Well this is my third time with this race and I seem to get worse every time I try it! In '97 I had a fun looong breakaway and then had enough legs to survive the field sprint. Two years ago I rode too hard and ended up cramping but still was able to spin in the field sprint.
Since this is a race that tends to get a little boring with everyone plodding along for 63.5 miles and then racing the last kilometer, I wanted to try to get a break going from way out. So I gave myself a 20 minute window to try that at the end of the first lap/ beginning of the second lap. I was hoping to get something going on the flat going into San Ardo and then stretch it and get out of sight on the climb and following rollers going out of town. Unfortunately NOBODY wanted to see that happen. I just can't get a grip on negative racing. Do people really enjoy a boring three hour ride followed by a field sprint? (I know I know it's more about racing and results and if you want fun go for a mtb ride...) That's just not fun racing to me. I attacked and counter attacked and counter counter attacked until I was crosseyed but I simply couldn't stretch the elastic. The biggest gap I was ever able to create was only about 20 seconds and I couldn't get anyone else to go. There were a couple people riding hard at the front but no one was attacking.
Sidebar: Attacking: Riding hard at the front is not attacking. Pulling hard and slowly ramping up to speed is not attacking. Generally any kind of riding hard at the front that does not create gaps is not attacking. If there is a rider with two or three bike lengths ahead and you want to make a breakaway you have to JUMP across that gap. If you ride hard across that gap you are only going to pull the pack with you. Now if only the only two or three other animated riders in yesterday's race would read that... Oh and another thing. If you are trying to get a flyer going with two or three other riders you have to share major efforts with those guys for a few pulls. If you let ANY other rider into that rotation you screwed up.
Anyway. Despite riding myself crosseyed I just couldn't get away. So I settled back into the pack for a 38 mile snooze. Pathetic (both that I couldn't get away and the negative racing in the pack). Oh, and while I'm whining can I just say how flipping frustrating it is to see CAT FOUR racers on deep dish carbon wheels, and $4,000 + bikes? Oh, and the pinnacle of this absurdity is that I finally saw a CAT FOUR racer on Di2. Let me repeat that. I saw a CAT FOUR racer with a $3800 Dura Ace electronic groupo on a $2000 frameset using $1800 wheels. My car isn't worth that much money.
So then we finally sniffed San Ardo in the distance and the pace went up. Surprisingly, I found myself near the front and in good position. I got swarmed a little coming into town but then worked my way back up the side and into decent position on the climb. I was off to the side maybe five wheels back when the rider in front of me (who I had earlier determined to be a strong finisher) jumped hard. I went too but then going under the freeway just before the turn my legs simply quit on me. I sat down and pushed as hard as I could through the turn and to the finish but pretty much the entire pack went by before the finish line came. I don't think I've ever faded that hard in a sprint in my life. It was quite shocking, really. I'm no stranger to going too early but usually I can hold it and scratch something out of it. But this was more like I put the brakes on. I mean EVERYONE had a sprint left in his legs.
Finishes like that really just make you want to hang up the bike. I did everything right in the sprint. Good position. Fought onto a good wheel. But I went too early and didn't have NEAR the legs to get away with it.
Well at least I had a near-four hour drive home by myself to replay it over and over... Luckily it was all vanquished by the time I got home and forgotten after a solid, yet wobbily, afternoon of swimming, hiking and playing with my boy.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
This was fun race with a nice mix of everything. I raced as a Cat 2 (old days we called it "sport") for the first time since, um, 1996? Of course back then I wasn't racing in old man age bracket but, hey.
My alarm went off at 2:30 AM and somehow I dragged my butt out of bed, showered and was in the car by 3. Fast forward many hours and I was ready to race. I met up with (soon to be teammate) Ray and he talked me through the course as we warmed up on the opening climb.
After a racer talk-to from the promoter we all headed to the start and were sent off in waves. Our wave was the Cat. 2 50+ and 40+. And a wopping six of us took the start. One guy was asking everyone what their age was and I found it slightly annoying but didn't think to ask him his age and figure out what age group he was racing. The promoter did ask a show of hands for the age groups but I wasn't really paying attention so I assumed Ray was the only 50 plusser.
Off we go!
We somewhat slowly took off across the paved parking lot, up a short road and then turned onto a two-track dirt climb that was fairly steep and went for about a mile and a half. About halfway up I was liking what my legs and heart rate were telling me and moved up to the front and set the pace. At the top there was a steep section with some loose dirt/gravel that made traction difficult and could force a hike-a-bike. I was happy to clear it and hadn't looked back yet.
After the climb the dual track continued for another three quarters of a mile with some more altitude gain before heading into the single track. I did look on one curve and was very happy to see only two guys maybe half a minute back.
But then I got clumsy! Unfortunately, the lack of mtb racing and a steady diet of relatively untechnical riding at Del Valle caught up with me and I was struggling to clear easy stuff in the woods. Simple ditch crossings, one or two log hops and very minor rock challenges seemed to cause me to stumble left and right (literally!) and overshoot turns. Pretty shortly a guy in a blue and yellow jersey asked for trail and I gave it to him. I paused to let Ray by but he wasn't there so I jumped and vainly tried to keep up with blue/yellow-dude.
On a rocky dropoff I finally turned from clumsy to crashing and went down pretty gently (though it was enough to pop the bottom of my jersey zipper giving me a distracting wardrobe malfunction that I couldn't correct in the heat of battle). Ray very quickly appeared and I was glad to have him by me so I didn't have to worry about holding him up. The rest of the lap went about the same with lots of clumsy dismounting as I stalled out in mud and sandy sections. I was pretty frustrated and only started to feel like I wasn't a roadie pretender on a very steep decline section over some rocks. "That's more like it" I thought as I cleared it.
The descent back to the finish was a mix of single track and rough fire road and I was doing better.
Past the finish line onto the paved parking lot with a tailwind and a nice smooth time trial back to the start of the climb for laps two and three! Lap two I was feeling more comfortable but never saw a single rider to catch or to have catch me. And lap three was pretty much the same. That last lap was when I finally rode most of the stuff that had been tripping me up earlier. That said, with about five minutes to go I passed a lapped rider just before going from a dirt road to single track section and stacked it pretty good coming down heavily onto a rock and a bush that gave me a couple nice puncture wounds in the leg. On the third lap I was starting to fade and lose motivation. In my head it was just alot of work for second place.
As I finally crossed the finish line, muddy and bloody, shorts torn, and jersey zipper failing Ray (looking altogether too fresh) said, "Hey! I think you won!" Turns out blue/yellow, the guy asking the annoying age questions, was a 50 plus rider. So, yeah, I guess I won since everyone who beat me was in a different age group. I shouldn't qualify a win that way but if that's how it feels, that's how it feels.
The important thing is it was a very fun race, an absolutely GORGEOUS day in the Sierras, a great hangout with friends and mountain bikers and I got to bring home a cute little medal and some shwag. Nice.