The team racing at the Tour of Dairyland displayed grit and dedication. In early April, the team kicked off the season competing in the grueling Tour of Battenkill. Since then there has been no break as the team consistently obtained results and gained experience by racing a rigorous schedule.
The Tour of Dairyland marked the last series of races before the team took a mid-season break. Tired legs were excited for a deserved rest. At times like this it is easy for racers to mentally check out. Yet, the boys displayed their ability to focus. The first night in Sheboygan, the team shook out the legs and got back into action, ending with Brandon placing top-20 in the field sprint. The following night, in Fond du Lac, the team stayed aggressive and learned some hard lessons from expending too much energy early on. Determined to stay focused and get a result, the team designed a game plan for the most important and prestigious Tour of Dairyland criteriums: Downer Ave.
An hour before the race, the team gathered together and discussed the plan, where each rider would have a specific role: Zach, Andre, Matt, and Bryan would stay aggressive early on, making sure to cover every attack and stay up front in the thick of it. Brandon would conserve energy for the sprint and Dan would conserve energy for a late attack to take pressure off the team, thus allowing the Astellas boys to form a lead-out train for Brandon.
By far the fastest and hardest night of racing, with a massive Milwaukee crowd buzzing full of energy and well “lubricated”, Downer Ave was flooded with festivities. And the team followed their game plan exactly. Aggressive tactics equaled an Astellas jersey in every move. Andre even positioned himself for the gamblers prime, narrowly missing out in the sprint for $6,500.
Directly after the gamblers prime, with 16laps to go, there was a huge attack by two of rides favored to win. Dan quickly recognized this was a dangerous move and joined a breakaway of nine riders. As Dan and the breakaway gained more and more time, Andre, Zach, Matt, and Bryan surged to the front of the pack to position Brandon for the sprint. On the last lap Dan sprinted against heavy hitters and came out 5th overall. Back in the field, Brandon and Matt had a solid run, both placing top-20 and in the money. These solid results came purely as a reward from the aggressive and cohesive teamwork.
After the big success at Downer’s Ave, the team carried the focused momentum into the last race on Sunday in Madison. The team pushed hard, despite the now very tired legs, determined to finish the races on a high note. Racing around the Wisconsin State Capital building, Andre nabbed a big money prime and Brandon led out Zach and Dan who both finished top-20 and in the money.
Enough can’t be said for the focus and commitment these Astellas boys had to stay competitive after a long season of racing. They can now all rest easy and recuperate knowing every one of them did their job and performed as a team. For a first year team, Astellas Oncology has clearly shown they are force to reckon with. Stay tuned for more results sure to come during the second half of the season.
Thanks for the support
Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD
This year the US Elite and U23 Cycling National Championships were held in Augusta, Georgia which is more known for being the home of the Masters Golf Tournament. Although for this one week everyone in town welcomed the cyclist and knew what was going on as this was the towns second time hosting the event.
The Astellas Oncology p/b ABD Cycling team members partaking in the races were Nick, Dan, Bryan, and Jake in the elite races and Andre, Brandon, and Zach in the Under 23 events. The first race was the time trial and the only team members racing were Nick and Dan. Both went out and put out great efforts. Held on a rolling course in very warm conditions both were able to place in the top 20.
The following day were the criteriums. First up was the 80km Elite Men’s event held in the middle of the day under very warm conditions. All members raced near the front of the 144 rider field. A late crash took down Jake, but Bryan was able to keep pace near the front and finished in the top 25.
Later in the day was the Under 23 event. They young guys really put on a show. The racing was super fast laps consistently coming in under 2 minutes on the 1 mile course, which is over 30mph average speed. A lot of riders in the race fell off the pace early on, while Brandon, Andre, and Zach were able to keep up front and in the heat of the action. Brandon once again showed he was on great form by finishing in 13th place. He has 2 more years in this category to improve on this great placing.
The following day the Under 23's were the first to take to the 104 mile road race. Once again the heat was a big factor in the race. Unfortunately an early mechanical took Andre out of the race leaving the Astellas guys with just two riders. The field blew apart under early pressure into many small groups. Brandon and Zach both made it into groups that finished the race which was good as only a small amount of the race actually finished.
