Arden Challenge April 19-20, 2013

81 miles   5,100 ft elevation gain   3000 kilojoules
   A fairly hilly day in the Ardenne region of Belgium where all of us (7 USA riders) made a 30 man split halfway through the race which seemed destined to stay away. This was not the case as too many riders wanted a free ride at the back. With the field catching us around an hour and a half to go,it became slightly more hectic, which helped myself get caught out when a group was let off the leash. Three of our riders made that split (Ty,Greg, and Eamon) so our job turned into following wheels for the remaining 40-30 kilometers or so. In the final local lap I decided to hit out instead of jostling around in a group sprint. Some riders came with me on a small crosswind riser about 5k from the line where we drilled it, catching some of the breakaway right before the final kicker(approximately 2k from the line). I was able to crest it in second (13 breakaway riders already had an insurmountable lead) where I caught up to the rider just ahead, then went full bore to the finish. It was disappointing to miss the break when my legs felt good, but Ty getting 3rd made it a solid outing. On to the next one!
Photo credit- http://foto.jasperstuyven.be/#home
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Day 2- 9th:           http://app.strava.com/activities/49755725
79.5 miles   6,000 ft elevation gain   3,300 kilojoules
   2x 43k loop to 4x10k loops. Greg Daniel, Tyler Williams, and I got into an early early break (first 5 kilometer type) which usually don’t work since it’s so soon, and riders feel they have to save their legs for the final. Most of the racers weren’t afraid to pull which led us to have a good paceline not far from finishing both the long loops. Our lead stretched out to 3 minutes from the slumbering peloton, leaving us with a taste possible victory. When we entered the 10 kilometer finishing circuits the horsing around started (side note: Still going hard up the KOM climb). This dwindled our group down to five from the original ten, with one of them (Japanese national) slightly dangling off the back of the climb. Once the downhill started (coming into one lap to go) Tyler was given a gap on the tight bends, which he exploited to the fullest. Just a couple turns later I jumped to attempt a bridge-up, making the British rider chase while Greg could sit on his wheel. The Brit caught up to me, where Greg counter-attacked, putting daylight into us remaining three riders. Everyone was chasing at this point. On the last time up the headwind climb (these usually feel like you’re riding through peanut butter) I attempted to save some energy for the second kicker, not going full gas on the first ramp up. This led to a rider bridging up along with the Japanese man from the break (Simon Yates, another Brit, flew by us attempting to catch Greg and Tyler). Greg dispatched Tyler during the middle/second portion of the climb with Yates catching him(Tyler) at the top. Our group now had four riders. The Belgian who had bridged along with the Japanese and Great Britian rider from the break. We weren’t working cohesively together so I decided to attack, trying to keep clear of the fast charging chase group. It didn’t work out, getting caught with only a kilometer to go. I rounded the final corner in 4th wheel, kicked, but didn’t have much legs for the steep final 200 meters. 5th in the small group sprint, which got me 9th on the day. All in all it was a great race, with Greg getting the win making it four American riders in the top 10!
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ZLM Tour April 13, 2013

