by Michael Hast
We raced in various categories in the Campus Criterium on Saturday and then on Sunday in the Oracle Road Race at the Santa Catalina Omnium. Congratulations to Steven Terry for placing 3rd in the Omnium in the Cat 4/5 35+. It was a strong field where Philip Brown from Aggress won.
Men Cat 3/4
The Campus Criterium course was clockwise around the mall at the UfA with a sweeping corner on the west side and a hairpin corner on the east side (at Campbell). Every time we accelerated out of both of those corners which took a toll on the field. My strategy was to make it hard for the first 10 minutes of the race to shake up the field. On the 4th lap there was a crash on the hairpin turn because the first rider went into the turn with too much speed. We all went around him, I took the lead and a prime was announced. I was able to lead the pack around the course and won the prime, a box of R Bars. I was also able to win the second prime, a pair of tires from the Bicycle Tire Club. My plan wasn't to win the primes, but to find someone in the field to work with for a possible break. But nobody in the field thought it was a good idea. I eventually faded from all those accelerations and was passed through to the end of the field. I stayed there until the end of the race. But the accelerations kept on going.
The Campus Criterium was already a tough race with all those accelerations, but the Oracle Road Race with over 4000 ft. of climbing on a 54 mile course was even more challenging. The climbers among the racers were definitely favored to win in the road race. My plan was to stay with the field until the final climb. And I should have listened to my plan. On the first climb 2 riders broke away and stayed away. After the turnaround in Oracle we headed into a headwind and nobody wanted to work to chase down the 2 riders. I attacked and wanted to bridge to those riders to potentially work with them and get a head start on the second climb. I caught the first rider Peter, but he wasn't able to stay with me on the downhill. After that I worked hard to catch the first rider, but never able to. The field caught me right after the turnaround at the bottom of the climb. Now the final climb was upon us. I stayed near the end of the field of 20 riders to protect myself from any cross or head winds. It worked out pretty well, but when the attacks started to happen my legs did not respond as I wanted them to. There was a decisive attack heading into the outskirts of the town of Oracle which I was unable to respond to. The winners of the race had about a 30 second lead on me when crossing the finish line. I placed 9th and was pretty happy with my first Cat 3/4 road race.
by Michael Hast
Friday's race was the Masters Men Cat. 4/5 40+. It was a combined race of Masters Men Cat. 4/5 30+/40+/50+ with a field size of about 30 riders. I had high hopes because the course, an L-shape course with a 180 degree turn, was the same as last year. Last year the acceleration out of the 180 degree turn caught me by surprise, so this year I accounted for that in my training. Jimmy and Jeff (from Colorado) raced together with me, but in a different age category. At the begin of the race it was announced that some riders would be randomly drug tested after the race by USADA. It was important for us to check in after the race, otherwise that rider would have been found positive for testing for drugs.
Before the race, I didn't really strategize with Jimmy nor Jeff. We just wanted to get a feeling for the competition and the race course. My intent was to tire out the competition with attacks and then eventually end up in a break. That only worked to a certain degree, the competition said they were hurting during the race, but not enough to launch a break away. So we ended up with a mass sprint to the finish and I didn't set myself up early enough to place in the top 10. Jimmy and I placed 6th in our categories.
After the race I almost forgot to check in with the race officials to see if I was chosen for the random drug test, but thanks to Jimmy for reminding me. Annnnnnnd I was chosen for drug test. Well after a 30 minute race in the afternoon sun, it was hard pee in the cup. 6 riders were chosen and we all drank at least 3 bottles of water. 1 1/2 hours later it was finally over. I definitely don't envy the pros that have to do this all the time.
by Michael Hast
On Sunday was the Cat. 4 State Criterium Championship race. So far this year the Cat. 4 races have been more competitive than the Masters Cat. 4/5 40+ races. So I was looking for some strong young riders to go on a break with. Jimmy told he was hesitant to go to the front of the pack during Fridays race in fear of being stuck up front. I told him our strategy should be that he should go up front and I will launch an attack to relieve him from the front position. Or we would both go to the front and one of us attack.
