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april_24_2013_hellyer_wednesday_night_track_racing-1

april_24_2013_hellyer_wednesday_night_track_racing-2

Al took a spill at the Red Kite crit this past weekend and wasn’t racing.  He brought donuts, though.

The drive down took a bit longer than last week, but I still showed up at around 6:20pm, so I guess it wasn’t horrible.  A tad on the windy side, but it died down a bit as the night went on.

Scratch: 10 laps, first across the line wins.  Everyone seemed a bit squirrelly out there for the first race.  The group split a bit in the middle of the race and I attempted to catch back up to the main group up ahead.  I finished near the back of the pack.

Win and Out: 5 laps, then the first to cross the line on the 6th takes 1st place then they’re out, first to cross on the 7th gets 2nd place then they’re out, and on the 8th, it’s racing for places 3, 4, 5 (I think).  This race was actually pretty neat.  I was riding in an okay spot, but as riders started surging towards the front, other riders were holding a slower pace, blocking a bunch of us in the back.  I kept on racing on, thinking maybe I could still land a spot.  On the 8th and final lap, I was edged out for 4th, and ended up taking 5th place.  Not bad.

Miss and Out: last rider gets pulled every lap, then neutral lap + sprint when there are 3 riders left.  I was pulled after 3 laps.  Nothing else worth mentioning from that one.  Still horrible at racing that.

Points: 15 laps, points ever 5 laps.  This week’s points race was actually really fun.  For a couple laps in the middle, with probably 7 left to go, I was caught off in the middle of 2 packs, trying to catch back onto the front group.  I finished somewhere in the top 8 probably, but didn’t get any points, so it was kind of whatever.

I went back to the car, and as I was pulling something out of my bag, I saw my phone fall out from my pocket and land on the ground, shattering the screen:

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I spent the majority of the drive back attempting to clear the glass shards off the screen.  I don’t think there’s a warranty for making a stupid mistake, I didn’t have insurance on it, and I don’t plan on buying a new one, so I’m just going to tough it out and hope for the best.  If it can last until January 27, 2015, I’m good.  Seriously bums me out though.  Big time.  Oh well, I gotta just move on.

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MMRF 5k.

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5k in 19:50 was a decent enough pace to take the win.

So before I get into the actual race itself, I’ll mention that this even was first introduced to everyone at work as a company-wide team building type event.  I figured it could be fun to see a bunch of people outside of the office, as well as run in a timed event.  People could sign up as walkers or runners – the only difference was that the runners were timed.  I’ve never run a timed event before, so I was slightly worried about intensity and pace.  Worst that could happen is that I’d hit my max and just fall off the aerobic cliff.

I showed up a bit early and wandered around for a second before seeing my CEO, his wife, and his sister.  We stood around for a while before 3 of my other co-workers showed up.  I asked if they wanted to run together or not, and after being in agreement that we’d run our own pace, a horn sounded.  It had begun.  I was in the back of at least 150 people, and started getting worried that I was way too far back to make an impact.  After fighting towards the front for about a minute, the pack was thinning out.  We made the turn towards the gravel path on Crissy Fields.  It wasn’t a closed course since the race was so short – we were paced by a cyclist…and as it turns out, I knew the guy too.  Hank from Team Mike’s Bikes on his Specialized Venge – it was pretty funny realizing it was him as I was running.

So after a couple minutes, I passed up the guy in 2nd place.  1 more guy in front of me, so I played it as if it were a crit.  Saved my energy, caught his draft, and followed his stride so that he couldn’t hear me (not sure if any of this helped at all, I just thought it’d help my morale).  Hank kept looking back at us to make sure we were still following.  I saw the turn around point in the distance, and knew that’d be the time for me to make the move to pass him.  Either that, or he’d finally notice I was behind him, and he’d throw on the burners, dropping me.  The turned around point came, I took a couple deep breathes and started increasing my cadence.  I came up beside him, passed, and pressed on.  The masses of runners/walkers started coming from the other direction.  I followed the path of Hank’s bike, and saw the faces of my co-workers, and heard the encouragement of passing people.

