Daily Archives: March 20, 2005

RACE REPORT #2 Schwab Series, Wheels of Thunder CAT 4

Here we go, race #2. Two races in the same morning, not a bad way to kick off the season. This one was the open category 4 race (as apposed to the 35 and older category 4 I did earlier). One thing about Colorado, there are a LOT of CAT4 racers… Another 60+ were lined up for this race – in the middle of March.

For some reason, this race was a LOT different than the earlier one. Not as hard or aggressive, we stayed in a pretty tight bunch almost all the time. I never really even saw the front of the race, I guess I was a little tired and content to hang out in the rear and just use the race as extra training and practice.

Things started heating up with about 5 laps to go. One thing that makes this course interesting was a 30mph corner at the bottom of a gradual downslope. I was riding along tucked in the group when I heard the beginnings of that all-too familiar sound. Metal-rubber-asphalt-flesh. If you’ve ever startled (or been startled by) a rattlesnake, you know what I mean when I say that you interpret that sound as danger faster than an eye can blink. Same with a crash in the middle of a bike race – the sound reaches you at Mach 1, but your brain processes it at Mach 3. DANGER!! It happened, some dude touched wheels with another guy, grabbed his brakes, and came across my teammate’s (Jay) wheel. I was right behind Jay and missed the carnage by a whisker, feeling quite proud of myself for staying upright by going off-road through the weeds while the other guys went arse-over-elbow along the asphalt.

There was no way I would be catching back on the race this late in the game, so I swung around and helped Jay get back on his bike. He was bloodied up a bit, and trashed both brake/shift levers on his NEW bike ($400 – ouch!). I thought he would just pack it in, but no – off he goes riding single-speed style. Cool.

The pack caught us and we hopped back in (since this was a ‘training’ series, that was allowed). We were not allowed to take part in the final sprint, though. The next two laps went by pretty quickly, no one was off the front. It was going to come down to a big ol’ sprint finish. Yee-haw. Not. Instead of swinging off to the side and coasting across the line, yours truly starts winding it up (like a DOPE). Oh yeah, smelling that finish line! Please…

Let me explain my line of thinking. I rationalized sprinting based on a couple of factors. 1 – I had been lapped because of a crash, I hadn’t been dropped. 2 – I wasn’t sprinting for the win, just using it as a chance to practice. Well, in a totally straight, closed road sprint (should have been safe). I crashed hard. Two guys right in front of me started leaning on each other. I should have immediately shut my sprint down, but it looked like they were going to pull out of it. Yeah, right – this ain’t the pros. BAM! They both hit the deck. The pile of bodies and bikes was too high to hop, and my front wheel was already surrounded. Nowhere to go but down. At the last millisecond, before I T-boned the pile, I bailed. I did NOT want to hit and flip, so I landed on my right butt-cheek at 28 miles per hour. Ohhh, man. I do not recommend that to anyone. That was some unbelievable pain for the first 60 seconds or so. I really thought I had done some major damage – as the right side of me ground to a stop, while the left side continued toward the finish line. I am happy to say, I’m still in one piece and everything is as it should be. One guy broke his collar bone, another broke a finger. It’s a good thing I was in so much pain or I might have broken some more of their bones – I was torqued! I’m very glad my damage wasn’t worse. As if it wasn’t enough, as I was sitting on the ground cleching my jaw and squeezing my eyes shut to manage the pain, the biggest guy on our team (230?) came walking up and stepped on the tip of my finger with his cleated shoe. OUCH!!

So, I trashed a brand new pair of $hort$, and lost a bunch of skin sprinting for something like 30th place. Dumb.

Another credit towards my degree at the School of Hard Knocks.

RACE REPORT #1 Schwab Series, Wheels of Thunder CAT 4/35+

First race of the year… Heck, first real mass-start road event in about 8 years. Man, time flies. This was an early spring series that was a good place to go and test the legs – see if all that time spent sweating in the basement all winter did any good.

This race wasn’t a priority performance-wise, so I didn’t really have a plan for tapering my training or trying to peak for it at all. I just wanted to get some good training out of it, dust off the cobwebs, and hopefully see that I was in good standing fitness-wise compared to the rest of the guys. I just returned from a business trip a couple of days ago – where I spent a lot of time swimming and running on the treadmill in order to make up for lost time on the bike. It was the first running of any kind I’ve done in quite a while – my legs were SORE. On Wednesday, I had a hard workout scheduled on the bike but I had to bail only 1/4 of the way through. My legs were just too spent to get my heart rate up at all. Not the best way to go into a race weekend for sure… Anyway, as hard as it was to stay off the bike (during good weather, even!), I took 2 days completely off leading into the weekend. It turned out to be a good move.

I got to the race plenty early. I was curious to see the course and wanted plenty of time to warm up. The course was actually a Colorado State Patrol driving range on top of South Table Mountain near Golden. It was pretty cool because it was a totally closed loop of about a mile and a half. No cars to deal with, and we could take up the whole road. The first half of the loop was downhill, then climbed back up to the finish line.

It was exciting to be lined up at the start with over 50 riders and have about 10 of those as teammates. After some instruction, we started off down the hill and hit the first corner all packed in a tight bunch doing about 30mph. In the corner, I felt another rider’s handlebar pressing into my upper-left thigh. I thought there was going to be big trouble, but I stuck to my line and it all worked out. That was sketchy!! I also made a mental note to not only pre-ride the course, but pre-ride the corners at race pace to get a feel for the speed and the best line to take. I had spent most of my warmup on my trainer in the parking lot and only got to do one lap of the course before we started. I was pretty happy with my warmup, though. I used to be scared to go very hard in the warmup thinking I would use up all of my energy before I needed it, but am finding that I do a lot better after I’ve already done several hard efforts.

I found the racing to be pretty agressive. Attack after attack for the first 20-25 minutes, but nothing stuck. I was feeling ok and when I found myself second wheel nearing the top of the climb I LAUNCHED. It was a beauty of an attack, perfectly timed. I immediately dove around the guy in front of me so anyone chasing would have that much more of an obstacle to get around. Turned out to be the only clean break of the day. I stayed out for a while, hoping that I would look back and see a small group of 2 or 3 coming up to join me. Not so. Every time I looked back I could only see the huge pack of riders bearing down on me. I really wanted to cause some sort of split in the race, but think it was just too early. Everyone was still fresh. The last thing I wanted to have happen was to bury myself out in front alone (unless I could see a wall of SEAR jerseys on the front…), get caught, then spit out the back. I eased up and rejoined the group. I had been riding pretty actively in the front for the whole race, but decided to take shelter and recover for the next couple of laps.

With two laps to go, I started moving up through the field again. On the final climb, things were pretty packed, but I just kept at it. I kind of resigned myself to just finishing with the pack and calling it good since I had another race coming up an hour later. Once things got cranking on the last climb, though, I started to realize I was passing people like crazy. Then I thought, go for it!! I really started stomping on the pedals up the hill and was going well, I had it all planned out – I took the tightest line possible through the last corner only to have someone come from the outside and drop right in front of me – forcing me to jam on the brakes. Dang! I wound it back up again, and was still passing people, but the line came too soon. I was 6th. I felt like I could have contested the win had it not been for that corner, you can see on the graph I downloaded from my bike computer where I went from 32mph to 25 in an instant, then climbed back up to 32 for the finish.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda….