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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 Georgia Cycling Gran Prix - Robert Loomis

This weeks entry is written by my friend Robert Loomis. He's a 22 year old first year bike racer who may be on his way to something us "old guys" have only dreamed of. His potential was first recognized by veteran racer Star Bridges who met him while riding in the GAP's. I still remember Star telling me about this kid with lots of natural power. Then Robert showed up at some Tuesday Night Throwdowns and I became a believer.

If you look back at my blog posts from the past you'll find it riddled with stories of potential and of failure. Robert has learned quickly about things we all take for granted like "the draft", "pedal-up cornering", and "crossing wheels". Star told us early on that when it comes to Robert and racing, "He's either going to crash...or win!" That pretty much explains the first half of our season racing with him. But the proverbial "back nine" for Robert has been truly unbelievable. He's won or been on the podium in countless races since June including the CAT4 State Championship, The Georgia Cycling Gran Prix Championship (5 Day Stage Race), and this weekend he won back to back at the Litespeed BMW Crit and Grant Park Crit's. It makes those of us who've been racing a long time just sit back and smile. The kid has real, God given talent.

Robert is being coached now by former Pro Cyclist Nathan O'Neill and it's paying off big time. We're expecting to wave bye bye to our phenom friend when he's forced up the ladder of pain to race CAT3. I'll miss being a small part of his successes but I look forward to watching his progress and living vicariously through him. So Robert...RACE HARD! You carry the dreams of all us "masters" who wish we'd have found cycling in our twenties.

I asked Robert to take his time and write down how the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix went down. What he sent me needed a little help but to preserve the integrity of his words I've limited my corrections to grammar only. You all will undoubtedly recognize youthful bravado in his writing. You may even mistake his confidence for arrogance. But trust me when I say that Robert is a good guy with a big heart. He's just not a writer.
Happily though, he does have a killer instinct to go along with his naturally twitchy muscle fibers.

Enjoy! And thanks Robert! 

2012 Georgia Cycling Grand Prix
The Story
Wed- Road Atlanta
I was pretty excited about this race. It was the opener of my first stage race, my family was going to be there, and it was on Road Atlanta. I arrived 2 hours before race time, just to relax and take my time warming up. I parked in one of the only shaded spots available and waited for the guys to start showing up. When all the guys, Chad, Sean, Marcus, Jesus or chewy I like to call him or Ovi (well he has many names…), Stephen and Trace all arrived we decided to take a few laps around the circuit. It was my first time riding around the track and I was very excited! I mean it's Road Atlanta! Well after we talked over our game plans we headed to the line. I was late to the line so that meant straight to the back of about 80 guys. I met Chad there and he reassured me that there was going to be plenty of time to make up the ground.

Off went the whistle and the race began! We headed up the 18% climb right out of the gate! I was sure that the climb was going to blow a lot of people off the back. My plan was to sit in as much as possible to keep energy for the rest of the week but I guess all the other guys had a different idea. Chad, Sean, Ovi, and Marcus stayed on the front and attacked one after the other. They were awesome! Sean and Chad went off the front and stayed there for about two laps. They were slowly brought back and right when they were back in the group Ovi and Marcus countered perfectly. They created a great gap and held it for a couple of laps. Some guys started to think that this was “the” break so three bridged across. Marcus and Ovi were slowly grabbed up by the field but the chasing three stayed off the front for the remainder of the lap.

When we started our climb up the hill yet again, I saw a guy move to the front and heard his teammate/coach yell, “BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK!!!” from the sidelines. So I knew he had a team mate up the road. I didn’t want him to hold me back so I went around him and started to bridge. I looked back and was amazed that I already had about a 15 second gap and the “blocker” was doing his job perfectly, so I lowered my head and hammered to the breakaway. As soon as I got there I told them that their team mate was going to block and I know my guys have my back as well. But I also told them that everyone has to work! I talked everyone up and told them how strong they were, how hard their pulls were, and anything else I could to get them to do more work than me. I can honestly say it paid off! I kept encouraging the guys and putting in some work of my own. We worked well together and listened to each other.
Then we crossed the finish line for what I thought was the last lap, although I didn’t hear a bell. I pulled hard for the first half to break everyone for the sprint then looked over and asked, “this is the last lap right??” Oh boy was I wrong; the guy looked over to me, smiled and said, “The bell lap is coming up….” So I sat in and when it was my turn to pull I wasn’t ready. I just yelled, “Not yet!” I stayed on his wheel for about 30 seconds more and felt recovered. I pulled hard to the next hill so I wouldn’t be on the front when the sprint came around. When I rotated back I moved immediately into second wheel and stayed there. INTO PIT ROW WE WENT!! About half a mile left.  I stuck to his wheel and tried to figure out when to sprint. I kept running through the advice Chad gave me about the sprint and how not to go too early! I got into the perfect gear for the sprint and just waited. I heard someone behind me click into a gear and stand up. It was now or never. I stood up and sprinted towards the line!! I made a good gap so I was able to cross the line first with my hands up!!  I rolled back towards the 18% hill and thought, “No way am I climbing that now!” so I cut through the grass and rolled back on the straight away next to the pit. I was excited and then realized I have a whole week of this?!
 I got back to the North Georgia guys who finished with me and congratulated everyone on their hard work. What a great race!
2012 Georgia Cycling Road Atlanta Race CAT4

