Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011 Masters Districts State Championship - 55-59 Mens

Finally, A Podium Spot At Districts
By Jim Langley

Late Sunday start = small group
The ironic thing about this year's District Championships is that I almost didn't enter it. I've gotten so used to the long trek to Markleeville to race at elevation, that having the venue changed to our popular CCCX circuit race course at Fort Ord seemed all wrong.

More a weekend crit than a championship road race
There would be no major climbs; nice, thick sea-level air; and surely no skinny Nevada fastmen. Plus, with a high chance of a bunch sprint finish, it seems more like a criterium than a road race worthy of district's status.

But worst, my race was to be the last of the day, starting at 4:50 Sunday afternoon. Talk about messing up my training for Nationals!

Home field advantage
But then two things convinced me to register. Bob Montague, who was such a big help at the Madera Road Race emailed saying he wanted to ride for me. And a little later Steve Heaton told me I'd be crazy not to enter since it's essentially our home course and we've all done so well there in the circuit races, and because I'm in peak form. Excellent points.

Then Kem Akol let me know he was signing up, making 3 strong Bike Trip/Symantec double-nickel teammates (as it turned out we had one of the largest teams in our group). And finally Coach Mark decided to enter the 50+ and offered to drive. Be sure to check out the iPhone video at the bottom showing his group flying down the descent (Geoff and Matt are in the pack too).

Rob Anderson tearing our legs off - Bob looking strong
Rob does his thing
As for our 55+ race, if you enlarge the photo on the right and look at Masters State, National and World Champion Rob Anderson's grimace (he's the guy in front in Specialized red), it pretty much sums up how our race went.

The official blew his whistle to start us, Rob was kind enough to let our small group (about 23 riders) click into our pedals, and then he hit his electric shifter, and a higher gear, and punched it - flat out.

Grab a wheel and hang on
We went from a let's-warm-up-a-little 15mph to a quad-cramping 30mph in about 20 pedal strokes, and we stayed at that speed for about 4 minutes before Rob had to take a breather. Then, about a minute later he did the same thing.

This exact pattern repeated for the first 6 laps, at which point there were only 7 of us left in the lead group, a nice chase group of 7 or 8, more than a minute back, and a few solo riders left. The rest had abandoned to race another day.

A helpful headwind
Luckily for me, it's not so easy to breakaway on the CCCX course. There are a series of rollers on the backside of the course but there's a headwind there that means all you have to do is hide behind someone and not get gapped and it's unlikely whoever is trying to drop you in front will be able to generate the watts to do it, since you're working nowhere near as hard as they are.

Mark wins! Rob is second. Steve takes third.
This worked great for me through the 7th lap and I felt pretty good when we came to the backside of the course where it's relatively flat. While I may have felt good, in retrospect I think I must have gone a little brain dead because as Rob sat up, I decided to attack myself. Why should he have all the fun?

Dumb move
I was able to open a small gap but Rob chased me down pretty quickly. I rested a bit and then jumped again with Mark Caldwell pulling me back this time.

I knew what would happen next: Rob punched it again trying to shake me. I was okay until we hit the rollers and there, my legs, softened now from my attacks, just gave out and I got dropped.

I recovered really fast though and managed to chase and actually catch the group (they had slowed to a crawl), but when they realized I was back on, Rob went again and I got dropped for good.

Down but not out
I ended up time trialing in, dropping one guy who was dogging me, staying ahead of the chase group behind me and taking the last podium spot. It's my best districts finish ever and by far the closest I have ever been to Rob Anderson.

Rob, Mark Caldwell and Steve Palladino came into the sprint together and went 2, 1, 3. Jonathan Sek must have been dropped like me and time trialed in for 4th. A spectator told me that Mark was much faster to the line than Rob. I wish I had been there.

I'll wrap this up with a special thanks to John Schaupp, who had a big win in the 55+ at Dunnigan Hills on Saturday. Instead of kicking back, recovering at home, he was out on the course cheering us on and handing up bottles. Thanks, John and congrats!

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