Monday, October 8, 2012

Henleyville Road Race 2012

The Schaupps Take the 2012 Henleyville Road Race by Storm
by John Schaupp

I did the Henleyville RR last weekend – 54 miles, three 18-mile laps. I thought my season was over about a month ago, but about a week prior to the race my son Matt decided he wanted to do the race working toward his Cat 1 upgrade. I figured since I was going anyway, I may as well race 55+ and I went back into training mode for a week.

It was a small turnout at the race. It is a relatively flat course with a few rollers in it. The first lap was relatively uneventful with a few attacks that were immediately covered. Just after the completion of the first lap there was a serious attack by a Chico Masters Cycling racer. He stayed off for a respectable amount of time and was then quickly joined by Tracy Muegge of Team Bicycles Plus Sierra. I didn’t know who he was, but I learned quickly.

Within about a half a lap, Tracey dropped the Chico rider. Behind there were 4 to 5 of us chasing with everyone else sitting in. We were very disorganized with several chasers doing minimal work. Tracy did an admirable job keeping a several-hundred meter gap solo for close to an entire lap. Tracy had a teammate, Douglas Gonda, happily chatting and generally teasing us as we had to chase while he got to sit in.

Finally we reeled Tracy in a few miles from the finish. Another racer surged from out of the pack. I had been feeling good, so I covered his attack. To my dismay I found both my quads cramping. I guess the heat (98 degrees) and intensity of the chase, combined with my lack of serious training for 3 out of 4 prior weeks got to me. Fortunately I had time to recover and spin my legs out. I stood up and stretched my hamstrings as best I could.

It was a narrow road with a centerline rule in effect. The start/finish line had tape just on half of the road. At the start we were warned by the officials if we did not run over the tape at the finish we would be disqualified. As such I decided to stay in the front for positioning even though I would have much rather slipped back to get a wheel. I got boxed in at Dunnigan earlier this year and did not want this happening again. I stayed to the right of the road so I only had to watch my left side. With just over 200 meters to go I saw the attack coming and jumped. Oh man, did that hurt.

It was Douglas playing the perfect scenario after his teammate gave his all. He got a great jump. I was only able to match him and hold my position. I mentally conceded 1st to Douglas and sat down. Suddenly fearing slipping to 3rd place, I stood up and started sprinting again. Jeeeze, Douglas had blown and I started to gain on him. He had totally blown. Unfortunately my hesitation cost me the race. I only needed 10 more feet to win, but ended up 2nd. Tracy, even after his solo performance, took 3rd. Next year! My son Matt also had a great race placing 3rd in the Pro, 1, 2. Good times!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Race Around Lake Tahoe Report

At the start (about a third of the team)
Race Around Lake Tahoe Report
Saturday, September 29, 2012

2:59:52! Team Symantec gets it done
by Jim Langley

For me, this was the second attempt at the Race Around Lake Tahoe with Team Symantec. Our goal: to get team founder, captain, sponsor and class act, Enrique Salem across the line under three hours. That's the gold standard at Tahoe and not so easy.

The team has tried to cover the supposed 72-mile course (some Strava files say it's a bit shorter) under the three-hour barrier without luck, including last year when we crossed the line in a frustrating 3:02, a victim of traffic jams, bad roads that forced dismounting and walking; and we probably needed a few more teammates to stoke the fire over the tough final miles of the race. Tahoe is at elevations around and above 6,000 feet and the thin air takes the starch out of your sails sooner or later.

Rolling to the official starting line
This year we brought a bigger team and added to that with friends who wanted to help, like Chris and his up-and-coming racer son Sam. I think all told we line up with close to 20 riders planning to work as a unit to crack three.

While it was nice to have the help, it got confusing figuring who was on our team and who was just using our teamwork to drag them to their fastest time. But one of the fun things about Tahoe is how many of these people thank us at the finish for helping them set a new PR.

Instead of staying in the team house, Mark Edwards and I decided to use the trip as a mini vacation, and with our wives, got campsites in the Zephyr Cove RV park. It's perfectly located right at the start of the ride.

For you history buffs, I was amazed to learn that the Zephyr Cove Resort where the RV park and the restaurant/beach where the race starts, was founded in 1862 and has been in constant operation since! Nice place to stay and it has a beautiful beach, too.

Mark and I met up in the morning just 30 minutes before the start and wondered if we should bundle up more since it felt cold with the sun not up yet. We decided to just wear arm warmers and headed over to join the team. I was laughing at Mark's mandatory helmet timing chip that was sticking straight up, making him look like a California quail - you can see it on everyone in the photos (I taped mine flat).

One of the quirky Tahoe traditions is that the starter fires a double-barreled shotgun. I wasn't paying attention and about fell off my bike when the blast went off and we tried to get into our pedals ASAP and rocket up the fairly long climb the race starts with.

And we're off! Team Symantec on the front
Right away, I was too cold, so I hit the hill with the leaders and went hard up that first wall. It didn't do any good and by the top, my hands were frozen. I had to back off a little and pick my position carefully in the bunch because I couldn't feel my levers to brake or shift.

The first 10 miles or so were crazy with squirrelly riders, cops racing alongside the pack on both sides sirens sounding and then stopping in the road to halt traffic but also risking us by stopping right smack in our lane. You're following wheels and you keep hitting ruts and potholes left by the constant construction around Tahoe. This caused some near crashes as riders dropped bottles, others ran over them and guys swerved and braked to stay upright. Not exactly a race peloton, that's for sure. More like a century ride on steroids.

As we put some miles behind us and I needed to get some calories down, my hands were still gone and I couldn't eat or drink for fear of dropping my food/bottle or running into some wobbly rider in front and crashing. We eventually saw the sun and got rid of some of the tired riders as we flew up the steep climbs over Emerald Bay. Enrique was riding super strong and sticking tight.

