Monday, September 7, 2015

NCNCA Masters State (District) Criterium Championships, 9/6/2015

My lower back spasmed while I was cleaning up after breakfast. That's not what I wanted for the morning of my big race, so I quickly used my foam roller to massage the spasm out. Strangely, my back was fine during the race and it was my feet that were sore. 

My preparation for this race was very brief to say the least. The last two years I have prioritized track sprinting, where my longest race is no more than about 1 minute. So my coach, Jeff Solt, had a tough job trying to prepare me in just 4 weeks for this 50-minute race. It was the same course as last year, about 1-mile laps in a Pleasanton business area, The end of the race would tell how successful this training was.

I warned up on my trainer, after borrowing an appropriate quick release skewer from Mike (thanks Mike!). I also used the foam roller again, to be sure. There were 34 racers this year, similar to last year. The course was also the same, with a 1-mile four-corner course on smooth pavement in Pleasanton.

The first several laps were pretty easy, but soon after that there were continuous attacks by solo riders and two or three man groups. I tried very hard to heed my coach's advice to stay protected and not try to go with breakaways, but sometimes that's easier said than done. Because I also try to stay near the front of the field I sometimes ended up being the point of the peloton and thus was in the wind. In those cases I always tried hard to soft-pedal, and even stopped pedaling and took a drink, so as to force those behind me to pick up the pace instead of me. Sometimes this worked, sometimes I ended up perhaps working a little harder than I intended without really wanting to. But in general I felt great and only occasionally was I anywhere near my limit, so I was looking forward to the final sprint. 

With three laps to go the pace definitely picked up and people were trying to get into position. This is tricky because everybody wants to be in the same spot at once. I was near the front and had a perfect view of Daniel Shore (last year's winner) attacking us off the front, with another guy. But again, I had to hold back and just watch them extend their lead as I waited for the others to pick up the chase. Directly behind me was Eric Saltzman, who yelled at me to close the gap to them. As much as I wanted to I could only take a very short pull before I had to pull aside and let him or somebody else take up the chase. 

After their lead was big enough, sure enough, others started to leap ahead to catch them. Then to Eric's credit, with about one and a half laps to go, he took a huge dig to bridge up to the break. I was right behind him but again could not afford to try to go with him. I just had to hope we would catch them both or else I'd risk completely blowing up (as happened to Eric, who finished last). I sat up and waited for the others to chase. 

Once the rest of the field took up the chase I was able to slot in behind some of them and maintain a decent position from which I could hopefully sprint. But I was getting tired and the very fast pace made it hard for me to be fresh for the finish. It is always difficult for me to position myself yet not blow up. I was probably a bit too far back going into the last two turns, but we did catch the break, and Eric's teammate Jerome Nadel was able to leap ahead and win the race, while I sprinted hard just to get 14th. I felt Jerome deserved it as he had been working hard throughout the race. Congratulations! 

Our race was pretty clean, and I was very happy about that especially after last year's erratic team tactics. One guy did go down, but it was supposedly self-inflicted by his own tendency to overlap his front wheel with other people's rear wheels. This same guy, incidentally seems to have gotten away with getting two free laps before rejoining us; the rules only allow one.

So, what does this all mean? For me it was amazing that such a short preparation could yield a result so similar to what I would have likely achieved in past years where I did many months of workouts geared toward such races. It also reminded me that even flat crits at this high level of competition are very challenging for me. I had a lot of fun, the race was clean, and I am looking forward to next season! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two Weekends of Crit Racing by Matthew Sloan

Saturday, June 20th RedKite Pleasanton 35+ 1/2/3s

This was to be a leg opener for Sunday's Nevada City's Classic Criterium. I was thinking of just sitting in and practicing my sprint but just sitting in is boring. I did a couple of moves that ended in breaks that didn't stick. My third effort got me into the six man break (including me) that stuck.

I worked hard doing more than my fair share on the front because top 5 would be a great result at this level of racing. I got a little boxed in at the finish but came in a strong 4th! It felt good to top 5, really good.

