Thursday, July 01, 2010

Racing - 2010 Keith Berger Crit, June 27, 2010

With the summer season getting into full gear, the next race up on the calender was the Keith Berger Crit, a CVC race in East Hartford.

(For the 2009 Berger race, go here. It's when the Expo wheels started turning in my head.)

Seeing as we live about 30 minutes from there, and since we know a lot of the folks that hold the race, it was kind of a given that we'd go. I hemmed and hawed over pre-reg, but decided I'd give the late fee to the promoters. When I saw all the police cars and such marshaling the course, I was glad I did - it couldn't have been cheap to close the course like that.

The Missus and I rolled up in style in her new red hot rod of a wagon (heh). Knowing the parking lot helped and we parked across from registration.

I'd recently added the Cane Creek bars to the Tsunami, anxious to take any advantage of form I could take. Although not a break rider per se, the one year I could ride well I spent some time at or off the front (and I think of a lap as being a long time, so "some time" could mean, like, half a lap).

Keith Berger, sitting second wheel to yours truly.
The reality was that he was much stronger than me - he could sprint, fine, but he could time trial also. In fact, the guy who led Bethel for a while, Evan T, reminds me of Keith in his riding style.
Note Scott Rake aero bars on my bike.

The picture above was one of those years where I felt pretty good (probably 1995). I didn't feel great - the bars didn't stay on the bike for more than a week or two - but good. I had a lot of geek-equipment advantages - 38 gram Aerolite pedals (including the cleat!), Zipp 340 lightweight aero wheels, and the Scott Rakes.

(Note: Navone Studios sits about where that VW Rabbit is in the picture.)

I spent a lot of time trying to take advantage of the Rakes, which meant a lot of time crunched over the bars trying to go really hard. After failing to make a dent of any kind in the overall racing picture, I removed the bars. In 1992, my best year, I used them for much of the year.

I'm hoping that I'll have opportunities to use the bars again now in 2010, but the first thing I had to was to make sure they were legal. I'd seen Doug M and Bill Yarbroudy using them, so I figured they were, but I'm paranoid like that.

I'd jury rigged the SRM Powercontrol (the "head") using a combination of various hook-and-loop stuff, one set to keep the head from sliding on the bar, the other to hold it to the bar itself. I learned that this is a great way to secure relatively hard-to-secure things, even heavy objects like batteries. I put some adhesive-backed fuzzy stuff on one object (SRM head), adhesive-backed hook stuff on the other (Cane Creek bars), then mate the two objects.

Problem is that if you lift the bike by holding the SRM head, the head pops off. So I then put hook/loop straps around the head. Now the SRM won't slide at all, and I can't pull it off the bars.

Backing on back of SRM, stuff on bars, and two looped straps for good measure.

The SRM can't move much due to the hook/loop holding it on the bars, but to make it triply secure, I used two sets of hook/loop straps. Since I rarely check the SRM for anything while I'm actually riding, this is fine.

Presto, Very Secure Object.

And VSOs are a point of contention for USAC, and I didn't want to be prevented from starting because I had a not-so-VSO.

First order of business at the race was to.. oh, wait, it was to check out the portapotties. The next order of business was to make sure my bars and VSO were okay. I got the nod so proceeded to do a leisurely warm up.

Today we had SOC and Cliff. SOC, well, he and I have been racing together for a while now, mainly with him working for me. He sat at the front of the first 2010 Bethel for the last three laps, trying to keep me up front (I was sitting 2nd or 3rd wheel while he pulled or sat 2nd). In other races I've tried to help him, but I inevitably make "sprinter" reactions to situations where I should have made "leadout" reactions. When the leadout man dives into a tiny gap... well, the results, if everyone stays upright, are inevitable. In other words, the leadout man unhooks his sprinter.

Yeah, not good.

And Cliff, he and I only rode together once - but he led me out to a spectacular finish at the final Bethel race this year.

