Madison of the Americas Race Report

Despite dour predictions for the weather, racing got started without a hitch last night. It was so humid it was hard to breathe, but the moisture stayed in the air, and rain held off. I kitted up in a Mike Fraysse Racing skinsuit, and had the assistance of Fraysse himself. All I can say is that he's an odd fellow, doing little more than talking trash about the other teams and riders throughout the night. Maybe it's his form of a motivational speech. Beats me...

In the first race of the night, we got off to a bit of a rough start. I think we missed two exchanges, but fortunately they came at times when the pace was more reasonable, and didn't hurt us. Along with racing together for the first time, both Barry and I had trouble picking one another out in the pack, as there were three other teams with red, white, blue, and black kits. Not good. We did manage to get better as the night went on, though. The first race saw no one successfully gain a lap, but a couple teams went down laps, and we managed to pick up a few points, but rode conservatively. After all, we still had two more 50 lap madisons to race that night. No one crashed, we had some points, we were still on lap with the leaders, and the race ended without incident.

During the second race I started to feel great. My legs opened up, my speed was good, and our exchanges were smooth. Unfortunately, Barry was starting to feel the wear of the racing, and suffered a bit, but still rode well. I took a few more points in the sprints, bridged some gaps to various attacks, and hit my top speed for the night, at 64 km/h. Some more teams went down laps, and the points we gained moved us up a few places in the standings.

I wanted to attack in the third race. I felt awesome in second race, and felt that if I could put in a strong attack and get one of the Argentinian teams to come with me, that we had a solid chance of getting away. But Barry was blown. In his own words, he could hold the pace in the pack, but things got rough when he had to make them happen on his own. So we decided to have him try to position for the sprints, and then I would make the dash for the line. It worked once or twice, but then we started getting boxed in, and would need to try to make up 20-30 meters to the leaders in order to score points. I succeeded in that game once, but it took a lot out of me, and afterwards we settled for just taking scrap points when we could get them. Somewhere around 25 laps to go, the Colavita team went on the attack. There were three Argentinian teams in the race, Colavita, Rite Aid, and a composite team with Pete Fitzpatrick of Australia. From the start, it was clear that they were working together, and true to form, when Colavita went off the front in search of a lap, none of the other Argentinian teams, (who ultimately took the top three spots) went after them. So with nine laps to go, Barry threw me in, and I went on the attack. No one went with us, and at one point we had almost a full straight on the field. The charge came on the last lap though, and the pack swept me up in the sprint. So much for that effort. It was fun to see what I could against these guys, and really make myself suffer for a few laps. When it was all said and done, we finished sixth on the night. Not too bad, with 12 teams taking to the rail. For my first ever Friday (or Saturday, in this case) night race at T-Town, I'm not at all disappointed to finished behind four pro teams and a local powerhouse. My form is where I want it to be, and I feel like I'm just getting faster. And we made $150. Score!

Perhaps the most impressive thing about racing out here is how well T-Town takes care of it's riders. There's more than prize money that attracts top level riders out here. In my case alone, they've given me a place to live with some other riders, don't appear to be charging me any sort of rent, set me up with a group to train with, motorpaced me, gave us dinner after the rain out on Friday, and then an even better dinner after racing last night. It's a pretty awesome place to be. And while the racers all take it very seriously, they aren't nearly the nefarious, plotting, criminals that Lucy made them out to be when I came here for junior nationals a few years ago. In fact, they're pretty nice.

This morning I came out to Bethlehem and did a circuit race against my better judgement. I was tired and blown from all the madisons last night, and to top it off, it was pouring rain. But I started it up anyways, just to get some training in and do something different. The course was nothing particularly interesting, but I put in a ton of attacks. There was one team in particular that overwhelmed with numbers, but I chased down a handful of their attacks, spent plenty of time off the front, attacked on the last lap, was caught, recovered briefly, and still managed to take a top 10 finish. Not too bad, and I stayed upright in the rain. As seems to be the standard out here, they also gave me lunch after the race. Minnesota should really take up that trend.

Now it's time for some well earned rest and recovery. Maybe a movie and nap are in order. Next on the racing schedule is the Detroit 3-day. It would seem that they liked the way Luke and I rode last year, because when they changed the schedule, and I told them we wouldn't be able to make it, they said that they would give us host housing, give me travel money to drive out from T-Town, and fly Luke in from North Carolina. Awesome. Hopefully we can put on a good show again. I know I'm feeling much stronger than last year, and from what I hear, Luke is going well too. This should be fun.

Our home in Kutztown. It looks pretty nice from here...

Things are a little different inside. This picture is level. The stairs, considerably less so.

