Posts Tagged ‘Mineral Wells Stage Race


Mineral Wells Crit 2012

Honestly, there isn’t much to report here. Several years ago, when the Team Points Race out at Mineral Wells had just begun, I ended up riding over 2-3 days in constant, constant, constant rain, almost 9 inches of rain, and I ended up with all sorts of rusty bike parts, a cold, and exhaustion that lasted over a week. I was just young enough to enjoy it, and I did have two or three or four good teammates who made it fun. We won a lot of money, and had a great time relating the experience. Heck, it may be in this blog somewhere.

But this time, well, it rained all the way down to Mineral Wells, I had the dog with me, the course was flooded, it was dangerous in places, and to cap it all off, as I was racing, I was gaining about 8-12lbs in water down in the ‘socks’ I had decided to wear. It totally threw off my balance, it messed up my cadence, like riding with filled galoshes, and with one lap to go I actually pulled myself out of the race.

I keep swearing to myself that I’ll never be so dumb as to race in the rain again, especially now that I’m older, heavier, and my insurance is in question. But I did start, and I was hoping maybe I could get some upgrade points. Instead I just threw away my money. Oh, and they canceled the TT I was going to do later in the day. I went home soaked, though home was about to become a temporary, fast-ending, thing.


2011 Kiwanis Crazy Kicker

Did I mention last week how much fun these Fall bike rallies are? Here we are, in the middle of October, just coming off one of the hottest summers on record, and I am on fire. The stamina is there for a 4:40 100-miler, the strength is there for some of Palo Pinto County’s hills, and the speed is coming from that combination of cooler, calmer air, good comrades out on the course, and of course, my beloved bike, wheels, and kit. I’m serious – I think this is shaping up to be an incredible end to 2011’s year, but also will portend a great pre-season for 2012. So, with hope in my heart, confidence in my gut, and experience in my head, my newly-returned-to-cycling-from-injury wife and I drove out from Dallas on Friday evening, spent a quiet evening in Mineral Wells, and drove the 2 miles to the American Legion Post and City Park for the 8:00am start.

Last Tuesday, in what can only be described as pretense & confirmation of some solid training in September, I blew my highest wattage FTP for any October since I’ve been keeping records. Saturday’s Crazy Kicker offers the option for a 65-miler as well as a 100-miler, and knowing how important the hills, the tempo, and the volume can be when applied appropriately, I opted for the 100-miler with a handful of folks, including Michael Brown, my buddy with Mirage, the Pirates of the Peloton, and TBD. The ride began with just over 300 riders, and within a mile, the entire team of studs from Colavita, including newly-crowned Cat 2 State Champ Bryan Reid, rolled to the front and set a solid pace to try and shell any early stragglers.

The absolute beauty of this course comes from the relentlessness of its’ rolling, 2-3 minute hills at 2-6%. Whereas the week before in Gainesville, we had a return trip of 40K in to a headwind with 1-minute rollers at 2-3%, the hills here are longer, rounder, and the roads are more varied in their condition. One, no, two, no, THREE of my favorite race courses are out here, and over the course of the next 5 hours, we hit elements of all three. The road to Graford was the first challenge, with three fantastic 2-3 minute hills at ~4% incline. It was weird, though. ColaVita sent one rider out hard, early, on each of the three hills. Yet he would either fade or Reid and one or two others would end up reeling him in well before the crest of each hill. Reid’s another one of those just Epic Texas Cycling Studs, and the way he trained for his Championship run was enough to make any other man want to crawl in to a ditch and quiver. The man trained for Paris-Brest-Paris, held just weeks before the State Championships, and THEN he came home to win that race! It’s pretty freaking incredible! And this morning? Well, Bryan showed up on a FOLDING, PORTABLE CX bike with heavy wheels and treads! The man OOZES of HOMBRE, and he really is two different people on and off a bike, much like the captain of a 180-ton aircraft, which he is. Anyway, I stayed up front with him, two or three of his teammates, my buddy from two weeks ago with the Deamon Deacons jersey, and a fair-faced rider with a long, wispy pony tail who was a member of PACC and PBA. By the time we reached Graford, we were down to <30 riders total, but the pace had been pretty hard, and several people were just hanging on.

