Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Racing - May 31, 2011 @TuesdayTheRent

"You need to race like this more."

The above was the Missus's astute observation after a decent showing on a day with no expectations.

I last left off with a car full of bike racing stuff, two tired bodies (me and the Missus), and both of us with a long day of work after the holiday.

For me work totally killed me, with no time to eat, little time to drink (I had half a liter of seltzer water and about three sips of a coffee), and about the same amount of time to eat (egg sandwich for second breakfast, a plain burger for lunch).

The temperatures hit about 90 degrees, and my half-indoor and half-outdoor job meant some heavy lugging outside with periods of cooler temperature indoor work. I felt pretty parched after yesterday's scorching day, combined with the lack of water today.

With hydration and fuel a worry, and with literally 20 minutes or so to get ready after leaving work half an hour early (with the boss's "Good luck!"), I drank some leaded Coke, had a fruit smoothie, and prepped a couple bottles of water.

The Missus drove while I changed, pinned on my number (51, same as last week), and basically got ready for the race.

We got to the venue with plenty of time. With the temperature dropping rapidly, the heat would be less an issue, although the fact that I was drinking water meant I was still pretty dehydrated.

As promised last week, this week the race instructions were explicitly clear - if the field got lapped, the field couldn't interfere with the break's sprint. However, if you had a teammate in the break, it was okay to help them out. And if the field was unto its own, it could sprint.

For me that meant that either I'd need to make the break or try and keep the field together. When teammate Cliff rocketed after the first break, my duty turned to marking moves and hoping that Cliff stayed in the break.

A few guys were missing from the race after a series of hard races down in New Jersey (including the Tour of Somerville). With some horsepower missing, and some others with relatively fresh legs, the break went down the road.

Eventually they lapped us, and Cliff and a couple others went clear again.

At some point, although I'm not sure when, the front derailleur shifted into the small ring. I'd automatically shifted up in the rear, not realizing that I was in just the 39T ring.

It was a bit later than I realized that, no, we weren't flying along in the 53x11. I was just stuck in my biggest gear, a 39x11, confirmed when I tried to move my now useless left gear shifter.

I did some quick math. The 53x15 was my Junior gear limit, about 95 inches. You could get a similar but slightly lower gear using the 42x12, about 94 inches. I thought of doing this to lighten up my bike, using just one chainring, one much-smaller ring, and using a 12T freewheel instead of the 15-21. I liked the way the 53 looked, though, and decided to stay with the big chainring.

The 39x11, with the 39 the modern day equivalent to the 42, is about the same as the 42x12.

This meant that I was racing with my old Junior gear limit, the gears I used when I was 15, 16, and 17 years old, the ages where I cut my teeth on racing.

When I thought of it that way it didn't seem that bad. Plus, as I realized after a bit, it seemed that I was okay with those gears in this race. I had to spin a bit more but since I'd lost the 53 for a while before I realized it (I just shifted the rear derailleur automatically), I was already kind of attuned to spinning more.

Unfortunately I never registered a single reading on the SRM, else I could have figured out where my cadence suddenly picked up, but suffice it to say that I was in the 39 for a while.

I thought about telling my teammates to ignore me as I couldn't go as fast, but with my legs okay, I decided to shut up for a while.

During this time the break lapped us, took off again, another bunch of guys got away, and I didn't realize much of any of this. I spent too much energy focusing on my lack of gears, gear equivalencies, and trying to determine how this changed my race.

The latter part seemed pretty straight forward, once I experienced the various straights with the knowledge that I only had my 39. First off, in the headwind second straight, nothing changed since we didn't go that fast. Ditto the cross-headwind third straight. The sprint would be difficult, seeing as it was a tailwind for the final bit, with a slight crosswind from the left. The main straight would be a bit fast too, at least in my mind.

Since I had no top end, I had to use my jump to get up to speed quickly, then pray I could hold the pace as necessary.

I needed to see how I reacted with the lower gears, so I spent some time tailing the really fast guy from the August 31, 2010 Rent clip. I think he didn't appreciate it, but at the time I was exploring my speed possibilities in the 39T, and he was a good rider to follow. He didn't make half hearted moves - he either waits for something or goes pretty hard.

When he went pretty hard I have to admit that my legs felt pretty uncomfortable in that lower gear. Otherwise, though, I felt okay. I could accelerate nicely with the low gears, and my legs felt okay.

