Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Equipment - Could Tires Increase My Available Effective Wattage By 25%?

TL;DR Check your tires

The Tsunami in its original color with the Bastognes, Jets, and Stinger 6s.

Backstory

I've been very unhappy with my aero clinchers (Jet 6/9 front/rear). I originally bought them because "aero > weight" and I literally bought (aka spent money) into that theory.

The reality is that for whatever reason I don't like the wheels. In fact I avoid the Jets unless absolutely necessary. I used the Jet 6 on the trainer, which is kind of ironic when you realize that on a trainer the only thing the front wheel does is hold the bike level.

I struggle every time I give the Jets a chance. I can't accelerate well with them and even in a higher speed situation I need time to accelerate them (where you'd think that since I'm already going fast it would primarily require more aero work to go faster).

I hem and haw about selling them all the time, deciding one day that I'm going to sell them, then the next to not sell them. I didn't ride the front Jet 6 for about 2 years, preferring to leave it sitting in the basement after riding it maybe a dozen times. I rode the rear Jet 9 for part of a season just because I felt like I should ride it if I wasn't selling it.

I didn't have a lot of metrics on the wheels but one thing stood out - they were heavier than my other wheels.

Wheel Weight

I've always liked riding lighter wheels. They respond instantly when I jump - they make my jump better, accentuating the only strength I have on the bike. That's a good thing.

I also learned that in group ride situations wheel weight affects me significantly. This is because I apparently make short, sharp punches to the pedals to close minor gaps, or even to adjust the gap ahead of me. These "pedal punches" are very short, like a quarter revolution if that.

I learned this when the Missus and I went on a group ride on our tandem with every other bike a single rider bike. We'd previously done one other group ride and that was with all tandems and a triplet - those bikes accelerated and decelerated like our tandem and it was an easy ride so I was more concerned with not crashing than with sitting on a wheel. On the group ride with the single bikes I didn't want to get dropped. I found myself doing these little "pedal punch" efforts to close tiny gaps, where I involuntarily slammed the pedals for about a 2 o'clock amount of power (it seems it's from 1 o'clock to about 3 o'clock). When I say tiny gap I'm talking closing a few inches to the rider in front of us - I was just adjusting our speed a bit.

The problem was that the increased mass of the tandem meant that my quarter revolution power surges didn't do very much. Not only was my little pedal punches too weak, I couldn't even ask the Missus to punch the pedals with me because I was learning that I did this as we rode!

With the tandem I needed to turn the pedals hard for two or three full revolutions instead of doing that little quarter revolution punch. Of course it strained my reserves to the limit. As might be expected a very short time later we went off the back. We lasted maybe 5 miles of that ride.

So apparently I have that thing that I do to adjust the gap to the next rider in front of me. And I really only have a sprint as far as "stuff I can do in a race". For those kinds of efforts I like lighter wheels.

It only reinforced my belief that I prefer lighter wheels.

Why Jet Wheels?

Back in the day I did a bunch of back-to-back sprints on different wheels, to see if there were substantial differences in wheels speeds. If you knew me back then you may have noticed that I went from racing 280 gram rim box section wheels to suddenly showing up with my TriSpokes, Spinergy Rev-X, or Zipp 340s.

Aero made a huge difference for me. Lighter weight allowed me to get up to speed quicker but without aero I'd hit an aero wall and stop accelerating. With aero wheels I could blast through that aero wall and keep accelerating.

Importantly during that test I had the same tubulars on all the tubular wheels, and the same clinchers on the few clincher wheelsets I tested. At least for the tubulars rolling resistance was probably close to identical between the wheels.

In addition the different wheels varied in weight as well, and by switching between different weight wheels I started getting a feel for how heavier wheels felt versus lighter ones. Aero wheels inevitably weighed more but they just kept accelerating. The lightest wheels, all non-aero, hit top speed quickly but the top speed was substantially lower than those of the aero wheels. I fitted lighter wheels for the slower, jumpier Cat 3 type races, where I'd be jumping out of corners and the sprint started at sane speeds. I'd usually choose my most aero wheels for the faster, steadier Cat 1-2-3 races, where it was single file all the time and the sprint was just maintaining some insane speed over the last lap.

Therefore the Jets seemed to make sense. Only thing was that when I first got the Jets I had this subjective feel like "Oh, they're heavier." No objective numbers, just a feeling.

My Jets

When I finally weighed the wheels I attributed my disdain for the Jets to the 3 lbs weight difference between those and my race wheels (Stinger 6 f/r or Stinger 7/9 f/r, about 3.1 and 2.8 lbs lighter respectively) or even the 2 lbs weight difference to my other clinchers, the sister wheelset HED Bastognes. The fact that all but the 7/9s have the same hubs and spokes means that virtually all the weight difference is in the rim/tire/tube/etc. They call that rotating weight and I was taught a long time ago that rotating weight was worse than static weight.

I also have non-aero clinchers as mentioned above, the HED Bastognes, which I prefer to the Jets. They wear the same tires, same brand tubes (different valve lengths), so the wheels are set up the same. However the Bastognes weigh 2 lbs less than the Jets.

Note: I have 50g heavier rear skewers on the clinchers, same clincher tire models on all four clincher wheels, basically similar tubular tires, basically similar all-steel cassettes on all rear wheels, so the wheels are consistent across types, meaning all the clinchers are similar and all the tubulars are similar.

In slower races (usually when it's raining), where I'd use clinchers, I'd use the Bastognes. The 2 lbs weight delta would make them seem more responsive than the Jets even with identical tires and tubes.

TPI (A segway but bear with me)

I wanted to put this out there because it helps visualize what TPI really means to you. TPI is "threads per inch", how many rows of thread fits in an inch. A 66 TPI tire has 66 threads every inch of tire. A 320 TPI tire has 320 threads every inch of tire.

What took a while to sink in is that this also applies to the thickness of the tire casing.

A 66 TPI tire has threads which are 1/66" thick, right? Because if you make it into a fabric you'll fit 66 threads in an inch. That's not that thick.

A 320 TPI tire has threads which are 1/320" thick. If 1/66" isn't that thick then 1/320" is really, really thin.

Thinner casings mean more supple casings. Supple casings deform easier on bumps. This means they absorb less energy flexing. Therefore they have lower rolling resistance on anything rougher than glass.

On the other hand if you have a really, really thing 1/320" thick tire casing, it's not really very resistant to getting cut or punctured by glass, nails, thorns, etc. You never hear of "yeah, this tank has armor 1/320 of an inch thick!" It's more like "With the Tiger 2 there was 7 inches of solid steel between the crew and incoming shells from the front".

Most tires layer the casing over itself so a 320 TPI casing with two layers would be 1/160" thick, twice as thick as 1/320". At that point you'd have 640 TPI if you looked at the casing through a light (two layers of 320 TPI), but it's just 320 TPI casing layered twice.

Still not that thick. That's why you don't want to wear your tires down to the casing, you really have very little left at that point between you and a flat.

Anyway, TPI explanation done...

Clincher Tire Rolling Resistance

The somewhat recent Velonews tire rolling resistance test sparked my interest. I realized that it might be that the tire rolling resistance is contributing to my dislike for the Jets.

