Monthly Archives: April 2012

Race Report: 2012 Army Hill Climb + 2/3 Crit

This weekend Army had several non-collegiate categories for their fantastic hill climb and crit (nothing for the circuit or TTT).

In the open hill climb I got crushed by Charlie Avis (Trek-LiveStrong), but I’m pretty ok with that. More importantly, various Drexel, UVM, and other riffraf were held at bay for 2nd/7. My time was still pretty low against the Men’s A results. I was 4 seconds behind my previous best time on the course. I’m still debating if that’s an “only 4s” or a “a disappointing 4s.”

On that note though, results from the past couple years (setting aside the year w/ a course change) bears out the theory that the very top of the conference has been fairly steady, but the talent pool has deepened. Men’s B has basically dropped 40s (on a 10–12 minute climb) from 5 years ago. The long standing, wide discontinuity between the top 5 Men A and that field has also steadily dissipated.

The Men 2/3 crit was to some extent a very spirited group ride, with only thirteen starters, but it was a pretty legitimate group—the green jersey (ECCC sprint points leader) and both the weekend’s Men’s A winners were all in there. Most of the guys were pretty game so there were plenty of attacks, but no one had the sustainable power to stick a break so it all rolled into a field sprint. I lost focus in the last lap and got pushed off the wheels of the clear contenders, so I rolled in right behind but just out of the front line sprint, for 6th. My head was not in a racing mindset going into the race, so my cornering until I could get settled was not efficient and definitely cost me. Ultimately though, I was pretty happy to be able to hang with those guys fairly easily on a solid crit course.

One general note is that a day like that can be kind of rough logistically; when to eat, staying warm, not getting sunburnt, and so on. My hill climb was at ~9:15 in the morning, and my crit not until ~5:30. Personally I find it can be easy to screw up eating either too much or too little on that kind of day, particularly if you’re running around and doing stuff like I am. A strategy I’ve developed is to continuously eat small amounts. I don’t particularly eat any set lunch, but every two hours or so have a PB sandwich, Clif bar, (soy) yogurt, or similar. That way I’m continually digesting everything and never wind up with an overfull stomach, but also stay fed.

Similarly, that’s a long day in general; we started setting up at ~6:45 and didn’t finish tear down until near 7. In this case there were also officiating and other problems that needed to be mitigated; I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get away to do the crit until minutes beforehand, and was definitely not in the mood. That’s all pretty draining even without a morning race. To help deal with that as well as general fatigue, hard racing/riding the day before, etc., I’ve come to accept pre-race caffeine. I don’t drink any caffeine on a normal basis, so if I have a Dr Pepper or something, it has a notable effect. Red Bull or such has an almost unbelievable effect for a couple hours if your baseline is no coffee, and I confess to having a stock on hand for particularly dire days. I’m not convinced the effects of these aren’t mostly psychological, but whatever works, works, psychological or not. The zero baseline is probably critical to the efficacy of this though.

Race Report: 2012 Yale Lux et Velocitas

This weekend a bunch of us did the open ITT and non-collegiate crits at the Yale ECCC races.  In the open ITT I finished 5/14, which sounds ok but was DFL by a second on the Men’s A times and a disappointment. The 1/2/3 crit (probably mostly 3s, bunch of 2s, couple 1s) was much better.  Though I only finished 24/37, quietly not contesting the field sprint, my mental game was solid and I felt super visible and active throughout, so I was very pleased.

In the ITT my form was good but I was up about two gears from where I needed to be.  Ultimately, as I get older I just can’t keep up my traditional nonsense of sleeping 1–4 hours, driving overnight, running around to get the race going, and expecting to be at strength.

One note for new racers is that for TTs in particular you should closely examine the course map since there’s little guidance in front of you and you’re pushing every section.  I had not raced this TT before and scared the hell out of the marshals at the left out of the park as I Tokyo drifted my rear wheel to rapidly go from big ringing hard into an expected slight bend to dealing with an actual beyond 90 corner, scrubbing seconds and being super perilous.

The Yale crit is flat and non-technical, with just one corner requiring care.  Imagine a fast approach on a wide road with a 90 degree corner onto a single-lane version of the old South St bridge, with the same exposed rebar ribbing, lips and curbs, and more holes.

