Monday, March 28, 2005


To the new folks I added to the list; This is a weekly waste of both my time and yours detailing the results of the weekends (bicycle) racing. Enjoy, delete, whatever.

This week’s race report brings both good and terrible results. It’s inevitable that racing involves crashing, and every year there are one or two truly nasty crashes…but first;

The official second edition of “Last week BY THE NUMBERS ”

Number of upgrades applied for and accepted…..……………1
Amount of prize money won……………………………….$75
Amount of money spent (YTD) on race entry fees……..….$123
Amount spent on cycling in general…………....…I plead the 5th
Number of teammates getting new titanium hip………...………1

Well I’ll start with the bad news, you read that last item correctly, right now as I type this my teammate Guy Browne is undergoing surgery to have a partial hip replacement. In the Saturday Mason Lake #3 race the field sprint was even more chaotic than normal because our race was passing the Masters A/B (fast guys over 30 as opposed to Masters C/D which is slow(er) guys over 30) field that started ahead of us right at the finish line on the final lap. I wasn’t there to see it but apparently the confusion resulted in some riders crashing into Guy and he went down hard causing a dislocated finger and broken hip. On the bright (well--slightly less dark) side he is expected to be back on the bike in five weeks. He won’t be racing in five weeks, but he can start his way back. It’s really a bummer because he’s a fun, friendly, strong guy…err…Guy.

The crash was largely due to bad officiating. The two fields should never have been within half a mile of each other at the finish. Normally the lead car would neutralize one of the fields so that the other could either get away or pass the slower depending on the case. Part of the problem was that the lead car was already ahead of the Masters A/B field which is where three other riders and I were. Eight of us had broken away early in lap two of four (48 miles total). Nearing the end of the final lap it was down to four of us in the breakaway, two riders I didn’t know and Phil; the rider that I broke away with last week at Mason Lake #2. In the dippity-doos (not actually a cycling term, but seems as good as anything to describe small rolling hills) before the finish we shed one of the final four when the pace started coming up. About two or three miles to the finish the other rider that I didn’t know dropped off with a flat tire. I felt really bad for him, he had been working for 30+ miles in this break away and only had a few left to go when through no fault of his own he was taken out of the race. As we approached the finish Phil and I both started letting up not wanting to pull the other into the sprint, which is exactly what I did and why I lost last week. We pulled into the sprint zone (200 meters to go) roughly even with me about half a length down but rolling relatively slow ~20mph. I started to pull even and Phil gunned it with 150 to go. This time I was on the ball and took off with him I was ahead by half a length with 100 to go and with about 50 meters to go I heard him yelling “nice sprint” and I finished about two lengths in front. It felt good. That all went away a few minutes later when the field sprint came in and I found out about Guy. I never actually saw him because he crashed at the finish line a little under a mile up the road from the parking lot where I was cooling down. He was in bad shape though. It had rained hard the entire race he (and everyone else) was exhausted from the effort, he was going into shock and lying on the cold wet pavement was making him shake uncontrollably. While I don’t doubt that hypothermia was getting ready to set in the team had driven a car down there and thrown a half dozen jackets on him until the ambulance arrived. The good news is he is as OK as can reasonably be expected and is in good spirits. We have a really supportive team; he has received at least a dozen visitors and tons of emails.

That’s all I’m going to say on Guy, I’m sure that my mother is already convinced that an 18 wheeler will land on my head if I even look at my bicycle again.

