Saturday, June 18, 2016

North Mankato Road Race

Today we raced the penultimate stage of the North Star Grand Prix which was a 97 mile road race in North Mankato. We did 4 laps of a flat 20 mile circuit that featured a 500 meter long narrow driveway of a climb that maxed out at around 18% at the end of the lap. After the laps we tackled a 3.5 mile circuit 5 times. The circuit also had a roughly one kilometer hill of about 5%. The goal for the day was to be aggressive and soften the field. For the first couple laps we cruised along in the field as a lot of guys did attacks that were going nowhere. The second time up the climb we set up Nic and Nolan, and they made a split of about 8-10 riders, but the field chased hard for about half a lap and brought the group back. The third time up the hill I was one of the first riders up, but the whole group was pretty much right on my wheel, so I did not see a need to drive the pace. Attacks flew like crazy on the final lap, and Oliver was able to make it into a move that had the most significant gap of the day. As we hit the hill the final time Nic went off the front but decided hold back then. A lot of riders were seeing stars at this point and one ran into me. This caused me to run into a curb and unclip. However, I didn't let this get me out of my rhythm and finished the hill near the front of the group. Over the top I went into a break with 4 other riders. A few kilometers later Evan Huffman bridged up and attacked with Joe Schmalz. This ended up being the winning move. Over the next couple laps Nolan and I pushed the pace in our group to keep Nic as close as possible to the lead riders. I was sure I was at my limit for the first lap, but somehow I kept ticking away. With a couple laps to go other teams started setting the pace, but I would still go to the front when the pace lessened. As we hit the hill on the circuit the final time Nic sailed up the hill away from the group. He didn't catch Huffman and Schmalz but took an 8 second lead on the riders in my group plus the time bonus for third place. This now moves him into 7th overall heading into the infamous Stillwater Crit, the final stage of the North Star Grand Prix. We rode really well as a team today. We all covered moves and were aggressive. Evan helped position me, Nolan, and Nic for the hill. Nolan and I were able to help Nic in the finale, and Nic sealed the deal with a podium on the day. It was a fantastic day for the Lupus Racing Team!

Uptown Minneapolis Crit

Last night we raced the Uptown Minneapolis Crit of the North Star Grand Prix. The Crit was 35 laps long on a 0.8 mile course with 6 turns. The plan for the day was to save energy and maybe go on the attack if a good opportunity presented itself. The roads were a lot smoother than the crit we did a couple nights before, so that was a nice thing. There was no forecast of rain, but there was some drizzle at the start. Since it appeared it may rain I ran some very low pressure in my tires. I started out near the front and wanted to just stay safe for the first few laps and get a feel for the course. I felt comfortable, and guys were attacking off the front. It appeared to be very difficult off the front as the field seemed motivated. Nothing ever really got a significant gap and the rain stopped. In my mind at this point I thought it was best to save energy. Evan, Nolan, Nic, and I were usually pretty close to each other throughout the race, and Evan got in a move for a couple laps around 20 laps to go. Other than that we were staying toward the front of the field and saving energy. With around 10 laps to go hard drizzle began that made the course wet. This changed my game plan to survive and stay near the front. With 7 laps to go there was a big crash that I was caught up in. I took a free lap and re-joined near Nic and Evan. While I was in the pit Carp told me to stay in front of any splits and not lose time. With about 4 laps to go I came around Nic, eased a little, and signaled for him to follow me. For the next four laps I went slow enough through the turns to keep it upright but was railing the straights full throttle. I never looked back, but Nic was on my wheel the whole time and finished right behind me. Both of us were able to stay in front of the splits and not lose time. This was a success because Nic moved up to 9th place in the GC heading into the hilly 97 mile North Mankato Road Race today.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cannon Falls Road Race

