Saturday, April 30, 2011
My strategic thinking going into this race surrounded the fact that my memory of it from the last time I did it two years ago is that it is a climber’s race. Three laps with lots of climbing, beginning and ending with two medium short climbs, the first steeper than the second. Ed had thought it was less climbing overall than Copperopolis, but I didn’t remember it that way. Even though I like to climb, and in my heart of hearts, I think of myself as a climber, anyone who rides with me can tell you that is not my forte. That is not true of Joe. He is the prototypical climber, and I expected him to be the favorite in this race. I also knew that I couldn’t climb sustainably with Joe and those like him. My expectation was that I could climb strong, but at my own pace. Hopefully, once we got over the hills, I could chase back on to the leaders. Lap one, that’s pretty much what happened. The only thing was that I had to chase solo all the way through the hills and the descent and didn’t get back on until most of the way back around to the climbs. Even worse, right before I caught back on, I was caught by a group of 4 who were from my group and working together to get back on. I hadn’t realized they were there. I had used a lot of energy that I could have saved if I had known they were there behind me. Still. I was a little surprised at the pace when we did get back on in the flats. It struck me as slow, but I spent the time in recovery and getting ready to face the climbs again.
Second time up the hills, it became apparent that I was getting shelled on the one particularly steep section. Although it was only about 250 to 300 yards long, by the time we got through it, I would find myself 25 to 50 yards off the lead group. This wouldn’t have been a problem if things then led to a flat or downhill section. This wasn’t the case. Instead, the road kept going up. The difference was that I was capable of climbing at the same speed as the lead group, except for the one steep section. The problem was that I wasn’t capable of climbing faster than the lead group. Also, I didn’t have the benefit of the draft from the group, so the distance continued to grow through the hilly sections. By the time we were through the hills, the gap was substantial. I and the few others around me again put in the effort to chase back on to the leaders. Still, I was starting to see that something would need to change for me to do well in this race. Although the lead pack was down to about 15 – 18 guys, I expected that unless I could come up with a plan to change things, I was likely to be the last guy up the final climb a bit more than a lap later. The one thing that I continued to notice was the relative ease that I was having through the downhill, flat & windy sections. This almost spurred me to attack in the flats leading to the beginning of the final lap. I didn’t do it because I hadn’t thought my plan through and also because there were lots of different groups coming through at that time and I was sort of focused on staying with my crew.
I got dropped going up the climb with the same guys I had gotten dropped with on previous laps. This time, the confusion was greater because of all of the overlapping fields. Even so, we continued to work together to get back to the leaders for the final climb to the finish. It was just more difficult because we couldn’t be sure that the group we thought we were chasing was our lead group or another one. And when we did work our way back to our group, it became clear that some of them, including Joe, had escaped on up the road. I estimated the escape group to be only 5 or 6, because we were left with around 12. I thought that would be the total of all the riders left.
As we rode through the windy and flat sections towards the final climbs, I realized that I had to try something. Otherwise, the steep section would guarantee me last or close to it among these 12. I attacked. I made every effort to keep guys from jumping on my wheel, but a couple came with me. We quickly had a gap of 25 yards and I took a pull. I implored them to work with me. They tried, but we just didn’t have it. We made the group chase some, but before long, they were on us. I sat in and recovered. Soon after we made the right turn to begin the slightly uphill section that leads to the climbs, I attacked again. This time, I got away on my own. I worked to stay away and managed to do so for a bit. Then they were on me again. I recovered again and we were probably within ½ mile of the right hand turn that begins the steep section of the climb.
I really wanted a gap on this group going into that section. I knew that if I could get to the top of that part first, no one in this group was likely to beat me to the line. I attacked for the 3rd time. This time there was no response from the group. They were letting me go. I put my head down and worked hard but as Russ has told me, I “held something back”. Coming up to the turn, I saw that they had begun to chase. I also saw that I had a 25 – 30 yard lead. I laughed at the marshall and pleaded with him to throw some tacks down. He just laughed. I hammered, occasionally looking under my arm to see their progress. Two guys were gaining on me, but the rest were lagging. They both passed me before we got through the steep section, but I kept working up the next section that led to the line. One of the two had managed an insurmountable lead, but I was working hard and gaining on the second. As we approached the line, I could tell he was dragging. I dug deep, downshifted and jumped out of the saddle. I gave all I had left to get to the line. I came within about 6 inches of catching him at the line, but he took me.
