Friday, March 27, 2009

7 Years Ago

Today is my oldest daughter's birthday. Her growth in all aspects of life has amazed me over the past year. Maybe it's the fact that she's in 1st grade and consistently surrounded by an environment of learning, but see that kind of enthusiasm for new things is contagious. Not contagious enough to make me take up triathlons, but fun to experience nonetheless.

Her biggest surprise of the day was a hand-me-down mountain bike. I lucked out that a fellow SJBC member had a daughter that had outgrown her old mountain bike. The bike was in great condition and I knew it would be something special for my own girl. After the shock and awe wore off we donned our helmets and hit the streets. 21-speeds are a bit daunting for a newly minted seven year-old, but she's getting the hang of it.

I know she's my daughter when I showed her the easy gears and she promptly replied, "Why would I want these? They're too easy." Perfect, my daughter wants to drop the hammer on the other kids in the neighborhood. Forget those knobby tires, this girl is getting slicks and latex tubes for Easter to reduce rolling resistance and to smoke her friends as they ride to school.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Busted Crank Photo

Sometimes all you can do is smile when your hopes are squashed by a mechanical problem:

For more great photos from the Madera RR check out Veronika's website.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm cranky; payback is coming...Madera style!

This was my first time racing in the Madera SR. I was looking forward to the TT as it would be a good test against some of the solid TT'ers in the district. On to the details:

First race of the day and pretty uneventful. I was expecting a 50 minute race, but at the line the officials said 40 minutes. Works for me...more energy saved for the TT later in the day. Pre-race strategy for us was to just conserve and let things play out. I rode in the back half of the pack most of the time and watched as several attacks would go from time to time. The only thing of interest was how I got pushed wide in turn #3 and had to navigate the orange cones to get back on course (afterwards I was irritated that the guy next to me didn't hold his line through the corner and drifted wide). No attacks stuck and we all picked up the pace a bit with one lap remaining. Coming out of the last turn Chris was 3rd wheel and I knew he'd have a great result for the team.

My goal was to go sub-23 on this course. The head wind was pretty significant on the last half of the course. My 30" man was Chris Lyman (who ended up winning the TT with a mid-21 time); he was so fast that I didn't see him until later in the evening at the hotel.

I focused real hard on not going out too hard during the first 4 mile stretch of road before the first turn; this was my downfall at BtC and I didn't want to repeat that mistake. This goal was accomplished, but the road was bumpy enough that it was difficult to get into a solid rhythm.

With the wind at my back on the second leg I ramped it up a bit and averaged 31.5mph. By this time my HR was settling in around 175bpm and things were starting to hurt. Turning into the wind and onto the 3rd leg proved to be hard. In retrospect, having a little bit of headwind made it easier for me to put in a more constant effort, but the legs were dying a slow death. Watts were slowly creeping down...

Through the last turn and on to the finish. With 1km to go I buried myself and check the watch. I knew I'd break 23 minutes, but didn't know so by how much. I came across the line at 22:36, good for 8th on the GC.

At dinner Saturday night the rest of the team gave me some very sound advice given I was our top GC guy. Stay near the front, let Morgan Stanley and Specialized do all the hard work, and just try to maintain your GC position. This figured to be interesting...

We rolled out and I was in the top 10 for the first 10 miles. I noticed that those around me in the GC placings were riding either in front or immediately behind me. I figured it would be like this for the entire 68 miles.

As we made our first turn onto the bumpy section of road one of my large water bottles ejected from the seat tube cage. Luckily I had a spare bottle in my back jersey pocket for just this type of problem (again, another point of sage advice from the experienced teammates). The road was bad, then it got worse.

I have a new appreciation for those European classic one-day events. There is so much truth when you realize the fight for the front before the cobbles (or bad road in our case) is so important. Important in the sense that you can actually see what's coming in front of you and be prepared. I found myself slipping back a bit when we hit the bad road (which is fully closed, so you can use the entire road). I had to trust the wheels in front of me and that was not ideal. At least I could look over people and see what was coming.

About a third of the way through this nasty section a small group of 4-5 riders got a gap of 50 yards. Hernandez comes motoring by me on my left and for some reason I was really fascinated by his rear tire. Probably because it looked to be 30mm+ wide and under-inflated. Man, that would have been a comfortable tire to be on given the condition of the road.

