Posted by: Travis | February 2, 2009

Race Wrap Up – Early Bird Crit Week 5 – 2/1/2009

Today was easily the most fun i’ve had racing a crit so far.

I found out this week that the clothing order for our team has been delayed a couple weeks. Since it was going to be late February before i had my team kit (uniform), i decided to ask current members if they had an old jersey they were looking to get rid of. Luckily i was able to get a hold of one, so this was the first race i’ve done in an official Webcor – Alto Velo team jersey.

As usual, we started the day off with a clinic. Today we focused on threaded pacelines. In this case two lines of riders ride parallel to each other with just enough space for a person in between. Riders then take turns pedaling up between the lines, occasionally bumping shoulders or elbows with riders they pass. Done at speed, this drill is meant to get people comfortable moving up in a pack and navigating tight spaces, while getting used to a fair amount of bumping. The clinic was  very helpful this week.

There’s a race that happens between the clinic and my race (the women’s race), and i’ve found that not doing anything for that hour of free time leaves my legs feeling heavy and cold. Toward the end of that hour i’ve found it best to warm up for about 20 minutes on the stationary trainer.

warm-up

As we lined up for the race, i found that there were 4 other guys there from my team. None of us had met before, so we sat for about 10 minutes and got to know each other. We lined up together and promised to do our best to ride together. Talking race tactics with teammates you just met is kind of a waste of time, so there wasn’t much of that.

The gun fired and we were off. One of my teammates, Will, was talking before the race about trying to go away on a break, but i decided not to commit given the struggles i had in my last race. Midway through the first lap i worked myself to the front 10 or so in the group. I decided to sit in for a while and see how my legs felt. In the second lap Will saw me on his wheel and jumped out of the group to try and break away. I decided ‘what the hell’ and followed. We got 3 guys clear but Will took too long of a pull and blew up. The other guy didn’t want to do any work so we sat up and got swallowed back up into the field. I was still feeling remarkably good so i kept going. I was able to get into 2 or 3 more breaks, but all of them died pretty quickly. At that point i was getting pretty tired and decided that even though i was feeling good, i couldn’t sustain going away in breaks all day long. I spent the next few laps just sitting in the group.

sitting-in

After a few laps i was feeling good again and worked my way back up to the front of the group. When i got to the front we had a few Alto Velo guys up there so Will, Johanas, and i took off the front with a guy who rides for UC Berkely. Since we had three guys from the same team that were willing to work together, i thought we might have a chance. But since we were getting close to the end of the race a group assembled at the front of the pack and reeled us back in. Another few guys then jumped off the front and i chased, part trying to reel them back in, part trying to bridge up to the break.

Bridging up to the break

Bridging up to the break

That break also got caught pretty quickly.

The last lap snuck up on me pretty quickly (we raced for only 30 minutes instead of the 40 minutes we were supposed to because the race started late). It certainly didn’t help that i spent most of the time riding on the other side of the pack from the lap cards. This week’s lesson: pay attention to the lap cards.

Since i went into the last lap after having ridden the last few in breaks, there was no way i had enough energy left to do well in the sprint. But now that i had teammates, i could certainly help to lead out a teammate for the sprint. Coming around the first corner of four in the last lap i got stuck behind a crash. I had to sprint just to catch back onto the group, but kept my speed and was getting close to the front with my teammates as they were trying to organize for the sprint. Then, coming around the last corner i got stuck behind yet another crash that spread out across the entire road and left me unable to help my teammates out in the sprint. I ended up finishing alone a few seconds after the group had come through.

finish

Racing with teammates added a whole level of fun to bike racing, and that’s from racing with guys that that i met 10 minutes before the start. I can’t imagine how much fun it is when you have a core group of guys that really know each other well. While it certainly would have been better to not get stuck behind the crash and properly lead out a teammate, i still had a blast today. I felt surprisingly good out riding in breaks. I still can’t hold those high levels of power for long enough to survive in a break, but that doesn’t mean that trying isn’t fun. Creating space for teammates, pulling teammates up through the group, and flying up the side of the pack in a single line alto velo train feels too cool for words. I’m getting much more comfortable riding in the pack, and can feel myself making progress. The thought that i could be 10-15 lbs lighter and be in significantly better shape than i am now gives me quite a bit of hope for the upper end of my bike racing potential. Though i maintain that i have no career aspirations in racing a bike, but i would love for it to be something that i can do for fun for a very long time.

Next week is the Cherry Pie Crit up in Napa. Top three places in each race get a cherry pie. I like cherry pie. It would be really fun to do well there. Some of our favorite pro riders are riding the pro/1/2 race in preperation for the Tour of California, so i think Rachel and i are going to grab lunch after my race and then come back for the pro race. It should be a blast.

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