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.