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  • Dominguez Hills Criterium CBR 1

    Posted on January 30th, 2018

    Photo by: Paul Cressey

    Last Sunday I hopped into my second crit of the year, the Dominguez Hills CBR 1 (the first of seven events of the 2018 “California Bike Racing” series). Because I’m still a Cat 5 with aspirations of upgrading asap, I took part in the BRP (Beginner Racer Program) which consisted of a pre-race clinic, the Cat 5 race, and then a short race debriefing. The BRP effectively counts as an extra race, so I received two race “points” toward my upgrade.

    The program was a basic introduction to crit racing. The focus was keeping your hands on the bars, following the wheel in front of you, taking the correct line through a corner, and how to correctly put your bib number on your jersey (seems trivial, but almost everyone does it incorrectly the first time). I personally didn’t get all that much out of the program, but I think it is a good concept and I can imagine it being helpful to people that are brand new to bike racing. Cycling can be an intimidating sport to get into for a variety of reasons, and it’s nice to see a governing body like USA Cycling with programs that are focused on getting more people involved safely. I wasn’t thrilled with the 6:15 am start time (especially on a cold morning!), but I think it was worth my while for the extra upgrade point.

    Trying to break away from the field.
    Photo by: Paul Cressey

    This field was pretty big – nearly 70 riders. In hindsight, that should have been my first clue that I may want to tweak my tactics a bit. My game plan, however, was essentially the same as the previous week in Ontario: stick to the front, take the occasional hard pull to keep things fresh, and try to get away in the final five laps or so. I stuck to my game plan, but this time it was only good enough for 2nd place. When I made my move to get off the front just before three laps to go, someone immediately marked me and sat on my wheel. The field was able to keep me well within sight this time, so I was concerned that if I let up at all, including pulling off the front to share the lead, the group would quickly pull us back in. While my fitness is pretty good from my years of triathlon, this was just another lesson in the intricacies of bike racing, and one I won’t soon forget. In the time since the race, I’ve gone over what other moves I could have made, and where I went wrong. It’s fun to be this excited about analyzing a sport again. Results.

    Schooled.
    Photo by: Paul Cressey

    Still happy to represent Team Simple Green on the podium!

    The week after the race I put in a request for an upgrade to cat 4 early (I now have 7 “points” out of 10 required). I was given differing experiences from other athletes that were either allowed to upgrade early or denied. The worst that could happen is that my request would be denied and I would have to complete all 10 races. So I gave it a try…

    DENIED! “The 10 race (or clinic) requirement is firm.”

    So this upcoming weekend I will be driving all over Los Angeles to finally get my last three points in. On Saturday I will be doing a “mentored” crit race (which counts as two races) way out in Redlands and on Sunday I will be racing at CBR #2 in Carson for my final race. This will allow me to be able to race Cat 4 for some of the upcoming road races that I think I can do really well at, like Cantua Creek, Pine Flat and the UCLA Road Race in Pearblossom.

    Photo by: Paul Cressey

    Thank you to Paul Cressey Photography for these shots at the CBR Crit #1 in Dominguez Hills. Here is his full photo album from the event. Paul tells me he will be out at the next CBR Crit in Carson on this Sunday.

  • New to 2018 — Bike Racing

    Posted on January 18th, 2018

    For a variety of reasons – namely time and curiosity – I have decided to give bike racing a go this year. Triathlon is a great sport and I’d love to have a calendar full of them, but it’s just not realistic at this point in my life (9 month old baby!). In fact, towards the end of last year I had pretty much resigned the idea of doing any racing of any sort in 2018, but then I won the KOM challenge at Phil’s Fondo, surprised myself week in and week out on the Simi Ride, and set a couple KOM’s on former Amgen Tour of California segments (Aliso Canyon from Stage 7 of the 2014 tour and Norwegian Grade from Stage 8 of 2011), which all get me thinking… maybe I can do some bike racing?!

    Of the three sports that make up a triathlon, there is no doubt that cycling takes up the most time. So why not stick to swimming or running you ask? I generally work a “4-40” work week, which means 10 hour days Monday through Thursday and Friday off. I have very little time for any training during the work week, and with my background, I can’t skip four days of swimming in a row and expect to build any form. Running is similar, in that it rewards consistency in training. With my running background, I know I won’t be setting any new PR’s without a serious focus on consistent, high mileage run training. With cycling, however, I can pack in the hours as a typical weekend warrior and, it appears thus far, with pretty good results. And of the three sports, you can have the most fun as a “pretty good” cyclist, vs. being a pretty good swimmer or pretty good runner.

    Cat 5 Hero

    For those of you that aren’t familiar with the USA Cycling system, it is broken into categories: beginning with “Cat” 5 through 1 (and then technically there are pro categories beyond that). Each race is divided by categories (though they often combine two or three categories for smaller events), so you only compete with cyclists that are, in theory, at a similar level to you – everyone can have a competitive experience, from novice to expert. Everyone starts out as a 5, regardless of their background. In order to upgrade from 4 to 3, 3 to 2 and 2 to 1, you have to accumulate points by finishing well at races. To upgrade from 5 to 4, however, you have to complete TEN races. Ten! It doesn’t matter how well you place, so long as you do the ten races.

    On Sunday I competed in my fifth race as a cat 5 (I did two races on a whim in 2016 and two more in 2017) at the Ontario “Ice Breaker” Criterium. Cat 5 crits are infamous for crashes, as you might imagine with lots of inexperienced riders taking approximately 100 turns together. I kept near the front, until the last 5 laps where I broke away and rode to the finish solo.

    360 W for 9 minutes did the trick

    I honestly feel I don’t really belong in cat 5 (some of peers feel the same way, apparently — see below) and I’m anxious to upgrade soon. This Sunday I will be at the Dominguez Hills CBR to get some more experience and move one step closer to cat 4.

    Haters gonna hate

    Team Simple Green

    At one of Neil Shirley’s “4 Days to Fitness” rides around New Year’s, I met Jason Francia who rides for Team Simple Green. I told him I was interested in doing more racing and he said I should look into joining Team Simple Green. I have only been a member for a few days now, so perhaps I will have more to share on the team dynamic in the near future, but I am excited to have some mentors in cycling and to have a team to be accountable to again. I will be rocking the bright green at the race this weekend!

    It’s still a bit too soon to say what I am hoping to achieve in my cycling racing. For now I’m just happy to be racing and training with a bit more purpose again.