Speed Week: Part One

I got a C for English at school. I didn’t enjoy writing, but yet, over the last two years I have developed a love for writing these blog posts. I hope with this one, that I have the words to describe the feelings associated with racing Athens Twilight Criterium.

Athens Twilight, I was told by many is the craziest, most unforgettable criterium in the States. There would be 30 000 drunk college students(there really was!) screaming at you, with them lining the home straight 5 deep, it was like riding through a passage of noise. It was exciting, exhilarating and electrifying all at once. Adrenalin pumping through your veins kind of stuff! To try put it into terms for those back home, I guess it must be similar to the emotions experienced by a rugby player playing a Super Rugby final.

I was also told it would be super hard, and it was. I knew positioning would be critical, especially following the mistakes I’ve made in prior races. Being in the front mix changed the game in a psychological way hugely for me. Instead of hanging on trying to survive, I was now racing. I followed moves off the front of the race and instigated more myself. This was the game plan, attack and get off the front. Finishing the race was not even a goal on the start grid.

However as the laps ticked away I was thinking to myself, wow I’m still mixing it up here. Let’s attack again, let’s keep on fighting.

The race was however not without drama. I destroyed a front wheel 20 minutes in with another rider rapidly changing lines, putting his rear derailleur into my front wheel. In addition to this I was caught behind a crash just over an hour in. SRAM neutral support managed to get me back into the race on both occasions and I am thankful for that.

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Setting up Team Camp alongside the Athens course.


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The Athen’s Crowds!!

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Pre race day Computrainer Heats.

Approaching the last ten laps (of about a km each) I jostled for position, and pushed myself forward whenever the opportunity allowed. I was in the top 10-15 wheels with 2 laps to go until a rider stacked it in turn one, in front of me. Shit! I wasn’t hurt and managed to keep it fairly upright. It didn’t look like many guys had made it through, so I quickly got my bike out the mess, jumped back on cross style and pinned it for the next one and a half laps thinking I may still be in the money.

Turns out I wasn’t and I finished in 45th place. Although the race didn’t finish how I wanted it to, there were a lot of positives to draw from it and I was stoked on that. Junior Mint (aka Jake Hill) was mixing it up front with me as well and bagged a very solid 12th on the evening. DZ (aka Dan Zmolik) was the ticket conductor and kicked the boys off the bus as the laps went by. Brian unfortunately had mechanical issues and was in the showers early.

Let’s rewind a bit at this point. As I’ve mentioned before, we are racing Speed Week over the next 9 days where we will do 7 criteriums. Athens Twilight was the first and come yesterday we were off to Historic Roswell Criterium.

I was disappointed to learn that this wasn’t the same Roswell as the TV series from a few years back. Who remembers that? I loved it!

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En route to the Historic Roswell Criterium.IMG_20130428_120258

Trainer spin in the hotel room, avoiding the rain!IMG_20130427_183149

The improvised hotel room kitchen. Ice bucket ‘fridge’ and coffee machine ‘kettle’ (hot water to make my Future Life!)

Anyway, back to the racing. The weather forecast pretty much guaranteed we would be racing in monsoon like rain and we did. There was talk of the race being cancelled but ultimately it was shortened to 60 minutes. I was surprisingly excited about racing in the wet conditions. Partially due to the Stan’s tubeless road wheels we are running, which means that we can run the pressure down to 60 PSI and not risk punctures. You can imagine how sweet this is in the corners in the pouring rain.

With last night fresh in my mind I was eager to repeat the performance and “go one better” in a sense. A small field was on the grid and early on I found myself following a few moves. United Health Care aka the Blue Train, were taking no prisoners on the day and pretty much put their full squad on the front riding hard tempo the whole race, allowing no one to go clear.

A few guys did manage to snatch some primes, including Brian who snuck away for a lap.

I changed my race tactic with this in mind and tried to position myself to mix it up in the finale. This time, with two laps to (again) it wasn’t so much a problem out of my control that was the cost factor, but rather my own. My legs went kaboom and from sitting 10th wheel I faded horribly to somewhere around 30th.

More importantly all the boys came out of the race safely, where there were actually surprisingly few crashes.

Today, we have the day off. I’m back at home in Greenville chilling out a bit, drinking coffee and getting in a short spin. The next leg of Speed Week sees us venturing back off to the State of Georgia. Tomorrow we will take on the Coastal Empire Classic in Tybee Island and on Wednesday the Downtown Walterboro Criterium in Walterboro.

Be sure to check in on Thursday where I will bring you part two in my Speed Week experiences.

Until then, arrive derci!

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Found this ‘interesting’ guy in Athens walking his bunny around like it was a dog!

 

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The happenings in and around Greenville

Without too much news from the last week, I’ve decided to do a more photo orientated blog post of the happenings in and around Greenville over the last week.

