Joe to Pro Cycling

In 2009 I'd been inactive for 8 years, had just turned 30, weighed 240 lbs and had enough. This blog is the journey of starting brand new in the sport of cycling, regaining fitness and aiming to compete in the Elite ranks of Amateur racing.

Current Weight: 180 lbs

Road Cat: 3

Cyclocross Cat: 2


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    Racing and being fit is a big reward. But the biggest reward of cycling is it becoming a lifestyle. Every morning I get to ride a short distance with my children and a couple boys from the neighborhood to their school. That 15 minutes a day is something I hold very dear. We talk about the day, about how to ride safe as a group, our bikes, tricky areas on the sidewalk.

    It’s a slow moment in a fast day. I see a lot of people and parents driving their cars to work or their kids to school and I start to feel bad for them. Their day is goes from one rushed moment to the next instead of getting to savor not just the destination, but the journey.

    Single ringin’ fools!

    Apparently American’s are the only reason the Tour de France was legitimate in the first place. Gotta love it when ‘merican’s try to have any damn idea what they are talking about. 

    Day 1 Ruts and Guts rundown - Friday Night Lights

    I came into this weekend of Cyclocross with big expectations. Ruts and Guts is a very well run cyclocross race over three days in Tulsa. It’s run by Tanner Culbreath and dedicated sponsors that make it a growing premiere event. A lot of people in the region come out of the woodwork to make it to this race both because of the agressive payouts - but also because of the quality of the event and courses.

    I had high expecations coming into the weekend from having two great starts to my year at local races and wanting to see how I could match up. Looking at the courses Friday and Sunday are much more technical - which is an issue for me not having a ton of time in the saddle to be smooth on harder courses. But I still felt good about my chances.

    Friday night started when it was already dark. On the pre-ride the course had a lot of elevation and loose corners. A light technical riders dream - I’m not a light technical rider… But I was ready to rock and lined up for the start right behind Sklyer Mackey - and rising start in cross in Oklahoma and one of the favorites for the win. I do well at starts and know Skyler jumps hard too, so I was hoping to get a good jump on the crowd.

    Note: If you have a small thorn or probable tire issue at the start don’t pick it out. Thats what I did on friday night and my tire started hissing at me. I had time, but had to run to the pit and switch my front wheel out. The second lesson is to get all your tires/tubes with Stan’s sealant in them. It makes those small thorn punctures irrelevant as it seals them up right away.

    The official (Jack McNeal) counted us down and we took off. What I had hoped for happened, Skyler was off like a rocket and I was right on his wheel sitting second. Up and through the course I was hanging on until we got to a gravel road with a very loose right hand/burmed turn. Skyler flew through it and I rushed to my brakes. Just haven’t gotten the right feel for sliding through a turn at high speed - specially into a dark section of the course. After the first lap I was sitting third and hoping to settle into a pace and stay top ten….

    But my tenativeness in the technical parts of the course caused a lot of stop/starts for me that started to wear me down pretty quickly. That and the hard elevation profile and I was burning up quickly. I felt better towards the end finally starting to smooth out my pace and riding, but by that time I’d had the chance to watch more then a dozen friends roll by.

    Note: if you are at the point in a cross race that you start to try and interact with the shinanigans by doing a wheelie - make sure it isn’t the weakest wheelie every seen by man kind, the kind that makes the 10 year old boy inside start wheeping.

    I ended up 19th with a lot of lessons in my pocket. I was hacking and coughing a lot from the dust in the air which would become an issue on day two as well. That said, the course was excellent, fun, and exciting to race. The challenge was real and it easily started seperating the roadies (me) from the real crossers and mountainbikers. Those kind of skills can’t come from reading, just through saddle time off road in lots of conditions.

    This is actually why I’m considering getting a singlespeed rigid 29ner mountain bike. To get out on the trail and work on technical skills in my cross training for road to get that feel down right.

    Day two update coming tomorrow…

    Different training week then most with 3 race days.

    The Physician’s Optical River Cross was this past Sunday and it was awesome. Of course I am biased it was put on by the CX team I’m on and everyone pitched into make it a killer event. Course makes or breaks and event and over half of our team focused on making it have a little bit of everything you are looking for in American cross - ride up 4x4 hills, sand, mud, switch backs, climbs and barriers. Very proud of everyone that pitched into make it awesome - definitely the Bike One folks helping us with tents, running registration and more.

    This cyclocross season has been a pleasant surprise so far. After a rough first road season a Cat 3 after June I went into an extended transition/base training phase - honestly just riding my bike and not focusing on “intensity” “intervals” or anything like that. I just tried to ride as much as possible. I was hoping for a fun cross season but I didn’t know if any results would come of it.

    I think this easily happens in Oklahoma when the summer gets hot and it’s fatiguing just to keep getting on the bike. I’ve also been trying to “get my act together” with nutrition and losing a pound a week to drop weight - that I know is my biggest limiter competitively right now. So when the temperature starts cooling down everything perks up and motivation comes back. It’s also been nice to turn in some decent results this year.

    This past sunday I bettered my first effort of the year coming in 6th! I had a bad position at the start of the race so I wasn’t sure where I would end up. But most people in my race seam to jump a little at the start but not stay on the gas to get into a good position. I just kept in on the floor the first half of the first lap until I got around 4th. Luckily avoiding a crash first time through the barriers I was in 4th for almost another lap going back and forth with my team mate Tommy and Bike One rider Troy Cowin. There were a couple technical sections that I didn’t have the confidence to keep speed in though - and they could start to gap me there.

    From there it was a battle with two friends Kaleb Nimz and Rob Bell - both excellent CXers - and a rider from Tulsa Pete Ridilla. Me and Kaleb kept passing each other at different sections - me able to pound through the rough flat sections faster and Kaleb able to fly through the technical sections better. Unfortunately Kaleb broke a buckle on the run/ride up section with 4 4x4 logs in it. That gave me and Rob a good gap on him from that point on.

    Rob is a strong Cat 2 roadie, so I had to stay on the rivet any time I could to stay try and keep a gap. I think with two laps to go I had just at 7 seconds on him and that’s when Pete came around and attacked pretty solid. He put in two hard laps and got about 10 seconds on me and it seemed Rob had disappeared (i learned later he had flatted on the last lap and battled it out for 9th). I thought I was fine for an easy roll in but then out of no where heading into the technical section Kaleb was charging hard, making up a couple seconds on each technical section. I had to jump back on it to make sure I kept a few seconds ahead of him and seal 6th.

    As with most CX races you always think back and try to determine when you could have been going harder, and when you should had tried to make a move. I don’t know anytime I tried to “attack” at all, I just focused on trying to keep as much speed through corners and barriers/technical sections as possible and pushing a big gear through the rougher sections. I find pushing a big gear at 75 cadence in bumpy/rough sections helps you to keep a rhythm that doesn’t bounce your feet off the pedals.

    As a perspective I didn’t really come close to a respectable top 10 in any of my races last year - especially after I upgraded to a CX 3. Two races in a row and it’s just a nice boost of motivation to stay on the bike and keep fighting to improve, gain in discipline, and race hard every time.

    This weekend I’m going to the crown jewel cross race of Oklahoma - 3 days of Cyclocross in Tulsa at Ruts and Guts. I’m Pumped!


    How you know it was a great day of cyclocross.

    Custom steel bike by Oklahoma City’s Black Cycles.

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