Monday, July 25, 2011

Babler Circuit Race + GEO Crit Reports

Babler Circuit Race [13/17]

Babler was my first race as a cat 2, so there was a lot to learn going in.  Add to that a 3 week break from racing and I was fairly nervous.  The course was a 4 mile loop with 2 big hills – one up and one down.  I don’t have numbers (no computer, just feel!) but Adam (RecycledCycles) said his Garmin topped out at 18% on the climb.  Let’s just say it wasn’t easy.  With 8 laps I was looking to follow wheels and try to help my cat 1 teammate, Kurt.

I felt good up the climb the first two laps as an early move dangled off the front.  I felt comfortable in the group but was definitely working hard on the hill.  The two-tiered climb usually played out with a steady pace on the lower section with riders kicking it up on the second slope and over the top.  Once they saw that everyone was together the pace would slow a little and the pack would take a deep breath.  It’s funny to me how the first couple times up the climb you keep your breathing quiet and try not to show your cards but by the third or fourth time up the hill you don’t care that you sound like a sow in heat!  By the seventh time up the climb my back was a snare drum and my legs were empty.  I gave in and let the pack go up the road.  I was in the race until the real racing started.  Ouch.

The race highlighted the need to be judicious in the use of strength and cautious to put one’s nose in the wind.  Next time I plan on being around when the fireworks go off!  I’m also taking steps to move past the back pain by getting a bike fit with Russ of Mesa Cycles.  I’ve waited too long to do this!

Kurt rode well and placed 3rd - another podium for 708 Racing!  

Thanks to Gateway Gastroenterology, Off The Front Racing, and the Park Staff for putting on a great race!

Note: only 17 riders were scored but I thought I counted 25+ at the start – this was confirmed by Daniel (Lindenwood) at the GEO crit as he thought there were ~30 guys in the race.  Suddenly 13th doesn’t suck so much.

Great Egyptian Omnium Crit

After attending a friend’s wedding in Indiana Saturday, I stopped by Carterville, IL for the GEO crit Sunday.  Keith and Erik rode well in the Omnium but had to finish the crit as a t-storm rolled in.  Dead air became 30mph+ gusts uncomfortably quick.  The boys kept the rubber down to seal a good weekend of racing.
For the P/1/2 crit I was hoping the race would be a quiet affair – another chance to get my legs going before the MO state crit and Gateway Cup.  I knew Daniel (Lindenwood) and Eduardo (Bigshark) were going to be there but as I had suspected, Jonathan (Nuvo, National TT champ) showed up.  It would be anything but a slow race now!  Not only that but more firepower came to play via 5 IsCorp riders – this would be quite a race!  Unfortunately, that t-storm that escorted the 3’s to the line poured out lightning on John A. Logan College for 1.5 hours, scrapping our race.  It looks like another 3 week gap between races.  Motorpacing time?

Big thanks to Chad Briggs who put on a great race (from what I could tell about the rest of the omnium) and had super community support (I heard a GEO ad on the radio while driving in!).  Not only that, but Chad refunded the P/1/2 crit entry.  This is definitely a race to attend next year!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My last weekend of bike a cat 3

Glencoe Grand Prix and Webster Groves Criterium Race Reports

In brief:

Buncha guys lined up.  One rode away 15 minutes in.  I won the field sprint.

If you’re not into the whole brevity thing:

Mike, Nick, Keith, and I headed up to Glencoe to contest the IL state criterium championship for the cat 3’s.  I decided coming in that this would be my last weekend racing in the category.  I had the points for the upgrade (including several wins) and more importantly I was starting to feel stagnant.  Part of that is the place in the season – after racing since April I had accumulated more race starts this season than any prior YEAR!  In fact, I have raced more this year than my first two in the sport combined.  Regardless, I convinced myself that I wasn’t happy with a race unless I won (or a teammate won).  So of course the rational next step is to begin racing in a category where winning means finishing!?

Off the shrink’s couch and on to the race…four of us showed up to represent 708 Racing.  The guys all had good attitudes but I was a basket case.  The state crit always gets in my head and I have trouble sleeping and notice that my normal neuroses and compensation mechanisms all fly into overdrive to deal with the additional self-inflicted stress.  During the warm-up I felt alright but not great and everything that had to happen got done.  I entered the staging area pretty late but pushed Tim Speciale out of the way.  At first he thought someone was being rude, but once he realized it was me the joking began.  It was a good way to kill a little stress before the start.  As they let us go to the preliminary line I snuck forward in the group.  Then they let us go to yet another line and I again moved up.  The race was soon underway and I was looking out for 5 guys: Tim (Psimet), Kyle (Tower), Ryan (xXx), John Villena (Rhythm), and The Squirrel.  I also had to watch the Burnham team as for sheer numbers they could sneak somebody off the front.  

The pace was quick and Burnham kicked things off.  Mike (708), acting the dutiful lieutenant, covered several early moves.  The plan was for Keith and Nick to cover moves while Mike would lead me out for the win.  “Plan B” was to put me in a break.  The team was 100% committed to me (see nervousness above) and I could see it in those first laps.  Nick jumped away during an early lap and stayed off long enough to take the first KoH sprint and I felt comfortable about how we were minding the pack.  I believe that at this point the pace was quick and the course tight, but all 4 708’s were near the front (top 20?).  On the first sprint lap Ryan Fay (xXx) took off.  It was around 15 minutes into the race and I was riding next to Mike in the top 10 or 15 wheels.  I turned to him and said: “What do you think?”  Mike: “It’s early.”  Me: “Yeah, let’s let him dangle.”  Well, that was the wrong decision!  Ryan began putting time into us.  A chase group formed just off the front with Tim and a few others (John?  Kyle?), so I jumped just before the start finish to bridge.  People on the course were giving us splits – 12 seconds, 15 seconds.  Alright, I thought, we caught Ryan and the field has split.  We even have a nice gap!  But by the end of the lap the numbers had gone up and the field had caught us…hmmm, aren’t we all together?  No.  Ryan was still off the front.  I thought for sure he was part of the group I bridged to, but I was very wrong – he was 25 seconds up the road and hammering.

