Monday, March 08, 2010

Bethel Spring Series - Ronde De Bethel - Tsunami + Samurai Swords

So yesterday was the first Bethel of the year.

Although I've been stressing about the race, ultimately things went pretty well. One tenant wasn't very happy but it seems that things went relatively smoothly (luckily we cleared the parking lot before he showed up!).

The course was in awesome shape due to a lot of hard work and some timely maintenance done by the town (they tested their sweeper on the course). This is not to belittle the efforts of the 30 or 40 people who showed up to help out on Sweep Day the day before.

And, the biggest, hugest, baddest upgrade to the race - Navone Studios. It's owned by a guy Frank who is a graphic design / photographer / creative something or another. You can visit his site here.

He's also a huge cycling enthusiast. As any racer that walked in could plainly see, Frank loves cycling. The frames hanging from the ceiling, the huge poster pictures of cyclists, the chainrings up there, the workshop and bikes in the back, he's a cycling enthusiast through and through.

Well, he's given the Bethel Spring Series a whole new look, a whole new feel - indoor registration.

Unbelievably I didn't take any pictures so it'll have to wait till next week, but suffice it to say that he frickin' rocks.

It made life so much easier. No numb fingers. No wind blowing papers around. No worrying about rain getting on the printouts. No sand on bagels. Just a nice, calm, soothing, relaxing studio.

I loved how we all looked like tourists in there. Everyone walked in and started looking up and around, just like a tourist in New York City. Even the hardened Cat 1s and 2s were amazed, and, frankly, that takes a lot.

So next week find Frank and thank him. Or buy a coffee (they were grinding the beans that morning) or some of the other things they sell for food. Awesome, awesome, awesome. All I can say.

The race.


Over the winter I made a bunch of wholesale changes. In fact I think the only thing I didn't change are my bars, pedals, shoes, and helmet (the last will change shortly). I have a frame that fits totally differently, new kit, new race wheels, and a new body.

You may laugh at the last bit but it's true. I'll go over the other stuff first though. The Tsunami is my first custom bike, basically a compact frame that is a 40 cm frame with a 56.5 effective top tube. It's long, low, lean, and mean. The thing fits me perfectly, handles great, and seems to race pretty well too.

I went to my old favorite saddle so am now on a non-current saddle. The Fizik Arione was okay, the long length helping disguise the forward position, but with a steeper seat tube angle I don't need it anymore. So I went to the old standby, the Titanio 2000.

The new kit is because I'm on a new team. I had a little discomfort yesterday because I rode with padded bib knickers as well as padded bib shorts, and the two pads weren't quite lined up. No team knickers but I wanted to fly the colors. Next week I'll figure out a better way of doing it. Otherwise it's been fine.

The wheels - I alluded to them in a prior post as samurai swords - are the new 2010 HED Stinger 6s. That's exactly what they are, swords, slicing through the air. They absolutely astounded me with their speed. I first rode them outside after we swept on Saturday and they positively flew.

They're also wide as heck, so wide I was worried I'd be dragging carbon in the turns.

But no worries - when I did an Abdujaparov test sprint, trying to drag my knuckles on the ground, I realized I had plenty of clearance.

(Actually, the wheels are terrible. You should definitely not get them until after the Bethel Spring Series is over. For sure. Really. Take my word on this one.)

I raced the bike, sans wheels, at Red Trolley in SoCal earlier this year. But it wasn't really a great day for me, I never felt "in it", and I sat up before the last couple turns.

This was the first time I'd be racing the bike with the Swords.

With the whole "promoting a race" distracting me for the morning, I managed to get my standard warm up - I rode the 20 yards from the registration to the start line.

Actually, come to think of it, I got about 20 yards less warm up because registration is closer this year.

I was woefully unprepared with the helmet cam (I just assumed I'd make it work) and ditched riding with it for the first Bethel. Once I decided that I got on the bike and we went off.

I pulled a 1000+ watt effort off the line - it felt lower so it must have been nerves. I was close to the front on the first hill, and when I saw a teammate start rolling away, I figured I'd bridge quickly and go from there. I separated cleanly from the field and surged to my teammate.

