Sunday, April 29, 2007

Punched by Blondie, Angel Eyes, Tuco, and the Devil

While riding by myself during the Devil's Punchbowl Road Race yesterday, I started thinking about one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" starring Clint Eastwood. The three main characters--Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco--are greedy loner outlaws who kill without a second thought, but collude together when motivated by a common goal (finding some hidden gold).

So as I pedaled alone in the desert, in no-man's land behind a three-man break of Crispy Walker, Thurlow Rogers, and Rigo Meza, I started imagining the parallels. They were up there, working together--and easily pulling away--but I was sure at the first sign of weakness, any one of them wouldn't hesitate an instant to attack another, leaving the unfortunate one(s) behind in the desert to whither and die.

I also spent some time trying to match each of them with the most appropriate character (Good, Bad, and Ugly). Unfortunately, I cannot relay my conclusions here, lest they happen upon this blog. You see, no matter how I match them up, two of the three will not be pleased with their assigned characters, and believe me, you do not want any of these guys mad at you!

So how was it that I had time in a bike race for all this day-dreaming? Let me tell you...

Devil's Punchbowl Road Race... Pro/1/2, 5 laps, 80 miles, ~7,500 ft of climbing, 0% humidity, 90+ degree temperatures. Thus, only about 40 starters. [see earlier post for map/profile details if interested.]

Pre-race: Arrange feeders and place extra bottles on car, just in case. Gulp down 24 oz. of V-8.

Lap 1: From the gun, the pace was uncomfortable thanks to one Chris Walker, aka the Vampire, aka Booger, aka Crispy Walker, aka C-Walk (c. Aram). Last year the race started out leisurely, and Chris missed the break because the attacks were too chaotic and numerous. So this year he wanted to simplify things. I quickly realized what he was thinking, and scooted up to the front. By the top of the hill, not even 5 miles into the race, the field was down to 15. MarkZen and I both made this selection. This group rotated pretty smoothly, and I doubt any of the dropped ever reconnected.

Lap 2: Tossed empty bottle under car and grabbed another, getting dropped in the process, so dug deep to rejoin. (Burned a match.) This time up the hill, it's Adam Livingston from SuccessfulLiving who had ants in his chamois and was making the pace uncomfortable. He succeeded in cutting the group in half, and I lost contact just below the top. Turns out Adam lit his entire matchbook on fire and detonated so completely that he nearly came to a stop before reaching the summit. Thanks a lot Adam! But down the other side, I latched onto a big strong Euro dude who absolutely flew down the descent. By the bottom, we were about 15 seconds down on a group of four: Walker, Thurlow, Rigo Meza, and Joe Wiley. I rotated with Big Euro Dude but his pulls were so hard, he eventually dropped me and got across the last 10 seconds by himself. I spent the next couple miles hanging 10 seconds back, trying to steal any draft possible from the follow vehicle (until I got scolded by the motor official) until finally a couple of them sat up to eat and I sprinted across the gap. (Another match gone.) I immediately got into the rotation so none of them would feel compelled to surge and drop me again. An extra 0.5 mph is all it would have taken.

Lap 3: Crispy took over again on the hill, and I'll tell you what... I discovered there is a heart underneath all that sinew, gristle, and veins. I'll be darned if he didn't deliberately set the pace just hard enough to peg me at my limit, but not crack me. He checked my status every couple of minutes, and although my matches were burning steadily, I wasn't cracking. Not so lucky for Big Euro Dude--he went nuclear and was never seen again. At the feed zone, teammates/friends Gary and Steve had bottles for me (Thanks guys!) and life was good. Too good. A few hundred meters before the top, Rigo surged and when I went to strike another match, I discovered the book was empty. The four of them rode away. Only this time, Joe Wiley Coyote used up his matchbook in a fireball and soon he was weaving across the road. As I went by, he offered up his remaining bottle. Class. So there I was, 40 miles down, 40 to go. Chasing three guys ...The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Behind, although I didn't know it, MarkZen and Brandon Gritters had hooked up. And behind them, lots of casualties, marching in the desert like good soldiers.

Lap 4: Tried to settle down into comfortable sustainable effort but found no position was maintainable without onset of debilitating cramps. I punched the inside of my left quad with enough force to tenderize beef. It worked. Two people drove by as I climbed and offered feeds. Big hearts, understanding souls. Mike Crystal fed me, as did solid teammate Cookie. Random guy offered me a Red Bull. Stupidly I said "no thanks". Up in the distance, I saw two figures being pursued by one. Turns out Thurlow came off on the hill--attacked in a moment of weakness--but rejoined on the descent. That would be the last I saw of them until after the race. So now my attention shifted to keeping 4th place. I looked back after the descent and saw nobody. Weird.

Lap 5: I mashed through the start/finish but got all caught up in the next waves of races being started. I blew by the women and juniors, and started catching Masters 4/5s. Not much to say about this last lap... my focus shifted to survival and anything I could do to avoid cramping. Highlight of the lap was getting yet another bottle--the 8th of the day--from Cookie. What a guy, hangs in the feed zone, car battery dies, gets help from Adam Livingston's wife whose dog bites his finger! Anyway, I survived and rolled in 4th, many minutes behind Rigo (1st), Thurlow (2nd), and Chris (3rd). Gritters and MarkZen got 5th and 6th.

