Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This 70's Funk song kept running through my head at the Wente Road Race on Saturday, April 24, 2010. Just like the junior squad our masters team targets the USA National Championships and UCI World Championships. The races that they do to prepare them for these important events is mostly their choice... except when we get the bright idea to coordinate an effort. So, we decided to line up for the 65 mile Wente Road race with a full 45+ team. Our intent was to leave our competitions with a "dang, I'm glad they don't race with us every weekend"
Our desired affect was what we planned! 1st (of 5) times up the climb we lit up the pace and our 90 rider field was down to 32 riders, including all 5 of us (Mick, Kevin, Rob, Craig and me). This early pressure was the springboard for Craig to launch an attack where only Jim Allen (VOS) could latch onto. They were gone!
We could have sat back and celebrated but on the 3rd climb we picked up the pace again and watched Kevin launch his attack at the top. Solo. Can he close a 1:42 gap to Craig? Rob, Mick and I loved what we were seeing. No organized chase behind. Kevin caught Craig and Jim, went through them and soloed in for the win. Craig was 3rd.
I love teamwork! Cheers, Larry
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
In 1987 I raced for the Avocet Team. One of my team mates, Calvin Trampleasure was legendary for his long range attacks. Both solo and in small groups. He once told me that the key was to get your gap and then ride at a tempo that you could sustain until the end. If that was fast enough to stay away from the chase, good for you. If not, get caught and try again later.
Twenty-three years later I got to try his advice out. The hard truth is that nobody wins a race in one of these long range attacks because they are stronger than the field. They win because they don't fall completely apart and the field either misjudges or gets discouraged.
You CAN do a few things though to maximize you chances of succeeding though.
1. Ride the SHORTEST DISTANCE POSSIBLE! You'd think that this is a no brainer, but sadly it's not. At Sea Otter we had the whole road, but even if you only have one lane, you should ALWAYS think about the line you are taking. Don't blindly follow the path of the lane like you would in a car, ride straight lines from apex to apex. This may not seem like much of a differnce, but go out to your local high school running track and look at the start lines for the 400m race to get an idea of how much further the outer lane travels in one lap. Over three hours of racing this can add up BIG TIME.
During my day out, I was religous about taking the shortest line. EVERY TIME the road curved I was heading straight for that next apex.
2. Ride a steady tempo that you can sustain for the remaining distance. Pretty straight forward I think. Don't treat a 60 mile solo attack like a 10 mile time trial.
On this one, I could have done better. My first hour average power was 30 watts higher than my overall race average power. Part of that could be put down to just generally falling apart towards the end. I probably should have ate and drank more throughout the race. But part of that was probably a pacing issue. It's easy to go a bit too hard when you are still fresh.
3. Wheel choices. I left my Zipp 404's in the car because I thought that the light 202's would be better for this hilly race. About 5 minutes into the race I realized that was a poor choice.
4. Most importantly, have good team mates in the field to stymy the chase. Without team mates disrupting the chase it would be just about impossible to pull something like this off.
5. If it works, enjoy it as much as possible, becuase there is NO WAY they will ever let you get away with it again! :-)
I like to "listen" to music in my head when I'm riding. 80's "hair metal" is good for a ride like this. Ratt, Night Ranger, Dokken, Y&T, etc. Alanis Morrisette, not so much...
Monday, April 19, 2010
This isn't about what we normally post on our blog. This is about kindness.
My non-driveside pedal came out of the crank arm in the Sea Otter Masters 35+ 1,2,3 road race on Saturday (we're still trying to figure out why?) just when I was cranking hard out of the saddle pushing over a little rise. I went straight down into the pavement. Not sure what had just happened, I layed there on my back dazed and confused and, quite frankly given my recent osteoporadic medical diagnosis, a little scared. Looking up at the sky, not wanting to move, the pain started to make its presence felt in all the body parts that had made contact with the road.
Suddenly a concerned face appeared over me. He had a helmet and racing jersey on. It was someone I didn't know but had seen all morning with me in our race. Someone I'm sure Kevin, Craig, Chris and I had been putting the hurt on for the last two and a quarter hours. Someone who stopped racing, giving up any chance he might have for a good finish, giving up his team responsibilities to help someone he didn't know and had never met. Why?
I can only guess and the answer for which can only come from him. But I don't need to guess what kind of person he is, it was obvious. He is kind and compassionate, someone to admire.
