Saturday, April 23, 2016

Climbing Out of the Devil's Den; And Then Around It!

We're half way through Joe Martin now and things are going decently well. Starting with the TT on Thursday, we had a pretty good team performance with Jonny and me landing in 5th and 7th respectively. We hoped for a little bit more, but we were still with in striking distance if we were able to steal some time bonuses or just attack the race and get a gap. So that meant we went into yesterday's stage with the goal of being on the offensive. The race was pretty full on all day. The big escape of the day had two of us in it, Chris and Ty, which was a good situation for us because Ty could likely win the stage if the group stayed away. The big problem though was that several guys who were decently placed in the gc had made it into the 20 man group. It created an interesting scenario for us because our ultimate goal is to win the gc, but we of course want to win stages too! We ultimately made a difficult decision to chase our own men, hoping to leave the group to finish just in front of the peloton and give Ty the chance to win the stage, but then have us finish close to them in order to stay in the gc hunt. In the end we kind of lost everything as Ty cramped up and didn't win the stage, meanwhile Jonny and I got caught out by a late crash and lost some time. We're still within striking distance though, and today's stage is harder than yesterday, so hopefully we can work together to try and put the pressure on, going for the overall. And of course if that doesn't work, hopefully Murphy can make it to the line with the group because he is definitely the fastest here. Lots to play for and take into consideration! Stay tuned for the wrap up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Getting Back to It!

Well, it's back to the grind tomorrow! After a near two month hiatus from racing, I'm here in Arkansas for Joe Martin. Last time I raced this was 2009. I don't really remember it at all, but from what I've seen thus far, it will be a good race. The opening TT is a stiff 5km time trial climbing out of the bottom of Devil's Den state park. It has 8 switchbacks in the first 3km, followed by a short downhill, and then a last 800m kick to the finish. It will be a solid way to blow the cobwebs out for sure. We have a strong team and also the defending champion in John Murphy. We're certainly hoping to repeat with the overall and some stage wins. Send some strong vibes our way!

A couple interesting notes about this race. First is that we're staying at host housing, which I haven't been in since Utah of 2009. It is a really fun change of pace actually! For example, tonight I'm sitting on a reclined couch in the living room, watching TV, and socializing with my host family. It is a completely different dynamic than sitting in a hotel. The second really interesting dynamic of this race is that my brother-in-law, Tim, will be racing with/against me in this race! It's pretty crazy that he's made such progress in the sport that now we're racing together. I just hope he'll take it easy on me! :) I guess the real question is who will Lisa and her parents be cheering for? At least I know Noah will be on daddy's side! Alright, it's off to sleep here. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

We Bike for Kids

I'm back in Brevard after my quick trip to Florida for the We Bike for Kids charity ride. It was a fun time despite some adverse conditions. The weather gods were not in our favor and chose to give us a little rain and more unfavorably lightning/thunder on the ride day. In the name of safety, the ride organizer cut the 100km route out and gave riders the option to do the 34 mile route twice if they so chose. With that, it kept riders closer to "home" in case of real problems. One loop was enough for Jonny and me, and then we got to see the community come together in support of the event. There was a big "Chinese" auction and a nice meal. We hung out, signed a few autographs, chatted with some people, and happily took an easier day. Post ride and lunch it was off to the airport, only to find out our flight got delayed 2+hours. That was a hard pill to swallow, but we just took our time getting to the airport. I finally made it home about 2am, pretty whooped. 

Since getting back I've had some good training rides and family time. Lisa and I took Noah out on a wagon walk with the neighbor's dog we were watching for a few days. Noah loved being in charge of the dog. We handed him the leash and he took control! It isn't 100% clear who was walking who though because everywhere Henry (dog's name) went, Noah just kind of followed with the leash. He clearly understood the two were connected, but I'm not sure he understood he was supposed to be in control. It was fun though.

The next big event on the schedule is the Assault on the Carolinas this weekend. It is a pretty big event here and I'm really glad I get to be here to support it this year. I'll be riding in it, hopefully not getting dropped by the speedsters out there! The ride will showcase some of the best roads in the area and obviously the city of Brevard. It is going to be pretty incredible to see 1000+ cyclists rolling out of downtown Brevard. The weather looks clear but cool this weekend. Seems some cooler air is dropping down from the north, which is going to make it a little chilly riding! Sure we'll make it through though. Hope Spring is arriving for you too!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Flying on a Plane

