Sunday, March 26, 2017

RIR Crit - Today was expensive and pointless

After the Shamrock race, I was a bit nervous about a 1-hour crit. I was afraid I'd run out of steam and watch the field power away from me with 10 minutes to go, so I figured I'd try what worked at Bryan Park toward the end of last season: hide in the pack, refuse to get out front, and save energy for the sprint finish.

I didn't even make it 5 laps before getting caught up in the first calamitous wreck of the race. Yep: the first. Nary a wreck in the whole day last year in the rain, but two in the Cat 4 race today.

Anyway I'd realized 2 laps in that the headwind on the front straight made for a dangerous accordion effect coming off turn 4, and was anxious to get out of  the fray. I started moving up with my teammate, but found the overall pace made slow work of moving forward. I'd moved through half the group and was willing to sacrifice my strategy to get a bit of space.

Coming through turn 4 on the 5th lap, though, I heard the telltale sound of carbon braking and nervous people, saw a wheel go sideways to my left, and thought "this is going to take me with it". A quick glance right revealed someone was right on my shoulder, giving me no escape route. And then a wheel came under mine and it was done. I was skidding on the surface and checking my bike before it even stopped, protecting myself as best I could from getting run over.

The right shifter was cranked over at 45-degrees (shades of my cross-wreck!), my ribs were stinging, and my left leg said "just don't look". But the bike looked salvageable. Maybe the race could still be run.

Alastair was at my side by the time I was standing, and I sent him for tools and starting making my way to the pits when a marshal suggested maybe I ought to see a paramedic. I am sometimes pretty dumb and headstrong, but when someone suggests I ought to see the paramedic, I tend to listen. They probably know something I don't.

I spent the next 10 minutes getting a fair amount of road-rash cleaned, and in that time realized my ribs were pretty well crunched, and this time on the left side (to even out February's hit to the right!). Once I'd been cleared, I assessed the bike a little more thoroughly.

The frame, fork, and drivetrain were ok (woohoo!), but the brand new handlebar was trashed, along with one SpeedPlay pedal, both skewers, and oddly, the sidewall of the front tire. The front wheel is out of true, and I'd torn up a BOA closure on one shoe, as well.

After an expensive evening on all the parts sites, I think I'll be back racing for just under $400, assuming I can salvage a few months more use out of that one pedal (the axle is intact, but it cannot be greased as it lost the entire outer cover and grease port bolt).

I'm really happy I didn't hit my head again, but pretty pissed off to have put in all of training and effort to turn just shy of 5 laps. And now I understand why ladies say, "I shaved my legs for this?"

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Shamrock Crit - Apparently I wanted to go faster

First up, HUGE props to my son, Alastair, on his first road race, and HUGER props on his first win. The field was small, the wind was strong, and the temperatures were horrible, but he put down intervals for 20 minutes and cruised to an easy 3rd overall in the juniors race, getting a BAR upgrade after the 2nd place finisher failed rollout. I guess #zwifteffect is real.

The Men's Cat 4 race started just after noon in 10 - 15mph gusts from the NNW. It was cold at 40F, but I'm used to riding in much colder on the way to work. For whatever reason, though, I just could not get warmed up. I ended up back at the truck 3 separate times for costume changes, finally settling on a balaclava, my warmest base layer, and mid-weight gloves (my hands got hot even though everything else was freezing). I was sure I'd overheat in the race, but I was so damned cold I didn't care.

I also ended up doing a lot more warm-up than I would normally do, putting out 10 miles instead of my usual 3 or 4, and all of it with a bit more intensity than was maybe warranted. And of course, I also rode to work yesterday because I'm dumb.

And I was coming off a wonky week with an out-of-town business conference where I stayed on my feet for over 21 hours and off a bike for about 3 days.

I had plenty of excuses, is what I'm saying.

But the race, when it started, eschewed excuses and went straight for blistering speed. The first 3 laps were all in excess of 25mph, and hovering somewhere in the 300W range, a pace I cannot maintain for very long. I was hopeful the rest of the group would settle into something a bit more endurance-y, but a rider ran off the front and quickly gapped the field. The next lap, another rider chased.

As we came through start/finish, I heard a spectator shout "20 seconds". Absolutely unwilling to have the few points decided at lap 4, I shouted "fuck that, let's GO!" and hammered, bringing myself to within 5 seconds before looking back to...nothing. Goddammit. Worse, the two ahead had joined forces and looked strong. I held on for another 10 seconds before realizing it was going to be a long race if I blew up this early, and sank back to the group.

But now I was pissed, because the first 3 jerseys to pass me were the same as those who held up the entire peloton at William & Mary and caused us to get neutralized. Once again, this one team was dictating the pace of the race to everyone else, and it seemed nobody was willing to work together to stop it.

Eventually we reeled in the break, and things settled down (thankfully) for a couple of laps before another break started. This one had 3 or 4 guys from the start, and the chase group nearly split trying to counter.

We were little more than half way through the 40-minute race, and I was starting to yoyo at the back. But I was not going to get dropped by this group--I'd held on to Ben King's NYD ride, by God I would hold on to this one.

