Friday, October 9, 2009
What's next: The winner beat me by 2.09 minutes. So, I have some work to do. Particularly the start. I need to have that explosive speed right out of the gate. Yeaaaa, more hill repeats!! Winona
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Mighty Mermaid Triathlon 9/27/2009
By Margie Biddick (on the left in photo/Teresa on right)
I've dreamed about completing a triathlon for decades. My obstacle - the ocean swim. It was Maria Marsillo from the Santa Cruz Track Club that gave me the needed perspective and challenged me to face my fears.
What I had before me was an opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone in a sport that didn't come naturally. The final nudge came a year ago, after placing first in my age group in the Mermaid Duathlon, fifth overall finisher. As satisfied as I was with my performance, I felt as though I'd cheated by doing a duathlon (run and bike... no swim).
This year, I found myself at the shoreline, suited up in a wetsuit, swim cap and goggles among the 245 other mermaids ready to hit the open water. It was a clear, sunny morning and the perfect weather for a race.
Prior to the start, I swam around to get used to the water temperature and attempt to calm my nerves. Adrenaline got the best of me, and despite all advice I'd received from experienced triathletes, I went out with the sound of the horn among the mass of mermaids.
Everything I'd been warned about came true within the first 50 meters - fluttering feet in my face, women swimming over me, stroking arms everywhere. It was so unnerving. I decided to calm my pounding chest by swimming off to the left and creating a comfortable distance between me and the school of swimmers.
It wasn't until I made it to the halfway mark that I got into a groove. My swim time just reinforced what I know to be true - I've got a lot of work to do if I want to thrive and not just survive in the open water. Today was not the day to prove that I could accomplish this, but it sure motivated me to keep trying. My practice swims on this course were about 15 minutes. On race day, I swam the course in a pathetic 19:54.
The transition from the beach to the staging area was also slower than I would have liked. I had taken my wetsuit off at the base of the stairs, ready to run up, and was interrupted by those choosing to walk. There was nothing I could do about it and I certainly wasn't going to push my way through.
I was chomping at the bit to hop on my Cervelo. The course was an 11-mile ride from Seacliff Beach parking lot to La Selva Beach and back. A few short hills made the ride interesting: up Rio del Mar from the Rio flat, up Seascape from San Andreas, and up Center St. from Spreckles. I was curious about my performance on the bike because I haven't raced this season, done any speed work, nor participated in many of Bike Trips interval training sessions with Coach Mark.
My training on the bike consisted mostly of commutes to work, an occasional ride with my husband or friends, running errands in town, etc., Luckily, I was on the course with another mermaid who challenged me to push my pace. I finished 3rd place overall with a time of 36:53. I kept my transition from the bike to the run under 60 seconds.
I felt the expected sluggishness in my legs when I set out on the run. I'd practiced this transition a few times, so I knew what to expect for the first half mile or so. I saw my good friend, and first place 50+ women finisher, Teresa Clayton, on the run looking like a gazelle and we
cheered each other on. I ran the course averaging an 8 minute 10 second pace.
My total time of 1:23:16 was enough for a 30th over-all and second place finish in my age category. I can't help but think what my time had been had I not panicked on the swim, participated more often in Mark Edwards' training regimen, and trained for speed in my running.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Naturally, I'm dreaming about my next endeavor - the 2010 Mighty Mermaid, the only all women Olympic-distance triathlon in Northern California. Between now and then, I'm sure that other local tris will be too tempting to pass up. For now, I need to purchase myself a tri suit with a prominent Bike Trip/Symantec logo!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Steve Heaton 35+ 123
Feeling good just off a win in Mammoth I made it to the race in time for a good warm-up. Since the race is only 45mins or less I would need at least 1hr to warm-up so off I went up San Juan rd like many others. 20mins out I flatted my new tubular @$#!&*)(^@!/?. Now I’m stuck on the side of the road. Finally a rancher with a truck rolls up and I get a ride back. I didn’t bring my spare wheels (running behind and wanted to get a good warm-up) I was standing by my car when a buddy of mine stopped and gave me his wheel. He told me he had a wheel in his car only to find out later it had a flat and he didn’t have time to fix and missed his race. I rolled to the line with literally 20sec to start time. Bamm we go………..pace is tolerable but not smooth. I was 20 back so I decided it would be best to position toward the front about 5 back (less yo yo effect). This was better until 15mins into it with some punchy climbs I got dropped and had a Pescadero flashback. I stayed calm and realized I’m only 35mins into warm-up and have to stay within my limit. Next thing I know Niles rolls up to me and says “how you doing” or something? I’m thinking “I can’t get my motor to go” nothing I can do accept hang on until I warm-up. Once we hit the serious section of climbing I started to feel good to go. I had two San Jose guys in front of me so I used them as carrots. I reeled them in and out the back then moved on to another group up the road. I kept thinking the top of the climb was just around the next corner to the flat section and wanted to be sure and catch or drop them by that point. I kept on attacking until I had just one guy with me over the top and since I was feeling good, warm and ready to go I knew all I had to do was keep increasing the speed all the way to the line with last 100m sprint. The road was fast, twisty and a bit narrow making it hard to pass when the speed keeps increasing. 3rd place. Overall I’m satisfied with the result. I stayed focused on the goal to race the Mtn and did the best I could under the circumstances.
This was the last race of the season for me and have to say it ended as good as it started. I took my challenges (shoulder dislocation, diet issues, lack of climbing ability) head on and worked through them. Next season is going to be good if all goes well this winter. It’s my last year in the 35+ category and would like to end it strong with a few podiums.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
This is the first time for me to be the youngest guy in my category. I went to this race thinking I was going to have tough competition and was prepared for a battle royal. 9000ft starting elevation, climbing approx 2400ft over 18 miles. A short race of around 1hr 30mins? I usually race 2hr 30mins. I knew it was going to be a ball buster of a start, 8am, windy high sierra cold, 50 deg. I pre-rode to the course a couple a days before and knew what to expect on course and did a simulation warm up as well. Anyway, I got up, took a hot shower then lathered my body with tiger balm (stay away from the crotch! and the crack). By the time I got on my bike I was cozy and warm with legs warmers, base layer and arm warmers. Rode a 35min climb to start with some rolling around. I felt great and ready to goooooo. The race starts on a climb to a descent (a series of 6 double jumps), then a 10 min climb to a lake with a couple of fairly short power fire road climbs into some sweet single track (O/A 80% single track 20% fire roads) and a bunch more of the same to the finish line for 3 laps in all. I crested the beginning climb in the lead. I pushed my thumb shifter for the big ring and the whole pod was gone??? My shifter was dangling by my front wheel headed into a bunch of double jumps.......I stopped and wrapped it around my handlebar while a couple of guys passed. I was on a 29er with only the small front chainring 27T (I put my spinning technique to the test). I ended up passing them within 10 mins and held the lead all the way to the finish. The course was soooo fun I think they designed it for my pleasure. I finished 1:25 for the victory! Got a Championship Jersey(although I don't think it means anything) that looks and fits nice. What I learned? Even when racing gets frustrating and all the chips seem down (a challenging year for me with my shoulder injury) it ain't over until the fat lady sings.
ride picks are from day afters ride in Rock Creek
Michele and I drove down together.....what a treat it is to go racing with my wife :) seeing her out on course pushing herself mentally and physically. I think she is great and I feel lucky.
