Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DMZ Road Race

20 May 12-

After getting in the crash last week and DNF'ing the Hill Climb the DMZ Race was shaping up to be very similar as last November.  This was the race that I closed out my 2011 season with, a win at that.  The interesting thing is the race before the DMZ race last year I also crashed, so there is something about the DMZ race that gets me in trouble prior to it.  It makes me show up to this race ready ride and get after it.

The race is a very interesting one at that.  The best way to describe it is it is a 2 stage race, except you don't really get a huge break in between, about 12K of neutral decent at that.  So you finish what I will call "Stage 1" at the top of a 20min climb, descend through a technical decent where your time does not count (neutralized), then you arrive to a timing mat to start "Stage 2", which includes a 5k climb and then about 20K to the finish line.  There is some strategy to this race since the timing is all chip based, and it can really bite you in the rear if you don't pay attention.

I showed up to the start line on time this time and believe it or not they actually started the race on time instead of early like last week.  I sat at the back of the group and made sure I was the last person in my age group to role over the line.  That gets you at least a few seconds in case you come across the line as someone else at the same time you should have the upper advantage.  I sat in the group for most of the flat section leading to the climb, but with about 5k to go went up front and started to hammer it to put some of the other guys in the hurt zone.  I was feeling fine and showed up to the bottom of the climb in the front and then my teammate and stud climber JY took off up the climb.  A few guys tried to go with him but I knew it was a long climb so I just held my own pace.  I was back to about 5th and just kept on going.  About 3/4 of the way up the climb the 30's Age Group came by us, well the 3 leaders, which included one of my teammates Elmer the Flying Osterich.  I picked up the pace with them for a bit, but they were just hammering away so I got back into my zone.  With about 1K to go I had caught the second place guy and up a steep right hander is when I made my move and attacked.  I rode hard to the top of the climb trying to put has much time into the guys behind me, but knew there was no way I was going to catch JY.

I ended up crossing the line 1min40secs behind JY, yeah he took it to me pretty good.  I also put 40secs into the next guy behind me so I had a pretty nice cushion for Stage 2.  I rode down the neutral zone with Elmer and then Stephen who was in the 40's caught up to us.  The ideal way to ride Stage 2 is to group up with a decent group and then go with them from the start.  So off we went for Stage 2 and Stephen left the line about 1min before all of us to try and get a good gap so that he could go over the top of the climb with the climbers.  I had to stay with the guys in my age group to make sure we all crossed the line at the same time.  About 1K from the climb Stephen was still up the road a bit so I attacked and bridged up to him.  We both worked together up the climb but about 1K from the top of the climb I got caught and dropped by the three 30's age group guys.  They all went over the top and I ended up going over the top with three guys from my AG.

We all stayed together all the way to the finish and I sat 2nd wheel for about the last 1K and with about 300m to go I jumped out and took the sprint out of us.  I am still trying to figure out how far out I can go from so it was a good practice sprint for me.  I ended up 2nd to JY and he had the fastest time on the day, and he solo'd the whole 2nd stage of the race.  The guy is super impressive and just keeps getting stronger and stronger.

Overall it was a great day, our team had a good showing with 5 of the 8 of us on the podium.  We are making a statement, that although we did not win the team title at the TdK we are the strongest team right now, cleaning up at every race we show up to.  There have been a few guys avoiding riding in the road category and have been doing the MTB races because of how we have been dominating, it is quite comical.

Thanks again for all of the support, looking forward to putting in a solid 2 races in one day this coming weekend with a 40k Circuit Race in the morning followed by a TTT in the afternoon.

Link to ride on Strava:
Results: 2nd out of 43 (51 on start list) Link to Results: Click Here

Haven't been able to find any race photos yet, but here is a few photos from the podium.

