Kirk O’Bee’s Monstrous Attack with 3 Laps to go Nearly Lasts; Zirbel Holds onto 2nd
Saturday’s Downtown Crit was a high-speed 90 minutes where the tight peloton constantly fought for positioning on the nine-corner course. BMC continued to control the race which saw multiple significant breaks. BISSELL was focused on keeping the mid race time bonus away from Ben Day to protect Tom’s position in the GC. Ben Jacques-Maynes jumped across to a move and took the time bonus which also moved him into 6th place in the overall. Ben’s lead group was eventually caught as Garmin helped BMC at the front and brought everything back. Andy Jacques-Maynes was in the next significant break of 7 riders which got 15 seconds on the peloton. This lead group of 7 included Jacob Erker (Kelly Benefit Strategies) who was too much of a threat to the GC so BMC was forced to bring them back. The move that most excited the crowds in Redlands came with 3 laps to go as BISSELL’s Kirk O’Bee launched a solo attack. As the peloton was in full chase mode in the final lap, Colavita crashed into a corner. Frank Pipp was in a group that was able to get cleanly through the chaos. As Kirk was eventually caught just 1/3 lap short of the finish, Frank came through to cross the line in 4th. The BISSELL team all finished with the same time.
Today’s Sunset Circuit Race will be an agonizing day for the riders with 12mile circuits totaling 106 miles on a course with no flat sections. The final stage of Redlands will be a race of attrition, and BISSELL’s goal is to ride a full team in support of Tom. The team will also be watching out for the intermediate time bonuses which might come into play in this tight race. BISSELL’s higher placed GC riders, Jeremy Vennell, Burke Swindlehurst, and Frank Pipp, will be looking for opportunities to keep BMC under pressure. Conditions look to be favorable with sunny skies, temperatures in the 60’s, and light winds.
Tom Zirbel Rides to an Outstanding 2nd Place with the Strong Support of his Team
"Custom built for destruction" is how Director Eric Wohlberg describes the 12 laps on the Sunset Course. The final stage of Redlands is comprised of 12 long circuits followed by 5 short finishing circuits (the laps from Stage 2 Downtown Crit). To begin the battle under even more pressure, the race organizers positioned the time bonuses early in the race at the KOM’s on the 1st and 2nd lap. Given the narrow time gaps between the top GC contenders, the BISSELL Team knew the importance of protecting the time bonuses. Ben Jacques-Maynes made a huge effort on the first KOM and kept BMC on alert. The next move of the day came from BISSELL’s Frank Pipp, Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing), and Brad White (OUCH) as they attacked and ate up the early time bonuses creating a small enough time cushion to protect Tom’s GC. BISSELL was involved in the next significant break, as well, when Burke Swindlehurst (BISSELL), Karl Menzies (OUCH), Justin England (California Giant), and Kirk Carlsen (Garmin Haloweko) attacked following the 2nd KOM. The four were able to stay away for a grueling 2 laps and built up a 20 second advantage. Unfortunately, Burke was the victim of a poorly timed puncture. Burke chased with a vengeance but was not able to rejoin contact with the group who were eventually caught. The final and most aggressive move of the day was the solo attack of Rory Sutherland (OUCH). Sutherland’s breakaway was the most threatening to Louder (BMC), Zirbel (BISSELL) and Day (Fly V Australia/Successful Living) because his maximum time gap combined with the finishing time bonus could potentially mean victory for him. The 3 GC leaders with support from their teams chased Sutherland and brought the race back together as the race entered the final 5 finishing circuits. With a significantly dwindled group, the race leaders fought it out to the end. Tom rode a brilliant race and responded to every threatening move which seemed to constantly occur in the closing laps. A race which started out with 194 riders only finished with 105. The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team had 2 riders in the top 5, Tom Zirbel 2nd and Ben Jacques-Maynes 5th, and was in the majority of action throughout the 4 day race. Tom Zirbel, Ben Jacques-Maynes, Burke Swindlehurst, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Kirk O’Bee, Frank Pipp, Jeremy Vennell, and Graham Howard rode an exceptional race as a team and utilized outstanding tactics which delivered the excellent results:
Tom Zirbel moves into 2nd at Redlands
The stage 1 Redlands circuit race was an extremely demanding day requiring the riders to be at constant full attention. The added elements of very strong winds, a challenging course, and the composition of the time separation between the GC leaders created a very grueling day. Ben Jacques-Maynes was clocked with a max speed of 87 km/h in a tailwind section but those same winds caused for a block headwind of 15 km/h in other sections of the course. The team rode very well in light of all the obstacles and staff and riders supported one another.
The first break on the 110 mile day came from Ben King (Trek-Livestrong). Ben launched a solo attack on the 2nd lap; however, the drive for the intermediate time bonuses caused the peloton to reel him back into the group. The next break of 5 riders came on the final lap of the day. The group included BISSELL’s Burke Swindlehurst, Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing), Ben King (Trek-Livestrong), David Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home), and Brad White (OUCH). The chasing group was dwindled down to only 30 riders under the pressure of pursuit. The group of 5 was eventually caught on the final descent. Just as they were reabsorbed, Peter Stetina (Garmin-Haloweko Partners-Felt) launched a decisive counter-attack. A pack of 4 including Tom Zirbel (BISSELL), Jeff Louder (BMC), and Will Routley (Jelly Belly) bridged across to Peter and the 4 battled to the finish. Jeff Louder sprinted to victory ahead of his 4 break mates and the combination of intermediate time bonuses and the stage win was enough to put him in the overall lead. Will Routley sprinted for 2nd, Peter Stetina for 3rd, and Tom Zirbel came in for 4th. Tom’s great day placed him in 2nd in the overall GC.
