Friday, June 17, 2016


Monday I rode 50+ miles at a pretty decent pace, all on the commute bike. I dealt with asshole drivers and was directly threatened, which was cute. But I was spent on Tuesday, going into the race. I even went so far as to start selling excuses about upcoming vacations and risk aversion and all sorts of dumb.

And when I got to the starting grid, all the usual fast guys were right up there in the front.

But last week there were wrecks, and those wrecks were NOT at the front. So all that talk about being risk-averse meant it would actually be pretty dumb to fall to the back.

So with no cogent plan and sore legs, I rolled off with the group and battled to stay in the top 10 for several laps.

About 8 laps into the race, I thought my legs were giving up, and they rang the second prime. One dude went for it on the back straight, and coming around the last turn, nobody jumped to follow him. With a pretty sizable gap to make up and no real sense of where the start/finish line is, I figured if I was going to flame out it might as well be for a prime. So I pinned it and shot off the front.

As soon as I could make out the start/finish line, I knew it was going to be close, but I just gunned it harder, shifted, and blew past the guy with about 3 bike-lengths to spare.

And for the next 1/3 of a lap, nobody caught up. I figured I was done, but instead I got a nice little rest off the front, and when they did pass, I was just able to hang on.

As the laps wore down, I started to feel like maybe I could actually go the distance, but I had a new problem: my fingers--all of them--were numb. By lap 13 (of 15), I had to look down at my hands to shift. And because the rise into the final turn requires 2 down-shifts, it was costing me valuable time and position.

In the final lap I just couldn't find an opening to get out to the front, and the shifting struggles were overwhelming, and I let off a bit coming into the final turn. 10 bikes were ahead, but two riders didn't look strong. I gave it one final go and picked both off, finishing 8th for the night.

My prime winnings turned out to be $15 cash, so obviously this whole bike thing is going to start paying for itself: only a few thousand dollars more, and I'll break even! And while 8th wasn't what I wanted, it's pretty consistent with my last two 7th place finishes.

The rest of the team finished well in the pack, with DR just a couple of spots behind me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Last night we ran Bryan Park clockwise for the first time. It was an experience.

For the first time, I decided to ride to the event, since my company just moved to offices 3 miles from the park. It seemed like a decent choice, even though I knew I was going to have to change tires before riding over, and even though we'd been forewarned to get there early for administrative stuff.

Somehow it took me almost 25 minutes to change the tires, which put me waaay behind. I'd gotten a small gash in the rear tire in the first race, and it opened up a bit between the 2nd race and the team ride last weekend, so there was no chance I was going to just wing it and hope for the best.

But the 3 mile ride turned out to be just about the perfect warmup distance, and I got a quick couple of laps in to judge the course.

Then came the DARK CLOUDS OF DOOM. As we were lining up for the start, big winds were blowing and a few fat raindrops hit us. The coordinators announced that the race could be called at any lap if the weather turned super gross, and then they let us rip.

Somehow I'd found my way to the start line relatively early, and actually started from the front row. And somehow I clipped in faster than anybody else, because within 60 feet I was leading the race.

Going into the first turn I felt pretty good until SNAKE!! Right in the path of my wheels while leaned over pretty steeply for the turn. Brake and I'd likely roll the snake and give up traction, not to mention getting plowed from behind. Hold the turn and I'd likely wreck, too, so I sat up a bit, aimed right at the dangerous berm on the outside of the turn, and crushed the snake. You're welcome, everybody.

That trajectory turned out to be a boon, because not 100' past the snake a large tangle of limbs had fallen. So I went from shouting "SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE" to "DEBRIS DEBRIS DEBRIS".

And still I had the lead, so I backed it down. And then I backed it down some more. And more. I did not want to blow up pulling the crowd through the hairpin and up the hill to the kink, but nobody else wanted to, either. They let me drop the pace to 22 before pulling past, and we were on.

Several laps went by at blistering pace, but without incident. Then Eddie charged off the front, because that is what he does. I was pinned 10 deep when he jumped, but found an opening and gassed it as hard as I could. It took about half a lap to bridge, but we were clear. Waaaay clear. And then Eddie sat up, because that is also what he does.

