Wednesday, April 29, 2009

PIR 4/28/09 - win but an acid aftertaste

My second win of the season, with a big assist from the team as per usual. But not the ending I would have preferred.

The day wasn't looking too good from a weather standpoint. I got to PIR and while it wasn't raining, it was threatening to. The field was really small, only about 40 people, instead of the 70-100 we've been getting used to. Counterclock-wise is the direction, which usually means a tailwind at the finish, but not today; it's a headwind from the right.

Our crew consisted of six of us. I was sitting first place in the April series; Matt was third. The team plan was to get me the win in the race and the series.

An Ironclad guy was sitting in second, only two points back from me. I had a suspicion that he was going for all the primes this day, so my goal was to shadow him and follow him out on the prime laps, hopefully to deny him an advantage, or at least mitigate the damage to my lead.

So I find Ironclad guy during the warmup. The Ironclad boys were out in force this day with 11 riders to our six, in a field of 40. Between the two of us, we are nearly half the field. As we roll out, I find out quickly that it's much harder to hide in a field of 40 than it is in a field of 100 like last week. I'm actually doing work rather than just sitting back and watching.

A group gets off the front almost immediately and sucks up the first of the prime points. So far so good. I'm starting to admire the Ironclad guy for the way he moves around the pack. Very smooth. Hard to follow around, especially considering that while I was watching him, he and his teammates were watching me and it might have been my imagination, but were doing some boxing of me as well.

By now the break is sucked back in and the bell rings a second time for the second prime. Better get on Ironclad guy's wheel. He's moving well through the pack because he is following his teammates around. Myself, I'm getting boxed in everywhere. Down the finishing stretch, he's got a leadout from about 3 Ironclad guys, and I'm still untangling myself. I am left in admiration of their organization. Ironclad and his leadout gap the field a bit; I surge to get back on his wheel. He kicks, I kick and I am gaining, but the line comes up out of nowhere and we go 1-2. My lead is now down to a single point. Shouldn't have let off after I got on his wheel. It's a mistake that will be remedied with experience. Just get up there, coast up to his wheel to catch a breath for a moment and immediately kick again to avoid killing my momentum.

We get reabsorbed. I follow him around the group some more. The bell rings a third time and it's game on again. I'm getting tangled up again, boxed in trying to follow his wheel and end up losing it again. I get Matt to help take me up to the front and lose his wheel. Not going well at all. I finally get back up to Ironclad guy as we turn onto the finishing stretch. Matt's up at the front now, looking to lead me out, but I am trapped in the middle of the group. Matt goes to plan B (get the points himself), but Ironclad guy times his move just right and pips Matt at the line. Now I am two points back to Ironclad guy. I have to win the race to win the series, and I need him to get third if I want to win the race.

One lap after the last prime, the bell rings again. WTF! Turns out that the race is being shortened by one lap. There is a group of four off the front who went off after the last prime as the sprinters were getting reabsorbed. Unbeknownst to us, one of our teammates was in the break. Ironclad just materializes all over the front of the field, forming a leadout train at least six guys strong. Alex and Matt find me and we start forming a miniature leadout train of our own. Going into the final 'S' curves before the finishing stretch, Alex takes our little train right up the left side and past the Ironclad train. Just an awesome pull to get that done. Now we are finally in control of the race. Alex pulls off right as we get on the finishing stretch and Matt takes over.

It's Matt, then an Ironclad leadout man, then me, then, I assume, my Ironclad competitor. Matt takes a super strong pull to about 300m out and he's off, leaving the rest of the leadout to Ironclad. Ironclad leadout guy keeps the pace high and I am waiting for the launch point.

Then a sickening sound.

Like a corrugated metal sheet being run over by heavy wheels.