Still, I was stoked! Turns out Joe got away with only 4 others. He got piped at the line and had to settle for 2nd, but congratulations are definitely in order. That left the big boy in 8th. I learned a lot in this race about different ways that I can use my power. Really fun.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I recognized a few names on the list of registered entrants. One was Mark Caldwell, the former pro, who I knew a little about from my race at Madera. Also, Scott Hennesey, who I had met at Madera, was signed up. One guy I had not raced with but had heard of was Rob Anderson. Jim Langley told me to look for a guy in an old Specialized kit. He had told me he didn’t understand why the guy didn’t get a new kit until he spotted the world champion stripes on the sleeve. I saw them, and I can’t say that I blame him. Ed Price and I were signed up for the Trip, and I was glad to see another familiar face in Chris Cerutti at the start line. In all, I think we had 40+ guys at the start, and we were off.
From the start line the race makes an immediate left turn and drops down a section of pave to the slight uphill at the feed zone. Before we had even reached the feed zone, I saw Anderson go by on the left of the pack. I’m not sure if his move would be called an attack, but even though it drew a response, and a couple of guys were able to jump off with him, the gap was not great and he did not turn up the pace but simply held it. In so doing, he managed to rip the pack apart from the very start of the race. Ed told me later that he knew from early on that he wasn’t going to have his way on this day. I didn’t see him after the start until we were back at the car. For my own part, I tried to stay focused on staying on the wheels of the guys I was riding with. We were the first chase group and there were somewhere around 20 of us left by the time we were halfway up the first climb. I worked hard to keep my pedals spinning and to conserve my energy and I was pleased to get over the top of the climb with this group. I felt pretty good, but I also realized that I was with some pretty good cyclists. Among them was Cerutti, a couple of guys from Paco’s in Truckee, and several Morgan Stanley cyclists. I saw that Caldwell was not with us and that confirmed my thinking from earlier that he had gone with Anderson. I expected the Morgan Stanley guys would not chase too hard with their man in the break, and so it seemed. Cerutti and I worked to organize a chase, but it seemed the Morgan Stanley guys would make the effort to break the rythym. Every now and then, we caught a glimpse of the leaders and it looked like Caldwell might be coming back to us. Still, our group seemed to back off a bit as we reached the second climbing section that leads to a sketchy descent and the end of the first of two laps. On the descent, I was on Cerutti’s wheel until I realized that for some unknown reason he was taking the descent tentatively. I didn’t want to get dropped on the downhill so I went around him and charged on. After crossing the line at the end of the lap, I saw that Caldwell had indeed come back to us and our group was down to about 15 - 16. The bad news was that Cerutti was not to be seen again, and Morgan Stanley now had four strong riders with Caldwell at the helm to work the rest of us over. I knew they would work to set a vicious tempo on the climb.
I tried to rest and recover. I drank, I consumed my whole flask of gel, I kept working to spin my legs out and deepen my breathing. Still, the pace had already been quite hard and with very little letup; and there is no doubt that I was the biggest boy left.
But I told myself that I had made it up the main climb with these guys the first time, and I would sure as heck do it the second. As the climb began, I could feel the lack of strength in my legs, but I did all I could to keep spinning. Little gaps would open, but I increased my spin and caught back on. Four or five of our group could not hold the pace and were dropped on the lower half of the climb. About 3/4 of the way up, I got gapped along with 2 other guys. We took turns trying to pull ourselves back on, but finally the string broke and we were dropped. Still, we all three continued to chase as hard as we could, but the gap, by the time we got over the top of the climb, was substantial. A little recovery, and back to the chase.
We just didn’t have the gas to get back on as the gap was too large, but we received encouragement from others we passed on the road as well as one of the motor refs who even gave us a brief pull in the tailwind section. Still we continued to work hard and one of us three, a guy in a Paco’s kit, was dropped. Michael Lynch, from Fun Sport Bikes, and I continued on as best we could and even though we kept overtaking cyclists on the road, none of them turned out to be from our group. As we approached the last short climb, I had to apologize and simply sit on Michael’s wheel. I was cooked, but he either didn’t have enough left to ride off on me, or he was just too nice to do it. As we hit the final descent, I took the lead and did all I could to hammer out a gap, to no avail. I decided to try and duplicate a short interval I have been trying up Bonita (1 minute at L5 followed by whatever it takes to the line at L6 - approx 30secs). It might have worked, but I had to get some kind of gap at the start and I simply didn’t accomplish that. Michael came around me and beat me to the line for 10th. Although I would have loved to have finished top 10, I was very happy to be 11th and the last rider to be scored as a finisher in our race. I like my new age group. I even feel like I might be able to learn to race well against these guys. I hope so!
