Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snelling Women's Cat 4A Group

I really think getting up at 4:00 am should be banned on Saturday mornings. I want to move up categories just so that I don't have early morning start times!

The Women's Cat4A group start time was at 8:35 and I drove and got myself to the race with plenty of time to spare. That turned out to be a good thing since they implemented the use of timing chips for this race and the line to get them was pretty long.

The race itself was very low key. There was hardly any wind, and the roads are relatively flat and well kept. With the exception of a few gals most people just sat in and kept the pace around 18-20 miles per hour. I was getting a little bored, started singing some songs to myself, wrote some poems in my head - the usual, but I wasn't really feeling like I had the legs to get up in the front and really pull and make a break away. But I knew with the conditions being such as they are, it would have almost been impossible to instigate something myself and have something stick for a long period of time.

There was one crash after the first lap and that split up the field in half for the 2 laps remaining. A few attacks were made, but they were sucked back into the group quickly. The next exciting thing happened about 3k towards the finish line on the last lap. A strong rider tried to make an attack, but she had been pulling for the whole race practically and got overtaken after the right turn into the finish. As she made the attack the pace dramatically increased up until the end. It was a mass finish with our little group and a Webcor gal took the win. I ended up not doing so great, 11th place out of 43, but I was just happy I was able to stick in for a road race! Most road races I get dropped on - I feel like a 4 cylinder SUV racing against 12 cylinder sports cars. That will change though as the season progresses!

All in all a good race that I hope to do well in next year too!

Snelling Road Race Report (Elite 3)

3:45am. Bagel. Peanut butter. Coffee. Banana. Go.

Snelling Road Race was my first race of the 2009 season. Aside from the inevitable lack of sleep on the night before race day, I felt pretty good. Mark's Saturday workouts have really helped me maintain fitness over the winter.

That said, I was pretty damn nervous. It was a full field on a nearly flat course, and I was all alone. The Elite 3 category is very strong but also generally unwilling to take risks.

Race highlights:

  • For most of the race, and especially in the last stretch, there was literally nowhere to go. The mostly intact field was stacked across the ENTIRE road. It wasso bad that people more desperate than me were using the dirt shoulders to try and move towards the front.
  • On one of the rollers, I was forced into the shoulder and hit a BIG bump. My right foot came off the pedal, but I managed to recover, clip back in, and continue on my merry way. I got some props from other riders for that one. :)
  • On the second lap, I jumped on one of the rollers and was joined by my friend, Carmi, and a few other guys. We pushed hard for a bit, but the pack responded so fast that I decided just to sit in after that.
  • A Metromint rider soloed away (on the 3rd or 4th lap) and ended up holding the pack off, but only barely. Talk about impressive! I think Metromint played that one well, initially blocking for a bit while he got away.

Overall, I'm extremely disappointed with my race. I left feeling that I didn't make any good moves and that I wasn't aggressive enough to nudge my way forward. And while riding hard tempo with surges for 2.5 hours hurts, I felt less worked than after a few repetitions up Bonny Doon Road.

Things to do differently next time? Well, do something! If I had even a small opening on the last stretch, I would just gone for it. I'm really hungry for a victory, and hopefully will perform better in a race that strings out the pack.

Props go to my girlfriend Lauren—bless her heart—who woke up around 4:00am and drove for nearly 3 hours to get me to a race that I didn't even do well in. Also, a huge thank-you to the Bicycle Trip mechanics, who tuned up my bike to perfection the day before the race.

Points of amusement / interest

  • Some pissed off cyclist (probably a crazed masters racer; some of those guys take themselves far too seriously and have more drama than adolescent girls) had vandalized the mens restroom in the park. Simply put, it stated that a certain CVC rider likes to perform a certain sexual act. I found this found amusing and incredibly pathetic.
  • Sonic Burger, though rare in California, is inferior to delicious In'n'Out Burger.

Check out NCNCA Racing's blog post for photos and results.

