Friday, November 28, 2008

Mt. Hamilton LKHC

I figured I’d go out in a flourish, make Dennis the blogmaster happy, and write my last race report of 2008: the Mt. Hamilton Low-Key Hillclimb.

Mark sagely had us ride up Mt. Hamilton two weeks prior to the race. That was my first experience on this beautiful, 19-mile switchback climb. On that ride (after doing the Metcalf LKHC in the morning), I was stung four times by a yellow jacket that had decided my jersey was a good place to spend the winter. After that I cracked completely and struggled to the top in my 39x27, so my memories of the climb were not exactly rosy.

On race morning, I continued this comedy of errors by missing the exit and driving to Fremont before I realized my mistake, leaving little time to warmup. In talking to Mark beforehand, I figured that the strategy for this race was to do whatever possible to stay with the front group over the first climb. This way, you could be on a wheel across the central valley section. I managed to execute this strategy, but was a little distressed to see my average watts at 390 after the 20-minute climb. This made me wonder: How much was still in the tank for the second, longer climb?

Once on the second climb, I looked around and was pleased to see Mark and I were together in a small group. It ended up being a pretty comfortable pace for me. I figured I could do at least 20 minutes at an even harder pace, and the total race was going to be about 1:15, so at exactly 50 minutes into the race I depressed the gas pedal a bit. When I looked around, it was just me and Greg McQuaid. At one point, to our great surprise, we passed the series leader Tim Clark, who was apparently having an off day. After that we passed my season-long challenger, Thomas Novikoff, but he quickly latched onto the back, making a group of three.

I still felt good, and figured I had another harder effort left, so with about 10 minutes to go I accelerated again, and Novikoff started to come off. Finally, I rounded the corner with the summit buildings in site, and began my sprint for fourth place. Wrong! I’d gone too early. There was still another switchback and a couple of hundred meters to go. McQuaid must have regarded me with amusement. Surely he said under his breath, “What a dolt!” before he came around me easily for fourth. This scenario occurred several times this season. Note to self: spend more time studying race finishes! In the end I was fifth; Mark was 11th.

After the race I drove straight to the family Thanksgiving celebration in Marin. Unfortunately, my clothes didn’t make it. So while everyone else circulated in finery, I confirmed my longstanding reputation within the family as a complete goober, slinking around all evening in sweaty cycling gear. Doh!

Team Bike Trip finished third overall for the season, a bit of a disappointment. This was probably due to missed races and a lack of women participants. (That’s my theory anyway; you need a doctoral degree in mathematics to understand the actual points formula.) There’s always next year. It was a fun LKHC season, regardless! Good job team!

Mt. Hamilton Hill Climb

By Mark Edwards 11/27/08

Mt. Hamilton is arguably our most epic local climb. At 18.4 miles and 4,343’ of vertical gain, it clearly has the credentials. But it’s the views, sweet pavement, and low traffic that seal its place as one of our top climbs. It’s also a fitting finale to the Low Key Hill Climb series and a wonderful way to kick off Thanksgiving morning.

This year also promised to be my chance to redeem myself for taking a wrong turn prior to last year’s finish.

Matt, Scott, and I carpooled to the start where we met up with Geoff, Chris, Nils, Bryan, and Gary. We warmed-up, put our jackets and warm clothes in the designated SAG vehicle, and lined up for the start. This year’s group appeared to be well over a hundred racers, likely setting a record.

Last year I got popped near the end of the first 6 mile climb, making the final 12 miles into an individual time trial. This year, although heavier, I hoped that the extra power I’d built working all those hill repeats with the Team would give me what I needed to hang on.

The lead car honked its horn and we were off. I stayed around 15th, keeping an eye on the key players, while Geoff sat comfortably in about 5th position. The remainder of the Team was hot on our heals, with everyone hoping for a strong climb. This years pace seemed easier than last year, but it was deceptive. Our leaders seemed content to set a hard steady pace, absent the quad searing surges of last year. The pace took its toll, dropping one or two riders at a time, until the lead group was down to about 15 riders as we crested the first 6 mile climb.

An early casualty was Tim Clark, series leader. Tim is so strong, he went directly to the front and pulled at what must have been over 400 watts for the majority of the first 10 minutes. He dropped back to rest and his competitors jumped on the opportunity to attack him. Tim, myself, and another rider got gapped. But we slowly struggled back onto the group before the second climb started.

The second climb saw the lead 15 break into multiple small groups of 2 to 4. After a short decent the third climb had Geoff and I working with Justin Lucke. Justin is a young strong Cat 2 that has traded placings with Geoff and I the past year or so. He tends to be somewhat inconsistent, but you can never discount him.

Geoff had been riding very smartly, staying out of the wind and well positioned. But we were now beyond the “save your energy” section of the race. The final 6.6 mile climb was sheer strength. Geoff was pulling like a freight train with Justin on his wheel, and me on Justin’s. I’d noticed Justin was allowing small gaps to open, and was progressively getting slower at closing them. I was also close to my edge, but figured I might be better off than Justin.

About this time Geoff sat up and looked over his shoulder for help. Justin wasn’t about to come around and I knew I didn’t have much left. As Geoff slowed I was considering how many times I’d seen an obviously broken Justin recover and become a serious threat at the finish (Mt. Diablo 07 the three of us played this same game). So I moved up front. I knew I was on my edge, but liked our Team’s chances better without Justin. Once in front I brought the pace back up to Geoff’s scorching previous pace. It worked, Justin dropped. As the gap opened Geoff returned to the front and proceeded to chase down the next couple of stragglers ahead.

Now with four of us together, Geoff was punching holes in the group with short surges at every switchback. One in particular sent a clear message to me that I was toast. I succeeded in hanging on, but I knew my time was close. Sure enough, not more than a couple of minutes later, at about mile 14, I had to let go of the three others.

At this point my focus switched to my time. I wanted to better last year’s time and felt I was well positioned – if only I could hang on.

About 2 miles from the finish, Tim Clark came by me. I tried to catch his wheel, but could only hold it for a minute or two. Even blown up, Tim’s an amazing force on a bike. Shortly thereafter, Dan Connelly went by me, he was clearly on a mission to attempt to catch Tim.

The last mile no one else appeared on the road behind me, so I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the cramping in my legs. I finished well worked and deserving of a big Thanksgiving meal, and with a PR of over 4 minutes!

Geoff did extremely well, placing 5th against many of our areas best climbers. I was a few positions behind in 11th. My time this year would have earned me 4th place last year, it’s amazing how much faster the races are getting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Low-Key Hillclimb No. 6 - Jamison Creek Rd

Here's a few action pics from photog Phil Dubach.

We had 14 Bike Trippers in the race, which just about overwhelmed the folks doing registration when we arrived in one big group.

Geoff is climbing like an animal and finished third.

Nils looks like he is having way too much fun in this picture.

Matt being a shameless wheel sucker behind Dennis, after doing the same to the other Matt for the first mile or so. Matt eye-balling that finish line. This last one from Josh Hadley.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Drafting Clinic for Bike Trip Juniors - 9 Nov 08

Members of the masters team put on a clinic in drafting and paceline skills for about a dozen of the junior team. After a brief lecture session with Coach Mark Edwards, we split into 3 groups and practiced skills. No one fell off, the light rain didn't slow us down, and hopefully everyone came away with some new or renewed understanding of these valuable skills. Definitely inspiring to see younger folks out there enjoying the sport of cycling and wanting to learn new skills.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Low-Key Hillclimb No. 4 - Bear Gulch

Much like the last post from Geoff, this one was inspired partly by chastisement from Dennis, who nevertheless was kind to decline setting a deadline for when I should have it posted.

This report also revolves around time-mismanagement. Dennis and I set out from San Gregorio to ride up Hwy 84. Half way into our easy warm-up, I realized I had miscalculated by 1 hour, and there was no way we could make it to the race on time. Registration was happening up on Skyline, and then the group was supposed to descend together down Bear Gulch to the start.

So, instead of continuing on to the registration area, we turned off on Bear Gulch, and were encouraged by some runners who said the pack of cyclists had just gone by moments before. The road snaked through redwoods, gently falling and curving for 2 miles, then burst out of the shade onto steep grassland where it plummeted the last mile, ending at a gate back in a grove of redwoods.

And there was the race, 80 or so folks staring up at us as we descended the last turn. I told the race organizer we had passed a guy fixing a flat, which gave us an extra minute to turn our bikes around, strip off extra clothes, and take an extra deep breath before we were off.

The start was tricky since it was steep right away. The guy leading us off had to start, clip in, go past a telephone pole, push start on his timer, and yell go. Took him about 4 tries to get clipped in, and I was right behind him, holding back because it looked like he was about to take everyone out. But finally he got it together, yelled go, and immediately I hear Clark Foy over my shoulder calmly say, "On your left." I keep the door open for him best as I can with people clipping and wobbling all around me, and right into the first curve Clark slips through like a silvery-blue fish on my left. A dozen other fish stream by, and one of the last is Jeff Farnsworth. Jeff and I have ridden together in other races and seem to have similar abilities on the bike. I'm thinking, "Damn, Jeff is going good. I don't think I could do that. Guess I'm not going to keep up with Jeff today."

