Archive for the ‘Bicycle Racing’ Category

2015 Summer National Senior Games

Posted: February 24, 2016 in Bicycle Racing

tl;dr: Men 55-59: 40 Km Road Race: 13th; 20 Km Road Race 8th; 10 Km TT: 9th; 5 Km TT: 9th — One podium photo for 8th place:

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Long story: I have never flown with so much stuff. After a friendly cab driver with a very decrepit yellow van brought us to Long Beach airport, I negotiated with the former US Airways, now American Airlines, agent at the check-in counter. She eventually agreed (wink-wink) that I didn’t have two bikes and we saved a few bucks.

After a very uncomfortable, 1-hour flight to Phoenix on a regional jet, my back was a disaster. It didn’t get better during our 3-hour layover or our red-eye into Minneapolis. However, our luck changed when we arrived at the hotel at 7:00a (on July 2nd) and they had a room available for a very early check-in. We had some breakfast and slept until about noon. Sleeping helped my back a lot.

This started my “rest” week. We arrived in Minneapolis almost a week before my races because Nina qualified for the 10 Km and 5 Km running road races. Her races were on Saturday, July 4th, and Monday, July 6th. My first race was on Wednesday, July 8th. I’ll spare you the details of my rest week except to say that I pre-rode the road race course quite a bit before race day.

One point about my race preparation is my training during the prior months was pretty sporadic due to an unusual amount of business travel — travel for a week, every-other-week, from February through May. My friend (and professional coach), Kurt, provided me a training outline from that helped me achieve a level of fitness far greater than I would have managed through my normal self-coaching.

My minimum goal for the games: get on the podium (eighth or better) at least once. Finishing 3rd or higher in one of my races was my stretch goal.

No cycling trip is complete without some kind of technical snafu. I purchased a mini floor pump (Lezyne) prior to the trip but I ordered the one without the built-in pressure gauge by mistake. In addition, I stripped the hex head on one of the clamp bolts on my stem while reassembling my road bike. I spent an afternoon driving around Minneapolis to three different bike shops to procure a replacement bolt and a presta valve pressure gauge.

Men 55-59 40 Km Road Race

The entire road race circuit was on the Minnesota State Fair grounds. Nina and I were surprised at the extent of the roads and permanent buildings on the grounds. (Note: Nina’s races were on mostly the same course.) The organizers made a late change to the circuit reducing the number of corners to 14 (from 18) for a 5 Km lap which made me feel better given the diverse quality of the field. There was a series of corners at one end of the circuit that had manhole covers and asphalt patches through the preferred line. My plan was to lead the race through that section on lap 1 just to make sure that I didn’t get caught in something stupid when people raced through there for the first time.

With no trainer, I warmed up on some roads that paralleled the start-finish straight. A number of others were doing the same. However, since I didn’t have the secret decoder ring for identifying which numbers were for which race, I couldn’t determine which racers were in my age group.

The weather was better than I expected, warm but not too humid. I watched the end of the Men 60-64 race which this guy won by a big margin after riding away from the peloton early in the race. A very impressive effort. The field sprint was remarkably sane and entertaining with 2nd place changing hands three times in the last 200 meters.

For my race, there were 27 racers on the line and the field quality looked surprisingly good. No one had knee-high, white athletic socks and there were just a couple of rear view mirrors hanging off of helmets. I quickly spotted a tall lean guy in a Discovery team skinsuit. Despite the wannabee-Lance-look, this guy looked very strong and he had a pro looking saddle to handlebar drop. Figured that I better mark him.

We started and we started fast, but not insanely-SoCal fast. What I didn’t see was that one guy went from the gun and he had two teammates in the race. Guess I was too busy watching the Discovery guy. I executed my plan to lead the pack through the tricky corners and then I settled in for the rest of the lap on the wheel of my marked man.

Laps 2-4 saw me covering the Discovery guy and attacking once or twice myself. The pace wasn’t slow but it wasn’t very fast. As we were finishing lap 4, I went with an attack and heard the announcer say something like, “With four laps to go, the field needs to get serious about catching the solo break.”

Solo break?!?!?!

My race went from being strategic to tactical. I spent the next two laps driving the field with Discovery guy and someone riding for a Connecticut-based team. The course doubled back on itself for a fairly long stretch. Somehow I never saw the solo break during the first half of the race but I could see we were catching him once I knew to look for him.

After taking a longish pull leading into the longest uphill drag on the circuit, I was about two-thirds of the way back in the pack when Discovery guy attacked. I tried to get up to him but I couldn’t do it. According to Nina, we would have caught the solo break but when Discovery guy caught him, they ended up working together and Discovery guy took the win.

With all the work I did, I had nothing for the field sprint for 3rd and finished towards the back of the remaining pack to take 13th place.

