Race #6: Staged Wisdom

A few weeks ago, I entered my first stage race. It was actually three races – a 35 minute criterium, a 22 km time trial, and an 84 km road race – over the course of 36 hours.

Riders received points based on how they finished in each race (15 for first, 12 for second, etc.). At the end, the points were tallied and an overall winner declared.  Simple enough.

What wasn’t so simple? Beating the shockingly cagey 14-year-old in my category.

The Crit:

The crit was first up on Saturday morning. The race was on a (rundown) 400-metre oval speedway that looked a lot (exactly) like this:

Hey that's me! (Third from the right.)
Hey that’s me! (Third from the right.)

 

That's closer me.

That’s me again, but closer.

Since the track was an oval, there were no corners per se. Sounds great for me, as far as crits go, right?

It probably would have been, but guess who tried to go long and got caught (quite handily) by the group. THIS GUY! BOO YEAH! WILL I EVER LEARN?? NO PROBABLY NOT!

And that's me leading the all-important middle portion of the race.
That’s me leading the all-important middle portion of the race.

I finished eighth out of 12 in Cat 4. Woot, 41st percentile!

Guess who won. The 14-year-old! I don’t know how he managed to out-sprint the crop of much larger dudes pinning it in the final straightaway. He is/was the size of an average 14-year-old. But he did. And it strangely gives me hope for the future; tactics can obviously trump sheer power, to an extent.

The Time Trial

Now we’re talking. Just me and the clock. None of these pesky competitors hunting me down en masse. 

The course was a mostly flat out-and-back, but it did have a bit of elevation at either end.

I passed my 30-second-man (i.e. the guy who started 30 seconds ahead of me) on the way out and never caught a whiff of the guy who started 30 seconds behind me.

The most cathartic part of the race was the fact that my 30-second-man was the 14-year-old. Crushing that child made me feel really good about myself.

At the very end of the day, I wound up second. I say very end because the organizers screwed up the timing for a lot of people and originally had me first. They then snatched my victory away by adjusting someone else’s time. (It was all terribly dubious. But I wasn’t too distraught finishing second to a guy with aero wheels and bars.)

The Road Race

This one was absolute heartbreak. Sort of by accident, I shot off the front with 1.5 laps to go by gunning it to the top of the lone hill on the 9 km course. The hill was short (about 1 km) but steep, hitting 15% in places. I really just wanted to get it over with; I wasn’t trying to start a solo break. But, when I reached the top with a gap, I wasn’t about to sit up and wait.

The 14-year-old tried to track me down on his own for a lap, but he eventually got reeled in by the bunch. Then, with 200 metres to go, they caught me, too. 😦

For most of the final 5 km, I was pretty sure I was going to win. I could see the group behind me on certain straightaways and thought I had more time on them than I actually did. Either that, or I thought I had more energy than I actually did.

Either way, I now know what it’s like to get caught in sight of the finish line. I had a hunch it would suck. It sucked. I’m something of a soothsayer.

A few of the riders offered their condolences after the race and asked if I’d like to come out and ride with their various teams. (One group assured me that, if I had been part of their team, I would have won. It was a good sales pitch.)

As it was, I wound up seventh out of 21 in the road race.

Guess who won. The freakin’ 14-year-old! He also won the entire stage race as a result.

Ugh. Monsieur en dehors!

Race #5: A Name Change May Be In Order

As I mentioned at the tail end of my last recap, Tuesday brought my first criterium. It consisted of ten laps of a flat-as-a-pancake 2.2 KM course around an industrial park in Burnaby. The field was 34 strong, all ostensibly Cat 4s.

I’m simplifying a bit, but the race was essentially half an hour of sprint, corner, repeat.

If you think that sounds like my worst nightmare, I’ve never told you about the recurring dream I have where I’m back in high school and I forget to go to French class for an entire year and then it’s the day of the final and I literally don’t know a single French word. Not even one. Not even “Monsieur” or “forte”.

What were we talking about? Right, criteriums do not play to my strengths. But this course featured wide, 90-degree-plus corners, so it was about as safe and non-technical as a criterium can get.

The result? Well, there’s good news and bad.

The bad: I didn’t win.

The good: I didn’t crash or flat!

That marks the first time I’ve done none of the above.

The other good news: I was only one second behind the winner. The other bad news: 12 other people managed to cross the line in that second (a.k.a. I came 14th).

My strategy, as usual, left something to be desired. The average pace for the race, in toto, was 41.92 KM/H, which kept the pack pretty strung out. No one made any serious attempts to breakaway over the first nine laps, but, in almost every corner, I was reminded of how much faster a lot of those guys can sprint than me.

So on the final lap I tried to go long. I was off the front for maybe 15 or 20 seconds, but was reeled back in pretty effortlessly (I think). I went into the last corner about tenth and was predictably passed by a few more people in the final straightaway. My sprint might have been a little better if I hadn’t tried to go long; but, realistically, it probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. Monsieur’s top speed just isn’t that high … yet. 😉

I’ll either have to get faster or change my name from “Monsieur Forte” to “Sir Bottomly Topspeed”.

Next Tuesday’s crit (there’s one every week until September as long as the weather is dry) is out at UBC and features a hill! That might work out a little better.

I’ll leave you with a link to the full results from this week.