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.