No stopping at South Lake Tahoe's casinos!
Emerald is always where the strongest riders open a small gap and that happened again. Our goal is to ride as a team and get as many riders as possible, and especially Enrique, across the line under three hours, not to win the race. So we let them go. Maybe next year we'll try to set someone up to break the course record of 2:50, which would mean winning a $500 purse, too.

Our team was intact until about halfway around the lake. Once over the climbs at Emerald Bay there are some sweet descents on wide, smooth roads with epic scenery that you're going too fast to see much of. Then the road becomes more rolling and you have to earn your miles. The team kept the pace high and every time I looked forward I'd see our yellow jerseys setting the tempo at the front.

Then things started going wrong. Mark had to pee so bad he was forced to stop, so we lost one of our strongest riders. He couldn't take care of business while riding because an official car was following the lead pack.

No time to stop and enjoy the view either
Later Steve and Dennis flatted. So, with only the climbs over Spooner Summit and the rollers on the way back down to the finish at Zephyr Cove to go, we were in danger of not going any faster than last year, even though we had brought even more riders.

Around then, I asked Dave how we were doing, and he said something like, 'We've only got 14 miles to go and 30 minutes to do it; we'll make it easy.'

I liked his optimism, but we definitely weren't going anywhere near 30mph, and the pack was tiring, slowing and not working together at all. I panicked and started hollering obnoxiously at the team, trying to get guys to ride a proper rotating paceline so that we would speed up.

This didn't work at all. They were probably too tired. They'd get to the front and sit there and we'd go slower and slower. The same for the non-Symantec riders. Instead of adding fuel to the fire and increasing our pace, everyone was essentially getting to the front and blocking so that we went slower and slower.

Enrique (yellow rim) does it!
After yelling a bit and not getting any results, and guys just clogging up the front, I did what you have to, and started going to the front and trying to raise the pace myself. Kirk Carlsen, a pro recently signed by Team Exergy and who rides for our team at Tahoe, was way up the road, and luckily for us, he turned around and came back, saw the situation and started helping.

Dave was charging to the front too, and then Pablo, who motors on his tri bike, got in the game. And just like that, we got the pack flying again and kept it going faster and faster keeping the rotation going.

Meanwhile, Enrique was right there and took some solid pulls to help the effort, as did John. The climbs over Spooner were painful but we fought to keep the pace high and keep everyone together. Then we absolutely bombed the descents immediately leapfrogging each other, going faster and faster, clipping the corners, matching the speeding cars in the fast lane just inches away, and then sprinting maniacally over the rollers in-between the downs as if we were 16-year-old juniors in our first race instead of a bunch of desk jockeys.

Still, as we came into the finish, I chanced a look at my watch and it didn't look good. The race start time was 7 and my watch had just hit 10! Some of the guys had computers and assured me we had done it. But I wasn't going to believe it until I saw the official results. Which showed that we barely broke 3. My time was 2:59:52 and I think everyone was right around there in our little group.

The winning time was only 2:57, so I believe we actually gained ground on the lead group late in the ride. I'd like to find out how fast we could go if we rode a true rotating team-time-trial paceline the whole way. I have to think we could go much faster.

The last sub-3 guys
Mark rolled in just a couple of minutes behind us. He told me that after stopping, he helped teammate Melissa (Dave's wife). She ended up winning the women's masters division. After that Mark started chasing us in earnest. I am pretty sure he would have caught us, but he took a wrong turn (the course was not marked and there was no course marshal) and had to climb 3 hills over a part of the course where we were taking the correct route which was mostly downhill. So, Mark added distance and time and only finished 3 minutes behind us or he would have broken 3 I am pretty sure.

I feel bad for him and Steve and Dennis, and the other guys who just got dropped. But getting around the lake in under three hours takes as much luck as fitness. I'm sure they'll get it done next time. I am glad I broke three this year and have that monkey off my back. Thanks for all the help out there Team Symantec!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2012 Mountain Bike Marathon National Championship 50-59

"Well, Phil, I was on the rivet the entire way."
2012 Mountain Bike Marathon National Championship
50-59 Category
September 15, 2012
Bend, Oregon 
by Scott Martin 

I ended my 2012 season with a bang (and a whimper) at the Mountain Bike Marathon National Championship in Bend, Oregon, on September 15. 

Held a week after the Bend-based Masters Road Nationals attended by our own TT powerhouse Jim Langley, the Marathon Nationals served up 54 miles and 6,300 feet of climbing. The high-desert course featured tons of fun singletrack, many nasty lava-rock gardens and some tricky deep-sand sections. 

Based on last year’s times, I expected to finish in about 4.5 hours. But then I ran into Santa Cruz local (and Giro founder) Jim Gentes at the packet pick-up. Gentes had done the Masters Road Championships and stayed in Bend to pre-ride the marathon course. He said the course had changed from last year and was brutal. Yikes. 

On race day I lined up with 28 other guys in the 50-59 category, including teammate Chris Baker, Gentes, and a bunch of chiseled guys from mountain bike hotspots like Idaho, Colorado, Utah and of course Oregon. Among them was Bend local Paul Thomasberg, a Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and ex-pro. Double yikes. [Editor's note: Paul won the race.]

We started fast on dusty fire roads. As planned, I went out hard. Probably a little too hard in hindsight. I was still recovering when we hit the first technical sections. Here I quickly realized that a season of competing mostly on the relatively tame trails of the CCCX events at Fort Ord had not prepared me for hard-core mtb racing. I bobbled, I crashed, I got passed again and again. 

By aid station #1 at mile 12, I was struggling to stay positive. But after chugging a bottle and inhaling some energy bar, I began feeling better. One woman who passed me was only slightly faster but way more skillful than me, so I latched on and enrolled in a clinic on technical riding. 

By aid station #2 at mile 24, I began re-passing a few riders and feeling much sharper mentally and physically. 

Aid station #3 at mile 33 came up sooner than expected – always a good sign – and when I hit the last aid station at mile 42, I figured I was practically home. 


