Wednesday, August 31, 2016

BPTS #13 - 3rd and a prime!

With mommy and babies nestled snugly back into home life (we had a baby girl two weeks ago, surprise!), I got permission to dust off the racing shoes and dice it up with the other B series racers last night. Alastair came to be my cheering section, which was pretty awesome since we had probably the smallest team showing of the season, with only 3 of us out there.

Race was clock-wise, which has delivered me some surprisingly decent results over the season. Clock-wise, as I've mentioned before, requires a standing sprint. I really do not like a standing sprint. I think my race bike's handlebars are too narrow, and I never feel entirely steady.

And I'd ridden REALLY HARD the night before, and was having some leg pains during warm-up. I wasn't optimistic, but I was gleeful to get to play. I even gridded up near the front, which is just a fool's errand at Bryan Park, as the smart folks will just let you burn up in the wind.

The race started with M. Lipka screaming off the front like his ass was on fire, with two other guys chasing. The rest of us formed a solid lead-out group, with M. Barton pulling for the first lap. She peeled off and I got stuck out in the wind for two laps. Then they rang a prime lap. Nobody seemed willing to pull out around me heading toward the hairpin, and dammit I wanted a prime, since I didn't feel like I had a win in me.

So I tried something new: as we came through the hairpin, I didn't hammer it. I gradually raised the pace with a steady hard effort. The paceline held, and by the time someone jumped at the kink, we were already moving over 26mph. The instant I heard the crunch of hard pedaling over my shoulder, I jumped and hammered. We crossed S/F over 33mph, but I edged the other guy by a couple of feet. It worked! And fortunately, he didn't try to hold the effort, allowing us to get quickly reabsorbed and rest.

Smiley grabbed the 2nd prime a few laps as I cycled further back through the pack. Alastair later said he was worried that I was running out of steam, but I just didn't see the point of jockeying for position, and I really wanted to see how much I could move around. I found that from one lap to the next, I could get from the inside lane to the outside, which is not normal. Usually it takes 2 or 3 laps to move across.

With 3 laps left, I spied an outside-line gap just past S/F and lunged toward the front.

With 2 laps left, I got caught when 3 other riders did the same thing. Coming off turn 1, I moved far left to feint an attack and shut down a line of riders behind.

With 1 lap left, I found myself where I wanted to be: outside line, on what appeared to be T. Tharin's wheel. He was 3rd in the line, with 4 lines across, and M. Wierzbicki 2nd wheel inside. As we approached the hairpin, Ted jumped around a teammate, and I followed. Jeers came from the peloton, and I couldn't tell exactly what was the issue, but I moved a bit farther outside just to protect myself in case of disaster.

It was a tactical mistake, and I went from 3rd rider through the turn to 7th, but I stayed clear of the lunatics who typically charge into the corner and have nothing left to climb the hill.

T. Tharin and M. Wierzbicki were clear and in a 2-man sprint for glory, but I conjured up every scrap of strength I could and put down a 3-part stand/sit/stand sprint and got clear of everybody else. I was actually closing on the leaders when they crossed the line, but they were still well clear of me.

Alastair told me later that a rider was just over my shoulder at the finish, but I had no idea at the time.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

BPTS #10 - 5th and a prime!

My crit season ended last night on a high note, but frankly it could have gone better.

Tuesday afternoon was sporadically rainy, so instead of racing, I went and watched the B race with Alastair. While the actual race was uneventful, there was a crash during warm-up and evidently some carnage during the A race.

So I headed into Wednesday with fresher legs than most, and a plan. The plan was hatched after watching a competitor complete a season full of come-from-nowhere top-5 finishes. I'd spent all season near the front, with nothing left at the end, and he'd spent all season near the back, and is wearing the points-leader jersey. He knows something I don't.

So I was going to spend the entire race glued to his wheel, following his actions and figure out when is the time to move up from the back. But on lap 4, he dropped the hammer, and I followed, racing off the front like a couple of wild banshees. As we crossed start/finish, he sat up and looked over at me. I asked what we were doing, and he just smiled and gave a "meh, whatever" reply. No prime lap, just a random flame-out.

Next plan.

I dropped back to the back and circled around for a few laps, easing forward when gaps allowed. By lap 10 I was back near-ish to the front, and I was hearing some shouts to pick up the pace, which is weird, because why the hell would the guys on the front want to blow up? As we crossed start/finish, I heard the marshals say "15 seconds", which can only mean one thing: a break got away when I wasn't paying attention, and is 15 seconds up the road.

