Monday, April 25, 2005


It’s been a couple of weeks since my last race report, partly due to being busy, partly due to non-stellar results, but mostly due to the fact that I’m a huge procrastinator.

Last two weeks by the numbers
# of races I competed in…………………………………………………..3
# of races I missed………………………………………………………..1
# of worst finishes to date…………………………………………….…..2
Confidence I have in my crit riding ability………………………….....…..<0
Age of rider who got 4th at place Elma Road Race………………….…..15
# of upgrades to cat 2 rider………………………………………………1
# of weeks that took since start of season when I was a cat 4 rider…...…..5
# of riders in the history of my team who have done it faster………….......0

Two weekends ago on Saturday was the Elma Road Race. After the Elma Flats road race that I did early in the season my friend Nate and I rode the full course backwards. The hills involved must have grown in the fertile ground of my memory/imagination because I got there expecting a wall that I’d have to heroically struggle up in order to stick with the skinny climber types but all I got was a hill smaller than the one I live on. No complaints from me in that regard. The loop was 15 miles that we went around 4.5 times (the ½ is because we started just before the climb and finished at the top). It was very windy, fortunately the climb sheltered us from the wind going up and after coming down the course turned so that we had a tailwind on the backstretch. Turning to head back towards the climb left you facing a wall of wind that would generally slow the pack to a crawl as no one wanted to be up front pulling into those conditions, but it wasn’t a very long stretch.

The first two laps didn’t have too much action, a few attacks from idiots like myself, but nothing that stuck. Descending down the backside of the hill I liked to attack if only for the facts that going faster is fun, and going faster (~50mph) when you are less than a foot from the rider next to you is not fun. After the third time down I managed to get a pretty good lead but at the bottom there was a nasty head wind for a mile or so and they reeled me back in pretty quickly. When they caught me a counter attack went right away with 15 or so riders in it. In that group were riders from just about every team but mine meaning that either I better get in on the action something quick or we were going to have to chase the break down ourselves. The next two laps saw us working together pretty well as a break until we got near the bottom of the climb. Everyone wanted to win so pretty much everyone stopped pulling through. There were a few of us that kept rotating through but it was getting ridiculous and I wasn’t about to pull everyone to the finish line so we slowed way down. With three miles to go the pack which had been out of sight for the last lap was about 400 meters back and closing fast. We got to the base of the hill and started to climb with 1000 meters to go. I was concerned about getting caught so I went to the front and started tempoing up the hill. This shed a few people of the back immediately but several stuck on and with 200 meters to go two of them had enough gas to come around me and sprint to the finish, leaving me with third. The most impressive part of that finish in my mind was that the rider behind me, the one who took 4th place, is a 10th grader in high school.

Sunday was a criterium (crit), and I don’t like crits. I’m tempted to say that I don’t like crits and just leave it at that, but I won’t. They are generally short technical courses with lots of sharp turns. Basically they are races meant for the city that can be run by closing off one or more square blocks and then using that as the course. In this case it was one triangular block with the long side flat, the medium side a slight uphill and short side a slightly less slight downhill that formed a half mile course. Going from the downhill portion we would be going 30 plus mph which isn’t all that fast in and of itself, but doing that around a 120 degree turn gets a bit sketchy. Especially when you saw a rider getting hauled off in an ambulance from one of the races before yours (don’t worry though, those of you who know me well know that I’m invincible). The race was 50 minutes plus two laps, that is they start the clock at 50 minutes and when it gets to zero they say two more laps and you’re done. In the middle of the race will be primes (pronounced preems) where the first person to cross the start finish line gets a prize. Prizes ranged from cash, to bike gear, to a case of beer (some would argue that falls under the category of bike gear).

These races are shorter than road races but they are exhausting because from the word go it’s a cycle of sprint for all you’re worth to the turn, apply brakes/coast through the turn, sprint for all you’re worth again…

It gets pretty tiresome pretty fast and I consider it my weakest event as far as cycling races are concerned. No play by play on this one I’ll only say that less than a third of the riders who started the race finished it and I ended up in ninth place, my first finish outside the top five…sniff-sniff.

After the Elma Road race I had enough points to upgrade but I was going to wait until after the Tour de Walla Walla stage race next weekend. Then I found out that the cat 3 field for the race I wanted to do last Saturday was full but there was still room in the pro-1-2 field. Never one to miss an opportunity to screw myself I upgraded and then failed to find a ride to the race…oh well.

