“You can’t goat me to pull through”

It's been over a year since I raced the Boulder/Mead Roubaix in Colorado and I am once again planning on heading back. As many of you know, we have moved blogs so it thought I would repost this blog for you to enjoy. Wish me luck!

........................................................................................

Nearly 2.5 hours into one of the hardest races of my cycling ‘career’, having nearly avoided the second most frightening crash I have ever witnessed, and doing more work in a pace line and solo than the last 2 years of riding combined, my last-ditched effort to win the Boulder/Mead Roubaix race came with a guy stuck to my wheel 5 kilometers from the finish….


Many of you have undoubtedly been watching the Spring Classics over the past few weeks. The races have been nothing but exciting to the very end. Inspired by these races, I decided to visit some friends in Colorado and race the infamous Boulder Roubaix.  This year, the race organizers moved the venue from Boulder to Mead, CO, a small farm town northeast of Boulder in the rolling hills of the Colorado Plains.

The conditions for this race were perfect for a Roubaix-style race, if not extremely challenging. A stiff, 20+ mile/hour wind out of the west and a course with nearly 34% dirt roads over the length of 58 miles and about a 1400’ per lap for 3 laps.  Our particular group was big, nearly 100 riders from two categories, open and masters. The start was fairly mellow with a stiff headwind for 2-3 kilometers before turning north where teamwork truly came into play. The echelons were setting up nicely but I quickly found myself in the gutter trying ever so hard to stay in contact with the obvious lead group of riders. As we turned again, the headwind hit us straight on and I found plenty of cover and decided to move to the front as a few teams looked to make a move on the next turn.  As we headed east, however, the entire peloton began to swarm me with a strong wind at our backs.  I know well enough to not let this happen as it puts me in a dangerous position for the next big turn. This time, however, it saved my bike and perhaps my collarbone.


Without warning, we made a hard right turn south and quickly left the pavement for the softest dirt section of the race.  The front row of riders and a few in between fell like soldiers shot down by the opposing troops.  The field blew up. Bikes and riders were in the air. As more riders panicked, more riders hit the deck. It was carnage. I luckily was far enough back that I stayed clear of the crash but at a major price.

The lead group of open racers drilled it.  I knew this was the race unfolding.  I picked my way through the fallen riders and tried desperately to bridge up to about 20 – 25 riders who were on the gas. As we turned east again onto the pavement, it was game over. The tail wind and an unforgiving bunch of riders created an uncrossable gap for me.  I looked around and decided to wait for a few riders to work together. About 4, then quickly, 6 of us began the chase. As we hit the steep section about 6 kms or so from the start/finish, I realized my group was not strong enough on the dirt climb to help me bridge the gap so I put my head down and (perhaps foolishly) tried to go it alone, hoping the lead group would ease up as they came through the neutral feed zone.  I turned the hard right to the start/finish, picked up a solo rider from my category who must have been dropped on the climb with the lead group and began a good two-man train. I honestly, if not mistakenly, believe we could bridge up to the leading group. 
We made it about 3/4 the way around the 2nd lap when a group of 4 joined us from behind. We clearly made a mistake trying to do it ourselves. In this newly formed chase group was a 200lb Aussie with big legs and an even bigger heart.  I knew he wanted to make it back to the lead group and had the legs to do it. He and I began to share pulls, getting a few more guys to do some of the work along the way. Little by little, we noticed riders from the lead group falling off. They were getting dropped.  By the time we reach the start/finish again, we were down to 4 guys. By this time, it became apparent Scott (the Aussie rider) and I were going to do all the work. I asked the other guys to pull through, but no one was willing to come around.  Every few minutes or so, I would sit up, just like you see on TV, throw up a hand, and ask the guys to do their part.  There was one guy in particular who had not pulled through the entire lap, sitting sheepishly on the back.   I knew he was positioning himself for a big attack closer to the finish. I decided to ask Scott if he was willing to attack the group before we towed the other guys to the finish line, but he declined. I knew well enough how this might end.


