Monday, May 14, 2012

Mixed bag of five days on the bike

Nice stretch of five days on the bike for me.

Wednesday was track class when we had 15 or so newbies come out for a go on the fixies. Everyone seemed to have a good time and we ended the evening with some mock racing which gave me a chance to stretch the legs ahead of the racing to come.

Of course, I let the newbies win......;).

Thursday night was pursuit night. 2K for juniors and old farts, and 3K for everone else. The 3K pursuit represented 11 laps of the velodrome from a standing start. Though two started at the same time on opposite sides of the track, this race is really run as a TT against the clock with the fastest time within each category winning.

The sun was out, but so was the wind which manifest as a blistering face-squisher down the front straight. Consequently, times were a bit on the slow side overall.

With a couple of weeks of PIR racing in my legs I elected to run a 90 inch gear (50/15 for those who care) and try and spin the crap out of it for as long as possible. It felt pretty comfortable and I made most of my splits and finished in 4m 26s, almost identical to last years time for the same day.

Tom ran an excellent and well-paced 3m 13s for the 2K pursuit (7 laps).

Not very aero 3K TT position  (courtesy of Charlie Warner)

Friday was the first Fast Twitch Friday for the year. It was flying 200m night. This is when everyone runs one flying 200s to set times for seeding the match sprint pairing. On subsequent Fridays, 4 riders are grouped together based on their seeding time set on this night for paired match sprinting for the rest of the season.

For the flying 200, you have three laps to get up to speed and get high on the banking in preparation for a 'flying' maximum-speed dive to the 200m line. Only the final 200m is timed. The goal is to get a blistering pace going for that 200m mark when the clock starts, and hold it as long as humanly possible.

Like a nasty blender accident, it is violent churning of assault with legs and vision ablur.

A cacophany of sanctioned violence, if you like.

Feeling strong-ish, I ran the 94 in gear (49/14) and clocked an initial effort at 13.44s which represented an average cadence of 118 in that gear. Later in the season I should be able to spin that gear about 10-20% faster if all goes well. I then backed it up with a second effort that experimented with line and timing of the jump at 13.45s. These times were faster than this time last year and about half a second off all time best at this track.

This means that I am pretty much on target with training despite the three month break. Sweet!

Saturday brought a track workout in the sunshine with the Sizzle Pie crew and, on Sunday, a 2h recovery ride with Tom on the SS. We looped out to Tile Flat Road in Wash Co.

Recovery ride 13-year-old style

A stop at DQ highlighted the 'recovery' nature of the ride.

Nice mix of easy, intense, super intense and easy road and track riding in the Oregon sun.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nothing snapped

The Eric Kautzky Memorial race on Saturday was the first big track event for 2012. The field was huge for the track with 92 racers turning out spread over 10 or so categories. Seemed like each category has at least 10 eager trackies and the cat 1-2 race had around 20. There was some good racing to be had.  I was in the masters 40+ field, a mash-up of cat 1-2-3 races older than 40 but younger than 50 (who had their own category). I was thown in with the likes of Klipper, Hemenway, Abers and Oliphant.

For those of you new to track racing this is omnium racing, meaning that there are three different types of races and the overall winner is the one that does best in all three. As more of a sprinter rather than an endurance racer this was going to be a real test for me. The fact that my training schedule was also a couple of months behind all the others was sure to play against me.

Our first race was the 25 lap points race where points are awarded every 5 laps for the first 4 places and points double at the finish. As you can imagine, there would be plenty of ebb and flow as riders gathered for the sprints and recovered between sprints. Imagine a 1 lap PIR race with 5 primes spaced throughout that lap and you get the idea. I stayed with the main group for the first sprint and then got gapped by about half a lap for the second sprint. Two of us gave chase and we picked up two more lapped riders along the way. The 4 of us taking half lap pulls. Slowly we dragged ourselves back into contention and with two laps to go had bridged the gap. I pulled through and took the lead (briefly) before being attacked by the former lead group. seeing as I was on my own, I soft-pedaled home. Was was pleased not to be lapped in a race where plenty of good riders had been.

The second race was a 15 lap scratch race. This one is as simple as 'first past the post'.  Knowing that a win would be a significant challenge I was determined to push the field at some point. Initially, the pace was moderate with a few anaemic attacks that did not succeed. Feeling strong, I took off with 5 laps to go forcing the field to chase. Klipper caught me and continued past dragging a number of riders along. I finished mid-field or thereabouts but happy to have stayed with the group and be in a position to lay down an attack.

The last race was a miss-and-out. After a 3 lap start the last rider across the line each lap was pulled from the race until three remained. These three would then fight out a 2 lap sprint. Field placement and situational awareness is critical in this type of race. It is easy to get boxed in and unable to accelerate out of last place. I geared down in anticipation of the need for fast accelerations. At the start I wrestled myself into second wheel down in the sprinters lane knowing that as long as I held that wheel survival deep into the race would follow. From 12 starters I made it to the last 5 before being edged out by Stephen McDade who had positioned himself uptrack with more space to accelerate into. I was still positioned behind the first wheel and hemmed in by Klipper, to my right, with nowhere to go.

Overall, my efforts were good enough for 6th place in a strong Masters field. I made sensible gear selections and my endurance is coming along nicely. It was a good hit out and, most importantly, my neck felt good, well.....nothing snapped, at least.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Go Alissa !

Nice race report from friend, training partner and honorary Aussie, Alissa Maglaty. It describes her experiences racing in the company of Anna Meares et al in Colorado Springs at the US Grand Prix of Sprinting last week. She is also raising funds to race the 2011 Elite Track Nationals in LA next month. Help her if you can.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Masters National Track Championships - part two: Match sprints and Team pursuit

Day 4 of the Championships was match sprint day for me. The format was for everyone to ride a flying 200m to provide a time for seeding riders for the match sprint pairings. The top 16 riders then pair up with 1v16, 2v15, 3v14, etc. in a knockout format leaving two riders to fight it out for gold.

Of course, we debated endlessly about gearing (duh). At Alpenrose, my bestest flying 200 was 13.34s in a 92 inch gear which translates into an average cadence of 128 rpm. Looking at past results, it appeared that a time in the mid 12 secs would be needed to get through to the last 16. This meant that I either had to SPIN significantly faster in the 92 inch gear, or UP the gear to a quad-busting 96 inches and maintain a cadence of 125-128 rpm.

Seeing as I had nothing to lose, I installed the monster 96.4 incher (50/14). Monster for me, anyway.

This daring act shrieked "Go Big or Go Home".

The next crucial decisions were; which line to take and where to jump. Since every track has different banking, size and geometry of corners, length of straight, the line one takes from the 200m line to the finish line is not necessarily the shortest. This was to be determined by watching the other riders. Pushing such a big gear also required an earlier jump because it would take longer to get up to the maximum speed. Scorchio speed had to be reached just prior to the 200m line because once timing starts you want to maintain that speed as long as humanly (or inhumanly) possible.

We worked out the 'line-age' and 'jump-age' by carefully watching the racers ahead of us.

OK, got it. Locked in.

(modesty is set aside for the time being)

So how did it go..?..........following the wind-up, I got out of the saddle and mashed furiously exactly where I wanted to - about 100m before the start. By 200m out I could not spin any faster (perfect) and sat down and buried it, taking care to carve a good, efficient line.

