Thursday, January 17, 2008

New upgrade guidelines. An upgrade soon?

USA Cycling just re-tooled their points system and started awarding a
lot more points for high placings in races, especially road races.

NCNCA always did that, but USAC is actually more generous than NCNCA now.

Re-totaling my haul from last fall, I've got 19 points now, out of 25

More important (for me, since I wasn't planning on upgrading so soon) is
that they force you out at 40 points now, instead of 60 or whatever it
was before.

Is it normal to be afraid to upgrade? Because I ride with a lot of 2s
and 1s, and...I'm not so eager :-)

If this helps any of you 4s pop up into the 3s ranks though, right on!
Come race with me. We'll have some fun

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"You should know your place" --AMD to BPG

That pic is Karla trying to come to grips with a hairy-legged cyclist. She's apparently in to the whole "shaving" thing.

Not sure what was going on in the 123 race at the Early Bird #2 in
beautiful Fremont today, but the moment of the day had to be the pack
streaming around Turn 1, where all us spectators were and some random
AMD guy looking back at the BPG guy ("Team Weed" per some spectator -
great moniker) on his wheel and saying (loudly and dismissively) "You
should know your place". What's that all about? Yes, sir, though. Very
humorous. We yelled at them to get in their place and know their place,
etc the next couple laps. Good times.

Joel Robertson predictably stomped on the pedals in the ever-so-lovely
Team Oakland kit (since his new team can't seem to get a kit of their
own), initiating some shit, driving some shit into a big gap, then
sprinting past Mister World Championship Armbands himself, Larry Nolan,
for 3rd I think (maybe 2nd?) in the winning break of the P123 race, with
lots of heavy hitters in attendance (a couple pros, a few ex-pros, a
couple stars-n-stripes rolling around). Nice work, Mr.Robertson!

The weather was great all day, and I mentored nearly all the races
(missed the early early 4s race, sorry guys). Had great fun and got a
lot of Insider Racing Know-How(tm) into the new guys' heads I think (I
hope). Each pack of racers seemed to have its own specific problem
(while getting correct the thing that plagued some other pack) which was
amusing except for the part where people can crash and get hurt.

Predictably, some people did crash and get hurt (firetruck made an
appearance today, that's no good), and some people are going to send
some expensive carbon equipment to the equipment graveyard sooner than
they would have hoped, but there was some great riding out there, too.
The majority even. That gives me hope for the rest of the season when
we're racing for real, which is why I do this mentoring schtick (it's
not the free bagels, for sure)

Honestly, after being sick all week from last Sunday's exertions, I was
overjoyed just to be clipped back onto my ride again and toodling
around. I did miss it so.

Also, there was a huge (in my opinion) women's pack today. I love seeing
that. Get out there and kick ass, gals!

Lots of TO folks out there too - Mel, Sean, new-Jeff (way to hang in
there this time!), new-Laura (nice riding, ma'am!), Brian, Ed(-not-Lai),
Carol, and TO-wannabees Alice and Karla. Everyone hung tough in their
fields and didn't cause any fuss. Can't beat that.

I'm on hiatus for the next few weeks. I'll be in lovely Cape Town, South
Africa for a week, then in Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls) and Botswana
(Linyanti Bush Camp, near Maun). I'll admit that I'm probably going to
miss riding while I'm there, but this is the trip of a lifetime, folks!
I won't miss it too badly.

See everyone in February...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pop! (or, 100 miles of crits may be too much...)

Did the first Early Bird this morning. Hello, 2008!

I clearly need to do some intervals, because the 123 race asked more of
me than I could deliver. It shredded apart (as good friend Joel was
initiating the race-winning break) and as it came back together I blew up.

I'll take solace in the fact I'd already done 97 miles of crit by that
point. And I was sick all week.

And the sun got in my eye, and the wind took the ball, and, and...oh
well, I guess it's time for intervals :-)

Oh, I should mention that there was a crash in 5s, and no, I have no idea why it happened. I mean, I know why. I was a mentor in the field and I was in the pack, near it. I saw a wheel overlap and stuff, but how do people crash on a big wide straightaway? Bizarre. And a shame. No major injuries though (whew), and all other fields survived with nothing but a flat tire here or there. Sweet! But protect those front-wheels, and maintain your space, people!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Year, New Season. Bring on the Squirrelly Birds!

Tomorrow is the first Early Bird

Rain's in the forecast.

Been training hard...should be fun, if a little nasty :-)

The pic above is from when I first got back into cycling in 2005. It was
raining then too, and you should note that I do not have a goatee,
that's all road grit (mmmm)

Last year I had my legs back under me and I mentored a bunch. I'm hoping
to do the same this year, though I won't be around for the last too,
owing to some travel.

Rubber side down!

Mechanically Challenged (Challenge RR) (20070902)

Not sure what to write about this one. I don't have a lot positive to
say about the experience.

I do try to take something positive out of everything though, so I'll
think of everything good about Saturday.

1. The scenery was fantastic - Challenge, California is in some
truly beautiful country, and the course goes through some great parts of it
2. The school the race is based out of has great facilities (not
always the case...)
3. Hmmm...running out of positives here. The guys in the pack were nice?

Alright, so what gives? What sucked so bad?

Well, Challenge, California, is just a bit under 3 hours from my house.
With an 8am start time, my alarm went off at the chipper hour of 3:45am.
That's ugly. To get up at that hour and get everything together
(correctly!) while still zombified from being so early, that means I
have to do all my pre-race prep the night before which hurts the WAF
(Wife Acceptance Factor) for a given race. So the logistics required for
this race don't make it popular in the Hardy Household.

But it's hilly, and I'm a small guy, so I'm a sucker for hilly races. I
should be able to climb with the lead group, right? So off I go. At
least I didn't get a flat tire on the way to the race like I did for the
last race I did last Sunday.

I get there, go through the whole pre-race thing and see who showed up.
I'd checked the pre-registration and most of the climbers were on the
list, but not all of them. Well, they decided to come, and around 10
extra juniors (read: strong light guys that can climb quickly) showed up
too. Hmm, so this is going to be hard

I'd done all my pre-race recon though, had a mental map of the course,
the elevation profile, how I wanted the race to work tactically, and how
I'd react in various parts if it didn't go that way.

We roll off and proceed to do a neutral (read: referee/official
motorbike leading us at a moderate pace, no passing allowed) down one of
the most poorly paved descents I've seen. Except for Copporopolis I
guess. Then we're off to the races.

At this point, I'll mention some actual racing tidbits. There were
hills, we went quickly up them, it hurt etc etc.

But that's not what got my attention. What got my attention is that
after one of the hills, leading to a long descent then a false flat
downhill section, I can't get into my big ring. Huh? I do everything I
can with the shifting and the cables and I finally get it in there.

So I forget about it, and I'm in the 50x11 ripping down the hill with
the pack when we get to the false flat part and I want to move up to the
13 or so. But my bike won't shift into it. I'm stuck in the 11!

For those reading (like my family) that are wondering what "the 11"
means, it's the biggest, hardest gear on the bike. I turn the crank
once, and the rear wheel goes nearly 5 times. It's a great gear, if
you're doing around 32mph. I'm doing 26, and it's not the right gear.

Worse, there are hills coming, I know, in about 3 miles. What can I do?
I try to think of options, and I can't think of any. What can you do
when all you have is the biggest gear? Go fast, I guess.

So I attack.

I sprint off the front of the group, dial the pain level in the legs up
to "simmer" and start hauling ass. After a couple miles I have about 30
seconds and the hills are coming.

Trying to maintain mental focus while I'm hammering along, I'm doing
everything I can to figure out what the problem is. I'm jiggling cables.
I'm playing with the shifters, I'm looking around the bike, and flying

I finally realize what it is right as I get to the hills. My gear
shifter's cable guide had snapped off and moved out of position. The
cable guide is this little plastic bit that is on the bottom of the
bottom bracket, and it's what the shifter cables slide against as they
go back to the derailleurs. It's pulled off to the side, nearly into the
front chainrings, so the cables are nearly slack, jamming the gears.

Ah-ha! Maybe I can fix that. I look back and see the pack down the road
with my nice little gap, I sigh, and pull over, clip off the bike, flip
it over and start working on it. I see that the cable guide has a
plastic protrusion that holds the guide in place by fitting in a hole on
the bottom bracket. Or at least, that's the theory. Since it's plastic,
it's all mashed up and doesn't fit anymore. That's the problem. I shove
it into place, and jump back into the pack. At least the gap was good
for something.

The guys in the pack and I chuckle about it and we start going up the
hill. Then it pops off again.

Guess this isn't my race.

I pull over, the pack leaves (for good this time) and I fix it.

I ride on, and when I finish the first lap I decide to do the second lap
as training since I'd be doing a hard ride today anyway if I wasn't
racing, and it is pretty country.

Near the bottom of that hellaciously (non-paved) descent I hear this
awful rattle at the back of my bike though. "Now what?" I'm thinking.

Turns out the descent was so rough that the lockring on my cassette
unscrewed. I'm not even kidding. I know I torqued that thing up, too.
Again, for those wondering what this means, picture the gears on the
rear of a bike. Now picture them no longer stacked up neatly against the
spokes, but sliding off away from the spokes so that they're loose and
just rattling around. Yep, that's my bike. Great!

So I pull over, pop the wheel off, and do what I can to reinstall the
gears. I'm able to get it rideable again with finger-tightening at least.

Did I mention it was hot? Right about now, the temperature went over 90

I ride for another 5 miles or so, then the cable guide snaps off again.
I fix it.

91 degrees, 5 more miles

The cassette rattles off again

92 degrees, 5 more miles

The cassette rattles off again. Oy.

