Monday, August 30, 2010

NCNCA District Championship Criterium 1/2/3

What a change from last year. The Vacaville Grand Prix is a technical asymmetrical figure-8 of a course with little chance of respite: one of the loops is a rapid succession of left-right-right-right-left, the other has a short climb that proves to be the doom of many a racer. Last year, as a Cat 3, I felt extremely capable on this course, using the hill to gain position, and placing a solid 5th (which would have been 4th had I sprinted for the finish line instead of the crosswalk immediately before it--oops). This year, I raced the championships 1/2/3 field (read: you get a fancy jersey if you win), and it was something else entirely. Notes follow:

First: 120 starters. I've never ridden a crit with more than 75 starters. Holding and gaining position in a larger race with more experienced racers, with lots at stake would be a special kind of challenge for me...sort of like trying to move a brick wall by running into it at high speeds. (Or a golf cart, but more on that later.) Second: An incredibly strong fielding by a team sponsored by a certain inferior search engine whose name shall remain anonymous. Third: End of season legs. I've been in a fitness slough since mid-August, and those long autumn rides with apple pie stops are looking mighty fun right about now.

I get to the line a bit late and end up towards the back, but that's OK. In a moment of absolute pro-ness, a bunch of people tried to start early. To the dismay of those of us who knew better, they weren't relegated to the back nor were they asked to replace their helmets with dunce caps. Alas. Soon, the whistle blows, and we're off.

With the exception of a few moments of easing up, the race went from hard to harder to "%@#! my legs are not happy today" levels of unpleasantness. I remember thinking about my great plans to use the climb to gain position, and realizing with almost a sense of amusement the ludicrousness of this strategy in the 1/2/3 field. It was challenging to just stay attached--with each lap, a few more riders met the end of their race on this somewhat innocent looking 30-second effort.

With 13 laps to go out of 33, I became one of them. I went into desperation TT mode and attempted to catch back on, but realized my efforts were in vain. I pedaled through another lap and then heard the "you're pulled" whistle of sweet, sweet release. I ended up placed at 66th, and was even surprised to see a number next to my name instead of a "DN[PF]".

A few random notes:
* Golf carts in the exiting line of a corner turn bike racers into veritable ninjas.
* Lessons learned: Perhaps I spent too much effort initially trying to move up. I should have waited for attrition to shrink the field before working on positioning.
* Thanks to the anonymous rider who gave me a half-bottle of that delicious Clif sports drink. I'll pay that one forward.

Monday, August 23, 2010

University Road Race Pro 1/2

By Mark Edwards

“I’ve never worked so hard to place so low” Scott proclaimed as I walked towards him after his race. Yea… I know how you feel…

This year was to be my 8th time racing the University road race. Each year I’ve done a little better, culminating with my 2nd place finish in 2009. This year, I trained harder than ever and hoped to be competitive for the win. Until, that is, about a month ago when I discovered that VeloPromo had dropped the 45+ 1,2,3 race for 2010.

Now, I understand as well as anyone that bike racing is by category. If you’re a 70 year old Cat 2 you should be able to race a 22 year old Cat 2. If you can’t, you should downgrade. But, its hard work upgrading, no one really relishes the thought of voluntarily dropping their category just because they’ve gotten a little older. So, most of us find ways to race smarter, handicapping with our advancing experience levels.

Most of the NCNCA race courses on the calendar provide ample opportunities for those of us more “senior” racers to exploit our hard earned devious equalizing tactics. But, not the University road race, this one’s unusual. No place to rest, no place to hide, ever. It’s “climb all out for 4.5 minutes, then work your butt off to stay on for the 2.5 minute descent before starting the climb again”.

Without the 45+ 1,2,3 available, I had the choice of the 35+ 1,2,3 or the Pro 1/2. I could likely get a top 6 out of the 35+, but top 3 would be impossible. Now, I’m not complaining, top 6 in such a tough group on such a tough course is something to be proud of. But, with my year long plan to go for victory out the window, I was having trouble willing myself to get psyched up to suffer the way this race requires with no chance of reaching the top podium spot.

So, what did I do? I walked up to the registration tent and said “Pro 1/2". Did that really just come out of my mouth? Oh well… its game on now. I had decided that, if a win is out of the question, why not jump in the deep end and see how long before the Lifeguards had to pull me out. So, off we went. A planned 20 laps, which works out to 60 miles and 7,000 vertical feet of climbing.

For the first time Nils and I would be racing together. I was really looking forward to having him there as a teammate in such a tough field. Nils is a fun racer to watch from the sidelines, racing with him promised to be even more fun.

The first half a dozen laps were fast, but manageable. They all felt well within what I do every week at the Team’s Wednesday hill repeat workout. But, instead of six minutes rest like in the workouts, we were spending two and a half minutes chasing to stay on wheels before the next climb started (University RR is a ~3 mile loop – you’re either going up or down the whole time). Nils and I stayed well positioned in the pack. A couple of times Nils went to the front for the final corner coming into the climb and created a little gap by flying through the corner. Like I said “fun to watch”.

The seventh lap was noticeably harder. A post race review showed an average power output of 433 watts for the climb. This pace would be far beyond almost all the top guys I normally race – even if they had fresh legs! Let alone on the seventh time up that hill. About 25% of the peloton was shed. Unfortunately, Nils was among the casualties.

