Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap

So, another year gone by .... 2012 is just a few hours away.

Since my last post on Oct 29, I've spent all of November in China, just riding a mediocre 150 miles for the month. Then it was finally time to dive into off-season. After a few weeks off, and after the pounds kept piling up, it was time again to get serious on the bike just before Christmas. The 155 miles for this week were enough to reach 4503 miles (7205 km) for the year, and close to 2000 miles more than in 2010.

2011 riding stats:

Some racing stats:

Ranked first in my zip code ... awesome.  Overall, not bad for my first year of racing as an old chap.

Racing goals for 2012:
- no Farmville races (Snelling, Bariani, and the like)
- pick flat and fast crits
- and most importantly: don't crash.

Happy New Year !

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sat, Oct 29

Three months and three races since my last blog post:
- Pleasanton Fast 'n' Furious ... this was a course to my liking, flat and fast; finished 14th of 43 in the 45+4 category.
- Central Coast Circuit Race #8 ... third time there, second time in a row 27th; not sure what draws me there as the rolling hills are killing me there every time.
- Sacramento Gran Prix ... same style and glamor as the San Rafael Twilight Crit ... it was 95F and category was a combined 35+/45+ Cat 3/4.  Finished only 49th of 65 (25th in my age group) after almost crashing in the last corner and losing all momentum, otherwise I was in a good position before that last corner to place a lot better.

On today's club ride, I surpassed the 4000-mile barrier:

Next month will be spent in China for the most part, and I hope to get some quality riding done there. You can always follow me on Strava.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sun, Jul 31

Today on the agenda, the Foothill College Circuit Race. I did sign up for both the E4 and the 45+ category. The E4 race started 20 minutes late at 9:35am. The course, a 1.1 mile loop with a total elevation gain of 66 feet, was smooth and fast. The hill on the back of the course was fortunately short enough to not cause any issue for me; hills usually are not my terrain. As usual, I was longing for the end of the race while we were just 1/3 into the race, but then, the remainder of a race always passes by fast. I stayed mostly mid-pack, and had not the power and opportunity to move up even in the last lap. Finished 29th out of 60 starters; sounds worse than it was, as we all completed more or less in one group. The second race was the unusual 45+/55+ mix, i.e. all open, no category restriction. My felt legs felt not too bad, and the average speed was actually 0.8mph slower than in the E4 race. Towards the end of the race I started feeling weaker though but always managed to catch up before the hill. On the last lap though, the pace increased and I got dropped at the climb on the back of the course. I limped into the finish 33rd out of 42 starters. This placing is not great but I was happy to be able to finish two 40-minute races, with average speeds of 25.3mph and 24.5 mph respectively. The lesson I have to apply is to stop trying to conserve energy on the last lap, but go all out for a better placing.

As far as riding statistics are concerned: 633 miles and 30k ft of climbing for the month. Year-to-date-stats:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tue, Jul 26

Another day to forget the cycling shoes at home ... ended up driving to Canada Rd to only find out then that I just got there to say Hi and wish everyone else a good ride. Returned home to do some hill intervals instead.

Almost 7 months into the year, and I'm already at 2300 miles with close to 100 hours of cycling. 4000 miles for the year should be possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wed, Jul 13

Just a few days have passed since my last blog post on Feb 26 ...   Racing has been a blast and fun, with the occasional disappointing but also satisfying results.

Two races followed in March:
- CCCR #3: Worked for the team until I blew up, before limping into the finish 27th.
- Bariani: 32nd ... was in a solo breakaway until the first climbs, and lost contact soon after. Rode most of the three laps by myself until I caught and passed some stragglers in the last 4 miles before the finish.

In April, two criteriums before heading off to China:
- Santa Cruz: first race as Cat-4. Technical course, failed to clip in timely at the start, was playing catch up, but it was hard to move up. Finished 25th, but 2nd best of our club.
- Menlo Park: fast @ 25pmh average. Benefited from a crash to finish 9th.

