Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Equipment - Could Tires Increase My Available Effective Wattage By 25%?

TL;DR Check your tires

The Tsunami in its original color with the Bastognes, Jets, and Stinger 6s.


I've been very unhappy with my aero clinchers (Jet 6/9 front/rear). I originally bought them because "aero > weight" and I literally bought (aka spent money) into that theory.

The reality is that for whatever reason I don't like the wheels. In fact I avoid the Jets unless absolutely necessary. I used the Jet 6 on the trainer, which is kind of ironic when you realize that on a trainer the only thing the front wheel does is hold the bike level.

I struggle every time I give the Jets a chance. I can't accelerate well with them and even in a higher speed situation I need time to accelerate them (where you'd think that since I'm already going fast it would primarily require more aero work to go faster).

I hem and haw about selling them all the time, deciding one day that I'm going to sell them, then the next to not sell them. I didn't ride the front Jet 6 for about 2 years, preferring to leave it sitting in the basement after riding it maybe a dozen times. I rode the rear Jet 9 for part of a season just because I felt like I should ride it if I wasn't selling it.

I didn't have a lot of metrics on the wheels but one thing stood out - they were heavier than my other wheels.

Wheel Weight

I've always liked riding lighter wheels. They respond instantly when I jump - they make my jump better, accentuating the only strength I have on the bike. That's a good thing.

I also learned that in group ride situations wheel weight affects me significantly. This is because I apparently make short, sharp punches to the pedals to close minor gaps, or even to adjust the gap ahead of me. These "pedal punches" are very short, like a quarter revolution if that.

I learned this when the Missus and I went on a group ride on our tandem with every other bike a single rider bike. We'd previously done one other group ride and that was with all tandems and a triplet - those bikes accelerated and decelerated like our tandem and it was an easy ride so I was more concerned with not crashing than with sitting on a wheel. On the group ride with the single bikes I didn't want to get dropped. I found myself doing these little "pedal punch" efforts to close tiny gaps, where I involuntarily slammed the pedals for about a 2 o'clock amount of power (it seems it's from 1 o'clock to about 3 o'clock). When I say tiny gap I'm talking closing a few inches to the rider in front of us - I was just adjusting our speed a bit.

The problem was that the increased mass of the tandem meant that my quarter revolution power surges didn't do very much. Not only was my little pedal punches too weak, I couldn't even ask the Missus to punch the pedals with me because I was learning that I did this as we rode!

With the tandem I needed to turn the pedals hard for two or three full revolutions instead of doing that little quarter revolution punch. Of course it strained my reserves to the limit. As might be expected a very short time later we went off the back. We lasted maybe 5 miles of that ride.

So apparently I have that thing that I do to adjust the gap to the next rider in front of me. And I really only have a sprint as far as "stuff I can do in a race". For those kinds of efforts I like lighter wheels.

It only reinforced my belief that I prefer lighter wheels.

Why Jet Wheels?

Back in the day I did a bunch of back-to-back sprints on different wheels, to see if there were substantial differences in wheels speeds. If you knew me back then you may have noticed that I went from racing 280 gram rim box section wheels to suddenly showing up with my TriSpokes, Spinergy Rev-X, or Zipp 340s.

Aero made a huge difference for me. Lighter weight allowed me to get up to speed quicker but without aero I'd hit an aero wall and stop accelerating. With aero wheels I could blast through that aero wall and keep accelerating.

Importantly during that test I had the same tubulars on all the tubular wheels, and the same clinchers on the few clincher wheelsets I tested. At least for the tubulars rolling resistance was probably close to identical between the wheels.

In addition the different wheels varied in weight as well, and by switching between different weight wheels I started getting a feel for how heavier wheels felt versus lighter ones. Aero wheels inevitably weighed more but they just kept accelerating. The lightest wheels, all non-aero, hit top speed quickly but the top speed was substantially lower than those of the aero wheels. I fitted lighter wheels for the slower, jumpier Cat 3 type races, where I'd be jumping out of corners and the sprint started at sane speeds. I'd usually choose my most aero wheels for the faster, steadier Cat 1-2-3 races, where it was single file all the time and the sprint was just maintaining some insane speed over the last lap.

