Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 Florida State Criterium Championships (5/24-25/14)

Warming up on my new rollers--Thanks, Roger!
Last weekend was a very special weekend for me. Not only was it my 14th birthday, but it was the last of the 5 State Championship Titles that I was competing for.

Saturday morning, I woke up ready to get on the bike and try to kick some butt in the Cat 4 Men's race. After doing my warm-up, I lined up in staging and waited to be called up to the line. Once the whistle was blown, I almost instantly went into the pain cave. I spent most of my time attacking in the front and recovering in the back.

Once I saw 2 laps to go, I knew I needed to start to move up. Going into corner one, my back tire slid out and went skidding on the pavement for several yards. Almost as soon as I was thrown down, I was getting back up and checking myself for any serious injuries. My bibs and socks were ruined, and I ended up with a nasty road rash that covered most of my right leg, but otherwise, I was ok. With encouragement from my dad, I got back on the bike and finished the race.

Look closely and you can see me skidding out
Dad's helmet cam footage
After I crossed the finish line, I got some medical help (and moral support) from my friends on the Wizard Racing and RedEye Velo teams. Some of the parents took me to the Wizard pit for treatment, since it was right near the finish line. They cleaned out my wounds, patched me up, and gave me ice to help with the swelling, and I really appreciate it. Without them, I don't know if I would have been able to race on Sunday.

That night, my family went out to eat with the RedEye Velo team at this cool little pizza place. We had a great time hanging out, and the team even gave me some presents that made me feel like an honorary member of the team. Thanks, guys!!

Staging for the Juniors race
Sunday morning I was a little bit stiff and in pain, but I knew I just had a short 25 minutes to push through if I wanted to compete for my final state championship. Off the line I made an attempt to drop everyone early, and hammered for the first 3 laps. However, because of my injuries, it soon became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to ride away from the group, so I settled in.

The finish
With 3 laps to go, a friend (Jackson) attacked and got a good gap, which stood strong until the very last turn of the race, when I closed the gap after spending 3 laps chasing him down. Once I came around the last corner, I attacked hard starting the sprint to the finish. In the end, I found myself winning my 5th State Championship Title of the year by a very slim margin. Kudos to Hunter, Nico, Jackson and the others for making the finish so exciting! It was a great race, and it was great seeing all of my road friends.

**Thanks to RedEye Velo and Wizard Racing Team for some of the pictures.**

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

St. Augustine VeloFest (5/10-11/14)

Goofing around with my brother, Ryan
This weekend the whole family traveled to St. Augustine, Florida for VeloFest. Even my brother, Ryan, came along. My dad and I were both racing the Cat 3/4 crit and the Cat 4/5 road race, and we made a little side bet about which of us would win. Regardless of where we finished in the overall results, we were racing for family bragging rights and I wanted to beat him.

I got a great start off the line for the Old City Criterium on Saturday, and was running in the top 3 early in the race. Nearly from the start, some of the Cat 3's were putting in a bunch of little attacks, which I tried to counter to stay up front. Ultimately, though, that was my downfall. It wasn't until I cramped up badly from head to toe that I realized my mistake and had to pull out of the race. That round went to my dad, who finished 4th in the Cat 4 field and 18th overall.

Neutral start of the road race
On Sunday, we lined up again to compete in the Syco Farms Road Race. I was determined to redeem myself for the mistakes I made the day before. The course was 36 miles, full of long, flat roads with strong winds. After doing a good warm-up, I went over to staging to wait for my start. Once it was 5 minutes until start, the officials called us up to the line, where I was able to get a front row spot. The first 3 miles of the course were really narrow, so it was a neutral start. Throughout the race, I was finding it hard to make moves and get myself in the front of the group, so I was forced to ride near mid-pack, where everyone was riding like they had never ridden a bike before. Once I saw that we had ridden 30 miles, I knew I needed to move up in the pack for the sprint finish. However, because the group was so closely compacted with over 70 cat 4 and 5 riders, I was only able to move up a few positions. 

Finish first, celebrate later
Once we came around the last corner, it was a 400 meter sprint to the finish line. I went really wide going around the turn, and I found myself with almost nobody in front of me. I hammered up the road, and when I caught up to the top 3, I saw that the guy in the lead was already celebrating 20 meters from the finish line.
Eeking out the win
So I got up out of the saddle and made one final attempt to overtake him. In the end, I finished in 1st place, beating the guy by a millisecond for my first category win. It was a great race and I feel like I'm gaining a lot of experience for when I compete in road nationals again this year. Plus, I also beat my dad, which left us tied in the battle for bragging rights. 

Coming up in a couple of weeks is the Florida State Criterium Championships, so stay tuned!

Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Florida State MTB Championship--Lakeland, FL (5/4/14)

Ethan A., Bryce K., Me, Nico T.
Steve Agronick--still shredding it in his 70's
Last weekend was the Florida State XC Mountain Bike Championship. I had a blast and really enjoyed seeing all my local friends.

