Friday, June 09, 2006

Vlaamse Ardennen

Yesterday John Devine, Scott Jackson, and I rode the N36 for 40 kilometers south into the city of Ronse, the heart of the Flemish Ardennes region. When we got there we did a few of the climbs included in the Tour of Flanders. We rode the Patterburg and Oude Kwaremont, which are two steep cobbled climbs. Those cobbled climbs are tough. Pros make them appear so simple, but I had to ride pretty hard just to get over them. Then we did a few paved climbs and headed back to Izegem. This picture I took from the top of the Oude Kwaremont pretty much sums up how the Flemish Ardennes look. They are green, rolling, and have red brick houses that can't be seen in the background.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


This morning John Murphy and I rode with John Devine for 1 and a half hours and did a few openers to get ready for the Oosterzele race later in the day. We left for Oosterzele at about 1:45pm to get there for the four o'clock start. We got to the registration at about three pm. They almost let John register. Then some guy looked at my license and asked for some papers, so I gave him my passport. Then a guy that spoke English said we needed papers granting us permission of race in Belgium from USA cycling. Therefore, they wouldn't let us start. I was really looking forward to doing this race in order to prepare well for the 200km UCI 1.2 Cras Avernas. There will be pro teams there like it will be very fun, hard, and interesting.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ozkozebeke Kermesse

Today Brandon McCeever, Pat McGlynn, and I rode to Ozkozebeke, about ten kilometers from our house in Izegem. When we finally found the registration a lady who I later found goes to races and cheers and helps foreign riders told us where we needed to go and even pinned our numbers. She later informed me there were a bunch of expros at this race. The loop was 6.7 km long and we were to do 16 laps on it. It was dead flat, had a bunch of turns, and it was a very windy day. There were about seventy starters, so a relatively small field compared to what we have been used to lately. My stomach was feeling better today, so I was happy about that. My goal for the race was to race toward the front of the group, remain conservative, and finish the race. That is what I did at the beginning of the race. Brandon and Patrick tried some attacks on the first two laps but were unsuccessful. These attacks proved to be their downfalls and lead to them pulling out of the race shortly after. There was a crosswind section that was completely nuts. It was in the gutter every lap. Then on the fourth lap during that section the funniest thing that has happened in my cycling career happened to me. I was in the gutter going all out and suffering fine. Then the wheel in front of me kept going up the road. I went harder but just didn't have the power to keep it. I didn't blow up but just couldn't stay in. I was a bit annoyed that I had to pull out but was happy I am feeling better. After I pulled out I realized a lot of people were behind me and still working even though they had no chance at all of catching back on with the leaders. In the end I think fifteen riders finished. Two off the front and a group behind them. It was crazy attrition. If i can look at any things I did wrong I would say I need to stay even more to the front, in the first echelon and gain fitness. That is it. I was moving up smartly, in turns and following through the pack and not outside of it, like I usually can do in the US. I race again on Wednesday. Hopefully I can finish that.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Photos Volta Tarragona

Photos Volta Tarragona

Conclusion Volta Tarragona

Today Matt and I mostly rested in our room all day. He had problems with diarrhea all night and didn’t feel like doing anything. Steve didn’t think I should ride but I still went out for about an hour to see if it would make me feel better. During the stage nothing changed but there were a lot of attacks from a Dutch team in attempt to get John out of best foreign rider. By the end of the day he was still in third place on the general classification, the best under 23 rider, and best foreign rider. I still feel a little sick to the stomach but mostly better. This race didn’t go too well for me but I won’t let it get too me. I still have many more races to come and got some good training in the mountains.

Stages 4 and 5 Volta Tarragona

Today was a bad day for both Matt and I, but it was a very good day for our team. Matt and I were supposed to ride 20 k out to the 5km uphill time trial (TT), do the TT and do the 100k road race course. As we were riding out to the course there was a tough headwind. I wasn’t feeling well and felt like throwing up. I ended up throwing up three times before we got to the course. When we got there Steve said we should go back. Matt was feeling decent at the moment and did the TT course. I just sat in the team van trying to keep warm. Then Matt came back and said his stomach hurt too and he felt like he had diarrhea and like throwing up. Steve gave us some Diet Coke in an attempt to get our stomachs feeling better. Then we rode back to the hotel with a nice tailwind and rested for the remainder of the day. John got fourth in the TT and did well in the road race today. He ended up third overall by the end of the day.

