Friday, July 20, 2012

Tour of Ireland pictures

Going fast with Kyle on Stage 4

About to win on Windy Gap

The view

Kyle's birthday

Third on Stage 4


Team GC

Stage 4

Stage 4

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tour of Ireland Race Report

 Stage 1

Having arrived at the race a few days early, Kyle and I had good sleep before the race. Marcus and Kyle were still waiting on their bikes the morning of the TT but nobody was too stressed. Once we heard the bikes were on their way, we set out with our driver, Sean, to see the course. It was gradually rolling, slightly downhill, and had a little bit of a tailwind. After some lunch and saving a plate for dinner we rode out to the course and rode back and forth a few times. I was first off for Specialized so I was in a little bit of a rush to get ready but our director, Craig Roemer, stayed calm and that rubbed off on me so I wasn’t too nervous. I rode hard, maybe a little too hard at the start, and finished top twenty. Not great but a flat TT isn’t really my forte. Jackson Long had the best time for Specailized in 10th while the Irish version of Tom Boonen aka Ryan Muellen, smashed all comers to take the win. After a quick ride back to the lodge, it was time to shower, eat, and get ready for the stage 2.

Stage 2

The start of the race was chilly so I started with too many clothes, my first mistake of the trip. I quickly warmed up and shed my jacket but still had too much on. The racing was aggressive but not too crazy leading into the first KOH. A break of four got up the road but we didn’t get too concerned about it. The first KOH was full gas and we were caught on the back foot a little bit but we adapted and I went into the next KOH at the front and didn’t have any problems. The third and final KOH was where the fireworks really started and my teammate Marcus attacked over the top and scored some points. We made it through almost the whole descent before two riders collided and caused a crash. The yellow jersey went down and I crashed into him. I got up quickly and surveyed the damage: a chunk of skin was missing from my hand (I had started with long-fingered gloves which were too hot for the climbs), some road rash on my hip, and the force of the crash had rolled my tubular tire partially off. I got a quick wheel change and started riding hard until my team car came up and paced me back into the race. About the time I got back to the pack, Marcus, Colin Joyce (Hot Tubes), and a British MaxGear rider had gotten off the front and were holding about a minute gap. The pack decided they were gone and waited for the sprint. I finished near the front of the pack and Marcus was second out of the three-up sprint. This put him in third in GC. I went over to medical to get patched up then we drove back to the lodge. Upon returning, we found out two things: 1. The yellow jersey had been fined 5 minutes for jersey pulling and drafting a car. The difference between what he did and what I did is that he sat down and waited for his team car then made up four minutes in fifteen minutes. To reach the kind of speed it would take to get up to the pack that fast meant he would have to be not just motorpacing but holding onto the car. The five-minute penalty basically put him out of GC for good but it seems like the right car because riding like that was really dangerous. 2. My wheel had gone missing. Somehow in the commotion surrounding the crash it had disappeared. I still don’t have it.

Stage 3

The plan going into stage 3 was for me to get into the early break to get some KOH points and represent us to take some pressure off of Marcus. After some furiously fast coastal riding the real attacks started in the crosswinds. I spent a long time chasing down several attacking riders and just when I was drifting back I saw Colin and Muellen go up the road with another guy so I bridged across. I didn’t do too much work because Marcus was close to Colin on GC and I wasn’t going to drag him up the road. We quickly rode up to the first break and rolled along. We were holding about a 1:30 to 2:00 advantage over the pack until the last 30k or so when everyone started attacking each other. I scored some KOM points but I was really suffering from the efforts I put in to get into the break. I called for a feed and got a bottle from Craig and told him I was feeling a little crampy. One of the MaxGear kids attacked a long way out and held it to the line. Close to the finish, the yellow jersey came out of nowhere, closely followed by the entire pack. Normally I would have loved the steep uphill finish but I was going backwards up it and was happy not to lose any serious time. Marcus was up there in the sprint to defend his GC.

Stage 4

The start of stage 4 was held up about 30 minutes because the green jersey forgot his shoes. All of the English kids made fun of him for it though so maybe he learned a lesson. I didn’t feel very good at the start and by the time we got to the big climb there were a lot of guys up the road. Specialized teammate Kyle Torres and I jacked it up the climb and I went really fast on the descent. I overcooked a corner right at the bottom but was able to slow way down and rolled into a ditch. Kyle saw me and it was pretty embarrassing but I was fine, just one little scratch on my shin. I got back in the yellow jersey group quickly and Kyle and I sat back and let the yellow jersey slay himself to get us back up to the lead group. We caught them and I was attentive and made the break out of that group with three Hot Tubes rider and some Irish kids. I thought I won the stage but it turns out I wasn’t attentive enough as Muellen and Curtis White (Hot Tubes) had slipped up the road and gained twenty seconds. This was bad news for me because Curtis took the white jersey, one of my goals for the week. Colin Joyce took the yellow jersey. I was still happy to get a result and move up on GC though. I got on podium and got some flowers then gave them away to a girl after much ridicule and cajoling from Sean and Marcus.

Stage 5

Hot Tubes basically neutralized stage 5 with their seven guys. Marcus had a problem with his tire at the start but got back in quickly then avoided a kid crashing himself. A few guys attempted attacks but nothing was going to go. Due to the slow speed the sprint was extremely sketchy because all the guys who normally would be dropped or strung out were fighting for position and generally going crazy. I got pushed over a reflector in the road and my tire came off. The wheel neutral support had given me before stage 3 was not properly glued on and considering all the riding I did on it I am really lucky I didn’t die. Anyways, the tire was hanging onto the edge of the rim so it was catching in the break and then when it rolled under it would drop my front wheel an inch. I slowed down and literally jumped off the bucking bike and almost lost it. I got a wheel change and my director came up to pace me back and told me not to worry because of the rule that a mechanical in the last 3k means you get the same time as the lead group. But when I got to the finish at first the officials said the rule only applied within 1k and that I got my real time. I talked to the neutral mechanics and explained the situation and they said they would speak to the officials. Back at the lodge I was feeling frustrated with the situation until my director told me that the officials considered the circumstances and gave me the same time which I thought was fair as I wouldn’t want to see anybody else lose time that way.

Stage 6

Going into stage 6 I was 31 seconds out of the white jersey and 1:04 out of yellow. My teammate Marcus was six seconds ahead of me and would be trying to get the overall win. The race was pretty relaxed for a while despite Muellen holding 50-55k solo off the front for about 40 minutes then blowing up. I don’t know what strategy the Irish team was going for but that didn’t seem like the best move to waste such a strong guy so early in the race. Over the top of the first time up Windy Gap, Marcus got away with an Ireland rider and got about 45 seconds but was gradually reeled in by Hot Tubes in the crosswind section. Once they were caught Hot Tubes again controlled the race until the final time up Windy Gap. Coming into the climb I told Marcus I knew I could climb faster than everyone. I attacked around 1k to go but looked back and everyone including the white jersey were right there so I sat up a little and then kicked again to get the stage win. The best part was seeing the looks on Craig’s and Sean’s faces when they found out I won. I took 13 seconds out of Curtis so not enough to get the white jersey. In hindsight I should have went all in at the bottom of the climb to try to take the time but in the race I made the call I thought was best. I was disappointed to not take white but Curtis is a quality bike rider and rode a great race and I was very happy to take the stage win. I didn’t raise my hands at the finish line though because I still remembered stage 4 and didn’t want to embarrass myself saluting for anything but a 100% sure win. We stopped over the top of the climb and enjoyed a slow downhill ride back into Castlebar for the final time and actually got to look at some of the beautiful scenery.  Back at the lodge the mood was jovial as everyone enjoyed lunch and a presentation of awards. I was lucky that thanks to my awesome Specailized teammates I got to go up to podium again to receive the team GC prize! Following the ceremony, we packed up our bikes, said goodbye to Sean, and loaded into a van with Hot Tubes to go back to Shannon to fly home. We went to a pub that night and celebrated a great trip.

