NCC: Delray Beach Twilight

 

“Bitterly disappointing evening of bike racing. Nothing like a long drive home to think about it.”

 

As you can imagine from the above Tweet, motivation was not at an all-time high to write this blog post. I had just recorded my first “DNF” on American soil. Not something anyone aspires too.

 

Lady luck perhaps wasn’t in my corner on Saturday night compounded with, to be frank, my lack of experience racing American crits meant that I was taking an early shower(actually we didn’t, wet wipes were what we used to clean ourselves ahead of a 10hour all night car trip). I don’t feel that my shape is bad, but I haven’t managed to log in the consistent hard training with the racing every weekend. The week’s training is a fine balance of recovering from the last race and preparing for the next one whilst still trying to maintain a degree of freshness.

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Like calories much? Stroop wafel with Nutella.IMG_20130320_072425

Miami sunrise.IMG_20130320_074042

Miami sunrise on the Venetian Causeway.IMG_20130321_154719

Taking in the Miami sights and sounds with my tour guides Todd and Brian.

The car trip as I’ve mentioned was brutally long and it gives one a lot of time to think and analyse as to what went wrong. Sometimes it is perhaps too much time to think and I perhaps over analyse things. At least with now being exposed to the high level of criterium racing I have a better idea of what is required from me and how I need to fine tune my training to that.

 

The race is behind us and now I am back in chilly Greenville, back in the condo, back into a routine (which I am making more familiar) and back into regular training. There are a couple of weeks before the next big target, Speedweek! This will allow a good block of consistent training which I hope will pay dividends. Along the way we will be at the Presbyterian Criterium, which will be a good leg tester. Speedweek is just over ten days of racing criteriums almost each day. So, if I don’t want to get my head banged in I will need to be going well by there, and hopefully I can use the opportunity to impress.

 

Looking back the Florida trip was fantastic. I got to know my team mates better, met some awesome people, enjoyed the warm weather and got to see another part of the country. I must extend a special thanks to Joe and Laurie, Marilyn and Todd for welcoming me into their homes. It was great to get to know you all and I hope we meet up again soon. Thanks also to Brian for being my personal chauffeur and tour guide, it was awesome dude!

 

So, until next week then I guess. I’ll be racking up some miles, building the confidence and mulling things over.

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What would you like for dinner? The white machine or the black machine?
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Orange Blossom Special a few weeks ago.

Image Credit: Erik Kellar
IMG_20130323_180348 I had to improvise, pre race meal! It was good!
IMG_20130323_185111Getting the legs up pre Delray Beach Crit with Dilly.

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NCC: Cigar City Criterium

My first taste of national level criterium racing in the USA would also be my first twilight criterium. This meant we would start at 6.30pm in the fading light and race through the sunset into the darkness for 90 minutes. We would have the street lights to help show the way, on most parts of the course.

The team was kind enough to give me the rider call up. I would be lining up on the second row of a ten deep grid, quite an advantage when you’re going to be blasting through 4 corners a lap which each last just over a minute…

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take advantage of this, as I dropped my chain on the back pave section of the first lap and found myself dangling near the rear end of the 120 rider field.

I managed to make my way back to the front, eventually, only to be off the back following a big crash 30 minutes into our race. It took a big effort and a bucket full of suffering until we made our way back into the now reduced front group of 60 riders. I could write pages about these experiences but I think they would bore you. The long and the short: Crit racing is pretty crazy in the USA, I managed to miss the following crashes (another 6 or so) and make my way to the finish in the peloton.

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All images credit: Erik Kellar

From Stan’s it was just Ryan and I left at the finish, David unfortunately got held up in a crash 3 laps to go, so painstakingly close. Brian, Jake and our guest rider on the day: Michael, were all unluckily casualties of the earlier crash, which caused huge splits in the group which ultimately didn’t re-join.

Personally I enjoyed the race. It was super hard but I know now what sort of training I need to do to refine myself into a better crit rider. Crits after all seem to be the staple diet of the East Coast racer.

