I fly into NC with lofty goals, as I’m sure most others do. NorCal takes home a lot of medals, though as it turns out the East Coasters have their bad-asses as well. Top Ten Road Nats Things: #10 - Cats 4 and 5 are allowed into all events ages 55+. Jagofferry ensues, though not limited to the very oldsters #9 - North Carolina is insanely gorgeous, in that rolling mowed-grass and super lush green huge-ass fields kind-of-way #8 - Seen in road race: Camelback (old, faded red), helmet mirror and I’m pretty sure a t-shirt...not cool, I mean more power to these guys but there are, um, standards #7 - Krankies coffee in Winston Salem = hipster phenomenon country-wide, but admitted best coffee bar I’ve ever been in #6 - Crashing, lots, like this, in road race and crit - this was the 35-39 crit, same thing happened in mine but up against the barriers on a turn, more than once #5 - My coach Marissa Axell there kicking ass and offering a support, which is lucky and cool #4 - Massive stadium crowds #3 -10 seconds = the eternity I was behind the winners in the crit to get 28th, 4 seconds farther than last year in Utah for 16th. Wow more, [experience, positioning, confidence], to go the other direction #2 - Crit 2nd place Anthony Taylor from Brooklyn, NY and 1st Curtis Southern from Maryland. Last 2- years’ 55-59 winners from NorCal, Larry “legend” Nolan and Bubba Melcher did not make the trip, but these guys were freaking fast and Anthony had a straight-up gorgeous white Foundriest bike which I told him was cool #1 - Stopped in Chicago w/Julie for brilliant weekend on way home. However, Southwest lost my bike, and as I write this, on another bloody SW flight, no one has any idea where it is after four (!) days of endless calls/emails and tweet-bombing them from @DeanofBikes. Semi-unplanned rest, bike ETA, unknown and uncertain. Wednesday 25th, Road Race, 54 miles Three loops of an 18 mile rolling course in nearby Lewisville. Upon arrival night before Coach pings me and we talk about her recon and what she’s heard. Super smooth roads and non-selective rollers, slight uphill finish. The day before there is a bad crash in the men’s 45-49 leading into the finish, too many in a small space. This doesn’t sound good to me. At 9:25am Wednesday morning the mayor of Lewisville sends us off - I wonder where he wants me to pee, shaved legs and all, ladies room? We head out 70-80+ people strong, including race-predicted #1 Nor Cal-er Kevin Metcalfe - whom I watch closely once we are off. Above age 55+ at Nationals they let ANY category in the race. So, you could be, say, 57, never have raced before and line up - which I’m pretty sure is what some of these dudes did. Easily and by far the sketchiest RR pack I’ve ever been in. On the first lap I’m off into the well-manicured grass at least once swerving for a pile-up. I notice that the North Carolina countryside is really gorgeous, when I’m not dodging guys with camel-backs (yes, dude with a camel back, in the National Road Race, effing style travesty). For those who are on form, crazy packs are not a problem, you just stay at the front, where I jumped up a number of times, then drifted back because the pace was actually kinda hot, along with the Southern humidity. I feel great about 66% of the way, and am excited about the finale - though 3 are off the front unbeknownst to me - I’m less and less lucid as the temperature rises. When I find out there’s a break I figure I’ll pack sprint my heart out - despite the fact that there have already been a couple bad crashes, in the middle of the pack, on straight roads. Into the final 6-8K is where I’ve been feeling best this year in 50-mile-plus road races, but today not so much. Things also start to get interesting. The already crashy pack gets scarier. I’ve picked the right side, about 3 bikes from the point of the main/chase group, thinking I’ll stick and wait for a door to open up in the final Ks, which usually happens. But, I’m a magnet for trouble. A guy wearing what I swear is a T-shirt rams up beside me, into to a non-existent space. He wobbles badly and takes a couple guys out to my right. He himself flies through another broad yet well-manicured ditch and I proclaim loudly with expletives that this is a good thing. Four minutes later he pulls up next to me again, holy crap. As the group accelerates into the finishing straight I maintain speed and hide in the rear-side of the pack more to be safe than to sprint, I sit up and coast across the line mid-pack. Focusing on the crit, I’m warmed up now! Looking at my Normalized Power (for you TrainingPeaks geeks) - I actually went super hard, which means people were really screaming, Camel-backs or not. Nor Cal goes 1-2 in the break of 3. Dan Shore of Hammer Nutrition 1st and Hans Gouwens of Thirsty Bear 2nd, both of whom have multiple teammates in the race doing lots of work. Metcalfe misses the break and actually sits up way before me - even the man I call the “Merckx of NorCal” needs help, but his Peets crew is mostly younger at 45-49 and 50-54 (in 45-49 they won the RR, Crit and TT). Thursday 26th, Criterium, 50 minutes In a last-minute course switch USA cycling maps a goofy 9-turn, .7 mile course on a fairground. There are barriers throughout, solid on the home stretch, and it’s pretty narrow. I’m less worried about the inexperienced pack on this course as it will be too fast and technical for anyone without skills to hang. Marissa and I discuss again and she correctly points out the start is a straight-up hole-shot. Get up and stay up because opportunities for advancement are minimal. About 66 of the 70+ pre-reg show. We are the final crit of the Nats, 6:25pm. It’s hot, really hot. I like heat, except when I melt, but a cool breeze gives me hope it won’t be an issue. Everyone stages 30 minutes before cause they want early position - in exposed sun. Only a few NorCal folks and a lot of East Coasters. Cool to see so many new faces and so much insane A-game from locals. The potentially terrifying course ends up being awesome. I figure out the fast lines and places to move up. For the first quarter of the race I stay in or near the front pocket. I’m feeling pretty great. So far no crashes. About halfway I start feeling not so good. I think this is about 80% mental and 20% physical. The learning is I can’t think about how hot or cooked I am or that people are flying all over the road, just move up. Which is something coach is mentioning, every time I ride by. Then with 8 laps to go she screams very clearly - “Dean, you have to move up NOW.” She is absolutely right, and I know she is, and I edge up a bit, but am just not handling the scene. Crashing begins, and surges. Even when the pack lulls collectively a couple times on the last two laps, I should push through but don’t have it, or maybe I do, dunno. Those of us remaining enter the bell surprisingly packed-tight, though still the front 5-6 are where the business is, and there are about 20 guys between me and them across the road. Close but way too far away. Really, entering the last lap the main positioning is already determined and the inevitable finishing speed is already ramped way-up. Yet another crash in the middle of a turn near the end slows my push for the teens. 28th of 66. You have to bring the full package at Nats to do well. Only tapped-out A-game will top ten, and the podium is truly a remarkable achievement. My reckoning now after a few Nats is the speeds go down only very slightly across age groups through 55+, and Strava lap times bear that out. Interestingly, home-court advantage prevails amongst this oldster crew. No NorCal-er’s on the podium, rather a bevy of local/East Coast talent, save one guy from Boulder in 5th. Have to admit though, it is a very cool race and a true test of one’s nerve to stay mixed in. Not thrilled with my placing, but you give what you have. I’m psyched to re-tool for districts. Twenty-three starts so far this season. Now a short break from the bike, (cause I don’t effing have one!), a few races in June, hold the top position in Red Kite, another possible rest early July and build back up for the late season-push.