Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Masters NCNCA District (State) Track Championships, 9/9-10/2017

By Dennis Pedersen

This year I had a number of setbacks that delayed or interrupted my training, and I had elected not to participate in Nationals this year as a result. So I was skeptical I’d be able to do as well at our NCNCA District Championship track races as I did last year. But, as always, I try to race my best and did my best to prepare, with advice from Coach Jeff Solt.

Saturday, Match Sprints

I only entered one race on Saturday; the match sprints (read track race type descriptions here). These short two-man, two-lap races are explosive, exciting and very tactical. Last year at Districts I narrowly beat out Brian Moore, who ended up with Silver at Nationals. This year there were seven riders entered. The weather was clear, and it got up to 86 degrees.

Me and my Dixie Flyer
Like usual, we started the match sprint tournament with a flying 200-meter time trial. One at a time we try to cover 200 m as fast as possible, and the times are used to “seed” the riders. I could only manage a 12.35-second run (at 38.0 mph max, with my 96” gearing), putting me in 3rd seed, with Bill Nighan 4th just 0.01 behind me! George Miranda was 1st (12.01), and Brian was 2nd (12.02). I was disappointed, but I never give up, as I know that these results are merely the opening shots of the battle and much can change during the individual matches.

Quarter Finals:

As the 3rd seed, I was matched against 6th-seed Jeff Vanderwerf, a former racer returning from the real world. Bill raced 5th-seed Randy Armstrong, while both George and Brian got “byes” (meaning they didn’t have to race that heat) because the 7th-seed rider elected not to race, and they needed an even number of matches for the elimination rounds of the tournament.

I drew a “1” from the official, Matt Martinez, which meant Jeff V got to choose where to start from. He elected to start as #2 at the top of the track while I started to his left, lower on the banking, with my Coach, Jeff, holding me. We both varied our speed a bit, swerved a bit, but for the most part it came down to Jeff V trying to pass me out of turn 4 just before the last lap, while I held him off using as little energy as possible so I could save some for the next rounds. I hit 35.6 mph max and took the win to advance to the next round.


I was next matched against George who now raced his first match, against me, because of the “bye” I mentioned above which he earned because of his faster 200 m qualifying time.

George drew the lead and rode slowly in the pole (sprinter's lane) at the bottom of the banking while Coach Jeff delayed releasing me in order to allow me to have a gap between us. So I rode slowly behind him at the very top to maintain the advantage of altitude. I had allowed the gap to open a bit, and he soon went fairly fast so I had to drop into his draft to avoid wasting more energy at the top, but was easily able to close the gap by dropping down the banking. He gave another acceleration out of turn 4, I allowed a small gap to open, but in turn 2 he hesitated and moved slightly up track. After a brief hesitation of my own, I quickly accelerated into the gap, over him, and held him off, barely, to win by half a wheel, hitting 36.5 mph. I think I probably could have raced slightly smarter, but it was enough for me to advance to the final heat, for the Gold round!

As I cooled down in the infield, I watched Brian and Bill race… much to everyone’s surprise, Bill managed to outfox Brian and take the win, meaning I'd be racing Bill for Gold.


So the 3rd and 4th seed had beaten the 1st and 2nd seed! George and Brian would fight for Bronze, while Bill and I fought for Gold. A bit of an upset. The finals were decided by best two out of three heats.

Heat 1:

Bill lead the start, and Coach Jeff held me back again like before. Like George, Bill went slow, but in turn 2 he noticed I’d let the gap grow too big, so he started to accelerate harder. I had to drop down into the sprinters lane and take a dig to make sure he didn’t escape. When he saw I was drafting him he turned hard up in turn 3, I think to force me to lead him out. But I squeezed over him, to his right, just as he looked left. But he continued to move up-track, and we ended up bumping each other, and my right leg and pedal scraped the rail. We kind of looked at each other, he asked if I was OK, and I promptly attacked out of turn 4, and won by a big margin, hitting 37.3 mph max.

Heat 2:

For the second heat, we switched start positions, and I lead Bill. I went slow again, but in the pole, while Bill stayed up-track a bit behind me (but maybe too close). After a few feints, I was able to keep his gap small, but without slowing so much that he could pass over me. Out of turn 4 I went fairly hard, while looking back at him, and managed to out-sprint him out of turn 2, hitting 37.4 mph max, and won by a bike length for my second win against Bill, so no need for a third heat... Gold!

In the meantime, George beat Brian in the Bronze heats. So the final podium was perhaps not what anybody would have predicted.

The 55-59 match sprint podium:
Bill, me, George.

Sunday, Timed Events

It was hotter, up to 94 degrees, but I would be spending less time on the track for these short, explosive, individually timed races. As a special bonus, my wife stopped by to cheer me on!

500 m ITT

This race is solo, from a standing start. We had a relatively packed 55-59 field: 9 riders. That doesn’t sound like much, but it included world-class riders like Kevin Metcalfe, Larry Nolan and Don Langley, as well as the guys I usually compete with. I was of course worried about them all, as these short, intense drag races require extreme focus and it’s easy to let distractions and such prevent you from going all-out.

Strapping in for a standing start.
At the start line, as I was held up, tightly strapped into my bike’s pedals, I tried hard to focus and channel my power. My start was perhaps slightly tentative, but I powered pretty well after that and kept my bike as low on the track as I could, almost hitting some of the sponges in the turns. But at the finish, I could tell my legs were pretty well fried, and my line a bit wobbly. In the end, I managed only a 37.23-second run, at 36.2 mph max. That was disappointing, as my best is a full second faster. That's a big difference. Still, it was enough to gain me another Gold, by just 0.01 over George Miranda! while Don Langley took third at 37.39. Whew, tight racing!

Team Sprint

George, me, and Ray, waiting for our team sprint.
For the 55-64 age group Team Sprint I'd been talking with Ray Gildea, George, Brian and a few others, partly for Districts and partly with an eye toward forming a team for Masters World Championships in October. But in the end it was down to Ray, me, and George. We were the only team in our age group, but we wanted to use this as training for Worlds. Our run actually ended up being pretty good, and we got smoothly up to speed without any big gaps, maintained it, and even had some very nice exchanges using the latest rules from UCI. It was pretty cool! While we were slower than my team from last year (1:11.82 vs. 1:10.96), our time was the fastest of any of the teams that day in any age group. That was also pretty cool. And another Gold. Let's hope we can do better at Worlds; we will likely improve, as we did at Nationals last year.

