Monday, November 05, 2012

Harbin Park - Cincy 3 day 3

By the third day of racing, I was pretty tired. Still, one more big race and then plenty of time to rest.

Harbin Park is the oldest Cyclocross race around. This course had less climbing than in the past, but still not a flat venue. The start almost immediately dumps you into a pair of off camber sections, then a long climbing sections snaking around a field to the finish. An uphill sand pit, with more twisty climbs and some downhills, with one run up (barrier forces the dismount) before the downhill sand pit. Snake around to the screaming downhill, rise into the woods, before twisting back to the off camber sections.

Even with the rain on Saturday, the course was pretty dry. The downhill and the woods were a little greasy, but not real bad, and there was only a 20m section that could be really considered muddy. I decided to run 28psi in the tires to split the difference between Friday and Saturday.

I had a fourth row start again, with the plan to just get through the off camber sections and then go for broke. I got a good start, and through the off-cambers in about 20th place. Climbing reasonably, though others were passing me. I rode the uphill sand even with the runners, and then pulled away as they remounted. I was fine until the run up, when I had some serious leg pain getting over the TALL barriers. On the bike it was fine, off the bike it was not, so the goal was to run as little as possible.

The race was going fine, I wasn't going to win, but I was holding somewhere in the top 30 places or so, when I hit the off cambers at the end of lap 2, and I rolled the rear tire. I did not go down, the bike just stopped. Off the bike, roll the tire back into place, and remount for the ride to the pits. I did not have far to go, but I did have to run the second off camber section so I didn't roll the tire again.

Into the pits, I first had to find my spare wheels, then swap it out.... it took forever, and I was loosing places like crazy. I got a push back onto the course as I was shifting back to the correct gear, and again off in pursuit of places.

I was pretty much at the back of the field by this point, and I made back four or five places pretty quickly. Then into the hard slog to get over some big gaps. I should have had 3 laps to work, and made about three more. I caught a group of three heading into the finish, and got around one and was going for the other two as the officials pulled us all. I guess we were about a minute and a half in front of the leaders coming through and they didn't want to have us clogging the course for another 8 minutes or so. Scheduling and all.

Disappointed with 54th overall, 29th for the age group. I figure without the rolled tire, I'd have come in the top 20 in the age group. There was a large "group" that finished between 52 and 54 minutes that I think I would have been in (based on who I was chasing at the time). Overall, I'll mark the two "not best" days with the one good day as a learning experience. In the past my days have gone similar but for fitness reasons, this year it was equipment choice/setup reasons. Looking forward to next year.

Kings CX - Cincy 3 day 2

Day 2 of the Cincy 3. A flat course with only 1 set of double climbs (camel humps), a run up, and a single set of barriers and a cool flyover. Derek and I did a number of laps on the pre-ride that indicated big ring everything except the climbs after the camel hump, which were ridable. It was cool, but supposed to be dry...

Sprinkles started about an hour before race time, another pre-ride lap showed some slick spots. I should have dropped my tire pressure, but left things at 30psi for the race. More rain started, nothing crazy hard, but totally changed the lines and feel of the course.

A lot of guys missed their call ups, so I got a third row start position. Got a good start, getting through the first technical section in the top 20. Bike was driving well through the off-camber turns, and right before the run up, in a totally benign section fo the course, the front wheel went out, and I was down. I ducked expecting to get completely run over by 10 to 20 guys that were right behind me... no damage to speak of, up and I did the run up and jumped back on the bike, only to find my chain was off... stop, get the drive train working (another 10 spots!) and I'm off again.

Clean through the camel hump, I rode the first climb, and ran the second because of traffic. And it's time to start picking off places that I had lost. So, I'm sitting somewhere about 50th, in a small group and decide to make some passes. I got a little aggressive through a long straight section heading inot a quick succession of turns, get by the group open a small gap and drop it in a greasy section around the last tree... sliding across the whole course, I boxed up the guys behind me. The guy on my wheel is standing on my bike! As soon as he's off I pull it out remount and again the chain is off... get of, straighten out the bike, and I've lost another 10 spots or so...  One and a half laps in and I start thinking about how to get through the course clean. I'm being very careful around the corners, and taking no chances. I'll save it for tomorrow and riding at about a tempo pace.

Last lap, I'm battling two other guys. Who are gingerly taking things off the bike, and riding about my pace on the bike. I decide I'll put in an effort to dispatch these guys. Do the run up hard, still cautious on the turns. Take the camel hump as always, I ride the first one, and shift to ride the second. The shift is a little goofy, so I dismount half way up and run the rest. Remount, and ride the downhill when my pedals start going around on their own! I'm on a fixed gear heading downhill! Not wanting to rip off the rear derailleur, I get my feet off the pedals, and try to get to the bottom of the hill before sorting the chains... I don't make it.. slide out, and have to again sort out the chain.

Lost the two places, but not by much, so I push the pace on the straights... and bring them back. I make an agressive pass on the second to last straight, and then push the last up hill straight to the finish. The other guys had different ideas, and both get by me well before the line. Blah! 63rd place out of about 80. 32nd in my age group. Not what I was hoping for.

