Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wente Vineyards Road Race 55+ 1/2/3 4/28/2012

Wente Warriors: Scott, Jim & Joe (Bob had to leave)
2012 Wente Vineyards Road Race
by Jim Langley

Wente is turning out to be one of my favorite races and yesterday's was my best performance there yet with a 3rd in the 55+ 1/2/3s thanks to help from my super-strong teammate Joe Platin. It was a spectacular day, sunny, about 70 degrees and only mild winds.

Small field, casual start
Our field rolled out with about 28 riders for the 4 laps around the course. Because the lap count doesn't start until you cross the start/finish at the top of the big climb, we actually had to do that tough stretch that seems to go up so far it meets the sky, a brutal 5 times. Wente is also perhaps the longest race of the year for us at around 65 miles.

Fortunately, the first and second laps were pretty mellow with only a few guys testing their legs and no real gaps opening. The third lap saw a much fiercer group attack the climb and it took a major effort to hang on. But we started lap four with most of the group intact and Joe and I still riding strong.

At the front the 4th time up the climb
Expecting major attacks from the sizable Morgan Stanley team, riding for Steve Archer who has won about every race he's entered this year and a few Webcor guys supporting Kevin Susco who has also been dominant - and went solo for the win at Sea Otter, Joe and I set a fast pace up the climb and well past the start/finish. I was out front, which was probably a mistake but it did seem to stop any attacks.

So, the group was still together on the fast descent to the valley floor and the Morgan Stanleys moved to the front to try to open a gap before we hit the rollers down there. Joe and I scrambled to hang on the back and not get gapped through the corners.

One crash but only one guy went down
Earlier a Taleo guy had ridden off the road in these same corners on the descent and broken his collarbone. The strange thing about Wente is that you have mostly open roads, but they let other cyclists use them. So, you'll come tearing around a corner and you'll almost run smack into a tourist stopped in the road enjoying the view. We still don't know what took out the Taleo rider.

Ready, set, go!
When we got to the bottom of the descent and took the hard right to start the rolling section with only about 12 miles to the finishing line, we saw Steve Archer and Kevin Susco make a little move off the front. It's only a gradual uphill there, not steep at all. And you've just come down the long hill and should have had some decent rest.

But there's something difficult there. It doesn't look very steep but it hurts and you can't gain ground. So, with just a little attack, Steve and Kevin opened a gap on the group. I was right next to Joe because we had expected it and moved to the front behind Steve and Kevin but already they had a 50-yard gap. I didn't want to get gapped any more than that and Joe seemed to be waiting for me, so I gunned it and tried to accelerate and latch onto the leaders.

They're gone
It was a hard effort but all it did was keep them from expanding their lead. I decided to look back and see where Joe was and was amazed that he had already dropped back to the group and that I was now well out in No Man's Land. I decided I had to chase and chase hard and catch the leaders who were trading pulls.

At first I couldn't close the gap at all. They seemed to be pulling away with their tight pacelining. But, I know I can time trial with almost anyone and I didn't think they'd want to go too hard for fear of giving the other guy the advantage on the long climb.

Joe helps me out by blocking
Also, I knew that Joe was blocking behind me so it would be hard for the chase group to catch me. That gave me confidence and I put my head down and worked as hard as I could. I could see them and I knew I was matching their pace after a while. That meant I could close the distance if I could increase my speed so I punished my legs and kept aero and focused on reeling them in. It took about 5 miles but I caught them at the top of the last steep climb before you go down onto the flats that lead past the road the race starts on.

I probably should have sat behind them and rested at that point, but I was so happy to actually chase them down - and to be riding with the guys who keep winning every race by riding off the front - that I went right past them and took a long, hard pull. They were very surprised to see me. But we started rotating perfectly and kept that up until the sharp right turn that starts the long uphill drag to the finish line.

Thanks guys!
I was pretty beat-up by this point. The chase had worn my legs out and trading pulls with Steve and Kevin was not very smart in terms of recovery. I knew they were going to attack at the bottom and the race would be decided right there. And, I also knew I didn't have the legs to go with them. But they did something really cool then. Just before going for it, they both said, 'great job chasing us down, Jim.'

