Technically this is our "vacation" but with Karel being the general manager of the Trek store, it seems as if he is never on vacation. He loves his job and has a great boss but there is always something to be done or needed at the Trek store of Jacksonville.
It is great that Karel is able to do the entire Speed Week but he also has to squeeze in some time at work in between the races (the racers had/have an off day on Mon and Thurs this week). As for me, I feel as if I work 24/7 but most (if not all) of my work is on the computer. Karel wants me to get a blackberry so I can keep up with emails while we are on the road, but I am not sure if I am ready for that technical advancement in my life. Although I rely on the computer for everything I do, I am not too tech-savvy and I prefer to keep things simple in my life. The more electronics that I bring into my life, the more stressed I feel when something goes wrong.
Athens was amazing. Unfortunately, Karel didn't finish the race but that's ok. He was really hoping to finish this year but throw in the rain, the course was 10x harder than the past few years. I know Karel won't give up and one of the years he WILL finish Athens!
Just to put this race into perspective, this is nothing like the cycling races in Florida. Imagine that you are a top runner or triathlete in your local town and compared to other athletes, you feel pretty confident with your skills and talent and if you are having a good day, you can have a best time or place well in your age group. Well, that would be Karel in Florida and Georgia when he does the Pro 1,2 cycling races. Now, when you get to USA Speed Week, the top domestic professional cyclists (who race and trai for a living) are on a whole other level. This is the REAL thing. Although the races in Florida and Georgia challenging with great riders, they just don't compare to the speed and talent at this level.
So, imagine yourself being able to race with elite triathletes or runners at a BIG event. You only have one chance to try to stay with the leaders and if you can't stay with them (say, if they are running 5 min/miles and you can only run 6 min/miles) you are done for the day. Yep-that's what Karel feels like when he races USA Speed Week. Karel is simply racing to finish...each race that he finishes is an accomplishment and a boost in his fitness. He loves the push and hard effort at these races and he LOVES LOVES LOVES doing night crit races. The races are longer and faster than what he is use to and he has this week on his mind all year long as he is training and racing.
30 people finished the Athens Twilight crit out of 150 starters. It was simply amazing watching the rain come down on the riders and the riders picking up the pace, almost as if they weren't even bothered by the wind and rain. The crowd was crazy but I wouldn't expect anything less in a college town with Terrapin beer as the title sponsor. Lots of money was on the line for this race and every finisher received money (paid 30 deep). Karel said his fitness was there but with the number of crashes, flat tires (you are advised to take out pressure in your tires when racing in the rain, but that also increases the chance of flats) and guys quitting the race, it was almost impossible for him to move up in the field. He was just hanging on for dear life. Karel said his brakes didn't work at all so when he made the 90-degree turns at 30+ mph, it was really hard for him to dodge crashes without his brakes (I would say that none of the guys had working brakes due to the pouring rain). Karel made 20 laps (20K) out of the 80K race and I would say that he held on much longer than about 50 guys. The field just got smaller and smaller as the minutes ticked by and after 1 hour and 40+ minutes of racing (80K later) Karel, Curtis (who also raced but didn't finish), Ralph and I watched the lead break finish the race. Absolutely amazing!
The next stop was Roswell GA (about an hour away from Athens). Karel and I started the morning with a short bike ride in rolling hills. Karel just took it easy and I had fun sprinting up the hills. I just love rollers. After our bike ride and breakfast, we packed up the car and headed out for race #2.
Karel finished Roswell and I was happy that my friend Wes (codegeekstail.blogspot) came to watch. The course is very spectator friendly. Crit races are around 1K (some are less than a mile, although technically that would be called a circuit race) in length so it is really cool to walk around the entire race course to get different views of the race.
Karel finished around mid pack and he looked really good out there. Curtis finished a bit ahead of Karel. Karel and I hit the road right after the 6:30pm race (which lasted 90 minutes) and it was a LATE night for us. We got home at 2:30am and we were ready for some good sleep.
Mon was a day off for both Karel and I for training and my highlight of the day was seeing my CAMPY!!! Thank you Laura for driving him to my parents on your way to St. A's and thanks to my parents for taking such loving care of my Campy!
Well, we are now in Beufort and Karel had race 3# of 7. Last night Karel told me that he has never finished this race (last 2 years) and he would be lucky if he made it halfway. He said he just wants to see how long he can last because the course is really tight and technical with lots of crashes and tight turns. After walking with Campy around the course, he was right! Holy cow, this race looked harder than Athens!
The race started at 7:30 pm and it got dark really quick. I managed to take a few pics with daylight but got lots of videos.
There were several crashes and one crash that stopped the entire field in a corner. Karel and about 20 other guys had to get back to the wheel pit to wait until the field came by again (at this point there was a 6 man break, followed by the chase pack around 45 sec. back). Karel and the other guys managed to get back into the race but out of the 100+ guys who started, there were only around 40-60 guys still in the race. With 7 laps to go (out of 75 laps) Karel got a flat and had to get a spare wheel from the wheel pit. Once again, he was out of his rhythm but managed to get back into the race. After 5 laps to go you aren't allowed spare wheels so I was hoping that Karel wouldn't get another flat (or get in a crash) so that he could finish this race. He looked really good out there and although he was near the back of the group, he managed to stay in the game for the 90 minute race.
Way to go Karel....finishing 2 out of 3 races is amazing.....we are off to Walterboro SC in a few hours for race #4! Heading back to Jax for the day tomorrow and then off to Spartenberg, SC on Fri, Dilworth NC on Sat and Sandy Springs GA on Sun!
Here are some video's... I will post pics later.
Karel's last lap