Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday Night Racing, Hellyer Park, 9/21

By Dennis Pedersen

The slightly chilly air and gorgeous sunset at the velodrome were apropos for the last Hellyer track race of 2010. I signed up for the "B" (Cat 3/4) races.

Scratch Race (25 laps)

This crit-style race was somewhat uneventful and slow, though a Tieni Duro junior did attack a little while I mostly sat in. I was bummed at the finish though, as the lap card still read "1" as we rounded turn 4. I'd heard the bell but wasn't sure which one to believe. Still, three guys had jumped around me while I was at the front in turn 1 on the last lap, but I was able to at least follow them for 4th place. "Garret," (UC Davis) won.

Points Race (54 laps)

These are my favorite, as the many scored sprints are perfect training and invite constant, exciting attacks. Points were awarded every six laps, with 5, 3, 2, 1 points for 1st through 4th place; highest points total is the winner. The high lap-count brought out a few groans, including from me. 18 kilometers is practically a marathon for a sprinter! At first I sat in for the long haul but picked up a few points in the first two sprints as I found myself well-positioned. In the third sprint I was 1st with a big, 50-meter gap. Yippee! Even though I slowed afterward nobody closed in. So, I figured they were tired and... attacked! I soloed for 1st in the fourth and fifth sprints for max points. But finally they caught me and I sat in to rest.

The pace slowed way down after that, with me soft-pedaling at the front. Then Garret attacked around me... I waited but nobody followed. Soon he was a half lap ahead. Garret took the 1st-place points in the sixth sprint, with me in 2nd, and I again opened a big gap ahead of the pack. It was time for me to leave them again as we were in danger of being lapped by Garret, which would net him 20 bonus points. I maintained my place ahead of the pack, except for the Tieni Duro junior's dad who bridged up to me. We pacelined a bit but got caught.

After the seventh sprint (I took 2nd place points) I took off yet again. I was still leading in points, but each sprint gave Garret more points. Soon he lapped the field behind me and started gaining on me, though the slightly dim light fooled me at first and I thought it was somebody else. With 3 laps to go he caught me (darn, it was Garret) and I dropped in behind him. He stopped pulling and soon we were jockeying for position. With 1/2 lap to go I was just behind him and slightly up the banking. He crowded me a little toward the rail, I half-jumped wobbily, he dropped down fast into turn 3 and I followed him furiously out of turn 4 to win the last sprint, our ninth, by just inches. I got 2nd place overall, in my most fun track race so far.

What a great way to finish the race season! The 2011 track races start in March, but there will be various training sessions, including Beginner Sessions on Saturdays, throughout the winter (check their calendar). See you there, I hope!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Everest Challenge Stage Race

September 25/26 2010

By Mark Edwards


"Hi Mark, it's Scott, I've got a question for you. I'm considering attempting the Everest Challenge in 2011 and was wondering if you'd help me with a training plan to prepare?"

"Sure! That's a great race for you, it'll be fun putting together a training plan….(long pause)… I've got an idea. We're both in great end of season shape, why don't we do it this year for reconnaissance? There'd be no pressure, and we'd have the experience to help us build a better plan for 2011."

And so it started. Less than four weeks, with no specific preparation, before the "The undisputed, hardest 2-day USA Cycling Race" Scott and I embarked on my less than well thought out plan to race the Everest Challenge. For those not familiar, the Everest Challenge is a two day stage race covering 208 miles, 29,035' of vertical gain all between 4,000' and 10,000'+ elevation. And of course, both days would turn out to meet or exceed the maximum recorded temperatures for September 25/26 in Bishop California. 100 degrees most of Saturday, and high 90’s Sunday.

We quickly signed up (non-refundable), booked our hotel room, and panicked! Committed, we got to work doing what we could with just over three weeks until the start. Our fitness was already excellent, so there wasn't a lot to do there, but mentally we needed to do what we could. We both signed up for the Fremont Peak and Mt. Tam hill climbs. Insignificant climbs compared to what we'd be facing, but strong finishes for both of us boosted our confidence that we were climbing well.

