Races #3 and #4: In Which My Resolve Is Tested

Apparently it’s been over a month since my last post. That doesn’t mean I’ve been an inactive cyclist; it means I’ve been an inactive Netizen – which is a word we should all be using more.

In reality, my motivation to post anything has been severely diminished because my recent results were ungood.

I have no idea what I'm doing.
Working on my steed. I have no idea what I’m doing.

In races numero trois et quatre, I was bumped up to the C Group (after winning race nombre dos in the D Group).

The C Group races are longer (closer to 80 km), have more riders (about 40 split between a men’s group and women’s group), and have better organization (in terms of teams and tactics).

Most of the riders are still Cat 4, so I didn’t think there would be a huge difference in terms of skill or endurance. I wasn’t entirely right.

The courses for both races were more technical than the first two; there was more cornering, generally, and a couple off-camber turns. This accentuated the slinky-effect heading into a corner (meaning the pace slowed way down if you were stuck at the back).

I realized this early in Race #3 and tried to stay near the front. Evidently, I didn’t do a terribly good job of staying directly behind the rider in front of me and wound up rubbing against the rider next to me on a couple of occasions.

This, I have learned, is not appreciated. Luckily, everyone stayed upright (for the time being – ooh ominous!).

Thunderbird Long - In the Pack
I need to rethink those glasses.

The wind was out in force for Race #3 and the pace was pretty slow for the first 60 km. A couple solo attacks were quickly reeled in. More accurately, a couple solo attacks were quickly abandoned.

Towards the end of the second-last lap, I made a move. I had the wind mostly at my back. I heard someone in the peloton say to his teammate, “Let this one go”, and I thought to myself, “You fool!”

He was no such thing. I lasted about two or three minutes off the front before the bunch was on my buttocks. (If I was going to hyperlink to a hemorrhoid cream, I suppose now would be the time.) I sat up, slotted myself into the middle of the pack, and started the last lap with a group of about 20.

A three-man team from the University of Victoria moved themselves to the front of the peloton at the start of the final lap. They had a plan. Halfway through, all three sprinted hard, trying to reduce the selection before the home stretch.

I, like everyone else, chased. They didn’t get away, but they did stretch out the bunch. Then two of them attacked in earnest about three km from home. I did my best to respond, but the road was pretty blocked.

I tried to split a couple riders in front of me, but again wound up bumping someone. Again, everyone stayed upright – me just barely.

I built my speed back up and resumed the chase.

I’m pretty sure that everyone left in the peloton was hoping for exactly that: have someone else lead the chase and slot in behind him, conserving as much energy as possible for the final straightaway.

Oops.

I realized this when I caught the two-man break and then looked back to see about 18 other riders right on my tail.

Drat.

I still had a little gas in me and we were only about 1.5 km from home, so I said tried to get my own break going. But I never opened up much more than a three or four second gap.

The final corner was followed by a 400 metre straightaway with a very slight incline. I tried to get myself in the first ten or so riders heading into the 90-degree turn, but that required me to move to the inside.

Unless you’re going to be a dangerous ass**** and under cut people coming out of the turn, you don’t want to be on the inside on a corner. Yes, the distance is shorter, but you can’t take the turn as fast and will come out of the corner with less speed.

I didn’t judge my line quite right and went into the turn going too fast. My supreme lack of bike handling skills then came to the fore and I wound up skidding and shredding my tire.

I probably wasn’t going to win, but blowing a tire 400 metres from the finish line left me yearning for a sport without mechanical difficulties.

I went home, hopped on my stationary trainer, and hammered out my lingering anger.

Race #4 followed the next weekend. It was a hillier course and I went in with high hopes.

I’ll skip the first 70 km because nothing really happened.

Nothing really happening, except me eating. This is what passed for an action shot early in the race.

I stayed with the front group until the end of the second last lap. At the bottom of the biggest of the climb, I moved myself to the front and resolved to push the pace to the top. I hit the apex with a bit of separation and then stomped on the biggest gear I could handle. My lead grew to about 30 seconds by the start of the final lap.

Eventually, my glances back were met with nothing but bucolic landscapes.

I swear I'm winning.
I swear I’m winning.

For some reason, though, I couldn’t bring myself to ease off at all, even heading into the more technical corners. I was convinced that any let up would find the pack on my tail.

Trying too hard ended up screwing me.

About two km from the finish, I did the exact same thing as the week before. I took too much speed into a corner, skidded, and wrenched my tire off the rim (flatting in the process).

I plunked myself down on the side of the road and waited for the other riders to pass me. As I sat and stewed and the seconds passed by, I realized just how much I could have eased off and still stayed out front.

Damn. I really could have used that $35.

Lesson learned? Gosh I hope so.

Epilogue:

My next race will be an industrial park criterium in Burnaby on Tuesday (unless it’s canceled due to rain, which looks like a significant possibility). Criteriums are shorter races on smaller courses, often 30-50 laps of a one or two km course on flat city streets. (Vancouver’s Tour de Gastown is an example.)

I’ll let you know how it goes. But you’ll probably be able to figure it out for yourself if I don’t post anything on Wednesday. :s

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