The line comes up and I sprint around the Ironclad leadout man to claim the race win and turn around. My Ironclad competitor is nowhere to be found. We coast to the end of the straightaway and turn back around to see what happened. Obviously a crash happened at 35+mph and we are all asking around to figure who was involved. Turns out that Ironclad guy was one of the principle victims, locking handlebars with another rider while fighting for my wheel and coming down on his head and shoulders. One of my teammates was also involved as well (and maybe another, I'm unclear on this right now) and got pretty banged up.


I hate this. A grand sprint battle fucked by some bad luck. That's racing, I suppose. I didn't cause the crash in any way, so it's not like it's unsportsmanlike to claim the win. But I don't like it. I'll leave it at that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

April Doldrums

Last year at this time, I was recovering from injury; the crash at PIR that put a big volley ball sized hematoma on my left hip. But I was feeling it then before the crash, and I am feeling it now, a year later.

The April doldrums.

It's the transition between the spring season and the summer. All winter I've been hacking out small hours on the trainer after work and rainy rides on the weekends. 2x20s, 6x5s etc. Threshold intervals and very few miles because of the short hours of daylight and cold, wet weather.

Now it's spring. I can ride more, and I should. Because of this, the makeup of my training miles changes. I inherently do less intervals because I cannot stand to be on the trainer anymore, and riding intervals on the road is more difficult. Structure comes easily on a trainer. On the road, it takes some real motivation and discipline to do intervals.

And I've been racing a lot. Every weekend for the past month or more, and PIR during the middle of the week. It's a lot of thinking about racing and training and riding.

The April doldrums. Seems like it's going to be a regular part of my season. After the spring races and before the summer. I've been dealing with it these last couple weeks by just getting solid miles in without worrying too much about competing. I am trying to lose some weight and get stronger by putting in more miles. Starting next week, I'll put in some regular, structured intervals. Racing at PIR or on the track will suffice for the shorter interval sets. We'll see how it works.

Yin and Yang of Road Racing

In participating in this sport for the better part of two years now, I've come to a realization: the yin and yang of road racing.

The sport of road racing takes on two face. One is speed and efficiency. It's all about keeping in the draft. Using energy wisely. Sprinting at the finish. The other is suffering. Riding hard in the gutter until there's only one lone man behind you. Shedding him like a used tissue in one, final, devastating attack.

The pure sprinters, or the purest of the pure, the trackies, value speed and efficiency. Racing to them is a constant battle of energy conservation and position. All the effort in the race is condensed into the last couple miles. There is no suffering because there is no time to suffer. (Suffering is not just effort. It's effort in time. A 1500W burst is effort, but it's not suffering.) A win is a combination of outright strength and tactical skill. It's a chess master maneuvering himself in a sea of riders at 30mph.

And then there are the climbers and time trialists. These riders aren't concerned about speed; they are purpose built to suffer. Winning a race is to suffer the most for the longest. A sprinter, if he could hang with them to the finish line can plink them without trying. But hanging till the finish is the trick. These are the guys who ride people off their wheel. They don't nip people at the line for the win; a burst of speed from a sheltered position. They bludgon their competitors with hammers and attacks until not a one of them is left standing.

Two sports within a sport; within the same race even. Even the flat races are a constant war between the hammers and the sprinters; the guys who flog themselves (and others in the process) for their bread and the ones who snatch it like a thief. I've played both ends. I've played the strongman, and I've played the sprinter. I've been the hammer and I've been the sneak. Oh what a rich sport this is!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

PIR 4/21/09

First win of the season!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


So, fuck it all.

Fuck racing. Fuck training. I'm in the Ultimate Cat now and I can relax a little. Train a bit and get better. My family would enjoy seeing me around more on the weekend; I'll enjoy not competing as much for a little while. I've been racing since late Feb, almost every weekend, for the past month. In fact, for the past month exactly, I've been racing every weekend and once, all weekend, and a couple times, twice a week. I'm tired. Tired of getting my ass kicked. Tired of squeezing training in between work hours and racing on the weekend. I can win in the 4's, but I'm in the 3's now and overmatched. Track season is starting up. I'm going to get some long rides in. Get some hard rides in. Start up my interval training again: the scheduling of which has been shredded by racing and work. Reevaluate my form and my racing schedule. Do some track. Start training for the summer stage races.

