Woodlawn Criterium: D-Day

July 18th, 2006 by Karim Abdelkader

Vic, Sean, Chris, and I represented the team at the Woodlawn Criterium (held in Cincinnati, OH).  The course was decent (4 corners with mild inclines).  Weather was very muggy and hot (95 degrees for a 5 PM race – now that’s silly hot at that time of the day).

The pre-race prep started off (as usual) with one simple question (directed at my trusted coach/true love): “what’s the goal?” – – “win daddy” replies my 3 year old daughter Lena.  There you go.  Top 5 it is then.    I made a cardinal sin the morning of the race – I broke my routine.  Instead of having my usual bowl of cereal and fruit leading up to a race – I decided to have the mother of all breakfast burritos at the Village Deli (a Bloomington institution).  Bad move indeed.  By the time 2 PM rolled around – I was stopping every 10-15 minutes to “drop the kids off at the pool”.  I was suffering from a bat bout diarrhea (the explosive variety).  This was further compounded by a very hot day and only two days of riding the week before (due to business travel).  This was going to be a long 60 minutes in the saddle.

Although the field was not large, notable regional teams were represented (i.e. Nuvo/Bacardi, Mesa, TX RH).    Off we go.  All rode well covering moves in the beginning with Vic doing a great job closing a serious gap that split the field in half at one point.  Meanwhile, I was in the middle to rear of the pack trying to keep my burrito and other matter from spilling on the road.  As soon as I started feeling somewhat better, I began moving to the front.  As I was doing this, a move including Busa, Doyle, and Braumberger went off the front (with about 30-40 minutes left in the race).  This was my ticket.  I jumped on, and we cleared the field.  About 15 minutes later, 6 guys rolled up to us (with Sean in tow – beautiful).  The break is now 10 men deep (all the money is up the road with all major teams represented – the field has shut down).  Due to the mesmerizing heat, the speed was not very fast throughout the race.  What did not feel all that great were the constant yo-yo attacks/accelerations.  Once such attack (by Busa of TX RH) – caused a split in the break.  At this point, I was starting to feel crappy again (literally).  Luckily, Sean saved the day by riding tempo at the front – allowing me to get back in the winning move.  This series of movements unfortunately shelled Sean (although he gets the award of the day for selfless riding).  If it was not for Sean’s efforts, I would have probably pulled out of the race and ridden straight into the men’s room for another pit stop.  The break is now 7 men deep (Doyle, two TX RH, a Mesa rider, myself and two others).  Busa attacks (with about 15 minutes to go) with Mesa in tow.  Knowing that Braumberger and Doyle were the most dangerous, I stayed back (in retrospect I should have gone with this move).  This led to a slow and painful cat-mouse game that resulted in the two guys getting away with Mesa winning.  I sprinted in for 4th  (losing 3rd by a 1/3 of a wheel to Braumberger of TX RH).  Vic was able to break clear of the field near the end (with Rich D of Nuvo/Bacardi) and won his sprint for a solid 8th place finish.  Chris finished off the rest of the field with a solid sprint for 11th.  All in all, not a bad day at all (when considering the circumstances).  We are progressing nicely as a new team.  Next show will be held in Zionsville, IN.  Stay tuned!


Man-up or get out of the way,



Tulsa Tough Day 2 – Lady Luck Has Left The Building

June 7th, 2006 by Karim Abdelkader


I got up this morning very sore and stiff.  A poor night’s sleep did not help either.  We decided to spin around a bit downtown – before the race tonight at 7 PM.  Although the back was sore, my legs felt surprisingly good.  After scouting the courses for today and tomorrow we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation and deep meditation (kidding about the meditation part).    The race today is similar in length to yesterday (75 min) although not as technical (L shaped with slight elevations and a fast downhill turn before the finish).  


The field was about 100 or so strong today (some guys were not able to start due to the crashes from yesterday).  I was able to get another good starting position and off we went.  I reached a comfortable steady state (much sooner than yesterday).  Although flyers were going off constantly, the field pretty much stayed together.  With 10 laps to go – a field sprint was inevitable (perfect).  I marked the usual wheels and was in good position with 5 to go (top 15).  With 2 to go, 4 or 5 guys go down in the second to last turn.  Fortunately, this time, I had enough time to react.  I locked up both wheels – coming to screeching halt.  As the field passed me, so did my chances of another good finish.  That’s bike racing.  With my back as sore at is, I will more than likely not race tomorrow.  Although I did not place on either day of the Tulsa Tough, I am pleased with my fitness level and how I raced.  Lessons learned:  always take the inside line at the Tulsa Tough.  With some rest and family time, I should be good to go for Louisville next weekend.  See you at the next show!


Man-up or get out of the way,



Tulsa Tough Day 1 – Twilight Carnage

June 2nd, 2006 by Karim Abdelkader

Today marked the 1st day of the inaugural Tulsa Tough. The Tulsa Tough features 3 days of criterium racing in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. The purse is huge ($75,000 for the three days) with $10,000 up for grabs in each one of the Pro I/II races (25th place in any one day practically pays for all of your entry fees for the three days) – couple that with individual and team omnium purse and 100 plus dollar primes make for furious speeds, high risk-taking, and large fields (125 man filed limit was reached via online pre-registration well before the 1st day of racing began). Notable teams (i.e. Monex) and individuals (i.e. Eddie Gragus and Steve Tilford – both of which are longtime and established pros) were present. 1st race was the Blue Dome Twilight Criterium (race start time was 9:15 PM!). The course was technical yet fast (figure eight with wide corners, rough pavement, and a smattering of manholes strategically located in the corners).

The goal was simple for me: stay up right, mark the right wheels and finish in the money. Needless to say, I accomplished 1/3 of my goal (keep reading). There was a race before the race even began. 125 Pro I/II riders camped out at various strategic locations along the start/finish in hopes of getting a good start position at the line. As soon as the last rider from the previous race crossed the line – a mad stampede ensued as riders elbowed each other and spectators alike to get a good starting position. I was able to get a good start and off we went. As expected, the speed was absolutely furious (very little points were the speed dipped below 30 MPH). It took me a good 30 minutes before I was able to roll my tongue back into my mouth (and off the stem) and distinguish the shadows of the night from the potholes (its not very often that I do a crit with break-neck speeds at 9:00 PM). Once stable, I was able to move up and get into a comfortable state. As soon as I got to into the top 30 I began scouting for wheels that I needed to look for at the end. The speeds and nature of the course did not lend to successful breaks (although flyers were going off the front constantly). A field sprint was inevitable. Perfect. With about 10 laps to go all hell breaks loose. Smelling the purse at the end of the race, guys began taking unnecessary risks (the fatigue and nighttime conditions deceiving your senses did not help either). I was able to get through (barely) some sick crashes. With three laps to go, I was in a lovely spot – in the top 15, behind Tilford and Gragus with Gargusí team riding tempo at the front. At this point I was thinking “sweet, hold your position and get ready for the two-block sprint to the finish line for a top 10 placing.” As soon as this thought crept in my mind, riders began to go down on either side and in front of me (it was wild to see the sparks from bikes hitting the pavement at night). I had no room to escape and before you know it I was looking up at the streetlights. There was carnage all around me with guys moaning and groaning (about 20-25 guys went down). I was the last to be scrapped of the pavement by the volunteers before the field came back around again (about 53 guys did not finish due to the crashes). My lower back, ankle and bottom of foot were badly bruised along with some lacerations on the hands. I was taken to the hospital for some x-rays to make certain nothing was broken and to get cleaned up. Fortunately, the x-rays showed no damage. My traveling companions (Declan Doyle, Jeff Weaver, and Bennet V of Nuvo/Bacardi) were also not so fortunate. Bennet crashed with one lap to go. Doyle and Weaver got caught behind wrecks. Sled is in working condition. A few (10-20) ibroprofen and some ancient Chinese remedy ointment and I should be good to go for another day in the saddle tomorrow. Although I crashed, I felt good and was in position for a strong finish. Tomorrow is another day. Stay tuned.