Afterward, as we waited for official results and envelopes, I slumped in the shade and teetered on the edge of puking. Walker on the other hand, sat in the sun the entire time and didn't sweat a drop. It was 95 degrees.

Training Week -- 4/23 - 4/29

Started the week pretty tired, but felt better toward the end.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 15 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 6 hrs
Best ride of the week: from a training standpoint, Devil's Punchbowl for sure; for enjoyment though, Sunday group ride 'cause Genghis was there.
Other: none
- OSM in 14:53 Thursday

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Devil Makes Us Do It

Ahhh, once again it's time for the race that always evokes the "why-do-we-do-this-to-ourselves?" question at least once during the day. Maybe it'll be when the alarm goes off at 4:00 AM. Or maybe when you first get out of your car at the course, and realize that the dry wind is already sucking the moisture from your body. More likely, the thought will hit you as the front group (maybe just a person or two) slowly climbs away on the steepest part of the hill. Face it, that happens to a majority of the people in the race. My typical scenario: hang on to the front group for the first half of the race, then eventually succumb to the dehydration, cramps, and power of the strongest guys. I have more 10th-20th places at Devil's Punchbowl than I care to remember.

But last year was looking good. I had feeders ...several of them! Ice cold bottles can transform this harsh desert into an almost-hospitable place for a bike race. And as luck would have it, the race unfolded in such a manner that I was realistically vying for a top-6 place with only one last time up the hill to complete. I was climbing well--side-by-side in a small group with C-Walk--and the dreaded "why?" question hadn't entered my mind.

Then a scorpion jumped up and bit my tire (or maybe it was just a rock) and it blew out at 40+ mph. As Walker passed by with a devilish grin, he snickered a half-sincere "bummer". I had been trespassing in his domain, and we both knew it.

As I waited an eternity for the wheel truck, and all the early casualties passed me by, that's when I asked the question, yet again, for the nth year in a row...

The Devil's Punchbowl Road Race, edge of the Mojave desert.

I hadn't seen a elevation profile for this race, so I made one myself. I'm too lazy to do the math, but I can tell you from experience that it gets dang steep near the feed zone ...39x23 steep, and that's my Painted Cave gearing.

If you have an appreciation for geology and arid landscapes, be sure to take a look around. It really would be beautiful if you weren't suffering!

Note the inviting snow-capped peaks in the distance... I think they're taunting us!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Garden Quiz Question #2

What do you think these things are?

No they are not some weird kind of legume, and as far as I know, nobody eats them in this form.

A hint: this is part of a food plant well past when it should have been harvested--basically, I got lazy. These are seed pods.

Typically, you'd see a huge mess of pods like in this picture. (I separated the ones in the pic above.)

Another hint: if you click on this picture and view it at full size, you'll notice in the lower-left a lady-bug feasting on a bunch of aphids. That's the hint... aphids LOVE this plant! In fact, that's why I never harvested them--the aphids got there first.

Next year I hope to stay on top of it better and keep the aphids away. Blasting the plants with water each day should help, or maybe using floating row covers, or a spray made out of canola oil and ivory dish soap...

Gotta do something so we can enjoy this...

Yeah, those first two pictures above are of a broccoli plant a few months past harvest time. The little sprig turns into a cluster of dainty little yellow flowers which, when pollinated, produce the mess of seed pods shown in the middle picture.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Conquer the Canyons - Day Deux

Sorry for the delayed race reportage... Three excuses: (1) single Dad this week; (2) committed to fix a software problem asap; and (3) kind of disappointed in my performance yesterday.

I'm not going to dwell on it, but clearly my expectations got ahead of my legs. It's time to take a chapter from the Crispy Walker training book, turn the brain off and just go out and train harder.

On the way down there yesterday, Cookie and I speculated that SuccessfulLiving would try to stack the podium with their guys. That's exactly what they did. They are a level above the rest of the SoCal guys, and it showed.

Not that some guys didn't try... Kevin Klein was the most animated--both with his legs and his mouth--and he had the power to give it a go. He set a super hard tempo up the climb on the first lap and single-handedly pulled away a group of 10-15 including both MarkZen and me. Unfortunately some key players got caught out, and our group never got cohesive enough. Half the field was soon back together.

The next few laps saw more hard-tempo climbing and attack-chase-coast, repeat, and soon enough Klein, Walker, Rigo Meza, and a SuccessfulLiving guy were OTF. Laps 5 and 6 were pretty negative as Daniel and company forcefully marked any attempts by others to get away, and the group(s) up the road pulled out a couple minutes. Then with two laps to go, Super Junior Grant Van Horn took off solo on the climb, basically saying "OK, enough of this... I'm going up to those guys! Hang on if you can." and remarkably that's exactly what he did ...solo, in the wind, with junior gears! [That kid is the best Junior talent I've seen in years. Good thing he's off to Europe in a week or so.] On the last lap, Uthman and Thurlow and a couple others took off and got a head start up the climb. Once we hit the hill, Daniel finally lit his after-burners and towed another small group away, including MarkZen.

