Life On Two Wheels

Along the river and toward the mountains a morning shadow shimmers across the road. The rays of the first light jet through the trees and across a figure gliding upon the road. His breath trails in short spurts, petrified as it hits the icy air. All is quiet except the slight sound of the athlete as he summons himself for yet another days work. Soon the rest of the world will bustle with life as well and the brief simplicity of cyclist and nature will disappear into the everyday struggle of life in full motion; the errands and intervals, the appointments and intersections, and the deadlines and finish lines OutPaceTheRace

Monday, February 27, 2006

ToC- Stage 7 & Home, Feb 27,'06

Stage 7 & Home- Los Angeles, CA – Seattle, WA
February 27, 2006

Sometimes finishing a race without crashing is a little too much to ask- at least this year it is. But look at the bright side; at least I didn’t crash twice… Anyway, here’s how it went down. On the first lap during the fastest section of the course (40mph) a dozen other guys & I hit a deep “gouge” in the road that sent us sprawling across the road. I ended up getting a new spare bike, new shoe and having to motor pace back up to the peloton at an extraordinarily uncomfortable speed considering my situation. But in the grand scheme of things, the crash had little impact on my overall position in the race. With, perhaps, a little loss of confidence I managed to retain the “best young rider” jersey and finish the biggest race I’ve ever done.
Now that I’ve got a while before my next big race, I’ve figured out what my weaknesses are when competing against the euro racing style. The crux of which is my power output. Basically, I was having trouble covering attacks on the hills and closing gaps on the flats. If I can increase my power then I should be able to compete for GC… hopefully.
Aside from finishing the race, it’s great to finally be back home. As bad as the weather may be, I think I’ll have little trouble readjusting.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

ToC- Feb 22 - 26, '06

Santa Barbara, CA to Thousand Oaks, CA- Stage 6
February 25, 2006

I’ve always maintained that early season races need to be held in an environment that’s suitable. California is just the place and to be racing in such an area with such good weather is almost as exciting as riding with the top pros. Put the two together and you’ve got an unbelievable race. I was stoked from the beginning to be competing here, but with the performance of our team against the caliber of the teams in attendance leaves me excited for the rest of the season. Of course I’ve learned some lessons with the experiences here, but it has seriously jump started the learning process that would’ve taken perhaps the whole season…
Today’s race took us over some sobering terrain, some of which I could hardly crawl over due to the severity of the grade. We essentially rounded the corner knowing that there’d be a climb and found a steep, narrow road going up to the top of a mountain. You could literally feel the groans; know one expected something so daunting as that which lay ahead of us. We didn’t have easy enough gears so everyone ended up grinding up; some better than others. I managed to grind my way over in the front group, but it was a very stretched out front group literally winding half way down the “wall.”
Despite the severity of the climb most everyone managed to get back together and it came down to fast circuit style of racing at the finish. The sprinter teams organized well for the finish and managed to put down an incredibly fast pace coming into the last couple laps. When you’re riding that fast on a flat circuit so close to each other it gets fairly “gnarly,” but we mixed it up pretty well with the other guys and managed to finish strong. Apparently tomorrow should be similar to today’s finish, so it will be fast and flat for the entire race. I’m looking forward to it. I’m kind of starting to “dig” the fast racing around here…

San Luis Obispo, CA- ToC Stage 5
February 24, 2006

After donning the best young rider’s jersey for the last couple days I’ve finally come to realize just how chaotic the logistics are for a race of this magnitude. Most of the best riders in the world are here and to make sure that they make it from point to point is truly an amazing feat. Getting it done smoothly is an entirely different animal.
The strange thing about the whole logistics issue is that it’s relatively simplistic, but when you throw in all the different variables and complications it gets so hectic that you wonder how they can do one stage, let alone eight. When I finish the race and realize that I’ve got to get to the podium right away things get blurry pretty quick. If there wasn’t the “guy” sitting there to make sure I’m heading in the right direction then it would likely be impossible for me to actually find the place without fainting on the spot. With that said, I now have a deep respect for those who put on events of this enormity.
After finishing yesterday’s 140 mile race I felt fine, but when I got on the bike today it felt as though I hadn’t slept for weeks. Feeling like that and knowing that you’ve got another 105 miles to ride was not a good sensation. Luckily I managed to get my legs back when it started going fast, but the whole eight day stage race is a new thing for me and my body hasn’t quite adapted to the pain yet. Knowing that my legs will come around eventually every day is a relief and quite a confidence builder when you see the field of pro-tour riders shrinking with each new day.
I did notice something most peculiar today though. Now that I’m wearing the best young rider jersey, other riders seem to be taking advantage. They must think ‘he’s young so we can push him around,’ I find it most peculiar, because previously this wasn’t the case. I guess you’d kind of expect it, but for it to actually be happening is somewhat sad and funny at the same time. I must say that it’s most unbecoming of them to rile the young- just watch your back...

