After a summer plagued with injuries; my neck, back and hip issues are finally on the mend. I was able to string together a couple solid weeks of training with the idea of salvaging my season via cyclocross.
The Folsom Cyclebration is weekend long event offering road, mountain and cyclocross racing. The events sprawls across several places in Folsom and offers a carnival-type atmosphere with vendor tents and barbecues. It's something anyone interested in bike racing should check out and support in the future.
The cyclocross race took place on the Folsom Rodeo and Zoo grounds. Oddly right down the street from Folsom Prison. Folsom must like to keep their caged animals and criminals in the same place. However there were loose chickens running all over the course. Not a good sign for a keeping things "caged" in Folsom.
The Golden State Circuit Race presented by Rio Strada Racing took place on wide sweeping roads around a business park near City Hall in Rancho Cordova. It was basically an office park crit on a slightly longer course than normal (2.5 miles).
It was just Dustin Hahn and I representing Marc Pro - Strava in the 60+ field. Cal-Giant, Webcor, Team Clif Bar and Freemont Bank fielded full squads.
3 laps in, an 8-10 man break literally rolled off the front of the field, with all the big teams represented (minus Marc Pro - Strava), and that was it. Cal-Giant and Webcor did a spectacular job of nullifying any move that went up the road, and successfully blocked the field from getting no closer than 30 seconds to the break. The two big teams were actually cooperating by the end of the race, taking turns covering moves and blocking. One word, BORING!
The Apple Pie Criterium marked the first race of the year for me. The course holds a special place in my memories as I used to live about a mile away from the corporate center where the race takes place in Santa Rosa. I had one goal for this event; finish. It usually takes a few days of racing to get my legs up to "race speed." The high speed and non-stop surging of a criterium just can't be replicated in Truckee, on my trainer, in the garage, while watching the snow pile up past the windows.
The Norcal District Criterium Championships, Vacaville Gran Prix, had been circled on my race calendar since March. However my head injury over Christmas kept me off the bike and out of competiton for six months. With such a short racing window for 2010 (July - August) I could only peak once, and had to target a short event. So Vacaville Gran Prix, the crit with 8 turns and a power climb, became my goal of the season.
I was promised punishing winds so fierce that my 140lbs would be tossed along the pavement in a flirting dance with mother nature. Just like a plastic bag in that movie American Beauty. However, there were no such winds and no creepy neighboor kid filming me without a shirt on.
Hauled ass down to Minden after work to show up just in time for the 50 minute A race to start. Big sweeping turns and wind everywhere on perfect pavement for this flatish 1.5k course.
I took 1st place and 2 premes (tires). Big props to Michah Herman for riding strong in our two man break 20 minutes from the finish. Michah dropped me with 3 laps to go, but I nipped him at the line during the finishing sprint.
I always have tons of fun at the Alta Alpina events, everyone is super friendly and its so low key. Great racing atmosphere. Plus they have all the Twizzlers, Fig Newtons and soda you can eat after the race.
In-N-Out Burger on the way back up to Truckee is the icing on the cake.
This article was originally published in the Friday July 30th 2010 edition of the Lake Tahoe paper, the Sierra Sun.
Past Spoke n' Word columns have shied away from true, gritty race reports. But as the team name implies, Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing - they do race, a lot. And it's about time you knew more about it.
The Cascade Cycling Classic is a three-day, four-event stage race held every year in the high-desert, volcanic town of Bend Oregon. A mini Tour de France of sorts, where the individual competitors are ranked based on their combined finishing time from all four stages. With only 173 miles of racing over the three days, there is no margin for error and no place to make up for lost time. The winner of the Cascade Classic isn't just the rider with the strongest legs and biggest lungs. It takes a savvy tactical sense, dialed equipment, team support and perfect recovery and nutrition practices to win a race of this caliber. One bad day on the bike, a flat tire or even a dropped water bottle could mean the difference between finishing 1st and 101st.
Rich paused, as a sudden silence fell on the normally chatty group. Without opening his mouth, the loudspeaker roared in the tongue of an ancient demon,
The winner of this day's Air Center Criterium shall receive not one, but TWO no-holds bared, full-day tickets to thy fabled Wild Island Water Park!
In the distance, lighting crashed beyond the shadow of Mount Rose.
Conrad and I drove out of Truckee at 3am to make my 7:30am start of the Pro 1/2 Berkeley Hills Road Race. 90 miles (5 laps) through the short steep hills surrounding the San Pablo Reservoir.
I was in a deep fatigue hole from the Tour of the Gila the week before, so I came up with a self-defeating plan. Sit in, don't work and eat. Then destroy the field for 40th to 75th place.