95 degrees, etc etc etc

I stopped 9 times total. In a race. I was starting to feel like I should
have brought a tricycle or a big wheel or something. I was having
heat-stroke dreams of a professionall cycling team's team car rolling up
with a spare bike so I could throw mine in the ditch.

At this point I'll mention the last really good thing about the day.
Brandon Hill, a racer out of Sacramento that I've been racing with for a
bit more than a year and moving up categories with fell out of the pack
and rode with me the whole way. Every time I stopped, he stopped and
waited with me, and we finished together. That made the race if not
actually good ... slightly less bad. Thanks, Brandon.

Then I got in my car and drove home for 3 hours.

I always try to take a lesson from each race. What's the lesson from
this? Well check your equipment, I guess. Torque everything down. And if
your cable guide is just plastic and doesn't have any screws holding it
in place, maybe you should think about making sure it's really secure.

I also try to leave some information in here for future people racing on
the same course. What's the course like? Well, it has a section of truly
awful pavement. Adjust your tire/wheel choices appropriately. The course
is very hilly. The 3s were doing about 5.2W/Kg up all of the hills. If
that doesn't sound doable, the race won't be much fun. If that does
sound doable it's a great race though - if you've got the power (and
functioning equipment) it can be very tactical.

Last CalCup race tomorrow! The Giro di San Francisco! Racing in the city
streets of SF is fun. Hopefully I'll have my gear working well for it.

University Road Race - climber's paradise (20070828)

Getting closer to the end of the season but the races are still packed
together for the second to last weekend of the California Cup.

August 26th is one of the hardest races of the year - the much-feared
University Road Race. The race is on a loop of roads in the University
of Santa Cruz. If you've never been there, you should go, because it is
a very picturesque campus - little buildings all nestled in the mountains.

Wait, did you say mountains? Yep - great in cars, but on a bike? Well,
the course is a 3-mile loop, and it only does two things - it goes up,
and it goes down. Each lap goes up one road for a total elevation gain
of around 400 feet, then it turns a corner, and drops down those same
400 feet, where it turns a corner and you go up again.

My category 3 race had 15 laps of this scheduled, quite a party, with 60
of my closest friends.

I should mention that on the way down, I got a flat right rear tire on
my car. I changed it quickly, but is this a good omen?

On my team we had the rarely seen but very strong Michael Fee, and James
Bauer was also present. James and I had raced the day before, but Fee
hadn't raced in months. I've trained with him though and know he's very
strong, so I think we had a good squad there.

I've heard that you can't let any gaps go in this race - that you have
to stay at the front the whole time and just ride as hard as possible,
so that's my plan. Not much team tactics going on with a plan like that,
but the course itself was so hard that it was what would beat most of
the riders, not tactics.

Right before the gun went off, Mike Fee noticed his front wheel was
flat, so he got one of mine, but I don't think this is a good omen either...

True to the prediction of straight-up hard riding, when the pace picked
up in the middle of the race, the peleton detonated, and pretty soon we
were down to around 15 riders.

With 7 or 8 laps to go, I realized that James, one of my teammates, was
in the feed zone now making sure I had enough food and water. That was
extremely nice of him (and his wife did hand up some of my infamous
"Hardymax" (or "CytoMike" if you prefer)) but I was curious how he ended
up out of the race.

So I'm down to one teammate in the race, but I'm able to stay
consistently with the front of the pack, so I'm starting to think my
chances are pretty good in this race. That's an amazing realization for
me as I'm still pretty new to this higher category racing, and I'm never
sure how strong I am relative to the other guys.

With 3 or 4 laps to go, unbeknownst to me, a deer leaped into the pack
and took out a couple of riders, with Mike Fee among them, so his race
was over. This is definitely not a good omen.

Each of the last 3 laps, going up the hill me and three other riders
surged off the front and got a gap on the remaining pack, but we never
had a large enough gap at the top that we didn't regroup. When the final
uphill came, my legs were so tired I didn't have much of a sprint, so I
took 7th in the grinding uphill finish.

That's not bad, but after thinking about it a lot, I've come to the same
conclusion I came to after San Ardo - if you want a breakaway instead of
a sprint you have to give it everything you have when you have a gap. At
the top of the hill when we had those gaps I never really pushed it, and
that let the rest of the group back on. I could have gotten 4th instead
of 7th at least.

Lesson not quite learned last time, but maybe this time it will stick.

I will admit I was extremely happy with 7th though. On a course this
selective, in a new category, that was a great result.

Two more races in the CalCup - the Challenge Challenge which is supposed
to be ridiculously hilly, and the Giro di San Francisco. It looks like I
can climb okay so I may do well at the Challenge, and I know I can
sprint, so the Giro should be an opportunity as well.

Maybe by the end of the CalCup I'll have a reasonable standing in the
series, and I may even have enough points to be upgrade to category 2!

We'll see how it goes next weekend...

San Ardo Road Race - can't catch a break (20070828)

The races are really piling up now - the California Cup series packs a
ton of races into a very short amount of time, and August 19th was the
San Ardo Road Race, the 5th out of 8 events, and the 4th or 5th weekend
in a row that I've been racing or travelling...

This race in particular is a logistical challenge because it's nearly 3
hours away - halfway to Los Angeles, but I pre-registered and sent my
money in, so I'm going...

In the 3s we had Boris, Sean, James and I - that's a pretty good crew.

There was a very early break that looked pretty good, and James looked
like he got in the move. Webcor had 9 guys in the field and Form Fitness
had 5 or 6. They each had folks in the break, and so did we so I
proceeded to kick back in the pack and watch the fools who didn't get
someone in the break blow motors on the front trying to chase it down
through all the Webcor and Form Fitness disruption.

Meanwhile, Sean had a mishap where some yahoo swerved around or
something causing mid-pack lameness which resulted in Sean having a
spoke nearly broken for him. His wheel was rubbing enough that his day
was done. Boris had been travelling a lot so he didn't have his motor
with him, but we're still okay.

Until...until...there's a form up the road...looks like a
that our rider? is James. Uh oh.

Turns out he didn't quite make the gap to the break and they were
motoring something fierce, so now we have no one in the break and about
50 miles to go to the finish. I am now one of the fools on the front,
killing it to bring the break back. James pitches in (and more
importantly) works around the pack behind me getting others to lend a
hand. This continues for some 30 miles or so, and I'm starting to get tired.

I figure the break is probably nearly reeled in and since I'm not going
to have a sprint after all the work I'd save something up for the
inevitable counterattacks so I turn off the jets and sink into the pack.

The break does come back, and now it's counter counter counter...I
figure with so many teammates, nothing is going up the road without
Webcor and Fusion so I wait for things with them in it, then bridge up
or go with them. I must have covered 10 attacks. Felt like a hundred. A
couple were promising, but after much thinking I believe I've learned
that breakaways simply take more dedication than I or my breakmates were
putting out. We were never really driving it when we were off, so
everything came back.

Then we curved through town, all lined out, stayed lined out over the
bridge, I had great position for the last hill, and when the big effort
started on the hill before the last corner and little finish straight, I
detonated and shut everything down, rolling in with nothing to show but
a great workout.

Well, hey, I like great workouts, and I'll try harder next time if I
want the break to work...

There were some really fine performances on the day though, that's for
sure - Stephen's ride was fantastic, and the P/1/2 action was great.
There were real pros there, and both Joel and John were in the mix full
strength. Very cool.

The next day is the University Road Race, one of the hardest races of
the season, so all I can do in the remaining hours of the day is focus
on recovery and try to get ready...

Suisun-o-drome (Suisun Crit) (20080828)

August 12th brings the Suisun Harbor Criterium - 4th of 8 races in the
California Cup cycling series of races.

Suisun is one of my favorite races. It seems silly because the course is
completely featureless. It is a "typical" 4-corner rectangular course
like most other criterium courses, but what makes it different is that
it is really really short. I mean, it's only a half-mile around. That
makes for some very interesting racing because you can lap the field
with a 50-second lead, or you can sprint almost the whole lap.

I haven't been having good luck with flat tires lately and need a little
confidence, so my plan at Suisun was basically to stay up front, then

That doesn't make for interesting reporting, so I'll cut to the chase
and say that I scoped out the sprint before hand, and decided that the
appropriate thing to do was exactly what I did at the Timpani Criterium
where I won. I would accelerate very hard into the last corner,
hopefully get a gap so the person behind me didn't have any draft, then
hold the sprint all the way down the start finish straight.

Unfortunately, when I got to the point where I was supposed to jump
something unexplained happened in my head. Instead of actually
accelerating I literally thought to myself "I should accelerate here"
instead of actually doing it. Well, that's not useful . About a second
later the message finally got to my legs and I accelerated a little bit,
but it was too late. The corner was right there so I had to stop
pedaling, and while I was in the lead I didn't have a gap.

We came around the corner and I gave it everything I had, but the guy
that was behind me was juuuust able to come around me and nip me at the

So, I got second place, which is fantastic, but I also learned that I
need to remember to do formal visualization before the sprint or I'll
miss the mark. I normally do that, but this time I didn't and I missed
an opportunity. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again, but obviously
time will tell

Dunnigan Flats (Dunnigan Hills RR) (20070828)

August 18th brought the Dunnigan Hills Road Race, the 3rd event out of 8
in the California Cup Series

Now, I missed the first two events because I was in Colorado for a
wedding, but the wedding was great fun so it was worth it

That does mean I'm behind in the points though, and I've been training
my buns off, so I'm pretty excited to see how I stack up in this race.

The course is pretty much pancake flat, and should favor a sprinter. My
remaining goal for my category 3 racing tenure is to go for a breakaway
though, so I'm looking for a small group to get away near the end.