I got dropped. Even though the race was 2 hrs 30 minutes long, it's those three minutes on that final climb that I keep replaying in my mind. Could I have gone harder and kept contact? Or was that really my limit? Such a fine line between keeping the pedals turning and completely detonating.

So the race was up the road for the final few miles. A SuccessfulLiving guy won solo, followed by three of four more small groups. Grant got 3rd. Gutsy. MarkZen got 15th, I was 21st, Cookie finished 27th. For gc, MarkZen 14th, me 19th, Cookie 25th. Half the field didn't even finish, so at least we persevered.

Other races...

A big congratulations to David Larsen for his first mass-start win (road race) and for holding 2nd on gc. The dude is a time-trial monster, and is now turning that power loose on the peloton. And excellent support from strong-man Geoff Gray!

I told you a couple days ago that Dave Worthingon would rise back up in the road race and take the gc in the 45+, and that's precisely what he did. I understand local motor Kim Bleth played a key role as he went off the front and forced Amgen to chase, while Dave just licked his chops and waited until the final climb to fly like an eagle.

Jason was the top finisher (6th gc) in the ultra-competitive 3's race. Lot's of other strong SB performances there... Gary, Steve B., Blinger, Steve Smith, and Chicken Ranch Matt.

Local women represented well in both the 1/2/3 race with a full squad of Kaylra/Griffen ladies, and Kimberly Turner raced in the 4's. She rode a nice tt and circuit race, but had some challenges in the road race. Hey, if it were easy, we wouldn't do it!

And of course, Steve Weixel rode strong in the final stage grab his third silver medal (tt, rr, gc) in his first racing experience. Good job!

All the results are here.

You'll note that the local presence at the race was impressive. Of the 13 different categories, I think 12 of them had Santa Barbara and/or Goleta racers. I've seen 20 years of ebbs and flows of SB bike racing, and this weekend convinces me things are looking bright right now. Great participation.

Finally, a huge "Thank You" to teammate Druber, and Blinger's son Charlie, for helping out all of us racers yesterday. It's so nice to have a supportive and calming influence around instead of scrambling with clothing and bikes, and worrying about feeds.

Training Week -- 4/16-4/22

Hmmmm, my weekly riding time is steadily dropping...

Number of rides: 6
Riding time: 11 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: CtC road race
Other: nothing
- I've fallen into that bad habit of not training hard during the week because of racing every weekend. That's a sure way to lose fitness and get mediocre results. Time to stop being so lazy!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Conquer the Canyons - Day 1

4-mile up and down TT this morning ...65 p/1/2 brutes including a nearly full SuccessfulLiving team and assorted other world beaters and $12K dreamers. Kevin Klein started 30 seconds in front of me, C-Walk 30 seconds behind. Great. I knew I'd never see Klein, and I was terrified of being caught by Chris. I was right on the first one--KK rode to a strong 8th place--and fortunately I held off CW ...barely. I heard his snotting and snorting coming up and that gave me some extra push. I finished in 12:39 which was 22nd place. Daniel Ramsey won with a blazing 11:34. That boy is raging right now! Cookie and MarkZen are also top 30 and we're all really close. Druber's bro is right in the mix too.

No big changes from the PM circuit race as it came down to a field sprint.

So we're set up for a brutal race tomorrow as SuccessfulLiving defends and opportunists attack. Let's hope for an early break in which we're represented, or a race of attrition in which we survive!

Other locals...

In the beginner race, Steve Weixel rode to a nice 2nd place tt, and held the spot in the circuit race.

Dave Larsen is in 2nd in the 4s, and also held thanks to strong work from Dr. Geoff.

Gary got 2nd in the 3's circuit race and Chicken-Ranch Matt was 4th. Steve B. and Blinger are looking good too.

Kim Bleth made the 6-man break in the 45+ and got, uhhh, 6th.

Not sure about the other local stories...

Dave Worthington got the tt win in the 45's but missed the circuit-race break and dropped to 2nd. He'll get it back tomorrow, bank on it.

The 35+ is a battle. Mark Noble won the tt and Greg Leibert was 2nd, and the gc stayed the same after the circuit race I think. They will have a war tomorrow with the strong teams from Amgen, Central Coast Masters, and Cynergy.

'til tomorrow...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Garden Quiz Question #1

I started planting our spring/summer garden today, just in time as the rain is supposed to dump 1" to 2" on us tomorrow. That fresh water should give all the greens a great kick start. So far, I've planted Arugula, Mizuna, Endive, a lot of red and green lettuces, and of course spinach. It all should provide daily salads starting in June.

There are still a few winter-garden hold-overs to clear out, like the plant pictured here. So now here is your quiz: what is this plant?

A hint: it's in the cabbage family.

Here's another clue. The lower leaves are cut off to reveal the actual food crop. You might have to click on the picture and view it full size.

And here they are... Brussel Sprouts. Yum-yum!

