Monday, March 26, 2012

North Bend Crit 2012

The last few weeks of racing have been fun, and good training too.
Two Sequims (both had crashes - and they say Mason is dangerous?!), neither race went all that well for me though I stayed upright. Then there was Indy Valley, which I at least made it through with the pack, unlike last year..

But finally a crit came along, in March! Some grumbled it was too early for one, but it sounded great to me! And this was a new one on the calendar, out east in North Bend right up against the Cascades.

A flat four-corner deal, sounds a lot like Ballard! Seemed a little shorter than that, but still great training for one of my favorite races. The pavement was mostly smooth, with just enough broken-up pavement on the backside to make it interesting.

Our Cat 3 field was doing only 40 minutes, and a small field. No rain either. Perfect! I had three teammates in the race, ready to throw down.

The Race

I was on the second row at the start, and of course got stuck behind someone who couldn't clip in, and had to go around while not running in to anyone else - ahhh, crits!! The we all jammed together for the first turn, with brakes screeching and people grumbling, oh crits. I guess people need to get the cobwebs out anyway, better now than at Volunteer Park coming up!

It was great to see teammates on the front, and going off the front too. I tried to stay up in the pack to avoid any crashes in the middle/back, and the accordion effect too. Overall it was a pretty clean race, though I did see a UW guy in the grass out of corner one, not sure what happened there.

Off The Front

With about 15 minutes to go there was one guy off the front and another dude jumped out of the pack to bridge, so I grabbed his wheel to bridge too. Before too long we made it up to the guy, and I was off the front! Breaks are hard..

Usually in crits I try to sit in the pack, or chase on the front/speed things up when necessary. After all if it comes down to a field sprint, it really helps to rest (coast) as much as possible, so I usually can't do both.

We stayed off for a few laps, but I eventually ran out of gas and decided to just sit on. Of course my break-mates weren't happy with that, but what can ya do. Then I started to think that a field sprint suited me better anyway, so demoralizing the break might actually work out, or so I thought.

The End

We eventually got caught by the field and before I knew it there were 5 laps to go, with everyone together, sweet. Time to get set up for the sprint! My team came up front and we started trying to speed things up, keep it safer and make it harder to move up.

But we started the leadout too early and couldn't hold it for 5 laps, so on the last lap someone else was on the front, damn. This is what training is all about - dialing in the experience so you can get it right next time.

The last lap came and my legs felt good, but I wasn't as far up as I wanted to be. Maybe 8th wheel or so, pretty happy with how things are going, but not in a great spot. I started to jump on the backstretch before the 3rd turn, but then for some reason I sat and coasted (actually my legs probably gave out!) and some guy jumped around everyone on the inside of the corner. Ah, crits. Love it.

Some yelling and two corners later and we're coming down the home stretch, and I have to pass Mr. I-like-to-jam-on-the-inside guy on his right, having to go around his wheel with not much space. Overtook a few guys in the final 100m, making ground slowly on 3rd place, but couldn't do it in time. 4th, I guess I'll take it for the first crit of the season!

As usual, better positioning at the end would have made the different in the result, but that's what practice is for.

Seward Park is starting up next Thursday, and then Volunteer Park on Saturday. Can't wait!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mason Lake #1, 2012: Still Winning Sprints on Open Pros

The Open Pro is one of the standards of road bicycles, a simple but sturdy wheel - 32 spokes front and rear, more or less a "box rim," e.g. no aero profile. I like the ceramic ones so the rims last forever.

Contrast that with the popular deeper, lighter, stiffer wheels seen in amateur (and pro) racing - some costing upwards of $2,500! You could say I like overcoming such technological advances with simple, proven - if not dirty - equipment. It started with Ballard 2010, continued with Ballard 2011, and now the Mason Lake Road Race (Cat 3's)!

First off I have to admit I didn't win this race - just the field sprint - I got 2nd. The guy that won the race was about 15 seconds ahead of the pack, solo -he'd taken off a mile or two from the finish.. just like last week in fact!

Mason Lake!

Love or hate it, Mason is what it is: raw road racing in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, some people hate the scenic tour of some of the area's nicest chipseal roads and windswept views. It also has a history of raining a ton, being cold, and of being a little chaotic at times.

Combine narrow roads, nervous riders, and chipseal and you've got Mason! Love it.

The race for our wily Cat 3 pack was a relatively short 60 miles, 5 laps of a 12 mile loop around Mason Lake (on the peninsula). After scoring a top 10 last week at Eatonville but having a shitty race (legs fell apart), of course I wanted to make it up with something better this time around.

