Tag Archives: Hank Pfeifle

Jamestown Classic Race Report – Oct 28, 2012 – Jamestown, RI

Submitted by Hank Pfeifle:

Jamestown was a nice way to conclude the 2012 road racing season. We had a good turnout with John Liston in the 55+, Ron Bourgoin, Ta Herrera, Carl Hitchcock and me in the 45+, Mark Caron, Joe Lynch and Christian Muentener in the 35+, and Kevin Hays in the 4’s. There were about 55 people in each class of the 2 lap 38 mile race. The course is pretty much a Saturday Morning Ride flat one but with a tricky big ring hill at a mile to go that concludes with a flat top and then a sweeping 3 corner descent to the finish. It’s quick!

35+: The importance of teamwork, team reputation and individual reputation proved their worth in this race. The race was an attack fest from the get-go (Bill Shattuck is an Energizer bunny), but Mark Caron corralled all initial break attempts keeping things under controlled until things stacked our way. However, with a side wind and narrow roads things started going really ballistic the first time approaching the lighthouse (about 14 miles into the race). Strongmen Ciaran Mangan, Max Lippolis and Monte Frank managed to escape and our Joey was quick to recognize this threat/opportunity and hustled to try and bridge over. His main man, Christian, catches the threat/opportunity drift a little late but that only increases his sense of urgency. Around the lighthouse bend he whirls and with centrifugal force slingshots toward Joey (our Joey!). With speed and strength born of SMR front riding, he is soon up to Joe and then in front of Joe and then, with the supreme sacrifice worthy of a Longfellow poem, Christian gives his last 20 seconds of energy to the chase and launches Joe who finishes the bridge and latches onto the back of Ciaran’s wheel. Oh what sacrificial nobility and my hands tremble with teammate-al reverence as I write these words. Meanwhile, the break-away guys were very happy with this outcome because they wanted Joe in the break for the dual purpose of a) employing his proven strength and b) having an OA guy in the break would negate having the OA team chase their butts down. It worked and when Skip Foley also joined the group, they were away for good. Nice heads up riding and exceptional teamwork.

45+: No breaks in this race although there were plenty of attempts. Anticipating a group finish coming out of the lighthouse, our pre-race plan was to set things up for Ron – Mr. Finisher (also defending champion). After the lighthouse, there was a two man attempted break going down the road. Ta and another guy had separated from the field and were working to bring the break back. Carl and Ron were near the front waiting to be towed up to the break. Meanwhile, I saw all this while wanking at the back of the pack. No worries, I tiptoed up along the yellow line and, carrying good speed, launched away from the pack, through Ta and up to the two guys (one being Jim Nash, winner of the 50+ Battenkill). Now we had a guy in the break and now the pack would get very serious about chasing us and now Ron & Carl could sit and rest while being towed by the reenergized pack. We in the break were very motivated to get up the hill, across the flat and headed down toward the finish before getting caught. Being caught in the middle of a hard charging pack towards the finish is no bueno. We hit the hill with about a 100 yard lead. We got to the top of the hill corner with about a 20 yard lead – gulp! I looked down at my now less than tan legs but which still glistened nicely with sweat in the low autumn sunlight, and willed them to spin ever faster. And they did but not fast enough as guys started to whiz by, principle among them being Ron. Golly, the guy can go when he smells the finish line where he was half a wheel from repeating as champ. Carl and Ta managed to bring it home safely and avoided the “big one” which occurred in one of the corners.

John and Kevin also concluded the season in one piece, again, no easy feat as there was another crash with flying bodies just yards from the 4’s finish line. Lesson from this? Keep your head up in the final sprint!

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 – 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.

 

Masters Nationals – 60-64 – Bend, Oregon – September 3, 2011

Submitted by Hank Pfeifle

Yep, Mr. LeDuc bagged another 1st at Nationals – something like his 18th one.  However, I am happy to report that I made his win most difficult and thought I had him a couple of times. 50 or so guys toed the line and we had to negotiate 2 laps around an 18 mile course that featured two good climbs in the final 9 miles.

I took all your council and rode a smart race. Sat in on the flats and worked my way to near the front for the hills. I was sitting 10th wheel on the first climb and was ready to sit and see if someone else would turn the screws. Nope. Everyone was hoping for a free trip up the hill. Being such a short course I had to say “no dice” to that. My legs were feeling great. BOOM and off I went. Sorry but I couldn’t help myself. Of course there was a reaction and they came up to me. I clicked down another gear and went again. And again they came up. Click, click BOOM a third time. That did the trick as things whittled down to 14. That’s a manageable number. Three miles later we hit the 2nd climb, which is 300 meters at about 15%. Now the 14 were in fear of what was coming. My cold heart had ice running into my veins, and I couldn’t wait to apply more punishment. Boom – hard up the hill and a sustained effort over it. We had another half mile of gradual climb and this really offered an opportunity to dish it out. Kenny Fuller came with me (60 time national champ – really) and he came thru sensing the opportunity. Off we went working well together, but LeDuc was able to bridge the gap. I was hoping he’d bridge by himself, but everyone always clings to him and force him to make the move. The field was now down to nine.

On the rolling backside, Fuller did a great jump on a long roller and I bridged to him. We had a good gap, but again LeDuc brought the group with. However, Fuller’s move dropped two guys. Now we had seven.

Onto the last two hills we went. My legs were feeling even better. I had to make it happen now. I attacked from about mid group. Attacked again… And again. Fuller was on me and he attacked on the crest and kept the screws turning. No problemo and it helped to get rid of two more guys (those pesky teammates who caused problems in the crit). Now we were coming tithe final climb. Unfortunately, the two teammates were able to work together and get back on. No way was I going to allow them to contest for the win.

Up the hill I went with everything I had – and I had a lot because I was feeling great. Fuller hung on, but we were able to gap LeDuc and probably had 100 meters on him at the top corner. Gotta go now. LeDuc is a powerful guy and would definitely win any group sprint. Fuller knew that, too, and we rode possessed. 5k to go. I couldn’t believe it when LeDuc came up to us. He can bridge like no one else. He also brought Wayne Watson with him. During the race someone told me he is the best 50+ climber in Colorado. He also came in 3rd in the TT this week. Rats.

With a mile to go there is a big ring 400 meter climb followed by a 400 meter slight downhill, then straight thru a round-about, half K up to the final corner and then 300 meters to the finish. From last position I jumped and gave a final dug up the big ring hill. Instant 50 meter gap. Watson came up to me and thru me at the top of the hill. I jump hard to get on him but missed and was about 50 meters back pretty fast. Still, I had a gap in Fuller and LeDuc and had to dig deep and finish this thing. I focused on reeling in Watson. I was making good progress when LeDuc caught me with 1k to go. He exploded past with Fuller in tow. I couldn’t catch that one either. They got Watson at the corner and Watson hung tough for 3rd.

I think I played my cards as good as I could. I felt strong and my efforts were actually hard. Not some delusional concept on my part. LeDuc, Fuller and Watson each gave honest efforts. Fuller gave repeated attacks. LeDuc, too, worked like crazy. Watson tried to TT away from us before the hills. I did work, but no more than my share. My money card (hills) played well today, but the guys used their strengths to counter my efforts. I rode to win as did the others, so the results are easy to live with.

That’s how it went. Top five medal, so my carry-on bag will be a little heavier on the way home.

I look forward to having a beer tonight.

From the road,

Hank