Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Road Cycling Season: Week 1, 2009

Well, I had a pretty good start to the 2009 cycling season. The year started with the annual New Year's Day ride around Round Mountain. I estimate we had over one hundred riders at the start at Beach Park. Lots of glad-handing and well wishing. Even my missing teammate Leo H. was on the bike. The parade on the bike path was gentlemanly, but by the time we hit Gordon's Ferry the pace was getting serious. At the base of the climb I laid down a pretty mean tempo. Halfway up a few guys went up the road a bit which started more fireworks. I was just able to make the top 5 also-rans by out-sprinting my training buddy, Richard Picarelli, and local Scott Laurent. It was cold at the top so we had some hot cocoa at the Kern Wheelmen rest stop and a group of us harder-core cyclists headed down the other side. An exploratory escape led by my buddy Curt Pierce went up the road but friend Scott "Drop the Hammer" Thor and I set pretty good tempo and squashed it. Noone wanted to come around so we chatted and pulled the entire back side to the climb out of Poso Creek. Scott looks like he's riding well. The last climb was another hard tempo set by me to keep the attacks from happening. Big TTer Bill Elrich. threw down an attack that we closed by the second rise, and it was all together by the third rise. A bunch came around me as we to hit the big corner, and I thought I was done, but I just was able to latch on and recover for rise number 4. Scott L. came around the bunch and I followed, and he set a mad tempo that I could just barely hold. As we headed for the final 200 meters, some guys started the sprint, and I pulled around Scott but got nipped by Richard--touche'. It was a great training ride to start the year.

Debbie, Savannah and I hit a couple of NYD parties afterwards to re-fill the tank. Friday was a bust with rain.

The weekend came and that brought the SoCal Cyclocross Cross Fever series to town. Hart Park is the premier cycling venue for cross in SoCal, and this year's course was the hardest one I think we've ever had. At the heart of the difficulty was a three run-up section all within a 1/4 mile. You can actually ride the first run-up but Sam stuck two barriers at the base to ensure it's un-ride-ability. The next run-up was short but followed a tricky descent and off-camber. The final was a super steep, muddy and slick ascent: 30 steps of hell followed by a short rise. Ouch! The rest of the course was a good combination of dirt, grass and pavement.

I planned to race a couple of events, at least the 45s and the 35s. And if I felt good enough, I'd tap the Elites. It was really cold for my 10:30 start. I suited up in my District Champion gear, spent 15 minutes on the trainer and then headed to the start line. It was a small group, maybe 10 total in the 45/55s. My buddy Larry V-Z was there, local master George F., and handful of SCNCA-district jerseys with Jonathan L., Lee H. and another in the 55+. I started on the second row. At the whistle Larry took off, and I followed wheels through the first couple of corners. I passed a couple guys, felt a wheel rub on one of the corners, and bridged up to Larry. Larry and I traded pace for the first lap and a half. Larry wasn't holding to the pace so I figured he wanted to take it easy and save it for the 123s. I kept the pace up without going into the red and built up a pretty solid lead, but the Three Ugly Sisters were really hurting my legs. My HR wasn't that high but the cold usually makes my legs feel like wood. I took the win. Larry took second but had a scare from a Fresno guy who took third. Hey, what a way to start the year: a double-ewe while in the District Champ duds.

Next up my buddy Richard rangled my Ritchey for his first cross race. He looked pretty good until he tweaked my rear wheel, and then we had the longest wheel change ever. He appeared to be enjoying himself--always smiling when I saw him... or was that a grimace? Anyway, I think I have a cross convert. The results: new cross racer = 1. Tubular wheel: toast.

By the time Richard was done with his race, I was cold and decided against another date with the ugly sisters.

The kids race featured several kids including my Kurious Kenyan and Surly Savannah. Kenyan started the race in her tallest gear and forgot how to shift. She had the lead but dropped to third on the last uphill corner as she struggled with the gear-inches. Savannah ended up somewhere toward the back as she avoided a first corner crash. She looks like a natural on a bike. I love those girls!

Next week, some goal setting for the 2009 road season.

2008 Year in Review

It's been over a year since I last posted. I guess I've just been too tired and burnt to do it. I've been blogging vicariously through GK at mudandcowbells and now the words want to come out. The 2007 cross season really took it out of me. I was very focused, trained extra hard, tried to peak for states and nats. I had a successful year. A few wins, a bunch of seconds, I don't think I ever finished outside the top 5 in any of the 45+ races. After a disappointing Nats I really wanted to come back and try again.

