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!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wente Vineyards Road Race, Livermore, CA, 4-26-14, 35+ cat 4s by Matthew Sloan

Why are there windmills on the hills around Livermore? Because it's bloody windy that's why! Wente is a great race. Great organization, great support, and great riders - riders from all over Northern California.

The 4s started out at reasonably fast pace. There were a good number of San Jose Bicycle Club riders and they took to the front. The first time up the hill was quite steady. On the way out to the hill we pretty much had the wind at our back so it wasn't too noticeable. But when we crested the hill, past the start finish line, boy did we feel it! It was gusting enough to make a rider wobble. One needed to keep a firm grip on the bars to keep a good line. Everyone was pretty well mannered on the first lap. A good solid pace. There is quite a steep decent on the backside of the course but due to the wind it almost felt like being on the flat.

At the bottom of one section of decent, on a right turn, there was a wall of straw bales. Obviously in the right conditions this could be a treacherous spot. There was one other treacherous turn which I found out about. One which a rider afterward told me he had crashed on and had needed stitches to his eyebrow. So, this down hill, off camber, 120 degree turn was very tricky! Well, for me at least. How many lessons does one need to learn in a season of racing? Many!

Before leaving for the race this morning, I cleaned and lubed my chain. Nothing wrong with that; however, I accidentally got some oil on my wheel rim. Unwittingly, I rubbed the oil off with a cloth that had a touch of oil on it. So during the race, I came to this off camber corner. The wind gusts, hard! I got blown a bit, I braked to reduce speed, and... go off the side into the rough grass verge towards a fence. I managed to brake to a standstill. You know the scene in the Tour, when Lance misses the crash and careens off the hairpin - cross country style - and gets back on? Well, this was a similar type of situation but I had to jump off my bike, run it back up the steep verge, and jump back on. It took 5 or 10 minutes, but I managed to bridge back up to the peloton. I sat in, recovered, and slowly made my way to the front.

Sean Estes, who works for Specialized, took us hard up the hill and stretched the field out. I worked up to the front. Everything was going well until we hit my favorite corner. My carbon rims may have added to the situation but again, yes again! I got blown by the wind and the oil on my wheel stopped me from slowing enough. Once again, I was riding cyclocross style down the verge, bumpety, bumpety, bump! I jumped off the bike, ran up the verge, and jumped back on. Unbelievable, twice! I then had my work cut out for me as Sean was working the front of the pack. I managed to bridge up and sit on the back resting the legs and wondering how many matches I had burnt.

We had one lap to go. I was working my brake on the downhill to burn off the oil. I was praying in my mind to take the corner smoothly on the last lap. I couldn't afford to be burning matches bridging on the last lap. The third time up the hill was reasonably hard but not overly so. Everyone was thinking of the finish and saving it for that. We were all together going into the last lap. I think a few had been dropped but we were a group of about 20. On the back of the course, going uphill into the wind, I found myself on the front. I gently put in an effort and found myself building a gap on the peloton. I made a consistent effort but not too hard incase the group decided to pull me back. I was going down the hill and the gap was growing, about 40m. I went hard over a roller, round the straw bale right bend, and hard over the next roller. I looked back on the downhill, leading into my favorite turn, and the peloton had gained on me. I knew I would be caught. I eased up, making sure I was on the front, at my pace, going around my favorite corner. I held it well. I gave a whoop of joy! I had done it - I finally had got round the corner! Even if I didn't place, at least I had mastered that corner.

A rider went past me hard on the straight, unhappy that I had slowed so much on the bend. I jumped on his wheel. He basically dragged us all back to the final hill. A couple of other riders took pulls on the front but this rider really did the yeoman's share into the wind. I knew it was all going to come down to the last hill. I had seen Tobin Ortenblad at the start of the race. He had just finished and told me to make sure I was in the top 5 - 10 going into the final right turn into the finishing hill. The road went from quite wide to quite narrow in the turn. I made the turn in 3rd or 4th. A rider in a green kit, who was led out to the hill by his team mates, was going pretty hard. I made sure I was on his wheel. I could see Sean Estes working his way up to us. I made sure I was in a good position to jump on his wheel when he went past. He was being followed by a rider, Luiggi Zuniga, in a white and red kit with Lenon emblazoned on it. I jumped onto his wheel as he went past. I knew these would be the two to watch for. I was working hard. We got to the false flat, then 200m to go. On this course, on this hill, 200m is a long way. I didn't want to give it everything at 200m because I thought the guys who went at that point would slow up. Sean and Luiggi jumped. I followed them.

