All posts by Mark Detweiler

Pinecone Circuit Race – Mens P123 Recap

16-Aug-2015

49.7 miles, 348 feet, 25.6 mph average

Road season is slowing coming to an end, which means I’m getting a lot less picky about which events I race. The Pinecone course does not suit me. It is a pancake flat 6 mile, 4 corner course. As a result of the parcours it races much like a non-technical crit.

To add insult to injury, the timing of the 3/4 field was impossible for me, so I had to sign up for the P123 – 8 laps of the course or just a hair under 50 miles.

The race started with a few hot laps averaging around 27 MPH. Despite the pace the nature of the terrain made this pace feel pretty easy. I bridged to a few early attacks, but nothing seemed to be sticking.

After turn 1 of lap 4 a group of 8 went off the front while I was in a bad position in the middle of the group. We weren’t riding fast and they quickly got a reasonable gap.  After turn 2 a rider from Shirk’s tried to bridge and I closed to his wheel. Three other riders soon joined us and we had a chase group.

However, two of the new guys were surging, trying to shrink the group. The Shirk’s rider and I were having none of this and weren’t responding, so those two rode about 5 seconds in front of us for 3 miles, with the group of 8 a further 20 seconds ahead. By the time these two realized the error of their ways the lead had stretched to 30+ seconds. We now had a group of 5 working well, but we weren’t making many inroads to the group of 8 in front of us.

Part-way through lap 5 the race situation hadn’t changed much except that our gap to the main group had gone out to over a minute and another rider had bridged to our group, making us six strong. He and the Shirk’s rider were clearly the strongest and were doing the majority of the work. Realizing this the newcomer attacked out of the group (dragging another rider with him) and quickly distanced our little group.

I was hurting pretty badly by this point, having been on the break for 15 miles and made no effort to go with them. The remaining four of us worked for the rest of lap 6 before the Shirk’s rider did the smart thing and dropped his three passengers.

I later found out that the first two to move forward out of our group bridged to the leaders, while the Shirk’s rider finished about a minute in front of the main group.

We now had two laps to go with three tired riders. All thoughts were on whether or not we could stay ahead of the 30 strong group behind us. One rider was regularly skipping pulls from fatigue while me and the other guy were struggling to keep the pace above 23. The gap to the main group was shrinking pretty quickly, and we entered the last lap with a much smaller gap.

Coming out of turn three the gap was incredibly small, and the two of us with any energy left completely buried ourselves. I had nothing left in my legs and was in pure survival mode, but all three of us (me in second) crossed the line two seconds in front of the winner of the pack sprint. In case you lost count, second place in this group of three was good for 13th place overall, the second cat-3.

Really hot, humid conditions today. I raced with two bottles and probably could’ve drank four. I did not go out planning on working this hard on such an easy course. Only real regret I have this time out is poor positioning when the break went, I could’ve covered it easily if I wasn’t trapped in the middle of the group. Other notes about the course would be that turn four is a nightmare. I’m really glad I wasn’t in a pack sprint for it – really bad road conditions

Tour de Millersburg – Mens Cat-3 Recap

08/09-Aug-2015

Tour de Millersburg is a three event omnium stage race in Millersburg, PA (about 35 minutes north of Harrisburg). Saturday morning is a flat 9 mile TT, Saturday afternoon is a four corner crit, and Sunday morning is a 56 mile road race

Stage 0 – Getting there

Millersburg is a solid 2 hour drive from my house in Royesrford, so staying at home is off the table. Luckily former Sunnybrook racer Greg Sherrick has a family home about 30 minutes outside of town and was kind enough to offer to let me stay with him for a second year.

After a quick stop at Rob’s house to borrow a skinsuit for the TT (thanks again Rob!!) I was off to Millersburg for number pickup and then over to Greg’s to spend the night. Restless nights sleep, with an early start led to bad feelings going into both races

 

Stage 1 – TT

8.5 miles, 85 feet, 27.5 average

The course was shortened this year due to some safety concerns with last years course (unclear what these were), but was otherwise unchanged. Very flat out and back course with several false flats, but not much in the way of challenging terrain.

As this was my first race on my new Trek Speed Concept I was glad for the simplicity of the course and was able to just put my head down and pedal most of the course.

I finished 40 seconds off the leader in 7th place in the cat-3 field and had enough left in the tank that I felt I could’ve easily finished a few places higher with some more TT experience. Maybe next season

 

Stage 2 – Crit

16.2 miles, 853 feet, 25.6 average

The TdM crit is a short course of about 0.7 miles with four 90 degree corners. Corner 1 is very tight and basically has to be done single file. Corner 2 is wider but with worse pavement. Corner 3 is at the bottom of the hill and is dangerous when people bomb through it in an attempt to carry momentum up the hill. Corner 4 is at the top of the climb with no issues. Because of the steepness of the climb only the short 0.15 mile corner 3-4 section is uphill and the rest of the course is flat to downhill.

I was feeling pretty crummy at the start, and despite getting a call-up wasn’t too optimistic about my chances in a crit that I remembered being absolutely miserable in 2014.

As with last year this crit course is essentially a war of attrition. There were few attempts at breaks and it was really just a slow (or sometimes fast) process of people getting shelled from the group and pulled quickly. The officials do a great job here with pulling racers before they can be lapped while still giving them accurate finishing places. Huge kudos to them for a job well done.

The main notable events in the crit this year didn’t happen to me – I sat on the entire time and finished 21st (DFL in the lead group) out of 50+ starters.

Greg crashed twice – once at the top of turn 4 when someone cut his line badly and shredded his front tire. He kept it upright but had a long walk to the neutral support to get a new wheel and restart in the race. Soon after restarting someone laid it down in turn 3 and he had no choice but to ride into them and go down pretty hard himself. This second crash was unfortunately in the final few laps so with no free laps he finished off the back in 30th.

