Team Santa Cruz 2007 Race Reports
- More recent race reports from 2007...
- San Ardo Road Race, 8/25/2007, Bryan King
- San Ardo Road Race, 8/25/2007, Steve Rosen
- Timpani Criterium, 8/5/2007, Steve Rosen
- Watsonville Criterium, 7/21/2007, Steve Rosen
- Timpani Criterium, 8/5/2007, Dennis Pedersen
- Big Foot Classic, 7/7/2007, rita leon
- National Championship Mountain Bike Race, 7/21/2007,
- Watsonville Criterium, 7/21/2007, Dennis
- Coyote Creek Circuit Race, 7/7/2007, Dennis
- CCCX Cross-Country #9, Expert 45-54, 6/30/2007,
- CCCX Mountain Bike Series #9, 6/30/2007, Mike
- Alley Cat, 6/23/2007, Mike Evans
- 24 HOA, 6/9/2007, rita leon
- 24 Hours of Adrenalin, 6/10/2007, Karen
- CCCX MTB #7, Single Speet Sport, 6/3/2007,
- 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Laguna Seca Raceway
, 6/9/2007, Jason Cruz
- 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Laguna Seca Raceway,
6/9/2007, Norman Field
- American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure,
6/10/2007, Dennis Pedersen
- Single Speed UK Championships, Ashton Court,
6/10/2009, Alex Anderson
- Ross' Epic Hill Climb, 6/2/2007, Gary Griffin
- ICC Dash For Cash, 6/2/2007, Dennis Pedersen
- Trek Bicycle Store Memorial Day Criterium,
5/28/2007, Dennis Pedersen
- CCCX MTB #6, Sport Single Speed, 5/19/2007,
- Panoche Valley Road Race, 5/20/2007, Dennis
- Berkeley Hills Road Race, 5/12/2007, Dennis
- Coolest 24 Hour Race, 5/6/2007, Norman Field
- SugarCRM Cat's Hill Classic Criterium, 5/5/2007,
- Napa Valley Dirt Classic, Single Speed Sport,
4/22/2007, Dan Henderson
- sea otter, 4/15/2007, rita leon
- Napa Valley Dirt Classic, 4/22/2007, KAREN
- Sea Otter Classic Cross Country Expert 60+, 4/15/2007,
- Sea Otter Classic - Super D, 4/12/2007,
- 39th Annual Santa Cruz Classic Criterium,
4/15/2007, Dennis Pedersen
- CCCX MTB #5, Single Speed Sport, 3/31/2007,
- CCCX Cross-Country #5, Toro Park, 3/31/2007,
- NOVA National MTB XC Race, 3/1/2007, Ron Riley
- Gorrick XC Race #4, Porridgepot Hill, 4/1/2007,
- West Drayton XC MTB, 3/27/2007, Winona Hubbard
- West Drayton Mountain Bike Club XC Race,
3/25/2007, Alex Anderson
- Land Park Criterium, 3/17/2007, Dennis
- CCCX #4, 3/10/2007, rita leon
- Menlo Park Grand Prix, 3/10/2007, Dennis
- CCCX MTB #4, Sport Single Speed, 3/10/2007,
- CCCX MTB#3, Single Speed Sport, 3/3/2007,
- CCCX Cross-Country #3, 3/3/2007, Dennis
- CCCX MTB#2, Single Speed Sport, 2/18/2007,
- CCCX Cross-Country #2, 2/18/2007, Dennis
- CCCX MTB #1, Sport Single Speed, 2/11/2007,
- CCCX Cross-Country #1, 2/11/2007, Dennis
- Peak Season 2 & 3, 1/28/2007, Brij Lunine
- Peak Season Cyclocross 3, 1/28/2007, Mike Evans
- Peak Season # 2, 1/14/2010, Mike Evans
- CCCX#5, 1/7/2007, Brij Lunine
- CCCX #5, 1/7/2007, Mike Evans
San Ardo Road Race, San Ardo, CA USA, 8/25/2007
I’m not that big of a fan of road races, I enjoy criteriums much more. This
goes back to my days as a BMX racer when the races were short, all out efforts
for about 1/4 mile. This trained me to recover well from hard short efforts,
as there were 3-4 races/day. So I tend to stick to crits. In my last and only
road race (Wente RR) I got dropped like a bad habit on the climb in the second
lap, so when I saw the add for the San Ardo RR I figured it might be a good
choice as it’s an “easier” RR. It’s rather flat as far as most of the road races
go, and is on the shorter side (42 miles). El Patron was headed down to officiate
the finish line, I was going to race the cat5 and Steve Rosen was racing the
Masters 45 4/5 race, so we all carpooled down. Steve has also been given the
name Chamois Steve as he was already dressed in his bike clothes when we met
at 5:15am to start the drive. David and I figured he sleeps in his bike clothes;
butt balm’d and ready to ride.
Chamois Steve had the great idea of stopping at Denny’s in King City to get
some food before the rest of the drive down. Even on paper this sounds like
a bad idea, in reality a swift kick to the groin would be more pleasant. The
service sucked, the food tasted like rotten cardboard, and Denny’s burps are
horrible in the middle of a race. Do not repeat this mistake, Denny’s
is not race food, it’s not even human food.
Reading the race reports from the past, this event comes down to the last
5 minutes of the race. It goes over a narrow bridge just after “downtown” San
Ardo, then turns uphill as it goes past neutral feed and under highway 101.
A left turn onto a side road leads to the 150-200m finishing straight which
is relatively flat. If you can be in good position going into the turn you should
have a great shot at a great finish.
We previewed the first half of the course, rolling hills, some narrow roads
and minor pot-holes. No sharp corners to worry about. By the time we made it
to registration, the first heat was heading out. I got my number, changed and
warmed up for about 10 minutes. There were about 30 people in the cat5 race,
and nobody I really recognized from previous races; however I am an only child
so noticing others can be hard for me. My plan was to stay in the pack, save
energy and wait for the last 5 minutes. The “climb” of the race is right from
the start and is only about a mile long, nothing to really worry about, and
the rollers seemed all gentile. The weather was perfect, no wind and about 65
degrees warming to about 75 by the finish.
We started out at a nice 18-20mph pace, and the group seemed to flow nice
for a cat5 pack. There was one guy in particular to avoid as he rode very nervously
and rough, and no groups with 3+ team mates, so no real team tactics would be
in play. About 6-7 miles into the race we got passed by the cat3 group, and
for a couple miles we all rode together in a large group of about 100 riders,
which was pretty fun to be in the middle of. Once they began to pull ahead the
cat5 pack dropped back and my group was yelling into the cat3 group for the
5’s to drop back. Apparently 2 riders didn’t hear (or didn’t care) and stayed
with the cat3’s. The back stretch is essentially totally flat, so we picked
up to an easy 23-24mph pace. I had over hydrated at the start, and had to piss
like crazy, so I dropped back. I don’t have the technique down too good with
bib shorts, and it was on a flat stretch, so needless to say I got a little
on myself… there’s got to be a better way to take care of business then onto
your own leg… but that’s racing right? I had to work a bit to make up the 50
yards I had fallen back, and right when I caught on again there was a crash
caused by two guys either bumping handlebars or rubbing wheels. They took out
another guy and were laid out across the road. I had to run off the road onto
the sloping gravel shoulder to avoid the crash, and nearly lost it myself. Now
I had to work to get back onto the pack again, but I was glad to see the guys
who crashed were ok and were able to rejoin the group. Nobody likes seeing people
get hurt. Unless it’s on YouTube.
Not much happened the whole rest of the first lap, and on the second a couple
small weak solo attacks on the roller sections (including a guy who thought
a slight downhill was a good place for one, he made it about 25 yards until
the group’s momentum picked him right back up). The back straight was a little
faster, about 25 mph, but that was easy when you’re sucking wheel like mad in
the back third of the pack. We had picked up some dropped Masters 45/55 riders,
so the group was a little larger than we had started with.
We rolled into San Ardo, had about 1.5 miles left and I knew it was time
to move up in the pack. We were going across the narrow bridge and the entire
lane was jammed so I was stuck in the back all the way to the start of the climb.
The pace was starting to pick up, and I knew I had to move forward or else I’d
be sprinting for last. With about 200 yards to the underpass I saw a gap on
the right side so I started moving up. I noticed I was moving a lot faster than
I expected through the field, but I was only trying to move up a couple spots.
I decided to go for a move since nobody was making a real effort considering
this is the perfect spot for an attack. By the time I broke free from the field
I was nearly all out, and had managed to catch them by surprise. I had a sizable
lead as I went under the overpass, and continued to put everything I had into
keeping the lead. As long as I could get to the turn ahead of the pack with
some kind of a lead I might have a shot at a win. Going into the turn I was
fading hard, but kept pushing. The road flattened out for the last 75 yards
and there was no real chance of getting caught. I crossed the line in first
with a 25 yard gap, I was too tired to scream “F**K YEAH” like the Cat 1/2/Pro
winner did, but was pretty stoked on my first win.
After coming in, David said two other guys had crossed first, some time before,
and I knew they had to have been in the cat3 group. This was confirmed when
the head official Erik Peterson found them and they confessed to finishing in
the other group. They got bumped to the back of the standings, and I officially
had my win, a free t-shirt and diet Dr. Pepper.
This was my last race as a cat5, and a good way to know it's time to upgrade.
I learned it helps to know the course, either by race reports or seeing it in
person beforehand. Steve raced his first RR well from what it sounds like, and
Gary did well in his race (4th). It was a lot of fun getting to know the team
mates a little better, and go on a fun little trip. I’ll even try a road race
again, but I swear, if Chamois Steve ever mentions Denny’s again (or gets a
supersized coffee before the 2+ hour drive), I’m out! =)
San Ardo Road Race, San Ardo, CA USA, 8/25/2007
My first road race in over 30 years - and now I remember why I enjoyed the
road races so much way back in the mid-70s, when I first started racing during
my college days! What a great course - just like it was described at the Velo
Promo website - flat and rolling country roads - the kind of roads that first
drew me into biking so many years ago - narrow roads (really narrow in some
spots!), generally good condition, almost no cars, no buildings, vineyards,
rolling hills all around you, almost no people (except those of us racing along
the road!). Kind of like the background scenery of "Fractured Fairy Tales" on
the Rocky and Bullwinkle show - most of those in my race might remember that
hilarious cartoon show, as I rode with the 45+ 4/5 group in this race. I could
have done the Cat 5 race with one of my teammates, Bryan King, but I decided
it would be good to start racing with guys my own age - after witnessing the
carnage in the Timpani crit I did a few weeks ago, I thought it would be prudent
to stick to the 45+ races as much as possible - especially for crits! - the
guys in those races are generally more experienced and have better bike-handling
skills. I was not to be disappointed in this race, as I found the pack to be
generally very well behaved - I felt quite safe and relaxed for the entire race
- almost too relaxed, in fact! But more on that later...
First, you need to hear the Dennys story - I promised the guys I'd tell the
story (If food stories bore you, skip to the next paragraph, please!) - since
San Ardo is a couple hours away from the Santa Cruz area, those of us on the
team that decided to do the race thought it might be fun to carpool together
- so after a flurry of e-mails, it turned out that David Gill, Bryan King, Gary
Griffin, and myself were going to head down to San Ardo. Gary was actually heading
down to Los Angeles the day of the San Ardo race to help move some furniture
for his daughter, so he said he was going to stop at San Ardo as a stop on the
way down - a good way to stretch the legs on a long drive! I've done that drive
down to LA lots of times - but never thought about doing a road race as a way
to take a break! Gary was doing the 55+ race, so I told him I'd join him in
his races in just 2 short years. So David, Bryan, and I agreed to carpool together
- and I volunteered to be the driver. David wasn't racing - he was heading down
to be one of the officials, but didn't need to be in San Ardo until 9:00 am,
which was about the same time as the start for my race and Bryan's race. I thought
we could head out early enough to grab breakfast in King City - I mentioned
Dennys (ugh!), but was actually thinking of a really good mom-and-pop place
we always stopped at in King City - Keefers! I couldn't remember the name of
the place (it had been awhile since last traveling down that way), so I just
said Dennys to the guys, since everyone knows Dennys. Well, we get down to King
City and I told them we were really going to check out this other place just
one exit past the Dennys, but when we pulled up, the name had been changed -
it was no longer Keefers! It was now Margie's Diner - and they wouldn't be open
until 8:00 am (it was only 6:50 am when we rolled into King City). So, we decided
to go with Plan B and headed back to Dennys...big mistake! Dennys has a way
of preparing food in the most tasteless manner possible - we hypothesized they
must actually have special cooking classes (Dennys University?) to teach their
cooks how to totally ruin the simplest of foods - eggs and hashbrowns, or oatmeal,
for example. How can you mess up on breakfast? Dennys has mastered the art,
for sure - and after being seated, the service was so bad, I had to get up after
waiting for 10 minutes and walk over to the manager of the restaurant to find
out if our waiter was ever going to come over to take our order. Then, after
we (finally!) got our food and ate most of our breakfast, the waiter comes over
with a bottle of ketchup and asks if any of us needs the ketchup...hmmmm...let's
see - I was taking my last bite of tasteless sourdough toast, David was finishing
off his tasteless pancakes, and Bryan still had a little of his tasteless oatmeal
and half a glass of milk...oh, yeah - ketchup is exactly what we needed to bring
some life to our food! The waiter seemed to be the perfect match for our food...Dennys...never
again, we all agreed! And instead of being the 20-minute stop that I had envisioned,
we were there for almost an hour!
Okay - back to the race report! After our Adventure in DennysLand, we dashed
down to San Ardo, which is only 20 minutes south of King City - we were running
a little late, but since we had left so early (5:30 am from Scotts Valley),
we still had plenty of time - so I suggested we get off the freeway at San Lucas
and preview the course by riding along the first half of the course - it basically
traces these beautiful country roads that parallel Hwy 101 between San Ardo
and San Lucas. Since it was now almost 8:00 am (the start time of the Pro 1/2
race), I said we'd be able to check out the Pro 1/2 peleton as we got closer
to San Ardo. It was a good thing we did the preview, as we got a chance to see
where the rollers were and where attacks might happen during the race. But we
got all the way to San Ardo and never saw the Pro 1/2 pack - mostly because
they hadn't started yet! They were running about 20 minutes behind schedule,
so that meant my 9:00 am race was going to start about 9:20 am instead - they
ended up canceling one of the races (one of the junior races, I believe, as
there were no entrants!), so we actually got started at 9:15 am.
I didn't do any warmup for the race, and got a little concerned in the first
few miles, as I knew the course was going to do the only real 'climb' of the
route just after the start area - after crossing over a bridge, the road pitches
up for about 1.25 miles at a fairly mild 5% or 6% grade - it's not very tough
at all, but if you're moving at about 18 to 21 mph, it's harder than you'd think!
Well, since we were just starting out the race, the guys at the front were being
rather kind and didn't push the pace too hard - the average speed was more like
15 to 18 mph - my heartrate climbed up a bit, but nowhere near my redline area.
Still, I figured that the next time up that little climb was going to be a lot
faster - and I turned out to be rather prescient, which I'll describe a little
later. After the "big climb" there are a series of really fun rollers for the
next 8 or 9 miles, until you get to San Lucas, where the course then turns back
to the south and heads to San Lucas on the other side of Hwy 101 - the rollers
you hit while heading north from San Ardo to San Lucas are not only scenic,
but the road really narrows for several miles, giving it a real cozy feeling
- maybe a little too cozy, if a car came along - but fortunately, there was
virtually no traffic on the roads - and the very few cars we did encounter were
especially considerate, pulling well over to the side and either slowing way
down or even stopping to let us roll on by - how nice to find such friendly
locals in an area where they probably don't see too many cyclists during the
year. This was something I really appreciated, as our pack was fairly large
and we tended to take over the entire lane during the race - and if we were
ever passed by a car or truck, they were especially generous while passing,
often moving into the opposing lane of traffic. Just before we got to San Lucas,
there is a very narrow bridge we had to cross - and there were race officials
on either end of the bridge, to control traffic (what little there was!) while
we crossed the narrow bridge - all in all, I was quite impressed with the officials
at the race - everything went smoothly and the support was super. There was
even a "neutral" feed zone near the start area (on the first part of that 1.25
mile climb, before it crosses under Hwy 101) where people were handing out water
bottles. I didn't need the help, as I took 2 water bottles with me - and our
race was only 2 hours, so I knew I'd be fine, from a hydration point of view.
The pace of the pack seemed rather relaxed to me for that first 23-mile lap
(Velo Promo advertised each lap as 21 miles, but several of us with cyclometers
begged to differ - it was a 23-mile loop). In fact, the pack was rather chatty
- you could tell that things were going to heat up for the 2nd lap - and boy,
After we passed through the booming town of San Ardo (population 501 in 2000
- and they probably lost a bunch of those people during the last 7 years - I
only saw about 5 locals the whole day), we crossed the bridge before the feed
zone area - and as we started up the hill, you could feel the intensity rise
precipitously - I realized that the strong guys at the front were going to try
and whittle the group down to a more manageable size - so they really pushed
a very strong pace up the hill - we hit 30 mph just before the hill, then never
dropped below 20 mph while on that hill - the first time we climbed that hill,
at the start of the race, it took us about 5:00 to do the 1.25 miles - this
second time, we did that same 1.25 miles in just 3:30 - about 1.5 minutes faster
- we were moving! In fact, we were moving so strong, the pack split in half
- I was in the unfortunate position of watching all this unfold from the back,
where I had purposely sat for the entire first lap - I wanted to watch everything
and scope out everyone, seeing who was doing what, etc. I thought I'd move up
near the front for the second lap. Well, here I was on that hill, watching the
strong guys at the front of the pack creating a decisive split in the group
- and I was in the caboose on that train! Uh-oh! I saw several guys in front
of me that had allowed a sizable gap to grow in front of them - and I realized
if I didn't do something really quick, I was going to be chasing really hard
with a bunch of relatively weak riders! So I whipped around the guys in front
of me that were falling off the pace, and bridged very quickly to the back of
the group that was drawing away at the top of the climb - and after we surged
over the crest of the hill, the pace continued to be pushed hard - my only consolation
was that I knew the rest of the rollers we had on the way to San Lucas were
pretty easy to negotiate - they were the kind where your momentum down one roller
boosts you most of the way up the next one - and when you're sitting in the
pack getting sucked along, you actually have to apply some gentle braking action
to avoid plowing into the guys in front of you while catapulting up the roller.
So now our group was a manageable 15 guys or so - and if we put on the pressure,
we could try to stay away from the rest of our group - but just when things
looked promising, a race motorcycle pulled alongside us and told us to move
over, single file, and let this group pass us - it was the Pro 1/2 pack! So
we slowed down and let them pass - and instead of picking up the pace again,
we just continued to stroll along - almost like we did during the first lap
of the race! I contemplated going to the front and forcing the pace up higher
again, but then decided I was mostly interested in just finishing this first
road race in 30 years - and I wanted to make sure I finished as strong as possible.
In retrospect, I probably should have gone with my instincts (always a good
idea!) and forced the pace back up - but you always realize things like this
when you replay a race in your head - what *could* have been - or *should* have
been - but wasn't to be! - oh, well...in any case, our very relaxed pace allowed
the stragglers behind us to catch back on (at least, most of them) and it was
now going to come down to a big field sprint, which was not too surprising -
the San Ardo course is not the type that allows for easy breakaways - there
is that 1.25-mile hill near the start/finish area, but that's about it. Since
we were now on the return leg to San Ardo, which is virtually dead flat, it
was clearly going to be a big hill sprint at the end for the finish. The actual
finish for the race is not where the race starts from - you actually start a
3rd lap (remember, our race was 2 laps), and as soon as you pass under Hwy 101
(right past the feed zone area at the beginning of the 1.25-mile climb), there
is a small road, Bernardo, where you turn left - and the finish is just 200
yards up the road, on a slight uphill. So the race ends up boiling down to a
0.5-mile hill sprint, after more than 46 miles of "racing". I had positioned
myself quite well on the flat section leading into San Ardo from San Lucas,
staying in the top 3 to 6 guys the whole time, but once again, I got absent-minded
towards the end and allowed a bunch of guys to swarm in front of me as we traveled
through San Lucas (Note to self - be more aggressive at the end of a race!).
As we crossed over the bridge, the pace intensified, and as we got to the
base of the finishing hill, our speed hit close to 30 mph and then we attacked
the hill - but I was now in the middle of the pack and saw the guys at the front
really sprint hard up that hill - oh, no! I was caught behind some guys that
were already starting to fade - and the sprint to the finish had barely even
started! So, once again, I had to whip around a few guys and weave my way to
an open area, where I could aim for the guys at the front - but they were now
making that left turn onto Bernardo and only had 200 yards to go - I tried to
go into a full-out sprint early, to catch as many as I could, and I did pass
up about 8 or 9 guys in that last 200 yards, but it was only good enough for
16th place! Darn - if only I had kept my position near the front, I think I
could have hung with those guys like I did during that surge up the hill in
the middle of the race - and I know I could have had a top 10 place, for sure
- and maybe even top 5...oh, well...once again - the bad news is, my racing
instincts are pretty good, but my execution - especially at the end of a race
- is fairly rusty. But hey! It's been a few years, right? Next time, for sure...oh,
except next time is next week, when we do the Giro di San Francisco crit on
Labor Day with the 45+ open animals - uh, oh - I just hope I don't get dropped
in that really fast crit! We'll see...
Oh, yeah - so how did my teammates fare? Well, I heard that Gary got 4th in
his 55+ race and Bryan actually won the Cat 5 race after it was determined that
the first 2 guys to finish had illegally joined the Cat 3 pack as they passed
the Cat 5s - congrats to both of them! And a quick note to Dennis Pedersen -
how are the Mai Tais there in Hawaii? Next year, you really must do this race
- you would have loved it...much easier than the Noon Goon ride we did last
Friday, for sure!
Timpani Criterium, Santa Clara, CA USA, 8/5/2007
Crash City Crit! Yeah, that'll be the *new* name for this crit, next year.
I had just done my first race in about 30 years - the Watsonville crit - a couple
of weeks before - and had done quite well, all things considered. I had accomplished
all 3 goals: Don't crash, stay with the main pack, and finish in the top 10
(I got 8th). Since the Watsonville crit was a somewhat technical course, I was
looking forward to the Timpani crit - I mean, how easy could it be? Dead flat,
four 90-degree turns, good road surface in a business park area - easy, right?
I guess not - it seems that every race had at least one good crash - and I counted
at least 2 ambulances that showed up to carry away some of the victims - ouch!
I suspected right away there could be some problems in our Cat 5 race - when
I first showed up to get registered, I saw that the Cat 4 race had just started
- and I knew that Dennis Pedersen was in that race, so I planned to take my
video camera and record his race (yes, Dennis - I'll get that video up on YouTube
very soon!). Well, I got registered, pinned my numbers onto my jersey, and was
heading over to the start/finish area up the block when I heard this big crash
in Dennis' race at the first corner! Apparently, an over-zealous bush standing
at that corner had managed to snag somebody and take them down - you gotta watch
out for those fans - especially the non-human ones...
So it was with some trepidation that I lined up for our race - and realized
there was one more problem - our pack was a lot larger than the group we had
at Watsonville. Then it occurred to me that this 'easy' course would probably
mean everyone stays together the whole time - not too many places to escape
on a dead-flat course. But there was a bit of a headwind between turns 4 and
turn 1, so maybe it would break up at some point, anyway...
I had the same basic plan as Watsonville - try to stay near the front - but
it was a lot harder to do this in our race - there was a lot of surging - there
would be these hard sprints out of the corners, followed by the guys at the
front easing up on the straights, allowing the entire pack to regroup - and
then you'd see guys flying up the inside and outside, trying to move up for
the sprint out of the next corner - the pace was never fast enough to keep the
pack strung out in a nice long line, like I saw at Watsonville. And you'd hear
a lot of yelling all day - "Inside!" - or "Outside!". I guess I probably should
have just moved to the very front and forced a higher pace - my average heartrate
for the entire race was quite a bit lower than the Watsonville race - only about
145 bpm (my max is 175 bpm) until the last few laps!
But the worst part of the race was the skill level of the cyclists, or maybe
I should rephrase that as the "lack-of-skill" level of the cyclists! Not all
of them, mind you - just a few - but that's all it takes to make a race dangerous.
And that's why I think I'll only do future crits with the Masters crowd - I
know those races are harder (meaning, faster!) - but at least the "old" guys
have some experience - and they know how long it takes for their older bones
to heal after a crash - so they're just more careful, in general.
Back to our race - on only the second lap, we were moving through turn 3 on
the backside of the course, when I saw this guy (don't remember who) out in
front of me hit his brakes - in the turn! - uh, that's not exactly a good idea
- it tends to make your bike act a little unpredictable - or maybe, it's quite
predictable - your bike will wobble and slide - and that's exactly what happened
- his rear wheel locked up and he slid into the guy next to him, taking them
both down - and I got to see the whole thing, up close and personal! I have
no idea how I managed to avoid hitting the one guy that caused the crash, without
moving into somebody else - but I guess I got a little lucky - or my instincts
from 30 years ago took over and I just somehow moved around the mess without
bumping into anybody else - you always have to hold your line in a turn - always!
- that's a golden rule - so when I nudged my way around the 2 guys that went
down in front of me, I had visions of dominoes in my head - and I would be the
next domino to go down! But like I said, I got real lucky - and somehow escaped
the carnage around me. Whew!
The middle of the race saw more squirrely moves and sloppy bike-handling -
I was thinking this was just one of those races you want to survive - forget
about placing in the top 10 - or top 5 (my goal was to go for a top 5) - just
get to the end and walk away with your body and bike intact (not necessarily
in that order, of course - I mean, bodies eventually heal - bikes have to be
So now we're down to the last couple of laps - there weren't any serious moves
off the front, as I expected - and the pace finally started to get serious.
As we came out of turn 4 and headed for the start/finish area, I moved up near
the front, to get positioned for the final lap - and just as I heard the bell
start to ring, I heard this horrible exploding sound behind me, followed by
that awful sound of at least one body and bike slamming onto the ground - ugh!
But I knew you don't look back (and I didn't), since that can cause you to crash,
too - and I just plowed ahead, not knowing what had happened. I was a lot happier
near the front at this point - it just felt a lot safer and easier for me.
So I moved myself into a really good position coming out of turn 3 on the
final lap - I found taking an outside line felt a lot more comfortable for me
during this race - at least you had a chance to move someplace if anything bad
happened around you! Between turn 3 and turn 4, I got myself up into about 10th
position or so, which is where I wanted to be - I knew there was a headwind
to deal with on the finishing straight after going through turn 4, so I figured
I could get some protection coming out of turn 4 and then let loose with a long
sprint to the finish - and we come flying out of turn 4 and I'm starting to
wind up for my sprint, when we suddenly see a bunch of officials at the start/finish
area, waving their arms to slow down and stop! And then you see there is this
guy on the ground, along with his scrunched-up bike - yeah, it was the guy that
had crashed when they rang the bell. I heard later that he had gone over this
manhole just before the finish line and his wheel got bumped hard and exploded,
causing him to crash. Now, it's not clear why he decided to go over the manhole
cover at that time - I mean, we had seen that one bad spot on the road at least
15 times on the previous laps - it's not too hard to just avoid it altogether!
But I felt bad for the guy - he looked like he was in a lot of pain - and they
had to take him away in an ambulance - I'm not sure what happened to him - probably
a broken collar bone, at least...
But the officials had now neutralized the race - and they told us all to take
a couple of easy laps, because they were going to re-start the race! Well, needless
to say, there was a lot of grumbling and a few people probably chose to just
end their race right there. But I decided to participate in the re-start - they
gathered us all up at the start/finish area and told us we were going to do
2 laps to finish the race. I'm not sure why, but I didn't feel like trying to
repeat all that good stuff I had done for our first race - I'm certain I would
have had a top 10 position - and since I had already gained on at least 2 guys
in front of me with another 100 yards to go, I was feeling good that I had a
chance at a top 5 position! But for the re-start, you'd have all these guys
that were now fully recovered - it really wasn't the same race anymore! During
a race, you kind of get into a flow and rhythm, and now they wanted us to sprint
around for 2 laps - a race that lasts just 1.9 miles! That's not a race! Oh
well, I started with everyone else for the new race, but just didn't have my
heart in it - and on the back side, I saw David Hopkins move to the front of
the pack - not near the front - he moved to the very front, after turn 3 and
before turn 4! I decided just to be a spectator at that point - given what had
transpired during our first race, I was going to be content to simply finish
anywhere that day! When I first saw David get to the very front before turn
4, I thought he was in the wrong place - I mean, the guys just behind him would
suck his wheel, then sprint around him for 1st and 2nd place, at least! But
David surprised everyone and sprinted really hard right out of the turn - he
took it real wide, which is fine since he was the first one through the turn
- and his strong sprint out of that final corner created a gap between himself
and everyone behind him - and since there was that headwind, it became a short
time trial to the finish - and David did a faster time trial than the guys behind
him - and won his first race! Great job, David! I got to watch it all from the
middle of the pack - I sprinted for the finish, but didn't really try too hard
- I think I ended up with 21st place for our race - a big disappointment, since
I thought I would have maybe top 5 for our first race, but at least I got to
walk away with my body and bike intact...
More carnage followed our race - there was a spectacular crash that happened
right in front of me at the start/finish area during the Women 4 race that started
just after our race finished - and the one woman that went down the hardest
probably broke her hip or pelvis - she was in a lot of pain and had to be taken
away in an ambulance, too! Given all the carnage for the day, I'm not sure I'll
put the Timpani crit on my schedule for next year...
