Monday, April 9, 2007

easter weekend racing

The girls had a spring break that would wrap around Easter weekend and Val was anxious to get out of town. So Val and the girls ran away to Asheville to visit friends Jeff & Sara leaving me home alone to work.

But I still had the weekend, so Friday night I packed up and drove the 3+ hours to New York City. A friend hooked me up with a friend of hers with some spare floor space and an extra matress so I had a place to an apartment building one block away from ground zero, actually. Anyway, off to the city for really the first time.

Pictures like this (above) make it look romantic.

When really it looks much more like this, which to me is devoid of romance. Gotham. You can almost see the stink. These human animals can and do make some pretty cool shmiz...but mostly rot. The complexity of the collage of architecture, asphalt, rail, signage, garbage, flesh, clothing, food, and sound which is the city speaks to the complexity of the human NYC it is almost all grand, but much more grand horrid than grand wonderful. I think I could live in the city for a while, but it's no place no one should have to call home.

But enough of that.



Prospect Park. Brooklyn. 6:30am. 31 degrees.

On Saturday I raced with the P/1/2/3 field--15 laps around a 3.2 mile course with one gradual, maybe 1/2 mile climb just after the start/finish line. I estimated 80-100 riders at the start line.

The race started with a fairly casual pace. I think we were all too cold to get jumping right off the gun, but once your feet have turned a few hundred circles and your legs feel like legs again (instead of butcher slabs) I think the cold actually motivated a bit more spirited race than we might otherwise would have had.

While there were attacks and breakaway attempts on nearly every lap, there were only three or four laps of consequence. With 10 laps to go things got pretty spunky. There were attacks and counterattacks all the way up the hill and down the backside. At one point about 15 of us had a pretty substantial gap on the field, but there was little organization, the pace stalled, and the field swallowed us up again by the time we made it back around to the hill again.

While all of this was developing I put in some pretty intense efforts bridging gaps and following out attacks and whatnot. Pretty intense for me, anyway. By the time we were caught and things slowed a bit I remember thinking about my laboring breath and realizing that I hadn't previously realized how intense the effort was I was putting out.

Things didn't get really intense again until about four laps to go, but the decisive move came with two laps to go. The pressure came from all around up the climb and a group of 15-20 put a gap on the field. I'm still kicking myself for not being in position to take advantage of the gap. I could sort of see it unfolding and I was just wasn't in position. At the top of the climb there was maybe a 50 yard gap between myself at the front of the field and the break. I gave it all I had on the downhill, but couldn't bridge. Unfortunately there was no interest in organizing a chase, but rather self-interested riders (myself included) making solo attempts to bridge one after another and none succeeding.

With one lap to go the mood of the pack changed, reflecting the collective resignation of the race to the leaders. The pace stayed high during the last lap, again with several attacks and counterattacks, but it ended in a field sprint. I maintained a good position, and despite my putt-putt sprint finished four or fifth in the field sprint, with an overall result somewhere in the 20s.


Central Park. Manhattan. 6:30am. 30 degrees.

On Sunday I opted for the 3/4 field, four laps around a six-mile course with two decent climbs, one at the end of the lap with the start/finish line atop, the other about two miles into the course on the backside. About 40 starters

The attacks started early in this race, and during the first lap I jumped into one short-lived three-man break. But as we were caught about 3/4 miles from the finish of the first lap a group of what became three riders sort of just rode away on the outside. I think they just caught us all by surprise, but they proved to be strong riders, and despite efforts from several of us to bridge their early lead proved too substantial and they rode away with the race.

One rider in the group was backed up by a big team (Morgan Stanley). They effectively ran interference every time we tried to organize a chase and no one else had a big enough team or was organized enough to make any real attempt at bringing back the break. we pulled around to the finishing climb for the third time I decided to throw down a little pressure and see if anyone would respond. I jumped out of the field and pounded up the climb looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was going to join up. At the top of the climb I had about 50 feet on a fairly apathetic looking field so I decided that if I had one this was my chance. I dropped my head and launched into TT mode.

Just after the crest of the climb a Morgan Stanley rider bridged up to me, but just sat on my wheel. I told him what I thought was obvious, that there was no way we were going to catch the other break so let's work together and try to stay away. He argued that he couldn't work...that he couldn't risk catching his man. Well, this seemed totally unreasonable to me. Not only were the three leaders in no risk of being caught, but we weren't pulling up the field, we were on our own, so even if we did catch the group that would just put to MS riders together in a breakaway group of five, which seems to me pretty good odds for MS. But there was no time (and at this level of intensity, not enough mental fortitude) to argue persuasively, so though I was a little pissed me , I figured fifth place was still worth the effort so I just buried it, trying to ignore the guy on my wheel.

As we crested the backside hill, still with a healthy gap on the field, I tried to talk the wheelsucker into working again. We argued back and forth a while until he conceded not to contest the sprint. After that he sat back there occasionally throwing out words of encouragement--which was kind of lame because I was pulling this guy to a top-five finish, but nonetheless it was appreciated, and I no doubt rode faster with that guy behind me telling me how strong I was than I would have had I been out all alone.

Also helping were the various straggling groups that had fallen off the 1/2/3, Cat 5, and Masters fields. I'd set little goals for myself--just catch that little group right there; that solo rider up there, you're stronger than that guy, go get him--stuff like that to keep me going. And every bend of the road I'd turn around to see how much of a gap I had on the field and I was gaining confidence with each passing mile.

About halfway up the final climb I stole a look around and saw the pack charging up behind me. At that point I was pretty well spent and had to really dig deep to finish the climb. The rider behind me stayed true to his word and let me finish in front of him...and I held off the charging pack to squeak through two or three bike lengths in front of the first sprinters. A fourth place that felt like a victory. And in the money. Very happy.

And a new max power.

After the race the wheelsucker conceded again, noting that he now realized I was right--the break had a huge gap that we were in no danger of closing and that he could have (and should have) helped. At that point it didn't matter. I held off the field. However, had they caught us I would have been pretty steamed.

Ah yeah. That's bike racing...


Ian said...

Good judgment on doing the 3/4 race and taking a flyer to finish in the money. The effort will surely strengthen you.


Devo said...

You are pretty dang awesome! I am looking to get a bike again (perhaps in a bit more stable financial position, if there is one under student loans...), but I misplaced the list of the brands/levels that you recommended... Anyway you could shoot me a list?

Devo said...

P.S. I probably would have hit that punk. But that's my anti-social personality disorder coming out...