Men 55-59 20 Km Road Race

This race was the day after the 40 Km race. My legs still felt good and the weather was similar to the previous day. The atmosphere was a bit more tense since everyone saw how people performed in the 40 Km race. Interestingly, the guy who went solo from the gun the day before, did the same exact thing in this race. This time I saw him go and I was prepared to work to keep him from getting a big gap as he previously did. Fortunately a couple of other guys, including the Discovery guy, wanted to keep him in sight so he didn’t gain much ground on the first lap and he looked like he was burying himself doing it.

On the second lap, one guy was doing a decent pull and we were single file. I was fifth in line. I could see that the he wanted off the front on a section of the course where we doubled back so we couldn’t cross the center line (there were relatively closely spaced cones on the yellow line). The lead guy was next to the pylons and everyone right behind him wouldn’t come around. I decided to pull out of line and attack on the opposite side of the road. Just as I was coming up to the lead guy, a couple of the guys behind him got tangled up and as I glanced over my shoulder, I saw at least four guys headed for the pavement.

I pushed hard through the next section of the course and as we came back past the crash site, a number of guys were picking themselves off the ground. Unfortunately, the remaining pack was right on my wheel. We finished lap two and very early on lap three, we caught the solo break.

I really thought we were going to have a big field sprint so I was hanging in the back half of the field. We were on the uphill section when Discovery guy attacked hard. I jumped too but I was too far back to catch the train that was on his wheel. Five guys total had a gap and I and two other guys were working to catch them. When we got the bell they still had a gap and one of the guys who was working with me went hard. I tried to get his wheel but failed again and now I was in no-man’s land. He caught the break and I was by myself. I thought maybe I can hold off the pack for 7th — ha!

Group 2 caught me on the back side of the course. My next series of thoughts were rest and try to get at least second in the sprint. One of my mental problems is because I have such a lack of confidence in my sprint, I end up sprinting way too early. This time I kept thinking wait, don’t lead this thing out. I waited and waited and then the sprint started on the false flat to the line. I was third as we got rolling and I was sprinting as hard as I have in years. I passed the guy in front of me but not the guy leading it out. No big problem because it was enough for 8th — last spot on the Senior Games extended podium. Minimum goal achieved. In case you were wondering, Discovery guy took second.

Men 55-59 10 Km Time Trial

There was a “rest day” between the 20 Km road race and the 10 Km time trial. I and most everyone else went to the TT course on the rest day to check it out as well as checking out the parking area and warm up route which was south of the TT course. The designated parking area was about 3/4 of a mile from the start while a local school with a relatively small parking lot was adjacent to the start. The school parking lot was paved while the designated parking lot was dirt and gravel — hmm. I went to the warm up route first and found that after about 1-1/2 miles, the road turned into a dirt road. WFT? If you turned left instead of going straight on to the dirt, you stayed on a paved road that provided reasonable warm up without much traffic.

The TT course was OK, out-and-back, a little bumpy in places with some rolling hills. My biggest concern was that we were told the course would be open to traffic and there was no shoulder.

All of the races were run eldest to youngest age groups with all of the women’s races first. Even with a relatively early arrival, we had to park in the dirt parking lot as the school was completely full — actually somewhat over full with people parking on the grass. I’m sure the locals loved that.

Race day was hot and humid. Definitely not SoCal weather. Had a decent warm up and was completely soaked. I was drinking throughout trying to stay reasonably hydrated without over hydrating. I arrived at the staging area and was happy to see that the course was basically closed. Local police were guarding the barricade and, I guess, select residents got police escorts as necessary.

When I arrived in the staging area, I heard the officials calling for some guy named Bickell. I yelled, “He’s not here.” Don’t know if they heard me. (Please forgive the inside joke.)

My 30 second man was missing too so I had a one minute gap to the guy ahead of me who was on a standard road bike. 5-4-3-2-1 and I was off, unfortunately in more ways than one. Heat, humidity, nerves, or all three? My heart rate was too high for my power output. Push for power or stay within my heart rate zone? Don’t over-think this. Someone passed me and I finally passed my minute guy. It took more time to pass him than than I originally envisioned. After the turnaround, someone else passed me and I was having trouble focusing on going hard. Things were not going well.

Another friend, Rich, talks about no-chain rides. Rides that are fast but feel effortless. This was a rusty chain race. I was over a minute slower than my target time which put me in ninth — just off the extended podium. Ugh!

Men 55-59 5 Km Time Trial

A bunch of guys decided to skip this event. The day before as I was somewhat dejectedly packing up, I overheard some guys, who had done the road races and finished poorly in the 10 Km TT field, say that they were going to head home a day early, not that their departure would help my placing in the race.

This time the weather was cloudy, hot, and humid. Once again I had a good sweat going during warm up.

I figured that for a 5 km TT, blocking my helmet vent with the optional blocker plate would help me more with time than hurt me with heat. I also wore the helmet visor over my glasses. Figured that I would go for broke.

