Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wente Vineyards 2010 55+ Cat 4

I always promised Dennis, that if I ever got to the podium I'd write the report. It finally happened with a 3rd place finish so here it is. I'll keep it brief.

55+ Cat 4, how perfect is that. Finally a race with my true peers. An Alto Velo rider attacked immediately taking along two others who eventually came off. Who would think this move could possibly work from the start, but it did. This guy stayed away the entire race, and despite many efforts to begin a rotation and chase the guy down nobody was interested. It was very frustrating.

Last lap was relatively calm and down to about 20 guys. Over 40 had started the race. My plan was to sit in, rest, then attack at the base of Carroll. I went hard opening a good gap and just focused on keeping the gas on, pretending this was just another crazy UCSC effort. Looked back once (over right shoulder), still good. Saw the tent, checked one more time (right shoulder) still good. 2nd place, it's yours. Not kidding, on the line by half a wheel, a Taleo rider comes around me (left side) and steels it away. We both posted the same finish time.


Still, all in all, a fun day at the races.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Santa Cruz Classic Criterium XLII, 35+ 1/2/3

By Dennis Pedersen

I have long known that these technical criteriums aren't my strong suit, but I enjoy them so much and like the higher safety level that comes from that too. Still, nobody likes to DNF a race, especially since I managed to finish this one in mid-pack last year. But it's always a learning experience, so writing this up may help. So what was different?

I am more fit. That's about it.

In 2008 I sat in the whole race, suffering but maintaining my tenuous grip on the pack (barely!), and finished 18th. Last year I raced Elite 3 for another mid-pack finish. But this year I had the bad luck, around lap 10 of 20, to get stuck behind a guy who started dicking around with his gears on the climb (geez, just pick a gear!). Then I looked around him and saw that we'd let a 30-foot gap open up. I spent the next lap chasing the pack and had almost caught them on Laurel Street but I could see that I'd have to push myself even harder to make contact... and would catch them just at the base of the hill. I knew from experience that I'd be blown out, and another gap would open on the climb that I'd then have to somehow close. Repeat "ad nauseum" and you have the makings of a very tough race with a mediocre finish.

I decided to pull out instead and save my energy for my usual Monday workout. It's mildly depressing to roll to a stop and explain all that to one's supporters, but hey, that makes more sense than suffering needlessly for another mid-pack finish at best. And I managed 45 minutes of L4 over Granite Creek and Mountain Charlie the next morning! So my decision helped me maintain my workout schedule.

The lesson? I re-learned that repeated anaerobic efforts leave us no margin for error against guys who can ride at 26 MPH in their aerobic zone. Duh. And any semblance of a finishing sprint would be purely coincidental. Rather than work on my anaerobic power, which seems like the obvious answer, I need to work on my aerobic power. Bonny Doon x 1,000 here I come.

Oh, ex-Pro Chad Gerlach (who was very active at the front I'm told; I couldn't see that!) and Jesse Moore, our winner, both went on to finish strong in the 50-lap Pro race too... they are a fast bunch! It's kind of cool to take the line with a bunch of ex-Pros, except for the pain part.

My wife and various friends and family cheered me on, which is always special. Wish I could have given them a better show. Thanks again!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

CCCX #3, Sea Otter Crit, Santa Cruz Classic Race, Cat 3

by Nils Tikkanen

What a great streak of racing! I also did the Sea Otter Circuit Race, but the 19th place in that sufferfest on fatigued legs isn't even worth writing about. So, without further ado...

CCCX Circuit Race, 4/10/10 (cat 3/4)
A fast, windy, hilly ~4.2 mile loop. Finish is on a slight uphill just after a fast downhill and a sweeping right turn. For once, I had teammates! Abe Rotstein, a 3, and Rob Gaukel, a 4. Rob placed 4th in his earlier race and decided to use his winnings to enter our race! Smallish field (~30 riders).

In summary, Abe helped a lot at the front, while I put the hurt on with attacks and guttering the field on a hard stair-step climb section. People afterwards talked about "the break".. I guess they were referring to this (thanks Steven Woo!):

Fast forward to the finish. I was feeling very strong, but was counting on Abe to drill the pace down the hill, through the small flat section, and into the turn... however, I'd tucked into such an aero position on the descent I ended up on the front. Oops. When the flat road came, a few guys jumped on my right... I latched on, one guy who sat in the whole race went early for the finish. I lit it up, but not in time to catch him. 2nd.

