Thursday, July 30, 2009

RAGBRAI


For those who know RAGBRAI, I had the classic experience- enough said.


For those unfortunate na├»ve few who don’t know what RAGBRAI is, here’s your primer: RAGBRAI is an acronym for The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Every year, approximately 15,000 cyclists from all walks (rides) of life meet on the western side of the state along the Missouri River and take a weeklong jaunt across the state to the Mississippi River. Each of the 37 editions has been a different route but they always travel west to east with designated overnight stops along the way.


The folks who participate in RAGBRAI span the entire spectrum of lifestyle preferences- from family churchgoers, farmers, and factory workers to amatuer racers, triathaletes, and sports enthusiasts, to college students, partyers, drunks, and all-out hellraisers. I fall near the back end of that spectrum b/c those are the folks I’m most comfortable with, but I appricate the fact that RAGBRAI summons them all. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, or what you’re into- in July, in Iowa, we ride bikes.


This year, our team’s bus was out of commission, so the Crackanooners jumped on with Team Kamikaze and joined forces for the week. We couldn’t have hoped for better adopted teammates than the Kamis. They shared our same views as to when it’s time to drink (always) and when it’s time to get up and ride (late!). I want to thank Terrance and Skip for taking care of business so we could play all day. Also, Dirty Timmy deserves recognition for his endless entertainment. Tell us again about the kybo fleamarket, Timmy. And to all the rest of Team Kamikaze, I hope to see you again next year!


So it’s back to sobriety and normallity for me. After a week spent living in the sun and laughing with friends, it’s hard to be back in the cage. Alas, like most good things, it can’t last forever. But the memories always will.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tour of Lawrence


After racing the past two weekends, I’ve continued to feel better and better. I’m getting power back and now I’ll start working on getting the level of endurance back up with some more saddle time. RAGBRAI is coming up in a few days, which means a weeklong jaunt across Iowa on my SS in a semi-intoxicated state. On the one hand, it’s 400+ miles on the bike. On the other, the relaxed- sometimes downright slow- speeds and lack of nutritional management (read: beer-guzzling) keep me from considering this anything than vacation. It remains to be seen how it translates to my preparation for the next Tour of KC in August.

This weekend was the inaugural Tour of Lawrence composed of a crit and circuit race held on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The crit was a flat pinched 8 through downtown Lawrence with the Start/Finish on Mass. Street. I didn’t have high hopes for myself so I decided before the race to help our fast guys by working at the front and trying to cover attacks. As I suspected it would be, it was fast from the whistle. Initially, I was unable to move up in the pack and I loitered mid-pack for the first few laps. Eventually I found Thomas and as soon as I moved up next to him he asked if I’d seen the break go off the front. I hadn’t of course b/c I’d been sitting back in the pack picking my nose. But as soon as I heard a break had gone a bell went off in my head and I jumped to the outside to get to the front. I was on the front of the group as we crossed the line and I could see the break ahead so I continued on full throttle until I bridged up. I worked with the two other riders for just over a lap and then we got swallowed up. I was in some pain after that so I sat at the back for a few laps and then made my way back to the front where I saw several Bike Shacks assembled in formation. Just as I came up, three of them stretched off the front and got a small gap. I was sure they were going to try the same move that earned them 1-2-3 at Longview last weekend and that’s when I heard Bernie Mack say, “Oh hell no!” So I quickly jumped up and squeezed into their group and blew up their organization. That was cool. After that I drifted forward and back a few times and managed to stay out of the DFL slot while Stull was sprinting for the podium.

For Sunday’s circuit race, I’d set the goal of finishing in the top 5 and fully expected to at least hit the top 10, so I was disappointed to cross the finish in 15th. The race was 4.4 miles of bumpy terrain on the KU Campus with one signature steep pitch topping out to leave 500m of flat and wide roadway to the finish. The rest of the course was all up and down and I was digging it. Despite the short distance (22 miles), I figured this was my kind of race. I went well for the first two laps but at the beginning of lap three the crit-like pace got me and I couldn’t hold on to the lead group. My legs just stopped working and despite all my effort, I watched the pack go away, leaving me wheezing in around 25th position on course. I was bitterly frustrated at the scenario unfolding but I was determined to fight to the end. I settled into a rhythm and got control of myself. Eventually I picked up Stull and we rode together until we spotted Steve. I kicked it up to latch onto Steve’s wheel and, unfortunately, I’d lost Stull in the process. But then we picked up Chris Hudson and we worked together to churn out a respectable pace. Hudson is a beacon. He’s so steady and smooth and turns a good speed. We traded pulls for a lap and a half and I was really able to relax. With a half lap to go, I accelerated and went all out until the finish, reclaiming about a dozen positions in the process. I wasn’t happy with finishing 15th but it felt good to have the kick to finish it out. That’s been lacking lately and I’ve sorely missed it. When the mind wants to go faster than the body is able, it just plain sucks.