Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 USA Cycling Masters Road Nationals - Bend, OR

What's not to be exited about???  I got to race against some of the best the nation has to offer and hang out in Bend, OR for a week!!   It was going to be HOT down there, I mean Africa hot....Tarzan wouldn't like that kind of hot!!  It was going to be pushing 90 all week and close to 100 by my road race start time on Sunday. 

I was heading out the door for two weeks of vacation and wanted to get to Bend to get some reps in on the course and hang out a bit before the pain fest started.  I hit the road at 9:00am and decided to take a break at Government Camp.  I saw a Facebook update from Alex T.(Farestart) talking about the forest fires in the Bend area.  He said he was on a training ride and was having trouble breathing because of all the smoke blowing in.  I hadn't hear a thing about the fires before that.  As soon as I descended out of the Mt. Hood area I could see what he was talking about.  There were huge plumes of smoke in several locations.  By the time I got close Madras it was strange site.  The smoke was all around and the sun disappeared.  It was like the worst PNW fog you've ever seen.  It was surreal.  I had to stop and get out of my car to check it out.  Even with my windows closed and the A/C on I could still smell and tasted the smoke.  It was like this all the way into Bend.

I got to our rental house in  Mt. Bachelor Village and decided I was going to head out for a ride right away.  It was 4:30pm and still 90 degrees out.  I have never raced Cascade so I wanted to ride the road course but as I got to the top of Mt. Washington Dr. the smoke was pretty think.  I could see Mt. Bachelor so I decided to head to the ski resort instead.....Good choice.  I had a great ride up and just sat in the resort parking lot and checked out all the smoke around me.  I could see thunder storms that were being generated by the smoke.....Crazy.  I headed down the mounted and straight to the Deschutes Brewery.... My vacation had begun.

My teammate Scott showed up the next day and we headed out to recon the TT course.....for him.  I was only doing the crit and road race.  It is a crazy course.  I'm used to just doing an out-&-back or some sort of loop but this has both and a lot of climbing.  Have fun Scott!!
We gobbled down some good Mexican food and headed back to the pad.

Scott wanted to continue to recon the TT course so I hooked up with Jeff D.(Farestart) for a couple of laps on the road course.  He has raced Cascade and gave me a ton of pointers.  The course seemed to be a perfect match for my abilities.  I was amped.
Pizza at Jackson's Corner Market.

TT Day for Scott.  I jumped on my bike for a short spin and then headed up to watch his race.  He was pretty nervous but had a great day and pulled off a top 20 finish!!
After the race I headed to Redmond to pick up Denise at the airport.  The fires were still going strong but were blowing East and just missing Bend.  Redmond on the other hand was fully engulfed in smoke.  I was glad her flight made it in.  We hooked up with Scott and headed back to the 10 Barrel Brewing Co. for dinner.  By now the town was jam packed full of racers. 

More road course recon.  This time we hooked up with Hunter Allen and Debra Preller(they won the tandem rr the next day) and got some more pointers while riding the course.  I think I'm ready.  Scott's wife showed up so now our fan base was two strong.  We headed to Joolz for one of the best meals I had while in Bend.

Time to race!!!  I get a lot of crap about this but I always state that I'm NOT a crit guy and I still stand by that.  I drove a car down early so I could get a base station right next to the start/finish line.  Scott was in the race right before mine so he, Ellen and Denise headed down so he could warm up.  I stayed at the house and napped for a while.  I jumped on my bike and rolled down to the course.  I was so nervous that I missed a turn and almost ended up in Sun River.  My start time was at 2:15 and it was going to be hot.  I finished warming up and rolled to the staging area to watch the finish of Scott's race. He finished strong in 22nd place!!  Now it was my turn for some fun.