Sea Otter Crit 4/15/10 a.k.a. the lamest prizes ever
30 guys showed up to race this super-technical banana crit. Wind. Hills. Some of the tightest chicanes known to mankind. Being mid-pack on those turns make you very sad. So.. early into the race, 3 guys go off. One is a breakaway specialist and one is well-represented in the pack, and we do absolutely nothing to catch them. Really lame. After trying to initiate a chase and watching it fall flat, I decide to go for the gusto. With four laps to go, I ride hard but smooth off the front of the pack. Nobody's chasing. Wow. Can I really do this? I watch the lap cards count down, and I'm holding the gap. I go into time trial mode, and take great pleasure in being on my own through the corners. Here's a pic:

(original source I manage to hold the gap into the finish, and take the hardest-earned fourth place ever. And what did I get for fourth place at my $55 entry-fee race at one of the most commercial bike events? A box of Clif Bars and two tubes. I'm not even kidding.

Santa Cruz Classic 4/18/10
One of my favorite crits. Technical, not at all flat, and a finish that's well-suited for me.... not much to report, except I put in some hard efforts in an attempt to string out the field, grabbed a cash prime, kept it safe, and stayed towards the front. The last lap was particularly interesting -- two guys went earlier than expected, but I was a few wheels in and couldn't react. So when we came out of that final corner onto 3rd, I lit it up hard and opened a huge gap on the field, looked back, looked back and saw some chasers, and put in a second acceleration. 3rd.

Sea Otter Road Race 45+ 1,2,3

By Mark Edwards

Pro wrench Jim Langley saves my bacon… again!

But, before I get to that, what a wonderful day. In stark contrast to my last Sea Otter, with alternating gale force winds, moving ground fog, and torrential rain, today was perfect; 70 degrees, clear blue skies, and a light breeze off the ocean. Throw in a car free course, top National talent, and varied, challenging, and beautiful terrain, and you’ve got the makings of one heck of a race.

On the start line, Cale Reeder looked fit and ready – having won the Sea Otter circuit race the day before (along with nearly every race he’s entered in the past year); his commanding lead in the 2010 BAR lending further credence that he’d be the one to watch. Cale would have teammate Hunter Ziesing for help. Hunter gets my vote for most improved racer. He’s been riding better than ever, so we’d have to keep a short leash on those two. But wait… who’s that guy in the Stars and Stripes? Janne Hamalainen, out here from Tennessee, winner of last year’s Sea Otter RR and current 45-49 National road race champion, and… teammate to Cale and Hunter from the new powerhouse Team Echelon. All of the sudden, what had appeared to be a fairly level playing field, wasn’t. It had tipped decisively towards Team Echelon. With no other teams able to match Team Echelon’s depth, it would be up to a very talented gang of individuals to try and contain this cycling juggernaut.

We were scheduled for 8 laps. Two main climbs per lap, and a deceptively long and steep finishing climb, we were in for 69 miles, and three and a half hours of pain. We started on time, promenading about 3.5 miles to the start of the loop. Then it was…. GAME ON!

Immediately, John Novitsky, reigning National Time Trial Champion, locomotive extraordinaire, and all around nice guy, went right to the front and put the hammer down. Unlike the rest of us, who like to jump to the front, do a little damage, then tuck safely back into the peloton to rest, John hammered us for three straight laps. Even when he started to fatigue, falling back on the climbs, he would keep the pressure on, catching us on the flats, only to resume his position at the front. That guy has an engine and will that just won’t quit, probably one of the reasons he’s the best in the Country.

Anyone familiar with Henekens climb on this course knows that 8 times up it was going to turn all but the hardiest legs to Jell-O far before the final climb. By the forth time up we were down to 7 guys. I felt okay - I was even tempted to attack - but I knew we were less than half way through the race, and feeling good now could easily turn to cramping up and getting popped two laps from now. Plus, attacking my breakmates so far from the finish could easily kill our efforts, allowing additional riders to catch back on.

