Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Road Review

My road season is essentially over, with possibly a few more races before I start to focus on the main event, cyclocross.

Looking back at this year on the road, there are a couple of things that stand out. The first thing I noticed was how very different the quality of fields are in the various 1/2 races. In the lower categories, with possibly the exception of Tulsa Tough, the fields were relatively consistent in terms of how hard the races were. In the 1/2 races, however, this is not the case. Big races definitely attract much, much stronger fields. Small races like the State Criterium and the Joe Sheehan RR were no more difficult than Cat 3 races, while Joe Martin and the Tour of Lawrence were brutal.

Also, it was interesting to finally witness some true team tactics coming into play during races. Again, in the lower categories, this is not as evident. Riding as a guest with the Mercy Elite Team was a crash course in riding for a team and protecting a GC leader. Definitely a highlight of the year.

Third, it was nice to see my own fitness coming along as the year progressed. At some point we all reach our full potential in terms of fitness. I've been creating my own training plans, and was not sure that would be enough this year. They seem to have worked out, for the most part, so that was a good sign. Lots of things to work on though, as always.

Overall, the season has gone well. I didn't do as well as I had hoped to do at some of the bigger races, but I did underestimate just how hard they were going to be. I learned a ton, met some great people and racers, and had a lot of fun as well.

Tour of Lawrence

After the Tour of Lawrence, I bailed to Canada for a week of R&R. So I'm finally getting back to this now.

Leading up to the race, it looked like nice hot temps, but as we got closer, the forecast called for rain both days. I'd anticipated these races to be the hardest two of the year for me. I was looking forward to the challenge.

As we drove to the course on Saturday, we drove right into the storm that had parked itself over Lawrence. At times on the highway I could barely see but for the taillights of other vehicles.

By the time we got to the race, the worst of it seemed to be over, but apparently a lot of debris had fallen on to the course in some sections, causing a delayed start for the Women's elite race.

By the start of our race, the rain had come back, and riders nervously were letting out air in their tires in preparation for slick conditions. I got a fairly decent starting position on the second row.

The very first hard 180 corner, people were slamming their brakes on, and I noticed I was sliding quite significantly. I saw one rider slide into the barriers here, then around the corner, many more were crashing to the right side of the road. Somehow I slid through, but there was another wreck to the left. At the bottom of the big descent, there was a hard left, and another rider slid out here. By the time we were to the first of the two climbs on the course, there had already been about 5 crashes that I saw, and the field was completely strung out.

I was not feeling good about the race at this point. I got in a small group for the rest of the lap, only to have the leader of our group slide out after the descent on lap 2. The front end of the race was completely out of sight now, so I was content to get another group together and ride tempo. I finally got into a group with Adam Mills, Jason Knight, and Matt Baugher and thought I would ride with them till the finish. Just as the roads were starting to dry out, and our little group picked up the pace a bit, I broke a spoke. At that point, I rode back to the feed zone alone, borrowed one of Adam's wheels (I don't think he knew about this), did a lap and got pulled. (Despite other pulled riders getting placed, I somehow was put down as a dnf)

Somehow, I managed to get sick between the Circuit race and Sunday's criterium. After driving over and warming up for a little while, the mind and the body were in full revolt. Despite the course feeling much better than Saturday's even though it was again wet and raining, I decided to just go home. The fact that I even considered not starting told me I was not mentally prepared to race that day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sense from Chaos

"At this level, you don't have time to think, only react. If you think, you've missed it." -JB, after I completely missed the sprint in my first 1/2 race.

I’ve come to realize that there is always something to learn on the bike. In races, there is often so much going on, that the only way to figure out what just happened is to look back and reflect on how the story unfolded. It is very easy to postulate and wax poetic about something before it happens. You can analyze and prod, look at all the angles, predict the most sensible outcomes. Even so, things never turn out the way even the most prophetic would expect.

As I learned in physics, formula and equations only work in a vacuum. Reality is far too complex to enumerate so simply.

And so we race. And after, we try to make sense of the chaos.

Tour of KC

The 2010 Breakthrough Tour of Kansas City featured some really enjoyable stages, very hot and humid weather, and some strong fields. I skipped the Friday race at longview lake due to a late start time and to save the legs for Cliff Drive.

My first KC area race was at Cliff Drive in 2008. It is a fun circuit race, features one steep, winding climb plus a shorter gradual climb, a fun and technical descent, at just under 3 miles per lap.

The Pro/1/2 race was about 50 miles in the heat of the afternoon. I struggled to drink enough during the race. I tried to get into some promising looking moves, but nothing that I was in stuck. I was far too ambitious early, and was feeling the effects of my efforts plus the heat about half way through the race. After hanging in the group for a few more laps, I realized I was not going to be able to climb with the group any more. I rode two "cool down" laps with Matt Baugher (epic) then pulled the plug.

Sundays race, Power & Light Criterium, was a fun, very short (~.5mi), course. It only goes around one downtown block over the Interstate, which is pretty neat. Corner 3 and 4 are super fast at the bottom of a little hill, but the course is wide open so you carry a ton of speed through the bottom half. I got there early to volunteer with Janelle until my race. We corner marshalled at the super fast corner, which provided great views of the action. Our race went by surprizingly fast. At about half way through, Nick Coil (Tradewind Energy) and Jeff Hartman (Big Shark) had already lapped the field. In the final laps, things got even more chaotic. Somehow, I ended up in a small group off the front of another group. We got lapped again by Nick and Jeff, and we lapped Brian Jenson (Tradewind) and Brad Huff's (Jelly Belly) group. Thus, the sprint involved people on three different laps. I really had no idea where I was overall, but guessed that I ended up 10th. (Actually, when the dust settled, I was 8th.)

In all, it was a good weekend of racing. Up next: The Tour of Lawrence.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Beginning


I intend to use this blog to share race reports, product reviews, and training epiphanies - through the lens of a west-coaster living in the heart of the midwest.