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!