Sunday, March 30, 2014

Santa Cruz Criterium, Sunday, March 30th, 2014 By Matthew Sloan

Skin Corner/Road Rash U-turn

I was really looking forward to my hometown crit. I'd done some intervals on the course in the preceding weeks and I felt good about the hill finish. 

8:00 a.m. Open 4/5s
From about 7:30 the group began warming-up on the course. Due to the number of cars being towed from the course, we had plenty of time to ride loops. This gave me an opportunity to admire the lean, young, energetic bucks in the open 4/5 race.  "This is not going to be an easy one," I thought.

Yep, I was right. When we eventually set off, there were plenty of attacks and lots of fast paced racing at the front. The finish hill wasn't a problem and neither was the u-turn that comes a couple of hundred meters after the start. Everyone was slowing enough to make it safe. Until about 8 or 9 laps to go. I was on an inside line and a rider on my outside, blind to my position, turned sharply and took out my front wheel. Luckily it was a slow crash but I still had to curl up as a rider crashed into my back. I jumped up, full of adrenaline, got on my bike and rode the 3/4 of lap to the pitstop. There, I checked my bike, refastened my shoes - which had both come undone, and was allowed into the race at the back of the peloton. I quickly worked my way up to the top three but lost positioning on the last lap. (I should have worked faster down the back to keep in the first five for the final turn.) Unfortunately, I found myself in about tenth or twelfth on the final turn but worked myself up to sixth. Not bad with a crash!

9:45 a.m. 35+ 4s
Before sharing about this race, it has to be said I was late for my own birth. Well, I was a ten day over due, caesarean birth. The fact that I was born on April Fool's day says even more. Add to this, that in Britain you can only play April Fool's jokes until noon, and that my mum's doctor chose my birth time for 11:35a.m. - this truly makes me a British Fool! With my birthday coming up, today's race was truly a Foolish Birthday Gift. Okay, enough said, back to the race!

After the 4/5s I went home for a call of nature and to get my new number on, etc. I am about five to ten minutes from the start line. Before I left, the races were 15 minutes behind schedule. Also, I think my watch must have been slightly slow. Suffice to say, I arrived at the start line 40 seconds late. 1st lesson, don't ever go home, stay at the venue, and use the facilities there. 

I was so mad at myself for being late. I set off like the proverbial "bat out of hell." On each lap I cried out, "How far back am I?!" First lap - 40 seconds, second or third - 28 seconds. I was gaining on the group. I was on the rivet. Working as hard as I could without blowing it. I came to skin corner/road rash u-turn, I took it as sharply as I could. So very unfortunately, luck was not on my side, the god of fools was playing with my day, both wheels slipped out on the still damp inside line. There was nothing I could do. One moment I was up, the next, I was down, sliding to a stop. It was quite a dramatic looking crash. I jumped up but realized my race was over. I had lost too much precious time. Kicking myself for being late, for taking the corner too fast, I cycled slowly back to the start/finish, and pulled out. 

I stood and cheered on my teammates Bob and George. I probably would have done really well if I had been with them but we will never know. Bob offered to be my lead out for the final sprint. That is something I will have to look forward to for next time. I have a little bit of road rash to remind me, at least for a week or so, "take those corners easy, young man!"

Turlock Lake Road Race - Saturday March 29, 2014

Weather forecast was 100% chance of rain starting at noon and my race started at 12:35 so I was fully prepared to race in the wet. The course is fine for that as there are no high speed corners or descents. I sort of looked forward to the rain making conditions more difficult and creating more attrition. 

Last year I did Turlock in the E3/4 category with 51 other guys. The race was 3 laps and 68.4 miles. I got in a break of 8 at mile 6 and we were gone the rest of the 62 miles getting more than 3 minutes on the group at the end. I felt absolutely amazing for that race and at 1 km I attacked with another guy but ended up with a big cramp in my left hamstring with 300 m to go and finished 5th. First cramp I had ever gotten while cycling. I thought I hydrated well and kept my electrolytes topped off but nonetheless the dreaded cramp occurred and dashed my dreams of a win. 

This year I was extra motivated because of last’s years race and Turlock is a perfect course for me. Lots of small to medium rollers, wind, and generally very fast racing with a long drag uphill finis. My race preparation has also been very good this Spring. This would be my 10th race this season. Having the won the overall at Madera 3 weeks prior and getting 2nd overall at Chico last weekend my legs were ready for some hard racing. 

Last year’s E3/4 race was at noon so it was very nice to be able to drive up the morning of. This year they moved it to 8:10 am which meant we would have to sleep nearby. I have been gone way too much lately on weekends for stage races so I decided to do the Master 35+ 4/5 race at noon. It was only 2 laps or 46.8 miles. I typically do better in longer, harder races but my goal nonetheless was to win at all costs. I knew I wanted to attack and attack often or see if I can get into a good move.
We had a full field of 75 riders and there were 5 teams with over 5 riders and 2 teams with 10 riders. This didn’t really phase me as we all know typically in 4’s races teams can’t really get organized or do a whole lot to control the race. Everybody is ready to chase anything, including teams chasing their own teammates. Ideally I could get in a break with at least one member of each big team represented but this ain’t no Tour de France and there was slim chance of that getting organized. So I knew if I wanted to get in a break I would  have to form one myself or go with one that looked really promising.

Racing started off hot and heavy. There was a prime for like a bottle beer of something  6 miles in at the crest of a series of medium rollers. One dude in all yellow shot out of the cannon from the gun and went for it. We kind of chuckled and let him go. After he got a good minute up the road and didn’t look like he was slowing down the biggest team, Sacramento Golden Wheelman, began chasing. One little climber dude took off the man in yellow with about 1.5 k from the prime sprint. He made contact and the man in yellow immediately jumped again and took his bottle of beer prime… He let up, we caught him and the race continued. I was feeling super smooth at this point. Legs were telling me they were ready for action. My plan was to sit top 5 or so wheels and not relinquish my position. I didn’t like traffic. Especially not 75 4/5’s traffic.

A few miles later the strongest rider from the biggest team, again Sac Gold WM, went on the attack. Another guy jumped after him. They were building a good gap. I jumped up and road alongside the Sac Gold WM rider and asked if his team would block. He nodded yes so I went to the front and took a hard 28 mph pull into the wind trying to get our group of 3 further up the road. I wagged my elbow for one of them to pull through….nothing. I looked back and both of them were on the rivet and breathing hard and knew I didn’t have strong enough break mates to go the 38+ miles to the finish. Back to the pack.