The first mile is tough. The race description of 3 miles at 6% is misleading because most of the climb happens in the first mile. I'm wrestling with my 34/23, wishing I had a 25 cog to drop down to, and later I hear from Dennis that he was quite glad to be spinning in his 34/27.

I follow a few Pen-Velos, but then they're gone, 1 ahead, 1 behind. A tire on my left explodes. He's not going to catch me. The views here are amazing but I've got tunnel vision, black fuzz around the edges. Eventually I settle in just behind a Morgan-Stanley woman, a trim climber. Then finally, mercifully, the first mile is past us and I can start to recover. I pass the climber gal and say, "That's a rough way to start a race." She says nothing, and when I glance back a few moments later, she is no where in sight. Later I learned that she is Jennie Phillips, racing with the Sisters of No Mercy team, and top finisher on the women side of things.

But who is in sight is Jeff Farnsworth, and I realize he got a gap on me but now isn't moving away. The road becomes much more enjoyable...I'm in shade, pavement is good, and its more like rollers than climbing. I'm back and forth between big ring, small ring. Every time the road rolls up I stand to power through, and when I sit, Farnsworth is that much closer. My race becomes 3 things: me, Farnsworth, and the finish line. I catch him maybe a couple hundred yards before the line, stand and power past. As I go by he offers up a "way to go", sounding like he doesn't have much fight left.

I finished 14th. Foy took first by a minute. The other Matt was right behind Farnsworth, and Dennis was 20th. Overall Bike Trip took 4th. No one stood a chance against the all female Sisters of No Mercy team. Where are the Bike Trip women?

After the race we did interval work on both sides of Old La Honda before heading back to San Gregorio. A beautiful day on the bike.

(pics by Sonja Wieck)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Low-Key Hillclimb No. 2

You’d think that since I’ve worked in high tech for the last decade I’d be better at contributing to the blog. I’m trying to be better, really I am. I also don’t want to be scolded by Dennis. So here you go.

The second Low-Key Hill Climb (LKHC) took our intrepid group of eight Team Bicycle Trip members up West Alpine, starting from Sam McDonald Park. We parked in Pescadero for a crisp but beautiful ride to the start. After an hour or so, we were going at a leisurely pace when Bob Montague said, “Uh, guys, it’s 15 minutes to start time.” So we had to drop the hammer to get there on time, but it in the end it was a great warmup. I’m glad someone actually uses an electronic device to keep time, while the rest of us stare blankly at our speed and wattage numbers and have no idea what time of day it actually is.

The start was a false flat through the redwoods for a mile or so, in the big ring. Amazingly, Tim Clark, the series leader, immediately went to the front and began stretching things out single file. (I figured he would at least save himself for the steep stuff.) Nils made good on his intention to take a pull or two at the front and put everyone in a little duress. Much appreciated! I thought all this was a perfect way to gradually elevate the heart rate before the nasty bits, so it was all fine with me. But no way I was going to make an appearance at the front!

Justin Lucke had told us beforehand to look for a 15-mph sign, with an arrow, which would signal the start of the real climbing. That was helpful. Plus, someone yelled out, “Small chainring!” just before the first hairpin. With that announcement, everyone dutifully hit the left shift lever. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk went 100 front derailleurs, and the real climbing began!

I stayed in the top five or so right from the start. I could see Tim up ahead, almost all the way to the finish, but there was no way I could get to him. At one point, in the middle section, I was in second place for a quite a while. When we hit the only flat section, I tucked in behind another rider to rest a bit before the final agonies.

The last mile or so was a group with myself, Justin, Michael Grundmann (Webcor), and Thomas Novikoff (Cambio). I’d never ridden up the climb before (though I have descended it many times), and wasn’t sure where the finish was. Ignorance in this case was not bliss. All of a sudden Justin and Michael started accelerating hard, knowing the finish was coming, but it was too late for me to get them. My only consolation was that I managed to outsprint Novikoff for fourth. Tim Clark won, going away, 53 seconds ahead of me. My wattage for the 30 minutes was 356; for the 25 minutes of the actual climb, it was 397. So I was pretty happy. Mark was 11th, and the great efforts of the team has us currently in second place overall.

For dessert, we went down Highway 84, up Kings Mountain road at a blistering pace with Mark leading the way, then over Stage Road, with me, Mark, and Nils alternately attempting acts of homicide on one another. The pain was exquisite. My PowerTap gave us 56 miles on the day. Another legendary Bike Trip outing!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Melanie and I looked at the weather forecast and the promise of rain was all it took to convince us to get up early and drive to Santa Rosa for their 1st race of 5 in their series. That combined with the fact that the promoters are great people doing a lot in their community for bicycle advocacy, and always provide a good time. This race was no exception, with the Sonoma County Trails Commision on hand selling beer, and a live band present for our entertainment.

We arrived just after 8 o’clock and took a little walk around the course with Allison Baumhefner. There were a large number of tweakers hanging out in the park, who were somewhat confused by it all. One guy was eventually arrested, after trying to pick a fight, letting his dog run around the course, and making fun of the fit cyclists, “look at me, I’m a cyclist, I’m so fit” I made a mental note to watch out for dog poo. The promoters really made the most of this tiny park. There was an open grassy area covered in yellow tape marking all the zigzags, switch backs and corners to add some distance to the lap. They used some old paved pathways, and some trails that went along the creek to include a little variety. There was a small rooty run up, a large sandpit behind the swing sets, and a pile of woodchips that reminded me of a DFL course, along with a couple sets of super high barriers to make it hard. The rain added a little extra challenge making some corners nice and slippery, but it wasn’t enough to create the desired mud bath. We finished making our mental notes, and went back to the car to get changed and ride a lap.

I did a little warm up and chose my lines, the sections through the grass were really slow with all the twists and turns, the paved sections were fast, and there was little downhill into a right hand turn followed by a short steep slippery uphill that people were having trouble with. I decided to give it a try, and realized that if you went into it with enough speed you could clear it, but if someone in front of you stalled out, you would lose traction and have to get off and run. It could be one of those places to lose or make up time. I also noticed that the rest of the tweakers had positioned themselves on the backside of the course, and had quickly turned into typical cyclocross fans…Hecklers! They weren't bummed about their friend being arrested they "never liked that guy anyway".

We lined up for the start and there were about 7 Women in the A’s race, a small field but not bad for a low-key race like this. I managed to get the hole shot, and was wondering how this was possible, I shouldn’t be in the front. I stayed there for a lap and then slowed down a little bit, out of fear of blowing up and Barb Howe came around and passed me on the barriers. I figured I should stay with Barb as long as I could. I could hear Allison right behind me. We passed through the Tweaked Heckler section to find a guy standing still in the middle of the road, and a dog riding a skateboard, we yelled at them, just hoping they would stay where they were, kept our speed and went around them both, wishing for the best for those behind us, it was interesting to say the least. We stayed in this order for another lap until I tripped and fell on my face on the short rooty run up! Allison came around me and stepped on the gas, and she and Barb made pretty decent gap on me. At that point I decided not to let anyone else pass me, I got up, remounted, and just tried to keep it nice and steady from there. I could hear that Sarah Bamberger (on her Mountain bike nonetheless) and Sarah Piccolo were close behind. I held them off just enough through the next couple laps. It became a bit of a challenge to pass some of the lapped riders at this point, especially through the twisty turny grassy bits. It was the short steep up hill that proved to be a turning point. Sarah B and myself managed to ride it and Sarah P had to run, and we managed to put a little gap on her there. I was feeling pretty good again, after my little spill, and bruised ego and decided I could go a little faster on my last lap. I distanced myself from Sarah B, and made up some time on Allison and Barb. I came in 3rd place, which is a great result for me. I reminded myself that along with fitness the key to Cyclocross is staying on your bike!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mt. Tam Hillclimb

I’m very familiar with the Mt. Tam climb, since my in-laws live nearby, but I’ve never raced it. So I’d looked forward to this race for sometime.

I rode from my in-laws house to the start, a nice five-mile warm up. Scott and Mark were easy to find, riding their trainers next to Mark’s big shiny truck. There are plenty of hills around for warming up, so I rode up to Jerry Garcia’s old house a couple of times, with its expansive view of the ocean. Stinson is a beautiful area!

Jim L. and others warned me about a torrid start on the flat section around the bay, so I was worried about it. Plus, someone in the men’s room line said there was a 20-rider crash in our field last year, as riders vied for position before the climb. Ugh.

Indeed, someone in a plain white jersey went to the front in our field and immediately put the hammer down, joined by a few others. But I thought this was great, as I sat comfortably in the top 10, on Mark Caldwell’s wheel, as the race strung out single file. It was a talking pace for me! In what seemed like an instant, we were at the turnoff to the climb, and brrrrr over the cattle guard we went. At that point one of the guys pushing the pace at the front waved goodbye and said, “Have a nice race, guys!”

Carl Nielsen immediately charged to the front, with Jon Ornstil. The pace seemed a little hot to me, so I settled in to my own rhythm. Mark had offered the sage advice to follow John Novitsky, who rides these climbs like a metronome, dialing a wattage number—the exact tactic he used in winning San Bruno earlier in the year, where I was third. Sure enough, Novitsky soon came up on my wheel and I followed him for a while, but the human metronome was also too much for me. So for most of the climb, I was mano a mano in a small group of three: myself, Caldwell, and Rick Martyn. I noticed that I could make little surges that would gap these guys. I filed that information for future reference.

