Category Archives: Race Reports

Furnace Creek (508) 2011

 

 By Brian Ecker

Per the Furnace Creek 508 race web site, the 508 bicycle race is revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges available, bar none. The course has a total elevation gain of over 35,000′, crosses ten mountain passes, and stretches from Santa Clarita (just north of Los Angeles), across the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve, to the finish line at the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA.

The details behind the scenes are that many of the roads you race across are exceptionally rough, wind is always a factor (see my 2009 race report), and the route is exceptionally remote.  These factors make the route a lot harder than it looks like on paper. I’ve done plenty of hard races and hard rides, often with way more climbing, but The 508 remains a more than worthy challenge.

The 508 uses “totems” instead of racer names and once a totem is chosen you have it for life.  This meant we would fly the colors of the American Kestrel for the 2nd year.

The Logistics

Since none of us have unlimited time off or an unlimited budget, logistics for these events are always complex and complicated.  Wednesday David Dean and I drove down to the infamous Farm in Eugene.  We received a warm welcome, as always, by the Minniti/Shipley clan. (This was the 3rd such trip of the year where they graciously allowed us to crash en route to an event.)

Up early for a short ride then on the road to Sacramento where we needed to pick up Bish and Paul.  Fresh snow on the Siskiyou Peaks meant great vistas and an amazing approach to Mt. Shasta. We pulled into Sacramento airport for the van pick up and gear swap with less than an hour before Bish and Paul would fly in.  All flowed smooth and soon the Dodge Caravan was loaded and ready. It is the perfect vehicle for these events. (Probably 75% of the crew vehicles at the 508 were the same model). We continued south and ended up in Santa Clarita quite late.

The Crew

Plain and simple – without a solid crew these events are pretty much a no go.  Simply gathering 2 to 4 folks to volunteer hours of their time (with limited sleep) is hard enough but to actually get a crew that is highly motivated and highly skilled is really something special.  I’m a very lucky to have just that – a crew that seems to enjoy these events as much or more than I do.  They have unparallel skills and unparallel commitment.

Paul (crew chief) and Bish are veterans of both these types of events and the 508.  David Dean is familiar with endurance racing but his background is form doing them as a rider on the unsupported side.  A nurse by training, David was brought on specifically for his clinical assessment abilities and his cool head.  Both, of course, proved to be critical to our success.

The Race

The race start is a gentle 4 mi neutral section with a bit of moderate climbing.  It is enough to help get the legs warm in the cold morning air.  Upon exiting the neutral section I hit full throttle for the last ¼ mi of the climb with the hope of getting out of the mayhem of 90+ riders. (Last year I wanted to start mellow and found myself frustrated with trying to follow the rules and keep a good pace. Rider would surge ahead only to then slow down and force me to accelerate to pass.)

My strategy worked – I was instantly free and clear. I settled into a strong rhythm about 10% harder than what I anticipated my long term race pace to be.  About ½ way up the 9 mi 2,500 ft climb I could see Rock Rabbit coming up to me.  I kept the pace steady, expecting the catch.  To my surprise, the catch came but by a different rider, Turkey Vulture.  Turkey Vulture is a guy about 6’ 3” and 135lb.  Oddly enough, he was riding Power Cranks unlocked with the crank length set to about 110mm. (Very very odd but to each their own).  TV could climb well but I was able to up my pace and stay with him without issue.  We topped out on the climb and began a short decent to the uphill roller where all the crews wait.  I radioed up….”riders up boys”. A quick return “roger that”.

I passed the many crews to find mine eagerly awaiting my arrival. 