It's a really long race (90 miles!) and I had teammates so I planned to
basically sit in the pack, do no work, and then with between 10 miles to
go and 5 miles to go be very active trying for breakaways. If that
didn't work, I'd cool it and go for the sprint.

Everything looked like it was going according to plan at the start, but
around 15 miles in, I started to get a strange bouncy feeling...oh no,
could it be? yes, a flat tire.

Now, when professional cyclists get flat tires, you can see the
cyclist's team car zip up while they're on the side of the road, they
get a spare tire in around 10 seconds, then they get a huge shove to get
up to speed, and finally the draft all the cars following the pack until
they are back in the pack. No problem.

I am not a professional. We don't have team cars. We do have a "follow
vehicle" and I had put spare wheels into it, but as I pulled out of the
pack to get the wheel change, I noticed the follow vehicle was
waaaaaayyyy back on the road. Apparently someone else had just gotten a
flat and a wheel change before me, and the vehicle hadn't made it up yet.

2 minutes and 45 seconds later, I have my spare rear wheel in, but the
pack is nearly out of sight. The follow vehicle does a good job of
pacing me back towards them when disaster strikes! Another person got a
flat. The follow vehicle pulled over to help them, and now I'm well and
truly done. Nothing to draft off of to get back to the pack, and 70 solo
miles later I finished the race.

I had a lot of time to contemplate what I learned from this. The only
thing I could get out of it was that if you get a flat tire in a road
race and you can ride on it at all, you should ride on it and stay in
the pack while you look for the follow vehicle. If the vehicle isn't
there, you should keep riding on it until it comes back, or as long as
possible, as that time may be the difference between chasing on or not.
After that, if you can get the follow vehicle to stay with you and pace
you up at all, every minute they're pacing you is worth its weight in gold.

With 3 of the 8 races down, I've still got no CalCup points. Hopefully
I'll do better in the rest of the CalCup.

Well that was unexpected... (Timpani Crit) (20070805)

Alright, so where are we? We're one race away from the CalCup, and all
of us fanatical point-chasing / status-conscious racers are gearing up
for a fitness peak and the big showdown, right? Okay, maybe just me, but
I'm going into this race with a little confidence from the District
Championship RR the day before where I climbed well and had a reasonable

On the way home from that race though, James Bauer and I talked a lot
about improvements we could make. One revelation James had for me was
that if I hit the finish line on a sprint and I'm still hammering or
accelerating, I screwed up. I should be totally spent at the line! I'm
not going early enough apparently.

So I resolved to have a sprint today where I started maybe 100m earlier
than I have been. Which is a little bit of a scary thought when you
think about it, because that's a 250m sprint for me, and that's a lot of
tarmac to hold full power. Can I make it?

Only one way to find out....

So there's 70 or so of us in this cat 3 race, and it's windy, but this
is a featureless course. Flat. 4 rounded corners. Good pavement. So
basically, this is a big hammerfest sprint type race where breakaways
historically don't work.

Boris is also in the race with me, but Boris was hanging around in the
field and he and I didn't have a strategy together so weren't very

So in our 55 minute race a few people fool around off the front but with
5 laps to go all the breakaways have been caught, we're all together and
it looks like it's going to be a sprint...

I'm near the front, riding on what I think of as "the inside eddy" - the
flow of riders coming up along the inside line, hitting the front and
falling back through the middle. I'm rolling in the eddy from around
10th deep to 5th just holding steady - near the front when I roll
forward but not in the wind, and fading back but barging into the inside
line of riders moving up when I get around 10th.

Mentally, I'm thinking of when I'm going to jump, how many people deep I
want to be, what gear to use etc, every lap for the last 4 laps I'm
visualizing the decisions I've made - 3rd wheel with 2 corners to go,
jumping out of the last corner. This gear, that line, etc. I'm not even
paying attention to the power numbers and heart rate coming up on the
computer but I dumped them later and they were pretty high . I didn't
feel bad but it's probably good I didn't see them.

The last lap comes and I'm still surfing the inside eddy, but now we're
doing it full-bore with bared teeth and lots of speed. People are
getting antsy and pushing around a little bit but I manage to pushy
enough and have good enough timing to get third wheel into the second to
last corner. Looking good so far...we're rolling at 32mph now and the
first wheel runs out of steam and pulls over to the inside.

Second wheel starts to slow down but someone back in the pack yells at
him: "Go!". Miraculously and for some unknown reason, he stands up and
does just that with about 50m to go to the last corner. He accelerates
pretty hard but I'm right on his wheel pushing hard into the last corner
in his draft.

From that point on, I don't remember anything else except the finish
line. We swept out of the last corner and I'm pouring full gas on
already, with 250m to go. The finish line gets bigger and everything
becomes earily silent and in slow motion. I don't remember shifting
gears. I don't remember feeling even minor discomfort. I didn't look
back or to the side. I remember having my mouth open (funny how you
remember some things). I do remember throwing my bike at the line, which
is also funny because apparently I had at least 5 bike lengths on second

I fought for position starting around 7 to go and held it. I went for
the early sprint, and it worked. I won myself a bike race! woohoo

7 more cat 2 upgrade points (which scares the crap out of me, frankly),
15 BAR points for me and the team. Go Team Oakland!

The downside to being in good racing shape but being too young to do the
35+ races is that you only get one race a day and criteriums are so
short that you actually lose fitness by doing them. I need to ride two
to three hours a day on average to maintain fitness and I usually count
on weekend days for about four hours a day. So I ended my victorious day
with two and a half hours on the trainer under the wonderful Team
Oakland pop-up tent watching the rest of the races. The exciting life of
a bike racer indeed

But this crosses off the second of three goals I had for the cat 3s.
I've gotten a top ten and a top five now, but I have never finished a
race in the winning break. Looks like I'll be riding breakaways for a

A Confidence-Building Exercise (District Championship RR) (20070805)

Men's Cat 3 race, it's James Bauer and I. I woke up at ass o' clock (4am
for those following along at home), and picked James up for the drive
down to a cold and foggy Monterey.

After much consideration, I put on my winter cycling kit - bib knickers,
a warm underlayer, arm warmers, a vest - the works. And it was the right
choice. Where's summer??

Weather aside, I have a mental problem while cycling. Well okay, I have
a few, and some aren't cycling-related, but specifically I have a hard
time making it up steep climbs with the pack. I have gotten dropped on
climbs a lot so I don't have a lot of confidence on them.

The CalCup race series is about to start though, and I want to do well,
and it has some hilly road races. So what I need is to have some
confidence that I can climb with the 3s heading into the CalCup series.

So heading into this race I had one goal: finish with the pack. Doesn't
sound exciting but this is a very hilly course so if I can do that I
will know that I can climb okay. That's very important for the confidence.

So we start off, and James attacks. Go James! Now I'm familiar with
James' style of racing, and he always attacks. Early. And usually he
comes back pretty quick (sorry, man Smile ), but this time, he's rolling
away. Well, damn. Go James!

A couple people bridge up to him. The laps are flying by, the pack
catches James, James attacks again! Good Lord James! That's gotta hurt.
He's away for a couple laps again. The pack catches him again, and he
attacks again!! Okay, this is silly. I had to use two exclamation points
there. He stays off for the last half lap of his four and a half laps
off the front (that'd be 50 miles or so, for those still keeping score)
but now we're all together.

Up till now, I've been relaxing in the pack and just working on my
cycling tan (coming along quite nicely, thank you) but we have gone hard
up the hill a couple times and hey, it only hurt like the third or
fourth circle of hell, not the inner circles. This has potential.

We get to the last time up the climb and Ryan Bennett, an ex-teammate of
ours and nice guy takes off up the climb. I'm at the front too, and for
a moment I'm going to catch him but I remember my goal, I look at my
power numbers and heart rate both going into blinky-redline territory
and decide to let him go and make sure I finish with the pack rather
than bury myself trying to catch up.

I cross the top of the climb with the front group, but Ryan's gone. We
hammer along towards the finish line, there's a big nasty hairy sprint
in which I take 5th, but Ryan stayed away, so I got 6th in the race.

This was, to me, a huge victory. Upgrade points from cat 3 to cat 2 go 7
deep. So I got 2 points well before I thought I'd get any cat 2 points.
"Best All-Around Rider" (BAR) points go 10 deep, so I got some BAR
points for me and the team. And I made it up the hill with the group.
I've got some confidence now.

No celebration for meeting a goal is complete without protein, but I
chased my protein shake with some scotch. Cheers.

Thank you sir, may I have another (Masters Championship Crit) 20070805)

Well then. Yesterday had what I consider to be an awful performance in
the road race, but really, it was a gorgeous setting (Diamond Valley ==
beautiful), we had a BBQ at Jesse's Tahoe cabin (awesome man, wonderful
time, thanks) and after the race we actually spent the rest of the day
at the beach under clear skies with enough heat that it was perfect.

That pretty much lays to rest all the bad feelings from the road race.
So let's go racing! James Bauer and I wake up at ass o'clock (that'd be
4am I think) and start practically free-basing carbs like sugar junkies.
We drive to Minden, we get our nifty spandex on and roll around for a

First, I have to say, this is the best crit course ever. It was
dreamlike smooth. They had broomed away even the leaves so it was
perfectly clean. And it was only 4400 feet over sea level, which for
some reason felt much more than 20% better than yesterday's 5500 feet.

Only 11 people showed up though, and 3 of them were from Team Spine.
This is a small race, folks, there's not going to be anywhere to hide.
And those Spine guys are strong. And it's not like I had a 70 mile high
altitude race the day before...oh wait, I did. So...this could hurt.

