Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snelling Road Race, 45+ 1/2/3

By Dennis Pedersen

I love this course, 4 laps on 11.7 miles of small country roads in the rolling Sierra foothills north of Merced, and signed up for my third time. But, February weather can be messy and, as in past years, I kept checking the miserable-looking forecasts up until Friday afternoon. At that point the forecast changed from "Rain and snow showers. Highs in the upper 30s and lows in the low 30s" to "Mostly Sunny, 50° high, Chance of Precip: 10%, Wind: NNW at 11 mph." That forecast, and carpooling with Bob (racing 45+ 4/5), was enough to get me to commit to race.

I picked up Bob in Watsonville, after scraping ice off my windshield, but there was no sign of rain so we were optimisitic that we weren't driving 3 hours just to get hypothermia. We even stopped for breakfast in Merced. It was a bit cool, but with gorgeous sunshine.

Neither of us had teammates to race with so we both knew we had to race conservatively to do well. The race always starts with a 1.5-mile neutral roll-out which is all the warmup I need. So we both suited up in our new team kits and lined up for our 12:40 and 12:50 start times. New for 2011, we have timing chips mounted on our bikes (see photo).

I knew from my past races that I needed to be near the front to watch for attacks. The other times I raced here the win went to breakaways and I was determined not to miss any. But this year the wind was a little less strong and from the west... that would change my tactics a bit. I won the field sprint in 2008 by sprinting early and the tailwind this year would make that more important.

As soon as the motorcycle referee signalled our race start two guys, one from Team Bicycles Plus (I think Lance Newey), attacked hard into the wind. In seconds they were 200m ahead of us. But they never gained more than maybe 20 seconds on us and were caught a mile or two later. A few others wisely tried attacks on the back section of the course where we had a tailwind, but they also were caught.

Just after we started the second lap, Bill Dunham (Alto Velo) attacked solo and opened up a nice gap. He held it for a while and a few other guys took turns bridging up to him. Some dropped back, only to be replaced by others, and it turned out this break stayed ahead of us for the next 2.5 laps. I never joined it because I had reason to believe they wouldn't last.

  • The lack of strong winds encouraged us to work together and prevented cross-wind sections from giving the small groups an advantage.

  • Their lead never grew beyond about 20 seconds.

  • The large teams were not generally represented in the break, so I thought they would chase them down later.

I was right: On our last lap we were just behind the break and toyed with the catch. But we were also staying as fresh as possible for the finish, so we'd get close then back off. I kept riding conservatively while also working to stay near the front, only once or twice taking a short pull at the front. On the back section Jess Raphael and John Laine (both Safeway) took several strong pulls at the front reducing the gap to maybe 100m. But we couldn't rest yet, and others started to lend a hand in the effort.

I knew I needed to be near the front. I was doing well, but after we caught the break, maybe 1km from the finish, we slowed and soon the pack jammed across the whole road making it hard to advance. Then a surge started as we approached the last turn of the race; a hard right turn leading onto the 300m, slight uphill to the finish line. I was in the wind a bit, and somewhat blocked, so it took a few seconds before I could respond. Then Michael O'Rourke (Safeway) jumped all-out before the turn, just as I had planned to do but couldn't because of my poor positioning.

By the time I got around that last turn I was already well behind the leaders. But I also knew the sprint was 40 seconds long, so I just set a hard, steady pace up the slight hill, passing guys along the way who went too hard, too soon. I was actually able to gain on the three guys behind O'Rourke, but ran out of room and finished 5th, so I was still pretty jazzed! And now I have another masterpiece T-shirt.

Bob and I were both pretty happy about our races and very happy we got to enjoy such unexpectedly pretty weather. Next weekend we'll be back in that area for the Merco Foothills Road Race. I am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pine Flat Road Race, 45-plus 1,2,3

By Geoff Drake

Scott and I left at a mind-numbing 3:30 a.m. for this race, but the drive went by quickly and we were treated to a great sunrise with snow in the surrounding mountains.

Three teams had four riders each: San Jose, Echelon, and Orange. I was without a teammate, as was Carl Nielsen. It was great to have Carl there so we could discuss things as the race unfolded—sort of temporary teammates.

A five-man group got away at mid race, with all three of those teams represented. I thought about bridging, but Carl and I decided that Echelon would never tolerate the fact that Cale Reeder wasn’t up there. And they would like nothing better than to have us do all the work to pull the group back. So we waited.

And it very nearly worked. We caught three of the five. I went over the top of the big climb on Cale’s wheel, second in our group, which felt pretty good. With two miles to go, Cale was next to me, and suddenly pulled off. “Cale, you OK?” I asked. “Flat,” he said. So that was it for Cale.

