27 April 2005

Correction: Forsyth Places Fifth at Branchbrook

King of the Jungle

Submitted by Matt Purdue

Obviously I could not see what in the hell was happening at the finish line at last weekend's Branchbrook race. How rude of all those riders who finished in front of me to block my view!

Chris Forsyth actually finished fifth in a field of some 40 riders, including some very strong Cat. 4s. Again, Chris did this without the benefit of any help from his only teammate: me. Chris rode a smart race, hanging toward the back and saving his legs until the final sprint. Nice work, Chris.

With Cipollini now retired, we seem to have a new Lion King in the making.

26 April 2005

Race Report: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 4/24

Hi Team,

Things went well, especially considering it was my first Cat. 4 race (it was actually a combined field, cat. 3 + 4).

Of course, it started raining just before I woke up, so I slapped the fenders on and donned warmer clothing (they came off before the race). It took me longer than I thought to get there, so I rushed a bit (well, a lot) and was therefore pretty warmed up.

My race was the cat. 3/4 field, 37.5 miles, 11 laps with a field of about 40; it looked like there were more cat. 3’s than cat. 4’s. The Prospect Park loop has a few narrow spots and curbs but for the most part it wasn't too scary.

After the first lap, I wasn’t sure I could hold on for the whole race, but I was determined not to loose contact with the pack. At times the speeds were pretty fast, but I had enough juice to pull ahead when I saw opportunities. It seemed like most of us simply took turns near the front, and for the most part, the pack was never spread out that much. There were breaks all the time, but they all got caught. As the race wore on, the pack seemed to be happy enough to take it relatively slow for short periods.

The pressure was usually on climbing that one hill; this is where the speed would pick up, and I’d have to really push to stay in contact, but it wasn’t too hard to move up once the hill was over. On the last lap after the hill, the pack was split in two; I was towards the front of the second group, and the first group was pulling away. Once past the hill, I went into time trial mode and just pushed like hell. It took me nearly a mile but I caught them (and towed about 10 guys with me). Unfortunately, that left me pretty spent for the finish (which was long and flat). Once the finish was in sight, Everyone bolted, including me. To be honest, I don’t really know how I did; there were at least 15 people ahead of me, but I don’t know if they who were 3’s or 4’s.

If I learned anything, it was that it’s more important to stay with the pack than anything else. It would probably have been less effort to keep up on the hill one way or another than to catch them with a virtual time trial effort. I could also be closer to the front, since my being about 3/5 of the way back was why I got separated when the pack split up. I didn’t get out of the saddle at all to climb; since the hill is long (maybe ½ mile) and not very steep, it made more sense to say seated and just get in a good rhythm. Another mistake I made was after the race—I just coasted to a halt and got of the bike, then stood around eating energy bars with some friends for a good half-hour. When I got back on the bike to go home, I felt like a 99-year-old man getting into a cold tub.

It was great to ride with these more experienced, more predictable, stronger and less dangerous racers, and I know I beat some of them, so I’m pretty happy. I was not too cold, and I never felt like I was dying or anything (the worst I felt was in the first ¼ of the race, pretty typical for me). Before we got to the last lap, I actually entertained thoughts of trying to place in 5th or better in cat. 4, but I used up my reserves catching the pack. Overall I’m pleased.


Race Report: Branchbrook, Newark, 23 April 05

Welcome to the Jungle

Submitted by Matt Purdue

When Chris F. and I rolled to the starting line, we knew we were in for it. Of the 40-some riders in the field, only five of us were unattached. The rest of the field consisted of teams of various shapes, sizes and colors.

The attacks began as soon as the race began, with riders flying off the front, attacking and counterattacking almost immediately. Teammates would surge to the head of the pack, then drop back to let other teammates counterattack. It felt like I was floating in a hot air balloon watching F-18s dogfight around me with 50mm cannons.

Half of the Branchbook Park course is a narrow, rather twisty flat that runs along the backside of the park. Along most of this portion, riders were literally rubbing shoulders and elbows at 26 mph. If you were caught on the inside of a turn, you were squeezed against the curb by the pack. This seemed like a recipe for disaster. Finally, on lap 4, the pack pinched an unattached Century rider against the curb; I was directly behind him, and saw that he literally had nowhere to go. In hindsight, the only thing he could have done was hold his line, stick out his elbows, lean back into the pack and hope for the best

Instead, he drifted into the curb. I first heard a loud “tick, tick, tick” that must have been his pedal scraping the curb, then I saw him pitch violently to the right and catapult off his bike. His tire blew with a shrill “PSSSSSSSS” and the pack flew by. (Chris later talked to him; he was dirty but unhurt, having landed on the grass.)