About 10 miles later we hit a series of the largest rollers of the course. On the descent of one and before the beginning of the biggest, hardest roller of the day I blasted off the front as hard as I could go. I crested the hill and kept the hammer down. 4 dudes joined me. We had a gap and were going for it. Our group didn’t have a lot of the big teams represented and a few miles later the other teams pulled us back. That’s ok I thought, I feel fine. No worries I’ll attack again, and again until something breaks loose. I did not want to sprint with a full field of 4/5’s. I don’t have fast twitch 150m sprint muscles.

We rolled along relatively easily. There were several very short lived attacks from various dudes but each of them was brought back quickly by very enthusiastic teams. Apparently they all wanted to set their sprinters up for the grand finale. 

With about 7 miles remaining in the race we once again entered the biggest roller section of the course. Once again on the biggest roller I hit them hard. This was it I thought. This was my big move. If I didn’t shake the pack with this attack there was slim chance for victory. Once dude bridged and we were gone. We built 30 seconds quickly. Guess there were a few tired legs in the group. My break companion did not have the best legs and began fading after a few big rollers. One other very strong guy, that I remembered from previous races, came across. As we exchanged hard pulls my original companion faded backwards. It was just my new companion and I as we took the right turn onto the flats with 3 miles to go. Well, the big teams didn’t like that we were going to spoil their fun and once again chased us down. I looked back and the pack was a long strung out single file line. At least I woke them up! We slowed up and some enthusiastic racers shot by. I got on the 5th wheel that flew by me and started yelling encouragement at them. “Come on, make it hard, keep going, we got this”. I wanted to recover and get a nice tow closer to the finish. Now the big teams wanted in on the action and started moving up to set up their sprinters. I didn’t panic. I was recovering well and my legs felt ready to go again. I held my position in the top 10 or so. I got bumped and elbowed a few times but held my spot. With 700m to go the seas parted and it was all clear in front and to the left of me. There were about 10 dudes to my right setting up for the sprint. We were hauling ass at this point. A voice inside my head said “GO! GO NOW! GO HARD!” Wellll….. I didn’t go. I hesitated and wanted to wait a little longer for the sprint…which was stupid and I knew it. I had about a 3 second window to jump. Then the real sprint opened up and I got stuck in traffic and ended up top 20. I doubted myself because I had just been on the attack for about 4 miles and did a lot of very hard work. I didn’t know if I had 700m legs to hold off a very quickly charging peloton. Now I guess I will never know. I was very disappointed that I didn’t listen to that voice in my head. Perhaps if I had not gone on the attack and waited patiently and followed moves and then gone with 500 or 700m I could have had the confidence and power to pull off a cheeky move like that. But you won’t know if you don’t try.

So lesson to everyone. This is one way to read a race. Listen to the voice that tells you this is the perfect opportunity to go. Don’t doubt it. Don’t hesitate. Just go. Best you can do is win. Worse you can do is give it your all and end up somewhere in the group. Unfortunately, I’ve become so competitive lately that if I don’t win I don’t really care where I place so today was a bit of a letdown but also great fuel for the fire.  When in doubt, go for it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chico Stage Race 55+

I have thought about doing the Chico Stage Race for a couple of years, but the way it falls on the race calendar and one aspect of the road race course have always given me pause. This year, it fell in a good spot on the calendar for me, and I’m getting more into stage racing, having gotten a time trial bike this year. I had signed up a few weeks prior and made a reservation in Chico for a room on Saturday night. The week of the race, I was checking out my start time and then checking out the distance to the race, and I realized that I would need to head up there on Friday. The drive was close to 5 hours, and my road race started at 10:30 in the morning. With my waking routine, packing the car, driving and getting to the race enough before race time, I would have to get up around 2 - 2:30 in the morning on Saturday to get there in time from Watsonville. Plus, I figured I would be beat from all of the travel, effort and missed sleep. I added another night to my hotel and invited my stage race support crew to go with me. Wife, Julie, and dog, Tag, rearranged their schedules and joined me on my journey.

We chose to take the less direct route, taking San Juan Rd to Hwy 101 to Hwy 152 to I-5. Google maps called for us to go up through the bay area, but leaving at 3:20 pm on Friday, coupled with past experiences on Friday afternoon bay area freeways, led us to the I-5 route. It was longer in distance, but traffic flowed freely the whole way. The radio informed us repeatedly of tie ups and delays on the bay area roads. We got into Chico right around 8 and got checked into the Quality Inn downtown. On the advice of the hotel desk, we walked to dinner at a very good Italian restaurant (the Sicilian Inn). Tag stayed to settle in at the room and keep an eye on my race gear. On returning to the room, I checked on the next day’s race. The course was a further hour and 10 minutes away from Chico, a bit of a surprise. We made our plans and turned in.

We left with plenty of time on Saturday and were among the early arrivals at the race site. I set up my trainer to warm up, but I had sort of decided to do most of my warm up on the course. I maybe did 15 minutes of light spinning, got signed in for the race and spoke to a number of guys in my field. There were 4 teams with at least 3 riders in my field and I was on my own. I knew I would need to stay alert, because if I got caught off guard, I wouldn’t have any teammates to help me get back into the race. One of the represented teams is a new one, “3Ft - It’s the Law”. I think they only have 5 members total, but they are all cat 3 or better racers in the 55+ age group. I know there are other strong 55+ masters race teams from past Northern California race seasons, but this year, these guys are the class of our field. They can all sprint, they can all time trial, they are smart crit and road racers, and they make and execute a strategy going into each race. Plus, they race every week as a team. At Chico, they lined up with Kevin Willits (I think he may be a former pro and their chief strategist), Dave Montgomery (last year’s silver medalist in the 55 - 59 national TT, and an overall smart racer), Jonathon Laine (this was my first time racing with this very strong racer), and Doug Gonda (a very good sprinter and strong racer). My plan going into the road race as a sole independent racer, was to try and mark Willits and Montgomery. I figured that those two would be where the action was, and if I stuck with them, I would be there too.

The road race had one other component that had me feeling unsure. It was about a 45 mile race, but there is a 4.5 mile section that is gravel. That section comes about 7 miles before the finish, and I suspected that it might cause me some difficulty. I don’t have a mountain bike background, and the only time I remember going through any gravel, I got dropped by the Saturday ride guys I was with. Still, I figured I would just do my best and see how things worked out. Besides, I knew I wasn’t the only one who had some concern about the gravel section.

