Friday, April 29, 2016

Joe Martin 2.0

I posted this write up to the xXx team blog here:

Also, posted below with pictures.

Joe Martin is the race that gets me to do intervals in February when there is 12 inches of snow on the ground.  It’s a huge race with tons of talent at just the right time of year for winter motivation.  I’ve done it twice now; last year was pretty pathetic I was one of the last places in the time trial, lost about 20 minutes each of the two road race days and then got pulled half way through the crit.  This time around would be different I told myself, I knew the courses, had a better idea of the competition and was more motivated.  I set some lofty goals to get myself ready both in terms of power numbers and weight.  Now you think I’m going to tell you that I killed it and crushed those goals, nope I think I missed every single one of them.  That turned out to be ok it gave me something to shoot for and getting most of the way there put me in a solid spot on the starting line.
The race allows teams of up to 8 and so we sent a full squad this year (as did many teams) including our 3 cat 1’s Tyler (here on out Bone Collector), Jake (Big Smokey) and Diesel (I’m not even sure he has a real name).  After those 3 guys leading our team we had Austin (who’s been riding strong in California all winter) and myself who were both part of the team last year and 3 new guys to the 1/2 JM race in Nikos, Fay and Aaron (Baker Soda).  Everybody had different strengths and weaknesses and I think we put together one of the most solid teams at the race.  No superstar sprinter or 120lb climbing TT specialist but overall not a weak link anywhere.
The race takes place down in Fayetteville, Arkansas so via all different methods and over several days we made our way to the Airbnb house that we’d stay in for the race.  We also had Courtney, Katie Sue and Wilfred (when he decided to pay us a visit) in the house so we crammed in pretty tight.  The house could not have been located in a better spot, right downtown, 3 doors down from the crit course and equally as important, a really good coffee shop.  The Time Trial started the race off; it was a new course this year, still at Devil’s Pen state park but going the other direction up from the river and a bit longer at 3 miles.  Essentially 2 miles of switchbacks and elevation gain followed by another mile of rollers at the top.  I was nervous, am I really in better shape than last year? 
You never feel fully prepared when you finally get to the thing you’ve been training for.  We thought Big Smokey would be our best finisher but Baker was a wildcard with all his Tucson riding and maybe myself or one of the other guys could have a surprising result.  When the dust finally settled Big Smokey was our top placed rider in 23rd of the 120 starters.  He was closely followed by Diesel, Bone Collector and then the rest of us.  We were all sort of in the middle, we were solid, not great not horrible but now we knew where everyone stood.  Riders came from all over including a Japanese cycling champion and Columbian and Canadian teams so we knew this wouldn’t be easy.

