Monday, July 08, 2013

Racing - July 7, 2013 New Britain Crit, Cat 3s

Back to the Future.

Or something like that.

What makes me say that?

I'll give you a code:
19, 19, 12, 16, 15, 14, 14, 12, 11, 11, 9, *, 7, 2, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

(Two notes: * means I didn't catch the number on the helmet cam so I have no evidence of the actual number, and if you count the start you need to add another 19 at the beginning of the list.)

So what is it?

It's the lap count down to the finish. If you thought it was supposed to be in reverse order then I'm with you. This time, though, the numbers got all screwy. To help everyone out I made the screwy numbers bold.

Note that we got to do 5 lap cards twice, hence the reference to Back to the Future.
(Note: 1985, the year of Back to the Future, is also the last year that the race ran clockwise at New Britain. A terrible crash on the then-downhill S-curves led to the reversal of course direction along with the eventual removal of these cosmetic rocks lining the S-curve. 
Proof of the direction: 1985 Junior 15-17 field at the start, facing the "wrong way".
I have a blue jersey with pink sleeves, red bike, white helmet, towards the right.
I got slaughtered in this race.
Picture by Charlie Issendorf from here 
End historical note.)

The problem was that I only saw the last error. I was suffering too much to look at the lap cards before - in most of my races I wait until I can't bear it anymore before I look at the cards, hoping that I'm near the finish. I remember looking up at White Plains after a gazillion laps and seeing "32" (laps to go) to my horror.

At New Britain I actually looked at one of the 11s, then again at 9. I looked again at 7 because I was basing my bottle usage rate in 7 lap segments, giving me 21 laps for 3 bottles. I'd have extra water at the end at that rate. I knew that I was well ahead of the curve with almost two full bottles left (I used up and tossed one bottle at around the 14 lap mark). But that first 2 threw me for a loop.

So, with some lap card shots here's the race report.

Heat Issues, Bike Issues

The day was hot. I mean it was hot. The forecast called for 88 degrees, feeling like 102 or something weird like that. I figured, "Upper 80s, I can deal with that." I seem to have lost one of my Podium Ice bottles so I had to deal with just one Podium Ice and two Podium Chills.

Due to a hectic schedule during our July 4th vacation week (the Missus admitted overbooking us) I never got around to putting a second bottle cage on the bike. It takes some doing, with a front derailleur clamp and some necessary mods to both cages in order to make the tall bottles work. Therefore we headed out to the race with just one cage on my bike. I'd carry two bottles in my pocket, dump some ice water on myself before the start. I hoped to make the three bottles last an hour, plenty for what was scheduled. I'd use one up quickly so I'd have one center-pocket bottle and one bottle-cage bottle.

My bike also got a bottom bracket creak, after a few hard days in the rain. BB30 is sort of known for it but at the same time I'm not a BB30 super-mechanic (I've only worked on three BB30s, all mine). It's probably me. Whatever, my BB is creaking and it's annoying.

We got to the race and I went through the regular "catching up with new and old friends" thing. This inevitably slowed down my race prep but I think I did a lap before stopping to dump water on my head. I also made a last minute effort, literally, to get my camera out of the car and into the capable hands of Heavy D, the team's Director of Sales and Marketing. Okay, he's not, but that's basically what he is to the team, and it sounds better than "Team Cheerleader" or "Team Peptalker". If you see a real cheerful post on Facebook in all caps about how much fun Expo is then that's  Heavy D. He's an absolute hoot and always enthusiastic.

(He happens to be a strong rider also, new to the sport, but strong enough so that every time I see him at a race I ask mostly-seriously if he won. To my disappointment he didn't win earlier in the day.)

Expo Plan

For today the plan in the 3s was to see if Mike could get off the front in a group. He's been riding really well this year so both Jeff and I felt it would be good if he could get up to a group. It's much easier to sit at the front and block than it is to chase things down so we were both game for that part of the plan.

The second part would be to see if we could help Jeff for the sprint.

