Sunday, January 4, 2004

Racing, Party Pardee, Chico Wildflower-2004

Racing , 2004

Long Winter Training Rides, January, PATTERSON to MT. HAMILTON (hilly, with Joann, 88 miles)February, JESUS MARIA to Snow Level (hilly, with Joann, 65 miles) Two great training rides. Wanted to ride the Patterson Pass race course before the event, Joann threw in "why don't we continue up to Mt. Hamilton" and so we went on to climb the tallest peak in the bay area in January. A month later did another epic climbing ride, from PARDEE DAM to RAILROAD JUNCTION (or is it RAILROAD FLATS) with collection of strange cast of locals. I was concentrating/ freezing so much on the climb that when I finally noticed the snow banks on the side of the road, Joann told me that they've been there for the last mile. On January ride we were planning the 2004 edition of the Gruppo Pumpkincycle Death Ride, and the other century rides we'd do, but in February Joann suddenly told me I may want to register for the real one. Around this time Mike told me he wasn't doing any century rides this year.

Racing. Let's see, I accelerate like a Ford Pinto with two cylinders blown, can't descend, and most people are much faster than me unless the road is going up or we went 100 miles. But coming off the broken collarbone wanted to pick up some speedwork skills so I could get on any paceline on a century, wanted a new cycling challenge, sensed Gruppopumpkinycle was falling apart, and watching (over and over) Museeuw and Knaven demolish the Postie Boys in the 2002 and 2001 Paris Roubaix (I saw 2002 first) had me stoked. Larry the racer told me of Fremont Early Bird Clinics, I got my Cat 5 licence at the last possible minute, and went down for training.A meeting was held the day before the first Early Bird Training Session, and it was suggested we go to the crit course and try taking turns at speed. Off to some god forsaken, windswept, industrial park. I get to first turn and don't apply the brake and try to take the turn at speed--I drifted so wide I would have taken out a half dozen bike riders. I spend most of the afternoon going around and around the industrial park. At meeting the racer/ mentors were jazzed--basically told we'd learn to ride safely in large groups--and in the prior year they only had one accident during the crit series. (This year I saw an ambulance taking aider away each Sunday.) One women racer was stoked when recounting how she throws elbows in training rides.First Sunday stood around in the cold while much of what we heard the day before was rehashed, and then some turning, riding in a pack skills. After the class there was a Crit race for beginners. I wasn't excited about doing crit races--they were for "big guys"--and planned to just do one at the end of the series. In any event, Bert's memorial service was today so rushed back.

Second Sunday and I had big plans for after the training session, Fremont Toyota had found a Camry with a stick --while Toyota supposedly manufactures them good luck finding one in Northern California. Donna/ wife was off snowshowing, so Jessie/ daughter went down with me to the training class--and game plan was to test ride the car right after.Nice sunny day. Good instruction but didn't do much riding. Class ended and crit was about to begin--on a whim rode over to Jessie-told her change of plans (she's great at going with the flow) and rode over to starting line. Made decision at virtually the last minute to enter the race, no time to be nervous.I rode in the back of the crit--wary about injuring my collarbone. (Either that morning or the week before there was a big pileup in the Cat 4 race.) The mentors who ride along kept urging me to move up--told woman mentor what had happened and she started telling other mentors that it was OK for me to ride in the back. Yes, I was accordioned on the turns, and there was a big crash in the middle which allowed the front of the field to escape. Witha few laps to go, and some riders starting to get tired, I started passing people and finished ahead of 1/3rd of the field. The next few weeks I'd do 3 other crit races. My strategy for week two was to try to stay in the front, I was quickly spit out the back. No matter what my strategy was, in each crit race I was dead last at some point. And then towards the end I'd move up nicely and get finishing almost ahead of half the field. One friendly guy, Peter from the Bencia Bike Club was a maniac in the crits, reading the lines very well, so I started looking for him toward the end and would try to follow as closely as possible.

After doing better than I expected on the crits I really looked forward to the road races, as endurance and climbing would be more of a factor. No expectations of contesting a finish, but figured I could stay with the pelaton until the end and see the finish from afar. Wrong. Unfortuantley 3 of the four road races I did were relatively flat, with crosswinds, and I got spit off the back by mid race.The PATTERSON ROAD RACE was probably my most successful, as the "out" in the "out and back" was all climbing. Not knowing any better, I signed up for the 45+ open group (where Greg Lemond could be riding next to you) instead of the 35+ 4/5's. It had drizzled overnite and the road was wet, and riding mid pack I was getting sprayed with crud. One guy had already gone off the front, and we were just going 16-18mph, so about mile 20 I went off the front at a steady 20-21 mph. TV time--heck this was easy. I rode by myself for about a mile (I remember the nice stone wall on the left.).

