Marc Pro - Strava

Cycling Team



The Sea Otter didn't go as planned this year. Although it was a premier series race, neither Mike's or MPS had much interest in having a showdown. They also discontinued the stage race, which was a bummer for me. We did send 4 guys though and had a solid chance of bringing home a needed "W". Max, Art, Nate and I made the trip to the dreaded dirt parking on top of Fort Ord. We pre planned to get Max and Art to the bottom of the final climb and let them do what they do. We headed off the Laguna Seca Race Track and had a pretty mellow neutral decent on to the actual race course. The first lap started out extremely aggressive, and I took to my role of covering everything I could in hopes of an early break to take the pressure off the teammates. After a lap in a half of going eyeballs, I noticed there were no other banana heads in the mix. Although that was my role, I fully expected to see Max "Watts" mixing it up. I soon got info that he mechanical-ed, and Nate dropped as well to help. From that point it was Art and I to handle the multiple pro squads that made the trip. I should have went into survival mode and sat in the group, but when the legs feel good, you can't help yourself. For the next 5 laps it was constant attack, counter attack with nothing ever sticking up the road. Finally half way on lap 7 I escaped off the front and watched as everyone sat up behind me. I rarely get an open invitation like this, so I seized the chance and dug deep. I was soon joined by Cole House and we motored up the road to a break of 3. The group was either tired or just sitting on (Hincapie Kid) so Cole and I took to the pace making. We had a 30 second gap, and I felt like I could win out of the group so I kept pushing to make it stick. We hit the final climb and were caught with about 2K to go. Unfortunately Kenda 5 Hour Energy put their full squad on the front and pulled us back just in time. I had enough in the tank to join the group on the flatter part of the final ascent but once it kicked up I was too spent from riding like a jack ass all day. Art was able to hang tough a little longer but didn't have his Redlands legs from the week prior and was dispatched with about 1k to go. We both pedaled hard to the finish and ended up 11 & 13.

Then I ate this

Molcajete!!

Molcajete!!


Going in to the evening criterium for stage 4 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, it's not hard to think you've only made it half way though the race.  The course is basically flat, but has more than a half dozen turns, screaming crowds, and a long finishing straight which can snap the chord to riders not up to the task.  With Justin in the White Jersey, our pre-race team meeting was brief "it's a crit".  Marc Pro - Strava's Matt Chatlaong positioned himself in the break away in the 21 year old's first NRC criterium.  While the rest of us got sucked along in the Smart Stop-controlled field, we were stoked to see Matt Chat earn MPS some face time.  The break eventually split up and Matt got reabsorbed into the field, but the excellent positioning and power was a good foreshadow of great things to come.

First NRC crit, in the break

First NRC crit, in the break

I don't typically get nerves before races, but before the Sunset Road Race, I do.  It is formulaic for the final day of an NRC stage race to be the hardest and Sunset does not disappoint.  After a few hot laps on the criterium course the peloton rolls to the Sunset Loop.  The ride to the loop could be the hardest part of the race, and if you check my Strava "power curve" you'll see that my highest sustained powers were indeed at the start of the race.  Last year I was not mentally prepared for this first surge so I was dropped on the second lap.  This time, however, I positioned myself close to the front and focused on keeping a good wheel up the climb.  Within the first two laps of 12 the 160-rider peloton had been reduced to about 60.  With the mountains leader from Jamis/HB trying to attack and secure the jersey the first few laps were brutal.  The weather was hot too which made the feed zone chaotic.  Finally the field slowed slightly with about 7 to go as Smart Stop controlled a steady pace.  I made sure to hand off bottles to Justin and keep him as close to the front as possible.  With 4 laps to go, the speed increased again as the field started catching the break.  Each time of the final 4 was on the limit, with riders cracking each time.  I was had good legs so I managed to bridge gaps and keep Justin in the front group.  Max Jenkins did the impossible by flatting on the course, getting a change, and chasing back on, but was probably weakened as a result (although he would not admit it).  On the penultimate lap, I had to dig exceptionally deep to stay with the leaders, and I knew in the back of my head that the final lap was going to be off the charts.  Sure enough on the final time though the climb, people were flying backwards and forwards.  Justin was struggling so I dropped back to pace him back to the leaders.  Through the KOM we were probably 30 seconds back with the field in sight but couldn't close the gap as Bissel Devo counter attacked the break up front.  Max dropped back to help and I handed Justin off to him, gave one last hard pull into the headwind and dropped anchor.  In the end Justin and Max would pull the long way downhill back to Redlands and loose the white Jersey by only a few seconds.  It was a bittersweet way to end the race, having lost the Jersey, but really excellent to contribute to the team effort and ride Sunset with the best in the country.