My race went hard off the line but I was prepared. I was hovering around 5-10 back most of the first lap going with every break that had the right mix of teams represented. Being solo guy with no teammates this is what you have to do in order to have a chance at the win. everything was being pulled back. Second lap I was around 20 back (recovering) when a serious break formed half way into the race while I had my thumb up my ass. All I could do is watch and squirm pinned in "bye bye". worked my way to the front looking to go with those interested in chase but nothing worked. third lap I decided I would go for the pack meat victory so I sat in attentive. going through town Nat champ Dude who I never saw the whole race came to the front and pulled hard so I positioned myself 5 back for the left turn. 100m before the turn he all but sits up and causes me and another guy to line up in front 3 wide (I had to slow up not to take the lead) 50m I decided to jump since I was in the front and need to make a split second decision before someone else does. I have the power to jump, create a gap and hold on for grim death. I went into the final left to fast sweeping wide and the only guy who could match me got the inside and held me off I looked back and had a huge gap so I coasted in for 11th place. I feel confident I can win this race in the future.
Last year I not only missed the start of my 45+ race, but also flatted near the end of the Category 3 race I did instead. This year things went more smoothly. Margaret and I drove up and I had plenty of time to get ready (she is getting good at pinning numbers even on my snug team skinsuit) and warm up a little.
I really like this race, partly because of the technical 6-turn course with a 10-second climb, about the same size as Watsonville's, to tire out the big guys a bit. And also because it's on San Francisco's waterfront with September's perfect weather. Even Margaret enjoys going to this race!
Our field of about 50 Masters included some big names, but I am used to that. I was a bit tense, but in a good way and my legs felt good even though the race started fast. We hit the small hill hard every lap, always in the big ring, but I was doing OK since the back straight allows me enough time to recover. There are a number of small potholes though, so we always had to stay very focused.
Margaret walked all over the course and cheered me on from a different spot every lap; that made me smile through my pain. What a great girl!
Our pace increased even more on the prime sprint laps... and went sky-high when Kevin Metcalfe (Specialized) and Rich Juarez (VOS) snapped the cord as they worked their way off the front. Dang!
Morgan Stanley and VOS had the numbers to mount a chase, but VOS wasn't about to chase their own guy down. So Morgan Stanley, a few other guys and even I had to take a pull. But I could tell I'd be too tired if I stayed in the wind so I drifted back to rest. Morgan Stanley wasn't able to catch the escapees either, even with Eric Saltzman pulling, though we did get close a few times. With just a couple of laps to go I was forced to accept that my race was now a fight for 3rd.
On the last lap I actually led the pack a while when guys started holding back. Then I pulled off to the right, before the hill, to see who would go first. Two guys attacked past us and I powered up the small hill after them. I managed to catch them and now held 3rd wheel (not counting the two breakaways); I think it was Jeff Poulsen and his lead-out, but my memory may be faulty from lack of oxygen.
We flew down the long back straight. But the lead-out guy faded at turn 5, they hesitated, and that allowed several guys to swarm us. I got blocked in the turns, but I did get the chance to sprint up the wide-open final straight... only to get passed by a couple more. Man, my legs were done!
Still, 7th overall (5th in the field sprint) wasn't too bad in this group and a nice finish to my 2009 regular season. I think only one guy crashed in our race; not too badly. More proof these technical courses are safer.
And it turned out my LGBRC friend Erik Ostly had been out there without me noticing; I guess I was really focused. But he flatted out like I did last year. Afterward we had lunch at Waterfront Bar and Grill, just across the Embarcadero, in their covered outdoor seating. An Anchor Steam from the tap, nice seafood, a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge and my wife for company; a nearly-perfect close to my regular 2009 season!
Friday, September 4, 2009
I'm starting to think the Universe doesn't want me to be a TT'er ;-)
Apparently when I got back from Nationals I just screwed my pedals on hand tight. The bike sits in my bedroom and I probably just put them on to get them out of the way, planning to tighten them later. Anyway, about a mile from the start (5 minutes before first rider off) my pedals fell off! I could only get one back on, the threads were messed up on the other. I did a panic one leg pedaling drill back to the start and started asking around for an allen wrench.
Eric came to the rescue and I was able to gently thread the pedal back in. Turning around, the line was now backed up halfway to Hwy 1. Dang! That's a half hour wait.
Benoit had been helping me along with Eric. They were lined up together with a big gap between them, Benoit offered to let me slot in ahead off him.
I wasn't sure how the group would react to my cutting in, but I was wearing my Champion kit and there was this strange sense of reverence. Guys pointing and whispering, stealing glances to try and read what my jersey said. No one complained when I stepped into slot number 12, the jersey seemed to draw attention away from the fact that I was just a local shmutz taking cuts.
So far, my three attempts at Swanton on a TT bike have been plagued. First... a broken front derailleur, second... a flat. Third... the pedals fall off.
I haven't been feeling great, and have the numbers to back it up. Wednesday night's workout sucked, one of my worst for the year. Monday's was my worst. My hip hurts, I'm fatigued, and I've been eating non-stop since University road race - peaking at 10 lbs over race weight. I was riding Thursday for fun only - and mostly so I wouldn't have to do an insanely hard 3 x 20 on Branciforte.
Eric wasn't thrilled to have me starting after him, concerned I'd repeat UCSC and catch him. I tried to assure him he had nothing to worry about on this particular evening. I was worried Benoit would catch me. As strong and competitive as he is, and me not feeling 100%, I worried the whole ride that he was just about to over take me. Both Benoit and Eric were also on aero set ups.
Off we went! I tried to go out easy, but still my legs ached. This is a course where a power meter would really help. I'm sure I went out too hard. At the top of the hill I was maybe 30 seconds behind Eric, and Benoit hadn't caught me yet. We had passed several other riders though. I was very tentative on the descent. After my near death experience last time, I wasn't going to take any chances. I hated giving up time, but not enough to overcome my fear.
Once off the hill, I tried to pick it up. That worked for about two minutes, then the legs started to ache again. I tried to focus on staying aero and smooth. I could see Eric ahead, but the time he'd gained on the descent I didn't have the legs to pull back. At one point, just after Nils sped by (looking like a bullet) in the opposite direction, I caught a young Harbor High rider who immediately caught my wheel and drafted until he popped.
Finally the last climb, one last effort out of the saddle, then crank it up for the finish, It'll all be over soon. Eric maintained his gap logging 30:08, I eeked out a 29:51 PR, Benoit came sprinting across the line running in his socks! Seems he'd flatted 1.5 miles from the finish and wasn't about to give up. He kicked off his shoes and impressed all of us with his "Top 100 Wharf to Wharf" speed. I swear his toes were smoking... he burned through his socks, big holes everywhere.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
By Kem Akol
So, since I broke my elbow earlier this year I have been "jonzing" to do an Ironman or something of that nature ( as Arnold would say). So I decided last week to do a Bigfoot event called the 12 hours of Humbolt.
