Thursday, August 14, 2014

Racing - August 12, 2014, CCAP Tuesday Night Race, Bs, VW Drop Off and Field Sprint

Ah, Tuesday.

For me Tuesday has come to mean Tuesday Night Races at the Rent. This year CCAP has been holding the races. The main effect for me is that I can do the B race, now a Cat 3-4-5 race, instead of doing the A race, now primarily a P-1-2 race (but 3s do enter it).

Tuesdays have also come to mean "Junior goes to daycare in the morning". He loves it now, with all sorts of new stimuli present, slightly older kids, and all sorts of fun stuff to do. I can drop him off somewhat early in the morning, leaving me to do errands.

This Tuesday I brought our Golf TDI in for its 30k service. It's a "free" service if you will (I know, nothing is free, but we don't pay for anything when it's done). We knew that we got the car in August three years ago after we found out that the Missus was carrying Junior. Therefore we needed to get the car in sometime this month so we would get in under the "36k / 3 year" window for service.

I brought my bike and my computer so that I could either hang out and type away on the computer (if the service would take an hour or less) or so that I could ride home (longer than an hour service). When they told me that the service alone would take 90 minutes, plus two minor things I asked them to check, I kitted up and rode out.

First Ride

No gloves. One handed.

I realized I forgot my gloves. I'd washed them but I think they ended up in some shirt or something. At any rate they weren't in my helmet, not in my electronic stuff (SRM, phone), so whatever, I could still ride so I rode. I told myself I had to find them when I got back home.

I happened to be riding one handed when I looked down - I think I was checking back or seeing if my key was in my pocket or something. Anyway in normal situations the most stable one handed position is to hold the bars near the stem. This is because you exert less force on the bars, allowing the bike to track naturally on its own. It's safer in general. The only time this isn't the case is if there is extraordinary force on the front wheel, like you're in mud, or if you're carrying something that might get caught in the front wheel like a jacket or a gallon of milk.

1:28 track stand.

I did a track stand as usual at the light. The only thing was this was a big intersection with a lot of different lanes taking turns. The trackstand ended up being a minute 28 seconds long. I thought about putting a foot down a few times and each time I thought, "Oh, it'll be green soon." That went on for 88 seconds.

First truck, sort of.

Tuesday's races get canceled if it rains. The races are about fun and learning in a safe environment. It's not really ideal when it's raining so the consensus has been to cancel if it rains. That's all good but it makes for some anxious moments when the forecast doesn't cooperate.

This Tuesday it was supposed to start raining, but it was hard to tell exactly when it would start raining hard enough to cancel the race. I started feeling drops of water riding back from the dealer so I figured the race would get called. This meant that this would be my only ride of the day.


I followed the first truck, above, at a distance. I held a high, steady effort, starting with a peak 900w jump, the draft significant enough even 80-100 feet back. When the truck stopped at a light and started up again I was too gassed to go with it, even with the truck's plodding acceleration. When I drove to the dealer I shifted into second gear after the dump truck in front of me was already in 4th gear, so they accelerate a bit slowly when loaded.

My teammate Aaron pointed something out to me last week - if I'd been training a bit more I could have pulled and then gotten back into the race. Instead I got shelled. Here I realized the same thing - if I'd been training I could have jumped with the truck a second time.

Second truck.

A second truck passed me and I jumped on again. This was a bit harder, I hit 1000w, and I was already a bit gassed so I needed to stay closer. I tried not to draft "behind" but instead "to the side". It helps even being to the side and I really didn't want to get into any trouble.

Third truck.

The third truck couldn't pull away from me - he passed me as we got into town. Therefore we did the polite, "You first" "No, you first" "No, you first" while he got up to speed. I let him take the lead and followed, trying to stay to the side again. 1100w jump to get going and I lost him when I slowed for a red light that turned green as soon as I backed away from the truck.

Between Rides

I was so tired that afternoon that I struggled to handle Junior. In addition he didn't take his normal 2-2.5 hour nap - he woke up after 30 minutes and that was that. I kept waiting for him to fall back asleep but he was having none of it. When he's tired he's cranky (wait, who am I talking about?) and it made it hard for me to do anything. Finally I had to put him in his bed, as fussy as he was, and tell him that "Daddy really needs to get some things done to get ready to go see bikes."

Junior sat in his bed and quietly read his Cars books.

Normally we try to leave at 4:50 or 4:55 PM. The drive, through rush hour traffic, can be tough, and we sometimes arrive at the course almost an hour later. This leaves me a few minutes to get ready and line up and although I can do it I prefer 15 minutes to get to the line, not 3.

With my distractions and absolute fatigue I hadn't gotten totally packed. With the Missus helping we finally got going at about 5:15. I thought we might even miss the race, but the traffic gods seemed to smile on us as it seemed everyone was on vacation. We even said to each other that the traffic seemed awfully sparse. We got to the race in record time, meaning we barely had to wait in bumper to bumper traffic.

Of course I could feel a rain drop or two on my arms as I got ready.

Normally I'd race for my Cat 4 teammates but, believe it or not, the ones at the race had upgraded to Cat 3 by now. Therefore we were all Cat 3s (it's just that I was a Cat 3 a couple decades longer) and we didn't have a Cat 4 to work for. Heavy D pointed at me and told me, "Dude, tonight you're going to win. We're working for you."

He has a way of saying things such that you don't argue.

I didn't argue.

On to the race!

Race (aka Second Ride)

Start of the race. Heavy D is #959.
Note threatening cloud patterns.

When a race gets called for weather the officials will just ring the bell to end the race in a lap, if they have the time. Earlier this year they had to actually just stop it, the rain just dumped on us in less than a minute. However, with the rain drops falling sporadically I hoped that we'd get at least a bell when they called the race.

If I were to do well I'd have to race at the front.

