Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am racing my first stage race as a Cat3 this weekend at the Willamette Valley Classic. Mostly, I am entered to gain some early-season fitness (we have been dealing with terrible weather, and I didn't ride for 3 months or so due to snow-I am a wimp I guess!). I am a bit short on experience (2 races this season, three last season as a Cat5, two the year before) so it will be a great learning opportunity. Lots of strong people have come up from California: the field looks to be of better quality that the typical 3 road race here in Oregon.

The field is full at 100 riders, and we only have 1/2 of the road to work with. Course is flat, VERY windy, 3 loops of 17.5 miles each. I start off in the field at about 70th, which is a big mistake. Due to the narrow road, it is nearly impossible to work my way up toward the front. I am stuck back there, maybe working my way up to about 50th before the one small climb on the first lap (something like 150 feet of elevation gain-more like a speed bump). I move around in the bunch, trying to find a way toward the front (as do my teammates) but without much success. Riding this far back is definitely nervous: lots of yo-yoing and brakes being touched. Not to mention the trucks passing us in the other lane at high speed, and the severe crosswind. On the descent of the first hill, somebody touches wheels at speed, then the guy behind goes down. We are riding 5 wide at this point. I had nowhere to go and tried to bunnyhop the dude's Orbea, but only made the front wheel over the bike, and my rear wheel gets hung up in his front triangle. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but that was a close one. We have to chase for a mile or two and catch back on. Then, I get the bright idea to try and move up out of trouble. Problem is that the only way to the front is into the crosswind. I make an effort, and get toward the front, but am hung out in the exposed side of the peloton a little too long. Right then we make a turn that gives us a tailwind. A big acceleration from the front, and I am off the back. I regroup and make it back up, only for the peloton to be stopped (school bus ahead). First lap down, we are averaging just under 25mph. Several riders were shelled. Second lap starts, and things calm down a bit. I am able to make a bit of progress toward the front. A motor home passes us, then stops in front of us at the next intersection and holds up the peleton. Then the motor home tries to make a left turn and sideswipes the lead car with a loud "crunch"! Why they don't make these "older than average" motor home drivers get a CDL license is beyone me: this thing must have been 45 feet long!

Starting the second time up the small hill, I start to make my way toward the front. A teammate and myself each do some pulls once on the flats again to get toward the front and out of danger. We are moving well, up into the top 20. Just when all looks good, the peloton starts to slow, and I find people lining past me (I am moving toward the back again). So, I get out into the wind and try to move up toward the front, along with a couple of other riders (same as last lap-I should have learned my lesson). I get hung out there too long (when I get toward the front, I get stuck out there, unable to integrate into a more protected area). Pretty soon, I notice that I am getting really tired. Right then, we make the turn that takes us downwind, and a huge acceleration comes. I am completely gassed and dropped like a hot potato. By the time I could regroup, the peloton is moving away at 30+mph (we are still averaging something like 24.7mph at this point). I couldn't bridge back up, and once we turned again into the wind, there was no chance. I got into a group with another 5 guys (two of which were from the Pro/1/2 race and had been dropped) and we take turns pulling and ride the remaining lap in. Even with the 6 of us, we struggle to average 21mph in the high winds.

Well, it was a great learning experience. Had I been in a more protected position and been toward the front, not wasting energy, I likely wouldn't have been in trouble. I felt fine except when I got exposed at the windward edge of the peloton, and being hung out there, even in a severe crosswind, 3rd wheel, isn't smart for 5 minutes or more. At the end, the finishing bunch was about 40 riders, or so I heard. I have alot of learning to do, and training so that if I do get into a bad spot, I don't totally blow, like I did today. I didn't feel too bad though, as lots of pretty strong guys either were dropped or barely hung on. It was a really fun time. I am looking forward to tomorrows circuit race: supposedly there will be a combined 2300 feet of climbing over 36 miles, which will chop up the pace a bit and be better for me. Racing is alot of fun!
 