More importantly to the GC, the winner of the TT, Robert Wasch, got tangled up with someone in turn 3 of the final lap and lost his chain. This dropped him all the way to 22nd in the crit and took him out of contention for the lead. Tough break for him as he’d been sitting up front in the group up until that point.

 

Stage 3 – RR

56 miles, 991 feet, 25.5 average

The road race course is an 18 mile loop with a sharp 0.6 mile climb around mile 2 and then mostly rollers for the rest of the course. The  loop ends with a descent, a sharp right into town, and then a slight chicane with another 90 degree right to the finishing stretch. The cat-3 field was doing three laps of this course.

This isn’t a course that suits me unless I can get in a break; the downhill and long flat section at the end really favors the competent sprinters.

Lap one went very fast. There were a few significant break attempts (some including me, some not including me), and the pace stayed pleasantly high (the faster the better on this type of course). The group brought back a four man break (including me) as we rolled through town and immediately another group went (not including me)  which fragmented down to Robert Wasch and a breakaway bikes rider trying to bridge. Before too long it was just Robert off the front.

With one rider (out of contention for the GC win) somewhere up front, there were more attempts at breaks, but in general everyone seemed to have lost interest. Lap 2 was fairly easy with Spinteck blocking for Robert and no one really putting in a concerted chase.

Things started to pick up again partway through lap 3 with more riders taking fliers and guys starting to put in some real effort. Suddenly with 3-4 miles to go we caught sight of Robert again and the chase was on in earnest. The group caught him just before the final downhill (maybe 1-1.5 miles from the line) and his solo 35 mile+ break ended in heartbreak.

I found myself in pretty terrible position in the finale (mostly due to laziness on my part) and ended up behind some riders who had to break heavily in the sharp right hander near the finish. This took me way out of contention so I more or less took it easy (made a point to pass the guys who were heavy on the brakes, but no one else) at the finish and came across in 30th place in the RR, 15th in the GC.

 

Stage 4 – Miscellany

I was pleasantly surprised with my results in the time trial. I wasn’t expecting much out of my first race on the Speed Concept, but the bike performed great and I couldn’t be happier about that result – maybe I’ll pickup a disc wheel and take these somewhat seriously next year.

The crit went about as expected – I’m a more competent cornerer than I was at this time last year, but I am not aggressive enough to shoulder past someone in the turns so I ended up tail gunning more than I should’ve – leading to unnecessary sprints as people let gaps open. Need to shut down passing attempts more aggressively to do well in this course

Driving back to the house in between the TT and the crit was a lot of extra car time, but well worth the trip to have a real lunch and a place to lay down and rest. Would be way better to stay in town, need to remember to pursue in town housing options next year.

Road race was also a disappointment for me – I know I don’t do well in these types of courses, but I had plenty left in my legs at the end and never put myself under enough duress to red line. I let myself get swarmed on some of the downhills and wasn’t able to move up enough on the rolling uphills (slow group = wide group = no passing lanes)

Overall if you’d told me 15th on GC on Friday evening I’d have been happy with it, so the weekend has to be considered a success

Mt Davis Challenge – Mens Cat 3 Recap

02-Aug-2015

40.2 miles, 4652 feet, 20.3 average

Sunnybrook racer: Mark Detweiler

What we have for you today is a lollipop style course that starts with 4 flat miles in the river valley and then takes an abrupt left turn uphill for a fairly simple cat 3 climb. The course temporarily levels out and then converts to constant rollers. This portion is a test of your ability to carry momentum from the downhills into the seemingly unending punchy uphills. After 9ish miles of the rollers and step climbs the course serves up another climb to the highest point in Pennsylvania (and the first of two feed zones).

From here you head downhill for a solid five miles before beginning the last significant climb of the course. Near the top of this climb is the second feed. Once you crest this climb you have a screamingly fast descent to close the lollipop portion of the course. From here you’re descending back down all the rollers you hit on the way out, which includes some not insignificant climbs. You finally go down that initial cat-3 climb and hit the finish after 1.5 flat miles back in the river valley.

After winning the 4/5 race last year I was definitely in for the race this year. However, due to the Nittany Stage Race competing for racers the fields were much smaller this time around. The P12, 3, and 35+ all started together but maintained separate finish lists and prize pools. All told we only had about 20 starters for the three fields. By far the biggest group was the 3, with around 10 starters (10 finishers).

As with every time I’ve done this race, the opening climb helped decide the race. I reached the top of the climb in a group of 5-6 with two racers from the P12 about 10 seconds in front of us and everyone else off the back. I decided to use the sharp right turn to attack out of my group and managed to bridge to the two guys off the front.

Bridging to the two leadersLeaders

Bridging

This was a great situation for me since I wasn’t competing with these two and could work freely. Unfortunately the effort of bridging had burned quite a bit of energy and I needed 5 minutes of sitting on wheels before I could contribute. After some well needed recovery I chipped in whenever I could, but still wan’t contributing evenly – they were both too strong for me.

The pain face while bridging

Pain face

Unlike previous times on this course, the chase group stayed close to us. We quickly established a 30 second gap, but every uphill saw them draw within sight. This group shrunk over time, but never gave up the chase.

The chasers

ChaseGroup

The three of us stayed together until the 200M to KoM sign, at which point the stronger attacked and instantly dropped both of us. I was gapped by both of them, but managed to descend back onto 2nd place’s wheel and we collaborated for a time. Again I was more of a passenger than I wanted to be, but I was able to continue chipping in for a while. Finally we reached the last major climb and he slowly but surely rode me off his wheel.

We had opened a bit more of a gap on the group at this point, maybe as much as 60 seconds, but now I was on my own for some serious climbing in heavy winds. I could still see them creeping up behind me and used that as motivation to hit the descents as hard as I could (PRs on every descent, with a few creeping into the top 10 overall) since I was slowly but surely going backwards.