Break is about what I did. Again, I couldn’t generate quite enough power and speed. I was 9th again. What was most aggravating was that the guy who finished behind me during the 10 Km TT, beat me in this race.

Epilogue

I felt better about my performance a few days after the racing ended. Given my work travel, some personal issues, and general lack of training, I performed about as well as I could have realistically expected.

As for Nina, she too did worse than she expected but she made the podium for both of her races with 6th and 4th place finishes.

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My favorite mid-week bicycle race, the El Dorado Park Twilight Race Series, has a new name, Park2Park Race Series, and some significant changes. Some of it falls into the category of “what’s old is new.” Starting from the top, I knew that the race organizers, BIKEable Communities, were going back to racing every Tuesday evening from March through August. (Full disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for BIKEable Communities, a non-profit bicycle advocacy organization, but I am not involved with planning, promoting, or organizing the series.) Last year the races at El Dorado Park were every other Tuesday, March through June, and then every week in July and August with a somewhat contrived arrangement of having a separate points series. I am okay with what happened last year as the organizers were figuring things out after a somewhat hostile takeover of the series from the former promoter. (I was less happy about that.)

The first race of the series always starts earlier in the evening — really late afternoon — because Daylight Savings doesn’t kick in until the second Saturday of March. Despite the early start time, I was able to get to the race relatively early. It was a good thing because the lines(!) were long. They were long because of a pretty good turnout of racers and because of a big, new feature: timing chips! I won’t get into the details, but the last line was for the organizers to attached the timing chip to your fork with zip ties. Also, prices were on the high side for a mid-week race. With one-time fees for permanent numbers and a 2-year timing chip “lease,” I ended up shelling out $50. Subsequent weeks will be a maximum of $15 but I hope that price will go down for a club discount. Because of the lines, the 4:45p start time turned into 5:00p. A 1-hour race with sunset at 5:50p meant that the end of the race would be in less than ideal lighting as the park doesn’t have street lights.

The race breakdown was also back to “normal” with Pro/1/2/3, Masters 40+ (instead of 35+), and Category 4/5. I don’t have the official numbers, but the turnout looked almost as good as in the old days — a far cry from the recent paltry fields that were partly due to the less than amicable transition between promoters.

I had five teammates in the field though only one was in reasonable racing shape. I had been off my bike for eight days after doing a 3-day stage race and then coming down with a mild case of bronchitis. I figured that I’d be very conservative until I figured out how I felt. The other Long Beach club had at least 10 racers and two other clubs had about that many so my team was definitely at a disadvantage. Fortunately, it’s JUST a mid-week training race.

The race started reasonably but the pace soon picked up as there were regular attacks and chases. No one got away and the first and second primes didn’t cause any breaks or splits as can happen at times. I was drifting around from near the front of the pack to the back. The pack had its usual “I want to be near the front but not at the front” majority which made for a few close calls, but everyone stayed upright. After the second prime I felt pretty reasonable so after my teammate attacked and got reeled back into the fold, I counter-attacked. No one came with me so I settled into a pace just to see how I felt. I got caught and had no trouble getting back into the pack. So far, so good.

Just after we got the two-to-go sign, I tried another attack. Again, I got a gap but still no one else was interested. This time I worked a little harder to get back into the pack near the front and when we got the bell I was in a good position. Unfortunately, a lot of people who weren’t in a good position were trying to get into one. Also I watched three teammates almost take each other out. The lead teammate brake-checked the second for unknown reasons and a third teammate almost hit both of them. At that point with all of the argy-bargy going on for the glory of winning the first mid-week race of the year and the quickly fading light, I figured skin was the better part of valor and I slowly filtered to back and off the back. Fortunately, everyone stayed upright and I was happy to roll in after the pack.

The promoters have also added some time trials to the series so there is a lot of racing available between the two venues (El Dorado Park in Long Beach and the Great Park in Irvine). I may go back to my mantra of racing is the best training after doing a bit less racing last year.

That Didn’t Last Long

Posted: February 2, 2014 in Bicycle Racing
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My bicycle racing training was great in December and the beginning of January. Then I got the flu and the bottom fell out. On February 2, 2014, I am still feeling some ill effects but I am optimistic about getting things back on track quickly. I have to get back on track quickly because my first race of 2014 is on February 9th, the Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium. Additionally, one of my target races of the year is the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix, AZ, on February 21-23. The best laid plans…

2013 Racing Summary

Posted: January 5, 2014 in Bicycle Racing

Total races (USAC and Senior Games): 62

  • Road races (road, circuit, criterium): 48
  • Time trials (individual, team): 11
  • Track (team pursuit, time trial): 3

Highlights

Pasadena Senior Games: Won 3 out of 4 races (20 Km road race, 40 Km road race, 10 Km time trial) and 2nd in 5 Km time trial. The real highlight was winning the 20 Km road race in a breakaway with a Cat 1 50-54 guy and a Cat 4 55-59 guy. The race covered men age 50-64 with each 5-year increment scored separately. We lapped the field and I managed to hang on for the win the 55-59 age group (2nd overall). I was never in a break that lapped a field before. Granted, it wasn’t a stellar field but the effort by all of us was pretty high because at one point we thought the field was catching us. These were my only wins in 2014.