The three weeks flew by and we were in the car for our 7 hour trip before we knew it. Crossing the Sierras via Tioga Pass was beautiful, I think… We were pretty darn nervous and talked non-stop attempting to assure ourselves we were ready for the challenge ahead, I'm certain I missed most of the amazing views. Fueling my doubt was the fact that I haven't ridden 100 miles in about 3 years, and I've never raced two days back to back. It's also worth noting that I'm not too keen on really long rides/events. I've only done one, The Death Ride, and swore I'd never try anything like that again. I rank that ride as my most painful experience ever on a bike. Well… it only took 7 years for the pain to fade enough for me to sign up for my second high Sierra suffer fest.

After checking into the hotel, we headed to the County Fairgrounds to sign in, get final instructions, and enjoy a huge pre-race pasta feed. This year's 45+ group was over three times the size of last year's. Scott and I knew several of the racers and enjoyed comparing notes with other racers that had been preparing all season for this race. We got a lot of good tips.

We were the second to last group to start. With the official wishing us luck; we took off at 7:30 AM. Our start time had been pushed back because of the large turnout, this kept our group to a more reasonable 62 guys, but the later start also put us deeper into the day’s forecast heat wave. With 8 miles to the first climb, the pace was brisk, but not hard. At least it wouldn't be hard for a 50 mile race at sea level. As we started to ascend the first 22 mile 6,000' climb the "players" came to the front. I knew several of the guys I expected would finish in the top 10, so it made my pacing pretty straight forward. I needed to go with the leaders and hope I could hang on. The majority of the group didn't have it quite so easy. Sure, in the first 15 miles pretty much everyone could hang on, but probably shouldn't have. So, how do you know when to back off when you've got 100 miles of major climbs in 100 degree heat ahead of you? I don't know the answer to this, and obviously very few others knew the answer either. The ground work for a whole bunch of suffering was being laid in the first hour.

The group thinned drastically to about 8 of us in the first hour. In 90 minutes we were down to 5. At about the three hour mark two riders gapped the three of us. Shortly thereafter my two companions gapped me with their repeated surges. We were 3/4 of the way up the second big climb of the day and I was thinking about the final 6,000' climb. I kept a steady pace and my companions never got more than about a 100 meter gap. As they dueled with each other I hung back and spun nice and steady. Near the summit one of the riders, Carl Neilson, broke and now we were three individuals just trying to survive. I pulled back Carl just as we crested and hoped we'd work together to pull back the third guy (last year's second place finisher). Over the top I punched it and got as low and aero as I could. After a few minutes I looked back for some help and found I'd dropped my friend. Carl lost about a minute to me on the descent, and I was able to pull back the guy that I was chasing. The timing was perfect as we hit a long flat stretch working together. He was extremely strong and we gained a few more minutes on Carl before the final climb.

Up the final climb I was pretty certain my new companion was stronger than me. I held on as long as I felt I could, then I let him slip away. I kept a steady pace and could see he was trying to increase the gap between us. Surprisingly, his repeated efforts to increase the 100 meter gap he held for about an hour, started to shrink. He had blown himself up and would lose four minutes to me by the finish.

At 15 KM there was an orange cone marker. Oh good… only nine more miles of 8% climbing! I'd been racing for nearly six hours in 100 degree heat, 9 more miles of steady climbing was almost more than I could bear.

Somehow I made it to the 3 KM marker. There was a slight easing of the grade, only to be followed by a seemingly endless string of 18% stair steps. This was cruel beyond belief. I had absolutely nothing left in my legs. Basically the weight of my legs was all I could muster on the pedals; I couldn't add any force what-so-ever. At this point, I had no interest in racing; I just wanted it to be over. I didn't care if everyone caught and passed me, I just needed the pain to stop.

The Stage 1 finish line came into view on a short flat section. I temporarily regained my race mind and sprinted (at maybe 8 mph) to gain every second possible. As this was a stage race, I was concerned with my time, not something that factors into the road races I typically do. So, for my effort, I maybe gained 3 seconds. Finishing time Stage 1 – 6 hours 39 minutes.

The race organizer had laid out a very impressive spread for us. Tents, tables, grills, chairs, and a staff waiting on us hand and foot. Two types of quesa dias, PBJs, all kinds of cookies, fruit, and chips. Chicken soup, vegetable soup, and at least 6 kinds of recovery drinks. Relaxing in the thin 10,000’ air, I did my best to replace the massive calories it took to reach the finish.

Scott rolled in looking as tired as I felt. After he’d had the chance to eat and rest a bit, we hoped back on the bikes for the twenty miles back to the car. Once in the car we immediately started complaining, everything hurt (it would be easier to list the body parts that didn’t hurt – if I could think of any), how the heck were we supposed to do this again ten hours from now?

