Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Racing - 2014 Tour de Kirche

I had a whole slew of stuff happening before the Cat 3-4 race last Sunday so racing wasn't so much on my mind. Although there was a lot of stuff the main things that affected my racing were things like:

 - about 25 minutes of riding, in two sessions, on Saturday, due to interruptions while on the trainer. I prefer an hour of riding the day before a race.
 - 4 hours of working on the course on Saturday, using a power broom (Echo SRM with a broom attachment) as a regular broom, i.e. sweeping motions, as well as pushing a leaf blower around. This resulted in incredible upper body soreness/fatigue.
 - 2 hours of working on the course on Sunday, same deal as Saturday.
 - Bringing clothing worthy of the 55 degree Saturday to the 34 (high) degree Sunday race.
 - Not having enough time to go get food so eating two egg sandwiches and one cup of coffee on Sunday; the first egg sandwich at around 6:00 AM, the second, with the coffee, at about 10 AM or so.

By the time 1 PM started approaching I was really sore, close to bonking, chilled to the bone, and I wasn't ready to race. Earlier in the day I had noticed earlier that my vest still had my last week's number on it, the same number that I happened to be this week. Being a vest it wasn't gross or anything. I decided to leave last week's number on it, saving me a minute or two of precious time.

I also took the time at some point in the earlier morning to put the wheels on the bike. I decided on the Stinger 6s for this week, with the wind blowing so hard the marker stakes were bending in the wind. The Stinger 7/9 set, which I've used so far, seemed too sail-like for the day's wind conditions. I pumped them up right after putting them on the bike, saving me a minute or two of time before my race.

I saw that the front brake rubbed virtually the whole revolution of the wheel and made a note to myself to unclamp the brake cable a touch later. At that moment I had other things I had to do so I left it for when I got ready to race.

Finally I'd left the SRM head charging at registration. The rest of my stuff sat in the Expedition. By the time I got back to the trailer it was 12:58 or so, and I still had to get dressed in time for the 1:00 start.

I was late enough that my teammate for the day, Joel, had already decided that I couldn't possibly be racing and had volunteered his legs for a friendly rival team.

I decided with the temperature in the 32 degree range with very gusty wind that I'd skip the knickers and go for the warm tights. I'd also use a base layer, then a rain jacket (as an all-direction wind jacket), then a LS jersey for the team appearance bit. The wind vest with my number would be on top, mainly as a vehicle for the number, not so much for the wind.

I only found one head thing so that went on my head, no neck thing, and I struggled to get my tights on, my shoes on, and even my helmet on.

I didn't know where my bottle was, saw a Coke bottle in the center console (unopened, a reserve bottle for the drive home), and slipped it into the bottle cage upside down.

I rolled up to the line, slipped my gloves on, and the race started.

I realized a few things right away.

First because I hadn't spent the time adjusting my tights I felt like I was wearing a low hanging diaper - the tights were way too low.

Second, my helmet cam wasn't on.

Third, my right shoe buckle seemed to be letting go. The instep strap is a bit bent and it loses grip on the teeth that hold it in place. On the trainer I've had times where the strap just totally let go, my foot flying out of the shoe. With the bootie in place I figured it wouldn't happen but it slipped. I made a note that I had to put tape on this for next week.

Fourth, I realized there was no way I could use the Coke bottle in a race. Plus it would explode when I opened it, bouncing around in the cage. The plastic bottles fit better upside down because the neck of the bottle serves as a handle to stick through the bottom of the cage. I learned this trick watching a Rabobank pro (Marc Wauters) at the Gimbels ride many years ago.

Finally I heard the brake rubbing slightly on the front wheel at the slower points of the course. Once we got going the wind drowned out the zzz-zzz sound but at Turn One I could hear it. I had forgotten to adjust the brake cable. I tried the barrel adjuster just in case but no, it was already down as far as possible.

(I just now realized I have the quick release lever in the brake lever but I forgot about that since I never use it.)

By the end of the first lap I knew the Coke bottle wouldn't do me any good. I debated what to do with it for a couple laps and finally tossed it into the finish line tent. I watched in horror as it headed straight for the heater. If we came around the next lap and there was a cloud of Coke steam I'd know that the bottle melted on the heater, blew up, and covered everyone in sticky Coke.

The next lap there was no steam.


(Ends up the bottle flew into one of the official's bags. Fortunately for me they saved it for me.)

I spent a good 5 to 8 laps trying to get the helmet cam working but with no success. The wind and the abrupt pace changes meant that I had to have both hands on the bars and pay attention to what was going on around me. I almost lost control a couple times in the group fiddling with the camera so I stayed at the back after that. I actually sat up and drifted off the back trying to turn on the camera but after I made a good 200 meter effort to get back on I decided it wasn't worth it.

By about 20 laps to go I'd given up on the helmet cam, trying half-heartedly once or twice from there to the end of the race.

I spent the next 5 or 8 laps trying to pull my tights up. I start at the calves, pull them up over my knees, do the thighs, then finally up around my waist. They're bib tights, yes, but they're really tight, and it takes a few minutes for me to get them adjusted when I'm standing around. On the bike… yeah, it didn't work. I raced with a diaper-feeling pair of tights. They caught on the saddle almost every time I sat back down.


I let the right shoe buckle stay loose. I didn't want to ratchet it tighter and have it let go. I focused on pedaling a bit harder with my left leg, kept that buckle tight, and decided to postpone the risk-reward decision on whether I should try to ratchet the right buckle tighter until later.