That's bullshit, and there was no way I was going to end my race off the front group. Nobody was willing to organize, so I floored it and shouted at the front guys to get on my ass and close the gap. We took away that 15 seconds in 2/3 of a lap, with about 7 guys clear of the field. And they all sat up, right as the prime bell rang. I was hanging out close to the front as we came tearing back up the hill to the line, but nobody was willing to jump. I like free things, so I figured if nothing else, I'd go win a bottle.

And nobody chased!

I even asked the marshal if it was a prime lap. Whatever: the team took at least 2 primes on the night.

I dropped back into the group and looked around to see if my rabbit was moving up, and he was! But on the complete opposite side of the road, so there was no chance of getting to his wheel. I was pinned inside, but had complete control of the inside line.

On the final lap, even as we came into the hairpin at the bottom, I was still able to control the line, and nobody tried any boneheaded dive-bombs. As we came out of the turn, I was about 10th, and we were moving (better than last week, where a bunch of guys basically stopped on the exit). I jumped and my legs felt amazing. The guy in front of me jumped, too, but got pinned right into my line, leaving me inches on the side of the road. With nowhere to go, I had to let off and roll behind him. By the time I had clear space, the front 3 were away, but for the first time I was a legitimate factor in the final sprint.

I really feel like I could have pulled off a solid 3rd place finish, but I ended up with $5 winnings and a gift card, so I can't complain.

5th place in my final crit of the season, following a 3rd place in my final road race. Can't ask for much better in a 40-year-old's rookie season!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Data Nerd

Every part you can buy for your bike comes with some sort of promise. Makes you more visible! Makes you faster! Sleeker! Reduces weight! Increases virility!

Obviously a lot of it is marketing, and sorting through it without significant financial outlay is challenging. We have do-gooders in the community, like DC RainMaker, who review products like crazy to separate the wheat from the chaff, but there's just so much stuff out there, and so much anecdotal evidence, that even with expert reviews it's hard not to spend money on a promise.

I've spent a lot of time, money, effort, and research making my racing bike as fast as it can be. Fully equipped, it comes in under 17lbs and is dripping with just-shy-of-top-end equipment. Carbon everything, ceramic bearings, and data sensors out the wazoo: power, speed, cadence, GPS.

I haven't, however, spent a bunch of time or money making my commuter bike faster. It has an aluminum frame, disc brakes, exposed cabling, fenders, and a rack. I did spend money on a decent set of wheels, but only decent--no carbon here. The commuter sports a mostly-Shimano 105 drivetrain, with stock chain and rings. All compact, unlike the race-bike's 53/39 x 11/25 big boy setup. And about half of the miles I've put on the bike have come with panniers, a tool bottle, and usually a big honkin' light with an external battery.

Point is, this bike ain't light. Commuter weight, with laptop and everything else, comes in right around 40lbs. And yet, in spite of all the FASTER! LIGHTER! SEXIER! parts on the 17lb bike, I ride them just about the same speed. Most of my rides average just over 20mph over their length.

So if I can ride two wildly different bikes at the same speed, was all of that money a waste? Could my commuter be an effective racer? That question has bugged me a lot, recently. I've even considered racing it at Bryan Park just to see how it would do. And actually my first ever race was on the commuter: the failed Monster Cross back in February. I slapped some CX tires and SPD pedals on it and rode it until I couldn't any more (and wrecked it twice).

One thing that was holding me back from trying the commuter in a race, though, was a recent spate of flat tires. The decent wheels I bought back in the winter were Mavic Ksyrium Elite Disc 2015 wheels. The were on clearance, and came in at 1540g for the whole set, which kinda blew me away for non-carbon. They're weird looking, but you can't beat the value, and I have some nasty hills to climb on my commute. They also came with extremely proprietary tires, which I didn't realize had zero puncture protection.

I got so tired of replacing tubes that I swapped one of the Fuji's stock Vittoria Zaffiro 700x28 tires on the back. Worst case, I figured, I was training and it would help make me faster on the race bike. Best case, I wouldn't really notice a difference.

I think it went somewhere in the middle. I certainly knew the tire was heavier, but as many components as I've hung from the scales, I'd never actually weighed one of these bricks. For the past 2 months, I've had a 385g tire hanging off the back of the bike, but hey: no flats.