So, the weekend was a surprising success for me, and great prep for Worlds. My next racing will be at Masters World Championships in October, to be held in the beautiful indoor wood track in Carson, just north of Los Angeles. A stretch goal for sure.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Masters Track National Championships Make-up, 11/20/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

If you read my Track National Championships race report from August, you'll know that one of the three races I registered for in Indianapolis, team sprint with my Masters teammates Ray Gildea and Brian Moore, my top race priority for 2016, was cancelled due to rain. We were told by the organizers that they would try to create a "make-up" event for the canceled races. I didn't like that I'd have to travel once again for a single very short race, but we'd had a really good chance at winning in Indianapolis. Ray and Brian are already National Champions, so I'd have hated even more to miss out on the chance at my first National Championship. After a few weeks we were told the tentative make-up event was on!

In team sprint (also known as Olympic sprint), the three of us line up next to each other on the start line, seated and fully strapped into our pedals, for a standing start. On the whistle we ride all-out, with Ray leading us out for one lap before he pulls off, his job done. Brian continues racing, with me following, for another lap before he, too, pulls off. I'm then alone, to finish the last lap and stop the timer. The blend of teamwork, timing and personal contribution is exhilarating!

Dennis Pedersen at 7-11 Velodrome, Colorado Springs.
7-11 Velodrome, with dome
I worked with my coach, Jeff Solt, for the 3 months this event added to my season, and awaited the final word. But when I got the details, it was set in the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs... not the beautiful indoor wood velodrome in Carson (near Los Angeles), within easy driving distance that I'd hoped for. This meant that I had to get a bicycle case from Spokesman Bicycles again, and deal with shipping.

The 7-11 Velodrome is very similar to the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis; a 333.3-meter banked concrete oval, but with steeper 33° banking. The velodrome is outdoors, but last year they added a removable dome that can be erected during the winter months. The heavy vinyl dome material has a partial greenhouse effect, which keeps it moderate even in the winter, but allows noise from outside traffic in, while also echoing from the considerable inside noise, augmented by the airflow needed to keep the flexible dome fully inflated. A bit distracting. The dome also blocks the grandstands so the track is not spectator-friendly in the winter. But it wasn't hard to adapt to, except for the noise, and the concrete surface is quite smooth. And the thin air at 6,035' reduces aerodynamic drag, too, for fast racing.

The 7-11 Velodrome is also associated with the nearby U.S. Olympic Training Center. One benefit of this was that the officials didn't need to travel, and the Athlete Center's dorms were available to us. Ray and Brian stayed there, while I elected to stay with our friend Ken Lo in a dingy motel nearby, with their coach, Lee Povey, and Mark Andersen as neighbors.

I flew out on Friday afternoon, thus missing the snowstorm that hit the Denver area the night before. I enjoyed the snow on the ground during my drive down to Colorado Springs, in the rush-hour traffic. I met up with the gang and had a nice dinner, followed by the first time I ever had ice cream in sub-freezing temperatures!

Kenneth Lo at Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs.
Ken, at the Olympic Training Center.
On Saturday we had a nice breakfast, and Ken helped me locate my bike which turned out to be stored in the Peter Ueberroth building's mail room, in the Olympic Training Center. I then assembled it in our motel room, drove it over to the velodrome, to prep for my Sunday race. I did some warmup, followed by two rolling starts followed by a flying effort to test the banked turns. This session was marred by somebody who went down during their training... later I heard it was our friend Beverly Chaney with a broken collarbone, the poor thing! She had been practicing team pursuit exchanges with Molly Shaffer Van Houweling (who held the UCI Women's World Hour Record until earlier this year!) and accidentally clipped her rear wheel. Another nice dinner followed, minus Lee, who was driving Bev around to "chemists" ("pharmacies," in his Queen's English).

Dennis Pedersen at 7-11 Velodrome, Colorado Springs.
Inside the dome, warming up on the infield track.

On Sunday I had a leisurely breakfast, and then drove with Ken to the velodrome to get ready for my race. Ray was there, and Brian with his super-supportive wife Patti (née Cashman, a former Pro cyclist and coach). I did about 20 minutes in my warmup gear. I felt good, switched into my race gear (48x13 teeth, 100 gear-inches), and got to do two held standing starts with Ray and Brian. I felt great, and sat down to relax and focus. Then Mark suddenly appeared with his Mavic Comète Track front disk wheel, worth almost as much as my whole bike, and told me to use it... cool!

There were only 5 teams signed up, including at least one other very fast team, and we were the fourth to start. I watched the other teams a bit, but mostly focused and relaxed. When our 55+ team was called to the ready area I sat down with Ray and Brian. Then we strapped into our pedals and Lee and Mark rolled Brian and me up to the officials who held us up on our bikes at the start line, while Ray, as our man #1, had his bike clamped into their mechanical starting gate.

They started the audible countdown as we breathed deeply and set up for the all-out standing start. 5, 4, 3, 2 (sit up), 1 (move back), and go! And, stop! Brian had false-started, and we circled around for our re-start. I was fairly unfazed, but of course a bit tense, as we rolled up to the start line again.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Bev Chaney.
Our start, into turn 1.
Ray in the pole, Brian, me at the top.
(Photo by Bev Chaney)
Another countdown, and go! Even in my 100" gearing I was able to match Ray's explosive start, and as we exited turn 2 we were nicely strung out in a tight line. Ray's tall 98" gear made his lap 1 smoother than usual, and Brian, in 100" gear like me, was able to accelerate into lap 2, with me modulating my effort to stay right behind his rear wheel to get the maximum benefit of his draft. Mark's front disk wheel felt just fine, and I prepared for Brian to pull off at the end of his lap. He swung uptrack smoothly in the exchange section, marked by cones. I buried my head and focused on pedaling hard by myself, legs and lungs burning, until I passed the finish line. At that point I had no idea what our time was, but as I cooled down I heard on the PA that we had won the National Championship, my first! That was empowering, and it was so cool to receive the congratulations from my friends and competitors. Larry Nolan also congratulated me, though his Nationals count is more like 52!

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Tom Kimmel.
At speed on lap 1, in turns 3 and 4. Ray #1, Brian #2, me #3.
(Photo by Tom Kimmel)

While we knew we had a strong team, it's never a guarantee; we still had to deliver the performance. When I saw the official results I found that our time of 1:07.477 seconds improved by about 3.5 seconds over our winning time at Hellyer, in July! And we'd beaten the strong 2nd-place team by over a half second. My 21.543-second lap 3, while my PR by 1.757 seconds, wasn't the fastest there, so I know I will need to improve. There's no end to training for sports, huh? But that's what keeps me motivated.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Tom Kimmel.
Ray, Brian and me, celebrating!
(Photo by Tom Kimmel)

I had enough time to take a quick shower at the motel before returning to the track. The podium was fun, and we took a bunch of photos. We received Voler jerseys in the US Champion colors, special National Champion RoadID bracelets, and our gold medals.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint podium.
55+ team sprint podium.
Dennis Pedersen in team sprint National Champion's jersey.
Wheeeeee! My first National Champion's jersey!
Now I get to add stars and stripes to all of my jerseys!