The chase group was now down to four riders (all from my field as I later discovered) and drew as close as 50 M on the last uphill, but I was able to put some time into them on the final descent and entered the final flat 1.5 miles with enough of a gap to time trial myself across the finish line in first – 30 seconds ahead of the chasers, 2 minutes behind the overall winner and 15 seconds behind my other breakaway companion.

Too deep in the pain cave to post up at the finish

Finish

Rolled over to the two who finished in front of me, apologized for my lack of contribution to the group and slowly coasted back to my car for the wait for results and podiums

This is probably the most beat up I’ve been after a race I didn’t crash out of. The time alone was pretty dark and I was really deep in the pain cave. Luckily I was able to keep motivation from the group chasing me down and used that to finish relatively strong.

Podium

IMG_0357

Results

results mt davis

Pre Training Camp Road Trip and Riding

This year I decided that three days of training and hard riding at Raw Talent Ranch wasn’t going to be enough so I decided to take the whole week off work and head out for some destination climbing before joining everyone else in West Virginia.

Saturday 04-Apr-2015

Joe Haney and I were aiming to get south to Lynchburg, VA in time to ride Thunder Ridge by nightfall. With Lynchburg about six hours away by car, Joe showed up at my house at 5 AM and we caravan-ed down to Lynchburg. We made a quick stop for a sandwich at Subway then quickly checked into the hotel and got kitted up.

Our planned route was a touch under 80 miles with slightly more than 8,000 feet of vertical. Unfortunately there aren’t many flat roads between Lynchburg and the Blue Ridge Parkway, so just getting to the climb gave us 25 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Luckily, these rolling hills protected us from a sustained headwind. On the way there Joe confessed he hadn’t been on a ride over 45 or 50 miles in 6 months so this was going to be quite an adventure.

We took a quick stop to refill water bottles just outside of the park and stashed the half gallon we didn’t use outside the convenience store for use on the way back.

Once on the Parkway the climb starts almost immediately. It’s remarkable in it’s consistency with the grade sitting  between 4-6% for long stretches. We settled into a manageable pace and enjoyed the scenery on the way up. I had a rear flat about 5 miles into the climb that we stopped and dealt with and that led to me replacing the tire with a spare (luckily I brought spare wheels and gatorskins for the trip) when we finished.

The climb led to some pretty spectacular views and an even better descent. That consistent grade made the descending fast and easy. We bombed our way back down, quickly stopped to use the last of our water and headed back through the rollers with the tailwind we had earned earlier in the day.

The ride back to Lynchburg was a real grind; having 25 miles to go after that type of climbing effort was a bit of a routing mistake and both Joe and I were suffering by the time we reached the hotel.

We got cleaned up and went out for a well deserved burger and brew before calling it a night.

Sunday 05-Apr-2015

Up early, as always, I swapped my spare tire onto my wheel and bade Joe farewell. He was heading back home and I was heading further south to spend Easter with my Aunt in Charlotte.

I made a quick stop en route at a bike shop to see about a pedal problem which they diagnosed (pedal worn beyond repair) and were unable to solve (no speedplay zeros in stock) and then was on to the large family meal.

After a prolonged food and wine coma I roused myself and spent the evening driving to Asheville, NC for some more cycling adventures.

06-Apr-2015

With rain in the forecast for both Monday and Tuesday but Monday looking significantly drier I decided to do Mt. Mitchell Monday as that was my primary goal in Asheville.

Mt. Mitchell has two primary ascents, one starting from Asheville (significantly less elevation gain) and one starting from nearby Marion, WV which has a much lower starting elevation. Being stubborn, I wanted to do the longer ascent (note that I didn’t get a time on the ascent due to some GPS irregularities).

I drove to the Walmart in Marion where we would be starting the ride around 9:45. There I met Jeff Watts, friend and racer from back home, who was vacationing in Asheville with his fiance Tara. They were heading home Monday but Jeff wanted to make time to go up Mt Mitchell so Tara dropped him off and away we went.

Jeff and I cruised about 8 miles to the base of the climb and spent the next 28ish miles going uphill to the summit of Mt Mitchell. This climb has steeper pitches than Thunder Ridge, but is still largely do-able.

The climb breaks down into several pieces, and for me the best part was the bottom section on winding Rt 80. It included switchbacks and views of a small stream that had carved out the valley we were riding in. Once we got up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway the views got better, but the climbing got more monotonous. The long straight sections wore me out a bit mentally and having Jeff there really helped keep the pace high. He and I are fairly evenly matched with me having a slight advantage on the uphills and him having a slight advantage on the downhills.

Once you make the turn into Mt Mitchell State Park the average gradient increases noticeably, but since you only have 4 miles to the summit it balances out. We hit the top and chatted with some other tourists who had driven up and then started our descent.

It rained on us fairly heavily for the first 5 miles of the descent and then dried up for the rest of the ride; great luck since the rain hurts at 40 mph.

Jeff bombed ahead of me on the descents but was kind enough to wait every once in a while to make sure neither of us had gone over the edge. Probably the hardest part of the day came on the way back, which was the 1.9 mile uphill midway through the descent. My legs were pretty chilled when we hit it and both of us were bitching about the interruption to the beautiful descent.

Overall the most striking thing about this ride was just how long the descent was. You don’t really realize just how far you’ve climbed until you go both up and down. We were paid back over and over again for our hard work on the way up as the downhill never seemed to end.

We got back to the parking lot after about 4 hours of riding time. I got changed and we headed over to a local eatery to wait for Tara to come get Jeff so they could begin the long drive home.

Really glad he could make it out as I’m sure the ride would’ve been 10x more mentally taxing to do alone. Having someone else to chat with and hear bitching about the climb definitely made it a lot better day in the saddle.