I'd done this before, in the A race, a long time ago (2010?). We started off, it started to rain, I pushed every lap like it was the last lap, we got the bell a lap or two later, I led out the sprint, and I won. It's the only A race I ever won and I felt like (and still feel like) it wasn't a true win. Part of it were the numbers - in that sprint I barely broke 900w when I jumped and my sprint was something like 800w average. It wasn't a strong sprint per se but I jumped as early as I could because I knew that the others would be distracted by the wet roads and the general unpleasantness of racing in the rain. At any rate I was hoping that if it actually started to rain I could do something similar.

With the wind pretty strong and steady this meant doing a lot of work to stay up front. A bunch of the riders were interested in blowing apart the field so attacks went as soon as the two neutral laps ended. With a blown apart field it makes it easier for those up front to win if the race suddenly gets shortened to "one lap to go".

Guy in green.

I don't know who the guy in green was but he impressed me with his pack riding skills and relative fitness. I say relative because he didn't go and lap us six times (that would be crazy impressive) but he could do everything he needed to in the race. I point him out because I noticed his riding in the first lap or three.

Heavy D chasing.

Heavy D and Nick, my two Cat 3 teammates in the race, did a lot of work to bring back breaks. I am definitely not a break type of person, else the blog name would have been something other than "sprinter of the house" or "house sprinter". Heavy D and Nick, even without decades of experience racing, figured that out pretty quickly when they first raced with me. Therefore they set about keeping the field together.

The whole time I was thinking, "Okay, we might get the bell in two laps, better stay up here."

Drop of rain on the lens.
Someone off the front.

A couple times the pace eased as someone went. In the picture above someone is going off the front, it might have been Heavy D chasing someone. The important bit is the rain drop though - it was like Damocle's sword hanging over our heads.

Gap opening up.

Heavy D could only respond to so many attacks and eventually a group went clear. Fortunately for me it wasn't just me going for the win, other riders wanted to do well also. CCAP's Juniors were super active in the race, pulling like mad. A Bicycle Depot racer, JC, in his first crit, also took massive pulls, following the thought that "If I'm at the front then I probably won't crash".

Gap closed.

Between the Juniors and a couple older-than-18 racers one of the more threatening groups came back to the fold.

Attack on the left. JC to the right.

I moved up a bit too far when the pace eased, sitting in the wind to the right, when someone went up the left side. It was a big attack and I couldn't follow. I was gassed from following moves and couldn't muster up the energy to do a jump into the wind. Note the Bike Depot rider JC riding point.

Splintering front.
Guy in green finally brought it together.

More riders went and the whole idea of keeping it together started to fade a bit. I wasn't sure where Heavy D or Nick were but the race started getting out of reach for me. I certainly didn't have the gas to get going and it seemed like a lot of the field's strength were riding at or off the front. Although some riders came back one guy stayed out there, looking pretty strong.

Then Heavy D rolled up to me.

Heavy D in the house.

He pulled for a massive few laps, keeping the break in reign, a huge steady effort, just trying to keep the game alive for me. To put things in perspective I put in one of the hardest 10 minute efforts I've put down while in this race, while sitting in behind Heavy D. He was realistically putting down an additional 150-200 watts which is crazy.

I had to remember that he lapped the field solo and I was actually chasing once he got clear of the field.

He's strong.

He couldn't quite catch the break but he kept him within 50-100 meters, so 8-15 seconds, give or take. A big effort would close that but for now his massive multi-lap pull kept the sprint in play.

Too gassed to follow a followable move.

Unfortunately I was too far up so I was eating a lot of wind even sitting behind Heavy D. When a move went up the right - and it wasn't super hard, it was more like a hard surge - I couldn't respond.

Heavy D looked at them, looked at me, and got himself going again. You could see the thoughts running though his head.

"Dude, that's the move, go. Yo! That's the move! Go. Go? Can you go? Aw, dang it, now I gotta pull again."

Heavy D dragged me around another lap or so, brought me up to the group, and finally pulled off to seek shelter.

Left side attack.

The last attack of the race went just before the lap cards popped up at 5 to go. A solo move went, I was actually on his wheel, but I was so cooked I chose not to go with him. I eased and slotted in near the front while the other guy took off.

He got surprisingly far off the front, holding about 15 or even 20 seconds for a bit.

Heavy D to the rescue.

Heavy D, watching from the back of the group (he was helping some of the Juniors and newer riders back there), realized that I needed him one more time. He went to the front, yelling at me to stay put, and started hammering again. I stayed further back, for more shelter, and watched him do his stuff. In this mano-a-mano pursuit he seemed to be stronger but it was touch and go for a few laps. Heavy D closed the gap a bit but before he could close it completely he finally blew and pulled off.

Three Juniors - Tom, Nick, and one other CCAP rider, along with the Bike Depot rider JC (remember he was in his first ever crit) and a Cycling Concepts rider, all took turns pulling hard. This kept the solo rider in check.

Finally, with about 2 to go, the gap stood at only a few seconds and the break rider sat up.

Bell lap.

At the bell another Junior, Jon, went rocketing up the road. ERRACE, the blue/red/yellow team, tried to get a leadout going, while a few of us waited just behind.

Turn One, last lap. Guy in green was up here.

I'd spent so much time nervous about the race getting called in a lap or two that I spent most of the race near the front. Therefore I didn't have to do anything to move up - I was already basically in place.

Turn Two, last lap.

At Turn Two it started to fragment. Someone made a big move, countered by two others.

Turn Three, last lap.

At the last turn, Turn Three, I was sitting fourth wheel but it wasn't tight at all. There were little gaps and guys were choosing their own lines. I was hoping that the guy in green didn't have a monster sprint because the gap behind him would spell the end of my race if he did.

Just about to jump. The first two riders just jumped in this picture.

I could have sworn I jumped through a gap but the image is pretty clear - there was no gap since there was no left side rider. Yes, there was a rider to my left, but he was clear of me and slightly behind my cranks.

