Monthly Archives: May 2011

Sunapee Race Report – Masters 45+ – May 21, 2011

Submitted by Hank Pfeifle.

Yeah baby, we had a good showing at Sunapee. The 2x 23 mile loop around Lake Sunapee is a very fair course as it is testing but it is not stacked in favor of either the climbers or the sprinters. It’s an all-rounder’s course. The back side of the circuit has a series of four Tuesday Night Ride type hills with the front (finishing side) of the course being flat with an excellent road surface. The finish can be tricky as the field is taken through a round-about and deposited onto the Mount Sunapee access road with its “hard to manage” quarter mile big ring climb to the finish.

OA/Cyclemania’s solid showing can be attributed to a number of factors,

a)      Strength in numbers – Ron Bourgoin, Jeff Fisher, Eric Larsson, Kevin Hays and me

b)      Good distribution of talent types – climbers, sprinters, rolluers

c)       Multi-pronged game plan

d)      Disciplined compliance to strategy

The plan was for me to do the major damage to the field on the hills, have Jeff shadow me and jump onto counter attacks at the top of hills, keep Ron fresh at all times for the finish, and use Kevin and Eric to patrol things on the flats so Jeff and I could get our legs recovered. On the first lap we hit the hills fairly hard to keep people honest, and Jeff found himself covering a lot of moves. However, one move we all missed was Dmitri Bueben’s jump the first time we came onto the flat side of the course. Before long Dmitri was way down the course, and this is a guy we needed to take seriously as he is a former UCI World Masters TT champion (2009) and a former Olympic Team Pursuit medalist (Russian team, 1980). Kevin was quick to take up the chase. It seems his new found TT prowess (6th overall at LL Bean!) has fueled his passion to dive into the hurt zone. Good for us. Hummm …  where was Eric? I found him at the back of the pack and instead of diving into the hurt zone, he was diving into a banana. “Hey, Eric – up front, buddy,” I directed. “Huh, ca I f..ish ma ban..a?” I think he was asking if he could finish his banana, but it was hard to tell with it crammed into both his checks! Whatever the question was, the answer was no and he  scurried to the front. Evidently the banana did the trick for him as we were soon rocketing down the road with the pack strung out behind the furiously pedaling OA/CM pair.

As we got to the first hill we could see Dmitri was now easily within striking distance. There was no holding back on the hills as it was now full on “go”.  After the first hill the pack was still intact – rats. After the first hill there is a descent that goes down to the lake, across a flat for about a mile and then another good hill. I wanted to make sure I did not get swarmed and trapped in the middle of the pack. I wanted a clean shot at the next hill so I could use every yard to go hard, hard and harder. Couldn’t wait. Like an angel, Kevin came to the front and set a very fast tempo across the flat keeping things strung out. I was on third wheel and Jeff was right behind me. This launched me perfectly onto the hill and I hit it with the perfect gearing. I must say, my acceleration impressed even myself – he, he – this surely would do some damage. And indeed it did as a head count after the hill had only about 25 guys left (of 54 starters). We had one more good hill to deal with, and I thought we were going to get away for sure on that one as about seven of us crested it with a good gap. But we were caught on the flat relief – darn.

Winning teams win because they have planned a number of ways to win. For example, I could have gotten into a break after one of the many hard hill attacks. Or Jeff could have gotten into a break by responding to a counter attack (which was a successful tactic in the 55+ race). Those options did not play out and it was now down to our last card – Ron.  You see, the team attitude has to be “we WILL be on the podium” as this gives you a little extra tingle as you come to the finish. Of course we cannot sit back and say, “have at it, Ron”. No, the way to win is by controlling the finish and giving your sprinter the best shot at the line. So, who’s our best lead out guy? Me? Jeff? Not sure but I DO know I am good at it and since there is not much time for discussion on this point I went to the front. It’s also good to know Jeff is a good sprinter and goes absolutely rabid when the finish banner comes into view. Therefore, the best thing for the team is for me to lead out the sprint, rested Ron be the primary sprinter with Jeff ready to clean up should something happen to Ron. And that’s how we did it. I got to the front before the round-about and accelerated down the hill keeping it fast – safer and it takes half the field out of play because they become too far behind. Ron and Jeff made sure to get properly position – not an easy feat as everyone fights for position. Somehow I kept it going onto the short flat just before the last 50 uphill yards to the finish. That’s when the sprint jumps come and Bill Casazza of Duane Skoffield’s team timed it perfectly and was able to hold off Ron at the line. Jeff had a nice 4th place finish and I was more than happy to hold on for 8th.

