Lime Rock Park
So this was my first race since the last of the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series (ANSS) races that ended April 12th. For me this season has been a sort of revelation. I didn't think I had done much differently compared to the prior 4 years (2010 was an exceptional year) so I didn't have massive expectations. The biggest difference has been losing 15 or so pounds compared to 2014.
The other difference, which I'll address, involves me doing some varied training.
First were some VO2 Max intervals. They've ranged from 5-8 minutes long, 3 or 4 sets per day, 2 days a week. Even though I was sick for most of the ANSS I still managed to improve my fitness significantly, mostly doing the two VO2 Max rides each week. I never do intervals so these longer efforts really helped.
Second is riding with Zwift. With my natural competitive nature (apparently) I found it hard to resist going for the sprints. I basically never sprint on the trainer so for me to do sprints on the trainer, at 100%, for as long as 20 seconds… that's huge for me. I think these short, intense efforts really helped.
My bike is the same as before, wheels, position, even the chain, tires, and cassettes. I've changed nothing on it since 2014, just replaced the electrical tape holding the end of my bar tape and a few zip ties.
Waving to Junior and the Missus, who are on that upper deck area.
Although we arrived at Limerock more than 90 minutes before the start, I was still scrambling to get to the line okay. I had to hit the portapotty while everyone was already lined up, I was physically pushing people (Juniors no less) out of the way to get my bike to the line, it wasn't good. Ultimately though I got everything done - Strava was on, SRM going, helmet cam recording, gloves on, number pinned, bottle on the bike.
I even had to say no to a fellow racer when he asked for help pinning up. As it was I was already scrambling, I think that if I'd pinned him I'd have missed one of my crucial stops before the start. Sorry Jack!
This was a warm day, really the third warm day for me outside (and the fifth ride outside for the year). I had one Podium Ice bottle, full of ice and water, and I hoped it would be good for the hour long race. I had one such bottle for a close-to-3 hour training ride and it was okay.
I had two teammates and we had really two "plans". Stan had already won the overall at the ANSS and was obviously on a roll. He's our strongest Cat 3 break type rider so he was a natural for going for a break. Nick is also strong and has gotten in some breaks and such. I hoped he could make it into a group off the front. For me it was all about the field sprint. I'd try to help where I could but then I'd focus on doing a good field sprint.
With the win April 12th I had some expectations put on me, both by myself but also by others. For the first time I realized that people would say, "Oh, watch for him in the sprint." To me I wasn't any different but to others I guess I was a guy to watch.
I knew of at least three strong break-type riders in the field. I knew they'd probably mark similar moves and they could very well end up together in a break. I talked to one of the "break-type" riders (he goes by TKP in the forums so that's what I'll call him) and told him Stan would be looking for him.
Problem was that I didn't get a chance to talk to Stan before the race. Therefore...
Telling Stan about allies.
I rolled up to Stan a lap or three into the race and told him that this one guy TKP would be looking for him. Stan immediately moved up and attacked, but TKP didn't go. Then TKP and another guy, GlobeCanvas, went with a second group, chasing down Stan's group. They ended replacing Stan's group and established a solid 20 second lead. With more than 5 riders the break had the whole race sewn up (5 places).
With a massive headwind on the main straight really discouraging chases, and with the hill and downhill a bit limiting in terms of bridging (meaning the field couldn't go that much faster in those sections so it was hard to make up time), the break seemed to have a really good chance of succeeding.
I was focused on the field sprint but I hoped that Stan would be able to get up to the break. Therefore I went to the front to give it a little dig.
Field splintering at the front.
I pushed through and closed some gaps and then went to the front. I wanted to halve the gap, take maybe 10 seconds off the lead, put the break within reach, and set up a good scenario for a counter by Stan. If he could go with one or two other guys (the third strong break type rider I knew was still in the field) then they could realistically make it to the break.
Moving past these guys.
When I hit the front on the main straight I was shocked at how hard the wind was blowing in my face. In the field it felt reasonable, standing near the start/finish building you couldn't tell it was windy at all, but here, on the course, at the front, it was really bad.
