Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Racing - June 21, 2011 @TuesdayTheRent

This report's quite a bit late, and you'll see why as soon as I finish and post the next post. So I offer my apologies in advance. It's dated appropriately but I didn't post it until July.

Tuesday would be an interesting day. Coming off of lax weekend, I had few expectations. With a visit to my dad's place (and no riding), I wasn't expecting much for the week. I managed a short ride, maybe an hour, and did barely any efforts, but otherwise spent most of the time getting ready for a short-in-time but long-in-length road trip.

Of course the Rent inspires me to ride and race hard. I love the course, the familiar competitors, and the (mostly) predictable racing I see there. In 2011 I've seen a lot of my teammates too, something I missed in the past. It's even more fun for me when I race with teammates - it's that whole "why I buy a kit" thing.

I haven't bothered fixing my bike so I still have the front derailleur locked into the big ring. This is fine for flat crits but it makes warming up a little less optimal - I have to go kind of fast to spin easy gears.

Of course, since I don't warm up a lot for most races, this wasn't really a problem, just an excuse.

Another excuse is something that I've becoming aware of this year - the cramps I have in races. In way too many races I'll get massive twinges in my hamstrings, sometimes followed by an inopportune cramp, as if there are "opportune" cramps.

Some are kind of funny, like when I suddenly turn bright red, face almost bursting, in a restaurant, and start convulsing in the chair as I try and straighten my leg which is, at the moment, trying to drive my heel through my skull via my butt.

Others are not as funny, like when I cramped seconds after stopping the car. If I'd cramped while pulling up the driveway...

Yeah, that wouldn't have been good.

One thing that I've kind of neglected this year is buying those "88 cents per bottle" low calorie electrolyte drinks, like Powerade or Gatorade. For whatever reason - too heavy, not enough room, etc - I haven't been buying them.

And guess what?

I haven't been cramping in races.

Okay, so I've been eating more salty foods, and I drink more water. And I've had more fruit and veggies and almonds and all sorts of various other minor kind of changes in my diet.

But the huge thing is that I haven't been drinking a lot of electrolytes on purpose.

Unfortunately, having spent the past few days doing other things, Tuesday evening, before the race, I had no sugary drinks in the house except a leaded (i.e. sugared) Gatorade.

With no other immediate options I decided I'd drink that. Couldn't hurt, right? Being hydrated would be better than not, and I wanted a sugar boost after not eating real well during the day.

Well, it could kind of hurt. As soon as I got on the bike I could feel my legs twinging.

And when the race went off, I knew immediately I'd be in trouble.

Luckily one of my teammates went with the first move, so I had the option of doing whatever involved "working less", but even so my legs felt really bad. The twinges told me that within a few laps I'd be sitting up and getting out of the race.

It was that horrible.

I moved up towards the front, intent on doing something, anything, before the race ended (for me). I sat fourth wheel in the field, unusual for me, looking for any excuse to use up my legs.

But as we started the third lap, disaster.

I was sitting near the front we crossed the start/finish, approaching the first turn. My teammate Jon rolled up the side, and I briefly contemplated telling him not to pull, that David was off the front. But I decided that since it was a training race, whatever he wanted to do was okay.

At any rate he went really wide, giving us on the inside plenty of room. The guy in front of me moved over to Jon, leaving me third wheel on the inside line.

What happened next was, in reality, quick, confusing, and over in about two seconds, based on the footage from the helmet cam.

The rider at the front of my line had already been pulling for most of a lap. At the start/finish line he looked over his shoulder to both assess the situation behind as well as look for some help.

Seeing no help coming forward from behind, he focused back on the first turn. A glance to his side as my teammate rolled up, but nothing more than that.

Rider in front, focused forward. Teammate Jon to his right.

Then, as I said before, disaster.

As he turned in his rear wheel started to slid out. It's possible he hit his pedal, but looking at the footage it's possible too that the pedal scraping sound was actually his rim hitting the ground.