I jumped hard, aiming to go through the gap to the left of the lead two riders. Big enough gap and no one in the way.

After a few seconds I checked my six (meaning behind me) by looking down.

No one on my wheel.

Check my six.

I went for a bit, about 10 seconds, checking a couple times, and decided to do a broader check. I eased and looked back, right and left.

No one was on my wheel.

I soft pedaled to the line, another 11 seconds.

No one passed me.

175 bpm, after the line.

Sprints happen so quickly that your heart rate climbs for a bit after the sprint. I'd peak at 178 bpm before my heart rate started to drop.

I apologized to the official for sprinting. I'd told her at the beginning of the Series that I wouldn't go for wins in the B race - it didn't seem fair - but she smiled and said that it was okay, it was fun to watch. Plus, as I realized later, my Cat 4 teammates in the race had upgraded to Cat 3, so we were all 3s.

I figured that it some way it wouldn't hurt to actually race so as to "legitimize" any advice I might have given out. For those who keep track of numbers I averaged about 170 watts for the race. I did a jump at 1185w, sprinted for 10 seconds averaging 964w, and did about 15 efforts that broke 600w (three of those were 1000w, 1100w, and the final 1185w jump).

After the race I hung out with Junior. He came running to me, arms extended - how could I not hang out with him? I managed to change, ate a burger and a hot dog (courtesy of ERRACE's BBQ night), and fiddled with an Expo Junior's bike (Jack). It needed a pretty aggressive derailleur adjustment (it got tweaked earlier that night). It was the first time I'd ridden a bike other than mine in a long, long time. SRAM shifters, even. I admit I rode it a couple times without a helmet until finally a light scolding and an offered helmet made me realize that, yeah, I need to set an example.

I'd forgotten my camera so no pictures from me.

With Jack's bike much better, with Junior starting to melt down (remember, he only napped half an hour during the day), we had to get going.

Pin job.

Although the day had started pretty poorly it all got better from the moment we all climbed into the car to head out to the race. I commented to the Missus when we were got home how lucky I am for what I have around me. She's very understanding, even when I'm stressed. Junior is also really understanding, he really, really wants to be good. He knows when I'm serious and he's good about being good when I'm serious about it (and I don't pull that very often, else it's no longer a "serious" thing).

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Racing - August 5, 2014, CCAP Tuesday Night Race, Bs, Shelled

Ah, another Tuesday Night race. These races are the basis of my racing summers, low key, fun, and close by. Junior loves it out here with the other kids around (who are friendly to a much younger kid) so we try and stay here as long as possible. A massive difference is the puzzling lack of mosquitoes. In the past they were oppressive - if I stood still long enough to put the bike away I got bit. This year, not so much. It's not just here either - it's at home, and we live next to a very slow moving river, an area known for having a lot of mosquitoes.

Whatever, I'll take it. The cooler weather most of the summer, no mosquitoes… very nice.

This night was the "Ben Wolfe Handicap Night". Local hero pro Ben Wolfe would be starting a second back for every $10 donated to CCAP. Although the gap stood at a manageable (for Ben) gap of 2:30 on Tuesday morning, by the evening it'd increased to a massive 6:59. Even the 3rd best U23 time trialer in the US would have a problem gaining seven minutes back on the field.

However, before the main event, we took to the course in the B race. As mentioned before it's a Cat 3-4-5 race. Initially the 3s really didn't go for it, but now, toward the end of the Series, some 3s definitely come out to win. Our team, Expo Wheelmen, has had both hot and cold days. Generally speaking two riders end up our "leaders", meaning they want to do well, and the rest of us throw our weight behind them. A third rider, Heavy D, upgraded to Cat 3 and prefers to mix it up with the big boys in the A race.

With a decent but not overpowering wind, 90 degree temperatures, and a moderately small field, we expected a break to go. We wanted to work on doing teamwork leading into a sprint but it's been impossible to do that when the group blows apart or when the designated leaders are in breaks.

Start line. Setting sun - the days are getting shorter.

A sure sign of the end of a season is the lower sun at the start of the training races. The long shadows foreshadowed end of the 2014 series, just a few weeks away. The lower sun also increases the contrast in the stills, making for harder-to-see pictures.

Drifting back.

After a lap towards the front I decided to drift back. My self-imposed lot was to help out any newer riders, plus I wanted to get an idea of who was in the race. I say "self-imposed" because although I may have been singled out as someone that might offer "constructive criticism" to fellow racers in the B race, I still pay the same entry fee as everyone else. If I offer such feedback to any rider it's because I want them to be a better racer.


I slotted in a gap in the line and realized I was on the wheel of someone who was, as I would term it, a "fanboy". I could tell because the rider had not only a pro jersey but also the shorts, helmet, gloves, and even the bike.

Except the rider was female and I know of no fanboy women.

Plus she looked extraordinarily strong.

This reminded me of the day that I did Gimbels and ran across a Rabobank fanboy. Who, as it turned out, was actually Marc Wauters. If you don't know the name don't feel bad - at the time I didn't either. It was only after I perused the names of the guys who got, say, 4th or 7th at Paris Roubaix that I started seeing his name.

View from Heavy D, with my camera.

At some point, for some reason, I pulled through, with Aaron and Nick, our two go-to riders, on my wheel. No reason to pull since there was no one away, my legs just got antsy.

Aaron pulling through.

When I pulled off the guy on Nick's wheel sat up, effectively gapping off Aaron and Nick. They rolled away, took advantage of the gift break, and gave it a go.

However they came back and a counter went.

Two riders off, the two white dots to the left. They'd come back.

After the two riders went the Optum rider went to the front, dragging the field along. Except she pulled hard enough that someone let a gap go.

Optum rider goes clear with one other.

