Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Meh. Rock Hill Masters 4/5 Road Race

From the topo map, this course looked like a great chance to get in a selection or at least have a spread out field but that didn't happen. Two hours of riding in which I thought I raced well (stayed near the front, attacked a couple of times--in vain) all came down to a humungous shoulder-to-shoulder bunch sprint.

Had I done some course recon I would have known about the final turn about 500m before the line and would have played that one better but blah blah blah the bottom line is that I need to work on sprinting if I'm going to win races like this. Things got a bit sketchy there at the end with handlebars touching and people crossing the yellow line early and such so as the herd thundered toward the line and I could see I wasn't going to finish in the points I just sat up.

The result of this race has bothered me for the last two days. Lessons learned: always always always know the run-in to the finish and never give up during the sprint. Oh yeah and I need to either earn myself some sprinting legs and tactics or find some races where there are some long climbs. Unfortunately, my next big races (Dragon's Challenge Omnium in Fayetteville NC) looks like more of the same mind-numbing bunch sprints. Arghhh.

Oh yeah, here's a picture from the criterium on Saturday. I'm the guy in blue-grey on the right who is about to end up getting his arse kicked in the sprint:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rock Hill Criterium Masters 4/5 race report

Today was my very first race as a 4. Woohoo!

There were 50 guys in the combined field (with separate payouts to the 35-44 and 45+ groups). I lined up at the front and tried to stay near the front for the whole race. I thought I rode a pretty good race: stayed in the draft where possible, managed the corners well, got in a short-lived break, etc.

The criterium course includes six turns and a short hill which makes for some fun racing. Guys who can power up the hill and recover quickly have an advantage. Lots of guys were dropped and lapped. The corner at the bottom of the hill was a bit sketchy due to a cement median after the turn but I thought I managed that well, even coming down the hill at 35mph on the last lap. A few others did not fare so well but there were no crashes in our race though a few guys ended up doing some frantic bunny hopping as the median came rushing toward them.

Coming into the last turn I was 2nd wheel and thought I had a great shot at 1st or 2nd but I'm just not a sprinter type... not yet anyway. I couldn't catch the guy in front of me and two other guys managed to pass me as well so I came in 4th overall and 3rd in the 35-44 group of 38. I was pretty happy to finish on the podium in my first race as a 4 and I even won $50 (of which I gave $30 to some teammates so they could buy lunch as tradition dictates; unfortunately I had a three-hour drive ahead of me so I couldn't stay and eat with them--yep 12 hours in the car in two days!).

With a better sprint or an increased willingness to suffer over the last two minutes I might have done better but I can't feel bad about my results.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm a Cat4!

After 8 Cat5 races with varying success and with Rock Hill races coming up this weekend in which I might be able to earn points if I were a Cat4, I decided to request an early upgrade.

My request was granted this morning (on Friday the 13th--how lucky is that?!) so on Saturday and Sunday I'll be entering my first races as a Category 4 cyclist.

Considering that the only requirement to becoming a Cat4 is entering 10 events and living to tell about it, there's technically no reason to get excited but it's still something I've been looking forward to ever since I started racing last summer.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Greenville NC Cat5 Crit report: Humble Pie

I'll keep it relatively short today.

A really strong guy who won yesterday's race (which I did not enter) decided to sprint away from the group right from the start. My teammate and one other guy were the only ones smart enough to catch him and hold on. I simply brain-farted at the start. Mr. Strong Guy then proceeded to pull the breakaway group THE ENTIRE WAY. I got caught in no-mans land between the breakaway and the field and stayed there for what seemed like an eternity (maybe 10 minutes). There may have been another guy or two between me and the breakaway but I do not know. Because lapped riders were not pulled (and because they took the liberty to latch on to whatever group they could), it got extremely hard to tell who was where.

When it was obvious that Mr. Strong Guy was going to be able to continue to stretch the lead without any help whatsoever from the other two riders in his wake, I finally raised my glass to the better man and sat up to let what was left of the field catch me. I think there were 5 of us left in the peloton at that point but my heart rate was way too high at that point to know for sure. I was still motivated to work hard because I thought there were a couple of guys between my group and the breakaway but I obviously didn't want to pull the field up to the break because it would hurt my teammate's chances at a podium finish--and indeed I wasn't strong enough to do so anyway.

In the end, I worked really hard for 30 minutes but did not race very smart at all. Too many mistakes to name. With about a lap to go I was on the front trying desperately to catch a guy that I found out later was a lapped rider. Stupid, stupid, stupd. The four guys I towed along simply waited until I pooped out and then went around me. I sprinted to catch them but failed in the attempt. One of the guys who beat me was a 12-year-old kid on a silver Motobecane Le Champion (I own a black one). He rode very smart and stayed glued to my wheel from the time I let the group catch me to the time I pooped out. His dad has taught him well.

Here's a snapshot of the ride file. You can see that there are just too many anaerobic efforts that eventually caught up to me. My average wattage and normalized wattage were below what I can sustain for 30 minutes but anaerobic capacity was my limiting factor. Back to the drawing board.