Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Multiple subject lines

"Sharing", "Development", "For the good of the athlete" or "I love those voicemail messages!"

I'm having a tough time with a subject line for this one so I'll just take the machine gun approach and hit them all... they are all connected

Late last summer former world Xterra champion and Junior World MTB competitor Neilson Powless and I connected about his racing on the road.  He was quickly added to our roster.

When the Garmin junior cycling team folded last year we connected with 2013 National MTB Champ, BMXer, and roadie Christopher Blevins and he joined our team.
Both Neilson and Christopher race mountain bikes for Whole Athlete.  Late spring 2014 and Whole Athlete teammate Sean Bennett saw how much fun Christopher and Neilson were having on the road, so we added him as a guest rider.  All three race for Whole Athlete and NCCF/ Team Specialized.  Common thread being Specialized Bicycles plus Dario and my belief that a junior loving to race any type of bike is good for their development and longevity. 

2014 road nationals saw Christopher working with his 15-16 teammates to pull out wins in the road race and time trial, Gage won the time trial, while Neilson pulled off an impressive 4th in the individual time trial then made the decisive breakaway with teammate Jason Saltzman in the criterium.  Unfortunately, a crash with two other riders extinguished the move.  Fortunately, Sean Bennett was ready and in good positon for the next move.  This one turned out to be the winning move and Sean finished 4th in a super competitive race.  Even more impressive was that this was Sean’s 4th ever criterium!  Nick led Matt out for the field sprint win and 5th overall so we saw every teammate play in the outcome of the race!

Fast forward to USA Cycling Junior Mountain Bike Nationals.  Last Friday Christopher Blevins won his 2nd consecutive 15-16s MTB National Title and Sean Bennett won his first 17-18s stars and stripes jersey.

On Sunday Christopher, Sean and Neilson teamed up in the short track championships.  One of the benefits of being director to this great group of juniors is the voicemail messages and e-mails I get after their races and here’s one I got from Christopher “It was a great weekend overall.  Especially today.  You would have enjoyed watching this one.  Sean and I were trying to get Neilson the win after his bad luck on Friday in the cross country.   We treated the short track like a criterium.   We went one-two and four.  It was great teamwork.  Everyone was wondering why mountain bikers were using teamwork.  Yay, that was kind of fun!”

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Junior Director
(17-18's plus Christopher... l-r Matthew Valencia, Jason Saltzman, Christopher Blevins, Nicholas Castellano, Sean Bennett and Neilson Powless)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An unforgettable ride

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end” (Ernest Hemingway). In 2007 at the age of 11 my cycling journey began thanks to my dad. I remember my first ride with him riding down Foothill Expressway and falling because I didn’t know how to clip out of the pedals. From there I was determined to get better. I soon started riding at the track and quickly fell in love with everything about the sport. At the age of 14, I was invited to join Team Specialized, which furthered my journey. I will be forever thankful of the opportunities this team has provided for me.

Last week I completed my last Junior National Championship. I first started at Track Nationals in Carson, California at the Stub Hub Center. I competed in the International Omnium, 3k Pursuit, Kilometer Time Trial, Points Race, Scratch Race, and Team Pursuit. Winning the omnium when I was 14 and 16, I targeted the omnium again this year. The omnium started extremely well, winning the flying lap and setting a new Jr. National record. On the third event, the Elimination Race, I unfortunately crashed twice. This put me down on the overall omnium and at the end I finished 6th. I had to learn how to quickly move on from disappointment. My next two events were the Points Race and Scratch Race where I finished 3rd and 6th respectively. Track Nationals ended with another national title. This time it was in the Team Pursuit. Thank you Ken Carpenter for your guidance and support, not only at Track Nationals this year but throughout my junior career on Team Specialized! I will always be grateful.

