Saturday, February 23, 2013

Copper town

This week was a little bit light on the training but I was consistent in getting out to ride, and feeling pretty good for my race on the weekend. Kelsey's parents were in town to help set up our spare bedroom in anticipation of the new member of our family.

But before we get to the race, I have an update about the tour of California bike race. The pros will yet again be visiting NorCal and the queen stage is finishing on mount diablo. A video was posted describing the different stages and one of my teammates who works for the diablo state park was asked to describe part of the route. He is the guy in the ranger outfit towards the end of the video below.

Amgen tour of California route

I also got an email from a teammate regarding the video and one of the other people in the video. See below for a great story about a local cyclist.

"At the beginning description to the Mt Diablo stage, there’s a shaved headed chubby guy in an orange jersey. For those newbies who’ve only been riding for fifteen years or so, that’s George Mount. Local boy from Berkeley, fourth in the Montreal Olympic Road Race. First American to race the Giro. Fourth in The Milk Race, won the Red Zinger (precursor the Coors Classic), etc, etc. He quit racing in ’81 or ’82, moved back to the Bay Area and made a fortune in high tech sales. In ’90 or so, he casually raced locally for a couple years. He’d show up, chubby, on an old steel bike with downtube shifters and a six speed cogset and old wool shorts. Few people knew who he was, but invariably, he’d attack midway through the race, win solo and go home, people asking, who was that guy? He took to putting a bell on his handlebars, which he’d ding preceding each attack – just to give everyone a fair warning. It didn’t help us at all. He was known as Smilin’ George, because when a race would be at its most miserable – think Snelling, in the rain and you’re being guttered trying to get in the echelon – George would casually ride alongside the suffering mortals and smile at each and every one of us. It was completely demoralizing. He was a god and will always be a hero of mine. In ’92 or ’93, when I was younger, skinnier and could climb somewhat, he passed me like a bolt of lightning near the saddle during the Mountain Challenge. He was on a fixed gear. Wearing cut off blue jeans. And an old leather hairnet. He was kind enough to smile when he passed."

On to the race. The copper town circuit race is held in copperopolis and consists of a 5 mile lap on rolling terrain. Our field was 44 deep with one team having about ten riders in the field. From previous experience I knew that it was important to be at the front at the 2 turnaround points as it bunches up and crashes are more likely to happen there. I had one teammate in the race and 2 other friends from a different team. The race started fast and because it was only 60 minutes long, it was expected to stay fast. The one team with many riders started off the attacking early and it would continue this way throughout the race. One of their riders would attack and then someone from a different team would chase and the field would follow. Once the rider was caught, a different rider from their team would attack. It was textbook team tactics if you have a numbers advantage , attack the field until they give up and one of your riders gets away.

Unfortunately for their team, we consistently pulled back the attackers and the race never was too hard to drop anyone from the field. I kept my nose clean for the first 2 laps and stayed near the front at the turnarounds. On the third lap I almost had a crash as a rider came around the outside of me at one of the turnarounds and bumped my arm, pushing my handlebar and steering my away from the turn. I leaned on the rider a little bit, regained my direction, and moved through the corner without further incident. By the last turnaround I was in about 20th position and knew I needed to move up to be in a better position for the sprint finish.

Inside the last 2 miles, the speed picked up significantly and I started to look for a way to move up as everyone was fighting for position. I made a move up the outside of the field but was unable to get far as we were moving over 30 mph. I blew up trying move up and tucked back in for another effort. This time I had a tow to the front as someone else was trying to make the same move. Unfortunately the result was the same as he blew up from the effort and we were both shuffled back. Coming up to the last few hundred meters, I wasn't in a position to contest the sprint and sat up to roll through the finish. 33rd place was my official finishing position.

The good news is that I felt good throughout the race and was able to move up in the field much better than I have before and I was in a good position up until the last 2km. After getting back from the race I had to make a trip to the bike shop to drop off my newest bike. Specialized had ordered a recall on my bike as there was a potential for the front fork to break. I needed to bring the bike in so that they could ship the fork to a testing facility and stress test the fork. It was supposed to take up to 2 weeks but I got a call that my bike was back in less than a week.

YouTube Video

On Monday I got sick again. It seemed like a relapse of my norovirus problems from Christmas and I was worried that this was going to put out of commission for a week like at Christmas. Luckily, it was only bad for 2 days and I was back at work and training within 4 days. I have a few weeks before my next race and plan on doing a heavy training program to build my fitness for the faster/longer races to come.
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cherry Pie

I was in the office all this week so I should have had the opportunity to train all week. I was planning on taking Monday off as my legs were pretty sore from Saturdays race and Sundays hard ride up mt. Diablo. I took Monday off and started to prep my second bike for the upcoming race on Sunday. I started to stretch the tubular tires in order to have them ready to be glued onto the rims later. I spent Tuesday taking the old glue off the rims and then putting the first layer of glue on the tires and rims, during which I managed to stab myself with a screwdriver in the thumb.
Wednesday followed with another layer of glue and then I mounted and centered the tires onto the rims. Afterwards I pumped them up to 140 psi and left them for 24 hours to sit. Although it was late (8pm), I got dressed for the cold weather and went out for an hour ride.

Thursday was spent doing hill repeat intervals, in preparation for the race on Sunday. There is a small housing development a half mile from our apartment with short but very steep hills and I spent the better part of an hour climbing those hills. Friday I took the day off and then on Saturday I had a short but harder ride up mt. Diablo. Saturday was also the day that I discovered a problem with the second bike(the bike I was going to race). With my skills of deduction I realized that the problem was coming from the rear wheel and more specifically the rear hub/cassette. I rode the bike to the local bike shop and they told me not to ride that wheel and that I would have to have the hub serviced to fix the hub which wasn't spinning smoothly.

