Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sterling Classic Road Race – Masters 45+ – Race Report – May 12, 2012

By Hank Pfeifle

On Saturday Ta Herrera, Ron Bourgoin, Kevin Hays, Bruce Schwab and I traveled to Sterling, MA to contest the 6 x8 mile course of this New England classic bike race. Christian Muentener (4’s) and Mark Caron (35+) also made the trek. Sterling, with its initial steep hill and then elongated gradual climb, offers a course that tempts aggression but often rewards patience. But with 100 starters, sunny skies and warm temperatures one could expect aggression to be prominent, and it was right from the get-go. Always competitive Todd Buckley (Arc-En-Ciel) and Eric Pearce (Cyclefitness) took off at the gun and built a good lead through lap one. During lap 2, three more guys bridged over to form a solid escape group. Before the start of lap 3 on the long run in to the town of Sterling, Ta Herrera (our Ta!) initiated a second bridging effort. “Ah, this is good,” I’m thinking as I’ll use the steep initial climb to bridge over to Ta and work with his group to complete the bridge.

Hills are good to me and I used it to full advantage as I quickly make my way to Ta. “Ta! Ta! Ta!” I yell in alert so that he can get up to speed as I came up to his group. Continue through I go as we hit the long gradual climb and threw the chase into warp speed. We had a bridging mission to accomplish. Unfortunately Ta was in a vulnerable state having been in a sustained chase and now a sustained and (sorry) fast ascent. He popped just before the crest and, not realizing it, I kept the gas on full throttle. That was indeed unfortunate because Ta always gives a full and eager effort during a bridge. Meanwhile, Ron’s attempts at bridging were continually thwarted by the suction of the pack. Kevin and Bruce quickly gathered to the front to help in keeping the chasing pack under control.

So now I was into lap 3 in full bridging mode. With me were 3 other riders who proved to be slightly …. Hummm, how do I put it ….unrulely.  Here I was pounding away and two of the guys were behind me bickering about something. Believe it or not but I had to ease up and give them a lecture on the benefits of cooperative behavior in a chase. Properly chastised they settled down and started to pull through. That spirit of cooperation lasted about a half lap and then I began to sense a real reluctance for anyone else to lead but me. So then I had to ease up again and give a second lecture on the importance of “dedicating oneself fully to the cause” in order for the bridge to succeed. That lecture didn’t seem to catch hold, and soon I had to resort to my last lecture of the “joys and benefits of the acceptance of pain” in the pursuit of one’s bicycling life fulfillment. Perhaps en total these impassioned discourses resonated with my three companions or maybe it was the miraculous appearance of Dmitri Buben onto the back of our group, but we were soon humming along and making good progress in closing the gap.

It took us two laps but we did gobble up the Buckley/Pearce gang. Not pausing to chit-chat we powered through and continued the fight to maintain the lead for the remaining two laps. The goal now was to whittle the group of 9 down to a group of  1 – you’ve got it, me! Attacks on the hills. Attacks on the flats. Attacks everywhere. I had the legs. I desperately tried to break things up and escape either alone or with Dmitri (always a worker). The efforts succeeded in shedding two guys, but everyone else smelled the barn and were plenty strong enough to cover all moves. In the end it came down to a power uphill 30 second sprint to the finish line. Everyone pretty much jumped at the same time when we turned the acute corner onto the finishing hill. I was thinking about giving them a lecture about the importance of respecting one’s elders, but 3 of the group were too far up the hill to hear me, and when I crossed the finish line 4th, I was too out of breath to express the thought.

There was good riding by everyone in the always competitive 45+ group. Although Ta could not revel in the fun of the break, his aggressive riding directly contributed to my being able to get into the break. It’s always frustrating riding and being patient and ready to strike in the peloton on the chance that the break is caught. But Ron, Kev, Bruce and Ta rode well in that role as, more often than not at Sterling, the break does get caught and then it becomes game on again.

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2012 Cyclemania-PVC Time Trial Results

A great showing at the 2012 Cyclemania-PVC Time Trial today, the 2nd race in the 2012 Maine Time Trial Series. Top honors go to Fred Thomas for 1st overall for men (with a new course record of 29:43 or 27.28mph!) and Carrie McCusker for 1st overall for women.

Fred Thomas receiving his award from Ted Darling, PVC President and event organizer.

You can view all results here: Cyclemania-PVC Time Trial Results

Divisional results can be found here: Cyclemania-PVC Time Trial Results

Photos by Don McEwan can be viewed HERE.