As we got to 150m - 100m to go, it was bedlam. The road was full of riders from other  races: cat 4 men, cat 5 men, women 4s, and junior boys and girls. I had to swerve in and out of riders. In the madness we held our places. Luiggi, 1st, Sean, 2nd, Matthew, 3rd. I was very pleased with the result. If the road had been clear perhaps I could have caught one of them, who knows? I definitely felt like I had earned the bottle of wine, bag of coffee, t-shirt, and ten dollars with my trips down the verge. Wente is definitely one for the Spokesman Team to race. The hill is right in our ball park. Those Wednesday night repeats had me in fine fettle for it. Thank you to you all for that!

1st Luiggi Zuniga 2nd Sean Estes 3rd Matthew Sloan

Monday, April 21, 2014

UN Reno Crit – 4/19/14 -Rich Gellert

UN Reno Crit – 4/19/14 -Rich Gellert

Arrived in Reno late Thursday night. Plan was to visit folks for Easter weekend, do some climbing and race a crit. Friday I wanted to do a solid warm-up for the crit which was Saturday so I climbed up Mnt Rose. An awesome climb that goes from 4,400 feet up to 8,900 feet in 16 miles. Sometimes I do well at elevation other times I can relay feel it. Today was so so. It didn’t affect me too bad so I was able to hold a steady pace of around 9.5 mph, not a blistering pace but not a recovery pace either.
It didn’t feel like I did a lot of work but boy was I pooped out for most of that afternoon. I kept eating little bits and drank lots of fluids so I could recover as best as possible for the next day’s crit. I was to do the combined M35+ 3/4/5 cat at 9 am. I got there at 8:30 after a 40 min warm-up from the hotel and to my surprise the race scheduled for 8:00, the M35+ 1/2/3, was being combined with our race. So I would be racing 1/2/3/4/5…..exciting. This proves my point. When they offer a M35+3/4 cat 100% of M35 3’s are going to sign up for that. There were only 4 M35 1/2 signed up for their race and over 20 signed up for my race. We need more separate M35 1/2 and 3/4 races!  

The description of the course said a “little bit of climbing”. Well they were a bit off. There was quite a bit. It was not your traditional crit course. There was a sketchy 120 degree right turn with a giant man hole cover in the middle of the best line. After that turn was a steep punchy little climb followed by a fast sweeping righty into a good little downhill then a fast chicane which led to a gradual grinding uphill back into the 120 degree corner. So after pre-riding about 10 laps I knew this was going to be tough.  You needed balls of steel for technical corners and a good kick for the punchy hill…..all the while at 4,500 feet of elevation. All the guys pre-reged were from Reno or Truckee so me being the only low-lander put me at a bit of a disadvantage. Plus yesterday’s hill climb made me a bit worried about how my legs would feel. That and I am not a big fan of crits…especially ones with sketchy corners. But I need to get practice at these events and figured this was a good opportunity. That and my folks and two kids were there cheering for me expecting to see a good performance.
I lined up on the front line. The M35 1/2 had 100 series #’s and they were lined up front row as well. Bam! off the gun 2 of the 1/2’s jumped hard and started sprinting to get off the front. Crap it’s on! It was pretty frantic for the first few laps and totally strung out with no way to move up. It was near impossible to advance positions on the course except for on the steep hill. Two guys jumped across and that was it. Three 1/2’s and one guy from the 3/4/5 field established a gap. Three of the guys in the break were Audi riders and there were 7 other Audis in my field. Of course they blocked with 4 guys at the front soft pedaling. We must have dropped at least ½ the field due to the various ability levels. Well it was either sit in and get dragged around at a medium pace or do some work. I decided on the latter. I went to the front and started time trialing. I did this for at least 10 laps, each time perfecting the corners more and more. I got so good on the 120 degree corner that I scraped my pedal and skipped by bike out a few feet! Dang watch out for that kids. I started catching individual riders and then a big group of 6 loomed on the horizon. I slowly reeled them in and then passed them. I was dragging 5 Audi guys and few other randoms in our group. Things were pretty confusing from all the dropped and lapped riders on the course. They did announce they wouldn’t be pulling anyone so that made things extra confusing.…. bell lap and of course the Audis I was dragging around came to the front to sprint for 5th. Not sure where I ended up but it didn’t matter as I accomplished my goal of getting some good crit practice in. 

After the crit I planned another 40 mile ride to Geiger Grade and back to the hotel. Geiger is an awesome climb with perfect pavement and gradient. Ended up with 80 miles that day and lots of high altitude climbing. A great weekend overall.   