Therefore the Jets seemed to make sense. Only thing was that when I first got the Jets I had this subjective feel like "Oh, they're heavier." No objective numbers, just a feeling.

My Jets

When I finally weighed the wheels I attributed my disdain for the Jets to the 3 lbs weight difference between those and my race wheels (Stinger 6 f/r or Stinger 7/9 f/r, about 3.1 and 2.8 lbs lighter respectively) or even the 2 lbs weight difference to my other clinchers, the sister wheelset HED Bastognes. The fact that all but the 7/9s have the same hubs and spokes means that virtually all the weight difference is in the rim/tire/tube/etc. They call that rotating weight and I was taught a long time ago that rotating weight was worse than static weight.

I also have non-aero clinchers as mentioned above, the HED Bastognes, which I prefer to the Jets. They wear the same tires, same brand tubes (different valve lengths), so the wheels are set up the same. However the Bastognes weigh 2 lbs less than the Jets.

Note: I have 50g heavier rear skewers on the clinchers, same clincher tire models on all four clincher wheels, basically similar tubular tires, basically similar all-steel cassettes on all rear wheels, so the wheels are consistent across types, meaning all the clinchers are similar and all the tubulars are similar.

In slower races (usually when it's raining), where I'd use clinchers, I'd use the Bastognes. The 2 lbs weight delta would make them seem more responsive than the Jets even with identical tires and tubes.

TPI (A segway but bear with me)

I wanted to put this out there because it helps visualize what TPI really means to you. TPI is "threads per inch", how many rows of thread fits in an inch. A 66 TPI tire has 66 threads every inch of tire. A 320 TPI tire has 320 threads every inch of tire.

What took a while to sink in is that this also applies to the thickness of the tire casing.

A 66 TPI tire has threads which are 1/66" thick, right? Because if you make it into a fabric you'll fit 66 threads in an inch. That's not that thick.

A 320 TPI tire has threads which are 1/320" thick. If 1/66" isn't that thick then 1/320" is really, really thin.

Thinner casings mean more supple casings. Supple casings deform easier on bumps. This means they absorb less energy flexing. Therefore they have lower rolling resistance on anything rougher than glass.

On the other hand if you have a really, really thing 1/320" thick tire casing, it's not really very resistant to getting cut or punctured by glass, nails, thorns, etc. You never hear of "yeah, this tank has armor 1/320 of an inch thick!" It's more like "With the Tiger 2 there was 7 inches of solid steel between the crew and incoming shells from the front".

Most tires layer the casing over itself so a 320 TPI casing with two layers would be 1/160" thick, twice as thick as 1/320". At that point you'd have 640 TPI if you looked at the casing through a light (two layers of 320 TPI), but it's just 320 TPI casing layered twice.

Still not that thick. That's why you don't want to wear your tires down to the casing, you really have very little left at that point between you and a flat.

Anyway, TPI explanation done...

Clincher Tire Rolling Resistance

The somewhat recent Velonews tire rolling resistance test sparked my interest. I realized that it might be that the tire rolling resistance is contributing to my dislike for the Jets.

Velonews found that the lower TPI tires, meaning those with thicker/stiff casings, had higher rolling resistance. This would be expected, based on the fact that deforming a tire over a bump takes energy, and the less energy you use doing that the less the tire will slow. Higher TPI tires rolled better in the test. The Velonews article did point out that one manufacturer counted the TPI of the double casing so Velonews halved it to keep the number consistent. TPI in the chart is TPI for one layer of casing.

Based on Velonews's findings a fast tire can save as much as 10-20 watts per tire at 40 kph / 25 mph, so 20-40 watts total. This means a rider can reduce total power required to maintain 40 kph / 25 mph from, say, 100 watts to just over 60 watts.

Rolling resistances at 40 kph:

  •  Thicker/stiffer tires, 100w
  •  Thinner/flexible tires, 65w

35 watts may not seem like a huge savings or huge wattage overall. However, consider that I've placed 3rd in a Cat 3 race averaging under 160w:

Average power for 58 minutes: 158w
Cat 3-4 result: 3rd place.