Sunday I used the seven points earned on Saturday combined with the 15 that I already had and upgraded to the cat 3 squad. The race was in Sequim (pronounced skwim for those of you not from the Northwest) and it was 72 miles over seven laps. Sequim is on the Olympic Peninsula in a flat but notoriously windy location, Sunday was certainly no exception. There was one portion of the course where the speed limit was 35 mph and I was having no problem breaking the speed limit. The first lap had a few people (myself included) testing the pack with some accelerations and little break away attempts, but nothing that stuck for long. Early in the second lap a group of five or six riders went off the front, but one of them was on my team so I sat on the front of the pack doing my best to block others from chasing the break down. Shortly thereafter one of my teammates yelled “James, why the %$&#* are you blocking?” which is when I noticed that my teammate along with several others had been dropped by the break. Seeing this I stepped on it and bridged up to them. Once I had bridged there were four of us working together fairly well for a few miles in which we managed to open up a gap of a few hundred meters. Then the two smaller riders in the group started crapping out and stopped pulling through. It’s more difficult for little riders in big winds, but they stopped pulling altogether which didn’t motivate me or the other big guy to keep pulling with them along for a free ride. All of us sat up and started riding easy when the other biggish rider took off. I let him get a ways out and then bridged up to join him leaving the two wheel suckers (cycling term for a person who will just draft off of you never taking their turn at the front) behind to get swallowed up by the pack. At this point we are only 15 miles or so into a 72 mile race, but what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The other rider (I never got his name) and I start taking thirty second pulls each and just as we are starting lap three the lead car pulls back and informs us that we have opened up a one minute fifteen second gap. We keep trucking and by the start of lap four we have opened up the gap to 2:05. This sounds real nice but we are still less than half way through the race. The next couple of laps were more of the same with one exciting little moment when I dropped my chain while climbing up one of the three small hills. My partner in crime was drafting at the time and was kind enough to give me a little push while I shifted the chain back on. After telling us that we had a 2:05 lead at the start of lap four we never heard from the lead car again so we were riding blind, only knowing that in these kinds of situations the breakaway tends to get slower as the race wears on while the peloton tends to speed up. Starting the final (seventh) lap I was willing the lead car to give us a gap report with all my might, but to no avail whatsoever. The start of the final lap also meant that we would be in the tailwind again which was a much welcome relief. After spending 50 miles off the front my legs were feeling it. Unfortunately the other guy’s legs were feeling it more. Towards the end of the sixth lap he had started taking shorter and shorter pulls, starting the final lap they were down to about 5 seconds which is just enough time for him to pull in front of me and pull off to the side which didn’t provide me with any rest. I stopped pulling off and just started pulling. Just after the start/finish line was the first hill of the loop. He dropped like a stone. I felt bad about it because we had been working hard and well together, but at the same time it’s every racer for himself, and he was blowing up big time. I put my head down and started time trialing like my life depended on it. I knew that I had to fly in the tailwind because the pack was sure to be moving faster than me once I got to the headwind. My legs were toast and they would definitely be ramping it up especially after swallowing up the last breakaway rider. With a little over three miles to go I looked back and I could see the flashing lights of the peloton’s lead car less than a mile behind me and I was still riding straight into the headwind. After that I just put my head down and went. I didn’t look back until the one kilometer to go sign when I looked back and I knew I had it. I pushed out the last thousand meters finishing a little under a minute in front of the field sprint. The officials in my lead and follow car stuck there heads out and said “that was awesome” at which point I told them Saturday I had been a cat 4 rider. They just stared at me. I felt like a total beast.

That being said it didn’t happen because I was stronger than the field. Breakaways only succeed when there is too much infighting and not enough cooperation in the pack to reel the break back in. I worked hard, but I got really lucky too. It also helped that I had six teammates in the pack breaking up the rhythm, and blocking to the best of their ability. It was a great race by all accounts.

To top it all off in the results I was listed as
1st place: James Strangelove

If only I had gotten my PhD…


Tuesday, March 08, 2005


First of all I added a few names to my distribution list, so welcome to my weekly race report/lunchtime diversion you new people. Another weekend has gone by and two more races under my belt. It was a good weekend for me with amazing weather, though it’s been a hectic few days since then. Before we get any further a recap…

The official first edition of “Last week BY THE NUMBERS ”

Number of inboxes clogged by yours truly………….46
Number of replies received………………………….17
Number of the above asking for money ……………..4
Number of the above that weren’t form letters………1
Number that actually got money……………………..1

My favorite reply had to be the one that asked if I was going to “start racing on the palindrome next”…for those of you that English is a second language, a palindrome is a word/phrase that reads the same both backwards and forwards i.e. “A man, a plan, a canal Panama!” A velodrome is the racing track with banked turns.

