Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Worlds Zipp night.

Similar to last year, the Zipp Demo night brought out everyone to try some tasty Zipp wheels. There were probably 50-60 in the A field. Lots of normal B racers were out to see if upgrade in wheels would be enough to hang in the A field. Fun right there.

So Dave, Tom, Gary and I were joined by Rick, who was shamed into racing the A's by the promoter... and I added my two cents as well. We still had a large contingent of B riders and an equally large field. It seems the chance to ride high zoot brought out LOTS of folks I hadn't seen this year... not that I've been at them all, just saying.

Lots of fast guys, we took off from the gun with a 1 point prime. Dave and Brian from Lake Effect went off the front. We gave them the space... then the Paul Marting train started to work, I thought they were doomed. They held on though, with Dave leading out and taking the point. Score one for SBR.

Pretty much from here on out, it was kill it, sit up... repeat... for the next 10 laps. Lots of primes, merch and otherwise. Lots of cars... and we lapped the Bs at least 3 times. I was getting pretty frustrated closing gaps that were opening in front of me, then having the field sit up... and that would let the same guys that I just closed gaps around get in front of me again. Urgh!!!

At about 13 or so to go, Paul decides it's time and takes off with Andy Moskal (RGF) and Rudy (LakeEffect). Tris (Team Columbus) goes to the front and hauls us around for 2 or 3 laps, that cut the field down considerably. Tom got up there and was also doing work... and I was pleased that we continued to race even when the first three spots were gone. Too often I've seen a break go and the field just gives up. I guess that with two spots remaining, no one was ready to just sit up.

I was also pleased we still had the full team in the group to the finish. There was a few shots that each of us took, and a few times I was dangling at the back of the field. If I'm thinking I'd rather go home now, I was sure the thought was in a lot of other guys.

At 5 to go, I was watching the RGF train start to come together... so I latched onto what I figured would be the end of it. We still had 25 to 30 in the field, so it was tough to stay on the wheel I wanted. I got back to the spot, but at 2 to go was again taken off...then found Dan Quinlin's wheel, and figured I'd hang onto that. Maybe not my best choice if he didn't sprint, but if he took and early dig it might pull me into a good position.

We were still pretty far back, until 400m when the field ramped up... then 200 we were flying though the field... at 150 Andy Clarke (RGF) came off his lead out and swung onto the yellow... as Dan cut inside. My line was a bit more erratic, so I lost some speed there but still came through 10th in the field. Not bad, but I don't think I opened everything up. Some more learning to do on whose wheel, and how to negotiate that final 1K.

Still a nice showing by the team. Work was done by all, and we have verification that Rick should be in the As ... (there's some love!) I ended up with an average of 27.1 which is a bit higher than El Presidente says, so it's probably somewhere between us... or his includes the neutral and cool down and mine doesn't. I'm not sure. My sprint speed was at 35.1 so that's also promising since I don't feel I used everything... if I can get a clearer line, and open that up some more maybe get up there.

Back again next week for another shot... hopefully.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Raccoon Rally MTB 2008

Rest and recovery from the road race was the program for Sunday. Since it had rained pretty much through the road race... the sun came out almost as we cross the finish line. I still knew the cross country course would be pretty muddy. Then the skies really opened up at about 8:00 on Saturday... and it poured for the next two hours.

As we were driving back from dinner, the discussion was indicating that I probably would not see Dave at the start line in the morning. I got back to the tent, found I had set it up in the most perfect spot for a dry night.. did a little cleanup and was asleep by about 9:00... woke at 7 for a good rest... then proceeded to screw up my race day prep.

The bike was fine, but I ate to much at breakfast, and on the line was contemplating what it would feel like to puke while hitting the single track. No worries though, I was off the back within the first 500m, and watched the group ride away as we got to the woods.... so my race last exactly 5 minutes. I didn't stop, but I was caught by the first sport riders at 14 minutes. Let's not say sandbaggers, since it did take them 12 minutes to make up the 2 minute head start I had.