Sunday, June 21st Nevada City Classic 45+ 1/2/3s

Regardless of what position you come in, this is a great race. One of the best supported and organized on the calendar. Just riding it for the atmosphere alone is enough. I highly recommend it!

The course stair steps up for a half mile, has a flat section of about 200 yards, then a swooping decent to the finish. There is a big left hand off camber turn at the bottom of the hill, into a sweeping slightly uphill turn to take you into the climb again.

I started off well but basically lost my nerve on the descents in the group pushing me farther and farther toward the back of the main group. I had to work to hard on the climb to stay in contention and finally got dropped about a third in. I maintained a good rhythm and stole some places back but never got back to the group.

I ended up top ten, 9th, which isn't too shabby for 45+ 1/2/3s. I'm gutted to have to wait a whole year before I can contest it again. My legs felt so good on Monday, I wanted to do it all again.

Better luck next year. That descent won't get the better of me and I won't get dropped from the main group.

Sunday, June 28th Burlingame Crit

35+ 3/4s

I am sure most of you have watched the A Team. Well, "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Yesterday, on a mountain bike ride my friend, David Allen, said Burlingame is the sort of course that you can win off the front. It has a 180 hairpin turn, two turns after the start, this coupled with the many turns make it easy to get out of sight. The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind!" is perfect for this course.

We were thinking of about 8 laps to go. Most racers start thinking of the finish at this point and not making an attack. As I pondered the race. I thought it would be a good idea to use the last prime lap as my excuse to attack. During the race, a guy was off the front on the second to last prime lap. The group kind of just sat up and were going to let him have it. I thought, this is the perfect time to go. I will make it look like I'm going for the prime and just carry on.

Well, I bridged up to him, got the prime, and then really put the hammer down! I got a really good jump on everyone, using the hairpin to my advantage. Then it was head down. With ten laps to go, they called another prime. No way anyone was going to get that one! I went harder still knowing that after the final prime lap racers wouldn't have as much incentive to push hard as a group.

The teams couldn't sort themselves out into a chase. It was me against the peloton with me winning out this time!

I had one interesting thing happen with five laps to go. I caught my pedal on the u-turn and with my mtb skills managed to bunny hop and keep my self upright. My back wheel kept making this sound that felt like a flat was coming on. I had to take it easy into the corners because I was worried I might have to change wheels. What had happened was the tire had partially come off the rim. I was so lucky it held for the final five laps. Phew!!! I waited around for the podium but ended up missing it when I went to warm-up for the 45+ 1/2/3s race.

Big thank you to Mike Andalora and his friend for their support during the race!

45+ 1/2/3s

I was a little bit blown for this but still felt good. I made a couple of efforts and nearly beat the crit national champion for a prime lap. I was pleased with the fact I was able to hold on and move up when I needed to. I missed the break that stuck in the last five laps; however, I came through strong in the final couple of laps and came 6th in the 45+1/2/3s.

Two weekends of fun crit racing! I will likely race Davis next weekend, we'll see. Time for a Brit to get their own back on July 4th! (This is tongue in cheek, I'm actually a citizen now. I even spelt citizien, correctly!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ADA Tour de Cure, 6/7/2015

By Dennis Pedersen

My 9th year in this fund-raising ride; wow, that is amazing to me! And I'm always amazed that, somehow, I manage to accomplish so much in the fight against diabetes thanks to all of the generous donors, many of whom have donated to the American Diabetes Association every year I've ridden! My 2015 Tour de Cure ride was awesome, and as successful and gratifying as my previous 8 rides!

While my own results in the 2014 Tour were very good ($1,140.00!), the overall HP team results last year were not. The HP team raised $9,795.72 in 2014, which is great, but still far short of our record of $32,626.74 (in 2012)!

So, for 2015 I was determined to make big changes, following last year's disappointing team results. I was able to recruit Frerk "Malte" Feller, our VP for the HP online store, to head up the team as Captain, along with Bill Kacmarsky who continued in his second year as co-Captain. This strategy worked well, as it not only brought in people who had never joined the team, but also gave us better access to other high-level HP executives and their influence. The 2015 HP team signed up 52 riders who raised $23,546.50! While not a record, it is closer, and a huge improvement from 2014!