Spent some time on the phone and found a bike shop that had pedals in stock and went over and picked up some replacements; a bit expensive, but problem solved so money well spent. Stopped for some take out BBQ and called it an early night.

07-Apr-2015

Lots of rain in the forecast for Tuesday, but no real indication as to when it would start or stop as of Monday evening. Woke up to find the best window was going to be morning. Powered through some oatmeal and got on the bike ASAP for an 8 AM start.

The plan was to do Mt Pisgah from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway and loop back into town from a different direction.

I really struggled to find my legs on this ride. Took me almost 40 minutes to loosen up and start spinning – and even then I was loathe to push myself due to a sharp pain in my right knee (had shown up for a brief cameo the day before) and my general muscle fatigue.

The recurring knee pain and a new noise in the back end of my bike (maybe something wrong in the cassette/derailleur) distracted me from the fog and intermittent showers that I was riding through for most of the climb – but did little else positive for me. I was in a pretty dark place when I finally broke through the fog and got a look back at the climbing done. Talk about a great way to change your mood; suddenly I was back in the zone and the pain and bike problems seemed inconsequential.

This climb was similar to Thunder Ridge from Saturday with a constant grade and great road surface (thanks National Park Service). Several longer tunnels were a bit intimidating since I didn’t bring lights with me and the cars were screaming past but despite one close call I had mishaps.

I had chosen the easier ascent (approximately same elevation gain, but significantly longer mileage, so shallower) and on the way back down I regretted this choice as the steeper way down was still shrouded in fog and rain. Thus I carefully picked my way down the mountain before beginning the spin back to Asheville.

On the way back I had my first major routing problem (Joe and I had minor ones when one of the roads I picked was gravel and gated – but we walked around the gate and rode it anyway), coming to a road that was gated with a barbed wire fence, something I wasn’t going to risk.

Pulled out the cell phone and picked my way home along some regrettably major roads. Back into the dark mental place – checking your phone for directions every 5 minutes really takes the fun out of a ride

Back at the hotel I cleaned my bike up a bit (drive train only) and tried to find the noisy piece of equipment but found nothing suspicious. Luckily I’ll be seeing Ness in two short days and if it’s still rattling hopefully he can solve it for me!

Tomorrow it’s off north to meet Glenn, John, and Mike at Skyline Drive for another nice gradual climb before the steep nastiness in WV starts on Thursday.

2014 – Mount Joy RR – Mens 4/5 Recap

24-May-2014

28 miles, 2,083 feet, 22.9 mph average

Sunnybrook racers: Mark Detweiler, John Mullen

On the books for today, four seven mile laps with approximately 500 feet of climbing per lap. The hilliest of the Lancaster road races, Mount Joy has a decent kicker around the half-way point of each lap and a few other uphill sections that can be done in the little ring.

The sun was shining already when I left my house at 6:30 for a 7:40 arrival at the start location. This gave me plenty of time to check in and ride a quick recon lap with John. The wind was extremely high for the time of day, and John and I discussed the chances of a break staying away as well as our overall strategy of taking it easy today to save our legs for Tucker County the next day.

Arrived at the start for a quick lecture on the yellow-line rule and it’s merits (we were told it would be enforced even on left hand turns…which is hard to imagine, and predictably it was not enforced on these left hand turns). A few teams (most notably CS Velo with about seven riders) had big representation in the group. After a short neutral roll-out from the staging area to the official start we were racing.

Straight into a headwind for the first half of the lap, so not much serious action going on. The pace is low and the effort required minimal. There are a few predictable surges around the various short climbs, but nothing serious and certainly nothing to put anyone into difficulty. Finally around mile 6 a three man break formed and got maybe 100 yards on the field. As we entered the single stretch of the race with no yellow line rule I completely forgot the plan to save our legs and sprinted across the gap; three were now four.

Unfortunately, four almost immediately became two as a Green Mountain rider and myself rode away from half of our group (unintentionally I assure you). We worked together for half of the second lap, but the writing was on the wall and the gap we had grown to 20-30 seconds seemed destined to shrink. However, on a long gradual descent three other riders broke free and bridged to us. Two were now five.

Joined by two more Green Mountain riders and one from CS Velo we felt a lot better about our chances and worked well together for the last mile of the second lap and all of the third lap. Having someone from CS Velo and half of Green Mountain gained us a lot more blockers (John was doing his best for me back in the field, but one man does not a field block) and a lot more people to share the work.

I was pretty gassed by this point and skipped a few turns on the front during the third lap. Rotating was wearing me down and at this point I just wanted to stay away from the main pack for duration.

Our advantage was up above the 40 second mark and we were mostly out of sight for the third and fourth laps, although we did feel some pressure at the top of the hills on the third lap. This helped rally the group and we got back to business.

The finish couldn’t come quick enough for me, so when the CS Velo rider tried to go for the win at 1k to go I let him pass me and hoped to hold the wheel of whichever of the three Green Mountain riders went after him. Unfortunately two of them passed me quickly and I couldn’t hold the wheel. Suddenly it was down to me and my original breakaway companion for fourth place and I had just enough to finish in front of him.

We all caught our breath and waited for the bunch sprint to come. The main group had whittled itself down to a much smaller group from surging as they had attempted to catch our break and the tailwind helped to make the sprint a very fast one for the well rested blockers.

