Thursday, June 06, 2013

Stars and Bars

It seems I'm getting worse and worse with this blog updating. However on the bright side, I've been trying to take more photos recently to document the interesting things I come across so we'll actually have some visual with this post!
First off - hip, hip, hooray for achieving career goals! I'm super excited to have finally gotten the TT Nats win after being close so many years. Of course, I would have liked to have won the title with DZ, Tejay, Phinney, et al. all there but I'll take the 'W' however it comes!
This was my 'Welcome Home' surprise after TT Nats (framed medal & number after Philly). My wife is a keeper. Conspicuously absent from the photo is the chocolate bundt cake, where could it have gone??
I've been feeling really good on the bike ever since Gila, which is part of the reason I was so incredibly frustrated with how the Amgen Tour of California turned out for me. That heat the first 2 days absolutely wrecked my body and it didn't matter how much fitness I had, cuz I could barely pedal in a straight line!
Here, Haga pays homage to Switzerland after St. 1 of ToC.
After my ToC was over, I took a few days to feel sorry for myself and then Rebecca and I took a weekend getaway to Estes Park, CO. I sometimes forget how beautiful it is up there at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park so it's important to be 'reminded' periodically with visits.
Giant elk hanging out in the shade 20 ft from the road.
Being tourists at the historic Stanley Hotel. In the background is a Jack Nicholson lookalike who stands around the hotel, smoking cigars.
The mini-holiday was just what I needed and I came back home refreshed and ready to crush Nationals. Obviously, US Pros weekend went well though I was little disappointed with how I raced the finishing circuits of the road race. But all in all, a great weekend and the Optum women absolutely dominated their road race!
The Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic was another great weekend for Optum. It was a complete team effort throughout the entire race and I was personally excited that I got my tush up there and helped with the
lead outs into the Wall. Jesse rewarded our efforts with a 2nd place finish and I came home with the Sprinter's Jersey (don't laugh!) just from being in breakaways all day.
Sunset at a nature preserve on outskirts of Philly. Hopefully, this is not the 'sunset' of my form. We still have to win the Nature Valley Grand Prix next week as a way of thanking all of our great Minnesota sponsors and supporters! As always, I'm looking forward to seeing scads of family and friends out cheering Optum!
Only after NVGP can I get those Stars (do some camping) and Bars (as in Pubs!) that I'm craving.

Friday, April 26, 2013

There's a reason it's so green here...

We're hanging out here in Fayetteville, Arkansas awaiting the start of Stage 2 of the Joe Martin Stage Race. The last two days we've been commenting on how pretty it is out here with the quiet, rolling roads and the beautiful green countryside. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then that today it is currently pouring down rain with only 4 hrs to go to the start. Fingers crossed that the lightning/thunder passes on through so we can compete in one of the longest non-circuit road race courses that we do all year on the NRC calendar.
Day 1 went well for us. It's the one day of the year that I attempt to convince myself that I'm a mountain goat and not a plains buffalo. Every year I get slightly deflated at seeing my time/placing after the uphill TT and this year was no different. However, Haga continued to show his great form and rode to an impressive 2nd on the stage. Plus, we brought a very strong sprint team so it should be a fun race...if this weather can cooperate a little today.
A lot has happened since my last post. For one, the racing season started! In addition, I got to see and race in Portugal for the first time ever. I had a great time racing and seeing some sights in that cool little country. I would definitely recommend a visit if you're thinking of a European getaway!
Here, Salas poses on the wall of an incredibly cool castle where the 1st stage of the Volta ao Alentejo finished.
After all of that great racing and sightseeing in Portugal, I basically came home to this:
Boulder had record setting snowfall in the month of April at just under 4 feet! Makes it a little difficult to train consistently...especially if you're becoming more and more of a fair-weather trainer like me. ;-)
So, that's the condensed version of what's been happening the last 6 weeks or so. This week is Joe Martin, next week is Gila, and a few days of recovery before the big ol' Amgen Tour of California. Lots of great racing coming up!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Milestone

Last month while training in the beautiful Malibu mountains for the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies training camp, I got to thinking about how lucky I am and how far this sport has taken me.  It was about that time that it dawned on me that mid-Feb 2013 marks my 10 year anniversary of owning a road bike!  I bought my beloved aluminum Fuji Roubaix because of a knee injury from running and I needed to supplement the mere 40 mi/wk running that I could manage with the injury.  I also remember my 1st ride going up Linden Dr. in Boulder and having to dismount my bike because it was so steep and I couldn't go fast enough to stay upright (despite having a triple chainring).  I'm glad I stuck with it.

