Sequim delivers again!

MB Tour de DungFriday, 9 PM, 3/28. I’m packing up the race gear. It’s snowing. There are two races the next day, a rarity. Sequim #2 or North Shore circuit up in Bellingham. I haven’t done Bellingham, but it’s hilly, and about the same distance as Sequim. And it’s snowing. In theory, Sequim is in the rain shadow, and dry. Bellingham, not so much. I check the radar… there’s rain and snow everywhere.

Saturday, 6:30 AM, 3/29. It’s partly cloudy… could Sequim be nice? Or would it be a waste of a 2 hour drive and $23 in ferry tolls to see Dungeness snowed under?

8:45 AM, 3/29. We arrive, in weather that could only be described as, “Doesn’t suck.”

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It was chilly, but warming and gorgeous. And dry. A great day for a race!

There were 35-45 in the Cat4 field… the race marshall at the beginning said 35, but folks at the end said 45. Felt more like 35, but who knows. Anyway, there were 8 Wines and 2-3 members from the usual suspects. Two strong Carter guys did a ton of work, but we were covering their moves. And of course anytime any of us tried to get away, the pack would chase things down. So, while a few people would get popped off the back, the pack mostly rolled around the course uneventfully. One of our guys caught a pedal in his Zipps… totaled the front wheel, but he stayed upright and nobody else crashed. Otherwise, bunch sprint at the end. The two Byrne guys, including Jeff whom I rode with last week, took first and second, and then our guys rolled through 3rd and 4th and then scattered throughout the pack. I didn’t take the last corner well, and the pack started sprinting almost immediately, which was about 1000km out. I was further back, so had to catch some wheels, but didn’t have enough gas to get into good position. Ended up #22 – better than last time. Still gotta work at having gas as the end though.

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And for fun, some shots of the folks after the race. Here’s Alec and Jon checking on their placements at the finish line:

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And here’s Mark Wistrom, who hung at the back nearly the entire race and still finished well! He was #21, as we were both out of gas.

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Here’s Dessa relaxing after the race. He also had a good race, finishing 11th.

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Good stuff. Oh, and as for what happened in Bellingham?
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Race canceled. We’ll see ya next year!

Independence Valley, the Foggy Hills

Independence ValleyWell, that was fast.

Independence Valley is a ~20 mile loop down in Rochester, WA, which is just off I-5 halfway between Seattle and Portland. It’s a narrow, chip-sealed route with two ~250 foot hills. That’s where the race is won and lost… those that can stick on the hills, make it to a sprint finish with maybe 20-30 other people out of some 70 that start. I figured I could hold my own at least on the first hill, and hopefully the second.

Nope.

I kept up a bit about 80% of the first hill, but couldn’t keep speed. I tried to catch back on the descent, but the pack was just out of reach. Jeff, a Byrne guy who also got dropped on the hill, caught up with me and we rode to the next hill. As we were huffing up, the 5s overtook and those who could climb passed us. We let them go (not that I had much choice) and hopped on down a nice windy descent. We picked up a few of the 5s who had also been dropped and cruised the final few miles to the lap marker. The 5s we were with decided to do another lap; Jeff and I packed it in. We met up with a few other 4s who had also been dropped along the way towards the end.

Welp… time to get on the trainer and work on those hills. But hey, next week – Sequim #2!

A fast finale for Mason

Mason Lake MBThe final race of the Mason Lake series, #3, happened today. Since the Ravensdale race is tomorrow, a race much closer to Seattle and on a faster, wider course, not many people were at Mason. For the 4s, there were only 25 of us, which made for a much more interesting race. Moving up was amazingly easy, as the pack was typically in either a single or double line. At one point I found myself at the end, and so I just hopped out near the center yellow line and moved up to the front, about 4th, just like that. And I don’t think anyone actually followed my wheel, which says something about how fluid things were. People were attacking and covering often, and because of the small field the surges were felt by everyone… or at least me. :)

Near the end of the second lap I almost bumped into Dessa… he was swooping out a bit on a corner, but all was good. He apparently recognized my profile, and asked if I was with the Touring Machines. I said yup! And he introduced himself. I guess he’s on the CycleU team now; good for him! Anyway, we didn’t have much of a chance to talk as the there started to be attack after attack on the back rollers. This managed to sap my strength a lot faster than I would have thought, and I got popped off towards the beginning of the 3rd lap with a FSA guy. We chased for a while, but after a few miles it was pretty clear we weren’t going to catch the pack. We did a reasonable pace to finish and called it at 3 laps, just in time to see the Masters C/D and 5s packs come in a few minutes later.

I’m still not sure why Mason is so hard for me… not sure if I can blame it on the rollers. Last week my legs blew up… this week, I just got popped. The third lap solo I clearly had gas still in the tanks, so perhaps I need to be closer to the front when attacks start coming. Easier said than done of course! :)

Next week: Sequim #2… back to the flats!

Update: one of the most flattering shots of me I’ve seen in a while, from the fine folks at WheelsInFocus.com:Erik at Mason Lake #3

Tour de Dung #1

Tour de DungAh, Sequim… the top of the peninsula. A fast 12-mile loop along wide, dry pavement. The race winds along the top portion at usually a fast clip, then hits a 5-mile straightaway that’s usually into a 5- to 10-MPH wind. Staying with the pack will yield a good finish typically, but that also means it is easy to get dropped! Last year, I had a good race and finished 16th and 19th. This year?

As it turns out, there was very little wind. This means the field of ~65 racers was packed together, and actually sped up on that 5-mile straightaway. A bit boring of a race for the first two laps. About the third, a break got away with Duane, our fearless captain, and four others, including a rider from Hagens-Berman, the other strong team in the field. Well, once a break with teammates has gotten away, the team in the pack knows what to do: mail it in! So, nobody chased. Starbucks tried to chase, but couldn’t quite get one together and just ended up blocking and getting yelled at. Then, around the end of the third lap, a few people went down near me inexplicably… one bumped my wheel, but I was able to get around it and get back with the pack. A few minutes later at the beginning of the fourth lap, another crash, again far too close to me for my liking. At this point the pack settled having lost about half its number due to the crashes, and we had a nice ride to the finish.

Near the end, I tested joining a minor break, but discovered my left leg was cramping… I went from 3rd to 20th in a second as I worked it out. At that point, I decided that a simple finish would do fine… no sense in killing the leg on the second race of the year. So the pack rounded the final turn and sprinted for 6th place. I finished with the pack, somewhere below 20, but hey, it was a fun race. Duane ended up taking 3rd after hearing he and the two remaining in the break were 2 minutes ahead with 3 miles to go and letting the other two get away (the 4th and 5th in the break having been dropped earlier). Ben Collins, a rookie pro triathlete and the ox leading the break, towed HB’s Cat 2 track sprinter to the finish in time to watch what sprinters do best – pop around and win from behind. Oops. :)

Mason Lake #1

Mason Lake MB 9:30 AM. Dave Douglas, former president of the WSBA, gives his annual inaugural speech to 70-odd Category 4 racers.

This is a training race. There are no prizes, no cash, no merchandise, no points for winning. This is just to remember how to ride in a fast pack again. The centerline rule is in effect, so don’t go over the yellow line. If your team put in some wheels and you have a flat, move over to the right and get a swap. If not, sucks to be you. Make sure your numbers are on the right side. Last lap, the full road is available for sprinting to the finish for the final 200 meters. Neutral until the first corner, and then you’re racing!

And we’re off! I’m towards the back, foolishly, and spend the first lap getting my heart rate under control and trying to move up a bit. I get to the 2/3 mark of the pack… a bit better, but still yo-yoing too much on the turns. There are some new kits to old teams… the brown Zoka is now red Cucina Fresca, and red Native Planet has turned into green and white Starbucks. My team, Wines of Washington, is still black, white, silver, and yellow… a bit too noisy for my tastes, but that’s OK.

Laps 2 and 3 are OK… my heart rate is under control and I think I’ve got gas. Last year at this time, I was dying 4 miles from the end of Lap 3. This year, no problems. We sail through, bounce about and make a left onto good road and an incline. I handle the turn nicely (a shock, as I’m still horribly at following wheels on turns), keep behind a guy as we latch back onto the pack… and I’m done.

It was a weird sensation… the legs just lost energy, and I saw the pack starting to slip away. The follow car was quite generous in giving me time to catch back on, and I knew in my head that my race was done, but didn’t want to admit it. I tried pushing to get to the downhill and catch back up, but nothing doing. OK, fine… I’ll have a slow 11-mile cooldown. Bad idea… left side starting cramping and freezing, and really, by the time I was at the 6 mile mark on the course (halfway around), I was hurting. Spun my way out of it at maybe 15 miles per hour, going very slowly up the rollers. Oof…. not an auspicious start, but hey, it’s a rolling course, and clearly, I still suck at hills. And really, gotta be in the front from the beginning!

BTW, our team plan generally works… we hid until the end, and then we bunch sprinted on the right side to the finish. Got 2nd and 3rd, although one of our guys went down hard in a 4-man crash… that sucked. 2nd doesn’t get you anything in this race, but Greg got some stitches in his knee for his effort. Ah well, that’s racing.

