• Race Report: Everest Challenge 2013 (Stage 2)

    NOTE: This post is rated PG-13 for coarse humor and mild strong language.

    Introduction

    A few days ago, when my lips were still too sunburned for me to smile comfortably, I regaled you, or somebody like you, with the exploits of my bike pals and me as we tackled Stage 1 of the 2013 Everest Challenge stage race. I’ve forgotten half of what happened during Stage 2 already so I better get to it or I’ll be reduced to the classic one-line race report, “There was a race and somebody must have won but it sure wasn’t me,” which could be used for just about any athletic endeavor, come to think of it.

    Pre-race

    I slept pretty well until about 2:00 a.m. Anybody with such a daunting race ahead of him, and one just as daunting already behind him, could be forgiven for having night terrors. But I didn’t have night terrors—I had night bowels. I suppose we should all be grateful that our bowels shut down and night … when they do. But to whom much has been fed, much is to be expected. I was up again around 4 a.m. for another round, and then somebody’s smartphone alarm—something between a purr and a growl—went off at 4:45 and we were all up and about with our pre-race preparations, which consisted mainly of groaning, committing brazen acts of flatulence, and making sophomoric jokes of the very highest (and lowest) order.

     

    Halfway through my bowl of GoLean Crunch (which I pronounce “Goal-ee-an Crunch” and pretend is the food they ate in “Star Trek”) I began to hear murmurs from below. They were the non-verbal equivalent of “never send to know for whom the bowels move; they move for thee.” It was time, once again.

    Needless to say, with four nervous bike racers sharing a motel room, there was no chance of the toilet being free. I puckered and squirmed and waited and finally heard the happy gurgle of the toilet flushing. I was already on my feet when I heard a cry from the bathroom and one of the guys came staggering out, looking (as another described it later) as though he’d just witnessed a murder. And in a sense he had: he’d killed the toilet. Totally overwhelmed it. Kicked its ass, you might say. The water level had risen to the rim and beyond, carrying his fecal offspring with it. This couldn’t be happening! I needed that toilet! I needed it now! I was already crowning!

    Fortunately, Paul’s friend Rich had another room just a few doors down, or this report might move from daytime TV territory into another “Silence of the Lambs” installment. I won’t dwell on the devastating effect this overflow had on our group other than to say that a) I plunged that bad boy myself once the maintenance guy dropped off the plunger; b) we tipped the maid very well, and c) when we got to the race I still wasn’t caught up from that giant dinner the night before. So I had to brave the trailer-mounted San-O-Let near the start line.

    The line wasn’t too bad, but the tiny trailer’s suspension was shot and/or its tires were low, because being in there was like being in a ship during a storm, or maybe being in a NASA flight simulator. There was nothing to hold onto and I couldn’t shake the thought that some mistake might be made and the trailer driven off toward some far-flung rest stop with me still in there.

    Stage 2 – 73 miles, 14,030 feet of climbing

    During the race, I had seven bottles of Cytomax, one bottle of water, one bottle of Heed, one foil pouch of Capri-Sun, half a banana, and five gels. I thought of the Capri-Sun as a Capri-Sonne; I first became aware of this beverage in 1981 because they sponsored a pro cycling team in Europe that rode kickass Koga-Miyata bicycles. (That was, incidentally, the first year Capri-Sun was sold in the U.S., and the year I got my first Miyata.) During the race, the prospect of a) a drink associated with a cool pro team, b) a drink that wasn’t Cytomax or Gatorade or Heed, and c) a drink that might actually be cold, was thrilling to contemplate. This was at a brutal part of the race when the temperature was 96 degrees and … wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

     

    Imagine this. It’s the summit of the first climb, to Glacier Lodge, and I’ve crested it with the leaders! In fact, as they slow to take water bottles, I cruise right past to take the lead. As we begin the blazing descent, I look back and yell, “OKAY DUDES! ARE YOU READY TO SHRED THIS GNAR’?!

    Now forget that whole vignette because it’s absurd. Of course that’s not what happened. In reality I hung with the leaders only until a good number of riders had fallen off, and then I backed off my pace, hoping not to waste all my energy early and then utterly crack on the final climb as I had the previous two years. I think seven or eight guys dropped me. I counted two of them whom I’d beaten the day before, when I’d placed sixth, so I figured if I didn’t see them again, I’d slip down in the overall standings. My hope, of course, is that they were foolishly going out too hard and would pay later.

    On the second climb, Waucoba Canyon, I was totally alone, and it started to get hot. Traditionally it hasn’t been such a bad climb, except that last year they lengthened it (for complicated reasons you don’t care about). Look, and zoom in: Waucoba is almost as high as the first climb now (original course is on the left):

     

    I kept my pace ridiculously mellow, my heart rate in the 130s. It was just a slog. It was the bike racing equivalent of Traffic School, except more boring. I’ll tell you the highlight: I was pedaling along, the air dead still, not a rider in sight, even my breathing so quiet the whole world around me was one huge hush, and then this giant and very loudly buzzing fly, probably a horsefly, flew by, from my left side past my face before flying off to the right, and I got a pitch-perfect example of the Doppler effect. It was as perfect as an animated short showcasing the THX sound system before a Pixar movie. And then it was over and things got boring again.

    The third pass, to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, has been accurately described as a ░░░░. That’s right, a word I can’t even put in this blog. The climb starts at just under 4,000 feet and finishes at over 10,000 feet (with a demoralizing little screw-you descent along the way). It’s always hottest at the lower sections, where there’s usually a bit of tailwind. It’s a sauna, in short. This is the place where you know whether or not you’ve saved enough: if you start crying, you’ve squandered your strength too early. I felt okay and only wished it didn’t go on so long. Sometimes I’d see somebody up in the distance and, over a period of five or ten minutes, overtake him. Sometimes somebody would pass me, and ride away just as gradually. It was like one of those car race video games, except in super-slo-mo. (I could be blasé about any rider passing me whose bib number didn’t start with a 4—that is, any rider who wasn’t in my category.) It was along this section I got the Capri-Sun. Somebody had brought it specially for his son, but the son rejected it, the little ingrate, so: my gain. Dang it was good.

    So, did you notice that just now? How I started the tale of this race by telling about the Capri-Sun, and then backed up and started the story from the beginning, and then caught up to the Capri-Sun bit again? That’s a very sophisticated literary technique called in medias res and it’s generally considered a privilege of the élite to get to enjoy such masterfully constructed narratives. I’d like to thank my mom and dad for paying for a good bit of the English degree that makes such things possible.

    I had some trouble with allergies and blew some giant snot comets out my nose. Twice they refused to detach, and flew out behind me like some grotesque narrow scarf, and I had to pinch them off with my forefinger and thumb and fling them away. I pretended I was finally expelling the tapeworms that I (and others) have long suspected are living in my stomach.

    I just kept pacing myself, going no harder than I needed to, which meant hardly working except for the really steep sections, which were kind of a treat because I could just plow over them by digging a bit deeper. This went on until I got to around 7,000 feet and passed a guy in my category. I recognized him from the day before when I’d introduced myself to him. I remembered distinctly that he was either 5th or 7th place the day before. (Okay, I guess that’s not actually remembering it distinctly.) It was one or the other, meaning one of us could pass up the other in the GC based on this stage. It had taken me awhile to overtake him and I was level with him long enough to exchange looks. Who knows what my look really said, but to my mind it was something like “Sorry about this, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.” His look was less inscrutable; it said something like “Damn you all to hell you soulless life-ruiner.”

    I pulled away only gradually, and occasionally I looked back to see where he was, and he was never very far behind. I feared that he’d been loafing and only needed a little extra motivation to dig into his reserves. No matter how long the climb lasted—and any EC veteran can tell you it’s seemingly endless—this guy was never far back. He was starting to really stress me out. I lifted my pace to where I was starting to suffer properly, and thus to doubt how long I could keep it up. But he just stayed there like some Masters 35+ doppelgänger. And then, horribly, he started to close in. Suddenly my dream of “touring” the EC was over, and I was actually racing.

    Oh, I did what I could, my heart rate well into the (gasp!) 140s, the memory returning of how cruel this climb could be, but there was really nothing I could do to defy fate. Soon my opponent had teamed up with some other guy and they were trading pulls in the headwind sections. (Yes, of course there were headwind sections.) And finally, after maybe twenty minutes of this mutual struggle, he had me. I was trying to figure out what to say. “Chapeau” seemed a bit twee, but “Hey, nice job, way to dig deep” would give him too much encouragement and help seal my doom. Of course, there was always “Damn you all to hell you soulless life-ruiner,” but that wouldn’t capture the cowardly relief I got by giving up.

    But to my sudden amazement, as he pulled up alongside, I realized this wasn’t my Masters 35+ opponent at all—it was one of his teammates from another category! Somehow, the two had traded places on the road. I’d been chased up the mountain by a phantom rival! I could have laughed, except that this would probably have started a coughing fit.

    Now it dawned on me that I didn’t have to slow down just because I wasn’t being pursued; I was close enough to the finish to stop saving my legs. It’s kind of like when I ran out of money in college and thought, “Could I use the Uncle John inheritance? No, I’m saving that for college … wait, I’m in college! I can use it!” So I kept up the higher pace, and hung with the two guys who’d just caught me. As we gradually neared the finish we caught a couple more guys.

    And then, in the last quarter-mile, I saw another Masters 35+ rider a ways up the road. How cool would it be, I thought, to pass him with like fifty meters to go? He’d be morally shattered, of course. A real sucker-punch, after all that suffering. Yeah, I figured, I had to do it. Now, normally a quarter mile wouldn’t have been enough to overhaul anybody, but the last quarter mile of this race is special. It’s over 10,000 feet elevation and you’ve got almost 170 miles of racing in your legs. A quarter mile is a vast distance in this case, especially when the guy you’re chasing is totally blown.

    So I dug deep and started completely drilling it. I was surprised—pleasantly or not, I couldn’t say—that I could get enough air to make my legs burn. But burn they did, and gradually I closed the gap. I realized maybe I’d actually catch him too soon, and he’d have a chance to react, but once I was upon him this fear was stamped out because once again I’d hallucinated—this wasn’t a fellow Masters 35+, just another innocent bystander in another category. I felt like the dog who finally caught the mailman. But a minute later it was all over and the race was finished.

    A guy I’d beaten the day before took second on the day, so I slipped to 7th in the overall. This stage had seemed to take at least an hour less than it had the year before, but looking back it turns out I was only like four minutes faster. And since I went so much faster on Stage 1 last year than this year, my overall GC time was slower this year. Lesson learned: suffering works! Next year I’m going way harder.

    For the nerds out there, here are some power and heart rate stats:

    - 259 watts at 143 bpm on the first climb (vs. 248 watts at 142 bpm last year);
    - 221 watts at 135 bpm on the second climb (vs. 220 watts at 133 bpm last year);
    - 232 watts at 136 bpm on the final climb (vs. 220 watts at 136 bpm last year).

    Before you get all smug about being way stronger than I, consider that those are “dog-watts”—that is, they’re based on my rate of vertical gain and my weight (from the formula f=mgh) without considering wind resistance, etc. A real power meter would’ve read higher.

