Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ontario 5 - 14th-ish

Holy smokes, I knew it was going to be hot up at Ontario today. What I didn't realize was that Ontario seems to have been moved onto the surface of Mercury. As we waited for the start of the race, one of the guys beside got a reading of 112 degrees from his bike computer. My feet were about ready to burn in my shoes as we waited for the race to start.

I was a little nervous heading into this one. It was a full field of 75+ guys and as we all know by now, there always seems to be at least one crash at Ontario, particularly in the category 4/5 race. A full field like this only means more opportunity for chaos.

Empirical evidence over the past 3 races I've entered, has shown that I'm not going to be sprinting or jumping away from anyone for a while yet. So my plan going into this race was two pronged:

1. With 15 or 20 minutes to go, if the opportunity presented itself to get away in a break, give it everything I had to see if I could make it work.
2. If the race was heading to a bunch finish, get one of my teammates to the front for the finish.

Unfortunately I failed in both attempts. The break opportunity never really presented itself. There were a few moments when one guy or another was 5 seconds ahead of the field, but I was always jammed in the middle of the field when this happened, so it was impossible for me to try to get up the road and join in on the fun.

As far as the helping a teammate goal went, I thought I had things all set up just perfect with 2 laps to go. I found one of my teammates right next to me with 2 laps to go. I told him to work with me to get to the inside of the course and get on my wheel. My plan was to position us in a nice spot on the inside for the final lap. With the wind blowing from the southwest, being on the inside and out of the wind is a major advantage on the home stretch of this course.

With 1 lap to go we were right on the inside, about 20 riders back. A little further back then I wanted to be, but I knew that some riders would start dropping off in front of us. I also knew that I didn't want to be right on the front like I was last time with Alcino. That failed miserably as I couldn't hold it long enough at the front and when I pulled off Alcino was right in the wind with 1 lap to go. This time as we headed into the wind with half a lap to go our nice position on the inside suddenly evaporated. We didn't fall back so much as a surge went up the inside resulting in us now being surrounded on both sides by riders. My goal of surging up the inside for the final half lap to get Michael to the front was dead.

So at this point my focus shifted to trying to stay safe through the corners and doing the best that I could to finish well. With everyone trying to surge toward the front and people not keeping their front wheels clean through the corners, the inevitable finally happened. As we came through the final turn, two guys came together right in front of me, bounced off each other and hit the ground hard. I was lucky enough to be able to ride right through the gap that lay between them and started to hammer it for the finish. I passed a few people along the way and believe that I got 14th. Nothing to hold a parade over, but certainly a good result for a guy who is making due with only 1.5 legs.

By the end of the race I was completely done. Riding hard in 110 degree heat for 40 minutes is a tough, tough gig.

I should have some pictures and a movie or two to post tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ladera Ranch

I went into this race hoping to be able to ride at the front and sprint hard at the end. I know that I don't have the leg speed/power to be able to win a race right now, but I at least wanted to see what I could do if I did try my hardest.

Ladera Ranch is a fairly flat, 4 corner sort of course that circles a residential park. For the most part the course was nice. The corners however, presented a fairly high risk. Each of the intersections that surrounded the park had islands in the middle of them, so each corner narrowed the course down to a single lane. Category 4 racers seem to have a real problem understanding that if they dive up the inside of the field right before a narrow corner that carnage is going to ensue, so I was a little nervous when I saw how much the corners narrowed things.

This was a 45 minute race. The first 15 minutes were spent with me trying to hold on as the field surged out of the corners. My issues in my left leg make it tough for me to deal with the quick accelerations that come as the group accordions in and out of corners. Once things slowed down a bit I was able to find a nice spot in and around some guys who were taking the corners pretty smoothly. The middle of the race then went along pretty smoothly.

The last third of the race things started to get a bit more hairy. With me planning on getting on a plane for vacation as soon as the race ended, getting home safe was a much bigger priority for me than getting in an accident while trying to win. I told myself that if I couldn't get up into the top 15 with 3 laps to go I was going to drop out. With the speed picking up, riders getting more aggressive in the corners, etc. I wanted to ensure that I'd be out of the craziness that I knew was going to happen further back in the field.

With 3 laps to go I was able to blast my way to the front coming into corner 4. As much as I wanted to continue to hammer on things at the front, I just didn't have the sort of legs that were going to allow me to do so. I held on as best I could, kept it safe through the corners, and came home in 23rd. No big accomplishment, but it was nice to get another race under my belt.

More than anything, this race proved even more to me that I really need to wait until my leg is working properly before I try go get too serious about racing.

I'm going to do the 5th Ontario crit this coming weekend (8/24) and the September Fiesta Island Team Time Trial. After that I'm done for the year. Sometime around October I'll start thinking about next year.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Team TT Practice on Fiesta Island

This morning the mighty SDBC category 4/5 team headed out to Fiesta Island to do some team time trial practice. With a team time trial coming up on the island in September, it's time to start preparing. There were a couple goals today:

1. Get comfortable riding close together. Riding in a tight pace-line when using aerobars is fairly dangerous. When you're stretched out you don't have any brakes at your fingers like you would on a road bike. If you want to slow down on the TT bike you've got to move your hands out to your wide bars, so your reaction time is time delayed a second or so.
2. Figure out how we want to divide our group of 12 guys into teams of 4.

Last season I planned to participate in the team TT. Obviously my accident sort of got in the way of me taking part. This season I feel like the time trial is going to fit right into the sweetspot of where I'm at with my training. I'm riding great on longer threshold rides on flat ground.

As it turns out, I'm not only feeling good about my ability to time trial, I am time trialing well. Our agreed method for determining team combinations for the time trial was to do a short individual time trial around the island. For those who know the course, we did a short lap, rather than the long way around. My time for one lap was 4 minutes 39 seconds; which was the best time of the day. Very few people even beat 5 minutes.

Now that I know who I'll be riding with, the goal will be to start practicing as a team of 4 every week or two such that we can start working like a well oiled machine. The time trial itself will be 40k and should take less than an hour to complete. Team work will play a huge role in the success or failure of any team. Being able to work as a cohesive unit, keep the speed consistent, and ensure that the entire team stays fresh is key.

So things are definitely coming together well. Next Sunday I'm going to race the Ladera Ranch Criterium. I'm going to be approaching this one with the intent of winning. We'll see how it turns out.