Now for the meat (or tofu for those of you averse to dead flesh) of the letter, the results. I left Seattle Friday night to spend the night at a teammate’s parent’s house closer to the race course. His mother gave us a ride down and she was super nice and really friendly, but not exactly what I’m accustomed to. Picture the following; hair dyed platinum blond, smokes about a pack a day, speaks in baby talk to her lap dog (shedding and in heat), and repeatedly offers her vegan son foods like chicken chow mein and meat lovers pizza. The house is classic rural American kitsch, chainsaw carvings of bears coming out of stumps and Indian chiefs, the gnarly stump coffee table indefinitely preserved in a ½” layer of glossy lacquer, and to top it all off the big ‘ol lazy-boy recliner firmly planted three feet in front of the television. I could go on but it would be a little mean, and at some point I’m supposed to give some race results.

Saturday Mason Lake #2, it was the exact same course as last week—three laps about 12 miles in length around the lake. The first mile or so is a neutral roll out (meaning the lead car sets the pace) at which point we hit the first turn and are off. I once again made the mistake of lining up in the middle of the pack, a mistake I realized as soon as we hit the first turn because as soon as the pace car accelerated the guy that won last week broke away and started soloing away from the pack. For those of you not in the know that is really gutsy and really tough, when you’re drafting in the pack/peloton it’s about 20%-30% less effort for the same speed and you can theoretically just keep rotating through the riders pulling at the front so that they share the load. While I was working my way towards the front I ran into (figuratively, not literally) a teammate of the guy who was off the front and found out that he is a former long distance runner that was good enough to go to trials, so he’s got an engine on him. Just before the end of the first lap I managed to get to the front and tried breaking away to catch this guy. Unlike last week he wasn’t even in sight at this point. When I started chasing he was a little over 40 seconds ahead of us (the race officials and observant spectators will count and let you know) and I closed the gap to about 25 seconds when I started blowing up. Just when I had resigned myself to slipping back into the pack another rider bridged from the peloton up to me and we started working together to stay away from the pack/try to catch the lead guy. We never did catch the lead guy, but we did manage to stay in front of the peloton, and even passed the theoretically faster race that started five minutes ahead of us. I made the mistake of assuming that they were a women’s race that we were lapping and announced “on your left ladies” at which point I realized they were the men’s race that had started ahead of us…I’m pretty sure that they all think I’m a dick, but such is life. We passed them just a kilometer or so before the finish line which had the potential to get hairy because neither myself nor Philippe (the other guy in the breakaway with me) particularly wanted to pull the other one to the finish line, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing allowing him to beat me in the sprint leaving me with third place for the second week in a row and the determination that I need to work on my sprinting tactics a little more. Still, third out of 50+ aint bad.

Sunday was a dead flat road race six times around a seven mile course with some nasty winds. A few of us tried getting some breakaways going but it was to windy to attempt it solo and while there were plenty of riders who were strong enough to hang on when we would try to break away they either weren’t strong enough or weren’t willing to pull through and take their turn at the front. After the first few laps I stopped trying and just hung out in the pack, but by that point my efforts along with my teammate Nate (the guy whose house I was staying at) had shrunk the peloton to about half its starting size. About halfway through the final lap the lead car slowed way down neutralizing the field because we were about to lap the women’s field right at the finish. We were held neutral (rolling slowly~15mph) for a little over a mile which made everyone very antsy and twitchy. With about two miles left they let us go again and with everyone rested and the finish line so close the pace went up quite a bit with some serious jockeying for position. I had good position out of the second to last turn with about 500 meters to go when a big solid kinda chunky guy (perfect for drafting off of) tried breaking away. I jumped on his wheel until 300 meters to go when I passed him and started sprinting for the line. This would normally be considered a very long sprint, but after Saturday I realized I don’t really have that short really high end speed that makes good sprinters with 50 meters to go, so for the Sunday race I resolved to try and get a jump on everyone a little early, enough that they couldn’t draft off of me and then just hold it until the finish line. So I passed chunky with 300 meters to go came around the last turn with 50 meters still until the 200 meter sign. To give you an idea of what’s normal the 200 meter sign signifies the spot where they open up the full width of the road to the field sprint and is generally considered far enough from the finish that the true sprints won’t be anywhere near starting. For that last bit I just buried myself in it and crossed the line in first with about 5+ lengths between me and the next rider. I was happy.