How did you think they grew, like little individual cabbages in the dirt?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Weekend Wrap-up

Let's start with the mundane... I flailed the last day of the SD omnium and got no additional points, which dropped me to 8th on final gc. I did try hard, but I missed the key break because it went at a time I was pretty much red-lined from an earlier effort. Adrian Gerrits from Goleta made it across and ended up getting 2nd in the sprint, which moved him to 3rd on gc behind winner Karl Bordine and 2nd-place Matt Johnson, both 5-Star Fish All-Stars. Former SB resident Chris Daggs rode a good tt and crit which gave him 10th place on final gc.

Omnium results are here.

Congrats to the SD Cyclo-Vets club for promoting a top-notch race that seemed to go off without any problems. Everything was right on time, and there were apparently no results hassles.

Which brings me to Sea Otter...

You'll notice the conspicuous absence of Lindsay's name from the Masters 40+ 1,2,3 results despite his strong presence in the race and in the dominant break of the day. In reality Lindsay finished 3rd, after a brutal tag-team barrage by C-Walk and J-Boyer. When Lindsay noticed the error in the results, he inquired with the officials and they responded that they thought he was registered in the 50+ race! The results stand.

Every year something like that happens at Sea Otter, and a lot of people have chosen not to race there anymore because of it. I'm not sure boycotting it is the best approach, unless you have a better alternative, but you have to go there understanding that it might take a few hours to get results, and then they may or may not be correct. In the wise words of Genghis Hahn, you race your bike for your own internal satisfaction and for the relationships with your teammates and your competition, not for some token prize and results listing.

...unless you are a pro. Like Daniel Ramsey. Surely everyone knows by now that Daniel won the NRC race on Laguna Seca after two impressive breaks, the final one solo.

Daniel has always done well on Laguna Seca. It's as if that course and his style of racing are a perfect match. An NRC win is a big deal for him and his team.

Check out a bunch of great pictures and video, including an interview with Daniel, on the excellent SteepHill site.

Congratulations Daniel!!!

More good local circuit-race results that I didn't mention earlier were Doyle, Dano, and Pops getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the 40+ 4's. Nice! And Eric Forte continued his strong performances with a 3rd in the 3's race. Echelon ladies Susie Willett and Kimberly Turner got 3rd and 7th in the competitive Women 4's race.

One guy who normally does well at Sea Otter, but this year had some difficulty, is Matt Benko (owner of SB's best Mexican-style BBQ restaurant The Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch). Matt's road race was in cold, windy, and rainy weather and he was not dresed for those conditions. To put it bluntly, he suffered. But anyone who knows Matt knows that he is a man, and has a great attitude about such things. With his permission, here is his post-race account of that day...

I felt it was important for me to clear up a few misconceptions about my "episode" during the Sea Otter Road Race. It is true that I was dropped from the lead group at the beginning of the final lap. It is also true that I was found 2 miles from the finish line laying down on the road... relaxing. This is where the story gets blown out of proportion. When the Paramedics happened upon me they decided to administer the R.A.T. or Roadside Aptitude Test. This test is notoriously biased against over 40 male caucasions. The test consisted of three questions. The first question was "What day is it?" Now there are many possible answers to this question and all could be correct. I could have said "This is the first day of the rest of my life" or I could have said " This is the last day I will ever race in the rain without a jacket" How could I have known that the answer they were looking for was...Saturday.

The second question was even more confusing. "Where are you?" Now I felt like saying "I'm 2 miles from the finish line s#@% head so give me a ride to the top of the hill!" But I managed to see through their charade and I correctly answered " I'm on Barloy Canyon Road." At this point my R.A.T. score was 50% and I was about to beat them at their own game so they whipped out the toughest question of all..."Who is the President?" They never told me which country they were thinking of and worse yet, they did not inform me that there was a time limit. Just as I was about to answer they told me that I had failed the R.A.T. test and I was going to be transported to a hospital in Salinas. This immediately made me realize the severity of my situation. The words "Hospital" and "Salinas" just don't belong together. It's an oxymoron.. like "Jumbo Shrimp" or "Head Butt". Fortunately I was able to convince my captors that they should take me to the first aid station...and that's where Dale found me. Wrapped in shiny blanket with a heater blowing up my ass and a thermometer in my mouth...or was it a heater in my mouth and a...........anyways I made it back to camp and everything returned to normal once Gabe made me a turkey sandwich.

We all had a great time and as you've already heard many Chicken Ranchers posted great results. I'm looking forward to Conquer The Canyons this weekend and Firestone next weekend. If any of you ever find yourselves in a similar situation in the future and some Parmedic wants to give you the R.A.T. test just stay calm and remember....THERE'S A TIME LIMIT!

Glad you're alright Matt!! Next time just ask Ron Takeda to go buy another rain jacket for himself, because every time he does that, it doesn't rain!

Training Week -- 4/9 to 4/15

Once again, not many hours but a lot of intensity.

Number of rides: 8 (two rides on Wednesday)
Riding time: 13 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 9 hrs
Best ride of the week: Sat RR on the Blvd course; >60 miles of 3-man rotation in the wind and hills at ~24 mph average.
Other: none

- Fiesta Island TT, 8.2 miles in 18:46

Such a Pro...