Next up will be my first road race in 30 years - San Ardo on August 25. I
wanted to do at least one road race this year - and San Ardo looked a lot more "reasonable" (i.e.,
less hilly!) than the University road race that is happening the same weekend
- I decided to take the plunge and race with the 45+ crowd - it should be, uh,
Watsonville Criterium, Watsonville, CA USA,
I had 3 goals for this race: 1) Don't crash (always a noble goal!); 2) Stay
with the main pack; and 3) If I accomplish Goal 1 and Goal 2, what the hell
- go for a top 10 position. I know you're on the edge of your seat, wondering
what happened, so I'll spare you the suspense - happily, I can report that I
accomplished all three - 8th place! Woohoo!! But wait, there's a story in there,
So I'm standing there in the start area of the Watsonville Criterium, half-listening
to the race official go over the rules of the race and I'm thinking, "What the
hell am I doing here, anyway?". It's a Cat 5 race and someone has just made
some joke about being an old guy - I ask him how old he is, and he says 46 -
so I ask if anyone is over 50 - no hands go up. I guess that makes me the oldest
guy there, at the ripe old age of 53. So again, I wonder, "Why the hell am I
doing here?". Good question. What has brought me here to the Watsonville Criterium
since my last race? Yeah - my last bike race, which was about, uh, 30 years
Now, 30 years is a long time between races, but as Dennis Pedersen suggested,
my legs would be well-rested! No kidding - but I had also gained a lot of weight
since racing back in the mid-70s with a Southern California team, the North
Just to show you how old I am, they didn't have Cat 5 back in those days -
the entry level was Cat 4 and I did well enough to get into the Cat 3 group
after about a year of racing. More evidence of my advancing years: I actually
did a road race (I can't remember which one - another age-related thing!) where
this junior kid was allowed to race with the Pro 1/2 group and won the event
- yeah, it was Greg Lemond! I remember watching that race and saw him blasting
his way up this hill with the pack all strung out behind him - you sorta figured
he just *might* do something special one day...
After graduating college and coming up to the Bay Area, I got caught up in
the excitement of Silicon Valley and, unfortunately, let my career consume me
as I worked for a number of start-up companies. Bike racing (and even just regular
old bike riding) got dropped out of my busy schedule - especially when I got
married and had 3 boys (yeah - "My 3 Sons!"). I wish I could say one of those
startups made it big-time and I was able to retire and get back to racing bikes
- but there seems to be this rule that you need to work for about 10 of those
companies before that happens, and I've only done my time at 9 of them. So the
next one should be the one, right? Wrong! I decided about 5 years ago to get
back to living a more balanced life, and my extra weight (almost 60 pounds -
yikes!) suggested that I include some bike riding in my revised, healthy life
Of course, the weight (eventually) came off - well, most of it, anyway (why
is that last 10 pounds always so hard to lose?) - and my fitness started to
improve. Then, at the end of last year, I thought, "Gee - could it be possible
to race again?". To find out, I decided to join in on a couple of those racing
club rides - like the Saturday Valley Ride in Palo Alto - and got a quick answer, "No!" (as
I got shelled out the back somewhere on Alpine Rd) - but at the start of this
year, I made it a mission to get strong enough to see if I could hang in there
with all those goons (Dennis kindly refers to them as 'mutants') and then consider
applying for my racing license again. Well, by early May or so, I could finally
hang with the goons and decided to "invest" in a new racing license - I had
this odd feeling my old license was probably no longer valid (besides, I'm sure
the washing machine ate it up 29 years ago!).
And that's the Reader's Digest version of what brought me to the Watsonville
Criterium, about 30 years after finishing in my last sanctioned bike race.
...now back back to the race itself - I had decided to enter the Cat 5 race
instead of the Masters 35+/45+ race - mostly on the advice of Dennis Pedersen
- he was kind enough to point me to his reports about Watsonville from 2005
and 2006 - in fact, he had his first DNF in the 2006 Masters race (to his credit,
he did place 14th in the Cat 4 race that he entered just before he also did
the Masters race). He said if I finished the Cat 5 and still had energy to burn,
I could enter the Masters 35+/45+ later that day, since it normally did not
fill up to capacity.
I had one small advantage over some of my Cat 5 competition - namely, I actually
had about 2 years of road racing experience behind me - WAY behind me, of course
- but I had done a lot of crits back in the mid-70s, as well as a number of
road races - and I knew from that vast (but ancient) experience that the place
to be during the race is somewhere in that first 5 to 10 guys - for lots of
reasons. First, they tend to be the better bike handlers, which is why they
can scream through the turns faster - and more importantly, keep their lines!
Second, it's easier to watch for things like breakaways - and react more quickly
to save your energy. Third, and most importantly, you avoid the "yo-yo syndrome" -
we all know this one pretty well - the ones in the middle and the back of the
pack get hammered over and over, as they have to close down gaps that form because
of the less experienced cyclists that can't go through the turns as quickly,
or can't stay with the pace of the faster guys up front. And since Watsonville
had 5 turns (including a nasty 120-degree left turn with a drainage ditch running
across it!), anyone caught towards the back of the bunch would be doing a lot
of hard intervals as they got "yo-yo"ed around the course - the front is the
place to do fewer intervals - or, at least, the intervals you have to do are
a hell of lot shorter in duration!
So my game plan was simple - stay near the front, at all costs! Less crashes,
less yo-yo-ing, better chance to actually place at the end - assuming I was
still around at the end! I got an excellent warmup for the race, as a number
of us met at Mike Evans' house at 10 am to ride to Watsonville (our race was
scheduled for 12 noon) - I got a chance to meet some of my new teammates and
we chit-chatted our way over to the race - I decided to pull at the front towards
the end of the warmup ride, just to make sure my old muscles were ready for
the 30 minutes of pain during our Cat 5 race.
Fortunately, our group was not as large as I thought it might be - there were
maybe 25 in our race - but I surveyed the competition and quickly thought we
weren't going to end up with 25 at the end - Watsonville is a somewhat technical
course - with a small hill (the finish is at the top of that hill) - and with
those somewhat tricky corners, I was totally convinced there were going to be
multiple crashes - especially in the early part of the race. However, it turns
out I was dead wrong (thankfully!) - there wasn't a single crash in our race!
In fact, I don't believe there were any crashes in any of the races that day
- amazing! Not only did we have the tricky lefty turn, but the 2nd to last turn
of the course had this little pothole right near the apex of the turn! If you
sliced it right, you could whip through that corner between the little pothole
and the curb - but there wasn't much wiggle room if you made a mistake! And
that lefty turn with the drainage ditch running across it just didn't have any
nice paths to take through the turn - at least, none that I could find - and
I tried a few different places - but none of them were easy! Basically, you
just bounced your way through the turn - ugh!
So the race starts and everyone sprints up the little hill, mostly to get
a decent position on the first turn after a small downill section - I always
hate starting out a ride going up a hill, but my lengthy warmup from Santa Cruz
to Watsonville helped to soften the pain a bit. I quickly got myself up into
the top 10 positions or so and did a good job of staying there! As expected,
the race was pretty hard - but a lot of fun - I had forgotten just how fun bike
racing can be! Now, all I had to do was not crash, stay near the front, and
suffer for 30 minutes - I knew the suffering part would be tolerable - it would
be no worse than a time trial - and I had actually participated in a non-sanctioned
time trial on Canada Road (the Beat-the-Clock series) at the end of last May
- and did pretty good, too - 23 mph for 10 miles on a rolling road (26 long
minutes!) - so I knew I had the conditioning to hang in for this race - assuming
I did some energy conservation during the race, I thought I'd have a remote
chance at finishing the race - and maybe even place in the top 10! I think the
reason why there weren't any crashes was pretty simple - the pace was high enough
that the pack got spread out pretty well - it did bunch up on the back side
of the course, before the final turn to go up the hill, but if you lost any
position, it was easy to get it back on the uphill towards the finish area.
About halfway through the race, the pace picked up a little more for a couple
of laps and as we crested the top of the hill, it sounded eerily quiet behind
me - I glanced behind and saw the reason why - there was nobody behind me! The
closest guy was about half way down the hill - so I was now in a group of 8
that had managed to break off the front - and our group included one of my teammates,
David Hopkins. Everyone realized we had broken away and the pace really picked
up for a couple of laps, as a sizable gap was created. Then the pace slowed
down for a few laps - there were a few small attempts for a breakaway, but nothing
significant materialized. There was this one guy that David had mentioned to
me - Nick (who won the race) - he was clearly a very strong rider and is probably
due to move up to Cat 4 now - at one point, he broke off the front and was waiting
for someone to join him - I was tempted to go for it, but decided that since
this was my first race in such a long time, I wanted to play it conservative...
So all the sudden, it's the bell lap and, of course, the pace had already
picked up in anticipation of our last lap - so now it would all come down to
a bunch sprint - I was delighted, since I knew I'd get top 10 for sure - all
I had to do was finish with the group and I'd get at least 8th place - woohoo!
I knew David Hopkins was a strong sprinter - and I had told him I'd be more
than happy to lead him out for the sprint at the end. But even though I had
lots of experience from crits I did eons ago, I was obviously just a tad rusty
and fell asleep at the wheel! I had been thinking that Nick was going to take
a flyer on that back stretch, to get through the final turn first and then sprint
up the hill - which is exactly what happened - but I thought that due to the
headwind on that back stretch, he'd wait until we were half-way down the street
before making his move. And this is where I fell asleep - just as we blasted
through the second to last corner and entered that windy back stretch, I didn't
see that Nick had sprinted out of that corner and was making his move right
out of the corner! I was in what I thought was a good position (like 4th or
5th), ready to lead David up the hill after the final turn - but suddenly, all
these guys sprinted past me, chasing after Nick! It was panic city - and I was
the last one in line at the bus stop! Oh, no! Instead of leading out David,
I was chasing after a wheel, any wheel! But, alas - the bus pulled away and
I had to settle for last in our group sprint - but still good enough for 8th
place overall! And David gained on Nick and the guys just behind Nick as he
sprinted up the hill, but ended up settling for 4th - still an excellent showing!
Playing it again in my head after the race, I realized that I had made a classic
mistake by not paying attention - I just *knew* who to watch - but dummy me
- I took my eyes off of him for just a few moments - and that's all it takes
when you get down to the wire - especially in a bunch sprint at the end of a
crit! I think I lost focus because I was dreaming about the fact that I was
about to finish my first race in 30 years and get a top 10, to boot! You really
shouldn't be dreaming about anything when you get to that last few hundred yards
in a race - except maybe winning the darn thing!
But I felt good that I had accomplished all 3 of my goals for the day. And
more importantly, I had re-discovered that bike racing can be totally fun -
and I was glad I had made the decision to just "go for it!", rather than wonder
what it would be like to try to race again! I also had a moment's reflection
when I wondered where I'd be if I had never gotten away from bike racing in
the first place - I'd like to think I'd be tearing the legs off some of those
Masters 45+ guys, - oops! - looks like I'm starting to dream again... At least
in just 2 short years, I can compete against the 55+ crowd - and I'll actually
have 2 *recent* years of experience at that time... :)
After the race, we all hung out under the awning that had been setup for the
team near the finish area at the top of the hill and had a good time exchanging
war stories about the race. Then we got to watch Dennis' race and saw him place
2nd in the Cat 4 race - all in all, a good day for our team!
Let's see, if I wait 30 more years for my next race, I'll be only be 83...
Criterium, Santa Clara, CA USA, 8/5/2007
Sirens are not what you want to hear when you're racing bikes, but we got
an earful at this year's Timpani Criterium... and an earful of doomsday drumming
to go with them, courtesy of the Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club's president who
pounded on a set of huge kettle drums to add an appropriately dramatic atmosphere.
Perhaps everybody is chasing points as the road racing season winds down, as
I am, and they were taking more chances as a result. Ask not for whom the drums
My goal for this race, besides having fun, was to get 5th place or higher
so I would qualify for upgrading from Category 4 to Category 3. To help achieve
that goal I had stretched a planned fitness peak away from the Masters Criterium
Championships held the previous weekend in Minden, Nevada, onto this race instead,
so I'd be as near to 100% as possible. In the days before the race I really
doubted it would work as I felt very sluggish. But, right on schedule, my legs
snapped to attention on race day and I felt great. It's awesome being able to
rely on a training program that banishes the doubts I used to have with my casual
training. But having such a specific goal also put me under mental pressure
I'm not fond of, and this is supposed to be fun!
Going to races with team-mates is a blast, but it's rare I get to do that
as I'm one of the few regular road racers in Team Santa Cruz. We had a great
turnout at the Watsonville Criterium, and I was happy to see that most of the
same guys signed up for the Timpani Criterium too. As before we'd carry our
gear in Mike Evans's Vanagon. But then Mike decided to till the landscaping
on the San Lorenzo River's levee with his jaw, a scene Margaret witnessed while
driving peacefully home from work, and we ended up scattered to the winds. As
consolation, my parents and brother decided to come out and watch me race, which
is pretty unusual for an old Master racer like me.
When I got to the race venue, in a business park in Santa Clara near Great
America, the overcast sky was beginning to clear a bit and a slight wind blew
from the south, so the weather would be nice for racing. I had my friend Chris
Tanner of LGBRC sign me in for the Elite 4 race at 9:15am as he was working
registration. I put on my long-sleeved skinsuit because it was still a bit chilly,
and mounted my race wheels with the new low-drag tires I bought the day before.
While they might only save me a few seconds in a race, you only have to win
by a tiny fraction of a second.
Dave Hopkins, King and Steve Rosen showed up for the Elite 5 race at 10:10am.
Dave's girlfriend Sara even rode her bike from Santa Cruz to watch him. I saw
George Fuentes, of LGBRC, getting ready for his first race since his Cat's Hill
debacle, and we joined Erik Ostly to warm up.
As we gathered for the start I was greeted by a full field of 100 racers!!!
This makes moving around in the peloton difficult, and staying at the front
important but challenging. I had some uncharacteristic butterflies in my stomach.
They announced there'd be a couple of primes, but I didn't plan on contesting
them as I already had enough to worry about. The course is wide and as flat
as, well, you know what, with four corners and a slight bend on the back straight,
quite a few Botts Dots, and a notorious bush hanging over the curb in Turn 1
that I remembered from previous races there. The finish line was into a headwind
slightly from the left, and each lap was about 9/10ths of a mile.
After the start whistle, and drums, sounded we set off at a fast but not exhausting
pace, so I was able to maintain my place and my energy reserves. The two double
rows of Botts Dots were annoying but that bush in Turn 1 was a different matter.
About halfway through the race some guy about 20 feet ahead of me snagged his
bars on the bush and went down with a couple of others joining him. I was able
to stop and walk around them as one guy asked the instigator "Why would you
do that?" Good question. This was the scariest race I'd been in all year, and
it required 100% of our focus.
The turns weren't that tight, but since most guys didn't race an ideal line
we still ended up with some yo-yo effect towards the rear, and every time I
noticed it I worked hard to get back to the front. Sitting in the group was
very comfortable when I could do it though, as we created a huge suction effect
that pulled us along, and we averaged 26.4 MPH for the race which may be a record
During the first prime sprint lap I was in about fifth place into the last
turn. But because I was slightly boxed in, and not willing to "burn matches" at
this point, I held back and used this as a test run so I could get a feel for
how I should set myself up for the final sprint. The final straight was about
300 meters so I figured that the bigger sprinters would have an advantage and
that I would absolutely need to draft somebody until I got closer to the finish
line before going all-out. Reconnaisance mission accomplished, I let myself
relax a little in the peloton's draft and ignored the second prime.
At 7 laps to go I started to work harder to stay in a good position. But everybody
else was doing the same and since the field was so big most of us could only
move forward by going around the pack. This caused a sort of double paceline
with riders in the center moving back, and others moving forward on either side
before they in turn were pushed back down the center. Timing my efforts in this
shifting tide was difficult, but somehow I managed to get it almost right because
on the last lap I was near the outside and fairly close to the front on the
But two positions ahead of me was a rider in Family Cycling Center kit who
chose this critical moment to pop out of his pedal while riding on the Botts
Dots, which caused him, and the rider behind him, to bounce all over the place.
I was looking for an opening anyway, and shot forward right next to them in
the space others had wisely vacated, thus turning this near-disaster into a
golden opportunity. But Erik, who had apparently marked me (I'm flattered!),
lost my wheel there and got boxed in. This move brought me into about 10th place
just before the last turn.
Ah yes, Turn 4 on the last lap, where all of our plans clash at one moment.
I moved into about fifth place in the turn, swinging wide on the outside where
I could maintain my speed. This may not be the ideal move, in theory, because
the inside line is a shorter line with a wider radius, and the headwind was
slightly from the left so staying near the right gutter would prevent people
from drafting as much. But the outside line had worked for me up until then
and I decided to take it. This worked out really well because I passed tons
of guys stuck in the pack and was able to grab the wheel of a rider who shifted
out of the pack on my right to swing outside like I was planning to do. But
here's the impressive thing: he had two team-mates with him, and upon exiting
the turn they were able to provide him with a two-man lead out! Wow! That's
difficult to do in such a huge field and almost unprecedented in Cat. 4 races!
The first lead-out guy faded pretty quickly and pulled off to the left, while
the second lead-out managed a hard effort before pulling off to the right, which
is usually a mistake as he couldn't shelter his sprinter from the wind at our
left front, but it may have contributed to our success by blocking the charging
center of the peloton. I was right on their sprinter's wheel as he took the
lead, but he instantly jumped super hard, which I thought was stupid because
we still had almost 300 meters to go and he'd slow down well before the line.
But this allowed him to gap me and I tried to smoothly close it while saving
a little for the finish line, but he was still going so fast that I had to work
all-out to come even with his rear wheel, and by that time the finish line was
approaching us faster than I was gaining on him. He screamed gutturally as he
held on for his well-earned victory, with me gasping into second
place! What an exciting finish!
Hey, they earned that victory through their awesome team work, and I was really
glad to have fought as well as I did. In retrospect I should have gone all-out
to hold his wheel, but hindsight is always 20-20. I cooled down and called out
to friends watching, then joined my family and team-mates to share war stories.
Steve told me he even got my finish on video!
We stayed and watched the Elite 5 race so we could cheer my team-mates on.
It was a much smaller field, but even so they had a crash right in front of
us on the last lap in which one rider broke his collarbone and had to be removed
in an ambulance. I was just really happy it wasn't one of my friends, and my
shocked mom was really happy it wasn't her little boy. This forced a restart
with two laps given. As I watched the last turn I saw Dave, swinging wide as
I'd done, sprinting super hard for an awesome victory! Woo-hoo! My friends from
LGBRC had a good day too, with Chris leading Rob out for a strong 5th place
finish in the Elite 3 race. What a great day for all of my friends!
But not for everybody. The Elite 3 race had a crash too. But even worse, in
the Women's race some poor girl continued the carnage by breaking her hip. Another
ambulance and two fire trucks added to the gloom.
But my day just kept getting better because my dear old mom had prepared a
traditional Danish "smørrebrød" lunch for us, with pumpernickel, coldcuts, herring,
cheese, eggs, shots of akvavit and beer joining in a heavenly choir of culinary
delight! We sat in their backyard and enjoyed the perfect weather while we each
described the race as we'd seen it, and reminisced about the good old days.
Oh, I almost forgot: Yes, I earned enough points to upgrade to Cat. 3!
What a complete turnaround from the disappointment of my mediocre results
in 2006. The 2007 season has left me dumbfounded by the adaptability of the
human mind and body. My motivation and excitement have returned in full measure,
and I look forward to the 2008 season!
Big Foot Classic, Humboldt, CA USA, 7/7/2007
Departure Monterey Peninsula Friday July 6, 2007 8:45am – Arrival Humboldt
Bay, Arcata just after 5pm. There was a caravan of 3 cars with 6 riders, (Shelly
Monroe and I of Team Santa Cruz shared the entire experience!)
Our whole group did a spinning ride that evening in the Arcata Community
forest for about and hour and ate Mexican food for dinner. No kidding one of
our guys (also an ex Navy Seal) ate THREE super chicken burritos!
Woke up at 6am, shower, eat oatmeal, get dressed, and off we go East on 299
for about 20 miles. At an undisclosed dirt road a big wooden Big Foot pointed
us in the direction of the race. Winding back another 4 miles we made it to
the race course. It was a damp morning, standing in line for registration, we
get the pre-race spiel from the Master of Team Big Foot about the course, fast
switch backs trough trees, using parts of the Super D the day before, and be
forewarned that there was come clear cutting going on a few days ago that went
right through the course. Obviously a sign that the race is no longer wanted
in this private area and will actually be the last of its kind in this spot.
There were a total of 5 woman that showed up(about 60 racers in all). The
women were all in different age groups and categories, 1 expert, 3 sport, 1
beginner, that would be 2 laps (28miles), 1 ½ laps (21miles) and 1 lap. The
Lemans start was on the uphill of a fire road Expert, Sport, Beginner. It lead
you right into the trees, a nice meandering wide single track with a soft pine
needle ground that dumped you right out to a left hand turn and a 1 mile grassy
uphill fire road. At the top of the hill all you could see were trees and more
trees, quick right and super D hill away, rocky soft soil sharp hairpin turns
into more trees and the up again on rocky soft soil. Mind you that this trail
is cut for this race only and no other riding is done on it afterwards because
its private land.
More up and down through trees and whoosh plunk right into the clear cut,
a psychosomatic experience you couldn’t help but slow down and look! Back onto
the fire road for another mile and when you reach the feed zone your directed
left onto the orange dot trails again whipping through pines. It was mentally
draining while trying to follow the twists and turns of the trail, past a lake
and into the 2nd half of the orange dot…. You had to keep you hands on the shifters,
constantly adjusting to the uneven terrain, mud, mushy ground, roots, rocks,
inclines….. Shelly and I traded lead through out the whole first lap, no real
injuries or problems. Just team mates pulling each other along.
The final part of the lap was again the fire road where we started. That was
the longest 14 miles I ever road! The last climb up and onto the 2nd lap Shelly
stepped on the gas which I could not keep up with. It was that grassy climb
that got me and realizing on the first (second time around) super Downhill I
was tired and should just take my time until the fire road climb out. As for
the women, #1 was 2:36min (40+), #2 Shelly 2:40(29) #3 Me 2:46 (35). We all
got 1st place medals a Big brass foot!
National Championship Mountain Bike Race, Mt.
Snow, VT USA, 7/21/2007
The National Mountain Bike Championships Mt. Snow, Vermont Saturday, July
21, 2007 By Ron Riley
Since this is a race report, I’ll spare you “the rest of the story” about
canceled flights, middle of the night driving in the rainy Vermont Mountains,
and arrival at the B & B at 4:30AM.
As I pre-rode the XC course Friday, I decided that if I wanted to finish my
race the next day over this technical, muddy mother of a course, I’d have to
follow a very conservative strategy.
Saturday dawned clear and mild and after a warm-up, Harriet and I made our
way to the starting line for my 8:20AM start. Before the start, I was called
up and Team Santa Cruz got a moment in the national spotlight.
Off the line, the course went uphill and the big guns of my 65+ Expert class
were already opening up gaps. Soon the course turned into the woods and downhill
on a single track of mud, rocks, and roots. I employed my conservative strategy
(another way of saying I suck at technical downhill) and dismounted. I ran the
bike around and over the rocks and roots and remounted when the trail became
less intimidating. I wasn’t alone in using this strategy. I soon learned, though,
that I needed to carry not push the bike to avoid packing up with black Vermont
mud. Half way through the first five mile lap and at the top of a very tough
granny gear climb, there was a trio of drummers beating out tempo for us – cool!
At the “three arrow down” danger spots, course marshals would blow a whistle
to warn riders below that a rider was coming down….scary!
At the end of the first of our two laps, Harriet handed up a fresh bottle
of liquid to me in the feed zone. I thought I might be in fifth or sixth place
among the nine entrants in my class. The second lap went about like the first
except now I was being lapped by those experts doing three laps. Finally, I
came out of the woods and down the short “open” section to the finish.
At the awards presentations, Charles Berinstain (70) of Connecticut won the
class with a time of 2:03:20. The fifth and final podium spot was in at 2:48:48
and I was 6th at 2:49:58. Later that day, Adam Craig won the Pro National Championship
race doing 4 laps in 2:16!!
I had time to wash the bike, change clothes and grab something to eat before
the awards ceremony. I congratulated all my competitors and Harriet took pictures.
We enjoyed a few extra days in Boston before heading home on Tuesday.
Criterium, Watsonville, CA USA, 7/21/2007
I targeted this race as a priority last fall when I set up my structured training
program because I love the fun course. I've subsequently decided it may also
suit my strengths. But in the week leading up to the race I put in extra miles
in part because I adjusted my peak to favor some races in early August. Even
so, I was pretty near my top shape for this race and it promised to be exciting!
The whole Team Santa Cruz gang enjoying the team's awning!
As a bonus, Mike Evans decided to race too, along with Erik Thunstrom, Dave
Hopkins, Nick Purtscher and new guy Steve Rosen! They decided to warm up by
riding their bikes to Watsonville from Mike's house in Santa Cruz while I would
drive his van down with all of our gear. Since they were all racing the "Elite
5" race at 12:00pm and I was racing the "Elite 4" race at 12:45pm, I would be
better off warming up after I got there. I only need short warmups anyway.
On race day I had a nice chicken and vegetables sauté while Margaret and I
watched Alexandre Vinokourov on TV racing his too-good-to-be-true time trial
at the Tour de France. Then I rode with all of my gear to Mike's house. It was
a beautiful summer day, and I knew it would be hot later. Mike was already loading
up the van and I got to meet Steve who was racing for the first time in 30 years.
Holy smoke! Ken Sato and Chris Pearson wanted to ride along for fun and to watch
the race. This was really cool!
I coaxed the ol' Vanagon down to Watsonville and parked in the perfect spot
that David Gill had mapped out for us, right after the finish line on the hilltop.
Mike had loaded up the team's awning and several chairs, and I started setting
that up immediately. Soon my team-mates arrived on their bikes and everybody
got busy signing up and finishing the setup. I was the official number pinner,
and didn't even draw anybody's blood. After they were all set and rode off I
signed in and got ready too. Robbie Abundis was racing in my group and warmed
up on his trainer near the start line. Team Santa Cruz did very well in the
Elite 5 race with Nick 1st (albeit in Rock Lobster kit), Dave in 4th, with Steve
and Mike close behind. Pretty cool!
Dennis at Watsonville Criterium.
I warmed up for 12 minutes including two practice laps on course before I
had to line up below the hill. This course is only 3/4 of a mile per lap with
seven or so turns, two of them very sharp, plus a hill, and some drainage gutters,
so the pack tends to split up a lot which forces us to almost sprint out of
every turn to regain the draft of the riders in front of us. The guys at the
front of the pack, in contrast, maintain a more consistent speed. This is what
we call the "yo-yo effect." I'd guess we had about 50 guys in my race, and I
skootched over to the right gutter to get a clean shot at the front of the field...
after suffering from this "yo-yo" effect the last two years I was determined
to stay near the front of the pack at all times.
The whistle blew and we shot up the hill for the first of our scheduled 24
laps. The pace was pretty fast at first, like usual for this short course, but
I stayed in my zone by riding near the front of the long thin line of riders
snaking through the many turns. The pace slowed a little after about two laps
and I tried to save energy. There were two cars parked on course, like last
year, but this year I didn't see any crashes, thankfully, so it was a fairly
The starter had told us he didn't think we'd have any prime sprints. Bummer;
I had wanted to practice pack sprints some more. But it turned out we did have
two primes for strawberries from sponsor California Giant Berry Farms. But the
pace was too fast, and the laps too short, so I knew I wouldn't be able to recover
from these sprints in time to contest the race finish. I wisely skipped them!
Instead I worked a little, within my limits, to close gaps and even chase efforts
at breakaways. These efforts I could manage better, though I did get winded.
I think breakaways have a fairly high chance of success on this challenging
course so it was worth the risk to me.
When the lap cards read "2" I was already near the front, but slowly moved
even further up, and also worked so as not to get swarmed by guys from behind
me trying to do likewise. It gets busy with all of this "argey-bargey," and
I've learned not to try to stay too fresh at this point in a race. It's better
to be at 95% effort and well-positioned than at 75% but boxed in by the pack
ahead of you; an important lesson I've had to learn.
With two turns remaining I shot ahead on the outside and into the headwind.
Everybody was looking for a wheel to follow, and I was well-placed when a Stanford
racer started moving up on the outside left, right in front of me. Perfect!
I jumped up to him, he jumped, and we flew into that last right-hand turn on
the outside and onto the wide street. Wheee!
Dennis gets pipped at the finish!
This guy was strong, but I was easily able to stay with him as we hit the
hill, passing all the guys who took the slower inside line of the turn. And
when he started to fade I saw that I was in a great position to win... woo-hoo!
I jumped around him with just 50 or so meters remaining and flew up the hill
in the lead, toward that promised land of the finish line! But just then I heard,
then saw, his team-mate jump past me on my left and proceed to cross the line
a bike length ahead of me. Dang! My error: While I had stolen his lead-out man
I had merely provided him with a two-man lead-out instead of the one-man lead-out
they'd been attempting! But it's all good: we shook hands and I congratulated
him on his perfect timing (and couldn't resist mentioning to this young guy
that I was going to skip my old-man's 45+ race!).
Mike fined me an imaginary 1000 Swiss Francs for getting pipped at the line...
yeah, try and collect it Mike! But, you know, I sure didn't feel like the "first
loser." I got pipped, but it was pretty exciting nonetheless and way better
than my 14th place last year. I now have 18 of the 20 points that will upgrade
me to Category 3. I'd done most things right, and only made that one mistake
that kept me from winning. Not too bad! What a difference a year makes!
I cooled down with a beer, courtesy of Erik, while we watched the open Masters
race; I recognized lots of super-strong riders, some of whom got dropped like
I did last year... made me happy I didn't attempt it! Ken and I drove to my
home, while the others rode back, and dropped off my stuff while he continued
on to Mike's harbor-side cottage. Ken carefully locked the van and hid the keys
in Mike's mailbox. Mike's getting old though, like me, and didn't see the keys
in there at first and promptly fined me another 1000 Swiss Francs! Seriously,
many thanks to Mike and the others for making this race such a blast!