Selfless commitment to team, multiple options at winning and, yes, solid talent, all added to a very strong and satisfying showing at Sunapee.

Also note that Fred Thomas won a fast closing pack field sprint for 7th in the 1-2 race, and Graydon fought his way to 8th in the 55+ race.

Sunapee Race Report – Masters 35+ – May 21, 2011

Submitted by Aron Buterbaugh.

Steven Edwards, John Meerse and I discussed the strategy of sticking with any break as the field has some strong riders from teams like Strava and Fuji (Mark McCormick). The first 1/2 of the first lap, was dreadfully slow. For a moment I thought we were going to pass the first lap with an 18 mph average or slower. As we came into the backside hill area, attacks starting to occur, but they were mostly by the domestiques who were antsy to showcase their strength…albeit 10 seconds of fame. The meantime, the strong riders sat in. Meerse, Edwards and I  were well positioned for all attacks and jumped on multiple times not working hard, but judging just in case.

As was so often the case in this race, two riders would go hard, then get caught by 6-8 strong riders, then all of them would pull to the side and look around for others to start working. It’s the sort of dancing you see in crits all of the time. Bottom line was that there wasn’t a strong contingency of riders on the attack and the sole strong rider never took a chance to drill it because he knew 6-8 others were right on his tail, many times with an OA jersey. We took our turns attacking as well, and the last half of the first lap was extremely fast. Things settled down once we reached the start of the second lap and the feeling set in that this race was going to be won on the last half of the second lap by attacking the hills. I patiently sat in and conserved leg energy to be ready for the hill attacks and to make a few of my own. John stayed near the front the entire time. At one point early into the second lap, Paul Richards (CCB) attacked with Max (Subaru) and another rider we couldn’t make out. It seemed to be yet another “false” attack which would sputter out just like the rest. However, this time the pack was in conserve mode waiting for the second half of the final lap. So, our speed was slower which allowed the three man group to slip further away. Within five minutes, they had a 30 second gap (my personal counting in my head as I marked where I saw them then counted seconds until we reached the same point). Soon, it was a minute. It would have been easy for any three man group to spin off if they were working even a little bit together, which when the three of them slipped off, they were not doing.

Attacks did happen and OA led a few of them up several climbs. So where is Mark McCormick and what the heck is he doing in the back? Is he planning a huge surge at the 5 mile mark or what? This was my thought process. Unfortunately, he did nothing. It was a mistake to be distracted by the thought.

Coming into the last couple km before the rotary, we had shed quite a few from the race, but still hadn’t closed in on the three man break. Two more attacked and actually ended up catching the three man break. As we approached the rotary, I moved the front and drilled it into the rotary which I was hoping would string it out and maybe gain some seconds on the pack sprint thus giving better postion for myself and making it a safer sprint for John. Well, the latter worked out as John went by me with four others at the flat section of the sprint. Steven also had a kick and as we climbed we all trickled in together.

To say it was a frustrating day would be an understatement. Lessons learned might include, 1) On slows days, being aggresive can pay off even if the race is not suited to your strengths (e.g. Paul Richards = crit rider), 2) having a counterattack plan with teammates ready for when the first breakaway falls apart and everyone finds themselves looking around, 3) race your own race and forget about those big names in the group (e.g. Mark McCormick) because somedays they just don’t ride hard.

