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We are now a few weeks into our early season European campaign and between the second and third U23 Nations Cups of the trip. Owen Harrison arrived on the 6th to complete the team and everyone seems to have settled into their place and routine at the house in Tielt-Winge. The following day we previewed the course for the first Nations Cup, the U23 version of the Tour of Flanders. We were lucky enough to have Dominique Rollin of Cervelo Test Team fame showing us the ropes after having just raced the ProTour version. We found ourselves on a tough and versatile course with cobbles, steep climbs and the crazy bergs that combine the two. Dom instructed well to prepare us for what would be an incredibly tough and chaotic race.

Flanders started and we were soon on the first cobbled section. The race seemed to settle into a rhythm and much of the nervous energy of the start disappeared. I managed to get into an early breakaway for a while, but with so many strong teams there, the break had to have the perfect composition and that never happened. As the race progressed, the pace slowly ramped up with each climb proving tougher than the last. The race was sketchy on the small twisty roads and Michael was in a crash. Another crash went down beside me and a wheel caught my shifter, effectively separating the levers and making it useless. I took a spare bike, but each option available had a different set of pedals than I was riding. The rest of the team also had some misfortune with Keir’s cassette dismantling after a cobble section, Antoine flatting at a bad moment and Michael in another crash. Unfortunately no one on the team finished, but valuable lessons and experience were taken from a true Northern Classic.

The next few days consisted mainly of rest, including many hours of Eurosport and watching Dominique Rollin and Mike Barry on the front at Paris-Roubaix before Fabian Cancellara rode the bike race off his wheel.  It wasn’t long, however, before Tuesday came around and we were off to France for the 2nd round of the Nation’s Cup.

La Cote Picarde takes place in the Somme region with much of the race near the coast and the English Channel. The course had many exposed sections in the beginning before a more sheltered, hilly finale. That said, the wind played a role throughout most of the race. It was controlled early on which led to extremely nervous racing as every team was fighting for the front in what was expected to be a crosswind-heavy first half of the race. Later in the race the wind picked up and with the combination of the steep hills and exposed roads, the pack dwindled. Leading into finishing circuits, Keir and Jamie were pacing Owen back up to the peloton after his vest came out from under his jersey and locked up his rear wheel. With about 4 km to the first circuit, I had a rear flat and had to wait for Vincent and our follow car 20 cars back. The Canadian trio made it back a few kilometres before the first passage and after a barrage, I was joined them shortly thereafter. We all immediately started moving up as the first climb on the finishing circuits came very quickly. Each of the riders who had just made the effort to get back on had a tough time with the climb and as the pace intensified, we each dropped off the back. I continued to push and found some strength as I crested. I ended up with a group that continued to roll at a steady pace and pick up riders, including Michael en route to the finish. Antoine rode a good race, lasting until the final climb before losing the pack. The three of us ended up between 80th and 100th with Jamie just out of classification and Keir and Owen DNF-ing. Once again, there was some misfortune, but altogether the team rode a much better race than Flanders and is continuing to make rapid gains in both fitness and experience.

Next on tap is the final round of the Nation’s Cup we will compete in this project, the ZLM Tour in The Netherlands. The small exposed roads that zig-zag across Zeeland will make for a hard race, but Team Canada is ready for it.

Up to speed

As I have neglected my blog for the past many months, I have some catching up to do. Picking up where I left off, I will need to summarize what I see as highlights of the season. The high point of my season came in June at the National Road Championships where I had a decent 11th in the U23 ITT, but managed to ride my way into the winning break in the Road Race. After 15 km a group of nine riders, 7 U23 including myself, broke away. We rode efficiently and worked well together and at one point held a 12 minute gap over the hesitant and uncertain peloton. The break came apart with an attack on a short hill with 5 km to go. I rode in alone, but ahead of the peloton to take 7th in U23 and 11th in the Elite/overall classification.

