Sunday, May 27, 2007

edgar soto - stage 3

Today went well.

Today's stage was a 50-minute crit on a L-shaped course in downtown Nashville. The course had a bit of a climb, but nothing too steep, and a long downhill straightaway.

The race started off at a sprint, which is actually nice because with a field of 80+ riders you want things to get strung out right away. It keeps things safe and under control.

I started near the back which is about standard protocol for me, but after a couple of quick laps I was warmed up enough to easily move up to a more comfortable position. I found I could move in the field with ease, moving up four or five riders on the downhill back stretch, picking off a rider or two on the outside of the fast turns, sometimes taking a few positions on the climb... Anyway, I felt great. Much better than yesterday.

Twenty minutes into the race I was hovering in the 15-25th position just chilling along. Things would get dicey when the pace would slow, but there were enough attacks that for the most part things stayed stretched out and safe.

My goal for the race was just to finish with the field, not taking any chances and finishing with the same time as the leaders. However, I felt so good that with 3.25 laps to go I jumped off the front and made a go of it. The initial effort gave me a gap of a few bike lengths, but the field soon caught back up. I made two more efforts of it while on the front, leading the field for about 1.5 laps--twice through the start/finish, rewarded by getting my sponsor's name over the loudspeaker, which is cool--but I couldn't get a gap so I slipped back in the field to about eighth position coming into the final lap. The effort took some precious seconds out of the two-man break up the road, but they still finished with ~10 seconds on the field. Unfortunately, the dude who won was just one place behind me on the GC, so I've slipped back at least one more spot, unless any of the 10 riders in front of me had any trouble. I don't think the race leader gained any time on me, though, so I should be in the same position relative to him going into tomorrow as I was today. (Results will be posted later.)

Some drama on the last lap: on a turn in the final lap I was hit from the inside and sent sailing towards the outside curb leaving rubber and heal plastic on the road in my wake. No one clobbered me from behind, fortunately, so I was able to stay upright and finished at the tail end of a much reduced field. Safe.

Tomorrow is the make-it-or-break-it stage. If I feel as good tomorrow as I did today I'd say I've got a chance to do some damage on that final climb. Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

edgar soto - stage 2

I finally checked the results...and bad news. The five riders we let slip away and finished only 53 seconds in front of what was left of the field all leapfrogged me in GC. Which puts me at 11th overall, and, incidentally, 53 seconds behind the leader (there were time bonuses afforded to the podium finishers, which I believe accounts for that oddity).

Anyway, the race was this: Four laps around an eleven mile course with several descent little risers. It's not a terribly tough course, but there were plenty of opportunities for riders to get away. And they did. And it usually came back together.

A couple of miles into the second lap there was a big wreck in the middle of the field. Tires skidded. Riders flew heels over handlebars into ditches. That sort of thing. I was far enough behind to see it all and not get caught up in it. But with the slowing down, shifting down, weaving in and out of the bicycles and bodies strewn about the road, I came through a few hundred yards behind the tail end of the front part of the field and had to chase back on. But with the help of one other rider (#302) we pulled it off. In about three miles. Maybe four. We caught on just at the bottom of the steepest of the rollers and I fell off the back again as the field charged up. Once over, chasing again.

That bit of effort took it out of me for a while, but I was able to keep on fine for the final two laps and stay out of trouble at the finish (and there was trouble--a few riders went over the finish line with the wrong side down).

But that pesky little break that got away I'm not sure when managed to stay away until the end and took 53 seconds out of the leader. So now we have a new race leader and somehow I'm ten seconds further back on GC than I was yesterday. A development about which I can't say I'm excited. Still, though, it's all going to come down to the final 5k on Monday. To those that ride strong up that hill will go the spoils.

Friday, May 25, 2007

edgar soto - stage 1

Stage one was a seven-mile time trial over moderately hilly terrain. Last year I finished in 17:24, which was good enough for 11th place in the Cat 4 field. My goal was to shave a minute off that time today.

And I got a minute nineteen.

