BHRR has been a thorn in my side since the early ’90s. The first year I did it, a guy crashed in front of me when a large road bump knocked his bars out from under him, and I went down hard. I spent a week complaining about how some eejit who couldn’t handle his bike made me crash. The next year, I hit that very same bump, lost control, and crashed myself and a few others behind me. The next week, I heard a guy in my field talking about how some eejit who couldn’t handle his bike had made him crash at BHRR. Karma. Or something.
I didn’t return to the race again until 2011, and got 10th. In 2012, I thought I could win, but got 3rd. I skipped road racing last year, but came into it this year not really knowing how I felt. I’d done four races this season with pretty mixed results, mostly riding to support stronger teammates. At Snelling I gave Dave K. my wheel when he flatted. At Copperopolis I hoped to help Jay, but I just got dropped. At Wente, I felt good and maybe helped Jay a little. At Cat’s Hill I was nowhere, and Jay soloed for a great win. I was tired and ready to be done with this road racing stuff when I lined up for BHRR.
The course starts with a generally downhill, rolling section of San Pablo Dam Rd., makes a right and starts gently climbing back up Bear Valley until you hit the Three Bears climbs. Mama Bear is about 3-4 minutes of climbing, at about 8%, a false summit, and another minute to the top. A short decent, then Baby Bear is about a minute of 6%. A couple minutes’ descending and Papa Bear starts. Again, about 4-5 minutes of climbing at 7-8%, with the race finish at the top. To complete a lap, you descend back to San Pablo Dam Rd. and repeat. If you find yourself on Bear Valley Rd., check out the road signage as you pass the Jewish cemetery. Right at the entrance to the cemetery, there’s a standard road sign saying “No Outlet.” Cracks me up every time.
I felt strangely uncertain about how I felt the first lap. Maybe hungry? Maybe nervous? Maybe tired? Maybe really fresh and strong? I stayed hidden in the pack, between 10th and 20th wheel. I ate a Clif Bar just to do something. The climbs didn’t seem that hard, so that was good, anyway, and I couldn’t find anyone I thought seemed really scary strong. I just stayed out of the 10 mph headwind and waited. I also ate about 4 packets of Chocolate Outrage Gu. That would have repercussions for my popularity later in the day, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Final lap. I decided I felt good. I let other people work into the headwind down SPD Rd. When a couple of doomed attacks went off, I let others chase. I figured Cushman-Wakefield and Pen Velo both had several members in the field, so let them chase. Eventually they got smart and each put a member in a break, but it didn’t stick, thanks to SJ Bike Club chasing. So we headed into the final climbs all together. A guy from EBVC who I hadn’t seen all race suddenly appeared at the front, looking steady, so I figured he could be strong. A few others I’d seen finish well this year were also there, so I just decided to keep my eyes on them and wait. My friend and competitor from cyclocross, Rene from Pen Velo, set a strong pace on Mama Bear, making me a little nervous, but it turned out he left it all there. EBVC guy started to have trouble holding the wheel so I stopped worrying about him too much. At the top of Mama, the pace let up slightly so I took advantage to get myself to fourth wheel for the climb over Baby and descent. There I sat, 4th or 5th wheel, at the base of Papa, monitoring for early attacks that didn’t come. I sat behind a SJBC strongman, Geoff from Cushman, and next to unattached Glen and EBVC guy. They were all pushing bigger gears while I spun madly at about 105 rpm. One by one, guys dropped off, until there were only maybe four ahead of me, starting to ramp things up. I decided I’d better gear up and stand up, and as I did, the final push began in earnest. I shifted up two more gears and put my head down, passing EBVC, then Glen, then Geoff and another guy, but I couldn’t catch SJBC. He was even pulling away from me a bit at the line, so I was second across the finish. However, the race was mixed with M45+ 4 and M55+ 4, scored separately, and it turned out SJBC (Mark Beckstead) was 55, making me the first 45+ 4. So… a win! I didn’t get to throw my arms up, coming across second, but I don’t think I could have anyway.
My prize? A giant jar of local honey, plus enough cash to pay for wine at dinner last night, and some new friends from the peloton. And being all smiles, all weekend. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!
I was really nervous about this race. I have had a big fat circle around it on my calendar all spring. When the day finally arrived I was stressed about living up to the expectations I set for myself. It turned out awesome.
The main feature of the race is a very steep 1-block stretch of road, followed by a long fast descent back to the finish line. Our group did 15 laps. Every time up the hill I practiced spinning up the first 3/4, then accelerating over the top. I sprinted for 2 primes just to test the sprint and see how fast I could take the final corner, and otherwise stayed near the front but out of the wind all race.