...crastinator I am. Just mailed the last of six 2006 tax returns with 30 minutes to spare before the PO closed. F'en CA adjustments mess me up every time. And stinkin' underpayment penalties... how ya s'posed to know how much ya gonna make when you're not a traditional worker type?!? And even the kids had to file (uhhh, I mean, I had to file for them) and, get this, they each owed $1 precisely. Honest, to Uncle Sam. $1 each. And for that I had to waste another coupla hours with TurboTax, including tracking down basis info for stock sold that was originally a spin-off six years ago. Basically, I just guessed...

Why, oh why can't we have a simpler tax system?? I really don't understand what is going on--and I have a Masters degree in Math! I just put numbers in and trust it (TurboTax) does the right thing. I do believe in progressive taxation--the better-off should pay more, after all how did they/you/we get to be better off in the first place?! But jeez, can't it all be simpler??

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fickle or What?

If you've ever gone by yourself to a bike race weekend, or a stage race, or even a single-day race with a long drive to and from, then you know that you have a lot of time to think. And think some more...

That is not always a good thing.

So here I am, down in San Diego all by myself, while my family enjoys yet another wonderful Santa Barbara weekend, and my bike-racing teammates are mostly up in Monterey at Sea Otter, probably happy as clams with all their podiums and what not. I'm very happy for them too, and where does that "Happy as clams" saying come from anyway?

But I digress, so let's get back to me...

Yesterday I rode an 8.2 mile time trial which was the first stage of the San Diego Omnium. I was one of only 20 riders to do the tt in the p/1/2 race. I got 16th, and was over two minutes behind winner Karl Bordine. I got a single omnium point.

And the rest of the day gave me lots of time to think.

Why am I down here? Why am I not doing the Masters race, either 35+ or 45+ where I belong? Jeez, with my tt time, I still would have been buried in those races! But at least I'd be with my peers and guys I know. Am I freakin delusional or what? I almost checked out and went home.

Your basic self-pitying baby.

So I got myself busy and went shopping, hunted for food, explored, napped, yapped on the phone and the computer, and went to bed early.

Fortunately, everything looks brighter in the morning. Today was a road race. Or in other words, a real race ...with tactics and drafting and alliances and terrain. Three laps on the brutal Boulevard course, for a total of 67 miles. Nice... anything longer and I'd be hurting lacking a feeder and too shy to ask people for help.

So I had an hour-long drive to get out there, again, lots of time to think. Only now I was back in control. What to do today? What would happen? How can I exploit? Two big teams: 5-Star Fish, basically the SoCal all-star team with Bordine and lots of other motors, and CyclingScience, a San Diego team with plenty of wattage themselves. And then some lone rangers like Thurlow and Luis Zamudio. My option seemed clear to me... go with the inevitable early break.

Upon arriving at the race course, I noticed two key differences from yesterday. One, it was very, very windy. And two, there were lots more guys racing today--we had maybe 50 or 60 in the p/1/2 and more teams were now in the hunt. Perfect.

So we roll out and on cue Matthew Johnson of 5-Star fish goes off the front with three others, including guys from AFP and LaGrange, each with teammates in the field. Right on, time to go. So I scoot on up there with LaGrange's Adrian Gerrits attached. Even better, as Adrian is a horse who always works.

We really drill it the first ten miles or so, flat and downhill with strong cross-winds, and first word from the motor official is that we've already pulled out two minutes. Right on! The strongest team in the race is marking everything behind us, and I just imagine how frustrated Thurlow must be getting.

Then as we start to climb back up, the early effort cracks half our group and soon we are three--Johnson (5-Star), Adrian, and me. I was concerned about dropping the other guys with teammates back in the field, but oh well...

Now it got really fun. It's been a long time since I was in a break that worked this smoothly. We were a unified machine, each doing our share, and all on the same page. How long each turn, where to be in the road, which side to pull off, who pulls up-hill and who pulls downhill. Unspoken... just business. Bike racin' business. And now we are allies, we survive or die together. When Johnson's rear derailleur got temprorarily hosed, we waited. When my fluid was running low, Adrian offered.

Oh yeah, it was nice to have constant company from the motor official, but best of all, he gave us regular updates on our gap. And get this, going into the last lap, we had nine (9:00) minutes on the field!! Only in an omnium babay!!

So it was pretty clear one of us would win this sucka. I was beginning to think that I was going best on the uphills, and as luck would have it, this course finishes on the uphill. I was worried about Adrian's sprint and figured we should try to drop him before the end. I figured I could out-sprint 5-Star uphill. I started putting more pressure on the climbs, just to see what happened. Not attacks, just pressure.

It's always an interesting transition when break-mates go from allies to competitors. I have to give Johnson credit, because he made that transition in a cold and calculated heartbeat. With about 8 miles to go, just after I pulled off near the crest of a longish roller, he launched a wicked attack and went over the top with a gap. This was bad news because he's a big guy and he flew down the other side with a couple of mph more than I could muster in the wind. Adrian detonated and was nowhere to be seen behind.

That's how we finished--Matthew Johnson (5-Star Fish All-Stars) won; yours truly got 2nd; and Adrian got 3rd. Then the big boys rolled in many minutes behind... Bordine, Thurlow, Zamudio, Vinson, etc.

So now I am happy again. I didn't win--that would have been too perfect--but today there was a bike race. With multiple dimensions, and tactics and terrain, and all those things that make bike racing special, and like no other sport.

