Ah, the Tuesday Night Worlds. For me it's been a tough couple weeks so I didn't ride much. I did get a half hour in on Monday to loosen the legs, but before that I think I last rode Thursday.
In the meantime my Facebook feed has been full of reports of a number of the local Juniors that do the B Race placing at Nationals.
To top it off the ideal summer weather - 50s at night, 70s during the day - came to a crashing halt today. It was over 90 degrees and sort of humid after a morning shower.
Basically I hadn't progressed any on the bike, there were a lot of strong riders out there, I felt a bit under fueled due to low carbs, and therefore tonight would be an exercise in damage control.
Close up during the neutral laps.
I like to do "best practice" stuff when I ride. So during the two warm up laps I tried to avoid the hoods. I'd ride the tops if I felt it safe enough to not have to brake suddenly. I rode the drops otherwise, because the drops offer the best control, best braking, most secure grip. This is if you can brake from the drops. I know that smaller handed riders may not be able to brake as well from the drops so there are exceptions, but for me the drops are my hand position of choice.
In the third turn, if things looked okay, I tried to ride close to whoever was on my inside. I didn't want to spook them so I'd ride a bit behind, but basically it was practicing cornering in a tight field.
Neutral laps over and we got under way.
A big field.
There was a decent size group taking to the start. However some of the aforementioned strong Juniors started punching away at the pedals and the group started to split apart.
First gap that I closed.
One big gap opened up right away. I debated sitting and sort of keeping an eye out for struggling riders in the field. Then I realized that I was one of the struggling riders. So I made a somewhat impromptu decision to first make the first group, then worry about helping others.
I went to bridge the gap.
Not very hard, just sort of rolled across it.
I couldn't recover well though and when the others started upping the pace a bit, not even really attacking, I couldn't stay hooked on.
Getting shelled hard.
I looked back and realized that the field had really split apart. I didn't have a group to fall back into, there were two or three groups already with a bunch of individual riders scattered around the course. I decided to soft pedal for a while until I felt a bit better, then I'd look around and see what I could do.
A nice benefit to my "solo training ride at about 15 mph" was that I could wave to Junior virtually every lap. It crushes him when he waves or yells and I don't acknowledge him so to be able to see his face light up as he realizes I'm waving to him... it's worth not being in the field.
Junior waving (he's in the little chair)
At some point I jumped in one group but couldn't really do much. I pulled off and pulled myself out of that group.
This 24" Wheel Junior caught my eye.
A slightly more relaxed group rolled by, a Junior on a 24" wheel bike pedaling furiously at the back of the line. I accelerated to see if he needed a hand but he closed the first gap pretty quickly. Entering the next turn a gap opened again.
He closed that gap on his own.
Note the very low position.
And again he closed it.
I don't fault him for cornering poorly. It appeared that even without braking, even with him getting low on the bike, he simply didn't coast as fast. Whether it was the 24" wheels (and their inherently reduced inertia), the different rolling resistance (24" tires have higher rolling resistance), his light weight (less inertia/momentum), I don't know. Whatever, a gap would open at each corner and he'd close it after a brief struggle. This happened in every corner.
Drafting closely and on the correct side (left side at this part of the course).
What impressed me even more is that he seemed to have an instinct for Wind Management. He stayed to the right coming out of Turn Three but then ended up more to the left as we hit the start/finish. During the race I watched a lot of adult riders not get this at all. Here was a kid, if you will, who seemed to get it automatically.
Because of those two factors I left him alone. No helpful pushes, just a little protection from the wind once, but otherwise I let him do his thing. At some point when I rolled by him he seemed to drop off. I figured he'd exhausted himself closing all those gaps.
I initially thought I'd sprint at 2 to go, so I'd "cross the line" at the bell, but then I thought that's a bit selfish. I'd rather contribute to the group. I was at least a lap or two down on some of these riders so I decided to do a somewhat laid back leadout. I could act as the moto, everyone could follow, and there'd be a fun sprint.
