Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This race was part 2 of a two-day "omnium" race. The course is longer at 1.7 miles, of which half is a descent and the other half a fairly gentle, roughly 3-minute climb, similar to about the first half of our Wednesday "L5" intervals route (I was able to stay in my 53x25t gears in even the steepest section). Russ and I came into this race with a chance at finishing on the podium for the omnium, so we were pretty amped. Geoff joined us too, but we were obviously down in numbers from last year when we were 9 riders! Last year I got 9th after some missed opportunities, so I was hoping to improve this year, but our team showing probably made that unlikely.
I had broken a wheel and a shoestring during the race on Saturday, but thanks to Evan at Bicycle Trip I was able to get that wheel (and a fresh tire) together in time for this race. But then we had a last-minute party for 10 at our house, so I didn't get much rest after the race. And fixing the special "Boa" strings (steel cables actually) my shoes use was tougher. None of the three shops I went to had the special repair kit for these shoes, but it turned out Russ did and he brought it with him when he and Geoff picked me up on the way. Thanks Russ! On the drive up I tried fixing the broken shoestring from Saturday, but the bumps made that hard to do. Once we arrived in Brisbane I was able to do the deed. Then we signed in, suited up and warmed up in the gorgeous weather.
I started at the very front of the pack, uncharacteristically, and when they blew the whistle I scooted downhill for a bit of warmup. Then everybody caught up and we got to work. The pace seemed easier this year, and that may have been in part because no other teams were pushing the pace like we did last year.
Also, a rider (I think from Davis Bike Club) soloed off the front for quite a while and everybody just waited for him to fade before putting in a final effort. I stayed further up than I often do, again, because that was one of my goals. Russ does so well in that regard and I've been trying to get better at that.
There were no prime laps to break things up so the pace stayed fairly constant without causing me much damage. I was still sore from Saturday's crit, but not enough to feel slow. We'd discussed Geoff maybe soloing off the front with 4 laps to go, but he decided against that, seeing as how there was already somebody off the front. Some of the guys were getting really worried about the solo break and called out for people to "pull through" and stuff, but these guys were just not seeing things clearly. It looked to me like he was getting slower every lap.
Geoff did take some pulls and with one-and-a-half lap to go he tapped me on the hip to let me know he was feeling good. Russ was just ahead and I called out to him to let him know I was there too. We were all up front and ready for action!
As we rode up the hill for the last time we were just seconds away from catching the solo leader. I could tell he was hurting even from a distance. People calmed down a bit and started sizing each other up instead of worrying about him. I noticed Ron Takeda (2nd on Saturday) swing around the right and position himself on the front row... with me right on his wheel. Now we just needed somebody to make the first move.
Soon their was a flash of motion on the right and Ron and I grabbed the wheel of this early move; there were still about 90 seconds of climbing to go. Soon we were zig-zagging off the front with our legs burning. Left, right and back again. Then the more patient guys launched their attack and flew by on the left – all hell broke loose!
I never jumped but maintained a steady acceleration up the steeper section of the hill, thinking it was further than it looked... which it is! Several guys passed me but I was certain I'd pass them further up when they'd blow up. But that didn't quite happen as I think we were all at our limits, and it was hard to pass anybody.
Russ got 8th, Geoff 9th and I got 11th. I was a bit bummed but I felt that I'd been at my limit when I crossed the line, and it was unlikely I could have improved much over that. Perhaps I should have waited for that later attack but, again, I doubt it would have worked better as then I'd have started my sprint from further back. I felt we had all ridden smartly too, and I had accomplished my goal of staying further ahead in the pack, so I don't have many regrets about this whole weekend of racing. It was pretty awesome actually!
Next stop: Santa Cruz Classic Criterium, Sunday, April 5th! Nils, Jay Brodie and I are racing Elite 3. Robert Gaukel and new guy Thad Stockham in Elite 5. Ed, Joe, Robbie and Vlada in 35+ 4/5. Kimi Sudbrink in Women 4. Should be a good show!
Monday, March 30, 2009
Circuit Race: I love this course (coincidentally, I won it as an Elite 4 in 2005). The dynamics would be different today, as there was a strong headwind from the left on the climb, discouraging people from pushing the pace on the climb. I know I'm strong on this kind of interval-esque course, and for better or worse, I had no intentions of sitting in until the end.
On the 2nd lap, the field expectedly slowed on the climb, but I didn't. I had no delusions of breaking away, but I also wanted to keep things lively at the start. Sure enough, I was caught at the top and happily slipped in behind a wheel. Throughout the race, I'd find myself at the front on the climb but never pushing 100%. It helped keep the pace high, even if it cost me the necessary explosive power I'd need at the end.
In the last lap, I was tactically positioned in the top 10-20 wheels -- not a problem. The final descent and series of turns went mostly without incident (one rider went down behind me; I hope he's healing quickly). I had a great wheel coming towards the top of the climb, but that's where my plans all fell apart. People slowed up, I found myself boxed in, and I couldn't make it out in time. I ended up top 20, and felt very content with this race.
With one-and-a-half lap to go Geoff tapped me on the hip to let me know he was feeling good. Russ was just ahead and I called out to him. We were all up front and ready for action!
As we rode up the hill for the last time we were just seconds from catching the solo leader. People calmed down a bit and started sizing each other up instead of worrying about him. I noticed Ken Takeda (2nd on Saturday) swing around the right and position himself on the front row... with me right on his wheel. Now we just needed somebody to make the first move.
Soon their was a flash of motion on the right and Ken and I grabbed the wheel of this early move; there was still about 90 seconds of climbing to go. Soon we were zig-zagging off the front with our legs burning. Left, right and back again. Then the more patient guys launched their attack and flew by on the left -- all hell broke loose!
I never jumped but maintained a steady acceleration up the steeper section of the hill, thinking it was further than it looked... which it is! Several guys passed me but I was certain Id pass them further up when they d blow up. But that didnt quite happen as I think we were all at our limits, and it was getting hard to pass anybody.
Russ got 8th, Geoff 9th and I got 11th. I was a bit bummed but I felt that I'd been at my limit when I crossed the line, and it was unlikely I could have improved much over that. Perhaps I should have waited for that later attack but, again, I doubt it would have worked better as then id have started my sprint from further back. I felt we had all ridden smartly too, and I had accomplished my goal of staying further ahead in the pack, so I don't have many regrets about this whole weekend of racing. It was pretty awesome actually!
Next stop: Santa Cruz Classic Criterium! Nils and I are racing Elite 3 and I hope some more of you join us!
This race features a flat but wild and wooly, tight, technical course with lots of turns and bottlenecks. They always have a very well-run race with a really cool digital timer and lap counter, and a nice finish-line arch. Neat door-prizes too; a musette bag this year. I kind of like that sort of race and decided to enter the 45+ 3/4 race with Russ, Joe and Vlada.
Joe and Nils (racing Elite 3) met Russ and I at The Original Pancake House in San Jose for a yummy breakfast. Though we did all avoid the "clam pancakes"... I kid you not; it's on their menu! The weather was absolutely perfect, and without the usual wind common at the Brisbane Marina, right on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The calm would likely keep the pack together, I figured, and that turned out to be true. Last year the wind split us up and a 2-man break stayed away.
Our race started pretty fast, but manageable. But about 20 minutes in, just after turn 1, a guy two riders ahead of me (from Alto Velo) went down hard on the curb, and the guy ahead of me swung right. The crashed rider flopped onto the pavement in front of me and I barely avoided him. The EMT treated him on the spot for several laps.
The very tight 180-degree hairpin on the back stretch was taking its toll. There were several minor hiccups there... and Joe pulled out with a flat here and quit the race because he didn't know about the neutral wheel support and free lap rule. I knew... but was too preoccupied to help him.
As we exited the hairpin on one lap there was a minor tangle ahead of me, and when I slowed somebody ran into my rear wheel. Everything seemed OK so I kept riding. But as I rode on I heard my rear tire rubbing and it didn't stop when I loosened the brake release lever. Hmmm... the fates seemed against me. Two laps later there was another crash in the hairpin. Ugh. One rider from SJBC was treated, also on the spot, for a few laps.