Creek Circuit Race, San Jose, CA USA, 7/7/2007
I'm starting to wonder if I'll be upgrading to Category 3 after all. That's
not really my goal, as it would complicate my efforts to race with team-mates,
most of whom are Cat. 4, but it could happen.
I entered this race last year, and in spite of not contesting the finish (!)
did surprisingly well. My theory is that we all have specific types of courses
that suit our unique physiology, and slightly hilly courses under one hour ending
in a sprint may be my forte. Coyote Creek fits that profile very well, so I
was definitely planning to race it. I was still in a "Build 2" period and didn't "Peak" for
this race, though I did have a scheduled "Recovery" week leading up to it so
I was fairly rested.
I knew Eddy "the Snake" Price, of Bicycle Trip, would be there, and Robbie
Abundis, of Family Cycling Center, showed up too, but in spite of some nibbles
I was the sole Team Santa Cruz racer. So I had a wild boar and vegetables breakfast
while watching the Tour de France prologue with Margaret, loaded up my car and
drove over the hill. The race is held just across Freeway 101 from Hellyer Park
in a semi-rural business area, with a horse school and old farm houses rubbing
shoulders with modern office spaces.
I ate a banana and a complementary cookie and filled my water bottle with
enegy drink. I warmed up for about 15 minutes before getting a practice lap
on the course. It's very smooth, about 1.8 miles per lap and has a fairly long,
but gentle, climb. The hill is about 100 feet up in roughly 600m, and this year
a fairly strong headwind from the south promised to tame any breakaway attempts.
It's not very inviting to spectators though, but temperatures were in the 70s
to about 80 at my 1:25pm start, which was nice. Turnout seemed low too, perhaps
because Cougar Mountain and Carrera de San Rafael were raced on the same day.
As I lined up at the start line at the base of the climb I scanned the pack
of 50 riders; San Jose Bike Club jerseys were everywhere! But I've learned the
hard way that team jerseys don't make a team, especially in these 35+ 4/5 races,
so I was not intimidated.
The pace was lazy for the first few of our 10 or so total laps, and I moved
forward easily. But it picked up for the first of our three prime sprints. I
was considering contesting these races-within-a-race as I still need practice,
but missed this one because I didn't know their clanging fire-alarm bell was
the signal. When I saw two guys charge up the hill toward the finish line near
the top I figured it out. Duh. A small Peninsula Velo racer took it.
Leading up to the second prime I got boxed in by the windaphobic pack, but
I carefully watched what happened: a Z Team rider just launched himself all-out
early in the climb... and nobody followed. Wow. What a mellow pack!
The very next lap, with five laps to go, was also a prime lap. I was ready
for it and managed to position myself well. As we chugged up the hill I made
a short jump and looked back; nobody followed me either! Winning this, my first,
prime was like stealing candy from a baby!
This race had the usual Cat. 5 squirreliness and people yelling at each other,
but no crashes. I did see some poor riding though, and in turn 2 a SJBC rider
almost took me out, forcing me to hit my brakes, skidding sideways but holding
on. This didn't distract me though, and with two laps remaining it started to
feel like a real race!
Sure, our pace picked up, but I was easily able to move up on the last lap,
thanks to the wide course and drafting riders who left the sides open. But this
peloton was full of guys who needed a lead-out up the windy climb, so we all
jammed up at 200m to go, watching each other to see who would be the fool to
make the first move. I squeezed by next to the curb, moved up near the front
and carefully looked around. I was now third wheel in a single-file row off
the front. That meant that anybody from the main pack would have to ride several
bike lengths in that dreaded wind just to get even with me. And then they'd
have to attack past me at the risk of leading me out. Sweet! (See Chris; I really do listen
I knew the risk, but it was time for me to act. I launched my attack at about
200m, going around the left of the two guys ahead of me because they blocked
the headwind that was slightly from the right a bit more, and just kept going.
I gambled that everybody would think my early jump up the hill into the wind
was suicidal and give me a big head start like in the primes. If they followed
I'd have to consider backing off and waiting. With about 100m to go I peeked
behind me... only then did anybody start to follow, but my lead was at least
20m. Excellent! I kept my head down and pretended I was doing those painful
hill repeats with Mark Edwards. I was dying, and I saw they were gaining on
me, but not by enough. Even though my legs almost collapsed under me when I
stood up to sprint for the last 10m, the cheering spectators told me I
had won! Yee-haw!
Interestingly, SJBC didn't have anything to show for their huge turnout. A
guy named Maurice Klein (AKA "Jay"), and Dan Palmer, of The Spokesman,
took the other two podium spots and congratulated me; Eddy and Robbie too. Eddy
is just back from time off so he wasn't in top form yet. Robbie got stuck behind
the jam. My big problem was collecting my loot and posing for the podium shot.
This is still so new to me that it makes me feel like a star. Never mind that
the spectators were only the families of Dan and Jay! Back home Margaret had
prepared a dinner party for friends while I played; I'm so lucky, and what a
great way to cap off the day.
I feel that I really read my competitors well this time, and saw the doors
they left open for me. But without my training I couldn't have pulled it off.
I'm not a natural; if I can do it so can you.
Cross-Country #9, Expert 45-54, Fort Ord, CA USA, 6/30/2007
Man, these mountain-bike races sure make me feel my 46 years, especially since
I moved from "Sport" up to "Expert" level. In road racing the higher categories
usually race the same length as the lower categories, so upgrading simply means
racing against faster guys. But in mountain-bike racing you race against faster
guys and you race further.
At the fun club meeting/party at Norman Field and Karen Kefauver's place on
Thursday I not only carbo-loaded on Norman's "Laid-Off" chocolate cake, but
also learned of other racer's plans. Like how David Gill's back and neck are
pretty much back to normal and he was planning on racing as well, for the first
time in a long time. This would actually be the first time he and I would ever
race together. That was awesome news! And David managed to convince Mike Evans
to join us. Woo-hoo! I e-mailed him the next day to verify, managed to finagle
a carpool with them, and was looking forward to race day.
This race came near the end of a tough "Build 2" period for me, so I wouldn't
be fresh. And the race would put me over my prescribed miles for the week, but
it would be followed by a "Rest" week that would let me "Peak" for other upcoming
races. Heck, I even tried to lose some stubborn belly fat.
On race day Margaret and I had breakfast at Café El Palomar (Corralitos Ostrich
Sausage Scramble for me, with egg-whites, corn tortillas and fruit; yum!). Then
she dropped me off at Mike's bungalow on 5th Avenue where David met us and we
loaded up our piles of gear into Mike's Vanagon. Typically, I wanted to discuss
team tactics; Mike suggested I go out 100% from the start and then they'd attack
later! Hmmm... I'd think that one over. In the Sport races I always faded somewhat
in the last lap or two, but the extra length I now race has forced me to pace
myself better. At least this race was at Fort Ord; its short climbs hurt sprinters
like me less than Toro Park's long climbs.
Mike and David decided to get in a warmup lap after the Sport racers's start,
but I didn't feel the need. At registration I had to show my USCF membership
card with NORBA rating because this race, unlike the others, was NORBA-sanctioned.
That promised to increase the competition.
While waiting for my race under the Team Santa Cruz awning that Dan Henderson
and Erik Thunstrom had thoughtfully erected, I managed to photograph quite a
few of my old Sport competitors, and some of the Team Santa Cruz racers that
I never got to watch before (photos
here). I had planned on eating some carbs at this point, but kind of forgot.
I eventually went to suit up in the Vanagon, but found David in there suiting
down; turns out he reinjured his back during warmup. That sucked. I got him
some ibuprofen from Harriet Riley but there wasn't much else I could do, so
I made sure my water bottles had energy drink and warmed up a little on the
road where the start line was.
It had gotten really windy by our 1:00pm start, with strong gusts out of the
west. I pitied whoever would take the lead there. Mike (in my 45-54 group),
Steve Hess (35-44) and Ron Riley (55+) lined up, and Norman too for some training
laps. Well, the person I ended up pitying at the start was none other than Mike;
he forgot this wasn't a short cyclocross race and went shooting ahead into the
headwind, with the rest of us following like link sausages behind him as he
zig-zagged up the slight hill. I guess he decided to attack first instead of
me! Then he dropped back and I followed three guys (series leader Brett Lambert,
Billy Hall and some other guy) onto the dirt trail to the right, then left,
then right up a short steep pitch with pockets of loose dust and sand. All that
sand and dust (courtesy of the drought), and numerous off-camber turns with
sharp edges to catch our tires, forced us to concentrate on riding the narrow
trail in spite of our limited faculties resulting from oxygen-deprivation.
I followed this lead group for less than half the first lap before I got stuck
in a massive sand trap and lost about 20 feet; I never closed that gap. I decided
to just ride at my pace and hope for the best as they slowly pulled away. I
ended up drafting some guy from the 35-44 group before recovering and pulling
around him, then caught up to Steve. He and I did some pace-lining, with him
doing most of the work while I tried to rest some. I noticed he's faster on
the descents than me; I tend to rest down hills anyway.
The paved back section we dropped into from the top of a sharp embankment
was nice because we could rest in the tailwind and drink. Back on the dirt Steve's
tires made his bike slew wildly through the sand traps, like mine. We ran them
at 45 PSI, plus mine are only 1.8" wide; not ideal. Mike runs 2.4" tires at
35 PSI which would be great, but my old rim-brake hardtail can't even fit a
tire that fat. I left Steve after he got stuck in powder on some new trail sections
by the east park boundary where construction is under way for the new development.
The bumps there were painful on my stiff aluminum hardtail too.
It was awesome hearing all of the raucous cheers from my Sport team-mates
as I crossed the start line after the first lap! I think they cheered even louder
because their season had already ended and they could let their hair down. I
even had the energy to high-five David as I climbed painfully past the start
line. This climb levels off a little but turns into the west, and the headwind,
so there's no rest for the wicked. I think Steve caught back on later, as we
crossed the start line together the second time, but he again got stuck. I caught
up to a guy in Steve's group with a prosthetic lower leg and shamelessly drafted
him for a while until Steve caught up to us. Then we both drafted him for a
while until we hit a short level straight where I jumped past them. I didn't
see them again, so I guess I had avoided working as hard as they did!
I dropped down into the paved back section and passed another guy, but jammed
my shortened chain on the trail climb after it when I forgot to downshift into
my middle chainring. Duh. I was sweating so much by now that my filthy lenses
were obscuring the narrow trail; I vowed to throw them to my buddies at the
start line before continuing. As I did so David and Grant Stoner held out beers
to me; man, they have a cruel streak! Erik doused me with a water bottle, which
was much nicer!
I tried keeping track of the laps, but I was surprised when I saw the "2" lap
card; I thought there was only one to go! Groan. I was mostly riding solo at
this point, but I did catch a guy in Santa Cruz Bicycles kit and drafted him
for part of a lap before he signaled me to go ahead. This guy had passed Steve
and I earlier, and Steve thought he was in my group, so I made sure to drop
him hard even though I didn't recognize him. Turns out it was Richard Latorraca,
a long-time local racer in Ron's 55+ group. And darned fast!
As I cruised in for the finish, feeling several years older, I knew I was
doing no better than a distant 4th
place out of 6, but just for fun I sprinted past the line and smiled through
the sweat at my team-mates there. Woo-hoo! The pain was over! I thanked Steve
for letting me draft him so much; he seemed to be OK with it! Mike sneaked in
a little later; he's gonna' be super fast just in time for cyclocross season!
(Make sure to join him for Thursday night intervals training.) My competitors
were there too and we congratulated each other... but my mind was on that beer.
I quickly retrieved my cooler from the Vanagon and shared some ice cold brews
with my buddies. Beer never tasted so good! And I followed that up with Harriet's
tremendous apple pie. I was in heaven!
David told me that I came in less than 30 seconds behind Brett, which was
a huge improvement over the race at Toro Park where he was almost 8 minutes
ahead of me. Even better, it turned out I was only 15 seconds back, and 25 back
from Billy... if only I'd pushed a little harder... but 5:45 back from a new
guy named Bill Sans. Still, it made me feel even better as Mike and I drove
back on this perfect summer day.
CCCX Mountain Bike Series #9, Fort Ord, CA
CCCX # 9, Training Sir!
It was with much apprehension that I entered the last race in the CCCX mountain
bike series. My last race was in January. I took the month of February off because
of a high hamstring injury and rode softly for two months after that. It was
just in the last month that I able to ramp up my intensity of my rides while
feeling no ill affects of the aforementioned injury.
Teammates Dennis Pedersen and David Gill and I all commuted down to the old
Fort Ord in my van. We were all racing in the Expert class got to leave town
at the leisurely time of 10:00. Upon arrival David and I suited up to take a
reconnaissance lap. The course was very hard, sandy and slippery. It was also
pretty windy, but the temperature was about perfect. This would be David’s first
race in a long time do to a lengthy back injury, but unfortunately David threw
out his back half way through the recon lap. He didn’t do anything silly, it
just seemed to hit him out of no where. This was quite surprising considering
how strong he rode last week during the alley cat race. I really felt bad for
David and could tell by the look on his face that he was quite disappointed
While standing at the starting line, I really had no idea what to expect from
my body. The whistle sounded and I got the hole shot up the long paved, directly
into the wind straightaway. About 15 seconds into this, I had the realization
that this was not a cyclocross race and what the hell was I doing leading out
the field! I pulled off the front and went and hide in the back. A minute or
so after we hit the dirt I had to come around a couple of rider, but I couldn’t
close the gap to the main group. For the rest of the first lap I rode alone
as my lower back became tighter and tighter. I started contemplating dropping
out of the race, but I decided to go one more circuit to see how things went.
After the start of the second lap I was feeling better and the pressure on
my lower back had eased some. I was also caught from behind by the first expert
women rider. After she had been on my wheel for a while I took a corner wide
to let her through as I thought I might be impeding her way, but as it turned
out we ended up riding together taking turns pulling for the next 3.5 laps.
She was certainly fast enough on the twisty sections and had a pretty good style
of riding, but I would gap her on the power sections just a bit and this seemed
only to be because I was turning much higher rpm at the base of the climbs while
she would tend to mash a higher gear and bog down a bit.
At the beginning of lap 4 I was at the front when I noticed I was having a
hard time controlling my bike. I knew what this meant, I was about to bonk!
I immediately popped an Enervit and a few moments later I was feeling pretty
damm good! About this time Beverly, the women whom I had been riding with had
a bobble in the sand and I decided to punch it and dropped her for good. I then
concentrated for the last 1.5 laps on riding as hard and as smooth as I could
and was relived to have finished still feeling pretty good.
My intent for this race was to use it for training and to see where I was
at in the build up for the cyclocross season. My post race analyst is my lungs
felt pretty good, but legs were lacking in power and the fact my lower back
became sore also showed me that I better increase my core program as well. A
real bonus for me however was the fact I had no problem with cramping what so
ever (not even later that night!). In the past this has been a real problem
for me. I started taking 2 Sportlegs a day about a month ago and this has helped
me immensely. It was also very cool to see some of my teammates who rode the
whole series up on the podium. In all it was a pretty good day!
Alley Cat, Santa Cruz, CA USA, 6/23/2007
David Gill and I were debating what to do last weekend and had decided to
hit up CCCX mountain bike race #8 on Saturday, but on Wednesday we saw the ad
for the alley cat race in Santa Cruz on the How to Avoid the Bummer Life website
and decided to try it instead. We then made a plan that we would do the Saturday
morning road ride and go to coffee afterwards and then race back to my house
and switch to cross bike and then go to the alley cat race. It was going according
to plan until David called me Friday night and said he couldn't’t make the Sat.
morning road ride, but would instead meet at my house and then we would go to
the alley cat race. Upon hearing the news, Nancy promised to make me pancakes
if I wouldn’t get up at the crack of dawn to go riding. I took the hint and
slept in. After a late breakfast of eggs and toast (no milk=no pancakes) I went
to my house and to meet David. David shows up in his kit smelling like he had
just ridden for 2 hours. So asked him what was up. He informed me that his plans
had changed and he went on the Sat. ride and had sent me an email at 11:00 the
previous night to inform me. By looks of David I thought I had got the better
end of the deal!
We rode down to the Bicycle Church on the end of Pacific Ave. Upon arrival
I notice two things: 1. David and I appear to be much older than the 50 or so
riders milling about. 2. We are the only ones deck out head to toe in lycra.
We pay up and sign the release and receive the instructions/map. In no particular
order we are to retrieve something from the Boardwalk to prove we were there,
go over to the church located in the center of the circles on the Westside and
pick up a spoke sitting in a bucket somewhere on the premises, go to Café Pergolesi
and have the barista sign our card, go to the Goodwill near Harvey West and
by a cup and utensils so you can eat and drink after the race (note: carrying
around a glass in my jersey pocket gave me more incentive than normal on not
to crash!). After Goodwill we were then supposed to head up the railroad tracks
(avoiding north bound tourist train), up Fcon, Ucon, Blair Witch, Chinquapin,
through the twin gates, over and down the Woodcutters Trail to Smith Grade,
up Smith, down Empire, back into Grey Whale/ Wilder, down to the Eucalyptus
grove, over to the Enchanted loop and finally finishing somewhere on Baldwin
Loop. As you may have noticed, there was a lot of dirt in this alley cat and
this is what appealed to David and me the most!
At the start, half of the herd lined up pointing in one direction and the
half the other. Someone yelled go and I was not prepared for what followed:
utter disregard for any rules of traffic right of ways! It was a free for all!
I was even called a “pussy” for slowing down at a stop sign. With absolutely
zero warm up the next thing that happened were my legs turning to cement! I
struggled to keep up with David. Apparently his two hour warm up had done wonders
for him! The whole urban portion of this race was a complete blur of dodging
pedestrians, turistas, car and other cyclist. By the time we hit the train tracks,
David had about 25 bike lengths on me and I was pedaling perfect squares. Even
though I was feeling terrible, I did manage to pass a few people on the tracks.
By the time I got to the top of the Ucon, I was sure I was going to chunder!
I had no idea where D. Gill was or where I sat in the race, But I never saw
another rider until Smith Grade where I was passed by three other racers. By
the time I got to the top of Smith I was starting to feel human again. The decent
down into Wilder was very high speed and I over cooked one corner and almost
ended up in the forest! I arrived at the finish and counted 7 other riders.
David was in second place, but over cooked a corner just before the end and
was passed finishing in third. The guy who won was a messenger from S.F. and
the guy in second rode a fixed gear! David and I both enjoyed this race a lot
and after 3 very foamy beers (yep, somebody hauled a keg up the hill to a remote
location in Wilder, plus a very large cooler and food!) we split.
24 HOA, monterey, ca USA, 6/9/2007
What a race! It was my first 24 HOA and no better way to race than with good
friends and team mates... oh and sexy outfits. We were the Go Go GO Girls, Karen
(SCCC) Henrietta, Michiko, (all 3 part of last years team) me , and Yvette (microphone
Our compund was on top of the hill so we could see and hear everything. I
was the Lemans starter which had is challenges getting cramped up on the first
real climb with a bunch of "slow" guys. I did how ever get a push up the hill
and a pat to follow from some red mini skirt lovin man! (which I was wearing
over my shorts). My first lap was 1:15 but I bet with out a run and a few cluster
f---- I would have been under 1:10 easily!
The night lap was the best it was my 3rd lap of the day and I was clearly "high" on
nonstop energy! I wore my night outfit all shimmery and reflective.While riding,
I stopped at the top of Lombard and gazed at the Big Dipper. I managed to finish
the lap with minimal fog which I know the other ladies would only see white
with 10 feet visibility. I was also lucky to take advantage of the Norman/Melanie
compound. Every time I needed something I was taken care of. I even got a little
low back rub at 1:30am! Sleeping was not easy either because I still felt like
I was on my bike and would wake up jolted by dreams of rolling over ruts. My
last lap was at 6am easy and familiar, ready to be done.... You almost want
to be riding the whole time instead of working your self up and down as your
laps come around...
It was so worth it and if you have never tried it Go for it! Form a team and
have some SUPER fun!
24 Hours of Adrenalin, Monterey, CA USA,
10 p.m. Saturday, June 9, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, CA—It
was cold and windy as I waited for my teammate, Yvette, to come in from her
lap on the hilly, 12-mile course. I rode in circles to keep warm by the start/finish
area and tested my new Light in Motion light. I had mounted it on the handlebars
of my trusted titanium Airborne mountain bike. After Yvette sprinted in, she
handed me the small wooden baton at 10:15 p.m. I set off on my first night lap—I
had not done any night riding since the 2006 24 Hours race. I was nervous, but
also excited to ride under the stars—it was cooler for the sweaty climbs
uphill and the darkness would cloak my slower pace. As part of a 5-woman relay
team, Go Go Go Girls, I had been designated the last rider in our rotation.
I had only completed only one other lap before this night time lap and did not
have a great grasp of the course. That daytime lap had gone smoothly enough—although
only 10 minutes into that ride, the left lens of my sunglasses bounced out and
vanished in the tall grass along a steep rutted section. I felt lopsided with
only one eye covered but managed ok. That section of the race course would return
to haunt me again.
The Crash—a dirt-covered, powdered doughnut
I was feeling confident and strong for the first 15 minutes of the night lap.
Then I smashed face-first into the thick dust. I was descending a very steep,
rutted, technical section of the course. Despite my headlight, I lacked depth
perception on this bumpy descent. I did not see the crash coming and had no
time to brace for the fall. I flipped over the handlebars and BOOM—breath
knocked out of me, my face in the dirt, the grit coating my lips and teeth.
I lay moaning for a moment, terrified. Upon impact pain had shot up my jaw and
neck. I lay still to assess that no bones were broken and caught my breath.
I slowly picked myself up and moved to the side of the steep trail. I stood
there debating whether to call it quits. I could easily walk back to the start
line. I looked down and saw blood streaming from my right knee. Blood and dirt,
a big mess.
I surveyed myself and was amused to see from head to toe, I looked like a
massive dust-powdered doughnut. The grit was even filling my gloves and my shoes.
A rider stopped to see how I was. I will always be grateful to that kind stranger
who waited to make sure I was ok. He eventually took off and I just stood there,
still shaken. Then another rider went by and called out: "Are you ok?" at
the top of the descent. "Yes, I am ok," I assured him with more confidence
than I felt. Deep down, I did know I was ok though I was deeply unnerved still.
I was happy that he had asked and appreciated the genuine concern from this
fast-moving racer. I turned to watch this cyclist navigate the steep section
skillfully and was amazed to recognize the red helmet and Team Santa Cruz jersey:
It was my beloved fiance Norman riding by! I cried out, "Norman, it's me!" No
reply. Only the sound of his bouncing chain echoed on his dusty descent. I felt
my heart sinking.
The Pivotal Moment
A part of me wanted to let loose with a mighty wail and cry the dust out of
my eyes, but a bigger part of me latched onto something far more powerful: the
Midnight Hula Hoop Contest! I still had a decent chance to make it back to camp
before midnight! That was the magic hour in which the race organizers were hosting
the traditional corn roast—all the corn on the cob you could eat! But
what REALLY motivated me was that also at midnight there was the First Ever
2007 24 Hours of Adrenalin midnight Hula Hoop contest. Now anyone who knows
me knows that I am a ferocious hula hooper! So despite my bloody knees, dusty
face and shaken confidence, I walked and rode back to the start/finish area
as fast I could, determined to get to that contest to prove myself. Along the
ride back, Santa Cruz solo rider Sean Sullivan was very kind to me and insisted
on stopping to make sure I did not have a concussion. Thanks, Sean!
With my big push, I made it back by about 11:50 p.m. and passed by Norman's
tent, which was on the race course. Miraculously, he was at his camp instead
of out on the course. "Norman, that was me!" I told him. "The
one who crashed." He had no idea it was me because he was going so fast
and could not hear me when I called his name. His heart was breaking when he
saw me covered in dirt and I assured him it was ok and that I was touched that
he had been so kind to offer to help a "stranger" in the night. We
briefly rode our bikes hand and hand before we parted. He went back out to the
course.. and I dashed over to the corn roast and hula hoop contest after I had
handed Rita the baton for her lap.
Karen after her crash, and with her new hula shorts!
So You Think You Can Hula?
At midnight, some folks were milling around. With adrenalin still surging,
I demanded: "Where is the contest?" Right here, said a gal, staring
at me. "Whoa! What happened to you?" the race announcer asked. "I
crashed hard on the trail, did a faceplant," I said. "I can see that!" he
retorted. "I rode as hard as I could JUST so I could do the hula hoop contest!
Let's get this competition started!"
I downed two pieces of hot corn, helped round up a few other hula contestants
and we were underway!
The ground rules were declared: he/she who hoops the longest is the winner!
I knew I could hula hoop til dawn if need be. Soon enough, I out hooped the
others, even showing my special John Travolta disco moves while hooping. At
the end, I beat out a 10-year old boy and several young women, woo hoo! My moment
of triumph at the 24 Hours of Adrenaline had arrived in the unlikely form of
being the Hula Hoop Winner, how funny is that. My prize? A pair of fleece shorts! "Cowboy" of
Fuzzy Duds led me to his stand to pick out my prize shorts—I chose the
most outrageous multi colored paisley ones I could find. (See my podium shot
Then I sought medical attention for my wounds. A big thanks to Mark, the famous
brewer and Mel's fiance, for generously volunteering to take a midnight stroll
and look all over for the nearly-impossible-to-find first aid tent. Two thumbs
down to 24 Hours for failing to have a good First Aid tent. Not only was it
hard to find limping around at night, but when we got to the huge trailer, the
reps from the Salinas Fire Dept. told me I could not come in the tent and grudgingly
administered basic clean up and bandage in the cold windy night. (Hypothermia,
hello???) Really appalling and I worried about anyone who was in worse shape
than I ...
The Grand Finale
I hobbled back to camp well after midnight and woke up Michiko for her lap.
The pain was setting in and I went to clean off my wounds in the light of the
nearby bathroom. I was horrified to see that both my knees were grotesquely
swollen. My left in particular looked like it had sprouted a lemon on top of
the knee cap. I knew my race was over when I saw that. I got ice packs out,
left the Go Go Go Girls team a note (since most were sleeping or sheltered from
the wicked in wind in there tents). I said I would touch base in the morning
but it looked doubtful I would ride again that day. I went to sleep about 2
a.m. and slept soundly til 5:30 a.m.
I got up then to find Rita preparing to go out on a lap. That was one of the
lowest points of the race for me—I was physically unable to go, or more
precisely, I could have gone, but the outcome for my knee could have been serious.
It was a big risk. Nevertheless, by taking care of myself, I felt like I was
letting the team down. I felt a mighty wall of blues, which fatigue and injury
can heighten. Rita assured me it was fine that she ride in my place, but I was
sad—for the team and for myself—the dawn lap is a glorious time
to be on the trail while the rest of the world sleeps on a Sunday morning...
I was greatly consoled talking to Henri. She was unwavering that this was
the 100 percent right decision. I felt better and she was thrilled by my hula
hoop contest story and goofy shorts. I shifted moods and dedicated myself to
being our team photographer for the remaining few laps.
I also had a better chance to monitor Norman's incredible progress in his
solo 24 hour race. He had ridden steadily through the night, no sleep, supported
by a great crew at camp that included Mark, Evan, Eric and Darik, who were also
assisting Melanie Dominguez. I am happy to report that both Norman and Melanie
had stunning finishes in their respective solo categories: Norman, 3rd place
in the men's solo division, Melanie, 3rd place in the women's. Incredible results
against steep competition! Bravo! It was also exciting to see Team Cloud Nine,
consisting of dear friends Cory and John Caletti, and their teammates Dan'O,
Eric and James win 2nd place in their tough 5-person co-ed category.
As they say, the Best for Last. Here, in the conclusion of my race report,
I offer a final salute to my fantastic teammates: Henrietta, our Team Captain,
from Pacific Grove, Rita Leon of Team Santa Cruz, Michiko of Berkeley, Yvette
of NorCal! You guys were super fine Go Go Go Girls. To Barbara, our team volunteer,
we could not have done it without you. Thanks so much to each of you!
It was a pleasure to have our moment of fame as Third Place winners in the
5-woman category! Til next time!—Karen
CCCX MTB #7, Single Speet Sport, Fort Ord,
CA USA, 6/3/2007
It was a smaller field than usual – only four of us. I encouraged Chip Lomas,
the only one in the group who wasn’t battling for 1st through 3rd, to try to
hang with us and grab my wheel at the start. I’d like to see the pace in the
Sport group stay just as high next year knowing that Erik, Mike and I will be
moving up to Expert next season. It’s been a really fierce series and we’ve
been having some tight battles. The experts have been watching our races and
they’ve been really encouraging us to push it as we move up into the next class.
I was a little nervous at the start, mostly because I really wanted to win this
race. Another win would give me 5 out of 9 races and it would seal up the points
for the series. We rolled up to the line and Ron wished me luck. It was great
to see so much support out there as usual.
Erik led the start as usual and I dropped in behind Mike, but I wanted to
make sure that I was right with Erik so I pushed up to him. As I passed Mike
I told him that we should try to hang with Erik for the whole race. Mike fell
back though and didn’t chase. It was unusual for him and I wondered what he
was thinking. I followed Erik for two laps and rode at his pace, but I felt
him slowing a bit. He told me that it was time for me to take a pull at the
beginning of the third lap so I gladly came around and moved out in front. Unfortunately
he couldn’t hang with me. I was moving pretty fast and I felt fresh. I decided
to go pretty hard for the next couple of laps but to save a little just in case
something were to happen. I was still curious about what Mike was doing in third.