There was no one else behind me after a couple minutes.  I saw a speck of green slowly catching me.  We made the right turn, cutting through a path next to trees – this 11 year old kid was reeling me in from a distance.  The burn began settling in my lungs and my stomach began turning – the limit.  Time to hurl?  Maybe…

My stride started getting sloppy.  I saw the start/finish in the distance and peaked behind me to see where the kid was.  He was getting closer, but I had enough of a pillow to savor crossing the line.  19:50 on the dot.  Not amazing pace, but good enough for me.  My co-worker and I walked through the city to get back to the BART station, and I finally walked home.

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april_3_2013_hellyer_wednesday_night_track_racing-1

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The track is awesome.

It’s 11:02pm but I’m going to type this up quick before I forget all the funny details.  Huge turnout at the velodrome, a lot more than usual, I heard.  The Cat5 men’s group was 20+ riders deep, and there were 4 categories total: Cat5 men, juniors/women, Cat3/4 men, and then the P/1/2/3 men’s group.  $15 for 4 events: scratch, tempo, miss and out, and points.  I showed up a tad later than most because I was stuck in traffic for quite a long time.  Apparently 101 isn’t the best way to get down to San Jose on a Wednesday.  Definitely taking 280 next time…carpooling if possible.  Anyway, after showing up to the track, throwing on the shoes and helmet, I was off to warming up.  Spinning around near the edge of the track seeing a ton of familiar faces: Fergus, Tim, Steve (Chica Sexy), Gabe, Zack (BRITEsport), and more people I’m forgetting.

Scratch: 10 laps, first rider across the line gets points.  I was not in the best position for the scratch, which was my own fault.  And soon I realized that most of my effort through the short race would be dodging slow wheels and riding up the track to pass people.  It was a lot of fun though, first race of the day, definitely a good opener.  Lots of weird movement from some people, which made riding and passing a bit hairy at times, but no crashes, so just a solid experience either way.

Tempo: 10 laps, sprint points every lap with the first rider getting 2 points, second rider getting 1…?  Again, a race where fighting for position is key.  About halfway through the tempo race, I realized that I was (again) getting caught up with slow wheels, and (again) spending a lot of energy to catch faster wheels up farther in the bunch.  No crashes, no complaints.

Miss and out: 19 laps (I think) because our field was 22, with the last rider getting pulled every lap.  Once there are 3 riders left, it’s 1 lap to go until a sprint finish.  In this race, positioning is everything.  I know because I was the first rider to get pulled just 1 lap in – pretty damn sad and embarrassing, but yea.  I had the general idea of the race in my head but all of that kind of went out the window once I saw 3 riders in front of me like a wall, with no where to squeeze in.  I wasn’t nearly as fun watching this from the warmup track, but oh well.  Next time.

Points: 12 laps with points awarded to top 4 riders (5, 3, 2, and 1 point, I believe) every 3 laps?  Again, with pretty bad positioning, I ended up near the back and had to fight on the outer edge to pass up people.  At one point, I was slightly off the front, but got burnt out with 1 to go.

I might’ve gotten tempo and points descriptions’ mixed up.  Someone will probably correct me later.

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Holiday racing is the best.  Why relax on a day-off when you can ride at the limit, especially on San Francisco streets?  As luck would have it, the Giro di San Francisco course would loop around my workplace, but it took Tim to convince me to actually race it.  I was planning on watching the race, since it was only 15 minutes away from where I lived, but not actually riding it.  But I need to work on my flatland abilities, so I guess more racing couldn’t hurt.

I walked down to get my number just as the first race of the day was getting started.  The trainer was already set up at home, so after a bit of pre-race prepping, I hopped on the bike setup in front of my computer and started getting ready.  I also forgot how much different it is riding inside verses out in the open, my heart rate instantly rose, and it seemed as if warming up wasn’t going ot be a problem at all.  I rode down to the start line (photographed above) with about 10 minutes to spare.  75 riders deep, a full registered field.  I saw Percy (Webcor), Jeremiah Davis, Steve Tortorelli (Chica Sexy) up front in a skin suit, and his teammates Uri and Kalman.