·
Apa kabar?
Joined
·
269 Posts
thanks for the report, and i'm glad you were able to learn some things. i'm pretty sure the learning curve is huge for people like you and me who have just gotten into racing. hope tomorrow goes well for you, and let us know what works and what doesn't for you. i know i learn the most from doing it myself, but reading about it on this forum is a close second. good luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
274 Posts
tobu said:
Question: How did you manage to become a Cat 3 with just 7 races of experience?
I know lots of people who've gone further faster... Maybe he dominated his races and his upgrade dude let him move up despite not enough points (that happens a lot where I race, too many sandbaggers as it is, you kick the living sh1t outta the field they'll let up upgrade).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,148 Posts
Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) is the governing body for racing in Oregon, not the USCF so the upgrade rules may well be quite different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Here my next update (I haven't been to a computer in a couple of days)

Stage 2 time trial, 17 miles, out and back, about 400 feet of climbing, windy.
Well, this was a learning experience as well! I put some clip-on bars on my bike the morning before the time trial. Needless to say, I was pretty green at the time trial thing, plus still feeling the effects from the day before. I started out at an OK pace for me (about 24mph downwind) and was getting comfortable in the aerobars (they were pretty high-I am going to take an old frame and make it a cheap TT bike, which will allow me to dial in my position). I didn't have an HR monitor (another mistake) so I had no way to know what pace I should be riding at. When I made the turnaround, it was all into the wind. I lost focus and really started to crawl with about 4 miles left. Then, somebody blew by me, and I thought "hey, why am I going so slow? Get going." So, I followed that guy by about 30 meters into the finish, without much trouble. I ended up averaging 21.4mph: very slow, but I know there is tons of room for improvement.

Time Trials are definitely a different breed. It is really hard to keep focus. I used to be a runner, and am used running by myself on a track, where I have a pace that is easy to record every 200m or so. On a bike, there was no way for me to judge my output and keep focused.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Stage 3: circuit race (each lap was 5+ miles, we did 7 laps) with a decent ascent (almost 400 feet per lap) and a very curvy descent. Finish was on a steep incline.

In this race, the pace was really quick for the first two laps. I punctured just before the start-lucky for me it wasn't 5 minutes later. I was in a better spot (first 50) and the climbs started to thin out the bunch by the 3rd lap. I was able to stay in the top 50 without much trouble, and tried to ride top 20 or so most of the time. There were a few minor attacks off the front, but nothing that had the legs to stay away. The wind was blowing up the climb, making it easier on everyone. Again, the group was a little sketchy, especially on the descent (I got pushed out across the yellow line once on a sharp corner: people were riding pretty aggressively early on) but it eased up considerably. I went to the front on lap 5 for a bit, then tried to go away with a couple of other riders who had attacked, but it was at the top of the climb, and with the wind in our face on the descent, we weren't staying away. I also sprinted for aggressive rider points, but was 4th. I made sure I was up there in top 15 places on the last two laps, so I would be out of trouble in the sprint. I came to the sprint in a good position, but totally went backwards on the steep hill in the last 200m. Nothing left in the legs whatsoever. Still, I finished with the bunch, which was probably about 50 riders at that point. Overall, it was much better than the day before: I was toward the front without too much effort, and out of trouble for the most part.

To answer the question "how could I upgrade after 7 races": OBRA has pretty lax rules when it comes to upgrading. I won a race last summer, and got an upgrade card in the mail within 2 weeks. Somebody had told OBRA to upgrade me. Probably a good thing: before I recieved the upgrade card in the mail, I was crashed out in the next race by an idiot with a rusty bike (his chain broke while sprinting-it was probably as rusty as the frame w/down tube shifters).
 

·
What offseason?
Joined
·
534 Posts
I was unfortunate enough to be involved in that crash 20 minutes into day one - I had nowhere to go but into a pile of downed riders and had no time to slow. The landing was soft and I had no road rash or bruises but the crash was hard enough to bend my front wheel. That was the end of my WVC. Someone's pedal found it's way into my leg and I got an exciting ride in the officials car back to the finish line and eventually found myself in the hospital. The pedal did it's damage, I have a nice 2 inch long gash in my lower leg including some muscle and tendon damage. I get to visit a doctor in the next few days for follow up - I'm not confident that I'll be allowed on the bike soon. I'll say this, pulling your own skin off of someone elses pedal is something I don't recommend.

Thanks for the report. I wish I had the luck to have enjoyed the entire race. I probably would have struggled to stay with the climbers on a the steeper of today's climbs, but the TT suited me perfectly. The guy who won the TT (Matt Lieto) is a pro Triathlete - I don't think I could have beaten him but I believe I would have been top 5 in the TT.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
gray8110 said:
I was unfortunate enough to be involved in that crash 20 minutes into day one - I had nowhere to go but into a pile of downed riders and had no time to slow. The landing was soft and I had no road rash or bruises but the crash was hard enough to bend my front wheel. That was the end of my WVC. Someone's pedal found it's way into my leg and I got an exciting ride in the officials car back to the finish line and eventually found myself in the hospital. The pedal did it's damage, I have a nice 2 inch long gash in my lower leg including some muscle and tendon damage. I get to visit a doctor in the next few days for follow up - I'm not confident that I'll be allowed on the bike soon. I'll say this, pulling your own skin off of someone elses pedal is something I don't recommend.
Sorry to hear about the misfortune. I guess it is about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially toward the back of a nervous, overcrowded peloton on narrow roads in strong crosswinds! Were you the guy on the ground with the orange Orbea?
 

