Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Early Bird race report

Here's a belated race report from the Early Bird Road Race on Saturday.

The 45+ 4/5 race started with a few early attacks, but I chose to hide in the pack and heed Coach Mark's advice to stay out of the wind, close gaps gradually, etc. As we hit the steep 2-mile climb near the halfway point, I made my first mistake: starting too far back. Seven guys had escaped by the time I worked my way through the traffic. So I found some good wheels to pace off (and hide from the headwind).

At the turnaround, we were about 20-30 seconds back. After the initial fast descent, we had a chase pack of 10, but the group was making all the mistakes we've been working on in our Highway 1 paceline drills: letting gaps open, surging instead of pulling through evenly, staying too long on the front, etc.

So I thought: WWMD (What Would Mark Do)? I encouraged everybody to work together and keep a steady pace. Soon we were humming along and enjoying the fun, gradual downhill. We caught the leaders with about 2 miles to go. Then I made my second mistake, starting my sprint too late and getting boxed in. I finished 6th. I should've been thinking: WWDD (What Would Dennis Do)? Live and learn...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Early Bird Road Race Open 45+

By Mark Edwards 1/24/09

Christmas stars? Or emerging 2009 Powerhouse?

Even casual early season racers have to be scratching their helmets on this one. Is it possible that, from our team’s humble partying roots, the “friendliest bike shop in town” has grown into a serious competitor in the NCNCA?

It’s tough to say, but I doubt any of the established dominant teams will be laying out strategies this year that don’t address the Bicycle Trip threat.

I’ve always wanted to do the Early Bird Road Race, but have been deterred by the weather. The race flyer’s warning of black ice, rocks, a technical steep fast descent, and the two hour drive kept me home and warm the past several years. But this year’s mild temperatures, combined with Jon Ornstil’s high recommendation of the course, convinced me to brave the expected rain and give it a try. I’m happy to say 7 of my teammates felt the same way.

Six of us would be starting the Open 45+ race, Geoff, Miles, Jim, Russ, Dennis, and me, while Matt would contest the 35+ 4/5 and Scott the 45+ 4/5. The fog was low at the start and the roads were damp, but not enough to spray off the wheel ahead. We quickly rose out of the fog, and even got a glimpse of the sun. Today our luck would hold, no rain.

The Early Bird Road Race is an out and back course. You climb gently for 19 miles, then hope you’ve got the legs for the final two mile 9+% ascent to the turn around. After which, out of the saddle, you accelerate and charge down the steep twisty two miles. Once off the steep stuff, you look for guys to work with to keep your pace high for the return trip.

The climb elicited uncharacteristically labored breathing from several of the usual podium contenders. But this is only January; many guys won’t find their form for another couple of months. Cresting the climb, VOS had Rick Martin off the front, followed by San Bruno champion Clark Foy. On Clark’s wheel was cagy Jon Ornstil, Rick’s teammate. Geoff, myself, and another rider would form the second chase group.

After a prolonged chase, the three of us became five as Jon and Clark were absorbed by the advancing freight train the three of us had become. Jon sat on the four of us, he wasn’t about to help us chase down his teammate. He would be hoping we’d fail, but if we did succeed, he’d likely be fresher than the rest of us. It’s a good solid plan.

Rick finally came into view, his long solo risk almost paid off, but not today. As we pulled Rick back, Geoff and I launched a couple of attacks, followed by VOS throwing down a few of their own. The attacks were a long shot for anyone to get away, but they do tear up the legs and gave us a glimpse at who might have something left for the sprint finish.

The finish line comes after a two step climb. Neither of the climbs is overly steep or long, but they are just tough enough to diminish the drafting advantage over a flat sprint finish.

There were a couple of hard surges to attempt to stretch things out a bit, but this was an experienced group of six, everyone was paying attention, and no one was caught out. Clark had moved into the lead a bit early, but he’s so strong you had to respect his early move. Rick, clearly one of the stronger sprinters in the group, had moved onto Clark’s wheel, with me on Rick’s, and Geoff on mine.

