Monday, May 24, 2010

Panoche Road Race - Masters 45+ 4/5

This was a race I was hoping to do well in, and I found that I had a number of teammates registered in my category. Several of the team were wondering if they would get up the climb, and I was among them. It isn’t a huge climb and it stairsteps up, giving you a chance to recover. But still, if the little climber types decide to hit it hard, all of us big guys tend to get dropped. This time, none of the climbers went all out. I made it over on the tail end of the group and was never in danger of getting dropped again. I felt that the pace was not very race like, and on occasion, I went to the front to push it a bit. However, when I did that, someone would attack and I would have to chase them down. So, I just sat in and waited for the finish.
I think there were about 25 of us left in the lead group as we approached the last 1 K. Our strategy had been for me to lead out Miles and Mike for the sprint, and I would have loved to do that, but I had gotten myself sort of trapped in the middle of the pack at that point. I wanted to move up, but so did everyone else, and I am not the greatest yet at doing that. As we came up to the 200M line, the group was hesitating and I really wanted to go. At about 150 – 175 M they went and I tried to as well. Still, some guy pulled right in front of me and I had to sit back down and wait a moment to restart my sprint. Then I was off and the way was clear. We were bearing down on the finish line and I saw a photographer crouched in the road, directly in my line. I couldn’t tell how far the line was and I was still about 5M back from the lead at that point. I felt that the guy in the road had his lens focused on the leaders who were on the other side of the road. I really thought that I was going to crash into him, and my fear made me yell at him. Unfortunately, the heat of the moment caused me to yell at him profanely. Fortunately, I did get his attention and he jumped out of the way just in time as I was cruising for the line at top speed. I was moving up in the group quickly, but because of the confusion with the photographer, I couldn’t tell where I crossed the line. I was embarrassed by my profanity, but it just came out. The results did not get posted for quite a while and the other guys were ready to leave. I agreed, in part out of my embarrassment.
This morning I saw the results. Disqualified. I e-mailed the promoter and apologized for my poor language. I also apologize to the team. I will work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The promoter was very kind, and he informed me that if I could have maintained decorum, I finished 4th! Oh well.

Panoche Valley Training Ride Report (Cat 3)

Since my last report was all about good results, I'm pleased to report that I've successfully broken that streak with the Panoche Valley Road Race. In summary, it was terrible in an epic way.

I won the Calaveras TT on Saturday, then stayed out way too late at a BBQ on Saturday night (read: I got to bed at 3am). Three hours later, I woke up, ate, packed, got picked up by my teammate John Marshall, and went to Panoche. It was an experiment in lack of recovery, so to speak.

It took only ten minutes for our race to go from social to holy-hell vicious attacks. To put it mildly, my body was not happy. The strong tailwind exacerbated said unhappiness by somewhat nullifying the benefit of drafting. Things came back together just in time for the move that would put me in, as Phil Liggett would say, "a spot of trouble". We hit a bend that transformed the tailwind into a crosswind. Riders (who apparently knew the course) went to the front and guttered the entire field to string it out... right before turning left onto a very significant climb. I was shelled so fast it was almost funny.

It took a good half of the race to start feeling normal. Unfortunately, the second half of this out-and-back course turned the strong tailwind into an especially vicious, unrelenting headwind. The whole way back. Thank god I found people to ride with, some of whom I'd shed as I got more into my time trial mode. But even working together, it seemingly took forever to get home. The "10k to go" and "5k to go" signs felt hours apart. When I finally crossed the line, I was 23rd out of 35, and completely and utterly depleted.

Panoche Valley Road Race, 45+ 1/2/3/4

By Dennis Pedersen

I have definitely had some ups and downs this racing season... but that's pretty typical for most of us. After some decent results earlier, I DNF'd both of my last races (Santa Cruz and Cat's Hill), so anything would be an improvement!

At Panoche, now in its fifth year, I have either crashed, been dropped, or won. Nothing in-between. This year I got dropped again, which is tough as it feels like I'm sliding backwards, even though I am not.

Geoff Drake and John Marshall made sure the pace was super-hard on the ride out on this gorgeous, 27.5-mile section of rural road through the Panoche Valley south of Hollister. It was hard enough that on the last steep pitch I was gapped by about 10 feet from the leaders, but managed to catch back on the descent. But the very short break wasn't enough for me to get my hyperventilating lungs under control, so the following longish climb forced me to let the lead pack disappear around the turns ahead.

