Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chris Lillig Memorial/Old Capitol Criterium cat 3 Race Recap

This past weekend, the Harvest Racing team travelled to Iowa City for the Chris Lillig/Old Capitol Criterium Omnium. As a cat 3 racer, I was unable to race the with the Elite team in the cat 1-2 (only) races. That meant pinning on my number as a free-lancing cycling-gypsy against a field that included three solid teams: Mercy/University, Rasmussen and Sakari.

In the road race, I managed to get into an early break with two from Sakari and one from Rasmussen. The four of us managed to stay away for a lap before Mercy pulled us back and reset the field. A short time later, I found myself in a another break, but it was only short-lived. From there I settled into the push to the finish, chose the wrong wheel to follow, and finished eight in the field sprint.

The time trial was an hour after the road race. I'll be honest: I didn't have one of my better TTs. I suppose that I was worked-over pretty well from the road race. I finished ninth among cat 3s.

At the end of the first day, I was sitting 8th on the omnium that paid five deep. That meant I had to get busy on Sunday if I wanted to be part of the omnium.

While Saturday was cold, wet and windy, Sunday's weather was beautiful: sunny and mid 60s. The Old Capitol Criterium featured a steep descent followed by 90 degree right-hand turn, then a straight away into a headwind, followed by another right hand 90 degree turn before a punchy climb. From there, it was flat with four more turns (L-R-L-R) before a dash to the start/finish. In all, it was 25 laps or about 55 minutes. Although I hadn't raced this course before, I quickly found it to my liking, especially railing the turn after that descent. Anyway, in the first lap, one of the Sakari guys rolled off the front and quickly was out of sight. I expected Rasmussen and Mercy guys to jump, or at least chase and bring him back. In either case, I was patrolling the front and ready for the move. But nothing happened. I then tried to get the peleton to chase, yelling at several of the Rasmussen and Mercy guys. A few individual efforts resulted, but there were no team efforts. A young Rasmussen rider told me that his team mates were at the back and suffering, so we had no help. To make matters worse, I flatted. After taking a free lap, it was too late to try to pull the Sakari rider back. I sat on for the remainder of the race, staying near the front while protecting my position for the field sprint. I finished fourth (5th overall) in the sprint probably a half a bike from winning it.

The fifth place at the criterium was enough to put me on the final step of the omnium podium.

In all, the Iowa City cycling club put on a great race. I look forward to returning there next year, if for nothing else, for that downhill and sweeping right turn.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pulling It Off

There comes a time when every cyclist must decide to commit to a bold move -- to take a chance at throwing everything to the wind and just go for it.

Some may think this means taking a flier and winning in a solo breakaway. Others may think of threading the needle and winning a hotly contested sprint at the line.

I'm not talking about any of that stuff. That's bush league.

No, the stuff that makes legends out of cyclists comes after the ride, or when it's time to clean up. This is especially true when there are time constraints, and one has to bathe as minimally as possible to get by without appearing or smelling otherwise so.

This move is called "Pulling It Off."

It was invented, patented and perfected by none other than my buddy, Shim.

The first time I heard those three words strung together in the context of cycling was after a lunch ride. Shim was standing in a towel in front of the locker room mirror, licking his hand and smashing down a cowlick on the back of his head. As he preened, he spoke with reassuring confidence, "Oh yeah, I'm pulling it off today."

Within two minutes, he was fully dressed in his work clothes and rushing to a meeting.

Now to Shim's credit, he normally practices good personal hygiene. And on that particular day, he also took a quick shower rinse before standing in front of that mirror. To save time, he simply chose to skip washing and styling his hair. Well, unless you count the cowlick-grooming.

If there's no time for a quick rinse, then a sponge bath can be substituted as a last resort. But be forewarned, sponge bathing is an extremely risky endeavor that may still end up leaving you all stinky. Therefore, in only but the most extreme cases -- a natural disaster, your wife's in labor, or Bon Jovi tickets suddenly went on sale -- should one ever consider pulling off the sponge bath.

It goes without saying that anything less than a sponge bath is reprehensible. Think of all that blooming, festering bacteria. Yuck. For those scumbags who choose this revolting path, let me assert that this places you beneath several species in the animal kingdom that groom themselves regularly, including apes, birds, felines and horses. You'll be in good company with pigs, though.

