Monday, March 28, 2011
By Scott Martin
Editor's note: typically on Mondays, emails circulate about the training people did over the weekend. This one from Scott arrived this morning and I wanted to share it with everyone (with Scott's permission).
" Desperate to get outside after doing my last 5 4-by-20-minute L4 workouts indoors, I waited till Saturday afternoon to head out.
Rode over to Felton, dodging slides and raindrops. Felton Empire: closed.
Rode back to Scotts Valley and down Glen Canyon (a.k.a. Glen River) to do Branciforte instead. Branciforte: closed.
Rode home and got on trainer. PowerTap, damp from my ride, goes crazy on first repeat, dropping 100 watts. I kill myself before I realize what's happening. Last 3 repeats are torture. Of course the sun is shining brightly by now.
I. Hate. This. Rain. "
By Jim Langley with input from Joe Platin & John Schaupp
- The highlight of the Bariani RR for me was racing with 2 strong teammates, Joe Platin and John Schaupp. Going into the race we had a solid plan and things were on track until I developed a slow leak in my front tire on lap one. I made it around the course 3 times and had some fun pushing the pace a bit, but I couldn’t really ride on the soft tire for fear of crashing. Joe rode a smart race, staying in front, challenging on the KOMs and finished a solid 8th in the pack sprint (the race was won by a 2-man break). If I could have been there to lead Joe out, or if our other fastman John hadn’t cramped late in the race, I’d like to think we could have made the podium. We had the fitness and speed, that’s for sure.
- Even though it wasn’t raining, there was plenty of water on the course and one long stretch of broken pavement that knocked a handful of riders out of the race every lap. Other than that it was a fun 10-mile loop. The main challenge was the wind, and in typical 55+ fashion no echelons formed. So like rookies, we rode a single paceline on the centerline. My dream is to have enough 55+ Bike Trip/Symantec teammates in that situation to form an echelon and just hammer off the front in our efficient echelon, while the field does their single paceline and gets dropped. That would be cool.
- Bariani’s start/finish, parking and registration is at an olive oil plant, but we were still surprised, when on the starting line they told us that one corner on the course was especially dangerous because there’d been an oil spill there – an olive oil spill!
- This was the first time since Nationals that I got to race with Rob Anderson. Thanks to the flat course and stiff wind he didn’t ride off into the sunset and drop us all like a bunch of chumps again. It was strange watching him sit on the front mile after mile like he was just out for a workout. And, interesting watching everybody mark him – and pretty much only him. It's tough being a state, national and world champ I guess.
- While everybody was watching Rob, two guys slipped off the front on the tailwind section of the course, and that was the race. I couldn’t respond on my front flat because I was already getting sketchy at 30mph in the pack. And, everyone else saw them as no threat. But then the officials neutralized our pack, and worse, told us that they would bring back the break – which naturally – they did not. Their 15-second gap was at 3 minutes when they finally told us we could race again – too much to make up with less than a lap to go (pretty stupid of us to let them go in the first place).
- Mystery solved! One of the teams out there is named the Fighting Bobbas. We’ve always wondered what the “fighting” or the “bobbas” means. About halfway through our race, one of the Bobba riders rode up next to his teammate, bumped right into him and seemingly shoved him off the road. It was so blatant, Hammer Nutrition’s Richard Shields who's always got something funny to say, shouted at him, ‘Hey, that’s no way to treat a teammate – you go back and help him up!’ So, we’re back in the car driving home, talking about that incident and Joe suddenly says, ‘Hey, maybe that's why they’re the Fighting Bobbas – they fight with each other!’
- That cracked us up. But the funniest sound bite of the day came from Mark Caldwell, who we should probably always refer to as “MC” since he has the most to say in the pack. Late in the race, on the last KOM, desperate to reel in the break, the stronger riders were trying to push the pace (I dropped out on the 3rd lap when my tire went completely flat so I didn't see this). Mark was there, Rob and Joe. Mark tells Joe to pull through and help out. Very intelligently, Joe moves up but doesn't take a pull, since there’s only a few miles to the sprint. As Mark drifts back, he leans over and says “Weak!” (commenting on Joe's failure to take a pull). Joe and I were laughing about that all the way home.
