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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


In case you haven't heard, the USA Pro Challenge is next week and Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies just happens to be taking part! I'm thrilled to be a part of the race this year. I was bumming hard sitting at home last year while the race traversed the state. In no way does this race suit me as a rider...unless they add a Clydesdale jersey award, but that hasn't tempered my enthusiasm for the race any. And to be fair, the final day's Denver TT suits me very well (not quite as well as the net downhill prologue last year but who's nitpicking?) so I will be feeling a hefty amount of pressure for a result that day if I'm able to make it there in one piece (peace?). So, bringing events up to the present - I took a nice break after Nature Valley which included a week of mtn biking or nothing at all! Then, I started ramping it back up for my home town race in Clear Lake. Winning the crit in front of so many CL'ers was a thrill for me and definitely washed away the bitter taste that I had from the previous year. It was a fun weekend catching up with classmates and seeing Rebecca transition seamlessly into the cat 3s. Next up was Cascade, where I was just a little off of form for whatever reason. My guess was overdoing it slightly in training leading up to the event. The positive side is that I got a big bump in fitness following a rest after Cascade and came into Elk Grove feeling reeeeeaaally good. It was one of those times when you feel so good that you are hesitant to talk about it lest you jinx yourself. I put together a really good TT (good power and good cornering) under a lot of self-induced pressure so that brought feelings of relief and elation. The very next day, however, was one of those days when I question my ability to succeed in my profession. How things could go so poorly a day after going so well is still mind boggling and maddening. But then the sun shone on Sunday morning and all was forgiven! We executed a near perfect lead out for our super star Ken Hanson and he won yet another race. This guy has been amazing all year long. I humbly submit to his dominance. For awhile, we had a friendly competition for results but I'm getting slaughtered so it's not even fun anymore! Anyway, even though I screwed up the overall, winning all 3 stages at Elk Grove was a success for the team and very satisfying. Since then, I've been resting at home and trying to make the final preparations for Colorado. It's been difficult not to overdo things but I keep reminding myself that the "hay is in the barn". Now it's time to sit back, relax and be thankful for being allowed to take part in such a fantastic event! Hell yeah!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stay Calm and Carry On

Happy Days! Haha, I've been in this sport long enough to know the roller coaster phenomenon all too well. I had a pretty rough spring this year with how frequent and severe that I got sick. First, in March just before my first race of the year in Merced (which I raced with and it progressed to bronchitis and put me out for a full 1.5 weeks...smart!). As a result, I had poor form at Redlands from the bronchitis and antibiotics. Then, I was starting to come around in Uruguay when a few of us got hit with Giardia, Campylobacter, and who knows what else. That REALLY put a damper on the form. Even after 2 weeks at home recouping, I was still pathetic at Joe Martin. I was on the ramp up during Tour of the Gila but it was too little, too late for the biggest race of the year on domestic soil, the ToC. Honestly, it wasn't until Nationals that I started to feel like myself again after 3 months of sickness or recovering from sickness. The point of this drawn out, 'woe is me' play-by-play is that I did a pretty good job of staying calm throughout this period of being sickly and worthless (relatively speaking). I just kept telling myself that if I continued to work hard and do things right, that sooner or later the form would appear out of the blue. Not to say that I wasn't super relieved and ecstatic to get my first NRC stage win since July 2009! And then to follow it up with my first ever NRC GC win was icing on the cake and definitely poetic to anyone who knows my history with the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Of course, the GC win could just have easily gone to any other rider on the Optum team. We were not going to give up attacking that Menomonie RR until the right combination of riders were off the front. It just so happened that my attack stuck. So, I don't really like the motto "Stay Calm and Carry On". I've seen it on posters and t-shirts and my interpretation is that it seems to encourage complacency and discourage anti-establishment behavior. Sort of a "Never mind the man behind the curtain" mentality, imo. Regardless, 'Stay Calm and Carry On' was my mantra during the latter stages of the Menomonie RR and the entire Stillwater Criterium. I knew that the GC win was within our grasp and all I had to do was finish it off but it's easy to freak out when you think about all that could go wrong in a heartbeat. I'm on the verge of cramping during the closing circuits in Menomonie..."stay calm and carry on". There is a 6-man move up the road at Stillwater and BJM is bridging to the move...mantra. It's raining and the roads are slick on the downhill technical turns at Stillwater, no free laps so one crash and the GC is gone...mantra. The Optum boys were flawless at Stillwater. I had an Optum jersey in front of me from start to finish. It's easy to stay calm when you always have a teammate with you. My job was easy - follow my teammate. Very satisfying win because it was a complete team effort. Now? Well, now I'm taking a mid-season break. We have some big race objectives in the 2nd half of the season and I want to be fresh and ripping through the end of September. So, it may be counter intuitive to take a break after finally finding some form, but mentally it's been a tough spring with a lot of time on the road and these breaks are as much for mental rest as physical. I guess I can 'force' myself to be a sloth for a 5-7 days. I'm already looking forward to what's next though. I will be heading back to the home town race Bicycle, Blues, and BBQ Omnium in Clear Lake, IA on July 7-8 and then the Cascade Classic on July 17-22. Thanks for all of the support on the racing front and for helping me achieve our goal of raising money for 20 World Bicycle Relief bikes to Zambia! Freakin Awesome!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Almost There!