    Presently Mike arrived, and before long he started digging through his bag. He pulled out a large shiny foil-wrapped thing that ended up being leftover pizza. Amazingly, he had enough to share with Craig and me. Because Mike’s initials are MC, he gets lots of ad hoc nicknames (e.g., MC Everest, MC Hammer) and through this gesture he earned the moniker “MC Genius” which seems to have stuck. Here are some photos of us at the top. Paul, Mike, Jamie, Lee, and Craig ... if you don’t know who these guys are, check out my Stage 1 report.

     

     

     

     

    Post-race

    For lunch we went to Erick Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop, a tradition we somehow didn’t follow last year. In the report I filed two years ago I called it a Bakery but it’s actually a Bakkery, as Ian pointed out, or maybe it was Lee. (I was tired and those British accents all meld together, especially when they’re saying non-English words like “Bakkery.”) Lee was all excited about the pastrami sandwich until I pointed out the placard that says “Note: our pastrami is not lean.” Amazingly, this turned him off to it. Obviously he’s got a lot to learn about food, but give him time … he’s still young.

    While we stood in line at Schat’s, Craig challenged me to a sandwich-eating race. Over dinner the previous night I’d bragged about my Burrito World Championship victory and I guess he thought it was time for my comeuppance. He also decided that for some reason it would be fair for him to get a head start on me and start eating as soon as he got to the table. Well, I was delayed finding a fork for my potato salad, and moreover forget all about the race, and he beat me. Man, was he stoked. He gloated like he’d just won Everest. To quote Lermontov, “I feel that one day he and I will meet on a narrow path, and one of us shall fare ill.”

    Note that it was impossible to get everybody to pose for this photo. They were all too into their food. My pastrami sandwich was not lean, and I mean that in the best possible way.

     

    During the drive we stopped at Bridgeport again, at a little shack where we got milkshakes and whatnot. Look at MC Genius here, two-fisting it with a shake and curly fries:

     

    The smoke was just as bad on the drive home. Man, it stunk. It all but blotted out the sun—check it out.

     

    In the grim town of Escalon (at least, it was grim when we rolled through) Paul badly needed some dinner. I was a bit hungry myself. We stopped at Taco bell, a good 15 minutes before closing time, but the good-for-nothing staff had decided to close early. We could see them in there, cleaning up. I’m sure Paul considered driving the Intimidation Van through the glass doors at high speed, but was just too tired. So we did a driving tour of Escalon, growing increasingly despondent as place after greasy place was closed. A little cat was lapping water from a puddle in a parking lot and we slowed to a crawl, considering its plight. We passed a supermarket. “You could just stop there and buy a big bag of frozen shrimp,” I offered. Finally we found a McDonald’s that was open. My fries came from a totally fresh batch—the fry cook seemed pretty proud of them—but they were oddly disgusting, even to my starvation-softened palate. Paul ate some damn thing, I don’t remember, and everybody else just kept up the post-Everest patter, words that drifted away instantly, like smoke.

    MC Genius loaned me his truck to drive home. Along the way, I noticed an ominous dashboard light: Tailgate Open. I could lose my bike right out the back! That would be a disaster, of course, but as I pondered the bruised state of my respiratory system, and suppressed a coughing fit, I reflected that there would be a silver lining to such a mishap. I’ve had enough cycling for awhile....

    - Dana

  • Race Report: Everest Challenge 2013 (Stage 1)

    NOTE:  This post is rated PG-13 for mild strong language and coarse humor.

    Introduction

    I decided to do something different with this year’s Everest Challenge report and turn it into a performance art piece with mimes acting it out for a group of homeless people down at the Civic Center, but I’m running low on time.  So I’m going with text and photos for the fifth year in a row.

    I hope that, like me, you don’t really care who won or how.  All that chess-game-on-wheels stuff happened way up the road from where I was.  But you know what?  You can line up the guys who beat me—let’s make it a line at a buffet in a Vegas casino—and I’ll eat those motherfrockles under the table.  In fact I’ll bet you money I could destroy them in a beer chugging competition, the birdlike climber bastards!  And now that the EC is over I’m going to catch up on lost beer, believe me.

    Pre-race

    This year we met at Mike C’s place in Oakland because we’re born competitors and enjoy duking it out for parking there.  Paul had brought the Intimidation Van again this year and was already loading bikes on its ass-kicking roof rack when I arrived with my wife and my daughter Lindsay, who almost certainly has developed some grudging respect for me after seeing that van and grasping my association with it.  She begged to be allowed up on the roof.  She was so stoked.  Ten years from now she’ll probably be our soigneur, and by then (if Chris Horner’s example teaches us anything) we’ll all be top pro racers with giant salaries and will give her a Rolex for Christmas.

    Next Ian and Craig showed up, and this new guy named Lee.  By “new” I mean not just new to our group, but freshly minted.  I think he said he was like 28.  I’m not even sure his fontanel has closed up yet.  Basically he’s like that new Death Star that was still under construction and we’re all Millenium Falcons.  He came all the way from London for the race, with no plan for getting from San Francisco to Bishop.  He mentioned his situation on some social media platform, which caught Ian’s notice.  (These Brits look out for each other.)  To sum up:  we EC veterans, when we’re not riding bikes, are all dithering with our 401(k)s and living wills, while this guy is just winging it, pointing himself blithely and vaguely at unknown distant couches … and yet he still lands a spot in the coveted Intimidation Van.  Well played!

    A week ago Paul e-mailed the group recommending that everybody bring something to supplement the chocolate chip cookies his girlfriend would be baking (for the second year in a row).  I mumbled something aloud when I read this, knowing my daughter Alexa might be in earshot if the word “cookie” was involved.  That was as close as I came to issuing an edict, but on Thursday morning I was working from home, my wife gone somewhere, and Alexa and Lindsay started crashing around in the kitchen.  A couple hours, some loud disputes about chocolate chips, and three sticks of butter later we had a bunch of banana bread.  Actually, it was kind of chocolate chip cake with banana added.  Glorious. 

    I thought this banana bread would make me a hero among the guys, but they’d also stepped up their game.  Craig’s kids had made like three kinds of cookies including soft ginger snaps and spicy chocolate cookies, Paul had a massive supply of chocolate chip cookies and Mike had styled us out with oatmeal cookies and auxiliary chocolate chip ones.  I just realized that the sheer number of instances of the word “cookie” in this post will draw unprecedented traffic to this blog.  Sweet.

    That’s the good news.  The bad news is the terrible fire raging just west of Yosemite that required us to detour north through Sonora.  The smoke was terrible.  We stopped at a visitor’s center due to Mike’s micro-bladder and the air outside the van was really unpleasant to breathe.  The stuffy van air, filtered through our respiratory/flatulatory systems, was actually preferable.

    Lunch was at J’s Place in the tiny town of Bridgeport.  The air was a bit better in Bridgeport, and the temperature quite pleasant, but the air conditioning in J’s place was jacked way up.  We all went back to the van for sweatshirts, and that’s when I realized just how fit and awesome we all were.  I’ll bet anybody with double-digit body fat would have been perfectly comfortable in there but not us elite über-athletes.  Speaking of temperature, in the endless race-planning e-mail string Mike had written, “High temps look lovely:  92 degrees in the valleys, and high 70s on the peaks.  I don’t know the conversion to Kelvin or whatever it is folks use in the UK.”  I followed up with some more advice for Lee:  “At the Everest Challenge the vertical gain isn’t measured in meters, but in shitloads.  You should calibrate your Garmin accordingly.”

    My Philly cheesesteak was way better than the grey-meat, Velveeta-clad, white-spongiform-roll atrocities I’ve had in Philly, but not as good as that place in North Beach.  The fries were pretty sturdy.  Mike sort of out-ate me by supplementing his animal flesh sandwich with a salad, but I let this roll off my back.  I mean, salad?  As in, what chicks eat?  How about a nice glass of Crystal Lite while you’re at it?

    After checking into the motel we went for our traditional spin-the-legs ride, joined by Jamie and another guy from the UK.  I can’t remember who was forcing the pace at the front—I was sitting in as usual—but it was ridiculous.  (Craig would mention later that this was the hardest he went all weekend.)  This was on one of those grades that are common in Bishop that are much steeper than they look.  Plus, we had a headwind.  My legs felt terrible.  I finally had to go up to the front just to slow it down.  Then we stopped for a photo-op and headed back to Bishop.

    We’d got to the registration early this year, and the pasta feed wasn’t really going yet.  Having the race a year early shrunk the size of the fields, and the overall operation was scaled back appropriately.  So we decided to skip the free meal and tank up at Astorga’s, the Mexican place our teammate Marybeth recommended last year.  Just about everybody ordered the Twelve, their three-item combo platter (chile relleno, enchilada, taco, rice, beans, garnish).  I got mine with a side of flour tortillas so I wouldn’t have to tinker with a fork while eating all my platter-shrapnel.  It’s much better to pack it into a burrito that I can guide into my mouth like a branch through a wood-chipper.  Oh, I just remembered that Mike got steak fajitas, because I got one of his tortillas, some of the steak, and most of his shrapnel.  Glorious.  I’d say we each ate at least 3,000 calories there, but we didn’t get any guacamole because, you know, we had to stay fit and trim for the race.

    Stage 1 – 88.5 miles, 14,965 feet of climbing

    We had two suites this year in the motel.  I was in the MegaSüite which had four beds, and it was a hive of pre-race jitters on Saturday morning.  There was only one bathroom, which meant the toilet was busier than a Model-T assembly line.  The Bishop water table probably still hasn’t recovered.  The bearings in the bathroom fan are probably shot. 

    Breakfast was Crisp Lice, which is what I call house-brand Rice Krispies to make my kids laugh.  (If you didn’t laugh, or at least chuckle, how did you get so bitter?  You didn’t even race!)  Mike had some highfalutin home-cooked meal with quinoa and a low glycemic index.  I’d have thought he was trying to intimidate me, but we were racing different categories!

    “You’re putting on deodorant?  Before a bike race!?” I heard Paul ask.  “Yes,” Lee replied.  “I have to smell nice for the ladies!”  A  moment later he added:  “Because I’m going to be riding with them!”  Laughs all around.

    During the race I drank eight bottles of Cytomax, one bottle of Heed, and a bottle or two of water.  Ian was working support for us again, though he started the support role a bit later so he could ride the first mountain pass.  (I know, so selfish, right?)  Mike, an EC newcomer, had given Ian very clear but complicated instructions, I think even in writing, but somehow for the second year in a row I simply neglected to do this.  I guess I don’t learn because every time I do this race I destroy another few billion brain cells, plus the desire to race it indicates that a certain amount of memory has been repressed from the previous year.

    My strategy for the race this year was a peculiar mix of fatalism and a desperate, groping embrace of my radical free will.  You see, last year I had my fastest-ever time on Stage 1, only to completely crack on Stage 2.  I was determined not to repeat this, and thus to go easier on Stage 1.  This meant willingly letting other riders go on climbs, even when I could simply choose to ride faster.  This takes a lot of discipline because it means descending solo, which is slow.  A group is so much faster because you can all slingshot off each other (really, one of the most exhilarating aspects of this sport).  The fatalism comes in when you remind yourself that the time gaps between places are pretty big, and dinking around on a downhill or stopping to get fresh bottles at the van won’t make much difference in the overall placing.