The window and a colorful sarong from Kate are pretty much the highlights of my room. There is a cable for hooking up a TV strung from corner to corner in the room, apparently for drying laundry on.

This large rodent (muskrat, probably) lives under the building, and is only scared of people to the extent that it's more convenient to not need to deal with us.

The view from one of the fire escapes, along with the creek that the building is apparently falling into.

Something is generally askew in Kutztown...

Yeah, nice try Kutztown. I'm onto you...


Rained out tonight. I met my partner though, his name is Barry, and he seems to be pretty good. We got a few throws in before the drops began to fall. All in all, I feel good for tomorrow. The racing has been rescheduled, and having an extra 24 hours to heal up from my crash is sort of a bonus. The thing that's really bothering me now is my neck, the whole thing feels like it's been twisted around 180 degrees, cocked off to one side, and slept on for a week straight. Another day, and a bunch more vitamin I and tomorrow can only be better. On the downside, the weather is supposed to be worse then than it was tonight, and worse on Sunday than tomorrow. We'll just have to wait and see.

JT alluded the partying prowess of the Kiwis earlier, and I think he may be on to something. They're having a going away party for Hassim, despite having gym work and plyometrics tomorrow morning, then an evening of racing. From a floor above, it doesn't sound like that's holding them back at all. It should be interesting to see how they ride tomorrow night...

Race day

It's warm, humid, and windy. Tonight I'll get my first taste of Friday night racing in T-Town. Should be exciting. Three 50 lap madisons, sprints every 10 laps. With the races being that short, I can only imagine that the pace is going to be wicked. Supposedly a few teams and riders backed out last night, and they had to reshuffle who was racing with who, so we'll see what partner I end up with. The original plan had been to ride with Taylor Brown. He seems to be on good form, and knows what he's doing, so hopefully that will work out. Tonight will tell...

Heading East

After two days of driving, I arrived in T-Town yesterday afternoon. Butterworth (the 6-day promoter responsible for me coming out here) was out of town, along with the keys for the dorm I'm supposed to stay in. So I stop at the track, met Marty Northstein and Erin Hartwell, heard that they have an apartment in Kutztown for riders to stay in, got a set of keys, and moved on. They told me there were a few sprinters living there now, but that there should be open rooms.

Now, the term "apartment" is a generous way to describe this building. You walk in the front door, past the broken TV in the corner, up the first flight of stairs leaning conspicuously to the left (so much so that they've pulled away from the wall on the right side), across the second similarly uneven floor, up a second set of questionable stairs, down the hall to the left, and into apartment 301. The apartment itself is a long, lumpy hallway with rooms on either side, a barren kitchen and a living room at the end. It could be diplomatically called "spartan." I found my new housemates in the kitchen, and filled them in on the situation. They seemed utterly unphased by my walking in, helped me find a room that had a bed, and offered to help me bring in my things.

There are 4 of us living there now. The other 3 are all sprinters, 2 from Trinidad (Jonathan and Hassim) and on from New Zealand (Nathan). Jon and Hassim are really friendly, with perhaps the biggest, loudest laughs I've ever heard. Never mind that I can't understand half of what they're saying, even though it's some version of English. I haven't really talked much with Nathan, but he says most of the New Zealand track team is living a floor below us. I got some dinner with the guys from Trinidad, Pete Fitzpatrick (Australia), and Ryan Nelman. There isn't a terrible lot to do in Kutztown, and it shows, as they're all well known at the local brewery/restaurant. Hassim is going back to Trinidad on Monday, which will make things less entertaining, but Jon will be here for about 2 more weeks, and I think Nathan will to, so at least not everyone is leaving.

I went and trained on the track this morning. If there is anywhere in the US that has a thriving track scene, this is it. 10:30 on a Thursday morning, and there are 3 motors out pacing separate groups. The sprinters are doing flying 200 motor drops, some enduro guys are doing long, high pace efforts, and I was in with 3 others doing madison work. The caliber of riders is unbelievable too. There's the New Zealand squad, Trinidad, Nelman, Barczewski, Lakatosh (both of them), Wiswell, and yesterday I saw a group of riders from Colavita/Sutter Home riding through Kutztown. This should make racing tomorrow an awesome experience.

Unfortunately, I had yet another run in with the pavement this morning. After a sprint in our madison work, I was right behind Jack Simes III, crossed the line, glanced at my partner (Taylor Brown), who waved off the exchange as expected, and looked ahead again to see Simes shutting it down and swinging up, straight though my front wheel. Maybe the right side of my body was jealous of all the attention the left side has gotten lately. In any case, it deposited some skin on the pavement, and shattered my helmet in the process. So now I'm back to the familiarity of bandages. The plan for the remainder of today is to rest up, work on my road bike, and maybe make my way to track tonight to sit in during the crit across the street and loosen up for racing Friday night.

