Friday, August 21, 2009

The Greenbelt and the Dutchman who wears it

p: Marcus Floro

Unless our math is wrong, Dennis, our Dutchman, has won the jersey at Greenbelt, B race. Dennis had to surmount Cyclelife's Josh Flexman's huge point total, amassed over the first part of the season.

I asked him some questions about racing, NASA, and being Dutch.

Congrats on G-belt, Dennis! Can you give me a play-by-play of the action Wednesday?
With two more races ahead, 9 points to bridge, and thunderstorms being a daily possibility we wanted to play sure and take the win. This always sounds easy, but there are between 25-35 guys out there that show up with the same idea. We discussed several strategies amongst the B's - defend to the last lap and go for the lead-out that worked for us so many times, or attempt a break away with ABRT. As the end of the season is nearing I had 'only' Rez, Grayson & Marcus as the Royal Guard. Not only our own team is tired of the long season; I was a little afraid that less than 20 guys would show up for the B-race, and that winning points would be halved.

Since there were only 4 of us and none of the ABRT big guns showed up we decided to go for the defensive option. We were at but not on the front, controlling the break aways and setting the pace if we felt that the wrong guys were breaking away. We marked two guys; Dave K, who looked strong and eager, and a very strong young MTB pro, Brian Marsh, who had won Page Valley's cat 5 race two weeks before. Brian tried several break aways, which were neutralized by Grayson who was hanging on his wheel (and confirmed that the guy is an amazing climber!), and by Dave K. - which I found a welcome gesture, as I thought he would use up some of his energy. The pace kicked up a bit afterwards, and our strategy rolled out as intended.

Mike Flanagan (who earlier on did some amazing cyclocross work off the road and showed his handling skills by not going down and crashing his 808's!) gave an amazing pull on the first part of the climb after the descent, and Rez took over when he popped. Rez has an almost Jan Ullrich-like diesel engine, turning his cranks at 60-70 rpm, and as pulled on the climb towards the finish people were screaming for mercy. On Marcus' photos you can see how the pack was strung out at the finish, and we even caught a break from the A-race (Chuck Hutch et al). Next stage was Grayson, who pretty much shook off the rest of the pack until it was just me, Jeff (NCVC) and Brian-the-dangerous-mountainbiker. Luckily, this was Brian's first race in Greenbelt, and he jumped too early. Jeff jumped his wheel, I followed and was able to finish it off with my hands off the handlebars - first victory salute this season :).

(2) What's special about G-belt?
The course is made for me. Long uphill finish, favouring power over weight vs. raw power. Besides from that, I like the race because it is close to work and thus easy to get - but it also makes it feel like a 'home-game'. And Greenbelt is where my current racing career has started - I felt pretty fit from bike-commuting to work and decided to try the training race. I then met a couple of Bike Rack guys there last year (I think it was Matt Ringer and Tim Rugg), and decided to join the team.

(3) How's racing in MABRA different from racing in Europe?
I can only tell about my Dutch experiences - and the racing here is much more favourable. Races in my part of the country were mainly crits, with an occasional circuit race. Road Races were rare. The crits would typically take place in some small town and you would race around the local church in the town center. Laps were short and fierce, and in my memory the races were longer. I remember races with 99 laps, which I found very depressing. Also, these towns would usually have brick or cobble stone pavements, that became very slippery in the very frequent rain. The circuit races were better, but they were all held in the windiest part of the Netherlands (Friesland). These conditions were not optimal for a light racer like me - I discovered the joys of climbing here. To get to something like Angler's, I would have had to drive about 3 hours.

(4) Does being a NASA scientist in any way make you go faster (like, do the perks include getting little rocket boosters you can put on your bike)?
Greenbelt is actually an astronaut-recruitment scheme run which is why it is run by Jeff Travis, who also works at Goddard. I would love to try the NASA wind tunnels, which are unfortunately in California. We do have facilities to shake, bake, or spin your bike at 10g.

(5) How many times did you win and podium at G-belt this year? What are some of the roles your teammates played in some of those wins or near-wins?
I looked it up - 3 wins, 3 times second, and once third. This would not have happened without the efforts of the BikeRack racers; I remember our break away were Corey and Grayson were blocking the pack. In essence, the way we won yesterday was similar to our earlier efforts: we would keep the pack together during the race (Ringer, Grayson), have two guys ramping up the speed uphill (Dan, Tom, Rez) and then Grayson and Corey lead me out towards the line. It is safe to say that as a team, we are ahead of the competition because of our team work- and strategy.

(6) The first time I met you was last year at G-belt. You were wearing a Rabobank kit and riding a lime green Bianchi from about 1995. What's changed for you as a racer since then?
Celeste green ;). It was a fine bike, but a little heavy and set up with gears that worked fine in the flatlands but not so much in the hills (42/53 with 12-21). This year was my first racing season here and I used it to figure out what kind of racer I am, and what races fit me best. Crits are still to be avoided. Of all things, I enjoy the stage races (Tour D'Ephrate, of Washington County, of Lancaster) a lot. I need to work a little on the time trials but hope to make a fine showing next year.

(7) Do you get to take the jersey home with you after the last race?
I think so.. thus far, R1V kept and washed it for me, and BikeRack's own tailor Grayson made it fit before every race. Next week, I probably get to wash it myself. I can't wait to see my grandmother in the Netherlands - I am quite sure she'll be able to alter the jersey so I can show it off at our group rides!
Thanks, Dennis!



Sigberto said...

Didn't Flanagan or another one of the WWVC guys with absurdly priced wheels pull that same stunt at Dawg Days?

Calvini said...

Flanagan and Warner (both of whom ride "absurdly priced" wheels) just put in ridiculous TTs at Millersburg, both averaging over 27 mph for 20 minutes, placing 1st and 3rd.

I don't remember if Flanagan went offroading at DD, but Pete and Mark seem capable of riding their Zipps through the woods, through grass, and floating through air on those things.

qualia said...

Nice interview. Loved it!