Monday, March 2, 2015

All of the things.

Whoa, it's March already. Time flies when you're having fun, and I've been having a lot of fun. I've been meaning to do a proper update for a while, but I kept putting it off for a few reasons. First, there are exciting new things in the works (read: a proper website). Secondly, I've got a writing gig now with I want to save the good stuff for them. That's only logical, right? That means that what you're getting here is just the quick and dirty update for my real followers.

Speaking of my Velonews journals, if you haven't already found them, here they are:

There have also been a few articles about me, which is always exciting.

I'm amused anytime I'm asked for an interview, because what do I have to say that could be interesting? But if people want to know what's going on inside my head, I'm happy to share. I'm also cracked up by how much attention my appreciation of the Oxford comma has received. I included that tidbit in my twitter bio long ago simply as a joke because I was rattling off a long list of things I like. And, well, I do like that little comma. I also do not claim to be a grammar expert, but I do make an effort.

Now then, time to get caught up.

Tour Down Under was great; I really enjoyed getting to race on a new continent. Riding on the left side of the road was bizarre, but I especially couldn't get used to the race caravan on the left. I was nearly pulled off my bike the first time I went back for bottles because I'd never experienced that force on the left side before. We didn't win any stages in the TDU, but we did walk away with Marcel's win in the People's Choice Classic...the hardest hour on a bike in my life. My average and max HR for the crit were only 8bpm separated, and my max was the highest I've seen in over a year.  The racing all week was hard, the field was strong and motivated, and I left with a good boost in fitness after struggling post-flu.

Dubai Tour was another fun one. Just the culture alone was interesting to see. I was ogling every exotic car that passed by, but by the end of the week they were all blurring together. Oh, look, another Bentley/Lamborghini/Ferrari/younameit. The racing was also an adjustment, as there is no terrain besides overpasses until you get way out there. The hardest adjustment was racing in a field with only a few ProTour teams. TDU was a field full of guys who knew how to handle themselves in a peloton. They can be crazy, but they're at least predictably so. Many of the racers in Dubai were just crazy. You simply never knew when they would do something stupid.

Stage 3 of Dubai will be my lasting memory--that's what a perfect team effort looks like, and John certainly knows how to seal a deal. We narrowly missed out on winning the whole thing, which is always disappointing, but there are much bigger things to come.

Next up was the Vuelta a Murcia, another fun one. I made the 12-man selection over the first climb at 15km into the race when things went nuts, but the move was a bit too dangerous for its own good and was chased back eventually. I didn't have quite enough left to get over the top of the double-cat-1 climb with the lead group, but an exciting descent saw me rejoin them at the bottom. In the group of 40, it was just me and Daan, and I used the last of my legs to set him up for the finishing climb. The finish would've been good for me, had I not spent my legs in the early move. That's racing, though.

My last race was the Tour du Haut Var in France, a 2-day stage race featuring a pair of tough rolling/climbing stages. No major climbs, but plenty of intermediate ones all day long. The first day was cold and raining the whole day. I wasn't so excited about that, but you can't always race in sunny Australia or Dubai. Once I got over being wet, I did have a lot of fun. The race and the rain meant that we had to be focused all day long, so it flew by. I got to be a protected rider for the weekend, which was an adjustment--most of all when it came time to sprint at the end. Protecting someone else going into a sprint is something I'm very good at, but positioning myself at the end after my teammates have all done their work...I'm a bit rusty. As such, I was a bit too timid, letting others dictate the race and then I got caught up by a leadout rider who had dropped anchor. A missed opportunity there, but I was encouraged by my legs.

A moment from the race:
"How are you feeling, Chad?"
"Good, I think. I can't feel my legs, but I'm not breathing hard. I guess I'm okay!"

Stage 2 was even tougher, but nice and sunny all day. After an hour of constant attacks, a large break got away and we settled in to an uncomfortable pace as AG2R set about chasing them. Our guys focused their effort on delivering me and Luka into the final climb fresh and at the front, and they're certainly the best in the business: I started the climb second wheel. 8 painful minutes later, the field was down to 15 riders. We would be joined by 10 more in the few kilometers before the finish. I was covering the dangerous attacks, but AG2R and BMC were keeping things under control. Luka chased back to our group with just 3k to go and told me he didn't have the legs left to sprint.

I moved up next to Luka as we got around the last turn with 1200m remaining. Somehow I knew that a sprinter's legs would perk up under the flamme rouge... "Wait," he said, then one hundred meters later, "Okay, Chad, go!" So I steadily ramped it up to move him the final 10 places into a perfect position to sprint. The final K was false-flat downhill, so at nearly 60kph I held him next to Gilbert until he could secure Gilbert's wheel, at which point I slid in behind the BMC rider driving us to the finish. I had just a tiny bit of energy left and my legs were twinging, hinting at cramps on the way. I was suprised at how fast the finish was coming up. The BMC rider started to fade, so I opened up my sprint just as 3 sprinters came blowing past. As I faded back, I watched Luka get boxed in, work his way to an opening on the right, and then kick again to take a handy win over Gilbert.

As I write this, I have one day left of a short training camp in Spain. It's been nice to train with teammates, but I can't say it's been the most successful week for me...I caught some sort of stomach bug that has tried to keep me down for a few days. Nothing to keep me from training for more than a day, though. I also got my first crash of the year out of the way with an entirely new experience: being literally blown off the road. Our group was slightly echeloned on an already windy day up in the mountains. I was at the back of the group, just left of the center of the small road when we were slammed by a gust of wind so hard that all we could do was get low, lean hard into it, and hope our front wheels stayed on the ground while we all moved a meter to the left. When the next gust hit, I didn't have another meter of road. So I ended up in the ditch, flipping over a thorn-filled hedge. No damage to report besides some scratches, thankfully.

In other news, I've settled into a little apartment in the heart of Girona with Carter Jones. I'm finding Spanish living to be more my speed so far, aided in part by the 4 years of high school Spanish that are slowly coming back. The community of pro cyclists (Americans especially) is huge, so there's always somebody available for a ride or dinner on those rare occasions I crave human interaction. Most importantly, I've already bought a keyboard for my cramped room. I think it's a magic piano, as it looked so small in the store that I had to double-check that it had all 88 keys. But when I got it into my little room, it suddenly became a full grand. Magic, I say! Between reading, writing, piano, skype calls with my girlfriend, training, racing, cooking, eating, and sleeping, my days stay pretty full.

Consider yourselves up to date! Here's a picture:
Watching Luka bring it home