Chris and I spent most of the race trying to stay out of trouble. I wasted too much time on the front, battling my ever-increasing heart rate and the wind. Chris spent too much time off the back, trying to fight his way up through the pack. Meanwhile, riders were constantly taking wild chances, shooting through gaps no wider than 42cm handlebars.

The finish came down to a field sprint and neither Chris nor I were factors. I finished about 18th and Chris was not far behind me. So for results this race gets a C-. But as a learning experience this race gets an A.

18 April 2005

The View From the Back (or a First Race Of The Season post)

Well Matt and Craig have what happened at the front of the race down, and as this was my first race of the season I got a good look at the back of the pack. See I was one of the many who got shelled in the second lap. So from my memory, this is what happened:

The race starts and we all roll off together. I think to myself, hey I remember this...I can do this. I stay towards the front of the pack up to the lake and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m ready to move to the front and cover the break for Matt and Craig. But as Matt said, the best laid plans… By the time we crest Harlem Hill for the first time I'm clinging to the back of the pack with a nasty leg cramp. Apparently I remembered how to race, but not how to warm up for a short 12 miler that's more crit than road race. Oh well. Pretty soon after the rollers on lap one I find myself off the back, about 10 feet off the main field. I stay in this position for the rest of the lap, but by the time we hit the Boathouse I start to cramp again. Since I'm just far enough off the back to stay out of the draft I'm working pretty damn hard to try and catch the field.

By the time Harlem Hill starts to rise up in front of us again I realize that it's not going to happen as the field slowly inches away from me. First it's 15 feet, then 20 then as we hit the winding rollers after the Hill and they're gone.

I power my way through the rollers desperate to not fall to the group I see behind me in the distance. As I pass riders who have fallen to mechanicals and flats from the numerous deep and jagged potholes along the west side of the park they shout encouragement. I finish by myself between the main field and the group behind (which by the end of the race has turned into two or three lonely tired racers who rolled in ~4 min after me) and roll into the registration area, not really hurting, but that will come later when I try to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on my way home. All in all it was what it was for me. First race of the season, didn’t abandon and wasn’t caught by the 1’s. Next up, Prospect Park on the 22nd, can’t wait to be on my home turf again…

A hearty welcome to reality: Metro, 17 April 05

I thought this was the first real race of the year that I had been in. As Matt said, I’m sure it felt harder because of my (our) having dead legs from a hard ride(s) the day before but it also seemed that it really was a harder race. The field had almost unrelenting attacks. There were only just a few occasions when the pack ‘sat up’ for a breather. Uri did not seem to have the dominating burst I had seen in him in a previous race. Maybe the rower winner added a new challenge for the points leaders; a challenge that was great enough that they could not overcome it.

It seemed the field dropped quite a few people and it was single file for much of the time. It was tough. This race is this year’s cat 5 welcome to racing seems to me. It should not be easy to even sit in the field.

In terms of our strategy I felt I should have bridged up to the breakaway rider. At the bottom of the big hill on lap 2 was the time to do it. But my legs did not want to try that. So I did not. I said to myself I just want to rest and stay here in the draft. Bad thinking. An anaerobic burst at the right spot would have won a medal. I enjoyed watching Uri fail in chasing down the rower. Ha.

Also as Matt said, Echelon was a non-factor. Why? In my assessment, we did not have the horsepower to do much either individually or collectively. We could not execute at all our well laid plans unfortunately. To my mind, we need a much higher level fitness base especially when ‘ringers’ like the rowing guy show up. I simply finished in the field sprint right behind Matt. There was a surge up the hill in the sprint on the left side, but we were on the right. To achieve a higher fitness base we need to ride a lot more. Surprise! But who’s got the time.


Race Report: Metro Series, Central Park, 17 April 05

Something Ventured, Nothing Gained

Submitted by Matt Purdue

What happened? It’s a good thing we don’t have any sponsors, as Team Echelon was a nonfactor in Sunday’s Spring Points Series race in Central Park. Maybe the fact that three of us did long rides on Saturday had something to do with the dead legs, but no excuses. Other than adding another race to the upgrade list, it was a waste of time, money and whatever little energy we had.

Joe, Craig, me and Daniel (his first race of the year) actually had a plan. Everyone would fight to the front on the first roller after Harlem Hill, then Joe and I would try to break while Craig and Daniel blocked at the front of the pack. The best laid plans….