- In other exciting news John Schaupp's 15-year-old son, Matt had a stellar weekend, winning the criterium on Saturday outsprinting a finishing pack of 60 riders - and then took 8th at Bariani on Sunday even though he led out the field sprint a couple of rollers too early. He's now just a few points from upgrading to Cat 3. Way to go, Matt!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This past weekend was the first NorCal High School Cycling League cross country mountain biking race with all teams and riders in the same race. There are 750+ registered racers, with 27 teams in our division which usually has the faster riders since we have all the independent racers and composite teams too. We traveled to Granite Bay which is just east of Sacramento for this race, attended the pre-race ride on Saturday afternoon and then had the races on Sunday.
The conditions were very sloppy, with water on the course in many areas, slippery granite slabs, and mud several inches deep across the trail in many areas. The course was fairly flat overall which is not typical of a true cross country course, with some short quick hills, quite a bit of singletrack that made passing difficult, and some very technical areas where riders got backed up and had to slow or even wait when someone ahead of them had trouble. The advantage was to those riders who do not do well on hills and for those with less endurance who could catch up when the trail got backed up by a slower racer.
Despite this unusual course and set of conditions, our team still had very good results for our first full race. The team finished 4th in points out of the 27 teams in our division, and just a few points behind the third place team.
In the Varsity Boys race (combining both Division 1 and 2 for 40 racers) our sophomore racer Jacob Albrecht took 3rd place behind two senior racers. In the JV Boys race Curren Giberson took 2nd place (with the second fastest time of the 107 racers in both Division 1 and 2), and Chase Cummings took 5th place. In the JV Girls race our top female Dominique van den Dries, a sophomore, took 10th place despite a hard crash in the middle of her race in a thick area of sand where she had handlebars into her ribs and broke a wood post into which she fell... ouch. In the Sophomore Boys race Josh Krisman took 4th place, one second behind the finisher ahead of him. New racer Jose Reynado finished 13th in JV Boys in his first ever NorCal race. The team had four podiums out of 11 racers, on a course that was not our favorite and knowing all the remaining courses have plenty of hills on which we excel as a team.
Next up will be the NorCal race at Laguna Seca on March 27, with one very long uphill that our riders are already smiling about. Hopefully we can get out to the course this coming weekend despite all the rain, and worst case we just come back with lots of mud on our bodies and kits. Thanks again to our sponsors, as none of this would be possible without your generosity and support.
You can view more pictures on the Home page of our team website at www.santacruzjcc.com, and better pictures will be posted soon once received from our photographers with higher quality cameras.
Kevin Giberson, Team Director
Santa Cruz Junior Cycling Composite
Monday, March 14, 2011
Michele Heaton 3-12-11
It was a fun experience for my first Stage Race. I decided to race the Masters 35+ and was excited to see a very strong field of 24 women registered including the Crit. and TT District Champ last year, National Track and Crit. Champs, 1 World Champ MB, and an all round group of solid and experienced racers. I knew going into it I had no chance for the overall with no TT equipment or training. My goals were to do my best in the Crit. and Road Race, get to know my competitors and get in some good training at the end of a 3 week block of Build.
I found myself pretty nervous before the Crit. My mind seemed to shift from “wanting to finish well” to just “not wanting to crash.” As it turned out the race felt pretty safe and had fun dynamics. We had 1 team of six, 1 team of 5, 1 team of 3 and 1 team of 2. I actually got to experience race dynamics in play! On the last 5 laps I moved towards the front where the team controlling the race was sitting. I heard them talking to each other, one launched an attack and the others immediately started blocking. I waited for a bit and watched the gap widen. I decided this may be their tactic for the win and decided to jump. I bridged up, recovered a moment and pulled through hard for 1/4 of a lap. When I signaled for her to pull through she just sat there. I said, “Are you going to work?” No answer. So I eased up a bit and had to think about what to do now. I sincerely doubted I was going to have any chance of beating the pack with 3 laps to go. If I did make it I would be dragging her to the line for the win anyway. I waited for the pack and tried to recover as we now were down to 3 laps with her and now another woman off the front. The pack reeled them in on the final straight away and I finished 5th (same as winning time), which I was happy with. Unfortunately there was a crash early in the race when a woman in a 3 person break clipped her wheel in a corner. I find this part of racing to really go against basic human nature. It’s very hard to ride by a woman in the road not moving. It feels horrible. Shouldn’t the race stop, make sure she is taken care of and then go again? After a trip to the Hospital we learned she had separated her shoulder and they were still looking at her brain for a head injury. She may need surgery on her shoulder. She had just returned to racing after a broken pelvis from a crash last year.
