Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Racer's Nightmare

The race was taking supposed to be a 34k road race in Northern Mexico. Instead just 15 minutes into it there were broken bodies an bikes strewn across the road, and this time it wasn't a cyclist who caused the death of one 34 year old Mexican cyclist.

The race in Matamoros, Mexico on Sunday points out a valuable lesson to everyone who races, whether in the U.S. or anywhere for that matter. Courses that are not closed to cars pose the threat of serious injury or death to everyone involved. Everyone needs to do their part and be attentive from the officials and corner marshalls, to the cyclists and spectators. Keep your head up and be aware of everything that is going on around you at all times.

AP Photo

Ten Years Ago Today

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Registration Now Open For Willowsprings TT

The registration for the Willow Springs stage of the HomeMade Pizza Co. Chicago Time Trial Series hosted by Beverly Bike-Vee Pak, Inc. is now open. The race will be held in Willow Springs, Illinois on Sunday June 15th and will also be the closest TT venue to downtown Chicago. This will be a great course in that it features several hundred feet of climbing over the two lap 30k course. The climb up Flavin Road is nearly 1.5 km long at an average grade of 6%, and KoM points will be awarded to the top finishers. This will also be the most picturesque course of the series as it winds throught the Forest Preserves, but it may be hard to notice the scenery when you are buried in your pain cave!

Since it will be Fathers Day, I suggest you sign up soon so that you can secure an early start time to keep Mom and the kids happy. For more info contact the HomeMade Pizza Co. Chicago Time Trial Series

Registration Now Open For Willowsprings TT

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

USA Cycling Rule Check

After the crit in Saturdays Le Tour de West Lafayette I got to thinking a bit about the fact that the race was run on an open road. Sure I can understand holding a road race under such conditions, but a crit? Especially a crit with a downhill section!

I did a quick check of the USA Cycling Rule Book for 2008 and the very FIRST rule states:

3D. Criterium

3D1. A criterium is a circuit race held on a small course entirely closed to traffic. The length of the course is between 800m and 5km. The minimum width throughout the course should be 7m.

I don't know about you, but an entirely closed closed course seems pretty obvious to me. In the Men's 4/5 race I encountered two vehicles on the course, and there are reports of more. The first instance was as we crested the first rise and began to make the turn in corner 2 leading to the climb. A car was coming down the hill towards the pack which was swinging wide to start the climb. Luckily for us there were some observant fans standing near the corner to stop the driver. Shouts were heard up and down of "car up!", something you may normally hear on a group ride, but never in a crit. The second instance was after turn 3 as we were heading downhill towards turn 4. The police allowed a vehicle to enter the course, however this time they were on our side of the yellow line. This to me is just dangerous and completely avoidable by perhaps choosing a different course. Why just 3 blocks away was the deserted campus of Purdue University.

The fact that there were no incidents with any vehicles on the course was probably due to luck more than any other reason. USA Cycling has rules in place to protect the riders from serious harm. I know every time I race I risk injury to myself, but I expect that there can be crashes caused riders or by a tricky course. I certainly don't expect to racing along with traffic. Shame on Benga Sports for allowing this to happen.

Tour De West Lafayette

The team made it's debut in stage racing this last weekend in the inaugural edition of the Tour de West Lafayette. We were excited about being able to test ourselves in this format of racing on the challenging courses that were to be presented, however, the organizers had a different plan. The first stage was to be a criterium held on a 1.3 mile course with 8 corners. As we rolled out to scope out the course and warm up we had difficulty finding the rest of the course. Sure we found the KoM hill climb portion and two out of the eight corners, problem was we couldn't find the rest of the course! It turns out that there was no more course to be found. We were to be faced with basically doing hill repeats for the next 35 minutes, or so we thought. The promoters also had another surprise for us in hand. They announced that the crit was also going to be held on an OPEN course, but we needn't worry, because only ONE car made it onto the course in the first race. Are you effen kidding me? An open road crit? My only question was where was the ambulance going to be parked?

After a somewhat neutral rollout the fireworks began in earnest. Not surprisingly our horrible position in the back of the pack caused problems early. There was nearly a crash in the first corner, and then a flat tire in the middle first climb caused quite a split. Elvis, Tony and Clark managed to stay ahead of the trouble wile Joe and myself had to work our way around it all. Here is where the racing gets a little screwy though. Joe and myself are working together and picking people off each lap, probably about 3-5 riders each lap, when we get pulled from the race. I'm a bit confused at this point and figure that we are getting down to the final few minutes of the race and they want a safe sprint. I also know that we were never lapped by the field, nor were we ever in danger of that happening anytime soon. I go to stop my watch and realize that we have been pulled only fifteen minutes into the race! What the hell is that all about!