The next couple of laps were a blur. I just tried to ride them as smoothly
and as efficiently as possible. I found myself on really crappy lines as I got
tied up in passes a couple of times on the tight Fort Ord singletrack. Everyone
is reasonably courteous and they know that there are groups who are considerably
faster than them on the course. Most people give me a little room when I yell
out “singlespeed leader!”
At the beginning of the last lap I was still leading and I was ready to finish
it off apparently without anyone challenging me. As far as I knew, Erik was
out and Mike was still pretty far back. I lumbered up the first hill and found
out I was wrong – Mike was right on my tail! This guy is always giving me hell
and I realized then that I sometimes underestimate him. He always finishes strong
and if someone is a little off he is probably going to win the race. I wasn’t
sure if that was the case and I was awful tired. He rode up behind me and said, “I
got tired of you soft pedaling behind all those geared riders.” I don’t know
what compelled me, but I decided to fight. I didn’t actually need to beat him
to seal up the series. Because he hadn’t won any of the races so far, I could
have comfortably taken second and it wouldn’t have mattered. Still, I just wanted
My spin felt good and I knew I could still climb hills so I decided to go
as fast as I possibly could on the flats and try to do some damage on the short
ascents. Mike and I rode the entire last lap together. I heard him right behind
and as the field had spread out there wasn’t anyone to pass and put between
us. If he was going to jump it would be on the last hill. The bottom of this
hill was a bumpy and steep climb. It took more power than finesse, but it was
certainly technical. I got a lot of momentum leading into it and pinned it.
I sustained it for a good ten or fifteen seconds to the top and at that time
I leaned over my handlebars and nearly passed out. I probably went deeper in
the red at that point than I’ve ever been, and it felt good. I didn’t care any
more if I won the race. I was just happy that I really gave it all I had. Still,
there was about a half-mile left and I was going to fight for 1st as long as
it was still within reach. We finished off on a tight downhill singletrack and
I turned around at the bottom to look for Mike. I realized that I had dropped
him on that last hill. He was 12 seconds back, and Erik was about 4 minutes
behind us. It was another tight and inspiring race for 1st.
24 Hours of Adrenalin at Laguna Seca Raceway
, Monterey, CA USA, 6/9/2007
24hr mountain bike race
Team Single Track Mind
Let me start off by saying that this was my first try at racing for 24hrs.
I entered into the 4-person category with three friends, Eric, Chris, and Rich.
Out of the four of us, two of us had mountain bike racing experience. Eric Miller
has been racing Cyclocross and Mountain bikes for a few years and I have raced
sport class mtn biking in NH. None of us have ever raced a 24hr race.
Our team arrived anxiously on Friday afternoon. We set up camp with the idea
that other camps were going to have a theme and were willing to display it with
pride. Our camp theme was “The Mad Scientist”. We were trying to display how
to build the perfect endurance athlete. Everyone either dressed up in doctor
clothes or patient outfits. Our camp gave out EPO boosters and we had a urine
test station. Also, to the delight of the racers, we had our very own massage
table and volunteers willing to help out. Oh, did I mention the IV bags (camelbak
bladders) that also had EPO boosters in them? After the set up of the RV, tents,
tiki torches, beer coolers, and lounge chairs, everyone settled down for a long
restful sleep the night before the big day. (so we thought!) Someone forgot
to turn off his cell phone, which beeped all night due to a low battery. As
a result, a certain someone stayed up all of but one hour in the night. (ok…it
might have been the nerves as well)
If you have ever done a 24hr race, then you know that you don’t actually start
racing on your bike. No, you start what they call “The LeMans Start” which is
a short .6 of a mile out and back run on pavement. Walking in biking shoes is
difficult, but running at full speed on concrete is ridiculous. Oh well, I was
the lucky one on our team to get to experience such a cluster mess. Everyone
started jockeying for position about 10 minutes before the race started. I thought
since this is a laid back race that there would be more talking during this
time. NOT! If you didn’t know them personally, they weren’t your friend. I moved
up just behind the front group and waited quietly. When the gun went off, I
ran as hard as I could. The adrenalin of past races started pulsating through
my body and we were off. Out to the turn-around and back to where our bikes
were stationed. Out on our bikes with my heart rate pinned at 85% of my max.
I was located around 15th and feeling the pace a bit high but I managed. After
two or three miles of jockeying again for positions, my front brake cable broke.
I ended up riding my first lap with just my rear brake. I guess this is why
I was 6th or 7th after the first lap, because I just couldn’t slow down. Our
next two riders were our fastest. Eric and Rich made great time splits and off
we went. During the race, we had some amazing performances. Our fourth placed
rider, Chris, crashed over his handlebars and broke his seat-post on mile 2.
He had to ride 10 miles standing up and only lost 4 minutes to his normal time
splits. AMAZING! At 24hr races, after the first laps, things tend to get a little
confusing. You have no idea where you are compared to the other teams. On your
down time, if this is your first time, you really have no idea what to do. Our
team had four volunteers helping us out. Michelle, Ashley and Allison, all of
whom were significant others of Eric and Chris, and me. Rich had Ken-Brah and
the RV to back him up. They helped out tremendously with food, rest, water,
massage, and most importantly, moral support. During the race, we went from
nervous, excited, ramped up, cooled down, ramped up, exhausted, excited, and
many more emotions I could conjure up. Once, I almost cried on the course because
when the sun was coming up, I was really tired and my emotions were starting
to get to me. After twenty or so hours of on and off racing, the finish was
near. We were slotted in 6th place and only 20 minutes ahead of the next team.
It seems like a lot but anything can happen out there and boom, you lose 30
minutes. After some careful math and some great riding from our last rider,
Chris, we figured out that we could not be caught and we were going home in
6th place out of 22 teams. Not too bad for a bunch of guys who have little to
no experience racing. After showering, we met down on the podium for a personal
camera shot of the team. I felt we won the race in my heart. I expected our
team to be the top of the bottom feeders and we ended up in the middle of the
top guns. We even beat the 7th place team, who I think was sponsored. After
our podium shot, I got the pleasure of watching Norman Field cross the finish
line. He raced the solo category and placed 3rd. He looked battered and worn
out but happy to see that he came in third place. I walked up to him after knowing
what I went through, and I really couldn’t possibly know what it was like to
ride for 24hrs, but I gave him a hug and told him he was an inspiration. Great
We all agreed that we would come back next year. Unless, we get a sponsor
and some more help, it sounds like we will be looking to join a corporate team
to enjoy the festivities a little more. I felt a little guilty having a beer
at 1am knowing my teammates were hydrating and racing their hearts out. Next
year, I party hard. Jk…thanks for reading!
24 Hours of Adrenalin at Laguna Seca Raceway,
Monterey, CA USA, 6/9/2007
Norman gets ready.
I'll say right off that I placed 3rd in a field of 31 and that this was a
very pleasant surprise since I had imagined 4th or 5th place at best given the
steep competition in the male solo category (Brian Sevall, Yuri Hauswald, and
Sean Sullivan). I considered 4th place my best hope. But it turned out that
Dezmin Wilder, the 22 year old phenom from Australia who won the single-speed
category at the Coolest 24 Hour Race Against Cancer last month and Paris Loader,
who does a lot of the CCCX races, were also in the mix.
While striving for the podium can be motivating, I like to base my goals on
factors over which I have greater control—such as striving for a personal best
in distance. For this 24 Hours of Adrenalin Race, my first time there as a solo
racer, my primary goal was to reduce break times in between laps. I can save
a lot of time by minimizing camp time and thereby have more time to ride. Another
goal was to start out slowly, but push a slightly faster pace after getting
a few laps into the race. Ultimately, like all solo racers, my goal is always
to finish the race. I achieved my goals and this race and I couldn't have done
it alone—I had a great team to help me.
Melanie Dominguez and I decided to combine our camps for mutual benefit. Melanie's
fiance Mark and friend Evan, a top notch mechanic, were our primary pit crew.
They brought several (small) kegs of beer, which attracted a few more of their
friends willing to hang out in our camp and provide assistance. In addition,
we had the help of Team Santa Cruz's winning father-son combo of Erik and Darik
Thunstrum. These guys were crucial—they arrived Saturday morning before the
start and left Sunday after everything was packed. Erik stayed up all night
and would always spring into action when I arrived in the pit area after a lap.
Mark, Evan, and Erik (as well as others) provided a level of support that allowed
me to really rest during my breaks rather than having to take care of things
myself. Even though Karen was racing on a team herself, she made guest appearances
in our camp to give me some extra attention. The crucial help included:
Melanie during a break
- clean and lube my chain every lap
- replace empty water bottles with full bottles containing Accelerade sports
- heating up food
- making tea
- grabbing my down jacket to put over my shoulders at night
- strapping on the the night lights
- providing wise advice about pacing myself
- tracking my standings and reporting them to me
- kissing me goodbye (only Karen did this!)
Thank you guys for the tremendous support!
24 hour races are so different from other forms of racing I've done. It's
really a social event despite the constant riding. We solo riders can generally
talk during the race because our pace is not so fast. I chatted with many riders
whom I knew (most of them racing as members of relay teams). It was really fun
and a great distraction to see friends out on the course. I was also lapped
by the leaders of the solo race and in each case they would slow down to chat
with me. I also met Paris on the course since we were on the same pace for most
A lot happens over the course of 24 hours. Here's a list of highlights and
- Passing by Karen in the middle of the night without stopping—Karen
had a bad crash on a very technical section of the course. I was descending
this steep, rutted downhill section, saw a bike all akimbo, and saw the back
of a woman dusting herself off. I asked if she was OK as I rode by and she
said yes. I was sitting in my camp eating after the lap when Karen rode up
covered in dirt head to toe with bloody knees. It turns out she recognized
me as I passed and then called out, but I didn't hear her call my name. She
understood the circumstances and we shared a dusty embrace before I set out
- Disc brakes sticking at about 4am—The evening was really foggy and
the dust clung to the moisture. This eventually caused the brakes to stick
and I had to switch to the backup bike, which was not as comfortable. Fortunately,
Erik washed the bike and Evan lubed the necessary parts and brought the 29er
back to working order. Thanks guys!
- Hearing that Brian Sevall departed the race for the hospital due to chest
pains—Brian won the Cool race and was a contender in this race. We chatted
when he lapped me the second time and he told me that he had chest pain. He
continued racing until the 11th hour and then wisely sought medical attention
when he had trouble breathing and his chest pain increased. He is fine and
that there was no evidence of heart attack.
Norman on the podium!
- Being serenaded with Japanese children's songs—One of Karen's teammates,
our friend Michiko of Berkeley, asked me a week before the race if she should
say anything to me if she should encounter me on the trail. I asked her to
sing a song she learned as a child in a Japan. She caught me at the top of
Hurl Hill and started singing in Japanese. It took me a while to figure out
what was going on, but it made me laugh when I remembered my request. We rode
the Grind together singing a duet of Mary had a Little Lamb. She sang Japanese,
I sang English.
- Riding the Grind without lights—On the first night lap I turned off
the lights for a pit stop and then afterwards decided to continue with the
lights off. At first I was weaving around the trail trying to stay balanced,
but then my eyes adjusted to the point I could see the dirt road lit by the
light of the stars. I put on some tunes, admired the Milky Way, and reveled
in this unique experience each night lap.
- Eating hot soup at night
- Seeing and being greeted by friends on the course—John Caletti, Cory
Caletti, Dano, Erik, Sully, Michiko, Rita, Jason, Keith, and others.
- The spectacular sunrise with yellows and oranges reflected off the clouds
- Eating a steak at the end of the race—thanks for bringing the bbq and
Karen and Norman compare their medals
This race did not have the dramatic finish that my last race (see earlier
race report here)
and for this I am grateful. I didn't have it in me to go hard again at the end
of this race.
I believe my steady pacing and consistency helped me to secure the third place
spot on the podium. Two contenders who would normally finish well ahead of me,
Sean Sullivan and Brian Sevall, each suffered setbacks during the race. Brian
had to be seek medical attention and Sean (I later heard) suffered from stomach
cramps and vomiting. Despite his troubles, Sean stopped to help Karen during
the night lap when she crashed. Thanks, Sean!
Thanks to all my supporters for making this a fun and successful race. I am
recovering well! Next up, off to the Cream Puff, a 100-mile mountain bike race
in July in Oregon with Troy of Team Santa Cruz. Also, thanks to my coach, Terri
Schneider, for making sure I was ready to compete in this demanding race format.
Diabetes Association Tour de Cure, Palo Alto, CA USA, 6/10/2007
I was able to contribute to the fight against diabetes by riding the 120K
(78-mile) route of the Silicon Valley Tour de Cure organized by the American
Diabetes Association on Sunday the 10th of June. It was awesome being able to
use my cycling to benefit others, and to see that so many of you were willing
to help raise funds in this fight. Diabetes is a growing problem and has exploded
sixfold in the last few decades! You don't need to ride a bike 78 miles to fight
it, but it is a great way to inspire people. I found this whole experience to
be surprisingly moving. Thank you so much!
My ride turned out to be more of an ordeal than it should have been because
I came down with a head cold the day before. And the cold medicine, or something,
made it almost impossible for me to sleep at all. I spent a lot of time staring
at the ceiling and worrying about what to do. Not good! But the thought of letting
down my donors and those suffering from diabetes was even worse. I resolved
to ride regardless, even if it meant riding one of the shorter routes (the Tour
de Cure had 25K, 50K and 120K routes).
That morning I awoke feeling horrible; barely able to get out of bed (at 4:30
a.m.!), much less able to drive to Palo Alto from Santa Cruz and, gasp, ride
a bike! But I drove off into the dark anyway, and watched the pretty sunrise
through bleary eyes. Once I got to HP in Palo Alto I considered my options...
starting with just checking in and making sure my donations were accepted before
I left, to riding a shorter route. But I started by grabbing some coffee and
yummy coffee cake. I once saw a sign in a café that read "Instant Human:
Just Add Coffee." That applies to me! I was quickly revived and even felt
good enough to ride my bike... slowly. Perhaps the cold medicine had worn off
too, which helps.
But I just couldn't get myself to switch to the 25K route; it was too easy,
too flat, too similar to my usual commute rides. I didn't want to disappoint
anyone. Both of the shorter routes didn't officially open until later in the
morning (9:00 and 10:00 a.m.), while the 120K route opened at 7:00 a.m. So...
I could get home and in bed sooner if I rode the 120K ride and cut it short.
120K it was! The enthusiastic volunteers running the event rang cowbells whenever
we checked in and announced our fundraising totals. I raised $1,380! That still
amazes me. It's incredibly moving to know that so many people were willing to
support me in this endeavour.
The weather was perfect, so I figured I would just ride as long as I could
and drop out of the ride when I got tired or showed new symptoms. I didn't want
to get even more ill! They had a "SAG" bus following us for just that
purpose, with a truck to carry the "discarded" bikes. There's no shame
in trying but failing! Not trying at all is the true failure. Surprisingly,
my legs felt fine as we were cheered on at the start of our ride by the wonderful
volunteers. The first part of the route went through pretty Portola Valley and
is fairly flat. Easy! And my legs still felt fine when we hit the long steep
climb up Kings Mountain Road with its gorgeous views of the valley. I even passed
some people and chatted a little which made this tough climb seem easier. I
guess all the carbo-loading at dinner the night before helped too!
Our first rest station, after 18.5 miles, was on the summit at Kings Mountain
and Skyline Boulevard. Perfect timing, as I hadn't really eaten enough breakfast
for such a long ride, and my "gas tank" was nearly empty. Lots of
volunteers and food awaited us, and did I help myself to treats. No surprise
to you, I'm sure! My only regret was that they had no coffee there. I evaluated
how I felt, and how the weather looked; over the summit it was foggy and damp.
I was concerned that my cold might turn into pneumonia or something if I overdid
it in the foggy hills, but I thought it might clear up. And... my legs still
My friend Richard arrived a little later, and we decided to hook up for the
remainder of the ride. He was riding with other friends, so we had to wait for
them in the chilly fog at the summit. Not good if you have a cold, but it's
more fun to ride in a group. Once Richard's friends showed up and got some food
we rode south on Skyline to Old La Honda (HWY84) to descend toward the coast.
The wind chill on the fast descent, over 40 MPH in places, is significant, so
I made sure to wear my arm- and leg-warmers. I had even stuffed several layers
of paper towel under my jersey to keep my chest warm; an old bike-racer's trick!
Worked great as we flew downhill towards the Pacific coast.
After a few steep climbs, including some that I've raced on (it's much easier
when you're not chasing superathletes!), we stopped at the next rest station,
in the quaint old fishing village of Pescadero. This was 43.8 miles into the
ride and past the halfway point. Wow, it almost seemed easy! But I knew we'd
have to climb those same hills to get home, so I stuffed more food into my stomach.
My favorite part of long rides!
Our route meandered along Stage Road which parallels HWY1 a couple of miles
from the coast. The fog was very thick and I worried about pneumonia again.
The mist was so heavy that it condensed all over my sunglasses and helmet. Richard
and I were well ahead of the others and set a great pace up Tunitas Creek Road,
back uphill toward the summit. This climb started out pretty moderate, though
the pavement is ancient. Speaking of ancient: we saw several very rare antique
sportscars driving down this hill. Very fun! But soon it got steeper and there
are about 7 miles of pretty heavy lifting to do. I slowly counted off the mile
markers as we huffed and puffed. Even so we rode up that hill in great form
and even managed a short sprint back to the rest station at Kings Mountain and
Summit at mile 63.4.
After refueling for the last time we dropped down Kings Mountain and back
to the rolling foothills. The temperature went up probably 30 degrees. Very
nice! It was great rolling back onto the HP campus; we were both feeling good,
though utterly spent at the finish line. 78.7 miles at an average of 15.1 MPH.
But the volunteers greeting us on our return were heart-warming, and so was
all of the food donated by sponsors (though we 120K riders got only the leftovers
from the 25K and 50K riders who finished earlier). Chipotle donated burritos
(they sponsor lots of cool events). We also got pasta from Tony & Alba's, a
schwag bag from REI, really loud live music and more. We burned somewhere around
4000 calories on this ride, or the amount most people would eat in two full
days, so we had lots of work to do replacing them! Ohhhhh my; yummy!
But here's what it's really all about. The funds we raised will be used by
ADA in this way:
- 32% info
- 24% research
- 21% advocacy and public awareness
- 18% fundraising
- 4% management
Examples of what ADA services cost:
- $37.00 pays for educational materials for a newly diagnosed child and their
- $2.75 pays to send a diabetes information kit to a newly diagnosed individual
- $11.25 covers one hour of an advocate's visit to Washington
- $26.00 provides diabetes risk tests for 1,000 individuals
- $50.00 pays for one hour of diabetes research
- $25.00 pays for materials necessary for a health fair
- $79.00 pays for a child to go to camp for one day
If you spread the $1,380.00 that you and I raised evenly on those areas, think
about how many of those things we have made possible. Truly amazing. And it's
not too late to help. You
can still donate online!
I fully intend to ride in this awesome event again next year. The chance to
put my cycling skills to work helping others, while having fun, is simply too
good to pass up! See you then!
Single Speed UK Championships, Ashton Court,
Bristol, _ United Kingdom, 6/10/2009
“Best butt crack”, “First stop for a beer”, “shonkiest bike” – not the usual
categories at a mountain bike race, but this was the Single Speed United Kingdom
championships and I was lucky enough to participate even though I’m not one
of Her Majesty’s subjects. I just had to promise not to podium to avoid the
massive controversy that would erupt all over the UK if I were to prevail.
The race was mostly an afterthought to all but a few dedicated racers and
was sandwiched between late-night drunken jousting and mid-day feasting at the
race BBQ. For those who haven’t visited the UK, ale is, of course, a popular
drink, but here in the Southwest, alcoholic Cider eclipses it in popularity
at many gatherings. Its popularity is directly related to its higher alcohol
content and lower cost. This “apple-flavored energy drink” as my mate Antony
calls it caused the publisher of the Outcast ‘zine to win the “latest start” prize
as he slept through the first 2 laps of the race on Sunday morning.
The race started after race organizer Shaggy (who some of you may have met
at other SS gatherings) downed a beer and held it aloft. In a stampede reminiscent
of a scene from Braveheart he was promptly tackled by 4 or 5 racers while the
other 150-or-so of us went for our bikes. Quite the challenge this – as all
the On-One bikes had been put in a large pile and all the other bikes had been
relocated. If you found your bike you were off and around the course – a fast
mix of roots, rocks and twisty singeltrack. Not too many surprises on the course
save for the numerous offers of beer. I was pleased to learn that I could pedal
my SS uphill with one hand on the bars and another around a cold can of Stella
Artois – skills I didn’t possess until I moved to this foreign land. I represented
SCCCC well, finishing all 3 laps without a crash or spilling a single drop of
beer. I hope to do as well at SSWC in September.
Ross' Epic Hill Climb, Geyserville, CA USA,
Ross’ Epic Hill Climb
18 miles, 3577 ft climb
Last year Central California had only three hill climbs on the NCNCA calendar;
two road races, Mount San Bruno and Mt. Tamalpias, and a time trial that goes
half way up Mt Diablo. So, this year’s addition of a new road race, Ross’ Epic
Hill Climb, was a welcome addition and I jumped at the chance to be in on the
inaugural race. My hope was that this climb would live up to its “Epic” moniker
since the other three climbs are not very inspiring – I was not disappointed.
I arrived at Geyserville High School, the race staging site, about an hour
early. The registration was well organized and they even handed out swag bags
with an assortment of high energy bars, goo and drink mix. After a warm up ride
I got in the starting queue. Groups were started about 10 minutes apart. My
group, about 50 strong, was combined 45+ and 55+ with the 55+ lining up at the
back. The first part of the ride was flat and very pleasant as the course wound
through picturesque vineyards in the valley. After about seven miles we made
a turn onto a one lane road, Pine Flat, and headed toward the mountains. The
hill started gradually and it took a while for the 45+ group to pull ahead,
but eventually the other old guys and I were left behind. The climb had three
phases, about seven miles of moderate slope, followed by a couple level miles,
and a final steep one and a half miles. I was doing pretty well at the end of
the first stage, I seemed to be near the front of the 55+ group and I had passed
quite a few riders who had slipped off the back of the lead group. Even though
there were no really steep sections, it was kind of tough going since the slope
kept changing and there was no chance of getting into a grind-out-the-miles
type rhythm. Just as the long, flat section started, the guy behind me passed
and took off. Perfect! I caught his wheel and had a nice breather before going
into what would be the toughest part of the climb.
I don’t know how to emphasize how steep the last section of the race was other
than to say that one of my weekly training rides has me climbing some of the
steepest roads in Santa Cruz County; Jaminson Creek, Alba Road, and China Grade;
and my 34/25 gearing serves me well; but on the section of Pine Creek Road I
was about to enter, that gearing was totally inadequate. The flat section ended
in a left hand turn with the road pitching up sharply. I had to stand but I
figured, as is the case with most mountain roads, the steep part would end when
the road straightened out and I would be able to sit and grind away again. What
actually happened was that, upon completing the turn, I was met with a view
of what purgatory must look like. As I came around the bend, I could see almost
the entire 1.5 miles of road left of the mountain. The road curved clockwise
in a mile-long arc as it soared up 1000 feet. It looked like that entire mile
was every bit as steep as the section I was now straining to climb. Along the
road, the 45+ group was stretched out in a long line looking like the damned
being tormented by Dante’s demons. Racers were straining at their pedals which
yielded ever so slowly to their weight as they inched their way upwards. One
rider was jogging and pushing his bike, two others were stopped, half way up,
slumped over their handle bars. “Oh crap!” My legs started screaming at my brain
that it was time to downshift, but there were no more gears. I tried traversing
back and forth to smooth out the grade, but the sides of the road had a coating
of sand which caused my wheel to spin so I had to keep in the center of the
road and head straight up. I somehow managed to keep the pedals turning, the
bike from flopping over, and my heart from stopping until I completed the mile-long
arc, at which point the finish line came into view a few hundred yards ahead.
The slope eased to about 10% and I was actually able to accelerate to the point
that it looked like I might pass one more rider, but I changed my mind and I
let up, feeling like having endured the slope from hell made us more comrades
than competitors and that, as slow as I had been on the last mile, there was
not much chance that I was near a podium spot anyway – big mistake.
The post-race chatter at the finish line was all about how the slope had caught
us off guard but, rather than being bummed, we were laughing and telling our
personal war stories. It seemed like this race was becoming a legend right before
my eyes. I would not be surprised if, in the years to come, the race’s reputation
grows and it becomes this area’s mini version of Mount Washington Hill Climb.
On the ride back to Geyserville my right Achilies tendon started aching with
every pedal stroke so, rather than waiting around for the results, I left for
home in order to get my ankle on ice. I could kick myself for doing that because
it turned out that I had come in third (the guy I had not passed being second),
and would have received a medal if I had hung around. So I left the race with
a medal that I will never see and an injury which makes my plan of participating
in next weekend’s Pescadaro RR look doubtful, but also with the satisfaction
of having done well in what is by far this area’s toughest hill climb.
Dash For Cash, Pleasanton, CA USA, 6/2/2007
Back to work. After "tapering" my training volume down to peak for
Panoche Valley and the Memorial Day race, I started another high-volume "Build" period
the week before this criterium. That meant I wouldn't be fresh. But with five
intermediate "prime" sprints, I hoped to get more sprint training
in, which I really need.
My race morning was almost a repeat of the last one. Margaret drove our new
car again, the fog was still lingering and we even had the same breakfasts.
Afterwards we'd visit our friend Carole, who lives near Pleasanton, and have
lunch together. I was a little worried that we'd be late, so I changed into
my uniform while we drove down the freeway... carefully watching for tall vehicles!
We arrived half an hour before my 45+ 3/4 race's 11:00 start time; plenty
of time to get ready! Stella Carey was riding around in Velo Bella kit; that
was a big surprise. Natasha Perry was there, and I saw Larry Broberg (Bicycle
Trip) in the last few laps of the open 45+ race. His peloton totally split up
in the windy conditions. And some guy named Larry Nolan (Discovery Channel)
won by at least 50 feet, followed by small groups and solo riders straggling
in. I figured it was due to team tactics and a very high pace. Glad I missed
We immediately lined up but didn't get to take any practice laps. Darn; the
course was totally different from last year's and I like to scope things out.
The course was flat and roughly square with sweepers on two sides. The final
straight was pretty long; maybe 300 meters.
I noticed Larry lined up too, for the 55+ 3/4 race combined with ours; that
guy is awesome! On the start line the starter got confused and tried to expel
all the Category 3 racers. Oops. As a Cat. 4 I would have been OK with that.
The pace was pretty fast, higher than Monday's race, probably because of the
Cat. 3 guys... unless it was the long "Build" week taking its toll
on my legs. A small breakaway group of about five guys formed immediately, to
my surprise; I figured everybody would wait for the fifth lap and the start
of the primes. We caught them on the third lap.
Margaret cheered me on. Joined by Carole a little later, and Larry's wife
The strong wind seemed to promote gaps in the peloton that we had to work
hard to close, which may be the third lesson I'll take from this season: I always
thought wind kept the peloton together. What actually happens is that every
turn changes the direction the wind strikes us from, and gaps form as we shift
our positions to stay sheltered, or weaker riders who were sheltered are suddenly
in the wind and hampering us.
Just before the first prime some guy shot off the front and soloed for a full
lap and the prime win. Darn; I wasn't about to fight the wind for that long
so early on. But others split off too and I took a short pull to close the gap.
That placed me near the front for the second prime and as we took turn 4 I
was in a fairly good spot, but several guys had already gapped us. I had to
ride all-out for a long time to close gaps before I could attack the VOS rider
who was out in front. Close but no cigar; I gained, but then couldn't get past
him, and lost by inches. Whew; I had to rest for a while!
While I sat up and was swallowed by the peloton, panting, the VOS rider just
kept going! In fact, he stayed out front for several laps and took two primes
by default, before fading badly. Martin Wolff has really done a good job of
building this team up.
The race was pretty clean but with about five laps remaining, in turn in turn
3, a guy a few bikes ahead of me appeared to lose his rear wheel on a Bott's
Dot and slide sideways, taking a couple others out in the process. I managed
to squeeze by on the inside but others behind me had fewer options and some
piled into them; one, in LGBRC kit I think, flew into the bushes in the center
divider. I didn't notice it, but Larry was one of the unfortunates.
The crash created another gap we had to close, and since I was just behind
the crash I was now at the front of the chase group. But the leaders didn't
take advantage and we caught up soon. That may explain why I missed the last
prime; I was too tired!
On the last lap we had a couple guys off the front and I pulled a little in
the section with a tailwind. I felt good, but the pace was fast and gaps formed
before the last turn that I, again, had to close to stay with the front row.
That was tiring, and there were still big gaps ahead of me on the final straight.
The final sprint was a long time-trial into the headwind. Even so I was able
to pass several guys and cross the finish line in the top-10. Woo-hoo!
Afterwards I talked with Larry who was pretty scraped up, but at least he
wasn't in the ER with a broken collarbone like one other guy. Margaret, Carole
and I then watched the next race while I waited for results to be posted: I
got 6th place; good for one upgrade point. It was fun hearing 7th place
lament how I pipped him at the line though!
For lunch we went to a nice Mexican restaurant, El Agave, in downtown Pleasanton,
with hundreds of tequilas. We sat in their outside seating and enjoyed the quaint
town and perfect weather... and my smooth tequila and beer. Am I lucky or what!
Bicycle Store Memorial Day Criterium, Morgan Hill, CA USA, 5/28/2007
My training program works! That, and my sprinter identity, are the two big
lessons I have learned in the 2007 season. All those years where I thought I
was a climber... I wonder how many cyclists out there have equally wrong self
images? Of course nothing is that simple; all of us have some climber, some
sprinter, and some time-trialer in us, though in different proportions. My training
program has helped me to finally get sorted out.
