Monday, March 29, 2010

IVRR 2010

Here is a report from Cat 4 racer Jed Barden

IVRR Report

When I got to the course I barely recognized it because the sky was sunny and clear. This was quite a change from a year ago, when we had to cope with pouring rain and snow. This race marked my first full year as a road racer, as IVRR 2009 was my first road race. That first race was a short one for me. I was spit out the back on the first climb and struggled over the the ensuing flat section with help from teammates. After Mark T. dropped me on the second climb, it started to snow. The descent was harrowing, since I was blinded by the falling snow and was starting to freeze up as the snow accumulated on my shoulders and quads. Then my rear tire flatted on the descent. I had long since fallen behind out follow car and had no support. After about ten minutes the Cat 4 women's race rolled through, and their follow car picked me up. I must have been quite the sad sight on the side of the road.

In the year since I have learned a few things about road racing. Minor things such as training, eating, and wearing proper clothing. I looked at IVRR 2010 as somewhat of a redemption race - and as a progress check to see how far I've come over the last twelve months. My teammates in cat 4 were Shawn H., Brad H., and John W. This was John's first race as a cat 4. The start of our race was delayed for 15 minutes due to finish-line crashes in the morning races. Race organizer Eric encouraged us to race aggressively (i.e. not wait for a bunch sprint) so we could go home in our own car instead of an ambulance.

The race had an odd start. During the neutral roll out the lead car suddenly slammed on its brakes and did a U turn. This was rather confusing for our group as we watched the lead car drive back towards the parking lot. What happened I don't know but the lead car eventually came back to take us around the course. When we started racing, the pace up to the first climb was slow. The first time seeing the climb sends a shiver down your spine because you round a corner and then see the road go up, up into the trees and you cannot see the top. I managed to get in the front part of the pack over the climb, and just concerned myself with following wheels and not using too much energy. Unfortunately Shawn and John got caught up behind some slower riders on the climb and became separated from the front group. Then, in his efforts to catch back up after the first climb Shawn's brand new Specialized Roubaix tire flatted.

The pace on the flats after the first climb was pretty hot, and teammate Brad came up and took a monster pull that strung everyone out. We had a large group of about 30-35 at the second climb. This climb was a lot smaller than what I remembered. There wasn't really any opportunity to get separation. A very fast descent though, with speeds approaching 50mph. Back on the flats, Brad must have been feeling good because he bridged up to a couple riders who had a gap of 10-15 seconds. With the first climb of the second lap upcoming, I was looking forward to getting some separation and paring down what was still a big group of riders.

However, one cannot force a separation from mid-pack. To attack a climb, the first order of business is to be in a position where you can attack. At the base of the climb I was about 20th wheel, which boxed me in behind slower riders. It wasn't until halfway up the climb that I broke out, charged to the front, and opened up the gaps. But the climb isn't long enough, and with the fast descent, most of the guys who were gapped off caught back on. Near the crest of the climb, we passed the breakaway (Brad included) in TdF fashion, where the strong climbers pass the completely blown breakaway riders as if they are standing still.

I cursed my poor positioning and resigned myself to more pack riding. Our lead group of about 25 went over the second climb without any significant developments. The pace was not that high and a motivated rider could have attacked and gotten away. Too bad Brad used up his big attack on the first lap. At about 5k to go, guys were fighting for position mid-pack and a crash on the right side of the road took out 5-8 riders. Fortunately I was on the yellow line side and avoided that nasty pile up. When we passed 1k to go, I was surprised because my computer said we had only gone 38 miles (the race flyer said our race was 41 miles). Instead of being at the front where I should have been I was trapped in the back third of our now smaller pack. Things got really sketchy with guys swerving and I became more concerned with staying upright then sprinting for the line. I never did get a sprint out and finished 14th out of 17 in our group, and out of 50 riders who started the race.

