Monday, March 31, 2008

San Dimas Stage Race -- Redux and Random Ruminations

I need a muse. Last week I had planned on writing a good (ha-ha) pre-race post about SDSR and all the intricacies of this great race. I would've also predicted g.c. winners and contenders, and it turns out I'd have been correct in five of the nine different events. Pre-race intel was nearly spot on.

And then during the race, I had planned to take great photos to post along with near real-time results and stories, thereby scooping all the "real" news sources out there on the net. Turned out my only problems with that plan were: (1) I take crappy pictures, and (2) I was too cheap to pay the $10/day for internet access at our hotel. Sorry get what you pay for here. And what I don't pay for!

So, if you've arrived at this blog expecting some witty stories full of insight and insider info, best move along now. Otherwise, if work is so boring that you're willing to stick around, all I can offer you is some random bits and pieces from my memory and my memory card.

Stage 1: The Tricky GMR Time Trial

I say "tricky" because despite doing this thing four or five times, I still can't figure out how to ride it. And judging by the post-race moping I heard, I'm not alone. Yeah sure, it's only 3.8 miles and climbs about 1,000 feet, so the simple advice is to... wait for it... go really hard all the way. Ha-ha. If only it were so easy!

First you have the equipment choices. Aero or weight? The slope of this thing puts you right in that middle ground. Same with gearing... big ring vice little ring. And ask Oscar Sevilla about shifting issues! But for me the worst part is the non-constant nature of the course: the false-flat first km, the shifting wind, the slope and direction changes, and that eternal last km. All of it conspires to keep you out of a rhythm.

Alas this year I thought maybe my strategy really was simple. Thurlow Rogers was my 30-second man so, obviously, since he's such an experienced time trialer, all I had to do was pace off of him. Surely he'd get it right! Do you see any flaws with that plan?

Yep, sure enough I couldn't keep him in sight except for a couple switchbacks where I could tell I was slowly losing ground. my final time: 15:06, slotted in at 9th place, about :28 behind winner Mark Noble.

More TT Randomonium and Pictures...

Gratuitous picture for all the women readers of this blog, if there are any. These hunks are my teammates Cookie and GaryAnn warming up for the tt. It wasn't really very warm so I don't know why they felt the need to pull down their skinsuits. Just for you I suppose...

...but, since Cookie is married with kid on the way, it's my moral duty to post this picture also. I warn you not to click on it and see it full size.

To be fair, he has been valiantly fighting off several viruses and other nasty infections.

So then I wandered over to the start to snap a couple pics.
Gary starting. He has been flying in the flat TT's but I think the aforementioned "issues" with GMR caused him some grief, and he was not happy with his result.

Kayle Leogrande is probably one of the most-often photographed bike racers in SoCal. With all the controversy swirling around him, I wonder if he feels like he's always riding an up-hill TT into the wind...

But on Friday, nobody got the lenses clicking more than Tyler Hamilton. I dropped my normal too-cool-for-drool character (that's a joke btw) and walked right up to snap a picture in his face. I imagine he's used to that by now.

OK, so the latest rage here in SB is Compression Pants, and it turns out the reason is that Aaron Olsen wears them.

But this is a picture of Jake Erker starting his TT. He is a pro who rides really fast. Note the aerodynamic tongue protrusion angled at precisely -45 degrees. This is an effective technique for measuring wind direction and velocity, which you can then exploit to maximum advantage. It worked for Jake as he rode a sub-14:00 TT.

Also, forget aerodynamic shoe covers. The careful observer will note that Jake is wearing casual business socks purchased from The Men's Wearhouse in Pomona. Top Secret scientific research in Canada has determined these socks to be the fastest attire for time trialing. You can thank me later for this top time-trialing tip when I see you wearing them at the next local Monday night TT.

More TT Day Stuff...

It was nice to meet Christy and Frank, the proprietors of which is your #1 go-to source for race info and gossip. Well, next to this blog of course. (That's also a joke btw. If I have to keep saying that, maybe it means they aren't very funny...)

But this is funny, at least to me. Check it out, especially the No-Parking sign. So ok, if there really was no place else to park, who isn't above doing this!? But I can tell you that there were plenty of spots very nearby. Hahahaha... they're going to extremes to make the bad-boy image!

And I see bit of irony and foreshadowing in the picture below, which I took about the same time... yeah, there would be some Rock sliding in the area alright, like in the San Dimas Crit in a couple days, where Rock would slide right off the top step of the Pro podium thanks to these dudes!

The Road Race...