I led the group up the final climb, but right after the 200-meter mark, two Orange guys came around me. Given that two guys were up the road, that made me fifth.

I have to say, despite the drive, I love these races in the Sierra foothills—great scenery and big climbs, my kind of racing. And the race felt remarkably safe. Even on ripping descents, these guys were smooth. I really felt like I was among experienced bike riders. Nice.

At one point Cale came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and we chatted. So I guess I must be in the club now!

Lessons learned? Perhaps I should have chased down the break. But it’s possible I would have pulled the whole field. And I probably could have been savvier on the finish climb. I just figured it was a drag race up the hill so I hit it hard. I was worried that others might catch if I eased, but there was actually a pretty good gap to sixth place. So maybe I could have sat on someone else for a change.

But as it was, I got fifth and another coveted Velo Promo T-shirt. This one even looked like it was designed in the last decade, so it won’t go straight into the rag box!

Pine Flat Road Race 2/20/2011

Pine Flat Road Race 45+ 4/5 - 2/20/2011
By Scott Martin

I knew I wasn't in Santa Cruz anymore when a race official on a motorcycle pulled alongside our pack at the Pine Flat Road Race and said, We're going to neutralize this descent because there are two cowboys on horseback trying to rope a steer that's in the road.

Adventures like this are part of what appeals to me about these faraway races. (It's sure not the getting-up-at-3-a.m. part.) Throw in fresh snow on the surrounding hills, and you have one memorable event.

Pine Flat, in the Sierra foothills near Fresno, is a 62-mile race with 2,800 feet of climbing, most of which comes in the final 10 miles.

My race (the 45+ 4/5s) was uneventful till about the halfway point when a Taleo guy attacked while blatantly crossing the double-yellow line. It was a good move that seemed doomed, but we never saw him again.

After some effective blocking by the many Taleo riders, the pace heated up when we hit the big climb. The field of 40-some racers shattered and I found myself struggling to stay in the top 20. But I didn't panic and remembered the old saying, "Where there's a wheel, there's a way."

Five or six riders were gone for good, but I tagged onto a little group and we started catching stragglers as we hit the finish climb. I was feeling okay and attacked at the 200-meter sign. Note: 200 meters is a long way on an 8% grade. Two guys passed me and I limped in for 10th.

Cantua Creek Road Race, 45+ 4

By Eddy Price

Sixth place last Saturday at the Cantua Creek Road race in the 45+ Cat 4 race was a real surprise, as I was hoping for a top 15 or 20 at best.

I haven't formally trained on my road bike more than four or five times in the past six weeks because of moving (Jan 1st) and then putting in 70+ hour work weeks to get caught up on all the work I neglected during the move.

I thought about not racing at Cantua Creek, that maybe I should hold off on racing until I have put in some long training rides, solo intervals, roller intervals and some Sunday group rides but I decided the best thing to do would be to race. So instead of training hard, I took two days completely off the bike right before the race, Wednesday and Thursday and rode the rollers for 45 minutes Friday. My legs felt fresh for the first time in months.

My only goal was to make it to the final finishing hill with the main group but beyond that, I had no aspirations of anything special. To be honest, I have been commuting everywhere on my mountain bike, road bike and electric bike, sometimes up to 20 hours in a week. In addition, because I am always cutting it close for my appointments, I usually have to hammer pretty hard to get there on time.

I wanted to help Bob and Joe podium, but I wasn't sure if that was even possible. To that end, I took a flyer just past the first turn-around and stayed away for about a couple of miles, hoping to force the other teams to chase me and give Joe and Bob a free ride. I could see them blocking at the front of the race for a while, but I didn't press on the pedals too hard because it was a long way to the finish.

At the end of the first lap, on the three mile stair-step climb to the finish, I noticed the headwind was pretty strong. We lost about ten riders on the climb.

On the second "out" section, I bridged up to a serious-looking four man break but we couldn't get organized and nothing became of it.

With about four miles to go, an accident occurred in the middle of the middle of the pack, causing 7 or 8 riders to hit the road pretty hard. Bob and Joe were near the front and avoided it completely. I was dead last and weaved my way through it pretty easily, then quickly bridged back up to the lead group who were quickly pressing the advantage they received from the accident. I would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed, so no hard feelings whatsoever on my part.

On the final three mile headwind climb to the finish, I started dead last, following the rider in front of me until they cracked, quickly going around him and waiting until this scene repeated itself, which it did over and over until I was in the top ten with one kilometer to go.

