Sunday, March 29, 2009

I found a mistress

For a while now there's been a joke going around work that my road bike is my wife. It all got started when my boss asked me if he could borrow my bike for the weekend. He asked me this while straddling my road bike that just happened to be in with me at work that day. To try to get across to him just how offended I was that he was both standing over my bike and was asking me something as outlandish as he was; I explained to him that asking me to take my bike home was the equivalent of me asking him if I could take his wife home for the weekend. From that point on he's referred to my bike as my wife.

So, I guess one could consider my new Transition to be my new mistress. Check 'er out:

Until last week I had no intention of buying a new bike. Until last week's SDBC club night at one of our sponsors, B+L Bike and Sport, that is. As I was putting together last week's SDBC weekly update I was adding the link for the "too good to be published" deals for the event. Looking through the deals, I was amazed at some of the bike pricing B+L was offering us. I won't say exactly how much I ended up paying for this bike, but lets just say that it was significantly less than the already extremely discounted price that the bike was selling for in the shop. The deal on offer was way too good to pass by, especially for the level of bike you get with the Expert model. It's the same frame as the Pro model, just with some lesser components.

I ended up taking my old Kestrel Airfoil in and getting my Campy Centaur drive train, Vision aerobars, Campy shifters, etc. moved on to the new frame. I can't wait for Tuesday evening and my planned TT workout on Fiesta Island.

Redlands - Won a Prime! - 23rd

Redlands is probably one of the most enjoyable crits you'll find out there. Check out the course map below. Corner 1 is something close to a 150 degree turn around a pointed curb, turn 2 and 3 are back to back 90 degree right and lefts, and then you've got two fast, open corners in 4 and 5. One might expect a lot of crashes on this course, in general however I've found it to be really safe.

We had 3 guys in the race today. It kinda worked out where we each played the role of one of the three bears today:

  • For Alcino, things were just right. After his usual bout of nerves prior to the race he stood on the gas at the end and finished second.
  • For EPete (Euro Pete), things were a little too hot. He crashed with a few laps to go. Pete rode really hard during the race and he's one of our best finishers, so it sucked that his day ended early.
  • For me, things were a little cold, maybe more lukewarm. It would have been nice to get a top 10. Getting a prime win however was a really nice reward.

I got my prime the only way I knew I could, attack way early. As we headed up the home stretch and the announcer called for a prime everyone let up for a bit. I was up near the front, so I decided to go for it. I calmly rolled up to 3rd or so and then hammered it. I got through turn 1 really well, as I got back on the gas I looked under my arm to see how close the field was behind me. As long as I've been back racing, each time I've tried to jump away, I've looked back only to see the entire field right on my wheel. This time I looked back to a 80 foot gap. Wow, finally something encouraging! So I just kept hammering. I was able to hold my advantage to the start/finish and take the prime. There's nothing like rolling across the start/finish and hearing the announcer call out your name and sponsor.

From there I got back in the field and got my heart rate down from 192.

The finish was pretty strategic for a cat 4 race. Normally cat 4 races end in a mass drag race to the finish. With a couple laps to go Andrew Jessup, one of the really strong cat 4s attacked. Most of the time these sorts of efforts are pulled back after a lap or so, Andrew however is a really strong rider and easily could have turned his bravery into a win (he time trialed for 20 minutes to a win at Imperial). With 2/3 of a lap to go we managed to catch him. Right away a little guy from Team Possibilities took off. Alcino saw him go, but unfortunately didn't react quite fast enough. Alcino nearly caught him at the line, but just ran out of road.

The reason I bring this up is that I'd really like to see myself be able to get up to the front and pull these sorts of guys back for Alcino. Jumps, changes in pace, etc. used to be one of the things I did best. If I'm not going to be winning races, I would at least like to make a meaningful contribution. If I'd been able to get up there and help Alcino he would have won. I'm not there quite yet however. Before I can worry about covering attacks, I first have to be at the front at the end of the race.

All in all a good day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tour of Murrieta - Perspective

For me, Murrieta was an experience in mental adversity much more than physical adversity. Things got off to a reasonably wild start on Saturday's Criterium. I've never done this race before. All I've ever heard about it is that there tend to be a fair number of crashes, especially in the second corner where things narrow down from a couple lanes wide to a single narrow lane. In category 4 races where things never seem to get strung right out you can quickly see how a big wide pack of riders going into a narrowing corner is going to lead to problems. With 100 guys in the field, there was definitely a good opportunity for things to go really wrong.