Then they took off and I got dropped again. I tried to match their pace but couldn't and had to find my own tempo or risk blowing up. It was a struggle keeping any kind of effort up the hill and I was worried all the way to the line that the group would overtake me from behind. But I made it and it was about 30 seconds before the 4th place guy came across.

All in all, it was one of my best finishes in quite a while. I still have a ways to go to compete with the likes of champions like Steve Archer and Kevin Susco, but I was finally with them late in a race and had a chance. If I had made a few different choices out there, who knows what might have been possible? Thanks for the awesome support Joe.

PS: Wente has to be one of the best races of the year. They have more age groups than anyone; they have the nicest course with the best course marshals; they gave prizes down to 8th place in every race(!); and they actually give real prizes: for 3rd, I got a pound of Starbucks coffee, $15, a nice T-shirt, a water bottle, 2 wine-tasting coupons and a bottle of wine.

PSS: Hat's off to Scott Martin who took an awesome 4th place in the 55+ 4/5s which had almost 60 riders in it. And great job by Bob Montague in that race, too, who took 9th. Also Dan Perry took 4th in the 35+ 4s race. Way to go, Dan!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Velodrome Challenge Qualifier, 4/8/2012

By Dennis Pedersen

One of the Hellyer track season's biggest events will be NCVA's "Hellyer Velodrome Challenge," on July 6th to 8th. This three-day event of oval-track racing requires competitors to qualify, in any one of several Sunday qualifying races, before they can enter. I thought (mistakenly, it turns out) that they will have races for we Cat 3/4 racers, but the Challenge races will all be Cat 1/2/3, so if I want to race in July I'll need to place in the 1/2/3 qualifiers at some point. Yikes!

I drove over alone, on a gorgeous Easter Sunday, with my Felt TK2 on my car's roof-rack. I'd figured out how to mount the bike up there even with the rear disk-wheel in place, so that saves me the time of swapping to my spoked rear wheel during transport. I had also been told how to set and calibrate the PowerTap hub on the disk-wheel so I could get some useful power data after the race. So many people have asked me about things like average speed that I have included some of that info here (for reference, I was using 48x14 gears, or about 90.6-inch road gain, and keep in mind some of the numbers, especially the "cadence" RPM, aren't that accurate).

Our first race was a two-heat "kierin" race, in which we five riders were lined up behind a line, held upright while clipped into the pedals on our bikes by assistants, before having to power forward to grab the draft of the pace motorcycle, driven by veteran Peter Bohls. We were given 6 laps total, with Peter pulling off the track after 4.5 laps after which we'd have to fight it out on our own. The first two finishers would qualify for the second heat.

In the first kierin heat I only managed to get into fourth place behind the motorcycle (in spite of starting from the fifth spot, high on the track), so I knew I'd have to act early to make up the four bike lengths ahead of me. A few seconds before Peter pulled off I went around the leaders and hammered forward, while they were still blocked by his motorcycle (and me!). I then kept my head down as hard as I could for the last 1.5 laps for 1st. I was followed by Zach, who had tried to get me to slow down, as we had a huge lead, to save some energy for the next heat, but the wind noise prevented me from hearing him clearly.

  • Max 35.26 MPH at 138 RPM, 798W. Average 25.3 MPH. Total time about 3:10 minutes.

We then got a short break before the second kierin heat, in which I was third wheel behind the motorcycle after starting in the lowest spot (in the sprinter's lane). This time I started my attack just slightly later, since I had less ground to make up, but all I managed was to lead out Zach and Bernard, who both came around me yielding me just 3rd place.

  • Max 35.95 MPH at 141 RPM, 881W. Average 27.86 MPH. Total time about 2:55 minutes.

We then lined up on the rail for our 15-lap "scratch" race. I ended up in 3rd for this one. I was marked heavily by other riders and spent a lot of time at the front awaiting attacks by the others that never came. So I attacked with about 2 laps to go, then sat up when I saw my gap wasn't as big as I wanted. I then drafted a bit, but wasn't able to come around the two leaders.

  • Max 33.95 MPH at 138 RPM, 990W. Average 23.72 MPH. Total time about 9 minutes.