I left Friday afternoon and the traffic was pretty bad so I went to Redding and west on 299 to Arcata. I have fond memories of traveling with my college water polo team to Humbolt State to whup up on the Lumberjacks... And as I remember, the trip was full of beautiful sites.
As I drove a conservative 55 mph I soon encountered a very large deer or elk with the typical stupid come-hit-me look in his eyes. I slowed and honked and sure enough he scampered away. And I was on my way. Until, while I was rounding a corner something darted across the roadway and I could barely swerve to avoid it! And it was... a giant brown bear! And I missed it by inches. I slowed pretty much to a pedestrian 45 mph the rest of the way...
When I got there I wanted to locate the park so I found a map and went to the park. Now there was a gate and a big space on the right side of the gate so I drove around it and parked under a giant redwood tree. And I pitched my tent and went to sleep... until 5:15 when the spotlight of the local police shined in on me like God's torch.
After writing me a ticket and making me de-camp he told me to leave and I did... In the morning I spoke with a nice cop at the race and he took my ticket and said he would "take care of it."
When the gun went off I found myself in the little green room but soon everything was taken care of and I was off! It started with a huge granny gear uphill followed by some more uphill, and then some more uphill, and some more uphill. There was lots of singletrack and it reminded me of Wilder/Nicene Marks. The course ended up being 1,350 ft of elevation per lap and 7.6 miles in distance.
I was turning about one hour per lap, and I was in good spirits and had good eats. I had put together a menu to stay the course with turkey sandwiches (with and without cheese), Brown Cow yogurt, cherries, various Laura Bars, sweet and salty bars, Fritos corn chips, Gatorade, water, tea, and Anchor Steam beer. Every other lap I would consiously stretch, and flop down in my chair and eat while sitting there. I rested about 3-6 minutes per stop.
I had noticed a considerable group of young homeless people and was concerned that I had set up camp in the middle of their camp. I was scared for my turkey sandwchiches. I asked one of the teams if they could move me and they did while I was racing and I felt the security of being amongst my own kind again. I was comfortable and warm, and encountered someone from one of the teams who remembered me from high school (Acalanes High 1974)...Wow! He told me I had the same determined look as then!!
Lap 5 started about the same but then I heard a pop and the next time I clicked into my right pedal I noticed it didn't. After turning the spindle 90 degrees I was able to engage the cleet and it was lucky I had brought an extra set of pedals so the next stop I changed out the pedal and was still in good spirits and was making all the obsticles and was doing fine until lap 8 when I noticed a certain spongy feel and soon my back tire was flat. After changing it I was off and when I returned to the base I repumped up to the proper level.
Up to that time I thought I could pull off 12 laps because I was turning about one hour (including my stops). After the flat I felt kinda flat. I had to to small chainring instead of middle. I had to stand to relieve my back. Although my decending was getting faster through the familiar trails I was getting a little delirious because I would lose track of just where on the the course I was... sort of a time-space continueum...
I realized on lap 10 I would not make the 12 so I slowed to a more pleasant pace (my heart rate had dropped about 20 beats) and I cruzed in. I finished with 11 laps in 11:30
As it turns out, two other gents were faster... I kinda wished I'd known where they were.... next time (less rest, more pain)... I had a fun time. I didn't crash. I'm not too sore...(just my lower back), and I think I got this endurance thing out of my system for this year...
By Jim Langley
Some quick notes - since the tent was almost as much fun as racing this year:
- we setup 2 tents this year, and later a third tent appeared - from the Bike Trip Jr. Team
- once again Joe Platin donated about a million dollars worth of Buttery goodies
- the scones were to die for, the lemon torte was world-class and soon, all over my face
- we had a fantastic turnout of teammates show up and cheer - it was awesome
- the highlight of the morning was a visit by Ned ("The Lung") Overend, lured into the tent by Joe's goodies, and fresh off his stunning second-place finish in the Pro race (at 54-years-old!). It was quite a treat having the most famous racer in the race hang with us. He pointed out some of the fine details of his one-off 13-pound S-Works carbon roadster with custom Roval carbon wheels and even a trick under-stem-cap-mounted computer.
- huge thanks to everyone who made this race the biggest and best event of the year and congrats to all the fine finishes!!
Monday, August 24, 2009
This was my 6th year, and 7th time racing the University road race. I gotta tell you, it doesn’t get any easier. It seems no matter how fit you get, there’s always someone fitter. And, on this course, there’s no where to hide.
During pre-race discussions with several of my competitors, we all agreed, the 45+ 1,2,3 winner would come from whoever could hang with the 35+ 1,2,3 leaders. I’d already arrived at the same conclusion days ago, but had hoped there’d be a sane voice claiming otherwise. There wasn’t.
Much as I dreaded the 90 minutes of pure suffering in store, I couldn’t help but smile over the fact that, somehow, Jim and Joe had topped last year’s efforts to make this a hugely successful Bike Trip celebration. Jim, with Chris’ help, showed up at 6:00 AM to set up the Bike Trip tents, chairs, and table we’d all spend the day around. Joe arrived early too, car stocked with an impressive array of goodies. Try as he might, he couldn’t tempt me pre-race. Afterwards… well that was a different story. Monday morning I awoke 4.5 lbs heavier than Sunday morning… enough said.
The combined 35+ 1,2,3 and 45+ 1,2,3 groups rolled off the start line on time, roughly 60 of us anxious to get things going. Geoff and I were there with all the typical climbing suspects, plus a host of 35+ guys we knew nothing about. Notable was the guy in the National Champion’s jersey, as was the Specialized guy, and several others obviously enjoying peak season fitness.
As usual, the pace was brisk from the get go. After the first couple of laps I was surprised to see I’d never shifted out of my big ring. More surprising… I finished the race having never shifted into my 39. I wouldn’t have thought it possible if I hadn’t done it.
I stayed near the front pretty much the whole race, so I’m not sure when the group broke up. I was told that around lap 6 there was a big selection. Normally the main selection comes around lap 4, making it to lap 6 is a good indication of just how fit the group was this year.
Amazingly, there were six 45+ guys still with the lead 35’s up to about lap 11 or 12. Four of them had been dropped the previous couple of laps on the climb, but would claw their way back on the descent – just to suffer the climb again.
Rounding the corner from Coolidge to Hagar, just before the bell lap, Cale Reeder jumped off the front. Two 35’s had escaped earlier, but weren’t a concern to me, Cale was. I came through the corner a little too far back, but felt I could reel him in. I jumped after him. He was maintaining his gap, but I wasn’t worried yet. I felt my best chances to catch him was on the flat after the main climb, or on the descent after that.
What I’d forgotten to consider… Cale caught one of the 35’s on the flat and they immediately started to work together. This wasn’t promising. I hammered the final steep pitch and went into time trial mode on the descent. I wanted to save something for the climb to the finish, but knew that if I didn’t catch him it wouldn’t matter anyway. Then, there was also the angry group of 35’s chasing me to consider, with several 45’s in tow.
By the time we hit the right hand turn to start the final climb to the finish I hadn’t closed the gap at all, but neither had the guys chasing me. Coming up the climb I finally started to pull Cale and his accomplice back. Glancing behind me, the leaders of the chase group were now close enough for me to see their expressions.