One of the Spine guys goes from the gun and we start chasing. A second
Spine guy bridges and now there's two off the front. Drat. We continue
chasing. We catch them and (surprise!) the third Spine guy who had been
resting in our draft while we chased counter-attacked and was away. Well
then. Guess we should chase more. Weeee

Finally we gave up. 4 men got away in total - 2 Spine guys and 2
randoms. We toodle along. One of the randoms cracks out of the breakaway
so there's only three up the road now. 2 Spine. They lap us, and I learn
something important.

If someone laps you, and they come through the pack and attack again and
are then off the front, you can leave the pack and go up to them and sit
in their draft, but you MAY NOT work with them. As a lapped rider, you
are only a passenger on the leading riders. I didn't pull because I
thought that was the case but I asked the officials later to confirm it,
and them's the rules.

So now we have a pack sprint coming, and I've got some pride so I want
to do well. I've set it up in my mind perfectly, practicing the fast
lines through the chicane before the final straight. Thinking about
exactly where I can start and still hold the speed. I'm ready to go even
though we're just sprinting for 4th. We get to the corner before I'm
going to start my sprint and POW! The 3rd Spine guy (the one that wasn't
in the breakaway) has already started his sprint.


So he has a little gap on me as I get my sprint going and I got beat by
every Spine team member in the race. That's impressive, kinda Smile

I got 2nd in the pack sprint at least, that's something.

There I learned my second lesson. For each corner you have to stop
pedaling in during a sprint, add 50 meters to the distance you can
normally hold a full power sprint. That little rest helps, and you
should go earlier.

No offense to James (who will get better billing in the NCNCA District
Championship RR race report...) but he had a fairly anonymous race. At
the start, before the main break was away he was mixing it up big and
almost made the move, but once it was established we were both just
passengers. c'est la vie.

As with the road race, for the criterium, maybe next year...

Mmmm...cooked legs, extra salty (Masters Championships RR and Crit) (20070805)

This report is a bit delayed because the race happened the weekend
before last, but there were some important lessons learned. What were they?

* altitude is very painful if you're not used to it. Jim Rusk and
I, power nerds both, were about 15% off on our normal watts vs bpm. You
know what that means? Suckage.

* if you do a lot of work at the front, you probably won't have any
snap in your legs when you need it

Those are the lessons - the nutshell race report is that it was an open
race (all categories together - anyone 30 or over could race in my
category), it was near Tahoe at 5500 feet, it was hot and most of the
guys in the race were 1s, 2s or solid 3s. Mostly 1s and 2s I think.

We had Haydn as our designated strong man, Maury Long, me, Jesse Freese,
and Jim Rusk as the Kaiser team.

We got our asses handed to us

But we went down swinging at least. 23 started. 4 Spine?

Spine attacked. We lost Jesse the first time up. Spine bridged. We were
chasing for Haydn. We lost Jim the second time up. I was cooked by the
third time up. Maury flatted out. Haydn felt ill. 13 finished. I got 13th.

Jim actually skipped a lap, but did a last one with me for the workout
(I was already off the back just finishing to get a good workout in) and
they clocked him as 14th I think.

Reports are that the last anyone saw of Haydn was him shouting that he
was getting back down to sea level, slamming the door and peeling out.

Next year, maybe. After I get an altitude tent.

Bad Luck (Albany Crit) (20070722)

Two races in a row now (I got a flat tire early in the race at Coyote
Creek - my last race)

This time I was in a doomed break, but that was okay, at least I saw
what it felt like

Then I was 5th wheel with 3 corners and around 600m to go, and wheels 3
and 4 decide they both want wheel 2 really bad. So bad, they lock
handlebars and go all scrapy slidey on the road right in front of me

So I'm doing my best to get maximum braking while keeping it together,
basically waiting to see where a clear lane is going to be and they
finally start sliding generally left.

I dive right and one of them flails an arm out along the ground. I
bunny-hop his arm, but by this time about 10 people have already gone
past me and the pack is absolutely flying, as you would expect. I'm
about 15mph down and just shut the engines off and coasted in for a
back-of-the-pack finish.

An inauspicious outing, but hey, the rubber side stayed down, I dig
that...I've got a friend that wasn't so lucky three times in a row, on
the same hip.

Next up is a road race and a criterium in Lake Tahoe. It's the Master
Championships, and it's an "open" race which means uncategorized, which
means the category 1 and category 2 races can whup on little ol'
category 3 me. We'll see how it goes

Vacaville Grand Prix, and some goals met (20070701)

So I've already mentioned that my goals are a top-10, then a top-5, and
to be winning the break at least once, while helping teammates whenever
possible. My chance to do that today took place in Vacaville, at the
Vacaville Grand Prix, a technical, slightly hilly, really well done and
fun figure-eight course in the much nicer than expected downtown of
Vacaville, California, less than hour from my house.

So I load up the car like I'm headed for a weeklong camping trip (lawn
chairs, loads of water and food, official Team Oakland team popup tent,
trainer, two bikes, race wheels etc etc), and I'm off.

I get a great spot on the start/finish straight and get set up. I've
been building up a new race bike and I was hoping I could get ready to
race it today which is why I had two bikes, but I had some technical
difficulties and just couldn't get the new bike working right. So I set
up my old trusty bike for the race and warmup while watching my teammate
Paul work his way through an early Sunday morning in his Masters 35+
category 4 field.

I've got one teammate in my race, John Wilk, and while I tell him I
can't commit to anything I'll do whatever I can.

Our field hits the course, and decide having my legs torn off yesterday,
today I feel great. It was one of those days where the course didn't
feel hard, the corners were interesting but easy, and the hill was
something for other people to worry about. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't
the strongest guy or anything, but I was feeling okay. This was going to
work out.

John meanwhile is taking my feel-good race and making it look silly,
working up front, in a breakaway, just really tearing it up. All to no
avail though, it's coming down to a bunch sprint and here's where I made
a major break from the last two races I've done with cat 3s. I fought
tooth and nail for my position in the last few laps instead of letting
these more aggressive guys take it to me.

The entire last lap I can't find John though, and when we hit the hill
I'm still looking around and getting closer and closer to the front. As
I'm just about at the top of the hill, I hear him behind me saying
nothing more than "I'm here". Excellent! When you're the leadout guy,
and you hear that, it's music to your ears. I don't know what I can do,
but I turn around and say "let's go" and thread through to the outside
on the downhill assuming he'll do the needful.

We hit the last corner and I'm about 6 people back, blasting into the
headwind, on the windy side, just soaking it up. There's a little kink
with about 150 meters left before the finish, and about 100 meters
before that I make the only move I can. I accelerate approximately 1mph
for the lamest sprint in the century , advancing from about 6th to about
3rd with John on my wheel. He wisely sees I'm not going too far and
lights it up, blasting completely off the front of the field through the
kink to take the win. I meanwhile huddle into the beloved precious draft
of the other sprinters and just hang on for dear life to take ninth.

So that's it. I got a top 10 and in a small way, I think I helped John
get a clear lane and an acceleration point for his win. I tell you what
though, after Leesville Gap and this race it's clear to me what the
difference between being first over the climbs (John) and winning races
(John!) is and what I'm doing. And I'm not doing badly, but I've got
some training to do...Great day for Team Oakland though.

We'll see what I can do before Coyote Creek. I think it's next on tap.


Huge, Heaping Helpings... (Leesville Gap RR) (20070701)

The hardest cycling races there are would be hilly road races. So I just
upgraded and I'm all set to race with some much faster, stronger dudes,
so what the hell, I chose a hilly road race as my first category 3 race.
Even better, in order to make it to and be ready for the 8:10am start I
had to do most of my prep the night before (a couple hours) then wake up
at 4:30am and leave the house by 5am. And I do this for fun!

And I was served huge heaping helpings of pain today. Yep. The course
meanders for 15 miles of awful pavement, a little gravel, a mild uphill
with horrendous pavement for a while, then it hits a huge climb. I'm
headed up the climb, with the lead group, feeling awful and having one
of those "gosh, I don't really know how to ride my bike" moments when I
lost contact with the leaders and started falling through the field like

Here's the best part, Jim Rusk and Maury Long, two very nice teammates,
blast past me. I yell some encouragement at them, but these guys aren't
in my race. I'm a 3 and these guys are 4s. They started 5 minutes after
me, and they're climbing super strong. Way stronger than I am.

Okay, so I need to work on my climbing...

I get over the top, hook up with a couple of fellow cat 3 racers, we
blast through a long gravel climb, and start hooking up with more and
more cat 3s. Before long, there are a lot of us, we're powering along
and we see another group of 3s. We blast up to them, integrate nicely
and start hauling some serious ass along the road. Not long after
that...lo and behold, there's the front group with my teammate John (who
made it over the climb with the front group) in it. They must have been
going extremely slowly because there's no way we should have caught
them. The fields nearly all together now, and we proceed to do pretty
much nothing for 40 miles.

Then we have a sprint in a 5 foot wide lane, with 30 guys on a dead flat
road (read as: a really lame race ending - too many people, not enough

So I finished with the main group (17th out of 55 I think), but I really
had no chance being there (the lead group should have been long gone
after the climb), and in the end the sprint was pretty lame. All in all,
my first cat 3 race was educational, but not a great racing experience.
We'll see how the next one goes.

Bicycling Existentialism (aka goal-setting) (20070701)

Ok, so what the heck am I doing here?

Let's be frank, I spend quite a bit of time on the bike, and I better be
getting some value out of it when you consider the amount life energy I
pour in to it.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because I just met all of my goals as a
category 4 cyclist, and accumulated enough points that I am forced to
move up into the significantly harder category 3.