If I was using my 60 TPI (threads per inch) training tires I'd be using (Maxxis ReFuse, a solid, super reliable training tire), realistically, at least 120w simply overcoming rolling resistance. That would be a super optimistic number based on a "better" higher thread count (80 TPI) tire being rated as using 59w at 40kph. Factor in the ReFuse's tough as nails construction, a layer or two of puncture resistant material under the tread, and you end up with a really thick tire casing that doesn't flex at all. Still, though, I think 120w would be a very conservative estimate for the tires' energy consumption.

  • Rolling resistance with my 60 TPI ReFuse tires: ~120w
  • Rolling resistance with the nicest clinchers: 65w

If I went to one of the fastest tires in the Velonews test, which consumed 32-35w at the same speed, I'd save about 55w total in rolling resistance.

55 watts!

If I typically average 160-200w in a race, and I'm using 100-120w to overcome rolling resistance if I'm using my clinchers, then I'm really using say 60-80w to overcome air resistance. The rest of my power output, say 100-120w, is going towards overcoming rolling resistance. If I can reduce that by 60w, that's huge! I could almost double my power devoted to overcoming air resistance!

Clincher Tire Math

If I did a race on my clinchers:

  • Current, super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • 60 TPI tires, about 120w/pair
  • Leaves 80w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)

What if I had some nicer clinchers?
  • Current, super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • Nicer clinchers, approx 65w/pair
  • Leaves 135w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)

I'd be seeing an effective increase in available power of 55w. That may not seem like much until I put it a different way.

55w is 25% of my FTP when I upgraded to Cat 2.

Gratuitous picture of the Tsunami in its current color with the Stinger 7/9 set up.

Tubular Tires

I normally race on tubulars. Unfortunately there isn't really any data I could find other than an earlier Velonews test with tires I don't use.

Tubulars seem to use a bit more energy, 45-50w each, but there are so many variables that I can't really apply that test to my tubulars. I use different tires, different pressure, and there's the whole "how did you glue them" bit.

There were a couple constants though. First, a higher TPI led to lower rolling resistance. Second, the test found is that higher pressures in tubular tires really don't alter rolling resistance numbers. I think this is because a tubular tire doesn't rely on the rim for part of its shape, it's a shape unto itself. Therefore it really doesn't change shape much when you put more pressure in it.

Let's use a decent number, based on the description of the tires and casings. I'm going to say 45w for my tubulars. I use 23mm tires built with nice 320 TPI casing. The test had a 24mm tire with high TPI.

Tubular Tire Math

  • Current super hard race for me, 200w avg.
  • 320 TPI tubular tires, approx 90w/pair
  • Leaves 110w for air resistance (and bearings and stuff)

At 200w average this is a 30w increase in power output for air resistance compared to the nice clincher number. With the clinchers I only have about 80w to devote to air resistance. With tubulars it's realistically 110w.

It makes sense that if I was close to the edge with tubulars I'd be well into the red with clinchers. 200w really is about as hard as I can go in a race. I've hit that a number of times in races. With clinchers, to go the same speed, I'd have to up my power output by 30 watts, blowing me up.

I'd be off the back with the clinchers.

This also explains a bit on how I can race a bit more effectively against riders that drop me quickly on training rides. I need that extra 30w of power to overcome air resistance but I don't have it with the training tires.

That's just based on rolling resistance! Keep in mind too that the clinchers are heavier, with the Jets being especially heavy. Doing those quarter pedal punches to close little gaps might be efficient with lighter tubulars, but with heavier clinchers I'd be putting down a bit more energy on each adjustment. Multiply that by numerous adjustments and the extra watts quickly add up. The Jets's excess weight may be pushing me over the edge.

Thoughts Going Forward

So it may be that the tires are a big part of the reason why I don't like the Jets. Unfortunately I don't have the option of buying tires right now, and the only set of extra tires I have are not one of those magic ones on the list - they're stiffer versions of a 46+ watt tire so it's probably a 50-55 watt tire.
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I don't know how puncture resistant the Specialized tires are but the Conti GP4000S II have a good reputation for being bombproof clinchers. It might be that my next sets of clinchers will be a pair of those Contis.
<35w a="" are="" as="" bit="" change="" d="" experiment="" i="" large="" more="" obvious.="" p="" possible="" rather="" results="" so="" that="" the="" tires.="" with="">
<35w a="" are="" as="" bit="" change="" d="" experiment="" i="" large="" more="" obvious.="" p="" possible="" rather="" results="" so="" that="" the="" tires.="" with="">And then maybe I'll keep the Jets after all.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Training - The Group Ride

One of the things that bugs me about group rides is that inevitably some riders treat the ride as their own personal race. Or they do their own thing during the group ride.