Snelling Road Race - Cat 5 A

I was disappointed that I would have to miss Cantua Creek, as it fell on Valentine’s Day. Too much work to be done at the restaurant to be away. On Ed’s advice, I was signed up for Snelling as my first race of the year. I was too late to get into the Master’s 4/5 so I signed up for the Elite 5 race. Scheduled for an 8:10 am start, I knew I would be up early to get there in time. I was happy to have the company of Robert Gaukle to carpool. He was signed up in the 5’s race as well, but in the second group. We both admitted to some nervousness on the way to the race. He was worried that he had been unable to put in the training hours he had expected of himself, and I was thinking about the races from last year that I had not ridden smart in and had gotten dropped. I told Robert that I expected that he might be the strongest rider in his race. I have seen his strength in the flats and I also know him to be a strong climber. He told me that I should also expect to do well as I have been getting in most of my training, and my weight has been coming down. So much for the pep talk.
We got to Henderson Park at Snelling around 7 am and began the usual routine, bathroom, registration, dressing, and a new one, timing chips. By the time we got through all of this, we had about 35 minutes before the start of my race (moved back to 8:25 due to the timing chips). For the first time, I had brought my trainer to warm up on. I have not yet felt like I can get a good warm up before a race. I don’t think the trainer was any different, and I think the real problem is not having enough time to get the warm up in. Robert went off to warm up on the road and we wished each other luck in our respective races. I put 20 minutes in on the trainer, and headed for the start line. Getting there, I ran into Kimi Sudbrink. We introduced ourselves and wished each other luck in our respective races.
Our group was to have a mentor from the district, and a few of the riders raised hands when we were asked who was in their first race. Instructions were given and our field of 50 were off behind a motorcycle on a neutral start to get us over to the course. Once there, he waved a green sign to signal the start of racing. The pace picked up but remained comfortable. I didn’t know what to expect in this race. There could have been some 5’s like Russ from last year or Miles from this, new road 5’s who really could have started as 3’s from their off road experience. I expected that if we did have any riders like that in our group, that they might go off the front early. I also wanted to break a habit that I have had of riding towards the back of the group. I expended the effort to get myself into the first 10 -15 riders and then began to work to stay there and do one other thing. I wanted to work to conserve as much energy as possible. I often have a hard time telling where the wind is coming from and I know I have been hurt by that in past races. We were riding four laps of an 11+ mile closed course, and it was a real challenge to figure out where to be at any given point on the course. I paid a lot of attention to it and found that I could tell where to be when I tried. The one negative to this was that I found myself moving to the back of the group on the backside of the course, because that was when the wind was in our face and I found the most protection from it at the back. I found myself back at the front on the front part of the course and decided that I only needed to worry about my position on the final run in to the finish, unless there was a break.
But there were to be no breaks on this day and while the pace was at times hard, it was very doable thanks to Mark’s training program. I felt that I was one of the stronger riders in this race and I began to think about the upcoming finish. The run in to the finish was over some very uneven roadway and there was a sharp right hander about 250 yards from the uphill finish line. I was concerned about the bike handling skills of my Cat 5 brethren and wanted to be at the front going into the last turn. I was also concerned that two teams had 4 or five riders each. Taleao a team in green had 4 or 5 guys and seemed to be forming a strategy among themselves. More dangerous was the Davis Cycling Club in blue and orange. Those guys rode the whole race pretty intelligently. They stayed out of the wind and didn’t chase down attacks. I, on the other hand, was a different story.
On the final lap, the attacks began. I moved up to the front and wanted to be in position to cover any moves. A Clydesdale from the Taleo team went hard off the front and another rider went with him. When a third rider went after them, I went with him. It took a pretty hard effort to bridge the gap, but once there, I found no interest in maintaining the break. We were soon caught. I continued to cover breaks on that last lap and expended a lot of my energy doing so. I don’t know if any of those riders would have gotten away, but I expect not. As we turned to the back side of the course, I nearly fell off the back, but was able to grab the last wheel at the back and recover out of the wind.
I was moving back up in the group when we made the left hander onto the rough road that would lead in to the finishing turn. One of the Taleo team went down on the turn, but I found myself pretty much where I wanted to be. Right behind the Clydesdale from Taleo. I knew he was strong and I expected he would take me to the front on the run in to the finish. We had a clear shot to the front, and he moved in time to get us there before the sharp right hander. I had no problem picking my line and getting through the turn. Once through, I tried to maintain my spin and stay at the front, expecting a swarm would come around me and leave me well down at the finish. And then they came. But there were only a few of them, including the strongest two guys from the Davis Cycling club (I think). I pushed harder and felt myself beginning to fade as we climbed to the finish. I didn’t want to fade, but I didn’t have the surge I wanted. I came out of the saddle and found that I had a little more. I drove myself towards the finish and just missed catching the Taleo Clydesdale for a place in the medals. He took 6th and I was 7th. Afterward, I heard that another rider had gone down behind us on the final turn, but I never heard it. I was stoked to finish in the top 10. This was my first race to be there at the finish. I hope it won’t be my last. Robert took 4th in his race, and Kimi took 11th in hers. But, I’ll just say congratulations to each of them and let them tell their own stories.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bryan King, AKA Chicken Man Reports on the Tour of CA!