The last 12 miles were cruelly hilly and technical. My back was screaming. I could barely dismount for the many rocky sections. I fell over on one steep climb and was too exhausted to curse. My CamelBak finally went dry. When I hit the pavement with a half-mile to go, my neck was so tweaked I couldn’t turn to see if anyone was behind me. 

Shattered, I crossed the finish line in 5:13 for 16th place. Clearly I have a lot to learn about this crazy event, but I have 12 months to begin figuring it out. Thanks for reading. And thanks to coach Mark Edwards for getting me in such good shape. Here are the full results.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Masters Road National Championships 2012

Masters Road Nationals Race Report (55-59 age group) - September 5 & 6, 2012
by Jim Langley

Ready for the 9-hour drive to Bend
The USA Cycling Masters National Road Races, took place in Bend, Oregon last week. I thought I'd take a different approach this year and for my report, share what I wrote about the races for my weekly column on roadbikerider

I'll offer some background on the Nationals that might put things in perspective for all you teammates who have never competed at this level. 

My hope is that I might motivate you to put a trip to Bend on your racing calendar next year - after that the Natz could move back to Louisville, Kentucky or some other distant location not so easy to get to as Bend. 

I drove up alone last year, and again this year. The event may be as much as a month earlier in 2013 and it would be fun to go up as a team instead of an individual. If they use the same courses as they did this year, they suit Santa Cruz Country road racers just fine. And the time trial is especially easy, much moreso than our tough Swanton course.

I stayed with teammate Jim Holmes in Bend. Nice garage!
For American athletes over age 35, the Nationals is the big show. And, you don’t even have to qualify. You just have to hold a USA Cycling license and pay the entry fee, about $60 per event.

It’s a chance to line up against the best in the country and see what you’ve got. And I do mean the best in the country. 

There are men’s and women’s categories broken down in five-year age categories from 35 to 40 all the way up to 95 to 100 years-old - when there are entrants.

If you look at the names year in and out, it’s a who’s who of former road stars, like Wayne Stetina, Tom Officer, Tom Doughty and Karen Armstrong. These are racers who’ve competed at the highest level, been on pro teams, the USA national team or on major amateur squads. To me, just riding with them is special.

The Time Trial course: flat, fast, smooth, no wind!
The racing starts with an individual time trial. This year it was on Wednesday, September 5. Next is the road race. And the week of racing concludes with a criterium. In each race there are five podium spots. But everyone dreams of knocking off one of the top dogs and nabbing the title of USA Masters National Champion and the coveted stars-and-stripes jersey that goes along with it.

This was the fourth time I attended the Nationals, racing in the 55 to 59 age group. The first two years when it was held in Louisville, Kentucky, I got killed, a victim of the high-caliber racing and awful heat. When they moved the event to Bend last year, which is a lot like Santa Cruz I did much better. I trained extra hard all of 2012 preparing for my return to Bend.

Here are some notes of interest about the racing and how I got 8th in the time trial and 23rd in the road race.

Jim & Jim on the Crooked River TT course on Tuesday
Faster but still not fast enough
Last year I got 10th in the time trial averaging 24.6mph. I was pretty happy to finish top-10 at this level, especially after coming in almost dead last in the time trial my first try in Louisville. 

Earlier this year I managed to take the silver medal in the Northern California/Nevada time trial, the district championship, averaging 27mph for 40K. So, I went into this Natz thinking I might go a bit better than in 2011. I did, averaging 26.42mph for this year’s 30K course, or almost 2mph faster. But that only moved me up from 10th to 8th!

Speed by age category
Thinking about how I went faster even though I was a year older, I thought it would be fun to compare the average speed of the men’s time trialists (since I’m a man, not because the women aren’t fast). 

My bars are super low, Power Tap is for pacing
Note that the course length changes so the comparison isn’t perfect, but I still find it interesting how fast everyone goes regardless of age and that it’s so close:
35-39: 28.93mph Sam Krieg (Pocatello, Idaho/Idaho Cycling Enthusiasts)
40-44: 29.52 Richard Feldman (Ketchum, Idaho/ Durance-Colnago)
45-49: 28.59 Robert Garwood (Harrisonburg, Va.)
50-54: 29.53 Jeffrey Hartmann (Boulder, Colo./Boulder Orthopedics)
55-59: 27.9 Gary Painter (Ft Wayne, Ind./Ft. Wayne Outfitters)
60-64: 27.51 Thomas Doughty (Aurora, Ill./Scarlet Fire)
65-69: 25.62 Scott Hennessy (Salinas, Calif./VOS Racing)
70-74: 24.11 S Durward Higgins (Chattanooga, Tenn./Scenic City Velo)
75-79: 24.50 Franz Hammer (Oro Valley, Ariz./Team Green Choice/Team RPM/Airpark Bikes)
80-84: 20.7 Albert Piemme (Sequim, Wash.)
85-90: 15.58 James Harrang (Eugene, Ore.)

“Funny” officials, part 1
A highlight of racing in Bend this year was staying with my teammate Jim Holmes who has a beautiful house there. There were two other racers at the house, six-time Race Across America winner Seana Hogan who was in the 50+ women’s field (how would you like to line up against her?!) and her friend Just Dustyn, a 60+ woman from the Sacramento area, returning to racing after a 20-year hiatus. 

Dustyn’s race machine was a late eighties steel-frame Merckx. The final check the official did at the time-trial start was weighing the bikes to ensure they’re not too light. When he weighed Dustyn’s Belgian bomber, he exclaimed for all of her competitors in line to hear, “Whoa, we have a new winner for the heaviest bicycle!” Not what Dustyn wanted to hear.

10 p.m. bar hacking to pass bike check was not needed!
“Funny” officials part 2
In order to race the time trial your bicycle has to be “cleared” by the race officials the day before the race. You wait in a long line in the broiling sun as they lean one bike at a time against a go/no-go jig that tells them if the seat and bars are in the correct position and a lot of other details that must be exactly right to abide by the UCI’s complicated aero bicycle rules.

