Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Topsport Stage Race, 45+ Cat 4

This is a new stage race based out of the newly built town of Copperopolis. The race consists of a 10 mile out and back Time Trial, a 75 minute circuit race and a 69 mile Road Race, over two days. At the outset, I would have to say that this was a very well organized event over challenging and safe courses, but it was not very well supported by racers in Northern California. Hopefully that will change in the future. If we want to see more opportunities for racing in our area, we must support those promoters who take the risk to put these events on.
My race only had 15 racers entered out of a possible 75. Our first event was the Time Trial. I didn’t have too much information on the course, but I was determined to make a better effort than I had at Madera(28th) and at the 1st Swanton TT last week. I was somewhat optimistic because I had been getting some good input from time trialists and I had done more work in the aero position, enough that I was beginning to become a bit more comfortable. I got in a good warmup on the road and got to the start on time. I went out hard, possibly too hard. My average power about 1 ½ minutes into the effort was between 500 and 600 watts. I had experienced a similar thing at Madera and had made too much of an effort to recover. This course was advertised a gently rolling, so I decided to continue going hard to keep my speed up and only allow for recovery on the downhill sections. I think this strategy worked out pretty well. There were only a couple of spots on the outbound leg that were downhill, but they provided me with a good period for recovery and I was able to work hard on the rollers. I was looking forward to having more downhill on the homeward leg, but it really didn’t turn out that way. After it was over, I and those I spoke to agreed that the course was uphill tailwind on the way out and uphill headwind on the way back. It was a challenging course with no steep hills, but plenty of rollers. The pavement was not particularly good and a few of the riders with the fancy wheels and Time Trial bikes were grousing about it. I was okay with it. I stayed in the aero bars almost the entire time and finished a bit under 30 minutes. The girl at the finish told me that anything under 30 was good, but they had only seen the cat 5’s and a few of our group at that point. Still I was satisfied with my effort. Turns out I was in 4th, about 30 – 35 seconds behind a couple of fit looking Davis Cycling Club riders and 1.5 minutes behind a Webcor rider named Allen. Allen had not raced in 4+ years and had downgraded to our category. Although he said he was 20# overweight, he was clearly the favorite.
Next up was the circuit race, a couple of hours after the TT. The circuit was a 6 mile loop that began at the outskirts of the town center of Copperopolis and then turned on to the left side of a divided 4 lane roadway. We went out 3 miles, made the turn and came back 3 miles. The finish and preme line was at the top of a slight incline after a slight descent. 5 second time bonuses (premes) were awarded for crossing the line first on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th laps. On the finishing lap, time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds were awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively. I picked the wrong wheel for the sprint at the finish, but I did win a 5 second preme on the 3rd lap. I was however relegated for using indelicate phrasing upon crossing the line of that preme, and so lost my time bonus to the man behind me. I will have to let that be a lesson learned. My sometimes colorful use of language is outside the rules of bike racing. The remainder of the circuit course wound through the streets of the town center, but it was still very safe, mostly because it came after the group had exerted itself to get to the line. My finish in the circuit race kept me in 4th place in the GC with only the road race to go.
Team Bike Trip was fortunate to have been offered accommodations at Robert’s mother’s lake house, about 10 minutes from Copperopolis. The house was very nice and provided us with everything we needed to rest up for the next event. The road race was scheduled for 69 miles on Sunday and scheduled for two waves, the earlier one between 8 and 8:30 am, and the latter between 11:30 and noon. I was to go off at 11:45, but I went over early since Nils and Robert were scheduled to go in the early wave. After their races took off, I ate and read the paper in the town square. It was a very nice day. Nils came back in early with a flatted tubular, not too happy that his race had ended early. About that time, I got suited up and got in an easy warm up. I didn’t do too much because I figured that we wouldn’t go out hard after the prior day’s racing and nearly 70 miles ahead of us. Turned out that they led us out neutrally with our support vehicle for about 4 miles, so we were all plenty warmed up by the time a pedal was turned in anger. And, pedals were turned in anger. Davis had 3 men in the group and 2 of them were in 2nd and 3rd in the GC. They sent their third man to the front on the first lap of this three lap race and then began to take turns cranking up the pace. They hoped, I’m sure, to drop Allen from Webcor as the leader on the road. The pace was harder than I had expected as compared to the shorter race at Madera which had been a younger and bigger field. I believe one or two guys got dropped from the pace on the first lap, but I was too busy hanging on and trying to conserve to do any counting. Part of the course was on the windy backstretch of the Copperopolis Road Race course. When we first got there, Allen showed us what we were in for. As we turned back into a wicked crosswind, he launched a brutal pace and every man was challenged to stay on. Still, I think most did. The course continued over mostly horrible roads with some cattle grates and occasional gravel sections for several miles. What climbing there was were power hills and they suited me well. We continued on to a turnaround point and then back past the finish line to a turnaround point at the start line and were off on our 2nd of 3 laps. The 2nd lap is where our race was decided. Davis had let up on their attacks but Allen continued to push the pace. As we approached the windy section he jumped hard and set a torrid pace with 3 guys hanging on for dear life. I was not one of those guys but I recognized that I needed to be. I burned the biggest match in my book and put the hammer down. Davis’s 3rd positioned rider had gone with me but he told me that he couldn’t help because his team had a rider in the break. I looked back at him and asked, “What, are you kidding me? This is our race! Either we work together and get back on now, or we are done.”. He thought it over and agreed, taking a short pull as we started up a fairly long incline. It was enough. I was able to recover while he pulled me for about 20 seconds. I launched with everything I had and was able to complete the bridge just as the lead group crested the rise. Unfortunately, the Davis rider who had helped me had not made it. This was the winning break. We would stay together, the remaining 5 of us, to the finish. Attacks were launched, but no one could get away. I had burned a lot of energy bridging the gap and chose to ride conservatively from that point. I wanted to try to win the road race, but I was also concerned that I might bonk. I tried to remain hyper aware of the moves around me and made sure not to let myself drift off the back at all. Still, as we came closer to the finish on our 3rd lap, I tried to position myself for the sprint. There were only 5 of us and plenty of roadway, and when the time came, I was on the right wheel. The only problem was that my legs had nothing left to respond. I tried to go, but couldn’t. I was 5th in a 5 man sprint. More than a little frustrating. Still, I was thrilled to be there at the end of what had been a brutal road race. And I didn’t lose any time in the GC to any of the guys who were close behind me. Plus, one of the Davis riders who was dropped had been in 3rd position. He finished well back and I moved up one position in the GC to 3rd. Podium!!!!!!!!!!! Huge cash and merchandise. OK, 20 bucks and a Teeshirt. Still, I’ll be framing all of it. I’m stoked

Cool Poster Art

Some of you might appreciate this poster art from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new climate change exhibit. Inspired by a bicycle chain advertisement by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. French, 1896. © Monterey Bay Aquarium

2010 Topsport Stage Race Report (Elite 3)

In summary, my old (but not too old) Veloflex Carbon tubular tires were out to get me this otherwise excellent race weekend. Here's how it unfolded.