My goal was to just finish. I expected to be out in a short time - the heat just brutalized me and I wasn't feeling too fresh after our "vacation" week.

The Race

Rolling to the start from the 1985 start line.
It was about 95 degrees F, really hot for me.
We'd see 97-98 degrees after the race.

First lap - 19 to go.

This makes sense. We were to race 20 laps and the lap cards already read 19 when we lined up. I always think that technically it should show 20 but that's splitting hairs. If I was the official that's what I'd do but I haven't been an acting official yet so I'll shut up about it.

Second lap - 19 to go.

In my heat addled state I didn't realize the lap cards were not good. Whether the numbers were sticking (they have this sliding shutter kind of lap card product that, when I've used similar ones, inevitably have numbers stick together) or if the officials were dazed by the heat (they were out there all day), I don't know, but whatever the reason, the lap cards were funky.

(As a side note I've been hard on myself for not buying "official" lap cards for Bethel. With the potential for error I now realize that the home-made ones, made with laminated numbers flipping on binder rings, is a bit more fool proof. It's impossible to "merge" two numbers where you can't see either, it's very difficult to skip numbers, and it requires virtually no maintenance. This is on my To-Do List for Bethel for 2014.)

Unfortunately on this day I only saw the last error. You can scroll up to see the last bold number - it's the second worst number to show a racer if it's not correct, and it's the worst one to show in terms of legality.

I should point out the rules that govern this situation and you'll see why the mistaken lap card is the worst one an official can show.

If the bell rings to finish the race on the wrong lap then the officials need to score the next lap as the race's finish. They have the option to re-run the last part of the race but basically if the bell rings for the finish you need to race the last lap like it's the last lap.

That's the rule (1M3 in the 2013 rule book, page 39 here.)

This means if you see 1 to go and the bell is ringing you better go for it.


There are non-rules. For example, there's no rule about listening or not listening to the announcer, but basically the announcer is not an official so racers have to ignore what they're saying. Racers have to listen to the officials.

It's most obvious when the announcer makes a mistake with names, typically in a field sprint where maybe the announcer says that some favorite won when it's the favorite's teammate that won instead. The erroneous thing/s the announcer says is not official unless the officials also made the same mistake/s.

Also since the officials usually ring the same bell for primes the racers have to listen to the officials to see if it's a prime lap or the last lap of a race. If the officials aren't saying anything then the racer has to guess because the announcer isn't an official.

Mike in the group in front. I'm sitting 4th wheel in the bunch, sitting in and marking wheels.

This is a picture by Heavy D of that lap.
Note I have two bottles in my pockets.

Mike obliged by riding like a madman. He made it to a lot of the groups that went off the front, usually collectively chasing some brave soul off the front. All of the solo or duo moves came back, the brave soul/s cooked from the heat. 

Third lap - 12 to go.


Right? We went from 19 to go showing twice to 12 to go. I didn't see this lap card error. I was too focused on the race and I knew I had time before I would have to look at the lap cards. If I'd seen this error then I would have had some inkling that maybe the lap cards aren't right.

My teammate Jeff mentioned some errors after the race but I thought he was talking about a different race. I didn't realize he might have been talking about our race, but by then I was so out of it from the heat that I couldn't think straight (and hence I'm writing this entry a day later).

This is the first time I've seen these kind of consistent lap card errors in over 30 continuous seasons of racing. I painstakingly took stills from the helmet cam because it's so unbelievable that this happened that I felt it necessary to show the stills of every lap, right or wrong. I missed one lap because I had my nose glued to the stem that lap, but I caught every lap otherwise.

Fourth lap - 16 to go.

By the fourth lap I was suffering badly. I had no idea what was going on except there was a guy off the front by a lot, maybe 20 seconds, and I felt like I was in front of a blowtorch. I actually found my teammate Jeff and asked him if he wanted any ice water. I had two full bottles and if I dropped out I wanted to give up my ice water to my teammates instead of wasting them on myself.