My experiment done, I decided I'd go with whatever the next move was. Instead, he moved over a bit harder than necessary while letting a gap go, a signal for me to go past him. I obliged and closed the gap.

As the laps wound down I decided that although I felt okay just cruising around in the group, it stressed me to try and go fast. I figured I'd make a last gasp move to use up my legs, then drop out when the speed hit the ceiling.

I watched two guys go away, with a bit of mixing up just behind. This would be my last gasp move - I went for it, hunkered down in the drops, and spun that 39x11 as fast as I could. Although the chain caught once on the chainring (with a short 39 cm chainstay the chainline is a bit sharper than on a bike with a 40.5 cm chainstay), I could get the gear rolling pretty well. I could jump well too, as I was in a tiny gear, letting me rev up the speed quickly. Tons of leverage means fast acceleration.

I caught the two guys, sat on, and prepared to eject myself out of the race. Surprisingly, within a couple hundred meters, I'd recovered. As guys rolled by I integrated back into the field.


This was like last year. Move. Recover. Move again. Recover again. Legs going well, beyond expectations.

I stayed in.

The laps wound down. With no lapped riders in our group, I figured we'd be sprinting. When one guy put three teammates in front of him, I knew we'd be sprinting. I waited to move up, judging whether or not I could use the 39T ring safely - with 2 laps to go, I decided it'd be okay to sprint on it.

I had to go early and try and catch everyone off guard. I also had to use the last corner to try and get some distance between me and the next guy. If I waited, I'd probably top out my gear, unable to pedal faster. Going earlier would give me the luxury of spinning just a little bit slower.

As we hit the bell I tried to give my spot to a Navy guy, but he didn't seem inclined to take it. I let a slight gap go to give him room, encouraging him to take it, but he didn't move over. Before the gap got too big I closed it up again.

We approached the last turn, me sitting just behind this one guy, who in turn sat behind his last leadout rider. The guy barked out a few words, trying to direct his leadout man, trying to control the traffic behind him.

We entered the third straight, and I rode a bit to the left (inside), waiting to go. I waited for the inevitable surge, but none came.

Just before we got to the last turn I knew I had to go. With maybe 20 meters left I jumped hard in the little gear. I flew through the turn, trying to get some distance between me and the next guy. I figured they'd be hot on my heels, and as soon as I could pedal I drilled it. This was like the track, where I'd sprint in a 50x15, accelerating out of the saddle and then sitting and spinning the gear as fast as possible to the line.

I started around the final bend, my legs fatiguing quickly, my speed bleeding off at an alarming rate. I checked back to see if anyone was there, but instead of the guy I expected, I saw Kevin Y, a friendly rival who'd been in the same Somerville race as me the day before.

He'd left a big gap to close, though, and I pedaled as necessary to the line. I made a fist, triumphant in my little gear race. Fine, I sprinted in the third group, but still, the sprinters almost always contest a sprint. It's in their blood, it's why they race, and I managed to outfox whoever sprinted from that group.

Kevin ruefully admitted being caught off guard when I went so early, then had a mechanical bobble when he tried to jump out of the turn. The long pause necessary to fix things killed any chance of him catching me, although I think he did follow me to the line. I suspect that on a different day I'd have been swamped at the line - he's beaten me decisively when I had all my gears. My change in tactics threw him off.

I rolled around the course, happy with my ride. I'd kill my mechanic, of course, for screwing up my bike, but if I did that I wouldn't be around to race it (since, I should point out, I'm my own mechanic).

When I felt the cable end sticking out of my brake lever, I knew that the cable had broken. I don't think I false-economied the build in February, and a three month old cable shouldn't fail. Regardless, my cable broke and will be replaced.

Still, though, the incident taught me a few things. I can spin more than I thought. I can use smaller gears than I thought. I can adapt to new circumstances and make the best of any unexpected handicaps. And I can go from before the last turn at the Rent, at least if it's a tailwind.

I rolled up to the Missus. She'd noticed that I rode pretty well, considering the lack of food, a slight lack of rest, and the busy day I had.

Yet I still had legs. No cramps. Not a twinge of soreness, although standing up after each race did get a creak out of me. But no tenderness, none at all.

A pleasant fatigue, a deep thirst, and some heavy eyes. It feels like summer now.

And as the Missus put it:

"You need to race like this more."

1 comment:

otto said...

spin to win!