So in conclusion, bathe after every ride. If you're in a pinch, attempt to Pull It Off. Who knows, with practice you may become as adept as the legend himself, Shim.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Although it was seemingly just another Wednesday Night Worlds, Jordan Ross opened up a strong attack and gutter-balled the pace line in a 25mph crosswind. This was different. We were normally not so aggressive in our weekly group ride. The force of Jordan's attack snapped the pace line into thirds. I was in the first chase group with Mark Savery and Shim. We bridged up to Jordan, and as soon as we did, Paul Webb countered with a big jump off the front. I sat on while the others chased. Paul dangled out there for 90 seconds before he was brought back. It was my turn. As soon as we were all together, I punched it with all I had. I got away easily, quickly opening up a 50m gap. When I looked back, I saw Jonathan Wait attempting to close it down while pulling Jordan in tow. I mashed away some more. Jordan then jumped Jonathan and bridged up to me. We were both free and clear, and from there, we rotated pulls until we crossed the town sprint sign, two-by-two. 

Shim wheeled up next to me a few moments later and asked, "How do you like road racing now?"


Last summer, I met Shim and Leah for a coffee the Monday after they returned from the Tulsa Tough races. They both had a great time in Tulsa. In fact, Shim was gushing about the most exhilarating race he'd ever been in as a roadie. The thing was, he didn't have to tell me. You could see it plainly in his eyes. Like the rising coffee steam, his eyes were focused one moment, drifting away in the next. It was clear to me that though he was physically present in front of me, his spirit was still railing the corners in downtown Tulsa.

Then, with clarity he said, "You should join us next year."

I nodded in agreement, but I wasn't so sure. At that time, road racing seemed so distant to me. Back then, I was deep into training for USAT Triathlon Age Group Nationals. Aside from a plea to join them in Tulsa, it was too vague for me to latch on to.

A lot has changed since that coffee break. The biggest of these was when I was invited to join the Harvest Racing Team. Unbeknownst to me, Shim went to bat for my inclusion with the team while it was still forming. He did this despite me being a triathlete and a cat 3/Masters road racer with only a mild interest in road racing.

That I was a triathlete wasn't that big of deal, other than the fact that most road racers think triathletes are dorks. But the latter -- that I am a cat 3/Masters racer -- meant that I would only be able to contribute to team efforts in combined pro 1-2-3 category races, or when the team's other old farts opted to do Master races. But since Harvest is an elite team, combined-field races and Masters events would be a secondary priority.

Anyway, despite being a dorky cat-3 triathlete, the team still took me in.

Since then, I've put in over 2,600 training miles on my road bike, and I've contributed to team podiums in our first three races.

More importantly, my motivation has shifted. Having tasted both success and failures, I've found myself becoming a hungry student of road racing. My individual priorities have been replaced with the mindset of a roadie who is a component of fantastic team with firm road racing goals.

In short, I'm all in.

Of course I wasn't thinking of any of this when Shim asked me how I liked road racing this past Wednesday. No, my eyes were still scanning the tarmac, replaying how my teammates and I had just executed flawless road racing tactics to win a town sign sprint moments before.

It is exhilarating. And I told him so.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Road Trips

Every summer when I was a kid, our family piled into our 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon for a road trip to the Murphy family reunion in rural SW Wisconsin. The "Grand Safari" was fitting a fitting moniker for such an experience. With my parents and four siblings, and our luggage, food, sure had some of the trappings of grand safari through rural mid-America.

I hated road trips back then. Like most kids, I could barely tolerate traveling more than an hour at a time. I was too young to appreciate the stuff that makes the journey, and there were only so many games and stuff that you could do before things went south. Inevitably, we kids just annoyed the hell out of each other. Petty stuff would quickly spill over into pinching and silent games of torture. There was more than once when I wanted to choke the living breath out of my brother Matt during those road trips. I'm sure it was mutual. Sometimes, utter silence was the best policy. Anyway, eventually I’d settle down and quietly stare out the window, watching the rise and fall of the telephone wires from pole to pole while listening to the Safari’s steel belted radials rhythmically thumping the highway expansion joints. It was awful.