And sometimes the early break succeeds!

So the omnium standings are: Johnson 1st, Bordine 2nd, Thurlow 3rd, me 4th, and Zamudio 5th.

Here's a blurry pic of today's point getters, and those in the gc with points. Of course, tomorrow's crit will jumble it all up again.

Time to go find a burrito to go with the beer I have on ice!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sea Otter News Flash!!!

MarkZen wins the 30+ 1,2,3 circuit race!!! Yeah babay!!!

He and some climber dude chased down a solo guy at the end and dropped him, then MarkZen lit him up in the sprint and won easily.


...and that's not his only podium in the last couple days... He got a 3rd in the 30+ 1,2,3 road race yesterday after being in a long five-man break that stretched its lead out to a couple of minutes. He came in just ahead of long-time pro Mark McCormack. (Also, one of the five in the break was a Spine guy who flatted ...Mark didn't know who it was but I'd guess Hutchinson)

Sea Otter results are here.

I haven't heard the stories that go with them but other local results include:

C-Walk winning the 40+ 1,2,3 and Chris Wire getting 2nd for the second week in a row. Boyer 3rd, Stetina 4th, Henri 5th.

Junior Grant Van Horn finally bagged a win at Sea Otter after a couple of frustrating 2nds in the last couple years. Look out Europe, here he comes!

Pops Larsen got a bronze in the 40+ 4s and TnA finished 17th.

And Jason got 3rd in the open 4s. Surely that's enough points now for an upgrade...

Feel free to add (or correct) any Sea Otter news with a comment or two. I'm down at the other end of the state missing the action, so I'd love to hear more updates!


I got 1 (one) point in the tt.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Irresponsible or What?

Still don't have our taxes done, yet I'm going off to another bike race this weekend. Or more precisely, I'm heading out later tonight because there's a TT tomorrow (Friday) that starts early in the morning. I didn't realize that when I signed up. Doh! Plus, this race is an omnium and there is the distinct possibility that I won't get any points in the tt, in which case I will be no better off than if I didn't do the tt at all. Like I said, irresponsible. Oh well, at least I'll have all of Monday and Tuesday for taxes.

But not all my shame is from tax procrastination... I'm also feeling a bit guilty because most of my teammates are up in Monterey for the annual Sea Otter festivities. Call me selfish, but Sea Otter is getting a little old. Yes it's a treat to race on Laguna Seca, and everyone should do that a few times, but Monterey is darned expensive and the races are spread out over a lot of days. (Of course, a true stud could really maximize the number of races up there this year... between category and Masters options, you could do either two circuit races and a road race, or vice versa, and then a crit or two in Santa Cruz on Sunday.)

Anyway, and here comes the true confession, take a look at the rain forecast for Saturday. Those numbers indicate the probability of precipitation.

Look at Monterey.

Now look at San Diego.

'nuff said.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Mumblings

I am the luckiest guy in the world to have a sweetie who will hang out in a feed zone in the middle of nowhere to hand a bottle or two to an old dork like me. Thanks to Bo Hebe for capturing the moment and allowing me to use the picture.

Folks, don't forget to always thank your feeder if you are fortunate enough to have one!

BTW, it seems my Copperopolis report was full of errors and oversights, e.g., I completely failed to mention--'cause I also failed to notice!--that Dan Martin bridged to Hernandez on that last lap, helped him keep the gap, and then detonated like a jihadist. Read the winner's report. What ever did we do before next-day race reports on the internet!?!

Or for that matter, before digital pictures posted on the internet...

A couple of old warriors: Henri and Chris D'Alusio at Copperopolis.


Seems there were a few other races this weekend too...

Like the inaugural US Open Cycling Championship in Virginia where all the top North American pros were. Apparently the race was a perfect springtime classic, with a tough cobbled hill and near blizzard conditions.

Symmetrics stud Svein (pronounced "swain") Tuft won solo after dropping his break partner.

That he won was no surprise to me, and let me tell you why... Last year Svein was in SB visiting Jake and one day I saw him out riding. It was a pretty cold crisp day in the winter time, maybe mid 40's or so but with abundant sunshine. I was descending Hwy 154 in full winter clothing and I passed Jake going up similarly dressed. Like all pros it seems, legs stay covered in training unless it's over 70 degrees. We each shout out "Hey" and continue on. Then, about a mile further down the hill, I see this guy riding up at like 5 mph with nothing on but bibs and shoes jersey, no legwarmers, no gloves, no helmet, ...nothing. And his bib straps were down too, flopping around his legs. He belted out an enthusiastic "HEY!!" as I went by. I figured this was some goofball Symmetrics staff person who wanted to go out for a ride with Jake but couldn't keep up...

But of course you know who it was... yep, it was Svein Tuft. I got the story on him later... this Canadian hardman is a lumberjack who enjoys Ultimate Fighting. ...not watching Ultimate Fighting, but doing it. For real.

Oh yeah, and about the ride that day... Jake said that when Svein got to Painted Cave Rd., he proceeded to get off his bike and lay down on the pavement to soak up some rays. Maybe it was up to 50 degrees by then!