After the competition I wished I could have just partied, but I had to disassemble my bike and pack it up for shipping home. Back to the motel, disassembling the bike, and driving the case to FedEx was a bit tiring, but I didn't mind; I was in a great mood. Then I went to the Olympic Training Center's dorms to visit Ray and help pack up Bev's bike. We also got to eat dinner at the Athlete Center's cafeteria, which has a pretty good buffet. I felt so cool, mingling with real Olympians!

Jim Turner in the  U.S. Olympic Training Center's Athlete Center's cafeteria.
Jim Turner in the
Athlete Center's cafeteria.
 Jim Turner, Ray Gildea and Dennis Pedersen watching video of the team sprints, in their dorm room in the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Jim, Ray and I watching video of the
team sprints, in their dorm room.

On Monday morning I picked up Bev at her dorm and drove to Denver. Everything went smoothly and I finally got to toast my win with a beer over steak and eggs in the airport!

I am still deciding on my racing priorities for next year, though the UCI Masters World Championships in Los Angeles will likely be a highlight. Another goal might be to win another Nationals, but in an individual event. But for now it will be nice to have a long-delayed off-season.

Thank you, to the many people who made this possible!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Masters 60 - 64 District Road Race 2016 / San Ardo

I have neglected my race reporting this year. In part, that’s because I haven’t raced so much, and in part it’s due to a lack of results. I have also been working at readjusting my attitude towards racing and cycling in general. All that said, this time I am motivated to write a race report. I learned something about me, and I learned something about bike racing.

Saturday was the NCNCA Masters District road race, and it is my first year in the 60 – 64 year old age group. I was looking forward to racing with teammates, Jim Langley and Mike Andalora, but I was also nervous about my ability to hang with the group. I have carried more weight this year (by far), and it was certainly one of the contributing factors to my getting dropped at nationals. There were a couple of other factors at nationals, not least of which was that I had not adequately trained my high end fitness, but also that I lost some of my focus during that race and had to work too hard to regain my position with the peleton. I was also on a new bike and riding position that I was still acclimating to. Saturday, I was still very big, but I had worked hard at training my high end fitness, I was really comfortable on my new machine, and I was seeing really high power numbers in my interval work leading up to the race. Plus, I raced at Dunnigan the week before, and that gave me a refresher on what not to do (I attacked the younger and stronger field early on in that race and blew myself up). Finally, I had rested the whole week prior to this race, doing only a couple of recovery rides. I was feeling very fresh, and quite rested.

Our race had 20 guys signed up, with the class of the field being last year’s national road champion, Steve Archer. I have raced against Archer a number of times, and he is always a true gentleman and a very good sport. A few years ago at San Ardo, he flatted on the second lap of our two lap race. He had a teammate who pulled over and gave him his rear wheel. Archer chased back onto the group and won the race. Afterwards, he came around and thanked us for waiting. I responded that I certainly hadn’t waited, but that I couldn’t get any help from the group in working to leave him behind. Two years ago, San Ardo was the district race and both Archer and I were still in the 55- 59 group that has a 3 lap race. Many in that peleton were tired by the 3rd lap. Archer launched a viscious attack that only Mike Vetterli was able to bridge up to. Archer won that race, Vetterli took 2nd and Larry Nolan took the field sprint somewhat after. I am admittedly not the gentleman that Steve is, as I enjoy colorful language within the peleton. I gain satisfaction in animating the races I enter, but I never intend to treat any competitor, official or spectator in anything less than a respectful manner. That said, I do not view colorful (read “profane” here) language as anything other than a means of expressing great drama and joy. I do so freely during races, and rides. Saturday after the race, teammate Jim Langley wondered if I couldn’t save some much needed energy by not talking. I can’t imagine that, but even if I do spend a few calories in the course of a couple of hours, I would not trade the joy of life that it gives me. My hope is that it is not found to be offensive by those with the great good fortune to be riding with me.

Other notables in our field included Paul Gossi who won this year’s district TT, and I also remembered from a Copperopolis road race a few years ago. He had been the only guy in our large and talented field who was able to stay with former world champion, Robert Anderson. Anderson and Gossi had gone 1 / 2 that day. We also had Mark Perry and Tim Davis in our field. I don’t know either of them, but I see their names often towards the top of the 55 races. From Santa Cruz, I know my teammate, Jim Langley is a very strong and talented racer. Also, from Watsonville, Chris Cerruti was entered, and I ride with him enough to know I probably couldn’t beat him. My other teammate, Mike Andalora, has been riding strong and I knew if he had a good day that he would be right in the mix. Then there were a few guys that I didn’t know anything about, including 1 guy from out of our district, and a few who I have raced with in the past but don’t really know. I ran into Chris Cerruti talking to Archer before the race, and Archer thought Gossi would try to get away, but he mostly was interested in not going to the line with Tim Davis. In his opinion, Davis had been on fire and would be very hard to beat in a sprint.

Then there was the course. San Ardo is not a climber’s course, but rather is a power course. It is not completely flat, but there are no steep, long grades, and the main issues are the nasty road condition and some wind. Each lap there is a climb at the beginning, but it typically doesn’t create huge breaks in the field. Still, it was that climb that was the cause of my nervousness. With my weight, it was possible that a really hard attack could gap me and end my race very early. The same possibility would be there for me on the second lap, and again at the finish. Beyond that, I was pretty sure that my fitness would keep me in with the group at the least. I also hoped to, at least, give myself a chance at finishing better than my usual , mid pack. I also was hopeful of being some use to my teammate, Langley, as well as possibly my friend Cerruti.

To warm up, I rolled around with the boys for about 45 minutes. We checked out the finish, and it had been shortened from its previous spot by maybe 100 – 125 yards. That left a flat sprint of 100 – 125 yards after climbing up to a left hander. I pretty much knew it was not my kind of finish, so my plan was to get away early if I could. And then we lined up for the start.

When I did this race 2 years ago as a 3 lap race, they didn’t hit the first time up the climb as hard as the second two times. I was unsure what would happen in this 2 lap race. We started up and the favorites were all sitting towards the front. I did as much work as I needed to in order to stay on the wheels at the front. Another racer and I commented to each other how glad we were that the pace was very sedate. Still, after we got over the top, or not long afterwards, Paul Gossi and Archer’s teammate were off the front. Even so, the group wasn’t showing much interest, and it soon became clear that Archer was going to have to set the pace. He didn’t chase, but he also didn’t let them extend their gap, at least not by much. This also led to the whole first lap of our race being uneventful and not very hard. As we rolled back into town at the end of lap one, Archer’s teammate came back to the group, leaving Gossi ahead on his own.