The next two laps were similar to the first six. Fast, but well within what I was capable of. Then, once again, the stakes were raised on the tenth lap, summiting at 414 watts average. Hoping for a respite on the eleventh lap, I was to be sorely disappointed. A second consecutive 400+ watt lap proved too much for me. Painfully, I watch about 25 guys continue over the crest without me.

It was now time to go into time trial mode – for nine more laps! Not a very appealing thought considering I’d just popped and my legs felt it. I knew guys would continue to be shed from the lead group and hoped to find a few to work with. A good paceline can make the time go by much quicker. I was pulling back about one rider per lap, but each time I’d catch one in hopeful anticipation of working together, it was obvious the fight had gone from his legs. So, on I went looking for my next potential partner.

Around lap 15 my faith in finding another guy to ride with had faded. My back was killing me. Guys I’d been racing moments ago had dropped out and were now standing watching the race with cold drinks in hand. Temptation…

But, I knew my teammate, time trial specialist Nils, would never give up. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was back there, low on his bars, probably dragging three other guys.

The final laps seemed to crawl by. I could have sworn they forgot to change the remaining lap cards a few times. I went through feeling terrible, then a little better. I tried to get aero on the descents, and kept the pressure on the climbs. I was fumbling to find a semi comfortable position on the bike, and trying to avoid cramping, the thought of Joe’s treats, fresh from the Buttery, kept me going.

Throughout the race, Margaret and Michele were there every lap in the feedzone coaxing me to drink more. They succeeded, without them I would have had to drop out for sure. Also, several team members provided almost constant cheer for the entire length of the climb. I can hardly believe their perseverance for nearly two and a half hours, I’m very grateful. It helped more than you know.

My finish was much less uneventful than I’ve become accustom to. I rolled across the finish line solo, very happy to have survived. My reward? 22nd out of 54 starters at an average speed of 21.1 mph. My lowest finish in years, kind of funny considering I was in the best shape of my life, and worked harder during the race than I have ever before.

If I could re-run that day, would I choose the 35+ race instead? No way! Sure, it hurt – a lot. Yea, getting dropped is no fun. And, I wouldn't wish riding 9 laps solo on that course on my enemies. But, occasionally stepping up is good. Yes, I was over my head, but how amazing to get to watch these athletes at the prime of their lives from a truly front row seat. It’s also a great reminder not to take myself too seriously, while simultaneously opening the door for what might be possible…

San Ardo Road Race, 45+ 1/2/3

By Dennis Pedersen

Russ and I raced at San Ardo last year and took 2nd and 3rd, so we were hoping to do well again. He drove Miles and I down to the poor, tiny town of San Ardo, south of King City near Highway 101 for our 8:50am race start (thanks Russ!). We also had Matt Wocasek so team tactics became possible.

My ideas for this 68-mile bike race did not involve initiating any early breakaways. The beautiful, gently-rolling hills of this rural course, and just 5- to 6-mph winds, discouraged such attacks. I did think that a late break, maybe at the end of the 2nd of our 3 laps, might work for my teammates, but not for a sprinter like me.

After we started our race I thought we were still being held back by the motorcycle referee, but we were just riding really slowly! The prospect of 3 hours of that was intolerable (even though the weather was perfect). We can either accept things as they are, or work to change them. I opted for the latter and moved to the front looking for breaks. At worst I'd allow my teammates to rest up for attacks late in the race, while ensuring that one of us was always present in any early breaks so that we wouldn't get shut out if the break maintained its lead to the finish. At best my chosen break would stay away and I could use my sprint to get Team Bicycle Trip a decent placement in the race.

After one moderate effort, about 1/4 lap into our race, I rolled slowly off the front. I looked to my left and saw Hunter Ziesing (Zteam) doing likewise while everybody else sat up. We looked at each other and soon we'd both taken off and gained a nice lead on the pack. I didn't even realize that at first and thought we were just pushing the pace a bit higher. Soon a few other guys decided we meant business and bridged up to us. The next few minutes we really started working hard, with a few of us taking turns pulling at the front while others just drafted behind us. But when I looked back I couldn't even see the peloton. Yikes, I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of a break with 2.5 laps to go!

There were now about 12 guys in the break (out of a total field of 50), but still only a few of us who were contributing to the high pace. I started doubting our chances against the other 35+ guys but then Cale Reeder (Zteam) made a conspicuous entry into our group wearing his US Championship jersey... that was both good and bad news! I knew he'd work hard for our break, but I also knew he'd do well in the final climb to the finish line. Well, I decided to keep working while also looking to see if we would have a good chance against the peloton behind us. The motorcycle ref told us our lead had dropped to 30, down from 55 seconds earlier. Clearly we had stopped cooperating after Cale joined us!

Cale and Hunter solved our dilemma by using the short climb just after the start/finish area at the beginning of lap 2 to attack our break... first Cale took off while we were panting, then Hunter joined him with an impressive effort! We could see them crest the rolling hills as we sped northward, but soon they had a gap of 20 to 30 seconds! And after a half lap of chasing hard I again sensed a lack of motivation in our break as the two off the front disappeared into the distance. But I was still worried the peloton would catch us since:
  1. Cale and Hunter would cooperate well and were likely to get 1st and 2nd even if the peloton caught my break.
  2. I was now the best-placed Bicycle Trip racer and I didn't think that a mass field-sprint would improve our odds at the finish since I would have to sprint against 47 guys instead of just 13 or so.