Caught up with John and saw Maria M at the finish. No major mishaps in any of our fields other than me burning all my matches in the race that was supposed to be the warm-up for the main event in West Virginia on Sunday

2014 – Tour of Tucker County – Mens 4/5 Recap

25-May-2014

56 miles, 6,400 feet, 17.4 mph average

Sunnybrook racers: Mark Detweiler, John Mullen

The Tour of Tucker County is considered one of the hardest road races within our general racing area. The route has a few geographical features of note; in order, they are:

Limestone Road Climb – A seven mile long climb with some spiky rollers at the top

Awesome descent – A three mile stretch of good quality road with sweeping turns

‘Small’ cat-4 climb – Interrupts an otherwise peaceful flat section of road which follows the Cheat River; feed zone is located on this climb

Sugarland Road Climb – A five mile climb with several long stretches above 10%, including a 1.1 mile stretch that averages 12%. The race finishes at the top of this climb

John and I decided to hit the 4/5 field (as opposed to the 3/4) this year due to the Mount Joy RR the day before and hopes for a strong finish. We showed up at the start location around 10:20 in the morning to get signed in and hopefully get a good warm up in. We both setup our trainers and did some easy spinning for 30-ish minutes. While doing this we saw Jay from Raw Talent Ranch and Mike (a rider both of us know from our semi-casual Monday night rides). Didn’t speak with Jay but he was registered in the Pro/1/2/3 field. Caught up a bit with Mike who is a casual racer and was trying his luck in the cat-5 field.

The race starts from the bottom of Sugarland Road due to the grade and road conditions leading to an unsafe racing environment. We joined the rest of the fields in a controlled descent to the bottom of the steep portion of the climb. From there we staged with the rest of our field (about 40 altogether) and waited about 30 minutes while the earlier starting fields got underway. This is a frustrating wait, but there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative given the controlled descent.

The race starts with a few miles of gradual descent with a few rollers mixed in. Our field wasn’t too interested in racing these miles hard as the climbing would decide the race either way. The pace picked up as we started up Limestone Road and before too long the field started coming apart. The approximately 40 starters were down to around 10 when I finally lost contact with the front group. They stayed tantalizingly close to me for 15-20 minutes, but I couldn’t bridge the gap and I finally saw them for the last time across a long bend when they were maybe 2 minutes ahead of me.

I gave up my chase and waited for some help which came in the form of a group of four riders who had also been dropped. They came up on my quickly and I had to dig to catch their wheels. A little surprising since they’d dropped before me on the climb. I joined up with them for the rollers at the top of the ridge and we worked together well through the remainder of the climb. At the top of the hill we agreed to regroup at the bottom and work at chasing down the leading group. After a fast and fun descent we did just that. Surprisingly one of the group couldn’t work well in a paceline and dropped out of the group.

The four of us took stock and agreed to put a chase together to try to catch the leaders; if we didn’t see them by the time we reached the feed zone we would start resting for the remainder of the flat section to prepare for the final, brutal climb. We rotated well, but the pace didn’t feel fast enough to catch the lead group. Thus, when we finally did reach the small climb and hadn’t yet seen the leaders none of us were too surprised.

We took our collective foot off the gas and conserved energy until the bottom of Sugarland Road. The upside of the work we put in meant no one else from our field was likely to catch us. the downside was the burnt energy for no real gain. I did my best to describe the climb to my three compatriots who hadn’t ridden it before. The bottom half is the hardest with a stretch that kicks you in the mouth and then continues to stomp at your will to ride for a long long time. It is definitely a climb where you want to go at your own pace; working to hold a wheel will end with you walking.

At the bottom of the climb I was able to put some time into my group and before long was riding on my own. I passed several riders (some walking, some cramping, some just riding extremely slowly) from the 3/4 field, but didn’t see anyone else from my field. This let me take my time for the second (easier) half of the climb as no one was close to catching me and I wasn’t about to pass anyone else. I finished a relatively easy time up the climb and crossed the line thinking I was somewhere in the 12-15 range (not knowing exactly how many were up the road from me). I ended up in 10th as the remaining lead group of 9 had all crossed the line in front of me.

Overall I finished about five minutes slower than the year before. My time on the first climb was faster than last year, despite being dropped on the climb. My time on Sugarland was significantly slower but probably isn’t a true comparison since I wasn’t racing for place for most of the climb (unlike last year when I could see the riders finishing ahead of me). I could blame it on the temperature being 10 degrees higher, or the race yesterday; bottom line I’m not climbing as well as last year.

John’s race was somewhat more eventful than mine. He dropped out of the front group a bit before me and was behind my group (not within sight) when he hit the fast descent. Unfortunately he hit a hole (that no one, not even he, saw clearly) at 40+ mph and did some damage to his front wheel, including a pinch flat. Fortunately he was able to keep the bike upright and come to a stop. He was on the side of the road for at least 10 minutes working on fixing the flat before a wheel car came by and helped him out with a neutral wheel. This probably ended up costing him at least 5-10 places since a large portion of the field was behind him and took this opportunity to pass.

Back on his bike he quickly found a group to ride with and ended up passing quite a few people on the final climb. He finished in 26th.

We both agreed that putting 2k and 1k to go signs on a climb like Sugarland is a cruel joke played on the field by the organizers. Absolutely brutal to see 2k and do the mental math and figure that’s about 10 more minutes of suffering.

Both of us took three bottles (having no neutral feed, and no one to hand us bottles) and drank every lost drop by the finish. I personally could’ve used a fourth bottle, but it wasn’t practical to carry.

Great weekend of racing for John and I, a bit more driving/travel time than I prefer, but there aren’t any races like Tucker County close to home. Hope to make time for it again next year and finally end up on the podium.

2014 – Mt. Davis Challenge RR – Mens 4/5 Recap

03-Aug-2014

40.3 miles, 4,665 feet, 19.8 average

Sunnybrook racers: Mark Detweiler, John Mullen

Mt. Davis is a fairly new road race out of Confluence, PA. This was the third year it has been run, and the second time racing it for both John and I. Confluence is about four hours away by car and with the drive we have access to some more significant climbs

What we have for you today is a lollipop style course that starts with 4 flat miles in the river valley and then takes an abrupt left turn uphill for a fairly simple cat 3 climb. The course temporarily levels out and then converts to constant rollers. This portion is a test of your ability to carry momentum from the downhills into the seemingly unending punchy uphills. After 9ish miles of the rollers and step climbs the course serves up another climb to the highest point in Pennsylvania (and the first of two feed zones).

