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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!!!


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.

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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.

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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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Sea Otter Road Race, Mens 55+ by Owen

A solid field of about 25 riders lined up for the Men’s 55+ Sea Otter Classic Road Race on Friday, April 15th. The field was very competitive and included two past winners, one of the best 55+ climbers in the State, and one of SoCal’s finest, Greg Fenton. Quentin Sims and I were representing FMBR. Last year at this race I was dropped on lap 4 of 5 on Hennekins Ranch Bump. Hennekins is a 3 minute VO2 max climb that is not too bad the first time up, but I struggle with the three minute power compared to a lot of these other guys.

As the race was about to start the official mentioned that this year was a six lap race. What the heck I thought, six times up that hill!? We started with a neutral downhill (the finishing climb) and a two mile ride to the circuit. I found myself unprepared for a hauling-ass descent behind a motorcycle which was going about 40 miles an hour. Before I knew, it I was at the back and we were starting at the bottom of the bump.

The pace was not too bad and I located Quentin’s wheel as a reference point. He is so good that I know that if I am close to him I am always going to be in good position. The course has several other “bumps” all of which we hit at an annoyingly high tempo. We would charge the punchy climbs full gas, including a sprint to the top, then shut it down and recover – bump after bump, and lap after lap. I really hate riding like this as I am steady grinder type.

After about four laps, attrition started to set in and only 10 or so were making it over Hennekins together. All the favorites were there and several attacks were made. At the onset, I decided I was going to ride conservatively because I was so worried about getting dropped on the bump. I let the favorites do the chasing as attack after attack was reeled in. In truth most of the attacks just died, so no one was really doing that much work except on all the punchy little bumps.

At the end of the sixth lap we passed the bottom of Hennekins and turned onto Barloy Canyon Road. This was the finishing climb of 2.2 miles. The bottom .7 miles are pretty mild, maybe 2-3%, but the final 1.5 miles kicks up to 5-10%. Someone up front decided they were going to string things out right away as we hit the bottom. I moved up quickly not wanting to miss any action and got into 5th position right behind the 60+ Southern Cal District Champ. That was a good wheel, as he held onto the three leaders in front of him.

The three leaders were really burning as we hit the steeper section about a mile from the finish. All of a sudden the wheel in front of me faltered a bit, so I decided to surge around. If there was ever a time to burn a match, that was it! But shoot, somehow the three in front had gained a ten second gap on me and I could not close it. In fact, at about 200 meters I realized that I was done! Not done completely, but the legs were going fast and I just tried to hold on figuring that whoever was trying to close behind me was feeling the same. The 200 meters went by and I finished in fourth about 20 seconds behind Quentin (3rd), Carl Neilson (2nd), and Greg Fenton who won decisively. While I would like to have finished stronger, this was a great result for me and the personal victory over the Hennekins Ranch Bump was very satisfying.

2016 SCNCA Elite Road Race Championships – 29th Annual San Luis Rey Road Race

Race report from our team director David ‘The Beast‘ Priest.

I showed up to San Luis Rey Road Race with some pretty high hopes of a good result. A long, 103 mile race with just enough climbing to soften up the pure sprinters, but not enough to let the little climbers leave my XL frame in their dust is usually right up my alley. I had been fighting off a cold all week and hadn’t ridden much leading up the race, so I really didn’t know what to expect but I was committed to racing hard (Editor’s note: Priest the Beast always races hard) and finding out. I rode aggressively in the first hour of the race and confirmed my confidence that I had the legs to race for a good result. Despite my attempts to stay hydrated I developed a headache that progressed until it felt like my head was pouring through the vents in my helmet. As my headache progressed my awareness and mental sharpness rapidly declined – I was in trouble. I was dehydrated and hot riding my bike straight to struggle street. Despite all of this I managed to ride my way into the winning move of 7 riders with about 35k to go just as the remaining peloton shattered to bits. I could hardly see straight, but I had made the winning move and I knew if I could just survive to the final climb I could survive my way to a good result.