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My lunch box for a day out on the bike. I have a few different things I keep in the cupboard to try and mix up what I take for training each day. My newest training food is some awesome Banana Rice Muffins (you can get the recipe from The Feed Zone cook book).

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Motor pacing. In order to work on my speed a bit more for Speed Week next week, I’ve had a few sessions behind the scooter. I’ve just finished an interval here, with Brian making me bleed from my eye balls with the flick of his wrist, as you can see I’m sucking air big time!

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Riding with the Hincapie boys always provides a few laughs. We found a tortoise in the middle of the road out training the one day (they called it a Turtle). Blair showed that at least if he doesn’t make it as a cyclist, he at least has a modelling career to fall back on. I, being the African, was the only one brave enough to touch the shell with my bare hands, pansies…

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After living in Cape Town one forgets how lucky we are in terms of getting good coffee and croissants, although the latter need to be kept on restricted quantities. I have struggled to find what us snobby Captonians would call good coffee in America. Often the closest I can get to what we would call an Americano back home, is a double espresso with 4 ounces of hot water. Isn’t it quite ironic, that you can’t get a good Americano in America? Drip or filter coffee is the order of the day! Ash and I set about making our own croissants the other day, they were really good!

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I have been missing braai’s from back home big time! We had as close as we could get to a South African braai the other evening. It was pretty awesome! Wors was replaced by a sausage similar to Bratwurst.

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Greenville is a beautiful place and Ash and I have enjoyed some great afternoon walks in Cleveland Park along the river.

 

Just in case you were wondering, I am still maintaining a good racing weight, although it may not look like it! Haha.

 

Until next week folks, ciao!

 

A weekend of racing in Charlotte

After a weekend of racing which I would rather forget about, I realised sometimes you need to take a step back and put things into perspective. Whilst cycling is a huge part of my life, it isn’t everything and I am privileged to be living a dream. I know many would kill to be where I am right now so it’s not the end of the world.

The unfortunate drawback is that I am struggling to see where it all went wrong. This is where the help of my coach Simon and my support team come in. They are able to look at things from the outside and to add a different perspective onto what I have already looked at and possibly missed. I feel as though my training has gone well, my nutrition is good (Ash makes me some bad ass salads!) along with the other important aspects required for success but something just isn’t allowing all the dots to join. We will have to figure it out. There are so many different aspects which need to be worked on in order to come out ahead.

The Presbyterian Classic is one of the biggest crits in the USA. We would race a ‘back to back P loop’ to try and put some of the big prize purse in our back pockets. The evening didn’t pan out for the Stan’s boys as we may have hoped and I walked away with another DNF behind my name. There were some positives to draw from the evening and I have learnt more about the beast that is American crit racing.

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Stan’s Team on the day. From left to right: Show Pony, Dilly, Bill and Junior Mint.

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Double P course.
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Lining up on the grid.

We were privileged enough to be put up in the Hilton Hotel for the event compliments of the race organisers. After an early morning spin I took on the buffet breakfast with full force. Hilton Hotel Buffet Breakfast – 0 Chris 1. With our bellys full, we bid farewell to Dilly and Junior Mint, as Brian and I headed out to the Noda Grand Prix. Another crit held in the Noda suburb of Charlotte, which I may add seems to be like a really cool city. We had arrived early for Marilyn’s race, and Ash and I spent our afternoon getting to know the “Smelly Cat Café” well, a funky coffee shop on the course which was set in and about the alternative neighbourhood.

Come 5.40pm we were behind the start line and eager to make amends for the previous day’s race. The pace was fast, faster than what one would expect at a ‘local’ race and closer to that of a national level crit. Anyway, I positioned myself well in the first half of the race, until I started sliding backwards through the somewhat whittled down group and then eventually out the back. Another DNF.

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Checking in at the Hilton.095

Getting ready to roll at Noda GP.133

Noda GP.

To say that I was gutted would be an understatement. The worst was, that as I mentioned before, I couldn’t really see where I had gone wrong. There wasn’t anything standing out with a big red flashing light.

Today (Monday), I’ve had some more time to think about the weekend. There are areas where I can improve on. After questions of “what am I doing here” last night I’ve realised that I need to take a step back and look at things in the bigger picture. Whilst I love bike racing it isn’t everything and I am fortunate to be enjoying the experience that I am. For that, I will continue to try and make the most of it. I’ll keep on fighting and doing what I need to do and the results will come, I am sure.

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Enjoying a pre race espresso at the Smelly Cat Cafe.

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Predator Carbon lead the chase.186

Railing the corners.