I was surprised how close I was behind them as they returned back toward the finish, John in the lead, after the U-turn at the 27.5-mile point. And I managed to find an Alto Velo rider to paceline with. Together we limited our losses for a while, but soon we had to acknowledge that the gap was increasing. We picked up one of his teammates who talked about how hard Geoff and John's attacks had been, which made me happy, sort of. We also passed John who had broken a spoke. But were we ever happy to see the "10K" sign! My left hip was really hurting, and I started to worry it was some nasty repetitive-stress injury.

Then, with about 4K to go, we saw the entire pack halted behind a pickup; it turned out they had to stop the race to allow a helicopter to evacuate a guy who'd broken his leg in a previous group. Bummer. And that made for a weird restart. The USAC officials did an amazing job of keeping us separated so the restart was as fair as possible. Two guys, one was Rick Martyn, got a 15-second lead, then the main leaders, then we chasers 3 minutes back. I could barely pedal at that point so I just rolled in.

But was I impressed to hear that Russ took 3rd, behind winner Larry Nolan (for whom a 4K restart is perfect, seeing as how he is a current Masters World Champion in pursuit!!!) and Eric Saltzman. Wow, way to go Russ! And Geoff managed 8th in spite of the many hard attacks he made.

Panoche Road Race 5/23/10 Cat. 3 Women

Panoche Road Race 5/23/10 Cat. 3 Women

Michele Heaton

This is one of my favorite races. I love the course. The beauty of the area, the gradual climb, the sweeping descent, the chance for an attack or sprint finish. That being said I seem to have some really bad “Panoche karma.” The first year I missed the turn around. The second year I got heat exhaustion (who didn’t?), leg cramps and had to ride on the side of my saddle for half of the race due to a wicked saddle sore. This year I was coming out motivated to finally have a good race, and hopefully pull out a win. Discouraging to arrive at the start and only have 3 other women to race with. All strong women though. One young woman I have raced with several times. She is strong but very inexperienced. I had mentioned something to her at Cantua Creek as she changed her line in an acceleration without looking and almost caused a crash. Did I mention I am a huge advocate of new riders learning how to ride their bike BEFORE they come out on hard group rides or races?

Since there were so few of us we decided to paceline. I quickly realized this young woman did not know how to do this and was trying to give her tips on how to paceline efficiently. She was very receptive and appreciative (so were the other women, both thanking me for speaking up.) The race was pretty uneventful until about 8K left to go. I had pulled off to the right of the paceline and felt a huge force hit my rear wheel. I immediately slammed to the ground and slid across the pavement. I saw her (the inexperied one) behind me, also down. I remember thinking thank goodness for helmets as my head hit with a great deal of force. I picked up my sunglasses off the ground, got up, made sure the other woman and her bike looked o.k., growled at her in frustration, saw the other two hammering up the road and jumped back on my bike. I wanted to catch them and win. Now I was mad at everyone. The one for taking me out after she had overlaped the wheel in front of her and the other two for taking advantage in a race of only 4 women. Pretty lame in my opinion. As I was going all out to catch them I began to assess the damage, where all the blood was coming from and if I was seriously injured or not. As I was looking around I noticed my power tap computer and mount were gone and had come off in the crash. Darn. I would never find them now. With all of my adrenaline and anger I was going fast and closing the huge gap even in the headwind. Once they realized I was getting close one of them attacked the other and easily went off to win. I came within maybe 200 meters of catching 2nd but still sprinted to the finish.

This was my first crash in my 8 years of riding. My body is lucky. Just some cuts, road rash and bruising that will all heal. However, not so lucky on the equipment. After Steve looked over my bike with his keen eye the tally stands at:

One ruined (brand new, $3000) frame

one cracked helmet

one bent (new, super light) race wheel

one lost power tap computer and mount

scuffed and bent shifters

scuffed new shoes and pedal

one shredded jersey and arm warmer

scuffed handlebar and shredded bar tape

I’m lucky. Someone in the men’s 45+ 4/5 race was air lifted out with a rumoured broken leg. I hope he is o.k. Not sure about this bike racing thing today. I definitely seem to have some bad karma at Panoche.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon

By Benoit Pelczar

Morgan Hill Sprint triathlon 5/16/210

Since I have been doing most of my bike training this year with the Team, I wanted to acknowledge that contribution and had my trisuit branded with the Bicycle Trip name. Yesterday was my first triathlon of the season, the Morgan Hill Sprint. My strategy for maximum sponsor exposure was to swim slow then pass as many people as possible so that they could have a good look at my Bicycle Trip branded back. My swim was perfectly executed and by that I mean slow, exciting the water in mid pack (it is pure coincidence that my swim training has been minimal this year)

Out of the water, I am in my element, as a member of the species that scientists refer to as land triathletes and it was time for me to go to work.