After waiting for 40 minutes, the official rolls my Cervelo P2 up to the jig, takes a quick glance, and tells me that it doesn’t pass and must be checked before the race start in the morning. Talk about stress. He doesn’t even tell me why it doesn’t pass. I barely sleep that night worrying about it, only to have a different race official at the time trial barely look at my bike before giving me the green light to race.

This might be why the officials were a little off
After the time trial I was chatting with Tom Doughty, who was stuffing all his wheels and bicycles into a tiny rental car after his winning 60+ time trial. I didn’t think everything would fit, but he said he has rented so many cars at races over the years that he can tell just by looking whether all his race gear will fit or not. 

Regarding the wishy-washy bike checks by the officials, Tom said that he thought it was due to USA Cycling’s desire to loosen the rules so that more triathletes will come out and race in USA time trials. Fair enough. But at least have set rules and follow them.

Chris Cerruti warming up on chilly Mt. Bachelor
Road race wobbles
The 54-mile road race was bar-none, the most spectacularly scenic race I’ve been in. It started at the top of snowcapped Mt. Bachelor, flew down it for about 20 miles, covered some rollers around the backside for another 30 miles and then finished with a 4-mile climb back to the top. 

The opening descent was awesome except that a large portion of the pack experienced speed wobble. I had the shimmies too. It was a result of the 50+ mph descent combined with the frigid air that chilled us all to the bone causing shivering that amplified the wobbles. Luckily, the pack slowed a bit, everyone got it under control and no one crashed. But it made for a terrifying start.

Quick sidenote: one of the coolest things about the Nationals is that you have lead and follow cars and motorcycles. They're all there to lead and protect the peloton and provide a closed course, meaning you can use the entire road just like in the Tour de France. It's makes the racing feel completely different as the peloton chooses which side of the road to race on and that's often the "wrong" side, and for miles and miles too.

Mt. Bachelor - epic venue for a RR
As everyone knew, the race came down to the final climb. There were many attempts at solo and small-group breakaways on the middle part of the course but the peloton easily pulled every one back. There were two little rollers on the approach to the longer, steeper ascent to the ski-area parking lot start/finish. The group hit these hard enough that I almost came off the back.

But I was there at the base of the big climb with most of the pack because only a handful of the 73 riders had gotten shelled. I was probably a little too far back though. At the front they punched it at the bottom and a group of about 30 opened a gap. I saw this but didn't have the legs or lungs to go with them at that point. We were at altitude and I was feeling it at that moment.

All I could do was try to pace myself. So, I did that and I started passing guys, and more, and then a little group, and then a bigger group. At that point I was feeling much better. I could see the group ahead and went as hard as I could to try to chase them down. I thought I was only halfway up the climb with time maybe to catch more riders and move up.

But then I saw the pack ahead take the right turn that marked the 1K to the finish point, and I knew I wasn't going to catch anyone. I came across the line solo in 23rd place, the third "group" on the road. My big mistake was not riding the course before the race to experience the last climb and know how long it was. But, there wasn't time with no rest day between the time trial and road race, and I couldn't get up to Bend any earlier before the races. 

In any case, it might not have made any difference. I needed to be able to go with the lead group at the bottom of the hill and I just didn't have it at that point, so they made the perfect move to get rid of me.

The Santa Cruz County road mafia, Jim, Evan, Chris
Technical notes
For you gear heads, in no particular order, here are some of the technical changes I made to improve this year (most in the time trial but these tweaks helped me on the road, too): went from Look to Speedplay pedals (with Speedplay-only shoes); lowered and narrowed my aero bars a lot; went from 175mm crankarms on my road bikes to 170, and on my time trial bike to 160; got a faster helmet (see below); increased my training intensity; improved my pedal stroke; switched energy drinks and got a Power Tap watt meter for my TT bike so that all workouts are quality ones and recorded to see how I'm progressing.

Thanks everyone
As I’ve gotten more and more into racing at the Nationals seriously, I’ve sought out the very best in coaching and equipment and I owe a lot to my supporters. Thank you Coach Mark Edwards for the careful analysis and training program that got me so fit. And for helping me improve my aero setup, thanks to Keith Bontrager and Hed who got me on superfast wheels; Giro who supplied the TT helmet of the pros, their Selector; Sidi for putting me on ultra-stiff Speedplay-specific carbon shoes; and of course, team sponsors Bicycle Trip and Symantec.

If after reading this you're inspired to have a go at a National title next year, I'm happy to answer any and all questions and you're welcome to train with Coach Mark's group, too, that I train with. The time to start training and preparing is NOW! And, I'm looking forward to having some teammates to root for next fall.

Ride safe out there,
Jim Langley

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Scott Martin's Race Reports, 2012

By Scott Martin

After several years of road racing, I decided this season to return to mountain bike racing. (Or, as my mountain biking friends said, "So, you've come back from the dark side.")

There aren't nearly as many off-road races, but luckily we have the CCCX series in our backyard (Fort Ord and Toro Park). It's low-key, fun and not scary-technical. I missed the first 2 events in the 9-race series, but managed to hit all the rest, including the finale over Labor Day weekend. I won the last 7 races and the overall series in the 55+ Category 2 division. Hats off to fellow Bike Tripper Dwight Goss who finished second overall and was getting closer and closer to me each race. The Trip was also well represented throughout the series in other categories with Chris Baker, Matt Wocasek, Geoff Drake, Jose and others I'm no doubt forgetting. 

I really slacked on my race reporting this year, so here's a quick recap of the rest of my season:

April 15
1st 55+ Cat 2 at Napa Valley Dirt Classic, Angwin
Very muddy. Very steep. Crashed hard, lost my pump (and my nerve) but hung on.

Apr. 22: 3rd 55+ Cat 2 at Sea Otter Classic mtb, Monterey
Two SoCal guys schooled us, but I used my road racing skills (i.e., wheelsucking) to stay with another L.A.-area rider and sneak away on the final climb to get my first-ever Sea Otter podium by less than 15 seconds.

April 28
4th 55+ Cat 4 at Wente RR, Livermore
My token road race. 