He stayed there with me until the firemen came to take care of me and Bob Leibold, our old friend from Velo Promo, loaded up my bike and helped me into the van to take me to my car. Once this man was sure I was in good hands, he finished his race, way off the back. Before he left, I asked him his name. He said Murray Swanson. I shook his hand and thanked him as best I could. Thank you again Murray, and even though I know you don't expect anything, I owe you one. My wife thanks you too! You're a wonderful person.
I don't know when or how but somewhere down the road, I am going to pay this one forward.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Anyhow, here's an abbreviated recap of the circuit and road races.
Circuit came down to a break with Chris Phipps / Morgan Stanley, Kevin Klein / Yahoo!, Kevin Metcalfe and I. It concluded with a field sprint of me vs. Kevin Klein, which pretty much anyone can predict. Todd Manley shot this cool video with the outcome.
After a hard circuit race we were a little unsure of what we'd have left for the 69-mile road race. Turns out Kevin Metcalfe had plenty, as evident when he took off about 2 miles into the race on the first climb and stuck it all the way to the finish. Miles 2-59 were pretty boring as Craig, Rob and I policed the race but also whittled it down to a selection of 7-8 on the final climb. I attempted to lead out Craig but lost him on the last little kick about 100m from the finish and was out-sprinted by Kevin Klein. No matter since our Kevin won. Craig took 4th and I took 3rd.
Great weekend, great fun. Now for a few great few days off to reset for rest of the season!
Monday, April 12, 2010
I raced the category 2's race with Eamon Lucas. There were many attacks going up the road, but none stick very well on the short .4 mile course. It got mostly back together until Eamon followed an attack and he got in a break of 3 up the road. With Eamon on his own, on the front, I knew I had to be at the front to follow any possible bridges up to that group. Eamon stayed away the rest of the race, and with the win-n-out situation, he finished 4th. I was still in the pack, but laps were going by very quickly in these closing laps...so quickly that I did see a 2 lap to go sign. I found my self way too far back with 1 lap to go. I went straight to the front, caught the front group in the head wind section before the U-turn and the finish and sprinted for the win. I finished just about 3/4 of a bike length behind the winner and now with not winning the sprint, it resulted me to finishing with a did not place (DNP).
I then raced the pro/1/2 race with my dad (Dean LaBerge) and it was very fun for my dad to watch that day. I was at the very front all day, until Nate English and a Metromint rider got a good gap and nobody was wanting to chase. I attacked and got the field all strung out, and as I went around the U-turn I heard a crash behind me. It was the guy right behind me; the field was stopped. I knew this was my chance to go solo across and I did. I caught up with the breakaway riders and started working together with them to increase our lead. Meantime, my dad is following any surges or attacks, making sure nobody else gets up the road to join me. Our gap increased to as much as 20 seconds and we knew with 5 laps to go, that we were going to stay away. All I could think of is winning the race because no junior has won a pro/1/2 race since Taylor Kuphaldt, and we has a very strong junior. We kept on working together, until 1-2 laps to go. Nate chose to drive it around half the course, before the head wind and the U-turn. And as I got around the turn, I made my move in the head wind, got around the U-turn, and sprinted as hard as I can because I wanted to make no mistake in losing this race, even though I didn't see anyone when I looked back. I had won my 1st pro/1/2 race!! And the best thing about it was that my dad was able to see it from the back side of the course when I won! My dad took 4ht place in the race.
It was a great day for the team overall as Eamon took 4th in the cat 2's, Chris LaBerge took 3rd in the cat 3's, Dean won the 35+ race, Larry and Kevin took 2nd and 4th, respectively in the 45+. Just overall a great day for the team! And I still can't believe I had won my 1st pro/1/2 race! Just can't thank the sponsors enough for how much they help support our team! Thanks for reading!
The race started with all its craziness. Junior races in Europe are sketchy, every rider wants to be at the front and most will do anything to get there.
Coming into the first cobbled section I was near the back, due to a string of bad lack and near crashes for 5k. Over the first few cobbled sections riders in front of me got gapped off and I spent much of the first half of the race chasing back to the ever diminishing pack. Fortunately this put me in good position to tow back team leader and one of the best juniors in the world, Lawson Cradock, to the lead group.