Project OPTUMiZ has been going great so far. Already, we're less than one bike away from reaching our goal of 20 bikes to Zambia by the Tour of California. Thank you to everyone who has donated to this Super-Cool, Bikes-Can-Save-the-World cause! I'm very proud and appreciative of the support that 'you' all have given.
Well, I'm back from Uruguay and mostly whole again. We had a pretty rough go of it down there but I think we had a very successful and worthwhile trip. Ken Hanson proved he was the fastest man on two wheels down there, and so it was fun trying to organize lead-out trains amid the chaos that is South American racing. As you may have heard, we did have some issues with the airline not delivering a good chunk of our equipment. To recap, Soladay had to ride on a borrowed bike for the entire 10 days (Hard Man Award!), the team had one set of spare wheels for the whole race, we were missing 4 TT bikes so Zwiz and I confiscated Haga and Reid's TT rigs, Amanda was without her beloved massage table and so had to get creative daily for a makeshift table, and Bob had about half of his tools and so had to make many amigos during the race to make sure all of our bikes were tip top.
Then, there was the sickness. 4 of 6 of us got sick at some point during the race. The day after the time trial (St. 9) was a 188 km stage and was one of the hardest days I've ever had on the bike. Only through the constant help from my teammates was I able to finish on the same time with the leaders. Unbelievable teamwork to get me to the finish line. Looking back, it was really cool. At the time, it was pure misery. So, we headed back to the States with 4 stage wins, 6 podiums, and a 2nd and 4th on GC...and who knows how many random bacteria and parasites in our guts! Next up for me is Joe Martin, straight to Gila, and then a few days at home before the Tour of California (hopefully anyway, our roster hasn't been announced. We have a strong team!).
Having some fun with the giant 2nd place GC trophy from the race.

A glimpse at the glamorous lifestyle of a pro cyclist. We spent 5 days in this hotel room during our Uruguayan stay.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Project OPTUMiZ

I'd like to introduce to you the project I've been thinking about and working on for quite some time now. For several years now, the Kelly Benefit Strategies team and now Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies has been partnering with World Bicycle Relief with the aim of raising money and awareness for this grassroots organization. This year each team member has their own personal fund raising page to see what we can accomplish off the bike as a team. I've mentioned on this blog before why I believe WBR is such a cool and effective non-profit (and why buying a WBR bike makes a good gift). It successfully and efficiently puts bikes in the hands of those who need them most in Africa. In addition, they train locals in the area to be skilled mechanics so that people can have a working means of transport for years. And just to be clear, these aren't racing bicycles with carbon wheels - these are 35 lb tanks that can carry up to 200kg loads over roads in terrible condition. These bicycles can help kids get to school on time 8km away after getting their chores done. Or maybe they can help someone start a business of selling goods at the market 10km away. Anyway, I love the idea of bikes making the world a better place and I think WBR best puts that idea into practice.
Sooooooooo, with that in mind, I've taken some ridiculous steps to bring attention to myself and the team's fund raising efforts. I introduce you to:
O - Ostentatious
P - Perm
T - To
U - Uplift
M - Mobility
i - in
Z - Zambia

