Monday, April 30, 2007

Covered Bridge 2 - 4/29/2007

Covered Bridge A race again this week. It's a bonus race, since I was supposed to go to breakfast with my family. I got the OK to race at 7am... for a 9:30 start. Fortunately, I really haven't unpacked much from my Saturday race, so I don't have a lot of prep to do to race today.

Now I first have to tell you what a GREAT wife I have. She first approved the race visa on short notice, then as I jump into the car to leave she asks "Do you have your helmet?"...and I didn't! She never asks me that. After I get out of the car and grab my helmet, she tells me "Now go through your own check list to make sure you haven't forgotten anything else important that you'll need for your race... do you have your license?". Got give props to my girl for that one... it's nice having support at home for my crazy obsession.

The other downside of this short prep time is I did not eat a good breakfast... I'm a oatmeal race day breaky person... instead, I grabbed an extra Clif Bar, a few Gues and couple other tasties to eat on the road. Well... I did what I could. Of course, I can now think of all kinds of food we had that I could have grabbed... leaving later than I wanted didn't help either, so it's not like I could stop anywhere on the way. Race to the race, race at the race, race home.

Riding in the "Man's Race" this week (that's what I over heard while signing in)... Last week, the A race was a tame affair, that built my confidence. So this week, I'm coming to play. It's not that I expect to win, or even contest the prime lap, but I do believe I can hang, and belong in the A fields. The win yesterday also helps my confidence loads, so I'm not approaching this race with the goal to simply finish, I'd like to participate... and be part of the race, and hopefully have it in the tank to go when it gets tough. I also do not expect the race to go as easy as last week, so I am looking forward to some pain.

Dave, Chris and Tom are also representing SBR in the A race today. All are surprised to see me, since I'd already told them I would not be racing. I arrived before signin started, so I had some time to get dressed. Throw my money in, and get a 10+ minute warm up.... I hope this doesn't start super fast.

On the line, the promoter tells us about some guys that rode around the left of a motorcycling heading towards us last week. That must have been the guy that rode right at the field... I guess someone thought it would be better to ride on the outside than to try to get back over the yellow line. That was scarier than I thought. Warnings are given, we (well, some of the racers anyway) decide to do 8 laps instead of 7, and off we go.

Actually, more happened before the race, than really happened in the first 4 laps... ride hard, go harder, back off... over and over. I did a pretty good job of staying in the front half of the field. I was near the front shortly after the first break went with 6 to go. They rang for the prime, and the field started chasing. I followed a few moves, though didn't really have it to contribute... but did my best to not screw up anyone behind me when I pulled out of a line. For the most part I felt good, and just worked on position.

I guess with 4 to go, it was time to really start racing. I was still hanging in near the front, but the pace was wearing me down. I'm not alone either, crossing the bridge, Jimmy Mac almost takes out Dick Brink's front wheel right in front of me. Dick is out of the pedal, holding everything together, as I take evasive manuvers around the outside.

As we came through with 3 to go, I caught myself thinking about how I should have gone to breakfast with the family instead... NOT a good sign. I've got 3 laps to go, I can finish this race THEN do breakfast, and lunch combined.

Then the pace went up again. I noticed that there was almost always a gap of about a bike length between me and the guy in front. Then someone would come around me, and pretty soon the same gap would appear in front of me again... and I just wasn't closing it.

We hit Riverview, and I watched the front group just kind of move up the road a bit. I watched Brent Evans make it across alone, and saw a couple more guys come back to my group... I still tried to keep working to get back, but it was not looking good. With 2 to go, I was sitting near the front of the second group. The first group was about 200 or so meters up the road. We hit the one hill, and I rolled over it... I tend to use my momentum well over this little rise so I don't even feel most of the hill... , I also come by people often when I do it... I did the same thing here, pushed it a little over the top expecting to be pulling the group along over the top. Instead I popped way off the front of the group. 20+ meters in nothing flat. WTF!

So I sit up there, waiting to work, and the group is not really coming up to me. Weird... it's like they suddenly gave up. When I got back in, an A&F guy says "Work with the group, not against it." WHAT? Honestly, I was expecting to pull then... right when everyone sat up, I guess.

So we get into this rotation with a few of us pulling. And as we come around to Riverview, the front group is gone... well, not totally, but the gap is now close to a Kilometer. We won't be seeing them again.

So now it turns into a club ride. About 6 of us are working a rotation, with a few others jumping in occasionally. With 1 to go, and John Reade comes up and says... "A bit harder than a cat 4 race, huh?" To which I respond "Well, not now. It was a little while ago." I guess the race is over for our group and most us were just getting in a long cool down.

