Monday, April 01, 2019

Racing - Chris Hinds Criterium, March 30, 2019 - 4th and a great day with Junior

Chris Hinds (and a blog post). I don't think I'll be posting a lot but I'd like to do race reports and some misc stuff this year. I want to do some race reports for the Frozen Four but have to gather cam footage and such.

I also want to make a race clip out of this one but I have to get a working Mac first! We'll see when I can make that happen.


This is a race that I've skipped for forever for two reasons. First, while I was running the Bethel Spring Series, this race was on a day I spent prepping for the following day's Bethel race. On the rare occasions there was no Bethel race the following day I often skipped it out of sheer fatigue. Second, after Bethel ended, meaning the years 2016-2018, I skipped it because I was sorely out of shape at that time. It being a 2 hour drive, I didn't want to drag the Missus and Junior along if I was going to do just a few laps. The final reason is that it's during tax season, and the Missus can't come to the race. I try not to race much with her not there.

This year is the first year I've had some fitness since 2015. I did a few days of intervals, have been riding to keep my sanity, and managed to stay at a high reasonable weight. I've stayed in the 170s, instead of 180s, which isn't terrible for me. As a reference point I dropped to 158 lbs in 2010 and slayed it in the races, and in 2015 I was 163 for a bit and won once and got third three times. If I can drop below 170 it'll be fantastic, and if I can get below 160 that'll really change my racing. The reality though is that the 170 mark is my realistic target.

With tax season keeping the Missus busy, I relied on my teammate Joel to look after Junior while I raced. We got to the race a bit early to watch Joel race but only caught the last two laps. Then Junior rode his bike for at least an hour while I chased him around on foot. We tried without training wheels for a bit, but my back and his patience ran out. Reinstalling the training wheels, he zipped around pretty much the rest of the day.

With Junior in Joel's care (complete with a packed lunch courtesy the Missus), I kitted up for the race. I was feeling decent for the race, just wondering if my fitness was up for it. I had my trusty bike with my trusty race wheels.

My bike, Junior's bike.

Race wheels on my bike, training wheels on Junior's. Heh.


I had to re-pin the number. I initially pinned it to a wind vest, with the wind and all. But then as the sun cut through the clouds I realized I'd be hot in the vest. I raced with the number pinned to my jersey.

M50+ start - a huge field

The first race I ever finished was at Ninigret. I realized while on the drive down that in a few years it'll have been FORTY YEARS since I started racing. And, back in 1983, I finished the Junior race at Ninigret.

It's not 40 years yet so don't get that stuck in your head. It's only been 37 years.

A lot has changed here over the years. The course used to be all the black pavement, WW2 airfield stuff, with tires lining the course. They'd stack four or five tires at the apex of the turns - you'd sometimes rub against them during the race. If you got shoved it was bad, you had to navigate between tires else you'd flip over the bars.

And you really, really, really didn't want to flip over the bars. The airfield asphalt was like sticky pavement, just grabbed you if you fell. There was no sliding at Ninigret, even in the rain, and the pavement really tore you apart if you fell.

Now it's paved in regular pavement, with grassy borders. You slide if it's wet. The low bushes near the second last straight that used to obscure the riders' hubs are now 10 feet tall and impossible to see through.

But some things haven't changed. It's windy here, always. It punishes those that can't corner or draft. And, for the sprint, it generally rewards those that start the sprint near the front.

Strung out bit.

Within a few laps the race was strung out. The single file laps are the hard ones, and this race had maybe 5 laps like this. I think if there were another 5-8 laps like this the race would have blown apart. But before the strong riders could shatter the field they shattered themselves, and the race calmed down.

Accidentally near the front of the group.

At some point I accidentally went way up front, seeking shelter. The main straight had wind hitting from the right so you have to be left of the wheel. I got stranded on the right and moved up to find shelter, finally giving up when I was at the front. I quickly eased, let riders pass me, and got myself buried in the field where I belong.

5 to go.

At five to go I was still there, and, if you'll notice, just to the left of the rider in front. Sheltered in the field, things seemed okay.

2 to go. Lots of riders ahead.

At two to go it was still together but guys had been moving up all over the place. I was near the back of the field and realized I really needed to move up. I didn't want to be clawing my way from the back on the last lap.

2 to go - I'm pretty far from the front.

Unfortunately the race strung out and I rode too politely. I waited for someone entering a corner, got on their wheel, and then.. they left a gap! I had to close it with a bit of effort.