ToC- Stage 4
Embassy Suites, San Jose, CA
February 23, 2006

You’ve always heard that stressful events bring out the true character in someone, well, I think the tour here in Cali is a great example of an event that would do just that. I’ve noticed that as the stress gets stiffer and our glycogen levels get lower, my team mates and I react different. To be honest I’ve got to say that they’re reacting like a team mate ought to. If one of us catches flack then we all do, it’s like a big happy family. Actually, I think that the efforts of the staff make life a lot easier for the athletes.
Today’s stage was a thrillingly beautiful experience. I can’t say that I had a lot of time to take in the scenery, but I got a chance to glance across the panorama a couple times… I heard about the rest of it from people in the area, “this is a great area, you guys are really lucky to be racing here.”
“Uh, yeah. What was that blue stuff?”
The rolling hills with the side wind from the sea never seemed to end, especially with Floyd’s team, Phonak, defending all day. The pace absolutely never subsided. Guys were trying to get away all day, but every time someone high in GC got away too Phonak had to chase. Quite a raw experience really.
The weather here’s been holding out well. Today it was in the 70’s. I don’t think that that’s a characteristic temperature of California in the winter, maybe the sun but not the heat. Most of us got caught off guard without sun block, so we're a bit cooked- only rare though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ToC- Feb 18 - 21, '06

San Jose, CA- Stage 2
February 21, 2006

And the story continues. Sometimes you’ve gotta wonder how a hotel can expect you to pay upwards of $200 a night for a hotel and scam you on the little things. I’ve maintained in the past that customer service is the leading factor in a quality business, so if you want to run it well, treat people like they deserve to be treated. Of course, I respect the Hilton Hotel chain for supporting the race and hooking us up with a room each night, but- at least give your customers free internet, water & a complementary continental breakfast! At $200 you’d think it’s a given… But who am I to tell them how to run their business.

So, plagued once more I am with the pace of the race. I managed to get food poisoning the day before the race began and just today got my legs beneath me once more. I was beginning to get used to the tremendous effort I had to give each time the race arrived at a climb, but until today I forgot what it was like to float up a climb with poise. Fortunately, now I’m armed with much more self confidence and am actually looking forward to the next few days.

Aside from the many boggles I’ve had along the way I’ve actually had a couple experiences (perhaps the first of many) that simply quavered my bones. The greatest cause occurred today on the descent. These fellows can descend like Falcons when they need to. The hills are super steep and coming back down them you’ve got to clutch your handle bars and hope for the best. The most nerve racking event is when you’re descending these hills and you cross the center line and hit a rode turtle with your carbon wheels. It’s like listening to someone scratch their nails on a blackboard. The hair on your back raises and you wonder how many more times your wheels can take it without cracking and throwing you 150 feet off the side of the precipice.

The other event of note is when a team is drilling it at the front coming into a big, race deciding, hill. The entire field is doing everything they can to stay at the front and we are literally filling the entirety of the road, yet riders are moving up on either side- squeezing in when there is literally no room for them to move up. Keep in mind that were doing around 35 mph and were bumping handlebars, just one little mistake by anyone and half the field goes down. I know that I probably shouldn’t be thinking about catastrophe during a moment like that, but sometimes it’s kind of hard…

Santa Rosa, CA- Stage 1
February 21, 2006

The day went horribly for me, I managed to finish without losing time, but it hurt & it shouldn’t have. I had food poisoning for dinner on the 19th.
Of note was the amazing sprinting prowess of our sprinter Brad Huff who finished 4th on the day.

