Monday, June 6, 2011

Racing is the Best Training - Ride Sally Ride report

They say racing is the best training and I decided to make the most of this today. As someone who is 36 and a category 3 rider, it is possible to almost always race two races and on certain days you could even race as many as 4 races. Well today was one of those certain days. The Whole Wheel Velo Club Ride Sally Ride crit was on tap today for mid-Atlantic shaved legged bike pedaling crazies. It was a beautiful day (low 80's) and I was signed up for the later races (35+ open and 1/2/3). I was able to get to the course a little sooner than I expected and jumped into the category 3 race for the start of an insane day of racing/training. I was looking at 70 miles of racing, 112 laps and 336 right hand turns. Dizzy, dehydrated and depleted was on the menu.

I kept the warm up to a minimum and started the 3 race with 60+ other riders. Starting for Bike Doctor was Todd "Doc" Bickling, Robb "Wrob" Hampton, Mike Schneider, Sunny Gill, Cliff Chamberlain, Judd Walencikowski and myself. The plan was to have a few guys on the front and to keep some guys fresh for the finish in the pack and out of the wind. The course is very wide with 3 corners and a little uphill prior to the final corner. When you are in the field it is like riding behind a school bus, so lots of guys have fresh legs, the pace stays high and very little ever gets away. Cliff and Sunny covered most of the significant moves and the rest of us enjoyed the draft.

Around 5 to go Wrob, Doc and myself started moving up to join Sunny and Cliff. We were all sitting around the top 20. Sunny slotted in behind my wheel right about this time and said something. All I heard was "3 to go". I assumed he meant for me to go with 3 to go. I was all for this and had talked to some of the guys about going with 1.5-2 laps to go if it felt right. Because I hadn't heard Sunny clearly I needed to talk to him but just wasn't able to so I decided I would light it up with 1.5 laps to go and see what happens. Either Sunny could sit on and launch or he could let me go and create a good gap. We went with the latter and I gutted it out for a half lap and looked behind and saw that guys were breathing down my neck. I decided to keep the pace high and figured the rest of the team would benefit.

At the second to last corner I was caught and started getting passed, I sucked it up and tried to maintain some speed. I saw Sunny go flying by on my left just before the final corner and he looked like he was going to grab a nice placing. However racing bikes gives you that glimmer of hope and then snatches it from you in the blink of an eye. Just as the front of the pack rounded the last corner, a rider went down and nearly took Sunny with him. Sunny and about 10 other riders nearly came to a complete stop. I was able to slip under the crash and managed to grab 10th place.

I was surprised to not see some of the other fellas up there for the sprint. What I saw during the warm down lap, explained their absence. I saw Todd and Robb walking their bikes from the 2nd corner. Todd had gone down in the 2nd corner and Robb had to lock up the rear brake to keep from t-boning Doc. In the process Robb wore his tubular to the bone and flatted. Luck was not on our side this race.

The next race on the plate was the 35+ open and another 32 laps of fun. Bike Doctor fielded Brian Rist, Pete "Sit In, What's That?" Warner, Evan Ellicot, Cliff and myself. For this race I wanted to play a little more active role but still enjoy the school bus draft. The whistle blew for the start and Pete shot off like a cannonball and worked with a little group for a couple of laps. All of us stayed pretty active towards the front either covering moves (Cliff and Rist were all over the front) or instigating them through out the race. About midway Pete was off with another group of guys (Harley and XO) and I was up covering stuff when I heard the bell ring and the official yelled out pack preme. As we neared the 3rd corner I was behind two Harley guys and I decided to gun it before the turn and snag the preme. Sure enough I was able to grab it (cha-ching) and immediately sat back up to resume my blocking duties.

Pete's group eventually deteriorated and he flew solo for a couple laps until the pack finally consumed him with 8 or so to go. He was able to grab two premes while away. Things started winding up with 2 to go and I found Pete and got into pretty good position. Harley wound things up from about a lap to go and we hung on. Pete and I were able to pass a few guys in the final stretch and were able to get 8th and 7th respectively. Not bad for a couple of non-sprinters.

Race number 2 complete, burned a couple more matches and got another top 10. Not bad.

This last race, Category 1/2/3, for me was going to be pure training. No one from the team entering this race had fresh legs. We had Ellicot, Rist, Gill, Warner and myself ready to tackle another 48 laps. My goal was to try to help the team as much as possible by covering moves and try to hang on for at least half the race. I was definitely happy to see that my speed is coming back and I was able to follow moves and even instigate them. Now I just need to work on sustaining the speeds and recovery when in breakaways.

I saw the 24 lap to go card and I was happy to have met my goal. I continued to mix things up but was certainly wearing down. With 15 to go, I decided my time was up and made one last pull to bring back a breakaway that didn't have us in it. I managed to pull it back and then punched the eject button with 14 to go. I am not sure how the team fared in the finish because I left. I believe some more crashing occurred and some of the guys were caught up in them.

I was amazed at the sheer number of crashes that occurred throughout the day. This was a wide open course offering very little reason for crashing. I think guys just got squeezed from time to time when we went 4-5 guys wide into the corners.

My racing is the best training day was complete. I had two top 10's and 98 laps (60+ miles) under my belt without a crash. I was also able to rock my new "You Got Dropped" t-shirt proudly, hopefully nobody got a picture of me dropping out of the 1/2/3 race. I am pretty sure Bruce Buckley had left the scene.

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