Even managed to 'throw' the bike at the line.

Those 200m were bashed out in 12.41 secs at an average speed of 58 kph.

Holy handle-bar-tape - I had smashed my PR by an ENTIRE SECOND.

I love, love, love this track.

When the dust had settled my time was the 14th fastest time catapaulting me like a demented gymnast into the last 16. Does this mean that I am the 14th fastest 45-49 yo male over 200m in the 50 states of the Union?

Hells yeah!

(back to normal modesty levels now)

My 14th became 13th when the top sprinter pulled-out. As 13th seed I was to ride against the 4th seed. His name..........Brian Abers, who happens to be my track coach, National track champion (twice) and first reserve for the 92 Barcelona Olympic US track team.


I drew pole position, which meant that the first position was mine - commonly regarded as a disadvantage. We were to complete two laps of the track with first across the line the winner. I had geared down to 94 inches for quicker acceleration.

Whether positioned first or second, match sprints are all about 'controlling' the other rider, so that one can jump at the most advantageous time.

I lead out and angled up the bank at about 10 kph keeping him pinned against the rail....watching....watching......watching. This lazy pace continued until mid-way between turns 3 and 4 on the first lap.

At this point, sensing that he was a little boxed-in..................I JUMPED !

Immediately, 3 bike lengths opened up between us. My arse was out of the saddle going balls-out trying to keep him far enough back so as not to ride in my considerable slipsteam. By turn 3 he had pulled along my outside and we were neck and neck. By the time we had been expelled from turn 4, like Barbara Streisand, he had nosed ahead.

I rode as hard as I could to the line but he bested me by about a wheel, according to my oxygen-deprived brain.

While being disappointed at losing, I was pleased about how the race unfolded with the well-timed jump and the anaerobic push to the line.

Couldn't have done it any better.

There is some consolation in that.

BA continued to ride strongly to finish 3rd in the competition. CD also rode very well to collect 4th place and a spot on the podium on the 40-44 age category.

After another rest day, day 6 brought the team pursuits. Besides myself, we had CD, BK and a strong all-rounder from Seattle, MH. In this event, the teams raced for 9 laps (4000m) in a time trial format. The sprint bars were swapped out for aero bars. Each rider would 'pull' for a half or full lap and then seamlessly angle uptrack and return to the rear of the paceline thus conserving energy for a couple of laps until another turn at the front was required. This rotation of riders kept the pace high - between 45 and 50 kph for the 4K. Only three riders need finish allowing a gassed rider to 'retire' if need be. There was some debate as to whom this might be, with several of the sprinters on the team 'generously' volunteering to pull out early. Smooth exchanges and good communication are essential for setting a fast time. We practiced a little for an hour or so before the event. All seemed well in the warm-up/practice.

I was the lead-out guy responsible for getting up to speed in a smooth but not beserk manner. Too fast and the riders behind would struggle to 'tuck in' expending unnecessary energy, too slow and we would pile up.

The race was alot of fun - a bit like a 5 min Tedderval session. At one point BK, who was ahead of me, ramped up the pace and dangled off the front for a lap or so until he slowed and came back. This had little impact on or final position and we finished in 5m11s, good enough for 7th in the 30+ race. No medal but not too shabby considering that we had not really practiced and two of us had never ridden a team pursuit.

So...................between the Abers training group, we had collected 4 medals including Gold to BA himself.

Personally, I had a fantastic time having smashed all my PRs and scoring a podium slot.

Who would have thought?

A fat, 40-something, academic who had not ridden a bike in anger until 3 years ago could compete at this level. Wonders will never cease.


2011 National Masters track Champs - Part one: it's business time!

The Trexlertown track, near Allentown PA,  is 333m 'round and gorgeously smooth as a big bag of smooth things. The straights are about the same length as my home track (Alpenrose) but the turns are wide, sweeping arcs that seem to go forever.

The day before the event started it bucketed down preventing any close inpection of the track itself. We arrived early the next morning to get some track time in and practice the lines for the turns. Unlike our home track where one has to actually 'turn' into the turns, no real turing is necessary and the tendency for Portlanders is to over-react and risk ending up on the apron. This was going to take some getting used to.

On a 80-something degree humid morning my kilo (1000m) time-trial was an early event on the program and I was the first rider off. The bikes were weighed (>6.8 kg) and checked for geometry (aero bars not too long) just prior to start. The low hum of hacksaws filled the air as the occasional rider was obliged to shorten his bars to become race legal.

With new wheels (Corsa Concept, 88mm rims) and a smooth track I upped the gearage to 49/14 (94 in). The race was over pretty quickly with nearly 2 secs taken of my PR to 1:17 to finish 12th overall. Some of my lines were a bit wobbly, which I put down to the new, deep wheels and not being so used to the track. Due to the fact that violent post-race coughing did NOT occur I probably could have gone faster - though the humidity may have reduced the lung scorching. The languid week in Florida dealing with the space mice prior to come to T-town probably did me no favors either. Still, I was delighted to carve so much time out of my Alpenrose PR.

Tuesday was the 3K pursuit and team sprint day for me. There was some anxiety about my saddle position. It was only about 2cm set back from the bottom bracket, and the rules require a 5cm set-back. The loop-hole is a 'morphological exemption' where if your knee cannot project forward of the bottom bracket. Fortunately, due to my short-arsed femurs I was given an exemption. We had a loaner saddle from a LBS in case the officials ruled against me.

My 3K was late in the day, 77 heats away. As you can imagine, this took ALL day and the 'morning' session finished at 5:30. My race was about 4:30. The race went well and I chipped 5 secs or so off my PR to finish in 4:06.8 in a 92 inch gear. Felt better about this race than the kilo and 'left' more on the track.

Ex-HVer MS has been racing fantastically well and won gold in her pursuit and a 4th in the scratch race the night before. Good on her.

The evening session when all the Team Sprints were to be contested was pushed back to 7pm. I teamed with my roomies CD and BK of Brihop in the 30+ race (since BK is 30-something). Since I had ridden a hard 3K 'bout 3 hours previously I got the lead out position and would only have to complete one 333m lap. My sole job was to get the other two up to speed as quickly as possible and then pull off gracefully at the start finish line. CD was to complete 2 laps and BK was to bring it home. Well, it all went pretty well. I stomped on my 94 inch gear, dropped them briefly but they caught back on and delivered them back round to the start at 50kph. We recorded a time of 1:11 which was good enough for 5th place and the podium. Holy crap! - we had won a medal at a National Championship!!!!! BA won gold in the 40+ team sprint.

Day 3 of the meet was a rest day for me with the match sprints ahead on day 4 and the 4K team pursuit on day 6. It had been a very good Championship for me so far.....what was to come ?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Vanport Kermesse - road and gravel combo Belgian style

The Vanport Kermesse was a crapton o'fun. Kevin and I represented. We lined up on a gorgeous spring morning with temps approaching 70. With the heroic events of the Hammer Velo crit yesterday foremost in our minds, we were determined to keep the good run of results for the team going. The 3 miles course was half PIR racetrack and half gravel. Perfect for me - one who is a less than stellar road-racer and an ordinary CCX racer. But when elements of these races are combined I tend to do better. Fitted 28C tyres to my roadbike and inflated to 100 psi - high enough to ward off pinch-flats but a little softenss for the gravel.