Pathetic pull. Break is at the end of the straight.
I realized I needed to worry more about not getting shelled after my pull than about pulling back 10 seconds of the gap. I pulled only to try to maintain some momentum. If anything I probably allowed the gap to go up.
When I started getting tired on the hill Nick made a move on the left side. Only one rider went with him so I eased to allow the gap to open. Although initially it looked like everyone just passed me, there was in fact a gap between Nick's two man group and the field.
Easing to let the gap open.
Unfortunately by the hill the next lap the field had reeled in Nick's move. With just one rider for company, and that guy covering for a guy in the break, there was no way Nick's move would work.
A little off the back.
Unfortunately my efforts put me in the red for a bit. The next lap I was struggling to stay on and had to make a big effort to stay on before the downhill. If anyone got caught off a wheel on the downhill then the field would just ride away. The speed of the field (38-39 mph) along with the wind meant that any gapped rider trying to chase would be left behind. I spoke with someone who'd gotten gapped like that - he chased at 38-39 mph but couldn't close the gap and ended up off the back.
Break just ahead.
Up front the break started to crumble a bit. The field seemed a bit more strung out at times so guys were chasing, but I think it was more the break coming to us than the field going to them.
Break, gap, chase, gap, field.
A lap later a chase had formed off the front, and with the added incentive of not letting those guys go, the field really strung out, stretching out and enveloping the chase and the break. Suddenly the race reset for us - Stan, Nick, and myself.
Really far back on the downhill.
On some lap I looked up on the downhill, knowing I'd gone over the top of the hill in "reasonable" position. I was a bit surprised at how far back I was - it was a couple seconds to the front of the group. With the wind and the speed it would be hard to move up significantly here. I made a note to myself that I had to be in good position cresting the hill on the last lap so that I didn't use too much energy moving up on the downhill and the fast bits right after that.
Grass surfing to the right, just before the bell.
We hit the bell with the field all together. We hadn't worked on any teamwork for the sprint so I assumed I'd be contesting the sprint individually. I was too far back though and I wanted to move up. With a guy grass surfing to the right (and later someone on the left), I didn't trust the sides. Plus the field looked a bit spread out and I hoped to move up the middle.
Just before I started to move up - it looks crowded.
Whit line points to the rider I got to, riding through the field.
Target - the white line, pointing to TKP. I didn't think to myself "I want to be near him", I just wanted to move up. He happened to be in good position and when I got there I decided that was good.
Next to TKP.
Much less crowded.
Once I finished slithering through the field I was in good position. I was near the front, still had solid shelter, and I'd be in good shape going up the hill. I knew also that there was an accordion effect on the hill, where the back had to slow early and then accelerate while still on the hill, so I was glad to be toward the front. No unnecessary acceleration on the hill meant a bit more gas for the sprint. I was happy with my position.
Leadout man going backwards.
Problem was a leadout guy for GlobeCanvas going backward on the hill. He had gone 100% to the bottom of the hill and blew spectacularly. Wobbly and exploded he ended up directly in front of me. I managed to get around him but had to virtually stop to keep from knocking him over. I lost all the position advantages I'd just worked to earn.
Now not so good.
After I got around GC's teammate I found myself much further back than I'd hoped. That saved gas for the sprint? I figured I needed to use it now. I knew that I'd have to move up somewhere and I decided I'd do it at the top of the hill. It would leverage my better-for-2015 weight, it would give me the downhill to try and recover (I know I can drop about 10-15 bpm in 30 seconds), and it would be as far away as possible from the line. I expected I'd be recovered by the time I got to the sprint, hopefully in the 155 bpm range.
After the effort. Lead rider is at the top of the picture so about 10 wheels back.
I made a strong surge - 900w peak I'd see later - and moved up into the front end of the field. I still had shelter but I was within striking distance of the front. My heart rate climbed to 166 bpm, which I didn't know until downloading the SRM, putting me well into the red. I just knew I was in position and I had to ease a bit.