Naturally however, the idiots that are out there are always able to throw you a curveball or two. About 10 laps in there was the requisite corner two crash as it looked like a guy didn't do a good job of holding his line and the clown who was behind him had overlapped his wheel. As always, this is an easy recipe for a certain crash. What was most interesting was this guy from Citrus Valley Velo who didn't seem to be paying any attention to what was going on in front of him, didn't see the crash, and came barreling past me and others and nearly smashed into the back of the crash himself.

Not to be denied, this same Citrus Valley guy then managed to get involved in a crash right in front of the finish line. A few guys apparently weren't watching what they were doing and went right over the traffic cones that were set up in front of Ralph's announcing stage. I really can't understand how this sort of thing happens, but sure enough the Citrus Valley guy and others went over the bars and crashed right there in the home straight.

As for me, I kept it pretty cool in the field, took the odd pull and did my best to get a good finish. I was up in the top 10 with half a lap to go. As always my issues with my left foot and resulting inability to sprint with the fast guys, resulted in me dropping back into an 18th place finish. Nothing spectacular, but it was the best I could do on the day.

Fast forward to Sunday's circuit race and things got even hairier. On the menu was 11 laps of a 3.5 mile loop. As usual for road races, the course was open to traffic, so the center line rule was in "effect". i.e. if you cross the center line, you're out of the race. For some reason however, the officials did no enforcing of the rule. When this happens, it really makes things dangerous because you've got idiots shooting up the open road on the wrong side of the center line, then trying to duck back into the field. In one case a guy clipped by bars as he tried such a stunt. When I gave him a piece of my mind about it he seemed to be befuddled by why I was so concerned.

Making things even worse, there were again 100 or so riders and not a lot who were willing to work on the front. The result was points where things really bunch up and slow down. Again, prime time for a crash. I believe we had 5 on the day in the circuit race and some of them were real classics. In one case I had to try to dodge a bike as it returned to earth from 5 or 10 feet in the air. My favorite however was the moment when I turned to one of my team-mates, remarked that there were a certain number of people that were riding like idiots, and noted that there were going to be more crashes. Literally 5 seconds later 3 guys went over the bars right in front of us.

I managed to keep it safe and get through all the crashes okay. With a couple turns to go I again got up near the front, but the result of the sprint was even worse than the day before. In this case I was going as hard as I could and people were streaming past left and right. In the end I came through in 31st. A very demoralizing result.

Days like these really make me question why it is that I race:

1. 5 crashes in the circuit race, 2 crashes in the crit.
2. My inability to put out the sort of speed that everyone else can means that even though I have as good or better of an engine as everyone else, work my tail off, etc.; it counts for nothing because at the end of the race they leave me in their dust.

When you consider these two points together, you begin to question whether the risks that are associated with racing are surpassed by the benefits. When the results are mediocre, why put yourself through the risk of racing?

The bottom line for me in all of this is that I need to figure out whether there is something I can do to overcome the issues I have with my left foot. If the answer is no, it only makes sense to bring the curtain down on my racing "career".

Stay tuned as I have some ideas in the pipeline regarding some tools that might help me do better despite my foot.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Alive

I've kinda dropped off the radar for the past few weeks.

The evening after the Roger Millikan Criterium I started to feel sick. I then spent the following week in bed with the flu.

The next week I started to feel a little better. That next weekend I headed out to Vegas for the Southern Nevada Stage Race, which turned out to be a disaster. I didn't do very well in the morning time trial (4 miles up hill), but that wasn't such a big deal as the road race was to follow. The road race went really poorly however. Bad enough that with 20 miles to go I pulled out of the race. I was having a hard time doing anything and feeling quite weak. I knew that there was no way I was going to put in the last 20 miles, so I called it a day.

I spent last week taking it easy and getting healthy. I'm starting to feel a lot better. My plan is to get back into full training this week, go race Murrieta next weekend and then try to build my aerobic endurance back up for some of the races to come.

When I spend time away from cycling for a while like this I always find that I start to question exactly why I spend so much of my time on riding. I definitely love to ride my bike. With the struggles I continue to have with getting my left leg working, I do question whether I'm wasting my time on the racing. More on this after Murrieta.