As we descended from the forth climb, something didn’t feel quite right with my bike. The pavement is crap in several areas on this course, “it’s probably just vibration from a rough section” I thought. About three miles later we hit the 10 mph hairpin. I followed Janne’s wide line through the turn, but nearly found myself in the bushes. WHAT THE HELL??? Looking down, my front tire splayed wide at the contact patch. OH NO! Not a flat, not now! It was still ride-able, but very squirrely in the corners, and probably not too safe on the 45 mph descents. What to do? What to do?

I kept an eye on it while I tried to stay with my 6 breakmates, ultimately I would ride 8 miles on it. Remarkably, fate was smiling on me. We reached the base of Henekens and I remembered Jim was near the top shooting pictures and cheering Geoff and I on. If I could get a wheel change, I would probably at least stand a chance of chasing back on. I alerted my breakmates that I had a flat and was going to try to get a wheel change. My luck held when they seemed agreeable and didn’t attack me. I accelerated off the front, Cale chased, but Janne quickly called him off, “he’s got a flat!” I kept the pressure on, trying to gain precious seconds for my pit stop. Where was Jim? Had he left? Wait… there he is, closer to the top than I’d remembered. I was breathing pretty hard from the effort, so I worried that calling out from a distance, my plea for assistance wouldn’t be understood (especially yelling something Jim wasn’t expecting).

But let’s remember who we’re talking about. Pro wrench Jim Langley, mechanic to the stars. I yelled “I need a front wheel!” I was 20 seconds away and flipping opening my brakes. By the time I reached Jim he was kneeling with his front wheel in his left hand. I rolled to a stop directly between his knees. With a skill honed over years of riding, racing, crewing, and wrenching, Jim had my wheel out and new one back in just as my group rolled by. A couple of seconds to secure the wheel… and the chase was on. I caught the group before the top, then immediately went to the front to take a pull. I wanted to show my appreciation to these guys for refraining from attacking me while I was down.

The next couple of laps we alternated between working well together, then not. Coming into the “other” key climb for the second to last time, Cale and Janne attacked hard. Immediately I cramped… bad (in fact, sitting here the morning after, as I type this, my right calf is still plenty sore to the touch). Those two sped off, with Jan Elsbach (showing race winning form today!) and Mike Vetterli in hot pursuit, but losing ground. I was back with David Passmore and Cris Williams of Park City, and… I was pretty sure they were about to drop me. Both quads and calves had cramped, and I was far from recovered. Apparently they didn’t have anymore left than I did, we re-grouped and got to work limiting our losses.

Reaching Henekens for the final climb, I felt good enough to set a steady, but hard pace. I dropped my chase companions and caught Jan and Mike. We started working well together, but it wouldn’t last. About two miles later David and Cris caught back on. Coming up ahead of us was the climb where I’d cramped on the previous lap. I was nervous I might cramp again. I went to the front and set a hard, but not brutal pace, hoping to discourage attacks. It worked… Jan, Mike, and I had a gap and started to rotate. Cris caught back on. Cale and Janne had about a minute and a half on us; and a lock on first and second. That left the four of us to battle for the remaining three podium spots. After the long stairstep descent there’s a short hard climb. I attacked and dropped Cris. Jan, Mike and I went to work securing our podium positions.

Turning right off the loop, we started the final 2.6 mile, 600’ climb to the finish. I suggested we work together to cement our podium placings - then duke it out in the final mile. It seemed reasonable to me… Mike took off! Hmmmm, seems maybe he had a little extra left. I felt good, but was still feeling the effects of my cramps. One mis-timed surge and I could seize up again. Jan caught Mike’s wheel and we sat on him as he attempted to drop us. Mike started to fade, Jan went around him. Slowly he upped the pace until Mike popped.

We were maybe a half a mile from the finish. I was pretty sure I’d recovered enough that I could drop Jan, but he’s a scrappy racer, not someone I’m likely to underestimate. I knew that historically I’ve got the better late race sprint, but I wasn’t entirely confident how well it would work on an 15% grade – and that I wouldn’t cramp up again. I decided to put my faith in my sprint. Even though I doubt I was getting much draft on the climb, I did have the advantage of being able to watch his every move. The fact that he didn’t start a game of cat and mouse also suggested he suspected I might have more than he did in reserve. If I was in his spot, I’d just keep riding hard – guarantee myself the 4th spot on the podium – or maybe things would work out and hang on for third.