Life in Bozeman

As I had thought on Sunday, if I need to be stuck somewhere between Seattle and Minneapolis, Bozeman is a pretty good place. After one night in a hotel, I've ended up staying with friends of my aunts, and they are some of the most gregarious people I've ever met. The car is being repaired, and while tonight was the predicted time for it to be completed, one part (the compressor) didn't arrive. It's in Germany. Fortunately, the mechanic was able to track down an aftermarket one in Billings, MT, but it won't arrive until tonight, so the car won't be ready until sometime tomorrow morning. After that, I'll load it up and hit the road, hopefully making it back to Minnesota by tomorrow night. Here's a list of everything that's been broken and replaced on my car so far on this trip:

Catalytic converter
Headlight bulb
Right fan
Left fan
Other misc. mechanical parts I can't recall
Most of the front panels and grill (to be fixed in Minneapolis)
Rear bumper (when I get to Minneapolis and call the insurance company of the woman in Seattle)

Ouch. This has been expensive. At least insurance is covering the raccoon mishap, but it still would have been cheaper to fly. Not cool at all.

The only redeeming facet of all this is that Bozeman is a great place to ride. Yesterday I rode up Hyalite Canyon, to the south west of town, then back down and across the city to the north east, and up Bridger Canyon, past Bridger Bowl, and to the top of Battleridge Pass. All in all, I put in almost 85 miles on the day. It was super hot, and I made the mistake of riding in the middle of the day, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and was a great way to clear my head and stop worry about everything that's gone wrong lately. This morning I woke up earlier to beat the rising temperatures and rode really hard up Hyalite again, just as the sun was rising over the eastern ridge of the canyon. I made it to the reservoir at the top, relaxed for a few minutes, and headed back down for a shower and some breakfast. The afternoon was taken up by riding around Bozeman, and I ended up at the same coffee shop as on Sunday, sitting on a comfy couch and watching the Tour with a nice guy named Kurt who's spending his summer here after graduating from college in Atlanta. I'm planning on coming back here tomorrow to watch the stage live, and it sounds like I'll be seeing him again then, too. Considering how it's all played out, I can't be that disappointed, Bozeman is a really nice place to be stuck.

The roads south of Bozeman, with the hills on the edge of the Gallatin Valley.

The reservoir at the top of Hyalite Canyon.

They neglected to add "Being Ed" as one of the things that attracts bears.

The descent from the top of Battleridge Pass

Even though it was hot and sunny in Bridger Canyon, there was a very visible storm going on over Bozeman in the Gallatin Valley. Fortunately, I missed it.

It looks like I'll be in Minneapolis tomorrow night, which means I'll be in town for racing on Thursday. I see there's a madison on the schedule, and I'm looking for a partner. Is anyone brave enough to try racing with me after my crashes?! If you're interested, let me know.

See you at the track.

This pretty much sums up how awesome Portland really is. Minneapolis is great, but this is a whole different level.

I made it to the Pacific!

The Seattle Public Library. If you're ever in Seattle, it's well worth checking out.

Looking out at Seattle from inside the Library.

Kate relaxing outside the Library.

It took a lock, some rope, and a sturdy rail to keep the Orca from succeeding in its attempt to return to the sea as we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island.

There is something awesome about riding your bike off a ferry before all the cars are allowed to leave.

Back to Seattle...

Kate sets off for Skagway, with 4 days camping on the deck a ferry and watching whales. Sounds like a fun excursion.

Descending Lolo Pass.

Along with a monsterous raccoon, I also decimated the western Montana insect population with the front of my car.

When it rains, it pours

So a lot has happened since the racing wrapped up in Alpenrose. Let's start off with a list:

Super Awesome:
The Detroit 3-Day
Japanese cooking
Hugicha tea
The Barlows
Taking ferries
Kate's adventure in Alaska

Pretty Awesome:
Bozeman, MT
Lolo Pass
Bellingham, WA

Not Awesome:
Central and Eastern Washington
Why I'm in Bozeman
107 F temperatures
People who back up without looking

Downright Awful:
Wisdom, MT

My luck

And now for the explainations. I picked up my freshly repaired car on Monday morning in Portland, and proceeded to check out the city with Kate. The initial impressions I had gotten of Portland being a cycling mecca were confirmed. Everyone who rnats and raves about this being the best city to bike in is absolutely correct. Portland is great. And there's a fighting chance that they're going to get public support to build an indoor velodrome. Two tracks in one city, respendent with brilliant riding and beautiful weather. I can see myself living there. We ran into Carrie Higgins again while sitting outside of Powell's Bookstore and eating gelato,
rode around a bit more, met up with Kate's friend Chris from Whitman, ate some awesome burritos in the Hawethorne district, rode some more, swam in the Willamette River, set up a few slacklines, rode home, and went to sleep. The overall Portland verdict: I want to live there. In the past, I've found the Twin Cities to be my favorite metropolitan area for a number of reasons, but Portland has powerfully usurped that spot.