Next week: points matter, as we head up to Sequim for Tour de Dung!

Crit: Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium

2007 Des Moines Crit - MapThis morning, I rode in my first crit. The Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium, hosted by my team, Union Bay Cycling / Wines of Washington. Crits are short (< 1 mile) courses, typically in a city around a few blocks. I had been nervous about this for quite some time… from what I’ve read, crits are hard, fast, and intense. Plus, the main factor in a crit is corners – no sweeping, gentle corners like you see in typical road races. Corners are city street intersections.

Well, the day of the event came, and I headed down. The first thing I realized about crits – later start times! The typical road race is 2 hours away and starts about 9 AM, meaning people in Seattle are leaving about 6 AM. Des Moines is 30 minutes away, and the first race for us (Cat 4/5) was 10:50 AM… amazing what a few extra hours of sleep will do.

The second thing I realized is that crits really are a spectator sport. At road races, there are some spectators near the start / finish, but for the most part the peleton is busy riding through tranquil, rural scenery. At a crit, there are spectators all over, as the peleton makes a loop every minute or two. At this crit, there were a number of spectators at the start / finsh, as well as a homemade grandstand at turn 3 (SW corner) where a bunch of residents were throwing a party while watching the race. It was quite the event.

Back to the crit itself. In road races, the pack starts with a neutral roll-out, which means a few miles of riding for a quick warm-up and to make sure everyone’s comfortable in their bikes. At a crit, you race when the official says go, and you’re going at 25 MPH as quickly as you can. Clipping in and sprinting fast is key so you don’t get towards the back. This is what happened to me. The back is dangerous in a crit, as the corners yo-yo — the first people through go a bit slower through the corners and then pick up the pace, which means the rear ends up going much slower and has to sprint to catch up. Much more energy is expended.

The Des Moines crit isn’t flat – the two short stretches are, but the straightaways are at an incline. Now, the incline is about 30 feet total according to the altimeter in my HRM, for about 1,300 feet – a 2% incline. This would be considered a false flat if anything in a Road Race, but going up this at 25 MPH 15-20 times, it certainly saps one’s energy — fast. Talking to some of the other guys, apparently this is one of the tougher crits because of the hill.

I was in the back third pretty quickly, and tried to hang on. After maybe 4 laps, I was dangling. a big gap would open on the hill, and while I could catch back up on the downhill straightaway a few times, after a while I was unable to make it back to the pack before they rounded turns 3 and 4. I ended up with a small chase group with a Hagens-Berman racer and an Oberto junior. We tried to get the junior back, but after lap 11, the official pulled us as we were about to get lapped. Just as well, as we were sagging badly.

Looking at my HRM data, it’s clear I was well above my normal intensity levels… a road race typically has my heart rate between 150 and 170, with spurts to 180. We started out the crit about 170… far too high for me to keep going for 35 minutes. And that was while I was in the pack, so it wasn’t sucking wind. Clearly, need to work more on speed and hill climbing for next year!

All in all, a fun experience. I spent the rest of the day as a corner marshall (well, intersection marshall) guiding traffic through the course and watching the races. I took a few videos with my cellphone, so we’ll see how they turn out. And now to see when the next (flat) crit is!

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Cat 4 Baby!

I forgot to post what came in the mail on Monday:

The following request to change your USCF category has been approved
and processed by USA Cycling:
Member: Erik Selberg
License: Road Racer
Request to change category from Cat 5 to Cat 4

Yeah baby!


	

Ravensdale – Cumberland Road Race

Ravensdale Cumberland MotionBased Today I raced the Ravensdale – Cumberland Road Race, a lovely 2-loop, 58 mile course between Ravensdale and Cumberland, WA. This is the same course we scouted last week, and so I felt reasonably prepared. At the start, I found a bit of news — because the Cat 4/5 field was so large, they decided to split us up into Cat 4 and Cat 5. Well, since I hadn’t seen any Cat 5 only rides after early May, I hadn’t bothered to request an upgrade even though I’ve now hit the 10-race mark. Oops… so in short order, I’m the only Wines guy in the field, as the others have upgraded already. Turns out Steve, another rider, upgraded right after Mutual of Enumclaw as they split the Cat 4s and Cat 5s as well (I raced Masters C/D in that race, so didn’t think of the issue at the time).

