Posts Tagged ‘TXBRA


Walburg 2012

Well, nothing like a little hubris to tame your ego, eh?

The 2012 version of the Walburg race was as anticlimactic as the event itself was a year earlier, when I scored in a final breakaway and just missed winning the damned thing by nine feet and two places! This year, flush with confidence from my previous successes in January and February, a first, a second, and a third, I figured racing Masters was my ticket to success in this event.

Boy was I wrong.

It started out with me not having any real teammates to speak of, a stacked field, complete with about 50 extra riders from Austin, and a lack of wind in the first lap, to really crack the field. I drove down the morning of the event, since my start was later in the day, got there plenty early, and made friends while I warmed up. The start itself had me near the front, and I sort of tried to make friends, but the McKinney Velo guys had ALL hands on deck, as did most of the other teams, so I was sort of odd-man out. I ended up basically trying in complete vain to set up a breakaway, got in to maybe one or two small efforts that were doomed, and essentially rode myself out of energy and in to some damned calf and quad cramps (which was weird, given that I felt I was adequately hydrated and rested, but there were other things going on that I’ll reveal in a later post), and after 70 minutes, I basically removed myself from the race so I wouldn’t hurt anyone in the pack if my legs cramped up. I set ALL SORTS of season highs for Normalized power, but in the end, it was completely for naught, as I burned through over 1000 KJ’s, was above my previous IF high for 70 minutes, and then completely blew up.

There isn’t much to tell here. I rode like a moron, and really should’ve waited at or near the front, until the wind began to pick up, and then made friends out on the road. But I didn’t, and honestly, next time, I’ll either make sure I have allies with me, or I’ll wait and try to be more patient.

I’ll try to add a photo to this, but honestly, the only photo I saw from back then had me leading out the pack,like a silver locomotive, with everyone else just eating hot dogs and drinking milk shakes.


Success…. And Victory.

The Whareagle wins his first road race – ever.

***Well, it’s been over two four five! weeks now, and I’m sure everyone wanted a fast response, but honestly, I was solo for two weeks at home, and there were other things going on in my life, and I went to Fredericksburg with a friend for the next weekend, and, well, I kind of fell in to a depression, and the high from this race didn’t last nearly long enough. SO, that said, I’ll resume and hopefully finish this today. Thanks for your patience.

I’m going to open this with a monster caveat – this is going to be a LOONG post, so make sure your coffee is hot, your mouse scrolling wheel has fresh batteries, and you have the phone set to ‘airplane mode’, because this may take a while. I have a lot to say.

This last weekend, January 21st, to be exact, I raced the first event of 2012, the annual Copperas Cove Classic, this year, renamed the “Megan Baab Memorial”. Megan was a young, effervescent 19-year old racer who grew up  in the Texas Cup Series, but tragically lost her life in mid-December of 2011. The whole state mourned her loss, and a scholarship fund was set up by Andy Hollinger, the race promoter, with a portion of the proceeds from the race going to the fund. I drove down with long-time client Janna Doss, who was entering her first race. We discussed the usual pre-race nervous talk, with tactics, strategies, nutrition, hydration, offense, defense, etc. Well, I never knew that my own version of the race, separate from hers, would ever succeed so spectacularly.

Saturday dawned cold and breezy, and despite my planning, I did fail to bring an extra undershirt, and was about to wear my Mirage jacket, when teammate and Mirage President, Gary Dutschman, offered me a Helly Hansen undershirt that was perfect. Janna and I pinned each others’ numbers on, and we rolled out for the 7:30 start. I decided a while ago that I would start acting my age, and would race the 40+ category, seeing as to how I’d been beating my head against the Cat 3 ceiling for 6 years, and an upgrade was probably out of my range, especially given my inability to race on weekday evenings, which is where most North Texans get their upgrade points. Trying to do it on weekends only is just really difficult, and there’s always the nagging doubt about whether you’re good enough to stick it with kids half your age, with a lot more vigor under their legs.

I had a number of teammates from Mirage, known and unknown, in the group, and we really didn’t have a strategy, but they were all experienced enough to know to at least block or screw up pacelines if a teammate got away, and, well, as it turned out, that’s exactly what happened!