I passed off my extra gear (vest, arm warmers, cell phone, pump, and spare tire) and took on a high calorie Perpeteum bottle and settled in for the catch of TV.  I easily brought TV back and it became apparent that while TV might be a climbing maniac he didn’t go so good on the descents or flats. I found myself having to slow down in order to not over take him.  Out on the flats we made easy work with a nice pace of 22-23mph.  The calm (wind) conditions and open roads made for a quick pace.  It’s here my fishing expedition began; sit up on the hoods and let a little line out, drop down in the aero bars and gently real it back in.  TV was keeping a close watch, checking my position constantly.  At this point, time check on RR is about 2 min.  On the way to the Windmills climb (6 mi 1,000 ft) I continue to follow TV at a safe distance and begin to wonder if this is the right strategy – I have way more throttle available and in fact have about 30 watts, on the flats, left before we would be up to my race pace. I consider the question of why push it when we are easily covering the lead.  This strategy is cemented when a second time check comes back that has RR (3rd place) further behind.

Over the Windmills Climb (almost no wind) and down the other side.  We quickly make our way into TS1 – California City (83.6 mi IN and 426.11 mi to GO) at 4hr 15 min.  A bit off the pace of my 2009 ride but the lack of tailwind and race strategy make the actual split a bit irrelevant.

Windmills Climb

Coming out of the TS I take a quick pit stop which gives TV 30 sec breathing room.  He seems to want to take advantage of it and begins to up his pace.  Quickly back on the road I drop into the aero bars and set the throttle at a clean 300w (about 20-30w more than my race pace).  TV comes back to me easily and again we settle into the routine of me modulating the gap and TV checking my position.  We roll at a pretty good pace on the flat roads 23-24mph and have little to no wind. Temperatures are mild, 60’s, and the skies are crystal clear.  My body is feeling good and it is taking a fair amount of energy to resist the temptation to surge on ahead and get settled into “my” race pace.  Patience – RR has continued to looe ground and there are many many miles to go.

We start the long Randsburg climb (7 mi 1,500 ft) which, as is true for much of the course, doesn’t look too hard, but in reality the climb is a solid challenge.  Very gradual initially – the wide open vista and increasing temperatures make this climb mentally tough.  TV seems to up the pace a bit and I find my watts running higher than I would like.  I am committed to staying close to TV and continuing to apply the pressure to keep him in close.  The climb drags on and I slip back to approximately 2-3 telephone pole lengths behind. The grade is steady, the road is rough, and the riding is starting to become hard.  Towards the last third of the climb it steepens and we approach the small town of Johanasburg.  I find my pace consistent yet I begin bringing TV back. Now just 1 pole behind I find that I have to ease up in order to not get closer. We continue on this for a bit and eventually make it over the top. Out briefly onto a major highway and approaching the crest of a roller, it is apparent TV is struggling.  My racing instincts take over and I accelerate hard and pass TV, immediately putting 10 seconds into him. Left turn down a decent and it’s clear the mental tactics have worked and TV looks to have cracked.  Crew radio’s across: “excellent work, TV isn’t able to respond but RR is coming hard”.  Running only a few minutes out front at race pace I find that my legs feel way more fatigued than I am expecting.  Up until now we’ve done the climbs a bit harder than I wanted but all else has been pretty easy.  RR continues to close the gap so I take advantage and pull off for another quick pit stop.  He passes and I casually remount back into follow mode. RR is on his full TT set up including aero helmet.  He’s going good but it’s well within the “plan” to keep a close follow. The gap wavers between 15 and 30 seconds.

The open and desolate roads typical of the 508

Trona TS2 comes up and a bit of chaos ensues.  Normally, a very quiet town of very few folks, a rock and gem show has the town packed with 100s of cars creating a significant traffic jam. I see RR’s crew driving on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road urgently trying to get to the gas station.  As I pass the station a Time Station official runs out and confirms my identity. (TS#2 2:48pm, 7:48 in, 3:34 split, 154.8 mi IN and 354.91 to GO)  I continue to roll down the road to only see a flagger ahead stopping our lane of traffic.  My crew is stopped alongside RR.  I ask how it was getting gas but the crew says the TS (gas station) is further up. I lose my composer a bit and let them know that the TS is back in town right at the traffic jam.  Flagger turns the sign and I let RR regain the gap he had established.

An American Kestrel?

