Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday Tardies

Sorry for the recent bloggage blockage... No inspirations lately ...post TdF let-down ...no local racing for this reporter ...just sloggin' through the Dog Days of summer.

But some guys have it more interesting...

What would you do if one of your buds was gonna be on the podium in the Tour de France, and he (or his wife in this case) called you up a couple days before the end with a last-minute invite to the team's celebration party in Paris? Pack a bag, hop on a plane and go? Not many of us will have to deal with that question, but last week MarkZen did. After a few hours of waffling, he was on his way. Can't wait to hear the stories. And don't say something like "what happens in Paris, stays in Paris!"


More TdF... I had so much fun skewering Rasmussen that my mouse was twitchin' for another Photoshop round when the rumors were rampant about Soler testing positive. I was gonna morph these two photos...

...to produce some hideous, gawky creature that swoops down from the high mountains of Columbia to feast on almost-dead carcasses. Alas, the internet rumors were false and we can still hope that maybe he was/is clean. I loved his clunky over-geared climbing style and the way he seemed to relish his opportunity to be in with the big boys.

So yeah, until another shoe drops, I'll still be hoping that the young guns of this year's TdF really were legit.


Speaking of youngsters, it was refreshing to see some new'ish punks (affectionately said btw) out on the group rides this weekend. I bolted from the bunch on the first Casitas climb but was caught on the second one by Colter Cederloff, David DuBois, and Brandon Droese. Colter is home for summer break from UC San Diego where he studies Mechanical Engineering with a minor in spinning up mountains effortlessly at 110 rpm. David goes to Cal Poly and he's home putting in big mileage and getting really fit. And of course everyone knows about Brandon... racing age 15, and already putting the hurt on good folks around SB. Bright future, that one! And then on Sunday those youngsters were joined by Amy Chandos, a Goleta girl who's home from UC Davis. Apparently she just started riding a bike six months ago and already she's really strong and racing Collegiate A's. Add Steve Weixel and Chester Gilmore (both Echelon) into that group, and you've got six good-and-getting-better bike riders in their teens to early-20s. I can't remember the last time there was such a big and active group in that age range around SB. But best of all, these kids pull the average age of the group rides back down below the 40-year-old mark! Nice to have conversation topics other than about 401Ks, hemorrhoids, and divorce proceedings.


So how about that little lecture from the CHP before the start of the Sunday Worlds?!? Not that we don't need it--the ride has gotten pretty bad--but what irks me is that they seem more concerned about driver complaints than about safety issues. A couple Montecito housewives whine about being delayed for 30 seconds behind the group, and next thing you know the CHP is dogging the ride with a helicopter and multiple motorcycles to catch our moving violations. Yet when a 2-ton pickup truck roars past us on Foothill at 70 mph with just a couple feet separating mere anger from gruesome and deadly mayhem, there is indifference bordering on a well-you-shouldn't-be-riding-there attitude.

We do need to clean up our act. Taking up the whole road when riding at 17 mph is lame. I don't know the legalities of impeding traffic flow (as the CHP claims we do) but to me the more important issue is the public perception that we're above the law. They have to yield, stop, and wait, but we're out riding expensive bicycles wearing colorful outfits and we don't follow the rules of the road. A festering rage builds up inside those drivers with a few loose screws anyway, and then one day that 70 mph angry pass actually hits a few people sending body parts flying into the avo orchard. I have a sense of doom about it.

Bottom line, in my opinion, is that we need to move over quickly when holding up traffic. I think drivers will be patient if they see our efforts to help them pass. They'll learn that we're responsive and not oblivious to their presence. Further, when a car reaches an intersection before we do, we yield unless the driver clearly offers to let us go first. That's just common courtesy.

Training Week -- 7/23 - 7/29

Yeah! Finally got in a decent training week again. Hoping to have good form from late August through mid Sept.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 17 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 8 hrs
Best ride of the week: Wed, 3.5 hrs of solo climbing in the heat.
Other: none
- OSM in 15:26
- Doing all my recovery riding w/ McFlurry!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fried Chicken Dork

Please don't tell me anybody thought Chicken Dork wasn't doing something naughty, 'cause he just oozed sneakiness and sleaze.