For a goal-oriented person like me that means that I need to figure out
what I like about being a cyclist, and what I want to do in the 3s so
that I enjoy it.

After much introspection (just to make sure), I decided these things:

1) While I like personal success (winning races etc) what I really like
is doing better than I expect. That's a subtle difference, but it's all
about setting the bar low and over-achieving, see . If I set a goal of
placing top 20, and get 19th, I'm the king in my own mind. If I set a
goal of winning, and getting second, ennui ensues.

2) While exceeding low barriers is nice, I do want to progress and push
my personal limits closer to whatever ultimate maximum fitness I have in me

3) I love, and I mean really love, riding with and working for the
success of solid, nice teammates. Luckily I have a bunch of really nice
teammates, several of whom are very solid performers. Cycling has more
than it's share of, how should I say it...really aggressive types. But
my teammates really are nice guys. I want to to see them do well and
help them if possible.

So there it is. I've got a new category. And given where I find joy in
the competitive part of cycling, I'm shooting for a top-10, then a
top-5, personally, and hopefully if I can I will make it in to the
winning breakaway at some point, even if I come in last out of my
breakmates. On a team level, I want to do whatever I can help the team
as a whole grow and prosper, and I want to do whatever I can for my
fellow category 3 racers so that they get good results. If I do a good
job, next spring I'll have some chips to call in for my own personal goals.

So that's it, we'll see how it goes...

The trouble with leadouts (Burlingame Crit) (20070625)

Ah Burlingame.

So fresh after a completely relieving victory at the Pacific State Grand
Prix over an admittedly not-as-strong field as the guys that showed up
in Burlingame, I'm looking to work for the team and launch someone else
to success in what would be my last cat 4 race.

Something about the work I did the day before (warmup, the race, then 3
hours of trainer afterwards), celebrating the victory (read: drinking a
bit, and getting a solid 5 hours of sleep), then setting up the Team
Oakland campgrounds the morning of the race should have told me that the
"unpleasant sensations" I was feeling in my legs should be listened to,
but no, I signed up to be the last lead-out guy for Ian Swinson starting
at the Start/Finish line on the last lap.

Given that long list of reasons why I had no power today, you'd think I
would play it cool until my job came up, but that wouldn't be any fun,
so I found myself off the front a couple of times and chasing a couple
times. Now I'm definitely tired.

You can see where I'm going - basically the leadout plan we had was
working pretty well, it was planned to be a disconnected thing and both
Andrew Hardardt and Anthony Eng did very very well in their designated
roles as "pack discipline". It would have been awesome if they could
have pulled forever, but the pack was together and there weren't any
attacks after they did their work. So great job there.

Unfortunately, when it got to my turn, the last part was supposed to be
connected, and while Ian was right on my wheel this is where the trouble
with leadouts comes in. Basically, I went to turn on the gas and I just
had no gas. I was able to string it out reasonably enough but only until
there was half the lap remaining and then I was done for good. Now with
the last part of the train being connected, there's Ian, and now he's in
the wind. 600 meters with no gap or room to accelerate and make one is
too much to ask of most people and he predictably didn't make it.

Not quite the ending to my cat 4 career that I was looking for but I
take two lessons out of it - either of which would have worked. First -
a disconnected lead-out, where the sprint doesn't assume that being on
the teammates' wheel is the right place to be, is a safer plan than
trusting the person to make it to the spot every time. We're just not
that good at judging fitness and leadout speeds at the cat 4 and cat 3
level so that trust is misplaced too often. Second - if I stall a
leadout, I need to remember the guys behind me and pull over enough for
one line to get through, but still shelter my designated sprinter while
he gets back in line.

So that was my Burlingame race in a nutshell - a great plan on behalf of
the E4 team, mostly great execution, but then not quite enough goods to
carry the day. On the bright side, if you're going to bungle a race,
Burlingame is a good one to screw up. Apparently even winning the E3
race is only good enough for an ill-fitting, not-good-looking helmet
since all the prizes were merchandise

Up next for me, Leesville Gap as a 3 (and I'm not nervous about it at
all, nope, not a bit...)

The Top Step (finally!) (20070725)

So for all the readers following along at home, it's important to
remember that I had a few goals this year as a Cat 4. I wanted to win a
race. I wanted to help organize my fellow cat 4 teammates, and help
others do well. That's pretty much it.

For those that have followed everything, you'll remember that I did win
a race in January. Oh wait! It was a training race. Damn, felt good but
wasn't really satisfying. I didn't feel like I had met the goal. Then, I
entered a race where category 3 racers (one level up from me) raced with
us, but the results were collated into separate category 3 and category
4 ranks. Turns out I was 13th in the race, but I was the first cat 4
racer! I won! Sort of! Totally unsatisfying.

I've done consistently very well though, all season, well enough in fact
that I was in serious danger of being forced through slow accumulation
of upgrade points to move to category 3 without outright winning a race.
Sounds like a good problem to have, but still, I don't like unmet goals.

So I plotted to go to Texas, thinking the fields would be a bit
shallower there, and that didn't quite work out either. So after my
ill-fated (and chock full o' hubris) trip to Austin thinking I would
bring home the first place goods, I was really down to one last weekend.

This weekend I was either going to win a race or accumulate enough
points trying that I would get moved to category 3.

So it's off to the Pacific State Grand Prix in sunny Stockton, CA for a
Saturday race. The Burlingame criterium, run on Sunday gets all the
press, but if you ask me the PacState GP had an equivalent course if a
little safer, a larger and all-cash prize list, and the weather is much
better. A good race.

I got there pretty early, toting everything necessary to live there for
a week basically, since I had the Team Oakland pop-up tent, and watched
the two races before me. Interestingly enough, they both ended up in
sprint finishes, and the first person around the last corner won the
sprint. I looked at the corner and the start/finish line. Tailwind down
the straight...around 150 meters to the line from the corner. Note to
self, breakaways probably don't work, and make sure I'm first around the

So the field is off for 50 minutes of sun-drenched, L-shaped anaerobic
fun, and while there was a little breakaway action, sure enough, there's
just a couple laps to go and we're all together. At this point, I'm
tempted to shut my brain off and go into "duh...I'm bike racing" mode,
which happens worryingly often enough but I catch myself tuning out and
actually say (using my inside voice) "I am relaxed, and I am in control
of this race". Sounds silly, but you should try it. That ends my reverie
and with two laps to go I review my plan as I pass certain
markers...."change gears here, position body there, jump here, take this
line, this gear here, full gas to the line from this spot..." etc.

Following that, the last lap felt like I was holding a royal flush and
just dropping one card at a time when it was time to lay it on the
table. Someone jumped hard on the back straight, and while everyone else
was thinking "too soon" I was thinking "600 to go and a free lead out!
sweet!", I jumped off their wheel with 250 to go, blasted past them into
the last corner with maybe 5 feet on the person on my wheel and
proceeded to keep pounding the pedals and adding gears until I sailed
across the line with...about 5 feet on the person on my wheel.

I can't begin to tell you what a relief it was when I realized that I
had finally completely exorcized that goal and could mentally move on.
I'd gotten on the top step of the podium at last!

After basking in that relief for a half hour or so, I then realized that
I was going to be a category 3 for real, and hopped on the trainer to
cruise for a few hours, through the Pro race where they were duking it
out for $10,000. Made the $60 I won look like chicken-feed, but it was
priceless to me.

What's next? Well, I'm pre-registered for the Burlingame Criterium on
Sunday as a 4, so we'll see what I can do to help my teammates since I'm
about to check out...

Everything's Bigger In Texas (20070620)

Okay, so I'll admit that I went to the AT&T Crit in Austin expecting to
find smaller fields (it's Texas, not Northern California Bike Mecca,
right?) and less talent. Basically, I was expecting to go over there and
beat up on some people.

Imagine my disappointment when reality sets in and I realize that
despite the fields being smaller and a little shallower, I hadn't
actually worked out the math. If the fields in NorCal are around 75-100
with 15 or so that could make you hurt, a 40-50 person field is still
going to have around 5-10 that can make you hurt, right? Right.

So I did the Cat 4 race first, in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity (no
exaggeration, it rained a bit on us before and during the race and
evaporated into a nice wet haze) so I wasn't cooling at all. I swear I
went on a breakaway with every single one of the other 5 or so riders
that were a threat, but never more than one at a time. The others just
towed the pack up. Very frustrating! Was gassed enough on the last lap
to not maintain position properly and got 5th in the sprint. No
breakaway glory, no sprint victory. $25 though. Entry fee repaid.

I warmed down for 15 minutes, drank and ate, then warmed up again for 20
minutes and hopped in the Cat 4/5 race thinking my fortunes would be
better here. Lo and behold there was a story typical of our own Cat 5
fields. There was a guy in here (nice, by the way, we chatted
afterwards) who didn't have his 10 races to get to cat 4 yet, but out of
the 7 or so he'd done, he'd only gotten second once. First the rest of
the times. I tried to get in a break with him but the only time I did he
didn't work hard (why bother, he can sprint...) and we were absorbed. I
fought for position better and was rested for the sprint, I unleashed it
and actually felt right at home in the 12 after I shifted into it only
to have someone completely pinch me in to the curb. I actually had to
use the brakes with 100m to go, but after a brief discussion with the
rider (civil, I promise, and if you know me you know it actually was) I
got around him and pipped two more people for 3rd. Still no breakaway,
very little sprint glory, but $35 this time.

Oh well, didn't strike gold in Texas, but had a great time. Should
mention that my sister, who hasn't raced since her college days more
than a decade ago agreed to do the race with me, rented a bike, shared a
trainer with me that we bought for this race, borrowed a Team Oakland
jersey and scored 5th in the women's cat 3/4 field. Go Team Hardy!