    Still, that crucial moment of letting myself get dropped by the leaders, maybe 2/3 of the way of the first climb, didn’t go quite like I’d planned.  I was sitting in sixth and saw that the grade was only getting steeper.  We’d all been absolutely hammering for a good while and it was time for a gel.  I’d have liked to wait for a lull in the action but that clearly wasn’t going to happen.  The problem was, I ripped the top off the gel package too high up, and couldn’t get the bleb to break (i.e., I couldn’t get any gel out).  I thought of putting it away, but figured it would burst in my jersey pocket and soil everything.  Plus, I needed those calories.  So I tore at the plastic with my teeth, getting more and more panicked and violent, my breathing more labored, and I imagine I was thrashing my head around like a bull terrier trying to rip the bull’s nose off.  I kept catching little bits of plastic with my other hand and stuffing them into my jersey pocket to assuage my liberal guilt for expelling so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while cycling.  Finally I got the damn thing open and the gel down my throat, but I was breathing so hard I actually kind of inhaled it, and by this point I was completely anaerobic.  I backed off my pace and moved to the side to let the rest of the pack pass me, hoping that by the time I hit the back of the group I’d be recovered enough to latch on.  (As always, we had a stiff headwind for most of this first climb.)

    Well, imagine my surprise at discovering the pack was no longer there!  I’d been the last rider in this front group without even realizing it.  Of course I’d have loved to glom back on the first five guys but it was simply impossible.  I drifted back to what was left of the group (it had pretty much shattered by this point and had been a small group to begin with).  By the way, I’m not trying to imply that the gel mishap cost me the race.  My plan had always been to release myself from the race leaders on my own recognizance; this just forced the issue.  You cannot imagine the amount of grief the guys gave me when I told this little gel story.  You’d think I started out by saying, “I had the race in the bag until….”

    I found a few guys to ride with until very near the first summit, when I decided I was bound to detonate if I kept it up.  So, I did the first descent solo, and in fact for most of the race I was all alone, fighting the wind.  By the way, my compact crank certainly cost me some time because I only have a 50x12 top gear, and spent a lot of time coasting when pedaling a 53x12 would have been faster.  But then, I’m kind of a grandma on the descents these days anyway, after a big crash in 2011.  I’m not going to run out and buy an 11-25 9-speed cassette (if I could even find one) because I just don’t care.  I get major points with the wife for being such a wussy descender.

    Still, things went pretty well for most of the first stage.  On the second climb I was able to dial in the pace I wanted, vs. struggling to turn over my lowest gear.  I kept my heart rate around 150, my cadence around 70, and was comfortable.  Sure, I had the impulse to say “Screw this!” and start hammering, but my memory of destroying myself on the final Stage 2 climb the year before kept me in line.

    I only had one moment of difficulty.  I was pedaling along into the wind on a straight section where the grade had eased off a bit, and having gotten a bottle of water from the neutral support decided to mix up some energy drink.  I had a Ziploc baggie of the mix, but when I pulled it out of my pocket I realized it had ripped.  I desperately tried to guide the powder into my bottle but the wind was blowing it everywhere, especially right into my face.  (This was Cytomax, which has such fine granules it makes baby powder seem as course as gravel by comparison.)  With one hand I held the bottle, with the other tried to increase the size of the rip in the bag, and the cap of the bottle was in my teeth, and my precious drink mix was literally slipping between my fingers.  Then I hit a bump and my bottle splashed all over my hands, making them a magnet for the drink powder which quickly formed a sticky pink candy on everything.  It was like one of those disasters at the Willy Wonka factory.

    On the flat section leading toward the Paradise climb (a nasty little bonus grade on the way to the final of the three main climbs) I caught two guys who had dropped me earlier.  One of them was a pretty tough-looking dude with his arms completely covered in tattoos, and biceps so big he’d had to slice the cuffs on his jersey’s sleeves.  He was leading at the base of the Paradise climb and suddenly veered left and started swinging his head around as if looking for something.  “I keep hearing voices,” he said (soberly).  I joked that if the voices told him to do anything violent, to please ignore them.  He didn’t chuckle or anything, just kept looking around.  I took this as my cue to exercise my radical freedom and get the hell away from him.  In the process I dropped the other guy too, and was all alone again.

    On the final climb I passed two fellow Masters 35+ racers who had dropped me at least three hours before.  I don’t mind admitting I enjoyed that.  And, due mainly to the smaller field, I got my best result ever in an EC stage:  sixth place.  For the nerds out there, here are some power and heart rate stats:

     - 281 watts at 155 bpm on the first climb (vs. 285 watts at 154 bpm last year);

     - 253 watts at 152 bpm on the second climb (vs. 260 watts at 153 bpm last year);

     - 233 watts at 147 bpm on the final climb (vs. 240 watts at 148 bpm last year).

    Before you get all smug about being way stronger than I, consider that those are “dog-watts”—that is, they’re based on my rate of vertical gain and my weight (from the formula f=mgh) without considering wind resistance, etc.  A real power meter would’ve read higher.  Being solo for more of the first climb is surely why I put out less power than last year but at a higher average heart rate.  (No, I wasn’t fitter last year.  I’m fitter this year.)

    Food was a bit more sparse at the top, though they had burgers, leftover pasta, some ad hoc soup, Coke, and granola bars.  I had something better:  my kids’ banana bread.  Man, that was good.  Jamie was already there, having placed a stellar third in the Masters 55+, and the other guys rolled in before long, one at a time according to their start times.  (Oddly, no two of us raced the same category this year; because of the August heat, Craig was doing the Clydesdales so he could start earlier.)

    My legs felt fine after the race, but my gut was roiling.  I had had to resort to one bottle of the race-provided energy drink.  I’m sure it works just fine for a great many riders, but EBVC lore is full of horror stories and now I’ve lived one.  I figured a trip to the outhouse would settle everything, but I couldn’t find one.  Some joe said there was one around the other side of the parking lot, but he was probably just making me waste energy and wear down my cleats because he has a teammate in my category or something.  Fortunately, during my walk I had two of the most amazing bursts of flatulence of my life.  The second one actually lifted me off the ground I think.  After those I was golden.  Needless to say I described this to the others, and Paul and Craig have both had exactly the same experience.

    Here we are maxin’ out at the top.  Note the sweat on Craig’s sleeve.  Mike’s too, for that matter.  By the way, that bike in the background of the second photo isn’t one of ours.  I assume that its owner wandered off into the woods, curled up into the fetal position, and died (which is what Mike was fantasizing about doing). 

    Ian had driven the Intimidator Van to the base of the final climb, and we all rolled down there to sit around in the heat and wait for Lee to arrive.  His category started over an hour after the rest of us, but still it seemed to take forever for him to show up.  He’d kept us waiting a bit after the shake-the-legs ride too, due to his advanced hair styling regimen and other sartorial niceties long abandoned by our ageing set, so we were less than patient.  Craig even managed to recruit a replacement—a guy who would call himself Lee and fake a British accent, so we could pretend we made good in driving Lee the twenty miles or so back to the motel—but finally the real Lee showed up.  He’d ridden well, with a respectable rolling time, but had punctured twice.  He only had one tube, so he had to bum a tube off another rider, but its valve was too short, etc.  He ended up spending forty minutes battling this. 

    Post-race

    Remember that photo above, of the bike with the Willier-branded SRAM brake caliper and the ash, and the brand-spanking-new Continental 4000S tyre?  (It’s a tyre because it’s on a Brit’s bike; click here for details.)  Well, the quality and newness of those tires deprived me of the opportunity to play my favorite game, Blame The Victim.  Lee just had some bad luck.  The shard of glass responsible for both punctures stayed in the tire and he didn’t find it within the tire tread until we were back at the motel.  Here it is now:

    The maid had neglected to replace our shampoo, but it worked out for the best because I borrowed some English shampoo from Lee that is designed specifically for men.  Not only that, but it’s a revitalizing formula, as well as a sport formula.  (If there were a doping control at EC, I’d probably have washed my hair and man-parts with mere soap, just to be on the safe side.)  Did this shampoo actually revitalize me?  Damn right it did.

    Dinner was magnificent.  We went to the Upper Crust Pizza Company for the fifth year in a row.  Last year I vowed to get my own pizza for an appetizer, because it was so painful not eating more than my fair share last time.  (Ian said this restraint was also painful to watch.)  But Craig offered to split a pizza with me, and then Ian said we could all three share one if we got the XL “Giganticus” size (as Ian called it).  So we did that, and refused to share with the others.  This didn’t bother Mike or Jamie, who also ordered appetizer pizzas.  Plus our entrées came with soup or salad.  This year they didn’t have the curiously spicy cream of mushroom, but instead potato-leek that was so good I discreetly licked my bowl.  I hope nobody saw me.  Actually, I don’t even care who saw me.  And I’d do it again.

    My entrée was the spaghetti Bolognese.  It was very good, though the sauce was not so rich that it would be a solid at room temperature, which is my gold standard.  Not the hugest portion either, but the pizza helped and I also inherited some steak.  This steak was very rare, which I really dug.  It awakened something primal in me, in fact, and I’m thinking of having some rare steak in the cooler during next year’s EC, just to prime me for an attack.  I don’t know who I’ll attack or why, but it’s going to be glorious.

    To be continued…

    You probably feel sorry for yourself because this story has been so long.  Gosh, I feel really bad.  But don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to rest and recover, maybe put a cool washcloth over your tired eyes and get a manicure on your mouse hand, before I get around to writing the second and final installment.  Check back, because something disastrous happened on day two that’s almost daytime talk show material.  You won’t want to miss it.

    - Dana

  • Everest Challenge Race & Food Report - Cat 3

    BISHOP, CA

    Short version of this two day stage race as kicking event:

    Day 1: Started too hard, cracked like an egg at the end.  Ate mass quantities.

    Day 2: Started easy, stayed with a small group and out of the wind, felt great … and then dropped anchor 4 miles from the final summit.  Ate mass quantities + a milkshake.

    You’ve likely read the Everest Challenge reports from years past, so I’ll skip most of the background.  But I will say this – everyone who had done this event before gave the same advice: “start easy, the last climb of the day will f****ing slay you.”  I didn’t take their comments to by hyperbole – I really tried to take it into account.  I signed up for Everest this year as I actually thought I was climbing pretty well. I was down to under 145 pounds, and my strava times on Diablo were as good I’ve ever had – so I figured I could handle it.  I’d done one double-diablo session with Todd/Craig/Dana a few weeks ago which went pretty well.  I’d had some respectable mountain bike race results. I’d seemed to manage my cramping issues that had troubled me in May and June.  So,  despite only training an average of 11 hours per week, I thought I’d give Everest Challenge a try, knowing that each day would be 6 plus hours for me.  Plus, my plastic bike is unstoppable – so I had that going for me.

    I had pored over previous year results to figure out if I should race M35+ or Cat3, and it looked like the Cat 3 times were a little slower, so I opted for that. I thought there might be a chance for me to get some upgrade points – not that I ever want to jump into a P/1/2 field. It would be purely for ego.  When I signed in on Friday, there were only 9 of us pre-registered. I flirted with the idea of switching and doing the M35+, but I stuck with my initial plan.

