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  • Road to Cat 3

    Posted on March 9th, 2018

    Citrus Criteriums – Podium 3/3 for 2018

    A quick update on the end of a long “road to Cat 4” before getting in to my much shorter “road to Cat 3”: After being denied early upgrade to Cat 4, I doubled up on my last races with a “mentored” crit in Redlands (which I won!) followed by CBR #2 (I was third and won a few primes). The Redlands race was a little far to drive for a ~25 minute race, but “Citrus Criteriums” put on a great little event that I felt would be very helpful to anyone a little anxious about getting into crit racing or even bike racing in general. After those races, I applied for my upgrade and was granted a Cat 4 license. Woohoo!

    Photo by: Paul Cressey Photography

    For my first Cat 4 race and first road race of the year, I headed a bit north to Cantua Creek in Coalinga. I think for most Californians, they only know of Coalinga for its smell. It’s that place off I-5, in the middle of nowhere, with a huge cattle feed lot. Fortunately, the race started and finished up and over a hill a couple miles away from the feed lot, which is apparently too far for the stench to travel. Cantua Creek is a three lap out-and-back course that is mostly flat with a bit of climbing to end each lap. After an excruciatingly slow start to the race, I attacked up the first climb and got away. On the descent two riders bridged up to me. One was a junior that did very little in the break except to annoy the two of us, though kudos to him for getting in the break. He hung in for another lap, while the two of us did all the work. We put in another hard climb, and then it was just the two of us — Eric Sasse and I. We shared the workload well, and sort of had a silent agreement to wait for the hills at the end to decide the finish order.

    Podium 5/5

    I felt like I climbed much better than him earlier in the day, and still had pretty good legs, so I thought I could just ride hard up the climbs and that would be enough. It wasn’t, and Eric got the better of me right at the finish. I was happy to see my teammate Gilbert Marquez win the bunch sprint for 3rd place! Strava file

    I raced the next day in the foothills of Fresno at a place called Pine Flat. Both of these races were about 70 miles from my brother’s home, so I stayed with him two nights and got to spend some time with him and my niece and nephew!

    Pine Flat is a beautiful place, and I regret not taking more pictures while I was out there. Eric and Gilbert were both in this race as well. This race starts off pretty rolly with some tough, short climbs followed by a long descent, some flats, and then two big climbs. After another slower start, Eric started some attacks for a break. The group chased him down the first couple times. I actually rolled off the front on a shorter descent, and then I saw Eric chasing with that junior from the day before in tow. Just as we were getting the break established, I looked back and saw Gilbert trying to bridge up solo. I immediately stopped working and things slowed down just enough for Gilbert to get on. It pretty much worked out perfectly and I was pumped!

    For the next 30 miles or so the three of us worked together with the junior taking every 10th pull, maybe. He fell off without too much pressure as we made our way towards the final climbs. I was in a position to sit on Eric’s wheel this time, thanks to the presence of Gilbert. With a few minutes left in the penultimate climb, I went hard, got a gap at the top, and then went full gas to the next climb. I enjoyed the final few minutes up the last climb as I came to the finish line. Gilbert hung on for third, giving Team Simple Green four Cat 4 podiums in two days. Strava file

    With those two races, I had a total of 12 upgrade points. I need 20 points minimum to upgrade to Cat 3, which I want to do before the San Dimas Stage Race at the end of March. In order to avoid racing too much, I needed to win  my next race, and that race needed a minimum of 21 starters (the more starters = the more points). The UCLA Road Race this past weekend fit the bill.

    Photo by: Brian O’Connor

    The race was out in Pearblossom and it was pretty cold, windy and rain threatening. The course is a big rectangle with ascent and descent on either long side. The race was 4 laps, totaling 50 miles and about 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Like a good roadie, I sat in (on the first lap) and didn’t spend too much time at the front. As we came to the end of the first lap, there was a prime at the end of the first lap. One guy jumped and I went with him. I wasn’t able to get around him before the finish (so he won the prime), but once we crossed the line, he was content to sit up and roll back into the group. I, however, said “yolo” and pressed on. My thinking was the wind on the uphill was strong enough that no one was going to want to lead the chase, and on the descent the tailwind was strong enough that I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage going solo. I was right. A moto was giving me splits, which were 1:30 at the top of lap two, 2:00 at the bottom, 4:00 at the top of lap 3. The splits continued to go out and by the end I won by over ten minutes. Job done! (Shout out to Hudson and Spencer for making the trip out to the race with me, even if they were napping in the car the whole time I was racing!)

    Photo by: Brian O’Connor

    Cat 4 Done and Dusted!

    This week I received my upgrade to Cat 3! This little climb up the ranks has been fun, but I’m excited to be in some races where everyone doesn’t expect me to win or be on the podium. I think I will be at a level now where I will be able to learn a lot from my fellow competitors and, hopefully, go earn a few victories.

  • 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.