Many riders opted to ride in the gutter. Many of them got flats or crashed when they got their tires stuck. I opted to ride every cobbled section to avoid crashes and move up. The race split up quickly over cobbled sections 6,5,4,3 and 2. I found myself in a small group with teammates Ryan Eastman and Jaun Carmona entering the city of Roubaix while teammate Lawson Cradock was up the road in a four man break with the World Champion Jasper Stuyvens. We entered the stadium and Ryan sprinted to take the group win for 13th and I took 17th. Lawson Cradock took 3rd behind the World Champion Jasper Stuyvens. The entire team including David Kessler and Mathew Lisbscomb finished, a feat that only 66 of the 120 or so starters managed. This is an amazing improvement on the last time the U.S raced with only 1 finisher.
After the race we got to see Cancellara come into the velodrome solo. What a perfect way to finish a wonderful day au Enfer du Nord.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Going to the Capitol Crit in Salem, OR, we were rained and snowed on, so weren't sure who would be at the race. It turns out it was all the fast people that would be willing to race in a snow storm. The course was around the Oregon State Capitol building, 4 corners, fast, wide open streets, and even some broken pavement and potholes.
The Pro 1/2 race was fast from the start. There was always an attack, or always a break. I was in a few of them, and sometimes went solo. The legs were there so even as hard as the race was, I felt good. After me a Land Rover guy attacked and were brought back in, the field punched it, and we were left hanging on to the back for 2 laps. While I was recovering, riders started going off the front 1 by 1 and eventually they grouped up to form another chase group. With 10 laps to go I charged off the front by myself to bridge up to the chase group. I shut down their gap of 30 seconds in 4 laps, but had to go through hell to get there. Coming out of the last corner, a 3 man break was still away, but the sprint out of group was going to be crazy. Land Rover was leading it out, but I nipped everyone on the corner. I ended up getting 4th in the field sprint and 7th in the race. It was a good day, one where I actually raced in the sun and not the snow.
Monday, April 5, 2010
The race went more or less than expected as we’d seemingly broken the will of much of the peloton after the 1st climb on lap 2. A few attacks and re-shufflings later, Kevin rolled away with a small group, which was one of the scenarios we’d hoped for. I spent the rest of the race playing policeman and shutting down attempts to bridge. At the end of the day Kevin ended up 3rd. Obviously we wanted the win but with Dan Bryant and Chris Phipps taking 1st and 2nd, it’s hard to find two nicer guys in the master’s peloton that you’d like to see on the podium.
Results aside, I still love this race. Somebody commented that “when you’re going good you don’t feel the bumps. When it’s a bad day, they’re worse.” Even though my legs were never great the bumps weren't all that bad.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I see Larry for the first time this morning at the start line. He informs me that he's had a nasty cold, hasn't ridden all week and that I may be on my own today. "Go for it and don't worry about me" he says. Hmm, what do I do now? Ride at the front, look for a promising break and be smart, this seems like the best approach. Fortunately it's a 45+ race and not the 35s. These guys have a knack of riding climbs briskly but noodling along on the flats, and covering any attacks that have any sort of threat but never pulling through on them, effectly neutralizing them regardless of when they go. A somewhat negative approach to racing. I know this and, of course, so does Larry.
What a surprise when this is exactly the way the race unfolds. On the first of three laps, the opening climb is done at tempo, I go near the front on the big climb and stay there. We start with about 60 guys in the group and I'm informed by Mike Vetterli, a racing buddy who rides for the Olympic Club, as we finish the climb and begin the inevitable noodle along the flats, that we did the climb between 320 and 340 watts and shed half the group. It seemed a lot easier than that to me and, happily, Larry is right beside me.
The climb on lap two is done with more enthusiam, led the entire way by John Ornstil, also a racing buddy on VOS. I stay glued to his wheel. The nice thing about racing as old men is we all tend to become racing friends, probably because of so much mutual suffering for nothing but the stories that ensue. This time Mike Vetterli informs me that we pushed it up about another 20 watts in the 340 to 360 range. Yeh that felt a little harder and now there was only a dozen or so of us left. I know the race needs special attention at this point even though we begin to noodle once again on the flats because, if I had my way, I'd test the metal of the group and I have to be sure I am ready if someone else has the same thought. I stay second or third wheel at this point and don't concern myself with what's behind me, ready to respond if someone wants to have a go. For some reason, I just come to the conclusion that I won't see Larry for the rest of the day.
Over the last 3 or 4 seasons, I've raced mostly in the 35s with only a few jaunts into the 45s. But I do know that for some strange reason, the pack always lets John Ornstil roll off the front at some point in the race, completely ignoring it like it isn't even happening and away goes John. Well, here's where it happens again. The first time check, 30 seconds, a collective shrug of the shoulders. The next check, 1 minute 30 seconds, same response. And on it goes until we reach the start of the final lap and it's gone to 3 minutes. Now there are a few rumblings in the group.
