Monday, August 01, 2011

Lakewood Criterium - Master's and the free lap rule.

The Lakewood Criterium was on Saturday 7/30. A really nice course, closed to traffic. I had it just over a mile long. Events running from 1:00 until 7:00 had the area in party mode. The course is mostly flat, with a minor hill leading to the start/finish straight on Detroit. There is a head wind leading to and on Sloane. Aside from that, the races were made hard by the racers themselves.

Being on the sponsor team I did some work before lining up in the Master's field with Zak. Not a lot to tell about, being a 45 minute race, so I'll use this post and the story to describe a bit on the Free Lap Rule... as I have come to understand it.

So... this is the first time I have raced a crit with a free lap rule. The idea is that the course is so short, and bad things happen, so a rider can recover from a flat, mechanical or crash, taking one lap out and rejoin the field without penalty. The eloquent Charles Howe has a nice section on the free lap discretion. It's all up to the officials.

And the race: At the whistle, John Sell (Cleveland Clinic/RGF) goes hard... like a cyclocross race start. For the first five laps, we average about 26. During the fifth lap, a group of three gets away. Chris Riccardi from Lake Effect, Rick Parr from StarkVelo, and my team mate Zak from Team Spin. Then Lake Effect takes the front with a Stark and myself sitting just behind to let the gap grow. John Sell jumps across on Sloan and in 15 minutes the winning break is gone.

A few guys try to bring the break back, but it's not happening with the numbers protecting team mates up the road. There are still 30minutes to go though... so the pace drops to about 24.5 while the break is established.

Now for the free lap rule. Somewhere near lap 10, the field (now down to about 10-15) comes through the start/finish and John Sell rejoins. He flatted out of the break, grabbed a wheel from the wheel pit and rejoined the race. He was allowed to rejoin the break, but I guess didn't make the timing. So the official had him rejoin the field.

Now I'm thinking there is a break of three, and John will ride with the field. So I continually wait for him  or his team mate to either attack the field... and my plan is to follow that move, or (unlikely) for them to pull the break back. Neither happens. We continue along, and at some point, I realize John is not with us anymore. K, I still think there is a break of three up the road.

Meanwhile, Nate and Joe from Lake Effect are on the front about ALL the time. OK by me, since it's work I don't have to do. I sit in the top 5 or so, and wait. We're going slower and guys that were dropped keep coming back to the field.

Timing get a little weird here, but I think with 6 to go, Nate has a mechanical of some sort at the turn onto Sloane. We go through the start/finish and they announce 5 to go... and the end of the free lap rule.

At this point, I figure the break is long gone, so we can start racing bikes again. I hoped with RGF or Lake Effect would start the fun, but they didn't. So, I attack on Sloane and get a gap. It takes about a lap for Joe from Lake Effect to bridge up, and I think we have a chance to make up the next two spots. With three to go we lap Nate. Though it's a bit confusing. First, we caught him after the first turn... so he wasn't entering the course at the "right" spot for the free lap. So when he came up on me, I asked him to work... thinking it was now two against one in the second group. I got some complaints, and some talk from Joe as well. Either way, with the confusion and chase effort we were brought back by the remaining field with two to go.

I had a lap or so of "recovery", and tried another attack on Sloane on the last lap. Lead the field into the final straight, got passed by a couple and sat up figuring all the paying spots were taken... we had someone in the top three... and I might jump into another race. Lots of thoughts to have during the final 500m.

So, what did happen on the free lap?

John Sell dropped off the main field and rejoined the break, effectively taking a free two laps. He handled everything well, probably drove the break more and won the sprint but was relegated to fourth for the extra lap.

Nate's magnet slipped into his spokes. He stopped on the spot and fixed it, and did a rolling free lap. He did not stop at the wheel pit to request a free lap. Which I now know is required. He would not have been given one by the rules anyway, so he was a lap down. He could work for the team, but is not allowed to contest sprints or primes, if I understand this all now.

I don't know if Nate's handling of the rule would have made a difference on my race. I don't really know how close the field was, or if we were getting anywhere. It didn't feel like Joe and I were working all that well together, so I'm guess the result would have been the same. I'm using it to learn about what to do if I need to use the rule.

Zak ended up third after John's relegation. So a good result for the team. For the data nerds (like me), my Master's race ended up at 21 miles in 50 minutes for an average of 25.2mph. I ended up 11th, which is a bit frustrating only because I sat up. The payout was 8 deep. Second lesson... sprint for placing, and think later.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rally, Rally!

