Wednesday, January 2, 2008

RE: Jim's San Bruno Hill Climb report

If anyone is interested the complete results for the San Bruno Hill Climb are on this page, which isn't easy to find:
And, here's a quick report from my point of view (hopefully some others will add their comments):
Mark, Scott, Joe, Matt and Jim went up together and we met Geoff there. The parking lot was more packed than last year and the race fields were a little fuller for this New Year's tradition (someone said this race has been going on for many years). I raced in the 55+, my first time in this category. The other 5 guys were in the 45+. FYI: San Bruno is about as steep and long as Bonny Doon, from the coast to the Smith Grade turnoff. A lot of had done it last year so we had a good idea what to expect.
It was sunny and cool at the start, much nicer than last year when it was cooler and quite foggy. This is a mass-start race with 2 waves going off. Luckily our groups went off together (you'll see why I said that in a minute). My job was to ride with the guy who won the 55+ last year, Scott Hennessy, try to hang with him to the top, and then try to beat him to the line.
However, he took off so fast I couldn't stay with him and had to back off for risk of blowing up on the opening 8% climb. I slowed slightly and found a better pace and just as I was starting to think that there was no way I could ever win the 55+ if Scott was so fast to gap me by so much so quickly. Mark came by. We've been doing hill repeats for months and I've been chasing Mark up hills all over the county every workout, so it was the perfect wheel and I swung over and latched on.
Mark had grabbed eventual 45+ winner and national TT champ John Novitsky's wheel and they were going about 14mph up this first stretch. It was tough to match their pace but there was just enough of a draft to help me hang. And, I focused on Mark's rear wheel and gritted my teeth and was determined to stick as long as I could.
We were close to the yellow center line and passing people like crazy. I asked Mark later and he said he didn't even know I was back there. Whether he knew it or not it was excellent teamwork that saved the day for me. After about a minute we caught Scott and Matt who were pacing off each other and had started fast. They didn't try to hop on the train.
About 1/3 of the way in, about 6 minutes in maybe, we caught my target, Scott, so I dropped off Mark's wheel (a relief) and moved over behind Scott. Mark disappeared up the road soon still riding John's wheel. I would have liked to try to hang longer but I may have died if I had tried.
The rest of the race was all tactics for me. I couldn't come up beside my guy or he'd see my number and know I was marking him. And I didn't want to ride too closely or he might sit up and force me to come by. A couple of times he surged and almost gapped me but I think he was tired from the fast start because after surging he slowed and I could get close again. There was a tough wind most of the way up the hill and it was helpful being behind him and the other riders we passed. For awhile Joe was with us and it was great to have another body and another Bike Tripper to work with. Joe turned a great result almost making the top ten in the 45+.
The marker that tells you you're almost at the finish is the first power pole (you can see this from the bottom), and when I saw this pole I shifted up, stood up and gave it everything and luckily it was enough to win, which was great, and completely due to the workouts Mark has put together for us that have me in the best shape of my life. Thanks, Mark!
Speaking of Mark, I wish I could have watched his battle. As I understand it, Mark rode John's wheel almost to the top. Near the top he and John caught Geoff who had ridden clear with a faster pace from the bottom. At this point, Mark and Geoff worked together to stay with John and Carl, who was also in their group and had been leading the race. Two other riders were in the mix, too, trying to grab one of the top spots. In the final acceleration to decide the race, Geoff passed Mark at the line but they both finished ahead of the 2 guys trying to get in there. John and Carl, two of the toughest guys out there got first and second, but Team Bicycle Trip is getting closer in 3rd and 4th.
Overall Team BT put 5 riders in the top 17 in 45+ and everyone was much faster than last year and much closer to the faster guys.
See you on the roads and trails and best of luck at the races everyone!

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