Whistle.  Now things are getting interesting.  I’ll also mention that I forgot to start the Garmin (as always), so my data comes in a bit short.  Things opened up right from the beginning, and after 3+ laps, the field was split between 2 groups, with people dropping off the back – I was in the second group, chasing to catch back up to the main group.  There was a crash on one of the laps, turn 1, but everyone seemed to be okay.  Not completely sure what happened, but Jeremiah was caught up in it as well.  The gap began to grow, and after 6 or so laps, I was caught in no man’s land, not with the front group, and not with the 6 or so riders that dropped off, but continued to chase.  They caught up to me on one of the turns, and pressed ahead without me for the remaining laps.  Couldn’t seem to muster up the legs to go with them.  The only portion of the course which seemed to help me gain time was the short 1 block uphill, just before turn 4.  The legs were working 100%, but I wasn’t going to catch the chase, or the main field.  Not anymore.

But I pressed on, seeing the chase group within my sights on almost every straight portion gave me some hope.  With 2 laps left, I saw one of the riders from the chase drop off – I passed and continued to race, but was pulled on the field’s bell lap.  Defeated, tired, but happy, I rode home, and wrote this.  I’m heading back down shortly to watch the women’s p/1/2/3, the 3’s, and eventually the men’s p/1/2.  Not a bad way to spend the day.

(Again, the Garmin embed is all broken…oh well):

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Of course, I forgot to take a picture while at the race…But imagine a bunch of people standing around, watching other people race around 1 city block in Berkeley – that was pretty much the scenery.  Either way, I parked a block away and walked to the reg booth just as the E5 race was starting.  Berkeley was just a short ways away from San Francisco.  I can’t even remember the last time I went to a race this close.  So after grabbing my number and seeing the E5 group take off, I walked back to the car to warm up.  I hadn’t touched the bike since Tuesday, and the flooding sense of guilt came over me.  Oh well.

9AM.  I rode around aimlessly until the line up.  Gabe (BRITEsport), Steve (Chica Sexy), Vitaly (SquadraSF), and Percy (Webcor) were amongst those in the mix of ~50 riders.  Happy thoughts need to go away.  Angry thoughts?  None to really bring up, pre-race.  Nothing to think of, so I guess it was just a clear mind on a foggy day.  We’re all waiting – race official makes an announcement that turns out to be just a plug for his race.  Whistle – now we’re going.

I hear the shouts from people standing on the sidewalks as we make our way around.  The start/finish is on a slight downhill, very shallow, but fast.  First turn leads to a flat road, some broken up asphalt on the far left all the way through the straight.  2nd turn has a manhole cover, slightly sunk into the ground, and 1 pothole the size of a 12″ record.  Coming out of the turn, there are 2 smaller utility covers, also sunk into the group, offset from each other.  Turn 3, the road starts to level out and begins to slope down towards the final turn, the straight towards the line.

Everything is just going okay.  Everyone is picking their lines, wheels, and turns carefully, making sure not to smack the potholes or dips on turn 2.  The incline post turn 2 is where people are suffering the most.  Guys are falling back, leaving gaps out from the wheels in front of them.  I’m somewhere in the back, picking off the stragglers.  I see Gabe up ahead, riding in the middle, slowly slipping back to the edge of the pack.  One guy flats on the potholes.  A few laps later, a Mike’s Bikes guy on a black CAAD10 drops out on the incline.  Another guy flats.  I tell Gabe to keep hanging in there, but he drops out a couple laps later – he’s now cheering us all on with the few laps we have left.

Steve is still up front, riding strong.  There were 5 primes through the duration of the crit, but the pace seemed to stabilize even with guys shooting off the front.  More guys are getting dropped off the back.  Last lap, now.  Coming out of turn 2, a guy on the left blows his front tubular.  It goes off like a gunshot – I’m 2 bike lanes over, the guy next to me is frantic, as we both witness the blown tubular guy ride on bare rim.  I peak to my right, there’s a handful of guys coming up, the guy to my left is going to turn right into me.  A cyclist coming up from my right says, “Just go around!”.  Left guy is now touching my arm, I’m about to ride to the right, and just as the guy coming up front my right yells out, contact.  I rub shoulders with him briefly, losing contact of the left side of my bar for a second, but we all avoid it, somehow.  “That’s what happens when you run tubies in the 4’s,” some other guy says.  They’re not chasing anymore, not with 2 turns left to go.