The last event was the Elite Road Race Championships. The race started off fast and aggressive with a group of 12 forming off the front after the first of 7 laps. The team saw this as a threat and Dan tired to get across. After not making it he took Jake to the front on one of the bigger hills on the course and Jake bridged across with 3 other riders. The 15 rider group would ride much of the race off the front only a minute or two from the field. Some more riders would bridge later on, but coming into the last lap 3 riders shot off the front. Then on the last lap the remaining break away riders would be caught by the field. From there Jake, Dan and Bryan did what the could to try help bring back the 30sec gap unsuccessfully and finished in the group 17second behind the winners.
The team didn't come away with any medals or jerseys but they put themselves into position in the race to have a chance to win and that is more than half the battle. You can't win till you are able to put yourself in a position to win.
Thanks for the support
Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD
The team had very busy, but very successful, several weeks starting with four big races in Iowa/Illinois Quad Cites over the Memorial Day Weekend holiday. First up was the Burlington Road Race where Jake Rytlewski soloed home to take the victory while Adam Kaye came in for a strong 12th place. In the Melon City Criterium, Brandon Feehery and Jake both finished in the top 20. The team finished the weekend strong with putting 4 riders in the top 20 in the Quad Cities Criterium led by Andre Vandenberg's 8th place finish.￼
The following week the team spent time up in the Chicago area as they were part of the Astellas Oncology booth at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual meeting held at McCormick Place. ￼
In between riding rollers at the booth, the riders raced in the Lake Bluff Criterium where Adam took 7th in the Cat 2 race and the Glencoe Grand Prix where Brandon won the Illinois State Criterium Championship.
Wrapping a couple of very busy weeks was the Le Tour de Mont Pleasant held in Michigan. It was a 3 day race that included a 4mile time trial, a 75 minute criterium and a brutal 120 mile road race. Jake took 6th in the time trial to start off the weekend. Then in the criterium the team rode very aggressive leaving many of the other teams to chase us down. However race came down to a field sprint where Brandon finished 3rd, Jake finished 4th and Kiwi Matt Gorter rounded out the top 10. ￼
In the road race, the team continued its aggressive strategy. Jake took his turn to attack and found himself in a 4 man group 30 miles into race. The rest of the team sat back and watched as other teams tried hard to chase them down. Jake won all the the KOM and Sprints while building a lead of over 5 minutes and riding his breakaway companions off his wheel, soloing to victory. Brandon came across next for the team in a solid 4th place finish. With the victory in the road race Jake also took the overall victory.￼
While most of the team was in Michigan, Dan was back home out west and competed in the Wenatchee Omnium where he was 2nd in the time trial, 4th in the criterium, and also soloed to the victory in the road race that featured over 6,000ft of climbing!
Thanks for the support
Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD
Yesterday I raced the 3’s and the 1/2/3’s in Chicago at the Monsters of the Midway. The course was a flat, four-corner rectangle with two long straightaways. It was kinda gloomy and looked like it really wanted to rain.
In the Cat 3 race it started out fast and there were people attacking the entire race. I tried to stay near the front as much as possible. I just did my best to stay out of trouble. This race was 50 minutes long and I felt pretty strong for the whole thing. I was the only junior in the race, and there were two other ABDers in the race with me—Matt Curin (the Astellas Director) and Michael Wilke.
There were a lot of fast guys in this race, including some from Bicycle Heaven (Andy Swims, leader of the Illinois Cup so far) and some from Elmhurst Masters. I think there were about 35 racers who started. The weather held out nicely, and it didn’t rain during this race. As far as I know, there were no crashes either.
This course suited me well, mainly because it had a nice, long, straight finish (kind of like Pella). On the last lap, I moved up on the outside, and coming into the final turn I was probably about 7th or 8th. I started my sprint pretty far out from the finish and got up out of the saddle and never looked back. I stayed on the outside where I had plenty of room and just gave it everything I had. When I came across the finish, I was pretty sure I had just won my first Cat 3 race because I didn’t see anyone on either side of me as I crossed. I was sure when I heard my dad yell “Yes!” He says he is pretty sure people at Willis Tower could have heard him as well. (He still calls it the Sears Tower, of course.) I headed straight to junior rollout to make sure the win was legit, and eventually took my spot on the hay bale for 1st place. The announcer said “At the ripe old age of 17, our winner, Konrad Witt.” He also said something about checking my legs for motors...?
