Smokin’ at Somerset Circuit =)

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Hey Gang,

So Somerset Circuit TT was this weekend… It’s my favorite TT of the year. It wasn’t a goal this year, I’ve been saying that all along, knew it’d be in the middle of a heavy week, but I knew I’d be fast here — it’s a course I know like the back of my hand, a course I’d always done well on… I took 2nd in 2007 to Gisler, lost by 5 seconds, then won in 2008, was injured in 2009, won in 2010…

So… what would 2011 bring? I’m not a big winner of races, and even though the legs were heavy with TSS this week, internally I wanted it. Bad. On Thursday night, Mike Gisler e-mailed me an NJBA note from April, where Team Somerset and promoter Brian Rosenblatt were offering cash prizes for anyone who broke the course record I set in 2008, plus a set of Bontrager racing wheels… Roger Aspholm and Will O’Donnell came close to breaking it in 2009, and I came close in 2010, but the 20:17 has stood all comers… God, such sweet memories from that day, FAST ride…

So after Thursday night, I guess I had extra motivation to go out there and do a good one. And why not? In my opinion, Somerset is the most interesting TT on the circuit: FAST, twisty, rolling, hilly, tons of turns, just a rollercoaster on a bicycle… I love how most of the loop seems almost enclosed with these over-arching trees from up above, just a magical route…

Saturday was almost ideal conditions, sunny, mid 50s, not much wind at all while warming up. My legs were LOADED this week, posted great data on the TT bike on TUE, then had a wildly hard PowerCrank ride on THURS, was shattered after (and when I get home, THEN I get the e-mail from Gisler, lol). But sometimes with loaded legs, and I tell athletes this all the time, you can still summon some magic from somewhere…

I started in my 56×23 and off I went. I’ve learned the more I do TTs, and I guess I’m really a specialist in them by now, that I try to stay really calm at the start. There are several pics of me just seconds into several TTs, and in each one I’m almost blowing my cheeks out, telling myself to relax. Loose and relaxed, this is how I want to feel — when I launch off the line, it’s almost like I’m smoothly uncoiling…

Saturday was the day of the Cadence. In 2007, I averaged 102 rpms. In 2008, I averaged 100 rpms. In 2010, 99 rpms… In 2010, I averaged a whopping 107 rpms — AVERAGE. On that first stretch, I was immediately just spinning at 120 rpms, 114 rpms, 110 rpms, and I spun wildly all the way to the bridge, just didn’t feel the need to muscle it yet.

And I think, on this course, this is key, a higher cadence. The course is hardly ever flat, either up or down or rolling or undulating, and I think having a higher cadence helps you not only come out of turns faster but also gives you that feeling of “acceleration.” I was telling my athletes this week that on Somerset, the key is you want to always feel like you’re accelerating. And for me, keeping my cadence slightly higher than normal helps me attain this.

I’ve been mountain biking a lot this year, committed to contending for the overall in the Pro/Open category of the H2H and NYS MTB series, and the MTB has really made me a better rider. One, I can handle the bike much better. Two, my power curve is FLAT — my days of field sprinting and attacking power climbs are long gone, lol… Nowadays, the majority of my training is longer upper Tempo and LT stuff… But when in the woods, you’re forced to punch it more — people just don’t realize how difficult MTB racing truly is… I mean, you are WRECKED after one of these things…

But on the trails, you’re constantly accelerating out of turns, max efforts up shorter climbs, constantly on the throttle with shorter, intense efforts… So this winter, I did a ton of longer aerobic work, hoping to be able to recover better and ultimately be able to push harder during these MTB races. And so far, so good — I’ve been getting better and better with each MTB race I’ve entered thus far.

On the TT bike, I just feel stronger. I can hit the rollers harder, can corner my bike better. And on Saturday, I felt confident on the course, was railing turns at full speed. When a marshal is screaming at you to “SLOW DOWN!!!!!!!!!” you know you’re doing something right

First half of the TT, I averaged 107 rpms. Second half: 107 rpms. Each year prior, my cadence always started to drop a bit, but on Saturday, I was able to remain a human metronome out there. I shifted down a few gears before every turn, allowing me to accelerate away and keep churning that higher cadence. I felt fast out there, and it was weird: I almost felt like I was racing… against myself only. I knew how fast I’d gone in 2008, and I knew how fast I’d have to go now to beat that time… I really wasn’t thinking about anyone else — if they went faster, then great, awesome, stellar ride, but I was just concerned with beating my time from 2008…

I started fast, like I usually do. I was passing a lot of riders, and this can be a bad thing — many times a rider will accelerate by someone, or jackhammer at their pedals to catch a rider, but I really just try to keep my head down and remain steady. If I pass riders, great, but the key is that linear effort — you go too hard at one point, and you risk cracking, destroying the rhythm of the overall effort.

