Archive for the ‘Bicycle Racing’ Category

My 2012 Q1 Race Results

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Bicycle Racing

As of March 31, 2012, I competed in 19 road events (13 criteriums, 4 circuit races, and 2 road race) and 3 time trials. I managed one significant top 10 (a 7th at the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race). The Masters 55+ fields have been bigger than I expected and, of course, some very fast racers (former national champions) turned 55 this year too. Overall, I am satisfied with how the season is going with my ultimate target being Masters Road Nationals in Bend, Oregon, in September. Who would have thought that at age 54 (55 by December 31, 2012) I’d be racing this much with this kind of intensity?

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Why Do I Race?

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Bicycle Racing

I race my bicycle to challenge myself physically and mentally. For me winning isn’t everything, it is secondary. Racing is a big part of my journey for lifelong fitness and (unfortunately?) some lifelong self-indulgence — especially technology self-indulgences. Bicycle racing also provides me a social outlet and keeps me out of bars at night.

Masters Road Nationals: Appendix

Posted: September 10, 2011 in Bicycle Racing

I realized that I didn’t document my road race experience and thought I should do so for posterity. After my dismal showing in the criterium, my confidence for the road race was pretty low. I pre-rode the course forwards and backwards (literally, one lap each way on different days) and the hills were daunting, especially watching some of the older Masters going up them. Sunday dawned with Nina getting up to do a half marathon in Sunriver, about 20 miles south of Bend. She did well without trying hard and got 2nd in her age group. I had all day to get nervous about my race that started at 5:00 PM. My friend, Craig, was in the first race of the day and he told me that if you were more than 10 minutes behind the leaders at the end of second lap, the race officials would pull you. Given my confidence level, this was significant information.

Leaving for the race, I forgot my food so we had to backtrack after driving about halfway to the start. I still had enough time for a light warmup in near 90°F temperatures. We were the last race of the entire championships with 3 laps scheduled for a total of about 52 miles. We got our race instructions and there was no mention of any time limit. The only information from the Chief Referee related to being dropped was that you had to stay as far right as possible on the road. The race actually started a few minutes before the scheduled start(!) and I parked myself near the back of the pack. Craig told me that in his race (Masters 55-59), the field rode at about 30 MPH leading to the first major climb and my race was no different. In fact, per my Garmin bike computer download, we averaged 29.3 MPH to the bottom of the first climb!

I was at the back because of my hesitation on the descent leading to the climb. I wasn’t in the mood to crash on my freshly healed face so my pack descending confidence was pretty low too. As we hit the climb I passed a number of riders as I attempted to stay in contact with the main field. Unfortunately, as we reached the top of the climb and passed the feed zone, I found myself off the back. I hooked up with two other guys but only one of them was willing to work. We caught a few more people as we reached the steepest climb on the course.

I saw another group in the distance and I decided to drill it on the climb in an attempt to make contact with them. Instead, I ended up cooking myself and the guys that I had initially left, passed me on the second half of the climb. I didn’t have enough left to hang on to anyone as we hit the rolling descent on our way to finishing the first lap.

I was riding solo until just before the descent leading to the first climb. Two other guys caught me and I took advantage of the small respite before the climb. I hit the climb at a sustainable, but hard pace and soon found myself with just one guy. This time I took a bottle from Nina which I had to juggle from a less than smooth handoff. I later heard my juggling and eventual control of the bottle was impressive. The guy that stayed with me on the climb was riding better than me and as we hit the steepest climb he dropped me.

Now, as I approached the finish of the second lap, I started wondering about the time limit. Approaching the traffic circle, going downhill at about 30 MPH, there was an official yelling something at me. I really couldn’t hear her but I assumed it had something to do with getting pulled. When I got into the circle proper, people were directing me to the road leading back to the finish line and I heard something like, “Race to the finish.”

I felt kind of ridiculous “racing” to the finish since I was by myself but I kept the pace up for the last 1.5 Km to the finish. As I crossed the line I saw several other competitors who had apparently been pulled too, including some of the guys who had dropped me on the first lap. Another rider rolled through after me and he was obviously from SoCal based on his club kit. We started chatting and eventually I asked if he had a cell phone I could borrow so that I could call Nina to let her know that I was done.

After Nina, Craig, and Kati got back to the start, they told me that when I went through the feed zone on the second lap I was less than 10 minutes behind the leaders so I didn’t miss the cutoff by too much. That bit of information was about the best news of the entire race week. It was the bit of good news that gave me some hope for being able to be pack fodder for next year.

And with that I was really done with the 2011 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships.

(…Assuming you aren’t a pig lover.)