El Dorado Park Training Series: This year marked a big transition in our local mid-week race. For some reason, I couldn’t get into the groove to the point of getting dropped in a couple of races. Finally, towards the end of the season, I started a break that stuck. I didn’t do well in the sprint, but initiating the break and staying in it was a big improvement for me this season.

Los Angeles Velodrome Racing Association Time Trials: I finally had the chance to be on a team pursuit team. The first bicycle race that I ever saw on TV was the team pursuit at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. Watching that race was the tipping point moment for me getting involved in bicycle racing for the rest of my life. I had the great honor of being asked to be on a team pursuit team with some friends (husband and wife team from NorCal) and the same Cat 1 guy from the Pasadena Senior Games. I had a great time doing the team pursuit and it really completed the circle of my cycling life.

All Alone in Arizona

Posted: May 28, 2013 in Bicycle Racing

The past two years I’ve gone to the early season Valley of the Sun Stage Race in and around Phoenix, Arizona. Even though the race just enjoyed its 21st anniversary, I hadn’t participated until 2011 because it was too early in the season based on my past training regimen. Now that the Southern California racing season starts in January, I feel that my fitness is sufficient to try to compete in and enjoy the event.

In 2011, a teammate talked me into going with a third teammate and all of us raced in the Masters 40+ race. In 2012, I went with just one teammate and each of us were in different Masters age group races. This year, I was alone as everyone who initially expressed interest in going, subsequently found reasons to stay home. At the last-minute, I booked accommodations for a solo weekend.

On a sunny SoCal Thursday morning, I loaded up the Prius with my time trial and road racing bikes and had an uneventful drive until I got to Phoenix in the middle of rush hour traffic. The last 15 miles of my trip to get to Landis Cyclery was pure stop and go driving. Made it in time to pick up my race packet and then stopped at a local sandwich shop for dinner before heading to the decidedly economical motel room that I’d booked online.

It was a good thing that I was alone. The rooms at the “inn” were adequate but the clients were kind of scary. I was given a room just off the lobby on the first floor. Within minutes of bringing the last load of stuff into the room I heard screaming from down the hall. Also, I found that when I opened the door to my room, the sickening smell of cigarette smoke poured into the room. I went back to the front desk and the night manager happened to be there. He explained that people smoked outside the back door of the building and when they opened the back door, the smoke rushed into the building. Fortunately, he understood my problem and quickly relocated me to a second floor room that was quieter and smoke-free.

Stage 1: Landis Cyclery Trek Time Trial

Between the rush hour traffic and room changes the night before, I was late getting to sleep and that timing carried over to the morning. I got to the race venue a bit behind schedule so my warm up for the individual time trial was minimal. My second race and fourth outing on my new Specialized Shiv time trial bike was a bit disappointing. I felt like I was going better on the out leg of the out and back 14 mile course and I also felt like I was faster coming back. The reality was I turned in my slowest time ever on the course. Looking at my race data, my speed was more consistent on the out leg than in previous years, but I was slower overall to the turnaround point. My return leg was actually a bit faster than in previous years but not fast enough. I ended the day in 21st place out of 32 starters.

I spent the rest of the day recovering and doing a little equipment preparation for the next day’s road race. A small aside, my wife and I are fans of the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If you haven’t seen it, the eclectic host, Guy Fieri, travels around the country and spotlights restaurants that serve high quality and imaginative meals in very casual environs. I was able to get dinner at one of these restaurants and had a nice pasta meal in preparation for the road race.

Stage 2: Safeco Insurance, Parrish Agency Road Race

The venue for the 2.8 lap, 46 mile road race is quite a bit south of Phoenix and my race was one of the first of the day. I faced what has become a routine 0-dark-thirty departure. (Why do race organizers think older Masters like getting up before dawn?)

Got to the start area and it was already crowded with team vans, motor homes, and cars. Found a parking spot that was a good half mile from the start line and got ready. Fortunately, this course doesn’t require a lot of warm up with a short neutral start and a long run-in to the only climb on the course. This year I was determined to just sit in the field, save energy, and wait for the climb to sort things out. Unfortunately, I was one of the racers that got sorted out. Just short of the summit, I was off the back.

