Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mt. Hamilton

So Winter held off for a day, and gave us beautiful clear, Spring-like skies for the Mt Hamilton Classic. Oh wait... that would be because it actually is Spring! Oops, who would have known?! Either way it was a beautiul day, and with the 30km, 4,600 ft climb up Mt Hamilton looming over the 30 something women standing at the start line of the 100k race, it was set to live up to its name, and be an absolute classic.

The moto towed us through the neutral section to the base of the mountain, and then the race was on - and it was on like donkey kong!! Jane Despas from Yahoo put in the first attack, and within the first 3km the field had completely shattered. There were big bucks on offer for the first over the top of the mountain, but had someone forgotten to inform half the field that the climb was actually 30km, not 3?!

Flavia Oliviera floated up the road as if we were standing still, sandwiched by two Peanut Butter girls, Tayler and Alison. Others tried in vain to go with, but soon dropped off the pace. So now it was a matter of settling into a good rythym and hoping that we could keep the gap to a minimum by the top.

Tapping away with my group of four or so, suddenly out of thin air popped Flavia! I heard later that she apparently had a mechanical, but on the down low I swear I saw the remnants of some tea and scones in those bushes. So after fixing her 'mechanical' and waiting for the rest of us to catch up, she jumped back into the race, and jumped right away again, adding insult to injury and dropping us for a second time, and going on to claim the QOM bounty.
More than an hour later, which included an uphill crash and some pointless attacks from my small chase group, we crested Hamilton, and zipped up the windvests and pulled on the armwarmers to face the descent and remaining 70km journey to Livermore.

In true Norcal racing tradition, the race wouldn't be complete without some interesting course features, which today happened to be cattle grids on the fast and windy descent. Having only heard tales of this fabled descent, I approached with caution, but soon decided to let that go with the headwind that would later face us, and pushed ahead eager to make up some of the time lost on the climb. Catching 2 of Flavia's other victims, the race was now on to close the gap to the 3 leaders.

Coming off the descent, and moving on to the rollers that followed, my new chase group, consisting of Susannah from Freemont Bank and Christina from Specialized/Missing Link, got some nice turns rolling and we had them in our sights. Olivia from Peanut Butter had also joined us, but with her teammates sandwiching Flavia up the road, she could catch a free ride on our train. Once they were in our sites, Olivia decided we'd delivered her nicely to her station, and turned the after burners on and took off, now resorting to her own big TT engine. Big kudos to Susannah and Christina who played it cool and kept our little train chugging away at a nice steady pace that would eventually get us all back on. We were awesome team mates... at least for those 15 or so kilometres.

Now there was a lead group of 7 girls - almost half of which were Peanut Butter's super strong time triallers, so understandably after clearing the worst of the rollers, which were peppered by a few little attacks just to get a feel for how everyone was going, the real attacks started. By this stage the group of 7 had now become 9, with Beth from Fremont Bank and Molly from Metromint latching back on. But really apart from the two Freemont girls, it was Peanut Butter up against a heap of lonely riders, which obviously played into their hands.
One after the other the Peanut Butter girls launched off the front - so predictable, but effective all the same. When you have strength, why bother with stealth?! The first half dozen or so times, some sort of a chase was formed and they were reeled back in, but eventually it became too much, with too few people willing to risk their legs for the benefit of the group, and Olivia escaped out of sight, never to be seen again.

Molly from Metromint showed her time trialling prowess and moved to the front to tow us all to the line at a steady rate of knots, into an equally steady headwind. She kept the pace that high that no-one really attempted to get off the front in the race for 2nd place, and so we crossed the bridge with about 1.5km to go, chase group in tact.

Strung out tip to tail, it was going to be a fast finish. Sensing the need to move up, Flavia moved out of the pace line, getting out of the saddle to kick ahead, and unfortunately was bucked by her bike and came down hard. A very unfortunate end to the day for someone who had made the race up Hamilton her own.

With a bit under a k to go Starnes launched an early dash for the line, dangling off the front until the pack charged, lead by her teammate Tayler who held off Beth Newell to make it a well deserved Peanut Butter 1-2. They may have had the numbers, but you still have to pull it together and execute, and they did just that, riding a tactically impressive and powerful race.