1/11-FREMONT EARLY BIRD CRIT-50 minutesNew Cat 5's, 35+s: 38th of 56
1/18 FREMONT EARLY BIRD CRIT-50 minutesNew Cat 5's, 35+: 33rd of 47
1/24 PATTERSON ROAD RACE-48 miles, Open 45+: 13th of 20 (17.5 mph)
1/25 FREMONT EARLY BIRD CRIT-50 minutesNew Cat 5's, 35+s: 19th of 37
2/01 FREMONT EARLY BIRD CRIT-50 minutesNew Cat 5's, 35+: 13th of 21
2/16 CANTUA CREEK ROAD RACE-52 miles, Cat 4/5's, 35+; 13th-15th of 18 (18.3 mph)
2/21 SNELLING ROAD RACE-50 milesCat 4/5's, 35+: 15th of 25 (19.3 mph)
3/14 McLANE PACIFIC ROAD RACE-48 milesCat 4/5's, 35+; Crashed, bloddied but finished 54th-105 of 109 (19.5 mph)

In retrospect I can see the pelaton behind thinking "who is this fool" as when they ramped it up to 23-24 and caught me before the steepest part of the climb began, I was already was little tired, and was very surprised that I couldn't rejoin the front of the group on the climb. Damn, I had expected to do better on this part, and falter on the downhill return. Reached the trunaround, still saw riders behind me, saw the slippery cattleguard ahead and just charged over it. Two guys caught up with me and we pacelined back toward the end; the experienced racer, Dave?, from Delta Velo said as we rode together the whole way why don't we cross the finish line at the same time. Great idea--so we did.Wish most of the other racers had Dave's attitude, or maybe I needed to be on a team (but didn't want to be on a team as I was just learning the ropes and figured I drag them down.) But most of the road racers were surly--an opinion shared by a mountain bike racer and a tri-athlete I finish some other races with, who said that racers were far more friendly in mountain bike and tri events.In any event became king of the dropped riders, as after numerous 15-30mph accelerations by mile 20-30 of a 50 mile race I'd fall out of the pelaton. I'd finish every race, look for riders to regroup with, and luckily all the finishes were uphill

CANTUA CREEK was across a windswept, no longer used highway. I did a hilly DELTA PEDALER ride the day before, unusual as we had some strong guest riders so the ride was competative instead of the club's usual "lets take a rest and eat" nature. So my legs were dead on race day. This turned out to be my worse race and I finished with the aforementioned mountain biker. SNELLING was also in the middle of nowhere, Donna came down to watch. Another windswept, flat course, Donna saw me stay with the pelaton for the first two laps. She thought she missed me the 3rd time--no dear-I was dropped by this time. Once dropped there is nothing you can do on a flat course, worked with tri-athelete to get back but no use. McCLANE PACIFIC was a big event, some pros racing earlier in the day. Course description--well it is right next to SNELLING.

Crowded field-109 folks. Saw this loudmouth who had been at the crit classes and skills class I had taken-who kept taklking about safety, safety etc. (At skills class learned to hug someone on a bike, and was upgraded to Cat 4) I thought "I just want to finish ahead of him" As someone once said--don't wish for things, you might get it. More irony.We were off and I felt good. Kept seeing where Larry was sitting in the pack, as he reads crosswinds really well and I tried to stay near him. Felt good--around mile 16. Warm day so my exercise induced asthma was in check. Was about 3 riders back, way on the left side. Pack had just sped up to 30+mph but as no one wanted to go to the front there was slowdown to 16 mph. I slow along with almost everyone else , and someone comes in flying from my right rear, takes out my tire and I go flying--but smartly held onto the bars. My right knee is always bandaged from my 2001 injury, I fall on it and blood is seeping through the bandage and also from my elbow. Handlebars are twisted. Guy that hit me is in bad shape. Car pulls up-do I want to get in. Adreneline rush-hell no-I smack bars straight (learned something from watching 2002 P-R over and over) and get back on bike, and ride like a madman. Pass the Cat 1 girls--I know something is amiss, they had slowed down for a pee break..The "safety loudmouth," Robert, who turns out to be a nice guy, pulls alongside and we do a two man. We catch other dropped riders and pick up a half dozen Unfortunately many are not in our group, so they can't ride with us or us with them. Wind up with three in our category, uphill at end, I sprint in ahead of other three. .Get back to the car and look at blood dripping down my leg. Some DELTA VELOS are parked next to me and women racer indicates she'll bandage me up if need be. I decline but once again they seem like a good group. Women racer says that she hopes this doesn't discourage me from racing anymore. At the time it didn't, but it would be my last race.