As we climbed up past the feed zone to begin the second lap, I was again surprised by how easy the pace was. Still, I moved up in the group towards the front. Archer had gone to the front, and I knew he wouldn’t simply float over the only place on the course that could be considered a hill. Sure enough, as soon as the road tilted up again, having passed the finishing line turn, he jumped hard. I called out, “There he goes!”, and spun my cranks all out. I was far enough forward, had enough power, and the distance to the top was short enough that I made it with the front selection. Unfortunately, our teammate Mike hadn’t made the front group along with several others. The lead group was down to 10, with Gossi still a little off the front.

Archer stayed on the front and began to chase down Gossi in earnest. I was a little surprise when my remaining teammate, Langley, went to the front and began to work as well. I rode past him and told him to sit in. If he felt that we needed to help in the chase, it was my job. He was to rest and sit in. Besides, I could see that Gossi was starting to wither from being off the front for so long, and I suspected that we could pull him in at will. Not long after, he was back with the group. I stayed towards the front, watching for Archer to make a move and trying to do any needed work so Jim could sit in.

I think this race was the first that I have understood the term, “negative racing”, that I’ve heard more experienced racers use. I haven’t really understood it in the past because, as I now understand it, negative racing is the definition of how the 45 4/5 category races. In short, everyone in the 4/5 races will choose to simply sit in for the whole race, waiting only to contest the sprint. In my opinion, this is not only boring, but can tend to be unsafe and is a waste of my time. Perhaps I am biased because I know that I am not particularly a sprinter, but regardless, I want to be in races that are challenging the whole way. In this race, the negative racing occurred because Archer was the prohibitive favorite. We all knew he was supposed to win. Thus, everyone in our race was happy to sit in and allow him to dictate the race, in hopes that he would make a mistake or have a mechanical. That is, of course, not an entirely fair appraisal on my part. Gossi had gone off the front, and Tim Davis had attacked a few times. Somehow, those efforts had seemed only feints to me, and Archer was left at the front to set the pace. And so we rolled along.

About 10 miles from the finish, the course turns into a tailwind leg that dips down before cresting a bump and then going flat back into town. As we made the right hander into the tailwind leg, I came around Archer, just because of our weight difference, and rolled off the front of the group. It was unintentional, but as I looked back, I saw that I was starting to get a pretty good gap. I decided to go ahead and push my advantage and use it to make sure I got up the bump with the group. A couple of guys came by me pretty hard over the top, but I was able to chase back on to the group. About that time, Jim rolled up and said, “If you are feeling good, now would be a good time to go!”. I just looked at him and smiled, and launched.

Breaking away is not hard for me, particularly in the flats. I knew I was the strongest guy left in our field, with the possible exception of Archer. Weight is where others get the advantage on me, but that is much less of a factor in the flats. If you don’t catch my wheel as I make my jump, most riders will not have the power to match me. In this case, I think I had a 75 – 100 yard gap when I looked back. From there, I tried my best to settle into a steady hard pace. As I mentioned, breaking away is not that hard. Staying away is. I had expected that Archer would bridge back up to me. I was less than thrilled that he brought the rest of the group with him. I jumped again, but they were on me directly. He was not wanting to chase down a large gap again.

I was pretty sure my day was done. I knew that I would be at a disadvantage when we had to climb up to the finishing turn. However, my teammate, Jim, and my friend, Chris, were still in the group. At the least, I could dish out some punishment to the rest of the group while they sat in. I sat at the front and continued to go as hard as I could, as often as I could. It was odd to me that during my recovery periods, not a single person came around me to take a pull. I think that for the last ~8 miles of the race, I was on the front the whole way. I hoped my efforts would be of some use to Jim and Chris. In the meantime, a couple of chasing riders, including Archer’s teammate, got back on to our group. I think we were 12 going back through town to the finish. I continued in the lead.

As we rolled through town, our turns shifted the wind from tail to crossing from our right. As we began the climb up past the feed zone, I moved to the left hand side of the road and got out of the saddle. I had nothing left to climb with. My legs just felt like jello. As I knew they would, the whole group came by me en masse, with a smaller group beginning to gap those towards the rear. I was gapped by all but continued to turn my pedals as hard as I was able. The only guy I caught going to the finish was Archer’s teammate, and I think that was because he didn’t care. I finished 11th, but 10th in the district, because one finisher ahead of me was from out of the area. My friend, Chris, finished on the podium in 5th, and Jim took 8th!

This was the most fun I have had in a race in a long time. It didn’t matter that I didn’t place too high. I helped Jim and Chris, and I was the animator in the last part of the race. I wish I could have helped Mike to stay with the group, but I think when he came off the group, I was going all out. Bike racing continues to be a tough sport!

Paul Gossi 4th, Tim Davis 2nd, Steve Archer 1st, Mark Perry 3rd, Chris Cerruti 5th

Monday, August 15, 2016

Masters Track National Championships, 8/9-8/14/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

USA Cycling's Track National Championships were held at the Indy Cycloplex's Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis this year, named after the amazing African-American World Champion track cyclist (I read a good book about Major Taylor). This was the first Masters National Championships I've entered, so I was a bit nervous about it. But with my results at our District (State) Championships, I knew my form justified the plans I had already made to race at Nationals.

Who needs an SUV!
I'd never travelled by airplane to race before, so there were a ton of details that I don't usually have to deal with. Getting my bike, two wheelsets, helmets and tools to Indy was a bit stressful. Wade and Marin at Spokesman Bicycles were kind enough to provide me a Tri All 3 Sports case, which had plenty of room for my bike and two wheelsets after I removed the crank (I could have removed the saddle instead), the bars and the wheels. I used to ship via FedEx, which saves a bunch of money.

My team sprint teammate Ray Gildea, and Ken Lo and I rented an Airbnb cottage a few miles from the track. It was a bit of a frat house and a lot of fun. Ray also rented a U-Haul van instead of a rental car, so moving the bikes around would be a snap.

Nice track, humid weather
We arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday evening, and took an Uber to our cottage. The next morning our other TS teammate, Brian Moore, gave us a ride to U-Haul. We collected Ray and Ken's bikes from FedEx, and they got to work assembling them. I had mine shipped to Marian University which operates the track, and they even had those bikes delivered to the track for us. Very cool.

This track honors an
amazing black cyclist:
Major Taylor 
When we got to the velodrome on Monday we started by building a tent village in the infield, nick-named "Hellyerville." We had all chipped in some money, and Bess Hernandez-Jones bought awnings and chairs for our NCNCA riders... that was so awesome! I can't imagine trying to do all this as an unattached rider. After signing in, I assembled my bike under our awnings and we all got some track time on Monday afternoon.