The finish was 100 yards closer than I’d figured in my pre-race reconnaissance. So my planned sprint landmark had to be moved at the last minute. 50 yards from the finish (a short sprint on a flat course, closer to eternity at 15%) I double shifted and went for it. There wasn’t much about what I was doing that could even loosely be compared to what Mark Cavendish does at the end of a race. Slow motion, riding in molasses, two flat tires are all better descriptions. About the only person that could tell I was accelerating was Jan, I inched away as he easily kept his forth place finish safe.

Janne and Cale took first and second about a minute and a half ahead of me (reversing yesterday’s Circuit race results – dominating this year’s Sea Otter road races! Thankfully both these guys will be in a younger age group than me at Nationals this year). Geoff came in with an impressive 9th place, once again dusting guys who devote twice the time to training that he has available. Way to go Geoff!

Oh… and did I tell you about the real life Podium Girl ;-)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sea Otter Classic April 17, 2010

A few photos from today's Sea Otter Classic road races
by Jim Langley

1. Mark Edwards finishes 3rd in the 45+ 1/2/3

2. Team Bike Trip/Symantec's Mark Edwards on the Sea Otter Podium after receiving a smooch from the podium girl (right in red).

3. Geoff Drake finishes 9th in the 45+ 1/2/3

4. Abe Rothstein finishes 10th in the Cat 3s

5. Mark and Geoff looking good up the main climb, Henneken Hill on lap 3 or 4 of 8.

6. Mark with the breakaway group on lap 6? Stars and stripes jersey is the rider who won the race.

7. Geoff setting a nice tempo with the next group.

And, in my 55+ race, which took place at 7 a.m. - I got 9th. I was leading with 1K to go but the guys with me were stronger and powered by in the slow-motion sprint to the line on the steepest part of the 2-mile finishing climb. Painful!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CCCX #3 45-plus 1, 2, 3, 4

By Geoff Drake

Mark, Dennis, and I headed off in gloomy skies Saturday afternoon for the third in this excellent race series. Dennis had success with an early breakaway in the last CCCX race, and so on the first lap he took another flyer in the company of three others. Before long they were out of sight, and Mark and I set about trying to neutralize things at the front. That was fun! However, one moment of inattention was all it took for Cale Reeder to attack and get away. He rode up to Dennis’s breakaway, stayed with them for a bit, then went on to a solo win. Strong guy! Dennis took third, sprinting from his small group.

I decided I didn’t want to get mixed up in a field sprint and took a flyer on the last lap, managed to hold off the field, and took fourth by myself.

So, we got third and fourth in our race, and Nils took second his race. Not a bad day for the boys in yellow! As our reward, Mark took us out in Ford Ord lands for some more self-flagellation in preparation for next weekend’s race. A fine day!

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

By Dennis Pedersen

I really enjoyed racing my bike in CCCX #2 last month since I love the green, rolling hills of Fort Ord and its closed, paved roads. This time our team in 45+ was Mark, Geoff and me. We were outnumbered by other teams in the 36-rider combined 45+/55+ field. VOS had 9, SJBC 4, Webcor/Alto Velo 7. Eddy was our teammate in 55+. This race ended up like "deja vu" for me, but with some key differences.

We had feared it would rain, but even though a few showers hit town in the morning while I was eating biscuits and gravy at Harbor Cafe it stayed dry, but rather windy, at the race. We discussed tactics en-route and during our warmup lap. We thought we rode smart last time, mostly, and decided to try similar tactics. But we also had some other options we'd throw down if the race demanded it. For me, I didn't plan on trying another solo flyer, but still thought stringing out the field in the flatter sections would serve us well.

When the race started (using the start/finish that CCCX #1 had used) I was a bit back but quickly moved ahead on Parker Flats Road with the tailwind helping me along. Last time I pulled the peloton along here, but this time, on lap 1 even, a break had already formed... yikes! I wasted no time in trying to pull the rest of the pack behind me to close the gap... I wasn't trying to bridge, per se, but apparently only Larry Hampson (VOS) followed me and sat on my wheel a bit before dropping back into the main group. Nobody else came, so I... pedaled hard and suddenly I was in another breakaway like last time.