For the next month my bad knee tightened up on training rides, just like it has in 2002. I had trouble pushing the pedals hard and knee hurt after a ride. I was scared that I'd need surgery again. This scared the hell out of me. I applied for and got into the DEATH RIDE and knew I'd curtail the racing so I could be in shape for the DEATH RIDE.Intensity of training curtailed while knee got better. Lawrence, the math teacher tri-athlete (when he whips by me I like to think of him as the guitar club instructor) wanted to do a road race, so we planned to ride the WETER ROAD RACE in late April-a day before the CHICO WILDFLOWER. Hell, we could ride as a team, if I could keep up with him. One weekend I preroad the course with Big Mike (a New Delta Pedaler and a powerhouse, could be mountain bike Jerry's brother. Unfortunately Jerry had been in a bike/ car crash and hurt his back) and Lawrence , we got lost, and I was much slower than these two guys. I went back out there midweek, but when loading my bike in the car pulled my SI joint. I had done this a year ago--when I thought I ruptured a disk. Saw the chiro, I already knew it takes 3 treatments to get it back to normal. Chiro who told me I wasn't doing ANY hard riding that weekend--I figured that i could do one event--and chose CHICO WILDFLOWER. Logically, between getting over knee injury and with sore back couldn't push the pedals as hard as I need to in a race. But emotionally, knew I like going semi-fast for 100 miles while looking at the scenery, instead of going on a 50 mile interval session while protecting my front wheel. So decided to throw away my chance to ride as part of a team--and essentially eneded my racing career. . But another irony-two days before the race Lawrence had a bike crash and broke his collarbone.

(March 2004) PARTY PARDEE-Ione, metric century, flat with small rollers and hills after lunch, 4000' feet climbing (seems high) (78 miles, 17.6 mph) With Big Mike and Bill, and many Delta Pedalers.

No longer like paying to do metrics as can do 60 miles on a training ride, but PARTY PARDEE has a few things going for it. Well organized, along a nice route along party of the Gold Counrty, and a killer band (Mumbo Gumbo) performing at the end. Kind of view this like the spring training of the century season. Lots of DELTA PEDALERS turned out to do this route, wrongly surmised that this would bode well for century participation for the rest of the year. Other GRUPPO PUMPKINCYCLE members, Joann and Mike, conspiciously absent for this popular ride . Donna started out with her girlfriends early; around 7:15 I took off with Big Mike, Bill, Dave and Bruce.. Big Mike is an incredibly strong rider, and Bill is one of the best climbers in Northern California, and ironically Joann's ex-husband.

Unfortunately we started somewhat after Team in Training, who were training at riding 3 across the road at 12 mph. We finally got in front of them, and Big Mike and I are driving a paceline with Bill behind us and a few of the stronger Team in Training riders in our wake. We saw the warning sign for Miles Photos ahead--with a rider who we were quickly converging on ahead of us by 200' but between us and the cameras.If we stayed at the pace we were going we'd run into the woman's photo, so we slowed to 14-16 and opened up a gap so Bill could come up and join us. We're closing on the cameras, women in front of us safely gone, and some Team in Training ass decides to show us he can "sprint" at 18 mph through the hole we opened us, f'ing up the photo. Good move Lance, we quickly picked up the pace and dropped the wheelsucker.

As Big Mike (yellow left) and I (orange right) slow so Bill (blue) can ride with us for photo. Dave--Mr Delta Pedaler, to the outside (yellow far right). So we slow and Mario Teamtrainglini unleashes a mighty 18mph sprint to ruin the photo. Photocrazy photo.