Next up was our "points" race, which was delayed by a crash in the 1/2/3 field with an ambulance visit for the guy who went down. [I found out later it was Allen Vugrincic who was admitted to the hospital with some broken ribs, scapula, collarbone and a collapsed lung. Man.] We would race for 20 laps, with points awarded for our finish in every fifth lap. So, every fifth lap we attacked, and the rest of the time we tried to recover... while trying to prevent the rest from recovering too much! I grabbed 1st in the first sprint, then got boxed in for 4th in the next sprint, then took another 1st. For the finish I was so heavily marked by everybody that I was slowly leading the whole pack around, on the stayer's line, for two laps! No attacks came! OK, fine; I went all-out with about two laps remaining, but all I did was perform another lead-out for the rest, giving me zero points for my 5th place. So, I ended up with 11 points, for 2nd place behind Zach.

  • Max 35.26 MPH at 133 RPM, 807W. Average 23.33 MPH. Total time about 12:23 minutes.

Finally we remaining seven riders lined up for a short "miss-and-out" race (the last rider in every other lap is pulled). I have learned so much about track tactics, and I was able to use that to grab 4th in this race, but I was too tired to stay with the three guys who fought it out to the end.

  •  Max 30.14 MPH at 114 RPM, 617W. Average 18.23 MPH. Total time about 8:53 minutes.

One take-away of the power data is that the maximum power requirements aren't all that high for these mass-start races. I can routinely hit much higher peak power than the above results show, but it's very hard to do that after many laps of fast riding and attacks. I'm not sure what the overall result was, but they did post race results.

The gorgeous weather and smart racing really made this day enjoyable, in spite of the ambulance visit. Dinner with friends at the Crow's Nest was the perfect finish!

Lost Hills Road Race, 3/31/2012

By Eddy Price

"Eddy, you have to wake up, it's 4:15 a.m. and you told Jim Moran you would meet him at 4:30 in Aptos  to drive him to a bike race at Lost Hills... remember" my wife shouted in my ear very early Saturday morning as I lay in a deep sleep. It took a few seconds for my brain to process what she had said.

Then I remembered, Jim Moran, my good friend, personal training client and new member of our club-team and I were driving to the Lost Hills Road Race near Bakersfield. Our race started at 9:00 am, it was a three-hour drive, so we had to leave Aptos at 4:30 a.m. to get there by 7:30 a.m. and I had promised to drive Jim in my truck.

I hate early mornings. Normally I wake up between 8:00 and 8:30 am and I stay in bed until I can't keep my eyes closed anymore, which might be up to 45 minutes, or around 9:15 a.m., but 12 to 15 times a year I awake very early in the morning, long before the sun rises, to drive several hours to compete in a bike race in some distant part of Northern California.

My alarm, set for 3:30 a.m. either hadn't gone off or I had slept right through it, but within ten minutes I had dressed, gulped down a cup of coffee, made one cup for the road, inhaled a bowl of oatmeal, packed my cycling clothes, and loaded the truck, arriving only four minutes late in Aptos where Jim and I had arranged to meet.

This was to be Jim Morans first road race and I had been on the lookout for flat road races as a gentle introduction to the sport. I didn't want Jim's first experience to be next week's race at Copperopolis, where the road is flat and smooth for only 50 yards before the route turns left, enters the "pave" and tackles an eleven hundred foot climb.

Jim called me three years ago to start a weight-training program, spotting my name on our team's website and finding my phone number in the yellow pages under my personal training ad. Jim was turning 60 soon and wanted to get in better shape, so his birthday present to himself was six months of personal training sessions with me at my studio in Aptos. We progressed from the gym to weekly training sessions on the bike and last year Jim took the plunge, reading everything he could on training (Chris Carmichael's book was our Bible), watching everything he could find about cycling on YouTube, purchasing a new Cervelo bicycle, competing in the Swanton Time Trial Series and, the final step every male takes towards being a competitive cyclist, shaving his legs.

We arrived at Lost Hills at 7:35 a.m. There was no rain, but it was very windy. Because of the low turnout, they combined the 45+ Cat 4, 45+ Cat 5, Women, and Open Cat 5 together, which amounted to about 30 riders total. The course was a four-corner, 27-mile rectangle around the oil fields of Lost Hills on dead flat roads with very long uninterrupted stretches, as far as you could see, and a four-mile section of dirt road directly into a 30 mile per hour headwind thrown in for good measure.