This approach probably won’t work so well once I upgrade for a couple of reasons, one it will be more difficult to get a good jump on the other riders, and two there might actually be teams setting up for the sprint with leadout men etc.

Before I finish, I’ve also been meaning to clarify the classification system for amateur racing. Categories are 1-5, 1 being high and 5 being low. The upgrade requirements are as listed below.

From 5 to 4:
Experience in 10 mass start races;

From 4 to 3:
Need 20 points in any 12-month period;
or experience in 25 qualifying races with a minimum of 10 top-10 finishes.
30 points in 12 months is an automatic upgrade

From 3 to 2:
Need 25 points in any 12-month period
60 points in 12 months is an automatic upgrade

From 2 to 1:
Need 30 points in any 12-month period
60 points in 12 months is an automatic upgrade

Points are awarded 1st through 6th place as follows 7-5-4-3-2-1
For the past two weeks I have two third place finishes and one first (the time trial that I kicked bootie in doesn’t count) so I have 4+4+7=15 points which means I need five more before I can upgrade. Maybe I can get them this weekend, I’ll let you know

Monday, March 07, 2005


Friends, family, random people that I met in traveling and have in my address book;

First of all a quick update for those of you that I haven’t spoken to in a really long time. I’m back in Seattle got a job working at Boeing and generally having a good time. Back in late October I joined a cycling team (Wines of Washinton/Rauxa) and we just had our first race weekend which means this is the first of (hopefully) many successful race reports.

Actually it’s just a good way for me to waste my lunch break.

I know that many of you aren’t interested/have A.D.D. so the quick version is that on the Saturday road race I got 3rd out of 52 and on the Sunday time trial I got 1st out of 59. More details are below, but if you don’t care and never want to receive another race report just let me know (the more expletives that you cram into the title and body of the email, the faster that I will get you off of the list.)

Saturday was the first race in the Mason Lake series, a set of three races over three weekends. The course is a pretty flat 12 mile loop around (you guessed it) Mason Lake, last weekend the race was three laps, next weekend it will be three laps and then the final weekend it will be four laps. This weekend I started out farther back in the pack than I should have because it was incredibly difficult to move forward in the pack. It took me 18 miles to get from the middle of the pack up to the front. It wasn’t because the pace was terribly fast, but it was just so crowded on this little road and there weren’t any hills to spread things out and move people around. Early in the last lap before I got to the front a few riders broke away. Two of them were quickly swallowed by the peloton, but the third was stronger and stayed out. When I did get to the front I tried to bridge to the rider up the road. I was steadily gaining on him for about six or seven miles when the pack started turning up the screws and I started getting pretty tired so they reeled me back in. Unfortunately when they caught me they just stopped chasing even though the other guy was less than 40 meters up the road. Not long after we passed the 1000 meters to go sign things started getting really squirrelly, one guy two rows up from me freaked out when someone touched his shoulder and swerved across traffic clipping the front wheel of one of my teammates (right in front of me) sending him and at least 10 or 15 other people into the ground. I managed to swerve left and avoid going down. No one was chasing because they were all saving themselves for the sprint, so I decided to get up front and try to start something (I didn’t want him to get away if I couldn’t). Unfortunately while they were perfectly happy to let me pull them all towards the finish line no one else was willing to take a pull that late in the game. With about 200-250 meters left my teammate Guy made an early break for the sprint and I caught his wheel to tag along. I was pretty gassed from my solo breakaway attempt earlier in the race and it was a really long sprint with me expecting the whole time that someone was about to come around me, but they never did. So Guy took second, I took third, another teammate took 4th and another 6th. All in all, a very good showing from our team for the first race.

The time trial was substantially less exciting as it is an individual race against the clock instead of a big pack event, but then again I did quite a bit better which was cool. It was a ten mile course, five miles out, and five back. Other than when my rear tire slid out from underneath me at the turnaround it was uneventful. The cool part is that not only did I win, but I beat second place (a teammate, and my minute man) by 1:41 seconds. For those of you not familiar with time trials they are usually decided by seconds or fractions of seconds, 30 seconds is a thrashing and 1:41 is ridiculous especially over a course that short.

Hopefully I’ll upgrade fairly quickly, at least that’s the goal. Those of you that I haven't talked to in a while, drop me a line and say hi.

More next week