Now I’m riding to catch up.  As I come towards turn 3, I witness 2 guys flip over each other, landing at the edge of the sidewalk.  Cyclists still racing scatter all over the road once more, slow down unpredictably as I’m coming through.  I nearly miss one guy who randomly unclipped and braked.  The main field is hitting turn 4 in the distance.  I’m smashing the pedals to catch up, and land somewhere in the back of the finishing pack.  Congrats to Steve on his top 10 finish.

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(The first section of this was written from my phone. I had to kill time somehow) One more 2 hour drive down to Seaside. Central Coast Circuit was held today, but not on the course everyone knew. A new course that was 1 mile in length with 4 corners. Similar to a crit, but with a backside gradual incline of 4%. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but as I neared the course, it seemed as if attaining a permit out here would be so much easier than the other roads. Half the buildings weren’t even being used anymore – they all had broken glass, boarded up first-story windows, and locked doors. Ghost town.

For some reason, I thought the E4 race started at 8:25, but of course, I was wrong and it was 8:45…either way, I rode around a bit to stay warm, and rode 2 laps on the course as the E5 race was finishing. The start/finish was located on one of the short segments of the course – a left hander led to a gradual downhill to the next turn, flat to the next left, and then the 4% gradual incline to the final left hand turn which led straight to the line. The backside incline had 2 speed bumps which narrowed the course to 1 lane briefly, but the roads were fairly smooth, for the most part.

Of course, when the race started, I forgot to start the Garmin, which was lame. Half a lap of missed data isn’t that bike of a deal though, considering we rounded the course over, and over, and over again. I started listening to the lap countdown with 11 to go, but dreaded continuing. The course was infinitely less technical than the original CCCX course – I later found from one of the reg workers that the city didn’t want them racing on the original course so much, so they scouted around for a new backup location to hold the circuit at.

The laps pasted, and the field slowly whittled down as riders were dropped off the back. The incline was ridden in between a pace that seemed too fast for climbing out of the saddle, and too slow for sitting down. I missed the old course. Free lap was available too, so after a while, I saw one or two guys rejoin us in the closing laps. It was a 50 minute race but sure felt a lot longer.

Numerous riders tried their luck off the front, but none were able to gain much time with the chasing main group close behind. On the bell lap, everything was together coming into the final incline. Some riders were dropping back, not contesting the sprint. Everyone else was moving up, prepping for the finale. A sprint to the line started before the turn, and a trail of riders started forming. The turn came around, the straight shot to the line was in front of all of us. I moved up best I could and landed somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Not too bad for a circuit that was more like a crit, I guess.

Let me just say that a drive that was suppose to take only 2 hours back to San Francisco took nearly 3.5, and I’m drained.  I’ll cut straight to the chase and say that I only completed 7 laps before dropping out of the E3/4 race.  Just couldn’t hang on anymore, and was riding far into the red just to snag wheels at the back of what was left of the pack.  The first lap was fine, but an attack came off the front from what appeared to be 4 guys.  A junior, part of the Ritte squad, Hank (Mike’s Bikes) and some other people.  They kept gaining time, and the speed of the pack kept increasing, in an attempt to bring down their lead.  More guys were shed off the back of the pack, and at points, I thought I was for sure going to be off soon.

Vitaly (SquadraSF) and I were hanging off the back for a second, and once the descent came once more, he was tagged off.  Him and I had raced the E4’s earlier in the day, too.  I was counting down the time before my legs would shatter.  The wind was picking up, it was stronger all over, and it blew across the course like a pain.  The break had a 35 second lead – then on the next lap, it was 45 seconds.  It became clear that they weren’t going to be caught, not with 8 laps still to race.  I hung on with the tips of my fingers, trying hard on the descent to just maintain the wheel in front of me.  I couldn’t believe how fast the pack was moving.  We had shed a bunch of guys in the process, but I thought if I could just keep holding on, I could finish with them.  As I rounded the left turn towards the incline once more, I realized it was over.  I was exhausted from riding near the limit for too long.  I could no longer use the descent to recover…it was over.

I saw the small pack leaving me in the distance as I rolled to the start/finish.  “6 to go,” the race official shouted.  I was in a daze.  I felt a weird pressure in the left portion of my lungs, and an even stranger one behind my left eye.  “I’m…done,” I told the guy.  “No shame in that,” a cyclist said from near the booth.  Maybe he had gotten dropped, too.  Who knows.  It ate at me for a while, and it still is.  I don’t think there’s ever been a point where the race has been so intimidating that I didn’t even want to finish.

