Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pesky Pics

A few photos from the Pescadero RR, swiped from Kieran Sherlock's excellent collection.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pescadero Crash Report, Category 55+
Gary Griffin
June 17, 2008

Place: DNF

The pace seemed pretty high going up the first climb on Stage Road in the Pescadero Road Race, but the descent was orderly with the field spread out and no jostling going on, so it surprised me when, in the middle of a pretty mild curve, I heard an explosion of expletives and a bike hitting the ground behind me, then felt my rear wheel being pushed toward the outside of the curve. I fought the side force for a couple of seconds and thought I was going to pull free when suddenly it felt like someone had pulled a rug out from under my bike and I was on the pavement, sliding on my right side. The other guy, both bikes and I ended up on the left shoulder of the road. I sat there for awhile assessing my injuries while the other guy stood up right away and started pacing around. That didn’t last too long as he suddenly looked like he was going to pass out so I suggested that he should lie down, which he did. Soon a sag car came along and carted us back to the medic at the registration area. I had some road rash, a charlie horse in my right thigh and a painful rib which screamed bloody murder if I took a deep breath. The medic told me the rib might be broken and I should have it x-rayed. The other guy had a broken collar bone and was hauled off in an ambulance. Before he left I asked him what happened; I didn’t think I had made any sudden moves that would have caused him to hit me but I wanted his story. He said that he had hit a water bottle that was loose on the road and had bounced over it with both wheels which accelerated him into my wheel. I hadn’t seen any loose bottles myself, and I don’t quite understand how hitting one would cause his bike to accelerate, but I don’t see why he would lie about it either, so I guess the crash was just bad luck.
Since there is nothing that can be done for a broken rib, I didn’t go to the doctor until Monday so that I could avoid the long wait and high cost of an emergency room. The prognosis was encouraging: the doctor said the rib was not broken and I should be back on the bike in a few weeks, which, to my mind, meant a few days. As for my bike, the rear rim was beyond repair but the bike seemed ok otherwise. A spoke had been yanked out of the rim, nipple and all, looking like something on the other guy’s bike hooked the spoke when he went down. That would explain why it felt like my bike was pulled out from under me and makes me feel a little better about my handling skills since there is nothing I know of that can counter a hooked wheel.
The rest of the team did pretty well in the race, as they have described in their own reports, so congratulations to them.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pescadero Road Race Report

Pescadero Road Race
By Larry Broberg

We must have raced different races or at least had different goals, Jim. I have won this race before but didn't expect to this year but was hoping to be in the money which I missed by one place last year (this year I got 4th). Joe, Matt, Scott and I were all riding close to each other and when I needed help, I actually had teammates to help me out. This is something new for me.

It was so cool to have people to help you and look out for you and work their butts off for you, sacrificing their placing for me. I can't tell you how proud I was of the team and hopefully I can repay you guys some time. I know Gary would have been there also if not for his crash.

Our guys kept Lloyd Rath from catching Jim and possibly demoting him another position and worked for me keeping me out of trouble until the final climb where Lloyd beat me by a couple of feet at the line. Once again guys, thanks a lot and I really appreciate what you guys did and I know you rode your asses off.

Pescadero Road Race 45+

By Mark Edwards 6/14/08

The Pescadero road race has come and gone for yet another year. Besides being a beautiful course, with better than average pavement, Pescadero was also my first ever road race back in 2004. It will always hold special meaning for me.

This year would include a couple of firsts. One, I would be a marked rider. I would have rival teams assigning riders to keep an eye on me. And two, I’d be racing with six other Bike Trip teammates. The 45+ and 55+ groups race together in this race, but are scored separately. This can make for some pretty interesting tactics and strategies as generally different groups aren’t allowed to race together.

As always, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. It’s amazing how clear hindsight is, while in the moment, I often don’t have a clue. More on that later…

VOS, Webcore, and Morgan Stanley were once again the dominant teams. My impression is that Webcore, while very strong, isn’t particularly well organized. VOS is an absolute powerhouse, and works very well together. Morgan Stanley has incredible depth, and runs their team with near military structure; they always leave a heavy footprint on a race.