Nate Freed and I drove out to Silver City New Mexico, ready to rape the 5-day Tour of the Gila Cat 2 race in the ass. We fared well in the Cat 3 edition last year, and figured it would be a simple repeat for upgrade points. It wasn't so easy this time around.
We secured host housing with a woman in her late 70's who was on the precipice of crossing over into complete senility. She had lots of cats, lots of loud TVs (turned on 24 hours-a-day) and lots of repeat questions. It made for an interesting week in Silver City.
There was no easily accessible internet access from our house, so all of my updates were composed on my Blackberry. Short emails and Twitter tweets were my communication to the outside world for the next 7 days.
Pro 1/2 Criterium, DNF. Dropped and pulled in the first 20 minutes after Bissel Pro Cycling shattered the field.
Pro 1/2 Road Race, 53rd. Dropped after 2nd lap when Levi Leipheimer threw down the hammer on the climb.
Pro 1/2 Circuit Race, DNF. Dropped and pulled with 15 laps to go.
Best weekend of racing ever. I'm really excited that Cat 2 amateurs with full-time jobs can be mixed into the same events with international pros and full UCI continental teams...
I was Leipheimered, Nydamed, Jacques-Mayned (twice), bamboozled, horn-swallowed, pig-stuck, flipped upside-down, turned inside-out and spit out the back of the peleton like a greasy watermelon seed. Whatever I was supposed to have on the day, I didn't have it.
International pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer has shown up and won Copperopolis before, so it was no surprise to see him toe up to the start line for another 105 miles (5 laps) of suffering in Milton California.
There was a very low "pro" count at Land Park today, so the chances of being able to use our amateur level power to initiate a result were exceptionally high. Motivated, check.
The course had some crazy, brake squealing "S" turns along the backside, and I was secure in my ability to stick them in the rain and use them to gap the field. Confident, check.
Motivation and confidence levels were high, now we just needed some of that all-important luck.
This coming weekend prepare to get ANNIHILATED! 3 days, 4 races, 1 shitty town...the MADERA DOME!! Hard core, non-stop Pro 1/2 racing action from Friday through SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! All your favorites will be there to fight to the death; Gravedigger, Bigfoot, Jacque-Maynes, Velopromo Rick and MORE!! Kid's super value seats are just FIVE BUCKS!! Adults tickets, only $72! This Friday though SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! BE THERE!!!!
Merced is one of the many charming Central California towns bleeding directly off Highway 99. It is situated in the West Coast hotbed of almond farms, meth labs and gang violence.
Once a year, bike racing descends on this special city. This dazzling display of speed, heath and athleticism is a delight to Merced's growing homeless and non-english speaking population.
Nate Freed and I drove down to participate in the Downtown Criterium on Saturday followed by the Foothills Road Race on Sunday. Both Pro 1/2 races, with some big names showing up to race.
Racing a bike in Northern California during February while living/training under 10 feet of snow in Truckee is a dumb fucking idea. But getting some race miles in my legs was going to feel great compared to staring at my wash-machine while on my trainer in the garage.
Snelling has some mild rolling hills coupled with generous amounts of wind. The Pro 1/2 race was 87 miles (6 laps) long. A surprising amount of racers showed up for this early season death march, as our field was 119 strong.
On the second lap, a mile before the finishing straight, I flatted. Aw fuck. My goal at Snelling was to sit in the pack at 30mph and get my legs up to race speed. I wasn't about to let a leaky tire get in my way. I pulled over, fixed the flat, turned my bike around and rode backwards on the course. About 20 minutes later I spotted the Pro field flying over a hill and I jumped back in as they passed me.
On the final lap I was shelled in a gnarly crosswind before the finish. 79th place and happy to be racing in 2009.
Normally when I line up at a Cyclocross race, I'm one of the few - if not the only idiot on a single speed rig. However at Dorothy McAlinden Park in Northern Reno this past Saturday, I revved my pedals with at least a dozen other one-geared spinners, enough to even warrant our own start time.
I rarely have dreams about racing my bike. Last night my brain conjured up a bike racing nightmare.
The dream began with Nate and I driving before sunrise to a road race in the middle of nowhere central California. As the sun crept over the horizon, I noticed the shadow cast from the bikes strapped to the roof of the car onto the pavement below. I counted two total bikes. One had a set of drop bars, and one a set of flat bars. Shit, I had brought my mountain bike. Knobby tires and all. Not a good way to start a road race.
With a little help from his team...
On a chilly Saturday morning at the end of September, seven riders from the Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing team rolled up to start line for the last road race of the season. 72 miles around Lake Tahoe, with two goals; win the race and break the current record (3 hours and 1 minute).