I made at least two big mistakes in the race.

Maybe four laps in I guessed people were going to get tired of dealing with the pack on that bridge and the first separation would happen, so I went to the front.  I was about a lap late; I could see a credible 5–7 person break forming up ahead as I worked around riders they were shedding.  At that point I made a miscalculation.  I figured I was at ~85%.  I could probably bridge, but it would take 100%+ and risk blowing up.  In part because mentally, particularly after the ITT, I was not prepared to be in this kind of strong position, I opted to play it safe, assuming someone would go around and I could follow their chase.  No one went, either because they’d broken or another rider had already established what turned out to be a pretty effective block.  That precious couple seconds as I realized no one was coming was enough for the break to slip too far away for me to try for it.

Later, the break slowed or the block weakened and we came closer.  Tim Manzella (TSV/Drexel) was near the front and started digging toward it.  I thought if I buried myself I could get him close enough to launch into the break, so I rolled by the line and gave him a wheel. We made up ground but I didn’t have enough strength endurance and in the end couldn’t get him close enough.  The big mistake though was that I assumed at least a chunk of the field was with us, and had not verified that.  As I began to weaken and told Tim to launch, I expected there to be a line for me to rejoin and sat up a fair bit. In reality, we had separated from the field when we pulled forward, and Brett Houser (Drexel) and Matt Griswold (BU) had started running a block.  The field was nowhere nearby.  Given that separation, I should have let up earlier and switched off with Tim so we could try to TTT up together rather than me redlining to launch him, but the latter was the only plan I had in mind.  That we were all alone caught me way off guard, so I couldn’t readjust to tag his wheel and our bridge fizzled out.  After that the break was safe all the way to the finish.

Photo by Rich Foley.

Three observations for newer racers: One is that I’m always super conscious of where my handlebars are.  I try to never ride with my bars next to another guy’s, as handlebar-on-handlebar is about the most dangerous contact you can have.  In contrast, if some guy hits my hips with his bars, it’s probably not going to be a problem (at least for me).  As a corollary, the guy with the bars in front better owns the line and is asserting his space.  So, particularly approaching a tricky corner where I want to control my line, I’m usually very aware of giving a couple extra kicks to put my bars definitively ahead of the guy next to me, making space for myself.

Another is that in the closing laps, you’ve got to expect attacks to come, and you’ve got to think about where they’ll come and how.  A wide, fast boulevard section like the main stretch at Yale is a clear candidate.  I think some guys were surprised I was pretty easily able to counter a couple late attacks on the field, but it was precisely because I was waiting for them—watching the left side out of the corner of my eye since we were on the right, not blocked in by the guy in front of me, in the drops, spinning loosely and ready to spin up and accelerate rapidly to full speed.

Finally, I was pretty much mentally fixed on not contesting the sprint, even if I’d had much left (very questionable).  However, it was still well worth my effort to come forward and fight for front pack positioning in the closing laps.  Even if you can’t contest the sprint, if you’re near the front as it begins, you’ll still roll in before other people.  More importantly, that effort guaranteed there were only a couple, likely competent, riders in front of me going through that bridge as people ramped up in the last couple laps, protecting mission #1: My own safety.

All in all, the crit was a super fun ride with a ton of guys I know. After the Phlyer I started working out again after several months’ near-hiatus, so I did these races to benchmark where I am and to continue getting into the rhythm of racing and getting my mental game back in form.  I was shocked to find myself in a strong position physically and mentally, and pleased with how assertively and cleanly I rode the Sunday race, so it was a big success by those goals.

Photo by Rich Foley.

Race Report: 2012 Philly Phlyer

A race report from earlier this year that did not get posted previously.

This weekend (March 17/18) was of course the Philly Phlyer extravaganza.  I wound up doing the full slate: The open TTT and the 3/4 circuit and crit.  In each I pretty much just rolled in at the back of the main group: 8/17 in the TTT, 44/90 in the circuit, and 23/52 in the crit.

On the one hand that’s somewhat ho-hum.  On the other, I double checked my training log this morning and have definitively not been working out since Labor Day, so those are much better outcomes than I could have reasonably asked for.  Even better, it’s the middle of March and I’ve already done more road races than all of last year.

