2011 Sequim #1

MB Tour de DungMy 2011 season started with Sequim #1. In Seattle, it was raining… a lot. Forecast called for 80% chance of rain. Driving up at 6:30 (yay day before daylight savings time), drove through… rain. then, we get within 15 miles of Sequim… and the rain stops, the roads are dry, the grass on the side of the roads is brown… we’re in the rain shadow. I arrive at the start line, and it’s cold, overcast, and dry. Awesome. I love Sequim.

The line for the 4s and 5s race (separate races) was huge, so I got to work on the bike. Still racing this year on my Trek Madone. New this year is a Quarq CinQo Saturn power meter on VCRC Ceramic Bearings. I’m running some Zipp 303 tubies I picked up at the end of last year, with a new 11-23 SRAM RED cassette. I also picked up a Ritchey Carbon Streem bars for fun. Got it all set up, got checked in, and started warming up. The wheels felt heavy… for some reason they do – perhaps it’s the chip-seal. But otherwise, we’re good to go. I saw the 3s lining up, so hopped in right behind them so I and the rest of Bikesale.com could start in the front. It’s not the most important thing in Sequim, as there’s plenty of room to move, but it’s better to be in front than behind.

The race began, and after a short neutral, the lead car honked the horn. I was in 4th position, and Kirby, another Bikesale.com guy, was with me. As soon as we were no longer neutral, this big guy – 348 (which puts him as a cat 3… weird) goes. Um, ok… so we all chase him up the hill. Punchy, but not clear what he’s doing. He and a few others launch off a few attacks on the first two laps, and nothing’s going. People are content to let one person go… two or more, the pack chases.

I rest up on the 3rd lap in the first third / middle. On the fourth, I move up to the front. I’m cornering well (Zipps are doing great for that), doing well up the rollers (lifting during the off-season seems to have worked), so good to go. We get past the rumble strip and into the final 2km. I move to the front and try to duck in, but there are 3 JL Velo guys in front with 348 in 4th. After fighting a bit with 348 for 4th wheel, I let him take it and move into 4th, then we’re swallowed by the pack. I keep up, and as we corner, I’ve got good position. We’re riding 3 abreast, I’m 3rd row back – basically #7 if the first 9 are arranged like a phone keypad. Some bumping up the straightaway, but people were cool. We hit 200m… go time! Full on sprint. However, I’m cramping at the legs – both legs at the calves. I’m spinning as much as I can, but I can’t get the gear up and hold a top 10. I end up with 14th – not bad, but not what I wanted. But that’s OK – there’s always Sequim #2!

6:30 AM, I head out to Silvana for the Lake Washington Velo Circuit Race #1 – Skagit Flats.

7:20 AM, Everett. Something strikes me, and I reach into my bad and feel the shoes… SPDs! Aw crap, wrong shoes…

7:45 AM, Seattle. I arrive back at home, run in, get my shoes, and run out again.

8:35 AM, Silvana. Made it, good time, and didn’t hit any of the speeding traps in Lynnwood and Everett. Woof!

I’m #75 in a field of #75 (well, #76, as the unattached guy next to me also got in). We have 8 or so other Wines. Anyway, from the Boston Harbor experience, we were in the front, and I made a point of staying in the front to make sure I didn’t get bottled up again. Patrolled in the front covering breaks. We had one, and I let the recycled guys chase down Rich and another unattached. I tried one on lap 3, but it didn’t last long at all — too many people sprinting after turn #2. Lap #3 was a sprint lap, and while I wasn’t interested in the sprint points, I let too many people get ahead, and then I botched turn #2 again… ugh. Was in the middle / back. Turns out it was nice, as the pack was s…l…o…w… like 20 MPH slow, vs the ~24 – ~27 we were first few laps.

However, try as I might, I couldn’t worm my way forward. Argh…. for two and a half laps, I recovered nicely. Last lap, things sped up, but it didn’t really stretch out all that much past the corners, where everyone was already sprinting. Gah.

Pack finish. Fun race, had a good time. Think I’ll need to pay more attention in Carnation.

Joe Matava Crit

My neighbor Brian Cole convinced me to do Masters C/D in the annual Joe Matava crit in Burien. His wife was kind enough to watch my daughter along with his while we raced. We got down there to see the finish of the 4/5s, and Craig, one of my teammates, was already off – commenting how fast it was. Bad news. 😉 The course is along a minor hill, but it wears on you quickly. The start is a downhill, then a sweeping turn and then back up a hill, and then back around to the downhill. No real technical corners, just fast and a hill.

