Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Racing - May 24, 2011 @TuesdayTheRent

All week the forecast showed rain. All week I worked through drizzle and downpours and some occasional bits of "clearness".

It's been "weather just like in Holland."

After discovering the weeknight training races held at Rentschler Field, I found that I look forward to them, almost more so than "real" races. It's like a group ride in formality, where racers aren't (usually) very cut throat, where there's some predictability, where things go pretty smoothly.

It's like going to the Cheers bar instead of a huge nightclub in the city. Each has its appeal, but as a creature of habit, I prefer the place where it's closer and more personal, the place where everybody knows your name.

Last week the first scheduled race got washed out by the ever present rain. This week promised the same, to the point where I said something to that effect to more than a few people. I even did an unusual ride in the rain on Monday, to try and acclimate to the expected wet racing on Memorial Day weekend.

In fact, I carefully noted that registration for Tour of Somerville would close at 9 PM on May 24th, i.e. just a couple hours after the Rent race would start, if it started. With a $25 day-of-race penalty, on top of a $40 entry, I'd have to decide - and register if applicable - whether or not I'd do Somerville this year.

On my rain ride I thought a lot about the turns at Somerville and how they'd be in the wet. I started actually contemplating racing in the rain there.

Tuesday morning things looked status quo. Everything was wet outside, "just like in Holland". Wet pavement in the morning, wonderful grey clouds, bright green leaves and lawns, all the things that make me think of, yes, Holland. We even had some clearing by midday, a tease, with thunderstorms forecast for the evening.

I privately hoped for some magical weather change during the day. In the morning I cooked up some pasta, to take to work for lunch, to better prepare for an evening effort. I had eggs and bacon (Canadian style) and English muffins for breakfast, to better set a food base for the day.

I even put my wet shoes in the dryer (on a platform thing so they didn't tumble around, on super low heat so nothing melted) on the Missus's suggestion.

I guess she, too, was hoping for the best.

After a quick glance at the platform, I added my long finger thin gloves, my "crit" gloves, which have kit-destroying Velcro on them, and which I left to soak overnight after yesterday's kit-dirtying rain ride.

I, too, hoped for the best.

We were resigned to going, if the race happened, without SOC and Mrs SOC (good friends of ours) as his schedule made the race a virtual impossibility. Nonetheless we wanted to get into the summer schedule, racing Tuesdays and Sunday, because until we did, summer really wasn't here.

At work I logged on to weather.com, the site I trust the most now, and got the weather forecast for East Hartford. After getting it to display the hourly schedule, my hopes faded pretty hard. 80% chance of rain by 6 PM, and with a just-before-7-PM start, it looked definitively unpromising.

I told my boss it didn't look good.

The promoters make the call at 4 PM on twitter (@TuesdayTheRent), and I opened another tab showing their updates. It didn't look promising either.

Then, magically, just before 4 PM, when I hit F5 on the weather tab, two suns appeared over 6 and 7 PM, not the expected angry grey clouds spewing sparks from Thor's hammer.

I went to the twitter tab, hit F5, and after about 30 refreshes, the good news hit.

The races were on!

I called the Missus with the news, and we started making plans for getting everything in the car. I would leave work half an hour early, we'd meet at home, and get under way hopefully by 6 PM. I'd get to the venue with 10 or 15 minutes to spare.

The Missus let Mrs SOC know, who let SOC know, who happened to be getting out of work about a gazillion hours early. The Missus called me back at some point, reporting that SOC'd be racing too, and Mrs SOC would be trekking up from home to join us all.


When we got to the Rent, with just a few more than 15 minutes to spare, I had the surprise of the season - we had a slew of teammates there. I knew SOC would be there but I didn't expect David, Cliff, Todd, and a bunch of guys that were in the B race. We had a full crew, guys with good legs, experience, and a distinct lack of fear of attacking.

Okay, expect me.

I saw a bunch of the Berlin Bikes/Best Cleaners guys too, friends and, to me, a slightly stronger group overall. CCNS had their guys there, another good group, and the ones I consider the strongest overall team at the Rent.

I talked to someone about my stem angle, a -17 degree stem so it sits parallel to the ground. As we rode away to warm up, that someone explained to a bystander that my stem had a different angle than his and that's why it looked "flat". I overheard the bystander reply.