On race day the marine-layer we awoke under was even gloomier than my race
prospects. I was racing alone, like usual, except for my Los Gatos Bicycle Racing
Club (LGBRC) friend Erik Ostly. But since Margaret just got a new car, I was
actually able to convince her to drive me to the race in Morgan Hill; I'd have
a cheering section! The new car's smaller trunk requires me to remove my bike's
saddle too, but it did fit. We decided to take it easy and have breakfast at
Santa Cruz Diner. I had the banana waffle pancakes with lots of syrup; nothing
beats high-glycemic food for a breakfast just before a 10:40am race start.
We had fun driving her new car over ye hill and enjoyed the beautiful morning
that started 20 feet past the foggy summit. Safely arrived at the Morgan Hill
business park, we briefly watched the Category 3 race with my other LGBRC friends
Rob Jensen and Chris Tanner. I quickly got my race number at registration; my
45+ 4/5 race (45 and over age group of Category 4 and 5 racers) was grouped
with the younger 35+ 4/5 race, but we'd be scored separately using the range
of our race numbers. This can make it hard to keep track of who really is your
competitor in the heat of battle.
I no longer feel the need to experiment with long warmups and 10 or 15 minutes
of easy spinning with a couple of jumps works fine for me. Erik was also warming
up, and we watched the hawks hunt for rabbits in the few remaining undeveloped
fields. I dropped off my spare wheels in the pit, lined up at the start, and
waved at Margaret. The field was enormous; 75 riders! I had been a little tense,
but tried to focus on my limited goal: to contest only the for-fun intermediate "prime" sprints
as a method to overcome my nervousness in sprint finishes. That's a heck of
a hangup for a sprinter to carry around and it was time for me to get over it.
Primes aren't as hotly contested as finishing sprints and are a great way to
The race started at what I consider a moderately fast pace... that meant I'd
have some reserve for the primes. Perfect! I nevertheless saved energy by drafting
and using Chris's advice (stay near the front, stay off the brakes) almost the
entire time. Worked great. I did take an easy pull up front one lap though,
just for fun. The course is pancake-flat with four turns and two sweeping connectors,
plus the usual Bott's Dots and curbs.
The race was mostly clean, though the tire of some guy behind me blew out
on the first lap. I didn't hear any crash but there was a firetruck there on
the next lap. Sucks. Later in the race somebody else, also further back, hit
the steel barricades in turn 3, hard. Another benefit to staying up front: less
chance of getting messed up!
When the cowbell rang announcing the first prime I moved up to be in position
for the sprint. Let's give it a try. The headwind on the finish line would mean
I should draft behind somebody else who jumped too early; usually being fifth
is the perfect spot. Well, that thinking put me several bike lengths behind
the winner, though I did gain on him right to the line and got second place.
Good start! It took me over a lap to recover, and another prime came up while
I was still gasping. Fortunately, I was able to grab a wheel and stayed near
the front, but skipped that prime. I was still feeling great, and was ready
for the third prime. Though I got boxed in and didn't get a better start, I
used it to get another hard sprint in and again finished second. Geez, timing
and position really are important. This was pretty fun, and great training!
The last turn of the race. Notice how far back I am, and the outside line I
used is longer, but I still passed several guys. Woo-hoo! Erik is in the bright
yellow/red kit several rows behind me. (Amy John)
While I was racing Margaret cheered me on, joined later by Rob and Chris,
and even my friend Amy from work! It's awesome to have such support, and I felt
like I could put on a good show for them in return.
Unlike my former self, I paid close attention to the lap cards, and with "2" remaining
I moved forward. I was determined to be far enough forward to contest the final
sprint. But, like usual, nobody wanted to lead anybody else out and on the back
stretch of the course on the last lap I found myself boxed in between guys trying
to draft the front row... dang! I knew the problems with that, and worked my
way to the only opening I saw, on the left side out in the wind. Gulp. Not ideal,
but it sure beat being stuck in the pack while the leaders sprinted off (which
is what happened to Erik) so I just went for it.
I was riding out in the wind alongside the peloton, but not breathing too
hard yet, and I was optimistic as we approached the last turn. I had a clear
shot through it, and nothing but air between me and the finish line... and,
I wasn't blown out. How awesome! I was afraid I had a long train of guys on
my wheel trying to get me to lead them out, but when I jumped hard I was clear
of them! A guy in white moved ahead of me on my right, and when I saw he was
faster I tried to grab his wheel, but I was too far to the side and instead
just fought for final placement. It looked like I was in contention for a top-10,
no, make that a top-5!!! I sprinted some more and eeked out a spot or two as
I flew over the finish line in 5th! My best crit finish ever!
Geez; I shouldn't have to learn that I have sprinter's legs from a podium shot.
Next time could somebody please tell me! ;-) (Amy John)
On the cooldown lap a guy came up to me and said "Man, you got me." I
figured, no big deal, but then he mentioned how he'd been looking for the 45+
race numbers, and mine was the only one ahead of him. Oh yeah, I forgot that
taken 1st! Woo-hoo! I shared that exciting bit of news with Margaret and
our friends, and then worked on figuring out how to verify the results, contain
my excuberance, and collect whatever I'd won. I started by collecting my spare
wheels and cleaning up. I was still irked I hadn't won overall but, hey, I'll
Did you know that they don't hand out medals at local criteriums? If I'd known
that I would have stayed home. Just kidding! I did get a T-shirt and a $35 gift
card from Trek Bicycle Store. Richey, the second-place finisher, wasn't around
for the podium shot, so the third-place guy and I had to wait for a while. Finally
he showed up and I was able to get my podium-girl kiss from Margaret, while
Amy took some photos of me on that top step. What a victory buzz! I hadn't felt
quite like that since I finished 6th at Sea Otter in 2004. My CCCX wins just
didn't quite compare. In celebration we went to Sino's Japanese Restaurant in
Santana Row with Margaret's sister Cathy. It's very trendy and has some of the
coolest cocktails. I had a "Sutra" which is a bourbon cocktail. Yum.
And lots of dim sum. What a great way to cap the victory on pavement I thought
I'd never achieve!
I've been analyzing what I did right and wrong in this race. In the "wrong" column
I had some trouble choosing the right position to start my sprints. In the "right" column
I scheduled a "Peak" for this time period, so I was very fit. And
my hill repeats training, which ironically was supposed to prepare me for hilly
road races, allowed me to ride out in the wind and make my own way to the finish
line instead of getting boxed in by slower riders. So that means that I should
continue to do my hated hill repeats. Oh well, at least the results now make
them easier to bear!
Some photos: PK
Chris e-mailed me some sprinter's humor.
You might be a sprinter if...
...you don’t do races with Col, Mt, or Hill in the title.
...chicks dig you because you weigh more than they do.
...you watch NASCAR for your pack etiquette.
...the shorter the race, the better you like your chances.
...you want to know where you can get one of those Ron Kiefel thingys.
...you think you can win every flat race.
...you lose interest in the Tour de France after the first week.
...you either are always feeling great or always feeling bad.
...breaks always sit up just as you catch on.
...you never, ever, ever...pull.
...you own white shoes, or at least really want a pair.
And my personal favorite.
You might be a sprinter if...
...you say you are!
I added these:
...your elbows are always badly bruised.
...you bonk on "The Wall" on Foothill Expressway where it climbs out
from under Loyola!!!
CCCX MTB #6, Sport Single Speed, Fort Ord,
CA USA, 5/19/2007
I felt nervous going into this race. They had switched the venue from Toro
Park to Fort Ord, and knowing that I typically performed much better on a climbing
course like Toro made me uneasy. Rather than gun it out of the gate like I do
at Toro, I decided to try to start hard but hang with Erik, rest behind whoever
was willing to pull me, and wait for an opportunity.
The field was a bit different too. There was a new guy I had never seen before
and a few others had either switched categories or they were saving themselves
for Skyline on the following day. In particular, Mike Mann, the other contender
for the series, wasn’t there. I figured it would be Erik and I battling it out
for 1st, but when the whistle blew the new guy was hanging with us too.
I led the race with the new guy and Erik behind me. Somewhere in that first
lap Erik and I swapped places and I settled into 3rd. I was glad to be behind
a couple of big riders because the wind on the front side of the course was
brutal. Passing was a real problem – there isn’t much room on the singletrack
and they didn’t give us much fireroad to work with either. I’m pretty sure I
picked up some really nasty poison oak somewhere in the first couple laps of
As we settled down and worked with each other in the middle of the race, we
talked a bit and I tried to read the situation. The new guy was hanging right
with us and he looked very strong. I had no idea who he was but it became clear
that he was a threat. He gave Erik and I a huge compliment and told us that
we were some of the smoothest riders he’s seen. That meant a lot to me and I’ll
chalk it up to all the experience in tight cyclocross packs. I could tell that
Erik, leading us and hanging out in the wind, was fading. He was pushing a huge
gear and on the few hills that were out there he was slowing quite dramatically.
On our third lap I was feeling totally recovered and ready to finish the race
strong, but with ten miles to go I had an important decision to make – sit in
and rest more, saving myself for a sprint at the end, or attack sooner and risk
blowing myself out?
I felt like I had another solid ten miles in my legs, so I decided to go for
it and see if anyone could hang with me. I attacked hard on the first hill and
swung out to pass. I heard someone chase and I suspected it was the new guy.
I wasn’t sure if Erik was with us or not, but I’m sure he knew what was up so
I decided to let him catch us if he could. I was going very hard and feeling
good, with the new guy shadowing close. I hoped it would break him and he’d
give up but he stuck right with me. As we entered the windy section he even
swung around and took a pull, telling me that he wasn’t sure if he could go
any faster but that he’d at least break the wind for a bit. I appreciated his
help and we worked together. At one point I turned around but Erik was gone,
out of contention for 1st.
At the beginning of the final lap my new companion told me his name was Tim.
We worked together for a while and passed a bunch of riders during the infrequent
wide stretches of trail. On the backside of the course Tim really started picking
up the pace and I was trying my hardest to keep up with him. It wasn’t my lungs
but my legs that were preventing me from spinning up to his speed. We entered
the final downhill and I knew that he had the race. Tim finished about 15 seconds
ahead of me, with Erik 3 minutes back.
As Erik and I cooled down and gathered at the start of the Expert race, we
saw Tim in the group somewhere in the 45+ category on a geared bike. We asked
around and Erik found out that Tim is the reigning X-Terra champion. No wonder
the guy was entering two races – he was training. After his second race I congratulated
him and we exchanged numbers in hopes of putting together some lunchtime training
Good battles almost always lead to good friendships.
Valley Road Race, Hollister, CA USA, 5/20/2007
I am a sprinter. At least that's what road races have led me to believe. Like
the ugly duckling who discovers he's a beautiful swan. Or maybe more like that
zebra in Racing Stripes who discovers he's not a racehorse.
So why do I keep signing up for hilly road races? I always get dropped on
the big climbs, and the angry red scars on my elbow are a reminder of my crash
during the very wet first annual 2006
edition of this race. Well, I really love this beautiful course, and if
I could ever finish strong in a road race it would be on this course with its
relatively moderate climbs with recovery zones following them, and its flat
sprinter's finish. It's 20 miles out with roughly 1,350 feet of altitude gain,
then a U-turn and 20-miles back on the same route. So, a lot less climbing than
at Berkeley Hills or Pescadero, and without the uphill finishes.
Gary Griffin and I, and Mark Edwards and Scott Martin of Bicycle Trip, all
signed up for the 45+ 4/5 category race. The 50-rider field limit was reached
already during pre-registration, so this race is clearly becoming popular. Margie
Biddick signed up for the women's 3/4 race, and brought yummy home-baked goods
again while Mark drove us all down. As we drove through the gorgeous morning
Mark and we discussed race tactics. I volunteered to attack early and often,
figuring I might not have fresh legs later anyway. Mark and Scott would cover
attacks, and go on the offensive later in the race. We'd block any chasers if
one of us joined a successful breakaway group. The climbs on the trip out to
the turnaround would likely split us into smaller groups, while the headwind
on the gentle downhill return meant that the lead group would likely stay together
to the end.
I had high hopes for this race: Last year I was with the leaders when I crashed,
and still finished 8th, so I was sure I could improve on that. And I was in
peak form too, thanks to my training program with hill repeats and sprints.
And I knew the course too. No excuses... except that the field was a full 50
riders this year, which was almost twice the size of last year.
This year they had enough Porta-Potties, so they're learning. They also had
free Togo's sandwich coupons, and the Lion's Club volunteers are so sweet! David
Gill was on hand too, as Chief Steward. Chris Cerruti was racing in the open
45+ race, and his son was in the juniors race. But I didn't see anybody else
I know. I figured Gary had changed his mind (I found out later he was there,
but I just didn't spot him, and he broke a spoke early on and abandoned), and
that nobody else in the club would be a last-minute entrant. We all warmed up
for 30 minutes which is a lot for me. I was determined not to just assume my
usual routine is right, including my belief that I don't need much warmup. Rabbits
and even coyotes cavorted about us. That was pretty cool!
With the nice weather and a slight tailwind, the start was faster than last
year. Nothing much happened on the first few miles of slightly rolling terrain,
but then three teammates from "SF Sport & Spine Pt Racing," whatever
that is, decided to try a move similar to what team "Pegasus" successfully
did last year: A solo breakaway with the others blocking us. It didn't work.
We shut their man down easily after a couple of miles. As per our plan, I then
launched a short attack on a moderate climb, but when I sat up and looked back
I was all alone; nobody bothered to chase me down. Soon after that we hit the
harder climbs anyway, so that was the end of my attacks... but the start of
The hardest climb came at about 10–11 miles, and Mark moved up to the front
where he rode his butt off. People started dropping off the back like parts
off an old rusty Ford pickup. Scott and I tried to stay close behind him, but
I was suddenly gasping for breath, my rib-cage hurting, like somebody had a
voodoo doll of me and was sitting on it. I did manage to hold on near the front
though. There was a slight drop after this and I got my breath back just in
time for the next climb. Whew! But Mark and Scott both climb better than I do,
and soon I was getting gapped slightly in spite of a maximum, and I do mean
maximum, effort. Fortunately I was again able to catch back on and stayed with
the group into the next climb. Argh... more pain, with Mark and Scott dealing
it out! Cool for them, but painful for me! I was blown up beyond repair at the
top, wheezing asthmatically, and was again gapped as we started the bigger drop
into the valley floor, past where I crashed last year. Only this time I was
too exhausted to stay with the peloton as Mark whooshed downhill in the lead.
So, I crashed again this year, only it was a physiological crash, not a physical
crash! The elapsed time was 0:45:49... a time that will live in infamy.
As I watched them scoot off, I tried to recover without slowing too much in
hopes that the peloton would back off enough to let me catch up. It does happen,
especially in the open 45+ races, but not in this one: They continued their
time-trial effort for several miles, up and around the U-turn cones at the turnaround.
I watched them as they flew downhill, just a minute or so ahead of me. We waved
at each other while I continued to slam my red energy drink in front of the
neutral water zone volunteers, red spittle caking at the corners of my mouth.
On the return trip we dropped racers coalesced into chase groups of similar
ability, like baby solar systems out of interstellar gas clouds. My group ended
up with two Peninsula Velo racers, one of the SF Sport & Spine Pt Racing racers
(a big sprinter type), a Kovarus/Squadra Ovest racer and li'l old me. We actually
did a very nice job of pacelining back, and that was really nice for me as I
needed some recovery in their slipstream. We rode hard, but consistently, even
overtaking others from the earlier races. We even had a little time to enjoy
the scenery. I didn't think of this as chasing down my friends as we didn't
have a chance at that.
At the "1KM" sign, a weird thing happened; our paceline fell apart.
Imagine that! Some of us eyed the others, expecting a break for the consolation
prizes, but only with 200–300 meters to go did anybody make a move, and it wasn't
the two Peninsula Velo guys as you'd have thought. I was third or fourth wheel
when the big SF Sport & Spine Pt Racing guy started to accelerate, followed
by the Kovarus/Squadra Ovest racer. I immediately grabbed their wheels, while
the two PenVelo guys drifted backwards, and moved up when the Kovarus/Squadra
Ovest racer fell off the pace. I couldn't shift onto the big chainring, but
even with that and the headwind I was easily able to shoot past him too and
sprint over the finish line with what looked like a 30-foot gap! Woo-hoo, that
was fun! And 18th
place (out of 34 finishers) was mine, all mine!
But as I crossed the finish line I saw Scott carrying his bike back. Maybe
he'd had a flat? No such luck; he'd crashed just before the line when somebody's
tire blew out, maybe due to crossing wheels or something? We don't know, but
he hit the ground pretty hard and was scraped up and bleeding from his hands,
hip, shoulder and head. I made sure he was taken care of at first aid and went
to ask Mark what happened. Mark had finished 6th after giving up on sprinting
when he heard the crash (as a criterium guy, I can say for certain that I would
have ridden even harder after that, but I understand his reaction too!). We
got some recovery Togo's sandwiches, I had a beer, and we waited for Scott to
get cleaned up. Poor guy; he was hurting. We were concerned that he'd had a
concussion, but his pupils reacted properly and he didn't have any memory loss.
Instead, his hand was really painful and now we started worrying it was broken.
It was time to get going and see about getting his hand X-rayed. On the way
back to Santa Cruz we called his insurance and made sure he had an ice pack
at all times. Margie is a madwoman; she had Mark drop her off so she could ride
into the headwind all the way home! We finally got Scott to Santa Cruz Medical
Center and began the slow process of getting our health care system to tend
to his fracture. What a pain. Poor Scott!
Now I'm trying to digest my own new identity as a sprinter. It has taken me
a while to figure this out, and my structured training program has helped me
with it. Now I just have to figure out if I can ever be a good sprinter,
and what courses suit me best. This will affect my 2008 season greatly and will
affect what races I choose to enter and how I train. I suspect slightly hilly
criteriums and short cross-country races suit me best. If I had good feet and
an appropriate bike, I'd probably try cyclocross too. It's exciting to have
this knowledge and the focus it gives me!
Hills Road Race, Berkeley, CA USA, 5/12/2007
Almost every road race I've entered has progressed in the same manner; the
pack breaks up on some big climb and I'm forced to try to chase back on with
a small group of other poor schmucks, but I never actually catch them. In a
criterium I can usually stay in the pack forever until the final sprint, but
I've learned to set my expectations lower for hilly road races: I usually treat
them as hard workouts followed by a training-ride paceline through pretty scenery.
This road race, in its 50th year of running, was to be no exception.
I was just entering a "Peak" period, so I wasn't very fresh. Mark
Edwards, of Bicycle Trip, convinced me it would be good preparation for Panoche
Valley Road Race the next weekend. I could then "Taper" (reduce my
rides) during the week following Berkeley to maximize my potential for Panoche.
The clincher was that he offered to drive me, Margie and Scott Martin up there.
And that Margie would provide very healthy home-baked breakfast items for the
Like most road races, we would all start in groups separated by a few minutes.
Our 45+ 1/2/3/4 group started at 7:56, Margie's Women Elite 4 group at 8:10.
We would race 2.7 laps (the finish line was at the top of the biggest climb)
and 54 miles with about 6500 feet of climbing, she would race 1.7 laps and 33
miles. So I set my alarm to 4:00am to make it to the start on time. Good thing
I'm a morning person!
The light overcast had cleared by the time we drove through Oakland, and the
pretty San Pablo Reservoir area near the town of Orinda beckoned. I decided
to wear my long-sleeved skinsuit as the slight breeze promised to keep things
We all got ready and sorted ourselves into our respective race groups. Mark
was pretty amped, as was Chris Cerruti (Giant Strawberries). I know Mark had
really planned for this race, but Scott and I were pretty mellow. Well, Scott
had really trained hard too, but he's always mellow! When our group got the
start we had to follow a pace motorcycle during a neutral roll-out from the
park onto San Pablo Dam Road. Behind us was a chase car marked with our race
category on it.
Our race started when we turned right onto Castro Ranch Road. Much to my surprise
there wasn't an immediate attack! Instead we all tooled along at a nice pace.
A few minutes later I said to Mark "so far so good." Man, I should
shut my mouth, because just seconds after I said that he hit a small pothole
and, hiss-hiss-hiss, had to stop with a pinch-flat! Argh! I offered to stop,
but he told me to keep going. I did that, and figured he'd be able to get a
spare from the chase car. I told Scott the news, and we tooled on. Little did
I know that the chase car didn't have spares for our race. His race was over.
Geez, and Mark had really targeted this race. That sucks!
There were some moderate climbs along the way, but the first big climb came
a few miles down Alhambra Valley Road. I settled into a nice rhythym near the
front, and felt pretty good though I was definitely breathing hard. There's
a false summit on this climb, but I crested the hill still in good shape. I
then used the descent to move all the way to the front before letting others
lead on. It was thick with powerhouses like Steve Archer, Don Langley (Morgan
Stanley), Mark Caldwell (Team Spine) and Kevin Susco (Alto Velo) up there! On
the next big climb, on Bear Creek Road, I was again near the front and feeling
OK, though I was again breathing very heavily. I worried a bit as I knew I was
near 100% and the pace would pick up on the next two laps. But since I was just
using this race for training I wasn't too dejected.
We crossed the finish line at the crest and started our second lap. A few
guys passed me, but I again shot to the front on the descent and lead the way.
Nobody wanted to pull, and Steve Archer was obviously a marked man as he floated
off the front barely pedalling. This was fun! Just after we turned back onto
San Pablo Dam Road we caught an Alto Velo racer; it turned out he'd tried some
solo break, probably just for grins. This shows how cruel their sense of humor
is! I was surprised that team Morgan Stanley hadn't tried harder to catch him
(and bummed I hadn't noticed him before), but I may have misunderstood the situation.
We played more cat and mouse along San Pablo Dam Road, weaving around at one
point to avoid our pace motorcycle when he U-turned to help out at a crash.
On Castro Ranch Road I started to feel my legs on the moderate hills that
I'd barely noticed on the first lap, and was reminded that I was not really
meant to do well here. Sure enough; on the first big climb I barely held on,
and on the false summit I was gapped! Sigh. I really wanted to stay with the
leaders longer than that! Scott, who I hadn't seen for a while, passed me here,
furiously drafting Steve Palladino (Fighting Bobas), and I wasn't able to grab
their wheels because they were too far to my left and passed me too fast. Darn!
My chances of regaining the leaders diminished to almost zero.
The big climb on Bear Creek Road really sucked the life out of my legs, and
I was huffing and puffing from my maximum effort. No deal. My lungs and legs
were spent, but I did manage to hook up with several other guys who were in
the same situation; my new buddies. One of them didn't believe I was old enough
to be in the 45+ race... my new special buddy!
The rest of the race was a training ride for me, like all road races, but
I decided to stick it out and finish. I would at least get my full workout in,
and we practiced our pacelining. Mark was there to cheer us on so I couldn't
very well quit with him watching, and the scenery was beautiful!
I finished in 35th
out of 49 finishers, Scott was 30th, Chris 22nd (Margie was 17th in her
race). Langley won, again, followed by Susco. Archer was only 29th, so I figure
he's tapering for Panoche or Pescadero and was working to help Langley. Cool.
I'll see them all there!
Coolest 24 Hour Race, Cool, CA USA, 5/6/2007
I knew I had reached a whole new level of race intensity when I broke down
after my 24-hour mountain bike race. I was sprawled in a lounge chair listening
to Karen tell me how proud she was of me with tears streaming down her face.
As she recounted her experience watching me cross the finish line, my tears
started flowing too – the first time ever for me in the realm of sports. Crying
enabled me to let go of the race intensity and to experience the relief of completing
a race that saw me break a personal record by riding 218.50 miles. It was only
moments earlier that I had been pushing my limits during my last lap of the
Coolest 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race Against Cancer in order to reach the finish
line before the Sunday noon cut-off time.
The race venue at Cool
Karen and I had arrived in Cool, east of Sacramento, on Friday evening, after
a 4-hour drive from Santa Cruz. We set up our tent, SCCCC banner and camp right
alongside the race course – perfect for easy access. The Cool course was an
11.5 mile loop with 1500 feet of climbing. At first, the scenic rolling hills
and green grassy fields make it look like the course would be a smooth ride,
but then the terrain turns nasty – steep climbs, big, loose rocks and mud bogs
made for the real test of endurance. Plus, a 12 foot wide, 8 inch deep creek
crossing led to “hellish climb #1.” I rode that hill in the granny gear for
the first 5 laps then had to walk it after that. The end of the loop was hellish
climb #2 - a 15 min granny gear climb over rocky terrain. Somehow, despite an
intense desire to walk, I managed to ride this grind every lap.
This was the third 24 hour solo race I have done and Karen has been my primary
supporter in each one. Other riders have teams of people to take care of them.
These brutal events cause the rider to go into a kind of stupor that makes
it hard for him to take care of himself, so having someone around to help with
the break times is really essential. Karen and I have been refining a system
that allows her to maximize her time while making life easier for me. She has
become an integral part of my ability to compete in these races.
Norman on course
Saturday – noon race start
At the race start line, I met Eric Hansen of Santa Cruz and saw Miles of Family
Cycling Center riding the 8-hour race. Sean Sullivan, also of Santa Cruz, whom
we camped next to, started the race on the front row. Thankfully, there was
no LeMans start!
All 500 racers started together in mass at noon. I tried to keep a steady
pace without exerting myself too much. My first lap time was 57 min. My lap
times gradually grew slower with a 58, 59, and it settled in to about 1:05 per
lap for the afternoon. Some minor mechanical issues forced me to spend more
time in camp than I would have liked, but Karen was there to replenish my water
and sports drinks, give me a pep talks and pop bananas in my mouth, though generally
I did not feel hungry. Mostly, I was sticking to my plan of keeping the stops
at my camp shorter than at my two previous 24 hour races in 2006
By late afternoon, I started feeling fatigued and my mood went downhill. After
sunset, the cooler temperatures helped revive my body and spirit. For dinner,
Karen served me a hot pasta dish, which definitely helped me. Her good spirits
made my quick stops more fun.
In addition to Karen, I also had the support of Brian, a talented mechanic
from the camp next to us. He was supporting another rider and generously volunteered
to help me out as well. During the night, he lubed my chain and took care of
switching the lights. This was immensely helpful as everything becomes difficult
after so much time on the bike.
Norman takes a break during the night
My night laps averaged about 1:15 and I ended up spending less time in camp.
While I was definitely tired, I felt no need to sleep and experienced no adverse
stomach issues that were plaguing other riders I knew. One of the biggest challenges
for me was to be confined to the tunnel vision of the lights on the dark trail.
One bit of excitement was when a deer leapt out from the side of the trail,
darting across the path of my head light and then disappearing into the night.
The Last Lap?
I felt great relief when the sun rose and the morning laps went by relatively
quickly. At 9:55am, I arrived in camp certain that I would only be able to complete
one more lap in the 2 hours left in the race. I was tired and ready to wrap
up my third 24 hour race. When Karen mentioned that our camping neighbor and
fellow Santa Cruzan, Sean was battling for second place I decided to wait around
camp to see him come in and give him some encouragement.
Karen was not keen on my hanging about and urged me to squeeze in two more
laps, not just the one lap I had planned on. She then told me that the race
results indicated I was in fourth place, even though those results were several
hours old. She urged me to do two more. I protested and told Karen my last lap
time was 1:19 and that there was no way for me to complete two sub hour laps
- I was just too exhausted. I continued standing around, but Karen kept prodding
until I got on my bike again. I left at 10:05am.
As I got going again, I somehow managed to pick up my pace to indulge Karen.
I resolved to attempt to do a sub hour lap and when it didn't happen at least
I could say I gave it my all. I was amazed when I reached the start/finish line
with 57 minutes left on the clock. This meant I had done a sub hour lap and
that it was theoretically possible to do another. I had to try.
The emotional end!
Truly the Last Lap
I flew through the start/finish line without stopping to get water - I was
almost out, but there was no time. I had not seen Karen as I flew by our tent
on that last lap. People were cheering and encouraging me as I headed out on
that last lap attempt. They knew I was solo and they knew it was going to be
hard to get back in time to get credit for the lap. The risk of the last lap
was that if I returned even one second past noon, I would not receive credit
for the lap.
Norman and Karen
It's hard to describe how difficult the decision was to go out on that last
lap. It was very likely I would not make the cut off time and not get credit
for the lap. I was really exhausted and I had just sprinted for an hour on my
previous lap giving what I thought was the last of my reserves and now I was
faced with doing it all over again.
I started riding like it was a XC race. I constantly urged myself to go harder,
because my exhausted body would automatically start to ease up. On the final
hellish climb #2, I encountered a pair of cylclists working on a bike. They
asked me for a CO2 or a pump. I did not have time to stop, so I kept riding
and dropped my pump on the ground for them to use - I never got it back.
It was 3 minutes before noon and I was close to the finish line. In my mind
I was yelling at myself - "You can do it! You can do it!" As I approached
the finishing chute there were people lined up along the course. The crowds
of spectators were ringing cow bells and yelling encouragement as the final
moments of the race drama unfolded. I sprinted to the finish line and looked
up at the clock to see the time of 11:59! I promptly collapsed onto the ground.
The crowd was going wild. I was the last rider to complete the race, coming
in with only 20 seconds to spare. While I was prone on the ground, race director
Jim Northey put the microphone to my mouth asking me how I feel. I said, "I'm
tired." He asked if I had anything else to say. "Did I make it?" Jim
helped me off the ground and I limped back to the tent with the help of Karen.
As we walked through the throngs, people were shaking my hand and congratulating
me. It was my 15 minutes of fame and though I was exhausted it was a glorious
Norman on the podium!
My official lap times including breaks are:
0:56, 1:02, 1:04, 1:06, 1:05, 1:23, 1:13, 1:20, 1:24, 1:34, 1:20, 1:31, 1:24,
1:23, 1:24, 1:08, 1:21, 0:57, 0:56
Full results are at http://www.thecoolestmtb.com/
Thoughts on the Race
With this event, I pushed my racing to a whole new level in my performance.