The BISSELL Team hopes for a quieter Downtown Crit on Saturday but will be awaiting the action for sprinters, Kirk O’Bee, Frank Pipp, and Andy Jacques-Maynes.
The BISSELL Pro Cycling Team rode a solid time trial in the Prologue opener of Redlands. Ben Jacques-Maynes was the first of the BISSELL riders to attack the 5K course, and he finished with a time of 9.32 which was good enough to occupy 3rd place for most of the day. Tom Zirbel was the final rider of the day and finished with a 9.26 securing him 3rd place for the day behind Ben Day (Fly V Australia/Successful Living) in 1st place and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) in 2nd place. Jeremy Vennell, Frank Pipp, and Burke Swindlehurst are all solidly in the mix within 34 seconds of the race leader.
Friday brings the 155.7K Beaumont Circuit Race, and the BISSELL Team will be choosing their moves carefully. It is expected that Fly V Australia/Successful Living will be working to defend their lead which could bring the race into a field sprint finish. BISSELL sprinters, Kirk O’Bee, Frank Pipp, and Andy Jacques-Maynes, welcome the opportunity to fight it to the end!
Posted on 25. Mar, 2009 by lyne in interviews
Here we are, the final installment of my interview with Omer Kem of the Bissell Pro Cycling Team. The 26 year-old Oregon native has been through his share of ups and downs but he has never diverged from his goal of being a professional cyclist. Kem crashed violently at the Amgen Tour of California and broke his pelvis. He is now in full on recovery mode, and is scheduled to start at the Tour of Battenkill at the end of April.
On a personal note, while working on the interview, I was faced with a choice, either summarize Kem’s words into a shorter article or split it up into multiple posts. After reading and re-reading the complete transcription, I decided that I wanted to put Kem’s words out there, to show that the life of a professional cyclist is not all coffee shops and fun as portrayed by some of the blogs and tweets out there.
In the second part of the interview, Kem described his path to the Bissell team where he’s been working for the past four years. As part of his role as domestique, Kem is able to position himself and his teammates well into the peloton.
Some riders never master that skill of positioning, for Kem, the key is not to be “worried about the energy that you are using.”
It’s all about the team staying together with the domestiques such Kem riding in the wind. Riding in the back is just not going to cut it.
“I was taught that it was better that I was used up if it kept these guys fresh and so I’ve always known that mentality of to be a pro, to race like a pro, you race together, you race like a unit and doing that there are guys that get used up early.”
That mentality won’t work if the guy being used up early is also thinking of his own personal results instead of the team’s results. For Kem, it’s okay to be dropped before the final climb as long as the rider he is looking after is ready to go.
“I was just always burning matches staying at the front because there were always guys on my wheels, who were then protected and I guess you have to do that enough times to figure out how to race out there but also get a little protection.”
As the Bissell team as gotten better, Kem is often called to ride tempo and now he rides at the front of the race, still in the wind every day.
“Last year, you saw the full team take control at races even when we didn’t have the leader’s jersey because I can do that all day, everyday, it doesn’t matter. That was the job I was there for, we had some younger guys that were kind of learning that role, but Tom, Ben and Burke, those guys never saw the wind and that’s how they were able to get those results they did because they had a team that was dedicated to that, it wasn’t 8 guys wearing the same jersey in a race trying to get results.”
Another skill that Kem has demonstrated is the ability to read a race and tactics which he developed because he “has never wanted to do anything half-assed.”
“If you want to be a bike racer you have to figure out how to be bike racer and that’s part of it, and the reality of this sport is that it’s pretty easy to think about, I mean it’s hard to train, it’s hard to win races but at the same time you’re still just riding a bike.”
Under the guidance of then Directeur Sportif, now General Manager Glen Mitchell and his “thinking outside the box in terms of race tactics”, the team’s tactics surprised some in races such as the last stage of the Mt Hood Cycling Classic and the Tour de Nez, last year.
But there is another part to tactics. “You have to really know the guys that you are racing with and what they are capable of and that’s a big part of my job, it’s a big part of what Glen does, you have to always ask for a little bit more at the same time, you can’t ask too much because if they don’t achieve, then they’ll be discouraged. You don’t want guys that are capable of winning bike races to be discouraged.”
At the beginning of the year during training camp, Kem told me that he wanted to become more of a leader in the team which he described as “making sure that they guys are in the right place at the right time so they can do what they do best which is win bike races.”
It’s all about the team “If Ben Jacques-Maynes is having a bad day, I’m going to go back and get him and if that means I end up sliding 50 feet into a ditch, I don’t blame him, I’m glad he got back on because that’s all that mattered.”
