Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the finish, enjoying hot food and warm clothes

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

4th and DNF at CCCX finals by Matthew Sloan

35+ 3/4s and 35+ 1/2/3s  

Masters 35+ 3/4s

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The start/finish line

The leaders' group approaching the finish line

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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

By Dennis Pedersen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Dennis Pedersen

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

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

"Scottie, we need more power!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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