2018 Tommy K. Memorial Road Race Pro/1/2/3

Report Date
Sunday, 21 Jan, 2018
TL;DR - DNF, not enough training, need to plan things better

Last year (2017), Tommy Ketterhagen raced for the last time here. There was a breakaway, where my teammate Dennis won. I was riding behind them with the main pack, in good position for the field sprint, but just didn't have the legs at that time of year to close it out. Tommy sprinted right past me, won the field sprint, and gave a nice self-congratulatory "WHOOO." My immediate thought was - ok, this kid's been training. A few days later, I saw on social media that Tommy was killed in a hit and run, by a distracted driver. I didn't know him personally, but as a cyclist in the cycling community and an avid cyclist who frequently navigates these increasingly dangerous roads, his death struck a chord with me. This year, the race was named after him, and Kelley did a great job organizing it.

6:00 AM. the alarm went off. race was at 9, I needed to pick up 2 teammates, and there's an hour drive. But I hit the snooze anyway, because I only had ~3.5 hours of sleep, and my monkey brain thought that an extra 10-20 minutes may somehow help rectify that. I've been doing this for 3 years now, and should know better, but long story short, the three of us arrived at the race with only 20 minutes to spare. I realized that my license wasn't even up to date. We all scrambled to try to register, change, put our bikes together and make it to the staging area. Dennis (who was racing with me, and somehow manages on NO sleep) and I both only managed to pin on just one number. It was my responsibility to make sure we get there on time, and I dropped the ball. But when you're on the bottom, there's nowhere to go but up.

And we were off. I see the familiar faces, some in new kits, most were better cyclists than me, in almost every aspect. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I was coming out of off season with an average of 6 hours of training a week. Most of everyone else were doing proper base training of 12+ hour weeks. The plan was to basically hang on, try to stay near the front, react to attacks, and make the break, which was bound to happen on a windy day like this one. The efforts I was making just to keep up felt harder. Before long, I found myself near the back of the peloton. the sight of 80+ riders strung out in the distance in front of me was an awakening of how much competition there was.

So I got in the zone. Having only access to one lane of road to share with 80+ riders, moving up was difficult. But there were always moments and places, where the opportunities to move up would surface. I used every safe opportunity to move up, and gradually, ended up in the top 1/2 - 1/3 of the field. It wasn't enough. Shortly after the first lap, there's a surge, and a gap opened. It grew, and grew. Some riders up front saw what's happening, and attacked. Nobody wanted to close the gap, and I was on the wrong side of it, too far back to be able to do anything about it. Most of the strong riders were in that selection, and I thought that was it. We're done, enjoy the rest of the training ride.

For 3-4 laps, we chased. Initially, I thought there was no way we were catching them. But the breakaway seemed to consisted of 20+ people. I imagined a group that large would have its share of slackers who weren't pulling their weight. Meanwhile, there were a few willing guys on our sides who weren't giving up, guys who probably should be with the other group, but weren't. We took turns chasing. I helped out some, and tried to get some pace lines going. There were times when we got as close as 200 meters to the lead group, and times when they were out of sight. On lap 4, someone jumped, someone else followed, I was near the front, and I reacted to the move as well. Looking back at my power data, it was not a huge effort, but it definitely felt like one at the time. My legs just weren't conditioned to handle repeated surges like that this time of year. I don't know how many were able to latch on to the attack, but all of the strong guys bridged up to the breakaway. There were a few more surges of strong guys in our new group trying to get away, and us other guys reacting to the moves. Eventually, I could start to feel the cramps building up in my quads with each hard pedal stroke. The acid was filling up the blood. I started to move back, hoping to allow the rest of the pack buffer the acceleration, so that I can hitch a ride near the back. That didn't happen. The last guy went by me, and I was done. In the distance, I saw my teammate Dennis chasing down a gap. It looked like it hurt..

I was dropped, but I had also just past the finish line, and decided to do another lap. Stragglers from the initial pack split apart, and turned into smaller packs of 6-8 people. Michael from Voodoo was in one of them, which was doing a paceline. "Might as well get some training in," he said. I did about one rotation with them, before my legs were cramping up. both of them. everywhere. I came to a stop, and stood there, in the middle of the road, for maybe 3 minutes, doing micro stretches, careful to not fully cramp, because I knew if I did, I would fall right over, and it would totally suck. Eventually, I started pedalling again, and came across another group of stragglers. These guys were doing "conversation pace." perfect. The silver lining is that the race was a rude awakening, letting me know, exactly what I needed to do to be up there with the big dogs: ride more long rides, do more intervals, better manage calories, get enough sleep. Give us a couple of months. We'll come out swinging.
Throughout high school and college, I used bikes as a means of transportation, and learned how to wrench, almost exclusively on vintage bikes. I started riding as a hobby in 2013, ... moreafter starting my first job out of college. The hobby grew into a passion, as I continued to test my limits on the weekends and after work, joining any group rides that I could find in East Texas. I started racing later that year, won the state road race as a cat 5, and have since become a cat 2. Moving to Austin was a huge opportunity for me to improve as a cyclist, with so much talent, mentorship, beautiful terrain and racing experience within easy reach.

I've done two ~2000 mile bicycle tours across texas and the west coast, which were great adventures and life experiences that I'll remember for a long time. Over the years, I have also been a student of cycling, having self taught skills as a mechanic/gearhead, learning about nutrition, training, and strategies in racing, which I study and share through my youtube videos. Cycling has become a lifestyle for me, as well as a source of friendships, adventures, and personal growth - both mentally and physically. I am excited to continue to grow as a cyclist, and work with my Night Owls.

When I'm not on the bike, I am working towards a PhD at UT-Austin, looking for ways to make better batteries.
Road Category:
little chinese dude
Home Town:
Ames, IA
Group Rides:
Great write-up, Alan. I remember riding that cat 3 Oatmeal RR with you last year: you looked really strong.