Rick surged ahead of Clark as Clark appeared to fade. Then there was this big hesitation, “it’s still a long uphill sprint from this point guys!” Rick was sitting on the front, not a position he wanted to be in, so he started a little cat and mouse game. He brought the speed down to probably 7 mph hoping to entice someone to take point, someone who would burn themselves out and provide a nice lead-out for his explosive jump across the finish line.

It was almost as if I could see the wheels turning in Rick’s head. It was still a long uphill sprint, but at only about 150 meters, it was rapidly coming into range. Then Rick jumped, what else could he do? With 5 guys sitting on him, any of them could come around several mph faster and there wouldn’t be enough real estate for him to make up the lost momentum. So he jumped.

Rick’s explosive, but it was exactly what I’d been waiting for. I held his wheel, knowing he had to be tired from his long solo break. As soon as his excellent jump began to top out, I came around and laid down a hard surge of my own. I got around Rick okay, but I could see a shadow on the ground to my left coming up on me. Fortunately the sprint distance was within the range that I could continue to accelerate, from my jump through the finish line. I wasn’t sure who was on my wheel, but was relieved when I saw their progress slow once they moved out of my draft. Suddenly winning seemed possible.

In disbelief, I crossed the line first. Turning to confirm that I’d really won, I saw it was Geoff that had been on my wheel. We had done it! 1st and 2nd in a very hard fought and well played chess game with some of the truly best Nor Cal racers.

Christmas stars? Or emerging 2009 Powerhouse? Time will tell. All I know is that we had a great time and this win was every bit as gratifying as my others. In fact, it was actually more gratifying. Geoff and I worked together like a New Dura Ace drivetrain (in hindsight, I don’t think our competitors stood a chance, the power of a team working together is like a work of art), and knowing our teammates were helping us further back in the pack, made this day one I’ll be talking about for a long time.

How’s this for timing… 50’ past the finish I flatted, a small sliver of glass puncturing the casing. Actually it appears I’d been losing air for a while, but I hadn’t noticed until after the finish. Talk about luck…

Saturday, January 10, 2009

San Bruno Hillclimb from Geoff

The story of my San Bruno hillclimb really starts two weeks before the actual race. While servicing my Kestrel Evoke, when I removed the rear wheel, the derailleur just dropped to the ground—with the dropout attached! The frame had finally broken completely through. Bummer! This was really dismaying, since my winter bike is about four pounds heavier than the Kestrel. Would I have to ride it in at San Bruno? The thought of adding a few pounds of bike weight to the significant avoirdupois I’d added to my gut over the holidays was really demoralizing.

Thankfully, I put out a call for a loaner and Team Bike Trip came through. Jim, who operates a veritable pleasure palace of bike parts and equipment, just happened to have a super-trick Kuota KOM he was willing to lend. Sweet! We took it for a quick spin up the coast and all seemed well—except that I had to learn a new shifting technique that went along with the SRAM Red components.

The San Bruno race would be my second ride on the Kuota, which made me a little nervous, but I was happy for the weight savings. Once at the venue, Mark orchestrated my favorite warmup—a series of short efforts with a graduated increase in intensity, using the power meter. (Matt W. was the only one with a meter, so we simply let him set the pace.) At this point I was wearing plenty of clothes and was very comfortable in the frigid cold and fog. My mistake was in shedding all those nice clothes for the race. Waiting for the start, I felt practically hypothermic. As I looked around, everyone’s teeth were chattering. Clark Foy was just in front of me, and I could see his leg (with all those crazy veins) going up and down like a sewing needle. I honestly thought I was in danger of being dropped in the first few hundred meters because my frozen legs wouldn’t go around in circles!