The field looked to be about 35 strong. As is customary, Kev shot off the front right from the start. Some brutal track racing in the week and a solid PIR TT outing the previous monday (combined with not racing The Hammer Velo Crit yesterday) had me primed to inflict maximum pain. By the time we have reached the racetrack I had made it to the pointy end and had turned into the arsehole who sets the fierce pace. The pack was strung out behind. 

By the end of the paved racetrack section a breakway of about seven had formed and I was one of them. Goodness! We kept the pace high through the gravel-tastic portion, the short slightly uphill rutted grass section, the technical gravel turn just before the start-finish line. On the second lap five riders got away, leaving me and a skinny roadie. We tried to get back on for a lap and a half but were caught by a chase group of about eight. Just as we had set up an organized pace line to chase the lead group, no more than 200 yeards ahead and catchable, a Showers Pass rider attacked.


Our group exploded.

One of the cyclisme juniors went after him as did I. It was clear that the chase group behind could not bridge up to us so we pressed on. We continued for another lap until the SP rider gave up and drifted back to the pack chasing Cyclisme junior and I.

Kev was on the sidelines - which did not make sense to me in my tiny world of confusion - why was he not racing?. Something has ended his day.

We passed one of the lead group riders dealing with a flat.

Bonza ! - now only 4 up the road/gravel.

Cyclisme and I worked well together to make sure that we stayed away. Then the bell lap. To my surprise, we maintained the gap to our chase group until another junior bridged across. The three of us worked together for the final mile or so. We passed another lead group rider with a flat.

Bonza squared! - now only three up the road and gravel from me.

We powered through to the finish. Looks like I came home in 4th on the 4/5s. Skinny roadie came in about 40 seconds later. While delighted with that, I was most pleased with how it unfolded - riding and staying away from a group of six or so roadies.

Riding the road bike was definitely the best strategy - it was a roadies course, and those that rode 'cross bikes were at a disadvantage on the smooth fast racetrack which comprised about 40% of the route.

It was a really fun race - with more mini dramas than an episode of 'Real Elvis Wedding Planners of Las Vegas'. It seems that a road and gravel mix is a reasonable combination for this Wombat.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Memorial Day time trial at the local raceway

While we are waiting to hear all about CM's epic 24 hr TT over the weekend I thought I would report on todays Bike Tires Direct TT out at Portland International Raceway (PIR). Having race road, CCX and short-track MTB at PIR at various times in the past, I decided late yesterday to make it a quadrella of bike disciplines and add the TT.

Six laps and 12 miles was on the menu. Having got there early to register I had the luxury of 90 mins before kick-off to fiddle with the bike and warm-up. The wind was a bit squally but happily there was NO sign of rain, let alone hail or snow unlike the EPIC 'Bend Don't Freeze' race of '11.

For a change I was able to tinker with the TT set-up on my bike. Nothing special, just my Cannondale with aero bars bolted on. Skinsuit and booties completed my aero-transformation. Raised the saddle a bit, leveled the bars a bit followed by a solid warm-up had me ready to mix it up with the masters (A 'master-mix', perhaps - sorry, an appauling science joke).

The race itself was uneventful. Got passed a couple of times, and in turn passed a few blokes. Finished in 28m15s to take 8th place out of 14 Masters riders - solidly mid-pack. A couple of things to be pleased about. My average speed of 24.5 mph (40 kph) was faster I had ever done a TT in, but of course, there were no hills and no significant wind to slow this clydesdale down. After lap one, I did not even change from the 50/15 I had settled into, so I was able to hold a very steady pace throughout.


Friday, April 8, 2011

First PIR outing of the year

In an effort to get more miles in my legs I decided to race both the 4/5 and 3/4 races at PIR last night. The Neighbor joined me in these adventures.

Paradoxically, the 4/5 race has always been harder than the 3/4 race for me. There are never any breaks that stick and it all omes down to firepower at the end. Also, with such a short race (6 laps and 12 miles) there is not enough road to tire out the younger riders. The Neighbor and I did some work at the front but I had nothing to give at the end and drifted across the line in 19th, saving myself for the 3/4 race. The Neighbor got 10th.

The other Jamie started in the 45-strong 3/4 field with us. We had not discussed a plan and were going to have to wing it. The pace was high from the start and, determined not to be dropped, I hung onto one wheel or another taking care not to drift too far back.

Then with about 6 laps to go, the decisive break formed. About 15 riders got away, including the other Jamie. The pace immediately lifted and I buried myself just to say in touch with the chase pack. When I had the time and energy to glance back a lap later, the rest of the field was nowhere to be seen. It seemed that I was part of a chase group numbering 12. Sweet!

Now..........for the first time since the El Luchador days I was in a position to influence the race. With the other Jamie up the road, I was disinclined to be an active participant in the chase.
Instead, like a demented rock-sucking lamprey climbing Willamette Falls, I sucked wheel as if my progeny depended on it. I took only a single, anaemic pull. The few that did not have representatives in the break could not broach the ever widening gap.
Satisfied that the chase would not be successful, I conserved energy until the end and sprinted early making them chase me down, which three of them did. I finished 19th to Jamie Blair's 6th. I was happy to have rode strongly and played a (small) role in foiling the chase thereby protecting Jamie's position.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cherry Blossom Race Report

Wombat got dropped quicker than ..........

.....a tea bag at a Starbucks conference on National octo-americano day

.....a clydesdale with a parachute malfunction

.....a 7 year-old's broccoli parfait at the entrance to the Wonka factory

.....a bride's panties on her wedding night.

.....Brads trousers on birthday-thong night.

.....a honey badger at the petting zoo.

.....a keg of IPA washed up on a desert island bolting when baby delivers a small sewer plant into his diaper

.....a Tea Party convention attendee who off-handedly remarks "you know.....Obama might be onto something with this health-care reform business".

Please feel free to add your own - I can take it. No, really.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Piece of cake' - humbled by a hipster!

The 'Piece of Cake' road race was going to be very interesting with the inclusion this year of 3.5 miles of gravel road in each 17 mile loop. Were were to circle three times for a total of 54 miles. In addition to the gravel, the early season racing also meant that wind and rain were part of the mix promising an epic day of racing. Just my cup of tea. The plan was to get riders into the break and support them as appropriate.

Unfortunately, of the five Hammer Velo riders in the Men's 4 field, three of us got dropped right from the start in the gravel section thereby curtailing any possibility of influencing the race in a meaningful way. Only Ian and Mr Smith made into the breakaway. I was first wheel behind AH, who is an excellent time-trialist and, although mindful of the need to block, was hoping that he would help close the gap in the first section of gravel. He could not, and when I took over after the first RH turn in the gravel and revved up the engine, he and the others were gone and the leading group was more than 100m ahead.

Bollocks ! The race was less than 10 minutes old with two and a half hours and 50 more miles to ride, possibly alone.

At this point I was thinking 'crap', what to do now. Drift back and block to help out the two HVers up the road or try and hold my position. As it happened, AH, a kid, and two others bridged up to me on the road section after the gravel. We pacelined for a cople of miles but the two fastest ones soon dropped us and I, following a short uphill surge, dropped the last two to once again be alone.