However, the 2008 road season got in the way. I had the most fun on the road ever. We had a somewhat tight team. I had a role to play. We animated races. We had great results. However, I felt my talents were wasted. What about me? I felt there were races I could have won but I was the helper, and I stuck to my guys. But even they did stuff that was just screwed up. Like chasing each other. The first real disappointment was those guys I helped were supposed to help me in my district race never showed. Now that team, for whatever reason, is no more. I'm staying with the now much smaller core that I like racing with. But I digress...

So the 2008 season turned into the "I'd like to cross some rides/races off my list" year. So I did the infamous "Death Ride", and revisited the Everest Challenge that kicked my butt in 2001. Both were hard. Both were fun. Well, EC was not that fun. I didn't really train for it, but I was in decent shape and a lot smarter than 2001. So, I did it. Finished. Unofficially crossed off the list. But that put the 2008 cross season training back a month or so.

The 2008 cross season was somewhat successful. You can't complain if you get a win or two and end up as district champ. But, I wasn't mentally into it. I hadn't trained for it. I didn't have any official goals like I had written down in 2007. I wasn't focused. Yes, I won a couple of small races, but in the competitive series I was just top 5. I didn't try that hard. I didn't have that burning desire. I kicked up the training toward the districts but still wasn't as fast as I was in 2007. The district championship just kind of fell into my lap. Two guys I raced with the previous year aged up to 50. They beat me in the combined 45+ 50+ race, but I was first 45. I just didn't feel like I'd won. My last race of 2008 was the Colorado State Champs and I pulled out halfway through the race. I got this pain in my lung a couple of laps in and then started going backwards. HR would not stay up and legs were toast. I coughed up a bunch of phlegm and just bagged it. Not sure if it was the dryness of the air in Boulder, or the lingering cold I had the previous week. Whatever it was, it was not right. Speaking to Brent Prenzlow last week, he said that he had difficulty racing in Boulder as well. So, that race sucked, but I loved Boulder.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nats Day 2 45s Pics

The first turn.
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz http:///

I find it's usually easier to start at the front and work your way back than vice-versa. There was nothing easy about today.

A nice sponsor photo on an international cycling media outlet...
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz http:///

The trusty steed and motor.

Nats Day 2 45s

We return to the parcourse an hour before my race. I need to recheck my tire pressure and pump up my spares so I'm off to neutral support. Erik gets a pit pass. We decide on a pit area. Eriks heads to the warmup tent, and I scope out the first quarter lap. The course has again completely changed complexion. What was frozen ruts before is now a dark-brown mess the consistency of natural peanut butter. To make matters trickier, the frozen grooves around the course are now submerged in the goo. I pick out my lines for this quarter lap and return to the warm-up tent. The opt for another layer on my top as the wind is still biting. I get a nice warmup and then proceed to staging. I get there just in time to be called up--unbelievably, I am on the second row. The first row has at least a couple of ex-champs: Steve Tilford and Gunnar Shogren. I line up on the outside position as that seemed to open up in my last race. I see that noone else has shoe covers, and I ditch mine to SoCal Crosser, Jeff Herring. Most everyone has leg coverings, but a couple in the first row opt for Belgian Knee Warmers. It seems like it is taking forever for everyone to get staged. We get the two minute warning. We get the one minute warning. The thirty second warning and the gun. The race blasts off and we are rolling up the start hill. I'm well positioned. We hit the first right and muddy bank--I'd say I was around seventh, and then gun it. I make a huge surge on the outside line I scoped out earlier and I immediately pass into third. Holy S!@$#. I'm chasing Steve Tilford and another rider. We make it up the first sloggy uphill and up to the first pit entry as I hold third. Tilford is hammering. There's another slippery bog to pass through and a couple of riders get past me. I continue to carefully navigate the course, and more riders fly by in the muddiest parts of the course. I'm having problems gaining traction--it feels like I'm just spinning. I continue to hold my position as best as I can without crashing. A couple of riders eat it and I repass. We hit a sloggy uphill and more riders blast past. This first lap is taking forever. I make it around the first lap around 15th and feel a bit gassed. I again pick my lines to make sure I don't lose time to a crash and try to control my breathing. It takes a couple of laps for me to regain composure while I'm getting nipped by a couple of riders every lap. In the mean time I'm using the pit the best as I can. Erik did a fantastic job of cleaning and getting the bike ready. I changed bikes on at least 3 laps (could've been twice in one lap--I was too delirious to recall), and I could immediately tell the difference in the weight and handling. The last couple of laps I felt better through the sloggy parts, and was able to enter those sections with more speed. I get the bell lap and I'm feeling spent. I getting cramps in places I didn't know I had muscles. I've had to run several sections every lap, my frozen feet are barely clearing the barriers, stairs, and even the mud. I bang bars with another racer for most of that last lap and end up taking him. The finish hill was so long and hard but hearing my SoCal Cross buddies cheering me on gave me that extra motivation. I finished totally knackered, and glad it was over. I ended up 26th. My goal was a top 20, and although I missed out on that, I feel very satisfied overall, but even more motivated for next year.