 Gotta support the WATTS Shop, as they provide plenty of support for our team.
 Quick change into the military kit, that is what I have been racing in.  Love flying the Red, White, and Blue onto the Podium!
 All of the podium guys!
 Everyone from our team that raced, saying "FIGHTING"!
34kg of rice, gave it away to some of my Korean friends!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chuncheon Hill Climb aka Missed Start & Crash

13 May-

Coming off of the win yesterday I was feeling really good about today.  It was broken down in age groups of 10 year increments.  Most Korean races are either open with everyone or age groups of 10 year increments, yesterday was rare to have Under 40 and Over 40.  Either way I know most of the guys in the 20's and I was going to be fighting for 2nd, with my teammate JY the favorite for our AG and the whole race.

We left the shop early in the morning and got to the race about 8, which we though was 1 hour prior to start.  No worries, plenty of time to get everything ready, not much time to warmup but luckily it was 13K of rolling terrain prior to hitting the 9K climb.  I planned to just sit in and get the legs woken up.  In order to do that you actually have to make it to the start on time.  So here comes the start of what I will describe as the "shit show", pardon my french.  I will pre face the next portions of this with, this might be a vent session about how Korean races are ran and mis managed.

I missed my start, the race started at 8:47, 13 minutes early.  One of my teammates came to the van and told me to hurry up they were starting soon, so I headed to the line and they were already off so I had to play catch up.  About 400m down the road I was doing about 25mph trying to catch up, not knowing how much work I would have to do but I was pissed off and that means riding hard.  I get to the first intersection, cops standing there hands in pockets not pointing to turn, and stopping a car from coming into the road, must mean I need to keep going straight.  Can't see anybody up the road so I figured I had a lot of work to do.  I kept hammering away and about 3 minutes later I started to realize I couldn't be on the course, so I turned around and went back to that first intersection.  Once again they are standing there with their hands in their pockets and don't have a clue what is going on.

By this point I know I am 6 minutes down plus however much I missed the start by.  I figured I would just get a good solo workout in and see how well I could climb the climb.  I kept hammering away and was just about to the climb when all craziness broke out.  I came up to an intersection that had a lot going on in it.  I have a picture below which shows what was going on and there was a lot of confusion.  I was in the process of passing a guy on the left and trying to figure out how I was going to make it through this intersection.  There was people getting off a bus yelling at the traffic cops and the cops walking back and forth on the straight section trying to get the people back on the bus.  I was focusing on that and all the sudden the guy I am passing decides that he wants to make a hard left to the road that is to our left.  Come to find out that is where we were suppose to turn.  No cop or marshal standing at the corner pointing left, no sign, just a few small chalk marks on the ground, that are not visible when doing 20+mph.  Our bars locked and the guys in experience completely destroyed any chance of us staying up.  I have learned to be calm in these situations and if not in a peloton to just slow down and then un hook the bars.  This guy decided to start violently shaking his bars thinking it would solve the issue, well that was not the case and next thing I know I am on the ground and my front wheel is destroyed.  According to my Garmin 800, impact speed was about 15mph.
Many of you from the states or other areas probably are wondering why people were cutting the corner short and so on.  In Korea all the races I have done have been closed roads, for at least the side of the road you are racing on or the lane you are racing in.  The yellow line rule does not exist and it is ride at your own risk if you choose to go into the other lane, however the lead moto will make cars in the on coming lane move off the road.  This is the norm here.  I am a firm believer in you should know the course, but when the maps are not detailed and there are no signs or marshaller's paying attention I get very frustrated with the race organizers.  It would be one thing if I could understand the street signs, or the maps they provided even provided street names.  My biggest complaint was this was two days in a row this had happened with poor marshalling and course markings.  Yesterday I benefited from it today I was a victim of it.