John Novitsky (National Time Trial Champion) recently joined up with VOS, adding another impressive rider to an already impressive roster. As I’ve seen him do many times in races, he attacked early today. 10 miles into the race he took off with a Webcore and Morgan Stanley rider in tow. I wasn’t in position to grab their wheel, and didn’t really feel I’d be allowed to get away if I did.

The big teams watch a break-away’s makeup very closely. They want to insure that if the break-away succeeds, their man can win. Or, if he can’t win, that a key competitor isn’t represented in the break so that their team will have to do all the work to pull the break back. This allows their guys to sit in, rest, and then take the win after the chasing team has exhausted itself pulling the leaders back.

I was able to find out who the Webcore rider was and knew he couldn’t challenge for the win. This would put Webcore in the position of having to chase. But their recent history of lacking coordination suggested they wouldn’t put a chase together. I never could find out who Morgan Stanley had in the break, but it turned out to be the very strong and savvy Don Langley. There’s no way Morgan Stanley was going to pull.

So now Morgan Stanley and VOS had no reason to work, they could just sit back and let the rest of us wear ourselves out (if we wanted to race for better than 4th place that is). I tired to get a few guys to work on the descent back to town, but it was short lived. Three guys killing themselves to pull 30 guys isn’t an equation you want to be on the 3 side of.

Climbing Stage Rd for the second lap I again went to the front to try and raise the pace. Immediately Jon Ornstil and Rick Martyn of VOS appeared at my side and on my wheel. I wasn’t going anywhere without these two. I was frustrated (as these tactics are meant to do) and ramped the climbing pace up anyway. In hindsight, this may have helped my eventual placing, but it hurt my teammates as they were dropped from my initial pace - and the subsequent vicious attack 6 guys threw down just before the summit.

Highway 84 saw about 30 riders come back together, including Jim. I was cruising in the Peloton resting for the final climb, slightly puzzled by Morgan Stanley’s relentless attacks, when Jim pulled up next to me. I was glad to see him and thought I could pull him up to the lead 55+ guy after the feed zone. This would position both of us well for the final climb. But… just as I was thinking this, Jim took off up the outside.

Again the hindsight thing… Morgan Stanley, secure with Don Langley in the break, had organized all their 45+ guys around their 55+ rider. They had noticed Jim getting back on and had ramped the pace way up to put the hurt on him. Had Jim and I been more aware/experienced and communicated, we could have worked together to minimize some of Morgan Stanley’s actions. But we didn’t, so we each positioned ourselves for the final climb.

Jim’s race report is posted, so you can read how it went for him.

Morgan Stanley’s pace, and the hard climbs on Stage Rd, had whittled our group to about 30. We were also spread out nearly single file. So the sweeping right that starts Haskins Hill wasn’t as congested as usual. This allowed me to get in better position than previous years.

As we rounded the corner starting the climb the pace exploded. Immediately I saw the Webcore rider that had been part of the 3 man breakaway. He was fried, nothing left but 10 long slow minutes of pain getting to the top of the hill. ¼ mile in we were down to 15, and who came into view? John Novitsky. 2 hours hammering on the front is more than even a National Champion can do with 85 guys chasing him. As we passed him there was an attack out of our group. 15 was now 6 and the pace was scorching!

At this point I was hurting. I just hoped my companions were hurting as much. NOT! Kevin Susco threw down an attack that nearly convinced me to get off and walk right then and there. One guy went with him, and another bridged up shortly after. Leaving Carl Nielson, Rick Martyn, and myself to see just how bad we could hurt each other.

Carl set a hard pace. Carl’s better on a long climb than I am, but I’m a little quicker. Could I hang on long enough to try and beat him in a sprint? Then there was Rick, he was on my wheel and breathing really hard. But I’ve been here before, he may sound bad, but he’s typically a better climber, and faster, than me.

Carl and I traded the lead a couple times, then coming up to 200 meters I was on his wheel, Rick on mine. Carl jumped, I jumped, Rick jumped. I just barely got around Carl as Rick got around me. Good for 6th place. My best finish yet at Pescadero!

Pescadero Road Race, June 14, 2008 [Masters 55+]

Pascadero Road Race Report
By Jim Langley

Well, the plan was to win the race, so taking second - even though it's my best finish this year - was a revolting development. Especially since the team had worked so hard to protect me early in the race (you're the best Scott and Matt!), and since I had chased so desperately to catch race winner Mickey Caldwell at the bottom of Haskins.

