Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back in the USA

I’m now back state side after some hard racing in Europe. This weekend our team will travel to Nashville Tennessee for the junior Worlds Championships Qualifiers. This will be my last week on the road for a while as I will finally be returning home for most of the month of June.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming close, but not close enough

After a disappointing stage two, I came into stage three ready to race, as did our entire team. Almost from the gun we all took turns attacking and riding aggressive letting the other riders know that despite tradition Americans can do well in road races, and we are not just time trialist. The field was quick to chase our attacks down and nothing got away, and even with the hilly course that we had ahead the pack would stay for the most part together. With 25km remaining the yellow jersey attacked with two others and then proceeded to drop them and ride to a solo victory. Behind him two riders from Kazakhstan attacked with 15km remaining and one being caught with a few km’s after. There has a final steep climb in the final 10km which split our lead pack and I found myself in a group of 30 riders charging towards the finish. The under the 5km banner two riders attacked and I saw a chance so bridged up. Shortly after Charlie came across with two other riders and we began to drive it home. We worked well until 2km to go then riders started to fatigue and missing pulls, so it was then I decided that it was now or never. I attacked the group as I saw the main pack closing in a last chance effort to beat the pack to the finish. One other rider from the group was able to come across to me which helped to make the move stick. We came within 15 seconds of the yellow jersey, caught the remaining Kazakhstan rider on the line, however the other rider I was with piped me in the sprint by half a bike and I came across the line in 4th.

It was a good ride, but I realized unless you win you will never be satisfied.

I’m back in Belgium now and preparing for another stage race next weekend.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I’m now in Frankfurt at 3etappen der Rad. It is a three day three stage race, which started with an 8km time trial. I had the chance to follow Austin in the team car before my own race, and scout the course that turned out to be very beneficial. In a matter of only 8km, the course had three 120 degree turns, one of which the follow car couldn’t make it through, Ben had to do the three point turnaround just to get the car around the tight turn. Other than the three hard turns the course was flat and straight as could be.

As I sat on the trainer warming up the air was hot and humid and I was beginning to sweat, but as the begin to look at the surrounding sky I saw that rain was inevitable. No less than 5 minutes later the rain came down hard, almost hail like drops. Then our mechanic placed wheel bags on my back as I continued my warm up. With ten minutes before my start I got to and put on my race wheels and rolled down to the staging area. All the while the rain was still pouring down and I was starting to get chilled, and not a minute later Anders finished and I saw his ripped up shorts. He crashed in the final 120 degree turn, because it was raining so hard he couldn’t see the cones. I then rode over the Ben in the team car and asked if it was still worth going for it, and he said “what do you have to lose”, so I remained chilled and road in the pouring rain back to the start area. As I was on the to starting block Ben called out on his megaphone which was placed on the front of the car, that riders were still posting fast times so I need to give it a go. As the clock hit 6:12 I was off. From there the race went well, the turns were wet but not extremely slick and my legs felt good so I powered my 52x 14 for most of the course. I finished with a time of 10’49” which slotted me into 9th place 14seconds behind the winning time. It was a good ride but the race is not over yet, we have two more road races each with lots of time bonuses out on route so I’ll need to be attentive and aggressive to improve on my position.

stage 2

Stage 2 stated great and ended with my head hung low. The first 40km of the race were flat and fast but nothing that hard. 20km into the race I braked hard and my front brake cable came loose so I had to drop back to the car to get it fixed. It wasn’t easy as I ride with one hand quizzing the brake calipers tight and used the other hand to tighten the bolt. After a few tries I got it the brake working properly again just in time for the first and hardest climb of the day.

Climb one was a 10km climb, however it was not as steep as anything we did in the Czech. Near the top things started to split apart, and giving the good legs that I had I found myself in the lead group of 8 summiting the top. From there things figuratively and literally went down hill, after a few minutes of descending we came to a steep downward pitch and a tight right hand turn. It only took one rider going to fast to over shoot the turn then try and come back on the road which took myself along with 3 other riders down. I landed hard but my bars took most of the fall, as I remounted my bike and began to ride I realized that the bike was not ride able . The bars were severely bent in and the derailleur was bent. As I sat on the side of the road I saw my race go out the window, but I still had some hope. As the next group of riders came by containing Andrew, Austin and Anders I tried to get there attention. Anders happen to see me and being on Hot Tubes and a good guy he pulled over and gave up his bike. With a bike that was several sizes too short I chased as hard as I could. As the chase went on I began to lose hope of catching back up.