Monday, April 18, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
By Kevin Giberson
Wow, what a weekend of exciting NorCal High School Cycling League cross-country mountain-bike racing. Several racers moved up in the standings, the team moved up to 3rd overall (out of 28 teams in our division), and the racers learned that a team effort can result in success even after the top rider is out with a mechanical issue.
The race was originally scheduled for Laguna Seca which our team prefers due to the larger hills, but due to the huge amount of mud and water on the course from the week of rain the race was moved to East Garrison at Fort Ord. Luckily that course dried out wonderfully and was in great condition for the sunny race on Sunday.
In the Varsity Boys race, the team’s top racer, Jacob Albrecht, had a mechanical on the first lap as his chain broke and that essentially took him out of the race, though he did finish after repairing his bike. Jacob will be back strong at the next race.
In the JV Boys race Curren Giberson came in second place even with a crash and closed the gap on the lead rider to a mere ten seconds in this race, keeping him in second place overall in the standings. Chase Cummings also had a nice race finishing in sixth place.
In the JV Girls race Dominique van den Dries had the most movement in the standings from the prior week by finishing in third place and moving up seven spots with a strong effort.
In the Sophomore Boys race Josh Krisman also moved up in the standings and came in third place after a sprint to the finish with the top two racers. Leon Markarian moved up to 8th place this week.
In the Freshman Boys race Chance Tiner moved up to 8th place also.
The great side of so many racers moving up in the standings was the team captured third place at this race, and moved into third overall in the standings. All this was possible because teammates stepped up their game this week, even though our top point scorer was unable to contribute due to his mechanical. So a great effort by all, and next week we head to Laguna Seca… should be fun!
As always, thanks to our sponsors for helping to make this all possible.
Kevin Giberson, Program Director
Santa Cruz Junior Cycling Composite
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I barely knew what a "match sprint" was when I signed up for this afternoon of track racing. But I vaguely recall watching match sprints on the wooden, indoor velodrome they built for the '76 Olympics in Montreal (I guess that dates me)... I thought it looked bizarre then and I still do! Here's a brief description from the NCVA FAQ:
A short event with 2 to 4 riders competing at a time in a tournament format. The final 200m of each race is sometimes timed, however, the racers are competing against each other, not the clock. Each race is either 2 or 3 laps long. It's in the Match Sprint that you may witness a "trackstand," wherein a rider will bring his/her bike to a complete stop and remain upright, balancing precariously. The reason for this peculiar behavior is that the rider in front is trying to control the race and wants to force the rider in the rear to come around, so that they can "draft" off of the front rider, following their rear wheel very closely, to decrease wind resistance and therefore conserve energy. By following in the slipstream of the other rider, a rider can not only keep a watchful eye on their opponent, but can also save enough energy to put on an extra burst of speed at the finish. When the tournament has whittled the field down to just 2 riders, the final contest is often best 2 out of 3. A Match Sprint tournament may also contain a second change bracket for riders who have lost their heats. This second chance bracket is called a "repechage". Before a tournament begins riders are often asked to do a timed flying 200m test. This is used to seed the tournament, but does not directly affect the race results.
Ergo, I had a rough idea what to expect. Our match sprints are 3 laps (1km total) at Hellyer.
Vlada and I carpooled to Hellyer Park in San Jose on a gorgeous, cool day. I had just installed a new 14-tooth sprocket on my rear track wheel that morning. My wheel has threads for a sprocket (cog) on both sides so now I can just flip the wheel to chose between my 14t and 15t depending on the type of race.
We started by "seeding" all the riders into three groups, within which we'd each pair off against one other rider in a "round robin" elimination. Our seeding was based on our flying-200m "sprint" times. My friends Rob and Chris recommended the 14t for the 200m sprints so I flipped the wheel to use the 14t with my 48t chain-ring. Then we all went out one at a time to set a nice, fast time in the 200m.
But I had my doubts about whether I wanted to be fast in my 200m sprint, since then I'd be matched against some impossibly fast, experienced "trackies." So... there may have been some sandbagging, though I also wanted to set a respectable time for my own reference. They aren't really sprints, because you actually take 2.3 laps to get up to speed, then just get timed for the last 200m. Ideally you hit the 200m-to-go line at 100% top speed and try to hold that as long as possible to the finish line. I was almost the last to sprint, and set a nice 13.11-second flying 200m time. But, as luck would have it, that time made me one of the slower guys in the fastest "A" group. Darn. Slow fast-guy vs. fast fast-guys. Vlada was a tad slower and was seeded with the "B" group.
