Friday, June 11, 2010

Racing - June 8, 2010 @TuesTheRent

For once the weather smiled on us Tuesday Night World Champions, with temperatures in the low 70s, bright, dry skies, and low humidity. It doesn't get much better than this around here, even though (ahem) it may be like this all the time in, say, a place like, um, San Diego.

But I stray.

The Missus and I made the trip to Rentschler Field for some good racing, good friendships, and good times. In the morning we'd packed the car, the race wheels for sure, so I could work on my cornering (which was so poor at Somerville). Specifically I couldn't dive into a corner properly, and I wanted to work on this whole "tightening up my line" thing.

I also had my heavy, deep, aero Jet 6-9s as a back up - if I had a problem with the Stinger 6s, I could work on smooth, steady, fast speed on the flywheel like Jet 9 rear wheel, along with the aero Jet 6 front.

With the missus driving her new hot rod wagon, I got to change in the car, cutting a few minutes off my prep time at the course. I also downed a quart of Powerade (well, technically I finished the last bit when we got to the course). Drinking during the race wouldn't help me very much so I decided that I'd drink my electrolytes before it.

At the Rent we parked next to a sister of our wagon, and then another sister parked next to us. It was a little TDI meet, if you will.

I registered with the kind folks at registration, filling out all the paperwork like a racer ought to, so that if I crashed, they'd have the paperwork in order. It's important to have the signed paperwork and to see a license and to pay the entry fee.

And, no, I won't mention anyone on the blog :)

I'd collected a bunch of pins in the morning, sticking them in my pocket, so, on a lark, I used them all to pin my number.

Pins, baby, pins! 13 for good luck. And no flapping.
(Note subtle Carpe Diem Racing plug)

With the complete reassurance that my number wouldn't flap, I set off on a bit of warm up. For me that means rolling around, my heart rate barely registering a bump, until it's time to race. That night it meant about 3 or 4 loops on the far side, then a loop or two of the course as they cleared up an unfortunate collarbone victim from the B race.

Apparently the wind came from the right on the final, curving left bend, and everyone tried to get left to seek shelter. Problem is if you go too far left there's a low wood fence, and it seems that someone ended up on it.

I managed to catch up with SOC somewhere in here. I mentioned the wind, how it was a tailwind on the back stretch, a cross-headwind (from the right) on the final one. Anyone who wanted to go would go on the tailwind bit, where speed trumps drafting.

Meaning, if someone launched really hard, the field would have a hard time responding in a timely fashion because the speeds would be pretty high.

Then, when said attacker made the hard left, they'd be in the wind, with a lot of inertia carrying them forward. The field's lead riders, on the other hand, would be accelerating to meet the threat, into the wind, with everyone sitting on (and towards the left, the sheltered side).

The attacker could sit on the left side curb, on the fence rail, and would make anyone chasing really earn their gains. And, when the attacker got caught, they'd immediately have a draft as the chasers would have to pass on the windward side.

This kinda stuck in my head.

Properly warned of the wind by the emergency vehicles, we lined up. The promoters told us, just in case we missed the fire truck and ambulance, that the wind made people seek shelter on the left, and to keep our wits about us.

And with that we were off.

Now, although I saw the ambulance and fire truck, although I heard the promoters caution us, I still figured, "Well, it's pretty clear the shelter is to the left, and I'm gonna git me some."

I nearly ran off the road on that left side within a lap or two.

"Ohhh. I see what they mean."

So, now that I truly understood the situation, I made some adjustments. I really had to watch the left curb, especially the actual curb that jutted out a touch just before the line.

With a couple leg breakers there (meaning the riders), the pace promised to be pretty fast. Sure enough, Aidan, Leg Breaker Optimus, went off in search of fame and glory. Or to do a 5 minute interval, something like that.

The field chased hard, led by Central Wheel, whose riders formed a ProTour-like line of riders at the front of the field.

Okay, a ProTour-like line of riders chasing a very fast Cancellara.

Eventually Aidan returned to the fold. Breaks would go, the field would chase, and another one of Aidan's CCNS riders would launch. As I slowly sank into the depths of a lactic acid bath, I kept my eye on Aidan. I knew he'd have the gas to go, and I knew the only way to make it in his group would be to go with him.

Eventually, with everyone on the limit, Aidan went onto the attack. I watched but couldn't go. He and another rider eventually eeked out a quarter lap lead, maybe 200 meters. It seems like it should be a jumpable gap, but with the course, the wind, and the strung out field, no one could make it across.

A good try separated a bunch of riders from the field, and soon the Chase Group started pulling away.

I watched as the Chase Group dangled just 8 or 10 seconds in front of the field, knowing that I had to go right now. I remember the moment clearly, rounding the bend onto the backstretch, watching the Chase Group dive into the last turn.

It was... possible.

But my legs disagreed, and my brain quickly rationalized my legs' decision by saying that the Chase Group may be a bit closer on the next lap.

Alas, they pulled away that next lap. And the lap after. So on and so forth.

The Chase approached the Break, then two strong Chasers bridged to the Break on their own. The four man Break started gaining ground on the weakened Chase, and both of them gained ground on the Pack.

In fact, our Pack (would it surprise you to learn that I was in the Pack?) actually broke up into two groups, and for a worried lap or two I thought that I'd be stuck in the fourth group on the road. Yeah, I was in the second group of that Pack.

But the guys in front of me (I couldn't help) managed to pull things back together and the Pack reassembled, a long way behind the Chase Group, an even longer way behind the Break.