Now clear with one rider on her wheel (I think it was another woman racer - there were a number of women in the race), the field needed to react.

The winning counterattack, up the left side. He'd win the race.

The guy that I think left the gap to Nick went up the left side. He made a big effort, bridged quickly, and set about trying to get the break established. This wreaked havoc in the field.

When he went I wanted to yell at Aaron to go with him but Aaron was too far away, on the wrong side of the field, and I decided to sit tight. That was one of my major mistakes of the night's race.

Fragmenting field. I was too far back and had to close this gap.

I found myself behind riders getting gapped and had to close a somewhat substantial gap. Up front Nick had responded to the countermove, going clear of the field.

Two riders (far left of picture), then three (just behind the furthest right white post), then the field.

At this point there were two clear, three chasing, and the field close behind. This was one of those times that a decisive jump could have enabled a rider to cross the gap to the chase solo. With Nick up the road, the break not really solid, I figured we could wait. This was my next big mistake of the race. The reality was that it would have been good to have someone go across to the chase before they gained too much ground on the field. I was too far back to do it and too far away from Aaron to tell him to go.

A lap later the five ahead are together and getting out of reach.

The three chasers quickly bridged to the two rider break, leaving five in the break ahead of the field.  Because they bridged the gap (the break didn't sit up) it meant the gap was suddenly getting into the "uncatchable" zone. With Nick in the break the Expo riders relaxed and forced the others to work.

I'm telling Aaron that Nick dropped out of the break.

At some point I looked up and realized the break had attacked itself, and the one red jersey in the break wasn't there anymore. I moved up and told Aaron that Nick had gotten dropped, but it took me a good half lap to get to Aaron. We already had two guys pulling and I went up there to join them.

Expo pulling but to no avail.

Unfortunately we'd practiced blocking in prior races but not chasing. Our efforts, although individually perhaps fast, were short and uncoordinated. Instead of pulling at a steady, sustainable speed, we made faster surge type efforts. Normally I like the faster efforts but that's to close a 10 second gap or less. I rarely find myself in a position where I want to help close a 30 second gap.

The longer gap meant we weren't going to bridge it with an anaerobic effort. We'd have to do the steady-freddy kind of work, the solid 25-26 mph time trial for 20 or 30 minutes. This isn't my forte, it's not my thing, and I never work on such efforts, mainly because I haven't been able to make them.

It only makes sense that I was probably most guilty of the surge type efforts, the third and last major mistake I made in the race. I am anaerobic as soon as I start pulling so I pull faster by default - I figure I better make my pull count before I pull off and try to recover.

The problem was that racers would leave gaps behind me. In a Cat 3 race everyone scrambles to stay on wheels because they know it's a free ride if someone up front is pulling hard. In the training race, though, riders let gaps go because there isn't as much riding on the race. This had the effect of neutralizing the surges and actually slowing the field down during fast pulls.

After my pull I dropped to the back instead of slotting in near the front.

Another problem was I would drop too far back after my pulls. Because I pulled too hard and too long I couldn't slot in third or fourth spot. If you watch the pros chasing the rider that pulls off slots in a few spots back. I was too blown to slot back in near the front. This caused problems since after another 20 or 30 seconds there'd be no more Expo riders up front and the pace would ease.

In all this time I totally forgot about the mantra that made working in a pace line pretty straightforward - 20 pedal revs and pull off. I think if we'd done that we'd have been fine, three of us chasing pretty hard, saving one or two for the counters. It makes sense now, sitting at the table, but in the race I didn't think about it.

Back towards the front to take a pull.

When I recovered and got up front again I'd take a big pull "to make up for my mistakes". This exacerbated the problem, splitting the field again and redlining me. I went deeper on each of my pulls, making things worse in every way.

When I pull off this time I was done.

In fact I was so redlined after a pull 30 minutes into the race that I blew up and sat up. That was the end of the race for me.

The break lapped the field, except the Optum rider. I think she sat up on purpose as she'd entered the race for training and she didn't want to ruin things for the others. She did a laughing sprint, sort of joking around, so it was obvious she wasn't perturbed about easing off the break.

I had averaged 179w for the 30 minutes. For 60 minutes I averaged 122 watts, which means that I rolled around at about 70 watts for about 30 minutes.

I did jump back in to tell Aaron to look out for the CCB racer - he's the one that I think left the gap to Nick when I did my big pull, and he read the winning move properly. It meant he had a lot of experience. I also felt he was the strongest sprinter in the group. However the CCB rider seemed to be marking Aaron so I never got a chance to tell him. At 2 to go I was told I had one more lap so I eased up, let the small field go, and prepared to do a practice sprint.

With a cross-headwind going into the final straight, turning into a crosswind, I didn't think I'd be very good. Still, though, I wanted to do a big effort. I didn't jump super hard as I wanted to finish strong, but the numbers don't lie. I jumped pretty hard, peaking at 1100w, holding 1020 watts for 5 seconds. This means a really flat sprint curve, not as peaky as I normally do.

Practice sprint - bike tilting right.

Practice sprint - bike tilting left.

I think that I was moving right to set up for the left curve in the sprint, hence the emphasis on the right side tilt. I blew up well before the line so sat up and coasted in. I didn't bother doing a lap, I just rolled up to the sidewalk and over to the Missus and Junior.

The Expo hang out area. Both the Missus and Junior are in there somewhere.

I stopped and watched the finish of the Bs. Aaron won the field sprint with the CCB rider in second (and winning the race).

Then we all sat and waited for Ben to go chase the field. At 2:30 the gap was realistic but, with all due respect, 6:59 would be undoable. Therefore all of us fans were there just to watch yet another display of immense power and speed. Ben didn't disappoint, catching the field in about 12 minutes (he started at 6:19 PM and caught them at 6:31 PM). After taking another lap with Expo rider Todd I think that was it.

6:19 PM, Ben starts.