Nats Day 2 AM Prologue

Erik and I donned our cold-weather gear to head to the course and spin out our legs. We stepped outside and I immediately knew I was under-dressed. I ducked back in to put on another layer. Aahhh, much better. The wind is biting but tolerable. We get to the course, and I decide to head to Neutral Support for a wheel true. While we're waiting, the Junior 17-18 race starts. The course looks like a quagmire: brown, sloppy, tons of grooves. But, it's immediately apparent that this is not the case as the junior phenoms pass the pit. Rider after rider hits the deck as their front wheels get caught in the FROZEN ruts. That mud is hard as rock. The course has frozen overnight. We hear from the mechanics that it was so bad this morning the officials took out the barriers for the early junior races for safety concerns. As we watch the juniors, we talk about spare bike strategies. The pit lane is grassy and free of any mud. We check with the pit official to verify what has to occur for someone to enter the pit. I get my wheel trued, Erik gets his Mavic hub adjusted, and then we head to the warm-up. We both get in half an hour of spinning. We switch bikes to see if they are sized close enough for either of us to ride as back ups. Surprisingly enough they are very close, though he'll have to get the feel for my Rotor Q-rings, and I, his SRAM groupo. We ride back to the hotel to eat and rest.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nats Day 1 The Afterglow

Photos of the aftermath of a cross race.

Post cross race I'm ready for some more.

Wet toes are not happy toes.

My Ritchey Break<\>Away gets a well-deserved bath from an ad hoc mobile bike wash.

Time for laundry.

The front desk asked us not to make a mess with our bikes. They failed to mention making it with our clothes.

Some nice Nats souvenirs.

Nats Day 1 40+ B

About 30 minutes into Erik's race I went to the warmup tent and hopped on a CycleOps trainer provided by one of the event sponsors, Bike Source. I get 15 minutes in and then head back to the car to get ready. My feet were cold earlier, so I put some of the Pre-Sports Hot Balm by SportsBalm that Sam had recommended onto my feet. I let that soak in, don my socks, and we head to the local QT for some coffee. We return to the course, and now I've got to figure out what I'm going to wear now the sun has come out and the course is getting sloppy. On the lower half of my body I have a thermal bottom, a bib tight, then my skinsuit. On top, I have a long-sleeve compression top with arm warmers, then my skinsuit. Earlier I had a vest and jacket, but I decided to ditch the vest and cover my top with my Action Sports team jacket. There's a chance I might get hot, but I'm betting not. I opt for some knit shoe covers. We head back to the warming tent for some more spinning.

I get on the trainer for another 15 minutes of spinning, hop off and let Erik change out my skewer from the trainer, and head to call-up. The officials line us by registration order, and are calling out names and numbers. A local SoCal crosser, Jeff Goble, is a row ahead of me. I get my call sans bike, and the official asks me where by ride is. I joke with him that I'm running the entire course, and he lets me line up. Erik appears out of the tent, I wave him over, and he delivers the goods. I check a couple of things (skewer, brake centering) and I'm ready to roll. I'm 4-5 rows back times 8 riders per row--that puts me around 30-40 back. We get the umpire's briefing about pit entry/exit and get the one minute to go. I check my HRM and start it. She calls out the 30 seconds to go. We get the whistle and we're off. The start makes a slow sweeping right up a slight hill past the finish and then makes a right up a (now) slippery bank. I pass a few riders up the hill and a few more on the bank. Then it's follow the leader on the brown singletrack. Riders are going backward quick. I'm dodging wheels and crashes left and right. About mid-first lap I've made it into the top 10. The course is competely different from this morning: the hard frozen singletrack is now soft, mushy, slick mud, with snow and ice on the edges. We hit a hard right that leads us to a downhill off-camber straight. Halfway down the hill, I start sliding down the camber, and finally I lose it into the tape. I lose 4-5 positions and remount. I make it around the rest of the course, slipping and sliding the whole way to past the finish line where I'm given the 4 to go counter. This is a tune-up race for me, so I put it in maintain mode--don't go too fast, don't make mistakes, check out the course, maintain your position, but don't take any chances to change that position. There's a bit of water on the course and my feet get soaked--and cold. The laps count down, a few riders get by me. I check out their lines, and change a few of mine. With one to go I'm still trading paint with a couple of guys. One gets away, the other passes me and then immediately crashes. I take 16th. The bike is a mess but worked flawlessly. My HR was up where I wanted, but I was feeling a little crampy at the end--I'll fill up with more fluids for tomorrow.