By Pete Knudsen
Pete & Erin do some CNS at Happy Hour
After 6 weeks with no diary entries, I feel the need to start this entry with a sincere apology to both of the people who read my column for the hiatus. Since the time that I last checked in I have definitely had some interesting experiences, namely at The Tour of Georgia and the Heritage series crits. However, due to my untimely reporting, all of those races have been previously well recapped in the cycling media, so I will just write about a few things that occurred behind the scenes, drop a few names in an effort to seem cool, and promise to make a better effort at good timing for the next entry.
The Tour of Georgia was easily the longest, hardest, best organized and most important stage race that I have ever competed in. It was the first time that I have been in races that so closely follow the script from Tour de France stages: hard at the start until a non-threatening group gets established, easy for a few hours while the group or individual is allowed to take out a huge gap, and then hard again for the last few hours while the teams of the sprinters and GC contenders bring the breakaway group back. My experiences thus far in the US have been that the racers are generally way too nervous to allow this pattern on the scale that it was happening at Georgia. Saturn has been dominating the domestic stage racing this year with this formula, but the groups that they allow up the road are generally held at 1 minute or so, whereas at Georgia groups were taking 10-20 minutes advantage before being brought back in.
Also new to me was the system of group lodging and eating that the teams all took part in. Usually when we go to a city to race it is a free for all for lodging, with teams spread all over various cheap motels and host families and dining spread similarly across the victim city, while at Georgia all of the racers stayed in the same hotels and ate the same buffet-style meals. It was at one of these common meals where I saw the apparently rare total embarrassment of Danny Pate.
As I said, the teams all ate in the same place every night, but the riders still didnít really integrate their tables as each team would maintain its own table. In Savannah our table was next to Prime Allianceís, and shortly after Chann left our table to go for more food Danny came over to make fun of us and trade some banter with our guys. He chose Channís chair to sit at and eventually decided to put on Channís jacket, which caused some chuckling among our guys due to the fact that Dannyís arms are roughly double Channís in length, and the jacket fit him accordingly. Danny seemed to be encouraged by our initial laughter and decided it was time to really knock us dead by doing a relatively unflattering and only moderately accurate impression of Channís voice. This did get the response that Danny was looking for as we all were busting stitches laughing, which further encouraged him to continue the impression and us to laugh more in a continuing spiral of hilarity. Unfortunately for Danny it was not his killer impression that we were laughing at, but rather the fact that Chann was standing directly behind him for the whole show with a look of widening disbelief. As I alluded to earlier, when Danny finally turned around to see Chann he went bright red and speechless, which as I have gathered is not a state that Danny finds himself in often.
The race confirmed for me that Floyd Landis is the happiest guy in the peloton. I had raced with him previously in a local SoCal race and was impressed by his carefree attitude and the enjoyment he genuinely seemed to have for riding his bike. On one of the days at Georgia I found myself in a breakaway with Floyd and his demeanor hadnít changed a bit from the last time I met him. While the rest of us in the break were wincing with pain and not wasting the energy to talk or even smile, Floyd must have been racking his brain for clever remarks and humorous comments because I swear he didnít rotate through once without saying something. He seemed particularly excited that we rode by the Chatahoochee River as it is a waterway that was immortalized by a country song that none of the rest of us had heard of. Anyway, I think I am now a diehard Floyd fan, I hope he has good luck getting his hip healed so that he can still ride in the Tour come July.
After our 600 or so miles of racing in Georgia our team rested one day and then started in on a series of six consecutive NRC crits in the region. As it turned out we needed more than one day of rest and our debut race at the Heritage series certainly did not go quite like we wanted it to. I pulled out after about 30 minutes of misery, and after riding back to the hotel with my head hung down thinking about how I had let down my teammates I arrived to find three of them there waiting for me, and before the race was even finished I think all but two of us were showered and ready to go get dinner.
Fortunately we were distracted from our poor race performance by the lax South Carolina fireworks sales regulations and the low prices on all manner of things that explode, spark and streak across the Southern sky. Even more fortunately for us Frank was also distracted by the fireworks and the challenge of avoiding the local law enforcement, so we didnít even receive a scolding for the first nightís debacle. We got it mostly together for the rest of the races, but everyone was racing extremely tired and in desperate need of some real rest. The guys rode well under the circumstances, pretty much on pure guts since no one had legs left. Jake proved himself the king of riding on guts as he made the break nearly every night despite never wanting to be there. Miguel also continued his excellent season with a second place at Roswell. I donít think any of us were there that week to leave without a single win though, so add to our total fatigue a good amount of disappointment and that was the mix that we all went home to regroup with.
That seems like ancient history to me now though and I feel that the past three weeks home have totally turned things around. The first week I was largely off the bike training my central nervous system (my favorite creative euphemism for sleeping, spending time with my girlfriend Erin, drinking the odd beer, stretching a single hour coffee shop ride to 3 hours, etc.Ö), but since then I have been training with renewed motivation and hopefully it will pay off this coming week at the Wachovia series races. In my first time competing at Philly last year I felt extremely fortunate to have a knowledgeable veteran like Jaime Paolinetti explaining the races to me, and now this year I am looking forward to taking my directions from another knowledgeable veteran in the form of Frankie Andreu.
Hopefully it will be a good week for our team to get a result or at least another opportunity for me to learn what the heck is going on during all of these races.
There's more Schroeder Iron diary fun at socalcycling.com from ultra toughguy Jacob Erker:
Georgia on my Mind - in which Jake addresses things like the steeposity of the hills in Georgia, and how cracked he is now that he's home.
Icky Criteriums - in which our little climber relays how he managed to hit the podium in an NRC Criterium. Also: Smoke bombs.