Kirk Carlsen(Jelly Belly)Has The Magic Beans At The Snelling Road Race


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Kirk Carlsen(Jelly Belly)Prevails At The Snelling Road Race
©Alex Chiu

Winter training is officially over for most in NorCal. Snelling, basically the fastest race of the year, (everyone is so fit due to no rain the entire winter) is the usual “wipe the cobwebs off the race bike” first race. Every field is practically full, and riders are chomping at the bit to show off their white, untanned, freshly shaven legs. Ahhh racing has begun.

 

The Pro race started off super fast. Everyone was gung-ho to make an impression on this early season race. There were many teams of 10 riders, and each year, it seems like the recruitment of riders and teams gets bigger. This year, Marc-Pro Strava, Mikes Bikes, Vu-Medi, and Squadra are fielding some great competitors. It’s nice to see the sport picking up around here, teams like Vu-Medi and Mikes Bikes really focusing on development and mentorship.

 

Anyway, the first two laps were blistering. Each team wanted to have representation off the front in the break. So, if there wasn’t a team member up the road, then someone would try to get across, or the break was neutralized. After I tried a few times to get in the break with the right mix of riders, I decided that at 30 mph average, anyone getting off the front had a long shot. So, since I was the sole rider from Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis in the race, I sagged to the back of the race and sucked wheels.

 

When you are your only teammate, it makes these local races tactically harder then most UCI races. So,  in this chess match, you’re constantly protecting the King. If you make a few wrong moves, you leave your King unprotected and vulnerable. But, if you play a strategically sound game, you can take down your opponent when the opportunity arises. You don’t want to go into a knife fight without a knife, you want to bring a bazooka.

 

Snelling, for me, was a waiting game. You basically had to outsmart your opponents, wait for the right moment, and commit 100 percent. Since the first few laps were so fast, I knew that everyone was burning up their matches early. There are only so many times you can attack before your magic beans run out. With around 3 laps to go, I started making my way back up toward the front. I started feeling that the pace was starting to slow and people were getting tired. This is when I started really watching for the right mix of riders, from the right teams, go up the road. I started using my “pawns”.

 

With two laps to go (11 miles per lap) all of the sudden, the right mix of riders were going up the road and the next thing you know, 10 guys have a major gap on the peleton. Out of those 10 guys, eventually 7 men were left standing. Those riders, Colin Daw (Mikes Bikes), Adrien Costa (Hagens Berman) , Chris Reikert (Mikes Bikes), Max Jenkins ( Marc-Pro Strava), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Jamis), Tyler Brandt (Stage 17) and myself were left to duke it out for the finish.

 

The cohesion in the group dwindled immediately. It seemed like no one wanted to sprint from the group. Naturally, people started attacking. I think that Ben and Chris were playing a little bit too much cat and mouse, and eventually took themselves out of the break. I think these two were probably the stronger sprinters of the group, so it worked out for the rest of us.

 

The group started rotating well together, with some minor hiccups along the way. You have to understand that in order to make it to the finish without being caught as a group rotating is much easier then going out and trying to solo the last 10 miles. If you want to win solo, you must wait until you know you’re able to go “full gas” to the finish without blowing yourself to smithereens. Attacking from so far to the finish was not the brightest idea, unless there was a massive climb to the finish. But, Snelling is a flat and windy course. So, if you’re not a sprinter, the odds of winning from a small break compared to the entire field are much higher, you have to try to work together to make it near the finish. When you know that you’re going to make it to the finish with the “break”, then you can start playing games.

 

These games started with about 5 km to go. Attack here, get caught, waste energy, etc. It’s easy to sit in the draft on a flat road with no wind. With 2 kilometers to go Max Jenkins attacked and got a healthy gap. Then, the remainder of us just kind of starred at each other. “No you pull….No you chase it down….” That’s what was happening. So with about 1 kilometer to go, I no longer wanted to risk the games. And at this point, I knew I could make it to the finish in one effort without blowing up. I attacked, got a gap, and never looked back. I took the final corner in front of Max, almost going off the road (Snelling roads are very bumpy). I almost died on the rise to the finish, but I’m pretty sure so did everyone else behind me. Tyler Brandt did a fantastic ride to finish second and Max hung on for third.

