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...