6:31 PM and he's catching the tail end of the field. He'd be leading a lap later.

During the A race I realized that I could barely hold Junior - my back was just short of failing, like wiggly-quivering-about-to-collapse. The Missus held Junior so that he could be at "my level" - he wanted me to hold him but I just couldn't do it. I think that my thoughts on my lack of core strength make some sense. As I said previously this means starting some kind of regular core strengthening exercise program.

Aaron and I chatted a bit about the race. Obviously we were disappointed that the team didn't work well. Missing the break exposed one of Expo's weaknesses, that of being able to chase. It didn't matter how we got there, the fact was that once in that situation we failed to pull back the break or even make a decent show of it.

Aaron pointed out something else pretty clear to him and probably to others - had I been training a bit more I'd have been able to pull through, pull off, and get back in, ready to pull again. Instead my pulls blew me up and shelled me. The lack of training really made a mark here in my lack of recovery.

So in addition to losing weight and strengthening my core I also need to train more.

Jeepers.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Training - Back Issues

The last couple months I noticed something after my rides - my legs weren't sore. I mean, okay, that's good, right?

Well, yes, and no.

I've noticed in the past 5 or 10 years that it takes me longer to recover from muscle soreness, whether from lifting, riding, or even doing core exercises. I got used to that low grade soreness while walking down the stairs in the morning.

This summer, though, I haven't gotten very sore at all, not enough to notice.

To me part of this meant that I haven't been working hard enough muscularly. If my legs aren't sore then I'm not breaking down the muscle fibers. I understand that it's not always good to be sore, but I'd expect some soreness after harder rides.

So Sunday, when the Missus took Junior out shopping so I could ride, I went out with the express intent of making my legs sore.

I pushed bigger gears, pedaled at lower rpms, and pushed pretty consistently, doing two laps of my Quarry Road Loop. The first lap I stayed mainly on the tops, trying to stay on top of the bigger gears.

There's one little rise, literally a 2-3 pedal stroke "hill", on the loop. It's a little test, insignificant really, but an indicator of where I stood in terms of overall riding goodness.

Sunday I found that I went over it at about 20 mph. In 2010, when I weighed 20 pounds less, I'd regularly roll over it at 24-25 mph. For me this was a concrete example of what weight gain (and loss) does to my riding. I thought to myself that losing weight over the 2014 winter would be a good thing.

I did the second lap mainly on the drops because, frankly, my back was hurting and it felt much better on the drops. I actually rode it pretty well, covering the same loop about 45 seconds faster. The first lap I get a 35 mph running start into the first bit of Quarry Road (because I come off of a descent) so to do the second lap faster was significant. It meant that I pushed the whole time. It also probably meant that I was more aerodynamic in the drops, which makes sense also.

I arrived home pretty spent. My back ached pretty badly - it's really the only thing I noticed when I climbed off the bike. After cooling down and taking a shower I took "inventory" - legs were fine. Back was not, and in fact I couldn't lift Junior very easily.

The Missus noticed that I was favoring my back and tried to cover for me. The fact that I was that bad led me to think about how I haven't done any core work for a year or two. I did core stuff regularly in 2010 and didn't have back issues even with a lot of riding. I stopped, had such back issues in 2013 that I couldn't shovel snow, and in 2014 the Missus got me to buy a snow thrower so that I wouldn't have to shovel.

My thought is that my core strength is so low that it can't support the workload my legs. This is why my legs don't get sore after a race - I can't work them hard enough.

My back, on the other hand, has been bugging me this whole season. Therefore I need to work on my core. This will give me the base necessary to get my legs back into the mix, to work them hard enough to get sore.

The other thing is weight. My bike weight doesn't vary that much between racing and training wheels yet it feels really substantial. To lose six or seven times the difference would be astronomical yet I haven't done it.

When I went out on Sunday's ride I was wondering why my legs didn't get sore after some very hard races. I realized during and after that ride that it went further than that.

So for me the answer is clear.

Work on my core.

Work on losing weight.

See what happens in 2015.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Equipment - Bike Weight (Red Tsunami)

After reading some stuff about bike weights online I got curious about my own bike's weight. For the EVEN Hotel Fun Ride I brought a bunch of bike mechanic stuff to the hotel that I don't normally touch. This included packing the bike tool box (which has my big digital scale in it, meaning the scale for weighing stuff over 1000 grams) as well as the repair stand (which is perfect for holding the previously mentioned scale). After the ride I unloaded the stuff into the garage and it hasn't moved since. My race wheels sit there as well.

I realized that I had everything I needed to weigh my bike in its various iterations.

So I did.

My main focus was to see the delta in the weights for the wheels. I mean, okay, the ultimate weight is nice to see, but I wanted to see if there was any objective data to back up my very subjective opinions and such. I didn't put the SRM PCV (computer head) on the bike, it's about the only thing missing in terms of "always on the bike". The tail lights (I use two), saddle bag full of stuff, and pump, they go on for training rides but not for races. Bottle - since I usually ditch my bottle before the finish I figured keeping it off was fine.

My bike, after the Nutmeg State Games 2014. Stinger 7/9 wheels.
Weight = 16.2 lbs without bottle and SRM head.

The results below:

Red Tsunami bike, no pump, no bottle, no SRM head, no tail lights, no saddle bag with stuff in it. I train on the bike with the Jets right now.

Bike with Jet 6 front and Jet 9 rear wheels: 8.62 kg, 18.98 lbs.

Note that all the HED wheels, except the Stinger 7/9 combo, use the same model hubs and spokes. Even the Stinger 7/9 use very similar weight hubs. Therefore the majority of the weight differences are in the tire/tubes, rims, cassette, and a minor difference due to small variations in spoke count.