It was still about 41 degrees when we rolled out in a neutral start, and we were averaging about 11 mph. When the car let us go, everyone just stuck next to each other and kept this slow speed. By this point, I was truly shivering, from a combination of nerves and cold, and I ended up telling myself – “Screw this – I’m going to warm up!” So, about mile 2, I literally just rolled off the front –

and that pretty much turned out to be the whole freaking race!!!!!

At 3 miles, I wasn’t really racing, but I was definitely riding at about 90% of FTP, and when I looked over my shoulder, I had about a 30 second gap. By mile 6, it was about a minute, and there was one brave rider trying to bridge. By the time I turned off on to the loop, at about mile 8, the rider was about 30 seconds behind me, and the pack was at 90 seconds. I then thought about how much riding I had ahead of me, and how it might be fun to have a rider to paceline with, so I backed off, waited a few seconds, and when the rider caught up to me, we made introductions, guesstimated the gap, and started taking turns.

The rider, Jim Slausson, was a 47 year old from San Antonio, riding for Bicycle Heaven, and had about 5 years of experience as a racer. I mentioned that I knew Jimmy Vaughan, one of the owners, and we instantly established a good rapport. Now, here’s the interesting thing – we were both riding Cervelo Soloist/S3’s, we both had tubular deep-rim wheels, and we both had power meters, and knew how to use them. The only difference, physically, was that he weighed probably 25 more pounds than I did. On that course, which is one of my absolute favorites, due to the rolling terrain and the ever-present wind, plus extremes in the cold or the heat, we were set up perfectly. My pulls ended up being longer, his shorter, but together we stitched and weaved our way over the whole course.

At roughly mile 35, just before the right turn on to the worst part of the course – a 12 mile segment of caliche and pea gravel with divots and potholes galore – Jamie, one of my absolute most favorite officials, pulled up beside us and rolled down his window.

“Jamie – what’s our gap?” I asked.

He looked at me, gave me his huge, awesome, most genuine smile, full of white shiny teeth, and said, “SUBSTANTIAL!”

Jim and I then knew this really was going to be a special day.

We hit the gravel section with a semi-quartering tailwind, and lit up the speed to over 28 miles an hour. We passed a few of the 1,2,3’s who had been dropped, but we saw no one after the second feed zone. However, the section that closes the loop, between the entry on to FM roads, and the left hand turn that heads back to the Start/Finish, had some challenges of its’ own to throw at us. Specifically, there’s this one section that consists of two rollers over short bridges, then a climb/flat/climb/flat/climb/flat, to the crest. It’s maybe just over a mile, but usually, if there’s wind, it’s an area where riders get popped. Today, however, I worked pretty hard with Jim, and took him up about 2/3 of the way, before I heard a faint “EZ!” and I backed off. Fortunately, at the crest, Lee McDaniel, the event photographer, was there, and he captured Jim and I in perfect sunlight and image. It’s probably one of the best images I think I’ve ever had taken of me in situ.

Cresting FM580 before Topsey

We continued trading pulls and made the left turn home, knowing that the event was ours, but also knowing that we couldn’t back off too much, for fear that someone might be bridging. It was there, in the area before the final three hills, where Jim said to me “Just get me to the finish – I won’t challenge you.” I thought about it, thought about the ride up to that point, thought about the weather and how it had gone from completely cold to fairly warm-ish, how the wind had never really been too much trouble… and a story came to mind.

“Jim – what was that tennis player’s name who married Steffi Graf?”

“Andre Agassi?”

“Yeah – that’s him. Well, a couple of years ago, maybe 15, he was playing in a charity match somewhere, and was just beating this poor nobody up and down the court. The guy finally came up to the net and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m not feeling it – I think I need to forfeit.’ Agassi, who was really in the zone that day, told him – ‘No man, don’t forfeit… let me spot you a point, and LET’S JUST PLAY.’ So, they agree to that, tell the judge, and keep playing, and Agassi keeps beating him, so the guy says, ‘Dude – you’re killing me!’, and Agassi says ‘I’ll spot you a game. LET’S JUST PLAY.’ Meanwhile, since this was a charity match, and people were paying to observe, well, more people started showing up, and cheering both players on. This went on and on and on until no one was keeping score, Agassi was lowering his game to make sure that his opponent was having a good time, and THEY JUST PLAYED.”

“That’s what I’m feeling like right now.

We’ve won the race, it’s a beautiful day, I’ve made a friend and enjoyed a great ride at the start of the New Year.