    Day 1 – A big climb and back down, some flat, a moderate climb and back down, then some more flat and a fucking awful climb. 88 mi

    It turned out 13 lucky souls showed up for the start of the Cat 3 race.  We went of 20 minutes after the M35+ race, and 10 minutes after the M45+.  We crawled out the 2 mile neutral start, and even stopped for a group nature break before getting to the start of the first climb.  I was hopeful that everyone had received the memo and were going to just tap out a mellow tempo for the first 20 mile climb. Once we turned onto the climb that dream evaporated.  This non-climber looking guy with a long ponytail and hairy legs just dropped the hammer.  Standing in the drops, he strung us out and various folks would holler out “just let him go!” – but nobody did.   I was at the back, and had to close gaps in the first few miles as a few popped.  After 7 miles, and the group getting whittled down to 6  from the original 13, I decided that I was too close to the edge with all of the standing in the drops climbing pony-tail guy was delivering, so at the next surge, I just let the group go, and watched them slowly ride away from me (even still, when I uploaded the stage on Strava, the recorded time was good enough for several top 10 results on the initial slopes of the climb – that ponytail guy was a hammer!).  After dropping off, I kept a hard tempo, but at the top, the leader already had a 12 minute gap on me, and was riding by himself. I caught and passed one in my category on the descent.   After passing a bunch of riders on the descent, I was more alone in a race than I’ve ever been – the roads are very exposed, and you can see for miles in either direction – and there was NOBODY  in sight.

    I wish I could say that the next four hours went by in a blissful rush, but they didn’t – and I’ll spare you the details.  The highlight for me was catching up to Paul K. (racing M45+), who was recovering from an illness and was just riding “as a tourist.”   We got to the turnaround point for the second climb within 10 seconds of each other, and he waited for me so we could descend together.  We also ripped across the valley (not a good plan, in hindsight).  Both of us enjoyed having company.  At the base of the third climb, I started having trouble holding Paul’s wheel, and he did an excellent job of riding with me and urging me to take it easy.  Which was difficult, as two riders in my category passed me on the lower slopes (the fellow I passed on the descent, and one that dropped off in the first five miles).  Eventually, it was just each person against the mountain, and we would yo-yo with each other, for what felt like hours.  Actually, it might have been hours.  Above 8,000 feet I felt like I could no longer breathe, and my lungs actually hurt more than my legs.  My legs, actually, felt pretty fresh, but I couldn’t go.  I wound up getting passed by two others in my category in the final few miles, finishing 8th (one person ahead of me gave up on the final climb and DNF’d).  When you have 4 miles to go, and your speed has fallen to about 4 mph, and nothing works right anymore, your demons have lots of time to mess with your head.  I was wondering how much my 5 year old cervelo might fetch on ebay.

    When I finally reached the top, 30 minutes after my target arrival time (6:43), I was too shattered to talk. I was too shattered to eat. I just wanted to curl up and wait for the winter snow to cover me up.  But eventually I did manage to suck down the root beer and chocolate almond milk I’d put in my drop bag, and I forced myself to choke down few bites the avocado, rice, beans, and chicken.  I couldn’t each much of my pre-packed Mexican-mash, but at least it was easier to deal with than the PB&J on offer from the promoters.

    Day 1 food – Dana will have more of this, appropriately documented with photos. Let me just tell you, the eating was epic.  Two hours after the race I was feeling good enough to eat, and I ate a lot. 

      

    Day 2 – A moderate climb and back down, a tiny bit of flat, a long and windy climb and down, and the most horrible,  relentless, soul-crushing climb I could ever hope to see.  74mi

    All 13 signed in and showed up for the second day on the pain train.  The DNF folks were allowed to start the second day out of pity, or something.  I don’t get it. It was a repeat of day 1, except that only the Sho-Air rider who DNF’d the previous day went with the ponytail guy, and the previous day’s winner.  He even went so far as to set the tempo for him.

    First climb, made it to the top with the main bunch without much difficulty – and as I’d hoped, I actually didn’t feel bad from the previous day at all.  There were the two up the road, and then our group of seven.  I got to the front on the descent, which turned out to be a good thing, as the group broke apart a bit, and one rode away, and four of us formed a group at the bottom.  At the end of the flat section, one of the guys that got dropped on the descent ripped past us and attacked, taking the previous day’s 2nd place finisher with him, to chase down the rider that was 3rd place on the road.  The remaining four of us just stayed together.  The 4th and 5th placed riders set tempo the whole way up the second climb, eventually dropping the previous day’s 7th place finisher. (you getting all this?).  I was happy to let them do the work, and I thought I was doing a good job of keeping plenty of reserve in the tank for the final 20 mile, 6,000ft monster.  In fact, I did feel outstanding at the base of the final climb.  One of the pacers dropped back to stop and refuel, and me and the 5th place dude carried on (named Sean).  Sean put 30 seconds into me on the initial ramps, and I let him go, wanting to settle into my own pace.  After a mile, I caught him, and then passed him.  After another mile, he caught back up, and we rode together at a good clip.  After about 2,000 feet of climbing (now at 6,000 elevatio), I could see a EBVC kit – which I assumed to be Dana. He was riding a good steady pace, and I was getting closer, but very slowly.  The 4th place fellow caught Sean and rolled past us, taking Sean with him – leaving me to slog it out alone.  I got within 10 seconds of Dana as we passed the 7,000 foot mark, after a long flat section (I was able to put it in my 53, and Dana, lacking such a manly gear, was just fluffing along.  I was hoping to catch up to him and point down and say “I’m in the good ring.”  But the road turned upwards before I caught, and then things went bad. I started to wheeze.  I had the same feelings as the day before. Another bonk? No oxygen? I don’t know, but it wasn’t pleasant.  The same riders that passed me the day before, caught and passed me again within two miles of the summit, in the same order, as the day before.  But this time, I really was standing still. 

    Anyways, I finished the second day like I did the first.  With a whimper. 8th out of 13th in the Cat 3. I was aiming for under 6 hours, but finished 6:15 – the last two miles took me about 20 minutes.  In looking at the published results, I realize that I was as high as 5th on the road each day – but only the order across the finish line matters.

    Day 2 food: Leftover pizza from the previous day’s dinner in my drop bag (awesome!), along with a cold chocolate almond milk.  Various crackers and salty snacks once back to the van.  Then a BLT sandwich and chips at the local deli in Bishop.  Followed by a chocolate shake and curly fries in Bridgeport.  And cookies. Lots of homemade cookies.

    Everest Challenge Post Script

    I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, but already there is a part of me that would like to. I’d like to finish where I ride the last miles at something other than walking pace. If I were to do it again, I’d want to race M35+ with some friends & team-mates, just on the off chance that I’d have someone to ride with for some portion of the race. I’d want to do it again to see if the same demon – the demon that lives above 7,000 feet –   would come visit me on the final climb of the day, and if I’d have the strength to tell that demon off.   We will see.

    Something to say about the final climb on the second day. I was warned.  Sternly warned, by everyone, how hard it is. I believed them.  But it is beyond comprehension.  As you ride it, and you tick off the mileage and altitude, you know the climb isn’t over, but your brain can’t believe it.  There is no more mountain visible, and then you turn a corner and see tiny little shiny objects on a thin ribbon of a scar running diagonally down a distant mountain face … and you realize that is the road you must go up. And once you get up and over that, there’s another just like it.  There were several times that I looked up and whimpered, “that’s not possible” as I saw double digit grades going off into the distance.  To which the demon helpfully suggested, “you should just curl up under this nice tree here.”

    - Mike Campbell

  • Race Report: BBC Albany Criterium M35+ 1/2/3

    I was tentative heading back to this hometown crit as I could still see and almost feel the remnants of my ass from last year’s slide-out into the curb on the last corner. I had considered not coming back to the scene of the crime but figured I had to get back on the horse (as MB put it). The night before the race I reviewed various pointers regarding safe cornering techniques (e.g. not pedaling through the corner, transferring your weight to your down outside pedal, applying light pressure to the lower inside handlebar, etc.). I was determined to make it safety through the course’s slightly off-camber crowned corners but mentally it was clear that I was probably over thinking it.

    I did a quick warm up around city streets and soon found myself at the line sadly lacking any orange teammates but with the usual suspects and teams including Safeway, Squadra led by former EBVC veteran Tim Larkin, Cushman Wakefield, Mike’s Bikes, BBC, Raley's/VW, Lange Twins, etc. As the race began we started with a “hot lap” for a Cycles Gladiator t-shirt for the winner of the first lap, not many guys were getting really excited about that prize but the quick pace soon began as a significant early break of 3 formed several laps later. Our times around the four corner course were just over a minute per lap as we kept the 3 man break in sight. I found myself in an early unsuccessful move to bridge to the break and mentally still felt a little uncomfortable and afraid to tilt my bike to the point of losing traction so I overcompensated by taking horrible lines into the corners. I found myself going hard into the inside of the first corner without fully committing to the inside lean and then heading into the curb on the other side of the road having to apply my brakes in the process, my rhythm was definitely off. At this point the early break of 3 was fairly well established with a 25-30 second gap.

    As the race progressed I became more relaxed but still a little off as I tried to conserve energy in the middle of the pack. The field was well motivated so the 3 man break remained within striking distance. Late in the race it was starting to become apparent that this break's horsepower was diminishing, quickly a couple laps later we were all together again. With the lap cards out at 8 laps to go Tim Larkin initiated a hard solo counter attack and surprisingly no one went with him. In response one of the Safeway riders surged off the front but wasn't committed, I decided to go for it and attacked hard passing Safeway and burying myself to complete the bridge to Tim. He eased up for a moment to let me join and then we were off trading long half-lap pulls feeling the pain of the 2-man effort. We didn't let up and opened up a roughly 15 second gap. Every lap we could hear the cheers at the start/finish line from all our local friends and it looked like we might actually succeed in holding off the field. With 2 laps to go our gap was down to ~10 seconds so we pushed hard and kept rotating. The final bell lap came with our gap now down to ~6 seconds and the field charging upon us, before I knew it we were entering the final corner as we were caught by the sprinters (while Tim was aware I didn't really realize how close they were). I was extremely disappointed but tried to maintain my speed to salvage 7th place. At least we made the race interesting and both Tim and I were awarded with the Cycles Gladiator most aggressive rider awards for the race. After the race all I could do was shake my head in disgust and after chatting with Tim I realized all the subtleties that I could have focused on to support a better outcome including 110% commitment in the final 3 laps, not allowing even a small gap to form between us, maintaining a more aerodynamic position, not freewheeling into the corners, and maintaining full momentum and better lines through the corners. Special thanks go out to Ron Reade (Not!!) for getting on the front and chasing us down pulling the entire field on the last couple laps to help his Safeway team get 18th place.

    Breakfast: blueberry buttermilk pancakes, fresh cantaloupe
    Pre-race snack: everything bagel with cream cheese and a banana
    Dinner: Spaghetti with marinara sauce, chicken Italian sausage and broccoli

  • Race Report: Pescadero Road Race M45+ 1/2/3

    Breakfast - the same as always

    I made a commitment to myself to race 10 times this year. This was my 6th race. 

    Short version - Foggy/sunny. Hilly/flat fast. Technical sweepers. National and District Champs get top 3.
    Beautiful course. 74 miles of racing. 21st of 50. 

    Longer version -

    I've never done Pescadero. I've always been intimidated by the climb.  After Berkeley Hills I ran into Jay B. He said I would really like the race, as the course goes through some great environs. He was right. 

    I borrowed Jamie's Zipp 303's - my first race on carbon wheels. They're really nice. I test rode them yesterday on the Bears, but I didn't get a chance to really get used to how they handle on high speed corners. 

