Archive for February, 2015

Event: Red Kite #1, The Bump CR
: Livermore, CA
Date: 02.08.2015
Category: M 35+ 3/4
Teammates: Tom Dillon, Phil Burt
Place: 1st
Weather: 52F, intermittent rain

taking a moment to celebrate the solo win

taking a moment to celebrate the solo win

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been struggling to find time to train during busy weekends, and several times decided I needed to pass on some of the early races and fit in some more volume to keep building up my foundation for 2015.  I’ve struggled over the last few years to lay down a very consistent base due to setbacks and some focused cross seasons, but this year has been different and when the opportunity to test the legs after a hard week of work and life, I jumped at the chance.  Granted, it was forecast to rain most of the day, including some pretty significant downpours in the morning, the temperature was so mild that being wet didn’t mean going hypothermic, and this was a novelty not to be missed.  On the drive over I briefly wondered just how much rain could possibly fall at one time as I hydroplaned my way across the freeways, but soon after parking in Livermore the worst of it had passed.

the bump circuit

the bump circuit race course

Team mates Tom Dillon (3 races today!) and Phil Burt joined me for last race of the day, the Masters 35+ Cat 3/4 race.  I’ve only done a couple of these races, and unlike the 1/2/3s where I know all of the main characters, these races are filled with unknown (to me) riders who I have to assess and observe to try and identify the biggest threats.  My goal for this race was to test my legs and take some risks, so I intended to seek out breakaway opportunities and see what I could manage.  The 3 lap course consists of a roughly “D shaped” course with a short climb, a 100m “bump” where you plunge downwards and then sprint up a 10% ish grade to the finish line.  The rest of the course has some smaller rollers, downhill, and typically for this area, a wind blowing from the hills (hence the huge wind farm just up the road).  The field numbered less than 20, who you could call hardy or idiotic, depending on your view of racing in the rain.  Our first lap was extremely civil, and I found myself struggling not to move to the front and up the tempo, but my goals for the race were to work on tactical components, not training, so I kept a watchful eye on who looked strong while staying away from the front of the group for the first lap.  Once we crested the hill, I moved to 3rd wheel to simply avoid being stuck behind any rainy day mishaps on the downhill, but even there the group basically sat in and coasted down the hill.  I decided on the next lap I would test my legs and see how people react if I attack on the downhill.  Normally, this isn’t a great tactic for a lightweight rider like myself, but my aim was to help draw out the riders I’d want to keep an eye on for the rest of the race.

Lap 2 we increased the tempo intermittently on the hilly sections of the course, and as we hit the start/finish, I slowly upped the tempo and then attacked the riser going into the downhill.  The move was pretty quickly countered, but I noticed it was only 1 rider from SJBX who did the work chasing, while the rest just sat on.  I eased up and reabsorbed myself back into the field to practice a little more patience.  Our 3rd time through the start finish was a prime for points in the series, so the run in tempo went up somewhat, and a few new riders started to show themselves at the front.  Tom came alongside me at this point and offered to attack the climb before his legs imploded, but I was more interested in him finishing the race with us so I told him just to hang on.   I had already told him my plan was to counterattack right after the prime, when the field would be strung out already and hopefully catch out the few fastest guys who had just hit the gas trying to win the prime when they were tired.  Sitting at 5th wheel, I followed the moves up to the finish line, but consciously eased up slightly and let 2 riders get in front of me to fight out the prime.  Once we crested the line, I put in a strong seated acceleration and blew right by the lead riders.  I committed to 2 minutes flat out to get me up and over the hill and started on the downhill, before taking stock.  Glancing under my shoulder, I saw a chasing group 15 meters back, but as I slide sideways on the road I realized it was only 5 riders, and the rest of the field was out of sight.  Knowing I couldn’t stay away on the downhill, I eased up and let them catch me, only to have them sit up as soon as the catch was made.  Not wanting to waste this chance, I immediately began urging them to start rotating, and after a few pulls at the front followed by some emphatic gestures, everyone realized we could make this stick and started working better together.  Two riders were particularly unwilling to take pulls, but looked fine, so I figured these were likely the ones I’d have to worry about coming into the finish.

On the last run up the rollers, I found myself inadvertently opening a few bike lengths, but was stuck–I wasn’t strong enough to stay away, and yet I had to break this group up to avoid a field sprint.  Our gap had grown far enough that we weren’t under much pressure from behind, but every time the pace started to slow I tried to re-inject some speed into it to prevent others from getting much of a rest.  My plan was to hit it hard the moment the road went up in the last 1.5k of the race, and hope to whittle down the group before the finish.  I was not alone in this thought, and one rider from Bicycle Blue Book moved to the front of the group just before the hill first hill at 3k, and launched an acceleration.  This was a bit farther out than I had planned, but it was as good of a chance as I was likely to get.  His attack was not explosive enough to shatter the group, but nobody made a move to latch on or counter his move.  I gave him 2 bike lengths and then jumped as hard as I could knowing I had to ride all out for about 5 minutes to get myself to the finish line.

Intervals really do suck.  In the early season, before you have done too many of those 3-5 minute efforts, your own inner voice is probably your worse enemy.  You know how it unfolds: the first minute you dig deep and thrive on the feeling of the attack, thinking “man, that’s good, I can do this!”  Then every muscle in your legs start to burn, and that feeling travels up through your arms, and finally you start to wonder if lactate is going to start dripping from your eyeballs or flying out of your nose.  Perhaps you wonder just what prized possessions you might give up if only this suffering would stop.  That would just be confirmation that you are human, and possessing wits.  All of these things flashed through my mind as I started to pay for my attack, and still had 1k to go.  A quick glance confirmed that I had cracked it all open, and if I could just hold on, I just might cross the line first.  I remembered the pain and suffering of Niki Terpstra as he rode away to the Roubaix win last year, turning himself inside out and used that to distract from the pain.  Finally the right hand turn, and the final ascent of the bump came into view, and I willed my legs to turn the gears over and get me past the line.  Eyes on the ground, I barely celebrated until I was far past the line, because I wasn’t quite sure I had actually done it.

Afterwards, I still wasn’t really believing it until Tom and Phil rode down the hill with me and it sunk in.  It had been a long time since I had been able to attack a group instead of being attacked, dictate a pace instead of having it done to me, and it felt good.  Thanks to Phil and Tom for being there, getting me to come out, and getting us off to a good start in the team competition.

Red Kite #1 2015 podium