To be perfectly honest, at that moment I thought he hit a pedal.

Now, to be fair, I have to admit that I've touched pedal a few times here this year, more so than usual. Nothing major, I've surprised myself, but I haven't lost control or anything.

Therefore I didn't expect him to suddenly power slide a full 90 degrees, the bike coming out from under him, sitting him down on the pavement hard, totally and completely.

The rider behind, a Junior, had no chance. With his hands on his hoods he could only lay down a black stripe from the rear tire, his weight up high, and in a heartbeat (or less) he tumbled awkwardly over his bars.

The Junior bike, tumbling upside down, slammed its front tire into my neck, jarring me momentarily.

That tire is about to whack me in the neck.

I could only focus on a curb in front of me. Left or right? Left would be tight, and if there were riders to my inside, I'd probably take them out. Right looked better, with more room.

I went right.

The end result?

Massive road rash for the first rider down. More of the same and a broken collarbone for the Junior. A black smudge covering up the discoloration on my neck from my poison ivy. Skid marks on the road.

Of course we didn't know the seriousness of the injuries. The speed at that time was pretty low (my SRM says we were going 23.5 mph), the tumble seemed relatively tame, and everyone else avoided incident.

But within a lap it was clear, the Junior was hurt, and the promoters stopped the race until the ambulance got there.

Luckily for us the idle ambulances actually sit next to the course, hiding by the portapotties for Rentschler Field. A few waves from the riders and they both rolled onto the street for 50 meters, turned back into the parking lot, and over to the Junior. I actually rolled over gravel on my race wheels (tubulars on super wide HED Stinger carbon rims); some things are more important than others. But before I could holler or yell the ambulances started to roll.

The ambulances park in that gap between the trees.

Post race analysis showed that the tire rolled off the mounting tape. Although it's possible the rider touched his pedal, I can't tell from the clip. It appears the bike starts to move before the pedal gets to the bottom of the pedal stroke. Therefore it's possible that the tire rolling off the rim caused the pedal to hit the ground, not the other way around. All of us amateur CSIs will be able to analyze my clip once it's up, but on my computer, frame by frame, it's hard to tell.

10 minutes late for us (and an eternity for the Junior and his dad, who'd sprinted over there in a time that'd impress an NFL coach) and the race was back on. My legs miraculously loosened up a bit, and I felt like maybe I could actually race the race.

With a lot more caution we started out, a slightly shorter race due to the crash.

Teammate Cliff, he of the 2010 Francis J Clarke leadout, went away with a break, with the escapists eventually lapping everyone.

This gave us a bit of time in the field to race around the course. I partook in some stuff, tried to get the kinks worked out of my legs, and did my usual observing.

This week I noticed something interesting. It really struck me two weeks prior how poorly we in the A race were handling the second turn, and I said as much in the helmet cam clip that I posted about that race.

Tuesday, the first race after I posted the clip, I noticed how politely everyone took that turn. The outside riders stayed more outside, the inside ones stayed more inside. I don't know if it's because they all watched the clip, but if the clip got even one or two people to become more aware of their line in that turn, then great.

As the laps wound down, a few riders escaped, trying to re-escape the field actually. The field strung out, pedal to the metal, single file, chasing with a vengeance. I hung on grimly at the back, not doing too well, my legs threatening me with cramping a little more discretely than at the start but threatening nonetheless.

With a teammate in the break, we could all ostensibly set up for the sprint, so I decided that, what the heck, I'll try and do something.

As we approached the bell the rider two in front of me let a gap go, putting the three of us off the back. With the end of the race rapidly approaching, I knew I wouldn't have the miraculous lap I had a couple weeks earlier, but I decided that I'd make the best of what I had. It really didn't matter though - if I didn't go across the gap, I'd be off the back. With no choice but to go, I went into the wind and bridged the tiny gap, just as we got to the bell.

The gap to bridge, maybe 5 bike lengths, took me from here till almost the first turn.
At over 30 mph it took some sap out of my already tired legs.

