Master’s Nationals Road Race Report from Q. Sims

I got to North Carolina Sunday afternoon and rode the course twice on Monday and once on Tuesday. After watching the previous races, I knew it would probably be a pack finish because the hills were not long or steep enough to keep the sprinters at bay. Personally, I was stressed. Resigned to mid pack finish. Fifteen of the top twenty racers in the Nation had shown up to compete and the race predictor had me at number six. After talking to Joe Lamir (4 time national champ and great friend), he suggested to follow Kevin Metcalf (past national champ). Metcalf does not like to sprint and will try to get away early. “Keep it simple and follow Metcalf,” was the advice he gave me.

IMG_3496

Race day was warm (70 degrees and soon rose to 80 degrees with a high humidity). About 90 racers came to the line and they all looked like sprinters with quads the size of my waist. Two teams from Northern California were well represented (Thirsty Bear and Hammer Nutrition), this put me at ease because I know there game and tendencies from racing all season against them. The other guy I wanted to keep track of was Chris Walker. The gun went off and as soon as we got through the neutral strip Hans Growin from Thirsty Bear attacks. Did not know it then, but learned later, they wanted to make it hard so it would not come down to a pack finish for them (Hammer Nutrition had the same idea). So sure enough, half way into the first lap we catch Hans and Metcalf attacks and gets away with two other riders. (I lost track of him damn it). The peloton kept him within 100 meters for a whole lap. I burned a couple of matches trying to bridge thinking this was it, but then had to sit back in the pack to recover. The narrow roads, quantity and quality of the riders made it very difficult to stay in the first 15 riders.

The second lap saw Chris Walker attack and stay away for about half a lap (nearly 18 miles). Again, the peloton kept him within 100 meters. I kept my wits about me waiting a for chance to do something, but unfortunately on the second lap I had some bad luck. Midway in I hit a bump and lost a water bottle. Five miles later, I lost the other bottle because I put it only half way in and hit another bump and lost that one also (no neutral water). The next 22 miles in 80 degree heat was going to be brutal!

On the third lap we started with Dan Shore (Hammer Nutrition) and Hans Growin (Thirsty Bear) attacking and getting a good gap. I realized this may be a good opportunity, so on the only significant hill (Dull Road) I attacked to bridge up. One other racer went with me from the east coast. After a three mile chase, we finally caught them. After working together for a few miles we had built our lead to 55 seconds. At the 10k mark, the East coast guy blew to smithereens! I had nothing left and Hans also had nothing left. The gap started to narrow(40sec). I told Dan he would have to do the majority of work if we were going to stay away. Both Hans and myself committed to Dan (he was way stronger on this day and played his cards perfectly). With 1.5 miles left, Dan attacked and dropped us. Soon after Hans attacked me. I caught Hans with 200 meter to go. The pack was on our butts literally 100 meters behind me. Hans wanted to play the sprint game but I knew we had no time to play games! I just kept on hammering knowing Hans would sit on and sprint around me. Sure enough, 25 meters left, he sprinted around for second place by one second. I took third with only 2 seconds to spare before the pack caught me! I was totally dehydrated but elated!!!

IMG_3516

57th Annual Mt. Hamilton Classic Road Race Win

This was my number one race on the calendar from the moment I finished the 2015 edition. I fell in love with the gradual HC climb to start, the stunning views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Bay Area, the wicked technical descent that always breaks a few bones each year, the kickers, point-to-point, the finish, the whole shebang. It requires competency in so many skills which is perfect for me because I’m not amazing at anything, just really good at a lot of different things on the bike.

In 2015 I’d never ridden the backside descent of Mt. Hamilton ever before. Talk about an eye opener. For those local Santa Barbarians, it’s akin to bombing down Painted Cave – trust me, I’ve done that before and it’s no exaggeration. That is what it takes to make the front group at Hammy.

Luckily, this year I got to ride it again only a few months ago. I thought ahead that day to May 29th and knew I wanted to win yesterday. It’s amazing that the power of intent and positive thinking can have an affect on the outcome, but I’m sure that was the case with yesterday.