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Quabbin Reservoir Classic Road Race – Ware, MA – Masters 50+ – Apr 28, 2012

By Hank Pfeifle:

Yesterday 120 or so topnotch 50+ age group riders from throughout the Northeast gathered for the 2012 Quabbin 65 mile undulating road race around Quabbin reservoir in central Massachusetts. It was as big and talented a field as you would find for any national or world event.  The race is a “balloon” course with the start/finish road being the “tail” located in the reservoir park and a clockwise course around the reservoir. The left side and top of the clock is rolling uphill, and the right side of the clock is downhill. The hill at the top of the course is fairly big; it crests and goes downhill a bit, and then turns 90 degrees right onto a small road that descends for about 3-4 miles. This narrow descent is not that steep and is a fun part of the race. It dumps onto a bigger road that leads to a park and then into a town. From the town you exit onto a larger road and soon head uphill. This is a testing uphill followed by a good run-out descent, a short flat section and then a left hand turn back onto the “tail”. A half mile onto the tail you turn right into the Quabbin park. The park road is about 3 kilometers long and goes flat about .5k, gradual uphill .5k, flat 1k and uphill at 4-5% for the last 1k. Tricky.

Quabbin is a race where patience is required. The field easily stays together through to the town of Ware at about the 50 mile mark.  It was important to make sure nothing happened on the uphills, but the hills before town were all done at tempo pace. The road was packed side to side with people. No screaming single file hard charging lines. Ho-hum. So people pretty much sit in and try to save their legs. We lost maybe 30 guys. There is a very fun descent from mile 45 into town and there were a flurry of attacks as the descent leveled off before town, but nothing stuck. The only effort I made was at the top of the last hill before the descent where I got to the front in order to be one of the first guys onto the winding downhill. No problem there.

Coming out of town things got serious as it was time to break up the field. I flew up the two part, fairly long climb immediately after town hoping to draw the strong legs with me and establish a break of 5 guys or so. No takers. Ok, I’ll solo to the finish. No to that, too, as the dwindled pack of about 50 gobbled me up at the moderately inclined final peak. So my push up the hill did accomplish half of its goal in that it did reduce the field to a more manageable 50 riders. Just as the catch of me was made, Anthony Felitte of the always aggressive and astute Keltic team, sprung away on a solo flyer. And everyone watched him go.

Soon we were heading quickly and en mass downhill. Surely the power of the descending pack will catch the lone escapee. Nope. We’ll catch him in the park …. As everyone looks around? “We’re riding for 2nd ?” Jeff opines in my ear. Wait a second, I think. Guys fade all the time on the final climb on the Saturday morning ride. We catch them all the time. “Hop on, Jeff, we’re going”. We get a, ummm, good jump on the field and immediately hit full on bridging speed. I take Jeff across the 1k flat section and deposit him onto the base of the final 1k ascent. Off he goes with full vigor. I drift away and 3 hard charging guys zoom by in pursuit of Jeff. I latch onto them and wait as they drag me up to Jeff. Just as we catch him with about 500 meters to go, I spring away determined that this in my final launch to the finish line. Gotta go hard for 500 meters. For 200 meters things are cool. This may work. Then Skip Foley appears on my rear wheel. Skip’s a former pro football player – wider receiver, Wes Welker-ish … even looks like him. Soon he’s beside me. Then ahead of me. What’s with these former pro football and hockey players? Strong. Hey, I was a former pro runner. Anyway, I’m thinking “good. I’ll latch onto his wheel”. Then he starts inching away. Hummm .. maybe that’s why they get all the girls. 300 meters to go and now I’m thinking 3rd is a respectable finish. 20 meters later Kevin Mosher inches by. Then Doug O’Neil. The Haluk Sarci. Uh-oh. Got to stop the bleeding. I punch it into the big ring and with 150 meters to go and dig like crazy. No pussy-footing. No wheezing into the finish. 100 meters to go. 6th place goes by. 7th. 8th! Hey!!! Finally the finish and, I hate to say it, 9th place goes by, too. 10th. In the money but so disappointing when you’ve been ready to dine on bigger fare.

Jeff rode with a winning attitude all day long and made a good, good effort on that initial 500 meter grade to the finish, but the grade does eat up your legs and 1K at high intensity is a loooong way.  In retrospect we did not organize well as a team over the final 3k, but it was our first group test of the season like this and I think it will stand us in good stead in upcoming big races. Communication before and during the race needs to improve (me!) and I think our deep resource of talent will marshal itself to put one of us on the podium soon.