I have a love-hate relationship with this 7-mile course around the Puddingstone Reservoir. It's deceptively tough when you have a motivated field, especially because you need to be alert to obstacles and must work hard to stay up front. On lap #1 I smacked an orange plastic pole at 25 mph, absorbing the contact directly on the metal plate on my collarbone. It stung so bad I had tears in my eyes and wondered if it had split my skin open. It took two laps to recover and get back up front. From then on I tried to escape but never got very far. One move had promise, with both Greg Leibert (btw, is it "Lee-burt" or "Lie-burt"?) and Bruce Gustafson which meant we wouldn't be chased by the two largest teams, Cynergy and Amgen. Alas we were caught going into the bonus sprint.

Let me digress again for a minute here. The main hill in this course climbs about 150 feet, I'd guess, and it averages maybe 6-8% slope. There's another hill that isn't quite as tough. For SB locals who have never done this race, it's comparable to riding a 7-mile loop including Goob and Bates over and over again. But my point is this: it is NOT a climber's race. To do well, of course you have to be fit, but you would be amazed at the big powerful riders that rip up this hill. At race pace, the hill lasts slightly longer than a minute, which means it's a significant anaerobic effort. Guys I know I could smoke in a long climb were killing me. Just another reminder of how cool and multi-dimensional this sport is.

More RR stuff...

OK, I don't know if the offending people might happen to read this but I need to rant. In SoCal masters racing, there are a handful of riders who are so thoroughly feared and revered that they prompt absolutely stupid behavior from their competitors. One such feared rider who I won't name, but goes by the initials TR, must see this all the time. Said rider likes to attack. A lot. And 99 other guys don't want him to get away solo because, as he's shown repeatedly, he can ride alone in the wind really fast. So what happens when he attacks? Inevitably you hear somebody scream from the middle of the pack, "RIGHT, RIGHT, RIIIGHHTTT!!!!" in a desperate attempt to warn everybody else that said feared rider is attacking up the right side. Give me a break. First of all, do you really think nobody else notices the attack? And are you really worried nobody will respond without your warning? Allow me to offer an alternative: ride near the front, follow his attack either immediately or after he gets a gap, and then try to exploit it. Yes, easier said than done, but that's what you should try for. Sit on if you have to, but no matter what, your (or your team's) odds are going to be better from a small break than from a field of 100 guys. And who better to have driving your break? OK, done ranting.

Sacrifice. That's what LaGrange did in the Pro/1 road race. The entire team waited for their gc leader when he flatted, but then they steadily lost time to the field. It was heartbreaking to watch the time grow beyond the 5% time-cut.

Gutsy. Vince Owens from NorCal has always impressed me as a gutsy and talented rider and he proved it this weekend. He's young and relatively new to bike racing but is on a steep upward trajectory. He rode a mid-14:00 tt and then a gritty RR to finish inside the time cut, despite some botched feeds by yours truly. One dropped bottle and another that got snagged by a competitor. That always cracks me up when people reach out and steal bottles in the feed zone, but I guess when you're desperate, anything goes! Sorry Vinny...

Noble. Well, maybe not really. After the RR, I caught 35+ gc leader Mark Noble tossing out a gel pack on the ground and muttering something like, "F*** that sanctimonious granola-eating hippy Hernando from the sCruz. I'm gonna teach him how us SoCal sluts roll when he comes down to Ojai in two weeks. That is, IF he doesn't chicken out...." At least that's what I think I heard, but it was kind of noisy with that building alarm ringing, so I might have it partly wrong. But I did catch him tossing the gel pack, see...

The Crit...

Mine was fast. How was yours?

Josh Webster was quite impressive and seemed to spend most of the race at the front or off the front. I need to take lessons from guys like him. But on this day, the sprinters came to the front and the crit was taken by Mark Scott (the 4th time he's won the 35+ crit at SDSR!)

The 35+ gc podium...

Mark Noble won but he had to fight for it. He did a good TT (he won) but he also made the final split in the RR and sprinted for intermediate time bonuses. 2nd place was a very impressive Chris Demarchi and 3rd was always impressive Thurlow. Greg Leibert and Steve Ferretti rounded out the top 5.

Your author ended up 8th on gc, which I'm happy with since my goal going in was top-10. My only regret is missing that small move in the RR going into the last lap, which I attribute to a momentary lapse of focus over the top of the KOM hill. I'd like to think I could have made that split if I had it to do over again.

Pics of Teammates...
Jason just to the right of one of the Z-Team phenoms.

