Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UC Berkeley Road Race

Another weekend, another collegiate road race, this time hosted by UC Berkeley. This race spanned the towns of Crockett & Martinez, the latter being my hometown. I raced in the collegiate Men's C (4/5) category, along with 4 other UCSC teammates: Bob (Babendeep), Emerson, Auric, and Brent. With Bob & Emerson being renowned climbers, and a course consisting of 3 laps (http://app.strava.com/segments/1235961) containing a climb up the vaunted Mc Ewen Rd, I knew my work would be cut out for me. Mc Ewen Rd (http://app.strava.com/segments/610457) is a 1.2 mile climb at 8%, and while not enough of a climb to kill a man, it was obvious the attack was going to come on the first climb, so we had to be ready.

Teammate Reggie with a rather curious solution to
a problem with his seat post. Not sure how it helped,
but he's a craftier man than I. If anything, it's
incentive for him to climb out of the saddle!
Between the five of us, our game plan was simple. Make sure Bob & Emerson (and whoever else could keep up) hit the climb at the front of the pack. If they got off the front, even better, since only a small portion of the course (through Crockett) was relatively flat. Going into the Mc Ewen climb, the five of us did a great job controlling the pack at the front. Sure enough, we got Bob, Emerson, & Auric ahead on the climb. Not being the climbers these guys are, I fell towards the back while the front 15 riders got away. I worked with Miles and Brian from UC Davis and SF State, respectively, to try to catch them. We kept them in sight for another 3/4 of a lap almost catching them at one point, but lost sight of them at the start of the next Mc Ewen climb.

At this point, another UC Davis rider caught us, and we caught a Stanford rider who fell off the back of the leaders. It became obvious that the two UCD guys weren't interested in working together with the rest of us, since now they had each other. They got away briefly on the last lap, but I managed to keep them in sight, with the SFSU and Stanford guy behind me. Unfortunately, I passed Bob who had flatted out before the final Mc Ewen climb. Bummer, I figured he could get a podium spot with a strong effort, but I knew we at least had Emerson & Auric still in it.

During the last Mc Ewen climb, I was hurting, but I knew still had something to give. I sensed weakness amongst the other riders, and desperately wanted to hurt them. The five of us (2 UCD, SFSU, and Stanford) had regrouped at the bottom of the climb, at which point I attacked hard. I sensed no reaction from them, so I hammered hard up that damn hill. I refused to look back, so as not to show weakness. Victory be damned, I was racing for pride. I knew I had to pry as much time as possible on the climb, because there were 2 more miles to the line and not being the greatest time-trialist, I knew there was a chance I could get caught, which would be embarrassing. When I reached the top, I calculated I had at least a minute on them, so I put my head down and went into the pain cave.
Providing incentive to teammates off the back in Sunday's crit to
get back in the race! One of our guys grabbed the pictured dollar,
but was pulled the next lap. At least he got something for his efforts!

The final stretch was a mile long segment on a slight incline with crappy pavement, and a headwind to boot. About a quarter mile from behind, I saw the Stanford guy closing in, but realized he wasn't going to catch me. I rolled past the finish line feeling somewhat content that I had pulled off my first successful attack in my short-lived racing career. In the end, our team did okay, though we missed the podium: Emerson finished 6th, Auric 10th, myself 16th, Brent 21st, and Bob with a heart-breaking DNF after such a promising start. Next week is CSU Fresno with a 34 mile/2500' loop around Kearney Lake. I'll be sure to keep you guys posted!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Swanton Time Trial March 14, 2013

Teammates, here are a few quick snapshots from last night's Swanton time trial at which a good time was had by a bunch of us. If anyone else got any more pics, please post them. This is all we managed to get before the rush to take off and it was too freezing cold afterward to try to take any more! Team Bike Trip included me (Jim), Bob, Chris, Ken, Scott, Dan, Stefano, Eddie, Vittoria (honorary new member) and maybe more that I'm forgetting.
L-R: Ken Sato, Bob Montague, Chris Baker


