by Buzz Wright
Gary and Jimmy both did very well in the TT so the plan was to try to help them get some high placings to give them not only some omnium points, but some upgrade points as well. Michael and I decided to have some fun by repeatedly attacking the field to see what might happen. Jimmy and Gary just needed to stay with the main group and save their energy for the finish. On the final lap I would do whatever I could to bring them as close to the finish with as few contenders around them as possible. I was really excited to have a race where I could attack like crazy and not worry about blowing up and finishing at the back. Racing with teammates and having a purpose really makes racing all that much more enjoyable.
Buzz at the start, about to light up attack #1 of 30
For the first two laps Michael and I attacked -- and counter-attacked -- and then attacked some more -- causing the field to yell and scream and shout and chase and then yell and shout and chase and on and on. It was fantastic fun. The field even started yelling out when we were simply moving up a few slots. They were hyper sensitive to any motion coming from an orange jersey. It was hard to hold back the smiles.
I had a few more decently sized matches at the ready and was planning a couple more attacks during the third lap when I picked up a thorn in the front tire and slowly, grudgingly, rolled to a stop. Ugh, a flat during a road race with no wheel support. No! Such a bummer. The race was really a ton of fun and I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't continue to be a part of it. When I finally made it back to the start/finish I asked the officials if I could be given a free lap -- road races would be even better if they were criteriums. Oh well.
I watched and cheered for my teammates as they finished the race. Things didn't go as planned but we all had a great time and the lunch afterward was delicious!
Post-race calorie replenishment
by Buzz Wright
I really liked this course last year. It's fast and smooth and I had some great finishes. I was expecting similar racing, even though they changed it up a bit and ran the course backwards. Oddly enough though, the race surged a lot, which was annoying especially since with the new direction I think we really could have flown through those corners. I stayed near the front and nothing much happened except getting to watch Michael go after some primes with some impressive flyers.
With 3 laps to go I was getting frustrated with all the surging so I decided to try to prompt the front riders to start stringing things out in preparation for the final lap. I pulled for about half a lap and then peeled off hoping to have more guys pull through to continue the pace. They didn't, which deflated me desire to stay in position and I ended up just drifting to the back of the pack. Kind of a frustrating race because I know it could have been a lot faster / fun. Oh well.
Buzz during the Cat 4 race
(photo by Christy Camera Photography)
I was alone for this race which was a bit of a bummer for me because I really like racing with my teammates, but it was also nice to just kind of do my own thing. The pace was strong and hard and fast but then we would have the same surging that we had in the 4's race (very annoying). But when the pace picked back up man it was rough. Really rough. More than a couple times I came very close to peeling off and sitting up to go home. I don't know who it was, but there was one spectator that would call out my name every other lap or so and that really helped keep me motivated to push on. Whoever you are, thanks!
I was in a decent position with a handful of laps to go but after a couple more surges I ended up around 20 guys back and with just 1 lap left I didn't have much hope for a top 10 finish, but I poured every ounce of energy I had left into moving past guys. I was able to get 15th and was happy with that.
by Buzz Wright
This is a fun course but with the slight climb every lap and my lack of training in anaerobic zones the past couple months I wasn't expecting much with these races. The plan was to stay near the front and surf the group as needed to conserve energy, and then work for Gary and/or Jimmy in the final laps to give them a good shot at a top 10 finish. For the first time in a race I took forever clipping into my pedals, which resulted in my being at the very back of the group before we'd even completed a lap. That was annoying. I got to work moving forward with the hopes of making it to the front without using too much extra energy, which was harder than normal because the course is short and narrow in some spots, sort of forcing the only "move up" area to be on the climb -- which is where I didn't want to spend extra energy.
I was able to move up here and there, 1 or 2 spots per lap, but with such a large field it took pretty much the entire race to get within 5 spots of the front. With a few laps to go I found Gary and told him to get on my wheel. On the bell lap I planned on burning a nice big match -- hopefully giving Gary a nice springboard to launch from. Unfortunately, a rider went down in the dumpster corner and I had to scrub a lot of speed to avoid joining him. That effectively ended our race so we just sat up and rolled to the finish. I was happy though that my legs weren't completely wasted.
