was quickly dismissed. Attention was directed to the mountaintop Queen stage finish on Flagstaff in Boulder. After huge efforts early in the week to gain KOM points, Boulder resident and GC guy, Cookie (Matt Cooke) was trashed. However, his local knowledge was invaluable in reconnaissance of the course. Serge and Andres were to go on the attack, with Matt, Freddie, and Morgan to finish in the pack.
The Garmin Team discussing strategy during the first climb as attack formed. The attack was formed on the first climb shortly after leaving Golden. Serge successfully made that group and the fight was on. It was an incredible day in the break, gaining upwards of 5 minutes on the peloton as we made our way through Boulder. Serge further confirmed his explosiveness as he picked up top points on the first sprint on the way up to Ned.
Mo carefully reviewing who is in the break to help determine if it would stick The plan was to conserve his energy for the remainder of the stage, as an attack was unlikely to hold on the mostly downhill section from Ward and through Lyons. As the group was motivated to continue to work together till the final climb, we knew there would be one further selection at Lee Hill. Serge lost contact right before the KOM, but revealed his true mettle as he was able to fight back on during the descent. It was incredible racing through the massive crowds lining the road. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the guys on their bikes, as just being in the car was crazy enough. The break had whittled down to only 8 guys and Serge was representing Team Exergy incredibly well. They hit Flagstaff with a 2 minute lead on the yellow jersey. Rory Sutherland, Fabio Aru, and Jens Voigt were able to hold off the rest of the peloton to finish 1-2-3. Serge remained tough and finished as the 6th guy of the break. However, the GC guys were well rested in the peloton and were able to really unload the last 5k of Flagstaff, relegating him to 27th of the day right behind Tom Danielson. Though unlikely that a casual fan would appreciate the result, this was a great fight by Serge and he represented Team Exergy well in the break all day.
The crazy crowds

Monday, August 20, 2012

USA Pro Challenge Day 1

Durango to Telluride 126 miles in 4:42, averaging nearly 27 mph despite 8800 ft of climbing. Impressive, what a way to start the tour! From the beginning... The guys get their bikes in the morning after Josh has dialed the machines in over the preceding 2 hours . Nearly everyone has some bit of a routine...hurried, laid back, diligent. Many of the the guys will write down notes regarding the course. Here is Sergei's...came in handy as he was in the main break of the day with all of the big hitters.
Matt Cooke (ex triathlete, current GC/climber guy) is one of the diligent ones. He carefully checks his bike to make sure the brakes aren't rubbing, the skewers and headset are tight, computers are working, the hoods haven't moved, not too much throw in the brakes...a very thorough run through to confirm his bike is as he wants it.
The guys head to the start to sign in. As they do that, all the different vehicles head out to take care of their respective jobs for the day. Scott (Escalera Mgmt) and Troy (soigné) are off 2 hrs before the start to haul the van to the finish and get ready to receive the riders. Tad (Director) & Gary (Asst. Director) fill their cars with Josh, Mo, and guests. Mike (soigné), Remi (Escalera Mgmt and cool dude), and myself have feed zone duties. Each team has lunches provided by race organization. Here is Mike picking up ours.
The feed zone folks head out first in front of the start so we can get ahead of the peloton and set up. Generally we will try to pick up a spot on an slight uphill so the pace isn't crazy fast when they go by. There is a certain technique to handing off the musettes which I learned from the Liquigas soigné at the Tour of California this past year. Never run with the riders is key and foremost. Don't get to far into the road, stand still, bag high, release. You definitely don't want to be the guy causing a crash...and believe me, I've seen it! It gets ugly when somebody causes a crash in the feed zone and riders go down. Today was awesome as Sergei and Matt were both in the break with the big hitters. Matt picked up some KOM points and Sergei took max points at one of the intermediate sprints.
What was most impressive about today was the pace. These guys were killing it from the gun and really putting the pressure on from the first kilometer. It was sort of funny, as apparently Tom Danielson was telling Freddie that he thought the day was going to be easy and everyone was going to cruise it. Shortly thereafter, Garmin attacks with 4 guys up the road, including Danielson. Nothing like a little friendly gamemanship. We had a lot of great riding today. Freddie managed to make the 1st chase group that caught the final break and was able to take 4th at the line. This was after apparently suffering an asthma attack in the first part of the stage and almost pulling out. Amazing how fine a line sports performance can be. Andres also had a great first day and finished at the same time as winner Tyler Farrar. Here is a shot from behind the finish line as we were waiting for the sprint.
At the finish, the concentration immediately goes to recovery. Short spin to hotel, Recovery Pump System boots, recovery drinks, massage, dinner, race briefing, more Recovery Pump boot time and off to bed.
Should be another tough but exciting day tomorrow. J

Sunday, August 19, 2012

USA Pro Cycling Challenge-Pre Race

T minus 1 with Team Exergy So the fitness has been gathered over the prior months and the team patiently awaits the last big race of the year in Colorado. It has been solid year for the team, but you can see the toll it has taken on the riders and staff. There is certainly a different sense from everyone in comparison to the first big stage race of year at the Tour of California. So, other than pitching in a hand for any odd job that needs to be done, my primary role is to help everyone recover as well as one can from day to day. Though I certainly can’t help anyone gain fitness, I can make sure I provide the best tools available for the guys to get ready for the next day. This includes Recovery Pump System to flush the legs pre- and post- rides, cooling system for the hot days, optimal nutrition that is easy on the stomach yet provides adequate calories and nutrients, and addressing musculoskeletal ailments from saddle sores to road rash. These are items available to every team, but you would be surprised how easy it is to neglect recovery when the cyclists and staff are fatigued. The Recovery Pump System has been a great addition this year. We are able to get the guys in the “legs” for as much time as they want each evening. It really makes the soigneur’s job that much easier; the general comment is how much more supple the guys muscles are in comparison to when we didn’t have them available. I haven’t seen anyone run into a problem being in them too much…and trust me, some of the guys stay in them for a good deal of time. I have found the graduated, optimal compression pressure and quick cycling of the pressure to be key components that separate these compression boots to others on the market. And it is key that they are easily transportable…we don’t have a problem throwing them in our bags for flights or the day transfers during the tour.
So, what does the night before the first stage look like? After dinner, we had the pre-race briefing for the riders discussing everyone’s role for tomorrows stage, pointing out areas that are strategic to accomplish the different race goals. The riders pitch in where prior experience or local race knowledge is helpful. It is always interesting to see how the day rolls out in comparison the race plan. Some days its like clockwork…some days, not so much.
Following the racers briefing, the staff meet and we discuss everyone’s role for the day. Most of the roles are relatively established, but nuances nearly always exist. The mechanic(s) are up at the break of dawn getting the bikes ready. The soigneurs are preparing the bags and nutrition for the day, the rest of the staff are splitting feed zone and driving duties. Somebody has to leave early with the trailer prior the race departure to set up the next hotel. Feed zone staff go ahead to the feeding area and then back ahead of the race to help set up recovery at the finish. The director and asst. director are in 2 different cars behind the peloton. If we are in the break, our lead car heads goes ahead of the peloton with the break while the 2nd car assist the guys in the peloton. Most days, guests and media folks are riding in the cars as well. So tomorrow it all begins… breakfast will begin at 5 am, bags at the trailer by 8:15, early car departure by 9, and the race begins at 10 am. So see you on the road. Ride the Wind with Team Exergy