I lasted about 20 minutes or so into it… I followed Brian on the start, but he had problems clipping in, thus I was already on the back. I took the first corner (which is done at speed) a little cautiously at first, which of course meant I was off the back yo-yo-ing. Ugh… power sprint up the hill to catch up, and repeat a few times. The C/Ds also kept up the pace. After a few laps, I and a number of others were getting gapped. I managed to keep finding someone to give me a bit of recovery, but then I was staring at the back of the main pack moving downhill… ugh. Went as fast as I could, and started taking corner 1 pretty quickly, but I couldn’t catch up. Two laps later, pulled.

Good news for Brian though… he stuck with the main bunch, and managed to sprint for second! Good work.

I remembered reading Dessa’s blog from last year… stay in the front, conserve momentum. Yup, pretty much… burned far too much on the corner. Next time!

Boston Harbor Circuit Race

After my craptastic performance on Saturday in the Capitol Crit, I was thinking of doing the 9 AM 4/5 Boston Harbor Circuit Race on Father’s Day. However, my daughter really wanted to come see me race, which meant the Masters C (no D this time!) at 1:10 PM. Oof… OK, time to get the legs ripped off again. We packed up the wagon, and I headed down with the fam.

It was a distinctly different crowd at Boston Harbor than at the Crit. Only Craig returned, and he raced Ds along with 3 other Wines. In the Cs, we had 4 initially, and all of us are Cat 4 Cs, in comparison to yesterday – Harry, Eric, and Michael are 3s. From eyeballing the WSBA numbers, most were in the 600 – 800 range, which meant most of the people there were also 4s. Let’s see how this goes. After some good luck from the family, I was off with the field.

One of the more senior guys on our team, Byron, told me the night before that Boston Harbor was like a short, fast Mason. I was hoping this meant it was rolly hills. Kinda. Turns out it’s also very narrow with only one small section where the shoulder can be used to ride – which would be this fast down-and-up on the south end of the course right after the hairpin turn. The up is kinda steep, but then leads into the last 1000m of the course, the first ~700m of it being a false flat. The result is that it was pretty impossible to move around in the race, as the 43 of us rode 4 abreast in the main pack. There was some moving around at the corners and on the occasional attack, but for the most part things stayed fairly static.

On the final lap, as predicted everyone was jockeying for position on that final corner, thinking that whomever could get their first would have prime position on the descent and quick ascent, and then whomever the first 10 people who made it to the false flat would be in contention. The rest of us would be boxed out. This is pretty much what happened, and while there was some jockeying, it wasn’t terribly effective from what I can see as everyone was trying to hone in on the position that the guys in the top 10 were in – unsuccessfully. A few people blew up on the uphill (which was full sprint) and the false flat. I was towards the rear, so I conceded the sprint (although did sprint it out with a Fresca guy who was near me when I came over the line… not sure who got that one!).

All in all, a good race, fairly mellow actually. Few sections of ~15MPH, when some folks at the front clearly didn’t want to work anymore but nobody right behind them did either. Few minor attacks, but nothing stuck. Good headwind on the southbound east side, so that helped reign things in nicely.

Sequim #2, 12th in the sprint finish

MB Tour de DungAfter a poor showing at Mason, I arrived at a threatening, but dry Sequim for Tour de Dung #2 – a fast, flat course. There were a ton of people at the registration line… and the port-o-potty line. But that’s a different topic. Anyway, race time, they split the 4s and 5s…. yay! Turns out they had over 100 people register for the 4/5 field, so a big 4s only field.

The first lap was relatively calm for Sequim. About lap two, there was a nice break, but nobody from Wines. So, I and 1-2 other Wines racers moved towards the front to chase. I covered a few breaks throughout lap 2, beating myself up a bit more than I would have liked. But we slowly reeled in the break until only one guy from Bicycle Barn (need to figure out what team they are). About lap 3 on the westerly straight-away, we reeled in the last guy, and slowed for a bit of recovery. This lasted until just past the initial slight hill at the beginning of the fourth and final lap. Then things started to pick up as expected. The front started getting crowded, and slow, with people wanting to get themselves into position for the field sprint, especially once we hit the westerly straightaway.