Jeff, much more at ease than I could ever be, thought I was offering him an extra bottle, and declined, pointing out he had two bottles.

I told him to take a bottle because I was going to drop out and I had ice water if he wanted it. He told me to sit in and hang on.

Reluctantly I agreed.

That was just about when the following happened.

Seven go and three follow.

A bunch of guys went clear, with a few more going after them. As we approached the final turn of the course it looked pretty dangerous. With seven guys clear and another three approaching them, plus the fact that everyone was looking a bit beat due to the heat, I figured I should try and get up there to take a pull for the Expo boys. This would be my last hurrah before I dropped out of the race. If Mike or Jeff didn't want my bottles I'd dump them on my head after I stopped.

I got to the front of the field and was pulling them up to the turn.

If you look at the above picture you should note the second rider's posture. He's about a wheel length off the next rider, seems to be set to make it through the turn.

Second rider starts to dip.

Second rider hits the deck.

The two behind the guy try to avoid him.

The guy directly behind the faller avoids him.

Unfortunately the next guy falls.

It looks like the second guy behind the faller gets caught up in the bike that's on the ground or maybe the rider himself. Either way he goes flying off his bike.

Second faller hits the deck pretty hard.

Even though I say to look up and all that it was only around this point where I realized that there were guys on the deck. I was so cooked that I had all my focus concentrated on the wheels in front of me.

As the two riders scramble out of the way you can see the rolled tire on the first faller's bike.
Note one rider in the parking lot.

This is the second Sunday race where someone rolled a tire in the Cat 3 race. The first was at Keith Berger. This one wasn't quite as bad as the "full-off" at KB. This tire only came a bit off. The tire, skewed sideways on the rim, slammed into the brake, locking up the rear wheel. This is why the rider recovering the bike can't roll it - the rear wheel is probably locked in place. A hard tug backward on the rear wheel should free it up but it will only roll about 7/8 of a revolution before it hits either the brake or the chainstays.

Nonetheless rolling a tire is an absolute no-no, in both official terms as well as cultural (peer-pressure) ones. It's a shame that yet another racer has rolled a tire in a race, taking down someone else with them. It used to mean an automatic 10 day suspension, which, in the days of a 10 day suspension for a positive dope test, was pretty significant.

Fifth lap - 15 to go.
I pulled for a while but everyone behind me was sitting up so I sat up too.

At this point the racers seemed to ease a bit, at least until the line, mainly because of the crash a couple hundred meters back. As we went past the stand a few riders rocketed up the right side. It was game on again.

With the heat the racers were hard pressed to react quickly to moves. It seemed that attacks would immediately get clear, the elastic would stretch and stretch, and then, unable to snap, the elastic would pull the rider back into the field.

One guy was gone pretty much from the start - Jeff came up to me and said, "Man, if that guy can stay out there by himself to the finish he deserves to win."

Well he shot backward so quickly that he went off the back and withdrew from the race. He had a good 20 second lead last I saw and I was so out of it that I never saw him come back. I even thought he may have won the race.

Bottle toss, the first of three bottles.

I had three bottles, two tall insulated Podium Chills and one regular height Podium Ice. Just before the start I also dumped ice cold water on my jersey, around my neck, and on my legs. Two bottles in my pockets felt awkward so I tried to use one up quickly. When the pace eased on the fifth lap I decided to douse myself with what was left in the third bottle and toss it.

Now I had two bottles - one on the bike and one in my pocket. Things were much more balanced. I knew I had to get 7 laps per bottle to make it to the finish - if I could stretch it out more I could really douse myself in the last two laps and bring down my core temperature. It would be a balancing act between not overheating during the race and saving something for the finish.

Sounds familiar, right?

Sixth lap - 14 to go.

Seventh lap - 14 to go. Again.

Again, in my head addled mind, I didn't catch the lap card error. If I did I would have been more suspicious of any weird lap cards popping up.

Eighth lap - 12 to go.

Ninth lap - 11 to go.

Photog Heavy D to the right.