Man-up or get out of the way,


Ahhh, Wonderful Winona

May 8th, 2006 by Karim Abdelkader

It’s the third season for the Winona Lake Criterium (near Warsaw), and for good reason: this is a race destined to become a regional classic. Set on pristine Winona Lake, mountain bikers and roadies alike discovered the beauty of the area in 2004 and have been flocking there in droves ever since.”  Teammate Chris Kroll (coming off a strong finish from the previous day’s Eagle Creek Criterium in Indianapolis) and I represented Tortuga/Big Brothers in the 1/2 field.  With decent cash, ideal weather, and a healthy field pre-registered – we knew it was going to be a good (but hard) day in the saddle.   The primary teams of focus were Bacardi (Bennet, Beason), TX RH (POD, CT, Clark), and ABD (Athletes By Design – a strong Chicago team) fielding 6 guys lead by the always-strong Puffer.

Upon quick survey of the ½ mile course and investigation of how the 1/2 race unfolded last year – – – our goal was simple:  DO NOT MISS THE MOVE!  The race started off very quickly – almost without Chris (in his ritualistic pre-race deep meditative state, Chris almost missed the start of the race – – that would have really sucked).  Anyhow, 15 minutes into the 60 minute race POD launches a wicked attack with Puffer, another ABD guy, Clark, and some FRED in tow.  At this point I am thinking to myself “this is silly early for a power move to go like this” followed by “for sure Bacardi or someone is going to bring this bad boy back or can take me up to it”.  Well, I was wrong.  Before I knew it, I was doing something very atypical – – I launched from the field (just before a semi-technical turn) and was clear – in pursuit of the break.  Now I remember why I despise TTs so much.  The 10 or so seconds it took me to bridge the gap seemed like an eternity in a lactic-acid filled hell.  But, I made it!  Yeah that’s right, check it.  Although the odds were against me (2 ABD, 2 TX RH, and some FRED) – – I felt good about my chances.  Once in the break, I thought I can just sit in and recover for a good bit.  Wrong again.  ABD and TX RH were driving the break pretty hard.  I took all of my pulls (yeah, that’s right) – although, not at the pace nor for the length of time the others were pulling (in spite of POD’s kind efforts to get me to do a little more work – he really was kind).  Come on, don’t be silly, I was out-numbered by two very strong teams (what did you expect?!).  After gaining 40 seconds on the field I am thinking “ok, lovely, the pace will settle and we’ll cruise into the finish line with all six guys intact – since the wind was brutal off the lake”.  Wrong again.  All hell breaks loose as an ABD guy (with Clark in tow) attack the break.  With Puffer and POD still left from the original break – my ass was staying put.  Realizing that Puffer was not going to do much more of the pace setting (since he had a teammate up front) and that the field is starting to close the gap – POD unleashes a series of attacks (attempting to bridge to his teammate and the ABD guy – and loose us mortal cyclist).  Puffer was not letting go of POD’s wheel nor was I of Puffer’s wheel.  Before you know it, we were catching the two escapees and the sixsome was back in business again (with even more momentum building).   With 20 minutes left in the race we begin catching dropped riders from the field (we clocked 1:07 on a few of the laps – ½  mile course – do the math – we were cooking).  Two laps later, the main field was in sight.  A lap later, we are on the heels of the pack.  A corner later, POD accelerates on the right side of the field as Puffer and I lose him (since we were accelerating to the left of the field).  An ABD guy (that was with us in the break) follows POD with CT, Bennet, and some others guys that were down a lap in tow.  At this point I had two choices 1) go solo again and risk blowing a gasket or 2) take my chances in the field.  I picked the later (wrong choice).  Despite Kroll’s heroic efforts in trying to bring the 10 seconds POD’s group had on us, we could not catch them.  The race was now for 3rd place.  With 7 minutes to go, I begin setting up behind Puffer.  With half a lap to go, CT (who came back from POD’s group due to illness) begins his tempo in hopes of taking Clark to a good finish.  Clark was no where to be found, so Puffer was obliged to take CT’s wheel with me in tow.  Puffer rockets around CT in the last turn with me tow.  Unfortunately, I could not pass Puffer due to the day’s efforts.  ABD guy won, with POD 2nd, Puffer 3rd, and yours truly in 4th.  Special Kudos go out to my mate Kroll. Although Chris worked his ass covering dangerous attacks from the field (while I was in the break) and spent himself trying to bring me back to POD after we lapped the field – he still managed to finish a solid 9th.  BTW – My ass-neck (muscle region just under the cheeks) was so sore after the day’s effort, it took me a good four attempts to get into Kroll’s car seat (without cramping) for the journey back home…need to figure out some exercises to strengthen that muscle group. All in all, it was a wonderful day in Winona.