And when I said I've 'been working on this for some time', I meant that I've been growing out my hair for months now. A big thank you to my neighbor Sarah who also happens to be a kick-ass hair stylist!
My goal is to raise money for 20 bikes by Stage 5 of the Tour of California, so we've got just over 2 months to make some waves...or tight curls. I've gotten it started by donating the first bike. I'm not asking people to donate complete bikes but $10-20 would be awesome and shouldn't hurt the pocketbook too much. Please don't make it so that I've gotten this perm in vain. Imagine me walking around the grocery store or sitting in a coffee shop looking ridiculous to those who don't know about our cause. Let pity fill your heart and open your wallet... :-)
Thanks for reading and for supporting our efforts!
Here is the fundraising page where you can make a secure donation:

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Paddy's Week

Things are good here. I'm recovering from a bout with bronchitis and starting to feel good on the bike again. The boys recorded the 1st (and 2nd and 3rd and 4th...) win of the season on the men's side at the Madera County Stage Race. Clearly, I'm more valuable to this team as a motivator from home in Boulder!
This Sunday March 18, I'm scheduled to do a live web interview with the guys at TourChats. Should be fun time, their shows are usually entertaining. Then, it's off to Redlands for some NRC action! That race is always so friggin hard with everyone so motivated and fit to score some early season results. After Redlands, a few of us are flying straight to Uruguay for their 10-day national stage race. I don't know who that yahoo is who's holding the trophy on the website from 2010 but if he won it, it can't too incredibly tough. I should be either really fit or completely smashed coming out of that 14-days-of-racing-in-18-days block!
Also in the works is a new project that I hope to 'unveil' soon - check back for the ultra-exciting super-cool details!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hey, Wind...

Blow me! 190k in this mess yesterday. I win.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Kick-Starting 2012

This is a great weekend for me to bust out my new Kinetic Road Machine trainer. We got a record 18" of snow yesterday so there won't be much road biking going on outdoors for the next few days.
We had our team launch last weekend in Minneapolis, MN where the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies team officially kicked off its season. It was a fun time, check out the the team website for pics and videos of the event.
As you can imagine, there wasn't much training going on during our team presentation weekend being in Minneapolis in Jan., so we have a team training camp coming up next week in Oxnard, CA. I've never trained in the area but I hear it's got no shortage of climbing. That should prove to be a good challenge for me considering I've done about 90% of my training thus far on the flats. Come on climbing legs!
First race (I believe) will be the Merco Cycling Classic the first weekend of March. Should be a good opportunity to reintroduce my body to race intensity (while getting beat up a little by those warm weather winter dwellers).
I posted a couple of pics documenting my trainer fun yesterday. I think I'll shovel and make a snowman for my workout today!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sun Worshiping

No pictures today. Wish I would have brought my camera with me to CA but no. I'll just do my best to paint a picture with my words...uck. I'm in Santa Cruz at the moment doing the ol' "eat, ride, eat, sleep" routine. Boy, my life is boring when I get into these grooves. I started out in Santa Barbara and rode with peeps out there and revisited the infamous Mt. Figueroa climb and did the front side of Gibralter for the first time ever. Very cool climbs. Gibralter starts in Santa Barbara and climbs to the ridge overlooking the city and the ocean on one side and rows of foothills/mountains on the other. Figueroa was done with Teddy King and Stu Bone (my host/transport for this week+ trip). I rode with Creed for a total of 20' for the two days that I was there, but I've been assured that it's not due to lack of love. Also, checked out a killer coffee shop of former teammate Aaron Olson - Handlebar Coffee (try the croissants!). After 2 days of riding, we drove (rather, Stu drove) us up the coast to Santa Cruz with his Tundra and 25 ft Airstream in tow. Here, I'm being shown the local routes by none other than the NorCal legend BJM. We descended this road called Alpine Rd yesterday that took us through an old, ruggedly beautiful Redwood forest. It was stunning. I felt like a hobbit in the land of ents.
Next, we'll visit former teammate and current friend Joao for a couple days in Mill Valley, get some more riding in and then head back to Santa Cruz for training camp with the Junior Devo team that Stu runs.
For me, the fitness is starting to peak its head from around the curtain. I feel okay and I'm loving riding my bike. I'm really excited about the team for next year...which is sort of out of the bag but kinda not still? Anyway, there will be a team launch late this month so the gag order will be lifted soon at any rate. Thanks for following and all of the support.