I recovered a bit and decided I'd do one of those huge efforts required to bridge a big gap. I can't motor for 5 minutes at a time - I have to go now, go hard, and get the job done. I don't know what the gap was at the time but it was a good 200+ meters, maybe close to 20 seconds.

I drove hard to the front, then off the front. I flew into the first turn, kept the pressure on, then settled into a fast, uncomfortable pace on the back stretch. I rolled onto the final curving straight, pulled hard, and, when I felt like I was about to go cross-eyed, pulled off.

No one else would pull.

With teammates in the Chase, the first guy or two didn't want to ruin things. And the guys interested in chasing weren't at the front - they were clawing their way back to the pointy end of the stick, after the rude interruption I made.

The hard chase.
Pic lifted with permission courtesy of SOC/Mrs SOC.

I looked up. Instead of a couple hundred meters, we sat an agonizing 40 or 50 meters behind the Chase; it'd been a very fast (for me) 30 mph average speed minute. I wanted someone, anyone, to make the effort to bridge. Even if they went alone, it'd have been worth it, to know that I could launch someone from one group to another.

Instead everyone sat up. Tellingly, our average speed dropped to 21 mph for the next minute. The Chase Group disappeared from our grasp for good.

I was pretty well spent and shrank back into the Pack.

(Maybe next time I'll try a slower, longer effort.)

A little while later, getting a bit dizzy from fatigue, I heard a bell ringing. I wasn't sure if maybe it was the last lap, but I wasn't about to take a chance. I launched on the back stretch, went flying into the final stretch, and turned a huge gear over to the line.

Before I got there I looked back. Started having doubts. No one was chasing. Maybe the bell was for a different group.

I cross the line, full of doubt. Looked back. I thought everyone behind was coasting. Maybe the race was over. Maybe I sprinted on the right lap.

I looked for stationary legs.


They were pedaling. My eyes were failing me, everything a bit blurry, but it was painfully clear to me - the field was building up steam, hammering.

SOC came by, hollered at me to get on.

Huh? Where did he come from? I gasped that I was dead, and waited for the swarm.

The race started streaming by me. I stayed out of the way, trying not to crash anyone. But they weren't flying by, not like I'd expected. They were just creeping by.


Then, suddenly, "like someone hit a switch in my legs"*, I could pedal again. I got on a wheel and I was back in the game. Well, the game in the Pack. Forget about the Chase Group or the Break.

Eventually the Break lapped us, and Aidan (yeah, he was there) eased a bit. He'd made his point, now he just wanted to stay upright.

With a lap to go (for real this time), I had other plans. I was looking for, but couldn't get to, SOC. We'd talked about doing a leadout, but he seemed plenty busy on the other side of the field.

Up front I saw Bryan H (IRSMedic) leading out his teammate Chad. I figured I had a decent shot at getting up there before the last turn so I gave it a good go. I went up the left side, got to the front just in time, and tried to take a smooth line through the turn, to let Bryan jump on.

I turned around and sure enough, he was there. But as the wind pummeled me, I realized I didn't have the legs like before. My legs started really twinging, and with a whole lotta guys breathing down my neck, I didn't want to cause problems. Not wanting to cramp, not wanting to get too mixed up in the sprint, I hollered at Bryan that he was clear, he could go.

He looked a bit peaked though, and our antics actually blocked his guy Chad a bit. A CCNS guy launched. I think he won the race. Chad scampered after him.

Ah, well.

We warmed down, doing the "lap after chat". SOC was there, so, too was Doug M (last I saw him was Somerville, a week before Monday). He'd been sporting some Rev-Xs after that broken spoke in NJ (and the later crash, although I don't know what happened there still).

SOC kept congratulating me on my prime; so did another guy. Maybe I really did win a prime. Hm.

After changing and getting the Missus's hot rod out onto some pavement, I wandered over to the promoters.

"Was there really a prime that one lap?"
"Did I really win a prime?"

Then they all grinned.

"Here, pick whatever you want..."

I peeked in the cooler.


I choose... You!

"Really? Is this okay?"
"Yeah, the guy who won didn't claim his prize, so..."

"You got ID?"

We all laughed. But I held onto the bottle, and showed it off to the Missus, SOC, and Mrs SOC.

Riley examining my prime. It probably belongs to Aidan or Ron, but neither claimed it.

I felt like I had a productive night. Some big efforts. Specifically big efforts followed by more efforts, i.e. I didn't get shelled right away. I won a prime. Okay, it was minor, but I didn't drop out of the race right afterward.

And I could still make some moves on the final lap. Nothing major, again, but enough to know that I had some legs left.

I hadn't taken one sip of my bottle.

I'd worked on my cornering, and now I realize I need to return to the higher inflation pressures from before. The wide clincher rims make lower pressure beneficial, but the wider tubular rims are there just for aerodynamics. The tire remains the same, so the pressures should remain the same too. I feel a lot more comfortable on a higher pressure front tire, so I'll be racing with my tires back up into the 120-140 psi range.


*Quote from Roy Knickman (La Vie Claire) before the 1987 Corestates race at Philly. I can't find the quote but it's in the video. Seriously. Says it with that big grin of his.


SOC said...

Don't worry - you *earned* that prime and won it outright - it was a FIELD prime, IIRC. Yeah, Aidan & Co were up the road, but you cleared the field. And pretty handily too.

Fun race!

Aki said...

I'll have to start experimenting more at the races. It was a lot of fun that night.