Saturday, October 4, 2014

2014 USA Cycling Masters Road Nationals Notes

2014 Masters Road Nationals Notes
by Jim Langley

Some teammates and racers from other teams have asked about the USA Cycling National Championships for Masters Road racers, that took place in and around Ogden, Utah this year during the first week of September.

So, here are some photos and details, which may be helpful should USA Cycling choose to hold the race here again - and especially if they reuse these race courses.

We had three Spokesman Bicycles racers there: myself, racing in the 60-64 (all 3 events), Bob Montague, competing in the 55-59 (Time Trial and Road Race) and Stefano Profumo in the 35-39, who could only do the RR and who also was our top finisher in 11th place!

Scroll, scroll, scroll to see photos and notes about the area and the races... and if you have questions to prepare for training for these races, just email me and I'll give you more details.
Race One: Antelope Island: 9/3/2014:34K Time Trial - The time trial course is actually on Ranch Road on the island (it took me quite awhile to find it), which travels a bit over 10miles and ends at a dirt driveway to the ranch. The turnaround is just before the dirt on a slight downhill. After leaving the starting box, there was about a mile climb so everyone was trying to figure out whether to hammer it or hold back and save something. There was a significant tailwind making it hard to completely hold back. I love hills and went up it at probably too hard a tempo because I got to the turnaround way too quickly and paid for it. All the way back I suffered against the headwind and only lost watts. Spectacular course, though, with nice pavement, fun rollers, the challenging climb at the start and the backside of it at the finish. Nice views of the Great Salt Lake, too, not that I got much of a look!
Race Two: Snowbasin Resort: 9/5:73K Road Race - After spending a few days camping on Antelope Island, I drove up to Snowbasin Resort, which is about 30 minutes from Ogden and near 7,000 feet elevation. I was able to camp in the big parking lot they have their for the skiers. It's a nice quiet location and close to the start/finish, so ideal. Like the TT, the RR starts with a serious climb so a good warmup was essential. After that mile lung-burner, there's a 7-mile descent where guys said their computers were showing 55mph. Total fun with the Ogden police moving cars right off the road with a very professional rolling closure. Once at the bottom, we did two laps of Pineview reservoir. On lap 2, things went bonkers with attacks, crashes, trash-talking; it was the most fun I've had at Nationals in my 7 times doing it. The strongmen brokeaway on lap 2 and I hit the bottom of the final double 3-mile climb probably around 12th. I moved up a few places at the beginning of the first climb but I did not know the course and I should have waited, because it got steeper and the guys were all waiting. Still, I only got passed by a few faster, fitters guys but I hung in there and had a pretty good climb. Overall, an enjoyable and memorable course. I need an altitude tent to do better next year probably.
Race Three: Downtown Ogden:9/6:45min Criterium - Another awesome course: 8-corners, decent pavement and a nice little kicker hill right after the start/finish. This was my best finish with 14th. I did a lot right but blew a corner on the last lap, lost my position and finished at the back of the field sprint. Super fun race.

And now some photos of the area and week staying there. 

The campsite on Antelope Island only a mile from the start of the time trial. Only $15 per night. Beautiful spot to kick back before and after races. Even had a bison or two pass close by. I took two days to drive to the island. The first day I drove to Elko, Nevada and stayed free camping in a Walmart. That left about a 5-hour drive to get onto the island and to my campsite. A happy coincidence was that Sirrius satellite radio was doing a free preview the entire trip so I was able to listen to commercial free music the entire time. Cell phone and internet access was spotty on the island but I purchased a small cell phone booster before the trip and with that I could get online or use my phone as needed.
Taken while preriding the time trial course on Ranch Road on Tuesday, the day before the race. Wide open with nice views, zero traffic and not much wind on that day, which was to change come raceday. It would have been smarter to rest and not ride so much the day before the race, but I felt like I needed to see the entire course. I am sure I paid for it in the race.

They estimate that 600 bison roam the island. There's only one restaurant on the island and their speciality is - you guessed it - bison burgers! The island is also home to lots of other animals and birds. I was glad to have my binoculars and to be camping on the island, not just there for the race.

Lovely skies on Antelope Island. It was in the high eighties mid day but cooled quickly at night. People said there might be bugs but it turns out they're seasonal and not a big problem in September - at least this year.

Nervous time. It's Wednesday morning and all the racers who had to wait in line to pay for their permit to get onto the island are arriving and parking. Those of us who camped on the island could take our time getting over to the starting area for bike checks and registration/packet pickup. The starting house and bike check is to the left and up a little hill - next photo.

The starting area. You can just see the starting house on the right under the blue tent and the hill looming in the distance. USA Cycling officials are tucked in ahead of the truck making sure the bikes are legal to race. Once your bike is okayed you have to stay in the corral waiting for them to call you up onto the starting platform. A lot of racers went to registration and bike check on Tuesday in Ogden, the day before the race, and I heard stories of bikes failing the inspection and the racers having to rush over to bike shops for modifications to their aero bar positions at great expense in order to be able to race. My bike passed the bike check but these stories had me worried.

Post-race photo. I'm smiling because I'm so glad the pain finally ended. It was the worst I've ever felt in any time trial - going back to the 1970s when I first started doing them. Had awful saddle sores/numbness and it was really tough just keeping it going and not quitting altogether. I was so happy to be off the bike!

One of the highlights of the trip was going down to the lake for a dip after the race. You float like a cork in the Great Salt Lake, and it's a wonderfully fun feeling to enjoy the water effortlessly. When you get out you're covered with a crust of salt, which seems to get tighter and tighter making you race to the showers.

It's Friday morning and we're at the start/finish of the road race at Snowbasin Resort high above Ogden. We have to fight not to get dropped on the opening mile+ climb right off the starting line. Then, after a few flat, fast laps around a reservoir, it's going to come down to the final climbs and who has the most fitness to get to the top in front. The air doesn't feel that thin, however, the air is quite dry. We've been extra hydrating and I'm hoping the being here all week will help at least a little.

Stefano ready to head to the start for his race. This is where campers stayed the night before the race. Nice spot and free! Stefano had a great result taking 11th. Bob and I raced later in the day. We all had a nice dinner in downtown Ogden Saturday night. Another highlight for me was being able to fix Stefano's bicycle. He boxed it for the flight to Ogden. When he built the bike, he found he could hardly turn the crankarms because the bearings were way too tight. He told me about this and I took a look. It turned out that the left crankarm bolts were completely loose and the only thing holding the crankarm on was the dustcap! Even worse, the dustcap had been tightened so much that the bottom bracket bearing were barely able to turn. It was an easy thing to fix because all the parts were still there. But, had Stefano not noticed, the crankarm would have fallen off within a mile of the start of the race, not to mention how hard pedaling would have been for him. It was great having all my tools and being able to put his bike right for him so he could have his best chance in the race.

Summing up, it was another great Nationals in the nicest location yet and with the most teammates, too! Thanks for reading,
Jim Langley

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Everest Challenge Stage Race - Stefano; Stage One: First, Stage Two: First. GC - well...

Climbing up South Lake
Feeling cheerful enough to do the surfer's salute to the photographer...

What a great weekend of climbing @EverestChallenge! Overall, conditions were a bit unusual: overcast, temperatures from the low 30's to the high 50's, rain, even a snowstorm at the top of the South lake climb at the end of stage 1. Definitely not the heat of past years that we were expecting...