Velonews found that the lower TPI tires, meaning those with thicker/stiff casings, had higher rolling resistance. This would be expected, based on the fact that deforming a tire over a bump takes energy, and the less energy you use doing that the less the tire will slow. Higher TPI tires rolled better in the test. The Velonews article did point out that one manufacturer counted the TPI of the double casing so Velonews halved it to keep the number consistent. TPI in the chart is TPI for one layer of casing.

Based on Velonews's findings a fast tire can save as much as 10-20 watts per tire at 40 kph / 25 mph, so 20-40 watts total. This means a rider can reduce total power required to maintain 40 kph / 25 mph from, say, 100 watts to just over 60 watts.

Rolling resistances at 40 kph:

  •  Thicker/stiffer tires, 100w
  •  Thinner/flexible tires, 65w


35 watts may not seem like a huge savings or huge wattage overall. However, consider that I've placed 3rd in a Cat 3 race averaging under 160w:

Average power for 58 minutes: 158w
Cat 3-4 result: 3rd place.

If I was using my 60 TPI (threads per inch) training tires I'd be using (Maxxis ReFuse, a solid, super reliable training tire), realistically, at least 120w simply overcoming rolling resistance. That would be a super optimistic number based on a "better" higher thread count (80 TPI) tire being rated as using 59w at 40kph. Factor in the ReFuse's tough as nails construction, a layer or two of puncture resistant material under the tread, and you end up with a really thick tire casing that doesn't flex at all. Still, though, I think 120w would be a very conservative estimate for the tires' energy consumption.

  • Rolling resistance with my 60 TPI ReFuse tires: ~120w
  • Rolling resistance with the nicest clinchers: 65w


If I went to one of the fastest tires in the Velonews test, which consumed 32-35w at the same speed, I'd save about 55w total in rolling resistance.

55 watts!

If I typically average 160-200w in a race, and I'm using 100-120w to overcome rolling resistance if I'm using my clinchers, then I'm really using say 60-80w to overcome air resistance. The rest of my power output, say 100-120w, is going towards overcoming rolling resistance. If I can reduce that by 60w, that's huge! I could almost double my power devoted to overcoming air resistance!

Clincher Tire Math

If I did a race on my clinchers:

  • Current, super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • 60 TPI tires, about 120w/pair
  • Leaves 80w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)

What if I had some nicer clinchers?
  • Current, super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • Nicer clinchers, approx 65w/pair
  • Leaves 135w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)

I'd be seeing an effective increase in available power of 55w. That may not seem like much until I put it a different way.

55w is 25% of my FTP when I upgraded to Cat 2.

Gratuitous picture of the Tsunami in its current color with the Stinger 7/9 set up.

Tubular Tires

I normally race on tubulars. Unfortunately there isn't really any data I could find other than an earlier Velonews test with tires I don't use.

Tubulars seem to use a bit more energy, 45-50w each, but there are so many variables that I can't really apply that test to my tubulars. I use different tires, different pressure, and there's the whole "how did you glue them" bit.

There were a couple constants though. First, a higher TPI led to lower rolling resistance. Second, the test found is that higher pressures in tubular tires really don't alter rolling resistance numbers. I think this is because a tubular tire doesn't rely on the rim for part of its shape, it's a shape unto itself. Therefore it really doesn't change shape much when you put more pressure in it.

Let's use a decent number, based on the description of the tires and casings. I'm going to say 45w for my tubulars. I use 23mm tires built with nice 320 TPI casing. The test had a 24mm tire with high TPI.

Tubular Tire Math


  • Current super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • 320 TPI tubular tires, approx 90w/pair
  • Leaves 110w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)


At 200w average this is a 30w increase in power output for air resistance compared to the nice clincher number. With the clinchers I only have about 80w to devote to air resistance. With tubulars it's realistically 110w.

It makes sense that if I was close to the edge with tubulars I'd be well into the red with clinchers. 200w really is about as hard as I can go in a race. I've hit that a number of times in races. With clinchers, to go the same speed, I'd have to up my power output by 30 watts, blowing me up.

I'd be off the back with the clinchers.

This also explains a bit on how I can race a bit more effectively against riders that drop me quickly on training rides. I need that extra 30w of power to overcome air resistance but I don't have it with the training tires.

That's just based on rolling resistance! Keep in mind too that the clinchers are heavier, with the Jets being especially heavy. Doing those quarter pedal punches to close little gaps might be efficient with lighter tubulars, but with heavier clinchers I'd be putting down a bit more energy on each adjustment. Multiply that by numerous adjustments and the extra watts quickly add up. The Jets's excess weight may be pushing me over the edge.

Thoughts Going Forward

So it may be that the tires are a big part of the reason why I don't like the Jets. Unfortunately I don't have the option of buying tires right now, and the only set of extra tires I have are not one of those magic ones on the list - they're stiffer versions of a 46+ watt tire so it's probably a 50-55 watt tire.
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I don't know how puncture resistant the Specialized tires are but the Conti GP4000S II have a good reputation for being bombproof clinchers. It might be that my next sets of clinchers will be a pair of those Contis.
<35w a="" are="" as="" bit="" change="" d="" experiment="" i="" large="" more="" obvious.="" p="" possible="" rather="" results="" so="" that="" the="" tires.="" with="">
<35w a="" are="" as="" bit="" change="" d="" experiment="" i="" large="" more="" obvious.="" p="" possible="" rather="" results="" so="" that="" the="" tires.="" with="">And then maybe I'll keep the Jets after all.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Training - The Group Ride

One of the things that bugs me about group rides is that inevitably some riders treat the ride as their own personal race. Or they do their own thing during the group ride.

I know that in the old days I either rode with a pretty disciplined group (generally speaking it was with the club I belonged to) or, sometimes, less disciplined ones.

I have to admit that when I was in charge of the school's cycling team I started losing some control over the group rides. It's not as much being weaker, because I was, but it was that some riders would just hammer themselves into oblivion regardless of the goal of the ride. If the ride was supposed to be hard, okay, fine, but if it was supposed to easy, or if we were in the warm up part of the ride, the expectation was that you'd ride the same pace as the leader.

It's tough to slow down, I get it. Think about when you're driving on the highway, whatever speed feels about right, maybe 63 in a 55. Then you get behind someone that's going, say, 61. Or 59. Most people will pass when they can, not slow down to the slower driver's speed.

Unlike driving though with bikes I'm the engine, and with group rides I'm already pretty challenged to maintain pace. My FTP is definitely on the low side, 200w on a year like this one, maybe 220w on a spectacular year, like in 2010 when I upgraded to Cat 2. In races I can work with those numbers because I "snipe", meaning I target specific races. I select those that are flat or, even better, have a short hill at some point. The short hill courses, like Bethel or New Britain, work best for me because I can always punch up a short hill and there's got to be some descending elsewhere and I recover on that bit.

At any rate I avoid races with hills and, given reasonable form, I can hold my own.

Zwift Challenges

On Zwift I'm even more challenged than normal. The main reason is that the drafting engine isn't quite there so the benefits of drafting don't stack up like they do in real life. In addition there's some kind of virtual brake so as soon as you stop pedaling it's like you're braking. In real life I coast a LOT during a race, or soft pedal at zero watts, literally 10 or 20 seconds at a time. I've even seen as much as 3 to 5 seconds of coasting during a sprint where I contested the finish. Coasting is how I survive a race and average 160 or 180 watts. In Zwift if you coast for 20 seconds you'll be off the back of any group out there, of any size. If you soft pedal for maybe 5 seconds you'll realistically be at the very back of a big group, off the back of a smaller group.