·
What offseason?
Joined
·
534 Posts
Nope.. not me. I wasn't on the ground long before the follow car showed up and the offical got me out of there. My bike (a Parlee) was being picked up by another official and magically found it's way to me.

I lined up at the front at the start but was careless about position while chatting with a friend and found myself at the tail of the field by the time we started climbing. There were some surges on the rollers and I had moved up a little by the top of the hill. The road curved to the left and then the road was just blocked. I'm not overly negative about it, but if my legs had just been in another position, I probably would have been ok. This is just one of those freak accidents.

How did today's stage go for you? I prerode the stage back in February. It was gorgeous - really wish I would have been there for it today. The Smith River climb was a blast (to me) good views and not that steep. It's just a fast climb. Elk Creek was steep at the top but it was so short and technical on the descent that I figured it wouldn't make much difference. I really figured a big group would come to the Territorial climb together and the race would be decided between there and the finish.

Sorry to hear about the misfortune. I guess it is about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially toward the back of a nervous, overcrowded peloton on narrow roads in strong crosswinds! Were you the guy on the ground with the orange Orbea?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Stage 4 report: this is the big stage of the race. 70 miles, 3 tough climbs, 3 moderate climbs, 70 miles, a finish that gains at least 200 feet, with a grade apporoaching 10%. According to the map, there is 7000 feet of elevation gain this stage: I count about 5000 feet of sustained climbing. Tailwind, then 40 miles of headwind, then tailwind coming home. Should be an interesting day. I figure that it is pretty likely that the pace will be pretty casual: it is early in the season, and people are tired.... Weather is perfect: a bit breezy, but a cloudless day (maybe our 10th since mid-November!) and a high predicted of 70.

We set out, and with a nice tailwind, are coasting down the valley at 23-24mph with little effort. Our first big climb hits after about 5 miles, and the pace is fast! I am already hurting at the bottom from the stiff pace, but work my way up into the top 40 or so, mostly to be out of trouble. This is a pretty small climb: 400 feet or so of elevation gain. Once over (a few guys have already been shelled) it is a high speed descent and another 10 miles of flat, leading up to the first climb of the day.

We reach the next climb on Smith River Road (for anyone in Oregon, I highly recommend this ride: the roads are nearly perfect, climbs are fairly short, very steep and twisty, the country is gorgeous, and traffic is non-existant). This is the longest climb of the day at 1100 feet elevation gain. At the base of the climb, the bunch accelerates. The climb isn't casual: between 4% and 8% on the switchbacks. Again, we are really flying (other guys who have raced with the Cat3's in stage races thought that the pace was unusually high on the climbs today). 18mph on the lower grades, still pumping out 15mph on the steepest sections. I am really hurting right now, although I am not going backwards. For some reason I my legs are pumping out when I climb in the saddle-I have to stand to keep them fresh and moving (I need a bike fit-and am scheduled for one tomorrow). Halfway up the climb, guys are starting to pop, and I start to feel a bit fresher. Toward the top, I move into the top 20 as riders start to tire, and the bunch is pretty strung out. Right then, we crest, and cruise down the other side of the climb, relaxing and allowing dropped riders to catch back on (we regroup at the bottom with maybe 50 guys left). We pass through a dense forest, on beautiful roads that are completely shaded. My teammate rejoins me (who is a much stronger and more experienced rider than myself, but he is a bigger guy who can have trouble on longer, sustained climbs). We chat, and he tells me just to ride on, toward the front if I can, and not to worry about him in case he pops. Average speed at this point is around 21.5mph: we are really taking it easy on the flats today, so far.

Next, a bit of excitement as we turn off of the main road onto a 1-lane, un-maintained logging road. Normally, these types of roads are great fun on a road bike, but it gets a bit dicey in a bunch flying along at 20+mph. There are sticks in the road, boulders in a couple of spots, really rough pavement, moss growing the middle, and downed trees sticking out partway into the road. The bunch looks like an accordian, compressing from the sides as we dodge crap on the road. One guy picked up a bundle of bailing wire on his bike, and had trouble dislodging it. There is a pretty short climb toward the end of this road. The pace is quick, but the climb is less than a mile long. Then, a descent on a bit better-maintained 1-lane road, then back onto another main road (Siuslaw River Road, I believe).