Sooner than expected my crew returns. They bring some solemn news – no gas at Trona, the station was dry. RR and I retain our positions and begin the climb of Trona Bump (5 mi 1,000 ft). A relatively easy and short climb, we continue our soldier.  The nagging headwind we have had since the start of the Randsburg climb continues and our going is slow. Over the top we quickly descend the twisty fun road and drop into the wide expanse of what is known as Panamint Valley. Immense vistas help distract from the punishingly rough roads and stiff headwind. In 2009, with huge tailwind support, we rocketed through this section continuously turning the 53X11.  Today, it becomes a race of the desert tortoise.  Rolling a tempo pace across rough chipseal and a very non impressive 14-15 mph.  We continue on. The wind is forcing a slow pace and thus some important decisions need to be made.  It’s approaching 5pm and night rules take effect in an hour.  With no gas at Trona the team decides that once we reach the end of Pananmint Valley they will leave me and go of course about 4 mi up to the town that is confirmed to have gas.  I’m not a fan of having the crew leave and heated discussion ensues.  In 2009 we were already up and over Townes Pass which meant the crew could stop, before night rules were in effect, at Stovepipe wells. The nagging headwind has us way behind schedule and the crew mitigates this well.

Topping out @ Trona Bump and looking into Panamint Valley

About this time a flurry of activity is taking place with RR.  His crew is leapfrogging more frequently and looking to be getting ready for something.  Soon enough they all pull off and a bike swap ensues.  Surprised, I find myself in the lead and in the vast wide open.  We are approaching the 200 mi mark and my legs are surprisingly fatigued given the perceived effort thus far.  I tempo on and RR competes the swap and he is now 1:30 down.  I maintain tempo expecting him to return to the lead but instead the next time check is 2:30.  It’s here we reach the end of the valley and make the right turn for the approach to the behemoth known as Towne’s Pass.  Crew puts on my lights, full bottles and new rear wheel (27 tooth cassette). It’s 5:35 and the crew departs for gas. They have exactly 25 min to drive 4-5 mi one way, gas up, and then return to me.  If they do not return by 6pm (night rules) I will be forced to pull over and wait.  (When in night rules, the car and rider are one unit and can never separate.)

I approach Towne’s as the beautiful long evening shadows begin to settle in.  Our right turn should mean a cross wind but as is the case for the majority of the race, logic defies and our headwind continues.  Towne’s is a big climb, 13 miles 3,800ft, with grades of 12-15%.  In 2009 I found, with headwind, that we were able to tempo the climb pretty well and I was able to sustain an excellent pace without burning any matches.  For whatever reason, today I find myself struggling a bit and the pace is slow.  RR is not in view so the struggle becomes just personal.  It’s about this time that Race Staff come up and begin taking many pictures.  The evening light and geography make for some great shots.  The climb is long and the work is hard. The headwind is constant and it’s a bit of trouble to spin the gear.  The evening light begins to fade quickly. Last year we were up and over and down onto the valley floor before the sun said good-bye.  That’s not the case today but again, we are in the lead, putting time into everyone else so any comparison has little relative value. 

Photo courtesy of AdventureCorps

After much too long, we reach the lesser slopes near the crest.  Once at the summit we stop to put on a light coat, aero, helmet, and disc wheel.  Fully dark now, I will get to experience the stuff of legends; descending Towne’s at night.  We are quickly up to speed, 50+mph, with the van following within inches behind.  David Dean, new to this, is sitting in the front passenger seat and his anxiety is rising.  Full white knuckle grip on the “oh shit” handle, erect posture, and leaning forward, David takes the new experience in quietly.  Paul, continues to follow close and we hit the “dip” at top speed.  My memory has the dip being enormous but tonight we are through so quickly that I dismiss it as it not being the “one”. Our descent continues and the temp rises quickly.  Back up to the mid 80s we soldier onto the halfway point TS3 Furance Creek.  It is about this time that we expect to begin to cash in on the ever present headwind of the earlier sections.   Instead we are greeted by a gusting head cross wind that is tossing my front tri spoke around.  We patiently wait for the road to “turn the corner” and pick up the sweat spot but the road turns and the unfavorable wind continues.  We make a quick stop to swap out the front tri spoke with a normal spoked wheel to help reduce the handling issue. It’s a bit of a risk as the tri spoke is an exceptionally fast front wheel but the decision pays off as we continue to run the valley and the winds remain from the front/side.

