Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Racing - June 7, 2011 @TuesdayTheRent

Tuesday evening rolled around, accompanied by pretty intense heat (90 deg F).

Time to go race the Rent.

I got out of work okay, my poison ivy bothering me enough that I'll go see a doctor Wednesday. I worried about my fuel situation - I didn't really eat that well during the day. Just four slim sandwiches and one much-fatter egg sandwich, and barely a cup of coffee.

To try and compensate for this lack of my regular fuel (typically pasta and other carbs), I had a "sweet" (a breakfast pastry) and some leaded Coke on the way to the race. The sugar and caffeine blast, really the first of the day, revved up my body and put me into racing mode.

Going for me in the fuel area was my 7 days of improvement, and I say that kind of facetiously. The way I described this concept to a fellow racer was as follows:

"When you train, you break down your body, you get fatigued, you deplete your stores, you damage muscle tissue. Then you rest and recover. Your body rebuilds itself, overcompensating for some of the damage. It's not the training that makes you stronger, it's the rebuilding, the recovery."

Based on that relatively sound principle, it follows that I would be very good tonight - I had 7 days of improvement in my body, 7 days of recovery, 7 days of fueling.

In other words I hadn't ridden my bike since last Tuesday's race.

The most significant thing that happened at that last week's race was my front derailleur "issue". At some point in the race I suddenly lost the ability to put the chain on the big ring. Since my shifter seemed appropriately impotent, I figured I broke a cable.

Monday evening, last night, I finally checked the bike. I realized I couldn't fix the problem quickly (I was tired, itchy, and hot, so I really wanted to just get it done) so did the next best thing - I adjusted the front derailleur and locked it over the big ring.

A minute later I stepped back and took in my newly-modded 53T-only bike.


Not a problem, really, as I don't train much on hills, and in a flat crit the only time I'd be in the small ring would be during the warm-up. I'll fix the bike later this week, probably in time for Saturday's Nutmeg State Games.

The Missus pinned my number before we left. She used the "Carpe Diem Racing" on the side panel in a slightly different way reference-point-wise, with the end result that my number ended up almost on my belly. Teammate Cliff commented later that at this rate I'd end up with my number square on my stomach by the end of the Rent series. My typical frantic "didn't leave work early enough and we're almost late" mode probably distracted her as I ran around the house collecting bits I wanted for the race (cam and SRM downstairs, HR belt upstairs, halo here, cap there, gloves there, etc).

Once at the Rent I got my new-favorite CamelBak Podium Chill (and it's younger brother Ice - I bought two of those last week from Expo team sponsor Manchester Cycle) bottles and went to warm up. I had to get my legs moving because I usually feel horrible coming off of any prolonged period of rest, more than a few days of non-riding.

Of course my plans got derailled before I even got to the warm up loop, located next to the course. A fellow promoter, also warming up, rolled by just as I got there, and we started chatting.

While barely pedaling.

We exchanged quite a bit of talk about promoting races, about the difficulties of planning events. Personally I take the easy way out, choosing to promote an easier event, ones that I enjoy doing personally. He's a bit more ambitious, promoting events that challenge the racer, that he rarely races, and for that I admire him. His promoting, I think, is way more stressful than mine.

As we rolled around I saw the usual suspects around. CCNS, a team consisting of the strongest individuals, but handicapped a bit by always-overwhelming marking by the others. Even a Hincapie can be neutralized by locals, as happened once at the Naugatuck Crit. Aiden, their fearless leader, showed up with Ron and Dave. They naturally rose to the top of the threat list. Their only "weakness", if you will, is that they actually train in these races, and may not necessarily be out to win. For them it's just as successful to demolish a field as it is to win, and, in fact, I would guess they'd rather blow apart a field and get 5th than sit in and win.

Berlin Bikes/Best Cleaners also had a strong presence, with a surprise appearance by Bryan H, along with the usual crown Jeff M, Kevin Y, and Scott G. Although individually they may not be able to match the CCNS boys (with all respect intended for the BB/BC boys), they work extremely well together as a team. They'd be next on the threat list, one step down from CCNS.