On the last lap we hit the hill. I punched it over the top and got a big gap. I wasn’t expecting that, but stayed on the gas all the way down the descent. I came around the last corner 100m or so ahead of the field, with enough of a gap that I could sit up and coast across the line with my arms in the air.
I don’t win many races so the win yesterday felt really great. On top of that, this year feels like a bit of redemption for me. I have been riding bikes since 1988 and I have literally had 1 good year on the bike every 5 until now. I joined TRM in 2008; 2009 was a good year for me, but 2010-11-12 were very hard at work and I didn’t ride or race much. Last year was much better and this year has been a big step up from that. It is very gratifying.
I have enough top 10 finishes to upgrade and I am pretty close on points, I know that once I do I won’t see the front end of many races for a long time so I really wanted to win a crit first. I pulled it off; now it’s time to go get shelled by Larry Nolan and Chris Phipps in 1-2-3 races.
A fish, MarkTwain and a pig walk into a bar............ cross report.
Largemouth bass are an interesting species of fish. They like to spend much of their time lounging around in warm lake shallows waiting for dinner to arrive. Hang a shimmery jig near and it will swing around and strike it immediately. It just can’t help itself. So like a large mouth bass going for the shiny lure shimmering in the murky shallows I measure my relationship to Cyclocross. Quite simply I enjoy the sport, the discipline of cyclocross. No shame there I trust. The Geist, the social scene, the riding, racing, technique, the geeky gear and equipment thing. It’s a quirky package of fun. Included and curiously one of the cruelest oddities of the racing schedule are the district / state championships. They are assigned a date so far into the season that most of us, ne, nearly all of us give it a pass if not forget that it exists. Depending on the Holy Trinity of bike racing realities; a) are you completely raced out, b) have you used up your allotted time away from family for the season or c) the reality of Holiday commitments have yanked you out your Mud and Cowbells reverie thus leaving you free and cleansed once again.
Mark Twain was quoted as saying “a sucker is born every minute”.I arrived Sunday at Toro Park with that motto tattooed across my forehead. Emblazoned for all to see. Yes I am here. Yes I don’t know why. Yes I am excited and nervous and since they posted that there would be a 60+ men’s field and God if I play my cards right I could win that danged thing. Bought it, hook, line and sinker.
The overall field of us over 55 was sizeable. 21 or so of us Presque geezers with some really heavy hitters in the mix though I had no idea who was I might be racing against for the age group title.
The course was a long-ish, fast, power-type with only one get off at the man-made barriers. Not too technical overall but they had seen fit to include as many figure eights in the grass as you’ll ever see outside of Belgium. Other than that it was dry ground with the occasional ball bearing covered hard pack, slippery turn that would cause you to feel your front wheel skip sideways a few inches thus causing your rapidly beating heart to skip a beat and that feared pucker sensation to flash by. Something to keep you honest, searching for the right line and when to apply the gas just so.
Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. I rode well. I rode well enough. Around 8th out of the 20+ overall. 6 laps @ 48+ minutes. The last two I could feel the legs draining of all energies. Chased several wheels too hard early on. One of which I was certain I should be racing against but lack of oxygen and nervous energy can fog the mind. We’re bike racers so we know all about that stuff. As it was he wasn’t in my class J . Just as Viper said to Maverick in Top Gun. I was writing checks my body can’t cash. The last lap seemed glacial in pace but I cruised in victorious. The jersey was mine! The heavens parted, the angels assembled and sang a joyful noise. Well not really but it felt good all the same. So like several other Mice I get to wear a 2013 State Champions Jersey for a year. Sometimes it pays to take a ham sandwich when you go fishing.
The Surf City Cyclocross Series Final was held at Aptos High School just south of Santa Cruz, home to hilly and tricky terrain so usually a technical and hilly course. This year’s iteration raised the bar a bit with a mountain bike worthy course that had me nervous as hell after doing two laps of a pre-ride. There were two long, run ups, Rooty climbs, sandy/loose climbs, a steep road climb, lose off-cambers by the dozens, a bumpy steep descent into bumpy, bushy, sharp 180 with an immediate steep climb with zero momentum, gavel straight-a-ways, gravel turns, a stair case with four barriers added to make it more fun and a steep downhill that worried me most of all. I know I do well in hilly and technical races, but this one was off the charts and I was scared of getting hurt again.