We roll into TS3 Furnace Creek at 8:51pm, 13:51 total ride time, split of 6:03, 252.99 mi IN and 256.72 to GO. We are a full 1hr 30min behind 2009 pace.  We have retained the lead and are unable to see any riders behind us.  We keep the gas on through the time station and continue to try to gobble up the miles.  My mind returns to the horrors of 2009 where the hurricane force winds and blowing sands, broke my spirit to race and my 2009 ride turned from a race to a ride.  Tonight is different, the moon is up and bright, the wind continues to not do us any favors but we commit to soldiering on. The miles to the low point of the route, Badwater -249 ft elev, pass soon enough and we silently slide through. The road continues along the valley floor undulating up and down, around corner after corner.  The night and unfavorable winds continue. We soldier on. We limit our stops with feeds from the car and occasionally pick up a straight tailwind. 

At the south end of the valley, we make an equipment stop and take on as many calories as possible. I pop a no doze tablet hoping to proactive ward off any sleepiness. We quickly make the left turn and expect our headwind to turn into crosswind.  Wrong again, we begin the climb up Jubilee Pass, 5 miles 1,000ft and our headwind continues.  Luckily, my legs respond and we make quick work up Jubilee. A quick decent and onto Salsberry Pass, 9.5 mi 2,300 ft.  Now at mile 305 and about 1:30 am this climb will require a bit more work. My tempo soon begins to fade and I begin to struggle.  We stay focused but soon see that we have a racer approaching.  The crew quickly informs me that it’s a team coming up and they ask me to use them as motivation.  The team rider passes quickly and I keep them in my sites as we go over the top and onto the fast decent into TS4 Shoshone – 2:24 am, split of 5:33, 326.5 mi IN and 183.2 mi to GO.  We roll into Shoshone and roll through quickly.  The team has stopped to transition riders and we regain the “lead”.  The next 12 miles pass quickly with smooth roads and wonderful tailwind. I rejuvenate a bit as I am able to, for the first time, spin my legs out and maintain a good clip. We use the pursuing team as fuel to keep the pace up. We are soon on the 4mi climb of Ibex Pass.  The gradual slopes and smooth roads help us maintain a steady tempo.  The team re-catches us about ½ way up.  Over the top we take the gradual descent and take aim on Baker.  It’s now 4am, still very dark and quite cold.  I have taken on leg warmers, aero helmet, gloves, and thermal coat.  In the dark, cold and over 20 hrs of riding it’s hard to know how well we are or are not going.  While it seems like we are rolling well the Baker TS is not coming soon enough.  We soldier on.

Rolling thru the cold night (photo courtesy of AdventureCorps)

Finally we roll into Baker, TS#5, 5:32am, 22:32 total time, 3:08 split, 382.7 mi IN and 127 mi to GO.  We make a longer than usual stop. We have to gas up and try to take on calories.  I take in a coffee and about 300 calories only to have it all instantly come back up. Luckily that is all that comes up and we are back on the bike and rolling up the 20 mi KellBaker climb.  This climb looks mellow on paper but our headwind is back and the road is rough.  Going is tough and slow.  I making forward progress but I can’t tick the gear over. The climb takes forever and soon we discover my 41 minute lead over RR has evaporated.  RR has returned in a hurry.  He quickly passes me and puts additional time into me.  I attempt to lift my tempo but my legs refuse. They have one speed and it is unfortunately slow at this point.  We continue to struggle and road surface only gets worse.  We started in the dark and cold however it is now fully light and warming up. We stop to take some clothes off and come calories on.  The crew works hard to keep me focused and motivated.  We top out and quickly drop into Kelso TS#6 8:20am, 25:20 total time, 2:48 split, 417.6mi IN and 92 mi to GO. 

RR now has 8 min.  Wow, that is quick work. 