I could see Joe hitting the front of the race with about 500 meters to go, then falling back a bit. I could see I was in the 6th and final place for an award when two riders went past me like I was standing still. Still, I thought 8th place was pretty good until I found out the two riders who went past me (and Joe as well) were from the Cat 1/2 race. Joe 3rd, me 6th and Bob 8th.

My hats off to Joe for trying to win and still finishing 3rd. My hats off to Bob for being dropped early on the climb and not giving up, passing rider after rider until he was in a fine 8th place at the finish. I don't know if I could recovered like that. Great piece of riding Bob.

Ed Price

Cantua Creek Road Race 2/19/11

Cantua Creek 45+123
Steve Heaton

Showdown at Cantua

Turned out to be a nice day of racing!

Three days before the race I decided not to race due to rainy forecast and called my teammate to inform him. As I monitored the weather the day before I got the report I was looking for…30% chance of rain. A few weeks ago two teammates Geoff Drake and Ken Sato went to a race in similar conditions and placed first and second. I was inspired by them and drew energy from it. I have won Cantua before, my fitness is good and I like the course. I knew without a doubt I had a good chance to win. It’s a road race that goes out and back two times. Mostly a flat course accept on the return to the finish it’s a rolling power climb 7min long to the finish. When we left SC at 4:30am for a 2.5hr drive it was raining but once we arrived it was partly cloudy and frigid cold 40deg. I opted to not use my racing wheels and go with my heavy durable training wheels which would prove to be the right choice (details later).

I was racing with two other teammates. The race had 5 teams with 4-6 riders each and a bunch of other guys (full race). Statistically we were at a disadvantage with just 3 guys. Only three teams including ours were active dictating the outcome of the race. By my count I would say we controlled the race to our advantage!

The whistle blows and we take off like a pack of scared deer running from a mountain lion. It’s a single file line of riders going all out followed by attacks to get away. As a team we discussed our plan and it was to watch and mark one of the known favorites in the race. Shortly into the race I was positioned next to his team and heard a conversation they were having with two other teams. The plan was to get one of each teammate up the road and block to slow the pace down. OK, I now know I have to be up the road whenever that mix goes on the attack. I’d see the gestures to each other when attacks would go to send a rider up to the break and I would go with it. I went with about 9 of the attacks, marking the favorite of which none stayed away. By the way, my teammate Ken Sato was in the front or on the attack the entire race. On the second lap two riders got away. The blocking began to slow us down, allowing the riders to get a good gap. Ken wasn’t going to let them slip away. He pushed the pace. Miles came up to help and I’d say maybe one or two others at most. I stayed out of trouble being forward and sheltered from the wind. Ken and Miles did 70% of the work to bring them back. Two teams with riders away would mess up the efforts of our guys by slowing the pace but Ken and Miles would not have any of it. At this point we have 25mins of racing left and two guys up the road in striking distance thanks to Ken and Miles. The pack wasn’t motivated to finish it off. Ken drops back to me and says with total confidence and motivation “STEVE – I’M GOING TO THE FRONT AND KILL MYSELF TO CATCH THOSE GUYS BEFORE THE CLIMB”. Before I could finish my response he was gone back to the front with Miles and the pace went up and up until they caught the two guys. He knew I had a shot at the win. We raced it together when I won a couple years ago in the 35+123. With 15mins remaining they take cover from the wind as we are now all together waiting for the final climb.

Calm before the storm!

You could feel the tension mounting as we approached the climb with 7mins of racing remaining. Everyone wants to be close to the front of the pack but not IN the front. I’m close, but a few riders further back than I would like to be, so I move to the left (safer) side but can’t get forward because it’s blocked by riders (you’re not allowed to cross the center line). It’s too late to make it forward as we start the climb and I’m too far back (10 riders) but I have time and tell myself, “just be patient”. I need to be 3-5 back so I can respond to anyone attacking. The position I’m in requires me to depend on the person in front of me to go before I can go. This is reactive racing. At the end of a race I don’t like to race that way. I either attack or want to be the first to respond when someone else attacks (because it’s coming). If the guy in front of me hesitates, the gap opens at a critical time and the chance for a win is over. I look over to the right side and notice room to advance so I strategically make my way to the right side by the time we make it over the first of the three bumps on the climb to the finish. OK, I’m still too far back and I need to get forward but I have to not use too much energy to do it (4mins of racing left). On the second bump the guy in front of me attacks. “Good” this will aid me in moving forward. The next thing I know as I go to jump in a split second everyone moves to the right and I’m about to get pushed off the road………all hell breaks loose !@#$%&*+@#