In June I gashed one of the race bike's tires and switched over to the new hotness: Continental Grand Prix 4000s II. They were 10g heavier than the previous tires, but advertised LOWER ROLLING RESISTANCE! and INCREASED CORNERING GRIP! and FASTER! SEXIER! STRONGER! And I have to admit, the bike felt faster. And instead of wiping out in the rain at Page Valley, they cornered pretty well.

I figured it might be worth a shot to get off the commuter's brick tire and standardize.

This morning I got up early and mounted a 25mm version of the same tire on the commuter. It weighs 225g, a full 160g less than the Vittoria, and all of that savings comes--not just in rotating weight--but at the outermost point of rotating mass.

And the ride in was amazing. I tore up hills at 25mph. I raced a Honda Ruckus. I felt fast. But more importantly, I felt like the bike wasn't sapping my strength with every effort. So at 20 miles, I felt as good as I had at 5 miles. And it got me wondering if those marketing claims are real.

To the data!

I track my rides through Garmin Connect and Strava, my sleep and weight through Garmin Connect, and my food through MyFitnessPal. Looking back over every commute with the bike in its current configuration, I was able to determine which days I'd packed my lunches, which days I'd slept better, and capped it off with Strava's Fitness/Freshness/Form scores (from the previous day) to see what my overall performance level should have been for a given day. For the wind, know that most of my ride is due south. Data like estimated average power was ignored as subjective, and morning humidity in my region is just shy of jungle.

Bearing in mind that I've only put one ride on this tire so far, and the fact that this bike lacks a power meter, and some days I might have packed a change of clothes, etc, it's fascinating to see that today was my fastest moving ride by over a minute, with a lower average heart rate.

The temperature was lower, and my average cadence was higher, but my weight was not at its lowest, I barely slept last night, and overall time shows that I stopped for a number of red lights, which means some of that moving time was spent stopping and starting.

Because I'm always running late, I only ever ride hard, but this morning was the first time I've ridden hard and felt like I could just keep on doing it, in spite of form, sleep, whatever else was in the way. And the numbers support it: my heart didn't have to work as hard to fuel the effort.

I credit the tire. So there you go, kids: in my completely academic test that failed just about every scientific standard, I think I've effectively demonstrated that pulling 160g off the rotating mass of the bike and reducing the rolling resistance has made me FASTER (0.6mph average over my previous best, or 1.3mph better than the average average)! STRONGER (lower heart rate)! LIGHTER (-160g)! The Continental marketing department can rest easy tonight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

BPTS #8 - Reverse

I commuted yesterday.

With Page Valley out of the way, my real racing season should have been over. Bryan Park is supposed to just be an opportunity to work on skills and try new stuff. And while I had a plan for the race, it did not depend on being particularly fresh. But then came the news that we would be running clockwise tonight. Fan-friggin-tastic.

Counter-clockwise, the course is a downhill run into a hairpin, with a mostly straight and slightly uphill run to a 90-degree turn at the top, and then a run back to start/finish. It's a momentum race. Clockwise, it's a 90-degree turn with a whole lot of chop on the exit, a run downhill at breakneck speed, an uphill hairpin, and a sprint to the kink. Every lap plays out the same, and it's exhausting. And I was already exhausted.

To make matters more complicated, even though I had completed all of the PUBLISHED requirements to upgrade my racing license from CAT 5 to 4, we are apparently playing Calvinball. There are unpublished rules. There is "steward's discretion". And I think some sort of Illuminati handshake, but I got confused after the eleventy-third if-then statement. Honestly, scoring the Tour de France is less complicated. Anyway, the take-away was that if I put myself in a scoring position tonight, I would likely secure my upgrade. No pressure. Oh and they typically only score 7 positions.

The race was predictably fast, predictably hard out of the hairpin, and had the predictable bumpy run-outs from the top corner (one almost threw me). I took a few laps to move up from the back, but once I got to my preferred spot, I was able to hold it, for the most part. A few dodgy passes, a couple of corner dive-bombs. The usual.

In spite of my determination not to bridge, I still fell for one failed break, but fortunately it was on the downhill, and I was able to stack up the field with a slightly-less-aggressive run back up the other side. Several riders tried in vain to either attack solo or form a break.

But in the last lap I finally had myself exactly where I wanted to be: 2nd wheel, inside line. I knew I had the power to make the tighter turn work on exit and was on Ted's wheel setting up for the hairpin, when some jackass just swerved in front of us. Ted checked up hard, as did I, and we lost all our momentum. I watched a slew of riders go into the turn ahead of us, including some guys who had no business being that far up in the bunch.