Great race in the cat 5. We had three Cycle U riders in the top 10:
2nd - Tim(3) W.
5th - Chad S.
10th - Greg S.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pacific Raceway's Cycling Season Opener

Several of the teammates were a bit disappointed in how we performed at the first two races of the season at Tour de Dung-eness as a team. We talked and talked about how we can do better, but you just never know how it will turn out until you are actually in the moment.
Last year we did pretty well at PR towards the end of the season. We consistently had a Cycle U team member on the podium for several races in a row. This is where I found that I could sprint. The "plan" for the evening was to have a few guys try and get off the front. That is virtually impossible when they run the flat course at PR but it does create a higher pace which is good. Tim2 and Shawn took several monster pulls at the front and got away a few times for a couple minutes before the pack gobbled them up. After that we as a team stayed together for the most part and just sat in the pack and stayed out of trouble. The last lap came around and I stuck to the back of John Wendle's wheel and the blue train started to form. Tim2 started out at the front pulling hard then Travis came around and took his turn going around turn 9 on the outside of the pack. The plan was to take the pack on the outside of Turn 9 as everyone always dives to the inside of that corner and we can carry a little bit more speed on the outside and move right up the front. Travis was still pulling when Shawn came out of nowhere and went straight to the front and took over for Travis. Shawn took huge pulls and to this point we had the front of the race controlled with nobody able to get by. I was still stuck to John's wheel. He had a SCCA/Starbucks guy and an unattached racer in between him and Shawn at the front. Shawn finished his pull and then the sprint started a little earlier than I expected. The unattached guy took off and then the SCCA/Starbucks guy took off. I stayed on John's wheel and he began his sprint to stay with them. I stayed in the saddle for about 15 seconds more then took off around John. I probably waited to long but they took off pretty early and I thought they would blow up before the line. As I came around John the unattached was on my left and Brian/SCCA was to the right. I went by the unattached and moved over to get in Brian's slipstream. Brian is a pretty big guy compared to me so I was just getting into his draft when he took a peek behind him and saw me coming and moved to the left to break the draft. That was it as we came across the line. I slapped him on the back and told him that was the winning move and I took 2nd. The team did great and the lead out from John was great with him getting 4th place. It’s like being a proud parent almost. Everyone on the team had a job to do and everyone accomplished it well. Shawn, Tim2 and Travis did alot of work at the front through out the race and then were still there at the end to put in a serious effort. I am a bit disappointed I missed Brian's wheel to stay in his draft but lesson learned and 2nd is ok for now.

Co-Captain Cat 4

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mason Lake Road Race # 2

Here is a report from -Greg Snyder-. Our Category 5 Captain.

I went out to Mason Lake for my first race of the season which turned out to be a good day. The Masters C/D race was starting at 9:40 so I had to get up at 5:30 to make it out the door by 6:15 to make the drive down to Mason Lake in time to register and get warmed up. Had a quick bowl of cereal and headed out the door
The drive down was good and the weather was cold but dry and clear.
I got down there just before 8 am and registered for the Masters race figuring it would be a little safer and maybe a bit smaller than the previous week. Got a 30 minute warm up on the trainer, had some water and 1/2 of my PBJ and it was time to race.
No teammates today as most of them had done Sequim on Saturday so it was just me in a group of 46 starters. There were a few First Rate Mortgage guys, a couple of Byrne and some team from Olympia who had about 5 guys and a few other scattered teams. The first lap was typical except that about 1/3 of the way in a FRM rider went off the front and a Wines rider soon went after him. The Wines guy came back to the group after a couple of miles saying he couldn't hang because the other guy was too strong. I used the first lap to try and see how easy it was to move through the group and preview the course since I hadn't done it yet. I was able to move up fairly easily and decided it would be best to sit in and see how things played out. I certainly didn't want to get my nose out in the wind too much without anyone working with me.
As we passed through for the first lap the FRM guy had 30 seconds on the pack which I figured would not last. During the second lap one of the stronger riders from Old Town tried to bridge up, but ended up coming back to the pack which was good. He is a strong rider who usually finishes well so I was trying to keep close to him especially as we got to the end.
I worked with a couple of guys on the 2nd and third laps on the front to chase down the breakaway rider and once I could see him and was confident we would get him decided to sit in and not waste anymore energy. I was feeling strong though and was feeling like it was going to be good result for me as long as I stayed up front.
As we got about 2/3 of the way through the last lap we caught the breakaway rider and I concentrated on staying in the front 5 to 10 riders. When we got to the 1k everything sped up as it usually does and tried to come up on the left side for better position and was sitting about 6th or 7th wheel at the 200 meter sign. Then everyone went and I was in the same position, but between two riders and couldn't get around, but just before the end those two riders separated and I was able to shoot through for 6th. I think if I had 50 more meters I might have been able to get into the top three as I wasn't spun out and was feeling strong.
So I am pleased with my result - it was my best so far, but I'm not satisfied.