On to the TT. Yikes! Saying you don’t stand a chance without a TT bike and gear is an understatement. Only 2 of us in the race were on our regular bikes. I didn’t have any gauge to measure my effort. No speed, heart rate or power info to focus on. I don’t think I would go so far as to buy a TT bike next time but I would maybe borrow some wheels, a helmet or get some clip on arrow bars. At the very least I would use my power tap or heart rate monitor. The last time I did a TT effort was Swanton 1 year ago. It really hurt the hamstrings and low back so I just tried to keep the cadence high and not hurt myself too much for the road race the next day. Needless to say, no one needed to worry about me after the TT (17th place.)
Next day’s road race I rode pretty conservative. I was my third night of practically no sleep and I didn’t know what to expect from the race. I was too tired to be nervous. It didn’t feel hard and I never felt worried about getting dropped. I focused on safety through the bumpy section. After watching 1 woman drop out with a flat and then the woman in 2nd place by 2 seconds drop out because her bottle cage came loose and fell into her chain ring I just didn’t want to flat, crash or ruin my bike/new wheel. Women began to gap on the final rollers to the finish. Down to about 8 or 9 I found myself in 2nd wheel and launched my final effort at the bottom of the last roller (200 meters.) Too early for the win but I gave a great lead out to Amy’s team mates and they got 1st and 2nd. Good pay back after the winner’s husband saved me with my wheel change when I found a wire in my tubular after the Crit. I finished with the lead group in 7th. This netted me 14th overall.
All in all I felt good about my effort. I was happy to gain 3 more race experiences and I hope it was good training. So far I love racing with the Masters women. They seem to have a bit of a different mentality. It’s strong, competitive, dynamic and safe racing. Very experienced and good bike handlers. Mostly Cat. 1&2’s unconcerned with upgrading and wanting to make it home to their families in one piece. The atmosphere is respectful and supportive. I like the attitude. I think maybe I found my nitch!
The story starts on the Wednesday before the race. I haven’t been at my optimal weight and I haven’t been doing the interval training that I have done the last couple of years, but I have found myself able to ride strongly in group rides. I attribute much of that performance improvement to the work I did with Steve Heaton on my fit, form and positioning in the off season. That Wednesday, I decided to do the Aptos group ride that does the Eureka Canyon loop. I think it is fair to say that everyone on that ride was pleased to have the opportunity to congratulate Ben Jacques-Maynes on his victory in the stage race at Merco the weekend before. I have only had the pleasure of meeting Ben in the last year, but what a great ambassador he is for our sport. Always a kind word for everyone, I consider Ben to be exactly the kind of person who can and will help cycling to become more mainstream. In speaking to him that day, he learned that I was going to Madera, a race I think he has won on more than one occasion. He also talked to me about my Time Trial setup. I would really have expected a pro like him to laugh at the fact that I was going to the race with only my road bike, wheels and a pair of clip-on bars for the TT. Instead, he offered to loan me the wheelset that he had used to go under 25 minutes at the Swanton TT. To be honest, these wheels are pretty much off my scope. I’ve never even been on a deep rim, much less the narrow tubular full disk rear and equally narrow and aero front wheel he was offering to loan me. Still, I was thrilled to jump at the chance. My teammate in the 55+, Jim Langley was jealous. So was anyone else who heard about it. On to the race!
We had the crit to do first on Saturday. Jim told me there was a former pro in our race and that if he said anything to me that I should just thank him and do whatever he told me. This guy is the real deal and if he showed for the race, the rest of us would be racing for third. I never heard him say anything during the crit, but he did control the race and took the victory and one of two preems.
