Monday, March 1, 2010

Froze Toes 2010

I picked Froze Toes as my season opener for multiple reasons. The first reason was that I didn’t want to race any earlier than the last week of February. My speed skating season extends until the middle of November and I need a mental break from all the traveling. Reason number 2 was that I wanted to have a race in my legs before the Salty Cow Extravaganza, which falls on the first weekend in March this year. These two reasons alone narrowed my choices down to Lago Vista or Froze Toes.

If I chose Lago, Brian Parks would have been my only teammate in the race. If I chose Froze Toes I would have Brian Parks, Bryan Zieglar and to some extent Adam Miller, a very talented cyclist from MO that skates on the same inline team as me. He rides for a different team, but I still consider him an ally.

When we picked Froze Toes, we assumed that Lago Vista would be a P/1/2 race. My year is setup so that these early season races are nothing more than a gauge to see where my fitness level is. I have no desire to attempt going toe to toe with the Kelly Benefits team, or whichever domestic pros/peaked Cat 1 Texans show up. The outcome of the race would have told me what I already know – I’m not in peak form in February. If I was, I’d be worried.

I’ll admit, Lago became pretty tempting when I found out it was a 2/3 field. I think Undiscovered could have had a great finish if we played our cards right. In the end, debating our fitness level to what went on in Texas this weekend is all pointless because we chose Missouri instead, and we’ll get to compare stem sizes this weekend at the Salty Cow. I ride a 120. That's a joke...but in all seriousness, I feel as though some other members of my team are stronger than I am, and I'm really looking forward to racing with/working for them this season.

Froze Toes had a larger field than what I expected. We signed up an hour before registration closed, and 61 people had already signed up before us. Zieglar had to cancel at the last minute, so Brian the Shark Parks and I were the only two Undiscovered riders there.

One thing I enjoyed about racing in MO is that I really don’t know who is strong. In Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas I know most of the people I need to watch. Here, I had to make judgment calls on appearance and bike handling skill…oh and colors. It was tough for Brad Huff to stay under the radar in his Jelly Belly kit, and nearly as hard to miss Andy Chocha wearing his Armed Forces team colors.

The first hour was full of sketchy riding. I can’t count how many near wrecks I saw. My money says a lot of those guys spent the winter on their trainers. I know when I ride my trainer for a week straight and go back out on the road it takes me a few minutes to get used to holding a straight line. That’s what about half the field looked like…but multiplied by 10.

I went up front for a short time to get away from the bad bike handling, but it was just as ugly up there. The course was flat and the guys up front weren’t letting anybody get away, so I hung out in the rear for a while and chatted it up with some other guys. Brian stayed close to the front and made sure nothing got too far up the road without one of us there. He went off the front for a little while to see how the legs felt. The field picked up the pace but nobody would shoot up to him, so he went back into the field knowing that his legs felt good for a move a bit later in the race.

Average power of the first hour was only 206 watts. I think the only time I had to get above threshold was when some guys up front put it in the gutter in a crosswind section. I had to move up in the wind in order to make sure I didn’t get caught behind a gap. That was the first effort, and the legs felt good.

About 25 miles into the race I was talking to the Cannondale rep for Oklahoma (he races out of MO) and he said this race never ends in a field sprint and will probably explode soon. At about mile 30 we hit some crosswind, and I’d say about 20 guys disappeared.

Brian was with the group at this point, but put a nasty gash in his tubular and had to pull out.

Shortly after, a group of 7 guys went up the road. The pack was working pretty hard to catch them, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I noticed the big guys up front starting to lose their motivation. Andy Chocha put his head down like he was done pulling and everyone kind of sat up. I knew that if something didn’t happen right now, we’d never see those 7 guys again.

Just as I thought that, I see this big guy (probably 6’2, 190+ lbs) from Pennsylvania come weaving through the field. I watched him attack off the front earlier in the race and the dude looked like a monster. I latched onto his wheel, jumped with him, and the two of us were clear. Eleven minutes later, after averaging 357 watts, we were in the break. There were a couple scary moments where the break started to pull away from us, but in the end we closed it. While we were bridging, one guy popped off the lead group, so including ourselves it was now an 8 man break with 20 miles or so to go

We worked together well for a while. With about 10 miles to go, David Henderson, last year’s winner, attacked the break. It all came back together and I pleaded that we work together a little while longer. We didn’t know our time gaps, so it was no time to get sloppy. One guy flatted so now the break was down to 7.

With about 4 miles to go, people stopped pulling. That’s about what I expected. Now up until this point, I was riding a really patient race. Usually I burn about 50 matches trying to get away, but in this race I kept my cool, watched the race unfold, and made the right moves at the right time to get myself to the end in the breakaway.

I threw all of that away with about 1.5 miles to go when I decided to jump. In retrospect it was a bad move, but at the time it seemed smart. I knew there were still strong guys in the main field, and I definitely didn’t want to get caught. The guys in the break looked pretty tired and I was feeling fresh. I opened the gap quick and then kept it smooth. I was holding back because I knew a counter would come. I planned on jumping on the back, but only two guys went. One was David Henderson and the other was from Velotek. The rest of the guys basically just watched 1st and 2nd go up the road, and with about 150m to go, two came around me. The last few minutes of the race were recorded with an on-bike camera and posted on youtube. My attack is around 4:00 into the video.

All-in-all, I was happy with 5th place. With the quality of field that was there (and with the amount of sketchy riders) I would have been pleased with a pack finish as long as I didn’t crash, so 5th was fine. Looking at my numbers from my jump, it would be interesting to see how the sprint would have played out. My skating teammate took 9th. I think one guy went off solo between our break and the main field, and Adam won the field sprint.

It’s nice to have this power data to look back on. It’s interesting how the specific training I’ve been doing is so similar to these race efforts. This is my first cycling season with a training plan and scheduled workouts, and I can already tell that my fitness will be at a new level come May.

Total Time: 2:26
Average Speed: 25.5 (the first lap was SLOW)
Distance: 62 miles
Average Watts – 231, including rolling back to my car
Normalized power – 273, including rolling back to my car
Time Spent Coasting – 29 min! That’s 20% of the race!
Time Spent above threshold – 41:02


  1. Hey Rob, Nice race report. I got really pumped up watching that video and reading this...
    I think the attack you made at the end was a good move. You never know whats going to happen unless you're willing gamble and just see how it plays out. Good job on racing smart and making it into that break and getting a great finish!

  2. Nice job, Rob(in the race and the blog)