I scratched the plan of riding the second bike and prepped the first bike for the race. The cherry pie crit is in a business park in napa and the race goes around a 1 mile lap with a short hill up to the start finish line. Our race had 67 riders total, a large field to say the least and it was full gas from the start of our 40 minute race. I stayed in the front of the race for the first five laps to avoid any crashes; it is early in the season and everybody is nervous and crashes are more likely to happen. Each time up the climb was hurting and I wanted to reserve some energy for the end so I took the next few laps pretty easy on the climb and was swarmed and moved to the back of the field. With 3 laps to go I started to move up in the field but I only moved up about 10 places going into the last lap. I moved up a further 10 places going into the final time up the climb and waited to launch my final sprint. I found a good gap and with a final effort I moved up to 26th place by the finish. I was happy with the finish but know I need to work a little bit harder on my positioning in order to be closer to the front when the sprint will matter.
P.S. we found some food trucks near our work and one truck was making tacos with a twist. Fried eggs on tacos and a Mexican Pepsi. Picture below.

P.p.s. a lot of cyclist break there collarbones (clavicle for all of you medically inclined people) due to the way that most cyclist crash on their shoulders and it breaks relatively easy for such puny cyclists. A teammate of mine recently crashed and will need to have his broken collarbone put back together with a titanium rod. Picture of X-ray below.

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Location:Napa, CA

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Christmas, New Years, and the first race of the year

It has been a while since I have updated everyone but now that the season has started in earnest I have committed to blogging more often about racing and life in general. Lets start with life in general. Big news is that my lovely wife is pregnant with our first child (not sure if it is a boy or girl yet). Here is the most recent picture of Kelsey's belly.

We were in Philly for Christmas and New Years and had the chance to see family and friends. We had the chance to meet up with a few newly engaged friends and share the news that Kelsey is pregnant, all very good things. The bad news is that pretty much everyone in the house became ill with some version of the flu and it put me out of commission for a few days. I had a bike in Philly and was doing some training, although the rides weren't that long due to the intense cold. Due to the illness, I missed our yearly New Years get together with my roommates from college. Ironically enough, the first day that I started to feel good was my first day back at work. The other bad part of my illness was that my training regressed by at least a week. I was starting to build the miles and incorporate a little bit of intensity into my workouts so it was pretty frustrating to feel like I was back to where I was at the beginning of December.

So when January began I knew I still had a month before I was going to race. I also knew that I had to travel for work twice which makes being consistent with my training very difficult. It normally takes me about a month of hard training to get into good shape so January was looking to be pretty difficult. The good news is that I found out at a team meeting that 2 new teammates were going to be racing in my category so I won't be racing on my own too much more. I had the chance to meet my new teammates (Andy and Saul) and ride with them once before our first planned race. Training had been progressing pretty well as I have been riding around 25 miles on most week nights and then combining that with 60-70 mile rides with more intensity on weekends. Our first race was scheduled for knights ferry road race and after riding with Andy it was apparent that he was stronger and the better option for a high finish at this race.

The knights ferry road race is 59 miles long, mostly flat, with an out and back layout. We would ride over 2 laps of the course and finish on the top of the only hill on the course. I drove out with Andy and Chris, two new teammates, as our races were starting close together. We arrived early and warmed up with plenty of time to spare. My race only had about 30 riders in it so I knew it was going to be easy to move forward in the field, something that normally I am not very good at and in bigger fields can cause problems at the finish of the race. More on this later. A photo of the finishing hill below.

Our race started off fairly quickly, with a few half-hearted attacks early in the race and the whole field sprinting over the finishing hill and out of the turnaround. The pace stayed variable with accelerations thru the remainder of the first lap. I had started the race towards the front of the field and was shuffled to the back of the field once I was comfortable that no breaks were going to get away. I made a habit of moving up in the field when we approached the turnarounds as it does get a little bit bunched going into the corner and you can get caught having to sprint to catch the rest of the field if you are too far back in the pack.

The pace slowed significantly on the second lap as everyone settled in for the last 30 miles of the race. Andy and I spent time on the front of the field controlling the pace and everyone was happy to sit in and prepare for the finale. With 5 miles to go the field was swarming as everyone wanted to be near the front but not actually on the front of the field. I was getting shuffled back and as the old adage goes, "if you aren't moving up in the field, you are moving back." With 2 km to go I was now stuck at the back of the field and I had no options to move up as our lane was jammed with everyone holding their position. Andy was positioned well in the top five but I knew I wouldn't be able to help him with the finish, I was too far back in the field. As we hit the final hill up to the finish line the field began to explode as people were moving up and some moving backwards very quickly. I waited as long as possible before making my move on the steepest part, I even had to hit the brakes at point as one rider was slowing and I was accelerating up the hill. At the finish line I knew I had passed some of the field but thought that I was still around 15th at the finish line. Results posted below (look under category 4)

Knights Ferry results

Andy finished 7th as he ran out of gas in the last 200 meters of the race and I had clawed my way back to 11th place. I was happy with the finish and the result, it is still too early in the season to be worried about my finishing place but it is something to build on. This was a long race and it felt good to have something left in the tank for the finish. I also wanted to show you my new shoes below and the inscription on the inside of the collar of our new jerseys (a few pictures above).

Possibly another race next weekend, weather permitting.