Jim Langley

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Madera Stage Race 55+ 3/4

Madera Stage Race is one of my favorite races on the calendar. This is true even though it includes a crit that was responsible for a pretty ugly crash, complete with a reconstructed ear, in my Cat 5 season of 2008. I still find this race to be great fun. It covers 2 – 3 days depending on the racing category so everyone stays in Madera and eats out in town. There is much post race conversation and it is a great time to form relationships with riders from other teams and areas. Plus, I feel that there is a special aura to stage racing, one that really defines our sport. Anyway, this year there was a 55+ 3/4 race, rather than the 55 open race that I have done in past years. I was hoping to be able to podium in this year’s event since I would not have to race against those former pros, world champs and Jim Langley types. It was also my greatest disappointment not to have the opportunity to ride in support of Jim. The opportunity to help him in the road race at Madera has been the highlight of my racing career to date. Both teammate John Schaupp and I missed having Jim there with us this year. The crit was our first race, and both John and I expected that there would be few fireworks until the premes and the final sprint. Boy, were we wrong. The organizers created this 3/4 race probably because a lot of 45+ riders are aging out of the 45 category this year and in the future. The thing about those guys is that they are not only younger, but many of them have also been racing in the 45+ 1/2/3 category. That of course is the toughest category in our district currently, excepting the pros. They have become used to ongoing and constant attacks in their races, and they brought the same to our 55+ race. It is way more challenging because you know that some attack is eventually going to stick, but you can’t cover every move. That ended up happening in our crit. Three guys got away after the last preme and though they never had a huge gap, the group never could close it down. They took 1st, second and third with the time bonuses, and the rest of us crossed over together with a nine second gap. Oh well, on to the Time Trial. The TT course is the same every year, and it suits a power rider pretty well. The course is almost completely flat. You start with a crossing tailwind on an outbound leg of about 4 ½ miles. A right turn takes you onto a stretch of approximately 2 ½ miles with a full tailwind. You turn right again and face your only semblance of an uphill gradient, but it can’t be more than 2% or 3% and it flattens out after 200 or 300 meters. Still, from this point you are riding into a crossing headwind that gets more direct for the last mile of the course. Having done this race several times, I have developed a pretty good idea of how I want to pace myself. I go out the first 5 minutes making every effort to keep myself in check. I am looking to find that sweet spot where I am putting out the maximum power that I can sustain. Starting with a crossing tailwind can lead me to go out too hard, but I think I kept things under control this time. By the time I made the turn for the second leg, I felt I had a good rythym going and I had gained ground on my 30 second man as well as having 2 others in my sights. I had decided in practicing around Santa Cruz that it was possible that I might want an 11 cog on my full disc wheel for this race. On the downwind leg of this TT, I was glad I did, as I hammered along over 30 mph for the entire leg. I wasn’t able to take the next turn in aero position because I was going too fast, but still I kept good momentum going for the little grade. By the top of it, I had passed two other riders and had only my 30 second man still in my sights. I worked hard all the way to the finish and though I never caught him, I did get some of that 30 seconds out of him. My time was 24:05,:31 faster than last year, but :58 slower than our leader at 23:07. I was happy to find myself in 4th place for the TT and 4th overall! John and I had dinner that night at the Vineyard restaurant. We talked over our strategy and had a good meal. At the next table were Steve Heaton, Cale Reeder and Dirk Himley. Those are the three guys who regularly destroy the 45+ 1/2/3 category, and while Heaton was in the 35+ race at Madera, the other two were wreaking their usual havoc on the 45+ group. I mention this because I saw Cale sitting in a chair at dinner with his left foot under his right leg. It was somewhat revealing for me because I consider myself to be a quick recovery type, and yet if I had been trying to sit at all like that after a crit and TT, I would have been cramping and badly. He just looked liked he was doing it because it was comfortable. Go figure. I was concerned about my strategy for the road race. The Sierra Nevada team had 3 guys in the race, one was Kevin Willits in 3rd, and another was Dave Montgomery (my 30 second man from the TT) in 5th. I was sandwiched between the two of them with John Schaupp to help me, while they had the two of them plus another strong rider in Doug Gonda. John did a fantiastic job of chasing down every attack that Montgomery made for the first part of the race. He attacked multiple times, but John always reeled him back in. I went after the moves Willits made, and between us we kept them under control. Still, I had visions of improving my position, and I attacked the group on the second lap during a section of road that is best suited to my strength. They let me get a substantial gap, but I was on my own and not confident of my ability to stay away for the 1 ½ laps that were left. I let myself drift back into the group. John told me he did not see any way that Mongomery could continue to attack, but sure enough, he did just that and got away with another rider. The group let them go. This began to have the same feel as the crit, and I was determined that it would end differently. John had the same idea as me, and we began the chase. It took substantial work on both of our parts, and Willits made several blocking efforts, but we finally pulled the two back in to the group. Still, this effort along with my own attack had taken a lot out of me. When the finish came up, not long after, I found I did not have the energy to surge with the leaders. Rather, I was giving everything I had just to stay in contact with the lead group. When we crossed the line, it looked to me like Sierra Nevada had gone 1,2,3, and I was not certain whether the officials would be judging any further time gaps in our group. I found out later that Scott Calley from VOS had crossed in first, Willits got second, and Montgomery got the 10 second time bonus for crossing third. I have to tip my hat to him for riding a great race. That third in the road race allowed him to move into 4th, pushing me back to 5th by less than ½ second. That’s racing. All in all, I felt like I had given my all in the Time Trial. I think I could have raced smarter in both the crit and the road race, but I had a blast, and I am thrilled to finish 5th. I am particularly thankful to John Schaupp for riding in support of me in this race. While he did not have his best outcome in the Time Trial, his efforts in the road race were more than remarkable.

CCCX Circuit Race #3, 35+ 3/4, 3/9/2013

 “Let’s have fun!” Dennis announced cheerfully as we departed Santa Cruz to race the CAT 3/4 35+ in Fort Ord.
 “Right…” I hesitated, feeling uneasy due to the mental anguish sustained at Fort Ord last year when Dan Perry and Morgan Raines lit up the pace on the stair step climb on lap 4 causing me to have to finish on my own. It just gets tricky having to explain to your wife and kids watching on sidelines why daddy did not finish with all the others.
En route we discussed leading each other out if possible as we had not raced in the same field before.
Dennis has had great results at CCCX this year already, placing 1st and 2nd. He has a ton of road and track racing experience, deadly sprints and vicious surges in rolling hills. Therefore to prevent another disaster, I vowed to watch Dennis’ moves and stick to his back wheel.
Yet I did not get that chance as Dennis worked his way up to the front shortly after the start and began to taunt the peleton like a pack of caged beasts. Dennis would surge repeatedly, cut across the road and watch if anyone would follow and be willing to work with him. It was entertaining to watch him work the pavement!
I was being conservative meanwhile, trying to recover after each climb, suck wheels of others and stay out of the wind.
A group of 3 went off the front on lap 4 on the 1st bump and was gaining distance. I drilled it round the house to connect. It was a lot like the 30 second efforts we do on Highway 1. I connected but hurt badly. The main group splintered some but we all regrouped shortly. The 3 riders started to make distance on the stair steps again. Two would succeed and go on to win; the third was absorbed by our group.
The fight for 3rd place continued as we approached the final bend. I tried to regain composure and take some big gulps of air. I thought of our sprint drills again and wanted to wind up the sprint slowly because the finish cones are up an incline and quite a distance from the bend. I also searched for Dennis to work with, but Dennis appeared to be hopelessly boxed in. There was no good wheel to grab and so I just went ape shit to the line.
Result: 9th overall (2nd in cat 4) while Dennis was 17th.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

South Bay Duathlon

This race blew me away. 10K run, 40K TT and 5K run, Morgan Hill. So, as often in my running races, I go out with the leaders, and that's a mistake: I'm unaware that in the small field (about 130) there are two young pros who are really good runners, who go out at sub-5 minute mile pace. And, unfortunately, I decide to let them go only after about one mile, a mile which really hurts. They finish the 10K slower than they started, but still in the 33's. I get passed by a third guy (who finishes in the low 34's) and get to transition in 35:08, which is actually a relatively good 10K time for me.

On the bike I feel good, and blow past the third guy at the first curve (in the end I will give him 13' on the bike leg!), but despair of getting anywhere close to the two pros, who have about 2' on me (in fact more, since as always my transition is not fast, while theirs is). So I settle into my own pace, for the 5x8K course, and go through the first 2-3 laps at a consistent high-12' (high 23 mph) pace. The loop has quite a few turns, and is not closed to traffic, and has one short but steep incline.