On Apr 16, I left for China, with one of my bikes in the luggage. I got the chance to race with the Colossi Cycling Teams from HK and SZ in the Open Category in the Zhuhai Road Race (57 miles). Finished mid-pack, but was never able to obtain official results. This is China.

After my return from China in May, I slacked for a bit before picking up my training again. The first race in June was the Pescadero Classic Road Race. 46 miles, lots of climbing, which is not my specialty. Finished 61st of 73 riders.

Next up a weekend later, was the Burlingame Crit, organized by our club, Peninsula Velo. This race was to redeem myself, and I was able to finish 15th, and 2nd best of our club. Average speed: 26.0 mph.

July came, and my cycling friend Daniel Carruthers came to visit us. He's a 'semi-pro' cyclist, and we both went to race the San Rafael Twilight Crit and the Lodi Cycle Fest Crits the next day, in our respective categories. San Rafael was fast, finished 30th of 43 in E4. Right after, I tried my luck in 35+3/4 but didn't have it to hang on early on, and dropped out. Please also see Daniel's report of his day in San Rafael.

Lodi was on the plan the next day. Racing in the 35+4/5 category, I flatted early after having been in the top 5, got a new wheel from Neutral Support, and continued the race trying to catch up. Tried to move up in the last few laps, but got bumped twice to my detriment. Finished 26th of 42. Daniel's race report can be read here.

So far it's been fun and I'm happy to have not been involved in any crashes. Hope that this streak continues. So far this year I have raced 17 times this year, including the 4 Early Bird Training Crits in January.  I also hope to be a little more successful in my upcoming races; otherwise I have few regrets.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sat, Feb 26

What a day. Got up at 6:30am to literally ride/rise to the occasion: the 26th edition of the Snelling Road Race. Snelling is probably only known to three groups of people: its residents (all 341 of them), the Google Street View Team, and the bike racing community. As a member of that last group, I headed out the door this morning to take that 100-mile drive to this little town, in order to participate in this 50-mile race. While earlier forecasts told about record-low temperatures and rain, we were actually blessed with low to mid-40's and sunshine the whole day. The race in the 35+5 category started at 12:55pm, with a neutralized ride of close to 3 miles. We rode through that little town, with people waving at us. It felt special, and without sounding elitist, nice to be recognized in a moment like this. Our motorcycle referee continued to guide us out of the town, and then the race was on. In the beginning miles, it started to feel like a club ride, as the pace was not as high as I expected. After a couple of miles, there were some inclines, and this is when I decided to accelerate at a climb. Nobody did follow me, so the choices were "wait" or "keep going". I opted for the latter, and went into cruise mode, and quickly I got a good gap on the rest of the group. It's normally only a matter of time in any bike race, until a breakaway gets caught, so I had no illusions about hanging on to that lead for the remaining 45 miles. The motorcycle ref pulled up to me at one time and said that I got a 20-second gap on the pack. With being by yourself in the wind, and not wanting to waste all your energy in the first of four 12-miles laps, I just waited until I was integrated back into the peloton shortly before end of lap 1. I was still feeling good after this escape. The following 2 1/2 laps were rather uneventful, except for another breakaway of 2 riders that apparently succeeded, until our race was kind of neutralized to let a women team pass, and shortly after, probably Cat1-3 men teams. The women ahead of us slowed down, and therefore us too. The ref neutralized our race to let the women advance. It took several minutes, where we just sat up and cruised, before we were let go just about 2km before the finish. At the last corner, with about 300m to go to the hill finish, I was probably among the top 10, and while I passed two other riders, more others flew by me. As of right now, official results are not available yet, but I think I finished among the top 15. As always, I thought that I should / could have done better, but I'm content with today's achievement.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sun, Feb 13

The 2011 Early Bird Series in Fremont wrapped up today with an actual race that counts towards your ranking. This series of training crits and clinics, held throughout the first several weekends every year, provides both newcomers and more experienced riders alike a refresher on racing skills. We rookies certainly benefited from the various drills, and today was the day to put everything learned into this final race.

