Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tour de Dung #1: Goodbye Cat 5

The scene near Sequim for the "Tour de Dung" #1 road race this Saturday:

Crisp late-winter/early-spring air, no rain, good turnout, nice views of the mountains (though I never saw them during the race - too many wheels to pay attention to), and nice wide roads. What a venue for racing!

This was my final Cat 5 race, so the goal was mostly to stay upright. Of course, a win wouldn't hurt, and like many others out there that day of course I felt like maybe this was my day for a "W"..

Confusion before the race

Waited in registration line for 20 minutes, then when I'm almost there they say "Cat 5 is full!"

And then they say, "We're running another Cat 5 field, but it's in about two hours."

****! We drove 2 hours out there, including a 40 minute ferry, and this is what happens?

Later on we hear "Odd-numbered Cat 5's are going first, Evens second, in 1 1/2 hours." Now that I can deal with, I lucked out..

The Odd-Numbered Cat 5 Race

So eventually I line up with another team mate, Kyle, who is pretty new to racing but pretty strong as well. A few words and we're off on the neutral rollout, which seemed to take forever. Guys up front were yelling and waving at the lead car to speed it up.. After a kilometer or so the car speeds up and we're on!

The pace was a bit higher than at Mason, which made since given the wider road and smaller pack. With only about 50 of us it wasn't super crowded, and even felt like a small pack at times. Some Cycle U guys (or was it just one) was setting the pace at the front a lot, along with an unattached guy. The unattached guy at the front seemed to pull forever, and pull hard, which was great for all of us resting up for the end of the race.

It was like having a team mate up front putting the hurt on the pack for you - totally sacrificing themselves for your glory. Except, they probably figured they were "racing strong" and "setting the pace" - which may be true, but those two things don't always win bike races. Sometimes racing smarts come into play and the smartest (e.g. the most rested) racer might win.

Before too long I moved up the side of the pack, and spotted another Recycled Cycled kit up ahead - rode up and introduced myself to another team mate in the pack. Cool, that makes three of us!

The course goes something like this: a little gentle climb that isn't too long, a turn, a little downhill, a turn, a longer uphill that's still gentle, some more turns, two steep-but-short "sprinters hills" and then a flat straight finish. Twelve mile loops.

Only three laps for us 5's, so this would be another roughly 1.5 hour race like Mason last week. Could I go for a breakaway, and go out with a bang in the 5's? If it wasn't for the wind I might have thought harder about it, but I was ok with just surfing the pack and basically waiting for the finish.

On the front? Sure.

Though I usually don't really spend much time on the 'business-end' of the peloton that often in races, I guess I got bored at some points in this race and decided to do just that. Cycle U was still setting a good pace up front, and I rode up front and started matching the pace and sometimes upping it slightly.

On the second lap Kyle, a strong new rider on our team, started slowly riding away from the pack on the longer uphill, and before too long had 10 meters or so on the field. An RCR attack, nice. Being used to racing unattached my first instinct is to chase, and at first I think I did speed up a little..

But I eventually settled in and watched Kyle ride away from us, getting smaller and smaller. Given his nice result at the TT a few weeks ago I figured he might have a chance to stay away. And stay away he did for a few minutes, but once we took a turn and got the nice tailwind we started gaining on him and swallowed him up. Nice try though!

One interesting thing about being on the front was how challenging it can be to get off the front! In a training ride or most other rides you just swing off when you're ready to rest. But when pedaling into a headwind with 52 people on your wheel, and nobody wants to work, swinging off may not be enough to shake them.

Apparently if the pack is comfortable with your pace they'll just swing with you and stay on your wheel. Once I swung off, thinking I was safely out of the way, and slowed down only to hear a bunch of people yelling "slowing!" behind me.. ooops, well at least I didn't hit the brakes or anything.. a learning experience though.

To 'break the elastic' I just sprinted off the front for about 10 seconds, and then sat up. Then the pack came around and I was able to get in 10th wheel, just where I wanted to be in order to rest but not be too far back. (But it sounds like next time I should just be more patient, and the pack will come around eventually)

Last Lap!

The last lap comes and we're all antsy, and the pace picks up. One rider took off somewhere in the last 5 miles or so, and I figured it was "too early" and the pack just let him go. So many times I've seen people go off the front only to be reeled back a minute later - hell it's been me a few times.. though this guy is holding a nice pace, and gaining ground on us.

Breaking Away?

The solo guy is way off the front, and I'm holding in decent position up front - and as we get in the last few miles I decide maybe this is my chance to bridge up to him? So I launch an attack off the front, though I didn't really give it everything.. I didn't want to blow up early so I was putting in about 90% of a true break effort, hoping I could somehow a) hold off the pack and b) not blow up.. but in reality I'm not sure anything besides a 100% break effort will work.

About three strokes into my "attack" I'm looking down at my burning legs and thinking "what the fuck am I doing??" They're on fire but I press on, just trying to keep the gas on. A quick look back and they look smaller than normal, cool.

Once out there alone in the wind you realize (yet again) how hard it is to go fast solo. Soon I let up and the pack was quick to come around, and fast too - it took quite an effort just to grab a wheel while recovering from my attack. What was probably only 20-30 seconds off the front felt like a micro-eternity.

I was just barely recovered when we hit the first hard riser, and those of us up front were standing and going all out - it seemed like a "selection" was being made. So I dug deep and found something and hung with them. We crested and the solo break is still up the road, fending us off.

Final Wind-up

The 1 km sign is here and now we see it's just a field sprint for 2nd place. The pack is fast and fluid, and I'm smack dab in the middle of the mix, just hoping nobody in front of me crashes for no good reason.

An unattached guy in red got DQ'd for going over the yellow (center) line near the end - ouch. It was weird having an official in a moving car next to us yelling at someone in the pack, and a tad distracting at about 30 mph, but those are the rules. (yellow/black kits) guys are out in full force with 4-5 guys up front. My team mate Erin seems to be a good sprinter and is in front of me. We're all poised, ready for the 200 meter sign and ready to sprint it out.

Going through my mind are "Cat 5 pack-sprint horror stories" so I'm just hoping it's a clean sprint and nobody does the "I'm a Pro looking-at-my-feet-while-sprinting" thing and ends up riding off the road (it happens).

The 200 meter sign is here, and.... nothing happens. !!!!

Someone behind me actually yells "GO!!!!!" and finally those up front open up. The sprint seemed to go by quickly and I felt like I was gaining ground on a few people next to me, but not close enough to the front. Crossed the line somewhere in the top 10 I figured, so I was happy. (Official result was 10th)

Prior to all the chaos at the end of the race I had a plan for the sprint - since the wind was coming out of the east, this meant a cross-wind from the right on the final sprint. So jumping from the right side of the road to the left, from the pack, and then shooting around the pack was my plan of attack. But in the end I was surrounded with nowhere to go.

Nice job to Alan from for taking the win! It was a fun race. Now on to the 4's!


The Masters C/D field rolling out:

Cat 5's rolling out:

Cat 4's roll out:

Cat 4's rollout (part 2/3):

Cat 4's rollout (3/3) - look at all that RCR blue & gold!

Cat 5's rollout:

Cat 5's rollout (2/2):

Women's Cat 4 rolling out:

Men's Cat 4 peloton - with Mark M. from SCCA/Starbucks leading the charge. (He won the race! Nice job Mark! Can't wait to sprint against you...)

Second wheel in the Cat 5 peloton - loving every minute of it, except when the HR goes above 190 bpm or so.

The Women's Cat 4 field:

Finish Video

Check out the finish video from my Cat 5's race. If you look closely you can see me coming in for 10th! Nice job to the solo break away for holding us off!

Race Stats

Sequim Cat 5's race (no neutral rollout):
Duration: 1:33:27
Work: 1150 kJ
TSS: 120.7 (intensity factor 0.88)
Norm Power: 251
VI: 1.22
Distance: 34.918 mi
Elevation Gain: 2697 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1017 205 watts
Heart Rate: 98 189 165 bpm
Cadence: 31 146 87 rpm
Speed: 3.5 46.7 22.4 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1550 193 lb-in

Final windup/sprint:
Duration: 1:43
Distance: 0.786 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 941 330 watts
Heart Rate: 160 182 173 bpm
Cadence: 39 112 92 rpm
Speed: 15.5 37.4 27.5 mph

Other blogs/videos of this race:

Thanks to Garage Racing for putting on the event, and to Kira for driving out there! Also thanks to Dungeness, WA for hosting us for the day. See you again on Saturday!


Michael said...

Nice recap and congrats on getting out of the 5's safely. This was my first race. I'm in the second pic (in all black) on the right, not too far behind you.


Alan Nagata said...

Matt Great racing out there on Saturday. Good luck this up coming weekend in the 4s. I plan on joining you the first weekend of April. Hey Michael, I think I talked to you for a bit in the race. Check out E-mail Scott Weeks If your interested.


Ryan D said...

Thanks for the props bro - nice blog yourself. Alas I was referring to Todd Gallaher, not Herriot. And we we're the masters race, not cat 1/2s. Still, it's nice to see the energy out there for racing! Keep it up...Ryan