Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Racing - 2013 Bethel CDR Gold Race

Sunday I was a bit discombobulated before the start of the race. I really wanted to try the red Tsunami, the one that used to be orange. I rode it on the trainer and decided that if I felt comfortable riding it at the race I'd be okay with not having power or anything - I hadn't installed the SRM wire and I wasn't planning on doing it on race day.

I did wrap the tape though and thereby decided that the levers were in their final-for-now position.

I also test rode the new-to-me wheels which I'll review later, but the important part is that the front is a HED Stinger 7, 75 mm tall, and the rear is a HED Stinger 9, 90 mm tall. Both have the SCT profile, the stability thing that comes from a rounded "peak". The rims look more U shaped than V shaped. I wasn't sure if I wasted a bunch of money buying the wheels but the data seemed to indicate that these U shaped rims should be fast.

Plus they look and sound cool so there was that.

I wanted to use those wheels because my goal this week was to help my teammate Bryan at the front of the race on the last lap. I figured I wouldn't be sprinting up the hill, my main focus would be drilling it on the backstretch. Realistically I knew I wouldn't be able to do much else - I've been struggling just to finish the races this year. I also knew it would be a big ask for me to be at the front on the last lap, but if I could do it I'd bury myself to keep Bryan out of the wind for another 20 seconds.

With that in mind I decided to use the super duper aero wheels. The Stinger 6s, my faithful 60 mm rimmed wheels, stayed in the pits.

I rolled to the start line with those 7/9 wheels but mounted on the black bike. Although I'll race new-to-me wheels off the bat I figured that racing the red bike wouldn't be smart - it would mean its first outdoor ride would be a race. The black bike is a known quantity even if it needs a bit of work. For example I regularly see 1-2 watts when I'm soft pedaling and the freehub body is clicking - that means I'm using that much power just to turn the cranks.

With all my thoughts on what bike, what wheels (the new rear wheel doesn't have a magnet yet), I decided I'd rely on Strava to record my ride. I even started Strava before I rolled out there, with the Record button prominently displayed in the center of my phone.

I forgot about my heart rate strap but again, with Strava, I was just getting speed, distance, and GPS location. The SRM sat on the bars so I thought it'd be nice to have heartrate but whatever, it was all good.

While I waited at the desk I also pinned my numbers.

Because I had to man the registration post I couldn't leave the registration desk until 8 minutes before the start of my race. It meant a quick bathroom break (which I couldn't take before either), changing with all that it entails when it's a chilly race, realizing my HR strap wasn't there (it was in the car), and quickly rolled out to the line. The race started almost immediately after.

I forgot to start Strava.

I even forgot to power on the helmet cam. By the time I did the field was strung out and we were already heading past half a lap into the race.

Just after I turned on the helmet cam. Yeah, oops.

I felt okay at the start. Fresh, of course, since as usual I hadn't warmed up. My legs felt a bit better than they did last week - I had my head better covered, I wasn't freezing cold, and I'd eaten some amount of food during the day. I even moved up into about 20th spot in a few laps. I started thinking optimistically - maybe I could get to the front and drill it to lead out Bryan.

I did notice that the big wheels seemed really fast. I wished I'd had power (meaning the SRM was hooked up) because I felt like I was barely pedaling and the bike just wanted to roll.

Even better the bike didn't feel terrible on the hill. I wondered if the slight weight penalty would be something I'd notice but apparently it's below the cusp for me, at least in the poor condition I have right now. Maybe in a summer race, at the limit, in shape, I might notice something, but here, in cold Bethel, out of shape, I'll only notice coarse differences, not fine ones. Whatever, the bike climbed willingly on the hill and I had fun climbing out of the saddle.

After about 20 minutes though I started to suffer. I know I'm hurting when I look at the lap cards. I hope to see less than 10 to go because that always seems possible. When I looked the first time today it said 22 to go.

Yeah, bad.

My teammate Joel said something to me but I was so out of it I have no idea what he said. I just focused on the wheel in front and told him to move right - I needed him to move over so I could get some more shelter.

Things looked grim.

By 45 minutes into the race I was suffering a lot. Someone let a gap go at some point after Turn One and I had to close it on my own. By the time I did I was cooked and we were halfway down the backstretch. Luckily the field eased that lap going up the hill so I didn't get popped but that was a really close call for me.

The gap I had to close.
Same spot as the first picture - note location of white house.

The gap really hurt me, zapping whatever reserves I'd saved up. My mistake though and I paid the price. As the laps wound down I reminded myself of my goal - to help Bryan out before the sprint so he wouldn't have to do everything himself. I tried to empty the tank so that I'd be near the front at 1 to go.

Unfortunately I couldn't muster the strength to get up there for the bell. I'm good doing a last effort going up the hill but if I did that at the bell I'd blow up at Turn One. Therefore I tried to go hard without exploding myself. This half assed approach got me nothing.

Coming up on the bell... not good.

With everyone flying I had my hands full just maintaining position. I think I only passed riders who'd blown up or had given up. Everyone else seemed keen on doing exactly what I was doing - trying to move up for the sprint.

On the backstretch it looked like one of the teams would get a leadout going up the left side. Although initially balked when the field spread out, a gap opened up again and I waited, hoping they'd drill it. I figured with one effort they could be inside the top 20. At that point I could move up to wherever Bryan sat and help him.

The leadout guy backed off though - I think he blew up before the balk and couldn't get rolling again. I watched the gap go away and realized that I wouldn't be able to get up there for Bryan.

Approaching the hill on the last lap.
Big hole center right. I used it to blast through to the next bunch of riders.

My next hope was to finish behind Bryan. I had faith that he'd be good in the sprint, maybe a top 6 to get in the points. Since every point can be important I hoped that if I could do a good sprint I could place right behind Bryan. If he placed higher up, like 3rd, and I could take one of the places behind him, I'd deny some rival those points.

Bryan, to the left in the red shorts, exploded.
I was too far back anyway but I still had a few pedal strokes left in the tank.

That all went to pot when I saw Bryan exploded and shooting backwards on the left side of the course. When I saw him sit up I also eased - I had no aspirations for myself so it wouldn't do any good to sprint for the line. When I crossed the line I was actually on my hoods, shifting down, looking for a path to the left side so I could turn around and go back to registration. No bike throw, no real pedaling, no nothing.

I couldn't find a path so I did a cool down lap before heading in to the registration area.

SOC and I both managed to "beat" Bryan. Unfortunately our goals were to help him and neither of us made it up there to do so. I likened our result to something like if Bernard Eisel and Mark Renshaw both beat Mark Cavendish to the line for a Tour stage. Beating the leader isn't cause for celebration even if it represented personal triumphs for the two of us (I wasn't sure I'd finish the race and even turned down an offer from someone to bring me to the front).

As it turns out Bryan had had bad legs the whole day and simply didn't have it for the sprint. Last week he won the field sprint on his own. This week, not so good.

At least for me there's a week break. I can do some training to get some hours in - I looked today and I rode just 8 hours in February. That's not enough to get in shape.

I can also get the red bike ready to race, train outdoors on it, get the SRM harness set up, install the magnet on the Stinger 9.

Then I can return to Bethel for the 7th ready to rumble.

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