San Francisco, CA- Prologue
February 19, 2006

The Prologue was a short effort of 5 minutes- flat in the beginning and climbing up to the Coit Tower at the end, an ideal course for me. The one problem that has thwarted me in the past and continues to do so now, is my fear of over-extending myself and “dying” before the finish. This seems to plague me in most aspects of racing; I always fear that if I go to hard then I’ll end up paying for it later when the other guys attack. I have to assume that I’m the strongest and go from there- bottom line, I need to have confidence.
Today I came out thinking about this way too much. On the way up the climb I never gave it 100% because I was afraid that I’d use up all the gas, but then I got to the finish and discovered that indeed I hadn’t given enough, in fact I had enough left to sprint for the last 150m. If I could harness my effort I swear that I could throw a deadly time, we’ll see though in the next time trial. I’m not normally big on excuses, but I’ve got to narrow the problem down so I can change it in the future. The trick’s going to be not making anymore of these “little” mistakes.

San Francisco, CA
February 18, 2006

Today was hailed as a double day by our director. We were to do a 2 hour ride in the morning on our time trial bikes and then a two our ride on our road bikes with several efforts in the afternoon. The day’s weather turned quickly from sunny and nice to a complete down pour. Fortunately, the down pour fell between the two rides and we managed to make it through the day without suffering in the midst of the rain.
With each additional day I spend on the time trial bike I feel more and more comfortable on it. In the past I haven’t had a chance to become acquainted with it, so I feel like I definitely have a chance to do well in the race. Should be good, I’m looking forward to the start tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fresno, CA- Feb 16, '06

Fresno, CA
February 16, 2005

Today I sported the Time Trial bike for the first time several times around the time trial course. It looks pretty good; it’s a rolling loop with a fairly aggressive winding downhill. I rode the downhill section several times to make sure I had the gist of the best way to hold my speed through the turns. Since I’ve never had a TT bike set up specifically for me I’m pretty psyched about it, especially to have one of such a high caliper. The team TT bike (Javelin) is super fast looking and super fast riding; I doubt there will be a ride of higher par than that of Javelins in the peloton this year.
We’ve been in Fresno for the last two days, and I’ve gotta say that it’s debunked my previous presumption that it was an ugly urban area. In truth it’s quite beautiful. It’s surrounded by green hills embossed with little farms and winding country roads. The total population is only 118,000, much less than I had thought. However, it does sport the growth of all California towns, and I’m sure that an invasion of classic California housing developments is imminent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fresno, CA- Feb 15, '06

Fresno, CA
February 15, 2006

The stage that we pre-rode today is going to perhaps be the hardest stage of the race. There seem to be dozens of category level climbs that have the potential to shatter the field as it ascends each. Most of the scenery is that that of the wine country- rolling green hills with patches of trees and foliage in the valleys. The roads are great; they wind amongst hills and valleys, unbeatable for bikes. The weather once more turned out to be quite ideal, hovering at around 60 degrees outside of the shade.
The hotel has increased in quality once more, today is the Hampton Inn.
Tomorrow we preview the time trial course which is located in San Jose.

Santa Rosa, CA- Feb 14, '06

Santa Rosa, CA
February 14, 2006

It’s February and to think that I’m actually in the midst of the largest race in the US is shocking. I must honestly admit that last year I never would’ve imagined I’d be racing in a race like this, let alone racing against a team like Health Net- but I am and I’m pretty stoked to be not only doing it, but also competing in it… those two don’t always go together.
Today we pre-rode the first road race. It went from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. This was one of the most scenic rides that I’ve ever done. The course followed highway 101 north adjacent to the shores of the pacific. Much of the early portion of the route wound along a dangerously abrupt 500’ precipice to the water. It reminded me of the west side of Maui, you begin to wonder how exactly they managed to build a road without the burden of its weight forcing the cliff into the ocean. After riding along the cliffs we ended up finishing in the Sonoma County wine country. Here the hills are rolling and covered only in grass, in the depths of the valleys between the rolling hills are quaint little villages. It’s all very picturesque. The weather was great too, 65 degrees, I could probably live here- the drivers just need to be tweaked a bit.
With each passing day we stay in a new hotel, the quality seems to improve subsequently as well, yesterday- the Holiday in, today the Hilton.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Trans: DEN, CO to SAN FRAN, CA- Feb 13, 06