The next 2 laps were spent trying to get everybody to take turns pulling while looking behind us for the peloton. I never did see them (thanks in part to my teammates who rode at the front of the peloton, discouraging attempts!), but a few guys caught us on the last lap so clearly we couldn't afford to relax. Jess Raphael (Safeway) and Steve Gregorios (Edge), who had been working hard all along, finally got tired of us and each soloed off the front with about 1/4 lap to go. Whenever I tried this I just dragged everybody with me so I held back instead, leading us for long sections into the headwind toward town and the finish because nobody wanted to pull.

As we rode through town I somehow managed to position myself behind Dirk Himley (Zteam)... in second position for a change! We slowly rode over the bridge, then up the hill and under Highway 101. I kept expecting early attacks from behind me, but instead I was the first one to jump, about 30 meters before the left turn onto the finishing straight. I stayed seated but went as hard as I could sustain for the 300-meter sprint, railed the turn, rode my heart out and crossed the line in 5th with a big gap! Woo-hoo! Miles and Matt rode really smart at the finish and attacked the peloton for 16th and 18th.

So, 5th place wasn't what I had hoped for us, after 2 hours and 56 minutes of suffering, but I felt I rode with panache and that is so cool!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Racing at Hellyer Park Velodrome

By Dennis Pedersen

Track races in the U.S. are traditionally weekday evening events for some reason, except Championships and such. Since I'm a sprinter body-type and also work in The Valley, it sort of "makes sense" for me to swing by Hellyer Park in south San Jose on Tuesday evenings and race on the banked oval track there, instead of going home and watching TV. On Tuesdays I usually train my sprint anyway, so this way I get to combine my usual sprints workout with training in the tactics of sprinting.

I have been entering the regular Tuesday night race sessions for the last three weeks and will probably continue doing that for a while longer this season. Cost of entry is $10. I've been riding their rental bikes (just $5!) but am really missing having my own track bike that fits me correctly (road bikes are not allowed). Someday.

The only requirement is that you first attend three Beginner Training Sessions with mentors which I have done over the last few years. They are also offered on Mondays at present. We self-select our race category at the track, since they aren't usually held under USA Cycling permits (again, except Championships and such) so we don't need to worry about our official race categories. I started racing in the "C" races, but after one night of cleaning up I knew I needed to move into the "B" races. The B races are actually pretty intense, like a typical criterium, so I get a fantastic workout. I do well, but by no means dominate since I'm up against a lot of very good sprinters (for some reason climbers don't show up often).

The races have lots of breakaways, attacks, and sprints. And because we get so many races in we can really fine-tune our tactical sense which helps in other racing, even road-racing. The B and C racers usually do a 25-lap "Scratch" race first, which is just like a regular criterium, but on the track (each lap is 1/3 kilometer). That is followed by a 40-lap "Points" race in which we sprint periodically (usually every 5 laps) for points. The winner is the one with most points at the end, not the first guy over the finish line necessarily. They sometimes shorten the race lengths or combine categories if turnout is low. The "A" races are longer.

Surprisingly, perhaps, even a fast track session isn't the same workout as my previous sprints workouts. It is said that "cycling is an aerobic sport, dammit" and so it is, even on the track. We usually push the pace to force a selection so we end up sprinting while we're already nearly hypoxic, with tunnel vision, burning legs and all. When I do sprints on my own I do each sprint separated by 5 minutes of easy riding so I'm fresh enough to do them all at maximum power. Hence my sprinting power on the track is a lot lower, but for a longer duration; more like our team's Wednesday 5-minute "L5" intervals at UCSC, plus some higher "L6" efforts... and a lot of "intermissions" where we try to catch our breath!

The Hellyer Park Velodrome sessions are mostly all put on by The Northern California Velodrome Association. They have a busy schedule, including Beginner Training Sessions with mentors (Saturdays and Monday evenings), various Intermediate/Advanced Open Training sessions, the weekday races and more. Check their calendar.

A very good document to read, if you're curious about track cycling, is available online:
TRACK CYCLING – AN INTRODUCTION. What a roadie needs to know to start racing on the velodrome. Dan Currell.

I hope some of you will join me there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Patterson Pass Road Race Report (45+ 4s) August 8, 2010

Patterson Pass Road Race Report
45+ Cat 4 ~ August 8, 2010
By Scott Martin

After getting schooled at the Masters Districts RR a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to one of the 50+ hotshots. "You have to know how to suffer to do well here," he said.

So I thought what better way to practice my suffering than signing up for Patterson Pass, a hilly road race that climbs "O My God" Road (photo). So named because after ascending for about a decade you crest a steep section and see that the summit is still a long ways off and some witty person has painted "O My God" on the pavement.

As usual there is a strong headwind on the first of 2 trips up O My God, which keeps the speedsters in check. As usual the real action comes on the second, smaller climb where a tailwind makes drafting kind of worthless. I survive, barely, and we start the second lap. Again, no fireworks on O My God. So we come to the second, smaller climb and I am ready to practice my suffering.