Lake Sunapee – Cat 4 Women Race Report – May 21, 2010

Submitted by Cindy McNett.

Seventeen ladies started in the Cat 4 division of the Lake Sunapee bike race.  Our course was a clockwise loop around Lake Sunapee.

The weather was cool and overcast (surprise,surprise).  The start/finish line was on the access road to the Mt. Sunapee resort, so we coasted downhill at the start and turned around a rotary.

The pace seemed pretty slow at first, and for the first third of the course the Cat 3 ladies who had started 1 minute ahead of us were within sight.  We started to get into some nicely rolling hills.  I was in the wind pulling too much at first, so was more careful to draft and rest going downhill and on the flats.  On the uphills, I set what I thought was a good clip.  I knew it would be an uphill sprint to the finish, so I wanted everyone nice and tired when we got there.

The hills became longer and seemed to be stacked on each other on the back stretch of the race, on an old, cracked and potted road that curved around the south side of the lake.  We were catching Cat 3 stragglers.

We came onto the main road going back to the resort, with more rolling hills.   I was comfortably in the lead group, and couldn’t believe it.  Around we went through the rotary, and I managed to take that well enough to pull into the lead, with about 5 riders right behind.  The steep climb to the finish started, and how this bike climbed!.  I thought “you are not getting passed at the last second – MOOVE IT!!”  They were right behind me, but all I focused on was getting to that white line without getting passed.

On the road near the finish afterwards I spotted a tiny turtle hatchling, and I gave him a ride to the woods.

Sterling Road Race Report, Cat 4 Women – May 8, 2011

Submitted by Cydney Cox

Sterling was my first road race, ever. The field was about 40 Cat 4 women. I was nervous, as expected, at the line up. A woman next to me said “It (racing) is the best and the worst thing I have ever done” , fortunately she had a huge grin as she shared this pearl. 

As we start the roll out I find myself towards the back and luckily the words of many are in my head reminding me to get and stay in the top 3rd of the pack. We have three laps of the 8 mile course which starts and finishes on a short hill. Once we start and are up the hill for the first time my nerves have settled and I just focus on staying in position, which is much trickier than I imagined. Two women took off early. One rider tried to organize the next 12 of us chasing into a pace line with intermittent success. We never caught the leaders, but we stayed away from the rest of the trailing riders.

A friend had coached me prior to the race about holding my position until about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the final hill. So, I hung in there for the last straight gradual uphill portion as others around me started to push to the front, maintaining my top third position. And waited. Once we were part up the hill I went as hard as I could and luckily was off to the side of the main group, so had open road ahead. I didn’t notice until the last seconds that I was up in the front, only two ahead of me. The second woman was tiring and I barely passed her right at the line. A great first race! Best and worst thing ever? Have to wait until I do a few more…

Wayne Elliot Race Report – Masters 50+ – May 14, 2011

Submitted by Hank Pfeifle

John Liston, Graydon Stevens and I rode in the 50+ field of the Wayne Elliot Memorial Circuit Race Saturday in Merrimac, MA. Kevin Hayes rode the 4’s (5th place in a field of 72) and Christian Muentener rode his first 5’s road race. Here is the 50+ report:

The Wayne Elliot is a rectangular course with a flat Side A, a big ring uphill side B, a flat to rolling Side C, and a quick but pretty much straight descending Side D to the finish. About 50 guys showed up to race and the action was spirited from the gun. I think everyone wanted to be in a break because no one wanted to have a huge, high speed, field sprint finish. John, Graydon and I have raced many races together and we sort of settle into our roles without much discussion. In this race we knew that Graydon and I would push to get into breaks, and John would stay in the field to both disrupt a chase if we did manage to get in a break (he’s a pro at that) and also to stay fresh should it come to a crazy field sprint (he likes the adrenaline action).