Stage 1 - Little John Circuit Race a.k.a the conspiring front tire: ~90 minutes on a 6-mile circuit. Excellent pavement, crazy roller-coaster like 6-turn section through town square, and a fast out and back on rolling Little John Rd. Very safe race, as the turns were right after the finish and were more fun than an actual factor in the race.

Nothing too much to say, except I put in a few moves, fought pretty hard position-wise for an intermediate time bonus, somehow developed a slow leak in my front tire, and saw exactly when Paul Dyrwal from MS/Spec planned to separate the field. He took 10 other guys with him. It's not fun trying to motor with 20psi in your front tire, and it certainly makes the corners interesting... nonetheless, I worked hard to minimize the damage and somehow ended up 13th with my crazy low-pressure front tire.

Stage 2 - Little Rock ITT a.k.a. our cat 3 field has some sandbaggers: ~11 miles on pretty rough pavement, rolling hills, the narrowest turnaround ever (coming off a FAST downhill!) and a steadily-increasing afternoon wind. I warmed up, definitely felt the morning's efforts, got to the line, and hoped my legs would treat me well.

Not much to say, except my 25:25 time put me in 3rd in the TT, and 3rd in the GC. It was a brutal course, and it was mentally tough to focus with the rollers and wind and not ever catching my minute man (Johnathan Teeter, who, it turns out, won San Dimas and was the only racer to break 24 minutes in the whole race). The cat 3 1st and 2nd times would have also been 1st and 2nd in the p/1/2 field.

Stage 2.5 - Epic dinner calorie consumption race: Bob Montague, our teammate and owner of Cafe Sparrow in Aptos, cooked us up a mighty fine dinner fit for kings. Did I mention we stayed in Rob's mom's sweet vacation pad for the weekend? In this case, two pictures are worth two thousand words:

Stage 3 - Pavement of a thousand deaths RR: I gotta say, It was a pretty novel experience to hear people talking about me and eyeing my GC spot. Perhaps it was a premonition, but I felt like there was so much to lose today, and that I should race as defensively as possible... but I didn't even get a chance to. My rear tire punctured in the first 30 minutes, and I had no wheels in the follow car (race organizers: it's nice to know about follow cars before you're staging!). I must admit that violently tearing off the offending tubulars was quite therapeutic.

Lessons learned: Always have a wheel in the follow car. Maybe get a set of burly tires for races that question the definition of 'pavement'. Never forget that each race tempts fate.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Land Park Criterium Cat. 4 Women 3-21-10

Land Park Criterium Cat. 4 Women 3-21-10
Michele Heaton

Being cautious by nature, combined with becoming a cyclist at the age of 39 after 6 years of rehabilitation and multiple knee reconstruction surgeries, racing was not in my vocabulary. I did not want to up the crash ante at all. Two years ago when I did decide to give it a try I made Criteriums against my religion. But with last weeks upgrade denial (I had accidentaly given myself 2 points too many for a circuit race thinking it was the same value as a road race), I found myself officially desperate and willing to give one a try.

Off Amy and I went to Sacremento last Sunday to race the Land Park Criterium. This was a super fun course with some sweeping turns on one half and a few technical turns on the back side. They had 2 mentors take us through the course to show us some good lines through the corners. Believe me, I was listening closely to every tip they gave on how to keep the race safe.

As we were in one of the final corners of this educational lap, there was a loud “kerpow!” Was that me? Yes, I had a blowout. Someone yelled, “quick, get a wheel at neutral support!” I rolled up to the start line and asked if there was a wheel I could borrow. Nope. No wheels. A woman said, “Here, take my wheel.” I said “what about you?” Don’t worry, I race later and I’ll fix your” and she quickly put her wheel on my bike. What a gal. Boom. The race starts. Plenty of adrenaline was going now and I quickly was about 3rd wheel in a field of 33.

Apparently the pace of this race was high. It stayed strung out and safe. I stayed in the first 5 or so wheels pretty much the entire race. There were constant fun dynamics. I got in both breaks. The second one looked particularly threatening. I jumped on the wheel of the woman who ended up winning and we bridged a pretty big gap together. Our break of 5 eventually got caught with 10+ minutes left to race. I sat in for the first time to try to get a bit of recovery. Eventually moving forward, for some unknown reason I decided to attack from about 4th wheel with 1 full lap to go. Not sure why I did this as my original idea was to go after the last corner (would have been much more sensible.) I got a big gap but no one had come with me. Oh well, I was committed now. I told myself, “go Michele go, only a 3+ minute effort.” I flew through the corners. They looked like they were gaining on me but I still had a huge gap. Came into the final corner and stretch into a head wind. I am thinking this might work. Almost to the line. Now my legs were really starting to load. Almost to the line...pushing with all I had I hear wheels behind me just a few feet from the line. Whoosh, whoosh (x11) sprint past me at the finish. Not this time. It was 12th place for me. My first Criterium was an absolute blast and totally surprised me. This one felt safer than a flat road race. I had a blast riding aggressively and staying in the front. Loved the short, intense effort, constant action and not being totally destroyed after the race.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hellyer Velodrome, Tuesday March 23, 2010 Cat 1-2 Pro

I arrived at the track before 0600 pm. it’s about a 50 min drive from the Westside of Santa Cruz. After a good warm up my race started at about 0700 pm. Rode my usual 51 X 15 gear, considered large. Immediately before the races Larry Nolan, the promoter, encouraged anyone with a Cat 3 track license to race with the 1-2 Pros, to even out the field sizes, I accepted.

Scratch Race 25 laps.

“Scratch race”- the first rider across the line wins, the type of race we are all most familiar with.
The race started out fast with a series of attacks. I sat back, watched the other riders and only closed gaps if the others didn’t look like they could. About half way through, the group started to break apart and I was moving up. With less than 10 laps to go I was in 4th position and should have moved up to third but assumed the guy in front of me had enough left to close the small gap. Turned out he didn’t, I got stuck in no man’s land and was in third position until 2 laps to go when the 3 guys behind me, working together, blew by me before the finish. My potential 3rd place quickly turned into 6th.

Points race, 40 laps sprints every 5 laps.

A “points race” is a specific type of a track race were points are awarded 5,3,2,1 for 1st through 4th place at multiple intervals during the race (20 points for lapping field or 20 points subtracted for losing a lap). The winner of race is the person with the most points.

My tactic for the points race was to sit back and wait. Unfortunately the others never tired to the point that I could put in an effective attack. Unlike the scratch race the pace was slower so the sprinters had a chance to recover so they could easily cover any attacks. I did try an attack with into the final sprint but it was easily covered and I was not able to score any points.