As planned, Nate Freed won and broke the record. We also made it onto the front page of the local paper, which has a full account of our exploits.
Nate, Allie and I had no desire to destroy our legs in a 100 mile MTB race. Instead we split the course into 33 mile chunks and charged the relay team event.
Nate went first and put in the fastest lap of the event. This includes flatting and having his tire leave his rim a mile before the finish. He ditched his bike and ran the last leg...on his legs. Allie crushed her lap by passing her competition in the feed zone and leaving me with a 2 minute lead. I rode totally unsure of my fitness, and halfway through the route a rider was nipping at my heels. I had no choice but to put the hammer down and jumped away on the climbs. I paid for these efforts later as I had to walk the final climb. I thought for sure I was going to get caught, but ended up finishing with a 10 minute gap.
We led the race from start to finish. Winning not only the coed but also the mens relay races. 1st Place and $700!
The twisty course at Vacaville suits my bike handling skills, and the overpass-type hill compliments my skinny ass. I snatched 3rd place at Vacaville in 2007, even after crashing with three laps to go. My true competition in the race this year wouldn't be other riders, but the oppressive heat.
"A man from hell is not afraid of hot ashes." - Dorthy Gilman.
Unfortunately I am from Minnesota.
I won Leesville Gap in 2007 by out-sprinting the other 9 riders from an all-day breakaway. That was in the Cat 4s, a win in the Pro 1/2 field would be much harder. Much much harder, mo-muchly, the muchliest.
The Leesville Gap course is a little over 60 miles in length and features the worst pavement of any race in Northern California. About half the race is on broken asphalt and loose gravel. The quality of the road surface is what makes this race difficult. 60 miles feels like 80 because you have to pour so much energy into your bike to maintain traction and a smooth power output. The worst parts of the roads are in the first 30 miles, leaving you utterly destroyed for the later-half of the race. The Copperopolis road race in March is called the "Paris Roubaix" of Nor-Cal - Leesville Gap is far more deserving of that title.
It's probably obligatory to include the following quote when reporting on this race:
The Nevada City Classic is considered one of the most technically and physically challenging 1-day courses in America.
While I have no idea who originally said that, I can personally attest to the truth of the statement. And to up the ante, add a bunch of top-tier domestic pros, 90 degree heat and thousands of spectators lining the route. While my knees weren't shaking as I rolled to the start line, they may as well have been.
The Gila was touted as a "pure climbers" race, with the entire race bible dedicated to accurately describing the difficulty of all the ascents. Meanwhile Mt Hood unassumingly snuck much steeper and longer climbing into every stage. Mt Hood was the true "climbers" race with the Gila being a fat-man's course in comparison. The ominous presence of a snow covered Mt Hood loomed over every stage of the race as a constant reminder of the painful parcours.
All aboard the pain train!
Seven days post Gila and three days pre Mt Hood, the Berkeley Hills Road Race would serve as a fitness reassurance between major stage races. It was a looped circuit, 17 miles in length with roughly 1700 feet of climbing per lap. Each loop had two short-but-sweet climbs in succession, with the summit of the second climb representing the finishing line. The ascents were named Mama Bear and Papa Bear respectively. A few Baby Bears were scattered around the rest of the course, but didn't represent much of an effort in comparison to the parental climbs.
The final day of the Gila featured a reverse route of Stage 2. It was 73 miles of a few rollers, followed by a final decisive climb, fast descent and a final gentle uphill to the finish in Pinos Altos. The major climb near the end decided the entire stage, either you had your climbing legs or you didn't. Nate and I decided the best strategy was to sit in all day, eating and drinking and hope that we had the juice for the final uphill showdown.
For as much as I train, eat and race as skinny climber – deep down inside I may bear the soul of a fat, angry crit sprinter. I know that when the shit-hits-the-fan, I can surprise other racers (myself included) with a blazing sprint. When I saw the layout of the Stage 4's Downtown criterium, I knew I could do well. It featured about 80 feet of climbing per lap with four 90 degree corners and a high speed downhill. Sitting at 48th on the GC, I had absolutely nothing to lose and was determined to go balls-to-the-wall all day.
With my GC hopes in the toilet, sitting in 50th place overall and 25 minutes down on the leader, today's stage presented itself as a pseudo rest-day. It was an individual time trial, 16.14 miles in length with 1600' of climbing. It would be impossible in 16 miles to bring back 25 minutes, or even 5 minutes so I decided to just go out and cruise the course to save my legs.
