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Old 08-26-07, 09:47 PM   #1
Snuffleupagus
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Fear and Loathing in Bike Races: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Cyclist’s Dream

25 August 07 High Rock Lake CAT-3 Road Race

Part one:

I was somewhere around Cameron when the coffee began to take hold…

The hack cyclist’s drug of choice never fails. It’s confidence, motivation, regularity and morale distilled into a beautifully bitter, hot concoction of perfection. Damn the hundred degree temperature – besides the hatch of my car looked like a mobile nutrition store. I had bottles of Enervit, Hammer Gel, vitamins and bananas aplenty. I was ready to rock.

After a 0430 wake up call, I was well and truly psyched out, if not psyched up for the race. It was to be my first pure CAT-3 road race, and far and away the longest bicycle race of any stripe I’d ever done. 68 miles, heat, and the locals hearty enough to drag their butts to a 9am race start, in East Bumblefluck, in late August. Hell, at least the race was on a 13 mile circuit, I figured when I got dropped I could limp back to my car with my tail between my legs.

Then Keith and the Franklin Street Cycles guys pulled up next to me in the parking lot; I exchanged small talk with Dave, a Masters racer from my club – who thinks because I’m a 3 I’m talented (if only it were that easy…); saw Spencer, and my arch bike racing enemy, who shall, for the sake of tact, remain nameless. At that point I didn’t have any choice. The crescendo of recognition was too much. If I got dropped I’d at least have to make it seem like I didn’t pull out of the race because I’m a slow, fat, nancyboy. It’d be so much easier to fail if I could do so in anonymity.

Part two:

We rolled out in a civil enough manner, the trepidation surrounding a long, late season road race had clearly spread throughout the peloton. As we rolled out I started to mark riders. I picked out the Fred Squirrel in our midst, he’d left the removable stub intended for foot race placing on your race number in place. No self respecting anal retentive cyclist would miss that. Best to stay clear of him. He was soon on the ground having taken out another rider less than 5 miles into the race. Well, at least the crashing was out of the way.

The roads were fast, and the riders faster. We surged to thirty two, thirty five miles per hour over and over, and over again. What makes me think I even belong here? Can’t quit without an excuse though, so it’s into the draft I go. Maybe if I sit in I’ll have enough gas to at least hang on until the final kilo. So it went, the same riders kept trying to go up the road, a Spin Cycle rider, and the Franklin Street boys were animating things, but the pace was hot enough to deter anyone foolish enough to stick their nose too far out into the wind.

So the race went. I received some sorely needed bottles from a friend of the aforementioned Masters racer. The cold water helped to bring some life back into my guts, if not my legs. As the race drew towards its inevitable conclusion I readied myself for the sprint. I’d have a chance if I timed it right. So, when a few riders went up the road with less than 10 miles to go I decided to wait for the chase. Sadly, no rousing chorus of whirring wheels and drivelines greeted my ears. Rather, the protestation of the masses in the form of heavy breathing was the overwhelming theme. My cycling nemesis was clearly in pain. Good for him. I felt fine, but with a break up the road and riders back, I had visions of jumping across while towing five or ten riders and subsequently popping off the back. Not me, not that day. I’d bide my time.

Finalmente:

The break stayed up the road, and I rolled in with a half-hearted midfield sprint; with fresh legs. That kids, is perhaps the only feeling worse than defeat. I hate leaving anything on the course, and I left far too much that day. Much as it’s better to have loved and lost, it’s better to have jumped and failed, than never to have jumped at all. There’s an art to racing, sprinting, and winning – and I’m a mere apprentice.

Last edited by Snuffleupagus; 08-26-07 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 08-26-07, 10:00 PM   #2
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Nice report. Makes me feel even worse about not being in race shape, but nice report nonetheless.

--Steve
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Old 08-26-07, 10:02 PM   #3
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Nicely written report.

Die trying.

That is all.
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Old 08-26-07, 10:30 PM   #4
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Nice report.
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Old 08-26-07, 11:02 PM   #5
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I too hate leaving a race knowing that I don't need a recovery ride the next day. On days like those, I feel like I might as well have sent my check to the race director a week in advance, with "Pro/1/2 Prize List" in the memo blank.

So, in recognition of my hatred for pack sprints and my "make the break or die trying" idiocy, my teammates and I share the money from our races.

This is how it plays out:
1) My break goes up the road, they block, breaks sticks.
2) My break blows up, gets reeled in, and I reload and try again. Burn energy, waste W's. Make people chase and burn matches they can't afford. I know I'm not going to be sprinting for the top 5. This plays into the hands of 3).
3) Field is tired, and the sprinters who have spent more energy than my sprinter (who is faster than most) are pretty much F---ed. If I'm still able, I'll lead out, and then try to hop into his draft, and then soft pedal. Act as a "sweeper", for those familiar with the term. Picture Burghardt backing Ventoso off the break (specifically his teammate Hammond, and Freire) with less than a kilo to go at Ghent-Wevelgem this year. (minus me coming back around for the win...)

I.e.: It pays to have teammates or VERY good friends in the races with you.
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Old 08-26-07, 11:21 PM   #6
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There are times when it's OK to be field fodder. Like when you're working your way back into shape.
But otherwise, better to do something even if it fails.