I know that in the old days I either rode with a pretty disciplined group (generally speaking it was with the club I belonged to) or, sometimes, less disciplined ones.

I have to admit that when I was in charge of the school's cycling team I started losing some control over the group rides. It's not as much being weaker, because I was, but it was that some riders would just hammer themselves into oblivion regardless of the goal of the ride. If the ride was supposed to be hard, okay, fine, but if it was supposed to easy, or if we were in the warm up part of the ride, the expectation was that you'd ride the same pace as the leader.

It's tough to slow down, I get it. Think about when you're driving on the highway, whatever speed feels about right, maybe 63 in a 55. Then you get behind someone that's going, say, 61. Or 59. Most people will pass when they can, not slow down to the slower driver's speed.

Unlike driving though with bikes I'm the engine, and with group rides I'm already pretty challenged to maintain pace. My FTP is definitely on the low side, 200w on a year like this one, maybe 220w on a spectacular year, like in 2010 when I upgraded to Cat 2. In races I can work with those numbers because I "snipe", meaning I target specific races. I select those that are flat or, even better, have a short hill at some point. The short hill courses, like Bethel or New Britain, work best for me because I can always punch up a short hill and there's got to be some descending elsewhere and I recover on that bit.

At any rate I avoid races with hills and, given reasonable form, I can hold my own.

Zwift Challenges

On Zwift I'm even more challenged than normal. The main reason is that the drafting engine isn't quite there so the benefits of drafting don't stack up like they do in real life. In addition there's some kind of virtual brake so as soon as you stop pedaling it's like you're braking. In real life I coast a LOT during a race, or soft pedal at zero watts, literally 10 or 20 seconds at a time. I've even seen as much as 3 to 5 seconds of coasting during a sprint where I contested the finish. Coasting is how I survive a race and average 160 or 180 watts. In Zwift if you coast for 20 seconds you'll be off the back of any group out there, of any size. If you soft pedal for maybe 5 seconds you'll realistically be at the very back of a big group, off the back of a smaller group.

To make things worse Zwift shorts me some power, about 35w with the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, at least compared to my SRM. I believe the SRM before I believe the calculated power from Zwift, else it means I upgraded to Cat 2 with an FTP of 185w, which I highly doubt, or that I averaged 27.5 mph during the 2011 Tour of Someville while doing just 140 watts, which, again, I highly doubt.

Who knows, maybe my SRM is optimistic but I seriously doubt it. For whatever reason Zwift shorts me about 35w with the KK Road Machine.

With Zwift my 160-180w race pace becomes more like 125-145w (because Zwift shorts me 35w). At my current weight that's 1.6-1.8 w/kg. Although I'm barely capable of holding 2.0 w/kg in real life, on Zwift I fall below that cusp. I can't hang with a B ride for sure, nor a C ride, and I struggle with D rides, the 2 w/kg rides.

If I do a group ride on Zwift I look for the Sub2 rides, which over the 2015-2016 winter typically targeted 1.5 w/kg on the flats, 2 w/kg on the hills.

I joined one the other day and we were out of the blocks at well over 2 w/kg, which, if you look at the numbers above, is like me averaging at least 190w in real life. One of the hardest races I ever did was the 2010 Francis J Clarke race and I averaged 187w there. 2011 Cat 2 Tour of Somerville, 175w. So 190w, which is only 2 w/kg on Zwift, annihilates me.

I dropped off that ride pretty quickly.

Fine, I'm Weak

I understand I'm weak on the bike, and I'm okay with it. What gets me is that people are joining a Sub2 ride and then not riding Sub2. If someone joins a group ride then there's this implication that they're going to follow the ride's goals, the ride's stipulations.

For example, if I go do some super hard group ride, I'll go there with the expectation that I'm going to get shelled and it's my responsibility to figure out how to get back to the cars. Generally I'll be okay until the road tilts up, I get shelled, and then I decide do I turn around or should I keep going.

And that's fine.