I then started to pick off several Masters 1/2/3 riders who had begun five minutes before us. I then caught a bearded unattached hipster in my field in a white kit/rain jacket and we rode together for the remainder of the lap. I pulled too hard through the finish line area and he dropped me on the hill. However, he was caught again in the cross wind section amidst the short rollers.

At this point, I decided to reward myself with some fuel and reached back for a perpetuum solid. As I pulled out the tube my drivers license FELL OUT of my back pocket. Wha' the effin' eff. I debated leaving it for recovery later but decided it was perhaps better to go back now. So I circled around and retrieved it. Hipster was now 200m ahead and I began the chase again. It took me half a lap, but I caught him for the THIRD time in the brutal headwind section near the railway tracks. I must have seemed like a small yappy dog to him - persistant, annoying and not going away. We rode together with another rider who decided that two laps were enough for him and turned left back to the parking lot rather than battle on for a third lap.

In the gravel section on this third lap, we caught Ian who was very tired and suffering badly with a dodgy back. We worked together for a while but it was clear that Ian was not going to be able to stay with us. I wanted to keep that pace reasonably high to minimize the chances of getting caught ourselves and Ian dropped off near the start of the headwind about six miles before the finish line.

Like a delusional chess grandmaster, by now I was thinking of the end-game. Hipster looked to be riding fluidly and efficiently and we had established that this was his first Cat 4 race, having rode a Banana Belt race as a Cat 5. I should have asked him how he did in that race! I didn't because I was supremely confident about crushing him in the sprint :). I positioned myself in his draft with about 300m to go.

Like all good sprinters, he was watching and, at the 200m mark, jumped first. I came out from behind and quickly made up half a bike length. We punished ourselves for another 100m with him holding me off in the final drive to the line by half a wheel length to take 9th place to my 10th. Whilst recovering, I glanced around nervously hoping that no one had witnessed me, an aspiring track rider, being beaten in a sprint by a skinny bearded hipster-type. Thinking back, a better strategy would have been to stay in his draft for longer and look to surge past at about the 50m mark.

As I was to learn later, the hipster was in fact a very strong SS 'cross  racer and track rider with a better kilo time than me (and 10 years younger). He had also won the Cat 5 race at Banana Belt.

I feel better now (sniffle....).

This was the only negative about a fantastic, if adversarial, day of racing. I felt pretty good about my race having battled hard to make up ground after the initial droppage while often riding solo or with one other. Pleased too about squeezing into the top 10.

By staying at the pointy end the entire race, Mr Smith proved that he was the strongest and toughest of the HV riders and worthy of our support.

Notably, 40% of the field failed to finish - victims of the gravel-tastic element.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Banana Belt 'training ride'

My first road race of the season was an adventure. After an incident-free preparation and warm-up on the rollers I was feeling good going into the 40+ cat 4/5 race. The plan was for me to deliver KO and maybe HG to the base of the finish-line hill at speed. However, before then I needed to knock down 44 miles and climb the post-dam hill four times. First time round was no problem and actually made it up the hill towards the front of the pack. OH YEAH!

It was going to be a good day.

Then as things were going well, about 3/4 around lap 1 on a slight downhill, I hit a small rock to the right of the fog line and flatted the rear wheel.


I waited for the wheel car and we got it changed over quite slowly - prolly lost about 90 secs to the pack. A combination of being very pissed off, my natural stubborness and reluctance to waste the entry fee spurred me to chase - so I time-trialed my arse off. As I reached the dam about 5 miles later, the pack was just exiting the dam. I had made up some ground but was still gapped by about 60 secs. At the base of the hill they were at the top of the hill. I chased for another lap.

However, by the time the dam came 'round again they were already off the dam and up the hill. I was losing ground. My race was probably over.

Then the 50+ field came up behind me, which had started a minute or two behind my 40+ group. They caught me near the top of the hill and I soft pedalled on the extreme right of the road and let them pass. I held a position about 2 bike lengths back from the last rider but in front of the OBRA official's car.

The official pulled up beside me and indicated that he was OK with me being there (off the back with no riders behind) but if I got significantly gapped he expected me to drop off. I agreed and stayed there being careful not to interfere with their race in any way. By now, I had ridden behind the old buggers for 12 miles or so. On the last lap at the hill, the 50+ group gapped me and I slowed. I rode the last half lap with JT who had cramped up and also dropped on the hill. 

Looking at the positive, although I had failed to influence the race in any way, it was a very good workout. By riding alone for 2.5 laps exposed to the wind, likely did more work than anyone in the 4/5s.

So, what can I take away from the race?

First, don't flat.

Second, practice wheel changes. A 45 sec gap that early in the race might have given me a chance, but 90 secs was too much.

Oh, and OBRA officials totally rock.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Half-lap misadventure at the US Cyclocross Nationals

For the first time this year I trained for a specific race.

This race. The 40+ non-championship race at the US Cyclocross Nationals. The preparation consisted of six weeks of high intensity interval and road sessions several times a week and a full race schedule that included the tail end of the Cross Crusade series, the State Champs, Psycho Cross and USGP.

The training was paying off with a pair of season-best 13th place finishes in Mens C at the USGP races a few days before. I was locked and loaded. 

My race was the third one of the opening day of the 5-day event. I learned at the registration desk that the icy weather had caused a 1 hr delay in starting the first race. Wha’ the effin-eff? This meant that there was no time between the subsequent races to pre-ride the course as the organizers scrambled to get back on schedule.

I was going to have to ride the course blind. Yikes.

But, like Darwin’s finches, one had to adapt or die. At the risk of sounding dramatic, of all the cycling disciplines, cyclocross racing is all about adapting to change. The course, the weather, equipment can change at a moment’s notice before and sometimes during a race. Only the fittest, smartest, most adaptable flourish.

A 30 min trainer warm-up was perfect. Then came the announcement that we were back on schedule and my race would start on time after all.

Unlike the fancy-schmancy ‘championship’ races, we were not required to complete a seeding time trial and call-ups were random. They picked out a bib number randomly and then filled the chutes sequentially from that number.

Number 264 was pinned to my jersey and shoulders. The first number called was 246. Bonza !!!!!!...... I was going to be called up 18th.

Sweety-teeeeety-marghareety !

A second row with about 100 racers behind. Bloody brilliant. I was grinning like the punter that won the meat tray in the chook raffle at the footy club Christmas party. My dream of not being lapped was within reach.

I convinced myself that a quick start and competent navigation of the first LHer at the end of the strait would assure me of a good finish even if passed by a flange of blokes.

Moments later we were orrrrrrfff.
A fast clip-in is essential for a good start. Relief-fully, I clipped in immediately and, with head down and arse up, sprinted enthusiastically down the long strait. Got there in about 10th place and safely made it around. The course was very slippery and at this early stage there was quite a bit of passing and being passed.

On the third or fourth LH turn I slipped hard down onto my left knee and elbow. I knew that it was going to look ugly because the pain could be felt through the neuro-protective adrenalin curtain.

Almost immediately I had trouble controlling the bike. USGP was almost completely dry and easy to navigate, but here the slop had me all over the place. The back part of the course was an exercise in staying upright and fighting to hold places. Then, following a short steep run-up, we were pointed back towards the center of the course. Now in about 20th place, ML and I had gapped the field behind. A couple of turns later we found ourselves atop a small plateau and, following a 90 degree  RH turn, came a sharp drop off which gave the option of two lines.