Day one started with a brisk pace up South lake (17.2 miles, 5.4%, 4,924 ft), with 24 riders in the 35+ contingent. About 15 riders turned around as a pack at the top, indicating a strong and motivated group. Up the second climb, Pine Creek (7.8 miles, 6.2%, 2,537 ft), the group had shrunk down to about 7-8 by the turnaround. We worked in a fast paceline heading back to South Lake, and that's were the action started. I forced the pace a couple of miles into the last climb, and, acceleration after acceleration there were 5, then 4, then 3 riders left. With about 10 miles left to go, I attacked quite hard again, and only fellow NorCal Scott Penzarella (owner and founder of Studio Velo) was on my wheel. What followed was probably the most intense and fun bike race I have experienced. I kept turning around, looking at him, and attacking, over and over... and Scott would just not leave my wheel, head down, responding to every single attack. Psyco war was also ongoing, with Scott continually reminding me that there was a second day, that we were killing ourselves, that the second day was going to be a lot harder than the first etc etc.

In the final 2 km a snowstorm had started... We also spotted the guy in third, Aaron Wise, from LA (former GC winner), who had led the pack over the first two climbs, and who was actually coming back to us. With one km to go, Scott for the first time took a pull. The end of South Lake is rather steep, with several ramps well in the two digits grade. With about 500m to go, snow and wind getting more and more intense, Scott started weaving left and right, as the grade got steeper and steeper. We had seen the climb before, and I knew this was the time to go. I attacked one last time, heard Scott groan, and I pushed as hard as I could to gain some time. Aaron, the guy in third, had cracked a bit again. In the end, I had a lead of 17" on Scott, and of 47" on Aaron. The guy in 4th came in more than 12 minutes after us. The GC had shaped likely in its final form…

Chevy Spark with a dead battery (and much more)
Day two started with a mechanical failure to our rental car, followed by panic and by us waking up the hostel owner, giving him $100 to drive us to the start in his truck... pretty stressful to get to the line with 5 minutes to spare not knowing where to put the extra stuff we quickly packed during those hectic moments... but we were under way.

The leader's jersey to be defended on day 2
The pace felt really easy up Glacier Lodge (9.7 miles, 7.1%, 3,576 ft), with an LA crit specialist (30' back in the GC) who had taken off and sprinted down the wet descent at 60+ mph... I was stuck to Scott's wheel, with an eye also on Aaron. Going into the second climb of the day, Waucoba Canyon Road (11 miles, 5.5%, 3,329 ft), the group of 10 riders that had come down together from the first climb started to shrink: for unknown to me reasons Scott got really nervous about the LA crit guy out front, and put out a brisk pace to try to catch him. This pretty much down-selected a small group consisting of Scott, me, Aaron and a guy from New Mexico, Chris. I refused to work, despite insults from Scott, and as we turned around at the end of the climb I clocked a 5' gap to the LA crit guy.

After a fast descent, Chris, Aaron, Scott and me started the final White Mountain climb (20 miles, 5.6%, 5,724 ft). Two miles into the climb the pace felt really quite easy, and I tested my competitors legs with one acceleration. I saw nobody responding, so I put the head down and went for it, even though this was not nearly the original plan... After a few minutes the three guys were nowhere in sight, and I quickly reeled in the LA crit guy. I settled in a good tempo and tried to just focus on getting to the finish line. White Mountain, while being a big climb, has numerous rollers, and I knew the three would work together, which indeed they did... Plus, Scott had a support vehicle that was going back and forth taking the time gap to me. With 5 km to go the climb gets really painful - steep, at altitude etc. At that point, Scott's support vehicle came next to me, and the British driver yelled to me that the chasers were 2.5 minutes back and closing on me... You can imagine how I felt! But I kept going and just watched the 0.01 miles go by on my GPS... Got to the finish line quite happy, just to see that in fact Scott was more than 6 minutes back, with the other two riders even further back... Here's the final GC:

BIB Category First Name Last Name Sex Category Group License Stage 1 Stage 2 GC time place
267 Men 35+ Stefano Profumo M 405412 05:19:57 05:28:12 10:48:09 1
269 Men 35+ Scott Penzarella M 268482 05:20:14 05:34:40 10:54:54 2
263 Men 35+ Aaron Wise M 259188 05:20:44 05:36:26 10:57:10 3
299 Men 35+ Chris Abbott M 1019 05:33:47 05:45:54 11:19:41 4
279 Men 35+ Adam Pacal M 203516 05:32:49 05:59:04 11:31:53 5
266 Men 35+ David Rous M 189872 05:44:10 05:56:57 11:41:07 6
291 Men 35+ adam hensley M 264830 05:47:16 05:56:58 11:44:14 7
265 Men 35+ Shawn Vangassen M 156086 05:51:29 05:57:33 11:49:02 8
268 Men 35+ Richard Picarelli M 48303 05:47:15 06:29:24 12:16:39 9
262 Men 35+ Atilla Fruttus M 374774 06:08:13 06:12:01 12:20:14 10
278 Men 35+ Richard Pego M 41144 06:36:04 06:21:27 12:57:31 11
283 Men 35+ Craig Latimer M 238121 06:25:15 06:37:20 13:02:35 12
282 Men 35+ ian lockley M ONE DAY 06:25:15 06:38:20 13:03:35 13
295 Men 35+ Miko Espanol M 365846 06:34:58 06:50:48 13:25:46 14
264 Men 35+ Brian Wasson M ONE DAY 07:01:31 06:37:46 13:39:17 15
297 Men 35+ Thomas Baker M INTL 07:02:15 07:20:48 14:23:03 16
281 Men 35+ Chad Lucius M 367182 07:35:20 07:12:30 14:47:50 17
298 Men 35+ Arjuna Hutchins M 333096 07:23:05 08:23:53 15:46:58 18
280 Men 35+ Matthew Muehlbauer M ONE DAY 06:24:47 19:00:01 01:24:48 19

At the finish, enjoying hot food and warm clothes

Descending White Mountain
This was a great experience. I was happy to have devoted a lot of attention to fueling strategies (which I think I nailed, but that took a lot of focus, especially to keep eating in the midst of intense climbing) and to studying very carefully each climb (among other things, I had a detailed cheat-sheet taped to my bike which was really helpful to know exactly where aid stations were, how long and steep the climbs were etc). I thought I mentally raced quite well also: the attacks at the end of stage one were a bit crazy, but I thought it was the right thing to do to attack as early as possible on the final climb, to try to put some time into my competitors. I think Scott paid dearly having responded to that frenzy. And it just was the most epic and fun race I've ever experienced!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oakland Grand Prix Criterium 35+ 3/4s by Matthew Sloan

This was a really fun course in downtown Oakland close to Lake Merritt. Due to a street fair the promoters changed the course for this year. They had a 180 degree turn just after the start/finish to bring you back onto the old route.

The course started slightly downhill. There was a sweeping 90 degree left hand turn into a very slight uphill straight of about 200m, into a 90 degree right hand turn, into a slightly uphill straight of about 120m, into a 270 degree hairpin turn, into a short flat straight of about 70m, into a 90 degree right hand turn, into a slightly downhill straight of about 150m, into a sweeping 90 degree left hand turn, into a slightly downhill straight of about 130m, into a 90 degree right turn that took you into the 150-200m uphill straight to the finish, and the 180 degree turn to stay on the new course.

The race started off pretty fast. There were a few attacks which were easily covered. Matt Adams of Mike Bikes, he was 2nd in the 35+ 1/2/3s at Pescadero, made an attack and got away. I let him go to see if he could establish a break. A nice gap formed. I made a move just before the 180 and unfortunately I had a group on my wheel after the turn. I sat up at the bottom of the hill where another rider attacked and slowly got onto Matt's wheel.