The Major Taylor concrete outdoor velodrome is very similar to Hellyer's, but precisely 333.3 meters around vs. Hellyer's unintended miss at 335 m. The banking is 28° vs. 23°, and Major Taylor's straights are a bit shorter, with wider turns. The result is surprisingly different, with the transitions from the straights into the turns being noticeably steeper. This affects race tactics, and things like the windup for a flying-200-meter run. The track also has a huge permanent grandstand, and was used for the Pan American Games in 1987. Another difference is the weather: it was extremely humid, with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. I have not sweated this much in quite some time!

Wednesday, Match Sprints

This event (read here for a description of match sprints) was not really my priority, as I was skeptical about my ability to compete with the nation's best Masters sprinters. But I sure do enjoy them and signed up! I had received an email from USA Cycling a week before, asking for my recent 200 m and 500 m times, to help them put together a start list for our qualifying flying-200 m rides. There were 12 riders signed up.
"God didn't make little green apples And it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime"
We got to the very hot and humid track, suited up with difficulty (here I learned that it's best to suit up in air-conditioned rooms!) and did some warmup... after which it started raining. They closed the track, and we all gathered under our awnings, scrambling to keep our gear dry. Fortunately it didn't persist, and after a short break they reopened the track.

My 200 m qualifier
Around 11:30 we did our flying-200-meter time trials, to qualify for the matches and "seed" us in our start list, which I did in my usual 96.4-inch gear (50x14 teeth). I was really hoping for a PR, but while I did get close, my time of 12.032 seconds was a tenth slower, partly due to some wind I'd guess. It was still good enough for 3rd out of the 12 riders in my 55-59 age group, which pleasantly surprised me. Kurt Sato, the defending champ, was 2nd with 11.468, and Brian was 1st seed with an awesome 11.407!

But before we could start our matches, it started to rain again, this time absolutely dumping rain (check out my video). They closed the track and announced it would re-open later in the day. We decided to drive back to our cottage, showered, ate lunch and waited for USAC's email communique with schedule updates.

Quarter Finals
Because of the rain delay, they cancelled the 1/8th finals, and those riders packed up and left. All of our matches were to be just two laps, and the best out of 3 heats would advance to the semi-finals. Since I qualified in 3rd I was matched against the 6th-place qualifier, John Schmitz, a big guy and a local at Major Taylor. The USAC communique gave us a new start time, and around 5:00 we were getting ready to race, and trying very hard to stay cool... I was frequently dropping chunks of ice down the back of my speed suit to keep comfortable, while constantly mopping the sweat from my face.

Heat 1: I drew the #2 straw for the start position, so I was placed high up on the track while John started low on the track. Jonathan Fraley (owner of Serenity Bicycles) was my holder, and did a nice job of sending me off. John went up-track to the rail ahead of me, and I followed a few bike lengths behind him on the rail. The 28° banking provides a greater advantage than at Hellyer, so I wanted to stay high as much as possible to use that drop down the banking when I needed to accelerate. He remained on the rail through turns 1, 2, and 3. In turn 4 I knew waiting would be a mistake, so I instantly dropped down the banking below him and into the sprinter's lane... he tried to block me, but too late. I then "floated" along, keeping him close behind me. In turn 1 he stayed there, but tried to pass me again in turn 2. I was able to stand and sprint to keep him next to me, and in turns 3 and 4 I moved ahead and took the win.

Heat 2 start against John Schmitz 
Heat 2: We swapped starting positions, and I started fairly low, slow and ahead, and feinted up-track a few times to keep John guessing. I started to speed up on the back straight to avoid any surprise attacks from him. Out of turn 4 I went a bit harder as I could tell he wanted to pass, so he ended up only being able to try out of turn 2 on the last lap... he couldn't pass me, and he gave up in turn 4 allowing me to sit up before the finish line for the win.

I had advanced, as had Brian, winning in two rides in his match against Richard Toller (the 8th qualifier). Kurt Sato beat Brian Wind (7th qualifier), and Jim Thiele beat Mark Pelletier (5th qualifier). So we would compete for 1st through 4th while the others raced a four-up match for 5th through 8th place.

Heat 1 start against Kurt Sato
Heat 1: Since I qualified faster than Jim, I was matched against Kurt, while Jim faced Brian. Jonathan and Lee Povey both gave me some tips too. Very cool. I drew #1 straw, so Kurt started up-track. I stayed fairly low on the track, but knew from my races at the LA velodrome (VELO Sports Center) in Carson that Kurt has an amazing jump, so I tried to keep the average speed a bit higher to minimize his advantage from a low speed. I again feinted a few times, zig-zagging a little, to keep him off balance. And I also kept the gap back to him at a good size, not big efor him to rush. By turn 3 I could no longer block him from the sprinter's lane, so I seized it as we started to accelerate pretty hard. I floated as much as possible, keeping him close behind me, and started to go 100% in turn 2 as I knew he'd jump... he did! After I kept him out of the sprinter's lane for a while by keeping my front wheel even with  his rear wheel, he passed me in turn 3 in spite of my best efforts. I tried to catch him on the home straight, but he won by over a bike length.

Heat 2: This time I started up-track. I told Jonathan to delay releasing me at the start, so I'd be able to start with a gap ahead of me to Kurt that I could rush when needed. He started mid-track as I followed slowly along the rail. We feinted a bit, and in turn 3 he moved higher on the track. I rode about even with him and out of turn 4 I passed above him and took the lead, at a moderately fast pace. Into turn 1 I could see he wasn't trying to pass, but I knew turn 2 would be different... I jumped as hard as I could but on the back straight I saw his front wheel to my right, then his rear wheel, then he was past me. I was done and rested to save some energy for the bronze final.

The Major Taylor velodrome has great stadium lights, so we continued racing into the night. Jim Thiele lost to Brian, so I was matched against Jim for the bronze final. But Brian now had to race Kurt in the gold final. I hoped my longer sprints had tired Kurt out for Brian!

Bronze heat 1: I drew straw #2, and started up-track and stayed there. Jim rode nicely lower on the track, with a few feints. In turn 3 I moved closer to him and out of turn 4 I was able to pass above him and into the lead. I floated a bit, but he tried to pass and I had to stand up and sprint a bit. Into turn 1 he went up-track slightly, but not enough to be able to make his next try out of turn 2 work. I was able to hold him behind me for the win.