I suffer like crazy but 10 guys are riding away from me on the last little bump. I am now like one of those domestiques who blows up on the big mountain passes. I practically come to a halt. I can hear some chasers behind me, so I ramp it up from 2 mph to 3 mph and latch on. Then we descend like crazy and actually catch the leaders who don't seem very organized.

Then some guy gets a blow-out in a corner and again we are chasing, which is something I have a lot of practice doing. We catch the leaders on the last hill and for some reason they don't attack. So we come into the sprint and I find myself behind a strong Cal Giant guy and I'm thinking, "This is a berry good wheel." So he goes fast and I go fast and he ends up second and I end up third.

Bob Montague does a great job to finish in a chase group on a course that maybe doesn't suit his strengths. But aftward he is vowing to get revenge on the "skinny liittle climber dudes" at next week's flatter Dunnigan Hills RR and I am glad I won't be there to suffer the Wrath of Bob.

Friday, August 6, 2010

2010 USA Masters National Championships Road Race

8/4/10 Louisville, Kentucky

By Mark Edwards with commentary by Jim Langley

Let me start with a huge THANK YOU to everyone at the Bicycle Trip, Symantec and all our teammates for making this trip (and last year's) to the USA Masters National Championships possible. Jim and I had a wonderful time and it's a privilege to be a part of the team. We can't thank you'all (as they say in Louisville) enough.

A Full Year of Preparation
Following last year’s Masters Nationals competition, Jim and I committed to a full year of focused preparation for the 2010 edition. In 09, although we had expected the fields to be the toughest we’d ever faced, the reality was eye-opening. So, for the past twelve months, we poured everything into raising our games to new highs. Little did we know just how much we were going to need each and every extra watt of power we brought with us…

Last year in Louisville we arrived to very Santa Cruz like weather. The locals couldn’t stop talking about how unusual it was. Expecting heat and humidity, Jim and I were counting our blessings.

But, this year, the blast of hot humid air as we exited the airport took our breath away. Fortunately the air conditioner in our room was excellent – a huge improvement from last year’s accommodations.

Record Highs in Kentuckiana
As we prepared for our race in our modern hotel room, putting 2 numbers on our jerseys, one on the bike and a timing chip on the fork, the Weather Channel focused on the record heat wave assaulting most of the Country. The local news, covering the “Kentuckiana” area, (their combination of Kentucky and Indiana for this region around the Ohio river) seemed to report on the likelihood of the 101-degree record for August 4th being broken every fifteen minutes or so. Insulated in our cool hotel room, I don’t think we fully realized the magnitude of what we were facing.

Bike Trip/Symantec vikings Mark Edwards & Jim Langley the day before the battle
Last year’s hotel had a nice restaurant conveniently downstairs from our room. This made meals very easy. This year’s hotel didn’t have a restaurant, other than free breakfast each morning. I’m still not sure what the food was made from, but I’m pretty certain none of it was from anything that exists in nature. Beyond these “interesting” breakfasts, it was a minimum four block hike in 100+ degree humid shadeless asphalt everywhere conditions to get to the local fast food joints (apparently fast food is the only available food type in the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken).

Commentary from Jim: On Tuesday morning we built the bikes and rode to Cherokee Park to pre-ride the racecourse. We only did a few hard efforts to time the hills and choose lines through the corners. Things felt almost exactly the same as last year but to both of us the course seemed shorter, each 5-mile lap taking less time than we had remembered it. The photo above was shot after our pre-ride by Aptos resident and top 65+ racer Jim Fox. He had won the TT that morning and was super happy to snap the photo for us. I think that viking ship is some kind of memorial from 100 years ago. Congrats to Jim for taking home the Gold!

Race Day
Wednesday morning dawned with the promise of a new record temperature, by 8:00 AM it was already 85. Around 2:00 PM Jim and I set off for our 25 minute ride from the hotel to the race course. At this point we didn’t know the temperature, but it was clearly hot. Getting stopped by nearly every traffic signal, we alternated between baking on the shadeless concrete streets, then enjoyed the breeze we generated riding to the next traffic signal. They don’t use the magnetic strips to trip the signals, so we often sat in the heat waiting for the green light with no cross traffic. As ambassadors for cyclists everywhere, we wanted to make a good impression. Unfortunately, our resolve to sit and bake with no cross traffic wouldn’t survive the day.

Mark sits in the shade waiting the start
Arriving at Cherokee Park around 2:30 PM, we’d planned to warm-up. Jim had flatted on his tubular about two miles from the park, so we immediately started looking for the Shimano support vehicle to get him a wheel.

Once found, sitting in the shade and drinking seemed like a much better plan than warming-up. While waiting for my start I heard it was up to 103. Nothing like what I normally think of 103 feeling like, this was more like Hawaii (without the ocean). Everything was green, and the sound of the bugs was almost louder than the event’s sound system.
Even Tougher Racers Than Last Year
I’d done some research on my field before the race and felt this year’s group had considerably more depth than last year. Last year’s race was very fast, with about twenty guys that I felt were super strong. The remainder appeared to be mostly locals that came out because it was convenient. This year I only saw one local, and it appeared to me that about half the field was current State/District Champions.