The race started very fast with a nasty wind from the left. Naturally, the riders at the front stayed as far to the right as possible, so that those behind wouldn't have much shelter from the wind. The only place where I felt a tiny bit of protection from the 30-mile per hour wind was as far to the right as I could possibly ride, so that is where I tried to stay. The problem was the road had zero shoulder and a rough "edge" and frequently I would end up in the dirt for a few seconds, putting my cross skills to the test, but endangering no one because I was riding in last place. The other problem was that every one wanted to ride to the right of the rider in front of them and with 30 riders, this wasn't possible.

I was riding in last place, suffering like a dog and wondering why in the heck I thought this would be an easy introduction to road racing. I rode at the back for the first four miles until I had to start to close gaps that would open in front of me. The third time this happened, I got "mad," not at the rider opening the gap, he was doing the best he could, I became mad at myself for not being more proactive.

So, I moved left of the group all the way to the center-line and motored up to the front of the group, settling in to forth place. Funny thing, the wind was no worse riding to the left of the group than riding as directly behind the group. Near the front, the draft wasn't any better, but at least I wouldn't have to come around the rider in front of me when he cracked and fell off the pace-line.

I eventually cracked right before the 9-mile tailwind section of the course. At that point there were only four riders in front of me. I kept them in sight until we turned right, hitting 36 miles per hour aided by a wind of equal speed. The headwind leg of the course began with a three-mile section of dirt road, dropping my speed to 10 miles per hour and the four in front of me pulled away slowly.

When I crossed the finish line with one lap still to go, I almost quit. The wind was at its strongest, I was riding 8 miles per hour pedaling a 34 x 23 gear combination and wasn't sure I could manage another lap.  Thankfully, the wind died down to a relatively calm 20 miles per hour and I started to feel better. I held 5th place the whole second lap, riding 68 miles in 3 hours 15 minutes. I was so tired that I was barely able to ride the three miles back to my car from the finish line. I even had to close one eye because I was seeing double and it wouldn't go away.

Jim Moran finished only ten minutes behind me, placing a fine 7th in the 45+ Cat 5 race.  It was remarkable considering he was gapped within the first few miles, but he rode strongly, eventually catching a rider from Oakland and they rode together for quite some time. Jim even had the smarts to wait for him several times because he knew they could make much better time working together, but eventually he rode away from him.

I purposely didn't enter the 55+, thinking it was too hard a category, but I would have won because there was only one rider in the group and he finished behind me. Still, 5th place is my highest ranking in several years, and along with my 6th place the week before at the Salinas Criterium, it means that I won two tee shirts on two consecutive weekends. All that pain and suffering for two tee shirts. Yes, I know it sounds crazy and maybe it is, but it keeps me sane.

Ed Price

Copperopolis Road Race 55+, 4/7/2012

By Bob Montague

Saturday was the race I had targeted as my most important race of the season. I really like the course, and I was hoping to do well. Ed and I carpooled up together and met up with Jim Langley and John Schaup. Ed had signed up for the 45+ [category] 4 race, and the rest of us were in the 55+ open field. Our race was stacked with all of the biggest names in our age group in Northern California. The headliners were Rob Anderson, Mark Caldwell, Steve Archer, Kevin Susco and our own Jim Langley. I also expected to see Chris Cerutti, but he was still recovering from illness. Still, we started with near, if not at our limit of 50 guys at the line.

The pace started off brisk and the initial piece of roadway going down to the feed zone hill is poor at best. I was already at the back of the group on the way down and I realized that would not do if I was going to have any chance of getting up the hill with the leaders. I moved up to the row behind Jim. I know that I can’t out-climb him, but I was hoping to be able to hang on his wheel up the climb. As soon as the feed zone arrived, Rob Anderson set the pace. He is an interesting racer in that he does not have a really big top end. However, when he gets a gap, there are few in our group who can both bridge that gap and then maintain his pace. On this day, he opened that gap with 4 others (Caldwell, Archer, Susco and a guy named George Smith). At the top of the climb, I was maybe 5 seconds off of Jim and he was 15-20 seconds off of this lead group. Jim and I regrouped with 8-10 others and we began to chase. I used the first few moments to recover as Jim was leading our chase group. I realized that our chase was not going to be fast enough to reel the lead group back and I moved to the front. I also wanted to give Jim the chance to sit in with the group. I raced with Anderson at Topsport and I felt that our group could chase them down if we worked together and chased hard. Only one other guy in our group was willing or able to chase as hard as we needed to to bring back the leaders. Jim told me he had hurt himself too much on the climb and perhaps others were in the same circumstance. I worked hard to drive the pace and for the remainder of the first lap, our gap behind the lead group remained about the same. By the time we reached the top of the second climb, it had become clear that we did not have the will to chase down the leaders.