Bronze heat 2: I seize the pole
Bronze heat 2: I started in the pole (sprinter's lane), and we rode very, very slowly in turn 1. I made a few up-track feints, but then I went a bit ahead of him in turn 2. Clearly he wanted a large gap to rush for a pass. So I slowed quickly and turned up-track, almost pinning him to the rail. As we entered turn 4 I had no trouble dropping down into the pole and when he tried to pass I was able to hold him off, next to me. In turn 2 he again tried to pass, but with no luck. Bronze was mine!

Gold finals: Brian, in the meantime, was unable to beat Kurt's jump. Tactically he rode well, but not well enough, and ended up with silver, which was still very impressive.

The award ceremony was a lot of fun, and held under the stadium lights late at night. I cheered for my friends and was pretty happy to get a bronze medal at my very first Masters National event!

The 55-59 Match Sprints podium, L to R:
Jim Thiele, Brian Moore, Kurt Sato, Dennis, John Schmitz.

Friday, 500 m Time Trial

It's a simple one: from a standing start, ride as fast as possible for 500 meters. I had long felt that I had a shot at a podium appearance in this event. My Wednesday results confirmed that, but it's never a given. And this day the wind picked up to about 12 mph, so even though it was humid (which helps speed), I doubted I'd PR... but I always try my best!

It's cool that USAC
is conducting doping
I used the same 96.4-inch gearing and tri-spoke wheel (a loaner from my Coach, Jeff Solt) that I used in the 200 m qualifiers on Wednesday. We all use the same holder for our standing starts to avoid any chance of a helpful shove. I felt my start was pretty decent, though I always feel that I could have dug deeper... hard to say, really. So much psychology goes into these short, maximal efforts. I'm pretty sure I dug very deep for the rest of the ride, though, because I got that blurry tunnel-vision effect that makes staying in the pole rather tricky.

So, I ended up with a time of 36.579 seconds, missing bronze by 78/1000ths to Jim Thiele. I was a bit disappointed with 4th place (out of 16 riders), and will keep wondering what tiny changes would have put me ahead of Jim. The good news was that Brian won gold, beating Kurt with a 35.548 vs. Kurt's 35.617. Very impressive ride, Brian! Ray also won gold, in the 60-64 group... and even had to pee in a cup for the USADA anti-doping tests!

The 55-59 500 m ITT podium, L to R:
Dennis, Kurt Sato, Brian Moore, Jim Thiele, Russel Murphy.

Sunday, Team Sprints 

Team sprints (also called "Olympic sprints") were my priority event for 2016, so I was very focused on how our racing unfolded, looking for hints to how our chances in the 55-64 500 m team sprint race would be (read here for a description of team sprints). Ray Gildea and Brian Moore were my teammates for this, and I had to admit that there were some real advantages for us:

  • We'd practiced our team sprint standing-starts numerous times throughout the season, at Hellyer Park's track. 
  • We raced as a team at both our NCNCA Elite and Masters Championships, winning gold at Masters with a time we knew to be faster than previous years' winning teams at Nationals. 
  • We had the new 500 m ITT Champion (Ray) as our man #1 (starter). 
  • We had the new 500 m ITT Champion (Brian) as our man #2 (my lead-out man). 
  • My 500 m ITT time was faster than that of most other #3 guys on the other teams (I was the "anchor"). 

However, we also faced some teams with both national and world champions as members. Very fast and experienced riders. It promised to be an awesome event!


The rain became progressively worse throughout the week, forcing occasional delays, and by Friday it was starting to become rather obtrusive, to say the least. By Saturday the weather forecast was positively grim, and the start of racing was postponed several times through the day. We all pondered what would happen if it didn't stop long enough to allow the races to continue. All day Saturday we stayed inside resting and hoping the race schedule could be followed. But they finally cancelled all Saturday racing, and shifted some of them to Sunday at 7:00 am. More delays followed on Sunday morning, and on Sunday the final USAC communique confirmed:
"The forecast is looking worse and worse the later it gets. For this reason I’m going to go ahead and cancel the remaining sessions for this event"
That sucked. Previously there'd been communiques proposing shortening races, e.g. by making flying-200-meter times be the final result for the women match sprints originally scheduled on Saturday and the like. Now they would simply not take place at all. But there was also a new proposal:
"If USA Cycling was able to put together a single day of racing for team events in mid-November at one of the covered velodromes, would there be any interest?"
So, we shall see, but it's possible I'll be doing my Nationals team sprints in November, in either Colorado Springs or Carson (Los Angeles), the only covered velodromes in USA. It's a hassle, but I can't just let this go down the drain.

Another storm, above the now-empty grandstands

I had so much fun at Nationals and am very happy I went, in spite of the hardships. I plan on doing this again next year, and even have my eye on the Masters Worlds which will conveniently be in LA in 2017 and 2018.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Masters NCNCA District (State) Track Championships, 7/16-17/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

This was the NCNCA’s (Northern California and Nevada Cycling Association) Track Championships for riders 35 years of age and older, and one of my major goals for 2016. The NCVA’s President, Bill Nighan, plus numerous volunteers, made this event an incredible success. Thanks, all!

My awesome Dixie Flyer!
I hauled everything I could possibly need to the Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose, including my trainer for warmup (as the track can get crowded at big events), spare wheels, food, changes of clothing,  DSLR camera, trainer, tools, two helmets, etc. My trusty Dixie Flyer has been an awesome bike for me, too.

Saturday, Match Sprints

When I arrived the weather was unusually chilly (about 57°) and windy (gusting up to 12 mph), with the marine layer lingering until about 9:00 am. So I didn’t expect many people to PR.

Match sprints are a classic form of racing: short distance, and usually just two riders at a time in an elimination tournament. My coach (and former US Elite National Champion, and current 1K record holder), Jeff Solt, came down and helped me with advice and acted as my holder in the standing starts. This was to prove invaluable.

Sprints 200 m qualifying times
During warmup I used 81" gears (48x16 teeth) and hit 35.7 mph for my first 100 m run, then 35.1 mph… the wind was gusting, slowing me down. For my last warmup run I changed into my race gears of 96.4" (50x14) and hit a better, but still modest 37.0 mph. Then we waited for our start list to be announced; I was matched against George Miranda. My actual qualifying run (200 m, timed at the end of three full laps) was at 38.3 mph max, in 12.27 seconds. A bit disappointing, even factoring in the wind, as I qualified with 12.2 last year. Oddly, my max speed was higher than last year (37.7) even so.

Masters races can be unpredictable, dependent on who shows up. For our sprints, we had some good competitors, with Brian Moore (former US National Team) being our fastest qualifier, and I second-fastest, in our 55-59 age group. We are usually matched fastest-against-slowest qualifier, then second-fastest against second-slowest, etc. There were only four of us, so there was just one round of semi-finals, with two laps per match.