Yesterday we raced the Cannon Falls Road Race at the North Star Grand Prix. The stage is a very flat 83 mile stage that starts out with a 75 mile road race loop with 4 two mile finishing circuits. It was not very windy, it is early in the race, and there were a lot of motivated riders. We thought a break would not roll, but we placed riders at the front of the peloton to go with moves just in case. The race started off and one mile in there was a crash that took down about half the peloton. Nicolai was the only rider on our team to crash, and he only has some road rash and broke a set of wheels. Other teams, including the Rally Team who is leading the race, lost multiple riders in the crash. It really stinks to see a lot of guys go down and go to the hospital. I hope they all have a speedy recovery. Fortunately our team was fully intact after that crash. The whole field sat under the only tree in the area for about a half hour while riders were hauled off in ambulances, and team cars came up to us. We then resumed racing, and the pace was very fast. Many guys were attacking, but they never got a significant gap. We were trying to put riders in moves that only had Rally riders because if Rally had a guy in the break they would not chase. The constant attacking made for a hard day of racing. Finally about after 50 miles of racing a break of 4 went clear. The pace was not fast after the riders went, but as we approached the finishing circuits the speed increased and we closed in on the leaders. We had the leaders within about 20 seconds on the circuits and Evan Huffman of Rally jumped across to them. Evan tried to go with him but just didn't have the legs. I was floating in the top 20-30 but could just never get all the way to the front as the field was swarming. I wanted to get on the front to chase, but I just kept getting swarmed. Evan and Nicolai were able to do a couple of turns on the front, but Huffman stayed away for the win by 9 seconds. We finished safely in the field behind. All in all it was a good day because we did a good job following the significant breaks and got in the splits that mattered. It was an error missing Huffman in the finale, but there are still 3 more days of racing left. Tonight we have a flat crit in downtown Minneapolis.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

North Star GP Day 1

The North Star Grand Prix is a 5 day, 6 stage stage race in and around the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area of Minnesota. The first day started off with a 5 mile flat TT along the Mississippi River in the morning. There was a turn around, but you could pedal almost the entire time. I went out a little too hot and had to back off later in the effort. Our best rider in the TT was Nicolai as expected at only 22 seconds off the race lead. We should be able to help him gain that time back throughout the week.

In the evening we raced a 40 lap crit in downtown St. Paul. This crit had 6 turns over one kilometer, and there were a lot of manhole covers and cracks in the road to make things spicy. I got the best starting position ever at 150th wheel out of 150 and decided I would gradually make my way to the front throughout the race. I had fun railing turns to save energy. I would leave gaps going into turns, go through the turns faster than the other riders, and pass about 5 guys in a turn without accelerating. Finally, with about 15 laps to go I made it to the front and wanted to help Evan. With 11 laps to go a guy crashed in front of me and had his handlebars stuck in my front wheel. I took a free lap, but was put back in around 50-60th wheel. The pace was picking up, but I went back to picking off riders. I never could regain contact with Evan but had a fun race. A lot of riders went down, and we had Oliver and Nolan go down. They are not injured terribly other than some road rash. Nicolai did not lose any time and moved up to 13th in the overall. Today we have an 83 mile road race in Cannon Falls, MN. This stage tends to splinter because there are a ton of crosswinds. It should be an exciting day!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Air Force Cycling Classic Crystal Cup

Today we raced the Air Force Cycling Classic Crystal cup. The race was 90 minutes long over a 6 turn 0.8 mile course. Since this race was an omnium I was looking for a break yet again. I stayed patient near the front like yesterday and let small moves that did not have UHC and Astellas roll. About 30 minutes into the race a big split with UHC and Astellas riders went, and I knew this was the move. Nicolai went with the move, and I was positioned right behind him. I hesitated because I did not want to drag the whole peloton to him, and that hesitation meant I missed the move. From this point I surfed at the front of the peloton and covered some small moves, but nothing would really roll. Oliver got into a move with one other rider for a while but was reabsorbed by the peloton shortly after Nicolai took a lap. My goal from that point on was to protect Nicolai, so he could get the best possible result. With about 8 laps to go he was caught behind a crash and had to get back up, and with 6 laps to go I was also caught behind a crash. I was surprised that I was able to get back to the front of the peloton, so when I got there I helped Oliver and Jonah to help Nicolai. With two laps to go UHC took over the pace and had a gap with 10 riders that we missed out on. Jonah crushed it going into one to go and then I took over giving it everything I had. When I stopped pulling I realized I had a gap on Nicolai, an error on my part. At the end of the day Nicolai came away with 7th in the race, and I feel we worked well as a team. The Air Force Cycling Classic was put on very well, and I am happy I was able to take part in it. Now we are headed to the North Star Grand Prix that starts this Wednesday.