From here you head downhill for a solid five miles before beginning the last significant climb of the course. Near the top of this climb is the second feed. Once you crest this climb you have a screamingly fast descent to close the lollipop portion of the course. From here you’re descending back down all the rollers you hit on the way out, which includes some not insignificant climbs. You finally go down that initial cat-3 climb and hit the finish after 1.5 flat miles back in the river valley.

The race this year was a game time decision for me. Luckily the weather forecast cleared up Saturday morning (with only 40-60% chance of rain for Sunday, I was in). Preparation was swapping out my carbon wheels, brake pads,  and doing a bit of work to make sure the cassette on the aluminum wheels was in good climbing shape (compact up front with a 28 in the back was the order of the day). Job done, I headed off to my dad’s house to pick up my soigneur.

Upon arrival in Somerset (where we were spending the night), we decided to take a quick ride down to Confluence and make sure the course (but mostly the descent) was in good shape. Did a slow-ish drive of the front side of the course and then headed back to town for dinner and a restless nights sleep.

Found John (and some other friends from back in Eastern PA) at the start nice and early, then headed out for a quick warm-up along the river valley. John and I rode part-way up the first climb and headed back to make sure my dad had the right bottles for us in the first feed. Technically a feed isn’t necessary (my time last year was around 2:05), but having 2.5-3 bottles is a big help, so we both took advantage of having someone available.

Our field had around 40 starters and several Pittsburgh area teams were very well represented. Most notable was Nugo/Koels who had at least five riders. Fortunately this style of race isn’t easily controlled, so I doubt anyone was thinking they had a huge advantage. I recognized a rider from last year with an epic beard who I’m pretty sure podiumed in 2013. I decided right away I would mark his wheel on the first climb.

The race was basically a neutral start for the entire flat section. There was no real racing and we averaged around 20 mph. I was on the beard’s wheel at the bottom of the climb and was feeling pretty crappy considering how little effort I’d put in. The hard pace set on this ~10 minute climb put me into quite a bit of difficulty in the first five minutes, but by the second five I had my legs under me and was feeling very comfortable with the front group. Unfortunately for both him and me, the beard didn’t have the legs this year so I had to get around him and close a large gap to get to the leaders

By the time we reached the top of the initial climb the group of forty was down to five. Unfortunately this was the last I saw of John as he was one of the last discharged as we whittled the group down to five. The five of us knew a good thing when we saw it and started working together well on the rollers. I was still feeling good and did a fair amount of the uphill pace making at a speed just below my threshold, so that when the accelerations came I was able to move onto wheels. When we reached the first feed one of the group decided to sprint for the (non-existent) 4/5 KOM and this, plus the earlier climbing, distanced two of the five. The three of us settled in after a quick bite to eat and drink and were able to grow the gap on the long fast descent until no one else was within sight of us.

The other two with me were both more confident on the descents than I am (talk about setting a low bar) but I quickly figured out that if I was on the front for the descent they weren’t aggressive enough to bomb past me without a straightaway, so I could limit my losses fairly easily. Unfortunately, for most of the longer descents it seemed to rain lightly. At a few different places the road was like glass with just a fine sheen of water covering the surface. Mostly we stayed dry, but I was covered with grime by the finish.

We continued to work together and there was no real separation between us for the remainder of the race. I was feeling pretty good about my chances in a sprint since both of my companions were small climbers who I had at least 20 lbs on. This, plus the descending remaining dissuaded me from trying to gap them on the remaining uphills. I figured any effort I put into dropping wouldn’t be enough, or if it was, they’d ride back up to me during the extended descents. I expected everyone to really push on the final descent and try to gap me, but they took it easy and we all got to the final flat miles together.

We played the normal games with a slow pace on the flats, and the lack of distance to finish signs confused us all quite a bit. There was, however a 200 yards (yes yards, not meters) to go sign. One of the riders with me took that as his sign to go, so I jumped on it and was able to gap both of them and finished in 1st with about a bike length lead on 2nd. My first win of the year!

Look the other way dummy

Congratulated my break companions on a race well done and circled back to the finish to wait for the rest of the group. We’d ended up with about a five minute gap on 4th place as he was stuck in no man’s land with no protection from the wind up on top of the mountains. John came in a few minutes later in 17th.

After waiting for the official results, podium, and getting hydrated we had some celebratory BBQ and got in the car for the drive home.

Podium
Results

2014 Brownstown RR 4/5

28-Jun-2014

25.6 miles, 1,083 feet, 25.5 average

Sunnybrook racers: Mark Detweiler, John Mullen, Eric Greenberg, Ryan Waltermyer, Damon Daywalt

Sunnybrook cheerleaders: Glenn Stephenson

Brownstown is a fairly flat circuit race in Lancaster County. Each lap is a little over five miles and has some small rollers. There is one sharp (approx 110  degree) left hand turn and one chicane, but the most notable feature is that the last mile has most of the uphill work, including a decidedly uphill finish.

The 4/5 was doing 5 laps and was starting 1 minute before the 4/5 35+ and 2 minutes before the women’s 3/4.

The race started off pretty hot, but with five Sunnybrook riders in the pack none of us were too shy about doing our share of the work. All five of us had a pretty easy time staying in the front 30, with most of our time spent in the top 10-20. The pace more or less put a block on our pre-race plan of starting a break. There were too many riders working on the front to give a break any chance of staying away.