Hey everyone! It's time for a random update. I'm on my way to Florida for a charity ride tomorrow. Should be a good time, but I was a bit bummed to see the weather looks like rain/thunderstorms. I'm going with Jonny Clarke and we'll make it fun regardless. Life around the Busche household is fairly status quo. Noah is growing up too fast, changing daily, and is draining his parent's batteries faster than we can recharge them. We're completely exhausted every night when we put him to bed, but it never fails that within an hour we're asking each other if we should wake him up to play more?! So then we always sneak in to see what position he's sleeping in. I can't tell you how many times we've looked at each other and asked how on earth he could be sleeping in that position? Sometimes it is with a leg up on the crib rail or completely curled up on his knees with his butt pointed to the sky! Whatever works for him. :)

Besides for chasing Noah around, Lisa is doing some consistent running now and even entering a few races. She did a 12K race in Dupont State Forest last weekend and was 2nd overall female! Lisa also took her first stab at an Easter meal and nailed it. We've been eating the HALF of the leftover ham that we didn't freeze for nearly every meal this last week though and are running out of creative ways to reinvent it. Could be worse leftovers though.

For me, it's has been training as usual. I've had unbelievable weather and have really been enjoying my bike; some days more than others, but the average is heavily weighted toward enjoyment! Having such a big block between Oman and Joe Martin has allowed me to really try and build my training step by step without interruption for racing. It is a little different than I've had in the past, but I've been seeing and feeling good progression in my fitness, so I'm hopeful it is going well and will put me right where I need to be heading in a heavy block of racing: Joe Martin, Gila, California, US Pro, and Philly. This block is a big goal for me and I'm looking to have good results. I've been working on my TT bike a little more too, really hoping that will pay off. I actually just did some fit stuff yesterday with the CTS office and we made some pretty major changes. It was an exciting and educational fit session that challenged many ideas I've been exposed to in the past. It was a little difficult to make dramatic changes, but I don't have anything to lose and can always change back. I'm excited to get out on the bike and test how it feels. I'm sure there will be a little adaptation period, but I'm confident the results can improve with practice and time.

Outside of riding, running, and Noah, Lisa and I have been splitting time between working on the house projects and integrating into the community here. We haven't been here long enough in the past to really be able to make the efforts for either. At home we're doing yard work, building garden boxes, and contemplating other home improvement projects to tackle. Socially we've been out to a few events including the new CTS/Hub office opening, a spring equinox party, and several Easter egg hunts. Noah is a little too young to grasp the idea of the hunt yet, but it was still fun to watch him try. The CTS opening was good with a nice social ride to open it up and good food and conversation after. The spring equinox party was a potluck out at a friend's house with the main event being the burning of the past year's Christmas trees. I had never seen a dry pine tree burn before, but I have a new appreciation for why they say to be careful with lights on your tree, wow!

I guess that's about it for now. Hope everyone is warming up from winter and starting to get back outside for some activity. Spring here is kicking into full bloom; the flowers are exploding and the grass getting greener. Now go enjoy it yourself!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Few More Stages in Oman

We've had several more stages here in Oman since my last post. It's been a mixed bag of goods and not so goods. We had the queen stage yesterday with the finish on Green Mountain, a 7.5km climb averaging 10%. It is a beast of a climb and we actually only do half of it! My performance there was not what I was hoping for. The team did a great job helping Jani and me to enter the climb in a good position, but the first pitches were super steep and I might have gone a little too deep to stay with the group. After a small leveling the road pitched up again, but I hadn't recovered enough. Soon I paid for my early effort and came off. It took me a long time to recover and then I was battling to find a good rhythm on the steep slopes, especially because I was grinding a horribly slow cadence. Definitely could have used a little bit easier gear. Lesson learned. I also remembered a lesson I had learned from my previous experience on Green Mountain, which was to not go too deep on that initial slope, try to save a little, and then use those savings to ride a better overall mountain. It's true that if I hadn't tried to stay with the group there would be no chance for me to be there in the end; however, it is also true that the climb is such that things blow up pretty handily and there is almost a case of the tortoise and the hare. Sometimes a little individual TT action can help you catch up to those who went too deep later on. Whatever, never know!

So how about today. The anxiety levels were high as we drove to the start over some incredibly steep climbs. The starting line today was similar to Qatar with guys lining up a good 15 minutes before the start because there was a really steep climb about 1km after the start. I unfortunately arrived at the start a little late because I was out warming up to try and get into the break. So we started the race, well neutral roll out, but it was already a race because everyone wanted to be in the front to start. I couldn't make it to the front with all the congestion until part way up the first climb, but that took a pretty big effort to do, so there was no way I could go in the move then. A quick descent and onto the next steep climb. I was able to get into the front there and tagged onto a move, but we weren't going anywhere fast as the road in front of us was pretty much eye level. A few individual guys managed to sneak away and eventually join forces to make a 3 man break. It was actually a very strong break too as they pulled out a good 6 minutes on us even as we rolled along quite steadily. Astana took control to keep it under wraps though, just enough to make sure the gc wouldn't be a threat.

