Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuscany: my romantic 3 days w Joao Correia

"No matter what, we'll always have Tuscany, Joao." Whenever we come upon hard times, that'll be my response to the Portugese Gangsta. I had a pretty awesome time in Tuscany. We stayed with his friend Alessandro 30k north of Sienna in the country. The roads are beautiful in the area and all up and down. If all you want to do is train and eat, I've never been to a better place. That area is so romantic that if Joao would have asked me to marry him, it's likely that I would have gotten caught up in the moment...
so here's the picture tour:
Alex's apartment. No joke. It's very simple inside, no luxuries - perfect for the area. originally built 4 centuries ago.

Alessandro and Joao outside Alex's cobbler shop in Sienna.

a window at the apartment. it was all so surreal.

Nothing but rolling hills filled w vineyards and olive trees everywhere we went.

This is the main street in the little village of Lucci where we got cappucino and a brioche every morning from Paolo.

Paolo and I outside his cafe. aside: Paolo has the biggest hands I've ever seen. He could crush my head like a nut if he so chose.

Back to the Granfondo Pinarello - here is the podium of the race with Giovanni Pinarello (THE founder) second from right and the crazy Treviso mayor behind me far left.

I did some wine tasting on the podium. "When in Rome..." or Treviso. I was completely smashed at this moment but it wasn't the alcohol.

I thought these Treviso commuters were pretty cute so I snapped a pic while we waited for a train to pass.

Mr. Indurain was at the banquets so I needed a comparison pic to show people how much bigger I am than he. However, I asked him how much he weighed when winning the Tours and he replied, "ochenta y uno. mucha forza" (rough translation: 178lbs, good for power.) Wow. I'm only ochenta y ocho. I have no excuse not to at least podium at the Tour someday. :)
That's all for now. Maybe I'll post more later. Up next is the Tour of Elk Grove outside of Chicago. BIG prize money there, so I hear. Maybe if we do well I can buy a one-way ticket to Italy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Granfondo Pinarello

Hey All,
I just got back from Italy late last night after 22 hours of traveling and so am a little whooped but of course I can't sleep because of this wonderful jet lag phenomenon. I had a great trip a got a little taste of life and racing in Italy. For now, I will post pics from the 2nd part of the trip in Treviso. I will post the Tuscan pics later.
Race report: After taking part in the Granfondo Pinarello, I will no longer refer to it as a 'race' with quotes. It is most definitely a full on RACE! Those Italians are a very proud people and they don't give an inch so you can imagine what it was like at the start with 3000 other people battling for position. Luckily I was able to sneak up to the front before the start, though I wasn't seeded so technically I was supposed to start in about 1000th place (thanks Joao). The race was 200k with 9400ft of climbing with the majority of that packed in the middle w/ 3 consecutive climbs. It was very dynamic and hard from the start with the selections being made 40k in on the first real climb. I found myself in the 2nd group on the road after that ballistic first climb but we had 8 strong guys ready to work together to catch the front group of 7. We didn't catch them until 60k to go, and as soon as we did (field was whittled down to 11 at this point) everyone just sat up and wouldn't work. Me and another guy (basically the only two who would pull through on the flats) attacked w 50k to go and got a gap. The field wouldn't work well together so we immediately started putting some time into them. At the base of the last climb (a steep 2.5k SOB named the Montello w/ 30k to go in the race), we had over 3 min. on the field but I bonked hard from lack of food and water (though I ate more in that race than I ever have in my career and drank 8 bottles in 5 hours) and was dropped by my breakaway companion. I thought it was game over for me but I kept eating and drinking and started to come around after descending that final climb. At this point w 20k remaining, I go into to TT mode to try and hold off the field for 2nd. But I'm feeling slightly better now and am starting to motor fairly decent after 5 hours of racing. Sure enough, I spot the leader in front of me and catch him w 8k to go. At this point, we are both cracked and neither one of us wants to work but we still have to hold off the field so we continue with some weak pulls. While he is pulling on the front, I get a small run-up on him and attack him from behind. However, he looked back just before I got past him and so got a better jump than I was hoping for. He was able scratch and claw his way back to my wheel and there after would not budge from my wheel. Because I did not know the gap to the chase group, I had no other choice but to keep pedaling and lead it out and try to start late so that I was still accelerating thru the line so he would have a harder time getting by me. However, it was not to be and due to a slight confusion as to where the finish line was (there were about 5 overhead tents in the last 100m) and a lack of sprinting prowess, I was passed in the sprint and had to settle for 2nd. I was not too disappointed when I considered all the events leading up to my finish: 2 near crashes (once locking up the breaks on a descent and once missing a sign to turn and plowing into the eventual race winner when we were still in the chase group), 1 actual crash on a descent which bruised my hip a little and more detrimentally bent my deraileur hanger and caused me to lose half of my gears due to slipping, and the little hunger knock in the last part of the race. Considering all this and the fact that the winner used to race professionally on Pantani's Mercatone Uno team in the late 90s, I was not too disappointed/embarrassed/pissed off. But boy...putting a Pinarello Prince over the line first would have been nice! The winner and I averaged 38kph which I thought was respectable considering the difficulty and length of the race.
After the race, I got to meet the mayor of Treviso, who seemed a little nutty to me after he insisted that I drink wine on stage to 'recover' from the race. And Giorgio Andretta, the owner of Gita Sporting Goods(one of Team Bissell's biggest sponsors) acted as my interpreter for the post race interviews. It was a good time, and of course they couldn't get over how big I was, so it's probably better that I couldn't understand their jokes and jabs. :)
So, here are some pics from my time in Treviso:
In the Pinarello factory, the song "If I had a million dollars.." comes to mind.