 

It was super satisfying watching this race play out. It seems like people are riding very aggressively this year and putting their efforts out on the line. I hope the races continue this way, as they should. Hard racing and having fun is the way it should be. “Look, I won this sweet T-shirt!”

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Snelling Road Race Tee.

 

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Tour of Utah

MorganSchmitt

Morgan Schmitt (Jelly Belly)

By:Morgan Schmitt (Jelly Belly)

The Tour of Utah dubbed “Americas toughest stage race,” certainly lived up to its name. I have just completed my fourth edition and this year’s race was by far the most challenging route yet. So challenging some of us riders joked throughout the week of how a commemorative belt buckle or something upon completion of the tour would be a nice consolation prize. Despite its difficulty, we were given a totally new perspective of Utah’s beauty since this is the first time they included sections of Southern Utah. This part of the state is truly unique and every once in awhile when I wasn’t staring at the wheel in front of me I could catch glimpses of the scenery and realize why much of it is designated as national parks.

My Jelly Belly team had our share of small success throughout the week. We notched up two top 10′s and were represented in numerous breakaways. More importantly, we gained confidence for the upcoming USA Pro Challenge which is better suited for our squad especially with more sprint finishes for our current US national champion Freddie Rodriquez and a time trial for our TT specialist Sergei Tsvetkov.

For me the Tour of Utah was a bit of a relief since I hail from sea level and my altitude preparation seems to be paying off. I still wasn’t able to climb with the high altitude specialists but,  I was able to climb well for myself and assist the team during the tour. After a week of challenging racing and now a week of recovery the team and I are excited to be racing at USA Pro Challenge!

 

Recap- Awbry Butte Circuit Race-Tvetcov and McGrath win Cascade Cycling Classic Overall Classification.

Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic

Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic

Stage 5 – Awbry Butte Circuit Race.