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Copperopolis by Matthew Sloan 35+ Cat. 4s

Bob gave a good detailed account of the course and terrain. I love courses that sort the field out. This was definitely one of those. The bumpiness wasn't a problem. I relaxed as much as possible and let my body shake it away. Being a regular mountain biker was definitely in my favor for this course.

Thirty plus riders lined up at 11:00 for the start of two laps. It takes all of 1/4 mile to hit the first section of rough country road. There were quite a few strong looking riders in the field. One rider, Chad Richards, pipped me on the line in the Chico road race. He is a good climber, so he was definitely on my radar. Unfortunately for him, his chain got twisted when it jumped from the large to the small ring and got caught in the front derailleur. The chain made an annoying, clicking sound as it jumped between gears on the rear cassette. This became the sound track to the race as Chad amazingly stuck it out with us.

On the first of the climbs, a Wente rider lead it out hard. I was expecting people to attack off that kind of pace but that didn't happen. What occurred was the field got split. By the top of the climb we were down to fourteen. The Wente rider wanted to breakaway, but I told him all we were doing was dragging everyone with us. The pace didn't slack throughout the whole race as different riders would go to the front and work. I think they were trying to breakaway but they always did it from the front so nothing ever stuck.

The downhill section was pretty hairy. On the first lap we all came through unscathed. Again on the first hill of the lap, the Wente rider pulled hard at the front. We lost another four. We were down to ten. His teammate and a couple of others kept it hard until the final climb. I lit one match during this phase of the race. We were going into the wind and I casually edged over to the left and pulled away. I turned around and saw I had a bit of a gap. I pushed a bit harder but the eventual first and second placed guys, Aaron Yevuta and David Kirkbride, reeled me back in sharpish. Those two had been added to my radar back on the first lap. With one match burnt, I decided to sit in. This is what I had been doing for most of the race apart from a couple of easy pulls on the front - just not to look like a total wheel hog.

With the second of the Wente riders on the front, an interesting thing happened. A bird managed to excrete onto my right arm. Now, in England, or at least the seaside town I grew up in, this is considered good luck. Probably, something to make children feel better about all the pigeon poop that comes down from the heavens. As soon as I was pooped on, a hare (large rabbit) came shooting from the side of the road and ran along side us and in front of us for about 30 meters. I definitely felt something good was going to happen. Am I superstitious? Perhaps...

When we got to the final hill for the second time the other Wente rider, the climber guy, went to the front and pulled us up the hill again. This stretched us out a bit. A rider with a  black kit with a spine down the back of it, hit the downhill really fast. The first six had a gap on me but I knew I would make it back on the small rollers at the bottom. A rider just in front of me went to the outside left of a right turn. It was off camber. Unfortunately, he skidded on the gravel and went down terribly. His bike flew to the right and close to me. Fortunately, he was fine. (I saw him receiving treatment for road rash at the finish.) I maneuvered past his bike and continued the decent. On the first of the slight uphills I caught the first five.

I was eager to make an attack. I waited until the downhill section just past the 1 km sign. I used my momentum to give me a small lead going into the last 200m. Unfortunately, I was caught with about 30m to go. Perhaps, I went to early but 3rd place with such strong 4s felt good. I wasn't expecting too much from the day, considering the reputation of the race and the climbing, so 3rd and five upgrade points felt, and continues to feel, very good indeed!

Next week Wente! I need to eat salad every evening this week! Wish me luck with that.

Copperopolis Road Race 55+ 4/5 - The Hell of the North

On my race calendar, this was the “A” race for this part of my season. I absolutely love this race. It makes me feel like a climber. The stair stepping nature of the 1100’ main climb allows me to recover and hang with guys much smaller than myself. Still, I starved all week and lost an unadvised 8 1/2 # to get down to 181# on race day. Most races, I hope to do well, but this one is different. I feel like it should be my course. I don’t hope to do well here. I hope not to embarrass myself. That is a strong motivator in getting my weight down and my fitness up.

Last time I did this race was 2 years ago. At that time, the only 55+ category was open, so I was lined up against former pros and world champions. I had held my own in that race, but this year there was a 55+ 4/5 race available. I thought I could have a pretty good chance. This year’s 55+ 1/2/3 race was a small field, but it was stacked with a who’s who of Northern California racing. Robert Anderson went off the front the 1st time up the climb and stayed away the whole race to win by a 30 second margin. Pretty impressive.