Different race, basically the same plan. This time I was able to clip in correctly, which was nice. The pace was fast but I felt comfortable enough. At some point (about halfway through I think) Gary was starting to fade a bit and there was a gap from him to the main group. I moved up to fill the gap for him and politely encouraged him to continue the rotation of his pedals (read: I yelled at him). I spent a few laps surfing between the group and Gary, trying to tow him back up in contact with them. We made it a couple times but when the big surges came he fell back off and spent a lot of energy without a draft. I sat back up and waited for him, then tried my best to give him a consistent steady strong pace that would not shell him, but would be enough to drop the other riders that were on his wheel. It worked and we ended up alone together, 10 seconds or so behind the front group, and 10 seconds or so ahead of the guys behind us. I may have yelled at him a couple more times, or maybe a dozen -- which may or may not have been captured on video and posted to Facebook. I have no way of knowing because I don't know what a Facebook is.
With 2 laps to go I felt reasonably sure we wouldn't get caught by the guys behind us and I also felt that unless I dropped my power output by 50 watts I would puke all over Gary... so I peeled off and (politely encouraged) Gary to keep pushing hard to the finish. Fun race, didn't puke (thumbs up).
Buzz working for Gary (photo by Damion Alexander)
by Michael Hast
The Tolero Criterium course at Casa Adobes Church is always fun and challenging. Lot's of turns and an uphill finish. The Cat 4/5 race had 47 riders, so a big field for the half mile course. Initially I stayed in the top 10 of the field and when it was impossible to catch the breakaway from Colton and Lynn, I settled further back in the pack and conserved my energy for the 2nd race. The 2nd race was my first Masters race, Masters 35+, 40+ and 45+. It was more intense than the 1st race and my goal was to stay with the leaders the entire race. With 4 laps to go, a gap opened up in the middle. I took that opportunity and with nobody chasing me, had a decent size break until the last lap. Then the chase group caught up to me right before the last turn and I finished 5th in the sprint.
by Michael Hast
When we arrived at 8 am in Avondale it was cold and I was shivering. But while getting ready the sun came out and it warmed up nicely. The first race was the Cat 4/5 40+. I was a marked man because I won the last Cat 4/5 40+ race in the first Avondale Crit. Any of my moves where carefully observed and any breakaways right away caught. I even won 2 primes without contention, because nobody wanted to expend extra energy, but they saved it all for the finish. So my strategy was easy, let me do a lot of work and try to protect my teammates Gary and Jimmy. Keep the pace high and the group stretched out. I won my last prime with 2 laps to go, but was passed shortly after that and let Gary and Jimmy go at it in the sprint.
The Cat 4 race had again a very strong field. Breakaways were right away caught. There were 2 primes and I made it my mission to fight for both of them. But my legs did not provide the needed sprinting power.
by Coul Hill
The 2016 Valley of the Sun stage race is in the books. I started the weekend very well, as the race leader, by winning the time trial!
Then came Saturday, which brought me a whole new world of experience: a defense only style of road racing. With the leader’s jersey on my shoulders, and no team either, I found that I not only had no friends in the peloton, but that no offensive maneuver on my part would be allowed. There were a few guys, like 2 or 3, that tried to work with me, but anything with me in it was quickly wrapped up by a plethora of blockers whose seemingly only mission on the day was to hold me back. So, a break away did get up the road. It was not a group all at once, but an eclectic set of one and two guys at a time…the only ones I didn’t chase. I chased most of everything, but it wasn’t enough. In the future, in the same situation, I’d need to chase everything without exception.
Anyway, I stayed with the group until the last climb (about mile 90 or so), when as we started to ascend, another rider took out my front wheel in an aggressive maneuver, seemingly intentional, that slowed my momentum and cost me about 15 bike lengths. I dug in to catch the momentum of the group and then about 30 seconds later there was a big crash right in front of me which forced me to brake and go around it (still on the climb) and thus had me finish about 39 seconds behind pack. My 9/10 of a second lead turned to a 1:51 deficit that had me in 14th place overall headed into the final race, the criterium.
I had a good strategy lined up for the crit, and as we were in the opening turns I was making good progress up the pack (having started in the very back), when on our third lap I was on an inside corner and I needed only an inch to get past a curb, but the other rider (who had many inches to give) would not budge, thus causing a large crash with me, him, and about a half dozen other guys.