That is all.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cat 3

Well, I've arrived. Senior Men Category 3. It's a big step. Most guys moving into this category, once arrived, never move out.

It happened the Monday after the Cherry Blossom SR. I wasn't feeling like I deserved it, but I had the requisite 25 races and was only two points short of the upgrade criteria. So I asked and received. Didn't really think about it. Too scary; those guys are faster and the races are longer. If I thought about it too long, I would have chickened out.

But eventually you can only be a big fish in a small pond for so long. Eventually the pond, the talent pool, has to be opened up. I am not one of those people who can do well in a race knowing that there is a more challenging race I should be racing. I'll be beat down, and I'll get back up, and I'll be stronger for it.

This weekend at the King's Valley RR, I'll get to test drive my racing skills in the new pond. A win for me is to not get dropped. A wet dream is to contest. Here's to moving up!

Oh, one other thing. I was a bit disappointed to get into Cat3 while still 2 upgrade points short. It's a point of pride, perhaps, to earn your way in instead of just surviving in the sport for long enough. Well, fear not, the very next day after requesting the upgrade, I got second place in the PIR circuit race in a field of 77 cat 3/4 men. That settles any upgrade point questions. I both survived long enough and earned my way in with results. There is no question that I don't belong anymore in the 4's. The question now remains whether I can find a place in the 3's.


"I'm fascinated by the sprinters. They suffer so much during the race just to get to the finish, they hang on for dear life in the climbs, but in the final kilometers they are transformed and do amazing things. It's not their force per se that impresses me, but rather the renaissance they experience. Seeing them suffer throughout the race only to be reborn in the final is something for fascination."
--Miguel Indurain

The reason why I love bike racing is because there is a place for everyone.  It's not a sport that penalizes whole segments of the population.  There are big people like me who can sprint and (one day) time trial, and there are little guys who can climb hills.   It results in a richness of strategy and tactics to make use of strengths and weaknesses that isn't seen in any other sport.

When I despair about my climbing ability or my power numbers or my power to weight ratio or any such measuring stick bullshit, I remember the quote above.  I am a sprinter.  It's my lot as a bike racer to suffer like a dog on the climbs so I can taste the finish.  Don't ever give up, because if I can get there to the line, I can blow the doors right off of all those little climbers without even breaking a sweat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PIR - 4/7/09

Pic is from:

Racing out at PIR is always fun, unless, that is, you end up on the ground. Fortunately, that didn't happen this time, unlike last year about this time, when I broke a helmet and gained the inspiration for the title of this blog.

Yesterday was the first PIR of the season. I started the day loading the bike in the car thinking I was going to do a group ride in the afternoon. Halfway thorough the day, I said "what the hell" and ended up at PIR. We had large group of 10 guys: Matt D., both Jasons: Feig and Flemming, Alex, Ty, Johnny Rockets, Jeff Henderson, Mitch Lee, Mitch Gold and myself. Pitted against us were ten guys on the Ironclad team, as well as 57 other racers. Only 10 clockwise laps to account for daylight, which doesn't mean an easy race, it means a fast race.

Everybody marked Mitch Lee. He went off at the gun and everybody chased. He's got himself quite a reputation. Ironclad and Portland Velo were in a Steel Cage Death Match of breakaway and bridge attempts. We would send a guy off, and they would chase. They would break away and we would chase. So it went for the entire race, all 26.5mph average worth of it. It was a fast race.

The big moment for me started in the last lap. I had been covering breaks, bridging and chasing all race. The last lap started like this with Ty and I moving up to the front to chase back a lone Ironclad guy on a bell lap breakaway. Getting around to the back side of the course, the Ironclad guy safely back in the field, everyone started positioning themselves for the sprint.