Greg Snyder

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tour de Dung Race 1 Category 5

Here is a race report from the Category 5 "Even bib number" race from John Wendle.

Since there were 81 CAT5 men they decided to split the field vs. limit it to 50 riders like the flyer said. Probably a good idea given how many crashes we had at Mason last week with 85 racers. Unfortunately the even number CAT5’s had to wait until the odd number riders were completely finished and off course so we had about a 2 hour delay to our start which made for a long day—10 ½ hours door to door for a race just over an hour and a half! They also didn’t get this info out until most of us had completed our warmup and slammed some gels 5-10 mins before the start. I had some time to kill so Tina and I cheered on all the Cycle U riders in the CAT4 and odd number CAT5 race. The women’s CAT4 race was also split so Tina also had a delayed start time. Travis rolled in after the first lap unfortunately having tangled with another rider and going down. He didn’t look too beaten up and his spirits were pretty good all things considered.

The CAT5 even numbered riders finally got started around noon with 33 riders. I guess there are more odd numbered CAT5’s as they had 48 starters. I must say this small group made the race much more enjoyable than Mason last weekend. The pack was pretty well controlled and it was always easy to move up in the pack if you wanted to. The course also sets up much better than Mason with wide shoulders and fairly straight, flat sections so the accordion effect is minimal. We had one crash on the 2nd lap. Two riders came together in front of me and both went down. I just waited to see which way the bikes and bodies were going to go and gently steered around them. This created a little bit of a gap that I had to close down which was actually surprisingly difficult because of the wind. With such a small group that was a bit aggravated by having to wait the pace was pretty high and there were frequent accelerations. Not really all out attacks but sudden accelerations, maybe trying to force a selection but more likely people just being aggressive since it was only a 3 lap race vs the CAT4’s that did 4. Or maybe it was just because we’d been sitting around all day and just wanted to get finished and home to our families!
Since the group was small and it was easy to move up I spent most of the first 2 laps near the back to avoid the stress and risk of fighting for wheels to stay near the front. It nearly cost me on the 2nd lap as a small gap opened up a ways in front of me on the small climb on Woodcock road. The leading group accelerated hard at the top of the climb and beyond trying to force a selection and a few of us had to work really hard to get back on. I basically had to a do a finishing sprint to get back on and certainly burned at least one match doing it. L I would have been really disappointed to be dropped there though. While it can be less stressful to be at the back of a small group like that it’s probably not worth it due to the risk of getting dropped from an attack like that. Things were pretty calm leading into that so I thought the risk was low but it goes to show you never know when the front is going to attack and you need to be close to it. As usual things really started picking up on the last lap. I knew from last year that with only 1K from the turn onto Kitchen Dick road to the finish it gets a bit crowed and crazy before the 200M sign so I wanted to be at least in the first 10 riders before the turn. BikeSale had 5 strong riders that were forming a lead out train. I sat in on that but they were hanging back a bit just before the turn and I was afraid to be too far back so I moved past them into 3rd or 4th wheel just before the turn. Somehow I found myself 2nd wheel next to another guy, both of us fighting to get behind the leader who was pushing all the wind. I was getting a partial draft but not full. I didn’t want to move back at that point so close to the end so I made the best of it. 2 guys went flying by on the right just before the 200M sign and I decided to chase in fear that they’d check out and win. Unfortunately they both blew up at about 100M to go and I found myself leading. With 100M to go and no one to draft off of I had no choice but to just go as hard as I could. Then, somewhere between 50-100M to go, that patient 5 rider BikeSale lead out train timed it perfectly and came flying past with a couple other riders in there as well so I ended up 8th at the line just behind them. I’m not sure I would have faired any better had I hung out behind them into the final sprint but maybe next time I’ll try that. I’ve had races where the final 200M seems to go by in a blink of an eye but when you’re leading with 100M to go it takes forever!