After the 1st lap we did just that, we went to the front just after the 180 degree turn, but didn't launch an attack just yet. I was waiting for prime to be announced and someone chasing that prime. Someone always does and so the attack was on. The attack after the 1st prime didn't succeed, but there is always another prime. The rider who won the second prime had a decent gap (see video 1:00 min) and after catching that rider, I launched another attack. Adam from Tucson Endurance followed, passed me, telling me we had a gap (see video 1:28 min). From that time I dug deep and wanted that break to succeed. Adam and I worked well together switch the lead every half a lap. Eventually Adam told me, he will dig in one more time and bring me to line for me to take a the prime and them I am on my own. He worked hard and had to drop back (see video 2:18). Adam from the MORE Foundation Cycling Team bridge up to me and brought new energy into the break. At times he put in such an effort that I couldn't hold his wheel. But I dug in deep and said to myself, if this is the last lap of my life, let's give it all I got. With 2 laps to go we had about a 20 second gap which is not much, but after a 35 minute race the chasers are usually tired as well. Starting on the last lap after the 180 degree turn Adam sprinted which took me by surprise, but I stayed calm and concentrated on catching his wheel again. After the last turn we both started our sprint and Adam out sprinted me. I was very happy and give thanks and all the glory to my Heavenly Father for the 2nd Place finish in the Cat. 4 and winning one prime.
I have to give thanks to my wife Tina who cheered me on and took this video, to Jimmy for lending me his backup bike (the team bike ;-)) and both Adams and their teammates who helped the break to succeed.
by Michael Hast
The Marana Heritage Criterium was put on for the first time by Tolero Racing, GST Racing and ChristianCycling Tucson. Because of our volunteer efforts at the event, I was the only one from our team to race. I approached Colton to work together to get a break going fairly early in the race. We decided to make our moves right after the primes were given. The first prime was announced after the first lap. We attacked, but got caught fairly early on Tangerine. We mixed with the pack until the second prime was announced.
During that prime lap the pace slowed down quite a bit and it came to a crash where Colton was involved. The crash happened behind me, so I didn't know until we passed that area on the next lap that Colton was out. I attacked after someone won the second prime and Noah from Tucson Endurance jumped on my wheel. I rode hard all the way on Tangerine to the turn on Lon Adams and saw Noah fade away. David from Team Santini USA caught up with me and we rode a few laps in the breakaway together. David did a couple of great pulls, but unfortunately couldn't keep the pace. I rode by myself for the last 2 laps and had a gap of 22 seconds. During those 2 laps I managed to win a prime, 2 Schwalbe tires. But on the last lap a rider did a monster pull for his friend, bringing the pack back to me on the finishing stretch. I got caught 200 meters before the finish. Here is a video of the finish posted by Christy Camera Photography.
It was great racing. I loved every minute of it. Let's do it again!!!
by Buzz Wright
Both Gary and I were signed up for 3 races and my plan for all three was to work for Gary to try to get him some top-10 finishes and hopefully a few upgrade points. The course was new this year and I really liked it -- smooth and fast. There were a decent number of attacks in the this race, most of them getting chased down pretty quickly. One rider went off the front for a while but being solo nobody seemed too worried. He was left out for a few laps and then caught during a prime lap. With 4 to go I checked for Gary and started to get ready to put in a strong effort on the final lap for him.
Buzz hydrating (photo by Ricardo Arduengo)
We stayed near the front to defend our top-10-ish position and then on the bell lap I looked for the right time to burn my match. On the back stretch I pushed hard on the outside and moved us up a few spots heading into the last two corners. My legs were pretty spent and I wanted to save a little for the next two races so I decided to peel off before the final corner. Gary was able to get 10th place which was awesome but I think I could have pushed a little harder and continued my effort through the final corner to help him out more. Fun race, and Gary got a great result.
With the same plan and a lot of comfort with the course I had some high hopes for this race. Gary and I stayed near the front and within sight of each other. I took the outside lines through most of the corners while Gary opted for the inside lines to be more sheltered from the wind. Everything was going great until 2 laps to go when a rider touched wheels and went down. It happened to the left of me and I knew Gary was on that side but wasn't sure if it had taken him out. I checked a couple times and didn't see him so I figured he must have got caught behind it.
Buzz hanging on (photo by Ricardo Arduengo)
Without Gary on my wheel I decided to do my best to finish well and maybe get an upgrade point or two. On the bell lap I was able to get in to a fantastic position sitting 4th wheel, but my legs were screaming. We took the final corner and I put in the best sprint I could muster (which wasn't much). My jump just isn't there right now, not anywhere near what I had last year when I was training those anaerobic zones. I was passed by a couple guys and ended up taking 6th place, which was good enough for one point. I was happy with the result but concerned for Gary.