We jumped back to the pit, checked in with the ref, and got reinserted on the following lap. From that point on I really struggled, I mean HARD, to stay with the pack. My wattage was really high, but I couldn’t get past the back of the pack. So, I finished with the pack (back of the pack pack-fodder) and thus received a pack time, but it wasn’t until after the race that I discovered that both my wheels had been knocked out of true in the crash. My front wheel was hard on the brake pad for about 90% of each rotation and my rear was also having some rub action as well. I effectively rode to a pack finish while essentially riding my brakes the whole time. That’s a good workout. At any rate, despite sub-par finishes on Saturday and Sunday, I managed to hold on to 14th overall for the weekend which sends me home with 2 upgrade points as a consolation prize. That, and of course, Friday’s victory—my first win of 2016, AND a leader’s jersey. I didn’t get the big win, but huge off season gains are evident and I’m excited to be looking down the barrel of a strong 2016 campaign.
It was a great weekend. I’m thankful for the victory, the experience in the leader’s jersey, the upgrade points, protection amidst the crash, minimal bike damage, my Christian Cycling comrades from Tucson, my wife, my mother-and-father-in-law and my dad who came to see us here in Phoenix. I’m thankful for solid coaching that has already paid huge dividends. I’m thankful that I’m not satisfied—I am hungry for victory and I will prepare accordingly to achieve it. I’m thankful for the salvation that Christ gave me freely, how that so radically changed my life, and that God has blessed me with drive, determination, discipline, and ability to do this and excel; I pray that I use those gifts to bring honor and glory to Him. Also, I’m thankful, blessed, and honored to have the incredible support of my loving wife and best friend, Collene Hill.
by Ken Huizenga
This race was a must do for me as I really enjoyed it in 2015 and wanted another chance to mark some improvement in my Cycling. I had my Training Peaks Calendar fully filled out for January to be in the best form ever for this race. VOS was to put this to the test.
The best laid plans do not always work out. I fought a month long cold for much of January and my lungs took a while to heal from it. I did try to force the body to train, but all I did forcing the issue was set myself back. Not being one to quit, I still did sign up the race and gave it a shot.
The weather could not be more perfect. No wind, sunny and 65 degrees. I started off shooting for FTP and focused on steady power. I wanted to be careful to not blow up on the uphill first section. I was 1:10 ahead of last year at the half way point. I made the turn and mentally was ready to empty the tank. My speed increased and I felt ready to push hard to the line. I miscalculated my effort and when I hit the 3km to go sign I had about emptied the tank. I struggle a few more remaining minutes and crossed the line empty.
I was :22 faster than last year and sat 22nd out of 27. Not great and definitely not as well as I had hoped. All I could take from this effort is that I had improved over last year, but again proved that a few weeks missing from my planned training had hurt this effort a ton.
The starting line was the first time I saw the group of guys in the Cat 5 group. My first impression was that there was a lot of youth this year. My racing age is 50 this year and the one thing I lack is twenty year old energy. I sensed that I was in trouble.
After a longer than normal neutral start, we were off. I was happy to have stayed attached to the group at the end of the first climb. Upon the start of lap two, they turned it up a notch. I stayed within eyesight of the peloton but slowly started to fall back. I was hoping to have a few guys to work with but seemed I was in the middle of two groups, kind of flying solo. I knew at some point this was going to be a mental game so I settled into a manageable power range and just keep a strong tempo. I finished strong with a guy from the 50+ masters and was happy with my effort. All in all I had some personal bests and enjoyed the race.
I was in the first group and racing was to begin at 7:15 am. Many of us were out warming up on the course even before the sun came up. Today I felt strong and confident. The race started and I saw 230 Watts pretty constantly for the first few laps. I faded to the back third of the pack. It was comfortable there. The GC Leader was back there beside me most of the race as he had an 8 minute lead and wanted to stay out of trouble. I encouraged him to get in front of me as I did not want to in anyway interfere with in carrying out his plan. He said he was comfortable with me and to carry on, so with this off my mind I continued to work. About 20 minutes in, the group was pushing 240 watts and things were picking up. I began to think for the first time about what I was going to to on the last lap. This was a different mental place to be for me because i’m usually a little off pace by now. Was I actual going to contend for the final sprint?