Tour of Battenkill – Cat 5/55+ (White) – Cambridge, NY – April 14, 2012

Jonathan Ayers:

Having been victim of a flat at the beginning of the first dirt road section (!!), I know exactly what Jeff means.  It was nice to have wheel car, but it took me a minute to realize it was 100% self-service, including finding the trunk handle, finding my wheel, etc, while the driver sat in his seat verifying that indeed I did have a wheel in the back. In addition, I assumed that it wasn’t going to be me who needed my wheel, but some other bozo (I had upgraded to tubulars for that very reason – “no flat” insurance), so I put a nice little paper tag tied to a string in the axle. As a result I had the pleasure of listening to flap, flap, flap for 57 miles on my old clincher. If that was not enough, I was worried the whole time – what if I got another flat?   I was now behind the wheel car, and had nothing, no spare for either tubular or clincher tire, no cell phone, nothing!.And 58 miles of Battenkill to go. In retrospect, I was very lucky.

OK, I had achieved my first objective – first through the covered bridge and first onto the dirt road.   But, I hadn’t travelled all this way to go on a charity ride. I knew I was stronger than most of the Cat 5 field, so .. . on my new hybrid wheel combo (two more different wheels you could hardly find), I found some undiscovered time trial skills – an hour at 98% of threshold (according to my power files) and caught up to the second group of five from the front at mile 28, after passing a bunch of Cat 5 stragglers that were of no help whatsoever. One rider even offered to work with me. Guess he couldn’t hang on with my first pull.

When I asked my new of buddies about who was ahead, they thought there were six. The next 16 miles was a big of a rest time with only a few pulls – I think the other Cat 5 55+ folks felt sorry for me having to climb back – of course I let them of my f__ flat.  Or maybe they weren’t experienced enough to get off the front too quick. Some guy (#596) pulled the whole way on Cheesecake (I was second), with its very loose rubble of a dirt road surface and absolutely no line out of it – with wind to top it off. That was painful – thank goodness for pavement again. When we turned back onto dirt on Wright’s road, it was head’s up and total concentration to negotiate the 3 – 4 inches of sand in several spots.   No way around it!  Slipping and sliding – just power, power, power. Was that also a hill? – I honestly don’t even remember.

Next was Meeting House Hill with its big rollers, more sand and dust everywhere. A car went by, and you couldn’t see it from behind – just dust. Head down, follow the guy in front of me. Go fast on the down hills, hope for the best.   We got to the top of the last hill and there was no one in sight behind us – just us two. Working together we had no intention of letting anyone catch us. Turn onto Stage Road, which I had scouted the day before – right after passing the second covered bridge. I liked this hill – packed dirt, nice incline – and long. Just my kind of hill. Cranking up it, I took the lead. I love hills, they give me new energy. And the pain disappeared. Wait, did I just past another one from my group? (#579 – appeared beat and broken)  No sense thinking about it now. Got to the fallen tree on the right 20 meters from the top – that was the sign to step on it (as Hank taught me during his training week). Lo and behold, looked back as I crested and my buddy 596 was nowhere to be seen. Hmm, not really a climber? (afterward he told me it was fatigue). OK, having read Hank’s report from last year, I knew it was time to take no chances. I would lose a sprint if it came down to that. Back to the time trial mode and the pain – down the hills peddling hard, taking the corners clean and fast, and then to the 3 miles of flats. It was at this point I learned how I could rest my elbows in the top bar and get REAL aero – easy to do since it was straight.   Sort of a relaxed upper body while the legs (actually feet) were in serious pain. Shut up feet! Do as I tell you! Around the corner to the last 400 meters – looked back – there was a guy that looked just like my buddy  -only 10 meters back. OK, I don’t sprint real well, but I do have power for 400 meters.      Through to the finish, clean. Actually, it wasn’t him after all – 579 ended up 35 seconds behind me.      No idea how I did until they reported – fifth! Satisfying . . . given the flat. Guess there were five in that first group with the one I passed (596 – came in seventh) on Stage Road Hill.

Upon inspection, my tubular tire had a nice, serious gash near the rim. Now, how the heck did that happen?

Thanks for all the coaching, guys. I am hooked for good now. And I learned a lot in an unexpected sort of way.

 

Tour of Battenkill – Masters 50+ – Cambridge, NY – April, 14, 2012

Masters 50+

Hank Pfeifle:

I think that the theme word to best describe this year’s Tour of the Battenkill is crazy, crazy, crazy. The successful negotiation of this year’s altered course required the utilization of all one’s bike riding and racing skills – strength, endurance, hill climbing, wind as your friend, multiple accelerations, close quarter riding, knowing the course, negotiating one’s way through a big pack, being at the front at decisive moments, patience, handling the bike through long stretches of 3” to 4” deep sand, avoiding rocks, closing gaps, pace lining, sprinting – did I leave anything out? Oh yeah – luck. If you didn’t have all those things going for you, a payday finish would be elusive. With the elimination of Joe Bean Hill there was concern that huge packs of 70 riders would attack the final climb up Stage Hill with 5 miles to go. Ha! As it turns out, no need to worry about that.