Champions training ride, San Felipe Rd in San Jose's hills,
with a cool hawk feather I found.
For 2015, once again, Bill and I achieved official "Champion" status, since we raised over $1,000 (I raised $1,127.00, Bill raised $2,756.00!), so we were invited to attend a special Champions Celebration, on May 29th, at beautiful Silver Creek Valley Country Club. For the dedicated cyclists they again organized an optional pre-dinner training ride, up San Felipe Road, into the hills east of San Jose. Last year 4-time US Pro National Champion "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez led the ride, but this year he was scheduled to race at the huge "Philly Week," so he couldn't attend, and even though a busy workday forced me to ride solo since I had to start late, I still had a nice ride. I also got to meet new HP team member Tim Lin, who also raised over $1,000. Not present were Gayle Boesch, David Willis, and Gary Borchardt, also Champions. Congratulations!

Click here to donate!

Pescadero rest station.
On the morning of the big Tour de Cure ride I woke up at 4:00 am, finished the last-minute prep and car-loading, and drove off into the dark, gray morning. I knew that if our weather in Santa Cruz was gray and chilly, the same would likely hold true in Pescadero during the coastal leg of our 120k route (about 74 miles). I keep telling myself I will try a shorter route some year, but so far I've always done the longer route; it is more rewarding, and perhaps inspires greater support from donors... and it's the prettiest route.

The weather was nice at the 6:30 am start, again at HP's world headquarters in Palo Alto, and the light clouds there were starting to clear a bit. It turned out Fast Freddie had cancelled his Philly Week plans and was thus able to join us for the ride again, for his 3rd year. I rode with him for a while, along Alameda de las Pulgas, Alpine Rd and Portola Rd, until I got a flat tire on the Kings Mtn Rd climb. The "SAG" car arrived shortly after that, just as I was finishing up the repair... very welcome, as they also had a floor pump which is much nicer than the small pocket pumps!

After refueling at the Skyline rest station, I rode alone along Skyline Blvd, with the sun now shining over the valley, and dropped down HWY 84 at speed, glad I had my warm vest as it was chilly at times, and still gray and slightly misty when I arrived in Pescadero. There, at the rest station, I was able to catch a glimpse of Malte, riding with Neville Davey (a nice HP guy), as they set off for the next leg, up Stage Rd and HWY 1.

Chewing, Tunitas Creek Rd.
After a short break I set off after them on Stage Rd behind Fast Freddie. I finally caught Malte and Neville for good at the "Bike Hut" rest stop at the base of Tunitas Creek Rd. Neville took a few photos and we set off for the big climb up Tunitas back to Skyline.

The Tunitas climb is always difficult, but the weather was pleasant; not nearly as hot as last year. I set a nice tempo and got to Skyline ahead of the others.

Descending Kings Mtn for our return to HP, I again flatted... seems Kings Mtn has it in for me! Miraculously, I managed to not crash, and the SAG wagon again arrived just as I was almost finishing the repair, again helping with their nice floor pump! The remainder of the ride was nice, and I finished at about 12:30 pm, after riding 78.3 miles, with 7,921 feet of climbing (per Strava). Burned 2,823 calories too! (Strava overstates calories.)

The highly-valued post-ride lunch and party was fun, and the nice weather helped. I got some good food, we took a nice, though not complete, team photo (finally; we've missed that the last few years!), and I took off, knowing I had once again managed to do a little to give back.

15 of our 52 riders.

Interested in seeing what the ADA really does with the money we raise? Go to the ADA site and click on "Research & Practice" in the top menu, there's a ton of links you can go through. Some highlights:
And, of course, running the above website, running fund-raisers (like Tour de Cure, plus others), plus printing books, flyers and such that newly diagnosed diabetics get from doctors and clinics, hosting screenings in local communities, Stop Diabetes @ Work programs, and more.

Thanks, see you next year!