"Oh, so it's on purpose?"

With a little grin I went to find the other guys.

After a few minutes we decided that we had no plan, just to make sure that someone would make the break, and if not we'd chase.

David set the tone when he took off at the start. A break went up the road after he got caught, maybe 5 or 6 guys. Cliff got in there, got worked over, and came off 10 or 15 minutes later. By then it was a bit late to get anything going to chase them back so that was the race.

For me, well, it was a hard race. I watched Max and Ron go up the road once, going for a miraculous bridge to the break. As I'd told David before the race, I needed to know how I raced after a hard effort; this looked like a good time to do the first bit, the "hard effort".

When I rounded one of the corners and everyone kind of fanned out a bit I launched myself out of the group.

Into a crosswind section, leading to the tailwind section. Of course.

I got into the Cane Creek bars, really punched it hard, and rolled right up to, in this case, Max's rear wheel.

He looked around casually, noticed something, and looked around the other shoulder with a bit more interest.

I had a this hideous grin molded into my face, a Joker grin. I felt such effort that I couldn't erase it, I couldn't shut my mouth, I couldn't do anything.

The Joker possessed me.

I briefly thought, "Well, now we'll see how you race after a hard effort."

Ron pulled off, Max accelerated a touch, and then, looking back at me, rolled just a few feet away from me. I think I got my Joker smile off my face by then but I couldn't do anything, nothing, no standing, no punch, no nothing to close a 5 foot gap.

Note to self: after hard effort, don't expect to close a 5 foot gap.

I could sense Ron's disappointment. I bridged and got gapped and got him gapped in the process.

The group rolled by shortly thereafter so they must have woken up from their "Let's wait a lap and see what happens" thing; I'm hoping that's part of the reason why Ron didn't go around me.

The Missus commented to me afterward that I went backwards so fast all she could think of was, "Uh-oh".

I have to admit it took a lot of will power to keep pedaling.

Test done, I realized that such efforts right now kill me for a minute or so. Either I need to tone down the efforts or I need to figure out how to recover quicker.

I'll work on both.

I thought of giving up a few times, honestly, and actually resigned myself to sitting up once. Each time I kept going. I thought that if I gave up now, I wouldn't know what I could do if I didn't give up now.

In other words I wouldn't know what I'd have left when I feel like giving up. I wanted to figure that out, that when I want to give up I still have "X" amount of racing left in my legs.

Or, by the third time I wanted to give up, maybe "X minus 3" amount of racing in my legs.

We rolled by the Missus one lap - I thought of asking the time (it's a timed race plus 5 laps), but then decided I'd rather not know.

I groveled in the field.

I started learning a few things about myself (again), stuff that makes me feel secure and planted when racing in the field.

I could sit and accelerate after a corner. I could really feel the power on the downstroke, sitting back a bit on the saddle. Two downstrokes and I'd be easing as I got close to the wheel in front.

I realized I buy myself an inch or three (of room around me) in turns by turning a bit less smoothly than I should. Instead of one smooth arc I found myself turning in stages. It's like I was drawing 90 degrees of an 20 sided figure, not 90 degrees of a circle.

I rediscovered that I really, really like cornering at speed. I love diving into turns, making the tires work, pedaling from the apex forward, touching my inside pedal every now and then. I became conscious of the 175 mm cranks, longer than normal and therefore more prone to pedal strikes. I thought briefly of the effects of a bottom bracket that sat another 5 mm higher off the ground, tried to imagine the higher center of gravity and how it would affect my cornering.

I also discovered that if I hauled my sorry butt off the saddle to go after someone, I had something in my legs. I was using up my (seated) sustained efforts to hang onto wheels but I had a lot of jump left in my legs when I stood. Sustained efforts drain snap, but I still had some snap.

Finally I saw 5 laps to go. I'd suffered a lot for this moment, to see what would happen when I didn't give up.

Turns out that my legs didn't magically feel better. They still hurt; I just race with greater self-expectations. In those last few laps I eased more than a few times to give away a spot, to sit in the meat of the draft.

Cliff, he of the insane leadout at the last 2010 Bethel Spring Series race, came up to me and asked if I had a kick left.

I thought about it, and, very unlike me, I said yes.