Later in the season, I voyaged out to Vancouver to race BC Superweek, which was quickly followed by the NRC Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon. I held onto some form to finish reasonably well despite racing as the lone NOW-MS Society rider and having some mechanical issues. I found myself in PEI in August for the Canada Summer Games representing Team Alberta. While my form had been great a few weeks earlier, fatigue was noticable and a decent result was scarce. It was an interesting experience, however, with so many athletes competing in different sports and a unique atmosphere. I finished up the season with Track Nationals where I rode aggressively to 8th in the Elite Men’s Points Race and 9th in the Scratch race.

Whew! On to new things and a new season. In the fall I began talks with teams to see what I could organize for the new season. I ended up signing with the Hagens Berman LLP Cycling Team for the 2010 season. Formerly know as Broadmark Capitol, the team has a history of developing riders into the pro ranks and is recognized as one of the best amateur programs in the US. I flew down to Seattle, where the team is based, in November for an off-the-bike training camp and to get to know the team. The team-bonding and season preparation that ensued seemed to inspire each rider like I have never before seen. This season we will take on a mix of regional and NRC races en route to every one of us finding a spot on a professional team in 2011. One of the most exciting prospects this season is that Danish veteran pro Soren Peterson, of Saturn Pro Cycling Team fame, will ride with Hagens Berman, acting as a greatly appreciated mentor to us ambitious young racers.

As 2009 came to a close, I began to look South for some warm miles in the sun. I settled on Tucson due to its reputation as a cycling mecca, teammates training there and a Canadian National Team Camp to be held there in mid-February. So, early January, I packed up my car and drove down to Tucson. I stayed with teammates until I found a room of my own on the South end of town. The weather wasn’t quite the norm for Arizona with the remnants of winter storms that had pummelled Southern California making their way to Tucson a couple of days later. I put in more and more hours on the bike, however, un-phased by temperatures that would be seasonally high for Spring in Edmonton. I settled into the routine and found the weeks passing by quickly with the rest of the season coming together in front of me.

A couple days before I was to leave my homestay for the Canadian National Team Camp, I recieved news that I had been selected to represent Canada in Europe this April, where the U23 team will race for a month. There will be six of us focusing primarily on three UCI U23 Nations Cup races, the Tour of Flanders in Belgium on the 10th, La Cote Picarde in France on the 14th and ZLM Tour in the Netherlands on the 17th. I am excited to head back to Europe, especially with the support of the National Team. This news served to foreshadow the excitement and positive mood that would be descriptive of the National Team Camp a few days later.

Blog Reboot!

Hello all,

After a rather lengthy hiatus I have decided to start up my blog again. This season has plenty in store and I resolve to document it all. Stay tuned for the first post of blog version 2.0 to be kicked off tomorrow!

As I procrastinated updating my blog, more and more of the season progressed, making for more ground to cover and the post to come that much more daunting. So, here I sit at LAX waiting for a flight and will likely continue this lengthy post in the air, somewhere between Los Angeles and Montreal. But, without further adieu, here it is.

I am unsure of where I left off last, so I will do a brief re-cap. I drove down to Los Angeles to race for a Southern California based U25 development team, NOW MS-Society. Racing began early, with the first criterium on January 25. The level of racing has been high with many American based professionals calling Southern California home. On any given weekend I will line up against at least a few riders representing their respective Continental/Pro Continental/Pro Tour teams. The early season saw racing mostly in SoCal, but travel was in store with Valley of the Sun in Arizona and Merco Cycling Classic in Northern California. Other highlights of the early-early season would be racing through the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara against a full Team Type 1 squad, Ted King of Cervelo Test Team and Brian Vandborg of Liquigas and getting snowed on in the mountains East of San Diego with Floyd Landis and Rory Sutherland among others. That all was a build up to the first big block of the season in March.

Mid-March came around pretty quick and before we knew it, two of the team’s biggest races of the season were upon us. First came the San Dimas Stage Race which would serve as a final preparation for the Redlands Bicycle Classic. San Dimas proved to be an eye opener and a disappointment for most everyone on the team. Only one of us would finish the entire race, the ever-strong friendly giant, Brock Curry. For the two races, Kurt Stockton (former DS of Sierra Nevada/Kodak Gallery and retired professional) was brought on to direct our team. His experience proved invaluable and with his direction I was able to turn around an ugly performance in San Dimas to have a great ride in Redlands. Redlands has a unique atmosphere to it and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was my first NRC level race and was incredibly hard. On the second stage, pushed along by a tailwind on a newly paved false-flat descent I managed to hit 95 + km/h while in the peloton. The speed was incredible and survival every day was the goal. In the end I finished just better than top half of the 200 some field, happy with my ride and the knowledge gained.