As a country, Korea is completely behind in the whole cycling spectrum.  The problem is they hold very few races, although each year there seems to be more.  Most of the racers only race the Tour de Korea, which creates a lack of racing experience.  They have no category system and at best you get age groups, which really solves nothing.  There Pro racing system is completely segregated from the amateur scene, if you are not in it from a young age you cannot get into it.  The pros are not allowed to race with amateurs, unlike the US where we have P/1/2 races.  Something needs to be done but it seems they just like to keep throwing money at these races which draws strong riders with not a lot of ability to show up to the start line attempting to cash in on a paycheck and instead cause craziness in the group.

As the race organizers are throwing big money at the races they need to start doing the little stuff well before doing the big stuff well.  The Crit this past October had $15,000 in prize money, all kinds of cameras and big screens, but not all that well organized of an event.  The race on Saturday paid $500,$300,$200 in 8 different categories, that is $8,000, and the race was horrible in terms of organization and course markings and having people to direct you where to go.

I am not sure what it is going to take to fix the cycling scene out here, it is not far off from being a good racing scene, they just need to start following suit with some other countries and start doing things "right".  I absolutely love racing over here, it just seems lately things have not been working out well and becoming quite poor, compared to mediocre like before.  I enjoy riding with all the riders out here, there are some very strong riders and then the crazy ones that you have to watch out for, just like anywhere else.  I hope things can take a turn for the better soon, because Korea can offer a lot from a training and racing experience for ExPats that come over here to live.

In the end I had a bad day, but the rest of my teammates did quite well.  As expected JY won our AG, Stpehen won the 40's and Elmer took 3rd in the 30's.  Good day for the team and a strong showing on the weekend.  Looking forward to this coming weekend where I will be trying to defend my WIN from last year, the DMZ race has been moved from October to May this year.  The course is absolutely beautiful with two great climbs.

Thanks again for the continued support!

 JY, Stephen, and Elmer with their certificates.
 The Wheel is destroyed
 Can't seem to figure out exactly how this happened.  Luckily HED has great customer service and a crash replacement plan.  A new wheel is already in the mail and headed out my way.  Very impressed with the whole HED crew and how quick they were to help me out.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Incheon Rally Road Race

12 May 12-

Post TdK I had a weekend off and worked the weekend duty.  I was up to 11 days straight of work which isn't anything crazy, but I was really looking forward to this weekend as it was going to be 2 races in 2 days.  Today was the 40K RR (road race), and tomorrow would be the 22k hill climb, 9k of which would be up the climb.

I had talked to a friend of mine on what the strategy should be for today, and we have started to pick up on some things about the Korean road racing scene.  If you can get a decent gap and start to get out of reach the peloton will just shut down and assume they cannot catch you and just fight for 2nd.  So he told me to just go from the gun and see what happened.  I had JY from my team and Aaron and Luis in the field, so they could control the peloton if need be and JY would be able to win the field sprint if I could stay away.  The other interesting thing is it was grouped by under 40 and over 40, but we all started together.  There was 123 people on the entry list, but I would estimate about 80-90 people on the start line.

Once the gun went off it took me a few seconds to get clipped in but I was still out front.  Once that right foot clipped in I put the hammer down, probably a little too much as my 10s power was 888 watts.  It worked though and I opened up a small gap.  Then the first corner came and I overshot it and ended up on the opposite side of the center divider, which I think caused some more confusion to the group, but 200m up the road there was an opening in the divider and we got back over to the right side of the road.  The course had a few turns early on and that is where I wanted to try and maximize the gap and get them to think that I was going to stay away.  By the first main long stretch I looked back and there had been one guy trying to bridge but he was back to the group by then and it looked as if I had opened up a 30-45s gap, so all was going good.

Then at about 20 minutes into the race when they came at me on the opposite side of the road, it was really confusing.  I had the lead moto so I wasn't worried about me going the right way, well I mean he did take a wrong turn or two, or at least attempted to.  So at that point I knew something was wrong, either A the moto took me the wrong way, or B the chase pack took a wrong turn.  Come to find out they had taken a wrong turn, a couple to be exact.  At that point I kind of had an idea that the race was going to be screwed up, but I kept hammering away and just followed the moto.  I kept looking back on some of the straightaways and couldn't see anyone so I throttled back just a bit as I knew I had to race tomorrow.

