Once again the Missus, Junior, and I headed down to East Hartford for the @TuesdayTheRent race. This year I've had the chance to get ready before the Missus gets home so we get to leave a bit earlier. Still, though, we seem to miss the B race start, and I told the Missus I wanted to try and make them and take some pictures for the team.
The weather wasn't unbearably hot, enough so that I only brought two bottles, one full of ice (and topped off with water) and the other just half ice and half water. I tossed them in a soft cooler along with some freeze packs for the drive over.
After Sunday's race I thought I was okay. I even vocalized it, telling the Missus that "I'm not sore."
Well, Monday morning hit me like a ton of bricks. My whole body was sore, from my wrists to my forearms to my shoulders down my back, my hamstrings, quads, and even calves. I guess that the bumps and efforts from the Naugatuck Crit really worked me over.
Therefore, with an off day on Monday, I wasn't very sure how this Tuesday would fly. I felt tired, a bit weary, but that's kind of normal for a normal summer. I hadn't really trained much going into the season though so this wasn't normal for me - it would have been normal had it been my January/February SoCal training camp, but this was late July and the season would close in a couple months.
I thought I should warm up a bit but instead took some pictures of the B race, sat around and talked about kids with another parent (and Cat 2 racer), and basically goofed off until it was time to line up. I think I rode about two minutes and thirty seconds before I lined up for the start.
Whatever, right? I felt tired and sore and I'd accept whatever happened.
The start. Approaching end of the season = low sun.
Naturally the race started off with an attack or three. The field strung out pretty quickly but the wind seemed manageable. This meant the pace wasn't killer - with unfriendly wind it's impossible to find shelter and I quickly go off the back. With friendly wind things are a bit easier and I can hang in for a lot longer.
This night the wind blew in from the south (kind of), so it was kind of a cross/headwind out of the third turn (first from the left then from the right), a crosswind on the main stretch, a right side wind after Turn One, and a middle wind that swirled into a hard right side crosswind on the backstretch.
The swirl, just so you know, comes off of the enormous vortex generator sitting just to our right on the backstretch - the Rentschler Field football stadium.
After a couple laps I had my rhythm down for shelter. I'd do whatever on the main straight, usually sit to the right, then go around the first turn and try and stay real close to the next wheel - the wind hit immediately and I realized quickly that a slight gap meant a lot of work.
I'd be okay on the backstretch, moving left with everyone else as we hit the swirl current that blew around the corner of the stadium.
Turn 3 led us onto the backstretch, and the right side had tons of shelter. I really dug it on the very right on the first lap until we started around the final curve. The wind hit me unexpectedly strongly from the right and I spent a very worrying 20 or 30 seconds in the gale force (to me) wind on the right side, exposed like a beach comber standing at the water's edge.
After that educational lap I slid over to the left to keep someone between me and the wind. I would sacrifice lots of positions, sometimes 5 or 10 spots, to do this, but it was worth it.
Five guys went up the road. Unusually for Expo we only had one of the many strong teammates present. Not to be disrepectful of the other guys but Cliff, David, Todd, and recently Will are the standard go to guys for the breaks. The rest of us can chase primes or take pulls but we don't infiltrate race long breaks that lap the field. Tonight Todd was the only one of the go-to guys to show, and he duly made the split.
The rest of us duly sat in.
Once the break gained about half a lap, everyone started working together. There were individuals who were chasing, fine, and two teams that had some strong riders but happened to miss the move, and they were chasing the whole time. When the break really got established then many of the rest of us got into the rotation.
The A race format stays the same the whole season - time plus 5 laps. Tonight it was 50 minutes and 5 laps which comes out to about an hour of racing. When I figured it was at least half way I resisted the temptation to look down at the SRM to see what my elapsed time said. Then, another quarter of the way into the race (meaning I'm guessing it's about 45 minutes into the race), I looked down at the SRM.
We hadn't been racing for even 30 minutes.
I started using my bottle up and switched them for the other one. Ever since I learned that the Podium Ice bottles have been discontinued I decided not to toss them aside in a race unless I knew they'd land softly and near a friend. If I was going to carry both bottles with me I figured I might as well use them up before the finish.
Slowly, steadily, I counted down the minutes. As the riders fatigued there'd be more and more gaps, more and more efforts required to stay in the race. The group shrank as a few riders dropped out. I tried to stay in the middle of the group, but soon that meant sitting within 6 or 8 places from the front. I drifted to the back all too often, finding myself forced to close gaps that I shouldn't have been behind.
I found myself on the pointy end of the group just a couple times, and both times I worried that I'd be dropped shortly thereafter. Henk, one of the promoters, murmured some quiet words to me and I made it through both crisis points in reasonable condition.
Henk talking to me.
With everyone working and the break starting to wilt after a race-long effort, the two groups never merged. We never got lapped but we couldn't catch them either. We'd be sprinting for 6th place. Well, I'd be sprinting for 6th place if I could stay in the race. Every gap I closed made me doubt it, but every effort I made reassured me that I hadn't started to cramp yet, I hadn't started to overheat, I hadn't messed up in some way.
Then, miracle of miracles, I saw that we weren't at 5 laps to go, we were at 4 laps to go. Wow. I was so intent on doing the wind thing each lap that I didn't even see the 5 laps to go card. When I looked around I realized the others had noticeably throttled back, gathering themselves for the sprint. Game on.
I debated when I should move up. I knew the ferocious headwind would kill anyone that went anywhere between Turn 3 and the final bend in the last straight. I also knew that the only place to really jump would be on the final short straight, maybe 50 meters of road. If I were trying to win the sprint I'd have to be sitting second wheel at that point to have any chance, and, ideally, the guy in front of me would have been in the wind at least 100 meters prior.
I was too tired to contemplate moving up on the 4 to go lap, and 3 to go went by all too quickly. 2 to go hit and guys started to do that comet thing at the front, where the front gets a bit bunched up and the rest of the group (including me) trails off the back. The field resembles a comet if you will, or some other small things, like a tadpole.
That left me the bell lap to do whatever I could do.
Coming up on the bell.
Them there's a lotta guys in front of me.
I moved up a bit as we passed the ringing bell. You can see from the picture above that there was a big hole to my front left, and with some guys choosing to sit it out, I could slide up a bit. We went through Turn 1 in formation, with two CCNS riders at the front. I knew Aiden was in the group, and since he normally doesn't sprint, he'd be leading it out.
It was going to be fast.
Turn Two, last lap.
Still not great.
Sure enough, as we headed out of Turn 2, I could see Aiden's figure at the front, a teammate tucked in behind. We passed the CCNS boys (riding their bikes) on the drive down so I knew they'd already ridden some miles. I wasn't sure if it was 10 or 100 miles so I wasn't sure if he was going to go 35 or 39 mph in the leadout.
Regardless it didn't matter. However fast he pulled his teammate, I'd have to go faster to move up. So I did.
I followed Kevin Y up to and through this turn.
As you can see now there were only six riders ahead of me (in the field - we still had a 5 rider break that had won the race). Aiden would be pulling off to launch his sprinter, leaving me to deal with five guys, the sprinter and four others. With the wind initially from the left I worried that one of the guys to the right would get a good run into the last curve but that didn't happen.
On my side, luckily for me, one guy went around the CCNS guy too early, and I was on his wheel. He duly led out the group around the long bend, me sitting second wheel. I moved out to claim my passing lane (which both broadcast my move but also protected my lane), and as the course straightened out I tried to launch as hard as I could.
It was hard, with my body not really working in a coordinated fashion (due to fatigue), I had no strength to really do a proper jump, and I felt waaaay overgeared.
I saw Kevin jump to my right and I knew right away I couldn't match him. I sprinted to the line but my legs had nothing and Kevin led me all the way there.
A glance to confirm what I thought.
At the line I looked and sure enough, Kevin had killed me in the sprint.
That may not be ideal, but for me, to be able to finish this race, to be able to gather up my tired body and do a good solid hour of effort, just to reach the sprint was a huge success. To have something of a sprint left was even better.
My numbers weren't that great - I didn't do an 1100w 20 second effort, which is about my record in a race. In fact at race end my peak power was only 1100w and I did a sub 650w 20 second effort in the sprint.
Still, though, that was good enough for second.
I got to finish the race. I got in a solid hour of training, basically a motorpacing session for me (to the others I think it was a "moderate" ride). I got to experience a sprint "under duress", the only way to really work on a race end sprint. I bounced my heartrate up and down a bit more fluidly, with my heartrate up over 174 bpm for the last couple minutes and hitting over 183 bpm at the peak of my effort.
It's too bad it's approaching the end of the season. It'd have been nice had this been early on, but it's all good. There's always next week. Well, two weeks from now as there is no Rent race on July 31.
And there's always next year.