Man-up or get the hell out of the way,


Ceraland – “The white knuckle, final 3 laps…”

April 17th, 2006 by Karim Abdelkader

The final laps of Ceraland were certainly “Nascar intense” (as usual).  My teammates worked their tails off covering dangerous moves as best as they could throughout the race – not to mention JK’s great effort in the winning break.  With three laps to go it was my turn to contribute.

There were still a handful of riders left in the field with a formidable sprint – and plenty of teammates to lead them out accordingly.  I could not key off of everyone – just not possible at this point in the race.  So, I had to pick a few wheels that I knew could navigate through the field and drill it at the end when necessary (Curtis T. and Kevin A. of TX RH).  As expected, others had the same strategy in mind.  With some careful acceleration through small gaps, a few bumps here and there, and judgment of where the wind was coming from – I was able stay on Kevin’s wheel (whom at this point was glued to Curtis).  Perfect – a locomotive leading out another locomotive (with me in tow).

With two laps go, it was clear that the main break of 7 has split into two.  Realizing that their man (Kehrberg) was no longer in the winning break (and still having a few guys that can sprint in the field) – DogFish formed a train at the front and drilled it for the next 1.5 laps.  This was a good thing.  The higher the speed the safer the ride into the finish (I know, it sounds ass-backwards, but it’s true).  At this point, the front of the field was in a single pace-line formation (the DogFish train, followed by the two TX RH demons, me and the rest of the field).

With a half a lap to go the DogFish train loses steam and Curtis takes over – drilling it hard with Kevin A. in tow followed by yours truly.  As this is happening, I hear behind me “JASON @$%!!!!!!” from Aaron Hubbell of Bacardi/Nuvo.  As I learned after the race:  unbenounced to Jason S. (Hubbell’s teammate), Todd C. (resident “pro” ridding in the colors of his former Subway team) was leading Hubbell out.  As Todd was cutting through the field (we were going 30+ mph at this point) with Hubbell in tow – they pass Jason.  Jason immediately slices in behind Todd (not knowing Hubbell was right behind Todd) almost taking each other down – that’s bike racing.  I really did not care what was happening behind me at this point.  My single focus was staying on the TX RH duo.

Fearing the “swarm” effect and realizing that the field sprint is now for 4th rather than 8th (part of the break is getting absorbed by the hard-charging field one by one now), Kevin A. unleashes a wicked jam sling-shooting himself out of CT’s draft into the sweeping turn (with me in tow).  With slight pause of the pedal – due to the high speed into the sweeping turn (clipping a pedal would have been disastrous at this point) – the sprint between Kevin and I begins up the slight rise.  Half way up the rise – a rider (reminisce of the break) is rocketing backwards faster than Kevin and I are propelling ourselves forward.  Kevin dodges the rider to the left as I dodge right – creating enough of a gap allowing Kevin A. of TX RH to take the field sprint for 4th (almost catching Declan Doyle of Bacardi/Nuvo at the line) followed by me for 5th.

Another 200 meters and we would have easily caught and passed the winning move.  Kudos go out to the Bacardi/Nuvo girls for the win and a special Kudos to my good friend Declan Doyle for the strong finish (we will swallow your ass next time Doyle).  I was pleased with my performance (considering it’s still early in the season) and more importantly with the team’s performance today.  We stuck to our pre-race plan and accomplished our goal of having a Tortugan in the top 5.  In the 18 years I have been racing – rarely have I seen a newly-formed team gel this nicely (without conflicting egos) in their first race together.  Yes, we could have made better decisions during the race – but that’s the nature of bike racing – always a work in progress.  Contrary to what some @#$%!? think out there (you know who you are) – Tortuga/Big Brothers is one of the main players this year.  Our next show is in Anderson.  See you then.

Man-up or get out of the way,