Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Racing - Penance

So we just got back from the last rendition of the Tuesday Night World Championships. The race went well for all involved - decent numbers, nice weather (albeit a tad hot), and an exciting race.

Two guys went early and crushed the field, but that field kept forming and reforming into various permutations of itself. Ultimately a group of six escaped the others to contest third place.

However, for me, the race ended much earlier, about 27 minutes into the race. I rode another 15 minutes or so, but that was somewhat useless, with tired legs and worries about using up whatever I have before tomorrow's track day.

I didn't mean it to be that way. I started conservatively, intending to finish the race. I even moved up enough to keep an eye on things, to give me some fall back room, and let the wind and the early aggressiveness take its toll on the front runners.

On one of my move-ups, down the backstretch, I made what in any race would be considered a "racing move", but for me, they were unacceptable.

For the first time in a long, long time, I made contact with another rider.

I was moving up the road, in a straight-ish line, down the middle of the road. I knew it'd be a bit tight on the right side, but I felt riders to the left and didn't feel I could move over there more. Plus I was trying to be efficient and move up within the field, not around the outside.

Then someone moved left a touch just as I came up on them. Nothing weird, for sure. But with a guy to my left, I couldn't move left, and I didn't slam on my brakes. I think braking would have been the worst move, but my wiggle to get through the gap actually had me touch the rider to my left.


I think I may have touch a bar, maybe an arm, but whatever, it was a big shock to me.


Then, as if that weren't enough, as I let my speed drop down, another rider moved left just as I drew up to them, and again I felt some contact.

The heck?

Although nothing happened, other than maybe a surprised yelp or two, I felt terrible about what just happened. Neither of us made any particularly bad moves. Usually in these races you can move laterally relatively easily, and no one was swerving, just easing. Polite, nice, and safe. I figure I was a bit tight with my tolerances, and I was making a slightly more aggressive move than the tone of this race.

Therefore I had to pay penance.

We swung through the last turn and the guys around started easing up a bit. A few guys had rolled off the front, hunting for a prime, and they'd gotten a good gap. My move up had been to see if I could find an opening to jump after them, or, more precisely, to jump after a move that jumped after them.

Instead I'd committed these two errors.

In any normal situation I'd have eased up when the front guys eased, but to make good on my perceived errors (two of them!), I did not ease up. In fact, I went to the front of the group.

And I pulled.

And pulled.

And pulled.

Now, for those of you there, it may not have been a leg breaking pull. In fact, you may have been on the brakes and such. But for me, for me it was a crazy hard pull. I'd look down every now and then, and I was doing mid-300s each time I glanced. My legs started to load up, my breathing got ragged, and I realized that if I didn't pull off soon, I wouldn't have anything left.

So, after something like two laps (I know, pitiful for most, but for me that's it, all gone), I pulled off.

For about 30 seconds I didn't think I could get back in, but just before the tail of the field rolled by me, I found some shelter.

I sat in, refusing to come around, trying to recover. One guy pulled steadily, me right behind, but everyone else kept jumping up the road. I groveled for a while, watching a chase group form, then grow steadily as rider after rider bridged to it.

I decided to ease up a bit and seek more shelter to prepare for my own bridge, but when I looked back, there was only one rider there.

We were three off the back.

Somehow the whole field had managed to bridge up to the "chase", effectively making us the first group off the back.

This happens in video games, but this was the first time I'd been in a situation like this.

One guy peeled off, giving up. The other guy too, seemed less than keen. I'd been trying to save some gas for a bridge attempt, but the wind had been killing me, and I hadn't done anything but maintain a minimal level of reserves.

Penance time.

I went to the front, in a Hail Mary kind of move. No attack, no jump, just roll and do what I'd hoped to be a successful one lap effort to bridge the minor gap.

I got the gear going reasonably well, stayed inside for the shortest line (remembering the Human Derny's remark that going to the second line on the track, just three feet up, it worth a second a lap). Hugging the barriers to the inside, I closed maybe half of the small gap, maybe 30 or 40 meters of the 60 or 80 meter gap.

Then, as I tried to imagine myself at the track, digging in for the next few hundred meters of racing, my legs kind of faded. Kind of hard, actually.

And that was that.

Off the back. I poured some of my ice water on my head (almost fell because of the shock), poured some more, and soft-pedaled around a bit.

I got back on for a lap or something, trying to get some motivation in my legs. I jumped out of the saddle out of a turn (I rarely do, so this was a special effort), worked hard to keep gaps closed, to become the glue of the line of riders...

And my legs went.

I half-heartedly tried to jump back in using smaller gears, track gears, but that lasted only a couple hundred meters. My legs started to cramp. And I started thinking of the track tomorrow.

I sat up and pulled over.

No comments: