Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sugar CRM Mt. Hamilton RR (2nd) & Criterium (2nd)

Another fun, educational weekend of racing in the bag. I want to sincerely thank Bob and Gary for allowing me to tag along and ride to the race with them. The best part of either race was getting to hang out and enjoy some good laughs with these two teammates. This definitely helped ease the pain of having to roll out of bed so early.
Regretfully, my race started at Isabella Creek so I didn't get to do the climb up to the observatories (booo! Perhaps it's a bit pretentious that I find these grossly abbreviated cat 5 race courses a bit insulting but, c'mon, a brotha just wants an opportunity to throw down!) So my race began with a short neutral rollout up a short but steep hill that had some of the guys in my race breathing hard but since we were all brought to a complete stop by an official after this short hill and regrouped this gave people a chance to get a quick rest. After this it was pretty rolly for the next 10 miles or so which kept about 30 of us together. When we came to the bottom of the one climb of any significance I went straight to the front and set the tempo up the entire climb shelling all but 6 of us. When we began the descent our small group was confronted by an icy headwind that kept our speed around 25mph despite the downhill grade. As we neared the bottom of the hill on Mines Rd and it flattened out I began to position myself for a sprint finish by staying on the wheel of the guy who outsprinted me at Panoche last weekend. As we hit the bottom of the last little rise in the road just before the tents and podium set up 5 or 600 meters away I kept looking for a sign indicating how many meters to the finish, but there was nothing, and there was also not a single banner or sign indicating where the finish line was when all of a sudden there was a little strip of white athletic tape in the road 10 feet in front of me at the top of the little rise in the road. So that was the finish. It was weird, both the guy in front of me and I kept riding hard for a few seconds and then as we approached the podium tents and didn't see anything resembling a finish line banner, we both just slowed and sort of looked at each other like, "dude, was that the finish!?". As I pulled in to where the tents were at the podium I noticed a guy pull up quickly in his station wagon and unload some big white banners framed with PVC pipe which read things such as, 300m to go, 200m to go, 100m to go, and FINISH. Of course these banners were promptly set up without so much as an apology to us racers who had already finished. I suppose I should feel fortunate to get 2nd place, I just as easily could have missed the podium altogether by sitting back and waiting until I had visual confirmation as to where the finish line actually was. Going back and reading this I realize how whiny it sounds, but damn, where's the respect? I can just imagine what the pro 1,2 racers would have had to say about something like this if it had happened to them.
After the race Bob generously offered to drop me off in Morgan Hill at my friend's place where I crashed out that night and got up the next day at 5:30 for my 7am start. This race was pretty straight forward. A field of 50 or so racers, a 4 square block course on nice pavement, no crashes. I stayed near the front for the short 30 minute race and sprinted in for 2nd place. Up next, Pescadero RR. Cheers, Thad

Monday, May 25, 2009

SugarCRM Memorial Day Criterium

When I registered for 45+ 3/4 for this crit, I did not realize that my race was combined with 35+ 3/4. Although I do like to race with 35+ 4, racing with 35+ 3 made me feel bit uncomfortable because I have never done it before. Instead of fierce pace, the problem was - crashes. There were five that I heard or saw, way too many for a simple, flat course with four 90-degree turns and excellent pavement. Total of 77 racers started the race, 64 finished. The average speed was 26 mph, certainly not result of a steady pace. None of several attacks survived more than half a lap, thanks to the wind and some strong teams. There were two crashes in the last lap, one after another, right before and inside 4th corner to go. I had to break to avoid last crash but managed to catch tail of the lead group of approx. 25 that opened a small gap after the crash. I was still breathing hard from that effort when another attack started with 600-700m to go. My chance to recover just a little bit before the sprint went bye-bye, you could hear me cursing something nasty that no one could understand. The attack was neutralized and I used few seconds of confusion to move up before the last corner and final sprint. I was around 14-15th position in the last corner, passed few guys in the sprint and ended up 9th overall. Results were split by category and that brought me 3rd place in 45+. Too bad they did not split results further to 3 vs. 4, I would have ended up even higher :)


Mt. Hamilton 45-plus Category 1-2-3-4

By Geoff Drake

Well, I think the idea of the blog is to relate our successes as well as our missteps. This may fall into the latter category.

Late last year I’d had a very good race to the top of Mt. Hamilton. I really like the climb, so acting impetuously, with one week to go, I signed up for the full Monty: the 62-mile, 45-plus, Category 1-2-3-4 race.

At the start, the lead official summarily decided to lump us in with the 35-plus 1-2-3 riders, apparently due to a shortage of support motorcycles. Suddenly, we were toeing the line with Chris Phipps and company. Jon Ornstil tried to stage a minor insurrection and have us all wait behind for five minutes and race among ourselves. But this would require absolute unanimity, and there were a few prominent dissenters, most notably Rob Anderson. So that initiative went down in flames, and we were off and hammering up the first climb from Alum Rock at terminal velocities in the company of the young mutants.

Anderson had good reason to resist our little political movement. Halfway up that climb, he escaped with three or so 35-plus guys, none of whom were ever seen again.

The rest of us settled into our own rhythm. I felt really good, riding in the top 10-15 with Ornstil, Caldwell, Elsbach and the usual antagonists. We crested the first climb, flew across the valley floor, and headed up the next two climbs. I still felt very good. But with about a mile to the top, the pace seemed a bit much, and I decided to ride my own rhythm. I went over the top with six or so others, about one minute behind the main group, but I wasn’t too concerned.

The descent was awesome. I felt smooth and in control, even over the hairy mid-apex cattle guards. Once at the bottom, I exhorted my companions to get into a smooth paceline. It was fun, we were flying!

I’ve never done Mines Road before. Silly me, I thought it was just big-gear rollers. But after the last feed, we went up a rather long switchback climb. This is where the problems began. Over the last month, I’ve had serious leg cramp issues, most notably at Wente (just ask Russ, who saw me in a state of mad contortion at the roadside). I’ve also been waking up with foot cramps, so something seems to be awry.

I could feel my quads and hamstrings beginning to knot, and I fell off the pace of our chasing group. After what seemed a VERY long time, a group with Larry Nolan caught me. I rode with them for a while, even pulling through, but when we hit the next climb, the cramps set in again. After what seemed another VERY long time, a group with John Novitsky caught me. Again, I had to let them go.

At this point I just decided it was a beautiful day, on a beautiful road, and I’d just ride it on in. Thankfully, Clark Foy gave me a ride back to the start in his Land Rover, or I’d be out there still.

Any magic bullets for leg cramps? I’m listening!

Bicycle Trip sends two racers to Masters Road National Championships in Kentucky

Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec is sending two of its top bicycle racers to the Masters Road National Championship races in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28 through July 4. They will compete against the top riders in the USA attempting to win a gold, silver or bronze medal for Bicycle Trip/Symantec and their hometown of Santa Cruz.

Mark Edwards (49, Santa Cruz), who is also Bicycle Trip’s team coach, and Jim Langley(56, Santa Cruz), will participate in the road race and individual time trial. Jim is a longtime bicycle mechanic, cycling author and former Bicycling Magazine tech editor. Masters age categories are in five-year increments, and Mark will race with the 45-49 men while Jim will race with the 55-59 group. Mark works as an Associate Distribution Engineer at PG&E, while Jim is the content director for SmartEtailing.com.
Both racers have been training for several years for this opportunity and are enjoying stellar seasons. Mark excels in hillier road races, and this year has stood on the top podium step of the Early Bird, Orosi, Copperopolis, and Berkeley Hills Road Races.
Jim has also had impressive results, taking first in the Madera Stage Race, and standing on the podium in the San Bruno Hill Climb, the Cherry Pie Criterium, the Orosi Road Race, and the Sea Otter Classic Circuit Race.
Independent and locally owned, the Bicycle Trip has enjoyed providing quality sales and service in Santa Cruz County for nearly 35 years. Open 7 days a week: Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 10-5, 1001 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Phone: 831-427-2580.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mt Hamilton Masters 45+ 3/4 (Isabella Creek)

I felt like this could be a good race for me. I did it last year and the course from Isabella Creek offers a lot that caters to my strengths. On the down side, I had to get up at 3 am to make the rendezvous with Gary & Thad. At least the drive over was painless. We dropped Gary’s van at the finish line and headed off to drive the course backwards. Took about an hour to get to the start line. This year we were plenty early and had time for an ample warm-up.
My race was to go off first, and we were told on the start line that the first climb would be neutral. I still don’t really understand the reason for this, but off we went. After the first climb and descent, the moto-ref had us come to a full halt to regroup. He then restarted us, and we were off again, this time for real.
I was really looking forward to this race because so many of my teammates have been telling me how nice it was going to be to race with guys who know how to ride. Although I remain glad that I have upgraded, I am sorry to report that a significant number of squirrels continue to ride in the cat 3 / 4 masters from Isabella Creek. In the first 2 to 5 minutes after we were restarted, we crossed a cattle grate (the first of several on the course). Immediately after clearing the grate, I saw that the rider whose wheel I was on was having difficulty maintaining his balance. I had flashes of the Madera Stage Race Criterium and took evasive action towards the inside. The poor guy went down in a pretty hard slide, but fortunately, everyone else was able to get by without mishap. I had to think more than once about whether I was being sent a message. I decided not and rode on. It turned out that the fallen rider got up and finished the race, but he was pretty bloody still, when I saw him. I was surprised to hear that he thought he had crossed wheels with someone. Neither I, nor any of the several riders who observed his fall, saw any sign that he was affected by anything other than the cattle guard.
As we continued on, our group was much larger and more together than my race last year. I did not consider this to be a good thing, as the road was very narrow here and there were too many riders vying for position. I think that last years uphill start helped break the group up from the get go. It was during this period that I found myself riding at the same pace as a guy who was with me the whole race. The only problem with this guy was that he did not know how to get on a wheel. Instead, he rode constantly with his wheel crossed between the two riders in front of him. While not only dangerous, this made it particularly hard to stay on the wheel that he was crossing. Unfortunately, I could not afford the energy to move up and I could not afford the gap to move back. I decided to just watch this guy and try to move up when I could; but this guy was one I was never able to drop.
About the time I had gotten these two things figured out, two Wells Fargo riders up ahead got tangled, and one went down. People were yelling and not paying attention, and I voiced my opinion that we should all settle down and watch where we were going. People seemed to try and settle and pretty soon the racing began.
I was determined to do my best on the climbing sections and I found that I was able to do pretty well for the most part. I was hanging on to the lead group as we ground our way uphill, but found myself coming off in the last ½ mile or so. When I went over the top, the moto-ref told me that I was a minute thirty behind. There were a couple of guys ahead of me on the descent, but I caught them shortly after we reached the flats. One more caught on from behind and we did what we could to bring in the leaders. I don’t think we did a very good job of working together, and we fell further behind. As we raced on, a couple more riders caught us and one of our four was dropped. I think we caught and passed a few more riders on our way to the finish, but I failed to position myself well for the final descent. The wheel crossing rider was in front of me and one of the strong riders who had caught our group was going off the front. It turned out the wheel crosser didn’t much care for descending and let them get too big a gap. I finally got around him and started trying to make up the gap. The strong man had caught another dropped rider and was working with him towards the finish. Try as we might, we couldn’t bring them back. I was able to out sprint the two guys with me at the line. 13th place. This race was encouraging for me!
Congratulations to Thad for 2nd in the Elite 5 race!, and to Gary for his 11th place finish in the masters 55+. We saw Geoff Drake and Matt Wocasek racing towards the finish, on our way back to the start line, but we don’t know how they finished. Hopefully well!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Panoche 09 "Race to HELL and back"

Steve Heaton M35+ 123

Two months ago I dislocated my should chipping the bone around my socket area, ripped, stretched and tore other stuff. surface pain is gone and what's now left is a stiff and limited moving shoulder/arm. However I can ride a bike and feel like I have control over my actions so I decided to race. All I wanted to do was not get dropped and if so at least on the way back not before (you know it's a mental thing).

The pace was smooth tempo - 35mins into it I felt like crap, but once I added my warm up time to it I always feel like crap 50-55mins of riding as this is the turning point to being ready to get it on. Once I sensed the climb was coming I moved into position! Yes about 5 back ready for action. I had no problem holding my position once the pace picked up and my confidence was rising with the climb. At feed I picked a bottle and notice I have already finish 2 big bottles of fluid (these were frozen bottles that melted within 40mins) pulled my third frozen bottle out of back pocket that kept me a bit cool and my gels as well. Anyway, once on flats around mile 25 into it I went to the front to find my groove when all the sudden I started to feel a twinge.......I looked at my arm and it was dry? Shizt I'm starting to cramp - I can't let anyone see my weakness. I dropped back and WHAM full blown leg lock (I dropped myself) and I'm fading back. I can't believe 1:15mins into the race feeling great and I'm having a major cramp? Now I'm super pissed (pack is now 40m out) and I sprint back on recover make the left turn that goes flat for a couple of miles then a short punchy climb up and over to turn around. All the sudden a slowing of the pace, I look up and the break has gone and the selection is made with all 3 teams represented. FUuuc I have to go if I want a chance at it. I sprint from the back bringing 1 guy with me, we rotate for a few minutes within 10m from break WHAM cramp is back (I yelled to the guy behind me to jump I'm cramping) he makes it and when I looked back we had a monster of a gap so one again I sprinted back on to the break only to get asked for some help in pulling....(I'm thinking RIGHT I'm hanging on working out my cramping issue) then a few minutes later as we approached the climb 2 guys are talking? Shizt they are going to attack.........Yeeep (bye bye). Now I'm the chase in "no mans land" I held the pedal to the metal in hopes of making it back over after the turn around before the group behind so I would have someone to hide behind on the way back. On the return climb I get passed by 2 sets of 2 riders but I was getting it together a bit and was able to keep them within 50m and thought if I can hold this to the top I could attempt another one of my HAIL MARY sprints to catch back on to the new chase group and Walllaaa - baby I'm back! now on the flats for a little recovery riding( so I thought). Only we had 3 guys out of 6 that had team representation in the break of 4 ahead so they did nothing but mess up the pace causing me to feel obligated to do my share of the work only to get dropped by tactics I know better than to let happen but feeling a bit limited I wilted as I ran out sprints for the moment (31miles to finish). I held 23-24mph for a few miles holding the gap at around 200m only to have them pull away going into the climb back. I turned around and the pack was waaay back. I decided to put my Mtn biking TT skills to work and charge on in hopes of picking off blown riders. That I did!

