The season from the knobby-tire perspective. I had a good opening to the season at Lemurian and placed 3rd on the long course for expert men. I tried my hand at Enduro racing up in Reno at the Battle Born Enduro, I found out that only racing downhill sections does not suit me well, although it is fun. I was 17th at Battle Born. The Downieville classic was an absolute blast, just a super fun race course. I ended up 11th for expert men under 34 at Downieville. By far my best race of the season was the Bidwell Bump. I had a really good race day with PR's on both the XC course and the Super D, taking 2nd and 3rd respectively (Expert class). I have attached my favorite pics from the season, one taken by Tom Embree during the super D and the other at Downieville. I also attached two of my little shredders on progress: my boys Calder and Baylor, and their new sister Roma (9 months) on her first bike ride about a month ago.
Let’s just start at the race and not go thru all the craziness of getting to the race. Laguna Seca Raceway. I’m on the raceway, seriously how cool is that!
Lined up at the start couple rows back but that’s ok. Palms are sweaty and I’m a bit overwhelmed. The E5s, 35+, 45+ are all racing together so field of about 50.
I have a plan, whistle blows….there goes the plan. I start up the hill and quickly fall to mid pack. Uh oh this is fast. We all line up to make it down the narrow downhill leading to the hairpin turn, negotiating this is gonna be fun triple wide…not. Oh good almost a full and complete stop at the bottom of a cool little hill and by cool I mean hellish if you’re 190 pounds.All the little guys are sprinting up no problemo. OK this is going to be an issue. Now I’m burning an early match to catch the lead group, as I crest the top I know I need to get to the front in order to keep up next time up the hill. I get in the top 10 and begin to negotiate the right turn to the hairpin to the left turn into the straight away finish.
Auuugh there’s not enough room I can’t get going smoothly (a glance at my heart rate, 185. That sucks, first lap and already that high. Btw my average for the race was 177) I push hard up to get to the downhill first and settle for mid pack again. Yeaaa stop at the bottom, sprint to hang on and thru the next technical and I get dropped. Now my ego is shot I cant even stay with the pack, what am I doing, why am I training so hard to be dropped on the second lap….all things going thru my head for the entire 3rd lap. And 7 laps to go.
I see Byron and see him working and pushing and smiling cause seriously we’re on the Laguna Seca Raceway racing in Monterey, my wife is watching yelling at me to stay strong, Joe is reminding me to settle in and work with someone. Noelle and Rachel as well as kids are on the hill telling me how great I’m doing. SO MUCH SUPPORT I can’t, no I won’t sit up.
Now it’s all about finishing on the lead lap. I catch up to one guy and tell him to work with me to catch the next guy. We put together a group of 4 with 5 laps to go. I make it 2 laps with them and just can’t hang on up that damn hill. Still I have to push, with 2 to go, I spot someone in the 35+ and it then becomes my goal to catch him so I know I/m not last. The lead pack starts down the straight a way as I hit my bell lap, whew gonna finish on the lead lap by the skin of my teeth! Now where is that guy, 200 yards ahead, I can do this. Slowly I reel him in and after the technical turns to the straight a way I catch him and pass him with 25 yards left. Sometimes it’s the race you make it that measures your success, mentally I had to overcome what I thought I was capable of and find a way to find out what I’m actually capable of and build on that.
Thank you everyone for your support and keeping me going.
Great Race. 100 in our field at start. It was 5 laps of about 12 miles. The second lap I attacked and hoped to get a few of the stronger guys to follow or bridge up. No one did and I stayed away for a few miles but gave up knowing the pack wasn't going to really allow for any breaks. Especially without any wind or real climbs to break it up. I attacked once more for a short while on the third lap just to see if I could get someone to follow. No one did again so I sat up quickly. I sat in for the next couple of laps knowing and feeling that I had burned a few matches. There were about 5 teams with 3 or 4 guys and 2 teams were very well represented with 8-10 guys. I was very surprised that with those numbers they couldn't get organized enough to create a break (even though deep down I know it's next to impossible for a break to stick in the 4's). I watched for one but there were only a few weak attempts, including mine. I did see those teams get somewhat organized the last 3 or 4 miles though. I starting searching around for which wheel I wanted to be on and knew that I needed to be in the top 10 around the last right hand turn, that left a 6-700 meter hill finish, if I wanted a chance to place. I also looked around for my teammate Joey, but didn't see him. Around 800 meters I heard the sound of brakes and carbon carnage right behind me and the lead-out from the 1/2 organized teams accelerated. I found a good wheel going into the last turn, although sitting in about 13th or 14th position. Kept on the wheel for a couple hundred meters and took off on the sprint. Head down and gave it all I had. I know we had passed a few of the lead-out guys when I was on the wheel and passed a few on my sprint. I passed the finish line and looked up to see that I had finished in what I thought was 6th place. Tuned out to be 7th. One away from a t-shirt. At least I know how to race this course next year. Sit in more. Wait for 75-100 field sprint! Joey ended up finishing right behind the pack which I think was outstanding given his longest ride all winter was 11 miles! He's an animal.