I am a really crappy sprinter (my peak 5 second power is incredibly low) and I enjoy track racing. My point is I don’t think anyone should avoid track riding/racing because they don’t see themselves as a sprinter. And if you do consider yourself a sprinter- definitely should give it a try. I find it safe and a very good speed workout.

Everyone should give track riding a try. Just like, I assume, everyone has given off and on road riding a try. Track bikes are available to rent for $5, bring your pedals. Anyone can ride on most Saturday mornings- go to to check the schedule, more information. After riding 3 Saturdays you can race during the week. Please let me know if you are thinking of racing- send me an e-mail at I have an extra 56 cm track bike that I would be happy to share.

Ken Sato

Monday, March 22, 2010

Salinas Criterium, 45+ 1/2/3/4

By Dennis Pedersen

Talk about low expectations: I rode 75 miles in our Swanton Road intervals the day before, and surfed at Pleasure Point and did electrical work on our house that Sunday morning. And Salinas is a new race, so who knew whether it would be well-run... though the thought of driving to Sacramento to race at "Land Park" instead was less appealing.

Originally I wanted to help Nils in the Elite 3 race, but he was tired from taking 8th at Bariani Road Race on Saturday... cry me a river (just kidding!). Only 7 guys had pre-registered for 45+, so I visualized a tiny field of riders chasing each other around the smooth, flat, 5-corner course by Salinas Airport. The steady wind would split things up too, no doubt, so it could be interesting. But when I lined up I saw I was alone against 7 guys from San Jose Bike Club, 5 from VOS, 3 from IC3 and a variety of others: about 25 total. Well, interesting is what we want, right? I was a bachelor that day and "fun" was my goal.

Right from the start SJBC launched hard attacks and IC3 did a good job of going with them a few times. I was up front the whole race and had to chase down a lot of these attacks, though I noticed VOS contributed too. But I also noticed that VOS never went on any hard attacks... perhaps they wanted a field sprint? And Morgan Stanley only had Eric Saltzman, who mostly sat in smartly while watching me pull the pack up to various breaks.

Some of the breaks looked like danger, especially the solo breaks by one of the SJBC guys (Andrew Nevitt?). Some others I didn't bother to follow. Only a few times did two guys break away for a couple of laps at most. I tried to get a bigger break going but each time it fell apart. They almost all attacked solo on the other side of the course from me so I had to work hard just to go with them, then they'd sit up. Darn! I think we could have done it, but most of the guys seemed to want to try solo flyers, while VOS wanted to keep the field together.

After a last attack by the fast SJBC rider with 2 laps to go, that I chased down, I was leading the pack for the last lap... sigh, how did I get suckered into that? I thought I was soft-pedaling but the vicious whoosh of the pack swallowing me up on the last straight confirmed that my form wasn't good enough for a strong sprint. My legs could have kept on racing at threshold for a while longer, but my top-end was shot.

A guy from VOS won the sprint finish so I can see why they waited. SJBC and IC3 didn't get anything though.

Well, I did have tons o' fun with my chosen activities on my bachelor day, and that's what counts!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Orosi Road Race 45-plus 1-2-3

By Geoff Drake

I’ve never done Orosi before, but it always sounded like one I’d enjoy. I’m partial to old-style road races, and it didn’t take long to see that Orosi fell into that category: lots of broken pavement, gravel sections, copious climbing, ripping descents with cliff-edge drop-offs, accompanied by jagged snow-capped peaks all around and blooming wildflowers lining every road. Bike racing at its best!

My race was two laps—about 60 miles. I noticed at the start that we were missing Jon Ornstil, who is a frequent animator of this race. But we still had Carl Nielsen, who has been flying lately, and a host of other strong-looking riders.

Predictably, Carl went straight to the front on the first, 1,000-foot climb and proceeded to rip everyone’s legs off. I sat on his wheel like grim death. When we crested the summit, I finally took a look around, and there were just four of us remaining, including Carl, Bill Brier, Chris Courtney, and myself.

On the back side of the course I was concerned that our pace wasn’t high enough, and sure enough, before the final descent, we were caught by several riders.

But I knew there would be another separation on the second trip up the big climb. Carl again went to the front, this time hitting it even harder than on the first lap. Once over the top, we were a group of five this time.

Once again, I became concerned that we’d be caught. I exhorted everyone (in a nice way) to work together, and tried to put some emphasis on my request by going to the front on several occasions. I’d much rather be last in a small breakaway than suffer the boredom and uncertainty of a field sprint.

Lo and behold, after my repeated requests, everyone started working together. Thus began one of my favorite things in bike racing: a small group of riders, committed to staying away, taking equal turns at the front. The miles rolled, and the chasers were never to be seen again. Fun!

Before the final descent, Courtney noodled off the front. It didn’t seem serious, but before we knew it he had a decent gap. As we hit the valley floor, we could see him up the road and started working together. Despite a coordinated effort, we couldn’t bring him back. With just a few 90-degree turns to the finish, our group of four starting thinking about the sprint for second.

For once, I was determined not to be The Big Strong Dumb Guy Who Goes Too Early. Mark had given me some good landmarks for the finish. I gauged the wind, picked the sheltered side of the road, and waited. Two guys jumped. I glued up to their wheels, put my head down, and came around with several bike lengths to spare.

Second place. I’ll take it!

Plus, Scott was fourth in his race, so maybe it was worth leaving at 4:30 a.m. after all…

Friday, March 19, 2010

2-18-10 Swanton TT

This is my first race report with the Trip.

I have made going under 30 minutes as my primary cycling goal for 2010. I spoke with Russ on Wednesday and said my goal was for the first Swanton was 30:30 so I am quite pleased with 30:19. This is 2:39 faster than my previous best.

I attribute this improvement to many factors.
1. I made this my top goal cycling goal for 2010 and told others. A little pressure is usually good for me.
2. I lost about 30 pounds last year. My previous best time was set near my current weight but not carrying all that extra weight has got to help.
3. I purchased a pair of cheap Nashbar clip-on’s and an Aero TT Helmet with visor (spent less than $200 on both, so happens that the only aero helmet that will fit my very large head is also the least expensive). Wore a skinsuit, shoe covers and was comfortable with my stem fully lowered- no spacers.
4. Practiced the actual course the previous 3 Thursdays. I believe this really helped with pacing and knowing the holes/curves in the road. I believe most of the time I was losing on this undulating course was due to going too easy on the downhill/downwind sections and going too hard on the uphill/upwind sections.
5. Used a heart rate monitor. I had previously found this very helpful for flat TTs but was uncertain for undulating courses since the data lags the efforts. This was the first time I found it useful at Swanton- it did help keep me from overcooking myself.
6. Used earplugs. These gave me the sensation I was going slower so it’s a psychological trick but seems to work. Also keeps me calm and more focused on the effort.

To shave off 20 seconds and achieve my goal, these are some of my ideas.