Yeah, yeah, I know, he's not the only one, but for the first time in at least fifteen years I have some confidence that much of the TdF peloton is not doped. That makes it all the more crucial to catch those that are still on the program. Snagging Vino was huge; booting Chicken Dork in yellow is even better.

Fry, Chicken Dork, fry...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Our Family of Roadies

Gina heading out on the bike course for the SB Duathlon on Sunday. She's got a 1/2-Ironman coming up in a couple weeks, and she can ride 60 miles pretty comfortably now!

A quick swap-out of Gina's seat-post and seat, jam Brian's BMX seat/post all the way down, and voila... he's got a road bike to ride! And their feet are close in size so he's even got SPD-cleated shoes to wear. He even agreed to wear a pair of dork pants, i.e., cycling shorts.

Two rides now, and he seems to really like the faster roll of a road bike.

Oh yeah, the last member of the family... my teenage daughter.

On a road bike?? Wearing dork pants?!?!


Training Week -- 7/16 - 7/22

Was still sick early in the week and didn't ride at all Mon-Wed. Definitely losing fitness. I've noticed that when you get older, it really hurts to take multiple days off the bike.

Number of rides: 4
Riding time: 9 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 3 hrs
Best ride of the week: Friday, 15 miles with my 12-year-old son Brian. It was his first ride ever on a road bike. He even got comfortable with the clip-in pedals and only fell over once. I had to reassure him that even guys who've been riding for years sometimes fall over!
Other: no
- 10kft climbing day on Saturday w/ Gary-Ann and the Professor

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DNA or Dedication?

Something I've thought a lot about, and observed quasi evidence over many years, is the following question...

How much success in bike racing is due to genetics, and how much is due to hard work?

Phrasing it as above is pretty abstract, so let me ask it this way, using a more concrete example...

There are 25 John Smiths registered with USA Cycling. More than half of them are geezers over age 40... let's throw them out and pick a younger one. How about John Smith from Elko, Nevada, racing age 28 and a relatively novice bike racer. (If by far-out chance, John Smith reads this, I hope he knows "relative novice" is not a slam...) So let me pose the question this way:

If John Smith had unrestricted time to train, as much rest as he required, had access to whatever bike equipment he needed, received expert coaching, and was able to race as often as he wanted... how many years until John reaches a plateau, and what category (or Pro level) do you think he could be?

Surely you're smart enough to realize John Smith is just an embodiment of the more abstract "average under-30 male cyclist" that I'm asking about, but feel free to rework the question any way you like to address the issue! Same question applies for a typical female cyclist, but there were no Jane Smiths.

Also, it should be obvious but I guess needs to be stated anyway given the current climate and people's thoughts about doping in the amateur peloton... John Smith is completely clean and doesn't even employ borderline practices like using an altitude tent.

I really, really want your opinions. Please click on the comment option at the bottom of this post and share. Anonymously or not ...either is fine.

I'll go first.

I think John can become at least a USCF Category 1, more likely a Pro on a lower-level Tier III US domestic team. I think it would take him four-to-six years to get there. He'd train 20-30 hours a week and race every single weekend from Feb through September.

By his second or third year John would have figured out clearly which genetic hand he was dealt. If he leans in the Michael Rasmussen direction, then he would have started focusing heavily on his climbing and endurance. Alternatively, if John is a bigger fellow like Karl Menzies then he would fully develop his time-trialing/rolleur abilities, and he'd do a lot of stage races. Finally, if John finds he has an abundance of fast-twitch fibers, then he works hard on his anaerobics and sprinting skills, and of course he becomes an adept bike handler because he races 60-70 crits a year. (hey look, he's at Super Week right now!!! just kiddin') You get the point I'm making ...everybody has some genetic predisposition in some direction or another--John figures his out and takes maximum advantage.