I ran out of water with 2miles to top of climb (bottle feed) and started to slow. I can't believe how hot it is! Like - 4 peckered billy goat in heat on a south facing rocky cliff in August. At one point I had 2 flies buzzzzing my face~~~I'm going to slow so I picked it up a bit only to feel the sensation of being in a sauna with someone pulling a wool blanket over me. My feet felt like I fell a sleep by a camp fire with them in the fire pit. I wanted to stop so bad but what would I do? stand in the hot sun on the side of the road looking like a jackass sizzling in the 100deg+ sun. Once I reached the feel and got water I started to get it together. 20 miles to go then 13 to go I ran out of water and was suffering in the head wind. I looked back 1/2 mile and 2 guys are coming that I dropped earlier. I sat up fully recovered in case they wanted to attack me. I was offered a wheel and off we went. 10miles to go one of the guys accelerates on a rise and drops the other guy. I'm thinking all I want to do is get this over with and he wants to play. I made him pull all the climbs so I could have the juice to hold on if he gets any ideas. Then I was fantasizing of cars pulling up to me and handing me water bottles but none of them did and it was starting to frustrate me? I thought of asking the guy I was with for water but I hadn't seen him take a drink the whole time? when i would drop my head from being so tired and delirious I would see my empty bottles and had to toss then in frustration of them reminding me of being out of water for a long time ended up being a total of hour without water. 2k to finish and now this guy isn't going to pull through for anything. I noticed he ain't no sprinter! All I need to do is get within 100m and I can take him from the front head wind and all (I'm a sprinter and a sprinter always has a jump) Guess what? I jumped - he dropped anchor and was able to sit up show my number and blast off the the car to dive into my ice chest. 8th according to the pre-results haven't seen final.

Let's recap the high lights!

Almost 40miles to finish I started a series of cramps, made the break, became the chase all while getting dropped 5 times having to sprint, climb, attack and TT all the way back chasing the chase and break away. Flies hoovering around my face, ran out of water, got a great tan, paid my dues, feeling like a took a few years off my life. 3:22mins of pure hot pleasure I hope I never experience again. Overall I'm glad I did it and my shoulder feels fine. Pescadero here I come!

Kingsbury Grade Time Trial

Kingsbury Grade TT
May 17, 2009
Gary Griffin

While we in California suffer with races that fill up in two hours and have traffic jams in the parking lots, there is the other State in the NCNCA, Nevada, which has a more relaxed atmosphere. Relaxed also means that results may or may not be posted; only one of the four races from last year had results and they were for the wrong race (either that or half the field was climbing 5000 ft per hour). Of course I didn’t travel 280 miles to a race just because it was layback and I would never have to worry about how low in the field I finished, I entered the race because my brother lives in Carson City, is a member of Alta Alpina, and was entered in the race. This was a chance to visit my brother, meet the people he rides with, and ride the roads he is always braggin about.
The race was a time trial up the renowned Kingsbury Grade, a 7.9 mile course which climbs 2550 feet to the top of Daggett pass at 7344 feet. This was one of four NCNCA sanctioned hill climbs which Alta Alpina and Reno Wheelmen put on each year.
There was no preregistration so my brother, Alan, and I got to the start area early in order to beat the high temperatures which were forecast for later in the day. While waiting for the race to start I was surprised by the last thing I expected to see there, which was another Bicycle Trip kit, but there was indeed a guy in one of the old, green jerseys. We chatted for a while but I am ashamed to say that his name slipped out of my 55+ memory banks during the race. He raced for Bike Trip several years ago and now lives in South Lake Tahoe where he does mainly cyclocross – maybe someone knows him?
Despite the early 10:05 start time the temperature was already in the mid nineties and it was rising fast. And then there was the altitude; even though the first half mile was almost flat, I was already breathing hard and my heart rate was up to 165, already above my L4 level of 157. I hadn’t thought too much about the altitude because I had done some high altitude rides the year before and didn’t seem to be affected much, but that was at a touring pace; kick it up to race pace and altitude, I found, is a major factor. Although I kept my heart rate near 160 the rest of the way up, my power output was 15% lower than it would have been on a hill of similar length in the Bay Area. The thin air sure didn’t seem to affect the locals though; I had only been riding about five minutes when the first red and blue Reno Wheelmen jersey zipped by. Since this was an open category event, being passed didn’t bother me too much especially since I did a little passing myself, but when I was still about ten minutes from the top, I was passed by someone in an Alta Alpina jersey going at an unfathomable speed – these guys sure can climb.
The route was really spectacular with a panoramic view of the desert which extended to the horizon on the right and to the High Sierra peaks on the left. The road was impeccably smooth with a four foot shoulder for all but a short section near the top. I was near my limit when the finish came into view, but Alan’s wife and three girls had come out to cheer us on so, with the roar of four pairs of Livestrong thunder sticks in my ears, I managed a 100 yard, 400 watt kick at the end. I never waited to get my official time, I would have been lucky to finish mid-field, but I was 51:50 on my own clock. That was an abysmal seven minutes slower than I had expected, the altitude and heat having taken their toll. My brother cut two minutes off his time from the previous year but he was disappointed because he was several minutes off his best time. I heard from a couple of riders that the course record of 35:01 had been smashed by three minutes so at least one rider didn’t mind the heat and lack of oxygen.
After the race, while I was trying to re-inflate my lungs I was able to meet some of the other riders. I was surprised that Bicycle Trip was well known and the locals liked to throw out Jim Langley’s name. It seems that his win at Madera gained him a lot of respect – well deserved of course, but being noticed by these guys, who think nothing of knocking off a couple of High Sierra passes after work, is quite a compliment.
After the race Alan suggested we ride the Diamond Valley Road Race course which was only a ten mile ride from the bottom of Kingsbury. In spite of the triple digit temperatures I liked the course so much that I think I will come back in July to the Masters Road Race Championship and have my tail handed to me one more time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Michele Heaton - Brisbane, Wente, Panoche RR

Best part of racing so far...racing with team mates! Here's a brief re-cap of my 3 races so far this year.
Brisbane. Cat. 4 with Kimi. She was awesome..taking control of the descent each lap and moving both of us forward safely into good position. My favorite move was when she went right to the front and set everyone up for good cornering (something our category needs work on). It set the stage for the rest of the race. My role was to come around and block wind for her on the hills. I worked on staying top 5-10 or so wheels. Last lap 3rd wheel behind 2 Sugar CRM team mates. I launched early as I am not a sprinter. Thought for a moment I was by myself but overtaken at the line by a savvy sprinter! Fun race.

Wente. Cat. 4 No team mates. I knew this would be a tough race for me as I am not a pure climber. My goal was to stay with the leaders, chase after the climb to catch if necessary, and if not try to form a group to work together. Turns out my estimation of myself was pretty close. In a full field the selection was down to 11 after the first climb. Note to myself...NEVER be so far back at the beginning of a climb. I was marking the woman (who ended up winning) and she was sitting at the back. It took a lot of energy to dodge all of the popping riders which was a waste.
After getting dropped towards the top of the climb I was able to chase back on when we started descending. Dropped again on the next climb. A woman named Kameo caught me and we worked together well. She was very smooth and really strong on the flats and descents. Then we picked up two young women that had been dropped from the leaders. After they sat on our wheels for many miles I very grouchily yelled..ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO WORK OR WHAT! Turns out they were happy to but didn't know how and were trying to stay out of our way. Both first time racers. After we realized this both Kameo and I gave them a quick lesson in pace lining. After approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes of working pretty well together (with no lead group in site) low and behold there were the leaders! I counted all 8 were together (our group had passed 1 dropped rider). They were clearly easing up as they approached the final climb. One of the women in our group gave a great pull and I gave the final one to catch them right before the climb to the finish. Incredibly gratifying to catch them with our "motley crew!" These women had become my sisters! I was dead from my final pull and my legs were dead as doornails on the final climb but I was happy with my 10th place finish within seconds of the winner. Kameo was able to pull off 5th or 6th. One of my sisters crossed the line in front of me and threw up...the other right behind me. This lowest placing ever was my proudest race so far!