This break had Brain House (BikePalace) who was one of the stronger 45+ riders in the break at CCCX #2, plus two 55+ guys: George Smith (Webcor/Alto Velo) and a Joselyn's rider. I didn't think we'd last, but like last time thought that I could help my team by forcing unrepresented teams like VOS to chase us down while Mark, Geoff and Eddy could draft them in the strong wind. It gets weird when you mix the age groups like this, because teams have to choose between helping 45+ vs. 55+ teammates. It looked like Webcor decided to help George in 55+ by blocking the pack, as Mark and Geoff did so selflessly for me in 45+. But VOS took no action that I know of; I think they gambled we'd come back together for another sprint finish.

Anyway, we pacelined fairly well for a few laps, George and I taking by far the most pulls (he later told me he thought we should just have gone by ourselves). But on lap 3 or 4 a ZteaM rider in his white kit bridged up to us; a considerable feat given the huge gap we now had! I wasn't sure who he was, but I was pretty sure it wasn't Hunter Zeising... perhaps his teammate Cale Reeder? Oof, he's very strong and proved that every time he took a monster pull at the front! The Joselyn's rider gave up, but the rest of us rode in a fast, rotating echcelon through the crosswinds. I had to skip a few of my rotations to avoid blowing up!

I neglected to wear my watch so I kept looking for lap cards. I thought we might be on the last lap, but when I looked at the cards they were partly blocked by the guy changing them and all I saw was a "2." OK, two laps to go... or was he tardy in getting the "1" card out? I didn't want to ask my break-mates if they knew, for some reason. I must remember to always wear my watch! Cale continued his hard pulls and I saw him scrutinize us all carefully for signs of weakness (there were plenty!). My legs were constantly burning, lungs at their limit too. So when we hit the "stair-step" section on Eucalyptus Road into the headwind the rest of us just watched him rapidly gobble up a couple hundred meters in no time!

And as we approached the finish I just kept riding like we were taking pulls so Brian sprinted off before I had a chance to react. Duh! Well, I still got 3rd which is pretty cool (and $25!), and Geoff came in 4th even after working hard with Mark to block! Great results for Team Bicycle Trip!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Copperopolis Road Race 45+ 4's