It’s usually an unwritten rule in rallies (remember, there really are no rules, per se), that the hot dogs will partake of the longer distances, unless it’s known ahead of time that the course for that longer stuff is either too challenging, or the road conditions too poor, to make for a good ride. Now, I didn’t do that in Glen Rose, because the Ride Director warned us ahead of time that the extra miles were freshly chip-sealed, and this was confirmed by Scott Simmons, the guy I rode with on that rally, who was a local. The beauty of riding the 100-mile option out at Mineral Wells is that there are bailout options between rest stops where you can cut the course to 75 and 85 miles, along Highway 16. So I was surprised when, just about 14 miles in, a TON of riders at the front, including the entire ColaVita squad, opted to head left and do the 65 miler. This left me with 6 or 7 riders, including Michael, a Bikes Plus rider, the PACC rider, and a few others. One was on a TT bike, one had aero bars on a road bike, but looking around, I saw that this could be a decent group of people with which we could attempt a quick, solid sub-5 100-miler.

We quickly made friends, and headed out, rolling along at a steady pace, not really pacelining, not really rotating or pulling through, definitely getting a little separated on the hills, but regrouping on the crests somewhat. We started to see damage from the two incredibly damaging and scary fires that started out there this summer, and commented on how lucky we were to still be able to even get out on these roads, since they can actually melt in the intense heat. At mile 28, however, two or four riders went on ahead, while the rest of us pulled in to a famous traditional rest stop – the Home Made Cookie Stop above the Dam at Possum Kingdom Lake. The on-site resident Manager of the lake, well, their whole family, make HUNDREDS of awesome cookies for the cyclists coming through, and they are YUMMY! I figured I really should stop and eat, because, well, we WERE going to ride 100 miles and, well, as good as Clif Bars are, well, they’re NOTHING like fresh homemade cookies! So we stopped, enjoyed the view, got each others’ names, filled our water bottles, and after about 10 minutes, headed back out.

Having forfeited our place with the four leaders, the goal now, at least for me, was to attempt to catch them before the end. And that would make for an incredible challenge.

The hills over by “The Cliffs” resort were charred black from the fires, and the road was Grade 1 (worst) Chip Seal. By the end of the stretch, about 7 miles, we were picking up and passing a number of others who had not stopped at the Dam, but we could NOT find the leaders. The PACC rider, also named Richard, Michael and I were the only ones left, and at about 43 miles, Michael also dropped off, leaving me with Richard. Richard was originally an enigma – a mathematics professor at UTD, younger than me, I’m sure, with a relatively slow cadence, a baby face you couldn’t shave more than once a month, but the hairiest legs I’d seen in a long while. he rode a 20-year old Cannondale with maybe 8 speeds, and had old Shimano commuter-style shoes, but MAN, THAT GUY HAD SOME POWER!!!! He literally pulled over a solid chunk of the hills from mile 30 to 50, and we DID catch one of the original four riders as we entered another section of road with which I was more familiar.

The turn on to that section put us back on some rough roads, and in to the wind, but we did make good time as we did what I’ll call the “Lake Palo Pinto” loop. We began to overlap the 65 mile course, catching and passing slower cyclists, but it wasn’t until we got past the bar/trading post/post office of “Lone Post”, just before the infamous “Cherry Pie Hill”, that we learned from the hanger-on that there were only two riders in front of us, and that there was no way we couldn’t catch them. This renewed my drive, and when he said good-by at the foot of Cherry Pie Hill, Rich and I both pumped a little harder, to see if we could catch that pair of ghost riders who were always just out of sight. However, that goal pretty much ended with our second stop, this one at Palo Pinto Courthouse, where the growing temperature and wind forced us to make a pit stop for more cookies and hydration.

