Tuesday ended up a nice warm day. With the really hot day supposedly arriving on Wednesday this would be a better day. The reality, of course, was that it was pretty warm. I packed more bottles of ice water, both Podium Ice bottles, along with one of the bars I bought for the winter training (which really didn't happen, so I have a lot of bars left).
On Saturday I discovered a crack in the rear Stinger 6 wheel. This, combined with a chip in the surface of the Stinger 6 front wheel, encouraged me to bring just the Stinger 7/9 wheelset. I'd spent much of the day outside and it wasn't very windy at the house. I trudged around a bit, spraying the ever-present poison ivy, washed/clayed/waxed the wagon, and packed the car.
Of course when we arrived the wind felt ferocious. I wondered if the registration tent would fly away, and even a clipboard didn't keep the release forms from creeping across the table.
It was windy.
With no choice I put the 7/9 wheels on. The 9 would be fine, of course, since it's a rear. The 7 was my tallest front wheel. Given the choice I'd use a different wheel but I didn't bring the Stinger 6 and my clincher front is a bit wacky (rim is straight with no tension on one spoke, causing the wheel to wobble aggressively when out of the saddle).
I reluctantly rolled away from the car, regretting not bringing the 6 front.
The good thing about today was that it was the BBQ night, this time hosted by Cycling Concepts. It meant that we didn't have to leave to eat and therefore we could hang out for the A race. Junior loves hotdogs and since that's a staple BBQ food so we'd be all set.
I didn't get a chance to talk much with anyone before the race, nor to warm up. I hoped that things wouldn't be too crazy with the wind, although I knew that the wind would allow the more fit riders to take advantage of the others.
NBC News was there with two cameras, a mic, and apparently they interviewed some people. The link went up and it's here. You can actually see the B race in the background - the short guy with the helmet cam is me.
Very windy day, about 85 degrees F.
We had a decent field, a little smaller than some of the earlier weeks. With some final words from Karen, the official, we started off.
Gaps on the first lap.
Wind here is from the front right.
We didn't have a neutral roll out this week and the attacks went from the gun. Immediately gaps started opening up. I abandoned the whole idea of helping others because I was absolutely at the limit trying to hang on. My legs were a bit sore, probably from the "heavy" schedule of riding more than a day or two in the last week, and I realized that I had to make it through a few laps before they'd start to feel a bit better. Until my legs came around I closed gaps without asking for help but I didn't have anything left to try and help others. Within a few laps the field had probably halved in size.
The wind really hit us hard in two spots - one at Turn One, the other as we cleared the stadium on the backstretch.
The Turn One wind was brutal - the first lap I almost lost control of the bike, and I really had to grip the bars firmly to keep the wind from knocking my wheel off-line. It got better as the race went on so I started to relax a bit. Then one lap the wind hit me super hard just as I stood to accelerate out of the turn. The wheel turned just a touch and for a moment I thought there was a small chance I'd flip over the bars. A quick correction, a touch less weight up front, and it was okay.
The other spot was the end of the stadium, a normal wind spot as the wind swirls around any big structure. This spot was also brutal, with my front wheel moving sideways a good 6 inches the first lap. After that I realized I couldn't relax there either, so no drinking or anything like that. Putting a rider to my 2 o'clock really helped stabilize the bike as the rider at my 2 o'clock would take the brunt of the wind. Of course they'd get pushed to the left a bit so I would leave a bit more room than normal.
Early move with an Expo, with other Expos waiting.
Wind here, at Turn Two, is from the front right.
With Expo riders well represented, and with their fitness levels pretty high (I was one of the weaker ones), the day's race ended up belonging to Expo. The early moves all had Expo riders in them, with Heavy D launching the first attack, then dropping back to the field as someone else (not sure who) continued on for Expo.
Expo waiting for the next move.
You can see that Heavy D, in this case, is sitting third wheel.
Heavy D makes his move.
First four riders are the break coming back, the next two are tired from chasing.
This is a tailwind bit, immediately after Turn Three.
Back in the field the Expo boys marked moves. Only a few riders wanted to chase. ERRACE got two riders chasing but they came back. Expo John N rolled off the front inadvertently. I hollered at him to ease, which had the effect of making everyone around me ease as well. Because, you know, if the "experienced rider" says to ease then they'll ease.
Waving John and Nick to go.
Nick had accidentally rolled off the front and looked back questioningly. I realized that it would be a great time to go so I told them to go, even gesturing with my hand. Nick put his head down, rolled up to John, and they rolled away from the group.
Now although we weren't necessarily chasing our own guys down we were still willing to take pulls here and there. I figured that once whatever Expo group got more than about a length and a corner away from whatever group I was in then I'd chase, so whenever the gap got a bit big I went to the front. The idea was to let the other Expo guys save it for the counter moves.
