Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tour of Austin Day 1: Circuit of the America's

I was really excited for this race, I think everyone was. What is cooler than racing your bike on a perfectly paved F1 race track? Well, in my opinion it turns out a lot of things are better. Don't get me wrong, riding around the track was awesome. I would love to ride around the track over and over again, but racing around it sucked (for me). I know lots of other people loved it, but I somehow got my feathers rustled and never enjoyed it.

About the track, the pavement is perfect, it is twisty with a couple hairpins. The track is wide though, so you can scorch around the sharper turns and pedal through most of them. There is the one short and steep hill, with a sharp hairpin up top and then a very quick descent. It all sounds like a recipe for a great race... but I couldn't stand it.

The problem with the track being as wide as it was is that everyone had lots of space. Usually that is a nice thing, but people have learned how to race in confined spaces. Confined as in "if you don't move the same direction as the guy to your left, right and in front of you then you will crash." On the race track, people spread out and then everyone who swung wide would try and take the apex of the turn as would everyone who was way on the inside. The end result was people taking 6 different lines that all hit the same point, lots of grabbing of the brakes, people riding over rumble strips. If there had been a wall instead of rumble strips people would have crashed very very hard on the first lap. Over time it got better, but there was still tons of brake grabbing, a variety of lines and tons of sketch throughout the race. In the sections where there wasn't a corner riders fanned out across the whole road leaving 3 times as much room as normal, there was less draft in the group because of this, and since people had room they stopped riding in straight lines which annoyingly made it harder to move up.

My second issue with the race was admittedly not entirely the track's fault, but very few people really raced. If you got up to fifth wheel in the race the people on the front would stop riding because they didn't want to waste energy. They would soft pedal and 20 people would be in front of you again. A constant cycle of circles, then when someone attacked everyone jumped on their wheel. Classic every man for himself racing to win. The course was also rather unselective, sure there was "the hill" but there was also the downhill after it. No one in our group was able to snap any elastic the hill was so short and a number of pretty large dudes made it to the end of the race. I actually tried on 3 consecutive laps to get to the front of the group to put in a hard effort on that hill. But everytime I got near the front as we approached the guys in front of me would sit up and let 20 people go around.

End rant of frustration with people. I have to blame a lot of my dislike for the race on myself. When I was upfront and people in front of me eased up I should have attacked. I should have raced smart, gone when people let up. Something switched off in me yesterday though. I switched back to the racer I was a couple years ago, the guy who never attacked, never got on the front, never made the race happen. I myself stopped racing my bike and waited for the race to happen. Part of that is because I've been perhaps a bit too... crazy lately. Attacking from the gun at HHH, attacking from the gun at the Driveway last week. Lots of ending up on my own solo in front of groups. I want to find that balance, but I would prefer to be attacking too much then not enough. I didn't like my race yesterday not just because of the course, and how others raced but because my mind was out of wack. At three laps to go I was asking myself what I was even doing, I contemplated dropping out because I just wasn't in it, but I stuck it out (and am happy I did). Everyone has their lulls, time to get up, get my mind in the right place and race the way I have been racing this evening.

Results wise: I sat up in the last two corners, was on the back end of the main field. I made it to the finish and I was done. There was no chance for me to win, I hadn't put myself where I needed to be to make that happen, and to be honest I really hadn't tried. I had just sat along for the ride. After the race people where falling over about how hard the last lap had been, how they felt like they were dying, talking about how hot it was, and I hadn't experienced any of that. In the end I'm frustrated I didn't race, that I just rode.