Tvetcov and McGrath win Cascade Cycling Classic Overall Classification.
The circuit race is another long standing course for Cascade. It’s a challenging circuit with the main features being the climb out of Tumalo Park and the climb of Archie Briggs. The first climb is a main road climb leading to the feed zone and a long false flat leading to Archie Briggs. This climb begins with a fast twisting descent into a 15% wall followed by more false flat and kicking up to the final stair step KOM summit.  The rest of the course is undulating with fast descents and exposed sections. A well balanced course which comes at the end of an aggressive week of racing.
The men’s race began at 1 PM and as has been the case with every race so far, once the flag dropped at the end of e neutral zone, the attacks began. Immediately, the 150 man field was strung out as it serpentined across the road.  Small groups would escape only to be brought back. This  pattern continued past the first climb of Tumalo Park. The field stayed together but was single file over the top. The attacks continued with 5 Hour particularly active today. Once the over Archie Briggs a group of 20 was able to get away but this too was pulled back. The peloton, which was being lead primarily by Jelly Belly riding for yellow jersey wearer Tvetcov, was not going to let anything go unless it had the right combination of riders.
Coming into the Tumalo Park climb on lap 2, a group of 12 had managed to get off the front.  This group had 25 seconds over the top of the climb and quickly increased to 55 seconds entering Archie Briggs. The group was working well together with no one sitting on.  Flavio Deluna of SmartStop- Mountain Khakis took the KOM and the break had increased their gap to 1:15 over the peloton. The break was well represented with single riders from Bissell, Optum, Giant, Bontrager, BMC, Jelly Belly, 5 Hour, SmartStop, Hincapie, Astellas Oncology, and 2 Hagens Berman riders.
Lap 3 saw this gap increase to its largest gap of 1:45 as they crested the Tumalo Park climb. Deluna again took KOM over the Archie Briggs climb with the breaks gap at 1:15. Jelly Belly were controlling the break and riding strongly on the front. It seemed that the race was shaping up for a fast finale.
As lap 4 began, the gap was down to 1:05 and would drop to 40 seconds only to increase again to 1:10. Clearly the two groups were figuring out their tactics for the final phase of the race. As lap 5 began the peloton had swallowed up the break but two riders attacked and established a small gap. Eric Marcotte of Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker and James Oram of Bontrager Cycling held onto a tenuous 15 second gap all the way to the Archie Briggs climb. It was a strong move but just too much to ask with this motivated field behind. The race was all together leading into the fast final 5 km. Four riders managed to get a small gap leading into the final 500 meters of the race with Rosskopf of Hincapie Sportswear taking the spring with teammate Clark taking second and Mancebo of 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda taking third.
It proved to be an important sprint win for Rosskopf. With the time bonuses available on the stage he jumped to 2nd overall.  Tvetcov of Jelly Belly p/b  Kenda took the overall honors with Chad Haga of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies hanging onto 3rd
The women faced 3 laps and 51 miles of the Deschutes Brewery – Awbry Butte Circuit Race. With a more established GC, the race was really going to have to some fireworks to shake up the final. The women’s race was run at an aggressive pace as was evidenced by the continual number of riders shed off the back.  A motivated Team Exergy Twenty 16 did a very good job of controlling the race for their yellow jersey wearer McGrath.
The stage came down to two riders with Amanda Miller of Team TIBCO taking the days honors with Jade Wilcoxson of Optum p/b Kelly Benefits taking second. Lauren Rauck Komanski of NOM and Novartis for MS came in a minute later and took the sprint for 3rd.  McGrath came is few seconds off of  Haeusler of Team TIBCO but remained safely in yellow to take the final GC. Haeusler remained in 2nd overall with Abbott of TIBCO rounding out the podium.
The 2013 Cascade Cycling Classic produced some aggressive and tactical racing.  The women’s race saw an aggressive Team TIBCO race hard from the start and establish the hierarchy that would see McGrath take a well deserved win.  The men’s field was tightly contested with all the teams riding hard right to the final sprint.  At times it appeared to be a battle between the old and new guard with the final result being some fantastic racing.
The race is obviously embraced by the Bend community. The race organization and number of volunteers was impressive to say the least. It’s an incredible event that should remain in high standing on the NRC calendar or years to come.
-Travis Dixon

Magner,Hall Win Downtown Twilight Criterium

Twilight Crit Cascade

Twilight Crit Cascade

Stage 4, Bend Downtown Twilight Criterium took place Saturday July 20th. The men and women were able to enjoy a late start time to give their legs some needed recovery from the tough 4 days of racing they’ve experienced so far.  The rectangular course is a straight forward design. The only real ‘obstacle’ being turns 3 and 4 where the road narrows making positioning onto the long final straight important.  Essentially this translates into an extremely fast course.  The long finishing straight to the line puts an emphasis on teamwork and a solid lead out. Added to this was a headwind meaning that the winner would have to time their sprint perfectly.