Going into the race, I wasn’t too worried. It was well into the season and I’ve been riding well, and I should be more than capable of showing well against the Cat 5s than a mixed field. I had a strategy: stay in the front until the first time through the wall, get over as quickly as possible, and see what opportunities present themselves. I raced to the plan until the wall, and was towards the front when we went over. At this point, a number of other climbers sped past me, but I was OK with this as I knew I was towards the front and just needed to hang on. There were no crashes or big stalls from what I could see. We muscled to the top, hit the short straightaway, and then headed downhill. At this point, I noticed that there was a decent gap between the group I was with and the front group. The pack had split about in the middle.

At this point, I now realize why it’s bad to race with the 5s. There are two classes of 5s: those who have been racing with a good team and have a clue, and those who haven’t. By now, most of the racers on good teams have upgraded, leaving very few racers in the 5s who have a clue. This became evident when we attempted to get a rotating paceline going. Aside from this guy Ryan, neighbor of Trish, one of Wines fantastic Cat 1 Women, and an Oberto junior, none of these guys knew how to ride in a paceline. So, we gave a crash course to a bunch of Native Planet guys and a few other noobs on the basics… such as staying on wheels, slowing down when crossing over into the slow line, accelerating to hop onto the wheel of the last rider in the fast line, and so forth. But this was painful, and too often the rear pack was happy to sit on any rider (usually one of the stronger ones, like me) who was trying to take a turn at the front. Miraculously, at the end of the first lap, we caught up to the front. Seeing the thumbs-ups from the guys in the follow car was great as we passed back into the rolling enclosure.

We then went back up the initial hill and grabbed some water at the feed station 2 miles into the first lap. The field had slowed tremendously, as it seemed people were OK to take a breather until the second pass through the wall. I was happy to sit in for a bit and recover. However, here’s another trap for the 5s, as well as for riding with teammates. When you’re riding with teammates, you try to clump together, and you yell at one another when things happen. When you’re solo, you have to always pay attention, and when you’re tired and recovering, this can be tough. The pace of the front group picked up suddenly and I found myself with about 6-8 riders gapped. As I saw the gap widening, I tried to ask for help as I wasn’t going to be able to sprint my way back on. However, everyone behind me seemed more than happy to sit on my wheel until it was too late. The front pack had a huge gap, and nobody was coming to help. So we tried a smaller rotating paceline with 6 and eventually 8, and while this was more technically sound, we were all going slower than we needed to be going. I believe most of us were in the chase group, so turned out that we were all pretty much low on gas. At this point I knew my race was over, as I wasn’t going to be able to catch back on with this crew. So, we went over the wall fragmented, and had a lovely ride back to the finish line. I ended up catching a Native Planet guy and we rode into the finish together (I was slightly in front, so I wasn’t DFL!), but boy, was I tired.

Prior to writing this, I sent in my request for an upgrade. There aren’t too many road races coming up, but I’m going to make sure I can race with a team versus being all by myself with a bunch of guys that can’t even do a rotating paceline properly!

For your entertainment, the HRM report:

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Mutual of Enumclaw Omnium – Road Ride

Enumclaw Omnium RR Although I wasn’t planning on it, earlier this week I decided to ride in the Mutual of Enumclaw Omnium road race. An omnium is a multi-event race, similar to a normal stage race. However, rather than scoring the winner of the GC – general classification, e.g. overall winner – based on overall shortest time, the omnium is scored on points. Points are awarded for each event; in this case, a time trial, criterium, and a road race. I ended up registering late (online only), and by that time Cat 4/5 was full. Thus, I ended up registering and racing Masters C/D. Masters C/D is similar to Cat 4/5, with the difference being Masters is 35+ (35 as of Dec. 31, 2007, so I just made it!). Also, Masters is typically previous Cat N-1… so Masters C/D is really more like older Cat 3/4, mostly Cat 3. Oh, and they’re all still pretty much in shape. Needless to say, I knew going in I was going to get my legs ripped off.

While the race bible said that the course would be a loop around Mud Mountain and then another loop north of Enumclaw, on the day of the race it ended up that the race would instead be 3 laps around Mud Mountain, similar to previous years. Mud Mountain is a about a 650 foot climb over 2 miles. There’s a short steep section, followed by a flat, followed by a medium not-so-steep section and a longer flat, followed by a long slog uphill. Then, it’s a fast, fast downhill on Route 410 back into Enumclaw.