“Dude – that’s the best philosophy I’ve heard since my own tale.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that story?”

“Well, I was riding with my friend Jason Sager, and I’d just completed a six week ride across America, when he said, ‘I can’t wait to do that ride with my son some day!‘ And I replied ‘Dude, I can’t wait to do that ride with you AND your son some day!”

It was at that moment that I realized the difference between Success, and Victory. I’ve been trying so hard to win, to be victorious, to be the first across the line, all these years, in two aspects of the sport (MTB and Road), that I forgot to open my eyes and realize that the GREATER Victory comes from being successful. Success is intrinsic. Success is knowing that you’ve given it all, left nothing behind, seized the moment, and pursued your goals. Success doesn’t depend on victory. Success is its’ own victory. Success is knowing that a sound mind, body, and attitude are better tools than a ranking on a sheet of paper. Success is…. Success.

We rode the final five miles in pretty much together. I gapped him on the hills, he caught up with me on the descents. I couldn’t and wouldn’t really shake him, we just opened small gaps and closed them. In the final 500 meters, I raised my left hand, grabbed his right, and we crossed the finish line together, sharing the win. It was the culmination of 2+ hours of some of the absolute best cycling I’ve ever experienced, and in the end, there was no cutthroat push or throw-your-bike-across-the-line. It was almost anticlimactic, but it was the absolute best way I could think to end it. I finished by making the cross sign and kissing my fingers  up to the sky, though most of you know I’m more of a Deist than a labeled Christian. I guess it was just a way to give thanks – for the blessing of the day, the achievement of this level of success in my competitive career, and the taste of victory, which may never come again. I certainly FELT like I had a guiding hand on my back….

Afterward, we gave each other pats on the back, circled back to the start/finish, gave interviews to the local paper, and watched the rest of the riders roll in. We got a few photos, and I looked around for Janna, who was finishing her first official race. Unfortunately, her day was not as good as mine, as she suffered a flat roughly 2/3 of the way through the race, but up to that point, she’d been in the mix with the Open Women’s division, which impresses me mightily! High-Fives and fist bumps and hugs were abundant, and I got a little emotional, remembering all the times that this course has vexed me, that I’ve sworn to quit, that I couldn’t share this with my wife and family… But it did feel good to finally WIN something! BOO YAH!!!

Always good to have teammates at the start – and the finish!

The trip back was full of recounted tales, texts and Facebook postings, and Janna was as stoked as I was about everything. I donated the winnings to Megan’s Memorial, clearing it with the other Mirage guys first (I ALWAYS pay out to teammates when they block. ALWAYS). The celebration at home was more muted, and that’s another story for another day, but I’m grateful for the way this ride came together, how it ended, and what it achieved. Success –


2011 Tyler Cat 3/4 Road Race

Richard Taking a Pull to start Lap 4 of the Tyler RR

WOW, it’s HOT!

It’s beginning to look like this summer will be the second-hottest on record in North Texas. I remember moving to Dallas in June of 1980, from Jackson, MS. We were 21 days in to what would become 90 or more days above 100 degrees. It was a RUDE awakening to the Texas Heat. That, combined with some pre-adolescent homesickness, a dearth of friends, and the inability to actually play outside, made me pretty miserable. Heck, we didn’t even enjoy riding our bikes, since there weren’t too many places to go…. I was glad when school started!

The Tyler Road Race, held on July 9th, was actually hosted by the town of Whitehouse, just south of Tyler. The course was a beautiful 17+ mile loop around Lake Tyler, and the East Texas ecology of actual trees, dense pine woods, and much more rolling terrain, combined with  THAT HEAT, made for a great morning of racing. I just felt sorry for my friends who STARTED the event at 11:30!!!

After dithering about actually attending, I decided at the last moment to go ahead and drive out there, and I arrived in time to go over the course twice in my car, and find a hotel. Tyler is usually famous for its’ barbecue, but it’s actually a really nice place to ride your bike as well. The roads are wide, traffic is a fraction of that found in larger cities, and the folks are generally all getalong types. I won’t remark on the quality of the food or service at the hotel, but it was fine for a Friday night. I woke up early, per my usual strategy, found an open IHOP, and had a good breakfast of pancakes & eggs, with a shot of coffee and glass of milk. I just like having a full stomach, y’know? Two coolers that I had filled the night before with ice were drained and re-filled with close to 20lbs of ice, and I headed out to Whitehouse thinking about strategy and how I felt after a solid 8 hours of sleep.