Redlands Sunset Stage

In April came the Long Beach Grand Prix which brought the excitement of racing a sinuous criterium through the streets of Downtown Long Beach. It became a party for cyclists and non-cyclist spectators alike. My claim to fame in the inaugural event was flipping through the air and finishing the race sliding on the road across the line. Next was the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. The reputation of this race speaks for itself although the entirety of it was impressive. With a combination of every form of mountain biking and road cycling, the festival was a cyclist’s dream. The racing proved tough with a large, powerful Bissell team in addition to Levi Leipheimer. I found the legs for a result in the Road Race, but the Circuit Race on the Laguna Seca Raceway took many victims and unfortunately I was one. To elaborate, I believe 15 riders remained at the finish with everyone else being pulled. The following week, I made the long drive to Bisbee, Arizona for the Vuelta de Bisbee. The eccentric town provided a unique back-drop to an exciting race. For once, my appetite for climbing was satiated. This was a first encounter with the Tecos-Trek Mexican Continental team, although I will make a point of mentioning their lack of sportsmanship. Not only did they attack when the Yellow Jersey and a handful of favourites stopped for a brief nature break, but once again attacked through the feed zone. Overall, I felt stronger and stronger after each stage and ended up 35th.

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Sitting up on the finish line of the Long Beach Grand Prix

Finally there is one more race worth mentioning, the Ventura County Stage Race. It felt almost like a “home” stage race being so close and having ridden in Ventura a few times. The race had a great turn-out for its inaugural edition. Each of the courses was fantastic and challenging. After an unfortunate prologue, I saved face by riding well in the brutal crit and circuit race stages. In the crit, I managed to survive and settle long enough to be in the mix when the attacks were deciding the race. I was in a move with Roman Kilun (Ouch p/b Maxxis), the Yellow Jersey and a handful of known strong local riders. It looked promising, but we were brought back after a few laps and the counter attack is the one that stuck. Neil Shirley was the instigator of the winning move and essentially dropped everyone who had been off the front with him. My teammate Tyler Locke went with the initial move, but it was only Rudy Napolitano who could ride with Neil. Eventually he was dropped as well and Neil soloed in. The pack that came in after had been reduced to maybe 25 riders. The Circuit Race in Ojai was incredibly tough due to a hard climb and the immense heat. The group fragmented when the screws were tightened, but it wasn’t until Roman Kilun and Neil Shirley respectfully attacked that the final selections began to take shape. I found myself in the largest group on the road, behind 6 riders off the front in various combinations. Feeling strong on the climb, but not strong enough for a bridge to seasoned pros, I bided my time to wait for a suitable time. When it came, I manage to hold a gap for close to half a lap before the catch, but further dwindled our group. Coming to the line, our group consisted of 8 people, still the biggest on the road. With Rudy taking the sprint for 7th, I ended up 12th on GC.

Ventura Road Stage in Ojai

Ventura Road Stage in Ojai

I have only really covered the big races I find are deserving of a mention. I raced plenty of criteriums; a SoCal specialty, as well as a few road races that there is just not enough print room to talk about. Right now I am on my way up to Saguenay for the U23 Nations Cup Ville Saguenay where I am proud to say I will represent Canada in international competition once again. Following that, I will briefly return to Alberta and while there will race the Banff Bike Fest. Then it is back to Quebec for the Canadian Road National Championships. I will travel even more after that. I believe I am in for a cyclist’s summer, aggressively pursuing the future I want for myself. It will surely be an exciting time.

In a break at the Barry Wolfe Grand Prix

In a break at the Barry Wolfe Grand Prix

The Early Season

Well, I have once again fallen into the trap of laziness and excuses preventing me from frequent blog updates. In fact, I have raced 12 days this season already, but this is my first real post of the season.