In Trans: Denver, CO to San Francisco, CA
February 13, 2006

I woke up early to ride in the “fresh” Colorado climate for an hour before gathering my luggage and loading up the car for the trip to the airport- and I got to thinking how nice it’s been to actually stay in a house for a tad. Over the last couple days I’ve developed a since that I actually belong. It’s a rather enchanting feeling really, but it’s kind of in the wrong place, I couldn’t deal with living in Boulder. It’s just too unpredictable, dry, high, and a bit too yuppie. It does have nice riding though, nice plains too.
Aside from the packing this morning, I recently purchased a new phone charger for an inordinate amount of money. It turned out that the charger didn’t work very well, so I decided to take it back (they’ve got a 14 day full refund policy), & I wasn’t willing to part with that much money for a charger anyway. So I checked the internet to see if there was a Car Toys store in Boulder- and there was. So this morning after packing and riding, I rode once more into town, went to the Car Toys and bought a used charger for $6.99 that actually worked & returned the one that I had previously purchased for $38.99. How’s that for frugal intuition?
The rush to the airport went smooth, but after that all bets were off. First my bag was too heavy so I had to divvy some out into my carry on (among that divvied was that of my cycling tools) to avoid the overweight charge. Then as I went through security I was accosted for the metal tools... but nothing was confiscated!? Once I made it to the gate (45 minutes advance of my flight) I learn that my flight is canceled & am told to go down a few gates to a flight leaving 30 minutes prior to mine also to San Francisco (15 minutes prior to its departure) to see if there are still seats available. Of course they’re all taken (the rest of the passengers from my flight must have arrived at the gate a good hour and a half early to do some waiting) and I’m delayed for an hour and a half.
I arrive in San Francisco and am greeted by a jubilant Ben who proclaims that in the time he spent waiting for me to arrive he got the front tires changed on the team mini-van. Two miles later we get a left front flat. He calls ‘em up and they give him a classy “we’re closing up and we don’t have any staff here…” We change the flat on the side of the freeway at night. I end up finally arriving at the hotel at 8:45, four hours later than scheduled. But it was worth it, a solid life lesson in the art of changing Dodge Caravan tires.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Boulder, CO- Feb 12, '06

Boulder, CO
February 12, 2006

Well, the cold departs as quickly as it arrives. Today it was 60 degrees at 5500 feet in Colorado during the dead of winter. I won’t even pause to ponder how that can possibly be. I know one thing though; I prefer to know what it’s going to do so I can plan for a consistent slate of training unaltered by variable weather. We call that “mild weather.” You see, in Washington this is what we have, in Colorado they have harsh weather. Again, I would much prefer to have webbed toes like a duck than an extra layer of blubber like an Eskimo. Webbed toes are not a hindrance, blubber is. Wet weather is not a hindrance, cold weather is.
On this 60 degree day, I went for a 5 hour 20 minute group ride. It was pretty fast, but I was amazed by the depth of the talent and the extraordinary cycling community in Boulder. The population is 100,000 in Boulder, and I swear that there were at least 10,000 people out riding their bikes today. I know that I’m starting early this year, but it seems like a lot of these guys from Boulder prefer to continue doing the intervals over the winter, ‘cause they’re hitting it hard out there. We were riding in our group, & every 2 minutes or so, some guy would go by on his bike just gunning it- like he’s out doing one six hour interval. I wonder what it would be like to do a race out here, everyone probably fights for the front so that they can sit in the wind and gun it, probably lined straight across the road doing like 450 watts each. Crazy… & in the dead of winter- I must say that at a loss for words I am.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Boulder, CO- Feb 11, '06

The one area that I've never been to in the US and seem to have a bit of a fascination for is the plains area. The flat, bare, farmland. Here in Colorado, they have a bit of this, the mountains, as I said before, give way to the plains & you can look out across them and wonder what's over the hill. When I rode today, I got farther and farther from the mountains, always curious what might be on the other side of the cultivated hill- a little barn? Perhaps another farm? I know I’m getting a bit quixotic here, but I was enthralled by the simplicity and tranquility that radiated from the area.
When I first arrived I thought I was immune to the altitude, but as I rode today I was a victim of the height & felt like a great plain serpent was asphyxiated to my neck- rather unpleasant really. But if history serves me, as it traditionally has, the elevation should have little effect after a day with a few good hard efforts like today. So hopefully I feel like myself again tomorrow.
I leave on Monday for the start of the California training camp, should be enjoyable.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Boulder, CO- Feb 10, '06

