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First race back. Report (longish)

Old 05-18-08, 05:35 PM
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First race back. Report (longish)

This was my first race back, after roughly 6 months off the bike, and it felt like it. It didn't help that it was a course completely unsuited to me. It was a short race, 72km, but it climbed up to 2600m and finished there. For the most part the grades were 4%-6% with 8%-10% pitches thrown in. What makes it tough is the fact that it never stops climbing and you get to spend some time at altitude.

For the last several years, we would drive up the night before, hotel it, get up early and have a big breakfast, get ready and go race. That was before. For this race I hooked up with the local club team I have been training with and we did it their way. I got up a 3am and drove to meet them (we used my old team car). We loaded up and headed out by 4:15. I drove the 2 hours to the race. We unpacked, got ready, had a quick warm up and staged.

Bang and we're off. There was a long neutral of 15km which didn't really feel like a neutral at all. The tempo wasn't so fast but it was certainly quick - quick enough to whittle the group down from 150+ riders to less than 50.

There was this one hairy legged foreigner, with a wicked 'hitch' in his left knee that apparently didn't get the memo about the neutral. He proceeded to jump out of the group, after about 1 km, and struggle his way up to the lead police car and motorbikes that were about 150m in front of us. You could see the guy was really digging and not understanding what the guys on the motos were telling him and, all the while, his left knee is going ' whip, clickety-clickety, whip, clickety, clickety' as he ground up the grades out of the start town.

My plan was just to ride my own race and not worry about what was going on on the front. I knew I'd eventually be OTB it was all a matter of when. As we kept climbing, I saw that the pace was going to be brisk in the neutral and that people were already falling off the back. I decided to move closer to the front to get away from the struggling wheels that were getting progressively sloppier all around me.

As I moved up I could see that a few others hadn't gotten the memo either and had joined Festus up at the motos. The rest of the group seemed uninterested. Then a funny thing happened. One of the Giant ART (Taiwan based Continental team) sent one of their guys up there as well. Still, no reaction from the group.

Now, the guys I've been training with are generally a pretty good sort. I've helped most of them out at one point or another and we get along pretty well. In fact, I wouldn't even have been there, or racing again for that matter, if they hadn't talked me into it. They were pretty pleased that I was there, we were using my team car, and I had helped them organize both cars, the drivers, and had come up with a plan on how to feed all 12 of us and have food, a shower and clean dry clothes at the finish. They responded by giving me a uniform and following my suggestions (it all worked out really well, actually).

Now as I looked at the Giant rider, and a band of 5 others who didn't get the memo, I knew that the neutral was about to end. Then I saw a camera bike (still photographer) from one of the magazines moving up to the group. I thought to myself that this would be the only chance I would have to help this club out during the course of the race. These media types all know me (not too many white guys racing here), and I'm sure they'd be a bit surprised that I was back racing (and in a funny jersey) so maybe there'd be a picture on the website...So, just as the flag dropped signaling the end of the neutral, I moved off the front (not really an attack as such) and the group let me go.

Since the pace wasn't so high, I got across to these guys quite easily and some of us started to work. We opened up a 30 second gap or so and then it all fell apart. I guess the Giant guy was just having a look-see in case anyone dangerous had slipped across and the rest of the guys were looking at him. 7 or 8km later the group rolled up to us and the glory was over.

Then the race started for real. The pace shot up and the group started breaking apart. I struggled to hang on. Really, I was surprised that I was still there! Fuji (my old team) put 2 guys on the front and started ramping it up. I was slightly gapped at the top of a few pitches but I fought my way back on. Then Giant moved 3 guys to the front and drilled it. I held the wheel in front of me as long as I could. A gap would open in front of me and I'd get out of the saddle to close it, once, twice, I'm not sure how many times, and then they just started rolling away from me. A few riders would come around me, I would latch onto them and it would happen again. Finally, there was no one left to come around me.

I was off.

The cars in the caravan started to come around me and I jumped in. I thought I might be able to work my way back into the group if I could just recover. Then we hit a pitch and they went around me one, two, three, four, more and gone.

2 riders came up to me, I knew them both, they nodded and I hung on. Then a few more joined and we became the second group. The roads here just snake up and down the mountain. In some places you can see quite far up the road. We could see the main group of about 30 riders winding their way across a bridge in front of us. Then they disappeared around a bend. Two of the guys stayed at the front and set tempo. I hung on for as long as I could and then I had to let them go, too.

I was alone.

This is how these kinds of race usually play out for me. If it is a good day I can hang with the second group while the climbers go do what ever it is climbers do when I'm not around. That wasn't today.

My strategy is most often to hang on as long as I can for the first third of the mountain. I then ride the second third at a conservative pace. The last third is often at altitude and, believe it or not, this favours me (I had some testing done once and I am very good at exchanging gases. subsequently, I don't suffer as much as others at altitude - although sometimes I throw up at about 2000m). Because of this, I then ride the last third much harder than the middle third and reel in those who have been dropped by the front group. This strategy has worked well for me in the past. No reason not to follow it again today.

Then the back marker passed me. You know the car that signifies the back of the race? It passed me. I was no longer officially part of the race. I would have to fend for myself. I was at the whim of traffic or whatever else might be out there. I saw a family of monkeys but they were pretty disinterested in me. This would not do.