It was 88 degrees(smoke free) and the biggest battle was just getting to the start line.  Everyone wanted to get staged in the front row, which wasn't easy when you have a field of 106.  We had a lot of representation from the Seattle area.  Everyone was jamming themselves into the small staging area and when our own Phil Miller called us up it was mayhem.  It might have been more dangerous then the race itself.  It didn't work out well for me and I was sitting about 2/3 of the way back.  I liked the course.  I was right in downtown Bend and the straightaways were nice and long and there were no turtles to be seen anywhere.  Get ready for 60 minutes of fun!!!  The gun went off and by the time I was clicking in the leaders were already well into turn one.  I told myself I was going to get up near the front even if blew up trying.  Nikos M.(Garage) had staged behind me and on lap two he came flying by.  Not a bad wheel to jump on.  For the next few laps I just stayed on his wheel as he moved his way through the crowd.  The first five laps crazy while pecking order got sorted out.  We had our first stupid crash going into turn one right around that time.  I don't know how I made it though.  One riderless bike came flying right at my head but it somehow missed me.  I couldn't believe I was still upright.   

I gathered myself and started to move back up again.  I could see Todd G. up ahead mixing it up with the leaders.   Turn three was pretty tight and we often slowed down to about 15mph as we went though it.  I didn't think it would be a crash free zone as the backstretch was in a tailwind and super fast. 

I was feeling super good and had no trouble making up to the top 15.  I could easily stay with the top 15 to 25 area but it was really hard to move up beyond that.  I would burn a match to get up there on the left side but there was always an equally fast surge up on the left.  I would seem to get up to about 7th wheel but by the time we hit the start/finish on each lap I would always be back to 15th or 20th.  It was going to take something super special for me to get in a winning position.  By the time we were 40 minutes in no breaks had gotten away.  At this point I didn't care if one did.  I had just missed getting taken out by another crash and I just wanted to survive and make it to the road race on Sunday.  I finally saw 10 laps to go and decided to just hold my position for three laps.  With seven to go I was going to pull out my lighter and give it my best shot to get up front.  Seven to go!!  BAM!!  I hit the gas and surged forward.  I think I made up to 8th wheel at one point but that didn't last.  The surges were now insane and I was bouncing from 10th to 20th wheel in seconds.  I still felt pretty good but man.....this was crazy.  Two laps to go and the we were frickin' flying.  the pack started to string out and to just move up a couple of spots was hard.  I saw Nikos ahead and decided to will myself onto his wheel.  With one lap to go I was there.  I knew I had no chance to win but I could get near the top ten if I played it smart. 
 When you come out of turn four the finish is WAY down the road and there was a slight headwind.  I knew guys would jump right out of the turn.  If someone could make it that far then good for them.  I waited and when were were half way down I jumped hard.  Right as I hit top speed I a rider in front of me go down hard.  Again, I don't know how I missed it. 

Two guys behind me were not so lucky. I was happy to still be up but all my momentum was gone.  I coasted across the line in 36th place.  I was super happy with my performance.

Saturday:  No rides.  I just hung out with Denise all day and BBQ'd on the deck.

Sunday:  Time for the main event....for me.

Russell Stevenson on the top step

My race was not until 3:00pm.  We arrived just in time to see Russell Stevenson take the crown in his field.  Pretty F'ing cool.!!

It was HOT.  I could see a slight haze of smoke in the air and could taste it.  This was going to be brutal.  Denise checked the temperature right before I rolled up and it was 95 degrees.  I wanted to get to the staging area early because like our crit, we had the largest field of any with 115 scheduled to start.  Just like Friday I found myself about half way back.  I wasn't as worried for this one since the hills would string out the field.  I just wanted to be close enough to the front so I wouldn't miss out on any early breaks. 
I have never felt so pro. 

We had the full road with motos and everything you'd expect to see in a pro race.....except the pros.
We were doing 3 laps for a total of 62 miles.  There were no shortage of former national champs. 