We lined up for our race and I was planning on warming up and using the first part to get settled. Even though guys have tried early breakaways in my prior races this year, none of those breaks were able to stick because everyone was too fresh. I expected more of the same here, but it turns out I was wrong. About 8 minutes into our race, 3 of the 4 -3Ft guys went to the front and began to echelon into the crosswind. There are probably a total of 8 guys working to establish the gap that is opening between them and the rest of our field. At the moment I see the gap, it is already 20 - 25 yards and opening. The guy I’m sitting on doesn’t seem to have any interest in closing. Although my first mistake was to not get properly warmed up for this race, here is where I made my second and most costly mistake. Rather than wait for a wheel to grab and pull me part of the way to the lead group, I took off on my own and chased. Diesel that I am, I succeeded in pulling most of the group with me about halfway across the gap before I realized that my lack of preparation along with the intensity of the effort were gassing me. That’s when the last 3Ft guy along with one or two others launched bridging efforts that got them onto the lead group. I knew my race was going up the road, but I did not have the energy to make the bridge. I had to recover a bit and eventually found myself with 10 - 12 guys who, like me, had missed the break. As I recovered, I committed myself to chasing. The difficulty was that the group I was with did not have the necessary skill sets to put on an effective chase. I appeared to be the strongest, but beyond that, at least one racer did not understand that we had to use the wind to our best advantage. Our race continued to move up the road. From time to time, we came up on others who had been dropped by the leaders, and we dropped guys from our group who were unable to maintain our chase pace. For a number of miles, Dirk Himley rode along with our group, as he was doing a warmup lap for his later race. He didn’t assist our chase, but he made some suggestions for how to think about a chase such as ours. For my part, I appreciated hearing how he thinks about such situations, but I was becoming increasingly blown from the efforts I was making in the chase. We managed to keep our lead group in sight until we got to the gravel section, but that’s where my next difficulty in this race appeared.

By the time we got to the gravel section, I was riding with Boyd Tarin and Erik Salander, both good racers. For several miles, I had quit taking pulls because my energy was too low. When we came to the gravel, I recommitted myself to pedaling consistently. The section starts with a short hill and rolls on from there. By the time I crested that first rise, I was gapped significantly by the other two. Any time I tried to come up out of the saddle, I found myself fishtailing in the gravel. I had to stay seated, but I couldn’t close any gaps from there. Even though I kept working as hard as I could, the gap grew and I was dropped. I was breathing in a substantial amount of gravel dust and that only increased when a couple of pickups hauling trailers came flying by. I kept working and finally got through the gravel section. Not long after, the finish approached. The two guys I had entered the gravel with were gone, but none of the others from my group had caught me. When I crossed the line in this first part of a three part timed race, I was over six minutes behind the leader (Jonathon Laine of 3Ft), and I had lost 3 minutes to the two guys I had entered the gravel with. On top of this, I had chased as hard as I can recall for virtually the entire race. Of 23 in my race, I was 14th. I was not too pleased with myself.

It turned out that guys who had done this race before knew that the crosswinds in the outbound leg were often the critical point. I think all of the morning races were much the same as ours. Course knowledge can be key. I packed up and Julie, Tag and I headed back to Chico, committed to race smarter and better the next day. We enjoyed dinner Saturday night with Matthew Sloan, who had placed 5th in the 35+ cat 4 race.

Sunday morning I was determined to be warm and ready for both of my races. Our crit was scheduled to go off at 8:35, and at only 30 minutes, I expected the pace to remain high. True that. I think our field split in the first lap, and those dropped never got back on. I was able to stay with the front group, but my legs had no snap. I was feeling the effects of the work I had done the day before. At no point in the race did I feel the need to go to the front for an attack. That’s really not like me. Then, on the next to last lap, the group was chasing after a Penn Velo rider who was off the front. As he entered the first corner after the start / finish line, he caught his pedal on the asphalt and went down on the pavement. The whole field was disrupted as we all endeavored to avoid the crash. As I got through, I observed another rider going directly over the downed rider and his frame. Amazingly, he made it over upright and was able to continue on. At least one or two other guys were not so lucky and went down. I think everyone who remained upright stayed with the group even though it took an effort. The crash seemed to take a lot of the steam out of the usual final moment energy of our race. There was a sprint for the line, but not the usual attacks that lead up to it. For my part, I was happy to have finished upright and in the front group.

Julie, Tag & I got checked out of our hotel and located the time trial site. Then we found a dog friendly restaurant for breakfast. I set up my trainer and warmed up for the TT while Julie ordered on the patio. After eating half of my breakfast burrito, I headed out to the TT site, while Julie and Tag headed back into downtown to watch more crit action. The TT was advertised as a flat and fast 10 miler. I was hoping to improve on my performance at Madera, where I finished 11th. I’m still learning about my new bike and had made a couple of adjustments to my position. It felt better, but I continue to feel that I am still not in a position that allows me to consistently produce the power of which I am capable. My 30 second man (that’s the guy who starts 30 seconds ahead of me in this individual timed event) was on a road bike. His 30 second man had crashed out of the race in the crit. I think the guy behind me had crashed out as well and I did not see any of the favorites starting close enough behind me that I was likely to be caught from behind. I just committed to not going out too hard and to doing my best. I knew I would be going out into a headwind, but I was hoping to get a good pace going nonetheless. The course was such that even with the headwind, I found myself going in excess of 26 mph. My HR was up around 135 bpm almost immediately and I began to settle in to my work. I built my pace and found that I could get my speed up to the 28 mph range, but when I did so, my HR was going over 148 and I was in danger of blowing up. My thought was that this was the speed that Dave Montgomery would be going the entire race, but I knew I couldn’t maintain it. I backed off to the 145 bpm range and tried to stay as low as possible on my bike. As I made the first of two right hand turns, the headwind seemed to increase and I found my speed dropping to the 25 mph range. Finally I got to the second right hander and picked up a tailwind. That’s where the road tilted uphill a bit. Oh well, I just kept trying to increase my effort to the line. I crossed the line at 23”43’, and I felt I had given my best effort, particularly considering how much the prior two events had taken out of me. I was 6th in the TT, and although Montgomery had me beat by 1”37’, I was only 30’ behind the 2nd place rider. Given the way this stage race had started, I was very pleased with the way it ended. 13th overall.

Julie, Tag & I checked into the results and congratulated my competitors. Then we watched a bit of the Pro 1/2 crit before hitting the road for the long drive home. That drive became a bit longer when we opted to try the bay area route home. We had to sit on I-80 for an extra hour in traffic, and that was no fun when we all were ready to be home. Still, overall, the weekend was a fun time, and I was really happy to have Julie and Tag there with me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chico Stage Race, March 21st - 23rd

This event was beyond my expectations - great courses, great organization, and great competition. As a 35+ cat. 4 I had three races over two days. Pro 1/2s and 35+ cat. 1/2/3s had an extra race on the Friday, The Thunderhill circuit race, evidently a fast, furious, and fun event.