ZLM-

Windy is a good word to summarize the day, with long flat roads (experienced every which-way) and some leg breaking bridges. A sketchy neutral (with two lead moto’s devoured in the pack) and then an unbelievably fast start where we averaged 53kph (a little over 32mph) the first hour. With a ripping tailwind on the massive bridge between islands in the opening 15km and a group full of Dutch crosswind specialist along with Ty up the road just kilometers in (with no belgians) causing the peloton to chase at more than 60kph all the way across the almost five minute island extension. Almost instantly the pack was destroyed after taking a right into the insane crosswinds. Guttered is another good word to describe the day. Thwack! The front riders attack and form an echelon, pinching the others into the wind. If you’re not in the top-10 drilling it on the narrow roads chances are the legs are burning, or about to be. Turn, slightly regroup, the pack slowly dwindling in size. Turn, Thwack! They hit it again, a slightly better position then the last section after learning a lesson. Again, not enough so you’re suffering centimeters away from the grass/dirt/momentum killer. Racers legs stinging so badly they somewhat relent and yell RIGHT to form another echelon and hope that the front runners will slow down a fraction. No chance. Another split with slightly less people. If you look back you’ll see riders come to terms that they’re not getting back on. The Kazakhs badly wanted to bring back the group ahead, which in turn slowly dwindled the group behind. Just before the feedzone we hit a long section of cobbles, nobody able to hide at that point. Less than 3 kilometers away from the end of the pave the was the feed zone. Another mistake, I was too far back in the group when some riders pulled off to abandon into their team cars, I then saw my soigneur and got a mussette bag right when some riders already “fed” in front decided to turn up the intensity. One too many mistakes, so I’m left to a fruitless chase into a block headwind just 50 meters behind the others. These races are so much more than having the highest power to weight ratio. You move up on the tailwind or headwind stretches, then get dived on by at least 5 guys on the corner, causing a brake-fest and subsequent 15 second sprint to get up to speed. On the crosswinds there is virtually no moving from your current spot if the front men are going. If you’re in the top-10 you still have to rotate which is no piece of cake but “easier” than being in the single file line staring at the front wheel in front of you. You need a combination of patience and pack maneuvering always being at the front sheltered from the absurdly strong winds. My day was cut short after 100 kilometers so I rode back with a general sense of direction to the finish where the van was parked waiting for us. The Algerian team along with Ryan, Connor, and a couple Euro’s caught me while I was riding back so we motorpaced off their team car back to finish the day. Another race down with many more lessons being painfully engrained into my head. I’m already looking forward to some redemption at next year’s edition! Thanks for the read!

8 minute clip of the race:

http://www.omroepzeeland.nl/video/2013-04-13/411360/uitgebreide-samenvatting-zlm-tour-2013#.UWqJXEKLQ_s

Bontrager Team Camp

The camp was a full ten days of riding after the short trip to Waterloo, Wisconsin for a Trek event dubbed the Hullabaloo in Waterloo(250 meter races on trainers). Jasper Stuyven took a convincing win in the final, getting two real “Axel’s Axes” and giving the Bontrager Pro’s a second consecutive win. While at the their headquarters we received the new kits, got an awesome bike production tour (wicked cool), and took the first individual/team pictures. I was able to get some “riding” in at the gym along with a few core workouts with some of my teammates before actually starting in Solvang. The first day of camp we rolled out on an easy cruising loop before doing two 10 kilometer pacelines at a medium pace(we started hammering on the second trip of course). The next day we climbed about 9500 feet on the infamous Figueroa road, twice. The first ascent up included strength intervals(1k on/off 40-50rpm) with tempo in-between. This killed me the second time up, but at the turnaround point it was mainly downhill to the hotel. I was somewhat destroyed after that(most climbing I had ever done) so Axel gave me an option to turn back early the next day, which I decided doing since there were many more hard days waiting for us. After that rest day we jumped into a sponsor ride at a moderate pace for about two hours, then relaxing from there (throughout the week we had pictures/interviews/bike fits/daily massages along with hanging out with the guys). On Thursday, a good 4 hour ride with some climbing, and then Friday we rode down into Santa Barbara (home sweet home!) to race up Gibraltar (about 6 miles to the top). I didn’t have much legs to punch it and could only muster a high-tempo/low threshold pace. A grupetto formed with about half the team two thirds of the way up, where I rode in to the top, which I might add had breathtaking views. Another easy recovery day, then another solid four hour ride (both days with some TT time) where I set off to do my own loop with two 10 minute efforts up climbs, then an all-out effort up another(10 min as well). That was a fairly hard ride, followed by doing Figueroa twice again the next day. Both times up (an hour long climb) I rode a high-tempo pace. This ended up being the most climbing I’ve ever done, a little over 10,000 feet. I surprisingly felt good that day (joined in the attacks going back to the hotel), and not too sapped afterwards. The last ride was supposed to be sharp and intense, but turned out fairly mellow since we tagged along with a large contingent of Trek dealers. After that three hour loop, I packed all of my things and the carers drove me down to my house, ending the camp (our comedian Reed gave me a couple pounds of Cytomax and Honey Stinger products to take home, score!) after a few goodbyes. All in all it was a great camp, which should provide a good starting base for the future. The level of support, camaraderie between us teammates, and some serious Strava ass-kicking are just a few highlighted points about why this team is one of the best out there(Can’t forget the sponsors!) which I am very excited to be a part of. Thank you to all who’ve made this into a reality and hopefully you check back soon, Europe on March 23rd!