Immediately after he goes by I put down a bit of power to get a free ride from him to the front. As I'm doing this I notice a little play in my left cleat. Uh-oh! It's the same feeling I had in the cleat when I was climbing Mt. Figueroa at training camp. At camp I had to dismount and tighten the cleat. It didn't feel as bad, so I thought maybe I'd get lucky and make it around the course without having to stop.

No sooner had I finished that thought and something else went wrong! My chain suddenly shifted from the big to small front chainring. I tried to slam it back into the big ring and it wouldn't go. This wouldn't be good if I had to small ring it the rest of the day.

At this point I have a loose cleat, a bike that can't shift into the big ring. I'll survive.

I went to double check on the loose cleat just to see if I could unclip. This is where disaster struck. As I'm twisting my foot out of the pedal, the entire left crank arm disengages from the bottom bracket and comes off the bike! Now I have a broken crank, I've just lost contact with the pack, and my 8th place on the GC just went up in smoke. Oh how I rue you Madera RR.

Standing at the side of the road with my crank arm in my hands was not the site I imagined earlier in the morning. I was completely at a loss for what had just happened. I've never heard of something like this happening to anybody...ever! I'll admit it was pretty amusing, yet frustrating.

To make matters worse, here come the E4's down the road. Some unattached guy in a black kit leading the pack yells to me, "Hey, go pick up the bottle back in the road." Really?!? Do you not see the crank arm in my hand? I felt like hucking it like a boomerang up against his head. That was not what I wanted to hear from him.

So after that group passed I got back on the broken steed and pedaled one-legged all the way back to the finish line, through the feed zone (got applause from the crowd) and back to the car.

Madera will have a big target on its' back next year. I will go sub-22 at the TT and be prepared to get top 5. You can count on it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Menlo Park Crit Race Report

The legs were pretty tired from doing the TT yesterday, but I wanted to get in this crit before next weekend's fun at Madera. Being my first crit of the year I was expecting this to be a really fast race. I line up and behind me are BJM and Holloway. Nothing like doing my first 1/2/3 crit and having these guys on my heels.

Things started out fast and pretty smooth. However, the new left/right corner sequence on the back kept being taken too slow. From my position in the back it looked like those in the front were able to take it faster since they were strung out, but towards the back we constantly were slowing down and then re-accelerating. That got old real quick.

My lungs felt fine, but the legs were pretty dead. I hung out at the back and wondered just how long I could hang at these speeds (we averaged around 28+mph for the race). I forced myself to get real low and aero to get any draft benefit available from the wheel in front of me.

With 5 laps to go and heading across the start/finish, I feel the rear wheel getting a little loose. I had to slow down and take corner #1 slow and by the time I hit corner #2 the rear was completely flat. I found a spot on the course where I could cut across a parking lot and get back to the start/finish area and the neutral wheel support. I hopped over the barriers and ran the next 50 yards across the start/finish line down to the wheel support area. I wasn't expecting to work on my CX skills, but I was running like a gazelle with my bike over my shoulder.

Thankfully my sprint to the pits gave me plenty of time to get a new rear. I wasn't able to get in the gear I wanted when I hopped back onto the tail of the group, but I quickly latched back on. With only a few laps to go and nothing really left in the tank, I found an opportunity to get to the front with 3 laps to go.

Coming out of the last turn there was a brief lull and I shot up the right side and slotted in 3rd wheel behind Joel Robertson (I think) and a Team Oakland rider. Both pulled off and I went into TT mode. Down through the start/finish, around turns #1 & #2, and still going on the back straight. I pulled off halfway down the straight and knew that the end was near. As the group begins to pass I hear Nevitt yell over to me, "You went too early". I didn't say anything, but knew that I had to do something w/ only fumes in the tank.

After that it was a slow death march off the back with a couple of other riders. We ended up being pulled with 1 lap to go and I promptly found a spot to watch the finish in the wheel pit. Holloway laid down a nasty sprint to easily take the win by a few bike lengths.

I have to say the speed of this race was a wake up call to me. I knew it would be fast, but had no idea that it would be this fast! Boy that was fun; completely different than any 35+ cat 4 crit I did last year. The faster speed definitely felt safer. Hopefully the body will be better prepped after this weekend of racing for the upcoming Madera stage race.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Berkeley 2-man TT

Place: 5th
Category: 70+
Field Size: 32 teams
Conditions: Cool, Sunny & No Wind
Team Mates: Clark Foy


Race Report:
Clark and I were really looking forward to this year's 2-man time trial. Leading up to the event we had ventured up to the course to scout it out and see it first hand. Clark knew it well from doing this event before (and the Berkeley RR which runs on the same loop), but I was a rookie. It helped to see it before the race and get somewhat familiar with the climbs, descents and corners. We also teamed up at BtC last weekend to get some 2-man TT practice.