I pulled in today with a time of 16:05. Forty-three and one half seconds off the Cat 3 leader and good enough for sixth place. My time would have put me in the leader's jersey had I been racing Cat 4; 17th (of 98) in the masters field; 42nd (of 96) in the P/1/2/3 field.

I feel great about the ride, but there's a tight bunch right behind me. Fifth through ninth place are separated by less than two seconds, and I beat the three riders behind me by less than a second. That's close stuff.

Which makes you wonder... My coach was nice enough to loan me a rear disc wheel, a deep section carbon front wheel, and a TT helmet. How much time is all that stuff worth? Ten seconds? Thirty seconds? Had I rode 30 seconds slower I'd be in 28th place. It may all be worth the money... Thanks, Coach.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

frogginess

I complained yesterday about not feeling so froggy, but a closer look at my power output Saturday tells a more nuanced story.

True, my max power output Saturday wasn't anything near my true max, but TrainingPeaks tells me I did record a new six-minute critical power high, as well as throwing down my best effort in the 12, 30, and 60 minute critical power ranges in the past 28 days.

So, new (mixed) conclusions... The race was harder and faster than I thought it was. I put in a solid effort. And my "solid" effort wasn't enough to be competitive.

:-|

Monday, May 14, 2007

st. mary's crit

I raced this last Saturday down in Maryland, but don't have much to show for it. It was a Cat 3 only field, maybe only 35 riders; 60 minutes on a 1.1 km course. One little climb and a moderately sketchy downhill turn.

Nothing spectacular to report on the race. The field set a fast pace from the beginning, bunching up on the climb and stringing out on the downhill and the downhill turns, as is to be expected. I'm not super good at holding my position in a fast-moving, aggressive field. Perhaps I'm too tentative. So I like a crit with a hill because the inclines allow me the opportunity to get back near the front when I want to be near the front.

My best opportunity for success came about 1/3 to 1/2 into the race. There was a three-man break some 100 yards off the front and I attacked on the hill in an attempt to bridge the gap. I was successful at putting some distance between me and the field and was gaining on the break--maybe needed another lap to close the deal--but the pack picked up the pace, swallowing me and the break in short order.

I attacked two other times on the course but both efforts came of nothing, and I could tell with each successive effort that I was losing my punch. On the last few laps I tried heartily to get into the front five, and not so much go for a win, but perhaps let one of the better sprinters pull me in to a respectable finish. At that point though I was sapped, my legs were feeling soggy, and I ended up coasting across the finish line safely out of contention in 18th place.

It really wasn't such a hot day. My max power on the day was a good 150 watts lower than I would have expected it to be, which seems to confirm my sense that I felt less than 100 percent physically. Too little sleep lately. Too much crap food. I've got to get things cleaned up in the next couple weeks before Edgar Soto.

It's interesting how one's expectations change. Two years ago I would have counted a race a success finishing with the field as a Cat 4. Now I'm disappointed w/o a top 5 finish in a Cat 3 race. Every loss just makes me mad, mad, mad. It's time to start winning.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

a closer look

Y'all will remember my wreck from a couple weeks ago. As luck would have it, the race photographer was sitting at the finish line snapping away and pretty much got the whole alarming sequence on film.

The pictures are best viewed large, so click on 'em.


Here you can see (above), on the rider's left side of the road, the beginnings of the pile-up. I'm on the right hand side of the road, see what's going on, but think I'll be able to sneak past without any trouble. It's worth pointing out that while the field looks exceptionally bunched up from this angle, we're actually taking up quite a bit of road from front to back.


Chaos ensues.

See the riders off the left side of the road in the grass? And the wheel in the air? But of personal concern is my own position on the right side of the road. Someone hit me from my left and here you see the effect--a death lean. Things aren't looking good for the goatman.


Now I'm on the side of the road (see arrow). From my road rash (and the previous photo) it's clear that I spent some time--and skin--sliding across the road, and I remember (or at least think I remember) coming down on the grass headfirst (a later helmet shot substantiates this claim), but how I got from near the middle of the road to where you see me here without taking out several others I don't know. Though the guy you see riding in the grass was probably displaced there by me.