To make things worse Zwift shorts me some power, about 35w with the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, at least compared to my SRM. I believe the SRM before I believe the calculated power from Zwift, else it means I upgraded to Cat 2 with an FTP of 185w, which I highly doubt, or that I averaged 27.5 mph during the 2011 Tour of Someville while doing just 140 watts, which, again, I highly doubt.

Who knows, maybe my SRM is optimistic but I seriously doubt it. For whatever reason Zwift shorts me about 35w with the KK Road Machine.

With Zwift my 160-180w race pace becomes more like 125-145w (because Zwift shorts me 35w). At my current weight that's 1.6-1.8 w/kg. Although I'm barely capable of holding 2.0 w/kg in real life, on Zwift I fall below that cusp. I can't hang with a B ride for sure, nor a C ride, and I struggle with D rides, the 2 w/kg rides.

If I do a group ride on Zwift I look for the Sub2 rides, which over the 2015-2016 winter typically targeted 1.5 w/kg on the flats, 2 w/kg on the hills.

I joined one the other day and we were out of the blocks at well over 2 w/kg, which, if you look at the numbers above, is like me averaging at least 190w in real life. One of the hardest races I ever did was the 2010 Francis J Clarke race and I averaged 187w there. 2011 Cat 2 Tour of Somerville, 175w. So 190w, which is only 2 w/kg on Zwift, annihilates me.

I dropped off that ride pretty quickly.

Fine, I'm Weak

I understand I'm weak on the bike, and I'm okay with it. What gets me is that people are joining a Sub2 ride and then not riding Sub2. If someone joins a group ride then there's this implication that they're going to follow the ride's goals, the ride's stipulations.

For example, if I go do some super hard group ride, I'll go there with the expectation that I'm going to get shelled and it's my responsibility to figure out how to get back to the cars. Generally I'll be okay until the road tilts up, I get shelled, and then I decide do I turn around or should I keep going.

And that's fine.

At the same time if I'm on a easy group ride then I don't expect anyone to do any hard riding, or if they do they'll be waiting, foot on the ground, at the top of the hill or at the next intersection or something like that.

With Zwift it's even more... I don't know, it's more clear cut. You can see riders long after they're out of sight. Not only that, you can see their power, and, if you click on their name, you can actually see their heart rate and cadence.

You get a good idea of what they're doing, if they're struggling or just sightseeing.

Why Join A Too-Slow Group?

So why do these riders insist on joining an easier group and then blowing it apart by riding above its advertised level?

I don't know. Is it ego? Insecurity? Ignorance? Lack of self control?

Celebrity Rides

Every now and then I'm fortunate enough to have a celebrity ride with whatever group, sometimes even a race. Marc Wauters, a long time Rabobank pro, showed up for Gimbels one day. Because he wasn't riding hard we got to talk to him, and it was great, to be able to talk to this guy that you realize when you get home that, oh wow, he was in the finale in Paris Roubaix! and he was leading out Tchmil for the finish of Ghent! And he did the Giro. The Worlds. And this and that and the other thing.

At one race way, way back a recently crowned Mike McCarthy showed up at a race in World Champion colors (US Pro Crit champ, world pro pursuit champ, technically not WC on the road but hey, he's a WC at something). The first lap was like a wedding reception paceline thing were there was a line of riders dropping back and saying congrats to Mike, who, to his credit, was politely thanking everyone for their congratulations. Then after everyone got that out of the way Mike just smashed the field to pieces.

It was awesome.

Now those are racer celebrities. There are other celebrities that you get to ride with. Maybe a state representative or a mayor or something. Maybe the President, or Vice President. They're not "cyclists" per se so you ride with them like you're riding with your mother/father (if s/he doesn't ride), or, say, your grandmother/father (if s/he doesn't ride).

You take it easy. You watch them ride. You adjust your pace to theirs. You make them feel welcome to the group. If you wanted to get a workout  you wait until after the ride to go hard, or, even better, you do a bunch of hard efforts before the ride.

Today's Ride

Today (Sept 22) I did a group ride, advertised at 2-2.5 w/kg, an "easy" ride, but with one catch.

A guest rider.

Romain Grosjean.

He's an F1 driver. Admittedly he had a tough start to his F1 career but he's matured and he's one of only 22 full time F1 drivers in the world. Significantly he's one of the drivers that actually gets paid to drive - many are pay-to-drive drivers - and he's held in high enough regard that just his presence helped legitimize Haas Racing's new F1 team.

As an F1 driver he has to be somewhat fit. He said (during the ride, one of the few questions he got to answer in an hour) he rides about 2500 km a year (1500 miles), runs 800 km (500 miles), and works out in the gym and plays tennis. But he's not a world champion cyclist or anything.

So automatically my thought was, "Okay, this is a celebrity, the group should take it easy. If he wants to push a bit then he'll rev up everyone else's competitive spirits and it'll be game on.

Remember the ride with your mother/father or grandmother/grandfather? You watch them, let them set the pace, then adjust to whatever they do.

You don't go and blast up the first hill and shell them.



So what happens at the start of the "Romain Grosjean" ride?

Literally 2/3 of the group goes and shells him, hammering at the front.

I don't have solid data but I saw lots of 2.5-3.0 w/kg up front. With Zwift's limited drafting benefit it is harder than real life to stay together, yet these riders were at the front going well over the advertised ride pace.

For what?

I say again, for what?

To say that they beat Grosjean in a virtual bike ride? To get him pedaling so hard he can't answer questions from fans of F1 who happen to be on Zwift?

It took a lot of CAPS LOCK pleas to get the front group to ease a bit, but as soon as Grosjean was on the hammer went back down.

I was off the back pretty quickly so I eased, letting them lap me. I was only on my second lap, they were on their third, and the third/last lap was an open free for all per the ride description. I had a selfish thought here - with such a big group, and with the group racing, I could try and beat my PR for the green jersey sprint. I usually start the sprint at about 24-25 mph, but if I could jump at a higher speed I could take literally a second or more off my PR.

Per the ride leaders they did keep it together until the start of the sprint, saying that the start line for the sprint was the place to go go go (the "go" words were in caps). Even Romain himself messaged the group to ride as they pleased once the "race" was on. This means the group did 3/4 of the lap under some kind of control.

So I got in the group just before the sprint (i.e. they caught me). I was looking forward to sprinting down into the 21s range, possibly into the 20s, depending on how my legs felt.

I got to the sprint, I jumped really late at the line per the ride rules (not 5-8 seconds before), went a few pedal strokes...

Then I stopped because it looked like no one was sprinting.

I mentioned before you can see other riders' power, specifically their w/kg ratio. If their power goes up a lot the number turns orange. However most of the riders weren't even bright white, they were still regular white.

Well one guy was orange but I didn't want to be one of the two nimrods that sprinted to show Romain just who's boss. So I chilled on the sprint.

Then, about 3 or 4 seconds later, I saw other riders sprinting, so, after a bit of internal debate on if this was a dick move or not, I did another jump.

Ends up that after all the stutter start/stop I posted the third best time of the group. The guy that jumped on his own posted the best time. It was insane, 19.9s or something, I've never broken 20s in this physics model. He jumped early, was in the 13-15 w/kg range, and held it to the line. I think it's justified and probably accurate. With a 30 mph leadout I think low 20s would have been possible, mid 21s would have been pretty slow.