Racing a twilight crit (the first of many!) was a phenomenal experience. The courses are usually set down town in and amongst the restaurants and bars. Racing through sunset and into the evening was fantastic and without a doubt generated additional spectators. The organisers had a DJ playing at the Start/Finish area and had given out cow bells to the many supporters. They had most certainly managed to create an awesome vibe and I was stoked to be a part of it. It certainly is a lot more fun than racing in the dark at 6am back home where the odd cow or sheep watch us as we come by. The organisers are taking racing to the people and our event promoters back home should take note.

Tomorrow it’s off to Miami where we will be hanging out for a couple of days before we make our way up to Delray Beach where we will be racing our next NCC race. I look forward to it.

To get more of a feel for the Twilight Criterium Racing click here for some images.

Race Highlights:

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Doug and Marilyn helping me out with a bike setup at The Bike Route.IMG_20130314_105528

Bike riding is tough, cafe stop to refuel.
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“Free Air” at The Bike Route
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Chilling pre race in style at the Hilton Hotel.

Thanks for hooking us up Mr Reyes.IMG_20130316_172507

Hand cycling race before ours.

Orange Blossom Special

With last week’s performance fresh on my mind I was eager to once again repeat it. The team was down in Naples Florida, to race the Orange Blossom Special. This is an event which consisted of a road race on Saturday, followed by a TT (if you had anything left in your legs) and then a down town criterium on Sunday.

 

We had 7 guys down: The Boss, Doctor J.Lo, DZ, Junior Mint, Dilly (who would be on the side line fighting off a cold), Ferris Mueller and I. As you can see we have all been assigned nicknames, mine being: show pony, as you can imagine I am over the moon with it.

 

The road race on Saturday would see us doing an 8 mile circuit 8 times (for the South Africans that is approx. 100km’s). A large break of 15 riders went off the front early on. We had J.Lo in the move but wanted to bring it back as he was out numbered.

 

The team spent a lot of energy bringing the move back with not a lot of help from the local guys. This ultimately left us a little under powered in the final. The run in to the finish was pretty technical which I didn’t mind, but the style of riding was crazy with hard surges and then guys sitting up. I found myself in about 30th position with 2 corners to go in the last kilometre and took a risky outside line bringing myself back into the top ten riders. As there were two guys down the road we were sprinting for third. I was a bit far back to have an impact on the result and came in 8th place in the group and 10th overall. Junior mint rolled in 12th.

 

After a big effort in the road race the boss led by example and was the sole representative at the TT. Considering how hard he had ridden in the road race he finished in a solid 4th position, just split seconds off the podium. J.Lo and I watched some of the ‘driekampsters’ head off on their TT and had a good chuckle at some of their interesting dress attire.

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The home of Schmidt Jewelers in Naples, a proud sponsor of the teamIMG_20130307_092012

Many a group ride ends here, Fit and Fuel. One of the better American coffee shops I have thus far encountered.IMG_20130309_100248

Nice way to describe a coffee?IMG_20130311_100521

Sight seeing Naples on the bike.

 

I was keen to make amends on Sunday in the criterium. We would be racing a 1.3km “L” shaped circuit with 6 corners for 90 minutes. It would make matters interesting. The racing was hard and somewhat different to a South African crit.

 

Ferris Mueller represented the team in the early break, and then counter move was covered by J.Lo. This move would ultimately survive to the line where he took 6th, it was a bit flat for the doctors liking.

 

Back in the field as the American’s like to call it, 2 riders slipped away in the closing laps. The boss and Ferris Mueller turned themselves inside out to try and bring it back for Junior Mint and me, but it wasn’t to be and we were now racing for 10th place. Junior Mint kept me well positioned in the final lap until I messed it up in the second last corner. JM took 3rd in the bunch gallop and me 5th for us to finish the day in 12th and 14th.

 

Start Smart Cycling (a sponsor of the team) hosted a fantastic weekend of racing and it was great to be a part of it, congrats Marilyne!