But before we get to the race I’d like to inform that the team made a return dinner trip to the Peppermill eating establishment in Bennington. Remember last year how a dark cloud formed over Fred’s head as he waited and waited for his serving of spaghetti? Well this year the staff was eager and able to please, and soon we were served our staple of fine food.  It did our hearts good to see the spaghetti slapping across Fred’s checks as he slurped the nutritious strands post haste readying their use to fuel the muscles that would propel him across the challenging Cambridge, NY countryside. Elbow to elbow with Fred sat Jeff, but instead of stray spaghetti splatter on his chin were rivulets of hamburger grease. Ahhh, red meat and the to be conquering athlete. May I also add that the rivulets were also running down his forearms. And lastly I must report that later that evening there was code red methane gas alert in room 160 at the Bennington Best Western!

So we were ready to race as were 3000 other guys under perfect racing conditions – clear skies and 65-70 degrees. Oh, boy. The best day of cycling all year. After 100 miles of riding in the rain and wind and 38 degrees, this was going to be cake. Not quite as we were soon to find out. Just like last year it was kind of a shock to ride in a huge pack of 136 starters. Think about it. On a good Saturday Morning Ride there are what 80 riders? You know how long that line looks.. Add on another 60 guys and it does impress as you survey the field. And like last year the initial 5 mile road opened up with a kilometer to go to the cover bridge. And yep, Jeff, Mike and I were in the front group going through the bridge and then barreling along the 1st dirt section, up the first hill and onto the sandy Juniper Swamp Hill. All negotiated successfully with about 90 guys remaining.

From mile 13 through 28 things were pretty hunky dory. No big issues. Then we turned onto the Carney & Cassidy dirt road the concern level dialed way up. With the dry conditions the dirt road surfaces turned out to be very sandy and pebble strewn. People’s back wheels were spinning out, people were losing their line on the loose and deep sand, and this caused gaps to form in the strung out hard charging riders. Most of the gaps were closed but it was a preview of things to come as groups of inattentive people got chunked off. In quick & dusty succession we were on Safford Hill Road (hilly & loose), Cheese Factory Road (flat, dusty, loose, endless), Wrights Road (uh-oh, this is starting to add up) and then the back breaker Meetinghouse Road. This section definitely elicited an OMG!!! from all riders as the downhills, although slight, lead you into yards and yards of loose sand that twisted at the wheel and directed many into unintended directions. John Grenier’s sage pre-race advise to use a big gear and keep pedaling through the sand proved a life saver. That technique allowed one to keep momentum and overpower the forces of the sand. Those who tried to drift though the sand found themselves bound by its evil dictates and lost forward motion and the ability to properly steer their machines. When these poor souls finally recovered and looked up to see what’s going on, all they could was the shattered remnant of the once large pack. It was tricky and the best of riders got gobbled up by the road conditions.

I was almost one of the unfortunates as at one point I found myself some 200 meters behind the last of the lead guys. I was confronting one of those decisive moments in a race where you had to make it happen or all was lost. Fortunately, Meetinghouse Road closed with a half mile section where the middle of the road had a 4” hard surface. I pounced onto that and pounded full force into the pedals. I knew I had to get to the lead guys before the end of the road or it was curtains. Good fortune continued to shine on me, as up ahead in his own panic chase mode was Jeff. He cleared the road first and was but a few pedal strokes from latching back on. But 30 yards back was me yelling – Jeff! Jeff!! JEFF!!!! He heard me and now had an ethical dilemma to weigh – easily catch on to the lead group? Or wait for that d-bag Pfeifle (who should have been up here in the first place) and maybe not make it? Good on ya, Jeff, as he slowed to wait for me. He even offered some Jeff-ly encouragement – “Hurry the f**k up, Pfeifle!” . I did and he did and soon we were safely back with the 12 remaining leaders. Aside from winning, knowing you are in the winning break is THE most satisfying feeling in bike racing. Now we had to focus on winning and we two OA/Cyclemanics certainly had the horsepower to do that.

