Monday, May 23, 2011

from low to high in pro cycling

In pro cycling as of late, it went from being really depressing to really inspiring. To begin:

The Garmin sprint train derailing daily in the opening stages of the Giro. Then Wouter Weylandt tragically dies in a crash- the only time I can recall a rider dying from trauma in a bike race. Close friend Tyler Farrar (Garmin sprinter extraordinaire and local boy) pulls out of the Giro in grief. Meanwhile Thor Hushovd pulls out of the Tour of California, ostensibly from sucking. To be fair, a sprinter of Hushovd's caliber is basically just expected to win, and that is hard to live up to. But Garmin's sprinters are both out of the picture and Christophe Le Mevel is steadily losing time to Clenbutador in the Giro.

But then redemption!

The reason I can't stand Contador (aside from being a cheater) is from the Tour de France a couple years back when he forced Chris Horner off the squad in favor of lesser riders that would ostensibly be loyal to Contador and not Armstrong if push came to shove. Its a shame because Horner is talented, a local guy, a cool person, a cyclocrosser, and not getting any younger! For once I would like to see Horner be the captain and see what happens. The following year in the Tour of France, Horner finished 12th (I think), solidly ahead of supposed team leaders Armstrong and Leipheimer- despite riding as a domestique.

So I was thrilled to see Horner win the Tour of California yesterday- at age 39 the oldest guy in the race. I'm also thrilled to hear that Horner is focusing on the Tour of France. With Lance out of the way, maybe it will be Horner's year.

If Horner can win the Tour of California at age 39- I'm not worrying about turning 34.

And in the Giro- although Clenbutador is putting time into everybody- John Gadret won a stage and is riding really well, currently in fourth place. For more on Gadret see The reason I'm a Gadret fan is that he is also a cyclocrosser. When a road racer hits cyclocross races in the fall, it demonstrates a true love of riding and racing. Its no coincidence that my favorite pro riders- Horner, Farrar, Gadret- have been known to race cyclocross.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vance Creek road race

This Sunday was the Vance Creek road race, my favorite local road race so far. The hills and scenic narrow sections make it the favorite; to get more elevation on a course you have to move on to some of the stage races like Walla Walla or the Wawawei grade hill climb in Pullman. Last year I snagged a podium place in the Cat 5 race so I wanted to try my luck again this year in the Cat 4 race.
To that end I dropped my chain immediately after the neutral roll out. Frustrating, but no big deal I thought- its only gonna take 15 or 20 seconds to get rolling again. The neutral support guy gave me a push and I was off- to chase hard for at least half a lap or 6 miles or so until I caught on. It felt like sprinting underwater. I would see the peloton 15 seconds ahead of me, put my head down and pedal really hard, look up and see them in the same place. Finally did get back on and had a chance to relax and let the taste of blood in my mouth dissipate a little. After that little drill I decided to just rest until the hills at the end of the last lap. I was able to move towards the front on the hills at the end of the second lap and decided to help keep the pace high downhill and string things out for the final lap. The final hills came soon enough; I was able to gradually move up and pass people on the hill and was not obstructed at the 200 meter mark. There were guys with 30 meters on me at that point so 12th was the best I could do. Still no upgrade points so far this year.

Overall it was a great race. Cat 4 races seem to be an object of derision for racer geeks but there was very little amateur shenanigans or spastic riding going on. A Farestart rider even made a bold solo attack with probably 4 km to go. My biggest complaint with the Cat 4 races so far - I'm thinking of Mason Lake here- is that no one attacks until the 200m sign. I wish the Farestart guy would have made it. In Sequim the Cat 4 peloton very nearly neutralized the Cat 3 race and my computer showed an average speed of 24.9 mph for the race- not bad!

To cap it all off I was able have a little mini staycation that night- rode downtown with the wife, enjoyed a bottle of Spaten Optimator, saw a movie.