That night we reviewed the route and profile for stage 2, the 110 mile road race, and came up with the game plan.  The big feature on the 2nd day is Gaylor Mountain, a 10 mile climb that begins at mile 71, its not steep, in fact it only averages 2.9% but after a few hours in the legs it hurts, and it whittles down the field.  After Gaylor, everyone that’s left bombs down the next 30 miles in a fast run in to town.  The finish is tricky though, with about 1K to go there is a left turn then quick right followed by some rollers before a right turn to the uphill finish.  The plan was to put together a lead-out for Jake to try to steal a few seconds in the time bonuses, or at the least with some splits over the final rollers that were certain to happen.  Well now we had our plan at least. 
I was the lucky one that got to sleep on the couch so the next morning I woke up to the warm aroma of Diesel and Big Smokey making coffee with the aeropress, we all sort of fell into different roles, theirs became coffee duty.  We had a long morning before the race so we did all the normal stuff, we ate, worked on bikes (this became my role), drank enough coffee to support a local coffee shop, pinned numbers, etc…  It was nice to be close enough to the start of the race to leave the vehicles and ride over so we rolled over the couple miles to the wal-mart parking lot where the race began.  Finally we could see the competition, in a TT you miss so much because you’re so focused on your race and you’re not all out on the course together. 
So we were off, one thing that makes Joe Martin so cool is what’s called rolling enclosures, a police escort to use the entire road for the whole race.  When there’s oncoming traffic the cops ahead push them off to the side of the road and we got to use all lanes, it makes for a funny feeling when you’re so used to the yellow line rule that many of the smaller races enforce.  There was a feed zone at mile 41 with a 1-2 minute hill where things got fast but other than that the race was pretty chill going into Gaylor.  We lost Baker to a flat around the first feed zone but otherwise we had 7 of 8 guys with us at the base.  Half way into the climb I felt good, surprisingly good.  Fitness was there and I finally knew I’d get over that hump (haha) that burned me so bad last year.  When we finally made it to the top we lost a couple but still had 5, we were headed down for the finish to execute the lead-out.  For me, I didn’t have much in the way of legs especially when things started getting fast at about 10 miles left. 
I could hang but wasn’t able to help beyond that.  It was up to Austin the Bone Collector and Diesel to get Jake where he needed to be.  Austin did his thing getting those guys in position with a couple K left then handed the rains to the Bone Collector and it was a beautiful thing watching him lead Diesel and then Big Smokey through the quick left right corners with the whole peloton in tow.  They dropped Jake off on the top of one of the rollers before the finish to slog it out with whoever else could maintain the pace on the rollers.  There was still a long way to go so we wouldn’t know how it finished until we reached that point ourselves.  It turned out Jake got us our first top 10 of the weekend with a 7th place, and all the sudden we gained the confidence that would come along with making a plan and being able to execute.  It turned out to be a pivotal finish for us because with several riders up towards the front we knew we’d gain time with splits just like in previous years due to the difficulty of the finish.  Due to a crash with about 1k to go they ended up same timing everyone that made it over Gaylor Mountain which was over 60 guys so unfortunately without the time gaps it wouldn’t matter where you placed.  It took what would have been a major GC shakeup and essentially made it so any racing at the finish was unnecessary.  That stung a bit as time gaps would have clearly given us all a big jump in the GC standings. 
Day 3 was an 86 mile road race, a ‘stick’ followed by 3x 23 mile loops.  Last year there were major selections on this day with only about 1/3 of the field going to the line together.  Personally this day was hell; I barely hung on to the group I was with that lost 20 minutes.  Yesterdays race gave me some confidence but I knew today was tougher.  Each lap there is a solid vo2 effort climb which sheds some of the field and most of the rest of the lap is flat or downhill where you can recover if you sit in.  This year the race was a lot chiller and it showed with 80 riders coming to the line, most of the action came in the last 5 miles on the run in where we had a tailwind and were flying to the finish.  It was a constant battle to move up or even just hold position.  There was bumping and some yelling but at this level people are pretty good bike handlers and everyone kept upright.  In the end it was Tyler who took our top spot this time with another top 10.  Every single teammate made it to the finish, I was astonished. 
I was sitting in 53rd, Jake was our best placed rider in 22nd, and we needed a hard day with some real splits or to get in a breakaway to have any chance to move up.  I was finally feeling confident in my abilities this year and felt as good as I had all week.  My legs are funny that way, they need a little warming up, I was ready for hard, actually hoping for it, the crit was the last chance to have a solid placing and as a team the last chance to crack the top 20.  I remember the day well last year, legs were dead, body was dead and all I wanted to do was stick in the race long enough to not be time cut, not the best mental spot to be in.  I was confident this year would be different. 
The crit is 8 corners with a pretty steep climb on the finishing straight with a leg zapping false flat leading into it.  The race was hot from the gun, I learned my lesson last year and stayed in the top 30 wheels at all times, or at least that was the goal.  It was hard there weren’t too many time we’d have an easy lap to look around and I was confident we’d be moving up.  With 5 laps to go I looked back and saw the field had dwindled quite a bit.  On the final lap I came around the second of last corner and was starting to get gassed, my guys passed me, I was happy to see they still had legs for a strong finish.  I gave it everything up to the line, Tyler killed it again taking another top 10.  The field was decimated; only 30 guys made it to the finish line, 5 of them were us.  Tyler’s result made for 3 out of 3 days of top 10 finishes for the team.  In the end Jake jumped 4 spots to 18th giving xXx a top 20 on GC.  Diesel, Tyler, Austin and I all moved up considerably to finish GC the top 40, or top 1/3 of starters.  Fay, Nikos and Baker all had solid results as well finishing their first Joe Martin 1/2 race which is a hard enough task on its own.

