Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BPTS17 #5: 2nd! Make a plan, stick to the plan

Another 20-lap counter-clockwise slog around Bryan Park? Sure, why not.

Last week I threw away a win. I saw a gap open in front of me, I didn't jump through it, and I paid the price by getting squeezed in the final turn.

It ate at me all week.

If I saw that gap again, I was going. I ran through the process over and over again: defend the inside up the back straight, get near the front, let someone go way too far inside approaching the bend, jump around them and power out of the final turn.

I got to the point where mentally performing the process could reliably cause my heart rate to jump about 30bpm. I had a plan, and I felt I could execute it.

And then the board said '20' again. Blerg. My legs were feeling wooden and stiff from a way-too-hard solo ride on Sunday, so I figured I'd just sit in and wait to see where I could be at the end. The race had other ideas, though.

I never grid on the front. Every time I do, I end up running point for a couple laps and pay for it later. Last night was no different: first to clip in is first sucker in the wind, but hey: I wasn't trying to bridge up on lap 1, so it was something.

The only team with numbers threw an early attack which everyone ignored, and I was starting to cycle back through the group when the first prime bell rang. With still-decent positioning, I figured 'why not' and glued myself to 2nd wheel, letting them pull me up the back straight. One fell off, and it was down to two. I put down a finishing sprint on lap 3 to claim the first prime and promptly assumed my race was just done.

I managed to catch back on and tried to set up a teammate for the next prime, but the jump was too early and he waved it off. Again, as the group was absorbing me, another break tried to get away. A quick jump and a refusal to work, and the pack was back together after a couple laps.

With 7 laps to go, I pulled back through to the leaders and waited for the final prime lap, ready to drag my teammate off again. The bell rang, the pace quickened, and on the back straight I made my play, which would prove a practice run for my final lap. But nobody followed. And I mean nobody. Rounding the turn for home, I looked back to see the group barely pedaling. I cruised across start/finish at 17mph with the field far adrift to claim the 3rd prime.

Seems everybody was already thinking about the final lap.

But then with 5 laps to go, the strong guys started throwing random furtive attacks. Nothing strong enough to stick. I found my way to the inside line and camped about 10th until the final bell, letting foolishness happen elsewhere, but ready to defend any action.

And coming up the back straight for the final time, last week's scenario repeated itself, down to the players. A paceline right, a knot trying to form on the outside, and 2 of us inside. The guy in front starts his wild yawing sprint way too soon, and as I'm about to move around him, another guy moves into our lane. No worries: still room to execute.

The Wild Sprinter goes through the turn so wildly that the right-side paceline backs off just enough to make a hole, and promptly runs out of gas. It's game on for the two of us on the inside line, but I hit a bump and destabilized the bike just long enough for him to get on power first.

With a 2 bike-length lead, he charged up the straight. I started to just so slightly reel him in before running out of time, but we were well clear of anything behind.

The finish was enough to move me into 5th place overall in the series, and my teammate was able to hold on for 7th, putting him in 6th place overall. We have a big points deficit to the top 3, but they're not out of sight yet.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BPTS17 #4: 20 laps and 7th

I'm doing a charity ride this month, trying to log 750 miles for the Great Cycle Challenge (sponsor me here and help me put an end to children's cancer!), and it's having some interesting impacts on my cycling overall. I'm way ahead of schedule with miles, having crossed 500 on the 13th, and I'll be over 560 by the end of the day. The challenge is half-way done, and I'm not feeling too beat up.

It's partially because the first few days of the month I just rode like a lunatic at full crank and nearly hurt myself. I had to back it down, while still honoring my commitments to the racing season.

So I started doing some experimentation with managing heart-rate, managing power, sacrificing climbs, managing my pedaling efficiency, and I'm at a point where I can ride about 50 miles just about every day without consequence.

Figuring out how to add racing to that was a little nerve-wracking.

I commuted to work on Tuesday on the race bike, being very careful not to throw down and only taking speed where it required no effort. I managed my heart and legs as well as I could, but when I rolled up to the start line, I already had 40 miles under me. And 51 the day before. In fact, I hadn't been off the bike in 5 days. It was Richmond swampy hot, and I wasn't expecting much.

Then they announced we would do 5 extra laps.

The race was fairly uneventful and predictable for the first 8 laps or so. I found a teammate's wheel and glued myself to it. A gap opened in front of me while I had a head of steam, and foolishly I rode to the front, pacing the group for about 2 laps. When I came off, the bell rang, and 3 riders made a strong break. Dammit.

That break stayed away for way too long. I took 3 or 4 laps to gather myself and work back toward the front again, then launched a hard attack to bridge up. The gap was bigger than it looked, and only one other rider chased. Neither of us made it across, but I was told it woke the group up, and when the final prime bell rang, they FINALLY started working and closed the gap.

On the last lap I got pinched to the inside, where I definitely did not want to be for the final turn, and though I saw a gap large enough to jump through for a shot at glory, I held back, thinking I'd blow up from the day's miles and efforts and just ruin somebody else's race.