That's it for the first race back since Copperopolis.

I've got a new bike now, with most of the parts worked out. I've got a
new position that I've been working on. I've been training a lot, and
the fall campaign is about to start in earnest. A couple more tune-up
races then it's onwards and upwards to the Fall as a Cat 3. Next up is
Burlingame as a 4 though. We'll see how it goes...

Copper-f'in-opolis (20070408)

Ah, Copperopolis, "the Paris-Roubaix of California".

I was racing one of my last E4 races (I'm about to upgrade to the
next-highest category - E3) so I should be relatively stronger than the
field right? I could even be accused of sand-bagging, but with all the
hype around this race, I'm still pretty nervous. This is supposed to be
the toughest race all year.

Add to that, my teammates Jim Rusk, Jason James, George Thoma and I are
the E4s and our pre-race plan was to take what is supposed to be a race
of attrition, and accelerate the attrition. We were going to warm up
well and drill the first climb, which comes just a few miles in to the
race. So our entire plan was to take the toughest race on the calendar
all year, and make it as hard as possible. Yep, definitely nervous.

When we lined up, instead of the 40 or so people that were in the race
last year, I think there were 70 to 75. I'll make a short detour here to
say that Joel (a 2) was going to race the P/1/2 race if any big pros
showed up, but he didn't see any so he did the Masters 1/2/3. And Levi
Leipheimer (Discovery Channel, duh) showed up, as well as Barry Wicks
(pro World Cup cyclocross racer - big big stud). Joel! P1/2 next time! Smile

So the E4s roll out, and we start up the attrition machine. I'm going to
make a second detour here and say that George wasn't sure how he was
going to do in the race, but he worked with us hard on the plan for the
first climb and paid for the effort I'm sure. Despite not having the
pack for help, after the race, I watched George cross the line. This is
a tough course, and finishing the race out wins a lot of respect from
everyone. Nice job, sir

Jim and Jason and I are still plowing ahead at the front, with the bit
between our teeth and it really stings. I actually partially blew about
halfway up the climb but was able to hold the damage to losing just a
position or three a minute, so I was in the pack okay at the top.

The pack was a bit smaller though, maybe 40 people? Our plan had been
for it to be around 20 though. We just couldn't push hard enough to drop
all those people. Either we need to work harder, or the 4s field is
really deep this year. I vote for a bit of both.

The descent was not nearly as bad as people say, there were no rains
this year so all the patches (and the road was essentially just a
collection of patches) were intact. That made for a very bumpy ride, but
there were no pinch-flat craters. So we bombed down it.

The second lap nearly had a selection at the front-end of the climb,
where I was at the tail-end of a single-file line of 8 with a tiny gap,
but the pressure eased off (mercifully for me) and we crested with 30 or
35. Still a huge pack given how fast were climbing, in my opinion.

The third lap rolls around, and this time Jim is a victim of the pace. I
was at the front not driving it per se, but just pacing myself just
under redline, and while there were little ones and twos trying to get
away they were all cracking on the climb and coming back. When we get to
the top, the pressure stays on though, and now we're down to around
20-25. Jason James is in there, there's a group of three up the road and
both he and I and a Squadra guy roll off the front, but not together. I
can't get to Jason, he can't get to the Squadra guy, and the three in
front are working well together. Squadra blows, I fade back into the
pack, and Jason's in no-man's land for maybe 5 miles. The pack
double-rotates itself back together (sorry Jason) with a decent chase,
and now there's just one hill, the descent, then the finish hill.

We cruise up the final hill, my left hamstring starting to cramp (guess
I need more miles), and bomb the descent. Jason and I are both in the
front 5 the whole descent, but so is Ryan Prsha, my Webcor-based nemesis
(he keeps beating me, dangit).

The sprint itself was a complete hairball as uphill sprints tend to be.
The downhill in front of it made it worse because people that downhill
fast (large dudes) don't tend to uphill sprint well. So the front/middle
is caving in / going backwards and all us little sprinters are trying to
blast around the sides. Jason actually had to get in the gravel on the
side a bit while in full sprint. Ryan goes first, but with good timing
and gets a bike length or two. I'm gaining on 6th, 5th 4th and Ryan a
little, we come to the line and the guy on my left just barely inches me
out for 2nd! Damn! I look over to see who it is, and it's Jason!! Score.
Jim Jason and I are trying to upgrade close together so I wanted him to
get as many points as possible, so this is a good thing. Ryan took it
though, with a thorough victory.

All in all, 2nd and 3rd isn't a bad day, and we definitely executed our
plan. I've had a couple people from other teams say (either there or in
email later) that we had a great show of force, and I think they're
right. We weren't sitting in and waiting for the results, we were making
the race happen. Very satisfying. The only thing that wasn't perfect was
to see Jim in the mix at the end too - but he was oh-so-close.

I'm about to upgrade, as is Ryan Prsha, so the E4 racing dynamic is
about to change a bit. It'll be interesting to see how things go then.
When I go to the E3 category, I'll be racing against all the guys I had
such a tough time beating (or not beating, as the case may be) this
Spring in the E4 category. Plus all the other guys that were good enough
to get high placings and move up, so the E3 races are going to be a
great deal harder, and I'm pretty nervous about it. I'm not sure exactly
what I'm going to do to prepare, but I'm thinking about taking some time
off racing specifically to focus on training for four to six weeks. I'm
pretty sure my fitness isn't quite where it needs to be for the E3
category and I'd like to change it.

So maybe no race reports for a while, but you never know. A lot of the
thrill of cycling is in the racing for me, so I may not be able to stay
away. We'll see...

Missed it by *that* much - Ronde van Brisbeen (20070408)

Men's E4 - a skeleton crew both days, but I can't blame a lot of the
guys for wanting to hit the 35+ race up, you guys were stacked deep there.

We had Ed Lai, Brian Johnston, Jim Rusk and I in the first day, and just
me and Brian Johnston in the second day.

The first day, that hill took it's toll, and Ed and Brian were both
viciously struck down before their prime. That reminded me mightily of
last year, wherein I cracked on the third to last climb, chased on, then
blew up spectacularly on the last climb. It happens.

This year, I was up there, with Jim with me, and we went into the race
without a plan really so we got predictably mediocre results. I had some
sort of brain malfunction where in the last kilometer I thought the idea
was to sit in the wind and then sprint too early. For some reason, I
didn't win...why not?? Oh yeah, because that's a pretty bad sprint. I
did creep away with ninth though, and Jim came in around 20-something.
There were 100 starters if I recall correctly, so that ain't bad.

Jim and I have resolved to yell at each other (as in "drill it") in the
finish in the future when there's two of us. I would have much rather
blasted myself to pieces knowing he was tucked in third wheel than
finish 9th. Jason James and I made the same mistake at Bariani but then
fixed it in the NorCal crit. Jim and I will get it right next time I'm
sure. And if I'm sprinting I'm going to find a wheel next time! Note to
self - I do not have a 400m sprint.

Then I waved flags at people for a long time and tried to reason
patiently with people about why they really shouldn't try to drive
through a bike race. It worked out okay.

The second day dawned with the promise of a fresh chance at victory and
I saddled up to tilt at windmills again. I really wanted a breakaway on
the Sierra Point course. I actually love this course, it rewards hard
work and positioning, and I'm good at positioning and willing to work
hard, so I'm all excited.

I line up right on the line since this race is really fast from the gun
historically, then they roll the juniors out on their gear check
(juniors have restricted gears - they can't use really big ones - to
protect their knees) and then sit them in front of us - nice! I lined up
on the line for a reason officials, and that's not quite fair. Okay,
we're away anyway and I spent all race trying to attack or off the front
and just never getting the two teams I needed to go with me (Webcor and
Third Pillar) to both be there at the same time, so the other one kept
chasing whatever group it was down. Very frustrating. Maybe I just
didn't commit enough though...I dunno. Nothing worked though.

Fast-forward through the usual round-and-around action, and then there
was a big sprint, and I got 6th. Still didn't quite get the sprint
timing right, but at least this time I didn't go too soon. Probably too
late if anything. Would you believe they had a podium that went down to
5 places? 6th place gets nothing. Sigh.

Got 4th in the omnium, and would you believe that they had podium
pictures for the omnium down to 3rd place? 4th place gets nothing.
Double sigh! Too near misses.

Then I played course marshall the rest of the day (5 hours?) and helped
my other teammates pick up and pack up after the race. Not a bad day,
but it would have nice to get on the podium at our own team's race.
Maybe next year...

Teamwork, and a "win" (20070408)

Not a long report (I may write more later), but what did we not do at
this race?

There were actually two races for us Elite Category 4 men. A race where
we were separate (all E4), and a combined race where E3 (a higher
category) and E4 raced together, but were "picked" separately - meaning
they would take the final results and separate them between guys that
were E3s, and guys that were E4s, resulting in two finishing standings.

We had total team domination in the Men's E4 race - we had a plan,
adjusted it a little during the race and just nailed it. Mark Robertson
and Jim Rusk seared themselves to a slightly blackened well-done while
keeping the pace high closing in on the last lap, I took the last
kilometer at full power and then some with Jason James drafting closely
on my wheel and then blasting around me in the finish straight for 2nd
place, while I hung on for 13th.

In the Men's E3/E4 combo race - teammate Justin Fraga was off the front
of the pack, up the road flying the team colors, holding off the pack
and taking the overall and E3 win, the team was really working well to
help out, and in the chaotic pack sprint I came in for a "win" by
technical knockout as the top E4 in the race at 14th. So I got my win, yay!