The women were first to start. As has been e case throughout Cascade, the pace was high right from the gun. There were many attacks but apparently none had the right combination of teams represented or horsepower as the field remained together and strung out for the entire race.
As the riders began the final lap team NOW and Novartis for MS took charge at the front with three riders stringing out the remaining peloton.  The sprint was incredibly close and came down to a photo finish with Lauren Hall of team Optum p/b Kelly Benefits taking the win by the narrowest of margins. 2nd went to Shelley Olds of Team TIBCO with Allison Powersnof NOW and Novartis for MS rounding out the top three.  The GC remained unchanged with McGrath of Exergy Twenty 16 in yellow followed by Haeusler of Team TIBCO and Abbott of Exergy Twenty 16 in 3rd.
The men began at 7 PM but the temperatures remained high with many riders packing ice into their skinsuits in an attempt to keep their core temperature down before the fireworks began for the 75 minute race.  The men’s field had been reduced to 150 riders from the original 200 and the field would be much less than this by the finish.
The men’s race was full-on right from the gun. The 150 man field was single file for the first 20 minutes with many laps averaging over 32 mph. As the field began to show signs of strain under the unrelenting pace a group of 5 riders managed to get a gap.  This front group fluctuated in numbers from 5 to 3 to 8 and always hovering around 10 seconds. Team Jelly Belly and Team Cash Call kept the move in check. The break was finally reeled in at the 46 minute mark but the pace was beginning to take it’s toll on the rest of the field as riders were continually being dropped from the pack.  With roughly 10 minutes to go Team Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker took control of the front but it was team Optum with Tom Zirbel leading the way who took over with 3 laps to go. Zirbel put his TT legs to work and tapped out a lap and a half  at 32 mph when a crash on the backside of the course created a split. Optum controlled going into the final lap but it was the U23 national criterium champion,  Ty Magner of Hincapie Sportswear, who took the win. Jasper Stuyven of Bontrager Cycling Team 2nd with Ignazio Moser of BMC Development Team taking 3rd.  The GC remained with Tvetcov of Jelly Belly p/b Kenda leading, Haga of Optum p/b Kelly Benifit Strategies in 2nd, and Jakub Novak of BMC Development Team in 3rd.
Tomorrow concludes this edition of the Cascade Cycling Classic with the Aubry Butte Circuit Race. For the women, McGrath and her team seem to be in control but its a challenging course at the end of a week of aggressive racing. Haeusler and the rest of the field should make it interesting for team Exergy. On the men’s side, this race is still up for grabs.  There is only 9 seconds separating the top 3 and only a 1:15 separating the top 10.  Tomorrow should produce some incredible racing.
As a final note, the podium for tonight’s crit were all U23 men. Remember their names as I am sure we will be seeing more of them in the future.
Travis Dixon

Recap-Stage 3 Cascade Cycling Classic

Stage 3 Cascade Cycling Classic

Stage 3 Cascade Cycling Classic

Stage 3 of the Cascade Cycling Classic was run on the Cascade Lakes course. This is a long standing course for this event. The course doesn’t have the amount of climbing that Stage 1 but many in the field feel that this is the toughest stage. The course is unrelenting, constantly up and down and then finishes on the 5 km climb of Sparks Lake. This climb isn’t particularly steep but considering its placement on this stage, it certainly makes the legs and lungs hurt.

 

The men were to ride 90 miles. The BMC Development team had the responsibility of defending the yellow jersey for Novak and with this stacked pro field they definitely had their work cut out for them today. The race began with a 3 mile neutral and as soon as the flag dropped the attacks began. Groups of 10-20 riders would escape only to be brought back and then another group would break … BMC were placing men in each group but it was becoming clear that yellow jersey wearer Novak was not having a good day and many times BMC would call back their riders to help pace the yellow back and bring the group together. The other teams had no mercy and kept firing away at BMC until mile 61 when a nine man group was able to break clear. As the final climb began, the escapees were swept up and 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda got to the front and set a hard pace in hope of launching Mancebo but the rest of the field was strong enough to resist the pace. Seghei Tvetcov of Jelly Belly p/b Kenda took the stage. This was his second stage win in as many days. Travis McCabe of Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker took second followed by Chad Haga of Team Optom p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies. Mancebo of 5 Hour Energy finished 5th with the same time as Tvetcov. Former yellow jersey Phillip Gaimon of Bissell Pro Cycling was 8th 2 seconds down. Novak finished 23rd for the day 17 seconds down followed by his teammate, Eisenthart.