Neville, Malte, Fast Freddie, me, and "John" at the Skyline rest station.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Salinas Criterium, 35+3/4, 5/3/2015

By Dennis Pedersen

This is one of the most grassroots-level races in the area, which suits me because I don't train specifically for crits anymore. The 4-1/2 turn, flat course helps me too. But the field of just nine 35+3/4 riders, combined with the windy conditions, meant it would be a real challenge for me.

After they blew the whistle, Jeremy Loader, (Cycles Fanatic), immediately took a dig and went off the front. I was not ready to commit that early in this one-hour-long race, so I waited for the rest of the pack to help. Three other guys took up the chase, and soon we were hard at work and a few laps later we caught Jeremy.

The other four guys were dropped, I think after the first lap, so it quickly became a race between just five guys.Soon we were taking turns pace-lining to maintain a high speed that would prevent the other guys from catching back on. This worked so well that we started to lap them. We even lapped some of them twice. I was very surprised to find that I was one of the guys doing the lapping and not being lapped! It was hard work for me, though, so I tried to save energy where I could.

As the race progressed I noticed that the only two guys making attacks out of our lead group were Dave Porter (Bicycle Blue Book) and Jeremy. I know Dave from other races so I knew to respect him. Jeremy I don't really know, but clearly he has a very strong aerobic engine. About halfway into the race Dave put in a very hard jump coming out of turn 4 that opened up a gap behind me which cut out two of our group. They were soon well off the pace and in about a lap or two we had almost a full straight-away lead on them.

We started to drop our pace a little bit after that and that is when Dave and Jeremy started to increase their attacks. I was weakest of the three of us so I am pretty sure they were doing their best to drop me. I will not say it was easy but every time they tried to drop me I was able to grab onto their wheels and stay with them. I couldn't afford to take a hard pull in our little paceline without fear of going too hard and leaving myself vulnerable to another attack by them. So sometimes my pace was a bit slow.

The last two laps of this race were totally fun to me, because they were very much like a match sprint at the track, something I am intimately familiar with and plays well to my strengths. I was smiling openly and enjoying myself immensely as we played cat and mouse, attacking, swerving from one curb all the way across the course to the other, sometimes slow, sometimes all-out. I was keeping an eye on them, constantly looking under my elbows, at their shadows, over my shoulder... anything to give me warning of their next attack. Attacks that I knew I would be coming.

On the last lap, Dave jumped into the second-to-last turn, and I jumped immediately on to Jeremy's wheel. This was perfect, and I was confident that I would be able to position myself well in the sprint. And so that proved, as Dave led Jeremy and me out for the sprint, I was able to come around both of them and cross the finish line with a nice gap.

On the top step of the Salinas Criterium podium.

I had considered racing in the 35+1/2/3 or 45+ race and the dynamics of that race would have been very different. The fields were larger, and the talent level higher. The larger field would have helped me in the wind, but the higher talent level would have made it more challenging in that way. Interesting to consider, and I may try that next time.

I won $30 and two T-shirts. Erik Petersen does a great job of keeping the entry fee low, so I made a $5 profit!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sea Otter Classic 45+ 1/2/3s Crit & Circuit Race by Matthew Sloan

Thursday, April 16th Crit

The crit is on the lower section of the Laguna Secca race track. It uses the finishing straight in both directions having an uphill u-turn at both ends of the circuit. It was blustery conditions. I knew if a break went, it could stick.

About 15-20 riders lined up at the start. Only 12 finished which said something about how hard the conditions were. Local "fast man" Steve Heaton made several attacks from the start.  Each time he was brought back. There was a slight uphill from the start. It finished with a u-turn and the course went back down the hill into a strong headwind. On the third or fourth lap, after a few attacks, no one wanted to pull through. I did an easy push off the front and gained a little gap. I looked back and Steve Heaton jumped on my wheel--"game on!"

It was perfect timing. The peloton was tired of the attacks and Steve was a marked man. Steve had one teammate in the race who covered any attempts to bridge up. After a couple of laps our advantage was up to 30 seconds. It felt so good to finally be in a break that was working. Steve and I exchanged hard pulls and kept a strong tempo going. There was one point when you could see the peloton really starting to slack and sit up. That's when Steve really put the hammer down for a lap. We worked really hard and put the final nail in the coffin. At the race's end, we had three minutes on the group.

