Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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.

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