While heading up the climb to start the last lap it became very clear that my body was simply not going to allow me to ride at the intensity needed to stay in the lead group. I was dangling about 30 seconds off the back of the lead group starting the last 14-mile lap with at least a minute on any remains of the race chasing us from behind. I told myself to just ride a steady tempo and I had a top 10 in the bag at least. Quickly, my steady tempo turned into the dreaded combination of pedaling and coasting that every cyclist who has reached that point of failure knows. I couldn’t think, eat, drink and most importantly pedal. I was utterly shattered and no gel or drink was going to save me. I simply could not bare the thought of getting a DNF after I had the opportunity to be on the podium so late in the race. So, for the last 12 miles and 45 minutes I averaged 73 watts, stopped once and went from finishing top 7 to finishing next to last of the guys who actually finished the race. It was easily the worst and most physically painful meltdown of my cycling career. Cyclists like to talk about being shattered, shot out, exhausted and crushed at the end of a hard race. At the time, I  couldn’t articulate my name much less my state of exhaustion. In hindsight, I was reduced to a hollow body trying to turn over the pedals at roughly the power output of a small child. As athletes, we like to think that there is physical and mental growth in every challenging experience. Being able to grow and improve from failure is essential for bike racers because failure is an integral part of the sport even for the greats. I am all for growing as an athlete, but I can honestly say I would be happier if this experience never happened (Editor’s note: This race had a 50% DNF rate) Rest up and recover. Racing again next weekend.


Brandon and David post race – exhausted

J-Baum’s Turlock Lake Road Race Report

This last weekend’s hunt for upgrade points found us driving 5 hours north to Turlock Lake Road Race. The course’s profile was mostly flat with two main sections of rollers in the middle and one last riser 200 meters to the line. Julia’s and my plan of attack going into the day was to keep the pace high to try and shatter our relatively small field of nine. I think the biggest surprise was that, despite the rain and various flooded sections of the course, the weather didn’t play a big role in the outcome of the race.

Julia put in a few attacks early in the race but the four JLVelo girls were quick to chase anything down and using their numbers to control the race. When we got to the rollers section I decided to get on the front and set an uncomfortable pace. I wasn’t trying to get away, but rather I wanted to tire people out and maybe pop some girls off the back. It worked out pretty well and big gaps started forming in the group. I was hoping that Julia would launch an attack, but the Mike’s Bikes rider beat her to the punch (she had been launching counter attacks off of our moves all race long). JLVelo chased it down and slowed down the pace just enough to let their dropped riders catch back on. We all settled into an easier pace through the flats again and Julia and I drifted to the back to talk tactics going into the next 22-mile lap. We both agreed that while JLVelo’s numbers couldn’t be ignored, the real girl to watch out for was the Mike’s Bikes rider. She had the strongest attacks and was racing smart.

We moved back up towards the front and a rider shouted out “Watch out, here comes the Fig double!” In addition to giving our tag team an amazing nickname, it was a nice confidence boost. As we approached the first section of rollers I moved to the front next to a JLVelo girl to pick up the pace like I had done the lap before. However, just before I could turn it up, Julia and another JLVelo rider fly up the road to our left. Instantly, the girl’s teammate and I start soft-pedaling at the front to give the attack its best shot at success. It was the right mix of riders as both of them had teammates in the pack that could play defense for them. It wasn’t long before the Mike’s Bikes rider got to the front of the field and started the chase by herself. The Team City rider didn’t have the legs to pull through and the Twenty 16 rider proved unwilling to help reel in the break. I was worried though when Julia and the JLVelo rider were still dangling just up the road from us after a few miles and were almost brought in by the insane effort from the Mike’s Bikes rider. However, looking back, I think having the break be in sight for so long really kept the motivation up for the chase, and ultimately tired out the rider Julia and I picked out as most dangerous.