At the same time if I'm on a easy group ride then I don't expect anyone to do any hard riding, or if they do they'll be waiting, foot on the ground, at the top of the hill or at the next intersection or something like that.

With Zwift it's even more... I don't know, it's more clear cut. You can see riders long after they're out of sight. Not only that, you can see their power, and, if you click on their name, you can actually see their heart rate and cadence.

You get a good idea of what they're doing, if they're struggling or just sightseeing.

Why Join A Too-Slow Group?

So why do these riders insist on joining an easier group and then blowing it apart by riding above its advertised level?

I don't know. Is it ego? Insecurity? Ignorance? Lack of self control?

Celebrity Rides

Every now and then I'm fortunate enough to have a celebrity ride with whatever group, sometimes even a race. Marc Wauters, a long time Rabobank pro, showed up for Gimbels one day. Because he wasn't riding hard we got to talk to him, and it was great, to be able to talk to this guy that you realize when you get home that, oh wow, he was in the finale in Paris Roubaix! and he was leading out Tchmil for the finish of Ghent! And he did the Giro. The Worlds. And this and that and the other thing.

At one race way, way back a recently crowned Mike McCarthy showed up at a race in World Champion colors (US Pro Crit champ, world pro pursuit champ, technically not WC on the road but hey, he's a WC at something). The first lap was like a wedding reception paceline thing were there was a line of riders dropping back and saying congrats to Mike, who, to his credit, was politely thanking everyone for their congratulations. Then after everyone got that out of the way Mike just smashed the field to pieces.

It was awesome.

Now those are racer celebrities. There are other celebrities that you get to ride with. Maybe a state representative or a mayor or something. Maybe the President, or Vice President. They're not "cyclists" per se so you ride with them like you're riding with your mother/father (if s/he doesn't ride), or, say, your grandmother/father (if s/he doesn't ride).

You take it easy. You watch them ride. You adjust your pace to theirs. You make them feel welcome to the group. If you wanted to get a workout  you wait until after the ride to go hard, or, even better, you do a bunch of hard efforts before the ride.

Today's Ride

Today (Sept 22) I did a group ride, advertised at 2-2.5 w/kg, an "easy" ride, but with one catch.

A guest rider.

Romain Grosjean.

He's an F1 driver. Admittedly he had a tough start to his F1 career but he's matured and he's one of only 22 full time F1 drivers in the world. Significantly he's one of the drivers that actually gets paid to drive - many are pay-to-drive drivers - and he's held in high enough regard that just his presence helped legitimize Haas Racing's new F1 team.

As an F1 driver he has to be somewhat fit. He said (during the ride, one of the few questions he got to answer in an hour) he rides about 2500 km a year (1500 miles), runs 800 km (500 miles), and works out in the gym and plays tennis. But he's not a world champion cyclist or anything.

So automatically my thought was, "Okay, this is a celebrity, the group should take it easy. If he wants to push a bit then he'll rev up everyone else's competitive spirits and it'll be game on.

Remember the ride with your mother/father or grandmother/grandfather? You watch them, let them set the pace, then adjust to whatever they do.

You don't go and blast up the first hill and shell them.

So what happens at the start of the "Romain Grosjean" ride?

Literally 2/3 of the group goes and shells him, hammering at the front.

I don't have solid data but I saw lots of 2.5-3.0 w/kg up front. With Zwift's limited drafting benefit it is harder than real life to stay together, yet these riders were at the front going well over the advertised ride pace.

For what?

I say again, for what?

To say that they beat Grosjean in a virtual bike ride? To get him pedaling so hard he can't answer questions from fans of F1 who happen to be on Zwift?

It took a lot of CAPS LOCK pleas to get the front group to ease a bit, but as soon as Grosjean was on the hammer went back down.

I was off the back pretty quickly so I eased, letting them lap me. I was only on my second lap, they were on their third, and the third/last lap was an open free for all per the ride description. I had a selfish thought here - with such a big group, and with the group racing, I could try and beat my PR for the green jersey sprint. I usually start the sprint at about 24-25 mph, but if I could jump at a higher speed I could take literally a second or more off my PR.

Per the ride leaders they did keep it together until the start of the sprint, saying that the start line for the sprint was the place to go go go (the "go" words were in caps). Even Romain himself messaged the group to ride as they pleased once the "race" was on. This means the group did 3/4 of the lap under some kind of control.