So at the end of loop #3 I blow past the guy in second on the incline, and I spot the lead motorcycle, and think I could actually reel in the guy in the lead. I push a little (I end up with a couple of about 12:30-12:40 laps) and sure enough I blow past the guy in the lead at the beginning of the last lap. He stares at me rather surprised when I pass him, and I have time to look at him and say "hello, how is it going?".

Although drafting is not legal, I see his shadow several times behind me, and surely he keeps me in close sight, so despite going relatively hard I get to transition in first place but with him on my heels. Unfortunately, he has a superfast transition while I don't, in fact his is 20" faster than mine, and he gets out just a bit before me. He then takes off, and I think in the final 5K I really paid big time for my early fast miles in the 10K run, way more than for the very consistent bike leg.

In the end the guy in second passes me as well half way through the 5K, and almost catches the guy in first with a stupid fast 5K, and I finish 3rd about one minute back but more than 4' before the next guy in fourth. I get the fastest bike time (1:04:01, the second fastest bike turns out to be a Cat 2 38 years old guy from Berkeley, Erick Pierce, with 1:04:37, but luckily he isn't a menacing runner).

In the end, to my amusement, on the podium the race director compliments me for the bike leg etc... too bad I'm not just as good a runner... Moral of the story: I was depressed for my lack of prowess on the final 5K, but very pleased and excited with the returns that the bike training with the Team has paid off so far!

Stanford Collegiate Races

New teammate Eddie here with my first blog post about this past weekend's collegiate races, hosted this week by Stanford. While I competed this weekend with the UCSC collegiate team (where I'm a graduate student), I figured I'd share with my experience with the team while I anxiously await my Team Bike Trip kit! The weekend consisted of three races: a team trial and road race Saturday in Panoche Road (same stretch as the Panoche Valley RR course on 5/5/13), and a crit on Sunday in Morgan Hill next to the Specialized headquarters. Fellow new Bike Trip teammate Matt Wittmann and I raced the Men's collegiate C category, which translates to a Men's road 4/5 field.

The 4-person team time trial was a 12-mile out and back course first thing in the morning before the road race. Originally, Matt and I had only planned to do the RR, but found another UCSC graduate student, Auric Kantz, who was eager to give it a shot with us. Our sentiment going into the TTT was to have fun and use it as a learning experience, but once the whistle blew Matt jumped out of the gate fast and the ride was on. We gave it a solid effort, though keeping in mind we wanted to save some pony for the main event later in the morning. We finished in 32:06, with UC Davis claiming first with a time of 29:37. While we placed 6/6, '28 behind 5th CSU Fresno, we had a good time doing so and it was a great learning experience. And hell, at this point in our racing careers, we'll take a top-10 finish any way we can get it!

The road race was a 36 mile out-and-back course that consisted of about 2,000 ft of climbing, and reminded me a lot of 84/San Gregorio/Alpine. The wind was blowing a decent clip to the East, meaning that we'd have a headwind coming back down the hill. There was plenty of UCSC representation in the field of 45: along with Matt and I, we had Bike Trip's own Andrew Smith, as well as Auric and Brent Adams. The race started out very slow over the first 10 or so miles which consisted of gentle rollers, with plenty of collegial (no pun intended) conversation within the peloton. Once the first main climb came, it was game time. Almost simultaneously, everyone hit the pedals hard and it was the moment of truth to see who could hang on with the heavy hitters. I was positioned about a third of the way back for this mile-long climb and when I saw a group of about 15 pulling away, I put my head down and spun as fast as I could. The pain was delicious as my heart red-lined the entire 4-5 minutes it took to get up the hill. I kept telling myself "Hey! This is just like Wednesday repeats... get your ass up this hill!" and sure enough, it was over just in time to stop my heart from exploding. After the dust settled, a group of 12 or so had gotten away off the front, but Matt and I joined up with another 10 or so riders to form a second group. Feeling pretty salty and very alive at that point, a Stanford rider named Mike and I took turns pulling the group to the turn-around point at the top.