After these early efforts guys started making poor decisions in the tight turns and crashes befell the chase.  The Squirrel was the first to go down (surprise?), but even TSpesh ate it.  Ryan on the other hand knew how to drive his bike and just kept the pressure on.  The gap from spectators was coming in as high as 45 seconds.  The race was up the road.

Nick, Kyle, and I trying to get something going in the chase.  Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rangel.

I ordered Keith and Nick, my khalkotauroi, to the front and they worked to bring back Ryan.  We got back 10 seconds - down to 30 total - but it was too little too late.  I even began my own probing attacks and taking turns at the front to try to instigate a more energetic chase.  It is on this point that I’ve thought over the last week(s).  Should I have tried to bridge solo?  Would it not have been better to go down swinging (or pedaling as the case may be) than to sit in and wait for 2nd place?  I did have some of these thoughts at the time and considered that there was a chance that Ryan would run out of gas or crash in a turn.  I wasn’t hoping tragedy would befall him, but cracking while holding off the field was a real possibility.  Secondly, being a week or so past prime I haven’t felt very strong for 20 minute solo efforts.  So bridging a 30 second gap solo was racing my weaknesses, not my strengths – it seemed a fool’s errand.  Avoiding this scenario was exactly why I introduced myself to Ryan before the race as I wanted to be sure I knew who he was, what he looked like, and what number he had pinned.  Ultimately, I let a known mark get a gap and race his strengths.  So this race boils down to my tactical failure.  I don’t think this was a question of legs as I bet there were 8-10 guys in the field who could have bridged to Ryan’s move, but we all thought it was too early.  We were all very wrong.

Ryan stormed home with a 34 second advantage, supposedly (since I didn’t see it!) soft pedaling the final straight and enjoying the win.  He certainly should have as he earned it!

Behind we were on a quick lap but I wasn’t in the red – a good feeling leading into a sprint.  I was in about 10th wheel and I saw Nick in the top 3.  Clearly he was my leadout man into the final turn.  I burned a match up the climb one last time and kept the gas on to make it to Nick’s wheel.  He assumed the front and I shouted commands as he kept the pack strung out.  I told him “this is it!  Go Nick! Go!” and he stood hammering out a pace which served as a launch pad.  While still 50 meters out from the corner I jumped at 80% and hammered into the turn, railing it at speed.  I stood and powered out of the saddle as hard as I could shifting as I got on top of the gear.  I could see Kyle’s wheel beginning to edge up to me on the right so I gave it another kick to be sure he didn’t get me at the line.  I sat up and held up three fingers.  I thought there was a two man break up the road and I had just found the last podium spot. 
Sharing the podium with Ryan Fax (xXx, center) and Kyle Selph (Tower, right).  Photo credit: Nick Gierman.

I was surprised to hear that I finished second but was still disappointed.  I was truly happy for Ryan as he had earned the victory.  However the race was my best chance at a state championship for some time as the P/1/2’s aren’t exactly going to let me waltz across the line uncontested.  But this is what makes state championships special – they are hard earned.  If everyone was champ they’d be meaningless.  My cat 3 campaign for 2011 will close with a silver medal in both state races – not too bad.  Shall I buy a TT bike and see if I can finish second to Ryan in late august for the trifecta?  No thanks.

I think it's clear from my recap, but just in case you missed it: I have awesome teammates.  Thanks again to the 708 team for working for me.

Webster Groves Crit

Racing is fun, but most of the time it is serious fun.  You set goals, train hard, and do your best, accepting the outcome.  Sometimes it is fun to just have fun and not take it seriously and that is how I approached this race.  I think I had to.  My shoes (which have worked great all year) had a buckle break (already repaired – thanks Mesa!) and I was mentally exhausted from the previous day’s race and travels.  So my goal was to win preems and be a jerk to anyone in a breakaway.  I didn’t care how I finished, I just wanted to horse around!

To that end I took the front on the first lap and kept it strung out for a little bit.  It was a 3/4 race after all, and we don’t need those cat 4’s hanging around crashing us out(!).  I chased moves and stole a preem from Jason (CBC), even tried my hand at a “Fay” but only stayed off for 2 or 3 laps.  Je suis fatigue.  (I don’t speak French.)

We had fun and mugged for our great cast of StL photogs.  One of the highlights of the day was seeing my sister’s Father-in-Law there.  Lockwood is a Webster Groves local and he came out to see a race.  His nephew, Jeremy Bock (Dogfish) was unable to make it – a huge disappointment for Lockwood.  What started as “I can only watch the first 20 minutes” ended as “I just couldn’t leave – it was so exciting!”  Amen.  Nick Hand hung tough and finished 5th on the day.

This race day saw a crash from a racer named Randy.  He's still in the hospital (several weeks later) and we're all pulling for him.  If you think of it, please pray for his recovery and his family's comfort.

At the end of the crit I took off for a 2 3 week work trip to Arkansas.  Yeehaw!