So I got in the group just before the sprint (i.e. they caught me). I was looking forward to sprinting down into the 21s range, possibly into the 20s, depending on how my legs felt.

I got to the sprint, I jumped really late at the line per the ride rules (not 5-8 seconds before), went a few pedal strokes...

Then I stopped because it looked like no one was sprinting.

I mentioned before you can see other riders' power, specifically their w/kg ratio. If their power goes up a lot the number turns orange. However most of the riders weren't even bright white, they were still regular white.

Well one guy was orange but I didn't want to be one of the two nimrods that sprinted to show Romain just who's boss. So I chilled on the sprint.

Then, about 3 or 4 seconds later, I saw other riders sprinting, so, after a bit of internal debate on if this was a dick move or not, I did another jump.

Ends up that after all the stutter start/stop I posted the third best time of the group. The guy that jumped on his own posted the best time. It was insane, 19.9s or something, I've never broken 20s in this physics model. He jumped early, was in the 13-15 w/kg range, and held it to the line. I think it's justified and probably accurate. With a 30 mph leadout I think low 20s would have been possible, mid 21s would have been pretty slow.

Of course it helps if I had actually sprinted the whole sprint.

In looking back at the data it looks like I sprinted for 2 seconds before shutting it down, then waited about 5 seconds before doing a half hearted sprint to the line, sitting up a bit early because I was disappointed that I didn't jump at my normal mark before the start line and go all the way to the finish.

Nonetheless I did a 22.97 second sprint. This is the same time as a pretty poor solo attempt a bit earlier this week but one that ended up my 30 day best until today (22.99).

I didn't take a shot of the leaderboard but I was third after the sprint.
The list of riders to the right are all part of the group ride.
I'm slowing hard (4 mph) so they're passing me en masse.

After The Sprint

After the sprint I recovered at my normal 0-1 mph, 5-20 watt pace. The group quickly disappeared, literally in fact. Once a rider gets to the end of the ride they revert to a normal rider, not a group rider, and dropped off the visible riders in the "group ride list". Ends up me and a guy named Mike were the only two that decided to do the third lap solo, and he was a few minutes ahead of me, looks like about 12 minutes by the time I finished the final lap.

Typical road race result for me. Dead last, 35 minutes down from the leader.
This would have been a short road race, like 30-40 miles.
Note that all the other riders have zero heart rates. They're already logged off the ride.

In group ride mode you can't see non-group ride members except when they pass you. Can't message others. Can't search for them. Etc. So although there were about 500 riders on the course I was really alone.

I started thinking of stuff on this final lap.

I understand that I'm weak on the bike, weaker still on Zwift. But the 2-2.5 w/kg ride pace should have been possible for me, at least for a lap. I got about 8 minutes in before I had to pull the plug.

I understand riders want to go hard, go fast, go at whatever pace they want. I get that.

What I don't get is when a rider joins a group and blatantly, obviously, rides above the pace and shreds the front of the group. The ride leader has a couple options. One is to ignore the offender. Another is to call them back. A third is to chase down the offenders.

Unfortunately the third option will push people over the edge. I've seen this happen where the ride leader says, "Okay, follow me, I'll pull you up" and half the riders basically explode. They were already redlined and the pace increase killed them. Limited draft, redlined riders... not a good combination.

The first option, ignoring the offender, works sometimes, but if people start bridging it gets tough. There's a critical mass point where if, say, 2/3 of the riders ends up in the front group, well, that's 2/3 of the group.

The second option, calling them back, sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.

I don't understand the mentality of "winning" a group ride.


One big difference, I think, is that I actually race sanctioned races. We race for a known goal, typically the finish line after a number of laps, and with a controlled environment you usually get a good idea of where you stand. Sometimes I do okay, often I don't.

I'm good with that.

When I'm not racing I don't need to "beat" other riders. You want to pass me while I'm climbing this hill? Go ahead. Want to sprint past me to make the light? Be my guest. In Florida in 2009 my 7 year old niece wanted to race me, her on her scooter and me on my bike.

She won every time.