I hope you all enjoyed the ToC coming through town, I sure did. My friend lives on Pine Flat Road, so we watched there, had a PA system blasting "Eye of the Tiger" for the riders passing through, and the chicken suit did return!
In fact, you can see in pic 2 I was actually able to get Floyd Landis's water bottle. Testosterone tests will take a couple days. Too bad BJM didn't pull though for the win, but what a ride by Levi. Nothing like a world-class bike race to pass through your hometown to inspire you to kick some ass in your next race.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Margie Meets Lance At the Tour Of California

A nice pic Margie Biddick provided of Lance after the race, and check out her boots he signed, commenting "that's the way the girls are from Texas... "

Awesome photos by Margie's daughter Linnea Biddick!

Cantua Creek Road Race Reports 2009 (as in a bunch)

Cantua Creek Road Race (February 14, 2009) Reports & Commentary
By Team Bicycle Trip Racers

Editor's note: not everyone can post to the blog or has time, so I have compiled an assortment of Cantua race reports that have come in in this post. They are in order of when I received them. Congratulations to Steve for the awesome win and to everyone who put it on the line out there!

This first report is actually a commentary by John Pollard on an unhappy event that took place in the Masters 45+ 4/5 race.

A Question of Priorities
Commentary by John Pollard

Master’s bicycle racing is an interesting thing. There’s a lot of serious training, money for pro-level equipment, and real competitiveness. There’s also generally an awareness that we all have to go to work on Monday, and that none of us – even the mutants – are ever going to ride in the Olympics or the Tour de France. Your competitors will not put you in the barriers for a 5th place T-shirt at an industrial park criterium. This balance of competitiveness and maturity is very cool. To keep things that way, we sometimes need a reminder. This weekend was one of those times.

This weekend, there were three races (not counting the Amgen ToC). At one of them, a well known team had a large presence in a lower category Master’s race. Let’s call them “TeamViejo.” The race rolled on without a lot of excitement for the first fourteen miles. A few people tried to go off the front and were quickly marked – no big deal.

At that point, two of the riders from the Team Viejo decided that this was the moment to get around one of their teammates, who was riding steadily and holding his line. There wasn’t really enough room between this teammate and the centerline for both riders to pass at the same time. With 35 miles left to the finish, these two were getting impatient and decided to squeeze through, hip-checking their teammate’s handlebars and causing him to have a spectacular high-side crash on a flat, straight piece of road. Most riders behind Team Viejo avoided the crash, except for one, who was forced off the road.

