Another Tuesday Night Worlds.
For me, now, these are the only sure thing as far as races go. With my Pops's limited mobility it's not really possible to go much further for a race - it's a 35 minute drive to the Rent for us. Related to that it's also something where it should be a lower risk environment. At the Rent there are fewer riders, nothing at stake, and an entry fee that I have no problem writing off if we have to leave all of a sudden.
It takes a solid half day to get things together for the race, with the goal of showing up virtually ready to race. I usually have to put my cycling shoes on but I was completely kitted up in the car other than that, even down to my pinned number.
Well, okay, I wasn't wearing my helmet, and I put my gloves on only after I turn the camera on, but still, heart rate strap, bibs, jersey. Camera charged, phone charged.
We made it with a few minutes to spare, enough that I think I did one lap warm up before the race. The gray clouds made me decide to use my "rain race front wheel", a 2010 Stinger 4 (bought used) with a brand new Vittoria rain tire, a Vittoria Corsa Evo Tech. It's a 270g tire with a scalloped tread along the sides.
My Stinger 9 rear wheel, my main rear race wheel, has a matching tire. Rear traction isn't as critical in the dry and I haven't noticed much difference between that and the Bontrager XXX and Vittoria Corsa Evo regular tires that I've used on my Stinger 6.
If it started drizzling I wanted to have the rain front tire, and in the dry, on this course, I figured the rain front tire should be okay. In a super technical course with very hard turns I suspect the front rain tire might start feeling wiggly.
At any rate with my Stinger 4 front, Stinger 9 rear, I rolled up to registration, paid my fee, signed the release, and meandered out to the course.
Wave to Junior at the start of the neutral laps (he's waving back from those chairs)
He's with the Missus, Pops is in the light shirt/hat.
The B race generally starts with two neutral laps, paced by some of the Cat 1 and 2s from CCAP. Today MikeM was the pacer and he rolled out at a moderately fast pace.
Ralph, who I led out earlier this year, chatting on the first neutral lap.
Ralph, who won one of the races earlier, rolled out but then eased. We chatted briefly and a big gap opened to MikeM. Other riders closed it but it made for a somewhat tough neutral bit, with some fast riding mixed in there. I decided to stay near the front for a bit just because, and the race was on. Surprisingly the wind seemed pretty calm for the Rent. Wind Management was less critical tonight. Important, yes, but not critical.
Gap that I had to close
I found myself gapped a number of times, not paying attention to what happened in front of me and then discovering a rider just up from me had let a gap go. I closed at least one gap but the work hurt me.
A gap that I actually would have had a hard time closing.
I found myself gapped off again. I was suffering here and couldn't pull very hard. The only way I could get across the gap would be to jump hard but that wouldn't help anyone behind me because a big jump isn't something everyone wants to do when they're already at the limit. The only way to close the gap without really hurting those behind me would be to motor across it at a slightly elevated pace. This was something I couldn't do at that moment.
Therefore I took the liberty of giving a big assist to the rider in front. I had to ride up next to him, to buy me "push back" space. When one rider gives another rider an assist, there's a preservation of momentum - nothing comes for free. In this case the "assisting" rider will go backward with the same force as the assist. I hoped to assist about 10 feet worth which meant I had to have about 10 feet clear behind me. I'd keep pushing the pedals hard so I'd really drift back only 5 or 6 feet, but, still, I had to move up just a bit.
A really big push, after making sure it was clear around us.
Here's a screenshot of the assist. If you're doing an assist put your hand as close to the saddle as possible. It may be that you're on a training ride with someone significantly weaker than you, and you need to give that other rider an assist. You want to give the assist down by the saddle so that you don't assist the rider right off the bike. If you try and push on the rider's back or arm or something you'll have an awkward moment at best. At worst you may shove the rider right off their bike, possibly taking you out in the process.
In my case the rider was standing so I told him to sit. Once he sat I gave the push.
You can't see but the most stable handlebar position in this exercise is holding the bars right next to the stem. This way any inadvertent steering inputs get minimized. If you were holding the drops or worse, the hoods, all your wobbles/movements will affect your front wheel even more, destabilizing you.
Gap closes up nicely.
After my assist I had to make a small effort to get back on his wheel. However we closed half the gap without a wattage-sucking acceleration and we were back in the field.
