Sea Otter 2k18

It begins….

The Sea Otter Classic descends upon Laguna Seca Raceway outside of Monterey every April. Now over a week removed from the 2018 edition of Sea Otter Classic, FMBR looks back at the event. The Sea Otter Classic cycling festival and expo packed with a multitude of cycling and somewhat cycling related companies showcasing their latest offerings and distributing swag. An assortment of races are also held over the course of the four day event. These extend from MTB events such as dual slalom, downhill and cross country to a trio of road events. And just for some more fun, throw in cyclocross, e-bikes and a Brompton race! There are even some fondos on Saturday. In the mix of the festivities, three members of FMBR, Nick Besse, Brendon Bolin and Jason Hannon, participated in some of races on offer.

Proceedings kicked off on Thursday with Nick and Jason participating in the Elite 3 and Masters 45+ 1/2/3 criterium races respectively. The crit is held on the Laguna Seca race track between turns 11 and 2. The course goes the opposite direction of the main start finish straight then back around using the pit lane with the course start/finish line in pit lane. This configuration leads to two sharp turns entering and exiting pit lane as they are designed to merge onto and off of the track the opposite directions.

Nick

Through the pre-ride I knew this was going to be a hard race.  The narrow, sharp, 180 degree corners successfully split the field the first few laps.  I managed to hang on in the group and close the gaps created by myself or by other riders.  Though there were a few close calls, there were surprisingly no crashes! The race played out very similarly every lap, sprinting out of every corner with 20-30 second efforts to close the gap back down and riders were starting to blow left and right. In the final few laps, it was a fight for positioning in the final selection of 12-15 riders.  I found myself too far back in the final few corners and rolled it in for 6th place in the 3s.

Jason

One of the cool things about racing Masters is that you really get to know your competition. The bad thing is that the competition in the top 10% is pretty damn tough (at least from my perspective). For Thursday’s criterium my goal was to simply try and stay close to Scott Giles (current NorCal Champ and winner of the 2017 Otter crit, circuit, and road).

As expected, things started fast with hard accelerations out of every turn. We quickly got into a break of 7 within the first 3 or 4 laps. The attacks kept coming and at one point a lone rider got roughly 10 sec off the front. Giles took advantage of the opportunity with an attack from behind the group and bridged. Once Giles bridged he went into TT mode and quickly opened the gap to over a minute. Our remaining break of 5 played cat-and-mouse with no one wanting to commit to chasing down Giles. Giles continued pulling his companion for several laps before dropping him for another solo win. Our chase group stayed together until a couple hundred meters before the final turnaround when another rider attacked a couple hundred meters before the last turn around. It was a good move that I wish I would have thought of as he was able to hold the rest of us off to muster 3rd place and snag the last podium spot. His attack basically initiated a very long sprint for the rest of us in which I came in 2nd for a 5th overall.

Fiesta Friday

Friday had Brendon and Nick racing together in the Elite 3s circuit race. The circuit race takes place on the full Laguna Seca track with the start/finish line located between turns 4 and 5. The main feature on the course is the hill leading up to the iconic corkscrew.

Nick

At the start line, I knew it would be a long race.  I hadn’t slept too well the night before and was still thick-legged from the crit the day before.  Over the top of the first climb, I knew I was in trouble. I saw the group strung out coming through the finishing straight, hoping to snap the band early, I attacked.  No one came with me, so I decided to get a head start on the climb. I made it over the top the next few laps in ok shape, with the occasional gap needing to be closed on the corkscrew (thank god for being big)!  Eventually the gaps got bigger and bigger and I needed the efforts got bigger to close them. With 5 to go I couldn’t close the gap and dropped off the back. I managed to not get lapped and was the last rider to finish the race in 16th place.

Brendon

While I felt my fitness was not at the same level I had earlier in the season, I felt a good result was obtainable in the circuit race. I did not want to repeat my mistake of last year where I used too much energy early in the race (or previous days crit) and was unable to follow the race winning selection on the last lap. I felt good all race and tried to go steady every time up the climb. Going into 4 laps to go, one of the riders split off the front. No one really bothered to chase and he got up to around a 20-25 second lead. Another rider came up to me and mentioned this same fact. I said something along of the lines of we should bridge next time on the hill. The hill came and by then he was already caught but the other rider went and I followed. This strung the remaining field of 12-13 riders out and it looked like 5 of us were going to stay off in the front but later in the lap we were back together. The final laps were pretty unnoteworthy. Things were setting up for a bunch sprint. With two turns to go, I thought I had good position. I ended up getting bumped out a bit then caught behind someone that blew up. In hindsight, I sat up a bit prematurely as I thought the finish was further away than I thought. Either way, I was too far back out of position to contest for the sprint and I felt no need to sprint for minor places. Fun race but a mediocre result of 11th.