Also, multi-time national champ Thurlow Rogers was here. Not only was Thurlow likely to be a factor, he was one of the only guys with a teammate. I wasn’t familiar with his teammate, but as expected, he attacked repeatedly to soften us up for Thurlow.

And, We're Off!
At the gun we bolted down the opening hill. Into the sharp left hander gaps immediately opened as the leaders charged toward the first climb. Although this is a road race, it’s more criterium than road race. With almost no flat or straight sections, it’s very fast and technical. Last year we averaged over 26 mph for 1:52.

Cresting the first climb I felt well within myself, but the air burned my lungs and stung my eyes. I’d kept my gloves off until just before the start to try and keep them dry, but by three miles in they were soaked with sweat.

I was further back in the peloton than I wanted to be. The start had been delayed and several guys were on the line early to protect their start position. Unfortunately, the holding area was in the direct sun. I’d decided I was better off waiting in the shade and starting at the back than sitting in the direct sun for twenty minutes. Once we started it was now difficult to move up. 65 guys on a very fast and technical single lane road with lots of nerves and constant gaps isn’t ideal for moving from ~40th to the top 10 were I wanted to be.
Strung out coming through the top of the course

Russian Roulette on Two Wheels
Completing the first lap I’d moved to about 20th and spotted the lap clock. We’d done the first 5 miles in about 12 minutes flat. It felt really fast, but not quite as quick as last year, amazing what an extra 20 degrees of heat can do.

Only five miles into the race and things were already starting to string out a bit. The heat was deceptive. Guy’s legs felt good, so they’d attack, only to pop moments later. It was bike racing’s version of Russian roulette.

Thurlow, Thurlow - Where's Thurlow!
About halfway through the second lap things had settled enough that I started looking for Thurlow. Finally I found him… sitting on my wheel! I didn’t really focus on him too much, but felt validated by the fact that we occupied a similar pack position for the first four laps. If my natural position was the same as his, I must be doing something right.

Last year a break of three had gotten away, and held on to the finish. This year I wasn’t about to let that happen without me. There had been a couple of very short lived break attempts when, just before the start of the third lap, three guys got a small gap. They hovered about 15 seconds off the front for a lap. Neither Thurlow nor his teammate was in the break, and with the searing heat it seemed impossible they’d stay away (famous last words).

Shake and Bake
The pace stayed high for the next couple of laps as the heat took its toll. I was suffering from hot foot. Loosening my shoes, pulling up on the pedals, nothing helped. Every time I tried to apply power to the pedals, I felt like a red hot poker was being driven into my feet.

Guys were dropping like flies; someone would attempt to bridge, then pull off the side of the road and stop. I couldn’t push on my pedals and every breath burned my throat. I considered quitting; it seemed we might be doing serious damage to ourselves.

Thurlow Hits the Gas
On the forth lap Thurlow attempted to bridge. I saw him go, felt I had the legs to follow, but feared we’d get a mile up the road only to implode. The heat was oppressive. It was similar to competing at altitude. You felt strong, but an effort that would be fine at sea level could easily take you out of the race. Same thing in Louisville, I felt good, but every effort hurt way more than it should have. It was like I’d lost my ability to know my limits.

Commentary from Jim: I was in the feedzone and saw Thurlow power off the front of Mark's group. People were impressed by how fast he opened the gap and a few said that he would easily catch the leaders who looked spent when they went by. As Thurlow passed the start/finish the announcers commented that they would bet Thurlow would run down the leaders and go on to win.

Thurlow suffered 10 seconds off the front for about two laps. It looked painful. Eventually he increased his gap as we squabbled over who should chase, but he never made it to the three leaders. Knowing Thurlow’s ability, combined with confirmation of his form, (winning the 2010 National TT title by over a minute) he should have been easily able to chase down the leaders. Like the rest of us, the heat fouled up his body’s finely tuned feedback system.

Time To Attack
Coming into the ninth lap the group was starting to play games, no one wanted to work. I shifted tactics from working to attacking. I wasn’t feeling any better (I’d missed a couple of feeds, dropped one water bottle because my hands were so sweaty, and only drank two bottles), but I figured the group was tired, and even if I blew up I could finish two laps.

There are four main climbs on the course. I attacked all four on the ninth lap, splintering the remaining ~15 guys each time. But each time they chased back on. On the tenth lap I held back from attacking, but stayed in the top three, hoping to keep anyone from getting away. On the one flat section a guy attacked from far back in the group. He went by the front fast enough that no one wanted to chase. As I was sitting in second position, I knew that if I jumped I’d pull everyone up to him. I decided not to, and his well-timed attack ended up earning him 5th place.

At the base of the final climb, about ½ mile from the finish, I found myself on the front. Not where I wanted to be, so I tried to slow enough to get someone to attack. No one would go, and the other half of the group than had been dropped was about to pull us back. Liking my chances better in a group of 8 than 15, I attacked off the front. I knew attacking off the front pretty much never works, but I was frustrated and tired, I just wanted the race to be over.

Sprinting for the Line
Surprisingly, I had a pretty strong jump left in me. Four of the eight popped off the back immediately. I had three on my wheel and was giving it everything up the final climb. The finish was different this year. The line was on a curve and our path had been narrowed to a single lane with the steel barrier feet protruding about a foot into each side of the road. Out of the saddle, rocking my bike hard left and right, it took focus to keep from clipping a barrier.