The crew we had down there was the best part about the weekend, everyone was selfless both on and off the bike.  I’m looking forward to many more of these adventures as the year goes on, and remember as Diesel always says when in doubt Slap it in the Big dog.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The St. Lunatics

The March 19th weekend was the 2 day St. Louis Omnium which included a Saturday AM time trial followed by a Saturday PM crit and a Sunday crit.
My schedule didn't work out to leave Friday and make it in time for the TT (yeah let's go with that not the fact that tts scare me) so the gf and I drove down Saturday morning and met the other guys (jake, Oboyle, Igor and Wilfred) for lunch. It turns out that both jake and Oboyle had killer TTs getting 5th and a 8th (even with a navigation mishap from Oboyle) setting us up for a possible overall result right from the start.

Saturdays crit was a little longer at 1.3 miles but welcomed as it made a good early season course with mostly wide roads and soft corners. The lap had a bit of elevation including a gradual uphill finish for the last few hundred meters as well as a headwind on the back side that gave the course some nice features. I put in a couple efforts early but nothin hard enough considering everyone was fresh. Jake did the same but with better results in the middle of the race and finally got one of those to stick. He established a break that ended up growing to 7 guys and staying away. Jake took 5th on the day and from there we had our Omnium guy to ride for.

Sunday was another chili morning, it was snowing and wasn't even certain the races would be held but by noon it looked like a completely different day and we had a crit to race. Jake was sitting 3rd in the overall and we knew who we had to keep an eye on. The race was pretty hard but uneventful for a while as nothing really happened until about 8 laps left when O'boyle used that TT power and went off the front solo. At first I think it wasn't respected as so many of those come right back but the longer he was out there the more he had people's attention and after some bridges had a nice group of 6 or 8 guys, nobody on GC. They were out there with a 15 second gap for 3 or 4 laps and it looked like the sprinters may not have their day. With a few laps to go Bissell ratcheted up the pace and the break was caught and the last 3 laps became a fight for positioning. Jake finished an impressive 3rd, personally I was happy with an 18th, time to up the goals going forward though. Based on Hogan (Bissel) winning both crits, the GC shuffled and jake was in a tie in points for the overall... Unfortunatly the tie breaker was Sunday's crit so he'd have to settle for 2nd.

The team is going to be really competitive this year, I'm looking forward to all the bigger races not too far down the road.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Relaunch

First Id like to reintroduce myself, my name is Ben LaForce and I ride for xXx-Athletico Racing based out of Chicago. The team has an ambitious schedule this year so there should be plenty to write about. I have a lot of old posts here I contemplated deleting and starting from scratch but they've been fun to read again so I'm leaving them up. My goal will be to keep consistent posts coming primarily on my training and racing. This weekend I'll be heading down to the St. Louis Omnium with a few teammates, stay tuned...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Burnham crit (circuit)

Ahh the first chance at a uscf race of 2010. The day was great with lots of sunshine, it was about 50 degrees out and there were plenty of racers making the haul to South Beloit for a chance to see where they were at after the always long off season we endure in Chicago. For me as a 3 I had the rare opportunity to race twice first a 50(?) minute cat 3 race and then a 75 minute cat 1/2/3.
The first race was pretty simple tactically. I'm not in great shape but hey its March neither are most other people so I said to myself be extremely aggressive. There were 2 big teams represented and for anyone that knows the scene you probably dont even need me to tell you, XxX and Burnham. My plan was go with every single move that was represented by these two teams and dont chase if any other combination presented itself. This worked well. I got a little tired because nothing stuck so all race long there were a lot of attempts and then we got to 4 laps left with a burnham guy up the road and i said to myself what the heck ive been sitting in for a lap or so and now is as good of time as any to go for it. So I did, and reached the burnham guy pretty quick... he was pretty spent. I asked him "do you want to work?" he said "no man im toast". i didnt take that as an answer and said "come on its only a few laps we can do it". We worked together and the next time accross the line I saw 3 laps to go. Every so often I looked back and saw the pack to see the gap and it was encouraging at one point there were two chasers. These guys would have been perfect because more firepower in the break with less pulling time meant more rest for the sprint. They never caught us but all of the sudden I look back and see my friend Liam from XxX whom I had just spent 5 days in georgia with last month. Within no time he was up to the two of us just a little before we cross the s/f line with one to go. I take a pull and move off, the burnham guy is next up and he pretty much stops (turns out he thought the race was over a lap earlier than it was) and so Liam goes for it leaving me in the dust trying with every ounce of energy and adreniline and everything else I've got to just grab his wheel... no dice. Liam held the ensuing pack to take the beautiful solo victory while I, about 300 meters behind him on the finishing straight was swallowed up by the pack, watching what could have been a first or even a second turn into nothing close. Oh well, it was fun seeing the race from a different point of view. Sitting in to take 5 isnt very rewarding anymore.
In the 1/2/3 race i lined up exhausted. Goal numero uno, stick it out, the whole way, dont do any work... it didnt matter that wouldnt be an option. I did end up sticking it out just fine somehow and with just under one lap to go my rear tire flatted and i usually wouldnt do this but what the hell, i decided to keep going so at 13 miles an hour i rolled around the rest of the lap with a flat and finished the race. March racing in my eyes are for two things, training and to gauge fitness. These races did both quite well.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 is here!