When I got to the parking lot, it was already hot. Just walking to registration made me sweaty. I looked around as I unloaded the bike and prepped my jersey with numbers, and found two local Tyler teammates, Andy Kutach and Darwin Darr, parked not far away. Client Will Jaudes was also there, and I later learned that Mirage President Gary Dutschman and two John’s were also attending. Finally, my friend from rallying, Curt Palmer, also showed up and signed up to ride in my category. The officials were amazed – we had well over 60 racers, and the Cat 1,2,3 race was also pretty full! I think the expected tally was about 150, and over 250 actually showed up. I think that says something about the desire to race new and challenging venues, and the health of the sport in general.

Just prior to the start, I loaded up a 72oz Camelbak, with hose this time, and two 25oz bottles of “Secretdrinkmix”. I am really loving this stuff, and I think the sodium concentration and light taste have helped me survive the insufferable heat. It is low on calories, but for a 3 hour ride, I’m starting to learn that they’re either in you already, or you should eat a clif bar during the ride, to satiate hunger. As one of the inventors said… “Food in the pocket, hydration in the bottle.” That said, I was loaded with about 125oz of fluids. In the end, I ended up drinking about 110.

The race was set at four laps, and early on, it looks like, from my power meter files, that my plan to lay low for at least 90 minutes sort of worked. In fact, the whole race was really low-paced. Average Relative Intensity for the ENTIRE 3 hours was just about 65-70%. The whole peloton was sluggish. What I thought might reduce the number of viable contenders, just didn’t happen. Right at the 50 minute mark, I worked up the one longest hill, but it really didn’t shatter anyone. Then, when there was a break, it only got about 30 seconds up the road. My attacks throughout lap 3 and 4 were intentionally shorter, so that I could try and get people to go with me, while my teammates blocked, but instead they just pulled the pack back up to me. I think I lasted maybe 3 minutes on my longest solo effort. Will once again showed some true guts as he launched a good two or three attacks, but by the end of lap 3, it was slowly becoming obvious that no one was going to let me go. Frustrated, as I went through the S/F, where the photo was taken, I yelled out to anyone that would listen “Just don’t let this be another FREAKING TEXAS FINISH!” When someone said, ‘What?”, I replied, “You know, 40 Heroes Wide and a Crash!” The sporadic nervous laughter basically confirmed to me that my words were prescient.

15 minutes later, THE MOVE was made, and fortunately, it was made by teammate Andy Kutach. I had gone to the front again, to try and snap the elastic on the pack, but as soon as I was reeled in, (or never let go), Kutach launched a very powerful, yet not overly aggressive, move to my left, and two other contenders went with him. I immediately backed off, and began playing defense. It was a BEAUTIFUL move. In one fell swoop, Andy got 15 seconds, with two other good, strong riders, and they hit it at a point in the course where the sight lines prevented people from knowing where the break really was, in terms of position. When the gap hit 30 seconds, the chase car passed, and by the time we made it through the last neutral water hand up, they were out of sight. Knowing that first-third was wrapped up, I went back and talked with a couple of other Mirage mates to see if we couldn’t get them a Top 10 finish.

I need to give a side note here. I’ve commented in past posts about communication between teammates. I mean, God knows I’m not the smartest or strongest racer out there, but every once in a while, especially when you’ve got teammates, you have the POTENTIAL to shake up the race and DICTATE THE TERMS. But the whole plan goes sideways when one of your own teammates either has their own agenda, or doesn’t know how to adequately share information. One rider, whom will remain nameless, is VERY strong, and VERY savvy, but he can’t seem to communicate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ass, or maybe I’m too much of a Field Marshall, but seriously – just tell me what you want to do, and I’ll work with you or for you to do it. Instead, I got silence from one or two of the guys, and ended up having no idea about how or what they were thinking. One even went to the front to put some power in, and I had to tell him, ‘Dude, we’ve got a guy in the break….” They seem to have no situational awareness, or what I call “whipadilling”. I think it sucks, and it’s not sporting. But the real sporting screwup happened at the end, which I’ll discuss next.