Mark takes 8th with a strong sprint!
Two of the three were able to pip me at the line, giving me 8th place in the nation; One better, and much harder to earn, than last year’s ninth place finish.

Was all the focus and training worth it? Yes. An unequivocal YES! Never once in the race did I feel anyone was stronger. With a little more confidence, a couple of better tactical choices, and a little luck, I could win this race.

In case you were wondering, my hot foot never did improve during the race. Finishing my race, I quickly drank three tall bottles of ice water, and poured two over my head. At which point, both of my feet cramped so badly that I couldn’t walk (two days later… I’m still limping in considerable pain).

Notes From the Feedzone on Jim’s Race
I filled the bottles to hand up to Jim and then headed for the feedzone, only to find I couldn’t walk. Leaning on my bike I made it to the edge of the course where I sat on a rock. I figured I had a minimum of two laps before Jim would need water, hopefully I could walk by then.

At 12 minutes and 12 seconds, Jim’s group came around absolutely flying. Other than the first couple of guys, already the entire peloton looked to be in serious trouble. At this point I was under the impression that the temperature had miraculously dropped to around 80 degrees. Seems I was so hot and dehydrated that I’d lost the ability to sense the temperature. I was assured by the several volunteers who stopped out of concern for my health that it was really still 103.

On the second lap I could see that Jim’s bottles were still full, I yelled at him to drink and saw him reach for a bottle. This lap was also done in just over 12 minutes!

Jim: This was a crazy race compared to last year where we settled into an attack and chase, attack and chase game. This year it was strung out after the first corner and I was constantly closing gaps and struggling to recover. With the fitness I brought into this race, even as it was happening to me, I was incredulous that I was about to get dropped.

After they passed I tested my feet. No way! I still couldn’t stand or walk. Okay… I’ve got another 12 minutes, giving me nearly an hour after my race finished, surely I’ll be fine by the next time Jim came around.

Like clockwork, with local World Champion Rob Anderson (he lives in Mill Valley) still on the front, the leaders came around on lap three at 12 minutes again. But this time there were only five guys. Following nearly a minute later, 19 more, 30 seconds behind then was another group of six. After these six, individuals were strung out for about three more minutes. I can’t possibly explain just how bad everyone looked. Really strong guys with World Champion stripes were shattered after only three laps. Rob Anderson was single handedly destroying the best riders in the Nation.

Jim: Cool tech note - apparently Rob was wearing a frozen Camelbak strapped to his chest somehow beneath his jersey and drinking the frozen water. Brilliant! 

I was able to hobble to my feet and get Jim a bottle as he came by. To his credit, he ramped back his effort, kept drinking lots of water, and paced himself to stay safe and complete the race. Many others weren’t nearly as smart.

Jim: Mark actually saved me from disaster. He was hobbling up to the top of the course to find ice and refilling the bottles so he could hand me up cold water. I couldn't drink because my Cytomax was way too hot and tasted disgusting. Same with my water. When Mark handed me up the first cold bottle it didn't register at first that it was cold. When I realized it though I gulped the water down, poured it on my head and back and immediately started feeling significantly better. It was Mark's finding that ice that saved my day. We still can't believe that USA Cycling had NO neutral water on the course. Crazy, huh?

Jim rolls across the line in survival mode
As Rob continued to shred the group, guys would pull up to the feedzone and collapse. Unable to even clip out, they’d just roll up and fall over – kind of like the old Laugh In TV show – except that medics were running up, stripping off shoes and socks, pouring ice down their jerseys. It was actually quite disturbing; I was very concerned that someone was going to be seriously injured… or worse.

Again, I can’t stress how well Jim handled the situation. I know how capable Jim is of hurting himself, and I tried to suggest he drop out knowing the problems he’s had in the heat before. But, he rode within himself, and actually seemed to be enjoying himself (okay, enjoying may be a bit of a stretch).

Of the top four guys that easily walked away from the peloton in Jim’s group last year, three were back to defend this year. One dropped out on the fourth lap, Wayne Stetna (last year’s winner) blew up on lap 5, and David LeDuc finished second – only to collapse on the finish line – paramedics responded and rumor has it that it was touch and go for quite a while before he regained consciousness.

Jim: I got to talk to an official who had been at David's side as the medics worked on him. He told me this funny story. I guess the medics thought David had had a heart attack until his wife came running over and told them that she's seen this happen to him before. She explained that he does have a heart condition that incapacitates him and she asked if they had dumped ice on him. The medics said that they had but it hadn't done any good. She then asked if they'd put any down the front of his shorts? They said, of course not. She told them to try that. So, they take her advice and a few second later, David sits up and exclaims, "ayee, my nuts -- they're FROZEN!"

Through it all, Rob Anderson rode aggressively on the front. It was the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen. In a 45-mile race he put nearly 10 miles into the final guys that finished the race (not counting the many that dropped out). Not to mention riding multiple World Champions off his wheel… in a record setting 103 degrees.

The weather forecasters use a heat index to compensate for humidity in the Kentuckiana area (renamed, very appropriately I might add by Jim, to Indi-ucky). With humidity, they calculated the heat index to 112 degrees!