I finished my warm up on the road away from the course so I could concentrate on warming up and not getting more nervous. Returned to line up and got a second row start with just 12 riders in the 55+ group. We raced with the 35+ and 45+ A’s, so getting lapped by the leaders from those fields was an almost certainty starting two minutes behind them. The start line was at the bottom of the steep road climb with was followed by a little descent that lead right to the first run up. I knew that one should be near the front to keep from being slowed down on the run up, but I couldn’t get the motor going up that first hill and was very near last entering the run up (which I basically walked up because people in front of me were slow on it).
After the run up I moved up a few places when people would make mistakes (there were a lot of those!). Luke was watching and told me I was in 7th place at one point early on, so I had some motivation to move up. I was able to out climb a few people on the steep road climb and make less mistakes on the tricky areas and moved up to 5th place (according to the now published split times) by the second lap. I managed to do damage on the climb and technical sections again on the third lap and moved up to second (again, according to the split times, I didn’t know it at the time). I had a really good rider ahead of me named Jamie, who I had not even been close to this year, but I was able to close in on him by the 4th lap. I rode right behind him and tried to recover for a bit and hope that he would make a mistake. I was too close though, and when he slowed to a near stop on the sandy climb I lost momentum and had to get off my bike and finish on foot and re mount for the chase. Now he had a fair bit of a gap and I had to ride hard to close. Then after the sandy run up, his chain came off and he slowed, but it was on a narrow section between a fence and a steep drop off so I couldn’t pass! He managed to “shift” the chain back on with the front derailleur and stayed moving and in front of me, dang!
The next major feature was the bumpy downhill to 180 bumpy turn to bumpy climb and I stayed back enough to not get into his crash if he failed. Sure enough, his front tire slid out and he was scrambling to get moving on foot! I made the turn and rode the bumpy climb out of the saddle and made the pass. Next came the steep loose bumpy downhill that some people didn’t even ride and I knew I had to make it without falling to hold the gap. I took it conservatively to keep from getting out of control and bounced down to the bottom, still upright.
I thought I was in 3rd or 2nd at this point and didn’t see anyone from my field in front of me. On this lap I was passed by the lead three in the 35+, so I knew I had one less lap to do than the lap count on the previous pass through the start/finish area, so only one more after I make it to the finish. I concentrated on not making mistakes, which was getting harder because I was so beat up from the course. I just wanted to get a podium spot for the first time this season and brighten up the year, so I pushed hard where it was safe and rode a bit conservatively anywhere I could screw up and fall.
The last lap had that painful feeling of being nearly spent, but knowing you only had to face each obstacle that one last time. I could not see Jamie behind me, so I took the big downhill especially carefully. This hill was an argument for disc brakes because my hands were exhausted from braking and holding onto the bar for dear life, I don’t think I could have survived one more descent. Only a few sketchy turns, and the stairs with barriers left to go, and I got through them all. After the stairs, with 200 yard to go, Henry Kramer (current world Champion in the 55+ category but racing in the 45+ group here) came up behind and said he needed to get by, he was racing for the win. I thought to myself, well I might be racing for the win too, but I let him go by on the best line. Turns out he was just short of winning the 45+ because as we rounded the final corner, they announced the guy in front of us as the 45+ winner. Then I was surprised to hear them announce me as the 55+ winner! I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly, but it was true. Jamie was the last man standing and I was more than a minute in front of him and another guy who also passed him for second.
Wow, I was alive and un-hurt AND won! I had to keep my cool till the results were final, but was sure stoked when I got to stand on the top step and collect a little bag of Luna Bars and Clif Shot Blocks. So a win over my nerves and over Jamie and another guy who has been killing my during MTB season, great way to end the Thanksgiving weekend!
We had another excellent weekend of racing at the Lion of Fairfax. Superpro never ceases to amaze us with another fantastically hard race course. Our very own Sarah Powers observed it as ”the kind of course that makes even the most skilled cross rider think they suck at cross.”
While it was another tough day of racing, the Meeces once again prevailed! Brian Ort and Michelle Morrill finished first place AGAIN! Scott Symon (1st place, Cat B SS Men), Lindsay Mohle (2nd place, Women C) and Thom Fox (3rd Place, 55+ Master Men,) found themselves on the podium once more. Last but not least, Andrew Shatz finish 3rd for 35+ B Master Men. Way to crush it team! Congrats to all the Mice who came out and raced hard and cheered.
The Mice ain’t afraid of no Cat! Even if that cat is the San Jose Cougar!
Superpro Racing out did themselves once again with the inaugural San Jose Cougar. It was a HOT day of racing with a long, grueling climb complete with a gnarly, mulch-y descent, lots of twist and turns and no shortage of bumpy ground. I think there were more racers bouncing around in the saddle than in the kids bounce house.