VeloNews interviewed me... it will be in the upcoming issue, but as always i've got you guys covered, heres a sneak peak:

VN: so i heard you have a new team?
BL: yes, the recycling team. im pretty excited.
VN: can you tell us a little about the team?
BL: sure... its a first year team with guys coming from all different places. We have James who used to ride for Health Net and Seth who is the current state p/1/2 champion along with some other very strong talent. here check it out for yourself
VN: that sounds exciting, how is your training going?
BL: actually not so well. i had a tough time getting on the bike in december with the weather and i have some type of mental block where i can no longer ride in my basement on the trainer.
VN: rough combo for living in illinois.
BL: yeah, but i think things are slowly getting back on track. the first race still isnt for a couple of months so we'll see.
VN: good to hear, anything else on the horizon?
BL: yes actually, in less than two weeks ill be going to georgia with newt and a bunch of xxx guys for some training... i hope i dont hold everyone up. and then the following weekend my own team is having our own camp in kentucky so i will be going there.
VN: very exciting, well thats all i have best of luck to you.
BL: ok. thanks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cherry-Roubaix '09

6 of the Chicago boys raced the Cherry-Roubaix races in Traverse city this weekend. Brian and I from get a grip and Newt, Luke, William and Liam from xXx racing. Newt hooked us up with a condo/lodge type place a few miles out of town. The weekend forecast promised lots of showers. Brian and I drove early friday to check out the road race course, of course it was hurricane outside but we gave it a go anyways.
Saturdays race was a 6 corner downtown criterium with a large section of pave. The day was horrible, rain all day long. By the time our race came things were completely soaked, and the day separated the men from boys... the boys stood on the side and watched the men race. The race starts and people get used to taking corners at speed, not brian. Brian comes from a mtb background so hes got the technical skills and made an early break with york and another guy. They held it to the line and Brian took 2nd in the sprint, I got 8th. Chicago took 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th on the day. Not bad for a field of 35.
Day 2, an epic 5 lap 60 mile course with as much climbing as any sane person could ask for. A break of 4 got up the road after 3 laps containing brian and luke. another lap later a bridge came from a shattered field up the s/f climb and 5 more joined on including myself. This group made it to the finish together (losing brian due to cramping). this was a really disappointing race because the course suited me well but was a little longer than what ive been training for. i havent been putting any long rides in this year especially the last couple months and i could feel it on the final lap. lap 4 i felt as strong as anyone in the break and confident i had a good chance at winning but lap 5 i began really struggling on the climbs and killing myself to stay with the group. By the time we got to the final climb I had nothing left, I told luke he was our only shot... i had nothing. i made it up the climb in 7th a good 15 seconds or so behind the rest of the group.

and thats the season... half ironman under 2 weeks away !!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

since last time...

Elk grove was very very hard. I had a 300 watt average for the race after tried many breaks... nothing had a chance. The sprinters owned this race from the start with all the primes offered. I finished by coasting in with the pack. After this one Brian Tim and I watched the domostic pros including flandis and mr. horner duke it out for their 98 mile race as we hung at the tent with beers in hand. I wish somebody told me how much more enjoyable this was than actual racing.

The Downers Grove course suits me fairly well as its not a pancake like so many other crits in the area. I tried for a prime about 15 minutes in and got nipped by inches then after another 15 minutes tried to get into a break but this race was owned by the sprinters too and i coasted across the line in the pack after a sketchy final corner i took it easy up the finish just happy to be upright.

Time to take it easy for a bit and get some swimming and running in so I don't embarrass myself too much for the half ironman and of course so cousin jeff doesn't beat me.

Upgrade pending...