Kem plans to lead by example for his younger teammates. “You need to have guys on the team that will sacrifice for the other, and if they see me do that, then they give a little bit more when it’s their turn to sacrifice. I think that that’s huge, that’s what the team needs, that’s what we need to win bike races.”
Born to be a bike racer? “I don’t think so. I’m not a really talented guy. I think I’m really good with people and I also take a lot of pride in what I do. It’s easy to be good at this especially with the environment that I’m in now because that was bike racers need.”
During his time in the corporate world, Kem learned that how you deal with the people around you is just as important as how good you are at your job, how productive you are, or how strong you are.
“I’m not the strongest guy, I’m not the guy who’s going to win races, I’ve been tested and coached, I’ve had coaches not wanting to work with me anymore because I don’t win races, and my ambition is to make the team successful and not necessarily be successful. While there’s been teams that have taken advantage of that, after being able to be with Glen and now Eric, they respect that kind of rider because that’s an element of the type of rider they were too, they were always that three quarter rider, they are there until the last climb and then the superstar does his thing.”
When Ben Jacques-Maynes joined in 2007, Glen Mitchell told Kem how strong Jacques-Maynes was even though he didn’t a lot of results at that point and his team leadership was unproven.
“Every race we went to, I told him you can win this race Ben, you’re capable, you can win this race , just stay with us, we’re a team, he’d never had a team that’s just ridden for you, and he had the best year of his career and while he’s obviously an insanely talented bike racer, I think he was finally in an environment that was all about seeing him succeed.”
And it’s the same for Tom Zirbel and Burke Swindlehurst. “I think that Burke going to step it up again this year, and that’s what we’re here to do, that what’s I’m here to do.”
The ultimate teammate Kem is ready to teach the younger members on his team the skill of being a domestique. “I’ve got a couple of young guys on the team that I’m going to whip into shape, and they’re going to give to and we need to have a team, and we need to have people that are there to make our leaders successful.”
“I like my life and that’s probably a big reason I’m still doing this, there’s not a lot of glory, there’s not a lot of money especially for a guy like me, but I’m happy because I like my life, I like the guys I race with.”
In the first part on our interview with Bissell’s Omer Kem, we talked about his violent crash at the Amgen Tour of California and his road to recovery where he shared the ups and downs of the healing process.
Our conversation then turned to Kem’s past and his road to professional cycling. Or as he put it going “through the washing machine of professional cycling.”
While living in Oregon, Kem had ridden bikes as kid for fun but admits that he wasn’t very athletic when growing up or in high school.
“I was more a musician, both my parents were musicians and that was kind of the path that they saw for me.”
After graduating, he went to work in a cubicle in a corporate environment like many others, and he found that it wasn’t for him. “I really figured out what I didn’t want to do, and I really didn’t want to work in a box so I decided to go to college.”
The forestry school at Oregon State was offering scholarships and still not knowing what he wanted to do, Kem took advantage of the scholarships and ended up at at the school which was about one hour from where he grew up. His introduction to the sport of cycling was via a school-sponsored mountain bike class where he also met friends and mentors Barry Wicks and Doug Ollerenshaw, who both would be instrumental in Kem’s cycling career.
“I’d never really had an outlet physically that I had used or taken advantage of. I met Barry Wicks and Doug Ollerenshaw and at that point, I think that Barry had yet to start to riding for Kona, Doug was still racing collegiately and regionally so they kind of took me under their wings at races. I raced well, they were like ‘you should really race with us or train with us’, so I kind of went from nothing to just riding my bike all the time.”
Kem went from one extreme to another and got hooked. “Knowing those guys and becoming friends with them and I think them believing in me just got me across to being as dedicated as I was, because all of a sudden I saw this life, ‘man it would be so cool becoming a pro bike racer’. I don’t want to find a job, I’ve had a job and that was no fun at all, I wanted to be a pro bike racer, that was my decision. It wasn’t ‘I want to win bike races’ or ‘I want to ride my bike’, it was I want to be a pro because this is the life I want to lead.”
At the age of 19 going on 20, Kem went all out into bike racing. Still riding mountain bikes, with Wicks and Ollerenshaw helping him out, Kem won the Oregon series for the Open Men. “I ended just being the guy that was always there, I didn’t win a lot but I was consistent.”
The passion grew. “I went to every race, that was my life, that’s what I wanted to do, my parents thought I was insane. They didn’t know what to do with me but at the same time, they weren’t really paying for my education, my parents were self employed and so they saw this thing that I was passionate about and ‘okay he’s young, he’ll figure it out’.”
His parents offered what support they could including the offer of coming home if needed but Kem didn’t want to go home. Then a decision had to be made.
“Cycling consumed everything, losing the scholarships, the grades got bad at school, I was trying to work part time and go to school and ride all the time, it just got to the point where I had to choose and I chose.”
And Kem made the choice to follow cycling. He left school and ended up living in basement of his parents’ house.
“I said I wanted to be a bike racer, I made the decision that it didn’t matter how bad life got if I was still racing and if I was able to get to the point where racing was paid for itself. Race for a team, they give me a bike, and they took me to races and that was all that mattered.”
He then made the switch to road and his goal was to make his team happy, either by winning or helping out his teammate. A constant that has shaped the next six years of Kem’s cycling career.