I woke up this morning determined to do well. I knew today would be the hardest stage of the whole race, and I wanted to make sure everyone felt it too. No more fucking around hanging out in the middle of pack getting a free ride, if I wanted to move up on the GC – I needed to take the race into my own hand. My legs still felt fresh from the previous day's effort, and the constant up and down profile of today's stage fit my riding style. Nate and I discussed going on the attack the entire day to shake a larger breakaway group loose and create some time gaps to move us up on the GC. What we didn't factor in were the constant 30 – 50 mph head winds for the last 30 miles of the race.
Nate, Nate's girlfriend Allie and I left Truckee around 9am on Monday morning for our 20 hour drive to Silver City, New Mexico. We would have been able to leave 3 hours earlier, except we didn't anticipate the brain-buster of trying to fit 5 bikes, 12 spare wheels, bags of clothing, food and 3 people into our borrowed Ford Excursion. At the last minute we had to source a hitch-mounted bike rack and a cargo box for the roof to fit all of our crap. Getting the hitch rack installed required waking up a neighbor to plasma cut off the lock on our hitch. It was a miracle we were able to leave as early as we did and we couldn't have done it without help from Ross, Errol and my Dad.
This was my first time in Monterey at Sea Otter, hosted at the Laguna Seca raceway. The venue is most famous for its auto racing, but during Sea Otter the track is transformed into an epic bike-only party. 30,000 plus people including racers, spectators and bike industry representatives gather for almost every type of bicycle competition; downhill, cross country, bmx, road and trials. It truly is a sight to behold as you drive from the steep coastal hills of Monterey and crest that final road into the Laguna Seca valley to see thousands of tents, cyclists and banners in this huge natural amphitheater.
Sea Otter would be my final race before my big goal of the year, the Gila stage race in New Mexico at the end of April. So any inkling of form needed to present itself during Sea Otter so I could have some confidence peaking for the Gila. Bottom line, I needed to have really good legs during Sea Otter to signify even better legs at the Gila.
With the Gila Tour in New Mexico at the end of April, it is becoming increasingly important for me to have good legs as my big goal of the year approaches. One of the worst things that can happen to an athlete nearing a fitness peak is getting sick. So of course as I've been riding really well lately, along comes a cold
I woke up on Tuesday morning with a tingle in my throat that went away by the time I ate breakfast. Later that afternoon I had a 7 mile local time trial down in Reno. Nate and I drove down from Truckee and by the time we started warming up in Reno, it was snowing. Half way through the TT it felt like my whole body shutdown, I went from 100% effort to 50% effort for the last few miles. When I finished I couldn't stop shaking and felt like I was going to pass out. Nate thought it might have been the can of Red Bull I drank beforehand – I was hoping he was right. I woke up the next morning with a full blown nasty cold, dripping snot, swollen throat and extremely achy body. I now had exactly 72 hours to get well in order to perform at Madera.
The last few months I have been balancing work and training along a fine line that has kept me perpetually tired and on edge. I'm very aware of falling down the path of overtraining as I have done it so many times in the past. One of my major goals since I started seriously training and racing again last year was to avoid this burnout. I was able to dodge the overtraining bullet for half the season last year by not "training," just riding enjoying my bike. However this happy-go-lucky method eventually caught up with me in August and I was torched for the remainder of the 2007.
This season I moved back to a scientific method of periodization, very specific workouts and detailed tracking of my body and fitness. Using my super secret methods of monitoring my progress and well-being, I have been able to successfully cheat "death" (overtraining) for the last 4 months – even though the entire time I have feel his icy grip ready to close around my neck.
- Snelling Road Race, Cat 3
- 63 miles, 5 laps
- Windy, flooded roads, Norcal cobbles and some flirtatious rain.
Racing in February? On a road bike? This must be Norcal, and I must be crazy. I have raced my bike this early in the season before, but not while living thousands of feet above the snowline. My training has been coming along really well, but most of it has been uninspired sessions indoors on my trainer. It's pretty hard to get a real ride in outside when there is 3 feet of snow in your driveway. So when Nate started pimping the idea of going down to race Snelling, I was game-on – but had no expectations to finish well.
It has been great racing season so far for 2007. So great that I haven't had any time to write about it. I started a bike team this year, Start Haus Cycling. It is based out of the ski-shop I run, consists of only local Tahoe area riders, and is steadily growing as the summer goes on.
The following is a summary of my race calendar from the last months with a few race reports as well.
I haven't raced my mountain bike since I was 12 years old. However I had a choice this weekend of driving 4 hours to central California, sleeping a restless night in my cold car and then doing a road race at 7am. Or I could sleep in my warm bed, wake up at 8am, drive a leisurely hour and race my mountain bike at 11am. The decision was pretty easy, but then it started hailing.