Off we sped with but about 30 meters of Meetinghouse dirt road remaining when disaster struck. Jeff flatted! A rock buried under the sand punctured his tire. It was as sad a deal as sad could be because Jeff was riding brilliantly. On we continued with the sneaky John Funk off of the front by about 30 seconds. We formed a good organized chase and worked to reel him in. Somewhere during this time we lost Dave Kellogg and Bill Thompson. Carl Reglar, Funk’s teammate, was not contributing to the chase, and the Canadian Sylvan Adams sat in for the last 14 miles. The rest of us shouldered on and by the top of stage Hill Funk was within catching distance. That’s when Reglar and Jim Nash made the moves of the day. Nash slowly accelerated and bridged over to Funk. Reglar, on Nash’s wheel, let him go and gapped the rest of us. We weren’t concerned as we figured we’d catch them on the run-in to town. No dice, as it turned out. Funk & Nash rode brilliantly to the end (with Nash grabbing the win) and our four man chase (and 2 wheel suckers) could not close the 8 second gap. Reglar earned a pass for not contributing to the chase as he was just doing his job. But the sit-on Canadian saw all respect for him dissolve as his fresh legs bagged the sprint for 3rd. This year I held off a couple of guys and nabbed 5th and almost came by Joe Rano at the line.

I’d like to conclude by congratulating all the OA/Cyclemania riders who turned the pedals in anger. It is nice to see the many top 10 results and just good efforts garnered by the gang:

–          Travis Kroots (Base 36), 2nd in his 4s group (so excited and justifiably so)

–          Kevin Woodhouse, 3rd in his 4s group (great ride!)

–          Kevin Hayes, 6th in his 4s group (nice, Kev)

–          Fred Thomas, 4th in the 40s (always stellar)

–          Jon Ayers, 5th in his 5s group (nice way to start your racing career)

–          Ron Bourgoin – 15th, Eric Weinrich – 28th after having to chase from an early flat

–          Jeff Fisher – 17th after channeling his inner anger into a full blown TT though the shattered field

–          Mike Claus – 21st after getting caught out on Carney and Cassidy

–          Neil Fitch – 55th (don’t know how his race went)

–          John Grenier – 33rd

–          Chris Darling – feel victim to a flat during a strong ride in the 3s

 

Jeff Fisher:

To get the true impact of what the long essentially flat dirt section was like, picture the TV shots of a dry Paris Roubaix with the field strung out in one long line, dust fly through the air, riders struggle to hold wheels and hold lines.  That’s what it was like.  I had stayed up at the front on every dirt section and covered every attack that I thought was dangerous.  We still had such a large field that I thought I had just wasted a lot of energy for no reason because nothing was going to break up the race.  That was nearly a fatal mistake.

Hank, Mike and I were all in a line about 20 people back from the front.  We were hammering and I was thinking how well Mike was riding on this section of the course.  It was hard to see because of the dust and we were passing so many riders from the group that started before us it was hard to tell exactly what was going on in the front.  We had been on the dirt for a good five minutes and I finally noticed the pace car was quite a ways up and I could see the cracks opening up all along the pace line in front of me.  Every alarm bell I have inside me went off at the same time.  It was time for a maximum effort because the race was slipping away.  I took off and put it in full TT redline mode.  Once quick look back and there was no Hank and no Mike.  Oh well, the race was in front of me not behind.

I have to say that my season of cross riding paid off in spades.  I was flying over the dirt and passing people like they were standing still.  I could see I was gaining on the group ahead so there was no slowing down at all.  I had just gotten to the pavement and was about to give it one last effort to get back into the race when I swear I heard my name being called.  I must be imagining that, who would be yelling at me.  Then I heard it again.  I looked back and there was Hank trying to get back on.  Now I was really torn.  Be a good teammate and let Hank latch on or finish getting back on and recover.  I decided I’d give Hank 30 seconds to get on my wheel and if he couldn’t do, then he’d have to make his own way.  I slowed down to about the same speed the group was going and when Hank latched on drove it home.

Like Hank said, this was it.  The race had been decided and we were both going to be going for the win.  My legs were great and I could tell that most of the guys in this group were tired.  I was sure I could out sprint all these guys especially with Hank to help.  Just when I thought we were good and had it made, disaster struck; a flat front tire.  I made it through all the really bad sections and flatted where the dirt wasn’t bad at all.  FML.

I waited at the side of the road for about three or four minutes and the wheel guy finally showed up.  Then I got the slowest wheel change ever.  I know these guys are just volunteers so there was no point giving them an earful.  I opened the back of the car myself, grabbed a wheel and put it on.  Off I went in a futile attempt to make up three minutes.

The rest was just 10 miles of depression, frustration, and anger knowing that months of work went down the toilette.  Especially since I knew I had a podium spot.

Lastly I just want to publicly apologize to Mike for the tongue lashing I gave him after the race. It was pointless and I let my frustration get the better of me.  No teammate deserves that.