I completed 19 laps, which added up to 218.5 miles and 28,500 ft of climbing.
We calculated that my ride was as long as the drive from Santa Cruz to Cool!
I was extremely happy with that result, and thrilled that I had pushed myself
so hard. As an added bonus I placed third in the open men's category, with 26
competitors in the solo division. This is essentially the pro division and I
won a $350 check - my first cash prize ever. It was a thrilling race and I am
particularly grateful to Karen for being my one-woman support crew and breaking
down camp after the race. I also want to acknowledge my coach, Terri Schneider,
who once again helped me train for this race. I would also like to thank John
Caletti of Cloud Nine, who built me the sweetest 29er. I received the bike the
week before the race and rode it for the whole race without any major issues.
It was the perfect bike for this style of racing.
I have discovered that with this new level of effort, I also required more
recovery. Happily, Karen and I had planned a vacation afterwards and I have
had time to eat, nap and recover for my next 24 Hour race – at Laguna Seca in
June. Karen will be racing, so I’m looking for some volunteers to help me out.
Please contact me if you can help – even for just a few hours. My phone number
Cat's Hill Classic Criterium, Los Gatos, CA USA, 5/5/2007
Any race that Greg Lemond once raced is definitely a "Classic" in
my book! It's pretty cool to follow in his footsteps, however modestly. I wanted
to make this race a priority this year, as I had wanted to do for the Santa
Cruz Classic as well, but neither fit into my structured training program properly.
That may make structured programs seem inflexible and cumbersome, but it's more
accurate to see this limitation as a reflection of our own body's limitations.
We can't be our best at every race; a program forces us to acknowledge that,
and clearly set our race priorities. Instead, this race came right in the middle
of a "Peak" period, meaning, for me, about 170 miles per week with
some intense rides mixed in. In theory I'd be fresher for Cat's Hill than I
was for the Santa Cruz Classic, so I was optimistic that I'd be able to improve
on my 14th place finish in the
2006 race. But for 2007 Los
Gatos Bicycle Racing Club decided to add a 45+ 2/3/4 race, and I chose to
enter that instead of the 35+ 4/5 race, for reasons unclear even to me. I'd
race against the older mutants, in higher categories. Not a recipe for success!
In the weeks before this race I managed to persuade my friends Erik Ostly
(LGBRC), Richard Jacinto (SJBC) and Gary Griffin (Team Santa Cruz) to join me
for hill sprints training up Cat's Hill's notorious "Wall," on Nicholson
Avenue, with its super-steep 23% grade... and Erik wasn't even entering this
race! But these 15-second all-out bursts of power and strength not only prepared
me for Cat's Hill, but can also improve one's general race fitness for sprints,
jumps and attacks, and for mountain-bike races like the CCCX series's Fort Ord
courses. And they're a lot more fun than 5-minute hill-repeats, believe you
me! Yet I supplemented these workouts with hill repeats nonetheless. Groan.
I was tired in the days leading up to the race, but I knew that I'd be good
to go on race day, thanks to my program.
My whole family pledged to watch the race and swing cowbells for me, and several
friends and even co-workers... the pressure was on, but I was very much looking
forward to race day. Especially since there'd be mucho Cinco de Mayo partying
My cheering section! They rock!
On race day I woke up to perfect racing weather, and Margaret and I had a
leisurely breakfast (diced chicken and vegetable egg-whites scramble for me).
My race was the last of the day, at 5:05, so we had plenty of time to clean
up the kitchen and get my gear ready... and get pre-race jitters. I even took
a pre-race shower since we were going to meet friends in Los Gatos, watch the
Pro/1/2 race and have lunch. We drove to Los Gatos and met our friends Debbie,
Al and Jennifer and Kimberly on course, and Erik Thunstrom and Darrik who happened
by. Erik had raced Category 5 (finishing 19th) and was racing the 35+ 4/5 race
too. Great to have a team-mate to root for, if nothing else! David Gill and
Simone were there too, Richard Jacinto, and all of my LGBRC friends!
We watched the kids's race and the first part of the Pro/1/2 race before hunger
compelled us towards our chosen lunch spot, The Wine Cellar, who also sponsored
some prime sprints in the race. I figured I wouldn't need to carbo-load for
this short race, and with over two hours to digest my lunch almost anything
would do... though I wisely avoided spicy and fatty foods by having bland chicken
tacos with all the sauces on the side, no cheese. Lunch took a long time, so
it was good we went when we did.
I got my bike from Margaret's office at Testarossa Vineyards, where I usually
keep it for commuting to my office in Palo Alto, got dressed and found a new
parking spot near where Erik and Darrik were grilling hamburgers. While I got
my bike ready a guy up the street in LGBRC kit crashed his bike while riding
slowly around... it turned out to be George Fuentes! I think his daughter caught
her foot in his spokes and took him out. His elbow was really swollen and he
told me he thought it was broken. What a drag to drive all the way up from Fresno
just to have that happen. I made sure he was taken care of and then fixed a
slow leak in my rear tire that had become a fast leak.
I think this was the lap where I started to
lose it, in spite of the cheers. (Liz Lasorza)
I rode up HWY9 along my familiar commute route for 20 minutes and threw in
a few jumps to wake up my legs. Felt good. I then showed all my friends and
family what my club kit looked like, so they could spot me, and assembled with
my competitors. We were at most 50 guys strong, so not a huge group, and with
gusty winds that would affect race tactics; winds make drafting the peloton
more important. I said hi to Martin Wolff (VOS, formerly Newman's Own), but
didn't recognize anybody else. I knew Vlada Strbac (Bicycle Trip) had entered,
but didn't spot him until during the race. I had to use the Porta-Potty, and
while I was in there they directed us to the start line. Argh. No problem though.
The race started off quick, but not crazy fast. I was determined to stay near
the front to avoid problem riders on The Wall because it's so common for riders
not used to this course to drop or break their chains, misshift, lose their
balance, or sway all over the place. When you're behind a big peloton the chances
of somebody else's mistake taking you out are much higher. My first climb up
The Wall was great; my legs felt light and strong. But I did stay back a little
to benefit from the peloton's draft effect, which was most important on Belmont
Avenue, at the top of the course by the park.
Man, I couldn't believe how many people were cheering me on! All along Massol,
up The Wall, up toward the park and at the start/finish line friends and family
cheered me on and rang cowbells! It was fun trying to figure out who some of
the voices belonged to, but I was too preoccupied with my suffering to have
time to do more than just smile inwardly! The peloton, as I would expect from
such crusty veterans, was very well-mannered, and there were no crashes or close
calls that I know of. Maybe that's why I race with these guys? We had a solo
breakaway rider for a couple of laps, but we caught him without any real effort.
On one lap, after a prime sprint I think, a couple of Alto Velo riders moved
up to the front, and I grabbed the leader's wheel, perhaps blocking some attempt
at a break. But they held back and I was suckered into taking a pull at the
front. No big deal; I held back too, and still got a nice clean shot at The
Wall and led the peloton up to the cheers of the crowd. Was that fun or what!
Once we hit the top I soft-pedalled to let somebody else take the lead into
the headwind on Belmont. This worked perfectly, and is a great tactic for conserving
energy. Even so I was winded and took a little time to recover.
Just trying to finish! (Liz Lasorza)
This race is so short, about 30 minutes, we were soon steeling ourselves for
that mad dash for the finish line. The pace picked up and I was a little winded,
but my legs still felt OK as we prepared to hit The Wall for the last three
times. But just before we hit The Wall a small gap formed between me and the
guy ahead. I struggled to close it, but at the top it was still there. As we
hit Belmont I was... fighting the headwind, by myself! This was the spot where
I had determined the race would be decided, but I wanted to be there to decide
it! The gap increased to 20 feet. Argh! I tried not to panic, and I did my best
aerodynamic tuck down Bachman to get my breath, and maybe my spot in the peloton's
draft, back. But, as I feared, the gap just got rapidly bigger, even as my ragged
gasping and impending tunnel-vision proved I was blown out beyond all repair.
I looked behind me to see who I could work with to bridge back up to the peloton...
nobody was there! What happened? I knew this race had a high attrition rate,
but I didn't expect so many racers to get pulled in this group! Yet there I
was, a one-man "grupetto," just struggling to finish. My rib cage
was aching from the effort of trying to supply adequate oxygen to my legs, but
while I sucked I couldn't suck hard enough! My body was diverting all of the
oxygen from my brain to my legs so my tunnel-vision didn't get any better. On
the last lap I waved to my friends on The Wall, I was in no hurry after all.
And when I crossed the finish line alone, I did the best imitation of a victorious
racer I could manage. It was fun, and the crowd even cheered for me! I guess
we all root for the underdog.
I finished 19th
out of 21 finishers; all the others had dropped out or been pulled. Margaret
told me that my old competitor Mark Patten (sans beard!) finished behind me
in 21st, so I beat two guys across the line. A small victory of sorts! Vlada
didn't finish. The winner was Don Langley, a well-known member of the Morgan-Stanley
team. Maybe I should have raced 35+ 4/5 with Erik (he also took 19th!). Afterwards
I chatted with my friends at the finish line, and some nice guy who lives in
Santa Cruz... I found out later he was the founder of Giro Helmets!
Then, a complete reversal of mood: Margaret's dad was suffering from emphysema
and we needed to get to him as quickly as we could. I could relate, but while
I had regained my breath, he will always be short of breath. We quickly said
goodbye to everyone and threw everything in our car, putting our party plans
on hold. He did regain his breath, just as I did, so we were able to go home
reassured. I have so much to be thankful for, and this brought that home once
Napa Valley Dirt Classic, Single Speed
Sport, Angwin, CA USA, 4/22/2007
I’m going to keep this one simple and pare this report down to a few key things:
1. Nutrition – Bad. I ate a Jack In The Box breakfast burrito three hours
before the race and really suffered for it. Topped off with an electrolyte drink
I had never tried before spelled near barf-o-rama at the beginning of the race.
I had a really hard time getting through the first ten miles or so. Really dumb
on my part - definitely learned my lesson.
2. Confusion – I had never ridden this course and there were a bunch of little
technical bits that I could have improved on had I practiced. This course definitely
favors riders with some experience on it.
3. Friends – There were a bunch of people I knew there. I drove up with some
friends from Scotts Valley Cycle Sport, warmed up with Ron, raced with Erik,
and bummed some Technu and a towel off of Norman and Karen (soooo grateful for
this!… I would have been totally screwed without it). I also saw a bunch of
other friends up there and it was great seeing how everyone stacked up against
each other. It’s really nice knowing so many good racers with great attitudes
towards the sport.
4. Fun – Even though I had no idea where I was going I still had a great time
on this course. It’s just a really fresh and truly “classic” race with awesome
singletrack and really burly climbing that required plenty of walking.
5. Results – 4th out of 13 in the Sport Single Speed class. My time looked
reasonable, but I still would have liked to podium, especially since the guy
ahead of me was someone I beat last year. I was happy to see everyone I knew
do really well too. Erik decided to race expert and was right up there in the
main group until he flatted. Considering he was the only cross bike on the course,
that’s pretty damn good.
sea otter, monterey, ca USA, 4/15/2007
A lil late but the feeling lives on....How lucky were we to race on Sunday?!?!?!
SO nice was the sun and tacky trails and the company of people. Thank you SCCC!!
Grant and lovelady for showing up and Juliana for racing... I got 6th, one from
Podium but its all about the fun and doing it in under 2 hours! next year it
will under 1:50! Smooch!!
Napa Valley Dirt Classic, Napa, CA USA,
Howdy Santa Cruz Teammates!
I thought I would take a break from scratching my poison oak to give you a
quick race report on my VERY FIRST RACE of 2007 - the Sunday, April 22 Napa
Valley Dirt Classic..
While many of you have been racing already this season, I have been sitting
at my computer reading your reports, doing a few rides and spin classes, but
mostly my training consists of practicing smiling for the 'cross season. :)
(Ask Mike Evans).
Norman and I sweetened our Sunday race by staying at the Calistoga Inn and
Spa Saturday and Sunday nights, pre and post race - great hot springs pools
there. Here's the scoop:
The one unicyclist who entered the incredibly hilly race did not pass me!
I entered the Women's Sport class and they dropped me within 10 minutes of
the race start on a super hilly section. Oh well.
It was very fun to ride with the nice beginner men who caught up to me.
The hike a bike portions of this mountainous course were even more painful
than I had remembered.
I had plenty of company as nearly everyone walked three steep portions.
I have a painful souvenir of the race - huge icky blotches of oak.
Good News .- I avoided DFL with one woman slower than my 2 hours 36
minutes. Woo hoo. So I was 6th out of 7 in my group.
To end on a best of note - happily, this race did whet my appetite for more
mtb racing and showed I better get on the ball more for my next races - including
a return to the all-women Go Go Go Girls (founded by Winona of Wales) at 24
Hours of Adrenalin in June!
Norman and I plan to do the Strawberry Fields century and hope to see many
of you there.
Norman's first 24 Hour Solo race of 2007 is the weekend of May 5-6 in Cool,
CA, near Auburn (east of Sacramento). Come on up and join me in the support
crew. The race is 12 noon -12 noon Sat. and Sun..
Sea Otter Classic Cross Country Expert 60+,
Monterey, CA USA, 4/15/2007
Saturday’s nasty Spring rain left the XC course in super shape for Sunday’s
XC races. Mostly clear skies, cool temps and a building westerly breeze greeted
the thirteen (five last year) 60+ Expert XC riders at their 7:52 AM start. My
goals were to improve on last year’s time (2:02) and make the top ten….ok, and
not get caught by Melanie Dominguez who was starting behind me!
After the start, as we left the race track, I was about mid-pack, but youngsters
Bob Blatner, Stan Ford, etc., were pulling away. By the time we reached the
single track, the order was pretty well established for the rest of the race
with one exception…Robin Willard of Victoria, BC, had actually missed the start
by maybe a minute. About two thirds of the way through the race, as I was grinding
up Jack’s Road, here came Mr. Willard spinning by me with a “How’s it going?” He
ended up placing third, so after passing me, he picked off probably another
four or five riders. Talk about your perfect pace!
I finished ninth in a time of 1:53:12 and cheered Melanie as she came across
the finish line.
Sea Otter Classic - Super D, Monterey,
CA USA, 4/12/2007
I entered my 2nd Super D race at the Sea Otter on Thursday, the first day
of racing. The Super D is fairly new event as it is a hybrid downhill race interspersed
with moderate cllmbs on a non-technical descent with either fire road or single
track. Typically the course does not favor a heavy downhill bike due to the
short climbs and because of the speed, a full-on cross country bike can be sketchy.
The races can be run in an individual TT format or as a group start.
This race and my previous race (NORBA nationals at Sonoma) were both mass
start races, with a LeMans start which meant that you ran (or carried) your
bike for about 50 yards before you could jump on and start riding (CX racing
paid off here!). I have always been a pretty fast fire road descender and I
ventured twice down to Fort Ord to pre-ride the 3.1 mile course. Both times
I pre-rode the course I got a little scared at the water bars as you could not
avoid getting quite a bit of air if you carried speed into them. I also knew
that on race day the pace would be much faster and as a result the jumping aspect
was going to be a concern, as I am not that comfortable once I get air borne
and I always feel that I am just along for the ride instead of being in control
of the bike.
The Sea Otter course started with a 1/4 mile long big chain ring climb that
I knew was going to be decisive. That, combined with a flat half mile finish
was going to mean being fully warmed up and ready to go for a race that was
going to last around 7 minutes. I took my trainer to the start line and started
warming up 35 minutes before my race. There were a couple of hundred racers
all waiting around but only 3 of us bothered to bring trainers to the starting
area. I was extremely nervous before the start as there were 24 racers in my
class (Men 50-59 Open) spread across a road that was quickly going to funnel
into a double track wide enough for 3 or 4 bikes.
The race got started with the 50 yard run and I was in fourth place when it
came time to remount. I picked up 3rd place by just pulling off a smooth CX
honed running remount. As we started the opening climb I attacked and passed
the 2 leaders and then went as hard as I possibly could go. My strategy paid
off as I looked over my shoulder at the top of the climb and I had opened a
pretty large gap on 2nd place. I was terrified to be in the lead but started
the long descent with visions of a win in my head. When I hit the 1st water
bar at top speed I easily caught twice as much air as I had on any of my practice
runs but the landing went smoothly and once my heart started beating again my
confidence went up. I survived the final steep 40+ MPH section with my lead
intact and only a half mile of flat double track fire road to the finish. I
was afraid to look back and did my best Swanton Road Time Trial imitation and
gave it everything I had. As I approached the final sharp 90 degree turn to
the finish I quickly looked over my shoulder and to my relief nobody was in
sight and I was able to cruise to the finish line under the big inflatable Red
I finished in 7:09 and was 30 seconds ahead of 2nd place rider Paul Zarubin
from Truckee, who is the 2005 Super D National Champion. Standing on top of
the podium receiving a race winner's jersey was a great feeling as it had been
close to 10 years since the last time I had won a MTB race.
Annual Santa Cruz Classic Criterium, Santa Cruz, CA USA, 4/15/2007
Man, on Friday evening, I was so drained riding home from work that I wasn't
sure I could even go to this race on Sunday. On Saturday I dragged myself around
and worked on our washing machine, each trip up our stairway reminding me of
the long week of "Build"" training I'd just finished: Long intervals
on Monday, a long hilly ride on Tuesday, more on Wednesday, then hill sprints
on Thursday and bonking on my ride home on Friday. Going to a big wedding anniversary
party on Saturday night didn't help me either. That was OK though; I couldn't
schedule this race into my training program as a priority race anyway, so I
would just treat it as more training and try to help out my team-mates Erik
Thunstrom, Matt Wocasek and Dave Hopkins in the Master 35+ 4/5 race if I could.
On Sunday morning the weather had completely changed from Saturday's storm:
it was absolutely perfect for racing! So, no excuses for me. For breakfast I
downed a huge piece of leftover peach pie with a side of wild boar (no joke!)
and lots of coffee. I got ready and rode my bike down to Beach Hill. The race
accommodations for the team were all set up for us with a huge awning, stationary
trainers, chairs, extra jerseys, tables, etc. Wow! I sure appreciate the hard
work the club contributed, with David Gill, as usual, spearheading things.
It turned out that Erik and Matt had both raced in the Sea Otter Circuit Race
on the Laguna Seca race course the previous day, so that changed some of my
expectations for the race. I'd assumed they'd be fresh, but now it looked like
we'd all start out tired. Good thing I've learned not to try to make detailed
race plans. We also had two new members racing in the Elite 5 race: Nick Purtscher
and Bryan King, wearing borrowed team jerseys.
Matt and I warmed up a little on West Cliff Drive; so beautiful! But we quickly
had to return to line up for the 9:40 start. Right on time Margaret showed up
and gave me a good-luck kiss, and her brother Steve, sister-in-law Melissa,
niece Katie and Katie's fiancee Ian arrived too. Wow! I guess I'd have to put
on a good show with that many people swinging cowbells for me!
The course here is the same as every year: A long straight on 3rd Street,
with an extremely nasty right hairpin turn downhill to Front Street, more turns
back up the Laurel Street Extension, a hard turn back onto 3rd, and 250 meters
uphill (against the wind) back to the start/finish line. Cracked and bumpy concrete
demands close attention from us at the pain of crashes. Beach Hill has a lot
of historic homes though, which provides a neat backdrop. Team tactics can definitely
help on this course, with possible options including:
- Using team-mates to slow the peloton in the hairpin or on Laurel Street
to allow a strong team-mate to make a solo break on the final lap(s).
- Leading out a sprinter/climber on the final climb up 3rd Street (sheltering
him from the prevailing headwind).
- Using the tricky course to make a solo break succeed (a single rider can
negotiate some of the tight sections faster than a big group can), as long
as it's not too windy.
Our race field was about 50 riders, and after the start we set off at a comfortably
fast pace. I couldn't see all that well due to the many turns and hills, but
Dan had told me he would make some attacks early on to soften up the weaker
riders, then drop out and use his saved energy for racing with the Elite 5 racers
at 11:10. He was, in fact, chasing down a break by a solo rider (using tactic
#1!), and that upped our pace for a while. He didn't try to close the gap himself,
but wisely chose to let other riders join him, then let them lead the chase.
This hopefully tired out some of those aspiring for the win.
Erik looked strong near the front of our peloton, while Matt and I conserved
energy in the middle of the pack and Dave dropped out. The forecast had called
for 10-20 mph winds, but only a few gusts affected us. Two guys did crash in
the hairpin, and I veered into Ed Price of Bicycle Trip on one climb when some
guys to my right did the same to me, but the race was pretty clean otherwise.
The peloton eventually did catch the solo rider, and in the last five laps
I decided to try to slow things down, in the hope Erik and Matt would be able
to rest for the final push. My plan: In the hairpin I would swing wide and accelerate
down Front Street to take the lead. On Laurel and 3rd Street I'd go so slow
everybody would have to work hard to accelerate up the hill past me.
I put my plan into effect: With almost no pedalling I was able to take the
lead on Front Street and then slowed down, forcing other riders to either take
a pull, or sit around waiting for somebody else to do so. They chose to wait
until the climb on 3rd before shooting ahead while I grabbed a wheel to follow.
I must say this worked really well, and I repeated this for three laps!
On the last lap I let the pace pick up without interference, surprised that
I still felt strong, though winded. Now was the time to look for a strong rider
to draft up 3rd Street. Who to follow... Erik passed close by my right on Laurel
Street, which made me think he was ready for action. Cool! I found out later
he was pretty fried and just trying to help me, even as I thought I would
help him, but two riders followed closely behind Erik, preventing any
of this. They did, however, leave a gap in their wake, which I seized just as
we turned onto 3rd Street for the final sprint.
Erik and most others went up the left shoulder (to block riders passing on
their left) while I followed a few guys up the middle. I dug deep and went for
the long sprint up the hill. I passed several guys, then a few more, never letting
up until I crossed the line... in eighth place! Woo-hoo! My first top-10 of
the road season! Not bad for a race I almost didn't enter. My family said they
enjoyed the race too, and I believe them.
Afterwards I helped out as a course marshall, watching the Elite 5 race (Bryan
took 2nd!), and the 35+ 1/2/3, Women 1/2/3 and Men Pro/1/2 races. The Pro/1/2
race was a bit weird, as a breakaway group ended up lapping the main peloton,
but without the officials separating them properly. The result was a mish-mash
of lapped riders working with their team-mates in the breakaway and chase groups;
not exactly by the book!
Margaret treated me to a quick celebratory beer and appetizers on the drive
home, after which I showered and got ready for the next party. What a life!
CCCX MTB #5, Single Speed Sport, Toro Park,
CA USA, 3/31/2007
This was an odd race for me. I went into it feeling just a little off but
also knowing that I had to win to stay in contention for 1st in the series.
Erik had two wins and I had two wins, with Mike Mann close behind us with several
2nds and 3rds. Because it was another mountain race in Toro Park, I knew that
I had to make the most of my advantage in the hills.
I hit the start hard – really hard. It was definitely my best start of the
season and I shot past the rest of my class on a flat paved section before a
steep first hill. As we began to climb I started picking off a bunch of riders
from other classes. A few people in the other groups knew that the single speeds
were battling and they cheered for us as we sped past them. After the first
hill I tried to recover but I was having trouble. My heart rate didn’t want
to settle back down and I had to really rest a lot more than I wanted to before
we got to the main climb. Erik wasn’t far behind me, and although I knew we
had a gap on Mike, I also knew that he would be strong throughout the race.
At the top of the climb I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t quite feel
right and I felt squirrely on the beginning of the descent. There wasn’t much
I could do except try to recover and make sure I didn’t crash. With a little
more experience on the singletrack, it was easier and I was having fun throwing
little tail whips around the corners.
Erik was right with me at the bottom, and I knew the only way to win the race
would be to maintain the same pace I had started at. I hit the first hill hard
again and dropped him, but he slowly reeled me in and I saw him about 10 seconds
off near the top. He was doing better than the last race and I was starting
to get worried. Back down at the bottom of the hill I was looking around trying
to see him but I couldn’t find him. I decided to maintain my pace and keep working
as hard as possible on the climbs.
The climbing started feeling awful. I was using all my willpower to stay in
my seat and grind my way to the top. Again I looked for Erik at the top of the
hill and didn’t see him, so I hoped that he had fallen off. I got a little encouragement
from my friend Matt on the third descent. Matt has a way of really inspiring
you with a whole mess of expletives, and as I rode by I heard him screaming, “go
I scrambled up the last hill scared as hell that someone was going to catch
me, and I turned around again to find that nobody was following me. There were
a couple of geared riders up ahead that I was gaining on but I couldn’t manage
to stay with them on the final descent. I focused on riding smooth and making
a clean last run. I came into the finish and Rod started ringing the bell for
me. “Here’s our singlespeed winner!”
At the finish I saw Erik roll in about three minutes behind me, with Mike
scarily close behind him. It turns out that Erik wiped out on that second descent.
He pulled up and found that not only was his rear brake rubbing, but he also
had a nearly flat front tire. I don’t know how much better he would have done
had it not been for so many problems, but I was just happy that I had managed
to stay out in front. It turns out that a bunch of people crashed in this race
and fortunately I didn’t see any of them. I heard of at least half a dozen crashes,
and there were plenty of scraped up elbows and knees to prove it.
It’s weird to win a race and not feel 100% fit. I think that races are part
fitness, part strategy, and part willpower. This race was definitely a lot more
willpower than I would have liked.
Cross-Country #5, Toro Park, Salinas, CA USA, 3/31/2007
"Just a training ride, just a training ride!" I had to keep reminding
myself of that before this mountain-bike race. I'm training for hilly road courses,
so I'd done 5-minute threshold hill repeats with Mark Edwards of Bicycle Trip
the previous weekend. But he was racing Ronde Van Brisbeen which only has short
climbs (he took first!), so I was on my own. The race at Toro Park seemed a
much better choice than just riding everybody's favorite, the Crow's Nest ride.
I hadn't raced Toro Park before, but I heard there were some tricky sections
of trail so I brought some spare 2.1'' tires for extra grip. The climbing didn't
sound bad, 854 feet per lap, so the added weight wouldn't matter much.
The next decision was whether to continue to race in Sport category, or advance
to Expert. Several friends had joked about me being a sandbagger, with my three
straight wins. Since the CCCX series isn't part of the NORBA series, I could
still race in Sport at other races like Sea Otter. Plus, on race day I was running
late, so the 1:00 start time for Experts was like a gentle inducement from the
Gods to get me out of the comfort of the Sport nest. Expert it was! Even though
it meant I'd race more laps.
On the drive down the morning fog cleared and it was a gorgeous summer-like
day. We racers got in the park for free, and $10 off the entry fee thanks to
David Gill. At registration I talked a bit with Larry Hibbard, who was impressed
that Rob Anderson of Discovery Channel's Masters team, and Corey Ward, were
entered in his race. It was kind of cool to be part of the Expert scene! I noticed
that he was riding around on an old rigid steel bike... with slick tires!!!
Like those I use when l commute on my mountain-bike! He claimed this was the
hot ticket so I decided to keep my small 1.8" tires on, and I even aired
them up to 50 psi. Larry is a neat guy, but maybe I should have stuck to my
Dan Henderson and Erik and Darik Thunstrom were hanging out under the SCCCC
awning they'd erected, and they'd finished first and second in Sport Singlespeed.
Cool! Dan gave me some tips about the course, and so did my friend from San
Jose Bike Club, Richard Jacinto. I warmed up a little, filled both of my bottles
with sports drink, ate another banana and lined up at the start line. Steve
Hess was lining up too, in his first Expert 35-44 cross-country of the season.
I only saw three others in my race; Brett Lambert, Bill Hall and Rich Henthorn.
As we were about to start the organizers decided to group us with the Expert
35-44 and 55+ races. We all took off and this bigger group gave us some shelter
from the headwind as we sprinted up the hill on the paved section. We rode hard!
Brett pulled ahead while I stuck to Bill's wheel (he likes tall gears). Rich
disappeared to the rear. The steep climb was pretty long, more than the five
minutes I was hoping for, and followed by a long gradual climb through cattle
pastures that prevented recovery. I was wheezing from the effort of maintaining
I rode well, until we hit the descent. That's when I wished I had ignored
Larry's tire choice. The first few turns were off-camber and loose, with a big
drop on our left. (Nice view though.) I nearly lost it several times, and had
to apologize, and yield, to several guys behind me. There were several switchbacks,
water bars (one of them a big drop), and some tricky rock gardens and roots
near the end. My ancient shock banged loudly. The hard-partying Sport SCCCC
racers cheered me on, yelling "Dennis is racing Expert!" Woo-hoo!
At the start of the second lap I was still winded from the descent. I lost
sight of Bill, and hoped he and Brett had gone out too hard, and that I hadn't.
But my legs were feeling my long training rides of the past two weeks and I
could no longer push myself hard enough to wheeze! Instead my legs just burned,
though I managed to gain back some lost positions. Which I promptly lost back
on that darn descent again.
On the third lap I started to just conserve energy. The field was totally
blown apart so I was often alone with the cows crossing the trail. No kidding.
My gradual disintegration became undeniable on the fourth lap. I always get
tired then, but this time my hands were so tired I couldn't use the brakes fully,
and the descent became ever more treacherous! I almost rammed a tree in a switchback,
and into a hillside after a drop. I had to completely stop trying to race on
the downhills. That's when I started treating this race as the hard training
ride I meant it to be. I even grabbed an extra water bottle from the feed zone.
The fifth lap was merely a formality, and I just held on. Perhaps that's why
I felt a little better. I noodled down the hill and was happy to cross the finish
line at 1:59:57, which was 7:57 back from Brett, 4:32 from Bill! I sure do prefer
the short climbs of Fort Ord; they suit my sprinter's style better.