Cale got across the finish well ahead of me, probably 15 seconds, but I still had the chasers to contend with. It wouldn’t really matter if the 35’s caught me, but I had no idea who they had in tow. So, out of the saddle, one final painful push, it would all be over soon anyway.
Whew… just made it. 35+’er Greg McQuaid of SJBC charged across the line with the shattered remnants of the lead group desperately trying to hold his wheel.
The National Champion won the 35+, followed by another 35+’er, Cale was next for first in the 45+, then me 2nd 45+, 4th overall.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
San Ardo is not a wealthy town. It's only 575 people, many living in beat-up mobile homes with dusty dirt yards, eeking out a living in south Salinas Valley's fields. Last year I double-flatted just a couple of miles into this 63-mile road race. But I did ride the entire course anyway to see if it would suit me, which it mostly does.
The race course starts in town, goes over the Salinas River, then up on Cattleman Road past HWY101 to the west, climbing the gently-rolling "big-ring" hills northward on Paris Valley before re-crossing the river on San Lucas and HWY198, then returning south on Cattleman which is a nearly-flat, wide-open road back into town. The finish, after three 21-mile laps, is a gentle climb (about 1 minute and 20 seconds long, right past the feedzone) back up Cattleman, just past HWY101 and on a side-road to the left.
I feel the final climb is a bit much for me. However, all those "L5" team workouts convinced me that Russ could do really well at San Ardo, and I decided it would be cool to lead him out for the finish. Another advantage to training with your teammates is this knowledge of our relative strengths and weaknesses.
I surprised Russ by taking Nils along for our carpool, so he ended up having to install his bike rack at 5:30AM under our flashlights! Sorry Russ; you were a good sport. At least the drive was only 1:45 long. We had lots of teammates racing but only Russ and I were in the 45+ race.
Our race went off nearly at the scheduled 8:50 which shows Velo Promo is working hard to improve the organization of their races. It was cool and a bit cloudy; nicer than the heat typical there. The pace was fairly easy on the rolling hills and even easier on the return south on Cattleman. I was intent solely on keeping the pack together so Russ could unleash his powerful long sprint at the end. Every time anybody went off the front while I was there I smoothly closed the gap. It actually became boring after a while; everybody just gave up trying. The only excitement was that I lost one of my bottles of sports drink in the bumpy section, but I had a gel for backup. Whew!
On the second lap I grabbed two bottles in the feedzone. All set! And Morgan Stanley started using their large team to force a harder tempo by pulling at the front. It still wasn't nearly as hard as the attacks VOS laid down at Dunnigan Hills. One of them complained that I wasn't pulling; I had been reconsidering my extreme defense anyway and decided the pace was too slow to favor us. There were several powerful sprinters who would be happy with an easy ride to the finish, including a current National Champion! I started taking some pulls.
Lap 3 got more lively, with Cale Reeder, Darryl Smith (both ICCC), Jeff Poulsen (Safeway) and others attacking on Paris Valley's rollers; two guys broke free. They were helped by an 18-wheeler that pulled onto the road between us for about a mile. Weird. Then the Pro/1/2 field passed us, just past the bridge on HWY198, so we were neutralized behind them on Cattleman. Argh. But Russ noticed that our break was drafting the Pros and had their motorcycle referee move them back; after a few minutes we caught them. But then an old truck with what is best described as a gypsy wagon passed us before getting stuck behind the Pros too. Funny.
The wind-up down Cattleman picked up when we passed the Pros (who just sat up "en bloc"), the gypsy wagon and also some women who had been dropped from their race. It got fun again! But a bit confusing.
The obstacles were not gone; as we flew through San Ardo we got stuck behind a van following the lead women's group. But just before we hit the base of the final climb the van pulled off and we had to swarm past the small group of women (excuse us!) and sprint under HWY101 and turn left for the finish. Not ideal!
I had worked really hard to stay up front the whole race and I wasn't going to give up my spot at the very end! I moved forward and was in a perfect position to spot a group that had decided to use the right shoulder, next to the feedzone, to pass the women. Crazy!
I jumped up to the leaders and we flew up the hill. I was third just behind Eric Saltzman (Morgan Stanley) as we approached the last turn. Shin Umeda (Alto Velo), our unintentional lead-out, faded, both of us hit the turn... and Eric just inched ahead of me as my legs started dying from the long sprint. Then I sensed somebody on my right; Russ! Awesome! I didn't even mind that he pipped me; that was my original plan! But 2nd and 3rd place was way more than I expected, especially after I spent so much time up front. Woo-hoo Team Bicycle Trip!
What a race. These last two races have really made my season. And all those workouts will be easier to suffer through!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I'd never entered this road race in Yolo (about 20 miles northwest of Sacramento), but after several teammates talked about it last year I decided to go this time.
Many joked that this race should be called "Dunnigan Winds" because it has no hills but does have strong winds; but that is not accurate. The 42-mile course has about 950 feet of climbing... plus the strong winds. Though none of the rolling hills take much more than a minute or so to climb they have a definite affect on the outcome of the race by tiring out the bigger power riders who might dominate if it truly were pancake-flat. It doesn't have to be l'Alpe d'Huez to make a difference! And the crosswinds make it impossible for the pure sprinters to shelter in wait for a sprint finish.
But a small sprinter like me; now that might be a different story... or so I hoped. My worry was that I would get stuck behind one of the gaps I was certain would form in the pack of riders in the crosswind. Fortunately I'm getting much better at staying near the front of the peloton, thanks to Russ's example and Mark's workout rides.
Russ drove Miles and I (thanks!) from Santa Cruz at 4:30 in the morning (ugh). I didn't sleep well in the 5 hours I got, nor did Russ who had screaming neighbors to contend with. Even so I felt pretty good on our 2.5-hour drive as I ate my race-day breakfast from a tupperware bowl.
We signed in, suited up and had plenty of time to ride over to the finish area; thanks to Jim, John and others we knew it was critical to understand it in detail. I am really, really glad I saw it before racing! After several miles of flat, straight road next to I5 the course turns right onto County Road 96 at about 70 degrees, then the last 400 meters over the freeway overpass and to the finish line. I noted the distinctive low, conical silos there so I could look for them as we approached in the race. So, this was not what I had visualized from the descriptions, but very confidence-inspiring for me.
There were about 50 of us at the start and I was looking forward to racing, but our race was delayed until about 9:40. It was probably about 80 degrees and rose to 95 later. The start was 2 miles of neutral riding behind a motorcycle referee and already the NW crosswind from our right was strong. Then we turned south and enjoyed the tailwind as the race started.
Turning west on Road 19 we started fighting for shelter, crowding the center line; some guys got warnings for crossing it or even sent to the back. Morgan Stanley had 10 riders and they used them to launch repeated viscious attacks; we were "on the rivet" as they say! I was determined to stay forward but still missed it when one of their guys succeeded and also took James Allen (VOS) with him. I did notice that the pace slowed down though as we turned north on Road 90A into the headwind.
Turning west again (over HWY505 on Road 14) we had more crosswind which probably contributed to a crash which happened there. Miles and I barely slipped by the guys sliding on the pavement! Our pace picked up as some guys tried to use that to open a gap; no waiting here unlike the big ProTour races.