Tiny gap, but still an effort, probably about 50 to 75 meters all out, just to get onto the back of the field. I knew right away the significance of what just happened.

I had erased the last 50 meters of my sprint.

Deleted. Nada. Nowhere. No how.

Those last 50 meters would be... slower than molasses.

I used my momentum to integrate into the back of the field, then used another surge to move up on the short second straight, my body already starting to redline. The riders at the front went kindly wide, led by CCNS's Ron, followed by teammate Cliff.

I sat on the left, stranded in the wind, wondering what to do, debating if I should get mixed up, if I should just wait, wondering if it's worth it to mix it up when I'd already used up so much of my sprint. I knew I'd have to go super late, but super late here meant as the final stretch straightens out, like 50 meters from the line.

Not a great option, and I'd have to be second wheel to make anything work at that point.

That's when one of the Leg Breakers rolled up next to me.


I looked over, he looked at me, and he drilled it.

I decided to go, right there and then ("carpe diem!"), punching the pedals as I moved left. I rode briefly next to a Mystic Velo rider then yielded the spot. He had it first, he was on the sheltered side, and, frankly, I had to get the eff out of the wind.

At this point I'd used another 4 or 5 seconds of my sprint, sitting needlessly in the wind.

We went wide out of the last turn, not accelerating, the Leg Breaker having broken his own legs. I steeled myself for a long sprint in the wind, uncertain of my legs, just the one guy in front of me. This wasn't last week where I could go from well before the last turn.

Then I heard my name, from the left, again.

Looking over, I saw teammate Joe T, with teammate David just behind him. Joe moved to me, making it clear what he wanted.

I jumped out of the saddle, accelerated onto Joe's wheel, David let me in, and Joe drilled it, a three man Expo train flying to the line.

My jump used up the last bit of the sprint. I had ridden myself into a dead end. Nowhere to go but back.

As Joe went wide, waiting for the inevitable swarm, with me being the first one expected to pass, I knew I had less than the 50-meter short sprint that I thought I had. I couldn't go to Joe's inside because if I got off his wheel I'd slow like I just hit a brick wall. If I went wide I'd just take up more room, endangering anyone trying to go around me.

Then it got worse - I actually started to come off Joe's wheel. It's the sprinter's worst nightmare, when a teammate kills himself to help you and all you can do is get gapped off his wheel, floundering helplessly as the field swarms the two of you.

Luckily we had an option, the Option D (for David). I glanced left, a bit desperate, and saw David waiting patiently, riding almost next to me, willing me to go, mentally pushing me forward.

His telekinesis needs some serious work because I was going slower and slower - he couldn't will me to go any faster.

I had only one option, and I flung it out there as soon as I realized my situation.

"Go, go, go!", I yelled at David.

He went immediately, pulling away with such ease I couldn't believe he waited for me. He had to be on his brakes trying not to pass me, he went that fast once he lit it up.

David, lighting it up to the left, and Joe, drilling it to the line.
I'm supposed to be on Joe's wheel.

Joe was like the Energizer bunny - he just would not slow down. He barely got nudged out for second in the field sprint when a Berlin Bikes guy pipped him at the line, but he had a deceivingly fast sprint.

Cliff jumped hard when he had the line in sight, beating his break mates to the line, winning the race.

Cliff, launching hard.
Jeff M is the only guy up there that's not an official teammate.

SOC rolled by me too, putting a swarm of Expo jerseys at the front of the sprint.

And that was the race.

Properly impressed with my teammates, positively unimpressed with myself, we rolled around, cooling down.

I think I set the record for the highest number of leadout men in the last half lap where the leadout men actually saw the front the field and where their sprinter didn't even place in the top ten (!?).

With a lot of stuff happening in the week before Sunday's Keith Berger Crit, I wasn't confident that I could change much with that last lap fiasco. I could only hope that some more rest days would result in some miraculous power gains.

Either that or the Keith Berger Crit would be a huge disappointment.

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