I was right at the front so I couldn't make a move to get onto the break. I held back to got myself in a position two or three back from the front. I was readying myself for an acceleration that would prevent anyone from following. I felt really strong, ready for a good podium. One of those feelings when you know you are one of the strongest in the field. Well, lady luck had other ideas. The rider in front of me flatted. I went to go around his left hand side but he moved in the same direction to get off the course. He forced me way outside where I had to slow for him. In the meantime the whole field and motor cyclist taking up the rear went past me. When I finally got back on the course I was at least 30m - 50m back with 3 laps to go.

Frustrated, and mentally cursing the rider who took me off the course, I hammered my away around, fighting hard to reconnect. It took just over a lap to get close to the back. That is when the attacks started happening. The whole peloton became a line of riders with me weaving in and out to make places up. With one lap to go I was about half way down. I did everything I could on the last lap and made it into the top ten - 8th place over all.

The most frustrating thing was I went faster in those last three or four laps than anyone else. I just know I would have been top three. But that is racing for you. A tough end to the season but a good one. I definitely felt fit and strong. Next year things can only get better! For now, two weeks of rest and soft pedalling before starting the hard work of winter training.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

4th and DNF at CCCX finals by Matthew Sloan

35+ 3/4s and 35+ 1/2/3s  

Masters 35+ 3/4s

CCCX went back to the old finish today. Early in the season, I didn't have luck with this finish. A summer of racing made me confident of a better result.

Tactically, I raced an almost perfect race. I didn't burn matches and I knew who the competition was. There were a couple of attacks but even racers' own teammates seemed to pull them back - par for the course with 3/4s. Race tactics play out more in the higher categories, in my limited experience.

I felt strong on the hills. When there was a break, I would take the 2nd or 3rd wheel coming past me to be pulled back on.

This race all comes down to the final turn. If you aren't well positioned - "forget about it!" I was 3rd going into the last turn. The winner of the last three CCCX 35+ 3/4s was second. He gained a spot, I lost one! However, I was really happy with the result and I have the t-shirt to prove it! My legs felt really good. On the downhill section I found myself pulling back a bit so as not to go into first place. Next year when I race this course, I will try a flyer at that point. Hopefully, I will gain a gap and hold onto it for the finish. But this year, well, 4th felt good today!

One terribly unfortunate thing happened during the last part of a race. Three racers were involved in an accident. One had to be air lifted out, another broke his collar bone. This put a bit of a downer on the race. Let's hope they are back on their bikes shortly. It took 50 minutes for the course to clear. By that time even with some rolling around, my legs felt stiff. I started the 35+ 1/2/3s but lost touch early on. Not wanting to time trial for another half hour or so, I called it a day. Definitely, better luck next year!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2014 USA Cycling Masters National Championship - Stefano Profumo, 35-39 Cat 1-2-3

Yesterday I raced the 35-39 cat 1/2/3 at USA Cycling nationals in Ogden. Field of about 50 riders from all over the country. The course started with a 6% 1 mile climb, followed by a long 6 mile descent, then 3 laps around a reservoir (totally flat) and two final 6-7% climbs, 3 miles each with a technical 1 mile descent between the two final climbs, for a total of 97 km, almost exactly 60 miles.

I had the impression that the field was quite strong. No breaks were allowed until the very end of the flat laps around the reservoir, when somebody took off and nobody wanted to chase as we were approaching the last climb (despite having a minute and 10" on us at the base of the climb he got caught almost immediately). There was one scary crash, but overall just a fast paced (26-27 mph average) pack in the flats, with the expected uninterrupted series of attacks and lulls. I wasted some energy to my nervousness riding in a fast, tight pack (hands constantly on the breaks) but felt like I saved energy as much as possible.

I was constantly keeping an eye on the two NCNCA guys in the field I knew (and ranked # 1 and 2 in the field based on USACycling points): Cottell (the 2014 road and TT district champ, this year winner of the Cascade classic stage race, Hamilton, Berkeley Hills, Wente...) and Dapice (a skinny climber who had just taken second in the P12 at Challenge, and who had given me more than one minute in the Diablo hill climb TT...). Cottell attacked hard right before the final climbs, but got caught. I positioned myself quite well at the base of the climb (3-5 wheel), and we went really hard for the first mile, blowing the field apart immediately.

At the end of the first climb I was still solidly in the top 5, in a pack of about 10. Somebody attacked hard, and I hesitated to follow amd kept riding steady, thinking that with the second final long climb it would have been dangerous to red line at that point. Big mistake. The leaders settled in a pace close to mine, but I could not close the 30" gap. The wind got stronger and stronger, and drafting was a big factor, so I definitely should have dug deeper and stayed with the leaders. Ah well. Too bad somebody passed me inside the last km, and  snatched the last top 10 slot, putting me in 11th place, within 2 minutes of the winner. Dapice finished in the lead group, 6th, while I gapped Cottell, who finished about a minute behind me.

Overall, great racing experience. First RR with full road closure, which made a big difference on the descents, where I was feeling surprisingly very confident. The race really was about not leaving anybody break away, and the final climbs, but there was extra spice (e.g. the first hard climbing mile). Very well run event, and it was a blessing to have Jim around, who fixed a major issue with my crank arm before the start and gave a thorough check up to my bike.


Jim helping me with a key issue in the crank arm, and with a final thorough bike check-up.

The start/finish line

The leaders' group approaching the finish line

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NCNCA Masters State (District) Criterium Championships, 8/31/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

Though I had not even finished the championship road race at San Ardo, two weeks earlier, I had done quite well in the first lap. So I was confident I'd be able to do well in the championship criterium, in the 50-54 age group.

The crit was just 50 minutes long, on the usual flat, four-corner course in a business area of Pleasanton, so about the same as one lap at San Ardo, minus the  hills. Plus, I had an extra two weeks of training to target it (still not nearly enough). My coach, Jeff Solt, did his best to accommodate my crazy plan to line up against 35 guys who train for this stuff.

Margaret went with me to the race; what a cool woman! She cheered from the side on every lap, whether I was off the front or drafting at the back. And I did a lot of both. I was alone in the race so it was really up to me to make sure no breaks got away. We did chase down all the early breaks, but it was draining. I was happy with how I felt, though I had to be careful not to work too hard, as I'd need some reserves for the finish. 

With a few laps to go two guys broke away, but I kept an eye on them and later saw that one of the guys drifted back into the pack; I think it was Dan Smith or Don Langley (Morgan Stanley). I couldn't tell if anyone else was still ahead, but when our pace slowed I thought we'd caught them. 

It turned out Daniel Shore was still off the front, and he won, solo. In the meantime, on the last lap, I was stuck behind some wildly gyrating riders on the back straight who almost took out several guys. As a result I could only safely move forward on the straight before the last turn. I did that, but as I tried to sprint to the finish line I was forced up against the curb by a rider from SJBC. I had to slow, and had to settle for 12th place

My biggest mistake was to not be further forward before the back straight, though, again, I had to be careful to keep some reserves and doing that might have drained them. It's hard to judge how hard to work while still being fresh enough for a final sprint. You have to trade off some energy for a good position.

Drafting a bit, in my blue aero helmet (photo by Mike).
Oh well, I really wanted to win a State Championship jersey. Though I got one already it's a very humble one in track team sprints... nowhere near as prestigious. At least I rode pretty well, and had a really nice lunch afterward, with our friend, Carole, joining us! 

Next year I will still be focused on track sprints. Ciao! 