My first match sprint was against a young rider, Ryan Gadow (SJBC), who I have seen out there in the "A" races before and knew to be fast... in case his 11.7-second 200m seeding time, aero helmet with full-face visor, disc wheels etc. didn't alert me! He won the coin-toss and chose to lead. We started off nice and slow. He kept pressing me against the upper "rail" edge, while I nudged him a bit with my left elbow to let him know I wasn't too nervous. But I had a lot to learn; after 2 laps of this he jumped at 100% down turn 1's banking and set a ferocious pace through turns 2, 3 and 4 with me trying to match him... not a chance! His initial gap was way too big for me to close. It was funny, and I learned a lot. I was ready for the next round... after switching back to my 15t cog since I felt the 14t was too sluggish from a slow speed.
Wouldn't you know, my second match sprint was against Mark Rodamaker, with his World Champion's striped jersey. He won the coin toss and chose to follow me; I thought that was nice of him and it would allow me to see how that works in comparison with leading. Well, I was schooled again! Mark followed me cautiously, and I kept him just even with my rear wheel so he couldn't jump around me from behind, on the left side (smart, eh?). Well, I suspect he's seen that before and had a trick: As we finished lap 2 he started pushing around my right but I held him steady just behind me by pushing a bit harder to match his pace. Then... he launched his attack by first backpedaling so hard he dropped behind me and then jumped 100% down turn 1. I was again forced to chase, but unlike with Ryan I was able to catch Mark and set myself up to draft him. Just as I started to move down the bank to his rear wheel he slowed down a tad, keeping me outside to his right. I had to either sprint hard for the last half lap, taking the longer route around him in the wind, or slow down even more to get behind him. Well, I didn't recognize the problem for me in time and he kept adjusting his pace to hold me in that poor position for the rest of the sprint, which he won by a bike length or two. Oh well, another schooling I can learn from.
After that I was paired against Jacob, who had a similar 200m time to mine. I won the coin-toss and followed him. I was determined to apply some of the lessons I'd learned, and I did, beating him rather comfortably without the need to overdo it. I basically did what Mark had done, but without the need for the subtleties since Jacob wasn't as vigilant and jumping around him from behind turned out to be easy. Out of turn 4 I was able to just hold him steady behind my right elbow without hurting myself. That was fun!
Next up was Andreas Vogel, in his California State Champion's skinsuit. He led me out and did a sort of swooping left-right ahead of me, on the "stayer's line," to keep me from jumping. But I think it ended up just being his super-strong jump that allowed him to win by a bike length. Oh well, I don't feel too bad about losing to guys like him.
The last sprint, just for fun since the official racing was done, was against Jim Purcell. He was actually from the slower-seeded "B" group. He won the coin-toss and chose to follow me. I decided to try Ryan's tactic against him, on the premise that Jim was less experienced, as I had been earlier that day (now that I'm a seasoned veteran... kidding!). Worked like a charm! It's really nice when lessons can be learned and applied in such a short time!
So I have no idea where we ended up in the results, and it really doesn't matter. I had a blast and learned a lot and I think Vlada did too. Looking forward to the next tournament!
Monday, April 11, 2011
What a well run venue at this race that uses many of the same roads as Snelling and Merco in its 26 mile loop. Put on by Rabobank, we had full road closure, numerous CHP, even more people working the event, many real bathrooms, support vehicles for every field, cash prizes (which unfortunately none of us saw), a finish line on the roadway, and quick accurate results. It’s too bad that the premier race promoter in our area does not adhere to these same goals.
Our race was delayed about an hour at the start. The morning races had all had crashes at a pothole on the back side of the course, and eventually, one cyclist had to be airlifted. Still, I think most of the delay occurred because they actually had someone come in and fill the pothole. For the late wave of races, they also stationed a marshall at the site to warn all fields. Unheard of!
Our race got off to a clean start and stayed that way to the finishing stretch. I was riding with no computer, but Ed says we averaged close to 25mph for this 52 mile race. At that pace, none of the attacks that came on a pretty regular basis were able to stay away from the pack. Turlock is not a climber’s course, but more of a power rider’s course. There was wind and numerous rollers, but I think I stayed in my big ring throughout. I clearly still have a lot to learn. When one Taleo rider went off the front on the second lap, I could not keep from chasing. I think it’s because I had had similar ideas until the pace of our race calmed that idea down in me. Still, there were several teams with numerous riders in our event and, as Joe said later, it was their job to chase down the attacks. Someday I’m going to pick up on that.