Suddenly, we were at the top of the main climb. I was still with my companions for the first two of the final “seven sisters.” Then I decided to play my hand, and just pushed as hard as I could for the next two hills. When I finally sat up and looked around, I was alone. Sweet!

The rest of the race was an exercise in pain tolerance. It was nice to have people cheering along the summit. At one point I passed a couple of pros, including Justin Lucke, which was a bit of inspiration for me. I came across alone, in what I imagined was seventh, but I was pleased to find out later that I was actually fifth. Not bad!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Montevina Road report

In my determination to pre-ride some of the 2008 Low-Key climbs, I took a new route to work:

View Larger Map

Montevina Road is a beautiful climb that offers views of the reservoir. It conncts to the top of Bohlman Rd. via a fire road. The climb itself is very consistent. Think Soda Springs, but a little steeper and shorter. The hard part is the end. It's short, but really steep. Easily above 15%. After climbing 3 miles of 9%, it really hurts. However, it's only a few hundred meters and might not even be in the actual LKHC.

In summary, it's not too bad. Easier than Mt. Madonna, except that Mt. Madonna eases off instead of getting much harder.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mt. Tam Hill Climb Pre-race Report

How to Race Successfully at Mt Tam
By Jim (did-everything-wrong-last-year) Langley

Dennis put his mini-pump against my head and forced me to write this. If you're doing Mt. Tam for the first time, please heed my advice below. If you're an expert already, please write a race report so we can learn more.

By the numbers, here's what I'd do if I was racing Mt Tam this year (I'll be at Interbike instead):

1. Warm up well - break a real sweat, get your heart rate high for a while. REASON: The start is fast and competitive. You want to stay at the front and do as little work as possible for the 4-mile flat stretch before the climb. In order to do that you need to have your engine warmed-up and ready to race right away.
2. Get to the start early and line up in the very, very front line. REASON: They're going to take off like it's a criterium and you want to be at the front for as much of a free ride as you can get so your legs are feeling great when the road tilts up. If you're anywhere near the back or even mid pack, there's a great chance you'll get bumped back further and further and end up yo-yoing at the tail end and arrive totally spent when the real race begins.
3. Focus on the road and riders and stay on the drops. REASON: The road is awful. It's narrow, twisting and rutted. The shoulder is bad, too. There's a centerline rule and maybe even oncoming traffic. Watch for snakebite-causing ruts that people don't point out (that's why you need to be in front); stay on the drops so you can keep control when you get bumped; and watch for squirrels that get pushed over the centerline and then force their way back in.
4. Try hard to be very near the front by the time you make the right turn to begin the climb. REASON: If there's a large gap or if you're back in the pack you'll lose a lot of time weaving through people on this part.
5. Go hard; don't pace yourself too much on this first climb. REASON: At the top you get a little dip where you can rest a little. It's actually a slight downhill for you to breathe easy a bit and spin lightly for the Seven Sisters to come.
6. Smile when you see the next part, the Seven Sisters: you get to ride a rollercoaster of a road. Do these like our hill repeats, powering over them seeing how many people you can catch. Wheee! REASON: The finish is right ahead and you can catch a lot of people and make some real time if you jam over each Sister and fly down the backside and repeat, all 7 times.

Good luck team! Ride smart and climb fast!

Friday, September 5, 2008

University Road Race 45+

By Mark Edwards 8/24/08

Mark riding up Hagar RdUniversity road race… I love this race! I’ve never podiumed, I suffer terribly, and rarely are the results correct. So why do I love this race? Many reasons, it’s my home course, we always have lots of friends come by to cheer us on, and there’s lots of climbing.

This year exceeded all others combined. We set up two Bicycle Trip tents, had at least half the team there at one time or another, had the most family and friends I’ve ever seen at one of our races (I don’t think I ever went more than two minutes without hearing someone cheer me on – that was amazing!), and… they even got my place correct.

Snacks provided by The ButteryAnd then, a real highlight, Joe Platin (racer extraordinaire and team sponsor) brought by an amazing array of great food prepared by The Buttery which was enjoyed by all.

I got to the race a bit early to cheer on our guys in the 35+ 4/5. I watched Scott ride the best I’ve ever seen in this race, while Matt impressed all of us climbing with the leaders (he’s gone from out of shape to a formidable climber in a surprisingly short time), and Bob showed that once his legs catch up to his heart – no one will be safe.

I’ve raced the 35+ 4/5 twice and the 45+ Open three times. I’ve been competitive in the 35+ 4/5 group, but never in the 45+. For this race the 45+ is combined with the 35+ 1/2/3 group. This combined field puts everyone at the mercy of some of the top climbers in the NCNCA. Historically it’s been an incredible amount of suffering for really lousy results.

Would it be different this year? Has my training prepared me for the inevitable surges and attacks? Never mind that this is probably the most demanding course of the season.

As usual, the starting roster was a who’s who of climbers in our District. All my main rivals were present and accounted for. We talked casually waiting for the starter’s gun, trying our best to hide our nervousness. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, this course is going to hurt. Bad.

The gun went off and Geoff, Jim, and I surged off the line. The pace was quick, but manageable – at least for a lap or two. This race has a way of splitting up very quickly. If you get caught behind a gap your race can be over before you even get started. Jim and Geoff were staying near the front - smart positioning. I assumed my usual position, somehow managing to hang at the very back of the lead pack. I’m able to avoid getting gapped, but I’m always nervous that a gap will open ahead of me and I’ll end up in trouble.

Over the first climb, I then tucked in behind the largest rider I could find and did as little as possible on the descent. The turn on to Hagar, starting the 1 ¼ mile climb, always starts with a surge. I moved to near the front and allowed myself to drift back as the guys accelerated. They peloton usually backs off just as I near the rear of the pack, and they did it again this time. Perfect! I stayed in the lead group and expended less energy than most.

Each of the next four laps saw the pace pick up, with the forth passing in a scorching 7:12! I’m still amazed how fast we climbed that forth lap, unfortunately that was the last I saw of Geoff and Jim (actually I did see Jim one more time).

Throughout the race Scott was keeping me apprised of my position relative to the other 45+ guys ahead of me. A couple of times I had to chuckle as he urged me on with news I was only 45 seconds back. Heck, I could barely turn my cranks, let alone consider accelerating.

Up until about lap 7 I was with the main group. After that the 35+ guys started to pull the group apart. At this point I couldn’t figure out if all my competitors were around me, or up ahead with a handful of 35+ guys. Scott tried to keep me informed, but it’s a tough race to track, and I’m not sure how capable I was of understanding his updates at that point. I was in serious oxygen debt and not thinking especially clearly.

By lap 11 I was struggling with negative self talk. I wanted to quit, questioning why I do this to myself. But then, as I crested the climb near the pool, I saw Jim and his group working together. That gave me a push to keep going. As I passed, Jim gave me a cheer that carried me up the next climb.

Suffering through the next couple of laps, I wasn’t sure what to make of Scott’s update on lap 13. He said Jon Ornstil was cracking big time and if I could pass him I’d be in 6th place – good enough for a T-shirt!

I kept pushing, trying my best to ignore the pain, when Jon came into view. I was going to catch him on the flats near the pool parking lot. Perfect. The short flat section is probably the only place on this course where I have an advantage on Jon. On the descent he could sit on my wheel, he’s stronger climbing, but I’m heavier and stronger on the flats (plus he’d killed himself off the front for several laps with one of the 35+ monsters).

I mustered whatever I could and went by him too fast for him to attempt catching my wheel, it worked. I crested the summit with him no where near.

My final lap, driven by panic that some one was bound to catch me, was actually one of the most painful. But I managed to hang on for 6th place.

I’ve got a year to get ready for University ’09.

Dunnigan Hills & San Ardo Road Race Reports 2008

Dunnigan Hills & San Ardo RR Reports
By Ed Price

I'll start with Dunnigan since it was just last weekend - and then cover the previous weekend's race at San Ardo (scroll to the bottom).

Dunnigan was one of the hardest flat races I've done in some time. What Dunnigan Hills lacked in climbing, it more than made up for in wind and heat. It should be called Dunnigan "Winds," not Dunnigan Hills. Fierce wind. Central Valley wind. The kind of wind you get riding up the coast of Highway One about noon on a typical summer day. Two long sections of sidewind, one long section of headwind and finally a long section of really strong tailwind. The sidewind tore my race to pieces.

I knew Dunnigan was going to be a hard race when about half of the field (including me) missed the right-hand turn to head north. One of the most basic rules of the group training rides is "never lead unless you know the way." About mile eight, I noticed that riders were starting to turn around in one's and two's and head back in the opposite direction we just came from, never a good sign. It took about three quarters of a mile for the remaining pack to realize we had strayed off course and turn around.

We found the turn we should have taken and headed north into a fierce wind. I thought my race was over right then and there. The riders who knew the course and took the right-hander we missed were almost out of sight and I could see a big pack way way up the road. I felt like quitting and turning around right then and there but we chased and chased and chased. I knew John Pollard took the right way because he was not with my group and our plans to "race together" were dashed before we even had a chance.

