TT Cup Victory, Blueberry Peak, MTB Champs!

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Well, seems like eons ago, the Blueberry TT… I signed up for the TT mid-week, and then the night before I noticed Freifelder hadn’t signed up… Hmmmm… I knew I needed to beat him at the Kingwood TT in order to still stay in contention, and I didn’t — he beat me handily and I actually took 3rd, super screwed… So I was in a bad spot. But I conceded defeat that day and shook Dave’s hand firmly and really congratulated him — he was the better rider and I sincerely respected that.

I plowed on and planned the peak for the Darkhorse 40, hoping to finish in violent form at Long Meadow and Blueberry… I’ve noted in the past that I just didn’t feel great in July as I prepped, and then 3 days before the Darkhorse, I just had that foom foom rush while out on a training ride and had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that some good performances were coming… I felt STUPENDOUS at the Darkhorse, taking 5th, and then recovered very well for the Long Meadow TT and had a strong ride, taking the overall victory.

I actually hadn’t accounted for that — there were A LOT of big names on that start list, so I was just going to see what I could do. But that victory seemed to turn the NJBA TT Cup standings around, unbeknownst to me at the time… So when I added up Dave and I’s points, I realized the night before the Blueberry TT that if I WON, I could win the Cup. $hit.

So, of course the night before I didn’t sleep a wink, lol… I’ve finished 4th, 2nd, and 2nd in the Cup before, so I didn’t want to screw this up, and one of the fastest and most talented riders out there, Greg Leach of Metra, was signed up… He almost beat me at the State TT, a race I was 100% peaking for, so I knew it’d be close…

I had a lonnnnnng warm-up, over an hour, just spinning harmoniously on the shady side roads, music blasting in my ears, getting in the zone… And bizarrely, I was VERY calm: deep down, with my experience, I just knew if I went out there and rode to my potential, I COULD win the damn race. You just tell yourself these things, and you come to believe them… (NOTE: article on the psychological aspect of competing COMING SOON!)

So I’m the last of what seemed like 300 riders to go off. 15 flat miles… It was a big square, four turns, and each section offered distinct wind fragrances… Going out, I purposely held back — I will say this was THE most disciplined TT I’ve ever done. I was doing 31, 32 mph and I was deliberately holding the watts back a touch, just FAST conditions in that start — I’ll take it!

Toby Weatherall of Metra was my 30-second man, and I wasn’t really gaining on him. We were both flying. He has a WICKED position — all I saw was his ass, no shoulders, no head, just all ass, just all aero, very impressive seeing him hold the speeds… He’s a track specialist, an excellent roadie, but I was the time trialist, out here looking to not only win the Blueberry TT but take home the TT Cup, so I was hoping this motivation would help me claw him back…

And I did. I remained calm and started inching towards him, slowly… I’ve learned, over the years, and you hear this OVER AND OVER, that you need to remain steady. When you see a rider, do NOT jackhammer at the pedals, because you can — and will — pay the price for your aggression… So I remained acutely calm, just pounding out a steady effort at JUST below threshold, holding back a hair…

The beauty of the Blueberry TT is that EVERY mile was marked off, so no guess work with the pacing… I was in peak form, I was prepared for this specific effort, I was amped, and I felt strong, so at mile 7, as we were on the headwind side of the course, I started to dial it up — put it in death mode, see what the legs had.

And I slowly caught Toby, saw Phil Penman up the road, Cat-4 killer champ, and kept on laying on the gas, had that wonderful feeling like I just could not go hard enough… I hit the third turn, not knowing where Leach was or how fast he had gone, but I kept on telling myself I had to suffer more than him to take this home…

On the third section of the course, into a fierce headwind, it was mass carnage out there, riders ALL over the road, like everyone just hit the wall at this point, and I knew I had to keep going at monster pace, just felt possessed, just kept the head down, trying to churn a violently steady cadence, just praying to see that finish line sooner than later.

I hit that fourth turn like a frickin’ train, took it as wide as possible, almost not slowing down, knowing that the finish was one mile up the road? I was one hurting puppy here, and maybe I was giving back time to Leach, maybe I was not, but I yearned to cross that Finish Line faster than everyone who came before me. I just kept telling myself: GO FASTER. GO FASTER. GO FASTER. THIS ENTIRE YEAR COMES DOWN TO THIS FINAL MILE. YOU SLOW ONE BIT, YOU LOSE. FOREVER.