I ended up in a chase group with five other guys. Everyone was willing to work though some worked harder than others. As we were nearing the end on the long rolling and slightly downhill leg of the course I was shocked to see the peloton just ahead. We turned on to the false flat, headwind leg and started closing. As we got close we were caught behind a small caravan of cars. My chase companions were unsure of how to proceed. I went to the front of our group and started moving through the cars like a professional racer in Europe. Okay, maybe not quite like a pro, but I still got us back into the peloton. My chase group companions were happy and some of them thanked me.

We were a few miles from the climb and I tried to recover but the second trip up the hill was almost identical to the first – close but not quite. Once again I was chasing with what became a similarly-sized group with some of the same people. This time we stayed in offthebackistan. I stayed with the faster climbers in our group the last time up the hill, finished 22nd out of 28 finishers, and moved up one place to 20th in the general classification (GC). Bleah (or meh as the kids say these days).

Stage 3: Grand Canyon University Criterium

The final stage on Sunday was a criterium which typically provides little hope for moving up on general classification. This year we were on the same course as in 2011, near the state capitol building in Phoenix. I got to the race early(!) and had plenty of time to warm up for this short, 25 minute race. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how the roads on the far end of the course were quite bumpy. I had a bit too much air pressure in my tires which made for some loss of traction through the bumpy corners.

We started and the pace was reasonably fast. Despite the somewhat tricky handling of my bike, I focused on one of the best criterium racers in the field. I planted myself on his rear wheel and fought off a few guys who also wanted his wheel. (Actually, I think I held my ground when one other guy tried to take the wheel away from me.) I was going to attack at least once just for the sake of it but before I knew it the bell rang for the final lap of our 25 minute race. My wheel suddenly accelerated and I couldn’t stay with him. He won the race. I finished 17th out of 24 finishers. Amazingly, I moved up to 17th on GC, just one place behind my 2012 result.

I stayed long enough to watch the finish of the Masters 45+ race. Saw one of my casual SoCal racing friends win and “jawed” with an Arizona friend before heading back to the motel. Showered, packed up, and had a relatively quick drive back to Southern California. Finis.

Executive Summary

I wasn’t last in any race and objectively I did somewhat better than last year but, subjectively, I still had a pretty lackluster performance. I started running out of gas about 5 Km before the end of the 30 Km individual time trial (ITT). I ended up 26th out of 34 with a time of 46 minutes, 30.54 seconds for an average speed of 24 MPH. In the road race, I stayed in the field until about 15 Km from the finish. I worked with some people for a few miles and then at the top of the finishing climb I was in a group of four. I sprinted in for 56th out of 65 finishers. The criterium was last, and I lasted 8 laps (1 Km per lap) and rode 1 more lap before getting pulled and with a DNF. It was the first time this year that I got dropped in a 55+ criterium. Overall, I give myself a grade of D for my results and a C+ for effort.

Race 1: 30 Km Individual Time Trial, Wednesday

I pre-rode the course on Monday afternoon and was relieved to find that it was a fairly flat course with about 400 ft of climbing. On Tuesday I rode the last 34 miles of the road race course very easily so on Wednesday morning my legs felt reasonably fresh. On Tuesday afternoon I went to registration and had my TT bike checked to see if it met the dimensional requirements set forth by the UCI. My bike passed (unlike last year when it failed), so I had a peaceful Tuesday evening back at our hotel room.

Nina and I got to the race relatively early and I got in a proper warm-up on my trainer. I saw a few racing friends and acquaintances but I was in a fairly solitary state before the start. There wasn’t much wind which I thought would work in my favor as a smaller rider with less power. My goal was 45 minutes or less which would have been 40 KPH (or 24.8 MPH).

USA Cycling (USAC) based our start times on our calculated seeding. Somehow they had me seeded 17th and I would have been ecstatic to finish in my seeded spot. We had 30 seconds between riders and theoretically, everyone starting after me was faster. One of our local referees, John Allen, was the starter and he counted down, 5-4-3-2-1 and I was off. I tried to start relatively easy but I am not good at that and pretty quickly I could see the guy who started 30 seconds in front of me getting closer. It took me a few miles to actually catch and pass him but I did so well before the turnaround point. No one caught me before we turned around.

The turnaround was laid out kind of strangely with three pylons. I definitely slowed down a lot to make the turn and as I headed back towards the finish I could see that a lot of people weren’t too far behind.

A couple of miles after the turn around, someone passed me. I know he wasn’t the guy who started 30 seconds behind me so he had made up at least 1 minute to catch me. I was able to keep him reasonably close without getting so close that I broke the rules. (There were a lot of officials on motorcycles patrolling the course to make sure no one was drafting another rider.) He pulled away from me on the downhill sections and I caught up a bit on the uphill sections. I was doing reasonably well until around the 5 Km to go sign. Another rider passed me and over the next 4 Km two more riders passed for a total of four riders. I couldn’t keep up with any of them as I perished more than once in those last kilometers.