You'll sometimes see stuff like this in the pro races on descents, where the guys behind will roll up to the next rider and just give them a gentle nudge forward. In flat sections it's less common. The main reason is that when you give someone an assist you get shoved back - it's like someone hitting their brakes in the middle of a pack. Use your judgment and proceed only if you know you're clear behind.
CCAP rider eases after three riders roll away including a CCAP teammate.
This is good teamwork.
I was following wheels near the front as some rain started falling. I was thinking the official might call the race and wanted to be up there for a surprise bell lap. The official had nerves of steel, held out, and we finished in the dry. But that's not why I included the picture above.
The CCAP rider in front had just let a gap go. He had a teammate up the road in the three rider group barely visible in that picture. To help them out he soft pedaled and then flat out coasted up front. This was absolutely perfect teamwork. I even told him that he did good as I rolled by him.
Esteban attacked relentlessly so I could sit and follow.
A teammate that I rarely speak with off the bike is Esteban. He's a very experienced Cat 3 and is strong enough to make moves without shelling himself if he gets caught. Although we never really specifically discussed it we always fall into a dynamic duo sort of roles. He will attack relentlessly and I'll cover moves. He tries really hard to let me shelter, to save my legs for the sprint.
We did more of that tonight. I didn't count but I'd guess that he attacked maybe 10-12 times, most of the time with the express intent of taking pressure off of me.
How did I know that?
As he flew by me he'd tell me.
He didn't have it to solo away, or maybe he just turned down the power once he got free of the field, so as we rolled into the last 5 laps he started looking for me. First he put in a pretty serious attack, getting the biggest gap in the race so far. Then when he returned he recovered for about half a lap and the rolled by me in the IAB (invisible aero bar) position, looking directly at me to make sure I was good.
At 3 to go Esteban went to the front to keep me in good position.
It was a bit early but I think he wanted to push now so he could recover a bit for the finish. I haven't had such a teammate in forever and it felt good to race with someone like that. It's like playing music with other people, when the music plays off each other it's great.
Here I'm telling Jon to sit on my wheel.
We're about to see 2 to go.
Unfortunately for all of Esteban's work, one of my goals for the B race is to not win it. I don't think that it's really sporting of me to try and win because my standard race tactic is to sit in for the whole race and then do a sprint. The B race allows me to sit in a bit easier and my sprint is a bit better, relatively speaking. As I said to the Missus I'd be a great Cat 4 sandbagger. I'm pretty sure that Esteban knows this because I haven't been sprinting for the finish or I've "gone too early" when I'm there at the end.
So despite all of Esteban's work my goal was not to sprint for myself. If it came down to a field sprint I wanted to lead out either the field or a specific rider. I started a lead out the second time I raced this year, my teammate Jeff roaring past to lead me out. Our dual leadout led to Ralph winning the race.
Tonight I watched JonG do some big efforts. I tried to lead him out spur of the moment a while back and totally flubbed things. I wanted to set things right since that night and do a better leadout. That last sprint I told him to get on my wheel well after we got the bell - we were too rushed, the situation too fluid, and we didn't have the time for him to get my wheel. This time I told him just before 2 to go to get on my wheel. He could get on without any problems, mentally commit to following me into the sprint.
I steeled myself for some big efforts.
Jon dutifully followed me for the next lap, from 2 to go to 1 to go. It's actually very tough when following a leadout. It's very easy to think, "Oh, my guy is getting boxed in, I better move over to that wheel." Also, since I'm not very strong, I couldn't just sit at the front or sit in the wind. I had to sit on wheels while doing the leadout. This meant Jon had to follow me through the field or, at best, along the side of it. For him to stick with me is pretty impressive.
As we got the bell riders jumped all over the place. I found myself pretty far back. I kept checked back to make sure Jon was still there - I expected him to lose faith and jump around me any second. Again, to his credit, he stuck with me.
For me I had to balance between three things. I didn't want to go too hard because I'd blow up. This would not only drop Jon out of position, it would make it hard for him to trust me the next time I said "sit on my wheel". I didn't want to accelerate too hard to close gaps because then Jon wouldn't be getting as much benefit sitting on my wheel. It's more effective to draft at steady speeds. Jumps require the following rider to make a matching jump, which cuts into the following rider's reserves. The whole time, though, I wanted to maintain better than normal field position so that Jon could sprint from a good spot.
Ideally I'd have jumped moderately hard at Turn 2 and led Jon to within about 100m of the line. However with the swarm at the bell, a lapped rider on the outside of Turn 1, and then another lapped rider mostly to the outside of Turn 2 (he was about 4-5 feet from the curb, enough so that riders passed him on both sides), and finally, riders hitting the deck around Turn 2, I was nowhere near in ideal position.