Saturday, March 22nd, Paskenta Hills Road Race

This was a perfect course for me. Flat to begin with, some nice rolling hills 2/3s of the way through, 4 miles of gravel road (to sort the wheat from the chaff), and a slightly uphill power sprint to the finish.
The race started off at very reasonable pace. Team Velo Promo had a number of riders. I was expecting them to put out some effort to keep up the pace but they only made a couple of uncoordinated attacks. A Team Audi rider, David Page, pulled consistently at over 20 mph for a major part of the race. There were a couple of attacks on the rolling hills but nothing got away. We remained as a group until we hit the infamous gravel. Now, I was expecting something like the Strade Bianchi in Italy. Gravel roads worn down by lots of vehicle use. Basically, four hardened tracks with gravel in between, not the Paskenta gravel, oh no! There was loose gravel all over the road. There were some hardened areas but it was never easy going.

There was a short, sharp hill as soon as we hit the gravel. A Cushman Wakefield rider made an attack. The peloton was shocked into action. I went around the outside of everyone and found myself on the loosest gravel. It was like snowboarding. My bike was snaking from side to side and I had to use all my bike handling skills to keep myself upright. The Cushman Wakefield rider died and David Page hit the front with me on his wheel. I found a good rhythm - I held my weight back and turned a lower gear keeping a high cadence. Trying to power through it only made my rear wheel spin. Knowing how many of the riders were spooked by the gravel, I attacked. I looked back and found David Page on my wheel. I let up and he passed me. We dropped most of the peloton. We were now a group of six. David and I alternated pulls for a couple of minutes until I realized we weren't dropping anyone. So, I sat on his wheel until we got back onto the road. I tried another attack but the group stuck. I sat back and - most deviously - breathed hard, as though I were spent. David went past hard and I stuck to his wheel. Everyone else jumped on mine. I had hoped we would have dropped the others but they were quite classy riders for cat. 4.

With 3 km to go I made another attack. It didn't stick as riders bridged up. David Page, once again, took to the front. I sat on his wheel. We went past the 1 km mark. I could feel the pressure of the other riders as they pressed up around me. I could feel them waiting to pounce. I saw a white marker and thought it was 250m to go. I was wrong, it was 500m to go, but I attacked anyway. I launched off the  front and left everyone. I got to 250 and realized I had gone way too early but I kept grinding it out and made another effort. Unfortunately, I was caught about 20-30m from the line. If I had even waited until 300m I probably would have nailed it. I was feeling so strong that day. It felt good to have been in command of the final few miles. However, I learned how my impatience isn't the best of friends with my winning. It was a great race, really enjoyable. As much as it hurt, I loved how the gravel weeded out the weaker riders.

That evening I met up with Bob Montague and his wife Julie for dinner. We shared war stories, ate good food, and lifted our spirits for the next day.

Sunday, March 23rd, 9:10 a.m. Downtown Criterium

I woke up feeling good - ready to ride, ready for action. I'd had a bit of a restless night but frantic racing dreams are nothing new to me. As a young track runner, I remember nightmares of coming up to my adversary's shoulder with 150m to go. I would be about to go past him and then my legs would turn to jellied lead. I wouldn't be able to do anything. Well, sometimes dreams just don't come true!

This is the best race I have ridden to date. I don't think I could have performed better tactically. It was a very fast, fun L-shaped course around the city center. I started out in the middle of the pack. There were plenty of prime laps to keep the pace fast. I drafted for most of the race, saving my energy for the end. I wasn't interested in primes, I really wanted to win. There were a couple of attacks from the front, but with a large team from Pen Velo, nothing stuck. With four of five laps to go I started to work up to the top five. Going into a small head wind on the back straight of the second to last lap the pace slowed. I launched an attack from about five places back on the other side of the street. There were yells of, "He's going, he's going!" and some furious action as riders tried to catch me. I got 50m or so past the finish line and a Pen Velo rider caught me. I eased up, let him past, and jumped straight on his wheel. He pulled hard down the back stretch. On the 3rd to last corner his pace slowed and another Pen Velo rider leapt past. I jumped on his back wheel and he brought me into the final turn. Pen Velo were keeping the pace fast to lead out their sprinter. I came into the final 150m and gave it everything. I could see the Pen Velo sprinter, Donald Lee, gaining on me. He just edged past in the last 10m. It was very close, but I was very satisfied with my 2nd place performance.

Sunday, March 23rd, 13:17 Ten Mile Time Trial

After the criterium I put my borrowed TT bars (thanks Bob Montague!) on my bike, adjusted my saddle, stretched out, ate some food, and relaxed.

An hour before my start time I donned my borrowed skin suit, TT helmet, and shoe covers (again, thanks Bob Montague!) and warmed up for my start time. I was a little envious to see my closest rivals on smooth looking tt bikes with disc wheels, but in for a penny in for a pound!

Time trials are hard. It seems to be a case of mind over matter. Going as hard as you can without blowing it all too early. All in all I did well. I came 7th in the Time Trial. I do think a better TT set up would have helped but it is nice to know I have something left in reserve.

Overall, I came 4th in the GC, a good result. I was only 12 seconds behind 3rd place. Mmm... oh for a tt bike, but we know how much one of those costs! After my first stage race experience I am really looking forward to the Topsport Stage race, April 5th - 6th.

Hands Up! We got you

Monday, March 17, 2014

CCCX #2, 45+ 3/4, 3/16/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

I really like these road races; partly because Fort Ord is just a 45-minute drive from Santa Cruz, and partly because the race categories are so friendly to a Category 3 Master like me with several options of when to race.

I picked up Nils so he could race the Elite 2/3 race at 12:30. I warmed up by sitting in my car and reading a book during Nils' race (which he won!) while I waited for my 2:00 race start. I then donned my brand-new Spokesman Bicycles kit, Giro Air Attack helmet (with scary-looking visor!), ate a gel, filled up my water bottle and lined up at the start.

My training this year is focused exclusively on track sprinting with my longest priority race being somewhere around 50 seconds, so I have low expectations for other races I enter. But this 4.3-mile course on rolling hills has no long climbs and is just 60 minutes for my field (5 laps) so I felt it might still work OK for me.

There were only about 15 racers in my field, which is fun because you can really keep an eye on the other riders and force them to work rather than let them sit in a huge draft. The race started out rather slow, much to my delight, and was mostly slow the whole time. The pace was painful on the short, steep sections, but never for very long so I had no trouble at all.