Webcor came in 4th. We may not have quite made the podium, but to just finish that race, and say that you conquered Mt Hamilton is pretty good I reckon. Nice work to all the girls on toughing it out.
happy riding

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cats Hill

Cat's Hill
Women's P12
Holly, Bec, Jane, Emily, Mary, Haley

There is no way to follow an act like Karen Brems. I remember being a newly upgraded Cat3 at Catt's Hill. I did the 3/4 race, got dropped about half way through and chased until the official pulled me. Then I did the P123 an hour later with pretty similar results only I got dropped WAY sooner and pulled within a few laps. The following year I was in the wrongest gear imaginable on the first lap, got dropped, chased, then pulled. So at least I am consistent. I remember watching Karen anihilate the feild. I remember being at the bottom of corner 3 and seeing her 10 feet from the top. I remember overhearing her talking about shifting into the climb. She made me try harder. Not because I thought I'd ever beat her but because she was better.

We met for the team meeting at the top of the hill. Karen was our DS. I can only imagine how fun it would have been to race for her. She gave us the same shifting directions. She gave us all very specific jobs. Bec and I were to focus on the later part of the race. Em, Jane and Haley were to focus on the beginning. Holly was going to absorb as much as possible. Incidentally, I think Holly was a tinsy bit intimidated because she's a new upgrade but she rode really well in the pack. I think she has the ability to win Cat's Hill next year.
The very first lap I accidentally shifted onto my 34/11. I dragged up the hill. Was I going to relive my past? Was this course the Twilight Zone of racing? Hadn't I broken the spell of repeating races at Wente two weeks ago? I was pretty sure I was going to complete the entire race but a little panic did reverbrate through the team. I think Karen was shaking her head. Andi was trying to calculate how I was going to recover from the per-dicament. Dan, with the enthusiam of a grade schooler at an amusement park, was begging me to climb better. It took a few laps regain position. I found a comfortable gear. Bec was trying to make up position on the climb. I was doing the exact opposite.

The feild didn't do a whole lot of attacking. They basically used the hill and prime laps to sort things out. Bec took a prime mid race. Flavia went on a chrsuing spree and dragged the pack around for a long time. Tibco didn't really make their presence obvious. It was pretty clear they were in for the win. Susanna Breen made a really gutsy move at 4 to go. She attacked on the back side of the course and stayed away for almost two laps. Tactically speaking, this was a pretty good move for Freemont Bank. If you went with 2 or 3 to go you would just accelerate the entire race. If you went with 5 to go, you'd be out too long.
Somehow I missed the 2 to go lap count. I was just excited to still be inthe race. I was trying to invent a new mental image about the race. I was so used to getting dropped. I knew I had the ability to win the race. I wasn't stuck on an old visualization in as much as I was struggling to create a new one. I certainly saw the 1 to go card. I was mid pack at best and felt a little irritated at myself. I moved up a few spots on the flats, gained one spot on the climb, and pushed through the downhill moving myself to 4th position going into the last corner but the race was already over. An all out sprint for the line was gaining me ground on top 3 .

I can only beat myself up so much for not making the podium. I was spending mental energy figuring out how to ride the race 30lbs lighter than previous years and with WAY better equipment instead of looking at lap cards and planning tactics. I know Karen wants a win for the team but I hope that in some way she was just a tinsy bit happy with the improvement she instigated years ago.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

PG&E (Win!) and Pitt Crit

Thank goodness for the well constructed Voler clothing. I can honestly say that this is the first year that I have been very impressed with the fit and comfort. To Voler's credit it might have something to do with the fact that I am 2o lbs lighter than I was when I first tried their spandex. No amount of time in the saddle is more comfortable that it is if you weigh less than last year. Anyway I think I found some common ground with my uber endurance teamies. I spent 10 hours in the same chamois.

PG&E Tri Valley Velo Livermore Crit
Tri Valley Velo held a race in Livermore on Saturday morning. The Bridge Team was slated for Pitt Critt but I snuck out there because I am a gluten for double crit days. The feild was sub 20 deep and there was almost everybody had a teammate. Webcor didn't. It was windy but there wasn't a lot of tree stuff flying around. The course was basically a four corner crit with the exception of turn 4 which was smooshed in making the head wind sprint to the line a lot more interesting. Basically it was head wind on the start/finish. A really bad headwind for 1 block. A nice tail wind for 3 blocks and then the curve into a head wind sprint. The only reason I mention that corner is because if it had been at 90 degrees the pack would have turned directly into the wind and come to a dead stop.

