Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why you should not quit

I wanted to.

I wanted to turn around and go back to the parking lot. I didn't.

(Binghamton Circuit Race)

This was one of our local races. It's a course the club does twice a month. I know the ins and outs of it. I know where I am strong, where I am weak, where the potholes are, where the wind will hit you, where the places to hide are, where the places to attack are.

And I know that the course doesn't suit me on a windy day. Oops, I forgot. It was also 42 degrees and driving rain.

I wanted to quit before we even started the first race. I wanted to quit when I was hitching up my trailer and the rain was turning to ice pelting my face that morning. I wanted to go home and go back to bed.

I didn't.

The first race, cat 4, was surprisingly well-attended considering the conditions. It was even fast at times. We had three. I was expecting to have nearly ten from our team but a whole lot of guys bailed. I can't say I blame them, but wish they had come. This did not give us much of a tactical advantage however as Rogue had better numbers and several other teams had decent representation as well. Honestly I don't think tactics made a difference in this race except for perhaps one or two moments. The rest of the time it was very predictable. Someone would launch an attack, or just look like they were going to launch an attack, or simply stand up to pedal, and the whole peloton would react immediately. It was Pavlovian.

I concluded that my original strategy of trying to get away early was doomed (especially with a south wind pushing you back on the downhill and back straight) and binned it. Mike and I had discussed some rapid-fire attacks later in the race in the hopes of catching them when they were tired, and we fell back on this strategy.

Mike had the legs to make a great gap on one of his attacks, getting a good 15 seconds on the group, but it was not going to work. The surge came rather quickly and he was caught before we hit the S/F line. After his second attempt was reeled in I countered on the top section of the hill, going clear after a prime lap and getting a bit of space but the wind blast at the top was enough to keep me from really getting much out of it. I was caught before the middle of the flat section.

This was going to be a field sprint. Everyone seemed to want it that way. Or so I thought.

One to go, and Rogue sends one of their guys up the road right after the S/F line. I hesitated.


Should have followed him. I had a hunch that this one was going to work. This was verified when his team came to the front and set up a nice false tempo that gave him an excellent gap which was increasing. Finally the bike race felt like a bike race. I made a move to bridge, dragged a few with me, made it to within 20 meters, failed. The rest of the pack had caught up to the back end of us at that point and I drifted back.

From the back I could see how things were going to play out for the field sprint. Mike chose to move up on the inside. I followed him up that way, hoping to get a clear channel from that point. He nailed it from the bottom of the hill and basically dropped me. I did my best to wind it up from there but never found the right gear. Overgeared is not the way for me to sprint here, and the inside was way too tight. I had to stop pedaling twice to keep from crashing into weaving and slowing riders.


unhappy. a frustrating race with a lousy finish. I have yet to do a cat 4 race that I didn't feel frustrated and tense during, or after.

At this point I want to quit again. I am having visions of burying my bikes in the back yard and taking up knitting. Shivering, cold, wet, grouchy. Not wanting to discuss the race.

I did not quit.

Reset. Change all clothes. Put new number on. Eat a sandwich. Drink a Red Bull. Make a phone call. Go back to the trailer and warm up some more on the trainer. Find some happiness again. Line up again.

The second race might just be a better one for me. It's a combination field. P123 and Masters. We all race together. The pace is hotter. The tactics are, well, they exist. People know how to handle their bikes for the most part.

And I am coming in to it tired from the first race. This might be a good thing. It has in the past.

Nothing to lose here, I play it safe and just look for good wheels to follow. I am playing this one as a race of attrition, expecting the higher pace and longer duration to take a quarter to a half of the race and then whoever is left will have to sort it out. The biggest difference in pace happens on the uphill, where the field will push it all the way past the line and to the top of the hill before slowing. It means you need to suffer for at least 30 seconds longer. That gets tough after a while. Being tired is a plus though since the endorphins are already kicking in.

Finding a good wheel was not as important as figuring out which wheels NOT to follow. Some guys would open up a gap in the windy section and you had to go around them and close it. That was brutal, and nearly took me out of the race with about 4 to go. I chased all the way to the little riser before the flat in the back of the course. Dragging a few riders with me, finally flipping elbow and hoping they would come around.

They did. Saved.

And the pack finally spread out a bit. This was a hard race and things strung out much more than they usually do. People were hungry for a win. Lots of them. Lots of 123s.

I tend to measure the toughness of a race by the number of times I have fantasies about quitting. By that metric this was a very hard race.

Very hard.

But once I caught back on after that agonizing chase I realized the pack was considerably smaller.

I am going to finish this one in the lead group. Heck, I might even do well in this one. Dammit! I am going to make something of this race!

1-to-go. Regrouping. Slowing. No attacks. It's going to be a field sprint. Find a spot. Be patient. Wait and see. Remember what you learned from the mistakes you made in the first race.

Getting close to the final hill... And a hole opens up in the middle! Fill the hole and get to the outside!

I do. I hit the base of the climb and click down a couple of gears. Sprint! Go Go Go Go!

I picked the proper side and the proper gear this time, kept the power on all the way to the line.


It's all in the split...

how many masters are in front of me? how many behind me? how many are 123s?

about 20 minutes later Lloyd pushes money into my hand. What's this?

"you won the masters 35+"


"no, really, you won."


Why you should not quit.

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