Saturday was not the best pre-ride I've ever had, but to be fair, it wasn't too bad. I was originally not going to ride the course because the past couple days it had been raining hard, making the trails really muddy and slick. But, after waiting two hours, I decided to just go ahead and ride two laps. The course was drying up really quick and by the time I was finishing my second lap it was almost completely dry. However, once I changed and packed up the car, it started pouring AGAIN.

Sunday was much better. By the time I raced, the course was mostly dry and fast. After doing my warm-up, I went to staging and waited for the start of my class. Off the line I had the hole shot, gapping everyone by several yards.

Throughout the race I just tried to keep a fast and steady pace, and by the time I crossed the finish line, I was over five minutes ahead of second. (Actually, second, third and fourth had an exciting sprint to the finish that I was glad I got to see.)

After looking at my lap times, I noticed that I had one of the fastest lap times of the day. I was only surpassed by the Pros and Cat 1 19-29 men. Winning this race was a great accomplishment, and I can't wait to try and get my 5th Florida State Championship title in the criterium race towards the end of the month.

**Thanks to Michael Ploch, Christie Burnett and Carissa House for the race photos I "borrowed" for this week's blog.**

Friday, May 2, 2014

Athens Criterium Races & SERC #4 (4/26-27/14)

After a sleepless night of loud trains and a very uncomfortable bed in a motel, I "woke up" at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for my races Saturday morning. By the time I made it to Athens for my Cat 4 race that started at 9:10 a.m., it was already 8:40 and all the racers were staging for the start. So, me being me, I didn't warm-up, and lined up next to all of them as to not get a bad start. (Big Mistake)

Cat 4 staging
Once the Master Men finished, my class all moved out to the start line, and I got pushed back to the third row. Off the start, someone slammed into me, causing me to put my foot down to save myself from crashing. After that, I was preoccupied with avoiding 5 crashes, multiple leg cramps, and trying everything I could to catch up to the front of the group. By the second to last lap, I was finally moving up in the field, but by the time we came around the last corner, I was still towards the back. Once I saw the finish line, I did everything in my power to move up, and after sneaking my way to the front of the group, I contested in the sprint, finishing 6th out of over 40 starting racers. I was a little disappointed that I was 1 tenth of a second off of 5th place and the podium, but really pleased that 1st place only finished 1 second in front of me, and that I had qualified for the Amateurs Twilight race at 6:00 that evening.

Warming up
Moving on to the Juniors race...

I was feeling decent, but I could tell that my legs weren't at their best. So, after a short warm-up on the trainer, I went over to staging and waited for my 1:30 start. My plan was to do what I've done in previous races--make a big attack and ride off the front to win. But, when I did attack, I quickly learned that I couldn't hold it, so I let the group catch back up. Throughout the race, there were a team of kids who would slow the pace down and then have someone attack from the back and try to go solo. They tried this 4 times and I was forced to close the gap each and every time.

Thanks to Wizard Racing for the photo
On the last lap I made one final attack after turn 3 to surprise everybody and gap the field. I had a major gap after the last turn, but with just 10 feet to go on an uphill finish, another kid caught up to me. I made one final attempt to beat him to the line, but my legs were jello. In the end it was a photo finish with him JUST BARELY beating me by about an inch. I was disappointed that I didn't win, but still happy with myself because I knew I wasn't feeling my best.

Sprint finish
Juniors podium
And now for the Amateurs Twilight race...

Sandor and I in staging for the Twilight
Staging was hectic. I went from being on the front row, to getting shuffled to the 6th after an unexpected parade lap. Once the race started, everyone seemed to move into the middle, and all of a sudden, within the first 5 seconds, there was a massive crash. I was right behind the wreck, so I frantically tried to move over to the right to avoid it. But unlucky me, my front wheel hit a guy lying on the ground and I flew over my handlebars. In the wreck I suffered a chain ring to the thigh, a slash to my knee, and a stem to the groin, but luckily my bike only had a dropped chain and scuffed up bar-tape. After I got up and assessed my condition, I decided I wasn't going to take the free lap. I felt that if I went back in, I would just get wrecked out again (plus, I was hurting a good deal). So I pulled myself out of the race.

And then Sunday came...

I still didn't get much sleep and I was still feeling pretty bruised up the next morning, but I wasn't going to let that be an excuse. I did my warm-up and then lined up in the Cat 2 Men 19-29 class. Off the start, I got the hole shot and sped through the woods. About 15 minutes into the race I got stuck behind lap traffic in a really tight section and a guy in my class managed to get around me. I rode his wheel until the last section of the course, where I attacked and dropped him.

Crossing the finish
My second lap felt strong and consistent, and in the end, I won by a comfortable margin. It was a fun race and it was great seeing all of my friends from the SERC again.

This coming weekend is the Florida State Mountain Bike Championship, so stay tuned!