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Recap-Prologue at the Cascade Cycling Classic

Prologue at the Cascade Cycling Classic

Prologue at the Cascade Cycling Classic

The 2013 Cascade Cycling Classic stage race began tonight with the Prologue, which created a few surprises. The 109 rider women’s field began at 6 PM on the  counter clockwise 2.5 mile circuit. The course featured a fast downhill start with less than 200 feet of elevation gain to the finish.  Defending champ, Alison Powers, of NOW and Novartis for MS, was the last to start and delivered the fastest time of the day, being the only woman to go under 5 minutes. Her winning time of 4:53 was quite impressive and definitely let the rest of the women know that she is ready to defend her title. Shelley Olds, of Team TIBCO, put in a strong ride to place second. Laura Brown, of Team Colavita-Fine Cooking, rounded out the top three. The best young rider was another TIBCO  rider,  Jasmin Glaesser.Alison Powers
The men’s prologue began immediately after the conclusion of the woman’s race, and with 201 riders, there couldn’t be any delay. Robert Sweeting of 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda began 58th and set a scorching time of 4:28. Sweeting had to wait over an hour before the final ten riders were on the course. With the likes of Zirbel, of Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies,  defending champ Mancebo, of 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda,  and Philip Gimon of Bissel Pro Cycling,  it was a long wait. However, these top riders couldn’t come close to the time that Sweeting posted.  Timothy Rugg, of Kelly Benefit Strategies, started the prologue 8th and apparently didn’t fancy his chances for the podium because as he was running back down to the finish, putting his jersey back on saying, “I already went home!” Rugg took 2nd, while Sergei  Tvetcov , of Jelly Belly p/b Kenda,  put in a strong ride for 3rd place. Best young rider was Ty Magner, of Hincapie Sportswear. It was a strong performance for the 22 year old rider, as the men’s field is stacked with strong U23′s.Robert Sweeting
The Cascade Cycling Classic began with some impressive riding and a few surprises. Tomorrows stage promises to produce more great racing and more surprises.
- Travis Dixon

 

Tour of Lawrence

Tour of Lawrence
by Brad Huff (Jelly Belly)

Who knew that only a 3-hour drive from my home town was an amazingly progressive college town known as Lawrence, KS? Lawrence is typically known for its dominating basketball program run by head coach Bill Self, who has been known to show up to watch a few races of the Tour of Lawrence.  Although this weekend it was not Jayhawk fans flocking to the city, but hundreds of the midwest hardmen and women of cycling, ready to tackle the difficult 3 days of racing known as the Tour of Lawrence.

