Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tour of The Bahamas Recap

Just getting back from the Tour of The Bahamas, and I'm crispier than a conch fritter. Overall the race went really well; our boy Jake "The Breeze" took home a big trophy for 3rd place which was a nice bonus. Jake has multiple nicknames as I've come to find out, which I think is a direct correlation to how fast you are. Me, I have one nickname, so that's a start I guess.

Now here comes the stage-by-stage synopsis:

Stage 1 - Time Trial: Short time trial on Saturday, 3 miles long. Flat, straight, and fast. Warming up I felt like I could use about three days of openers after not being on my bike all week, but c'est la vie. I went out hard, faded hard after the turnaround, but was able to finish pretty strong. My time of 5:56 was enough for 16th place; not bad for being on a road bike and going up against dudes in full TT setups, but I was still about 20 watts lower than I wanted to be for the effort.

Stage 2 - Circuit Race: Saturday afternoon's short circuit race was an absolute attack-fest! I don't think there was one minute of the race when somebody wasn't up the road or there wasn't a group trying to escape. Everyone was being super aggressive, and the intensity and speed showed. Finally starting to feel good again, I was able to cover a couple of attacks, get into a few breaks, and keep myself in good position at the front most of the time. Nothing was able to get away though. Coming into the sprint I think Geronimo finished 5th behind Tyler Farrar who won. Awesome job. I finished in the pack amidst chainrings flying by my head but somehow I moved up to 13th on GC. I guess the fast pace dropped a bunch of guys.

Stage 3 - Road Race: 105 miles of flat racing (6 laps) + 10 miles each way riding to the start and then home = a very long day in the saddle and a very sore butt! Geronimo and Big Willie Style were able to get into the early break which lasted for about 2 laps. I just sat on the front of the mostly-lackadaisical group and covered the wheels of people trying to attack to help keep the break away.

Coming into 3 laps to go, there was a break up the road with one of our guys in it. The pace let up a bit so I decided to drop back and get some waterbottles for everyone. After grabbing some ice-cold refreshments from the team car, I made my way back up to the pack... wait, where's the pack? Apparently while I was back at the car practicing my "turbo bottle" technique, Team Slipstream decided to annihilate the field, and I had made my way back up the remnants of the destruction. Bad timing on my part. I tried to bridge up, but me vs. the argyle train is no contest, so I was relegated to the autobus for the last 2 laps of the race and rode tempo to finish up, some 15 minutes behind.

Good points of the weekend: 1) the team worked exceptionally well together and we were well represented in every major break that went up the road, 2) I'm finally starting to feel better physically and learned a lot in my first race as a pro, 3) we were racing our bikes in the frikin' Bahamas, and that's about the coolest thing ever!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I turn the ripe old age of 27. I'm long past those birthdays that actually mean something in life: at 16 you get to drive, at 18 you're legally an adult, at 21 you can drink alcohol (legally), at 25 your car insurance rates go down. At 27, you're just another year older.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's not so cold!

After riding with the team at camp this past weekend in sub-20 degree weather, going out this week under sunny skies and temps in the 30's doesn't feel cold at all. In fact, it's downright balmy! Leaving for the Bahamas in a week; I can't wait to see what the temperature shock flying down there is like. Even worse is going to be the temperature shock flying back!

Monday, January 21, 2008

NWA Sucks!

And no, I'm not talking about the gangsta rap group with Easy E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube, cuz dey be ill comin' straight outta Compton, yo (ps - I'm white). I'm talking about NWA Airlines, the "baggage-losing, we-don't-care, pretend-to-make-up-for-it-and-then-screw-you-over" airline. That should be their slogan.

To make a long story short: rewind to January 2007. Eric and I flew on NWA to Calgary to spend a week backcountry skiing in the Monashee mountains from a hut in the middle of nowhere. The only access to the hut is a 45 minute helicopter ride from Revelstoke that leaves once a week. We're talking 200 square miles of mountains with nobody around except the 10 people staying in that hut.