I clipped out of my left pedal SLAMMING my foot to the ground to keep from crashing and going off the road and in the process the guy behind me goes flying off the road into the bushes followed by a bunch of crunching sounds of bikes and people yelling. I looked back and see a guy flying sideways holding his handlebars then I looked forward and a gap has opened. The winning move is going up the road. As I go to clip in my left leg hamstring cramps from the jolt of slamming my leg into the pavement but I would have none of that and proceeded to attack to catch back on to the lead group. As I approach the leaders I am in full adrenaline rush and totally anaerobic. I decided in a split second I’m going to the front! As I make my way forward a guy crosses my line and puts his bike into my front wheel “Ping, pop, bang and bounce/wobble” what the F****k is going on? All OK and I push on to the front followed by two more wheel overlaps and “phew”….. I’m in the front headed into the final 1min of the race. Three wide with the favorite on my right and some other guy on his right, we had the front blocked with a little room on the right (not my side) for a final attack to come around. My heart rate is super high and I’m trying to recover. Coming to the front allowed me to dictate the pace and slow it down to recover. It might sound counter intuitive to go to the front when you’re trying to recover, especially when it’s windy and seemingly a disadvantage. But with one final move coming and everyone wanting someone else to go, I was able to slow it down enough for me to recover. Let’s get real for a moment! When I say recover I’m really saying go from max HR to just under which is enough to reload enough oxygen into my bloodstream to feed my sprint muscles for the final 17sec push to the line. I would also like to mention so much has just happened over the last couple of minutes my head is spinning and I’m jacked up ready to go all out!!!

200 Meters to the finish

The attack comes from our right. All three of us jump, the favorite gets second wheel and I get forth. I instantly knew the guy in front of me wasn’t going to make it but he had a good jump to get in front of me.

100 meters to go!

A gap is opening from the guy in front of me about two bike lengths. Quick. What to do? I decide to hold off closing the gap (I’m thinking my sprint is good.) Four bike length gap!!! I jump with a final sprint to the line and the guy on second wheel jumps at same time. I came up on him as we crossed the finish line throwing my bike forward to get every inch possible and I came up an inch short or width of a tire. The winner throws his arms in the air and looks down at me in surprise and says “nice job”. I finished 2nd place with an exciting battle. The last 4mins of the race was a wild ride to put it mildly. I learned from this race to remember not to hesitate to go forward at any point in the final seconds of the race. I lost the race when I hesitated to go around the guy in front of me who opened a gap. My best option was to immediately go around with a quick punch to the pedals to close gap. This would have put me in prime position with more than an inch to spare. So as racing goes “shoulda, woulda, coulda” until next race.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CCCX Circuit Race #2 45+ 4/5

How did my race go? Well, let me tell you. It was awesome! I know that makes it sound like I won, or at least made the podium, but that was not the case. Instead, I learned. And I understand that this learning thing is an ongoing process. There will continue to be barriers along the way that either my mind or my body will have to face to keep improving in this sport. But thanks to my teammates and many others, this weekend I learned a much needed lesson.
On Friday, I ran into Steve Heaton out on San Andreas Rd. Steve has been coaching me this off season. Mostly our work has revolved around changes in my fit and position on the bike. But, he has also taught me the meaning of the term “good form”. I have yet to achieve it, but at least I understand the nature of what it is. In addition, Steve has a sort of Toltec warrior side of him that whispers about finding balance in life and cycling, along with clear and specific advice on racing strategy. On Friday, I told him that I had been disappointed at the first CCCX race. I almost got dropped on the last lap, but managed to chase back onto the lead group. I just didn’t have anything left for the finishing sprint. It felt like a lot of my races last year. Steve was emphatic! He said there was no excuse for me to let myself get dropped at that late point in the race. His perspective was that I have to go into my races with a clear strategy that keeps me in the running, but conserving as much of my energy as possible until the finish or earlier if I choose it. I have heard this concept from many, many teammates and cyclists in general in my first three years of racing. I guess I wasn’t ready to hear it until now. I expect that is because until this weekend, my overall racing strategy has been formed as a response to my first few racing experiences. I actually heard some other guys in my race espouse that same strategy on the line before our start. That strategy is fairly common among newer racers. It is “don’t get dropped”.
Steve’s words managed to change my strategy, on the spot. My new strategy is “ride where I need to ride in the group to insure my best conservation of energy and my best chance to be there with energy at the end”. There are lots of factors that go into this new strategy, but more than anything else, it represents a change of attitude. I will still have races that I get dropped from the lead group, but I will no longer allow the fear of that to influence the way that I approach a race strategically. My preparation will be the chief determining factor that decides whether I can hang or not. The purpose of my strategy, from this point forward, will be to decide and learn how and when to play out my strengths in a given event.
As for Saturday’s race, I knew where the pressure points would be, and I kept towards the front for those. I learned that this CCCX course is a power course, and I am a power cyclist. It seems the true climbers (at least in my category) either can’t or won’t expend the energy to get away on the climbing sections. Perhaps that is because the guys with the bigger engines would be able to run them back down in the flatter sections. With the exception of the first couple of rollers on the back side of the course, I seemed to be able to power up the short rollers on this course as well as anyone else. On the last lap, I was in good position and had a good reserve of energy for the finishing stretch. I decided to implement the finishing strategy I had hoped to use in the first CCCX race on January 30th. Of the 4 rollers before the descent, the last 2 were particularly suited to me. On the next to last one, I jumped on the wheel of a guy going up on the left. When he blew, I went around and led the charge over towards the final roller before the descent. Still, I had misjudged my ability and the competition. As I powered up the final roller, I was swarmed by about 15 riders gunning for the descent. I stayed with them, but the scramble for positioning became sketchy in the descent. I somewhat lost my nerve for moving up until the uphill to the finish. By that time it was too late to make up much room. I finished 16th. Still, I know what I will do differently next time. I am excited about the prospects. I may not ever win a race, but now things are different. I have learned that I do not need to race out of a fear of losing. Rather, I have found the ability to race from the joy of competing. I owe thanks to many, and I continue to hope to be able to justify the confidence that so many of you have shown in me.