This is actually a pretty big picture, so click on it to see the whole thing. You see me there behind the 100m to go sign and riders in the grass on either side. (It's actually not grass, but rough farm plow with early spring growth.)


...

From the prior picture you thought that guy in the field was going to make it, didn't you? Nuts.

I'm totally obscured from view behind the sign. You can see a bit of handlebar, brake lever, and a front wheel from my bike. The angle obscures depth perception, but when I finally got up I was a good 10-15 feet up the road from my bike.


Here you see a bit of the aftermath. The guy in the field to my right is up, but I'm still down. I was pretty groggy and couldn't really move at first. And when I did start moving, I was super cautious, running through a self-diagnostic check for neck injuries, broken bones, and the like.


Another shot of the aftermath. You can see my back here. I remember curling up in the fetal position for some time. I wasn't able to immediately stand.

But also of note here is Carney, a teammate, in the foreground. And what's that on his face, you ask? A look of empathetic concern that his teammate just went down in a horrendous pile-up? No?


In deed not. Not an ounce of concern, but all mirth. The revelation of his amusement over my tragedy is more than a little disconcerting.

(Though I should mention that I'm now riding Carney's old fork. That kind of generosity more than makes up for his good humor at my expense.)

Eventually I got up. Eventually.

I first crawled up the embankment to the road. I couldn't quite stand. One of the others that went down was laying in the middle of the road, moaning grotesquely, a pool of blood collecting under his ear. I don't know the extent of his injuries or that of others, but at least three riders went to the hospital via ambulance.

I finished 51st. (There were 80+ starters.)

...

I need to give props to the boys at Pedal Pusher in Harrisburg.

I showed up Saturday afternoon with a broken bike and a bloody body and despite their being overwhelmed with customers, they let me have a work stand and Ricky...and Ricky fixed me up. He cut the steerer tube on Carney's fork down to size, installed it, found a pair of 40cm bars from an old Specialized collecting dust in the back of the shop and installed those too. Awesome, awesome.

Monday, May 7, 2007

mountain bike racing

I did my first mountain bike race this past weekend. I mean my first mountain bike race ever. The non-NORBA Michaux Endurance Series.

There were 50 & 25-mile events which more accurately fit the title's description, but I opted for the ten-mile sprint course. Fire roads, winding single-track, muddy creek-crossings, undulating terrain, and a finishing one-mile haul over the shark-toothed super rocky terrain for which Michaux State Forest is famous.

Good times.

And oh yeah... I won.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

springtime nostalgia

Spring has sprung in south-central PA. Daytime temperatures are warm. The nights are mild. Everything is the most exquisite color of green. And the flower gardens are all daffodils and tulips.

Monday night, around 11pm and under a nearly full moon, I went for a little mountain bike ride. Nothing serious, and no light, I just left my house and wandered. My wandering took me through rolling corn fields, along railroad tracks, through construction sites, and finally to an anticlimactic end with a puncture while riding in a ditch. Fortunately, I was only 25 minutes from home by foot.

Riding at night like that is such a rush. The fields are bright with the light of the moon, but the forests are dark and foreboding. Shadows flicker menacingly on all sides (startling a few deer into flight nearly left my shorts soiled). And riding around like that, at night, by myself, without any plan or direction, overloads me with nostalgia for my youth...where I would spend endless hours on my little BMX bike wandering the subdivisions, exploring the schoolyards, picking through construction sites, and navigating barbed-wire fences. Never really making trouble (though I had no qualms with trespassing), but energized nonetheless by the prospect of getting "caught."

...

And speaking of nostalgia, yesterday I rode past a few little league baseball games. Without giving it a single thought--an instantaneous click-whir emotional response--I could taste warm Lemon-Lime Shasta on my tongue. I hope today's little leaguers get better after-game treats. Or at least cold drinks.