On Tuesday we packed up the car and drove to Seattle to visit one of Kate's best friends from college, Katrina Barlow, and her family. Katrina was still working when we arrived in the afternoon, so we parked the car in downtown, pulled out the bikes, and took to exploring. The waterfront was pretty cool, I got to stand in the Pacific Ocean, we talked with a crazy lady about someone who is making found-object sculpture along the shore, rode through downtown, and then checked out the library. If you ever find yourself in Seattle, make a point to stop and at least walk around the outside of the public library. Rem Koolhas designed a brilliant piece of architecture, and it's inspiring to see it given an entire city block in the heart of downtown. Seattle is pretty great. Perhaps not as cool as Portland, but being on the ocean is a nice change if you're from Minnesota. One thing is does have going for it are a series of really steep streets leading down to the water, and what makes them even more fun is that they're mostly surfaced with some really old paving bricks.

After a few hours of getting acquainted, we met up with Katrina and went to her house, where her family was nice enough to not only let us stay for a few days, but to cook us some delicious Japanese food as well. We helped Katrina and her friend Collin finish building up her first road bike, and called it a day. On Wednesday, Kate and I got up and went for a ride around Lake Washington. The full distance is about 55 miles around, but we got off the beaten path about halfway through, and came back in about the same manner that we rode out. Having left the racing behind me for a few days, I figured I had left my bad luck as well. Not so. Riding down a nice, winding hill, I hit one of those plastic traffic dots that cover the streets in the northwest. If you've never encountered one of these, consider yourself lucky. They're about 3 inches in diameter, and about an 1 inch high in the middle, curving down like a dome to the road at the edges. As you've probably guessed by this point, hitting this ill-placed piece of traffic guidance made me crash. Again. That makes 3 times in 7 days. To put that in perspective, I didn't crash a single time last season. Not cool. I tore up my left arm (again, added some new raw areas to my left hip, and most painfully, tore the blister off of my right hand. I nearly quit riding, forever, right then and there. I was so demoralized that I gave some realistic consideration to picking up my bike, hurling it into the woods, and completely walking away from the sport. Fortunately, Kate managed to intervene with some much needed perspective before I could carry out my intended cylco-cide, and I limped on for the rest of the ride. At least it was a nice day, with nice scenery to boot. Somewhere in the course of this week, Kate decided to go work as a dog handler for a dog sled tour company on the Denver Glacier outside of Skagway, Alaska for a month to make some money and refill the travel funds, so we cleaned up, and headed out with the car to pick up the equipment she would need. A dinner of exquisite sushi later, a painful night of trying to sleep without touching my sides ensued.

On Thursday we rode from Katrina's house into downtown Seattle and took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. The Barlow's had suggested with visit the Japanese tea house that one of their friends runs there. I'm a big tea fan, and looking for anything that might improve my mood, we jumped at the plan. As hoped, it was a great excursion. The weather was the cool and windy sort that is so stereotypical of the Seattle as we boarded the ferry and rode across the sound. We brought our bikes with us, pedalled off the ferry (a cool experience in itself) and rode to Madoka's Tea House. To wrap this up quickly, hugicha is a delicious tea made from the roasted stems of tea plants rather than just the leaves. I've had a bunch of different Chinese, British, Indian, and South Asian teas, but never Japanese. It's much different, but delicious, and worth a try. Like good tourists, when we got back to Seattle, we wandered through Pike Place Market, then got on the bikes and rode home to yet another delicious meal.

Friday was taken up with packing all of Kate's gear and getting her to the ferry in Bellingham that's current taking here up to Skagway. I'd heard traffic in Seattle is bad, but I was not prepared for this. The 1.5 hour trip turned quickly into 3, and the about 25 minutes needed to suffice for check-in time for boarding, a bit less than the 2 hours they suggest. Either way, we got her on the ship, bid farewell, and I turned out to spend some time in Bellingham before returning to Seattle. As of Friday morning, I had planned on racing at Marymoor in the evening, but the traffic was so bad, it was clear that wasn't going to happen. Back in Seattle, I gathered my things up, loaded the car, and prepared to head out in the morning.