Thurs- Gwinnett Center
Well this is how the day started off; I was meeting Sean to carpool from the Friendship Road exit at Publix. I got there about 15 minutes ahead of time. I sat there a while, wondering where Sean was when I got a phone call from him asking where I was. What?  I got out of my car and Sean said he was standing on his. He was nowhere to be seen! Then I realized… I got off an exit early! I’m at the wrong Publix! So I threw all my stuff back into my car and met Sean at the Gwinnett Center.
 One thing Sean is great at is finding shade, even when there isn’t any.  After circling the lot, he backed into a parking spot next to a small tree. In about 15 minutes his car was in complete shade!! I was very impressed.  
My mom and nephew arrived! I love having my family there.  I get my own cheering squad and it gives me a little extra motivation to do better. We rolled around the course and lined up. We were sitting there talking tactics when all of a sudden my sister Katie yelled my name? She was standing there with her husband, Jimmy.  I had no idea they were coming since they recently moved to Tennessee. Now the pressure was really on me.
The race began and the pace was high. There were attacks on every lap. I had to stay on the front and bring most of them back since everyone was already watching me for the points lead.  I had no idea who to watch and wasn’t thinking about the whole picture at the time, just concentrating on staying at the front. There were about 4 sharp corners that we took going about 35mph. During the first few laps we were flying down the back stretch and into a technical section. Just as we reached this section the guy on the front had a front tire blowout while cornering. I had only seconds to think about how to get out of the mess since I was only three wheels back. He took out the guy in front of me too. I cut as hard as I could to the inside and made it around the carnage. I guess a couple of guys followed me and others were blocked off because all I heard in the back was, “GO!  GO!  GO!” So I pushed to keep the pace high and then pulled off to look for Sean. I heard another crash but was not in a place where I could see it. Apparently someone crashed in front of Sean so he had a choice of either eating pavement or grass. He chose grass. Good choice Sean, good choice!!
There were about three laps to go and a guy jumped off the front. He had a gap in no time. I looked back at Sean and told him that no one wanted to work. So he changed that and held an incredible pace for the last laps! Just what I needed for the sprint, I found out this week that having a teammate like Sean makes things a lot easier for you in the end and harder on everyone else! We were flying down the backside straight when two Frazier juniors jumped and tried to create a gap. I grabbed their wheel and stayed on it until the final stretch. We rocketed up the hill and I went to the left to try and make it around him! When all of a sudden a big sprinter named Marcelo arrived in my peripheral, he had a great jump and nipped me right at the line! I placed third and was very happy I could post a result for my sister and brother-in-law!

If you're interested in Friday's Road Race story you should check out Sean Philyaw's recollection of the race. Friday - Oxford Hills Road Race He WON IT in a solo breakaway!