The turnout of Pen Velo riders in the 45+5 category was bigger, compared to prior weekends. We had six riders in the somewhat smaller than expected field of 24 competitors. Before the race, my team mates decided behind my back (how could they ?) that they would support me and another team mate at getting a shot at the podium. Bike racing is a team sport, and often, you have to sacrifice your ambitions for someone who might have a better shot at placing well. So it was lucky me today. As "usual", I tried to stay close to the front, and actually spent most of the time in the top 5, with one team mate pulling at the front for several laps. Last lap, last turn, I saw two other team mates zooming by me. I guess I was in awe for a moment too long, before I latched on, and tried to stay in contact with that lead train. Maybe a gear too low, I was pedaling at probably 250rpm (at least that's what it felt like ;-)), and was passed by few other people. These two team mates went on to place 1st and 2nd, while I hung onto 10th place. Goal accomplished, although in hindsight, I should have done a little better. But no complaints, as it was another crash-free race. Only one other team mate in the earlier 30-44+5 category hit the street, after a rider behind him touched his wheel, which took him out. A bent wheel, road rash, torn lycra, and the statement to never race criteriums again, were fortunately the only outcome. It can always be worse.

The next race is in two weeks, the Snelling Road Race, a 48-mile race in the middle of nowhere. This will be a new experience, after mostly racing criteriums. New experience, new fun. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sun, Feb 6

Let's talk about the Super Bowl XYZ$&#@ .... Just kidding. You can click here to read my Super Bowl essay, then come back here to read about bike racing.

Yesterday, it was my first official race of the 2011 season, the Ronde van Brisbeen. After four weekends of training crits, it was time to see what it feels like racing something other than the familiar course in Fremont. The RvB takes place in Brisbane, just north of SFO, and east of 101. I haven't found out why this race has a Dutch name. I was signed up for the Elite 5 category, and along with around 11 other team mates, we started at 8am. After a neutralized first lap, the pace picked up and stayed high. Over the next 40 minutes, I managed to stay with 4 of my team mates near the front, when I failed to bridge the gap to the rider in front of me, due to lapped riders sneaking in between. With five laps to go, I suddenly found myself all alone in the wind and fell back, until I got company for the last 2 laps from another team mate. I finished 22nd with approximately a 1/4 lap back. With a field of 47, only 25 managed to finish without getting lapped or dropping out, therefore I was ok with my placing.

Today, another race, this time the Cherry Pie Criterium in Napa, where the first three finishers' reward is, you guess, a cherry pie. It was an awesome nice day, sunny, clear, and 80F by the time the race completed. I was registered in the 35+4/5 category. Compared to E5, at least you don't have the young crowd in your race, but rather more mature riders, which makes it somewhat safer. It was a big field of 75 riders, and my goal was to finish better than Saturday, without the illusion though to get a pie. My strategy as usual is to try to stay near the front, and counter all surges. While the field stretched out at times, there were ample opportunities to recover, and with only 35 minutes race time, I felt comfortable to maintain position until the end. With one lap to go, I moved up among the top ten, and the pace unexpectedly did not pick up until the chicane before the hill finish. This is when I failed again to get out of the saddle and sprint. Instead, I stayed seated, and lost some steam on the final meters, placing 12th. While I could have done better, I was still happy, considering size of the field and competing with younger Cat-4's.