Alex

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Off-season

Hello all,

Happy new year! The season is almost upon us, always coming and going much quicker than you’d expect. It was another awesome year on the bike, of course not without some down’s, but great nonetheless. I reached some major goals which helped keep propelling the roller-coaster forward. In a little less than a month I’ll be going to a USA cycling camp located at the Chula Vista Olympic training center, with an all-out brawl between us several days after at the Boulevard road race. Just 2 weeks later I have another camp with my trade team, Bontrager-Livestrong. We’ll be traveling to Waterloo, Wisconsin for a team presentation at the Trek headquarters, then flying to Solvang for training (home roads!). Compared to last year, I have already gotten a good bit of base miles in, with some intensity coming in the near future. Next year should be a blast, hopefully getting me that one step closer to the pro’s. Thanks for reading, I’ll do my best to keep posting throughout the season!

Alex

World Championships

We departed Izegem, Belgium to Maastricht, Netherlands on Wednesday, a meager four days before world’s. Just like last year’s amazing experience it became even cooler with the British cycling team staying at the same hotel (so many team Sky vehicles)! Getting to have meal’s with the professional’s (talking to them too, not just staring at their food and how much they ate) and taking the elevator with none other than Bradley Wiggins were just some of the many countless highlights. The junior team knew the course very well after doing daily reconnaissance rides with efforts thrown in on the berg’s. The big race finally arrived on Sunday with an early wake up call at 5:50 am. The course was incredible, 16 kilometers with the famous Bemmelberg and then the notorious Cauberg, where the annual classic Amstel Gold Race finishes. The world championship course finished about 1.5k after the Amstel line, letting the racers who may have opened a second or two gap close them in the long finishing stretch. This made the pack larger than what everyone was expecting, but half of the riders were turned into pack-fill after the climbs. No move was given more than 20 seconds throughout our race. That kept the speeds high and nervousness even higher (there were many small crashes and stops due to this). It was a madhouse on the Cauberg, with thousands upon thousands of screaming Europeans (a couple American’s included) urging us on with voices and every different type of horn you can think of. I couldn’t hear myself breath (luckily) the last trek up on its brutal grade because of the raucous crowds, which only intensified the higher we went up. At last we reached the top, only to have a false flat the next 500 meters. All I could do was countdown from 30, knowing that a respite was literally around the corner. At last we hit the flat run-in to our final destination. I came into the day unsure of what I could do, but a top 10 was always on my mind with a course fairly suited to me. After 3 hours, 129 kilometers, and many rice cakes, on a demanding and historical course/climbs I came in 16th. This was a disappointment at first as I had been boxed out and hip slung in the last 200 meters, but the anger dissolved after a reflection of the day and season as a whole. This placing, if only minor, was still a slight confidence booster that I was up there with the other racers in terms of strength. I had some lowly ambitions after becoming ill and getting my arse handed to me for a while, but this result is a good stepping stone coming into next year.  This race is a major milestone in a hopeful career as a professional biker. Also, it was my last junior race ever, whereas next year the speeds, gears, and distances will be much faster along with bigger. For now, it’s relaxation time! Thanks for reading.