After that crash I decided to stop and borrow a spare wheel from the neutral wheel support in the pit, and use the free lap rule to get back in without losing time. There was plenty of time to swap wheels (they gave me a nice Zipp wheel!) before the pack finished that lap. I saw that I had a broken spoke and one that was bent. The official told me to be ready and as the peloton swept up he yelled at me, and a few guys caught up in the latest crash, to go! I was able to jump right in and grab their draft.
Now I noticed that the string on my right shoe had snapped and my foot started slipping out whenever I pulled up on the pedal. There went my ability to sprint. Sigh.
Later on I was right behind Vlada coming out of the hairpin turn when a guy a couple wheels ahead of us blew out his rear tire and went down. A guy from Z-team plowed right into him. Now there was a big gap ahead of us. I had to really jump hard through the next few turns to catch back on, while Vlada blew up and dropped out. I was able to regain their draft just past the finish line, just as I reached my physical limit. This is a good example of "burning a match" where it is absolutely necessary. By going into my red zone I risked blowing up, but I would have been dropped had I not done so. And now I was part of the selection who would contest the finish.
Fortunately the pace slowed a bit and soon I was riding right where I wanted to: on Russ's wheel. Perfect! But now everybody was fighting for wheels and somebody, from Peninsula Velo I think, squeezed me toward the curb and grabbed Russ's draft, pushing me back.
Later I was able to reconnect with Russ but my cautious nature took over and I lost contact again. We were still riding hard so I was worried that I would blow up, needlessly this time, if I fought too hard for position. In retrospect I think I could have moved up safely before the last turn and improved my position. As it was Russ moved up fast to stay forward, after turn 2, while I again lost his wheel.
Holding on for dear life we flew through the last few turns, legs and lungs on fire! I was able to gain a few spots through the last turn and down to the line. But 8th place was all I could manage, while Russ got 4th. Not too bad though. And I was happy to have ridden fairly well in spite of all the obstacles thrown at me.
My legs were a bit sore from all the jumps, which I remembered from last year too, so I was a bit nervous how I'd feel for Day 2 of the Omnium. But I also took away some self-confidence in my abilities, especially my ability to move forward and stay up front when it counted. That was one of my main goals so I was quite happy with how the race went and was looking forward to the circuit race the next day.
From: Roof Inspection & Repair Services <firstname.lastname@example.org>Brisbane went well.The crit was super dangerous and super fast with three good crashes. Stayed up front for the entire race. Had to really be aggressive to hold my position. Half way into the race I heard them say that a prime was a bike car rack. I usually don't go for primes, but I thought that one was worth it. On the back half of the course I drilled it and left the pack. With a thousand yards to the line I looked back and thought I was all alone, had a thousand yards on the field. At 200 yards a Platinum rider from Santa Barbara surprised me and came onto my wheel. I was in too big of a gear and no joke, he got the prime by 2 or 3 inches. I was so exhausted after that prime. I stopped peddling and let the group catch me. I stayed back around fifteenth wheel thinking that my race was now over and how stupid it was, going for the prime and not getting it. Lap after lap I started feeling better and was finally able to recover and move back up to the front 5 wheels. The last lap was fast. I had to keep punching it to hold position. In the hairpin there was a crash on my left. I avoided it, barely. I was 4th wheel out of the hairpin and was only able to hold that position to the line.
The circuit race was much different for me. Very slow tempo up the hill on every lap. Geoff and I stayed up front the entire race. Dennis was also forward of most riders. A couple of brakes that I knew were not going to stick. Second to last lap, Geoff went up and tried to close a gap on a solo brake. I almost screamed to him to get out of the wind. I knew this guy was history on the last climb to the line. Geoff got out of the wind on the down hill. I was first through the turn at the bottom of the hill. I almost went for it at that point, but backed off and waited for the front of the field. Geoff and I were positioned in the top five up the hill. A few surges, but for the most part, fairly moderate tempo. At 300 yards to the line the pace picked up. It started to bunch up a little and Geoff and I lost a few positions. Someone went into my back wheel fairly hard, found out later that it was Geoff. No bid deal. At 200 yards the sprint went down. Geoff and I were both boxed in. Near the line, I was on the right, saw a gap on the left, went all the way across and was able to move forward. Ended up 8th, Geoff 9th Dennis 11th.Jeff and I talked about going for it 1000 yards before the line on a pre-race discussion. I though we did OK on the circuit race, but I really think that we should have stuck to our pre-race idea. Jeff was probably the best climber in the field. Going at the bottom of the hill, or half way up, probably would have given him a win. I think I would have faired much better also. Instead, the sprinter had their way with us.Russ
Brisbane went well.
The crit was super dangerous and super fast with three good crashes. Stayed up front for the entire race. Had to really be aggressive to hold my position. Half way into the race I heard them say that a prime was a bike car rack. I usually don't go for primes, but I thought that one was worth it. On the back half of the course I drilled it and left the pack. With a thousand yards to the line I looked back and thought I was all alone, had a thousand yards on the field. At 200 yards a Platinum rider from Santa Barbara surprised me and came onto my wheel. I was in too big of a gear and no joke, he got the prime by 2 or 3 inches. I was so exhausted after that prime. I stopped peddling and let the group catch me. I stayed back around fifteenth wheel thinking that my race was now over and how stupid it was, going for the prime and not getting it. Lap after lap I started feeling better and was finally able to recover and move back up to the front 5 wheels. The last lap was fast. I had to keep punching it to hold position. In the hairpin there was a crash on my left. I avoided it, barely. I was 4th wheel out of the hairpin and was only able to hold that position to the line.
The circuit race was much different for me. Very slow tempo up the hill on every lap. Geoff and I stayed up front the entire race. Dennis was also forward of most riders. A couple of brakes that I knew were not going to stick. Second to last lap, Geoff went up and tried to close a gap on a solo brake. I almost screamed to him to get out of the wind. I knew this guy was history on the last climb to the line. Geoff got out of the wind on the down hill. I was first through the turn at the bottom of the hill. I almost went for it at that point, but backed off and waited for the front of the field. Geoff and I were positioned in the top five up the hill. A few surges, but for the most part, fairly moderate tempo. At 300 yards to the line the pace picked up. It started to bunch up a little and Geoff and I lost a few positions. Someone went into my back wheel fairly hard, found out later that it was Geoff. No bid deal. At 200 yards the sprint went down. Geoff and I were both boxed in. Near the line, I was on the right, saw a gap on the left, went all the way across and was able to move forward. Ended up 8th, Geoff 9th Dennis 11th.
Jeff and I talked about going for it 1000 yards before the line on a pre-race discussion. I though we did OK on the circuit race, but I really think that we should have stuck to our pre-race idea. Jeff was probably the best climber in the field. Going at the bottom of the hill, or half way up, probably would have given him a win. I think I would have faired much better also. Instead, the sprinter had their way with us.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
By Mark Edwards 3/28/09
A new race course, a new category, I was a little nervous going into the Wards Ferry road race. I used to get frustrated the first time I did a race, it seemed I never knew what was around the next corner, and I never knew which guys to watch. More often than not I’d find myself dropped and riding alone. Not strong enough to hang with the leaders, too stubborn… Oops, I meant too strong to wait for a group from behind to work with.
The second year on a course I usually did much better, I had a pretty good idea when the attacks would come, I was a bit fitter, and I was learning who to watch. Then the third and forth years I found myself sometimes wanting something a little different.
So, recently I’ve been trying to find a few new races each year to keep things spiced up. Wards Ferry had been on my radar for a while, but the lack of any 45+ categories had always intimidated me. It’s known as a race of attrition because there are no flat sections; you’re either climbing or bombing down technical bumpy, twisty single lane roads at crazy speeds. Add to this that I’d have to line up with the 35+ 1,2,3, well… you get the picture.
This year Wards Ferry coincided with Brisbane, one of those races I’ve done enough times. My fitness was at an all time high, and the race was near my parent’s house, providing a nice excuse to spend the weekend with them.
So off to Wards Ferry!
The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, upper 60’s to low 70’s. Our starting field appeared to be about 30 guys, including a couple of other brave 50 somethings I recognized, and three of the women’s 1/2 group decided to start with us. We were scheduled for five 12 mile laps, up and down and up and down.
The group went out super hard. If they kept this up I was going to be in trouble. Before we finished the first lap my fellow 45’s (except Jan Elsbach) and the women had been dropped. We were down to about 15 riders in the lead group.
I found the next three laps surprisingly easy. There were several attacks, but they were all pulled in quickly. Of course the climbs hurt, but different from the 45’s, these guys seemed to attempt more damage on the flatter and downhill sections. They climbed hard, but it seemed more manageable than a motivated 45 group. It was probably the particular makeup of this group, lots of big strong riders.
I have a habit of missing when guys go off the front, even when I know most of the racers. But today I was especially susceptible. I only recognized one guy in the group and he was just hanging on. So, when two guys went off the front with a lap to go, I never saw them. The tight and twisty course helped hide break aways quickly, but even if I had seen them up the road, I wouldn’t have recognized them. We were over taking too many other riders and I didn’t have a clue which ones were in our group. Then, about 6 miles from the finish, a Safeway rider attacked. I hesitated, and he was gone. The group appeared to be making a concerted effort to catch him, but the occasional “You chase. No, you chase” really hurt our forward progress.
About a dozen of us crested the rise at the 1 KM to go sign. There was a false flat leading to one of those ever steeper finishes. Greg McQuaid (who kicked my tail all through the Fall ‘09 Low Key Hill Climb Series) was on the front and accelerating. On his wheel was a Taleo racer I had marked as dangerous from my pre-race results reconnaissance. Then me, just where I wanted to be, third wheel. Followed by a Morgan Stanley guy I’d been warned was super strong. Then behind him, 8 more guys that had all looked very formidable and hungry for a good finish.
By this time the three guys off the front had sealed up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I would find this out later, as I still thought there was just one guy off the front.
At the 200 meter sign Greg threw down a surge of power that blew the Taleo guy off his wheel. I wasn’t about to wilt in the face of this impressive show of strength, I countered and felt I had the speed to overtake Greg. But it would be only by a few feet at best. Coming up on 100 meters I was taking back ground from Greg, it looked like I would make it. But, I was in my big ring, and sometimes… on those ever steeper grades, you can run out of juice in a heart beat.
The small crowd gathered at the finish was going crazy. Seems the Morgan Stanley rider on my wheel had quite a fan base. They were screaming for him… “You got him! You can do it! Come on! Do it!” I kept expecting my legs to fail, someone to pass me from behind, get a flat, heck… I knew something was going to go wrong.
But I summoned from deep and gave one solid last surge, everything I had. I went by Greg as planned, and the Morgan Stanley guy never was able to do more than match my speed. He rolled across the finish a couple of bike lengths back. Just behind Greg.
As we cruised back to our cars the Morgan Stanley guy pulled up along side and said “You were the best of the rest today”.
Then he said “Good job on getting 4th”. 4th? Doh!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I’ve got to tell you, sitting here at my kitchen table the morning after the Orosi road race, I’m really wiped out. That was one hard race. I can’t remember ever being this tired the day after a race. I’m sure 3 hours of sleep prior to the race and 7 hours of windshield time didn’t help, but mostly, 54 miles in a four man break is a lot of work.
Matt and Matt met at my place at 4:00 AM, groggy and somber we loaded our gear. Jim showed up, already working on his first Starbuck’s caffeine boost, he livened things right up! Jim kept us entertained with his bottomless cache of hilarious stories. How can one guy find himself in so many crazy situations? I was the only one that had raced Orosi before, so I filled in the few quite spots with descriptions of the course and possible strategies. The trip down went by quickly.
Orosi is a tiny farming town east of Fresno right at the base of the Sierra foothills. Grain silos, large high school billboards, and pit bulls everywhere, it’s a very different atmosphere from the coastal congestion we’re accustom to. We arrived in plenty of time, parked 50’ from registration, changed clothes, and rolled out of the high school parking lot to warm-up. Nearly every racer we passed warming-up had a loose dog to warn us about, Orosians sure like their dogs.
Hanging out waiting for the start we had the chance to catch up with several of our co-racers. Then it was time to race. We started with a social paced promenade for the first three miles, meeting new guys and continuing to catch up with others. The promenade complete, the group stayed fairly mellow as we approached the climb and extremely rough pavement. Where Copperopolis is one big collection of pavement patches, bump after bump, Orosi is more a series of shallow pot holes – almost like an asphalt netting. Just as rough, but very different.
Last year Jon Ornstil attacked the bottom of the hill so hard I was constantly on the edge of getting dropped. It was the hardest I’d ever worked and still stayed in contact. Usually when I’m in that much pain I get dropped. Approaching the climb this year, I was understandably nervous.
I don’t know if the pace was a bit easier, if my form was better, or if knowing what to expect as far as rough pavement made the difference, but the pace was manageable. Not easy mind you, it was quite tough in fact, but I was able to stay in the group for the climb. Different this year, Jon had help from climbing sensation Clark Foy in keeping the pressure on. While both great climbers, Jon and Clark have very different styles. While Jon goes out hard and keeps it there (with the occasional surge thrown in for good measure), Clark goes to the front and you almost feel like he’s easing up. Like maybe you’re going to get a break from Jon’s relentless driving. But it’s an illusion. Clark is so smooth, once on the front he ups the pace in nearly imperceptible increments. In short order you find yourself in respiratory distress, all the while he’s spinning smoothly ahead.
As we neared the top of the first five mile climb I was concerned that the group was still too big. I’d hoped for the opening climb to do some major damage. This Race attracts a small field, it’s remote, and includes a lot of tough climbing. Everyone signed up was considered a good climber, no one else would bother. But a glance over my shoulder would reveal there was no group! There were only four of us left. Steve Archer, Jon Ornstil, Clark Foy, and myself.
Steve appeared to have been tested on the climb, but Jon and Clark looked like they were spinning down to their local coffee shop. We quickly organized and started working together. There was no urgency to our riding; I think we all expected to be chased down. The longer we stayed away the more I wondered if we’d be caught. Nearing the end of the first loop we had a couple of 2 mile views behind us, no one in sight. It appeared we’d stay away; we started to push a little harder.
I’ve raced with Jon and Clark many times and have a lot of respect for them. Besides phenomenal athletes, both these guys are great to be around. They make choices in their racing that consistently acknowledge that riding hard, camaraderie with their fellow racers, and personal integrity come before winning.
I’ve also been in several races with Steve, but before yesterday, hadn’t really spent much time with him. I have to say, Steve is amazing. Corny as it sounds, I came away from Orosi a better rider having raced with Steve.
As we approached the big climb on the second lap, Steve pulled along side of me and let me know he was cooked. He advised me not to sit on his wheel, he expected Jon and Clark would gap him and if I was behind him I’d have to close that gap. He also said he was just hoping to hold on long enough to keep from being caught by the chase group.
Jon and Clark once again went to the front and set a strong pace up the five mile climb, Steve hung in there. Once on the rolling flatter section, I was again able to come to the front and contribute to moving us briskly towards the finish. While Jon and Clark have an edge over me climbing, I think I’ve got a slight advantage on other terrain. I was only too happy to be able to pitch in where I felt stronger.
About ten miles or so from the finish I threw down a couple of attacks to try and gauge what the other guys had left. It’s always hard to tell, but it didn’t appear anyone felt any fresher than I did. It was still early, so I didn’t want to destroy the great work we’d been doing as a group, so I slid back into the group and took a fast line down the twisty narrow descent. As I felt I was the most comfortable on the descent, I figured I could gain us a few seconds over the chase group with the other guys following my line.
Steve had sat in a good portion of the second lap. As we turned the corner four miles from the finish he went to the front. Now here’s the classy part…. Steve put his head down and hammered. I was on his wheel and could tell he had been racing for nearly 60 miles, but he actually seemed to be gaining strength. I was watching for him to signal me to come around, but he never did. Looking over my shoulder I could see there was no chase group for miles, so we weren’t in danger of being caught, but still Steve pulled. I was mentally getting prepared for the finish. Obviously it would come down to a sprint, but how would it play out?
We made the final right hand turn marking two miles of gentle climbing to the finish line. I pulled up next to Steve and thanked him for the pull, to which he responded “you guys did all the work, it’s the least I could do”. Then he pulled back into the lead and continued to pull – he didn’t have to do this – but obviously felt it was the right thing to do. The next time I’m in a position like Steve was in this race, I hope I have the integrity of character to do exactly what he did. He could have sat on all the way to the finish, but instead he worked his tail off, and then gamely contested the finish having chosen to intentionally level the playing field.