The segment of road from Palo Pinto to Graford is one that I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s short, only about 8 or 9 miles long, and it crosses back over the Brazos River, which is really gorgeous, but the road is pretty rumbly, and it comes with the dread of knowing that your LAST 12 MILES are going to be IN to the wind, going OVER the same damned hills you climbed heading OUT, when it was at least 15 degrees cooler! But those ghost riders were still out there, and every once in a while, like a desperate cowboy out on the prairie trying to decide whether what he’s seeing is a mirage or a lost calf or something else entirely, we DID see one ghost rider out there, roughly a mile or two away, at times. Rich was starting to fade, however, and if you’ve been around me enough, you know that one of my mantra’s is, “you don’t leave  your wingman”. I didn’t want to leave him, knowing that we would BOTH end up going slower in the long run, but by the second-to-last hill on the return trip, when I DEFINITELY saw reflections on the horizon, he told me to go. But the mantra held true, and I gained too little, too late, and was just able to see that one rider make his left turn back on to highway 16 for the 2-mile ride back to the City Park. I pedaled as steadily as I could, finishing in a ride time of 4:37, maybe 2 minutes behind the sole rider I could see ahead. I never found him in the park, but I think it was the TT rider, as he was always visible on the climbs, but outpaced me on the descents and straightaways at the end.

I think one of the most beautiful things in the world is seeing my wife find her mojo again. She was under the shade of a tree, stretching on a yoga mat, when I rolled in, and she proclaimed excitedly that she’d just finished her longest ride in about a year and half, doing 55 miles solo and enjoying every minute of it. Michael, my friend , neighbor, client and club mate, had opted for an 85, and was supremely satisfied with his own early season performance. My ride partner, Richard, met us at the Kiwanis Grill, and we all enjoyed a burger and recollections of the day. The guy was a huge part of my success on Saturday, and I gave him credit for his strong pulls, even pedal stroke, and good company. The guy we pulled to the base of Cherry Pie Hill also came up to thank us, and Amy and I departed with some strong feelings of accomplishment, love for cycling, the outdoors, the friends made out on the course, and a sense of appreciation for the work required to put these events on. We celebrated with a stop at the Mineral Wells Dairy Queen, and drove back to Dallas, where we both promptly sacked out, exhausted (but in that oh-so-great way), for a two-hour nap of which I have ZERO memory!

Get out to Mineral Wells and support this rally. There were just 300 people, but it is on par with Muenster and Glen Rose for its’ beauty, its’ challenges, and the course variety. Oh, and don’t forget – you get serenaded by Elvis at the Depart, and upon your return! Can it GET any better than that?


THIS is how you win a sprint!

.0075 seconds, or the width of a tire.

The image above is from the Mineral Wells Criterium, hosted by promoter Andy Hollinger and his wife, Lauren. The race was held in downtown Mineral Wells, on a short course around the famous derelict hotel, the Baker, which has been unoccupied since 1962 or 72, depending on whom you ask. The course included a short, but steep, 100′ long hill, and a really rumbly back side, before two turns that returned you to the start/finish, on a smooth, descending stretch of road. The locals were quite welcoming, and it was neat to see the local bank highlighting the event on their LCD display. Temps were actually pretty moderate all morning, as there was a slight overcast sky, but it did not diminish from some really good racing.