DNF.  The last one I’ll ever get.

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CCCX #4.

Let me preface this by saying that I hate driving more than 2 hours to any race just because it just takes so much out of you, mentally. If you’re heading out with someone else, or have a working radio, maybe it’s not so bad, but I have yet to experience the latter, so I can’t comment to it.  I haven’t touched the road bike since Tuesday, and didn’t quite know what to expect.  On the plus side, I had been doing stair sessions and mixing it up with some hill sprints, so I was optimistic that it might just be okay.  I just didn’t want to get dropped.

I arrived in Seaside with more than an hour to spare before the E4 race began.  The weather couldn’t have been any nicer – clear, sunny skies with a cool breeze.  After warming up a bit, I rolled to the line.  There seemed to be around 25 guys at the line, maybe less than last week, but I could be wrong.  The whistle blew, and we were off.  Unlike last week, the first lap pushed the pace right off the bat.  And it didn’t let up.

The next few laps were ridden at more or less the same intensity: pretty damn fast.  I tried to stick good wheels on the false flats, and was lucky not to have gotten dropped off hard.  As the race continued, fatigue began to settle in, and riders fell off the back of the group.  With just two laps left to race, riders at the front jumped the pace on the initial false flat and formed a rift between the head and tail of the group.  Things came back together, but shortly thereafter, two riders launched an attack on the backside rollers.  They were slowly reeled back in and caught on the descent.  Just one more lap to go.

As the pace increased on the the false flat once more, a collision occurred between two riders. I’m still not quite sure what happen, but from the looks of it, one guy seemed like he cross wheels with the other guy. They both went down and the field split once more.  I was caught behind it all, and slowed down to a complete stop because the guy next to me was already at the edge of the road.  A slew of insults car from one of the downed riders and two of us basically yelled out it wasn’t too big of a deal, and for him to chill out – neither of them seemed injured.  And my chances of not getting dropped went out the window.

Or maybe not…I saw Vital about 5 seconds ahead of me.  There were 3 guys chasing the head of the race, maybe 10-15 guys at this point.  I thought I could make the gap to Vital at least, so I went all in.  I bridged up to him, hoping we could work together to catch the chasing trio, but he dropped off my wheel a couple moments later. Right hander to the backside rollers – I could see them up ahead, the trio made contact with the back of the remaining group of guys.  I felt like absolute trash, but kept pressing on, hoping could snag a wheel soon.  And as the road crested, I saw my opportunity for one last brief effort to latch onto the last wheel of the group.  I made it up to them, holy f#$%.

The pace was unrelenting, everyone was fighting for a spot, everyone knew the field was more than half as small as in the beginning of the race.  As the descent came, I tucked in the back, hoping to recover a bit before the dash to the line.  I was boxed in coming towards the finish but managed to pass 2 guys dangling off the back.  So maybe top 10?  I have no idea, I’m just stoked I was able to bridge the gap and finish with the front group.

Writing/typing on a phone is kind of difficult.  I think I’ll take a nap, now.  And eat.

(I’m now at home, thank goodness traffic wasn’t too bad on the way back up to the city!).  The details of the E3/4 race at Central Coast Circuit #4 are a bit hazy.  I guess a lot of things came into play once the race started – the field size was much bigger than the E4 race, the guys were faster, and my legs were tired.  Naveen, Jason, and Kevin (BRITEsport) made it out and were doing a double race day, as well.  I was just hoping to be able to finish the race, not get dropped, and not get caught up in an accident.

So, after a brief talk from the race official, the race was off.  The field appeared to be twice as big as the E4 race (which turned out to be 21 people deep).  As expected, the first lap was taken with a bit of care, everyone was warming up to the race.  But as soon as we passed the finish line for the first time, the pace quickened.  And we still had 5 laps left to race.  I snagged wheels as best I could, but once the laps started ticking down, the attacks off the front began.  The pace surged on the false flats and, most of the time, on the backside rollers.  People were hurting, flying off the back lap after lap.  Hell, I was hurting, but trying to hold on.  Gaps began forming when guys lost contact with the wheel in front of them – it was a fight just to pass and snag another one, and it always seemed to be a couple bike lengths out of reach.  It seemed as if everyone in the back half of the group was riding on their limits.

