The last race for the 2014 Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center, the 2014 Zwiedzanie Bethel. I felt some pressure to do well - a couple people told me I needed to win this race "for old times sake". I wanted to do well but realistically I wasn't sure how I'd ride.
The prior week, spent driving back and forth all over the place, meant that I managed to ride 20 minutes between last Sunday's race and this Sunday. It was just enough to work up a sweat, not much more, and I hoped that I wouldn't cramp during the race. See, if I don't ride much before a race then I start cramping almost immediately. If I do an hour the day before the race I'm fine. Less than that, or with no riding for 5 or 6 days, and I'm in cramp city from the start.
The other thing was food. I realized after some trainer rides this winter that I actually ride harder when I'm hungry. Higher wattage, higher energy, higher heart rate. I inadvertently tested this during the Series when I did a few races after having had plenty to eat and others where I started the races almost bonking.
Incredibly I felt and raced much better when I started it almost bonking. For Bethel it meant eating my normal breakfast at 6:15 - 8:00 AM (two egg sandwiches and some coffee) and then not eating until just before the start of my race at 1:00 or 1:30 PM. Normally a break like that would mean disaster for me but somehow it seemed to work this year.
Therefore I didn't eat anything until about 1:25 PM, when I ate two pieces of a croissant thing that someone had at registration. After that it was all I could do to dress, take pictures of some podium stuff, and get to the line.
Earlier I'd pinned my number, pumped up the tires on the Stinger 6s (they seem to work better for me than the Stinger 7/9 set up at Bethel), and basically saved getting dressed for last.
Of course when I went to zip up my jersey the zipper broke. So after some frantic pulling and tugging I realized I just needed to re-pin the jersey.
With that, and an emergency gel in my pocket, we started the race.
For today I had two helpers, SOC and Joel. Joel's been at the races every week because he's been working them. He arrives either at the same time as me or, at least twice, earlier than me. He also stands outside and marshals, moves stuff around, clears the course, stuff like that, so he's definitely working during the six hours before the race. Nonetheless he's been gamely trying to help me do well in the races.
SOC hasn't been able to make it due to work and family obligations, but he actually not only sacrificed all that he also sacrificed a 5K run that he'd registered to do on this day. He showed up to offer his support of the race series and me and also to test his racing legs.
Fortunately the weather turned out quite nice, with warmer temperatures such that most of us were in shorts and short sleeves.
SOC in action in his first race of the year.
The racing seemed pretty aggressive even though the Series lead was pretty wrapped up. Sixcycle showed up in force, their first and second places not under any real threat. They still worked super hard to try and get moves off the front and such.
Mike M, a strong 4, upgraded to 3 earlier in the week and this was his first 3-4 race. He wanted to put a show on and repeatedly drilled it. Although no one wanted to work with him his repeated forcing of the pace meant that eventually he dragged himself and another THIRTEEN riders clear of the field.
The break forms.
At first the break seemed doomed, hanging out just in front of the field. Lap after lap they didn't move, the field tried here and there to bridge, and a few guys would make it up here and there.
A second group catches them, now the break is about 10 riders.
Eventually the break started to gain momentum. With every successful bridge there was another rider or three unwilling to work. More and more of the solo riders started to worry, forcing the pace. Some of them got clear and joined the break, others exhausted themselves and recovered in the group.
A final few take off, leaving the field behind.
Both Joel and SOC worked hard to try and bring the break back but without any coordinated effort they couldn't do much against the raging Mike M up the road.
At first I was a bit disappointed because I wasn't feeling that bad. I realized, though, that I'd been suffering pretty hard until the break went, and that if it was all together there'd be a lot of guys attacking the field.
Also, although I didn't feel it appropriate to win the race unless I deserved it, I felt it was okay to target the field sprint. After all that's my calling, the field sprint, whether it's for the win or for, in this case, 15th place.
With that in mind I steeled myself for the admittedly meaningless field sprint.
Joel finds me after the bell.
Joel had tried to help me a different week by going up the road, but he blew pretty quickly and shot backward just before the jockeying for the jump began. At such a time to be stranded in the front would have been worse than anything else.
He looked for me with a couple laps to go, I followed him around, but after the bell he really looked back, made sure I was there, did some telepathy to tell me he was really leading me out, and we set off.
On Joel's wheel.
With the other week's last lap in mind I followed Joel. I should have been easier to move up on the backstretch with a tailwind but I was afraid of hitting the front too quickly. In a headwind sprint I melt pretty quickly so I wanted to save myself for as long as possible.
Joel moves left with about 400m to go.
You can see the guy on the red bike look over. He jumps immediately.
When Joel moved left I made a critical error. I felt afraid that his big move to the side would blow him up so I stayed put. If he went and blew then he'd string out the field and I could ride off of the knowledge of "what would happen". Knowing the field will be strung out is pretty key information, since sometimes the field suddenly sits up as everyone up front realizes that whoever leads out the sprint is going to get absolutely annihilated before the line.
Of course this week things turned out differently and Joel made it quite far. I didn't know that so I played the "let Joel string out the field and I'll work off of that" bit.
I lose the wheel, it's a bit tight so I don't go.
Note the red bike guy is on Joel's wheel now.
With Joel rocketing up the left side I had to try and play the surfing game just right. I didn't want to lead out the sprint. My ideal sprint, with the wind so hard from the right, would have been to jump hard on the left curb and go to the line. This meant being sheltered left going into the sprint, but the left wasn't great just before it. I had to chose one way or another and I didn't know exactly how things would play out.
Therefore I had to let it just happen.
I go right trying to find a gap.
Joel was going so fast he opened a gap between his little group and us. I started to worry that he might lead out the sprint winner from the front. To the right a couple guys started to go, realizing that the sprint was leaving them behind. I tagged along, to the right for shelter.
Of course this meant that I'd be on the right in the sprint, which would put me…
In the wind.
Joel leading out the sprint.
If only I'd followed him.
I could feel the wind pounding me from the right, just zapping my legs. I stayed seated and low, trying to move up as far as possible before jumping. I didn't want to stand any earlier than necessary because as soon as I stood my sprint timer would start ticking down.
On the other hand since I was directly in the wind there'd be little advantage to me jumping later. I wasn't getting shelter. I was in a really weak position in the sprint so I just had to do my sprint and hope it would be enough to get me to the line first.
Seated, trying to save my standing jump for the final.
I was still seated at this point, still trying to delay my sprint. It seemed the other guys were starting to fade. Joel, incredibly, still leads the field at this point.
Now I jump!
The closer I got to the line the better I felt about my being able to sprint to it. When I started to draw even with the guys up front, including Joel (his red/black glove is still up front in the picture above), I knew I could go to the line.
So I jumped.
Just after the line.
I accelerated in a pretty big gear for the wind and ground the pedals around until I got to the line. Like the other week no one else followed me to the line. I think the wind had zapped everyone's legs, and, honestly, the riders with the most power in their legs were probably up the road.
Nonetheless I felt satisfied with my race. I didn't place well per se, 15th, but I won the field sprint.
I stopped almost immediately so that I could get on with my promoter duties, but I could quickly review how the race went.
I didn't get shelled.
My 20 minutes over the week was enough to keep my legs from cramping.
I didn't bonk.
The sun was out.
It was a great day.