The finish area is confusing. And we got confused. There’s a tent in the feed zone 200 yards before the finish and the spectators group at a spot between the feed zone and the finish. Each of these three points is only visible as you reach the preceding one. Steve was setting pace, I was on his wheel, Jon and Clark were behind me. I was listening intensely for a gear shift from behind to warn me that the sprint was on. Snick, clunk… there is was. Jump! Clark went wide to the left, he was coming by fast. I looked up and could see the feed zone tent was still way far off, but Clark’s an aerobic animal, if anyone could make a 400 yard uphill sprit he could. So I had to go. I came around Steve, but he unleashed a powerful surge. I got around him, but clearly he wasn’t planning to gift this win to anyone.
Clark faded, funny how an uphill sprint really zaps the legs. Just as I was thinking “Great!”, I figured out we’d been sprinting for the feed zone. Duh! I went by Clark fast, but knew I was in serious trouble. I could see the spectators beyond the feed zone and hoped I could hold on, but my legs were cramping, I was breathing so hard I almost drooled on my top tube (give me a break, it was my first race on my new bike – I didn’t want to get anything on it). My speed was down to probably 12 mph (remember, this was supposed to be a sprint). A quick glance over my shoulder didn’t work, my vision was too blurred. A longer look still took a while to process, but as far as I could tell I had 30 or 40 yards on Clark and the gap wasn’t closing. Maybe I could hold on…
10 yards from the spectators, I didn’t notice any officials. Oh yea… that’s right; the finish is another 150’. Crap! This was cruel!
How could I not be caught? I couldn’t even turn the pedals. I was wobbling, trying to keep my balance; it must have appeared I was in slow motion. One more look back… still a gap… I think I can make it…
First place Orosi road race 45+.
A Day for the Sprinters
By Jim Langley
Follow me on twitter
After last week's big win at Madera, I went into this race mostly for the fun of riding a new course and seeing if I could get another decent result. Mark and Scott raced it last year and recommended it as a good one for climbers so I thought I'd have a good chance and enjoy the change from the mostly flat courses at Madera last week. Also, top 55+ers Scott Hennessy and Mac Carey were registered and they're tough competitors who have taught me many lessons - Scott, especially on longish, hilly races. (Orosi is 2 laps of a 28-mile course, which about 2,000 vertical feet per lap.)
It turned out that the race was a relatively uneventful one. There were only 9 guys entered, apparently all climbing specialists, I believe 4 of them were from SoCal from their jersey sponsor names. The one guy I checked out online before the race had even won the Mount Everest Challenge - pretty good indication that he'd be trouble in the hills.
If I'd investigated the race more closely, I might have decided to pass. It's a lovely loop, but the climbing is not the kind I like. I prefer long, steady rhythm ascents. Orosi is constant little climbs. They don't even look like real hills but they keep working your legs and on the second lap when one of the LA guys went to the front and put the hurt on us on the first grade, my legs didn't want any of it. Just another couple of mph and I would have been dropped with the 4 other guys who came off here.
I dug a little deeper and hung in at the back and felt slightly better as we covered the next series of ups and downs with Mac driving the pace. Every time we hit another hill my legs protested and I had my fingers crossed there'd be no harder attacks because there wasn't much left in them. Luckily that didn't happen and I rode as best I could, tried to recover as possible, and tried to get ready for a fun finish since the 5 of us were obviously going to come into the long, straight finish together.
Sprinting not being my strong suit, and there being a couple of powerful-looking guys out there still, I threw down a few hard attacks coming into the finish to try to prevent the guys from attacking me, and to try to take something out of their legs so maybe I'd have a chance when we sprinted. Scott jumped a couple of times too. But, we still hit the 1 K to go marker all together.
Some Speed In These Legs After All
Normally, this is where I'd take off, lead out the bunch and then have them all come by on the line. I've made this mistake so many times that I was actually thinking that I might as well make it again - and that it would be okay to finish 5th.
But, as soon as these awful thoughts popped into my head, a much better one pushed them out: 'get a grip, Jim - you're a Cat 2 now - you're going to win this sprint - race smart!' (amazing what a big win and upgrade does for your confidence and mindset)
It's a good thing my focus got right and my confidence returned because we were only going slower, fanned out across the road, everyone looking at each other, no one wanting to be first to lead it out. I judged Scott to be the fastest finisher and wanted to follow him. I slowed even more so he'd come up on my left a little more. He did that, but a little too much forcing me to ride the line between the road and gravel shoulder to get around on the inside.
I didn't want to be boxed to the inside or have to sprint on the gravel, so I made a fake jump on the inside to get my bars ahead of Scott's and this caught the attention of the guys on the left. One of them yelled "right!" and that was the signal that made everyone really jump, Scott going first. Perfect!
I waited for a half a second and was right on Scott's wheel when I went. I felt like I had the speed to come around, but he had the advantage of being in front and the line was closer than I thought it was, and he beat me to it. So, Scott got another nice win, while I finished a close second. Mac Carey was right behind me in third. Scott is an excellent sprinter, maybe second only to John Elgart in the 55+, so there's no shame in taking second to him.
Overall, it was a tough race with a fun finish, and another happy result. I didn't win the sprint, but it was very close and my tactics were almost right this time. It was right to be on Scott's wheel. It was right to wait. It was a good tactic to get the others to jump first. No one came around me too, and I almost caught Scott, so I'm confident I actually have a competitive sprinting ability, which will help in future races.
But there are things I need to work on. My mistake was taking the wrong line trying to come around Scott. He took the shortest line which I wanted too, and this forced me to change my line mid sprint - enough to cancel any speed advantage I had. I should have known where he would go and taken a different line so as to accelerate straight ahead and not have to turn or swerve. Another mistake was focusing on what's happening around rather than on getting more power and speed to the ground. You lose power and speed if your focus isn't mostly on explosiveness. I am certain I can improve here and become more dangerous.
Now you know what I'll be working on in these coming weeks before Copperopolis, which came down to a sprint finish last year too. Congrats to Mark, Matt and Matt who all also had great races in their categories. Watch for their race reports and thanks for reading!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
By Jim Langley
Scouting the Racecourses
We headed down Friday after work. I drove and Bob Montague (entered in the Elite Cat 5 event) navigated. Gary Griffin would join us Saturday morning and race with me in the first stage, the criterium. Bob had reservations at the brand-new and very nice Hampton Inn ($80 a night, free wi-fi & breakfast), which was also the race hotel where the results would be posted.
But the first order of business was finding the criterium course so that we'd know where to go in the morning for registration and Stage 1. Thanks to Bob's pre-race reconnaissance and excellent directional skills (VeloPromo's directions made no sense at all), we found the crit, drove the course (in both directions just in case) and then spent about an hour driving the 20 miles to the time trail course and checking that too. Even though it was getting dark, riders were already practicing on both racecourses and Bob and I talked about whether or not we should have actually ridden the loops instead of driven them. Nah.
Our Own Mini Tour de France
We couldn't register until Saturday morning when we would receive what VeloPromo calls the "race bible," but we knew from the race website and entry form that, though short, Madera is a real stage race. There's a crit, a TT and a RR. The person with the best time after all stages wins. There are time bonuses of 20, 10 and 5 seconds, for placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in each stage, and bonuses of 5 seconds each for winning the 2 primes in the crit.
If you miss a race or flat out or crash and can't finish a stage, you're out (though there was a note in the race bible that they would try to help racers who suffer "mishaps." Later I watched an example, when a team car for the Pro 1/2 pack zoomed past me during the road race, one of their riders taking a free 35mph tow back up to the pack after one of these mishaps.)
The stage and GC results are posted each night at the race hotel. We heard that 600 racers were at the race from all over making the hotel and racecourses fun scenes with almost endless vehicles, riders warming up on trainers and plenty of awesome aero bikes and wheels because of the TT. The 3 courses are all around Madera, the crit is in town, the TT is on farmland 20 miles away and the RR is over mostly flat roads with one roller section east of Madera via Road 600.