Sat- Covington Crit/TT
It was 6:15am as I started my lonely drive down to Covington.  I was now three races into the six race series and feeling it. Sean won the Oxford Road Race in a solo breakaway the day before and I was hoping he felt so good about his win and his 30 points that he would crave a few more points and join me for the morning time trial. But he decided to make it a family morning and stayed home. He would join me for the crit at 6pm that night.
I arrived at 7:55 to warm up before my start time, which I didn’t know so I was in a little state of panic. I saw our friend Scott Morris from Lifetime Bikes and asked him if he knew my start time. He just replied that he didn’t know and that I needed to hurry and get warm so my legs felt good going from 0-100! So I quickly got all of my clothes on and got my bike ready to ride and went over to the start block to check the times, I went off at 8:34:30. It was 8:10 then so I had a little time. I went down and back on a small road and waited for my start time. There is not much to say about the TT, it was 3.16 miles down and back. It was down and back since we went downhill for most of the first 3.16 turned around and then came back up the hill. Since it was a TT I went as hard as I could from the start.  Once I got clipped in! There was no start ramp and no one holding you up so you had to get clipped upon starting. I fumbled with my cleat for what felt like forever and finally got clipped in and took off! I passed a couple of guys which felt good, but knew I was still at a disadvantage with my regular road bike and everyone else had some super awesome time trial bikes, disc wheels, and aero helmets.
While we waited for the times to be posted I rode around to cool down. I talked to Terry O’Toole, a master’s rider with the points lead. We cooled down and talked about White County for a little since he used to be Truett McConnell’s, a college in Cleveland, athletic director. Then he said to me, “You know if you win you’re going to have to shave your legs!” I just smiled and said yeah. He then said, “Once you do it you will never go back, my wife won’t even let me, she says if I stop riding I can’t stop shaving my legs.” I laughed and just shook my head. We talked for a few more minutes and wished each other good luck and parted ways.
I rolled back to the starting block and checked the results. I placed 7th and the guy behind me in the points lead placed 8th. That’s what I needed. I was 30 seconds down on first place. I felt good about the result. Our friend Scott Morris placed 2nd. Congrats to him! Well now what to do? It was only 9:30 and our race didn’t start until 6pm. So I headed over to Dunkin Doughnuts and grabbed a coffee and of course a doughnut. I was talking to Sean about my plans that day and just told him I was hoping to take a nap somewhere! He then said, “What about a library?” Genius! So I typed it in to the GPS and found one close by. Of course it was closed on Saturdays. But another was only two miles away. I drove there and they were opened until 5. I grabbed a couple of Nat Geos along with a MADD magazine, popped in some head phones and sat down on a sofa. I gradually fell asleep for about an hour and half! I felt great after the nap, but it was still only 1pm.  I typed in Smoothie King and drove 20 minutes to where there was no Smoothie King, only a pasture. Oh well at least I wasted some time.
Around 4:45pm the guys started showing up. Sean then Marcus then Ovi. I was excited because I didn’t know that Marcus or Ovi were coming. It makes a race that much more fun when you have guys you can work with. So we rolled around for about an hour and then saw all the guys lining up. We rolled over and the officials said to take a lap. We waited about 2 minutes and then slowly made our way to the very front. I was excited because I was right next to the barricades and could keep both feet clipped in. No fooling with my pedal this time!! The whistle blew and off we went. Sean immediately put everyone in the pain cave and kept it there for the first 15 minutes.  Marcus then went to the front and helped Sean out. They both did a great job because the field started out with about 80 and within the first few laps we were down to about 40! They kept on the front for 30 of the 40 minute race. The pace was very very high. Then Sean looked over to me and said, “Looks like you have a shadow!” I simply replied, “yeah I have a little puppy dog…” It was the junior rider second in series points. I guess his goal for the race was to stay where ever I was. I decided to make it a race so when we reached the sprint point with 5 laps to go I hammered up to the front and tried to shake him. I kept the pace up for a few laps then decided to let someone else do the work and save for the finish.

With two to go I was second wheel. The guy in front didn’t want to be there and kept telling me to move up. I just shook my head and stuck to his wheel. We rolled back through the finish for the FINAL LAP. The guy in front slowed down just enough to allow two guys to squeeze by. I followed their wheels and wouldn’t let them out of my sight. Sean and I looked at the finishing sprint before the race and gathered that there wasn’t enough room to make up any places, maybe one position. So the whole race I was looking for the spot to make my move. It was right after a left hand corner on an uphill stretch that led to a right-left chicane. After the last corner there was about 100m left to the finish. So right after the left hand corner I started my sprint. I went around the two guys in front and kept hammering all the way through the chicane to the finish. I held everyone off and crossed the line in first place with my hands in the air. The Frazier kid did a great job and stayed with me to finish second.  After the race the he and I talked on our cool down lap and congratulated each other on the race.
I finished my lap and there was Brandon Pruett and his family. They congratulated me on the win and we talked about the course and how the race went. Brandon and I started talking about his trip to Belgium. I was pretty impressed. He said he was nervous and excited, which is understandable. After our talk I clipped one foot in to go find the guys. Right when I did I saw a couple walking around me so I hit the brakes and tried to keep up right but it was too late. I had my weight on my left side and could not get my foot out quick enough. I fell right over onto the lady. Thankfully she had great reflexes and kept me up right but man did I feel embarrassed. After I said I was sorry about ten times, Brandon and his family and I talked about some of the other embarrassing things that have happened to us. I won’t mention any of them to save Brandon and me from any further humiliation. 
After I got my nerves back I checked the area for pedestrians, clipped in a rode back to the guys. I was telling Sean about the whole incident when Marcus over heard and said that his Mom told him the same story. She was the lady!! I spent the rest of our time trying to get back on her good side while we ate at the Italian restaurant on the square, which wasn’t very hard to do! We all had a great time and after dinner headed back home to get some rest.