I wonder where I'd be if I hadn't gotten that knee injury and bought that first road bike.  Would I have eventually gravitated toward cycling somehow?  Or would I have continued on my goal to make the US Olympic Marathon Trials in 2004? At the very least, I bet I would have lasted longer than a semester in grad school for chemistry before dropping out to pursue my cycling career! It's hard to say where I'd be now if it weren't for that first road bike. All I know is that I'm super thrilled with the way things turned out these last 10 years. Even with all of the injuries, gut-wrenching losses and even the doping bullshit that I went through, it's been an incredible 10 years. Maybe I'll start designating my age as anno bici (A.B.) or year of the bike. And in that case, I just hit double digits and turned 10 A.B.! I feel like I should celebrate with balloons, ice cream cake and perhaps a pinata.

I finished my first race of the year last weekend in Merced, CA. The Merco Cycling Classic has developed into a really nice race. The organizers do a good job of keeping the race challenging, yet safe and organized. And I always feel welcomed by the community during the few days we are there. This year, the race committee organized a 'Champions Dinner' after the first stage where they did the podium presentations and thanked all the sponsors, etc. Their guest speaker was Davis Phinney, one of my cycling heroes. I look up to him, not so much because he was an absolute stud as a racer in the 80s, but because of the way he handles himself and for all of the work he's done creating and promoting his Davis Phinney Foundation in hopes of improving the lives of those inflicted with Parkinson's Disease. Anyway, Davis told us a very inspirational anecdote that was very relevant to the current teetering point that cycling is on. It related to personal integrity and doing the right thing despite any 'justifications' that you could use to take shortcuts. I loved it.

Next up, I'm off to Portugal for a 1.2 race and then the Volta ao Alentejo, a 5 days stage race in the flat-ish part of Portugal. I don't really know what to expect, but it will probably be pretty easy. I've heard racing in Portugal is like doing your local group ride - only as hard as you make it. Totally unrelated, sometimes I find it challenging to convey sarcasm in my writing.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me in my cycling endeavors these past 10 years! Let's Party!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Brand New Year

So, I've officially put a stop on my self-imposed ban from any cycling-related news.  I took about a 2 month vacation from all that drama.  As you may have noticed, I got a little caught up in the fracas so had to just step away.  It was a nice break but I recently caught up on all the transfer news, latest scandals, and injury reports, etc.  I noticed a lot of car/cyclist crashes in my absence!  That's no good.  As cyclists, we are so vulnerable to any mistakes made by motorists and it would be scary to think that as drivers we're becoming less attentive at the wheel rather than more aware of cyclists and other cars on the road.  Thankfully, I've had very few incidents to speak of riding around Boulder County, but even we as a county have too many cyclists being injured or even killed by inattentive motorists.  Obviously, there need to be steps taken to help ensure the safety of cyclists riding on the shoulders/roads, but we as cyclists also need to be riding as safely and as courteous as possible to try and alleviate these types of run ins with motorists.  Not sure where I'm going with this, other than to say I've come across too many cyclists riding like A-holes and hurting the perception of cyclists.  We are in the minority and motorists hold all of the power, so it behooves us to 'make nice.'  Both motorists and cyclists in general have much to work on in order to exist in harmony.  Much like our Congress!
In a more positive 'light', the days are getting longer!  I took this pic from our driveway at 3:06p in mid-December. 

That bright spot is the sun retiring behind the mountain for the day.  There's no excuse for that, Sun!  Even government employees work past 3p!  A little work ethic is all we're asking for.  Despite the short days, I've managed to get some good riding and running in.  I'm feeling fit and ready for the season....only 2.5 months to go before our first race!  (groan)

And even though the holidays are over, I wanted to share this picture that captures the Christmas spirit.