Bell lap. Ugh.

At the bell I was much further back than I'd planned. The little dig on the backstretch used up my allotted reserves for that lap and now I had to do exactly what I didn't want to do - claw my way to the front from deep within the field.

Rider to the right was dropping anchor, rider from the left swooping in.

The first few turns were kind to me, the back stretch okay, but as we entered the right turn off the back stretch, things got about as wiggly as it got during the last lap. The guy to my right slammed his brakes on, trying to avoid grass surfing (on a prior lap about 8 riders took to the grass). At the same time the rider to my left (orange/yellow) was diving in, much tighter than the rider in front of him (in blue/black).

Very close to the rider on the left, probably an inch or so to his wheel.

The rider in the orange/yellow ended up just barely touching my wheel - I was doing some hip swaying, bar pushing, etc, to avoid contacting him. It worked out, I got on his wheel, and it was good.

Second last turn, still too far back.

Going into the second last turn I was on his wheel, still uncertain about the guy to my right. I briefly tried to stay on orange/yellow's wheel but decided to let him have it, but then he didn't get on the wheel. We were both a bit stranded.

Second last stretch, wind from right, need to go left.

As we exited that second last turn, the wind hit us from the right. I wanted to go left but I was afraid of committing myself too early. In hindsight I probably should have moved up a few spots, maybe 2 in front of the orange/yellow, but at that moment I wanted to wait a bit.

Last turn, no real room to sprint, want to jump toward left.

My punishment for waiting was to get boxed in by riders moving up on the left. We went into the long, two stage last turn, and I had riders to both sides of me. I had a jump, I wanted to use it, but I needed some room before I let the nitro explode.

Onto the final straight, no room still.

As the riders hit the straight I expected them to stay to the left, to deny riders behind shelter. Instead they moved right. I just needed an opening to go.

Left side opened up, boom, jumped hard.

Then the rider to the left went a bit more left than everyone else. It opened a gap, I took it, and launched as I shifted up. It felt pretty good, but the numbers don't lie - I barely managed to break 1100 watts.

It wasn't a very good jump.

Legs failed at this point, wattage plummeted.
Kicker is that the race winner is right there and I closed half the gap to him in a few seconds.

Worse yet was within five seconds my legs were done. I'd averaged 991 watts for 5 seconds, and about 850 watts for 10 seconds. With a 13 second sprint, my average power was down to about 825w.

In contrast, couple weeks prior, I averaged 1030 watts for 5 seconds and sustained almost 1000 watts for 10 seconds. So compared to that other sprint earlier this year, I really faltered in this one.

Managed to pip Dave at the line, and barely beat a guy to my left.
HR is high for me, 171, and it probably climbed after the sprint finished.

Earlier in the day Junior asked me if I wanted to beat one of the riders hanging out before the race. Taken aback, I thought about it. I realized that I don't go into a race wanting to "beat someone". I start a race wanting to do the best that I can do, no regrets.

So as my legs fell away in the sprint, I kept pushing, because I didn't want to tell Junior after the race that I gave up. I didn't want to think back at this race and wonder what would have happened had I kept pushing. So even though my wattage fell off a cliff, even though my legs felt like they were stuck in molasses, I kept pedaling. And, eventually, after an interminably long sprint, I managed to cross the line in fourth. I had no idea, and in fact I was hoping I was within the top 10 so - I thought everyone passed me at the line.

Some numbers for the day:
Peak: 1122w
5s: 991w
13s: 827w (sprint length)

Avg: 178w (race - pretty high for me)

Strava link (power data is not on Strava)

Junior approaching the line on his bike

As the course opened for a few minutes Junior asked if he could do a lap. We started out well, the next field lined up, but I realized that we'd run out of time - we'd be finishing the lap as the racers hit the main straight. So we turned left onto the grass, waited for the racers to pass, then he hit the course for the final 50 meters to the line.

The official was understanding enough to let us ride to the line, even with a race underway. Little judgment calls like letting us cross the line makes a huge difference in the impression racing leaves on a kid, and I managed to capture the following because of it.

Bike throw with Junior!

My favorite bike throw of the day. I tried to time it perfectly so he'd pip me at the line, and so he did.

It'll be a few weeks before I can race again, maybe even May, but so far the season has been good. I'll have to pick and choose my races but that's normal. My goal will be to do well at New Britain, and try to partake in some of the Tues night races (instead of just hanging on).

We'll see how it goes.