Today, the hill kicked my ass. I was able to do OK on the first two parts of the hill, but I wasn’t able to keep the pace of the main group on the third hill and started falling behind. At the top of the hill, I regrouped with another teammate and two others and we tried to chase back on. While we made great time, we were still 200 yards away from a chase group a bit ahead of us and probably 400+ yards away from the main peleton. I had been thinking of just bailing after the first lap, but I missed the turn to the finish and ended up going onto the second lap. I let the group I was working with get ahead, as I was out of gas right before the hill. Well, some food, water, and active recovery, and it was back up Mud Mountain again. I did OK, a little slower than the first time through, but a much better heartrate. I made the summit solo, and had an enjoyable time bombing downhill. Only downside was that it had started to rain a bit, so it was getting cold and rainy. But hey, it was still nice and downhill.

I did make the right turn (literally) to the finish, and ended my day at two laps, about 1:40 into the ride. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t keep with the pack on the first hill and get some downhill peleton practice, but overall I was reasonably pleased with the two laps I had under me. I definitely need to work on my climbing though!

For your enjoyment, my HR chart from my Polar:

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Tour de Dung #3 (Sequim)

A week after a strong finish at Tour de Dung #2, I was back up at Sequim for Tour de Dung #3, the third and final race of the three race series. This week, I was focused on helping out some teammates in the overall. Most road races are single event affairs, where the first rider across the finish line wins..Race series, on the other hand. are multi-day races (typically on the same course) where there are victories for both each individual race as well as overall across all the races. In a series, the first races set up riders who can take the overall; subsequent races tend to be about getting those riders who have a shot at the overall to the podium.

After two of the three races in Sequim, two of our guys, Mike and Duane, were #1 and #3 in the overall standings, and three riders from Hagens Berman were #2, #4, and #6. Thus, the goal for those of us who came for race #3 was to help Mike and Duane get to the podium. The HB guys had pretty much the same strategy for their riders as well. It turns out in cycling there’s both an offense and a defense. The offensive strategy is simple: have the team (save Mike and Duane) pull for the key riders until the final sprint at the end of the course, then let the key riders (who should have plenty of gas) sprint and take it. The defensive strategy is a bit more subtle: keep the HB guys from placing by enabling other riders (even other HB riders) to win. Today, we applied a bit of both.

The first lap of the four were relatively slow. The wind was stronger than last week, the field was smaller, and the two biggest teams present (Wines of Washington and HB) were content to conserve energy. On the second lap, the HB guys started testing the peleton to see if they could make a breakaway stick, which is something that would be tough given the wind. Testing the peleton means putting a bunch of riders towards the front and trying to create a gap, which then turns into a full-on attack if the gap isn’t closed quickly. This is where having a large team presence helps. Towards the end of lap 2, Steve, a fellow WoW rider, and I were closing those gaps. This meant that we’d take our turns pulling at the front to slow down the peleton and ensure that the pack was with the front riders. In other words, we’re taking it for the team. Oof!

About a third of the way through Lap #3, one of our riders, Geoff, who wasn’t really in the running for overall, had a lazy breakaway – he was out in front by 100 feet or so. A random HB rider (not one in the running for overall) and 3 other random riders pushed out to join him, and then they were off on a breakaway. At this point, with a WoW and a HB rider in a breakaway, the remaining team members of WoW and HB were content to let the breakaway go and not give chase. This lasted for a full lap, until the HB rider who was #2 asked Duane (#3) whether we were content to let the breakaway win. Duane looked at the guy and said, “yup!” We knew the points, and if the breakaway stayed, Mike would take the overall as we’d deny points to the other HB riders in contention.

At this point, the HB rider told the rest of his team to get in the front of the pack and chase for the final 3/4 of the final lap. They did, but Duane and Mike just sat on their wheels while they did. Then, as they closed in on final sprint 200 meters from the finish line, Duane and Mike were able to ride around the tired HB riders, finishing behind the breakaway but ahead of the other riders in contention. Hello podium!

As for me – I lost a lot of gas pulling in lap two. Heading into the 5 mile straightaway into the tailwind, the HB and WoW guys at the front poured it on, and the pack started to stretch out and disintegrate. I was towards the back in a small group. We started working together in a paceline, and picked up other stragglers ahead of us who had also popped off the pack. I and Greg, another WoW rider, finished out the race with a pack finish (for whatever definition of the pack was left). Also along the way, we did manage to lap the women (again), but unlike last week we weren’t lapping them as a big pack at the end, so there weren’t any problems.

All in all, another good race. This was much more painful than last week, but that’s OK. I wasn’t out to win, just help the team win – and I’m happy to say, mission accomplished!

Next up: rest week over Easter, and then some rides with PPTM to build up some endurance miles.

Update 4/4/07: Results are online. Apparently, my lame-ass finish was good enough for 19th place. I need to learn how to count the field better… apparently, the field started at about 30-40 people, and looks like all of 20 or so finished. That wind is brutal!