Trying to turn the gear over in the cold early morning

Immediately out of Kelso the climb of Granite Mountain starts, 2,000ft in 14mi.  The day is heating up now and calories are hard to come by. My once vast menu of food options has dwindled down to a select few items I am willing to tolerate: applesauce, grapes, gel/water mix, and coke/water.  The importance of the crew becomes even more apparent.  They keep the food coming in small manageable amounts and keep me focused on the race. Luckily, this climb goes moderately well and we top out in full sunshine and begin the long fast 16 mi decent into the last time station, Almost Amboy. 

We arrive in Almost Amboy, TS#7 9:55am, 2:07 split, 451 mi IN and 58 mi to GO.  We are now 18 minutes down.  We make a quick stop and discuss our menu options.  We agree the crew will come alongside every 10 minutes and provide me with a small amount of some type of food.  We ride down old Route 66 and make the left hand turn onto Amboy Rd which marks the real start of the last big section.  A 4-5 mi run in along some crazy salt flats / lava fields and then onto the last climb, Sheephole Pass, 1,500ft over 10mi.  Gradual grades initially the climb gets steeper toward the top. The temperature has risen dramatically and now is hovering somewhere in the 80s.  In the rising heat, I begin to wilt and am not looking forward to trying to get over this last climb.  Upon request, the crew creates an ice sock and I stop to put it under my collar.  It makes a huge difference and surprisingly, melts by halfway up the climb. We stop to refill and on I continue.  Finally, after a steep pitch or two we crest the summit and begin the 6 mile descent that brings you to the long, straight and slightly uphill run in to the finish.

This last section, is in fact, the part I was dreading the most. From the base of the decent to the next turn is about a 20mi run in that is dead straight, typical headwind, and 1-2% up hill.  Again, on paper it looks like a piece of cake but at this time of the race it is hard to not feel utterly defeated.  The crew keeps me updated on mileage and we make the necessary progress.  Finally, I get the update I have been wanting, “1 mi to the LEFT turn on Utah Trail Rd”.

Recovering post finish

We make decent work of the next few sections and roll into the finish line 31 hr and 19 min after we started. A full 59 min behind RR and into 2ndplace solo.  There is satisfaction for myself and the crew for a race well raced but more than a tinge of disappointment for knowing what could have been.  We raced the entire race but simply didn’t have the legs to finish it off.

 
 
 

Relief of a job well done (Photo courtesy of AdventureCoprs)

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HCC Athlete Report: Connie Clement

Everyone remember Connie’s first appearance on our blog here or her update here.  Well she has sent us some more feedback after her successful race at the Danskin Triathlon.  This is what she had to say about her race and her training leading up to the event.

 

The Danskin went great!  I felt completely strong and prepared.  I wasn’t particularly nervous at the start, which surprised me. I did get a little unnerved at the beginning of the swim, but that was just lack of experience. The bike leg was fantastic. I felt strong and had fun. I’m pleased with my 19 mph average.  The run went well. My goal was to keep my feet moving and at least jog, if not run.  The one big hill was slow and steady.  After recovering at the top, I realized I had about a quarter mile left to go, so I gave it everything I had left.

My goal going into this thing was to finish in the top half.  I ended up in the top 11%. I was ecstatic.  Brian’s training paid off. I feel completely satisfied.

Looking back at the training, it did take my free time. There are projects around the house that didn’t get done as a result of my training, but I didn’t have to sacrifice family time.  In fact, the support I felt from my family the day of the race was fantastic. In hindsight, I’m very glad I did the Danskin and very glad Brian prepared me so well. It was a good goal. I’m grateful to have completed the race so confidently. As for the projects that didn’t get done, they’ll be there next summer.

 

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Touf of Utah: TT and Crit

The TT stage was a bit off the grid so to speak and on the drive out there everyone in the team van was certainly a bit curious as to why the race organizer had us driving a ways out of SLC for a simple 9 mile TT.  Well that question was quickly answered when we pulled into the Larry H Miller motor sports park.  It proved to be an amazing venue.  Not only could spectators watch the entire race from the viewing area above, each team was giving a pit bay as a warm up area.  Pretty cool!  The course itself was pretty straightforward with most of it being on wide open racing track with large smooth turns allowing for ridiculously fast times.  Taylor Phinney pulled it off again averaging well over 33 mph to take the win.  Insane.