So its been awhile since I’ve actually submitted a real race report, and now that I have the time, I’d like to share my experiences from this past weekend at the Novato Grand Prix where I raced with Brennen, Corey and Ryan. The Novato grand Prix is a race where I have had the opportunity of sharing success with other teammates in the past. In 2010 Josh Bullock and myself helped our then teammate, Michael Jasinski, stick a four man breakaway in the 1/2/3 field. It was that race that truly opened my eyes to how rewarding the sport of cycling can be even if you aren’t the winner of the race.
So the course at the Novato Grand Prix is fairly similar to the Folsom Bicycles plus crit. It’s easy, non- technical and even the announcer repeated that it was a “safe” course which I personally find a bit silly since it’s typically the riders around you that determines how safe an event will be. The course is about 1Km long with 2 left hand turns and an ever so slight riser on the back side of the course which circles around an insurance building. The finish line is on a very slight downhill in the parking lot out front of the building. Previous race winners typically seemed to be the first rider out of the final corner. So basically, our goal was going to be to get Brennan to the corner first on the last lap if Ryan or myself didn’t make a break in the first 40 minutes of our 60 minute race.
Our start was a little stressful on account of the fact that RYAN forgot to pack his shoes for the race! He was warming up in the parking lot wearing only a pair of tennis shoes and was planning on racing that way if he didn’t manage to secure a borrowed set from another racer. Luckily the cycling community has a fair share of generous individuals and Ryan was able to borrow a sweet set of digs from another racer right before the start of our event, the Men’s 2/3*** field (the 2s were being scored separate from the 3s… FREE POINTS FOR EVERYONE! WAHOOO!)
It’s been a while since I’ve raced with Cat 3s and the experience definitely brought back fond memories. Everything got chased down. There were multiple instances for the first 40 minutes of the race where a rider or riders would get up the road a bit and someone would make a poor attempt to bridge across which would ultimately result in the entire field being drug up to the group. I managed to get in several attempts as well as Ryan however a breakaway was just not happening for the day. Mikes Bikes had shown up with a pretty well represented contingent and I had a hunch that they were intent on a bunch sprint.
With 20 minutes to go Corey suggested that we stick together and I was happy to do so because I was pretty throttled. Brennan and Corey had been hanging out all race in the main field so I knew they were on good form. I knew I had enough left in me to ramp up a good long 1 lap lead-out. With 4 to go we were all lined up in the first quarter of the field and with 2 to go I found myself about 4th man from the front. I’d have liked to start the leadout as we passed the finish line with 1 to go, however, I ended up on the front of the field half way through the second to last lap. From there I took over with Ryan on my wheel, followed by Corey with Brennan in 4th position. I basically went into 1Km pursuit mode but during the straightaway after we started 1-lap-to-go I could tell there was another leadout train moving up to our left. Corey was yelling “GO! GO! GO!” and from there I pushed even harder and managed to hold off the train to our left. When we made it through the first turn I was deep into the red and could feel myself fading so I pulled off and let Ryan take over.
With my job finished, I drifted away from the field and I could see Ryan leading the field up the riser on the back stretch. As I crested the riser I looked across the field to see Corey leading the group to the 2nd and final left hand turn. Brennan was on his wheel. Sweet! Brennan would be the first through the turn which was basically a guaranteed podium finish! The group disappeared from sight behind a bunch of bushes and trees and as I came around the bend what do I see? Brennan, Corey and Ryan standing on the side of the road in that all too familiar “I just crashed” state.
Brennan had started his sprint, however, he had pulled his shoe out of his pedal doing so and when he attempted to click back in another rider piled into him from behind causing him to crash. Damn… Luckily there was no damage to rider or machine. It was an unfortunate end to an otherwise superb race and awesome day in Novato, CA. I had fun. We raced well. Sometimes though you get unlucky. I hope Brennan heals up quick and really really really look forward to the next time our group can race together!
I did a fairly short warm up and went to staging early, we all got to the line and you could feel the tension in the air. Everyone was itching to move into a better position, even if they were in the top 10 to start. Before our start, they played the national anthem. Everyone got ready for a “neutral” descent. We took off and everyone started getting aggressive. By the end of the descent we had 1 crash during the neutral that took 2 people out of the race. Everyone started freaking out and fighting to get to the front. I just stayed calm knowing it was going to string out once we hit the climbs. I was doing well, until I got delayed by a crash at the base of the climb. I fought to catch on, but the group had a 15 second gap on me by the top of the hill. I sprinted over the top to gain speed for the descent. 50 mph+ until I finally caught back on at the bottom. The 2nd time up the climb a group of 16 broke away to chase down the solo rider. I didn't have the legs but ended up in the maim field, where I sat up and rested until the base of the final climb. The finish was at the end of another 1.5 kilometers climb for the final lap with an average grade of 8.9 percent. It was now just a mental game. I attacked with 2 other riders at the base of the climb which blew the main field apart. A few riders caught back on, but got dropped later on. We hit 1km to go and one of my break away mates attacked. I followed but the 3rd rider with us couldn't hold our wheels. It was just the 2 of us left with 750 meter left. I waited for the right time to start putting in the final effort to drop my companion. I accelerated right before 500 meters to go, the steepest section of the climb almost 12 percent gradient. I caught the 2nd rider and saw 2 more riders from the lead group about 10 seconds ahead of me. I just kept going and coming into the last 150 meters where it flattened out, I passed one. The other was right in front of me, but I shifted another gear and punched one more time to pass him right at the line. A wonderful 14th place. I had an amazing time at nationals, and now I know how to train for next year.