I continue to suffer a bit of hesitation about crits in general and this one specifically because of my bad crash here two years ago. Still, Jim assured me that our 55+ crit would be safer because “all these guys have to go to work on Monday”. He was right. Everyone held their line through the turns and I didn’t feel anyone was making stupid moves at any point during the race. Still, my goal going into the crit was to finish with the group rather than trying to place in the top three. I felt the time bonus was not enough to justify the potential energy expenditure with the Time Trial coming in the afternoon. Still, I wanted to see if I could do anything to help Jim, so with about five laps to go, I went to the front and sat on two guys from the Bobbas who had the lead. I sat on them until the last lap when the attacks really started. I asked Jim if I should go with any of the attacks and he yelled for me to go with one stared by Morgan Stanley (the former pro’s team). I missed it, but Jim didn’t. The lap was going quickly and I made the decision to just try and finish with the group. I was successful in that effort, but boy was I stoked to see Jim crossing the line in third, bested only by the former pro and one other. Happily, we signed out at the crit and headed for the Time Trial.
Once at the TT site, I set up my Look road bike with bars for the TT. I also removed my bottle cages. Then I took my first look at the Pro’s wheels. Full disk really light rear, deep dish Easton with wings on the front. 19 mm tubulars on both. Wow! I felt fast already. Teammate & pro mechanic Jim Langley helped me get them set up on the bike and I began to warm up. The difference between my regular wheels was clear. Once I got these babies rolling, they wanted to keep going and so did I! Jim’s opinion was that I might have the fastest wheelset at the race outside of one or two of the pros. I believed it. I don’t have much TT experience, but I had a definite goal for this one. This would be my first TT without a powertap, indeed, I had no computer at all. Still, in my other few TT’s, I had always gone out too hard and faded towards the finish. That was particularly true at this course last year. The last two legs are into the wind and whatever slight uphill there is is in those two sections. My goal was to go out and establish my pace in high zone 3 to low zone 4 for the first two legs (tailwind, flat sections covering the first 6 miles of the 10 mile course), and then bring it home with high zone 4 to zone 5 effort. At the start, I had two very strong and fit looking Bobbas 30 seconds ahead and behind me. I hoped to use them as motivators. From the line, I went out hard, but not as hard as I have in past TT efforts. Still, I soon found myself getting to the heavy panting stage. I recalled the sage words of Russ Cadwallader, to “always hold something back”, and I backed off to where I perceived my exertion level to be in the 3 - low 4 range. My breathing evened out and I continued to try and maintain the best aero position I could. I didn’t seem to be gaining on my 30 second man, but it looked like he caught his just before the first turn that leads into a 2 mile direct tailwind section. I maintained my momentum into that turn and kept rolling. About 1/2 mile before the next turn I got passed up by the man behind me. He was moving very well. I started to up my output to match, but quickly realized that would be a recipe for a blowup on my part. Going into the second turn and the first headwind section, he was already 200 meters ahead. I was able to up my effort significantly by my pre race design, but he continued to ride away from me. I stayed within myself and was able to continue to gradually increase my effort until I was back in the serious panting stage of breathing. I worked to keep my legs rolling and my upper body quiet and low. I felt like I was doing my very best and I saw two or three riders on the road ahead as I made the turn into the final mile and the most direct headwind section. The site of the three of them was motivating and I continued to push harder towards the line. I was at the complete gasping for air stage as I approached the line, but I was able to generate at least some form of seated sprint to the finish. This marks the first time I have experienced dizziness brought on by the intensity of an effort, but I really felt I had given all I had. When the results were posted, I was very pleased to have finished 10th in the TT and to be 10th overall in the race GC. Both of my 30 second Bobbas were ahead of me with the one from behind having placed 3rd in the TT, behind Jim Gossi from Truckee and the former pro. A big thank you to Ben J-M for his great generosity and obvious desire to support his fellow cyclists at all levels!