As we approached the final, most difficult climb --the one I had to run up on lap 2 due to the softness of the dirt and the fatigue in my legs-- I knew my best shot at a podium finish was at that moment. (I actually did not know if a podium spot was even viable, as I couldn’t tell how many guys from the lead group were still in front of us.) I hit the two small hills before the dirt with all I had in the tank. I reluctantly dropped by ‘friend’ Scott along with the other 3 riders, but as I crested the top the dirt hill, I hit a soft spot and once again came off my bike.  I hit the dirt running like a  cycle cross race, but in road shoes it was ugly.  As I remounted my bike, one of the four riders, the guy who surfed off the back the entire third lap, reach my rear wheel.  I was totally bummed. I knew my chances of winning the sprint were good, as that is probably my biggest strength in bike races, but I needed to get him off my tail.


We hit the 5km to-go marker and I waved the guy to come around to share the work to the finish.  He boldly said no.  I slowed down, looked over my shoulder to assess the proximity of the riders coming over hill, and I began to panic.  I knew there was no time for cat and mouse as they were coming quickly so  I decided to attack.  I put a huge effort into dropped this guy.  I put a good gap on him, but I knew with 2kms to go I probably could not hold him off and then win the sprint.  I decided to ease off the gas yet again.  I waived him to come around again and he cowardly said “you can’t goat me to pull through… not going to happen”  I was pissed. I knew he was going to attack me in the final meters but outside of brake checking him I had no option but to continue on.
My only hope was the hard, right hand turn to the finish line. It was an odd and frankly unsafe finish but one that might favor me.  The turn before the finish line was an abrupt right and the distance to the line was barely 50 meters.  It was clear whoever rounded the corner first was the winner.

As I peered nervously over my right shoulder awaiting his move, I began to think whether I should have attacked him again earlier.  I was second quessing myself.  For the first time ever in a road race, I knew one false move, one hesitation, and I’d lose the race. Granted, I didn’t know if I was racing for 1st or 10th, but in my mind, the race for victory was right in front of me (actually, he was still behind me). With 150 meters to go, he predictably attacked.  I had done one thing right, however. I knew the ‘yellow line’ rules were in effect so I positioned myself just left of center of the road. When he attacked, he’d have to go on my right.  If his attack was not strong enough or too late in the final meters, I would have one more chance to come around him wide in the final turn before the finish, taking the wider line versus the shorter inside line. Normally the inside line is the best, but because the right-hand turn was sharp and the road narrow, I knew I could get more momentum in the outside line and possibly get him in the turn and at the finish.
Well I did get around him and while it was not for 1st,  it was indeed for 2nd place.  Evidently, one rider who was in the lead group stayed away.  I honestly don’t know how he did it by himself, but nonetheless he did.  There was some talk around the podium that he must have worked with riders from another category before our start group which was illegal, but I really didn’t care. I rode the best race of my life and I was proud to be second.

From watching Paris-Roubaix later that evening, it seemed that 2nd wasn’t half bad after all.  As one of our clients said in a congratulatory email, “it must be something about second place today for the hard men.”  I did indeed feel like a hard man on the bike today, for the first time ever.

PS: If you have the stomach for more crash photos, check out some of the shots here

The Studio Velo Race Team's "Debut"

Some of you may remember reading my blog post  “You can’t goat me to pull through" about a year ago.

With less than three weeks from the 2012 Boulder Roubaix, in which I will participate yet again, I can't but reflect back on what was one of my greatest days on a race bike. Unlike this past weekend, where Josh F, Thomas N, Rob B, and I all raced together --AS A TRUE TEAM -- the 30+ 1,2,3 Bariani road race in the central valley of California, my efforts at last year's Boulder Roubaix were the efforts of one man on his bike.  There is something extremely gratifying in racing by yourself. Yet, this past weekend, I got a chance to experience what true teamwork can yield in competition and how in so many ways it is ever more gratifying. 

At only 60 miles, the Bariani road race is similar to the Boulder Roubaix course in Colorado, save the extensive sections of dirt of course. The course is relatively flat, quite windy with a few small hills to keep you on your toes. The California course does share some actual similarities with the one in Colorado, however: the roads are terrible, littered with holes, gravel, large areas of water and at time very narrow. As it turned out, the road conditions, the lack of a open road finish, and some stiff winds in the last few laps, became a big factor on the finishing lap.