“I wanted to make everybody happy so that I could keep on racing, that was my only goal, the only agenda. I want to be a bike racer, I want to be a pro, I want to make money doing this.”
With Ollerenshaw and Wicks’ assistance, Kem joined the elite amateur team Broadmark where he “got lucky with some results at some fairly big races” and acquired his Cat 1 upgrade.
At the same time, Kendra and Rene Wenzel were starting a new team, Subway and Kem “ just pushed and pushed and pushed” and was offered a contract “for nothing” two weeks after his upgrade. But that was okay with Kem because all he saw was the fact that he was on a pro team.
One of the work horses of the peloton, Omer Kem of the Bissell Pro Cycling Team crashed violently on the third stage of the Amgen Tour of Californa and fractured his pelvis. The 26 year-old Oregon native was out with one of the most painful injuries he’s ever faced in his career.
Ten days later, on a Friday afternoon, Kem took some time to share his feelings about his injury and recovery, his path to becoming a pro cyclist and his goals for 2009.
The crash. As part of a group chasing back on, while speeding down the tricky descent off Sierra Road, Kem hit a road reflector going at an estimated speed of 40 miles per hour.
“It was on a pretty steep left hand switch back corner. The set up for that corner had been a right hand turn previously so I was on the right hand side of the road cutting across and in the process of following wheels, there was a dip in the road itself and looking at that instead of looking at the meter of road in front of me, I side-swipped a road reflector and just lost the front wheel. The wheel never had a chance of making it over, just a small little tire on a carbon rim.” said Kem who went 50 feet off the road into the ditch.
“But at least I was lucky, I didn’t go off the edge of the road, a half dozen corners before that and you’re flying off the road,” laughed Kem, “a hundred feet drop so I’m lucky.”
At first glance, the diagnosis was a broken femur due to both the position of his leg and his reaction to the violent and traumatic crash. “I couldn’t move the leg, I couldn’t even rotate it over and so that was what their initial prognosis was that I had broken the top of the femur in my hip and that was the reason why I couldn’t roll my leg over.”
“It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever done to myself, I’ve crashed, I’ve broken collarbones, scapulas, that was another level. I’ve never hurt a leg cycling and it’s definitely a lot scarier, a lot more traumatic than anything else.”
The aftermath. Ten days after the crash, still on crutches, Kem had already forced himself off the painkillers during the day.
“You’re already kind of depressed and you’ve got painkillers, and the painkillers ease the pain but at the same time, you’re just kind of limp and you can’t do anything and you feel like life is over because you’re just completely stuck, immobilized.”
After a short stint in Salem, Oregon, Kem was back in Boulder, his new home in 2009 where he could take advantage of the numerous sports medicine expertise and the altitude which was the reason to move to Colorado from Oregon in the first place.
“It was amazing. She was able to activate some of the muscular area around the pelvis as everything had just shut down from that initial impact. I think it’s still going to be a slow process coming back but it’s going to be a lot better having someone like that to work with. “ said Kem who had returned from his first physical therapy appointment earlier that day.
Recovery will be a slow process as both team management and doctor have recommended a break of 4 weeks off the bike which didn’t make Kem happy. So much so that he tried to get back on his bike.
“I’ve already tried to put my leg over the bike and I couldn’t.”
“I had to try to see if I could get on it and I couldn’t get on the bike so I know that I’ve still in trouble from that standpoint.” continued Kem when I laughingly called him nuts.
The good news is that no surgery is needed as the fracture is located at the bottom left corner of the pelvis, and according to Kem, unless the area took another direct hit, it is very hard for any movement to displace that fracture. He expects that even after ten to fourteen days, the bone has already started to knit back together.
“I don’t think that the bone itself is the issue, it’s just more the muscular stuff. It’s a weird injury because if I’m standing stationary, I can put all my weight on the leg as long as everything is lined up but as soon as I try to walk all the stabilizing muscles that are in that area want to collapse and give so that my leg constantly wants to collapse in, collapse out which is why I’m still stuck with the crutches because once I try to be mobile I have a hard time trying to hold myself up.”
With the gap in the NRC calendar, Kem will only miss one big team race, the Redlands Cycling Classic.
“The reality of it is that it sucks that it happened in California but they were happy with me before, they were happy with me then. I’m going to miss one race. I crashed doing what I do for the team, doing the job and that’s just the reality of bike racing and I’m the one that has to deal with it and everybody else is supportive.”
The impact is not only physical. Last year, Kem was sidelined at the beginning of the season with a broken collarbone when he “was at the bottom of the massive crash” in the Sunset Road Race, the last stage of the Redlands Classic. At his first race back, three and half weeks later, he had to mentally handle another tricky descent. And he will face the same hurdle when he comes back this time.
“But my first time in the bunch at Tour of the Gila was tough but once I got through that initial sensation like a kind of pit of the stomach paranoia … it will be okay. That’s kind of the name of the game, it’s not a question of if I crash, it’s just when and you hope that you don’t break your femur, it could be always be worse, I think.”
Depressed? Yes but not feeling sorry for himself.