I came to the final turn to an empty straight away and no one in sight behind me.  It was a good feeling to have won the race, but it was a bittersweet feeling as well.  I really would to of liked to know if I could of stayed off the front solo.  In the end I still took home the pay check, but they DQ'd the 1st main pack that took the wrong turns which sucked because JY had won that field sprint and put him 2nd across the line.

It was a good way to kick off the start to a 2 race weekend, and I am looking forward to the hill climb tomorrow as I think I have a good shot at the podium, 99% sure JY will be kicking my rear up the mountain though.

Thanks again to everyone for all of the support and a special thanks to the US Military Cycling Team fueled by FRS, Primal Wear for the awesome skin suit, Honey Stinger for the great nutritional products, and WATTS/Storck Cycling of South Korea for all the logistical support.

Link to ride on Strava:
Results: 1st out of 76 (123 on start list) Link to Results: Click Here
 Luis, myself, and Aaron, the guys I train with at Osan.
 Waiting for the prize $$$$$
 The traditional Korean bow and nod
2nd Win of the season!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TdK Stage 8 Recap

29 Apr 12-

Well today was the last day of the TdK and we had our work cut out for us.  We had a lot to loose today and not so much to gain.  With JY still having the Yellow Jersey, Sprinter Jersey, and Best Young Rider Jersey we had a lot to cover.  Luckily the race was only 48K and flat.

I made sure to stay up towards the front to stay out of trouble and avoid anything crazy.  A lot of random people showed up since it was a Sunday and it was near Seoul.  That is the interesting part of the amateur race is there is no cut and you can take a day off and show up the next day.  It played into my favor with having to work, but it also brings some un experienced people to the start line that have no business being up in front on the final day.

With about 15K to go the 2nd place guy in GC started attacking.  It was a pretty smart move on his part as he was attacking through this set of tunnels we had to go through.  There was a small break of 5 guys up the road and he attacked and I just sat on his wheel.  It was hard work as he is super strong but I never felt like I was going to get dropped.  It was quite funny when we caught the break as he just went flying right by them and I just stuck with him.  At about 5K to go you go from one freeway to another one with an on ramp.  We were all back together at this point and I was up front just trying to keep things under control.

At this point there was only one thing left to do.  At 1.5K out there was a very sketchy chicane that had some metal rails sticking up.  We had all talked about it and stated that it was very dangerous and that if you weren't sitting in the top 15 wheels you my as well just sit up and just soak in the last 1K.  We had enough guys up in the top 15 that I just took it easy.  This has been the plan the last couple days as I have no reason to be sprinting for position due to not being in the individual GC.  The risk to reward just isn't worth it, it is to early in the season to be getting taken out in a field sprint.  If you have been following the blog you know there has been numerous accidents.  Our team alone had 1 broken femur, 2 collar bones, a sore kneck, and 2 jacked up bikes.

So our guys did a great job today and JY kept the Yellow and defended the sprint line and kept some points.  Today was a very emotional day for the team as we started this race not 8 days ago, but over 3 months ago.  We all sat down and came up with one goal, and that was to get JY the Win.  He is a very strong rider, but to win a Stage race it takes more than just 1 strong rider, it takes a team of strong riders.  This year we had that and we worked very well as a team and accomplished our goal.

Next week I will be taking the weekend off but then the following 3 weekends will be packed with racing.  I am looking forward to getting some solid 1 day races in and looking for some good results.  Thanks again for all of the support, this was a huge race for the team this year and to see everyone come together and work as one was an amazing thing.

Link to ride on Strava:
Stage 8 Placing: 109th out of 168 (Time Gap: :19) -Stage 8 Individual Results
Stage 8 Team Placing: 2nd (Time Gap: 0:00)- Stage 8 Team Results

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the week!