The last lap bell rang and I was hanging on the main pack. We were down to the last 4 turns. I felt the pack begin to slip as they put on a surge and off they went. They put about 20 yards on me with a 325 watt burst. I did not have that in my tank at this point. I fell back about 30 seconds and finished strong as I could. This day I was close but the kids did me in. Oh to be young again. I felt good about my effort and the progress I had made. Overall it was a great trip and three awesome days of racing. Thanks to my teammates for their continuing encouragement and congratulations to Coul for grabbing a leaders jersey. Thank You Collene for all the great photos including the one below!
by Buzz Wright
Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love TTs. This one in particular was incredibly exciting due to its complex course design, technically challenging terrain, and the unlimited number of available team tactics that would no doubt be a huge factor.
First, we lined up in numerical order and waited for our turn to climb up some stairs onto the platform. It was really, really, really cool to figure out where my place would be in the line. Once it was my turn, one of the officials held my bike steady while I clipped into my pedals, which was awesome. I clipped into the left pedal first and then the right one, which is exactly how I had planned on doing it while rehearsing it waiting in line. Another official gave me the 10-second warning and them counted me down from five. It. Was. Such. An. Epic. Count. Down.
Buzz about to do what he truly loves
Coming down the ramp from the platform is extraordinarily dangerous but I'm happy to report that I did not crash. Once I was safely on flat road I consulted the TT plan I had taped to my top tube. It read, "Start, ride, turn, ride, stop." I did some quick math in my head and determined that I should be in "ride" mode. So that's what I did.
After [who cares] minutes I arrived at quite possibly the most exhilarating, thought-intensive, tactically challenging portion of this particular TT. The turn. Luckily I had poured over the TT section of the Technical Guide and knew, without a doubt, that I would be making a right turn. This is where things got really dicey for me and I almost made a huge, enormous, gigantic error.
Apparently, in my excitement for the TT I had misread the Technical Guide and did not realize that the turn would be to the left. Fortunately though, there were around a dozen course officials with red flags yelling and pointing for me to turn left. My mind raced as I immediately assessed the situation, made a swift course correction on the fly, quickly re-positioned my body in order to take the turn on the most optimal line, and just completely railed that corner. It. Was. Oh. So. Thrilling.
I checked my top tube notes once again to see if I was at the "stop" part yet or not. I was supremely delighted to find that I still had another "ride" portion to thoroughly enjoy. So again, I rode.
Unfortunately though, all good things must come to an end. And for me, this meant only getting to experience [embarrassingly high number] minutes of this amazing TT. I crossed the finish line to thunderous applause and what appeared to be a penguin marching band. I consulted the top tube notes once again, and proceeded to "stop" just as I had planned. I learned many new things during the TT and am very happy with my performance in almost perfectly executing my plan to start, ride, turn, ride, and then stop.
All joking aside, TTs are tough and kudos to the guys that actually do well in them. I am very proud that Coul took 1st in the Cat 2 TT.
Buzz really, really enjoying life (photo by Collene Hill)
My legs were a bit sore from the TT and after my mediocre performance in the Oracle road race I didn't have much hope for this one. Luckily the climb isn't very long and I thought that I would be able to hang with the group until the last lap. Unfortunately, even though I positioned myself at the front when the climbing began and then drifted back during it, I did not have enough strength to maintain contact and ended up in a chase group of around 15 guys. I was happy though that both Jimmy and Gary where in the chase group with me. We tried for a bit to catch back up to the main group but it became apparent that it would not happen.
I was red-lined again up the climb, losing contact with the chase group but able to get back on during the descent. The final time up the climb I did my best to hold a decent position but didn't have the strength to avoid being at the back when we crossed the line. I figured I would be a few spots up from dead last but to my surprise was 37th out of 53. My lap times were 3% faster than last year and my average power was 26% higher which suggests that the competition in the 4's this year is pretty dang strong this season.
Napping after the road race
After a very fun 4th place finish in this crit last year, I had high hopes for a decent race this year. While my fitness/strength is still not back to where it should be, I felt I would be able to hang with the group for the duration. Unfortunately there was some pretty poor decisions made by other racers (one in particular) during the crit, which caused multiple crashes -- one of which took out Gary. I was agitated and frustrated with 3 laps to go but was able to get into a decent position for the final lap. The group slowed and bunched up though and I fell back without much desire to regain my position. I was sitting 15-20 back for the final corner but sprinted anyway, taking 17th out of 47. I was happy that I had done pretty well in the race but was upset with what had happened to Gary.