As the racing continued it turns out we weren't the only ones pulled from the race. Out of 54 starters, the officials only allowed 13 riders to finish the race. Not only were they pulling lapped riders, but they also pulled everyone who wasn't in the main group. Why? Early in the race the commissar was also driving his pace car up and through groups of riders and telling them they were pulled. I have never seen this before in a race, and for the safety of the riders I hope I never see it again.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this was the fact that I was pulled without the opportunity to actually race. Sure if I had been lapped I could understand. But with each lap that went by, we were making up ground. We found ourselves at the back because we lined up poorly, not because we were unable to race. The other kicker is that they didn't even place us in the correct order when they pulled us, and they also applied some "scientific" formula to figure how far back we would have finished. According to their calculations we would have finished anywhere from 3-7 minutes back! Not likely in my opinion, and if so at least let me finish.

The next day Sunday brought with it cooler temperatures as well as cooler heads. Tony and I rode out to the course, only to realize that we had beaten the promoters there. So far this wasn't looking any better than the day before. Tactics were discussed and it was decided that we would get on the front and try and blow it apart from the gun. To no ones real surprise this plan didn't go so well, at least not for us. Sure we may have controlled the tempo leading into the 4 mile circuit, but an attack by Clark at the base of the wall really blew things apart. Unfortunately, it also blew apart our team as well. In trying to move up and block for Clark, Joe and I hit the climb in our big rings, BIG mistake. It cost us position and we slid back into the group and onto the tail of the pack. We tried to hold position, but our legs were cooked and the pack slowly slid away from us. Turns out however that Clark was actually behind us after his move and we worked together for the second half of the lap. The three of us worked together taking turns and bring riders back. On the long downhill Joe and Clark managed to ride away from me and my compact gearing. I did manage to catch Joe before the wall again, and Clark hooked onto a small group just behind the main pack.

Joe and I continued to work together for the next lap and a half when we were joined by Tony and Elvis who we assumed were actually ahead of us. Turns out they were also victims of the acceleration the first time up the climb. The next two laps were a text book version of team time trialing as we worked together around the course picking up riders and dropping them along the way. On the last lap we managed to pick up one rider too many though. At the start of the final lap we caught Voytek Glinkowski (WDT) on the roller section before the climb. In hindsight we should have sat behind him and then powered past on the climb, but instead allowed him to latch onto the group, mistake number one. After climbing the hill for the final time we made another mistake. Rather than attacking Voytek, we gave him a free ride to the finish, mistake number two. Then the plan was to lead out Elvis for a bit of vindication for his loss to Voytek in the sprint at Vernon Hills. This was working okay until Voytek launched his own counterattack and Elvis had to jump to grab his wheel. Things ended differently though this time in the their sprint and Elvis managed to just get him at the line, so all was not lost.

The final stage was to be the TT which was to be run in reverse order of GC. While the officials figured out everyones KoM points and times we were treated to lunches provided by the promoter. After what seemed like an eternity it was time to roll out for the start of the TT, which meant that problems and confusion would not be far behind. Because of our team time trial performance in the road race we were all positioned fairly close to each other in the GC. On the start line I asked the chief official where the finish line was just for the sake clarification. Turns out I probably should have kept my mouth shut because he told me and the next few riders that the finish line was at the KoM line at the top of the climb. No problem I thought, I would just absolutely bury myself on the climb and be done with it. I went out first and managed to flub getting into my pedal right off the bat. On the run in towards the climb I was managing anywhere from 19-23 mph depending on how hard the wind was blowing. Then came the climb and the plan to just turn myself inside out. Well believe me I did just that and left it all out there somewhere 3/4's of the way up. When I reached the KoM line I asked the official if I was done and he told me NO ! WTF? You mean I have about another kilometer or more to race! You have got to be kidding me? How does the chief official not know where his finish line is. Oh well, I guess that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise at this point. So I dug deep and managed to finish strong cranking out 26+ mph on the finish.

All bitching aside, I am really glad we did this race. It taught us many valuable lessons from tactics, to planning and camaraderie as well. After the crit we vowed to never return to this race again, but on the ride home, I knew that I had to come back next year to right the wrongs of this year.