CCCX Circuit Race #2, Cat 4/5 35+

CCCX circuit race #2, Cat 4/5 35+
By Benoit Pelczar

BikeTrip teammate George Janour picked me up and we discussed our race goals as we were driving to Ford Ord. We had no clear plan, just wanting to get another race experience, especially for me as this was my 3rd road race ever. Both of us were pretty nervous. George was familiar with the course and he described it to me. I was surprised at the slow pace of our start, thinking that the cat 4/5 45+ group starting 5 minutes after us might catch us fast, until I noticed my heart rate was abnormally high. “Relax”, I told myself, “relax”.  

At the start of the first climb, a SJBC rider goes hard. I check him, decide that he does not look the part and do nothing. Within 20 seconds, another rider goes for the bridge, he does look serious so without more thinking, I jump myself. Soon the San Jose rider is history and I am still trying to get on Robert’s (as I would find out later) wheel. He is riding very hard and I am still a couple of bike lengths behind him. I am trying hard to bridge the gap but do not manage to do so until the long descent. By then, I look behind and inform Robert we have a good gap.

Robert and I work very well together, sharing the load, Robert riding very strongly on his pulls. We cross the finish line, once, twice, three times with a good lead. “Two more to go” I tell Robert, ‘we can do this,” as I try to motivate him and convince myself at the same time. I must have felt he was fading before my brain processed the thought, as the chase group is now gaining on us and not far behind. “We are going to get caught” says Robert. “If they catch us, we are done” I reply, “ let’s keep trying” and he agrees.

I am riding hard, trying to fight the chasers when a lone rider I had not seen passes us on the left. Within seconds, the pack engulfs us. I am readying myself to get spit out in the back, like I have watched so many times on TV, but to my surprise, the group eases its pace. I am glad to see George in good position. I am thinking he must be fresh. (I was unaware that he had ridden by himself for a full lap while trying to bridge the gap after finding himself ahead of the pack at the top of the climb).

“Maybe we are not done after all," I tell Robert. A lone rider tries to escape but gives up quickly when nobody goes to help him. He is visibly irritated and asks if everybody is going to sit, to which the reply comes back “Yes.” I take notice and think that it may give George or I another chance to escape. Soon, I attack again, thinking that I may at least tire some of George’s competition and determined to try everything to avoid a sprint finish.

Pretty soon, we are down the last descent and I am in good position. I am moving up the group fast. A rider cuts me off after crossing the whole road from right to left! I avoid him and resume my effort. I take the last right turn in the lead, stay there for a couple of seconds before a swarm of sprinters goes by me. George is there, maintaining his position, and we are done.

The results have George in 6th (first Cat 5) and I am in 12th.

Lessons learned:  - I need to be more aware of what is happening behind me. This is not a triathlon or running race where looking behind can show a sign of weakness. If I had known George was trying to bridge, I could have waited for him and increased our chances with 3 riders instead of 2. - No real reason to be so nervous before the race and at the start. - Can’t wait for the next one!

CCCX Circuit Race #2 Feb 12, 2011 55+ Race

Steve's already crossed the line. I'm in front of the 55+.
CCCX CR #2 55+ 1/2/3 Race Report
By Jim Langley

Please read Michele and Steve's reports for more details. I'll keep my report short so as not to push theirs down the page too much. Essentially the 55+, which is raced with the 45+, was decided by my amazing teammates and they deserve most of the credit. They set the pace so high and tired out the field so that all I had to do was: not get dropped, mark my competition, and then be super aggressive in the sprint. In the photo, the yellow line points to me, so you can see where I was positioned in the sprint relative to Steve who won the 45+.