As we came through that turn, it was like running into a parking lot. Half the guys who had crowded that turn were just grinding up the hill while the leaders sped away. I knew the race was done, but dammit: an upgrade was on the line. I buckled down and put out everything, blocking the inside line completely and reeling back a few fliers. As we rounded the kink, I counted helmets and saw 9 ahead, with one just beginning to ease up. I dropped the hammer, and realizing how close it would be, tried to thrust the bike forward, having never done so before.

As I came back around after the race, the timing & scoring guy told me I was 10th. I asked if my thrust had been for naught, and upon review, T&S confirmed that I did get 9th! I groveled and begged, and they agreed to score 9 deep. Woohoo!

So I learned a new skill tonight, and I found a little extra reserve of energy when I needed it most. Now I just hope we're running the right direction next week so I can follow my original plan...

Monday, August 01, 2016

Getting the Boy into Cycling

Take a kid half your size and ask him or her to pedal a cheaply-made heavy beast of a bike with crap components up a hill. The result will be a child who has no interest in cycling.

Seeking to avoid that experience, I bought my then-7-year-old what I thought was going to be an AWESOME bike in September 2013: a Specialized Hotrock 24. This thing had an aluminum frame, a single rear derailleur with 7 speeds connected to an easy-to-read twist-grip shifter, and an integrated kickstand.

I'd done a ton of research before making the purchase, and everything indicated that this was going to be the bike to put cycling easily into my son's reach.

The first time he rode it, that idea was nuked. Our driveway is long and kinda steep...ish. Not really daunting, but not inviting for the average kid. He couldn't get the bike up the driveway. The gearing just didn't go deep enough to much of anything useful for him to even move around our property. FAIL.

Fast forward a year or so ago to when I started getting into cycling, and I decided to throw a front derailleur on his bike to give him a greater range of gears.

Once again I did the research and found that one company had a discontinued triple chainring on kids' length cranks, and it happened to be square-taper, just like his bike's bottom bracket!

That, of course, meant putting a shifter on the front, which meant cabling and new grips, a longer rear derailleur, and a new chain.

And by virtue of all of that, a heavier bike.

But I figured the extra depth of gears would make it all worthwhile. We ended up with an incredibly heavy bike dripping in cheap, crappy Shimano Tourney equipment, but the bike was marginally improved in terms of capability: he could, for instance, now get up the driveway...most of the time.

A quick scouring of the Interwebs revealed that I would do well to swap handlebars. I found a cheap carbon bar, and when it arrived, weighed the two bars side-by-side. The stock steel bar on the Hotrock weighs more than a full pound MORE than the carbon bar, which comes in at just over 100 grams. With one part, I'd obviated all of the weight penalties of the new gearing options.

I then stumbled upon a clearance Forte seat that perfectly matched the color-scheme of the bike, and mounted that on a spare aluminum seat-post, cutting another 200g+ from the top of the bike.

But the whole thing still didn't work particularly well. The front derailleur interfered with the bottle cage, preventing the bike from using the little ring unless he reached down and fiddled with his bottle. The rear shift cable had been trimmed to its limits and resheathed enough times that the housing was pretty well destroyed, and the rear brake cable was frayed to hell from a prior emergency repair.

And he didn't really enjoy riding it. It's hard to get excited about riding something in that kind of condition.

Just about the time I was trying to figure out what to do with his bike, I bought a 2008 Trek Fuel EX 7 with a fairly worn 3x9 drivetrain. The SLX shifters were in great shape, as was the Deore front derailleur. The rear XT derailleur's jockey wheel was more wheel than gear, but it was otherwise mechanically sound.

That, of course, meant swapping out that 7-speed rear for a 9-speed. Which turned out to be a huge PITA, because one other area where Specialized cheaped out was in the building of the 24" wheels. These things take freewheels instead of freehubs. There are not many companies that make 9-speed freewheels, and I did not have the tools to pull them.

So more moneys and more parts later, I had a SunRace 13-32 9-speed heavy freewheel. Not what I wanted, but a hell of a lot cheaper than building up custom freehub wheels.

But with this extended range of gears (the 7-speed was 14-28), the math told me that he wouldn't need the outside 44T chainring. And that's good news for a couple of reasons:

1. The outer ring was big enough to cause clearance issues over some of the smaller obstacles on our local trails.
2. He's a kid, he doesn't own kits, and I don't want his pants getting painted with chain grease. The 44T ring could have accepted a plastic bashguard, but by dropping it, I was able to put on a proper metal 32T bashguard / pants-protector.