All those wussy bike racers in Virginia didn't stand a chance once the snow started to fall!

[add/edit (11 April): hmmm, just noticed a huge spike in visitors from BC Canada... so, just in case, let me say that I do not now, nor have I ever, thought anyone associated with Symmetrics Cycling is or was a goofball. Further, and especially if Symmetrics Cycling rules require riders to wear helmets, I'd like to change the story to say that Tuft was most definitely wearing one. Other than that, all the rest is true. There, now I won't have any Ultimate Fighters knocking on my door, right?!?]


And locally there was the Island View crit this weekend too. Most of the team was there and we made a decent showing.

Here's MarkZen working the front like he loves to do! This guy is firing good right now and doing lots of racing. He got a couple of top-10s in the 30+ and the p/1/2 at Ontario on Sunday too.

Sorry to hear there were some nasty crashes out there in IV. New teammate Gary got caught in one and the consequences to his bike were devastating. Check out these two pictures. (Gary's the guy in blue and red about to pile on the downed Bike Barn rider.) Coincidence that this occurred in front of SOS Liquors?? I think not!

Fortunately Gary didn't get hurt too badly but his bike is totalled!

Welcome to the team Gary!! Now get yourself a Ridley.


Oh yeah, I guess there was some race in Belgium too.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Training Week -- 4/2 to 4/8

Not much riding; trip to NorCal for spring break.

Number of rides: 3
Riding time: 9 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 6 hrs
Best ride of the week: climbing Mt. Hamilton
Other: lots of walking
- having some constricted breathing when going hard (pollen and asthma, or just getting old?)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spring Breaking

Sorry for the lack of recent posts... we've been up here visiting family in NorCal for this second week of Spring Break and basically procrastinating a lot of stuff (taxes, pulling weeds and planting spring gardens, real paying work, training, blogging, ...that kind of stuff). Plus, limited internet access.

Oh yeah, and I still have some Ojai pics to post ...later.

One of the Bestest Road Climbs Around has to be Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose. I had a couple hours earlier this week so I went over there and rode up. What a treat--clean air above Silicon Valley, lush vegetation, wildlife, smooth pavement, and MINIMAL TRAFFIC!

These two guys (gals?) eyed me riding by near the top. Then, on the way down, I scared them off the road after coming around a corner.

Lots of other animals too quick for pictures... wild turkeys, hawks, a couple of Jethros on Harleys...

Lick Observatory at the top, and the view back down the mountain (Silicon Valley is somewhere down beneath all that haze).

Such an enjoyable climb! I want to ride up there every day. Hey, there's houses for sale down near the bottom!! Here's one ...3.5 acres, pool, views, 3,600 sq. ft...

Too bad they're asking $2Million!

Kicking Around SF for an Afternoon with the kids was a hoot. Ridin' BART and the Munis. Lots of walking: Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square to Lombard St to North Beach to Chinatown to the Financial District to AT&T Park.

Did I mention Ghirardelli??

(yeah, and the next day we went to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield ...oy)

But back to SF, the main reason we were there was to see the Giants play. I've kicked the pro-sports addiction, but we still love to go to Major League baseball games. We dropped 150 bones to sit ~20 rows up from first base and loved every minute of it.

In keeping with the diet of this particular trip, I had the pictured dinner at the ballpark. Yum, yum. Those are Gilroy Garlic fries by the way...

Guess how much this little dinner cost...

$21 !!! Dinner at the ballpark--worth every penny!

Here's Barry up to bat, and after a quick swat of the ball off the wall in right-center, he was on second. Where's USADA?

Copperopolis was today. I was flip-flopping on which race to do all the way up to arriving in Milton. Hmmmm, the aforementioned dietary habits this week, along with generally poor training recently--Mt. Ham ride excepted--scared me away from the 100+ mile p/1/2 race. Too bad as Levi ended up doing it. Hey MarkZen: you gotta give me advance warning about things like that... I could have been racing with Levi for what, a half mile or so!?! But the 45+ started at around 11:00 and it wouldn't be nice to make Gina wait around that long. Which left the 35+ race, sure to be a tough one. To tell the truth, I was eagerly anticipating this race since it would be an opportunity to put faces with some of the interesting blogs I read. For whatever reason, there's a pretty big community of NorCal masters bike racers who also blog. Fun stuff.

Anyway, 70 starters for this 3-lap 65 mile race, including all the strong NorCal teams--AMD Masters, Spine, Safeway, and CVC among others. Within a minute of starting, I remembered why the roads of Copperopolis are legendary for their bumpiness. I recalled that the last time I raced here was in the early 90's when Steve Larsen soloed for nearly the entire 100 miles and I went to the emergency room on Monday with severely strained ligaments in both wrists. There are no roads in SB that I can compare to these.

First lap was basically uneventful, well, other than somebody rubbing my rear wheel on the climb and then hitting the deck. Pretty sure I didn't cause that. Oh yeah, and shortly thereafter, I went off into the dirt to avoid somebody else's crash on the climb. And these things happened toward the front. God help those guys in the back! I gave a couple little digs on the hills just to see if anything might happen, but nada...