Rod, from scoring, had to double-check that I wasn't the winner; he had gotten
so used to me coming in first in Sport. So l got my third-place medal and helped
Dan clean up. Larry admitted to me he'd crashed. Duh. And got third as well.
I guess small tires put you in third!
I had time for a couple of recovery brews with Steve and Grant, and had to
hurry off for my sister-in-law's birthday party. Man, I was so drained the next
day! At least I got in that tough workout! Let's hope it pays dividends later.
NOVA National MTB XC Race, Fountain Hills, AZ
NMBS #1 Fountain Hills, AZ April 1, 2007
Harriet and I flew to Phoenix with my bike in an “Iron Case” bike box. In
Phoenix, we rented a little KIA Sportage, loaded everything and were off to
Fountain Hills and Mc Dowell Mt. Regional Park. At the park, I reassembled my
bike, picked up my race number and set off on a pre-ride of the XC course. The
Mc Dowell XC course is a ten mile single track for bikes only! Lots of rocks,
cacti, desert flowers - and did I mention rocks? About half way around the ten
mile loop, I came upon Bob Blatner of Antioch. He’d flatted his rear tire and
was fixing it with the help of two friends. I later learned he not only flatted
once but three times and ruined his rear wheel. Luckily, he had a spare wheel
for the next day’s race.
My Sunday 65+ Expert start was at 8:20 AM – clear skies, temps in the mid
to upper 70’s and almost no breeze. There were six of us at the start line including
Fred Schmid of Texas and Jurgen Leiser of Colorado, two NMBS regulars. My plan
was to take care of my bike, have fun and finish the two laps (20 miles) in
under 2 hours. I’d raced against only one of the five riders previously and
felt I could beat him if I avoided any mechanicals.
My first lap went well and I was in fifth as I took on a fresh bottle of water
from Harriet at the Start/Finish feed zone. I checked my computer – 58 minutes – on
On my second lap I was getting the hang of acceleration down the hoop – de – dos
and carrying my speed up the back side. Trying to pick the least sharp rocks
to ride over kept me focused. The ‘youngsters’ were beginning to lap me and
I’d wave them by as soon as I could.
I finished 5th (last podium spot) in 1:55:58. Frank Lively of Prescott AZ
won the class in 1:43:30. Check out the Velo News website report of the race
for another perspective.
The trip and race went well and we met some really nice people. Old guys really
Gorrick XC Race #4, Porridgepot Hill, Deepcut,
Surrey England, 4/1/2007
An April Fool’s race – this time about 2 hours east of Bristol in scenic Surrey
on a technical and challenging course with a large field.
I signed up for the Veterans class again and it looked like the field would
be up to 80 riders. I rode the Stupid Speed with my usual 34/18 gearing which
I realized was the right choice after a moderate-paced warm-up lap. At least
2 of the hills would force me off the bike as they were just too steep for mere
mortals (at least old mere mortals).
The race start was about as intimidating as I could imagine. Space wide enough
for 10-12 riders quickly narrowed down as we were forced to pick one of 3 lines
through the trees and over some whoops then a quick, steep and loose downhill
into a sharp turn that dropped us onto a bit of flat fire road. This quickly
sorted out the fastest, most confident riders and left me where I expected to
be - in the middle of the pack. We then hit a tight left bend and a steep uphill
(imagine the run-up at the Watsonville fairgrounds) where all the geared riders
shifted down and I actually passed 5 or 6 after I dismounted and ran my bike
up then re-mounted CX-stylee. Back up at the top into some tight singletrack
then another steep descent followed by a second run-up (I found out later the
SS riders in the Masters class were running too so I felt OK). Then some more
flat singletrack before a fast section over roots and a couple 1-2 foot dropoffs – definitely
a more technical race than I expected and lots more fun than the race last weekend.
After a steep, loamy downhill section through some more tight singletrack we
hit a moderate climb back to the start/finish.
We had 2 more laps and I maintained a consistent pace, sometimes passing riders
and other times getting passed but I think I was in the middle of the pack after
the first lap and that’s where I ended up. 40th out of 79. Friendly atmosphere
afterwards and I met a few other single speeders who are already looking forward
to SSUK (staged about a 5 minute ride from our home in Bristol) in June and
SSWC in Aviemore, Scotland in September. Maybe we’ll see you there?
West Drayton XC MTB, Buckinghamshire,
ca UK, 3/27/2007
While it's always fun to podium, winning in a field of two felt a bit empty.
I received some cool prizes: beer in a champagne bottle, an energy bar (pineapple
and ginger - tasty!) and a coffee cup w/ the race club's logo.
For my first race of the year I'm happy that: I paced myself well (my lap
times are pretty consistent) and I recovered well the next day (was able to
run). I would have come in at the lower part of the open women class, so not
too bad. Still have a ways to go in my fitness.
The best part was just enjoying all the wackiness of mtb racing: slipped on
a root (there's more of them then trail in this country) and ran head on into
a tree. Scared, I never yelled the F word so loudly in my life! I was OK. Mike
E says I make "amusing girlie noises" when I crash. I sounded more
like a sailor this time!
The camaraderie of the women after-wards was good. Everybody was friendly.
Unfortunately they live too far away to be riding buddies. I'm finding female
bike companionship hard to come by here in Bristol. Have made one buddy so far
and am hoping for more to form a team for a 12 hour coming up here. Go Go Go
Girls go UK. All you gals back home are invited!
Alex and I are racing just about every Sunday between now and 3 Peaks - our
target race at the end of Sept. Wish us luck and look forward to many boring
reports! Peas out (from the land where mushy peas are a side dish)
West Drayton Mountain Bike Club XC Race,
Ivers, Buckinghamshire England, 3/25/2007
First XC race of the year for me and Winona. We figured we would combine it
with a trip to Windsor Castle on Saturday which is only a few miles from the
race sight (and directly in the flight path of all those jets landing at Heathrow!)
I decided I would ride the SS since that’s my main ride lately and my geared
4” travel bike would be more than what was called for on a race course that
I was told would favor hardtails as it’s almost dead flat. Unfortunately very
few races over here have an SS class so I’ll give up something to the geared
riders but if only a few SS competitors show up I can stake a claim to the fictional
SS podium ;-)
The day before I changed from my normal 34/18 gearing to 34/16 and it was
a good choice. The warm up lap revealed that the course was mostly tight, twisty
singletrack that favored good bike handling and acceleration. The only downside
was that I would lose some ground on the very mild (1% grade?) downhills on
the fire road sections where the geared riders would likely sprint away in their
big chainrings. Lap distance was only 2½ miles or so and we would do 7 so I
figured it was like a long CX race without the run-ups. I figured I would probably
get hammered as my fitness is a little off since coming over here (could it
be something to do with having 6 pubs within a 3 minute walk from our flat?)
As usual the men’s open class started a few minutes before the Veterans (40-49)
and Grand Vets (50+). After a fast start, I didn’t see the open class riders
until about lap 5 when a few started lapping me. About midway through the 6th
lap I lost my first place in the unofficial SS category as the only SS rider
passed me and my legs wouldn’t respond. So I settled for last place in that
category and 14th out of 30 – just about what I expected – another mid-pack
Overall a fun race – competitive but met some nice folks that I imagine I’ll
see again this year as the MTB community in the UK is pretty small.
Winona got 1st in her race so she was stoked. That makes her 1 for 1 in UK
races – quite a good start.
Park Criterium, Sacramento, CA USA, 3/17/2007
It's more fun to be the one dealing out punishment than the one receiving
it. For this race my goal was to deal it out! Following my structured training
program supposedly put me in my first race peak of the year, so l should have
been in good form for this race.
I had several friends who were planning on racing there, though none from
Team Santa Cruz, and carpooling to Sacramento would be much better than driving
there alone. That made entering this criterium more appealing than entering
the Zamora Road Race the next day. But some of these friends backed out in the
end, and only Rob Evans and Erik Ostly (of LGBRC) went. Perhaps racing Zamora
would have matched my strengths better, but I doubt I would have enjoyed it
any more. Still.
Erik and I ended up carpooling. Since there was such a long time between my
breakfast and my 11:10 race start, I ate an egg white scramble with ground buffalo
and lots of vegetables and coffee. Pretty much zero on the glycemic index, and
yummy. But I brought some big high-GI cookies and a banana to eat just before
the race for instant energy, and that worked out great.
The race venue was a pleasant surprise; I'd pictured it being a sun-baked
anonymous business park, but it turned out to be a really pretty private neighborhood
green park. Erik and I were very impressed with the huge shade trees and big
old mansions bordering the park. The weather was gorgeous too, maybe 72 degrees
As we got ready I noticed my rear tire was flat. Fortunately it was on my
regular wheel so I just swapped in my race wheel, and we were able to visit
the nice restoom and get signed in for our Elite 4 race. We saw Rob there, but
he'd forgotten his USCF license so was jumping through some hoops to get signed
in. My warmup consisted of a couple of laps of the course at a moderate pace
after they opened it up for us. The course was gorgeous, with tons of trees
and a meandering, smoothly-paved course. There wasn't a straight line anywhere,
or any Bott's Dots thankfully, though several of the turns were really sharp
and maybe 135 degrees.
The start was delayed a few minutes while an equestrian cleared the course;
this park is very popular with the residents and is used for a lot of activities.
The starter blasted his whistle about as hard as we blasted off of the line:
Though the pace wasn't really all-out, it was still pretty fast. Even though
this was just the Elite 4 crowd, and the field was huge with 100 riders, they
all seemed to ride pretty cleanly, and there were no crashes at all for a long
time. I pretty much just settled in and rode in the draft, ignored the primes,
and considered the influence of the course on the evolution of the race.
The hairpin turns were a bit unsettling, though we rode them nicely, but I
worried that they would be a massive bottleneck on the last lap when everybody
started fighting for a good position for the final sprint. Also, since I was
all alone with no team mates I couldn't count on anybody to be there to block
or lead for me during the critical last lap. I had to simply do my best to get
to the front before those hairpins, I felt.
On the last lap the front row of riders sat up, causing a big jam as the rest
of us crowded in behind them. I had a lot of momentum though, and was on the
outside left of the crowd, so I just let myself roll ahead to the front. When
I got near the front, they had slowed so much that an improvised plan popped
into my head: Attack!!! And that's what I did!
There were only about five guys ahead of me as we started the back stretch
on the final lap. It curved gently toward the hairpins for 300 hundred yards
or so. I quickly blasted ahead of the point man, at maybe 10 MPH faster than
him, and shot ahead. My hope was that I would catch everybody by surprise and
hopefully be able to be first, or nearly first, into the hairpins. Then I would
be able to catch my breath as we coasted through the tight hairpins and be recovered
enough into the final sprint to be able to contest it. Sounded safer, with maybe
the possibility of a top-10 finish at least! Well, plans are great to have,
but become obsolete as soon as the battle starts...
As I sped down that back stretch, hunched over in an aerodynamic tuck, I kept
an eye on my pursuers by looking under my elbow. Sure enough; about halfway
down the stretch I saw the front wheel of my nearest pursuer about 15 feet behind
me. I tried hard to keep going, but as we neared the first hairpin, I was blown
out completely and about 10 guys shot past me. I wasn't very surprised, though
I was disappointed. I wish I could have launched my attack a little later. That
was really long for a sprint.
Anyway, as we rode through the hairpins a few more guys passed me, but when
we reached the last turn I had recovered enough to be able to answer some of
these attacks, and gained a few spots back. Just before the finish line a guy
in purple crashed at full sprint speed onto the pavement, and slid for maybe
30 feet! I was well away from him though, and managed to get in around 15th.
Not too bad, but not quite what I was hoping for either. On the other hand there
was a crash behind me in the hairpins, just as I'd feared, and I avoided that.
So, did my attack work? I don't know. I really doubt that allowing the typical
bunch sprint finish to form would have worked any better for me; they never
have, and I haven't been training for sprints as much this year. Plus, perhaps
I prevented the field from bunching up in the hairpins, thus sparing us a huge
pileup. Who can say? At least it was really fun, so it worked in that regard!
I'd felt great the whole race, so I was confident that my structured training
program works as advertised.
After our cool-down lap, Erik and I were going to help run the Kiddie Race,
but I noticed that my tire was slowly going flat. Geez; two flats in one day!
Since my spare rear wheel was also flat, it was lucky for me that it didn't
happen earlier! We cleaned up, stopped at Starbucks and had a very nice drive
home. Now I get a break from the action while I prepare for my next peak.
CCCX #4, toro park, ca USA, 3/10/2007
Now this was a real Mtn. Bike race!! hills, single track, road, fire road,
downw hill.. Those of you who haven't come out for a Toro Park race should NOTHING
like Ft. Ord... I got a flat on lap 2 but still finished after some Masters
expert riders stopped while preriding the course and supplied me with a tube.
I chased the entire last 2 laps and finished 3rd to last! SO glad to see all
ya SCCCCer's who are kicking but!! OH, thanks Derek for pumping up my tire when
I made it back down the hill.. SWAK!!!
Park Grand Prix, Menlo Park, CA USA, 3/10/2007
Bicycle racing sure can be confusing, and criteriums especially so. I'm still
not exactly sure what went down in my open 45+ criterium race, but stuff definitely
For example, this was one of the harder races I've done, yet it was just a
pancake-flat, four-corner crit course. Should be easy, easier than the mountain
bike races I've been doing, but right from the start the pace was furious. I've
been in road races with many of these champion veterans, and suffered... but
Well, I did see some warning signs while I waited for my 2:00 start time:
Several of the riders had the rainbow stripes of a World Champion, or the stars
and stripes bands of a U.S. National Champion on their jersey sleeves, and the
strong teams of Morgan-Stanley/AMD, Webcor/Alto Velo and others were very well
represented. It's no wonder I was soon gasping and wheezing! Don't let the small
potbellies fool you either: the slight weight penalty is of no significance
on such a flat course. But I still feel like John Cleese in Monty Python's "The
Holy Grail" describing the killer rabbit with the huge fangs.
One of these crusty veterans was Mark Rodamaker, who was my instructor at
the Hellyer Park Velodrome. He won his world title on the track doing sprints
and very generously pretended to remember me.
The breakaway group at Menlo Park GP. Notice how well they're
working together. (Sheri
I'm still not sure why I didn't just register for the Elite 4 race, or the
35+ 4/5 race. That would have been easier, like last year, and my friend Erik
Ostly was racing that one. The friendly company would have been welcome. Instead
I watched him race while the vultures assembled for mine. Rob Evans was there
too, after getting 2nd place in Elite 3, and we discussed my unpalatable prospects.
We all sprinted off at full speed at the start, and very soon were spread
out in a loooong single file row. Yeah, that's a sure sign we were all suffering
and looking for what little shelter we could find behind whoever was ahead of
us. As nearly as I could tell, what happened was that about seven riders, including
riders from both Alto Velo and Morgan-Stanley, started a breakaway group on
the very first lap... amazing!
Since I was pretty far back in the long peloton I didn't see this break form.
But later on the pace slowed a tad, people started chasing them down (including
me; when you're alone out there you have no choice but to chase), and I finally
caught sight of them... 18 seconds ahead according to a helpful spectator. I
took several turns pulling the chase group and suffered accordingly, lungs wheezing
and legs burning. I never allowed myself to blow up, but every time I sat up
and looked over my shoulder for somebody to take over for me, the pace would
slow way down until the embarassment of possibly getting lapped by the break
prompted somebody to shoot ahead.
I felt pretty lonely out there in that sea of Alto Velo green! They really shut
down any attempts to chase the break. Notice the rainbow stripes on the
sleeves of some of them. (Sheri
At one point I thought we'd caught the break, but, typical in this confusing
race, I was wrong. What really happened was that a prime sprint split up the
break and the faster half stayed away for the rest of the race. I did spot this
surviving group but thought they might be dropped racers. Confusing.
Anyway. I kept track of the lap counter and the elapsed time, so I was ready
on the last lap. I moved ahead to about tenth place as we entered the last turn.
I saw that there was a big gap on the inside, so I took a very quick look over
my right shoulder and shot ahead onto the long final straight.
This was new territory for me: a clear shot at the finish line! But experienced
veterans know that's not ideal as it placed me right out front in the wind.
I was hoping somebody would pass me and offer a wheel to follow, but as I held
back I only saw a solid row of riders to my left. I was forced to keep up and,
of course, instead became the lead-out man for several guys who'd drafted me!
Oh well; this race was my first crit of the year and helped get me back into
the game... without crashing! And I was proud of my efforts against all of those
here.) My training had paid off, and I felt ready for the Land Park Criterium
the next week.
CCCX MTB #4, Sport Single Speed, Toro Park,
CA USA, 3/10/2007
One thing I've come to love over my years of mountain biking is a good climb.
Some people cringe when they hear there's going to be a long grind in a race,
but I just smile knowingly. This course was very different from Fort Ord. It
was an actual mountainous course with about 850 ft. of climbing over 2.5 miles
every lap, and it completely favored my riding style. Erik and I had talked
a bit about strategy before the race, but I knew there weren't going to be many
opportunities for teamwork. This race was going to be won on the climb, so my
strategy was to bury myself on it, pass as many people as possible, and rest
on the descents. I geared down a bit and hoped that I wouldn't kill myself.
Come race day, my ratio felt really good and I rode with Derik for a bit on
my warmup lap.
I was so excited at the start. I could barely stand still while we waited
for the whistle to blow. Mike turned to me and told me that I was going to set
the pace for the climb. I looked over and said, "I'll see what I can do." But
I was really thinking, "You better hold on for dear life, because it's
going to hurt."
Sure enough, I had a great jump off the start. Erik rode with me and at the
top of the first little hill he told me it was just him and I. Mike fell back
a bit like he usually does and Erik rode close behind me for the first half
lap. It was a very different situation than what we're used to. I knew that
because of the hill we would be passing people in the other classes almost immediately,
but I didn't think we would be passing as many people as we did. Pretty soon
we had cleared what must have been half the field. I wanted to put as many of
them behind me as possible, as I knew that some of them would be pretty sketchy
on the descent. I saw Mike behind us by about 15 to 20 seconds just before we
turned onto the singletrack, and I was glad we had put so much time on him.
As we started dropping, I heard someone behind me lose it. My plan was working.
Erik later told me that the guy started doing cartwheels in front of him and
he had to slow way down for him. That was the last time I saw anyone in my class
for the whole race.
At the start of the second lap I passed my friend Murphy, a top B rider, and
I knew that I was doing well. I kept clearing riders and relishing the climb.
The second and third laps were relatively uneventful. I just focussed on flying
up the hill and relaxing as much as possible on the descent. It was a lot of
fun and I started talking to everyone, saying good morning and telling them
they were riding well. There were plenty of opportunities to check my heart
rate and pace myself. Towards the middle of the third climb I passed an Italian
rider and when he tried to chase me I turned around and told him I wasn't in
his class. He yelled back, "I know - I just try to keep up with you!!" Good
luck, pal. As I neared the top of the third climb I knew the race was mine.
The Italian passed me once on the descent but he wasn't far ahead of me. I
passed him hard on the first part of the climb and started looking around for
other people to pick off. The odd thing was that everyone I passed looked really
slow, so I figured I had actually started lapping people. I gave everything
I had the last climb and when I got onto the descent I couldn't see anyone in
front of me. A fine piece of singletrack that you have all to yourself is a
great way to finish a race. As I entered the finish area, I quickly looked over
my shoulder and pedalled hard across the line. Everyone was cheering for me
and when I was done I noticed that I was the only person on the course who had
Harriet and Ron confirmed; I had passed the whole field and won the race overall.
I don't know exactly how I did it, but one thing's for sure - I love a good
CCCX MTB#3, Single Speed Sport, Fort Ord,
CA USA, 3/3/2007
I entered this race expecting to be competitive with Mike and Erik, the two
other people in the top three of our category. Erik and I had chatted the night
before about strategy. We were to work together exactly the same way we had
the prior race - one would lead while the other rested, sandwiching Mike and
forcing him to work to catch the attacker. If Mike was able to catch the leader,
we would switch and the person in back would start an attack again. We weren't
concerned with the rest of the field, although we both expressed our hopes that
Alan from Team Wrong Way would step up and try to hang with us just to mix it
up a little.
Well, the race didn't work out quite like we planned. Erik went out hard as
usual and I hung behind Mike, feeling fine for the first lap. I was holding
onto him well and passing everyone he passed even though it felt like he was
trying to force me to work in fairly tight spaces around the other riders. I
bumped bars with someone with no repercussions, but I started feeling like something
was wrong. I was off balance and I didn't have the jump on the hills like I
Mike began to put a gap on me in the second lap. It also started becoming
apparent that he was better off in the descents. His cornering was solid and
I felt myself sliding a bit in the turns. I allowed him to exploit this advantage
because I felt that I could regain time on the climbs, but I had a lot of trouble
holding onto him. At one point I finally caught him after the steepest climb
on the course.
He turned around and challenged, "Daniel, why don't you pass? Let's go!"
I responded, "I can't - you keep gapping me."
"That's a load," he said, knowing that Erik and I were at least
trying to work the same way we had the previous race.
"Not today, Mike. I can't hold onto you."
Even if I was forced to, I couldn't do it. Mike was clearly stronger than
I stayed with him for a bit but quickly fell off. I just didn't have the power
that I usually do, especially on the hills. This was extremely frustrating and
I wanted to be up there competing with him and Erik. Although Mike was still
in my sights, I was just barely holding on in the third lap. I checked my heart
rate after one of the big hills and it was completely through the roof at 192.
I knew that I was working much harder than I could sustain. Rather than actually
try to catch Mike, I decided to settle for third and hope that Erik could hold
I felt a little stronger in the last lap and got some encouragement from riders
in the other classes as I passed them. It's satisfying to know that even in
a bad shape I can still pass many of the strong riders with gears. But that
was my only real victory of the day. I finished in third about a minute behind
Erik, who had managed to keep ahead of Mike by about 30 seconds despite a crash
with our teammate Dennis. As soon as I finished the race, my back seized up
and I could barely bend over. I felt some soreness throughout the race and realized
that this was probably the source of my powerlessness. My core strength was
depleted and my body was shutting down.
We all have off days, but this day was particularly important for me. It was
the first time I realized in retrospect that I had overtrained. The two prior
weeks I had upped my situps and pushups (my only strength training) to double
the reps I was doing before. I also had gotten a little more... um... "exercise" than
I needed the day before the race with a lady friend. I guess sometimes we have
to make compromises.
However, racing is not something that I'd like to compromise right now. Lesson
learned: Don't work too hard the week - and especially the day - before the
Cross-Country #3, East Garrison, Fort Ord, CA USA, 3/3/2007
Suddenly I heard "singlespeed coming!" followed by the grinding
sound of somebody's front tire sawing into my rear tire. I risked a quick look
back just in time to see Erik Thunstrom, my own team mate and all-around awesome
guy, sprawl headlong into the grass lining the narrow singletrack race course...
I had just taken out my own team mate!
This race day had started out pretty much like the previous two CCCX race
days, with a beautiful sunrise, and a nice breakfast with Margaret (a buckwheat
pancake, lots of fruit, scrambled egg and egg whites and coffee). This was followed
by a mellow drive down HWY1 to Fort Ord. I had time to register, get ready,
clean and lube my chain with the Bio Lube Troy Boone gave us and slam a bunch
of water. I also applied some of the Ivy Block lotion David Gill handed out
(no arm- or leg-warmers this time). It's too early to say it prevents poison
oak rash, but we'll see.
I don't bother much with warm up, but as I rode around aimlessly I met Grant
Stoner, Dan Henderson, Ron Riley, Erik and my usual competitors. I also saw
Julianna Perry and Steve Hess. She had decided to try these races out, but I
heard later that she'd crashed and abandoned her race. Bummer.
As we lined up for our 11:00 start on the usual short paved section, I made
sure to take possession of the center front row of about 20 riders. I was finally
claiming my hard-earned pole position! A guy named Scott Calley told me I look
19 years old... I took it as a compliment!
Right off the bat one rider, I think it was Scott or maybe a guy in a "Ford" jersey,
sprinted ahead. Like before I was happy to draft behind a few guys to save some
energy, but when we approached the start of the dirt trails I decided to act
like a front runner and sprinted around several guys. This put me in second
place. Then I sprinted past our leader who'd blown up badly trying to claim
the lead. In past races I had a hard time telling what position I was in, and
had to work my way up past slower riders to get the lead. So this time I just
had to make sure nobody in my group passed me. I spent some time recovering
from my initial attack on some descents, but after we passed the finish line
to start our first full lap I was still off the front on the long climb.
I'd installed a new front derailleur, and it was shifting noticably better
than my old one. Heck, my bike is 10 years old now! It's not ideal, but good
enough. I also pondered my race approach: I always seem to break these rolling
1-1/2 hour races up into a long series of intervals; attack and recover, attack
and recover, etc., instead of setting a steady sustainable speed. I'm not sure,
but I think the short climbs here favor this approach.
During the next big climb I got stuck behind a bunch of riders from Grant's
younger race group. I sneaked a look back and saw my old friend Richard Jacinto
leading a chase about 100 yards back. Just then the heavily rutted trail widened
and I was able to launch an all-out attack up the last part of the climb, passing
about five guys... whew! I was pretty blown out as I crested the hill, but I
was able to sustain my pace during the long and straight down-up-down sandy
section following. I'd done it! I never saw another guy from my group until
after the finish line!
I did, however, see Erik under the less than ideal conditions mentioned earlier.
Every race this season he's approached me from behind, but never quite caught
me until this race. I bet he now wishes he hadn't! On the fourth and final lap
I was taking a break behind a "Columbia" rider I'd passed in earlier
races. We were chatting about this course and the new course at Toro Park when
Erik caught me. When he crashed off of my wheel I was flabbergasted; "Erik,
what are you thinking!" was my first thought. Knowing him I thought maybe
he was goofing off and intentionally tagging my wheel just to have fun. But
it turned out later that he was trying to pass me! He's pretty amazing.
Maybe next time Erik and I can try to work together. This time I considered
stopping and helping him out, but he looked to be fine, and if he had
caught me, was my group catching up too? So I bolted off in a panic instead,
and only caught a brief glimpse of him later on.
After the race I stood around and recovered. Erik got 1st place, while popping
a wheelie, in spite of the crash! And Dan took 3rd while Richard improved from
14th in the first race to 4th here. Michelle "Shelley" Monroe did
very well again, finishing first! (Results.)
We all chatted while Erik rode off for a spin-down after harassing me... I felt
kind of bad, but wondered who Mike Evans would have fined the Swiss Francs for
in this case: me for taking out my team mate and leaving him in the grass, or
Erik for crossing wheels with me and taking himself out. Hmmmm... probably both
I had brought some beers again, and we all hung out by Erik's car and cheered
Ron Riley and other locals on. Woo-hoo! Erik took a long time returning, but
I think the beer helped soothe him.
I'll be missing the next CCCX #4 race, which will be at Toro Park this Saturday,
because I'll be racing the Menlo Park Grand Prix. We'll see if any of this mountain-biking
stuff translates over to the pavement!
CCCX MTB#2, Single Speed Sport, Fort Ord,
CA USA, 2/18/2007
I felt very confident going into this race. I helped David and Kirk put on
the "support" stop at the County Line the day before and I was really
antsy to get out there and ride. Otherwise, I had gotten plenty of rest the
few days before the race and I woke up feeling strong.
Let me first say that I know very little about tactics and I can barely function
in a paceline without messing everyone up. I'm used to long mountain races where
I rarely ride with anyone else. Fortunately Erik rode the County Line and he
talked with me about the strategy he planned out. After last week's battle,
we were both concerned about Mike Mann from Team Performance.
Erik posed that we should always force Mike to chase an attacker but never
let him hang on the leader's wheel. This meant effectively sandwiching him in
2nd place, with myself and Erik on either side of him. The person in 1st place
was to attack until Mike caught him while the person in 3rd was to hang on Mike's
wheel and rest until Mike caught the leader, at which point 3rd place was to
switch places with 1st and make Mike chase again. Erik knew that this would
force Mike to work harder than us and would most likely secure a win for our
That in mind, I let Erik get out far in front of us off the start and I just
relaxed and hung on Mike's wheel. The only difficult part of the first lap was
sticking right with Mike as he passed other riders in different categories.
Aside from that I felt very comfortable and I knew that quietly resting behind
Mike would leave me with plenty of steam. We started slowly reeling Erik in
and we caught up to him on the long road section. Unwilling to pass, Mike settled
in behind Erik but Erik threw out another little attack on the road, preventing
Mike from resting. This was a slight mistake on my part; Erik was actually looking
for me to attack on the road, but I hesitated. Instead, I let Mike pull me up
to Erik again onto a short fireroad climb and at that point I attacked hard
and told Erik to fall back. Erik acknowledged me and pulled off, allowing Mike
to pass him and dropping into his draft.
I worked hard for the latter half of the 2nd lap and tried to let Erik rest
behind Mike as much as possible. At the beginning of the 3rd lap I found that
Mike and Erik had reeled me in. I turned around to see who was behind me, and
Mike yelled, "We're right with you, Daniel!"
I responded with an "OK", but I didn't want him on my wheel so I
gave another very hard effort and blasted up the first hill. I thought that
this would allow Erik more rest time behind Mike and as I sped on I heard the
people who were cheering for Mike say "Damn, that guy's fast!" The
plan seemed successfull so far and I was certain that Mike was working harder
than he wanted to in the dead middle of the race.
During that 3rd lap I was just aching to put out my full effort and explode,
but I wanted to stick with our strategy or at least save enough energy to break
on the last lap should Mike and Erik not be able to catch me.
As I came through the finish of the 3rd lap, I looked out and saw Mike about
30 seconds behind me with Erik fast on his tail. Rod, the promoter, yelled at
me as I rode through: "This is your race - Go!" At that point I felt
my chances of winning were best between Erik and I, so I went as hard as I could.