Our race weekend started with an awesome team ride around Pebble Beach, an entertaining coffee stop and awesome team dinner – watching the Warriors win and force a game 7 was icing on the cake! It was also a bit inspiring.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 1.15.02 PM

After the game we had a brief Strava course recon and impromptu team strategy meeting. With Dolce Vita bringing 6 strong riders that we’ve all competed against before, we knew to keep our eye on them. Based on our success this season, we also knew that we weren’t an unknown anymore. We had a target on our backs, but there was nothing anyone could do.

The plan was executed to a ‘t’ from the moment we lined up. Bobby was ready to attack from the gun. And attack he did. As soon as we made the right hand turn onto Mt. Hamilton Road from Alum Rock, he went. Within a minute he was back, but the tone was set. Shortly thereafter another solo rider rolled off the front and Bobby went with him. They slowly gained a gap and went out of sight. This forced exactly what we wanted; Dolce Vita to use energy to keep the breakaway within reach. Everyone knows a big gap on the climb can be sustained to the finish if the riders off the front can descend.

David, Brandon and myself stayed easily in the top 15 for both pitch one and two of the climb as Bobby inched away and Dolce Vita burned match, after match.

After the long swooping left hand bend leading into the third and longest pitch of the Mt. Hammy climb, Bobby and his breakaway compatriot came into sight. The tempo picked up as we gradually pitched into the six mile finale to the peak. I quickly recognized the increase in speed and moved as close to the front as possible following another decisive wheel. Right before the catch happened, a Dolce and unaffiliated (who can always be dark horses) bridged up to the break and pushed on. My friend and fellow competitor since nearly day one of my racing career, Chris Zappalà, started crushing and Brandon quickly grabbed his wheel.

This was the deciding moment of the race.

As the hecticness of the climb continually reshuffled over the next few miles, Brandon and Chris’ gap grew to a minute thirty over the top. I came over the summit in the second group featuring two Limitless juniors, one Muscle Milk-Specialized, one Team Illuminate (who was in my breakaway in the 3s last year), our unaffiliated friend on a Santa Cruz disc bike with ‘cross gearing and one Dolce rider close in pursuit.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 11.08.27 PM

Photo by Alex Chiu

I came to the front to push the pace even higher over the top knowing we could pop those who sat up across the false summit and also to be able to lead down the descent – which I did. Erik (in the black who came over the top with me last year and stayed in the break as well) and I shared duties leading down the descent featuring gravel, 180 degree hairpins, cattle guards and bumpy tarmac. We kept it safe and fast as we lost the two juniors and Muscle Milk rider.

We collected our neutral feeds and took a breather as Chris fell back to our group, “Your teammate was an animal on the descent.” Yeah, I know he is a beast – I still remember the Century. I quickly realized Brandon was solo off the front at a minute plus and as Cooper from Dolce bridged up I had a free ride from a group of my four breakaway compatriots. So, for nearly 45 minutes I sat on fueling/hydrating and just enjoying the view as I watched four very organized racers rotate through. I’d never been in a position like this in a group. I’m always working and instigating. But in this particular position, everyone was just jealous of me. I was saving precious energy that I would use later.

At this precise moment I realized I was going to to win this race.

We caught Brandon at the start of the second kicker about 20 miles from the finish. My free ride lasted nearly 20 miles…I gave Brandon a big smile, took an extra empty bottle from him and asked how he was. Good, as always. I gave him a few minutes to recover and then I attacked, bringing Cooper with me and forcing Erik to chase with Brandon sucking his wheel. Chris and Adam (unaffiliated) were dropped instantly and our group was down to four. FMBR now had a 50% chance of winning.

The last hour of racing was finishing my second bottle of Skratch, always Matcha for a caffeine boost at the end. I don’t do caffeine until the end of the race. I also thoroughly enjoyed having two more UnTapped syrups – this stuff is a natural boost of energy that is high in electrolytes, easy to digest, not sticky like traditional gels and gives me a huge kick of energy.