Unfortunately for my head, neck, back, helmet and ego I chose the wrong line – the bumpier right-hand one with the lip and short drop-off into a hole.

I likely squeezed the brakes too hard and did not have my considerable weight back far enough. Inevitably, the front wheel lodged in the hole and over I went.  The bike got left behind as my head and left shoulder were crunched into the ground.

I believe I bounced. 

Returning to feet groggily, I swayed a bit and surveyed the damage doing nothing except existing in a tiny world of confusion.  

A large flock of cyclists may have swished past.

My race was over.
(photos courtesy of Jon Graef)

After about 5 mins of standing there breathing heavily assuring bystanders that I was OK, I quietly shuffled away with my bike.

Perhaps in response to the half lap of race exertion and the altitude, my breathing had morphed into an alarming sprinters hack. As I returned to the start chute to retrieve my warm-up jumper I was overcome with an urge to vommie. I did so in the nearby porta-loo – the large wheelchair-access one.

Nice way to end the season - frozen, coughing, vomiting, knee, neck and back pain – staring at someone else’s floater in a portable toilet.

I was about as happy as a bastard on Fathers Day.

The Wombat had failed to adapt and had suffered the consequences – evolutionFAIL !

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wombat kept going

The singular most memorable event that happened during our two days in Eugene racing Psycho Cross involved my bike being skyward and me being underwater.

Unlike the Cross Crusade races where the Clydes and Men’s C are run together, at Psycho Cross they are run separately, one 45 min race after the other. In the week leading up to the races I debated whether to just compete in one or do both races. As one who relishes a challenge, I opted for both races on both days.

The course itself was quite technical with a steep hill of about 30 feet that terminated in a series of deep puddles that had settled between grassy hummocks (a bit like Minnesota), a stretch of single-track that demanded full concentration, several shortish pavement sections for the roadies, a couple of decent run-ups and a devilish sand volleyball court.

The Saturday weather was cold (high 30s) but dry. The Men’s C on Saturday boasted a field of 7 brave souls and they let us off with the Beginners and masters 35+C’s.  Following the start whistle it was business as usual for me  – a slow start, then passing a few as the race went on. A bit of slip and slop here and there but no major dramas and consistent, just-below LT effort. 4th place finish. Sweet.

Then it was time to line up with the Clydes who raced with master B’s and 50+ers. I was one of just three Clydes in the race and a realistic chance of a top 3 finish :). In an otherwise uneventful race the Clydes were dispatched early on and I managed to go deep into the men’s B field, any case, I passed Eric Anderson who is a pretty decent racer and one of my nemesi. The highlight was racing for a time with Paul Mautner and Ron Strasser. It was a three-way tussle with PM pulling away on the straights and RS and I catching up on the more technical sections. It was an honor to ride with those guys. Brad looked good in his Masters C35+ and SS races.

Sunday brought rain to go with the low 40s temperatures. I only had finger-less gloves for the day but was able to apply embrocation to each little finger to keep them toasty warm. Similar sized Men’s C to the previous day. The rain was light but constant and the course changed slightly to include an additional run-up to make the total 4, including a set of stairs.

By lap two I was mid-field and had put a gap of about 20 seconds on a chasing mob of four or so. This time I decided not to be timid with the downhill/puddle section and hit it pretty fast. This was fine and my cunning plan would have worked except that the extra speed kept me to the deeper right hand puddle, nay pond. By now the ponds were axle deep and getting deeper with all the traffic. Well, you can guess what happened..... The front wheel said "nooooooooo.........", took a deep sigh and stopped then as the laws of physics demand, Wombat.kept.going. I was airborne and the bike was even more airborne. At about 270 degrees around the somersault as I was parallel to the pond and face up came the vibrant and unforgettable image of bike famed against the heavens. Then in an instant I was underwater and blowing bubbles. After resurfacing, stock was taken and the bike located – several yards ahead mocking me with its dryness. The first thought was that 'wow, no-one has passed me' and I hopped back on the bike and scanned quickly for damage to the bike. Nada. I was pretty shaken and more than a bit dazed and it took the entire single-track section to get back up to speed. One ear was mud-plugged and for the next while, snotty-teary-bog juice worked its way languidly down my face. Two of the trailing mob passed me on the straight. I was never to catch them and finished 6th.

Then it was time to saddle up for the Clydes race. Just me and a 6ft 6in giant. Bit like a LOTR rotund dwarf going up against a very tall lithe Elf. My start-line appearance, which resembled a bad 50s B-grade movie monster, clearly alarmed a few of the old codgers. What I lacked in beauty I made up for in HTFU-ness and, in my mind, a couple of admiring nods were thown my way. I had the quicker start but the Elf took me halfway into lap one and looked to be pulling away. This made me mad as hell and I wasn’t going to take it anymore, and gave chase. He was passed in the next lap as he stumbled in the bog section. Next time I dared to glance Elf was way back. It stayed that way until the last half lap when he closed the gap but a clean run through the sand box gave me enough breathing space to coast across the line. Take that Elf-man!

So……… 4 races and 4 very different experiences – way cool!

Should I update my Tetanus immunization?
(photo: B. Foster)


Monday, November 8, 2010

As happy as a Clyde in mud - Hillsboro race report

The heavy rain the night before promised a wet course. Arriving at Hillsboro, the sun was out and it was a balmy 50-something degrees. It was sunnies all round – glad to have had the foresight to bring mine. All up, excellent racing weather.

After receiving a good shellacking last week at Astoria I decided to return to the cocoon that is the Clydesdales. They are like family really,……….a large family. The start lottery placed me in the third last group, that is….about 70% of the way back once the call-ups and other groups were loaded into the chute. It was going to be a crowded race. Not having pre-rode the course was not an issue because, let’s face it, we all knew what lie ahead. For those not familiar with the Washington County Fairgrounds there was going to be 1.9 mile laps that included some combination of:

1) a bit of gravel road here and there
2) a brace of muddy turns
3) a couple of muddy puddle hammerfests
4) some shed ak-shon
5) and that narrow slippery off-camber stretch that ends with that nasty RH rise

This is a course that suited my Neanderthal racing brain – slip and slide round the turns, hammer the straits. Repeat.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. The corners were navigated just fine and major falls that separated rider from bike were avoided. The more I race, the more I understand my racing. For cyclocross, I need a tentative first lap to warm up and get comfortable with the course, then it’s all systems go once a rhythm is established. True to form, after a slowish start I started to reel in the Clyde and Mens C stragglers. There were a couple of decent straightaways that allowed passing, especially if one stayed on the grassy edges and away from the heavier more medial muddy sections. I heard The Neighbor several times shouting encouragement near the mud pools, and Jeff and Hugh from the tent. By the third lap, I was passing guys known to be in the top 20 Clydes. On the final lap I passed a rider who had bested me at Alpenrose and managed to hold him off until the end. Sweet! Finished around 10th.

                                                    Graceful cornering (photo: R. Rosko)

Overall, quite pleased with the race. The relatively non-technical course made it very Wombat-friendly. I felt strong and made up a lot of ground from the rear of the field and could have done with an additional lap. There were no costly falls and no injuries (yay).