In Full Swing

On Saturday it was Jason’s turn to tame the track in the Masters 45+ 1/2/3 circuit race. Later in the day, Brendon would race in the crowd favorite, CX.

Jason

Disappointed that I didn’t keep a closer eye on Giles in the crit and that I didn’t ride more aggressively once I knew he was off the front, I decided that I would try to initiate an early break with the hopes that Giles or his team mate Craig Nunes (current SoCal Champ) would join me. On the 2nd lap, I went 110% on the climb and opened up a good gap. I dug deep (too deep in retrospect) and kept it going across the top and down the corkscrew. When I got to the other side of the track (crit course) I looked back to see Giles closing the gap, but also towing the remains of a still fairly large pack. I backed off to recover some and wait for the group to catch me. Unfortunately, the hostilities that I had initiated continued so that I was unable to fully recover. I managed to hold on for the 3rd lap, but the 4th time up the climb I lost contact with the lead group. I sat up and decided to pull out of the race to save something for Sunday’s road race which effectively dropped me into last place. Once I recovered I decided what the hell I might as well finish. I got into a comfortable rhythm and managed to catch and drop two groups of riders and ended up coming in 12th out of 31 starters.

Cross is coming?

The Sea Otter cross course leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the course is ran beside the track and overall is not technical in nature. The surface is comprised of a mix of well packed dirt, rutted dirt, sand and gravel. This years course was close to the same as last years but with the laps going in the opposite direction.

Brendon

After a full Saturday of cruising the expo area enjoying free expressoes and other beverages, the time finally came to get serious. I’m not sure if any Sea Otter event is as prestigious or majestic as the Cat 5 CX race. So with this knowledge in hand, I donned my kit and a pair of free Subaru branded shades and made my way to the track. After noodling around to warm up, I made sure not to repeat my sins of last year. I got to the start line early and actually lined up on the front row. After the usual spiel from the oficial, 6:30pm had finally come and we were off. And quickly into the first section of sand. With little delay with hit the deeper sandpit where everyone began their graceful dismounting moves and began the slog uphill. Why have an uphill sandpit? This question crossed my mind every five minutes or so for the next half an hour.

As expected the first lap hurt as did the following ones but I managed to settle in and was somewhere in the top 10 although the top few people were quickly getting out of sight. Near the middle of the race, I got in a bit of back in forth with two other riders. One of them a fellow Santa Barbara friend, Sam Selfridge. With a few laps to go, I passed Sam to go into the lead of our trio. The final course corner had deep gravel but after passing through some of it, the outside line was well packed as fast running. I went into the deeper part a bit too aggressive and lost the front end. By the time I recovered, I had conceded at least ten seconds to the other rides. I started my task of reeling them in going into the final lap. I botched on of the rideable sandpits by taking a bad line and by the time I stopped again and go going, Sam was unreachable, the other rider though was my carrot. I reeled him in and was able to sprint around on the lead in to the finish. Overall it was good enough for 8th on the day.  Afterwards, it took a few minutes for my stomach to quiet down enough to enjoy a Fig Mountain brew. 😉

And after the 4th day, rest

All good things must come to an end and the final festival day of Sunday brought with it the difficult road race for Jason and Nick. The road course starts with a two mile descent and ends climbing back up. In between those bits are nine mile loops with rolling terrain and one short sharp hill.

Nick

I felt much, much better after taking Saturday easy and getting to sleep in.  I still knew the wall would be an issue, but I can sag-climb with the best of them.  Once again, I launched and early effort to try and snap the group and gain an early advantage.  They caught on to my scheme pretty quick and chased me down. I made it over the wall the next few times with little trouble closing the gap over the top.  With 2 to go, there was a guy off the front with 2 minutes on the group. Over the climb I was the last wheel in the group and the guy in front of me blew up, letting a huge gap open up through the downhill.  By the time I came around the group had 10 seconds on me. I managed to catch back on through the headwind neighborhood, though when the pace picked up through the Stanford rollers, I couldn’t hang on. I rode the last lap in by myself and finished in 14th.

Jason

The Sea Otter road course makes for a very tough road race. In 2016 I DNF’d, and in 2017 I felt good down to the last lap before cracking and getting 10th. Both times I rode too aggressively and paid the price. This time I decided to play it conservatively. The approach worked well and after three times up the main climb I found myself in a select group of roughly 10 riders that included both Giles and Nunes. I was feeling strong on the climbs and was drinking and eating well. I was sitting in on the backside of the course and complimenting myself on how good I was feeling when I realized my back tire was going flat. I immediately waved over the following SRAM support vehicle and got a replacement back wheel which cost me about 45 sec. That proved to be too much of a gap for me to reconnect with the lead group. I did manage to catch a couple of other stragglers. One of which stayed with me up the final painful climb. I managed to take him at the line resulting in an 8th place finish out of 17 starters.