Expo Wheelmen, the team whose kit I wear, had a strong showing too. Although individually the racers may not be at CCNS's level (we have no Cat 1s for example, and they have a few), there were two very strong motors toeing the line - Cliff, he of the leadout, and Todd, another super strong Cat 3, one that joined Expo just this year. Both have backgrounds in mountain bike racing, and both could stick with a break driven by, typically, the CCNS boys. We had other guys too, Lance, Joe T and Jon T (Expo TT guys), a couple others. We missed two big riders, our fearless leader David and my good friend SOC.

I felt pretty confident that Cliff or Todd could pull off a good race. Cliff made it into breaks twice before, getting worked over in one week (and ignominiously shelled from said break), making up for it the following week by getting second. Todd has worked super hard during the races and had the non-luck to miss the breaks. His TT times at the Expo TT series reveals his strength though - it's just a matter of time.

Finally the host team's guys were there, wearing their CVC kits. They include the irrepressible Max, who's been the most consistent at the Rent this year, and a slew of his teammates. Missing was the fast one who usually wears a Dewalts pair of shorts, the shorts from a team from Southern California somewhere.

As Max has won at least one or two races here already, and they'd be on "home turf", they ranked up there on the threat list, parallel to CCNS.

With high temps I worried about withering in the heat. The Missus dumped virtually a full bottle of ice water on me just before the start, one of the two Chill bottles I brought. I had on my bike one Chill and one Ice (the latter being twice as effective insulating water as the Chill) - those two bottles would be my bottles for the race. I brought one of each to test the insulation properties of each model.

I worried a bit about battery life (wasn't sure if I charged the Contour1080HD enough) so waited till the last moment to turn on the camera. Of course by the time it booted up, a process that takes a few seconds, the first attack was hitting turn one.

Who was attacking?


A huge move, designed to blow apart a field that may have eased up on the warm up due to the high temperatures.

The field, watching two of the three CCNS riders rolling up the road, responded desperately, and in a couple laps the strung out group had reconnected, with everyone breathing hard and trying to pretend they weren't.

Expo had a few guys contributing to the chase, as did Berlin Bikes. A couple individuals, notably Tim U, had made some efforts too. I admit that I played at the front only during these opening salvos, putting myself deep in the hurt locker, but trying to get my legs revved up for the efforts to come.

As soon as the field regrouped Tim launched again, fearless. CCNS launched a bridge move, others followed, and it was back together.

Rinse and repeat.

Groups would get a small gap, struggle to hold it, and a flurry of counters would condemn the move. With a larger than normal field, racers had time to recover while others made moves. I always think that for me a larger field in a flatter course makes for an easier race, at least until the field hits about 80-90 racers. There's more shelter, more fresh legs to chase, and a much higher chance of a field sprint.

At the Rent, with typical fields numbering 30 or so, 15 or 20 minutes of consistent attacking and chasing will collectively blow up the field. At that point the stronger riders can get away permanently, finalizing the race long before the sprint.

Tonight, with a larger field (I'm guessing 45 racers?), there were enough racers and enough fitness to shut down even the big efforts by CCNS.

As it came down to the final 5 laps, the field had somehow stuck together. All the attacking had just dulled the field, not shattered it, and now, in the last 5 laps, everyone was even more attentive.

I chose to sit at the back. I could have moved up a bit and then fought for position, but that takes a lot of energy, both physical and mental, and here, now, it wasn't appropriate. Although not bothered by close quarters riding, it can get overly exciting, and I prefer to get my adrenaline from getting psyched up, not from being worried about crashing.

The front part of the group constantly stretched as those who wanted to slim the odds tried to go off the front. Even if you're a decent sprinter, if you only have to beat four or five others, it's a better bet than if you have to beat 40 others to win.

Todd and Cliff were most active from Expo; all the CCNS guys seeemed to have a go; CVC always had at least one rider in the move; and then a bunch of really strong individuals worked the role of the Joker, either leading chases or pulling away breaks that the teams felt obligated to restrain.

End result?

As we hit the bell a group of about five had coalesced just in front of the field, holding a tenuous couple second lead. With the field strung out behind, that meant it was a bit further than that back to me.