As a final finishing touch, I asked him to pick out cable colors for the shifters & brakes. He picked lime green for brakes and clear braided steel for shifters, and I gotta say, it looks TIGHT. And after a few ruined rides where his brakes weirdly interfered with forward progress, I spent a couple hours getting his wheels properly true.

So now the kid's got a carbon bar, SLX shifters tied to a 2x9 drivetrain running a Shadow XT rear (with a newly-replaced aluminum jockey wheel) and Deore top-pull front derailleur, a proper bashguard, colorful Jagwire cabling, ergo grips, straight wheels, and it's tastefully adorned with team stickers.

Now if only I could get him to ride it.

But sooth, there may be hope! In light of all my road miles over the past year, Alastair told me he's more likely a roadie than a mountain bike guy. Ready at a moment's notice to call his bluff, I had him cough up 66% of the cost of a road bike. In early June, over a triple-points weekend at a certain national bike retailer, I got him a Fuji Sportif 2.3 sporting 650c wheels, basically a smaller version of my commuter bike.

My rule was that it had to move 50 miles per month, or it would go back to the store. So far he's right on the cusp, at an average of 53.55 miles per month, but part of that has been due to him travelling. In spite of a week at camp and a week at his grandparents' house, he put 86.3 miles on the bike in July. His reward just arrived in the mail on Saturday: a shiny Belgium national team kit to match my jersey.

So far he seems to enjoy road rides. He certainly enjoys the idea that every road ride involves delicious baked goods. Now I just have to figure out how to transition him to the mountain bike for the colder months, 'cause there's no way on God's green earth he's gonna want to join me for one of my long winter rides, and I don't want to start over from scratch at 12mph next spring.

Page Valley Road Race, Masters 35+ Cat 4/5 - 3rd place!

Saturday was my last big race of the 2016 season. I'd put it on my calendar as a bit of an after-thought, but the team started talking about it as kind of a Big Deal. The class was going to be an odd-ball in the cycling community: mixed Cat 4/5, ages 35+. It would be an opportunity for me to race alongside the Cat 4 guys on the team, whether or not my upgrade had been completed.

As the day approached, I started feeling an inordinate amount of angst about it, though. Weather forecasts looked dicey. I was feeling over-(s)trained. I'd thrown away two crits on stupid errors and been way too close to some wrecks. I was not at ease.

Driving up to Page Valley, the sky alternated between beautiful sunny day and quick downpours, but I'd come prepared: since my race bike likes to take on water, I'd packed the Fuji as a backup. The Fuji is heavier, but sports compact chainrings and a wider cassette, so I felt like I was covered, either way.

I arrived to find the parking area bone dry with gorgeously clear skies and temps hovering around 90, a bit cooler than most of my recent racing efforts. We set up the team tent, unpacked, handled registration, and my mind was finally starting to settle down. I'd even decided to chance whatever weather might develop and ride the Blue. I was ready: toolkit gone, 2 water bottles, rear blinky removed. Game time.

Roll-out was the most neutral ride I've ever done. Alastair could have out-paced us EASILY at 12mph for the first mile. But when things heated up, they did so quickly. With no fanfare whatsoever, the pace jumped from 12mph to 30.

The first run up the Category 4 climb was probably a little slower than I expected. I didn't realize we were on it until Daniel told me, and then it was over. The little kick at the top was the only part that felt a bit rough, but the group was really tight and all over each other. Moving around was very difficult, and only when guys misjudged their proximity to the road's edge was I able to move forward. I found my comfortable 6-10th wheel spot only by the top of the feed zone, by the finish line, which was really convenient for the steep run down.

My bike is apparently very mechanically efficient. It descends like it's been shot out of a gun. The whole run down, both the very steep drop down Balkamore and the gradual descent of Fairview, I was on the brakes to stay behind the leaders. I didn't want to run off the front and burn up matches (or teammates) unnecessarily.

As the second lap began, a break formed ahead. Three riders were out, and a long lead-out was probably 50 meters back. One big dude decided to bridge, and I tucked under his wheel to cross...apparently with everybody else. But the break point had been revealed, and I knew what to expect the next time around.

Meanwhile, dark clouds had crept in toward the bottom of the course, and the motorcycles dropped back to inform us that we would go the whole distance, in spite of serious weather.