There were 26 guys entered in the 55+ including national TT champ Scott Hennessy, who schooled me a few times last year in road races, too, Mac Carey who got me on the line only last week at the Menlo Park Crit and also beat me at San Bruno, and Brian Fessenden who handily beat me at Cherry Pie. I had prepared very carefully for the race and was riding with the goal of placing in all 3 events and the overall for which I hoped to receive enough upgrade points to finally get my bump to Category 2 racer [Late-breaking news - my upgrade request was just granted - I am now a Cat 2!!]. I didn't really expect to win any of the races with Scott in the mix as he's strong and very smart. He outfoxed me at several races last year where I thought I had a chance to win.
Bob Gets Taken Out
By now, most of you have heard about Bob getting knocked out of the race in a crash. I saw the whole thing, helped the medics at the scene, took care of Bob's bashed and bloodied bike and gear - and this all shook me up pretty badly. I lost all desire to race and was fully ready to drive Bob back home once he was patched up. But, at the emergency room, even though he was strapped to the bed to stabilize his neck and could hardly move, Bob made it very clear that if I didn't race he was going to be even more miserable. His doctors told me that he'd be in the hospital all day anyway, so I might as well race and come see him later. Bob's wife was already on her way to the hospital too.
So, feeling some of the worst butterflies I've ever had before a race, I drove across town from the hospital and arrived just in time at the crit course for a short warmup. It was nice that a lot of people saw me and asked how Bob was doing, which went on throughout the weekend. Nice people bike racers. I also found Gary who had just arrived. We took Bob's wheels over to the pit since Gary didn't have spares (thanks Bob!).
Racers - Start Your Engines!
I lined up on the front line and Gary took a position back a bit in the pack, and off we went for 20 laps around the flat 4-corner course, the only obstacle a set of railroad tracks. The pace was brisk but not anything like racing with the 45+, which I had done at Cherry Pie and Menlo Park. So, I stayed near the front but didn't do any work. I hadn't had any real warmup and my stomach and focus weren't right so it took a while to get into race mode.
I knew there would be 2 primes and thought I might have a chance to grab 5 seconds, but with speedster Brian Fessenden and a new Webcor guy, Greg Bolella (sp) in the race with excellent snap, I had no chance. So, I waited for the second prime, which took place with 7 laps to go. Brian and Greg shot away again, and I used the opportunity to attack from the back of the pack. Brian and Greg sat up after the prime sprint and I told them to come with me, which they did. Karl Webber had chased me when I attacked and one other guy followed him. So, the 5 of us got a good break going.
We dropped the 5th guy right way and managed to stay away until the confusing finish. It's too complicated to explain but we ended up going across the line in our break rotation, no sprint, because we thought there were still 2 laps to go due to them taking our lap cards down not to confuse the also-finishing 45+ guys who started ahead of us (I told you it was confusing). I was 3rd wheel, so I finished 3rd and got a 5 second time bonus plus the 37 seconds we were ahead of the pack.
Looking Good After Stage 1
So, after the crit I was sitting pretty in 3rd place overall with a 42 second lead over Scott Hennessy and Mac Cary and all the other guys. Brian got a 20 second time bonus for winning the crit plus another few for taking a prime, so he was 20 seconds up on me and Greg took second and had prime seconds too so he was about 10 seconds ahead (I don't have exact numbers because I never got to see all the official results).
Coach Mark had recommended to us that we save energy in the crit in order to do our best TT. Since I had gone a little crazy in the crit and gotten in the break I was wondering if I'd have the legs to ride a good time. Just like in any stage races the TT can decide the GC at the end. But, I told myself I could TT with the best of them and did a pretty half-ass warmup back and forth on the only stretch open to riders. Always-friendly Scott Hennessy was just two cars over and I noticed how expertly he was warming up on his trainer, which worried me, but I just didn't have the focus, energy or desire to warm up that hard.
The course was pretty cool: 4 miles of a slight downhill with almost a tailwind, 2 miles across with a crosswind, right turn, and 4 miles back slightly uphill against a headwind. The roads followed lovely orchards but the roads were trashed and there was another concern: BEES! All along two of the roads were beehives to help the fruit trees. And, what do bees do in the late afternoon? Return to their hives, of course. Meaning a high chance of stings. (I didn't get stung but a lot of riders did.)
They actually had an offical starter, a bike holder and timed starts going off every 30 seconds like clockwork. No starting ramp, but otherwise totally professional. Gary went off powerfully. Right ahead of me was Jack Kelso/Hammer Nutrition, a body-builder-turned-roadie from Pleasanton. I was hoping to catch him as he was my 30-second man. But there was no way. I never even saw him after the start and as I was working it with all I had I started to get the feeling that there was a reason the guys had let us breakaway in the criterium.
Still, time trialing takes focus so I tried to shut off the negativity and put all thought and energy into applying the gas, riding a straight line, staying completely aero and breathing. On the amazing Look 596 Bob had borrowed for us to use I at least felt super fast and I thought I might have a chance on the uphill section to reel in the guys who hammered the down side.
As I hit this stretch I was hurting but I caught one guy, and then another, and then saw Gary. It was great seeing how aero he was because he was only on his regular road bike with clip-ons. He also looked strong and super smooth. It took me a long time to pass him and I cheered him on and then only beat him to the line by a few seconds.
The Race of Bitter Truth
You couldn't get the results at the racecourse since the heats would be going off for some time, so Gary and I got our recovery food down, signed out of the race and headed back to the hotel to wait for the results to be posted and then get some dinner. The Hampton Inn was buzzing with races and it took a while to squeeze in to see our results and for me they were grim.
Jack Kelso won the TT crushing my time. So did Scott Hennessy and Mac Cary. They all put at least a minute on me. I took the time to write down their times and mine so I could work out how far behind on GC I was now since that wasn't posted.
The only good news was that I had finished 4th and put time on everyone else. It seemed to me that that might be good because it would motivate other people to have to work in the road race and that might take pressure off me. Maybe I could use that somehow. But, I wasn't too confident. With those guys taking so much time out of me in the TT, they were obviously stronger than I was and would be able to match anything that went on out there.
These thoughts left me pretty bummed Saturday night even after a nice dinner w/Gary at Perko's. After my great crit, I thought I had a chance to win the whole stage race. But, after seeing what Scott, Jack and Mac did to me in the TT, and coming in 4th and not even placing or getting a time bonus, I couldn't see how I could get that time back (about a minute) in a 51-mile road race on rolling roads with no major climbs to make up time.
Would Scott work with me in order to get the second back he lost to Jack and win the race? Maybe, but wouldn't everyone respond if the second place guy tried to escape? Definitely. Wouldn't Mac and Scott want to escape to beat Jack and take over first? Seemed reasonable. But, if I just tag along, I still only get third place. That seemed like the most likely thing that would happen and I tried to convince myself that getting 3rd would be satisfying. I would at least get the upgrade points I needed. That race scenario and outcome wasn't enough to ease my mind and I kept running it over and over in my head tossing and turning hoping I wasn't keeping Gary awake too.
The Badger Talks To Me
Then, somewhere around 2 a.m. I had a new thought, 'What would my idol Bernard Hinault do in this situation." And, the answer popped up loud and clear: "attack!" At the time I didn't know how to attack, or when to attack, or even why an attack might work. But, thinking of how Hinault rode made me think about that "rule" of racing that says, 'if you don't ever take a chance, you usually have NO chance.' Hinault was never afraid to take a chance.
I know I'm fit and thinking about it, I realized that I'd rather go out on a limb and see what I could do and die trying than sit in the pack safe, or ride the wheel of the leaders and finish a safe, comfortable 3rd. I didn't come all the way down here and train so hard and starve myself, etc. etc. for 3rd. Plus, I had firm orders from Bob to win the race and I had to at least try.
Bob and I hadn't driven the RR course (3 times around a 17-mile loop), but everyone was talking about the rollercoaster on the backside and roads rougher than at Copperoplis. I had actually changed to my stiffer cages for the race so as not to lose my bottles. But, I already had the advantage of tubeless tires that let me run 90psi, which takes a lot of the beating out of rough roads. We also heard the short hills on the rollercoaster were steep ones and I thought I might need my 27 but that turned out not to be true, my 25 was fine.
Karl Webber Attacks
As we rolled away from the little farm where the race started (somehow VeloPromo parked all of our cars in some nice guy's farm property - Gary and I were right next to a pen with four enormous pink pigs), the only challenge was the cold temperature at about 40 degrees, but the sun was rising. Still Mac Carey was shivering so badly he wobbled down the road enough to get asked by the other guys if all was well.