Most importantly of all, the mud is good for my skin.

Hillsboro race report - Rock Opera version

Color me crazy, but for me the drama of a cyclocross race is akin to theater, musical theater perhaps.

Above all it is a journey. Like all good journeys, there is a beginning (Act I) where the protagonist, ‘The boy’ loves his bike and loves racing his bike – life is wonderful. They start the journey together. Then comes the trying middle part (Act II) that is fraught with extreme physical challenge. The boy questions his committment to his bike (boys loses bike). Then comes the conclusion of his journey (Act III), with acceptance of his situation (finish place), and a reunion with his bike (boy gets bike back ). Life CAN be wonderful again.

Here is my take on the Hillsboro race with Bohemian Rhapsody laid over the top. Apologies to those under 30 who may not be familiar with this epic (

Act I
A mellow start

Scene: The start chute and lap 1.

I’m just a poor boy……….” - The boy nervously awaits the start

“….look up to the sky and see….” - He checks the weather

anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me” – He is blasé about the conditions - he's here to RACE

caught in a landslide……no escape from reality” - Start whistle and 50 lumbering Clydes take off

“……little high...... little low” - Some bad cornering on lap 1

Act II
Pace and rhythm

Scene: Laps 2 and 3

momma just killed a man” - Candi pulls a rider from the race for accepting a bacon hand-up

Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth” - The boy ups the pace and determinedly gives chase

I don’t want to die……..” - (whispered to bike) The boy goes out too hard and redlines

sometimes wish I’d never been born at all “ - In the face of physical distress, The boy questions relationship with bike and now regrets entering the race

I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me” - The boy is now at his lowest point. The bike then slaps him around a bit and tells him to snap out of his mid-race self-pitying funk

Journey’s end

Scene: Lap 4 and finish line

I see a LITTLE silloetto of a man….” - He spots a Clyde ahead and gives chase (sung ironically)

Gallilleo....Gallileo....Gallilleo........Figaro” – sung in falsetto as he passes classically-named Clyde twins

we will not let you go……..let me go” - He passes several Clydes on the gravel section. They respond negatively. In response The boy expresses his desire to drop them

so you think that you can stop me and spit in my eye” - The boy defiantly passes a couple more riders and casts a derisive eye over them

just got to get out……….. just got to get right out of here” – he hammers through the huge mud puddles. Nothing can stop them now - The boy and bike rediscovering their love for one another (and mud)

ooooh yeah…….oh yeah” - Together they triumphantly nail the final half lap

nothing really matters to me……….” – They cross the finish line as One and The boy realizes that his love for bike is eternal and nothing else is important

The boy and bike take their bow

Post-race posing (photo: R. Rosko)

Monday, October 4, 2010

First year anniversary - Alpenrose Dairy Clydesdale race

Decided to race after pre-walking the course Sat evening and feeling a child-like excitement about riding it the next day. Also, it would be the anniversary of my first race as a Hammer Velo rider. My account of that race (and inaugural race report) is here. Yep, 80 races later, I’m still thereabouts.

Taking my injured calf into account I decided to race the Clydes instead of the C’s. Our combined Clyde/men’s C field was 190 strong. Yes folks, that’s 34,000 lbs of rippled man-flesh riding, falling, sliding, running and jumping, cursing and otherwise tearing up the course. Since most of you rode the course or were there to spectate, except for KW who double flatted on the way and didn’t make it, I do not need to describe the layout. All I’ll say is that it was a better, more technical course than last year. It is worth noting that there were 1506 racers out there yesterday making it the biggest cyclocross event in the world we are told.

Mine was the third set of numbers to be called up. The C’s were let off two minutes ahead of us. Then we were off. Disaster nearly struck at the first claustrophobic bend when the guy ahead of me locked his brakes, skidded and nearly went down – I did the same and only just saved it. With all the traffic, the first lap was slow and I found myself behind Mr Smith who amused us all by bellowing out witty and sarcastic commentary from time to time.

Wombat sporting the OMG expression (photo: Julie Carter)
By lap two I had settled into a good rhythm and started reeling in some of the other Clydes and the slower C’s. I passed a few familiar faces in the C’s including AL and Danny K. After about 3 laps I was feeling pretty good but had settled into a kind of equilibrium where I was not gaining on the rider in front, Joe, sporting a Beavers jersey, and not totally dropping Mountain View’s Andrew Hayes. Towards the end I was passed by two riders who slipped in between me and Joe. In a final balls-out sprint in the velodrome I caught one of those riders in a sprint by the width of a Belgian frite to secure 8th place.

Problem area: The off camber grass above turn 3 of the velodrome. There was always traffic and could never get a good run at it.

No problem area: Winding up the sprint in the Velodrome straight.

Play of the day: A graceful endo at the base of the run-up.

All-in-all a fun day on and off the bike.

What is the first-year anniversary gift for a cycling team and racer marriage? blinky light, spoke, bar tape, wheel trueing nipple tightening thingy..........?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grass, gravel, forest and playground

We skipped out of an 8am soccer game early to make the David Douglas Cyclocross race. Although feeling guilty about this, as the coach I could not do much about the 0-8 scoreline. So P and I leapt into the Falcon and sped to the race. Just enough time to register pay and pay again ($5) to buy another number because one had already been issued to me. This pissed me ORFF! No time to pre-ride, just a few minutes to stretch the still-recovering calves – Betty and Draper (because they look good but are utterly dysfunctional).

Annywaaaaaay, back to the race. At around 10, the Mens Cat C field was surprisingly small. Oh well, all I need to do was hang with these guys and hopefully score an effortless top 10. They all looked like a bunch of lean fit racers and I was probably the oldest by about 10 years. My strategy was to keep pace with the group and reconnoiter the course on that first lap getting in a good warm-up in the process, and then strike on lap two.

The 2 mile course was challenging but incredible fun. After an extended speedy section on grass and pavement, the path turned to a fast single track descent into a forested canyon. The surface was pretty smooth and slick in only a couple of spots. Then there was the ‘short’ run-up. It was quite long but not ultra steep and definitely rideable. Unfortunately, at the top was a log that forced everyone who had ridden up to dismount – no reward for staying on the bike. Then it was through the soft bark of first playground, a barrier before another descent into the canyon – this time steeper and faster than before. Then it was the quad-busting, lung-tearing, calf-ripping ‘long’ run-up. Next was a bit more pffaffing about on the grass, another playground romp and the start/finish.

Ok, to the race. In keeping with my hastily constructed plan, contact was maintained with the leaders on the first lap. After a little bit of to-and-fro'ing I settled into fourth place, with third in my sights and a couple of riders about 100 feet behind me. Through the race fog that dims awareness to a pin-prick, I recognized Chris Miller on the sidelines cheering me on. I was also amused by Luciano talking-up my battle for third place at each lap at the start/finish line. However, it was not much of a battle and he steadily pulled away. I focused instead on protecting 4th. Like a delicate and nimble forest fawn I would accelerate on the faster, flatter sections and my ‘followers’ would recover all that ground in the forest.