Two things happened late in the race that helped me. With a few laps to go I was dying and wondering if I could even finish. Then Geoff rolled back to me and asked me if I felt like I could win it. And, that positive comment changed my focus and got me back in the game. Thanks Geoff!

LtoR: 5 Cerruti, 2 Hennessy, 1 Langley, 3 Hamson, 4 Gilford
But then on the final lap, I was distracted and I ran into Detlef's rear wheel, causing me to swerve hard left and into the gravel next to the road. Somehow I managed to stay upright and the near-crash gave me a jolt of adrenaline that really helped me chase down the pack and get fired up to go for the win.

It was an awesome team performance and I wish all you guys could have been on the podium because I couldn't have won it without you! Thanks!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Double down came up short!

CCCX #2 Feb 12, 2011 M45+123

Steve Heaton

This was the first race with most of our new team. The plan was to go out and attack the race. We discussed many tactics and strategies based on each individual’s goals. We had attackers or responders to breakaway threats and a couple of sprinters if it ended in pack finish. Everyone knew in advance what to expect when a teammate made his move and how to support that effort. I found it comforting knowing I didn’t have to chase down every move. Having a strong team focused on the big picture and working together was sweet.

The team took the lead from the very start of the race. Dennis instantly drove the pace high setting the mood of what was going to be a very aggressive tactical race by Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec. Ken attacks and takes a handful of guys with him.

We blocked along with a few another teams allowing Ken a good gap to try and build on. After one lap I noticed he needed help so I jumped the gap and started cracking the whip. Ken and I did most of the work to get it going but the rest didn’t have it in them to organize, so we let up. The team took turns attacking over and over. Ken, Geoff, Russ and Mark at various times along with other teams. The race was very active! Just the way I like it.
Go guys go!

Mark and Geoff got away with a couple others at one point. The team was on fire letting everyone know we had plans. The depth of our team showed loud and clear especially when Mark got away.
Blockers – It seemed just about everyone had a turn at the front blocking.

Later in the race Mark attacked with another guy and off they went with the help of the team coming to the front to block.

Mark unloaded him in “baggage claim” on one of the climbs shortly after. We blocked as he hovered in front of us at a good distance over the last 3 laps in hopes of a solo win. On the final half lap backside hilly section Mark came back and it was time for me to step up and position for a chance at the win.

As we started the final descent I was approx 5 back knowing once we got to the bottom it would probably slow. I would be ready to jump around these guys to maintain top 3 into the final corner if the group behind starts to overtake us to the final corners. We did slow “way too much” and I started yelling GO GO GO. This is a dangerous situation to be in with 20 seconds remaining in the race and having a pack of hungry guys charging down on you from behind. I can’t look back. I have to watch the wheels in front of me. If I look back I could overlap a wheel and crash, taking people with me. My choices are, wait for someone to come around me, or go all out to the line. How long can I hold second wheel with one corner left. I’m thinking (instinctively) once I exit the corner I’m gonna punch it to the line in a fury of heat! I couldn’t believe that no one came around us before the second to last turn. I came out of the last turn second wheel when a guy sprints out of the corner around us getting the jump on me. I immediately jumped to get on his wheel but found myself passing him and was headed to the line…. “shift” I hit another gear and launched away up the rise to the line arms in the air.

In the simplest of words I won the race. It seemed so easy to pull off. Coming around the final turn to the line I could taste the win. It felt as if I was just doing another sprint practice, going all out for 15sec.

BUT it was not so simple and it wasn’t that easy to pull off. So many things have to come together especially in the final moments. One small error in judgment and all hopes are thrown out the window. It’s a fight or flight moment. It’s very difficult to put it all together in the heat of the moment.

A sprinters delight!!!

Changes happen so fast. No time for “thinking” of what is the best option. It’s over by the time you process your thoughts. To be in the right place at the right time requires forethought well in advance of the sprint. In this race it was 2 laps to go when I started setting up for the sprint. I focused on my timing with forward movements to use the least amount of energy at various places on the course. When the pace increased on the last lap I focused on maintaining a good position. My strategy for winning the race in a pack finish was to position two or three back going into the last turn using very little energy. It’s a great feeling when it all comes together crossing the line.

CCCX #2 Feb 12, 2011 35+123

Steve Heaton

I decided to race another race to see how my fitness was at this early stage of the season.