    It was chilly at the start. The fog had returned after the past couple hot days.  We took off with a group of about 50 of the usual suspects. The course rolls north on Stage Road. There are a couple short climbs that felt longer than I expected, having only seen the profile on a map. I got my first chance to push the new wheels through some damp corners. I touched the brakes and guys went flying by on the left and right. I hate that feeling. When we hit Hwy 84 attacks started right away, but nothing stuck.

    The sun was shining by the time we hit the feed zone. It seemed super bright after the fog. Haskins turned out to be not as bad as I thought. There was some damage done, but mostly the group hung together.  The technical sweeper turns on the descent were my next challenge. I did better this time, but still burned a few matches needlessly. 

    A group of 4 rolled away in the headwinds after the descent. 

    The second time up the Stage Road bumps the major players went to the front. I was hanging about 4th or 5th on the second climb, feeling pretty good to be feeling good. On the second short descent we came upon a car going slow. Dirk and one other rider jumped right around, while most of us sane riders paused a bit to see if someone was coming. It seemed reckless and ill advised to use traffic to launch an attack, but what do I know.

    By the time we got to Hwy 84 the group coalesced again and Hammer was on the front, covering every move John Hunt and Kevin Metcalf tried. We'd just about caught the 4 at the feed zone. I pulled over to grab a bottle and lost a few positions.  When we hit Haskins the second time there was more carnage and unfortunately I was behind it. Jump, jump, jump trying to leapfrog up to the front and each time the rider I'd catch was going backwards. I saw the front group of about 15 riders crest the hill. This time my descent was not so great. Next thing I knew the power was up the road. Eventually a group formed, but nobody would work. I jumped hard and, of course, they all woke up and chased. But no one would pull through. 

    So I pulled - pretty much the whole way to the final climb. 

    I saved enough to finish the climb with some style, but most of the group raced for 13th place. (we'd caught a couple that had been spit out of the front group)

    Crossed the line 21st.  Pass.

    Hammer 1st (Cale Reeder) and 3rd (Dirk Himley).  Kevin Metcalf 2nd. 

    They told us at the finish that there was food back at the start. Had a bagel, two apples.

    Dinner was enchiladas.

    Thanks to Jay for giving me the spark to do this race. Thanks to Jamie for the Zipp 303s. (They're back in their bags, just fine.)

  • Race Report: CCCX Fort Ord Circuit Race (M45+ 3/4)

    Short version: Oatmeal, OJ, decaf. Long drive, short race, 7th place. Snacks in car on drive home.

    Slightly longer version: I had two bowls of oatmeal, plus some Nature's Path multigrain cereal. The decaf was from Cole, hand-ground at home in a burr grinder. The drive sucked because from San Jose to Monterey was bumper-to-bumper and took over 2.5 hours in total. This did however give me time to eat the turkey sandwich that I packed for lunch, given the 2pm start time. And good thing I plan for a long warm-up and leave home early, or I wouldn't have even made it in time for the race. As it was, I only had time for one warmup lap around the course, which is 4.3 miles, then dropped off my pump and stuff at my car and rolled to the line, almost the last one to get there.

    The other good thing is that the race started slowly. Maybe because it was very brisk and quite breezy, and nobody wanted to get things going right away, but the first lap (of 5) was almost ridiculously slow. That was okay, because my heart and lungs needed some time to get going. It got faster each lap, and there were a few breakaway attempts. The field was small, around 20 riders, so while there wasn't much room to hide from the wind, it was also not difficult to know where everyone was. As a result, no-one got away, and a field sprint seemed pretty much assured.

    That was fine with me, but without any teammates the finish on that course is very difficult. The long downhill into the final curve before the uphill sprint was today into a fierce headwind. Without any teams really organizing a leadout, the downhill is a bit of a stock car race, with people all over the road. I found myself off to the left, on the windward side of the road, as we approached the final curve, so tried to tuck back in behind some guys with the plan of launching just as we came around and into the final 200 meters, uphill but with a tailwind. That worked just fine, and I did nothing but pass guys until the line. Except for those 6 ahead of me.

    Pass, I guess.

    - Sean

  • Diablo - Tour of California Report

    No, none of us were invited to race this year.  A shame really but a few of us decided to meet up at Vine St Peets at 10:15 - although one of us had some issues and decided to show closer to 10:25.  

    Kind of a weird conversation ensued while Lucas was getting coffee.  Some woman at Peets took offense to our kits, or as Traci would call them, costumes.  She felt they were too loud and then when she asked if the names on the kits were sponsored she sort of pffft/rolled the eyes and walked away.  Strange.  Well, our straggler showed and off we went.

    Over Spruce, out Wildcat, Million Dollar bike path, and then basically straight out Olympic into Walnut Creek to meet up with Ian and Matt.  We met at Whole Foods, picked up some mediocre prepared sandwiches, threw them in Dana's backpack (well some of us did and some just put in our jersey pockets) and then rolled on out to ride up North Gate and then part way up the Summit to find a good place to watch the race.

    On the climb up, I was dropped...no biggie I figured I would and we regrouped at the Saddle.  A ton of riders were also climbing North Gate and there were a bunch of folks at the Saddle.  Refilled water bottles, got some free red vines and then off we went up toward the Summit to find a good place to watch the race.

    We went all the way up, probably 3k from the actual summit.  We found they weren't letting cyclists ride the last 2k so we came back down a bit and found a spot to see them coming up from below and a good steep spot to see the attacks.   We were there probably about 1 1/2 - 2 hours before they actually came through which gave us plenty of time to eat our sandwiches and discuss our cell phone reception ad nauseum.  Although I am glad Dana figured out how to download an App - his first or second if I recall.  It was the Amgen Tour Tracker so we could figure out how Nate English was doing and when the group was coming through.



    The weather was a bit warm although when the wind blew you almost wanted to grab a vest.  We watched other riders ride up past us toward the summit only to be turned around by the no riding within 2k rule.  We hid our bikes way up the hill so the myriad buses wouldn't run them over.  Alex showed up, surprising us and proceeded to make prosciutto and mozarella sandwiches.  We chatted with folks, saw Mad Fiber Dean, carried on more about Tour Tracker and Nate and Air Wolf and Jens and just nonsense.
     


    Then the race came...we screamed at people, we didn't get on the nonlive TV coverage that I could see and then the broom wagon passed and we rolled down the hill.

    I gotta say it was awesome descending (yes I just said that) getting to use the whole road and even more awesome sucking the wheel of the Tour pros that were riding back down the hill to the Tour Bus staging area.  Except for the one douchebag that was emptying his pockets of his gels as he descended North Gate.  We hopped on BART in Walnut Creek after a discussion with the crazy guy and got off in Rockridge.  A bit sunburned and a bit parched but I'd do it again.  It was fun.

    I'll leave it to Dana, Ian and Alex to post the pictures.  Mark Hornor failed to ride his bike with a cooler full of beer but that was okay.  One of the Bontrager riders did grab a beer from a spectator and take a drink in front of us...kind a funny.

    MB - we got pics of Jens.  In fact Matt descended just ahead of or just behind him.

    Oh and I dropped a lot of people on the descent....hell yeah.

    - Tony

    (all photos by Alex W-B)
     
  • Race Report: Berkeley Hills Road Race

    It was a beautiful day for a bike race. And what better place than our backyard, home course.

    Thanks to Ken Cluff for notifying me back in March that reg had opened for this race. I put the money down on this one almost two months ago and actually followed through by racing today.

    The weather was picture perfect. Not a leg warmer is sight.

    I entered the M45 1/2/3. There were 60 pre-regged and that looked to be about the starting number.  Lucas was the only other EBVC rider I saw.  He raced with the M35 today. 

    As we rolled up to San Pablo Dam road from the marina I saw many old familiar faces, and a few new M45's like John Hunt. 

    The first attack went off in the first couple hundred meters. From what I remember of the first lap there was a break away pretty much the whole time. It seemed fast, and indeed our group grabbed the Strava KOM for a little while today. (The P12s blew it away).  We passed the Cat 3s.

    On the second lap a couple Thirsty Bears got away and Dirk Himley quickly bridged up. I was expecting a reaction from the pack, but none came. 

    The second time up Mama and Papa wasn't so bad. The pack wouldn't let anyone get far ahead, but didn't want to work hard enough to reel in the break.

    I was resigned to sitting in. I really didn't think I'd last long if I dug deep. 

    On the third lap the little bump by Carriage Hills was torture. That's when I started cramping. Pretty much the whole way up Bear Creak road I was finding ways to keep my legs from seizing. 

    When we hit Mama for the final time I thought there would be attacks but it stayed pretty safe and sane. The same 15 guys pulled away slowly but everything came together on the rollers on top. 

    On the final roller before the descent to the base of Papa I took a couple deep pedal strokes and suddenly found myself quite a ways off the front. I considered going for it, but decided to hold my momentum and let the pack catch me just as we started the descent. That's what happened and I slotted in for 3rd. Just then the refs started telling us to pull over, the Cat 3's were coming through.  They were neutralizing our pack in the final 2kms!  We disobeyed and kept riding. The ensuing chaos had about 10 Cat 3s mixed in with the lead 10 M45s. We held steady through the feed zone, and most of the Cat 3s were complying with all the shouting for them to stay right. 
    Just then John Hunt came up on my left and I thought I had the perfect wheel for the final approach. Before I could slot in, Kevin Susco jumped from the front. Two others jumped after him, but John hesitated. I had waited just long enough to give the lead 3 riders enough room that I couldn't reach them when I finally jumped hard. I landed in no man's land, 250 meters from the finish and not sure how far ahead I was from the thundering herd.  The next part is hazy. Susco blew up and seeing him coming back gave me the inspiration to try to hold on to the finish. The thundering herd never arrived. I think I was third from our group - which meant 6th on the day.   Pass.

    This was the 56th running of the Berkeley Hills Road Race. Glad to be a part of it.

    Breakfast - Cole Coffee. Oatmeal, raisins, yoghurt, honey. 
    Race - 1 Power Bar Gel 
    Lunch - Pita, cheese, egg, spinach and turkey sandwich.

    - Steve

  • Race Report: Red Kite Criterium #3

    The Red Kite Criterium omnium series has been a well attended event with full fields on a fast industrial park course in Livermore. Today's third edition of the event drew me back out to battle all the local 35+ 1/2/3 teams including Primetime, Squadra, Safeway, Clif Bar, BBC, Zipz, Mike's Bikes, Morgan Stanley, Cushman Wakefield, Raley's/VW, SJBC, etc.