Boulder, CO
February 10, 2006

I think there’s something about me that brings bad weather, whether it’s because I’m from Washington or I just come at inopportune times I don’t know. But I do know that when I checked Boulder’s weather while I was in Girona, it was very nice. Things change when I arrive- I woke up this morning to 14 degrees, snow and icy roads. What can I say?
Despite the “unpleasant” conditions, I had to keep my second visit to the chiropractor at 9:30, and since I’m here with a bike I had to get there on two, skinny tires. I have to admit that it was a bit awkward traveling on snowy roads on a road bike while everyone’s driving their “four-wheel drives” with chains. But the important thing was making the appointment, right? I wonder if he minded that I was soaking wet? Probably not, I suppose he prefers that over a broken back.
Nonetheless, the fact that it snowed today wasn’t of primary concern. I checked the weather yesterday and adjusted the training so that I could have the snow day off. I ended up spending much of the day washing the ice and sand off my bike after riding a total of ~3 miles. Yeah, it did dawn on me that the bike was totally covered in dirt after riding for 20 minutes, how that can be I know not.
On the way back from the chiropractor I was finally able to buy a new charger for my cell phone. I’ve been keeping it turned off to preserve “emergency battery” because I blew the charger out plugging it into a euro outlet. It’s a bit confusing, but I discovered that some cords can handle both euro and American outlets, and some can’t. My computer’s can and my cell phone’s couldn’t. I needed a converter for my cell phone not just an adapter I guess. Anyway, the new charger that I got can handle both the American and the Euro outlets so I’m all set & and only set back $38. That’s farcical- but I’ll just right it off, too. I wonder if I could’ve bought a new cell phone for $38, maybe an unlocked one on eBay. Maybe not.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Boulder, Co- Feb 9, '06

Boulder, Co
February 9, 2006

It’s great to be back in the US, stuff is so much easier. Everything is so much more productive here; you can get ten times the amount of stuff done here in a day than you can there.
Although I went to Boulder in late December for a short team camp, I never really got to know the place. I didn’t realize how abrupt the plains hit the mountains. It’s like the mountains suddenly sprouted- there are no foothills or anything to suggest that mountains will be in the region, they’re just there. Strange. It makes for perfect riding though; you can go do an easy 5 hour ride in the plains or a hard 5 hour ride in the mountains. Except for the altitude, the riding would be perfect, but at 5500 feet, the weather can change in an instant- you don’t get the consistently mild weather that you get in Washington. There at least you always know it’ll be raining, in Boulder it can be 60 degrees in the morning and 20 in the afternoon & snowing. Kind of abstruse really.
Today was a bit frenzied; it put the streamlined US culture to the test. I first had to get my training bike from the trailer, which was at the tire shop getting new tires, then I had to ride over to the Chiropractor for an appointment, and then I had a 5 hour ride to do. It all worked out and I ended up getting back at 5:00. Not your typical European day.
I’ve never actually been to a chiropractor before and had a preconceived notion that they were a bit of a hoax. But indeed, after the appointment I realized that they do a lot and play a ridiculously important role in sports therapy. After the crash apparently the left side of my body wasn’t working as well as the right, so he used his contraption (a laser that sends signals to malfunctioning ATP in the mitochondria) to reset the faulty impulses that the cells were receiving. After he reset them the cells were “firing properly” and the left once more worked as well as the right.
The five hour ride was meant to be very easy so that I could get my legs back after the flight. It all went smoothly; I profusely enjoyed riding in an area with so many different choices of road. They oil the dirt roads here, so their super smooth & of course, since their dirt, they’re less traveled. On a five hour ride the more you can shake up the monotony of the ride the better, and often the dirt roads are the key to the shake up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

In Trans: ESP to CO, USA

Transition- Girona, ESP to Boulder, CO
February 8, 2006

I’m back on the road, crowded shoulder to shoulder with obtrusive Crouts at 5:00 in the morning. This being my first European experience though, I must say that I had no incidence of the prevailing American hatred that is so “prominent” in Europe. When the media, or whoever, tells you that Europeans hate Americans, tell ‘em that when “the big deal” went to Europe, he met nothing but enthusiasm- & to my knowledge my team mates had no ghastly encounters either. Right now it’s only the Danish that “everyone” hates. I’m 12.5% Danish, so do you hate me too?
Europe has its differences, I guess the question is whether those differences are too different or not. I don’t think they are it’s really just the modernization of the US vs. the laziness of Europe. That may seem a bit blatant, but it’s the root of the difference. If Europe wanted to air on the “ease of use” side then they’d have easy exits on the freeway with convenience stores, supermarkets and the whole US simplicity- but they don’t. They want to wake up late, go to work for a little while, stay up late, eat cheese & wine, & go to bed. In the US it’s different, everything revolves around getting ahead, and the key element there is making money- so you get the go, go lifestyle which makes it much more modern and straight forward.
Here’s my itinerary for now:
Girona to Barcelona- by car (wake at 3:30am)
Barcelona, ESP to Frankfurt, GER (flight at 6:55am)
Frankfurt, GER to Denver, CO (flight at 11:55)
Drive from Denver to Boulder (arrive in Denver ~6:00pm)

