Monday, June 29, 2009

Masters Nationals update Mon, June 29

Masters Nationals Update 55-59 Road Race
By Jim Langley

Note that I'm sorry not to be able to organize the photos better here. They load at the top of the page, so I have added short captions here written according to the photo so they make sense, I hope. The race report is just below. Later I will create a more user-friendly slide show and link you to it, but probably when I get back home.

Photo captions
-this morning: Mark ready to do some damage at the hotel's great breakfast buffet (how many bananas can Jim stuff in his pockets for later?)
-the podium shot from Jim's race: Wayne Stetina 1st, Dave LeDuc 2, not there, Tom Doughty 3rd, Kent Bostick 4th, didn't find the 5th rider's name
-Jim's killer helmet hair after the race - wonderful entertainment for the other hotel guests
-the front of Jim's race, second lap we think - I'm sitting in nicely, barely visible a few riders back
-no, not the line for the portapotties - it's the line for registration last night at our hotel
-the 50-54 pack to show the Nationals' lovely park setting.
-walking around yesterday afternoon, just down the street from our hotel: it's the Louisville Slugger factory/store with this 68,000-pound skyscraper Slugger out front. Reminds me of Kevin Bostick's legs.
-last night after registration: this is the jig you have to check your TT bike against. We had to move Mark's bars back an inch or so, that's all. Thank you Nate at Bike Trip for getting the seat spot on!
-yesterday afternoon back at the hotel we found that The Galt House has a killer workout room, only $5 a day, and a spectacular pool - but everyone knows swimming is bad for cyclists

Here's my race report of the Nationals 55-59 race... it happened today at noon. Weather was much nicer, about 75 degrees and breezy. We did 8 5-mile laps. There were 41 in the field. Super organized start. Lots of officials. Everything goes off like clockwork here. You wear 2 numbers, one on the right, one on the left. A third number goes on your seatpost/seat like a little flag beneath your butt. On to the race action...

Well, while it was awesome to finally be in a race with bona fida former pro riders, it pretty much went the way it was supposed to. For 3 laps I was at the front of the pack, top 8 or so (I am in the photos but tucked in so tight I'm hard to pick out).

On the first lap a guy in all white went off the front and we let him go. On the second, we caught him and the fun began. Kent Bostick punched it on one of the little Kentucky rollers on the course and went off the front.

We matched him and brought him back. Then, from behind, teammate Tom Doughty went. Bostick drifted back and blocked, moving perfectly to force us to swing wide to get around him. We got around him and brought Tom back. Then, from the back, Wayne Stetina went (FYI Stetina, Bostick and Doughty ride for Amgen/Giant Masters on Di2-equpped electronic drivetrain Giant bicycles).

I tried to ride smart. In those early laps I never chased down any of the attacks. I was always on the wheel of the 2 or 3 guys that worked to bring them back. Behind, there was a group of about 10 that didn't do any work and just let our little group counter all the attacks.

It was painful and exciting watching the Amgen/Giant Masters work us over and being so close to such classy riders. The attacks were impressive. Great speed and power. Bostick breathes so heavy he sounds like he's in trouble. But, he's constantly smiling as if it's no worry at all. Doughty and Stetina are way smooth, quiet, strong.

Wayne hides beautifully. You never knew when he would go because he was hard to find in the pack, floating forward and backward with ease. When he went there was no matching it. And, it wasn't predictable, not on the main climb on the course where you'd think he would go but on a headwind section which seemed "safe" but clearly wasn't. Or on a little bump that seemed easy until you saw how much speed a top rider can lay down.

Another thing that gets in your head when you face riders of this caliber is that they aren't afraid to show their stuff. They don't sit in and wait. They're confident. They trust their fitness and they take care of business. Even though there were 3 of them working together to break the pack's will, each one was happy to bury himself on his attack. And also attack as many times as needed. You have to respect that kind of commitment and fitness.

Maybe I should have gone into the race resigned to letting them go and just raced for top 15, but I wanted to stay close and watch these hot shots ride up close and it was something to see. Even following wheels to close the gaps they kept creating with their impressive attacks, I blew up after 3 and a half laps and had to drop off the pace or completely die. Then the group of 10 or so behind that hadn't done any work and were clearly racing for top 10 - happy to let the pros do their thing - came by. And, while it's a mistake I've made before, so I knew it was going to happen - those guys were too strong and dropped me too.

I ended up riding in the 3rd group on the road and was able to compete in that group, attacking on the final climb and taking one guy with me. He sat on me to the sprint and beat me to the line. I ending up finishing 18th.

I'm kind of neutral about the result. I knew going in that I wasn't going to be able to podium. The names are just too big. I'm a good cyclist not a great one. I could have raced smarter and tried to eek out a top 15 maybe, with a different attitude of not trying to race with the big boys. But, it was fun being out there on the Natz stage and I was clearly fitter and a better racer than about half the group, so that's something to build on.

Interesting tidbit: I heard after the race that our race had set the new fastest lap times on the course. The young masters (30-plus) go tomorrow, and more importantly, Mark's group, so we'll have to see if that holds up, but it's good to know that I was up against some real fastmen.

Interesting factoid: Cherokee Park where the race was held was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted around 1894 and it is magnificent, with fabulous fountains, statues, walkways and lush lawns, trees and flowers. It was an exceptional location for the nationals. The course has plenty of challenging corners, just enough climbing, a gradual uphill finish - only a rider who can do it all will win as Wayne Stetina demonstrated. Mark watched Wayne come up the finishing climb like he was still a young pro and blow second-place, David LeDuc (who has a World Championship jersey) away.

I'm still buzzing from the excitement of being out there. I'm sure I'll be bummed tomorrow, but I have to be realistic too.

Thanks for all the team support and for making it possible for me to take this trip. It's been an incredible experience for us. I'll report back tomorrow - or maybe Mark will want to bang out the report since he's going to step onto the big stage at 2pm.

Sidenote: We had a dinner invitation to a nice restaurant from great Aptos racer Jim Fox, but we decided to eat an early dinner in the hotel so Mark could get to bed early. I'm sitting on my bed typing this to you guys and Mark is doing everything right, sleeping soundly so he's 110 percent tomorrow. Keep in mind he doesn't race until 2.

We're trying to figure out the best eating strategy for him with such a late race start. We'll probably do the breakfast buffet and then a small lunch around 11 before heading to the racecourse for his warmup. I'll be in the feed zone for a few laps and then float around the course to try to get some shots. And, I definitely will be at the podium too. I think Mark has a real shot tomorrow - even more so now that I know the course so well. It seems to me to be custom built for a smart, strong racer like Mark. Think positive!



Bryan King said...

Swimming bad for cyclists? Does that count showers? =) Great race Jim, you went head to head with the best in the nation. You realize this put you into the group of "best in the nation" right?? =) But we all already knew that

Dennis the Mennis said...

Jim, you are so awesome! Way to go! Now get yourself that delicious dessert you so richly deserve!