The bike was a 16-mile loop. Studying the elevation profile I took note that the course reached its highest elevation at mile 5, after a long gradual climb. That profile helped me devise a plan to take it relatively easy to mile 5 then push it hard to the finish. That worked very well and I moved up the field, passing too many racers to keep track off while being overtaken by less than 5 of them.

The run course was an out and back 5 miler, climbing the first half. I started it strong and reached the first (uphill) mile in 6:40. Mile 2 came exactly at 13 minutes. After that, I stopped looking at my watch and focused on my effort, passing racers right and left without being overtaken. Shortly after mile 2, I heard some steps behind me. I was decided to not let this racer pass me and jumped at his side. This young runner was out of high school, headed to West Valley College to run cross country and track, doing his second triathlon ever. It was nice to have his company as we pushed each other and avoided falling asleep while running. We stayed together all the way to the finish where I told him to go for the sprint, as I had no illusion to overtake his young legs and he had already beat my split since coming from behind.

The results have me 7th in my age group, with the 4th fastest bike and 2nd fastest run splits (out of 65), which I am very happy with. Not only has my bike improved since joining the Team, but the extra speed did not come at the detriment of my run. Now, if Mark could start a swim workout, I might become a more complete triathlete?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Berkeley Hills RR, 45-plus Cat 1, 2, 3

By Geoff Drake

Mark won this race the last two years, so it fell to Russ, John Marshall and me to uphold the standard this year.

The day before, I was flabbergasted by the weather report: rain. Will it never stop? Indeed, the skies looked leaden on my drive over the Richmond Bridge from my in-laws house in Marin. Then, with impeccable timing, it started to spit during the brief promenade. By the time we turned onto the course, it was raining in earnest. Hey, I just cleaned my bike! But I felt smug about the fact that I’d put on a thin, long-sleeve undershirt right before the start.

Our race was 2.7 laps, or 52 miles. The first half lap was pretty fast, especially with cold legs. However, I didn’t find the pace on the climbs particularly hard. The second time up “mama bear,” I remember seeing Carl Nielson munching away, and I had enough breath to say, “Hey, what’s for lunch?” (Answer: rice crispy bars.)

The two dominant teams were Morgan-Stanley and VOS. (Cale Reeder, who has been going extremely well this year, was a DNS due to illness.) Mark sagely recommended that we let these guys do the work to chase down breaks—unless both those teams were represented, in which case we better be up there.

I followed this advice, with one exception, when Jon Ornstil and Chris Courtney went up the road. That looked like a good combination to me, so I bridged up, took a long pull, then Jon took a pull—then Chris sat up and we all relinquished to the hard-chasing field. So much for that.

What I didn’t know at this point was that someone had already escaped. But more on that later.

I felt good coming into the final, finishing climb. John gave me a nice pull into the first part of the climb, then I moved around the left side of the field and found myself in the top five. Carl launched one of his trademark uphill attacks, and I glued up to his wheel. It was a hard pace, with the two of us at the front. But there was a headwind, even climbing at 10 mph, so I was glad to sit in for a few seconds. Partway up the climb I felt like I could go a little faster, so I swung around Carl and hit it hard--UCSC L5-style. I never looked back, but I didn’t hear any heavy breathing or shifting, which I figured was a good sign. With the finish line in sight, I stood up and sprinted. People told me later I had a few bike lengths on Steve Archer and Jan Ellsbach, who had a photo finish behind me.

For a moment I actually thought I’d won. I didn’t know that Blake Reed, the winner, had been up the road. Good thing I didn’t do some goofy end zone dance, or I would have looked like a moron. Congrats to Blake, for holding off the field for the better part of a lap. Nice ride and a nice guy. Nonetheless, I was happy with second, particularly since there were a lot of good climbers out there.

Russ finished an excellent seventh, so congrats to him!

Overall I thought our small contingent rode with class and made our presence known (in a good way). John Marshall rode the whole race in the top 10—and often in the top five or right smack at the front. He obviously knows his way around a bike race and Russ and I were glad to have him there.

The bad news was that the organizer initially lost our results; it took more than two hours to do the podium! Jeez. Good thing I’d already bought a box of chocolates for my long-suffering wife on mother’s day. I dutifully handed over my winnings to the chief executive of the house and all was forgiven.

(Thanks to Carl Nielson for the photos!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

5-6-10 Swanton TT


I am very pleased that I have achieved my primary cycling goal for 2010.