With three strong teammates in the race, and some decent training over the winter, I figured I had a shot at something in this race. I've always been more of a crit guy (at least based on results), but I'm looking to branch out in to real racing: road racing.

Only problem is that a bunch of other dudes trained over the winter, and so did their teammates..

Erik from my team took off from the gun, in his usual fashion, holding off the field for quite a while. Of course he attacked as soon as he was caught, and continued to attack over and over again. No way I can do that..

When he was off the front we did our best to keep the pack at a reasonable pace, while of course being reasonable. And we took turns off the front as well.

Off the Front

I followed an attack about halfway through the race for some reason. A few minutes before that I was thinking about just sitting in and waiting for a sprint, but that can lead to a boring race. Plus I had a friend/teammate telling me it was my turn to do some work for the team shortly before that.

When this attack went off it looked fast, and I followed. And it was fast. In fact the guy was going so fast it seemed like it took forever to catch him. And then of course once you catch you're dying, gasping for air with legs on fire, thinking why am I out here on this guy's wheel doing as close to 30mph as we can?

He was nice about it and let me catch my breath before pulling through, and was probably glad to have company. Unless you're just that strong, you'll probably need help to ride away from 50+ riders who all paid to race today.

I pulled through and tried to keep the pace - though I have to say that without any data (most notably speed) it's hard to know if you're doing a good pace besides the way your legs feel. And if the pack is catching you..

We took off before the third turn on the course, and coming through the start/finish line we got a timecheck of 40 seconds. We were out of sight, and it started to click. My legs actually hurt a little less than they did when we started this breakaway! Then again, there were two laps to go, which could be a long time if you're already hurting.

Here I am, what passes for a Cat 3 sprinter in a breakaway and trying to hold the wheel of someone who seems to be good TTer. I'm a terrible TTer. What am I doing here again? Doing something different I guess. When I get up to the Cat 1/2's I'll need some more tricks up my sleeve for sure.

Once we made the turn up the slight hill/in to the headwind on the backside of the course things got REALLY hard. We continued and still had a gap, but it wasn't getting bigger for sure. At one point I looked back and saw the pack waaaay back there, and a solo guy trying to bridge. Hmm. He's out there alone, and it's windy.

I was hoping it'd be the HSP guy and we could all ride off in to the sunset, but instead the guy never made it up, and we got caught soon after. So it goes.

Caught, Counter

Of course Erik attacked as soon as we got caught, which was good. But hard to jump on wheel when you're trying to take a rest. Things settled down and we rode around for a while, only now I was more towards the back than I wanted to be.

Moving up on this course is tough, the roads are narrow and with 54 riders starting things get tight. And on the last lap everyone wants to be somewhere near the front.

A few attacks went off in the last half of the last lap, but I couldn't see since I was on the back, talking with Rob on how we needed to move the F up. Where to go? Gravel on the right, center line, on the left.. and I'm in the middle, boxed in.

Moving Up

It looks impossible at first, but you can do it. People move around and leave you a tiny spot to edge forward in to. Of course you can't be dangerous about it, but it's only dangerous if people go down right? Not like we bounced off people like a pinball, we gracefully made our way forward and to the left, to the center line.

From there people give just enough space for you to edge forward, and Rob moved over giving me the reins and a chance to get forward. Still at least 30 people back at this point, with the pack all bunched up and less than 10k to go.

A little yellow-line surfing, gap closing, and not-giving-up and eventually I found myself 20 guys back, things are getting better - light at the end of the tunnel. But not there yet.

Apex was on the front, not quite chasing (there's one guy a few meters up the road), and I knew there was at least one guy further up but that was it. We weren't racing for 1st at that point, but why not keep racing? Apex was setting up some kind of leadout train, with at least six dudes hammering on the front. I'll take it!

Looking back, had I known who was up the road, I might have chased, but looking back is always all too clear.. and all too easy.

Instead of attacking and trying to bridge I saw the 1km sign go by, and had figured out the course enough to know that it goes by quickly, and we'd probably be doing a pack sprint for the finish. Cool, I love pack sprints!

Pack Sprint!

Especially when sitting about 10-15th wheel leading up to the 200m sign. Apex guys were down to two by that point I think, peeling off faster than they'd planned most likely. A bunch of guys on their wheel and me seeing 10-15 wheel, salivating.

Unlike last week I didn't get too anxious and go at 300m, I waited until the virtual line drawn by that orange 200 meter sign that for some reason we wait to sprint for.

And at Mason that 200m sprint is uphill, a slight uphill at 3% or so. Something that suites me.

