Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hellyer Wednesday Night Omnium, July 29, 2009

I was feeling a little fuzzy in the brain and really slow to warm up last night at the track. After about 20 minutes of warmup I stupidly (and I mean Dr. STOOPID LEE Senior, not Junior) brainfarted and tried to freewheel. Up went my ass into the air along with my rear wheel and my heart rate. It was no big deal and I wasn't close to crashing or anything-I do have thousand so of hours of fixed gear under my belt afterall- but it was a reality check to clear the cobwebs and pay attention or just go home. The rest of the night went better and, I have to say, I really really enjoy my track nights. The people are great, the workout is excellent and it's just one of those things that clicks for me.

O yeah, I was racing with the B's. And to cut to the chase, I was tenth in the omnium out of 18 riders which is pretty cool since I wasn't one of the seven guys with zero points for the night. All apologies to those guys...

Race 1: 3x5 Points race. I decided about five laps in to just go for broke on the penultimate sprint. So with the lap counter showing 4 I jumped hard coming off turn four and with the bell ringing in my left ear I cooked it into turns one and two, drove the back stretch then added a little bit more for a final 100 meter kick to win that sprint and earn 5 points. I had nothing left for the final sprint but the 5 points was enough for fourth (tied for third, actually but there is some complex math for determining the tie breaker that bounced me to fourth) place and thus, I earned my single omnium point and was able to feel good about not getting zeroed. Wee.

Race 2: 12 lap scratch race. I ended this one with WAY too much gas left in the tank and frustrated that I didn't work a little harder. I felt way too fresh at the end. But the tentative are pack fodder on the track so it goes. I was about tenth but not really sprinting.

Race 3: Miss and out. Blech! Another race finished while feeling way too fresh. The pack spread across the track and I got boxed in up at the rail and that was that. I counted ten guys left when I got pulled so that kind of sucked.

Race 4: 40 lap points race with the A/B combine! That's right, I said A/B combine not B/C combine. With my placing in the early points race, I qualified for the A race and that went quite well. Surfing the back of the pack was going very well so I put my nose on the front a few times. I was way off pace for contesting the sprints but it was great being able to hang in there and I even tried to take a couple of fliers. On the 15-to go sprint I went off the back and took a lap but when I got back on I survived the next sprint and then even made an attack with three to go, pulled the field at full steam for a lap then pulled off, went off the back and stayed on the same lap for the final. That was a great confidence builder!

And fun too!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lodi Cycle Fest Criterium race, July 12, 2009

I have to say this was a very fun race. The course was a figure 8 through downtown Lodi with all 90 degree turns that were, for the most part, wide open. The front stretch was on cobblestones! Turn one was wide open transitioning onto pavement with some white paint cross walk to mind. Turn two was wide open. Turn three had a pothole but it was out of any line I took all day. Turn 4 was a bugaboo transitioning back to cobblestones and some uneven surface that made my back wheel skip out pretty frequently. It constricted too - just to make it scarier. Turns 5 and 6 were wide open with only a little oil in the road and crosswalk paint that didn't seem slippery at all. Turn 7 was a constrictor and back onto cobblestones but at least it was smooth. Turn 8 was pretty much wide open but on cobblestones and narrow to narrow roads.

The great Michael Hernandez was on the microphone all day to amuse and entertain and, as the day grew, more and more people showed up on the course and there was actual cheering and clapping and that ALWAYS makes the legs a bit snappier and the heart a little stronger.

I signed up for both the regular Cat 5 race and the 35+ Cat 4/5 races with a nice three hour break between the two. When I was a young guy I used to be jealous of the masters racers who would double dip like that and this was my first time to see if I, indeed, had something to envy.

E5 race: Only 17 racers :-( We had a mentor take us through the course on the first lap and everyone was supposed to follow him single file. Maybe this helped some people but all I noticed was guys ignoring it. In my opinion, any mentor should tell the following before a crit (and he didn't).
1-DO NOT overlap wheels
2-DO NOT rubberneck, the only thing you have to worry about is in front of you.
3-NO FUCKING SWERVING - this isn't the champs d'elysee and you aren't leading out Tyler Farrar
4-Commit to your line in a corner. No brakes -if possible- and absolutely don't change lines unless it's an emergency.

Anyway, digress. The mentor was around during the race and I did see him correct a few things. He yelled at me for "unecessarily risking it" taking an extreme inside line into the gutter a few times but the real danger there was the guy who kept coming in too tight and not using the whole road that made that dangerous.

I tried to keep 5 to 7 guys ahead of me the whole race to try to stay up front while also staying out of the wind. This worked pretty well. One of the times I did drift back, however, I got to witness the only crash of the race. Of course it happened on the longest straight section right in front of the start finish. The guy on the front went clear across the road and everyone followed him like a snake! Of course someone was overlapping wheels and got his front wheel swept. His rear wheel shot up in the air and he was launched taking three or four guys out with him. After that the adreneline speed spike lasted about two laps.