Once we got to the second section of rollers the break finally got out of site. As a result, the Mike’s Bikes rider drifted to the back to conserve her energy for the field sprint just 6 miles down the road. I liked my odds, though. Field sprints are my strong suit and I had been conserving energy in the pack the entire second lap. Both the remaining JLVelo riders and the Team City rider got gapped pretty hard when I put in my efforts on lap one and Mike’s Bikes had just put in a huge effort trying to chase. I knew it would come down to me and the Twenty 16 rider (who sat in and conserved her energy all day) at the end, so I kept an eye on her. The 3k to go sign came and went. Then the 1k. Then the 500m. And just before the 200m sign and the rise to the finish the Twenty 16 rider launches her attack. “Too soon” I thought to myself; when the finish is uphill you want to launch closer to 150m to go. I followed her but couldn’t quite catch her wheel. About 30 feet from the line she faded and glanced back at me. I knew that was my shot. I gave everything I had left to accelerate just a bit more to come around her to win the field sprint and come in 3rd place. I was so jazzed that Julia and I both ended up on the podium and I’m insanely proud of how well we did in this race.


J-Baum showing some #FigFast grit, taking the field sprint and stepping onto the podium – photo by Katie Truong

San Dimas Through the Eyes of Julia

This weekend marked the first time I have entered San Dimas Stage Race.  I had heard a lot about this iconic stage race; the uphill time trial, the technical road race and the lively downtown criterium.

I knew that doing well in the TT was important and was hoping to get my body from the bottom to the top in 21 minutes or just under. I had a good warm up on the trainer and carefully rolled over to the start line. While I was being held on the start line I looked down at my Garmin to realize the rookie in me had made a mistake and my Garmin was not paired to my power meter.   Without power it would be a time trial all about sensing how I felt – I still ended up 5th.


That afternoon the Fig Mtn Brew Team did an easy recon ride on the road race course and it was a good thing that we did because the course was technical. The best word I heard used to describe the course was hectic. It was a race that required strong legs fueled by a sharp mind. I was somewhat frustrated by the number of times our field was neutralized and how frequently that brought dropped riders back into the group. In lap two, there was a crash right ahead of me that slowed me down.  Vanessa Snapp, a good friend, classy racer and race leader clad in yellow and I rode hard to get back into the group. On lap two, cones had been placed on to our course that had not been there on previous laps causing confusion and chaos to our group. On lap three I had visions of helping our sprint phenomenon and teammate, Jess Baumgardner get sprint points by leading her out, but after  being neutralized 500 meters before the line Jess did a commendable job of initiating the sprint and still getting third. The bell rang for the last lap and the mission was getting over Hecklers Hill.  After some mild Heckling on Hecklers hill, a few women worked towards making the group small for the final lap by upping the speed so no one could catch back on to our break. I am still sharpening my skills of putting the finish together in these field finishes, but was happy to come away with 8th place.

The last day of San Dimas Stage Race I was sitting 5th in the GC.  I tried to get myself excited for the crit and thought about attempting to win. To tell you the truth I was a little frustrated on the start line and just wanted to do my job and be done. After a well presented call up and start from the SC Velo volunteers, we were racing. I found compared to the field I had an easier time moving up on a long, shallow hill on the back side of the crit course. This became even more apparent as the crit went on. This was an area of strength for me. I noticed I was working a lot more coming out of corners because this was an area of weakness for me. With 4 laps to go I couldn’t wait for the crit to be over, mentally I had settled on a mid-field finish. On the last lap I was sitting on the back of a group of about twenty.  As I entered turn 1, I heard my teammate Brandon Baker say, “lead it out!” At turn 2, I thought, okay fine, why not?’ At turn 3 I thought, ‘starting moving’ and I worked up the right side to advance about half way through the field. Turn four cam around and I thought ‘now what?’  I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to get my bike up to the real front. Turn five I worked on the right side and noticed another rider accelerate. I followed two wheels behind her and waited for her to get just a little tired and slow her roll. She did and I moved forward and put down the throttle. I took turn six as best as I could and opened up my sprint. This was going to be good enough to lock in third.  I was so thankful for Brandon’s advice. It was instrumental in my podium and shows me yet another benefit of having teammates. It was the sweetest day of the whole stage race, getting points for my upgrade.



Silverander’s Race Reports from CCCX

Fort Ord is an enormous (~28,000 acre) former US Army base near Seaside, CA, perched on the edge of the pristine Monterey Bay. The rolling terrain and abundant closed roads make for lots of great bike racing opportunities. Most notably, the area is home to the annual cycling family reunion and race week known as the Sea Otter Classic.