All images credit: Ash Smit

Rock Hill Criterium and Road Race

With a weekend off racing last weekend it gave me some time to settle into my new home town, Greenville. The last two weeks have really been my first here, as previously I was off to team camp and then Florida in a matter of a few short days. Thus far I have been loving it; I have met some really cool people and am enjoying the endless country roads for training.

 

I was glad for the weekend off racing as it allowed me to get into a good training routine, instead of playing the balancing act of getting workouts in, whilst trying to recover from the last race and be fresh enough for the next. This seemed more important now, especially after some exposure to high level American crit racing I knew I had to tweak the training a bit.

 

The weekend off also allowed me to go watch my first Ice Hockey game. I was off to the Bilo Centre last Friday night to go watch the local team, the Greenville Road Warriors, take on the South Carolina Stingrays(what a bad ass team name?!). We had a cool mix of a guys and girls going to watch the game including: 3 Americans, an Aussie, a Bahamian and a South African (yours truly). All in all it ended up being a fun evening watching an iconic American sport, getting to know some new friends.

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High speed game!IMG_20130329_194136

And the Sting Rays score!IMG_20130329_194508

The kids game in the intermission, it was more exciting in that they netted way more puks than the real game.IMG_20130329_200137

From right to left: Bahamian, American, Aussie, American, American.

Last week’s highlight was no doubt having my girlfriend, Ash, arrive from South Africa. It has been a long 6 weeks without her and I am stoked she is in Greenville with me now. It is going to be great to share this awesome adventure we have ahead of us over the next few months. You will now no doubt also see some more racing shots on the blog as she gets behind the lens at the races!

 

Fast forward a few days and the weekend which has just passed saw us venture up to Rockhill to partake in the Rockhill criterium on Saturday and road race on Sunday. We used the races as hard training sessions ahead of the upcoming NCC crits.

 

The crit course was somewhat different to a typical downtown crit course with a more peaceful setting amongst the Cherry Blossoms in spring and a lake. A drag up the back straight also changed the dynamic a bit in comparison to the typically pan flat crits I have done this far.

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On the attack!IMG_20130408_175702

Shopping on the moped with Ash.
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Rock Hill Criterium in the park.20893_10152710406535057_1439375057_n

Brody at the bike races.

The first half of the race was particularly active, and Brian and I found ourselves following numerous moves. The field didn’t seem to be in the mood to let anything stick so I decided to sit in and save the legs for the bunch kick. In a moment of relapse a group of 5 snuck away close to the finish, despite Brian getting on the front to try and real them in with 3 laps to go the group just managed to stay away.

 

Now, sprinting for 6th place, I found myself too deep coming out the last corner with 400m to go. I tried to kick early and salvage whatever result I could but got boxed in and had to be content with 13th on the day.

 

The following morning we were up bright and early and back in the Nissan on our way to Rockhill for the 180km road race. I was quite enthusiastic about this as road races back home are not often longer than 120km. I knew I had the base miles and longer mountain bike marathon races in the legs and was keen to see how this would translate onto the road.

 

Brian managed to get into the decisive early break which went within the first 20km of the race. Shortly thereafter the peloton split into a further two groups, I found myself in the front split of 20 riders. Two of the local teams: Global Bike and Finish Strong set about trying to bring the move back whilst I happily sat on the back with Brian down the road; this was however not to their liking!

 

A further 100km down the road the situation remained almost unchanged with the front move still maintaining a good four minute advantage. I had missed a move of 3 riders who attempted to bridge across and at the end of the day were actually successful.

 

I wasn’t particularly happy about ‘just finishing in the bunch’ so set about attacking my fellow companions on the rolling climbs of the back stretch of the course. I managed to create a split of four riders with another four joining us a few kilometres down the road.

 

I felt strong approaching the last 30 minutes of racing and drove the move as hard as I could to try and pick up remnants of the front split. We had too many ‘free riders’ so I attacked the group again with 10km to go and took one rider from the Finish Strong team along with me. We combined well together and almost caught 3 riders ahead. The positive was that we had managed to eliminate a gap of over a minute to just ten seconds at the line. The Finish Strong rider and I went from friends to foe as we approached the line as thought we were sprinting for the last dollars on the line. Although I managed to convincingly win the two up sprint it was for 13th place and not 12th as we thought (the last paying spot).

 

Two 13th places in one weekend?!

 

This weekend we will tackle the Presbyterian Criterium, one of the hardest crits on the American circuit. The two hour race is sure to be a brutal one.

 

Until next week then, ciao!

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Trying to shake things up.11769_10152710405840057_182746907_n

The drag up the back stretch.

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B.Hill putting the hurt down.

All racing images credit: Ashleigh Smit

 

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Caught a Baseball game on the way home from a late afternoon pedal.
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Bad ass ‘wooden’ wheels.IMG_20130407_072830

Young gentleman beware!IMG_20130410_165730

Walk in the park along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.