Monday, May 16, 2011

Modesto Road Race (35+ cat 4): May 15, 2011

The Modesto road race (which to me seems more like a circuit race) is notoriously FLAT. I recorded a total of 292 feet of climb over 54 miles of racing! I -literally- get more climbing than that over the first mile out my front door. As a result it's a race that's suited mostly to a pure sprinter though a good mix in a breakaway can steal the show if the pack is too lethargic. Team tactics can pretty much guarantee a podium finish if you show up with enough numbers and those dudes are fit enough to control the race and make a leadout train. With just Ted and I, that wasn't going to be our game so our strategy was for Ted to play it like a pure sprinter staying out of the wind and out of danger all day and I would do what I could to reel in breaks. Since I'm not much of a field sprinter type, the plan wasn't so much for me to lead him out as it was to try to be a stinker in the final kilometer or two to try to keep the final pace strung out and fast. It kind of worked out that way.

Most of the race was uneventful. After two laps of gofastslowdowngofastnowaitslowdown two guys finally established a break that, eventually, turned into one guy dangling off the front for quite an impressive amount of time. He was finally brought back (by a flat front tire?) on the sixth lap. There was a counterattack that was nothing but weak sauce but that did string out the pack pretty good. Ted had found the guy he was going to mark in the sprint so, with the pack strung out with 4 miles to go, Ted got on my wheel as if we'd done this sort of thing all the time, and I brought him back up to his mark. I had a head of steam going so I decided to move to the front and do my part to keep the hot pace hot. Really my only intention was to hit the front hard and just keep the elastic stretched but I suddenly had that sinking feeling that no one was on my wheel.

A quick look back revealed a surprisingly large gap back to the pack. "Ah crap," I thought, "Get ready for some hurt..." To add to the benefit of my timing another field passed ours and then me. Oh it was tempting to jump in a cheat a little but I stayed away and they stayed away and I remain guilt-free. Nine minutes of pain, panic and pursuit of glory (haha, as if I didn't know it was suicidal...) found me still solo off the front through the final corner. Past the 1K to go and I was still chugging. But very shortly after that the familiar sound of a ramped up pack with no mercy for the idiot off the front solo ruined my fun. Ted looked good sitting 4th or 5th wheel but, as is typical in a dead flat, dead straight, dead challenge-free sprint like that, luck of the draw spit him to the front too early and he had to settle for 9th. But hey! Top ten is good! I'd take one of those right about now.

Here's the link to Ted's perspective (just substitute "teammate" for "That idiot Roy")

Somehow my legs didn't actually explode and I kept them moving to get a 17th (of ~35). So once again, if you split the field size in half, you get my result. But this was a team day so I'm okay with that. In fact it was a good confidence builder to be able to get away and stay away at a crucial part of the race like that. My recovery after the race was very good and I was doing difficult 12x3 intervals on Tuesday and rode 60 miles with 5900 feet of climbing on Wednesday. It's fun to be fit!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shaking the cobwebs out at Hellyer: May 10, 2011 Edit Blog Entry

I managed to get my track bike converted from fixed gear road rider to track racer in time Tuesday morning so, with no excuses, headed to the track for some Tuesday evening fun after work. My track "season" ended in a heap of dissappointment and failed goals last year so I spent the winter pondering if I was even going to bother with the track this year. But the Hellyer community is tight and after only being inside the gates for a few minutes I was catching up with racing buddies and sharing "where you been's" with guys who, in a normal crit or road racing environment wouldn't even look down their carbon fiber stem at a muffin racer like me. Dang, to think I was just gonna skip that this year? FOOL!

My goals for the night were to get comfy in the pack, get a good heart rate up and get at least a couple of good sprints in here and there. With a different format this year, I may be able to achieve last year's goal of getting a Cat. 3 on the track but only if I can get my sprint in gear and only if I feel satisfied with having notched either a couple event wins or an omnium win. I really hope I'm not in fantasy land but I was doing it last July and started my track campaign around this same time last year and this year I have a very solid base under me, and a much better training approach. Anyway, I raced three events in the Cat. 4/5 field of 16 racers.

Race 1: Win-n-out (15 laps, winner on lap 15 wins, winner on lap 16 is 2nd, lap 17 1st and 2nd are 3rd and 4th). My strategy was to race for third or fourth. If you go for the win and miss it you end up too pooped to try for 2nd, 3rd or 4th. The 15 laps were kind of hot and I was undergeared so I was only able to surf the back and not move up. On the final sprint for 3rd and 4th I dug in but missed the top two spots. Results had me in 5th, one place out of points - D'OH!

Race 2: 12 lap Tempo (2 points for leader on every lap, 1 point for second on every lap, 5-3-2-1 points for last lap): With a better gear and a slightly slower pace surfing the pack was pretty easy but I didn't seem to have the horsepower to move up without burning too many matches so I just bided my time until the final when I did my only sprint of the race. A pen. velo rider was off the front but I won the field sprint. The results somehow missed this fact, but with only 3 points won there, I was still out of the omnium points so we'll just let that one go.

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Race 3: 20 laps points race (4x5): In a points race this short my only hope is to either put all my eggs in one sprint basket or get a good breakaway going and steal points from off the front. I decided to let the first sprint play out and counterattack the sprint if the field bunched up. Sure enough everyone bunched up into the wind on the back stretch so I broadcast my attack by going underneath and rolling off the front. Around the banks across the front stretch and into turn one and I decided to see what happened. Nuts! The pack was off turn 4 and I was solo. I was really hoping to bring one or two guys with me but it wasn't to be. I dug in for two more laps but then was swarmed on the next bell lap. I got gapped in the sprint and almost got back on by the back stretch but just didn't have the umf. I chased for a few laps and then decided I was better off getting back in the pack and working on skills instead of the futility of a solo chase. Back in the pack, round and round and call it a night.

So. Get comfy on the track with the pack etc? check. Get a couple of good sprints in? check. Regain some of my love for the track? checkitycheckcheck. I'm hooked again.
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Photos by my buddy and all around great human, Steve Anderson (