On the clinchers I'm using Maxxis ReFuse training tires, Bontrager tubes, and Velox rim strips. On the tubulars I have either Vittoria EVO tires (one of them is a Tech rain tire and the rest are regular CXs) or the Bontrager XXXLite tires. Weights for the tubular tires are virtually identical.

2010 HED Jet aero clinchers (with stock HED front skewer and trainer rear skewer)

Jet 6 front wheel, 1.71 kg / 3.77 lbs
Jet 9 rear wheel, 1.97 kg / 4.33 lbs (with 11-25 steel Campy Centaur? cassette)

2010 HED Bastogne clinchers (with stock HED front skewer and trainer rear skewer)

Bastogne front wheel, 1.16 kg / 2.55 lbs
Bastogne rear wheel, 1.62 kg / 3.57 lbs (with 11-25 steel Miche or BBB cassette)

2011-2012 HED Stinger 7/9 aero tubulars (with stock HED skewers)

Stinger 7 front wheel, 1.10 kg / 2.42 lbs
Stinger 9 rear wheel, 1.31 kg / 2.88 lbs (with 11-23 steel Miche or BBB cassette)

2010 HED Stinger 6 aero tubulars  (with stock HED skewers)

Stinger 6 front wheel, 0.95 kg / 2.09 lbs
Stinger 6 rear wheel, 1.31 kg / 2.88 lbs (with 11-21 ti/steel Campy Record cassette)

Bike weights with clinchers

With Bastognes, 7.72 kg / 17.0 lbs
With Jets, 8.62 kg / 18.98 lbs

Bike weights with tubulars

With the Stinger 7/9 setup weighs 7.35 kg or 16.19 lbs.
With the Stinger 6 wheels weighs 7.20 kg or 15.85 lbs.

Thoughts

The first thing is that I thought my bike was much heavier when set up for training. 19 pounds is not a lot for a bike, and to me the bike feels like a tank with the Jet wheels fitted. If I were to guess I'd have said my bike weighed 20-22 pounds so to have a 19 pound bike is pretty surprising. When I started racing a 19 pound bike was super light, and 20-21 pounds was about normal for a race bike. I've taken spins on 12 pound bikes in parking lots and they feel like they're made from styrofoam, they're so light, and my bike is nowhere near that.

Second I knew the Jets were heavy but to weigh about 8 pounds for the pair of wheels (with tires etc) is pretty substantial. The Jets give away about 1.5 kg or over THREE pounds to my tubulars. The front clincher wheels, which are identically set up in terms of hub/spokes/tire/tube/rimstrip, are about half a kilo apart so that's a full pound or more in just the rim. Let me repeat that in bold. The rims make for a full pound difference! The only difference between the two front wheels is the rim so that's where the weight is, directly in the rim area. This is why the wheels feel so hard to spin up, the rims weigh twice as much. They are more aero but I use so much energy getting them up to speed that I'm pretty much exploded by the time I'm able to substantially use the aero benefits.

Third, I was shocked to see that the Stinger 9 and the Stinger 6 rear wheels weigh the same. The 9 even has a heavier cassette and a marginally heavier tire. To see that it weighed the same means that basically it'll be my standard rear racing wheel. The 6 no longer has a function. It's not lighter, a tall rear wheel is always usable, and I'll have a higher top speed for a given power in a sprint. Since the Stinger 6 rim is cracked I may build it out as another 9.

The final thought is that I figured my bike was heavier in general. To be so close to the UCI minimum weight of 6.8 kg / 15 lbs surprised me. My Cannondale 2.8 was, at best, about 17 pounds with extremely light tubular wheels (280g rims, 28H, hubs similar to modern day hubs). This was on a spring-type scale (a fish scale sold through a bike distributor) so the accuracy was questionable at best, but it was a pretty light bike. The Cannondale SystemSix, with the Reynolds tubular DV46 wheels, came in at about 15.5 pounds, on the same digital scale I used to record all the above weights. The Tsunami only gives away a third of a pound compared to the very sweet System Six. It's virtually the same build kit so it's the wheels, the saddle (my carbon railed SLR is light), the fork (my current ENVE 2.0 is light), and the (probably heavier) Steelman stem and FSA Wing bar that are different.

Going Forward

I suppose I could cut some weight off by swapping cassettes between the Stinger 6 and Stinger 9 - the 11-23 ti/steel cassette is noticeably lighter than the 11-23 steel cassette. However the overall result wouldn't be significant. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two, separated by 50 or whatever grams, or 0.05 kg.

I don't have any weight weenie parts per se. Thomson seatpost (the regular one), FSA Wing Compact bar (aluminum), Campy Skeleton brakes (Athena? I bought them used), Crank Bros headset, Specialized Rib Cage bottle cage. I even left two Planet Bike blinky light mounts on, and the bike had the SRM mount (but not the actual computer head).

The light stuff I have on the bike includes the ENVE 2.0 fork, the carbon railed SLR saddle, and… I think that's it. Both are long term items, not wear items. I plan on having them for a long time. I bought some lighter weight tubes (60g vs 90g) but, again, realistically I'm not going to notice that as much as if I move from one wheel set to another. Plus they're thinner and slightly less durable so I'll stick with training on regular tubes for now.

Steelman Bikes stem, it's not light. 257.4 grams unpainted, so 0.57 pounds by itself. I think a typical stem is in the 100-120g range. That's a substantial difference relatively speaking, to double the weight of a part. However fit is absolutely critical so I can't nitpick the weight of the stem.

Tsunami frame, alone, is about 1300g with paint, binder clamp, and barrel adjusters. Unpainted it was 1210g. My frame and fork should weight in the 1650g range (with a 350-ish gram fork). The Cannondale was supposed to be 1150g for the 56 cm so a bit less for the 52 cm I rode. Again fit is first so a little bit of weight is a normal sacrifice for a custom fit, sub-$800 frame.