From this point our task changed from one of chasing to one of preparing for the last lap and finish. I could tell that I was as strong as anyone in our group. I went off the front at the finish line at the end of the first lap and stayed away to the bottom of the hill before the feed zone hill. The second time up the main climb was easier than the first. In the group ahead of us, Susco had flatted and George had thrown his chain and dropped back to us. I was trying to think about how to position myself to help Jim at the finish, but he told me that he still could not recover from the first time up the climb. I was feeling good and driving the pace of our group, but I knew there were some better sprinters than me. Kevin Willits and Joe Lemieux along with Marc Hamlin as well as others. I expect that I was the least experienced racer in our group. That probably contributed to my placing at the finish. I did not try to get a gap on the last climb, but in retrospect, I think I should have. Still, a few guys, including Jim, got gapped. I was in front going over the top and everyone hammered the descent pretty hard. I was feeling good and wanted to make my best effort going to the line. I was hoping to go with Willits and when he started his move, so did I. Unfortunately, I got crowded to the edge of the road and had to scrub speed to stay on the road. I tried to reload, but everyone had passed me by and were heading for the line by the time I was able to go again. At that point, I went as hard as I could and passed 2 guys right before the line. I finished 11th and Jim came in at 15th. I would have been happier if I had been able to finish stronger, but I was really thrilled to be able to finish with the caliber of racers that I did cross the line with!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Novice Track Racing, Cat 3/4/5, 4/1/2012

By Dennis Pedersen

This was my second track race of the year, once again part of Michael Wesley's new Novice Racing series designed to give beginning and intermediate-level track racers a place to have fun without having to race with the Pros in the usual 1/2/3 fields. I'd really enjoyed the first race, in March, so I was happy to head over to Hellyer Park in San Jose for some racing on their banked-oval velodrome, especially with the clear weather.

This time I was able to use the disc-covered wheel I bought from teammate Ken Sato (for a very reasonable price... thanks again, Ken!). It even has a power-meter hub, so I can check my actual power output on the track now, just as I do during my countless intervals workouts.

We started off with individual flying-200m runs. And again I had trouble with the front wheel shimmying wildly whenever I went to 100%. I basically had to back off and ended up with a mediocre 13.24-second time (I think that's about 33.8 MPH). My personal best is 12.47 seconds, so I was much slower. Definitely something I need to work on some more. The 10-MPH wind was not helping either, though.

We then had a 15-lap scratch race which I won by, like last time, taking a 2-lap "flyer" by myself. Interestingly, when I checked my power output later on, I found that I'd set new personal records for my 30-second, 1-minute and 5-minute average power. I guess I'll have to check the calibration of the new hub and make sure it isn't lying!

We then ran our individual standing-start 500m runs. Cathy Morgan held us firmly upright, clipped into our pedals, we got the countdown, and then strained all-out to get up to speed and hold it as high as possible. I got a 40.4-second time, which seemed OK to me (I think about the 3rd or 4th fastest rider), though my power definitely dropped toward the end. A good time is for 500m is 38-39 seconds, so now I have something to compare against for future efforts.

Lastly, Michael had us do a quick "unknown distance" race, which was simply a matter of racing until we heard the bell, then sprinting for the finish line. Well, we didn't know how long it would be, so Stefan Eberle went off the front right away, gambling the race would be short. I held back, figuring it might be a bit longer, but then decided the others were too slow so I started bridging up to Stefan. I wasn't convinced I could catch Stefan, though, and still be fresh for a sprint, so I backed off and worked with two chasers. We were closing the gap a little, but then the bell rang and I knew it was too late. I still got 2nd though.

All-in-all a very fun day of racing, and I learned some more lessons. The next Novice race is on April 15th, with my favorite "match sprints"... but I'll miss it due to the Santa Cruz Classic Criterium that same day. Oh well.