1. Nasal decongestant. When I go hard I produce a lot of nasal mucus and clearing it is distracting.
2. A bigger taper. I had a fairly easy week before this event but with an even easier week maybe I can squeeze out a few more watts.
3. Loose a few more pounds. This is questionable since my wife has forbidden it and I might lose power.
4. Different wheels. I used very light, deep dish wheels. I have been offered to borrow some extremely aero wheels (super deep front/disk) so I will probably give it a try.
5. Remove bottle cages and tape small vents on helmet. These are tiny changes but free and I am “only” going after 20 seconds.
6. If all these shenanigans don’t work it occurred to me that much of the time saved with by having a dedicated TT bike is having the shifters at the end of the aero bars. It would be a big hassle but I could do this on my road bike- if I miss my goal after a few more tries I will consider this particularly if I can borrow some 10 speed Shimano bar ends.

Ken Sato

Monday, March 15, 2010

CCCX #2 M35+123 3/`3/10 Steve Heaton

3/13/10 CCCX #2 M35+123
Steve Heaton

A Circuit Race with approximately 10 min. laps on rolling terrain. Tailwind out for the flatter sections, then rolling back, up hill into the wind for a while, then a right hand descent (bumpy at high speeds) followed by a left sweeper reaching top end speed with a head wind going super fast. It ends up rolling out flat for 100 meters to the line.
After the race I initially thought to myself well, it’s not going to be much of a race report. But…on further consideration….
I’m going to share some of my strategy for preparation and during the race. It all started with training earlier in the week. This is my last build week of training and I didn’t want to cut any of my harder efforts out to be fresh for this race. I was able to do my harder efforts on Tues/Thurs and basically cut out my tempo rides and be ready to race on Sat. The problem is I do better when I have been on the bike the day before a hard effort but in order to work everything out (family, cycling, job) it was my best option for future goals. I went to this race with 2 days off the bike and knew it was going to be a gamble. Sometimes I just can’t get it going under these circumstances. Since this isn’t a priority race for me I was willing to take a chance. Even though, I still go to all races with a goal, plan and desire to win!
As I’m warming up at my car on my trainer I can’t help but over hear a Team discussing strategy. One of them won this race at CCCX #1 a couple weeks back. He proclaimed to NOT be a sprinter. I know he is strong so that means he is going for a breakaway or a big move close to the finish? Plus he has 3 teammates to help him (I’ll log this info. into my memory files for later). I get about 30mins of easy pedaling on the trainer then head out to do a lap on course 12mins and pushed it the last 5mins. The race starts and Ana (local cycling buddy and strong rider) pushes the pace off the line (ouch) I’m not ready for all out. All good cause it mellowed out. It was cold and windy and most guys didn’t have leg warmers and I assume they too needed more time to warm up. About half way I’m not feeling it. We had a few 1-2 man breakaways that didn’t get far. I went to the front a couple of times one of them heading into the final descent to close the gap on a guy up the road.

The real reason was to feel the wind from a lead position since I had plans on being one of the front runners to the line for the win. I’m not feeling it with 2 laps to go, not sure if I’m going to have a sprint. Attack comes and 4 riders are off and blocking is forming at the front. Another guy (I noted to watch) takes chase. They let him go so I attacked and easily latched on to the break (now my confidence is on the rise). Most teams are represented accept Joselyn’s so they chased us down. In order to conserve energy I was using the high cadence I have been practicing all winter on all the uphill sections. This kept me from having to stand and use more taxing muscles + I needed every drop of energy for the final sprint. I was concentrating the whole race to hold a forward position. I wasn’t always in position and I knew on the final lap it would only get much harder. With a little more than half a lap to go I’m about 5 back when the 4th rider has a guy roll up next to him to take has wheel? They start battling for the wheel and strike up some tuff talk so I slipped around to take the wheel from both them (neither said a word, it was a sweet move). I’m now on the wheel of guy who won this race last time with his teammate in front of him (2nd) ready to lead out his man in 3rd. Sitting 4th wheel might have seemed like too far forward at this point knowing lead guy is going to pull off any moment. I’m banking on someone attacking on one of these final rollers before the finish (non sprinter move). We turn right into the head wind roller section (lead guy pulls off). Two riders left in front of me with only a few minutes of racing (self proclaimed non sprinter dude and his teammate leading him) and me. We hold positions through all rollers until the final blip to descent. The attack comes, “what to do”~~~ “What to do”………. it’s a long ways but if he can hold his power output it’s possible? I know that guy is strong. I could respond and ride his wheel and attack to the line? I don’t trust him! I knew he wasn’t a sprinter so I stayed put 3rd wheel. Non sprinter dude’s lead out is done now I’m 2nd wheel headed into the descent and now lead guy picked up the pace descending toward the finish (I couldn’t ask for a better situation). Flyer dude is out of sight on the sweeper still a ways to the line.
NOW this is where it gets exciting!!! (Everything goes into slow motion)
As we swept through the high speed left descending bend to the final LONG run in to the straight to the finish line I’m thinking we will get overtaken any second???? I’m prepared to jump and catch the move for second wheel when it happens. No one is coming??? It’s because the sprinters are far forward waiting for someone to jump. I looked back a few times way more than I would normally but I wasn’t going to get caught off guard. No one is coming, I look up the road to see how far flyer dude is…………….he’s about 100+ meters from the line. We are 50 meters from him. I had to be patient since I was going to lead out the sprint. It’s a nutty moment but like I said I experience it in slow motion. At this point I have to decide when to make the final move. They seem to be waiting for me? I hear “Go Bike Trip” from behind. At this point it looks like I’m in the driver’s seat. It’s a risky moment. If I jump early I could get nothing. If I wait much more Flyer dude is going to get the win (HUMM… feels familiar, Cantua Creek my last race?) Time comes for me to let it fly. I jumped (53x12) and quickly (11) biggest gear wide the F**K open charging down on flyer dude concentrating on the slingshot pass to the right. Wind was coming from the right and you would think that going left would be better but in this situation there was a row of bushes close to the edge creating a slight wind block. On my warm up lap I rode on both sides of the road in this section to be sure I was positive and wouldn’t second guess myself in the heat of the moment. Another reason to go right was to create a split since we are so close to the line. The pack is spread out behind. Some would slow to squeeze right, others would have to go the long way around left. I’m on fire and feel like I can keep this going to the line. I see Keith on my wheel (yes I do look under my arm pit in a sprint) really close to my back wheel looking smooth. I know I’m a faster sprinter but if he gets the slingshot anything can happen.....………..he says “on right” so I check and he is behind me wanting me to move over to let him pass? We are charging into the last 30 meters at ALL OUT 53x11 blazing sprint (I don’t think so). He had enough room to get by if he was able to slingshot but no time for anything else (see link to photo’s ). I knew this sprint was going to be taken from close to the front. See if everyone is tapped out with no gear options in a head wind at 40+ mph to pass 1 rider is a bike length back. A bike is approx 5ft x 2- 4 places is 5-15+ft you have to be ripping fast to make that happen in the final moments of the sprint against a sprinter. Since we are all maxed out then the best way to pass me is a slingshot. As long as I keep accelerating to the line I should be able to hold them off (@#$%!&* Crazy moment!!!!!) 20 Meters to the line! I see no one coming around, I look hard for the line give it a mental push……………………….yeahhh left arm pump. #1 place!