It was going to be tough, but with 10 mins to go I started to believe that I could stay away. Then with one and a half laps to go disaster struck (there is ALWAYS a disaster, right?). The first, shorter run-up comes at you pretty fast and I did not handle the slowing and turning so well. Down I went. Bollocks. However, like an over-caffeinated squirrel I sprung up pretty quickly and began to navigate the run-up. The clinking of metal-on-metal told me that the chain had dropped. Annoyed by this development my right calf (Betty) complained, went pop and promptly took a cigarette break. As I remounted the chain the first rider passed. Double bollocks.

After this point, the barriers and run-ups were slow and painful. At one point, after a particularly clumsy remount, a second racer overtook. I tried to respond and kept him close for a while but I lost too much ground on the last two run-ups and soon he was beyond reach. Then it was a matter of simply finishing – which I did with the next racer a long way behind.

Overall, the course was hugely enjoyable – the fast open spaces suited my game. The single-track descents provided a technical challenge and the playground excursions were a novel twist that I had not seen before. In truth, the run-ups were not all that bad because they followed a descent that allowed for some recovery time. It was just a shame to aggravate the calf injury.

Can’t complain about 6th place in an open, if small, Men’s C field

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rad Racing GP, Seattle

I was placed in the third row of four with about 30 other riders in the Masters 45+ Cat 4 field. Looking around, facial hair dominated with quite a few magnificent moustaches in view. No familiar faces but a couple of lean-looking racers looked the ones to beat.

The course was completely flat but quite technical with a lot of grassy turns, a single set of barriers, a long stretch of tarmac that suited the sprinter and two stretches of beach – yes, I said beach. Each coastal region was about 40 yards in length with ankle-deep sand. Much too soft to traverse on the bike – the furthest I made was about 5 yards. Overall, a really fun course and one that suited me.

OK, to the start. I managed to sprint past a few riders from start chute and settled into about 15th place. The first half of the course was windy and technical through tight turns ‘round trees and most of the turns were off camber. There was some jostling for position but few real opportunities to pass in this early stage of the race. Then we hit the two sand ‘traps’. There was a chorus of beefy grunts as bikes were hoisted, wheels akimbo. As you can imagine, there were a few ‘face-on-tread’ incidents, but I escaped without drama and even managed to pass a few blokes. Then it was into another grassy section. We started to catch the slower racers from the group that started 30 secs ahead. I settled into a group of about five and we traded attacks for a couple of laps but no one could seem to pull away. The barriers were no problem and my remounts are improving each race. I focused on taking an inside line on the grassy/muddy off-camber turns and picked off a few with this strategy. Due to all the turns, there were very few opportunities to approach lactate threshold. This meant that I could really open up on the 150m start/finish straight. Passed a couple more each lap doing this. By lap 3, the group that I had been exchanging attacks with had dropped off– probably a consequence of my long road season and, ahem, good level of fitness (and no climbing in the race).

Disaster nearly struck in front of the scorers on lap 3. Let me explain. There was a small speed bump in the straight, about the height of a large dingo donger. I had bunny hopped this donger-bump twice at speed. On the third go at this the pedals locked. I looked down to see the chain hoisted on the crank arm. Alarmed at this development, I took stock for a second and decided to gently back-pedal hoping that the chain would drop off the crank and be pulled back into line with the chainring. Thankfully, this is exactly what happened and I continued.

The other comical event happened on lap 3 on the beach. As I was striding purposefully through the sand with shouldered bike, the right calf muscle complained loudly and went ping. Crapola! Every step was now an adventure in pain and I took to ‘running’ with foot angled out to minimize the discomfort. Then, on the third lap in the same place the other calf went out in sympathy. Pushing down and forward in the soft sand had extended both calves past breaking point. There were now as useful to me as a chocolate kettle.
Three ways to navigate the beach: riding, pushing, carrying. Post-injury, I made like a duck and waddled.
(photo courtesy of Tim Schallberger)

So for the final laps I was mostly riding along, reeling in the occasional not-my-Category moustaches. Then when I hit the beach, I hobbled and waddled gamely in agony with the peculiar sensation that my rebellious calves had rolled up sitting behind my knees having a good laugh. My calves really need to HTFU or I will be posting to OBRA chat for a new pair VERY soon.

The front of my race was a long way off but I was the strongest of the next group of riders. We left before the results were posted but I am guessing around a 10-12th place [actually, nabbed 4th place - woo hoo]. Aside from calf issues, which I suspect will be an ongoing issue throughout cross season, I was very happy with my race. No falls, good handling of the technical sections and strong sprinting when required.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ouchy time - Pain and Suffer'n race report

Not wishing to sound like a whinny, cardigan-wearing, sissy but this race really (really) hurt. The course was a significant challenge – lots of climbing, 4 sets of barriers, deep, slippery gravel, and a long, long run-up. Combined, this layout pushed the boundaries of decent racing and collapsed everything down to a primeval battle for survival, at least it did for me. By about half way through I had ceased meaningful racing and was just hanging on for dear life.

After competing as a Clydesdale in cyclocross all last season, I decided to enter the Men’s C race and started alongside 24 other journeymen. After the whistle I was able to keep up with the lead group - for about a lap. Was feeling quite pleased about this. However, before I could reach around and pat myself on the back, the physiological debt demanded its first payment - angrily too. I had gone out too hard. From then on it was a battle to maximize recovery on the short downhill sections while trying to somehow overcome the uphill segments. By now some kind of racing survival instinct had kicked in – I had to do whatever it took to finish.
(photo courtesy of R. Rosko)

By the second lap I had lost contact with the lead group and was riding solo. I passed one racer the entire race - a poor chap who had obviously gone out waaaaaay too hard. He was done. Whimpering sounds could be heard as I passed. Later I was overtaken by someone who continued to steadily pull away. No response from me - I didn’t care. You KNOW that it is a complete and utter sufferfest when you don’t give one whit when someone passes you – it’s just a minor event in your tiny world of pain. Most tortuous was the gentle uphill section that followed the run-up. It was a couple of hundred meters of 2-4% of climbing. “That’s not so steep” you may snort. True, but it was bumpy and very difficult to maintain any sort of momentum and I was reduced to turgidly spinning the pedals in lowest gear, willing myself to the top. This lung scorching, quad-tastic battle for preservation continued for two more laps. The bell made me grin like a fool because it meant that the end was near. Spirits were lifted and extra energy was found to propel me through that last lap. Thankfully, no sprinting was required at the end and had the luxury of pedaling languidly across the line, quads all aquiver.
(photo courtesy of R. Rosko)

True to its name the event had extracted maximum pain and suffer’n. I suspect that a lot of other racers were similarly humbled. For me, it was akin to an episode of Man vs wild. Dropped into the Bald Peak wilderness with only one way out – and I had made it. The only thing missing was the chopper to whisk me back to civilization when survival was assured.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Elkhorn - its business time

Several excellent accounts of the 2010 Elkhorn stage race have been written. Instead of rehashing some of those details, this account will serve to briefly describe a couple of race highlights for me and another couple of incidents that amused me and taught me three valuable lessons. As usual, all that follows was filtered through the Wombo-scope and only fleetingly touches on reality.

OK, so I finished in 38th place overall in 10 hrs 13 mins with about the same time of all the HV finishers except for Gilligan who posted a time about 30 mins ahead of me. Best finish for me was 18th in the crit. The two road stages of 76mi and 100mi included about 10,000ft of climbing, including a brutal 8mi finish to stage 4 that averaged 6%.