I felt like I left what little I had out on the road. My breathing was the limiting factor as my legs did not totally give out. I managed to beat both of the guys who start just before and just after me, but ultimately I didn’t hit my personal time target.

Race 2: 84 Km Road Race, Thursday

I pre-rode the last 34 miles of the 52 mile course on Tuesday morning. Nina dropped me off at the bottom of the first significant climb and I rode very easy to the finish. The climbing was not as hard as I expected but even at an easy pace I could feel the altitude — especially when I got above 5,000 ft. I was also a bit nervous about the very long and fast descent. Mostly because I wasn’t sure how some of  the racers would handle it and because it was pretty cold in the morning with temperatures around 40°F for the start.

We got to the start a little later than planned because there were road construction delays. We knew they were doing road construction but we didn’t expect them to be working before 7:00 AM. We found out later that they were working 24/7 on the road. Still managed to get ready with enough time to roll around thanks to a lot of help from Nina. We also found out that the start was neutral for the first 3.5 miles, until we got past the construction zone and hit the major descent.

I ended up wearing a mid-weight base layer; a  jersey with arm warmers; light, long-fingered gloves; and knickers. My defense against the cold wind on the descent was a layer of newspaper between the base layer and jersey. It ended up being almost perfect for the conditions. We got the starting gun a few minutes late and started rolling out of the parking lot of Mt. Bachelor behind a pace car and a motorcycle. There were two short and fast descents in the neutral start and I saw a couple of people locking up brakes and one guy getting speed wobbles. All of this before they cut us loose.

Fortunately, everyone was relatively well-behaved on the biggest descent. I saw another rider get speed wobbles but he got his bike back under control fairly quickly. I kept trying to inch my way closer to the front while maintaining safe gaps. Per my Garmin computer data, we averaged 29.9 MPH for the first 15 miles which included the neutral start. About 20 miles into the race we got to the first climb. Since I rode it on Tuesday, I knew that it wasn’t very steep but it was relatively long — 4.25 miles — and it did have a couple of short steeper pitches. I got over this hill with the pack and we dropped a few people. Unfortunately, a long descent followed the climb and I believe that most everyone who got dropped also got back into the pack on the descent.

With 24 miles to go we made the turn on to Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway. We climbed a total of 950 ft over the next 18 miles. A lot of it was false flats with some short steeper grades that were often followed by descents or flats. There were a few breakaway attempts but nothing stuck and nothing broke up the pack. As we approached Devils Lake there was one last pitch and the pace suddenly picked up. It was ultimately too much for me as at that altitude (5,000+ ft), I suddenly felt like I was breathing through a straw. After a bit, there were six of us riding together off the back. Unfortunately, only three of us were working: the guy who would win the criterium later in the week and a guy with a Plan7 kit. Another guy, Mr. Sierra Nevada was sitting at the back and never rotated to the front despite some of my efforts to get him to do so. Even with just three of us working, we got to within 200 meters of the pack by the bottom of the final climb (not that it would have done me much good to get back in).

I was at the front of our chasing group at the bottom of the climb and I tried setting a hard, but not outrageous, tempo. Very quickly, Mr. Sierra went flying past me and started to disappear in the distance. The to-be criterium champ sat on my wheel for a bit but he fell off. Slowly, I started picking off a few more racers. As I was getting near the top of the climb (and still about 3 Km from the finish) I caught back up to Mr. Sierra Nevada. He saw me approaching — or heard me gasping for air — looked back and tried to accelerate. He didn’t get very far and then he sat up. I got on his wheel and he said something like, “I’m dead and just trying to finish.”

I said, “So am I.”

He continued to ride very slowly and soon someone who I passed earlier caught us. Mr. Sierra Nevada had no trouble getting on this guy’s wheel. Soon after that the Plan7 guy from Texas also caught us. Mr. Sierra Nevada let him through and I was not getting off of Nevada’s wheel. As we were coming up to the line, I could see exactly what he was trying to do and I wasn’t going to let him have his way — at least not easily.

Normally I don’t sprint for 50-whatever place when I come in with a group of stragglers. I am typically very glad just to end the pain without creating a few more seconds of it. However, this guy had completely gotten on my nerves. Since I am not a sprinter I knew that if I was going to spoil his “fun” I’d have to surprise him (based on how he blew by me at the bottom of the hill). I could see we were approaching the finishing chute so I jumped him from 4th wheel with what was about 200 meters before the line. Unfortunately, just as we hit the chute he came back around me and I couldn’t get back by him before the line. C’est la vie. Hopefully he had to try hard to get past me.

Race 3: 40 Km Criterium

I really felt like I was building for a reasonable race on Saturday. I had decent sensations in my legs and despite running out of O2 during the road race, the criterium was only at about 3,000 feet of elevation. I had a good recovery ride on Friday with someone who I’d met through an online cycling forum. We checked out the course I also had a nice, healthy dinner with a bunch of other (really good) racers and I hoped that some of their winning karma would rub off on me.