San Rafael Twilight (Sunset)

Tucker makes a brief appearance on the start line (from :03 to :05) in the winner, Justin Williams’ (Cylance) video from Saturday.

Those #FigFast green & black colors look good under the lights…next year we’ll send a full squad!

Jessica also took another top ten in the women’s 3/4 earlier in the day.

Cascade Classic Results & San Rafael Sunset Criterium

The team is back from a long trip and big stage race in Bend, Oregon – the Cascade Cycling Classic. We scored three podiums, and two more top tens. Full results can be found here.

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Brandon scored two second place finishes, this one atop Mt. Bachelor, and a 6th overall in GC.

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Jess got barley nipped at the line and took second at the Downton Criterium after her TT in the morning on Saturday.

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Julia guest rode for the Canyon Bicyles – Shimano pro team in her first race as a 2. She had some unfortunate luck that saw a screw go through her wheel during stage 3, ending her weekend a bit early. We can all attest the Giesch still had fun!

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Not a bad drive, albeit 12 hours long…

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Racing in the mountains with scenery like this, we’ll be back next year!

Tomorrow, Tucker is racing the San Rafael Twilight (or Sunset as it is now known) criterium in Marin County. His form is on point, look for him to sneak up on some NorCal hitters and grab a #FigFast podium!

Bbakes also scored his final upgrade, fourth of the season, into the 1st. This is FMBR’s 11th of the season.

Patterson Pass Road Race next weekend as well…stay tuned!

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The 2s squad post Mt. Bachelor Road Race before the podium shot.

Crusher in Tushar, SoCal Crit Racing and Cascade

The team had a great adventure to Beaver, Utah for the Crusher in Tushar and enjoyed a weekend at elevation gravel grinding and enjoying the the southern Utah Mountains. David made a sweet video of his experience out on the course here:

Jess continued her domination of the 3s in the SoCal crit scene (results are updated) and seven team members are in Bend, Oregon for the 37th Annual Cascade Cycling Classic.

From our women’s team, Julia is guest riding for the Canyon Bicycles Shimano team for her first UCI pro event.

Stay tuned for #FigFast results over the course of the weekend!

Results: Nationals, CCCX & Long Beach Grand Prix

D. Priest (the Beast) took home 55th and 60th in the TT and road race this week in Louisville, Kentucky. A great showing for his first two races as a category one racer against the best amateurs in the country.

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TJ returned to racing for the first time in eleven months to snag his first podium in the #FigFast green & black. He is riding strong, happy and ready to attack the late season races in order to make the jump to the elite squad.

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Stern snagged his third win of the season and a fourth place at CCCX for a few more upgrade points, bringing him over the 50% mark for his category one upgrade.

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Caps Not Hats

Jessica took her second win of the year in emphatic style, posting up for a finishing line salute at the Long Beach Grand Prix today.

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Next weekend the team sends a group of racers to Beaver, Utah for the Crusher in Tushar – thanks our amazing apparel sponsor DNA Cycling for setting this up…road trip!

Full results HERE

#WeAreFigMtn

Victorville Road Race AND a Secret UPGRADE

Jason, Jeff & John drove half-way to Vegas for the Victorville Road Race yesterday, held under 105 degree temperature and 40 mile per hour wind (not to uncommon to last weekend’s race at Lake Elizabeth) conditions. Without consistent bottle hand-ups, Jason and John were forced to drop out of the scorching heat conditions half-way through.

Stern was able to freelance a few bottles from the sparse spectators littered on the lone 1.1 mile, 2% feedzone climb of the 6 mile lap around the beautiful Victorville USP. He hung onto a group of three other chasers of a two man break until cramping off the back due to a lack of accessible hydration – with only 4 laps to go. Riding the final circuits solo he held on for fifth place on the day. A brutal and memorable two upgrade points to say the least.

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In other news, Julia apparently received her Cat 2 upgrade this week (but didn’t tell anyone) – FMBR‘s tenth upgrade only six months into the 2016 season. That is nearly two upgrades per month. 

#WeAreFigMtn #FigFast

Lake Elizabeth Cat 3 Race Report by D. Silverander

Long Story Short

It was stupid windy, which determined the dynamic and outcome of the race. I didn’t quite recognize this while we were racing, largely because I was too attached to my pre-race assessment that the climb would be the most selective element on the course. The main takeaway is that, in extreme weather, you must be quick to recognize how it will impact the race and adjust your plan accordingly. Also, when conditions are tough, many people will be racing just to finish. Aggression is likely to be rewarded, therefore, by a field unmotivated to chase effectively.

