Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Closing out 2011

Been a while since my last post so I figured i'd better get caught up. My last post was about the first cross race of the year. Since then, I'd done only 2 others. The 2nd was on November 6th, and was last minute deal. I'd done a long MTB ride the day before so I didn't expect much. Just wanted to race and get more time on the cx bike, which I needed. The course at Stafford Lake in Novato, CA was really fun if you had good legs. Brutal if you didn't. Mine were a bit rubbery so I was more the later. Super steep and bumpy climbing and descending was a bit different for me, on a cross bike anyway. In general, the course here are really bumpy so I need to start preparing for that different next year. I've never really been into riding MTB trails on my cross bike, but a lot of people here do and I can see why. Anyway, got a good start just to avoid being burried in traffic. After the first couple laps, I was burried in traffic and going backwards. There was one long run up that really hurt. Tried to keep it a "run" up but the last lap or 2 might have been a "fast walk"-up.
Third race was a night race: Round #2 of the Bay Area Super Prestige Series. Rain left the course nice and tacky in some spots, and like greased ice in others. I got a call-up this time around which was nice. 3rd row I think. Descent start but didn't drill it. I'm still a bit timid on the skinny knobs. My fault for just not spending around time sliding around on that bike. Other than having my bars slip a bit in the stem and some nagging shift problems, I "raced" the whole hour and came in 21st, same as the first round, and the same as previous weekend. I could see at least 10 guys in front and 10 guys behind me so it's still pretty tightly packed, 11th place to 31st. Night racing is pretty fun. So 3 races down and I got 21st at all three. Not much to say other than it's exactly what I should be getting based on what i'd put into it. I could honestly say that if i'd prepared right (or at least they same as i'd down a couple years ago), I could have cut those 21st places in half, and been on the verge of top-10. Getting into the top 10 and at least in sight of the podium will take something special. Basically getting faster than I ever have been. Not sure my work/other schedules will allow that so I can't really plan for it, just need to play it by ear next year and see how she rolls.
So 3 races down and that was it for 2011. Came into December with the Flu and some lingering sinus issues so really couldn't do much more. Finally got heathly for Christmas so that was nice. Got a good block of riding in over the Holidays so at least i'll hit '12 somewhat fit.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bay Area Super Prestige #1 - San Francisco

Finally got my CX season underway this weekend. I got in 2 small local races last season, but missed all the big races in the area. This time I ended up missing all the smaller races so far but got out for this one. The Bay Area Super Prestige Series is the largest series in NorCal. Today's race was so exception. The Masters 35+ A race was filled (55 rider limit) during pre-reg. They had a standby system for racers that want to get in but is determined by how many pre-reg'ed riders no-showed. 5 no-show'd and I was the 5th racer on the stand-by list. Lucked out. Otherwise I would have done the Elite race which had over 60 guys in it. The first 2 rows in the grid were call-ups based on last years series. I skipped taking one last lap of the course and got to the front of the staging area and ended up in row 3 on the inside. Start was OK, managed to avoid the first turn elbow-fest and settle into about 15th. A few big crashes in turns took a bunch of guys from the front to very back and I managed to avoid all the mayhem. The course was bone dry and super bumpy. Huge holes, dry grass, and big rocks everywhere. Super technical course with very few places to really get out and try to move up. This actually worked out great for me since I was getting through most turns better than most and the faster guys behind me couldn't really chase me down. During pre-riding I burped my rear tire bad and up'd the pressure for the race. With the super bumpy course, I was trying to find some traction and comfort with lower pressure and pushed it too far. With 5 laps to go I almost crashed in a turn and burped the front. Dropped to about 15 psi. Rode the whole lap like that and managed to not make it any worse. I pulled into the SRAM Neutral Support tent for a quick pump and got a great push off by the tech. A handful of guys went by, not sure how many were 35+ or 45+, but I think I passed all of them back in the closing laps. Felt pretty good considering I only did/attempted about 1 week of actual structured cx work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lake Tahoe - MTB epic weekend.