After the race started it seemed as though there was always someone rolling off of the front. Really, the action was constant. OA/Cyclemania was in each break attempt save one at the beginning of the 3rd lap when we were taking a breather. Sure enough, seven strong guys broke free and were soon down the road, and Graydon, John and I were stuck in the field.

It’s funny, when you are in the pack you can sense when the winning break is on the move away from the group. You can sense their power, and you can sense the “oh-well, there it goes” attitude in the pack. So, now it is time to assess what to do to counter this bad situation. First off it is important to determine who is in the break – John Grenier (Fuji),  Tyler Munroe (CCB), Bob Roldan (CCC Keltic), Randy Rusk (Arc-En-Ciel), and 3 other guys from different clubs and all strong riders. Yes, this break can succeed. It also means that there are allot of teammates in the pack who would not help in a chase. Then you assess who else is in the pack. Any motivated chasers? Didn’t see anybody quickly going to the front. Any strong riders left? Hummm … not too many – no help there. And then of course there are the opportunists who never help in a chase (or a break) but always look for someone else to do the work. That’s a good strategy to save energy for later use if someone else does bring back the break, but it is often a strategy that leads to a boring day pedaling in an unmotivated pack. The result of the quick assessment was that there was no one going to chase and the break was going to succeed ….. UNLESS  …. we OA’ers did something.

Now the question becomes, do we have an OA guy bridge over to the break? Or do we go to the front and hope to gain help in chasing the break back? The bridge was ruled out because the seven escapees were in dedicated TTT mode and the distance was pretty far. It was decided that we had to go to the front and reel them in. To successfully reel in a break, there are a number of things a team must do:

  • Be mentally ready to do most of the work
  • Keep the pace high and steady
  • Keep “escapee” teammates from getting to the front and disrupting the flow of the chase
  • Try to close as quickly as possible

When the escapees get within closing range, finish the bridge – don’t relax with 20 meters left – finish the close

On to the front I went and upped the speed  … a lot. When I gave a flick of the elbow, no one came through. Ok, that’s expected. Keep going. Graydon worked his way to the front and came through to pitch in. Great. Now we each could go hard and get a chance to recover. As we started to close the gap, others gained hope and came forward to help. John Liston then got in line around sixth spot and prevented “escapee” teammates from filtering to the front. Now we had six guys dedicated to bringing back the break without interruption.

When the escapees get within bridging range you need to be aware that the opportunists in the pack will begin to take fliers trying to bridge over and leave everyone else behind. Their goal is to get to the break and add their fresh power to motor the break away from the pack once again. If that happens it can demoralize the spirit of even the most determined chase. Mark Thompson (Sunapee) and Paul Curley (Gearworks) both gave bridging a go but no dice. After 9 miles of chasing we brought the break back. Very satisfying. Also very necessary if we wanted to have a chance to win. And I must say it was a demonstration of very good & experienced OA/CM teamwork.

Any further attempts at a break-away were quickly thwarted. Or werrrre theyyyy???? As the last lap began I planned to sneak to the front and spring away on the big ring hill. But as I looked up the road, I saw that Graydon had pre-sneaked me – yes, he was away with Mr. Opportunist strongman, Mark Thompson. Good news, so John and I settled in to see what the pack would do. The pack seemed content to let them ride away. Now, if Graydon had chosen to be a professional masters rider pounding out monster miles and not a preeminent Maine business-law lawyer logging billable hours instead of riding time, he very likely would have joined Mr. Opportunity in riding away to victory. But alas, the last 100 meters of the big ring hill proved taxing and Graydon drifted back to the pack. That left us to contend with a chaotic finish as tons of guys gained position down the hill by riding across the yellow line – way across the line from a mile out. Crazy, but as I noted earlier, John thrives on this type of finish and held his position well to finish 12th.  Graydon and I drifted in further back. It was definitely a sprinters finish. 

In summary, we rode well in the circumstances that were presented us, and we definitely had our heads in the game. However, it is unfortunate that we missed having one of us in the “big” break as that then would definitely have succeeded.