So, there I am on one of my favorite climbs, on our "home" course, and it's me versus Mickey with one climb left to decide the race. My plan is to sit on his wheel to the top and come around at the last second. But, there are a couple of small problems. He's got a teammate with him, because we're racing with the 45+ group. And, my legs have been pulverized from seemingly endless chasing after Mickey's Morgan Stanley teammates massed at the front of the pack before the second climb on Stage Road to give Mickey a free ride and drop me cold. Luckily, I wasn't the only one who got gapped and our little group killed ourselves to reel the lead pack back in by the base of Haskins.

So, I'm doing the right thing: sitting on Mickey's wheel, trying to recover, trying to wait. But his teammate drops back and sees me and tells him I'm there. We're not climbing very fast and I'm thinking that, even though he's on fire today, Mickey hasn't climbed with me this year, so I should have a good chance here. I just need to wait. But, it's distracting having another Morgan Stanley who keeps coming back forcing me to change lines and waste energy. About half way up he gets dropped, though, and now it's the two of us.

Things are still looking good and I'm thinking right, just sit there and let him go first. But, nearing the top, I suddenly lose my resolve - or maybe it was my mind - and decide like an idiot to try to sprint away from him at the 200 meters sign. 200 meters. That's too far when the road's flat. At the top of Haskins it's forever. And that dumb move guarantees I don't win the race.

In my defense, I dropped Mickey on climbs in every race this year, so I was definitely overconfident. I'm also a decent climber who typically attacks on hills and makes it stick. But, the reality on Saturday was that I didn't have anything left and when I stood to "sprint," it became an interminable crawl to the line - the slowest, ugliest, most laughable excuse for a sprint you ever saw. The harder I tried to generate some semblance of speed the more my legs locked up and the slower I went. As the finish approached I could hear Mickey on my left shoulder going .001 miles per hour faster, and disgustedly felt him creep by and watched his tire cross the line 1 cm before mine for the win.

No matter how I look at it, I have to give him and his team credit for working so well together and forcing me to use so much energy to chase them down. That's what really won the race. And, it's actually flattering to think that the Morgan Stanley team was working to beat me - especially considering I didn't have any notion they even knew who I was or that I was a contender. Still, I'd like to think I could have got him at the line had I not taken off first, but I'll never know. I do know that he out-rode me throughout the race and probably deserved the win just for that.

Next time!

Friday, June 6, 2008

17th Annual Dash for Cash Criterium, 5/31/2008

After my nasty crash on Memorial Day, my only real goal in this race was to not crash again! The sooner I got back out there in the mix, the sooner I'd again feel comfortable racing. Also, I'd pre-registered long before, and who wants to waste money?

My Bicycle Trip teammate Vladan Strbac and I were both signed up for the 45+ age-group with Category 3 and 4 racers, and the 45+ open-category race. Larry Broberg was racing concurrently with us, albeit as a 55+, so there was certainly some potential for teamwork as well.

Since the frame of my Giant TCR C2 was broken in the crash, I had to revamp my old Specialized Allez Elite commuter bike for its role as my stand-in racing bike. I removed its lighting system and thousands of miles of accumulated gunk in preparation, but kept its clunky, though bullet-proof, 25c commuter tires on. I also bought a new helmet because my old one was damaged.

We met in the gray, chilly business park that was the race venue in Pleasanton. Same as last year, the course is a smooth and wide city block, flat, with four turns connected by some gently undulating straights. A wind blew from the northwest, so the finish line would present us with a headwind from the left. The race is well organized and they even provided lots of complementary bagels, fruit and coffee... and an announcer with an awesome Scottish brogue. The atypical trophies are really, really cool too.

Master 45+ 3/4 Race

It was chilly, windy and overcast as we lined up for the 40-minute 45+ 3/4 race, starting at 9:25AM, and I was happy at our brisk pace when we started racing. The "Dash for Cash" principle is that most laps have an intermediate "prime" sprint with a prize; usually $30 in cash or some merchandise. That would motivate people to push hard for most of the race, and make a breakaway potentially lucrative (relatively). But I was way too timid to be trying anything like that so I just held back and watched the action while I stayed nice and clean.