Spent another amazing weekend in Lake Tahoe. Got out on Saturday with an old MTB buddy from way back Mark Roberts. We had an epic battle in the mens sport class at the '88 MTB World Championships in Mammoth Lakes. He's basically a Tahoe local so he knows the trails there like the back of his hand. He took me on a bunch of stuff I hadn't seen before north of Tahoe City. We got in a solid 3hrs of singletrack with another hr of misc pavement at the end riding back from Squaw to Tahoe City and I got in another hr riding before/after for about 5 on the day. I had brought my road bike up with the intension of doing a lap of the lake on Sunday. Given the amount of traffic up there this weekend, I chose to stay off-road (mostly). Did the ever-popular Tahoe Rim Trail from the Rose Summit/Tahoe Meadows trail head to Tunnel Creek, then took the Flume Trail south to Marlette Lake and back, then Tunnel Creek down into Incline Village. Amazing single track with spectacular views of the lake from mostly above 8000 ft. This is one of the most popular "shuttle" rides in the area. Must have been 50 vehicles at the Mt. Rose Summit trailhead and another 40 at the bottem to take riders back up. It's only an 8.5 mile/2800 vertical feet road climb between the two. I started in Carnelian Bay (north shore) and rode the 8 miles over the Incline Village, NV. Then did the 8.5 mile road climb (averages 5.5 %) to the 8900 feet Mt. Rose Summit. The Rim Trail starts just below the summit at Tahoe Meadows. This section of the Rim Trail climbs up a few 100 feet in the first mile or 2, then gets super fun and flowy for the next 8 miles or so to Tunnel Creek rd. A quick descent down Tunnel Creek brings you to the north end of the Flume Trail. Took that south to Marlette Lake. Super fun single-track trail with some cool sections cut into the rock. Lake Tahoe is on your right, and straight down. This secion of the Flume is almost completely flat so it was mosly big-ring seated stuff. I turned around at Marlette Lake and rode came back to Tunnel Creek Rd, which was a wide dirt road downhill all the way down to Incline Village. Mostly deep powdery sand so i'd hate to climb up this way. Once back in Incline, it was a rolling paved ride back to Carnelian Bay. Ended up just under 5hrs total, 27 total paved miles and 22 dirt miles. Close to 10hrs of mtb riding over two days. Feeling it today for sure. Pics coming.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Howell Mountain Challenge - Angwin, Ca

I had this race on the schedule for a while but sorta waited till the eleveth hour to make the commitment. Angwin is just north of Napa Valley, so it's a beautiful area. The race was 3 laps of a 10-mile loop. 30 miles off-road is a solid effort no matter how hard the terrain is. Couldn't preride much of the course since it went out a few miles before hitting the actual loop, so I only saw the first 1/2 mile and last half mile. The start was on pavement, uphill, to a wide gravel path and eventually onto some dirt roads. I sorta assumed that single track was out there somewhere beyond where I prerode so I attempted to get a good start. The lack of proper warm-up combined with NOT having down a hard start like that in a while KILLED me. I hit the dirt in 4th with completely gassed with ruined legs. I lot of guys blew by me while I tried to re-start the system. Took a few minutes and a good 1/2 mile but I "seemed" to be going good. Started catching back up to the guys that killed me off the start and actually started catching riders from the wave 2min ahead. The course was all dirt roads for at least the first full mile or 2 before hitting singletrack. The singletrack was supper fun and technical. I had never ridden this stuff before but I was at least staying with the guys in front. Got by a couple guys and seems to check out a bit. I was catching guys and the guys I passed seemed to fall away. The course alternated between single track and wide open dirt stuff. All middle-ring climbing until we hit the BIG ONE. 1/8 mile granny gear climb straight up. I generally don't do well on these but I caught back on to the front group the first time up this. Over the top they got a little gap on me again. The course rolled along some more with fun singletrack and middle-ring climbs. Towards the end of the lap was a 3 pack of rollers. Each had a crazy rocky ledge sections leading down so you couldn't hit the uphill part with much speed. Each uphill was middle-ring 'able but definately a handfull to clean. By the 3rd one I was wrecked. Some fun fast rolling stuff finished out the lap. This is around the time I decided that that only way I was going to make it 2 more times around that thing was to put it into conservation mode. Still rode hard and agressive but couldn't do much more than that without risking a DNF.
Got caught by a lot of guys as expected, not sure which were in my age group or not. That 3rd lap was a killer for sure but managed to keep it together and at least finish. Had this been an 1:45 or 2 hour race, I think I could have faked it along better, but 2.5 hours is a bit different. Didn't quite have the breakfast for it. The race was held at a college so we could use the showers in the gym after the race. That is a huge luxary since Kristine and I were planning on wine tasting in Napa after the race. Not sure what place I got since they hadn't posted results when we left. Wasn't top 3. Did win a WTB Mutanorapter 2.4 tire in the raffle so that was nice. No, a 2.4 tire isn't exactly a cross-country race tire, but it will work perfectly for the majority of the stuff i'm doing. Having not raced much over the last year definately became obvious yesterday but that's how it goes. I get in plenty of riding. Good riding, solid efforts both mtb and road, but no amount of hard training can replace actual race efforts. Other than that, the Tomac bike worked flawlessly. A bit more bike than a lot of guys were on out there. If I was really serious about getting back on the podium at every race, i'd probably do a more race-specific bike, but I like a bike I can go beat up in Tahoe without getting destroying or beating me up. I've got that so i'll leave the podium spots to those guys that are simple WAY faster than me for now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tuscany 2011