I was thinking about those family road trips while en route to the Tour De Husker a couple weeks ago. I was a passenger in Shim’s Honda Odyssey. While the old Pontiac wagon was no match to the comforts of Shim’s modern man-van, the basic elements of a road trip through rural farmlands -- right down to the rhythmic tire thumping on highway expansion joints --  brought me back to those days way back when.

My wife and I have no children, and we never will. We’re good with that. One outcome of this is that our road trips will always be simply the two of us.

I suppose that in a small way, my Harvest Race teammates will fill a void that the Grand Safari road trip from yesteryear has left behind. Sharing racing stories, course tactics, equipment selections, etc... will more than fill the time on the road. And yes, I’m quite sure there will be times when one of us will also want to choke the living daylights out of Shim. But all in all, good times await on the open road for the upcoming road season.

This weekend, the Harvest Racing Team has a single day road trip to Sioux City, Iowa for the Twin Bing Classic. After that, we’ll really get things rolling as we travel to the Chris Lillig Memorial/Old Capitol Crit in Iowa City, April 26-27.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Yips Have Come Roaring Back, Baby!

I don't know about you, but I get the yips. It's been documented. describes the yips as "nervous twitching or tension that destroys concentration and spoils performance."

Thankfully, I don't get the yips while literally riding a bicycle. My yips happen several hours afterwards, when I'm asleep and dreaming about riding. The nervous twitching and tension destroys the performance of my sleep. I kick, fidget and toss about until I'm inevitably wide awake. Often, Katherine is too.

My night yips only happen after an intense race, or challenging group ride. 

Take this past Wednesday night. 

Gnarly S/SE winds, and a cutting 35 mph cross wind before we turned north and began motor pacing in the tailwind for the next 20 minutes. I'm at my heart rate threshold when Jordan Ross launches a massive attack. The voice in my brain asks,"how does he do that? Where does he get that extra gear? I have no time to ponder, for Chris Spence and Mark Savery have matched his acceleration, shredding the small peloton in the process. Grant Rotunda, Shim and I jump to bridge across. I don't know about those two, but I am spooling my big ring out to pull the trio back. It takes 800 meters to do so, and from there, it's lights out until the town sign sprint at Ft Calhoun, where I finished third.

You see? I rode well there. No yips.

The problem is that the above dialog was played out in my brain several hours after the ride while I stared at the ceiling and a cheap wall clock slowly marked the time, "TICK TOCK TICK TOCK"

Try as I did, I could not get that ride out of my brain.

In Boyer's Chute, that nasty crosswind has returned, creating havoc on my weary legs. I am struggling to maintain contact with the group's sloppy echelon. 


Do I hang slightly off the back of the group to take a steady, but somewhat turbulent draft, or do I get inside the group and stay tight and smooth until it's my turn to take a beating up front, hoping that I have enough juice in my legs to not get kicked out the back while rotating through?


Oh golly. Stop this insanity. You dummy. Don't you see what's going on here? You've let the 800 pound yips gorilla back into the room and its killing your sleep. Now think of something else -- anything else -- but that damned ride. How about counting sheep? TICK-- one, TOCK-- two, TICK-- Ah, screw the sheep. No! don't screw the sheep -- that sick and wrong!  Ok, ok, just blank your mind. Tabula rasa. There, that's it. Yes, concentrate on the inky blackness of your eyelids. Good, it's working. Black-black, blackity-black blackness. Black like outer space. Now I'm floating in a tin can, far above the moon, planet Earth is blue and there's -- a hill. A hill that looks familiar. Oh I recognize that hill alright. It's Ponca hill, and Jordan is opening another attack with Spence and Mark following. Oh crap! I'm getting popped off the back as we crest it. The gap is too great to overcome..


You see? I get the yips.

Am I the only one of us who has this condition? Please tell me I'm not suffering alone. Maybe we can start a self-help group? Who's up for 12 steps?

-- I finally got out of bed and yanked the battery out of that cheap clock. Good riddance. Sleep came about an hour later and at least five more laps around the Wednesday Night Worlds circuit.

Happy Friday and Thanks for reading.