So, two upgrade points and no pie earned for this weekend, and having managed to stay out of trouble. Next Sunday, the official Early Bird Criterium; my goal: top 10 finish.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sun, Jan 30

Eventually, the weather had to turn to what it is supposed to do during this time of the year: rainy and cold. Expectedly, a lot less cyclists showed up today for the 4th weekend of the Early Bird Clinics and Criteriums. Luckily the rain stopped just in time for the 11:45am clinic, and it stayed dry until end of my race at 2:30pm. With about 20 riders in my group, the race got off to a fast start, thanks to one guy doing most of the pulling. I even got into a breakaway with two others, but it only lasted for one lap, before we were gulped up by the pack. From then on until a couple of laps before the finish, the race got pretty slow. All of us who had done most of the work at the front, were content to be recovering, so by the time the pace picked up again in the last two laps, I was good to give it a better shot at sprinting for the finish. Today I was more patient and waited a little longer before starting the sprint, and going 32mph, I could hold on for 3rd place. Looks like I am getting better at this. Looking for sponsors now ;-).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sun, Jan 23

The last Sunday and this Sunday today were the Early Bird Clinic and Criterium #2 and #3 in Fremont. The temperatures went from mid-40's two weeks ago, to close to 60 last weekend, and today we had spring-like weather hitting 70 degrees, allowing us to shed full-finger gloves, and arm and leg warmers.

While last week's clinic focused on cornering, it was sprinting today, an ideal method to wear you out before the race actually starts. So by the end of that 1-hour workout, we all felt toast, so I had to revert to a toast of another kind (the one with Nutella on it) in order to overcome that tiredness. I was closer to taking a nice 2-3 hour nap, than racing for 40 minutes around the block. Soon though I felt better, and waited for my race to start. Just like last Sunday, the start was delayed due to a crash in the prior 30-44 Cat 5 race. Today, one rider had swerved to much during the final sprint, and he catapulted himself off the bike, hitting the pavement hard. After the ambulance had taken him away, we finally started our race. Due to the delay and in order to not mess up the day's schedule, our race was shortened to about 30 minutes. Just like the last two weekends, I tried to stay at the front (not "on the front"), and was maybe 5th coming into the last turn, with 600m to go, when the sprint was on. I was hitting 31 mph, and finished 9th (of 48 riders) as per my account; last week, I was somewhere between 12th and 15th of about 50 riders. Regardless, I was happy again to place well; average for the race: 24 mph. Since the Early Bird Criteriums are not official but training races, there's no official account of the results. There are two more weekends scheduled for the Early Bird Criteriums, with the race on the last weekend being an official, not training race. This is what will count.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tue, Jan 11

Happy New Year 2011 !

For me, the 2011 race season is already one race old. Last Sunday, the first of five installments of the Early Bird Clinics and Criteriums was held in Fremont. With temperatures in the mid-40's, it was a cold day. If it weren't for the event, I would have preferred to stay home. But if you have some racing ambitions, you have to brave the odds.

Sunday's clinic covered paceline riding. After a few chaotic laps on the 2.2km course, we got our act together, and managed to ride nicely for the remaining laps. Immediately after the clinic, the Cat 5 30-44 group was about to start. All my team mates in the 45+5 group, slated for a start 45 minutes later, abandoned me, and opted to race in the lower age group instead. Smart move, because now I was the one having to wait another 45 minutes longer in the cold. Eventually, my race started, for 10-11 laps or 40 minutes. I tried to stay close to the front throughout all laps, and counter all surges. All worked well, and with about 200m to go, I found myself in 2nd place. With maybe 100m to go, I tried to get past the first rider, and then finally out-sprinted him, only to get pipped on the line but another rider who came from behind. I only would have needed maybe 3 seconds to win the race, but was happy with 2nd place regardless. I hope this was not just a glimpse of pure luck.

Next on the calendar:
1/16 Early Bird Clinic and Criterium #2
1/23 Early Bird Clinic and Criterium #3
1/30 Early Bird Clinic and Criterium #4
2/6 Ronde van Brisbeen Criterium
2/13 Early Bird Clinic and Criterium #5
2/26 Snelling Road Race
3/13 Menlo Park Criterium
3/27 Bariani Road Race

By end of March, I should be eligible for a Cat 4 upgrade.
My goals for these races: finish or better, finish in the pack, and leave no skin on the road.