It's a pic of my mom in complete awe over the intense beauty of our giant Christmas tree.  And yes, that is a life-sized angel on the top.  I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Overindulgence, perhaps?


I've had a good off-season but I guess it's coming time to get serious about this biking business again.  In the past 6 weeks, I've managed to get married and spend 10 days in Morocco honeymooning.  I've also done a good job of catching up with friends, staying off my road bike, avoiding any cycling related news (the past 3 weeks), and reconnecting with my backyard mountains on foot.  It's been fun but now I'm also looking forward to a successful 2013 racing season.  I love this time of year, because it's the time to dream big and set lofty goals.  When the day comes that I'm not excited for the upcoming season at this time of year, I'll know without a doubt that it's time to step away from the sport.  For now, all that I can think about is how many races Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies is going to win next year!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weighing In

91.6 kg this morning - over 200 lbs! Oh, but the real reason for this post is to weigh in on all the recent doping drama from our sport. This shall serve more as a therapeutic session than any real agenda. I guess that overall I'm happy that all of the filthy, smelly details of the doping practices of the previous decade are coming out. I would say that most people who've been around the sport long enough knew that PEDs were the norm back then but we had no real way of knowing the methods or just how far the rabbit hole went. So in a sick way, it's cool to hear just how disgustingly far some racers were going in order to win. It further validates us, the clean racers of our sport. And for the most part, I empathize with their situations at the time and I understand how one would lead their life in that direction and I even feel sorry for them for having to lie for so many years and now having to face friends, family, journalists, strangers, and the almighty internet warriors. But, please allow me to vent for just one moment so that I can air my grievances and then put this drama firmly behind me. Okay, here we go... Given the nature of these confessions, I think it's bullshit that these riders are being commended for 'breaking the Omerta.' I don't believe for one second that these guys decided to confess to past indiscretions for a better cycling future. They confessed because they were certain that the details were going to be leaked out one way or another and USADA offered them a reduced suspension and a chance to tell their side of the story first. In that way, they could somehow seem like the good guys because they are trying to clean up the future of cycling (rather than complete damage control!). And what did they get for years of EPO use, testosterone patches, and whatever else they could get their hands on? They got a six-month suspension during the offseason and commendations for their bravery. Oh, but they're reaaaally sorry for taking drugs all those years ago. It was the worst decision they ever made, and they've felt so guilty ever since, yada, yada, yada. Doesn't sound like a bad decision to me - you're friggin millionaires! Don't worry you can hire the best therapists money can buy to help you through this difficult time, assholes. And how about these half-assed confessions? "I only took EPO a few times and never consistently", "Johan made me do it", "Lance is a big, scary, 150 lb bully", "I took PEDs but I didn't inhale" (I paraphrase). It all smells to me. Self-preservation is the name of the game. There was nothing altruistic in these half-truth confessions. Tell me Hincapie, Vande Velde, Danielson, Zabriskie, and Leipheimer: if you chose to cheat and lie through your Postal years and then continue to lie a further 6 years later, why should we believe you when you say that you've been racing clean since 2005/2006 (or that you weren't cheating before your Postal days)? I have a really hard time believing that. I hope it's true but if the risk of being caught continued to be low and the lure of results, money, and adulation continued to be high, it would have to be quite the sudden alignment of their respective moral compasses. Okay, so say that everyone one of the confessors stopped taking PEDs in 2006 as they claim, what about the residual effects of drugs? Their level of training and racing on PEDs was so much higher than what they could achieve sans that the benefits of that could last for years, right? There are no studies about this that I know of but I have to believe that the Grand Tours, training, etc. that they did on the juice had to be beneficial to the body for years to come. Not to mention the confidence and other mental aspects gained while riding/racing better than you're capable of naturally. In all, it seems like a pretty sweet deal for these guys. I know that they say that these confessions were made in order for cycling to have a clean future but I'd say that they're encouraging the opposite! Look kids, if you dope yourself silly and get some really good results, then you'll have job security for the next few years and make yourself some good cash. Then, if the shit hits the fan, just blame it all on a ring leader (Lance/Johan) and sound really sorry and you should come away relatively unscathed. How's that for pessimism! Okay, I feel better. I know I over simplified and demonized in this rant, but something about this whole deal rubs me the wrong way. I don't really hate these guys or anything, it's just pretty frustrating given my history in this sport. I'd say I have a pass to bitch about this just this once. Thanks for reading.
Our makeshift blood bag (boxed wine) during our Positive Party! in Jan. 2010.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Waffles, Chocolate, Beer...and Cycling!

