Sunday, February 07, 2010

Racing - Red Trolley Crit

Today was the Red Trolley Crit. We drove down to the Miramar area, the Air Force base featured prominently in Top Gun, a totally classic movie. Seriously. You can't help but grin when you hear that song. So I looked around as we got closer, and, next to the hangers, we saw the control tower from the highway. You know the one.

"Negative Ghostrider, the pattern is full."

We got to the race venue. For those that don't live in the area, it's quite the intersection.

Registration was at this intersection.

Viper Way and Top Gun.

Welcome to California.

To put a damper on things I had to consider some of what I'd done in the last week. I'd never trained so hard just before a race. Nor have I raced in a foreign environment, totally out of my element, in a long time, pretty much for 20-odd years (Tour de Michigan excepted). I felt more nervous about this race than I had felt for any race in a long time.

First things first. I'm glad to report that I didn't forget anything. Helmet cam, bike, pump, kit, shoes, helmet, gloves, Atomic Balm, Action Wipes, I had everything I needed for the race.

Second, the bike worked great.

In other words, I had no excuses.

On the way I had my first In N Out Burger on this trip, some protein to fill the stomach, some Coke to jazz up the system. When I felt a bit queasy during the race, I regretted the second burger, but I don't think the food had much to do with how my legs felt.

We arrived and ended up parked next to a nice 7 series Bimmer. Ends up it belonged to someone who'd originally raced back in Connecticut.

Go figure.

I hit up the portapotties, like any good racer. No TP. So, like everyone else, I raided the paper towels from the handwashing stations. To be fair I should point out that the promoter sent someone regularly with yet another package of TP. I must have hit them at just the wrong time.

I registered, and that was a bit long. It took three trips to the desk - first to ask if I had to fill out a release if I was pre-reg (yes - huge advantage of BikeReg), second the guy told me I had to sign another form (something with AS at the top), and the third to get my number.

To be fair they were harried with a lot of international licenses (mainly Mexico, but remember, they had a pro race in a few hours). Personally I have no idea what they had to check for those licenses, so they were about as efficient as they could have been. Overall they ran the race really well.

When I got back to the car, who was there but KDU. I forgot to ask him if he had his aero brakes on. He was chatting, we said hi, and I learned he was in my race.


I didn't get in a very good warm-up, almost forgot my number, had to get that pinned. That and a short bit to set up the helmet cam meant I went to the staging areas ("near the start line") with no warm up.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but with the mega-hours on my legs this week, I think that this really affected my legs. It takes a long time for my legs to come around right now. In fact, I'd debated back at home base doing a short ride to get the legs loose. I decided against it and now I regretted the decision.

Next time I end up in this kind of situation, I'll make the time to do a short ride before showing up to the race venue.

We did a recon lap and I lined up behind a pretty dense looking startline. After a short bit by the announcer, we were off.

I had no idea what to expect. I knew none of the riders. Well, save KDU, but I lost track of him right away. I didn't know who was strong, who wasn't, who was smooth, who wasn't.

I nervously patrolled the front for the first few laps, worried that guys would just drill it, it'd be 35 mph, single file, and guys would pop off like kernels in a bag of popcorn until ten or fifteen riders were left to contest the finish. You know, like Belgium.

Happily this wasn't the case. It was hard at the front, but sitting 10-15-20 back, sheltered from the somewhat powerful winds, it was fine. I hung out in the field, exploring the group's collective cornering habits, checking out the three turns.

Turn One was a normal right turn, but with a slight jog left just before, it could be a bit tricky. Turn Two followed shortly after, smoother with no odd jogs before or after. Turn Three was at the bottom of a short descent, with loose grit all over the place. The inside line was sketchy, the outside wide, and the wind smacked you in the face as soon as you got through the corner.

Once we crested the hill it was 200 or so meters, into a stiff headwind, to the finish.

I did notice that a significant subset of guys weren't very smooth. Strong, yes, smooth, no. They'd dive into corners without thinking of the guys to their inside, or slide up the inside without regard for the guys diving in from the outside. Or they'd swerve abruptly on the very wide hill. One actually hit my bars kinda hard when he suddenly swung left in the middle of the hill.

So when I found a nice, stable, wheel, I decided I'd follow it around for a while.

Sitting on.

After I realized that the Cat 3s in California are mere mortals, that we wouldn't be going 35 for the whole race, I decided it'd be safe to drift back a bit. Actually, I drifted right to the back of the field.


I started counting minutes, always a less-positive sign. Then, with my legs loading up sort of prematurely, I started thinking about how to approach the finish. The headwind on the hill made it hard, with the downhill just before. I figured that my ideal situation would be to tag along behind a leadout train, go through the bottom of the hill in 10th or so, sit until the top of the hill, then launch if I had legs left.

Plan approved. Now I set out to execute it.

I didn't drink very much, much less than I expected. I launched one of my bottles inside the last 20 minutes of the race, the second at two to go. After the second I moved up aggressively in the field, tried to get up to the front. However, at the top of the hill, when I should have been moving up, I found myself easing. I didn't want to go through that pain door.

And, on the last lap, on the back stretch, I realized that there were guys who really wanted this race. I came here an opportunist, someone that'd take advantage of a gift, maybe a powerful leadout launched from my right elbow, or a huge opening in the field beckoning me to slot right in.

But without any gifts, and guys really going for it on the downhill, I decided to back off. I thought for a brief moment that I could sprint around a lot of guys going up the hill. Then a guy went down hard on the inside, and I decided that sprinting for, and getting, 25th place wasn't worth it.

I sat up.

After the race I shut off the helmet cam. Someone came up and asked about the helmet cam, and where I post them. Youtube, SprinterDellaCasa, of course!

I used part of my recently received order of Action Wipes. Two wipes, some spray on a towel, and my Atomic Balmed legs were clean (and warm).

We watched the women beat up each other, then the Masters 35+ start. The Amgen team was there in force, with all sorts of former National Champions on the team. Thurlow Rogers, former Olympian and World Champion, was there too. So was someone with red, white, and blue sleeve stripes, but no stars. We decided to call him a former Dutch National Champion. Or French, but we liked Dutch better.

Anyway it was pretty impressive to see the team attack the field. When you can send a former National Champion with each break, well, it has to be pretty demoralizing to be on any other team.

I started getting a bit faint with hunger so we called it a day and left. Rahsaan Bahati was there in the parking lot with a few teammates. With that final California touch we were off.

Back to home base, the rest of the Super Bowl, and packing up for the trip home tomorrow.

First, though, some food.

I'm starving!


kraig said...

Hi Aki!

Great to see you again...seems like not so long ago I was hanging out on a corner marshaling at the Bethel series! :-)

In case you are curious, here's my srm file from the 3's and the M35+ race.

Skinsuit Drummer said...

Pictures from Red Trolley here: