The red Tsunami is becoming more a part of me. I really like the tops being further out - the FSA Compact bars have short reach so I am running a 14 cm stem in front of the 56.5 cm top tube. Having the tops of the bars an extra 2 cm further out is nice, very comfy, very relaxing.
The drops still feel a bit high. I have some FSA Energy bars, similar to the Compact with its 80 mm reach but it has 150mm drop instead of 120mm. This should put me right back where I need to be when I'm out of the saddle sprinting. The Compacts feel too high, like I'm trying to sprint on an extra tall bike.
With this in mind I headed out to @TuesdayTheRent, the Tuesday night training races at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT. The course is simple enough, a triangle-ish kind of 1km loop with three real turns.
What makes a race hard are the riders, not the course, and the riders are of some pretty good caliber at the Rent. For this evening we had a current National Junior Crit Champion and a few of his very strong training/racing friends, as well as a slew of Cat 1s, 2s, and then all us regular folk.
I was a bit bonky on the way down - I'd spent the afternoon looking at a replacement for the white van, and because it took a while to get Junior to daycare I skipped lunch to get there on time. Then, with semi-rush hour traffic and such I didn't have time to eat much when I got home. I managed to eat some random protein bar while packing the car and then had a soda on the way to, and during, the race.
A tornado warning popped up for towns north of there - the skies looked black and roiling when I headed south from the house. It was bad enough that I took pictures of the sky.
Note the sort of circle in the middle - the skies were rotating around the center of the picture.
I took this picture while parked at the venue, from the driver's seat of the Jetta Sportswagen.
Then, as I headed into Hartford, the front ended, a definitive line drawn in the sky. On one side gray, the other side blue, sunny and hazy, about 90 degrees.
Before even warming up though the skies had turned gray overhead. We could see lightning flashes on the horizon. The rain held off, the lightning never got closer, and we raced.
Our red VWs.
Note: there is condensation on the lens - it wasn't this foggy in real life.
The Missus has been driving the Golf, the lighter of the two cars. It's a bit more peppy - the very lightweight wheels help a bit in the summer. It's also a bit more agile, thanks to its shorter rear overhang. We drove separately so that I could get to the race earlier and so that the Missus could leave if Junior had any problems. He's normally very accommodating but you never know.
Start of the race.
I felt pleasantly surprised at the turn out, considering that the Emergency Broadcast System interrupted the radio to announce a tornado warning. The robotic voice said that if a tornado hit to seek shelter in the basement or an interior room, and if in a vehicle to seek shelter in a permanent structure. I hoped that if a tornado touched down near our house that the cats would run to the basement (they usually do if they're petrified). I think only Hal wouldn't do that - he'd be too scared to come out from under the blanket in our room.
Fortunately no tornado touched down, they just measured 68 mph winds at Bradley Airport.
At the venue it felt a bit windy but that was normal. The wind came off the stadium side, giving a slight cross-tailwind on the finish line. The first turn put us into a brutal headwind.
Innocuous shot but guys are surging hard.
Wind is hard from the right.
I felt reasonably good on the bike, literally the first time this whole year. Well, I felt okay on Sunday but my race ended after a couple laps due to a mechanical. So to be in a race, feel good, and not have my saddle pop loose after two laps, that was a good sign.
I decided to push a bit to see how my body would react. When a move went up the right side I tagged along, and when they cranked the pace again I followed suit. Even when I started to struggle I kept on the wheel, trying to work hard, pushing the limits.
Well it's a good thing it wasn't a mechanical engine I was pushing because I blew sky high. I essentially redlined myself for about a lap, holding an unsustainable-to-me 175 bpm. To put that in perspective I normally race at a 155-160 bpm average and I can't recall a sprint where I started at over 165 bpm.
I tried to get back in and recover but I just couldn't, and a lap or so later I came off.
OTB ("Off The Back")
So now I was OTB, or, in an intraweb funny, I found myself in Offthebackistan. I needed to ride, I wanted to ride, so I kept pedaling. To my surprise I was holding about 164-165 bpm on my own, a race pace kind of level. It translated to 19.5 mph on the slight tailwind straight so I was still crawling along, but for me to be at 164-165 bpm and not sitting up, that's a good thing. It means I could work, was willing to work - not something I normally feel on the bike. In the last 10-15 years I found that I have a hard time pushing myself on my own. I need a race or a group to motivate me (sometimes music works too), and even on very hard rides I'll find myself averaging 155 bpm at the hard points.
So to sustain the mid 160s, solo, off the back, that was good.
After I got lapped a few times I jumped in, blew up, got lapped again (a couple times), jumped in, blew up. The last time I jumped in I intentionally let the field go up the road a bit before I got going. I "bridged" to the fragmenting field and then tried to drag the guys near the back further up forward. I sat up on the tops while going hard, trying to give a better draft. I think that most of those guys were lapped or blown so it didn't matter.
With that I turned off the course. I'd ridden about an hour total, a third of it my warm up. I felt pretty good, legs pretty good (I was cramping a bit). I rolled over to the Missus and Junior. The Missus asked how it went after jokingly pointing at the field and hollering, "Why aren't you in there??" I felt pretty good about my progress from Bethel, finally feeling like a bike rider again. I had fun cornering in close quarters with others - it's the biggest thing I enjoy about bike racing, the close quarters riding. It was nice to be strong enough (albeit briefly) to be able to ride with the group.
It was just plain fun.
Missus and Junior, who was fascinated by my funny hat.
We watched the rest of the race, which, to be honest, was quite entertaining. The field, having spent most of the race a half lap down, almost brought back the break. When the gap was literally 10 meters or so the break rallied, the group collectively blew, and the break quickly distanced the field again. Three guys took off from the break and that was that.
After some after race chat, cut short by the mosquitoes, I headed home, into the rain. Interestingly enough I wasn't hungry after the race, not at all. I did feel exhausted though and got to sleep pretty quickly. A few more weeks like this and I'll be good to go.