After the drive to California and the frustration of trying to find a place to live were over, I jumped right into the early season racing scene that SoCal has to offer. I did a crit on January 25th, albeit a low-level one, but still the earlisest in the year I had ever raced. The strange thing about it was that while it was club-level racing, Tony Cruz (BMC), Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) and a handful from Rock Racing showed up. There has been a minor adjustment period since then and I now expect at least a few pros to show up to any race I am at. The weekend after I went up to Santa Barbara and stayed at a teammates house on University of California, Santa Barbara campus (as did 5 or 6 others). The Poor College Kids Road Race was the opening Road Race of the season and with the course about 15 km north of Solvang, it attracted a lot of strong riders. Of note on the start list was the full Team Type 1 squad (who were doing their training camp there), Ted Kind of Cervelo Test Team and Brian Vandborg of Liquigas.

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The race season rolled along with the next notable race the Boulevard Road Race about an hour south east of San Diego and just a few minutes from the Mexican Border. The race was up in the desert mountains and it was quite cold. The race is typically a big race due to the turnout from pro teams getting in some final prep before the Tour of California. So, on the start line were teams OUCH, Jelly Belly, Fly V Australia, Team Type 1, plus a couple of Bissell and BMC guys. As we lined up to start, adding to an already freezing temperature, it started to snow … heavily. It turned into a full on blizzard as we sprinted away only to start descending on the large loop we were to race. I hung near the back on the descent because I couldn’t feel if my hands were braking and with the carbon wheels I was running, if the braking was having the desired effect. After climbing back up to the start/finish for the first time, about 50 riders pulled off the course and called it a day. Being Canadian, and having done rides in similar weather, I could not do the same. By the end I finished 25th, just a bit back from Floyd Landis (16th) and Rory Sutherland (17th).

The team itself has been great. All of the riders are easy to get along with and it makes racing with them that much more enjoyable. All of the Elite Team is U25 and is made up of Cat. 1′s : Eric Bennett, Brock Curry, Michael van Eerd (Dutch), Nick Martinez, Peter Rennie (Kiwi), and myself. Cat. 2′s: Cory Greenberg, Erik Losak, Tyler Locke, and Aaron Schneider. There is also Junior Kit Karzen who will soon be a 2 on the road and is an extremely fast on the Track (ie. Junior US Points Race Champion). Between us all, we make up a strong team with riders that can net some real results.

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The team got together a few weeks ago for a ride from Eric Bennett’s place in Ventura. After a solid 3 hours with some good climbing, we headed to the start of a crit in Santa Barbara. We had a large contingent of strong guys there and made it known. On the start line, Eric and I clipped in and leaned into each other right on the line. The gun went off and we attacked from the line. Within a lap, we hap 4 more riders with us, Cody O’Reilly of Bissell, Danny Finneran of Rock Racing, someone from SLO – Nexus, as well as Kiwi Pete. We worked well together and kept the pace high and steady. Just before the half-way point in the race, we lapped the field. This is where the rest of the team took to the front and set tempo/chased down attacks. In the last 10 laps I was marking the other break riders and getting ready to set-up for the sprint. I found myself in the sprinter’s spot in our lead-out train. I was feeling great and all seemed perfect until 3 laps to go when we ran out of riders. Strong guys, but tired from all the work, re-cycling the lead-out train wasn’t working out. With 2 laps to go we were swarmed by the pack and I had to push my way through to find a spot out. Coming onto the finishing straight, I was maybe top 15, but let my sprint go, found a gap, and jumped out to claim fourth in the bunch sprint. The team was 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Aside from racing I have enjoyed my time here as well. I made it out to the Tour of California Stages in Solvang and the one finishing in Passedena. It was exciting to watch, but I am less interested in the presence of big names these days. It felt strange watching teams I race against every weekend line up with Saxo-Bank, Astana, Columbia-Highroad, Quick Step and Rabobank. Even then, I had Mark Cavendish walk in front of me when no fans were around and all I did was politely nod. The circus that follows the ToC around and how many people swarm the pros for autographs is unbelievable. It is great to see so many people out watching a bike race in the US, even if 60% of them were there just to see Lance Armstrong. All in all it was fantastic to see the domestic and Tour de France caliber fields married in a place that seems very applicable to my own career right now.