I don't know how, but we finally began to catch rider after rider who took the correct right turn. The headwind was fierce and the effort those riders made by themselves severely taxed their strength and they were unable to keep up with my group as we passed them. We finally caught the big group but it was the 55+ category who started five minutes behind us, not my race. They had slipped by us when we missed the right-hand turn to head north.

After much discussion, I determined my group was all together at this point and that no one was up the road anymore. My group pulled away from the 55+. After a few miles, the 55+ riders came by us and pulled away. Then the juniors came by us and pulled away. After a few miles more, my group started to put down the hammer and we passed the juniors and then went straight by the 55+ riders. Finally the 55+ riders caught my group again and we rode together briefly. I was not paying attention when my group rolled off the front of the 55+ riders and by the time I saw the danger, it was too late. I chased and chased and got within 25 yards but the wind was too strong. 12 riders were up the road about 30 seconds and I was in "no man's land."

I let the 55+ group catch me and stayed off the back just enought to stay out of trouble with the motorcyle ref that was watching us (and me) very closely. Finally we hit the last ten-mile stretch with the wind at our backs. I broke away from the 55+ group with another rider from my race several times but I could never make it stick. I saw Jim Langley attack the 55+ group over and over again and wanted to help but I knew I could not.

With about three miles to go, the motorcyle ref told me and the others riders in my group (four total) to drop back and let the 55+ riders sprint for the line. I left my four companions in the last kilometer and finished 13th, about a minute down on my group of 12.

Next year, I will not miss that turn again.

San Ardo RR Report
This was my 12th year racing San Ardo and it was by far the fastest, almost 13 minutes faster over 67 miles (covered in just under three hours). I could have raced the 45+ 4/5 event but wanted the challenge of riding three laps and competing against guys 17 years younger than me. I fulfilled my goal of a top six placing the very first race this year at Cantua Creek (4th) , so the pressure was off and I could focus on helping my team in races or race a harder category if I wanted to.

There were a number of teams with four to six riders who controlled the group and although the pace was fast (23mph), we didn't lose very many riders as we approached the long uphill finish. Starting from the very back (and yes, I should have been closer to the front) at the bottom of the hill, I slowly worked my way up the field, having to dodge a few riders who were rapidly slowing down in front of me. Hitting the brakes hard twice, I forced my way around several riders who were purposely swinging off and slowing down after leading out their favored sprinter. That's bike racing and I should know by know what to expect. A group of about 15 riders were pulling away from the field near the top of the climb and I joined them as we turned left onto the finishing straight. I finished 16th and it was a good two seconds before the 17th rider came in. Our newest team member, Mike Bodge was 2nd overall and 1st in the 35+ 4/5 "B" race (raced together but picked seperately). Great job Mike!

The important lesson for the day; if you start a sprint at the back it better be a very long and unobstructed way to the finish line. Long it was, but unobstructed it was not and I know that hurt my chances of a top six placing. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dunnigan Hills Road Race (55+), Aug 31, 2008

Dunnigan Hills Road Race Report
By Jim Langley

Oddly enough, the Dunnigan Hills Road Race isn't really about hills, it's about wind, but there is one important bump right at the end it's good to know about. We 55+ guys raced 1 lap around the 46-mile loop and I spent most of the day hiding, which was relatively easy since the flat terrain attracted one of the largest fields of the year, more than 3o strong.

Mostly the course follows frontage roads skirting Highway 5 and we faced stiff cross and head winds. A few strongmen tried to get off the front and some were able to fight the wind alone for a good distance but we eventually pulled everyone back. My plan was to stay in the sweet spot and not do any work until late in the race. I was thinking before the race I might attack from the gun or go halfway in, but it was so much more difficult out in the wind, I gave up on those ideas and decided to wait.

About the only interesting event in the early part of the race was barely avoiding going off course as we began to follow teammate John Pollard's pack, that had missed a turn. Luckily for us, John and another rider realized their mistake and headed back, just in time to prevent us from making the same goof. Read John's report to see how his race turned out.

I actually almost didn't enter this race because of the lack of hills and I expected it would be a fast, flat contest decided by the sprint. I don't have much finishing speed so my plan was to apply a little "tenderizer," in the form of almost all-out attacks, to soften up the pack's legs and hopefully improve my chances in any dash to the line.

About 10 miles from the finish I made my first big effort, standing and giving it about 90% for a minute and then sitting and looking back to see what effect it had. It opened a decent gap but the guys closed it quickly. After a brief rest, I attacked again, and this time one of the Hammer Nutrition guys came with me and one other guy and we put a little pressure on the bunch behind with a few miles of pretty smooth pacelining. But, the wind prevented us from adding any distance and the pack slowly absorbed us.

I drifted back for some rest and to recharge my batteries and watched my computer. When it read 40 miles, meaning only 6 to go, I hit the front again, standing and powering away at almost maximum effort in my top gear, 53/12. I did this about 5 times and every time the guys drew me back, but they never counterattacked me, so I was always recovering when they were chasing and attacking when they were trying to recover, giving me a slight advantage even if I was working much harder.

With the bunch all together we passed the 2-mile marker and then the 1-mile sign and, worried that everyone was setting up to sprint, I tried to attack again. This time, 2 Hammer Nutrition guys were on me and they pounded past and made the hard right leading to the finishing straightaway. This road looked more like a driveway than the course and I might have missed it had they not led the way. At this point, I thought I'd blown it and that the finish was going to become a large pack sprint, the worst scenario for me. After all, if the Hammer guys had hammered by so easily, obviously there must be a bunch of faster sprinters just behind them biding their time for the right moment to pounce. (It never occurred to me to look back and see.)

Not wanting that to happen I marked the Hammers and saw that we had to get over a small hill, an overpass over I5. This made it impossible to see the finish so I had no idea how far out we still were. All I knew is that the finish was ahead somewhere and I didn't want the red-and-white Hammers to beat me to it. Still in my 53/12, I couldn't get quite enough leg speed up the overpass but I managed to pass the guys in front and had a clear view of the VeloPromo finishing tent. I could not see the line but I knew it had to be near the tent.

I had lugged my engine getting over the hill but was able to wind it up coming down the backside and I was still out in front. I was fully expecting at any moment to hear the sound of the cavalry charging past and relegating me to pack-fodder status. I was even slightly holding back trying to save something in case I had to make one final effort or get on a wheel. It was about then that I spotted the line not 20 feet ahead(!), way before the tent, and I tried hard to speed up. But, 2 guys timed it better and caught me right at the line. Maybe if I'd realized the finish was so close, or maybe if I'd had an 11-tooth cog, I might have won, but I'm very happy with 3rd and especially happy I was fit enough to almost control a flat road race, something I've never been able to do in the past. Overall, Dunnigan turned out to be a lot of fun and a great confidence builder, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dunnigan Hills Road Race

By John Pollard

This was a strange enough experience that I thought I'd write about it.

I drove up with Bob, Jim, and Joe. Ed was there, and I did spot Nils, but didn't have a chance to talk to him. There were so many 45+ 4/5 riders, that they split us into two fields. Bob and Joe were in the "A" field, while Ed and I were together in the "B" field. Jim rode the 55+ race, where he did quite well, and Nils rode the E3 race.

I did not come into this race with good fitness and it was a flat race on paper, so my plan was pretty much not to respond to any breaks, and hope for a sprint finish. For the first 7-8 miles, it all went according to plan. On the outbound section, there was a strong quartering headwind from the right, and I sat happily on the left, doing virtually no work. One of the other riders said "this is turning into a really boring race." Perfect. As we went over a freeway overpass, I heard shouting behind. It was one of the San Jose guys drifting off the back, trying to attract the attention of his teammates. Behind him, I saw riders turning, and a large group riding away in a different direction.

I drifted back, and turned around. No one else followed. The San Jose guy (who turned out to be "Bunkie" (Ed) Webb said "I want to wait for my boys." He had 4 other teammates in the race, and it looked like half of the group was up the road, but not attacking. I preferred to arrive in the pack without "his boys," so I put my head down to chase, and he jumped on my wheel. We traded pulls, into a headwind. After chasing for several minutes, we had narrowed the gap, but it started to stabilize at a hundred yards of so. Damn, they're speeding up. Instead of waiting to get worn down, I jumped across the remaining gap with Webb sitting on. With my nose on the stem, my new Power Tap showed scary high numbers, but we made it back to the race and were able to rest on the very back for several minutes. Once I felt vaguely human, I looked around and saw a Bike Trip jersey in the front third of the group, out of the wind. "Ed made the turn. Cool." I decided to cruise up to tell him that I was back. That's when things got ugly for the second time.

It wasn't Ed. It was Jim. Webb and I had chased down the 55 pack, but we didn't know how many of our pack were mixed up with the 55s. It turned out that he was sticking with me, we talked about it, and decided to look over the group to see if any of our guys were in it. All the way down the left side, from front to back, the race numbers showed all 55s. We weren't sure if we were the front our race, or if there were other people even further up the road. At that point, the guys in the middle/rear of the 55 pack noticed our numbers, and started yelling at us. They were going to call a referee, have us DQed, and so on. Webb and I drifted off to the side to discuss what to do when we spotted a group of 3 further up the road that looked like part of our race. We decided to bridge up to the group of three.

