Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crashes and a crit

Let me start by saying that I did not crash this week. Actually, I have crashed in quite a while (knock on wood). But there were a few crashes in the last week of riding that I wanted to share.
I rode the HOP ride yesterday morning and it was a smaller group so the speed was a little bit slower. Because of this, we shared the work a bit more and did some pace line work at times on the ride. On highland road, there was a motorcycle crash that occurred while 2 motorcycles were trying to pass the HOP medium ride. One of my teammates saw the whole thing happen and we ended up riding by the ambulance as it was picking up one of the crashers. On the second half of the HOP ride I took a few pulls at the front of the field up the main grinding climb which I would pay for later on in the ride. After the climb up collier canyon (which I barely hung on to the group) we started up Camino Tassajara and the wind really began to blow. Our small group was echeloned across the road and I was stuck riding in the wind and eventually I was blown off the back. It felt good to have a few hard pulls at the front and then to hang on to the field afterwards. I can tell I am getting stronger just need to keep up the hard riding (and smart recovery) and I will be in a good place for the end of a race.

On Sunday I raced the red kite crit in Livermore with a few teammates. It is a flat, 4 corner, 1 mile crit and our field was 97 deep with a mix of cat. 3 and cat. 4 riders. Our race was scheduled for 40 minutes and these type of races can be very nervous with such a large field and very few ways for people to separate themselves from the rest of the field (like hills or a technical course). The result is that people take risks to move up in the field and this can have an affect on the riders around them (like tapping your brakes in traffic, it has a domino affect on the 10 cars behind you). But first, here is a video of how the race started. This really did happen and it was kind of a microcosm for how our race went (far too excitable and ending in a crash).

YouTube Video

The first few laps were pretty fast and I sat in the field comfortably. I moved up for a few of the middle laps as I started to feel out the spots on the course where the wind wasn't as bad and the field was slowing. With 5 laps to go I was shuffled to the back as I was caught in the middle of the field with no way to move up. On the 3rd to last lap there was a massive crash in front of me that took down at least 6 riders. I narrowly missed getting taken down as the wreckage exploded outwards from the original fallers. I had slowed down pretty significantly and as I was already at the back of the field there was a gap of about 100 meters to the main field. I quickly started the chase back to the field and after 1 lap of hard work, I had finally caught back up to the back of the pack. We passed the wreckage of the crash and 1 rider was still down and being attended to (he was very bloody and had to be taken away in an ambulance eventually). The last lap was very fast and after my effort to catch back on, I was unable to move up and I cruised across the finish line. Officially I finished 77th, not very good but I must admit that I don't think I will be doing a whole lot more flat crits this year. I don't think that they play to my strengths and the chances of crashing are much higher.

I am traveling to Denver, Spokane, and Boise this week so I will be on the stair machine to keep up the cardio. Bariani road race next Sunday.
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Sunday, March 3, 2013


This past week has been an excellent week of training. I have found a group of local teammates who ride on week nights and one of them has put together a generic training program for us to follow. Although I have only been following this for one week I can tell that I am getting stronger already. It also helps to have other people to train with as this makes the efforts more bearable (not easier).

On Sunday I went for a ride up mt. Diablo with my teammate Andy and as we neared the top we saw that some of the snow had remained from a week earlier. It was a rare sight in these areas and made for a good photo opportunity. We kept a good pace up the first half of the climb but I slowed us down on the second half and we reached the top in just over an hour. It was a respectable time to the top especially since we hadn't pushed it too hard and I haven't focused on climbing too much this year.

Monday was an easy group recovery ride of about 2 hours. Wednesday was a set of 5x5 intervals up a slight grade in a neighborhood nearby. We would start at the bottom of the hill and go all out for 5 minutes, turn around and head back down the hill and repeat the process until we finished 5 total intervals. This efforts are quite brutal and it certainly helps to have a few other people to suffer with (even though I admittedly mailed in the last interval, I just couldn't push it a fifth time). Thursday was another tough day in the saddle although I was by myself for this excursion. I tried to keep the pace high for the whole ride and up it just a little bit on the hills.

Friday was a very short spin on the trainer, basically a day off but I wanted to spin the legs just a little so that they would be ready for my hard ride on Saturday. Saturday mornings are the infamous HOP ride, short for House of Pain. Due to the popularity of the ride and to accommodate the different levels of riders, it has expanded to HOP lite, HOP medium, and the HOP. The easier rides start earlier in the morning and eventually the fastest ride begins. The loop is the same each week and consists of 50 miles over rolling hills without any real climbing (about as fast a loop as you can get around here). The best part about the ride is that it gives new racers a chance to ride with those faster than them and in a setting that isn't as aggressive as an actual race. I started the season riding in HOP medium and decided that I needed to start riding with the fast guys if I wanted to get faster.

The HOP ride started out pretty mellow while everyone was warming up but it quickly sped up. I had planned to ride at the back as I didn't want to spend any time in the wind, I needed to conserve all the energy I could. After 5 miles we turned left onto a back road and the pace was full on. We went over a few rollers at full speed and headed towards a predetermined sprint point. We were sprinting out of corners to keep up with the pack and when I looked at our speed after the ride, we had averaged 29.7 mph for over a ten minute period. I stayed with the field until the long drag up collier canyon road at which point I wasn't able to stay with the pace on the fast climb. I backed off and recovered before heading over to mt. Diablo and finishing my training ride with a solid effort halfway up the mountain.

I spent an hour riding the trainer today as seen above. I finished my third book on tape this year and just downloaded a fourth. After reviewing some of my data files from this week and comparing them to last year, I am delighted to report that I am at almost the exact same fitness level as I was last May (when I was at my best last year). I can tell that I am getting stronger and don't think that I will plateau soon. I am looking forward to another hard week of training and the impending daylight savings when I won't have to carry lights on my night rides.

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