What to take from this? Preparation for a race is very important, having a plan and sticking to it helps keep me focused along with adapting to a given moment with the goal of redirecting focus back to my goal. I truly wasn’t confident in winning this race half way through but I knew I had to stay true to my goals by staying forward especially on the final lap, ready for the key breakaways and respond without hesitation! Stay relaxed by focusing on breathing and be sure to notice any excessive body motions and smooth it out if needed. Pay attention to fluid & energy intake as needed. I run on 1 bottle of fluid & 200 calories an hour. I don’t spend too much time hyper focusing on any one thought. Final 15mins of a race be ready for anything. When the time comes to sprint flip the switch to the ON position and drive it to the line nice and aero.

CCCX #2 3/13/10

Michele Heaton Cat4 woman

This race was a blast. After Cantua Creek I wasn’t too sure I wanted to race anymore. That race was slow, dangerous and boring for 2 1/4 hours and fun for about 15 minutes. But I was going to this race enthusistic about riding my new Jamis race bike, which I just got, and Steve has been working hard to get me fit correctly on. For years I had been riding a very comfortable, flexy, relaxed geometry Roubaix. This is my first time being on a stiffer, more aggressive bike. Then adding my new Magnesium 1274 gram American Classic race wheels, I can’t believe the difference. In all honesty I have never payed attention to my gear. I just try to be as comfortable as I can be and go. Now I see what everyone is talking about. I am definitely joining the “geaking out on gear club” now!

With so few women at CCCX, they combined all 3 categories. There were 4 123’s, 4 35+ Masters and 8 Cat. 4 women to race with. Early on I guessed the one to watch was riding for Tread. After the race I learned she is a pro, off to race in Europe next week. She made the race really fun. She was constantly attacking, whittling the group down to 7 after lap 1, then down to 6 on the last lap. It was really fun to respond to the attacks. I felt I could have charged to her wheel, but I worked on latching on to a good wheel and trying not to work too hard, conserving energy. The final 1/2 lap I moved forward, expecting a blistering attack on one of the final rollers. Unfortunately it never happenned and instead I got sucked into leading out the final 2 hills in the wind. I decided to keep the pace hard enough, but not so hard that I didn’t have a good kick at the finish. I was not taxed from the race at all, never having to dig deep once so I knew I had quite a bit of energy left. As we started to descend I tucked in, waiting for what I thought was the moment I could jump and hold it to the end. I wanted to jump early and not have it come to a last moment sprint as I think my parents may have passed me up on the fast twitch muscles. As it was, I jumped on a sling shot from the last fast left turn. Way too early! I thought the finish was closer. I looked back and everyone was lining up single file behind me. I wasn’t trying to be the lead out girl! I realized my mistake and eased up. Soon everyone swarmed around me, going for it. Then I saw we were very close. I jumped again. The pro and a Cat. 2 came around me at the finish. I was happy with 3rd overall and 1st in my category. Best part is, that gave me the points for my upgrade.

Not a taxing race, but a fun one. This was my 12th race in the 2 years of racing and I am learning with each experience. I needed to have more patience at the finish, or I could have attacked on the final hill myself. I rode conservatively, not knowing my opponents. It’s amazing how just 1 person (the pro in our race) can elevate the level (and fun factor) of a race. I met an experienced Cat 2 Master, Jennie Philips, who I look forward to racing with in the future. I loved the course and positive “vibe” at this race. I highly recommend it.

Madera Stage Race 35+ 4/5

So, last year I crashed in the crit at this race and missed the rest of the event. I was excited to be back but more than a little nervous about my first crit since the crash. It was also a bit daunting to be the only Tripper in my category. Taleo had 14 riders registered, Rio Strada had 8 and several other teams had more than 5. Still, I hoped to do my best, and I had gotten excellent tactical advice from Jim Langley, Steve Heaton, and my coach Dan Smith.
We lined up for the crit on Saturday morning and off we went. The winds were not so bad in the morning as they were for Nils' group in the afternoon, and our group pretty much stayed together. The race was a little surging in nature, but the only harder ones came on the two preme laps. There were time bonuses for those laps and several guys went really hard, causing the rest of the group to chase. After the second preme, I went hard after the guys who had gone and tried to encourage a break. No such luck. At that point, I decided to sit in and ride as safely as I could to the line. I think that almost the whole group got the same time, excepting bonuses for the premes and top three placings. After the crit, I was in 18th position and happy to have it over.
The TT was scheduled for the afternoon and the wind was really picking up. I was hearing stories of guys struggling to make 15mph on the final leg. That did not sound good. I had some aero bars, but not much else. After seeing a picture that Nils took of me as I was trying out the course on Friday, I am also aware that my most aero position is not very aero. It was to be my first TT with any aero equipment, and I hoped that my power would serve me well on this mostly flat 10 mile course. I went out too hard and after a couple of minutes my avg wattage was in zone 6. I knew that was going to be a problem and made a conscious effort to back off. I saw my wattage continue to fall off, but I felt like I was continuing to work hard on the outward leg which had a cross tailwind. I turned onto the second leg with its full on tailwind and allowed myself to recover to about my mid zone 4 level. As I came up on the third leg with its cross headwind, I realized that I was going too fast and the wind had caught me going into the turn. I had to break a bit and made the turn really wide. As I was regrouping, I was passed by the rider who started 30 seconds behind me. This guy had all the equipment, a pretty aero position, and he was very strong. I had thought he might catch me when I saw him at the start. Still it wasn't fun, and I began to dig deep. I focused on turning the cranks on the final two legs of the event and trying to stay as low and still in my upper body as I could. I focused on the guy I had started behind and did my best to catch him. As we ground towards the finish, the headwind seemed to be close to 20 mph. And then it was over and I didn't feel good. I was shot. And, still I had lost 10 spots in the GC and about 3 minutes in time. I was 3:22 back and in 28th place. Still, I felt I had given my best effort.
The road race was Sunday and I was hoping that my legs would have more in them than some of the competition. Rio Strada and Taleo had their guys atop the GC and I expected my only hope was to try and get in a break of other non contenders. We were on the second of three laps when the only attack of the day came. A Davis rider launched off the front and got a gap of about 10 seconds. I was at the front of the pack and decided to give it a shot. I bridged up to him and encouraged him to go. We were well matched in the flats and began to extend our gap. The moto-ref came by at one point and told us we were up to 32 seconds. I encouraged my breakmate to continue working and suggested that some of the teams might be blocking. He said he was going to drop when we got to the rollers because he couldn't climb. I told him I was no great climber but that I thought we could power through the rollers that lay ahead. I encouraged him to stay with me and told him that I needed him on the other side. As we approached the hills, the ref announced our lead at 49 seconds. That was the best it got. I had to wait for the Davis rider to get through the hills, and by the time we were through, we had been run down. I expect I could have stayed away a bit longer if I had pushed on my own, but I did not relish the thought of being in the wind for a whole lap, alone. I was able to recover in the group and work my way back to the front of the pack. I was fortunate to have made some connections with a couple of the guys from Bikes Plus. They were all riding at the front and had one of their guys move over to take the wind for me. I was able to stay at the front with them for the majority of the final lap and kept myself in top 5 position with less than 5 minutes to go in the race. When we got to the hills leading up to the finish, my legs just didn't have the juice left to stay with the leaders. I was going as hard as I could, but I was getting dropped on the second roller. I had burned too much energy on my break and had to be happy finishing about the same position I had started the road race in. I did pick up one spot in the GC and finished in 27th position overall. I had a great weekend. It would be nice to have some teammates!