Sunday was another crit but this time I’m playing with the big boys. By big boys I mean at least a couple of local pro riders (not like Lance pro but still, they are people who get paid to ride their bike…they’re good) a whole lot of people who have been doing this a lot longer and training a lot smarter than me, several retired pros and this one guy (Kenny Williams) who dominates the local race scene pretty effectively and holds at least one current cycling world record…something to do with the 3000 meter pursuit. It’s a track event—you know, racing on the velodrome (not the palindrome mom). I made a couple of newbie mistakes like pulling the entire pack along behind me while chasing down a breakaway all by myself at the very beginning…This left me feeling like I was going to have to resort to my plan B.

Note: Plan B has two steps;
Step 1: Vomit
Step 2: Drop out of race

Fortunately I managed to avoid plan B, caught a bit of a second wind and managed to finish in the top third of the pack, but outside the top ten. I’m convinced that the best way to learn is by making idiotic mistakes once and getting your bootie handed to you. I’m well on my way.

Next Week, Tour de Walla Walla (yes I’m saying that with a straight face), my first stage race.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Last week by the numbers
# of regional cycling authorities who want to do an “up and coming” story on me…1
# of people having drunken karaoke contest in my house night before race………...9
# of flat tires in Saturday’s race……………………………………………………...2
# of shoes forgotten in teammates car after race……………………………………..2

So last week a teammate of mine emailed me asking if he could give my contact info to someone from Northwest Race Report who wanted to do an “Up and Coming Racer” story on me. I told him I didn’t know what it was, but sure, I’d do it. Me being me, I then inquired if this meant I would get any free stuff. Sufficed to say I have neither received free stuff nor done the interview yet, but it’s nice to know that people are noticing me.

Friday my roommate/landlord (Eric) had a bunch of friends over for a drunken karaoke contest. I tried my best to ignore it but I definitely recall being subjected to the butchering of good songs, worse than that, the butchering of bad songs, and worst of all attempts at singing Michael Jackson. In general I would say that I definitely prefer anything by Jackson to Eric’s rendition of Careless Whisper by George Michael, but given current events being forced to think about Mr. Jackson while I’m alone, in my bed, in the dark makes me want to curl into the fetal position and hide in the corner …allegedly.

Saturday morning I wake up a little less than freshy-fresh, but excited and ready to race none-the-less. My teammates picked me up and it was off to the races. During the warm up I was getting pretty excited, in no small part due to my new toy. I had purchased a special wheel called a “power tap” which records and displays your speed, cadence, power, and heart rate as you ride. I had commuted with it a couple of times, but this was to be my first race outing with power. The course was in the “spring classic” style which is a polite cycling term for a race that beats the living crap out of both you and your bike. These races traditionally take place this time of year in Europe with lots of cobblestones and muck. Here in the US we don’t really have cobblestones, at least not on the West Coast. What we do have is logging access roads. The course for this race was a six mile rolling net ascent to the four mile essentially flat loop which was ~2.1 miles unsurfaced dirt road and ~1.9 mile paved road that we navigated ten times before returning down the six miles we started to the start finish line.

At the beginning I was under the mistaken impression that it was a neutral rollout (speed controlled by the pace car). I quickly realized my error when attacks started flying off the front of the pack going up the hills. Four miles into the race the hills picked up a bit three of us got away from the pack quickly dropping down to two as we hit a rather steep set of small climbs. We reached the loop and started the first lap on the rough stuff. Earlier I referred to this road as a logging road, in retrospect that might be a tad generous. River bed bottom would be closer to the truth and not entirely dry river bed bottom would be just about spot on accurate. It consisted of two large ruts with a rocky rise in between them. Crossing from one rut to the other was possible though sketchy at best; a maneuver performed with great reluctance by most and absolute refusal by the rest. No logging road is complete without a plethora of pot holes and this logging road had it all. They were big and small, wet and dry. At one corner there was a puddle that spanned the entire road ~15 feet across and I’m not sure how deep because I went around it every time. Of course so did everyone else so after ten laps the area around either side of the pond…errrr…puddle was pretty torn up mucky and none to easy to navigate, but back to the race.

