Ah, another Tuesday Night race. These races are the basis of my racing summers, low key, fun, and close by. Junior loves it out here with the other kids around (who are friendly to a much younger kid) so we try and stay here as long as possible. A massive difference is the puzzling lack of mosquitoes. In the past they were oppressive - if I stood still long enough to put the bike away I got bit. This year, not so much. It's not just here either - it's at home, and we live next to a very slow moving river, an area known for having a lot of mosquitoes.
Whatever, I'll take it. The cooler weather most of the summer, no mosquitoes… very nice.
This night was the "Ben Wolfe Handicap Night". Local hero pro Ben Wolfe would be starting a second back for every $10 donated to CCAP. Although the gap stood at a manageable (for Ben) gap of 2:30 on Tuesday morning, by the evening it'd increased to a massive 6:59. Even the 3rd best U23 time trialer in the US would have a problem gaining seven minutes back on the field.
However, before the main event, we took to the course in the B race. As mentioned before it's a Cat 3-4-5 race. Initially the 3s really didn't go for it, but now, toward the end of the Series, some 3s definitely come out to win. Our team, Expo Wheelmen, has had both hot and cold days. Generally speaking two riders end up our "leaders", meaning they want to do well, and the rest of us throw our weight behind them. A third rider, Heavy D, upgraded to Cat 3 and prefers to mix it up with the big boys in the A race.
With a decent but not overpowering wind, 90 degree temperatures, and a moderately small field, we expected a break to go. We wanted to work on doing teamwork leading into a sprint but it's been impossible to do that when the group blows apart or when the designated leaders are in breaks.
Start line. Setting sun - the days are getting shorter.
A sure sign of the end of a season is the lower sun at the start of the training races. The long shadows foreshadowed end of the 2014 series, just a few weeks away. The lower sun also increases the contrast in the stills, making for harder-to-see pictures.
After a lap towards the front I decided to drift back. My self-imposed lot was to help out any newer riders, plus I wanted to get an idea of who was in the race. I say "self-imposed" because although I may have been singled out as someone that might offer "constructive criticism" to fellow racers in the B race, I still pay the same entry fee as everyone else. If I offer such feedback to any rider it's because I want them to be a better racer.
I slotted in a gap in the line and realized I was on the wheel of someone who was, as I would term it, a "fanboy". I could tell because the rider had not only a pro jersey but also the shorts, helmet, gloves, and even the bike.
Except the rider was female and I know of no fanboy women.
Plus she looked extraordinarily strong.
This reminded me of the day that I did Gimbels and ran across a Rabobank fanboy. Who, as it turned out, was actually Marc Wauters. If you don't know the name don't feel bad - at the time I didn't either. It was only after I perused the names of the guys who got, say, 4th or 7th at Paris Roubaix that I started seeing his name.
View from Heavy D, with my camera.
At some point, for some reason, I pulled through, with Aaron and Nick, our two go-to riders, on my wheel. No reason to pull since there was no one away, my legs just got antsy.
Aaron pulling through.
When I pulled off the guy on Nick's wheel sat up, effectively gapping off Aaron and Nick. They rolled away, took advantage of the gift break, and gave it a go.
However they came back and a counter went.
Two riders off, the two white dots to the left. They'd come back.
After the two riders went the Optum rider went to the front, dragging the field along. Except she pulled hard enough that someone let a gap go.
Optum rider goes clear with one other.
Now clear with one rider on her wheel (I think it was another woman racer - there were a number of women in the race), the field needed to react.
The winning counterattack, up the left side. He'd win the race.
The guy that I think left the gap to Nick went up the left side. He made a big effort, bridged quickly, and set about trying to get the break established. This wreaked havoc in the field.
When he went I wanted to yell at Aaron to go with him but Aaron was too far away, on the wrong side of the field, and I decided to sit tight. That was one of my major mistakes of the night's race.
Fragmenting field. I was too far back and had to close this gap.
I found myself behind riders getting gapped and had to close a somewhat substantial gap. Up front Nick had responded to the countermove, going clear of the field.
Two riders (far left of picture), then three (just behind the furthest right white post), then the field.
At this point there were two clear, three chasing, and the field close behind. This was one of those times that a decisive jump could have enabled a rider to cross the gap to the chase solo. With Nick up the road, the break not really solid, I figured we could wait. This was my next big mistake of the race. The reality was that it would have been good to have someone go across to the chase before they gained too much ground on the field. I was too far back to do it and too far away from Aaron to tell him to go.
A lap later the five ahead are together and getting out of reach.
The three chasers quickly bridged to the two rider break, leaving five in the break ahead of the field. Because they bridged the gap (the break didn't sit up) it meant the gap was suddenly getting into the "uncatchable" zone. With Nick in the break the Expo riders relaxed and forced the others to work.
I'm telling Aaron that Nick dropped out of the break.
At some point I looked up and realized the break had attacked itself, and the one red jersey in the break wasn't there anymore. I moved up and told Aaron that Nick had gotten dropped, but it took me a good half lap to get to Aaron. We already had two guys pulling and I went up there to join them.
Expo pulling but to no avail.