“I still get to be an athlete, I’m still a cyclist, I’ve never wanted to take that for granted and in doing so I can never feel sorry for myself that something happened.” replied Kem when I made an off the cuff comment about it being okay to feel sorry for himself.
It hit him at the physical therapist when asked if he was taken time off from his job to recover that whe he gets hurts, “it’s almost a paid vacation.”
“My job and I will continue to get paid by the team, is to get better for the next race, whenever that race may be, if that next race is one week from now, if that next race is two months from now, if the next race is a season from now, it’s my job to be an athlete to get better. And that’s a pretty amazing to be able to go through or take advantage of so while I am hurt … man I wish I could be with the team and do what I love to do, at the same time I can’t feel sorry for myself.”
But that doesn’t mean that Kem is not fighting feelings of depression which he had expressed honestly in his blog prior to our conversation.
“I think about it in different terms than feeling sorry for myself. I’m definitely depressed and a big part of that is because as an athlete you want those endorphins everyday, a day off is hard. Most endurance athletes are their own worst enemies when it comes to rest, a lot of guys that crash and are out for six months, they came back and are stronger than before, but this is the one that scared me. I will probably will be a different rider from here on out, maybe I won’t be able to descend as fast as I was before, or maybe I’ll start thinking too much but at the same time, I still don’t feel sorry for myself in life, in general.”
So at this point, it’s only a matter of time. Time to heal before his next race in April. Even though, earlier in his recovery, he was adamant that he wanted to be back for the NRC opener, Redlands. “They told me no.” laughed Kem.
“In fact, I had it all planned out, I was going to be back on the bike this coming Monday. It didn’t matter if I could walk or not, I would get back on the bike and I’d be ready for Redlands.”
Part of his pushing is a concern that the team might not need him, and the other part is not wanting to let anyone down.
“It’s hard to not be there. From a cycling career standpoint, I still have to chuckle at where I’ve come from and to where I am. And yeah, part of me is scared about getting hurt … is that you’re not going to be able to come back, you’re not going to be able to do your job and you’re not going to have a job. I’m really lucky to be involved with this team and I don’t ever want to let them down and when I crashed this last time, I was sorry that I wasn’t able to do the job for the rest of the week, that’s one of hardest thing for me is that I wasn’t going to be there for the guys in the way that they needed. I don’t like letting everyone down. “
“I have been through the washing machine of professional cycling I have to say.” said Kem when our conversation takes us through some of the hard times he’s faced in his cycling career – in the second part of the interview.
From Jonathan Coulter, Soigneur:
Bissell Pro Cycling's Andy Jacques-Maynes continued in fine form at the Tri-Flow Menlo Park GP with a 3rd place to Garmin Chipotle rider Daniel Holloway.
On a sunny Nor-Cal afternoon, Andy put on a show for the spectators as he continually attacked the 100 rider field in an effort to shake the Garmin sprinter and BMC's Jackson Stewart, who lined up as favourites for the event. With all of Nor-Cal's top teams represented at the GP, Andy used his savvy and pure speed to be in every breakaway attempt and win a mid race priem.
In the tumultuous finale, Andy stayed away from a multi rider pileup by hitting out early with a select group of sprinters, and holding his speed down the final straightaway to place a respectable 3rd.
In part two of our interview (part one here) with Burke Swindlehurst, we talk about some of his favorite things on and off the bike, his pet peeves about bike racing, how he got his start in the sport, and the Twitter revolution.
EP: What's your favorite one day race and why?
BS: My favorite race no longer exists, the Boulder to Breckenridge Challenge, I loved that race. It was so cool, so epic . . . and that race was perfectly suited to my abilities, you know the length of the climbs. And what other race are you going to get off your road bike and jump onto a mountain bike, ya know? It is my all-time favorite race. In terms of races that still exist, I would have to say the Nevada City Classic. I like that race because the course suits me well, but more importantly I like being in funky towns . . . places with a lot of character. So, I'm always drawn to races that take you to out-of-the-way places. And Nevada City is one of those places that is like that. Nevada City has a really cool vibe to it.
EP: What's your favorite and least favorite part of being a pro cyclist?
BS: I'd have to say my favorite part of cycling would have to be the relationships I formed over the years. I've met some really great people and made some great friends. The sport of cycling has given me a wealth of interesting people to meet over the years. As for my least favorite part, it would have to be the travel. It's not so bad any more for me now. With Bissell we're doing more of a domestic schedule, but when I rode for the Navigators, we would go over to Europe for two or three months in the spring, that was really tough. You know, different hotels all the time, I just didn't enjoy having to drag my carcass all over Europe.
EP: Who're your favortie riders of all time and why?
BS: Ohh, that's a tough one. Um, well, I guess I would say my three favorite riders are Andy Hampsten, Michael England and Ned Overland. Those three guys all are very classy, personable people, and they seem to me very genuine. They're people I can really trust. Great guys.
EP: What's the most memorable win you remember thus far from your career?