Stage 3 Volta Tarragona

First of all Matt and I had to get pointed in the right direction of the race course. We got to a town called Reus and were looking for a road called C-420. There were a lot of signs for it but none lead to it. Some Spanish people saw we were confused as they were driving by us. The stopped and told us to follow them. This got us off in the right direction. Today’s stage was tougher than yesterday’s but I felt better, so it was better for me. I felt a lot better on all the climbs. It is strange that in cycling you can feel like crap one day and feel good the next. There were three notable climbs that we did. They were all not very steep. The first climb was about eight kilometers long. The next two were about five kilometers in length. The funny thing was that there wasn’t supposed to be a third climb according to the stage profile, but the descent off the last climb was very awesome but caused many, including the yellow jersey, to crash because they were taking stupid risks This 140 km ride took Matt and I about 5 hours. In the race the front group did it in 3:45. John once again finished seventh today, which we had the opportunity to witness because we finished our ride about three hours before the stage finish and it finished in the town we are staying in, Salou. Some Spanish riders who abandoned today named Miguel and another whose name I forgot drove us to the finish. Miguel said he rode his bike a lot competitively since he was about twenty, and he now owns a bike shop. He is twenty six now and just rides for fun. He said this race is very tough for 18 year olds. The other rider was twenty. The Spanish people I have encountered so far are very nice. John will probably move up into the top ten in GC after his great ride today. Tomorrow is the five kilometer uphill time trial in the morning and a 100 km road stage in the afternoon. Matt and I are going to start very early and ride both of them during the same ride.

Stage 2 Volta Tarragona

Today Matt and I rode the stage 2 route of the Volta Tarragona from Alcanar to Cambrils. This route was pretty tough. The first thing we had to figure out was how to leave the town of Alcanar. After about twenty minutes of asking people how to leave town and them telling us the race starts that way(pointing to where the area where the race leaves from) we just said let’s just go, get to a road and roll with it. About an hour later we arrived on the course further from town. The race passed us at the top of the first climb and I got two water bottles from Steve. At this point John was sitting toward the front of the group and was looking good. All the other guys were further back in the group. The fans here are amazing. They cheer for everyone whether they are first or last. Then we continued into the mountains and I felt like crap from dehydration because it was very hot out. I was so bad that I ended up holding on to Matt’s jersey up some climbs. It was very hot out and I couldn’t get any feeds anywhere. This feeling like crap went on for about two hours until we finally stopped at a store. We were both very stressed because we didn’t know where we were and didn’t know if we would make it back to the hotel that night. Then we finally got out of the mountains and realized we were about thirty kilometers from Salou, the town where our hotel was. I began to feel better and started riding on the front. We finally got back to the hotel for the end of an epic day. As far as the race goes John ended up seventh on the stage. There were three main groups on the road and everyone left in the race was in one of those. Hopefully tomorrow won’t be the same for Matt and me.

Stage 1 Volta Tarragona

Today’s stage was very tough. There were two cat 2 climbs at the beginning and it was supposed to be “flat” for the rest of the stage. My stage pretty much ended on the first climb. I was on a bad day where I just didn’t have much power and was popped off the back of the group. After the first climb I caught two other riders midway up the second climb and someone else was behind us on the road. It was a bit demoralizing going up the second climb because it was winding and I could see the front group rolling it fast at one point. After the climb myself and the other two Spanish riders worked together of the flats, which were up and down these small hills. After about two hours of this the broom wagon was behind telling us we weren’t going to make the time cut. At this point I was dehydrated because we were too far back to get feeds and very tired from all the work I had to do with the two other riders. My race ended. Matt Obregon also ended his race early. He ended up in a crash at the beginning of the first climb and tried to catch back on for two hours also. There was a small group that got off the front towards the end for the stage win. John and the two Sams were in the main group. Nick and Patrick ended up making the third group on the road about seven minutes back from the leaders. Now Matt and I have to ride the courses everyday and get to the finishes before the leaders. We have to leave as soon as we get to the starts, which is roughly an hour and a half to an hour before the starts. This is going to be very tough training because we will be fighting the wind and mountains alone, but this will get us stronger and in better form for the races we have coming when we get back to Belgium.

Arrival Volta Tarragona

I’m sitting outside my hotel room in Tarragona, Spain, which is located about 100 kilometers south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea. I arrived here last night with my teammates: John Devine, Nick Frey, Patrick McGlynn, Matt Obregon, and two mountain bikers Sam Schultz and Sam Jarekovic for a five day six stage race called the Vuelta Tarragona. The first thing I learned upon my arrival to Spain was that the sun actually shines outside of Belgium. The weather is perfect and this race should be really tough. There is going to be a lot of climbing and we are going to try to help John get the best result possible because he is the most experienced of us and is on good form. Matt, Nick, Patrick, and I went on a ride when we first got here last night. I got some pictures of the city and the sea. I also have some pictures of the view from my hotel room.