I drew the #2 “straw” from USA Cycling official Peter Bohl, meaning I’d start up-track against the rail. I stayed high on the track’s banking as we left the line, while George stayed low. After a few feints up and down the banking, I jumped out of turn 4 while looking back over my right shoulder. To save some energy I “floated” through turns 1 and 2 in the sprinter’s lane, while he matched speed with me. He was up-track a bit, to use the drop down the banking for acceleration, then ran the gap to me into turn 4. He tried to pass but couldn’t (we hit 37.0 mph max). This was “sudden death,” so I advanced to the finals. Brian beat Sean Williams and advanced too, so I would now be racing Brian for the gold.


Heat #1: 

Finish line video
I drew the #2 “straw,” thus starting up-track. On the whistle Jeff delayed starting me, intentionally to open a gap to Brian. I rode well behind Brian, he moved up-track a bit, just below me, then up to perhaps pin me against the rail. I instead moved behind him, then dove below him and ahead, then back up to the rail. We then rode next to each other, more or less, until out of turn 4, when I jumped first above him, passed, and “floated” into turn 1, while I kept an eye on his position over my right shoulder. He went halfway up the track’s banking behind me through turn 2, then sprinted hard to try to pass me in turn 3, but couldn’t. As we raced toward the finish I half-wheeled him next to me. Though he was able to gain, and almost catch me, I won by just a few inches (Matt Martinez had set up an iPad to take finish-line videos; see it here). Whew, close! Surprisingly, we only hit 35.8 mph max.

Heat #2: 
I was started low this time. Jeff pushed me hard so I could seize the rail ahead of Brian, another expression of Jeff’s tactical sense. We both rode up there, slowly, I weaved a bit to confuse him. To avoid letting him attack first, I sprinted hard out of turn 4 to maintain my lead. He went up-track, while I floated through turns 1 and 2. Out of 2 he was quite high, but I thought too far back? I stood up and sprinted, a rare thing, and he couldn’t come next to me in turns 3 and 4. Up to the line he started to come around but ran out of track. I won by a half bike length (hitting 37.0 mph max). And no need for round #3… I had the gold!

I was so stoked; what a change from last year’s mistakes. I really understand how Jeff’s advice helped, too. Last year I tried to listen and learn, but didn’t. It’s very cool to see the improvement.
Our sprints podium

Sunday, Timed Events: 

The weather was a few degrees cooler on Sunday morning, but less windy, and clear. I did a few rolling starts during warmup, and spun easily on my trainer. Then changed into my 96.4” race gearing and carbon wheels and another warmup start.

500 m Time-Trials

I was the defending champion in the 500 m time-trial (one rider at a time, against the clock, done from a standing start), but was not confident in my starts since I haven’t trained those very much this year.

I felt my start was a bit tentative, but the rest felt fast, in spite of the wind. Fortunately I was still able to win another gold with my time of 36.60 seconds, I think at 37.5 mph max (not a PR for me). Brian Moore took silver, with 37.29, Ted Kicey took bronze with 38.11. (Martin Harris, silver last year behind me, is still in the 50-54 age group, and rode a 37.02.)

I then had several hours before my next event started, so I had a little lunch, chatted, took photos, and rode on my trainer to keep my legs “open,” as we say.

Team Sprints

This is my priority race type for 2016, and my teammates for Nationals, Ray Gildea and Brian Moore, would lead me out for our race. These are very fun! The three of us line up next to each other on the start line for a standing start. On the whistle we ride all-out, with Ray leading us out for one lap before he pulls off, his job done. Brian continues racing, with me following, for another lap before he, too, pulls off. I’m then alone, to finish the last lap and stop the timer. The blend of teamwork, timing and personal contribution is exhilarating.

Video of our team sprint
We were defending champions, though we were unopposed last year. This year we had a worthy team to fight, with Erik Salander, Bill Brissman, and Kurt Bickel. They turned in a nice 1:14.75 second run. Our start was well-nigh perfect, as we all stayed grouped and were fully drafting in about 1/2 lap. Brian did a great job of smoothly taking over the lead after Ray pulled off, leading me into my lap, and my legs even felt pretty decent as I completed the last lap alone, into the wind. We won gold, in 1:10.96... a PR for us, and a great sign of our form as we approach Nationals!

So, some amazing racing, three golds in three events. And renewed motivation and confidence for Nationals. What a fantastic weekend of racing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Elite NCNCA District (State) Track Championships, 6/25-6/26/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

Elites are 18 and over riders, Category 3 and better. I'm getting old, but I don't feel it yet, so I'm willing to compete with youngsters!

This year the NCVA's board decided to separate the NCNCA District Championship mass-start races from the sprints and timed events. So this weekend the track at Hellyer Park Velodrome was less crowded and we had time to properly conduct qualifying, and adequate warm-up and cool-down breaks. It was hot, from 89 to 93 degrees at least, dry, and somewhat windy.

Saturday: Match Sprints

We had a nice turnout, with 20 men and 8 women. I used my 96-inch gears (50x14 teeth), a bit taller than I used to, in my flying 200 m run: 38.2 mph max, for 12.04 seconds. While a good time for me, it wasn't quite a PR, as the wind kept most times a bit slow. I'm not sure exactly where I qualified, but roughly in the middle. I decided to see how the 96" gears would feel in the races too; these would be 2 laps only. 

In the first heat I was matched against Mark Andersen: We drew numbers and I started at the top of the track, with my coach, Jeff Solt, holding me. I stayed up-track as we started, almost even with him, but had to feint a bit on the back straight to maintain that position as I didn't want to lead him out. In turn 4 I felt we were going too slow, as he qualified faster than me (it's easier to pass at low speeds), so I seized the lead with a hard effort. Fortunately I was then able to "float" into turn 1, and when I looked back I saw he was only a bit up-track, with only a small gap… that meant he wouldn't be able to rush past me as easily. On the back straight he tried to pass, but I was able to maintain the lead. Into turn 3 he moved behind me, but in spite of my best efforts he managed to barely pass me at the line, hitting a relatively modest 36.4 mph max.

In the second heat we were 3-up; I was matched against Ray Gildea, and Tom. I again started at the top, and I moved down-track fairly soon, as Ray pushed the pace. Tom drafted him, thus allowing me to box Tom in by riding slightly behind and next to Ray. In turn 3 Tom sensed his predicament, backed off and went up-track to launch an attack. I saw the gap back to him was rather large, though, and I didn't hesitate attacking first. Ray, though, reacted very quickly and held me off, on his hip, through turns 1 and 2. But on the back straight I had enough power to pass him for the win (37.2 mph max).