In fact, in Turn 2, I had to slow because the lapped rider wasn't very predictable and I didn't want to run into him.
Gap on the back stretch after some shenanigans at Turn 2.
Once I got around the lapped rider I wasn't on a wheel and the wheel I wasn't on wasn't on a wheel either. It was the front guys, the one guy, then me. I didn't want to jump across the gap because then I'd hurt Jon. Therefore I eased across the gap, accelerating steadily and then holding just enough speed to close the gap.
To his credit Jon stuck to my wheel the whole time. This was perfect for him because he was out of the wind, he was following me, and he'd have a stronger sprint when it counted in 15 seconds than he would have had he tried to close the gaps himself.
The front four riders really rolled hard through the last turn, Turn 3.
The front riders went very hard into the last turn. I'd closed up to the rider in front but unfortunately it was more that he slowed rather than I went hard. He wasn't closing to the guys in front, leaving a substantial gap as we entered Turn 3. It wasn't worth it to try and pass the guy so I stayed on his wheel through the turn, losing ground to the front riders every moment I sat there.
This left me a lot of work to do to close the gap up for Jon.
Once we exited the turn I triple checked to make sure Jon was still sitting there. He was. I'm sure he was wondering how this was going to play out because we were really far behind with just about 250m to go in the race.
Although Jon is smaller than me on the bike I still tried to do my "big draft" thing. I went to the tops, flared out my elbows, and lifted my head. It's not efficient for me but it would help Jon. I also stayed seated so that I wouldn't be able to do too much of a peak acceleration. This would make my pace a bit more steady, making it easier for Jon to follow me.
Then I went as hard as I could.
Finally pulled off, Jon just about on the wheels.
Just before I closed up on the leading trio I started to fade and pulled off to the right. I had heard and saw Jon moving up the left. We were going visibly faster than the riders in front and Jon basically got slingshotted into the back of the front three riders.
Jon jumped shortly after and won the sprint to the line.
Virtually immediately he went right and jumped. I couldn't tell from where I was but it seems that he clearly won a tight 4 man sprint.
Junior greeting me after the race.
Missus in purple, Pops sitting in the chair.
I normally don't do a cool down lap but riders had hit the deck at Turn 2. I wanted to let them know I had Tegaderm and stuff for road rash in the car at the race. I rolled around, let them know, and then returned to home base. It takes a bit of time for us to pack up so we started that process. Junior helped me walk the bike back to the car. We returned to the base camp where the Missus had waited with Pops. Then Junior helped the Missus carry stuff to the car while I walked Pops to the car and got him situated in his seat. Next Junior came with me to hand out some of the Tegaderm and such to the two riders that had fallen. Finally we made a final trip to the portapotties for Junior. To him they're an adventure because they're only at bike races.
(Road rash care tips, this one has pictures.)
Then it was time to go. Junior virtually passed out on the way home - by 7:30 he was pretty exhausted, 8:00 he's done.
I was sitting in the back with him, the first aid box between us. He's in his "narrative stage" according to someone that works with kids, and boy does he narrate. He remembers stuff, he observes, and he narrates it all to us. For example did you know there were two cemeteries between The Rent and the entrance to 291? I didn't realize that until last night when he pointed them out plus reminded me that there's a cemetery near our house. He gleefully pointed out the Hershey Kiss (it's a logo for Stan something, I think it's a bank, by the Stop & Shop), the red flower on the nursery sign, and some other things. He also told me that I have to say sorry if I push someone (I was telling the Missus that I pushed someone to help them close a gap).
A few minutes from the course we got onto the long connector to 291. He went glassy eyed about then as he stared off into space, so tired he stopped talking about all the things he saw outside the window. It reminded me that even the B race was late for us. The A race? Things would have to be very different for me to be able to do the A race.
Speaking of which... I don't think I'll be able to go to Keith Berger this weekend. The 3-4 race is totally out of the question due to time. M40 is very tough time-wise also. P123 may not be prudent for me. Plus my budget for race entries is $220 this year, the cash I had in my wallet in December. I've spent $75 at the Rent so far, for five races. Unless another race pops up at Walnut Hill Park it may be that the Tuesday Night Worlds will be it for me this season.
And, believe it or not, I don't have a problem with that.