While we were working hard into the wind keeping up a good speed, the peloton were fighting not to be in the wind. No one wants to be the rider giving the group a break at that point. This is good to know when you are in the break. Just keep working at it in the wind. The group is more than likely going slower.

In the middle third of our break, I started to tire a bit. This was partly psychological with not knowing how far we had left. Steve gave a couple of pulls where I just sat in and recovered a bit. It was interesting how my legs and willpower came back as soon as I knew we had just seven laps left. Steve looked stronger so I said, "I don't care what happens on the last lap. I need some points, so let's just get to the last lap!"

On the second small hill on the back of the circuit, on the second to last lap, Steve put the jump on me. I wasn't expecting it and he got a bit of a gap. I held on hard, dug deep and kept him at the same distance. After the race he told me how impressed he was that I didn't just let him go. Well, in my mind I knew, "It ain't over 'til it's over! "Never, never, never give up!" He could have had a mechanical, he could have tied up, one never knows. When I realized going up the same section on the last lap that I wouldn't get him back, I eased up a touch and rolled in for 2nd.

It felt really good to be in the winning break. It also showed me what I need to work on.



Friday, April 17th Circuit Race

This is one of my favorite races on the calendar--racing on the Laguna Seca racetrack. It is absolutely awesome. A really hard climb followed by the best descent ever--the infamous "corkscrew!" It's more fun than a roller coaster!

My goal in this race was to hang in on the climb and see what was left at the end. Local rider, Chris Williams, broke away early. Everyone let him go. He did a yeoman's job and was only caught with about three laps to go. I did consider bridging up but with the effort made the day before I didn't want to risk blowing up.

This is a race of attrition. The climb is much harder than it looks. The width of the track makes the climb look less steep than it is. Believe me; however, that after a few laps of racing one's legs certainly know! We started the race with at least thirty riders; sixteen actually finished. The hill took them out in ones and twos.

A few of us worked on the front to bring back the loan breakaway rider. There were a few attacks up the hill, down the hill, and on the rollers after the descent but nothing stuck until the final lap. The final time up the main climb Rob McGee hit hard. I was right on his wheel, that was my complete focus. He was just edging ahead as we started to crest the hill onto the false flat with a headwind gusting into us. Robert Pasco and Cameron Perky attacked hard from our right. Rob was able to jump across, I got dropped. Eventual winner, Russell Shapley held their wheels. They probably got 40-50 meters on me by the descent. But did I give up? Of course not. I hit hard down the hill. I was edging up to them every moment. They started to play games for positioning. I went hard and eased up onto the last wheel. We were now five. I was the biggest amongst us and I really fancied my chances.

I may never give up but I still have to learn a thing or two about patience. There was a cross/headwind in the finishing straight. The straight going into the finishing turn had a tail wind. Instead of waiting in the perfect position for someone to jump, I went with the wind on my back. I charged and charged and charged but I could feel my legs tying up into the headwind before the line. Again, I got caught in the last 20-30m. "Ah!" so frustrating. Perhaps without all the hard climbing I had done my legs could have held on for such a long sprint but not on this day.

I came in a frustrating fifth knowing that with just a bit more patience and guile... Well, better luck next time! I am going to practice my finish on Sunday at the Redkite crit in the 35+ 1/2/3s and the 2/3s

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Central Coast Road Series II 35+ 1/2/3s, April 12th Following the Stars and Stripes by Matthew Sloan

Central Coast Road Series II: 35+ 1/2/3s
Following the Stars and Stripes
6 laps, 24 miles

This was a very competitive field including 2 national champions: road race champion, Scott Giles and crit champion, Matthew Corinio. Matthew's team Arts Cyclery was very strong. My friend and fellow racer, David Allen, said this was the fastest Master's race he has been in at Ford Ord.