I only show this shot of him because it happened to pop up on the screen as I fast forwarded through the clip. Based on the shots it looked like he walked around the exposed part of the course before heading back to the finish area for the end of the race.

The picture he got. I'm third last.
Note one bottle, center pocket.

At this point I knew I would be tossing the second Podium Chill bottle. Therefore I wanted it accessible. I moved it to the bottle cage and put the Podium Ice in my pocket. When I was ready I'd toss the Chill and use up the Ice. If I could make it to 4 or 5 laps to go before digging into the Chill I'd be really happy.

Tenth lap - 11 to go. Again.

And again I didn't catch it. I was suffering pretty hard just hanging on the back and I wasn't paying enough attention to the lap cards. I'd see them one lap, skip a few, then look again. I missed all the screwy lap cards. In ten laps four of the lap cards were wrong, and I missed every single one.

Eleventh lap - 9 to go.

Thirteenth lap - 7 to go.

He has shoes like me, down to the buckles up front.

Someone must have been hammering up front because I was dying for shelter here. I assessed my situation on the backstretch of this lap. I had basically a full Podium Ice bottle in my pocket - I took a couple sips but it was otherwise clunkily sloshing on my back (clunking due to all the ice in it). I also had about 2/3 to 3/4 of a Podium Chill bottle in my bottle cage.

I figured that I'd sparingly use up the Chill until 4 to go, really use it up in the next two laps, toss it at 2 to go, and switch to the Ice for the last two laps. If I got the chance I'd be super aggressive with the Ice. If I could save it until 2 to go then I'd use most of it on that 2 to go lap then use the rest at the bell. Because the last lap can be ferocious I figured I'd use virtually the whole bottle at 2 to go. It takes me about a lap to heat up after dousing myself with ice water but by then I'd be finishing the race.

Fourteenth lap - 2 to go.
And the bell was ringing for a prime.


Obviously something happened. Remember that us racers have to listen to the officials and ignore the announcer. Whatever the announcer is saying is off limits in terms of rules. So with 2 showing on the lap cards it meant the officials thought it was 2 to go.

I know that promoters run into scheduling problems or other unknown things. Whatever, if they needed to shorten the race then they needed to shorten the race. I immediately went into "2 laps go go" mode.

First, in the space of about 50 meters, I took a huge swig from the Chill, dumped what I could on me, and then tossed the half full bottle towards the pit area. I don't want to toss the insulated bottles just anywhere but I didn't want to wait a full lap to toss the bottle to the Missus. The pits would be fine - my black Tsunami was sitting there.

End of the straight after the "2 to go".

Second, I pushed really hard to move up, using up virtually all my reserves. I wanted to be near the front at the bell because I didn't trust myself to be super jumpy in the very hot sprint. I doused myself with water from the Ice, my last bottle now, around most of the lap - I figured I'd barely have any time to touch the bottle on the last lap so I used virtually all of it up. I knew I could make one hard lap fine if I was properly chilled, and I was dumping that ice water on me to set myself up for the last lap.

Mike went off the front because it was "2 to go".
He's waaaay off the front, about to disappear out of the picture.

I wasn't the only one to go into "2 to go" mode. Mike went flying off the front of the bunch, bridging up to one guy and bringing one with him. He took monster pulls, trying to gauge his effort for a 2 lap break. With good momentum, a pack that even going hard wasn't closing the gap, it looked like a good move.

Fifteenth lap - 5 to go? What?

You know that sinking feeling? You got everything all set up and then you realize that not all is as it seems?

Well that's what happened here. We came flying up to the start/finish expecting to hear the bell and see the "1 to go" sign. We heard the bell - for a prime. A prime? On the finishing lap?

Then we saw the lap cards. It said 5 to go, not 1 to go.

Two riders in front looked at each other in surprise.
Note the rider to the left is holding out two fingers.

"It should be one to go! Last lap was two to go!"

Exactly what I was thinking. But the rules are the rules. If the officials put up 2 to go and then 5 to go that's legal. If they rang the bell for the finish then it's 1 to go, period. The rules don't say anything about 2 to go. They can ring the bell for a prime and show 5 to go and, guess what?

