Monday, July 20, 2009

In Bend -- Cascades week, 7.20-26.2009

This is a progressive blog of week one in Bend, Oregon ... the focal event is the Cascades Classic stage race, Tuesday, July 21 through Sunday, July 26. Nate's competing in the Pro/1 race, as are a few other MABRA folks and friends. Alongside race support, I'm going to try to get in some rides and snapshots. We'll see. Blog entries are in reverse chron order. (Nate's parallel blog posts are here.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009 -- Stage 6, 83 mile Road Race

He's in! The long Cascades Cycling Classic 2009 Stage Race is over. Today, Nathan rode doggedly, 5 laps in the tough Awbrey Butte circuit, twisting up hills, threading past crashes, grabbing water/nutrition, in hellacious heat. Road surface temps were about 120 degrees. 45 of today's 142 starters dropped out, many worn down by the rigor. Nate came in same time with a group of six, securing 97th place for the stage and 92nd position in General Classification. 184 professional and elite Category 1 cyclists started this race last Tuesday. Nathan finished exactly in the middle. Pretty darn good for his first National Racing Calendar (NRC) event, the only Junior.

I'm cooked. (It was hot serving five laps in the feed zone.) This evening, coaches Sue Hefler and Pierre Pelletier and NCVC riders Steve Kendall (race age 16), Steve Black (18) and Bradley Kendall (U23) rolled into Bend for the U.S. Junior and Elite U23 Road Cycling Championships. Starting Tuesday, ending Sunday.

Tomorrow, Monday, I'm off to Crater Lake for a lap (31+ miles, 6,000-8,000' altitude, climbing) and to live my inner Ansel Adams.

Saturday, July 25, 2009 -- Stage 5, 90 minute Criterium, downtown Bend

Given Friday's performance, Nate stayed in the running and will race the four corner crit in downtown Bend tonight, starting 7:00 PM. 90 minutes. Many pros. Very fast. (Ben King, Trek/Livestrong, reported 30 mph average.) I've got a press pass so I'll be a little closer to the action. Blue EMT gloves in pockets; hope they stay there. More later.

Got up early, about 6:00 AM, organized and drove out to Mount Bachelor. Parked on a lower shoulder, about 5,000', and pedaled over much the same roads Nate coursed yesterday -- albeit a shortened, 50 mile version with few snapshot stops and a visit to a lakeside commissary for nutrition. My average speed, 16 mph, was about two-thirds of Nate's.

Strapped my Canon G10 (thanks Think Tank) on my steerer tube and took a few pix, trees, lakes and mountains. While the G10 seems alright, I'm spoiled by my 5D which has great image quality. Alas, I can pocket the G10 (or strap it on a bike tube). Maybe Apple will give us an iPod Touch with a camera/video gizmo this fall. Some images here.

Nate did well in criterium, staying nested in the peleton (though spun-out with junior gears), about two-thirds back. Very impressive. Until 8 laps to go, when he crashed, slid in corner four, hitting it too hot. Luckily, the road was kind of smooth, tarry, so his wounds were just a few scrapes and black smudge coating on this right side. He took a free lap and re-entered the race. Finished late pack. Nate's account is here.

An exciting piece of news was local (DC) star Russ Langley's performance. Riding for Battley-Harley, Russ and three others took off early in the race and developed a substantial, one-minute +/- gap that threatened to lap the pack. Russ is an amazing crit racer. He gets my vote for most courageous rider -- in just about every race (picture below -- Russ on front). Russ's account of the crit is here.

Photography was challenging because the 7:00 PM start time meant light was low (and I forgot my flash). I pushed ISO to 1600 and slowed down shutter speed, in some cases, to 1/800. The shots were murkier than usual. I'm still working my way through about 750 impressions. Will probably post Sunday evening.

Friday, July 24, 2009 -- Stage 4, 84 mile Road Race

This one is easy. Nate crushed it. His best race ever, he said. I was in the first feed zone. He flew past without taking nutrition. (Having started with three bottles, it didn't seem worth it ... not worth getting pushed back from the head of the pack. I didn't see Nate and feared he was shut down by a mechanical or crash.) Nate grabbed a neutral water in feed zone 2. I fed him in FZ 3. He deftly clipped a bottle while jetting past at 25+ mph, working comfortably in the main pack behind a split of 15 or so and ahead of many. I hopped in the car and joined the end of the caravan. It was cool to see pro after pro, elite U23 and other riders dropping behind as Nate and the main group powered forward. This was a tough mountain stage, finishing at the base of Mount Bachelor ski area, 6,400'. Nate finished 76th, and moved up 20 slots on GC.

What a day. Tomorrow, 90 minute crit in downtown Bend, 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Nate will chill, feet up. Well deserved and necessary rest. I plan on retracing about 60 miles of his course, a loop along the flatter, upper section of the Cascades Lakes Road Race ... I'll probably spend six hours (including picture taking pauses) coursing over something Nate did in 150 minutes ... Allez! (Alas!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009 -- Stage 3 Time Trial

Great weather for 16 mile time trial up Skyliner Road. Start at high school. Since no feed/soigneur duties, had opportunity to take pictures. Grabbed about 261 impressions; I'll work on a little post-processing and post some this evening. Nate did well; it was cool to see him start behind a number of professional riders (meaning, he was ahead of them in GC).

Hard road race tomorrow. 84 miles. Starts with 15 mile climb. Then down sharp, flat for a while, then 20 mile climb to finish at 6,400'. Two feeds (I will not screw these up!).

More later. Off for a ride and such.

Rode TT course and a bit more -- started at a bike store and rode to end of Skyliner, to bridge at Tumalo Creek. Shot some pictures.