Of course it helps if I had actually sprinted the whole sprint.

In looking back at the data it looks like I sprinted for 2 seconds before shutting it down, then waited about 5 seconds before doing a half hearted sprint to the line, sitting up a bit early because I was disappointed that I didn't jump at my normal mark before the start line and go all the way to the finish.

Nonetheless I did a 22.97 second sprint. This is the same time as a pretty poor solo attempt a bit earlier this week but one that ended up my 30 day best until today (22.99).

I didn't take a shot of the leaderboard but I was third after the sprint.
The list of riders to the right are all part of the group ride.
I'm slowing hard (4 mph) so they're passing me en masse.

After The Sprint

After the sprint I recovered at my normal 0-1 mph, 5-20 watt pace. The group quickly disappeared, literally in fact. Once a rider gets to the end of the ride they revert to a normal rider, not a group rider, and dropped off the visible riders in the "group ride list". Ends up me and a guy named Mike were the only two that decided to do the third lap solo, and he was a few minutes ahead of me, looks like about 12 minutes by the time I finished the final lap.

Typical road race result for me. Dead last, 35 minutes down from the leader.
This would have been a short road race, like 30-40 miles.
Note that all the other riders have zero heart rates. They're already logged off the ride.

In group ride mode you can't see non-group ride members except when they pass you. Can't message others. Can't search for them. Etc. So although there were about 500 riders on the course I was really alone.

I started thinking of stuff on this final lap.

I understand that I'm weak on the bike, weaker still on Zwift. But the 2-2.5 w/kg ride pace should have been possible for me, at least for a lap. I got about 8 minutes in before I had to pull the plug.

I understand riders want to go hard, go fast, go at whatever pace they want. I get that.

What I don't get is when a rider joins a group and blatantly, obviously, rides above the pace and shreds the front of the group. The ride leader has a couple options. One is to ignore the offender. Another is to call them back. A third is to chase down the offenders.

Unfortunately the third option will push people over the edge. I've seen this happen where the ride leader says, "Okay, follow me, I'll pull you up" and half the riders basically explode. They were already redlined and the pace increase killed them. Limited draft, redlined riders... not a good combination.

The first option, ignoring the offender, works sometimes, but if people start bridging it gets tough. There's a critical mass point where if, say, 2/3 of the riders ends up in the front group, well, that's 2/3 of the group.

The second option, calling them back, sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.

I don't understand the mentality of "winning" a group ride.

Racing

One big difference, I think, is that I actually race sanctioned races. We race for a known goal, typically the finish line after a number of laps, and with a controlled environment you usually get a good idea of where you stand. Sometimes I do okay, often I don't.

I'm good with that.

When I'm not racing I don't need to "beat" other riders. You want to pass me while I'm climbing this hill? Go ahead. Want to sprint past me to make the light? Be my guest. In Florida in 2009 my 7 year old niece wanted to race me, her on her scooter and me on my bike.

She won every time.

In fact with Zwift I toodle along at ridiculously low wattages, 60 or 80 watts or some absurdly low power like that. I like doing sprints at designated points because, frankly, I want to see if I can get the green jersey, but it's a 100% effort that makes it even harder for me to hold even minimal power levels after the sprint.

Going for lowest average power possible.

If you look at the above screenshot you'll see that I averaged 51w, 87w, 65w, 145w, and 93w. What's kind of ironic is that the hardest ride, the 145w one, I quit after 26 minutes because it was a Sub2 group sustaining well over a 2 w/kg pace.

I also skipped mentioning the 33w partial ride since it was me briefly contemplating riding on my own and deciding I'd much rather read to Junior.

Put me in a group ride (not a race) and it's all about the group. I don't sprint unless the ride leader says we're sprinting. I don't attack the group, I don't push harder just because I can. Admittedly I'm rarely in that situation but it's happened.

It's disappointing to go through everything I need to do to join a group ride and then have it ruined because the ride doesn't follow the advertised pace. I've gotten my dad settled, or, worse, asked the Missus to handle some of my responsibilities. Left Junior for bed without reading him a few books or even checking up on him as he's drifting off into la la land. But I do that now and then because I'd like to get in a group ride that has a pace I can handle.

Then the group hammers, redlines me, and eventually sheds me.

And to join this ride I made the choice to sacrifice a bit of family time. I could easily ride later, on my own, but then I wouldn't have the group to ride with, the conversation, the feeling of solidarity, etc.

However this is what I miss when I'm joining a Sub2 ride at 8 PM:

Reading to Junior.
Bella is the feline sitting on the edge of the bed rail.

I make the call to ride instead of read to Junior, I acknowledge that. However I make the call with a certain expectation of the ride.

On the Romain ride I elected to stay on, mainly because it was a weird time ride (2:30 PM) and we'd all have time after the ride. However on that 145w ride a few days prior?

I climbed off the bike, went upstairs, let Junior know that I'd read after I showered, and then I got to read some books with him.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Tactics - Bike Throw, 2005 Bethel Spring Series

Bike throw pictures. They fascinate me because it's a skill/practice thing. Pretty much anyone can learn to throw their bike in one or two tries, and after 20 or 30 practice throws (it might take a few minutes, or, if you're actually sprinting a little before the throw, maybe an hour), you'll be pretty proficient at it.

Yet even pros don't throw their bikes properly at the line. These are guys that make their living on results, at least if they're vying for a win. Okay, fine, the team rider that is supposed to pull the first 150 km of the race, I get that they don't get into situations very often where they're trying to win a race. But even the most hardcore domestique should know how to throw a bike at the finish.

Imagine if it's the one day out of ten years where your break actually made it to the finish intact and now it's just you and a couple other riders going for the win. You jump well, you sprint well, and your body is even ahead of the next rider... but at the line the other rider beats you with a bike throw.

How horrible is that?

Not just that, how horrible is it when the loser realizes that it's just a little bit of practice, a little bit of horsing around, that lost the race?

Recently two riders made it to the finish of a race and for once both had spectacular bike throws. One won, one lost, but it certainly wasn't because of a poor bike throw. It's good to see that in a pro race.

For some reason I never posted these pictures from the 2005 Bethel Spring Series on the blog, or if I did I can't find them. So I'm putting them here, possibly again, for reference.

To me normally the Series was the World Championships of racing so it was really, really important for me to do as best as I could. However, two years prior, I'd promised my mom to win the race for her about a month before she died.

This made the Series even more significant to me.

My friendly arch rival that year was Morgan. He's an admittedly better racer than me but he'd spread himself a bit thin by trying to win both the Masters and Cat 3-4 Series yet again. This led to him not starting one of the Cat 3-4 races after an icy cold rainy day sapped him of strength in the Masters race.

Each time we went head to head in the sprints he absolutely demolished me, typically by a solid 10 or 20 feet, if not more. However, because he missed one race, and I think in another he had some problem, I ended up coming into the last week with a 1 point lead.

On the last week the top seven racers got 10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points respectively. If tied on points whoever placed ahead of the other on the last day would win. Therefore I basically had to beat Morgan. If he got any place I'd have to place in front of him. Even if he got just 7th he'd tie me on points but if I didn't place in front of him he'd win on the tie-breaker.

I had a bit of help, both from teammates and friends, including some very strong riders that could pull like mad. They knew that it had to come down to a sprint, and that I'd handle the final lap or two on my own.