The lead pack had about a minute on us at the turnaround, so we had our work cut out for us. It quickly became apparent however that our group was more interested in competing against each other than working to close the gap through the wind, so Matt and I decided to relax. If they wanted to do most of the work back to the finish, we'd be kind enough to let them. The rest of the descent was fairly uneventful, though a USC guy successfully attacked off the front of our group and held it against the wind for the last 3-4 miles, much to my surprise. Kudos to him, but since it wasn't a winning break and he was only one of about 10 of us, there wasn't a big onus to reel him in. Heading into the final stretch, through ever-so-excellent planning, I found myself in the precarious position of leading the pack out for the sprint. While I wasn't too happy about my execution, I figured I could at least lead out Matt for the sprint. As expected, the pack came zooming past me, and I tried to jump on them as hard as I could. Matt got beat well before the line and eased his pace. Still going hard, I came zooming up behind him, and it became clear that I would/could pass him before the line. I thought momentarily about slowing down to let him finish ahead (which would've been the sportsman-like thing to do), however, Matt being a good friend, my primary training partner, and a hellacious competitor, I followed the only choice I really had, and passed him with 10 feet to go to finish 22/45. And while petty, a chance to hold (small) bragging rights over Matt is an opportunity one simply must take when given the opportunity, since they are far and few between. ;)

Cal Poly Crit on 2/9/13, but hey! I couldn't be the
only blog post without a fancy picture!
The 30 minute crit the following day was fast and fun, though only Brent and myself competed in our field for UCSC. The laps were 1/2 mile, CCW, with 5 corners (the last segment was banana shaped). Physically, I felt A-ok, but I had a hard time staying near the front of the peloton given the number of riders on the course. I had a nice starting spot on the line, but had trouble clipping in, started near the back, and spent the entire race trying to find lanes to move up. Towards the end, I had finally gotten myself to a decent position, but lost it on a bad approach to the corner going into the last lap and couldn't catch the back of the group sprinting out the last lap. I went hard around the course to the finish line hoping for the best, but the damage was done, and finished 23/36. Not as well as I had hoped, but you live and learn, and thankfully there's always another crit around the corner for redemption.

This weekend's collegiate races will be hosted by UC Berkeley. The RR takes place in the quaint town of Crockett, bordering my hometown of Martinez, which I hope will provide an extra boost to place well. With that said, this means I must defend my home turf, even if it means keeling over climbing up the brutal Mc Ewen Road trying!

Monday, March 4, 2013

CCCX Circuit Race #2, 45+, 3/2/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

Part Deux of the CCCX series was in Fort Ord again, but on a new course on a rolling stretch of super-smooth pavement connected by a very tight U-turn at either end. It starts just south of the Eucalyptus Road summit and was 50 minutes long. I wanted to race in the 45+ 3/4 category again, that morning, but because I had to work that morning (starting 4:00 AM no less), I was forced to enter the faster open-category afternoon race at 3:10. Oh well, hard training was my goal.

It was a nice day until about 5 minutes after I arrived when the fog started blowing in. After trying to warm up I added a warm base layer and arm-warmers. A crosswind also added some technical challenges. When I lined up at the start line I found there were only seven of us, the smallest field I've ever seen in a road race. One was Keith DeFiebre, who is the race promoter and a fast Cat 2.

As we started I didn't hesitate to go right to the front and set tempo as I knew a couple guys had raced that morning as well. I didn't feel strong, but even so I was able to control the pace with some help from a guy from Thirsty Bear. I wanted to wear people down a bit by opening gaps on the many short climbs, thus forcing them into the wind to chase me. Otherwise they'd just draft and conserve energy; I needed them to burn energy.

One guy was always at the back of our small peloton: Keith. He spent no time at all in the wind. I started wondering if he was that tired, or if he was merely trying to fill out this tiny race for appearances. Well, neither, it turned out.

After five laps of jumping up the small hills and then resting downhill, I went hard off the front with 1/2 lap to go. I wanted to force a chase they'd be unable to recover from before the final sprint, and also to be first around the last U-turn, at the bottom of a hill leading up about 400 meters to the finish. This worked well as I was able to coast easily into the U-turn before I opened up yet another gap on the last climb. I then stood up to look back and saw I had a small gap. I jumped again but soon heard Keith come up behind me. By then I was gasping from the effort and he was able to beat me easily to the line.

Oh well, 2nd place ain't too bad and I won a T-shirt and a $35 awards certificate. Maybe I can apply my vast winnings to a high-end road bike. ;-)