We rounded the final turn, and then everyone started crowding. I was on the right side of the pack towards the front, and another of my guys, Andy, was on my left. I saw a slight opening ahead of him, so I yelled at him to grab the wheel, which he did. We hit the 1km mark, and things raced ahead – full pack sprint. Someone always goes early! We jockeyed for position and I stuck with the right side on the edge, hoping when the 200m mark hit and we had the full road, things would open up. Andy got a great line, and as we hit the 200m he had a fantastic lead out. Things started opening up, and I started sprinting ahead as well. I had a decent line, and found myself between three other guys. I sprinted, and thought I had beat ’em… turns out I beat 1, the other 2 got me. All of us moved across the line within a hundredth of a second… and in the end, 12th. Best finish ever, and I felt I rode well and strong. Andy picked up 4th, with a great line – good for him!
Andy and I had a quick cool-down, then cycled back to find everyone. Even though I had 12th, I felt great – I spent most of the race in the top third, covered attacks and reigned some people in, and helped chase the breaks down. More so than any other race, I felt I was one of the guys in the race, not just along for the ride in the back. That felt good… and now to do that on a hills race! Or at least a few PRs.

Mason Lake #2: Dumb dumb dumb

Mason Lake MBMy first race of the 2009 season was supposed to be Sequim #1, but I wasn’t going to wait for 2 hours for them to declare the course unsafe… or, barely safe to race. So, first race, Mason #2. I went into the race hoping my off-season training, especially my new improved weight lifting plan, would give me enough strength on the rolling hills to finish the race. Previous times, I kept getting burnt out after two or three laps.

I arrived at Mason Lake about an hour and a half prior to the start, and the rain was coming down. Not light drizzle, rain. Real rain. Well, I have that spiffy Hincapie rain jacket, new yellow Wines of Washington / Bikesale.com kit… sure. It’ll suck, but how bad can it be?

Well, after a lap, I’m completely drenched. My torso is fine, but my fingers are frozen. My legs are soaked, my feet cold, and the Smartwool socks I’m wearing are drenched and squishing with each pedal stroke. Plus, the Starbucks guys and Fresca guys at the head of the pack were interested in keeping up a frisky pace – either to finish quickly or thin the pack early. Either way, after a lap, I was done. I was dangling heading up the hill on the beginning of the second lap, legs dying… I passed one of my guys up the hill who was also done, caught up to the pack just as it took off again. Ugh. OK, I’m done… I biked around the lake, saw a break-away of 5s pass me towards the finish, and packed it in. It took me half an hour to warm up my extremities… glad I only was out there for an hour!

One of these days I’ll finish Mason… ah well, next year.

Sequim #1: The better part of valor

MB Tour de Dung
Opening weekend 2009. Mason Lake #1 Saturday followed by Sequim #1 Sunday. Huge Masons are no fun, and the first Mason is always huge. So, I’ll do Sequim – nice and fast, and handles big packs well.

The weekend called for rain and snow. But, apparently Mason was nice and sunny… yeah, around here the weatherman may as well be throwing darts and just stick with “chance of rain.” Sequim’s forecast is also snow. Mail goes out from the promoters to the WSBA list that they’ll check the roads at 5 AM, and if there’s snow, they’ll cancel. 5:10, we get mail – Sequim is dry! Come race!

Well, I haul myself out of bed having had 4 hours of sleep (frickin’ early daylight savings time… ), pour the pot of coffee into the spare thermal carafe, and head out to Sequim. Seattle weather is sketchy, but not a big. We hit the peninsula, head up via Hood Canal. On Hood Canal there’s a wreck… looks like one of the racer’s wagons somehow slipped on the metal grating at the beginning of the bridge, and a car behind sideswiped it. The side airbags are deflated along it, the car looks wrecked, and there’s an SUV parked in front. Oof. Bad luck. I found out a bit later that someone behind me got rear-ended at the rise at the end of Hood Canal, so two wrecks at the same time. Not good!

We drive up 101, and there’s snow and flurries. Not a big deal; the same thing happened last year. It should clear up around Port Angeles. Not so much. When we all arrive at the registration booth for the race, the parking lot, which really is just a field, is covered with a light coating of snow. The port-o-potties there have a nice layer of snow along the western side and cast a shadow on the ground, clearly showing that in the night there was both snow and wind.

We find out quickly that the race is postponed for at least 2 hours, so a 12 noon start. And it’s still sketchy. We head to the 101 Diner in Sequim for breakfast. Greg, one of our crew, decides to drive the course to judge for himself. As expected, corners are sketchy. The big downhill at Sequim is sanded, for extra racing fun, and one of the two bridges has snow sticking above some ice.