With medical attention 14 miles away, and a teammate down at their own hands, the members of Team Viejo made an interesting choice. They all kept pedaling, leaving their friend lying on the road with their muddy competitor off to the side. We see this all the time at criteriums and in those few bike races that are actually on TV. Maybe that’s why these lower category Team Viejo riders thought it was the way to go.

When we buy our pro-level bikes, get coaching programs and personal data-logging, we can start to think that we should ride just like our heroes on TV. TV racers have chase cars with medical care and more. Criteriums are never far from the start/finish line, cars and first aid kits. District-level road races are not like that. They’re held in orchards, cow fields, and sparsely populated mountains. Our entry fees don’t fund a fleet of chase cars. The promoters are always looking for volunteers, but most of us would rather ride than help. This means that in the heat of competition, we need to remember to take care of each other.

When you knock down your friends or competitors fourteen miles from nowhere, you may have “only” given them road rash, but it could just as easily be a broken clavicle or a broken bicycle. You only know that if you stop and let the race go up the road without you.

Eddy's Price's Report on the 45+ 4/5 Race

Team Bicycle Trip Members,

Steve Heaton won the 35+ 1/2/3 race at the Cantua Creek Road Race yesterday (Steve's great report is below). Steve's first road race in quite a bit of time (5+ years?) showed why I wanted him on the team, he knows how to win bike races (plus he is a great guy, a good friend and a great traveling companion to races).

We almost didn't make the start in time. Traveling down highway 101 we turned left and headed east on highway 158. As highway 158 started to climb higher and higher, we could see snow off the in the distant hills and pretty soon we were driving on frozen icy roads with snow (up to six inches) on either side covering the landscape. My car (Mercury Cougar) has rear wheel drive, a recipe for rear wheel drift and spin-out on icy roads and slowed our speed to 20 miles per hour on the tightest turns. My desire to drive fast was tempered by my desire for preservation.

Once we were out of the snow (which seemed like an eternity), I pushed the pace as hard as the car would allow, taking both sides of the road whenever possible and reaching speeds of 85 miles per hour. Steve was calm and cool, changing into his racing clothes as we headed to the race. Thank God the race starts with a three mile downhill run and Steve would not need much of a warmup. We arrived 30 minutes before the start of Steve's race.

I was mentally exhausted from the drive but recovered once I pulled up and parked right in front of the registration table. My race featured an easy start and I stayed at the back until the first turnaround. Gary Griffin was assinged the first out section and he towed the pack along into a headwind until he could pull no more. It did discourage anyone from attacking (which was the goal) and I want to say he did a fantastic job for the team at the expense of his own race.

John Pollard was run off the road and never recovered in time to catch the speeding peloton. I stayed at the back until our first turnaround, where I moved up to the top 20 right before the hairpin turn and thank God I did. The leaders saw an opportunity to attack and force the riders delayed by the hairpin turn to chase. I found myself riding close to 30 miles per hour as the group stretched into a long single line and we lost about a third of the field in the next three to four miles.

The pace eased a bit as we hit the three mile climb to finish the first lap and the rest of the race was either fast or slow. Our game plan was to help Joe get in position for the final uphill sprint into a pretty strong headwind but he flatted right before the start of the final climb to the finish. Now is was just Vlada and myself and I was not feeling strong enough to help anyone but myself. The sprint was a war of attrition, riders would accelerate into the fierce headwind and slow. They would be replaced by another two or three riders who did the same and this scenario repeated itself over and over again. I slowly worked my way up the field and with 500 meters to go, I found myself in 3rd place with only two riders ahead of me and they were slowing down. I now started to feel the full force of the headwind because before this I had been safely tucked behind 15 to 20 riders.

The drafting effect between 15 riders in front and only two is very significant and I now knew I went too early. Just when my head told me to jump for the line and pass the two in front of me, my body told me it was not possible and I was swarmed by 15 or so riders before I hit the finish line, completely spent from the effort. Vlada passed me right before the finish line and I think we finished in the top 15 or 18.