"Yes" implies "Will you work for me?". I normally don't put that pressure on others, deferring instead to doing some slicing and dicing on my own. But at that moment, for whatever reason, I replied in the affirmative.

Problem was that everyone was motoring hard. Instinctively I knew I couldn't ease anymore, that I had to press forward. Cliff never got in front of me.

I rolled up to SOC's wheel as we approached the sprint. The last turn went by smoothly, no one freaking out at all.

Buried in the middle of the field, I wondered how early I'd have to jump, how wide I'd have to go, how much wind I'd slam into, and whether or not my somewhat untested-this-season legs would make it to the line.

Guys rocketed up the left side (the inside) and the right side (outside, of course).

The field split down the middle.

And who was there at the point of the V?


It was like Moses and the parted waters.

(Insert choral "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa", slo-mo the life reel, bright light. Now cut choral short, return to regular speed.)

I jumped the instant I realized what happened. The hole would only last so long, and then the guys to the sides would merge in the middle. I had to get through before that happened.

My gear felt a bit big, but the wheels kept accelerating. I arched my back a bit differently as my legs started to fade, looking for power from somewhere, trying to recruit any muscles not inundated with pain.

I could see a Berlin Bikes/Best Cleaners jersey to my left. I couldn't ease, a final push to the line.

Where was the line anyway?

Ah, line, passing almost under my nose.

Berlin Bikes jersey had dropped back a bit.


A late throw.
Me and Kevin were lapped. Kevin's teammate Stephen won the race.

(Side note: lapped riders at the Rent - the break lapped the field so I was one of those lapped ridres - officially can't sprint going forward, starting at the next race. This wasn't official until now, but now it's official. This means more chasing and less sprinting.)

Us Expos pow-wowed after the race, then the SOCs and us went for some food. When we sat down it was 8:35 PM. Somerville registration would close in 25 minutes. I checked the weather for Monday.

Sunny, 78 degrees.

I asked the Missus if she minded going to Somerville. A shake of the head.

I started the process to retrieve my password for the (non-BikeReg) site that Somerville uses for registration.

In the meantime I double checked the Somerville website to verify they still had spots. They should, with a 175 rider (yes, 175 rider) field limit for the 2s.

They did.

I also noted registration didn't close at 9 PM on May 24th. It closed at 10:59 PM on May 25th. And there were 113 openings left.

I'm pretty sure the promoters changed the cutoff between Sunday and Tuesday, although I have no screenshots to prove it.

But since I had some time left and some spots available, I decided I'd focus more on dinner and less on the Droid.

Bring it on!

The Missus pinned my number using pins from the Mystic Velo race, six from the promoters, the rest from my private stash.
The Rent uses the same number the whole summer so this'll be my number this year.


Will said...

Hey. I've watched most of your youtube vids and I have to say that they're by far the best cycling videos I've ever seen. The text over and video editing are clear, concise and to the point. I come from a MTB background and just started on a road bike but I have learned an immense amount just from your videos alone.

I happened by this blog and your synopses are as good as the videos. I can wrench on a bike all day long and perfect the mechanical workings but what you put forth in video and writing is something only gained through a lot of experience racing.

I've stopped a 3 year cycling hiatus and jumped into the road scene...I think I might be able to hang. I plan on my first race next season in February (It'll also be the largest).

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration. I know the videos take a lot of time as do the writeups but they certainly are appreciated.

-Will (Texas)

Aki said...

I appreciate the comments on the videos and writing, and I hope that they help you get into the whole scene. I have no doubts you'll be able to hang, that's for sure :)

I really looked forward to looking at the footage from this race as it was full of moves, counter-moves, good technique, teamwork, etc. To my immense disappointment I had no footage - the camera never started recording (possibly due to me using it a bit recklessly on the prior day in very wet conditions). I hope to have another good day, but with footage to back it up.

I have a stack of video projects semi-loaded so maybe I'll be able to produce a couple of them in the near future.

JR said...

I can confirm the change of somerville. I noted it as well. Good luck in the 2s! That guy who won the 3s last year at somerville is killing it in the pro/1/2 ranks as well.

agilismerlin said...

73/107 stem. oh my what's that :)

Cosmo said...

Speaking of stems, you should probably get your set up on http://slamthatstem.com (though you will almost certainly get heckled for the Cane Creek bar things).