At this point, the discussion begins… do we stick around to see if the race is on? We’re already out $23 for ferry tolls, we’re up, and we’re ready to go in the new kit. So if the officials judge it safe, why not?

Well, I look at the time… 2 hour start delay means the race finishes about 2 PM, means if I rush home I can make the 3:45 ferry, home at 5. If I’m lucky and hit the ferry; otherwise, close to 6. And really, it’s still 49-51 whether there’s a crash due to conditions. First race of the season, first race for a lot of people ever (it’s a combined Cat4/5 field)… yeah I’ll pass. So we finish our pancakes, some head back to the race, I and a few others head home. Sequim #2 is in two weeks, it’s not going anywhere. I’m a bit depressed in missing the race, but really, it’s a long season, and I’ll have plenty of opportunities to kill myself.

We found out on the ferry it had started hailing again while people were at the registration line, and a bunch of others bailed at that point. Don’t know if they ever had the 3 men, 4/5 men, or 4 women’s races. Ah well, next time!

As long as you look good


Sunday, August 31st, brought the 2008 cycling season to a close with the Blackberry Criterium held during the Blackberry Festival in scenic Bremerton, WA. The 4/5 race started at 11:45, which as it turned out is horribly from a Seattle – Bremerton ferry perspective, as you either take the 8:45 and arrive two hours ahead of time, or the 10:15 ferry and arrive with about 30 minutes to go. I opted to ride down to the docks and hop on the 8:45, along with about 15 other riders doing the same thing. The weather was cloudy but holding, and so I was looking forward to a good 30 minute dry crit in Bremerton.

I arrived with Matt, another racer from our team. We checked out the course. It’s a nice rectangular ~1 mile course featuring a down-and-up along each long stretch. This meant that each corner would be nicer than most – people would be going slower due to the uphill, so less of a yo-yo effect when the pack straightens out to take the corner. Plus with a downhill on the beginning of each straightaway, it’d be easy to catch back onto the pack.

He and I kicked back at the Cornerstone Coffee, which was right there at corner 2. Around 10:45, we started getting ready to warm-up, only to see the skies open up. Well, here was the day’s squall – a short-lived hour long rainstorm right during our warmup. We all huddled, and about 11:30 went out for some quick warmup. The rain had brought all the oil to the top of the road, so the course was going to be sketchy. The warmup laps confirmed that, especially at turn 1 where there were a few manhole covers that would be super slick.

We started the race… the field was I believe 22 all together – a small showing. Some had held off registering when they got their due to the weather. Oh well. So, the race kicked off and we were off.

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For the most part, the pack stayed together. A few folks got dropped throughout, but not many. The down-and-ups kept people together, and everyone behaved themselves going through the corners. I was fishtailing through turn 1 and 4, so I was content to dangle and hang to the outside.

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At one point, Amara Boursaw caught me taking a drink… you can see me at the back on the right out of the way of people. Given how small the field was and with the down-and-up, it was easy to hop out of the pack to drink (as I didn’t want to have to brake or react quickly with one hand in slick conditions) and hop back in.

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Anyway, at 4 laps to go, I made a minor tactical error. I was following a straggler and taking a drink, and then Matt and another guy took off from the front. The pack sprinted ahead, and I was gapped and promptly dropped – just couldn’t catch back on. Well, I wasn’t thinking I was going to be in it for the sprint finish, and I was close enough to finish without getting pulled, so I rolled it on in for a high teens finish.

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Even though it wasn’t pack sprint, I will say that this is the first crit I’ve finished. Yeah, an easier one compared to Des Moines or Twisp, but I felt better about cornering and better about staying with the pack. So, perhaps I am getting the hang of these!

Des Moines Crit, take 2

Last year, my first crit was the Washington State Masters’ Championship Crit, in Des Moines. This is a short course on great pavement with minimal cornering. Only catch is that it’s a ~30ft climb every lap. Last year, I got popped pretty quickly in a shallow field. I noticed Masters C, which I could have raced instead of Cat4, was huge. This year, I decided to race Masters C. Yeah… my mistake.

I had problems clipping in, but I was able to catch on to the back. However, when I thought I’d be able to rest on the downhill, turns out I was wrong – people were busy accelerating on the downhill too! No rest! Gah! And each uphill was 600W – 800W according to my powertap. I lasted 4 laps before getting popped, and another 3 before getting pulled. A whopping 7 minutes out of the 35, although it felt like forever. Worse than last year, which I thought was pretty bad! Gah!