Saturday morning I left town. Things seemed promising, no firm schedule I needed to keep, just a drive across Washington, Idaho, and Montana, stopping to ride whenever I saw someplace interesting. Less than 30 miles outside of town, I stopped to get gas and mail a letter to Skagway, to see which arrives first, the 4 day ferry, or the US Postal Service (I think the ferry has a leg up in this competition, as it leaves on Friday and travels all weekend. We'll see.) While stopped at the local gas station, some woman in a huge SUV backs up, ignores my horn (and apparently presence) and runs right into the side of my rear bumper. Yet another car problem. At least it was just superficial, and the car could run just fine. We swapped insurance, I laughed at my luck, and got on my way. Now if western Washington is beautiful and interesting, central and eastern Washington is anything but. It is hot, arid, and boring. Don't go there, if you can avoid it. I made it through there, across the panhandle of Idaho (a welcome relief from Washington) and into Montana. I took a detour south of Missoula so that I could stop and ride Lolo Pass, which was a nice break. 17 miles of straight climbing that ends at the Montana/Idaho border. The climb is a good one, getting increasingly steep as the road progresses, following a stream through tall pine forests, a few open meadows, and striking rock formations. The ride back down is exhilarating, and I finished up at dusk, feeling refreshed and ready to travel. My plan was to drive to Wisdom, Montana, some 80 miles south, and ride over Lost Trail Pass early in the morning before getting on the road again. I should preface this by saying I planned the logistics of these two rides just by looking at a road atlas, seeing what was close to I-90, and picking a nearby town to use as a base.

It turns out Wisdom sucks. This one-block wasteland is comprised of a couple liquor stores (closed), a handful of restaurants/taverns (closed), and a shady looking motel (apparently open). The office was supposed to be in building next door, but the door just led me into someones garage, and a knock on the subsequent inner door brought dogs barking and no answer. Not feeling particularly great at this point, I decided to bag Lost Trail Pass and drive on the Butte. I could stop and ride other places in Montana...

Somewhere on the desolate back highways of rural Montana, I came over a rise onto a bridge, and proceeded to obliterate some mammal with the front of the car. Based on size, I'm guessing it was a raccoon, but based on speed, I doubt there is enough of it left to determine for sure. The car appeared to be running alright, and I was tired and anxious, so I pushed on. Awhile later I made it to Butte, but every motel in town was full. What anyone would ever want to do in Butte is beyond me, but disappointed and exhausted, I holed up in a Safeway parking lot, and managed to a get a few hours of very uncomfortable sleep. When I woke up, I was still tired, but rested enough to go on, spurred by the idea that by the end of the weekend I would be back in Minnesota, getting my stuff together and preparing to head to T-Town for a month. Curious, I decided to see if there was anything left of the poor creature I decimated the night before. As it would turn out, there was none, but it did leave me something before it left, in the form of a bent in and broken radiator, a broken fan shroud, and a crushed in front spoiler. So if my car woes hadn't been enough on this trip, now I was stranded in Butte at 7:00 AM on a Sunday, looking for someone who repairs VWs. This is not a good situation to find yourself in. I wandered around town, and as luck would have it, into a gas station where the attendant was very familiar with VWs, and was able to both confirm my suspicions and give me the number and address of the nearest VW dealer, some 70 miles away, in Bozeman. So I limped down I-90, made it Bozeman without overheating despite the coolant leaking out of my radiator, and all of that brings me to the present, sitting in a coffee shop, writing out an update, and waiting for a motel room to become available. The service department opens at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so I'll be there, bright and early, to plead my case, and hopefully get back on the road in a day or two. Until then, Bozeman isn't the worst place in the world to be stranded. In fact, if I had to pick somewhere along the route, this just might top it. So I guess it could be worse. On the upside, I'm close to Yellowstone, so I think I'll try to ride out there this afternoon and check it out.

Pictures to come later...

Our campsite in Wyoming, somewhere between Cheyenne and Laramie. We had our hammocks strung between old billboards on the side of I-80 when some guy drove by and told us to get out.

The points race at Alpenrose gets started...

I was feeling good, and even though only about 5 people weren't going to make the cut, I kept driving the pace and mixing it up in sprints.

Anne was nice enough to not only let us stay with her, but to drive us back and forth to the track while my car was getting repaired. Kate must have been feeling exceptionally affectionate towards her big sister here...

Dan Harm made it out for some of the racing, but didn't really do much in terms of results. Mikey wants to think that he was juicing when he won the pursuit, points race, and overall at collegiate nat's last year. The announcer in Alpenrose simply called him "a big strapping lad."

The Aussies were duking it out for the win in the miss and out. Ultimately it was Jeff Hopkins beating compatriot Bradley Paine at the line. Not content to stop there, Hopkins also won the madison with Chad Hartley, and took the kierin from some huge dudes, including the massive Canadian national team rider, Matt Barley. What a stud.

