Monday, June 23, 2008
Chip Gray dominated the 2008 Grafton Twilight Criterium, one of the Midwest's largest and most lucrative races, by winning all primes* and first place late in the afternoon of Saturday, June 21st. This performance was all the more sweet for Gray who had spent all of 2007 sacrificing his own interests to help his team mates gobble up podium placings.
Devon Haskell placed second in a hard-fought women's race, while three of the four category two riders survived multiple crashes, barking dogs, beer bottles, and herculean 37 mile per hour re-entries into the peloton in order to finish the professional race.
When asked to sum up the race, the Hitman's response was "INSANE FAST!!!" With a bit more prodding he laid out the play-by-play: "Cesar, Eric, and I had bad starting positions and fought from the gun to move up. After about 5 laps, 2 or 3 guys went down right in front of me in the last turn. I thought for sure I was going over the bars, but managed to avoid towards the curb and came to a complete stop. I should have taken a free lap but instead chased from behind and luckily made my way back into the field after about 2-3 laps of chasing. Needless to say this entirely cooked me to the point of my lungs nearly bursting, which then took about twenty-five minutes to recover. We averaged about thirty-seven mph down the home stretch every single lap. If you were towards the back where gaps opened it was brutal.
The second half was better, was fairly comfortable, and we moved Cesar up to the top seven or eight in the closing laps. This hurt, and I was then slowly pushed back until I popped off the back during the final lap.
Eric was stuck behind a crash in the last few laps and had a hard time catching back on after taking a free lap. They started you back onto the course while riders went by at thirty-seven mph, OUCH!! KAPOW! better luck next time."
The first three photos of this post courtesy of Matt Smith (Vitaminwater-Trek). Thanks, Matt!
*All you Midwestern cycling bloggers note that the correct spelling for an intermediate prize in a cycling race is "prime;" not "preem," "pream," "preme," etc. We will cover "kermesse" next time.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The first sixty miles went well for me. I did a good job at staying up front in the pack, got in a break attempt (it didn't get very far), and was right up front as we were about to hit the dirt road to the finishing circuit. The rest of the race went a bit downhill... as I turned on to the dirt road, somebody turned wide right into me. I managed to stay upright, but ended up off the road and out of my good position. I still hit the circuit with the main field and not in a terrible position. However, when the pace picked up, I started to struggle... I slowly faded to the back of the pack... and then I learned what BONKing is. All of a sudden my legs were gone and I just couldn't go. I finished the last two laps solo and almost thought I wasn't going to make it up the little finishing hill the last time around. Despite feeling pretty miserable, it was fun to have all the fans to myself. They must have felt pity for the lonely rider out on the course because the cheering was great - and helped me make it to the finish line.
The next day was a double race, and I was not feeling so good. The time trial was in the morning and it was held on a mostly flat course, but then they added a hill at the end (fun!). I didn't have a great ride and Kristin Armstrong rode so fast that I would have been time cut had they not extended the cut off (phew!). Spent the afternoon trying to get some rest and hoping I would feel better by the Minneapolis criterium in the evening.
That evening we arrived to a course surrounded by the bustling crowds of downtown Minneapolis - it was a fun atmosphere. As for the race, it was a tough one, but not as crazy as that in St. Paul. The first laps felt super hard. Coming around the second lap, I didn't think I was going to survive the night, but then I got into a groove and the pace seemed to settle a bit and I managed to survive another day and finish in the main pack.
The next morning we headed out to Mankato for our 90 mile road race ending in a finishing circuit with a killer hill up Main Street. Last year I crashed on the downhill of the finishing circuit and ended up in the hospital so I was hoping for a better result this time - my main goal was to stay rubber side down! (This year, the race issued a warning about the downhill... I could have used that warning last year!) The eighty miles before the circuit were mellow for a good amount of time, but through some of the cross winds, teams sent some attacks that strung out the field into a long line and made for some intense riding into the wind. For the most part things stayed together up to the finishing circuit - then we hit main street hill and the field broke apart. First lap around I stayed in the front group, but was in the rear. Second time up the hill, the pack split and I hung on to the second group and ended up finishing with that pack not too far behind the front field. Our Ryan team all had great performances and we ended up finishing 3rd as a team for the stage! It was an exciting day for us.
Lastly was the Stillwater Crit with the killer Chilkoot hill. I was thankful to have a 27 cog today! The race starts out at the bottom of the hill and is hard from the get go. I avoided getting dropped the first time up, but ended up in the back of the group. Second time up the hill, I was moving up a bit and then there was a crash right in the middle of the hill. I almost avoided it but then got cutoff by someone else trying to avoid the crash. I came to a practical standstill and struggled to get the pedals turning again. Once I did, I found myself off the back. Each time up the hill, I'd work my way up to another group off the back, but I was far from the front. I made it around the 3 laps I needed not to get time cut and then managed to ride for a few more laps before I got pulled. Even though I sort of liked the hill, my tired legs were not too sad to miss out on the last few times up. Overall, a much better experience than last year! I was happy to finish and avoid crashing this time around
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Team director Jon Tenney rides a 60 cm System Six and uses Reynolds Stratus carbon wheels for road races and Ksyrium ES for criteriums.
Eric Wiecek rolls a 56 cm System Six with ZIPP 404 wheels. Note Cannondales new super stiff and ultra light crankset.
Both Chip Gray and Steven Vandeven prefer strength and style over weight. They roll on DT Swiss's new white wheelset.