On the second lap one guy went off the front for a while, but gave up fighting the wind. On the third lap Scott Calley (Don Chapin) went on the attack on Parker Flat Road's climb, while I grabbed his wheel for the wild ride. Everybody else stuck with us though, so we both sat up and the pace dropped down again. After working too hard in some of the previous races here I stuck to my plan and just waited. Well, except when one guy went hard up Eucalyptus and I followed. We rotated briefly ahead of the others, but they charged after us so I gave up.

A guy from Steven's Bicycles (a team from the Fresno area) attacked, I think with two laps to go, but we caught him at the top of Eucalyptus. Then his teammate went slowly off the front as we started the last lap... so I'm told; I'm embarrased to say I didn't notice. Anyway, he ended up somehow crashing into a bush at the side of Eucalyptus Road while riding by himself. Poor guy broke his collarbone I learned later.

I was still feeling comfortable, and on the last step up Eucalyptus I took the lead for the long descent down toward the finish line. More for safety than anything else. But I have learned that an early sprint is rarely a good idea on this course, due to the prevailing winds and the high speeds coming down the last hill, so I allowed the pack to catch me at the bottom. I then moved into their draft, but still near the front, maybe fifth or so, and watched for early sprints.

Bob White (Bicycle Blue Book) obliged with an early sprint on the right of the long straight, and Erik Salander (Peninsula Velo) followed him. Both are fast, but I resisted the urge to follow them. Instead I drafted a bit longer, but made sure I had an opening to the front. I then rolled after them into the last two turns, and attacked all-out as we exited the last turn. This slingshot effect allowed me to pass the two guys still ahead of me at a fast pace and amass a big enough lead that gave me the win. 1st place went to this track sprinter! Which makes me wonder about the value of some of my past training, but that's another story.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stefano - Ward's Ferry Road Race Masters Cat 4 - First Place

You win some, you loose some. Today I won!
Ward's Ferry Road Race, out in Sonora, in the Sierra foothills. Thanks to my mother in law helping out with the kids I could get a solid night sleep at Jamestown's Country Inn (which I highly recommend), heading out to a cool, beautiful morning of bike riding. The rain had made these gorgeous hills all green and flowery, fantastic!
With 20 miles to go a guy attacks and I jump with him. The course is rolling and curvy, and my intention is to get ASAP out of sight of the peloton. I end up dropping the guy after a couple of bumps, and time-trialing all the way to the finish. I gapped the field by a few minutes to a long solo finish.
Proud to wear the brand new Spokesman Bikes team kit to its first win of the season! and now cat 3 here I come!
Pretty scenery

The course elevation profile. Yum yum!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

24 Hours In The Old Pueblo, February 15-16

14th / 88 Solo Male Open

24HOP is traditionally the endurance season opener that is well attended by racers and fans alike.  Its early on the schedule and doing well here means effectively wiping out any off-season.  But the race lives up to its organizers name in every way: Epic.

Racing 24 hours requires a significant level of planning, setup & support.  It takes an army - and in my case, literally: My brother-in-law Tap was racing with the Utah National Guard team and I was fortunate to be racing out of their camp for the weekend.  We met up outside of Phoenix on Thursday, caravaned the rest of the way to 24 Hour Town and got our home away from home squared away.  We went out and did an easy lap of the course in the evening - really fun, but its going to take some heads up riding as all the singletrack sections are virtually lined with a variety of very nasty cacti!


Friday is a blur of eating, hydrating, eating, spinning the legs and generally getting everything set for the weekend.
Clean the bikes one last time, check the batteries again, check the food bins and get the pit setup on the course. We snagged a sweet spot where everyone has to dismount to go through the timing/transition tent which meant I dismounted here at my pit and then trotted into the tent. We were very dialed thanks to my awesome support crew (my wife Tiff, in-laws Tap & Linda, sister Erin, brother in law Kyle, brother in law Tap, my nephew Tappy & the whole National Guard crew).  I was targeting 15 laps as I knew the year before this was 6th place in a fast field.

Saturday dawned warm and by the start, the sun was high and temps were in the 80s.  The race starts with a traditional "Le Mans" start: running to the bikes.  In this case, @epicrides decided they'd spread the field out by having us run approximately 1/2 mile to our waiting bikes... Having skipped the cx season putting in some long days (zero running!) and knowing what I had in front of me, I took it pretty easy on the run.  Even so, its absolute madness.

The first few laps are always tough with lots of course traffic, but I took my time and settled into a quick, but sustainable pace right around 1:15/lap. Unfortunately, my solo 24 hour pace was a little slow for a bone-head that decided he just had to pass on a really tight section during my third lap and he took me down, hard: he came in under my front wheel and I landed on my tailbone and smacked my achilles on the frame.  It definitely took some punch out of me and it took a while before I could ride comfortably again.  One key to endurance racing is to be able to stay the course and make small adjustments when things don't go your way - so I vented and let it go. I didn't want to worry anybody and had thoughts of not telling the crew about the crash, but the +15 min lap and the torn up kit was a bit of a give-away.

Although it was much earlier than we planned for a lengthy stop, I put on a fresh kit, fresh gloves and Tiff cleaned the wounds.  I got changed, reloaded the pockets with solid food for the next 6 or so laps and the crew cleaned and lubed the chain.  We settled on a new plan: until I needed warmer clothes later in the night, pits would be lights/batteries & bottle hand-ups only. The 4th lap went pretty well and I was able to stretch the back and get more comfortable, although I was riding closer to 1:20-1:25 per lap.  I was somewhere around 20th place, but figured the steadiness would keep us in good shape.

We put lights on for the 5th lap and our plan was to get two laps out of each battery change. Lap time was a little slow due to a flat: with 75+ miles under my belt and working on the side of the trail with a helmet light, it wasn't the fastest tire change.  Once riding again, I was a little concerned about running a tube in the desert the rest of the race, but then set the pressure up a little higher and told myself it would roll faster and be just fine (it was). With the flat, the crash & going a bit easier on the back, I was averaging just under 1:30s (including pits).  



The next few laps went pretty well and finally after 7 laps & 114 miles (around 10:30 or 11pm), I decided it was time for a little break to have an espresso and put on some warmer clothes.  Overall  things were clicking & despite some minor setbacks, I was picking up 1-2 places per lap.  Up until now I was staying good and warm by keeping the pits quick, but temps were somewhere in the mid to low 50s so I put on knee warmers, sleeves and a vest.

