Saturday, May 29, 2010



Food is a large part of life over here in the house. It is our fuel, our comfort, and our nemesis. Connor O'Leary and I threw this together just to poke fun at some of the most popular dishes prepared in the USA National Team house.

Berlin

Last week I finished the Tour of Berlin in 17th overall, 2nd in the young rider competition. The GC was mostly decided by the 16km time trial on the penultimate day, in which I finished 15th. As a first-year U23 rider, I was happy with a top 20, although as usual I see room for massive improvement. For one, Team USA had a disastrous team time trial on the first day. The TTT was only 5.3km with eight hairpin turns, and although we had a team of strong time trialists, a crash in the third turn shattered our momentum and put some of our riders too far into the 'red zone'. We ended up losing 20 seconds to the winner (in 17th position out of 21 teams), but I am confident that without the crash we could have placed in the top 5. The next day was a 160km (4x40km) road race with a 500m cobbled run in to the finish each lap. Miraculously, only one USA rider (Travis Burandt) crashed despite the extreme nervousness in the peloton and Cole House scored a top ten result in the sprint. Day three included the time trial and along with a 130km circuit race in the late afternoon. The time trial went as well as it could have - I may have gone out too fast but nevertheless I was satisfied with my ride (and it was wonderful to have my sister in the team car!). Team USA stacked riders in the top 30 with a 15th, 18th, 19th, and 24th, but no one could quite crack the top ten. I was just 10 seconds off top ten and the lead in the young rider competition but 'oh well better luck next time'. The afternoon stage was nervous. Jacob Rathe made the day's break and scored the most aggressive riders jersey. He was caught with 10km to go, just as it started to pour rain. The course was sketchy even with dry roads as every turn was graced with gnarly cobblestones and road furniture was ubiquitous out on the suburban roads, so the rain really shook things up. I managed to stay in the front part of the peloton and finished the stage in 32nd. Cole House was positioned well for the sprint but a crash with 300m to go sent him flying into a roadside cafe (he's fine don't worry). Only 50ish riders made the front split, but the time gaps weren't significant enough to move up on GC. The final stage was a 190km drag that started in downtown Berlin, headed west to the town of Premnitz, and then back the same roads to finish back where we started. No break went the entire day despite my best efforts, so we just rolled along in the pouring rain for 4.5 hours. Occasionally, a team would go to the front and split the group in the crosswinds, but no effort was extended enough to keep the stragglers from regaining contact with the peloton. With 15km to go, we entered the urban roads on our way towards central Berlin. I have a vivid memory of watching 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi' when I was a child and watching Luke and the Ewoks rip through the forest on speeder bikes, narrowly dodging fallen trees and other shrubbery. I would always imagine how thrilling it would have been to chase down storm troopers on hovering motorcycles myself, but alas I have never had the opportunity to ride a high speed hovering motorcycle. The final 10km of the Tour de Berlin, however, may be as close as I come to such a thrill. We hurtled into Berlin at 50+km/h on a six lane road; we occupied the three right lanes, while the three lanes on the left were full of very much mobile oncoming traffic. Riders were jumping into the oncoming traffic lanes, dodging cars, all in an effort to get to the front. The right side of the peloton was equally unwelcoming; parked cars and the occasional protruding truck caused violent swerves and swells within the peloton. With 5km remaining, we turned right off the highway onto a smaller side street; I had opted for the right side of the peloton because a parked car seemed more friendly than a moving one - and thank goodness I did - because on that right hand turn two riders slid out, causing a crash and a split in the peloton. I had jumped up on the sidewalk (dodging curbs, fire hydrants, parked cars, and pedestrians alike) so I easily avoided the crash and regained contact with the front split. The last 3km were more tame as the field had been reduced and the pace was fast enough to discourage any of us in the back from moving to the front. I crossed the line around 30th place and immediately met up with my sister and found the nearest bratwurst stand. As terrifying as these sprints sometimes are, the thrill is unmatched - unless you have a Galactic Empire military grade speeder bike...

Now I'm in Salou, Spain for the Vuelta Terragona. No more cobbles and and road furniture, just mountains (a our team climbers call them 'hills', but after living in Belgium for two months I would call them mountains). Five days of hard hilly racing are on the menu and I'll write an update sometime in the next week.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Oooohh, we're half way there....

Just two more road stages to go in Fleche du Sud. The last three days of racing have had their ups and downs, and hopefully I can maintain an upward trend for the remainder of the race. Today is 170km of undulating terrain and Sunday's stage is 150km with some gnarly finishing circuits. After yesterdays debacle, in which Team USA had all 6 riders in the "peloton" that finished 25 minutes down on the day's breakaway, todays Stage 3 should provide ample opportunities for a day long break. A result in the general classification is no longer possible for our team, so hopefully we can sniff out the day's break.
I will send out an update with today's stage result, but first a little recap of the race thus far (and excuse the brevity, we leave for Stage 3 shortly). The prologue was bittersweet; I rode to a 20th place finish, 14 seconds off the winner on the 4.5km course. Although I am happy to have scored a top 20, I was only 2 seconds off of 13th place and just a handful more out of the top 10, so I was left yearning for a wee bit more. The real bummer of the day, however, was my teammate Carter Jones crashing with 400m to go in his prologue ride. He was on pace to challenge the fastest time of the day and would certainly have been top 5. Even with the spill he finished 24th, 17 seconds down from the leader.
Stage 1 started off well as Carter rolled off the front with a breakaway of 4 riders. He managed to get enough points to take the intermediate sprints jersey before getting caught with 70km to go. The remainder of the day was ruled by some bad luck; Cole House, our team sprinter, broke a spoke with 50km to go and burned too many matches chasing back on before the finishing circuits. My saddle slipped after hitting a pothole, which turned out to be rather annoying. The stage finished with 3x10km circuits, with a 2km climb each lap. Cole and I ended up in a grupetto that finished 6 minutes down, while the remainder of the team held strong and finished in the main peloton. Fellow first-year and roommate Connor O'Leary finished a solid 29th as the first American across the line.
Stage 2 was a bizarre race. The profile advertised the course as the hardest of this year's race. It took place in the northern part of Luxembourg, so the hills were taller and longer. The first two hours of racing were very fast. A breakaway of 15 or so rolled away on one of the smaller climbs early on in the race, then another 15 riders bridged up after an impossibly steep climb out of the town of Wiltz. I was feeling better than the previous day and didn't have too many problems on the climbs until the GPM (Grand Prix de Montagne) at 78km in to the race. The climb was 5km and gained nearly 1000ft. of elevation and proved about 1km too long for my liking. Over the top, Cole House and I were in a chase group of 15 dangling 10 seconds off the back of the main field (now about 50 riders) and after a hard chase of about 15km, we regained contact with the peloton. At this point, the 30 riders up the road had nearly 5 minutes and most teams (excluding the USA of course) had a representative up front. As we hit the finishing circuits with 50km to go, the peloton we were in became an official "grupetto"; no teams took the initiative to chase, and by now the gap was so large everyone in the group was concentrating on saving some energy for the final two days. By the end of the stage, our group of about 100 riders was 25 minutes down on the winner. It was a disappointing result for the US of A, but I think we all cherished the opportunity to ride nice and and easy final hour of the tough stage.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nostalgia

Yesterday, I read through the journal that I kept during my trip to India last fall for the first time. The trip had a rather powerful effect on me, and during my period of nostalgia yesterday I also flipped through the couple hundred photos saved on my computer from the expedition. So I thought I'd share some of the photos. Below are a few of my favorites, but click here to see the whole album.





The video below contains explicit content and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.


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