    The 60 minute race began fast as usual with a 3 man break forming immediately on the first lap dangling 10-20 seconds off the front. I just settled in and made sure to stay in the front third of the peloton. As soon as the first break was reabsorbed a counter attack formed. This pattern repeated itself over the first 30 minutes but the hungry field didn't let the breaks get very far. While I was still playing the waiting game a 6-7 man break formed with many of the big teams represented and I realized this was probably the winning break but for whatever reason it didn't stick and the group all came back together again. At this point I was thinking it was likely going to come down to a field sprint and Dean Laberge with Primetime would win again. A few laps later one of the strongest riders in the field, Zipz' Jan Weissenberger attacked solo and I looked over at Trevor White and together we bridged up to him with  Primetime's Kevin Klein on our wheels. Moments later Robert Pasco from Safeway joined us to complete our five man break. Four of us without any help from Kevin Klein (he sat on us the entire time without 1 pull) were committed to making this break stick and we each put our heads down and rotated smoothly and just tried to ignore  Kevin. Trevor and I had been in a similar break several weeks ago that was caught in the final lap, we were particularly motivated to make this one stick. With 3 laps to go it looked like our 20 second gap was holding but we knew it was tentative so the four of us dug deep. At the beginning of the final lap we could see the storming field was getting closer but the four of us continued to pull hard without hesitation and we held them off. We entered the final turn before the finishing straight as the sprint began, we finally saw our 5th man Kevin Klein as he attacked us. Jan was the only one strong enough to get on his wheel. As they battled for the win  (Jan won) I battled for 3rd place with Robert Pasco but was nipped at the line as Trevor was just behind us in 5th with the field seconds behind him. The break succeeded, I was stoked. It turned out that the officials relegated Kevin Klein to 5th in our break group due to the wavering line that he took in the sprint running Jan toward the cones in the last 50 meters. So, I ended up 3rd place with two bottles of wine and a cheesy medal.

  • Race Report: Panoche Valley Road Race 35+ 1/2/3

    It's been over 5 years since I last experienced this race. It's usually a tailwind on the way out. This year it was the opposite as we started by facing a head/crosswind at 30 mph from the SE, immediately I didn't feel particularly great physically or mentally but trudged ahead. This extremely windy version of the Panoche Pass road race essentially can be described as follows: 1) long climb into a head/crosswind 2) descend with head/crosswind 3) left turn into a fast tailwind/crosswind 4) serious attack climb + descent through crosswind in four man break 5) narrowly avoid crash 6) turn around 7) climb and descend into headwind, new break forms and then group comes back together again 8) crosswind 9) climb with tail/crosswind, gapped from new lead group of six 10) unsuccessful attempt to bridge 11) descend with tail/crosswind, doing 80% of the pulling for my two unhelpful chase group leeches 12) tired flat finish (see course profile below). 

    The race started with several 1-2 man attacks that dangled off the front. They really couldn't get away, the main group wouldn't let them get too far. I just wanted to sit in and hang on and figured the important attacks would come later. The Cushman Wakefield team had the biggest numbers and kept sending attacks. About 5 miles before the left turn to the turnaround one of their riders stuck it and established a huge gap. After the left turn we entered a strong tail/crosswind section and the pace skyrocketed, this is where the second real attack formed. Brenan Daly with Iron Data Thirsty Bear and Nick Theobald with Safeway put in another strong effort as we entered the short climb before the turnaround. Marcel Appleman from Mike's Bikes and myself were the only two that stuck the move with Nick and Brenan (3rd overall on the Strava segment for this portion of the course). The four of us opened a small gap on the chasing field after the crest as we entered the short twisty descent to the turnaround. Brenan led us down into the first sharp right corner, flying a little too hot into the corner he rode himself into the dirt and up an embankment forming a cloud of dust with Marcel on his wheel who also followed him into the dirt. Nick Theobald and I managed not to go down but were a little shaken up, we slowed as we entered the turnaround, our gap at this point was only about 20 seconds. A group of chasers caught Nick and I on the first climb out from the turnaround, when we crested the climb and proceeded to point our bikes downhill the headwind was so strong here that I actually had to shift to easier gearing to move forward, we were descending here at 10-15 mph going full out. Shortly thereafter a new front group of about 15 guys re-assembled just before we turned right heading west through the long 27 mile slog through the canyon back to the start. This is also where we finally caught the completely spent Cushman Wakefield rider that was off the front. The trip back was much faster as we now had a cross-tailwind for much of it. But unfortunately there were quite a few good climbers in the group that were lighting it up on every hill each time shedding riders off the back. When we got to the final main climb heading back I found myself in a select group of nine guys but I unfortunately (+ two others) could not handle the pace and became disconnected as we saw the front six drift away.  All I could do was put my head down and watch the gap open up from 5 to 10 to 20+ seconds. The two riders on my wheel (Marcel from Mike’s Bikes and Michael Vetterli from Olympic Club) would not pull through and forced me to attempt the bridge which was conceivable, I tried but I just couldn’t do it alone. Eventually Vetterli put in a few token pulls (too little too late) and as we entered the finishing 500 meters it was clear that Marcel had been saving himself this entire time waiting to sprint for 7th place, which he did, I still managed to get 8th. It turned out that Brenan Daly who had crashed earlier not only made the lead group of six but won the race out of that group in the final sprint. He not only had the most spectacular crash of the day but a spectacular finish as well; I’m thinking the adrenaline that spiked through his system actually helped him win the race. 

    Pre-race sustenance: Bowl of shredded oat spoonfuls with banana, Starbucks coffee; bagel sandwich with egg, cheese and sausage.

    Post-race sustenance: Focaccia turkey breast sandwich with extra mustard, homemade turkey garlic meatloaf, baked potato, kale salad, and Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale.

  • Double-header Race Report from the Sea Otter Classic

    Thursday April 18th:  Masters 45+ Cat 4 Criterium

    Synopsis: Cereal Medley with mega-berries, OJ, coffee, Egg McMuffin no meat, more OJ, 5th out of 23 in technical crit, Israeli Wrap, Cappuchino, Red’s Donuts chocolate raised glazed donut.

    Breakfast: cereal medely with variations (no mesa sunrise flakes, added Crispix), slice almonds, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apple chunks. Coffee, OJ
    2nd Breakfast: English muffin with cheese & egg, Orange juice.
    Course: ‘bent hot dog’? (see Strava http://app.strava.com/activities/49503906 ) Several very tight turns mostly taken single file. Rise in middle in both directions. Finish partway up the rise after coming out of the norther set of turns.
    Race: Pretty uneventful. One guy kept going off on the downhill just for kicks. he always got caught in the turns or the rise after start/finish line. One serious move by a guy with a teammate. I helped chase that one down. The race basically comes down to the order you go into the final two turns in. I went in in 5th, stayed on the wheel I was on too long and let a guy pass me so came off the wheel and squeaked my way back into 5th with a bike throw at the line.
    Post-race: banana, chocolate milk
    Lunch: Israeli wrap at Mundo’s cafe next to my hotel. They are partnering with Red’s donuts up the road on a new restaurant so I grabbed an espresso drink and went to check out Red’s. Turns out they won a donut smackdown with Krispy Kreme and man was that a good donut.

    Friday April 19th: Masters 45+ Cat 4 Road Race

    Synopsis: Cereal Medley, OJ, coffee 15th(?) out of 40+(?) in hilly road race. Mole drenched enchiladas

    Breakfast: cereal medley with raisins, Coffee, OJ
    Course: Hilly road race course (5100’ climbing in 49 miles). You neutral roll from the Laguna Seca track out to the start of the circuit, do however many laps (6 in my case) then peel off for the climb up Barloy Canyon rd to the finish. On the circuit there is a leg breaker of a climb in/after the feed zone, short but steep, then later a longer KOM/QOM climb that starts to hurt in last 200m. Other than that it’s pretty rolling. On the finishing climb only last 1km or so of finish has any real steepness. That was the problem for me.
    Race: Really uneventful. There was pretty much no action all race. People were not even going that hard up the climbs, and even if we did, folks would slow at the top and everyone would catch back up. There were a few times when we strung it out on the flat/rolling sections, but we still came into final climb with 25 or so of the original 40 or so. Things slowly hotted up on the final climb and with about 3km to go the grade was still pretty gradual but the pace was lifting to the point where I could not stick and maybe 20 people started to go away. That group started to shed some riders as things kicked up between 2 and 1km, and as it got steeper I was stronger relative to the others, but there was still too much distance to catch up to the leaders and I ended up coming in around 15th.
    Post-race: chocolate milk
    Lunch: Mole drenched ‘Enchilads Oaxacaenas’, rice, beans, chips, salsa and a divine mango/orange shake at La Tortuga (source of the Hurache mentioned in Sean’s ghost written CCCX race report). The race left me feeling a bit down, but the lunch put me back in a happy place.

  • Spring Break in Boulder

    It's 25 degrees here with a foot of fresh snow.  Pretty, yes, but yesterday was the most harrowing drive of my life. We took a 60-mile detour around Vail pass (which was closed) before getting caught in a full-on blizzard that would  have any Southern Californian PUKING FOR DECADES.

    So, don't kid yourselves ... there's really no good reason to leave California unless it's to ride in Europe.

    - Dana

  • Race Report: Turlock Lake RR, M35+ 1/2/3

    It was another dark early a.m. trip out to the Central Valley. The Masters 35+ 1/2/3 race started at 8:10 around Turlock Lake.  This was a course I've never done before but turned out to be a pretty nice course nonetheless even with the serious winds we had to contend with. Each lap was roughly 23 miles with three laps total; the terrain included nice flat sections of smooth roads and plenty of small rollers and a few pot holes for good measure. Most of the course included full road closure which was nice. The race began with one strong Squadra rider (iron man time trial specialist) going off the front immediately after the whistle. He had four or five teammates in the field so they were all content to let him go and put in a false tempo. A few half hearted chasers from other teams tried to bridge up without success. Toward the end of the first lap there was a solo BBC rider in between the main field and the lead break. In retrospect I'm still not exactly sure if it was a good move, but I shot off the front of the field and went solo up the road to bridge up to the BBC rider and after about 20 minutes of grueling pain in the wind I ended up dropping the BBC rider and made the bridge to the lead rider. He was happy to see me and soon we were trading pulls efficiently. We had about a 1.5 minute gap on the main field but soon looked back to see they were stringing it out single file. About a third of the way into the second lap we hit some rollers and could see there was a break leaving the main field and bridging up to us. We eased up as we really wanted some help at this point. It turned out to be a three-man break including one BBC rider and another Squadra rider. We settled into a great five-man paceline and we all took even pulls it was a nice steady even effort, exactly what was needed to open up a decent gap on the field. Entering the third and final lap our paceline disintegrated a little and I noticed one of the two Squadra riders was skipping turns at the front. The three of us other than his teammate convinced him to contribute a little more and we resumed a steady rotation and had a roughly 3 minute gap on the field. It broke down again heading into the final 10 km that's when the cat and mouse game began. We made our final right turn into the finishing straight which included a smooth open road and a nice tailwind. With about 3 km to go the Squadra time trial specialist slipped off the front and all four of us looked around and no one covered the move, especially his teammate who was sitting pretty. Our pace increased slightly and we started to close the gap on him but he had about 200 m in front of us when we got to the final 1 km mark. I tried to be patient hoping one of the others would initiate the final bridge move but with about 500 m to go I had to do something as time was running out so I attacked from the back as hard as I could and was able to catch the lead Squadra rider.  But of course his teammate was now on my wheel and with about 100 m to go he popped out of my slipstream and as I tried to respond again my muscles seized. I was barely able to hold off the remaining chasers but did manage to come in second. It was a great race and this is a great example of why teamwork works. Next time..

    Pre-race sustenance: Earl Grey tea with honey and cream, a very large bowl of Barbara's shredded spoonfuls with fresh strawberries and bananas and a cup of homemade yogurt.

    Post-race sustenance: Two delicious carnitas street tacos from the taco truck parked on the side of the road after the finish line and then a chicken burrito and beef burrito on the drive back with all the fixings and of course extra salsa.