In the meantime I was in a race. There were guys going off all the time, with Six Cycle the most active. Joel actually chased the first move for four laps but ended up stuck in no-man's land. He sat up, let the field absorb him, and recovered while the next set of moves played out.

That's about all I noticed while I fiddled with my helmet cam and tights. I did notice a few break type riders sitting at the back. One guy was sitting so far off the back of the field that he wasn't even drafting. I ended up behind him, distracted with tights and helmet cam stuff, and realized, oh, we're 30-40 feet off the back.

It took an enormous effort to close the gap.

Yet he stood post there, in the wind. I realized just how strong he had to be to maintain that kind of effort.

And think it was nothing.

That's the part that gets me. For him it wasn't worth the two pedal strokes to get into shelter. He sat in the wind nonchalantly like it was no big deal.

He and another break type rider talked a bit, planning moves. I listened a bit but the only thing I could think of was my right buckle - would it just let go one lap or would it tolerate me ratcheting it tighter?

I didn't know.

The moves never materialized from the two break type people so I decided it had to be planning for the end of the race.

I did notice that I could get up the hill okay this year, and this week seemed better than the prior two weeks. I don't know why - the 6s aren't that much lighter or anything - but somehow things were a bit better.

I was also not cramping and not bonking. I felt hungry, yes, but I wasn't getting those chills and cold sweats that I get when I bonk for real.

As we started counting down into the last 10 laps I decided to risk the ratchet thing. I clicked it once and the shoe felt instantly better. Instead of a slipper on the upstroke it felt more like a… snug slipper. My foot still moved a lot but it felt much better.

To keep my in "balance" I also tightened the left buckle. That side felt right, like my foot was in a (gentle) vise.

Due to the massive headwind on the backstretch I decided that I'd need to be further up going into the sprint. I could make up a lot of ground on the hill but the group would be going so slow that there wouldn't be enough time to make up a lot of ground during the sprint.

Therefore I tried to move up a bit, something that's not my normal race tactic.

I could see Six Cycle trying to organize something with three laps to go. I wasn't sure if they were going to gap off one of their riders (I think they did) but when that rider came back it seemed that the field had resigned themselves to a sprint.

Which, of course, is fine by me.

I gambled on another click of the buckle and it held. Now the shoe felt loosely snug. I didn't feel like I was pulling out of the shoe on every upstroke. I'd want 2-3 more clicks under normal conditions but this was all I wanted to risk.

At two laps to go I made an uncharacteristic effort to move up, landing myself in about 15-20th spot, maybe a touch closer to the front. I could see the Six Cycles guys at the front, other guys trying to make last minute moves.

I spent the lap surfing efficiently, cresting the hill on the bell lap in about 10th spot. I felt this was pretty good - I could move when the front moved but I was further back than say five spots. I felt the first five spots would hit too much wind on the backstretch, except if a guy was getting led out.

See, a guy getting led out would not have to worry much about what was going on in front of him so he'd be able to shelter properly, safe in the knowledge that he didn't have to leave himself an out to pass his leadout man, at least not until it was time.

On the backstretch it stayed sort of strung out. I was probably 10th spot or so going into the "wooded area" just before the mirror building. The left side started surging hard, and I could sense a lot of people passing me on the outside. Not great but it was what it was.

Then the wind showed its hand and the left side of the field came to a virtual stop.

I went right, again, knowing I had to go early because I was too far back.

I jumped on the right side, kept on about the yellow line, and clawed my way past one or two riders. No jump like the old days, that's for sure, I'm now a diesel struggling to accelerate to the line.

The guy to my left, a few feet over, suddenly fell over.

With about 20 feet to the line I kept going, throwing my bike instinctively.

Then, rounding Turn One, I stayed right so I could loop around immediately and see how the rider was doing. He was relatively fine as was the guy that crashed over him. Not happy, of course, but walking away.

I had no idea how I'd placed. I'd focused on holding a clean line, on trying to pass the guys in front of me, but I assumed that the left side surge had blasted 5 or 10 riders up the hill. I paid no attention to the left side so I figured 5 or 10 guys were duking it out for the win over there.

If I had to put a number to it I'd have guessed maybe 10th place or so. If things were good I'd place better than last week's 12th.

Then someone told me I got 5th.


I guess the left side really did come to a screeching halt.

I got back to the Expedition, the front brake rubbing, thirsty from no bottle, hungry from no food.

5th place!

I saved the Strava thing on my phone, I texted the Missus to let her know the race went reasonably well, updated her on the promotion side of things, changed, and headed back to the trailer to help with the end of day stuff. There's a lot to do and we try to get as much of it done as possible before the P123s finish.

At some point I looked at the results sheet. 5th was good enough that I'd want to make sure I wasn't missed or whatever.

My first glance saw something wrong. I wasn't in 5th, someone else was.

Then I looked up a line.


Even better!

After a long day that brought a good smile to my face. Wow, 4th place.

Of course I immediately started doing the "what to do next week" inventory thing.

Okay, next week I gotta adjust the brake cable so it doesn't rub. I need to have a bottle ready on the bike. Maybe half a bottle of water. Maybe a quarter. I need to not eat too much during the day. Coffee is good. Dress warmer. The 6s seemed to be fine, maybe use those.

Yada yada yada.

The phrase "There's always next week" is a ubiquitous thing for virtually all racers, perhaps except the winner. It's a way of saying that although this week wasn't perfect we can all try again next week.

So yeah, 4th.

We'll see how it goes next week.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Quite the story book comeback... congrats on placing well. Always enjoy the blog posts.