So, Jim has written pretty well about the Sunday road race. I am already going on too long, but there are a couple of things I must say. Jim had talked about the teams in our race, the former pro, and the possibility that the whole group might do a lot of soft pedaling as this was the third stage of a long weekend for a bunch of old guys. I didn’t want to do that because I feel like I get stronger as events get longer. So I was thrilled when Jim attacked at the beginning of the second lap. What’s more, he kept the pressure on for longer than any of those guys liked. I knew that everyone was hurting from his effort because I was. Still, after a moment of recovery, I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t try to build on Jim’s effort. The night before, Jim had advised me not to analyze too much in a race. “If an idea comes to mind, don’t think about it. Just do it!” So I did. I attacked the group. Not all out, but pretty hard. After a minute, I looked back and I was 100 - 200 meters off the front and by myself. They didn’t look like they cared so I settled into my drops at TT paced and kept going. Pretty quickly, a guy bridged up from the race leader’s team and sat on my wheel. He made it clear that he wasn’t there to help, so I just kept on. I expect I was off for 15 - 20 minutes and at some points, I couldn’t really see the group behind. I just kept working until we made the turn into the pave section. Shortly after that I saw I was being gained on pretty fast. I decided to sit up and recover so I could latch back on when the pack came through.
I can’t express how stoked I was to see Langley attack as soon as the group was back on me. What a classic move we managed to pull off. The pack either could not or would not respond. Jim was off and rolling on his own. This was where I started to develop some less than favorable impressions of the former pro who was in our race. I had already observed him dog whistling at the group when he expected them to chase down earlier attacks. I also found his demeanor to be aloof. He wasn’t friendly like most cyclists are and he really didn’t talk to people except to tell them what to do. Still, this guy clearly knew what he was doing and he began marshaling the whole pack to do his bidding in chasing Jim down. The effort got broken up on a couple accounts. After we had gone through the rollers, Jim had increased his lead and we were neutralized because the Pro 1/2 race was coming through. They had a 3 man break that was being chased madly a few minutes later by the main field. I continued to recover from my earlier effort and went up front to try and disrupt the chase. They weren’t having any of that, but still things didn’t stay well organized through the confusion of the passing fields. It also became difficult to tell how far Jim was up the road as they were going by him and their field was blowing up. As we entered the pave section for the last time, I continued to hope that my teammate could stay away to the finish. The former pro, however, was relentless. He began to chase in a truly brutal fashion. Our field was becoming shattered as few and fewer could stay with his ongoing surges. Around the middle of the pave section, I heard a crash behind and saw one cyclist going headfirst for the pavement. I was doing all I could to hang on to the surging chase group. As we entered the rollers for the final surge to the finish, I recognized that I had to back off somewhat or I would blow up. I dropped into the hardest pace I could maintain and still achieve some level of recovery, but I was being dropped by the chase group going into the final mile. They went over the first and biggest roller about 100 meters ahead of me, but I was starting to find some recovery and did so even more as I pounded down to the next rise. It is always amazing how fast and how far the pack can pull away when you are getting dropped, but I was recovered enough to continue working hard to the finish. I passed several guys from the chase group who had blown up, but I cannot accurately say what place I finished. Jim was returning to the line when I crossed it and he confirmed what I thought I had seen. Victory for Bike Trip! For the first time, Jim had beaten this former pro who rules the 55+ pack. I cannot express how happy it makes me to have helped him to make this leap!
I was completely surprised to hear that the former pro went up to Jim and complained that he wouldn’t have stayed away if the Pros hadn’t come through. Then he took off his shirt and started showing his old racing injuries. I find it appalling to whine so when you have been beaten fair and square. Still, I guess there’s pros and then there’s pros. I’m happy with ours!
As for my results, I don’t know. Velo Promo doesn’t even show me finishing the race. I sent them an email, but I do not expect a response. I did leave before results were posted, so I was not there to protest. Still, it takes them hours to post the results and I knew I hadn’t won. I do think I might have done well enough to earn some points towards an upgrade, but it’s likely I’ll not find out.
Still, for me this has to rate as the best weekend of my less than spectacular racing life. I may not ever win a race, but the fun and excitement that I got from working together with Jim and seeing him turn those efforts into victory is enough for me! I want to do it again, and I want to see more of our 55+ guys doing races together so we can help each other!!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
March 12 & 13, 2011
By Jim Langley
I wrote a novel about this race the only other time I did it, so if you want every last detail about this classic event that's taken place now for 25 years, head here. In short, it's a stage race, meaning that to win it, you have to finish the 3 races over 2 days in the least amount of time. On Saturday is a morning 20-mile 4-corner flat crit, and in the afternoon, a 10-mile time trial. On Sunday is a 51-mile road race (3 laps).