The guy in front of me let off a little bit into the turn, the guys to my right squeezed in hard, and I dropped from the 2nd row to about 17th in the turn. Go time. Not expecting much from the effort, and watching the leaders roll away from me, I hit the gas with everything I could muster.

And they started coming back. All of them. In that short 15 second sprint, I got back 10 positions and was just about side-by-side with two more as we crossed the line.

Looking at the numbers later, I'd put down a 900W seated sprint that peaked at 1400W. After 56 miles in the saddle, and in ~90-degree heat. Holy. Crap.

So what did I learn last night? If there's an opportunity, go for it. Take the jump. Run the risk of running out of gas, because there's no shot at a win if you don't.

I wanna slow down

Today is Alastair's last day of elementary school. What the hell happened?

Monday, June 12, 2017

BPTS17 #2 & #3; Reticent Blogger

The 2017 season started very promisingly with William & Mary and the Sharmrock Crit, but took a sharp turn for the worse afterward. My main goal for the whole year was to do well at Bryan Park. It's local, doesn't count for anything, but I wanted it. The first race felt like more of the same of my 2017: in contention, but not in the final fight.

#2 was mostly the same. The juniors weren't there, but the competition is still stiff, and the pacing has been weird so far this year. A lot of sprinting out of corners and a whole heap of braking back into them. Nothing fluid has emerged yet in the B race. I managed a 10th place finish on a sprint that just ran out of space. Almost ran over 3 guys and had to back off before the finish line because there was nowhere to go. Gotta work on timing and placing in the sprint. Sounds like an echo.

But I did manage to win the first prime and narrowly avoid a nasty wreck, both involving the same rider. As the bell was ringing, he and I both broke from opposite sides of the pack at the exact same time, with two riders off the front about 10 seconds ahead. We came off the front of the pack and merged, him in the lead, and chased down to the other two by the first turn. Each of them popped coming out of that turn, and my fellow breaker pulled me up the back straight. He'd timed it wrong, and I jumped for a quick easy sprint to the line.

A few laps later, at the 2nd prime, I tried to run off the front and drag my own teammate, but we mis-communicated and I ended up off the front without enough steam for a whole solo lap. I dropped back through the pack to regroup, and as we came back through the start/finish area, there was cursing and the crunch of carbon. Seeing as I've fallen off every bike I own this year, and broken two ribs in the process, I was uninterested in being part of the fracas. But it was right in front of me, and the only thing I could do was mash the crap out of the brakes and hope nobody would hit me from behind.

I had only about 5 bike-lengths to brake, and got most of my speed scrubbed, but I was still heading straight for them. I had to settle for a pedal-strike on one of the downed bikes, but it wasn't enough to upset me, and I got rolling again...about 20 seconds adrift of the entire group. And already gassed from the previous lap's failure.

After verifying both riders were conscious and moving, I rolled and tried to get others to help me regain the group. One by one I reeled them in and begged them to help, but nobody wanted to put out the effort. I managed to get back on, but it was all I could do to hold on until the last few laps, when I caught a lucky break and was able to move forward, breathe, and attack at the finish.

#3 was the first clockwise race of the season. I like clockwise, as it really gives the sprinters an opportunity to work. In the normal direction, we come out of a 90-degree turn and have about 15 seconds of sprinting to the finish. If you're not one of the first 5 or 6 bikes around the corner, you cannot win. Clockwise, the total sprinting time is closer to 40 seconds, with just about half of it uphill. Strenuous effort is rewarded, and you can hurt the group from 15th wheel if you time it right.

But clockwise isn't done often, so the first race is usually very dangerous. This race was no exception. Massive fistfuls of brake at both ends of the course, with ginormous herculean sprint efforts out of every corner. By the first prime lap, nobody seemed interested in going for it, so I jumped and rolled off the front. One guy staged a late attack on me, but I'd already buried it. I was already resting before the line when I heard him shift for one last gear from just behind me, and 2 more pedal-strokes kept me out of reach.

We dropped back into the pack and settled in for some really sketchy laps. There were dudes in the grass on both sides of the course, guys trying to make turns work 8-wide, and again: more braking than was prudent. Including on the straights. Lots of bitching and griping, but amazingly not one rider went down.

I knew from watching last year's season leader that the outside line is faster on the final lap, and I worked my butt off to finally get to the front of the outside line entering the final turn. But all that braking made me nervous, and I gave up too much speed in the turn, letting the center-line riders drift out over me. I was pinned, and nobody was attacking.

My teammate had taken the inside line and had drifted over with the leaders. I tucked under his wheel and, with a full head of steam already going, was about to hit him when I yelled for him to go. He obliged, and for a while we were 1 - 2 coming up the final straight, but the yelling took away from the sprinting, and 3 riders managed to pick me off before we crossed the line. I ended up 5th, he got 3rd, and we both got paid!

10th and a prime one week, 5th and a prime the next. Not enough to put me in contention for my season goals, but a good feeling, just the same.