 I'd never seen more red, white and blue stripes on jerseys in one place.  I talked to one guy that has 8 national championships under his belt.  I have a state championship if that counts.  :)  We rolled out and I quickly realized that many in our field, including yours truly were not used to having the full road.  There would be a big sure up the left side of the road and guys would jump on.  As soon as that settled there would be another one the right.  Some guys couldn't handle NOT being in these surges and would constantly swerve from left to right again and again to try to catch these wave.  It made for a chaotic first five miles.  Regardless, there were no crashes and I was able to move around at will.  Just like the crit I was able to find Nikos' wheel and made sure to stay on it.  I was feeling good....if good meant breathing in HOT,
                                         smokey air at 4000 ft. 
We were just about to hit our first climb so I bounced outside and moved to the front.  It was hard going but I crested near the front and was right in there for the downhill section.  Now it was time to get ready for Archie Briggs.  This one would be the field killer.  Maybe not on the first lap but be a death sentence for most.   We hit the climb and I was sitting about 1/3 of the way back.  I saw Nikos up ahead looking strong.  No one made a big move so I just slotted in.  As we continued up I started to get caught behind struggling riders and panicked a bit.  I wanted to get around them but was having problems because I was right in the middle of the road.   I decided to swing wide left and make up some spots.  I looked up and saw that there were three cars pulled over on the side of the road.  I probably should have waited until we moved by them but I made
split second decision to keep going..

NOW this is a little bit of a blur and the way I initially told the story was that I was HIT by a car.  That may have not been totally true.  It looked like the front car may have thought she was too close to us and wanted to move further off the road.  All I saw was the front end of the car make a move into the course.  I was probably only going six mph but I slammed right into the front quarter panel and flipped onto her hood.  I didn't even really feel it.  I rolled over the hood and bounced right onto my feet.  I had no idea where my bike was.  I ran around the front of the car and it was leaning against it as if I set it there.  I jumped back on and started riding off.  All of a sudden I felt a slight tug on my jersey.  She was grabbing me an yelling at me to stop.  I brushed her off an continued on.  I suffered no injuries and dont' think I even scratched the card.  I now think I could have avoided this by riding smart.  She was slightly over the white line but was really posing any danger to us.  She was not moving when I hit here and I should slowed up, moved over  and waited until we I passed all three cars.  I was dumb and I paid the price. Shit happens and unfortunately it happened to me. 

Anyway....I was now just slightly off the back of the pack but felt I could catch back on.  My adrenalin was shooting through the roof.  I was just about to catch onto the back of the pack when I ran out of hill.  The field had turned onto Mt. Washington and was flying downhill.  I poured it on but soon watched them roll away.  I kept pushing hard and as I entered back into the NW Crossing neighborhood I saw Denise on the side of the road.  She yelled that I was only about 30 seconds back to I pushed on.  I started lap two completed dejected but decided I would keep going.  I rode the next half of the 2nd lap by myself.  I thought I was in dead last and no one was behind me.  I was hoping to make it to the climbs and hook up with dropped riders.  I took a look back about half way through the lap and saw about 6 or 7 riders working together.  There were guys behind me!!  I sat up and waited for them.  I jumped onto the back of the train and didn't take any pulls for a bit so I could recover.  Just before the first climb I started working with them.  We hit the climb and I was totally pissed because I was feeling super good and flew up the hill.  Everyone got dropped except two guys.  They were only dropped because of mechanicals and were still riding strong.  We crested the first climb and decided to not wait for the others.  We reached Archie Briggs and again, the three of us flew up it.  I thought that maybe if the lead group slowed up we might be able to catch them......NOT.  They were flying.  As we came by for the final lap we were told that we were 10 minutes back.  Our race was done.  We finished out at a team ride pace and chatted most of the way back.  I finished in 72nd place and was not a happy camper.  The only thing that made me happy was to watch Nikos battle it out in the field sprint (there were two guys off the front) to take 8th place!!  It's ironic that the crit went better for me than the road race.  I learned a lot and will be back down there next year to battle it out again.  Now it's time for the 2nd half of my vacation.


  1. What a crazy criterium! I'm really glad you did not go down. And good job in the road race.

    It sure is a memorably experience, eh?

  2. It was crazy but fun. I'm looking forward to giving it another shot next year.