Sunday, January 31, 2016

Some days you're the hammer, other days you're the nail.

I was "joyriding" this weekend, but not on the water, or even in San Diego. I was racing my bicycle in Arizona. This weekend was the Santa Catalina Omnium - including the Biopark Blast and the Oracle Road Race.

I spent most of this past week in an argument with myself, ruminating actually, about which category(s) to enter. My team GST Racing is pretty understanding about letting each individual athlete decide what races they want to do. The team ranges in age from mid 40's to late 50's. So, one strategy might be to load everyone up in the 45+ field and expect to sweep the podium. The second strategy would be to spread us into as many categories (Pro, 35+, 45+, 55+) as possible and go for series points.

Fitness wise, I'm in that unfortunate place where I can hang in many top categories at regional races, but I'm not really a force like I have been in years' past. At racing age 56 I'm still blessed with some pretty good fitness, and in the masters fields I can find a challenge yet still have some tactical fun.

But I just can't acknowledge that I'm slowing down, at least until this past Saturday.

I decided not to compete in the Omnuim and instead entered the Pro 1 Crit on Saturday, and the Master's 55+ Road Race on Sunday.

Many of our team are still coming into their 2016 racing form. In addition, a couple of the guys are recovering from injuries. And also a couple just recovering from colds. So we didn't have a huge GST turnout this weekend. But the season is just starting.

BioPark Blast
I entered the Pro 1|2|3 race. There were 50-60 starters including 4 strong teams with 5-7 guys each. The course was my least favorite - a pancake flat, 4 corner circuit in an industrial park. Not a tree, not a building, nothing whatsoever in the middle of the course to hide behind or block the wind.

As forecasted, and like clockwork, the wind picked up late in the day - 30 minutes before the start of my race.

From the gun we were stretched out like a string of pearls. I was in the middle of the pack and my heart was throbbing out of my shiny new Smith helmet. Usually when I'm on the limit like this I just remind myself that the pace can't last and everyone else is suffering just as hard as I am. And that would have been true a few years ago, but today, I was in trouble. No matter how much I tried to settle in and relax, I couldn't recover. I found a group of 5-6 guys chasing and tucked in with them and out of the wind.

Nate Davis, local timetrialist, was on the front with his ears pinned back and basically single-handedly dragged the field up behind us. And just like that, the referee sounded his whistle as we crossed the start/finish line, my little group of chasers was pulled from the race and my day was done.

Totally embarrassed and disappointed, I tossed my bike into my truck and blasted off.

Later Saturday night I was analyzing my power file and noticed a couple of interesting things; I completed around 30 laps and each one was within 2-3 seconds of the others, and although I felt totally gassed during the race, according to my Garmin numbers, my heart rate never topped out and my 20 minute power was also low. So, I am going to give myself a little grace and say that I may be slightly over trained.

Saturday I was the nail for sure. Huge shout out to Nate Davis for putting on a show and winning in impressive fashion.

On the positive side, I told myself "The sun will come up tomorrow".

All strung out. I'm at the end in black kit / white helmet. Photo Credit Kathleen Dreier Photography

Oracle Road Race

Wisely, I had already hedge my bet and pre-registered for the Masters 55+ category on Sunday, along with teammate Jay Guyot. Unlike Saturday's crit, the road race course is one of my favorites - a 20 mile, super scenic loop including a 8 mile decent, 4 miles of rollers followed by a very deceptive 8 mile climb. Our category did 2 laps totaling 16 miles of climbing. (it's probably true that white men can't jump but BIG white men can climb).

Jay and I had a good plan. Since I would probably be marked, Jay would attack halfway up the first climb forcing the strong guys to chase and then I would relay if he was caught.

As planned, Jay hit the stick and stayed away for 10 minutes softening the group of 20 riders. But, I noted that everyone shared the work and nobody seemed to be too gassed so I didn't immediately attack. Instead I waited for 2-3 other moves. Finally, Nelson Cronyn went up the road. He's a former National Champ and still has really good fitness. In fact, he was the perfect guy to work with in a move.  I was patient and let him get 1000 meters away and then I bridged alone.

When I caught Nelson, I started yelling for him to jump into my draft, but he indicated that he was spent so I burried the needle until I couldn't see any chasers.

I still had a lap and a half to go, including another 8 mile climb. I was worried and I might over cook everything, so I decided to hold the power at 325w thinking that one of them would need to be able to hold something in the low 400w range for 20 minute in order to close the distance and I was pretty sure there wasn't anyone in the field who could do that.

Heading up the final 8 mile climb I glanced back and saw 3 chasers. I wasn't sure if they were my guys or another race, but just to be safe I burried it one more time. In fact, I went too deep and for the final 3-4 miles I was totally cooked and bordering on cramping and could barely hold 275. But it was enough to zip up my new GST jersey and raise my hands with 8-10 minutes spare on the chasing peleton.

Congratulations to Andy Hosterman (Landis/Trek) for winning the Omnium (1st Saturday - 2nd Sunday). Also, thanks to Jay for sacrificing for the team. It's going to be a fun year no matter what category I end up in. One thing is for sure; no more being the nail!

Finally, a BIG thank you to Joey Iuliano and University of Arizona Cycling Team for promoting another well-run event.

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