‘Climbing insanity’
Overall, I was very pleased with my climbing. This may seem an odd thing to say because I was dropped on all the significant climbs but in each case the damage and time losses were minimized. Learning from past mistakes (see Cannon Dale et al, Journal of Crap Cycling (2010), v700, p1227) I made sure to start each climb in the front 2/3rd of the pack. Instead of red-lining just to keep up, like an ageing porno star, I maintained a good rhythm and paced myself according to HR so as not to blow early. This allowed me to stay with the main group for, typically, ¾ of each climb, and to reach the top in pretty good shape. The challenge now is to find the means to stay with them the entire way up in these races either by increasing power:weight ratio or perhaps by juicing up. The pack was usually not too far ahead and a couple of times we caught them post-climb. It turns out too that I am the fastest descender of the larger blokes (Orca pod).

The final climb of the 100mi stage was a highlight. I was part of a group which had been dropped on the second climb and included about seven Orcas and one skinny dude. We were many minutes down from the front of the race. These were the guys who had dropped me on the final 8 mi climb of stage 1 leaving me 30 secs back. Beating them to the top would advance me in the standings. So, I got to the front behind the lone skinny dude and began to grind away. After a few minutes I looked back to see skinny dude and I riding away from the others. All I had to do was maintain and extend this gap for another 7mi. And you know what – I DID. Skinny dude inched away from me but I finished 2-7 mins ahead of the others, and consequently leap-frogged several of the Orcas in the standings.

That last climb was tough however, and I played mind games with myself to pass the time. The mind games were hard to devise because it is well known that human IQ drops to that of a marine invertebrate the morning after a particularly good New Years Eve shrimp cocktail party. The 3km sign was as welcome as 10 beers at a dysmorphology (ugly person) convention. Further, the 1km was as welcome as finding a gorgeous woman after those 10 beers at the dysmorphology convention. The 200M sign was akin to the joy of making out with formerly dysmorphic, but now stunning, woman. In my mind the seductive clincher was “lets MO tonight”, borrowed from Cosmo magazine. Then I was done and I started making out with cookies, bananas, apples and other potato chips. AA thrust a beer into my hands at the finish line and uncharacteristically, I declined – too shagged from racing 100mi, 6000-odd ft and MOing imaginary stunners.

Takehome message #1 – Climbing with urgency results in temporary insanity.

‘Code brown narrowly averted’
I had three pretty good stages and one absolute shocker. This plummeted me from 36th to 38th overall, goddamnit. I am referring to stage 2, the TT. As you may recall screwing up TT’s is a particular favorite of mine. The trouble started at home when I completely forgot to pack the TT bars. I would have to make do with hands in the drops. The morning of the event I had a light brekky of a banana washed down with Ginger Socks’ Turkish coffee. An exotic delight fo sho. Strong and full flavored. In a move that would have dramatic and unfortunate consequences I WENT BACK FOR SECONDS.

Out on the back deck sipping that second cup, I felt like I was in a grandiose ad for coffee: Here he was, a ruggedly good-looking, broad shouldered bike rider on the back deck surrounded by dramatic snow-tipped mountains. He cups a streaming cup of coffee between two calloused hands and brings it slowly to his movie-star lips. A slight smile escapes as he takes in the aroma of ‘Elkhorn’ coffee (‘Grind your opponents’). He nods contemplatively, lost in the moment thinking, perhaps, of bad habits and nuns. Suddenly, he throws his head back, spreads his arms and spins around……

“The hills are alive…”

Now that I have betrayed my love of musicals, that was the last good thing I have to say about that coffee. John G and I decide to ride the 10 miles to the course. It was a good warm up except for the flat tire suffered crossing the train tracks. We had plenty of time and had the tire changed in a few minutes. Thankfully, I had packed the spare and CO2. It at about this time that the first tummy rumbles began and, like and old man trying to send back soup in a deli, they were persistent. Confident that the porta-loo at the start line would solve my problems, I was not too worried. By the time we reached the start and met up with Brad, diligently doing his warm-up the cramps had set in. OK, not to worry, still plenty of time for the bog.

“I hear the train a coming and its rolling round the bend…….” (Cash)

Unfortunately, there was no sign of a porta-crapper at the start line. ! 10 mins ‘til my start and a major crisis was looming. The thought of going ‘Code Brown’ flipped the plastic lid on the big red panic button. Gas station - GOT to find one. A quick stop to ask someone elicted a vague point towards town. I set off riding frantically and, due to occasional cramping, quite erratically. Then there she was, Shell beautiful Shell. I have never been so relieved (ahem) to see a gas station. Time was running out and if I didn’t get to the toilet in the next 30 secs Shell was going to have a cleanup operation of its own to rival BP’s. Asked a leather-clad biker to hold my bike while I dashed in and completed the operation efficiently and with flair. OK, back to the race. Took about 30 secs to return the half mile to the start. It was +10m 45s, my start was 9m 00s. What did that mean? Did I miss my start. FUUUUUUCK. OK, foot down then off. My 15 sec (!) guy was just ahead. Flustered and trying to comprehend what had just happened I got up to speed and tried to get into a rhythm. Got a decent pace and rhythm going but couldn’t see HRM, it was set too far back on the stem and I couldn’t see the figures – bollocks! Seat was set too far forwards as well and felt hunched up – less than ideal. Caught to within maybe 10 yards of 15 sec guy. Then the turnaround and the headwind. Well, the combination of no TT bars, hunched position and inability to see HR and headwind did me in. I lost a lot of ground to rider ahead. The best part was sweeping into downtown out of the wind flying past the storefronts. Ave speed 23.0 mph, elapsed time 29m, recorded time 31 mins.

Takehome #2 - Stay away from pre-race Turkish coffee.

‘Taking the piss’
The concept of mass stopping to piss mid-race was new to me. Always read about it but not witnessed or participated in it. Now I can understand the need to piss eleventeen times during a masters race. After all, that’s a lot of blokes with enlarged prostates pushing on that piss bag. But in a non-master race? Incredibly, the first stop came after about 15 miles. Come on people – take you and your Wal-Mart bladders elsewhere. We want to race. The soft tinkle of falling liquid reminded me of a June-uary day in Portland. This was amusing and made me feel like a real racer but the more remarkable story came from Gilligan later in the Stage 4 race. As told to me, there was this squirrelly rider who rode with a very high cadence. This made him dart all over the place left, right, fore, and aft. There’s always one. Anyway, instead of waiting for the next sanctioned pee break, this joker decides to pee whilst still on the bike. Now, while the PROs may be able to do this without impacting the race in any way – there is a small margin for error. As you can guess, his efforts at directing the stream of salty excreta downwards was only partially successful. Poor Gilligan lamented that sure enough, at one point he tasted salty goodness on his lips. Now, this was not salty taste of fresh sea air (300 mi to the west), nor the much talked about pickle juice but ANOTHER MAN’S PISS.

“Islands in the stream, that is what we are….” (Parton)

Now, while there are many, many thing to experience and experiment within the rich tapestry of life, I would argue that gagging on a fellow riders liquid waste is not one of them.

Takehome #3 – ‘Taking the piss’ means something different in a bike race.

At Elkhorn I learned that doing ones business is part of racing.