After 15km of chasing a group containing Ryan caught me and we continued riding hard. On the final climb Ryan and I rode at the front and descended like made men and dropped the entire group and rolled into the finish 15 seconds ahead of the group we where in but over 3 minutes behind the winners.

Today was mentally hard, being high on GC and having good legs but having a crash take me out of it, made for some frustration. However, as Anders says “ if you can’t get hurt and lose it all it’s a game, not a sport”, tomorrow is another day and another chance to lay it all on the line.

p.s. in the crash I tore up my jersey, broke my helmet and lost my second pair of glasses on this trip, but escaped with minimal road rash.

Shit happens

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last three days of the peace race.

Friday morning started with a 14 km time trial. Traditionally the US national team has done well in this discipline however this TT in particular didn’t go well for any of us. I rode hard but haven’t put the time in on the time trial bike to go really fast in that position, but still it was good to get the first time trial out of the way. Andrew Barkers was the best American in 24th then Charlie Avis 5 seconds behind him then me 14 seconds behind Charlie’s time. The other three US riders rode the race easy to save energy for the afternoon stage.

That afternoon we had another road stage, a 98 km race but this time the course didn’t have as many hills. The race was again really fast but me legs felt good and had no problem staying at the front. I tried a few attacks but the Euros were quick to jump on my wheel. The stage ended in a field spring and everyone finished safely in the pack.

Saturday was the hardest yet most prodigious day on the bike this year. The race started with a 8km climb at 8-12%, however the hardest part was when we crested the summit and the road on top opened up the grass fields where the wind turned into a whipping cross wind. On top the riders that remained where slammed into the gutter by the riders at the front in an effort to drop as many people as possible. After 15km in the fierce wind we started a wicked descent, and reached a max speed of 93kmph. I had never been in such a large group going so fast, and the most astonishing thing was seeing big puffs of smoke rising up from all the riders braking. On a few of the tighter turns I grabbed so much brake that I was sure I was going to go over the bars, but that’s just part of junior racing in Europe, pushing yourself and your equipment to the limit. After the Smokey descent we started another 8km climb this time not as steep but still gaining over 400m. This time up the pack would start dwindling even more, but the top there were around 50riders and four of us Americans. Again on top we were welcomed by a strong crosswind and again we were slammed in the gutter. With 25km till the finish Russia with all 6 of their riders went to the front and put on the gas, coming into the final 5 km all four of us Americans were at the front and in good position. In the final sprint Jacob took 6th and America’s best ever result at the peace race, I finished 17th and god my own personal best. The other two Americans finished in our group, while Austin had a hard day and rolled across a few minutes behind, and Andrews crash on day two finally caught up with him and he did not finish the stage.

There were to be on easy rides to the finish on the final day either, with the general classification still close the day would turn out to be aggressive and another one in the pain cave. The course had one 3km climb at 13% and another more steady 6km climb at 6-8%. We did four laps on the course each pushing the body harder and harder. Every time up the short climb I fought with myself to summit with the leaders. The longer climb proved better for me and I was able to make it over, not easier but without grinding my teeth as hard. Coming into the final lap we again had four Americans in the main group, and after we all pushed ourselves about as hard as we could on the final km’s of the climb we made it over with the main bunch. In the final sprint there was a big crash with less than 1000meters so go, but again we all made it without falling.

In the final classification I finished 30th. It was the longest and hardest race I have ever done but I know that it will make me much stronger for the rest of the year. This weekend we are going east again this time to Frankfurt for a three stage stage race

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stages 1&2

The racing has been all I had expected, fast, hard, and chaotic. Stage one was a wet 3 lap95 km stage with one big climb every lap. The first time up the climb I thought I was going to be dropped, my legs were dead from all the travel and lack of time on the bike in the days prior. On the second lap however I along with everyone on the team felt better, we rode at the front not letting anything get too far up the road. The same was for the final lap and the group was all together going into the final 10km. With just under 10km to go a group of 6 got away containing no Americans. However, with 5km left Andrew gave a good dig at the front and almost bridged across but came up short and was swallowed up by the chasing pack in the final km. The group of six finished 23seconds off the front, but all the other Americans finish in the chasing group and upright.