You can even see it online here - the race was "The Colavita NorCal Crit"

I also discovered that (as of this writing anyway) I am the #1 Men's E4
rider in the "Best All-Around Rider" standings for all races in Northern
California and Nevada. Woohoo! You can see that here just to prove it
(though I may have sadly dropped since then, you never know...)

Bariani Road Race (20070408)

A possibly quicker race report this time ?

Men's E4 race - cast was 6 guys

* Ed Lai (second race of the year after Merco)
* Michael Claudio (ditto, but after Cherry Pie?)
* Mike Hardy
* Jason James (raced a bunch already)
* Geoff Gunderson (first race of the year)
* Thornton Weiler (birthday boy, fresh off the grasshopper race)

So we had a full crew just about. We showed up 2 hours early and
proceeded to warm up together, talk turkey, and get ready. We lined up
right at the front of a full field in 70 degree weather with no wind.
The plan was to attack, then attack more, then attack. Preferably on the
hill and the flat section after.

True to plan, Ed goes off the front with another guy and motors away for
a bit. The pack gets antsy, and Ed comes back. Jason James gives it a go
with someone (possibly before Ed's break? I think it might have been),
but again, the pack is restless.

At this point, I should note that the lack of wind was a real bummer for
me. It made the race entirely too easy, in my opinion, if you were
sitting in the pack. Going off the front? Really hard. But sitting in?
Not a problem. So the only tactical feature left on the course was the
hill, but the flat road afterwards had a tailwind! Then it went downhill.

Had I used my head more, I would have thought "this thing is staying
together until the end, I'm saving it for the sprint". If I had done
that, I would not have done what Thornton did though. I pushed the pace
pretty hard up the hill, then as I faded off the front Jason James hit
it and strung it out a bit, and finally when he faded off a bit,
Thornton, a Stanford guy and a Squadra dude lept off the front. 2 laps
to go at this point? Fantastic timing, and great move, with the possible
exception of it missing a Third Pillar guy.

Jason and I tried a couple of times to motivate or help (with bridge
efforts) a Third Pillar guy get up there, but the pack wasn't going to
be fooled so easily and we couldn't make it hard enough to get
separation without essentially chasing Thornton down.

So now the Squadra Ovest team goes into blocking mode (with 8 guys?) and
we're just rolling along with Thornton growing smaller in the distance.
Unfortunately, at this point the Squadra dude in the break blew up, and
Squadra goes into chase mode. Drat. I get up there and start disrupting
whatever I can, and covering bridge attempts as best as I can, but
people (Third Pillar and Squadra now) are managing to put in fairly long
pulls, and Thornton is slowly coming back.

Up the hill the last time, and the pack makes the catch, I go hard up
the hill now and get off with a small group, but once we get to the top
we all just look at each other. I'm a bit cooked from all the disruption
and chase efforts so I don't want to go, and now Jason is driving a
group up to us, at which point we all just start looking around, 10 wide
and maybe 25mph.

From my perspective at this point you can sum it by just
fast-forwarding to the inevitable bunch sprint. Nothing fancy except I
went way too early for the amount of juice I had in my legs.

A special note should go to Jason James who was in the wind a bunch at
the end and gritted it out for 4th, almost 3rd in the sprint, and
Thornton, who reattached to the pack on the last hill and hung on for a
very high placing. 10th? Somewhere around there. I think I got 20th or
30th or something - I shut the sprint down early.

If I had it to do again, I'd do one of three things, but not what I did
today. either:

* keep the hammer down after the last hill with 2k to go (why not?)
* save it completely for the sprint, the whole day (but I had to
help block...)
* see that Jason was there and ride tempo to the finish for the
team (best option I think)

Menlo Park GP - 3 is now the magic number (20070310)

Enough of these challenging scenic road races, you know you've got a
guilty craving for some flat four-corner crit action, right?

Well, here's the Menlo Park GP. It's a flat rectangle, maybe 1k in
length. You can pedal through all the corners (not that the E4 pack did
mind you, nope, we hit the brakes and coast because ooooo a corner) and
the short straightaways were long enough that you couldn't do the
low-energy attack-before-the-corner-and-gap-the-pack thing.

In other words, it rode like a real honest-to-god flat square.

Who's the cast? We had Anthony Eng, Andrew Hardardt, Stephen Langone,
Ian Swinson (in his first E4 race, congratulations) and myself.
Beautiful weather, nice temperatures.

I checked registration the night before and noticed that all the usual
hammers were going to show up, but with no wind in the morning, as I was
doing the warm up, I boldly
predicted that there wouldn't be anything going on all race and we'd
have a big sprint.

One thing we 4s have done well this year is getting to races with a lot
of time and warming up together. With the exception of Ian (who did drop
by at the end of the warmup to sync up) we all had the trainers together
for a quick (but adequate, I thought?) warmup while we were able to chat
with each other. Very useful.

I'm still looking for a #1 next to my name before I become cat 3 cannon
fodder, and I worked on my sprint earlier this year. I asked around and
no one else wanted anything in particular, so with no one else wanting
to do anything at the race I wanted to go for it.

I predicted a sprint, and for me to do a sprint well, I need to have
breaks neutralized, and be confident that I can sit in but not get
swarmed in the last two laps, so what I needed was covering during the
race and what I call "pack discipline" at the end. The whole pack had
the covering thing down for us during the race, so that only left the
last couple laps.

Ian had fought his way up to the front near the end, and I was on his
tail, maybe 8th or 10th wheel, with the pack two-wide and two laps to
go. Perfect, looking good at this point. It was too early to do much,
but on the long straightaways swarms kept threatening. Ian and I
line-hopped over into the swarming folks and maintained our positions
pretty deftly heading into the last start/finish straight. At that point
in a race the pack always seems to hesitate a little bit, and true to
form the speed dropped a little with a big swarm threatening our perfect
positions. I yelled at Ian to punch it, and he rolled up and hit the
wind from about 1k to 700 meters to go - stringing it out in the
process, with the impending swarm fading back - sorry, next time guys. I
was still around 7th wheel, and that left the guys in front of me
without many options - perfect for me.

They basically had to hit the gas at that point, so I was able to sit in
the rest of the backstretch, and was fourth wheel coming around the last
corner. With 300m to go everyone stood up and gave it what they had - I
was still fourth at that point, but one of the guys in front of me was
fading and that was motivating. I just inched him out at the line,
taking third in the process.

I ran through the numbers later (below if you're curious) and while I
wish I had more power, I hit my sprint-training numbers at the end of
the race, so I must have done something right with regard to getting to
the finish in good shape, at the same time that I either need to time
things better or just need more raw power. The winner was still going
away from me at the line, so I'm going to vote for more power. Hopefully
he'll either cat up or I'll be able to train my power up in the next few
weeks and get the elusive 2nd or 1st place I haven't cracked yet.

In the meantime, I thought our team routine worked really well again,
and I thought our teamwork, especically at the end was the right thing
at the right moment.

Other exciting bits: Another Squadra dude crashed right in front me, but
this time I had a few more meters to dodge him, and I did so
successfully. Not so lucky was some guy between the crashee and I, he
hit him front wheel first and did a full front flip. For a moment I was
racing next to an upside down bike about 8 feet off the ground. They
neutralized us for 10 minutes, then stopped us and restarted us with 3
laps to go though, so they could mop up the broken collarbone one guy
had, and the broken tibia/fibula another guy had (ouch).

Some numbers:
Speeds - pre-neutral, 26.4mph avg (282 watts for me)
Speeds - last 3 laps, 27.9mph avg (320 watts for me)
Speeds - sprint max 35.6mph (900 watts for me)

Moving up a step... Snelling RR (20070225)

Saturday was the Snelling Road Race, a mostly flat road race in the farm
country of the Central Valley in Northern California.

The wife of one of my teammates calls it "Smelling" since there are a
lot of cows around, and that isn't too far from the truth but there are
also a lot of cherry orchards there, and they were in full bloom with
the spring, so I thought it was pretty country.

The race was around 65 miles, the roads weren't great, but there wasn't
supposed to be much wind, so I opted for some aerodynamic wheels I have
(tri-spokes, if you're curious) that are hard to control in a
cross-wind, but really fast.

The cast of Team Oakland crew in the race were:

* Jesse Freese (looking to finish strong in his first road race)
* Jim Rusk (looking to come back after his Pine Flat cramps)
* Jason James (looking for some glory, or a top-10)
* Me (looking for victory still, or maybe some points, or helping
anyone else with a strong desire)
* Ed Lai (who unfortunately got sick and stayed home - next time, man!)

Pre-race strategy involved talking with the Third Pillar team, since
they had a lot of very strong guys and warned us they were going to set
the pace high from the gun, and the Squadra Ovest team mainly just to
tell them that we were nice guys and the one hot-head they have on their
team should relax a little bit and enjoy the racing, n'est ce pas?

With five laps, we decided on a strategy of having a couple guys hang
near the front to keep on eye on things and go with breaks for the first
two laps, then have a different couple guys work the second two laps,
and basically attack the race trying for a breakaway. The final run-in
had about two miles of really crappy pavement, a 90-degree right hand
turn, then a 300m hill/flat-spot/hill sprint. None of us wanted to
sprint through all that crap, which is why we focused on breakaways.

Owing to the warning about the high pace, we all warmed up before the
start (not always necessary for a road-race, especially a flat one) and
lined up near the front. The field was completely full, with 100
category 4 racers, and when the gun went off, our huge pack rolled off
into the sunrise to see how things played out.