Once underway, we quickly separated ourselves into a lead group of about eight. This included me, Mark, Miles, Clark, Carl Nielsen, and John Novitsky. Carl set the pace. By the time we reached the brief flat portion, Mark and I were comfortable enough to be antsy, but it just didn’t seem to make sense to go to the front . As we made the turn, I changed to the big ring. I’m not familiar with the SRAM shifters, and inadvertently put on the front brake, practically sending myself over the handlebar. The challenges of an unfamiliar bike! At the same time, Carl just about took out the cement post in the middle of the road. We could have had quite pileup there!

After the turn, Clark quickly took the lead, and I glued up to his wheel, with Mark behind. After a few minutes he started to pull away a bit, and Mark went after him. The three of us pretty much rode in sight of each other for the remainder of the race, and finished in that order: Clark, Mark, and me.

Could we have done something to shed Clark or put him in duress? That was the question of the day. Perhaps we could have taken turns attacking him, but that would have risked one of us blowing up or being sacrificed. And Clark’s healthy margin at the end (he had the second fastest time of the day overall) seemed to indicate that he would have matched anything we threw at him. Plus, by riding within ourselves, we put two guys on the podium, and that’s a good outcome!

After the race, the first thing I did was give Jim his bike back. I guess you could say it’s broken in now. Thanks Jim!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stage 2 Challenge, Tour of California event

There is a ride event coming up that has a TT component up Bonny Doon Rd.

Date: Saturday, January 24, 2009; reg opens at 7:45, ride begins 8:30am.

Brief Description: Are you ready to climb where the pros go? Join us on a supported ride of this epic and beautiful climb for the Amgen Tour of California! On January 24 we are going to ride some of what we think is the most spectacular stage of the ATOC and finish it with the thrilling climb and most of the descent into Santa Cruz that the professional peloton will cover just three weeks later. You’ll get to see the epic course up close, and ride the final 7.1 mile climb at your own pace.

More into here, and event registration at Active.com

Also, the Bicycle Trip will have Giant 2009 demo bikes available that day. Contact Aaron for more info.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mt. San Bruno Hill Climb Mstrs 55+ Race Report

San Bruno Hill Climb Masters 55+ Report

By Jim Langley
Photos by Sam Parker, Michael Hernandez and Kevin Kone

Ron LeBard, 3rd, Mac Cary, 1st, Jim Langley, 2nd
Please see Mark Edwards' excellent race coverage below for a complete report of the team's outstanding performance at San Bruno, to kick-off our '09 racing season. Team Bike Trip had 2 racers entered in the 55+ event, myself and Gary Griffin. Unfortunately, our other ace, Larry Broberg was sidelined with a hip fracture suffered while mountain biking (rumor has it he's recovering nicely, though).

We ultrageezers - as Michael Hernandez dubbed us on the NorCal Cycling News blog, rolled out just behind the 45+ group and were quickly strung out on the opening section of the climb, which is one of the steeper parts. For me this meant leap-frogging from small group to small group while I marked Ron LeBard who I thought was my main threat having been so soundly trounced by him last year in the Mt. Diablo Hill Climb. We easily distanced our field and even dropped former San Bruno champ Scott Hennessy, who we found out later was coming back from a bad flu.

Near the top - Ron LeBard setting a strong tempoNearing the top (photo), Ron started to slow and I felt good so I pushed it across the line hoping I had won the race. But, as the fog cleared a bit, I could clearly see another 55+ guy standing there and knew he (Mac Carey) had won, putting me in second. Ron finished just behind for 3rd. Gary was only a couple of minutes back, 11th out of the 20 starters (sorry, I couldn't find a photo of Gary to post here).

The highlight for me was getting into the 17-minute club - and feeling like I might have been able to shave a few more seconds had I known a target was hiding ahead in the thick fog. Congratulations to all the Bike Trippers who made this San Bruno Hill Climb the most memorable of the 3 I've attending with the team so far. Awesome job!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

San Bruno Hill Climb 45+

By Mark Edwards 1/1/09
Pictures by Michael Hernandez

Team Bicycle Trip rang in 2009 with a bang!