Overall it was a fun weekend of racing with great friends. It was a blast to see Coul again and I can't wait for this race next year.
Carb-loading at Buca di Beppo
by Buzz Wright
Masters 35+ Cat 4/5
I've been able to somewhat regain my aerobic endurance the past few weeks but my legs are still pretty weak and I have no jump right now. No jump at all. No sprint either. No power, no speed, no acceleration. It will come back after I get some solid interval training in, but for these races I had little hope of avoiding being pulled again. My hope was to hang with the group as long as possible and I really wanted to see Jimmy gain confidence in crits. The plan was to stay near the front to minimize the surging and have Jimmy stay on my wheel. If I were able to hang on for the finish I would do what I could to give him a leadout for the sprint.
As it turned out, I was able to stay with the group for the entire race which was a nice surprise. With a couple laps to go I made sure Jimmy was on my wheel and worked as hard as I could to keep us in the top 5. I knew we needed to move up to the front on the bell lap but I just didn't have the power to get up there and we remained in 5th place going into the final corner. Out of the corner I tried to give Jimmy a leadout but I had nothing to give. My "sprint" was horrendous, only taking me from 27.7 mph to 30.6 but it was good enough to hold my spot (5th).
My legs were done after the first race. The plan for the second one was just to hold on for as long as possible. The field was pretty big, resulted in a lot of surging which just annihilated whatever remaining strength I had in my legs. Lap after lap I lost positions until eventually I fell off the main group, resigning to riding out the remaining time in a smaller chase group. The chase group was never organized enough to avoid being pulled and after a few more laps that's what happened. It was frustrating to be pulled from a race after 20 minutes but it meant I could watch and cheer for Jimmy.
by Jimmy Davis
This year during our team meeting to set up our race schedule I selected 26 races to compete in...obviously that is way too many races for a year. I knew there would be some races that I would not be able to compete in but I wanted to make sure I had them on my radar. The Sun Devil criterium was one of those races that I really wanted to do but did not know if I will be able to squeeze it in.
During our team photos and after being assured that Ken would race (not) I decided to go ahead and sign up. I just bought a new bicycle (Propel Advanced SL2) and I was eager to try it out in a race. Eric and Buzz also had planned on doing the race so I looked forward to racing with them.
Masters 35+ Cat 4/5
During the first race we had a very simple plan; I would simply stay on Buzz's wheel for the entire race, for the most part that's exactly what I did. Buzz and I lined up on the outside because the first turn is a right-handed turn and pretty sketchy and bumpy. Eric lined up on the inside but we were all pretty much on the front row. As the race began we made it around the first corner and soon we were up to speed. I had decided that I would use the first few laps to see how I felt in the corners and whether or not I would be able to stay on Buzz' wheel. This plan worked out really well for me as I was able to gain confidence on the course.
When we came around for the final lap I felt great and sprinted to hold my place. I did make some tactical mistakes in that I was in the wrong gear to sprint but every race you learn a little something.
The second race we did was the cat 4/5 race. Buzz and I lined up in the second row on the outside so that we would be in position for the first right hand turn. Right after the first lap or so I noticed that the pack was beginning to split up. While there were 56 people in our race I believe there were 72 people at the start line and I knew with such a big group they would have to start pulling riders out of the race fairly early. At some point, I saw the pack was beginning to break apart and I made an effort to get back on with the lead group.
Throughout this race there were many times when the pack broke apart. Each time I would work with other riders to reconnect with the lead group. During one of the laps there was a crash in the first corner, there were many crashes in that corner throughout the day. This crash broke up the pack again and it caused me and several other riders to have to work really hard and long to reconnect with the lead group.
With about 7 laps to go we reconnected and I knew that it was important to move up. It was very encouraging to hear my teammates yelling, "Jimmy, move up!" I knew that I needed to move up but after doing all the work to reconnect I was nervous about putting out any more energy. Also, I was not willing to risk anything to gain a few positions although I wish I would have been a little more aggressive during that time. Finally, with two laps to go I realized that I felt pretty good but I didn't take any risks in the corners and on the final lap I sprinted and only gained two more positions. I finished 24/56 (72).