Alex

 

Junior Conference

Hello Everybody! Yesterday we had a special junior conference that was started just a year before, where big names turned out once again speaking towards the “future” of cycling. Last season we were treated to the likes of Phillipe Gilbert and other notable names such as Christian Prudhomme (Tour de France President/Organizer). That was an eye-opener into just how much work went into a grand tour, along with what was best to do as a junior racer trying to make it into the big leagues. For these championships some big names came out again, with world champion Mark Cavendish and olympic champion Marianne Vos giving us advice. Here is a link to what they said-  http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/cavendish-and-vos-share-advice-with-juniors

This was a nice motivational boost before our early race on Sunday. At 8 am sharp we’ll be clipping in for a 129 kilometer joy ride, where a career-making opportunity is on the line. Thanks for reading! (Added note: I won a Giro Aeon helmet during a short quiz during the conference, whoo!)

Whole Lotta Racing

Since my last post we have had a total of 11 races in less than 19 days. Whoo! All that has been transpiring throughout these weeks are “rest” and “recovery” which can also take a mental toll along with the racing. A cold after our first race (Ruiselede Kermesse) in Belgium hampered my form, and excluded me from some of my favorite Interclubs of the year. This was quite a blow, but with two stages races and a world championship, I didn’t and haven’t looked back. This can be a cruel sport at times,the same goes for just about everything in life, which is why I always make a conscious decision to think positively. It has helped me immensely during this trip, even if my legs are being thrashed about, I just look on how lucky I am to be racing my bike with good health and great people. With one more race to go before I close off my 2012 season I’m hoping to go out with no regrets. The 129 kilometer world championships will be my last on junior gears, where I won’t soon forget how much hard work (and spinning) it took to get there. I’d like to thank every person who has helped me out in these escapades, even for the most smallest things. I hope to make you proud next season with a team I was dreaming of joining many year’s ago!

 

Race reports- Ruiselede Kermesse

94 kilometers     2 hours 15 minutes  

This kermesse wasn’t the biggest or longest I’ve done, but we put the hammer down from the start, attempting to wake our legs from their jet-lag slumber. Having the all of the guys, especially Greg Daniel, eating their stems made the race somewhat of a team time trial. We  were able to get most of the team (5) into a 9-man break which worked well together up until the closing lap where a couple attacks softened our legs before the final kick to the line. I was blocked in the sprint when on the winning Belgian’s wheel, making him my rabbit that I wouldn’t be catching since this happened with only 200 meters to go. C’est la vie. I was 4th along with a 2nd, 6th,7th,9th, and 22nd from our team. Here is the Strava file I promised (I didn’t have my power meter, just stealing other’s): http://app.strava.com/rides/19399050

Coming up this weekend are big one-day races, the Omloop Mandel-Leie-Schelde (7 bergs including the Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg) and then Vlaamse Gewesten(WINDY). I did both last year with a 19th and 8th place which I’m looking to improve on.         Thanks for reading

Day in the life of a cyclist

We woke up at 8:30 for our first full day to a beautiful sunny sky which is medium rare in this cow-crazy country. A big breakfast of Muesli (pretty much oatmeal, but better) topped with a banana and peanut butter got the day started off right. After, we kitted up and rode some circles accompanied by our director (Billy Innes) who led us through the maze of twisting farm roads. A quick trip to the market for some necessities, and then a slightly longer stay at the coffee shop were highlights of a fairly slow day (along with a taco tuesday dinner). The racing starts tomorrow with a kermesse just 25 kilometers away (Ruiselede) which I will be putting on Strava to show how far I went into the cave of pain. Thanks for reading!

I’ll try to update every other day by the way (with pictures).

Europe!

Hello everybody, I am currently in Izegem, Belgium at the USA Cycling house with a great racing block coming up. I’ve got some great teammates for a hopefully successful trip! I left yesterday, travelled for a solid 24 hours, then straight to building bikes and strolling along the famous canal road (freshly paved)! If I’m selected for the world championships the trip will be prolonged until the 24th. Here is the schedule for the next couple of weeks, thanks for following:

22 August: kermesse Ruiselede
25 August: Mandel Leie Schelde, UCI 1.1   GNARLY
26 August: Vlaamse Gewesten, UCI 1.1          FAST
31 Aug- 2 Sep: G.P. Ruebliland, UCI 2.1 (SUI)
6-9 Sept Regio Rothaus Tour, UCI 2.1 (GER)
Kermesses (TBD)