The real fireworks of the stage happened as expected on the final 3 climbs. It was actually one climb that we did the back, front, and back again. The first two times were not too explosive, but just a good amount of pressure applied to pull time out of the break and discourage attacking. The third time up things got a bit spicier as guys began to attack in earnest. After a few accelerations I came off with Marco and Jani, but we kept a good rhythm to hopefully stay close enough to catch them on the quick descent and run into the finish. By the top we had lost a good bit a ground, but with collaboration from our group and a little bit of poker in the first group, we came back with about 4km to go. At that point we knew Marco was definitely our fastest finisher and had a legitimate shot at the stage win. We tried to place him in a good spot before the final two corners and let him do his thing. In the end he got third, so we were pretty happy with that! A win would be nice of course, but he can't be disappointed finishing behind Boasson Hagen and van Avermaet. Tomorrow is the final stage and replicates the finish of stage one, but then goes on another 30km of flat circuits, so it is likely to be a sprint, but you never know!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Still in the Middle East

Hello from Oman! Qatar finished up without incident and we have since moved onto Oman. Final stage of Qatar was set up for fireworks with tension at a race high as the winds were whipping before the start, but things were kept quite civil by some grace of chance. The uniqueness of Qatar was exemplified no better than on the final day where nearly the entire peloton was lined up to start around 20 minutes prior to the flag drop. At almost no other race throughout the year would nearly anyone be making it to the start line more than 10 minutes prior to start. It is just special! So despite the pre-race nerves, the final stage was a group sprint and status quo. So onto Oman!

We arrived on Saturday evening and had two days to settle in here. The hotel is definitely above average, but it is unfortunately a step down from the situation in Qatar. I mustn't complain though, we're still living pretty well here! Biggest struggle we've collectively had thus far is the food. Again it is well above average, but it has been oddly weird to find that satisfying meal. The options are good, but sometimes it is difficult to calm the beast! Outside of that, the weather is nice; less windy and a little warmer. We enjoyed two easy days of riding with nice coffee stops prior to getting things rolling in today's first stage.

About that stage. A break went pretty quickly and the field came under control pretty fast from BMC, QuickStep, and Astana. They rode quite fast all day and brought the break back somewhere close to the first KOM with about 30km to go. From that KOM to the finish it was full gas. The road after was much smaller and twistier than the highways we had been riding most of the day. I tried to keep my nerve and position without taking too many risks or overly stressing. Unfortunately that was a bit of a mistake because as we ran into the final KOM of the day I found myself too far back as the peloton stretched through some curves and the final roundabout. I wasn't able to correct the mistake and ended up losing around 40 seconds on the day. Come tomorrow's stage and especially stage 4, those 40 seconds won't really matter, but it is most frustrating for me because I was ready for it and know that if I had the position, I would have been in the first group. I'm disappointed in the result, but I'm happy that I felt the power in my legs. Now I just have to refocus and get ready for tomorrow's new opportunity.

The stage tomorrow should be pretty straight forward, but there is potential for some shake up. The finish is on a 3km climb that looks to be pretty irregular. It starts with about 1.5km at 7%, followed by ~.8km at 13%, then maybe a little flat and down, until the kick to the finish, again at 10% plus. That obviously will be a special finish, but there is another moment earlier in the race, about 30km in where we do a pretty difficult 3.5km climb, that we'll actually see in stage 5 again. Tricky part about that is if the breakaway has not gone yet. If the fight is still on, the field will likely explode on that climb. More than likely it would regroup after, but crazier things have happened! So basically, I plan to be in the front if that explosion happens. Done and done. Wish us luck!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

4 Done in Qatar

The longest and potentially most difficult/exciting stage in Qatar is complete. The stage was not quite as exciting as predicted, but in the end there were still some fireworks. The winds on the local circuits blew the field apart and we missed everything due to poor planning/preparation, so our day was done. Prior to that, we had a decent showing though. Brad, Karl, and I were active in trying to get into the allusive early break. I thought I had made it, but it wasn't so. Then Daniel showed us all up by trying once and getting in! That break got reabsorbed about halfway through the race when the first crosswind split happened. The crosswind chaos lasted for about 20km and then everything came back together as we came to the local circuits. The race hit the reset button, a new break went away, which I briefly considered trying to jump across to until the wind convinced me otherwise, and then we just tried to keep Marco in a good place for the inevitable final split. Besides missing the finishing split, we also had 6 flats today; hard day at the office for the mechanics!

Tomorrow is our last chance. The winds are forecasted to be very strong as a cross/head wind, so there is going to be some excitement. Hopefully we can make it to the circuit with Marco or Carlos, who will be our best chance in the sprint. We'll see what happens!