Warming up with Carrie Higgins (America's Dairyland) before the madison. Along with being super friendly, she's brutally fast, winning a bunch of events on the weekend, and taking the women's overall by a comfortable margin. It's even more impressive to realize that she's only been racing for 2 years, and this is her first full season competing on the track.

That's right, this is a picture of me drilling it in the madison, with Jeff Hopkins on my wheel. If you could see his face, you could tell that it's a combination of terror and extreme exertion. Or maybe placidity. I'm not sure.

The average speed of the points race was over 44 km/hour. With a pace like that, a field this big, things were strung out from the start, and never really slowed down. I took my sole point in the first sprint, and proceeded to spend the next 105 laps convincing myself not to drop out. I didn't, and while the combined effects of the two crashes made it a suffer-fest, I'm glad I stuck it out. All I can do is tell myself that it was making me faster.

The tunnel in Colorado Springs flooded with a couple feet of water and a whole bunch of hail. That's Adam Duvendeck's bike in the background, submerged to the hubs, SRM and all.

An ominous sign, when the sponges are buried in several inches of hail.

This guy pissed off his friends to come race with me. What love...

Kate is a real team player. She's even willing to blind this poor Canadian national team rider with a camera flash so that Mikey can throw me in and stay with the group.

Mikey throwing me onto Bobby Lea's wheel, while the Canadians chase and Slipstream-Chipotle exchanges above.

The Whirlwind

So it's time for a long recap.

Wednesday, 4 July: Due to the rain the night before, the last session of junior nationals and the second and third sessions of the Independence Day Grand Prix were all going to be combined. Start time was an hour early, the juniors were going to race early in the program so that they could get to Denver and leave on time, and while it would be long, we would get everything in. Unfortunately, they didn't have the schedule finalized on the third, so I showed up just after 8:00 in the morning to start my warm-up for the 10 mile scratch. That goes as planned, and the program moves right along. In all of the schedule shuffling that occurred, the 10 mile got pushed to the last race of session. Not cool. I had already been warming up in the paved desert that is the infield for a couple hours, burning to a delightful stop-sign red as I forgot my sunscreen, and now we had to wait even longer. By 1:30 in the afternoon, we're getting close. All that is left is a women's keirin round, and then we're up. And out of nowhere it starts to rain. Not just a little bit of rain. A ton of it. So after 5.5 hours of warming up, I threw everything in the car, met up with Kate, Noah, and Ryan and went to get some lunch and check out the farmers' market. The session was supposed to start at 5:00 that evening in an attempt to get everything in, so after a short reprieve, I drove back from Manitou Springs to the velodrome. Suddenly the nice afternoon (the rain cleared up after about 45 minutes) it starts to rain. And then hail. I get to the track, and the rain is still coming down. The hail caught up with me about half an hour later, and was absolutely driving. There were piles of hail that looked more like snow drifts, the tunnel flooded, and I ended up spending an hour hanging out with the resident pros as the weather taunted us and Mikey hemmed and hawed on the phone about the rain and his "unenthusiastic friends" that he had dragged along to the race. Finally he showed up, the weather relented (slightly), and we went in search of something to eat. At 7:00 it was decided that the session would not be cancelled, and that it would started 20 minutes after the track dried, and the first rider on the track took a lap. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:30, things were back under way. They changed the schedule again, so the madison was up before the 10 mile. After a really hectic, dangerous warm-up, with people throwing randomly, others spinning, and other doing sprints, we were ready to race. But the madison was going to be split, into a 40 lap segment and a 60 lap segment, with the fireworks in between. We couldn't race through them, because the city would fine the velodrome if they didn't turn off the lights. As it turned out, through everything, I was feeling really good. I was bridging gaps, taking pulls, and all around riding great. Mikey kept missing my on exchanges though, and leaving me out to dry for another pull. Not cool. Fortunately, I wasn't having any trouble due to the altitude, but the extra efforts were really taking a toll on me. As we were really starting to struggle, the blissful fireworks break came, and we retreated the infield for 45 dark minutes on the rollers in an attempt to stay loose. Things started up again, and I was feeling even better. I got into a break with the Canadian national team (they ended up winning), and the US team of Colby Pierce and Bobby Lea (they took second). We were ultimately absorbed by the pack, let by Mike Creed and Mike Friedman (they took third), but it was a huge morale booster to realize that I can ride with those guys and hold my own while doing it. When there were about 30 or 40 laps to go, I dropped down on the backstretch for Mikey to throw me in. I put my hand out, and suddenly feel Mikey's wheel against the back of my foot. A moment later I heard the sound of spokes hitting bike parts, and got pulled over to the left, landing on Mikey and skidding along the pavement. Hence ended out madison. No one to blame but ourselves.
Mikey crushed the side of his helmet and lost a lot of skin. I came out a bit better, as landing on him took the majority of the impact, and while I lost a big patch on my left forearm, I really came out wheel. The medics patched me up, I switched wheels, and got ready for the 10 mile. As it was about midnight by now, the race was shorted to 5 miles, a bunch of people left, and we took the track in a group of about 12. I knew I didn't have any snap in my legs to sprint at the finish, and went off in a break with 2 other riders. We stayed away for quite a while, but were eventually caught, and all I could do was hang on and nurse my wounds until the finish. All in all, not a very good showing, in terms of results, but it did show my some very good things. My fitness and speed are very good now, and I can compete with the best in the country in a madison.