While I was waiting to start the next race I drank lots of fluid and ate strategically to make sure I got the right amount of calories. I didn’t do any pre-riding. I just relaxed and basked in the glory of my win. My buddy Derek was racing alone and so was I. We decided to work for each other and help whoever had the best chance.

Off we went and just like the earlier race attacks happened from the start. This time I was going to ride as economically as possible. I had started to feel cramps at the end of my earlier race. I knew if I went out in a break I would come up short later. With 5 laps to go I was starting to suffer and didn’t know what was to come. I sat in the back literally hanging on for dear life. With 3 laps to go I gapped myself unknowingly and almost got dropped. Cramping was setting in and I was taking it surge by surge. I remember telling myself to take the pain look off my face and if they hit it one more time “I’m out”. Attacks kept on coming until 2 laps to go a break of 8 got away and I couldn’t do a damn thing. Now it’s 1 lap to go and I’m still hanging on? I don’t know - I was cramping, suffering and wanting to drop out of the race. The gap wasn’t out of reach. We still had a shot at regrouping. Derek goes to the front and drills it to close some of the gap and put us in striking distance. No one was able to continue the pace so we dangled but Derek I could see wanted to catch them. I came up to Derek and yelled his name “DEREK” and he took off BAMM! “Holy crap what did I do?” He punched it we were flying leading into the last climbing/roller section on the back side. 50m before the turn he pulls off and I have to pull through. The break is so close. If we don’t get on they will roll away from us. I took the corner full gas gutter to cone (white knuckling it) knowing I needed all the momentum I could get out of the corner. I jumped once out of the corner and latched on to the breakaway at the top. I looked back and I was alone. No time to thank Derek. I have to do all I can to hang. If I can make it to the bottom of the hill I’m going to have a shot at another win. Three big attacks came then a slowdown allowing Derek and the rest to come back before we descend. From my experience I don’t see us slowing down at the bottom like the earlier race so I’m once again in 5th spot down the hill then I moved up to 3rd going into the final corners (we are hauling ass).

I can’t believe it. I’m lining up for another shot at a win. I feel great and ready to unload a big sprint! Out of the final corner I jumped……..I got a few pedal strokes and “POP” off goes my chain to the inside. I quickly hit the shifter a couple of times then it jams but I got nothing with 70m to go and I’m coasting in for 7th place. Derek was on my wheel and was able to get around me for 3rd. I’m so glad I didn’t take him down or anyone else. Such a bummer…… I’m sure I was looking at least a podium spot.
Cant win them all but it sure was fun trying...............

CCCX #2 Womens race Michele Heaton

CCCX#2 Masters Women 35+

My lesson learned for this race…”go race even if you feel like dog crap and talk your best girlfriend into going too.” It was just one of those mornings, extremely menstrual, a bit too much red wine and chocolate the night before for my PMS, I mean, pre-race meal, and not enough sleep. Ugghh.

Amy and I rallied and I felt grateful to have a chance to have another racing adventure with her. We always manage to have fun no matter how things turn out. Our plan was to race aggressive and to get a good work out. I am 3 weeks out of base training and really need the “top end” efforts. Since this was not a priority race I decided to ride with my power tap and heavier wheel. I was glad I did. After the race I could see I hit my highest HR so far this year and spent 1/3 of the race at level 6 or above.

I rarely ever get nerves before a race until I’m on the starting line. First, I forgot both chamois cream and to pin on my number. Then, while taking a lap around the course I realized my saddle bag was hanging off my bike just the way Steve had left it so that I wouldn’t forget to TAKE IT OFF! Sheesh! I was looking like a royal flounder and Amy probably doubted her intelligence for coming to this race with me. So, in my hormonally tweaked and nerve racked state, I was off.

With Amy’s encouragement I found myself putting down an attack right off the line. I ended up being glad I did because it set the race up to be aggressive right from the start.
The women we raced with were all active and it was turning out to be fast but also felt safe and smooth.

Michele at the front chasing down the Women’s 123 race.

We caught and passed the Women’s 123 race ahead of us.

The hardest point for me was when a Wells Fargo rider attacked hard on the rollers and split up the group. I was really suffering in the wind to get back in contact. I also struggled when I lost control of my front wheel on the first lap on the fast, bumpy downhill. It’s happened to me before and really scared me. The rest of the laps I stayed at the back in this section and took off some speed and a different line (which helped.) Coming into the finish I had to make up some ground to come around the last corner about 9th or 10th wheel, which wasn’t the best position. So much for giving Amy her lead out! She was ahead of me and in a good position though. Anyway, I felt my distance was to jump right out of the corner. I believe I stood up and sprinted out of the corner, then sat down, dodged around some riders, and found myself having a drag race to the line with Amy!