I’d lost many, many time trials by one second, two seconds, three seconds, probably at least 6-8 of them, and I was using these experiences as fierce motivation to murder myself. I was NOT going to let that happen again — 2nd place here would do NOTHING for me — I needed to WIN Blueberry to win the Cup.

Just gritted the teeth and pushed all the way, saw that line — when I crossed, I had that magical, priceless feeling that I couldn’t have gone one second faster. At Long Meadow, I just felt like an axe murderer, was floating fast out there, just flying. But at Blueberry, certainly not true foom foom, not that sweet pain, the form certainly had waned, I was pushing my luck, but I pushed myself with precision and knew I actually rode as fast as I could.

As I rolled around, not knowing how I’d finished, I was truly content: I had done what I could, had dug so deep and was able to find deep strength on a painful day. If I won, I won. If I took 2nd, I’d be happy, too — I did what I could, and that’s really all you can ask.

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But when I saw I’d won, I went numb. I won the overall, I won the TT Cup — a LONG time coming… Dave Freifelder and I had gone back and forth all year. He won Sandy Hook and Readington, I won Cape May and Somerset, he beat me at Jersey Shore, I beat him at States, he beat me at Upper Freehold, Flanders, and Kingwood, and then I finished strong and won Long Meadow and Blueberry… I was SINCERE when I congratulated him after Kingwood, was not expecting to win…

With my knee injury from 2009, I felt massive vindication to come back and ride so well… I’d worked SO hard in 2010, and to see it all come together in one day was hugely gratifying… Words, no matter how three-dimensional you attempt to make them, really can’t do the feelings justice… Just a wonderful day, surrounded by athletes with whom I’m friends and respect deeply… I could not have written a better ending to my season, just a fairy tale out there…

Then I went out and had a 2-hour lunch with my closest friends in the cycling community, the best meal I’ve had all year.

And, Roy Vaccaro of Jimenez Velo Sport had a strong ride to sew up his podium in the Cat-4 TT Cup race!!! He and Mark Curran had battled closely all year, and Roy wanted it BADLY, and it came down to just a handful of seconds between them… Mark’s a good friend, but I coach Roy and even though I was torn, it was hugely emotional seeing Roy WIN.

The moment I crossed the line, I went searching for Roy, to see how it went… That’s just the way it is over here…

Should note that these NJBA TTs, they can’t be better organized. It’s amazing seeing the progression from 2000 to now, just amazing — you must experience them yourself to see what I’m talking about… On the podium, I was handed a bottle of wine, a winner’s check, a Nike cycling shirt, a TDF cap, and a handshake, things I will hold onto forever…

The day after Blueberry, I had a great day with friends and Elite Endurance athletes at the Ramapo Rally. We pounded out 100 miles, sometimes at leisurely, sometimes at race pace, had a ball. There were like 7 Elite Endurance athletes hammering a rotating paceline, and a few non-EE riders were there, and one says to me, “When we slowing down?” I smiled — “We ain’t slowing down.” Lol, and those guys ended up getting dropped… Wonderful seeing these guys strut their stuff, opening the engine a bit — just a terrific day in the saddle…

My competitive brain pretty much popped post-Blueberry. I shut it down almost completely. Paleo Diet? Lol, I started on a diet of beer and cheeseburgers, gained 14 pounds in two weeks, really went into Chill-Out Mode — and ENJOYED it, something few riders can’t allow themselves to do… But I’m good at this — it’s something that we endurance athletes must learn to do, and do WELL! 🙂

In late-August, I took a vacation up to Kingdom Trails, VT, rode the MTB everyday for 4-5h for a week, just blasting fast trails, hit up Barre Mountain’s Millstone Hill on the way home, epic riding up there… Then I took another week to explore local and not-so-local MTB trails, almost exhilarating to get away from everything for 2 weeks — and still able to work freely while on the road, coaching from hotel rooms. Very liberating…

The end of summer has brought some terrific results for Elite Endurance athletes, and I’d like to share a few here, off the top of my head:

Julie Jones of the Montclair Bikery, first-year roadie, finished 2nd overall in the Cat-4 NJBA TT Cup!!!