I rolled to the front just before the bell. When I checked back I was pleasantly surprised to see the 24" wheeled Junior sitting right behind me.
I put my hands on the hoods and tried to make myself wider. From my own experience I know that drafting a tall person changes the drafting dynamics compared to drafting a shorter person. When I draft a tall person I'm behind their knees - it's not much of a draft. I understood that sitting up really high doesn't help. What I needed to do was to make my torso as un-aero as possible. Hoods were high enough, I spread my elbows, and pedaled a steady pace.
Looking back to make sure the Junior is on my wheel.
I had to look between my legs as I couldn't see him if I looked over a shoulder.
My HR is 166 bpm - I'm pretty much blown.
Even with this "mellow" leadout I was starting to suffer. I tried not to push too hard and I eased as I came out of Turn One, knowing the Junior would lose a few feet. I looked down just in time to see his wheels veer to the side - he'd pulled out of line.
I looked back because the Junior sat up and moved over.
He's behind the older Junior who is telling me to go, go, go.
I looked back but he seemed to be done. The Junior in front of him told me to go, to jump, to sprint. I think everyone was trying to be helpful to one another no one was actually trying to win.
I looked at the gap to the next rider, the speed that they were going, and decided to do a jump on the backstretch. I'd sit up at Turn Three and see what happened after. The group had disintegrated - I think my pull wasn't really constructive so next time I'll do it a bit slower - and the riders went by one by one.
Junior (our Junior) after I rolled up.
I rolled up to Junior who is an absolute chatterbox right now. He started asking me about this and that, started talking about that and this, and generally jabbered for a minute or two. The crazy thing is that I understand it all, all the subject changes, all the random idea injections.
He's telling me about everything - he's in the Narrative Phase.
Squeezing the brake lever, sort of. It's not just adults that do it instinctively.
He wanted to help me walk the bike back to the car, or, rather, I'd help him walk the bike back to the car. He pointed out all sorts of things as I packed the bike away, didn't run into the street, and basically was a good kid.
On the way to the car I'd spotted the 24" wheeled Junior. He was there with his dad at the very least and I wanted to let the Junior know something important. My Junior and I walked over to the car.
I asked the adult racer (he was in the B race also) if the Junior was his son. He nodded affirmatively. I addressed the Junior, because I wanted to make see if he'd blown up or if he pulled off because he didn't want to get in the way.
"I tried to lead you out on the last lap. I was really surprised that you were on my wheel but you were riding really strongly before. I wanted to ask you - when you pulled off on the last lap were you done? Or did you pull off because you didn't want to get in the way?"
The Junior was nodding before I finished.
"You were done?"
"Okay. Because I wanted to make sure you understand that if you're on a wheel you earned your spot. You have every right to be on the wheel. You don't need to give it to anyone. It's your wheel. You understand?"
"Okay. Well if I'm at the front at the bell it means I'm not sprinting. It means that if you want a leadout you should get on my wheel. Right?"
The dad and I talked briefly and then (my) Junior and I left to get my Pops.
(As a side note - I said something that wasn't quite accurate to the dad. When I started racing I was a featherweight. Even so I couldn't climb, I couldn't time trial, and I could sprint. My cycling physiology tendencies were already very clear. However I said that "even so" I could hit 42 mph from a standing start in one gear. I realized after the fact that I didn't even know I could sprint until I'd been racing maybe three years. By then I was closer to 100 lbs rather than 90 lbs. At 103 lbs, 17 years old, I could do a standing start, one gear (53x12), and hit 42 mph consistently. It was a Steve Bauer training thing so I did it because Steve Bauer. But when I started at 15, at probably 90 lbs, I didn't have much data in terms of top speeds in sprints and such. I hit 30 mph sprinting up a short hill a few driveways down from the house - I knew that because my mom was just behind me and noting my speed. But other than that I didn't have a lot of data for the first few years I raced. I wanted to clarify that.)
*edit update: the 24" Wheel Junior got the bronze at Nationals just a short time ago. Apparently he is quite strong, I had no idea.