Sun- Bates Circuit
The last race of the series!! It was down to me and the Frazier kid, or my “shadow” from Saturday named Alexander. I had an 11 point lead on second place so that would give me about 5 places to lose. I was coming into the race confident that Sean would be able to tear the field apart to give me the comfort room for the 5 spots. After talking to my coach Nate O’Neill, he said I should just watch Alexander and make sure he doesn’t get into a break.
Jesus, Chewy, Ovi, Sean and I lined up with Nate right at our side giving us more tactics and inspirational Aussie quotes. We were stuck a little far back so we quickly made our way up to the front and I grabbed Alexander’s wheel. Sean and I watched his every move and wouldn’t let him try anything. Of course Sean got on the front and hammered to keep everyone from attacking and it sure did work. A couple of people tried to attack but never really got too far. Sean just stayed on the front and brought everyone back. When the intermediate sprite came up, which had 3, 2, and 1 bonus points available for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively, Sean stayed on the front and I moved up next to him. Alexander was right on Sean’s wheel hoping to jump out at the sprint and gain a few more points. I rolled up next to him and boxed him in behind Sean. This was a funny ¾ mile because the kid was trying so hard to move around and get around us but we just stayed in the formation and kept him boxed in.  So when the sprint came up I was able to make an easy sprint to gain the 3 bonus points. Alexander came in second but with those points I then had 6 places I could afford to give up to him.
So the race went on and Sean kept killing everyone. The race was getting close to the end, 2 laps to go! At the hill on the back stretch I moved to the front and hammered to the top. My Shadow was back! Alexander followed me just like he did on Saturday. With the last lap to go I knew he was going to watch my wheel.  I allowed a couple of riders to attack and move up the inside before the last lap. I knew this was driving him crazy. I looked over my shoulder and told him, “All of your points are going up the road!” He needed to be one of the first guys across the line to gain enough points. So when he knew it was now or never he attacked. I grabbed his wheel and we caught up to the break. We were on our last lap!! We rolled into the right hand corner and into the back straight. Alexander’s teammate tried to block me against a rider and the yellow line and yelled, “GO, GO, GO!” I saw a hole over to the right and swung over to grab Alex’s wheel when he decided to take off. The group caught on behind us and everyone was riding together towards the sprint. I was right behind Alex in third wheel. We were getting close! I saw Chewy and told him to grab my wheel. He said he wanted to podium so I thought I would give him the lead out he was looking for.
 We were 500 meters to the line when all of a sudden I felt someone’s front wheel rubbing hard against my back wheel. I focused 100% on just keeping both wheels on the ground, then the rubbing slipped off and I heard a big crash. Chewy was right behind me so I worried it was him in the crash. But I couldn’t look back now or slow down or else I might cause another crash. I was glued to Alex’s wheel when finally he jumped out at 200 meters. We both sprinted as hard as we could. As we rounded the sweeping corner to the finish I passed Alex and took another first place finish. All the hard work that my teammates and I laid down throughout the week had paid off.  It felt awesome having all these guys there to race with and to represent racing in North Georgia.  All the guys did awesome, Chad, Marcus, Jesus, Chewy, Ovi, Nate and Sean. I couldn’t have done it without all your help on the road!!
I would say Dingo Racing had a great week as well, 5 out of 6 podiums and 4 out of the 5 were first places!! It feels good to represent our team so well!! Thanks again to Sean who every day was there at his own expense trying to work everyone over. He showed how great a cyclist/teammate he is!! The week was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again and maybe work for someone else next time around!! Thanks again guys!!

Robert Loomis
2012 Georgia State Champion CAT 4
2012 Georgia Cycling Gran Prix CAT 4/5 Champion

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