After a mostly sleepless night, we hobbled around the hotel room until we could stand straight, then we drove the 20 miles for the Stage 2 start. At the sign in for Stage 2 we got the results from Stage 1, I was in third. 2 minutes behind second place, and 4 minutes ahead of forth place. How’d that happen? Pretty cool! I had no expectations going in, so finding myself somewhat comfortably on the podium temporarily distracted me from the anxiety of the coming day’s racing.

Stage two would include almost no flat riding. Being on the larger side of the top climbers, I had made up a lot of time on the flats during Stage 1. Today I’d have far fewer chances. The only flat section was the out and back 2 miles to the first climb. At the gun, a big guy went to the front and drilled it. Sore, stiff, and not warmed up, I couldn’t believe how hard this guy was going. Not two minutes into what was to be another very long day and I was already hurting. I was hoping that once we started the climb things would calm down and I could catch a little rest.

Yea…right… My buddy Carl, who was sitting in 5th place 9 minutes behind me, had other ideas. As soon as the road pitched up, Carl punched it. He attacked this 9 mile 8% grade like it was the entire race. 6 miles into the race and he’d passed almost the entire 35+ field that started 5 minutes ahead of us, Carl was on fire. We were down to 8 guys and I had a bad feeling. I decided to back off and let the leaders go. These climbs are long, straight, and steep. I could watch my lead group dwindle for nearly the entire climb.

Near the top there was an unexpected flat mile to the turn around. I got into time trial mode and pulled back a little time. The descent was safe, but scary fast. I was with three 35+ guys who were trying to catch their leaders as I was trying to catch mine. 59.5 MPH. I caught Carl at the base, he’d faded near the top and the six leaders had pulled away. Back on the 2 mile flat section Carl and I were with about four 35+ guys (they actually instructed us at the start that it was legal to race/draft any one from any group). So Carl and I got right in there with the 35+ guys. Starting the second climb Carl had recovered and once again got to work drilling the pace. Unfortunately, he’d left too much on the first climb and soon dropped back. This was the easiest grade at 5% and suited me well. I picked things up and caught/passed a couple more of the guys shed from the lead group.

There were four guys ahead of me, but I was primarily concerned with just one. The guy four minutes back in forth place. It was obvious that the first and second place guys were a step above me in fitness, and too far ahead to catch. And Carl, who started the day 9 minutes back had lost several more minutes already and wasn’t likely to make it up. I wasn’t sure where the forth guy was, but he had to be at least 9 minutes back (turns out he was ~18 minutes back). I just needed to keep the forth place guy close to protect my podium place.

As I approached the turn around I was watching carefully for the forth place guy. You can’t see the numbers on guys coming at you at 35 mph, and even though we were catching dozens of slower riders from earlier groups, they all go downhill pretty fast. It was hard to recognize who was who. Finally, there he was. I looked at my watch, it was 45 seconds to the turn around, he was roughly 60 seconds ahead of me.

Skipping the feed, I accelerated through the turn. Up to speed quickly, I tucked for the long descent. A 35+ rider came by really working it. I had used all the descents to rest, but hey, if this guy wants to fry himself pedaling like crazy down the hill, I’ll gladly sit in his draft. He collected about 4 of us willing to let him do all the work when a tandem flew by a good 5 mph faster. Finally, the acceleration that serves me so well in local road races, but is pretty much useless in an epic endurance race like Everest, was put to use. I jumped and caught the tandem’s wheel; none of my companions could make it across.

Talk about fun, it was like motor pacing. Unfortunately, I only got to enjoy the ride for about a mile. The third and final climb was starting, and the tandem wasn’t going to be any help there. As I rounded the corner to start the climb, there was the forth place guy, about 100 meters ahead.

Whew! At this point I’d pretty much had my fill of racing. With the forth place guy in sight I figured I just needed to keep him close. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I knew it wasn’t likely he’d drop me and take four minutes out of me. So, I settled into a comfortable pace and made sure I drank and ate.

As we approached the halfway mark it was obvious my companion was fried. His pace had slowed enough that I was starting to be concerned about the mystery rider up ahead. There was no doubt I’d beat my companion, but was I losing enough time to the mystery guy that I might lose my third place finish? About this time a young Cat 3 came bounding by me. The guy looked like he’d parked his car a mile back and just got on his bike. Light on his pedals, he danced past us. Once again I called on my acceleration and crossed the gap quickly. Dropping the forth place guy and a 35+ guy that was with us for good.