There was someone off the front at almost every occasion, and if there wasn’t someone off the front, the pace was kept fast so no one attacked.  But as soon as the pace dropped, someone shot out from the side, barreling into the wind, usually alone.  With 2 laps left to race, on the back side rollers, a rift came between the head of the race, and the remaining riders in the group – about 6 guys had a couple bike lengths on the 20 or so people, me included, and everyone started frantically shifting to gain enough speed to bridge up to the front.  In the meantime, more people dropped off the back, unable to maintain pace at the crest of the top of the rollers.

Somehow, I managed to hang on, and with only 1 lap remaining, things were looking okay – not really good or bad.  The backside rollers saw everyone at their limit once more, but soon, the majority of the suffering was over, and we were all flying down towards the final right hander towards the line.  I managed to pass a couple people to land somewhere in the back half of the finishing group.

I’m completely toasted, but happy I was able to stick it out.  2 races in 1 day, and I wasn’t dropped, even when hitting a dead stop from the accident in front of me.  Looking back, racing is great for getting out of your comfort zone, but now that it’s over, I just want to have an easy day tomorrow!

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Let’s see, I’m currently writing this section of the race report from my phone while waiting patiently for the second race of the day – the Elite 3/4’s.  And about 15 minutes ago, I finished the Elite 4’s race.  In about 4 hours, I’ll be on the bike once more.  But let’s rewind a bit…

Waking up before the sun comes up is a rarity, especially after daylight savings time in the spring (though I guess today is the first day of summer, awesome!).  I left the house early in order to make the 2 hour drive down to Seaside. The weather was foggy the whole way down, and initially, I was happy I brought warmers.  After a rather uneventful drive, I parked and walked over to the reg booth.  A brief warm up, and it was time to head over to the line.  Ideally, I should’ve ridden yesterday, but after another long week, I decided to be lazy and skip it all together.  Probably not the best situation to be in, but oh well.

We appeared to have a group of 25-30 guys at the start line.  As soon as the whistle blew, one guy cursed, clearly frustrated that he forgot to pin his number.  He had it, but it was just folded up in one of his jersey pockets…for a minute it so, he attempted to try and attached it, but soon gave up, realizing such a task would be a bit tricky while riding.  Another guy forgot to strap his helmet around his chin.  So the answer is yes, our field was going to be a fun one.  The first lap went by fairly slowly, everyone was warming up to the course, and I was shaking off cobwebs from not racing since Berkeley Hills.  On the second lap, there was an immediate increase of pace as cyclists moved to the front.  Phase 3 had a couple riders in the mix and kept attacking off the front.  As the road dipped and turned towards the backside rollers, I had a run up front to see how I was feeling.  A few moments later, over the next roller, a cyclist at the very front of the race somehow flipped his bike in the middle of the road in a freak solo accident.  No one else was taken down, and everyone safely avoided it.  He pulled his bike to the side of the road and went in towards the medic on the next lap (on assuming, since we didn’t see him on the next time around. I did see him at the end of the race though, he had minor abrasions on his right side, but looked more or less okay).  With 2 laps left to race, more riders pressed the speed at the front.  For a second, I was sure I’d be dropped on the false flat coming into the bell lap.  I hung on for a bit longer, but as the sweeping descent came, I lost contact with the bunch.  The bumpy road reminded me of last season’s accident with Jonathan…it’s a fast descent to say the least.

I think there may have been 1 other guy behind me that lost contact on the final roller, but for the sake of clarity, almost last place is good enough.  I guess if I try and get away, it’d have to be earlier on, definitely on the rollers.  We’ll see how everything goes in a few hours.  I think I’ll try and sleep.