Now where are those notes on how to "stomp-test" a power meter...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Topsport Stage Race, 55+

By Bob Montague

I haven’t written any race reports this year. I may start to try and do a better job of it going forward. This report concerns the Topsport Stage Race, a somewhat poorly attended event for masters racers, that I did in the 45+ cat 4 two years ago. That time I finished 3rd of maybe 15 entrants and it was then and remains my highest finish in any race. That finish motivated me to enter again this year, but this time I entered the 55+ open race.
The weather report for Saturday said to stay at home, but I headed out to Copperopolis anyway. I was already a little intimidated because the road race course had been changed from the first time I had done the race. The description said it was a bit hilly, not my strong suit. I also checked the preregistrations and was surprised to see the entrance of Rob Anderson, the current 55 -59 world TT champion, as well as reigning 55 – 59 national road race champion. There were some other strong entrants, including Kevin Willits and two others from the Sierra Nevada Team. My hopes of possibly having a chance to win were dimmed considerably, but I set out determined to do my best and let the chips fall where they might.

I reached the location for the RR and the rain hadn’t arrived yet. The wind was already howling and I could see that the earlier fields were being blown apart. I wasn’t too concerned with the wind, but I could see that it would be raining by the time our race went off. Indeed, it was pouring and very windy at race time. I had been able to change into my kit before the rain came, but it started before I began to warm up. It was hard to get warm and I don’t think I really accomplished it before heading to the line. Once there, I was surprised to learn that the officials were offering options to the fields. We could choose to do the whole race, one lap only, or we could choose to skip the whole thing and all get the same time. I would have probably chosen to do the whole race, but I didn’t feel right saying so when most of the others seemed reticent. The start line was in about the middle of the course and Anderson suggested that we do the out and back leg at a group speed and then decide if we wanted to complete the whole first lap. Everyone seemed to feel that to be a reasonable idea and we were agreed. The official was considering stopping the race all together because there had been some instances of hypothermia in the early fields and a few in our group (predominantly me) were already shivering. I told the official that I would be fine, but that I simply needed to get moving. And so, we were off.

Anderson led us out and stayed at the front setting a high but not uncomfortable pace. I believe that we all stayed together during the out and back leg, but there were a few surges. No one made any mention of quitting as we returned past the start line, so the assumption was that we would do a one lap race. A number of riders launched attacks during the race, but none could stay away. I thought to use a tactic that I have seen Steve Heaton use on several occasions. I attacked multiple times. Each time the field chased me down and I would recover, only to attack again. I probably attacked on 4 separate occasions, the last as we approached the finishing hills. I was unable to get away for long, and I had burned too many matches to figure in the sprint. Indeed, I was assessed an 8 second gap because I couldn’t hang on the back of the finishing sprint. I was not unhappy that I had chosen to attack so much, but I was a bit dejected that I finished last among the group. I was surprised to see in the results that a couple of guys had been shelled from the pack, so at least I was not in overall last place. Still, I was considering throwing my bike in the car and heading home. On returning to the car, I realized that I was very cold and that I needed to get changed and warm as soon as possible. I started my car and turned the heat up as high as I could, but I was unable to recover my body heat until I got to Angels Camp and checked into my room with a long hot shower. Nasty conditions for a bike race, but I consider myself a mudder.

I ate at the only decent restaurant in Angels Camp, an Italian place called Caruscos. It was pretty good and I ran into a few other cyclists there. I didn’t stay out late because I wanted to be rested for the Circuit Race and TT on Sunday.

The circuit race was held on the same course as two years ago, but they went in the opposite direction. I think the course is a little easier in the direction we went this year, but I can’t be sure. I again chose to try and attack on several occasions in the circuit race and again found myself to be unsuccessful. Once again, I didn’t have anything left in the tank for the finishing sprint and was next to last at the line and lost another 3 seconds to the leaders. At this point, I was in 9th place overall and 21 seconds behind the leader and 11 seconds behind those who didn’t have any time bonus from the road race. I admit, I was more than a little dejected and again considered packing it in. I decided instead that I would just have to kill it in the TT.