Panoche Cat 3/4 1st race with Amy. Best part. Racing with Amy!

Everyone out there knows the worst part...racing in an oven is not
fun! Small race is down to 5 after the climb at mile 11. I felt
comfortable on the climb and felt I could respond to anything. Amy,
being a crit. racer was not having a good time but she had made the
first selection. I got everyone to start working together and told Amy
to sit on my wheel and take very short pulls. When it was my pull I
would slow the pace. I knew if she could make the climb she would be
formidable on the way back. She did an incredible job and I had to
tell her after the race I think the "climbing thing" is all in her
head. I started to cramp and really suffer dehydration on the way back with about 18 miles to go. By now we were down to 3. Me, Amy and a Dolce Vita rider I had pegged at the start to be our toughest competition. All she had to do was hit one climb and I would have been toast. It served her well to be with both of us though as we were stuck doing most of the work. When my legs starting cramping I hand signaled to Amy. Me... no legs...you! With about 3 miles to go both Amy and Dolce quit coming around. I was committed for the final pull and lead out. After the race Amy admitted, yes, that was the slowest lead out she ever had. I tried my best and, quite frankly, was happy to have survived. Bonus, Amy 2nd and me 3rd. Am I saying this was fun
again? My coworkers think I am ill (with the exception of Datsa...who is married to Vlada!)

Laguna Seca Twilight Race

Wasn't sure what to expect with this. Had the week off and thought it would be different to ride on the track. They were not clear on the racing aspect of things so I figured I could at least do some short L5 intervals.

Track is open from 5:30 to 7:30. Entry is $10. I heard the organizers clapping because they had reached 100 riders.

Turns out there is a circuit race. 6 laps around the track. Lots of VOS riders and a number of groups from local Monterey area teams.

First time up the hill was nice and easy and had no trouble staying with the group. Going down the corkscrew was fast. A little sketchy with lots of movement but was able to stay with the group easily. Speed picked up but no problem staying on the wheels. Even closed a gap or two to stay with the front group.

Next time up the hill the pace was up. I went closer to the front before the steep part. Drifted back through on the climb. Worked hard but stayed within myself. Just off the back of the first group at the top. I figured no problem catching back on down the corkscrew and flats. Wrong!

Should have worked harder to stay with the group. Oh well. Worked hard and stayed close to the group for a lap or two, after that they must have ramped it up because I lost sight.

Picked off several riders. Hooked up with one guy and we worked through to the finish. Basically rode at threshold and then busted it up the hill. Never blew up and keep the watts steady on the hills. Here is the data.

Power-Tap #1:
Duration: 39:40
Work: 752 kJ
TSS: 80.4 (intensity factor 1.103)
Norm Power: 364
VI: 1.15
Distance: 13.381 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1020 316 watts

Good fun and worth the drive. They do this once per month through the Summer. I asked and they said they will continue with the circuit race format.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joseph Mendes - EBC Crit, M35+ cat4

Somebody had to post pics of Vladan's success...

Vladan on the podium

Vladan in action

Photography lifted from Team InfoVista here

Panoche Valley Road Race, 45+1/2/3

By Russ Cadwallader

One thing that should be understood is that I'm a roofer. I work in the valley. Heat was my friend until this race. It was super flippin' hot.

Started out with an attack off the line from Hunter Z. Attacks off and on all the way up by Jon O, Jan (the VOS attack team) and the Morgan Stanley crew. I stayed forward up the climb doing some work. Almost crashed when a Morgan Stanley rider had to swerve. I was overlapping his wheel, (a no no).

At the turn around I had dropped back. A very bad move, because there was a brake of 8 riders at the turn around. I rode up the double yellow yelling for people to work with me to close the gap but most of the riders up front were saying that they had someone in the break. However, I did recruit Mike Gadow (Tieni Duro). Both of us took some real hard long pulls. Brought the gap down to less than 50 seconds. Did have JD, a Morgan Stanley rider and fellow friend do some really good work as we headed towards the top.

Just before we got to the top, Jan from VOS went to bridge across the gap. I went with him, but half way out I was too toasted from the work I had done, so I fell back to the chase group. Mike & I were now pissed that no one would work. We really picked the tempo up and brought the chase group down to 10 or so.

The heat was really getting to us. When we got to the top water station we all grabbed water. Most of the bottles were only a quarter filled. This was the start of the real pain. Then a super nasty crash right in front of me. We were railing thru the sharpest turn on the down hill and Stefano Schiaffino didn't think he was going to make it and braked. He went sailing off the road at high speed, slid on gravel, rolled into and out of the drainage gutter and flipped into a bob-wire fence. He got hurt! After that we were down to 8.

Motor ref. kept riding up and telling me that the gap was 50 seconds. I was now in a dream state of mind. I looked over at Mike G and his face and jersey were covered in salt, kinda looked like frost. I said Mike, your face is covered in salt. He looked at me with a blank stare and said, Russ you face is covered in salt too. This was weird. Started feeling like I might stroke-out or something.

Finally on the flats at the bottom, others started to work. Every one of us was out of water with several miles to go. Mike and I were really blasted by the time we got to the finish. However, we both by some act of god dug down and sprinted. We took 3rd and 4th in the chase group sprint. Normally not good, but with all the work we did, I thought that was very cool. Eric Saltzman won the race. I ended up 12th.

As normal, anyone wearing a bike trip jersey raced well in this race. However, gotta say way to go to Amy & Michele, (2nd & 3rd). Knew you could do it Amy. Michele, I'm sorry, but you had an off day if you didn't win.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Panoche Valley RR Cat 5

HOT. I'd be lying if I said it was the most fun I've had on a bicycle but at least I was able to get another cat 5 start under my belt. A flat course without any hills to shed the weaker riders. Not wanting to go solo off the front in such sweltering conditions I attempted to instigate a break a few times but was unsuccessful so I just stayed in the large front group of 20 or so riders and positioned myself for a sprint finish. With about 2km to go my legs started cramping bad enough I had to ease off and stretch my legs to get the cramping to subside. With a couple hundred meters to go I followed the inevitable surge for the finish and came around a half dozen riders for second while remaining in the saddle fighting leg cramps and hoping I wouldn't pull a muscle. On the way back from the race the van I was in with Dave Borba and JD Gilford broke down in San Juan Batista. Many phone calls were made and time dragged as we attempted to figure out how we were going to get all of us and our bicycles home. The best part of my day turned out to be when I hopped on my bike and bucked a headwind for 45 miles alone back to Santa Cruz enjoying the increasing coolness of the Pacific Northwesterly wind blowing in my face the closer I got to home. That's a day of racin' I guess. This day caused me to recall something my old wrestling coach used to say after a grueling practice or when I would hobble off the mat after being bloodied in battle: Sometimes havin' fun just ain't fun, this ain't for the weak. Oye. Cheers, Thad

Monday, May 18, 2009

Panoche Valley Road Race M45+ 4/5

by Matt Werner

Had a good race. My focus was on staying with the lead group over the climb, and I accomplished that for the first time (small steps). Also focused on pack position and conserving energy. I followed wheels to move up, got lower on the bike when I felt the wind on me, and tried to use momentum to my advantage whenever possible. I also kept an eye on teammates Joe and Miles, and how they were positioning.