    - Lucas Paz

  • Race Report: Copperopolis M45+ 4, second field

    Short Summary:

    Breakfast: Banana pancake, blueberry pancake, cereal medley with peach keifer and banana, orange juice, coffee (2 cups).

    Race: Helped force break on second time up main climb. The 8 of us worked together until 1km to go. My legs seized up and I got 8th.

    Post-race: Chocolate milk, Orange juice, banana, fig bars. Stop in Livermore for coffee and banana-chocolate swirl (a pastry). 2 fried egg burritos and a Palate Wrecker DIPA at home. Waiting for dinner now.....

    Long Version:

    This was my first Copperoppolis RR and my ambivalence and outright fear in the face of the legend that is Copperoppolis led to delaying my registration and ending up in the 2nd M45+/4 field after the first field of 50 filled (M45+ seems to be the baby boom of NorCal racing ). I wondered if the fact that this was the field of folks who had delayed commitment was going to determine the character of the race, but as you will see it was quite the opposite, at least for our lead group.

    First lap was uneventful with a few little moves here and there that got reeled in pretty quickly. Body Concepts had 4 guys, a couple of which I knew to be strong, and they were the only team really talking to each other and making decisions about what moves to cover. Brian Gates, a local cat 4 from Orinda and someone I know as a strong climber, was feeling very frisky and kept going off on the climbs, then generally easing off if nobody else came out to play.

    On lap 2 we were all still pretty much together coming into the main climb and once again Brian took off. The Body Concepts guys said “let him go”, figuring they’d just close it down on the flatter sections in the middle, but I and a couple other guys figured this was our best chance to force a split so we upped the pace and had a spirited duel up the climb, eventually catching Brian between the false summit and final summit. The effort forced a split and we were 8 coming down into the middle section.

    It may have been the field of folks who had not committed early to the race, but there was no lack of commitment now. With encouragement from Brian and another guy we put together a really nice paceline and blasted through the middle section of the course pretty much all the way to the main descent. That was some of the best fun I’ve had in a race, though I knew the pace was taking it’s toll because any time we came to a rise I could feel the nipping of incipient cramps in my quads. Still, there was no way I was going to have yet another “made the split but then got dropped by the lead group” story on the books, so I did what it took to stick until the main descent, damn the consequences.

    Wow, what a descent that is. Olivia had said to just go for it and that while it’s bumpy, it’s really not that steep or technical and can be done without ever hitting the brakes (Of course she says that about pretty much every descent ;-) In this case she was spot on, and except for when the person in front of me braked, it was pretty much a free wheeling free for all down the hill ( with of course the obligatory pickup truck hauling a big ass trailer coming in the other direction to spice things up). Unfortunately everybody else had gotten the same good advice and we all came out at the bottom together which pretty much set the stage for an 8 person chess game of a sprint; one I knew I was going to lose due to the near-seized state of my quads.

    I led at 1km from the finish; not a smart place to be but I was having trouble thinking of a good strategy for winning an uphill sprint in my present condition, and at about 200m people started sprinting and coming around me. At 100m I was in the mix but  then someone made a sharp veer to the right and nearly took me out (and I in dodging them nearly took someone else out). That pretty much put the nail in the coffin and I came in last out of our little group, a bike length or two off of #7.

    In spite of getting my wish of being in the mix at an uphill finish and not being able to deliver, it was still a great race on a great course (not nearly as scary bumpy as people had led me to believe) and the camaraderie within our breakaway group really made it fun. There had also been a fair bit of recent patching which meant loose asphalt being kicked up from folk’s wheels which left us looking like a bunch of coal miners by the end. That definitely added to the epic feel.

    - Ken Cluff

  • Race Report: Pine Flat Road Race (Lucas Paz)

    On late Saturday Ken and I made the long pilgrimage to the Pine Flat Road Race in the foothills east of Fresno. They really should call this the Pine not so Flat Road Race as it includes over 2800 feet of climbing over the single 62 mile loop. We stayed at the lake view motel about one mile from the start and actually got a good night's sleep.

    My race started at 7:55, I rolled up to see other friendly faces including a couple Safeway riders and several other teams including Team Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada and Bolthouse Farms and a few others in the small field. The race started quickly as we hit the Rim road surrounding the Pine Flat reservoir. We had to avoid bulls and cows on the side of the road. Attacks began and after about 30 miles of fast single file riding through the rolling terrain after we rode through two other fields a six man break formed and I was happy to be part of it. As we turned right on the approach through the foothills toward the main climb we were all rotating smoothly taking even pulls keeping our pace consistent to ensure that we would stay away. I actually felt okay when we hit the early climbs but I knew I had to worry about three riders specifically Jonathan Eropkin from Safeway (who won Berkeley Hills RR last year) and Nick Theobald from Safeway (who won Cantua Creek the day before and got 2nd here last year) as well as Richard Picarelli from Bolthouse Farms. These three started attacking on the main climb. Initially our group of six stayed together but then on the last 2 km of the main climb Nick Theobald went really hard. I dug deep into the red zone but amazingly managed to stay on his wheel with everything I had. I looked back and we had gapped the other riders but then Nick surged over the top and dropped me. As we hit the descent I wasn't too worried because he was in my sight and I was able to bridge to him by the bottom of the decent. We now entered the Valley of Despair before the final shorter finishing climb. At this point I just sat Nick's wheel as long as I could. Initially, I wouldn't do any work but then I realized the four man chase was not too far behind so I took a few pulls with twinges of cramps starting to worry me. I could tell that Nick was very motivated and pushing the pace really hard as he really wanted to win this race. With 2 km to go, I gambled and just sat on his wheel as he led me up the final steep pitch. I stayed glued to his wheel and with 200 meters to go up the final steep pitch I could sense he was starting to falter but the other riders were literally seconds behind. I couldn't believe it, I had one last jump left in my legs and I seized the opportunity in the last 50 meters. Nick could not respond, I crossed the line with my arms raised to the sky as I won the first hilly road race of my life. I must say I was stoked.

    Pre-race sustenance: Peet's coffee, one leftover blueberry pancake, cereal medley of honey nut O's, shredded oats and Ezekiel sprouted grains

    Post-race: 2 plates of Merced Indian Buffet and mango lassi (see below)

  • Race Report: Pine Flat Road Race 45+ 4/5 (Ken Cluff)

    Short version:

    breakfast: instant oatmeal using coffee maker to heat water, cereal medley with 2% milk, banana, orange juice, Peet’s Gaia Organic coffee
    race: 9th out of a field of 28
    post-race: chocolate milk, banana, sun chips, Lagunitas “Day Time” fractional IPA, cheese stick
    lunch: two rounds of Indian buffet and a pint of mango lassi at “Taste of Little India” in Merced

    Long version:

    The 28 person M45+ field rolled out at 8:40, 45min after Lucas’ speed demon 35+ 1/2/3 field took off. Lucas and I had agonized of over clothing choices (“does this make me look fat?”)  because while it was plenty cold in the AM, we figured it was going to warm up by the time we hit the climb. I dressed pretty lightly, since that seemed to serve me well at Knight’s Ferry, and just resigned myself to a bit of chill in the first part of the race. 

    The first hour of out and back along the rim of the lake was moderate pace with a few surges here and there on the rollers, but nothing threatening to break things up or seriously tire people for that matter. Unfortunately I could tell even at that point that I was not really in good shape for the exertions to come. Some days you feel like the power just flows out from your legs to the pedals; this was not one of those days. Every time more power was called for, there was a minor mutiny in the engine room.

    Luckily the pace stayed moderate and then got downright mellow as we hit the flat straight sections that lead to the base of the climb. Especially lucky was the nice wide flat road with a big shoulder and slight tailwind at around 65k because by that time I really had to pee. I pulled out from my spot near the front, drifted to the back of the pack and successfully accomplished my first ever in-race, in motion, piss off the bike. The race referee was even so kind as to let me use him to pace back up to the pack. Pulling that off was a victory of the first order for me, and alas probably the high point of the race.

    As we hit the bottom of the main climb I struggled to stay with the leaders and  seesawed with the folks chasing them; some coming forward past me, some falling off behind. My Garmin was saying HR zone of 4.9 (5.0 being my max of 187) and my lungs were absolutely heaving. Thankfully I was not also overheating in extra layers and arm/leg warmers or I think I would have passed out. 

    We came over the top with the leaders in sight and soon formed a 3 person chase group with one guy who seemed strong and not fully cooked, and one guy who seemed at his limit. Our little group was losing ground in “the valley of despair” ( as Lucas calls it) and I felt I had to do something, anything, so decided to make a charge figuring it would either animate or explode our trio. It worked to some extent (an ‘atta boy’ and new vigor from the strong guy and redoubled looks of suffering from the other guy), but I almost popped off the back when they pulled through. We eventually settled into a decent rotation with the struggling guy missing the occasional pull and the strong guy doing the longest pulls, and were making progress on catching the lead group which I estimated at 7 guys. 2 other guys bridged up and brought new energy to our group and finished the bridging job so we were now, briefly, something like 12 men with 4 or 5 km to go. 

    Now it gets a little hazy. I was pretty cooked from the chase through the valley and started to fall off the leaders as did the weaker member of our original trio. At 2km to go he was behind me and at 1km to go I caught and passed one guy from the lead group who had popped, but I could not see rest of lead group. I ended up soloing in in what turned out to be 9th place, not really knowing how far off the leaders I was. Either there were fewer guys up front than I though or I missed passing some stragglers in the final frantic kms.

    It would have been really great to be with the lead group coming into the final 2km climb to the finish, but it was still a super fun, sunny, scenically beautiful, ride on a really classic course. Between working hard to get a small group to bridge the gap and getting paced back up after taking an in-flight pee, it felt like a day of real road racing. 

    P.S. To give you an idea of how much faster Lucas’ group was going, he told me they finished in 2:40 and my field took 3 hrs to do the same course.

    P.P.S. Many thanks to Lucas for advice about the course, hydration, and other things that really helped my confidence going into this race for the first time.

  • Race Report: Cherry Pie Criterium

    Very brief report.

    M45-123 - Nice day. Sunny and breezy. Good course-reverse direction from the several times I've raced it before. Three clean turns and a long upwind finish. Lined up as solo EBVC rider.

    Rode safely with only one stint at the front. Sat too far back through final lap and corner.  15th after "start and stop and start" sprint.

    Pass

    M35-123  Lined up with Lucas Paz.  Slightly faster pace, deeper field. Breaks sitting a few seconds off the front. Saw a chance to get Lucas to the front to counter a break that was getting reeled in. We bridged quickly but the prime bell rang and no one was ready to start another break. Spent that lap near/on the front and set up Lucas for the prime, but he was too smart to waste that energy. I popped and Lucas stuck it out for a respectable ~10th place finish.

    Fail for me - pass for Lucas.