For any Cat 1 or D-III pros that read this, please don't think I'm trivializing your own accomplishment by suggesting that the typical John Smith could reach that level. It's quite the opposite really. Although you perhaps have good genetics, more than likely you've succeeded through extreme dedication and hard work. When many racers opt for the easy "training" rides, you go punish yourself a few extra hours. You (and your team) race every weekend, maximizing your opportunities for good results and upgrade points. You stuck with it and saw year-over-year improvements. You lived the bike-racer life!

Those of us that haven't or didn't reach that level, should be honest with ourselves as to the reason(s). I'll cite two biggies in my case... I never could put together an entire year of racing frequently, much less four or five years in a row. And second, I still can't seem to train beyond about the 15-hour-per-week level, despite having the time and desire to do so! Although my laziness is the dominant factor in both the above, I also wouldn't choose to sacrifice so much time with my family. Most of us don't. We balance our bike-racing hobby with a lot of other stuff in life. But that's back to my point ...it's a choice, and not a predetermined genetic limit.

So again, I solicit your opinions. There's no right or wrong (obviously) and I seriously doubt anyone can reference a study to prove this one way or another. It's just fun to think about in the abstract, as well as applied to any individual's own situation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Garden Quiz Question #4

Alrighty then, let's move that last yucky post down...

What kind of flower is this?

Hint: once again, it's from a food plant that never should have been allowed to grow this long.

It's an onion flower!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chronology of a Food Poisoning

Saturday 7:30 PM
Barbecued tri-tip for dinner, along with baked potatoes, fruit, and pre-bagged spinach salad from Trader Joe's. Only Gina and I ate the spinach salad.

Sunday 6:00 AM
Get up early for group ride. Eat granola and oats for breakfast, and of course, drink coffee.

Sunday 6:45 AM
Gina leaves for training run in Hope Ranch.

Sunday 8:20 AM
I leave for ride to meet Chris Hahn. Arrive at his house 5 minutes late. He's not ready. Some things never change.

Sunday 9:15 AM
Just catch on group ride as they head down Cabrillo. Sit in back and chit-chat.

Sunday 10:00 AM
Ride hard around Goob but skip Bates. Feel bonkish despite drinking plenty of Cytomax. Sweating way too much for nice 70-degree SB day.

Sunday 10:30 AM
Head up into hills with smaller group to take long way home. Suffer at the back and get dropped repeatedly.

Sunday 12:00 PM
Arrive home. See Gina laying on bed. Drink OJ and V-8. Feel rumbling in large intestines and quickly go sit on toilet. Take shower. Lay on couch and watch last 10 km of TdF. Feel dizzy and nauseated. Get big empty bowl and go lay on bed too.

Sunday 2:30 PM
Feel imminent eruption. Sprint to bathroom ready to barf. Nothing comes. Go back to bed.

Sunday 2:45 PM
Eruption! No time to make it to toilet. Use big bowl. First heave is V-8/OJ mixture. Next comes distinctive taste of Cytomax ...in large quantity. Limp toward toilet trying not to slosh concoction out of bowl. Dump it in toilet. Splash. Flush. More heaves. Doesn't expel as easily. Mushy chunks of granola and oats, some pieces coming out nose. Drenched in sweat now.

Sunday 2:50 PM
Wash face, rinse mouth, fall back onto bed. Feel much better. Drink some juice. Wonder why barf came out in strata of reverse-chronological-order of day's food/drink consumption. Isn't stomach a big mixing bowl? Nod off...

Sunday 3:00 PM
Gina's turn. She makes it to toilet. Hers is much thicker. Glops and plops. Her lunch was yogurt with fresh berries.

Sunday 3:10 PM
We decide the spinach salad must have been contaminated.

Sunday 3:40 PM
Wake up sweating. Take temperature. 102.8

Sunday 3:45 PM
Round two. Throw up the juice. Body wants to eject more. Convulsing dry heaves. A lot of sound and fury, not much product. A few more granola chunks.

Sunday 4:00 PM
Steve Miley shows up like a vision with ginger-ale, tea, 7-Up, and apple-cider vinegar. Trade him a wireless bike computer for his bounty of drinks.

Sunday 6:00 PM
Want to watch local news. Surely there's a story about a massive E coli outbreak or something. Cannot get out of bed.