NCNCA Masters State (District) Road Race Championships, 8/16/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

DNF. Oh well, no big surprise though. I'd done well at San Ardo in the past, but my entire season has revolved around training for track sprints; races usually under one minute. So this 63-mile road race (three laps) would be tough for me, despite lacking any major climbs. I'd hoped to race for teammates in the 50-54 age group, but in the end it was just me and Detlef against 29 others.

Exactly at the end of the neutral rollout, literally right by the sign, Hunter Zeising and Dirk Himley (Hammer Nutrition) attacked. I knew to expect that and was right behind them, so I followed and caught on (nobody can accuse me of not being able to predict some things in races anymore!), then everyone else caught on too.

The next 10 miles they took turns attacking until Dirk broke away by himself. I took a few pulls to close the gap, but the others decided to let him remain 20 seconds ahead, thinking he wouldn't last. Last year's road champion was one of those saying that. I was having a hard time just holding their wheels at times, so I was not sure what to think of that plan. And I know well that Dirk is a beast.

On the second lap, on the longest climb, we were flying uphill in single file, then I blew up just a few feet before the top of the hill and a gap opened that I couldn't close. I finished the second lap, but my hips, feet and triceps were hurting, so I stopped. Turns out Detlef got dropped later that same lap, so I guess it must have been fast.

Dirk won, solo; I guess they underestimated him. I had hoped the pace would be slow, since the lack of big teams usually has that effect. But Hunter and Dirk worked together really well. Dirk going solo for 2.5 hours is amazing. So I rode hard for 2:07 (I think our first lap was about 0:58, and my second lap about 1:09), and I think it was nice prep for State crits two weeks later.

Monday, September 1, 2014

District Crit Champs - 40 - 44, Sunday, August 31st and San Francisco Giro - Masters 35+ 1/2/3s, Monday, September 1st By Matthew Sloan

"Scottie, we need more power!"

The Masters' district criterium championships were held on a flat, fast-over 30 mph at times, four corner course in Pleasanton. Its sweeping turns could safely be taken at full speed. 

There were a couple of early breakaways. I worked hard to get on one, but unfortunately, it didn't stick. Only Mike's Bikes were well represented, six or seven in all,  so without them in the break, nothing stuck. In hindsight, I did too much work bridging up to what I thought were breaks in the field. Once we got into the strong wind on the second and third straights, the field would slow up and everything would come together. A few wasted efforts on my behalf.

On the last lap Michael Jacques took a flyer. The peloton strung out. It slowed a touch in the back straight. Taking the right gutter, I went hard to get up the field. Unfortunately, I got a little boxed in. As the field sped up on the outside left of the second to last turn, I was caught on the inside. I left myself too much to do to place well but I was happy to come in on the back of the main group. I was hoping to get top twenty but managed to get 21st. I was 4th cat. 3. Dean Laberge, a national champion, won. No surprise to anyone who was in the know. I was a little disappointed until I thought about how far I had come in a year: Santa Cruz to Pleasanton - 60 miles!

Giro di San Francisco
This was an interesting, fun course. A bit of a downhill chicane-with a left hand, then right hand bumpy turn-after the start, then a 90˚ turn, into a slight-take the sting out of the legs-hill with a 90˚ turn at the top, into a long downhill stretch that flowed, into a 90˚ downhill turn, into a short downhill stretch, into another 90˚ turn, into a slightly uphill finishing straight.

I had fun in this race. There were quite a few attacks throughout but nothing stuck. Again, Mike's Bikes were well represented.  

Early on in the race, two Mike's Bikes riders were off the front with a couple of strong riders. I worked hard to bridge up. The tough thing for me was the break never got going. The two Mike's Bikes riders, who I thought would be up for it, didn't do much. After about a half lap of bridging up and a half lap of being in the break, we were caught. I felt pretty tapped, as one says, so I sat in, ate some energy gels, and recovered. I made one attack a couple of laps later but in vain. Again, I sat in and recovered. 

With three to go the field slowed. "A fine time to attack!" My friend from Mike's Bikes, John Funke, thought the same. I got energized thinking I had someone to work with. Unfortunately, John only had the gas to attack. His plan was to get caught and have another of his team mates attack the field. As we got over the hill, I left him. I was out in front for a lap, working as hard as I could, but a hungry peloton speedily ate up the gap! I was, as they say in England, creamed-cream crackered-knackered! It had been fun to have the crowd screaming me on to succeed but I just didn't have it: "We need more power, Scottie!"

A good weekend of racing, and a good lesson learned - I need more power, five to ten percent, please.  I am going to finish off the season with the Oakland crit. Unfortunately, I will miss CCCX next weekend. But I will definitely be focusing on power, power, power, and speed for these last three weeks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CCCX Final XC, #9, Fort Ord, 8/23/2014

By Mark Giblin

I had a great weekend in my small world of racing, I won my final series race at the CCCX- XC (cat 3) age group Saturday. I also won the series which was 9 races total, starting in February. The breakdown was 3 first place finishes, 4 - second places, 1 third place and 1 sixth place, ( I know, I was tired, over trained, did not have a good day on the 6th place finish).

To say the least I was a little stressed going into the last race series because it was double points and you have to finish, I only needed 5th place or better but I was more worried about a breakdown or crash. That being said, I was on my last lap leading and about 1 mile from the line (on the same down hill section where my closest competitor broke his collar bone and two ribs on race number 5) and a 15 year old Junior (racing for 8th place +/-) rider past me by where there was nothing but 6" of beach sand and bump my handle bars pushing me further into a bad line. I used my Jim Langley voice (without swearing) and explained to him that I did not appreciate that and that he should wait 20 yards for the opening next time.....he apologized.

The end result is that I won by 2 seconds.

I would like to thank Mark E. for continuously putting the work outs together and the motivation/encouragement throughout the year. I would also like to thank Scott, Jim, George & Matt for keeping me honest on the workouts and pushing me hard.

Thanks for a great season,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Downside of Drafting - USAT Olympic Distance Nationals, Milwaukee, Aug 9

Downside of Drafting - Not my best distance, but finishing top 25 qualifies me for ITU Worlds, held for the first time in 15 years back in the US (Chicago) for 2015.  My bike and run made up for a middle-of-the-pack swim and I easily qualified BUT for a drafting penalty.  USAT gives you 15 seconds to  stay out of a 3-bike length draft zone to complete a pass.  My counting was off,  I was clocked at 18 seconds for one overtake.  My 2 minute penalty dropped me to 26th place.  Chances are I'll still get to go to Chicago, just one qualifier has to turn down his slot, but this hurt.  Lesson learned, and fingers crossed I'll make it to Worlds 2015.  So all that time I gained sporting the new Spokesman team tri-suit didn't do me any good.  Next time.  Fortunately I'm solid for 2015 Worlds and a slot of the USAT Team for my stronger distance, 1/2 Ironman, and have tickets to Sweden next June.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ADA Tour de Cure, 6/8/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

Me and "Fast" Freddie on the "Champions" ride.
This was my 8th year of riding in this fund-raiser for the American Diabetes Association. Wow, time flies! Cycling tends to be a very ego-centric activity, so for me this is a great way to use my love of cycling to give back. I am lucky I don't have a personal connection to diabetes, but every year I'm glad I registered for this ride.

This year I encouraged Bill Kacmarsky to formally be my co-Captain on the HP Tour de Cure team, and gladly he accepted. He's always been our top fund-raiser, and this year was no different; Bill raised an amazing $3,087.00, I think a record for him! I was very fortunate too, as I have so many generous friends, family and co-workers; I raised an impressive $1,140.00, thanks! As a team, HP raised $9,795.72 toward our $10,000.00 goal, still short of the last three years for some reason (I will have to work on big changes for next year!).

If you haven't yet, you can still donate:  Click here!

