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Masters Road Nationals Report, Part 1: The Tandems

09/10/2013, 12:30pm PDT
By John Elgart

1st in the Men's Tandem Time Trial and Road Race, 110 age group.

Masters Road Nationals Report, Part 1: The Tandems

Summary: 1st in the Men's Tandem Time Trial and Road Race, 110 age group. Overall, out of all the tandems, 4th in the TT, 3rd in the RR.

The Tandem TT: As in the past I'm racing with Jan Elsbach, who is a VOS member (but we'll forgive that), and after getting the Silver last year in the 110 TT and the RR, we got serious with a new Calfee tandem. Unfortunately the team that beat us stayed home, and some of the other teams from last year changed partners to go into other groups, but despite having only 1 pair to race against, we rode better in both races and won them. 

In the TT we were 30 seconds faster than last year despite some gear problems and the fact that we passed our minute bike after 15 minutes. We were the 4th fastest tandem overall out of 30-some entrants. This includes all the age groups, sex configurations, as well as the Elite tandem groups. (The Elites only have the time trial -- it is probably the easiest Elite National Championship to win, and two years ago we would have won it.) Two of the Elite tandems beat us and one 90+ tandem as well, but we would have won the 70's. The fastest tandem was Roger Worthington and Michael Johnson in the 90s -- who did a 49:15 on a not fast and not flat 40k course. We were at 52:57. Results: http://www.usacycling.org/results/?year=2013&id=16&info_id=68940 

In the Road Race all the tandems ran together, 31 in total. The course was around Mt Bachelor, starting at the ski resort and going downhill for 20k then climbing back up, for a 85k course. This finish is a 1000 foot climb. At the very start one of the tandems from the 90s (Josh Frick and Mark Sommers from Washington DC) slipped away -- and we never saw them until just after the finish line where they were sprawled out on the ground! After the long, long downhill (57.5 max speed), Frick and Sommers had only a 20 second gap, but in a mixed field it is hard to get a chase going, and so the gap started growing, to reach over 6 minutes at the bottom of the climb. Our group as a whole was quite stop-and-go, with the mixed tandems showing a lot of aggression, and we were reduced to 14 bikes after a series of rollers. We were the only 110 tandem left at this point. Jan and I took 3 flyers off the front, thinking that they might just let us go, but of course this never works when the group is regretting the mistake of already letting someone go. 

At the hill, we attacked immediately and opened a 15 second gap. Half way up we were joined by 3 tandems, one from the Men's 70's and one from the Men's 90's, and a mixed tandem. Eventually we gapped the mixed tandem leaving 3 for the sprint, where we took 2nd because I didn't start sprinting early enough. With a tandem, you can't just pop around someone at the line!

Tandem road racing is an incredible rush. I only wish there were more of it.

** Tandem Notes -- We rode a new Calfee carbon tandem: 28 pounds as set up for road, Gates belt drive (not sure about that), 130 spacing, a Williams 30x rear wheel and a Rolf tandem front, 25c Michelin 4 "Endurance" tires, Shimano mechanical 10 speed (not electronic), 56t for the time trial and 53 for the rr, 11x28 cassette. It is Ferrari red and gets a lot of comments. For climbing and general handling, the Calfee is awesome! 

In the TT we just put a different front end and stoker bars on and used a Williams disc and a 880 front. The new hot setup for tandem time trialing is the super long tandem with room for the stoker to use tri bars. Some of these have a slider for the tribar that is attached to the top tube. It puts the stoker in a very, very low position (the stoker doesn't have to look up at all) and is probably worth a minute in a 40k. Last year both tandems that beat us were XL tandems, but this year the very fastest tandem (Roger Worthington and Michael Johnson) was a Calfee. Btw, there IS a tandem length limit -- it's 2.7 meters (this year) from front to back. A regular tandem is around 2.3. Interestingly at check-in they said that there were "no rules" for tandems. But at the line, suddenly they are measuring for total length. That is SO USA Cycling! The XL tandems were just under 2.7.

Next: The Men's 65-69 Criterium, where I won.

Tag(s): Race Reports