Anyway we finally get to the 200m sign, and everyone jumps. Let's do it. I'm on the left side of the road and pack, waiting to go in to the left lane since we get both lanes in the final sprint.

Guys are on the right, I'm gaining, and nobody is ahead of me, this is good! I'm out of the saddle, hammering my brains out. I can see to the right that there's one or two guys left and one has a little gap. But I'm gaining. Gaining. Jeez this sprint is taking forever, when is it gonna end?!!

The tent, clock, lap counter, and officials come in to view and I can see the white finish line. I'm still out of the saddle, going all out. Getting really close to the line, nobody is under my left arm, and I'm overtaking the guy on my right just before the line, BOOM! Did it, took my first field sprint in a road race!! Finally.

There are no prizes at Mason except bragging rights, which is awesome. There were no crashes in our race, which was awesome.

Yeah so some other guy actually won this race, and I gotta give him credit for that.. he's strong and obviously on my list of wheels to keep an eye on! But I'm pleased with the result so early in the season.

All those town-limit-sign sprints paid off I guess! Next time I just need to make sure it's for first place and not second.


The irony of this post about Open Pros is that I recently placed an order for some fancy Zipp tubular wheels. We'll see how they feel! Maybe I can coast across the line next time using those..


With 54 in the field, my placing in this race netted me 8 points. Add that to the 18 I have from last year, and that puts me just over the amount you need to upgrade to Cat 2.

Oh shit! Cat 2?! You mean the guys that race with the 1's, and the pro's if they show up to wreak havoc? Yeah, those 2's.

I need to learn how to time trial before I get up there and run with the big dogs.. and also help out some teammates on the way out of the 3's. But before too long I'll make my way further up the rungs closer to the upper end of amateur road racing.

It's a good thing I have a day job as a backup plan!

Next weekend Sequim & Mason are coming up! Can't wait. See you on the road..

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Won The Ballard Crit - Again!!

Last year I won my first race ever, The Ballard Crit, Category 4/5's.

This year I won my second race ever, The Ballard Crit Cat 3's!!

After upgrading last year, being hit by a car in December, and getting dropped in my first races this year, it was an extremely rough start to the season.

But with determination and training the legs came back around, and I could tell that fitness was close to where it was before.

The Race

Rob & I rode down from Capitol Hill, taking our time and not wanting to waste an ounce of effort. We got to Ballard with tons of time to spare, and watched some of the earlier races and got ready for ours. Changed into my skinsuit in an alley, talked with the team, warmed up, and tried not to let the nerves take over. It is the Ballard Crit after all..

We rolled around on side streets for 10 minutes as a warm-up, pretty weak - but I felt nice and loose and ready to race! After some decent results at Seward Park lately I figured I could do something useful in this race, and had the team riding for me so I was really hoping to make their work worth it.

We (Recycled Cycles/Raleigh Racing) had five guys in the cat 3 race: me, Spoonie, Steve, Jeff, and Nick. So with four of them putting in work so that I could rest in the pack, it was great fun watching Steven win primes, Spoonie go off the front and attack for a few laps, Steve attacking at will, etc. All of that was in hopes that our competitors would then have to chase down those attacks and primes. Make them work that much harder. (and if the attacks stuck, then it was still a win for the team)

In the cat 3's the main difference is that teams try to work together, and actually get stuff done more often. Trying to organize a team in a crit is tough, but with team mates ready to sacrifice their race for yours, it does work out.

Spoonie & Steve on the front, stringing it out: (that means we're going fast)

With about 3 or 4 laps to go, I got on the front and was concerned that we'd lost control of the race; if we ever had control is of course debatable, but now was the time that it really mattered. I'd been resting up the whole race, so I had a little to spare even though I was saving most of it for the end.

Two to go, and I'm still on the front, trying to keep the pace up - but not going fast enough. Don't want anyone to come around, unless it was a team mate..

Luckily a team mate came to the rescue - Spoonie got on the front and strung it out, with me sitting 5th wheel ready to pounce! Ideally I would have been right on his wheel, but that might have been too predictable in the end.

What you can't see in any of the photos or video of the race is how I won it - we held the formation above on the back straight, which had a tailwind leading into the 3rd corner. And since it was a tailwind my plan all along was to attack in this section on the last lap, knowing that the strong tailwind would make it so that nobody had much of a draft, and that we'd all have to work the same. (meaning if someone is behind you, they aren't getting much draft from you)

As we straightened out from corner two, I was in 5th wheel and happy that Spoonie was keeping the pace up - must've been around 30 mph at least, though I didn't use any data during this race so I have no idea!

