Saturday, May 10, 2008

SoCal District RR Championship -- Masters

OK, before I give you same-day coverage of the District RR Championships for SoCal masters riders, let me rant just briefly...

Why doesn't this race matter to you anymore? Yes you, the masters-age reader who didn't make the trek up here to Bakersfield? Way back when, oh say, 20 years ago, most racers geared their entire season around this race, identifiable with a single word: Districts, or States. It was a big deal, and the winner(s) would then wear the jersey in all the races up until the following years' race. When was the last time you saw somebody in a race wearing a district championship jersey? sigh... I'm just an old curmudgeon longing for the old days...

Actually, I think I can answer my own question. First and foremost, in the old days, a rider needed to place highly in the District Championship race in order to qualify for the National Championships. The number of qualifiers depended on each particular district's racer population. A big district like NorCal or SoCal would qualify 20 or more riders in the Elite class (called Seniors back then). A smaller district, say, Alaska, might only qualify one rider. That qualifying criteria ended some time in the early 90's if I remember correctly. Now, Cat-1's qualify automatically for Elite Nationals, and I think Masters just have to be Cat-3 or above. The biggest qualifying criteria now is being quick on the draw to enter online and forking over the steep entry fees!

Another factor that diminished the significance of the Districts was the explosion of new Masters age groups, a phenomena also from the early 90's. When I first started racing, there was just one older group--Veterans, or 40+. Now we have championship groups every 5 years from age 30 until you die. Wanna a championship jersey? Just outlive everyone else.

Bottom line, the Districts apparently don't mean much to people any more. The relatively dismal field sizes today made that point loud and clear. I'd venture a guess that last week's San Luis Rey RR had twice the number of Masters racers, or more. I know the 45+ did.

OK, done ranting, and I must add that some damn strong riders did show up today in Bakersfield. Case in point...

45+ Race -- Another Amgen/Giant Clinic

Two 30-mile laps of a mostly flat course with one gradual stair-steppy climb about half way around. We had around 40 starters, including 6 or 7 from Amgen (Thurlow, Meeker, KK, Peter, Bob, Malcolm, and ?) plus a handful of other teams with 3-4 riders. I was solo again. KK and an Edge rider took off relatively early but never got more than a minute or two, and I was confident a couple of us could bring them back on the second lap if necessary. The problem, of course, was that we'd be working and the strongest guys in the race (Meeker and Thurlow) would be snickering at our stupidity as they rested for inevitable counter. KK's duet got caught just before the line on lap 1, and immediately on cue Amgen's Peter Sullivan took off solo. Textbook.

No offense to Pete, but it was hot and windy so again I was pretty sure we'd bring him back (or go up to him) the second time up the climb ...which is exactly what happened. I started drilling it part way up, caught Peter, looked back to see only Meeker on my wheel. I kept going hard and he came through tentatively, because back 100 meters or so, Thurlow was winding up the big diesel and about to join us. Oh great, this is gonna hurt. I tried to be conservative knowing the punches were about to be thrown. First Meeker went, and I was able to respond. Then Thurlow went, and again I was locked on. Then he eased up and Meeker went again. I tried to stay steady and keep the gap small, but when Thurlow attacked again and bridged up, I knew I was probably hosed. Big Mike Haluza from Edge came up and we tried to get back on terms, but went over the top of the climb about 10 seconds down. Any thought of a crazy hairball descent to catch up was dashed when we rounded one turn to see a big oil truck heading right toward us. From then on, we took it conservatively, and Thurlow and Rich slowly pulled away.

Back down in the valley, with about 10 miles to go, we eased up to let another couple of riders join us. Maybe we'd do better four-vs.-two, and at first we rolled pretty good. But then guys stopped pulling, so it became a race for 3rd.

I felt confident going into the sprint, but it's better to not count your medals before they hatch because when I started to sprint, both quads cramped. Joe Wenninger from Cynergy came by me and got the bronze.

Hobbly Man won the field sprint for 7th. He's coming back folks!


...and Podium (note that KK is standing in for Meeker who, rumor had it, left early to cruise Bako for chicks):

The amazing thing about bike racing, is that in a three-hour race, you can usually look back to a single key moment when the poop really hits the fan, and at that moment, your destiny usually gets set for better or for worse. I wish I had held on to Thurlow and Meeker those last few hundred meters. Realistically, it may not have made any difference in the end, but it sure would feel better now. But hey, at least they didn't sweep the podium this week!

40+ Race -- Louie, Louie, Louie!

Well, I should give a few dudes a hard time for backing out of the 45+ brawl (e.g., Hawk Worthington, C-Walk, and Louie) seeing as we might have had a fighting chance with a combine...

As it was the 40+'ers had their own brawl, and the race came down to a small (5 riders?) break and Louie took the sprint! Good to see CX'er Brent Prenzlow out on the road more and more!

[add/edit] C-Walk told me that he was indeed working for Dave W. on Saturday. What's up with that?

Results and Podium:

35+ Race -- Noble Gets Another One

Mark is really on a roll this year. I don't know how this race unfolded, but judging by the names toward the top of the list, I'd bet it was a cruise followed by a furious field sprint. Those are some fast dudes in the top spots!

[add/edit] Seems my assumption was wrong re how this race unfolded. It was aggressive, and a break had one minute over the climb on the last lap. Noble pegged it and successfully brought them back, after which LaGrange kept up the speed thinking their sprinter Aron could close the deal. He's fast for sure, but apparently not as fast as Mark on Saturday! As always, no promises for accuracy on this blog ...I appreciate the corrections when I get it wrong!

30+ Race -- Just Getting Warmed Up for Tomorrow!

I would have bet my house on Nat Faulkner winning this one. Tough-as-nails Canadian. Wouldn't surprise me if he soloed to a couple-minute victory, but again, I don't know how this one unfolded.

And finally, all I know about the morning races is that Malcolm Hill won the 50+ race in a sprint. Nice comeback from that horrific crash a couple months ago.

Up tomorrow, 93 miles of pain in the P/1/2. I got a sneak peek at the start list, and it's pretty much all the SoCal heavy hitters. Full squads from the All-Star Vege Fish and LaGrange. Cookie and I will do our best, but if you are a betting person, think about putting money on Adam Livingston or Nat Faulkner, with SB's Adrian Gerrits as a dark horse.

Ciao from Bakersfield.

1 comment:

Greg Knowles said...

I hope today went well for you Mark.