Like usual I was worried that the break would survive. When we started heading north again the pace went down which wasn't helping. Then our pace picked up as guys tried to bridge up; Davis riders mostly. There were several shifts in wind direction, and small hills, so we had to remain careful about gaps forming. I was happy to see we were closing in on the break. I was less happy when Miles and I failed to grab a water bottle in the neutral feed zone on Road 85. It was hot and dry. Russ offered me his but my own bottles turned out to be enough.
We caught the break just before the course turned east. That was the sign for VOS to start some impressive attacks in the crosswind and rolling hills on Road 6; mostly by Jon Ornstil and Rick Martyn, even though both had crashed earlier. Keeping up with them really hurt, but every time they let up before my legs did!
I was still up front and getting more optimistic by the minute as the road leveled off and the finish approached. We turned south onto the long, flat stretch back on Road 99W with a strong tailwind. Much to my surprise VOS kept attacking hard. Very hard; we were hitting well over 30MPH. I was on Jan Elsbach's wheel when it was his turn. He smoothly rode off on his own; nobody followed. Now I wonder what would have happened had I tried to go with him.
As others became aware that Jan was increasing his lead they started to try to bridge up. But I don't think anybody thought he could hold on and VOS did a great job of blocking. Then Morgan Stanley tried to chase, Wells Fargo tried some too. Even I took a short pull. Martyn joked that "Darryl Smith thanks you" (implying they would just be helping the big sprinters if Jan was caught). That made me laugh; I had other plans!
Then the pace slowed so much that I literally rolled off the front about a mile out. I could see the conical silos ahead. I sighed and decided to sprint for 2nd place. Then our last turn appeared; I couldn't believe nobody jumped! But then a Wells Fargo guy tried to go and I was able to jump up to him... a leadout! We went into the turn and I instantly jumped past him at 100%; I was treating the top of the overpass as the psuedo finish line and had a big lead. But I had to hold it another 200 meters... but with my lead and the downhill advantage it was enough for 2nd place. Woo-hoo! Russ got 6th while Miles got caught behind a gap.
After collecting my prize T-shirt we stopped for burgers on our long drive home. I felt pretty good! I love winning field sprints! But next time...
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
continued to catch and drop people from other age groups I assume all the way to the line.
3rd place finish time of 2:29:36 My age group was the fastest expert race with the most competitors that day. This was super motivating for me since I have been struggling every since my crash right before the beginning of the season. What Ivrealized is since I never got to push into and through my peak I find myself missing the last 10% of high end effort it takes to win. I have a few more races coming San Ardo in 2 weeks and Mammoth XC Mtn race in 4 weeks. I'm hoping to race myself into a top 3 placing at Mammoth.
I'm feeling good again and I know my limitations.
After racing the district races on rolling terrain the last two weekends I was really looking forward to doing a mountain race. Patterson Pass has over a thousand feet of climbing in the first five miles, a much better environment for a climber like myself. I ended up second in a two man drag race to the line.
The race is held on the Altamont Pass west of Tracy, where it's always windy and hot in the summer. People were already sweating as we staged for the start.
There was a lead pack of around twenty riders that stayed together for most of the first lap. I tried to break things up with an attack on a short hill after the main climb. I pulled out a pretty good gap, but when no one wanted to join me I came to my senses and sat up. It was fun but wasted some resources.
The climbs on the second lap blew the pack apart. There were just six of us still in contact at the top of the main climb. By the time we ascended the second smaller climb, there were just four. When we started the long flat section on Old Altamont Highway there was no one in sight behind us.
There were two Wells Fargo riders in the group. They executed perfectly the classic one guy rests while the other guy attacks tactic. When we hit the short climb a few miles before the finish on the last lap, the chosen Wells Fargo guy and I started attacking. As we went over the top we realized that we had dropped the other two riders in the break so we decided to keep the power on and fight it out at the line. Coming into the finish he got a jump on me and held it to the line. I really have to work on my end of the race kick. The same thing happened to me at Copperopolis this year.
Monday, August 10, 2009
This race was slated for 3- 23 mile laps with one climb that proved to be the show-stopper for many racers. The first time up the hill was conducted at a brisk pace shelling a few racers while I hung out about 5 or 6 back. On the second lap another selection was made on the hill and approximately 40 racers were still together. Going into the 3rd trip up the hill I took a look and noticed many were struggling so I went to the front and set the tempo since I was feeling good. Halfway up the hill I took another look and there were 3 with me so I continued with the tempo to the top of the climb and the 4 of us continued to roll away, working together fairly well for the next 20 miles. On the last little hill approximately 2k from the finish I put the hammer down dropping 2 of my break away mates. Going into the last 2 tight turns near the finish the guy who had been siiting on my wheel for the last 2k jumped around me and I rolled in for 2nd.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Last year I got dropped 1.5 laps into this 4-lap, 41-mile race held on the rolling access roads of this former Army base and didn't bother to finish. So I wasn't too excited about revisiting! But Coach Mark convinced me it could be a fun way to practice some tactics with the team: True enough, Mark, Russ, Miles and Joe would also be racing.
After a neutral roll-out the pace was easy for a while. The plan was for me to make the first attack; on the long hill by the feed zone, which could also give me a head-start up Hennekens Ranch Road, the biggest climb at about 3 or 4 minutes in my lowest 39×25 gears.
When I jumped it was surprisingly easy to get a big gap up the hill and over the crest, though nobody bothered to go with me. And still I was able to rest enough on the descent that I could climb at my own pace up Hennekens, even though I got caught by the pack halfway up where there is a slight step. Very cool!
Then l noticed that Joe was having trouble with the furious pace of the peloton...he was in danger of getting dropped. So I led him over the top, where the headwind gets pretty strong and Vlada cheered us on, and downhill and back to the leaders after a hard chase. Trust me, that was really fun!
On the third lap Jon Ornstil (VOS) and a Safeway rider effected a breakaway and so the pace was slow as VOS blocked... and other teams looked to us to chase as our team started the race with the most riders entered. But I was tired from chasing and more concerned with recovering for the climb up Hennekens, so I rested.
On the third lap even Russ and Miles were demoralized up Hennekens, and I was really hurting too, but at the top I got Russ and Miles to go with me and a few others (many of them were also in my second-lap chase group!). Once more I was in chase mode! But once more we managed to get back in the main pack. Still, it took its toll on the team because in the meantime we had left Mark alone to try his best to catch the two guys off the front. He didn't get much help.
And Hennekens wasn't done with us yet: This fourth time up I was way too tired, and I wished for 39×27 gears. We all got dropped again; though Russ and Miles were able to stay with a chase group I was alone behind them.
So I soloed across the line with a practice sprint for about 20th place. Mark took 4th, Russ and Miles roughly 15th, and Joe behind me. Still, I got lots of enjoyment from helping with the team effort. And maybe next year I'll be able to finish with the lead pack; the slightly climbing finish would be perfect for me!
Thanks go to Russ, for driving. He even got me home in time for my 4:00 massage appointment!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
By Mark Edwards
Through the late winter and early spring, I often find myself wondering why I get up at four in the morning to race Saturdays when I could be sleeping in. I drive for hours just to endure frozen numb hands and feet while filtering grit out of my teeth from all the water and mud sprayed in my face.