Jim: Here's maybe the worst news we received at the race. At one point the announcers were talking about the awful heat and one of them said, "Actually, it HAS been this hot before at the Masters Nationals, and that was back when it was held in Bend, Oregon! Which is the site of next year's race we were all looking forward to. Oh no, not again!

I did not list the full results from my race because it's missing a bunch of names. Maybe because they lapped us and so many people dropped out they decided not to list everyone. I believe 49 riders started - and I was the last to finish in 35th place!

OFFICIAL RESULTS 50/54 (top 10)
1 Terry Duran (1 - Cat1)  Birmingham, AL    2:02:07.300  82946   597  Birmingham Velo/Tria Market / D
2 Gerald Finken (1 - Cat2)  La Crosse, WI  2:02:10  49239  551     St Paul Bicycle Racing Club
3  James G Wenzel (2 - Cat1)  Auburn, AL    2:02:59.600     59328     562     Velo Voodoo
4  Thurlow Rogers (3 - Cat1)  San Diego, CA  2:03:52.500     30417     552     Amgen-UBS Elite Masters
5  Kevin Hines (1 - Cat3)  East Wareham, MA  2:05:33   6266  557  Corner Cycle Cycling Club
6  Arthur Brown (4 - Cat1)  Washington, DC  2:05:38.300  63036  535  Battley Harley-Davidson/Sonoma/
7  Robert Downs (2 - Cat2)  Madison, WI  2:05:38.500  9947     621     Planet Bike
8  Mark Edwards (3 - Cat2)  Santa Cruz, CA  2:05:38.800  236580     603  Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec
9  Anthony Taylor (5 - Cat1)  Brooklyn, NY    2:05:39.300     47684 579 Century Road ClubAssociation/D
10 Malcolm Hill (4 - Cat2)   Corona Del Mar, CA    2:05:40     156650     605     Amgen-UBS Elite Masters

OFFICIAL RESULTS 55-59 (top 10)
1 Robert Anderson (1 - Cat2)   Mill Valley, CA    1:50:28.1  1688  429  Team Specialized Racing Masters
2 David LeDuc (2 - Cat2)  Willow Springs, NC  1:52:45.6  45583  479     Atlantic Velo-Virginia p/b Walt
3 William Kellagher (3 - Cat2)  Boulder, CO    1:53:04.1     45530     461     Natural Grocers Cycling Team
4 Wayne Stetina (1 - Cat1) Mission Viejo, CA    1:54:27.2     34063     474     Amgen-UBS Elite Masters
5 Dennis Rainear (1 - Cat3)  Richmond, VA  1:54:28.6     156093     427     Team Nature's Path/3 Sports
6 Robert Gregory (4 - Cat2)   Brentwood, TN    1:54:31.1     50141     475     Team Gran Fondo
7 Gordon Paulson (2 - Cat1)  Cottage Grove, WI    1:54:34.2     176866     445     Planet Bike
8  Ronald Wilson (2 - Cat3)  Seymour, TN    1:55:58.1   46380  473   Southern Cycling Operations (SC
9  William Watkins (3 - Cat3)  Lawrenceville, GA 1:55:58.1 294788 434  US Military Academy/Team
10 Richard Distlerath (4 - Cat3)   Bluffton, SC 1:55:58.7 216139  469 Racer Heads Sports and Leisure

8-5-10 Swanton TT


10 seconds slower than my best time 3 months ago. My form is above average but I’m not feeling motivated so I will skip the geriatric state track championships this weekend and the central coast race.

Hopefully I can get motivated for some races later this month. I’m too heavy for the University Road Race in the 35+ 1-3 so maybe I will do the 3s race (still too heavy) or the “elite” state track points race (too slow).

Ken Sato

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TBT coverage in today's daily

Two Santa Cruz bicyclists headed to the Masters Road National Championships

Read the full article here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Timpani Criterium, 45+

By Dennis Pedersen

We had perfect weather, albeit a bit windy, in Santa Clara for LGBRC's flat, 4-corner criterium near Great America Parkway. Team Bicycle Trip was well-represented with Vlada, Matt Wocasek and I in the 45+ race, and John Schaupp in 55+. Ed Goulet also made a reappearance on the racing scene after a long absence... but in "unattached" status. My goal was to race aggressively and either go with a good breakaway group, or keep the pace high while holding back enough to be able to sprint at the end (which would also help my teammates if they could rest enough).

Our combined field was 67 riders. On the very first lap of our 40-minute race Morgan Stanley sent one of their riders on a solo flyer, but we caught him after a lap or so of chasing. A number of other riders tried their luck at various times, but nothing too serious; I chased a few of these down as I really didn't want to risk missing the wrong break, but others just fizzled out on their own. About halfway into the race a break of about 6 guys looked big enough to get away from the rest of the pack. I bridged up, with John on my wheel part of the way, and latched on, fresh enough to be able to contribute, when it all just dissolved into nothing. Darn. A little later Matt also took a really long pull to close in on a break while I drafted behind him. After he tired I went around and the pack followed shortly for another catch.