Another neglected blog, but I've been writing a lot for work... so something had to give this spring.

I have been riding a bit, and even racing. I did a couple of the RATL series master's races, and did reasonably well after the initial shock of remembering how crazy it is to ride bikes fast... inches from some other crazy who wants to ride fast also... Got a few primes, and even placed well. I did a couple of Westlake Worlds to remember what it means to ride fast... sometimes. And attempted to do the State Road race in shreve... that turned into a long training ride, but I did learn something about riding alone and efforts. I may write a short power blog sometime.

I did get the pass to do the Raccoon Rally this year. I think this is my tenth Rally in 14 years! Wow... that's a couple of years of race.

Derek and I lined up in the Masters field of 15 for what promised to be a wet day in the saddle. The Raccoon Rally road race is a hilly 48 mile race of two laps over two climbs. Seven miles up, seven miles down, five miles up five miles down, repeat. The climbs are pretty constant, with only minor grade changes but you end up at nearly 3000 feet of climbing. Of the field of fifteen, the numbers were with MVC having four and one Lake Effect, then our two. I think everyone else was alone.

From the gun, one rider set an early tempo up the first climb. Derek and I sat close behind, monitoring his pace. At about six miles in, he shifted and slowed as we hit the first steeper grade, so I continued the steady pace for a pull, then Derek came through for his pull. He upped the pace a bit to the top of the climb. At the top, I upped it again, being on flatter ground, when someone indicated we had a sizable gap on "the field".

Over the top and onto the descent, a couple of pulls later, I dropped to the back of our group to size up the situation. We were down to eight at the start of the first descent, with two MVC, Derek and I, and four singles including Phil from Lake Effect. I rolled up along the group to inform Derek of the numbers, and promptly rolled right off the front.

My intent was to up the pace again on the descent, instead I somehow got a descent gap. It was the lamest attack ever, but effective I guess. I've ridden this race plenty of times, chasing in small groups or alone, so I had an idea of how to manage this descent... and it would get Derek a free ride out of the wind, so I committed to go. At the bottom of the first descent, I had maybe 500m. OK, climb two.... manage the climb quickly, but keep it smooth to stay away as long as possible.

At the top of the second climb, I still had a descent gap, but could see the chase. So... descend the second hill like a mad man. I love these descents, and I worked it the whole way down. Let's see how long they'll let me stay away. I opened the gap back up into the start of the second lap, maybe to a little under a kilometer. Then, I somehow got over the second time up first climb alone... with no sign of the group. I started to wonder if I could make it all the way.

On the back side descent, I slowed to eat... the rain had things a little dicey, and I didn't want to risk anything. I still had to make it over the last climb. I figured if I still had a gap at the top, then the race was mine. A 40 mile solo victory would be SWEET. If I got caught, then Derek should be fresh... and I can help him from there.

Half way up the last climb, I could see (hear from a chase vehicle) that the group was gaining on me. I kept the pace steady, but knew I would not make it alone. The group caught me nearly at the top. Derek looked pretty good sitting second wheel as they came by. So, I settled in fourth wheel for a half minute, when we hit what had to be the last steep part of the hill. No one had countered my move, so I attacked the pitch HARD to get the race moving again.

I got a small gap over the top and started working my descent. I thought I was caught when I let the first guy by me, Derek was there and told me to get that wheel. The attack had split the group so there was only four, Derek and I and two singles. We rolled a little, and I attacked again. A smaller gap, but I made the singles work to pull me back... then I rolled to the back, and repeat the attack. Each time Derek was able to sit, while the singles brought me back. I think I attacked this group three, maybe four times. You'd think they'd get tired of that trick...

Near the bottom of the descent Derek attacked and only one of the two followed. I coasted, and rolled the other off their wheel. He didn't expect me to let the race go... but I sat on his wheel as Derek and the other guy rolled away. He tried to get away a couple of times, as did I, but it was clear we would not let each other go. Derek looked fine up ahead, and I trusted him to take the two up sprint.

At the base of the final approach, I tried one last time to get away for third, but my legs were done, and I had no response for my his acceleration over the last incline into the line. I accepted fourth, compensated and rewarded for my work by Derek's WIN!!!

What an absolute FANTASTIC day on the bike. Rain and all, it was a super way to ride this race. 35 miles alone, it felt like the suicide break. Then to get caught and still punish the chasers toward the Team win!