Straight from Track Nationals, I flew to Madison, Wisconsin with the team for Road Nationals. Some of my greatest memories with the team have been at Road Nationals and this year was no different. Along with the fun times, the team displayed great teamwork all week long. The 17-18’s teamwork approach got put to the test in the criterium because we all felt we could either win in a field sprint or a breakaway. The first half of the race went as planned, my teammates followed attacks and we were all attentive at the front staying safe and away from crashes. Teammate Nielson Powless then got into a breakaway of 6 for about 20 minutes before a crash ruined it. After the long breakaway got pulled into the pack, Noah Granigan and Jake Silverberg countered and stayed away till the finish. Teammate Sean Bennett then made a move with one other rider with 5 laps to go to bridge to the breakaway but came within a few seconds short and finished 4th.  Back in the field, Nick Castellano was looking after me and leading me out for the field sprint. With 2 laps to go, Nick and I were towards the front. I was giving him directions because I didn’t want to lose his wheel on the last lap. Coming into 1 to go, Nick and I didn’t panic instead we decided to be patient. I didn’t want him to run out of gas and I also wanted him to be attentive in case we were going to get swarmed by the field. Coming into turn 3 on the last lap, Nick hit the front at about 33mph and led me out to win the field sprint for 5th place. Although we didn’t win the race, Team Specialized displayed great teamwork, sacrificing each rider’s own goals for the good of the team.   

As my junior cycling journey ends, I would like to take this opportunity to thank NCCF for their endless amount of support they have provided for the team every single year. Without their help, the success of this team would not have been possible. Thank you to Larry Nolan for being a great mentor to me on and off the bike. The memories we created each year will definitely never be forgotten.  I would also like to thank my coach, Billy Innes, for helping me achieve many successful seasons. To my teammates, thank you for pushing me to be a better leader, rider, and person.  Wherever the road may take you, I wish each of you success. And last but not the least; I want to thank my parents. Thank you for always telling me what I'm capable of, for giving me the support that I needed to build a dream to chase after, and for believing that I have the talent to reach my goals.  Without each of you, I'd be nowhere near the person I am - and the person I'm still working on becoming.

Next for me is to finish the season out strong and then off to college where I will be studying at the University of Hawaii!

-Matt Valencia  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Goals and Expectations

At our December 2013 team camp we spent time talking about team goals and expectations.  A day after the 2014 USA Cycling Junior Time Trial National Championships and on the eve of the final day of racing in the criterium, I wanted to share this publicly.  We talked about it again tonight and it’s healthy to keep this perspective whether you are on our team or not.  With such a high turnover in our sport its important to share tips to help keep the rider numbers up.

While we have goals to win certain races, we do not expect to win.  We expect best efforts and that we learn from every race, but we do not expect to win.

This is not to say that teammates don’t put pressure on themselves, or that they don’t feel pressure from others (we tend to have a pretty big target on our backs), it’s just a reminder that this is our hobby, that we’re not saving lives here and winning a national championship, while bringing a very good feeling to you, your teammates, and your supporters should not change the person that you are.  Driven to improve, having some fun along the way and setting some lofty goals that you hope to reach... but not expected to.  These are some of the things that make our sport so wonderful!

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Junior Director

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's here - Junior Road Nationals!

Junior Track Nationals ended on Sunday.  Two days later I'm up past my bedtime letting you know that road nationals starts tomorrow.  But, first, a summary of track nationals:
+ Jules Gilliam was 6th in the 15-16s omnium.  He did very well at the bottom of his age group and hosted the team at his house.  Well, his parents hosted us and Jules made a few meals!  Jules won the team pursuit and team sprint on the final day.
+ Matthew Valencia was 6th in the 17-18s omnium.  He broke the national record in the flying lap and was looking good for the six event/ two day competition but was crashed twice in the 3rd event.  He's banged up and bruised but still ready to roll.  Matthew won the team pursuit and qualified for the Junior World Track Championships in South Korea!
+ Gage Hecht and Grant McElroy flew in to help win the team pursuit national championships.  This was important for the team as we fought for the event to be added and we want to support team competition!
Final day of competition article: http://www.usacycling.org/team-competition-closes-out-2014-juniors-track-national-championships.htm
Article from Guam sportsnetwork website: http://www.guamsportsnetwork.com/2014/valencia-shines-in-usa-cycling-nationals/
50+ pictures: https://www.facebook.com/TeamSpecializedRacing