Tom Zirbel won today's stage with a time of 32:50.30. Nate did nicely with a time of 38:05.49. This moved him up a few slots in GC, to 133. My time? Algebraically, J~=N*1.7 ... not bad for a photographer on vacation. Posted a number of time trial and creek shots here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 -- Stage 2 Road Race

Up early, 4:00 AM -- cell-phone alarm rang at 7:00 AM EST .... Challenging 80 mile road race, with 11 mile climb to finish line, at about 6,000' altitude. Three Creeks Road Race. Two feed zones, at mile 38 and mile 61. Looks to be about 3,000 feet total climbing. My gut is Nathan should be good for this; after all, he finished top-ten in Tour of the Gila, including the final 104 mile, 10,000'+ climb Gila Monster stage. But that was Cat 2; this is Pro/1. We'll see. Start time is 10:00 AM. Projected finish, 1:09 PM.

Nate did well in this race, I less so. Spent too much time in first feed zone conscientiously looking for musette that Nathan laid down. That, combined with bad feed driver's guide (ludicrous ... so far, every guide provided by race promoter has been wrong ...), made me about one minute late to second feed zone. I felt ashamed watching the peleton race in front of me, as I was held at a stop by a flagger. I dodged up to the end of the race caravan and hung there. Eventually, Nate faded back (like I was telepathically trying to tell him to do) and he was able to get friendly bottles. His race description is pretty compelling, published here.

We got home and found a taco stand, literally the Taco Stand, around the corner from Lavabelles. The place is owned by the father of Hot Tubes' Ian Boswell's friend and features the "Boswell Challenge," a four pound beef burrito which, if you eat it in under four minutes, you get it for free. Though we both were starving, Nate and I finished off lesser flour bags of meat. Tasty.

I made noble plans to ride out Skyliner Road, the time trial course, and the like. But I fell asleep on the couch at 4:30 PM with a laptop on my belly and Bloomberg financial droning on TV. I was pretty cracked. 16-mile time trial tomorrow. Should be good uphill effort for Nate, then turn around, pedal up to spin out (about 35-40 MPH), then tuck aero mostly to the finish. Since no soigneur work, hope to get some event pictures.

Funny note from race Chief Referee: "Due to repeated incidents of Dangerous Driving, the Rock Racing Team vehicle is eliminated from participation in the team caravan." These guys, with huge black Cadillac Escalades and race vans are mad men on the road ... serves them well. That said, their guy, Oscar Sevilla Rivera is the race leader after Stage 2. Nathan finished the stage 138th, 12:31 to the back, 141 on GC (general classification, overall position). Thursday's time trial start for Nate is 10:13:30 AM. Venga!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 -- Stage 1 Road Race

Up early, EST. Built up bike, strong coffee. Walked around Lavabelle neighborhood. Cool, mild air, blue sky. Two blocks to race hotel, four to downtown. Charming, gracious, well-kept bungalow neighborhood. A lot of small blocks, all look alike. Easy to get lost. Driving with Nate to race start near Redmond. 11:00 AM start. Event looks like high plain affair, dry. 71.2 miles. One feed zone at about mile 30. Finish is in Bend. Tyler, whose Cat 2 events don't begin until Friday, will probably ride out to watch.

Long but great day. Vacation day 1. Cascades SR Day 1. I worried that this would be incompatible, but not. First the important part. Nate launched at 11:00 AM in stage 1 Smith Rock road race. I pulled out ahead about 10:45 to drive up to the feed zone (picture above). Mostly drove the course route to the FZ, about 40 miles through really spectacular country. Successfully fed Nate (not an easy task with a peleton of over 150 professional and Cat 1 riders charging by at about 30 miles per hour). He grabbed his musette with two water bottles, loaded his cages and tossed the musette bag, which I later retrieved. He was riding strong in the pack. A break of about 20 was about 40 seconds ahead of the pack at FZ. At the finish about 15 of these guys crossed first, followed in about 4 1/2 minutes by the main field, then stragglers. Nate came across with the main field -- an amazing feat for a junior (racing age 18), with restricted gearing (limiting his downhill pedaling power). My boy was right there rocking with the pros. 70 yards past the finish I gave him fresh water and an iced towel -- soigneur duties. Because of this nurse work, I didn't take race photos. We lunched at McMenimens, went grocery shopping and returned to Lavabelles. Nate fixed my bike rear derailleur.

About 6 PM I headed back up to the northern extreme of today's road race, a collection of promontories called Smith Rock State Park. It was so awesome. I sated my photo desire by shooting the rocks and river in the warm evening light. Then I hopped on my bike and put in 20 miles about the area, shooting a few cows and such with a Canon G10 in my back pocket. Initial shots posted here.

Monday, July 20, 2009 -- Stage 0

Up at 3:30 AM for drive to BWI, toting five bikes (in cases) and three guys in and on top of the CRV. Change planes in Chicago, arrive Portland 11:00 AM PST. Grab rental pick-up truck across Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington (much cheaper), return to PDX to pick-up bikes and stuff, and Nathan and Tyler Karnes. Drive to Bend, arriving about 5:00 PM. Boys assemble bikes and ride out time trial course. I hit bike shop to pick-up stuff and grocery store. Bend seems lovely. Drive out is spectacular, past Mount Hood, across desert/chaparral landscape, canyon, snow capped peaks, awesome variety. Pretty sweet accommodations,
Lavabelle bungalows. Feeling pretty cracked, head to race hotel to pick-up packet, followed by dinner at McMenimens. Sleep hard; get up Tuesday to get ready for 71 mile stage 1, Smith Rock Road Race.

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