I’ll mention at this point that I was not sleeping very well. I was having vivid dreams and awakening a few times each night. I guess I was anxious and based on how I slept, I was really anxious about the criterium.

A bit to the dismay of my wife, we got to the venue early and I had ample time to check out the course and warm up. Unfortunately, just as we got to the course there was a bad crash in the women’s race that was in progress at that time. They had to stop the race and bring an ambulance on to the course. Not good to see.

I fueled up, warmed up, and emptied and I felt ready. The official opened the course for warm up laps and I did one lap (the first time I was on the course) and when I got to the start most everyone was already on the line! To top it off, unknown to me and for the first time in any of the races, we had to sign in. A bunch of us left our bike at the line and trundled off to the sign in table which was, fortunately, close by.

So now I’m really at the back of the pack for the start.

The race started just as I thought it would — really hard! I was able to pass a few people but it became obvious that I’d be lucky to hang on. All I could see was a strung out line of racers and I was working too hard just to stay on a wheel. Finally the elastic snapped on my 8th lap. I rode one lap solo and the Chief Referee motioned me off the course after my 9th lap. I told my wife that I’d meet her on the outside of the last corner regardless of what happened. While waiting for her I started sneezing and my sinuses got clogged. This pretty much happened last year too but it was worse this year. It wasn’t really my normal allergies because my eyes didn’t start itching but the symptoms lasted the better part of two days!

After watching the end of the race I changed and packed up the car. Next stop was a pizza place on the course. I haven’t had pizza since late June as I was trying to eat better and lose some weight. We got a sidewalk table and we were watching the Masters 50-54 race when my friend from Massachusetts came by after finishing 13th in the 55-59 race. We had a good chat before he took off to head back east via Portland.

That was it. Another year at Master Road Nationals and another mediocre performance. It was still a lot of fun and a great vacation. However, next year I will stay away from Bend and try the Summer National Senior Games in Cleveland, OH or the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, UT.

Here’s what a winning from a solo break looks like:

Here’s the agony of defeat (2nd in the field sprint and 2nd in my age group):

(Photos copyright Senor Games Photos, http://sgphotos.smugmug.com)

Day 1
I got to the race venue (about 6 miles from my house) at 7:30a which was before the race organizers arrived. I had plenty of time to set up for the day and warm up for what I learned was a 9:06a start time for the 5 Km Time Trial (TT). It was actually a 5.6 Km TT (on purpose this year) to make things easier for the competitors and organizers — 2 full laps instead of 1.X laps with the finish in a different spot than the start. After the organizers arrived and the registration line thinned out, I got my race number and timing chip. Had a good warm up and got to the line ready to race.

5-4-3-2-1 and I took off and tried to settle into something faster than 25 MPH. About 1/3 of the way around the course I realized I’d forgotten to start my computer. Finished the first lap feeling OK but the wheels quickly fell off the cart and I was struggling on the 2nd lap. Since I had not started my computer appropriately, I didn’t really know my time but I thought it was really bad. It turns out I was only 12 seconds slower than the winner of the 55-59 age group and 4 seconds out of second. I was happy with my mediocre (instead of terrible) time. Interestingly, the 55-59 men had the top 3 times of the day. I still can’t figure out the right mental approach to a 5 Km TT (more on that later).

After the TT I had plenty of time to rest and get ready for the 40 Km “road” race which started around 1:30p (after the women raced). I should mention that the course was the world-famous El Dorado Park circuit that I’ve ridden on countless Tuesday evenings since 1979. It’s basically flat with no technical turns but with a lot of tree root heaves in the asphalt. The men had three age groups starting and racing together, but scored separately (50-54, 55-59, and 60-64). All of the women had raced together and were scored separately.

My teammate, Greg Page (50-54), and “best” racing buddy, Craig Jones (55-59), decided that we would test the field; alternately attacking and counter-attacking to see who responded. We were working our plan and Craig was off the front while my Greg and I were “resting” at the back. The pack was lapping a slower racer when he swerved in towards the center of the pack and caused a crash right in front of Greg and me. Three or four guys were on the ground and I had enough time to think I was going to join them. I had locked up my rear tire and was sliding sideways when I had enough muscle memory to release the brakes and swerve around the fallen riders. Greg said he zigged and zagged through a rapidly closing path. We chased back up to the pack (which fortunately wasn’t that hard) and then pack caught Craig right after that. About half a lap later, Greg  jumped and no one chased. Craig and I sat back, but not too far back this time, and watched Greg ride away from the pack as it strolled around the next three laps at barely 20 MPH.