The Cat 3, who actually had started 10 minutes ahead of us, had won the Cat 4 at Fremont Peak and Mt. Tam this year to upgrade to Cat 3. He was all of 137 pounds and clearly has a future in bike racing. We worked together drilling the small rollers midway through this final climb to 10,000’. Every time the road stepped up, he’d punch it and drop me, then I’d crawl back, just in time for him to punch it again. No respect for his elder what-so-ever.

Once through the rollers the road pitched up at a steady 8%. I pulled my torturer back one final time, as he exclaimed “I’m done” and dropped back – That felt good ;-) With about 3 KM to go I figured we had easily closed the gap to the mystery rider and my position was safe. I cruised in the final 10 minutes thinking about all the food waiting at the finish, and how amazingly happy I was to have survived such a brutal race. Stage 2 finishing time – 5 hours 5 minutes.

Am I happy I did it? Yes. I’ll be reliving these memories and telling stories for years. Would I do it again? Not likely. I much prefer the shorter more intense races. But, from this experience, I have an even greater respect for those riders/racers that seek out these epic challenges. More power to them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Friday Night Track Racing, Hellyer Park Velodrome, September 17th

By Dennis Pedersen

The NCVA race calendar for the Hellyer Park Velodrome includes Tuesday-night races, as well as many Wednesday and Friday nights. The September Friday-night races were held under USA Cycling permits, and were for Category 4 and higher racers only, so we were required to bring our race licenses and adhere to our categories. I was recently upgraded to a Cat 4 track racer so I was able to enter the Cat 3/4 race.

I was very impressed with the production value of the Friday night races. They somehow managed to get enough sponsors that they could provide a DJ, several USAC officials, a video crew, a cool poster and even free food and beer! A really neat atmosphere that gave me a sense of what the old 6-Day-Race scene must have been like. My teammate Nils was there soaking up the vibe, and free goodies, while I tried to warm up and focus a bit. I entered just the basic "omnium" event, which was still a huge chunk of high-intensity racing.

1-mile Scratch Race
This one was a bit scary; just five 1/3 km laps of all-out attacking (actually just a bit over 1 mile). I started at the back, which became standard for me on this night because we racers got called up suddenly, in quick succession, with very little warning. Ken Sato (Cal Giant) and I just used this as warm-up and I finished mid-pack.

25-lap Scratch Race
The usual fun, criterium-style race, which I again started near the back. I finished nearer the front this time, but not impressively. I am certainly still just a new Cat 4 racing against more-experienced Cat 3 racers.

30-lap Points Race
Lots of exciting action, with attacks everywhere. The sprints for points every fifth lap really keep the action non-stop and each sprint seemed to be followed with breakaway attempts that we had to chase down. I started out well-positioned this time and almost took one of the sprints after taking a solo flyer for almost 2 laps, but got caught. I was just happy to be able to follow as they flew by me. Ken did say he thought I positioned myself very well, though I'm not sure I even got any points to show for it. But I was always near the front and my consistency is promising for the future.

10-lap Miss-and-Out Race
A first for me, these races are decided by eliminating the last-place rider on each lap until just three riders remain, and they duke it out for another final lap (usually; the format can vary). I almost missed the start, had trouble clicking in (I didn't even get to hold onto the rail and worried I'd get DQ'd before even starting!) and had to chase a bit. I kept staying near the rear to save energy as the pace was consistently very fast, but was careful to not be last. Then, on about the fifth lap (my last lap it turned out), I passed two guys who were up against the rail so I thought I was safe... they struck by accellerating down the banking out of turn 4 and passed me at the line! "Number 556" the announcer called and I was officially out.

Oh well. Nils, Lauren and I watched some of the other races while snacking, including the "Hellyer Crawl," which was a hilariously confusing race where on some laps they tried to be last across the start line and first on others. Plus they had a fun "Kiddie Kilo" for the youngsters; one lap on the banked oval riding anything with wheels... so cute!