Friday night starts the event off with 200-meter street sprints.  Now, these are not the biggest hit with the racers, but the fans love the excitement they create with each standing start throw down.  It is an open women and opens men category, so cat 5′s up to cat 1′s all race together, with maybe a lonely pro thrown in there.  This race isn’t about throwing down the largest peak wattage, but more so the quickest wattage in the right gear.  Go too big of a gear and you go home early.  Go too small of a gear and you are quickly passed by once you hit 100 meters to go.  It’s all about starting in the right gear, then quickly shifting to keep that correct gear for your quickly accelerating speed.  1 or 2 quick poll setting sprints and the random bracket system is set.  Here they like to go top 2 out of 4 advance.  Luckily for me I was just barely fast enough to keep advancing until I found myself in the final sprint of the night.  Up against last years champion, Colton Jarisch of Think Finance Cycling Team, and several other cottages of wattage, I knew I had my work cut out for me.  Luckily for me my legs were up to the challenge and I was able to get off to an early lead and hold on ’til the line.   I don’t think my Quarq is totally correct, but I’ll say it’s kinda close ;)
Saturday is the most difficult circuit race in the midwest.  Circumventing the VERY hilly KU campus.  Yes I did say Kansas and I did say VERY hilly.  While racing around the KU campus, I can’t help but think back to the old movie qoute, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” but sadly I am in the heart of KU country and, son, it ain’t flat.  The mens P-1-2 race consisted of 14 laps of 3.5ish miles (I think), which totaled for around 5,500 feet of climbing in 50 miles.  From the start it is survival for me.  Lap after lap, I am doing my very best to stay with 2 of the midwest strongest, Joseph Schmalz of Elbowz Racing and Brian Jensen of TradeWind Energy Cycling Team, as they drag and decimate the field.  I cannot tell you how many times I was dropped over the course of this very hilly race, but it was more than 14.  I attempted to help my training partner, Eric Haynes of Mercy-Kuat, but I guess I only helped him quit the race earlier than he wanted by forcing him to follow my downhill pace-making (he is nowhere close to the same 180-pound-dump-truck-without-brakes downhiller as me).  Then telling him to bridge to the break.  Oh, and after I broke a spoke in his front wheel by supposedly coming over on him as I attempted to pull him to the break….I say 50/50 both to blame, he says 100% me.  Regardless, it didn’t work out.  Then I find myself with no more friends to help or work with as Joseph and Brian systematically accelerate at all the right parts to drop rider after rider, including me.  Joseph had 2 strong teammates left in the race with Matt Stephens (my former teammate) and Nick Torraca (who loved his 52 chain ring too much), both of which kept the pressure on to ensure no one, including me, had an easy ride.  Fast forward to the final few laps.  Joseph is solo, Brian is doing his best to drop the rest of us, and the rest of us are doing our best to just survive.  Well, except for Nick and Matt who had a pretty good control of the situation and Colton who would unluckily drop his chain on the 50+ mph downhill section.  YES 50+ mph!  In the end, Joseph wins his 3rd Tour of Lawrence Circuit Race, Brian just has his way with me to take an “easy” 2nd, and I hold on for 3rd.  I must say that the ride of the day came from 18 year old Nick Torraca of Elbowz Racing.  He was smashing his 52 chain ring all day and was able to ride off the front or bridge to any break on command.  I, for one, know for a fact I couldn’t have done one lap in this race at 18, let alone attack and work for teammates.  I look forward to seeing how the vast leadership of Elbowz Racing will help mold this great up and comer in to a feared rider in the US peloton.Tour of Lawrence
Sunday is my favorite, the criterium.  If my legs were not TRASHED from the difficult circuit race the day before.  Making matters worse, there are a lot of fresh legs in the crit.  Those of whom pulled the plug early yesterday and/or that came just for the crit.  Regardless, I was in the Danny Shan Clothing Company leaders jersey and I was not going to loose it without a fight.  Besides, I was attempting to win the criterium for the 3rd year in a row!  If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.  So the race is fast and stays fast, except for the monster headwind on the back side of the course, which helped breakaways to maintain their gap but also lead to the demise of breakaways because of the sheer difficulty of maintaining pace.  This worked out to my advantage a few times when serious threats would get up the road.  All I had to do was either keep the pace just fast enough to maintain the gap or stir the pot to entice other riders to take chase or bridge.  My secret teammate Eric was having a much better day, which took a lot of pressure off of me, but at the same time he is still learning the ropes.  I wasn’t able to fully rely on his diesel engine to bring a break back, so we did our best to cover dangerous breaks.  We didn’t always succeed at our plan, but thankfully other riders where just as interested in keeping things together until the right mix of riders got away.  The dynamic of the breakaway changed several times throughout the race.  In the end, after a constant onslaught of attacks, breakaways, and aggressive riding from just about every rider in the race, Think Finance Cycling Team showed they were the team with the most horsepower when it counted, taking control of the last 5 or 7 laps of the race.  It was always pretty, it wasn’t always the right pressure at the right time, but they figured it out and by the last 3 laps they were a well oiled machine.  All I had to do was maintain my position behind the Elbowz leadout train of 2 riders, which isn’t easy in a massive headwind when everyone and his teammate wants to be on my wheel or on Think Finance’s train.  On the last lap, it was the German powerhaus himself, Stefan Rothe of Tulsa Tough Racing presented by ICEdot (have you checked out the new ICEdot crash sensor?) who took over the real pace-setting through the headwind section and into the final few turns before Joseph took over with me glued to his wheel.  Around the final turn Joseph and I took it as fast as possible to ensure no one could risk our sure 1 2 finish.  In the final stretch I was able to time my jump just right as the line approached.  I succeeded in my goal of winning the Tour of Lawrence Criterium for the 3rd year in a row and securing my overall win for the weekend.