Gary and I rode smart and sat at the back not doing any work at all. I kept shifting up a gear to save my legs and I did a lot of coasting. What was cool was that the leaders' teams were at the front rotating and keeping the pace. As only two Bike Trippers in the field, and with me only in 4th, there was no reason for us to do any work, and no one expected us to.
We crusied along like this for a while but then Karl Webber, a top racer I remember from the 'old days,' and one of the guys in the break with me in the crit, rolled off the front. I moved around in the pack and spoke with Scott and a few other guys to light a fire under everyone to chase him down. I didn't want anyone to escape. We took it up to about 30mph and got him eventually, just before the rollercoaster section. This stretch was actually really fun, a lot like the 7 Sisters rollers at the top of Mt. Tam.
My First 'Natural Break'
The pack worked the hills, took some bottles at the feed zone and then we hit the windy flat section on the backside of the course. I started to realize that I had drank way too much coffee before the race and went to the back when the pace slowed in hopes I could take care of matters while riding. But, it wan't possible without asking Gary to push me along. That wouldn't be right, so I moved back up.
With each pedal stroke, though, I grew more uncomfortable and the road was only getting rougher and rougher. Just when I thought I would have to stop and chase to get back on, Brian rolled to the front of the pack, turned to look back, and hollered, "Does anyone else have to pee?" About everyone said yes and we then agreed to all stop, take care of business and resume racing after.
One of the guys called it a 'natural break,' apparently the proper racing term, and Gary remarked, "Now this really is a stage race." Which got a good laugh. It was a scene right out of the Grand Tours with a bunch of bikes laying in the grass and all the riders lined up watering the daisies. It sure saved the day for me.
Going All Hinault
As we started racing again, we were about 7 miles from the feed zone on the rollercoaster with one lap to go when we got there. It was time to do something or settle for a lackluster result. I wasn't settled on exactly how to attack but I remembered Arnie Baker's book where he talks about a fake attack to set up a real attack. This works because it's so easy for the pack to pull you back that they don't believe you can hurt them with your next attack(s).
I rolled off the front trying to look like I was working but really only hitting it a little. Jack Kelso who held first place sent his teammate Richard Shields up to mark me and I drifted back into the pack with Richard who is a dangerous rider and could hang with me even at my hardest effort. I then went again. This time Scott Hennessy who was in second place sent his VO2 teammate up to mark me.
I wasn't sure whether to try to make this attack stick or drift back and try one more. I could see that we were approaching the rollers, though, and I knew I needed at least a minute, so I just went on instinct and decided now was the time to take that chance I mentioned.
Instead of drifting back into the pack this time, I tried to act like I was easing up and I let the VO2 guy sit on my wheel, but when I saw that the pack thought this VO2 guy was doing their work for them, I gradually increased the effort on the pedals trying to look like I was just enjoying the scenery when I was taking it up into L4 level like on my trainer. My red V02 shadow was hanging behind me and I think Scott and the pack thought he was in control of the situation. But, I was increasing our gap a few feet ever few seconds.
As we hit the base of the first of the rollers, the gap had increased more than the pack realized, I think, and I was pretty sure if I could just get around the first turn I'd be out of sight. So, I really gave it the gas and left the VO2 guy behind and I just went 100%, all-out, make-it-work-or-die-trying mode. I poured it on, flew over the fun rollercoaster hills and on the backside of the last one, I slammed it into the 12 and just buried my legs and heart rate for every ounce of speed. If I could get way out of sight, maybe they'd forget about me.
I knew that when the pack chased down Karl we had maxed out at 30mph so I felt that if I could average about 28 or 29mph, they wouldn't be able to close on me very fast and I had a slight chance to stay away. All I needed was about 40 seconds since a win would give me a 20 second time bonus too. I focused on the speedo, kept my head down and tried super hard to relax my entire upper body so that all my strength reached the pedals. I tried not to think about the uncooperative wind or the bumpy road that kept jarring me.
The whole time I was certain that they'd chase me down especially after being humbled by Scott and Jack and Mac the night before in the TT. Surely they'd turn it on and chase me down and drop me and that would be that. My stage race done due to a dumb breakaway move. But, I only had this one chance and I was determined to die trying.
Success and Luck
Somehow it worked, and I stayed away for about 20 miles, took first, put 3 minutes on the pack and won the RR and the overall stage race. Afterward I talked to Scott, Brian, Jack and Greg and I learned why the attack worked. Mainly it was because there was indecision among the race leaders and their teams as to who should chase me down. And, since they didn't organize quickly and never really got focused and made a serious effort, my all-out, 100% race to the line was better than the entire pack's half-hearted attempts to bring me back in.
Ultimately it was a very lucky thing because they could easily have chased and caught me. But, I'd like to think that I won due to excellent fitness that let me ride an awesome last 20 miles alone and into the wind most of the way, some solid proven tactics just right for stage races, and the interesting possible dynamic that I was maybe fresher than they were in the road race since they had gone harder than I had in the TT.
My First RR Win As A 55+
Regardless of what really made it happen, it was a huge win for me. I should now have the upgrade points (and then some) to be a Cat 2 and I finally won a 55+ road race and my second stage race (the first one I won was way back in 1980 in Vermont!).
Gary had a great race too and should post his race report soon. And, in other super news Bob is already on the mend and back on his trainer even. Amazing.
In case you're interested in doing the Madera Stage Race, I highly recommend it. The only caveat is the high entry fee of $65 versus the cheap prizes. For winning I received $20, a cowboy hat and a T-shirt. Not so good, but we don't do it for the prizes, do we? And, check it out - Matt Werner made me my own Yellow Jersey! SWEET ;-) FULL RACE RESULTS HERE.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I certainly think that my recent off-roading bike racing career has helped me with my handling skills. There is quite a lot of jostling during any of the cyclocross races and racing is very instructive on going anaerobic and having to maneuver obstacles and other racers. Maybe we could have a few roadie converts for next season...If not just for the handling benefits...KemAkol
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday morning dawned clear with light winds. We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed out for registration and the crit. I was up first in the Elite 5’s, so I got in a pretty good warm up, rode the course once, and with Jim’s help, we got our spare wheels over to the pit area. I was a little nervous about the crit, as I had sort of decided they were too dangerous because of the squirrelly riders. I was feeling better though, because Jim had laid out some good rules to follow while riding in crits. I got up to the line and felt good to go. When the whistle blew, I found myself going from the front of the group to the back of the pack immediately. I had put LOOK pedals on my bike instead of my usual speedplays, because the TT bike had integrated LOOK pedals built into the cranks. I figured it was better not to be fooling with switching cleats between races. I did finally get clipped in and found that it was not too difficult to keep up with my group. Our race was scheduled for 40 minutes and I spent the first part of it trying to evaluate the course and the other riders in my group. I felt that I had ridden in crits with far more aggressive riders who had taken far more dangerous risks. I also felt that the course was so wide that I could not be blocked from moving up when I chose to. I did find that while I was comfortable both on the inside and the outside, I felt I was able to move up more aggressively from the out side.
Once the officials posted a card with the number of laps to go (8), I began to think about moving up. I felt that I had identified most of those with the ability to move up and I began following them to the front, and then allowing myself to drift back in order to do it again. With 3 laps to go, I was riding in about the middle of the group and I heard Jim call that I should start to move up. I began to follow good wheels until I was up in the top 5. I was determined to hold my position as I felt at this proximity to the finish, I would be both safer and in better position for the finish. As we came around the final turn and approached the line with 2 laps to go, I could feel other riders beginning to move up. I had people coming up on both sides and was trying to simply ride my line when one of the 2 riders directly in front of me made the worst mistake. I was on his wheel at close proximity when he turned his wheel directly into the rear wheel of the rider directly in front of him to his right. I was appalled. I felt pressure from my left and when neither rider in front of me went down, I decided to try and move out to my right. As soon as I committed to this move, the errant rider, now slightly to my left, again turned his wheel into the rider in front to his right. Both of those riders went down, and I realized I was soon to follow. I really did not have time to react further than my realization before I went down; hard, very hard. I have been told that a total of 5 riders went down in the crash and that the guy behind me ran over my head, but the next memory that I have is of Jim Langley telling me that I was being taken to the hospital to be checked out and that he would be there soon. I think I asked him about his race, and he said not to worry about it.