One nice perk this year were the amazing HP Cycling clothing options we have, thanks to Phil Wandrey (based in Nebraska), who is strongly active in HP Cycling. These clothes are available on a year-round basis, so feel free to visit the HP Cycling online store.

Because we both raised over $1,000, Bill and I also qualified to attend the ADA's "Champions Celebration" on 5/29, before the big ride. Bill also works extra duty to help ADA organize this event. It was at beautiful Silver Creek Country Club in San Jose, and I joined the optional group ride with Pro racer "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez, up San Felipe Road, east of San Jose. Not sure if it's my shifted training focus (toward track sprints), or if they intentionally went harder than last year, but it was hard trying to keep up with them on the hard climb on the way back, and I see from my Strava records that we were 1 minute faster there! The dinner, with drinks, was very welcome, and inspiring!

The day of the ride it was gray in Santa Cruz when I woke up at 4:00 am, and I loaded my bike and stuff onto my car. But it cleared up as I neared Palo Alto and the forecast was hot. After a couple cups of coffee I was good to go and met some of my HP teammates for the 6:15 am start. A new addition to our team this year is "Frerk" Malte Feller, who heads up the HP online store site; welcome! Like last year, Fast Freddie talked a bit before the start, as did Richard Allejandro and Allyson Schloming of ADA.

Pescadero countryside.
This year the route was changed along the first section, so we rode north on Alameda de las Pulgas, then west on Alpine Road, and then onto Portola Road. This is much safer, as we have far less traffic here in the morning, rather than riding that section later in the ride as in previous years.

Because of my new training I was very focused on not riding too hard, and, judging from how many people passed me on the hills, I succeeded! Kings Mountain Road was our first big climb and I just tried to enjoy the view; it was nice and clear to the east, looking over the valley far below with the sunrise shining over a slight haze. Malte turned out to be a strong rider and had no trouble scooting up the hill ahead of me! The rest station at the top, on Skyline Boulevard, was my first food of the day, as I'm trying not to overeat. Malte took off ahead of me and I ended up riding alone along Skyline at a comfortable pace.

Me, Scott and Malte, at Pescadero.
I had brought my vest, as I know from the past that the rip-roaring descent down Highway 84, from Summit Boulevard, can be very chilly. Even though it was sunny past the summit there were still some pockets of intense cold, so I was glad I had it on. When I turned onto Pescadero Road it warmed up a bit, and while the weather in Pescadero was quite nice, it was still a bit chilly as I stopped there for another rest station break, and a photo op with the HP'ers there.

I really like Stage Road, north from Pescadero, and the historic San Gregorio Market where it intersects Highway 84. After a short ride on Highway 1, above the Pacific Ocean's cliffs, I turned onto Tunitas Creek Road, where there was another rest station, at the Bike Hut. Very cute place. Tunitas Creek is really steep and long, though, and I had no intention of trying to set any records. Instead I enjoyed the gorgeous redwood forest.

Historic San Gregorio.
Me, on Tunitas Creek's steep climb.
After a brief stop at the top of Tunitas, at Skyline, I was ready for a super-fast descent down Kings Mountain Road, into the heat of the valley. It turned out to be over 90 degrees, and it sure was a change form the chilly morning along the coast. And it was nice to return along Portola Road, instead of on Alameda de las Pulgas as in previous years. This new route is safer, and cooler in the afternoon. I was happy to cross the finish line, to the cheers of volunteers, back at HP in Palo Alto.

Fast Freddie and me... and lunch!
A few of us met at the usual HP awning on the HP campus' lawn, and enjoyed the music (some quite good!) and yummy food. This year, for the first time, I also got a massage! In the past I have always skipped that because there was always a long waiting line for them. But this year they had more volunteer masseuses, plus a special short waiting line for Champions; another great reason to raise more money for the cause!

It was 98 to 101 degrees as I drove off, but all I could think of was that I am very lucky to have such generous supporters... but also that I need to help the HP team do better next year. I have asked Malte if he can help, and I'm happy to say he accepted! So I'm optimistic about our team's outlook for 2015!

Thanks again!

Monday, June 30, 2014

CCCX 35+ 1/2/3s, Saturday, June 28th by Matthew Sloan

This was my best race by far on the CCCX circuit course. Not for the result but for the racing itself. I drove down with David Allen and his teammate and old friend, John Funke. John Funke, a former elite cyclocross racer (he nearly won nationals one year but was beaten by the flu!), advised me to race aggressively, so, I did!

I got into the first break with Kyle Glerum from Safeway but we were soon eaten up by the Peloton.  Nick Theobold from Safeway attacked when the Peloton bridged up. This was the winning break. I felt it would be. I attacked to bridge up but just didn't quite have it after my previous efforts. Stefano tried to bridge up too; however, even working together we didn't make it. I consciously dropped off the pace allowing myself to get caught by the second group. There were seven off the front in the break. When they started to get into a pace line, we just couldn't match their combined effort.

At first, some of the riders in the peloton worked to bring the break back. After a while, however, the group resigned itself to racing for what would become 6th place. On the second to last lap, with nobody wanting to pull up the rollers into the wind, a voice in my head cried out: "I paid $40 for this!" From the back of the peloton, I put my foot down on one of downhills, I used my momentum to sprint up the uphill. I went scorching down the main downhill to get clear of the peloton. At the very least, I wanted someone to have to make the effort to catch me. I was hoping David Allen or John Funke would bridge up and help bring back the break. Someone made an effort to bridge up to me but the peloton came with them. It was fun to be solo for just over half a lap. I eased up on the long hill and fell in behind the main group. My thought was, "let's rest up and practice my sprint." Even with the race finishing after the rollers, it is still a power finish.

With a half a lap remaining you would have thought we were out on a Sunday coffee ride. At that moment Michael Holt attacked hard. Apparently, he doesn't have a great sprint. Everyone perked up and rose to the occasion. Stefano went to the front on the rollers but didn't get away. It turned into a pack sprint. I chose a bad line on the right, I had to slow up as a rider drifted into my line. I only managed 5th in our group - 10th overall. If I had stayed on David Allen's wheel I would have got 2nd in our group. Never mind, better luck next time. Even though my finish didn't go perfectly, I have to say I really like where the race finishes now. It feels a lot safer!

I will be racing RedKite criterium this coming Sunday. I raced Burlingame last Sunday, 22nd but it didn't go well for me with the hairpin turn. Too much stopping and starting. Next Sunday I would love to podium! We'll see.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sierra Historic Omnium June 14th & 15th by Matthew Sloan

Bite off more than you can chew and, suffer!

Saturday, 14th Folsom Criterium

Unfortunately, instead of being the downtown crit as advertised it was a weird business park crit. An out and back course with a roundabout at one end and a slight down hill hairpin turn on the other - nasty! I signed up for the E3/4s omnium which would include the Folsom Crit and the Nevada City Crit on the Sunday; and the 35+ 1/2/3s crit.

I drove up with David Allen and a couple of his teammates from San Francisco. I arrived with plenty of time to warm-up and ready myself for the 3/4s. We went off at a cracking, good pace. Due to the hairpin, wind, and roundabout it was very difficult to move up. With 7 to go I was able to start my move to the front. I finally felt good about the race - confident of a good placing. We came to the hairpin with about 5 to go. I came around sharply on the inside and sprinted hard to get to the front. As I passed a younger rider on my right, he suddenly moved into me. His handlebars caught on my thigh. He was thrown to the right, he then whipped behind me, hit my rear wheel, and went down. Amazingly, I didn't go down but a few people behind me did. Unfortunately, I ended up at the back of the peloton and didn't recover my position. The crash really wiped me out. David Allen told me I should have tried to take a free lap. Next time I will. It was really hard to focus and get back on after the crash. However, I soldiered on to the finish.