Having had several days to mull over my (lack of) performance at the 2011 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships, I have tried to be objective about what I gained from the experience, my second trip to a national championship. First and most important is the experience. I said this when I first decided to go this past spring: my main reason for going was to gain experience for the 2012 event when I would be moving up an age group (to 55-59 years old). Looking at courses and course profiles on maps doesn’t really tell you the story of what it’s like to race on them. Reconnaissance rides also help but race experience is the best and I got that from this trip.

I also learned how my body will feel at the moderately high altitude of Bend, Oregon (about 3,500 feet above sea level) and how I need to train to be better prepared for next year. I have no delusions of victory and winning has never been my main motivation for racing bicycles (yes, I know that’s heresy for some), but I like to test my limits and I like my limits to allow me to “be there” rather than off-the-back.

I also had a nice break from SoCal with my wife and son and some friends. Bend has a lot of good restaurants, some shopping, some sightseeing, and great scenery.

Bend, Oregon, scenery

A view from one of the road course climbs.

I have a year to prepare for my third venture at Masters Road National Championships.

What can I say? Yesterday’s criterium was bad. I couldn’t get my foot in my pedal at the start and I ended up at the back of a fast field. No racing for the previous month left me without the strength or reserves to move up and ultimately, hang in.

I got dropped after a few laps and pulled a few laps later. I wasn’t the last classified finisher but close to it. This was especially bad as I haven’t gotten dropped in a criterium since a stage race in February.

The road race is tomorrow and I hope that my recent weight loss helps me in the hills.

After crashing 3-1/2 weeks ago, my prospects for competing in the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships in Bend, Oregon, were not very good. I saw my doctor for a follow-up exam about 2 weeks after the crash and guess what? He said I was good to race at the nationals. Here I am the night after the first race of the championships, the individual time trial, or for my non-cycling readers the ITT. Between my doctor’s OK to race and leaving for the championships I had about a week to try to rebuild my fitness after essentially having two weeks off the bike. That week ended with two days of driving and one day to get acclimated to Bend’s relatively high (for me) altitude of about 3,600 feet.

My overall confidence was not very good but it improved a bit after a reasonably good training ride to scope out the TT course. One problem with the reconnaissance was that I thought I was racing the 30 Km loop when, in fact, the Masters Men 50-54 years-old were competing on the 25 Km course. More on this later.

The afternoon before the race, registration opened and at registration, the Chief Referee conducted a courtesy bike inspection to ensure that your bike met UCI regulations and giving you a chance to fix it if it didn’t. I am pretty detail-oriented when it comes to setting up my bike and I was pretty confident that my bike met the technical regulations. It turns out that I was wrong. The biggest problem was the length of my carbon fiber TT handlebar extensions. They were too long and I didn’t have the tools or the time to get them cut down to meet the rules. I ended up spending a couple of hours in the condo trying several different combinations of changes to my setup with the hopes of making my TT bike legal.

I got the race early and brought my road bike as a last resort backup. It turns out that my adjustments made the bike legal. Of course they also made the bike less comfortable. Relieved, I went about my pre-race preparation and warmup rituals.

I got to the start in plenty of time and then got in line for the starting ramp. Five-four-three-two-one and I was heading down the ramp. A friend who raced earlier said something about the start not matching the course map but I didn’t fully grasp what she was describing. The start was a series of short straights and tight turns along the local high school perimeter road before turning on to the main highway that climbed to the courses highest elevation. At one point I thought that I made a wrong turn but I was OK and got on to the road with my 30 second man (who ended up 4th) in sight.

That didn’t last very long and I headed up the climb a series of riders passed me. I used them as inspiration pick up my pace. The turnaround point came a lot sooner than I expected because I had a mental picture of the 30 Km turnaround instead of the 25 Km turnaround. The guys who passed me were still in reasonable sight at the turnaround, but on the long descent back down the hill I was no match for them and lost sight of them completely.

The course finished with a “south” loop through a new, high-end housing development. I was working hard (per my hear rate recording) but I got passed by a few more racers before the finish. I ended up 29th out of 31 starters. At least I wasn’t dead last.

In retrospect and after reviewing my race data, I probably could have ridden a bit harder, but my lack of confidence and less-than-optimum position on the bike conspired to give me a less than stellar day. I learned a lot about the course and I accomplished one of my objectives for this trip — learning the courses for next year. Next year I’ll be the youngest in my age group, instead of the oldest.

First Stage Race in Years

Posted: August 9, 2011 in Bicycle Racing

(I have a bad habit of starting blog posts and not finishing them. Now that I am laid up for a few days I have an opportunity to catch up.)