All four of us rotated fairly cohesively with a few little mini attacks as everyone started to think about strategy. It was one of my most enjoyable racing experiences being able to talk with Brandon, gauge how he felt, give him info of time, mileage and terrain to go. As we approached the final technical and quick descent Cooper jumped hard and Brandon covered his wheel. I told him not to loose it because we were so close. Stretched out, but together we came into the flat lead-up to the finish and then it all slowed. Erik came to the front and announced he wasn’t going to sprint – that makes our life easier. We now have a 66% chance of winning. I forced Cooper into second wheel with Brandon behind me. At the 200k meter to go sign, right after Cooper looked over his left shoulder and as soon as his head was facing forward, I jumped as hard as I could over that side, Brandon followed and we went 1-2 with relative ease.

5_29_Hamilton_1_2

Photo by Alex Chiu

This was easily the most enjoyable, beautifully executed and memorable race I’ve ever been apart of. Not to mention giving me my first two win season ever! Thanks again go to my teammates Brandon, Bobby and David for being apart of some #FigFast magic.

I went to bed the night before thinking I could win, I woke up believing I would win and as I sat on the back of the group bringing back Bbakes I KNEW I was going to win. #WeAreFigMtn



Q Doug Sims Takes Bronze at Nationals

Mr. Sims travelled across the States to the Winston-Salem, North Carolina to contest his 55-59 age group in the road race. After a strong season that has seen him pick up 6 podiums, he went in with high expectations.

IMG_2953

We’re proud to announce he took 3rd place (his 5th third of the year) in a 180 man field, a seven spot improvement from last year – we know where he’s headed next season already! Congratulations Q!

#WeAreFigMtn #FigFast

Mt. Hamilton Sunday

Pardon our mid-year, Tour of California, Gila Hangover, crash recovery, 10-day-plus-season-interlude….

12916884_1095010927203657_7565575297595935154_o

We’re ramping up for our first race back – the infamous Mt. Hamilton Classic, point-to-point road race. This year’s edition is the 57th Annual, and the #FigFast squad will look for continued success in the second half of the season at this storied race.

We’ll see Silverander in the 3s, Fennell (he’s a 2x past winner) & Owen in the 55+ , Bbakes, Priest (also a 2x winner) and Stern back in racing shape and taking advantage of one of the only straight 2s road race in the NCNCA/SCNCA districts.

Bobby is on the mend from a recent crash and should be racing soon.

13220933_10201643954015934_4303024975972121626_n

Stay tuned for results! #WeAreFigMtn

David’s 2016 Tour of the Gila Report

If you race bikes The Tour of the Gila needs little introduction. This little report is not for the bike racing readers out there. It is for the readers who appreciate the beauty of head to head competition in the greatest sport arena; the natural elements.

ChyQj88UUAERTTQ

Quick summary for the bike racers who are just looking for a race report: I’m a solid 83 kilos and I live at nearly sea level. I was on my best form of the season and that earned me a top 20 finish in the Stage 1 Mogollon Road Race, easily my best result of the race. I felt like I acclimated reasonably well to sleeping and racing at 6,500 feet of elevation and finished 28th in the time trial on Day 3 and ultimately 27th in the GC on the last day, right where I belonged. My teammate Brandon Baker rode like the insanely talented bike racer he is and finished 13th overall despite losing minutes in GC due to a Stage 2 puncture. That is racing and the way Brandon continued to fight is way back into the GC battle is what bike racers do. Bobby Lozoya was the other #FigFast racer that made the 12 hour car ride to rural New Mexico. My first P12 race was Cat’s Hill Classic and I used to believe that was the hardest P12 debut ever. Bobby chose to make his first Cat 1,2 race Tour of The Gila. I stand corrected, Tour of The Gila is the hardest P12 introduction ever.  Bobby finished top 20 on Stage 1 and still got dropped in the fast start of the Stage 3 Criterium and got pulled from the race.  No shame in that at all.  Bobby is a talented bike racer and I have no doubt he will be back at Gila improving on his debut.