There was another race between the Cat 3 race and the Cat 1/2/3 race, so I had a little bit of a breather. My dad and I had already agreed that this would just be basically a training ride. As we were sitting at the start line, it started to drizzle. Ugh! I let some air out of my tires and got ready to do another 65 minutes. The 3 race was fast, but this one was REALLY fast! I did my best to try and stay near the front again, but because of the incredible pace, I spent most of the race about halfway through the pack. There was pretty much a crash in the second corner for each of the first five laps. Luckily, it was mostly solo riders just sliding out due to the rain and slippery condition of the road. I remember looking up at the lap counter and thinking there was a lot more laps in this race than in the 3’s. I pretty much just counted down the laps until I started seeing single digits. This is when I used a little more energy and tried to stay closer to the front, out of trouble. On the last lap, things were bunching up as everyone was trying to make their way to the front of the pack. About halfway through that lap there was a pileup of about 4 or 5 guys about a rider in front of me. I had to brake pretty hard and ride around the outside to avoid running them all over, so that slowed me down considerably. I had to make a big effort to hook back up to the pack before we got into the finishing straight, and by then all I could do was pick up as many positions as I could. I was happy that I stayed safe and finished in the top 20 (I ended up 19th).
Since today was Mother’s Day, there was really no race to go to, but I did take a nice, two-and-a-half hour ride in the gorgeous spring (rain-free) weather over at Busse Woods. I also sent my mom two dozen roses and a sterling silver necklace. (So long to the prize money I got for the Cat 3 race yesterday!!)
Next week it’s off to Michigan for the West Michigan Stage Race.
Thanks so much to everyone in ABD for supporting me and Prairie Path Cycles for letting me ride and race on the really nice Trek Madone! I know that my first Cat 3 win would not have been possible without this support.
P.S. I’m thinking of trying to race on the track this year—have you guys got a nice track bike laying around that I might be able to borrow? (My dad is threatening to build me one, and that’s a little scary...)
So I've been seriously neglecting my blog for the past few months, but I draw the line of procrastination at international events. This is mostly because there is always something interesting to say when you race in another country, especially an underdeveloped one.
After a month and a half of suffering from mononucleosis, I finally got back on the bike in time to get my invite to race in El Salvador for the National team, having a pitiful amount of base miles logged and no intensity as of then. So my coach and I dreamt up a massively masochistic training schedule to tear my legs off and sew them back on just in time to hop on a plane and head into the Southern Hemisphere.
Looking back I give myself credit for not packing any cold weather gear and going through all the trouble to find a compact crank set, because as it turned out all the racing we would be doing would be in ridiculously hot and humid weather on mountainous courses. Not only that, but the race schedule included a five day UCI stage race sandwiched between two UCI one day races without any rest days. For those of you who don't like long sentences that's seven days of racing in a row.
We got three days to attempt to acclimate to the insanely hot weather as we stayed in a small complex owned by the promoter just a stone throw from the beach. If you ignored the fact that the bathroom had four adjoining doors to it the place seemed like paradise; a large shaded outdoor patio hung with hammocks beside a pool that looked over the pacific ocean. I was almost fooled into thinking we were on vacation until the first 1.1 UCI race arrived and I realized I was in for a long, sweaty week.
After packing our bags and moving into a Hilton hotel at one of the highest points in San Salvador, we were to prepare ourselves for a welcome dinner and team presentation at one of the promoters' houses. I've learned over the years to have no expectations on USA team trips because foreign race promoters always seem to dream up the most bizarre ways to put on a bike race. This was especially true for El Salvador. In the land of no information, we had to just abandon all expectations and go along with the mariachi band and a giant dancing yogurt bottle. Sometimes the race takes place off the bike as well, because with just one tiny table stacked high with food, and over 70 hungry cyclists waiting for permission to serve up, it was sure to get ugly. Representing USA, we felt we had the responsibility of taking initiative and leading the charge to the table, because as soon as the other teams saw us practically running with plates in hand, everybody else feverishly stampeded the table. Luckily most of us got out alive with a random assortment of food piled on our plates.
Day 1 lived up to El Salvadorian standards as it soon reached over 100 humid degrees on the dusty streets of El Salvador. Skinny dogs and cattle roamed fields and streets, impoverished people rode bikes or on top of whatever produce was piled high on truckbeds. Some were crammed tightly in trucks or hung off the sides, either staring at us or whistling cat calls. It was everything you'd think of El Salvador to be, and it reminded me of how lucky I was to not have to live in a place where armed guards and barely sustained life is the norm. Most of these people would probably never ride a plane, own anything over $3000, or get to order sushi for dinner, all of which were things I had and did during the trip. It just makes a person realize what little it takes to be happy.
