schmalz FBF 8/15/2012

I don’t feel so good

 August is usually the time of year when I start to dislike bikes, usually my disdain comes from the fact that I have been racing them for about five months non-stop, and that can be very tiring. This year my disdain is compounded by the fact that this year a teammate of mine tested positive for pro-level drugs to do (and I’m being very generous here) amateur level races—the same races I participate in. This pathetic fact, combined with my usual sense of August ennui, made bike racing about as appealing as a Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat reunion tour (and if you got that reference, welcome to the AARP!). However I was granted a respite from bike when I dragged myself and my people back to Iowa for a family reunion.  

Iowa is to bike racers as Brussels is to monster trucks—sure there’s some of them around, but they’re an anomaly to be gawked at and remarked upon with a quizzical fascination. I brought my bike along with me to try to inject some health into what would surely be a trip filled with sausage, cheese and Canned Hamms (™ me—it’s a thing). Many of my East Coast friends are surprised to learn that Eastern Iowa has a topography much like that of the area surrounding Nyack. Due to the Mississippi River carving a deep valley for itself, there’s an endless supply of quarter mile longish hills that include pitches that defy both logic and Strava’s craftiest interpolations. (Take the climb below for example, it has an average grade of 13.1%, but if you scroll to the 796ft mark, it maxes out at 36.7%, which I’m pretty sure is impossible, because any time you climb a grade over 30% you travel back in time—that’s just science, you can look it up.) The week before leaving, I had yard-camped with my daughters, which allowed me to sleep next to my older daughter as she coughed upon me throughout the night, so I arrived in Iowa both sick of bikes and sick of body. I treated my cold symptoms with staying up late, talking crap and the aforementioned cheese, sausage and Canned Hamms™.

While my trip back home was a welcome respite from stress and rational restraint in regards to processed meats, it was not an optimal way to prepare myself for the rest of my bike "season" (I use quotes here for "season", because, who are we fooling? Which reminds me again—intercourse, you DA.). I’ve not been keeping up to date with the serialized melodrama that is the race for the GC at FBF, so when I was emailing about to see what my regular Tuesday traveling companions were planning, I became involved in a scheme to potentially alter the course of FBF history forever—or we just planned to attack from the gun. At this point in the season, everyone has placed their card on the table, fitness-wise. The regulars at FBF have seen all the tricks and ruses and now it all comes down to strength and tactics, and when you are lacking strength, you need tactics. We decided to try and surprise everyone and attack from the sign in table.

 Attacking from the gun is something that sounds appealing to someone that has never done it before. It’s the bike racing equivalent of saying, "Hey, let’s just drink the tequila straight!" Most often, it’s a mistake you only make once. Yet we were discussing the prospect. Life Coach Mihael wanted to gain some green jersey points, and was willing to swing for the fences, so fellow car pooler Andrew and I reluctantly agreed, because we knew, like the morning after a tequila-filled evening, we were in for some pain. Mihael had enlisted some covert allies in our plan, and we lined up for the start of the race. And then we took off.

We put in a fairly furious first lap, accordion to Strava, we averaged 27.3 mph on the first lap, which was good enough to split the race slightly, but not enough to create a gap. We took our shot of tequila, and had thrown it up on our shoes. We tried to get away for two laps, but the size of the peloton and the lack of wind kept thing together. We switched to plan B, winging it. The next 6 laps were filled with attacks and counters and such, but nothing was sticking.

We came down to two laps to go and were all together. I was just planning on helping out Mihael in the sprint because I could give a rat’s ass, and about three guys got away. The race must have been hectic for a lot of guys, because a few told me afterwards that they had no idea that there were any racers up the road. The pack raced to the finish like there were no guys up the road, and the three at the front craftily held on for the podium places. I rolled in to the finish, cleaned the metaphorical vomit off my shoes, and began making plans for next week.






“Attacking from the gun is something that sounds appealing to someone that has never done it before.”

In my 25 years of racing, I’ve never attacked at the gun, and although it made it a fun race, I don’t believe I’ll ever do it again.


A teammate of yours tested positive for pro-level drugs? No way! When did it happen and why wasn’t anything said about that?


This bluff talk is the perfect opportunity to announce my special “Muurs of Dubuque” Sprint Training camp, it’s only $1,000 for a week with all the Canned Hamms you can drink.

John Lieswyn

There is a technique for attacking from the gun, and it takes a bit of practice. Firstly, you have to look for the opportunity to go from hard to warp speed – in other words, hold something back and when the right topographical or meteorological feature presents itself, combine with a willing partner to take turns burying it with venom. So you have gone hard enough to stay at the front but there is another gear that you engage to really crack people. The pulls you take have to be short and sharp, taking turns with your partner as quickly as trackies. Good luck too – it works less often than it doesn’t, but when it does – awesome. Gordon McAuley of NZ was amazing at it.

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