I do have a light crankset, the Cannondale SI SRM, which is about 675g total, with bottom bracket. I think I've weighed it but I don't know if I ever put the pictures up, and looking through about 20k pictures doesn't appeal to me right now. A typical crankset (Campy Record aluminum with Record BB) will weight 900g or more.

However, for basically no carbon except the rims and the saddle rails, the bike isn't heavy at all.

Realistically it would be easy to drop a little weight in the training wheels, but that's not my goal. In fact I want to keep the bike heavy for training.

For racing I might be able to shed a few grams here and there. However, with my own body weight something like 9000 g / 20 pounds higher than in 2010, spending money to save 40 or 50 grams seems ludicrous. Therefore I'm not going to do anything to the bike.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Racing - July 29, 2014, CCAP Tuesday Night Races, Bs

Approaching this race I'd had a short "block" of training, doing my April and May hours (14 total) in June (16 hours) and a bunch of of hours at the beginning of July. However I'd just ridden three times in the last two weeks, with two of those rides being shorter, slower, and admittedly less demanding rides. My one training ride was also pretty easy, trying to reintroduce my legs to the idea of pedaling.

I came into tonight's race with no expectations other than to enjoy the beautiful weather. With the temperatures in the mid 70s, with very low humidity, it felt like San Diego during my training camps. It was cool enough that I brought an uninsulated bottle to carry with me on the bike. As a precaution I also bought one of the heavily insulated Podium Ice bottles I prefer in warm weather.

With the Missus and Junior set up with their chairs and cooler I got ready to race. No warm up as I preferred to spend the time catching up with some of the folks, racers and not, at the venue. 

At the start.

For such a beautiful day the field seemed small. I figured there'd be 50 or more riders, but it was more like 30-35 riders. Regardless the field seemed a good size, big enough for shelter, small enough to let riders move around a bit.

Roll off, no neutral laps

We headed off with no neutral laps. Although the pace was fast it wasn't crazy fast, and the field settled into an uneasy truce. Expo usually had numerical superiority, and although we were short a number of regulars, we could still field a good half dozen riders. Two other teams usually had numbers, the Blues and the Yellows. The Blues were short today, I think fielding just one or two riders, and the Yellows had two. One of their two had soloed to a clear victory the last time I was there so he was obviously the one to mark.

Getting ready to rumble. Aaron is to my left, TJ in front.
Jon is in orange, and the rider in black gets a mention as well.

With the two main teams standing off everyone waited for the opening moves. Expo's strongest Cat 4s, looking to do well, were Aaron and Nick. The rest of us, including two Cat 3s, were really there to support their efforts.

Break up the road; Aaron in it.

When Aaron went up the road TJ and I marked moves. Jason, of Yellow, ended up at the front, took a pull, then looked to see why no one was pulling through.

Sorry Jason, no help from the two back here.

All he saw were two of Aaron's teammates. After a bit of waiting, maybe to see if Aaron would blow up, he went to the front and started pulling.

Hard.

In fact I drifted back a bit to get more shelter because I was a bit exposed at the front.

Jason single handedly pulls the field back.

With Aaron solo off the front and Jason pretty much solo at the front of the field, it became a two man pursuit, one against the other. And as much as I am one of Aaron's supporters, Jason was going noticeably faster. The chasers always have that going for them - they just need to catch the break. The break has to go to the finish. Usually the chase can go much harder and that's why it's tough to win a race in a break.

In a few laps of steady, powerful riding Jason closed the gap.

Jason catching Aaron and co.

Aaron is just around the corner in the picture above, maybe 20 meters in front of Jason, 3 or 4 seconds. I lost focus for a bit, I was looking down a lot (so my helmet cam clip doesn't tell me much), and suddenly the race situation changed.

Another break goes, no Expo in it.
Note the very artistic yellow circle - that's where the break is in the picture.

Another break went, a perfect time really. The field was strung out, the probably-strongest guy had just pulled for a bunch of laps, Aaron had been off the front so he was a bit cooked, and everyone else had been hiding from the wind. Two riders took off. TJ didn't go, I didn't go (I didn't even know they went), and the two moved away with no Expo rider tagging along.

I tell Aaron who to mark before I go to the front.

With Aaron a bit tweaked from his efforts off the front and TJ suffering from all the jumping around to hold second wheel I realized that I needed to do some hard work. I took the opportunity to tell Aaron who to mark, then after his nod I rolled up to and past the front of the field.

Beginning the chase. Jon was pulling.

I circled the break in very artistic yellow. They weren't that far ahead, and my goal was to bring the whole field up, not to bridge myself up. Therefore I pulled steady and not that fast, trying not to gap off the field. Some gaps opened up regardless but overall the field was motivated to stay together so I kept going. After about half a lap I rolled up to the break, with Aaron just behind.

I blew just after I caught on so I sat up, intending to stop. The two man break rolled away again, an unintended result of my sitting up at Turn One. By Turn Two the fragmented field looked… fragmented.

After a lap I'm blown, this is at Turn Two after four riders have passed me.

Aaron blew by, followed by Jason, marked by TJ, and one other rider. I was going so slow, they were going so fast, I figured that was it. A few length gap, then more riders, more gaps, more riders.

Doubting if I can stay in the race.

As the rest of the group streamed by I stayed on the hoods, effectively signaling my intent to drop out of the race. It took so long for the fragmented field to roll by that I followed the last three riders into Turn Three. I got good protection from the wind (from the left at first, then from the right, necessitating a tricky move from the right to the left) and hoped the field would collectively ease.

They did and I groveled for about three laps before deciding that I shouldn't give up, that I should keep going. I didn't realize that Aaron had gotten away from the field along with the Yellow that had been in the break I chased down then let go. The effect of TJ and Jason at the front, blocking, meant that the field eased a bit.

Then two very strong, very fit riders took responsibility for the chase. They traded pulls for ten minutes, keeping the field strung out.