It started out fast, the middle was fast, and so was the end: fast, fast, fast! The hardest part of the course is the first hill, a long gradual ascent with a false flat on the top. On every lap we were treated to an attack, usually hard, from the bottom to the top. All I can say is I hung on the wheels of a lot of stars and stripes on the climb! I knew if I could hold either of the stars and stripes' wheels, I would be there at the end.

Ben Albracht of Arts Cyclery and Jacob of Thirsty Bear formed an initial break. With both riders having teammates they were able to get quite a good gap on the field. Scott Giles and others tried to bridge up but Arts covered their attempts. This didn't stop Scott Giles from continuing throughout the race to close it down. On one attempt, I got on his wheel and exchanged a few pulls but we were brought back into the fold by Arts.

Finally, just before the last lap the break was caught. Arts attacked up the long gradual climb. I worked really hard to hold their wheels. Just before we got to the top, Matthew Corinio attacked smoothly and hard. I tried to get on but he was gone! He ended up winning. It was perfect team work. He had sat in while his team did all the work. Then, when it really mattered, "BANG!", he was gone.
The main group continued to ride hard to catch up.

Due to his many efforts during the race and the fact he may feel he doesn't have a sprint, Scott Giles dropped off the back over the rollers and let us go. Even with legs burning from the efforts of the fast, hard hills I found myself in sixth or seventh down the final descent. I was edging up the left ready for the sprint. Unfortunately, we were catching the tail end of another race. They were fanning out to take their final turn. We yelled out but their positioning forced us into more of a line and pushed me back out of position. I still got a good sprint going and was able to edge out a Simple Green team rider for 5th.

My first top 5 in a 35+ field and a competitive one at that. They even had a podium for 5 places. I have to admit that I tracked down the 4th place rider so I could get my podium picture taken. Unfortunately, it was taken by someone from Arts Cyclery. I will share it when they send it to me. I really appreciated the support of Rene and Matt during the race. It really helps to hear your name being called out by teammates.

I am feeling ready for Sea Otter on Thursday-crit, and Friday-circuit race. A couple of easy days then some sprints on Wednesday and I should be there.

Copperopolis 45+ 1/2/3s by Matthew Sloan

Copperopolis Road Race
45+ 1/2/3s: 3 laps: 63 miles 

This is thought of as a Northern Californian Monument. Often referred to as the Paris Roubaix of Northern California, it's definitely a tough race--a war of attrition! Apparently, over the years some of the larger pot holes have been filled in but many of the roads remain extremely bumpy. The hardest section of rough road to deal with is on the stair step climb. When someone attacks here it's hard to respond. It's difficult to have a good rhythm in the first place.

I contemplated doing the Elite 3s race for all of about five minutes. With an extra lap and lots of skinny climbing teenagers to contend with it was easy to press the button on the computer for 45+1/2/3s.

We started out at a good pace. The first time up the hill was steady. Attacks began once we hit the plateau. Nothing stuck and we were all together on the final climb before the nerve racking, twisty and turny decent that takes you into the finish on the last lap. Someone attacked on the climb and I found myself chasing back on the decent. The rider in front of me was a slower descender; unfortunately, he let the gap get bigger. It was too dangerous to pass him. I made a mental note--be closer to the front on the next lap so as not to waste energy bridging back up.

On the second lap I grabbed a bottle in the feed. I was contemplating not taking on the bottle because the climb is right after but I knew I would need the liquid. It would be great to have the feed zone after the climb. It would certainly help someone like me. Going into the stair step climb, I was in the back third of the peloton. This was a mistake. As riders attacked on the final steep section I got gapped. Fortunately, I was with three other riders. We worked hard to get back on. With some effort we caught the main group. This was a small victory which I celebrated quietly within myself.

At this point there were a couple of riders off the front. The pace became stronger as teams worked to bring the break back. On the final climb before the crazy descent I made sure to move up. Going over the top I was nicely placed in the middle of the peloton. I took the descent well and was in the top five going into the long bumpy section that leads to the feed zone. With a hundred meters or so to the feed zone, I went into the lead. I wanted to make sure I grabbed a bottle. The opportunity for two attempts would be worth the effort. First try, I grabbed a bottle, another little victory. I rode a decent pace on the front but let a Pen Velo rider take over for the climb.