On lap two, we were down to ~20-30 guys and I suffered over the top of the big climb and lost some confidence. Then on the wind-swept back side, a strong break escaped with Hernando, Mike Hutchinson, and Kevin Metcalfe (good to see him back out there). So now about half the remaining group was made of Safeway, Spine, and AMD riders, so quite a burden fell on the rest of us. Chris Phipps (aka Pizza Man from fame) and Nick Theobald (Cal Giant Strawberries) did a lot of work but the gap slowly grew.

[add/edit: it wasn't Hutchinson out there w/ OV and Metcalfe, it was a Morgan Stanley guy ...oops, I guess this blog is about as accurate as the SB NewsPress! That is to say, I used second-hand info ...someone yelled that OV was up the road with Hutch so I reported that as gospel!]

The trio was out of sight by the start of the third and final lap, and things were looking bleak. These three are among the strongest masters in the country and they were pulling away. But then we got word that Metcalfe was dropped! Oh yeah!! Now surely Hutch and Hernando will be brought back by this powerful AMD machine (ha-ha, I'm typing this on a brand new AMD machine!). Over the top of the big climb and we were ~15 guys, of whom five were AMD! No slouches either--Jeff Angermann, Marco Hellman, Craig Roemer, and of course Metcalfe. So here is where yours truly made a tactical error. I figured it was a no-brainer that the AMD guys would just TTT at the front and take care of business. So, I didn't help much at all. Most of us didn't. Again though, Nick and Pizza Man worked. Kudos to them for racing.

Well, the AMD guys didn't get it done, and Hernando had a gap going into the final short climb before the descent to the finish. Hutchinson had a mechanical somewhere around this time and was out of the race, so we were a pack of ~15-20 guys chasing one. On that last climb, Pizza went to the front and drilled it ...for about 10 seconds. He then apologized for not having the gas, and dropped back. Next Mark Sasser punched it, I scooted up to him and we had a gap. Over the top it was us two plus Hellman (?) who inexplicably wouldn't pull. I politely inquired as to why, but I couldn't understand his response. No biggie. We mostly came back together for the hairball final bumpy, twisty descent, but some really good riding by Metcalfe shed all but 8-10 of us. Now it gets interesting because Hernando was in view just ahead with 1 km to go. His teammate Chris Wire (a UCSB alumni) punched it from fairly far out and we all scrambled after him but the line came up too quickly. We nearly caught Herndando ...but not quite. Dang, a few more and/or better pulls and we would have been sprinting for the win! Congrats Mike--your racing is very gutsy and impressive, and you've got the superior team from what I've seen.

The official results from the race site...

By the way, Levi won the p/1/2 race.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ojai -- Pics from the Pro Race

Lots of pictures below from the Pro race. However, since I just noticed that Blogger, i.e., Google, has a limit on the amount of free storage, there are only (!) around 30 pictures here. Thanks to Croy-key and MarkZen for some of these images.

Click on the images to get full-size versions.

Also, Croy-key has a CD of pictures from the hack races (35+, 2's, 3's, and 4's) featuring a lot of locals. I'll post some of those soon. Let's pass the CD around so people can get what they want from it, assuming Michael says it's ok...

So here's the Pro race from Ojai... Mostly pics of locals, ex-locals, and other folks you won't find on or VeloNews...

Before the call-ups...

Jake wonders how many people will get called up...

Even Walker got called up!

OV was going to get called up, but Dave Towle took one look at those goofy brake levers and said "No way!"

Carla giving last-minute instructions and informing the riders that drug-testing will be done!

Race promoter Bob Coble about to lead them off the line on his scooter...

...and they're off! Daniel got a good start.

The first few laps were furious and the group was like a long snake beneath the trees of Ojai

A long way from the back to the front!

CW looked really comfortable climbing the hill. He sat in the back for the beginning laps, always passing by guys getting popped.

Normally Daniel would eat up this race, but as you can see, he's having some knee trouble.

Steve Hegg was there to feed his boys on the SuccessfulLiving team. Not sure if that was legal or not...

It was sure nice to have some speed going into the hill.

Jake looked good on the hill too...

...and applied some pressure to hurt people.

Cody was usually tucked in comfortably...

...but was thinking "sheesh, I thought I'd seen the last of this guy when he left town!"

Mark Zen has a big lens!!

...which is why he can capture gems like this. Click on the image and look at the corner.

Someone else sat down on that corner too. Nice shots Zen!!

The obligatory Clinger shot. Gotta say, for a big guy, he sure looked comfortable.

CW got himself in a little move with Wohlberg and some others...

...but since none of the big teams were represented, it didn't go anywhere. Still nice to see CW giving it a go.

Jake rode the front a lot.

Flying through the first corner.

Even the big boys were showing signs of strain...

...but that's when they attack, which is why they're the big boys!

Ryan and Jake nearing the end.

Uthman looked good. I guess he upgraded. Good for him!

Hernando looked good the entire race. Between the 35+ and the Pro race, he rode more laps than anyone else in Ojai ... nearly three hours out there!

Little groups tried hard to escape the inevitable field sprint...

...but in the end, Dominguez and Toyota-United would not be denied. Just after this pic, he blew by Healthnet's Russell Downing to win his second race of the weekend!