Were you wondering what Valverde's spanish road champion bike says on the head/down tube during the Tour? I was. This is the bike Fausto Pinarello rode in the Granfondo this year.

We got to attend the presentation for the 2009 line of Pinarello bikes, and I was trying to capture the awe and excitement on people's faces after another new bike was unfurled. mild success.

The new look of the Montello. I think it's Bad Ass to be blunt.

This is about 4k up the San Boldo climb which was the 2nd climb of the race with 20 switchbacks and a couple of winding tunnel sections. very cool climb...unless you're racing it.

these temporary tats were in our race packet, so I sported one on my arm during the race. Cappucino doesn't count, right?

the fruits of my labor. this is the 2nd place trophy (very nice) coupled with Rebecca's impressive orchid which currently has 8 blooms! Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Off to Italia

I'm boarding my flight to Italy in a couple of minutes (actually Frankfurt, then Florence, Italy) so I'll be short. Cascade went okay for us but not great. Mostly because I wasn't climbing quite how I expected. The team did a great job of setting me up on the Sat. RR after I was sitting 2nd on GC from being in the break Fri. and time trialing okay. However, despite everything going smoothly for me leading into the final climb on Sat. up to the ski resort - I was unable to hold the wheels of the fellas I needed to mark and ended up losing a significant amount of time. Disappointing because I know that I can climb with those guys when I'm firing on all cylinders and it sucks to let the team down after they worked hard to set me up perfectly. But we live to race another day. The race did have quite a few injuries this year tho. Our thoughts are with Ben Brooks for a speedy recovery from that horrific crash on st. 1. And also with BJM and Logan for a quick comeback from their broken chicken wings.
For me, it's on to the Granfondo Pinarello which is on Sun. I'm taking it kind of seriously because I think it'd be a big deal for Mr. Pinarello himself if one of his bikes came across the line 1st. I have no idea what to expect and don't even know if I'll have a shot at winning but I'm hoping that this form that I really thought I'd have for Cascade just took a week longer than expected. :)
I'll try to post from the former empire if I can and I will also do my best to take pics liberally.
Gotta go. Ciao! (lame, I know)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Full On

That's the best way to describe the upcoming racing at Cascade. Have you checked the start list?!? This field is stacked! I'm looking forward to some quality racing and I'm feeling confident with my fitness coming in. It feels like I haven't raced in ages though I got back from piggy-backed stage races only 2 weeks ago. I feel like a different rider now and I've already laid down some expectation on myself despite the stellar field in Bend this year.
And after Cascade is concluded, I get to jump on a plane to Italy for some sponsor-related activities! Joao and I will be representing Bissell and Pinarello for the Granfondo Pinarello race/ride on Sun. July 20. Pinarello is one of our biggest sponsors with the half million dollars in product they provide us with each year and so it would be awesome if we could come and win the Pinarello sponsored Granfondo riding our sweet Prince bikes. The event takes place in the Treviso/Venice area which I've heard is beautiful. I'm excited but I also know I have a job to do!
In between my intense training blocks of late, I was able to sneak in my first camping trip of the year and first ever w/ Rebecca. The area is near Estes Park and was a 5 mile hike in near the North St. Vrain river. It is a beautiful area and our site was right next to the raging river. Very cool. We were also visited by a family of mountain goats (7) in the morning who were just grazing and staring at us about 100 ft. from above.
I also went on my first ride on Trail Ridge Rd in the Rocky Mountain National Park last week. I went w/ Frank Overton and some of his Fascat athletes. We had a great time riding and observing the breath-taking views - at 12,000ft, that can be taken a couple different ways. :)
But enough of this "summer fun" stuff. It's time to smash up the competition at Cascade! Bissell is bringing a very strong team and I think we should have all kinds of options to animate the race. Plus, I'll be racing with (against) Scott Nydam and Logan Garey - the first time we've all 3 been in the same race since we were teammates back in 2005. As I often remind Scott, "This is for Nick's (Sports Garage owner) undying love!" Thanks for reading. I'll try to post race and/or Italy updates when I can.
We saw lots of Columbines in full bloom on the hike to our campsite.

A view from a bridge near our campsite.

Trail Ridge Rd at around 12,000 ft. elevation. Oh, THAT'S why they close this road in the winter. pic taken by Gregg.