BS: Hmmm, that's a tough one, these are good questions! I would say that winning the Tour of the Gila in 2005 on the last day was my most memorable win. That year I was riding for the Sea Silver team, which was a rough year in some ways. I had come over to Sea Silver from the Navigators, where I had ridden for five years. The sponsor was not there 100% for the team. We were missing pay checks and that kind of stuff. I had made a big decision to leave the Navigators and go with this new team. I didn't want to race in Europe any more, so I took this big risk to go with this unproven team. About a quarter way through the season, I was thinking that the Tour of the Gila would be the last race I was going to do for my career. I was wondering whether anyone else would have given me a chance after a year without results. So I went into the Tour of the Gila planning on laying everything on the table with as much strength and as aggressively as possible. I wanted to just spill my guts on the road, and whatever happened happened. Luckily it worked out for me, and I won the race the way I always wanted to, which was to take the race on the last day on the "Gila Monster" climb! Heading into that final day, Andy Bajadali was in the leader's jersey, but by the end of the day he had lost significant time, so I found myself battling against Tecos rider Ubaldo Mesa and Ivan Stevic of the Aerospace Engineering-VMG team.
EP: Which race do you feel has the best fans?
BS: Well, you know Tour of California of course looked epic again this year, but a race I always remember is the San Francisco Grand Prix. That was another great race, it's a shame it's not around any more. In fact, that would be second on my list all-time for favorite one day races.
EP: How did you originally get into cycling?
BS: I had an uncle who was racing, and he came out for the national championships in 1986 when they were held in Utah, he stayed with us at our house. I was about 14 years old, and I saw this guy that I looked up to since I was very small, and he looked so cool in his kit, big leg muscles, just the picture of health. It just seemed like a really cool thing to try. So a few more years later, I asked for a road bike for Christmas, and that was that.
EP: When you're not riding, what are you doing?
BS: I love fly fishing. My favorite type of trout is the cutthroat trout. In fact I have caught the Bonneville cutthroat here in Utah. It's a beautiful fish. I also really love mountain biking.
EP: You are an established veteran now, how many more years do you feel that you'd like to keep riding
BS: That's a good question too. That's a question I've been asking myself a lot over the past two or three years, especially last year. I was pretty sure last year was going to be my last, but then I had a little epiphany or something like that. I thought to myself, 'wow, I'm still enjoying myself doing this, I'm still getting results, and I can still get paid, I'm going to do this as long as I can.' So, to answer your question, as long as I'm enjoying myself, and still able to contribute to a team I'll do it!
EP: What's your biggest regret over the years?
BS: Hmmmm. I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and even though there are things that have happened during my career that I am not happy with, in the grand scheme of things I think everything works out. Your experience in life creates the type of person you become. I'm very happy with myself right now, so I would have to say that I don't have any regrets.
EP: Finish the following sentence. The one thing that really makes me mad at a bike race is . . .
BS: I would say unsafe courses or dangerous courses. It seems like every year there's going to be a few races that are dicey. Sometimes there are courses that aren't necessary. What makes me the maddest is when promoters put a spectacle of an event ahead of rider safety. I don't think people really understand the risks that are taken during a bike race. I know I'm not the only guy that has finished a race and told someone that I thought about dying during the race. We should never have to think about dying when we're racing our bikes!
EP: What is your feeling on runners at races and receiving pushes from fans?
BS: Well, for the most part I think it's great! I remember one race I did that some friends of mine surprised me on a mountain summit. They were waiting for me to go by. As I rode by them, I saw they were in pink panties! It was pretty funny. In terms of getting a push, I don't like to see it. I remember at the Tour of Georgia one year all the Europeans were getting pushed up Brasstown Bald. I was fighting for a top-twenty placing on Brasstown Bald and these Euros are getting massive pushes up it! I mean a top twenty maybe isn't resume material, but it still counts as an accomplishment, something you can be proud of. So that bummed me out a bit for sure.
EP: So finally, to close this interview, you are a newbie in the world of Twitter. Tell me about how you decided to get involved and how youre enjoying it so far.
BS: Well I had the opportunity to go out to dinner with Levi the other night, as well as Scott Nydam and Jeff Louder. They're all Twitter guys and we were talking about it that night. So when I got home I took a quick look and realized that it's pretty easy to sign up for . So, I pinged Levi after I signed up and the next thing I know I had like 400 people following me overnight. Basically these are people from Levi's list, but it's a little overwhelming to think that there are over 400 people that I don't even know that I'm going to being telling about my life. It's kind of daunting but fun so far!
A big thank you to Burke for his time for this interview. EP will continue to monitor his progress throughout the seaosn, and expect another interview in a few months with the Bissell stage racer.
Over his long and successful career, Burke Swindlehurst has distinguished himself not only as an excellent cyclist, but as one of the most approachable cyclists on the American domestic scene. Known as a straight shooter and all-around class act throughout the sport, Swindlehurst took some time off the bike to talk cycling with EuroPeloton. Now an established veteran of American cycling, Swindlehurst talks in part one of this two part interview about being left off the Amgen Tour of California team, his 2009 racing goals, and who he feels will have break through years on the American domestic scene this season.
EP: Burke, thanks very much for taking some time to talk tonight. Soooo, first and foremost, we missed you at the Amgen Tour of California! What happened?