Surprising, this year was a lot like the last time. Only I had a new 55+ teammate in the pack, Bob Montague - who I will now call Monsta-gue for his monster efforts over the weekend. In the criterium Bob rode toward the front going into the decisive laps of the race giving me a great rest for 2 full laps. This recharged my legs and I was able to lead out the sprint from the last corner barely missing the win. Mark Caldwell and his teammate Brian Fessenden just got me on the line. But I took 3 and Bob had a nice finish too. Note to self: 'you should have put on that 11-23!'
Next came the TT with Bob and I on our pedestrian bicycles compared to the full-on aero rigs everybody else shows up on. Bob had borrowed Ben Jacques-Maynes TT wheels, though, so he had a little help and rode an awesome time finishing the day in the top 10 on the overall leaders' board. My TT was not so good and I found myself in 14th overall, and not very happy about it. Because I ran my watt meter and I know I rode strong. But, it's giving too much away not to have the full aero setup. I kept thinking of that quote from The Untouchables about bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Sunday was the road race, which takes place about 10 miles out of Madera on a course with the worst 7-mile stretch of pavement this side of Paris-Roubaix. Still, we had an uneventful first lap. Bob and I had talked about not sitting in, but doing something since we were back a bit in the overall. So, on the second lap, on the backside of the course where there are a couple of little rollers, I went to front and hit the gas and strung the group out single file for a few minutes - good little L5 just like UCSC Wednesdays, baby.
Then, when the group bunched back together and I took a breather, just like a pro, Bob shot up the left side of the pack, went off the front and immediately opened a nice gap. The race overall leader who had absolutely crushed the TT, sent his teammate up to mark Bob, but Bob only increased the gap.
Meanwhile, I was getting a nice easy-chair ride as the pack couldn't get organized. No one was sure who Bob was or if he was a threat. Finally, not being able to close an inch on Bob, and nobody willing to take any real pulls, Mark Caldwell started stirring the pot by jumping off the front and telling the other guys to follow him. Still, the pack didn't run Bob down until we had hit the awful cobble-like section.
As soon as the leaders in the pack caught Bob, I rocketed up the left side of the road full tilt, everything I had, killing my legs. The noise from my wheels slamming into the ruts and cracks was awful, but I did not want anyone to go with me and I knew they had to be tired from chasing down Bob so I figured that the faster, louder and more violent it was the better. I didn't think they'd let me go for long since a lot of these guys were there 2 years ago when I rode off the front and won the RR.
Long story short, it worked like a charm and I won the RR again. It was really close. Like he had with Bob, Mark rallied the troops but I held them off by maybe 20 seconds (best guess). I didn't get enough time to make the overall podium, but I did take a hard-fought and pretty strategic 3rd in the crit and I did win the road race - both thanks to some outstanding help from Mr. Monsta-gue. Thanks Bob!
PS: So, the results just went live and they show the RR finishing ST which didn't happen, and they don't have Bob's RR finish, and have his place completely wrong. So don't put any stock in their results. There were only 3 podium spots anyway and they got those right. I guess that's all that matters - to them maybe.
Dennis and I carpooled down to Fort Ord at the very sane hour of 8:15 am. As usual, he invited me to go to breakfast beforehand. As usual, I refused. It’s a running joke between us. For the life of me I can’t figure out how the guy inhales all that food before a race. Or where it goes, since there isn’t an ounce of fat on him.
On the third lap, John Novitsky rolled off the front in the company of two others. It looked like the right move to go with, but I decided not to jump right away—I figured it was better to let them get up the road a bit and then jump hard across the gap, hopefully leaving the field behind in the process.
At first our group of four was pretty ragged, but eventually we started working together. The last two times up the climb, Arthur Jones attacked repeatedly. I managed to bridge up each time, but the guy was obviously strong. Coming into the sprint, I was second wheel—not ideal, since I knew Arthur was right on me. At 150 meters I jumped around the first guy. As I headed for the line, I told myself I am NOT going to lose this sprint, but dammit, Arthur came off my wheel and pipped me at the line. I’m thinking it was only by a wheel. I even threw my bike, to no avail. Second place for me.