Another race I had some reservations about. Many people consider this the toughest road race in Northern California. The road surface is mostly horrible, there is a wickedly nasty descent, hard windy sections, and two climbs per lap. Plus, last year I did this race only a few weeks after crashing at Madera. I got dropped before the first climb and ended up having to get off and walk part of the way. Not very inspiring. I was in better fitness this time around, but I still came in wondering how I would fare in this hilly and windy race.
As we lined up at the start, I was sorry to see that Miles had not made it. I hope he is well, and I regret not having had the opportunity to work for him in this race. Still, we had close to 50 guys at the start and we were off for our two lap event. The race starts with a descent over roads that are nothing more than a quilt of patched potholes. With few exceptions, this is the state of the road throughout the race. For my part, I find that I actually kind of enjoy the ride that you get over this surface, not so much rattling as settling once the status quo sets in. The road climbs up past the feed zone before descending again going into the major climb. On this first lap, I was in the back half of the group and my legs were feeling really good. As we went up the climb, I was surprised that the leaders were not pushing the pace harder. I was riding comfortably when I realized that a number of those around me were breathing very heavily and some were starting to drop. I was focused on staying on the wheel of Nelson Frink from Davis Cycling Club. Nelson had been at the Topsport Stage Race the prior week and had taken 2nd to my 3rd there. I knew he was a strong rider and I expected that his wheel would be a good one to get me to the top. As we crested the climb, we were on with the lead group, but I would guess that the total had been cut in half. A few of the dropped riders got back on, and I would estimate our number at around 30 at this point. Things stayed that way for the remainder of the first lap, but I didn’t think the pace was as hard as it had been in the road race at Topsport the week before. The group had 4 Cal Giant riders controlling the race at the front and there were 4 riders from the Fighting Bobas. My team was me.
We got through the first lap and began the major climb for the second time. The pace was definitely harder this time and guys started dropping off pretty early. I was still hanging onto Nelson’s wheel when I realized he was cracking. As I came around him, I urged him to get on my wheel, but he wasn’t able to hold it. I continued up the climb in pursuit of the leaders but feeling my own resources begin to fail. Still, I pushed myself as hard as I dared without going into blowup territory, and as the leaders crested the climb, I would guess that I was no more than 25 yards behind. Amazing that when I crested the climb, the leaders were probably 150 yards ahead of me with a group of 3 more riders, 50 yards behind them. I pushed myself up to speed and took a moment to recover. I looked behind and saw no one coming for me to work with. The lead group did not seem to be pulling away from me too quickly, and the 3 behind them were starting to chase ferociously. I decided that my only hope would be to chase back on, alone.
I put my head down as low as I could and began to chase. I tried to make my effort as hard as I could sustain for an extended period of time. I didn’t have my powermeter, but I would guess I was riding at or close to the top of my zone 4, or equal to my best ever efforts up the climb at Bonny Doon. I’m guessing that I chased for close to 20 minutes, from just past the crest of the climb to about 200 yards before the road makes its hard left back into the cross tailwind. I knew that if I didn’t get back on before that turn, that I would not be getting back with the leaders. Along the way, I could see that I was making up ground on the group. Still, I was a long way off and 2 of the 3 chasers had managed to bridge back up, leaving only one man between me and the leaders. After 10 – 15 minutes of chasing, I finally managed to bridge the gap between myself and the lone chaser. I urged him to work with me, but he claimed he had nothing to give. I got him to take a couple of short pulls that allowed me to recover somewhat. However, I could see that we were losing ground when he was pulling, and I could also see that the sharp left hander was coming sooner rather than later. I told my man to stay on my wheel and launched. Unfortunately, he was unable to stay with me, but I had to continue my effort or give up the race. I still had about 50 yards to make up to get back to the lead group. Even so, I did not go all out. That was the choice I had made at Bariani, and it cost me. I had gotten back to the group at Bariani, only to fall off immediately because I was blown up. This time, I gave a steady hard effort that was indeed major for me, but I held back enough so that I could give some more after I got back on. I didn’t want to chase for 20 minutes only to be attacked and dropped again immediately. This day, I made it. The group gave a bit of a surge when I got back on, but nothing too big and I had enough left to stay with it. Then recovery. I sat in, took in some drink and some Hammer Gel.
I could feel the drain of my effort coursing through me, but still, I was exuberant about having made so successful a long chase. I looked around and saw that I was one of 12 riders left in the lead group. A glance behind told me that no one else would be coming. The finish was approaching, but first we had the second of the two climbs to ascend. My legs continued to feel better and I began to try and figure out what my best chance was for a good result at the finish. I was worried about how my legs would fare on the final climb and the descent that comes after was on my mind as well. However, I realized I only had to pass 2 guys in my group to get a top 10 finish in this very hard race. Anything beyond that would be gravy.
The climb and the descent turned out to be everything I had imagined they would be. I was at the front at the start of the climb, but off the back by the top. There were 8 or 9 guys together at the front, with me off the back chasing a couple of other stragglers. I attacked the descent as hard as I dared and made up some ground on the other two chasers. Still, I overcooked one curve and found myself begging my bike to stay upright under the pressure. It did and I backed off a bit from that point on. I could see that I wouldn’t be able to bridge back to the lead group, but I felt I could probably catch and pass the other two guys off the back at the bottom of the descent or during the final uphill battle to the finish. I allowed myself to recover as completely as possible during the remainder of the descent and began a steady and very hard effort immediately thereafter. I soon passed both riders ahead of me at about the 1 KM sign and began to wonder if I had gone too soon. I looked back as I was passing the 200 M sign and saw the Giant rider about 20 yards behind winding into his sprint. I downshifted and came out of the saddle as hard as I could, but my legs didn’t have a whole lot left in them. I sat back down and shifted into an easier gear that allowed me to spin up my cadence. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the Giant rider was gaining on me, but really wasn’t doing much better than I was. That gave me the inspiration to continue upping my cadence and I succeeded in pulling away from him to the line. I was pretty excited about finishing 10th in such a hard road race until I went by the results booth and learned that I can’t count. Rather than 12 guys in our final group, there were 13. I finished 11th. Even so, I am very pleased with how this race went for me. I really feel that I could not have ridden any stronger or smarter. The journey continues.