Just as the pack got the 4 to go lap card, some guys at the front were having a contest to see who could slow down more to avoid being at the front of the pack when they almost crashed. I (regretfully) used an expletive while asking about their bike handling skills and then attacked out of frustration and for survival. Craig and two other 55-59 guys caught me and we started working together to leave the rest of the field behind. Craig said he’d lead me out for the final sprint as we started jockeying for position during the last half lap. One of the other guys gets on my buddy’s wheel and I’m 3rd in line. We hit the last slightly uphill drag with a quartering headwind and my buddy is hammering on the left side of the road so the guy on his wheel can’t get a good draft. He actually gets a small gap but I keep delaying my jump because I don’t want to drag the 2nd place guy around my friend when I jump into the windy side. I wait for him to jump but he doesn’t. Finally I jump with about 50 meters to go and get around him with surprising ease but I don’t have enough time to get around my buddy — no problem though. My teammate is first overall and first 50-54, my buddy is second overall (first 55-59), and I’m 3rd overall (second 55-59).

I ended the day with a bronze and a silver and I qualified for all the races in Cleveland.

The organizers held a dinner for the racers at a local Mexican restaurant after the first day and during dinner I decided to go all out in the 10 Km (actually 11.2 Km) TT and then play the 20 Km road race by ear. My teammate is only doing the TT the next day because of work and in the end my buddy had to take his wife to the doctor because she fractured a bone in her foot (long story) so I knew I’d be “isolated” in the road race.

Day 2

Surprise, surprise! I got to the venue a little late and who do I see but Kurt Bickell, “big time” bike racer and generally cool guy. I started getting ready and warmed up with Greg and Kurt grabbed a seat and gabbed it up with us while we were getting ready (since Kurt has a late start due to his late entry). I always enjoy talking with him. Completed a reasonable warm up, dressed, and got ready for the TT. I took off on lap 1 (of 4), got up to speed, and immediately had to avoid some parked maintenance trucks that were on the course. After squeezing between the trucks a 50-54 guy caught and passed me. I’m kind of startled by that but the worst thing is that now I had to take a less than ideal line on the course to keep me from drafting him. He is not really faster than me and I passed him back partway through the lap and a bit later he passed me again. I got to play this game with him for the duration of his race. I’m not sure if he’s annoyed, but I am. Also I’m annoyed because I’m behind on my split times. I totally lost concentration on the last lap even though I’m alone. I finished about 25 seconds slower than planned and I ended up second about 25 seconds slower than the winner (who also won the 5 Km TT). Ugh, another silver. BTW, my first 5 Km split was faster than my 5 Km time the day before. I don’t know why that happens to me, but I have other TT experiences like that. My second 5 Km split was slower.

Kurt started last and just blistered the course! He is 2 minutes and change(!!!) faster than I. It was a learning experience just watching him go by on each lap. I ended up with the 6th fastest time of the day. Oh well.

So now the guys who finished 3rd and 4th in the 55-59 40 Km road race are teammates and I know that they are going to try to work me over in today’s race. Kurt hinted that I should watch him though I already figured that out. Everyone else has figured that out too. It’s like a school of piranha going after a small piece of steak as everyone wanted to be on his wheel. Against my better judgement, I tried a couple of small jumps (I am pretty tired at this point). I can’t remember which lap it was but Kurt put in a big attack and I jumped on the wheel of one of the other 55-59 guys. He chased for maybe 100 meters and then sat up and I sat up too. Bye, bye Kurt as none of the other 50-54 guys tried to chase.

It turned into the same pattern as the 40 Km road race. If one of us (now just me and the two guys who are teammates) didn’t ride tempo on the front the pace slowed incredibly. Just after we got 3 laps to go, one of the 60-64 guys went slowly off the front. He got 100 meters pretty quickly since we were riding so slowly. I decided that I could catch him and I hoped that I could drop him a bit later with the added hope that the pack would stop chasing after they caught him. I caught him pretty quickly. We were working together with the pack chasing. Unfortunately, I really was tired. The pack caught both of us with 2 laps to go.

I decided to sit in and wait for the sprint. I got a little nervous when one of the other active 55-59 guys attacked but he gave it up pretty quickly. I was in the back half of the pack as we were heading towards the last turn. All of a sudden I spotted the teammates surging on the outside coming up from behind me. By the time I could safely move another guy got third wheel. I got on his wheel and we passed everyone just before the last turn. This time the leadout was on the right and I was getting a great draft. Unfortunately I waited too long to jump. The guy in third went and all I could do was stay near him. I didn’t have enough to get past him and thus my agony of defeat photo above. After we crossed the line I asked him what is his age group and he said, “55-59.” Double-damn!!! Another silver. Of course a day earlier our chase group had dropped him.

I guess the smart thing to do would have been to just sit in and watch and wait for the sprint. Unfortunately I hate racing that way.

All in all a fun two days of racing and socializing with a bunch of older cyclists. Still planning on Cleveland in 2013.