The last lap felt amazing. I railed the descents and flew up the hills just
totally inspired and scared as hell that Mike was going to catch me. I picked
good lines and tried to put as many other riders behind me as possible. As I
finished I was completely elated that I had won, but even happier that Erik
and I stuck to the strategy and it had worked. Mike finished about a minute
behind me, dejected about Team SCCCC working him over. The only way we could
have been more successfull is if Erik had taken 2nd, but he seemed happy finishing
just behind Mike in 3rd.
At the finish line I found that Dennis had also secured 1st place for his
category and Rita took 3rd. It was another big day for Team SCCCC. We all congratulated
each other, watched the start of Ron's Expert race, and smiled in our victories.
Cross-Country #2, Fort Ord, East Garrison, CA USA, 2/18/2007
This mountain-bike race came up very soon after the last one I did. So soon
that I still had an itchy rash from the poison oak I caught then (at least my
feet had recovered from the pain I'd felt after the race that previous weekend).
But it came at the very end of a two-week, high-volume, high-intensity "Build
2" training period specified by my structured training program, so, I wasn't
expecting to do as well this time.
The day before this race, Margaret took me shopping for my birthday and we
picked up some new Eggbeater pedals... and new top-of-the-line Specialized shoes.
That should help my feet, though not our finances!
On race day the weather was nice, though not as beautiful as the day before,
in spite of some forecasts that had called for rain. Margaret made us a batch
of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, so I would certainly have carbs this time.
I didn't get around to cleaning my chain but got to Fort Ord in plenty of time
to get ready in every other way. The sky had clouded over, but it didn't look
like it would rain on our parade. Rita, Erik and Darik Thunstrom, Dan Henderson
and Ron and Harriet Riley were also there. I heard that Grant was MIA after
overdoing it during the County-Line race the day before... way to go Grant!
I had a few minutes to chat with some of my competitors too... it was a strange
new experience to have people looking around for me, and to feel like a target!
I've been racing some since about 1996 and this is the first time I've ever
felt like the favorite. Very weird, but kind of cool.
The course was roughly the same as the last one, but in reverse. We still
had to go up the big climb though, so a few changes were needed to accomodate
that. Fortunately the dry weather and sandy soil had allowed the mud puddles
to dry out. It was a little cooler this time, so I kept my leg-warmers on. That
would keep the poison oak at bay too.
There were about 18 of us in Sport 45-54 and somehow I ended up behind most
of them. I'd kind of planned on snagging the "pole position" by virtue
of being the points leader, but flubbed that badly so when the whistle sounded
I had to sprint past many of them on the paved starting section. But I was content
to draft behind the first five riders as we entered the dirt trails.
On the first partial lap, we rode past the parking area and up the first big
climb (relatively big; none of the climbs here are all that long). I noticed
several of us were already making moves here, and I had to make, and answer,
a few myself. One guy was on a red Epic, one of the others fom San Jose Bike
Club. It seemed like the Joselyn's team had several guys there too.
On our first full lap, on a paved section out back leading uphill into a headwind,
I was able to join a paceline of about six other riders, most of them from the
younger group that started a minute or two before us. But I was the first one
to hit the dirt again. I pulled away from them up a sandy climb and we were
soon back in the singletrack. Near the end of that lap I had to answer a few
more attacks from the guy on the red Epic, but I was able to ditch him on the
big climb just after the finish area.
During the second full lap I picked off a few more riders here and there,
but everybody was mostly spread out so I rode alone a lot. But I had plenty
to keep myself occupied with because of all of the tricky, narrow, off-camber
rutted trails. My old hard-tail bike has real problems with some of the, apparently,
new, very bumpy trail sections they made as connectors.
On the next lap I was mostly alone, and had to ride the paved section in the
wind alone. I had a few guys in sight up ahead but could only reduce the gap
with difficulty. My rear derailleur was acting up too, which didn't help. I
caught one rider by the finish line, who sounded like he started puking just
then, but still hadn't caught the other three.
On the last lap I finally caught the other guys, on the paved section, and
sized them up. Two were in the younger group, but I found that a Joselyn's rider,
who was trying to get everybody to work with him, was in my group. I took a
half-hearted pull in the headwind and slowed down. He said something about other
people wanting to work and I said "go for it." I was fairly sure he
was the leader until then, so I wasn't about to pace him to the finish line,
especially since we didn't have any close chasers behind us.
Soon after, we hit the sandy trail with me right on his wheel. I said hello
to Larry Broberg of The Bicycle Trip who was watching from the side of the course,
and just after that I made my move. I guess Larry inspired me. On a straight
gentle climb I launched the hardest attack I could manage, and when I looked
back there was about a 20-yard gap! Woo-hoo! I kept the pressure up and hit
the singletrack at the top with my lungs wheezing and my legs burning.
My attack proved decisive as I cruised in over the finish line later with
nobody in sight. I looked in vain for others in my group, and waited to see
who would follow me in. The Joselyns rider came in next, and excitedly told
his team mates that he'd won... I got a fair amount of satisfaction from walking
over (with my feet feeling great!) and telling him that I, in fact, had gotten
him! I was pretty sure I'd won but it gets so confusing that I wait for the
final results before making any claims! It's too early to say my new training
program is to credit, but it doesn't seem to be hurting either.
While waiting for my medal I talked with Dan and Erik. After working together
for two laps they'd been joined by Mike of The Sock Guy and finished 1st and
3rd in the singlespeed race! Way to go! Rita and Darik also medalled! And, by
complete chance, I found out that the SJBC rider was Richard Jacinto, an old
co-worker of mine from 17 years ago! We got partly caught up over beers, and
then I met another old friend: Frances Cebedo, owner and founder of www.mtbr.com!
He was riding a gorgeous singlespeed "niner" with tubeless 29" tires
and a fixed carbon fork. He let me take it for a quick ride and, man, it rode
sweet! My 10-year old bike sure feels it.
The sweet taste of Victory is much newer to me than to many of you, so I savored
it, celebrating with Erik, Harriet, Darrik and Rita over a second beer! Finishing
the day off with the End of Cyclocross Season party at Steve Hess and Julianna
Perry's house was just perfect... what a cool day!
CCCX MTB #1, Sport Single Speed, Fort Ord,
CA USA, 2/11/2007
Erik warned me he was going to go out hard, but the starting pace wasn't hard
- it was blistering! I was fortunate enough to grab his wheel and hold on at
the beginning, but I didn't know how long I could keep up with him as I was
spun out within the first thirty seconds. Erik rode a cross bike that he geared
up pretty stout and it seemed perfect for this course. I was geared significantly
lower but on a similarly svelte bike that I had gussied up with new tires and
saddle the night before. We entered the singletrack 1st and 2nd with Mike Mann
(Performance Bike) hot on my tail.
At such a high cadence, my heart rate quickly went through the roof and I
was having trouble keeping up with Erik. I also started coughing up tons of
phlegm left over from my cold. I felt bad for the people we passed because I
was blowing snot all over them. Focused too much on my heart rate and not enough
on my line, I went down pretty hard about halfway through the first lap in a
slippery corner. My brake lever took the brunt of the crash and as I jumped
back on my bike I realized it was bent up at about a 30-degree angle. Mike gained
a few seconds on me as a result and graciously slowed down behind me as I got
myself back together. I couldn't pick it up fast enough, though, so he passed
and put a decent gap on me.
Through the middle of the race I sat in 3rd place demoralized and not completely
in control due to very limited use of my rear brake. Still, I kept seeing Mike
and even Erik ahead of me. I knew that Mike was keeping Erik in his sights so
I decided to stay content with 3rd, pull my heart rate back down, and wait for
That opportunity came at the end of the 3rd lap on the steepest hill; I saw
Mike ahead of me walking and it looked like he was having some problems. I wanted
to put him down hard and make him realize he was out of the race, so I sprinted
up the hill and passed a few others simultaneously. Shortly after I caught Erik
too. I looked over my shoulder several times before telling Erik that Mike was
done and we were on our own.
It was the final lap. Erik rode strong and picked good lines. We started going
very fast and it felt like we were pacing each other well. I passed him at one
point but didn't attack hard enough. He rode my wheel for a couple miles and
made a hard pass on the last hill. It wasn't clear to me until after the race
that he had thought out the finish better than I had. Erik's hard attack on
the last hill before the singletrack finish was the right way to go. I finished
in 2nd a scant four seconds behind him, with Mike two minutes back.
It was a fantastic battle and I had so much fun working with my teammate and
friend. The support and cheers from our team really seemed to help us all a
lot. The cadre of blue jerseys with medals around them hinted at the dominant
force that SCCCC is shaping up to be this season.
Cross-Country #1, East Garrison, Fort Ord, CA USA, 2/11/2007
Some of you may know that I decided to follow a structured training program
for the 2007 season. The program I came up with calls for set amounts and intensities
for every ride of the season. I was a little short on both for this week, due
to the rain and the lingering after-affects of a cold. So, that made this race
a good fit with my goal of becoming faster. Only the rain made it unpalatable!
As race "preparation," I went for a ride along the cliffs in Wilder
Ranch during the height of the storm the previous day, followed by a small birthday
celebration involving way too much cake, cookies and even one of my strong mai-tais!
Maybe I was giving myself excuses for the race... after all it was just supposed
to be a fast training ride for me, and I didn't want to attach too much importance
to my placement.
That morning it was still raining, but not for long. I decided to have steak
and veggies for breakfast, figuring I had eaten enough carbs the night before.
Since the Sport categories didn't start until 11:00 I didn't have to rush, and
I had a nice drive down, though it was still a bit damp and cloudy. Due to a
new housing development in the East Garrison, the old entrance was blocked and
we had to enter through the fort's main entrance.
Our Team Director, David Gill, had kindly managed to negotiate a $10 discount
for the first five Team Santa Cruz members to register... woo-hoo! I promptly
signed up and chatted with Ron Riley who was also signing up, and got my bike
and gear ready. The weather seemed to be improving so I decided to just wear
my long-sleeved jersey and shorts. I did feel dehydrated though, so I slammed
a bunch of water too. I don't need much warmup, but I saw Grant Stoner and Daniel
Henderson getting ready too. The start line was on the same paved section as
usual, and I think there were about 15 riders in my 45-54 age Sport group lined
As the start whistle was given I stayed in the middle of the group, content
to maintain a reasonable pace, but just before the dirt section started I moved
up a few positions, just for fun. This put me in a good spot to grab opportunities
or just to watch the race unfold. I also got a nice view of the course for the
first time; it was similar to previous courses with short rolling hills and
singletrack with quick-drying sandy soil. Very fun! I caught up to Grant pretty
soon, and followed him for a while as he weaved around the few large mudpuddles
left from the storm. Later on I nearly crashed when I slid on some mud and wet
leaves, and the many off-camber turns and edges meant you really had to keep
a very tight line to stay upright!
After the first lap, right after the timing/scoring tent, the course climbed
fairly steeply for the only long climb. I felt pretty good, and thought I was
falling way back, so I launched a hard attack up the climb and passed about
five guys. Cool! But mountain-bike races are really more like individual time-trials,
so I really can't call this a tactic, but more of an awakening!
The Team Santa Cruz medalists from CCCX #1:
Erik, Darik, Dennis and Daniel.
Harriet Riley was kind enough to offer me extra water on the third lap, but
I had enough to last me the race (mixed with energy powder). I managed to pass
a few more riders in that same climb; one of them was Tim Sawyer of The Bicycle
Trip. I hadn't met him yet, but said howdy as I passed by. I was still unsure
how many guys were ahead of me, but I felt sure I was in the medals. The weather
had improved even more and it was really becoming a beautiful, sunny day.
As the fourth and final lap knocked on the door like The Grim Reaper, my legs
started to weaken; I gave up on the idea of improving my position any further.
Ugh; I just wanted to hold on and be finished! Maybe some carbs for breakfast
would have helped. Nearing the finishing stretch, somebody came up behind me
just after a descent that I'd been coasting down for rest. He said something
I couldn't make out, and I couldn't see who it was without risking a crash,
but I worried that I'd let my guard down too much so I dug deeper for the last
mile or so and gapped him good. After I crossed the finish line (whew!), I found
out that it was Erik Thunstrom... he'd started behind me, on a singlespeed,
but had almost caught me! Daniel finished right behind him giving them a 1st
and 2nd finish. Wow!
I also found out that I'd won my race! And that my feet were in serious distress;
one reason why I don't cyclocross (my road shoes are waaaay better). Tim finished
3rd. Erik's son, Darik, had also won his class (by being the sole single-speed
junior). Grant was walking around looking dejected, and explained that the stomach
flu had made his race an ordeal. We all hung out for a while and my recovery
beverage somehow became a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as we cheered Ron on in his
first Expert category race! (Results
What a great day for Team Santa Cruz!
Peak Season 2 & 3, Watsonville, CA USA, 1/28/2007
It’s the time of the term when us writing teachers are reading papers round
the clock so here goes a quick couple of reports:
Peak Season #2. Bitter cold out. None of the heavy hitters were here so we
had a super-competitive race. Got the hole shot and settled in with plenty of
lead changes among Tom Feix, John Kammeyer, Tim Watson, Mitch Bramlett, Mountain
Larry Hibbard, and Cesar Chavez. After a hard booty slam on the off-camber I
was gapped off with Cesar. We ended up dropping Mtich and catching the fading
Feix. It was Larry and Tim up the road with Tom, Cesar and I duking it out 30
seconds behind. Last lap Feix ditches his bike at the bottom of the stairs,
runs up sans bike (a no no) and gets a clean one. Cesar and I are nonplussed
and trying to make him pay Cesar biffs it on the off camber. I think I have
him cleared and end up supermanning immortalized by the Sentinel photographer.
Cesar’s apologizing and I’m telling him not to worry about it—that’s racing.
We flummox about and Mitch flies by bunny-hopping the log. We get stacked up
on the non-yielding, lapped Kem Akol and I’m hosed for the sprint. 5th place
and I’m pissed for a number of reasons. Good to see Tim Watson take it. Good
thing Larry was racing the 45’s because he beat all us relative youngsters.
Peak Season #3. Third sweet course and beautiful day. Sun and mud; what more
could you ask for? I keep thinking what Rick Hunter said two weeks prior: “Enough
is enough.” Warming up I’m not feeling it, can’t ride several sections, flat
before the start—which is an endeavor to change with all the mud. I blow the
start by not clipping in—I think I was last in my category. But by the bottom
of the run up I’m in 4th. Howie has an insurmountable gap already. I put in
my one big attack running and I’m clear in second with Tim Watson and Mitch
just behind me. I ride 2nd for awhile and then get caught by Larry. I’m able
to stick on his wheel for a lap or two but he drops me eventually. I’m definitely
staying within myself and riding for the overall at this point uncertain of
my fitness and ability to cope with the sticky mud. Along comes Evan Adams from
Rocklobster. We ride together for a bit and then he flicks me off like a flea
with an effort in the barns. After seven pretty darn steady laps (oh that run
up) Howie’s two and half minutes up on me with Evan a minute plus, Tim Watson
is not that far behind me and I’m happy with 3rd for the day and the overall
series victory/attendance award. Great to be atop the podium wearing a vest
with Howie (fresh from living the dream in Belgium) and hardman Brett Lambert.
Very nice way to end the season. What a great series!
Peak Season Cyclocross 3, County Fairgrounds,
Watsonville, CA USA, 1/28/2007
The Big Bonk
This last weekend was the end of the 06/07 cyclocross season, a season that
for me began on September 13th with first DFL race in Golden Gate Park (where
David Gill beat me and the rest of the Team Santa Cruz crew). 20 races later
the last Peak Season race was upon us and I greeted it with mixed feelings.
On one hand it’s been a bloody long season! Getting up long before the sun comes
up and loading the van with all of the team equipment, filling bottles (over
300 for the season), loading Tyrant JG, Supreme Justice, Race Director, Team
Field Marshal and Dictator-for-Life David Gill into the van, driving to the
venue and then setting up and breaking down the team compound had gotten old.
The fact that our Team put on the last 3 races made for exceptionally long days/weekends
and added to my fatigue.
On the other hand I love to race cyclocross and love to go to cyclocross races!!
I will never be the fastest, probably never win a race, but I don’t think it’s
about that. It’s the comeraderie and the relaxed atmosphere that permeates the
venues that sets it apart. Where else but cyclocross race can you have total
strangers cheering you on, offer you a bottle when you really need it and let
you use their spare wheel? You can ask virtually any rider of higher skill a
question about technique or setup and they will be more than happy to talk to
you about it. What other form of racing will the pros say thank you on the way
by for moving your sorry, slow-as-molasses, about-to-be-lapped butt off the
good line to allow them an easy pass? For me personally this has never happened
at a road race, crit or even a mountain bike race.
Not to say that all things are roses in the NorCal cross world. There were
elbows and fists thrown at some of the beginning classes at the Pilarcitos Series,
where the fields were very large, and even one incident of an older rider knocking
down a junior on purpose (that guy should be keelhauled!!!), but generally,
the Women & Men in the Elite & Master A & Singlespeeder categories show the
utmost sportsmanship and set a fine example for everybody. If you race in the
morning in the beginning classes and don’t hang out at the venue for the rest
of the day, you are surely short-changing yourself an entertaining learning
experience. It is perhaps this sportsmanship and spirit that will make the next
seven months seem ever so long before the next cx season begins.
Race Report: Peak Season III, Relay Race and final race of the season.
I was somehow conned into doing the relay race by some of my teammates at
the last second. What this meant for me was no warm up! I started the beginning
of the season at DFL #1 in Golden Gate Park without a warm up and might as well
end it the same way. The usual chaos ensued for the relay, but by the time I
was supposed to ride in the anchor position (4th), the race appeared to be running
pretty smooth. Teammate Katie London completed her lap and we slapped hands
like tag team wrestlers indicating it was my turn to do a lap. Everybody who
was racing on a bike with gears had to remove their rear wheel and leave it
on the ground. After high fiving their teammates for the exchange they would
have to install the rear wheel before they could take off for their lap. Other
people, including myself, on singlespeeds could not easily remove our rear wheels
and consequently had to run 50 meters to a tree and back as a penalty. At the
exact moment that Katie and I slapped hands, so did arch-rival and good friend
Stella Carey slap hands with her teammate. Game On!! I beat her in the run to
the tree and back and was on my bike first with Stella in hot pursuit! It didn’t
take long for her to pass me as I just wasn’t feeling right. By the time I exited
the long pig barn, Stella had a pretty big gap on me. As we hit the off camber
side hill into the double off chamber chicane I was back on her butt, but when
we hit the flat road she pulled away again. She had a bobble at the single barrier
on top of the little hill and I again was right on her tail. As we hit the downhill
grass section I seem to go into a fog and prepared to turn right toward the
corral when suddenly, Stella turns left. Geez, I felt stupid! After all, I helped
build this section of the course and put the gate in so we could shorten the
course for the relay race. This would not be the last time that I would forget
where I was going.
Stella ended up beating me by about 3 seconds, but afterwards I felt absolutely
like _hit!!! “Going as hard as you can for 3.5minutes without a warm up was
stupid” I kept telling myself. I was looking for excuses for feeling so bad.
After riding around for a bit, I went back to the pits to get ready for my second
lap, of which I cannot recall much.
Singlespeed race (21st cx race of the year):
I barely had time to get my singlespeed number pinned on and pop a Clif Shot
before it was time to race. The whistle blew and I got the holeshot going into
the first turn. Except for one major thing; I forgot the turn was there! _hit,
_hit and triple _hit!!! By the time I realized my error it was to late to turn
in and I ended up on the wrong side of the tape. I was told later, after the
race, that this maneuver caused chaos behind me as riders were lining up on
my wheel for the turn. The only thing I can remember for the next two laps was
being passed and then re-passing and then being passed again by Dorothy Wong,
Andi Mackie, Kathleen Bortolussi and teammates Katie London and Daniel Henderson.
Believe it or not, I missed the corner at the end of the straight away again!!!!!
Somewhere in there I bonked so hard that I left my body, and in retrospect I’m
quite sure I was bonking long before the race started. For the next five laps
I rode around in a semi catatonic state. About all I can recall is that I developed
a fan club at the end of the start/finish straightaway and every time I would
approach the corner they would yell in unison “RIGHT TURN” to ensure no more
mishaps. What a swell bunch of folks!
After the race was over I staggered around a bit and then collapsed in van
for 15 minutes or so. I made myself get up and popped a Clif Shot, drank two
bottles of Cytomax, ate a Clif Bar and had a beer; in 20 minutes I feeling human
again! We then broke down and cleaned the course and then dropped all of the
equipment off at Jeff’s house. By the time I got home it was 19:00 and I had
been going full speed for 15.5 hours. On the way to the shower I hopped on the
scale and to my amazement I had dropped 5lbs. I then went over to Nancy’s house
for dinner and, incredibly, she cooked marinated tri tip, potatoes au gratin
and had made a huge salad. After consuming a huge portion of food and a couple
of glasses of wine, I was one happy camper!!
The next morning I hit the scale on the way to the shower and much to my shock,
I hadn’t gained an ounce from the night before! This caused me to give this
predicament a good ponder while showering and I came to the conclusion that
in the 3 chaotic days leading to the race I had basically stopped eating (enough)
food. I guess I had allowed myself to get a little wound up about the last race
of the season. All day Monday the only thing I could think of was food!
Peak Season # 2, Watsinville, CA USA, 1/14/2010
I wasn’t feeling all that chipper before the start of my race. During my warm
up I couldn’t tell if I was feeling good or bad, but I was feeling very lackadaisical.
The Elite Men and Singlespeed classes would start together and managed to slot
myself right in the middle of the first row. There was a very long paved straightaway
that lead to a right turn onto the dirt. I managed to get the holeshot! I didn’t
think this was possible on a singlespeed as the straightaway was so long I thought
the geared riders would have smoked past me. I must have looked like a sewing
machine at full rpm!
A couple of corners later I was passed by my own bike! Actually, a guy visiting
from Ireland borrowed my geared bike to race on. As we hit the race car track
I pulled to the right and let a gang of riders buy. I didn’t want to go so hard
that I would immediately blow up. I could see teammates Mike Martin and Erik
Thunstrom along with some other guy I didn’t recognize, who were all on singlespeeds
behind me. I rode moderate tempo until they caught me, but by then, I felt recovered
from my initial effort. The rest of the first lap was uneventful.
As we went pass the scoring area/finish line Mike M. who was at front sat
up, so I threw an acceleration in to see what would happen. It had no real effect,
but it did tell me that I was feeling exceptionally well! By the time we hit
the zigzag through the barns, I was riding steady tempo at the front. The next
thing I knew Mike M. throws down an attack and on the way buy throws me an elbow!
My own teammate throwing me a bow!? His attack did nothing to shake us up. When
we hit the climb out of the lower section of the fairgrounds to the top near
the parking lot, I went to the front and set a hard tempo. When we reached the
top of the climb I looked back and found only Erik on my wheel. The guy I didn’t
recognize was long gone and Mike M. had popped. During the next lap I talked
to Erik and told him since he was ahead on points, I would work for him and
wouldn’t sprint him for the finish.
For the next couple laps we traded pulls, but we couldn’t bring the rider
in front of us back. It was kind of bummer that Mike M. blew as I think the
3 of us working together could have brought the rider in front back. The cool
thing about this course was it had plenty of places to take visual checks on
the riders in front and behind. We kept gaining on Mike M. until we couldn’t
see him any more, but suddenly a new rider appeared behind us! I was convinced
it was the singlespeeder we had dropped earlier. I started getting paranoid
about getting caught from behind as this usually seems to happen to me when
a race! Erik and I made a plan on what to do if it happened. Suddenly Pat Schott
appeared behind us. He rapidly passed the rider behind us and was making large
gains on us.
Going into the last lap Pat had almost closed the gap to us and was ready
to lap us and the guy behind him had taken a huge chunk out of us. This certainly
increased my paranoia, so I went to the front and started to give it all I had
left! Pat caught us half way through zigzag in the barn and I hoped onto his
wheel. We started up the hill on Pat’s wheel and about half the way up Pat slowed
a bit so I came around to take a pull. In the process I gaped Pat and dropped
Erik. Dooh! Pat came back around me and I soft pedaled behind him while waiting
for Erik. Pat rode away and Erik finally caught up to me on the finish line
straightaway and I let him pass so he could score extra points. All of the paranoia
I suffered on the last to laps was unfounded as the rider in question behind
us was in the Elite Men class and not the Singlespeed class.
This was most certainly my best race of the year. I felt very strong and didn’t
blow once. I have absolutely no idea why I felt so good. I did nothing unusual
in the days leading up to the race. I had a lot of fun riding with Erik and
he was very stoked to have someone work for him. 17 races down and one to go!
CCCX#5, Ft. Ord, CA USA, 1/7/2007
School’s in session so here’s the skinny: Due to lack of training
and plenty of meat, spirits and sugar I was a bit nervous about this one. It
was nice to be fired up though and the weather and course were incredible! (I’m
used to pinballing around this course.) Master’s 35 A’s were down
to the nitty gritty—about a dirty dozen. With Kramer, Myall and Howland
I was hoping to get fourth or fifth. After a mediocre start I got on the front
group at the top of the road section, only to realize in the trees I was still
sucking on a cough drop (tail end of a cold). Don’t remember where the
top 3 dropped me but I was happy to settle in with John Kammeyer—a pretty
steady wheel. After he pulled most of a lap (hopping the log and barrier by
the way) I took a lap-long pull. Oh yeah, this was after a Berry—Gavin
Payne (good cycling name)—stacked it trying to bunny hop the telephone
pole. After a while we were caught by Rock Lobster rider Tim Watson and Bouré’s
Mark Abele. Watson went straight to the front and put it down. After sitting
on for dear life for maybe a lap we were two. I did some work and held John
and Mark off by a few seconds for several laps. I must say despite the lack
of fitness I felt pretty smooth which was nice. I just hung on to Tim for dear
life and tried to not to leave myself open to attack after pulls. He hit the
final singletrack super hard and I didn’t have the presence of mind to
attack—just followed not wanting to reignite hamstring cramps. Ended up
fifth with Kramer beating Myall due to a mechanical and Howie taking third.
These guys haven’t lost a step—Tim and I were an eternity (3+ minutes)
off their pace. Had to be happy with fourth for the series—definitely
a nice surprise for A. showing up and B. riding fairly consistently.
Once again, great to have the team in fully drunken effect. Only two more
races I’m sorry to say.
CCCX #5, East Garrison, Fort Ord, CA USA, 1/7/2007
Usual morning drill: Get up at the crack of darkness, load van, wait for Supreme
Justice, Race Director, Team Field Marshal and Dictator-for-Life David Gill,
load David into the van and drive to Coffeetopia for liquid stimulates. The
drive was very pleasant, but not because of David's company; it just happen
to be a very beautiful morning!
Instead of racing in the usual spot at the East Garrison of the old Fort Ord,
we were racing at the old campground section where they usually hold the CCCX
mountain bike series. This could only mean one thing, lots of elevation change!
This certainly was not your typical cross course. There was heaps of high speed
singletrack, a blazing fast paved downhill section, and lots of low speed turns,
barriers, and two little logs that you could bunny hop and one big one that
you could not. The big story though was the climbing. I can't ever remember
racing a cross course that climbed so much. The climb started before the finish
line and was broken up by a little run up with a rideable steep climb directly
afterwards that led to a false flat double track to a set of double barriers
at the very top of the hill.
Race # 1
Master A 45+:
What a disaster! I had a bad start and was pinched off twice causing me to
lose a lot of places and all of my momentum. I then somehow managed to kick
my left side rear brake arm on the remount at the top of the course and knocked
the retaining spring off of its perch. I stopped and tried to fix it, but to
no avail. It never occurred to me to in my anaerobic state unhook my brake cable;
instead I rode 2/3 of a lap with the left side brake pad jammed against the
rim. UGH! I saw teammate Karen Kefauver and asked her to have my singlespeed
ready for a bike change. She made it to the pits before I did and the exchange
was made. I rode my singlespeed for half of a lap and was meet by Supreme Justice,
Race Director, Team Field Marshal and Dictator-for-Life David Gill in the feed
zone where we did another change back to my original bike. After a couple of
laps on my geared bike I was feeling very sloth like. I figured I was having
a really bad day and put it on cruise control and finished the race. It wasn't
until I loaded the bike into the van at the end of the day that I realized that
with even the retaining spring in the proper position, the brake pad was still
rubbing the rim. I finished the race in last place and ended 7th overall for
the series (I tied for 6th, but lost the tie breaker).
After the long uphill at the start of the race, I ended up behind a rider
who I will call “the Kid”. The Kid and I were the tail end of a
lone pack of riders as we snaked down the singletrack. The Kid was having a
very hard time staying on course. By the time we reentered the dirt after the
long paved section, there was a small gap between us and teammate Eric Thunstrom
and Tim of Buy-Cell. The Kid was sliding all over the place and buy the time
we hit the dirt straight away next to the parking lot I got pass him. As I passed
the Kid he made some discouraging remark (smack) to me. The Kid re-passed me
in the next corner, but I was not concerned being that we hadn't even completed
one lap yet. I was taking the old bull vs. the young bull approach. We hit the
double small log section and the Kid made an error and I got a gap on him. There
were sections of this course that doubled back upon itself and you could tell
if you were gaining or losing on the riders in front or behind you. For the
next couple of laps the gap to Eric and the Buy Cell guy held steady while the
gap on the Kid increased.
By the third lap I couldn't see the Kid anymore and Eric and Tim were slowly
pulling away. The climb on this course was taking its toll on me. Except for
being lapped, I rode the rest of the race by myself. I got a nice tow from Pat
Schott for half of a lap. It was a pleasure to follow Pat in the singletrack
section. This was in stark contrast to following Olaf Vanderhoot who almost
missed a couple of corners and carved large divots into the dirt with his tires.
I'm not sure the word finesse is Olaf vocabulary when it comes to riding on
the dirt. I ended up finishing 6th overall in the singlespeed class. 4 cyclocross
series down and one to go.