The pace was snappy from the outset, meaning we’d have to go anaerobic just to claw our way to the front. We were all boxed in on the first roller, then Joe finally tunneled his way to clear air coming into the second roller. He took off like a shot with me on his tail, but we were immediately reeled in by the pack.

Eli and Euri are 1 and 3 in the points, so, to their credit, they sat at the front and effectively controlled the race. They covered almost every break and took it down to 18 mph when they felt like it. No one could seemed to have the horses or the organiztion to challenge them. They are very smart riders.

Finally, on lap 2 near the reservoir, a group surged on the right and caught the leaders napping. Some CRCA guy at the head of break took off by himself. We got to within 20 meters of him at the bottom of Harlem Hill, then he just stepped on the gas and disappeared. He stayed away to win. After the race, rumor had it that he is an Olympic rower turned cyclist. Whatever.

The race for second turned into another field sprint up Cat's Paw. I took 11th. I did not see the rest of our guys until after the race. They looked shell-shocked.

11 April 2005

Purdue places second in the CRCA C race. Now maybe he'll get a bike with stickers on it. Posted by Hello

Race Report: CRCA, 9 April 2005

Break It Down

Submitted by Matt Purdue

I rode up to the race with Chris Forsyth, and as we were dodging broken glass in the dark on 6th Avenue, I told him I thought there would be an early break. You don’t have to be one of Dionne Warwick’s Psychic Friends to foresee a break in a C race, but I figured that when it happened, I’d give it a try.

It happened a lot earlier than I thought it would—on the first roller after Harlem Hill. Two guys jumped away and got 20-meter lead before anyone knew what was going on. In fact, if you were not in the top 10 in the peloton, you might not even have seen it happening. I didn’t think it would have a chance to stay away, but I was riding third in the peloton and decided to bridge up anyway.

I, a blue-and-gold rider named Kenny and a Visit Britain rider named Steve immediately picked up the pace. We were above 22mph coming up the last roller near the Reservoir. On a “fast training ride” around the Park, I usually hit that roller at 18 or 19. The three of us were joined by two Skyline riders and I figured they would try to bring us back to the group, but they soon dropped back.

So there we were, very lonely, with four-and-half-laps to go. We worked together, each taking 20-second pulls. We were flying—30+ mph on the flat near West 72nd Street, 27 mph coming around through horseshit alley. I had no idea how I would stay on. My heart felt like it would explode through my chest. Even when I was the No. 3 man, I was riding 3 to 4 mph faster than I would normally go on a “fast” Park ride. I’m curious to see the lap times from CRCA.

But I just kept clinging to Kenny’s wheel and enjoying Steve’s monster pulls. It’s no wonder he’s on Visit Britain. We communicated almost constantly. “Keep it smooth. Don’t pull off so wide. Don’t surge when it’s your turn.” We got a time check on the bell lap--“2-minute lead”--but there would be no let up. Finally, on our last pass by West 72nd St., Steve floored it. He was well above 30 mph.

Steve remained in control as we swung around the carousel, then gapped me and Kenny, leaving both of us panting. He rode to what looked like an easy victory. I snuck past Kenny on Cat’s Paw and took second.

After the race, I jawed with some riders for about 10 minutes. When I remounted my bike for the ride home, I couldn’t pedal. My hamstrings were locked in a vise. The lactic acid in my legs made even clicking in an act of self-torture. I had to stand on the pedals all the way to 57th St. until my legs loosened up enough to creep home.

Props to Kenny and Steve for some great pacelining.

Note to Team Echelon: Fellas, a breakaway will work, even a relatively slow one. Our break gained 3+ minutes on the pack. We could have averaged 1-2mph slower and still won. Something to think about.

08 April 2005

Mon Dieu! Patrick in Hospital!

Echelon teammate Patrick Littlefield crashed yesterday on a ride out on Long Island (at Cedar Creek Park) and broke his collarbone. He's currently in the hospital and will most likely be released later today or tomorrow.

Patrick was in a group of six other riders, overcooked a tight hairpin and went over the curb, causing him to go over the handlebars and collide with a metal garbage container. Landing on his head and shoulder, he was semiconcious when his fellow riders called 911. He just called me and is in good spirits considering the situation. He told me that when he get's home he will check his email. Don't call his cell, as he needs the rest right now.

His wife, he told me, is a saint. His wife understands the inherent risk of his passion. As you may know the Littlefield's are expecting their second child next week

03 April 2005

Metropolitan Series: 3 April 05

He's baaaaaack!
Team Echelon Takes Third, Fifth

Submitted by Matt Purdue

Racers: Chris F., Matt P., Matt R., David R.