Morgan had a superb team, including a Portuguese ex-pro. They were strong and motivated, and collectively had much more experience than my team. More than anything I feared them setting up a break so that Morgan could bridge to it. I wouldn't be able to hang in a break so a move like that would end my chances of retaining the lead.

Another racer John was in the mix. Like me he preferred sprints, but that spring I'd been outsprinting him consistently. He knew this and admitted later that he wasn't up to it that day. A realist, he would be satisfied holding onto third overall. However he decided at some point that his team would ride for me if it came down to Morgan and myself.

Finally the local shop team, Bethel Cycle, had two very strong crit racers looking to win the day. Both of their sprinters, Stephen and Bryan, were friends of mine, but on that day I couldn't count on them for any gifts.

Even with the relentless attacking by Morgan's team, it came down to a field sprint, thanks to the efforts of my teammates, John's teammates, Bethel Cycle (who wanted to win the sprint), and a friend here and there. On the bell lap Bethel Cycle put four riders up front just after Turn One, two leadout men and two sprinters. I sat on their wheel and I think Morgan was on my wheel.

The first leadout man peeled off rather quickly, leaving Brian W to do the majority of the lap at the front. Patiently the rest of the field waited as we flew down the backstretch. Then Brian pulled off, absolutely exploded, and the sprint started to unfold. Unfortunately for Stephen and Bryan, the leadout Brian couldn't make it another 100 meters or so, and so one had to start the sprint early. The fourth rider was already in trouble, which set Morgan and myself up for a battle royale.

As we hit the uphill finish the two Bethel sprinters both blew up at the same time, jamming up the inside line. I managed to clear them to the right but Morgan got boxed in on the left curb. He had to back out of that spot, go around the two riders to their right, and hunt me down before the finish line.

After I passed Bryan I found myself on a clear road, nothing between me and the finish line, and something like 75 meters to go. I thought for certain that Morgan had run into problems, I knew there would be no one else approaching me (and it didn't matter if anyone except Morgan did approach me).

I started thinking about if I should raise my hands or not. Maybe just one. I've only raised my hands once and it was a two up sprint and the other guy sat up long before the finish line. I even looked back and confirmed he'd stopped sprinting before I raised my hands.

The only time I've ever raised my hands at the finish.
It was 1992, almost 13 years before this particular Bethel Spring Series.

So all this was going through my head as I got onto the flat part of the road by the finish, maybe 15 or 20 meters to go.

Then, to my absolute horror, I saw a wheel coming up fast on my right. I couldn't even make out the jersey but I knew the only racer who could make that move was Morgan.

I pedaled a few desperate pedal strokes to the line and threw my bike as far forward as I could. I looked over at Morgan as I did and ended up a bit disoriented, losing the grip on one side of my bars. It slewed me to the left and I almost crashed into the curb.

I had no idea if I'd won or not, and in fact I thought I'd given away the win by dreaming about "posting up" (the raised arms thing).


You can see that we're already throwing our bikes.
At this point our bikes are even.

Here I'm starting to really drop back over the saddle.
This is pushing the bike forward.

I'm running out of "going backward" room.
However it seems that I've done enough to keep my bike in front.

Any my front wheel passes the line before his.

In the last picture you can see that my head and shoulders are in front of Morgan's. If neither of us had thrown our bikes I'd have won, barely. If I did a less intense throw, or no throw at all, it's clear that Morgan would have beaten me. This is because my head is usually over the front wheel, at least where the hub is, and if you moved my wheel back so that the center of the wheel was under my head... I'd have lost by about the margin I won by.

It looks all set and pretty in still motion, but if you watch the clip in real time all this stuff unravels really fast. Go to about 5:45.

2005 Bethel Spring Series


Ultimately the finish line camera told the story. Both Morgan and I checked ourselves because we both really didn't know who won. I was also the promoter so I had to make sure that the win was legitimate, not just because I made the race happen.

Morgan later told me that he still thinks about the race. It was a good race, a fair race, a hard race. We both raced to our limits, we both made our moves, and we both did a technically perfect sprint. In the end the race tilted in my direction, but it could have gone either way.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Race - Bs, Too Cooked To Know To Sprint

My normal ritual on Tuesdays is to start preparing for the races by about 2 PM. The Missus gets home just before 5 PM and the goal is to have my dad and Junior in the packed car, idling, waiting for her.

This has not happened yet.

My race prep actually starts a bit earlier than that, with shifting tasks earlier to free up the time from 2 PM on. So, as expected, at 2 PM, Junior was upstairs napping, and I had my dad at the table. It's been a difficult last few days, with a minor leak with the toilet (due to my dad's uncontrolled descent onto the thing, slamming into the tank with his back). So with all the stuff that's happened in the last few days things seemed to be going well.

Normally my dad takes a minute to get going so I checked the weather. It was supposed to be partly cloudy, virtually no chance of rain, and in the mid-upper 80s by race time.

Fine.

The first hint of the derailment was that my dad didn't start to eat for 90 minutes. I tried all sorts of stuff but he'd either not open his mouth or he would just hold the food in his mouth. It's food that he eats regularly so it wasn't like I was feeding him something yucky. He finally started to swallow food but now I was starting to have some schedule anxiety. Junior would be up shortly and then my race prep efficiency would drop pretty dramatically.

Then it started pouring.

I refreshed the weather site and now it said thunder and lightning for the next little bit, clearing up by 4:00 PM or so. The cloud cover seemed to be over us at that moment but moving out of the area.

When I checked the hourly at the race venue it said no rain, but then it said that here also. 

With race time at 6 PM I hoped that the course would be dry.

Junior did get up but then played quietly on his own, allowing me to gather my race stuff. I'd need to get the bike, SRM, and shoes from the basement. Helmet, cam, gloves, and heart rate strap from the "stuff to bring to the race" spot upstairs. I needed to pack the cooler with bottles of ice water, a couple sandwiches for Junior. Then from the garage the folding chairs for the non-racers, my race wheels, and the first aid kit.

I got the upstairs stuff out to the car fine, plus the chairs. I decided to get the bike on the roof because that's part of the stuff I can do outside. I prefer to put the cooler and the race wheels in the car last because it's usually so hot outside and I don't want the race wheels baking in a 180 degree car oven.

I went to go downstairs but got distracted by one of our cats rubbing his butt on the floor, something unusual. He left a trail of poo and so I cleaned that up, washed my hands, all that kind of stuff.

I sensed the time slipping away.

I trotted downstairs to get my bike. The bike room is off limits to the cats so the door is always closed. I opened the door and actually swore out loud.

The "slightly leaking tank" upstairs had translated into water coming through the ceiling and into the bike room.

The rug was soaked. Everything was wet with water spatter.

I grabbed my shoes, literally being dripped on from the (finished) ceiling, and ran upstairs. I ran around a bit, got an empty litter box bucket (we buy in buckets, not jugs), and put it under the water coming through the ceiling.

I tried to shut off the supply line. Although it slowed it didn't stop. I removed the flapper so that the water wouldn't build up in the tank. I mopped up the floor as best I could. And I directed a fan onto the floor to increase evaporation rates (and kept the AC cranked to keep the air dry). I put my shoes on the floor in front of the fan, to dry them off.

Time was bleeding pretty quickly now.