Again, though, I surged a bit hard - 1240 watts, my peak reading for the whole race. I realized I'd have to slam my brakes on going up the hill if I wanted to avoid rear-ending my teammate and the two guys around him so I just bypassed all three riders.

I shifted up as I crested, rolling the 53x12 hard, and dove into the first turn. I ramped it up to 35+ mph, my max speed for the race. Then, for the next minute and change, I wondered what the frick I was doing off the front on the second lap.

Or, as Mrs SOC said to the missus, "Is this part of the plan?"

I soft-pedaled the backstretch well below threshold and prayed I'd get caught soon. The field complied, letting me reintegrate on the hill. I quickly reverted back to the plan and sat in. SOC came up to me and asked what I was doing off the front, then, looking at my face, added quickly not to get dropped.

Amazingly I recovered reasonably quickly. And, as the day went on, I realized that my legs felt pretty good.

See, I have to admit something. I've been trying to not get a cold that has been going around at work. Two of the three people had to go see a doctor and one didn't want to, all with fever, cough, and assorted "much worse than a cold" kind of things. So I've been dressing warmly, eating a lot, and praying that the tickle in my throat, the quick acid build up in my legs, the hot-cold flashes I've been having, that they've all been... um... allergies.

Yeah, allergies.

So, on Sunday, I hoped that I didn't get more "allergic". Apparently I didn't.

I realized I felt good at the top of the hill maybe halfway through the race. Guys would climb up the hill and sit down kind of hard, that "Oomph" as they turn off the gas. That used to be me, needing to turn off the power quickly, else I'd blow.

But Sunday I felt pretty good. I rolled over the top, through the top, pedaling up to and past the start/finish.

And I didn't go into the red to do it.

At some point I found myself with SOC, my designated last-leadout man, and we chatted a bit. I felt a bit impatient though, able to ride further forward than my normal back-of-the-pack. So I rolled to the front part of the field.

Again and again.

I realized there'd been some splits in the field, instigated by attacks, true, but caused by riders actually sitting up. You can tell when an attack actually breaks clear because the riders are strung out and can't stay on wheels. But when there's a clump of riders all looking at each other 20 feet behind a line of riders pedaling, you know that someone let a gap go and the next 6 or 8 guys didn't feel like closing it.

Well, three guys eventually got away, worked hard in the wind, and opened up a sizeable gap.

We wouldn't see them again until after they won the race. My teammates Jon and Drew constantly patrolled the front, but, thinking back on it, we should have been more attentive. We'd based the plan on my 2009 legs, not my 2010 ones.

In the meantime, 25 seconds down, with three laps to go, things looked a little grim. A committed chase could have closed the gap, but there were no committed chasers left. Just a tired Guido, the super strong German guy who freelances for friends (he races Unattached), and SOC. I sat inside the top 10 at about 4 or 5 to go and never really drifted back until just before the finish.

Guido was pulling hard, so hard that once I had to give SOC a little shove to keep him up close and personal with Guido's back wheel. I could sense the other sprinter-types salivating on my wheel, just waiting for me to explode into a bazillion pieces. I didn't want to look around, it would be too scary. All these burly sprinters, saliva dripping from their fangs, grinning, looking at me like the hors d'oeuvres before the finish line victory.

I grimly sat on SOC's wheel. Guido pulled, SOC pulled, a CVC guy pulled a bit.

2 to go. I sat third wheel, still behind SOC, he usually on Guido's wheel, with the CVC guy a bit in front, I think one more guy in front of him.

SOC was quickly using up his legs in the wind, really his first real ride outside in forever, and he was starting to suffer. The plan had been for him to see wind for 200 meters, not 2000.

I hate sitting in the front five or so, so totally exposed to the wind. Yeah, there's a draft, but it's nothing compared to sitting, say, tenth. But I didn't know what to do, my legs weren't blown yet, so I stubbornly stuck it out.