The group working included some strong new cat-5s as well as some more familiar faces from the local 4 fields. A few of the 5s had major difficulties holding lines and there were a few crazy close calls over the course of the race

There were a few incidents of note over the course of the race. Some appeared to be organization problems, some communication related, and some crashes.

As we finished the first lap our lead car stopped and pulled to the right in a left-hand turn and we rode past it while they executed a hasty driver change…whoops? They went flying by us to re-take the lead position on the next straight

Down the fast downhill stretch of lap 2 the rider in front of me (Paul Orsulak) had someone cut his front wheel out from under him and down he went. I almost locked up the breaks and went around him to the left while Ryan (on my wheel) went to his right. John (immediately to my right) also had a close call but didn’t lose as much speed as the rest of us. Eric (maybe on Ryan’s wheel? a little further back) also had a close call avoiding the rider and bike. Thankfully only the one rider ended up going down but between the adrenaline and sprint to close the gap opened by the heavy breaking I definitely peaked my effort at an unexpected time.

Laps 3 and 4 were relatively uneventful with a few soft break attempts, but more generally fast riding. At the finish of lap 4 we were close to lapping a large portion of the women’s field so we had an unexpected neutralization. The lead car stopped and everyone had to slam on the breaks and come to a very sudden stop. A little warning or announcement next time would help, but other than that I don’t think this impacted the results a ton.

Onto the last lap (and all of us well rested from our short break) we had another near-neutralization coming into the chicane when a pick-up was stopped in our lane and the same large group from the women’s field was still on the course in front of the truck. Unfortunately for me I was on the right of the field and lost all positioning when my line had to slow relative to the rest of the pack to pass the truck.

After passing the women’s riders and the truck the race changed quite a bit. We lost our momentum and were riding 3-wide for the rest of the final lap. This was particularly bad for me as I had been dropped fairly far back in the group by the truck. Still, I could see four Sunnybrook kits in front of me so all was not lost.

At the 1 km to go sign the pace picked up and Eric tried a flier off the front, but with no one to work with he blew up and started drifting backwards as the rest of the group sprinted forward. Damon then took a shot at leading out for Ryan and John but due to the confusion of the finish they couldn’t get on his wheel.

Unfortunately there was a lapped rider riding on the yellow line on the final hill (where the race has the entire road…the only time we don’t have to obey the yellow line rule). Just when everyone wants to sprint there’s a parting of the seas as we all pick a side and pass the rider doing 10 mph on the finishing straight.

With my poor position and this madness in front of me, I took a relaxed approach to the finish and rode past a handful of other riders to finish 30th. Eric, blown up from his flyer off the front, came in at 35th while Damon (similarly popped from his leadout) drifted in 25th. Up front both Ryan and John had good positioning and better legs and finished 3rd and 6th respectively.

To see the chaos of the neutralization and the passing of the women’s riders, here is the flyby of our field and a racer from the Women’s 3/4: http://labs.strava.com/flyby/viewer/#159181636,MbR8CdrZfAk= You can skip to 75% through to see our stoppage and then them continuing and us eventually passing them. You can also see that the organizers were slow getting the women started (about 4 minutes into my ride you can see them start moving)

Course was in great shape and we had some good results with 2 riders in the top 10 and no one getting dropped from the lead field. I wish I’d been able to stay near the front before the chaos on the last lap, but looking back it feels completely out of my control as to why I wasn’t in the top 15 riders. Guys to my left got ahead by a quirk of fate, no more no less. Also was frustrating to have the organizational problems contribute to the chaos of the race, but I don’t think they impacted the results or (more importantly) caused any crashes. It was an uncharacteristically poorly run race as these Lancaster circuit races have weaknesses, but prior to Saturday I wouldn’t have counted fundamental organizational and communication problems among them.

Wish we’d been able to defend Greg’s win from last year, but it was great getting to race with so many teammates

2014 Turkey Hill 3/4

03-May-2014

42.4 miles, 2750 feet, 23.7 mph average

Sunnybrook Racers: John Mullen, Ryan Waltermyer, Mark Detweiler

One nice thing about this event was the 10:24 start time. Didn’t have to climb out of bed too early and was able to drive out to the Lancaster area for a 9 AM arrival. Quickly found John and Ryan and we rode over to the registration area to grab our numbers and size up the field (definitely the toughest field I’ve been in this year, lots of 3s, lots of folks about to be upgraded). Spin back to the cars, pin on numbers and go warm up by doing a single lap of the course.

The course was 6 laps of rolling hills followed by one lap with an extra kicker thrown in. Hardly a level foot in the whole course, but in general the only truly hard parts were the grinding hill on Blue Rock Rd (coming out of a 90 degree turn) and the Gamber Wall on the last lap. Worth mentioning that 80% of the course was closed, so the yellow line rule was only in effect for the stretch along river road. This felt great and was a huge upgrade over the regular Lancaster area road races.

After a short warm-up we took a trip back to the car to get rid of the extra gear we all wore while warming up and got to the start about five minutes before start time.

The race started hot (or maybe it was just the lack of serious warm up), and the hardest lap for me was the second. My Garmin tells me the fastest lap was the third, but I must’ve had my legs under me by that point.

I spent most of the race sitting in the back third of the pack which made for some hard sprints out of the turns, but also for some easy sitting in. John was riding very strong and was staying around the midpoint of the pack with ease. Over the course of the first three laps the field shrunk from 100 to somewhere in the 70-80 range. Unfortunately around this time was the last I saw of Ryan, I believe he was dropped around the finish of lap 2 (which was around when I was feeling pretty awful as well).

The first three laps saw lots of small group attacks, but no breakaways ever got more than a 10-15 second lead on the group.

The race settled into a slower pace at the end of the third lap and followed pretty much the same pattern for the next three laps. Minimal attacks, slow downs on most of the hills, everyone more or less saving themselves for the last lap. Every time down river road with only a single lane available there was some shady braking and merging but no crashes (yet).