None of us did much until the last few laps, and I somehow found myself able to move forward a bit. Approaching the last turn I was maybe 10th or so, and as we pivoted into the headwind I was able to pass several guys and even got close to the front-runners who were tiring from the long sprint. I was very briefly in 4th ahead of Shin Umeda (Alto Velo/Webcor) but he threw his bike to put me in 5th. Vlada was 15th, and Larry 4th in 55+.

Not too bad! I didn't crash, I was ready for more racing and I even gained another point or two toward my Cat. 2 upgrade! I now have 12 to 15 of the 25 points needed... not entirely sure as the points awarded depend on how many riders start in a race, which isn't always noted precisely in the results.

Master 45+ Race

We rested a bit for the 45+ race start at 11:05AM, and I huddled in the car for warmth as it seemed colder than earlier... I even slammed hot coffee just before the start. The race was faster, as you'd expect with the higher-ranked Cat. 1 and 2 racers added in; 26 MPH average! But we also slowed on some laps so I was able to rest a bit. Again, I didn't contest any primes.

But a break of about a dozen riders formed about 27 minutes into the 40-minute race, and the gap grew over the next couple of laps. None of us were in it, so when Vlada rode up next to me and pointed to his rear wheel I tucked in behind him and held on for dear life as he pulled me forward and into no-man's land. Whew, what a ride! About 50m from the break he sat up, exhausted, and I had to try very, very hard to bridge the remaining gap. Unh, must... close... gap!!! It was very hard in the wind, and I was not sure I could make it, but just then a Victory Velo rider who had drafted me went around me and beckoned me to follow him. It was no easier, and it was all I could do to maintain even a small gap to him as he closed in. But even though he caught the break before me I did manage to close the last few feet. Yay!!! But all I could do was sit in and hope they didn't attack... I needed a lap or two for recovery.

The break was powerful, but I could see little organization. One Morgan-Stanley racer told everybody to "take short pulls," but I was too tired and apparently most of the others were too, because we were gradually joined by others, one or two at a time, who bridged across from the main peloton like I did. And soon the whooshing sound from behind increased as the rest rejoined us. We were caught, and all that hard work was for nothing.

At one point there was some swerving across the course, like in my Memorial Day race, and some guys on the inside of turn 4's entry swerved out and met up with those of us riding the more conventional outside line. In the process Ernie Gallardo (VOS) and I bumped elbows. Eek. But we both held on and could talk nicely about it after the race too. Just one of those things.

A couple laps later we set up for the final sprint, but my legs were too tired to contest it so I just coasted across in 32nd. Darn. But the experience had been a lot of fun, and proved once again what a great teammate Vlada is! He finished 16th, Larry 4th, again, in 55+. Had the break stayed away I would have been very, very well positioned for a strong finish!

We went to Nation's Giant Burgers for lunch where we all, I kid you not, had the same exact chicken sandwich! A fun way to cap off my return to racing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mount Hamilton Report!

Mount Hamilton Report - May 25, 2008 (Masters 45+ 4/5 race)

By Ed Price

Dear Friends, Family and Teammates,

I felt like dropping out. My legs felt the pain of every pedal stroke. Where was the top of the climb? What appeared to me as a good idea only an hour ago now seemed like a bad one. What was I thinking?

As many of you know, I missed the last several races due to exhaustion and fatigue. Right before the Sea Otter Classic my legs felt dead, even on easy rides around town on my electric bicycle, and if your legs hurt with an electric motor helping something is wrong. Twenty years ago I would have pushed through the fatigue and raced despite how I felt. But as I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I realize it is important to listen to your body and my body was telling me that five months of hard training and two months of racing were catching up with me. I was having a hard time sleeping, had no appetite (which is very unlike me), was losing weight (but also muscle mass), was irritable, and always tired. Work seemed like "work" when usually I breeze through the day. I lost pleasure in daily activities. So I rested and rested, slept 10 to 12 hours per night, cut back on my riding schedule and recharged my batteries.