After some quick mental calculation, some time-money-life balance factors, I decided that I'd still prepare to go to the race. If in the next hour the water was pouring into the basement then I'd skip the race, but I really wanted to race and I thought that any damage would be limited to whatever already got damaged.

I spent some time picking up the cluttered bike room floor. Got my bike out of there and onto the roof of the car (getting the bike outside involves two staircases, two 180s, a number of 90 deg turns, and a lot of scuff marks on the walls). Pumped up the race wheels but left them in the cool garage. Bike locked, rear wheel strapped down, I went back inside.

I started assembling the cooler. I was putting water in the bottles at the sink when I looked outside.

It was pouring.

I thought for a moment about the bike on the roof. Then the car. Did I open the windows like I normally do? Was the garage door open? I carefully thought.

I did not open the car windows. I closed the garage door.

I kept filling the bottles.

I got Junior dressed, shoes on, everything. Cooler was assembled. Dad dressed. I can't remember what I was doing when the Missus came home but she came in and one of the first things she asked me was where I had my shoes. She's taken inventory of the car in the driveway and noticed that the shoes weren't in the car.

Doh! They were in front of the fan in my dad's bathroom!

I went and checked. Shoes were dry. Floor was damp but not puddled. Went and checked basement. Okay. Very little water in the bucket, no more water coming off the ceiling.

It was race time!

We headed out a little after 5. I was already pretty frazzled but the drive to the race was pretty calming, and we got there with a bit of time to spare.

Waving to Junior while doing a warm up lap.

The wind was just howling when we got there, the sky blue with white clouds everywhere. As far as I could tell the downpours at home hadn't been here.

I decided to use the Stinger 4 front wheel, the 45 mm tall wheel, instead of the Stinger 7 / 75 mm wheel. I figured that would be better for the wind. We'd gotten there early enough that I could do a lap or two, and the Stinger 4 felt stable even in a strong crosswind.

Start of the race.

A decent number of people showed up for this week, the last one of the season. For me this would be my last race of the season, period. With no more venues this close to the house I really can't think about doing any of the upcoming races.

Gaps opening up by the end of the first lap.

The racing started pretty quickly, with a move causing a gap to open within the first lap of the race. I struggled to get going; I hoped this wasn't a sign of things to come.

Wind from the left.

The wind really hit us from the left on after Turn 3, on the final stretch. This meant sheltering to the right. The final stretch curves left but the wind was such that even at the start/finish you really wanted to be seeking shelter to the right. This meant rolling up near the curb each lap, something that can get tricky if everyone is looking to shelter there. At the same time it's sort of fun, to be fighting for wheels on the curb, I felt sort like it was actually bike racing, not just riding my bike.

Race neutralized.

At some point in the race there was a crash after Turn 1. The race got neutralized as they got everyone off the ground. I stopped to offer the first aid kit but it seemed that everyone was okay without it. One rider went to the hospital, a Junior. Hopefully he's okay.

Race back on.

After a number of neutral laps, where everyone really did go neutral, the race was back on.

Big attack.

I found myself withering out there. The heat, the relentless attacks, I was absolutely at the limit. I remember one time sitting on wheels near the front when someone attacked. Everyone responded except me. I couldn't get out of the saddle, I couldn't spin.

Gapped off temporarily.

Finally someone rolled by me, I clawed my way onto their wheel, and we got back on. A short time later, maybe within a lap or so, there was even a bigger move.

An even bigger attack.

This time I couldn't go at all. I watched them ride away from me. A teammate warming up for the A race rolled by, yelling encouragement.

I hoped that the field would ease a bit but I figured that my chances of catching back on were minimal at best. I started to roll near the start/finish. Then I noticed the field soft pedaling. They had not just eased up, it looked like they had just stopped racing. It was like...

Oh.

That was the sprint.

The race was over.

I don't know the last time I was so cooked that I didn't realize it was the end of the race. In reviewing the clip I could see and hear the bell but when I was actually racing nothing registered.

After the race.

I rolled around to the start/finish again and spotted Junior. He was trying to find a garbage can so I helped him with that. Then we headed over to base camp, where the Missus and Pops were hanging out.

Junior and the bike.

We had to get going, with the water situation uncertain at home. So after a brief rest, where I recovered a bit and watched in amazement as the As raced around at warp speed, we headed out.

At home I was zonked. Luckily the water was better - the basement was basically dry. We've since installed a new toilet (the next morning) and nothing, touch wood, is leaking.

For now, though, that's my 2016 racing season. I've done, what, like 8 races, all of them Tuesday Night Worlds. I started feeling a bit better towards the end, the sufferfest above notwithstanding.

I'm also already thinking about what's up next for me for racing, next season.
 - Lose some weight. I've been hovering at around 170-175 lbs most of the season. Being 160 lbs makes a huge difference. 155 lbs would be insane. 150 lbs is a dream.
 - Get the rocking trainer better. It's already helped a lot but I have ideas on making it better.
 - Do some outdoor sprints. Rocking trainer or not, I need to be able to do 100% jumps without worrying about slipping the tire or something. Even if it means sprinting up and down my street I think it's something I need to do a little more often than "never".
 - VO2 max intervals. They really helped in 2015. This year I did 6 total days of intervals, 3 weeks worth.
 - Get my SRM spiders working. Not having power is a bit frustrating because I have no idea if I'm actually stronger or not.

And, of course, clean up the bike room.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Crit - Aug 9, 2016, Bs, Bryan and Vassos!

So I had this revelation a couple days ago. I'd revamped my trainer set up a bit and realized that I'd trained myself to ease into my sprints so the tire wouldn't slip on the trainer. Although that's fine for Zwift it's not good for real bike racing. I've felt like in the past few years I rarely got in a solid, solid jump, and I think this is the reason why. I stopped training outside, I stopped doing these massive stomp efforts, and instead I was doing these softer sprints on the trainer. Consider trying to jump into the draft of a passing truck - one chance to get it right and it takes a massive, massive effort.

I hoped that this evening I'd be able to do a proper sprint. Although I couldn't fix the power bit of my SRM (I screwed up something when I soldered in the last battery I think) I figured just doing the massive stomp/sprint would be a good thing to experience.

As usual I started getting ready while still at home, starting with pinning my number.

Pinned number.
My dad had a little crisis which distracted me. I forgot to finish pinning the #2.

Due to an accident on I-291 we decided to head into the heart of Hartford, taking the I-91 HOV lane. We knew we'd need to navigate regular I-84 to the Rent but it seemed worth it. Until we took a wrong exit and had to go past the exit, turn around, and get back. We got to the venue with a few minutes remaining before the start.

Fortunately for me the Juniors had the last race of their summer series and there was a bit of a delay after their finish. This meant that not only could I kit up and all that, I even had time to do a couple laps.

This Tuesday the weather ended up perfect. I think it was about 80 deg F with low humidity. There was some wind but it was opposite the normal wind, giving us basically a tailwind finish. The swirling wind around the stadium meant the right side crosswind was still there.

To my absolute shock two guys rolled up to me as I got on my bike - Vassos and Bryan. Vassos was one of my teammates a long time ago, in the mid-90s. He raced for a rival team until then but their core riders, led by a guy named Gene, moved over to Carpe Diem Racing. He's one of the few guys that I put in a clip commenting on the last of the Bethel Spring Series races (go to 6:19).