Over the course of the race, Josh was the protected rider. He has already proven this season that his sprint is strong and decisive with a 3rd place finish a few weeks back. Rob and Thomas are riding really, really strong and so there position was to chase down breaks, position the SV team toward the front of the race throughout, and most importantly ensure a spring finish. And did they ever. Lap after lap, all three of us worked hard to ensure no team could get riders off the front for too long. I personally had to chase down a potentially winning break with the help of some really strong Marc Pro Strava riders and a few others. The 4th or 5th lap effort was so severe we actually split the field and at that point lost one of our own. 

Once the break was caught, the focus was once again on moving Josh up toward the front of the reduced but still 50+ strong peleton. Remember, the race started with over 90 or so racers; a much too large of a field for a narrow course and a yellow-line maintained race. On the final lap, the named teams were perfectly positioned while Rob and I moved Josh slowly  and painfully towards the front of the group.  On the final climb heading toward the finish, things started to get ugly. Some riders were illegally moving up the outside of the peloton toward the front of the group, while others where simply being pushed across the yellow line as riders bumped shoulders and vied for position. Rob was one of the guy who got a bit caught out on the left side, while I was fighting to move Josh up the right side. Suddenly I can hear the agony of two guys locking there bars, causing one of the two riders to hit the deck. 

While the plan moments before was to create chaos by sending Rob, who is climbing like a billy goat right now, off the front or to the front to elevate the pace in advance of the final turns to the finish, the bee hive caused by so many racers and such a narrow road caused more damage then we new.  As we peaked the top of the small climb heading straight into the wind, things started to open up. Rob and I both began to push it as hard as we could. By the time we reached the final left turn before the finish line, the peloton was truly blowing apart with the top guys in the field seating up a fast finishing sprint.  As I begin to yell Josh, Josh, I feel a small push on my left side. Yes!  He is on my wheel, and I am 3rd wheel from the front rider. Perfect. Now it's time to dig in and push as hard as I can. As I begin my final burst, which honestly was not much at this point, I begin to feel the top guys start winding up their sprint to the finish. I am now gassed. I try to pull off to the right and look up for Josh. At this point, I am so sure he is going to be in the leading position or two to win or podium in our first team race together. 



As I watched each rider go by, I realized Josh is not on my wheel or coming by.  As several riders buzz by, I decide to start sprinting. I honestly didn't know what else to do. And I had nothing left. I tried so hard to jump on a wheel but as you can see in the video, I literally had nothing left.  I was lucky enough to hold onto to 10th place. 

Turns out, the rider who crashed on the final hill/bump coming into the final part of the course, fell into Josh's rear wheel. He managed to push the rear brake caliper into the wheel and effectively 'put on the brakes.' Josh's race was over. Both Rob and I had no idea, but in the end were very pleased Josh was okay and he finished the race unscathed. 

All in all, this first team race for me was a truly rewarding race experience. Unlike the Boulder Roubaix, which for me was and will be yet again a solo effort of man versus man on the road, this past weekend's Bariani race taught me so much more about true bike racing. I am honored and excited to be racing with Rob, Thomas and Josh this season. While we don't have the largest or organized team out there, we do have heart and the legs to race and the passion to win.

Stay tuned for the next race report. 



Hydration pack without compromise

The new Zealot 10 hydration pack from Osprey is here! Whether you are crushing some single track or just out for a longer ride, staying hydrated is essential to keeping you happy and healthy. This innovative all-mountain rider pack is well ventilated, light, and has huge amounts of storage space ideal for a day in the mountains. With the expected craftsmanship and durability of all Osprey packs, the Zealot 10 has some awesome new features including a removable tool pouch and unique body armor attachment abilities.

The Zealot 10 has a narrow frame designed to keep weight centered and close to your body without limiting mobility. The Airscape back panel is built of ridge molded foam covered in mess to help heat escape and keep you drier longer. The adjustable shoulder straps are also ventilated and easy to customize to your body.

 The Zealot 10 has an assortment of quick access pocks for your ipod, nutritionals, sunglasses etc. The top slash pocket is lined with soft no scratch fabric. It also has a full zip back pocket, which opens the entire back panel, so you never have to dig. The elastic, which serves to stabilize your water depending on level, is also great for organizing items within the pack. Equipped with the standard Osprey details, like a Lidlock for your helmet, and a magnetic clip for the bite valve, it also has attachments for lights and a removable tool pouch accessible in a separate bottom pocket.  The tool pouch unrolls to provide a workspace and is a great way to stay organized.


