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.