Sunday 6:30 PM
Round three. Blast out the ginger ale. On hands and knees for five minutes of violent dry heaves. Best abdominal work-out ever. Crawl back to bed and fall asleep.

Sunday 8:00 PM
Crack open eyelids and notice room is getting dark. Feel desperate need to brush teeth but cannot get up. Nod off between towels with wet wash-cloth on head.

Monday 1:00 AM
Wake up very thirsty. Drink a bottle of water. Fall back asleep.

Monday 6:00 AM
Finally feel a bit better. Take garbage can out to street. Smell almost makes me lose it again. Wash hands. Back to bed.

Monday 8:00 AM
Drink juice and eat fruit. Back to bed. Dizzy and aching head.

Monday 12:30 PM
Take shower and brush teeth. Aaahhhhh.

Monday 2:00 PM
Gina takes unused portion of spinach salad back to Trader Joe's and tells our story. They apologize, refund the price, give her flowers, and take name and phone number.

Triple washed? Not enough.

Training Week -- 7/9 - 7/15

I don't schedule rest weeks in advance because, inevitably, things come up and push cycling to the back burner. Unforeseen work problem; last-minute business trip; sickness. This was one of those weeks.

Number of rides: 4
Riding time: 10 hrs (8.5 on Sat/Sun)
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 1 hr
Best ride of the week: Casitas loop on Saturday
Other: none
- Had a nasty cold Mon-Fri

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Obsessed with a Bike Race This Week

I have a confession to make. I've been wasting even more time than usual obsessing over a bike race--a series of races really--and it hasn't been the Tour de France. In fact, until today, I was regularly forgetting about the daily live TV coverage of each TdF stage. I wouldn't remember it until my morning visit to cyclingnews where I'd see the bold link to "Live Coverage Now On" and then I'd remember and go turn on the TV (sorry Bjorn!) and typically catch the last couple kms.

No, it wasn't the TdF, but rather it's been the US Masters National Championships in Seven Springs, PA, that was getting my limited attention span. Had there been live TV coverage, I'd have been up at the crack of dawn to watch it. And there would have been drama. Would Druber Jr. finally get his TT Stars-'n-Bars jersey? Could Lindsay finally get his now that the road course had some real climbing? Would the SoCal sprint monsters have their way with the rest of the country's top Masters in the crits?

No, no, and no.

Within minutes of the time trial, Druber the Elder let us know the results. His 'lil bro got 2nd to Thurlow by a mere 25 seconds. A few minutes after that, good ol' TnA did the math to determine that, yes, had Druber Jr. used the optimal tire configuration that he would have WON the tt! And the emails started flying. Gotta love it! Masters racers at our finest ...post-race woulda, coulda, shoulda! (For the record, I've become a believer in the rolling resistance superiority of certain clinchers with latex tubes... which is what TnA has been saying for a couple years now!)

The table below has the men's TT podiums, up to 50-54. (The red indicates a California rider.)

30-34Joshua FrickKarl BordineDaniel Larson
35-39Richard FeldmanPaul MartinChris Harkey
40-44Michael HutchinsonAndy ApplegateDirk Pohlman
45-49Thurlow RogersMark SwartzendruberSkip Foley
50-54David ZimblemanKent BostickGlenn Swan

The crits mostly came down to field sprints, except for a dominating solo win by All-Star Fish Karl Bordine in the 30-34. It appeared that he rode his typical crit, tail-gunning for the early part, and then blasting off the front with so much power that nobody could follow. Ouch! MarkZen got a nice 8th despite being hampered by a last-lap crash. NorCal roadie Mike Hutchinson won the 40-44 crit to get his 2nd jersey of the week! Sadly, Stevie Strickler was beaten in the sprint and relinquished his 45-49 title.

The crit podiums:

30-34Karl BordineMarco AlediaDaniel Larson
35-39Jason SnowMichael GibsonMark Olson
40-44Michael HutchinsonTony TrujilloDavid Bonser
45-49Skip FoleySteve StricklerAnthony Taylor
50-54Kent BostickAubrey GordonCharles Townsend

The road races sounded epic, with tons of climbing and brutal heat. But look at that California presence on the podiums!