So we get to Calgary and go get our ski bags to get on the road... no ski bags. Neither of ours show up. Our ski bags were literally packed with ALL of our gear. We go to customer service and are told that they will arrive on the next flight in a couple of hours. At this point, getting our bags and making the helicopter ride is going to require driving all night, but what else can we do? The next flight finally makes it in and we start looking for our bags to come out. Nothing. Back to customer service. We are told that our bags didn't make that flight (no kidding!) and that they will be in on the next flight in the morning. At this point, we're going to miss our helicopter and have to stay in Calgary overnight, but NWA wouldn't even put us up in a hotel room. They kept trying to offer to drive our bags out to us when they did arrive; they didn't seem to understand that the only way to get our bags to us if we left the airport would be to fly them over in a helicopter. If they weren't even willing to put us up in a hotel for the night, they certainly weren't going to do that! They did offer us money for toothbrushes though... In the end, we ended up sleeping in the airport for the night, getting our bags the next morning, and paying extra for a helicopter ride to the hut the next day.

The point of retelling this story is that part of the resolution from NWA was giving Eric and I each $300 in vouchers for another flight any time in the next calendar year. The lady at customer service gave us each three $100 vouchers instead of just giving us a free ticket because, as she put it, "If I give you a free ticket, you will be subject to limited seats and blackout dates. If you use these vouchers you can buy a flight at any time. They're like cash".

OK, awesome. Sure, NWA really messed up with our bags, but now we're on our way and we have a free flight to use within the next year. Maybe NWA isn't so bad after all, right?

Well, now fast-forward back to yesterday. Our vouchers are about to expire, so Eric calls me up to plan a trip to somewhere, anywhere really, where it costs less than $300 to get to. Eric calls up the number on the vouchers to redeem them and is promply told that since we got three $100 vouchers instead of one $300 voucher, only one voucher can be used per flight! So since these things are about to expire and I can't really buy 3 separate flights at a $100 discount for each right now, NWA has successfully screwed us over AGAIN!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mini Camp

I'm just getting back from Rite Aid's first team mini-camp which took place in fridged College Park, MD. Despite the cold I had a really great time! I finally got a chance to meet a bunch of the guys on the squad who I've never met before, as well as get to know everyone a lot better.

Saturday started off with introductions, photos, and getting information about the team. Then the Vellum guys showed up with the bikes that we're going to be riding this year and they look awesome! Of course once we got the OK to swarm around the bikes to check things out, I straightlined it immediately to the TT bike, named the Uno. This thing looks like a rocket: great aero lines, aggressive geometry, lightweight, and stunning. The attention to detail was first rate. The Elemente, which will be our road bike for the year, is also a great looking frame, and light and stiff to boot. I can't wait to get riding on these bikes this year.

After we wrapped all that up, we started the "team building" portion of the ropes course we were slated to do for the day. We went through a bunch of activities that really helped me get to know everyone a lot better and really opened up the communication in our group. This was very benefitial to me, as coming in as one of the new guys, I only knew 1 or 2 of the folks in the group prior.

After lunch we suited up in harnesses and hopped onto the high ropes course. Our challenge for the day was to climb up a telephone pole 50 feet, walk across a rope brigde, then across a plank bridge, then over to a balance beam walk, and finally across a tight rope cable before rapelling back down. We had a couple of guys in the air at a time, and pretty quickly the people on the ground started realizing "hey, there's snow on the ground and those guys up there are pretty much sitting ducks. Let's pelt them with snowballs!" Hilarity soon ensued. I felt bad for Robbie who was the last one to go and therefore had everyone on the ground focused on hitting him with as many snowballs as possible. Not even our Jon, our DS, was immune to attacks.

Saturday evening was a nice meet and greet with ABRT Cycling, our team's supporting club. Great group of guys and very hospitable. Then Sunday we went out for a nice ride with the ABRT club. And instead of "nice" I should probably say "ice" because it was 19 degrees to start and the wind was howling the whole time! I was bundled up in every piece of cycling clothing I brought, including ski gloves. We still had an enjoyable ride; my first with the team. Getting back to the team van and blasting the heat never felt so good though!

It was great meeting everyone over the weekend. I think we have a great group put together and racing this year is going to filled with fun and success.

Thanks for reading. -- Al

Saturday, January 19, 2008

... and I'm back

Well, the Mac is cool, but some issues with iWeb kept me from being able to post to my site from any location, so I'm back to good ol' Blogger. Now that the season is starting back up I think I'll have a bit more to write about.