Thursday, July 5: So we packed up and left the track, showered at Jane and Ryan's house, got the car loaded, and set out for somewhere in Wyoming, hoping to knock out a few hours of the 18 hour trip to Portland. We made it somewhere between Cheyenne and Laramie just as dawn was beginning to break, and set up our hammocks between abandoned billboards along I-80 to get a little sleep. At 8:00 we kicked out (Apparently it was a private road. We never found any signs, on the way in or out...) and back on the road. Things were pretty uneventful for the rest of the day.
It was going on midnight, and we were about 2 hours outside of Portland when we hit a tire that shredded off of a semi. Spurred by an assortment of terrible noises, we pulled off the road, and I sprawled out on the pavement to have a look under the car. There were some pieces of plastic shielding torn off and dragging, and relieved that it was something so minor, I pulled them out, pushed back those that I couldn't get off, checked over the rest of the car, and fired it back up only to hear what sounded like the car destroying itself, and not in any slow way.

Friday, July 6: After turning off the car, looking underneath again, and not seeing anything apparent, a few groggy phone calls with my dad settled the cause to be something in the exhaust. We decided the best thing to do would be to drive it the rest of the way to Portland, where we would be staying with Kate's sister Anne. The car was so loud when accelerating that we couldn't even talk while going uphill. It really sounded like the thing was killing itself, but we kept going, made it into town somewhere around 2:00 in the morning, and went to sleep with the plan to deal with it in the morning.
I got up a handful of hours later, and started calling around until we found a shop that could take in the car on such short notice, and that would be able to work on it over the weekend. That (barely) taken care of, I went on a ride to check out the track.
As it would turn out, Anne lives less than 4.5 miles away from the track, all on very bike friendly roads. Everything out here has a bike lane. It's incredible. I now know why Portland is tops the list of bike friendly cities in the US. The drivers are courteous, the bike lanes are clean, wide, and well marked. The weather is gorgeous, and everyone at the track is outgoing and laid back. We had the qualifier points race in the evening, and it went wonderfully straight off the gun. The pace was really fast, and I took plenty of points to make sure that I qualified for all the mass start races. I ended up taking fifth without really killing myself, and made $60 to boot. This was pretty cool, I've never heard of a qualifier that had a prize list, but I sure wasn't about to complain.

Saturday, July 7: We dropped the car off at the shop in the morning and headed to the track. The session dragged on an on, and as is starting to become clear to me, the endurance races are generally the last thing on the schedule. After about 3 hours of spinning on the rollers, we started the 10 mile scratch race. A bunch of fast guys turned out, including James' nemesis, Kenny Williams, Jeff Hopkins (Jittery Joes), Dan Harm, and madison national champion Chad Hartley. I wasn't feeling particularly good after everything that had preceded the race, and while I hung without my trouble, didn't really make anything happen, and just finished with the bunch, while Hartely attacked and won solo, with Hopkins leading the sprint home with the field.
After returned to Anne's, resting, and eating, I didn't start the miss and out tonight. There is no way I was going to have any worthwhile results when I'm this tired, and skipping this race will let me rest up a bit more for the madison tomorrow morning. I found a local guy who is apparently very skilled, and is willing to race with me, but with the pros in the field to keep the pace ramped and the attacks coming, it's going to be interesting to see how we do.