30-34Peter CannellMatt JohnsonDan Vinson
35-39Paul MartinWilliam GaultJoseph Ruggery
40-44Dirk PohlmannMichael HutchinsonChris Wire
45-49Thurlow RogersMarco HellmanKevin Metcalfe
50-54Wayne StetinaMalcolm HillLindsay Blount

I pilfered a few pics...

5-Star Fish Matt Johnson pounding up the final climb to get 2nd in the 30-34 race.

Teammate Dan Vinson just a bit behind him, on his way to 3rd. The All-Star Fishes had quite a presence in PA, getting several podiums and being in lots of action. Their sprinter Chris DeMarchi was in lots of moves but it never quite worked out.

MarkZen going flat out up the finish climb.

He got 8th in the RR, 8th in the crit, and top-15 in the TT. Pretty impressive all-around effort.

Amgen's Gus Corona was California's only top-10 in the 35-39 RR.

A great week for Mike Hutchinson in the 40-44: 1st TT, 1st crit, 2nd RR.

Thurlow rode away from the 45-49 field at the end, putting a minute into 2nd place.

Hey, where'd everybody go??

Strickler working hard.

Druber Jr. glad to be done!

Wayne Stetina winning the 50-54 road race. How many has he won over the years??

Defending champ Malcolm Hill finishing a close 2nd.

Lindsay was going good early, making the break and putting in big time over the field.

In the feed zone.

But the heat took its toll and he had to let the front two go, but 3rd is still a damn fine result!

NorCal's Mark Caldwell finishing 6th. He's won a national championship or two over the years.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Some La Mirada pics

I was a bit too scattered to take many pictures, but I did get a few of the 3s race (with SB boys Gary and Steve) and the early going in the 35+. (As always, click on the picture to see full size.)

The 3s field.

Taking a chance on an early solo break.

Looking back to see the chase.

The chase.

Gary and Steve putting pressure on the climb.

Which certainly caused some pain.

But in the end, the field was together for the sprint. Gary got 4th and Steve finished in the bunch.

The 35+ race was part of the Master's Cycle League which seems to have fostered a pretty good team competition.

The field was stacked with Cynergy, Amgen, Central Coast Mag, NOW/MS, Sixtufit, and Velocity riders.

Small groups got away early. Here is Simon Nung (did he crash in the p/1/2?) leading a couple CCM riders.

Being pursued by Amgen.

And by Velocity and Cynergy's Mark Scott.

Soon the group coagulated into a strong break.

Liebert keeps the pressure on just hard enough to discourage any chasers.

Too bad I focused on the ivy in the background instead of on Dotsie!

Training Week -- 7/2 - 7/8

Mixed it up a bit with some shorter intervals and some sprints.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 13 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: 4th-of-July climbing in the early morning
Other: nothing
- Had a mild cold Friday-Sunday

Saturday, July 07, 2007

La Marauder Grand Prix (or Watch Out US Elites, C-Walk is On Form!!)

Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on south-bound I-5 in about Norwalk, watching the clock step toward my 45+ race time, I started getting a tad bit stressed that I'd miss the start, or at least have to really scramble to make it. But then the traffic cleared up and next thing we know, we're in La Mirada. 30 minutes 'til race time--no problem. In retrospect, I wish I had missed the start...

45+, 45 minutes on a ~2-mile square course. A 1/4 mile big ring hill, and a small rise before the line were all we had to work with. Oh yeah, plus some heat and wind. Lacking a warm-up of any sort, I sat in for the first 20-30 minutes. Guys like Greg Liebert and Dave Worthington did some attacking, along with some Simple Greenies like Jim Edwards, Tino Riveron, and Gary Wall, but nothing ever got organized or became threatening. From about 15-20 minutes to go, I tried to force the issue by jamming up the hill each lap and attacking the descent too. I think (or hope?) I hurt some folks, but nobody (ahem, DAVE and LARRY!) would help me keep the pressure on to snap the elastic. Oh well. Bell lap and Gary Wall takes a flier... Oh those never work!!! Ooops. This time it did! He held it for a nice win. A bunch of fast guys got the rest of the top-10 spots. Your reporter was in the perfect spot for the sprint, sitting 3rd wheel on two huge dudes (Amgen's Bob Neary and a Morgan Stanley guy) but when I couldn't match their acceleration I sat up.