The final time up the climb, Mike Vetterli goes to the front and steps it up another notch. Cale Reeder from Echelon Grand Fondo/Z Team takes his wheel and I take Cale's. On one of the few areas of respite on the climb a guy gets between Cale and me, this turns out to be fortuitous. As we hit the steepest part of the climb about 3/4 of the way up, Cale overlaps Mike's wheel and goes down instantly. With a guy between Cale and me, it gives me enough time to swerve to miss the crash but nearly end up going down the bank on the opposite side of the road. I'm gapped and push it hard to get back. I get there by the time we reach the top. Oh yeh, guess what, we start to noodle even though the new time to John is 3 1/2 minutes.
I know you won't believe what happened next because it shocked the sh@#$ out of me. About 2 minutes into the noodle, Larry rides up beside me and says hello. I nearly fell off my bike. The race has taken a dramatic turn and I now need to do what I can to catch John. Fortunately I have a willing helper in Mike Vetterli and we cajol and at times badger the group into doing an orderly chase. The collective commitment ebbs and flows, but as the next time check shows, 1 minute 44 seconds, the carrot and stick approach is paying off.
Curiously and suddenly, the group shuts down the chase and there is only about 7 kilometers left to go. Hunter Ziesing, also of Echelon Grand Fondo/Z Team (actually the owner of the team), comes to the front and loudly announces, and I am paraphrasing, "I don't care if it kills me, I'm going to sacrifice myself to bring this back". This gets me excited and I take a pull. Immediately there is a final time check, 28 seconds and we have one final 300 meter hill to climb. This looks very good for us.
I go back to check on Larry. He says he's feeling some cramping and I should go to the front in case an attack goes on the final climb. He says if there is one, he won't be able to respond and I need to go with it. Advice heard and heeded. I get back to the front.
Mike Vetterli pushes it up the final climb but only at tempo and nobody seems either willing or able to attack. This is beautiful for Larry and me. The last piece of eye candy is John Ornstil 100 meters ahead of us as we start the final descent. We're on him instantly. Now all I have to do is guard against anyone getting away on the this screaming descent. I make sure I stay second wheel all the way down and Larry is either right beside me or on my wheel all the way to the bottom. I am sooooo jacked up.
But what am I supposed to do as we hit the bottom with 2 kilometers to the finish? This is where finishing school starts for me and something I want to impart to not just our juniors, but all our masters too.
Almost the instant I ponder what to do now, Larry screams "go Rob go!" Perfect! My thinking shuts down and I just go. Then Larry screams "harder!" and I go harder, then "faster" and "faster" again. Suddenly we are at the 1k to go sign and the turns to the finish begin. Larry yells "get left!", I go left. Then Larry shouts "go right!" I go right, and so it goes. No one comes around me and we are about 250 meters from the finish. Forget Larry's screaming, my legs are shattering my ear drums. Larry barks one last command "everything!". I obey.
At the 200 meter to go sign, I am fried and Larry comes flying by me. I suddenly see he has about 4 bike lengths on everybody. Uh oh! it's a false flat from about 50 meters to the finish. Larry cramps up and gets squeezed by about 1/2 a bike length by two guys and finishes third.
I roll to the finish and see Larry a little way down the road. The race has been over for about a minute and as I get to Larry I can see his hamstring muscles convulsing in spasm and knots right through his cycling shorts and I knew he had given everything.
How does he do it? Struggle all day, fighting to stay in striking distance on the climbs, clawing his way back on on the flats. 5,000 feet of climbing with his clydesdale body and suffering like nobody else has in the front group and still have the will to put himself in excrutiating pain from monster cramps and come within a bike length of winning. I guess all you have to see is his 14 or 15 world championships and you have the answer.
I will tell you it makes it easy for me when I see such courage, to bury myself to get him to the line. I will do it anytime, anywhere. Thanks Larry!
As a post script, I hope our juniors see the value in Larry's commands at the end of the race and it's something we need to always do as masters too. I am not a mind reader and we don't have the luxury of early season training camps to practice our lead outs to make them mindless. If you are the leader and your teammates are leading you out, scream at them with direct orders, loud, short and clear. It mitigates mistakes and always gives us the best chance of success.