So that was basically it. Coming into the last stretch, I'm near the front when Thom Dominic comes up, and I ask if we're going to sprint for 20th place. He laughs, and agrees. So I tell him to go for it, and he takes off at the school driveway. Then Tom K. comes up and offers to lead me out... from about 500 meters. I jump on his wheel, but my legs are pretty cooked with the two days of racing. It's about all I've got left to stay on his wheel.

Then we look up and realize we're sprinting into a finish line crowded with the front group, and a good portion of the B's that watched the A race finish... no place to go, so we all just roll through.

It turns out Chris came off the group shortly after lap 4, and Dave flatted deep into the same lap. About when I was thinking about breakfast, he was pulling into the parking lot to pack it in. Tom and I made it to the end in the second group with visions of better finishes to come next time.

Overall a good weekend. I think with better prep, and without the lapse of concentration, I could have made the front group. I don't know how long I could have stayed there, but it would have been fun to give it a go. I'm pretty sure I talked myself out of the effort required to close the gaps and stay on the wheel to get me there though. Still that's how I learn. Do it the hard way first... over and over again, until I figure out how to actually do it right.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

RATL 2 4/28/2007

Race 2 of the RATL series put on by Summit Freewheelers. The SBR plan was to be aggressive and attack to try to form a winning break away. If that doesn't work, we'll be setting up for a sprint finish. It's always the plan, but it rarely works out. This time, we're also planning on the blocking tactic to help our break attempts. It's time to ride like a team, instead of a group of cat 4 riders wearing the same shirt.

The day was overcast, with a chance of rain. At RATL, that means low turn out. Even with the relocated finish... people are nervous on this course. At the start there are about 25 guys. We have Jason, Chris and me. Gary is supposed to get here, but is fighting car trouble. He eventually arrives 5 minutes after the start. So how do you control the race with 3 guys? Go with the plan.

Summit has numbers, as usual for the home club. I think there were 6. MVC has 2, Spin has 2, 1 Stark, 1 Orrville and an assortment of others, none with numbers.

From the gun, Jason takes it out quick. Our plan is to give it a few laps before starting the attacks. Summits' plan is to go a bit earlier. Noah goes off the front in the second lap... with an unmarked guy, that we find out (from another Summit) is one of theirs, full disclosure I guess. So they've got two off the front. I'm near the front, but I won't work for it, someone will pull this back before we need to go to work.

Lap 3 they are back, and Jason takes off on the hill. I hit the front, and sit on it... letting the gap open up. Noah, fresh from the last break, takes off in pursuit, and I let him go. Then another Summit comes up, and we slow the pace down to let the break of two work together. Plan A is in progress. Fun times, too. Every time someone wanted to work, I'd let them... then sit on their wheel until someone else came up. Then I'd slid over to that wheel. Leave these guys out in the wind. With Summit up the road, there weren't any other teams that could organize a chase. So blocking was pretty easy.

Jason and Noah worked their break well, and stayed away for about 4 laps. We pulled them back at the top of the hill, and then I sat on the front. I wanted the pace reasonable, but not too fast as I waited for Chris to attack next. Down the hill and through the lot... I knew about where Chris was going to go, but I was getting nervous. So, when two Summits came up on my left, I started to accelerate to follow... then I heard Chris right behind them. Perfect. "GO!", and I shifted back to blocking.

For some reason, the field was not happy with Chris and the two Summit guys going. I was still blocking, when an MVC was on the front... and he started yelling "Pull THROUGH". Of course, I replied... my guy is in the break, so I'm not working.

Then the bridges started. First the other MVC, then a few others. Pretty soon Chris' break had about 6 or seven guys including two Summit. Summit didn't like who was there I guess, cause they pulled it back.

OK. Now it's my turn. On the 8th lap, right before the hill... I give it a go. Look back, and Chris and Jason are smothering the front. Perfect. I give it all on the hill to open the gap, and I'm away. Feeling a little Jens Voight... my gap is pretty large. 7 laps to go... can I go the distance? I'm not sure, but I'll try it. Push on the hill, and set a sustainable tempo for the remainder of the lap... repeat ad nauseum.

Through the parking lot, I see Doug from Summit trying to bridge up, and Mehul from Spin a little off the front. Before the hill, I encourage Doug to get to me, so we can work together. He attaches on the hill and I pull him up to the top. Once over, its time to work this. So we go into rotation. We're trading long pulls. Doug pulls through the lot (into the wind), and I come around and pull up the hill. On the hill, a couple of Summit supporters are encouraging us. 14 seconds and growing... don't talk, WORK. and again... still at 13seconds.

At 5 laps to go... over the top of the hill, Doug says "we're caught...", NO! Keep working it... they are gaining, but we could stay away at least another lap if we would work it. he pulls, but his heart isn't in it. Through the lot, he sits up, saying "Don't let them catch you on the hill, cause you'll get popped right off the back." Hmm, maybe. Maybe not.