2014 has been a great racing year for our team.  Teamwork brought us this far, and we are planning for it to see us through these next five days of racing at the 2014 USA Cycling Junior National Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Teamwork is an easy thing to talk about, a bit more difficult to pull off.  Yet, Teamwork is the core principle of this junior cycling team.  Ten teammates go to the start line of their road race on Wednesday with the intent of working together to achieve more than they could ever achieve alone.  Five teammates in the 15-16s race with a 9:45am start, five teammates in the 17-18s race with a  12:30pm start.  Friday, the 4th of July sees them tackle the individual time trial and Sunday sees them racing around the state capital (criterium).

So, what exactly does teamwork look like for Team Specialized?
- sponsors that give generously, not necessarily for a great return on their investment, but for the greater good of how they are helping to grow and develop young men
- junior teammates that give more than they get, that help in their communities and enjoy spending time together
- 5500 Facebook fans that "like" what we are doing in the sport
- junior teammates that planned and traveled to each other to practice and execute teamwork
- parents that choose to support and sacrifice for these young men in the exciting sport of bicycle racing
- junior teammates that love to learn and patiently listen and practice new skills and ideas
- parents that help to grocery shop and stock kitchens, drive team vans across the country, clean them too, update Facebook photos and stories, and shuttle junior teammates all around "God's green earth"!
- and, a team director with a willingness to serve and help develop

Here's the final 5.6km of the road race.  It's a brutal climb, yet when combined with heat and humidity it will shatter the fields... http://www.strava.com/segments/650892

17-18 roster
- Matthew Valencia (18) Los Altos, CA
- Neilson Powless (18) Roseville, CA
- Sean Bennett (18) El Cerrito, CA
- Jason Saltzman (17) Menlo Park, CA
- Nick Castellano (17) Upland, CA

15-16 roster
- Gage Hecht (16) Parker, CO
- Christopher Blevins (16) Durango, CO
- Grant McElroy (16) Portland, OR
- Jules Gilliam (15) Manhattan Beach, CA
- Sean McElroy (15) Palmdale, CA

Seven of ten teammates are current and past national champions so we are confident that they head into their racing relaxed (we are not saving lives) yet willing to sacrifice and execute some great teamwork.  Stories and race results to follow. 

Larry Nolan, NCCF/ Team Specialized Juniors Director

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thank You

As my summer adventures begin tonight with my travels to Nationals, it's important that I don't forget the people who have truly supported me throughout my cycling career so far. If it wasn't for my parents, I would have never been taught correctly of how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle and because of that would have never got involved with riding a bike. If it wasn't for my local cycling community, I would have never had a variety of people to ride with and keep my motivations high. If it wasn't for Team NCCF/ Specialized Racing and Larry Nolan's direction, I would have never been able to experience what it is like to be a part of a national and world class team. If it wasn't for my Coach Mike McKovich, I would never been able to improve on the smallest problems that would help me in the long run. And without my friends and family, I would not be surrounded with continued support and encouragement off the bike when I'm not in the cycling world. So thank you to all who have helped me achieve my goals so far and have continued to support me!

Ride hard,
Nick Castellano

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ryan’s 11th annual memorial ride