 

With a solid weekend of racing under the belt I needed to step back and reflect. Whilst we may not have pulled off the results we were hoping for, there were a lot of positives to draw from the experience.

 

I will remain in Naples through this coming week, resting up and training here before we trek 300kilometres up the coast to Tampa. This will be the venue of our first National Crit Calendar (NCC) race. With more of the pro teams present it will undoubtedly be a tough day out.

 

I must extend a big thank you to Joe and Laurie for hosting us so hospitably in their home over the last few days. It has been great getting to know them and spending time with them. Additionally, I must thank Pete and Cathy, and Chris and Bernadette for having us over for fantastic meals. The team has some great supporters here in Naples and it has been great getting to know them.

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Checking out the Mangrove Swamps on a training ride.IMG_20130311_150854

Grocery shopping on the cruiser bike(Yes I know its a chicks bike, I needed the basket ok)IMG_20130311_100537

Ferris Mueller taking in the sights.IMG_20130307_141546

Chilling out in style at the Rose’s awesome spot.

Off to a good start

 

With my first week in Greenville under my belt I became increasingly concerned about my fading leg tan, which I had worked so hard on in sunny Cape Town. Luckily this week we are on our way to Florida to the warmth and sun. High five!

 

Our team camp came to a wrap on Sunday and I think it was successful on all fronts. The team bonded well, we got in some good training and spent some time getting to know our great sponsors and their products which we are equipped with.

 

The highlight of the week form me was undoubtedly the race on Saturday: the Hincapie Spring Series River Falls road race. With it being my first race in the States I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and how the level would compare to that of the racing in South Africa. With our full team on the training camp, we had strength in numbers and wanted to make sure we had every move covered.

 

The first lap of the race was quite aggressive with a lot of guys attacking and trying to get away. The team was ready for this and took it in our stride.

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Hincapie Spring Series River Falls Road Race

All Images Credit: Hincapie Spring Series

I saw an opportunity open on the second lap and attacked off the front taking Blair Turner from the Hincapie Devo team with me. We soon had: Lazzarato and Winston join us and my fellow team mate Mike ‘the motor bike’ Margerite. The group combined well together and we managed to push out the gap out to a maximum of 3.20 minutes over the next few laps, with the assistance of the team covering all the moves from behind in the bunch.

 

Mike was a fantastic team mate and really drove the break especially towards the end of the race, which allowed me to sit on and keep the legs fresher for the finale. We had two further riders joining us in the last laps, which meant the Hincapie Devo boys also now had two in the group of seven.

 

The lap we were racing on had a 1km climb coming into the finish with a 200m flat going into a downhill to the finish. The Bike Reg rider, Noonan attacked first and I got onto his wheel quickly and followed some of his accelerations up the start of the climb. Nearing the top Lazzarato started his sprint first with Turner coming around on the left hand side as we started the downhill run in. I managed to sneak in-between the two guys and kicked. It felt as though I wasn’t catching Turner quickly enough but with a big bike throw I managed to just get him on the line.

 

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522654_10200669970213707_1164707035_nPretty Tight Finish!

All Images Credit: Hincapie Spring Series

I was over the moon with the win although it may have not been the biggest race it was good in a sense to repay my team for showing their faith in me. The team rode well together and I wouldn’t have been able to seal the deal without their help on the day, thank you guys.

 

As I mentioned we are off to Florida this week where we will be racing over the next three weekends. This weekend we will be racing the Orange Blossom Special consisting of a road race on Saturday morning flowed by a short TT and then a criterium on Sunday. The following two weekends we will be doing NCC (National Criterium Calendar) races in Tampa and Delray Beach. I am looking forward to seeing how I measure up against the more competitive fields in these high level races.

 

I have thus far been enjoying my time in the States thoroughly and am looking forward to the months ahead.

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Team DinnerDSC00406Stan’s No Tubes p/b Proferrin 2013

Image Credit: Maria QuirogaIMG_20130303_121031A bit of snow left on the top of the beast: Skyuka MountainIMG_20130303_121013

I guess the view was worth it right?IMG_20130302_133805

Getting ready to race.