But once I was on Pleasant Run, I was one hurting puppy. But I told myself this is how I needed to feel if I wanted to win. Gotta go, Coolio — time is time and there’s only one way to take it back and it’s to suffer like a dog. When I made the right-hand turn onto Cole Road, which is probably THE hardest part of the course (a blind-turn, then a three-pronged climb), I immediately shifted into the smallring, something I’ve never done on this course. But I was in spin mode and just went with it, and I think it was the smart play. I remember in 2007 I took half the climb out of the saddle. In 2008, I was able to take it all seated in the 56×23. In 2010, I remained seated, had an 11/21 and paid the price, remember grinding up it and feeling labored and taxed for the remainder of the TT…

I keep on saying it’s not about the hill: it’s what happens AFTER the hill. You need to go up the climb at effort, yes, but you also need to meter it so you can feel like you can accelerate OVER the hill. So I spun up that sucker, seated, churning away, and when I got to the top, I was able to pop it back onto the big ring, get back down in the tuck, and I felt fresher, motivated to rip the final part of the TT.

I passed almost the entire women’s field, and at the bottom of the treacherous bridge turn, two women were there, so I had to take it wide, slower, but this gave me the immense ammunition to RIP THE FINALE. I was doing 34 mph before the final left-hand turn, just had that wonderful feeling of digging deep and not able to make it hurt enough, and charged hard onto the final straight.

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I kept my head down to the line, crossed it dizzy-eyed with hot lungs, and I flipped the time on the computer and I saw around 20:14.

I knew I’d done a good one.

I was happy, very happy. You search for perfection in these TTs, and although perfection is really unattainable, to me, this was close. And when you know you’ve done something like that, it’s just a priceless feeling. You make a goal, but to go out and make it happen, it’s a surreal feeling. And I still had no clue how anyone else went, and it didn’t matter. If Pohndorf or Fritz or Kimball went faster than me, kudos to them, but it wouldn’t diminish my effort by one iota. I wanted to beat my time from 2008, and that’s what I did.

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Jan Curran saw me warming down post-race, and she asked me how I did. I had no idea what the results were, but I was stoked to find out!

And in the end, I won. I’m not a big winner of races, so I’ll savor this one. Ran a 20:10, gave everything and felt fantastic out there. Somerset Circuit and I are becoming close friends What I love about cycling is everyone is good at something and you find your niche and maximize it. I can beat some CX guys in TTs and they crush me in CX and they get crushed by road racers who get crushed by crit specialists who get crushed by time trialists and there’s this wonderful dynamic of riders all excelling at different things — fascinating to me, and I think it’s what helps make this sport so special.

Spectacular Saturday, Sad Sunday, lol. I broke my PowerCranks today during a longer TT effort, was on course to shatter my record time on my Test Loop. I think it’s fitting I burned the clutch out, maybe the power is really coming on… So I had to ride home with my left leg for 11 miles, lol — but the strange thing was I just was not getting tired.

So I immediately got on my TT bike and decided to do my longer Fitness Test, something I only do once or twice a year, before the peak. I usually do it a bit later, but I was feeling stupid strong and wanted to see where I was at.

Effort takes close to 40 minutes, and my best efforts in 2008 were around 317 and 321w. In 2010, I did a 326w… I CRUSHED my previous best time and put out my best wattage ever. I just could not believe how that went… Meter broken?

What happened, lol? I’m hoping the legs didn’t come around too early… Either I’m finding that beautiful leap of condition and will run a mean one at States… or I’m gonna be gasping on fumes in June… But either way, the training is planned and everything has gone according to plan — periodization is a wonderful thing, and I love seeing plans come to fruition and see the body come around as it should.

If I get beat at States, I get beat. But just like how I had my head at Somerset, I just want to beat my previous best ride there, and so far, it looks like I’m going to f*cking crush it. Very much looking forward to June 5th… I feel like a fighter right now, in training camp, in this cocoon, making daily sacrifices, and I’m chomping at the bit, can’t wait for Fight Night…

Full EE athlete report to come… May through early-June is my time to turn it up, so the last few journals have been “me” entries… but so much on tap on the EE front, just mind-boggling — 30+ wins already this year and it’s only the first week of May… Will be whipping the newsletter together soon…

Thanks for reading…

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Sunday, May 8th, 2011 | | |