Oddly enough, that same adjective describes the course the race organizers had chosen for the “crit”.  The reason for the quotes? well lets say this “crit” had just shy of 5,000 feet of climbing and was held at 7,000 feet of altitude in Park City.  There was alot of grumbling about the course, and the time cut, which apparently was adjusted at the request of BMC’s team management.  Whatever the case maybe, I didn’t make it through it, and nor did 40 other guys.  It was an unfortunate end to my experience at the Tour of Utah and I would of really like to be one of maybe only 10 amateurs that actually finished the race.  I am sitting here in SeaTac airport about to board a plane to head to Philadelphia for Univest Grand Prix.  This will be my last race of the season, a fact that I am very ambivalent about.  Thanks for reading!

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Tour of Utah: America’s Toughest Stage Race

Well the mental stage race fog has cleared slightly and now I can try and share a bit of the amazing race that is The Tour Of Utah. This race certainly lived up to it’s billing with a short technical prologue, 3 hard road stages, a flat and super fast TT, and an insane crit held at over 7000 feet.

Having never really raced at anything above 5000 feet I was obviously a bit worried about the effect the thin air would have on my sea level blood. Some of my teammates had the good fortune of leaving straight from cascade classic to stay in Park City, UT for the three weeks prior to the race. While due to some life responsibilities I had to wait until a week before the race to head up to altitude in hopes of acclimatizing slightly prior to the race. Todd Hageman of Cole Sport was awesome in helping us out with a condo to stay in in Park City.

While they say altitude affects everyone differently I was amazed at the drastic differences I was pretty floored how bad I felt riding around the first couple of days. A tempo pace felt like it was darn near threshold and recovering from supra threshold efforts seemingly took forever. I took it very easy with two longer rides hoping I would feel a bit better during the race and would start feeling fresh and rested.

The race started with a short prologue around the Capitol building in SLC. Taylor Phinney blasted around the course to take the day and I had a decidedly terrible ride. While hard to completely say why I am pretty sure I blew it within the first minute where the course started on an uphill and I went out way too hard.  Pacing becomes even more crucial in such an extremely short effort, and I definitely didn’t nail it.

The next day was a road race starting in Ogden and ending on the outskirts of SLC. The route traversed two major climbs with some minor, but still challenging climbs sprinkled in for fun. The first climb wasn’t an insane pace by any means but still did enough damage to shred the field into several large groups which eventually came back together on the descent of the climb.  I latched on to of the last groups to rejoin and made it back into the field but could already I was pretty cooked.  There were a few hard sections leading up to the next climb.  Mainly, the section through the feed zone and over a dam had some shorter climbs that proved to be pretty difficult as the slight accelerations left me grasping to last few riders in the field.   There was one last hard acceleration as people jockeyed for position into the feed zone and I cracked hard.  I road with one other guy for the next 10 miles until the base of the final climb up Big Mountain.  I am not sure if it was the altitude or what, but I was unable to even make myself breathe hard going up the climb.  It was impossible for me to go hard and at the the crest of the climb I was caught by a large gruppetto containing my teammate Kennett and the current race leader Taylor Phinney.   We road pretty fast down the winding descent and rolled in together to the finish well behind the leaders.

I will continue this post in the next few days with some pictures.  Thanks for reading!

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Mt. Hood Cycling Classic Prologue

Post by Phil Elsasser

Well,  after spending the last several weeks dealing with some terrible allergies, things have started to come around a bit.  A visit to the doctor office and a lot of medication seem to have me feeling a bit better on the bike and certainly off.  Yesterday we started the 6 day stage race that is Mt Hood Cycling Classic.  The prologue was held on Portland’s International Raceway late in the evening under heavy rain.  Everyone did 2 laps for a total of 4 miles. I had a good warm up and felt like I rode pretty well, save for one left hand turn that I completely botched and ended up losing a lot of time on.  In a prologue every second counts, and every time you grab brakes, you can be sure you are losing some time.  Well I grabbed a lot of brakes, and lost a lot of time as a result.    The second lap was infinitely better.  I should have pre-road the course (dumb mistake).  Luckily with the hard racing to come later this week, the 26 six seconds I sit behind the leader will be insignificant.  Hopefully I will keep updates coming to the site throughout the week.  It is supposed to be a wet one.