The night was going well and we were fairly quick on battery & bottle changes.  I wasn't feeling great, but about what I've come to expect. Around 3am I was struggling a bit to eat & drink, so had some warm pasta at the pit @ 3:30.  Figured we'd gotten through the witching hours and we'd be golden.  After 10 laps & 163 miles, I'd moved up to 13th place and thought I was feeling pretty good...

...boy was I ever wrong!  11th lap was a bit of a disaster... temps were dropping, back seized up, achilles seized up and the pasta just wouldn't digest.  The metaphorical wheels absolutely fell off and I limped into the pit 15min + off my pace.  I told Tiff I was in trouble (she later told me I looked really bad) and she got me changed into a warm kit, had me sit back in a chair, covered me up and had me close my eyes.  Boy did I feel terrible... I was on the brink and "sat" there for a full 2 hours (that's me under the blanket!)  We didn't lose as many places as I thought - I think we dropped back to 15th or 16th and I also knew I had already done nearly as many miles as I'd ever done in a 24 hr race at this point.

The rest certainly did me good - while it definitely hurt to get rolling again, I was back on the gas and turned in a 1:15 lap to make sure I could get 3 more done before noon.  I knew I had another 50 miles in me and I was thrilled to see Tiff standing there with a plate of pancakes & syrup when I rolled in! As the sun came up, it warmed up quickly and I ditched a bit of clothes each lap. 

Finally, after 14 laps and 230 miles, I rolled into the pit at 11:40.  Turns out 24HOP allows you to go out again if you make it to timing before noon... we were in 14th place, with 14 laps but 13th place was not catchable and I was absolutely cooked.

Overall, we had a good race and I'm pleased with the results. 24HOP is a blast of an event and its pretty wild seeing so many spectators all around the course in an endurance event. While 24 Solo sounds like an individual event, I couldn't do this without the help of my entire team: Casey & the crew at Spokesman, the Utah National Guard, Tiffany, Tap, Linda, Erin, Kyle, Tappin & Tappy!

Madera Stage Race 55+

After a couple of weeks with rain and clouds that are much needed in our area, I was happy to see the Saturday dawn of the Madera Stage Race begin with clear skies. I have always enjoyed this 3 part race, even though I crashed out in the crit in my first year and had to have my ear reconstructed. I was also excited to be heading down there with teammate, Jim Langley. The most fun I have experienced to date in bike racing has come in past Madera races working to help Jim get the win in the road race. We missed out on that last year because Jim is a cat 2 racer, and the race was designated as a 3/4 event in the 55+. This year was looking to be the same, but they opened it up to everyone in the last week of registration.

We drove down in Jim’s classic VW van, talking strategy and past successes and failures all the way. I had two bikes and Jim had 3. We arrived in plenty of time for the crit, got signed in, pinned our numbers and set up to warmup on our trainers. I used to always warmup on the road for races, but the combination of no good warmup area, flats before races and prerace routine issues have led me to prefer the trainer to the road. Plus, at the beginning of an event with 3 different races to do, simple spinning on the trainer just to warm the body up is better than unstructured road work. The challenging part of this prerace routine for me is getting my spare wheels over to the pit area. I spend too much time thinking about getting one of my spare wheels caught in the spokes of my bike as I roll over to the pit area with them. I expect that’s because, in the past, I have had a knack for boneheaded crashes.

Our race gets lined up at the start, and they send the 45+ 4/5 group off 30 seconds ahead of us. I have raced a lot with both the 55+ and the 45+ 4/5 groups and I thought this was surprising. I knew the 45+ 4/5 group would not race. In all cases, they ride through a course at just above a social pace and then sprint at the finish. The 55+ group likes to race. You can expect pretty much constant attacks and attempts at breaks that keep the pace high throughout. This is much preferred for me. I had no doubt that we would catch the 45+ group. We did catch and pass them on our 2nd or 3rd lap. In retrospect, this may have been the smart way to do it because otherwise we may have gotten mixed up with them at the finish. At any rate, our race was an attacking one, but team Spokesman’s strategy was to sit in with the group and let the bigger teams do the chasing. At one point, a three man break got established that included Dave Montgomery (last year’s silver medalist in the 55+ national TT), Greg Boella (a very strong crit rider) and another guy I couldn’t identify. These three held the lead for 2 or three laps and I think Montgomery got a 5 second bonus for a preme lap, but in the end, the teams did in fact chase them down. Our race was scheduled for 50 minutes, but the officials decided to reduce our time in the midst of the race. All of a sudden, our lap card went from 7 to go on one lap to 3 to go on the next. More than a bit confusing, but at least our group was coming back together with 2 1/2 laps to go. I was feeling pretty good, and I think Jim was doing okay as well. We had not done any work, but had only done what was necessary to stay with the group. From the point when the group came back together, we began to pay closer attention. We both made sure to go with any moves and as such, we stayed towards the front of the pack. On the backside of the course on the final lap, I went with a move that included maybe 3 other riders. It was a short hard effort, led out by Joe Lemire, last year’s district road race champion. I hadn’t had to do much to stay on the back of the move, so I was a bit surprised when they pulled off so soon. I knew it was a long way to the line, but I figured, “Why not give it a go?” So I did. I jumped hard as I found myself alone on the right hand side of the road. Guys in the group on the left hand side were whistling and yelling at the group to come get me. Just as I was clearing the front of the group, I heard a crash and looked back at the group hoping it wasn’t Jim. I saw one guy going over his bars as another was already down, but I didn’t see the blue and orange colors of Spokesman. I pushed on through the 3rd corner before I looked back and saw that I had a 3 - 5 second gap. The group looked like a nest of hornets that had been hit and I could see them chasing furiously. I buried myself and went hard for the last corner hoping to have something left for the finishing straight. Although I went through the final corner alone, riders were charging and I was running out of gas. I dug deep and hard but got passed by 4 guys on the way to the line. I got 5th in the crit. Although my move had not worked (in this stage race, there are only time bonuses for the top 3), I still felt like it had been worth it to try. Jim finished with the pack in 13th. One guy had crashed out of the race, and Kevin Willits had also crashed, but finished. He was given the same time as the pack. We signed out of the race, ate some lunch, got some gas, checked in at the hotel, set up our TT bikes, rested a bit, and headed out to the TT course.