I mustered my resolve and laid chase to the back marker. Kilometer after kilometer it was just in front of me. I could smell the cigarettes the two guys in it were smoking, but I just couldn't close the gap. Then, a bit of luck.

As he was leaning out the window, the guy in the passenger seat dropped his lit cigarette onto the road. The car stopped. IT STOPPED! He got out to retrieve his smoke and I closed the gap. I rolled past the car and I was, once again, officially part of the race.

With my new found enthusiasm, I dropped from my 23 into my 21. Then something even better happened. I saw another rider around a bend. He was hurting even more than me. I caught and passed him. Then two more riders came into view. I closed on them and then they were gone. The car that had almost crushed me was no where to be seen. It was nipping at the heals of those other poor souls now. I was free. And, tap, tap, tap, I'd found my rhythm.

The last third. Tap. Tap. Tap. I wasn't fast but it was smooth. I could sustain this unlike the haggard souls, hanging over their bars and staring at the road 5 feet in front of them that I started to reel in. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Twinge.

Damn.

Ok. My hamstrings had other plans for me. Tap. Tap. Twinge. Tap. Tap. Twinge. Twinge. Back into the 23. Tap. Tap. Tap.

And that's how it went. I finished up seriously off the pace but still officially in the race. I didn't even bother checking my placing. I'm sure the local guys will all tell me when we get together for the Wednesday night training race.
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Old 05-18-08, 05:50 PM
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>>There was a long neutral of 15km which didn't really feel like a neutral at all. The tempo wasn't so fast but it was certainly quick - quick enough to whittle the group down from 150+ riders to less than 50<<

That doesn't sound too neutral.

'The cars in the caravan'? Dude, you must be on some other bike race planet. The local races here in the NE don't have caravans of cars. Were you distracted by the TV coverage choppers too?
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Old 05-18-08, 05:54 PM
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Bob -

Your story is great, but man the roads you are describing BEG for pictures to be posted.
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Old 05-18-08, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by prendrefeu View Post
Bob -

Your story is great, but man the roads you are describing BEG for pictures to be posted.
All I've got.

Next time I plan on getting seriously dropped, I'll bring a camera.

There is a rickety old train that people take up the mountain to watch the sunrise. You are usually well above the clouds looking down.
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Old 05-18-08, 06:30 PM
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Yeah... I mean, compared to alot of the race reports that get posted up here, the places you are racing are far more interesting (and diverse) than the usual lot. Great stuff.
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Old 05-18-08, 06:38 PM
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Bob,

Thanks for the race report. It's always inspiring to hear the ones about not giving up.
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Old 05-18-08, 06:59 PM
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Agreed, great report and plenty of inspiration for someone just getting into racing. Great success with the rest of the season, look forward to more of these reports.
Thanks!
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Old 05-18-08, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by patentcad View Post
>>There was a long neutral of 15km which didn't really feel like a neutral at all. The tempo wasn't so fast but it was certainly quick - quick enough to whittle the group down from 150+ riders to less than 50<<

That doesn't sound too neutral.

'The cars in the caravan'? Dude, you must be on some other bike race planet. The local races here in the NE don't have caravans of cars.
Were you distracted by the TV coverage choppers too?
No, but whatever stung me on the inside of my lip broke my rhythm until I determined that it wasn't serious.
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Old 05-18-08, 07:05 PM
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I take twisted comfort that a rider of Dopo's caliber can also get shelled.

Thanks for the report DP. Keep on training until you're the dude out the front dishing out the whoopass.
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Old 05-18-08, 08:50 PM
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Great details and enjoyable to read. I loved reading about the marker car and the dropped cigarette -- rich!!! Never knew that smoking could be good for a cyclist's performance :-) Nice move on your part to get back in the race.
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Old 05-19-08, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bostongarden View Post
Great details and enjoyable to read. I loved reading about the marker car and the dropped cigarette -- rich!!! Never knew that smoking could be good for a cyclist's performance :-) Nice move on your part to get back in the race.
I'm only lucky that it wasn't the driver who dropped his smoke. Those guys were so close to me a few times that they might have run me off the road.
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Old 05-19-08, 06:55 AM
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Much more interesting than the typical cat 3 criterium or "circuit" race (road race) that the rest of us drone on about. Although I find it very curious that the "neutral" start of 15km was permitted to result in whittling 2/3 of the field off the back.
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Old 05-19-08, 07:14 AM
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Good story. It's awesome that you could claw your way back into the race like that.
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Old 05-19-08, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
Much more interesting than the typical cat 3 criterium or "circuit" race (road race) that the rest of us drone on about. Although I find it very curious that the "neutral" start of 15km was permitted to result in whittling 2/3 of the field off the back.
Since we were climbing out of the town it was the climb itself that caused the breaking up of the field.

I'm pretty sure it was intentional as we were 150+ riders on fairly narrow mountain roads. Apparently the same thing happened at a stage race the 2 weeks before. I wasn't there but I've heard it from several riders who were. Hopefully it's not a trend.
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Old 05-19-08, 03:18 PM
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Cool report & way to hang. Very inspirational!
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