At 2:35 pm I competed with the 35+ 1/2/3s. The pace was slower to begin with, but boy did it hot up pretty quickly. I struggled to keep with the main group but I made it. I even took a shot at a breakaway with another rider but we were caught pretty sharpish. Folsom bikes were keeping the pressure on. They had a number of riders including two national champions. They were definitely out for victory. It was a hell of 50 minutes of sprinting from one end of the course to the other as we came to a virtual standstill due to the hairpin and roundabout. At the finish I did well to come in the top 20 perhaps 15, I have yet to see the results. However, I know that I beat a few cat. 1s and came behind a couple of national champions!

Sunday, 15th Nevada City Classic

This had the best atmosphere for a race I have experienced so far this year. There are people on every part of the course cheering the riders on. Regardless of whether you think you could do well here or not, I definitely think this is one race that is worth experiencing. Even though it is advertised as a criterium, being 1.1 miles long it feels like a mini circuit race. It is a course that favors climbers. Many of our climbers would do well at this event. The course stair-steps up to the top for about a 2/3 of a mile climb then sweeps fast down to the finish. After the start/finish, there is a long sweeping bend that takes you back into the stair stepping climb. 

I wanted to be on the front at the start knowing I would have trouble keeping up with the climbers. Unfortunately, due to a crash in the race before ours we were waiting on the sides for a while. During this time riders were sneaking into place. I ended up two or three back from the start line in a race of 70 riders. It was a hectic start. I didn't get a good one and found myself at the back of the first group. After a couple of fast and furious laps, I found my legs tiring. I just didn't have it. Frankie came past me on the climb and I urged him on. I think he ended up just a few places in front of me. I think two hard crits the day before wasn't the best preparation for this really hard race. However, the atmosphere and the need to prove myself over the course will bring me back again next year. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday, June 1st, RedKite Bump Race, Livermore by Matthew Sloan

This was a great course for me - a 7.5 mile loop with lots of nice rollers and a power sprint finish - up the bump! I couldn't have planned a better race tactically. After yesterday's efforts, I sat in on the main group doing as little work as possible. We were going hard enough that the race was split into two groups. There were a couple of attempts at breaks off the first group but they were swiftly brought back in.

On the last lap, I made sure I got to the front on fastest decent before the long, gentle climb to the top of the course. I tucked down and sped swiftly past the pack, including guys who were pedaling hard. Ah, the beauty of an aero tuck and a few pounds. I knew that riders would think I was making a move and ride to keep on my wheel or get past me. As soon as someone went past, I got on their wheel. Team Thirsty Bear were on the front putting on a good pace to lead out the eventual winner, Corey Scobie. I sat in about four places back. The pace steadily increased on the long, gentle climb towards the finish. I kept in a good spot knowing I would have to be in the top five into the last turn to have any chance of making the podium. With the centre line rule being enforced there wouldn't be much room to maneuver.

I came into the last corner hard in 4th/5th place. I got out of the seat and attacked following the example of Thirsty Bear Rider, Corey Scobie. I tried my best to get past the second place rider but I had chosen too hard a gear. I changed down and held on strongly for 3rd. A good race, with a respectable finish.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Two Weekends of Racing By Matthew Sloan

Sunday, May 25th, Mt. Hamilton Classic

In my opinion, this is a brutal race! The biggest lesson I learned is: make sure you are warm for the start! I started like I was ready for our first interval on a Wednesday, the Elite 3 young bucks went off like it was our 3rd. My legs just weren't ready. I got dropped early on and only warmed up after 20 mins. I caught quite a few riders on the way to Livermore. But the long climb to begin just wasn't suited to a bigger rider like myself.

I worked with Eddie's friend from the UCSC team - Reggie, until he tired, leaving me to time trial most of the way on my own. Definitely a day to put down to experience. Would I do it again? Mmm...

Monday, May 26th, Memorial Day Criterium, Morgan Hill

This was a fun day of crit racing. I did the 35+ 3/4s at 10:45. It was a pretty inconsistent pace. Lots of slowing into the wind. There were a couple of attempts at breakaways but nothing stuck. I was pretty well placed going into the second to last turn but got boxed in going toward the final turn. Unfortunately, I rider clipped his pedal and went down. Another rider took the corner too fast on the dusty inner part and went down, also. The crashes pushed cyclists to the outside curb and more cyclists went down. It was really dicey for a moment or two. I sat up and cruised in safely and still managed a decent eighth place.

Saturday, May 31st, Dash for Cash, Pleasanton

I drove up with my friend David Allen of Mike's Bikes. It was a very easy race to get to, straight off 580. A basic four corner business park crit with nice wide roads and one small chicane. I started the day with the 35+ 1/2/3s. I wanted to do well in the race and hang in there with the "big boys!" With $10 primes on every lap it was a fast race with plenty of attacks. With five Mike's Bikes riders in the race they were the ones to watch.

David attacked early trying to bridge up to a rider who had gone solo for a couple of laps building up his prime dollars. I jumped straight on his wheel. We worked together to try and bridge up to the solo breakaway rider. Just before we made it, a couple from the pack bridged to us. I was hoping we would become a five man breakaway but unfortunately the pack was close behind and swallowed us up.

I hung back for a few laps, sitting in and recovering for another go at it. With about four to go, I began moving up. A Mike's Bike rider went to the front bridging up to a solo prime rider who was working hard to get away. I came through the final bend hard and won a prime lap. I turned to see I was way off the front. I sat down and gave it all I had to try and stay away. Coming again into the second to last lap, I was caught by the field. I held on in the peloton and came in with the main bunch but off the sprint. Still, a great race.

At 3:35 p.m. I took part in the 35+3/4s. Due to the prime laps it was quite a good pace with riders going off the front to win their $10 primes. I was sitting back thinking about resting to hopefully win the race. About four laps in, I got a bit impatient with the erratic pace and took off in the straight before the final corner. I was quite a way out in front. One rider, James Yuan, came hot on my tail and snuck the prime. But there we were, way ahead of the peloton. We spoke to each other and took it on. For eight laps we were out in front taking turns on pulls and primes. James started to tire a bit so I pulled a little more. With 3 laps to go, unfortunately, we were caught. I sat in as best I could trying to muster up some energy for a sprint.

It was a bit of a jumble going into the last turn because the pace hadn't been fast enough leading into it. I was pretty well placed. I got out of the saddle and went for it. Unfortunately, my legs were aching so I had to sit back down. I sprinted seated for ten to twenty meters or so, got back out of the saddle, and came in a decent sixth.

My winnings for the day: $50 (cash) $15 gift certificate, water bottle, hammer nutrition, and best and most rewarding of all - a Cycles Gladiator cap with the flying woman with long golden hair with bike image on it - for most aggressive rider in  the 3/4s. Now that prize is something I will treasure, at least my wife will, I think she already has her eye on it.

Tomorrow, the RedKite Bump race in Livermore - "Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more!!!"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Best Weekend of Cycling - Bicycling Magazine Spring Classic & Red Kite Criterium by Matthew Sloan

Saturday, May 10th - Bicycling Spring Classic

On Saturday my wife and I drove over to Morgan Hill for the Bicycling Magazine/Specialized Spring Classic. It was a great event. They had a choice of three distances: 90 miles, 60 miles, & 25 miles. I chose the 90 miles, my wife, Colette, the 60. The whole event was well attended with close to 700 riders. The rides circled the hills and flats around Morgan Hill. They included segments of the infamous Specialized Lunch Time Rides.