Cookie motoring along. He won the cat-2 field sprint in the RR and got top-10 in the crit. Just got word he has been upgraded to Cat 1. Congrats!

Gary always lurking near the front ready to go. He got 4th on the day.

Gotta give a shout out to all the local folks who went to San Dimas. A few weeks back I lamented the often poor showing from SB. Well shut me up if we didn't have around 25 people from town at this race. I think everyone had fun, especially Gabe with a RR win in cat-4 and a silver in the crit.

The SB turnout for the Women's Cat 3/4 race was remarkable. Did I correctly count nine from SB?? And let me tell you... they RACED. And it looked fast. I remember years back when MKA would harrass the women because of their slow, chatty pace. He'd say they should use a sun-dial to time their races. Well, not this time Roger!

Finally, we all got a real scare on Sunday when Druber hit the deck hard in the crit and was hauled off the the hospital for precaution. He broke a bunch of carbon, as well as his helmet, but when I spoke to him last night, his spirits seemed high. Or maybe he was just high. Pain killers and all... Get well Druber, we want to see you back out there ASAP!


blue squirrel said...

great recap, sorry i missed meeting you at SDSR. i think i bugged just about everybody on your team, "are you marco?", no, but he's here kicking ass somewhere. what's up next for you?

oh, and which plastic thingy did you hit with your Ti plate, ouch, i feel your pain.

mhernandez said...

what? no insight as to how RockRacing loses GC with a dozen boys in the pele?

and you call yourself an instigator...

Ojai. I just love that race. Hardly possible to follow wheels at all.

well, mostly.

woohoo, let's pedal! and make sure the Noble puts his carbon footprint back in neutral after tossing that gel packet.

he could plant a tree, or blow a squirrel or something.

oh, and we have the Santa Cruz crit this weekend. good for a rode trip. come up and prep for Ojai, similar courses, just less horsepower and more flowerpower.

Marco Fanelli said...

BS- yes, sorry to miss you also, especially because going down there I was planning to seek you out!

Mike- You're a great sport! Noble and I were cracking up with our stupid little game, and to set your mind at ease, he picked up the wrapper, and also he car-pooled to the race in an itty-bitty economy car. But he's still a dirty rotten scoundrel for winning the race.

Re Rock: So much material and so little guts on my part... Maybe a silly fear of getting put into a curb someday. Or maybe because this blog is silly, light-hearted fluff... You, on the other hand, would have had a field day and surely would have screamed yourself hoarse. All I can say is that the good guys won this one, but you can bet Redlands will be a war!

I love that Santa Cruz crit, and first did it when you were probably still in diapers.

jen said...

oooh, i so liked that pro/1 result. kickass bit of racing.

erker's socks so rock the casbah.

Steve Weixel said...

Good job guys, especially Cookie with the upgrade to 1. When is Gary going to follow?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of socks - Rock Racing should be required to parade around in the 'Dopers Suck' socks. Congrats to JERKER and his team - goes to show what a shame is was that they weren't invited to the Tour of California.

Greg Knowles said...

I'm exhausted just trying to keep up with all the action you packed in to that post. Thanks Marco!

Aram Dellalian said...

nice post mark......

Kills me not to have seen that crit on sunday. I still can't understand it. Really, can't. Tip of the hat to symmetrics!

see you in ojai...

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

fun stuff--

And actually, I counted ELEVEN SB area women in the 3/4 race! It was cool...11 women from 3 different teams (Chicken Ranch, Femmes Fatales, and Echelon).

Marco Fanelli said...

Blue- I forgot to answer your questions... Up next is IV crit and Ojai (45+ & P/1) and then Sea Otter. Maybe see you at one of those?? And the pole I hit was one of the two just past the feed zone on the right side of the road. They were blocking off a big bump in the pavement. I had just moved to the right to shoot up the side and had no time to get back so I shifted my bike left and leaned into it knowing it would give way, but it still hurt.

SWeix- Hope you're feeling better.

C-Wiz & Jen- You'll pleased to know that Jake is rumored to be considering full-body tattoos next.

Greg- That was a polite way for you to say that the post was a scrambled mess, right?

Aram- Right on re: Ojai, but you'll need to be lurking in the back o' the pack to see me I'm sure. BTW, dig the facial hair! Fits right in with the Bearpaws.

Kim- Wow! So cool to see that from SB riders! Keep rallying them. The Barrio Logan/San Luis Rey weekend is really fun too. The crit has a W4 and usually the rr has a W3/4 event. Plus, it's San Diego!