Through my so-called racing career, I always liked the thought of stage races. Mind you, I don’t have the talent to be a good stage racer, but I fantasize experiencing some of the sensations of a professional bicycle racer competing in a race like the Tour de France. In the 1980s, I competed in several stage races, sometimes twice a year, with the races lasting 2 or 3 days (a far cry from the 23 stages of a Le Tour). However, after a short sabbatical from racing in the mid-1990s when my kids were young, I haven’t felt like I’ve had the fitness to try a stage race.

This year, with the help of my club’s generous sponsor, Cal Pacific Export Packers, I felt like I had enough fitness to try the Valley of the Sun (VoS) Stage Race in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 11-13, 2011. I’ve heard about this race for years and most of my racing friends who have done it have given favorable feedback. It’s a 3-stage event with an individual time trial, a road race, and a criterium. The time trial is an added bonus in making it feel like a big-time race since you have the excuse to bring your time trial bike and road race bike to the event.

I had two teammates there with me; Greg and Tom. Greg was the youngster of our group and in a gesture towards team solidarity, Tom and I, who were eligible to race in the Masters 50+ field, decided to race in the Masters 40+ field with Greg. We took most of Thursday to drive out to Phoenix and arrived in the late afternoon. We decided to go straight to the local bike shop to pick up our registration packages and found that there was a considerable line to get our materials. From there we went back to the hotel to check in and drag six (6) bikes into our suite with two queen size beds and a sofa bed. We made everything fit reasonably well and headed out for dinner.

Our start time on Friday was not too early so we had time for breakfast at the hotel and a relatively short drive to the start. Doing all of the normal pre-race stuff we (or at least I) were still kind of rushed and somewhat short on warm-up. In hindsight I would have benefited from pre-riding or pre-driving the course. It turns out that it was more of an uphill grind on the way out than I expected and I did not ride the return leg as fast as I could have. In the end I finished 55th out of 76 racers, 2 places ahead of my teammate Greg. Tom was further back. The hindsight is 20-20 revelation was I would have been 26th out of 53 if I had entered the 50+ field. Age makes a difference.

After lunch we took a short ride on our road bikes and the messed around until dinner. We had a very early start and a relatively long drive to get to the start of the road race stage so we tried to go to sleep early.

Saturday morning, we got up and got to the start in good time but the start area was kind of a fiasco with a lot of cars trying to squeeze into a small stretch of road. Sign-in was quick but the port-a-potty lines were long. Also, it was cold! I ended up racing with arm and knee warmers.

At this point I should note that part of my decision to do this race in the 40+ field was Greg’s description of the previous year’s race. He noted that the road race was pretty mellow and that the main climb was not too hard. Well 2011 was very different from 2010. This year’s field started relatively quickly and just got faster when we hit the climb. I fell off of the back very close to the top and ended up with two other guys and my teammate, Tom, who had intentions of trying to catch the main field. We worked pretty hard and we caught another chase group that contained my other teammate, Greg. Unfortunately, Tom fell off around this point but we were able to inspire this larger group to work together and, amazingly, we caught the main field — about 3 miles from the climb. Again, I got dropped near the top but this time I was alone. I eventually got caught by a couple of other guys and as we approached the tightest corner on the course, we saw the remnants of a crash in the main field.

I continued to work with these guys as we got back around to the hill. Unfortunately, I pretty much used up everything that I had on the previous lap and they dropped me. Now I was truly alone for a long and windy lap. I got passed by some other racers from some other categories (including some women) and I barely made it up the climb to the finish. Greg had finished about 25 minutes(!) ahead and Tom came in just a few minutes behind with another racer in last. So much for the road race stage.

We made the long drive back to the hotel with a stop for lunch. Can’t quite remember what we did the rest of the day but we ended the day with dinner at a small Mexican restaurant.

Sunday dawned and we had a mid-morning start for our criterium — or so we thought. When we got there we found out that they were over an hour behind schedule because of course logistic issues. That gave us plenty of time to warm up and watch the Masters 50+ race. As it turned out for Tom and me, things could get worse in the criterium. It started very fast from the gun and in my inimitable fashion, I was behind a number of guys who were opening gaps. I closed a few gaps but with a few laps I was off the back — with Tom. Tom and I and a guy who was really bad at cornering but was fast on the straights, worked together off the back. Our average speed was OK for 3 old guys but nowhere near the speed of the field. About 4 laps before the finish we got caught and pulled from the race by the officials.

The kicker is that before the race started, the Chief Referee clearly stated that if someone got dropped and pulled, their finish time would be calculated based on their distance and time when they got pulled. When I looked at the results online after driving home, Tom and I were not listed for the criterium or in the final results. Of course, both of us would have been near last in the race so I didn’t have much to complain about but it is kind of disappointing to race all 3 days and not be shown as a finisher. Oh well.