BS: Agh, well, mostly it was a case of really rotten luck! Basically I went to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis, and I got a stomach virus the day before the race. I barely got to the start line, but luckly did manage to ride the whole race. Starting empty caught up to me though, and it caught up to me when we headed to training camp right after the race ended. I got a pretty brutal cold and missed most of the training camp. Then, I got some terrible news from my wife about our dog. She's been sick awhile with cancer, and she was getting worse by the day, so I booked a flight back home to try to see her before she passed . . . and unfortunately I didn't make it back in time. All of those things culminated in not such a good show for my director in putting me on the AToC team. I was pretty devastated by the decision, I felt and I still feel that I was ready to do the race, I had recovered my health and mental energy and was ready to do it, but sometimes that's just how things go in this sport. Looking forward though, I'll try to put some of that anger into the pedals at other races this year.
EP: What is your racing calendar looking like and what races do you hope to be the most successful in for this season?
BS: Well, my next races with the team will be San Dimas and Redlands. On my own, I'll be doing a bit of mountain bike racing when my schedule allows for it. There's a small team here in Utah called MonaVie/Cannondale that I'll be riding for, and I'm really excited for it! I banged me knee last week training though, so I'll probably take a few days off to get it under control so I'll be ready for Redlands and San Dimas. As for my other season goals, I'll be looking for those races that are at altitude with big climbs. I always target the Tour of the Gila. I enjoy it and I think it's a fantastic race. I always have fun there. I also like the racing in Oregon, the Mt. Hood Classic and Cascade Classic. Ironically they're not on the NRC calendar, but because they are such good races I'll bet that a lot of good teams will go to them. I think the whole NRC status may take a back seat in 2009, as teams look for quality racing, so we'll see. And of course the Tour of Utah for sure. It pretty much goes without saying that I'll be targeting Utah. It's getting to the point that it's so locked into my schedule that I don't event think about it. It's a big objective for me each season.
EP: Who among your teammates will surprise the domestic peloton this year with their talent?
The guy I have the biggest expectations for this year on our team would be Jeremy Vennell. He's a Kiwi and he was on our team last year, so after making the transition from Euro riding to American racing last year, I think he'll do big things this year. In Europe, the racing is better suited to a diesel kind of rider, whereas in the States you have to have much more top-end punch. For instance, the prologue at Redlands, a ten minute effort, sets up the entire GC race from that point. US racing is now more about intensity and less about attrition. I've seen some real flashes of brilliance in Jeremy last year, so I expect he'll be the guy at the end of the season that everyone talks about as the revelation of the team.
EP:Are there other riders on other teams that you feel are ready to breakthrough?
BS: You know I think Bradley White could have a big year for OUCH. He raced very aggressively last year, and I noticed him at a few different races. He's a big talent, very strong. I also think Neil Shirley is due for some big results. I raced with him in 2005 on the Sea Silver team, and I got to see his potential then. And not only is he a good bike racer, he's a great guy too. I hope his changing to Kelly Benefits has a positive effect that will help him come into his own this year."
by Paul Pfotenhauer
California brought world-class cyclists to Davis on Feb. 15 to compete in Stage 1 of America’s most successful cycling race — the Amgen Tour of California.
UC Davis has several connections to this elite international sport including a graduate student ready to go professional and a staff biomedical engineer who assists local cyclists in improving their performance.
But the biggest wheel is Allen Lim, who received his undergraduate degree in exercise science at UC Davis.
These videos tell the story of our affiliations with professional cycling and offer an in-depth interview with Allen Lim.
Lim is now one of the leading coaches in road cycling, as sports physiologist for the Garmin Slipstream team that competes in all the major cycling tours including the Tour de France.
He guided the UC Davis Cycling Team to its first national championship and coached the resident national cycling team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Lim has also coached numerous amateur, professional, and Olympic athletes.
Lim says professional cyclists are the most studied, the most analyzed and the most tested athletes in the world. His educational background at UC Davis gave him the inspiration to use science in all aspects of training, he adds.
A second connection to cycling
Our second connection, Paul Mach, is a doctoral student in applied mathematics. He concentrates his academic efforts on understanding macromolecular structures in computational structural biology.
But when he is not exercising his brain cells in his UC Davis office, Mach is torching his leg muscles on his $8,000 carbon-fiber bicycle.
Mach just signed a contract with the Bissell Pro Cycling team. A former All American collegiate runner, Mach has only been cycling for about 4 years. He says cycling links fitness with tactical precision.
For the past five years, Judd Van Sickle, another UC Davis cycling connection, has gained an incredible amount of knowledge working in the UC Davis Sports Performance Program as a biomechanical engineer doing both bike fittings and performance testing.
He says, metabolically cycling is one of the most demanding and grueling sports.
By Kirsten Robbins in Merced, California
US national criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati proved his pedigree by out-kicking a fast field in the last 200 metres to take his first victory of the 2009 season at the Merco Classic Grand Prix. His Rock Racing teammate, Justin Williams, followed by a slim margin to take second place ahead of Argentina's Ricardo Escuela of Team Type 1.
With 140 starters lining up in Merced, the Merco Classic Grand Prix was a chance for Bahati to 'get on with the job', given he had experienced a turbulent off-season. "There has been a lot of negative press about our team in the last months," said Rahsaan, who believed the odds of winning were in his squads favour given they fielded two national criterium champions.