In fact with Zwift I toodle along at ridiculously low wattages, 60 or 80 watts or some absurdly low power like that. I like doing sprints at designated points because, frankly, I want to see if I can get the green jersey, but it's a 100% effort that makes it even harder for me to hold even minimal power levels after the sprint.

Going for lowest average power possible.

If you look at the above screenshot you'll see that I averaged 51w, 87w, 65w, 145w, and 93w. What's kind of ironic is that the hardest ride, the 145w one, I quit after 26 minutes because it was a Sub2 group sustaining well over a 2 w/kg pace.

I also skipped mentioning the 33w partial ride since it was me briefly contemplating riding on my own and deciding I'd much rather read to Junior.

Put me in a group ride (not a race) and it's all about the group. I don't sprint unless the ride leader says we're sprinting. I don't attack the group, I don't push harder just because I can. Admittedly I'm rarely in that situation but it's happened.

It's disappointing to go through everything I need to do to join a group ride and then have it ruined because the ride doesn't follow the advertised pace. I've gotten my dad settled, or, worse, asked the Missus to handle some of my responsibilities. Left Junior for bed without reading him a few books or even checking up on him as he's drifting off into la la land. But I do that now and then because I'd like to get in a group ride that has a pace I can handle.

Then the group hammers, redlines me, and eventually sheds me.

And to join this ride I made the choice to sacrifice a bit of family time. I could easily ride later, on my own, but then I wouldn't have the group to ride with, the conversation, the feeling of solidarity, etc.

However this is what I miss when I'm joining a Sub2 ride at 8 PM:

Reading to Junior.
Bella is the feline sitting on the edge of the bed rail.

I make the call to ride instead of read to Junior, I acknowledge that. However I make the call with a certain expectation of the ride.

On the Romain ride I elected to stay on, mainly because it was a weird time ride (2:30 PM) and we'd all have time after the ride. However on that 145w ride a few days prior?

I climbed off the bike, went upstairs, let Junior know that I'd read after I showered, and then I got to read some books with him.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Tactics - Bike Throw, 2005 Bethel Spring Series

Bike throw pictures. They fascinate me because it's a skill/practice thing. Pretty much anyone can learn to throw their bike in one or two tries, and after 20 or 30 practice throws (it might take a few minutes, or, if you're actually sprinting a little before the throw, maybe an hour), you'll be pretty proficient at it.

Yet even pros don't throw their bikes properly at the line. These are guys that make their living on results, at least if they're vying for a win. Okay, fine, the team rider that is supposed to pull the first 150 km of the race, I get that they don't get into situations very often where they're trying to win a race. But even the most hardcore domestique should know how to throw a bike at the finish.

Imagine if it's the one day out of ten years where your break actually made it to the finish intact and now it's just you and a couple other riders going for the win. You jump well, you sprint well, and your body is even ahead of the next rider... but at the line the other rider beats you with a bike throw.

How horrible is that?

Not just that, how horrible is it when the loser realizes that it's just a little bit of practice, a little bit of horsing around, that lost the race?

Recently two riders made it to the finish of a race and for once both had spectacular bike throws. One won, one lost, but it certainly wasn't because of a poor bike throw. It's good to see that in a pro race.

For some reason I never posted these pictures from the 2005 Bethel Spring Series on the blog, or if I did I can't find them. So I'm putting them here, possibly again, for reference.

To me normally the Series was the World Championships of racing so it was really, really important for me to do as best as I could. However, two years prior, I'd promised my mom to win the race for her about a month before she died.

This made the Series even more significant to me.

My friendly arch rival that year was Morgan. He's an admittedly better racer than me but he'd spread himself a bit thin by trying to win both the Masters and Cat 3-4 Series yet again. This led to him not starting one of the Cat 3-4 races after an icy cold rainy day sapped him of strength in the Masters race.

Each time we went head to head in the sprints he absolutely demolished me, typically by a solid 10 or 20 feet, if not more. However, because he missed one race, and I think in another he had some problem, I ended up coming into the last week with a 1 point lead.

On the last week the top seven racers got 10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points respectively. If tied on points whoever placed ahead of the other on the last day would win. Therefore I basically had to beat Morgan. If he got any place I'd have to place in front of him. Even if he got just 7th he'd tie me on points but if I didn't place in front of him he'd win on the tie-breaker.