The Cat 3’s went off at 9:30am, and several familiar faces lined up at the start. As soon as the whistle blew, we jockeyed for position, and I settled in to roughly 3rd or 4th position. The climb was really deceptive, as there was a longer ‘pre-hill’ climb that was long enough to string out the racers, but was still short enough to minimize gaps. An ALS rider led for the first 3 laps or so, and then wiggled his elbow to let someone else take a turn up front. As is my tendency, I pulled and took turns pulling for a couple of laps, staying near the front and trying to challenge for primes. However, the Williams cycling team had two really good riders, and they took almost every prize, including first and second at the end. When my chance came, I kept my hands down in the drops, pedaled as absolutely hard as I could, but was surprised to find a shadow overtaking me on my left as we approached the finish line. With a final burst, I threw my bike across the line, hoping beyond hope that the effort was enough to nip my fellow competitor.

This is the image, captured by the camera at 10,000 frames per second. 3rd place was mine, along with a nice payout and the satisfaction of knowing that I had done everything I could to earn that high placing.

Special thanks to Andy and Lauren Hollinger, and their continuing efforts to make Texas Racing the best in the nation.


Mineral Wells Stage Race 2010

Well, the helmet kept me warm, at least...

Okay – it’s been a few weeks since the race ended, and honestly, it took about that long and then some for me freakin’ dry out, since it rained the entire weekend out in Palo Pinto County. But honestly, the rain was not a problem. This had to be one of the most fun events I’ve ever done on a bicycle in my 18 years of racing.

The Mineral Wells Stage Race was actually held in and around Graford, Texas, population 570 or so. Palo Pinto county has got to be one of North Texas’ best areas in which to ride a bike, with great roads, wonderful scenery, varied terrain, and proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth. The racing loop is about 24 miles, and the TT was held on the highway between Graford and Mineral Wells itself. The race itself was unique in that it was not just a stage race, but it paid out based on a points system, and emphasized the money on the TEAM results, with the Top 3 riders of each team getting scored from first place down to 25th or something, like a Cross Country running event. This changed the tactics completely, since time didn’t matter – place did.

The Mirage Cycle Club Cat 3’s showed up to win, and Sean Daurelio, Jason Jacobs, and myself felt confident that we could go for individual wins as well as a high placing overall. For the effort and the challenge, we weren’t disappointed.

Andy Hollinger, the Race Promoter and Director, put the Cat 3’s in Center Stage, giving us the first start of the day. Unfortunately, mother nature added to the challenge, as it rained the entire weekend (reports were later confirmed that the county received between 5 and 9 inches of rain in 48 hours, and that all the floodgates at Possum Kingdom Lake had to be opened at some point on the Brazos). Several dozen riders elected not to attend. However, Andy’s payout remained the same, so we took full advantage of that opportunity and raced hard for just over 2 hours, finally earning 8th, 9th, and 10th in the sprint finish. While we didn’t take home individual Palmares, this tight grouping gave us an incredible advantage in the Team event, and after the first stage, we were well on our way to First Place/Team.

The second event, a Time Trial, was just over six miles long, and it had three distinct hills, which removed a lot of the advantages of aerodynamics, and placed more emphasis on strength, especially on the last hill, which was a little over half a mile long and grew to about 6 percent slope. I used some knowledge of the duration of the event, and what my expected power should be, given that it was the second event of the day, and was also mostly done in the aero position, and finished a respectable Top 10, with my teammates once again performing well enough to continue to vault us in to the lead via points for the Team Overall. However, the time spent napping on the floor of the gym in Graford, along with the continued rain and a growing chill, meant that I was getting more fatigued, and I ended up relying on friends in Ft. Worth to bed down for the evening.

Cat 3 Peloton in the Rain

On Sunday, the rain continued unabated, and numerous athletes with Smart Phones were variously playing a game of “Will It or Won’t It” with the predictions of rain cessation or continuation, but we suited up nonetheless and decided to get out there for one more hard ride out on the course. The course itself is epic, with about 650 feet of climbing per lap, and one great hill with a LOOONG false-flat afterward, so there’s no chance of easy recovery. To add to that, the wind was pretty much coming down our throats after the right hand turn at the end of the Big Hill. The rain all weekend led to poor visibility conditions, which made things ripe for a breakaway attempt. However, this time, my own goals were secondary to the teams goals, especially since Shawn Daurelio was sitting in Second Place overall, and we wanted to either preserve his place, or have him challenge for the overall win. To do so would have required that he topple the winner of the previous two stages, though, so the goal was pretty ambitious.