The rain politely held off for today's race, althought it would have been nice to have some water on the roads to wash away the branches, chestnuts and other debris. As it were, we spent the race dodging bedknobs and broomsticks.

Because of the relatively small field, the organizers lengthened the race to three laps. Finally, we got our money's worth. But the leaders didn't seem to realize that we'd be forced to ride an extra 6.1 miles. The tempo was allegro from the start, with Eli (the series leader) and Euri (Team Miya Shoji) setting the early pace.

After 1 1/4 laps, the field had split into two groups. Chris F. and Matt P. stayed with the lead pack, which saw Eli and Euri play cat and mouse for miles. Eli spent plenty of time forcing Euri to pull, only to leave Euri out in the wind whenever he pulled off. It was interesting to watch this Amstel Gold Race gamesmanship in a Cat. 5 race.

At the halfway point, Matt P. hit a pothole and heard the dreaded cobra: HSSSSSS! After two post-race flats on Saturday, he was convinced he had again been snakebit. He actually pulled over to check his tires. But they were still rock hard. Damn! A guy behind him had flatted. The pack raced away and Matt P. spent the next four miles playing catchup, finally regrouping with the leaders on Harlem Hill.

Eli and Euri dueled like Ali vs. Frazier at the head of the pack the rest of the way. Meanwhile, our dark horse, Chris F., bided his time. Awake until 2 a.m. the night before the race, Chris F. admitted he was tired, but when it came time to hammer, he responded. In the final sprint up Cat's Paw, Chris F. clung to Eli and Euri like Velcro. At the top he snagged thirdplace in one of our fastest races yet! Keep in mind this is the guy who tumbled arse over elbows a few weeks ago and cracked his helmet.

Props to Chris F. for completing his comeback. Matt P. also earned a trophy, placing fifth.

Euri pipped Eli at the line for his second consecutive win. Someone please tell this kid to upgrade! Expect Euri and Eli to battle it out for the points championship.

02 April 2005

Race Report: CRCA #2, 2 April 05

I Want to Be Sedated

Submitted by Matt Purdue

Now I know why the pros take drugs.

Friday night my mother-in-law called with dire predictions. “Heaviest rain in 10 years,” she wheezed. “I’m having a panic attack!” Undaunted, I woke up at 5 a.m. to a steady sprinkle, donned my Gore-Tex jacket and headed out.

At the start line, I was happy to see teammate David “Weather Channel” Regen. Even after warning us all of the coming monsoon, David was out to brave the elements. There were only five riders in the C race, so I figured David and I could own this race for Team Echelon. Even better, the organizers announced they were shortening each race by one lap. Only four laps! Woo hoo.

Then they told us they were combining the B and C fields--and we’d be doing six laps. Thanks.

We set off in a light, steady rain. The pace was snappy from the get-go, riders apparently eager to get this over with. At some point early in the day, a breakaway escaped, leaving us with a group of about 15 riders. While the rain quickly soaked us to the bone, this was the least of our worries. The spray from the tires made it almost impossible to see at times. The dirt, pebbles, leaves and, yes, horse crap kicked up by the wheels was, to put it mildly, disgusting.

After a couple of laps, our little chase group--which now included only two C riders, me and a guy on a vintage Colnago--slowed to a crawl. Either the leaders were blocking for their teammates or their muscles had become waterlogged and frozen. Coming past the softball fields, we were barely staying upright at 16 mph. I was bored out of my mind, and deluded myself into thinking that maybe CRCA would score B and C riders separately at the finish. Time to jump!

I desperately attempted to get away from the group. First I tried jumping onto a two-man breakaway, but couldn’t hang on. I tried two solo breakaways, but was reeled in by our pack. So, feet numb and eyes caked with road crap, I settled in for the last two laps. I entertained myself by watching Setanta’s Todd Brilliant (some of you know him from NYCC) run his own paceline. He was constantly pulling, dropping back, then zipping back to the front—on an all steel bike! He burned more calories than our entire pack combined. The only thing that slowed him down was the loose dog that ran out into the street near Cat’s Paw. He nearly caused a five-man pileup.

The pace picked up to the mid 20s on the final lap, and I spotted Matt Rivera marshalling, his waterlogged jacket plastered to his head. I wondered which one of us was crazier. The pack made the requisite “pride sprint” up Cat’s Paw and that was it. I finished about 5th in the pack, ahead of the other C rider. I was fine with that until I found out that the breakaway had beaten us by 3 ½ minutes!

It was a wild experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. At the end of the race, we all looked at each other with that deranged, hollow-eyed sense of accomplishment usually reserved for POW camp survivors.

Rubber side down.