I rode as well as possible and at least I tried to win the race.

Race Report Cantua Creek Masters 35+ 1/2/3
By Steve Heaton

I rolled to the line with a 5min warm-up and 1min to start time (2 laps 52mi). No problem since we go down then flat roads out for 30 mins (even with the attacks) then turn around and flat back with some headwind for most of the 30min return with a climb to the line (More of a climb than I thought).

I’m not sure how long the climb was because once we started the climb it was ALL OUT and passing the Cat 3’s. I was on the rivet going so hard I wasn’t sure of myself thinking I might get dropped. On the way back down I was able to get back on terms. The pace from this point on was getting harder.

After watching numerous attack attempts by 1 or 2 riders at a time get reeled in I knew this was the point during the race when attacks can stick. Then about half way out I saw a move of 6 or 7 break away with a dangerous mix of riders (20m then 30m and counting). I waited to see if anyone was going to go to bring the rest of us forward……not this time. It was time to go!

I JUMPED SUPER HARD so not to bring anyone with me and to minimize the time I spend in no man’s land. I’m a sprinter by nature so this is easy to do. We quickly formed into a paceline pulling away, I also knew blocking was going to take place in the main pack behind. Since I was the solo man I did little watching the strong men so I knew who to key off when the big moves come. We stayed together rotating at fast pace all the way back with a HUGE gap securing our escape.

I would pull through missing a few rotations at random for extra recovery and to position next to strong riders for a close look and feel of their strength. Just before the climb I started to feel my left inner thigh cramp a little (WHAT THE F*#K…OK not bad hang tough). I knew I had to stay 2nd wheel and respond to every move holding a forward position(DANGER). If I dropped back I would risk to lose not only distance but motivation/confidence. Remember from Ed’s report we had a headwind.

Being in front was not the best position until crossing the finish line. I was able to respond first to all 3 attacks holding 2nd wheel then at some point I looked back and we had at least 20m gap? RIGHT ON!!! Now this guy is charging the climb I looked back again and we are leaving them behind. I’m thinking - I just need to hold on for at least 2nd place. I can’t tell how far to the line it is since you don’t see it until 100m out. Then he starts looking back at me……….BAD MOVE now I know he is in for it. This is the indicator I was hoping to see, a sign of weakness that only fuels my fire (now I’m looking at the WIN?).

As soon as I could see the finish and he looked away I JUMPED - took 6 or 7 pedal stokes looked under my arm to assess hopefully the damage and he was 10m and falling back. I was able to sit up and cruise across the line.

I hope this is the beginning of a good season? Any and many things can happen along the way.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 Cherry Pie Criterium 45+/55+ Open Report

Ok, for the record, as a baker by trade, I've got more to say about baking cherry pies than racing for them, but I guess I can still share a few thoughts. Besides, Mark, you're killing me with guilt so here it is.

As you know, Russ, Jim and I carpooled together on Sunday (2/8) to the Cherry Pie Criterium up in Napa. I was not feeling well, still suffering from badly congested lungs - not good for bicycle racing obviously. However, my goals were very different from my two team mates, both who I knew were quite capable of turning in very high results in a rather elite group of racers. Jim turned in an outstanding performance in the 55+ coming in 4th place. He rode so aggressively! Russ was a powerhouse at the front of the pack, riding just where he wanted to be about 6-10 slots back. I couldn't believe my eyes as I rounded the hairpin at the top of the climb and saw him go down with I believe just 3 laps to go. Bummer! He was setting up for an excellant result, but hey, this season's just getting started. He'll be back.