I entered the fondo because I had felt a little run down and burnt from racing. I thought the change of pace and scenery would do me good. Plus, it was an event my wife could enjoy too. Fortunately, on the day I was feeling up for a fast pace. Due to the number of good riders it was probably as fast, if not faster than a race because everyone was willing to work together. It was the best training ride I have ever been on. Overall it took us 4 1/4 hours. Riding time was probably around four. The 90 miler included 3 timed KOMs at 30m, 69m, & 80m.

We started at 8 o'clock at a cracking pace. The group started to split up as we powered into the first timed climb. I did pretty well but felt inhibited not knowing the climb and the finish. This was also true for the latter climbs. They were still fun. I did my best to stay with the fastest climbers which included the legendary, Ned Overend. I was a bit behind as we descended but we regrouped at the first feeding station. A group of ten of us left together and pretty much stayed together for most of the ride.

We formed a pace line on the flats. Taking it in turns, we grinded out a good speed against and with the powerful wind. At one point, I could see myself and the rider in front of me leaning, at quite an angle, into the cross wind. My friend, Andrew, told me at one point whilst in the pack, he looked down to see that he was generating 400 watts at a speed of 35 mph, it was fast! On the decent after the second climb, we turned onto a long stretch of road with the wind at our backs. Ned Overend put in a good burst and gapped the group. Nobody seemed to want to chase him down. I went to the front and slowly edged toward him. I didn't want to completely blow it because the final climb was coming up. A couple of other younger guys helped out and we bridged up to him. It was so impressive - 58 years old and still blowing the young guys away!

Unfortunately, on the last and longest climb, I got dropped by a few seconds. I did my best to get them back on the downhill but I couldn't do it. I had about eight miles to go on my own. I surprised myself with how good I felt. I got down as low as I could and powered hard, willing myself to catch up. Fortunately, with less than a mile to go a red light intervened and gave me what I needed. I caught up and finished just behind Sean Estes and Ned Overend.

After my wife and I had finished our rides, we enjoyed the festivities. We had two meal tickets, a soft drink ticket, and two tickets for a pint of Lagunitas IPA, each! There were four food carts to choose from, and a yogurt stand. The Specialized Museum and wind tunnel were open. The museum included two of Ned Overend's winning mountain bikes. There was a fitting exhibition and exhibitions from local vendors. It was a marvelous day!

The biggest surprise came on Monday when the results for the KOMs were posted online. I was 6th overall. Specialized employees aren't allowed to accept prizes from the event so I got the 2nd place prize of an S-works Prevail helmet.

Sunday, May 21st - Red Kite Criterium, Livermore

David Allen, whom some of you have met on Wednesday, invited me to join him in the Masters 35+ 1/2/3s. Fortunately, I replied yes before I had done the 90 miles. He advised me to enter the Open 2/3s too - "It's great speed training to do two crits back to back!" Amen to that, David!

We arrived in Livermore got our numbers and warmed up. My legs felt okay, warming up! This was to be my first race as a 3. I was exited and a little anxious. About 30 of us lined up for the start. David had advised me to sit in between 10th and 15th place. He added that if I felt good with 5 to go I should make a move then. "Fat chance of that," I thought.

The whistle blew, away we went! The pace was fast, consistently faster than my dear old fours, much faster! A break of about six got away after a few laps. The biggest teams in the race were well represented so didn't want to work. However, the pace was kept very fast with David and another couple of riders working to pull them back. The pace was strong enough that people were dropping off the back. We ended up being a group of 9. I would have helped out trying to pull the breakaway back but didn't know if I would have the energy to stay in it. With six laps to go, I realized I was feeling pretty good. As we went into the back stretch, the pace slowed. I made a hard effort and powered to the front. I dropped everyone but only stayed ahead for about half a lap. I had the strength for a bit of a go, but not enough to really make something stick.

The breakaway stuck. I ended up finishing with the main group. Although I didn't have the finish in the last 400 meters, I felt really happy with the result. I had hung in their with the big boys and even had a go. Our average speed was 27mph. This gave me a lot of confidence for my next venture with the big boys!

The Open 2/3s was slower - an average of 25mph. I sat in at the back drafting and resting until about 8 laps to go. I then moved up and made a few attacks, I felt good. The only mistake I made was not going with a guy who I saw gearing up for a move. He ended up finishing in the top five and I could so easily have been with him. In the final surge, I got boxed-in. I ended up finishing with the pack but I felt content with the race and confident for my future races in this category.

No podiums, not much glory, but what a great weekend of cycling. I really enjoyed it. It was a kind of prologue into the next stage of my racing career.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cat's Hill Classic: Last Race as a 35+ 4 by Matthew Sloan

Oh, how I wanted to win this one. Go out with a "bang" so to speak. Unfortunately, I didn't get my wish but I had a great time, on a great course, in a great race.

Having watched my friend race in the 35+ 1/2/3s last year, I felt trepidation about confronting the dreaded Cat's Hill. It loomed large in my imagination like some dreaded beast from a fable. However, I am discovering that each rider faces the same obstacles in a race. So even though Cat's Hill is hard, it is hard on everyone. Being a power rider could even be an advantage because the hill is not long enough for the pure climbers to get going.

The course is wonderful, really fun. The start/finish is on a long, straight segment of road. The race gently rises from the start with a 90˚ right turn after about 150m. Another 90˚ right turn after 75m takes you toward Cat's Hill. A 90˚ left takes you into the paws of the beast. The best approach for the hill is to come from the right side of the street, making sure of a clear line, and keeping as much momentum going into the hill as possible. The best place to attack is through the top of Cat's Hill and the gentle rise that comes 20/30m after cresting its top. This is where the eventual winner of our race made his triumphant attack.

After cresting the top of the hill, the road rises, falls, and gently drifts right. Here, there is another slight hill on a 90˚ turn. Once cresting this rise there is a gentle decent on one side of a park. After about 150m you come to a 90˚ turn that takes you into a steeper, but still gentle decent towards the final 90˚ right turn back to the finish. The finish is slightly down hill.

The race started with a bang! Well, a whistle, but the front line of riders reacted aggressively. I was in the last third of the peloton because the rider in front of me slowed dramatically as he struggled to get his shoe clipped in. I allowed myself to be patient. Cat's Hill worked its magic and the group settled after about three laps, allowing me to move up towards the front. I felt good, surprised at how easily I could move past people on the hill.

The pace was kept fast at all points of the race. It only slowed after a couple of the prime laps and with four laps to go. Frustratingly, a few riders would drift out of their line on the hill and some corners. My voice blew hard when confronted by these dangerous riders. As riders got fatigued their attention lagged. Fortunately, we had no casualties.

On the first of four primes, I found myself feeling really strong, two or three back from the front. On the downhill section before the final turn, I put the pedal down. I was clear in front and easily won the prime. This is what I need to do at the finish I thought, push hard down the hill and take my momentum into the final sprint. If only I had remembered this thought more clearly at the finish.

I pushed on a bit after the finish, hoping to gap the peloton, but a couple of riders were immediately onto me. This was a strong group. On the eighth lap prime, I found myself in a similar position. Sean Estes, he beat me for second at Wente, was on the front. I bridged up to his wheel and pipped him for the prime. Two primes, this was fun! Sean was urging me to go hard, to try and string the group out. I went for a couple of turns, looked back and saw everyone just being pulled in my draft. I sat up and let him take over. I wanted to conserve and regain some energy - two primes and the hill was hard on the legs. After the hill, I settled into the pack. Time to relax for a few laps.

