Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dunnigan Hills Road Race 35+ 4B

Race: Dunnigan Hills

Date: 8/13/2011

Category/Field Size: Men Cat 4B 35+.  29 racers.

Team Mates: Chris and Felix

Weather/Course Description:
Weather was nice.  This is the first race I have done where I haven’t started out in some sort of cold weather gear.  No significant wind.  The course had a fair amount of rollers but nothing big enough to separate out the group.  The course was 46 minus 3 miles long (more on that later).

Race Plan:
Felix and I talked about a few plans.  We initially thought we would launch several attacks but we decided that it would be best if Felix sat in towards the front while I stayed as protected as possible while looking for an attack or two to join.

Our B group rode pretty fast (we started 5 minutes after the A group but finished only a few minutes behind them).  There were several attacks but the peloton didn’t let any of the riders get further than 20 seconds up the road.  About 45 minutes into the race I decided to go with a Davis guy that was attempting to bridge the gap on one of the attacks.  We hit it hard and closed the gap quickly but the entire peloton followed us.  At that point, I decided energy conservation was the best strategy.

Going back to the start of the race and the race information that was being relayed to us…  The guy said that this was a 46 mile race.  That is a key piece of misinformation that caught a lot of people, including me, off-guard. With about 6 miles to go I started to make my way towards the front.  However, the roads were REALLY narrow and rough so it was taking me longer than expected to make it to the front.  I pulled even with Felix, who through the natural morphing/rotation of the peloton, found himself further back from the front of the peloton than he had been all race long.  No problem, we still have a little over three miles to go.

And then I saw the 200 meter sign fly by us.  Editing my quote for the family audience, my reaction was this: “FUDGE!!!!  200 METERS!!!  GO! GO! GO! GO!”

I had riders in front and all around me.  I didn’t have time to think about gearing or anything else.  I just went as fast as I could.  I wish I could give more details on the final 200 meters but when I am in a purely reactive mode like that, I don’t tend to remember much.  I know I passed a lot of riders.  I think some of them were stragglers from the 35+ A group because they were riding pretty slow in the middle of the road.  Looking at the Garmin data, I went from 21.4 to 33 miles an hour.  I still had gears and power to go faster but I ran out of space as I crossed the finish line.  I then had to slam on the breaks instantly as three guys that finished in front of me clustered together, bumping bars, causing two of them to go down. I wasn’t going to stop in time so I veered left into the dirt to avoid them.  I am lucky I pulled it out without crashing or taking anyone else down.  The sprint-then-stop made for an interesting speed plot: 21 – 33 – 12.

Kudos to Felix for staying in the top 5-10 riders the entire race.  With the way that finish went down I feel like we wasted a good opportunity.  We were strong going into the race, avoided mechanical issues (there were a LOT of flats), and stayed rubber-side down.  To have the race end like that really stinks.

Too bad the race officials didn’t put out 1km and 500m signs as well.  Given that they were doing a new finish location for the course this year (that was announced Thursday night), the extra signs would have been valuable for all of the racers.  I talked with several people from the A and B group after the race and everyone was caught off-guard by the finish.    

I finished 9th.  Felix finished 17th.  

1.  Study the maps better so that I feel good about pre-riding the finish when we aren’t doing a course that involves loops.  I had no clue where I was, I had never been to Yolo before, and didn’t feel good about riding off to find the finish line.  I didn’t want to get lost and miss the start of the race.

2.  Listen to my instincts.  From what the guy was saying before the race, it seemed like the race was just about done, but I kept looking at my odometer and kept thinking that I must have misunderstood the finish because we still have several miles to go. 

Sponsors Note
I couldn’t be more pleased with the Nike Vision glasses!  The MaxAdapt lenses continue to work well in all conditions providing crisp vision that is never too dark or light. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Central Coast Circuit Race 35+ 4-5