Now, the 20-minute gap I was hoping for between the 45+ and the p/1/2 start got reduced to about 4 minutes. I did a faster sprint to my car (to switch jerseys and collect another bottle) than I had done in the race, consequently after I ran back to the line, my heart rate was still in the 150s. With a puddle of sweat growing below me, I scanned the group. That put my heart rate up into the 160s because I saw a full Rock Racing bunch, a couple of Jittery F'in Joes, and of course C-Walk and Rigo Meza for good measure. So much for cherry picking a race while everyone is back in PA or at Infineon.

Sorry for the rambling... let's get to the race report, k?!

P/1/2, 90 minutes, good field, 50-60 guys. Early break goes with some Rock's and also Cookie. They're caught at around the 20-minute mark. By the 30-minute point, I'm in a break with some good horsepower (inc. C-Walk, Nate Diebler, Uthman Ray, two Rocks, and the aussie J F'in Joes guy) and soon we've got 40 seconds. Trouble was, C-Walk was jumpy, Uthman was surgie, and the Rocks weren't putting their hearts into it because their closers Bahati and Kayle were back in the group. But most significant to me, I was starting to cramp. (WTF!? In a crit?? That stupid 45+ race took more out of me than I expected! Wah, wah, wah...)

Our break had some horsepower.

But it wasn't enough for C-Walk, and he wanted to bust out...

Sorry C-Walk, this is all we got!!!

30 minutes go by and not much changed except that C-Walk was hanging solo 10-15 seconds otf. What a kook I thought to myself. Then some strong reinforcements came up to us: Bahati, Kayle, the other J F'in J, and Rigo. But our group was now too big, and guys stopped working and guys started attacking it. With 25 minutes to go, the field came back up to us. And C-Walk was still up the road. With two laps to go, a group of 7 pinched off on the hill, and Cookie (lucky #7, on 7/7/07!) made this selection. It was a perfect mix--representation from each of the strong teams. But guess what, they couldn't reach C-Walk either! Cookie gave it a strong go up the hill on bell lap, but didn't separate. That effort cost him his sprint so he tail-gunned it to the finish for a well-earned 8th place. I assume the sprinters in our group got the remaining places--I couldn't tell you for sure from my vantage point, if you know what I mean. I coasted in at the back.

So let's review... a 90-minute crit, albeit with some wind and a small incline. Rock Racing was there, one week past waxing Toyota-United and 140 other guys at Manhattan Beach. A couple of big-time Jittery Joes (is that an oxymoron?) and the usual SoCal brutes. And wispy-crispy C-Walk rides away from them solo? Damn Right he did!! He wants to reclaim that Elite Road Championship jersey next week in Seven Springs, PA, and he's peaking for it. You're on notice all you CalGiant Strawberries and who ever else is heading out there.

Race pictures from Steve Weixel's excellent gallery.

Friday, July 06, 2007

July 6th, 1997

Ten years ago today, Santa Barbara cyclist Barrett Holmen lost his life due to injuries sustained in a crash during a circuit race on Shoreline Drive. I only knew Barrett casually, the way you know somebody from a bunch of small snippets of conversation during group rides, but it was clear to me that he was a very good young man. Like many bike racers in their early 20s, he was full of enthusiasm and energy. And talent too, evidenced by his rapid progression through the USCF categories. If I remember correctly, he had just graduated UCSB and was giving a go at bike racing. He was Keith Horowitz' roommate.

That 4th-of-July weekend in 1997, through the hard work of Marty Church and Doug Knox among others, SBBC promoted a three-day four-stage omnium. The event was unique for Santa Barbara racing in that there was only a single race--pro/1/2--and it had a large cash prize list. That brought many top racers to town, including Tony Cruz, Roberto Gaggioli, Chad Gerlach, Adam Sbeih, and Steve Hegg. SBBC had a full squad led by Jamie Paolinetti and also including Chris Hahn, Marty Church, Steve Wright, me, and young Barrett.