Turned out that Gary did go down in the crash, but he wasn't too banged up and his bike did not get damaged. He was disappointed but still wanted to race in the third race.
My legs were pretty toasted for this race, but I was able to hang on during the rough surges (one which lasted multiple laps) and maintain a decent position near the front of the group. I checked for Gary often and after a while noticed that he had been dropped from the group during that long, strong surge. With 4 to go I burned a couple small matches getting up to the front and with 2 to go I was sitting third wheel.
The guy at the front had done a lot of work and was looking pretty tired so I decided to shift back a couple spots because I didn't want to hit the front too early. I soft-pedaled through one of the corners to give up three positions and then slotted back in as we started the bell lap. During that lap the pace was blistering and I lost a couple positions prior to the final corner. I again had no sprint and was only able to get 13th place, but I was happy with how I had raced.
It was a great day, even though Gary hit the deck. We had a lot of fun hanging out with friends and watching the P123 race before heading back to Tucson.
by Buzz Wright
Without teammates my general plan was to stay in the pack and save energy for the finish, with the hope of getting the last two upgrade points I need to move up to the 3's. Lynn and Evan from Tolero were also in this race and we chatted a bit pre-race about working together to get some good results for Tucson. I remembered two things from this race last year: the course is long-ish and the finishing sprint is short. You really need to be in the top 5 prior to the final corner if you want to podium.
Number pinning assistance from the steering wheel
The race was pretty tame to start but after a couple laps some attacks starting going, prompting chases. I surfed the group a bit and moved around to try to find the better sides to be on for the various corners. The course was fun and the pace was high with not a lot of surging, which was awesome. With two laps to go, Lynn went to the front and put in a nice hard pull while Evan and I sat in around 5-10 wheels back. Lynn's effort was great, stretching the group out single file and ensuring that Evan and I would be in good positions for the final lap.
On the bell lap Lynn pulled off and unfortunately nobody took over for him at the front, so as we entered the first of the final 4 corners the group bunched up and Evan and I were slightly swarmed. I knew that I needed to essentially put in 4 mini sprints and when a handful of guys passed me during that swarm I lost some motivation to really put everything I had into the finish. My mini sprints were 638w for 7 seconds, 447w for 3 seconds, 505w for 8 seconds, and then 706w for 7 seconds. I'm still lacking a lot of the jump that I used to have and my sprint is really flat/dull right now. Aerobic endurance comes back pretty quick but the top end takes a little longer.
Evan snagged 8th and I took 13th. Fun race, I really look forward to this one next year.
Evan had to head back to Tucson for his sister's gender reveal party. I sort of ruined the surprise for him by telling him that his sister, by definition, is female -- but he said he would pretend he still didn't know in order to not ruin the surprise for (her). Lynn sat out since he and Evan had decided to destroy their legs in the Masters 30+ race that started 5 minutes after the 4/5 race ended. I totally would have joined them in that ridiculousness except that at 23*, I'm not allowed to race with those old guys.
* What? There's no need for an asterisk there.
My legs weren't feeling great and my motivation wasn't very high for the 3/4 race since I was alone in it. But Lynn stuck around and cheered me on from the sidelines, which kept me from sitting up more than a couple times. The pace was faster in the 3/4 race but it was also much smoother, which was great because my legs were toast. Jetset had like 8 guys in the race and so they did the best they could to control the race, sending one of their guys off the front, trying to block a bit, then following moves as other guys bridged up. It never seemed like they really had control though and with a few laps to go I was surprised they weren't dictating how the race would finish.
I stayed near the front, knowing what I needed to do to finish well but lacking the strength to do it. The accelerations out of the corners caused small gaps that I had a lot of difficulty closing. The bell lap really hurt good, my legs were just screaming. I wasn't in a great position since I'd let so many gaps open up but I put in my mini sprints as best I could. On the final corner Ruben and another rider went down pretty hard when Ruben's wheel skipped on a bump and he lost his chain. I slowed momentarily and half-heatedly finished my sprint to the finish, getting 15th. I went back to check on Ruben -- he was fine, just a few scrapes and in high spirits. He'll be back contesting sprints next weekend at Hungry Dog.
I stuck around for a bit to watch some of Jocelyn's race and then headed home. It was a fun day of racing with good friends, some beautiful weather, and that glorious burnt-leg smell driving home.
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.