I figure I was about in last place in the expert field by the time I hit the first climbs on Snow Snake. My head or my heart were not really in the race, so I was just screwing around. chatting up the sport riders I was with. The course was pretty muddy, and my tires were not really hooking up on the steepest stuff, so there was a bit of hike a bike, but no worse than some of my earliest attempts. I could have stopped to let some air out... but I figured might as well shoot for last place and still try to be respectable.

I don't remember last years times, but I exited Snow Snake at about 50 minutes. I had estimated a 3 hour ride, with the wet, so this wasn't terrible. I trade places with a couple of sport guys noticing they would catch me on the climbs, but I would roll the flats and drops better than them. So I started to try to race them to keep my concentration.

Near the last climbing section before descending to start lap two, I was caught by a single speed and a female sport rider. The woman easily got by me on the climb, but I closed to her pretty quick on the descents that followed. I didn't find a good place to get around her until another guy caught us, and we both passed right before the gnarly switchbacks down the ski slope. I followed the other guy down, carefully picking my way through it and started lap two at about 1:50. I had started to worry about getting lapped if I didn't get through by 1:30, but I had made it safely through despite my first estimates. I was also feeling much better, even without puking.

The second lap is the long steady grind back to the top of the mountain. It's pretty much a constant grade, made all the more fun this year by the stream of water that flowed down the incline mostly on the trail. Reminded me a lot of some of the Wild 100 trails on the second year we did that one. I was often thinking of the tea creek like mud we encountered on the day.

A short way up the climb, the woman passed me again... and I thought "I can go that fast", so I jumped on her wheel and let her do the pace making. I stayed within 50m or so, until we got about 3/4 of the way up when it seemed she slowed down. No one else responded to her, so she effectively paced me back up at least 3 places. I was extremely gracious when I came around her, and hoped to return the favor by pacing her the remainder of the climb, but she continued at her own pace.

I decided now that I was in front of some expert guys, I should probably race my bike now. So big ring the flats and descents.... and just get over the climbs. Mud had turned my triple ring into a double, and though I would have liked one or two more gears, I made do. No one passed me, though I caught no one until I was back on the sport loop. One guy was a short way behind me... I pulled away from him pretty easily. I also caught one more on the switchbacks right before the finish.

I rolled in at 3:05... which was pretty close to my estimate... but 50minutes behind the winners. Ross Clark from Solon, finished second in 2:15... almost no different from his time last year. Very interesting.

Not what I wanted, though I guess a biological is better than a mechanical. Maybe I'll get everything right for this set of races someday. There are so many ways I can screw this weekend up, I'm sure I can find a new set next year.

Raccoon Rally Road 2008

I've been a bit busy lately, so I haven't blogged about the two Westlakes I've done since my last post... first one the field split in a very weird way. I was on the wrong side of the split... with nowhere near enough firepower not represented to get back up... though I tried to bridge when the bridging was happening. I let a wheel go at the wrong time. Funny thing about the worlds.... once the field splits. The second group decides they don't want to race. We got lapped.

Last week, the worlds were strange in a different way. It must be because of master's natz this week. I sat in riding tempo the whole 25 laps without doing anything. Sitting in beautiful position 10th wheel on the back of the RGF lead out train in the last half lap... I hit the pavement funny and blew my tire... race over, but good speed work.

So... I did a couple of bike races over the weekend in Western New York. The Raccoon Rally was a big target for the year, road race on Saturday, mountain bike race on Sunday. Cool scene all weekend.

Regulars, Dave, Tom K and I were joined this year by Pete S., Matt O., Gary B., and Mike L. Dave had preridden the first climb on Friday and was able to brief the new comers. At the start the sky was threatening, but it was dry. They have historically combined the masters, and the 3/4 races together, which leads to a really large field. There were 38 finishers in the 3/4 race, and 18 masters... but if it doesn't look like folks that dnf dring the first lap were listed at all.

So 60+ roll off the line together under protests for splitting the field were ignored. At mile three the rain started... and it came down.

I've had no success with this race since I've moved to the 3/4 field. The first year, I came off at the top of the first climb with bad team tactics that made my poor positioning hurt even worse. Last year, I came off in the same spot, only in the second lap and did a person TT to make it to the finish with only getting passed by one female rider. So the goal was to get to the finish with the field. I'm confident enough with my sprint to use it if I was in the place to do so, or help Tom, who has consistently done well in this race. I figure if I saved it for the sprint, he would somehow be on my wheel... he's very good at being on my wheel for any sprint... including last week's Westlake.

The first climb was pretty calm and there was no real danger, I figure the rain effectively neutralized the field. We set a reasonable pace, but were over the top with most of the field intact. On the descent it was all together, so I started giving the new guys tips for where the next climb would start.

I decided here my glasses were doing more harm than good, and stuffed them in my pocket for safe keeping. I also was very conscious of fueling this time. The plan was to shoot a gu on each of the three descents.... not including the last one since I didn't expect to have time.

Second climb is more difficult but thankfully shorter than the first. The pace was a bit hotter, especially when we hit the steep part. I was well placed, and conscious of my position as the field split. In fact... I looked back and watched it happen a few riders behind me.

The pace didn't slacken as we got closer to the summit, and I fell off the back maybe 1 or 2 K from the summit. There were a few other guys that came off like me, and we kept the field within 200 meters or so individually. As we hit the summit, I caught the next guy up the road, and we started to work to get back on. I was sure that I could close the gap, and got some more help from an unattached rider with a set of Zipps that finished the job for the 4 of us. I'm pretty sure the exact same thing happened last year... it very well could have been the same guy.

As I caught the group, I came through and swear I saw all 7 SBR in the field. I was wrong, as Gary and Mike somehow missed the split and were behind us. Mike flatted out shortly after the split... so we were down to 5. My mistake here was not to go directly to the front and work the pace to help keep others from reattaching. Word is Dave tried to organize the group, but got no interest... and is not enough of a seargent to force the issue.

So... we took an easy descent... except it was pouring down in buckets, and the rain was really stinging as it hit my face... I was regretting putting my glasses away, but didn't dare take my hand off the bars to grab them. Meanwhile, Gary was working like crazy behind us to get back onto the main field, and he made it right as we went through the start line. Unfortunately so did about 10 or so others, and the field was up to about 30-40 again.

Second lap, After working to catch back on, I guess Gary came off again on the climb to the finish... so at the top of the first climb (second time) We were again down to 5 SBR. I managed to put my glasses back on, for the descent, so I was ready for some bombing.

As we descended, I started to figure out a strategy. With 5 in the field, there was only one other team that looked to have serious numbers. We had been conserving the whole race, so I thought one good attack at the base of the last descent may split the field again. I figured Pete had the best time trial experience, so I asked him if he'd give it a go. I had enough time to also talk to Dave... and he agreed. If Pete got brought back, I figured one other attack, then save it for the finish.

Second climb, I'm fine, feeling alright... the other team is driving the pace. My HR is in a descent zone. As we hit the steep part the field slowed, but I had a clear line up the right so I was able to carry my speed and moved to about 10th wheel.... then the pace picked up... but mine didn't. As the gap opened, I looked at my HR, and said NO WAY! I was sitting in a low z4, so I have to be able to close this.... don't know why, but the legs would not respond to me at all. I'm off the back with no reason I can point to with 1.5 miles to go to the summit. DAMN!

I can see the group right ahead... and I maintain the gap at about 200-300 meters. There is one guy behind me. I know if I could have stayed on in that one instant, I'd have made it. I just worked to hold the gap. I saw the field at the summit, but then they were gone. The guy behind me caught me and we started to work together. I'm spun out in my 53/11 with my hr in z3... and the field is no where to be seen. We both chased hard... but when we passed the camp store there was no sign of the field... so I sat up to fight another day.

Turns out we were fighting for 11the and 12th place in the 3/4 race. I finished 21st overall. This is still my best finished yet at this event, though I'm still disappointed in the result.

The team did a stellar job to get 4 into the front group. Tom again did fantastic to pull out 2nd place, even though he attacked the field when Pete couldn't. In fact everyone attacked the field on the final run except for Pete, which is fine, since Pete got 4th, Dave got 6th, and Matt got 9th. Gary soldiered on to finish right behind me in 13th to round out the SBR team.

Nice job team.