Then along comes a day like Saturday. Pulling into the parking lot for the Diamond Valley Road Race (District Masters Championships) at , the setting couldn’t have been more perfect. Set in
To add to the experience, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for my parents to accompany me to this race. They live in the area and enjoy coming out for the day to support me in this crazy sport.
Just as I pulled off the main road, there was Jim’s VW parked right at the start line. Geoff, Joe, and Jim were already in line to pick up their race numbers, I would join them a few minutes later. Larry and Matt Wocasek would also be showing up soon. At registration I asked if the race was on time, last year we’d been delayed over an hour when the CHP didn’t show up as planned, “So far, so good.” That was the answer I’d hoped for.
The four of us warmed up together, joking that we should skip the race and just ride and enjoy this glorious day… Not! We’d worked too hard, and were too amped to miss this race. This was the District Championships after all! We’d trained hard, and all had the potential to place well.
Bob Leibold, of VeloPromo, was Chief referee and joked that we would be starting on time, “after all” he said, “this wasn’t a VeloPromo race.” After a quick run down on the race from Bob, we took off.
VOS sent their very effective, and dangerous, Rick Martyn, Jan Elsbach, and Jon Ornstil to battle for the overall win. Individually each is a threat; together they always factor in the outcome. I knew Jan was riding well, and not surprisingly, Jon and Rick went right to work. Trading off attacks, they made sure we worked to keep them close, while Jan conserved energy in the pack. Once back together, Clark Foy inched his way forward from the base of the first climb. Clark had suffered a bad crash in the early spring, but had worked hard since then, he was eager to test his legs – some of the best climbing legs in the country. He went to the front and applied a little pressure. No fireworks, just a good hard pace that, if maintained, would thin all but the strongest.
Clark and I ended up off the front on the long run back towards the finish line. We lamented that no one had come with us, so we soft pedaled until the peloton re-absorbed us.
Most of the 11 mile loop on this course is fairly uneventful. From the start it’s roughly 5 miles of beautiful smooth descending pavement. It’s very fun, but tactically not a great place to make much happen. Dropping into it, a couple of times I tried to push the pace. My intention was to create small gaps. I knew it wouldn’t be enough to drop anyone, but every little bit of damage done adds up by the 55th mile. This section is followed by back to back ¾ mile climbs. The 5 times we’d go up these twin climbs would make the race. If you couldn’t hang here, you wouldn’t be there at the finish. Then, the final section is about 4 miles mostly flat. Strong riders would likely seize this section as a good chance to inflict a whole bunch of pain coming off the climb.
Second lap; this time I took the point position on the second half of the climb. Like
On the third lap I dropped my chain cresting the first climb. I watched in desperation as the group rode away from me while my chain rattled around my crankarm. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, my chain was back in place and I was chasing hard. I caught the group at the base of the second climb, just as Kevin Metcalf came forward and showed us what an “attack” should look like. For one thing, he started way earlier, for another, he went REALLY hard. Unlike
Starting the climb on the 5th lap we numbered about 12. Somehow I ended up on the front and once again set a brisk, but far from attacking, pace. The false flat between the two sections was eerily easy, as guys prepared themselves for the inevitable last climb of the race.
Once again, earlier than expected, Kevin exploded out of the group, Cal on his wheel, me on Cal’s. And, once again, I somehow held the pace far longer than I thought possible. This time the three of us crested the climb with a sizeable gap. Immediately we started rotating smoothly. I felt a lot better this time and I was pleased that we all worked well together; no games.
The chase group was within sight, but we had a comfortable margin. At some point we all knew our temporary alliance would end, but who would make the first move? Go to soon; the teamwork ends, we’d be caught, and certain podium finishes would be gone. Wait too long; the two guys behind jump around me, and I’m left with 3rd place.
I felt pretty good, but was trying not to show it. I’ll never know if I felt better than the other guys, or if they were doing a better job of hiding their reserves. Anyway, apparently Kevin thought I was still strong, so just as I finished a pull he attacked.
No sooner had Kevin’s stinging attack started to fade, I countered and got 50 meters. Looking far up the road towards the 200 meter mark, and finish line up the hill from there, I was certain I’d gone too soon. But, what choice did I have? Another round of cat and mouse would have allowed the chase group to overtake us.
My head down, I pushed with all I had. For a while the gap stayed steady. But, as my legs started to burn, the gap started to shrink. There were 200 meters uphill remaining. I felt like I was pedaling through molasses, Kevin and Cal had started to work together and were now closing quite fast – never mind the black cloud of the chase group driven by the scent of blood in the water behind them.
50 meters to go, my legs were on the verge of failure. Glancing under my arm I knew it was going to be close. I actually thought I was going to be caught and eased up just slightly; I wanted to try and save a tiny bit to sprint. But, I didn’t back off completely. I might make it, and I really didn’t know if I could muster enough to lift myself off the saddle, let alone sprint.
YES! Victory! I made it…
Completely exhausted, I crossed the line seconds ahead of Cal, then Kevin. No finish line salute, no zipping of the jersey, just deep gasps for oxygen that wasn’t there. I felt like getting sick, but the happiness of winning such a hard fought battle, against the most worthy opponents I could imagine flooded over me.
To my surprise, and great satisfaction, Geoff, Jim, and Joe were at the finish line to witness my near collapse, and resulting win. Fortunately I made it with inches to spare. It’s so special to be gifted the opportunity to share these moments with good friends and family.
Like I said, I can’t imagine a better day.
Friday, July 24, 2009
- Bike prep: F
It would've been helpful to notice that my pump was misreading and I'd really inflated my tires to only 90psi.
- Warmup: B+
A one-hour ride down from Santa Cruz with a few hard efforts really primed the legs
- Handling skills: A/C-
A+ when I gunned it from the whistle and started gapping the field more and more on each corner. Perfect time for a breakaway, until you get too excited through a very technical left-hander and manage to not pull a Thor Hushovd. C- for that move.
- Pit crew teamwork: A
You guys were awesome with Russ's spare 404 and the super fast wheel change
- "Suitcase of Courage" award
Got into enough of a rhythm to hold a 2-man breakaway away for over 20 laps. Also might win an award for synchronized pedaling.
- Sprint points: D
Getting boxed in on the outside sucks. Frustrating to not be able to top out. Still got 5th and a motherload of strawberries.
What a fun race. Sure made for some great photo ops. (My friend Kim has a photo album online called "you only get good photos if you're fast". How very true.) See my friend Omari's coverage of the E3 race.
Monday, July 20, 2009
This was my sixth time racing this very technical 3/4-mile course, with about 7 turns (two of them about 120 degrees), a small hill and two drainage gutters. With Russ and Vlada signed up for the 45+ race, Margaret's willingness to come along and watch, and the pretty neighborhood the course is set in, above downtown, I really wanted to race.
For some reason this criterium always starts later in the day too, so Margaret and I had time to watch George on TV as he misjudged his try for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, eat a big breakfast at Capitola Wharf House, and stroll around the village before setting off for my 1:50 race start. It was a gorgeous day too.
