San Dimas Stage Race: Why I Still Do This
by Mike Easter
Several weeks ago, as I went through my evening routine of laying out my bike equipment and charging my riding lights in preparation for my 4:30AM wakeup and 5:00AM training ride, my wife asked, “Why do you still do this, what drives you.” I responded to my wife with the simplest of answers. “I enjoy it.” But there is more to it and my wife knew that. So, in this race report I will share with you my “why” and how it shaped TIME-Velo Pasadena’s win at SDSR.
As a husband, father of three kids under nine, and a career man, many would wonder why I need “this” (masters racing) as part of my life. For some observers, it is a sign of my underlying identity problem, my obsessive-compulsive behavior, perhaps of my poor self-esteem or even a lost childhood dream of being a professional bike racer that I wasn’t able to achieve. For me, it satisfies something inside me that I don’t get from my role as a husband and father, or in my career.
So, as I lay in bed that night, I took a moment to examine my motivation. What is it that drives me to continue to do masters racing. After a bit, I turned to my wife, who was reading as she does every night, and I shared with her my “why.” I am driven to race by four things: 1) identifying a goal; 2) developing a plan to achieve that goal; 3) executing the plan to succeed at my goal; and 4) the excitement, satisfaction, and acknowledgement that comes with achieving that goal.
Now, how does my “why” fit into winning SDSR? In 2012, TIME-Velo Pasadena sat in a pizza shop in Bend, Oregon, celebrating Rudy and I each winning a national title. Doug Knox told Rudy and me that we (TIME-Velo Pasadena) had to win SDSR in 2013. Doug went on to discuss how he would do everything he could in the off-season to get us the best bikes and equipment to achieve that goal, but we both needed to be capable of winning the overall.
For me, this meant I needed to set off-season goals, develop a plan, and execute the plan to be a factor at SDSR in March 2013.
Goal #1: by my calculations I needed to weigh 165lbs to factor in the hill climb TT, which meant I needed to drop 18 pounds from my weight of 183lbs from nats.
Goal #2: I needed to improve my threshold power while climbing.
My plan to achieve goal #1 was rather simple, after dinner I would not eat what Taco Bell calls “fourth meal.” So, during the day I front loaded calories, ate a normal dinner, and then didn’t eat again until breakfast the following day. My weight instantly began to drop.
My plan to achieve goal #2 was more detailed and more painful. I have always been good at sprinting and repeatable power efforts, but lacked sustainable “threshold power” while climbing. So, ten weeks prior to SDSR I set up an eight week training block followed by two weeks of rest. My primary workout to improve “threshold power” was climbing repeats twice a week up Sulphur Mountain in Ojai. Weeks one and two were three 10-minute efforts at a heart rate of 163 to 172 bpm. My max heart rate is 187bpm. Weeks three and four were three 15-minute efforts at the same heart rate zone. Weeks five and six were three 20 minute efforts at the same heart rate zone. Weeks seven and eight were two 30 minute efforts with the same heart rate zone, but I added short periods above 172bpm every 5 minutes. All that followed by two weeks of rest with occasional short race pace efforts.
Executing the plan is the most stressful part, but also the most exciting. Rudy and I both decided to go 100% on Friday’s 4.25-mile uphill time trial, with the goal of one of us winning and the other being close in time to give us two GC options for the next two stages. Rudy won the time trial by less than one second over Chris McDonald (MRI). I finished 6th at 18 seconds behind Rudy, and I was also one second behind Gary Douville (MRI) who was in 5th.
That evening, Rudy and I went through all the possible scenarios for Saturday’s road race, with the obvious objective of keeping Rudy in the overall lead. We knew there were three hot pot sprints that could give valuable bonus seconds to McDonald and Nunes (3rd by three seconds), so we were willing to let a small break go early to cancel out the time bonuses so long as no GC threats were in the break. That is exactly what happened, a group of four riders went away on lap two and we used our team to keep the break at less than one minute.
As we approached the end of lap four, our team had closed the gap and brought the break back. Once again, there were bonus seconds at the end of lap five. I looked after Rudy coming in to the bonus sprint and he took first giving him a bonus of three seconds. I took third giving me a one-second bonus and putting me on equal time with Douville.
On lap six, Douville and Bottger (Rokform) slipped away on the climb leading into Bonelli Park. As we approached the top, I noticed they were putting some time on the group very quickly. More importantly, Douville was a threat to Rudy’s GC. As the group came over the top, I attacked and went full gas as I wanted to go across clean and quickly. I caught the pair and was able to sit on and catch my breath for a few rotations before the real climb on the course. We finished lap six and headed into lap seven, which offered bonus seconds again.
The trio continued to work well, but I knew Douville would like to get rid of me and he would have to do it on the climb. As we came into the climb on lap seven, Douville put in the effort and created some separation over the top. Thanks to help from Bottger, I was able to come back to Douville and recover to take another three bonus seconds as we crossed the line to start the eighth and final lap. Since Douville had taken second in the bonus seconds sprint, I figured I had a one-second advantage and was the virtual GC leader.
On lap eight, it was short pulls for Douville and me, with Bottger doing a majority of the pacing. I was starting to get cramps in my hamstrings and knew that I needed to limit my effort to staying with Douville over the final climb and then winning the race. Onto the climb we went. I geared down and tried to keep my legs spinning and cramp free, but it was not to be. I started cramping so I stood and shifted down, but then my quads started to cramp. I thought, ‘this can’t be happening,’ so I sat back down and just kept pedaling through the cramps. I punched both quads to keep them from locking up and by the top I had only lost about four bike lengths.
I was able to shake my legs out down the descent and recover along the flats into the finish. Bottger lead us into the finish and I was able to launch at about 250 meters to take the win and the overall lead by 8 seconds. In addition to taking the lead, I also accumulated enough sprint points to take the green jersey as well.
On Sunday, the team and I decided to take a more conservative approach, with the goal of winning the war (GC) and not the battle (criterium). The criterium went to plan with a small scare when I double flatted around half-way into the race. After a pit at neutral support, I was back in the race and committed to staying out of trouble. On the final lap, I decided to ride the front and not worry about winning the sprint. In the end, I finished 3rd behind Kayle and DeMarchi (MRI) whose team rode a hard race and deservedly won the criterium.
I am extremely happy to have won SDSR and thankful to TIME-Velo Pasadena for the support. I also got a wonderful surprise before the start, as my parents and my wife made the several-hour trip down with the three kids to celebrate this win.
My challenge to you this time is this: set goals for yourself, whether they are in athletics, family, or work. Develop and plan to achieve your goals, and then execute your plan. Don’t sit on the sideline and allow the fear of failure prevent you from the pursuit.