I was particularly excited about this TT. Spokesman had set me up with a new Cervelo P3 TT bike in November. I have never raced on a TT bike and I was looking forward to the experience. The parking area had many goathead thorns, and we had to be very careful not to let them get into our tires. I had planned to warm up on my trainer, but Jim advised me that the rear facing dropouts on the P3 could make that dicey unless I had a special skewer on the rear wheel. Having no such piece, I was fine warming up on the road. I don’t have a lot of TT experience, but I keep finding myself interested in the skill. From equipment, body mechanics and positioning to pacing, power output and speed, the whole thing continues to be an area where I can tell I have a lot to learn, but I am still at the stage where I am trying to find the right path. As I warmed up, I could tell that my heart rate monitor was not working right. I was simply spinning down the road, and my HR was running in high zone 3 to low zone 4. My coach has told me to ignore this information during races, but I was really hoping to use HR information to keep myself from going out too hard. It looked like perceived exertion was going to be my only measuring stick. I felt like I had a perfect start time for the TT. Jim was going off 90 seconds ahead of me, followed 30 seconds later by Joe Lemire. My 30 second man was a guy I don’t know by name, but I had raced with him before and knew I could catch him. 30 seconds behind me was Dave Montgomery, last year’s 55+ silver medalist in the TT. 90 seconds behind me was Robert Naperalski, last year’s race winner, and the guy Montgomery had told me he was most worried about. My feeling was that if Dave went by me, I could use that as motivation to lift my pace and improve. I also knew that Dave would be using me as a rabbit to lift his pace. If my race wasn’t going well, I thought I could use Naperalski in the same way.

The TT didn’t turn out as planned. Jim went off and I cheered him out of the gate. I felt as ready as I could be when my turn came up and I was off. The day was close to windless, which is unusual for this course, but I felt like I built up a pretty good pace on the outbound leg. I could see that I was making up some ground on my 30 second man, but I resisted the urge to look back for Montgomery. I can’t say I was surprised that he passed me, but boy did he come by fast and before I even got to the first corner. My speed had been running just under 25 mph. When I lifted my effort to match Dave, I was running 26 mph. I couldn’t begin to hold that level, and he was soon gone. I went through the first turn with my 30 second man well within reach, but Dave was up the road. The second leg of this race is normally a big tailwind section, but on this day it was about the same pace as the outbound leg. I did pass my 30 second man and went through the second corner carefully. It’s an off camber corner, and I had nearly crashed there in the past. This time I took it too carefully and lost some momentum going into the slight uphill that follows. Naperalski went by me shortly after that corner, and I rededicated myself to not getting completely ruined by this TT. I felt like I rode better from this point on to the finish. I kept Naperalski in sight, I passed one more guy just on the finishing straight, and I was completely gassed at the line. That said, I knew I had not had a great TT, and I was unlikely to be near the top of the standings. True that. I was in 10th out of maybe 23 guys, but we couldn’t know that. More about that in a moment. Jim was just ahead of me in 9th, having done a really strong ride for a guy who hadn’t been on his TT bike since the Nationals. The top 5 guys were Naperalski, Montgomery 20 seconds behind, a smaller rider from So Cal who was using this race to get ready for San Dimas, Kevin Willits from the same team as Montgomery, and Joe Lemire. Last year, I had finished just a few seconds behind Willits and ahead of Montgomery. I was disappointed, but some input from Jim and Dave helped me to recognize that I have a lot of room to improve with my new bike.

Jim and I joined some of the others for a post race rehash before cooling down. We loaded up the van, headed back into town and had dinner at a place called Cool Hand Lukes, kind of a chain type steak house. It was pretty good and right across the street from our hotel. Throughout the evening and following morning, we searched online for race results, to no avail. Velo Promo simply doesn’t think it important to have accurate and timely results. I feel they are almost single handedly responsible for the drop off in race registrations that I have observed over the last few years. Perhaps they have made it up by an observable and welcome increase in women’s race registrations, but I would expect to see the same kind of drop there when the women realize that this promotor places little to no value on results, and they do not award the prizes that they claim to at registration. A couple of years ago, I wrote a letter about this to NCNCA and USA Cycling. Last year was run far more professionally, but this year they are back to the same old same old. A few years ago, Jim won this race, but he had to hang around until almost dark to get the results to confirm his placing. It is truly unfortunate that this longtime promotor, with many of the best race venues, is so uncaring about the effects of his race management on our sport. Jim indicated to me on the way home that this was probably his last Madera Stage Race because of the way it is run. I will probably return because it is such a fun race, but I expect many others will follow Jim’s path.

Anyway, after dinner, we returned to the Super 8 hotel and made sure we were ready for the next day’s road race. With no results available, we didn’t know our placing and couldn’t really strategize for the road race, but our plan was to sit in and see how things developed on the first lap of our 3 lap race. Then we planned to employ the tactic that has served us well in the past. That tactic was based on the concept that we felt we probably had better fitness than most of the other guys in the race. We would take turns attacking the group beginning with the second lap, and try to stay away as long as possible, making the race leader do the work to chase us down. Our goal was to try and get a win in the road race, and possibly improve our position in the General Classification. Plus, both of us were interested in racing, rather than sitting in. After making our plan, we settled in to the last available room in Madera, a small one filled with race bikes and two old guys sharing a queen sized bed. We put up with a lot for the love of our sport.

Race day came early as the time sprang forward an hour for daylight savings. Our 5 am wakeup was really 4 am to our bodies, so we relished the coffee from the Chevron that was the only place open at that time of the morning. We loaded up the van and headed out to the Lazy E Ranch at Hensley Lake, the headquarters for the road race. Jim wanted to get there early, to get a good parking spot and avoid having to pack our bikes through a field. At 6:15 am, we arrived at about the same time as the promotor and were parked right at the front, in perfect position. We checked in at race central for results, but none were available for our race, so we talked to others from our race, got dressed, and warmed up on the trainers. Several people approached us to try and form strategies, but we felt we would be better to stick with our own plan. Finally, about 1/2 hour before our race was to start, we got GC results. Jim and I were only a few seconds apart, but we were almost 2 minutes back on the leader. Our strategy would still be to see if we felt good enough to try and win the road race. We knew it was unlikely that we would be able to make up that kind of time gap.

