Aged 35 and older, masters racers—men and women—are often among the strongest riders in any peloton. Why? They're old enough to have decades' worth of miles in their legs (as well as years of racing experience), but still fit enough to hang with the young bucks.
Next week, for the third year running, the graying hammerheads will converge in Central Oregon for the USA Cycling Master Road National Championships. But this year the three disciplines—time trail, criterium and road race—are scattered all over, from Prineville to Mt. Bachelor to Redmond (no races in Bend this year).
Here's a look at two of the favorites—one from Bend, one from the Bay Area.
From Bend: Kyle Wuepper (Bend Broadband/WebCyclery)
Like a lot of masters racers Kyle Wuepper, a 40-year-old attorney and father of two, struggles to balance family, work and bike racing.
"Dude, it's brutal," he said, noting that his 50-hour workweeks leave little room for down time. Still, Wuepper manages to train 10 to 13 hours a week while remaining happily married and employed. His 80-minute lunch rides and after-work interval sessions are clearly paying off. This season Wuepper, a tall redhead with a wicked sprint, won the masters 40-plus category 1-2 crit at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, was second at the Redmond Downtown crit, and third at the NorthWest Crossing crit. Proving he's no one-trick pony, he placed fifth, ahead of 40 other finishers, in the Oregon Bicycle Race Association's state championship road race in Bend. But really, crits are Wuepper's thing and it's on the streets of downtown Redmond that he hopes to secure a national title.
"All things considered, it's a pretty good course for me," Wuepper said of the semi-technical eight-turn course. "The guy who comes out of the last corner first is probably going to win it." Two years ago Wuepper took second at the national championship crit and last year he was ninth.
This season, the veteran racer should be well supported. He rides for the Bend Broadband/WebCyclery masters team—considered by most to be the strongest such team in Central Oregon. Wuepper named his teammates, Ben Thompson, Eric Martin and Ed Micek, as well as Bend local Ryan McKean, as other potential podium finishers in the 50-kilometer Sept. 7 crit championships.
As for the other events, Wuepper said last year's road race winner, Matt Carinio, of San Luis Obispo is again a favorite for this year's road race. Wuepper also pointed to Chris Phipps of San Francisco (see next profile) as the guy to watch in the time trial as well as the 110-kilometer road race.
From San Francisco: Chris Phipps (ThirstyBear Cycling)
Like Wuepper, Chris Phipps has had a good year.
"I won all three of the stage races that I did this year," said Phipps, 43.
This year, Phipps, already a slight rider, has dropped three pounds and has been putting in crazy amounts of training hours on his time trial bike. He outlined one brutal workout in particular: 100 miles at the Golden Gate Park polo grounds on a paved loop that's two-thirds of a mile long. Crazy. But effective, apparently.
After finishing third in the time trial and fifth in the road race at the 2012 masters national championships, he's once again eyeing a national championship in both disciples.
But he's worried about Richard Feldman, a 44-year old time trial specialist who has earned so many impressive results he has his own Wikipedia page. Feldman is currently the Idaho state champ and reigning World Master Time Trial Champion.
Phipps works full time as a property manager but has a flexible schedule that allows him to train one to two hours a night, four days a week. On weekends, he rides longer—three to four hours. He's married but has no kids to cart around. And because he got into the sport at the relatively late age of 35, the former UC Davis runner said his motivation remains high.
Phipps' results are earning him plenty of notoriety. In March he was featured in VeloNews' "Faces in the Bunch," a column that highlights successful amateur racers. His team's website, thirstybearcycling.com, is filled with photos of him and his teammates riding at the front of numerous California races. For Phipps, masters racing is life, or so it would seem.
"I love going up to Bend to race," said Phipps who, between the last three master nationals champs and Cascade Classic events, is quite used to the eight-hour drive.
USA Cycling Master Road National Championships
Sept. 4-8: Central Oregon
Wednesday, Sept. 4: Time trail, Prineville
Thursday, Sept. 5: Road Race (generally younger age groups), Mt. Bachelor
Friday, Sept. 6: Road Race (generally older age groups/tandems), Mt. Bachelor
Saturday, Sept. 7: Criterium (generally younger age groups), downtown Redmond
Sunday, Sept. 8: Criterium (generally older age groups), downtown Redmond
For a complete schedule, visit usacycling.org.
This is the year to visit all those Cascade Lakes you've never been to. Camp, fish, swim, hike, horseback ride or just horse around—the lakes offer plenty of opportunity for high-country hijinx. Elk, Sparks, Devil's, Green and Three Creeks Lake may be old hat to some (they're all still well worth a visit), so venture further to Waldo Lake near Oakridge, or Cultus Lake near Crane Prairie Reservoir. A day in which your head has been underwater is a good day—it implies adventure (also, cooling off).