We traded pulls again, but the guys on the front of the 55 pack chased us down. We sat up for a minute before trying again, and the guys in the middle of the 55s started shouting and threatening Webb and I again. We did a "rinse and repeat" a couple more times, and finally ran down the 3 guys who DID turn out to be in our race. For the second time, I was totally gassed and really, really needed a rest. At that moment we were hitting the rollers that were the "hills" part of "Dunnigan Hills," and the front of our race came through, working a fast paceline. I saw that Ed Price was with them. Webb jumped on the train and went on to win the race. I jumped on the train and blew up on spectacular fashion, going backwards through the 55s and then through the people in my race who were unable to hang with the chase. Jim saw me slipping and told me to hang on, but there was simply no gas left in the tank at that moment.

The race itself had gone up the road, but I convinced several of the dropped riders to start working again - mostly because it was going to be a long ride back alone in the wind. We eventually became 5 riders, then caught another group of 5 or 6. The eventual group of 10+ motored back much faster than I would have liked at that point. It was a learning experience and a hard workout - on par with something that Mark Edwards would design. My Power Tap file shows many extreme power spikes, and sustained early L4/5 that you do NOT want to see if you are trying to conserve energy. Congratulations to Bunkie Webb (SJBC) who also did tons of un-necessary work, but was able to go on to win the race. If I had known that I was off the front with one of the strongest guys in the field, I would have ridden very differently. As Humphrey Bogart said to Claude Rains in Casablanca, "I was misinformed."

John Pollard

Friday, August 29, 2008

Winters Road Race

Dear Teammates,

I made the journey to Winters with our newest team member, Michelle Heaton. I've ridden with Michelle for about five years on the Sunday and Wednesday rides and she's really strong - period. Not just for a female rider or a rider over the age of 45, just a strong rider of any sex or age. In addition, she's a great person and a friend who really cares about those around her. She owns her own successful Montessori pre-school.

I read before the race they had taken out the English Hills section of the course so I thought the race would be dead flat, but I was wrong. Indeed, the big hill in the middle of the course was still there and having ridden Winters several years ago, I knew it would be a tough day in the 45+ open category race.

A group of four riders went away before the big hill in the middle of the course and they stayed away for the whole rest of the race. I saw Joe Platin breakaway from the group as the race hit the bottom of the big hill section and I knew my chances of helping Joe (which were slim at best) in the sprint were gone.

The race then became a flashback of my prior Winters experience in the 45+ open. I lost contact with the main group on the last steep section of the hill, tried to bridge on the descent to no avail, formed a chase group with 12-15 other riders, caught the main group (five of us) after an 18-mile chase, got dropped again near the top of the big climb, formed another chase group with 7-9 riders and finished 2nd in the second group, five places behind Joe in 30th.

I was very satisfied with my race and put in a good effort on the two long chases, taking almost every pull to help our group make up time on the main pack. I know the main group was not riding very hard because four riders were up the road and most of the big teams were represented in it but our group rode as one, working together in unison for a common goal and we did it after a 45 minute chase.

Ed Price

Monday, August 25, 2008

San Ardo (55+) - Aug 23, 2008

San Ardo time trial Report
By Jim Langley

Okay, okay - I know - and YOU know, that San Ardo is a ROAD RACE, not a time trial, but you're going to have to cut me some slack on this one. Somehow, and, I'm still not entirely clear how it happened, I turned it into a time trial, much to my humiliation, disgust and downright misery.

So, there I am about 15 minutes before the start and I find teammates Gary and Larry and we're spinning around warming up and things are hunky dory. I feel the need and head for the porta-potties and commence taking care of business. Mind you that the starting line is less than 10 feet away from the crappers. Also note, that as I entered the plastic-fantastic relief station I double-checked and there wasn't a single 55+ racer anywhere near the starting line or even any master riders like me grouping behind the packs soon starting.

Now, I don't know about you, but I like a potty that has a handle on the backside of the door so you can settle onto the throne without blowing a knee out using your legs. Alas, no handle on this unit. No worries, I grab the latch, which sorta works as long as you hold tight. First, I have to remove my jersey so I can get the damn bibs off.

That's a little tricky, though. If I'm not careful, the pockets will dump and my GU will land in the pile of poo. Then, there's the issue of what to do with my only full-zip team jersey. Naturally, there's no hook on the back of the door to hang it. And, I certainly can't put it on the tinkle-treated floor. But, I'm an old hand at this game and I gingerly balance the jersey on top of the TP holder and get down to some serious pre-race weight-loss.

Deposit delivered, I suit back up, exit stage left for some fresh air and take another long look at the staging area. Sill no 55+ racers in sight. But, that's not surprising as I still haven't heard the starter call the race. It looks like the women are starting and some juniors after them. I decide to try to find Larry and Gary and ride up the street a bit. Nope. I check my watch. Still a few minutes before our start. But, where are all the guys?

Still clueless, I finally decide to ask the starter who is now getting into his car, which is when I get the wonderful news that he started my group "a long time ago," apparently exactly when I disappeared into the dumper. Unbelievable. This is the first time in all the VeloPromo races I've ever done, going back to 1982, that they actually started one early - and nobody thought to send me the memo. (In my defense, another guy in our group missed the start, too, but he saw the group heading out of town and was able to chase and catch.)

What to do, what to do? I decide anything's better than hanging out at the start, so I slam my Cervelo onto the 53, get down on the drops and hit it as hard as I can. Maybe I can catch them. Only a couple miles out I see the first juniors. They're so small and rail thin, and not working together, but individually they're all going at a pretty good clip. I move way left and holler encouragement as I pound by trying to eek every bit of speed out my bike and body. Next, I overtake a more organized group of juniors and urge them on, too. It's awesome to see kids out racing.

I'm remembering the San Ardo course now from years ago when I last raced it. Wide open roads, no traffic at all, fairly gentle rollers, wind, wind and more wind, and some seriously thrashed pavement, that keeps kicking me hard every 50 feet or so due to the unavoidable raised cracks. Already, my legs are burning from the all-out effort, but my back is screaming from the nasty bumps. I can't keep this up if I can't relieve the pain. I decide to ride an even bigger gear and jam even the flat sections standing up to stretch out my back and take the bumps with my knees. This works, and I'm able to keep hammering at over 24mph.

Soon, I see a large pack, which gives me hope. I start picking up stragglers from other races first. They're too blasted to even respond when I tell them 'good job - keep it going,' as I motor past. Maybe, just maybe, that group up ahead is my group. I know better - the women started after us - but I try to trick myself into believing. As I catch the back of the pack, I see that it is the women. I'm about 15 miles in and about now, it would be so nice to sit at the back for a bit, but the motorcycle official won't let me. He sees me coming, lets me pass, gets on my wheel and starts telling the ladies to move over and let me through. It takes a significant effort to get around them, but I manage and then worry that I'm going to die any minute and suffer having them blow by me. They're so tightly packed and so smooth, surely I can't stay ahead of them fighting the wind alone.

Somehow, though, I start feeling a little better. I keep shifting gears, standing and sitting to change muscle groups and pushing it as hard as my legs and lungs will let me. I take a look back and see that I've put major distance on the girls, which makes me feel a little better - being able to stay ahead of a big organized group is a good sign. A few more miles and I cruise through San Ardo, where there are actually some local kids standing in the road cheering in Spanish obviously delighted to have a fun distraction on this overcast Saturday morning. Pretty cool. Later I see some collecting ejected bottles, too.

Glancing at my computer as I pass the scene of the "crime" (the starting line) I see that I've ridden the lap, 21 miles on terrible pavement with a headwind most of the way around, in well under an hour. I tell myself, maybe there's still a chance I'll catch someone from my group, and I attack the easy climb that starts lap 2. The feed zone folks give me some love, which helps steel me for the work to come. It feels like my left quad is blown, a very sharp pain just above the knee. My back is on fire. I have two mini cramps on both sides of my stomach just below the ribs. But, surprisingly, I'm feeling pretty strong, like I can absolutely kill this course one more time - and I feel like killing someone, namely one VeloPromo starter too numb to make sure everyone was lined up BEFORE starting the freakin' race early.

Up the road I spot some more stragglers. I can't use them as it's illegal, but none are in any shape to join my time trial anyway. They're in survival mode. Some have turned back even. I use the same technique I used on lap one and ride the bump sections standing and pushing a huge gear to avoid the impact on every crack. I also big gear all the climbs. On one, the race photographer jumps up and helps motivate me to finish the effort over the top to give him something worth shooting.

I'm tiring, though, and I'm starting to lose faith that there's any chance of catching my group. I get negative and start doing the math. Four or 5 groups between mine and when I started means that I took my first pedal stroke at least 20 minutes in arrears. Even Cancellara who rides the same Cervelo I do couldn't make up that distance. Still, I'm not about to quit now. I think of my high school cross country coach who told us that if he ever heard one of his "boys" quit - even on a weekend training run - he'd put us on the practice squad. I push more, trying extra hard to relax my upper body, breathe rhythmically and get more oomph into my legs. I keep my back way flat and ride a perfectly straight line. I see that up the road there are now stragglers every hundred yards or so, targets for me to focus on and pick off - exactly what I need about now.