Getting Settled in the US of A

After travelling in a steel bird for over 30 hours I found myself on the other side of the Atlantic in the USA. Why you may ask? I’m here to join the Stan’s No Tubes P/B Proferrin Cycling Team based out of Greenville, South Carolina, one of the three major cycling hubs in the States.

For those Ride readers who don’t know I’ve been racing mountain bikes through South Africa for the last few years. Last year I rode for the Asrin Cycling Team and did numerous marathons and stage races across the country. After some consultation with my good friend Hasi I decided to give the road scene a bash and was fortunate enough to be picked up by the Stan’s team. (Check out the team site). I was particularly excited about coming to the USA due to the large number of criteriums races which they have here.

Over the past few days I’ve become more familiar with my surroundings in Greenville, mostly thanks to my team manager and fellow rider Brian Hill who’s been carting me around town. Greenville seems to be a pretty cool place and I think I will enjoy spending the year here.

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Pete building up our steeds.IMG_20130226_192857

Jake Wells(pro cross racer) showing off  the multiple uses of a wrench’s/mechanic’s apron.
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First team training ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

 

Our team training camp has just kicked off and it has been great meeting the rest of my teammates and having another Christmas in a sense with all the new equipment. The team will be riding Stan’s Tubeless road wheels which is a concept still relatively unheard of in SA. We all learnt how to seal our own tyres last night and it’s quite similar to sealing a mountain bike wheel. The guys don’t ride with spare tubes and just top up the sealant twice a season. Pretty sweet!

The first full team ride was a three-hour session with a couple of ‘through and off’ efforts to get the legs going. I rode on the tubeless wheels for the first time and was blown away by how you can really hook it through the corners! A big six hour ride with a flurry into hills was on the cards for the second day, followed by a day with the sponsors. This coming weekend we’ll be doing a local race here in Greenville.

To say that I’m excited about this year would be an understatement!

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Heading out for a ride with the team sponsors. Yes that is a certain Mr George Hincapie(Hincapie Clothing) in the black kit, very cool guy.

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Stan’s No Tubes van.

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Team bikes.

Learning from an old pro

At last week’s Killarney sufferfest (the weekly PPA Killarney Crit) I had the privilege of learning from a good friend of mine and ex road professional, Hasi. Hasi (Rene Haselbacher) was a professional for 13 years in the European peloton and spent the time plying his trade on teams such as Gerolsteiner and Astana. Hasi and I have done a number of mountain bike stage races over the last year together but on Wednesday I was fortunate enough to spend an hour ‘racing’ with him on the road.

The wind wasn’t as strong as previous weeks and this saw a larger group come into the finish. I found Hasi’s wheel with two laps to go and did my best to make sure I didn’t lose it. I came close on occasion and had to squeeze through a tight gap in the peloton here and there, but all went well.

Unfortunately I botched the sprint a bit after Hasi dropped me off in the pocket with about 800 metres to go. I went too early and couldn’t match the surge that came through to the line and came over in sixth place. I was buzzing with the excitement of following Hasi through the final and wasn’t too disappointed with the outcome of the day.

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Killarny

Image Credit: Ash Smit

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On Sunday morning I lined up for my last foray on South African tar. It was the final event in the Western Cape League, the Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch. I felt good going over the Helshoogte Pass and, venturing into a strong looking break of six riders, I sat in and tried to save my legs for the sprint. A one-kilometre drag followed by a false flat would bring the bunch to the line. I had a decent position coming into the line but lacked the punch needed for a result on the day and finally came over in around 10th position.

I am learning more with every sprint but still need to learn a fair deal before I can become consistently competitive. Nonetheless I am enjoying it and can see improvement each and every race. or at the least take something away from it that I have learnt.

Over the next few days I’m going to be packing up my bags and jumping on a plane bound for Greenville in the USA! My next post will come from the other side of the Atlantic so until then, ciao.

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Helshoogte

Image Credit: Team Intellibus