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HCC Athlete Feature: Patrick Means

As a coach there is nothing more rewarding than seeing many of your atheletes achieving some great results.  Here at HCC we have been lucky to have several of our atheletes pull off some impressive results in the last months.  Since mid-winter, Patrick Means has been a client of HCC and has been tearing up the local racing scene both on and off the road.  We thought we would ask him a few questions about his recent success.

Patrick Means winning the Cat 3 Crit at Walla Walla Stage Race. Photo Courtesy of Wheelsinfocus.com

You just returned from one of your first mountain bike races of the season, how did it go?

It went really well.  The race is the Mudslinger, down in Oregon.  I helped build some of the trails for the race back in high school, so it’s kinda my home race.  It was the first mtb race of the year for me, those usually always suck!  It’s usually a shock to the system, all the intensity, but this year with all the racing I’ve done leading up to it, I kinda fell into the groove pretty quick.  I got 6th in the pros. And I almost had 5th place on the line!  It wasn’t the normal namesake conditions.  It was sunny and pretty warm!  typically this race is a bit earlier in the year and it’s wet wet wet, which is better for me usually.

Recently, on the road, you have enjoyed some pretty impressive results, can you list some of those for us?

I guess the highlight would be winning the Tour of Walla Walla Criterium in the Cat 3s.  Everything just fell into place during that race.  I then placed 2nd in the final road race the following day.  Those results, with a fairly solid time trial, and I was able to take 6th place on GC that weekend.  The following weekend I went and raced at the Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic down in Oregon.  I took 4th in the field sprint the first day, then 3rd the day after on maybe one of the greatest race courses that I’ve yet raced on.  I took 6th in the TT and finished with the pack in the Criterium, so I held onto 4th on GC.  Oh, and the weekend before Walla Walla I took 4th at Volunteer Park crit, then the next day was down at Olympic view road race, and flatted with 8 miles to go!  So yeah, I’m really happy with how the season has started out!

Why do you think things have been going so well?

don’t really know how to say it, other then, my head has been in the right space.  It was kind of hard winter, I was laid-off from my job, and it’s been trying, to say the least, at acquiring another one.   The community support has been great.  I am also keeping busy with other things, non-bicycle things, which is great.  This is good for balance and balance is key.  I am also really enjoying my training.  I started working with High Cadence Coaching Systems and that has been going great.  Great communication, good people, it’s really relaxed and pleasant working with them.  The workouts on the other hand… some of them, are really tough!

Have you felt well prepared for your recent races?
Extremely well prepared.  I feel rested heading into them and I can’t believe how fast recovery has been!  Some of it has been just taking care of my body.  I’ve been seeing Steve Noble at Noble Sports Chiropractic and Ed Layton, Acupuncturist, at Layton Health Clinic.  Both these guys have helped me a lot, staying healthy, faster recovery, injury prevention, too many things to list.  Also, the training heading into the racing has been very focused.  It’s clear that both Phil and Brian at High Cadence, not only do they have a ton or racing/training experience themselves and with clients, but they’ve got into the scientific studies of training.  They’ve done lots of homework to really learn how to train different people, for different objectives.  And they are excited about what they do!  It’s great.
What has been different from previous years?
I graduated from Western Washington University last fall.  Before, I’ve always been doing the school thing, work thing and the bike thing as well.  So no school this year and that is a big change.  My work situation has changed for the better, financially, it’s a little harder, but mentally/quality-of-life, it’s way better.  As I mentioned before, this is my first season working with High Cadence and I couldn’t be happier!
What are some of your upcoming races and goals?
Well,  one of my big goals for the season was to get enough points to upgrade to 2’s on the road, which I got at Walla Walla.  The next major goal is going to be Mountain Bike Nationals in July.  It’s at elevation, which is going to hurt, but it should be a really great experience.  There are many other races that I want to do, but I have to decide between the mountain or the road for a good few of them.  There is a chance that I’ll race the High Cascades 100 in Bend in August.  It’s a 100 mile mountain bike race on some amazing trails out near the Three Sisters and Mount Bachelor.  Then maybe some cyclocross in the Fall?
Any plans to upgrade to the big leagues soon?
haha!  Soon…  I think I’ll race another weekend as a 3 and then upgrade.  It’s funny, I couldn’t wait to get to the 2s before racing began, I didn’t even want to deal with the 3s.  But now that I’ve got the opportunity to upgrade, I’m hesitant.  I think a lot of people upgrade too fast.  It’s important to get experience being successful, for a couple reasons, morale being one, it’s also important to attain the top spot before you upgrade, when you win, something clicks, and you’re like, ok, I can do this again.