Bryan I've known since he was something like 15, we raced against each other for literally decades. For something like 20 years we talked about racing together on the same team, we have the utmost respect for one another, and only in 2011 did we get to race on the same team. It was after 2010 (when I defeated him in a very closely fought Bethel Spring Series finale) that he could move over to Expo. Ironically we pretty much never raced together because the first year I upgraded to 2 (2011) while he remained a 3 (but won the Bethel Spring Series in a dominating fashion), then Junior came along so I really backed off on the racing. We couldn't even do Masters races together that much because he's younger than me. His work cranked up at the same time so he stopped racing. This was the first race in three years for him, and, really, because he did one race here and there, he really hadn't "been a racer" since his successful 2011.

To see both these guys on the same day was an absolute bonus. I spent the extra time before our race chatting like mad with them. They admitted that they weren't sure about how they'd hold up in the race. I wasn't sure myself, seeing as I got shelled a bunch of times. I hoped the Juniors would take it easy on us.

Vassos (Class Cycles) and Bryan (Expo)

I did give them some advice while we rolled around. I pointed out some of the more diesel riders - they're the good wheels to follow when there are gaps everywhere because they just diesel along and gather everyone up. I also cautioned them on how strong the Juniors were, telling them the time a Junior pulled the field around the course for a while and when the group moved left I just stayed right and sat up. I was absolutely cooked just sitting on wheels.

Other than that it was just business as usual. Bryan is one of the rare riders that feels comfortable in a break as well as in a field sprint. Vassos is more a sprinter but he's often given up his chances to help friends or teammates. Both are exemplary team players, willing to cover moves, never taking a pull if a teammate is up the road, etc. Both are very crafty as well, combining good judgment with well honed race instincts. They're ideal teammates for sure.

We also had Esteban, Junior's new favorite teammate thanks to a delivery of a boxload of Thomas the Tank Engine tracks and accessories. He was more a break rider and he has what has got to be the best reading on team work habits I've ever seen. I don't think I've ever talked to him about tactics specifically but he knows exactly how to help me, how hard to pull, when to ease, everything, all to help me. I try to return the favor, basically by marking moves whenever he goes. I think, though, that the favors go more my way than his.

Junior waving over to the right.

As usual Junior was sitting with the Missus and my dad. I try to wave but it's not really good to do that in the middle of an intense part of a race. At first he was crushed when I didn't wave to him every lap but the Missus explained that if I was working hard I wouldn't be able to wave. So when I roll by, nose to my stem, hanging on for dear life, I'll not wave and be okay with it.

He'll turn to the Missus and say in a very serious tone, "Daddy is working hard."

Bryan off the front, to the left.

I think Bryan felt okay after a few laps because he launched a move. I'd done the same, on the second lap of the race. I didn't launch really but a guy was going up the road and no one was reacting. I was in the perfect spot, about 4-5 riders back, so I just put my hands on the hoods and rolled for a lap. I almost blew myself up but fortunately the pace didn't skyrocket after and I could recover. Bryan took my lead and did a little move. One rider bridged to him but then we all regrouped.

After Turn 3, shelter to the right.

The wind played its normal crucial role today. It was a crosswind at the start/finish, much better than the normal headwind we've seen all summer. This meant that the final stretch started out forcing the riders to seek shelter to the right (wind hitting us from the left). As the road curved left we'd sit a bit less to the side and a bit more behind.

Start/finish area, shelter to the right.

I'm sheltered to the right here, by the start/finish area. I remember times where the wind was much stronger from the left and everyone would be scrambling to avoid hitting the right side curb. Nothing like that tonight but I did get close now and then.

After Turn 1, shelter to the left.

Once we took the right at Turn one the wind hit us from the right side. To stay sheltered one had to move from the right side to the left side. This is tricky because you need to drift back off the wheel to your left, allow the wheel to cross a bit to the right, then move up to take shelter, all in the several seconds it takes to take the corner. You can see in the picture above that I'm sitting to the left of the rider in the red/orange helmet.

Note that the rider to my left is not really sheltered well. If he dropped back slightly behind me he'd be better protected, or if he moved up and sat between the two riders in front he'd be sheltered by the white/yellow rider on the red bike.

Backstretch after Turn 2, shelter to the left.

On the backstretch the wind still swirled around the stadium to our right so the wind hit us from the right. I stayed left to stay sheltered. This is the stretch I think I messed up most, I was on the right side most of the time.

Moved over to clear my nose.

I haven't done this in a while but I did so I wanted to point this out. I had clear my nose so I moved over to do so. Common courtesy. If it's in the throes of the bell lap or something I try to do it discretely and politely. But when things are tactically neutral I'll check, move over, clear my nose, check, and move back. Usually riders let you back in because otherwise next time you might just clear your nose in the field.

Sitting between two Juniors, comfortable.

One thing that surprised me was this bit. I was sitting between two Juniors. The thing was that I didn't realize this happened - it was a total non-event for me. That meant I was totally comfortable sitting there, I trusted the riders, yada yada yada. That's a good thing.

Sheltering right while everyone else in front of me is pretty much in the wind.

This shot struck me as well. I was sheltered to the right but everyone in front of me was lined up nicely in single file. Problem is that the wind is from our left a bit so it's better to sit to the right for shelter. I was soft pedaling here but I think others were working.

Esteban attacks (blue jersey, red shorts).
He'll solo to the line.

Esteban attacked at some point in the race. He rolled off (from the sheltered side, mind you) and quickly settled into a slightly-higher rhythm. He later admitted to me that he had a minor mechanical issue with his bike. To stay out of trouble he wanted to sit at the front and pull a bit.

Bryan (Expo) and me marking moves as Esteban gets clear of the last two riders chasing him.

Problem was that Bryan covered moves. I didn't cover per se but I wasn't moving and I was at or near the front. When the last two guys chasing Esteban sat up there was a momentary lull in the pace. That was all Esteban needed. His slightly-above-pack-pace pulled him away from the field and netted him an unexpected win.

My view for a few laps, until 2 to go.

Back in the field one of the super steady and willing to work riders sat the front, dragging all of us around for a few laps. I happened to be on his wheel when he went to the front so I sat there, second wheel, watching him work.

For the first time this year I felt a glimmer of form. My legs dropped quickly. I wasn't overchurning the gear, I could put a little stamp at the end of the pedal stroke.

Unfortunately I have zero data so I can't check cadence or HR or power. Hopefully I'll have things resolved for next week and I can get some data.

3rd person view, courtesy Jeff Cote.
My head is down, which apparently is my tell.
Also I'm not super close to the wheel.

So as not to be a total nimrod, note that my head is down here. Although I'm on the wheel I'm actually working pretty hard for me, my "glimmer of form" notwithstanding. I wasn't sure how this would end up but when I heard some uncharacteristic yelling by the start/finish I figured we had to be approaching the finish.

Sure enough we went by and I saw 3 to go. Second wheel, 3 to go, that's a bit forward. I knew there'd be a surge and I could get back into the field, sit 10 or 15 riders back, and see how things played out.

I waited for the surge.

Coming up on 2 to go the field went around.

Finally, just before 2 to go, the diesel pulled off, fortunately on the sheltered/right side. The field rolled by offering a massive amount of shelter (and they were on the correct side to offer me shelter). I checked to make sure I was clear and moved a bit to the left, into the field's protective embrace.

2 to go!

So at 2 to go I was sitting sort of on the side of the field. Riders naturally sat up or blew up in front, reducing the numbers between me and the air in front of the field.