Race: Central Coast Circuit Race
Date: 7/2/2011
Category/Field Size: 35+ 4-5, about 14 racers.
Team Mates: Army of One
Weather/Course Description:  Weather was foggy and cool at the start of the race.  The sun came out during the race only to get cold and foggy again at the end.
I like the course description from carpool teammate Matt C, so I am going to insert that here:
5 laps around a 4.3 mile up and down course with the longest climb being 90 seconds and 4/10 of a mile. In the back section of the course, there are a series of three stair step short climbs. At the end of the third climb, there is a right hand turn that drops down 7/10 of a mile to a right hand turn. After the turn it's flat for 100 meters before another right hand turn for a 200 meter 3% grade uphill finish.
Race Plan: 
With a small field size I knew I was going to have to keep a close eye out for attacks because there may not be enough firepower left in the peloton to chase them down.  Also there wouldn’t be as many riders strung out to leap frog my way back to the attack.
The first 3 laps were mostly uneventful.  One rider decided to launch a mini-attack.  I jumped on it and followed through with a decent pace up the stair climb to see who would respond.  I was accurate in marking the riders to look out for as they all responded and were right on my wheel.  One racer I needed to keep a really close eye on was Morgan Raines, who just won the last circuit race and has only finished lower than the top 10 once in his 12 or so races. 
As we were heading into our fourth lap I was towards the back of the peloton and decided to move myself back up behind Morgan.  This put me as the third rider back.  Not long after I hear someone calling out an attack.  As I turn my head I see another racer with a full head of steam blowing by us.  Turning my head was probably my biggest mistake.   I should have just started my acceleration instead of turning my head.  By the time I looked forward Morgan was already out of his saddle accelerating and I was out of his draft.  I go as hard as I can to catch on, but the speed difference was large at that point.  I am about 5 bike lengths off of the last rider in the attack but I couldn’t close the deal.
I am starting to get tired trying to close the gap and keep waiting for someone to come around me to help with the chase, but no help came.  After the race I found out that the Third Pillar guys (there were 4 of them in this race) had a guy in the break and the other three were behind me blocking.  As I start working my way up the stair climb I am exhausted, light headed, and on the verge of barfing.  I started to weigh whether I should sit up and conserve energy, which might get me better placing, or continue the pursuit.  I decided that I am in this to win, not to worry about whether or not I can get a place or two higher.  I was thinking of a quote I heard (I am not sure who the source is):  Losers quit when they are tired, winners quit when they have won.  With that in mind I continue my charge up the stair climb.
As the race continued there were a few attempts by the riders following me to get a pace line going, but I kept finding myself in the front with everyone following.  At one point, the attack group started fragmenting and they lost the Third Pillar guy.  So the Third Pillar group that was behind me launched out to get one of their riders back up there.  I tried to latch on but was too tired from all the chasing (there were several other attacks from guys behind me that I had to reel in) and couldn’t close the gap.  The rider they launched would eventually finish third, so maybe I should have stayed in the draft so that I could have hitched a ride.  At the same time, if I wasn’t charging ahead and on the verge of passing the guy that dropped off, they may not have ever had to launch an attack to get another guy up there. 
Going up the stair climb for the last time I am more exhausted then ever and start to struggle with the climb.  Several riders that have been behind me go around and start leaving me behind.  One of them gives me a nod and says some verbal acknowledgement for the work that I had been doing (brain was too oxygen starved to remember).  I am indeed tired, but the race isn’t over yet.  Somehow I find an extra burst and closed the gap on that group just before the crest of the hill.  As we descend I stayed tight on their wheels so that I can recover as much as I can before a sprint finish.  As I think about the slight uphill finish I decided to use a slightly easier gear then I would normally use because I don’t want to get bogged down.  As we approach the final corner I shoot around the group with an all-out sprint which worked great until I ran out of RPM’s.  I should have picked a harder gear.  I hear a guy powering his way up next to me but I am hesitant to do a shift under a full load and have to settle for watching him go by me while I still have power left in my legs.
6th place
1. Don’t sit and stare at an attack when you hear one called out.
2. Don’t over-think gearing going into the final sprint.  Pick something hard and make it work.
3.Work more on sprinting.  With my recent accidents I got away from that.
Sponsors Note
The light conditions were varied during the race but my vision was always clear with the Nike glasses. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BP May Crit Elite 4 and 35+ 3/4

Race: Bicycles Plus May Crit

Date: 5/28/2011

Category/Field Size: Elite 4, Masters 30+ 3-4, 78+ racers in each race.

Team Mates Elite 4: Chris (report writer) and Todd

Team Mates 35+ 3/4: Chris (report writer) and Patrick

Weather/Course Description: Cool, overcast, occasional sprinkles, with a headwind going into the final sprint.

Race Plan
Stay towards the front and try to get a lead out sprint going at the end.

Elite 4:
This race was crowded but provided an excellent opportunity for me to work on riding with large groups.  I really wanted to focus on advice Rob gave a few days ago about making sure that when people come up to pass me, I accelerate with them and join in on the line (opposed to waiting for the line to pass and then catching on, which with large field sizes usually results in you getting a ticket to the back of the peloton).

Todd and I kept working the group and working our way back to each other so that we would be in good position to get a lead-out going at the end.  The only problem is that we were both thinking like Cat 5 riders when we were last at this crit.  Our thinking was that we could move up with two laps to go and, from there, get to the top 5 on the final stretch.  On that final lap, we were going over 31mph which is much too fast to make up significant ground.  I finished slightly behind mid-pack and Todd wasn't far behind.