The Friday-afternoon first stage was a 100-lap crit at Research Park. A couple of us made it into a large break that lapped the field, but we didn't do very well in the sprint. Saturday morning was a six-mile tt on Cathedral Oaks, and then the afternoon featured a fast crit around Alameda Park. We were out-gunned in these stages too, and thus were not in gc contention going into the last day. Because of our relatively poor results, the team's mood was not very good. Except for Barrett--he continued to be upbeat and forward-looking.

Sunday's stage was a 65-mile circuit race up and down Shoreline Drive. The top looped through the parking lot above Ledbetter and the lower part made a U-turn in front of City College. It was a scenic ocean-front course and a beautiful Santa Barbara summer day. The race was fast and furious from the start as the gc contenders and their teams tried to control the race. About an hour into it, there was a crash involving Barrett, and the race was stopped temporarily to allow an ambulance on the course. None of us knew the extent of his injuries as he was taken off to the hospital.

The race was restarted and within a few laps Chris Walker and I broke away with one of Cruz's teammates sitting on. Being that none of us were in gc contention, our gap was allowed to grow. We settled into that small-breakaway auto-pilot rhythm where you take the same fluid lines through turns and rotate smoothly and quickly. It was oddly peaceful despite the loud music, raucous announcing, and spectator noise. After about 30 or 40 minutes, as we crested the rise to Shoreline Park, we came upon a surreal scene--it was silent and several officials were standing in the road in front of us with outstretched arms. They were telling us to stop. I made immediate eye contact with John McCarthy and without any words I knew what had happened. Barrett had died. I coasted over to the grass, fell down, and began to cry. There were hundreds of people in stunned silence. Friends, family, racers, and strangers alike, all trying to comfort each other and process the enormity of what had happened. It was too much. A random and tragic accident during a bicycle race. A young life--full of hope and promise and positivity--had ended that morning.

I went to Barrett's memorial service and listened from the back row as his friends and family remembered what an upbeat and funny character he was. Jamie spoke about how refreshing it was to mentor a young bike racer so eager to learn. He also wrote a touching article in VeloNews. A hundred SB cyclists rode to the bluffs in Hope Ranch to quietly memorialize him.

The next month SBBC raced at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. The 180-man field allowed us to lead the first lap as a tribute to our fallen teammate. From lap two onward however, it was non-stop full-gas speed. I'm not sure I ever saw the front. In one of the most inspired performances I have ever seen, Jamie won the race from a breakaway. (And breaks almost never succeed at that race!) Truly incredible.

Now it's been exactly ten years since the crash, and the intensity and sadness of that day are forever impressed on my psyche. But so is the class and warmth that the cycling community showed in the days and weeks afterward. We all share a strong bond--bike racing is hard and can be dangerous. Cyclists are passionate people and the goodness shines bright when tragedy hits one of our own.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Garden Quiz #3

Onions on steroids? or a farmer who was too lazy to pull these at the right time?

(too easy...)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Manhattan Beach Bum

It's hard to get motivated to write reports for races in which you sucked. I could just pretend Manhattan Beach GP never happened--or that I didn't participate--rather than admit to my weaknesses, failures, and general lameness.

But then this blog would be no better than the Santa Barbara News Press, our local paper that never publishes any story that might cast itself in a negative light. In fact, this blog would have no content at all if I did that!

So yeah, I raced Manhattan Beach. And I was a bum.

The course is basically an extended criterium, about 1.3 miles per lap, traveling back and forth along opposite sides of a narrow park. A couple little bumps make you shift, but never out of the big ring, and they're short enough that a good draft pulls you up and over with out any extra effort. The highlight of the course is the Chevron Spin Cycle, a cute phrase from Ralph Elliot to denote the fast sweeping final turn before the sprint. It's taken out hundreds of racers over the years.