We arrived early with plenty of time to get in a nice hour warm-up. Almost too early as we definitely didn't feel rushed. However, as we were pinning on our numbers we quickly realized that our start time was approaching faster than either of us had thought and if we didn't hustle we'd miss our start time. The parking lot is about a mile away from the start line. We hopped on the bikes and booked! We came to the line with only a minute to spare; the benefit being we were plenty warmed up for the TT effort.

Our strategy was to take 30 second pulls and adjust accordingly if one of us was feeling too spent. It also made sense to maximize my gravity-friendly abilities on the descents and have Clark pace us up the climbs. Darn gravity, it works both ways.

Off we start and settle into a nice pace. We quickly pass two teams in front of us and make it through the minimal rollers without much trouble. At this point my HR is pegged right around 171 and the legs were getting over the initial shock to the system. We hit our first downhill and Clark pulls over to let me through. I made sure not to hit the gas too hard until I knew he was safely tucked on my wheel. Over the next two minutes we bombed down the hill at peaking at 46mph and averaging 38.4mph. Through the first right hand turn on to Castro Ranch and up next is our first climb.

A punchy climb sees Clark lead us up and over. We soon realized that it made the most sense for Clark to pull us over the top and through the initial portions of the following descents to allow me a bit more of recovery. Then I'd swing around and pull the rest of the way down the hill. We did this on the next descent and continued to do so over the rest of the course.

With a third of the course behind us and a screaming descent down to Alhambra, we sweep through the next turn doing 30mph. This is where things really started to hurt. The pavement is not great and the gradually ascending rollers make it very hard to find the right pace. Other than the upcoming Mama and Papa Bear climbs, this to me was the hardest part of the TT. It was difficult to keep consistent power to the pedals and some of the jarring potholes in the road weren't kind to the undercarriage.

Mama Bear was up next. I soon started to utter my new "favorite" word to Clark..."off". I didn't want to blow on this climb and I had to call up to him to ramp it back just a bit. Even still I was climbing these about 8% above threshold (this should give you an idea of what it's like to stick on Clark's wheel going uphill). Both Mama and Papa Bear are climbs where you can see the summit from the bottom of the hill, and these summits just never seem to come soon enough.

Down the backside of Mama, over another little hill and on to the descent to Papa Bear. We come bombing down and carry ourselves a fair ways up the hill due to our speed. Clark gets to his usual position in front of me with myself chattering "off" every once in a while. I do have to say Clark's positive vocal encouragement was a great help as we climbed this last hill.

We crest and bomb down the last short descent to the finish line. No rest for the tired as we gave all we had to cross together. My data shows that my HR averaged 175 for the last 5 minutes of the course. We clocked through at 40:52.5. The goal was sub-40, but we were pretty happy with the effort.

At the results table we found out that our Morgan Stanley friends of Phipps/Dyrwal had beat us out for 4th by 1.5 seconds. A sting of agony, but our tanks were empty and the clock doesn't lie. Overall the strength displayed in the category was something to behold and those finishing above us read like a who's who of big TT guns. Next time we'll make sure we have more weapons on our belt.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rest Day Observations

The cycling season is kicking off in grand fashion and with that a new meaning has arrived for my normal Monday rest day. The wife has learned, and I totally support this as I know how much time I spend on the bike throughout the rest of the week and how it can be impacting on the family, that Monday's are a great time for me to take advantage of getting all those little things around the house done (I'll let her take advantage of me too...).

For example, between conference calls today the needs of the master bathroom toilet needed to be addressed. A small leak which I likened to a babbling stream had developed from the toilet. This lulled me to sleep at night, but it wasn't the case for the wife. In the pursuit of a peaceful home, I did a little googling on the subject and was quickly armed with fix-it information. In a matter of ten minutes I was a plumbing god and back in the good graces of the family. Thank you Denver Water for the help.

Over the course of the next several Monday's I'm sure my to-do list will blossom like a spring almond tree on the Merco RR course. Not a bad idea to brush up on the handyman skills in this economy too.