Sunday, July 11, 2010

Racing - 2010 New Britain Crit, Cat 3s

Way back when, like earlier this year, I pre-registered for the New Britain Crit. Someone commented that they saw that I pre-reg'ed for the crit, and when I went to BikeReg, I saw there was exactly one Category 3 racer on the confirmed rider list.


So, yeah, it's kind of showing my hand early. I'm no Contador, no Cavendish, and definitely not a Cancellara. I'm not in the habit of pointing to the stands past the outfielders to the spot where I'll hit the ball.

But, on some random night, while on BikeReg, I registered for the race. And before I realized what I was doing, I hit "confirm" or whatever makes it irreversible.

And it became obvious that this was an A race on my calender.

Of course, once I registered, I had to do the race. I hoped for a dry day, one without too much heat, hopefully without too much humidity. The Nutmeg Games worked for me in the rain, but that was a desperate race for me, but I'd rather have an honest dry race, not a scary wet one.

The other thing was that we'd be going to the Cape from the race, so we had to ready and pack for a week of cycling and other pursuits of happiness. We'd be bringing a tandem, the Missus's bike, my bike (of course), three pairs of HED wheels, and all the regular stuff you take for a week of vacation. This also meant some fiddling with the roof rack, which we'd installed the day before with a few imperfections (skewers on wrong side, rear hatch wouldn't open with tandem rack in place).

Properly stressed out, I realized I had to swap the bike trays anyway, so I got the skewers aligned properly. I hadn't thought of the tandem rack until we went to put the tandem on it - that we'd do at the race.

We got everything packed up a bit late and headed off to the race. The Missus drove a bit tentatively at first, the tandem swaying a bit. But once we realized it did that on the Honda, and it was good up to Vermont at normal interstate speeds, we resumed our normal driving habits.

(And our car, loaded with three bikes on a roof rack, went from about 41 mpg to about 32 or so).

By the time we got to the race I was skirting with hunger and dehydration, but I felt that I'd be okay if we started at the scheduled time of 11:30 AM. Unfortunately the races were running late. We'd skipped a big cooler of bottles and such, and I started regretting that decision. I had no food, no water beyond the three bottles for the bike, and I was getting hungry and thirsty.

The Missus procured two bottles of water for me, which I promptly used to replenish my supplies.

Honestly I was getting a bit bonky, getting a bit dizzy and light headed. I needed some sugar fast, and asked the Missus if they were selling Cokes nearby.

Dave H, our illustrious leader, came to my aid with a couple GUs (I declined the bar he offered because I sometimes get stomach cramps on that particular bar).

With a relatively small field - 54 racers - I decided to keep an eye out for any promising breaks. A two man move went clear at the gun, and they hung out there for a while. I told myself that if the gap started to increase that I'd try and bridge, but the break never broke the elastic. Dangling in front of the field, the break tantalized everyone nicely, and the field never eased. After a good 5 to 7 laps the break came back.

No other moves worked too well. Looking around I could see a lot of sprinters, a lot of fast finishers. I felt pretty confident that they wouldn't let a break get away, and the sprinters kind of neutralize themselves. See, if you have 12 sprinters looking at each other, and one of them takes off, at least one other will follow. When two sprinters take off, more will follow, and presto! You have the field back together.

The whole race I felt kind of spaced out, like I wasn't totally there. I'm not sure if it was the lack of sugar, lack of caffeine, or what, but I never felt "with it". I wasn't sure how to shake myself into it. Ultimately I couldn't do anything - I went into the finale with the same feeling of disconnectedness.

At 5 to go I sat at the back, like I had for most of the race. I didn't want to start making efforts and then cramp, and I figured the field wouldn't break apart in the last few laps.

At 2 to go I started thinking of moving up, and did some work to get near the front. But I never got the rush that I normally get, and I started wondering how I'd do. I hoped that I'd do well, but I had no idea what would happen.

At 1 to go I was pretty close to the front. Like Phil and Paul sometimes shout out in excitement, there was "no organization in the peloton". The front of the field shuffled around, all these guys up there that wanted to win for themselves.

The moves started shooting off the front. I wanted to make a move up the hill, then down that stretch before the last turn, catch my breath as we swept into the final straight, then launch for the sprint.

Problem was that I didn't commit on the hill. I did a half hearted effort to move up a bit, then got blocked initially on the short straight to the final turn. I could have gone harder once I got through the traffic, but, once again, I didn't dig deep at all.

I swept into the final turn knowing I was on the wrong side of the field - I'd be shielding everyone from the wind, while I took it all on my front quarter.

I watched as the racers in front of me started launching their sprints. I watched their commitment, their absolute drive.

And I just watched them. Watched them ride away from me.

Yeah, I jumped.

Yeah, I got up to speed.

But did I ever sprint, like really sprint?



I don't know.

After the race we had some lunch with the Missus's parents. Her mom asked me if my lungs or my legs gave out first. I thought about it and said it was my lungs (at least in a crit - it's different on a 100 mile ride). I realized later that it's always the lungs - it's why cyclists work on their aerobic systems, not their muscular ones (one?).

I filed that one away for further reference.

We set off for the Cape, a long 3+ hour drive (with yours truly navigating). Sitting in the passenger seat I started flexing my legs, probing for any soreness. I wanted to see if my answer made sense. The Missus gave me one of those "what are you doing?" looks, and I told her I was seeing if my legs were tired.

"Are they?"

So, yes, my lungs give out before my legs.

After some unplanned scenic detours (again, courtesy yours truly), we got to the Cape, a "lot late".

I want to do some training, and now I had something I wanted to work on - the sprint. I'll have a few days to make the efforts, and then, after a day or so of recovery, a test.

See you there.

My New Britain Crit pin job. The Missus had to fix it for me to get it to this state.

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