Early on, there was a two-man break with contenders who were no serious threat to the overall, and my own efforts were muted as we kept the group mostly within sight. The moto ref kept signaling gaps of between 2.5 and 3 minutes, which grew and shrank as time went on. But no serious moves were made until the last lap, when teammate Jason Jacobs launched a solo effort early, before the hill, only to get caught about 2/3 of the way up. Then, Shawn Daurelio launched, and two riders went with him. Unfortunately, one of them was 1st place in the GC. Teammate Jacobs and I blocked and foiled numerous efforts to bridge to the pair of 2 and 3 up the road, and in the end, it was enough for us that while Shawn didn’t defeat his rival and take over the GC (in fact, we made a mistake and let one cyclist in the first breakaway steal a spot from him, thus earning him 3rd overall), we did ride strong enough and consistently enough to win the Team GC title by well over half the other team totals!

Unfortunately, as the rain continued, the temperatures finally started to drop, and by the end, my mid-pack finish was brought on by blurred vision, moderate nausea, and a heavy bonk that left my words blurred and my head hard to keep upright. Teeth chattering, I realized that my overnight stay in Ft. Worth had left me unprepared for my post-ride recovery, and furthermore, that my only weatherproof jacket was at my friends’ home. With the energy I had left, I loaded my bike in the car and headed out to Mineral Wells for coffee and a hot meal (Graford, while nice, is too small to support a Burger King or even a 7-11). I received the reports of the finish from my teammates, and drove home satisfied, but ready for a hot shower and bed.

Boulle Climbs the Wall at MWSR 2010

The Mineral Wells Stage Race revealed a part of bike racing that has been completely underserved in recent years, but with it’s growing popularity, ought to be considered by more promoters. Team Racing and a Points Race is the perfect melding of individual effort and team function. Riders can decide on going after the win, and the higher points, or going after the lesser points in greater numbers. It helped that Jason, Shawn and I knew each others’ strengths, had worked together before, and were interested in a common goal. At 40, I also realize that, despite my own goals, the restrictions I face for training, and the fact that, let’s face it, youth eventually DOES outpace wisdom, leaves me accepting my role as a teammate, and not that of a captain. I did that in Copperas Cove in January, and I missed it in several of the other races that occurred in the Spring. Mineral Wells gives everyone on a club or team a chance to participate, engage, and work together towards a common goal. It made the racing that much more fun, and when combined with the challenges of terrain and weather, made for a weekend of racing that I am both proud of, and will never forget.


Mineral Wells Stage Race – Mirage C3’s Take Team and a Podium Spot!

Climbing a Hill in Palo Pinto County

What a difference a weekend makes!

Awaiting photos (if any of the cameras survived), but this was a wet, wet, wet, wet, WET weekend. The course was awesome, the racing FAR better and smarter and more fun than I could ever have imagined. Andy Hollinger and Team Bicycles, Inc. put together one fantastic event, and it showed, despite the rain.

I’m in the middle of a long essay about this event, but the results this weekend were all about TEAM. Team, and realizing that my role in things is becoming that of domestique. I hate it, but I love it. Domestique or chessmaster, using myself as a Bishop, Knight, or Pawn. I’m starting to realize that, at 6-8 hours a week, I’ll probably never be as powerful as the Queen is on the chessboard. However, I know how to attack, I know how to block, and I know how to pull. Pull like an F’ing drafthorse. The crazy thing is – I’m sort of racing myself in to some level of fitness.

Now, if I could ever get outside for some real riding on a regular basis…

I better go pull the bikes out of the car before they completely rust from the never-ending weekend deluge.

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