In contrast with the forecast, there actually was a wind, and the first
long flat section was a perfect cross-wind. When you're racing bicycles,
you need to be drafting as much as you can, but with a cross-wind the
draft is at an angle - it moves to the downwind side of the rider in
front of you. Since the road doesn't care where the wind is, what that
means is that you usually end up right up against the side of the road,
trying as hard as you can to get any draft from the rider in front of
you but not getting much, and not giving much to the guy behind you.

Third Pillar was true to their word, and they really hit the gas on this
stretch, which led to the beautiful to see (but painful to be in) sight
of 100 guys, in single file, ripping along a country road in perfect
single file. By the end of the stretch some riders had started to pop,
opening gaps that you had to jump around and close, and we were only 5
miles into the race. I could tell this was going to be a long day.

On the second lap, Jason James had opted for early-race breakaway
detail, and he went with two of the Third Pillar guys, and a couple
other folks. According to his story, they were riding so hard that he
could barely hold on to their wheel, but the pack wasn't letting them go
anyway. The pack kept the speed high, caught that break, and when Jason
slid back past me, he said he felt wrecked but that they were still strong.

Knowing the crosswind section was coming, that Third Pillar was
motivated, and that today was a day for breakaways, I pushed it towards
the front and got ready to try my own hand. Sure enough, on the third
lap, we hit the crosswind, and the pack hit the gas again. Gaps started
to open, and about a half mile into this two mile stretch I realized
that with the crosswind being what it was, it wasn't going to hurt any
more to simply go to the front myself, so I pulled out of line, went
past the final 5-10 people in front of me and really drilled it. That
tore up the front group, and when I pulled off the front we were down to
six guys off the front, with the pack strung out behind us, chasing like

Out of this group of six, the same two Third Pillar guys were there, and
one of them hit the front of the group so hard that the rider two people
in front of me had a little anaerobic disaster and blew off the wheel,
taking all three of us off the group. I jumped around it as fast as I
could, but now I'm chasing solo up to the front three.

We had a motorcycle escort, and as he came up to the group he saw me,
smiled, pointed to the three leaders, and waved me forward to spur me
on. That easy gesture from someone who only had to twist his wrist to go
faster frustrated me just enough to step on it and touch up with the
front guys.

So it was done - the race was torn up, I was in a breakaway group of
four, off the front of a 100-strong pack of racers, with the most
motivated team in the race (Third Pillar), a Webcor guy (Dave - nice
guy), and myself. We represented three large teams in the field, so as
long as we held up our end of the bargain by keeping the hammer down, we
could count on our teammates back in the field to hold up their end of
the bargain by disrupting chase efforts and giving us a good chance to
stay away.

There was only one problem with this setup. One of the Third Pillar guys
(his name was also Mike, coincidentally) was new to bike racing but
apparently is a very strong triathlete. So strong in fact, that he had
blown my teammate Jason James off his wheel already in the race, and now
I'm suffering like a dog to stay on his wheel. I pulled through a few
times, but I want to be clear that this dude powered the breakaway in a
big-time way. I was cross-eyed, seeing spots, having problems with
motivation and just generally having a hell of a time riding with this
group. It was clear that he was stronger than everyone but at least he
was nice about it - encouraging us to stay on his wheel and keep it
together, and even dropping back to fetch one or the other of us back up
to the little group when we split up.

We kept on like this for a full lap, amassing what must have been a 5-7
minute gap or so on the field so quickly it was amazing, but the Webcor
rider had already fallen off the group, and finally I couldn't take
anymore. I pulled through, felt my legs empty completely, and cracked. I
thanked the two Third Pillar guys for their work, wished them well and
fell off the pace. There were just under two laps to go, I was by myself
with a huge pack in the distance behind me and I just felt done. I have
to admit that at this point, I had no confidence in my own ability - I
had tried so hard to stay on, and failed, and despite being in third
place on the road I felt so beat down I wanted to pull over and stop.

Knowing how hard I had trained this winter, and that my teammates were
probably in the wind behind me kept me from giving up completely though,
and I quickly took down some calories and a bunch of water while ticking
over a relaxed tempo on the pedals.

The pack in the distance grew larger, I finished my personal refueling
and prepared to reintegrate with my field. To my surprise, that was a
Master's 35+ Cat. 1/2/3 pack though, not my Cat. 4 field. Apparently
that pack had passed mine, and now that they were gone, I was looking at
maybe 5 minutes of road behind me, and I still couldn't see my pack.
That meant that I still had a huge gap. Next thing you know, Dave, my
fellow break-mate from Webcor rolled up to me and said hey, we couldn't
hold on to those guys, but I still think we have something here, do you
want to go for it? I figured I wasn't going to sprint anymore today (my
legs were already too cooked for that) so why not.

And so it went.

Just under two laps to go, two guys out in the wind, with 96 people
behind us. Can we make it?

I don't remember anything specific about that 20 miles except that I
very carefully stayed right below my absolute limit the entire time,
with my heart doing nearly 180 beats per minute for nearly an hour. I
was so close to blowing up completely and cramping, but I kept it
together, and finally we hit the last stretch of road, with only 300
meters to go, and no pack in sight. We had made it.

We had agreed not to play games with each other since it was a hill
finish and that would be enough to sort us out. We held to that, and
when we got to the hill, we both stood up to sprint, but Dave
unfortunately cramped up, and I went just ahead of him to take 3rd place.

Woohoo! My first breakaway every, and my highest result in more than 10
years. And I get another t-shirt

Back in the pack, Jim Rusk had made it into a chase group, Jason James
had bridged up to it and gone through it, and both rolled through with
high placings. Jesse finished his first road race looking strong, and
I'm sure he'll figure bigger in the next one.

As for me, I'm taking it easy tomorrow to rest the legs, skipping next
weekend's races, and will be back for the Zamora Road Race the weekend
after. In the meantime, the next step is to figure out how to stay in
the breakaway, where "figure out" most likely means "training harder"
since I really just need more power.

Happy Trails...

Pine Flat Road Race (Four is still the magic number) (20060225)

Alright, so where are we? Well, in official races this year, I've:

* gotten crashed out (Early Bird Crit)
* gotten fourth place (Martinez Crit)
* then crashed out (Cherry Pie Crit, though I still finished top half)

I haven't done a road race yet though, and I haven't done anything
against my peers that involved climbing up hills while on a bike, so I
thought this weekend would be a good opportunity to see how I did in
those conditions.

That means it's time to head to beautiful Pine Flat Reservoir, outside
of Fresno, California. The drive is so long that I drove up the day
before, pre-rode part of the course with my friend and teammate Jason
James, then we camped out near registration. That was great actually -
the stars were fantastic.

The next morning dawned cold but with good weather, we lined up and took
off. This race features two sharp climbs in it after about 50 miles of
rolling or flat roads, and nothing really happens in the race until the
climbs hit.

I had one other teammate there besides Jason James - Jim Rusk. Jim is a
climber by trade so he was looking forward to Pine Flat but he also
hadn't raced yet this year so he wasn't sure how he would do. The night
before, we talked strategy and decided that we would pay attention
during the race so that no breakaways got away in the flat section (like
one did last year) but we wouldn't do anything until the first climb.
Once that climb came, the goal was to make it over in a small group, but
not alone, then get to the bottom of the final sharp climb in a
competitive spot.

Things basically played out exactly as we wanted them to - the pace was
really lethargic on the run-up to the first climb, but things all of the
sudden got hot once the road pointed up. When the pack hit the climb,
gaps started opening up everywhere and people were going either forwards
or backwards really fast as the climb sorted the group out. I attacked
up the last steep ramp of the first climb and got a decent gap, with a
couple people headed off the pack in search of me, meanwhile the pack
continued disintegrating.

Just over the top of the climb, I sat up a little bit to regroup so I
wouldn't have to work alone on the long downhill to the final climb, and
I eventually ended up in a group of 10 or 12 (I'm not sure) along with
my teammate Jason James. This was a good spot to be in as none of the
other guys had teammates, and the group was big enough that we could
hold off the rest of the field if we worked together.

We got a quick rotation going, and somewhere in the middle of it, Jason
rolled by me and asked how I felt on the climb. I told him I felt
fantastic (since I did - which was a really great feeling after all the
work this winter) and then he asked me if there was anything I wanted
him to do. That alone is a really self-less act, and the best thing I
could think of was for him to drill it in the section right before the
final climb to make sure we had pressure on the group and we really did
stay away.

Jason said he'd do it, and true to his offer, he really lined it out, in
just the right spot, for just the right amount of time. We got to the
point where we staring at the final 1.5km of climb, and I was sitting
third wheel, just behind one guy, and with a Webcor guy maybe 20 meters
in front of us. The final climb was a real slugfest - just brute
strength really. With 200 meters to go I was in fourth place, and I
stepped on the gas, momentarily passing two guys and making it up to
second place (the Webcor guy was still in front, with a solid lead).
Unfortunately, I couldn't quite hold that pace, so I eased off a touch,
and two people came by me, so I ended up in fourth place at the finish,
earning a free "Pine Flat" t-shirt for my trouble

For his part, Jason James has a goal this year of getting enough top-10
finishes to move up to category 3 (we're 4s right now), and after he
worked for me he realized he was about 12th. He dug deep, and beat up on
a few different dudes, finishing 7th. True grit right there,
congratulations, sir.

Jim Rusk unfortunately cramped up a bit on the first climb, but that's
racing - the first race back does that to most people since race-pace
accelerations are hard to simulate in training. He'll be back though,
I'm sure.

The cool thing is that this tells me that I can climb this year, so a
lot of road races I didn't do last year (since they had hills in them)
are open to me now. That should be a lot more fun than all the short

What's next? Snelling Road Race in beautiful Snelling, CA...