Our race went of on time, on a warm day in Milton. There were 28 guys in our field and the action started the first time we started to go up at the feed zone. I didn’t look back but focused on moving up and staying near the front of the group. The climb was pretty much as I remembered it and I wasn’t trying for any heroics, but rather simply to still be there when the front of the race got to the top. For the most part, the pace was set by Craig Larsen who I remembered from prior races. It was a hard pace, and I was hurting, but I suspected there were others suffering greater damage than I. As we crested the top, I was on and felt like I recovered pretty quickly. Of the 28 starters, there were 13 left. I was sorry to see that my teammate, Mike Andalora, was among the dropped riders. I had hoped we would be able to help each other, but it was not to be on this day.

After most climbs, there is a descent. On this course, the climb leads to a windy plateau that goes on for 10 - 15 miles and leads to another shorter power climb. This is followed by a thundering and treacherous descent, after which you roll for about 2 miles to the finish; again on a bit of a power hill. The total course is 21 miles, and our race was doing 2 laps. The first time up on the windy plateau, I tried an attack and found that everyone was willing and able to cover it. There was only one other guy even close to me in size, and I decided to conserve my energy for the 3 remaining climbs. My assessment was confirmed the first time down the descent. Everyone was pedaling pretty hard to stay on, except for me. I was just letting my body weight carry me down the hill. At the bottom, I had gapped the field by 30 to 40 yards. Still, I knew from past years that this was not a good spot to try and hold a gap. We were all together well before our first time through at the finish line. I did the best I could to assess how I would want to position myself if I were still on the next time through.

We got back around to the climb for our second time up and I was concerned. There were a number of smaller guys still in our group and I knew I was going to have to go hard to be there at the top. Pretty much right away, two guys went to the front and set the pace. One was a Penn Velo rider, and the other was from San Jose Bike Club. They took turns at the front trying to open a gap. On a couple of occasions, they did so, but I was unwilling to allow that. I chased and closed at least twice. From that point, I stayed with those two. I had worked hard, but I was pleased that my heart rate never got over my blow up level. The funny thing was that when we got to the top, I was still right on them. They both immediately started signaling for me to pull through, but I was having none of it. I needed recovery, and I wasn’t about to start working for these two who had just done all that they could to drop me. Of the 13 who started the climb, there were 8 still together, but another 2 were not far behind. Those two did get back on to the group, so we were 10.

I tried one more attack up on the windy plateau, but the guys were not seeing it my way. We continued on toward the power climb and the end of the race. As we approached the power climb, Craig Larsen launched an attack. He was one of the two who had had to chase back on after the main climb, and I suspected that even though I know him to be a strong rider, he was probably not going to be able to sustain his pace. I let others chase him down, and so they did, as we were beginning the power climb. Pretty much right away, the Penn Velo rider attacked and got a 30 to 40 yard gap. Beyond that, it was holding steady, and I waited for the others to chase him down. They did not. As we were approaching the top, I made the effort and closed the gap. We were all together on the descent, and things were flying. I almost overcooked one of the final turns at a very high rate of speed, but fortunately, my wheels held the pavement. At the bottom, I had gapped the field again. I expect I should have just tried to go hard for the last two miles, but when I tried this two years ago, I just used all my available energy and had nothing left for the sprint. This year I decided to try and put myself in the best place I could think of for the sprint. I stayed up toward the front and rode to protect my wheel. At the 200 meter sign I was feeling pretty good, but I knew I wanted to get around the last corner before I went all out. Once we rounded that curve, the sprint was all out. I was caught off guard by how lame it was. I am used to always having to sprint against powerful sprinters at a finish. In this finish, I clearly had the most power and the most energy of anyone going for the line. Why didn’t I win? Two mistakes. First, I should have come through that last curve going all out. A few others did, and I was a few pedal strokes behind in getting up to full gas. The main thing, though, was that I failed to remember the centerline. I was among maybe 6 guys sprinting hard. I passed a couple after I got to full gas and was primed to pass at least one if not two others before the finish line. Then I saw the centerline and saw that I was closed out. I had to back off to get back inside it. I had no way to move up further. 4th. I got a Tee shirt for my effort, but I was one spot off the podium. Just missed my goal. But I had a great time. I may go back to doing a few more 4/5 races. I like having a chance!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sea Otter Classic, 35+ 4s Circuit Race by Matthew Sloan

This is a great course. Racing on a track used by Formula 1 cars, was awesome!