Telling Aaron he has to go with the next move.
At this point we had two Expo riders dangling just in front of the field. I went up to Aaron and told him that he had to go with the next move. He was one of the stronger riders, with both him and Nick up there in the finale at the Cat 3-4 Berger race. I barely got the words out of my mouth when someone went up the left side.
A perfectly timed bit of advice as Aaron basically jumped when I finished telling him to go with the next move.
In the past the Cat 4-5 Expos would be at the front, working no matter what the race situation. When the inevitable moves went they didn't have the snap to follow because they'd just been pulling. They'd dulled the edge of their fitness and training by exhausting themselves before the moves started.
Now, sheltering by default, they had the snap to respond to the moves, or, if so desired, to make them. Even though they weren't significantly more fit compared to a few weeks ago they were racing much more effectively. Aaron's instant response to the counter, Nick's move to go with John, and Heavy D's move to solo off the front all showed that they always had the strength to make the moves. Now they actually could make them because they weren't working senselessly in the wind leading up to the moves.
Pulling as the breaks are gone.
This is on the backstretch, at about the stadium "break", i.e. where the wind blasts us.
I turned to one of the few Expo guys left in the group and remarked, "I think we just team(work)ed ourselves off the back". When most of the field is up the road then not contributing to the workload doesn't make sense. As another rider put it, now the race would be just a hard workout. Those of us that could would pull.
I didn't pull much, to be frank, as I wasn't strong enough to pull much. I usually pulled into the wind, trying to offer shelter, so that made my pulls pathetically short - usually between Turn One and a bit past Turn Two, or even to Turn Three.
That was it.
I rode on the wrong side after the first turn, also to try to offer shelter. My weak point has always been the steady efforts, the FTP/theshold stuff, and I think for a while that one rider thought I was still blocking. The reality was that I had nothing more to give - if my team had asked me to chase as hard as I could I'd have gone the same pace.
My lack of form really showed as I slogged in bigger gears, unable to spin smoothly. I have to work on this as it's super inefficient. I even felt different muscles straining as I worked hard, particularly in my hips. I normally don't work so hard so consistently so the chasing efforts really socked me.
Heavy D lapping us.
(He's in the bright yellow shoes and socks.)
If that wasn't enough Heavy D rolled by, unexpectedly. I never heard anything about him approaching so it was a bit surprising when I turned left and saw him flying by. Two guys went with him but since Heavy D had lapped us solo we sort of ignored them.
Aaron (first rider) and Nick (to my front right) lapping us.
This is exiting Turn One, wind is from the front right, and just after we got the bell.
As we approached the final lap Aaron and Nick also rolled by us. No one else had lapped us, and they passed us just after the first turn of the last lap. Aaron admitted he'd pushed really hard to lap us, and Nick had rallied to bridge to him just as Aaron reached us. Eventually Nick would roll away from Aaron. Two riders were placed between Heavy D and Nick but I don't know when they escaped and I'm not sure when they lapped us.
I sat up in the last turn, my legs pretty spent, tired from a really tough race. I have no idea how the group did in the sprint, nor the other groups that were lapped and such.
I rolled to the finish, carefully crossing the line to make sure I officially finished (even if only the first three are scored). If it's important to finish then a rider has to make sure they actually finish.
Junior was tugging the Missus toward me. I carefully dismounted so I wouldn't kick his head (that would be bad) and Junior proceeded to touch different parts of the bike. He knows it's "Daddy's" bike, he knows "wheel", and he really likes the pedals.
Junior with my pedal.
Heavy D was all grins. He'd just soloed the race, lapped the field, a really great ride. Aaron and Nick were also really happy, lapping the field as well. All the Expo riders had done a great job with teamwork, with racing smarter. Although their fitness would not have increased substantially in four weeks their results were something else - they've been racing smarter and it showed.
With that we relaxed a bit. The Missus, Junior, and I didn't have to leave immediately, contrary to other weeks, because Cycling Concepts was hosting the BBQ night. With Junior's favorite (hot dogs) on the menu, and my favorite (burgers), we were both good to hang out for a bit and eat. Along with a couple burgers (few? I might have had three) I downed a Coke, feeling the need, but after that it was just water, water, and more water.
The A race was pretty spectacular as always, with local pro Ben Wolfe ripping legs off like usual. Expo's Lance had a great race, going basically at the gun, and taking part in the first serious three man move of the day. They eventually lapped the field but I think Ben not only didn't get lapped, I think he lapped everyone again.
Or something like that. It's the hot and hazy days like these that give rise to the myths, the stories, the legends. Maybe in twenty years I'll hear that Ben lapped the field four times. Who knows? Whatever the stories it was a great night out at the races, the way it should be.