There were a good number us who showed up to this awesomely painful event and kicked some ass. Kudos to all who suffered through and major congrats to all the Mice who podiumed!
35+ Master Women: Michelle Morrill (1st)
45 + Master Men: Brian Ort (1st)
55+ Master Men: Thom Fox (3rd)
Women C: Mouse newbie, Lindsay Mohle (1st) Men’s SS B: Scott Symon (3rd)
While the big kids were out racing CCCX 1 & 2 (more on that soon!) a few of us decided to “dress” up and race our bikes in an undisclosed location. The weather was perfect, the course was hellish and the race was a blast!
On Monday, September 2, 2013, Katy and Tim unexpectedly lost their beloved Allie, who had just turned 14 years old. While we will never understand why a tragic event like this could happen to a young lady full of spirit and spunk, we will have her memories that each one of us will carry through time.
No parent expects to lose their child at such a young age, which means the financial burden can be quite extensive. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, please help to defray the cost of bringing Allie back to Hawaii by contributing here. Any and every amount helps!
We will be saying goodbye to our sweet Allie on Tuesday. We welcome all those who would like to bid her farewell and share memories.
Tuesday, September 10th, 5PM. Allie Rotondo memorial service in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland CA. The Grove where the memorial will be held is located within the upper part of the park off of Skyline BLVD near the Big Trees trail. To get to the Grove, drive up Joaquin Miller Road till you hit Skyline BLVD. Turn left at the light onto Skyline and continue for about a mile (google map:http://goo.gl/maps/WDsqJ). Big Trees trail is located on the left side. Park along Skyline. Follow the signs towards the left side of Big Trees trail down to the grove.
After the memorial, please join us for a potluck. Bring a dish and drink to share with friends. 3370 Brunell Drive, Oakland CA 94602, located just a few miles from the memorial site.
Anthony G Donates Bike Goods to the NorCal High MTB League
How cool is this team? Team-member Anthony Giammona noticed he had a lot of bike parts he no longer needed but still had life in them. Rather than pawning off the parts on Ebay or Craigslist, Anthony thought the NorCal High Mountain Bike League could make better use of them. Anthony collected additional parts from fellow teammates and was able to donate 14 shopping bags of bike goods, several wheels and even a whole bike! Way to go Anthony. Our team members rock on and off the bike.
Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge track racing in Portland OR
I have been racing on the track at Hellyer Velodrome since 2008. Since I started racing I have had a few race goals. I managed to knock two of them off my list this weekend.
The first goal was to race at Portland’s Alpenrose Velodrome. Whereas Hellyer is a big, open track with smooth corners and fast lines, Alpenrose is short, steep, bumpy and idiosyncratic. The banking is so steep it took me an hour of practice before I stopped worrying about falling off, but I got used to it quickly once racing started and came to love it by the end of the weekend.
I achieved my second goal during the Masters 40+ Points race. The race was 60 laps of the 1/6 mile track and every 10 laps officials rang a bell for a sprint. The top 4 people across the line on the sprint lap won points, and at the end of the race the person with the most points was the winner.
I started cautiously since this was my first race, but pretty quickly warmed up to the track and the competition. With 20 laps to go a couple guys rode away from the main field. I didn’t attack hard, but accelerated a little. I looked back and to my surprise no one had followed me and I had a 25m gap. I decided to go for it and hit the gas hard.
The next time I looked around I had a half-lap on the rest of the field, and pretty quickly after that I had 3/4 of a lap, but then things got HARD. The pack started to speed up a bit and I spent several laps with the back of the group in sight, but unable to close the final gap.
I ran through some mental arithmetic- 16 laps to got meant a little under 8 minutes of racing. Could I hold on that long? I had to try! I had put too much work into the race to get caught.
Luckily for me the group slowed down again and I was able to catch up. I had now lapped the field, which meant I gained 20 points and jumped immediately into the race lead! This was my second goal- I have tried to take a lap on the field SO many times, but I had always been caught before.
I still wasn’t sure how much of a lead I had and with double points on the line for the final sprint I knew I had to make the top 4 across the line. A friend was in the race with me, so I asked him for help. He agreed to give me a leadout and I came across the line in 4th place- good enough to seal the win!
For the effort I won $60 and a great feeling that lasted all weekend. The extra plus was hearing the announcer talk all weekend about the out-of-town guy who showed up and caught the locals by surprise. Great weekend and great fun bike racing!