CCCX Circuit Race #2, Fort Ord, 45+ 1/2/3/4

By Dennis Pedersen

This new road-race series, held on Fort Ord's paved military roads, is put on by Kieth DeFiebre, the same guy who puts on the CCCX mountain-bike and cyclocross races there. Amazing energy; we owe him a big thank you. These races are a great way to practice team tactics too, and that's what we really need to improve on. Mark, Jim, Russ and I came up with a number of neat tactics to try, and I think we did a good job of executing them in the end.

The 4.3-mile course was mostly gently rolling through the old fort's hilly back country, but with a nasty "stair-step" section on Eucalyptus Road into the headwind from the northwest that had several steep, short climbs of maybe 30 to 60 seconds in duration each. That was followed by a hard right turn onto a very fast 1/2-mile descent leading down to a flat, straight, 250-meter finish. We thought it was a bit scary to contemplate a pack sprinting down that hill.

The weather was gorgeous, though rather windy. Our field of 27 old guys started out pretty mellow, but we'd all agreed that we'd want to keep the pace high so I started some long pulls at the front on laps 1 and 2. But I did so on the aptly-named Parker Flats Road with a tailwind so as to avoid working too hard. I also ended up sharing some pulls on the long, gradual climb after that (where the feedzone is during the District Championships) and a few other places. This forced riders from other teams to chase me down, which they did.

On lap 3 I took another pull on Parker Flats, bumping it up just a notch. Soon I was off the front with three other guys and we soon started a ragged paceline up its long, gradual climb. We didn't really work together all that well, but our gap increased, thanks to my teammates in the pack who started blocking for me. That was pretty amazing, and a total blast! I made sure my break-mates knew I had teammates blocking so they'd contribute to our paceline.

But... as so often happens breaks don't always cooperate, and some of them were apparently pretty tired. So I noticed that a number of riders gradually bridged up to us and soon our break was 7 guys. One of them, from VOS, just sat in, and so did others. More guys bridged up later, which bummed me, but all of this had the benefit of tiring them out in the process since they had to pass my teammates, then ride through the wind up to us. But soon the pack was almost all together.

On lap 4 I pulled again, and on that long, gradual climb some gaps opened up, almost everybody in the "break" sat up, and I was off the front. I held back a bit to see if anybody would go with me and one guy did (I think it was one of the guys who'd been pulling with me). But he dropped his chain—what rotten timing! So I quickly thought through some options:
  1. Sit up and let the pack catch us: They were already just seconds behind, and as a sprinter I could have sat in and rested for a likely sprint finish.
  2. Try to reorganize the break: I hadn't seen much evidence of cooperation so that seemed low-odds.
  3. Solo off the front by myself for the remaining 1.5 laps. Hmmmm... like I said, I'm a sprinter so that seemed low-odds too.
In the end I decided our team's chances were better if I chose #3 because:
  • Even if I got caught my teammates would all be excellent candidates for this course's stair-steps finish approach (assuming they hadn't worked too hard blocking).
  • If my teammates didn't block they could rest while others were forced to chase me, improving our odds even more.
  • My break-mates weren't pulling hard enough for #2 to work.
  • I was a bit worried I'd blow up on Eucalyptus Road climbing those stair-steps on the last lap as the pace would go up.
Well, off I went, by myself, trying to maintain an even pace. I'd been timing my laps and each one was right around 12.5 minutes so I knew I could just hold that. Soon I couldn't even seen the pack, how cool! My teammates were still blocking and nobody else took up the chase. I couldn't believe it as the miles flew by!

On the last lap I swear the wind picked up a lot (it did; see the wind chart to the right here), and climbing those stair-steps into the headwind took some hard effort. I could also see the pack behind me now as they started to slowly reel me back in. But I still thought my lead was big enough and I tried to get my breath back so I could attack the last step; I treated it almost as the finish line because it would be very hard to catch me on the fast descent after it.

Well, as I flew down the hill, gasping, I looked over my shoulder as I reached the flat finishing section: Oh no, they were rapidly gaining on me! I put my head down and tried to sprint, but my legs were already at their limit and several guys passed me (including that VOS guy who sat in on the break). I still managed 4th in 45+, so I was pretty happy, but disappointed at the same time. Just after the finish line my watch beeped: 1 hour and 15 minutes, exactly as planned. Talk about consistence!

So, what could we have done better? I think we did really well, but:
  • Perhaps blocking for me was our main error, as much fun as it was. If my teammates had sat in instead of blocking I would have been caught sooner, but we'd have been better in the sprint finish. But then we'd be sprinting down that screaming hill; scary.
  • Ideally Mark, Russ or Jim would have soloed, not me. But they would have been chased down by those who know their strengths.
  • We could all have stayed with the pack, then we could have attacked on Eucalyptus Road's stair-steps. That was a plan we considered, but in the end several really strong riders matched our pace there and might have been able to beat us anyway (Russ told me he had to pause for air on the downhill, it was so hard!).
So, no major regrets, and man, that was super fun!

2010 Madera Stage Race E3 report

(Alternate Title: "The Hardest Race I've Ever Done Turned Out To Be A Flat Four-Corner Crit, WTF" by Nils Tikkanen)

To sum it up, this weekend was a learning experience at best, and some of the stupidest racing I've done at worst.

Event 1: Sharon TT: I got there early with my shiny new Felt DA and previewed the 10-mile course three times as a warmup. The third and fourth legs were into some serious wind (which would only get worse for the afternoon racers!). Given that I only had spent 2 hours on the bike before this event, I didn't have the highest of expectations... but I managed to pass four riders and take 9th at 0:23:42.

