Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NorCal/Nev Districts Championships (60-64) May 26, 2013

By Jim Langley
1st: Joe Lemire; 2nd: Rich Mull; 3rd: Jim

This race report is late because Bike Trip team manager Ed Price and I have been working behind the scenes trying to get the results from my race fixed and rules set in place so that at future Districts races, the groups are not combined.

We feel that's the only fair way to run such important races, and our letter has been well received by most of the officials, organizations and racers Ed sent it to.

It also resulted in this year's Districts race organizer, the San Jose Bicycle Club, letting us know that they have fixed their results and are giving the bronze medal to David Stockwell, and the silver medal to me. If possible, USA Cycling will correct the results showing on their website sometime soon.

Race report
I think this was about my 10th Districts road race. My best finish in the road race has been 5th. I went into this one recovering from knee issues but feeling rested and ready to race thanks to Coach Mark Edwards' excellent training and tapering schedule. I thought I would be able to get over the top with the leaders in my group and hoped to be able to be there at the finish and sprint to a win.

I keep getting fitter but everybody else does, too! I went over the top faster than I ever have and ahead of guys who beat me before, but 3 guys in my group were already clear. They were just too fast on the climb and dropped me. This was partly because they started the 55/60/65 group together so it was about 70 guys rolling out of the parking lot and a fast group formed at the front led by the fastest 55s.

I hung as long as I could but got separated a few miles from the start from the lead group. Joe Lemire, the guy who won my race was with that group and Ron LeBard, who won the 65s was there, too.

I ended up riding with 2nd and 3rd in my group, but with 4 miles to the top I just couldn’t hang on any longer. The tempo was too fast. I knew it was fast because we dropped a lot of guys who I’m usually climbing with in the races.

Still, I was pretty sure I could catch at least one of the guys in my race, so I was in full-on chase mode from the top all the way to finish. And just when I was about to give up hope, I caught the 3rd place guy – at the 1K to go sign!

He was so wasted he couldn’t sprint and I just kept hammering and got third (because the second-place rider was from SoCal, I actually finished second in Districts, my best finish ever). I was really hoping to win but that was a tough, tough race with a brutal pace over Hamilton and then strong headwinds all the way to the finish. I don’t remember headwinds as strong as that on that course, but we had rain at the start and overcast weather so it was an unusual day. Truly an epic race that I’ll remember for a long time.

Notes in no particular order
-A shout out to Amy Haberman for getting my legs race-ready. I’ve been dealing with pretty bad knee issues all year and somehow Amy got them working again in time for Districts. If you need a top sports doctor for some frustrating, painful injury give Amy a call and I’m sure she’ll be able to help you, as she has me and many of our local pro riders, too - 459-6711.

-The descent down the backside of Hamilton was just as scary this year as last. I figure it must have started out as a cow path with super-tight switchbacks and they just paved over it and called it a road. It's no wonder so many people crash.

-I'm somewhere on the long, straight road after the descent, hunkered down on my drops trying to ignore the howling headwind and keep my speed high and one of the race follow vehicles comes past. I recognize teammate Matt's bike on the back. Uh oh. But Matt's fine. He just had a flat and had to hitch a ride. But he can't holler out the window at me because the driver has race notes hanging on the window. Too bad. I could have used the encouragement and knowing that Matt was okay.

-After the race I was talking to Chris Cerutti. We were commenting on how hard the pace was right out of the parking lot. Usually the race starts with a neutral rollout. But this year, as soon as we got on Alum Rock road, I was easily over 300 watts and getting dropped and having to fight for a wheel. This continued onto Mt. Hamilton road and on and on until the split happened. It was good that we had a solid warm-up.

-It was raining a little during our warm-up and people were saying that it was 40 degrees and raining at the top. So I put on a base layer. Big mistake. I was overheating right away during the race and ended up feeling too hot the whole way and caked with salt at the finish.

-I find Mt. Hamilton a tough climb and have bonked partway up and had to turn back and crawl back to the car. And, when I finished the race the last time, I was so wasted I could barely stand up. This time, I was determined not to have that happen. I packed my pockets with GU and ate 5 of them before the top. Besides not bonking, my focus was much better and I was able to race 100% all the way to the finish. It's hard to force yourself to eat when you're suffering trying to hold wheels but it sure made a difference.

-Finally, I have to tip my helmet to David Stockwell of the San Jose Bicycle Club. He rode an awesome race, hanging tough with the little group I got dropped from on the climb and opening up a huge gap. I was pretty sure I could make up the distance on the descent and rollers into the finish. But I never thought I wouldn't catch David until the 1 K to go sign! I almost ran out of racecourse. Great race, David.

-Finally, finally, bravo Joe Lemire for winning the race handily. It's impressive how great you're riding this year. Congratulations.