Train in Boulder at altitude & attempt to dial the tt bike for the ToC time trials.
Fly to California for a 3 day training camp, the dates etc. aren’t concrete yet.
Tour of California 2/19/06-2/25/06
Fly home to Seattle.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Girona- Feb 7, '06

Girona, ESP
February 7, 2006

I rode in the country again today. I'll never fail to be amazed at the beauty of the place, but there is a certain extravagence to the modern life of the US that I am indeed looking forward to for tomorrow. The big stores, gas powered cars, malicious motorists, and English speaking people are somewhat sacred now that I've spent so much time within the confines of the "old days."
The last two days have been my first chance to really train with my Cycle-ops Power tap. I've found it to be quite a tool. Previously I used a heart rate monitor, but there's so many little glitches in heart rate training that make it fairly impractical. You're always putting out watts, the question is what the most efficient way of putting those watts out is and the amount of wattage you can sustain for a certain period of time- my power is fairly low since I'm light, a sprinter such as the local (extraordinary) sprinter on Cofidis from Bellingham, Tyler Farrar, would be able to put out an amazing amount of power... maybe around 3000 watts max, thats a guess though. Me? maybe 800 if I'm lucky.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Girona- Feb 6, '06

Girona, FRA
February 6, 2006

It’s amazing how much a place can change in just one week. When I left Girona for France, I thought little of the place, but now it feels like home. Actually, I have a new respect for Spain after France. It seems much more civilized, more down to Earth. France is too careless and messy- if you will.
Today was the first day that I went out on the bike by myself in the streets of Spain. I got my bearings and set out toward the mountains for some easy scenic riding. Once more, I was taken aback by the terrain around Girona. The place really is one of the best places to ride a bike- the roads, drivers, towns, etc., all culminate in a genuinely ideal milieu. It’s definitely nice to feel like you’re not chained to the apartment for fear of the language barrier or getting lost. The fact of the matter is that most people understand a little English, and if they don’t we can kind of sort our differences out and get the point across (different than what I thought when I first arrived). I actually had my first non-Spanish, non-English conversation yesterday. We both spoke completely different words- but understood what we were saying. Kind of weird, but reassuring nonetheless.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gagnieres, FRA up to Feb 5th

Gagnieres, FRA
February 2, 2006

Well, race #2 is, complete. The good news is that I’m still in 1 piece; the bad news is that I crashed in the last 1.5 kilometers to the finish. We were going ~55 km/hr and everyone was getting really sketchy then some fool made a foolish mistake and took a couple guys out. I was lucky enough to be right behind them, but at least I landed on them instead of the ground. Nonetheless I’m plenty sore and not real happy, but I remain optimistic about the coming days. It sucks that I crashed & all the hard work of the day went to waste, but in the grand scheme it was a pack finish and GC remained the same.
Today we moved hotels once more. This is more like a boarding place than anything. Quite big & located in a small town on the hillside. It’s actually the same place we stayed the night we got in at three o’clock. Since it’s up in the mountains the days are still cold, they’ve got tiled floors and a bad heating system so I’m looking forward to some cold nights (we’re here for 3 days counting this one).
Tomorrow is a climbing race with 2 category one climbs, I will need to make the most of the day and hopefully make up the ten minutes of time that I lost yesterday and jump into the overall. I’ll shoot for a good finish on the day as well. I am a little sore, but many of my best finishes have come the day after a crash- hopefully the tradition will continue.

Gagnieres, FRA
February 3, 2006

Today will be the climbing stage, all I can say is that were eating with a fork right now instead of a spoon- we’re hungry for a win. Today will hopefully be the day.
It’s pretty cold here so the trick’s going to be wearing enough cloth to be warm, but not too warm so you’re burning up on the climbs. Moves happen so quick that you don’t have time to think about how you’re wearing too much or whatever; you’ve got to constantly be contemplating how you can do the same to the other guy (hopefully).