The first lap of this race went as expected. There were a few attacks, but it was clear that this field of older racers was a bit tired. For my part, I was feeling pretty good. When we made the turn to start our second lap, I knew I wanted to try and make something happen. As the route turned slightly up hill, I jumped hard and launched off the front. I have attacked on this section in the past, and it normally goes into a bit of a headwind. This race day, the wind was reversed and I found myself flying up the slight gradient. I looked back after a minute or so and I had a pretty good gap on the field. I settled in and just started working. A few minutes later, I looked back and saw a teammate of Montgomery and Willits bridging up. I thought about trying to leave him, but I wanted someone to work with me, and I thought his team would be glad to let him go with me to try and get the win. Turns out I was wrong. He refused to work and just sat on me. Soon another guy bridged up. He was Allen, and I knew him from having the same coach a few years ago. Allen began to take pulls and was interested in establishing the break. I was trying to consider how this could happen with Tracy just sitting on. So, I just let Allen go. He got a gap on us and I sat on Tracy until he decided he had to close the gap. As he pulled us onto Allen’s wheel, I came around and told Allen to make Tracy pull him up to me. My thought was that eventually, Tracy would either get dropped trying to match the work of the two of us, or he would decide to start working with us. I got a gap and it was building, but I knew Tracy would decide to close it soon. Allen couldn’t wait and he pulled Tracy up. At that point, I realized that this break couldn’t work and I just sat up and waited for the pack. They pulled up to us and Jim attacked and got a good gap. This was the move we have used twice before to get Jim the win in the road race. This time it didn’t work. Jim’s hamstring was giving him some noise and he realized he would have to back off or risk further injury. On top of that, the pack was failing to race smart. I was sitting in, hoping to see the race leaders struggling to chase Jim down. Instead, different lower placed riders kept going to the front and doing the chasing. The race leaders didn’t have to work at all. I rode up to the front and asked the guy chasing if he wouldn’t rather have the race leaders doing the chase work. He agreed and began to soft pedal, but then another low placed rider took up the chase. I couldn’t figure it out. I asked the guy who I had talked out of chasing if he knew who the race leaders were. When he admitted he did not, I pointed out Naperalski first and then the 3rd placed rider who had been sitting on his wheel throughout his chase. The guy in 3rd started laughing. At this point, I realized that our plan was futile and that our best hope was probably just to sit in and try to get the best finish we could manage in the road race. Before long, Jim was back in the group, and we were heading for the last lap of the race. Other racers continued to attack, but most of the chasing was done by lower placed independent riders. The one momentous event was that the guy in 3rd flatted as we were coming through the rough pavement sections before the last lap. He never got back on, so most everyone moved up a spot in the GC. As we went through the rough pavement for the last time, the group was chasing down another guy off the front. I asked Jim if he would like me to attack the group when we brought the break back. While I didn’t completely understand his response, it seemed clear that he was not going to try and win this day. I felt that my best chance would be to sit in and save my energy for the lumpy sections leading to the finish. I knew from the first two laps that of the 4 humps, the first 2 would determine my fate. If I could stay with the leaders through those first 2 hills, the last two were not long enough to get me dropped. I also knew that even if Jim was not feeling his best, he was still the best climber in our race. I expected him to attack on the hills and try and establish a gap. That is indeed what happened. I was positioned along Jim’s general line so I could continue to follow the wheels chasing him. I got over those first two hills as the last member of the lead group. There were maybe 10 - 12 of us, but Jim was pretty gassed at that point. I think I made the mistake of continuing to try and conserve energy, because I was still somewhat intimidated by the last two hills leading to the finish. Those are power hills, and I may have been the most powerful rider left in the group. Still I let them intimidate me and just moved up a few spots in the group going over the first one. As we approached the final hill, Joe Lemire launched his sprint and I went on his wheel. The problem was that everyone else was doing the same thing. Joe and I passed a few guys, but there was too much room to make up before the line. I was 6th over the line and happy to be there. I might have done better attacking earlier, but I also might have blown up and finished worse. Jim had burned his matches and that attack allowed me to finish as high as I did. I believe he got over the line with the same time as the rest of the lead group, so we expect that we maintained our position in the overall standings. Still, an hour later, we had returned to the car and packed up our race gear. We were ready to leave and I checked in at race central for results. None were available, and I overheard the comment from one of the race staff that it was likely to be some time. Jim & I knew we had not won the race or placed on the podium. We would have liked to have our results, but we also were ready to get home. We left, and at the time of this report’s writing, results are still not available online.

Madera Stage Race is a really fun race. I have no doubt I will race it again with hopes of doing better. It’s unfortunate the race is run in such a way as to discourage racers from entering. I expect I will miss having the opportunity to race with Jim Langley, one of the nicest guys in our sport, at this event!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Kit is HERE!

Looks awesome! No excuses to lose any more!

"Long term care instructions: Machine wash on gentle cycle; Use mild detergent; […] Avoid crashes."


Red Kite Criterium, Livermore - Getting Over My Fear of Crashing!

Please, God of Cycles, give me the points to get out of the cat. 4s! 

I drove to Livermore nursing the back end of a cold hoping to have a reasonable day of racing. My first race was the open cat. 4s. It was a forty minute race on a fast criterium circuit, unfortunately, many erratic riders made it less than fun. There were four or five crashes over the course of the race! Too much adrenaline, testosterone, and lack of experience. I avoided the first couple of crashes. Nothing too major, for the riders, thankfully. 

I had fun on a prime lap just missing out by a wheel length. I was resting up after the effort, carefully working my way back to the front. On the back straight coming into the final lap, "BAM!" two riders went down in front of me. I steered to avoid the carnage but, unfortunately, a rider went one way, his bike the other- straight into my path. I tried to bunny-hop it but landed with my front wheel in the middle of the frame, and found myself kissing the tarmac rather abruptly. My greatest fear of cycling made a reality. I bounced up, the clarity of adrenaline pulsing through my veins, picked up my bike, straightened the brakes, put the chain on, and jumped on my bike - "POP!" my tyre blew! The crash had made a hole in my tyre wall. The small inner tube bubble it created burst. Frustrated,  I took off my shoes and wheeled my bike the 300 meters to the finish, discontentedly watching the front group race to the finish. Apparently, there was another crash on the second to last corner and the peloton was rudely split apart.

Thankfully, I was fine - just a little road rash and slight strained wrist and hip. Unfortunately, the instigator of the crash took an ambulance to the hospital. I walked to my car, took off my wheel, and put in a new tube. I hadn't noticed the hole in the side wall of my tyre but I did after I inflated my spare inner tube and it blew. Thankfully, a kind cyclist sold me a new tyre and inner tube and with 5 minutes to spare I made the Masters 35+ cat. 3/4 race. (Lesson learned: bring at least 2 spare tubes and  tyres, and a spare set of wheels!)

The Masters 35+ 3/4 was a much calmer race with a stronger pace throughout. My only aim for this race was to finish - to get back on the horse - so to speak. An early break away of two riders stuck and they won the race. A funny thing that happened was I thought the peloton was racing for a prime but in fact it had already been won by the two in front. I had an amazing mid-race winning sprint for nothing! Another rookie mistake on another day of learning! 

I am happy to report I am back in Santa Cruz, looking forward to another week of training.