Redlands Bicycle Classic is a monumental goal for our team and a great chance to mix it up with some of the best pro talent around. This year we brought a beast of a squad down to play with the big boys. After all of us made the long drive down to SoCal and checked in with our awesome host houses, we got together for a little pre ride of the the Highland Circuit Race (Stage 1). We had our team meeting and discussed goals for the week to come and bedded down for the night.

Jared Kessler aka "The Shetland Pony" or just "Pony" looking for a nice spot of grass to bed down for the evening.

Jared Kessler aka "The Shetland Pony" or just "Pony" looking for a nice spot of grass to bed down for the evening.

I woke up for stage 1 with the dreaded phone call from my wife. My Boxer and first born child, Max, had passed away from a heart attack.

Max Rossi...faithful, obedient, loving, playful and always there for you.

Max Rossi...faithful, obedient, loving, playful and always there for you.

I held it together the best I could and carried on with the day. We lined up in Highland, California for our circuit race that promised to be interesting with a 120' 10%+ climb each lap...with 21 laps. Nothing too exciting happened. The most exciting part of the race was the ridiculous neutral start that culminated with us stopping in the middle of a neighborhood, waiting for a guy that mechanical-ed in the role out and dudes pissing in peoples front lawns...total shit show!! A break got away and stuck it for almost the entire race (Colin Daw Mike's Bikes Shout-out). I was happy to sit in as much as possible, but holding position into a the downhill 40 mph right hander, caused me some consternation. Luckily I had Jared glued to my wheel, speaking words of encouragement the entire race. With about 2 to go things got strung out. I went from a top 10 position to 120 in seconds...amazing how much jockeying goes on with 200 meatballs fighting for wheels. The race was strung out into the final climb and I dug deep to move up. I crossed the line safely in the main group...with what I thought was no time gaps. I was wrong. Apparently the officials missed some decimal points when they were counting time gaps...and split the entire lead group up. I lost 20 seconds. Max was just up the road with a 13 second time gap and the rest the team was just back with a few more seconds added to their day.

Day 2 was the Big Bear Time Trial that would promise to switch things up. It did...I was able to make up some time and put on the top amateur jersey after the race. It's a time trial, what else should I say. Highlights include 7000' elevation, technicality that almost caused me to crash multiple times (Jared told me that was good because it meant I was taking chances), perfect 50 degree crisp air and a mountain lake in the background.

Yup, that's our sponsor Zealios sunscreen I'm holding...It saves my ginger ass on a daily basis.

Yup, that's our sponsor Zealios sunscreen I'm holding...It saves my ginger ass on a daily basis.

Stage 3 was the Beaumont Road Race. 120 miles of pure hell. People say, it's not that hard, but this was my second go at it...and the 2 hardest races of my life have been Beaumont 2013 and 2014. We had a plan to keep me protected and allow Max some freedom to get up the road and maybe snip some KOM points. The first 2 laps were crazy...avg speed of 28 MPH. Constant attacking to get a break formed and every meatball in the race trying to chase it down. I had all my teammates serving and protecting me as if I was royalty...water, pulling in the wind, back rubs you name it. On lap 3 the break was established and Optum took over pace making which was like molasses for awhile. The break ballooned to 5:30 and I, along with many others were wondering if this was it. Lap 4 brought some interesting dynamics. The chase was now happening, meatballs were flying everywhere for position leading into the climb...and boom what happens...you know it...one meatball bounced off another meatball and went down hard. Luckily I have a knack for finding that 1 guy and managed to go directly into him. I went down with a pretty soft landing with my back on the ground and my legs towards the field of crashers. I leg pressed as hard as I could to prevent getting rolled on (this brought me back to my true meatball days when I was 220 lbs and stacked the leg press machine with all the weight possible and then made people stand on it as well). Either way I was unscathed. I got up fast and jumped on the bike...and my main man Jared "the pony" Kessler was pushing me to get going. This was about 3K before the climb so I went into time trial mode and caught on at the base. Luckily Art "butter smooth" Rand was there to pace me up the climb. I was good to go and back in the race. Unfortunately, Jon "Franken" Teeter, went down hard in the crash and had to limp home on the neutral bike. Fast side note; That guy rode his fucking ass off for me yesterday...very grateful. I found Max "Watts" Jenkins and told him to calm his buggy whips and to stay with me no matter what happens on the last climb. I was in a spot of bother. We crossed the start finish with 1 to go and the break was down to 2:30...wow 3 minutes in less than a lap...it was coming back. We motor paced into the final climb...so hard that no one had the ability to break away. I was on the very back of the final 30ish guys. I was yoyoing and had to yell at Max. He sat up and detached from the group to get me and slowly paced me back on. We made it back on and just hung in there until the finish...I had the stupid thought of attacking and thought better since we were just flying at that point. I finished safely in the group...no time gap and held the White Jersey.

I have never been happier with my teammates than yesterday. They all sacrificed themselves for me, and I am truly grateful. I literally cried like a little girl multiple times while racing. I don't think anyone noticed, but the loss of my dog, along with selflessness of my teammates made me a soft pile of mush. No need to test my T levels...but the estrogen is on full flow.