I knew if I started the stair step climb towards the front I would have the length of the peloton to drop back and still remain in contention. The final steep section came sooner than I would have liked, doesn't it always! Digging as deep as I could--disgusting but true, I actually puked--I got dropped off the back. The gap wasn't too big but eventually even the following motor bike went past me. One of my mottos for life is Churchill's, "Never, never, never give up!" I didn't. I dug deep, got into a big gear, and used all the power I had to get back on. I got back on! It felt like winning. This time I did exclaim, "Two victories in one day!" Robert Pasco complimented me on my good work.

So now I was back. On the kind of territory that suits me well. One rider came up and asked me "Who's off the front?" I responded, "I don't know, I'm just happy to be back on the back!" I sat in and rested up. Three riders were off the front. I didn't even consider trying to bridge across. I didn't see the move when it happened as I was bridging back up at that point. A move to try and bring them back would have taken it completely out of me at that point. 

There were some small attacks from the group but nothing stuck. When we came to the final climb I was expecting attacks that I wouldn't be able to cover but the field must have been feeling it. I easily worked my way up to the front. My strategy was to descend on the front. I could take my own lines at my own speed. A few of us traded positions but I remained top three the whole way down. 

Last year as a cat. 4 I was further back on the descent. As I caught the group on a slight rise with 1 KM to go, I slowed rather than pass the group using my momentum to get a jump on them. This year I decided to go early. I took the speed from the descent and went with about 1.5-2 KM to go. It was too early. A bunch of guys worked hard to bring me back. I sat up with 750 to go and got on a Pen Velo wheel. I breathed hard and attacked with 200M left. Again, I was the man with the target on his back. I got caught before the line. The guy I had been eyeing as the wheel to follow for the sprint won it. 

I finished 8th overall. A bit of a tactical error in the final 2 KM but you never know unless you try. I am looking forward to next year. Perhaps, I'll hang back a bit; maybe I'll have the legs to hang on the climb and get in the break? Who knows...
Leading the attack to bridge back on!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Knights Ferry Road Race & Redkite Bump Circuit Race by Matthew Sloan

Knights Ferry
Masters 35+ Cat. 3 - 59 miles/2+ laps

13.5 mile out and back course through green rolling hills (27 miles total). It starts at the Intersection of Warnerville Road/Willms road. There was a large field of cattle to cheer us on one section; and the finish hill had enough of a kick to cause some damage. 

Trip up
Matt Wocasek and I drove up together. Fortunately, before leaving cell reception, we realized we had left our licenses at home. Thanks to modern technology Matt's wife scanned and emailed his license, while I went to the USA cycling website and took a screen shot of mine. With our licenses to thrill, we continued to Knights Ferry. 

It started with a break and ended with a break
The race started and finished with Spokesman breaks. Before the race Matt said, "Steve Heaton often starts with a break right from the start." We didn't realize this would become Matt's plan of attack. At the line up there were large contingents from BRE Cycling and Team Sierra Nevada; a couple of strong Mike's Bikes riders: Luigi Zuniga and Chris Hobbs, a couple of strong VSRT/Livermore riders, and others who made up a peloton of about 30. Thankfully, the rain stopped before our race and held off. However, the wind remained strong and it became the deciding factor. Basically the "out" half of the course was into the window and the "back" half of the course, to the finish, was with the wind.

After about half a mile of racing, Matt found himself off the front with another rider, I think, from BRE Cycling. They were joined from a Sierra Nevada rider and one other, I think. I patrolled the front sitting on the  wheel of anyone thinking of bridging up. I was grateful Sierra Nevada and BRE were in the break because they did most of the protecting for me. The break was caught after about 5-6 miles. Another two riders went off--BRE and someone else. They were soon followed by Chris Hobbs. They stayed away into the wind but were caught at the turn around. After another couple of miles, Ben Cannon from VSRT/Livermore and a BRE rider, I think Robert Cannon, launched an attack. Chris Hobbs got back on the front and drilled it. When we went past the finish line for the second to last time, I was thinking, "Wow! this is hurting. Can I keep it up?"