Made a tactical error at the neutral water feed. Heat was an issue, and my brain felt like it was about to ooze out my ear holes by the top of the climb. Decided to grab 2 water bottles, 1 for my belly, 1 for my head. My head appreciated this, but it meant I got gapped in the process. I put the hammer down in a do-or-die effort to regain. Then I heard a guy on my wheel telling me to close the gap. Sorry, but I'm not your mule. Stopped pedaling and twitched my elbow for the guy to come around. Two came around, and I used their draft, just barely, to get back on. The fast descent provided a welcome breeze, which combined with the water I had poured over my head, allowed my brain to shrink down to a containable size.

Coming into the finish we were 24 guys with no one getting away. I had heard Miles talking before the race about not wanting it to come down to a sprint, so I pulled alongside him and suggested that he get on my wheel, and at 1K to go I would try to launch him out of the pack. At 1K I went, Miles on my wheel. I went as smooth and ramped it up as hard as I could, but when Miles went by me the pack was pretty much right on him. I was gassed at that point and rolled in for 24th. Miles was top 5, Joe top 10.

When we got in Joe's car for the ride home it was 110F. Probably closer to 100F in the shade.

Congrats to Michele and Amy and Thad for podium placings in their respective races.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dear Bryan,

Thank you for encouraging me to enter the Panoche Road Race. Without your plea I would not have entered and would have missed the experience and life is often about new experiences. That's one of things that is great about being on a Team. Having said that, I will not be entering another non-Master's category again. I am an old and large man who does not belong with such a youthful group. My first clue was when Bob pointed out the college uniforms. The final straw was the discussion of the Prom last night! [not true but you get the point]. I am more comfortable with discussions of anti-inflammatories, degenerative arthritis, hip surgery recovery tips, and how I got my wife to agree to let me do this.

Dear Body,
I am going to need more watts and fewer kg's. There is a numerator and a denominator. It is very simple you increase the numerator and decrease the denominator. Having to generate close to 500 watts just to stay with the lead group on a relatively mild climb is not cutting-it.

Dear Feet,
wtf and omg. What was that! I have experienced pain in may parts of my body over the years. But never from you. The 2nd half of the race was a death-march with you guys giving me some agony like never before. We are going to have to do something about that! Perhaps the new shoes are not so great after all? Please let me know, we can't do that again.

Dear PowerTap,
I consider the truth to be personal core value no matter the consequences. I am going to make an exception for you. When climbing in races please reduce the display watts by 100. Perhaps I will believe I can actually keep going at that pace. I would also like more TSS points when I suffer so much; 174 points for 3 hours of suffering does not cut it. I do appreciate the 2184 KJ used though.

Dear Bob and Ed,
It was good to have teammates along. A shared experience is a powerful bond. I think we were able to help each other for the most part. Sorry about riding away on the return leg. Actually that's not true, I was hurting so bad I just needed to go my own pace and I really didn't care about anyone else. Maybe if you had fallen or something.... or had some water for me....

Dear Road racers,
I have great respect for your fitness and ability to suffer. Road racing is tedious and damn hard. No offense but give me a good Cyclocross or MTB race any day over that.

Dear Dave Gil and other promoter guy,
Great job. A very well run race. Guys like you are what make this country and this area so great. You have enriched my life in so many ways. I am extremely grateful for what you do. Same goes for the volunteers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Team Bicycle Trip Great Job Mark!   (and team)!  I raced yesterday as well...six weeks after my broken elbow..at the X-Terra at Lake Del Valle in Livermore. The weather was nice (around 80). Before the start I re-calculated my food, water, and sodium plan and decided that since it was slightly hot, it could become really hot. I strapped on the camelback, and took four thermolites, (two at a time) before the race. I also ate, and ate, and ate.
    As it turns out I was right and it did get hotter.
    I started way to the right of the group so that the odds of someone whacking my right elbow, and as the swim began the smosh of flailing arms was everywhere. I stayed outside the bunch, carefully eyeing the bouy in the distance. I kept it smooth, and sort of relaxed as I went way around the bouy and passed the group thrashing the water, and each other. After sorting out the mess, the group strung out. By keeping up my kick, rolling evenly, and pacing my breathing, I passed lots of people. Even with only one strong arm I was able to swim pretty well.
     Once out of the water, I jumped on my bike to assault the first of many steep, steep hills. I think that the bike course was the steepest, hardest bike leg of any X-Terra I have been in. Lots of people were walking the very steepest sections. It went on and on. Finally, I thought were almost done, only to be sent out on another loop! AUGH! Eventually, I sucame and had to walk the last portion of the steepest hill...(wish I were in better shape). The decents were just as steep, and of course took their toll on those who could not decend...lots of off-road rash.
    After the bike ride I entered the transition area and out on to the run...
    I was tri-ing to keep my heart rate below 160, and I must have been distracted by the 32 year old woman running just ahead of me because just after a creek crossing we went off course...way off course. Apparantly we were not the only ones off course. There was a group of campers that were MIS-DIRECTING  people on the run...So after about a 15-20 minute detour we made it back to the course. It was an ok run after that. I passed lots of people on the uphills and the downhills.
    I finished in 3 hours 44 minutes...way back from my competition....I feel ok about it...I should have paid more attention to the race markings...next time....I am just happy to have finished and I wasn't last...Kem

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Berkeley Hills Race Report (Elite 3)

By Nils Tikkanen

What a race! After a string of bad luck and a bit of foolishness at the Wente Road Race (dur, how many more laps do we have?), I finally snagged a top-10 and some upgrade points. Here's how it unfolded:

About 60 riders showed up for our 71-mile race, which would take us over the three bears four times. As usual, I was the only Team Bicycle Trip racer in my race. The climbs honestly aren't too intimidating (nothing longer than 1500m or steeper than 8%), but I knew most of the field would be tired by the final lap... and I would try to work the peloton a bit, while conserving a final match for the finishing climb up Papa Bear.

The first few laps were somewhat uneventful:
  • I kept the pace high over the crests of Mama and Papa Bear. No point in offering respite for the people struggling to stay on at the back.
  • Just to test the waters, I went into a break on the second lap and watched as we got reeled in almost instantly. It was clear that nothing would get away... for now.
  • Unfortunate timing on the second-to-last lap: We were passing a field of women on the left, and—get this—the juniors were finishing on the very right. Between the women and the feed zone. Talk about messy. The funniest thing I heard was an irate woman yell something about a lack of endowment amongst the juniors. That's all I'm gonna say about it.
  • Apologies to the rider behind me when I bunny-hopped the errant water bottle. I didn't have much room and given my position, it was the best option at the time.
Final lap. You can almost feel the change of mood as people brace themselves for attacking, covering attacks, and the final climb. Everyone is noticeably less fresh, including myself. On the long, flat section of San Pablo Dam, two men attack hard. I wait to evaluate the pack's response, and sure enough, several strong riders respond. I jump onto a wheel, head up the road, and find myself with 6 guys off the front chasing the original 2 down. We rotate through like butter and catch them in short notice, with a decent gap on the peloton. It's clear that none of us is 100% committed to staying away, but we would continue the rotating paceline and see if the pack (now about half its original size) would give hard chase.

We ended up getting reeled in by a very strung out, tired peloton on the hill on Castro Ranch. Satisfied with the results of the effort, I sat in and waited for the finish (and realizing that I wouldn't have the legs for a hard response to another attack _and_ a strong finish on Papa Bear). When the expected counter went off, I sat towards the front and did some tempo pulling to manage the gap. One exceptionally strong rider would remain off the front for the win, but both his companions were caught, one completely spent and spinning in his small ring.