Suffice to day, Webcor used the curved corner to take 2 primes and first place finish. Other Tri Valley Velo highlights include jumping in the Bounce House with Kim Fong, having a contest to see who can eat more tangellos (gawd! girls are so competitive), being awarded the biggest little check this side of the Sierras which I will most certainly "attempt" to cash and write about it later, meeting some guys who worked with my dad at PG&E before he retired, shooting the sh*USH* with with course marshalls on my favorite corner and watching Brian Bucholtz get tactically challenged and still put out an absolutely incredible sprint finish.

Pitt Crit

Haley, Bec, Jane, Myself, Ted Burns, Dan Smith
Super Windy
40 girls
3 PB
3 Touchstone
1 Specialized
4 Webcor
2 Metromint
2 Fremont
60 Vanderkittten
PB (Olivia) took the first lap hot. Webcor (Mary followed up with a speedy start to the second lap. At the first prime Webcor (Bec) made a risky early move. Mary snuck up front to manage the pack to ensure a prime win. PB (Olivia) attacked with a huge tt effort and no one wanted to chase. Webcor (Mary) pulled, Touchstone (Emily) pulled A LOT, Specialized pulled. The gap grew to 20 seconds, came back down to 13 for a long time and then slowly came down to caught. Webcor (Bec) followed with a sharp little counter into chiquane 1 . We were at about 7 laps to go.

Things settled in a bit and the head wind after turn one was really strong. With 3 to go PB went to the front and maintained position. At one to go Specialized went to the front and pulled the field through chiquane 2. PB (Olivia) was second wheel. Webcor (Mary) was 4th wheel out of the corner. Third wheel was allowing gaps to open in the final two corners. The finishing stretch was open because Specialized kept the speed up. Webcor (Mary) came around from 3rd position and was closing in on PB (Olivia) when PB (Coryn) snuck up the side with a snappy sprint. Webcor (Bec) rode the top of the field in and earned 4th.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Berkley Hills RR (Win!)

Sunday was the third and final stage of the 'Webcor Bridge Team Stage Race - Proudly Presented by Sportvelo'. After being taken to the Beth Newell Track School on Friday night at Hellyer, then lighting it up at the Pittsburg Twilight Crit on Saturday, we arrived at Berkley Hills Road Race with the legs well and truly warm (or almost cooked in some cases) and ready to race. Today Haley, Holly and Bec took to the start line with the 30 or so other racers, ready to tackle 115km and the fabled 'Three Bears', and defend our lead on GC.*

*It's hard to say if anyone else was actually aware of this, or the fact that there was a stage race on at all, but whos fault is that right?!

Now Berkley Hills doesn't have windmills, but I'm currently in the process of writing to the Department of Energy, COS IT SHOULD!! The wind obviously didn't bother everyone though, as after leaving the pituresque lake and rolling through the neutral section to the main road to get the official race start, Jane Despas from Yahoo jumped away, never to be seen for the next 70km! Now that's some serious TT training! Respect.

This, combined with the fact that noone else really liked having the wind in their face, meant that we were strung out tip to tail fairly early on in the race, with Fremont Bank, Metromint and Webcor the main forces in keeping the pace rolling over. Annie from Metromint and Suannah from Fremont moved to the front on the climbs and kept the pace high, stringing out the bunch, but the majority of the field was still hanging on heading into the second lap.

So I'm not 100% which climb is which 'bear', but it didn't really matter. From what I hear, bears aren't all that friendy, and these were no exception. And just like in the fairytales, to get past the bears you had to venture into their cave, which in this case was a very deep pain cave. So at the end of the first lap, the prospect of passing them another 3 times made me feel more scared than Goldilocks when the bears arrived home to find her in their beds.

The second lap was much the same, as we kept the pace rolling over in pursuit of Despas. Luckily we were being given fairly regular time gaps by the moto, otherwise I think she could have easily been forgotten altogether. Coming into the third lap, the time gap was closing and we eventually reeled Jane in. I'm thinking that if the Department for Energy don't like the idea of windmills at Berkley they should definitely entertain the idea of employing Jane and Beth as the first Human Power Stations, cos those girls can put out some power! Both are always keen to keep the pace high and willing to drive on the front.