I got the feeling everyone was just waiting for the exit of corner four to start the sprint, but I decided to start it a bit earlier. I saw an opening, had speed on those in front of me, and jumped as hard as I could. It was a race-winning sprint and I put everything into it. I had to.

The tricky part is that I had to hold everyone off out of corner 4 to the line.. slightly uphill and in to a slight headwind.

Leading the pack out of corner 4 on the last lap - I felt like I had a bigger gap than what appears here, but it was just enough.

A team mate on the sidelines got a great shot of me coming out of turn 4, gunning for the line:

Eventually the guys on my wheel start to fan out to come around.. my legs are on fire.. want to give up but it's not time just yet..

But they can't come around!!
[photos from]

Yup. I did it again! I could only half believe it after it happened, and all I could do was let out a "FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YEAH!!!!!"

Video of the race:

Second Ascent Criteriumnt Twilight Cat 3 Men-Ballard , Washington 2011 from RideITLikeUstoleIT!!! on Vimeo.

For my troubles I got $80 cash and a set of SRAM S40 wheels! And of course bragging rights for the next year..

We won the Ballard Crit!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Race of the Season

And I'm at home. Actually the Frostbite TT is delayed today, if not canceled; it's all white up north around Everett and snowing lightly down here in Seattle.

Unfortunately, either way the race isn't really an option for me. I've been off the bike since December. Not by choice however.. up to the end of Demeber I was commuting about daily, and getting in 13-16 hours a week.

Training for the 2011 season, getting ready to hit the ground running in the 3's. With 2 points carried over from last year I was ready to get some more.

But then..

The sad fact is that many drivers still don't look for bikes, much less see us. And they are apparently in a hurry.

A driver pulled out in front of me on a training ride, and with no time to stop I ran into the car.. long story short I haven't been able to ride for about two months now, recovery has been slower than I would have liked.

So here I sit, thinking about how Mason Lake (road race) is coming up on March 6th, and I'm still in pain now and then from the accident.. And the first Sequim road race is on the 12th.


It's not like the Mason/Sequim races were all that important, but it would have been nice to get out there with everyone else and put my training to use. Walla Walla is still an "A" race for me, and I really hope to make it there. But there's no rush.

Until the doctors give me official clearance to return to the racing, the main focus is still on recovery.

Be careful out there! And expect to see me in the peloton later this season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Notes From Winter Training

Well technically it's not "winter" yet, but it seems close enough.

I got to ride in big snowflakes through the north end last week, which made me feel like Andy Hampsten on the Gavia, barely able to see through the thick whiteness of it all. Except the snow in Seattle wasn't sticking, so it made for a nice little ride.

(The ride was around the north end of Lake Washington - a nice hilly route including 5th Ave through Northgate/etc (hills), Juanita Hill, east side hills including the "col d'bellevue", that short-but-steep section leading towards I-90 off Main street.)

Start of Base Training

In other news, training for the 2011 race season is well under way! "Base" training (e.g. endurance-zone riding). A big part of my training plan is the commute to Redmond, about 17 miles over I-90 & Mercer Island, through Bellevue, or as I now call it the Belly of the Beast.

  • Base 1, Week 1: 10 hours - commuting & a team ride on the weekend
  • Base 1, Week 2: 13 hours - commuting & a team ride
  • Base 1, Week 3: 16 hours! (probably the most I've ever done in terms of actual training)
  • Base 1, Week 4: rest - just two rides on the weekend for a total of 6-7 hours

The pattern seen in Base 1 (three weeks of work, one rest week) continues in Base 2 and beyond, and after those two blocks I move on to the "Build" period - two more blocks of four weeks each, then it's time to shred some legs!

As a side-note, it's not just endurance rides I'm doing in this Base period, but also some "speedwork", such as spin-ups or low-gear sprints. I've been getting in the 34x25 gear and spinning out in excess of 160 rpm - the PT reported 218 rpm the other day but that seems crazy. By 180 rpm or so I'm bouncing on the seat, it probably looks interesting to anyone watching.


While the training hours can get tedious, and cold, I just try to think more about the upcoming 2011 race season in March.. it's not that far away right? Just 89 days away..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RCR Meet the Team Ride: This Weekend!

This Saturday is the Recycled Cycles/Raleigh Racing's Meet the Team ride! Come on out if you want to ask all those questions that you didn't get a chance during the races, since it's hard to talk while doing 25+ mph.

The team blog hasn't been updated in a while, but it was an active season of road racing for us in Cats 3-5, with wins in every category. And hopefully some 2's next year..