On Mama Bear, I started to cramp. F**k! Now, I've learned that cramps can be willed away to some degree. I refused to let myself give in... I pushed through it to the top, drank the last of my water, and shook it out on the brief descent. Phew.

Papa Bear. This is it. I was sitting in and really suffering, but so was everyone else. There were some strong climbers putting in a sustained hard effort at the front, and I was watching things string out. God, my legs were so close to spent, but this was it, and dammit, I'm a sprinter, even on 7% grades. I calculated an early move and launched with about 800-600m (? about a minute's worth of effort?) to go. And almost to my disbelief, it worked. I was passing people who just couldn't respond. Soon there were only two riders ahead of me! Am I really going to place 4th? I check my right and see a single rider responding to my move. I struggled to hold him off, but I really had nothing left. He passes me at the very end, and I happily take 5th in one of the harder NCNCA road races.

We coast down the back stretch together and congratulate each other on the finish, which was one of the hardest I've done. And the topic of my obviously non-climber physique comes up. It went something like this:

Him: "So how much do you weigh?"
Me: "What? About 165"
Him: "Holy crap dude, I'm 145. You were putting out some ridiculous power on that climb."
Me: *feels smug and elated*

I'm still pretty ecstatic about the finish. I'll throw on some photos if they surface on the web. It turns out that a 5th place finish in a 50+ field is good for 5 upgrade points. Only 20 to go. :)

Berkeley Hills, post-mortem

I raced in this hilly road-race for the first time in 2007, and got dropped like usual back then. This year was very different for me. I was riding mainly in support of my Team Bicycle Trip teammates, and also used this race as an opportunity to learn from my power meter data.

Executive summary

The data I retrieved from my power meter after this race told me that these races aren't any harder than our team workouts. There are lots of brief power spikes, but lots of slower periods too that culminate in a lower workload than one might have expected. I crashed toward the end of the race (minor injuries only), but until that point I was staying near the front, even on the tough climbs that would have shelled me in the past, ready to chase down any threatening breaks.

Racing with a power meter

I have been using my PowerTap since last December, and it has been very helpful in helping me establish my "power profile." That has allowed me to better pace myself during hard climbs and such.

For instance, I already knew that the longest climbs at Berkeley were only about 2.5 to 4 minutes long, so I could then predict that I would be able to maintain at least my 5-minute power on them and even have some power in reserve. It turned out I needed that, because staying with these strong riders on the three big climbs, nicknamed "Mama Bear," Papa Bear" and "Baby Bear," pushed me to my limit... but, more importantly, not above it!

Another very nice aspect to knowing my power profile is that it kept me from overestimating my workload. Since I always seemed to get dropped in these long, hilly road-races in the past I was always nervous about pushing too hard and then getting dropped. Knowing where the line between working hard and working too hard lies gives me the confidence to know when I can push the pace or just "sit in" and try to conserve energy. My heart-rate monitor always painted a more bleak picture; it was always somewhat elevated in races, or maxed out, so I was always afraid I was just seconds away from "blowing up." Now I know better what I'm actually capable of, and the picture is always more reassuring when I use the power meter because the low Wattage numbers I often see remind me that it ain't all that bad.

I have also noticed an interesting discrepancy between how my heart-rate monitor and power meter calculate my calorie expenditures. In the past my heart-rate monitor would often report that I burned as much as 1,000 calories per hour in these races, while now I am seeing lower numbers from my power meter, more like 600 to 700 calories per hour... I'm still not sure why. Though much of that discrepancy might come from being a more efficient rider now, I also suspect that the heart-rate monitor does a better job of factoring in the energy burned from muscles other than the legs. Who knows.

So, in the end, racing with my power meter was very interesting and very helpful. I may start to use it in races more often.

The race as I saw it

OK, I can't help but add my own two-bits worth. The five of us on Team Bicycle Trip were arrayed against at least 12 riders from Morgan Stanley (with National and even World champions registered), 4 from VOS, 5 from Alto Velo/Webcor, and others. Since teammate Mark Edwards was the defending champion from last year, he wouldn't be able to sneak off unnoticed this time. So, outnumbered and "marked," we were definitely not in an easy spot. Yet we still somehow managed to pull off another spectacular win for Mark. How? By doing all those hard team workouts, and by being willing to sacrifice our own (hypothetical) placements, Mark could conserve energy for that final climb to the finish line after 54 miles of constant attacks from the others. We also had some potential winners with Geoff, Russ and Jim in the mix, so we didn't put all of our eggs in one basket.

I stayed near the front of the pack almost the entire race, on the watch for any attempts by other teams to initiate a break. Since we all knew that Mark would probably be the victor if he was in the lead group at the base of the final climb, we just had to make sure the lead pack stayed together, with him in it. The course does have some narrow, twisty sections that make it hard to see what's happening ahead and that can allow breaks to get away. But I saw Russ and Geoff at the front almost the entire race, so I stayed back just a bit behind them most of the time, moving up occasionally to maintain my place and conserve energy where possible. I am still one of the slower guys in anything but an all-out sprint, so I still have to be somewhat careful about overdoing it.

I did spot several attempts at breaks, one of them a solo rider, a few with two or three guys including Morgan Stanley and VOS, but none of these groups seemed to have much power and we quickly caught them all. I suspect that our team's strength also showed. I bet we prevented a lot of attacks simply by being there and looking strong as it's very unmotivating for the other teams when they can tell that we're all ready to go, even us sprinters!

With 46.69 miles behind me (out of 54), my race ended with a stupid crash. I thought it was from the pack veering to pass some riders dropped in the Women's race that started ahead of us, but apparently it was just due to some oxygen-starved rider in our pack who caused a ripple through the peloton that resulted in about five of us going down. I hit hard, but not too badly I guess, because all I suffered were some minor scrapes and my bike was almost untouched. Oops, forgot to mention my right knee; I could immediately tell that my race was over when I tried to stand up. It hurt and was really swollen just above the patella on the right side. I couldn't extend my leg or bend it. I'd have to pedal single-footed! I also worried that it might be like one of Bob's dangerous hematomas and I wanted to see the First Aid Nurse A.S.A.P.

Fortunately I got a ride back in the "SAG" wagon (thanks Darryl!) and was even able to watch my race finish, with Mark crossing the line, index-finger raised in victory! I whooped and hollered; How awesome to overcome all those hurdles and see him win again, and it made all our hard work worthwhile!

Today, the day after the race, I am happy to say that my knee is doing quite well and I will just be riding easy for a few days, icing the knee and taking ibuprofen, before getting back to the usual heavy lifting!

Berkeley RR 45+ 1/2/3 May 10, 2009

Notes From A Domestique
By Jim Langley

Mark's report wonderfully captures all that went on yesterdy. I just want to add a few thoughts since it was such a banner day for Team Bicycle Trip
  • it's a unique and awesome feeling racing on such a strong team (I usually race 55+ where we have only had at the most 3 riders) - you feel like you've got 4 guys watching your back the whole time and you don't want to let anyone down
  • it's also totally liberating not to be worried about your own chances in the race - to just be a domestique working for the team - you don't want to make mistakes but you can chase down attacks, burn energy to stay at the front and not worry much as long as you get the team strongmen to that last climb in good shape
  • speaking of that, it was a lot of fun going to the front on the last lap and just riding as hard as I could for a few miles trying to string out the field and give Mark, Geoff and Russ a free ride - no risk to me as I only wanted to get the team a win and it seemed a good tactic to force the pack to follow my pace and prevent anyone attacking our guys
  • sorry Dennis went down in the crash, which sounded really bad, but at least he wasn't hurt and his new Giant came through okay - it takes skill to crash "safely" and Dennis is an ace at this
  • It was inspiring to see Russ right at the front the whole race ready to pounce on anything rolling off the front; Geoff sitting in and looking super smooth, Dennis riding further forward and flattening the climbs like never before, and Mark letting us know how well we were doing. We really were a team out there.
  • Interesting stat: TBT took 1st and 7th (Mark and Geoff). First Morgan Stanley was Mark Caldwell at 11th.
  • Mark winning this major NorCal race 2 years in a row is quite a feat - I am really happy to have helped - but he did all the heavy lifting on that final climb - amazing racing, Mark! And Geoff and Russ flew up that last climb beating most of the best too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Berkeley Hills Road Race 45+ 1,2,3

By Mark Edwards

What a Team! Two weeks ago we got schooled by Morgan Stanley on how not to race. This week we were back, each of us had done our homework, we were ready to rumble.