Berkley bacame a race of attrition, with no great surges in pace but a consistent and unrelenting tempo, riders were gradually gobbled up by a hungry bear, or spat out in the wind. So we entered the final lap with a lead group of around 10, including 3 Metromint, 2 Fremont Bank and an assortment of other individual riders. Everyone was being very cautious and waiting for the team with numbers to make a move, but nothing came.

After a few unconvincing attempts at getting away were made, Beth laid it on the line and made the decisive jump on the back rolling section about 15km from the finish. Two Metromint's suddenly found their legs and made the surge to latch onto her wheel, and were eventually joined by Webcor and Missing Link who scrambled to claw onto the back of the Newell train, cos once that train gets chugging you know its not stopping till the final station.

With Metromint holding the upper hand with 2 out of 5 riders, they were eventually forced to make a move, and chose to lead us to the finish at quite the comfortable pace. Cheers. On the final downhill Webcor took the lead and was left there to lead it up Papa Bear to the long awaited finish line. Trying to stay calm and not take on Papa too early, we tapped away until rounding the corner where the finish line stood, lit up in all its glory and beauty seen through the eyes of cyclists delirious from picking a fight with a bear, not once, but 12 times! Webcor got a bit excited by this sight, and went for it, jumping away. The others were quick to react and the legs and lungs were quick to realise that it was to early, sitting down and trying to keep some kind of pace while waiting for the the dreaded counter attack. It didn't come, and at this stage with all brain cells and any rational thinking having been puffed out on the side of the road, along with half a lung, Webcor went again, this time wobbling accross the line and holding on for the win and the coveted stage race GC. Anna Barensfeld from Missing Link came in for 2nd, with Beth from Fremont finishing off the podium. Holly came in a very respectble 12th in her first cat 1/2 race.

Congrats to the whole team on a great weekend of racing.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Menlo Crit & Easter Classic Crit

Menlo Crit
Women 1/2/3
Place: mid-pack out of 47
Teammates: none, they were at Copperopolis

I did this race twice last year (W3 and W123) and liked it well enough, but
this year was so much better. Mostly it wasn't 45 degrees and raining, that
helped a lot. There also weren't any crashes this time around, and the race
felt very safe to me. I felt like this was a very good race for me, not
because I finished well, but because I learned some lessons and felt much
more solid cornering in a pack. Cornering has always been my weak spot in
races, but I've been working on it and I think I'm getting better and more
comfortable. Anyway, lesson #1 was don't work to bring back the break when
you don't have any teammates, especially when there are a couple of teams in
the pack that aren't represented in the break. Lesson #2 was don't bridge to
the break when the gap gets down to 6 seconds - I bridged across, but the
leaders were tired and the pack was hungry, so we got reeled in quite
quickly. Lesson #3 was move up in the pack early for the finish and stay
there - I lost position when the pack slowed with 1.5 laps to go and then
the speed picked up so I couldn't move up. Anyway, not a great result but a
good learning experience for me.

Easter Classic Crit
Women 1/2/3
Place: 10th of 14
Teammates: none today

This was a bit of an odd race, with two hairpin turns. The field was pretty
small, probably since it's a new race and a lot of people spend Easter
Sunday with family, etc. I rode over to the course for a nice 10 mile
warm-up and got there plenty early, which gave me time to watch the Masters
35+ 1/2/3 race and see just how brutal the wind was in combination with the
hairpins. I think their small pack split in two only a lap or two in, then
further splintered as the race went on, so I knew going into my race that
positioning was going to be key and no matter what, this race was going to

Well, I may have known that positioning would be important, but
implementing that was a bit harder, and after about 15 minutes I got dropped
on a hairpin after a couple too many times around at the back of the pack
with tired legs. After not too long, Josie Morgan caught up to me, since
she'd been dropped too, and we settled into a nice long chase. For most of
the race, it looked like this: Liza Rachetto and Elis Bradshaw were off the
front widening their gap, there were 8 women in the pack, and then me and
Josie holding steady behind the pack. We went pretty hard the whole time,
not letting the pack get too far away from us, but we didn't really have a
chance of catching back on. So, we practiced our corning on the hairpins,
went hard out of every turn, and got some good training in. On the last lap
we passed another girl that had been dropped, and I beat Josie to get 10th.
At least we managed to not get lapped by the leaders, who were probably
about half a lap ahead of the pack and a quarter lap behind us by the end.