In hindsight (and under advice) I should have run the tires at about 25psi. So a learning experience for sure. I'm still a beginner on tubular tire pressure. If I could have saved the first and second falls, I'd have been less tentative in the remainder of the race and been able to pull out a better result. The third issue had to do with tweaking the derailleur in the first two falls. Still, one more day of racing to go, so I was going to treat it like the tie breaker.

Dark Horse Stampede - Cincy 3 day 1

Considering how much rain we've had in Cleveland, the first day of the Cincy 3 weekend was beautiful. Sunny skies, mid 50s and the course was dry in Covington KY. This is the second time I've been to this course, and the third time at the Cincy 3 weekend. I raced the Cat 2/3 45+ races for 3 consecutive days.

Covington is a hilly course, A slight downhill start, into a down and up turn, before sweeping into the amphitheater bowl for the first time. Down and Up, and UP towards the barriers, then down a paved hill into the first pass of the pits. Up hill grind back to the bowl and a screaming down hill, then a punchy climb before descending to the four log barriers. I could hop two for sure, three maybe, but holding your momentum for all four was to chancy for me. Then another long up hill grind before descending back to the pits, and a paved climb to the finishing straight.

Fourth row call up meant I'd play it cool until it strings out, then go to work at driving the twisty bits, and hoping my climbing legs showed up. I had intended on running the 12-27, but the tire on that wheel was not hooking up... I've had problems with the tread on it, and it is time to replace the tire now for sure. Instead I ran the backup wheel with the 25 cassette. Not optimal but doable. 30psi in the tires worked out alright for me today.

The start went as expected, I was in the front 20 or so into the first section. A pretty uneventful race, as I guess a good result should be. I was turning well, and climbing OK. I would pass guys on the twisty bits, and loose a place or two here and there on the different climbing slogs. I ended up picking up three places on the last lap as guys were totally blown. Every time I passed one, he'd completely disappear behind me. I caught the last guy on the up hill climb, and he didn't even try to sprint to the line.

I finished in 22nd overall, 12th place in the age group. In hindsight, I may have made a couple more spots with a 27. I used the small ring on everything except the paved descent, and a little more climbing gear would have been nice.

Tow more reports to go, as it was a BIG race weekend.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Track Scratch (Race) Fever

I've been hearing about the Cleveland Velodrome probably since the idea was first hatched. I've watched the progress, and seen the building online. On August 27th, my daughter and I went to the grand opening. Not expecting to have an "open ride", I did not bring anything to ride in... my daughter, being the brighter of the pair, did. So she was on the track in short order... since then, we took the 101 course together, and I've been riding there at least once a week in September and October. Lots of laps, lots of paceline practice.

Last night, the weather was wonderful, and I expected a rather large turn out. I'm guessing there were between 20 and 25 riders out for the regular Thursday night "Happy Hour Night". As I was getting suited up, Brett said he was going to get us racing tonight.

We got in a reasonable warm up, though I spent a good deal of time talking instead of riding. At about 6, Brett cleared the track for a 10 lap scratch race. The idea is riders start in the rail, at the top of the track on the finish straight. Official starts the race, we got 2 neutral laps, then 10 racing laps. Mass starts on the track!

So, race 1 was about 7 guys. Dick Brink rolled off the front after the neutral, and I jumped after him about a lap later. I couldn't figure out how to pull through after being gassed on bridging the jump and we were brought back in short order. The best offensive move is to attack as the break is brought back, and Dave Bartels did. While the rest of us looked at each other he built up a nice lead... I did try to pull, but was still recovering. Weston left the chase to late, and Dave easily won the first race.

Race 2: We waited around a bit before going again. This time there may have been 10 of us. Somewhat different tactics, but again Dave jumped with maybe 7 to go, everyone else looked around. I think we picked up the chase but the gap was set. I did sacrifice myself in a long hard pull, and rolled in at the back of the field. Getting off the front was interesting as I pulled off and guys are going around me both above and below.

Race 3: Much faster this time, because it was getting dark. Dave must have sat this one out. Thom Dominic got off the front early, and I ended up third wheel behind Dave Chernosky and Weston. This time, they jumped earlier and I was ready. Ramped up the speed nicely. As we came by Thom it was evident he was not going to follow. I couldn't hold the wheel for the length left, and that was how it finished Dave, Weston, Me.

After each race, we chatted the tactics, trying to figure out this track race thing. Different levels of fitness effects the strategy. You want to know who will/can follow who, so you are ready when someone starts the serious move. Knowing that Dave B can hold those long efforts, we might be a little less willing to give him the early jump.

I'll say it is a totally different level of concentration. You can't grab brakes to slow yourself down, and neither can anyone else. The level of communication necessary is much higher than a road race, and the craziness of being in the field is a new level of "wow". In a way, it was like the first time I jumped in the A field at Westlake, a bit scary because of everyone else around you going fast, and also because you don't want to be "that guy" that screws it up.

Last night was probably the end of the season for me. I won't make it this week because of the 'cross schedule in Cincy, and with the time change looming, I think the day job will interfere with any track time. It's been fun though, and we're looking forward to next season.