I was up against the infield wall and made my way to the outside, reasoning that the outside will remain unblocked. I'm coming up the side of the field and I pass Matt D. just sitting pretty on the left side, about 20 wheels back. I get up next to him and get him on my wheel. We move steadily up the side of the field as we make it through some of the preliminary "S" curves; we are sitting about 10 wheels back as we round the final corner. At that point, I just drill it. Just like at Banana Belt leading out Ron, I stayed seated and just started ramping up the torque.

I come out of the corner wide, way wide of the peloton which is hugging the infield wall. It was weird, because we were 20 feet off to the side of the peloton and nobody thought to cross the chasm over to where we were, preferring instead to fight for position out of the wind. Myself, I'm okay out there because I'm not hauling this truck all the way to the line. 200, 300m short of the line is good enough for me, which makes the wind okay.

So there we are, accelerating past the hard charging pack in their own little world way off to the right of us, and then we are free of them with nobody on Matt's wheel. I take a peak under my legs and see a steady wheel not more than 2" away from mine. Sweet. One of the things that riding with Dave Haag taught me was that a good leadout makes the sprint just a done deal. And that's what it was here. I started laboring and slowing slightly, Matt came around with a good kick and there was nobody behind him contesting. I sat up, moved over to the right just a little to get a bit in the way of the sprinters coming up, and coasted across the line in second place. It was a sweet win for the both of us.

Cherry Blossom SR - Stage 4 and recap

Reposted from the Portland Velo website:

Crappy day. 

Crappy weekend. 

Watched the lead group ride away from me 3 miles into today's race and the second time up the hill, watched the chase group I was in (with Matt, Dan, Paul, Sasha etc.) ride away.  Finished a very painful last 15 miles mostly by myself.

Summary of the weekend:

Stage 1: two flats, but not at the same time.  Go off road.  Rear tire flats, chase back on (with Tom Ricciardi's help; much appreciated), front tire flats during the chase (got back on just as the rim hits the ground), get another wheel and chase back on again, and then dropped.

Stage 2: Good data from the TT on the powertap.  Verified my FTP again.  Paced it well.  The lone shining star of my weekend.

Stage 3: Break the rear shift cable an hour before the crit.  Rode back to the hotel to try to fix it but ran out of time.  Raced the crit in the 39/12.  Hurt afterwards, but finished with the pack.  Contemplate borrowing a bike for stage 4 but manage to fix the cable and get shifting back that night.

Stage 4: Dropped 3 miles into the race on 7-mile hill (actually 5.5 miles, but who's counting).   Limp in very painfully.

Cherry Blossom SR - Stages 2 & 3

I'm playing catch-up here a bit.  This is reposted from the Portland Velo website:

The TT went relatively well for me.  I got 15th in the stage and got some useful powertap data.

Going into the crit, I was looking forward to it.  Ron and Alex, our two GC guys, were just sitting in, so I was going to contest things at the end.  All set, in the parking lot rolling around and my shifting is doing funny things.  Ride over to the venue and the right shifter is still doing funny things.  It's not shifting up to larger cogs very well.

Going around the course, I'm rolling and playing with the shifter a bit, and boom, the shift cable breaks.  I've got an hour before the crit starts so I go back to the hotel to try to fix it.  Get there and discover that the cable-stop at the end of the, now broken, cable is stuck inside the shifter.  I play around with it for about 20 minutes, but it's getting close to the start time, so I have to cut it short and single speed it in the 39/12.  As I was riding back to the venue I was kicking myself because I should have adjusted the limit screw to put it in the 15 or 16 tooth cog, instead of the 12 to get two useful gears instead of one.  Next time the cable breaks, I'll know better :).

So I race with a singlespeed.  Going up a slight rise on the back side I was way overgeared, and going down the down-wind section towards the finish, I was undergeared and couldn't move up in the field.  I saw the front once in the last three laps, but couldn't hold the position in the run-in to the finish line.  As it turned out, Sasha took 4th, so the day was good for PV.