These track races have a very different feel from a road race, or even a criterium, with more adrenaline, tatoos and lactic-acid. It reminds me of the downhill mountain-bike racing scene vs. cross-country. Man, I sure did have fun and am looking forward to the 2011 track racing season. Also, I am planning on attending some of the training sessions during the winter and if any of you are interested in going with me feel free to ask.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fremont Peak Hill Climb 55+ 1/2/3

Fremont Peak Hill Climb 55+ 1/2/3s
September 12, 2010
By Jim Langley

This year was completely different than last with much smaller groups in every category and a much more low-key feel. I rode in the 55+ 1/2/3's which started in wave 3 with the 45+ 4's and the 35+ 4/5's (I think that's right). I think we had less than 30 people all combined.

The pace for the first 3 miles was actually slower than our warmup and I just sat in waiting for something to happen. After awhile, teammate Tim Sawyer (in the 45+) went to the front and took it up a notch and as the climb steepened the group started to shrink.

I came off the back about halfway up the climb. I just felt the pace was a little fast and I didn't want to die since I knew the really steep parts were still to come. I tried to hold a good, hard L4 effort like our training rides up Bonny Doon.

Two guys in my race went up the road but I decided to let them go and hoped I'd be able to reel them in with my pacing. Luckily, that's exactly what happened. As I got a couple miles from the finish I passed the first guy and then the other a little later. There was still some tough climbing to get over but I had just enough left to get over it and managed to catch up with Tim just as we got to the nice section leading into the finishline. It was a fun finish crossing the line right behind a teammate urging him on to tow me faster and faster.

I won my event and Tim got second in his. Scott Martin was 5th. Mark finished second in the 45+ 1/2/3 and Geoff got 6th. For our efforts we got the sweet pint glass shown, plus cash prizes. Nice. If you're looking for a really fun event for next year's race schedule, this is it. The only bad part is that they messed up our times significantly so we can't go by that for next year. But, in a group event you're not racing for time anyway, so it doesn't matter that much.

Tuesday Night Racing, Hellyer Park

By Dennis Pedersen

After racing several times on the rental track bicycles at Hellyer Park's velodrome (banked oval track) in south San Jose, I am happy to say I now have my very own brand new Felt TK2 track bike, thanks to Aaron at Bicycle Trip! I have wasted no time putting it to use, and I raced it last Tuesday night for the first time. The bike, and my races, went very well and I had a lot of fun.

The velodrome was very nicely rennovated a couple of years ago, much nicer than ever before. Larry Nolan runs the September Tuesday night races and we make full use of the stadium lights as the sun sets before the races start.

For $12 I get a bunch of sprint tactics lessons and a great workout. I self-selected the "B" races again, as in my other recent races, but probably needed to enter the "C" races (for Category 4/5s), as the September Tuesday night races are USA Cycling races and I'm still officially Cat 5 on the track... being Cat 3 on the road doesn't qualify... oops.

B Scratch Race

This was a 25-lap race (1/3 km each lap), like any criterium but on the oval track. We started by holding onto the rail along the top of the banked track, and rode off with the usual pacelining. Then we had a few attacks by a Tieni Duro Junior. But we chased him down smoothly every time and in the end he faded and we sprinters won. But I'd timed my efforts and position wrong so while I passed some guys I was too far back to pass the two leaders and took 3rd.

B Points Race

This is a race where we get points for our finishing position every 5 laps, for 35 laps total, like seven 5-lap races; the guy with most points wins. So it's usually sprint, recover, sprint... etc. But endurance guys can do well by keeping the pace high between sprint laps. We had lots of sprints in the first half, I took a 1st and some other points, but then the Tieni Duro Junior attacked as we gasped. I had just sprinted and pulled at the front, so I couldn't chase. It became a 2-man break when the Tieni Duro Junior was joined by one guy and they worked together. The pack splintered and only 3 of us could chase. But... one was another Tieni Duro rider (the junior's dad it turned out!). So me and "Jeff" (Metromint) tried to drop dad. We had different ideas on how to do this so it didn't work. After a big pull that maxed me out I told Jeff to go for it, but then discovered I had just enough energy to draft them and sprinted for the 3rd-place points on the last lap. Not sure what place I took yet as I didn't see the results.