May 12
6th 50+ Cat 2 at Rockhopper, Vacaville
100 degrees, brutal course. Managed to get a piece of paper towel stuck in my CamelBak hose. (Don't ask.) Long day. 

Next up: Chris Baker and I are heading to Bend, Oregon, for the Mountain Bike Marathon National Championship on September 15. At 60 miles, it will be almost 3 times as long as my next-longest race this year. Gulp.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yikes Fame to Flame at Rohnert Park, pic's to follow.  I did a Age 60 Category to see If I could keep up with people my age and up.   I think there was maybe 40/50 guys in my race. My team mates were there and they recommended I stay up in the front as much as possible and to stay to the left on the head wind side of the course.  I started good, hung really well trading of with a few different riders.  There were 3 guys about 20 sec's ahead at midway in the race. I know cause I heard someone in the crowd shout out the interval. 
Well we finally caught them towards the end.  I was pretty aggressive in this race staying really close to the guy ahead of me to catch his wind, another guy on my right wanted to squeeze in and I pushed his arm a little to keep him from colliding with me and told him I have this wheel, he remarked that he was ahead of me on my right and I repeated I had this wheel and he didn't bother me the rest of the race. 

                                 "The Last 2 laps"
I'm doing really well running 2nd, guys keep trying to get me to take the pull and I say nope.  I hear a guy from behind yell out "Chicken".  I replied its an age thing, but I didn't see him pass me neither.  On the last lap I was pretty much 2nd place to the end.  So the only strategy I had was to keep tucked in behind the first place wheel, and that was what I did, we had a small break on the group but not enough, on the last turn, WOW! I am still in 2nd and forget about the Finish. About 400 meters from the finish the first place guy speeds up, he must have seen the group coming as he either faded back to the line or dropped out or sprinted ahead, maybe I just pulled out, I was pretty much dazed and confused at this point as I was pretty much hung out to dry at the 200 meter mark a freight train of almost the whole group passed me on the left.  Fame to Flame.  But you bet your Joey's bootees I won't do that again. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

NCNCA Master Men Criterium State Championships, 50-54

By Dennis Pedersen

Last year I managed to get 5th in this State Championship, and this year I was hoping to improve on that with a podium finish. For that reason I accepted the offer of Jeff Solt to coach me for the month prior to the race. The workouts were a painfully 'fun' change from my standard weekly program and consisted of very short intervals with limited recovery; no long intervals at all.

I drove up with John Schaupp and we warmed up a bit and chacked out the course. It was a neat undulating course with some slight hills too, though it was a bit windy. All of that made me think a breakaway group could form and win. Since I was alone in my race (John started with me but was in the 55-59 group) I felt that I needed to go with as many attacks as I could or risk missing out. So I was determined not to sit in but to stay near the front and try to go with any attacks. Maybe I could even stay with a successful one and try out my sprint at the finish.

The main instigators turned out to be Team Echelon including Hunter Ziesing and Dirk Himley, plus the super-strong Specialized Masters with Larry Nolan, Bubba Melcher and Don Langley. So when I saw Don take off after a few fast laps, with an Echelon rider in hot pursuit, I went 100% to grab their draft and go with them. I was pretty blown out, but I was hoping we would start a paceline that would keep us ahead of the main pack. Instead Don looked over his shoulder a few times before he decided he didn't like what he saw and sat up. Was I bummed as we drifted back to the pack..

Then Bubba attacked while I was recovering so I couldn't go with him... classic team tactics. Dirk Himley and a couple others went with Bubba while their teammates blocked and thus was born the winning break. I was now in the situation I didn't want to be in: Trying to get the others in the pack motivated and organized so we could chase down the 4-man break. Only 5 or so guys ended up contributing much to the chase, so we weren't really at an advantage at all given the break was 4 highly-motivated and strong riders.

Even so we almost caught the break on the last lap. But so many guys didn't help that they were still ahead as we started the sprint. By then I was so tired from all of that pulling that I couldn't follow when a dozen guys flew by me on the right, heading up to the last 90-degree right turn.

As we went through the last zig-zag two exhausted guys from the break got caught, but Bubba and Dirk took 1st and 2nd. Don Langley managed to pass the two dropped guys from the break and take 3rd. He'd been sitting in and blocking a bit so he was fresh. I flew up that last little hill and passed a few guys but that was still too far back. I ended up in 16th.

So I was disappointed that I wasn't able to translate my improved fitness into any sort of result. And there were some harsh words thrown out by others even more disappointed. Oh well, there's always next year, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Menlo Park Grand Prix, 35+ 1/2/3, 7/22/2012

By Dennis Pedersen 

Executive summary: I raced in the 35+ 1/2/3 race. It was too fast for me.

This was their 7th annual race, and I have been to five of them. But the race was always early in the season and prone to nasty crashes because people are testing out their winter training or something, plus the course is often 6 or 8 turns. So I have skipped the last couple of years. I recently hired a coach, though, and he recommended I race more, so racing I went.

I watched Vlada in the 45+ 1/2/3 race earlier, and that race had a successful break with several chase groups. The moderate wind and 6-turn course can encourage guys to break away, and I thought that might happen in my race too so I was determined to follow any breaks. I also watched Michele Heaton win the women's District Championship for her age group, so don't be surprised to see her in a California jersey soon!

Speaking of women racers: Alison Tetrick, who you may have seen in those TV ads with Bob Roll, was in our race, along with over 50 dudes. The race started quite fast after a lap or two. When I heard a bell announcing our the first prime sprint, I considered trying for it. A SJBC rider went off the front, then a few others chased. I drafted them for a while, then sat up when I considered how hard I'd have to work to grab the win. It was hard enough already!

I did a good job of staying near the front for almost the entire race, and a couple of times I did a short bridge up to small breaks. I thought one with about six of us would stay away, but it didn't for long. I was told our race averaged 30 MPH, which I doubt; still it was quite fast.