Similar to Wente Vineyards road race, Morgan Stanley showed up with a serious show of fire power. In fact, on paper they were even more impressive for Berkeley. Two former professional cyclists and a multi time World Champion would be calling the shots for a team of 13 racers in a field of 60. Add to this the fact that Team Bicycle Trip was the defending champion, and it’s pretty easy to see that we’d be attracting some unwanted attention, the same type of attention that effectively shut us down at Wente.

Russ, Geoff, Dennis, Jim, and I had been exchanging emails all week; what could we do to offset Morgan Stanley’s advantage? We checked with anyone that would listen and came up with a strategy we hoped would be effective. Our pre-race tailboard oozed with enthusiasm and optimism, we might not win, but we sure weren’t going to hand the win to anyone today.

I don’t want to imply Morgan Stanley was our only concern. VOS, Wells Fargo, Webcore, Safeway, and a host of other teams all had super strong guys intent on winning. We’d hoped that, with Morgan Stanley’s various advantages, managing their threat would keep us well positioned for whatever surprises anyone else threw at the peloton.

This race is 2.7 laps of rolling terrain with several quad busting climbs. It’s a combination of high paced short climbs and numerous attacks that slowly eat away at your energy and strength. The first lap is typically fast, with nearly every attack answered immediately.

We were all on hyper alert. No one was going to walk away from us for an uncontested win today. All five of us stayed in close proximity to the front and carefully studied each attack. Dennis, Geoff, Jim, and Russ rode amazing races. The casual observer might have thought they were just sitting in, but in truth, they were ready to shut down anything dangerous. It was impressive watching them work. Every breakaway was evaluated. Not a threat? Leave them out there. A couple of strong teams represented? Wait… there goes some one! Catch a wheel… all back together. We only ended up having to chase a time or two. Perfect! We were playing this just right; it was likely all five of us would be together for the final lap. I liked those odds.

Son of a b**ch! What the hell was that? A rider near the front swerved erratically for no apparent reason. A wave of reaction rolled through the peloton. I heard a tire blow, and down went about 5 guys. The crash was behind me, I didn’t see it, but it turns out Dennis fell victim. Too banged up to continue (but not seriously injured – him or his bike) he hopped in the sag wagon and was stationed at the finish to cheer us in the final sprint.

The run up to the major climbs that mark the race finish is a rolling series of twists and turns. At this point, the group was tired, you could read it the body language, and hear it in the breathing. There was also a noticeable slowing of the pace, seems there was a consensus to take a little break before the dreaded uphill finish; a consensus that somehow didn’t get Jim’s vote.

Jim went to the front and dropped the hammer. It was beautiful to watch. Strung out in single file, guys strained to keep gaps from opening. It appeared Jim didn’t have any intention of letting the weary recover anything that might come back to bite us. After what seemed forever, Jim tired and pulled off. The peloton let out a sigh of relief. I’ve trained and raced many miles with Jim, I wasn’t so sure he was finished with the group. Sure enough… There he went again! Stretched to the point of breaking, it was obvious most of the 30 riders left wouldn’t present much of a threat on the final long climb to the finish.

Jim pulled off again, damage done, his amazing service to the Team greatly appreciated. He’d earned the respect of every aching body out there.

We were now very close to the finish. Morgan Stanley’s desperate cries of “We can’t win a drag race! Attack! Do something!” were answered time and again by their many solders. It was clear they were tired; you had to be impressed by their willingness to push themselves well beyond a normal person’s pain tolerance.

There’s a slight roller just before Papa Bear, the main climb with the finish line at the summit. Morgan Stanley sent a rider off hard just before the roller. It appeared this attack was doomed, but you never know… Less than a mile from the finish, Morgan Stanley comes to the front and starts blocking, peloton apathy takes over… and before you know it… you’re racing for second place. I was on Russ’ wheel and he was well position to neutralize this attack. I asked him to shut it down, he effortlessly closed the gap to a manageable 75’ or so. At this point I said “Wait for the next attack! Sit up” which we both did. We weren’t disappointed. In short order a dozen guys threw themselves at that hill like it was a 100 meter flat sprint.

Geoff was with Russ and me, deciding against a solo attempt due to threatening cramps, he had saved himself knowing he could climb with the best out there, giving Team Bicycle Trip both a second high placing and backup should I falter.

While I was in stunned disbelief last year, I expected the insanely early and hard attack this year (the climb is probably nearly a mile at 8 to 9% grade – similar to upper Bonny Doon, from the conveyor to Smith Grade). So, I went with it. As with last year, it soon petered out. I couldn’t see the finish, but it still seemed like we had a good ¾ of a mile to go. And now, things were starting to bunch up.

What to do? Heck… this is what I train for, I attacked. Hard. I got a gap and kept the pressure on. The hill flattens slightly at the top, then continues a bit before the finish. You can see the crest for quite a while, but not beyond. In your mind the crest becomes the finish, or at least close to it. But it isn’t. This is the worst feeling. Your legs are fried, you’ve given everything you think you can. Then you see that the finish is another ¼ mile away. Argh

We were passing one of the women’s groups to our right. I kept glancing over my left shoulder; a Wells Fargo rider was making a valiant effort, slowly closing the gap. When he reached about 100 feet I thought “Damn! Maybe I can let him catch me? I’ll try to recover in the process, then nip him at the line.” My next glance showed that the gap had started to grow again. Cool! But, my legs were wobbling. "If I can just keep the pedals turning, I think I can hold on for the win." 200 meters, legs screaming in protest, “damn it’s taking a long time to reach the finish.”

Checking the gap again, it was continuing to grow. I gave in to the pain just a little and eased slightly on the pedals. It didn’t really feel any better, but I’d been in the wind the entire climb, I was surviving. I went by Sam Cerruti and he let out a cheer that cut right through the crowd’s noise. That was so cool. Then, for some unknown reason I decided to check over my right shoulder, the side where the women, heads hung low, were grinding there way to the top. What the heck?!? There was a Safeway guy coming up fast between the women and the gutter! Sneaky!

Well muscled, this guy looked like he could sprint. He launched an attack and appeared he had the legs to back it up. I came out of the saddle. We were wheel to wheel. “So close… I can’t give in. I must have a little something somewhere?” I thought about all the Wednesday nights out on Coolidge, I thought about all the times Joe, Dennis, Russ, Jim, Geoff… heck practically the whole team, had taken any opportunity to best me in the sprint to the top. “I know that pain. That pain passes, I can do this! I’ve done it dozens of times in training.” With a tug on the handlebars and a surge from the legs, I lunged across the line. Winning by a wheel.

What a team!