So we had just hit the logging road 150 meters ahead of the pack when the other rider with me started to drop off. I was feeling pretty good so I kept at it but less than a mile down the road I hit a big rock and flatted my rear tire. Due to the course this race had no wheel cars following but it did have two wheel pits located at different points on the dirt road portion. Unfortunately the officials had said that it was wheels in wheels out meaning that if you brought spare wheels with you to the race and you flatted then you could take the extra wheels that you brought with you. I hadn’t brought any so I walked to the wheel pit and watched the peloton roll by thinking that my race was over. Then while I was sitting there one of the wheel pit guys said “Hey you wanna get back in the race?” My response was an enthusiastic “Hell YES!” They slapped a wheel on my bike and I started chasing down the pack which had a half mile or more lead on me at this point. Three and a half laps later I finally caught them, it took long enough, but I was motoring and it was nice to be able to do what so many others who had fallen off of the back couldn’t do. I did a couple of laps with the pack which was down to less than twenty riders due to flats and other forms of attrition. Unfortunately for the rest of us one team, Broadmark cycling, had five of the remaining riders and they started launching attacks every couple of minutes, knowing that eventually the pack would tire of chasing them down and one would be able to get away. I chased a few of them but as soon as I caught them they would slow down and wait for the pack to catch us only to have one of their teammates attack. After chasing down the fourth or fifth attack I let the next one get away until it was 100 meters or so out front at which point I attacked and bridged up to him. Having worked to put a sufficiently large gap between himself and the pack the rider didn’t want to sit up and slow down when I caught him, so we started working together. Over a couple more laps we continued to open up the gap but I ended up dropping him on one of the rough sections.

On the hills it’s no good to carry around extra weight, but being a larger rider sure seems to help over the rocky stuff, until you hit the rocks dead on and get a flat tire—which is exactly what happened. I was a few hundred meters ahead of the Broadmark rider who was chasing me who was in turn a few hundred meters ahead of the pack when I got the flat. I jumped off my bike and started running it to the wheel pit, the Broadmark rider passing me while I was running, and yelling for a new Campy 10 speed wheel only to see the pit crew shrug their shoulders palms to the sky saying no more Campy 10 speeds…I said fine, Shimano 10 speed. Thankfully they still had some of those left. If you ask the companies these are supposed to be incompatible components, but I had no issues that I noticed. I hopped back on the bike with my third rear wheel of the race ahead of the pack but a good little ways behind the lead rider. I closed in on him over the next couple of minutes and he must have come to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to get away from be because he sat up and waited for me to catch him and we started working together again. At the same time two riders had broken away from the pack and were bridging up to the two of us. Two miles later it was one lap to go and the two bridging riders had caught us. We did one last trip over the rough section and came to the paved section that represented eight miles to home. The four of us in the front started a rotating paceline but it quickly became obvious that two of the riders were really gassed and I couldn’t quite gauge the strength of the third. I didn’t want to pull the two tired guys to the finish line but I was nervous about attacking because it was guaranteed that as soon as the pack got back onto the pavement with only eight miles to the finish they would be driving the pace up pretty quickly. Then again I had spent the majority of the race by myself so why stop? I attacked, dropped the two tired riders immediately and the third after about a quarter mile. Time trialing to the finish I passed the men’s 1/2 pack and one of the breakaways in front of them. I actually ended up finishing eighth in the higher category race that started five minutes before mine. That was nice, plus I won ninety bucks and a pound of Big Ring Blend coffee (?!?).

I didn't race Sunday because I left my shoes in my teammate's car when he dropped me off. I'm dum like that.

More next week

Monday, April 04, 2005


So this weeks race report is a little late, been busy at work and all that. This report should be a little bit shorter (insert collective sigh of relief here) because I only raced on Saturday. Sunday was the first day I haven’t ridden my bike in well over a month. It was fantastic, the morning was brunch with the roommates, the evening was dinner with the family, and chocolate eggs were consumed throughout the day.


