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.