Random notes:
* Disc wheels sound f***ing awesome.
* Can't wait for my new Specialized TT2 helmet to arrive -- the Giro doesn't fit well for my position
* Regardless of what the Retul says, I'm dropping my bars at least 2cm. I felt pretty high up.

Event 2: Downtown Crit: A perfectly benign four-corner flat course = no problem. A perfectly benign four-corner flat course + soul-crushing winds = something entirely different. This was the latter. For whatever stupid reason, I decided to not be happy with holding 9th in the GC and thought I should try and make a move in this event.

To put it mildly, this didn't work out so well.

I worked the pace hard for the first 20 minutes, took a flyer that only lasted a lap or two, and then, after the second prime, I watched as Metromint and the Specialized juniors decided to start racing. Because of the wind, there was no place to rest, and they slowly annihilated the field. I could do nothing as I watched the split happen in front of me. I would find myself suffering with a few "chasers" (chasing would imply that we were trying to catch them, but I knew there was no hope), watching the lap cards count down all too slowly, just to minimize the GC damage for the last 25 minutes of the race. I ended up losing almost 3 minutes in a flat four-corner crit. Down to 18th in the GC, with little hopes of making that time up in the RR.

Event 3: Daulton Road Race: 70 miles of rolling hills, wind, and four times over the worst pavement in Northern California. Uneventful. Sat in, and ended up getting boxed in for the sprint. Ryan from SJBC was a great "teammate" to have in the field, seeing as I was the only Bike Trip racer there.

Bonus Event: Daulton Car Hill Climb Time Trial: You heard it right -- due to the overflow parking issues, Velo Promo added a new stage this year. Some people went backwards... literally.

And that is all.

In retrospect, I should have raced conservatively in the crit and held my GC 9th until the road race. That would have been seven upgrade points (i.e. puts me almost at the 25 I need) if I had done things differently.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Merco Foothills Road Race, 45+ 1/2/3/4

By Dennis Pedersen

Another gorgeous spring-like day for bike racing in the Sierra foothills. Last week Mike Sudbrink and I had to do the Snelling Road Race alone, since Russ Cadwallader and John Marshall were sick. But this time we had Russ along for company since he was feeling much better. The Tremendous Trio!

I was worried that this gently rolling 24-mile course, which shares some of the Snelling course's roads, would also create frustrating opportunities for breaks to get away from us. But having Russ along gave us some added options, and the wind was lighter too which made it easier for us to stay with the front of the pack. We were pretty hopeful of getting some decent results, in spite of the huge 100-man field stacked with several big teams.

Our well-organized two-lap race started on time for us at about 11:45. Man, it was a jammed course, even though the roads were completely closed off to other traffic in both directions. We got stuck a bit behind, and while Mike and Russ moved up through the massive pack it took me half a lap to cautiously move forward on the bumpy roads... I would rather take a bit of extra time than take extra risks with squirrely riders and potholes. Even so I did end up having to dive for the gravel shoulder once when some guys suddenly swerved.

By the time I got up near the front, east-bound on Turlock Road, I could see that Mike and Russ were doing a good job of staying well-positioned and closing the gaps that formed. In spite of the moderate wind guys were still trying to initiate breakaways, but none stuck.

The very, very bumpy Cox Ferry Road is so narrow that moving forward is even harder there. I remembered that from last year too, and made a mental note to be up front on the second lap. I also tried to memorize the course on Keyes Road where it approaches the finish line by Olsen Road, but it has a lot of similar turns. Oh well, I had to just hope it would click, and rely on the posted "1KM" and "200M" signs.

On the second lap I started moving further forward on Bledsoe Road, and had a good view of Mike breaking a spoke when he, like me, was forced onto the gravel shoulder by errant riders. Sigh, just two of us left! Russ continued to do a great job of controlling the front of the pack while I continued to fight to maintain my position near the front... not easy when everybody else in the huge pack had the same idea, and constant jumps off the front, with much swerving, broke up our rhythm.

When we turned north onto Cox Ferry Road I was in a decent position and used the empty left lane to push myself really hard along the pack to get a good position on this road. I did not want to be fighting for it later on, with just a short distance left to the finish! Consequently I was in a good position when we turned onto smooth Keyes Road again and started to jockey for choice spots for the finishing sprint. I felt good and in control. Bring it on!

I drafted an Alto Velo rider up the right side, on a small hill (which is also the feed zone for Snelling), and kept moving forward with the least amount of effort I could. But better to burn some matches now than be poorly positioned later, so I wasn't afraid to get winded to maintain a spot near the front.

We were really starting to move! I was maybe fifth place and hoping we could keep the huge pack strung out for the finish so as to avoid the mass chaos of a 100-man field sprint. Shudder, I don't want to go there! But the leadout train that was keeping me near, but more importantly below, my limit suddenly slowed after a few turns and that allowed a few guys to swarm us, though I somehow floated off the front briefly, just after the 1KM sign. Darn. But then a rider (I think from Team Bicycles Plus, or maybe Safeway?) tried a flyer on the last hill, and I found myself about 10 feet behind him, working hard to close the gap.

Just as we crested the last short hill a few guys came around me and I spotted the 200M sign and finish line; a slight surprise to me, just like last year! Thank goodness I was still well positioned, except now I was leading guys out: Hunter Ziesing (ZteaM) and Eric Saltzman (Morgan Stanley) to be specific. They did a good job of squeezing me out and forced me back to 7th place, which I held to the line maybe 20 feet behind 1st place Peter Allen (Safeway). Woo-hoo! Wheeze, wheeze, gasp... I was in the points this time! I even won some gas money for Russ, who took 25th.

I did better in our Oscars Party contest which Margaret organized at home while I was goofing off, tying for 1st with my semi-educated guesses on movies I'd never seen, thanks to my excessive cycling training. What a fun day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Merco 35+ 4's Race