Number of crashes in Saturday Race……………………1
Percentage of those that I was in………………………100
Quarts of water dumped out of my frame after race…..~1.5
# of former NBA players who I beat in my race………..1

So the race on Saturday was quite the wet one. It was dumping rain start to finish, the teammate that gave me a ride was desperately hoping that I wouldn’t show up at his house that morning, unfortunately for him I did and he was nice enough to still give me a ride to the course even though he had no intention of racing. The course was an eleven mile loop in Snohomish Washington that we went around 6 times. This was the first race of the season that had any substantial hills to it. They were more power climbing hills (short and steep) rather than a true climber’s course (long and grueling). Nonetheless it was a bit of a shock to the system after all the flat stuff that I’ve been doing.

We did a 3 mile neutral roll that was just enough to pre-soak the gloves and booties and confirm that your braking was 50% of normal. The race started at the bottom of the climb and was mellow the first time up. A couple of guys dangled in front of the pack the rest of the lap and a couple of more swapped positions. After the second time up the climb a break formed off the front. Several miles later I bridged up along with a two guys from other teams. It took us about 5 minutes but we made it up to the break. Lap and a half down and 4.5 to go.We had about eight guys and everybody was working hard and pulling through for most of the next lap. A few of the eight were looking pretty gassed from the effort when we tempoed up the hill the third time up and a few guys started to redline but made it over. We were working hard but half the guys were really strong and the other weak. This made the pace really uneven at times but it was always pretty fast. We never got any time checks early on but we were up on the group 5 minutes plus. The fourth time up the hill we had shed three riders and were down to five when I found myself in the unhappy position of getting caught in my big gear with my shifters not responding. I’m not sure if it was a ‘the third time’s the charm’ kind of situation or if it was a result of the expletives that I started hurling at my derailer but the thing did eventually shift gears. By this point three of the group had built up a little gap and I had lost a lot of momentum. I was feeling a good deal less than energetic—no doubt a direct result of lots of dancing and alcohol the night before combined with not-so-much sleep (a pre-race routine that I have since decided to eliminate). I had no real hope of trying to catch the three off the front which left me and one remaining rider trying to get to the finish before the peloton.

Shortly down the road we caught one of those three riders because he had flatted and we started working together to get to the finish, but we were all exhausted and I found myself taking the lion’s share of the pulling efforts. Going around one of the corners with about eight miles to go (52 down) I hit a patch of wet gravel that hadn’t been completely swept off the road and was sent sliding across the pavement with no delay. The guy behind me had no chance to react and ended up crashing onto my rear wheel and myself. The chase car driver jumped out and helped us get back up and we started off but as soon as I tried shifting gears my bike totally locked up and I couldn’t move. The driver once again jumped out to help asking what was wrong, but all I could manage to get out was a rather pathetic “mechanical…” as in mechanical malfunction. He of course gave me a “Well no shit moron” kind of look and then proceeded to straighten my brake levers/shifters (both bent inwards by about 30 degrees), gave my rear derailer a tug, switched out my rear wheel for one that he was carrying and told me that I still had about a minute on the field while sending me on my way. The two riders that I had been with were of course well out of sight by now and for the remaining eight miles I was just trying to get to the finish before I got caught. Coming around the last corner I could see the (uphill) finish ahead of me but I could also see the pack about the same distance behind me. Completely cooked I limped my way to the finish line about twenty seconds ahead of the field sprint which was good enough for 5th place.

To wrap up, the crash caused very little damage to myself or, more importantly, to the bike. I have a couple scratches on my elbow and knee to accompany the lovely raspberry that I got on my hip, and my bike wasn’t too much the worse for wear. I trued up the rear wheel when I got home, which is also when I heard the sloshing of water in my frame and dumped it out. I took the seat post out of the seat tube and there was water in there all of the way to the top of my 61cm frame. That’s a lot of extra water to be carrying up those hills.

Speaking of hips and crashing, my teammate that broke his hip last week is back at home after his surgery and starting his recovery. He looks well and even made an appearance at a teammate’s birthday party. Once the surgeon got in there he decided that he could get away with just pinning the joint back together rather than putting in a prosthetic which is excellent news.

A couple of last side notes. After the "James Strangelove" incident with the race results the week before last my entire team has taken to referring to me as 'The Doctor' and the NBA player referred to at the beginning of the report is former Seattle Supersonic Detlef Schrempf (sp?). Apparently he is a local cat 3 racer, and one of my teammates said he was at the race...pretty cool.

I promised this race report would be shorter and it’s starting to look like I lied.

Next week: My first criterium and spring classic style races (plus I’ll tell you what those are).