You just got back from one of your first mountain bike races of the

season, how did it go?

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NCAA Collegiate National Championships, Road Race.

By Ben Rathkamp

Friday, May 7th.  Madison, WI.

The weather sucked.  It was like the NW in march, 40’s and rainy.  So, I guess you could say it was like we had home field advantage.  Maybe that contributed to the ass whipping the WWU nationals team dealt out today.  The course was tough, too.  Lots of sharp rollers and one large climb.  We did 5 laps.  8000 feet of climbing total.  The rub was that at the end of the last lap, which is at the end of the climb, we take a turn off the course and climb some more, effectively doubling the climb.  Pretty intense.

Colin Gibson from Whitman and 3 others got in the early break.  We were content to let it go figuring that it was too long to stay away.  We, and everyone else was wrong.  We never saw the break again and Colin ended up in 5th.  Steve and Ian were super diligent about staying up at the front.  I don’t know how they do it, but they seem to always ride 4th or 5th wheel.  They are good bike racers.

The pace was pretty quick up the big climb each time.  There was one guy who would go to the front and pretty much rip the climb apart every time.  It was clear that he was the strongest guy out there.  That was why, when he was about attack and I was building up momentum following someone to the front, I followed him off the front.  I knew that there was no way I could stick his wheel on the climbs but I couldn’t just let him ride away, right?  That would be stupid!  So I rode with him and took maybe 25% of the pulls and he dropped me like a stone on the big climb.  All I could do was wish him luck.  After a few minutes, one of the other guys who was obviously stronger than anyone else and had attacked on the big climb caught me.  I got on his wheel and pretty much did the same thing as I did with the first guy.  I rode his wheel, then wished him luck when he pulled away from me on the climb.

At this point, I so tired my mind started to wander a bit.  I had some serious doubts about my legs, my life choices, my sanity and my present condition.  At times, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to make it all the way to the top of the final climb.  There was a little tunnel vision at times.  A few head droops.  Maybe some drooling, Etc.  I figured the field was going to come screaming up on me at any time and breeze right by me.  But I made it to the half way point of the final climb before the turn without any one catching me.  Then, like a coast guard inflatable motor boat coming to the rescue, I saw my teammate Logan Wetzel ripping up towards me.  I figured the field must be right behind him so I sped up as fast as I could to try to lead him out to the final steep section of the race.  But he was like, “take it easy! We’ve got a 30 second gap! Try to hold out and finsh ahead.”  What I didn’t know earlier when I was all doom and gloom was that there was no “group” anymore.  All the racers were strung out on the final climb and they were all questioning their life situation.  I wasn’t the only one who thought death was knocking on their helmet.  A few more riders caught me, before the finish including a certain Orca by the name of Ian Crane, but I managed to finish 12th.

38 people finished the race.  38 DNF’d.  That’s quite the ratio.

Time to rest up for the Crit tomorrow and the ttt on sunday.

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Filed under Ben Rathkamp, Race Reports, Uncategorized