Sunday, July 8: The local guy I'm racing with in the madison seems like a good rider. His name is Peter, and is apparently pretty experienced, having won the local 6-day in the past. All the other locals seem to think very highly of his skills, so that's a plus. He's a masters rider, and while he says that he is taking this season easier, he looks fit, and I would rather ride with someone a little slower, who knows what they're doing, than someone who's all motor and no driver. Going into it, things looked promising.s
When the race started, there weren't as many teams as I would have expected, with only about 9 registered. Either way, there was plenty of speed to go around, with teams like Hartley and Hopkins to make the rest of us hurt. Pretty quickly it became apparent that there were three very strong teams, led by Hartley and Hopkins, with Williams and Beardsley and Harm and his Rubicon teammate mixing in as well. Peter was apparently not feeling too great, and was loosing ground on most of his pulls, and occasionally leaving me in to do double efforts (through sprints laps no less) without telling me he was going to. Either way, I spent the majority of the race chasing back onto the lead three teams, and picked up a few points in the process. We managed to stay on even laps with the leaders, while everyone else went down at least one. Things were looking good, with about 2 minutes to race (Madisons are run on time out here, with sprints every 5 minutes. Why they do this, I will never understand.) when I dropped down to be thrown in. Suddenly I feel something pushing on my rear wheel from the left, and the next thing I know, I'm skidding along the homestretch on my side, pissed off and feeling the still raw cuts on my arm getting torn open again.
So that ended my madison once again. Crashed out by my teammate. Apparently Peter had overlapped with the guy in front of him, who chopped up at an inopportune moment, pushing Peter into my wheel and taking the both of us down. My arm is now back to the state it was a few days ago after the Colorado crash, my let hip has a nice big piece of skin missing, and I have this crazy blister on the palm of my right hand. It happened in the crash, and I'm not sure how, but the thing is about 2 cm long, and a little less than 1 cm wide. It puffed up like a balloon, and actually stings more than the other two injuries.
After getting myself patched up (the medics were distracted, so I found some supplies and scrubbed everything out on my own), I was packing to leave when the organizer came up and handed me an envelope with $50 in it. It turns out that since we crashed in the last 5 laps of racing, we kept the points and laps we had, and still placed fourth. Not too bad, so that brings my weekend total thus far to $110 won.
I came back for the points race in the evening session. If there had been any lack of riders in the madison, this made up for it, with 27 taking to the rail. I scored a point in the first sprint, then all of my battered muscles caught up with me, and all I could do was claw my way onto the back of the pack for the remaining 105 laps. On the plus side, while I didn't gain a lap with the handful of riders that got away, I stuck in for the whole thing, and didn't go down a lap. Any I didn't crash, though after the flurry of pavement I've been subjected to in this last week, I wouldn't have been surprised if another one had snuck in at the very end. They ended up giving me an extra $50 at the end of the weekend for being to highest placed omnium rider from Blaine (the best from each track got this) so all in all, I walked away with $160 cash. Pretty sweet for a relatively unsuccessful weekend, at least as far as results are concerned.
Even after another botched madison, I'm just getting more and more confident in the way I'm riding. While I may not have felt that great in the other races, I continue to feel awesome in madisons, today chasing down 3 different national champions, and closing straightaway-length gaps over and over again. Now, following 4 days of hard racing, some rough travel, two bad crashes, and an expensive car mishap, I'm really looking forward to a few days of recovery. Maybe a little time in Portland, a trip up to Seattle, and then a more leisurely drive back to Minnesota, with frequent stops to ride whatever cool roads I come across on the way. If I stumble upon anything great, I'll let you know. For now, some very sound sleep is in order.

Pictures to come soon...


Rain. And lots of it.

The 5:00 PM rain struck with a vengeance today. The weather was great all day, I got in a really nice mid-day ride to loosen up, and took a nap, and woke up with the clouds massing in the mountains to the west. If you've never been to Colorado Springs, it sits right at the eastern edge of the Rockies. From what I hear, the standard summer weather is to have beautiful day until about 4:00, then the clouds roll over the front range, and at 5:00 the rain hits. It's like clockwork, and today was no exception. It begs the question of why they schedule races in the evening here in the summers. I guess it usually dries out quickly, but it seems like quite a gamble. Last year was the same thing, and the weather for tomorrow doesn't look particularly promising either. The races from tonight have been rescheduled for tomorrow morning, so we should get in at least the 10 mile scratch race. But if the madison gets rained out for the second year in a row, I doubt that I'll ever come back to this one.

Everyone took cover in the tunnel to wait for an official communique about racing. Ultimately we
got cancelled for the night, and pushed back to tomorrow morning.

Bummer. I was feeling good, too. Anyway, here are some pictures from Junior Nationals last night. The men's 17-18 sprints was awesome to watch, going to three rides, with photo-finishes each time. Ultimately Shane Kline (Fuji Salamander) took it over Justin Williams (Rock Racing). Some poor kid got carted off on a backboard after a brutal crash in 15-16 scratch race, but word this morning is that he's doing alright, and is out of the hospital. Seeing that brought back all the sore memories of lost skin and massive bruises from my own junior nats experience. Glad I never need to do that again...

Shane Kline (green/white) duking it out with Justin Williams (black/white).

Recognize that glowing pink bike? Shebly Eck is back racing, and going fast, taking second in the 500.

That's it for tonight. Hopefully the weather holds off tomorrow.