I should point out that my philosophy for these B races has been the following:

1. Make it to the finish.
2. If I finish and there is no break, lead out the sprint for the field or for someone in particular.
3. If I finish and there is a break, try to do well in the field sprint.

Although Esteban was up the road, I was thinking selfish thoughts.

I really wanted to do a big sprint, to try and break that habit of easing into sprints. I also knew that this was the second-last week of the Tuesday Night races and, realistically, I wouldn't be racing anymore this season. If next week's race got rained out this would be the last race of the season for me.

Therefore selfish thoughts: I wanted to sprint for myself tonight.

Bell lap, just before Turn 1.

At the bell there were maybe 8 or 9 riders in front of me, other than Esteban of course. A couple small gaps opened up but I was more concerned with how far up the very front was relative to me. If there was a gap to close I'd deal with it later. If the front got too far away... that would make things challenging. Which wasn't a bad thing, it would just be challenging.

Bell lap, Turn 2.

Through Turn 2 and the front of the field stretched and contracted. A gap still existed between me (really the wheel I was following) and the front of the group. I still had confidence in my sprint though, and I figured that things would come together by Turn 3.

Bell lap, back stretch.

On the back stretch I knew the gaps in front of me were significant but I still felt things were closeable. The rider in front of me rallied and closed the gap just before we hit Turn 3. I think that if he didn't do it I'd have gone. Since he went the point was moot.

On a side note, if I was in the front group and noticed no one directly on my wheel (by looking down briefly to check shadows), I'd have turned around, checked for a gap behind me. If there was a gap I'd have jumped early. This is basically how I won that race in 2015, basically by accident, because I had a very small gap, just like the one above, with one turn to go before the finish.

Bell lap, just before Turn 3.
Bryan moved up hard here.

Fortunately for me no one went early up front (I think they even eased?) and the rider in front of me closed the gap in front of him. As we approached Turn 3, though, another twist in the plot appeared - Bryan rolled past me on the right.

Shelter will be to the right of green kit, behind Bryan in the red Expo kit.

I decided I wanted to get on Bryan's wheel after the turn. Since I wanted to be to the right exiting the final turn anyway, and since Bryan was there, I decided to move over a bit and follow him. If nothing else I could sit when he jumped, or I could jump around him, or something. It would work out.

Sheltered on the right going into the sprint.

We hit the final straight without any massive acceleration. The sprint opened up pretty late so we weren't going very fast at first. For some reason everyone was waiting for the jump, which, to be honest, is better for me.

I didn't consider jumping out of the last turn because I was too far back - if I was just a couple spots up I'd have jumped first, before the turn, especially with the relatively kind wind direction at the finish line. It'd be a fast sprint for sure and those usually work in my favor.

Early jumps seem to favor me as well, possibly a side effect of the long sprints on Zwift. One week I jumped halfway down the backstretch, sprinted for a total of 20 seconds, and had such a gap that I could soft pedal for 20 seconds to the line. This week I was focused on doing a big jump and a real sprint so I wanted to make my efforts in the last 200m to the line.

As the riders in white drift apart Bryan goes up the middle.
I hesitate to give him a chance to get clear.

As much as I wanted to do a big jump, I couldn't hurt Bryan's chances in the process. When the leadout guy started to fizzle the two riders just behind him hesitated, drifting left and right. This opened up a hole between them, one that just screamed to be jumped through.

Bryan responded.

For a moment I hesitated, getting a read on what the two riders would do. If they closed in to get on Bryan's wheel I'd have room to maneuver. Also I didn't want to go with Bryan because if a good sprinter was on my wheel I'd just drag them up to Bryan. I banked on using my jump to gap off whoever was on my wheel and then I could wind out the sprint to the line.

When he jumped I jumped also.

As Bryan hit out for the line (he's never raced here before so he hasn't done this sprint dozens of times like I have) I jumped as well, and as we got toward the straight part I absolutely drilled it.

Sweeping around Bryan on the sheltered right side.

At the course straightened out I stayed to Bryan's right. Friend or not, teammate or not, I wanted to be on the sheltered side. I shifted up a gear, did another jump, and looked back.

Bryan in full cry.

There was no one close, Bryan was sprinting to the line, his son was there, and I wanted Bryan to win the sprint.

3rd person shot, courtesy Jeff Cote.
I'm trying to calculate where I need to be to lose a tight sprint to Bryan.

As we approached the line I wanted to see how close I could get to Bryan without passing him. Junior doesn't care at this point if I win or not, but Bryan's son is older and I wanted him to see his dad win the sprint. I took a celebration away from his son six years ago when I knocked Bryan off the top step of the podium at Bethel. Even though this wasn't some Series finale I could at least pay my respects to a good friend and person.

No need to sprint harder so finagled it so Bryan pipped me at the line.
Half a wheel. I wanted to be 2-3 inches behind, not 13-14 inches behind.

I did a bike throw that I'd crucify myself for if I did it for real, just horrible form, really didn't throw the bike, yada yada yada. I'd have fired myself if I was my team director.

Problem was that I was a bit too cautious, I lost by about half a wheel. Note that his hub is on the crack (the finish line) and my tire is just there. I wanted it to be that the front part of his rim was just past the crack and my tire was there, just a few inches.

I know, I should have thrown my bike for real.

I looked over at Bryan, he looked back, and we grinned like fools.

Heh.


Junior back pedaling the cranks.
Pops is back there, Missus is barely visible to the left.
Note long finger gloves which I always wear in races.

I headed back to our base camp. Junior wanted to turn the cranks, backwards because that's the only way they turn when the bike's stationary. I grabbed another bottle of ice water. I was a bit more tired than I realized and really need to pedal a bit. My stomp sprint took a lot of gas out of me and for the first time in a while I felt the need to spin a bit.

I liked this shot, it's an unusual angle.

I rolled along with Jeff, another teammate as Bryan and Vassos had to get going for a long drive home. Jeff and Bryan moved to Expo together back in 2011. In that oh-so-difficult race in 2010 Jeff was one of Bryan's teammates trying to isolate me, trying to help Bryan hold the Leader's Jersey. Their team rode strongly and fairly and I had the utmost respect for their efforts. Jeff, after he joined Expo, laughed about how their (opposing) team had gotten all amped up about beating me and how it just fell apart in the last lap of the last race. I veered off when we got back to the start/finish and let Junior walk my bike to the car (with my hand on the saddle).

Vassos and Bryan both said bye as I was putting the bike away (with Junior's "help"). I headed back to base camp to get my dad and walk him to the car, Junior holding my free hand; the Missus carried the chairs and cooler. With everything put away we headed home, the Missus driving as I was a bit lightheaded. I don't think I could stop talking about Bryan and Vassos, how surprised I was to see them at the race.

I know that my limited race schedule is a temporary thing and that eventually I'll be able to race more again. It's a sad thing though. I'm not itching to race all the time because I know what it will take before I can do that. Yes I would have raced at New Britain this year if I could because that's within the same range as the Rent. But, no, it's okay that I can't race any other races right now.

With things the way they are it's days like these that make it super fun. Friends from 20+ years back, good riders, good racers, having fun racing our bikes, and, at some level, taking my mind off of other things.

Next week will be the last CCAP Tuesday Night Race for 2016. Race and barbecue. Then for me it'll be a long pause until the 2017 season.