Last lap sees the field take the detour up the Gamber Wall. This shrunk the field down to about 50 (last I saw of John, who had been riding further up in the field than me to that point) and it further whittled down on the back straight hill (to maybe 45ish). I was riding about 40th as we crested the last hill and entered the fast downhill stretch to the finish. I was able to move up a bit on the descent but could see that the 45 man bunch sprint was already away from me so I wasn’t really on the gas when the crash happened.

I was maybe ten lengths back from the crash so I don’t know how it got started, but a bunch of bikes went down on the right side and someone went careening off to the left and took out another big bunch there. About fifteen riders up front stayed clear of the chaos and contested the sprint. The rest of us all either crashed or dropped so much speed that our race was over. I ended up rolling over the line in 20th at a very gentlemanly 15 mph. All in all about 20-30 riders went down and they had to call extra ambulances (I saw at least 4). Hopefully no one was seriously injured, but there wasn’t much good info at the finish.

At the finish John, Ryan, and I were all happy to see each other upright with no complaints other than our overall conditioning. Ran into a bunch of friendly faces at the finish including Maria who was waiting for her race to start.

I had definitely expected Gamber Wall to take a bigger toll on the field, but I guess that the reduced pace on laps 4-6 allowed too many folks to stay together.

Great event put on out there despite the crash. The course could be made safer with a slightly different finish point (at the top of one of the false flats) or with more trips up the wall, but overall having a mostly closed 5 mile lap is awesome.

2014 Tour de Pitman 4/5

07-Jun-2014

24 miles, 889 feet, 25.5 average

Sunnybrook racers: Mark Detweiler, John Mullen

Tour de Pitman is a flat circuit race in New Jersey. Each of the 8 laps is 3 miles long and has 5 corners. Turns 1,2,4,5 left and turn 3 a mild right. There is a minor climb between turns 1 and 2 (maybe 15-20 feet in elevation) and a longer grinding uphill on the back side between turns 3 and 4.

The race starts with a neutral roll-out from the start/finish to turn 1 due to road conditions. There are a few noteworthy holes between turns 5 and 1 and again between turns 4 and 5. Nothing that will crash a bike, but certainly worth knowing about. The yellow line rule is in effect for the entire course except for turn 5 to the finish. Roads are narrow and passing is a challenge. The yellow line rule was very heavily enforced. There were a few times when I thought a rider could have been pulled to the back of the field, but mostly the motos did a consistent job with it today.

Huge field today, with 87 pre-registered. Lots of cat-5s and a number of folks who had never raced before, or hadn’t raced in the past few years. As a result the field was a little choppy with a lot of line diving and near crashes. Early on we’d identified a few guys who were strong enough to hang but very sketchy in the turns.

The race started fairly slowly with a solo break going almost from the start. The group held him at about 10-15 seconds for most of laps 1-3. I was riding near the front (top 15) at the start of lap 2 when someone dove across my wheel in turn 2 and I lost a ton of speed and a lot of folks went by me. This forced me back to a tail gunner position for a couple of laps.

I had moved back into the front half of the field by the start of lap 5, which was when the only serious move was made. A small group tried to get off the front and we actually raced for a bit. Chased the group down, but the pace had finally been raised. I was still easily sitting in and never felt under any pressure. The pace stayed a little higher (26ish for laps 5 and 6) before dropping again in lap 7.

Around the end of lap 7 I decided it was time to actually use some energy so I moved up and was riding around 20 or 25th position for most of lap 8.

Coming into turn 4 of the last lap I had positioned myself almost where I wanted to be. Maybe too far back to contest for the win, but certainly thinking about a relatively certain top 5 or 10 (considering my effort level thus far was low). I was riding around 20th wheel, positioned on the outside line (which was passing the rest of the field quickly) when someone in front crossed wheels in turn 4. Several riders made speed wobbles and I could hear spokes breaking.  No choice but to go wide and hop up onto the sidewalk and lose all my speed (down to around 10 mph). Somehow we all stayed upright but I was now unofficially out of the race.

I cruised on the sidewalk for a few blocks, jumped down and passed maybe 15-20 people before turn 5 and then cruised into the finish. No point sprinting. I finished 39th out of 70-ish finishers.

John was just in front of the near-crash in turn 4 and said it was caused by a dramatic slow-down on his line (which I believe was the middle line, slightly inside of mine). He also lost a ton of momentum and was passed by a number of folks as a result. I believe he finished in the mid to low 20s. He was maybe 2 riders in front of me on this middle line. Without the loss of speed we were both very well positioned. Me with the ideal line for the sprint and John in a good spot around 15-20th in the field.

The end result was basically that those on the inside line who didn’t have to go hard on the brakes took all of the top 20 and the rest of us were just happy not to have hit the deck.

I found out later that Earl Hunt (former Sunnybrook racer) was the one who crossed wheels and had a few spokes broken. He seemed to blame himself as he was being passed on the outside (by the rider 2 bikes in front of me) and looked back at the guy passing him and in that moment he hit the rider in front of him (probably on the skewer since that bike wasn’t damaged, but Earl had 2-3 broken spokes). I didn’t witness the specifics, but losing front spokes in a turn and not crashing is more or less a win.

Overall a very frustrating result for me as I had been sitting in and really not racing much at all. Lessons to learn for me are mostly around doing work and staying on the front, not near the front. I had a relatively easy time moving up in the field (which is a change for me, I don’t usually enjoy the close riding), just left myself a little too far back and at the risk of other peoples bike handling. If I had to do it again I’d have moved up further at the end of lap 7 and used that position to be in front of the problems.

Take a look here to see a portion of the pack go right by me on the second to last turn of the race while I’m basically standing still