My goal was to keep to the top 3rd of the pack at all times which I seemed to have accomplished. I managed to keep Jim just in front of me for nearly most of the bike race. Actually, in reflecting back, I think I could have done much better than that. For me, riding criteriums presents the challenge of holding a forward position at all times. In a course such as Cherry Pie where there are lots of twists and turns, jocking for position becomes aggressive and needs to be done constantly. It was 17 laps at roughly 2:30 per lap, so the mix is changing at every turn. Getting bumped is routine, and a controled aggressive attitude is required to hold ground and move forward. My 2 team mates have this dialed in, and it was terrific having the opportunity to seeing them in action. Learned alot and I've got more practice to do, and that's why I signed up. Definitely coming back for this one next year. Way too much fun.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Movie Night at the Rio Theater

An Amgen Tour of California Event
Sunday, 15 February 2009, 7pm (doors 6:30)

Bicycle Trip, Tour of California - Santa Cruz, and the Rio Theater present an evening of cycling movies and exciting raffle prizes. The feature movie is a Santa Cruz premier showing of "Road to Roubaix", a 2008 release about the fabled race over the cobbled roads of northern France, known as The Hell of the North. Get revved up for the Tour of California cycling race, which roars into Santa Cruz the next day.

Also showing these Shorts: Goodbye Tomorrow, by local filmaker Brian Vernor, and Millar's Tale, about Garmin-Slipstream rider David Millar.

The Raffle will feature these prizes and more:
  • A $5,000 Carbon Giant Road Bike donated by Bicycle Trip
  • 4 night Beachhouse vacation rental in South county of Santa Cruz by Kendall & Potter Property Management & Vacation Rentals
  • A night at the Dream Inn
  • A Fox Racing Shox Suspension Fork worth over $500
  • Peloton Club membership worth $500
  • $1,800 TAG-Heuer Gentleman's Aquaracer Watch donated by Dell Williams Jewelers
  • And many other great bike and local products and services.

  • Advanced ticket sales at
    Bicycle Trip ( Come early for a munch & mingle from 4:30 to 6:30 at Bicycle Trip, which is just down the street from the Rio Theater, at 1127 Soquel Ave. Call the shop for more info (831.427.2580).

    Cherry Pie Criterium - Women's 35+/Women's 4 Race Report

    Cherry Pie Race Report

    Lesson No. 1 - Never get in between a girl and a cherry pie.

    This is the first time I’ve raced the Cherry Pie Criterium and I am already looking forward to mastering it next year. My nerves were strung so tight in anticipation of this race since I was still recovering from a very nasty cold that hit me earlier in the week. I had to take most of the week off of training and I felt that my fitness wasn’t up to par for a course with a hill sprint. (Note: I'm not a fan of hills)

    I showed up at the race with plenty of time to spare and it was nice to be in the cycling atmosphere. After signup I meandered along the side streets close to the course to do a quick 15 minute warm up with a few sprints to get the blood going to the legs. There were some ominous looking clouds, but luckily it never rained during the course of our race. It was great to see Jim, Russ and Joe racing as well! Seeing your teammates really kick butt in their race is such a rush!

    At the start line I noticed what it really meant to have the 35+ category grouped with Cat 4’s. I noticed quite a few Los Gatos girls that were Cat 1 and 2 in our race and that immediately got my heart pumping pretty steadily since I knew they would be taking charge with the pace of the race. Los Gatos was very prominent in this race and there were about 10 of them out of 55 entrants.

    Once the whistle blew it was every one for themselves as girls were fighting to jockey into position before the 90 degree right hand turn. The 1, 2’s were already in the front drawing out a beautiful line for that quick turn and it strung out along the backside of the course. I tucked myself in the top 20 since I wanted to play this race safe and I was determined not to get dropped by the field and therefore pulled out of the race. The two quick lefts and the chicane were taken slowly and the hill didn’t seem so bad the first time around. I managed to keep my spot in the top 20’s for the first half of the race, all the while the 1, 2 girls in the front kept upping the pace. The race ended up being amazingly fast and with about 6 laps to go I was really starting to doubt how my legs would hold up. I was trying to move up during the backside of the course, but I couldn’t get more than 10 back from the front and during the turns I would drop back another 10 places to get where I just started. I knew that I wasn’t racing the smartest during the last 5 laps and expending too much energy but at this point I just wanted to finish! The last lap was a mass finish to the start and I ended up getting 28th overall and 16th in the Category 4’s. Not quite what I had hoped for, but now I’m ready for next year!