Last Lap
At the turn around, a couple miles after the finish line, we caught Ben Cannon but BRE remained off the front. He was in easy striking distance. I thought Sierra Nevada would just get on the front and reel him in but they didn't. It was exasperating. I could see him getting farther away but thought, "How stupid it would be to go after him into 13.5 miles of wind! How many matches would be burnt doing that?" BRE stayed off the front, Sierra Nevada rode at the front, and Matt and I sat at the back of the peloton cruising in the draft. I started to think about my position for the turn around. I wanted to be at, or near the front, if someone went hard with the wind at their back. I was also feeling frustrated about how Sierra Nevada were letting BRE stay a minute off the front, solo, into the wind! It would be so easy for a team to haul him in.

I voiced my frustrations: "So, are Sierra Nevada racing for 2nd place?!" No reaction. David Allen had cautioned me to be patient but my impatience got the better of me and I threw caution, literally, into the wind. I accelerated from the back and went hard. I looked back, no one was with me, everyone had let me go. I kept grinding the pedals. I looked back. I was further away. "Okay," I thought, "this will either be really stupid or genius. Let's go for it!" I kept grinding away into the wind up the long 5% ascent to the turn around, a good couple or three miles. Farther than I wanted to go solo into the wind. I looked up and I could see I was catching BRE. I looked back and I couldn't see the peloton. "They can't see me!" I went hard, made the turn, then put everything I had into catching BRE. 

I caught him about six miles from the finish. A break of four had formed to catch me: Ben Cannon, Luigi Zuniga, Sean Beck, and someone. I rode with BRE for about a 1/4 mile. I told him we need to ride hard or we might get caught. He wasn't pulling hard enough so I pushed on and dropped him. I looked back. I gapped him by about 50m. The group of four were about 50m behind him. I took inspiration from Tony Martin, relaxed my jaw and shoulders and  breathed deep. I took inspiration from Jens Voight, shut the legs up, and went as hard and as furious as I could. 

I knew if I got to 2KM to go with a decent gap, I could win. The gap was big enough. I rested a touch before the finishing hill and gave it all I could. I looked back. They were gaining on me but they wouldn't catch me, no way! I reached the top of the hill pushing hard, 200m to go on the flat. I dropped those gears and powered to the line. Ah! such a good feeling to see the hard work and training pay off. My legs felt great, can't wait for the TT at Chico.

RedKite Bump Circuit Race, Livermore
Masters 45+ 3/4s - 3 laps


Clockwise loop (roughly 7.5 miles, plus a 3 mile roll out) on good pavement on Patterson Pass, Cross, Tesla and Greenville Roads. The course includes rolling hills and finishes on a short rise (The Bump) on Cross Road just south of the intersection of Patterson Pass. Center line rule in effect throughout the course. If you can’t stay to the right of the line stay home! 

What's the opposite of winning, losing! It was a combined field of 45+ 3/4s and 55+ 3/4s. With many cat. 4s, it felt a little sketchy. The rain, wind, and wet roads didn't help matters. I stayed near the front the whole race. I didn't feel comfortable on some of those wheels. There is a long, gradual 2ish mile ascent that takes you to the finish bump. Even on the first lap, my legs were feeling it. Riders were constantly trying to breakaway but with the wind and no real team coverage, nothing stuck. Until the final ascent that is. Two riders went off the front after the right hand turn into the final hill. Unfortunately, I was boxed in and due to the center line rule I couldn't jump on to it. I also felt they would get reeled in as on previous laps. Not this time. 

No one chased them down so I gave it my best shot. However, the legs just didn't have it. I couldn't even get away from the main group. I tried again to get a jump on the group before we hit the finishing bump but to no avail. My legs were shattered and the riders that were left flew past on the finishing bump hill. 

Never mind, better luck next time. In retrospect, I would have been better off settling to race for third to get some points rather than attempt to bridge up for first again. A very good training race.