This is where the story takes a bit of a turn, and it’s funny how the turn in a tale can sometimes follow a different than expected path. I didn’t ride my best TT, but I rode pretty well, and it was partly the choices of others that decided things. I had borrowed wheels from Ben Jacques-Mayne, but I decided not to ride them because this was a very bumpy course and those wheels have fairly worn 19mm tubular on them. Also, I found that I was having some issue with the cassette for the gears on the disc wheel. Instead, I chose to ride my new Enve wheels. My only problem was that the gearing on the cassette was a bit iffy on this rear wheel too. I couldn’t get it adjusted right before the start, and while it was shifting alright, I couldn’t get it to shift into the 12. I had to settle for what I had because there was no time to fix it. I would just have to hope I wouldn’t need it.

At the starting line, it was both impressive and intimidating to be lining up with a guy wearing the stripes of the World Champion. I am grateful that he chooses to enter races that I can also enter. I do not have the abilities that he has, but that does not change the fact that it is an honor to have the opportunity to line up against the world champion. I watched him go off and waited my turn. I got a clean start and began to fight my way into the headwinds that persisted throughout the outbound leg. I passed my 30 second man within a couple of minutes and decided to dial it back a bit. I felt that I was going out too hard and I didn’t want to blow up before the finish. Turns out that with the winds and my gearing, I should have just continued to kill myself on the outbound leg. As I approached the turnaround, I think I saw the Champ coming the other way about 3 minutes before I reached the turnaround. Considering that was the gap between us at the start, he appeared to already have a 3 minute lead on me in the TT. Still, I kept my head down and worked hard into the turn. My 1 minute man was far ahead of me at the turn, but I had my 90 second and 2 minute men in my sites. I began to ramp up the effort to chase them down. Unfortunately, because of the tailwind and my goofy gearing, I was spinning out on the downhill sections at around 40 mph. It took me until the last ¼ of the race to recognize that I had to work with what I had. At that point I spun up to my maximum speed on the downhills and then recovered until the road turned up. Then I had more energy to hammer up the uphills. Using this technique, I passed my 90 second man before the line and was only about 10 seconds behind my 2 minute man. I felt I had ridden this TT as well as I could given the limitations.

Still, it was at about this time that I realized that I had not seen any of the Sierra Nevada Team out on the course. Going into the TT they held 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the overall standings in our race. Turns out, they had missed the start. As a group, they failed to check their start times for the TT. Two of their team chose not to ride the TT, and the one who did ride it was assessed a penalty that left him out of the standings. That moved me from 9th to 6th place without having to do anything. My TT finish moved me up to 4th in the TT and 4th overall in the race. That was good enough for a podium finish as there were awards to the top 5. Stay in the race! You never know what might happen!!

Ride report: 2012 Mega-Monster Enduro 102mile TTT

Starring Mark Edwards, Jim Langley, and Nils Tikkanen as Team Honey Badger Express

Team Honey Badger Express, in fine form.  Photos courtesy of Bill Bushnell 

What possessed us to do a 102-mile team time trial?  Insanity?  Sheer masochism?  The prospect of breaking the course record?  All of the above?

Whatever the reason, Mark, Jim, and I took this faux-race very seriously, with Mark and Jim crunching their power profile numbers and figuring out what target power would be best for 4+ hours.  Their plan was to keep an eye on those numbers and yell at me (who races without any data aside from a stopwatch) if I was going too hard.  We were all in pretty good shape for February, and were really hoping for a time close to 4:30:00.  Heck, Jim and I even bought Camelbaks specifically so we could have a decent supply of water.

Sounds good, right?  Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans...

Firstly, the 10%-chance-of-rain forecast could have been more accurately described as "well, it's going to rain more or less during your entire race."

Secondly, Jim's rear tire blew out.  Luckily, he managed to save it and not go down on his not-inexpensive Cervelo P2.  He would later discover that he inadvertently glued on a 170g tubular (read: track race day tire).  It's a wonder the thing didn't flat when you looked at it.

It also turns out that long-tail aero helmets and Camelbaks play together about as nicely as a nastyass honey badger and a cobra.

Thirdly...well, thirdly, the last 30 miles were hard.  This sums it up:

How much longer will this go on?

Holy crap, Jim's in the van and he says we've only a few miles to go!  Oh happiness!

We ended up finishing the race in 04:37:04, which broke the previous course record by almost 15 minutes.  Being a shameless geek, I recorded the whole thing with My Tracks and posted it to Strava.

Overall, it was an unforgettable experience, and I can't to return next year to attempt to break the solo course record!