A few of us on team Optum are staying at The ChainStay in Oudenaarde, Belgium for the month of September. The trip is centered around the World TTT Championships in Netherlands on September 16th but there is some good racing before and after the marquee event for us. Last Sunday, I did my first mass start race on European soil at a UCI 1.2 race in Nederland called Kernen Omloop Echt Susteren. As much as I've been warned about the racers and roads in Europe, I was still not prepared for the narrow "bike paths", turns and road furniture that the circuit race took me and 180 or so other racers along. Needless to say, I was a little sketched out and so figured the safest place for me was either in the back or off the front. Well as luck would have it, Jonas pulled caravan car position #2 so that he could clearly see me if I was sitting at the back. Therefore, as logic goes, I needed to get off the front in order to avoid a diatribe from the Boss Man after the race. And like a script, as soon as I made my way to the front, I attacked and it stuck! I was off the front with 2 other guys for 20' or so when a group of 7 containing fellow big man Magnus Backstedt caught us. Now we were 10 strong and rolling through together fairly well. As hard as it was up there, I was mighty thankful not to be battling for position with 170 Euros on a course like that. As we got closer to the finish of the 189km race, the break whittled down to 6 and then to 4 so that we were just hanging on for dear life and basically trying to make the chasing teams suffer just a little longer. We got caught with 7km to go and I for one was relieved that the pain was over for the day. The sprint didn't go so hot for us due to miscommunication, poor timing, bad legs, jet lag, whatever. Just one of those days you have to put behind you. But for me, I had just finished my first European race ever - Milestone! Next up we had a kermis in Izegem, Belgium which is about 35km away from where we're staying. I've been hearing about the dreaded kermesses for years now as a rite of passage for any 'real' cyclist. This kermis consisted of 16 laps of a 10km circuit and 225 dudes lined up for the start (largest race ever for me!). Again, despite being on wider roads with far fewer turns than the Ned race, I was very nervous at the start trying to get a feel for the flow of the race. I was totally useless to my team for the first half of the race as the break was being established. Luckily, the other guys stepped it up and it sounds like we were represented in every move until the break finally stuck with Soladay latching on to that one. If I could just help out in the sprint for Meatball and Ken, I could salvage my race and be able to look my teammates in the eye afterward. I did my best to move in the last lap and found Zwiz in the gutter on the same side of the road with me. Having a trusted teammate there gave me just the confidence and push that I needed and we somehow found a lane on the very outside of the road (sidewalk actually) and we were able to sprint up to the front and slot in in front of Meatball and Ken. Now it was game on with 2k to go and I just put my head down and buried myself for 30s or so. It took 158km but I finally made it to the front of the race! Zwiz took over next, followed by Meatball, and Ken very nearly took the victory but was just overtaken at the line by Andrea Guardini (who has won some pretty big races if I'm not mistaken). An excellent result for the lowly American team but we were so close to the victory that it was hard to celebrate fully. Regardless, I was proud of the way we rode and was thrilled that I was able to help out even just a little. You can see the results here. Interesting to note is that I was leading with about 1.2 km to go in the race but ended up finishing 153rd! Next up, Zwiz and I have an ITT in Betheny, France called the Chrono Champenois. I'm looking forward to utilizing some of this TT form that I worked so hard for in the weeks leading up to the US Pro Challenge. I'll try to post some pics of the area in the coming days. And yes, along with the cycling I have been enjoying plenty of waffles, chocolate and beer during our stay thus far. Moderation is key! Thanks for reading.