TJ, our beloved teammate, came blasting up to lend a hand. He'd been chasing a lot, making huge efforts, and he had nothing left in his tank. He pulled for a bit, peeled off. He'd spent his last penny from his riding account.

1 to go. Still sitting third wheel, and, when Guido finally sat up, second wheel behind SOC.

I coaxed him to keep going, then, as he started to flounder, told him to ease a bit. We were half a lap from the finish, way too far for him to go, and I had to get riders to come around me, just had to.

SOC started slowing a bit more noticeably. I didn't want him to start wobbling, and I knew the wind was killing him.

Finally someone got impatient behind, with maybe 500 meters to go. Four guys rolled by me kind of hard, I accelerated, and whoever it was let me in. I sat fifth wheel, give or take, and looked up to see who was up there. In his new kit I could see the distinct pedaling style of a friendly rival Ian two riders in front.

Crap. He's a good sprinter, a good jump, and he was looking really lean, really fit at registration.

I started doing the calculations. 5 guys back. Leadout less than fast - the guy was 8-10 feet from the right curb, not wanting to give away all his effort in this race.

Then, a slight surge to the right.

I heard my name.

Looked. BWolf.

I've known this guy for literally decades. He races in the classic sense - he pays his dues, helps other riders out, then, when he's paid tribute to the sport, he races for himself. Classic.

And he knew I was in a bit of trouble.

I moved over onto his wheel.

He checked I was there and steadily ramped it up.

I could hear the guys to the left yelling, screaming to go, that the move was going on the right. Belatedly they got out of the saddle, started accelerating, started moving right.

We rolled by them.

It was "the move", and I was the "movee". Wolf was bringing me to the line.

We went to my marker, where I'd have jumped if I'd went by the plan. But my legs were starting to go, starting to fade, and BWolf looked fine.

I waited 10 more meters, 20 more meters. And then I couldn't bear it. I had to jump before the others did.

And I went, hard. Not as hard as my first lap attack, but hard. I'd just done a big almost-1000 watt effort on the backstretch to hop onto the train, then two 800-900 watt efforts to get on BWolf's wheel and hold it when he ramped it up.

Now I needed another 1000+ watt surge from my legs. I managed about an 1100 watt jump (which means I never hit 1100) and held over 900 watts almost to the line.

I started dying a thousand deaths, slowing, slowing, slowing. I desperately threw my bike at the line, one guy to my left, another to my right.

Both were going significantly faster than me.

After reviewing the tape (I still haven't seen it), they told me that I'd won the field sprint.


I had already undone my 3-4 number, with my P123 number underneath. I lined up, we went, and I did the P123 race. I started thinking about helping out friends (all of my teammates had done the prior race and we were all kind of tired), then realized such efforts could be race-ending. No one seemed to desperately want help so I decided I'd play it conservative.

For the first time in umpteen years, maybe since the mid 90s, I made it to two laps to go in the P123 race. I felt totally fine, no pressure, and started thinking about the sprint.

Then, on the backstretch, some idiot swerved out to look up the road to check on the break's progress. With the field bunched up tightly, everyone had to swerve out too, and guys started tumbling.

I heard the distinct crack of helmet on pavement, smelled the burning tires and brake pads, and sat up.

It's just a bike race, right? And if someone got hurt... I turned around.

So, although I DNFed, I counted the second race as a "I would have finished fine."

A huge improvement from last year where I was dying from the start of any P123 race I entered and dropped out after 5 laps if I started.

After the race we packed up. I got my prize money which I promptly gave to the boys to divvy up - most of it came back my way somehow. We all chatted a bit and most of us set off for the Sycamore Diner.

A good day. Nice weather, nice race day, nice people, nice team, and some successful racing.

Next week I want to have the helmet cam, smoother running traffic and registration, and more timely results (we didn't bring the second laptop and we missed it sorely).

Bring it on!


Sean said...

awesome. good job aki

Connor Sallee said...

wow, i had no idea there was a crash. perhaps i'm glad now that my chain snapped!

any idea who it was?

Aki said...

thx Sean!

No idea who it was. But I'm sure they know.