Here is how everything ended up, or at least how the officials scored us:
Mens 4/5 Criterium
Elvis Falbo 21st
Tony Rienks 26th
Joe Castello 31st
Clark McCarthy 37th
Damon Nelson 39th

Mens 4/5 Road Race
Clark McCarthy 24th
Elvis Falbo 35th
Tony Rienks 37th
Joe Castello 38
Damon Nelson 39th

Mens 4/5 Individual TT
Clark McCarthy 20th
Tony Rienks 25th
Damon Nelson 34th
Joe Castello 35th
Elvis Falbo 39th

Mens 4/5 Overall GC
Clark McCarthy 23rd
Tony Rienks 31st
Joe Castello 33rd
Elvis Falbo 34th
Damon Nelson 35th

Mens 4/5 KoM Competition
Clark McCarthy 5th

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Matteson Series Put On Hold

The Tuesday Night Criterium Series presented by the South Chicago Wheelmen will be put on hold for the forseeable future. The race on May 20th is definately off, but racing will be held whenever the course is in a rideable condition.

If racing is not to be held a particular Tuesday, then there will also be a group ride leaving Yankee Woods. Failing that ride, we can also step up and host a ride on Tuesdays and take a group out for 30-40 miles. For up to date info on the series check out the Wheelmen's webpage

New Page Features

As work continues on this site, I will try and point out new features that may make it easier for you to navigate and learn more about us. The latest feature I have been working on is the rider info section. Currently, by clicking on a riders name you will be able to see his results from the last two years from USA Cycling. I am in the process of creating individual pages for each member with a bit of info about them. This information may include how long they have been racing, other teams they have raced for as well as photos and other useful snippets.

Check back often as this will be a work in progress for quite some time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Giro d'Italia 1988

Vande Velde In Pink

Lemont native Christian Vande Velde pulled on the maglia rosa today at the completion of todays 23.6km TTT to open the 91st edition of the Giro d'Italia .

Team Slipstream-Chipotle had announced that the opening TTT had been a major objective after being invited to the Giro for the first time. Having the national time trial champions on the squad didn't hurt their chances either. The team has been considered an underdog by many, but they proved their worth today averaging over 33 mph for more than 26 minutes, beating well established powerhouses such as CSC and Astana.

The team hopes to be able to keep the maglia rosa for a few more days, and pin their hopes for a few stage wins on sprinter Magnus Backstedt of Sweden. Making the victory even more sweet for the Americans on Slipstream-Chipotle was the fact that the last time an American was in pink was Andy Hampsten's overall win in 1988. Perhaps 20 years has been long enough, and American will be wearing pink in Milano.


Words Of Wisdom

"I race to win, not to please other peolpe"-Bernard Hinault

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sorry For The Technical Difficulties

Blogger decided that our little old blog was actually a computer generated spam blog. After a small complaint from me and a long day of waiting we are back up and running. Thanks for everyone's patience.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

BBVP Scores First Victory of 2008!

Sunday dawned bright and sunny with liitle wind for the 2nd Edition of the Vernon Hills Grand Prix. As a team we would be racing in two events, namely the Cat 5 race and the Masters 4/5 later in the morning. While limited to a field of 50 we managed to have 7 members available including Tony, Damon, Elvis, Jorge, Dan, Sergio and Joe. The course proved a relatively smooth trouble free course with just one slightly tricky corner depending on which line you picked.
The Cat 5 race went pretty well with myself, Joe, Tony and Elvis sitting in the top ten all morning with little difficulty. However, being a Cat 5 race there were quite a few shouts to "HOLD YOUR LINE!" as some of the corners proved tricky for a few of the riders. Everything was staying together after an attempt at a breakaway was brought back. Things looked good for us with 2 and a half laps to go and four of us sitting up front. Well those good times didn't last long! There was what sounded like a scrape of a pedal in turn 3 which resulted in one rider losing their line. Unfortunetly Joe was in the wrong place and was forced well outside towards a curb, he managed to correct for a moment when he was hit from behind by someone else ending his race in a pile outside of turn 3 with 3 other riders. At this point the front of the group attacked hard with only 2 to go and quickly split the field. Elvis and Tony stayed with the front group and I chased hard for the last 2 laps.
Elvis managed 9th in the sprint, while Tony came in 15th. I finished 26th, Sergio 30th, Jorge 36th and Dan was 40th.