The rest of this report will be written with my keyboard – I finally made it home after another 2 hour stint in the car with some traffic.  It was so windy that the rear windshield trim ripped off of the car as I was driving back.  I thought it was a piece of trash tattering on the fender, but as it turns out, it was a metal trim piece…Anyway, here are some horrible shots of the finishing 2 section right hander:

I registered for the Elite 3/4 race shortly after the first race was done.  I wasn’t feeling particularly good or bad, just mostly awake and slightly regretting the coming race.  It would be 1 more lap in the saddle with guys that were all probably faster than me.  But for 10 extra dollars, I guess it couldn’t hurt to race again.  After a quick warm up session, I rolled over to the line to see Ryan and Hank from Team Mike’s Bikes, Isaac (Dolce Vita) with a bunch of teammates, Naveen (BRITEsport), and a handful for E4’s from the race earlier this morning.  The pre-race talk was kept brief, and before I knew it, we were off.  Just like the E4 race, the first lap was taken at a chill pace.  As we wound up for the 2nd lap, the attacks off the front began – I’m not quite sure when it happened, but there was an attack that stuck until the very end, maybe 2 laps in.  There appeared to be 2 riders off the front, with numerous other dangling off in pursuit.  The pace quickened and the feeling of fresh legs left me.

But somehow, I stuck wheels and hung on.  Riders hung off the back and were plucked off on various sections of the course.  The break had 16 seconds, then 30, then 50 on the finishing circuits.  Riders plowed through the cross-wind, carrying the 40 of us behind.  The pace of the E3 group was a bit faster, but noticeably smoother than the E4 race.  I found it easier to stick the right wheels to hang onto the main group.  It soon became clear that if I didn’t race earlier in the day, I probably wouldn’t have been able to hang on – the first race definitely opened up the legs enough so that I could continue to push through the second race.  In the closing lap, attacks were happening left and right, riders were searching for spots prior to the final descent (last photo, above).  I was able to pass a handful of wheels to land a spot above dead last.

I’m just happy there were no accidents, and that I was able to race twice on a course I absolutely adore.  I’m already excited for next week’s Central Coast Circuit #4!

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We meet again, Berkeley hills.  I hadn’t checked the race registration to see who was racing today, and knowing wouldn’t have really changed anything anyway.  I was expecting the Elite 4’s to be filled.  As a contrast to last year, I showed up a tad earlier and snagged a parking spot a bit closer to the reg booth.  The race started at 7:50, so I had a bit of cushion between getting ready and lining up for the neutral roll out.

After warming up, checking if I had my spare tube, cell phone, keys, wallet, numbers pinned, and bottles filled, I rode over to the line.  Some familiar faces, but a majority of the guys I had never seen before.  Steve (Chica Sexy), Vitaly (SquadraSF), Jeremiah (Webcor), Jake, and a handful of other guys I’m forgetting, were all in the mix.  This year’s goal for the race was to ride as long with the front group.  Last season, I was dropped on the 2nd lap of the race on the backside rollers.  Maybe it’d be different this time around.  With a full field of 60 riders, things were going to be interesting.

Oddly enough, I forgot to start up the Garmin after it turned off from being idle.  So a couple of miles into the race, it kicked on, and thus, the lack of data beforehand.  We’d be racing 52 miles, 2.7 laps, with the finish line on the top of the climb called Papa Bear.  The first couple miles were smooth, no one was nervous yet.  The turn for Castro Ranch road came, and things started heating up a tad.  The change in elevation forced people out of their saddles, and the pace increased.  I was near the back for the majority of the race, not feeling particularly good or bad.  It was hard to say, since this was my first real race of the season.  But as the elevation tumbled towards the rollers on the backside of the course, Alhambra Valley road, it was clear that everyone else was feeling strong.  We hadn’t dropped anyone off the back yet – last season, there were a couple guys being dropped per lap on specific parts of the climbs.  Not this year, though.  I was hanging onto any wheel I could snag.  The pace was quickening and as Mama Bear, the 2nd to final climb, came up for the first time, the sinking feeling of last season hit me.  Everyone’s cadence grew faster.  No one was standing up, yet.  And in a race, this is the point where true riding form shines through.  The majority of the whole group was riding as if they were having the best day of the season – or at least, it sure as hell felt that way.