Otherwise nice ride, we passed lots of DELTA PEDALERS and saw Donna's group at the first rest stop. Bruce and Dave joined Donna's group, and Bill, Big Mike and I plowed on ahead. Nice seeing people you know on the ride. A little windy and rode in Big Mikes wake--when we got to an uphill Bill would take off and I'd try to follow. Constant second wheel--something that would again play out on the second half of the SIERRA CENTURY months away. Got to lunch stop and wisely ate light--as the hills soon begin. Came off the hills in good shape, only time anyone passed us is when Bill had deurailler problems. When we got to the end of the 65 mile course we circled back and rode out to come in with the DELTA PEDALERS--Donna was pulling the paceline. We joined in, and had good picnic/ listened to some great music. Wouldn't see this many familiar faces on an organized ride for the rest of the year.

(April 2004) PRIMAVERA CENTURY, Fremont-105 miles, 6000'. (solo) 104 miles, 17.3 mph, 7:15-2:30

Cool, foggy day--but not rainy like last year. Donna was doiing the metric course solo, unbelievably great as she had been a little intimidated riding by herself. I was in for the 100--not sure where it went. More irony, the day before I had done a Wente Race Course preride as I wanted to see it before next weekends race--well, where do you think the Primavera goes out to?? Looked forward to course as climbs of CALAVARES and PALMARAS very beautiful.Unfortunately, the 100 miler is NO improvement over the metric--unlike most century rides where the additional miles are the most rustic, the bonus miles here were mostly surburban ugly.

For five consecutive weeks I was going to have progresively harder century, double metric and full double rides--so as riding this solo tried to ride against the clock.for training. I was hammering past everyone on the way out--but I wasn't used to riding solo and part of the ride was dragging. Approaching the Wente Race Course turnaround two guys whipped past me--damn I had trouble staying on their wheel--a back wheel of yellow carbon spokes. Hmmm, where had I seen that before. Started talking to Big Carl and Matt--they were the riders I came in with on Chico last year. We rode a 3 man except for the climbs--where Big Carl zoomed up the hills. This was unfair--a big guy speeding up the hills--his saving grace was that he took downhills slower than I did. So after a climb Matt and I would two man to get back to Big Carl, and then he'd still lead out the paceline as we shot by everyone. Bitch of a headwind on the portion next to Highway 580. I tried to keep up with Carl on the beautiful PALAMARES climb but ran out of gas--Matt and I tried to chase him back to the finish. I was pooped, not what I like to feel at the end of a ride, but the second half riding with these two guys had the time pass by much more quickly. Donna waiting at the end, she had a good ride, and we all ate a good lasanga post ride meal together.

(April 2004) CHICO WILDFLOWER, Chico, 100 miles, 4,300' climbing. Solo and with Big Mike. 122 miles, 17.4mph

Game plan was to race on Saturday, drive directly up to Chico, and do the great WILDFLOWER ride the next day. Had a bike accident duing the week--twisted my back when loading my bike in the trunk of the car and pulled my SI joint. It feels as if your discs are out. Had happened the year before, so went directly to chiro and got 2 treatments of 3-4 (and one week of rest) needed to get everything back in order. Chiro said forget about riding hard that weekend, but figured I could do one event. So gave up the race and planned to do Chico. Donna and girlfirends were going to be real tough--do the metric TOP HAT (a surburban route race that I dislike) and then do CHICO the next day. If I had raced I would have ridden the Wildflower with them as a recovery ride--but as I didn';t wanted to go full out.

Great thing about CHICO WILDFLOWER is that it is one big weekend bike party. Nice pre day checkin at the local fairgrounds. This year weather was unseasonable warm, so no big crowd by the Shower Pass vendor like last year, when it had threatened to storm. Met up with Rachie, my daughter who is at Chico State. Took a leisurly spin around Bidwell Park--side/ back was tight but cycling helped loosen it up, as opposed to when I sat around and then couldn't walk. (Had driven to work all week with a bag of frozen peas stuffed behind me.) Went downtown and visisted the 3-4 good bike shops and other cool stores. Donna and girlfriends arrived from Top Hat--Mary and Pat had gone hiking earlier in the week and they looked like they were going to keel over. (More irony, in 2001 with knee injury I came up just to walk around with kids while Pat and Donna did the metric--Pat's husband Bert had walked around with us and Chico was off Rachie's radar as far as colleges she'd apply to.) My choice of a pizzaria over a "fine" resturant prevailed (especially when the wait was an hour long at the more expensive establishments)

