WHY I'VE BEEN M.I.A. THESE PAST MONTHS
If you follow me on Strava, you might have learned that at the end of the 2013 season, my Continental GP4000S tire blew up right after I made a solo attack and reached 33mph. It sent me falling to the ground on my back and shoulder, gave me a concussion, plus strains and sprains at my neck, shoulder and abdomen. The most dangerous aspect of my fall was that it was impossible to anticipate the tire failure. The tread separated from the casing and caused an instant loss of traction- enough to send me to the ground despite travelling in a straight line. Here are some pictures of my wounds. Some of them went deep enough to reach my fat cells. Check it out:
After 2.5 months off my bike to focus on rehabilitation, I was finally able to turn my head without my neck and shoulder going into spasms. When I finally made it back on a bike, my legs and lungs hit the wall 15 minutes into the ride and forced me to stop. Afterwards, my neck proceeded to go into spasms for hours due to the riding position.
Continental never apologized or responded to my concerns about the tire. My tire had no sidewall bubbling or cuts, and I actually checked my tire pressure with a tire gauge prior to its failure. Despite riding on several pairs of Continental GP4000S tires for three years, I probably will never ride on them again.
Without my girlfriend of seven years, I wouldn't have survived the months healing and rehabilitating the injuries I sustained. She patiently waited for me as I spent hours in the shower trying to tolerate the massive pain all over my body. No one else could lighten the mood and help me laugh through the healing process. The proof is in the pictures! I was smiling in all of them thanks to her! :)
MICHELIN PRO 4 - MY NEW FAVORITE TIRE
After riding on a defective Continental GP4000S, I decided to go tire shopping to find a better tire. After riding on the Michelin Pro 4 for almost ten months now, including three criteriums, I can confidently say that its better than the GP4000S. I've only had one flat which was caused by hitting a deep pothole. I've always known the Continental GP4000S to produce flat tires from hitting decent pieces of gravel. I remember worrying on several occasions that I would flat after hitting similar objects only to find that the Michelin Pro 4 survived without a scratch. The grip surprised me the most about the Pro 4. I wouldn't be surprised if an independent research company finds that the Michelin Pro 4 has better grip. I've taken corners just as hard or harder than the Continental GP4000S this season. I have yet to experience its limit around a corner. I always thought that some sliding was normal in a tire until I tried the Pro 4.
THE COURSE & THE LAPS LEADING TO THE LAST LAP
As usual, I got lost trying to find the parking lot in Eagle Creek, so I ended up running late. As a result I didn't get a chance to ride warm up or practice laps. As soon as I received my number and had it pinned, I immediately had to line up at the start line. Since I was also late to line-up, I had to start at the back. I wasn't too worried since I knew we had 45 minutes to race. Plenty of time right?
When the race started, Each lap only lasted about one minute and 44 seconds long. I basically spent the majority of the race trying to move up to the front of the group. It was hard trying to remain at the front due to the constant rotation of the group, and by the time we reached the final lap, I was about fourth place... from the back!
THE LAST 1/2 OF THE LAST LAP
By the time we hit the bell lap, I was definitely panicking and almost accepted that I had no chance at even reaching a mid-pack finish. That all changed about halfway down the lap. The group hugged the inside of the road and left a moderate opening at the left. As soon as I saw the opening, I knew that it was my last chance to reach the front, so I accelerated hard and bridged up to the front. Once the five leaders were in sight, I noticed that I was approaching them quickly... while coasting! Instead of coasting and slowing down to their speed, I started my sprint with an advantage and blew past the leaders. When I crossed the finish line in first position, it didn't seem real, especially since I was almost last place by the start of the last lap!
ANALYSIS VIA STRAVA (FOLLOW ME ON STRAVA)
Looking at the speed graph in the screenshot below, you'll notice three peaks. The first acceleration was influenced by the group being aware of the last lap. The second peak occurred when I bridged up to the front. The last peak was the final sprint. You'll notice that it took more speed to catch the leaders than it did to perform the final sprint! Everything seemed to connect perfectly today!