Magically the group came back to me, and several laps followed of moving freely around the peloton with no real risk of getting dropped. The break was away, but not pulling any further ahead, and nobody was taking any risks.

With 6 or 7 laps to go, it started getting fast again, and I was back to hanging on for dear life. I could make good progress on one side of the course and nearly get dropped on the other. Round & round. 2 laps to go, they ring the final prime lap. Some guys think it's the final lap (because really, who does that?) and it's game on: a group of 3 breaks off the front to chase down the leaders, and I got vacuumed to the front of the chase.

Last lap, and guys are really trying to bridge up. I hear carbon howling EVERYWHERE around me, but the next-to-last turn is a smidge tricky, and I'm given too much space. I jumped at the same moment as E. Shipp and we sprinted side-by-side for the next corner, but I got the inside line and tucked down for my usual seated sprint. I see a wheel hew into the corner of my vision from the right, actually literally screamed and put out as much power as I had left, and held off the attack...only to be passed by at least one rider on the left.

A quick glance up was nearly impossible as the whole world was blurry, but I think I counted 10 jerseys ahead, putting me around 11th. I spent the entire cool-down lap telling myself not to puke, which was frankly a pretty tall order. Garmin said I'd averaged 288W, a 30W increase from my previous 20-minute best.

I spent the next 4 hours wondering why the hell that race had been so hard before I remembered that it was a mixed Cat 3/4 race. Oh. Well, that'll do it, I guess.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

W&M Tidewater Classic 2017

Today should have been amazing. I signed up for this year's W&M road race as a Cat 5, but after doing some magic with USA Cycling managed to get my resume re-re-reviewed, and was upgraded to Cat 4 last weekend. It took my projected finish of 1st down to 11th and meant I couldn't get away with any nervous rider shenanigans, but it also meant I got to sleep in a little later, since the 4's race starts at a reasonable hour of 10 am.

And the race started with real promise. After the 2-mile neutral roll-out, the pace leaped to 30mph within 2/10 of a mile and pushed hard to the first run up the KOA climb, where the flatlanders popped and everybody jeered as the freight train accordioned.

Back on flat(ter) ground, the race picked back up to the fever pace for a while, with minimal centerline enforcement. I'd see guys go wide and hear a moto admonish them, but nobody got sent backward.

After the first turn off Fenton Mill Rd, M. Lipka did is Leeroy Jenkins move and took one hopeful soul with him. They held out for about a half a mile before the group decided to run it back down, catching him well before the first lap marker on Riverview. But then his teammate N. McKinnon countered, and I guess the group figured it was another throw-away effort, because NOBODY chased. In fact, if anything, they actually slowed down. Wherease we'd been seeing 30mph on the outlap, I was barely seeing 22mph this time through.

By the time we made the turn to Newman Rd, he'd worked up over a 20-second lead. I found a hole on the right and jumped to the front to chase.

A group of about 5 were leading a middling charge, and I took up 2nd wheel. When the leader peeled off, I put out a 1-mile threshold interval to take back about 1/3 of the gap. As we dropped to the base of the KOA climb, I was reabsorbed into the group and we caught the only decent break-away of the day.

And then it just turned into a parade. For the next 10 miles or so, I just stayed on the right side and watched the occasional surge from one side or the other, but ultimately the jerseys never really changed and the speed continued to drop. At one point on Riverview I looked down and saw 17.8mph. Guys were starting to yell out from the group to pick up the pace or get out of the way, but it never happened, and what should have been a blistering run up the KOA climb for the last lap was more of a casual Saturday group ride pace.

And so they stopped us.

The moto dropped back to the leader and motioned us to the side of the road to let the faster chase group past. Suddenly what had gone from 57 bunched riders to a long train was now, once again, about 50 guys all clamoring for a shot at glory.

Zero space for error, itchy trigger fingers, but nothing. A few guys decided the centerline rule was for pansies, and nobody enforced it to the contrary, so the last several miles were exceptionally messy, and it's a wonder nobody wrecked.

We made the final turn into the park, where last year the 5 race just turned into an open 1-mile sprint fest, and...again...nothing. The group sped up to about 30 and held station, gradually widening to take the whole road and shallowing as riders packed up the rear, but the front line was like a military column and not a damn soul would break from it.

We even passed the 200m marker without ANY action, but when it came, it came hard. Formation broke as a few guys dropped the hammer, and I was in the 3rd row back. I hunted and clawed for a way through, finding a teensy gap on the left side--exactly where I'd seen a dude get seriously hurt at the end of last year's 4 race. I took the chance, and right as I got to it the guy ahead started yawing his bike around like a cartoon exaggeration of a sprint. I gave him a moment and he did it again. I yelled--twice--and he finally curtailed it and gave me an inch of pavement. With 50m to go, I got out and threw down everything I had, expecting to see the leaders well off into the distance. But as I counted the jerseys ahead of me, I could see only 5, and the moto was not far off.

So just as anti-climactic as the neutralization was the realization that I'd scored points in my first Cat 4 road race. Huzzah.