At the hospital, I had x-rays and MRI scans. They didn’t find anything broken or any brain damage. The one thing I felt good about was Jim. When he showed up at the hospital, he was like,”We’ll just get you out of here and get our stuff from the hotel and head home.” I was like, “No way! Your job is to get out of here and do as well as you can in your race! My wife will want to come down here and get me, so you just get out of here and go do your race. I’ll keep you informed on my progress and we’ll touch base throughout the day.” I was so grateful that Jim agreed to go and do his race. I would have felt horrible if he had insisted on hanging around the hospital with me. And, I would like to be the first one to congratulate Jim on a great race, but I’ll let him tell his own story.
Anyway, the end of my story is that I had to be transferred to the hospital in Fresno to have my left ear reconstructed. I expect that is going to be no fun for a while. Otherwise, I have various contusions and abrasions on my hands, elbows, knees and head. I also have massive hemotomas on my right elbow and hip, the same hip I injured in my crash at the end of October. I also have an abrasion on my right shoulder in the spot that I suffered an A/C shoulder separation last summer. I think I have 30 to 40 stitches in my left ear to accomplish the reconstruction. It really looked like hamburger. My LOOK race bike is in the shop for evaluation. I think the brunt of the punishment was to the bar area and the front end. I expect an estimate at some point. My helmet was destroyed, completely cracked, bloodied and in pieces. All of my clothing was torn, and I expect that I will be sore all over for some time to come. I was able to do an easy spin on my trainer today for 40 minutes. My power was in the low to mid L1 zone, but I was sweating profusely and my HR was in the mid to high L3 zone. Of course, I am out for the remainder of the stage race, and that is a shame because I think I could have done well in it.
Regardless, I would like to offer my congratulations to Jim and Gary. I am very proud of the two of them for finishing, and particularly of Jim for his finish!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Way back in September '03 I did my first Swanton TT. I think my time was 33:39. At that point I reviewed the historical results for all riders and decided to set myself a lifetime "stretch" goal of breaking 30 minutes. In my ignorance it seemed possible.
By September '05 my PB was 31:40, I was very satisfied with my progress. That’s about when things ground to a crawl. In the following two years I'd only improve by 14 seconds to 31:26. My "stretch" goal was fading; I was finding myself coming to grips with the reality that breaking 30 minutes wasn't something I'd ever do.
In June '08 I broke through essentially 33 months of PB stagnation with a 21 second improvement to 31:05. While this was very motivating, nearly 3 years to gain roughly a half a minute meant that at this rate it would take over 6 years to reach 30 minutes. Never mind the law of diminishing returns. As hard as I felt I'd already been training, combined with Father Time conspiring against me, I had little confidence that I'd reach 30 minutes.
Then, last July, after seemingly endless intervals with the Team, a new bike, and apparently good conditions, I shattered my last PB by 41 seconds! With my PB now residing at 30:24, 30 minutes suddenly was coming back into focus.
Since last July I've kept that 30 minute barrier in the back of my mind. All those days I struggled to show up for the B-40 intervals… I'd just remind myself of the value of learning to go fast over rolling terrain and, how improvements on B-40 would really help me on Swanton road. Without setting a firm date, I knew I wanted to go for a new record sometime early in the '09 season.
The early time change meant that the Swanton TT series would again start in March. I'd be ready in April, but my form was good, so I wasn't ruling March out. On Thursday morning March 12th the weatherman said he expected "light" 5 to 10 knot winds in the afternoon. In my mind a 10 knot headwind is far from "light", but for Swanton Rd, 10 knots could easily be considered light.
Between my wanting to avoid the trainer, my present good form, and forecast “light” winds… I decided to roll out to Swanton Rd. My only reservation was the 6 x 6 workout at UCSC I’d done the previous evening. We had a big group with several very strong riders. The chase had motivated me to my 2nd best night ever. The downside was the residual soreness and localized fatigue I was feeling 24 hours later.
Dressed and ready to go, Margie, Geoff, and I started our warm-up rolling up Swanton road. We held a blistering 13 mph into the “light” headwind. Geoff and I exchanged a disheartened glance; this was far from ideal conditions for a PB.
We lined up and started at 1 minute intervals, I was the 5th or 6th rider off. I had finagled myself into following Geoff, I knew he would set a fast pace which would keep me pushing hard early. Without my power meter I was concerned I’d blow up fighting the headwind. I balanced on the edge as close as I could, several times I feared I’d dug too deep as my quads and lungs groaned under the strain. Luckily, I was able to recover and arrived at the bottom of the climb feeling reasonably good.
By this time I had pulled back all the riders ahead of me except for Geoff. Each time I’d seen someone ahead I’d hoped it was him. I knew he’d set a fast time, if I could possibly catch him that would mean I’d set a fast time minus one minute. As I neared the turnaround Geoff came by me, near enough to energize my chase effort.
As Geoff hammered the return, I kept him in my sights. My lower position on the bike was starting to pay off. The extra air Geoff had been pushing was taking a toll. I was finally able to catch and come around him. In that instant I went from predator to pray. Now, instead of trying to catch him, I was running scared he’d catch me.
My legs were screaming, I ignored them, I attacked the final two climbs out of the saddle. I kept the pressure on as best I could. On the flats and descents I just tried not to back off. The tailwind felt great on the final stretch, but I was clearly fading, my breathing had elevated to gasping, I was on my edge.
Woooosh, I called out number “9” as I crossed the line. Immediately sitting up, my breathing now graduated to panic gulps. I coasted, my vision blurred from the effort, until I’d regained enough control to turn around and slowly pedal back to the start.
Hey David! What was my time?
Monday, March 9, 2009
After the Merco Crit last weekend I was ready and raring to go race the Menlo Park Crit this last Sunday. I showed up a little after 12 and was able to run into Amy after her Cat 1/2/3 race and get a insight on the layout of the course. After my warm-up we were given a free lap before positioning ourselves at the start line. I had a sweet spot in the front, but after about 10 minutes of standing there we were told our race was going to be delayed since there was a crash with the Men's Cat 1/2/3 race just before. They were still in the process of clearing the course so we ended up promenading around for a good 15 minutes before we lined up again. There was little complaining, but I know everyone was antsy to start and screaming in their heads "LET'S GO ALREADY!"
Once the whistle did go we were all under the impression that our race was going to be cut short to 30 minutes. Most girls were going all out right from the get-go and setting up their positions to attack on the straightaway on the finish line. I settled into my typical 5-10 person back position and fought to keep my place. The primes were nice and hefty, some were $50 which I've never heard of for a Women's Cat4 race before! I only sprinted for one, but found 2 girls come screaming up from behind me to dash my hopes for a post race box of girl scout cookies.
There were no breakaways during the race, and any girl that did end up at the front would eventually soft-pedal back into the pack. The group of 4's this year are much less aggressive during the race than the girls from last year. This group tends to wait until the end to lay the hammer down.
On the final lap, things got sketchy with the pack. I almost got pushed into the outside gutter on Turn 1 after a girl cut in on my inside and forced me to take a strange line, and there was a crash shortly after that. I don't know if anyone was hurt but it sure sounded like someone did! Along the backside of the course I was finding it hard to keep my position since I was stuck behind a few girls and everyone was coming up along the sides. (Note to self, on the last lap, stay in a defensive position) A small gap in front opened up right after the last turn, and I shot myself out only to find that a group of 5 girls had taken off the front. Meanwhile, the pack just seemed to slow down and let them go for it. "Hell no, they're not getting away!" I thought. I shifted down into my largest gear and ended up finding my legs spinning and the group of 5 coming closer into view. I was hoping to pass at least one of them, but sprinted across the finish line 6th overall and 5th in the Women's Cat 4. I was pretty excited to find out that I would finally be on a podium, and I actually won prize money! $35!
All in all I had a fun, safe race with some great girls. I'm half-way to moving into the land of the Cat 3's, though I would like to outright win a race before I get there. Just to feel victory!
Next stop San Dimas Stage race...
