Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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

Saturday, May 10th - Bicycling Spring Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 21st - Red Kite Criterium, Livermore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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