2 Days in Yellow at the Nature Valley Grand Prix

2 Days in Yellow at the Nature Valley Grand Prix

2 Days in Yellow at the Nature Valley Grand Prix

by Serge Tsvetkov (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)

This was my first time racing Nature Valley. When my team director told me after Redlands that I would race Nature Valley, I thought that would be great for me because the first stage is a time trial and important for GC contenders. I rode the TT course with my teammates the day before the stage and it didn’t look really technical, but that all changed when race day came. It was raining and chilly. As we warmed up under the tent, the rain came down harder and faster as my start time approached.

When I started, those turns, which I thought in my warm up wouldn’t be technical, became really slow and sketchy. When I finished, I saw that my time was 16:02. I knew that last year’s winning time was 15:56. I thought, “ok, I hope I will finish in the top five.” After I left, I saw that Chad Haga’s time was 16:15, which was impressive, Tom Zirbel and Chad Haga usually finish close to each other. When I headed to the team car, Danny called me to tell me to get ready for the podium. I was happy, but didn’t know then that I had won the stage, I heard that on the way. I wasn’t expecting to get such a good result and my first NRC victory.

My team decided at the team meeting that afternoon to defend the yellow jersey. That evening was the St. Paul Criterium where there were time bonus sprints. My team did a great job leading me out for the two time bonuses. I placed second in both, which put me 6 seconds ahead of Zirbel. His teammate, Mike Friedman gained 8 seconds, placed 2nd on the stage, and moved into 2nd place in GC, 6 seconds behind me.

The third stage, Cannon Falls Road Race, was chaotic. At the 1st KOM, a breakaway formed that included 3 riders from Optum. They quickly worked hard to gain a 1-minute advantage over the group. I was with my teammate Morgan Schmitt and we tried to control the situation. After the Optum guys started to attack me, I decided to bring the most dangerous Optum guys back to the group because my teammates could help me hold off attacks later. Once back in the group, more attacks started from other teams. My teammates started to follow moves and soon they were all up front.  Brad Huff and I tried to bridge me up to the breakaway ahead, but it was too late. At that moment, we decided to go for a stage win because several of my teammates were ahead. In my group, we rode easy and I started to recover from the first part of the race and focused on racing for the victory.

On the next night, with the pressure of defending the yellow jersey gone, we were free to make some moves.  We got so close to the podium with Brad and Ricardo finishing 4th and 5th on the stage. I started Saturday’s road race in Menomonie thinking that it was a good course for me. Optum controlled the race to defend the yellow jersey,but when we get to the circuit I asked Freddie if I should bridge up to the breakaway or stay with him and lead him out for the sprint. He encouraged me to bridge up, so I did and soon found myself in the breakaway with 4 guys.  With 2 laps to go I tried to attack but had to settle for holding the wheel of Travis from Elbowz Racing. I knew he was a good sprinter, so I attacked again but he was strong enough to hold my wheel. He counterattacked on the last corner, got a gap that I couldn’t close, an I finished in second.

Day 5 brought on the final stage, the legendary Stillwater Crit with its 22% 0.4 km climb on each of 20 laps. Our strategy was to ride smart on the stage, take some sprint points so that Ricardo could secure the points jersey, and set Freddie up for the finish. Optum controlled the race from the start, chasing down attacks from teams with GC contenders.  With four laps to go, I found a moment to attack on Chilcott Hill. I had a 10-second advantage, but that wasn’t enough and I was caught with 1 to go. Freddie finished strong, just missing the podium with a 4th place finish on the stage.