It's 5 to go.

And here I am with virtually no water left. $#!@

Sixteenth lap - 4 to go.

By now I was almost empty and getting really hot. My precious Ice bottle had almost nothing left in it and that half full Chill was sitting in the grass in the pit area. I tried to gather myself for the finish though, see if I could bring it off.

Mike, paying the price, sitting up hard. 
I closed the gap.

Mike had blown himself up in his "2 to go" effort. With his 100% effort he went by the start/finish hearing just the bell, not seeing the 5 to go. Sprinting to the line (one of the two others also sprinted) only to see 4 to go, he tried to recover but it was too late.

Seventeenth lap - 3 to go.

At 3 to go I was running dry. I kept pushing because that's what I do. The distractions started getting to me.

2 to go, for real.

A guy went to the front and absolutely drilled it for much of the lap, trying to string it out for his teammate. It worked too because we were single file for virtually the whole lap. I started thinking that, wow, if they do this for the next two laps I'm totally screwed.

Whether he went a lap early or not I don't know but by the time we made it back for the bell the field was bunching up, to my ever-thankful relief.

It didn't help my water situation - my Ice was totally empty of water and I could just blow cold mist into my mouth. It was times like this that I wished the ice would melt just a bit quicker, but the few slim slivers of ice in the bottle really wouldn't offer much even if I could chomp them down.

Bell lap, for real.

Obviously I was sitting pretty far back but New Britain is a place where I can sometimes pull a rabbit out of my hat. It's not quite a Bethel for me but it's close. Therefore I decided to try and give it a shot. I stayed outside on the hill, one of my two favorite ways to move up. (The other is the inside so it's not really a secret.) I tried to push but my legs weren't cooperating and I couldn't get past the hump that forms the front of the group.

Shut out of that group I knew I wouldn't be able to make it towards the front by the finish so I sat up and rolled in for the finish.

Rolling casually to the finish.

Matt E is up front, the next rider in the sun towards the right of the road. He was one of the early attackers, going off the front, trying to break the elastic. Unlike many of the other early attackers he finished the race, but very, very slowly.

I rolled up to him as we approached the line and decided that I'd practice my bike throw. I tried to make it look good while keeping it "tied" in terms of "place".

Slo-mo bike throw.

From Heavy D's point of view.

We were almost at a standstill as we crossed the line. Matt was so out of it that he only noticed me at the line. He cracked a wry smile, saying, "Oh, man, I think you got me," as we rolled away from each other.

Post Race

Regardless of the lap cards I didn't feel great during the race. I gambled everything on one, big, two-lap move but started making that move at what ended up being the 5 to go mark. Everything after that was me trying to change tactics midstream.

Mike seemed more disappointed. He'd made a huge effort to get off the front and worked super hard with two other guys to increase their gap. It's possible that if they hadn't sprinted that they could have gone on for another few laps, perhaps even to the finish.

Jeff, the only one of us three who saw most of the lap cards, got super boxed in with half a lap to go. It's unclear on the cam since I was so far back but basically a guy moves left really hard, almost takes a guy into the grass, and everyone on that side had to slam on their brakes. Unfortunately Jeff was one of them.

Lessons Learned

I have to pay attention to lap cards, even though maybe I don't want to know how much further I need to go when I'm suffering like mad as soon as we get going.

I need to get that second bottle cage on the frame. I had two before, when the frame was orange, and I need to replicate that effort again.

Along those lines I need to locate my second Podium Ice bottle. They're unavailable to buy now and will keep water cold about twice as long as the Chill - it takes 2 hours for an Ice to lose all its ice, just one hour for a Chill. In hot weather that second Podium Ice is a must.

Finally, I need to take care of my creaking bottom bracket. It's annoying at the least. In the worst case it's a warning to other riders that I'm approaching them.

At least my number was pinned on well.
btw I brought the pins to the race.

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