Predicted rain held off for the men's 50 lap event making the race an exciting spectacle for hundreds of fans who came out to enjoy the racing. "I think this is a great way for us to come out and show places like Merced that we are here to compete and just do what we love to do. I really want to thank everyone for hanging out and watching us go around. I'm just excited to have everyone out here supporting us."
Rock's pair of national criterium champions - Bahati the pro champ, Williams the amateur champ - made their way trough the chaotic peloton like a couple of pinballs and onto the back of team Bissell and Colavita/Sutter Home's well-organised lead out trains in the closing laps. The jostling continued when lead out riders began peeling off to make room for their faster sprint talents to start the final kick. Williams rounded the last corner out front with Bahati on his wheel, creating a small gap on the right for Bahati to squeeze through and claim victory.
"Rashaan is always guiding me and asks me how I'm feeling in the races so we communicate well," said the 19-year-old Williams. "He finds me in the races and tells me what to do. Normally I just follow him around. The guys out here know I'm younger but I'm working my way up. I didn't expect us to get first and second - we were a little scrambled coming in with one lap to go. I took it wide out of the last corner and then realised he [Bahati] was on my wheel. It just worked out for us today."
Third place on the day, Escuela, was without teammates and relied on his savvy pack skills to slide into a position to contend the sprint. Out of the last corner, the Argentine started his sprint first but the Rock Racing duo caught and passed him within the last 50 metres.
"I'm happy with this result today," said Escuela. "My teammates are all racing in the Vuelta a Mexico but I hadn't been feeling too well, a little sick, the last few weeks so I stayed home. I've been able to get in some good training so far."
Bissell proved to be the most aggressive team of the day. Their relentless attacks were diligently marked by riders from BMC, La Grange, Webcor, Colavita/Sutter Home, California Giant Berry Farms and Rock Racing. A newly reshuffled front group emerged each lap that contained one or two of the aforementioned teams. However, without the right combination of committed break away riders all escape attempts were reeled back in.
"I think having Justin and I here sort of killed every break," said Bahati in relation to the number of top notch sprinters that represented each breakaway attempt. "We were in a win-win situation today because we had a small team. All the teams had great riders here, that's the beauty of racing. You never know what will happen. It was our goal was to force a field sprint today and we also wanted to give our younger riders on the team a chance to be represented in the breaks today."
Several crashes marred the men's race including that of Justin Fraga (Webcor) whose fork snapped on impact. He was believed to have suffered bruised ribs. Meanwhile, Rock Racing's valuable lead out riders Sterling Magnell and Danny Finneran were involved in an untimely accident on the last lap.
The Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic will continue at the Foot Hills Road Race held in Snelling on Sunday. The men will complete five laps totaling 192 kilometres through the notorious orange groves of California's Central Valley.
Merco Cycling Classic
Rock Star duo, Rahhsaan Bahati USA Criterium Champion and amateur champ 189 year old Justin Williams led Ricardo Escuela of Team Type 1 over the line to take the top podium steps at the finish of the 40 mile downtown criterium. Fast wheel's, Jackson Stewart (BMC) in for third with Argentine Lucas Haedo (Colavita/Sutter Home) and Evergreen veteran Michael Sayers (Amgen/Giant Masters) filled out the top 5.
The men's race followed the pattern of the Women's race earlier in the day with constant fruitless attacks with the peloton dragging all the offenders back before any significant time could be gained. The whole shoot out came down to a mass sprint where the rock duo bested all comers with Bahati proving to have the fastest legs.
The Cat 3 Criterium was won by Joseph Cahoon (Specialized) leading Jeffrey Galland (Chico Corsa/Sierra Nevada) and Joshua Carling to the finish for the podium. Hunter Ziesing (Delta Velo) and Carmine Shulman of ZTeam filled out the top 5.
Foot Hill Road Race
The Men's 5 laps of the 24 mile circuit on the classic style rolling circuit through the vineyards and blooming Almond groves. As pleasant as the central valley scenery was there wasn't much time for the riders to stop and smell the white Almond buds with the 120 mile (190 km) race run off at a fast pace in 4:24:30.
Bissell cycling team was the main protagonist in the race; but their relentless attacks were diligently marked by riders from BMC, La Grange, Webcor, Colavita/Sutter Home, California Giant Berry Farms and Rock Racing. Bissell's goal was to engineer and escape for team leader Andy Jacques-Maynes; in spite of the attempts the odds were against the Bissell crew to make an attack stick.
The race came down to the final climb with Fred Rodriquez leading the Rock assault with Taylor Tolleson (BMC) Jason Lowetz (Bearclaw) Andy Jacques-Maynes Fly VAustralia's Alessandro Bazzana and Webcor's Rober Mac Neil in a group of 14.
In the end it was Rocks young gun Iggy Silva launched for the sprint by Rodriguez coming around Tolleson and Jacques Maynes for for the victory. Justin William (Rock) finished 4th, with Jason Lowetz of Bearclaw and Italian Alessandro Bazzana of Fly V Australia filling out the top six.
Bissell Pro Cycling's Andy Jacques-Maynes showed he has bounced back from the crash at the Tour of California and is ready for th opening of the NRC races.
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