Burlingame, CA June 22, 2014 – today was the 28th annual Burlingame Downtown Crit.  True to my word I voted with my money to support this event.  Industrial Park crits have their place in our sport but downtown venues are special.  If we don’t support the downtown venues the next generation of cyclists will be stuck with boring deserted industrial parks!  Thankfully masters and junior teammates decided to join me in my 15th year of racing Burlingame.
With the first race starting at 7am and the last race ending at 3pm the time shift may have affected attendance, or it could have been the conflict with the Little City Stage Race up in the sierras, or it might have been a busy weekend for all those other California outdoor activities we love to take in.  It’s hard to tell, but it surely did not stop the kids for coming out to Ryan Phua’s 11th annual memorial ride.  Thankfully, the downtown venue lends itself to an event like this and the community has done something great here – getting about 300 children under the age of 12 to come out and ride/ race.  With a parent or two for each of the kids, the main event was Ryan’s ride… as it should be, for the future of our sport!
Back to the present, and here comes the rant: I did three races today.  M55 in the morning, M35 at noon and Pro/1/2 at 1pm.  Sure, I get fitter and faster when I race, but, why do promoters offer three races to old guys when the very near future of the sport (the juniors, U23s and 20 something’s) only get one race?  One 60 minute race for men and women?  Even less than 60 minutes if you are an elite 3 or 4!
This is NOT a slam on Burlingame, but a wake-up call to all California and USA promoters to pay attention to the categories you are offering.  Instead of a conflict with LCSR, perhaps the promoters could have worked out the conflicts, cut some categories and extended the length of the Pro/1/2 men’s and women’s races?  How else can we ensure that we prepare riders appropriately for the next step in their young careers?
“Like” this post if you agree that Promoters need to extend the time on Pro/1/2 crits.  If you read this and disagree, please tell us why. 
Larry Nolan, Team Specialized

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Long View

Reflecting on my past two weekends of racing at Pescadero and Nevada City it has become evident that, despite the amount of time I have spent riding and racing, my cycling career is just beginning. I enjoyed seeing the benefits of my hard work and dedication leading in to nationals (only three weeks away now) at both races.
            For those who aren’t familiar with either of these NorCal hallmark races Pescadero is a 103 mile, hilly, and often relatively windy road race through the coastal roads of Pescadero and La Honda; Nevada City is a 54-year-old classic that consists of 90 minutes (roughly 30 laps) around a 1.1 mile circuit split between half a lap of tough climbing and the other half of high-speed descending into two off-camber, left hand corners. These are two of my favorite courses all year, and the Pescadero loop also serves as one of my standard long ride routes.
            Pescadero was my second ever 100+ mile ride and first 100+ mile race, and a true test of my endurance. The race was highly attended with Mike’s Bikes, Marc Pro Strava, CalGiant and Vumedi all sending full squads, and local pro Ben Jacques-Maynes hot off of the Amgen Tour of California. Long story short, the race was one of attrition and I came into the final ascent up Haskins Hill well fueled and hydrated, and in good position for a top-ten finish. However, my legs quickly decided that they had done enough for the day and the metaphorical wheels came off about half a kilometer into the climb. In survival mode I pulled every last bit of energy and power out of my legs as riders, seemingly, “sauntered” past me. While I may not have achieved my desired result on the day, I recognize how far I have come in the past few years, and that the endurance to be competitive in 100+ mile road races comes with years and years of riding. Pescadero served as a great endurance overload coming into nationals.
            Nevada City also reinforced the fact that I have plenty more racing in my career and that there is always the next race. Added to my normal race plan was the fact that Neilson would be racing with me in his first P1/2 race. It was a treat to have a teammate in a local race. About halfway through the race, after feeling really good and being aggressive at the front of the race, I was forced into the hay bale on the outside of turn two when the rider in front of me, and slightly to my left, slid out. Luckily, I was able to scrub off most of my speed (the corner is normally taken at or in excess of 30 mph), and escape with all of my skin and no broken bike bits. After getting out of the hay bale, and get myself reoriented the field was about 40 seconds ahead of me. With adrenaline flowing I flew, charging up the climb in pursuit. Unfortunately when I got to roughly 15 seconds adrift of the field riders attacked and I was unable to regain contact. I finished the race, resenting what could have been, but aware that I will go back next year with a vengeance. I am grateful to have come out unscathed, and send my best wishes to Tim Aiken who broke his collarbone.
            Now it is on to Nationals as I put the final touches on my form.

Jason S.