Monday, March 09, 2009

Depauw race.

(All photos by Clara, and the rest can be seen here or here.)

Road race on Saturday. I was looking forward to this immensely as my first experience of road racing.

Start of the road race with a pileup. All of my teammates
remained upright.
Left to right: Emma, Hannah, me, Axie.
I hung towards the front of the pack with my teammates until three miles in, when there was a crash on a descent, which broke up the group into chunks. I dodged the crash, but also lost the front group, so I stuck with Emma. Two miles later, my chain became irretrievably lodged and knotted around my crank when I tried to shift down in front, and much to my frustration, I had to stop. It later took four people to get my chain out. Fucking bike.

Axie and Hannah were both in the initial crash. Axie somehow lost her shoes, which made for a hilarious story, although this meant that she and Hannah spent the next 20 miles in no-man's land, hammering away with no cover, trying to gain lost time. Valiant effort.

Lots of crashes in the sketchy men's D race, three for Greg here.

Men's A started with a breakaway that neither Will nor Josh could catch. Will spent the whole time in a chase, then solo-ed the last 10 miles, coming in 7th. Josh hung with the pack, and finished top 20 with a field sprint into a headwind.

Clara pulling hard trying to move up in the pack, eventually finishing in a top 10. She followed a sprint attack a full 300 meters from the finish.

A lot of the day was spent watching races and hearing recaps in the cargo van. I love these guys. A candid video here:

Saturday evening was the team time trial. TTT's are composed of groups of 2-4 riders. Teams roll out one-by-one, are timed against the clock, and times are compared afterwards. The finishing time is measured by the second rider across the line.

The course was a flat 5-mile out-and-back course, with a tailwind there and a strong headwind back. We girls team had done a pacelining practice a couple days before the race, which felt smooth and comfortable, but the windy conditions on Saturday made us nervous.

Starting off: me, Axie, Emma, Hannah

The pace on the way out was steady and brisk, 20-23, but the way back was brutal. Following the turn back, our paceline became broken as we struggled against the wind. I dropped off with a mile or more to go, both because we only needed two to finish, and because the wind was making it difficult for me to maintain the draft. Emma dropped off a bit later, and Hannah and Axie took the finish for a win over the competing Depauw.

The TTT will take some more practice, both individually and as a unit.

I opted out of the criterium on Sunday, due to my still-fresh wounds (check 'em out!) from a ride this past Thursday. The race was impossible anyway. Unbelievable wind gusts of up to maybe 30-40mph plus spotty rain made biking riding difficult.

I have strong teammates, which is a huge motivation to get better myself. Race weekends are fun, yes, but I do need to get more serious about improving, moving up in the pack, learning some tactics, and dealing with suffering. I want to improve as my teammates improve. I'm not as athletically aggressive as I need to be in order to consistently hang with the people in front, and I frequently allow negative psychology to get in the way of doing what I could otherwise manage.

There are two clear-cut aspects to competitive cycling. The obvious is the physical and mental aspects that allows you to hurt but still provide power over an hour or more of racing. The other is how to race intelligently: where to be in the pack, when to be in front, and when to follow, how much effort to give and when. Poor tactical choices make for inefficient riding and could take a race away from the fittest rider. At this point, I'm not the strongest, and I'm not very smart. These shortcomings will take work and much more experience to solve, but I am patient.

I had a conversation with Will this weekend, in which he described to me his road race not in terms of how his legs hurt or lungs burned, but in terms of what, tactically, he was thinking while he raced. It occurred to me that I think more about the former rather than the latter, and that is precisely what I need to change.

1 comment:

Cara said...

I am so proud of you! I have always wanted to do a TTT (though in my head it is with Hincapie, Levi, Lance and Dave Z). I think it will take time to race tactically for unlike running you have to think about more then yourself.

I like that your blog has turned into a cycling blog.