So, Nature Valley is in the books with a great start to the second half of the season for Team Jelly Belly p/b Kenda. In the end, we spent 2 days in yellow, won two stages, and came home with the sprint jersey. It was pretty exciting to see someone from the team on the podium every day and this was good preparation for the team for the next block of racing leading up to USA Pro Challenge.

 

Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly) wearing Stars and Stripes

Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly) after winning it all!

Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly) after winning it all!

 

USA PRO Road Race Championships:

Brandon: Freddie Rodriguez, recently signed to the Jelly Belly pro team, shocked the cycling world by unexpectedly winning his fourth national championship.  Fast Freddie’s victory in Tennessee just goes to show that the sprinter’s recent string of results aren’t a fluke.  He last won a national title in 2004, the year that he also won a stage of the Giro d’Italia.   At what point did it get into his head that he would stage a comeback after nearly a decade without national-calibre victories?

 

Freddie: “When I first started with Jelly Belly, the first goal was to come in and do well at the US National Championship,” Rodriguez says.  “I said in my mind that I was there for the win.  There’s a lot of variables, and they added a longer hill, but I knew that if I was strong and smart there was a chance that I could be there for the sprint.

 

Freddie:“I knew that if I could make it over [the mountain] I would be the only sprinter who could make it over.  My team did a great job of getting me in position and in the last kilometers I knew I had a pretty good chance of winning.”

 

Brandon: For Rodriguez, having a high “cycling IQ” pays off in one-day races like nationals.  He knows there are a lot of variables, but that riders really have to know when to throw their cards down and when to make the right efforts.

 

Some people might think that Rodriguez would have slipped under the other racers’ collective radar, that nobody would have given him a thought as a serious contender.  But he gives his opponents in the national road race all the credit they’re due.

 

Freddie:“They were looking around and they knew I was there,” he said.  “Most of those guys were climbers and they knew they’d have to win from a breakaway, so they were attacking each other all the way in.  I just tried to neutralize all that.  When Phil Gaimon went up the road, that actually brought the race back under control.  It was a little nerve-wracking because we had to bring him back, but it evened out the free-for-all that had been going on and made it a better race for a sprinter.”

 

Brandon: Rodriguez doesn’t think that this victory is any more significant than anything that’s come before.  In fact, he sees it as perfectly natural now that he has a good team behind him, one that he’s working well with and pleased to be a part of.  He had a lot of difficult years.  With the failure of Rock Racing and subsequent financial turbulence, it’s been a rocky road for Fast Freddie.  Looking into the camera after nationals, he yelled, “I’m back!” He’s been focusing on his family and other aspects of his life in recent years.

 

Freddie:“For me, this is more of a start,” he says about winning another national title and starting a career with Jelly Belly.  Now that I’m racing at the top level again, I’m hoping to use this to get really good and head to Utah, Colorado, and Alberta to have a good time racing my bike.”

 

Brandon: Fast Freddie will have a target on his back in Philadelphia next weekend, a race that he loves.  He may be pushing forty, but he’s still got it.

Remember to visit and support Freddie!

www.fastfreddieapparel.com andwww.ffgranfondo.com

 

Fred Rodriguez Signs with Team Jelly Belly

Fred Rodriguez Signs with Team Jelly Belly

Fred Rodriguez Signs with Team Jelly Belly

 

Three-time U.S. National Champion in Road Race Fred Rodriguez Signs with Team Jelly Belly p/b Kenda

 

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (May 7, 2013)

The Jelly Belly Cycling Team presented by Kenda has signed three-time U.S. National Champion and seven-time Tour de France rider Fred Rodriguez, it was announced today.

“We’re more than excited to obtain Fred Rodriguez and have him part of the team for the remainder of the season,” said team General Manager and Director Danny Van Haute. “Fred’s experience and leadership will be a huge asset for Team Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, not to mention he’s a great bike rider who will no doubt garner great results.” [Read more...]