Less prominent—but much appreciated by anyone seeking plentiful chances to race—the Central Coast Cycling Road Series also takes place on Fort Ord. Known as CCCX, in homage to its Cyclocross roots, the race series takes place frequently throughout the year and the schedule is such that most racers can get in 2 or sometimes 3 races in a day. That fact makes CCCX a favorite of those, like myself, who are hunting for upgrade points.

The classic CCCX course is a great rolling loop around the base with plenty of punchy hills to test the legs. With a construction project currently preventing racing on that course, the organizers have substituted an out-and-back course that is not quite as interesting but still makes for great racing.

The Seaside Bay View Circuit Course we raced this weekend traverses a straight road with good pavement and a nice assortment of rollers to keep things interesting. Also keeping things interesting are the U-turns at either end of the course, which force riders to slow down quite a bit and are generally followed by explosive efforts to regain speed and punish those who failed to position themselves well going into the turn. Indeed, in both races I did those turns would prove to be the deciding factor.

Category 4 Race

With no teammates and a large contingent from one team (San Jose Bicycle Club made up a third of the 18 rider field), I figured my best bet was to ride conservatively but remain attentive for any breaks containing their riders. The first half of the race saw the usual futile early attempts to get away, with people punching it on short uphills only to have the field roll right back to them on the subsequent downhill.

About halfway through the 50 minute race, someone attacked coming out of the far (relative to the start) U-turn, which is followed by a decent little uphill. Myself and five others were able to cover the move and we quickly realized that the rest of the field was not. Obviously, all of us liked our odds better in this reduced group (not to mention it made the U-turns more pleasant) so we did our best to cooperate and keep the others from joining back on. Having 2 of the SJBC riders in our group of 7 definitely increased the odds of pulling that off.

We succeeded in staying away and for the last several laps it was obvious we’d be sprinting each other. It was clear enough that everyone was conserving a bit of energy and thinking through their best bet for the sprint finish, which is at the top of a hill. Prior to the race, I’d overheard some masters recapping their completed races and asked them for any advice regarding the finish. Very helpfully, they pointed to a certain light pole at about 200 meters to go and said that was the spot to open it up. Anything before that would probably be too early given the uphill slope and slight headwind.

Coming into the finish, someone went early and we all jumped on his wheel. I stayed as patient as possible and held off my best effort until we reached the light pole. That worked out well, as I was able to advance through several riders who were fading at that point. Three of us got good separation from the others, with the eventual winner ahead by a couple meters. Second place and I were neck and neck at the line and closing down the gap to first. I was happy with the finish and my sprint effort, and extra happy to know that I had just earned the 2 points I needed for my upgrade to Category 3.


Category 3/4 Race

With my points in my pocket, I decided just to have fun with this race and see how it developed. The afternoon had delivered a pretty solid headwind on the outbound portion of the course and this, combined with that fact that most of us had already raced at least once, made for a painfully slow first lap.

On the second lap, there was another attack at the far U-turn and this time only 4 of us ended up covering it. We agreed quickly to work together and set about taking brief, hard pulls. One young rider was popped from our group pretty quickly, leaving 4 of us to share the work. Everyone left seemed pretty strong and competent, so I committed myself to the break and took good, honest pulls to do my best to help keep us away.

The apathy that marked the start of the race seemed to continue for the main field and pretty quickly we had a good gap on them. About halfway through the 50 minute race we had more than 30 seconds on the field and I felt our odds of staying away were good. We continued working together well and the gap grew with each time around. Coming into the final lap, it was clear that they would not be getting us back, so we all started resting up the legs a bit for the finish sprint.

I led us through the final U-turn, which was a mistake because that put me on the front coming into the finish. With no one to chase us down, things got very tactical and slow as I tried to find my way off the front of the group. Again, someone opened up the sprint from ~500 meters out and we all jumped on his wheel. He faded pretty quickly, leaving three of us to duke it out. I tried my best but couldn’t pass either of the other riders, giving me another 3rd place finish.

All in all, two results I was pleased with and a satisfying way to close out my career as a 4. There are 5 more CCCX race days this year—some of which will cover a different, looping course—so go check them out if you’re looking for some solid racing in a beautiful place.


Congrats on your 3s upgrade David!