Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racing - 2012 Keith Berger Crit, Cat 3s

Now that we all know what happened around the race, what about the race itself?

It kinda really didn't happen.

I mean it did, but it didn't.

I've been training very little, very sporadically. I basically resigned myself from expectations this season. I'm not about to turn pro, I don't have a line on a new contract, nothing significant rides on my racing this year. I just want to enjoy myself and do what I can in the races.

With that in mind the Expo boys showed up at the races with a two part plan. First, we figured a break had a chance of succeeding, and if a break went, we needed to get our guy Bryan up there. Failing that, if the race came down to a sprint, we'd work for SOC.

Waitaminute, you ask. Aren't you the sprinter? I mean your blog title means "Sprinter of the House". So what's the deal?

Well, yes, I can be the sprinter. And a lot of times I am. With my lack of fitness I don't feel confident that I can even reach the finish, let alone contest it, so for now I'm deferring from the sprinter designation. I'll take it at other points, but for the Keith Berger race I wasn't about to be the sprinter.

We warmed up a bit. I saw Bryan warming up when we pulled into the lot so he had some time on his legs. SOC and I seemed to be on a similar schedule, more like 10 or 15 minutes of warmup. I realized that my legs started feeling a bit tired so I actually stopped because I didn't want to warm up so much that I started cramping at the end of a 30 mile race. I've figured out that it takes me about 30 miles of riding before my legs start cramping, so warming up a lot before a 30 mile race didn't make a lot of sense to me.

I went back to our base camp to get a cold bottle, double check everything, and say hi to the Missus and Junior.

Our base camp happened to be set up next to a NYC racer, E. He's seen Junior from the getgo and so took the chance to catch up with our little guy's progress. I happened to pick up his bike - jeepers! It's one of those bikes that feels like a foam representation of a bike, it had no mass to it.

"Pick up D's!" he said, "it's way lighter."

I headed over to the portapotties to do the last pee. D happened to be over there so I picked up his bike. Yes, it was super light, even lighter than his teammate's bike. Wowsers.

Back at the car I started getting all my gadgets ready. E rode over.

"Do you ride Keos?"
"You don't have extra cleats with you, do you?"
"D broke his cleat."
"I have one, I'll bring it over."

I pictured the little OEM bag of cleat and hardware I carry in my mini gear bag. I saved it from the pedals in Las Vegas when I forgot my pedals at home. I had my shoes, they had good cleats, so I just rode the pedals and saved the cleats. I'd traveled with the mini gear bag so I just left the cleats in there.

Then I realized. Remember how I just broke my cleat? I had a choice between cleats from my main gear bag and ones from the mini gear bag. I chose the older of the two sets of cleats, and they happened to be in the mini gear bag.

I had no cleats.

Oh, waitaminute. I remembered that for some reason I put the old cleats in the mini gear bag, both the broken and the "okay" one. I hauled out the "okay" one, looked at it.

Reasonable, I suppose.

I rolled over to D, sitting on the grass, his shoe in his hand.

"I forgot I just used my spares but I have this one, it's one I took off my shoes."

I tossed it to him.

"This is great!" he exclaimed, his facing brightening up with a grin.

It is?

"Can I see the old cleat?" I asked.

He handed me a similar grey cleat. It looked like he'd been dragging the toe of the cleat along the road - the front end was basically gone. My cleat, as "worn" as it was, would work much better than his.

"Hey, my cleat's kind of worn so just watch out."

I headed back to the car, good deed done for the day.

I lent one Podium Ice bottle to SOC, gave some cold water to Bryan, and headed out to the start line. I had one Podium Ice bottle for myself, filled with ice and water. With the forecast in the low 70s I figured that by the end of the 30 mile race I'd still have ice cold water in the bottle. I looked around and saw a lot of riders with regular bottles but very expensive wheels and frames and stuff.

I may be a gadgety kind of rider (someone called me Inspector Gadget) but I don't have a $4000 frame or a $300 bar or even a $200 saddle. I did, however, go out and buy two Podium Ice bottles. They help me more than anything when the temperatures go over 80 degrees.

As usual I lined up in the back, but unlike me, when I noticed a huge opening on the right side, I rolled myself over there. I still had a bike length or two in front of me but I wasn't "at the back" anymore. When the race started I scooted up the right side, rolled past the front of the group, and saw E slightly off the front, chasing a guy that looked pretty committed to a first lap move.

I briefly debating bridging to the solo guy (someone from out of the area) but remembered the race was 30 miles long, I haven't been training, and I didn't want to get shelled in a lap. Plus we had our team plan and it wouldn't help anyone if I was watching the race 5 laps in.

Therefore I eased, joined E, and piddled along until the field rolled by. I wasn't blown up, I had plenty of legs, so I felt like I'd actually done something right.

Although I sat near the front for a while, waiting for that expected break, I eventually drifted back. I found Bryan, the expected break rider, and a few other strong riders back there, all biding their time. If they were back here I'd hang out back here too.

I have to admit that although it was supposed to be 71 degrees at the start, it had to be closer to 78 or so, and the sun beat down relentlessly. One lap in Turn Two I leaned over and felt the uncomfortable sensation of a flat tire - the front tire slid a bit to the outside. I looked down but the tire looked okay.

"Was it the tar?" I wondered.

Next lap the same thing happened.

I noticed there were two lines of tar, the outside and inside. The inside line had a break in it; the outside didn't. If I started the turn and crossed the outside line of tar I got that unpleasant tire-going-sideways feeling. If I started the turn between the two lines I could put my tires in a gap in the inside line of tar. I decided I'd try and stay in the middle of the two tar lines so I could corner through the gap on the inside line of tar.

I went and told Bryan what I found - he concurred and said he had the exact same thoughts. I decided that everyone figured it out so I didn't bother saying anything to anyone else.

Nonetheless it took another 8 or 10 laps before we were consistently hitting Turn Two from between the two tar lines. Some racers didn't mind or didn't notice the melting tar, and they'd take us across the slippery outside line.

The line to the left is unbroken.
The line to the right has a break in it.
I tried to stay between the two tar lines and corner through the break in the right one.
(Break in tar line is by white stop line)

I did see another teammate do a powerslide through part of the turn due to his back wheel hitting the tar line under a decent amount of speed.

At some point the pace hotted up for a prime. The break threats suddenly disappeared from the back of the field - I figured things would get going. Until the break went, though, I didn't feel like moving. I'd move up only if the break got semi-established, maybe a 10-20 second lead, then I'd try and help Bryan cross the gap.

I rolled up the side one lap, quickly going from the back to about 20 from the front. My little move brought me up to the sharp end of the stick - I could get involved in the race. Normally, if I was riding for myself, I wouldn't be here. It's too easy to use precious reserves making efforts just to stay on wheels. It's much more peaceful, normally anyway, at the back.

I saw teammate Joe and asked him if there was a break. There was. I asked if one of the threats had made it up there. He did. I asked if Bryan made it.

He did not.

I decided to wait up there, see when Bryan would work his way up, and help launch him across the gap.

Shortly thereafter I turned and saw SOC motoring up the field, Bryan in tow. Before I could get over to them they'd rolled by me.

SOC pulling Bryan, to the right.

After a brief pause (a couple turns) SOC went hard at the front, stringing out the field. Bryan launched shortly afterward and, after a brief but intense effort, made it to the break.

Covering a move once Bryan was clear.
Guy to the right is responding to the guy on the left.
I'm following along.

The problem was the field wasn't willing to let it go, and there weren't that many of us to discourage the chase. I went with one move and the guys in front sat up after a couple turns. Other moves went too, but they came back as well. Unlike pro racing, where attacks actually slow down the average speed of the field, in Cat 3s attacks increase the average.

The break got a bit closer.

A few guys, solo riders mainly, including the guy who took the first lap flyer, hit the front. A few huge pulls and suddenly the break was within reach. Once the sharks smelled the blood the attacks went fast and furious.

In a few minutes I rolled by a tired Bryan. The break had come back.

Now I wanted to set things up for SOC. Since the sprint required fitness, and since I had none, I declined the protected spot. Instead I went looking for SOC.

I found him with about a lap and a half to go, looking a bit gassed but still game. I hollered at him to follow me, then hollered at our friend DocM as well. If I could get DocM and SOC towards the front I could let DocM take over after I exploded.

Two turns later and I must have threaded a needle I didn't know existed. Both guys had disappeared, with other riders stealing my wheel. I always point out that it's easy to take a wheel. It's much, much harder to hold onto one.

I eased a bit, looking for SOC to repeat the effort, belling ringing for the last lap, when Bryan rolled up.

"Where's SOC?!" I yelled.
"I don't know but I'm bringing you up," he replied.

Bryan rolled up the side. We were pretty far back, further than I realized. I was distracted looking for SOC and didn't realize about 20 guys had rolled past on the main straight.

Bryan rolled up the side until he got up to the CLR leadout train.

My legs were dying.

"Tuck in, tuck in!" I yelled.

Bryan just before moving over. CLR has 4 guys, then Bill Y shadowing.

Bryan eased over, dropping me off at the tail of the CLR train. Bill Y, a savvy and respectable racer, wanted fifth wheel so I let him take it.

One more guy went as we rounded the second turn.

Bill Y is in there. CLR still at the front.

Bryan, cooked, looked back. He was out and moved a bit right, leaving a gap to the next guy.

I hurried to get on that guy's wheel.

I got there okay but I needed a bit of a break. It was too fast, too steady, and the CLR guys were starting to get fatigued. Three wide, they slowed. One or two guys started to come around me. Then the CLR guys got organized again, a final push, and got it lined up.

As riders started moving up for the third turn my legs gave way. I hoped to be able to get going a bit, maybe find a bit of respite going through the last two turns. I needed a few seconds to catch my breath but I couldn't get it. My lack of fitness was making itself known - I had made the right moves, got in the right places, but I had nothing to back it up - my engine was overheated and starting to blow gaskets.

The problem was I was well over my redline. When I sprint well I hit the 200 meter mark feeling like I'd just started the race. I feel great. I have to hold myself back so I don't jump too early, and when I go I'm surprised that I can jump so hard.

Here I didn't have that feeling. My legs were tweaked hard from the effort in the wind half a lap earlier. Bryan's move, although it brought me up, exposed me to wind even more. Now, with just a few hundred meters left in the race, I could barely turn the pedals.

I hit Turn Three about 11th spot. It's hard to pass on the short stretch there and just one guy rolled by me - D, as it turns out, with my cleat on his shoe.

Hey, if I can't do well, at least my equipment can.

About to go into the last turn.
The one not like the rest bobbled but it didn't affect the race.

12th out of the last turn I did a little jump. Shovel would be proud of me, I thought, jumping even though I was cooked. My triumph faded rapidly as my legs fell away. I sat down, softpedaling the last 50 or 75 meters.

Although I crossed the line 15th it felt like 20th and should have been 30th. I had no end game.

After the race I talked a bit with Bryan, with SOC, with DocM, with a bunch of guys. We all had expectations, based on our seasons from 2010 and 2011. I had a great 2010; Bryan a great 2011. But this was 2012, and none of us were at the same level as before. Our expectations were based on past history.

Problem is, as the brokers like to say, past history is no indicator of future performance.

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