When I got home I was dismayed to discover that there was a miniature version of Mark Edwards on my right shoulder, whispering things in my ear. I tried not to listen, but it was no use. So I got on the trainer and did a 1x20 L4.
Monday, March 7, 2011
I've done this race (also called Foothills Road Race, and part of Merco Cycling Classic stage race) two times before. It's always in the same area as Snelling Road Race held the previous weekend. The course is therefore pretty similar: two 24-mile laps through rolling Sierra foothills. In past years Merco always ended with a big sprint, while Snelling Road race, in contrast always finished with a breakaway group winning... would 2011 fit that pattern?
This year the wind at Snelling was just 6-12 mph, and it ended in a field sprint. But Merco had winds of 12-15 mph and it was also a bit damp. Russ, Miles and I carpooled that morning through intermittent showers and drizzle, but I was hopeful it would dry out by our 12:00PM race start.
I presented a plan to them that I came up with. My idea was to assign perhaps two competitors to each of us to follow if they went with a break. I had circled some names on the list of entrants that I felt represented a threat. Seemed a sensible precaution to me in case a strong break got away. But Russ pointed out that we were a small team, while other teams had far more riders entered. Ergo, it made sense for us to sit in, rest and force the larger teams to chase down any breaks.
When we arrived the roads were damp and it was still drizzling a bit. We got our numbers and suited up after much debate about how to dress, as it was damp but not cold. I added knee- and arm-warmers only, and waited in the truck while Russ and Miles rode around a little. I discovered I'd somehow left my sports drink at home. Unlucky! But when we lined up for the start the drizzle pretty much stopped for the remainder of the day. Lucky!
While 100 guys had signed up, only about 56 showed up, because of the weather no doubt. But it really wasn't bad. The roads were starting to dry, though we had to be cautious in the turns. The race started with a few guys attacking from the very beginning, but while some of them held us off for a while none stayed away for long.
At the end of the first lap, I think on the longest climb of the course (about 90 seconds long) on Cox Ferry Road, a few guys attacked hard and opened up a big gap on the rest of us. I didn't get a good look at them and thought it was just two guys. But it turned out it was three, including Cale Reeder (Echelon/Zteam) and Don Langley (Morgan Stanley); both names I'd circled on my list! Cale's teammate even said to Russ "there goes the race," but Russ didn't believe him.
I should have asked who was in the break but still clung to the hope we'd catch them. By not knowing who was in the break I was hamstrung into making poor decisions. I sat in and looked for the unrepresented teams to chase. That turned out to be mostly Davis Bike Club, VOS, Team Bicycles Plus and Wells Fargo. But it took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out Morgan Stanley was blocking; maybe half a lap! So I started taking a few short pulls to hopefully close in on them. We didn't seem to be making much progress, with the motorcycle ref calling out over a 1-minute gap at times. Later on we closed to within about 25 seconds, but it was clearly too late when we hit Cox Ferry Road again and prepared for the finish without the break even in our view.
I managed to move forward and was behind Russ as we crested the last rise and approached the finish line, but when I tried to come around him the wind held me back... and Stanley Terusaki (Morgan Stanley) even managed to pip me at the line. Russ was strong, and took 5th! I still got 7th place, same as 2010, though perhaps my 4th in the field sprint allows me to believe I did better this year. I even got $15 prize money, which beats winning some T-shirt.
So, in retrospect, I wish we'd used my original plan, but it's always easy to say that with 20-20 hindsight. But I'm proud that the top two finishers were also guys I'd predicted could win. Live and learn. Ciao!
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Course: Out-and-back along Hwy 25 from Paicines to Hwy 198
Race description: Time Trial, 102 mile, 5220 ft climbing
Categories include Male Solo, Female Solo, Teams, Tandems, and HPVs
My result: 4th in Male Solo, Time; 5:14:13, Average speed 19.5 mph
Compared to previous Mega Monster Enduros, this year’s event had the largest turnout, 91 entrants; the warmest temperature, 75°; and the first sub 5 hour time, 4:51:18 by Russell Stevens of ATC. My best time from previous years was 5:26 in 2008 and my goal was to do 5:20 so I bested my goal by 6 minutes -- yippee.
