Monday, April 20, 2015


     The format for San Antonio is always the same: Saturday morning is the 10km time trial followed about an hour later by the 20km road race and Sunday has a 5km time trial followed by a 40km road race.  First racer is off at 9 am, and this year the last one left around 10:25 am.  The venue is about a two hour drive from home and I choose to drive back and forth each day.  Actually, I tried staying over once but prefer sleeping in my own bed and having home-cooked meals.  This means I hit the road a bit before 6 am.
     We caught a break with the weather on Saturday, with storms on Thursday and Friday clearing out just in time.  The humidity was up but for the first time in years, the wind was down.  Expectations were low for MY event, the 10k or longer time trial.  In the last ten years I've only been off the podium once (2008) when racing against my own age group in Texas.  But my friend Bill Corty turned 70 and is is much faster than me, my fast friend Bill Earp is once again attending (but he is from Missouri), and another person is new to the age group and has posted better credentials.  Several others are close and with my lack of training sessions, I could be looking at 5th place.
     The Texas Research Park is a roughly two and a half mile circuit, with a back-side hill (incline).  For the time trial we do one complete circuit plus an out-and-back.  It is a great venue.  After checking in and doing social amenities with the other guys, I completed my 30-minute warm-up and prepared to race.  For the first time, San Antonio had chip timing.  Great improvement.  I could see that the holders were inexperienced.  At least not as bad as last year when the holder forgot to let go.  There is very little strategy in time trials, you go as hard as you can for as long as you can.  There are only two 90-degree turns, both wide.  The asphalt was still a little wet on one and there were patches of mud on the other, necessitating some caution.
     As it turned out, I happily managed to come in third behind the two Bills.  Since I started my computer about 15 seconds before the start and hit it again 5-10 seconds after, I'm thinking my actual time was a hair under 17 minutes.  I can say top speed was 31.4 and average 21.2 and my heart rate was in zone five for nine minutes and nine seconds.  All but 19 seconds were in zone four or five.  I used a lot of gears going up the back-side hill the second time.
     For the road race, I change wheels, since my Zipps are much faster than the Rolfs.  A lot of liquid, Clif Bars, and resting followed.  Generally I skip the 20k road race and just do the 40k, but because I only do these for the training and my training this year has been sparse, I joined in.  On the third of five laps Bob jumped at the start of the hill, the others followed and I managed to hang on.  Back together.  He jumped again at the same place, with the same result.  On the fifth lap I had to wave good-bye.  At least they were still in sight at the finish line.  Sixth place; not last.
     Sunday was much of the same, but the corners were dry and Bill Corty skipped the time trial.  Bill Earp only beat me by four seconds.  My top speed was 31.9 and average 19.7 (average speed is off since I started the computer a minute early).  Of the 8:11 it took to complete the course,  I spent 5:11 in zone 5 and 2:45 in zone 4.
     I had no illusions for the 40k and hoped they would putter around for the first five laps before getting serious.  No such luck.  Same guy jumped at the same place on lap three, drawing the two fastest guys with him.  Me and my friend Fred were a bit late, but gave chase, leaving the others behind.  We were about fifteen seconds behind and around a slight curve when we saw two guys on the ground.  It seems one guy (Bob) touched wheels with the one in front (Tom) and went down and Bill Corty was the third guy who couldn't avoid the crash.  Bill had a flat tire and Bob spent some time with Medical.  Tom continued on and built on his lead, while Fred and I tried our best to catch up.
     Actually, we tried to not let anyone behind catch us, since we now were sitting second and third.  On the next lap, going up the hill we came upon a large guy who had been dropped from his younger age group.  We don't follow USAC rules, so I latched on to his back wheel, with Fred behind me.  He was a bit slower going up, but really motored on the flats and downhills and was super in blocking the wind, which today was much stronger than yesterday.  Fred and I rode him for four laps until he finally gave it up on the hill.  About that time, Bob came by, having latched on to a small group of fast, young guys.  Dang!  We tried to hang with them, but they quickly left us behind.
    On lap nine I finally gave up the ghost on the hill and waved Fred on.  The quads were complaining as was my breathing.  I suffered through the last lap and only finished about thirty seconds behind Fred.  Well, I didn't expect to medal in this race, but fourth wasn't so bad.  It was only after we were sitting around the cars winding down and packing up that Jaime said Bob was two laps down because of getting patched up, not the one lap we had figured.  So Fred garnered silver and I came home with a bronze.  Purely lagniappe as far as I'm concerned.
     Stats for the 40k: Heart Rate Zone 5 - 20:32; Zone 4 - 51:27, quite a workout for an old guy.  Top speed of 35.1 with an average of 18.6.  The back-side hill low speed was 14 mph for the first three laps, 12 mph for the next four, and 10 mph for the last three.  The top speed for the first three laps was 28 mph, but for the next four it was 30 mph, then it dropped to 27 except I pushed it up to 30 for the finish.
     Make no mistake, I like to race.  But my main cycling focus is taking bike vacations.  I have three bike trips and two non-bike tours lined up for this year.  It crimps my training a bit, but I keep reminding myself racing is secondary.  When I tout that "I'm the fastest man in Texas" it is with my tongue firmly in my cheek.  I cycle for fun, with medals more a witness to my health than to prowess in racing.

Monday, April 13, 2015


     Our Sunday ride leader always, always stresses safety before each ride.  At the beginning of April a cyclist was descending a steep hill when a pickup truck made a left turn in front of him, resulting in his death.  We are encouraged to have a flashing strobe light on the front (as well as the back) whenever we ride, day or night.  This reminded me of an article I read years ago, and thanks to my search engine, I found one which makes the same point.
     If you don't care to read this (but it is enlightening), I'll give you the short version: unless we train our brains to recognize cyclists, it takes longer to "see" them, sometimes never seeing them.  In the article I remember, the point was the brain will interpret a cyclist as a tree or stop sign because we are more vertical than say, a car.  Of course, our brains are trained but it isn't us who we are worried about.
     Therefore it is incumbent on us, the cyclists, to do whatever we can to make ourselves visible: bright colors, hand (full hand, please) and arm horizontal movements, reflective clothing, and flashing lights are some of the things that come to mind.  Being respectful of traffic lights and stop signs are another.
     Your actions have consequences.  For instance, running a stop sign might trigger a negative reaction in a vehicle, who might react against the next cyclist he sees.  Give a good example ALL the time.
     Years ago, when I was training for my coast-to-coast trip, part of my Sunday ride included Bee Cave Road.  Those familiar with the area know that with the wind behind you, going down the hill toward Weston Lane can generate 40 mph or more (still less than the vehicle speed limit).  On such a morning I approached Weston in excess of 35 mph when a pickup left the stop sign in front of me.  I braked and did a hard right but unfortunately rolled my tire off the rim and went down hard.  I had my Camelbak to break the fall but still it took a few minutes before I could move.  While laying in the middle of Weston Lane I saw the pickup continue east.  I guess his conscience got the better of him, in that he circled back around to check on me.  Nothing broken, only a few scrapes, thanks to the Camelbak and my helmet.  Oh yeah, the driver was a cyclist on his way to his Sunday ride.
     My other vehicle accident involved a pickup that rolled a stop sign.  I had the right of way, saw him and saw him slow to the stop sign.  Unfortunately, I was obstructed by his windshield post, and he didn't come to a complete stop and accelerated.  His left front fender connected with my front wheel.  Again, Camelbak and helmet saved the body.  He did have to replace my front wheel.
     Be safe.  Be alert.  Do what you can to be seen.  And remember, it doesn't do you any good to be dead right.