Stage 2 brought better weather and another hard race. On the deciding 10km climb the field had a massive separation. Charlie made the lead group over the top and I was just behind. Austin, Ryan, Jacob, and Andrew (who suffered a hard crash in the first 6km and held on to the car but caught back up going 70kmph). I eventually made it to the lead group with the help of a draft off the team car. From there on Charlie and I took turns following attack which was hard being that Belgium had 5 riders and almost every other country had 3-4 riders. At 20km to go a group of six got off the front. We followed and attempted to bridge across however all were unsuccessful. Four more riders managed to bridge across to the leaders in the final km’s, and Charlie and I finished in the following pack. Jacob, Ryan, Austin and Andrew finished in the next group 2-3 minutes behind.

Tomorrow morning is the time trial and Charlie and I are both looking for a good ride to move us up in the results.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TT Course

Today we went out with the time trial bike to pre ride the course which is on the third morning of the race. It's a somewhat hilly 14km course. Teams are starting to roll onto town and the race will start tomorrow with a hilly 95km road race.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Czech Republic, The Peace Race

Today we made the long drive from Izegem, Belgium to a town 40km northwest of Prague, Czech Republic. It was stretched day in the car but the book I’m reading (angles and demons), the German countryside and the autobahn kept it interesting. While on the autobahn we drove around 80-85 mph, however we were often passed like we were standing still by cars traveling at well over 100mph. Once we entered Czech it was a clear difference for Western Europe, it’s not that it’s more rundown but at the same time it is. I believe it is just different due to the extended influence of communism for so long, it’s still a beautiful country and going to be a great place to race a bike.
The race we came for is “le course de la Paix” the peace race. It’s a race that started during the time of the Soviet Union as a way to give the eastern bloc countries a chance to race against the riders of the west. Although it’s the “peace race” there is not going to be much peaceful about it, it’s a five day six stage, stage race with most of the better riders from Europe. The race is also known as the hardest junior race in the world. No doubt it will be hard, but our team is strong, has good European experience and is ready to race.

Tomorrow we are going out to ride the TT bikes on the course and the race starts on Wednesday. I’ll post as often as I can with race reports and pictures.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

VeloNews story.

Velonews did an article on our race yesterday, here is the link.

Race 1 By Jacob Rathe

Interclub Hoboken

A typical race in Belgium. Crappy roads, small roads, narrow roads, road furniture, and lots of corners. And more crappy roads. With a total elevation gain of almost 300 feet in 116 kilometers, and over 30 90+ degree corners in 50k.

It has been by first race in over two weeks due to an ear infection, I wasn’t expecting much but needed a good race under me for next weeks Course de la Paix in the Czech Republic.

33 teams with a total of 196 riders lined up. We started in the city of Hoboken, did 2 50 kilometer loops, then finished with 2 circuits around the town.

A break of 3 got away 20 k into the race. They were joined not soon after by 4 more, including US rider Andrew barker. At the end of the first lap I made my way up to the break with 4 other riders. The break was now 12. Then more came up. Then it was 25, and was more of a selection rather than a breakaway.

My only teammate Andrew flatted on the second lap, and I was the only US rider there until another teammate Ryan Eastman came up with another 10 riders. At the same time 3 riders snuck off the front just as we got to the finishing circuits. They got out of sight and I spent a lap trying to bridge up with another Belgian but couldn’t make it before getting swallowed up by the lead pack.

The finishing circuit was somewhat ridiculous, several 90+ degree corners every k. Along with a cobble stone section that was scary to look at. From a big road, we turned onto a small road that turned to cobbles. 50 meters later it opened up into somewhat of a field of cobbles, with train tracks, and a sharp bend onto an uphill highway overpass. The train tracks weren’t even nice train tracks, rising above the cobbles. Worthy of a good bunny hop.

There was no organized chase, but rather a constant barrage of attacks. Eventually 5 more riders got away to the lead group that grew to 8. I tried but had no more bullets left. We got caught by another group on the last lap, containing another teammate Charlie Avis. I was destroyed, and he looked like he still had some hop in his legs so I told him I’d lead him out for the sprint. I led the last 1.5k through the town to get swarmed with 200 meters to go.

Charlie ended up in 17th, Ryan in 28th, me in 29th. Austin came in not soon after in 41st, and all other US riders in the top 100. We were 6th in team GC.

It wasn’t a great race for us, but not bad.

The Course de la Paix (Peace Race) starts on Wednesday. 5 days long. Lots of climbing. Nations cup- only national teams. But probably better suited to our strengths as a team.