So, with one guy successfully off the front, and me hoping that we can take a few more spots, we made the final turn for home. The pack settled down even more, and Will Jaudes launched a couple of attacks to try and get off the front, which I LOVED. I also tried maybe one, but I was waiting for the final Kilometer, so I could try and escape that dreaded “Texas Finish”. I HATE sprint finishes, especially after three hours of fruitless breakup attempts. I mean, in a race like that, with PACC riders and Party Time Riders and other teams all represented and all over the place, ONE WOULD THINK that they could organize something and blow up the peloton. But I guess there were too many Cat 4’s, or everyone was worried about the heat, or whatever, but I just didn’t want this to end up with a sprint.

Well, guess what. :/

The finish line was at the top of a gentle rise. The final mile or so was on the shoulder and right lane of what ends up becoming a FIVE LANE WIDE ROAD. Now, if you know me, you know HOW ANGRY I GET WHEN PEOPLE CHEAT IN RACES! Even if it’s unintentional, CHEATING is CHEATING. You’re denying people the chance to advance, get points for upgrades, get TXBRA points, and get cash. Some people have family who have waited for HOURS in the HEAT to watch you come across the line, and you want to impress them. But this event, which I mentioned before was expecting maybe 150 riders, had underfunded their officials budget, and was not working with adequate equipment to score a pack finish, OR, conversely, CONTROL THE YELLOW LINE RULE AT THE FINISH. You see, the YELLOW LINE RULE means that when racing, you can’t pass, advance, or cross, the line on the left, real or imaginary, that dictates the center of the road, or another lane. Cyclists in races are guests of the county and city where the event is held. Other traffic has to be allowed to pass, and God knows you don’t want a head-on accident. BUT, at 200 meters, the course is small enough that it can and should be controlled by officials and local authorities, so that the course can open up wider, and let the sprint spread itself out. I think in the past the 200m value was arbitrarily set, and I’ve argued for a decade now that a 400,500, or even kilometer sprint should be made available, especially since pack sizes have grown so much, but I haven’t had much luck. As a result, you get a jet hose effect, where 50 riders are usually bottled up in an 11’ wide lane, and when the 200m section opens up, they spray out and go in all directions. Those in front usually fatigue out, and in the lower category races, there’s just zero organization, bad sprint form, and general hectic mayhem as faster riders try to find open spots to get to. Some riders try and then quit early, further making trouble as they sit up. It’s sort of like a scene from a zoo escape or one of the “Naked Gun” films.

BUT YOU DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER cross the yellow line until you’re allowed to. GOT IT, you PRICKS?!!!

Ha! Holding the left side at 500, then 400, then 300 meters, as the road gently curved left and up toward the finish, which was clear as day, I sensed something on my left. It was not a car. It was a rider. Then another. And another. And as the complaints began to spew from my own mouth and from the mouths of others, the “Texas Finish” mayhem ensued. The sprint came out WAYYYYYYYYY too early, and numerous people quit with 50m to go, and I gave it everything I had, but by that point I had been passed by AT LEAST A DOZEN FREAKING PEOPLE, INCLUDING SOME OF MY OWN FREAKING TEAMMATES!!!!! I finished in the middle of the sprint pack, dejected, but resigned to the fact that, ONCE AGAIN, I had ridden 99,999% of a great race, only to have it come down to ZERO, NADA, NOTHING at the finish. No points, no cash, no primes, no glory, no satisfaction in the extrinsic result…. NOTHING.


You Cheated.

It makes me sick. It makes me ill. It makes me angry and upset. It makes me want to quit. It’s wrong, and you know it.

Instead of bitching and moaning about it on-site, and honestly, being too exhausted at that point to put up much of a fight, and knowing that there was no way the actions could or would ever be corrected, due to lack of oversight, I said nothing and instead congratulated Andy on his race, and my teammates to some degree on a good race. Will especially stuck in my mind, since he wasn’t one of the cheaters, and he’s developing in to a fine competitor. But when a member of PACC approached me and asked if I would join the protest of the results, I agreed. I know these officials. Heck, I am one. I called it out in that moment when it happened, but the racer didn’t care. They were in it for the cashola or some skewed sense of progress. I knew the protest would go nowhere, however, and I focused on my own recovery, and then going over to the Cat 4 racers, who were just getting started, to offer strategy on the course and see them off. I wasn’t going to stick around to watch their finish. It was already 100 degrees, and I really did feel sorry for them.