Peter Warner of WWVC put in a rock-star performance and WON the overall at the Tour of Millersburg! HELLO!!!! We planned for this peak, and he MADE IT HAPPEN. HUGE congrats, Mr. Warner!!! HUGE day!!!

Then Warner WINS the MABRA Championship TT the following weekend — so apparently the peak worked 🙂 His blog, full of recaps, pics, and videos, can be found here: http://www.pwarner1.blogspot.com/

Sean Pasieka of Team Propeller WON the Marlton Criterium!!! First of many to come, my friend… A few weeks later, Sean went on to take 6th in the NJ State Criterium Championships — not bad for a first-year racer who was getting dropped in April!

Shawn Erickson of the Tenafly Bike Workshop took 5th at the Maltese Invitational in Central Park, then a few weeks later took a massive 3rd at the Bear Mountain Road Race, our season goal… Way to get it done, Shawn — his e-mail to me post-race is getting framed and hung on my office wall, just wonderful, wonderfu stuff, really touched my heart…

Eric Kuo of Setanta WON a CRCA Park Race in C.P.! He FINALLY timed the sprint right and took the victory…

Kirt Mills of MTBNJ.com has been on a tear!!! He WON the Bear Creek Mountain MTB race, then WON the Blue Mountain Race, and just today, he WON the NJ State MTB Championships!!!

Kirt Mills, State Champion!!!! Hello!!!! Talk about peaking at the right time. This periodization stuff is pretty potent, eh Kirt? 🙂 Huge, HUGE congrats here — doesn’t get any bigger than that…

And Max Nerges of Jimenez Velo Sport WON the beginner class, State Champ #2.

And Wendi Sebastian of Team Bulldog took 2nd in the Pro/Open Women’s class, just a Gladiator School day all around — on the biggest day, too…

Today at States, I ended up being Mr. Nice Guy and letting many pass early on, then charged back to finish 5th, just a few seconds off 3rd. As a roadie, we need more laps out there But still had a BLAST, hootin’ and hollerin’ all the way to the line…

But just being out there with these athletes, rooting, hollering, feeding, congratulating, watching, understanding, even just listening, just bringing pure raw positive energy, just exuberant enthusiasm, bringing sincere affection, I see how it affects these riders, and it’s a wonderful dynamic. I’m learning, the more I do this, that I really am much more Coach than Athlete… and that is 100% okay with me — and this is saying a lot, as I’m 30 years old, in my athletic peak.

Today at the State MTB Championships, my race almost didn’t matter? Seeing all these athletes kick ass moved me tremendously, and it motivates me to become a better and better coach. The potential feels almost limitless, how much we can feed off each other, both athlete and coach… Potential is a scary thing, and it’s very hard to fill to the brim, but sitting here right now, I have never been more driven to get the best out of each and every athlete I coach… And it’s just the start of great things to come…

Laura Winberry of Team Elite Endurance Training Systems, who is living the dream of a professional athlete out in Bend, OR (just picked up and moved out there this January) recently participated in her first professional cross race out there in Bend and took an impressive 4th (and this after a recent trip to Jersey, just landed back in OR the night before)!!! Impressive because we’re planning her peak for DEC, when the bigger races roll around… Very, very happy reading her race report, as she’s not even 80% race-ready yet… She’s now in the biggest pool in cross, and she’s already floating near the top… All that hard work, over the last 4 years, is really paying off, Miss Winberry… In this sport, the cream, it always rises to the top…

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Over here, Chill-Out Mode was a good 30+ days… I’m getting a cross bike from Van Dessel and plan to casually race the NJ Cross Cup ’til November, which is when we have the Cross State Championships (at Hidden Valley this year)… Won’t be doing any specific prep, have zero aspirations, just want to get out there with buddies and offer support for my athletes… For now, just riding the PowerCranks casually twice a week, MTBing casually a few times a week, taking days off when I want.

That’s it from over here… I apologize for the delay in posting, but it’s illegal to post any diary entries when you’re on mental and physical vacation. True story

Hope to see you all on the roads — or in the woods — or on the cross courses — in the very-near future… Thanks for reading.

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | | |