Things have evolved. After some changes behind the scenes of which I know virtually nothing, there was an apparently friendly change of hands and CCAP is now running the Tuesday Night Races. With it came some changes - they added a Junior race (CCAP's main focus), they now allow Cat 3s to enter the B race, and some extra stuff outside the race (music tonight, baby sitting 5 year olds and up through activities, BBQ next week).
Having been sick last week I just went to watch and take pictures. It was a different world compared to last year. The A race was insanely fast. A lot of the guys I race with got shelled pretty quickly. The B race looked more like a Cat 3-4 race and had many of the racers I line up with on the weekends. I decided that I'd try the B race, if I could make it to the races on time (6 PM instead of 7 PM), instead of doing the A race.
Between last Tuesday and now I've gotten a bit better, enough to ride an hour and a half one on Sunday. This put my month's total at about 4.5 hours, and combined with April's 6 hours, put me at about 10.5 hours for a month and a half, 4 hours of those spent racing.
Not much, right?
Still, though, I figured the Bs should be doable, pending getting there on time.
We left pretty quickly, tried using the HOV lane, and learned that there are a lot of exits off the HOV lane going north but virtually none going south. Of course we were heading south. After some shenanigans the Missus got us to the race with a few minutes to spare.
Typically she'll drive to the Tuesday races so I can change in the back, and one of us sits in the back with Junior anyway. As I tell people one of the reasons I married her was because she knows how to drive well. Few people make me feel at ease in a car but she's one of them, and even with all the back and forth (we both agreed on trying the HOV lane), I never felt uncomfortable.
Once there I hopped out of the car to register while the Missus parked the car. After a short jog to the car I got the bike together while the Missus distracted Junior, who wanted me to hold him (as he does in any new or busy environment). I got everything together, started Strava, turned on the Contour, and went to line up.
Fortunately for me there are a few changes in the way they do the Bs (at least compared to the As last year). First there are a couple neutral laps, so that was nice. Second, with the 3s in there, the field was pretty big, and I could count eight teammates in the group.
(Of course I hadn't talked with anyone so there was no plan.)
My goal was to "participate" in the race, as much as possible. I had this fantasy that I'd spend a bulk of the race at the back, helping the newer riders stay in touch, keep gaps closed, stuff like that. Then when the lap cards came out I'd go to the front and try and help my Cat 4-5 teammates do a good finish.
For me, personally, winning wasn't the goal. It just didn't seem fair for me to race 100% against the newer racers. Plus I'd rather enjoy trying to help others become better bike racers.
With that I lined up.
The start. A great sized field.
After a couple neutral laps the official blew the whistle and the race was on. The field immediately overcooked it going into the first turn, with some nice bobbling going on. Fortunately no one hit the deck, a few riders made some good saves, and everyone realized they need to turn in a bit harder when the speeds are up on the prior straight.
First turn bobble.
At this point I realized that my fitness didn't give me much room for generosity. I tried to find some room to blow my nose (still have a ton of stuff coming up/out).
Moved over to clear my nose.
I didn't want anyone to even run over the stuff so I really moved over.
The race started breaking up, attacks going up the road. With so many Expos, and with a lot of strong ones, inevitably an Expo would get up the road. One group, with Lance and SOC from Expo, seemed to hold some promise, but the field never really let them go. When a few more riders bridged, and then the field started to splinter, I figured I should get up there.
The view when I passed the front of the field.
I'm actually not sure where the break is in this picture, but they're up there.
I never meant to counter as much as I wanted to move up and cover the inevitable move that would bridge the gap. I didn't realize that I'd be the one making that move, and I'd make it on my own.
I did a "little" jump, which ends up being the biggest wattage of the night (a touch over 1000w). I rolled up hard on some lapped riders, who were inexplicably pretty far into the middle of the road. I had to yell "RIGHT!" at one because I couldn't go to his left, and if he moved right we'd collide. Although the rider jumped a bit he stayed on his line and I passed on his right.
Shortly after I rolled up on the back half of the break - apparently it'd just split. I pulled the back half to the front half and then totally exploded.
Rolling up on SOC in the back half of the break. Lance is up the road.
A lap later I was groveling in the field, wondering if I should drop out.
Ultimately I kept going. A few laps of good shelter, staying tighter on wheels, a general slowing of pace, and I was okay.
I was too far back and got caught up in either lapped riders or riders coming off the back. At one point I had a decent gap to close, and I did.
Gap to close after getting around some other riders.
Bobble by a single speed rider on the left. I think his chain dropped, ironically.
I noticed that one guy had a single speed. Which is fine, but ironically he bobbled pretty badly when something happened with his bike. I think his chain dropped off the cog. He had no derailleur to keep it in place so if the chain line is off just pedaling will eventually pull the chain off the cog; also if the chain is loose it can fall off simply because the bike is leaning to one side.
(It's ironic because one of the reasons to go to single speed is for the mechanical reliability - no derailleur to adjust or break. I once dropped a chain on my track bike because I set it too loosely, but fortunately nothing bad happened.)
He couldn't pedal but veered to the right, directly into my path. I yelled (again) and he held his line. This time it wasn't five fee to the curb, it was more like a foot and change.
At any rate I didn't realize it was the single speed guy that almost high sided off of his bike until I looked at the clip.
With all the various interesting things going on, with the pace that was somewhat human (even if I contemplated quitting), and with a shorter race, we hit the 5 lap to go mark sooner than later. I decided that I'd sit back a bit, let things play out, do one big move on the last lap, and see what happened.
I moved up a bit with two to go but at the bell I was still in the back of the group of riders really gunning for the sprint. I didn't move up much for the first two turns as things weren't playing out well, meaning gaps didn't appear magically. This meant that I'd have to do a lot of work in the sprint, which was fine by me.
Last corner, just the sprint to the line to go.
Lance is at the front. He wants to lead out.
At this point I didn't have a plan. I just wanted to move up and do a jump. My goal was to navigate the field, to get in an effort, and see how I felt. I'd recovered from my bridge and my gap closing; now I could see how that work affected my sprint.
Although it didn't dawn on me at the time, I realize now that I didn't cramp or come close to cramping, so that was good. My Sunday ride was good. My recovery was good. My lack of consistent sleep for a number of days didn't really affect me.
It also meant I had a good jump left in my legs.
Exiting the corner. A lot of work for me at this point.
Leaving the corner things were a bit blocked. The wind was coming from our left, sort of, and as the course curved left it'd be a cross tailwind of sort. This meant that, hopefully, the left side would open up. Plus it's shorter to go on the left side, if there's a gap there.
However I was buried in the field so I needed to move up.
A gap opened (the rider in front of me went right).
As the rider in front of me moved right I started to move up. He moved back left, closing the gap a bit, but there was still a lot of room for me to move by (keeping in mind that I might be sprinting past a Cat 5).
Once through the gap I wanted to go left since it was so clear over there, but it'd be a big move so I had to check first. Generally speaking if I move over less than half a bike width I'll do it on my own, taking into account anything I hear and my last check of my six. If I move over more than half a bike width that's swerving (to me anyway) so I'll check my six first to make sure it's okay to swerve.
Check my six before making a big move left.
It was clear so I moved left, basically a lane and change over. I lined up behind a guy who was starting an effort, which meant that I had no room to go. I had to wait.
Now waiting for things to open up again.
At this point I still hadn't used my jump and, in just about 150 meters of road, I was much closer to the front of the field. Lance, at the front was just about to pull off, and I could tell the guy on his wheel would go as soon as Lance eased.
Opens up, now I go.
The guy went. As my marker (the guy I was following) eased to the right, leaving a gap on the inside, I jumped.
It wasn't a great jump. It felt weak, I wasn't getting the speed quickly, and I'm pretty sure that even if I sprinted all the way to the line I wouldn't have won. After looking at the power data my jump was pretty low (peak was about 1000w, less than my bridge effort jump) and my sprint was in the 560w range (15 seconds). A normal sprint for me is 1200w peak and 1000w sustained for about 18-19 seconds. This meant that my peak power in the race, for one pedal stroke, was about what I normally do for 18-19 seconds.
At this point I've decided to get around that hump/bend (3rd fence post or so in the picture above) and sit up.
I didn't want to place highly in the sprint so once I jumped I tried to pick a line so I'd be really close to the inside curb after a pretty hard "hump" in the bend. Everyone at speed goes wide after the hump thing because it's literally impossible to hold the curb around that hump. If I went a touch wider at first, then went left, I'd be next to the curb. It's a spot that riders really won't get to in a sprint.
Once I got there I sat up, hoping that others would jump past me.
A bunch of guys passed me just before the line.
I have no idea how I finished but it was well back, maybe 8th or 10th or something. Which is fine. I could check off all the things I did:
- bridge to a break
- huge effort then recover
- bridge a gap
- move up in the field
- do a tactical sprint
- don't win
I can also list things I didn't do:
- help a newer less experienced racer
- didn't work with my teammates (no lead outs offered or given, etc; I didn't race against them, I just didn't race with them)
- no real plan going into the race
On the other hand I had a fun time on the bike. It was challenging (I saw higher heart rates tonight than I have in any recent memory), I got to put my nose in the wind, I got to do some field stuff, and I could take a pull or three. For me that's much more fun than groveling at the back of the field and then trying to do a sprint. It's more fun to get involved.
We had to get going to eat before Junior fell asleep so we left a few laps after the A race started. First, though, we had to take care of business.
Some things take precedence over, say, hanging out with other racers.
In this case it's a diaper change.
All in all a really good evening at the races. I'm definitely looking forward to doing more.