I catch everyone and keep seeing more and try to take it up another notch. I'm gasping instead of inhaling now and I can no longer ride a straight line. My legs are so ruined I can't push the big gears sitting so I stand and sprint, sit and spin, and repeat. There's San Ardo! The finish is just up the road! I pass a few more guys and then 2 more, and I see a wonderful sight, their numbers are 700s, meaning that I have caught 2 guys in my group - who started at least 20 minutes before me. Not bad. I absolutely destroy them passing about 10mph faster then they're going as if they're guilty for the early start.

Unfortunately, I don't see any more of the 700 club until I finish. But, at least they're still congregated around the finish, which opens the possibility that my 42 mile individual time trial might have been almost as fast as their group race. That possibility isn't as satisfying as actually racing with them, but it's the only thought that eases the guilt of missing the start in the first place and letting the team and Coach Mark down.

Rolling over, I ask how the race went for them and Larry tells me I should be happy I missed the start as most of the group took a wrong turn at the end and lost their chance at winning. Bad luck for Larry and me, but luckily for Team Bike Trip, Gary WAS paying attention when the pack veered off course and he didn't turn but instead sprinting down the home straight for second place, his best finish of the year! Great job Gary!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fort Ord Road Race by Ed Price

Dear Teammates, Friends and Family,

Last Saturday I competed in the Fort Ord Road Race along with teammates Dennis Pederson and Larry Broberg. Dennis raced in the 45+ event and Larry raced in the 55+ category. I know Larry finished a very close 2nd while Dennis showed tremendous courage in the 45+ open cateogry race, competing with some of the best climbers in the district.

Fort Ord is not my "cup of tea" but I couldn't pass it up, because next to the Sea Otter, it is the closest race to my home (30 minute drive). The course was a clockwise ten mile loop of endless rolling hills with two "out and back" sections and one "big" climb near the end of each lap. The "big" climb was only about six to eight minutes long but it required a 39 x 23 right from the start.

My race started at 11:45 am. The weather was warm to hot, the wind was pretty mild for Fort Ord and the pavement was poor to bad (with many large and deep potholes). My goal was to stay with the main group as long as possible and hopefully make it up the main climb at least once so that I could get through most of the 2nd lap before the second time up the big hill.

Our race had approximately 50 to 60 riders but was not full by any means (75 rider limit). I guess you either love or hate the Fort Ord course depending on how well you are climbing at the moment. I was hoping that the interval training I have been doing on the rollers (one good 45-60 minute session, three shorter sessions of about 30 minutes and one to two very short workouts of about 20 minutes would pay off, and they did.

I felt good even during the 45 minute warmup session on the rollers before the race started. The race consisted of "moderate tempo" on the many ups and downs leading to the course's big climb where the strong riders "punched it" every lap. I was spinning the smallest gear I possibly could the whole race, many times in the 39 x 19 where other riders rode the big chainring. I stayed with the group up the first climb and felt better about my chances. I lost contact near the very top of the big climb on the second lap but quickly caught the lead group on the descent. The third time up the big climb I knew it would be very difficult and I lost contact near the top again but was not able to catch on the descent. There were about 12 miles of racing to go and I was really spent but I "slogged" through it and finished 22nd. We were averaging 30 minutes per lap but on the last lap, it took 38 minutes and I finished in two hours and eight minutes. A group of four riders, including my friend and travel companion, Russ Cadwallader broke away from the field on the last climb and Russ finished 3rd. I am trying to get Russ to join our team for next year since Family Cycling Center will not be sponsoring anyone next year. Russ has placed in the top ten of every race except Pescadero (15th). He is one strong rider and would fit the team perfectly.

Ed Price

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Northern CA/NV Elite Road Race Championships, 45+, 8/2/2008

By Dennis Pedersen

Margaret was out of town this weekend, partying with her girlfriends in Chicago, so I did what any crazed cycling-nerd with a bachelor's weekend would do: I looked around for races to enter! And this one at Fort Ord, so close to home, made sense. Except Team Bicycle Trip's coach, Mark Edwards, warned me that the hills were just slightly longer than ideal for me and there'd be tons of tough competitors. Heck, I deal with that sort of thing all the time, and what's the worst thing they would be likely to do... drop me. I'm used to that, so bring it on!

My 45+ open-category race started at 11:46AM, so I got to sleep in a bit and had my usual breakfast at a leisurely pace. Larry Broberg was also racing, in 55+ starting at 11:50AM, and that morning he called and very kindly offered to drive me down. David Gill had dropped off a generator for me to deliver to Bob Leibold, but Larry was happy to help. What a guy!

It had been really foggy around our neighborhood near the beach, but it cleared up soon and by the time we got to Fort Ord the weather was gorgeous, around 60 degrees, and calm. As we got ready the wind did pick up, though, and eventually got up to about 12 MPH which did affect our race a lot. We warmed up on a section of the course and I was ready. Ed Price was also racing, but in 35+ 4/5 at 11:42AM with Russ Cadwallader (Family Cycling Center). We were all scheduled to race 4 laps, for 42.5 miles total.

Our race field was only about 15 guys, with Morgan Stanley and VOS well represented, a few from Alto Velo/Webcor and others. As we waited for the start everybody was keeping an eye out for Rob Anderson (Team Specialized Racing), who had won the NCNCA Masters Championships, in 50+, the weekend before by soloing off the front for several laps!!! Jon Ornstil (VOS) jokingly suggested that we start the race right away! Anderson showed up just as we got our last-minute lecture and a neutral start behind Bob Leibold's van, and the mood became much more somber.

Our pace was very pleasant at first, even after the van left, and I was really enjoying the scenery as guys joked in the peloton. Unbelievably, Anderson flatted in the first mile and was out! The news spread like wildfire... it was a new race!

We cruised through the convoluted course made up of various access roads left from the Army's long presence there. Then there were a few minor attacks, just part of our warmup I guess, but nothing that hurt. Even the biggest hill, shortly after the feed zone and a very hard left onto Hennekens Ranch Road, which seemed about 4 or 5 minutes at most (shorter than the hill repeats Mark has us do every Wednesday), wasn't too bad, though I was definitely working hard.

After the big climb somebody from Morgan Stanley soloed off the front; maybe Max Thompson? I was reluctant to do anything about it since I was alone, and VOS and Alto Velo had better reason to chase him. He stayed off the front for about a half lap, and I eventually got spat out the front and pulled half-heartedly with a few others. Ornstil joked (again!) that we should chase on the flats and then he would chase on the hills. I just chuckled. There weren't any real flats anyway, everything was either slightly uphill or slightly downhill. I really liked the course except for that one big hill... and there it was again.

I actually locked up my rear tire briefly as we entered that left turn again, because Ornstil slowed a bit abruptly, but soon we were all mashing our pedals peacefully up that hill. Well, briefly, because soon it was war! Halfway up, which just happens to be about my favorite climb distance, they either threw white gas on the fire or my body was going up in flames, because I was at my absolute limit by all of my measures: My heart rate was nearing 190, my legs were dying and I was wheezing asthmatically. With all of those danger signs I knew I had no choice but to ride at my own speed even as they dropped me. Sigh. I knew this might happen, but that didn't make it any more fun.

Creasting the hill I saw that they were about 200 meters ahead of me, but I gamely soldiered on as best I could. Larry had said it is possible to catch back on with the rolling hills, and perhaps they would slow as they so often do. After all, they knew that we'd be climbing that hill two more times and guys like me would be too fried after that to contest the finish. So why hurry?

After a couple of miles two Action Sports riders and one from Don Chapin caught up to me and we were soon doing a respectable job of pacelining ourselves closer to the pack. In fact we were only about 20 seconds back at the first of the two turnarounds on that lap, and even less at the next turnaround. I knew we'd be hosed even so, because I doubted we'd close the gap before the big climb... and we'd then face further attacks when we got there... oh joy!

Going through the feed zone again I was really tiring from the 10 miles of hard effort in the wind, and up the rolling hills, and I bade my chase-group friends adieu. I just couldn't ride hard any more, and my left hamstring was hurting. As I rode up the hill again, just behind them still, I actually had to favor my left leg as I pedalled uphill in my 39x25 gears (I had replaced my 42t ring with my 39t that morning, on Larry's advice). Eventually I did something I'd never done; I got off my bike and walked up the hill!!! I wasn't in contention anyway, so I was not about to risk injury to my leg out of foolish pride!

Thus ended my hopes. I took a break at the top, then rode slowly down the hill and back to the finish line where I waited with Martin Wolff (VOS) to watch the finish. It was very anti-climactic because my competitors had caught up to the 35+ 4/5 leaders, with Russ among them, and the two fields crossed the line in a confusing mess of sprints and leadouts that was hard to make sense of. But I think Mark Caldwell (Morgan Stanley) got the 45+, and Russ got 2nd in 35+ 4/5 with Ed a bit back. I waited for Larry to finish... he got 2nd in 55+! Woo-hoo!

I got a great 1 hour and 44 minutes workout, burned about 1700 calories, covered 30.3 miles, my heart rate averaging 156 BPM (even with the easy parts!), maxing out at 190 BPM, and spent just over 1 hour in my L3 zone and higher. Just what I wanted to do on my bachelor's weekend!

Now for a massage...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Watsonville Criterium, 45+

By Dennis Pedersen

Methylprednisolone Adverse Reactions:
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of muscle mass

That's what I read on the package insert for the medicine my doctor prescribed to treat the huge swelling and rash I experienced after being stung by a wasp on my ride home. Not what we usually associate with a drug in the steroid family. I only mention this so as to set your expectations, because my legs actually felt fine... it was my lungs, and my brain, that failed me in this race!