Most importantly though was that the weekend went amazingly.  Charles Rumford (Drexel/QCW) and Glenn Eck (Temple) did a fantastic job arranging the venues, coordinating everyone, all the endless thankless tasks that go into promoting not just a race, but three great and affordable races right downtown.  You really could not have asked for a more smoothly run weekend of racing.

Alan, Charles, and I before the start of the Temple Crit.

TTT

Tim, Brett H, Chat, Blake, Ryan Shank, and I all signed up for the TTT.  Yes, it’s a 4-person TTT, but Drexel Cycling does not respect your lamestream rules and regulations.  We’ve been talking about this for months now but, per tradition, not actually preparing, so I was surprised by how smooth it went.  Fortunately we beat the Peanut Butter Human Zoom monkey girls, to whom we’d been talking a lot of smack, thus preserving our manhood, albeit just barely.  Physical near catastrophe was also just barely averted several times as Houser attempted to get fancy with the handoffs.  Strategically, Tim’s harder, longer pulls eventually lead to him taking the final one and I was able to pip him at the line for the critical intra-team victory.

Circuit

Having not been riding, I wasn’t planning on doing the circuit race despite yet more smack talk.  In the end though the sun was shining, the temperatures way up, and I couldn’t resist that beautiful course.

My only real disappointment was that, despite all that smack talk, I was hoping to help protect Victoria Hanks (PBCO/HZ).  She’s probably stronger than me, but I think male/female power-to-weight imbalances make that course tough for women in men’s fields, and I expected her to struggle a bit in the endgame climbs.  In the event though, I was in too defensive a posture myself to process the situation and respond appropriately when she did finally slip back (and wound up coming in just behind the main field).  It’s a testament to what a mental game cycling is and how much discipline real strategy takes that I fully anticipated exactly what happened, saw it happening, had a plan for that circumstance, had reserves I would have happily burned to execute that plan, but completely blew it simply by being too much on the bubble myself to be thinking strategically and process the situation.

One thing I did do well was effectively employ all of my different muscles, forms, and cross-training.  Not having been working out, I really don’t have any strength right now, but my cardio is still solid.  Also having a decently stable and efficient high cadence spin, the first couple times up Ford Rd I just sat and spun in a very easy gear, burning my cardio rather than my strength.  The third lap that wasn’t fast enough and I needed more speed, but leveraged all my running to stand the whole climb and really basically run up the climb at a pretty high standing cadence.  Together that meant it wasn’t until the final climb (keeping in mind between the TTT and Intro races I’d already done 4 laps before the start of the race) that I had to really dig into my limited cycling strength reserves to ride up in a somewhat more traditional mix of seated and standing hard digging to stay in over the last hump.  This is one of the ways a lot of cross-training among road, MTB, and running, as well as explicitly working on different styles of riding, has really helped me, giving me many different options and reserves.

Crit

I was especially not planning on doing the crit, instead figuring on announcing and foregoing all the many risks of a pretty choppy course. Ironically, what put me over the top to jump in was that Tony Eberhardt, coach of the UNH team whom I like a lot, said he was going to do it.  He wound up breaking a clavicle on a fluke pothole crash.

One thing I did well here was to ride my own race and not panic. Given the many surface challenges of the course and that I’m not at the moment strong enough physically or mentally to fight for front pack positioning or a win anyway, I made a pretty conscious decision to tailgate more loosely than is best and give people lots of room in the two particularly risky corners.  This risked wasting fair amounts of energy having to catch up each time.  However, I would have space to avoid the many anticipated crashes.  The only reason this would work was because I looked at the course and figured: (1) If I fell behind I’d be able to make up ground comparatively easily on the two uphill stretches; (2) More importantly: They were hard corners.  The group would slow down a lot, as it did.  By hanging loose in the approaches and following my own curve, I gave myself space to avoid crashes, and ultimately didn’t expend that much extra energy because I was smoothing over the hard rubberbanding of the group.  In the end I really only had to dig hard once to reattach after a clump ahead of me dropped on a prime lap, and pretty easily hung in there for the end.

Tom, Brendan, and I patrol the back of the field in the opening laps of the Temple Crit.