    Good to be back out racing in orange (and blue)

    - Steve

  • Race Report: Knights Ferry Road Race (Ken Cluff)

    The M45+/4 race was 2 laps of a 30 mile out and back course. Rolling hills with a short uphill finish. Our field of 40 rolled out at around 12:20 ( Lucas was in the first wave of starts beginning at 9:00)

    Short version:
    Breakfast: Cereal medley with sliced almonds and raisins, banana pancakes, 1 cup coffee and a glass of orange juice
    Pre-race: banana, half an orange juice, fig bar, 2 gels, 3 SportLegs capsules
    Race: 2nd place. Ate 2 packages of margarita Shot Bloks and drank about a half bottle each of sport drink and water.
    Post-race snack: carton chocolate milk, fig bars, half bottle orange juice
    Post-race meal #1: Chipotle veggie burrito with guacamole and a beer in Manteca
    Post-race meal #2: Homemade vegetarian moussaka with rice and salad, strong Greek wine, chocolate pot du creme with fresh whipped cream, coffee, Sandeman port.

    Longer version: A Triumph of Cynicism

    It was still a pretty cool morning when I got there and I put on a base layer and arm and leg warmers, but then warming up on the rollers the sun seemed to be coming out and I was getting warm so at the last minute ditched everything and lined up in just bibs & jersey. While in the end it proved a good move, the lack of warmth initially felt like a bad idea once the race got started and the sun sort of stalled and the pace was not really high enough to keep the furnace stoked. 

    Dean had flatted in the ‘B’ heat of the M45+/4s in the first wave of starters, so he lined up for this heat and so it was nice to have someone to chat with, especially with the generally gentle up on the hoods pace (except if anyone dared pop of the front then it was hammer till we reeled them in then sit up again).

    Several teams had big numbers. Kovarus had about 6, Sierra Nevada had about 4, Cycle City from Sacramento had several, Cushman Wakefield had a big contingent, and one other team had at least 4.  This seemed to set the tone for the race and the ‘independents’ could pretty much count on the teams to control most any break (not that there were many) unless it miraculously had the perfect composition (whihc never happened). Seeing this, and sensing the general lack of stomach for a high pace, I resigned myself to the fact that this was going to be a long cold slog in the pack that would all come down to the final sprint.

    The other bad side effect of me being cold and slow pace was that for the first time in a race (excepting Everest Challenge) I had to pee really badly starting around the halfway point. I just wasn’t sweating enough to drain away the fluids. After hearing Dean’s peeing from the bike double flat tale I wasn’t going to try any inflight elimination so just decided to suffer on. ( Does NorCal cycling offer a peeing off the bike clinic? )

    After the final turnaround, about 10 miles from the finish, a guy from Sierra Nevada went off the front alone and two of his team mates set up shop at the front to slow everything down for him. WIth the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the other big teams I wasn’t going to do a thing to try to bridge/reel in and didn’t even follow any of the unsuccessful flurries, just hung in  somewhere near the front as teams lifted the pace a bit and the Sierra guys hovered near/at the front blocking. It was a pretty depressing situation really because we all knew what needed to happen but the folks who needed to do it were not taking up the challenge. Once again I resigned myself to just sitting in till the finish.

    Around this time the sun started coming out which felt like a good omen. The slight injection of pace plus the warmer temps got me sweating a little and eased the bladder pressure a bit. I started thinking that the guys who were all bundled up were going to be overheating, and indeed everyone started looking a little hot and sweaty as we kept the break, now two people, in sight heading towards the finish. Now the cynicism (and being cold all race) started to pay off. With a couple miles to go I figuerd I needed to get in a good position and worked my way over to behind the two Sierra guys who were holding down the right ⅔ of the front. They created a perfect pocket and I was able to rest unchallenged right up to the 2km to go mark. 

    As cynical as I’d been about the way the race was unfolding I thought surely something would start to happen at this point, but a 3rd guy was just marking time in the left front of the pack so everything was was blocked up behind and I was sitting in the catbird seat feeling cool and light ( there something psychological about just wearing the minimal amount of kit that just makes me feel light and fast). At 1km there were still no real challenges coming and so at the bottom of the finishing climb (around 800m to go)  I lit out from my Sierra Nevada pocket and attacked the hill. Somebody else must also have gone because all I remember was seeing 3 guys ahead of me when I hit 200m to go and it started to level out. I upshifted two gears and went into full sprint. Two of the guys, one of them being the SIerra Nevada guy from the break, were so spent that they were at a near standstill and weaving. I actually yelled ‘on your right’ as I blasted past them because I didn’t want one to weave into me. I thought it would be impossible to catch the lead guy (Cycle City) but I just kept closing as the line drew near and was only about a bike length behind him when we crossed the line.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda.....

    I had a hard time believing that I’d actually gotten second because I’d been so negative about how the whole race was playing out and didn’t think I was going to do well if it came down to a 40 person bunch sprint. That cynical outlook led me to deciding it was all going to be about position at 2km to go, and in the end I think that, rather than fitness or a killer kick (though Dean did say i was flying), was what helped me do well. In an odd way too, my initially unjustified optimism about the weather also played a part.

  • Race Report: Knights Ferry Road Race (Lucas Paz)

    Knights Ferry Road Race P 1/2,  86 miles rolling terrain and hill finish
    A 20+ man field, lots of fired up young blood and one dominant team (Bicycles Plus-Sierra Nevada) with 6 riders. The race was a relatively easy start over the first 30 minutes or so (averaging about 20 mph) a single rider attacked hard and opened a 2 minute gap which he held for about 30 miles. The field tempo was up and down there were attacks and more attacks but short lived and then there were really easy lulls. This was the most surging and sitting up I've done in a long time. Then all of a sudden we're going 30 mph flying. We catch the solo rider out front and then more attacks and another group of three getaway including a member of the dominant team. At the turn around a fiesty rider was throwing his bike around and hit my rear derailuer and drop, my shifting was screwed up and half functional for the rest of the race. The 3 man break opened a 4+ minute gap with about 40 miles to go. The peleton was putting along at 20 mph, all the remaining BP/SN riders were  riding false tempo but covering attacks. I was not patient, did way too much work in our chase over the last 46 miles. At 3 km the final hill was in site and so was the break. At 2km a strong Cliff Bar rider did the early bridge move I wish I could have, I was used and abused. We caught the break in the final 500 meters, one of them literally seized up and fell off his bike just before the finish line. I was simply trying to follow wheels up this final climb and moving backwards quick. Today I was pack fodder but it was still a good race. Even with our lulls and spurts we completed the 86 miles race in 3:40. Many lessons re-learned again..
    For Dana:
    breakfast- Ezekiel, shredded oats, cheerios, buckwheat pancakes with blueberries
    Post-race- chocolate protein mix smoothie.  Post-post race: After a stop at the bike shop to bend my hanger back in place, I made my way to Talavera for a delicious log of a chicken burrito with every single fixing  they could put on it.  
  • Ride report: The Coast Ride

    Day 1:

    San Francisco to Seaside 135 Miles 7,098' 5500 Calories
    http://app.strava.com/activities/38533001

    Coffee with almond mild
    2 Zego bars
    1 Banana
    3 Roctane's
    1 Odwalla Berries GoMega
    1 Coke
    1 Cliff Coconut Chocolate Chip bar
    2 Large bottles of Cytomax Pomegranate Berry
    1 Water
    Milky Way
    Gatorade
    Bottle of Muscle Milk
    Recovery Drink Endurox R4 (Tangy Orange)

    Dinner of fish and chips, a small salad garlic bread, local beer at the Fish Wife in Seaside and a couple fig newtons before bed.

     

    Day 2:

    Seaside to Morro Bay 126 Miles 8654' 4913 Calories
    http://app.strava.com/activities/38533822

    Woke up late (35 minutes after the ride left)
    No Coffee
    No Breakfast

    Picky Bar
    1 Cliff Coconut Chocolate Chip bar
    1 Roctane
    1 Banana
    1 5 Hour Energy
    Bag of Gu Chomps
    2 Large bottles of Cytomax Pomegranate Berry
    2 Large bottles of water
    Muscle Milk
    Red Bull to kill the headache from no coffee

    Lunch Stop at the Ragged Point Inn
    Mighty fine Grilled Chicken Sandwich
    Fries w/ Mayo
    Large Coke

    Dinner at the local taqueria was a carnets burrito and two Negra Modelo's

     

    Day 3:

    Morro Bay to Santa Barbara 122.5 Miles 5248' 4895 Calories
    http://app.strava.com/activities/38532948

    Warm berry scone and a latte pre ride mmmm! Sure beat day 2's breakfast
    1 Cliff Coconut Chocolate Chip bar
    1 Picky Bar
    Coffee and Blueberry Muffin in SLO
    2 Roctane's
    1 Bag Power bar Energy Blast Gels
    2 Large bottles of Cytomax Pomegranate Berry
    2 Large bottles of water
    Lunch at Subway 6" Tuna and a large Coke
    1 Muscle Milk
    1 Red Bull
    Cliff Shot Blocks

    No immediate post ride food or drink what a HUGE MISTAKE!! Explanation below

    Late dinner at La Super Rica in Santa Barbara. Turns out Julia Child knew her Mexican food as well, as this was one of her favorite places.
    1 Super Rica Especial- Roasted chile pasilla stuffed with cheese and served with three homemade tortillas. Soooo good!!
    Because it was so late after leaving the hospital I decided it would be best to have the Chile Relleno covered in a cheese sauce and a few more tortillas while I finished my Negra Modello...

    Followed by two more pints at the Santa Barbara Brewery to help recover...

    All in all The Coast Ride was such a cool ride! I can't wait to do it again with this group and also just to ride down and take Amtrak home. We had some of the best weather one could have ever hoped for on the coast the entire weekend. It was close to 80 when we hit Santa Barbara. I have never ridden this kind of mileage back to back and had no idea what to expect as it turns out it wasn't bad at all. I would have happily kept going and few more days.

    High and Low Lights:

    • Devil's Slide in the wind is just plane scary!
    • Having two Kelly Benefit Strategies guys setting tempo down the coast all morning rocks
    • The surf
    • Finishing Day 1 with the first group a bunch of Thirsty Bears
    • My biggest day on the bike 135 Miles
    • NEVER NEVER miss the start of a ride with a group of talented cyclist like this EVER!!! It will make for a very long day especially for a fat guy and 8500' of climbing.
    • Big Sur was amazing! Whales, Hawks, huge beautiful surf, great lunch, tail winds
    • The Burrito in Morro Bay hit the spot!
    • Rolling out of Morro Bay and into SLO with 100+ people just after sunrise was beautiful
    • Running over a dead cat and feeling the ribs crack through the front wheel not so fun
    • The sprint into Santa Barbara County (I think) was so bloody fast into a head wind and hurt like hell!
    • Hundreds of Elephant Seals on the beach south of Hearst Castle
    • I was so so close to making the last climb with the first group on day 3

    But, getting dropped on the last climb of day 3 I didn't have to witness the huge high speed crash (40MPH) that my friend went down in and was later Medivaced to Santa Barbara Hospital...

    • 4 broken ribs
    • 1 broke collar bone
    • Bleeding on the brain
    • pneumothorax and a chest tube
    • Concussion and a bit of road rash
    • 3 days in the hospital

    The other two that went down both had collar bones and one with sever road rash and one Argon broken in 3 places...

    The catastrophic solo steerer tube failure of a SL3 getting off hgy 1 in Goleta that happened in front of me is something I don't need to witness again.

    What a great group of people not to mention the talent. I couldn't even keep track of the Nor Cal and Cal State Champs jerseys and vests out there.

    I did get two days more riding in Santa Barbara waiting for my friend to get out of the hospital so he didn't have to suffer through a train ride home.

    - Mark Dawson