Kudos to Todd for keeping the pace while coming off of a knee injury!  This was a fast race.

Todd and I staying close during the race

We survived to have a picture taken at the end.  The only thing missing is a podium.  Maybe next time...

30+ 3/4:
In talking with Rob before the race, he emphasized staying towards the front of the pack and not letting myself drift to the back.  Especially with 3 laps to go, I need to be in the top 10.  Once again I was working on going with groups when they pass me and I think I was doing really well.  A few times I got stuck and found myself in the back, but it was fairly easy to find situations to move back up (like after a prime).

Patrick was also riding well.  The times that I found myself towards the back, I could see him in front of me, charging away to keep BC represented in the front.

With three laps to go I was back where I wanted to be, in the top 10 riders.  The problem was that I just didn't have enough fitness to stay there.  Part of it was that I was tired from the first race and the other part was that this pack was flying!  I could hear the commentator mentioning several times how fast the pack was going and, up to that point, was the fastest race of the day.  I ended up falling back a ways.  I saw Patrick at one point and thought about organizing something, but we were so far back we couldn't get in the top 15 so I abandoned that idea figuring it is best to finish the race safely.

Uhmm...  Nothing worth repeating :)

1. Accelerating when people start to pass you is a great way to manage the race.
2. When the race is flying, make sure you are in the front early otherwise you will not be able to make up ground.
3. It is more fun to race when you have teammates to share the experience with.  Great racing Todd and Patrick!

Sponsors Note
While I am still waiting for Nike Vision to get back to me on those glasses that will allow me to see a few seconds into the future, I must say that the glasses and lenses I have are great.  There was a mix of sun and clouds today and the glasses worked great in all conditions.  Never too bright, never too dark.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Golden State Race Series Crit and Circuit Cat 4/5 30+

Race: Golden State Race Series Day 1 (Crit) and Day 2 (Circuit)
Date: May 21st and 22nd, 2011
Category/Field Size: 30+ 4/5.  54 racers for the Crit and 66 racers for the Circuit.
Team Mates: Chris Grove (report writer) and Patrick Peters
Weather/Course Description:  Sunny.  Probably the high 60s to low 70s.  The course is very flat and very fast.  There are several turns but all of them can be taken at full speed.
Race Plan: Have Patrick stay in the pack to setup for a sprint finish while I looked for break opportunities.

As the race got going I looked around but didn’t see Patrick anywhere even though I saw and talked to him while getting ready for the race.  After the race I found out that Patrick didn’t get back from his warm-ups in time for the start of the race, which happens to be one of my worst fears. 
As the race got going I was trying to stay in the top ¼ but was having a hard time doing that.  With no challenges to separate riders, riders behind the leaders would keep swarming ahead the instant the leaders slowed down.  Several break attempts were made by other racers but the pack was too big and motivated.  About half way through I was getting tired trying to maintain a position towards the front so I drifted to the back to catch a draft and recover.  BTW - The draft behind 54 racers is huge!  Anyway…  With one lap to go I saw my golden opportunity.  A strong looking rider in a Davis kit started surging his way up the pack.  I grabbed his wheel and we were easily making progress to be in the top 5 going around the final turn.  And then, inexplicably, another racer does a hard swerve to his left, almost crashing into the Davis guy.  I have to hit my breaks to avoid rear-ending them and now I am stuck with the two riders in front of me trying to recover their momentum while the peloton speeds by on my right.  I recover as best I could and manage to get 19th.

Circuit Race:
For this race I decided to take a different approach.  I decided to stick to the back and take it easy until the race is about ½ done, then start being more aggressive about being in the front.  Yes, this puts me at risk of missing a break, but with 66 racers on a simple course, I am betting on a pack finish.
Everything was going as planned until we were two or three laps out.  For some reason that I cannot figure out, a racer charges up behind me on my right.  We are working our way through some turns and at that time, there was plenty of space on my right and plenty of space in front of me but as he goes by he clips my right arm, my handle bars, and proceeds to cut in front of me, almost taking out my front wheel.  Keeping in mind that my nerves are already a little frayed when it comes to crits and I am riding with a still-healing left shoulder, I lost what nerves I had left and started playing things safe which got me to the back of the pack pretty quickly.  Still, I find some safe openings and recover to about mid-pack.  At this point, I see an opportunity in a straight stretch of road on the backside of the course. I can easily move up to the front of the pack but without much time left I start wondering if I am going to burn too many matches to get to the front and have a strong finish (I have been too aggressive in the past causing me to run out of gas on the final 200m).  In that moment of hesitation, the race was lost.  A swarm of riders came around me, blocking me out of any opportunity to advance and I find myself out the back of the peloton in no time.  I work my way up as best I can in the turns before the finish but it was a lost cause.  I finished 45th.
Crit – 19th
Circuit – 45th
1. Better to take a risk and finish 45th than to sit in and finish 45th.
2. Don’t miss the start of the race.
3. It is good to be social with the other riders and make some friends.  At one point during the race, Morgan (from BP), was watching me work my way back towards the front and yelled over (as friendly advice, he had to yell for me to hear) to get out of the wind.  Cool guy.
Sponsors Note
I think I need to talk to Nike Vision to see if they can change the lenses so that I can see a few moments into the future.  The crisp vision is great however I need some time travel for the glasses to be optimal.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sea Otter Circuit Race - Men Cat 5 Elite