I was really very nervous for today’s race. I spent some time this week asking for help from the team in determining strategy for races. I got a lot of input and I want to talk about how it played out in today’s race and how important I think it can be for each of us in future races. I’ll get to that, but all that strategizing is what I think made me really nervous today.
Being a newbie as a racer, I have often struggled with how I am supposed to evaluate my upcoming races. I mean, at 53 (54 racing age), I am entering my 3rd year of trying to learn to become a competitive cyclist. Up until recently, I have had no concept of how to get mentally ready for a race. I just show up on the line and do my best, hoping not to crash. Jim Langley has talked strategy to me on a couple of occasions, and then recently offered me an excellent evaluation of my upcoming race at Madera. That motivated me to ask the team in an e-mail if we could become more proactive in forming strategy. I have gotten thoughtful and excellent replies on this topic from Dennis and “the Heater”. I should also say that I have gotten and continue to get much thoughtful advice on the road from a variety of teammates, particularly Russ.
Today was an eye opener. Ed & I were in a race with 100 riders. There were four teams with 6 or more riders, and of those, one had 11 and one had 16. Steve Heaton had given me the most detailed advice, and he recommended checking out which teams were registered and in what numbers. He further advised trying to determine if any of those teams had riders who were a threat. He thought we should try to get to the front part of the pack as soon as possible and work to keep an eye on the big teams. If more than one of the big teams sent a rider off the front, then we should try to go with them. Otherwise, we should just work to sit in towards the front and let the teams do the work of chasing down any breaks. This was a good plan, and although simple, it was not one I would have thought through on my own. I found a good spot in the front quarter of the pack and did the work I had to do to stay there. I have tried to do this at races in the past but usually find myself drifting to the back. The combination that kept me there today was all strategy related. Russ has often told me to ride in the part of the pack that I want to find myself finishing, but it has never really taken hold. In part that is because I have had to work so hard not to get knocked off wheels and eventually I have simply given in. Today, I had the additional need to keep an eye on what the teams were up to. That gave me enough sense of purpose to hang in there and continue to fight for wheels. Then something revealing happened. Somewhere between half and 2/3rd’s of a lap in, it got easier. All of a sudden, it was like I was where I was supposed to be. The crowd I was riding with was at the front and we all knew it. Sure, occasionally the crowd from behind would come around us with a surge. But, we would each just do the work we needed to do to get back to the front. The other guys didn’t have the need to be there. And when the finishing stretch was looming, you can bet that those guys were not gonna get any free rides.
So for the first real time in a race, I felt like I was in a reasonably good position to be there at the end. But this was a big race, with a number of big teams. My initial thought was that Wells Fargo was controlling the race. They had guys at the front and the pace (slow) was reminiscent of what the guys from Body Concepts had done the previous week at Snelling. It turned out that WF just didn’t have the legs, and it also seemed that even with 16 guys in the race that they had really not discussed strategy. For the most part, I would say that was also true of the other teams in the race. It became even more clear as we approached the finish on the final lap. There was no organization among any of the teams and we were going to begin to barrel into the rollers that lead up to the still slightly uphill finish sprint. One guy, a climber, went off the front on one of the hills, but was quickly chased down. I was trying to gage my own choices. I had identified a spot that was a power hill leading up to the finishing sprint. I felt that I could surge to or off the front going up that hill and still have enough left for my sprint to the line. As we approached that little hill on the final lap, it was obvious that I had not been the only one with that idea. Lots of guys went hard up that riser. I decided to hold my own even though my legs felt like they had the power to go to the front. It seemed like guys were going really hard and I knew it was still a long way to the line. As we crested the hill, I started into my sprint, such as it is. I passed a number of riders, all of whom were gassed, and continued to drive towards the line. As I approached the line, I had to hit the brakes. There was no opening. The finishers ahead of me were gassed, but they were stretched out across the road.
In summary, none of the big teams really played any part in the finishing stretch. I do not believe any of them had come to this race with a strategy to deliver their man to the line. I think that is their loss. I also expect that it is our gain because we often find ourselves outnumbered. For my part, today was an excellent learning experience and a lot of fun. I cannot express how important I find the input from my teammates, nor how much I think we should move forward on establishing strategy for our races, teaching it to new riders and team members, and discussing it openly among ourselves. I would have liked to win one of those etched and painted river rocks that were going to 1st place winners today. Not this time, but maybe next! 19th today.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snelling Road Race, 45+ 1/2/3

By Dennis Pedersen

There was a crash somewhere to my left, the only one in our race, when a guy rode his bicycle off the shoulder of the road. I looked ahead for other problems and instead saw that the winning break of about seven or eight guys had just split off from our front. Every race has it's decisive moment, and that was ours, just minutes after our race had started.

I didn't know that break was the winning move yet, of course, but I knew from prior experience here that it could be. They had chosen well: The south-west corner of the generally flattish course, in the Sierra's gentle foothills, where several short hills and sharp turns opened up opportunities for gaps to form. Several thoughts went through my head:
  • Could I bridge the gap up to them?
  • Which teams were represented in the break?
  • Which other teams would work to catch the break?
  • Would the break work well together?
  • How strong were the guys in the break?
I started to move up, as that would help me answer those questions, but soon came to a stop behind a bunch of guys blocking us at the front of our main group (now a chase group). It looked like Safeway, VOS and Morgan Stanley all had riders in the break and their teammates were working to hold the rest of us back. I didn't know who else, or which riders, were up ahead, but I knew enough to know it didn't look good for Mike Sudbrink and I.

When faced with the decisive moment, decisive action is required. What did I do? I waited. I had lots of reasons: Too early. Too tired. Too slow. Somebody else will take the initiative. But what I should have done was turn myself inside-out to catch that break, consequences be hanged. Waiting just increased the gap.

The next two-plus laps were spent on frustrating attempts to form chase groups, but nothing much materialized. The motorcycle ref called out the time gap: I heard "1:12" and "1:21" at various times. I felt certain we could catch them in this 50-mile race if we tried, but only sporadic pacelines formed. Me, a guy from Davis Bike Club and a guy from Team Bicycles Plus were the only ones to consistently make any effort... and the blockers did their usual good job of disrupting our attempts and sowing the seeds of doubt (their smack-talk just made me laugh though!). And we also had some poorly-timed neutralizations when we got passed by some Pro/1/2 racers, forcing us to ease off for several minutes at a time. At other times we neutralized other racers and one time I was the tip of the arrow as we passed a large group from a different race category.

On the last lap VOS suddenly went from blocking to pushing the pace way up, taking turns really pounding. As if attacking or, more likely, trying to bridge up to the break. Huh? What was up? I wasn't sure, but I had a hunch their man in the break, James Allen, had been dropped or flatted. I went with each attempt and they got shut down pretty well; I knew to mark Jan Elsbach especially, who I know can solo pretty well. At one point I floated off the front and I asked Jon Ornstil, in passing, "what happened, did you lose your man?" but he didn't reply. Instead he had an uncharacteristic look of panic on his face.

We really hammered the last half of the last lap but I didn't think we'd catch the break. I was pretty sure the break still had at least 6 guys in it, and I really didn't want to sprint for 7th place. 7th wouldn't get me anything, no upgrade points, not even a T-shirt. So as we approached the last turn, where I won the field sprint for 6th last time, I just sat up and let the field pass me. No sense in risking a crash. I rolled over the finish line in 33rd, and it turned out VOS only took 9th, so I'm happy I didn't bother.

The result was disappointing, no denying it. I honestly believe this race suits me, and I really hoped for much more. But I love the gorgeous rural course, the spring-time weather was awesome, and it was really neat getting to race with Mike; he's a great guy and a real legend. This was his first race back in a long time and I hope we get to race some more. Russ Cadwallader and John Marshall (our new Nevada teammate) couldn't make it due to illness, but what a team we will make when we all can be there, ready for action. I look forward to that!