Letting in a Junior.
On the run in to the curves a Junior made a move to try and get into better position. I knew it was too early so I let him in, hoping that his gear limit wouldn't gap him off if someone went super fast. I knew, though, that the wind would keep peak speeds down so it seemed like a safe bet to let him in. I had to make a big surge though, a 750w push to stay in position. This prevented my heart rate from dropping more than a couple bpm.
Future winner to my left.
Strong wind from our front left, therefore I'm sitting to the right.
Going into the left-right-left curves I was sitting about 6 wheels back. Douglas, who got third in the last ANSS race, was directly in front of me. I was so focused on the overall tactical situation that I had no idea it was him. It was only when I reviewed the clip that I saw I was following him. I knew I usually tried to look at the overall picture, not mark a particular rider or two, but I didn't realize to what extent until this race.
Going into the sprint. The bridge marks the beginning of the straight.
Going into the headwind sprint I wanted to be right. I knew that the wind would be coming from the left, I knew it was pretty strong, so the best choice would be to sit to the right. I'd have shelter from the left side crosswind as we went around the last curve. Then I'd have shelter on the straight.
Right side looked tight.
Huge hole to the left.
I knew I wanted to go late because the early guys just wither in a headwind. Therefore I wanted a clear lane when I was ready to go. Problem was it started getting a bit jammed in front of me. The winning move went right but I thought there was too much potential for someone to close the door on them.
Therefore I looked left.
Huge hole left.
It was pretty clear to me that I could go left. Huge hole, not much movement (meaning no one was going super fast so the hole would be static), and I knew I had a solid jump in my legs.
I went left.
It was a solid almost-1100w jump followed by an almost-900w sprint.
Toward the left side of the road now.
Future winner at the front right.
When I was sprinting I didn't think I moved so far left. I thought I went "to the middle". On review I ended up pretty far left. One of the Juniors was to my left, a friendly rival Ednilson to my right, and I blasted through the gap. I made up ground in a hurry but I never felt like I had a solid sprint. In my data analysis I saw that I jumped at 166 bpm, much higher than I prefer, and that's why I didn't have as solid a sprint as I could have had.
Bike throw. Third.
Probably because I was feeling tweaked I left the jump a bit late. I don't know if I'd have done better had I gone earlier. I don't think I had much more speed meaning I don't think I could have gone faster, especially with the headwind. I was closing on the two winners but they were also celebrating. I figure third is what I should have gotten here.
I might have had a chance had I followed them up the right, but that would have really been the only chance. If I'd followed them I'd had gotten a leadout and this would have let me sit until I knew I could go to the line.
Celebrating teammates. Winner's son got 4th.
Douglas won, his teammate got second, and, unbelievably, Douglas's son (a Junior) got 4th just behind me. I was turning my 53x12 in the sprint so the son did well with his 52x14 or whatever gear limit he had.
I was so shattered I couldn't get up the hill on the cool down lap. I turned around and rode on the grass and curbing to get back to the start/finish building.
There an excited Junior (meaning the Missus and mine, not a random racer) came running up to me, jumping to a stop next to my bike.
Overall it was a good race. I was a bit unprepared before the race. I hadn't eaten much for breakfast and downed a PB&J just before the start (and bonked hard when we got home). I stepped into a portapotty with the whole field already lined up. Yada yada yada. Overall it was obviously a good race. I'm better than I've been in a while. I have to admit it's a bit more interesting racing when I have some form.
The Missus told me the announcer (I don't know who it was) was talking about me during the race. He really didn't know me because he was calling me by my full name and not what everyone calls me, but the fact that such a person was talking about me is actually pretty flattering. I never think of myself as a race contender but it's hard to deny my last two race results.
Now I'm just waiting for the veil to fall. My low FTP, my inability to work during a race, all that stuff. I feel like a pretender right now. My next races will the CCAP Tuesday Night Races, the Kermis (same general location), and the Mystic Velo Crit at Ninigret.
We'll see how it goes.