Now back to why I really started writing this report: To describe the beauty that is bike racing from a bike racers point of view.  The Tour of the Gila is a 30 year old five day stage race center in Silver City, New Mexico. Silver City is the gateway to the immense Gila National Forrest. The Gila region where the race takes place is best described as high desert at the lower elevations of 6,500 feet that transitions to pine forrest at the highest elevations of the race at over 8,000 feet. The race is a high altitude climbers paradise, as every single stage features a major elevation gain with two of the three road races have mountain top finishes.

Stage 1 featured an average speed of 32 mph for the first 2.5 hours thanks to a stiff tailwind.  Stage 1 of any stage race is always nervous as the whole race is still up for grabs and everyone has illusions of the overall win. Cruising at 30+ mph just means that when that nervous energy results in the inevitable touch of wheels and resulting crash that its going to be a big one.  Nobody wants to be behind that impending crash and the speed just gets faster and faster as everyone tries to claim the few available spots at the front of the peloton. It’s a fun cycle! I almost forgot to mention that Stage 1 finishes on a 8k climb with pitches well over 15%. Stage 1 is a grand introduction and really sets the tone for the days to come.

IMG_1630-1

Stage 2 is the easy road race on paper.  Its the shortest and has the least amount of climbing. The race profile makes the final 25km look pretty easy with a down hill run into the finish. The race profile lies. 20 of that final 25k is uphill and windy. The race absolutely shattered and the day supposedly meant for a bunch sprint produced some of the biggest finish line time gaps of the whole race.

The Stage 3 time trial is essentially a 13k undulating climb averaging just under 2% gradient on the way out to a turn around and a fast descent back. That awesome tail wind from Stage 1 routinely blows 30 mph plus in your face on the way out and this year was no different. A few racers literally found themselves blown into the ditch. To put it into perspective, the outbound head wind portion of the time trial took most racers 27-30 minutes and the tailwind return took only half that time. Gnarly.

IMG_1621

The Stage 4 Criterium in downtown Silver City is hilly, bumpy and the most technical 4 corner criterium course I have ever done.  It does not play much of factor in the General Classification(GC) battle, but you can you find your Tour of the Gila over a day early if you get pulled.  No participation awards in stage racing.  If you don’t finish in a certain percentage of the winners time, you get eliminated.  No questions asked, you just get a email with the results and a DNF next to your name.

They call Stage 5 the Gila Monster because it is 103 miles, has 8000+ feet of climbing and finished up a monstrosity of a series of climbs called the Gila Monster. The biggest and longest climb of the day start about one hour into the nearly five hour day on the bike.  Ever racing just hopes they can make it over this early climb of Emory Pass with the front group. Only about 25 of the 80 racers that survived to start the last stage made it over this early climb. The rest spent the day riding in small groups trying to limit there time loses or just riding alone for four hours to the finish. I am not one to give many kudos for participation, but if you finish this day regardless of how much time you lose you are a legit pedal bike pusher in my book.

Ch3puUiUUAAQ8YR

You can look up the results on the internet, but results never tell the full story. Hopefully this little rundown gave you some more insight on what The Tour of the Gila is like if you have not had the opportunity to experience it yourself. Just incase my enthusiasm did not come across, I highly recommend it!

13177458_10102405408962952_5212243624237141002_n

Tour of the Gila, Barrio Logan & Berkeley Hills Road Race Results

Full results from last weekend’s race are posted! Jessica got her first win of the season after coming oh-so-close 5 times, Doug was on the box again in NorCal and Brandon collected some more upgrade points looking to complete the 5 to 1 upgrade in less than 4 months…simply amazing.

IMG_1630-1

Stay tuned for an in-depth piece from our captain David on his experience in New Mexico at the Gila. #FigFast

Dana Point Grand Prix Results + Gila

J-Bomb hit the sunny, beachside streets of Dana Point for the 10th Annual Dana Point Gran Prix. As the only FMBR representative, she took her 5th second place finish of the year on the first day in the 3/4 field and came in 12th in the P/1/2/3 field on Sunday. We’ll have a race report from her soon.

Starting tomorrow, the Beast, Bbakes, and Bobby are tackling the 30th Annual Gila Monster in the 2s. This is the furthest the team has traveled for any race and it’s only fitting that it will be this iconic race on the American calendar, in the high desert of New Mexico. Stay tuned!