Anyway, as we approached the finishing stretch, our group was mostly still together as we had maybe dropped 20 guys from our starting group of around 70. After the Madera Road Race, Jim Langley and Steve Heaton had talked to me about the importance of staying positive and the role that eating and drinking can have in that effort. In this race I had been careful to make sure that I ate and drank regularly. As we approached the final 1K, I found myself going to the usual place in my head where I discount my abilities and inflate those of my competitors. Using Steve & Jim’s advice, I dismissed those thoughts and told myself repeatedly, “You can win this race! Get yourself into position.”
So, that’s exactly what I began to try and accomplish. I was sitting in the top third of the group as we came up on the 1K sign. I moved myself up to the front part of the race, but not at the front. The finishing stretch had a helping wind from our right, and I moved to a position to the left of the Fighting Bobbas who had set up their leadout train of 4 at the very front of the race. I sat 5th wheel as we barreled up the road. This was where I made my error. I haven’t trained regularly to sprint, mostly because I have been less than impressed with my sprinting ability. That’s got to change. As the jump started, I began to wind up my sprint, such as it is. Two things happened. First, I didn’t get my best jump because I wasn’t properly set up for gearing, cadence and position on the bike. That caused me to lag a bit at first. The second thing was that the smaller riders that were sitting on my wheel were trying to jump around me. In the process, I was being repeatedly struck by a guy to my left who was simply thrashing around on his bike. I didn’t feel like I was going to go down, but it sorely interfered with my ability to get my sprint going. It got worse from there as another small rider on my right ran into me, actually pretty hard. It still didn’t seem like I was going to go down, but there was no way to maintain my balance, and sprint, and fend off these ongoing blows. When the same little guy on my left ran into me again, I backed off, regrouped and pled for people to hold their line.
The original jump had come quite far out from the finish, maybe 350 - 400 meters, so I still felt I could be in the mix. I wound up to sprint a second time and began to gain on the leaders. This was when a new guy pulled some kind of Robbie Mckewan move. He was just next to me when he leaned into me and began to try and use my body to pull himself forward. It was at this point that I pretty much gave up. Cursing, I exclaimed that these guys were idiots and backed out of the sprint. I still continued to pedal hard to the line and passed a number of riders, I think that included all of those who had fouled me.
It was a bit discouraging to finish this way. I think I could have and would have finished top 5. Still, I come away from this experience with a positive perspective. It’s up to me to train my sprint. It’s also up to me to be prepared to give my best effort in the sprint when the jump comes or I start it. I could get crashed out of a sprint by one of these other guys who is not playing by the rules, but I’m big enough that some of that possibility is reduced. This learning experience is just one more part of racing, and I can choose to benefit from it or I can let it hold me back. I choose the former.
My thanks again to Steve and Jim for their wisdom and encouraging words. I feel the same for the many teammates, local stars and others who have regularly offered me kind words and support in this somewhat crazy sport.
Oh, my result...20th. Not so bad in a field of around 70! Until next time.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
This was the final race in the Tuesday “Derney for the masses” series http://ncnca.org/sites/default/files/03/08/2011%20-%2012:20pm/tues_mar15-april5.pdf
Rode my usual 51X15 gear.
Scratch Race 20 laps (usual race format- person who crosses the line first at the end is the winner). I waited for the first move in front of the motorcycle and followed. I took a few half lap pulls with the others pushing the pace then fell to the back of the break and noticed that it did not have good cohesion. As our group got pulled back with about 3 laps to go I attacked over the top got a gap and was able to hold it for the win. As I came around the final corner I could see that Dennis was able to gap everyone else in the sprint for 2nd. Vlada, who just moved up from the Cs, had a photo finish for 3rd or 4th so the Trip was able to virtually sweep the podium.
Points Race 30 laps with sprints every 6 laps (1st place 5 points, 2nd 3 pts, 3rd 2 pts, 4th 1 pt). My pre-race plan was to try to get off the front with Vlada and Dennis. As usual the race did not go as planned. I attacked right at the gun and looked back and saw that Dennis and Vlada were not with me. I could quickly see that this guy from Pen Velo was very strong. He was easily able to overpower me for 1st place in the first two sprints but he was using a lot of energy opening a large gap for those two sprints. I was able to take the third sprint as we lapped the field. On the 4th sprint I was second again to the Pen Velo dude. I wasn’t feeling confident going into the final sprint but gave it everything from the front with 1 lap to go. As I came to the line, I swung up track to go around some lapped traffic otherwise this move can be grounds for disqualification and probably kept me from being overtaken. I initially didn’t think I had won since I knew that if the Pen Velo guy was 2nd or 3rd he would still have won but he later told me he didn’t place in the final sprint.
Really enjoy racing with Dennis and Vlada. Next week probably need to race the As, winning is good for the ego but don’t want to be a bagger.