Climb #2 was a bit tougher, but still a lot slower than I had anticipated. Was everybody holding out for a blistering attack on the 3rd time? I made the turn before the feed zone and popped out front just a bit to put down a proper climbing pace, and looked back to see the whole pack about 25 meters adrift. I sat up, not wanting to expend further, and was re-absorbed for the descent (braking the whole way).

At the start of the 3rd and final lap, the lead group broke away with a blistering attack. I tried to bring the pace back down with a short pull on the front, but looked back and realized there were only a dozen or so of us, with no other riders in sight. Not seeing any risk of the attack failing, I dropped into the paceline. A few moments later, the weather hit. It went from dry to squall in less than a minute, with over an inch of standing water on the road and rain so hard you couldn't see more than 5 bikes ahead. If anybody had chanced a break-away, we wouldn't have known. The rain was ice cold, and the water sloshing up from the tires was warm and muddy. My visor was almost useless at keeping the rain out of my eyes. I couldn't see the Garmin to know if it was even still working, and for a while I had to breathe like I was swimming. I had no idea where I was, but I knew there was a pretty solid descent with a hard right at the end, so I started trying to build heat in the brakes early. No dice. There was just nothing there.

When the turn came, everybody had dropped the pace considerably, and one guy did run off the front. The rain let up just enough that we could see him, and magically the paceline settled down and reeled him in slowly up the Category 4 grind.

When I say slowly...I mean really really slowly. I'm not the best climber in the world, and my bike's deepest gear is 39/28, but the pace had slowed enough to where I was turning about 60rpm in that gear. It felt like a Herculean effort to get to the top, and guys were checking up left and right.

Suddenly I wasn't so sure I was going to be able to hold out to the end, and I got stuck in my least favorite position: the middle line, second wheel. I can't think of a more dangerous place to be at the end of a race. The guys left and right were not budging an inch, and in the run to the final turn, the guy in front of me checked up.

I saw it coming and had gotten on the brakes early, but it was still waaaay too wet for them to be effective. We overlapped, he jigged left, and our wheels hit. I had just barely gotten the brakes to start doing their damned job when it happened, so it was more a brush than a solid hit. I'm sure the guys around me appreciated that fact, because while I got squirrelly, I held it together.

But now I was kinda pissed, and when we turned that final corner, I was ready to run off the front again. 1K to go. Dudes start standing on it. But the one thing holding me back is that damn centerline rule. I'd seen guys pulled for it during the race, and didn't want to throw the whole race over it. I didn't know if it would be enforced on the final 1K, so I didn't press the attack until a hole opened in front of me. I chased the two riders who had broken free, fumbled around with gearing a bit, realized I was already down in 39/28 again (grrr!), and buckled down for what was going to be a very taxing grind to the finish line.

I was sure I'd be caught. That's way too deep a gear to try a hard run, and with RPM already low, I figured somebody with a compact setup would just come rolling by me. But it never happened. I didn't catch the two ahead, but nobody came up from behind, either. I crossed the finish line 5 seconds behind 1st place, and we had a few seconds to recover before anybody else came through. The three of us just looked at each other in disbelief, none of us sure if someone else had beaten us.

The rain paused just long enough to get back down to the cars, where we ended up shivering and celebrating under the baller team tent under another hour of heavy rain.

When I got home, the bike had about a cup of water inside the frame, and more inside the wheels. I was amazed to discover that the BB and headset bearings seemed ok. Now all I have to do for Bryan Park tomorrow is to remount the tires and go racing!


My good friend Mr. G likes me to recount what I learned in each race.

  • I definitely learned the limits of braking in heavy rain, but I think running in a 35+ group, we probably all have things outside of cycling that are more important than bragging rights, so I'm not sure anybody was willing to press the braking issue all that hard.
  • I learned that when the end of the race is near, and the temperature is dropping quickly, you probably don't need the contents of your spare water bottle. I dumped mine after seeing another racer do the same, and while I was thirsty after the race, I drank enough wheel water that it didn't impede my performance. Not sure the weight savings helped me secure that podium position, but weight is weight, and my bike was adding to its own while I was dumping that water out.
  • I learned that you can recover from a wheel-to-wheel hit.
  • Probably most importantly, I learned that when the guy in front of you jumps out of the saddle for a standing climb, he's going to pull the bike backward into your wheel. Not sure how best to process and apply that lesson, but I'll certainly add it to my list of things to watch out for.