A few special things to bring:
  • Amber sunglass lenses for the twilight.
  • Some light snacks, maybe some food for dinner afterward.
  • Your own pedals and shoes, and tools and tape measure if renting a bike (you should have your saddle height, reach etc. measured and written down so you can easily replicate your usual riding position on the rental bike).
  • Trainer for warmup (it's hard to spin just right with only one gear).
After yacking a bit I got home by 10:00. All in all it was a great way to break in my new bike and race on a weekday night under the stadium lights of the beautiful velodrome!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"I Can't Do A Wheelie": A Giro di San Francisco p/1/2 race report

by Nils Tikkanen

Like a victim in an abusive relationship, I come back to this sadistic race every year. The pavement keeps getting worse, and its end-of-season nature raises the stakes and thus brings out some pretty fierce and somewhat questionable bike handling. This years, the Giro di SF would really get the best of me.

I had nerves while warming up, and I could feel it in my stomach (I'm sure the massive Dim Sum brunch at Yank Sing did nothing to alleviate that feeling). I hoped this feeling would vanish when the whistle blew. I had a great race at CCCX #2 two days earlier and was hoping to end the season well; that said, I was humbled at Vacaville the prior weekend but was hoping that my experience there would help me perform better this weekend.

The first three laps or so, I felt very comfortable, and managed to stay comfortable and keep myself in a good position. I was feeling surprisingly good, and looking forward to a strong, smart race. Then another lap came, and it would be another time over the abysmal pavement on the downhill + tailwind back stretch of the course. But as it turns out, it would be only one more time.

I hit some especially evil pavement, and then I remember the sensation that my front wheel had come off the ground...except that I was going towards the pavement and had lost complete control of my bike. I was more surprised and confused than anything else. I went forward and left, hitting my palm, then flipped over and slid on my right arm. It felt slow motion, but the guy behind me (who fortunately got around without incident) later said it looked almost instantaneous.

When I gratefully realized my collarbone was intact and went to collect my bike and survey the damage, it was immediately apparent what caused the crash:

It's hard to control your bike when the wheel's no longer attached.

Damage report:
* totalled frame
* two cracked Zipp 808 tubulars
* mangled handlebars
* road rash on my left palm and most of my right arm and shoulder

Given the nature of the crash, I'm lucky to not have broken anything. I'll have a new bike soon, but I think my season's now officially over.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Giro di San Francisco, 45+ 1/2/3

By Dennis Pedersen

I've raced this 6-corner criterium three years now and really enjoy the location in San Francisco's financial district, right next to the water front. It has a small hill on the course, which is a bonus for a small guy like me, and Margaret and I usually get together with friends afterward and have a nice dinner too, so it's a great way to end the regular season.

As in the past, the weather was gorgeous, almost too warm even, at about 80 degrees. 53 of us Masters lined up at the start line on Battery Street for the 21-lap race (16 miles, in about 35 minutes). The guy directly in front of me was standing next to his bike when the whistle blew, so I had to work a bit for the first couple of laps to get to the front of the pack.

The pace was fairly hard, but I was not in the "hurt locker." The pace went high a few times, and slowed a few times, so I was able to ride well. Hunter Ziesing (Zteam) and another guy (on the Safeway team I think) went on a breakaway but were caught later. There was another break too that was also caught. I mostly just sat in near the front and ignored the prime sprints, but watched a few key riders.

I'm happy to say the race was otherwise fairly uneventful, and only with about 3 laps remaining did a fast surge make things a bit sketchy, with one rider unclipping from his pedal and nearly going down in turn 6. Nobody crashed that I know of, and I broke my 3-race streak of flatting!

On the last couple of laps the pace got pretty slow, to the point where I could almost breath easy, but then the "1" displayed on the big digital lap counter, and off we went for the finishing sprint! Up the small hill on Vallejo Street, down Sansome into the headwind... then more hesitation as guys watched to see who'd lead the sprint out through the last two turns.

In retrospect I know I should have seized the moment to attack there, or at least moved a bit further up, but I didn't. Instead I moved up cautiously and held about 10th place on the inside with two turns to go. Then a big guy moved up even further inside, to my right, bumped me enough to make my bars wobble, and squeezed me back. I lost several places and that put me too far back to contest the sprint, though I did my best and passed a couple of guys on the finishing straight. I finished in 14th; not what I'd hoped for. My friend Chris took 5th. Our average speed was somewhere around 27 mph, but it hadn't felt that fast; I guess I'm getting more fit.

But I got a great consolation prize: Vladan and Dragitsa joined us for a great end-of-season lunch at the nearby Gordon Biersch brew-pub. I had a buffalo burger with garlic fries and a schwartzbier, at one their outdoor tables. That was so perfect!