Here are a few pics from Bella Vita Vacations most recent tour of Tuscany.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Italy in July

Just got back from another fun-filled Bellavita Vacations Italy trip.

BVV clients and staff relaxing in the Tuscan sun.

Catching up on the Tour de France action before heading out to ride.

Looking down on Pizzoferrato, near my house in Abruzzo

BVV clients Scott and Jim with Castel Brolio in the background.

Leading a ride but always keeping an eye on things behind.

Scott filling his bottle at one of the many "drinking fountains".

The BVV nightly dinner table awaits

Every dinner should start like this.

A little laundry hanging on the roof-top cloths lines.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tahoe 4/8 hr MTB race

Finally got around to MTB racing again this past weekend. Hadn't raced a MTB race since April 2010. Of course a lot has happened since then so I haven't exactly been bored. I had no expecations for this race. Just wanted to get back into the swing of things. The 4hr Solo race had the same format that i'm used to doing for the 3hr "endurance" races: Go just as fast as if it was a 2hr race, just do it for an extra hour +. Well, 4hrs (minumum) is a bit different than 3, but I did the only thing I know how: Start at the front, lead out the first lap as fast as possible, and try to hang on from there. Starting on the front was no problem. Led up the first big-ring start hill till the altitude got the better of me. I eased up and let one guy go by me and stayed a few seconds behind him while I caught my breath a bit. The rest of the field though it best not to do what we did up the first climb and were back a ways. The first climb stair-stepped up a bit, all big-ring stuff, before the first cool downhill section. Pretty rocky and fast. New bike was a dream through this section and I easily caught the guy in front. He led up the next technical single track climb. Towards the top he pulled over with some kinda of mechanical so I found myself along in front. Over the top it opened up into some fast wide-open slightly down-hill dirt road. A bit more singletrack track climbing led to more wide-open slightly down hill dirt road. A cool flat singletrack across a meadow led to the day's first obstacle: a 4ft high, 100 foot long pile of snow to run through. Running during mtb races always presents unique opportunities. After this section, the piles of snow had either a line going around them OR a line cut right through them. These were really cool. The only thing that wasn't cool was the 35 degree ice-cold run-of f that was flowing everywhere. A constant spray for the next mile or so. After this section, it was another fast rocky dirt road descent to the laps main climb near the end. Nothing steep but it was covered in loose rock so getting out of the saddle was out of the question. Over the top, it led straight into a slightly uphill single track climb, then straight into a dirt road climb. These 3 climbs were really just 1 long climb. Over the top finally and it was flat to rolling to the start-finish area. Came through the first lap with what would eventually be the fastest lap of the day (under 53mins) . No way I was doing another one of those. A could see a group about 1 minute back. I put it into a reasonable cruise mode and clipped off consistent 2nd and 3rd laps (ended up being 54 and 56mins). I was doing 1 Gel per lap and drinking constantly. The 4th lap seemed the hardest (ended up being 59mins). I hadn't touched the granny gear yet but heading up the laps last climb, the hamstrings started locking up so I shifted down and spun super easy. that kept them from getting any worse. I came through 4 laps in 3:42 so out for a 5th lap I went. I knew the gap back to 2nd had been steadily going up each lap but I still needed to survive the lap. Before the race, they had announced that in order for your last lap to count, it had to be faster than the "average lap time", whatever that was. That ended up being 65 mins. Even in my exhausted state, I did a quick mental calculation and decided that 65 mins wasn't much slower than the lap I just did (59min). The legs were definitely getting heavy, but still pedaling smoothing. I tried to stay smooth on the climbs and get some "free time" pedaling the slightly downhill sections. Once I got up the final series of climbs without blowing up or cramping, I could push it more without risk. Somehow did the last lap in 58mins for a final time of 4:40:40 for 50miles. I was definitely spent after the finish and very surprised. I only had straight water, 1 full bottle and not-even my full hydro pack. Did 1 gel before the start, 1 more every lap, 2 on the 4th lap, none the last lap. I can safely guarantee that the race announcer consumed more calories during my race than I did.