We virtually came in together, with me only beating her by inches. We laughed crossing the line. That was probably my favorite 5 seconds of racing so far....crossing the line with my dearest friend and training partner.

And as a bonus, they had combined both the 35+ and 123 races on lap 2 (because we kept running into each other) and we won both!!

I raced this one for Chris Lockwood, one of the parents from my school, who died of a heart attack while riding his bike to work 10 days ago, at the age of 49. Among many things, he was a wonderful father, an athlete and a person that loved to feel the wind on his face too. He will be missed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Cherry Pie Criterium, 45+ 1/2/3, 2/6/2011

By Dennis Pedersen

What better way to celebrate one's 50th birthday than by going to Napa for a bike race! I always wanted to try this technical crit, with its varied turns and a small hill. But in past years I've always been out of town... celebrating my birthday one place or another. This year I put my foot down and made this race the centerpiece of a long weekend of partying!

Margaret and I, plus her sister and five of our friends, made the trek to Napa and really lived it up. On Saturday we had lunch at Brix, wine-tasting at Opus One and Turnbull, and a 7-course "omakase" dinner at famed Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant. On Sunday I had Nutella and banana crepes at Curbside Cafe before setting off for the race, just south of Napa in a business park.

I assembled my bike and warmed up a little while my cheering section watched the previous race. Then I lined up with my competitors (54 signed up) for our 12:25 start and my first view of the course. We were told we'd race for 45 minutes on the 1-mile course so I set my timer accordingly. My goal was simply to have fun, and basically put on a good show.

The first lap or two weren't too bad, but a few guys did try breaks. I had already moved to the front so I was able to go with them, but nothing came of these breaks. Then Kevin Metcalfe (Team Specialized) did succeed for a while, with me and a guy from ZTeam I think. My awesome cheering section made the race so fun too! We pacelined well for a while but were soon caught when Kevin looked back and saw our lead was too small.

Later on Larry Nolan (also from Team Specialized) took a turn attacking us and once again I was able to follow. We were pacelining along nicely but he also sat up as his teammate Kevin had done.

Kevin went off the front again later and I went after him, again causing him to sit up. I went off the front after we caught Kevin, hoping we could initiate another break, but nobody came with me and I had to sit up and drop back to rest.

At about 10 minutes to go in the race, Larry, and Gregg Betonte (Safeway), went off the front while I was resting from my last effort. Darn. I started moving up though the pace was furious. As we rounded the U-turn at the top of the hill, low on oxygen to the brain, and flew down the hill, a guy in white kit to my right slid out in the hard right turn near the bottom of the hill, taking out at least one other guy (I think from Morgan Stanley) in the process. The Morgan Stanley racer (maybe Stanley Terusaki?) flew over his bars, still clipped into his pedals, and slammed his rear wheel into my back knocking the wind out of me. Then somebody, maybe the same Morgan Stanley racer, landed right in front of me. I had to either hit him, his bike, or the guy to my left. I ran over his carbon-fiber bike, I swear I heard crunching sounds. Yikes, I felt so bad for him, but I had to continue on.

Now our main pack was split in two, with Larry and Gregg still off the front and flying... and me in the second half of the pack. Darn again. I quickly tried to organize a chase but it wasn't gaining very fast so I ended up having to bridge up to the leading group. Whew, made it, but heard that Larry and Greg still had about a 27-second lead. No way could I bridge that, so I again took a few pulls at the front until the gap shrank a bit.

But something else was going on. I heard the announcer say that Larry wasn't cooperating with Gregg, and then Kevin once again attacked out of the pack. Hmmm, I thought Larry could beat almost anybody in a two-up contest like that, but Larry's teammate Kevin's actions made me think they were not so confident against Gregg. I took advantage of that by jumping up to Kevin and soon he and I were pacelining after the two breakaway riders ahead.

Larry and Gregg were slowing down, I could tell, but so was I. Pacelining with a National Champion like Kevin ain't easy and with half a lap to go I told him to go for it while I tried to maintain my pace. My watch said we had time for one more lap, which would have been nice for me, but it was now clear to me that this was actually the last lap. With about 300 meters to go a couple guys bridged up even as I slowed and soon the main pack caught me. But Kevin barely held on and finished third, behind Gregg and Larry (in the photo below you can see how close we were to Gregg and Larry).

When I saw Gregg had won I understood their tactics, and was happy I'd done what I did, even though my 21st place finish doesn't sound impressive. Riding conservatively would probably have netted me a mediocre finish in any case, certainly no win, as the teams wouldn't have let it come down to a mass field sprint. And I certainly accomplished my goal of having fun and putting on a good show! Next year...