The first rider to catch us asked why in the hell we would give up the breakaway like that, but Eddie is smart and powerful and knows how to wear out his competition. So once again that work was all thrown away, but frankly I'm not sure I could have endured another 5 or 6 laps at that pace.

A few more laps of jockeying and pacing with nearly constant shouts for dropped riders to hold their line (one swerved right into our paceline at one point), and then calamity: the guy to my immediate left over-corrected in the hairpin, and his bike leapt up in the air and stopped. How nobody hit him is a mystery, but it pulled the peloton apart and nearly allowed for a proper break at the bell lap.

By some mystical miracle, once again the lap-board wasn't updated in time, and half of the leaders saw "2" when it should have said "1", ignored the bell, and didn't push. USE ALL THE TOOLS.

Coming into the hairpin for the final surge, the wrecked rider was still slightly on the pavement on the outside, so the run through the turn was a bit dicey, and the hammers dropped too late. The first 4 were through and away, and the next group of 10 were all bunched up. I got clear of a few of them and had a real run for 5th place, but realized I was on the losing side of an argument going into the final kink and backed out just a touch, putting two riders through and out of my reach.

I ended up settling for another 7th place finish, the final scoring position.

I think I like Bryan Park clockwise. I'm not sure if I like it more or less than CCW, but there is no braking at all into the hairpin because the exit is uphill. And that uphill exit caused me to do something I'd never ever done in a race: stand up. I tried my usual seated sprint in the first lap, found it just didn't work, and resigned myself to the extra effort of the standing attack. I expected it to blow me up, but it really didn't. And doing it for 14 laps gave me the confidence to stand on the final blast to the finish line. I know I picked off 3 riders in that final surge because of my willingness to try something new (before judging me for not standing, know that ~2/3 of my miles are commuting with beefy panniers--they functionally prevent me from doing a standing sprint, so I've gotten used to just not trying).

The rest of the team did well, too, with Patrick winning a prime and nobody getting dropped. FSR rocked the frog!

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Bryan Park Training Series #2 - First Road Points

Another Tuesday night means another crit at Bryan Park. This one was a bit softer-paced at 24.3 mph average, as at least one of last week's juniors skipped it. Thank God.

For the first time in maybe forever, I showed up with plenty of time to warm up, and yet still managed to get to the starting grid too late to secure a good spot. That meant the first few laps would be thrown away efforts just trying to jockey toward the front. But this time I managed traffic a bit better and found the leaders within two laps.

Once again this race settled into a pattern of blasting out of the hairpin and sitting up on the back straight, a behavior I simply do not yet understand, because on several laps we gapped the field, only to let them reel us back in. In fact, on one lap the peloton nearly freight-trained past us on the inside.

The race was full of the usual aggressive antics of Yellow Armwarmer Guy from February's William & Mary race, but people are learning to stay away from him, which means when he makes a move, a hole opens behind him. I jumped through that hole a few times last night before folks wised up to that maneuver.

As the race wore on, I started really doubting my ability to hang on to the end. I hadn't put in very many miles last week, and had just done Wintergreen on Saturday. So I just made it my goal to hold the draft off the leaders and not get swamped in the peloton, and suddenly there were only 3 laps to go.

Coming around to the 2-lap mark, I knew to expect a lull and a formation for a big sprint finish, so I put myself on the outside of the back straight to prevent getting pinched, and as we came back by the line, the commissaires had forgotten to flip the board from 2 laps to 1. Even though the bell rang, a bunch of folks went by what was on the board and set up another lull & formation attempt.

Around the final turn, half of the leaders jumped. As I was hammering, I heard a bunch of exclamations that it wasn't the finish, but it was. And I was in decent enough position to make a go of it. Unfortunately YAG was directly in front of me, and either blew up or misjudged the lap number, too. It took me a moment to find space for the pass, or I might have been a bit further up the order.

As it was, I crossed the line in 7th place, my first points!