We stormed the Mt. San Bruno Hill Climb in force. 11 of us restrained our New Year’s Eve celebrating to show up ready to rumble in the cold and fog of New Year’s Day. We came by carpool and bike, we arrived an hour or so before start time and proceeded to attempt to warm-up. In reality, I think all of us were colder after our warm-up. The start line was a collection of shivering skinny climbers. I was absolutely miserable, thinking nobody could be as cold as I was. But a quick look around convinced me that I wasn’t any worse off than anyone else.

This year they started us in two waves. The first wave included the Pro 1/2, 35+, and a few other groups. The second wave, starting 5 minutes after the first, would have the 45+ men leading the charge up the opening 8% climb. This was the first time I’d been in the lead group for the start. It was a much better experience than previous years. No traffic, no close calls.

At the starter’s gun, we were off. Within the first ½ mile the lead group was already down to about a dozen. The attrition rate, like our pace, promised to be high. Team Bicycle Trip was well represented in the lead group. Geoff, Miles, Russ, and I made up a third of the most competitive group I’ve faced for this climb.

With an expected time of 16 to 17 minutes, there aren’t many reasons to hold back. Carl Neilson (2nd in 2008) was setting a blistering pace. I was intently focused on my fellow rider’s body language. As soon as someone revealed the slightest weakness, I had no choice but to go around them. Getting gapped at this speed would mean almost certain doom. 7 minutes in, Carl began to slow, but he’d already done plenty of damage. Even though most of the lead group was still together, it soon quickly thinned.

I could see that Geoff was feeling strong and considering taking over pacing duties from Carl. I was on his wheel and ready to go with him, but hoped he’d hold back… it was still nearly a 10 minute sprint to the top. Feeling good a third of the way up can quickly turn into blowing up at the ¾ mark.

Around through the Park entrance and out of the underpass, the road again tilted up. This time the smooth pavement was gone and the fog was hugging the mountain. Conspicuously absent at this point was John Novitsky (last year’s winner and current 50+ National TT Champion). This is also about the time Russ lost contact with the group, an impressive ride by Russ so early in the season (against some of the best NCNCA 45+ climbers).

The final climb would prove to be a real test for Team Bicycle Trip. We were down to Rick Martyn (winner of the 2008 University road race), Jon Ornstil (winner of the 2008 Mt. Tam and Diablo Hill climbs), Steve Archer (2nd @ the 2008 Mt. Tam Hill Climb), Carl Neilson (2nd 2008 Mt. San Bruno Hill Climb), Clark Foy (2007 BAR and 2nd in the recent LKHC series), and Bike Trippers Miles, Geoff, and myself.

This group would quickly slim down as Clark Foy timed his move out of the slipstream and into the lead perfectly. Clark was incredibly dominant in the Low Key Hill climb series this past Fall, placing second overall to the amazing climbing machine Tim Clark. Clark was my pre-race favorite, and I wasn’t surprised when he took the lead and upped the pace. He shed all but Geoff, myself, and Steve in short order.

With less than a mile to go Steve slipped off my wheel. Shortly thereafter I noticed Geoff had allowed a small gap to open between him and Clark. I still felt good, so I moved into the gap. Clark was so smooth and relaxed I almost forgot how hard I was working. As he inched the pace up I started losing contact. He made it look so easy, my legs were telling a different story.

The fog was on the ground at this point. It was disorienting, I couldn’t tell where I was on the road, or how far I had to go. Even when I spotted the 200 meter sign, I couldn’t trust that the finish was so close. Between the creepy low visibility and oxygen debt, I couldn’t process any thoughts other than to just keep pedaling. I was fading fast and Clark was showing no weakness what-so-ever. He crossed the line in first, and I limped across hanging on to second. Geoff filled the final podium spot in 3rd.

Had Clark raced the Pro 1/2 this year, he would have won with his time. My time this year was 53 seconds faster than last year’s 45+ winner. Just another example that the bar keeps getting bumped up in the hotly contested 45+ Master’s racing group.