This wasn't the longest MTB race I've ever done but it did make the top 4 list (of races I can recall anyway):

1) Brianhead Epic 100 mile MTB race in 2002(?) : 100 miles in 8hrs 45 min

2) Team Big Bear 12hr MTB race: Raced 6hrs out of 12 hrs (2-man relay) miles unknown

3) Norba National Marathon, Phoenix AZ 2005 : 81 miles in 5:41

4) Tahoe 4hr MTB Race : 50 miles in 4hrs 40min

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lake Tahoe - Amgen Tour of Cali pics

Bella Vita Vacations client Chris Locke has posted some great pics from his recent trip with us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lake Tahoe Amgen Tour of California Trip

We arrived in Tahoe last Thursday to crystal clear skies and warming sun. I headed over to Reno to pick up Chris Locke. We got back in time to get his bike together and do a quick 90min "FLAT" spin ride over to Squaw Valley's Olympic Village. Friday's ride got a bit more vertical with a trip to Truckee, lap around Donner Lake and the climb up to "Rainbow Bridge" at the top of Donner Pass. Plenty of snow still up there. We enjoyed the 72-mile lap around the Lake on Saturday while all the big teams were out pre-riding the course. Interesting weather left us scratching our heads on Sunday morning. We had perfect weather Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The weather forecast called for snow to come in late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, but the forecast has been completely wrong up to this point. We woke up Sunday to about 4" inchs of fresh snow. Most of the roads were simply not rideable and several of the race caravan moto's hit the deck just getting out of town to look at the course. The snow was melting pretty quick, leaving just wet roads to deal with. The race was officially shortened to just 50-something miles when we left to head to the finish at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort. It was a blizzard there and just got worse. We were there about 15min when we heard that stage was officially cancelled. Several Friends of mine, including Neil Shirley and Keith Ketterer, did the 50mile shortened course as part of the Amgen Ride to Recovery. They finished up cold, wet, and bikes completely frozen-up, stuck in 1 gear. We still enjoyed the expo area for a while before calling it a day. We woke up Sunday to really cold temps but more-or-less dry roads. Apparently the road over Donner Pass was too slick so they moved the Stage 2 start from Squaw Valley to Nevada City, about 70 miles away, so we missed the start of stage 2 as well. Headed out for a solid 4hr ride. Snow moved back in just as we were finishing up. I managed to get Chris back to the airport in Reno yesterday while the road over Rose Summit was still open. It was still snowing yesterday when we packed up and started heading back to the Bay Area. We ran into a blizzard moving it's way toward Tahoe and ended up getting a Police/CalTrans escort down the the hill on I-80. Traffic heading up the hill was stopped at the bottom and we assume was eventually escorted up in groups. Back home and back to the "9 to 5". Pics coming.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

...and in with the new.

Amazing bike. It's been a while since I've had a whole bike that worked perfectly, and this one does. 120mm (front and back) is a lot for somebody that's never had it. The old Niner frame and Manitou forks are already on their way to the Ebay'ers that bought them. Got it out for the first test ride last Friday. Couldn't do much with my sinuses completely ruined. Spent most of that time just adjusting stuff like lever/shifter position, tire pressure, etc. Got it our today for some more serious stuff. Again, my sinuses kept me honest up the climbs, but it definately climbs better than my hardtail, especially on the rougher stuff. Of course going down anything is amazing. My position on the bike has been getting more and more upright over the years as the flexibility in my lower back gets a little less every year. I'm now running the widest bars I ever have and the 110mm stem, which to some might be considered long, is the shortest I have every used. I started on 150mm stems (yes, that is 6 inches) back in the '80's and first half of the '90's, Then went to 135mm for a few years, then to a 120 the last few years. Now it's 110mm. Big difference. The whole 29'er thing just didn't work for me. Granted, if I had built up mine a little better, i might have had a different experience. I just couldn't get past the high rotational inertia of those things. I only had a 1X9 setup on it so that didn't help. One of the new double ring setups would have solved a lot of problems. Amazingly, the new bike is about the same weight as the old one. I was shocked when I actually weight the old one for the first time. I might actually do a mtb race coming up. New bike will be dialed in but it's more up to my sinuses cooperating.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Out with the old..........