Last year I finally figured out that I'm a sprinter, albeit a small one at 150 pounds, and have been trying to figure out which courses suit me best ever since. I have raced this technical course, set in a nice residential neighborhood near downtown, in 2005, 2006 and 2007, with fairly promising results. Watsonville's twisty, tight, fast 3/4-mile criterium course, with a short hill, seemed to match my power profile and lighter weight, but now I know better!

My teammate Joe Platin was first to sign up, and Geoff Drake also did, even though he was recovering from a chest cold. I knew this race would be fast, but I was hoping that our interval workouts had prepared us well. And even if I couldn't deliver for the team, a climber like Joe might be able to. Or if a strong break developed perhaps Geoff could join it and do well with his amazing endurance power. Bases covered, right? Well, the best laid plans...

I had scoped out our open-category 45+ age-group competitors beforehand, and knew that Larry Nolan (Team Specialized Masters) would be tough to beat, or even hang with. But that didn't mean we couldn't have fun trying our best. Since our small field was combined with the 35+ race we also needed to know who to watch there, so we could go with any promising breaks.

We lined up on that pleasant afternoon, serene in our belief we would do fine. Mark Knutson (Team Santa Cruz) was there as well. I was right behind Nolan, determined to watch his wheel. Geoff and Joe looked comfortable too; that ended just seconds after the official blew his whistle and the pack sprinted off at full speed and up the hill for the first of 24 laps!

I was, in fact, right with Nolan for a while, but then on the back stretch I heard him shift gears and move forward. I didn't think too much of it, but by the end of that lap, on the hill, I saw that he had somehow vaulted all the way up to the front!!! Gasp! That reminded me to move forward in the field instead of trying to sit in the middle of the pack, a mistake I had made in 2006 and didn't want to repeat. The many tight turns, wind, and the hill, all create gaps in the peloton that we then have to work very hard to close. That is very tiring. It is better to set a hard, but more consistent, pace near the front, thus avoiding the constant redlining efforts of those stuck in the back.

It was too late for me: We had gaps forming even on the second lap, and pretty soon the size of these gaps increased. Joe and Geoff were looking good, and I was feeling strong, but when I moved forward I saw a gap form ahead of me, and I then had to sprint to close it. Then another gap formed, and again I had to close it. It was like trying to climb up a rope that was no longer secured, like in a cartoon!

Up the hill on lap 3 or 4, Geoff had a gap ahead of him (he had done a better job of being near the front!), and I had to really dig deep to get around him and keep the pack within range. I couldn't look back, but heard later that Geoff "pulled the plug" because his lungs were just not clear enough yet. Bummer.

After a few turns I had caught back on just as, you guessed it, the guy at the back let a gap form ahead of him. I needed some recovery and couldn't get around him, so I had to draft a bit and hope for a slowdown. I had lost Joe, and couldn't afford to wait for him, and it turned out that he dropped out, or got pulled, soon thereafter anyway. So, I ended up working with this guy for a few laps. We did take turns, and after a while somebody else joined us from behind. The three of us rode our butts off for a couple of laps until they dropped out. I was so exhausted I could hardly see straight. There is just not enough time to recover on this course, unlike at Coyote Creek where the longer laps allowed us some recovery time. In short, Watsonville favors time-trialers, not sprinters! I rode alone for a lap or so, losing ground, but then I too got pulled. I was kind of relieved!

My race was just 21 minutes long! I joined Margie, Mark, Scott and Chris on the sidewalk on the hill, where they'd been cheering us on, and watched the carnage continue. Two of my pre-race 35+ picks, Eric Easterling and Brian Bosch (both of Sierra Pacific Racing), had teamed up and formed a break that stayed away. Even Nolan, who tried to bridge up, couldn't catch them. Soon there were only two or three guys left in the 45+ field; if I had managed to stay in I would have been guaranteed a podium spot!

I briefly considered entering the Elite 3 race to get a full race workout, but didn't have time as we were going to my nephew's graduation party. Instead I rode a 50-mile workout on Sunday to punish myself!

So, what did we take from this race? No trophies, but lots of lessons. We were all surprised: Geoff and Joe by the furious pace, and me by the apparent ease some of them (e.g. Nolan!) had in moving forward. I was again reminded of what my friend Chris Tanner says: It's better to be at 95% effort and well-positioned than at 75% but poorly positioned, though I usually associate that with a sprint finish. Had I worked harder on the first lap, like Nolan did, to move forward instead of conserving energy for a sprint, I might have finished that race and been on the podium. Instead I spent a lot of time fighting the wind bridging multiple gaps, trying to ride even faster than the guys up front but starting from far behind them... a recipe for failure.

Oh well. There's always next time!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coyote Creek Circuit Race Report 7/14/08

Coyote Creek Circuit Race Report (45+ & 4's)
By Eddy Price

Yesterday four of us (myself, Joe Platin, Dennis Pederson and Bob Montague) raced in the 45+ open category at the Coyote Creek Circuit Race in South San Jose. Dennis was the obvious choice for our leader and protected rider as he won the 35+ 4/5 race last year and is our best sprinter by far. One hour after finishing the 45+ race, I competed in the open Cat 4 event.

The race was a 45 minute timed event on a 1.8 mile clockwise loop starting with a gradual one hundred foot climb followed by a fast drop, two consecutive right hand turns leading to a very long straight run followed by another two right hand turns and finishing near the top of the hill.

The race started very fast but settled down after 20 minutes and everyone seemed content to contest a bunch finish. I felt comfortable on the climb riding the smallest gear I could and never used the big chainring on the hill till the last three laps. Joe and Dennis were always near the front, Bob was somewhere in the middle of the pack and I sat at the back of the pack. Every time I moved up riders would force their way around me and very soon I was at the back again, wasting a lot of energy in the process and having nothing to show for it. Because there were only four turns on a very long loop, there was very little whiplash effect at the back and that is where I stayed for most of the race.

Joe's job was to stay near the front of the race and watch over Dennis who was always in the top five to ten. I figured Bob and myself could do something near the end of the race; leading Dennis out for the sprint, closing the gap to a lead group or attacking solo to incite the group to chase and giving Dennis a free ride during the chase.

With three laps to go there was a small break up the road and sensing hesitation in the pack, I went hard up the left side of the road and crested the top of the hill alone. One rider bridged the gap to me and shouted "let's work together and stay away" and we entered the long straight section of the course together. Very soon Dennis bridged up to us with the pack chasing a few seconds back. I went one more time down the left side of the road but was quickly countered by my breakaway companion and Dennis. The pack caught us near the end the straight and it was all for nothing. I was totally spent by the effort and knew there was nothing left in my legs for the sprint but I would rather finish last in the group helping someone on my team as compared to riding just for myself and going for a top 15 finish.

The last two laps are still a bit foggy in my head (maybe oxygen depletion in the brain!) but I know Bob went to the front and pulled the pack along at 30 miles per hour on the long straight back section of the course. I know Dennis finally bridged up to the small break on the last lap but then everyone in the break sat up and waited for the main group.

Dennis had wasted a lot of energy in that chase but still had a top six placing in his legs when the lead-out rider for Webcore-Alto Velo pulled left and suddenly slowed down right in front of Dennis, cutting Dennis' front tire and taking him out of contention. The lead-out rider claimed he was tired and had nothing left in his legs to pedal but it seemed to me that he hit is brakes because of how fast he slowed down. He did not gradually slow down like you do when you stop pedaling, he slowed down really fast and Dennis had no chance to react. Webcore-Alto Velo had the most riders of any team in the race and they also have the fastest sprinters. They shouldn't need to resort to dirty and dangerous tactics during the sprint.

I am not sure of how Dennis finished but I am sure he would have been in the top six, Joe was in the top twenty and Bob and myself finished in the bunch. We covered ten laps (18 miles) in 43 minutes for a 24.2 mile per hour average and one thousand feet of climbing.

I felt good that we actually animated the race and executed team tactics "on the fly". Without actually planning a reaction to very race situation, we worked together perfectly as the race unfolded, reacting "on the spot" when the need arose without hesitation or "analysis to paralysis".

As temperatures soared to the low 90's I lined up with close to 100 riders for the start of the Elite 4 race. My legs were not as sharp as the previous race and the pace was much faster. We covered ten laps in 41 minutes for a 24.7 mile per hour average and at the end I had nothing left in the tank and finished near the back of the main group.

I had pre-entered a third race, the 35+ 4/5 race starting two hours later. The temperatures were approaching the high 90's by now. I warmed up on the rollers for 30 minutes but felt so spent, I called it a day and drove home. If the temperatures were a bit cooler I would have had a chance at that third race. Riding almost an hour and a half at 24.5 miles per hour was all my body could take.