    Cherry Pie Criterium 45+/55+ 1/2/3/4s

    2009 Cherry Pie Criterium 45+/55+ Open Report
    By Jim Langley

    Napa, Sunday, February 8, 2009 - Four fired-up Bike Trippers made the drive to Napa in quest of the giant cherry pies you earn for nabbing a top-3 placing. Three of us, myself, Russ Cadwallader and Joe Platin went up together, all racing in the 45+/55+ combined. And, once there we ran into Kimi Sudbrink who raced in the women's Cat 4 event. [Kimi: post a race report and let everybody know how you did!]

    Thanks to Russ' GPS, getting there took less than 2 hours and we had plenty of time for an ideal warm-up on the impressively traffic-free and smooth roads close to the racecourse. Since we'd never done the Cherry Pie, we also snuck onto the P-shaped counterclockwise course and did a lap, while a race was underway, our numbers safely hidden under our jackets. They're pretty mellow up there in wine country and no one whined at us to get off the course, thankfully.

    Our main concern was the weather. All the way from Santa Cruz it looked like rain, and with a U-turn at the top of the course (at the foot of the P), one ripping righthander with slick lane lines, along with a tricky chicane before the climb back to the U-turn, we didn't want any wet stuff dampening our day. Determined to get a good position on the starting line we staying warm riding up and down Grape-Press hill right next to the line. I'm not sure that's the official name, but there's a huge statue at the top of an old-time vintner pressing grapes. Standing there high above the course he's got a nice view, and I paused on one trip up to overlook the course and think more about how I should ride it.

    Russ, Joe and I ended up on the front line at the start, and, apart from a case of nerves keeping me from finding my right pedal, we all rocketed off the line and were within the top 30 heading down the opening straight and into the first sweeper, where the race director had just warned there are frequest crashes. I mentioned our good warmup, but I had also consumed 2 Starbucks and my favorite energizer, a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans. Yet, the buzz I had on the starting line was nothing compared to the jolt of adrenaline that shot through me the first time around.

    As we banked into the turn, the 50 slower starters behind tried to swarm us and we fought to hold our perfect positions and move even further forward. We flew through the top of the P (3 hard left turns) but, this being the first time through, there was some squirrelly riding and a few bumps and shouts. Then we hit the left/right/left chicane and narrowly avoided a blind island just waiting to take the field down. That put us on the hill for the first time, and we applied some power to get to the front to make it around the U turn before the pack clogged it up too badly.

    I felt the stiff headwind on the climb and noticed that it slowed the leaders. The first time up it was hard to tell where to be to hide from the wind and also whether to take the U-turn - on the inside or outside. I tried the long route and immediately gave up 10 places as guys squeezed through taking the shorter inside line. But, I latched onto a passing racer as we heading back downhill to start the second lap, and let him take me closer to the front. I started finding some good wheels and easy pockets in the pack and was able to keep my forward momentum all the way around, and as we hit the hill again I was even closer to the front, the pack seeming not yet ready to push it. I looked for teammates and spotted Joe sitting a few bikes up, and Russ even further ahead, both looking very comfortable. Yeah, Team Bike Trip!

    I kept trying to move forward and stay toward the front but everybody wants to do that so it took focus, determination and letting riders know they couldn't bump me off wheels. I seemed to have the power to move up on the hill but Coach Mark had warned me not to surge, so I kept it smooth and steady and made sure I was in easier gears (I used a 12-27 cassette so that I could keep it on the 53). I kept spinning and always sitting on big, smooth riders, even if they weren't the fastest. I started taking the inside line on the U-turn at the top of the hill and I figured out how best to ride the chicane, right side, then the left side, then the right. A couple of times Russ and I were on each other's wheels and I believe Joe was only a few riders back. It seemed we were riding an excellent race. The Early Bird Training Crits and Advanced Skills Clinics Joe and I had done were paying off.