With three laps to go I was thinking I should probably move up into the top three or four. A couple of corners later, there was a separation that I failed to see how it happened and there were four guys with a suddenly large gap off the front. They increased their lead pretty quickly but lost one guy so with two laps to go it was pretty apparent we were racing for fourth place since no one (me included!) was working well to catch them. So what was left of the pack safely came through the last two turns. I was fourth wheel on the last turn and came out sprinting. I was still coming on when the finish line came up but couldn't win the field sprint. Still, I was happy for a second there and a fifth overall. It would have been more gratifying if the race had been bigger but that's better than my usual dead-middle of the field result and I won a bottle of wine to bring home. I really wish I'd been more attentive when the podium places rode off the front. I think I may have had the gas to stick with them.

35+ 4/5 race: The only crash of this race came on the very first corner with one guy going down in the middle of the pack all by himself (nice of him to not take anyone out!). This race was much faster but I was having a real blast even though I couldn't seem to stop riding in the last five or six guys. I kept passing guys who were fading and getting gapped but couldn't seem to move up more than that. I did notice, though, that there were fewer and fewer guys ahead of me. Halfway through a guy went WAY off the front and the pack accelerated. As usual, the back was gapping and recovering and within a lap the accordian claimed my fitness. As a dangerously large gap opened in front of me I looked back and saw what you never want to see in a crit - a wide open course behind me with no other racers in sight. I sprinted as hard as I could, caught the back but soon enough that deadly two bike length gap reformed and that was that. I chased three others who got dropped for another lap and a half but then they pulled us all.

I was actually pretty satisfied with that. I lasted 25 minutes of the 40 minutes and was one of the last four guys to get pulled. Of the 32 starters, only 17 survived to the final so that would make me 21st-ish if you could get a placing after getting pulled.

In conclusion: A very fun day of racing. A satisfying result. A very fun atmosphere. The track riding is really paying off both in handling and confidence and fitness.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday Night Omnium at Hellyer, July 8, 2009

Oof to the head! I gotta headache tonight. Last night was fun. There were so many women and juniors that they got their own race and that left 7 of us for the C men's race. I had a nice 30 minute warmup but I could tell my legs were really dead. I couldn't spin up and sprinting was a real chore.

Chariot Race: Only six of us competed. I had a poor start and just couldn't get up a head of steam to go anywhere. 5th of 6. After the race I kind of felt light headed and vaguely nauseous. I considered calling it a night but I hung around.

Scratch Race: Something snapped about four laps in and suddenly I kind of felt better. I jumped in turn three, got a gap and soloed the bell lap. The group behind was sprinting up beside me coming up to the line but I held them off for the win! Whattaya know??? Cool. Woohoo. Steve Woo called me up to the officials stand to give me a jersey for that! You'd think the prize would be for the omnium but they were only for the scratch races so I am the owner of a new jersey. woohoo!

Win and Out: Oh I blew this one with a all or nothing lap and a half effort that got me nipped at the line. That hurt! I had no gas left and took my DFL with pride knowing that at least I tried. Besides, I already won the scratch race tonight. Woohoo.

Where'd everybody go not a miss and out but a 5 lap scratch race instead: Of the four of us left, three had won events so I found the fourth guy and told him to just glue his front wheel to my back and I'd try to deliver him to the line. We almost did it but he waited too late to sprint and I probably confused him by slapping my right hip when I actually meant for him to sprint off down track. Oh well. He appreciated the effort.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hellyer Tuesday Night Points Race: July 7, 2009

Remember the old batman and robin show? They'd get in fights and the sound effects would get cartooned onto the screen? Blam! Thwap!!! Crunch!!! Well my favorite one was always "OOF!!!!" Tonight was a bit of an oof night at the track.

With my new Cat 4 track license I entered the B race with the goal of hanging on for dear life. As soon as I got to the track, I switched my 14 rear for a smaller (more teeth) gear for the warmup. In the warmup session I was hanging just fine but then started to have difficulty hanging in when the pace got up to about 28mph. I just chalked it up to whatever I could think of and went on my merry way shooting the shit with my teammate Jonathan until the races started.

I expected the first 40 lap B race to be fast but I was spun out and hanging on my a pinky finger nail for aoubt 22 laps when I finally just couldn't hang on anymore. I rode a few laps trying to catch up then went up to the rail to recover and latch back on the next time around. I missed timing the tag-on and ended up off the back again pretty quickly. So I tried again and this time just barely held on to the finish. As I rode the warmup (warm down?) track I was starting to think I was doomed. It was just way too hard to hang in - and FORGET about being anywhere near the front and challenging for any of the sprints!