I was contemplating the possibility of borrowing someone's bike for tomorrow's stage, but I ended up getting the little end of the cable out of the shifter and re-cabling the bike.  So I get to ride the next stage on my bike.  And damn, my legs are sore.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cherry Blossom SR - Stage 1

Stupid, stupid flats. That's all I have to say about yesterday's stage. The day started with a sea of blue and black of Portland Velo at the start line, what with 13 of us in the field. With a total field size of 86 riders, moving up in the field was a bit tough. That's the start of the story of flats and chasing.

Right off the bat, when I was seeing that the field was so congested, I had thoughts of moving up. I tried the middle of the field, but there weren't any gaps that I was comfortable moving up through. I tried the centerline and same thing. I had more luck over by the shoulder side of the lane. I was slowly moving up through the field led by a large contingent of blue and black, when the field went around a corner and shifted a little, pushing me off the road for a very brief spell, maybe 5-10 seconds tops. I think little of it; it was a hard packed gravel shoulder; get back up on the road and think nothing of it.

Then someone yells up to me from behind that he thinks my rear tire is going flat. I say, "no, my bike feels fine." I bounce on it a little, it feels fine. Then it feels soft. Then I am on my rim. This is 3 miles into the race. Fuck. I drift back through the field to the rear and stop as the wheel car stops right behind me. Shout out to the driver that I need a Shimano 10 speed, and digs one out. I slap it in, do a cyclocross remount and I am on my way. Tom Ricciardi, on of my teammates but one I didn't know very well, offered to wait for me as I was drifting back and I took him up on it. I owe him a beer or something.

Anyway, I am off at a full sprint to get back up to speed and I see him up the road noodling along, waiting for me. I blow by him and then slow a bit so we can work together. We work together smoothly and the field isn't actually that far ahead of us. Midway through the chase though, I notice my front wheel is feeling funny. I blow it off. Can't think about that now; my only thought is to get back to the field, which we are slowly gaining on. Then I start hearing my front tire making a "swish swish" noise. I blow it off again. We are getting closer. Now, along with the swishing noise, the tire is feeling soft. I look down and can see it sloshing side to side as I push on the pedals. Fuuuccck. This can't be happening. Now my entire weekend is in danger because the wheel car is ahead of me and if I get a flat now, it's a long walk and DNF or wait and beg a wheel from the wheel car of the next field, which they are not obligated to give me.

We are getting close now to the rear of the field and my rim is getting closer and closer to the ground. I tell Tom, who is on my wheel, that I'm just going to push it really, really hard and sprint the 100m left so I can get to the wheel car and get a new wheel.

I get to the back of the last car in the caravan and try to get the driver's attention. No response, but as I pass the car to talk to the driver, I find it's just a random car and not the wheel car. My rim is on the ground now. Up ahead of that car is the wheel car. I get up to it and tell the driver I need another wheel. We stop, I get it, and after futzing with the skewer for forever, I am off again to chase, this time by myself.

Now, the story gets boring. Chase, chase, chase. I am passing little fragments of the field who are getting blown off the back. I pass Rob who is dragging a brake pad. He hangs with me up the hill for a little, but he is eventually dropped from the pace. I get up to the top and I join up with a group of 4 or 5 riders, including Tom, who apparently made it on just in time to get dropped again when the course took a turn into the wind and uphill. Dropped riders make for bad chase companions though, and I end up pulling most of them along, with them taking short pulls and myself taking longer ones. One last push, and I am back on the back of the field, just in time to finish the first lap.

Going into the second lap, the pace rockets sky high as the field turns down-wind and starts chasing a couple of riders who broke away. We are flying at almost 40mph over level ground. After chasing the field twice and spending a hour at threshold, this eventually drops me. I limped in about 8 minutes back.