In turn 1, the site of many crashes from the dreaded overhanging bush in the past (it seems to have been trimmed back finally!) we had a crash from a different cause: I thought it was a guy who clipped his pedal but it was actually his front tire that flatted, scraping his rim on the pavement... screeeeech. He took down a couple other guys, and yet another went down when I swung wide enough to avoid the crash, but a SJBC guy swung even wider from my inside. We gently (it seemed to me) bumped shoulders, and bam, down he went like a sack of concrete. Yikes, we didn't even touch bikes. That was a bummer, but nothing an experienced rider couldn't have avoided (I have bumped and leaned much harder into others with no such drama; some of it in velodrome training sessions). Anyway, I feel sorry for the guy.

The crash later resulted in a restart when an ambulance was called onto the course... though it looked like everybody was well enough to be ambulatory at least. On our restart we were given a bit of extra time, 20 minutes total, to finish our race. I set my timer to count it down.

Later I saw a VOS rider jump free off the front, and it looked like it might have been Rick Martyn. So I rode hard to catch him as he's the kind of guy who might stay away if we just watch him. Stanley Terusaki (Morgan Stanley) thought the same and got there first. They traded pulls but when I caught them and Rick dropped behind Stanley after his pull he looked at me and promptly sat up; I prefer to take that as a compliment.

VOS kept animating the race and with about 15 minutes to go VOS sent Rich Juarez off the front; another real threat as he can definitely solo for a win! I, and another Morgan Stanley guy, again shut this down as he immediately sat up when we caught him... I really hoped I'd get into a strong break but that wasn't happening yet.

About 3 laps remaining I saw Mark Caldwell bridge up to another break, but I wasn't convinced it was the break "du jour" so I let others close in on them, which they did. I wanted (OK, needed!) to rest a bit for the finish anyway.

I saw my friend Chris Tanner (LGBRC) with about two or so laps to go, and decided to follow his lead as he is a very smart racer with a powerful jump. Just after turn 3, on the last lap, he stood up and jumped very hard which surprised me, and everybody else, a bit as it's still fairly far to the finish line, maybe 400m. But this set him up beautifully for a sling-shot jump out of the inside of turn 4, and guys like me who swung wide on the outside couldn't make up the gap on the finishing straight as he held his gap over the line for the win. Congratulations Chris! I finished in 7th place.

So, I worked hard to improve my own chances in the race, and also those of my teammates who sat in a bit more than I did. I felt strong, but the results didn't go our way. Still, we all rode well and had fun in the gorgeous weather.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Masters Nationals Update

Sunday, August 1 - T-Minus-20-Hours to Departure to Nationals!
By Jim Langley

Teammates - Now that the hard training is over, the bikes and bags are packed and we're ready to head out tomorrow morning, I wanted to update you on our Bicycle Trip/Symantec-sponsored trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships. First, a huge thank your for selecting us to represent the team.

This year we are only racing in the road race (there's also a criterium and time trial). Mark is in the 50-54, which take place at 3:15 on Wednesday, August 4. My race, the 55-59 is at 5:30. Weather reports say it will be in the mid 90's with 50% humidity come race time with a chance of thundershowers. That'll be significantly hotter than last year's races and we might be praying for rain.

One good thing is that for several years now, we have been doing 6-minute almost-all-out hill repeats at UCSC every Wednesday starting at 4:30 - so we are used to going race pace at about that time on Wednesdays.

Our fields are again stacked with former USA Team members and champions from around the USA (click here to check the current registered riders). Mark's race has 65 riders signed up so far, with multi-time national champ Thurlow Rogers the likely fastest man. By now you've heard that Geoff Drake is unable to race with Mark due to an injury. But, there will be some other quality NorCal racers there, including Jan Elsbach and Hunter Zeising.

My race has about 50 riders registered so far, including last year's top 3, Wayne Stetina, Dave LeDuc and Tom Doughty, plus the NorCal champ who rode away from us at Districts last week, Rob Anderson (Specialized). My hope is to finish a little higher up the ladder. If I could make the top 10 against the guys in this race, I would be pretty excited.

The course in Louisville is in Cherokee Park, a lovely wooded expanse designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed NYC's Central Park. Cherokee Park has a golf course, meandering hiking paths, all kinds of flowers, bushes and trees, huge meadows and a very nice curvy, rolling road encircling it that's just perfect for our road races.

It's about a 5-mile loop. Mark's goup will do 10 laps. Mine does 9 this year. That's one lap more than last year for both of us. The course is relatively flat and fast. There are two climbs, but nothing steep. We'll probably spend the entire race on our big rings. Last year Mark's race was decided by an early breakaway with the field chasing hard all day but never quite bringing them back. My race was blown apart by Amgen/Giant teammates Wayne Stetina, Tom Doughty and Kent Bostick, who finally escaped taking Dave LeDuc with them.

Mark is very excited to get to race with the famous Thurlow Rogers. I can't wait to see how Rob Anderson handles the accelerations of Stetina and teammates - and whether or not it results in the group staying together longer. Mark and I have spent the entire year getting stronger and we're both coming in fitter than ever. Mark took second in the Districts road race last week and I rode a lot stronger in my Districts race than last year.

We're staying in a different hotel this year and hopefully will have more reliable internet access. If so, I'll try to provide short reports to keep you up to date. You can follow me at and check back here. We will be back in town Thursday night, August 5. Thanks again for the support!

Jim & Mark