The Masters 4/5 race went much better although I believe there was still a crash towards the end. Joe and myslef did not line up for this as Joe toasted his front wheel, and I had to leave early.

Tony, Elvis, Sergio, Jorge and Dan rode a smart race and let other teams do most of the work for the entirety of the race. When it came down to the final sprint Tony managed 20th this time around. With about 200 meters to go Elvis was blocked in with riders on both sides and one in front as well. At 150 to go however, the door opened up and thats when Elvis started winding up his sprint. He looked up at 50 meters to go and realized he was off the front and powering towards the win, when he was pipped at the line for 2nd. The good news was that he was beaten by a 40+ master, thus making his 2nd place overall good enough for 1st Place in the 30+ race.

All in all we had a great showing on Sunday and vowed to return next year to defend the win. Barring Joe's unfortunate crash we rode a smart race and hopefully earned the respect of our fellow racers. This win will only be the first of many for 2008, and we can't wait to prove ourselves at the Tour de West Lafayette in a few weeks.

New Blog Address Coming Soon

I just wanted to let everyone know that on Wednesday May 7th the new address for the blog will be

You will still be able to read and search all of the archived posts as usual. Please bookmark this new address so that you don't miss a beat. As always if you have any questions or comments drop us a line at

An International Audience

I never would have guessed a few months ago when I started this little blog about our team that it would ever receive as much traffic as it does. What really has taken me by surprise is who is actually reading it. Last week I installed a counter on the site that also tracks where the readers are located, either in the United States or around the world. I figured that most of the traffic was coming from within the team, after all, we are so new to Chicago I figured no one knew who we were yet. Well it turns out that we have quite an international audience. Sure most of the hits are coming from the Chicago area, but I was shocked to see a steady stream of traffic from overseas as well. Just in the last week we have had visitors from Israel, Turkey, Canada and Belgium. Our site also gets viewed from quite a few number of states as well. In fact, just today there were hits from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California. In the last few weeks I have met people at races that mention that they read the blog, and to be completely honest I am really quite flattered that someone would take the time to read what I have to say.

I know this has nothing to do with us racing, but I thought it was rather interesting. I guess I am just easily amused.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday Night in Blue Island

You gotta love the profile on this quick, hard route.

Indiana Here We Come

We have a team all signed up and ready to ride the upcoming Le Tour de West Lafayette on May 17th and 18th. As a team we couldn't be more excited about this unique racing opportunity. It looks as though we will have another caravan driving down to Lafayette, with most of our wives and families joining us for the weekend. As far as the racing goes, the format looks great and I will curious to see how the legs react after two tough days of racing.

If my calculations are correct based on the profile we should enjoy about 500 feet of climbing per lap for 35 minutes plus two laps on the 1.3mile course Saturday afternoon. That race in itself sounds incredible, I guess we will see how all that hill training has paid off. Of course there are also the races within the race, namely the Points Competition or Green Jersey. There will also be KoM points available at two locations every lap, hopefuly everybody will bring their climbing legs. For a quick tip on climbing check out this.

Sunday morning will great the cat 4/5 riders with a 20 mile road race at 9am. If Saturdays crit course was a killer, Sundays RR has over 700 feet
of climbing per lap. Do the math on that...yep, thats right almost 3,000 feet total for the entire race. But wait there's more! KoM and Green Jersey points will also be available on this stage as well. And you thought Whitnall was a tough course.

Finally the Tour wraps up with an individual TT in the afternoon. In case your legs aren't toasted yet, the 5.8 mile TT course has at least 300 feet
of climbing. At least the TT is only one loop. It appears that there will be no need for a TT specific bike here, as you won't be able to gain any aero advantage with all that climbing. The TT will be run in reverse order of GC after the Stage 2, so staying in the front group in both the Crit and the RR will be imperative. At least this way the riders starting their time trials later in the rotation may know what time to they have to beat.

This should be a great experience for us overall. Yes, we will be suffering like dogs the entire weekend, but we will be so much stronger for it. As of today there are only 25 registered riders for the 4/5 race and we have 5 of them. The only other team sending a full compliment of riders will be Wild Card Cycling. I believe we will be sending a high caliber team to Lafayette, and with some strategizing and hard work we have a shot at doing very well in three competitions as well as the overall.
Apparently there is more than corn in Indiana!