I continue a bit, but without help I figure it's over. They catch me at the base of the climb, I feel fine, so I just jump into the top 10. We're down to 4 left, and we can switch to lead out mode. Except Summit still wants to attack again. Noah and his unmarked team mate go again. I'm thinking they're not going to make it. Noah has already been off the front for almost half the race. Jason and Chris are right up there with me... and I'm working on recovery.

The break is hanging out there for the lap, with little concentrated work to bring it back. Then with three to go, Jason decides it's time to do the work. To the front he goes again. Jason working, another guy then Chris and me. I keep encouraging Chris to be patient, that he will pull me to the finish. It's going to work. Jason does the job of shutting down the break with two to go. Then it's just keep Chris calm... two more. I'm sixth wheel. Jason and Chris are there. This is working exactly as planned. Jason talks to Chris, as the others start to wind it up a little in preparation.

One to go. Up the hill, Summit is on the right with Doug calling the signals. "Patience, Patience..." Good advice for us too. Chris is still here, ready to go... "I'm going to ride your wheel to the finish." Over the top, through the lot. I can tell Chris wants to go, but he holds it in, until the back side... then Doug comes up on my left as Chris gets wound up. Chris takes it to the Bridge, then Doug takes over... pulling the Stark rider, not Summit though. Perfect, I'll sit on Stark now... Doug winds up... and hauls it up the hill... I wait, a little more, then open it up with about 100 meters to go....

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Absolute teamwork to deliver the win!

Of course, I had no choice with the work Jason and Chris had done for me, right? Chris came through in ninth. Jason was last of the group... but still pumping the air for the team V!

Post race analysis.... We really worked the field. I had the Stark guy doing work with MVC while Jason was off.. it turns out that my break was pulled back by the lone Orrville. With assorted other guys working to bring the other attacks back. It's all fine by me, cause they spent their energy there, instead of saving it for the finish. If Chris's break could have held on for a couple of laps... maybe mine could have gone the distance... who knows.

Saturday was a great team effort. We had at least 4 team mates cheering us on from the sides... I hear they were as excited as if they'd been in the field. I see it as our attacks softening the field, and helping me get to the line first.

Plus it was a total blast... the whole race! Now THAT'S bike racing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Covered Bridge 1 - 4/22/2007

With a bit of success on Saturday, Sundays race promised a bit of a different result. The cat 1/2/3/4 Covered Bridge Race. Last 1/2/3/race I did was less than stellar, as I was dropped on the first hill... the field was spread all over the place for the remaining laps. I ended up taking the sprint for my group... at about 13th place. So this day was about testing the legs in the big race, sit in and see if I could finish in the group.

We had Dave and Tom, the two cat 3's of the team, and Chris and I from the 4s, with Ray joining the fun again. 35 miles... 7 laps.

Easy pace at the gun, the first time around the back side, and we're greeted by a pair of motorcycles coming at us... it wouldn't have been bad, except they met us on a left hander, where we tend to straighten out the road a bit. Even with the yellow line rule, there was no line there, so we were pretty much taking the whole road up... that will teach them motorcycles to use that road on Saturday mornings in April. A bit of a freaky encounter.

Overall the pace was very civilized. I tried to stay about mid pack... which doesn't really work well at all. In my normal fields, I'll stick in the front 10, but I was a bit intimidate with the big boys, so I was a bit lax on that idea. Of course, it's really hard to follow moves when you're that far back, but my goal was to finish in the field.

So from half way back, I see Dave cover the first move of the day. Nice... Then the days events get set there. A break goes off the front, someone chases it back. Pretty much works out for me. I just sit in. Second lap, Chris comes up to me and asks when the racing will start... I assure him, it will, and it will hurt.

Third lap (I think), we hit the covered bridge turn, and head to the bridge. I'm about half way back, as we set up for the turn, we swing wide left of center for the right hander. Just as another pair of motorcycles, comes towards us... the guy in front doesn't slow or anything, just takes his space and rides right towards us like he's going to take us out. I made it through fine, but behind me a split occurred. Dave was on my wheel, but there weren't many others... and we were drilling it. Then for some reason... the front just sat up. End of the hard stuff, and the group gets all back together.

Fourth lap, I think was a prime lap. I figured this was when the splits would happen. Through the start line, and they blow the horn. One guy gets away, and we chase for a while. Not a hard chase, but someones working a little. On Riverview, it seemed like we'd catch the guy, we had maybe 300 to 400 meters, when again... the front just stops pulling. The gap opens up, and the guy takes it by almost a kilometer. I'm shocked.

It's interesting that I am so lost in this race. I could easily be getting the laps mixed up. Sitting half way down, my total concentration was on not getting pushed out over the center line, not overlapping wheels, and simply surviving... I was true pack fill. I didn't even see the break actually take off. But somewhere in there Paul Martin took a group of four others away, with Tris Hopkins and an RGF, the teams that have the legs are represented. The race is made.

I did see Batke and Braumberger try to bridge, and get chased down. I also saw numerous other attacks attempted and failed. As we came through for the bell lap, I figured I'd made it... so I started moving up in the field. I suddenly had some of my confidence back. Not enough to actually attack the field, but enough to get into the top 10 or so, and sit there for a bit.

I guess everyone else thought the 5 places were gone, we were racing for scraps. Hey, us cat 4's like scraps. Those are bragging right scraps. So as we head to the line, there are lots of us SBRs at the front. I was just contemplating taking a flyer when, just before the school driveway, Dave says "John", I know he's going for it... so I pull up and off, as he attacks. I sit and follow wheels, as they chase after Dave.

Dave gets pulled back at about 200 meters, and then the sprints go. Not to bad, but I misjudged the wheel I was following, and got stuck into the wind before I wanted. I still made some places, and crossed the line 8th of the field, right behind Chris, with Tom, Ray and Dave right behind me. So overall we pulled in 12th through 16th. Not bad for scraps.

So, my first big race in the books. Overall it was an easy pace, not a typical A race in my limited experience... the field should have splintered into two or more groups again. I don't mind. First weekend racing, and doing the double to boot. Now I've got some confidence going into the next weekend.

In the 4/5 B race we had Jeff Comer, Dave, Rick, Gary, Jason and Pete Scacheri. You can check out Rick's Blog for that report. I know Pete came across in fourth with some solid work and attacks by the team. So a nice result there to add to the RATL podium places.

RATL 1 - 4/21/2007

...and so another season begins. Time to clean all the winter lube off the drive train... yuck. Well, I started to clean it up, then decided it would be easier to throw those components in the parts washer to soak, and put on a new cassette and chain.

I arrived at 9 for the 9:40ish start of the cat 4 race. Being the first race of the season, I was less than organized. I found a half eaten cliff bar in my race bag from Cross season... it was not edible, in case you're curious... hard as a rock. Though there was a suggestion of soaking it my water bottle... I opted for throwing it in the can.

I'm still trying to sort out my HRM issues, as I dropped mine from the kitchen table and broke the display. Polar is doing me right with a repair, but it's still gone for 2 weeks. So I'm flying blind... no data for a data geek. It's fine... I get about 10-15 minutes warm-up before we need to line up.

We had Chris, Jason, Gary and myself. East side Ray was there also... effectively on the team cause we ride with him regularly, though not official. Our plan at the line was... uh, nothing. All I knew was that Jason was not planning on any attacks, because he's "not fit yet". Cool by me, since it's really the first race to test the legs. Off we go.

They had moved the finish to the back side of the course to make the race safer. It totally change the race feel, as now everything happens on the little climb. Personally, I'm happy with the change. No need to dive into the last set of corners for the finish... I think they also did away with primes to make it safer also.

So pretty much straight away, Ray goes off the front. I guess that's his warm up. It's also the way the race went for the almost the whole 15 laps. One or two guys would roll off the front... it's not like anyone really chased. We just kind of waited until they came back.

With no primes, I mostly spent every lap viewing the finish, and trying different things. Stayed to the right... watch the field. I stayed near the front the whole race, and was pretty relaxed throughout. I gave one attack up the hill to see if anything happened... to make some legs hurt, and to basically see if I could annoy anyone. I gave another a bit later, where I pretty much just rolled off the front. It wasn't even intentional...

With 3 to go, a rather large group got away. The field accelerated, and I just stuck it near the front, letting StarkVelo pull it back together.

With two to go, Ray and a few others were still away. Jason had talked to Chris about having Chris do the work for him to get to the finish. Chris did a stellar job of bringing the two back on the last lap, then leading it up to the hill where the finish was.

Over the first rise, the field compacted, when Wes from Orrville took off up the left side. Chris led Jason up the right, with me a few wheels back. I had a little tap of the brakes as someone was going back through the field, then I opened my sprint up right before the start of the final climb.

I was picking everyone up pretty quick, and called to Jason that I was coming up on his left. With only Wes ahead, I thought I'd make it... and nearly did as I missed by about a tire width. Neither of us were sure who had it on the line. I had a feeling I was second, but it was possible I made it.

Jason held on for third, and Ray came in fourth. Chris was also still in the top 10 after his work as was Gary. A good day for SBR. Next week, I plan to get better positioning going into the final, and open up the sprint a bit earlier.