After cresting the finish line for the first time, I looked back to see who we had dropped.  We had dropped maybe 1 or 2 people, if that, the entire lap.  The field was still huge, and as the fast descent came, it became clear that last season’s finish for me, wouldn’t be too far off.  I snagged wheels and caught back up to the group as the road flattened.  We passed by the entrance to the parking lot – on the second lap, things were more lively.  People were pushing the pace on the initial climbs, and hurtling towards the backside rollers.  I stuck wheels, and made it a point to hang on.  The climbs became increasingly more painful, and the bouts of power were spotty…I should’ve rested more this week, but it was way too late for thinking.  We crossed the finish line for the second time, and again I looked back to see if anyone had been dropped.  Maybe 1-2 people, just like last time, but the field was still massive.  Descending at 40mph with a couple dozen riders is a bit nerve racking, and at multiple points on the descents, guys would be hesitating on their brake levers, grabbing them for a second, and releasing.  But that’s racing for you – you can only control your own bike, everything else is up in the air.

So on the final lap, things were heating up even more.  The pace was being drilled up front as the first climbs came.  I was momentarily dropped as the road flattened out, but caught some of the very last wheels I’d see as we made our way to the backside rollers.  The short descent proved to be too short of a recovery for me, and once the backside hit, I slowly slipped away.  1 lap better than last season, but still dropped, nonetheless.  I was passed by a couple other e4 riders, who were chasing to either catch back on, or just finish the race not dead last.  I was shattered, and as much as I tried to catch any wheels, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull through for them when the time came.  Solo finish…and hopefully not dead last.  I rode the remaining backside and climbs alone, crossing the finish line ahead of another dropped e4 cyclist.

I’m not going to make any excuses up for myself, or hide from the fact that the field was stronger than me.  I was dropped last year, and I was dropped this year, 1 lap later.  I didn’t flat or crash, and for that, I’m grateful.  I missed racing, there’s nothing else like it.  Maybe next season, I’ll be able to hang on for the entire race.  Maybe.

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another frigid morning in the east bay.  temperatures hovering just above freezing, it was definitely a bit cooler this week verses last.  there weren’t as many cars out in the parking lot, either.  I was expecting a smaller field – maybe everyone would be a bit less twitchy than last week, but it was doubtful.  I registered, pinned my number, and started getting warm.  within a couple minutes I was burning up (visually).  I could see the steam evaporating off my back as I spun on the trainer, it was hilarious.  I’ve seen it happen to other people when they’re really getting into their warmup, and it looks like something that’d be in a magazine ad for a cycleops fluid trainer or something.

our race started at 8:30 – at the line I saw jonathan tran (third pillar racing), the first time I had seen him since last year’s crash at central coast circuit.  we talked it up a bit before the race started.  I didn’t know anyone else in the field this week, our group was slightly smaller than last weeks.  possibly 30 riders deep.  we had 2-3 mentors rotating through the group to keep stragglers in check.  all I wanted to do today was to be more comfortable in the pack, so I was hanging out in the middle and back most of the race.  a couple laps in, I made my way to the front to see how my legs were doing in comparison to last week.  the running soreness seemed to be gone, but my top end was still a bit weak (as it always is…).  I slowed and shifted back into the back end of the pack.

there were a couple riders shifting all over the place.  one of them was in a plain blue jersey, and the other was in a red/white kit with some sort of wording that started with an “M and M”.  the latter was riding near the back and moving like crazy.  through one of the turns, a cyclist next to him swerved away from the apex, unclipped, and jabbed his brakes.  that was the closest call of the day.  no one went down, but I think everyone that witnessed it was a bit sketched out.  luckily, there were no crashes and no injuries.  I opted out of the sprint finish and settled in near the tail end of the group.

as I wound down, reed came over and we started catching up.  his first race of the season is going to be pine flats, he was out at the early bird crit for his step-daughter.  he’s shifting his racing more towards endurance races – centuries, double centuries, and the races that make people’s fitness cry.  then of course, jeremiah (wob) rolled up.  he was going to be doing the clinic as well as the cat5 race with anton.  good seeing you guys out!  jonathan’s early season game face:

stoked to see this guy back on a bike, and racing.  he busted up a bunch of bones in last season’s crash, anyone who remembers the incident knows how serious it was.  I’m happy to report than he’s doing really well, and riding strong.  good stuff, jonathan.

no early bird criterium for me next week, though.  my weekend cinema 4d class is all day saturday and sunday, which means no racing for me.  but after next weekend, it’s on again!

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