Harkening back to Bill and Ted, I made the journey to San Dimas for the sixth time to attempt to win this three-day stage race. When I told my wife I was going, she said absolutely that she didn't want me to go because of what I experienced last year. Perhaps I overstated the speed and the feelings of danger...

Regardless, I decided to try again because the organizers created a separate race for the 55s instead of combining us with the 45s, which leads to too fast and too big fields for my taste. Fortunately, my wife is OK with me doing a few things she doesn't want me to do.

STAGE 1 -- Chaffey Auto Body Time Trial

The time trial is always fun and exciting for me. Absolutely no danger, and the weather the last three years has been great. The scene is awesome, with the pro team vans and canopies and juniors and women and men of all ages flying up the 4.25 mile course. I won this race in the 55s the last two years, but I had no expectations about this year. Lately, I haven't been going as well as I'd like. My goal was to try to beat my time from last year (18:17).

For some reason, they assigned me--last year's TT winner--second in the start list, and that was a bit of a bad break. After I passed my 30-second man, I had no rabbits to chase.

My time this year was 18:21, so four seconds slower than last year. Perhaps, I tell myself, the wind blew harder this year. No matter, the good news is that I had 14 seconds on Dan Swietlik, who took the GC from me last year because he's a better criterium rider than me. I needed that time cushion.

Here is one of my favorite photos from the weekend. I've just finished the time trial, and I've pulled to the side of the road to suck air. See if you can find me.

Sucking air

Sucking air

STAGE 2 – San Dimas Community Hospital Road Race

I always feel rushed checking in, getting the yellow jersey, pinning numbers on it, and warming up for an 8:00 a.m. start. But having done it three years now, I had no problems and fewer nerves than before. I decided to race more confidently and aggressively than I have in the past here. Our race called for six circuits of a seven-mile course that is fairly technical with some curvey ups and downs, wind, and flat sections that cater to the sprinters. In fact, the finish is about 1.5 kilometer from the steepest climb, so any advantage a climber might have here is neutralized by the descent and windy flats.

It was an odd race. We were neutralized three times to let groups pass us, and we had one or two Cat 5s buzzing around us like flies most of the race. Annoying.

(One nice feature of the San Dimas SR is that they have climbing and sprinting competitions in addition to the overall winner. In the road race, they have two KOM sprints at the top of the one steep climb on the course, and with all the years I've done this race, I'm quite aware when the KOM points are on the line. So, I was able to win the first KOM sprint and finish 3rd in the second one. Combined with the points I garnered by winning the TT, I won the KOM polka dot jersey.)

Back to the race: In line with racing more aggressively, on the 4th lap at the base of one of the more gradual climbs, I attacked the group in attempt to do something spectacular. I was out maybe 10 minutes suffering and fantasizing. Not coincidentally, it was the KOM lap and I hit the base of the KOM climb alone and I thought I would win the second KOM, but two guys caught me and it was clear the rest of the group would soon. I hung on for third (and 5 points) and descended with the group.

As we went through the start/finish with two laps to go, they rang the bell and announced "One to go! One to go!" A minute later, the moto confirmed that our race had been shortened by a lap so that maintenance crews could check the integrity of the dam we were riding over each lap. This check was precipitated by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake the previous night that sure got my attention.

Here's a shot of Mark Hoffenberg (the eventual stage winner) and me on that lap just past the start/finish.

Sucking wheel

Sucking wheel

STAGE 3 INCYCLE / CANNONDALE San Dimas Classic (Criterium)

We only had 25 minutes of racing on Sunday. All I had to do was make sure no one within say 30 seconds of me went off the front. They called out the jerseys and lined us up in prime position. Me first. Last year, I had fumbled clipping in and with the 45s I felt like I never recovered. So before the crit this year, I practiced clipping in several times. Perfect.

When the race began, not so perfect. I went from the front row to 20 back in 10 seconds as I floundered with my pedal. We went through three of the six turns on the lap, and already, Gary Shuey (sitting 3rd only 16 seconds back) was OTF with a Rokform dude. Ah, heck. Rokform/Rock N' Road Racing Team is Mark Hoffenberg's team, and he had four or five other teammates to help block. After a lap, I moved to the front and tried to bring back the two escapees. Fortunately, I received some help from Owen Thomas who took pity on me, and a few other strong riders who wanted a chance at winning. We finally caught the two escapees with a little more than two laps to go. At that point, I gave up some position and made sure I didn't get close to any sketchiness. I came in safely with the group at 15th.

Yellow helmet and shoes go well with yellow jersey

Yellow helmet and shoes go well with yellow jersey

The organizers at San Dimas do a great job with the podium presentations, which last at least five minutes for each category and are officiated by an experienced and kind emcee. Nice to finally experience this part of the race from the top.