I'm happy to say that the 29'er "experiment", that ended up lasting 3 years, if finally over :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lake Tahoe - Tour of California recon trip

In Tahoe relaxing and scoping things out for the Tour of California in a few weeks. Still plenty of snow up here and it's been snowing since yesterday. It was perfect weather yesterday when we arrived, but got colder shortly thereafter and then the snow moved in. Might not get a full lap of the lake in this time. Looks like the snow if finally stopping so the roads can dry out a bit.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Comparatively speaking....not even close. But no complaints from me when it's
mid 70's and clear blue skies in February. Winter still brings the drag of shorter days, but the weekday Night Rides are slowly moving towards daylight for the first 30-40 minutes, then turn the lights on. Seems like just a few weeks ago it was dark before I even got home from work. Weekend riding is going well. The Saturday "House of Pain" group ride is ramping up into it's normal speed. We still do the optional 5 mile Diablo Junction climb at the very end which really stings. Once the ride is back to ful gas, that finishing climb goes away. I've been reserving Sunday for EPIC MTB stuff with serious climbing, descending, just about everything. I haven't even scratched the surface on the dirt stuff I can ride from my house. I've pretty much covered the North/West corner of the Mt. Diablo area but there is a whole lot more off on the Southern side. It's cool now that I've done a bunch of different loops, i can start linking rides together for some 4hr plus, 90% dirt rides right out my back door. Of course there's still MT. TAM off in the distance that I haven't been to yet. It's on the list and that will take years to ride all of those trails at least once.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Positive Mental......Altitude.

MLK day MTB ride. I've been up Mt. Diablo on road a zillion times allready but i'm still learning my way around the VAST network of dirt trails up there. Yesterday I had ridden up the road to the mid-way point on the climb to scout out some stuff. I ended up bombing down this ridgeline that i'd been down once before. Crazy micro-climates out here. Leaving the house it was brisk and super foggy. Climbed up through the fog and eventually pop out into clear blue sky as far as you could see. The layer of fog obscurred everything below about 1800 feet. The temperature also changed like a light switch. The fog is actually really cold. Bombing down the ridgeline eventually dropped me back into it so the extra cloths went back on that were shed on the way up. To today I got the idea to climb to the summit and back down on dirt. I climbed up the ridgeline that I had descended yesterday. Brisk and foggy again and perfect sticky trails. The ridgeline road gets more than a bit steep for extended periods so it took some effort. Once again I popped out into clear blue sky around 1/2 up the mountain. I ended up climbing the rest of the way up on the road. Mostly hiking only single track on the upper 1/2. The summit showed the fog layer below extending as far I could see in every direction. I rode back down the road a few miles and found a fire road heading off the north. This thing was amazing as it rolled along with a single-track trail cutting across it and zigzagging down the mountain. Having never been down this thing before, I kept it pretty mellow and enjoyed the amazing views. Cooked the rear disk brake once but a quick stop to take a few pics took care of things. I've never seen a fireroad this steep. The bulldozer that cut it obviously just slid down the hill with it's blade down. Just like yesterday, I descended back to the ice-cold fog so the jacket went on. Popped out on the road and descended the rest of the way on pavement. I passed numerous other dirt roads on the way down heading off in different directions so there's much more to see. Felt great to get a couple good days on the mtb with lots of everything and seeing some stuff for the first time. Legs felt good considering how brutal Saturdays group ride was. I've down the Hop ride (house of pain) twice before. Once in the late summer when it was just rediculously fast and another time a few weeks ago when it was pretty mello but I was way out of shape so it hurt just the same. Felt better this time around and stayed in the front. After the normal couple hour loop down the Livermore and back to Danville, the group heading up to Diablo Junction (the 1/2 point on the mountain) from the south side. With the group still 50 strong, I started at the front just to stay in some clean air. The pace started a mello which is NOT what they normally do. I can't kick on the lower slopes of this climb so I have to keep it steady. I went up the first 1/2 mile or so when I hear this creaking bike coming up behind me. I assumed it was just the first guy in the group, with the rest of the group behind him. It was Garmin Cervelo's Kirk Carlsen. He's been staying in town and lighting things up on the group rides lately. The group was still a bit further back with only a couple other guys trying to bridge up. I figured i'd just hang on as long as possible then put it into survival mode. I amazed myself with some excellent climbing form and managed to stay with him all the way to the junctions, 5miles and 2000 vertical feet. It got really tough a few times and definately got me up the climb quick. The next guys were minutes back and most of the group came in 5mins later so I know we put in a solid effort.