Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Racing - June 28, 2011 @TuesdayTheRent

After the KB Crit, the long drive before it, and then usual "we just got back from vacation and have nothing in the house so we have to go shopping" biz, the Missus and I were a bit fatigued. I thought that my legs were pretty good Sunday at the race so figured that the Rent wouldn't be a problem.

Luckily I had all my racing stuff in the car (just left it in there after the KB Crit); I just had to get a clean kit, make sure my camera was charged, and we'd be good to go.

The Missus gathered up some of the racing supplies before I got home, stuff like ice and water in the Podium bottles, so we left at a good time. After our little trick at the intersection near us, we got under way.

I should explain the intersection bit.

First off, we live in a cycling friendly town, according to a national group's ratings. It's the only one in Connecticut, so you can kind of guess where we live.

However, and I say this in all seriousness, the drivers here are quite oblivious. I've never seen such blatant red-light running, stop sign running, or tailgating so tight that it would make a NASCAR driver flinch. This is the town we live in.

So, when we leave our humble abode, we have to navigate this one intersection, a 3 way stop.

Since two of the three roads are pretty busy, most of the drivers are going to and from those two roads. Going one direction ("east"), it's a right turn; going the other ("west") it's a left.

The right turn people rarely stop, if ever. A lot of times two cars will stream through like one, as if the first car had a hitch connecting it to the second one.

Problem is that we have to turn onto that road about 20 yards later. Since no one really stops at the three way, we ended up facing a never-ending stream of cars.

After one particularly frustrating day, we decided we'd use the stop sign as our way out of this impossible left turn.

We'd go to the three way stop (from the "less busy" road), stop, and turn left.

This forces those drivers going east to actually stop. It also forces the drivers going west to actually stop at the line, not 10 or 15 feet past it. Our left is extremely acute, barely giving us room to clear the curb.

So when we get to the intersection, we carefully use our turn signal. We do normally, but here it's extremely important.

We wait for one car each from the other directions to go.

Then we go.

Of course we almost get t-boned from the right by the next car going east, and the west-bound car will start moving forward quickly, almost t-boning us from the left.

We each give the appropriate driver dirty looks, one to the left, one to the right. Both drivers look a bit embarrassed for being caught doing something naughty, especially doing something that they knew they shouldn't be doing.

After we clear the intersection we giggle because, really, what else can you do? The drivers are pretty oblivious. There's even some empirical proof. They've been repaving a road here, carefully marking the now-raised manhole covers. Yet, unbelievably, people are paying attention to everything but the road, and now a lot of people are deservedly bending wheels and blowing tires. If they didn't tailgate, if they actually paid attention to the road in front of them, they wouldn't be hitting stationary objects painted bright orange.

(Today the manhole covers have tall cones on them. It's called dumbing down the system, working for the lowest common denominator.)

Anyway, with the start to any I-91 trip, we do this, and today wasn't any different.

We got to Rentschler Field okay and after getting ready, I got on the bike.


My legs were tired. Sore, even. I guess the KB Crit was harder than I thought. The long driving didn't help any.

I remembered to be thankful that I wasn't good enough to be a pro, where my life would be driving and racing all the time.

It's nice to be able to pick and choose my races, skipping any really sketchy ones, instead of having to do this or that race.

A pleasant surprise - ShovelHD, a rider from up north, making an appearance at the Rent. He made the even longer drive to Bethel to support the Bethel Spring Series. A good guy, strong and savvy racer, he's recently returned to the sport after a long hiatus, racing like he'd never stopped.

The race started off okay, a few of the Expo guys got into a move, and that move attracted more and more racers. The group in front grew in size, the racer count going up almost every lap.

Problem was that the Expo number didn't go up enough. Soon we were a pack of 10 with 7 Expo riders.

The rest of the race was up the road.

The Expo guys weren't necessarily blocking, but no one was really chasing either. Since we had to bridge sooner than later, I decided that I'd make my first huge withdrawal (from the race account) to bridge the gap.

I got to the front, echoed another's cry that we had to close the gap ("Gap? It was like the Grand Canyon!"), and then surged. Not too hard, just got the big gear rolling.

It took just under half a lap to catch and pass two dangling off the front, then another almost half lap to actually bridge up to the group in front of them. The gap was probably around 12 or 13 seconds to the group in front, about the maximum a solo rider like myself can close in one anaerobic effort.

At that point, to be frank, I was cooked. A few laps later, behind Shovel and teammate Cliff, towards the back of the field, I found I couldn't go out of Turn Three. I'd already been pushing hard to stay in contact, hoping for some recovery, but I never got out of the hole I got into through that bridge effort.

I came off, rolled around for a lap or four, and when I had a clear shot to the line (no racers in my way, or, rather, me not in the way of any racer), I did one practice sprint to the line.

It was a bit weak, to be frank. I barely broke 35 mph (no power data available), my legs threatening mutiny all the way.

I debated doing a sprint a lap for a while, but after coasting around Turn One, I realized that it'd take me another 5 minutes to gather up the courage (and strength) to go again. Cutting my losses, I stopped.

At the end teammate Todd B won the sprint. I can't remember if he'd been a lap up but I think he was.

Although I felt really fatigued, I didn't think I felt that tired, nor did I think I went too hard before I collapsed so spectacularly.

Yes, the bridge effort spiked my heart rate, but on a normal "good" day I'd have recovered from that in a lap or two. Tonight I never did, and it eventually forced me off the back.

After I bridged I had some thoughts to add to my bridging thoughts. Unlike my normal "I want to get me, myself, and I across the gap", I wanted to bring 6 teammates and a few others across. My goal wasn't to break free of the group, it was to help the group.

I knew that my acceleration would hurt, but it'd hurt me more because I was the one pulling. Anyone who would be able to hang in for the duration of the race would be able to hang onto my wheel during the bridge.

Therefore I didn't jump. I only got the big gear rolling. I got it going kind of quickly, yes, but it wasn't a sharp 35-38 mph attack. Instead I stayed seated, used an overly large gear to start off, and notched up the pace to 31 mph, then 32 mph, then finally 33 mph. Incredibly I pulled for about a minute, averaging a touch over 30 mph for that minute.

(Note: that's incredible for me as I've never done that before, that I know of, where I'm pulling the whole time.)

However, and this is key, everyone back there made it with me.

I never got separation.

I never did, but it's important to note that a 31 mph surge out of a 24 mph group is not an attack, it's only "raising the pace". To get a gap on others you need to go up another level. In this surge I accelerated about 7 mph over the group pace. In other surges I've figured that it takes about 13-15 mph of speed difference before the racers best able to respond start having second thoughts. They look around at the next guy, the next guy is thinking, "Um, no, not me" and suddenly there's a gap.

So with that lesson in mind, I accepted the night's fate.

For some reason SOC and I decided that we'd try the NBX Ninigret summer training series the next night. He lives pretty close to the course, relatively speaking, but for me it'd be, at best, a 1:45 drive. I wanted to improve on my single move race of tonight. SOC wanted to explore his recently discovered form.

As the Missus pointed out as I debated driving to this race, a couple years prior I drove much further every Wednesday to go to the track. Unlike virtually all my races, the Missus wouldn't join me at Ninigret, nor would Mrs SOC join SOC. It'd be a guy's night out.

With all the carousing it'd be difficult to get in a bike race but we'd try anyway.

Ninigret on deck.

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