We watched the Category 5 race, and the Cat. 4 race, cheering my teammates on. This race is always small, and even smaller this year. But Team Bicycle Trip was well-represented with 7 racers. Unfortunately Robbie Abundis went down with some nasty gashes when a guy trying a flyer in his race went down in the back hairpin, in the drainage gutter. I hope he's back soon!
We were combined with the 35+ race (but placed separately) and that ups the pace. I know from painful experience that it is absolutely critical to stay near the front in races like this. So I decided to skip my warmup completely and just be first to our staging area so I could sprint up the hill right off the line and then stay well-positioned the whole race. Well, that tactic is common knowledge, and others beat me there so I was behind the front row. Oh well. At least I felt good and relaxed.
When the whistle blew I calmly clipped in, slipped around a couple of guys, and sprinted hard up the small hill to the start/finish line. I was probably about 5th at the top; yay! And even though the pace was furious for several laps I managed to maintain my position fairly well.
A few attacks brought the pace up later, and some Driscoll strawberry primes too. I was really working... but not beyond my limits, unlike last year where my position toward the rear really hurt me. Russ has been a great influence on me. And Coach Mark's workouts have really helped tremendously too. And all of the friends cheering us on was so cool. Thanks everybody!
About halfway into our 24-lap race I was a bit too far back (Jim yelled at me!). But I calmly moved up and even went ahead of Russ. I was also marking some of the 45+ racers, like Eric Saltzman (Morgan Stanley) and Mike Gadow (Tieni Duro). So when four guys broke free I looked to see if any 45+ riders were mixed in with the 35+ guys; I didn't see any so I didn't panic when they held us off. The pace came down too so I could stay fresher for the finish; mercifully it came soon.
With about 7 laps left some guy, probably in 35+, tried to whip us into a paceline to chase the break, but I had no reason to do that. I just chuckled and kept my place.
Like usual the pace picked up with about 3 laps to go. But I didn't try too hard to save matches; that thinking has hurt my chances before. Instead I worked to stay up front. That kept me well placed for the finish.
On the last lap we were flying; my rear wheel skittered through the hairpins. It's hard to pass without hitting a headwind too. Timing is so key! In 2007 I took 2nd by going wide on the outside of the last turn. I tried this again but this time I got squeezed against the left curb and had to back off for a few seconds as we hit the hill up to the finish line. That pause, plus the longer line, put me in 5th place. Russ got 9th.
I was pretty happy with how I had ridden, but bummed that I had left a bit of energy on the course, as they say. Still, I was jazzed that I had been smart most of the time. This course isn't quite ideal for me, but I like it. No crashes in our race, and I got some upgrade points too. Woo-hoo!
We then watched Nils's Cat. 3 race but had to drive him home after his crash, which left his rear tire shredded. While we waited for Nils to get his scrapes cleaned up (and collect his winnings; he got 5th even with the crash!) we watched Ben Jacques-Maynes race in the Pro/1/2 race. What a wild day!
The Bike Trip was well represented in the elite Cat. 4 race. Vladan, Abe, Robbie and I were able to stay with the pack without too much effort.
I tried to stay up towards the front of the pack but it seemed like riders were constantly moving ahead of me as we slowed for sharper corners.
With a few laps to go I found myself way too far back in the peloton to go for a good finish in the sprint. I had a number of close calls while trying to move up. At one point I was moving up the side of the peloton, trying to stay in the draft, when another rider had the same idea about getting closer to the front. He moved over on me and I had to lean into him to keep from going down. Next time… I'm going to stay up front.
On the backside of the course there is a 90 degree left hand corner with a rain gutter running through it. Somewhere around the midpoint of the race the lead rider grabbed too much front brake as he went through the cement gutter and crashed causing a number of riders to go down. Robbie hit a fallen rider and flipped over. He didn't finish the race, and I heard he ended up in emergency with of a banged up elbow, typical Cat. 4 crit.
In the final sprint I was able to go through the last corner at full speed and sprint with the group but I was nowhere near the front. Vladan finished around where I did and Abe was eighth.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
This was a fun race course with a nice hill top finish that really suited my riding style. The 4's only did 1.7 laps with 2 trips up Haskin's Hill. The first time up the hill I gapped everyone with the next couple riders behind me about 30 meters back. I sat up and waited for the 2 riders and we enjoyed being out of traffic for the nice descent into Pescadero. As we neared the flats coming into town the field came back together as was expected. On Stage Road I felt pretty good so I went to the front and pushed the pace on the climbs to try and tire out some of the field. As we turned onto 84 I sat in about 5 back and we all cruised to the base of Hasken's. Once there I went to front and hammered. I went too hard at the bottom of the climb and popped with about 200m to go, getting passed by 1 rider and holding on for second.
ELKHORN CLASSIC STAGE RACE JUNE 19-21, 2009
(ELITE 4, GC WINNER)
This was my first stage and, overall, a great experience. A couple stages with icy rain made the whole experience feel pretty epic. I went off the front for about 22 miles on the first day to win the stage and I just battled it out over the next 3 stages to take the overall. This race turned out to be a bit bittersweet in that, depite winning it, I didn't recieve a single upgrade point due to this being an OBRA event, not USAC. Oh well.
BURLINGAME CRITERIUM JUNE 28, 2009 (ELITE 4, 5th place)
This was a fun crit course with a couple challenging turns and a bottleneck finish just to keep things exciting. I felt pretty good throughout the race and was on or near the front for most of it. With about 500 meters to go on the last lap I got out of the saddle to go hard but my chain kept slipping on my cassette so I had to sit back down and spin in for 5th.
CAMP SLO ROAD RACE JULY 4th, 2009 (ELITE 4, 1st place)
It was great racing with new teammate Abe Rottstein on this course that suited our riding styles. Our race consisted of seven 6.75 mile laps with a hill just long and hard enough to be advantageous for TBT. After a few failed breakaway attempts by other teams on the first couple laps Abe and I were on the front controlling the race with relative ease. With each lap we shed more of the peleton while setting the pace up the hill. On the last lap I put the hammer down, dropping everyone except one rider who continued to sit on my wheel for the next 3 miles. After awhile I had to tell him to pull through because I had no interest in pulling him 4 miles to the finish. He obliged for a bit, but I could tell he was tired and I dropped him with 300m to go and cruised across the finish line alone. Shortly after, Abe crossed the finish in 5th. This was easily some of the most fun I've had at a road race getting to dominate with a strong teammate like Abe.
SLO DOWNTOWN CLASSIC CRITERIUM JULY 5th, 2009
This was my last day racing as a Cat 4. Since I secured enough USAC points to move up to Cat 3 the pressure was off myself to get more points so I just raced to have fun and stay on the front out of trouble, not needing to unneccessarily risk a crash. My field was huge for the 4's, something like 87 riders and most were pretty amped since this was the SCNCA Crit Championship. Fortunately for me the course had a slight uphill section which I used to my advantage. I was on or near the front for most of the 45 minute race taking 3 primes. The only tactical error I made was on the last lap going into the second to last turn where I let up ever so slightly, looking to set myself up for a lead out for the sprint, and went from the front to about 20 back in the blink of an eye, losing any chance for the podium. I learned from this mistake and 2 hours later when I did the Master's 30+ 4/5 crit I payed closer attention to my position and speed going into the second to last turn. For this 40 min race I was on the front from the gun constantly creating gaps and making the field work to catch me. I was really having fun. I sprinted safely in for 3rd in this race feeling good about my overall fitness after winning the day before and spending 85 minutes working hard on or near the front for my 2 crits. On to the 3's.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
- People were trying to move up in a super narrow spot where the course passed through Mission San Luis Obispo. Hard to notice the scenery when you're rubbing elbows.