Race: Sea Otter Circuit Race     

Date: 4/16/2011

Category/Field Size: Elite 5, 30-40 racers

Team Mates: Chris Grove (Army of One)

Weather/Course Description: Cool morning with an 8:00am start time.  Riding the Laguna Seca race track.  Pot holes everywhere!!!  Not really.  The track is in excellent condition.

Race Plan: Stay towards the front and look to get myself in a good position to sprint at the finish.

From just racing last night I was feeling lethargic this morning.  To counter that, I wanted to line up at the very front and do the initial lead up to the top of the corkscrew.  I figured that if I take the early lead I can set the pace most of the way up, and therefore do it at a pace I could handle, and when they start passing me I won’t move too far back into the group.  (I call it the Lemming Strategy.) That strategy worked well as I led the pack half way up at a comfortable pace.  As I started to get passed I just stayed in my seat and let them go knowing that I would catch them in the corkscrew.

The second lap is when trouble started…  I wanted to start keeping up with the leaders on the climb so I got out of the saddle to start pedaling.  As I did, my left foot came out of the pedal.  As I tried to get my shoe clipped back in I realized that I wasn’t getting a solid clip.  Before the race, I had walked from the parking lot to the start of the race with my dad and two of my boys, which I think clogged up my cleat. 

At this point I have some safety concerns.  I don’t feel like it would be good for me to ride up the hills with the pack or be going for a sprint finish.  I decided to alter my strategy a little so that on the climbs, I am way off to the right or left of the pack.  If I am still with the group going into the finish I wouldn’t sprint for it because I don’t want to take out half the peloton.  

Without being able to stand to match the pace of the group up the climb, I was forced into a catch-up mode while riding the rest of the course.  On one climb I fell far enough back that the motorcycle and pace car that was following the peloton passed me.  That didn’t last for long as I put my cornering skills (from BCRT skills clinic) to use on the next descent down the corkscrew. I was back towards the front of the group in no time.  

As I was approaching the hill again I realized that my left shoe finally had a solid clip.  I am back in the race!  I sprung out of my saddle and kept up with the pack on this climb.  Next time around, trouble sprung up again as I dropped my chain!  Need to get that chain catcher before my next race…  I was able to recover without stopping but I was in catch-up mode again.  

I am starting to get tired from burning matches on the catch-up efforts.  I am back with the group with one lap to go.  The pace on the last lap surged up the hill.  I tried to match it but I was totally spent and couldn’t keep up with the pace.  As I made the descent down the corkscrew I realized that there were a bunch of stragglers behind and in front of me.  The main pack was too far off to catch so this became a race between me and whoever was left.  

Maximizing momentum down the corkscrew I came into the sharp left turn after the corkscrew a little too hot and found myself on the warning track.  Thunk-Thunk-Thunk-Thunk-Thunk.  I pulled out of it easily enough and was grinning because it was a very fun experience to be pushing it that close to the edge in my speed.  (I think my wife’s need for speed may be rubbing off on me.) In hindsight I think I also didn’t take the best angle through that turn like I did most of the rest of the race.  I think I was getting anxious for the finish and wasn’t paying as close attention to the details of making a good turn.  

I used my momentum to pass a few people and got behind another guy to get a draft break as we headed towards the finish.  The stragglers were getting restless and started powering towards the line so I did the same.  I passed several people but one guy came by me just before the finish.  I heard him coming but was already maxed out and couldn’t do anything about it.

Initially I was listed as finishing 12th.  On Sunday night it changed to 16th.  We will see what number they finally come up with when they post it to the USA Cycling website.

1. When you have to park a long way from the start and walk with the family, wear tennis shoes to the start of the race.  Walking on asphalt, sand, gravel, and dirt from the parking lot to the start of the race isn’t good for your cleats.
2. Get a chain catcher.
3. Playing catch-up the entire race isn’t a good way to get a top 10 finish.

Sponsors Note
The pictures my dad took of me on the race track wearing the Nike glasses looks cool.

Warming up before the race