I thought I left it a bit late, especially with the second and backstretches having wind. I moved up hard once around Turn One, then jumped as Kevin Y went to catch up with his two man leadout train, Jeff M and Bryan H (the overall winner of the Cat 3-4 OSC Bethel Spring Series).

But seeing the gap to the break, and knowing that the break riders would start sprinting shortly, I figured that I had to go early. I'd gone from before the last turn last week, when I was stuck using a 39x11 as my top gear, and I had legs to get me pretty much to the line.

So, as Kevin latched back onto his runaway leadout train, I went hard up the left side. I missed my turn-in point, worried about Jeff to my outside, and ended up easing a bit as I apexed the turn.

Then, a big jump, to try and catch the break.

Ed A, a former teammate back in my collegiate days, launched hard out of the break. I went to the outside to avoid all the tight riding on the inside, going around the break as we headed to the line.

Todd B had made the break and he went immediately after Ed. I slotted in behind him, becoming a "spacer" if you will.

I knew that the other racers would be on my wheel, waiting for me to jump. If I held off just a moment when Todd went, he could get a few extra feet on the others. Plus, with me on his wheel, the next rider back would be at least six or seven feet behind his back wheel anyways, giving them a handicap before they even jumped.

If Todd suddenly sat up (i.e. if I were in his spot, having been in a break, then having to jump, I'd probably blow up before getting to the line), then I'd be in position to jump again, try and get an Expo jersey across the line first.

In this way I'd be his "backup".

Todd went as we hit the last curve, Ed's speed bleeding off rapidly.

I hesitated, keeping the inside closed, with Ed to my front left (front inside), me taking up the second lane from the inside. Anyone who wanted to go after Todd would have to go to the third lane, around the outside.

Out of the corner of my eyes I could see that Todd was going well, with Max coming around me, getting up to Todd's wheel, but without the speed he needed to pass Todd.

Todd would win.

Therefore I sat up.

All good, or so I thought. Someone, on the cool down laps, mentioned that I was "aggressive" in moving up. Based on tone of voice and gestures, I gathered he wasn't admiring me, and, at some level, he was criticizing me.

I could understand his attitude towards what he considered aggressive riding. Personally I hold back a bit here at the Rent. It's not the Worlds, even though I call it half-jokingly the "Tuesday Night Worlds" a lot. It's a race for training, for practice, for trying out new things. I, nor anyone else, needs contact or pushing or shoving or wheel chopping or anything else that you may see at a more "serious" race.

(In fact, my philosophy is that such riding doesn't belong in any race for Cat 3s down, and probably not even for Cat 2s down. I can see that stuff happening in the P12s but I don't think it's necessarily correct - in my opinion, dangerous riding is merely a stop gap measure to overcome poor tactics.)

For me the Rent is all about low key fun. It's like a formalized group ride, with a finish, no traffic, and similar minded riders.

Although I understand that other rider's comment, I considered most of my moves, in the final lap, to be on the up and up. I think my last turn misjudgment could use some criticism (I am plenty able of self-criticism, and I've replayed that turn dozens of times in my head already), where I wasn't sure I was clear of the leadout train and therefore had to take an extremely early apex, through the manhole cover, and worried briefly about making it through the turn.

The rest of it, though, seems hard to protest. No contact with any other riders, passing others with plenty of margin, going into the wind if necessary, using clear lanes only... I find it hard to find problems with what I did.

I even asked the guys most affected by my last turn business, the Berlin Bikes guys. They were okay with it, and, trust me, they'd be the first ones to say, "Look, just between you and us, that was really sketchy."

They didn't though - they appreciated the fact that I didn't move back out into Jeff, that I cleared the corner fine.

On the other hand they did seem disappointed that I didn't have faith in their leadout. They thought they'd be able to sweep up the break in the sprint, unrolling their leadout to launch either Bryan or Kevin to the line first. In the heat of the moment I thought that going early would be better, so I did. I knew that the break would sprint amongst themselves, and there'd be at least one or two pairs of legs ready to battle to the line.

As it turns out two guys from the break did battle for the line, taking first and second.

Luckily I have a clip of the race, so I'll be posting that, but I hope that the other guy understands once he sees the clip.

And, of course, there's always next week. See you all there.

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