It isn't long before the business begins: the Wolf Creek climb, which is also the name of the stage. The bunch is crusing along the flat, then we start to go up. All of the sudden, the road gets very steep (probably 10% at least). We come around the corner, and there is the feed zone, just when people are attacking on the steepest section of road we will see all day! What are the race organizers thinking? Of course, it causes a temporary split, but the climb is a prelude to the big one (only 300 feet) so we regroup on the very short descent and get ready to head back up. As soon as we start up Wolf Creek, I move again toward the front. The pace isn't bad, as I am able to hold 15th wheel without much trouble. A few guys move up and really start to push the pace, and it lines out the bunch. There are a group of 20 that form at the front. I move up to about 5th wheel: finally I am feeling good: relaxed and I don't seem to be working as hard as earlier. The climb seems to crest, but it is a false flat, then another stair-step toward the top in a big alpine-style switchback that you can see from below. An American version of Didi Senft is present, jumping up and down with a red mariner spike and banging on the metal guard that keeps cars from going over the cliff. I stay up toward the front, just riding, a bit surprised I am still there and up at the front. Then, right as the bunch is totally strung out, we crest. Another mile and it would have been a much smaller lead group. My teammate was popped off near the top of the climb and couldn't get back on, even while chasing with a group of 12. On the descent, we rejoin, and have about 35 guys left.

From here on in, there is one pretty small climb that doesn't give anyone else trouble, then a pretty flat run in with a few rollers and a tailwind. Nothing much happens, until a guy attacks with about 8K left. He gets 20 seconds or so, and we begin to chase with less than 2 miles to go. The bunch is totally lined out: I am hurting really bad on the flats at speed. I just don't have much power. But, I am pretty sure we swept him up with less than 1 mile to go. It is going to be a sprint to the line, or so it seems.

Then, there is a sharp right-hand turn and up to the finish. It is about a 1K distance from the turn to the finish, with a grade of about 10%-it is going to hurt! I make sure I am in the top 15 places at the bottom, then accelerate up the hill toward the leaders. I briefly get on the wheel of another guy bridging up, but start to blow after about 300m of hard effort. They go away and have about 20m on me, but I just don't have the legs to come back. The 5 of them will shoot it out for the uphill sprint. A few more guys pass me, then I start to recover and hold my place to the line. This one really hurts-trying to sprint up that grade makes me feel like I am riding in molasses. I come in somewhere around 11th (although I don't have the official place). In the finish, I really wanted to score a top 10 up that hill, when I realized I still had some energy left.

Looking back, it was a FAR better day than Friday. I felt better as the race went on and really seemed to get my climbing legs. I still have no power on the flats, and am really looking forward to that bike fit. Really, I should have more power than I currently have when riding on flat roads: I am 5 foot 8, 150lbs, with kind of a stocky build. I don't know what my problem is on flat roads. I also wish I had gone toward the front on that last big Wolf Creek climb and pushed the pace: I felt good, but didn't want to go to the front because 1) I didn't know the route well and 2) I didn't know how my legs were going to hold up. As it turns out, this weekend I rode 200 miles, which is 1/7 of the distance I have ridden all year. So, not much confidence yet. But, it was a great weekend. I am fired up to race some more!
 

·
What offseason?
Joined
·
534 Posts
Thanks again for the report - it's nice to be able to live the race vicariously racing so little of it.

Just curious, and feel free not to answer this, where are you from and what team do you ride with? It's always cool to run into other people I've raced with online.
 

·
PDX
Joined
·
6 Posts
Great report.

Even the Masters 3/4/5 had a crash on the first day. The landing in the ditch was soft, but I wound up with a horked wheel and chasing for my whole second lap.

My final stage was similar to yours. I found myself in a better position than I expected after the climbs, then regretted not being able to take better advantage of my fortune.

Fun race.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
swany said:
Great report.

Even the Masters 3/4/5 had a crash on the first day. The landing in the ditch was soft, but I wound up with a horked wheel and chasing for my whole second lap.

My final stage was similar to yours. I found myself in a better position than I expected after the climbs, then regretted not being able to take better advantage of my fortune.

Fun race.
A teammate of mine in the 1/2 race was ridden off the road, with the peloton being pushed over on the long straight back into Junction City in one of those nasty crosswinds. He ended up down in the swamp! I rode in with him after I got dropped, and he was wet and muddy. Luckily it was a soft landing!
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top