The first day started just outside the San Salvador velodrome, and neutral rolled out through the small streets onto the major highways that were blocked off just for the race. My role in the team was to work for Amber Neben for the entirety of the seven days, because she was racing for points that counted in earned the US an extra spot in the Olympics. Thus, I had to keep the field together until the final climb where Amber could take off and race for the finish. This meant chasing attacks for Amber, getting bottles for Amber, or mixing a margarita for Amber. My race would essentially end at the climb. So when the race went by and we finally hit the base of the climb, I shifted down into a small gear and prepared for a long ascent when my chain decided it would have its last hoorah and jam itself into my front chainring so thoroughly I couldn't even pedal. After about 5 minutes of waiting for the bus to pick me up and take me to the top I was informed there was, in fact, no bus. So what was the next best option? I strapped my bike to the back of the El Salvadorian team car and rode on the back of a police moto to the top. Yeah, that's right, there I was in my USA team kit with helmet on and all sitting on the back of a police motorcycle passing all my teammates to the top of the mountain. I think that was my best finish ever.
The second day was the first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista El Salvador, which even had a cheesy song made for it that all the El Salvadorians seemed to love. Stage one featured five tunnels that had absolutely no lighting and a lot of hills my body did not like. Just 35 km or so into the race I got popped off the back on a steep section and couldn't fight my way back. I finished the race with a small group of stragglers, disappointed and feeling defeated by the sun and hills.
After rehydrating thoroughly I started Stage two with more motivation than ever. Not only did I survive the rolling foothills, but I also felt I did my part for the team in keeping the race together and safe for Amber. Fortunately Amber ended up winning in the final 12 km climb up the side of the volcano that averaged 10% grade. I was way off the back fighting my own battles with the 20% grade sections and cursing El Salvador and volcanos and cycling in general for making me suffer so much. Whether or not it was me, I'm pretty sure someone won a Guinness world record for the most paperboys done in an hour.
Day three featured two stages as if racing seven days in a row wasn't enough. The profile for the morning road race showed a flat, 47 km circuit race that was about as benevolent as a rabbit. It wasn't until we got to the race and pre-drove the course that we realized it was a much different story. Apparently the person who made the profile for the course didn't feel like adding in the three malicious kilometer hills that tore the field to shreds just 7km in. I, being one of these tragic victims, got the ride off the back for 40km followed by a promotional truck for Frutti Fresh drinks that played the same jingle over and over again for the next hour and a half. I got to play it over and over in my head as I floated the 4 km time trial that afternoon ("floating a time trial" is a term used when you're not even remotely close to any significant place in the race and just easy pedal on your road bike and then later laugh at how horrible your time was).
Day four consisted of a 125km course of mostly downhill sections that would finish us several thousand feet below where we had started in San Salvador. At this point Amber Neben had pretty much locked in the win, and had to just finish safely with the pack for the next two days. Of course, it's never that simple. I started out the day by getting in a fight with a road reflector, and the reflector won. Fortunately my bike was okay for the most part because I took most of the impact on my head and skinned or bruised about 30% of my body. Apparently nobody thought I'd finish the 80 km by myself because they applauded me like a hero when I slapped on a spare helmet that looked about 20 years old and jumped on bike. If I had been in a European race I'd have been pulled right away, but since it was El Salvador I got to motorpace the hell out of that last 20km. I came into the finish line to discover that Amber Neben, too had had her own tumble, and had lost minutes to the leader. In the last 10 km of the race the field had hit a nasty section of torn up road and potholes, and Amber's handlebars literally snapped beneath her. The spare USA bike did not have her pedals on it, so after an excruciating pedal swap she finally got paced to the finish line by what was left of the USA team, about 4 minutes down.
I admired Amber for how gracefully she took the whole event, and we went into the final stage ready to make an aggressive race. The stage had been shortened to a 75 km mostly flat race because of road construction on the climby section. Thus, despite our efforts to attack and make a fast race so that Amber could hopefully get up the road, the field was just too attentive to her moves. Even though Amber finished 4th in GC, she somehow obtained three jerseys for separate competitions.