General Pat had her troops out early--very early--and I waited around to start. As I was riding solo pulled out the clock. Back was tight on first climb and had some spasms on the moonscaped HUMBOLT ROAD with the sun peaking over the crest. Hard to see-dodging potholes,. On fast run downhill (on smooth road) took the time to stretch out--took it easy, felt good, and was passed by lots of riders I had passed on the climb. Felt better on flat section to Covered Bridge rest stop (2m behind 2003) where I saw Frank and Verena doing the metric--Verena looked like she was having lots of fun. HONEY RUN climb started, I shot past scores of riders but about 1/3 from the top I started slowing , was getting passed, and couldn't respond. Shit, I figured I couldn't generate any power with my SI joint out of wack and hoped it wouldnt't get worse--but funny--it didn't feel that bad. Seemingly now grandma on her tricycle was whipping past me.
I enjoying Honey Run climb though my wheel taco'd somewhere on it. Photocrazy photo.
Slowly arrived at Paradise rest stop (4m faster than 2003) I got off my bike I saw that an alloy nipple had broken--wheel had taco'd so badly into the brake that it was still rubbing when brake was opened all the way.. On one hand happy that I didn't break down on the climb but what the hell was I going to do now. Luckily, along with all the great local baked goods there was the Paradise bike shop repair crew--guy went back to his shop to get a replacement nipple for my wheel. Was at rest stop for 45 minutes--Donna pulled in, so did Big Mike who had started out the ride with his dad. Wheel fixed- I went out fast trying to make up for lost time. Regrouped with Frank and Verena and got to see Verena, the Queen of the Downhills, fly by me (I was doing 44-46 mph) and riders twice her size. On flats to OROVILLE saw a guy with a beautiful MERCYX DOMO FARM FRITES bike, I yelled out "that's my bike" and we bs'd for awhile--I'd see him on another century. Then got into a fast moving paceline behind a tandem, on the uphill rollers when tandem would stall I was on good behavior and stayed behind-wary about my back.

At OROVILLE rest stop (13 minutes faster) Big Mike came in a little after me and we rode the rest of the ride together. To keep it together I didn't push hard up Table Mountain until someone closely flew by without saying a word--always gets my dander up; Big Mike took alot off his downhill runs. We hit the lunch stop at Spring Valley (1 minute faster) and stayed there a bit too long, was joined by a guy in an orange bike as we three manned though the flat, windy valley to Durham rest stop (1 minute faster.)

Only bad thing about Wildflower is that the last 1/4 of the course is along flat, windswept, farm country. Not surburban ugly (like middle of Primavera) or crowded (like end of Napa), but not as nice as most of what had came before. A fast paceline formed, with Big Mike and someone wearing Gerolsteiner taking long pulls at the front (I'd take short whimpy pulls.) We almost had a big accident when 4 asses were riding 4 across the road and paceline had to quiickly fit in between some small spaces--I almost crashed and had to dig to get back on paceline. All of a sudden two guys shot by the paceline. As Mike and Gerolsteiner had done most of the work I went to the front--told them I'd bridge them up to the riders. I went into a sprint, caught the riders, with Mike and Gerolsteiner in tow. I was also exhaused but we soon came to Chico railroad crossing, where (shades of last year) guys we caught said they were locals doing a 50K time trial training loop.
Came in 17 minutes ahead of last year--daughters waiting for me, Jessie thirsty so she helps herself to whatever is in my water bottle. "Where's mom?" they ask--figure Donna is 1 hour behind and Big Mike is also waiting for his wife, so we decide to ride out and do another 5 miles. Only trouble, we both don't have water, no stores along the way (we thought there would be), it is over 90 degrees, and Big Mike thinks it's "cool" if we'd do a double metric. Why not--though we promise each other we wouldn't hammer. Sure. Soon 5 miles becomes 20.

We actually ride back out about 12 miles at a safe and sane pace, getting the last droplets of water out of our bottles. We find a big oak tree and wait around about 10-15 minutes-no sign of spouses. We rode back, again taking it easy, until a huge paceline of OAKLAND YELLOWJACKETS and DIABLO CYCLISTS came by--meciifully slower than the last one at 19-22 mph. Near the end a solo rider flew by, I had to chase and catch him, got on his wheel, looked back for reinforcements, but no one else had come up. I dropped back to paceline, but caught up with guy at railroad crossing and we bs'd for awhile as the huge freight train rambled by. Finished the 100 mile route at 1:30, 35 minutes less riding time than last year, 122 miles at 3:10.

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