Near the top I could see a group of three riders just up the road. After looking back and seeing riders one-by-one strung out in a long line I knew that if I didn't get up to that group of three, my race was over. Somehow I found the strength to go around the rider in front of me, told him to "get on my wheel" and we made the junction to the three riders at the very top of the climb.

I started to feel better the third week of May and after one good workout I decided to race
Mount Hamilton after all. It was with great trepidation that I arrived at the start of the race. I had no idea how my legs would respond to racing with only one good quality workout in the last five weeks. We arrived at the start of the race very late (25 minutes to spare) and I barely had enough time to pin on my number, and make it to the start with 30 seconds to spare.

I was dead last in a long line of 75 riders on a very narrow road that immediately goes uphill. I don't remember what I was thinking when I rolled past everyone in the other lane and parked myself on the front line just as the whistle blew for the start. Normally I like a good long warm-up but because we were late, there was no time, and my legs felt it right away. So I set a very slow and easy pace on the initial climb and because the road was so narrow, no one could pass me. One rider tried to accelerate but I refused to follow him and when he realized there was nobody on his wheel, he slowed and was caught.

I knew the race would come down to the main climb (3 miles and 800 ' elevation gain) just past Junction at mile 23. I knew the race was flat to downhill after that and if I didn't stay with the lead group; there was little hope of catching them later. Once the climb started however I knew there was no way I could keep up the pace they were setting without "blowing up" and I lost contact about half way up.

The five of us crested the final climb together and after a brief descent, we organized ourselves into a single paceline, taking 10 to 20 second pulls into the wind and then dropping to the back. I shouted encouragement to the group, scolded anyone taking too hard a pull, and even changed the direction of the rotation because of the wind. No one missed a single turn at the front and I started to feel better and better as we gathered momentum, first catching a group of two and then then three. We caught Bob's group and finally we caught Matt's group. When we caught the last group our numbers had swelled to about 20 so I stopped taking pulls and sat at the back waiting for the sprint at the end of the long descent on Mines Road

In the last two or three miles a group of four got away on the winding descent. I was "stuck" behind a poor descender and by the time I went around him, the group of four was 30 to 40 yards up the road. I didn't want to tow the group up to them and then have nothing left for the sprint so I sat on the front waited for help. Suddenly, Bob went flying by and towed me up to the group with about 500 meters to go. I started to sprint in about 12th place and ended up in third, almost winning the sprint for the second group on the road. Based on reports that the lead group numbered 10 to 12, I finished between 13th and 15th; however my official place was DNP so either I was disqualified or they missed my number because of the two riders who passed me on my left (the finish camera was on the left).

Matt rode a very strong race and was the best climber by far. Bob also had a fantastic race and was clearly stronger than me on the climb and without his help, I am not sure we would have caught those four at the end. Thanks for the lead-out. Great teamwork.