Our celebration of the finish of the stage race was short lived as we still had one more 1.1 UCI day race to do the following day. My participation in the race ended at the base of the final climb, where I promptly shut down any type of competitive mechanism in my brain and easy pedaled to the finish. There's only so much stress a human can take, and seven days of racing is just about at my threshold.
Next up on my schedule is some racing in more developed regions of the world, where I can actually be assured that there is a sag van behind me. Such luxuries.
Hey there team,
Here's a final update to our para track nationals adventure: The rest of the trip to LA continued to go great. On our day off, after we went to the track for a little spin, we headed up to Beverly Hills to look for movie stars--we didn't find any but we did get carsick driving around in the hills.
On Sunday we were so much more pro with our warm up and it felt just right. We had decided the day before to go with a different gear than originally planned and in hindsight we think we went (way) too easy. We were relaxed and felt great and we gave it our all but were spinning like mad. In the end we got the silver medal by 3 milliseconds!!! Unfortunately we missed our podium picture because we had to catch our flight.
On the whole we were quite happy. This track stuff is so technical and it's exciting to be in that beginning phase where every time you go out you see a huge improvement. We still feel like we have a long way to go and are looking forward to continuing this journey!!
Here's a picture of us doing our Kilo:
Last weekend was the second stop on the ChiCrossCup series in DeKalb @ Hopkins Park. This is the 4th year that we have visited this stop with each year being a very different course. This year was no different; back was the fly-over (a first in the CCC series last year) but also some new sections thru the woods. As many of you may not know, last Thursday I was hit by a car on my bike while on my early morning training ride. Luckily there was not a whole lot of damage to me, just some bruising, swelling, and cuts, but my new Cronus CX was not ridable. I saw my Dr. on Friday and he said that if I felt up for the race on Sunday, he was OK with me doing it. I woke Sunday feeling better than Sat. so I decided that I would give it a shot. Worse case is I started the race and pulled out.
Driving to DeKalb it was quite foggy once you got out by Maple Park. At the venue, there was still a bit of fog when I arrived but it slowly burned off for the start of the 40+ race. This however left the grass very slick and in some cases a soft upper layer of mud. The course was a good mix of technical sections with some longer power sections (longer than Jackson Park) and really required 100% concentration throughout.
I did a few laps of the course prior to racing and felt good enough to still give it a go. I made my way to the start chute to try to scam a start position in the second row. The typical conversations then ensued:
Them: "What happened to you?!?"
Me: "Got hit by a car"
Them: "No s*#$!!!"
Me: "Yea, but I'm doing ok"
Them: "Did they get a ticket?!?"
and so on.
I did end up getting a nice spot in the second row, middle of the pack. Now here is where I had a "learning experience". Like I tell the kids that I coach in baseball and basketball, "Always know your competition". In this case I did, but didn't follow the rule. The guy in front of me (in the front row) is a notorious BAD starter. Once again he didn't fail to please. The whistle blew and I was clipped in right away and powering off. He on the other hand was fiddling around trying to clip in. I then had to put a foot down so that I didn't run into him or any others and went from a possible great start to a not so good start (in about 30th). Over the next lap I worked on passing people (which was difficult to do) while watching the field ride away. I was much faster than most in the technical sections which was frustrating as I felt I could have stayed with at least the 5th-10th place (or so) riders. At one point I got as high as 15th, but eventually faded to 19th.
So I ended up picking up a few points for the series overall, but have now dropped from 11th overall to 14th. Top 10 overall is still in sight so that is still the goal for the season. I did start the 30+ race right after but after 2.5 laps was not mentally into it and dropped out.
As a team we are still in the top 20 overall, but lost a few points due to off performances by myself and Ben Demong. Brian McVey had a nice 7th in the Cat 3 and Walt Stoops was 5th (or 6th) in the 60+.
Looks like most everyone else was at the Fall Fling and congrats to everyone who raced those events!!! Hopefully ABD will begin to have a larger presence at the CCC races.
Next race is this coming Sunday at Dan Ryan Woods. For all the details see the CCC website (http://www.chicrosscup.com). On Thurs. there will be a race preview for the coming Sunday's race. DRW is a nice course with a good little hill thrown in.
Thanks for reading,
PS. Also don't forget the ABD 'cross race. If you are available to volunteer on Oct. 23rd, please let me know. Still have quite a few spots still open.