Monday, August 25, 2008

45+ Colorado State Criterium Championship: The Streak Continues!

The Boulder Masters Cycling Team has owned the 45+ state criterium championships for a number of years now, and Mike Newsome, Joe Paulson, and Bill Simmons ("fresh" from his bronze medal performance in the 55+ championship) lined up in a field of 51 racers on Sunday, August 24th, hoping to keep the streak alive. The 55+ Subway squad had already successfully defended their criterium title with a total team effort, so the pressure was on.

As one of the smaller teams with only 3 riders entered, it would be impossible to cover everything, so it was decided that only moves by the biggest danger men would be followed, with Mike on Jim Dickerson, Joe on Karl Keister, and Bill tracking other strong guys like Bill Kellagher and Jimi Gibson. The action started on the first lap of the rolling 1.4 mile business park loop, and Mike was soon at his familiar place at the sharp end of the pack, shutting down moves. Bill joined him at the front, and they had their hands full as numerous riders tried threatening moves.

In the meantime, Joe was in the back watching Jim and Karl, and finding that rest days had left his legs flat and unwilling to respond to his attempts to urge them into action. Trying to find easy lines to move up proved difficult; riders in the back were mixing around like socks in a dryer, and Joe lost track of the Great Divide strong men.

In the front, Mike covered yet another attack on the start/finish hill, then yelled for help as another was launched. Joe saw a Mob rider off with a Great Divide rider, with a Mob teammate bridging up, but was pinned against the inside curb and unable to get out. Looking around desperately, Joe wondered where Karl had gone........perfect: Karl was up the road with Derrick Nickel and his teammate. Talk about blown coverage. With his legs still protesting, Joe watched in horror as the three podium spots slipped up the road. Mike and Bill led the pursuit, but with little assistance from the other teams. The next trip up the start/finish hill offered an opportunity for a desperate bridge, but Joe got boxed in again....perfect.

The laps counted down, the break still had a large gap, and the pack seemed to be accepting their fate. The prime bell rang at 5 laps to go; perhaps that would light a fire under some racers. But no, the pack was still lumbering along half a lap later, so at the top corner Joe sprang out of the group and charged down the hill, hoping for something, anything to get going. Great Divide was all over that, and Joe found himself towing the field across the finish line and up the hill. At the top, Dickerson counterattacked, and Joe latched on, with only Bob Pinkerton coming across with him. Maybe this was the chance- Joe put his head down and pulled through, flicked his elbow, and....nothing. Jim and Bob didn't want to play. With 3 and a half laps remaining, Joe was on the front, totally blown. Really perfect.

Bill and Mike took up the chase again, but suddenly some other teams were willing to play (Mike's pointed vocal encouragement may have had something to do with it). A rider dropped from the break, giving further hope. The speed ramped up, the field strung out, and Joe hung on, still cross-eyed from his ill-conceived attack. One by one, the leaders were reeled in, but just as it looked like the field was going to be back together, a couple more riders flew off the front. After some hesitation, they too were chased down, and the group came together through the start/finish with 2 to go.

Riding up the hill, Joe noticed Bruce Whitesel moving quickly up the inside with an opportunist tucked in his wake. Remembering Bruce's bold bid for victory at last year's championships, Joe jumped on the train. As they approached the front, Bruce squeezed through a gap in the gutter with the other rider still on his wheel, the door slammed shut, and they were gone. Perfect. Just perfect.

Bill and Mike took up the chase again, but Bruce had gotten a good jump, and was still away when he shed his companion and charged across the line on the bell lap. Now the pack came to life, and throttled up. Boxed again, Joe was way too far back at the top of the hill. After doing everything wrong for most of the 50 minute race, however, everything suddenly started to go right for Joe, giving him a last chance to reward his teammates for all their work. Bill K came dieseling by, so Joe boarded the Bill K railway, and rode it down the hill and into the top 10. Bill Simmons was nicely positioned on the outside, so Joe jumped behind him for safe passage through the next corner, then jumped to Dickerson's wheel as he churned to the front, with Bill covering Joe's left flank so he couldn't get boxed again.

Jimmy D started to run out of steam, and the pack surged around on both sides, but Bill's cover gave Joe the opportunity to squeeze through a closing gap and toward the rear wheel of Keister (Joe finally found his man!). Only problem was, Christopher Stout knew a good wheel when he saw one, and didn't want to share, so Joe tucked in behind the speedy sprinter as Keister hit the front and rounded the top corner. Charging down the hill in 3rd, Joe recalled his pre-race vow to be first through the final corner. Fearing another wave, Joe went early and surged to the front just before the left hand sweeper, and ramped up his speed to hold position into the final right hand corner.

Jumping out of the saddle, Joe sprinted up the hill on the shortest line he could find, and crossed the line for the gold just before Stout and Pinkerton overtook him on either side for silver and bronze. Perfect!

The big teams of Great Divide, Vitamin Cottage, and ColoBikeLaw each fielded 8 or so riders, and each rode well to place 2 riders in the top 10, but even after neutralizing attacks all day, all 3 Boulder Masters finished in the top 8 to cap off a great road season.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Federal Center Classic Race Report: 45+


It was already approaching 90 degrees at 9:45 AM as one of the largest 45+ fields of the season lined up to contest the Denver Federal Center circuit race on the serpentine course through the Denver Federal Center campus. Bill joined his "youthful" teammates Mike and Joe to fly the Subway/Peerless colors in the Peloton.

Great Divide and Vitamin Cottage brought numbers to the game, fielding close to ten riders each. The stage appeared to be set for a slugfest, but Great Divide has demonstrated superior horsepower lately, so the Blue team strategy focused on shadowing their danger men, Karl Kiester and Jim Dickerson.

The first lap and a half were surprisingly quiet, and then Kiester launched the fireworks with an attack after the start/finish line, and a small group got off the front, with Mike and Bill in attendance. Joe sat on the riders at the front of the field, and when the pace started to slow he started riding tempo at the front, hoping to lull the field into thinking the pursuit was on. However, one rider was far to experienced to fall for that, and she quickly launched across the gap, dragging the field up with her. Yes, she: Jeannie Longo was racing with the 45+ boys (heck, she's old enough!), her world champion stripes prominent on her sleeves.

Kiester tried again on the biggest climb of the course, marked again by Mike and yes, Jeannie. When Jim Dickerson made his bridge move, Joe dug his hooks in for the ride, and by the top of the hill the break was rolling away. Kiester and Dickerson poured on the coals, Mike and Joe contributed as well, and then Jeannie started to take pulls that were very impressive (unless you happened to be the one in her negligible draft, then they were demoralizing).

Soon it was the final lap, and the blue boys were waiting for the inevitable hammer to drop. Sure enough, Kiester launched a full-tilt attack that Joe was just able to chase on to, and then one more up the climb that left he and Joe spent, and the five leaders were back together. Mike took over the pacemaking to save Joe's legs for the finish. Dickerson started his patented 1 K to go locomotive move, and then Kiester launched from behind with a final dig into the sharp right turn before the downhill run to the finish.

A crashing sound from behind turned out to be Dickerson going down due to an unfortunate combination of his speed in the corner and Jeannie's line, leaving Kiester and Joe alone at the front. Unable to shake Joe, Kiester sat up and motioned Joe to come by, but Joe was "disinclined to acquiesce to his request" as Captain Barbosa would say. Joe waited until 100 meters to go, then surged past with what little "sprint" his tired legs could muster for the win. Mike followed Jeannie in for 4th, and Bill won the field sprint by a couple of bike lengths for 5th! That's showing the big teams how it's done!