I’ve been remiss, and I have 3.5 fans (including my mom in Heaven), so I’m hoping this post brings folks up to date. I actually have been racing (well, I took a break these last three weeks). In chronological order, here are the races I’ve done since I last posted.
Mount Hamilton Classic RR M50-54, 2nd
May 26; Teammates: Kevin Keenan (5th) and George Smith (8th)
This year, Mt. Hamilton was the Northern CA district championships, and the state “climbing championship.” Two perennial winners were either not racing or not in top form, so I figured this was my best chance ever to win the District Championship. We started with a combined field of 55s and older men, so there were about 40 of us.
I figured I would immediately make the race as hard as possible, but I didn’t have to because Bob Brandt went to the front and did the hard work. I thought, “Well, that’s nice of him,” and got in his draft. After the first 20 minutes of climbing, there were maybe eight guys left.
On the next uphill section, Bob went to the front and pulled what was left of us (now maybe five). He was feeling good, so he started calling out prayers, “Lord, I feel good!” I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone call out prayers during a race. A little later, he actually sang a bit of a hymn while he delivered his sermon to his followers. Personally, given my mood, I would have preferred a gospel.
On the third and final climb on front side of Hamilton, I attacked and Steve Archer came with me. We were free and worked together over the final five miles of the climb. As we neared the summit, Steve and I negotiated. He suggested that I give him a bit of a head start on the descent, and he would cede the KOM to me. Sounded fine. I didn’t think I could get away from Steve solo. At the summit, I took the KOM, and then let Steve go up the road about 30 seconds. I caught and passed him on the descent, and then rode steadily and not that hard for about three or four miles before Steve caught me. After that, we worked together the rest of the race.
On the back side, there is about 2000 feet of climbing. We got a few updates from the moto, and he first said that we were three minutes ahead, and then later four minutes, and later still, more. I didn’t feel that great, though, on the backside hills. I sat on while Steve pulled me up the feed zone hill, and my confidence suffered as a consequence.
Near the end, I tried to escape on the final curvy descent about 2 kilometers from the finish. It was pretty breezy, so I didn’t get much of a gap, and Steve closed it down. He came in front of me, and led me out the final kilometer. I was sitting on his wheel in perfect position, but when he sprinted I couldn’t quite make it around him. 2nd.
A few minutes later, a small group including Rob Anderson, Bob Brandt, and Kevin Keenan sprinted for third. I’m not sure what happened, but Rob and Bob (no longer singing) exchanged words, and then Rob Anderson threatened to fight him. This posturing and yelling went on for at least five minutes. I had to get up and move because I found it a bit embarrassing to see Rob Anderson–the reigning Road Race World Champion–putting up his dukes. Thankfully, the anger subsided, and they eventually shook hands after about 15 minutes.
Pescadero RR, M45+; 4th
June 2; Teammates: George Smith (22nd) and Kevin Keenan (26th)
This race was one of the more difficult and challenging ones for me. We had a big field of about 60 guys, and it was a younger crowd. Plus, it was over 70 miles with a bunch of climbing. George, Kevin, and I did the race for training purposes, knowing that we would suffer hugely, and knowing that we would have little chance of competing for the win. Once I started racing, though, I pretended that I was in the race to win. I followed moves, and tried on the first lap to get in a break. Luckily, I missed a group of four guys who went up the road on Highway 84.
When we climbed Haskins and the Stage bumps, I was comfortable enough to stay in the top five or six, so that was good. And it meant that I didn’t have to do much chasing during the day. Still, I put in a few hard efforts during the day. Eventually, we caught the break because neither Cale Reeder, Dirk Himley, or Kevin Metcalfe were in it. For the final lap, we were all together again.
On the final Stage Road climbs, I was able to hang with those three and two others: John Hunt and Tom Lyons. We turned onto 84 and had a tail wind and were all working easily. I figured we were not going to get caught. That was a good feeling. As we neared the base of Haskins, Tom Lyons rode beside us and said, “I wish I could take a photograph of who I’m riding with here.” I wanted to hug the man.
On the final climb up Haskins, there is no hiding who is fastest: Cale Reeder, Kevin Metcalfe, and Dirk Himley. I finished 4th. This is probably my best result of the year.
The Loomis Basin Sierra de Montserrat Circuit Race, M55+, DNF
June 8; Loomis, CA
I traveled to the foothills to a race with a small field so that I could break my string of second place finishes. I seriously wanted to win a race, and I figured at this race with a small field I might win. It was extremely hot–like 115 degrees hot. This puts your body into stress as soon as you get out of your car.
We raced with the M45s, and on the third lap, a man attacked on a hill and I chased as hard as I could to bridge up to him. My heart rate maxed out, and perhaps I wasn’t as careful as I should be.
Here is a photo of me (with my head turned in the yellow helmet).
Thirty seconds after that photo I clipped my pedal as I leaned into a turn. This threw my weight out, and I over-corrected, and then fell outside onto my right hip, knee, and elbow. My yellow helmet was cracked, but fortunately the brain case remained intact. Also, happily, no one was behind me, so I didn’t take anyone with me.
I picked myself up and rode slowly back to the Start/Finish, where my wife Barbara was waiting, and apologized for biffing. A friendly medic gave me treatment for my cuts and bruises, and then Barbara and I walked slowly to the car. It was like crashing out in a sauna.
The real downside to this crash was that I had planned to race a tandem with my teammate Paul McKenzie the following day. But my hip was hurting, and because I had hit my head, I bailed on Paul and drove home.
Mount Diablo Hill Climb, M55+; 2nd
June 22; Teammate: Paul McKenzie (8th)
Two weeks after my crash, I was mostly healed up. I wanted to try my luck at Diablo Hill Climb. I pretty much knew I had no chance of winning this race given how I far back I finished to Steve Archer in 2012. It would take a minor miracle for me to erase the one minute and 12 seconds that separated Steve and me last year. In some ways, I see Diablo as Steve’s mountain. He trains there all the time.
I got off to a bofo start. Someone made a comment about my yellow shoes as I made my way to start, and I spent time and energy replying when I should have been clipping in. When the starter said “10 seconds,” the guy holding my bike said, “Hey, don’t you want to…” and pointed at my left foot which was not clipped in. “Five, four, three, two…” I frantically tried to clip in, but failed.
I rolled out with only one shoe clipped in. I didn’t get it into my pedal for at least 20 seconds. This made me go harder on the lower section than I probably should have to make up for lost time. I went faster on the rollers than I did last year, but I didn’t go as fast on the upper part of the climb as I did last year.
Result: 2nd (this is the 7th time I’ve finished 2nd this season)
Steve ARCHER : 26:29.6
Kevin Susco : 27:55.2
Robert ANDERSON : 28:04.4
I was 21 seconds slower than last year. So, I lost to my younger self.
Leesville Gap RR, M55+, DNF
July 6; Teammate: Kevin Keenan (1st)
We had only 10 guys in our field, and I figured that this would be a great chance for Kevin Keenan to get a victory. My plan was for the two of us to escape on the climb about 15 miles from the start, and then time-trial to the finish. That’s sort of how it worked out. Kevin got a gap and rolled away from the group as the road got rough and turned up. I sat in while his gap grew, and then attacked the peloton. I was making my way across to Kevin, and would have caught him a few minutes (just at the base of the hill) when I heard the dreaded sound of air escaping from my rear tire. We had no follow vehicle for our wheels, so I was out of luck.
Fortunately, there was a photographer right where I flatted who took me back to the start. And Kevin Keenan didn’t need me as he rode 45 miles solo for the win.
Thanks for reading,