With as much optimism as I could muster I decided I needed a bigger gear so I wouldn't be spun out so badly. I removed the rear cog and much to my horror/shock/amusement, found that I had been using a 16 instead of the 15. Well hell!!! I'll take being stupid over being out of shape any day! My mood immediately got better as soon as I realized my egregious blunder and happily installed the 14.

The second race was also 40 laps (with points every five laps). The larger gear felt so dang good that I found myself on the pole lane in the front and just sort of rode off the front. One lap around and I saw I had a flyer in the works so I tried to not blow my wad yet be fast. This lasted for all of two more laps before I was reeled in and smacked down like a kindergartner on the playground with the sixth graders.

I pretty much went off the back pretty soon after that. I struggled with another fellow to get back on but once there's about a third of a lap, there's no point dying out there alone so I went up to the rail and when the pack came around I latched on. It was really hard to stay in touch with the pack but I managed it until the end of the race.

So... post race. On the one hand I have very clear steps ahead of me (like "don't get dropped!") and that always makes a task easier. On the other hand, this is pretty much what I was afraid would happen after catting up. What if my meager training time budget simply isn't enough to get better or faster? This could get pretty discouraging being pack fodder race after race. Sure it's a great -strike that- excellent workout so it's not like there's no benefit.

But here I am again complaining about success instead of enjoying the fact that I DID and COULD cat up. I should be really quite happy that I managed 38 and 39 laps. I should be happy that I was able to take a three lap flyer. Arg! But sometimes that's just hard to do when this silly sport sucker punches you in the gut and you go "OOF!!!"

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Leesville Gap Road Race, July 3, 2 009

This race is famous for it's bad pavement and, in stretches, complete lack of pavement. It is also known for being, hot, exposed, and for having long straight stretches at the final that tax the weary brain. I can now confirm all the above is true! What a great race. Nothing comes right up my alley like putting miles of dirt/gravel roads into a road race.

After deliberating all week, I asked around and read race reports and decided to go ahead and ride my regular race bike with 25 mm tires. That was my setup at Madera and, though I got the snot hammered out of me by the road, it worked out well as I didn't flat when so many others did. But I ran out of time in my week to swap out my tires so I ran with the 23's.

Heading out, the pace was fast but not too taxing. Riding at the front was pretty easy and there wasn't alot of pushing around up there. Then we crossed hwy 20 and the potholes began! I dodged, bunny-hopped and bounced for a few minutes when I saw the opposite shoulder was smooth gravel. "Why not?" I abandoned the pavement and was rewarded with a nice smooth gravel shoulder. It was much faster than the potholes and I found myself shooting past the nose of the pack. Unfortunately, that only lasted about a mile then it was back to pothole management with the rest of the pack. I found it much safer and easier going in the front five guys and so there I stayed.

One thing you read alot about on this race is the plethora of water bottles all over the road bounced out of people's cages. I was laughing to myself about the time I passed the fiftieth bottle in five miles. We caught the 45+ cat 4's just before the climbing began and all hell broke loose as guys realized they could get lost as the fields combined. But I had my own worries as my body went into the red zone immediately as the road tilted up. Slowly and with all too much familiarity, the pack spit out it's unworthy climbers and I was soon enough among them left to toil in the heat all by myself cursing my inability to go upward as fast as I want to.

The climb dragged on and I had a real problem with it. If a climb isn't steady or has anything to break my rhythm, I'm toast. It was plenty steady enough but the potholes just destroyed my ability to sit down, zone out and suffer.

Over the top and down the other side banging over potholes and placing my bunnyhops strategically I passed a number of stragglers.

This is getting pretty boring so I'll just say the rest of the race was a haze of heat and cramps and grouping and dropping and sitting in and surviving. I drank a ton but was still having trouble with calf cramps. Just before the feedzone, I caught a guy and he gave me an "electrolyte pill." I put it in my mouth to be polite but as soon as he took a pull I dug it out and flicked it into the weeds. Last thing I want is to be vomitting on the road out in the middle of nowhere in that heat. All the other climbs were on smooth pavement or on smooth gravel and I really did alot better there catching folks and passing. There was one 45+mph descent and I passed three guys there. I don't know why I'm descending so much faster and more confidently now as an old guy than I did when I was young. Oh well.

The last fifteen miles was a real drag. Luckily, I grouped up with four to seven other guys (the number changed as guys got picked up and dropped) and it made the flat ride into the headwinds more bearable.

In the end I was just happy to finish this race and happy to not get a flat and happier to be able to hold onto wheels and dig DEEP to not get dropped over the final windy sections. I can motor right along in the flats right now, it's just the climbs that are kicking me in the butt. But then again, that's not really a new story for me...

I think I was 7th but I might have been 4th if I read the results wrong and the 45+ guys were mixed in there. Pretty sure it was 7th, though. Boy, divide a field size by two, add or subtract one and there's Roy. I'm not complaining, though.