I had a two month training plan for this race which included a week of tapering just before the race. Unfortunately, I had to make a last minute business trip and wasn’t able to ride the three days prior to the race. That made for a sluggish start which was made worse by an atypical Southerly wind; a headwind. I knew that the wind would switch around to a North-Westerly in the afternoon, probably coinciding with the turn-around, so that was kind of depressing. The course started with about twenty miles of rollers and then a series of stair-step climbs leading to a 2000 foot-high pass followed by a 2 mile descent, at the bottom of which was the little town of Bitterwater and the first checkpoint. I was about two-thirds up the first stair step when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something passing me. At first I thought it was a motor cycle, because of its speed, but, alas, it was another racer going by me like a jet. That really added to my funk until I recognized the black and white kit of Tim Clark. There is no shame in being passed by one of the best climbers around. He had a pretty good lead by the time I crested the slope and got onto the flat part of the step, but I had clip-on aero bars and he didn’t. Getting into my most aero crouch, I was able to catch and pass Tim on the flat but he flew by me again on the next grade. Then came the second flat and I passed Tim again. The third grade was the longest and steepest and after passing me a third time, Tim built up a long lead so that when I crested the hill and started the descent into Bitterwater he was a good quarter mile ahead. One can coast down the descent at about 25 mph, and that is the smartest thing to do especially since one is required to stop at the checkpoint in Bitterwater, but I wanted to cut some of the distance between Tim and me since the next 38 miles was flat and I thought that my aero advantage might allow me to catch him. So I hammered and got to the checkpoint only seconds behind Tim – I know I burned a few matches, but it was a lot of fun and afterwards my sluggishness was gone and I felt like going hard. I only stopped at the checkpoint long enough to get my number recorded, but Tim stopped to fill a water bottle so I left ahead of him. Amazingly, I stayed ahead of him the rest of the race, even building enough of a lead on the flat section so he didn’t pass me on the climb out of Bitterwater going back. In the end I finished one minute before he did, but since he had started five minutes after I did, he beat me by four minutes, getting third place.
Knowing that the afternoon wind would be in my face for the last twenty miles of the race, my training goal had been to be able to remain comfortable on the aero bars for five plus hours. That worked pretty well because my split times at all the checkpoints were within a minute-and-a-half of my previous best time except for the last leg where I improved my time by over ten minutes. Previous years my back and shoulders were too sore for me to stay in an optimum crouch towards the end of the race, but this year I was able to keep good form for the entire race. I even managed a sprint at the end as I caught another rider 200 yards before the finish. So next year I will use the same training program but try to average half a mph faster. I have a few ideas on that might get me there. On such a long ride little things can make a big difference, for instance, on paper, going to latex tubes would cut two minutes off my time. The next year should be a lot of fun experimenting with variations in equipment and riding positions, trying to find the optimum combination.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Unfortunately, this race turned out to be one of those races I didn’t enjoy, and I was very lucky to end up rolling across the line on 2 wheels, instead of in an ambulance. I liked the course, but the way we raced was boring as all heck. For some reason the flatter road races can be extremely slow and not dynamic in the Cat. 3 and 4’s. Most riders seem happy to ride conservatively and just wait for the finish. Maybe I don’t have the “winning” mentality but personally I love a race that has me mentally and physically challenged. I love to feel like I really stretched myself more than anything.
The race consisted of about 21 women. A few were active in pushing the pace in some sections, but most sat in the entire race. There were a couple of team mates but no major team dynamics. My plan was to practice attacking to see if I could split the group and try to make it a harder, safer race. I rode 1 lap to check out the riders, course, turns, wind, pavement, etc. On the end of the second lap I went hard on the finish hill to string out the group.
I learned it’s not a good idea to come up from the rear with a lot of speed at the end of a race. I would have done better to have used all that energy to get in a more forward position, or to have done consecutive, harder, longer or more decisive attacks, which I now wish I had, especially because this race didn’t even qualify as good training.
Checking my power tap, the result was 25 minutes at Threshold and above, 1 hour of Endurance and 1 1/2 hours in RECOVERY. No wonder we were neutralized over 10 times! Also, one rider got a flat during the roll out, fixed it, chased us for 1 lap, caught us and still got 4th place. Good for her, at least she got a good work out.