So it's been a little while since I've actually had the time to write a decent race report and being that the Tour of Walla Walla was a totally new experience to me I figured it would be the best event to share with all of YOU! I had been thinking about ToWW for a while since had I learned about it while visiting Michelle's family who live in the town of Milton Freewater just 15 minutes from Walla Walla, WA. I mean if you're going to travel 12 hours to visit some family why not add some bike racing to it right!? Bring on the suffering!
Walla Walla really peaked my interest because it's a 3 THREE day stage race with 4 stages total. I love stage racing and am particularly fond of stage races that are more than just a RR, TT and crit over two days. From my experiences this past weekend, Walla Walla is definitely the type of event that I would love to see our own Chico Stage Race mature into… Sooner than later hopefully.
Want to see what the ToWW courses and elevation profiles are like?
Here's a link!
So Michelle and I drove up Thursday night to Kennewick, WA where her mom and stepdad live to meet up and say hi. Early in the morning we drove out to the town of Waitsburg, WA where two of the ToWW road races would be staged out of. Waitsburg is a neat little town with a population of around 100 I bet. It's well kept and it's completely surrounded by rolling hills of hay fields.
Jump ahead a couple hours to the stage #1 road race. My field was big. 130+ athletes mostly hailing from British Columbia, Seattle and Oregon. I was one of only TWO Californians in my field! Represent! Anyways, our race was 3 laps for a total of 64 miles and 3500 of climbing elevation. The part they didn't include was that they would be leading us onto the course and over the finishing climb before the race officially started so we actually were doing more like 4500ft of elevation gain that day. To get an idea of what this climb was like, picture Neal Road but only 2 miles with a totally consistent grade. No stair steps, no pitches and from the bottom of the climb you can see clear to the top. Sweet! We crested the summit of our neutral rollout and the green flag went up. Race is on!
The decents of stage #1 were smooth and wicked fast. I topped my speedometer at 55mph and was damn near spun out in my hardest gear. Our field was also blessed with a rolling enclosure which meant that we had a PD escort waaay off the front allowing for use of the ENTIRE road! Pro status! There was a long gradual climb on the back side of the course with a very low grade and with the guys at the front pushing as hard as they were there was actually quite a draft on the uphill portion. We crossed two railroad crossings at a dangerous angle but the race organizers had been thoughtful and laid down some plywood and carpeting to minimize carnage… At least for the guys on the right side of the road…
After we passed through Waitsburg we turned right onto the first of three efforts up the big climb. I made sure to move to the front and start the climb there because, well, unless you like jumping across gaps as people pop off the back it's the best place to be to not lose contact. Regardless, I ended up drifting to the back and unfortunately with 1Km to the summit, a Jamis pro put in a big dig for a KoM point which shelled me from the lead group. I crested the summit with a group of about 10 guys about 20 meters from the rear of the field. Not the place you want to be because on a screaming fast descent like this one you're going to burn a TON of matches fighting your way across that tiny gap just to catch on. Damn. Time to gamble. Sit in. I sat on wheels and let 4 poor souls from the represented teams ride themselves into oblivion catching back up to the main field.
Fast forward to the second lap of three and I'm climbing again with the field. This time Connor O'Leary, the Bontrager/Livestrong talent, cancer survivor, eventual stage winner, and overall super nice guy puts in a vicious attack before the 1Km to summit. We're all out of the saddles at our max and suddenly some guy goes down right in front me. He must have crossed wheels or something but I had to brake and swerve to the left off the road and by then the gap had already been formed. People were scrambling across and I got back into it pedaling again just trying to limit the damage. I crested the summit off of the main field again but this time with fewer people. No sitting in this time. Me and my 3 chase mates did our best to chase back on but when the field gets strung out single file like I could see it up ahead it's nearly impossible to chase back on. It's time like those you really gotta envy the pros and their super long sticky water bottle hand-offs from team cars. The follow cars came around us and we were on our own for the final lap. Damn. From there it was just tempo tempo tempo climb threshold finish!
Super nice course, well organized, LOVE the rolling enclosure (Pro status!), and everyone I raced with was quite friendly.