I've been looking to try and help the others out in races, and in this one, one of few that I'd do with Cliff, SOC and I thought that we could work for him. I had a plan in my mind and was dying to share it.

It took about 4 or 5 minutes of tooling around way too slowly to get some privacy, but then it took another minute to figure out our plan of action.

Our plan only covered the last lap - we'd be doing some constructive racing up until then.

For me, I wanted to test out the Cane Creek bars. I wanted to make sure I could make just moderate efforts on the bars, not go just a touch below absolute leadout speed. I also wanted to make an effort off the front and get reintegrated into the field without getting dropped.

It's actually a kind of selfish experiment. Think of McEwen practicing breaking away on a long, flat stage in the Tour - not really what you think about when you think about him.

I just hoped that my effort would allow some respite for SOC and Cliff, and force a reaction from others.

Cliff was looking to do perhaps the similar breaks and such, but at a much stronger scale. He's probably the strongest of the three of us in pure FTP (he's a good 30-50% higher than me in sustainable wattage).

SOC would play Jens, making mid-race efforts to keep the field together while saving something for the end. He's our unknown factor, without a powermeter, but able to sit at the front endlessly (or so it seems), and is probably much closer to Cliff than he is to me.

With the plan set, we lined up and went.

Lining up. David B, long time friend, just finished the 4s.
(picture courtesy Mrs SOC)

When a Brauer guy went off the front, and another dangled in no-man's land, I decided that I should make this my "practice time". I moved up, debated for all of the back stretch on whether I should go now or not (talk about broadcasting intent!), and finally went when we hit the short stretch between Turns 3 and 4.

I went with the wind, rolling pretty hard. On the following straight I hunkered down into the Cane Creek bars. I tried to get on top of the gear and found myself going way too hard to sustain - I realized right away I wanted to back off, but I found I couldn't. Good thing was I could bridge up to the Brauer guy okay, and so I did.

I pulled a bit, trying to get back into something resembling "sustainable", but I was burning off energy like it was going out of style. When the Brauer guy pulled through on the short stretch before the 4th turn, I exploded.

Literally moments before I exploded.
I used the Speed bars to bridge but avoided them once with the Brauer rider.
(picture courtesy Mrs SOC)

The field rolled by soon after, with SOC launching a counter.

Cliff managed to infiltrate a break, and as it grew a bit and became unwieldy, he launched out of the break and went clear.

As the remnants of the break filtered back into the field and Cliff maintained his advantage over the field, I moved up, wanting to play Teammate and go with any counter moves.

Of course one went up the left side just as I arrived on the right, so I made the appropriate launching motions and rocketed across the gap. I actually had to coast to avoid passing the two attackers, but once I got on, the field seemed to follow.

Cliff brought himself back after a few laps on his own, and so we set up for the finish. A slightly confusing last lap, combined with some disjointed efforts meant that we were totally unorganized and out of position on the backstretch.

SOC made the efforts he needed to make but we couldn't follow, and so, independently, we tried belatedly to make up a new way to finish. I gambled on a big inside move, lost, and sat up as my legs started twinging in the sprint.

Cliff was more boxed in, but with fresher legs, and he launched a late but strong sprint.

Ultimately our efforts disintegrated in the last lap, with no official results to show for our work. The reality, as usual, was a bit different.

We raced with a plan, with roles for each of us. At Bethel, although it worked out, the roles were a bit more... spontaneous.

We learned about the importance of being able to adapt immediately to an unexpected situation. For example, when I realized we'd lost the initiative, I should have led out Cliff immediately. Instead, I got trapped in our more complex plan and ended up paralyzed from thinking too much. Next time I should focus on the goal, not the plan.

On a positive note we learned that we could work together without blame or recriminations. We finished the race disappointed, yes, but we weren't yelling at each other, blaming one another. We could see our errors, I could see mine, and now we know.

Now I just hope we have another opportunity to try again.

Like the saying goes...

"There's always next week."

Only 10 pins. More than 13 seems to work better.
Note long finger gloves in pocket - for finger tip protection.

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