Aaron and another are gone. Two guys pulling the field along.

After a few laps of everyone staying in the same order I realized that this is what it must be like in the pros, when there's a break, there are a few riders pulling the field, and the rest of the field is just waiting. The riders pulling are doing so for a reason, and the riders waiting have nothing to do except stay on the wheel in front of them.

A side effect of this is that you get to learn all the idiosyncrasies of the rider in front of you, and, in a crosswind, the rider in front of them.

In my case I happened to be behind an ERRACE rider Michelle, and she was on a Biker's Edge rider. I watched how they dealt with the final straight "left-right" wind, how they cornered, how they accelerated. You learn more about a rider in this kind of environment than you can in pretty much any other environment - with multiple laps around the same circuit, with wind hitting you from all directions, it's a telling exam.

Initially, before I relaxed in my spot, I'd been trying to edge in front of Michelle and even the Biker's Edge rider. However I realized that there was no point to it so I just settled behind the two. Likewise whoever was behind me settled down as well.

TEN minutes later, riders in the same order.
Rider in blue was one of two pulling for those ten minutes.
If you look at the other riders you might think the two above pictures were taken 20 seconds apart.

I did make one mistake, I think it was during this time - I cleared a nostril to my left. In fact I cleared my right side much earlier but there had been a rider to my left so I decided to wait until it was clear to do the left side. I figured this was the time. I moved to the left a bit just after Turn One to give myself room. However the rider behind me moved left also. I didn't check, didn't signal, and when I "cleared" I heard a surprised (and probably disgusted) yelp. So apologies again, after the apologies I muttered at the time. It was my fault, my bad. Next time I'll check first.

At any rate one of the two riders finally got disgusted with the lack of help (or he got tired) and drifted back into the field. This broke the "Tour de France chase" spell and riders started moving up and around and stuff.

The lap cards came out (they count down the last 5 laps only), more shuffling, and soon it was one to go.

I'd drifted back a lot to find Nick but he wasn't around. Ends up he flatted out, ironically running over a safety pin. TJ wasn't looking very fresh - he'd been sitting in the top five for probably the entire race, covering everything for Expo. I looked around for a rider to help while still trying to maintain some generically good position. It's no good to offer to help someone but then not be able to help them.

Bell.
Jason is to my front left.

At the bell I was in fine position, although really any position would have been fine in the smaller field. There were a couple riders I'd want to avoid - mainly ones that acted hesitant in the turns or one that switched lines pretty abruptly - but otherwise any wheel was a good one.

I also gambled on a long move from Jason. He's incredibly strong and fit and I expected him to win the sprint from the front. Anyone that beat him would have to be vigilant and have a jump left after following Jason for a good 200-300 meters.

Telling Jon to get on my wheel.

As we rounded Turn One I pulled up even with Jon, the guy that was chasing when I put in my big move. He's one of the riders really learning in the B races. He's impressed me both on and off the bike - he seems pretty savvy, he is generally a super aware rider, and he isn't afraid of working, and off the bike he's always been gracious and kind and polite. Sort of spur of the moment I decided that it would be fun to give him a massive leadout.

I looked over, told him to get on my wheel.

Just as the words were sinking in a slowing rider came back to us. I went right, Jon had to go left because he was already to the left of the slowing rider's wheel.

And then that was it, we were in two different lanes, separated by a line of riders.

Parallel moving up, Jon to my left.

I went up the right side, basically on my own, while Jon followed TJ following Jason who had made the expected early move. Jon got caught in traffic so that was that. Now it was down to seeing if I could get back up to Jason and get him before the line, even though I'd been in the wind much more than I preferred.

Going to the right.

Coming out of Turn Three Jason had a pretty good gap to three riders, with me sitting just behind them. As one started to fade I went right, on the protected side. I gambled on being able to move back to the left, for shelter. I knew that shelter would be worth 20 or 30 or 40 meters at the line and therefore it was worth getting shelter for a bit and sacrificing position.

Now committed to the right.

However TJ blew trying to follow Jason and he naturally tried to get closer to anyone sprinting up to him. This side-by-side made it a bit wide for me to dive left - if it was just one rider then I'd have moved left, I had the room - I'd have ended up in TJ's spot. With two riders it would have been a super sketchy and dangerous move.

Therefore I stayed right, knowing I'd be feeling the full brunt of the wind.

Stuck right.

Sure enough the wind hit me hard, zapping my sprint right out of my legs. I thought for a moment that I could get around the rider in black and then pass Jason on his sheltered left.

Blowing up right.

The problem was I couldn't pass the rider in black and I promptly blew up. I was out of the race and I knew it so I checked to make sure I was clear and moved out of the sprint lane. Ends up the rider in black caught and passed Jason, winning the field sprint, so he did a great sprint. If you look at the pictures he's pretty much never on a wheel so he did a massive solo sprint.

After a cool down lap I rolled over to Aaron, who, with his sunglasses, had an unreadable look on his face. He and another guy had finished ahead of us in the break but I hadn't heard one way or another if he won or not. He didn't look crushed, like he got second, but then again second wasn't bad either, so maybe he was happy to have stayed away.

Aaron won.

"You win?"
"Yeah."

Remind me not to play cards with Aaron.

With that out of the way he couldn't help but grin a lot more. He was very thankful, he knew that me pulling back the break helped set up the race's outcome. At the same time he made the race as well, doing the first attack, forcing Jason to pull for a number of laps, then going again before Jason could go with him. Overall a very strong race for Aaron, very astute, very fit, and one that made me proud. TJ was great also, marking everyone so well. It's exhausting doing that - I can't do it - and he still managed to be at the front in the sprint.

Next time it'd be nice to work on sprint stuff. It's harder to stay away in the "real" races. All too often they end in field sprints and to prepare for that requires some "field work", if you will. You can't do field work when you're not in the field.

Next time.