Near the end I was still forward, but the pace was so high I was nervous I'd blow up completely. I felt really good, but even when drafting was at my limit on the last lap or two. Then the SJBC guys who were pulling at the front slowed down and we all got swarmed. So I ended up getting squeezed back. But going around seemed impossible, so I stayed tucked into the pack.

I did get to practice my sprint anyway as the pack disintegrated on the last lap, giving me lots of room to take 27th. Oh well, at least nobody crashed. The winner was Dean Laberge, wearing his National Championship jersey. He is also the California Champion... it must be rough having to decide which Championship jersey to wear.

What did I learn? While my fitness is good, I have noticed that I have a tendency to drop back a hair when I have guys on both sides of me, almost knocking bars together. Especially when we have a turn coming up. I really need to learn to hold my place in the pack; it's actually more dangerous to drop back than to maintain my place, bars-to-bars with the other riders. Let's see if I can apply what I learned next time!

More stories and photos.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

State Track Masters, Hellyer Park Velodrome, 6/30-7/1/2012

By Dennis Pedersen

Looking for attacks from the front, in the scratch race.
State Championships are intimidating, but I decided to enter the scratch race and match sprints, on Saturday, and the 500m time trial and points race on Sunday. My main goal was to evaluate how the different races suited my physiology and temperament. This race weekend was really more a scouting trip for my 2013 season.

The scratch race field was about 20 guys, but from three age groups; 45-49, 50-54 and 55-59. The results would be separated by age group. Very early on, a rider from San Jose Bike Club attacked and gained a half lap pretty quickly while three teammates blocked subtly for him. I took several pulls to gain some ground back, but nobody else pulled through as I always had a SJBC guy behind me. Finally, with me watching from the front, Clark Natwick (Peninsula Velo) went hard and bridged up to him. Maybe I should have tried too, but instead I had to rest a bit. We ended up catching the SJBC rider, but not the other guy. I sort of forgot about the separate age groups so I neglected to sprint hard at the finish; you never know who is ahead of you and they could be from the other age groups. So I only finished 6th.

Holding Bill against the rail in the match sprints. 
I got a break while waiting for my favorite race; match sprints. For the sprints we first did the usual flying-200m seeding runs to determine who we'd be matched against. I wore a new aero helmet, and perhaps it helped as I managed a nice 12.6 seconds. My first round was against Bill Nicely. I won the coin toss and chose to start down track. My 200m time was a hair faster than his, so leading would allow me to control the pace better. Still, I knew he was about as fast as me and I'd have to ride really well. I held him against the rail for the first 1.5 laps, then jumped hard down turn 1's banking and into turn 2. I saw I had a nice gap and held back just a hair (you should never, ever go faster than you have to as otherwise you'll have no energy for the next round). Unfortunately I backed off too much and Bill came around me in turn 3. Darn, he's fast; he got me by a few inches. I should have been able to beat him, but I still have lots to learn about the subtle tactics. And this also meant that I was not going to be able to challenge Don Langley for the gold as the first round was one match only. But Don's 11.77 200m time likely meant I'd be very hard pressed to beat him. I ended up easily winning my next two rounds for 3rd. Still, bronze was pretty cool.

Bronze, NCNCA 2012 Masters Match Sprints.
On Sunday I used my aero helmet again, setting a decent 39.20-second 500m standing start. I probably could've gone a bit harder, but Don's 36.44 was world-class. The trick seems to be to go out as hard as you can, and then hold on to as much momentum as possible even if you slow down at the end. I watched Bobby Walthour almost faint as he finished his run, which tells you something. I felt like I should have gone out harder, and my power meter agreed as I didn't hit my usual peak power even at the start. I tied for 4th.

Later on Sunday afternoon I was joined by teammate Ken Sato in the points race. Nice to have company! I was leary of the points race as guys like Don and Stanley Terusaki are super fast. I used to think this was a good event for me, but I've discovered that it's more suited to guys with high aerobic power, not to pure sprinters at all. Sure enough, Don, Stanley and a SJBC rider went off the front and hammered away at the rest of us, grabbing almost all of the points. I decided to try to help Ken, but I'm not sure how much I contributed. It was hard! I grabbed point(s) in one sprint, just to deny them to a SJBC rider. Guys I think of as fast dropped out, and eventually I did too after the lead trio lapped us. Argh! Like I say, it's an endurance race.

So, I managed to learn a lot more about these races at the top level and how I fit in. That's valuable information. The downside is that I now know that my strength is so heavily skewed toward sprinting that even most track races don't suit me. Plus, if I want to really maximize my potential I will need to radically restructure my training and general lifestyle in a way I may not yet be ready to accept. We'll see how my journey goes.

Photos on Snapfish.

Friday, June 15, 2012

ADA Tour de Cure, 6/10/2012

By Dennis Pedersen

What a perfect day for a big ride! I really enjoyed this year's Tour de Cure fund-raising bicycle ride, as I always do. This was my sixth year on the Hewlett-Packard team, and my fifth as the team's Captain. As such, my main goal is to grow the team and help them all raise money to fight diabetes... and did we ever! I was not disappointed, as the 2012 HP team set new records in every area!