LKHC MegaMonster Enduro, 102 Mile TT
February 9, 2008
Gary Griffin

If one were driving on the desolate stretch of Hwy 198 between San Lucas and Coalinga and turned North onto Hwy 25 one would see a sign which would make any motorist a little nervous; the sign says, “Next Services 51 Miles.” That sign marks the turn-around point for the Low Key Hill Climb (LKHC) Mega Monster Enduro time trial and the services it alludes to is a small Mom and Pop store in the town of Paicines, the time trial’s starting point. Some may know this town as the start of the Panoche Road Race, but instead of East on Panoche Rd., the MegaMonster Enduro heads South on Hwy 25. There is not much civilization on that stretch other than the road, which is in fair condition, the turn off for the Pinnacles State Park, and the miniscule town of Bitterwater, which was also the first checkpoint and the turn around point for a 100 km TT which was run at the same time. On the 102 mile course there is 5220 feet of climbing in a series of rolling hills, the highest climb being about 500 feet and the steepest section about 8%. The 100 km course has 3820 feet of climbing and encompasses the same hills as its longer sister, but misses out on a long steady 1% slope between Bitterwater and Hwy 198.
The event flyer requested that faster riders start after 9:00 in order to avoid getting to the checkpoints before they were manned. I figured that did not apply to me since my goal was to finish in just under six hours, so I started at 8:14. When I arrived at the start point a rider on an HPV was just leaving and I watched him vanish over a distant hill as I signed in and was assigned number 6. By using advanced math techniques such as subtraction, I was able to deduce that there would be five riders in front of me. I didn’t do a pre-race warm up because, hey, who warms up for an endurance event, so I was kind of cold with arm and leg warmers but no jacket. The chilled feeling passed quickly once I started, but it remained cool enough to keep the warmers on for the rest of the race; luckily there was no rain despite the early February date.
It felt good to be tucked in on my clip-on aero bars and cruising along, so I had to hold back and pace myself. After about ten miles the first climb started and, almost immediately, I caught and passed the HPV that had started just before me. A couple of more climbs and I passed another rider. The most exciting part of the ride was just before Bitterwater on a descent where I went into the one and only sharp corner on the course at about 40 mph and found that it was a declining radius so I leaned the bike a lot harder than I felt comfortable with, prayed that there was no frost, and just managed to stay on my side of the yellow line. Bitterwater was at the bottom of the hill and I blew through it at 30 mph; the volunteers at the checkpoint were busy setting up their tables and I yelled out my number without slowing, hoping they had heard me. The next 19 miles to the turnaround was a steady, but gentle slope with a few rolling hills tossed in. As I got near the turn around point I passed the time by wondering when I would see the first of the three riders who should have been in front of me coming the opposite direction; the longer I had to wait the better. According to my cyclometer, I was getting close to the turnaround but still no riders. Finally I could see Hwy 198 up ahead but still no riders and no check point. A car had just pulled over at the “Next Services” sign, about 200 yards short of the intersection, and as I passed the driver got out and yelled at me that this was the turn around point. By the time I slowed and turned around I had added 100 yards to my 102 mile ride – oops. I told the official my number and asked about the other three riders. He said that I was the first and that he had just gotten there. It was 11:00 and I was 15 minutes ahead of my projected pace. I had figured roughly equal times coming and going since the turn around was 600 feet higher than the start, but there would be a head wind going back. I found out later that riders 2 and 3 were on a tandem and their start was delayed due to a mechanical problem and that the race coordinator was racing and had assigned himself the number one, but started late. So that made me the first rider at all the checkpoints and put me in the position of being able to see all my competition as I rode back and guessing which ones would pass me on the return. The first rider I went by was the last one I passed on the climb before Bitterwater. I saw him after about a mile, which meant that he was two miles back. I started seeing lots of riders after that, including some pretty effective looking teams. A team of four Webcor riders went by at about five miles; I figured they would come roaring by me in about thirty more miles.
When I got back into Bitterwater I filled my water bottles. They didn’t have exchange bottles, but there were water jugs on tables on the shoulder of the road so it only took a couple of minutes before I was off again. Soon after Bitterwater and going up the first hill on the return, I started passing riders who would have to have been in the 100k race since I was at the head of the 100 mile group. It was very strange to be passing the 100k riders with ease and not to have the Webcor train fly by. The last ten miles were rollers about 100 feet tall and at the top of each hill I could see about a mile in front and behind me and there was no one in site; a 102 mile TT can get kind of lonely. I was really starting to feel the saddle at that point and had to sit up, out of the aero position for the last twenty minutes despite a headwind. I rolled into Paicines the first 100 miler to finish. I had finished in 5:26:08 with an average speed of 18.8 mph and, as I was not to find out until the results came out two months later ( , in 5th place. The best times were 5:01:42 for an individual, 5:08:33 for an HPV, 4:57:12 for a tandem, and 5:04:07 for a team. I was really pleased with my time, having finished over half an hour faster than I had hoped. Also, I finished only a minute behind Dan Connely, a major competitor in the LKHC hill climbs and way out of my league on the climbs; he looks to be about 135 pounds compared to my 180 which supports the adage that big guys like me should be time trialing rather than hill climbing.

Both SJBC and Webcor had four man teams representing them, taking first and second in that order. Looking toward next year, I think this is the sort of challenge that Bike Trip can’t turn down. Bike Trip excelled in the LKHC hill climb series and they can do the same in the TTT. The event is held in the middle of the base mileage riding period so doing the long distance fits right in. So, next year, I’m hoping to convince three other Bike Trip members to join me in breaking the five hour barrier and trouncing the SJBC and Webcor teams.