Oh well. Better luck next year, perhaps… or I’ll just marshall. My quick exit did allow me to get some nice pictures though:

Greg Luniewski abandoning after getting popped… his expression says it all:

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And the finish:

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Tour of Methow

A bit delayed, but here nevertheless.

Father’s Day Weekend, I participated in the 3rd annual Tour of Methow, a 2-day omnium bike race. An omnium is a multi-race event where the winner of each event gets a certain number of points. The overall winner is the person with the most points. Typically, in Washington State, an omnium is a time trial and crit on Day 1, and a road race on Day 2. This was the format for Methow. I had arrived with the family the week before, staying at The Cottonwood Cottage in Winthrop. I spent the week checking out the courses… the time trial is an out-and-back on a hilly course near Mazama. The road race is a loop starting from Winthrop and heading north, with some decent rollers and a nasty section when the loop dips down onto Highway 20. The crit is a loop on sketchy pavement in Twisp.

So… the results. Well, I got off to a late start for the time trial, and arrived quite literally 5 minutes before I was supposed to go off. I scrambled and didn’t even pump up my wheels… turns out, by being second to register for the tour, I was second in the time trial. Great. Oh, and the first guy didn’t show up. Even better. So I get there, and I’m ready to go with about 15 seconds to spare. And then, I’m off! I have no idea what I’m doing, as it’s my first real TT, so I just go as hard as I know how, given I had done the course a few times before. There are two decent hills, and on the descent of the first I was passed – I figured by the guy :30 behind me. Turns out later it was the guy who started 1:00 behind me. I was passed a bit later by my :30 man. On the turnaround, I was able to overtake him on one of the hills, but I blew up and he passed me after a bit. I ended up some :47 behind him, and in 34th place when all was said and done. However, turns out this was enough to beat the three other Cat 4/5s from Wines that showed up! Which says something about our time trialling, really…

Here’s a quick shot of me pulling in, ahead of my :30 man Jeremy. There’s my time below, at 14th place… not gonna last for long!

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Then, the crit. Man, do I suck at these. Probably because this was my second. Anyway, I had problems clipping in, was not confident on the pavement, and got popped pretty quickly. Oh well. Turns out half the field did too, so I don’t feel that bad. After all, the difference in points between the second guy to get dropped (me) and the last guy to get dropped – nothing! We all got zilch. I’m blaming it on my awesome time

trial performance.

Next day, road race. I started off strong, and actually pulled during the first lap on the flat / downhill section from about a quarter of the way through the first lap through the halfway point (a turnaround). At this point, there were some hills and some attacks, so I slid back a bit trying to keep up. Then, the loop-around point… a downhill S curve onto Highway 20, then slight rise to a quick climb, then a flat and another longer but just as tall climb. Took a lot to hang on, but I did. Kept in the middle towards the end for the second lap, and was dying on the down-and-up in the 2nd lap turnaround. At this point, I was thinking I needed to move up towards the front to stay with the attacks and the next (and final) down and up, as the race ended right before the downhill. However, as I was surveying the pack to figure out the best way to move up, WHAM! Crash ahead! Brake, brake… nope. I go over too. I turn around and see another bike coming at me, and I sit up and catch his front wheel, ensuring that at least he doesn’t go down. Someone is moaning, but the callous nature of bike racing is to get back on your bike and go. So I survey the bike, looks fine, and go. But I can barely move! Some groups pass me… and at the end of the slight hill I was on, I hop off and look again — yup, brake is rubbing. So I adjust that and have a much nicer ride, but I’m feeling burnt. Right knee is bleeding, and I know that even if I finish this lap and the 4th, it’s not worth it. Plus, we have to drive back that afternoon. So, I finish the lap at the finish line and wait for everyone else to come through. Turns out that the guy moaning was taken away by an ambulance, and the 4/5 men and the two women’s peletons were neutral going through that… scary!

Anyway, a rough way to end Father’s Day. But Methow was beautiful, and the race was fun. Next time, I’ll need to focus on staying up in the front more and being more aggressive on the downhill. Oh, and the crash? Apparently some rookie strayed across the yellow, then panicked and swooped back in, clipping someone’s wheel and causing a chain reaction quickly. Best to get me in better shape to upgrade!