"The current racetrack is 2.238 miles (3.602 km) in length with a 180 feet (55 m) elevation change. It has eleven turns, including the famous "Corkscrew" at Turns 8 and 8A. A variety of racing, exhibition and entertainment events are held at the raceway, ranging from superkarts to sports car racing to music festivals." (Wikipedia)

The race started off at a decent pace. No hard attacks off the bat, everyone finding their legs. On lap three an Audi rider, who broke away in the 35+ 4s at the Santa Cruz crit, broke off the front but ended up pulling us all round for a really hard lap. My legs really felt it up the hill. I hoped we wouldn't be going that hard up the hill the whole race. On the next lap, after he was swallowed up, everyone virtually sat up on the hill, "thank the bike-gods for that!" 

I definitely felt I would not be "Profumo-ing" the race today. I woke up with a cold and was happy just to sit in and go for points. A few riders tried some attacks but nothing stuck. With no teams to block, riders readily bridge up. With the track being so wide there was plenty of room to maneuver but this didn't stop riders from riding thoughtlessly. A couple of times I had to use my loud, firm, ex-teacher's voice to straighten the peloton out.

The corkscrew was the most fun I have had in a race. It was thrilling to to take those turns at full speed. Also, it was so enjoyable to really power through some of the turns in the flatter section of the course. 

We continued round the course with the pace slowing into the wind on the back section, then speeding up and getting harder for the hill, and down the corkscrew. I made sure on the 2nd to last lap to be near the front. I pulled over the hill in first place. I let a few riders come past on the back section of the course, making sure I could draft on the last lap. The last time up the hill was a relief. (Due to the width of the track, I think the hill looks shorter than it is.) I kept in the top five to ten riders, powering through to keep my position on the left side of the pack. 

On the 2nd to last turn, with the peloton bunching and getting dangerous, Rich Gonsalves, (who I met on a Giro ride a couple of weeks back and who came 3rd 35+ today) cried out, "This is the last lap!" It broke the spell. The speed suddenly jumped. I was in a great position coming into the last turn, holding a good line. I got a little shocked when a rider launched his sprint and verily jumped into my line. I lost a little focus but got close to his wheel. I went as hard as I could and came 2nd in the 35+ and I think 4th or 5th overall. Even with the lapse in concentration and my form, with the rider launching into my line, I don't think I could have out sprinted Chris Down, the winning 35+ rider. He flew up the inside, muscles twitching faster than Mark Cavendish; okay, that's an exaggeration, this is just the 4s I'm talking about.

It was fun to get 2nd and podium at Sea Otter. I got a nice medal and some goodies. I would definitely do the circuit race again next year. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Race Report – Topsport Stage Race – April 5-6, 2014

Race Report – Topsport Stage Race – April 5-6, 2014

Topsport Stage Race is a wonderful race on some great courses. I did this last year and won the overall in the Master 35+ 4/5. So I was motivated to do well again this year. Pre-reg wasn’t doing so hot as many categories had only a few riders. The M35+ 4’s only had 9 guys signed up when reg closed. The organizer emailed us and decided to combine our Cat with the 45+ 4’s which had 21 guys signed up. So 30 of us would race together but would be scored separately. This would make for much more exiting and dynamic racing. I believe the proximity to the Sea Otter is why this race didn’t have more people sign up. Hopefully they take that into account for scheduling it next year.
The 57 mile, 6 lap road race was Saturday around noon. We lined up and I scoped the competition. There was a very fit looking 45+ Asian guy that seemed to be the one of the ones to watch. There were a few teams but nothing that had me worried. I knew, just like the weekend before at Turlock, I wanted to make this a very hard race. I had no intention of sprinting 29 guys to the line. I wanted to get in a move or make one happen. The course was rolling and twisty and there was a howling 20+ mph wind coming from the NW. The wind would make the race much harder and add to the dynamics as there were lots head, cross and tail wind sections.

There were a few attacks that I quickly covered. Each time in to the strongest head wind section everyone would sit up. With about 15 miles or lap and half to go one of the Victory Velo guys jumped and got a 20 seconds gap. We let him dangle in the cross/tail winds for about 4 miles. At the 1 km to go sign the road turns into a fierce head/cross wind section and there is a set of steep little bumps that hurt pretty good and was a perfect opportunity to attack and bridge. I went hard and bridged to the solo VV rider and we were off. I could tell he was tired from his solo effort as I pulled across the finish line and went into the last lap of 9.5 miles. A few minutes later another rider bridged up and the 3 of us started working together. There was a curious little fellow in the group that pulled everyone up to us a few miles later. I called him the energizer bunny. He wore a skinsuit, one of the new aero Giro helmets, and had every aero wind cheating component under the sun on his road bike (aero frame, deep dish wheels, aero bar and stem etc..) Apparently his skills were in the Time Trial discipline and so he slowly TT’ed back to us and dragged the group with him. 