Team Bicycle Trip had a record 5 riders entered in the 45+ and 55+ combined Masters field at the Tri-Flow Menlo Park Grand Prix. This was my fourth visit to this criterium. This year it featured a new, longer 1.7-mile version of the race course with 6 turns, almost making it a circuit race (but no hills). I felt that the sharp left-right "chicane" would help string out the peloton and make the race safer than previous years. That seems to have been true as only one guy went down in our race, and that was simply due to him clipping his own pedal into the pavement in the last turn.
Like usual I tucked into the middle of the huge pack and bided my time, while keeping an eye on developments. I must say that the hard workouts we have been doing make that task much easier; it's hard to think when you're suffering, but now I can ride smoothly while looking around and sizing things up. Our average speed was about 26 MPH. I saw some brief attempts to form breaks, but none stuck. I could see Russ and Jim near the front responding well to them, and thus I concluded that no breaks were likely to form after all. I thought the new course would have made breaks easier, but perhaps the high speed prevented that. In the past I've raced mid-day, and those stronger winds may have encouraged breaks, while this time our chilly 9:55AM race was in nearly perfect calm.
With 6 laps to go they announced a 2-place "prime" lap to liven things up. I noticed VOS's leadout guy signal to his sprinter and I followed them up the left side on the long straight. Soon another team joined them, SJBC I think, and I was 5th wheel as we approached the line. I jumped nicely on their left, looked over to my right as I passed them, and saw a SJBC sprinter pass on their right. I looked him in the eye... he blinked first and I crossed the line way ahead of everybody (winning two boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints for Margaret!). Primes are a lot of fun and great sprint practice.
Now I sat up and let the peloton catch me. My intent was to recover in the pack near the front and be ready for the final sprint. What actually happened was that I ended up in the river of riders in the middle who drift to the back of the pack as others ride up on the sides... it's OK to drop back a bit, but I let myself drift too far back.
With 2 laps remaining I was desparately trying to get back to the front. This turned out to be much harder than I anticipated, as the wide course was totally blocked by riders veering across its full width, but not moving up. I was nearly pushed into the left curb by a SJBC rider who himself was pinched by a guy to his right. After hitting the brakes to save my skin, and my brand-new bike, I had to jump hard just to grab the very back of the peloton... now I had less than 2 laps to work my way through the nervous 90-rider field!
The others all agreed that the pack was fidgety, and all of us had stories of riders taking crazy chances for no real gain. I kept moving ahead, often backing off to avoid slower riders and guys just veering around, and was nearly hit by the guy who crashed. But I was dismayed to be so far back with the finish line in sight so I pretty much just cruised in at 28th (35th in the combined field). Oh well.
At least Jim got a well-earned 2nd in the 55+ group (26th in the combined field)... but only after correcting this with the officials. Wow! Vlada got 20th, Russ 23rd, and Larry was right in there somewhere too, in his first race back after breaking his hip!
I didn't learn anything I haven't learned before, so for me the lesson learned is just to execute better on my intended strategy. I felt great and will be back at it soon enough!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The Invisible Man Strikes Again!
By Jim Langley
After surviving three training crits and almost nabbing a podium pie at a fast and slippery (rainy) Cherry Pie Criterium a few weeks back, I thought I was ready for anything, but the Menlo Park Criterium turned into one nerve-wracking e-ticket ride - and not just the racing. My best guess as to why the day got so dangerous is that the nearly 1/2-mile finishing straightaway into a headwind caused a lot of guys in the 80-strong pack to ride safe most of the race waiting to use all their saved energy on the last couple of laps to move up and maybe place or even win.
Of course, this tactic didn't sit very well with the guys who had been at the front all race doing the heavy lifting. This included myself and Russ, with Vladan and Dennis close by and Larry riding strong just back from his broken hip (way to go, Larry!).
Roller Derby, Anyone?
With six turns to negotiate, all on the backside of the course, as the laps clicked by and the boys biding their time in back started getting restless, the Menlo Park Grand Prix became the Menlo Park Demolition Derby. We were bumping bars, throwing elbows, snaking across the road, making dumb-ass moves and even swearing at each other like we were back in high school gym class.
In one of the corners I twice went through leaned over so far, and working so hard to hold the wheel in front that I clipped my pedal. I don't think I've hit a pedal in a corner since I first got into racing and was too young and stupid to know better. But, a lot of the guys were hitting them. And the one crash, which came in that same corner was because the guy hit his pedal, lifting his rear wheel and dumping him on his side, almost taking out Dennis.
Hitting my pedal surprised me, but I ride Look Keo Carbons, not metal pedals, so it was a feeling more than a sound. And, in a strange way it almost felt good because it built my confidence that I could be as crazy as anyone out there and stay vertical and not give up my position no matter how they tried to scare me with their antics.
Also, I had max'd my heart, legs and lungs to stay toward the front all race and I was determined to stick up there all the way to the finish. Every time there was a chance to move up, I took it, sometimes catching free rides behind passing racers, other times going out into the wind to pass when the guys slowed. At one point, I even found myself 4th wheel across the line on a prime lap.
I was hoping this ABMU riding (Always Be Moving Up) would keep me ahead of the other 55s when we came out of the last corner. That way I thought I could use my solid power to motor and, even if they had a better sprint (by "they," I mean Brian Fessenden and the Bobka guy that beat me at Cherry Pie), they wouldn't catch me.
On the last lap things got especially scary in the final corner, everyone trying to thread the needle through impossible gaps to set up their sprint. There were a bunch of fast 45+ guys that shot past and really quickly I went from about tenth to probably thirty fifth place. I knew that nobody could sprint that entire 1/2 mile to the line, so I focused on powering the pedals hard, while holding back just a bit, and trying to find the right wheel to follow at just the right time to setup my sprint. I also desperately looked for the numbers of the 55+ guys I was trying to mark, yet the only person I recognized was Russ, who was ahead and to the left.
But, just then, Vladan came by. 'Perfect,' I thought, and I hollered that I was on his wheel. He towed me up to higher speed and we started gaining ground big time and passing guys who were running out of gas. Vladan then found a gap and accelerated hard to the left. I moved to follow but realized just in time that there was a rider right there, so I punched it as hard as I could straight ahead, narrowly avoided a couple of exhausted guys who sprinted too early and then sat up and almost stopped me, and I had a good, solid lunge to the line.
Mac Carey Gets Me Again
As I crossed the line, I looked over and saw Team Taleo's neon green and recognized Mac Carey, another 55+er, and the only guy who beat me at San Bruno. I couldn't actually tell if he had taken me or vice-versa, but it seemed to me it had to have been very close. And, either way, finishing near Mac was a good sign of a solid finish.
I found Dennis, who was pretty sure he had won a prime, and we went over to my car since we'd driven up together. We changed clothes, ate something and headed for the podium to check the results. Our timing was perfect, as they were calling the guys up. We knew we didn't put anyone on the 45+ podium but we were pretty sure I made the top 5, and I had my Bike Trip jacket on and was ready to get up there.
I Become The Invisible Man - Again
Our happy anticipation was soon dashed as we watched them call five guys up, including the winner Mac Carey! I couldn't believe it. How could I finish right next to the guy and not make the podium?! Dennis and I checked the results sheet, and immediately found the problem. Once again (this happened at Cherry Pie, too), they had me as a DNF (Did Not Finish). They DID have a no-name rider in 26th place, and that rider finished with Mac Carey, but once again they hadn't gotten my number and so didn't have me in the results.
Frustrated and feeling cheated, I jogged down to the finish line to talk to the chief ref and found out that they had already figured out that I was second in the race. And, they had already fixed the results too. But, when they had done the podium awards they did them with the earlier and incorrect results. [Important note to self: next race you will hang around at the finish line and make sure your name is on the results before you do anything else!]
So, the bad news is that I didn't get any goodies for all my hard work to ride at the front, and for surviving all the sketchy riding. And, though I came close to winning and did better than at Cherry Pie, I still didn't win. Plus, the results snafu also means I didn't get the Bicycle Trip onto the podium.
Ultimately, though, the results will show that a Bike Tripper took second in the 55+ - and the guys who thought they got 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th will unfortunately realize that the Invisible Man has struck again.
PS: Big thanks to Vladan and Russ for helping me finish so strong, and a pat on the back to Dennis for his prime win and to Larry for his super-strong comeback effort!