I realized that you could go easier up Cat's Hill, lose a couple or few spots, but gain them on the rest of the lap. Cat's Hill is also a good place to move up through the peloton. It's like a hitting a wall and ten yards can be reduced to five in an instant.

With three laps to go the pace really started to hot up. I made sure I was in the top ten. With two to go, Kevin, a Wente rider I raced in Copperopolis and the Wente crit, went hard on the front. I made sure to keep close and made way into the top five. I felt I should hold this position on the last lap and make my move into the last corner. This was my mistake. A Roaring Mouse rider led up Cat's Hill. He went really hard over the top. I was too far back to respond directly. He gapped us all, powering down the hill to first place. This was his first move of the race. Tactically, he timed it to perfection. I found myself responding to the 2nd and 3rd place riders.

This was where I made the mistake that cost me a podium place. After our final ascent of Cat's Hill, we were all chasing the Roaring Mouse - playing a good game of cat and mouse! My legs were tired but I was gaining on 3rd place rider Sean Estes. On the final decent before the final turn, the 2nd and 3rd guys slowed a bit. I slowed too thinking I should recover a touch and out sprint them after the final turn. What I should have done at that moment, was use my momentum to go past them instead of slowing in behind them. Basically, we held our positions from the corner across the finish line despite my well timed and executed lunge. I missed 3rd by a couple of inches, very frustrating! However, for placing fourth and winning two primes, I won three bottles of wine, a t-shirt, and a fifteen dollar gift certificate to a sports store - not bad! If you had told me last year that in one year's time I would place fourth in the fours at Cat's Hill and win two primes, I would have responded: "Fourth place? No way! And what's a prime?!"

In my last race as a cat. 4, I came 4th. Seems like a fitting conclusion. My next endeavor will be the Bicycling Spring Classic fondo organized with Specialized on May 10th.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wente Vineyards Criterium 35+ 4s, 4-27-14 by Matthew Sloan

I got up early for the drive to Livermore. I felt in good spirits, ready for a good race. It only took an hour to get there - Sunday traffic.

I had a good warm-up, including a couple of laps of the course. This is a great course to learn how to race criteriums - nice wide roads with flowing corners. The race was kept at a good pace by a young looking Wente rider and the four prime laps. I sat back for most of the race, enjoying the ride, not wanting to burn any energy. I let other riders sprint for the primes but on a couple I speeded up just to test the legs. They didn't feel good, tired in fact.

I resigned myself to sitting in and saving myself for the finish. There were a couple of riders I had my eye on. I knew them from other races. No one really worried me, I picked a rider I knew would go hard and sat on his wheel. When we came into the final turn I tried to match the pace of the leading riders but I just didn't have it - my legs didn't have it. I rolled in a decent 7th. The hardest thing for the ego was losing to riders I had beaten easily in past races. The easiest thing was seeing the joy of the winner. This was his first victory. He definitely deserved it. I saw him ride unselfishly for his team mates at Chico a few weeks ago.

The Wente Vineyards team organize excellent races with great prizes. I would definitely recommend them.

Definitely, some good R&R is in order for me. I want Cat's hill to be a glorious swan song as a 4. I will definitely have to cat up after that. Cat up after Cat's hill!

BTW: The week of salads and no snacking after 7:30 worked wonders. I was safely down to 178 lbs for Wente. I hope to keep it up for this coming Saturday.

Race Report – Red Kite #4 Tempus Fugit Time Trial – Rich Gellert

Race Report – Red Kite #4 Tempus Fugit Time Trial – Rich Gellert

I had planned on doing two TT’s today. The first the M35+ 1/2/3 as a warm up and course recon and then the real race the M35+ 3/4. I was targeting a strong race this day as I had done a few TT’s already  and gotten 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in them. I had also been training on the TT bike and seen some good numbers. My form was coming along quite well and this would be a good test of where I was.

Unfortunately, exactly one week prior to today I got a mild/medium case of food poisoning my last day in Reno. I had to take 2 days off the bike. The rest of the week I could only do short slow rides and I really felt like crap. The day before the TT I went out for 2 hours and set a pretty brisk pace to open up the legs and I felt pretty decent. Not 100% but good enough to race the next day.

Sunday was predicted 30% chance of showers and cool and breezy temps. I got to the race and a light drizzle had started and temps were barely above 50. I had never done the course but form previous research it seems to be about a 500 foot climb 5.5 miles out to the turn around and back down. 11 miles total. Some windy and twisty sections as well. Last year’s top times for the P1/2 field were low 25 mins. And in my field mid 26 mins. That was my goal. 

Plan was to use the first M1/2/3 race as a warm up and to check the course and see where I could go all out and where I needed to conserve. So off I went…The climb was more difficult than my research had told me…. There were several short steep pitches and generally a long grind that would hurt bad during my actual TT effort. 

In between the warm up race and the actual race I had about 45 mins. So I popped a gel, hydrated, put my TT helmet on and went out on the course to practice the last 2 miles of the twisty downhill section. There was one corner I didn’t feel safe on the extensions. All the others were doable if you hit the apex right. One thing I have been doing the last 2 years for TT races is time my start perfectly and roll up 30-60 seconds before my designated start time. It gives me maximal warm up time and minimal time for my legs to cool down and let the nerves get worked up waiting for my start. It has worked perfectly every time….except for this time. I decided to take a quick nature break to empty my bladder and this is what cost me starting on time. As I rushed back to the start I watched my Garmin count down the minutes….I was going full bore and my heart rate was at race pace when I came up to the start tent. The guy behind me was lined up and the two officials were looking at me funny. I asked if I could go and the start lady said go go go. The rider waiting screamed out “go Rich!!!!” and off I went in a blur. I was really frustrated at myself and I’m sure this cost me some time as I tried to regain my focus. 

The 5.5 miles out were really tough. All uphill with a few steep kickers and really breezy conditions. It didn’t feel like a tail wind but more gusting from all sides. I kept my heart rate at my normal TT pace of 182-184 BPM. I recently started using a power meter so didn’t really pay attention to that but more my perceived excursion. I tried to remember to not burn too many matches on the way out as I really wanted to hammer the downhill return that suited my beer loving physique a bit more. I kept my cadence high (105-115) on the uphill section so as not to load up legs too much. 

As I looked behind me to see how far back the guy that started behind me was it dawned on me who he was. He seemed to know me as he was the one that yelled “go Rich!”. He was gaining on me and I thought that was a bit unusual as I thought I was going pretty well…even though he did start 20 seconds behind me because of my missed start. Well I realized this was Todd, the guy that took my overall GC the last stage of the Topsport  Stage race 2 weekends before.  I had a 36 second lead and thought I was totally safe for the final stage, an 11 mile TT. He destroyed me and put 1:30 into my TT time and took the overall leaving me in 2nd

At the turn around at the 5.5 mile mark he was literally 5 seconds behind me. I made the slow wet turn around fine and proceeded to absolutely bury myself on the return 5.5 miles. I didn’t look back  for the first 3 miles of the downhill and when I finally did he was at least 30-45 second back! Nice I thought keep it going. I was blazing at kept digging deeper clicking into hard gears. 200 M to go and I just crushed myself picking my watts up to 900W. 

Todd and I talked after and he was a bit surprised he didn’t catch me on the return but did admit to going a bit too hard on the way out to try and catch me there. At the end of the day I ended up 4th…even with a late start . According to my Garmin I would have placed 3rd…but I wonder if I had a smooth, non frustrated start would I have been able to make up the 18 second Todd beat me by????
Lesson learned..... Get to the start 2-3 mins before your designated time. Screw the nerves!