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) now hosts a "Champion's Celebration" dinner for riders who have raised $1,000 (by May 12th). I am proud to say that five HP riders qualified. It was quite classy and held at Silver Creek Valley Country Club, San Jose. Check out the HP team’s statistics from the last few years:
  • 2007: 9 riders raised $4,268.
  • 2008: 13 riders raised $8,252.86.
  • 2009: 7 riders raised $4,633.00.
  • 2010: 27 riders raised almost $20,000, 5th place overall in corporate teams.
  • 2011: 34 riders raised $21,508.00, 7th place overall in corporate teams.
  • 2012: 71 riders raised $32,626.74, 4th place overall in corporate teams.
I am so proud of how the HP team has grown, and how much we've increased our fund-raising. The momentum is palpable, thanks mostly to the help and encouragement of other HP employees, most notably:
  • Sue Barsamian, Senior VP, Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking: I met Sue on a ride last year, and she enthusiastically offered her support for the Tour de Cure. Thanks to her we got HP funding for team jerseys, plus a huge number of new riders.
  • Alexa Lallos, Director, Cupertino Executive Briefing Center: She coordinated with me to design and supply the free HP jerseys to the entire team. Woo-hoo!
  • Anita Reid, HP's US Wellness Program Manager: She was able to get publicity for the ride with her Wellness programs, and also helped us coordinate two "lunch-and-learns" to help publicize the Tour.
  • Lindsey Fish, Cindy Asrir and Bill Kacmarsky: Without them I don't know how I would have managed! They helped me in a bunch of ways, with the two lunch-and-learns, e-mails to employees, general brain-storming and more. Bill also covered for me in the ADA's Tour de Cure Planning Committee.
The custom HP jerseys arrived the week of the ride, so I only had a couple of days to hand them out. I relied on lunch-time handouts at HP's Cupertino and Palo Alto Fitness Centers, and also sent some via Interoffice Mail.

After all that groundwork the ride itself was simply the cherry on my sundae. I just had to get up at 4:20AM and drive through the pre-dawn darkness to the event site in Palo Alto. It was at Lockheed this year, because the usual facilities at HP were being remodeled. I then got some Hobee's coffee cake and coffee, and lined up for the start. Oh, and handed out a few last-minute jerseys and arranged size-swaps. Several of us lined up at the start line for the official 6:30AM opening of the 120k route and were sent off by ADA's Allyson Schloming, Director of Silicon Valley Tour de Cure. It's pretty special doing an early-morning ride like this, knowing it's for a good cause.

I ended up mostly cruising with Glen Elliott (Director, Compensation) and my friend Rob, who donated wine from his winery, Testarossa in Los Gatos, to the "Champion's Celebration" dinner. Rob had crashed on a mountain-bike ride earlier that week and had some huge bruises (and some cracked ribs, it turned out later). But that didn't stop him! And Glen, who I first met on HP's "Bike MS" team last year, turned out to be a super-fast rider, so I was in good company.

So many of my HP teammates worked very hard on their fitness to prepare for this ride. I think there was a record eight of us who rode the 120k route (75 miles, with over 7,000 feet of climbing). And the other routes are by no means all easy either, so people really had to challenge themselves. I like to remind those who are intimidated by the ride that the Tour de Cure isn't a race, and there are routes as short as 25k (15 miles), but that doesn't mean they can't be challenging. It's pretty cool to see people push themselves with such great results and for such a great cause.

I usually hit the first major climb, up Kings Mountain Road, as hard as I can as part of my intervals training. It took me 26:45. We regrouped at the top, at the rest station on Skyline Boulevard. Rob was in pain from his ribs, but insisted he'd do the full ride. The summit was clear and pleasant, so the drop down HWY 84 toward the coast wasn't damp or as cold as it can often be. We turned left onto Pescadero Road and climbed Haskins Hill before resuming the fast descent. We were rewarded with another rest station, in the neat village of Pescadero. I love that area.

We took it pretty easy from there and up Stage Road, drafting the KLA guys a lot. Then up HWY 1 to Tunitas Creek Road for a quick break at the Bike Hut snack shop. The Kiwanis volunteers man these stations, and they are great people. I like to attack Tunitas Creek Road too, for training, so I really worked hard all the way up to Skyline. It took me 33:51. This brought us back to the rest station at the top of Kings Mountain Road. We had some last snacks and flew down Kings Mountain. It's so long and fast that our hands got cramps from braking.

The weather in Woodside was gorgeous, albeit a tad warm, and we started to see a ton of other cyclists from the shorter routes. Definitely a different vibe... they are having lots of fun and decorate their helmets, ride cruisers, etc. We rode down Alameda de las Pulgas to Junipero Serra and... back to the finish at Lockheed. Woo-hoo! I love the cheering volunteers, as if we had just won a huge race! But this is about helping people.

Lunch was quite nice, though for some reason we didn't get an HP team awning this year. Still, a big group of us grabbed a few tables and had an nice, well-deserved lunch. We took some photos but then many of them had to leave for various reasons. Later arrivals also met up there and we took more photos, plus the official team photo by PhotoCrazy (find individual photos here). I have made a Snapfish album of all the photos I took, plus what I could collect from teammates (keep 'em coming; I can add more!). Udi Chatow shared a couple of videos too (here and here).

From left: Bill Romans, Jerry Huck, Debra Walsh, Sue Barsamian, Glen Elliott, Steve Owens, Hobey Landreth, Stefan Merz, Steve Andrews, Josh Jensen, Dennis Pedersen.

The official photo. 
And remember, people can still donate! The fund-raising will continue for another month or so.

The 2013 Tour de Cure will be on June 9th. I hope to see you there. Thanks again to the volunteers, riders and generous donors!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NorCal/Nevada District Time Trail Championships 2012

Second place! L-R: Me, Rob Anderson, David Kelley
NorCal/Nevada District Time Trial Championships 2012 (June 10, 2012)
by Jim Langley

Nils Tikkanen and I took the long drive up to Sattley for the State TT Championships last weekend and we had a fantastic couple of days enjoying the beautiful high country around the Donner Lake area and racing our funny bikes in our even funnier speedsuits and pointy helmets.

I've been working hard since I managed a tenth in the National TT Championship last year and Coach Mark encouraged me to focus more on time trialing - since it seems I have some ability there. I've been riding our UCSC repeats on the TT bike and Mark has scheduled Saturday workouts where we do repeats on Swanton Road, that are perfect for the aero bikes too.

These workouts work wonders. This past Thursday on one of the windiest nights I've experienced out there, I knocked another 10 seconds off my Swanton TT posting a 29:28, so I went into the States feeling ready.