I have two weeks until the State Championship Criterium in Minden Nevada. I will be racing in the 50-55 category. It is too bad that the road race is the day before the Crit because the last time I raced the Districts, the Crit was first and the Road Race was second. Riding a Crit the day before a Road Race doesn't tired you out, in fact a short fast effort when you are rested is the perfect warm-up for a Road Race but not the other way around and if I have any chance of finishing the Crit with the main group and not get pulled as a lapped rider, I will need to be fresh. I finished 15th in the District Crit in 2006 and was the last official finisher, so my goal is a top 15 finish again.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Death Ride, 2008
Gary Griffin

The last time I did the Markleeville Death Ride was in the early 80’s, the ride was called the “Pain in the Passes,” and there were 300 people who participated in the mass start but only 60 who finished. A training camp for pro racers used the ride as the final day of a tough week of mountain training; my wife was pretty sure she recognized Davis Phinney in the group. Earning the ride patch that year made me feel pretty elite. This year, my second time to do the Death Ride, was a lot different. There was the lottery to enter, the commercialization, the shift from mainly race teams to recreational riders, but most of all, it was the sheer number of riders. When I started the ride, there were only a few other riders on the road and the only clue of the hoards I was to encounter was that the side of the road was a parking lot and I had to leave my car four miles from the start. It seems that starting 15 minutes before the 6:30 cutoff time made me one of the last to start. After a few miles I started climbing the first pass, Monitor, and started passing groups of riders. Soon the groups became a sea that stretched for miles in front of me. The rest of the day was spent either finding the best path to weave around slow riders or standing in line at a rest stop. None of the climbing was at all difficult, with only a couple of steep switch backs on Ebbitts Pass and I finished the ride less tired than I am when I get home from doing Soda Springs repeats.
By the time I got to the last of the five passes, Carson Pass, the temperature had climbed into the mid 90’s. At the rest stop near the foot of the pass there was a volunteer on a ladder spraying riders with a hose. I declined since I had spent the past week, which happened to be afflicted with a record heat wave, adapting to high temperatures and I felt fine. On Carson Pass the pace of the endless line of riders slowed to a crawl and passing was difficult since, unlike the other passes, this one was open to cars. The paradigm was that I would catch up to a group of riders, wait for a break in the motor vehicle traffic and then sprint around the group before traffic caught up with me. This wore me out pretty fast so for the last few miles to the top I gave up and just stayed in the procession of slow riders. I was tired and ready for the ride to end but consoled myself with thoughts of the fast, cool descent down Carson Pass which would bring me back to where my car was parked. When I finally got to the top, I collected my “Five Passes” pin, had a congratulatory ice cream bar, filled my water bottles and started the descent. I hadn’t gone a quarter mile when a thunderhead swept in and, with a single crack of thunder, the rain started. For a few minutes it wasn’t too bad, but then it started pouring rain and sleet and the temperature dropped to the mid fifties. The ride brochure had warned that the weather could change quickly in the Sierras, but of course I ignored that and had no protective clothing. I pulled over and stood under a pine tree for a while but soon the tree started dripping rain and it was obvious that this storm was not going to end soon so I rode the last fifteen miles of the Death Ride soaking wet and with fears of hypothermia. As I pulled up to my car and fumbled to unlock the door with shivering fingers, I noticed that I was within site of the rest stop where, a couple of hours earlier there had been a long line of hot riders waiting to be hosed down – ironic.
It was my own fault that I didn’t have a better Death Ride experience. I should have started earlier so that I would have been mingling with faster riders by the time I topped the first pass instead of threading my way through stragglers all day. But still, I cherish the memories of the first time I did the Death Ride and would like to relive the feeling I had of doing something extraordinary with a small group of compatriots. Maybe it’s time to start reading up on the Everest Challenge Stage Race.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Coyote Creek Circuit Race, 45+

Outfoxed and out-gunned. That kind of sums up this race for Team Bicycle Trip. But we showed moments of inspiration and teamwork that made me proud to be a part of it!

Ed Price, Joe Platin, Bob Montague and I all signed up in the 45+ open-category Master's Race. We tried to get a carpool going, but circumstances prevented this, and since my circumstance was that Margaret went with me to watch I was quite pleased! We were going to help set up a volunteer fund-raiser afterwards, so I couldn't stay for the extra races Ed wanted to enter. Instead we watched the start of Stage 8 of the Tour de France on TV while I had my usual breakfast, and we drove my car over the hill with my new bike on the roof rack. I considered riding my commuter bike just in case I had another crash... but I can't be worrying about that, right?

The weather was pleasant, though gray and still somewhat smoky from the wildfires, when we arrived in south San Jose. Ed was warming up on his rollers, while Bob and Joe were ready to warm up on the course's outside lanes. I quickly signed in and got suited up (Margaret did a great job of pinning my number on; a job she dreads!). We got in a couple of warmup laps and followed that with a few moderate jumps up the 1.8-mile course's 100-foot climb. We would race for 45 minutes, starting at 8:25AM.

I had scoped out the list of pre-registered athletes, and knew we would have a chance in spite of the tough competition from teams like VOS, Morgan Stanley and Alto Velo/Webcor. But we needed to race smart, and we exchanged some ideas on what we each could contribute. As we lined up with the 30 or 40 other guys I felt confident in our abilities. I even wore my heart-rate monitor for the first time (in a race) in at least a year, just out of curiosity.

The first few laps weren't too bad, but I did see that I was often in my L3/L4 heart-rate zones (mostly 160-170 bpm), meaning it was still pretty quick. There were four prime sprints announced, but it seemed that there was a break with two guys ahead of the main pack every time, so I didn't contest any. The race went pretty smoothly for me, except for one time when an Alto Velo rider, that some of us had cautioned about riding too near the cones earlier, moved into me... without any ill effects. I managed to get to the front and stay there most of the time, following Joe's wheel some of the time, while keeping an eye on some of our competitors. Margaret cheered me on from the sidewalk, which was sweet.

But with 5 laps to go they announced a last prime and at 4 to go the break up front was now four guys... I guess they sneaked off without me noticing. It appeared to be a strong break with the big teams represented... but none of us! I didn't panic, but started looking for other teams who could bring the break back, or allies to work with if that didn't happen. I didn't see any of my teammates pulling them back at first, but then Ed took a dig up the hill on the right, and I tried to draft him up to them as he shifted to the left. I held his wheel on the downhill, and tried to sling myself around him and up to the break. A couple of guys followed, one from ZteaM and one from Giant Berries, so we got to work bridging the gap. Man, it was hard work, but we made some progress. Then Bob flew by us on the back straight, way off to my left so I couldn't grab on, but I was able to move over and draft his train a bit around turns 3 and 4 and to the hill before he blew. Awesome pull Bob! Some of us crested the hill at a nice pace and I flew downhill, through turns 1 and 2, and caught the break on the back straight. Yowsa, was I breathing hard!

Now I could see who was in the break: Rick Martyn (VOS), Bob Parker (Alto Velo/Webcor), John O'Neill (Team Clover), and... Don Langley (Morgan Stanley). If I'd known Langley was racing, in his U.S. Champion's stripes, I would have stayed home. Just kidding... I can deal with losing!

As soon as I caught the break they looked back and started zig-zagging around to disrupt any chase. I was pretty close to popping, but managed to hold Langley's wheel... barely. He looked back again and then they all sat up... just like at my last race; what rotten luck! Though I am reminded of the sprinter's humor my LGBRC friend Chris Tanner sent me, including this gem:

"You might be a sprinter if... breaks always sit up just as you catch on."

OK, I doubt they sat up just because of li'l ol' me, but it's fun to think so! Anyway, everybody took a break of sorts, if that's possible at 30 MPH, except Rick Martyn, who took a solo flyer down the road. They let him go and maintained a quick pace that still allowed the pack to get closer. Just past the last turn, on the climb's first step, we were all back together. That would have been good news if my heart-rate wasn't already in my L5 zone, at 186 BPM. Oh well.

And that's when they punched it. I was still gasping like a fish out of water, but I managed to follow at a quick enough pace that the main pack didn't swallow me up. In fact, I was sort of trailing off the back of the leaders as they all sprinted up the gradual climb. I looked to my right and saw that I was holding my own against an Alto Velo guy, but not really closing in on the leaders either, even though my heart hit 197 BPM in the attempt! I put my head down for a second (in pain!), looked up, and saw the tail of somebody's bike in my path... SLAM, BANG! My front tire ground into the sharp gears of his cassette and was instantly shredded, forcing me to stop on the left side of the course, just short of the finish line. Curses! And Joe, who had held my wheel exactly according to plan, had to slam on his brakes to avoid me, which pretty much destroyed his chances in the sprint too. Sigh.

It turned out that Stanley Terusaki (Morgan Stanley) had led Mark Caldwell out for the sprint, and then slowed down as you'd expect. But he slowed down so fast that Ed later said it was as if he had hit his brakes! Perhaps he was just trying to force some gaps to protect his teammate's lead, and he was tired, but that was over the top. Even so he did stop by to make sure I was OK, as did a few others.

But the good news was that nobody was hurt, and, man, we sure did a great job of working together to improve our results. None of us just rode in painful circles, content to allow events to unfold around us. No, we were out there using our heads to maximize the return on our efforts. We could have coordinated some of our efforts a little better, but I honestly feel we did a fantastic job. Heck, even Caldwell, who won, was critiquing his team's performance after the race... there's always room for improvement.

For me personally, this race was another example of how far I've come since I first raced these guys. Back then I couldn't even hold their wheels, now I am bridging up to their breaks and even getting the better of them at times. And I even trained through this race. All it takes is a constant dose of Coach Mark's painful intervals.

Next up: Watsonville Criterium! Be there!