45+ for 45 minutes; Big field, maybe 100 riders, lots of motors and sprinter types. And Thurlow. Half way through, I was on his wheel as he ramped up and took a prime ...and then kept going. He pulled away me and Jim Edwards (Simple Green) and we quickly got a pretty good gap. After a lap or two, I saw a group of three coming up fast and about to catch us. They were maybe five or ten bike lengths off. I was pretty red-lined and figured I'd sneak in a bit of a rest by dropping back to them, and then rejoin the rotation all refreshed in our new, bigger, happier group.

Yeah, I know... that was a really stupid idea. We never rejoined. Turns out they were pretty red-lined too. A couple laps later we were absorbed by the field. Thurlow and Edwards were only about 20-30 seconds out there, but that's a hard gap to cross when they're going 27-28 mph. I tried a few times but the wind slapped me around and said "No Way". Kim Bleth gave it a go with a couple laps left but he was denied also. Sonance and Simple Green had things under control. Thurlow won. Edwards 2nd. And a mob sprinted for 3rd with your reporter sitting in the back taking notes.

Note to self: Never, ever, ever give up contact with the break until you're bleeding out your eyeballs and about to puke. Skip some turns; absorb the heckling; don't be a moron!

There would be another chance...

Cat 2; 60 minutes; Huge field. No single team had more than a few guys. The race would be chaos. MarkZen, Cookie, and I all had the same primary goal--get in a move and work to make it stick. We tried, we really did. We each got in a move or two but nothing ever got more than about 10-15 seconds. 100 galloping guys behind saw to that. I felt bad for the SC Velo guy I went otf with one time. His pulls were 150% of mine but he never complained a bit. Sorry dude. With 6-7 laps to go, Jonathan Eropkin (CVC) took off and got a pretty nice gap. He had a guy with him at first but then dumped him and continued on solo. He stayed out there until a couple laps remained. Wanna know what Jon's pre-race-day ride was? The Climb-to-Kaiser, a 155 mile slog from baking-hot Fresno up into the mountains! We're not worthy!!

So on bell lap the inevitable chaos unfolded. No single team to take charge, not even a couple of teams. I tried to bring Cookie up toward the front, but after getting part way there, he realized he had a soft tire and couldn't go through the turn. So I sat up and resumed my note-taking duties. I observed a turbulent mad dash down the back stretch to the last corner. Ventura's Mike Easter (Time Factory team) went into it third wheel which is pretty much the perfect spot. Once he straightened his bike out, he bolted for the line and won in a photo finish. Nice job Mike!


Other races I saw bits of...

SB's Kieren Cox got a nice 3rd in the 4's race. He gave credit to our Tuesday lunch-time rides for getting him fit enough to stay up front. Sure that helps, but all his racing at the velodrome probably did more for his ability to keep that position than anything else. 14-year-old Brandon survived a harrowing crash all around him to finish in one piece also.

The pro women's race was a clinic put on by the Cheerwine team with occasional-SB-resident Laura Van Gilder taking the win. Once again, any SB folks she's beaten in the polo-fields sprint... don't feel bad. That woman is FAST!

35+ was a field sprint. blah, blah, blah.

The pro race...

This was an exciting one. I missed the early going as I cooled down and changed but when I got back, Daniel was off the front solo. What a horse. Hopefully his knee trouble is behind him and he can continue to put in these really exciting performances. BTW, his gap was starting to fade when they rung the bell for a $500 cash prime. He gutted it out one more lap and won it!

The field had a strong SoCal flavor with SuccessfulLiving, LaGrange, and the All-Star Fishes being very active, snagging primes and sending guys up the road. But the buzz from the crowd was all about Ivan Dominguez, who was tail-gunning every lap. When would Toyota-United bring him up and start trying to control the race?

SB's Adrian looked good and was often near the front. Sure would be nice if he were riding for our team instead of LaGrange...

Look at Neil Shirley leaning in the Spin Cycle!

Well, with a few laps remaining both Toyota United and Rock Racing started massing at the front. Tony Cruz, being VIP status, was allowed to hang up there too. Every one else... take a back seat. This would be a showdown between Bahati and Dominguez.

...and Bahati would take it!

For those who are really bored--and you must be if you've read this far--check out the full-length video coverage of the MBGP races at IBN Sports.