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In the next couple of weeks I have some very big races coming up. This Friday-Sunday is the San Dimas Stage Race and then next Thursday-Sunday is the Redlands Bicycle Classic. I am excited to line up against some of, if not the best domestic racers in North America and show my stuff.

On January 16th I began the drive down to Santa Monica from our new house in Devon. Along with me to split the long drive ahead was my mom. We left in the morning, planning on ending the day somewhere in Montana. As we made our way South the snow slowly started to get thinner and thinner. By the time we were in Lethbridge it was above zero. We crossed the border around 3:00 pm and set out into new territory. For some reason I was expecting wildly different lanscape as to warrant the border, but it looked just the same as Southern Alberta for many kilometers. As the Sun went down I was unfortunately driving through a mountain pass and the fatigue off travelling all day coupled with unfamiliar and unpredictable roads was a bit stressful for me in the dark. So at around 6:00 pm we entered state capital Helena where we would spend the night. The whole experience was a bit interesting starting with the kind girl at the front desk of our hotel bringing us freshly baked cookies while I was on the rollers. Later we dined at a restaurant that intentional or not, looked identical to a Montana’s Cookhouse. I found this quite humorous. Then as we were leaving town the next morning, in the middle of town were a herd of deer waiting at a traffic light.

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The next day of travel took us across 3 states. We entered Idaho where we once again found an abundance of snow. Idaho was a bizarre, seemingly deserted place with parts looking like the moon. There was also a strange haze near Pocatello that seemed out of place with the snow on the ground. This same haze reappeared, but stronger as we made it to our next state, Utah. At this point we could not see much save for a 10-15 kilometer radius around the Interstate. As we continued to descend further South, the traffic became worse and worse. This was of course due to the Salt Lake City population. The traffic became very heavy, with lanes beginning and ending and people going every direction in every lane. For over 100 km I had to deal with this new mess, having never seen traffic like it before. It was a big relief when it finally dissipated and it felt even better when we ended out day in Cedar City.

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We woke up in Cedar City, which looked to be quite a cool and unique place, and were on the road quickly. It was not long before we saw the last snow of the trip and came upon the bright red rock and arid desert characteristic of Utah. This provided a great sag-way to Arizona and the Virgin River Gorge. I was amazed by the sight of these massive red mountains, driving a narrow road through gigantic foreign rocks. As we left the Virgin River Gorge we almost immediately were upon Nevada. Crossing through Las Vegas, we took a brief detour down the strip before heading back on the I-15 and what seemed like the home stretch. From Vegas on, the traffic was thick. We entered California, which wasn’t as big a relief as I expected, however the burritos we had from the Mexican stand in Baker were the best I have ever had. Continuing on, I expected some valley to open up into lush green fields with fruit trees as was my vision of California. Instead, around each bend was another open desert with minimal plant life and a town or two that looked like they have a hard time sustaining themselves. But soon we dropped down to a lower elevation and were just a massively populated space of land from our destination. We made our first real turn of the trip (from the I-15 onto the I-10) and this is where we once again encountered the traffic. To put it simply, Los Angeles freeways are crazy and illogical. One lane is going far too fast and another far too slow. But wait, they have just reversed roles. You can go from a standstill to 80 mph (~130 kmph) very quickly, but don’t even bother trying to change lanes. So, we eventually made it to Santa Monica in one piece and it was beautiful. Sitting at an uncharacteristic 28 degrees Celsius, I went for my first real road ride of the season.

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From then on I met the team who are all nice and very accommodating and later found a room in an apartment after a few hard days of searching. My place in Santa Monica is great; only about 10 blocks to the Pacific Ocean. It sits between Wilshire and Montana which are both streets with a lot going on. I am maybe 6 blocks from Third Street Promenade and Downtown Santa Monica. Basically what I am trying to say is that I really like it here and after a long journey this is the type of place where I would like to be.

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New Team Kit

Here is the preliminary NOW/MS Society 2009 kit which I will be wearing this season.

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