Nils on the left. You can see how flat the road is.
I've also been steadily improving my two-wheeled missile and aero tuck. I have dropped my front end close to three inches and narrowed my arms almost as much. And Mark has tweaked my training to ensure I can deliver the steady power required to hammer non-stop for almost an hour. (If you need any time trial training or equipment advice, just ask, because we've probably been there, done that, and we are learning what works and what doesn't.)

Nils has been setting blistering times on the Swanton TT too, has ridden in the 51s up at Sattley in the past and has his Giant Trinity dialed and flying. He had also picked up a spanking-new Castelli speed suit and Giro Selector aero lid for the race, too (same helmet I'm riding). He could have entered the age-group event but decided to sign up for the stacked Elite Men category.

Jim, just before the turnaround.
I signed up for the Masters Men 55-59, my last time competing in this category because my racing age will be 60 next year. Racers seems to sign up late for Sattley and for the longest time the only other person registered was National and World Champ Rob Anderson who had taken almost two minutes out of me over only a 25K TT course up in Bend, Oregon last year at the Nationals 55-59 TT. But, by the morning of the race, a few other big names had signed up, including Mac Carey who I have never come close to in a time trial.

One of the highlights of the trip was staying at teammate Larry and Priscilla Broberg's lovely home only a half hour away from the race course. They took us out for a gourmet meal at The Lodge restaurant and then fired us up for Sunday's racing by tuning in the final time trial of the Criterium du Dauphine on the TV. Watching Peter Sagan barely beat Cancellara was something else and I'm sure Nils had as much trouble getting to sleep as I did thinking about how we were going to tear the cranks off our bikes all Sagan-like in the morning.

Awesome shot of Nils
Before we headed off for the racing, Larry whipped up a couple of amazing lattes for the road with his cool little coffee-maker and Nils drank two for good measure. Arriving at the race, we parked next to another 55-59er named Craig Larsen who had an easy-up shelter that he offered to share if we'd help him set it up. It was nice warming up on the trainers out of the sun. The air was cool in the morning but the sun was already hot.

Time trials are pretty laid-back scenes. There's no posturing or trash talking because there's no place to hide out there on the race course. You either have it or you don't and the clock doesn't lie. So, usually people are talking and getting their bikes ready and warming up pretty seriously. I even heard a lot of guys joking about how slow they were going to go. There were about 150 racers in all, going off in 30-second intervals.

The course is almost dead-straight and pancake flat (compared to anything we have around Santa Cruz). It does rise ever so gently on the way out and descends the same on the way back. There are mile markers painted on the road - 1 through 12 and then there's the turnaround cone in the road and the numbers go down from 12 to 1 again on the way in on the other side of the road (not 13 to 24 as you might expect). I was only passed by three cars over the entire 25-mile ride.

Nils went before me looking super fast in his new kit in his super-low tuck and set a time around 53 minutes. [Note: maybe Nils will have a chance to add some of his race comments]

I left at 9:26 a.m. with three guys in my group leaving before me, including Mac. The fun thing about Sattley is that the road is so straight you can see your 30-second man and gauge how you're going watching him come back or pull away!

Homeward bound - I need to get even lower
I had a watts target and took off a bit conservatively, but couldn't stop looking at that guy in front of me and gradually took it up to around 250 average watts. Coach Mark had strongly advised me to be careful due to racing at 5,000 feet and the effect of the thin air making it feel easy but coming back to hurt you badly late in the race if you burned your matches too early.

So, I tried to keep steady pressure on the pedals and reel in the guy ahead while letting the watts drop to around 243. I felt good. There was a pretty strong wind from the right pushing me toward the middle of the road thanks to my 90mm front Bontrager Aeolus wheel. But I'm used to much worse wind on the Swanton time trial, and I just kept focused on riding straight. Still, by the turnaround I had a minor shoulder cramp from the countersteering I was doing to ride straight.

About 10 miles in I caught my 30-second man and realized I was close to the two guys ahead of him. I kept the pace steady and caught both of them before the turnaround worrying that I might be pushing it too hard, because one of them was Mac and I have never been close to him before in a time trial (he is coming off a really bad crash so I think he's just getting his form back).

I glanced at the time at the turnaround and saw that I was over 30 minutes already. That was frustrating because my first goal was to break an hour. But, as soon as I was heading home I could feel that the going was easier. On the outboard leg it was difficult to hit 26mph and now I was able to punch it to over 30mph.

The ride in started great but quickly turned painful. I was concerned the entire time that I had gone out too hard because my legs started aching more and more, and I couldn't generate the speed I felt I should have been able to.

I've got a 55/11 highest gear on my Cervelo P2 and I spent the whole return leg on that or the 12 and was over 30mph a lot of the way, sometimes 34. My watts were stuck at around 243 though. I just couldn't add any more. I kept watching the speed and gave it everything trying to keep above 30mph. The mile markers clicked off fast, 9, 8, 7, 6 - then I lost track of them because I had to focus 100% on my form and finishing strong.

I did see the 5K to-go marker and then the mile to-go sign. By that point I was breathing heavily and my legs were thrashing, losing coordination. I was afraid to look at the timer but decided to, just to take my mind off the feeling that I was losing it. I was amazed to see that I was at around 54 minutes! If I could only maintain speed I could finish in the 55s - a quality time! So I tried harder still and even stood up and sprinted for the line - more like wobbled since my legs almost gave out when I rose off the seat.

I was super happy to finish in 55:31 for an average speed of 27mph. It wasn't fast enough to win. Rob had a great ride finishing in 54:26 with an average speed about .5mph faster than mine. So he won and I took the silver medal and David Kelley took third with a fine 56:32.

Second in the Districts is my best finish ever so I want to thank Coach Mark Edwards for all his help getting me there, Keith Bontrager for loaning me the fastest front wheel on the planet, Giro for getting me into one of their sweet Selector helmets way back in October, Lightning Cycle Dynamics for providing their trick carbon crankset with 160mm arms, the Bicycle Trip for all the support this year, Wade Hall at The Spokesman for suggesting the shorter cranks, and all you teammates for getting out there every week and pushing me to get better. Thanks everyone!