- After the narrow chicane, the course widens out... except for a nasty little wheelchair ramp that juts out on the left. It's really fun when the riders in front of you try to move up on the left, subsequently run out of space due to aforementioned ramp. It's even more fun when they move right INTO THE RIDER next to them. I saw it happening with enough time, adjusted my line accordingly, and made it through with a rider rolling within inches of my wheels. Fun times.
- This is the really good one: 90° right turn coming out of an uphill (i.e. EASY). The field bunches up especially bad this time around. I'm maybe one or two wheels from the outside, but the guy inside me decides to swing into me. We rub elbows and he pushes me into the guy on my outside. That guy starts hollering at me (he didn't know I'd been pushed)... we're locked against each other through the turn. Somehow I push him off me, but he goes into the barriers. Holy crap. I heard he wasn't hurt too badly, but I was really shaken up and had lost most of my desire to race.
Friday, July 3, 2009
What’s 50 miles long with 50 power climbs, has 15 death defying high speed technical corners, and has nearly 4,000’ of climbing?
It was the 2009 USA Nationals Masters Road Race Championships in Louisville Kentucky. More criterium than road race, it was 1:55:07 of the most intense racing I’ve ever done.
With 80 of the Nations best masters racers, and an average speed of just over 26 mph for two hours on this hilly course, this was one tough race.
After watching Jim’s race the day before, it was clear I needed to be ready to rock from the start. The start/finish line was Pro Tour in every detail. At the gun we would drop into a series of three serpentine descending corners, the last would push the limits of tire adhesion. Getting gapped off the rear behind unprepared racers could end your race before it even started. I lined up in the second row (after several delays), clipped in smoothly, and rounded the first turn in the top twenty.
I had pre-ridden the course four times on Sunday, four times on Monday, and twice Tuesday before my race. It paid off as I railed the first technical corner. Holding a fast steady line, as many others struggled braking and losing their line, I was positioned comfortably near the front for the first climb. Riders attacked hard as we approached the climb, but slowed near the top. Viewing this as an opportunity to inflict a little damage, I kept the pace high, cresting the climb and on through the flat section that followed. My hope was that this would keep the pressure on the guys who’d been caught behind the gaps that inevitably form on hills.
By the third lap I’d gotten comfortable that my fitness was competitive and I’d be able to animate the race at a few selected points. I was obvious I couldn’t be reckless, as the field was clearly deep with talent, but I was confident I could be a player. We also had a break of three up the road that didn’t seem to me to stand a chance of surviving, staying away for seven more laps just didn’t seem possible.
Around the third lap I was hoping to go into the blind right left descending corner that followed the first climb at the front of the peloton. I knew this corner, and knew gaps would open as riders hit their brakes. I came into the hard right hander a little too hot. The slightly off camber bumpy pavement was too much for my speed. I felt my front, then rear tire start to slip. Staying calm, I rode it out, exiting the corner with a twenty meter gap to the second rider. On the plus side… it forced the guys behind me to close the gap while I rested… but it wasn’t worth the risk to try repeating that again.
The blind right left descending corner was followed by a fast descent which rolled into a short power climb. Ten times we went up this, and ten times there were multiple attacks on this hill, one right after another. I was able to start this climb near the front each lap and drift back with each attack, saving precious energy each time.
The descent off this roller was followed by a long flat section, punctuated by a punchy short climb, and then more flat. The entire loop was a big ring power fest. Cochran climb, the longest and steepest of the loop was next. This ½ mile 8% climb was a favorite spot for the strongest riders to try and thin the herd. NCNCA strongman, and perennial Nationals favorite Kevin Metcalfe, threw down several impressive displays of power here. Each time we’d sprint over this climb in our big ring, I’d look back to assess the damage. The pack would be strung out, but not broken. Each time I was amazed to see 45 guys responding and surviving the brutal attacks.
As with the other climbs on this loop, I’d hoped keeping pressure on after the climb would wear riders down. Unfortunately the Cochran (AKA Dog Run climb) climb was followed by a hairy 12 mph descending switchback, allowing stragglers to catch back on.
Once over Cochran, it was mostly a flat run to the finishing climb. Every lap this climb was taken at a break-neck pace. Fear of getting dropped kept me near the front, and a couple of times saw me attempting to continue the painful pace over the top to the next descent. With no long climbs, the pressure had to be kept high in hopes of weakening the group.
Jim and John Novitsky had been cheering me on while sprinting from one location to another. In my haze of race concentration, Jim and John’s cheers from all over the course made it seem like I had dozens of supporters. Pretty cool… thanks guys.
Seven laps in, Kevin attacked in an attempt to bridge up to the three leaders. I jumped and heard someone say “there he goes!” referring to Kevin. I bridged to Kevin and saw we had about a 30 meter gap. Not enough… as we were reeled back in short order.
On the final lap two guys went of the front. The group didn’t show much interest in chasing them down, as they were left dangling 50 meters off the front. It would pay off for them in the end, as the peloton would start to bicker in the final miles, allowing them to keep their gap to the finish.
Coming into the feedzone at the base of the finishing climb, the pace was coming to a boil. Unfortunately, this is also were we caught a sizeable group of lapped riders. Between the feedzone, several slower lapped riders, and 45 guys sprinting on a single lane around a curve, it was mayhem. I saw three guys jump and I immediately came out of the saddle… but the two guys in front of me didn’t react. I sat back down and looked for an exit. Kevin was next to me and in the same predicament. I moved around my guys just as someone swerved and caught Kevin’s front wheel. Next came the sickening sound that’s usually followed by a crash, but not this time, Kevin stayed upright.
No sooner did I get around these guys and found myself once again blocked. How could this be happening? Where I had been sitting top ten, I now found fifteen guys ahead of me? Oh yea… lapped riders. Looking for a clear path, I once again cringed as another rider moved into Kevin’s wheel. This time Kevin called the guy out, but his chances were now over. There’s only so much you can overcome, even for a rider with Kevin’s skill and experience.
Maneuvering around the latest block I could now sprint… but wait… the finishing shoot narrowed the road from twenty feet to fifteen feet. The steel barricades (with their steel feet extending 18” out) were on my left, riders on my right, I had nowhere to go. I kept the pressure on, but couldn’t safely unleash a full sprint. I came across the line in 9th place.
Somewhat disappointed in that I’d left too much in the tank, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way. I had set what I thought was a stretch goal of top ten for this race, figuring that 6-10 riders would be a step above my fitness level, and several others would finish ahead of me through superior skill and experience. It turns out that I never felt in trouble and that this course just wasn’t tough enough to thin out such a talented field.
In hind sight, I’m very pleased with how I raced and finished. Top ten in my first Nationals, and being able to instigate a little action, has left me with some great memories. I couldn’t have made it this far without the support and encouragement of the Team and all my great training partners. Thank you.