Chip's bike with silver bar tape.
Vandeven prefers white.
Cesar Correa opts for the CAAD 9 with SRM and stealth wheels.
Years ago, Uwe won an online raffle for a pair of Spinergys and is still racing them today.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
"The first race was crazy - It was pouring pre-race with more thunderstorms reported to be on the way. The management switched the direction of the course to make for fewer downhill turns in the rain and shortened the race (from 40 to 30 laps).
The race started out fast and strung out right away. I didn't have a great spot, but wasn't stuck in the back like last year so it was an improvement and I was ready for it to be fast. I tried to move up as much as I could and ended up dangling on the back of the large lead group. A break went off, and I was with the main pack for most of the race. Unfortunately, being in the back meant that I was constantly getting shed off the back as gaps opened and as we slowed for crashes. I think I saw a crash basically every other lap!
Finally with three or four laps to go, I got gapped after a crash and couldn't catch the main group. So I finished a bit behind. Unfortunately, the race didn't count because they decided to cancel it according to USCF racing rule 4E4... which is a rule that says you can cancel the results of a race for basically any reason (its a very vague rule). I'm not sure exactly why they nullified the results.
Now I sort of wish I got pulled because the last half of the race was really hard. But, I do agree that the course doesn't give people a fair chance to finish well if they have a bad starting spot - especially with the wet conditions. Next race is tonight - I'll try to give updates, but it might be a while for the next one because we have a race tonight and then get back late and have to get up bright and early for a time trial tomorrow morning. Then the Minneapolis crit tomorrow night - lots of racing! Fun!!!"
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Charles Biro, working for the firm Sidley Austin LLP, perhaps earned the biggest victory for the team this year when he helped settle a major antitrust case that will help ensure that the real estate market remains competitive. The New York Times recently ran an article on this landmark case. According to Biro, the author botched some facts, but correctly conveyed the spirit of the settlement.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Team Get A Grip Girls: Seven starts equals seven top tens!
Emily "State Champ" Hutchins reports as the women's team uses tactics to humble the opposition (except one):
"Saturday's twilight criterium began on a lead-out from Devon and Lindsay, setting up Emily and Val for the first attack two hundred meters into the race. Emily and Val went off on their attack, which was strong but the rest of the pack ended up reeling them back in. Second in line for an attack was Lindsay and Devon, who did just that. After twenty minutes of attacking and doing their thing, the girls of TGAGC came down to the final two laps of the crit. Val stepped up to the front to lead the pack, while cresting over the hill Devon slipped out of the pack to jump onto the wheel of another rider. The final sprint came down to Devon and Kristen Meshburg of Team Flatlandia. Devon brought home second place with Emily in 6th, Lindsay in 7th and Val in 9th--Excellent team tactics paid off!
Sunday's National Criterium Championship would be much of the same. The girls once again showed how teamwork and having a plan can pay off, taking two podium spots with Devon taking the silver medal with Emily in 4th and Lindsay 7th. The women's team showed amazing strength in their first full squad race. TGAGC will be a threat for the remainder of the season with the amount of talent they showed at this weekend's races! Nice job ladies!
Best of luck to Val in the upcoming track races this weekend!!"
Male Riders Medal in National Championship with Skeleton Crew
Aspen Gorry tells the story of the category 3 team:
"The cat 3 portion of the team really started to gel over the weekend. Despite still being undermanned with four riders on Saturday and three on Sunday, we displayed good team tactics and finished with some good results.
On Saturday, Chip, Josh, Uwe, and I lined up for the twilight crit. Chip stole the show making every break, Josh and I were active blocking for most of the race, and Uwe made his season debut after being off the bike for a month after getting clobbered by some cars and finished strongly in the field in a difficult race. When the winning break went, it was my turn to go as Chip had just been brought back from his last attempt off of the front, but I found myself pinned in the pack and unable to make the move. I alerted Chip and he made the heroic bridge up to the break but was unable to hold on. (Sorry to put you in that situation, I will be in the right spot to make the move next time). With two laps to go, frustrated that I wasn’t in the main break I decided to try a solo effort for the line. I made it ¾ of the way up the hill on the last lap, but was then swarmed by a surging field. Josh was second wheel over the top and was able to hold on for 7th! Despite not having anyone end up in the top 5 we showed strength as a team that should pay off for some results soon!
On Sunday we only started three riders with Josh resting up for the big track events next weekend. With breaks not quite as likely on this course, we were more reserved for the first third of the race with the exception of Chip slipping off the front to steal the first prime. With Chip and I actively keeping an eye on the break attempts, Uwe made his presence felt in the middle of the race by flying up to the front of the race twice, once to bring back a threatening attack and a second time to launch one of his own. It is good to see the legs respond well to the first days of racing. No breaks were able to stay away, so the last time up the hill I drilled it to stay in the top 10 with Chip right on my wheel. Going over the top he slipped by me up to the front of the group and I stayed in the group of 8 of us that got a bit of a gap on the rest of the field. Down the final straight I held off my sprint for a moment too long and ended up 5th with Chip finishing inches from the win! Two riders in the top 5 is great, the elusive victory should come soon!"
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
Stacking the field.
Chasing a solo attack.
The hitman attacks once
Aspen, Josh, control the field over the hill crest,while Chip executes the bridge.
Emily tries to remember how to turn at speed.
Lilacs for a back drop.
The team holds the left side going up the hill.
Cesar was relentless all weekend.
Aspen makes the podium after leading Chip out for second place.