The second race of the Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center went better for me than the first week. Previously I started cramping less than halfway into the race - I don't know if it was the cold, the Sweep Day before, the loading the trailer the day before Sweep Day, or what, but I was pretty much a wreck by the time the race started. I used my sprint to get out of the way and fortunately did a decent job at that - no one ran into me and I didn't run into anyone.
The second week went smoother. I did do some hard labor the night before, moving stuff between trailers, but nothing like chopping ice for hours on end.
The promoting part went a bit smoother, too, with the crew now used to the procedures and such. We were short two people but the race still ran smoothly, so that's a testament to the folks that work it.
Last week someone took a picture of me and I looked positively massive, and not in a good way. My jacket, which I typically buy thinking, "Oh, man, I'm never going to get under 180 pounds", looks massive on me. This week I decided that if I could I'd wear a long sleeve jersey and a wind vest.
Of course it was pretty cold and pretty windy. I didn't wear knickers, so that means it was under 40 degrees by a lot. I even wore my heavy tights, with windproof front panels, due to the wind. The jacket seemed more and more appealing.
When I rummaged through my bag I remembered an old trick I used to use before we had such things as "team jackets". I'd wear my jersey as a top layer, a long sleeve black base layer as my second top layer, and a rain jacket as my third top layer.
With this technique the world would see my jersey and long sleeve base layer but no baggy windproof stuff.
So with the wind gusting enough that I tried to anchor the finish line tent a few times I decided to do the rain jacket trick. I wore a LS base layer (then put the bib tight bibs over the base layer), the rain jacket, a LS team jersey, and a team vest. I pinned the number to the vest, stuck my phone (for Strava) and a marshal radio in there, and decided that would work.
Before the start. Marshal radio in my pocket.
Way fewer than 18-20 pins.
I also had regular socks, regular shoes, booties, my favorite winter gloves (discontinued Canari gloves), a neck tube thing, a head tube thing, and my untaped/un-winterized helmet. Last week my head got a "chill headache" because my head was so cold. This week I wore a much heavier head covering and it felt better. I want to tape all my vents but I forgot to do it. Maybe next week.
For a warm up I did a lap I think, maybe two, but definitely one. It's super unusual for me to get on the bike before the field is lined up so I reveled in the freedom of rolling around the course.
When I got to the finishing hill someone pointed ahead of me.
"They already started, you need to chase! Go! Go! Go!"
I panicked for a moment but then realized no one else was saying anything. Then some kind soul murmured to me that the officials had made the field do one lap. I turned around and here they were.
Neutral lap done.
When the race started no one moved. Actually, as I learned later, one guy moved, no one else did, and that one guy ended up in a break for a few laps. Not knowing any of this I just thought that, wow, this was going to be a tough race.
Then it bunched up a bit - everyone came back. The early season races are like this. The guys with legs try to break everyone because they know that they have legs. "Everyone" tries to hang on because they all know that the Legs guys are putting down a good 20-30% more power if you can hang onto their wheels, and hopefully even those Without Legs can do a 30% weaker effort for a bit.
The leads to a flurry of attacks, a split, then a desperate chase. When it comes together it pauses, bunches up, and then it happens again.
Then, as the weeks go by, those Without Legs gain a few percent and suddenly holding 30% less isn't that hard. This means every move gets chased, every break gets chased, all the time. No pauses between efforts, it's just go, go, go. This means it's strung out for virtually the whole race.
Bunched up. It would go fast, slow, fast, slow.
After a few failed breaks the field paused to collect its breath. This only encourages those with legs to give it just one more go.
Really strung out.
The later attacks really hurt. The riders with Legs know that they can break the field, they just have to do a little bit more, dig just a bit deeper. The field knows that if they can hold on just a little bit more, dig just a little bit deeper, that the Legs guys will blow themselves up. It's a bluff game and the first one to blink loses.
Well the field lost this week. A four man break was up the road, containing some strong break type riders (obviously). A fifth guy bridged, injected some power into the break, and then won the race even though he dropped his chain before the line.
Of course for me all that is sort of abstract. I'm not a break type rider, except when it's really weird, and my focus is always going to be the field sprint. With virtually all the places up the road the sprint became a bit weird. No early attacks, no punchy moves with half a lap to go, so the field sort of rolled into the last bit of the lap together, not going super fast.
Normally in this kind of situation I really enjoy things but this time I made one mistake after another. I can't say it cost me anything because I have no idea what would have happened but I knew even as I made my choices that I should have done the "other thing".
Backstretch, first mistake.
It's totally clear to my right, like there's no one there.
My first mistake was at about 400-500 meters to go. I had a choice of sliding up the right side or to hang out to the left. I knew there was ice and such on the right and I didn't want to encourage others to follow me. Therefore I stayed left. And as I did I thought, "I should go right, I should go right!"
And I didn't.
Didn't go for the gap right away, distracted at this point.
If I'd slid up the right side - and based on the relatively low speeds I definitely could have - I'd have been about 3 riders in front of where I was, maybe even four. I was behind the orange, behind the yellow/red, and behind my teammate Esteban (black with the yellow/orange stripe across his shorts).
Instead I was pretty far back.
At this point I could have moved forward but for some reason I didn't. I didn't feel gassed. I think I was thinking of where I could have been instead of thinking of how to improve my position.
Now committing to the gap.
Of course when the gap simply didn't close I snapped out of my daze and decided to go. A guy was on my left, moving in a bit, so I yelled "Coming through!" and went through. In retrospect I can't believe I said that but I did so, yeah.
The field starting the sprint. Not me.
Now I found myself with a possible gap in front of me. It'd be tight but if I committed and the other riders didn't move I'd be okay. In this situation it's just too careless to commit 100% without taking into account the other riders' actions.
Fortunately for everyone I didn't try and barrel through.
Boxed in, pause.
Well both riders moved just a touch. Only a bowling ball would fit through that gap now so I had to ease, stop pedaling, and wait.
Open, decided go chance it and go left.
The FGX racer, Etsu, accelerated up the right side so I followed. I stayed a bit to the left for some reason, whereas normally I like going to the right. I already had that feeling of regret, like I should have overlapped to the right. I know the left gets bunched up, I know the left can stall, yet I went left.
Yet another bad choice.
Problem was it was crowded left.
Guys were flying up the left side and so the guys there were moving a bit to the right. I ended up directly behind Esteban, riders to both sides. If I'd gone right when I was behind Etsu I'd have been able to go for the line. Instead I had to wait again.
Another pause as I'm in the tactically weak position.
Technically I suppose I could have really pushed here, but for a sprint that at best would get 6th it simply wasn't worth it. I knew both the riders to my right and left as well as other riders not visible in the frame but riders I knew were directly to my right and over to the left.
Therefore I eased again.
At the line pretty much everyone beat me.
Finally I got to do a couple pedal strokes. I instinctively did a throw at the line but I got beaten by everyone next to me.
All six guys.
By a lot.
I look back at the clip and if I'd made the move up the right side when I first balked I'd have been in a position to almost lead out the sprint. I have no idea how I would have done - the wind was a bit strong from the left - but I definitely wouldn't have had to ease so many times in the sprint.
As it was my max power was about 1100 watts and my 20 second power was 650 watts. Normally at Bethel I can hit 1200 watts and sustain about 1000-1100 watts for about 18-19 seconds. This leads to a 20 second power of about 900+ watts. 650 watts means I barely sprinted since I went just over a typical effort of just climbing the hill, 400-500 watts, not sprinting it, 800-900 watts.
Bike after the race.
Bike worked fine, the rider wasn't as smart as he should have been.
Next week I hope to be a bit further up in the field. I'll try and follow my instincts instead of thinking and rethinking each move as I make them. For equipment I want to try and bring a second set of race wheels and I'd like to tape over all the forward and upward facing vents on my helmet.