Monday, July 1, 2013

On how NOT to race a bicycle

So this week was primarily focused on getting over myself, I mean my half, the first couple of days.  Monday and Wednesday were off and I swam four days in a row at masters for the first time in quite some time, which was pretty sweet. It's nice to feel like I am getting back into swim shape WITH enhanced focus on sweet, sweet technique.

S - 17,900 yards
B - 64.5 miles
R - 19.2 miles

Time - 11.36 hours

But the thing that excited me most this week was my big return/comeback to bike racing in 2013.  The last time I raced was in March or April of 2012 at the NODA Grand Prix.  That race was the day after Belews and it was on a fairly technical, tight course.  That does not suit my strengths (what little of those I have in the bike racing world anyway).  Now the Double Down Challenge in Kershaw, SC was on a motor racing track.  Big, sweeping turns that can fit 3-4 cars side by side through each one, good pavement, relatively small field (40ish versus 80ish at NODA).  I have become more of a time trialist and less of a sprinter over the past couple of years.  It is sad.

Anyway, the point was, I wanted to win. I knew that I could win.  The likelihood of anybody in that field being SO MUCH fitter than me AND being a better sprinter was relatively small.  I saw Sasha Timkovich at the start who is a phenomenal time trialist over the 40k distance (he beat me by 80s at the NC State TT last year, which is a LOT) but my knowledge of anybody else in the 3s and 4s was limited to non-existent.

The race would be 45' which would end up translating into either 8 or 9 laps, I cannot remember.  It ended up being about 18.5 miles if I am not mistaken.  It was easy to find a good position at the start since the "road" was so wide so I was right on the front line, which was nice.

Two guys took off almost immediately and no one else seemed interested.  The pace remained relatively easy with one minor acceleration (and by minor I mean almost 1100 watts...IDIOT) on my part and by the second to last turn the two guys had what appeared to be almost 20-30s.  Not knowing how strong they were I, like the smart racer I was, decided to go to the front, get aero and try to minimize the gap a little bit (idiot).

I hit the finish straight pretty good and the group bunched back up still in pursuit of the two leaders but someone counter-attacked to get to them at the same time.  The group of three remained in front through the end of the second lap as well and I found myself in an all-too familiar position again...

The laps came and went and I kept responding to attacks like I had some sort of teammate/s to work with.  I am honestly not really sure what I was doing.  It was pretty windy out there and the course was quite exposed so I kept burning match after match (unknowingly) and repeatedly found myself pulling on the front. I distinctly remember at one point saying to myself: "What the F*** are you doing? This 275 watts on the front "feels" easy but 150 watts sitting in would feel even easier!"  Anyway, I was upset with myself but couldn't stop.

With 2 laps to go the race bunched up a lot as it had come back together completely on the lap before.  This was the sketchiest part of the whole race.  It amazes me that there is SO MUCH ROOM on the bike course and people still manage to handle their bike like morons.  There is no excuse for that on a course like this.  It is as safe as safe can possibly get (or rather, it should be).  The last lap brought with it a couple more attacks, to which I - obviously - responded.

By the third to last corner I was really, really hurting having responded to practically everything the whole race.  By the second to last corner I came extremely close to getting sideswiped by someone swerving dramatically and at that point I lost all interest in contesting the sprint.  If I had felt good perhaps I would've still tried but I didn't and so I didn't.

Things I learned:

1) I am fit enough to get away with stuff like this in 4s and 5s, but not when they are actually fit 3s in the mix.
2) Don't race on 700x25 training tires again
3) Warm up more
4) Sit in, sit in, sit in, sit in, sit in...SIT IN.
5) Patience, patience, patience.

I was pretty upset with myself after the race.  I have raced a lot and know what I am doing but did not show any of that on Saturday.  Bike racing is a skill, a skill that requires practice.  I am out of practice.

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