Gagnieres, FRA
February 5, 2006

Once upon a time there was a cyclist; his main problem was staying on his bike. In the sprint, on the climbs- he’d crash. Not to say he wasn’t fast, no, his problem was balance. He made his European debut by crashing in two stages, one in a fast sprint, and the other as the front group made the top of the climb. Of course the thought occurred that maybe it was just bad luck… but how far can that go? Two times in a row, when its three is it still bad luck? When do you draw the line between luck and skill?
But I’m writing this on the fifth not the fourth, so I know how the story ends. On the third, the second crash happened. Essentially, we made it to the top of the climb and I took my hands off the bars to zip my vest up for the descent, someone tapped my bar and I fell headfirst into the ditch on the side of the road. I was at the front of the group so after the initial shock of crashing for the second time I picked myself (piece by piece) out of the ditch, untwisted my handlebars and jumped on to chase back on the descent. Danny waited to help me jump through the team cars at 55kph. There was a small problem though. I landed on my head, so my head got pushed down and my neck was kind of over extended, making it quite difficult to get into the drops and look up at the same time. For this reason, Danny would keep on gapping me on the descent. Eventually we caught back on and I tried to concentrate but ended up losing a couple minutes on the way up the climb to the finish. I was feeling great on the climbs, so it was quite a shame to see it all go to waste like that. You’ve no idea how many depressing thoughts I had after that- fortunately Johnny was able to straighten that all out.
I also found out during dinner, that I had broken my top tube during the crash. So I actually rode that super fast descent on a broken frame. Hmmm…
A stomach Flu’s been gorging the team and Craig was the latest to get it. It got him a little worse than the rest of the guys who got it, so he had to drop out and I raced his bike on the next day. Same size.
Yesterday, the 4th, we missed the break again. I felt good, but was a bit gun shy. The good news was that I made it through the race without crashing. I also got the news that Craig and I will be returning to the Homeland for California on Tuesday. I won’t be coming back to the Homestead though, instead, we’ll fly to Boulder, CO, then straight to California. It was going to either be Craig or I, but they decided to leave Frank in Europe and take Craig & I- along with Danny, who was already scheduled to return with Frank.
Today, the 5th, was the worst stage of the entire race. Coming into it I felt great, like I could lift the world- not the case. The race called for three loops around a circuit with three category three climbs and then eleven loops on a criterium like course with one steep kicker in it. I only made it two times on the first loop. The first time around the loop I felt fine, but the second time up the hill I felt like I was going backwards. I started on the front and barely made it over the climb in third to last position. On the downhill I was still on the rivet and when the downhill ended on a right turn into a long crosswind section I got gapped and dropped. I’ve got to say, seeing my race end before my eyes like that is very real. I mean, all the preparation etc., just to be blown away like that is, well, really quite bona fide to be frank… Anyway, CSC was gassing it from the first hill, I guess they wanted the last few points to win the KOM jersey. But as I looked up after making that turn I saw a black streak at the front which meant they were still on the front. I finished the rest of the race with some of the other guys that got dropped, but couldn’t do the criterium part, instead I rode back to the hotel & contemplated my future, until Johnny came in once more. They say don’t worry, you’re young, you’re still learning. I hope this is indeed the case. I’ll just assume.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

France- Feb 1, '06

February 01, 2006

The old part is pretty nice in Marseilles, but the rest is a bit shabby. Our second hotel is an Ibis (same chain as the last one), it’s a lot like a travel lodge or holiday inn, except its in France so there are little problems with it.
Marseilles has some really nice scenery. The mountains, ocean, little islands, Old Town, etc. Apparently this area is some of the most expensive real estate in France. There are a lot of big chain stores in France, that contradicts a lot with Spain which had next to none. They’ve also got KFC, McDonalds, Shell & some other’s that I can’t remember at the moment. KFC is fitting, though, considering the locale.

Today was also the first race. Racing here has its similarities to the US, all the tactics n’ stuff are about the same, the speed is a little amplified and the riders all know what’s going on, tactics are augmented to like the 10th power here too. There’s also a lot of climbing here.
I felt good today, a break of 16 went up the road after the second climb, some guys chased over the third climb but quit after we got to the bottom. It’s going to be necessary to either get in or initiate a break in the next couple days; I’d say that a result in the top five is not out of reach. I usually just keep getting better so I’m look forward to the next couple days. As it is, the guys in the break got a good margin of time over the main group so I’m now probably only going to be going for stages.
41st Place today