Unfortunately we'd practiced blocking in prior races but not chasing. Our efforts, although individually perhaps fast, were short and uncoordinated. Instead of pulling at a steady, sustainable speed, we made faster surge type efforts. Normally I like the faster efforts but that's to close a 10 second gap or less. I rarely find myself in a position where I want to help close a 30 second gap.
The longer gap meant we weren't going to bridge it with an anaerobic effort. We'd have to do the steady-freddy kind of work, the solid 25-26 mph time trial for 20 or 30 minutes. This isn't my forte, it's not my thing, and I never work on such efforts, mainly because I haven't been able to make them.
It only makes sense that I was probably most guilty of the surge type efforts, the third and last major mistake I made in the race. I am anaerobic as soon as I start pulling so I pull faster by default - I figure I better make my pull count before I pull off and try to recover.
The problem was that racers would leave gaps behind me. In a Cat 3 race everyone scrambles to stay on wheels because they know it's a free ride if someone up front is pulling hard. In the training race, though, riders let gaps go because there isn't as much riding on the race. This had the effect of neutralizing the surges and actually slowing the field down during fast pulls.
After my pull I dropped to the back instead of slotting in near the front.
Another problem was I would drop too far back after my pulls. Because I pulled too hard and too long I couldn't slot in third or fourth spot. If you watch the pros chasing the rider that pulls off slots in a few spots back. I was too blown to slot back in near the front. This caused problems since after another 20 or 30 seconds there'd be no more Expo riders up front and the pace would ease.
In all this time I totally forgot about the mantra that made working in a pace line pretty straightforward - 20 pedal revs and pull off. I think if we'd done that we'd have been fine, three of us chasing pretty hard, saving one or two for the counters. It makes sense now, sitting at the table, but in the race I didn't think about it.
Back towards the front to take a pull.
When I recovered and got up front again I'd take a big pull "to make up for my mistakes". This exacerbated the problem, splitting the field again and redlining me. I went deeper on each of my pulls, making things worse in every way.
When I pull off this time I was done.
In fact I was so redlined after a pull 30 minutes into the race that I blew up and sat up. That was the end of the race for me.
The break lapped the field, except the Optum rider. I think she sat up on purpose as she'd entered the race for training and she didn't want to ruin things for the others. She did a laughing sprint, sort of joking around, so it was obvious she wasn't perturbed about easing off the break.
I had averaged 179w for the 30 minutes. For 60 minutes I averaged 122 watts, which means that I rolled around at about 70 watts for about 30 minutes.
I did jump back in to tell Aaron to look out for the CCB racer - he's the one that I think left the gap to Nick when I did my big pull, and he read the winning move properly. It meant he had a lot of experience. I also felt he was the strongest sprinter in the group. However the CCB rider seemed to be marking Aaron so I never got a chance to tell him. At 2 to go I was told I had one more lap so I eased up, let the small field go, and prepared to do a practice sprint.
With a cross-headwind going into the final straight, turning into a crosswind, I didn't think I'd be very good. Still, though, I wanted to do a big effort. I didn't jump super hard as I wanted to finish strong, but the numbers don't lie. I jumped pretty hard, peaking at 1100w, holding 1020 watts for 5 seconds. This means a really flat sprint curve, not as peaky as I normally do.
Practice sprint - bike tilting right.
Practice sprint - bike tilting left.
I think that I was moving right to set up for the left curve in the sprint, hence the emphasis on the right side tilt. I blew up well before the line so sat up and coasted in. I didn't bother doing a lap, I just rolled up to the sidewalk and over to the Missus and Junior.
The Expo hang out area. Both the Missus and Junior are in there somewhere.
I stopped and watched the finish of the Bs. Aaron won the field sprint with the CCB rider in second (and winning the race).
Then we all sat and waited for Ben to go chase the field. At 2:30 the gap was realistic but, with all due respect, 6:59 would be undoable. Therefore all of us fans were there just to watch yet another display of immense power and speed. Ben didn't disappoint, catching the field in about 12 minutes (he started at 6:19 PM and caught them at 6:31 PM). After taking another lap with Expo rider Todd I think that was it.
6:19 PM, Ben starts.
6:31 PM and he's catching the tail end of the field. He'd be leading a lap later.
During the A race I realized that I could barely hold Junior - my back was just short of failing, like wiggly-quivering-about-to-collapse. The Missus held Junior so that he could be at "my level" - he wanted me to hold him but I just couldn't do it. I think that my thoughts on my lack of core strength make some sense. As I said previously this means starting some kind of regular core strengthening exercise program.
Aaron and I chatted a bit about the race. Obviously we were disappointed that the team didn't work well. Missing the break exposed one of Expo's weaknesses, that of being able to chase. It didn't matter how we got there, the fact was that once in that situation we failed to pull back the break or even make a decent show of it.
Aaron pointed out something else pretty clear to him and probably to others - had I been training a bit more I'd have been able to pull through, pull off, and get back in, ready to pull again. Instead my pulls blew me up and shelled me. The lack of training really made a mark here in my lack of recovery.
So in addition to losing weight and strengthening my core I also need to train more.