There was one other really bright spot. Michael Brown, a teammate, client, a neighbor, a friend, and a Pirate of the Peloton, is married to the cutest and most creative gal on the planet. Brandy also rides, and if she’d let me enter her in some races, I just know she’d win, place, or show, but if it’s not her thing, I won’t hold it against her – she’s still a great athlete. Well, in honor of the Tour de France, she showed up wearing THIS:

Mirage takes the Polka Dot Jersey in the 2011 Tyler Road Race!

So, despite what could have been a grumpy ending to the day, I got to race at a new venue, challenge myself and others, support teammates who did voice their appreciation, and watch clients compete in the sun and hills of East Texas. It really was a great day, and I just hope that one of these days, my number will come up, and my aggressive strategy will pay off.

I may or may not post about Paris, TX tomorrow. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll go or not. The Heat Advisories are just not going away.


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.


2010 Cat 3 State Crit Review

Memorial Day, 2010 dawned as the third day in a row of hot and muggy weather. The 3-day weekend of road criteriums in North Texas had already yielded several reports of heat exhaustion and unusually high cramping, as well as high attrition rates in every event. The concrete literally sizzled as riders pushed the limits of their bodies and bikes in some effort to achieve high placings. But it all culminated in Ft. Worth at the State Crit Championships.

The Mirage Cat 3’s presented 5 riders when the event began… Jason Butler, Gary Dutschmann, Rider X, Shawn Daurelio, and myself, Richard Wharton. In 2009 we delivered the State Champion, and we were excited about the possibilities that we might repeat.

The event began at the absolute hottest time of the day, 1:30pm. Temperatures were in the high 90’s, with a heat index in the 100’s. Warmups were light, and an emphasis was put on actually staying cool and well-hydrated. But the intensity at the front when the race began almost immediately took its’ toll. Over 80 riders began the event, but within about 15 minutes, the main field was down to 35 or 40, and riders  began dropping back and dropping out. There were also some crashes in the infamous “Turn 7”, as riders transitioned from a bumpy brick road to the pavement, complete with city reflectors and a high curb, as well as a steel manhole cover.

I stayed in the pack for the first 20 minutes or so, taking a few pulls for a few laps, but honestly, it was obvious early that I did not have the legs to challenge for a break, or even a prime, and I settled in to support the two most likely teammates who would challenge for the win – Jason and Shawn. About half way in, Jason got in to a break of maybe 13 riders, and I went to the front to effectively block or attempt to block bridging attempts. The break hovered no more than 10 seconds off the front for the longest time, but with 20 minutes to go, teammate Shawn launched a mean solo effort and was able to bridge to the leaders. Having two teammates in the break further cemented my position as domestique, and along with several other riders with teammates off the front, we let the break get further up the road. Meanwhile, the heat and risky corners continued to take their toll, as riders continued to either fall back or disappear off the course, courtesy of the officials and broom.

With about 10 minutes to go, a rider from Oklahoma launched a solo attack off the front of the break, and gained a crucial 15 seconds. Unfortunately, the break was just tuckered enough that they began to fall backwards, and slow down, which made it feasible that the  main pack might actually catch the break. However, one of my favorite comments about a crit or even a road race is, “Hey, we’re running out of real estate!” Translation:  it was too late in the race, and there was too little distance or time available, to truly bridge the 20 or so riders in my group to the break itself. In the final lap, the Oklahoma rider soloed in for the win, but teammate Jason Butler led out teammate Daurelio, who used his uber-powerful quads to sprint to the pack win, earning 2nd place, but actually winning the State Championship, since he was the first Texan across the line.

So the Mirage Cat 3’s worked together, with an implicit understanding about the common goal, and delivered for the second year in a row. Teammate Daurelio won two events that weekend, and later that week was notified of his immediate upgrade to Category 2. I take pride in being a member of a club and group of riders with common goals and an unselfishness that creates greater opportunities for all. Leadership, when shared, allows different talents and strengths to be delegated and exploited, with the reward coming beyond the finish line.

Congrats to Shawn Daurelio, and to the Mirate Cat 3’s, for delivering a state champion two years in a row, in a tough field of talented, developing riders.


Scenes from Mirage Cat 3 race, 5/29/2010

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Will post the race review soon.


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.

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