My story to that end:
I caught a ride down to a race in Canada with some non-teammates. Late in the race, one of them gets into a break that could stick. I chase. Almost make it across the gap. Get caught/swarmed by the field which continues on to reel in the break.
I get yelled at (oh, the irony) by the other guys on that team for chasing him down. AS IF the mere act of riding to the race together implies a Combine on our parts.
My other option was to finish fresh and then catch grief for not playing a part in the race.
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Old 08-27-07, 12:41 AM   #7
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I get yelled at (oh, the irony)...
Hahahahahahahahaha!

You mean they didn't pull over and stop the race to discuss it with you?
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Old 08-27-07, 01:18 AM   #8
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Great report, love the title .
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Old 08-27-07, 04:43 AM   #9
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There are times when it's OK to be field fodder. Like when you're working your way back into shape.
But otherwise, better to do something even if it fails.


My story to that end:
I caught a ride down to a race in Canada with some non-teammates. Late in the race, one of them gets into a break that could stick. I chase. Almost make it across the gap. Get caught/swarmed by the field which continues on to reel in the break.
I get yelled at (oh, the irony) by the other guys on that team for chasing him down. AS IF the mere act of riding to the race together implies a Combine on our parts.
My other option was to finish fresh and then catch grief for not playing a part in the race.
So how'd you get home?

If they wanted your help, they should have given you a jersey.




I like "down to Canada"...for most of us it's "Up to Canada"...
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Old 08-27-07, 06:37 AM   #10
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No shame in staying back in the field. When a break rolls, you've got to make a decision whether to be in it based on:

your role in that days race
how you feel/confidence
your own strengths/limitations (TT ability, sprint competency, etc.)
how far from the finish line you are
whether you can bridge to the move from the field
environmental factors like terrain, wind, rain, heat, road surface, etc.
who's in the break
just as importantly, who's not in the break

... and you've gotta do that analysis in an instant - that's part of what makes racing so friggin' fun. It's not smart racing to go with every move.
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Old 08-27-07, 07:30 AM   #11
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Good report, Noah. We had a good time even if my work didn't play out the way I wanted it to. See you at Ace!
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Old 08-27-07, 08:22 AM   #12
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Nice report. Congrats on not flying out the back when the pain hit! You're never the only one hurting. You should have attacked then

I'll use it as motivation to be in some moves during tomorrow's Tuesday Nighter -- this is my first time back since the "Jocks on Bikes" thread -- off the front or off the back for me. The winning break seems to go on like the 2nd hill these days, so I'm looking at 36 miles of sheer suffering. I guess if the off-the-back route is taken, it could be less
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Old 08-27-07, 08:45 AM   #13
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Nice report. Congrats on not flying out the back when the pain hit! You're never the only one hurting. You should have attacked then

I'll use it as motivation to be in some moves during tomorrow's Tuesday Nighter -- this is my first time back since the "Jocks on Bikes" thread -- off the front or off the back for me. The winning break seems to go on like the 2nd hill these days, so I'm looking at 36 miles of sheer suffering. I guess if the off-the-back route is taken, it could be less
I like singing when everyone around you is noticably grunting and suffering. Make them think you're having a dandy time and not even remotely hurting.
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Old 08-27-07, 08:54 AM   #14
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Nice report. Almost every cat 3 race ive been in has had a small break go inside of 15 miles to go. And unless theres a lot of guys on the front just doing work itll stay away because the break can smell the finish.
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Old 08-27-07, 09:22 AM   #15
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Good report. At least you learned that you can definitely hang with the 3's on a long, hot day. I raced the 5's and it was death for us starting at 1:45pm.

We did three laps, 42 miles, and I felt good the whole time. There were a couple breakaway attempts, but nothing stuck, so it came down to a sprint. In the last mile or so, three kids from the Carolina Storm team moved to the front, and I latched on behind them, as I could tell they were strong and were obviously going to work together. Coming into the last km I was in 5th or 6th position as people started to go. I moved over to the right and decided to make a run with about 500m to go. I had just about passed the leaders when I hit the wall with nothing left, at about 200m. Coasted in mid-pack with my tongue dragging.

I learned two things: (1) If I'm going to sprint, I need to wait much later, and (2) my max HR is higher than I thought!
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Old 08-27-07, 09:44 AM   #16
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^^^^ Yeah, it's rare for anyone to go too late in a sprint
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Old 08-27-07, 11:11 AM   #17
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^^^^ Yeah, it's rare for anyone to go too late in a sprint
+1!

We suckered everyone yesterday by launching the sprint 1/2 mile before the finish. As the line started to string out with everyone going balls to the walls, our sprinters rode everyone elses wheel up to the start of the final climb then danced past them to the top finishes.

It was planned, it worked flawlessly, and it was poetry in motion.
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Old 08-27-07, 08:05 PM   #18
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as usual you write the most hilarious reports. you should give up cycling and be a sportswriter or something.
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Old 08-28-07, 04:50 AM   #19
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you should give up cycling and be a sportswriter or something.
The problem is that the financial compensation is about the same for both, given my talent level Writing and cycling are destined to remain hobbies...
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