Stop on by the shop or check it out online.  Grab your patch kit, some layers, maybe your body armor- if you are feeling particularly rowdy- and explore the versatility of the new Zealot 10!

NAHBS 2012 -- Upping the bar yet again

To the discerning eye, nothing is more pleasurable than visiting the bike industry artists at the annual North American Handmade Bike show (NAHBS). Nowhere else in the bike industry do more custom, handmade bicycle builders, accessory specialists, among others, unit to show off their works for art. 

Once again, Studio Velo visited the show to see old friends, check out the latest show pieces and walk the booth to see if there is something our store is missing... in an effort to not only satisfy our own bike fetishes but to ensure we are offering our clients the best the industry has to offer.

Per usual, the exhibition was filled with world-class artists from around the country and beyond. 

One small 'manufacturer' of a cycling essential, King Cages, showed off the multi-use features of the world's best bottle cages: Bottle Opener. 

 


One thing we are most proud of is the presence of several of our bike brands. I know most of you get a chance to see ( or in many cases ride & own) much of this road jewelry, but we can't not showcase to the rest of you some of the more beautiful creations from Independent Fabrication, Cyfac, and Guru. 

Worlds can't possibly express what photos can. Check out some of the standout bikes we saw at the show. 


The new Indy Fab Ti FLW Cross Bike -- wow! 


Custom painted Enve bar, stem, Fox Fork, post & more on MTB -- classy 


New SSR Max -- the Stainless Steel Road frame made for the big boy


Belt drive anyone? On SSR -- Hit the streets with style 


Looking for a more traditional city bike -- say no more! 


Guru - hand-crafted in Canada - enters the mtb world with style. Stainless 29er


The new Absolu from Cyfac -- now ridden in the Pro Peloton. 


When it comes to uncompromising paint detail, few do it as good as Cyfac.  Who says white is passe? 

Can't they use a better box?

Can’t they make a better box? 

Recently, an unusually large delivery of frames arrived to our door. It was like Christmas.  As the cycling season gets underway, we here at Studio Velo begin to take delivery of select 2012 floor models from each of our production frame companies:  Time, Ridley, Yeti, Ellsworth, Pivot and even some Fast Forward, stock Guru models, begin to trickle in. Unlike most cycling retailers, our selection of models and brands is limited, selecting only the most discerning models and sizes that most represent each brand’s strongest offerings.  As a truly independent bicycle retailer, we pride ourselves on selling only the bikes that deliver true quality and value to our clients. We don’t sell the most popular and at times the most sexy, but we do sell the best, hands down, the very best in quality of  craftsmanship and ride.

 What caught my eye as I pulled out each frame from the standard and relatively plain brown shipping boxes, was the exquisite wrapping and padding each frame received from the factory. More importantly, as I peeled off one layer after the next until I arrived to the naked frame itself, I was shocked at how detailed and meticulously wrapped the frames were.  Not knowing which frame was inside the box and under the cover of all this bubble wrap and padding, I figured it must have been the new Time Fluidity, which has been the much awaited bike for 2012.

 And it was indeed. Time frames, arguably the world’s finest, hand-made frames built without compromise in France, arrive to us –and thus our clients—absolutely perfect. And they should.  I pulled out the first of 4 frames and sure enough the frames were without flaw or imperfections.

Like every previous season, these Time frames arrived to our door absent of chips, scratches, and blemishes. Frankly, it’s hard to put on paper what this means to me and our shop when we see brands like Time commit to absolute perfection in their frames. It’s truly refreshing and helps remind me what it means to pay craftsman fair wages in world-class, environmentally responsible manufacturing facilities. Products that come from Europe might be expensive – as are products from the  US—but like the old adage, you get what you pay for. A Time Bicycle frame from its packaging to its finish, from its shapes to its ride quality, from its performance and its every detail, deliveries what most brands cannot. 

Intrigued to learn more about how Time frames deliver much more than just the perfect finish and beautiful lines?  Come by the shop anytime to see (and ride) one of these beauties. You won’t be disappointed.

 Looking for more instant gratification? Check out this in-depth look at Time Bicycles, reviewed by Peloton Magazine: