Friday, July 9, 2010

Notes from Seward Park: June/July 2010

Last three weeks at Seward have been great - no rain, nice temps, and decent fields. Good clean racing in the city.

6/10/2010 - 3/4's 6 PM race

For some reason* I was hurting like it was my first race all over again in this one. After 20 or 30 minutes I wanted to pull out, but pride and the thought of posting about being dropped kept me in there, but barely.

During the race a team mate Chris asked me how I was feeling, and I said shitty, real shitty. He thought I was joking but I was in the red zone like it was a year ago and I'd just started racing.

*my theory on the poor performance was that I'd been slacking/resting that week, and the charts in WKO even reflected this, with my TSB reacing a high of +20 on that day (meaning fitness was low).

6/17/2010 - 3/4's race

This was an animated race for me, as fitness was back up and I was feeling good. Went for one of the first primes, was first up the little hill, but then Jeff (strong unattached cat 5) and Mark (strong cat 3) were on my wheel. Actually Jeff had come around me, and I was now sitting on his wheel. I got to take a two-second rest in his draft, and as the line was approaching I went around him, with flashbacks to the velodrome and calculated sprints.

The only thing was that Mark was on my wheel, and waited to jump around me when I went. Duh. We went head to head for the preme, and he just barely beat me out - which in itself is progress for me from last year. Close...

We had a gap on the pack at this point but were obviously hurting, so we coasted and sipped our water, waiting for the pack.

On the next preme lap, I went from the bottom of the hill (or before) and this time nobody was on my wheel, and I was able to take it! First preme won at Seward, won a water bottle, some Nuun tablets, and $10. Raced for free!

6/24/2010 - 3/4's race

Started off hard in this one, hammered on the front for the first two laps, and was already hurting by then. Just got my Cat 3 upgrade sticker, it was official! That probably made me push a little harder, just for fun.

A preme came a lap or two later, and I went for it at the bottom of the hill (going clockwise this time), but nobody even tried to go with me. What's up with that? I kept on hammering, not worried too much that nobody chased.

10 seconds later I saw why nobody was going with me - there was a rider way up the road! He had snuck off the front at some point, and was about to beat me out for this preme. This made me push that much harder, and while he was blowing up I was accelerating, I could tell it was gonna be close but I just kept pushing harder and harder.

I passed him maybe 10 feet from the line, much to his dismay, and to the delight of spectators and myself. Another preme!! Just goes to show you should never give up.

Now I was really hurting, even though it was only 11 minutes or so into the race.. the pack caught back up and I filtered through it, still huffing and puffing, still recovering. Then I found myself on the back, then I found myself off the back.

It all happened so fast, and before I knew it it was silence all around me, and the 10-meter gap from me to the pack seemed insurmountable. Legs on fire, lungs gasping. Dammit! And this was at the bottom of the hill too..

I let the peloton go on the uphill, and settled into a nice 6 mph pace up the hill. At the top Randy asked if I crashed out but I said no it was the preme, it did me in! For the first time in racing for a year at Seward, I had to pull out and take a lap or two off. Never thought it would happen, but I guess I dropped myself!

Got back in and just sat in the pack, not going for any premes since I'd pulled out of the race already. (but you're allowed to jump back in at Seward) When the final sprint came an automatic response happened and I found myself sprinting and in the top 10. Love sprinting up that hill going clockwise!

Raced for free!

7/1/2010 - 3/4's race

An aggressive race for me, trying to get in almost all the breaks, but when I'd get there usually I was too cooked to do anything useful besides sit on the back. And then we'd get caught anyway...

Team mate JC is back in action after a month or so off, good to see him back in it! He was active in this race as well. Other team mate, Mike, was giving me advice about tactics in the race: if you're on the front, then you need to chase down breaks or bridge attempts. True, but it's tough on a course like this, which isn't quite a criterium but not quite a circuit race or road race either. It's just a loop with one turn. and a climb each lap.

Being a 3 now team tactics are coming up more, and we always theoretically want someone in the break if there is one, if not initiating the break. The problem is that so many of them fail, so it's tough to which ones are worth covering and which ones aren't. Part of what will eventually make that easier is knowing who's who in the peloton.

This race was interesting because they always have four prime laps, usually about 10 laps in and then interspersed throughout the race. People are expecting this format, so they switched it up a bit this time. 25 laps in total, and with 15 to go people are already getting antsy for a prime. At 10 to go people are already yelling at the race organizer to ring the bell! Nothing but silence.

5 to go, and finally the bell goes off. Four preme laps in a row, then the finish lap?! If you're not super strong you've got to pick one of those to go for. I picked the finish, but it was tough just hanging on with all the prime surges, much less the setup for the final lap.

Came in the top 15 in this one, nothing special. But it was fun.

7/8/2010 - 1/2/3's race

Was at work too long so didn't make it back to the hill in time for the 6 PM Cat 3/4's race. So I opted to finally try my hand in the 1/2/3's race at 7 PM, the "A" race on the weekly schedule.

Got there with a few minutes to spare, and chatted with team mate Ian who had just done the 5:30 4/5's race, then the 6 pm 3/4's race too! He'll be a Cat 3 before too long, I'm sure. Another team mate, Eric, who's a 3 as well, was there for the 1/2/3's race. Cool, a team mate in the race!

I recognized some of the guys lining up as Cat 1's, ex-pros, even WSBA #1 was there, David Richter. I'm probably every Cat 1's nightmare: just upgraded to the 3's and already looking to mix it up with the big kids.

For the most part the peloton just looked older, more tan, and nicer equipment than the other races. And they go faster too, with breaks forming usually on the first lap. 1 hour race instead of the 45 minutes of the 6 PM race.

Goals: hang on, hang on, hang on.

From the start there was indeed a break of some kind being attempted, and the pack was strung out all the way down the hill. In the 3/4's race the peloton will usually bunch up at the very bottom of the hill, but in this race you had to work to catch back on, the pack not bunching up until almost 100m later.

The first 15 minutes of this race were the most painful, and I found myself drifting from the middle to the back, and struggling to hold a wheel on the downhill. Guess people were chasing a break, so the pack was strung out for a while.

On the steep-but-short uphill I felt strong enough, and could keep up pretty easily. Cool. But it was that downhill that was the most challenging in this race.

At about 30 minutes in the peloton slowed down a bit, and I got a chance to rest. We slowed so much a guy in the pack yells, "Everyone's getting tiiiired!" in a teasing way and jumps out for an attack. Nice.

We sped back up, and this time I found myself back in the middle, closer to the race itself and not struggling to hang on. Eventually moved up so much that I found myself trying to bridge to the break, trying to hang on Richter's wheel! He was being marked by a K-R guy, who already had someone in the break. On the uphill all of a sudden I didn't feel so strong, but fought to hold a wheel. Was overheating. Ouch.

Held on for a lap I think, but the pack caught us eventually. The break never came back.

The rest of the race was a blur, it was just a lot of hammering after the turn, and getting a nice aero tuck on the downhill. Some aero wheels would probably help... but Open Pros will do for now.

With 5 laps to go, I was excited thinking to myself that I did it! I hung on, finished my first 1/2/3's race.

Was not in a great position on the final lap, but still gave it my all on the uphill before the slightly uphill sprint to the line. Yeah, I was sprinting for 20th, sue me. One guy yelled "It's over!!" as I flew by, and he was right: the break had stuck, all 6 guys collecting the only spots that matter at the finish, and everything after that was pointless.

He's probably done this race 300 times, but this being my first 1/2/3 race I at least wanted to beat out some other 3's I recognized. Came in on the back of the first finish group after the break, I think about 20th-25th. Success!

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