Thursday, January 04, 2007

2007 Bethel Spring Series - Season fast approaching

Phew. It's official, the Bethel Spring Series is going to be held again. As an FYI it's not "official" till the permits are filed and the flyer approved. That much is done. Now we can start to post flyers, receive race entries, etc. For now, till the paperwork is filed and the insurance and stuff all done, we're "permit pending". Once we're issued permit numbers, each week will be held under that particular permit number.

The link for bikereg and racelistings.

Always an incredible stress for yours truly. I guess this is only the beginning of a 4 month stress raiser, peaking, coincidentally, on tax day, April 15th. It's not as bad as it used to be. We have a pretty well established routine as we've been doing this for a while. I tried to pin down the first year of the Series but couldn't find anything before 1994 (it was already pretty established), so the "history" will have to be updated some other time. Our favorite officials, Mike and Meg, are signed up to watch over the racers once again. The town has given us their blessing (I think that's the appropriate phrase since "Bethel" means the "house of God"). And a couple teams have volunteered their help.

Now to make sure we have marshals, no weird crashes, no snow or ice, and not too much sand or snow on the course, especially during the Series. It really sucks spending 4-5 hours the Saturday before one of the races sweeping and shoveling heavy wet sand only to watch it snow the next week and knowing there's sand all over the course again.

At a personal bike racing level this is by far the most ideal course for me, at least in the Cat 3's. First it's early enough in the season that my inherent aerobic shortcomings are well muffled by temperature, tactics, and untrained legs. It rewards a combination of speed-power (i.e. jump) and tactics, things I rely on throughout the season. It's not quite so killer as to reward the lightweight mountain goats. And too windy to reward the super power time trialers. So things stay together, especially later in the Series when racers are a bit fitter. It would be no fun if the 5 or 10 guys who have a lot of miles simply rode away every week, although that sometimes happens in the first week or two.

Hey look, they get their chance at other races.

This race, it's mi casa.


Doesn't always work out that way though. I've lost a pedal with 500 meters to go (one of the aforementioned Aerolite things), watched really strong racers ride away from the field, or been so out of shape I measured how long I raced in minutes because 4 minutes sounds better than 2 laps. I've learned though and I manage each year.

It'll be a little more apparent in the next two months that I try to be one of those "with a lot of miles on my legs". I've alluded to my Florida training camp (next week) but I also hit the West Coast for a longer and hillier training camp. San Diego, baby! I won't have three weeks like I did last year but I'll take the 10 or so days I do have. Inevitably, my training takes a nosedive after Bethel so I typically peak in late March. Racers joke about being "Spring Champions" or "peaking for Bethel". I actually do.

Nevertheless, no matter how I think I'm doing, when I am racing at Bethel, I suffer and die every lap to get over the stupid hill. To put things in perspective to those fit racers out there (you know who you are), the hill is about 6 or 7% and 150 meters long. And I grovel on the hill. There are those beautiful laps where suddenly I float up the thing. But those are few and far between.

You can laugh now.

When it comes to the finish though there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like Bethel for me. Maybe the 120 sprint on the Gimbles ride. Or the defunct SUNY Purchase sprints. Those are fun too and suit my strengths. But Bethel...

I think it was in 2004 a 7 man break went up the road. They were willing to work, had strong teammates chasing anything that moved back in the group, and they simply rode away. They took with them all the points places (six of them) so there was nothing to sprint for in the field. Perhaps some money, but nothing more significant than your entry fee back. Just the sprint for the sprint's sake. Having three friendly rivals back there meant that it would be a good sprint regardless.

After it was obvious that nothing was going away (I did try to go but it was a pathetic simulation of a bridge attempt), I sat at the back and fantasized about being able to go in a break like that. The bell pulled me out of la-la land and back to reality. After the first turn I turned to find Bethel Cycle rider Brian Wolf next to me. I said to him "It's miracle time". I meant it mainly as a joke as we were dead last, probably 100 meters behind the front of the rapidly stringing-out field. But he looked over, grinned, and said "Go for it".

So I did.

I rode pretty hard on the first stretch to get past the guys done for the day - they were sitting up and gapping themselves off the field. I cleared them coming into the right bend where things typically bunch up. I did some "inside the pack" maneuvering to move up - my favorite part of racing, the moving up within the field. On the backstretch I had to seek shelter and hid from the wind so that was just a bookmark move, nothing happened. Then, with about 300 meters to go, I aggressively moved up at the last (flat, bearing right) bend.

As we started around the bend before the left-curving finish hill, I found myself out in the wind again. I was rapidly running out of gas, couldn't afford to sit out there and cook, so I dropped back a few hard earned rows to seek shelter. Then, as the chaos of sprinting up a 150 meters S-curve started to show itself, I jumped hard on the right, which at this point is the outside of the curve. The prior week there was a huge stack-up on the crowded left so I wanted to avoid that if at all possible.

You know how finish lines seem impossibly far away when you're sprinting? And they only seem to get further as you turn your pedals in slooooow mooootion?

Well, it happens. And as I crawled up to the line I used everything I had. I was blowing big time and was cashing in every inch I earned jumping out of the field. At the line I desperately threw my bike as two guys rocketed passed me.

I didn't know if I won the sprint. But that's a... how do you say it when something is inherently contradictory? Because as a sprinter in the Tour, perhaps Robbie McEwen, recently pointed out, "You always know when you lost a sprint, but you can't tell when you've won."

I wasn't sure who won the field sprint. Which means, based on the comment above, I might have won it. Checking the finishline camera settled it and it was apparent that I managed to do it. A couple more feet and it would have been "nice try, dude". But this time it was "nice sprint dude". All due to a well-practiced bike throw.


So this is another year. It's another year where you think "This time I'll jump earlier (or later or to the other side or whatever it is)". Or "I'll definitely do my hard days even if it's raining outside." Or "I have to remember how hard it is racing the May races compared to the April races and keep that in mind when I train." "I promise myself not to sit up in the sprint." You know, all the things you thought last year.

And I'm getting ready for it.


GMF said...

I think the phrase you are looking for is "Mi casa es mi casa".

I miss Bethel. Not the cold, mind you, but the racing and the people. If only Francis J. Clarke was in San Diego...

Aki said...

lol yep. "This is my house".