Thank you Texas Roadhouse for all of your support and making this trip possible! Also thanks to Team Specialized for letting me guest ride and to all of my Knoxville friends who have helped me so much over the years!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 2 in Ireland

After a solid 12 hours of sleep we woke up. We slept through breakfast so we scavenged some muffins and bread left over and then walked into town to fill our stomachs. We relaxed for a few hours and got ready for a ride. We realized Kyle's bike had a flat so we fixed that and did our best to remove the tiny piece of wire in his tire but eventually just covered it up with some tape and it held through the ride. On the recommendation of our waitress we rode to Lake Pontoon which looked like a postcard. We stopped and took some pictures then kept riding for a few minutes and headed back. We are pretty sure the road back into Castlebar is part of the prologue course so hopefully it is. It is windy and with gradual rolling hills so it should be fun to race on. It rained intermittently during the ride so we were damp and cold by the end. We overshot the town a little bit then had to circle back but it not took us about an extra 15 minutes. We showered, relaxed, then rode slowly back into town for some dinner. Now Kyle is using his computer and I am watching an old James Bond movie. Thanks for reading and these posts should get a good deal more exciting once the racing starts on Tuesday! I posted some photos of the trip on Facebook, too.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

First day in Ireland

After a debacle at the airport over a ridiculously high price for shipping my bike, I said goodbye to my mom and flew to Newark airport. There I met Kyle Torres, a rider for Team Specialized, which I am guest riding for this trip. We walked around the airport and he had some lunch while I had some ice cream. The flight to Shannon, Ireland was mostly uneventful. I watched a Sherlock Holmes movie then slept for a few hours and woke up with about an hour left to fly. From the airport, we had about an hour's bus ride to Galway. Along the way we saw a lot of different scenery and Kyle was amazed by how lush the vegetation was. I was more amazed that everyone sounded like they were from a Harry Potter movie. After the bus ride we were greeted by our friendly driver, Danny, who loaded our bikes into a trailer and drove us to the Lough Lannagh Lodge, where we will be staying for the race. I lost the number pick for the front seat but won the coin toss for the bigger bet so I have a little more room to stretch out. After spending a few minutes relaxing we took the ten-minute walk into town and had some chicken curry for lunch. We relaxed for a few minutes back at the hotel than assembled our bikes to go on a ride. We had to keep reminding ourselves to stay on the left side of the road, which was more challenging than we'd imagined. We quickly got onto some nice back roads that passed by a lot of farms and enjoyed the dry weather. Kyle took some pictures so I will try to post those later. The countryside was very beautiful and all the people are gregarious and friendly. We took quick showers back at the lodge then went down to a local restaurant for dinner. I had pork chops with applesauce and veggies and Kyle had a steak sandwich. The waitresses were very nice a

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Euro Racing

I'll try to catch everyone up on the racing over here. This morning Santa brought us all boxers and candy! Today we raced Christmas day on a course out in the fields. Pre-riding the course, I was pretty nervous about the race. The course had three really steep, rutted drops that had us all on our toes. Adding to the ominous air, Lionel broke his frame riding on the road. I don't even know how that happens. We rode some more on the course and then warmed up for about 30 minutes on the trainers. Most of us got called up near the back of the starting grid which was very narrow. We sprinted up the road and got down to business. The first few laps I felt good and passed a lot of people of the slick mud but as the race wore on the thick sod of the course started to really wear me down. I probably should have changed bikes sooner but only one had the mud tubulars so I was trying to stay on that one longer even though it was getting really heavy. With about two laps to go I slowed down a lot and a bunch of people passed me. I ended up getting 27th place and was the last one to finish without getting lapped. Sweet. Nate Morse did really well. Lionel had some more bad luck when he and John Fransisco converged into one line after taking entrances to a drop. Lionel broke his other frame and rode the rest of the race on it without realizing. Changing after the race the embrocation I was using was really hot and hurt a whole lot. Soon we headed back to Izegem to spend the rest of Christmas. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and I will try to post more soon!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Our four days of rest are over and it's time to get back to business. Every athlete in the house is racing today in Diegem. We did some fun rides during our time off, got lost, and stopped at bakeries. I think I know every song on Jim now. By heart. And backwards.
The race today looks challenging and everyone is excited. Check back for a report soon.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

News from Belgium

Thanks for your support!