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Short Story Long

There aren’t a lot of road racing opportunities in Southern California this time of year, so when I saw that the Lake Elizabeth RR was happening just two hours away in Lancaster it was an easy decision to sign up. With a 2:05pm starting time, I figured that it would probably be a really hot day on the bike. What I did not see coming was that the race would take place in some of the strongest and most unrelenting wind that I have ever experienced.

The course is a 14 mile loop—basically a 3 mile climb, 4 miles of descending and the rest pretty flat. On a normal day, a course like this would definitely favor small climber types, who could put the hurt on the field by pushing the pace on the climb. This was not a normal day, though. No, this was a day when the wind blew like it was trying to stop time.

Two good things I will say about the wind. It was quite consistent—although it did swirl wildly in the canyons—and it kept the temperature fairly low. Other than that, it pretty much sucked. This was the kind of wind that makes it hard to stand up straight, let alone ride a bicycle fast. I’m no meteorologist, but I’d guess that the sustained wind coming from the West was at least 20 miles per hour, probably closer to 30 by the time the race was over. Gusts to 40 or 50 were frequent, causing at least one solo crash in our race and many near misses. Not content just to assault the riders, the wind also saw fit to knock over the portapotties at registration. I’m telling you, it was ugly out there.

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As the 30-man 3s field rolled out onto the course, there was a palpable sense that this was a pretty ridiculous thing to be doing. This is a hobby, after all, and wind that strong just makes bike riding unpleasant. It’s loud, you have to pay extra-close attention to everything, you keep tensing up trying to hold the bike steady… overall it’s exhausting and annoying. I know from personal experience that focusing on negatives can easily infect one’s mind and sap one’s will to compete. So, as we started, I consciously redoubled my commitment to the race and decided that, if nothing else, it would be a unique experience.

The course starts on the main climb and most of it was straight into the wind. This made for an unusual dynamic, where drafting was hugely beneficial and therefore the advantage that a strong climber would normally enjoy was muted or nonexistent. I had been anticipating a race of attrition, where each time up the climb we’d lose a few from the main field. Given that expectation, I figured the best thing to do was stay in the group, ride smart and see where things stood after 2 or 3 laps.

What I failed to recognize was that the wind changed the race dynamic entirely. Since the wind meant that you could basically sit in on the climb, it was not selective in the way that you would have expected. Instead, we all trudged up together, slowly and shakily, sand occasionally blasting in our faces. I was feeling good and, had I realized what was going on, I would have made an effort to get up the road. It’s hard mentally to want to leave the comfort of the group in conditions like that, but it was the smart thing to do. The few guys who ever got a significant gap on the field were never pulled back and those three were rewarded with the entire podium.

The rest of us slogged it out for 3 long hours. A lot of it felt like bike racing in slow motion. Someone would attack all out and gain a gap of maybe 10 feet, which the rest of us would close down over the course of 30 seconds. The Strava segment for the last two miles of the race tells the story perfectly. Racing in the 8am 4s race before the wind started, my friend Danny covered the distance at 18.8 mph with an average power of 233 watts. My best time on the segment was 12.6 mph (this is up a 2% grade) on 277 watts, meaning that Danny went 50% faster with 15% less effort. Like the rest of the day, it was all about the wind.

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That final two mile push was both excruciating and comical. The wind was hard from the right, so we were echeloned from shoulder to centerline, creeping along with everyone trying to balance the need for shelter with the desire to maintain some kind of decent position. I spent most of that time in third wheel, cranking along in the small ring and staring at the finish area, which was tauntingly visible in the distance.

Finally, with about 150 meters to go, someone opened up the “sprint” and I did what I could to follow. I’d been just on the edge of cramping a few minutes earlier, but I was determined to give it everything I had. A few guys got past me and I was able to pass a few of them back. My speed peaked at 16.5 mph, which is about as fast as I could sprint on foot. I ended up fifth among what was left of the field and eighth overall. Not a great result, but a hard fought one from which I learned a lot.

P.S. Okay, one other good thing about the wind. It turned an otherwise unremarkable descent into an all-time ripper—4 miles in just over 5 minutes.

Results from Lodi, San Marcos and Adrenaline

The first weekend of June saw three of our elite riders head north for the the Guardsmen Tour SF which our main sponsor, Fig Mtn Brew, also sponsored this year as well as the Lodi Cyclefest.

Our #FigFast ladies attacked three criteriums in SoCal and came back with four top ten finishes. Results are posted.

This weekend we’ll send riders to the Lake Elizabeth Road Race – check back next week for results. #WeAreFigMtn

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.

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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!!!

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