I had a bit of help, both from teammates and friends, including some very strong riders that could pull like mad. They knew that it had to come down to a sprint, and that I'd handle the final lap or two on my own.

Morgan had a superb team, including a Portuguese ex-pro. They were strong and motivated, and collectively had much more experience than my team. More than anything I feared them setting up a break so that Morgan could bridge to it. I wouldn't be able to hang in a break so a move like that would end my chances of retaining the lead.

Another racer John was in the mix. Like me he preferred sprints, but that spring I'd been outsprinting him consistently. He knew this and admitted later that he wasn't up to it that day. A realist, he would be satisfied holding onto third overall. However he decided at some point that his team would ride for me if it came down to Morgan and myself.

Finally the local shop team, Bethel Cycle, had two very strong crit racers looking to win the day. Both of their sprinters, Stephen and Bryan, were friends of mine, but on that day I couldn't count on them for any gifts.

Even with the relentless attacking by Morgan's team, it came down to a field sprint, thanks to the efforts of my teammates, John's teammates, Bethel Cycle (who wanted to win the sprint), and a friend here and there. On the bell lap Bethel Cycle put four riders up front just after Turn One, two leadout men and two sprinters. I sat on their wheel and I think Morgan was on my wheel.

The first leadout man peeled off rather quickly, leaving Brian W to do the majority of the lap at the front. Patiently the rest of the field waited as we flew down the backstretch. Then Brian pulled off, absolutely exploded, and the sprint started to unfold. Unfortunately for Stephen and Bryan, the leadout Brian couldn't make it another 100 meters or so, and so one had to start the sprint early. The fourth rider was already in trouble, which set Morgan and myself up for a battle royale.

As we hit the uphill finish the two Bethel sprinters both blew up at the same time, jamming up the inside line. I managed to clear them to the right but Morgan got boxed in on the left curb. He had to back out of that spot, go around the two riders to their right, and hunt me down before the finish line.

After I passed Bryan I found myself on a clear road, nothing between me and the finish line, and something like 75 meters to go. I thought for certain that Morgan had run into problems, I knew there would be no one else approaching me (and it didn't matter if anyone except Morgan did approach me).

I started thinking about if I should raise my hands or not. Maybe just one. I've only raised my hands once and it was a two up sprint and the other guy sat up long before the finish line. I even looked back and confirmed he'd stopped sprinting before I raised my hands.

The only time I've ever raised my hands at the finish.
It was 1992, almost 13 years before this particular Bethel Spring Series.

So all this was going through my head as I got onto the flat part of the road by the finish, maybe 15 or 20 meters to go.

Then, to my absolute horror, I saw a wheel coming up fast on my right. I couldn't even make out the jersey but I knew the only racer who could make that move was Morgan.

I pedaled a few desperate pedal strokes to the line and threw my bike as far forward as I could. I looked over at Morgan as I did and ended up a bit disoriented, losing the grip on one side of my bars. It slewed me to the left and I almost crashed into the curb.

I had no idea if I'd won or not, and in fact I thought I'd given away the win by dreaming about "posting up" (the raised arms thing).

You can see that we're already throwing our bikes.
At this point our bikes are even.

Here I'm starting to really drop back over the saddle.
This is pushing the bike forward.

I'm running out of "going backward" room.
However it seems that I've done enough to keep my bike in front.

Any my front wheel passes the line before his.

In the last picture you can see that my head and shoulders are in front of Morgan's. If neither of us had thrown our bikes I'd have won, barely. If I did a less intense throw, or no throw at all, it's clear that Morgan would have beaten me. This is because my head is usually over the front wheel, at least where the hub is, and if you moved my wheel back so that the center of the wheel was under my head... I'd have lost by about the margin I won by.

It looks all set and pretty in still motion, but if you watch the clip in real time all this stuff unravels really fast. Go to about 5:45.

2005 Bethel Spring Series

Ultimately the finish line camera told the story. Both Morgan and I checked ourselves because we both really didn't know who won. I was also the promoter so I had to make sure that the win was legitimate, not just because I made the race happen.

Morgan later told me that he still thinks about the race. It was a good race, a fair race, a hard race. We both raced to our limits, we both made our moves, and we both did a technically perfect sprint. In the end the race tilted in my direction, but it could have gone either way.