All in all a good race, great weather and as always, some good learning as well. On the plus side this was my final race needed to upgrade to CAT4. I have submitted my upgrade request so hopefully next time I’ll be able ride with all the other CAT4 guys. I’ll have to recalibrate my expectations given the strength and depth of that field!
-John Wendle-

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mason Lake, Men's Cat 4

Mason Lake Road Race, Men's Cat 4

Mason is a 48 mi road race with some rollers but no major climbs. It occurs the day after a 10 mile time trial so my, and many others, legs show up a little stressed. It is known for wind and sketchy road conditions. Today it was dry. but the road was worse than I remember last year. The road shoulder is frequently crumbling away, there is some chip seal, gravel and sometimes moss.

Shawn, Jon and I signed up for 4's, we had quite a few people in 5's, Tina was in women's, and Joel in Men's 3's. I haven't been riding well in the TT's so was a little concerned about a first race in a 4 only field (last year raced quite a few 4/5 combined).

Dave, organizer, gave the same annual speech about not being the Mason World Championship but apparently no one listened because we rounded the first corner hauling some serious tail. The first lap was pretty brisk and felt much faster than the numbers below. Probably just a case of being the first event of the year and cornering at full on effort. I was about 20 riders back from the front and had issues moving up any closer than 15th. It wasn't a big disappointed because there was some wind to deal with and the yellow line rule kept it pretty packed (4 wide).
The course fits a rouleur ... the race cruxes are the two sharper corners that both had a slight climb coming out, if you got gapped it was going to require some serious effort to catch back on the group due to wind and whip action. I was happy coming out of the last corner in lap 3 because I knew I had two more efforts in my legs and also felt comfortable with my lines to stay off any brakes.
Lap 4 the pace slowed when we turned back into the wind. I am sure the guys at the front were wearing down and nobody wanted to spend the effort to help tow everyone to the line. 2nd half of the lap it picked up and with about 5K to go I hear ambulance sirens. We go neutral, ambulances go by and the marshal says to roll neutral until we pass the crash up the road. I think most were welcoming the break and I was thinking all hell is going to break loose once we pass the crash. As we approach the scene, I see Andrew from CycleU sitting on the roadside getting medical attention. It didn't look good but Brad was there to support him and I was sympathizing thinking of the times I have hit the pavement. I could see the frustration on his face and was just hoping he was okay. As planned, the hammer went down and everyone was back on the gas. Not 30 seconds later I heard that clatter and cursing that can only be a crash up front, several guys are down and all over the road, I go left and find a small gap but lost speed. We are about 1.5k out and its every man for himself to get to the line. I think the front riders got away clean but I thought I might make top 20. Ended up 26th but happy to make it home alive.
I believe Andrew has a pretty badly hurt hand, Randy also went down but suffered mostly kit and bike damage . Sounds like 5's was pretty ugly. Joel pulled a good result in 3's but was hoping for even better.
Looking forward to Sequim/Tour de Dung