Back into the head wind section and easing up to recover a bit. Then at about 8K to go you take a right into a cross/tail wind very rolling section. The biggest hardest roller of the day saw a searing attack from one of the 45+ guys. I jumped on his wheel and we were up the road quickly. He started dying rather quickly and started pedaling squares. As he was drifting back to the chasing group I turned my head around and stared at the group coaxing someone, anyone to join me.  To my delight the super strong Asian guy bridged up and with a nod of the head we were gone. BAM! 38 MPH hour pulls with a tail wind and not easing too much in the head wind section gave us a 30 second lead pretty quickly. I looked back a few times and saw the field shattered with gaps opening all over the place. My breakaway companion and I were perfectly matched taking long hard pulls and motivating each other the entire 8 KM to the line. We knew we had the gap and also the win in our respective categories plus a big lead on GC. With a 1km to go he led up the first roller into the headwind at 700m I came around for a pull up the 2nd harder roller. At 500m a sharp left led into the finish stretch which was a 3% downhill and then into the last 250m 4% uphill sprint to the line. Before the sharp lefty he jumped me and got a small 12 foot gap. We had a howling tail wind and we all know how hard it is to get back on a wheel in that situation. I didn’t have to challenge for the win b/c I had my category win in the bag but a voice inside me told me to go for it. With 400m I dug super deep even though I was fully at my limit. I kicked hard at 250m to go and did a perfectly timed bike throw to the line and got him by maybe a tire width! 

I was the GC leader with a 31 seconds lead over the guy behind me and 45 seconds over third. I felt pretty confident that I could maintain this through the next day’s circuit race and time trial. I recovered well that evening with a wonderful Mexican meal and even better top shelf margarita!
The next morning our 75 minute circuit race started brutally early at 8:03 am. I was ready to defend the GC lead and primarily wanted to help Matthew Sloan win and get points towards his upgrade. I wanted to take it easy on the legs and get a good warm-up in before the TT. Well legs felt great and I did a bit more work than I should have. I chased some moves, got in a few short lived breaks, but in general kept it smooth and steady. Matthew took the win without help from me b/c I felt some twitchiness form the group and wanted to stay out of trouble. 
The Time Trial was 2.5 hours after the finish of the circuit race. It was sunny and getting hot. The TT course is pretty brutal. Almost 11 miles of beat up, choppy pavement and several long rolling climbs. There were no spots to get into a pure TT rhythm and just let it roll. I knew it would be hard and my legs weren’t feeling too fresh during the warm up. The previous day’s breakaway effort, the circuit race earlier combined with over 2 months of racing every weekend,  added up and I knew my legs were not fresh for the TT. But all I had to do was pace myself and hold onto the 31 second lead I had. Up to the line I went in last place with plenty of carrots in front of me. Bam I was off and settled into the pace I felt comfortable at. I normally TT around 180 BPM and I couldn’t get my heart rate about 174 BM so that was another indication of deep down fatigue. I couldn’t go deep into the hurt locker and force myself to normal TT pace no matter how bad I wanted to. I cam through with I knew wasn’t a super fast time but was happy overall in my effort.

Everyone was waiting at the town square for the final TT and GC results. It took what seemed like forever and during the wait 2nd on GC started conversing with me and telling me about his TT. He said he thinks he did a 26:01. My jaw sank. 26:01??? That is a ridiculously fast time. I did a 28:11 last year and a few of the strong guys I spoke with directly after today’s TT were thinking they did mid 27 minutes. So results came and I ended up 2nd in the TT at 27:27…which was 45 seconds faster than last years’ time. The GC winner did it in 26:03….which was 5th fastest time of the day out of the pro/1/2 and E3 and Master 35 1/2/3 according to the times they had posted. He managed to sneak by and take a well-deserved GC victory. His TT skills were mind blowing and there was nothing I could do to take the GC that day. Overall the victory in the Road Race was by far more significant for me that the GC win so overall it was a successful weekend.
I wanted to leave the Cat. 4’s with a bang. I have more than enough points for my 3’s upgrade which I will be submitting this week. It’s going to take me a while to get figure out how to be successful in the 3’s but I am very much looking forward to the challenge.