Since I just made my goal with only one extra second to spare I am glad I went “crazy” and removed the bottle cages and taped the small helmet vents. Other than that, I used almost exactly the same equipment as my last attempt (30:19). I did purchase a downward slanting stem that allowed me to lower my bars about 1cm bellow the top of the head set. My pacing probably wasn’t as good as my last attempt- felt like I was overcooking it- glad I had my heart rate monitor working so I could see that I needed to dial it back. Ned Overand was able to go over 2:30 faster than me on a very similar set up (he’s 11 years older and his position looks significantly less aero) but he didn’t get the nickname “the lung” for having the same tiny aerobic system as me.

Ken Sato

I want to thank Jim Langley for his advice on my creaking seat post. I have had creaking since I bought a Cervelo with an aero post about a year ago. Talked to many people including the local shop where I purchased and Cervelo directly with no resolution. I recalled Jim saying he had a similar bike and knew he was quite knowledgeable- so I sent him an email. Almost immediately, he sent me a detailed reply with an excellent solution to the creaking.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Topsport Sonora Road Race 45+ Cat 4

What a beautiful day for a bike race! It only took me about 2 ½ hours to get to the race, even though google maps estimated 3 hours 17 minutes with no traffic. I was a bit early, but the scenery around Sonora and the winery, from which the race was staged, was awesome. I’ll make one more pitch for these Topsport staged events. They really do a very good job. The courses are well marshaled, safe and challenging. Everyone involved with their operation is polite and helpful. If we can’t do a better job of supporting these races, they may not continue to promote them. I hope that won’t happen!
Our race consisted of 6 laps of an 8 mile loop. The road surface was rough (like the bad parts at Copperopolis), and the course was advertised as mostly rolling with one short climb. After doing a couple of warm-up laps, I commented to another rider that they might have been more accurate to say that the course was mostly climbing with one short descent. In reality, I do think the course was fairly described, but it was not the kind of rolling that I had expected. Also, the one short climb was a bit more than 1/3 mile at 8% – 10% grade (I’m guessing here). I expected that any good climbers would be able to wreak havoc on the group. Fortunately, when we lined up, most of the 20+ riders were of a similar body type to me. However, team BODY CONCEPTS had 5 guys in the race, and the next closest team was DAVIS with 3. Body concepts all lined up at the front for the start and we were off. The race began at the winery and climbed past the finish line and the feed zone for about ¾ mile before leveling out and moving to a somewhat technical descent. I started from my usual position at the rear and was not displeased by the pace that was set up that first rolling ascent. I soon became more than a little dismayed to see that Body Concepts had launched a lone rider off the front while the rest of the team did an admirable job of blocking. We never saw him again, and that was to be the somewhat regrettable pattern for the day. In the course of our six laps, 3 more riders were able to get away, never to be seen again. I was somewhat intimidated by the amount of uphill work there was. I had expected the rollers to be big ring stuff and I was in my 34 x 25 a lot. I was finding that I could do it though, and as the race went on we continued to drop 1 or 2 riders each lap. The “hill” was definitely a steep enough grade that a true climber would just ride away from me, but I was finding that in our group (excepting the 4 who rode away), I was one of the stronger ones.
There was one guy in our group who was a pretty good climber. Matt had been at the Topsport stage race in Copperopolis and I remembered him from there. He tended to crest the climb first, but would allow everyone to catch back on. I had the feeling that he didn’t understand how to ride well in someone’s draft. I formed a plan to try and get over the climb with him on the last lap and then see if I could get him to work with me to the finish, in hopes of a top 6 finish.
As the climb approached on the last lap, I moved to the front. When we hit the climb, I went hard, expecting Matt to go with me. About halfway up, I looked back and saw that no one had gone with me. I was off the front by 25 yards at least and they weren’t coming. I decided to go over the top as hard as I could and see if I could stay away to the finish (3 – 4 miles away). Once over the top, I hammered the descent, but allowed myself to recover somewhat from the climb. I expect that I had and maintained a 200 yard lead to that point. I made the turn to start the 1 ½ to 2 miles of rollers to the finish and once again began to work hard. My legs had no snap and I really had to focus to maintain a steady pace. The only bright spot was that I could see that the group was faring no better and weren’t really gaining on me. This inspired me to just keep working, no matter how wasted I felt. As I was about to crest the roller just before the winery and about 250 yards from the finish, I looked back and saw that one of the Body Concepts riders had made the bridge up to me. As he came around, I jumped on his wheel and gave everything I had. It wasn’t enough to overtake him but still, in this race of attrition that I still think was more suited to climbers, I was very pleased to take 6th.
My 6th place won me a nice T-shirt. On a sad note, I was sorry to learn that William Brieger, the Davis rider who saved me with a pull at the Topsport stage race, broke two vertebrae in his back on a training ride. He had to have surgery, but I am told he is expected to make a full recovery. I will hope and think on that!