    Competing so well was actually a surprise because, when I found out they were running the 45s and 55s together, I was sure that the 80-rider pack would let the top 45/55's escape and I'd have no chance. I felt I desperately needed to stay with Russ and Joe and the front of the group for a shot at a top-6 spot and the upgrade points I need. So, it was great to be 2/3rds of the way through the race and find that I could stay towards the front and that our team was working together.

    About then our luck changed and it started to rain. It was more spitting than raining, but you could feel it from above, and immediately the traction changed. It was scary in the corners and a few guys hollered warnings, but everyone stayed upright for a few laps. What I noticed most was that on the climb, my rear tire was slipping if I gassed it too much, a disconcerting, power-robbing feeling. No worries, though, we came through with 4 to go and, though I was feeling a little cooked I was optimistic that I was ahead of most the 55+ guys, even though the monstrous Larry Nolan had opened a decent gap and was working us all good.

    Checking for teammates, I couldn't find Joe, but Russ was right there and I thought he looked about ready to make a move. As we came up the hill and into the U-turn with 3 to go, I was on the outside slipping worse than before with every pedal stroke. I stayed wide coming into the U and suddenly heard a crash on the inside of the turn and saw that Russ had slipping and dumped it right in the middle of the turn. I was so winded I couldn't even holler at him. I hoped he was okay and that he might get back on.

    The last 3 laps hurt, and while I tried hard to do all the right things, I made some rookie mistakes, spent time in the wind, and lost some energy and positions. Yet, as we hit the final turn and came up the hill in sort of a slow-motion sprint, I'm pretty certain I only passed people and it felt like I had a good finish in the 55+. In fact, I didn't see any of the guys I had marked as threats in the race, except for Mark Caldwell, who won the 55+ and who I didn't expect to beat anyway. Russ was at the finish, a little bloodied, bike a little battered, but he was still psyched about how we'd all done (he decided not to continue after his crash). Joe rolled up seconds later and said he was right behind me and that he had had a great ride.

    Unfortunately they messed up the results again and I had to wait and talk to the finish-line judges, even watch the videotape of the sprint finish, and prove I was who I said I was in order for them to realize that I wasn't a DNF, but the 4th place guy in the 55+. While I was sure hoping for a taste of that famous Cherry Pie cherry pie, I can't be too disappointed. Only 3 guys finished ahead of me, Mark Caldwell, who's got more race wins than the number of chocolate espresso beans I've eaten, plus one of his teamates who was working with him, and a guy from another team - 2 guys I wouldn't have ever recognized as threats as I haven't seen them in any of the road races as best I can remember. And, the good news is that I finished ahead of the guy who schooled me at the San Bruno Hill Climb and other 55ers that beat me last year. So, it was a pretty darn good day.

    Maybe Russ and Joe will chime in to give their race stories, too.

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Cherry Pie Criterium 45+/55+ Open

    2009 Cherry Pie Criterium 45+/55+ Open Report
    By Jim Langley

    Napa, Sunday, February 8, 2009 - Four Bike Trippers made the trek to Napa in quest of the giant cherry pies you earn for nabbing a top-3 placing - myself, entered in the 55+ and Russ Cadwallader and Joe Platin racing the 45+ (the groups raced together). Thanks to Russ' GPS, getting there took less than 2 hours and we had plenty of time for a good warm up. Plus the roads were traffic free, super smooth and pretty scenic, too. New to the Cherry Pie, we also snuck onto the course and did a lap, while a race was underway, numbers safety hidden under our warmups.

    The main concern was the weather. All the way from Santa Cruz it looked like rain, and with a hairpin turn even worse than in the Santa Cruz Crit at the top of the course and one ripping righthander with slick lane lines, we didn't want any wet stuff to dampen our day.