Cross is in full swing, with a lot of blue & gold RCR jerseys gettin' dirty in the mud. And though we have some great deals from our sponsors, you don't want to join a team just for discounts - it's the people that matter, and it helps if they actually show up to race. We race.

We'll be meeting at Pert's in Leschi at 9:30 AM, leaving around 10 for a chatty ride around the south end of the lake.

Our official blurb from the WSBA mailing list:

This Saturday, September 25th is Recycled Cycles Racing's Meet the Team
ride. Please arrive by 9:30am at Pert's Deli in Leschi for a casual and
informative no-drop group outing. Please utilize fenders if it looks like
rain, bring supplies for changing a flat, and throw a couple of bucks in
your pocket for a cup of coffee.

Since its inception 13 years ago, the Recycled Cycles Racing team has
emphasized rider development by encouraging racers to fulfill their
potential. This relationship promotes the sport of cycling and demonstrates
our commitment to teamwork and to the cycling community. For the 2011
season, we are developing a women's RCR team. We support grassroots racing
programs, local race promotion, helmet safety, cycling organizations such as
USAC, Washington State Bicycle Association (WSBA), IMBA, NORBA, and
affiliate associations. We're seeking committed cat 4/5 racers, both men and
women, who want to learn the in's and out's of racing with the goal of
upgrading by season's end. We also seek cat 3 racers who are looking for a
tight-knit group of friends to ride and race with. We support Road, Cross
and Track racing, and have a developing mountain contingent.
See you there!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seward Park Season Ender

[this race was 8/29/2010, still catching up]

I've been racing at Seward on Thursdays all year, about 15 times in total this year I think. The 6 PM race is a Cat 3/4's race, so it's pretty competitive. But it's only 45 minutes so not a super long race. Today [8/29] was a Cat 3-only race, 60 minutes long.

The rumor was that last year they had a $5 prime every lap, which would be... interesting. Then I heard $1 per lap, which would still make the race pretty fast, and also hopefully burn out a lot of contenders for the finish. Turns out we just had the usual 3-4 primes, I was kind of glad they didn't do the prime-per-lap thing.

The Race

Not a very big crowd, as it turns out not everyone actually like racing at Seward?! This was seriously news to me that some in the local peloton think Seward is 'boring', 'sucks', etc - don't tell anyone, but my theory is they happen to 'suck' at racing Seward..

So with only 34 riders in the pack we set off. Some people spectating, and the announcer was calling out prime winners and stuff. And of course bad music blaring that I never hear during the race, luckily.

There were attacks, of course, but I've never seen a break actually stick at Seward in the 3's or 4's, so I wasn't too concerned. Though I should have been concerned, since I'd heard they have in the past and indeed that was what happened this time around too.

Eric on my team set off some initial attacks, as usual, but was brought back every time. A WWU guy (turns out he's actually Bikesale?) went off the front and never came back, I don't even remember him sneaking away!

Before too long there were 3-4 off the front, with up to a 45-second lead on us. Not wanting to sprint for 4th I tried to bridge once, towards the end of the race, but it was all for not. The closest we got was about 25 seconds, if only we had more time we could have brought them back.

Fast forward to the last few laps, and I'm sitting on the front trying to chase. Since I didn't know WWU guy was actually Bikesale (so I heard) it makes sense none of the Bikesale guys wanted to chase. And everyone else seemed content to let me do the work..

On the last lap were shifting positions and I rode up next to Josh, a strong team mate, and said, "Let's go!", as in, get on my wheel, I'll lead you to the final sprint. But he said, "No man, I don't have it today.." OK. Plan B. Me.

My team mate Mike was up there too (he always is, super strong), and he had me on his wheel, heading for the front of the pack. We came down the hill, and as we came up the backside he was leading me up the right side of the pack.

In a split second he was squeezed to the outside/left, along with 3-4 other riders, and this gave me a small hole to shoot through. And shot through it I did..

In the sprint for the 140-degree turn, I came into it so damn fast I almost hit the curb on exit! But I came out of it in 4th, and spun hard as I could to hold it. At first scared people were about to come around, but then confident I had it.

My first top 5 in the 3s! More importantly my first Cat 3 points! Two down, 23 to go!! Huge thanks to the team for riding great as usual, and for a bunch of other cat 3 racers for coming out to have fun in the sun.

The sprint for 4th:

More photos on

A great video of the race can be found on vimeo.

Unfortunately this meant the end of the season for me, as cross is too..... obscure for me at this point. It's all about road for me!

Though cross is entertaining to watch, that's for sure. We went out to Starcrossed this weekend and Kira got some great shots of a bunch of the 3-4 PM racers.