Friday, May 8, 2009


It was a weird evening out there.. so many cars (many of which pulled right for me to pass) and so many riders (for whom I gave a wide berth), and I'd left my HRM transmitter at work, so I felt a bit naked going into an ITT going purely on perceived effort. Nevertheless, things seems to be going well. I went out hard but tried to keep a relatively high cadence. My position felt really good (I'd spent some time before the 4x20 workout in front of a mirror, playing with bar angle). I made it to the top in about 16:30, which was pretty good. The second leg was fast. I tried to stay tucked during the descent, only coming out to steer through the four hard corners (right to one-lane left, right to 15mph left). I took it a little easier on the corners than usual, as my seat was a bit higher and farther forward than I'm used to. When I made it to the section approaching the second-to-last climb (god that one always hurts), I realized I'd be going for a PR. The last section is the hardest... I just gave it everything I had coming out of the climb while staying tucked, just pushing those pedals around as fast as possible and came through with ~28:22 (yet to see the official results). I'm pretty

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wenzel Coaching Sonora R.R. 35+ 4, 5/3/2009

By Matt Wocasek

The race started in Jamestown, a historic mother-lode town just down the road from Sonora. Unfortunately the local historic railway crossed the race course in a couple of places. Because it was raining and the extreme angle of the tracks you had to have some trials skills to get over them without zigzagging. Whole packs of riders went down on the first couple of laps. Luckily the tracks weren’t on a downhill so everyone was going fairly slowly when they crashed. After getting crossed up a couple of times I figured out that if I turned right, went over the tracks, off the road, then left and back on the road it was a little safer.

The course was on kind of rolling terrain with a few short steep climbs and one longer stair step climb. We just rolled along at a modest pace for most of the race. Every one was taking it easy on the flatter parts and then picking it up somewhat on the climbs. Compared to our training rides it seemed relatively easy. It was draining though because of the 54-mile distance. I tried to stay up in the front without doing too much pulling. After a couple of laps of this it started to look like it was going to come down to a field sprint between the ten or so of us survivors. I thought to myself "be smart sit in and go for the win on the uphill finish." This was a solid strategy, but I didn’t have the discipline to execute it.

On the third lap I attacked on a short climb. The climb wasn’t long enough though. I was still attacking when I noticed the whole pack was back on my wheel. No problem, the short hard effort felt like it loosened up my legs a bit.

The last time up the big climb I decided to put a little pressure on the group to see if some people would drop off. When I looked over my shoulder as I crossed the finish line to start the last lap I saw that I had opened up a pretty good gap on the rest of the pack. I thought, "well I didn’t have to work too hard to get away and there was still a hill to get over so why not put the hammer down and see what happens." After a short flat section I could see the pack a ways back all still together in a single file line. It didn’t seem like they were closing so I continued on thinking I would make a decision at the top of the next climb. I got to the top of the climb and the peloton was nowhere in sight. It was on.

I had something like ten miles rolling twisty road to race as fast as I could on. I was going flat out on the descents and using both lanes to zigzag over the railroad tracks. The peloton had been way cautious on the technical sections earlier in the race and I was hoping to gain some more time on them. After I realized I was probably going to make it I started thinking about how much fun I was having flying through the countryside on the way to winning a bike race. Then I thought, "sure hope they don’t catch me," and focused on hammering to the finish. When I got to the finish line it was kind of like the end of a mountain bike race. I finished by myself then rolled around while waiting to see how everyone else did.

Sure it was a small race that I won, but I should be a Cat 3 soon and top placings are going to be a lot harder to come by. You have to take them when you can.

Cat's Hill Classic, Elite 3

By Dennis Pedersen

I've now raced this historic and challenging course 5 times, and I know it doesn't suit my sprinter's legs... but it is such a cool venue that I keep coming back. And the old Victorian neighborhoods right in downtown Los Gatos are a great place to invite friends and family to come out and watch too.

We awoke to a light drizzle, but it was raining as we drove over the summit, and we passed two accidents that threatened to make me late for my 11:10 race start. Fortunately the rain got lighter, we got there in time, and soon Margaret was pinning my race number onto my team skinsuit and dropping off my spare wheels in the pit. What a trooper! And that was on top of making us a delicious pancakes-and-eggs breakfast too!

This race is one of the best in this area for spectators, with a demanding 6-turn course full of cracked concrete and slopes. The most popular spot to watch is usually "The Wall," a short but super-steep climb up Nicholson Avenue (over 20% grade!). The Wall challenges both our aerobic and anaerobic power, and our bike-handling skills with its abrupt left turn at the base followed by a leg-burning climb that requires quick and accurate shifting! I have always chosen to use 42x25-tooth gearing and that has always seemed just right. But the road was still damp from the diminishing rain, and I was now worried our tires wouldn't have enough traction as we pounded out the 700 Watts of power needed to get to the top.

But the section above Bachman Park, at the course's high point on Belmont Avenue, is also really key; I think of that section, on the last lap, as the real finish line as few can pass on the fast downhill that follows on Bachman Avenue, or after the last turn. That's where the real battle takes place.

The rain stopped! And after a 10-minute warmup I lined up with the other 92 racers... at least that's how many they said were signed up (I think it was less). Then we shot off into our first lap out of the 20 required... whew, that is a lot of times up The Wall! And the first 5 or 6 laps were really hard for me. Fortunately all of the friends and family that showed up yet again this year inspired me with their raucous cheers (thanks everybody, you are all awesome!). As the many laps wore on, The Wall took its toll as riders "sat up" exhausted just past its peak. This was actually a problem for the rest of us because we had to dodge them as they wobbled unsteadily along.

Even though this "Elite" race included many junior racers I really felt that we raced pretty clean. Sure, some stupid moves were in evidence, but mostly we stayed upright in spite of the difficult surface and the wet roads. I think these technical courses are actually safer than the wide-open flowing ones because the pack gets strung out. So when there are obstacles like at Cat's Hill, you have fewer mass pile-ups. One guy went slid out at the bottom of The Wall when he turned on the slippery painted stripes there; I barely avoided him and his errant water bottle. But nobody else went down with him, which is my point exactly. Otherwise the race went smoothly for quite a number of laps. Only a guy on a solo breakaway split things up... before he died. Margaret asked him later "Did you win?" "No, I bonked and didn't even finish" was his reply! In fact, only half of the riders ended up finishing, so his plight wasn't unusal.

The pack hesitated with about 5 laps remaining; we all knew the selection had been made and only a few had the freshness left to "lay down the hurt," while the rest would just try to hold on. The pace then picked up and guys did start taking more chances, and with about 2 laps to go, in turn 2, somebody went down behind me, right where I flatted last year. And the guy who crashed earlier on The Wall had gotten back into the race, thanks to the "free lap" rule (see the USCF rulebook), but got a flat tire near the end. Poor guy. I was really gasping at times, and even wheezing, but they never did drop me! Even so, on that last climb I was so maxed out I couldn't keep up with the leaders when they accelerated past The Wall, and continued accelerating onto Belmont. I was maybe 20th or so, and knew then that I wasn't in contention, so I just maintained my pace down the hill and across the line. My days of sprinting for 15th place, or whatever, are over! I ended up 30th place.

Afterward, I thanked my friends and family for their support, and... rode a hard interval into the hills above town while they walked down to Los Gatos Brewing Company for a tasty lunch. OK, maybe I'm crazy, but Coach Mark would approve! And make no mistake; I joined them there later after I got cleaned up and had part of Margaret's tuna sandwich, plus a super-tasty chocolate bread-pudding. Oh man, was that yummy!