Next I raced Ethan Boyes, the top qualifier: Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me. I once again started up-track, and he tried to force me down track, but a ground squirrel distracted him, and I jumped below and around him, back up to the rail. Yes, that really happened. I then dropped below him out of turn 4, but he had no trouble passing me on the back straight for the win. Speeds were moving up too: 38.2 mph.

I was out of the medals, but 5th through 8th had to be decided in a 4-up: Me, Lee Povey, Brian Moore, Mark Andersen lined up. I wanted to follow my coach, Jeff Solt's, advice to disrupt any attempts at teamwork (they're all on PCC). I did that by not attacking early, but slowed so I'd be mixed in with them. I then let Brian lead us out, while I boxed in Lee, and Mark stayed behind/above me. Lee wanted out, and I obliged, and when he attacked I was able to follow him (barely) around Brian. I'm not sure why, but Lee and I opened up a gap the others couldn't close (maybe because we hit 39.3 mph!), but while I gained a bit on Lee at the finish, I lost by almost a bike length. That was fast and fun, especially since they had all qualified faster than me! So, I ended up in 6th place out of 20, which I was happy with.

Sunday: Time Trials

In Elite-level racing my favored event, 500 m time-trial, doesn't exist. Instead they ride a full kilometer ("kilo"), which I'd only done twice before in competition. I signed up anyway, just for training. The real contenders use aerobars, but I simply used my regular drop-bars. I held back a bit at the standing start, compared with my 500 m starts, to save a little for the last lap or so. Even so, there's a reason kilos are nicknamed "killers!" With legs and lungs on fire, I maxed at 35.3 mph, finishing in 1:15.30 (37.24 split time). This kilo was a PR for me, actually, so it was motivating! I was 7th out of 10.

Next were the team sprints. I signed up with my teammates for Master Nationals (coming in August, in Indianapolis), Ray Gildea and Brian Moore. Each rider leads for one lap before pulling off, and only the third rider's time counts (my time, as man #3) In the standing start Ray is very hard to keep up with, but Brian did great, and I slotted in behind him. After Ray pulled off, Brian accelerated a bit, almost opening a gap back to me, but I held on and when Brian pulled off I jumped a bit too and felt like I had decent power to the finish line. We hit 36.3 mph max, finishing in 1:11.41. That was quite good, and could perhaps be a winning time at Master Nationals, but was only enough for 4th place here. We all agreed this was great prep for us!

While I didn't place in any event this year, I was quite happy with my racing, as was Jeff. Masters Track States are July 16 and 17th, and Masters Track Nationals are August 9th through 14th; I feel ready!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ADA Tour de Cure, 6/12/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

I first rode in the American Diabetes Association's fund-raising ride in 2006, making this my 10th ride! Yes, I was really determined to continue this tradition and do my little bit to help fight diabetes, a disease that affects 9.3% of the U.S. population.

This year I have helped raise $861.00 thanks to the generous people who donated on my behalf. Many of them have been donating every year I have attended... thank you all so much! The ADA is a well-regarded charity, donating about 70% of their funds to fight diabetes (as rated by the BBB's Give.orgCharity Navigator, and others).

Greg Lemond and Fast Freddie
at the 6:15 AM start, with
the ADA's Karen Zimmerman
and Richard Alejandro.
This year, though, I rode on the West Marine team, since I quit HP last year. But I wasn't able to get enough momentum going, and West Marine is a much smaller company, so the team ended up consisting of just me. Even so, West Marine is growing and I plan on growing the team too. It'll take a bit of extra effort, but it's worth it. And a number of my new co-workers at West Marine donated (it's not too late to donate)!

On the morning of the ride I woke up at 4:30 AM, and was on the road by 5:00 for the 6:15 start time of the 120k route (75 miles). We started from the HP headquarters in Palo Alto, like usual, after breakfast supplied by Hobbee's and other sponsors. The weather promised to be perfect, with clear skies and moderate temperatures.

This year we had a special guest: Greg Lemond, the only American to ever officially win the Tour de France (3 times: 1986, '89, and '90), join us on the ride! I have a ton of respect for Greg, given his history of fighting for clean racing, unlike so many of his successors. He was joined by "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez who has joined the ride the last several years now.

The legendary Greg Lemond!
I said "Hi" to a few friends at the start, and moved to the start line so I could join Greg when we started the ride. I got to take a few photos of Greg and the rest of us as we rode along on the first section of the route, on Junipero Serra Blvd. to Alpine Rd. He doesn't ride much anymore, but was clearly comfortable on the bike, and we all gave him proper respect.

Our route was the same as last year's, and our first big climb was up Kings Mtn Rd. In the past I went all-out on these climbs as training, but I now only train for very short sprint races, including lots of weight training, so I took it as easy as I could on these steep hills. In fact, my 37-minute time up Kings Mtn was about 10 minutes slower than previous years! But I felt fine and enjoyed a brief stop at the rest station set up on Skyline Blvd. at the top of the climb, manned by volunteers from the Kiwanis Club.

Pescadero landscape.
After the rolling section on Skyline we turned right (by Alice's Restaurant) and onto the very fast descent down Highway 84 (I hit 47 mph), through La Honda, and down to Pescadero Rd. A climb up Haskins Hill let me warm up a bit, then we descended the rest of the way into the historic town of Pescadero. There was another rest station, and I had another small snack. It was a bit cool, but quite nice for riding.

We then rode along gorgeous Stage Rd., by cute farms with goats, cattle, horses, and pigs. My legs were feeling tighter than they ever did in previous years, thanks to my limited miles of riding this year: easily a third of typical years in the past. So I was wondering how I'd fare on the biggest climb of the day: Tunitas Creek Rd.

Beautiful Stage Rd.
I skipped the next rest station, by the Bike Hut at the base of Tunitas Creek Rd. I felt OK, and cautiously started up the steep climb that followed, through the incredibly beautiful redwood forest that lines the creek and the tiny road. Again, the perfect weather helped, and while my legs did feel rather tight, I never cramped. At the top of this long climb (41 minutes for me this year, vs. 32 minutes last year!) was the last rest station, the same one as our first one, just in reverse so to speak. I grabbed a bit of food, refilled my water bottles for the third time, and set off.

The Kings Mtn. descent is super fast, and luckily I had no scary flats this time. The weather was heating up into the 80s, but it was still nice as we rode along Portola Rd., and back to HP in Palo Alto. That section is far more crowded than the rest, as we combine the riders who are taking the shorter routes. My ride ended up being about 81 miles, all told (which is more like 130k), with over 7,500 feet of climbing. I was a bit sore, but really not too bad.

I almost skipped lunch, but I decided to stay, and hung out with some of my good friends from the old HP team; not all of them are still with HP either, but it was great seeing them.

The next day I was rather tired, but I plan on doing this again next year, and I hope you will all join me for the "ride!" Thanks again!