Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lago Vista: Bipolar weather and more tactical errors

Lago Vista, as everyone calls it, or "La Primavera" as it has been listed on the TXBRA calendar since I started racing (a source of confusion for me when I first started riding, and for some others I'm sure), is another one of Texas' oldest races. On Saturday, there was a piece of paper on display listing the winners since the early 90's. It is also the only road race on the Texas calendar which I have competed in three times now. I first competed in the juniors race in 2010, half a year after I had started racing. I recall being severly over dressed and dying halfway through that race. A year later, I also race at Lago Vista, that year both days. I did the juniors race on Saturday, where I lasted only a lap. It was 35 degrees outside, a quarter of a lap in it started pouring rain on us, and eventually that turned into hail. Coming down the steep fast descent I recall fearing for my life and I pulled out, frozen to the bone after one lap. The next day I overslept my alarm and called the promoter to get switched into the 34 field from the 45 field. I lasted as many laps as the 45 race would have been, which I considered a success at the time. Fun times.... but back to this year.

Lago Vista is one of only two races on the TXBRA calendar that give an advantage to lightweights, like myself. Both Saturday and Sunday use the same 5.5 mile loop out in Lago Vista with the highest point being , one day is clockwise, the other counter clockwise. Going clockwise, as we did provides a much steadier climb and a much faster, twistier descent. Going clockwise you have a short downhill to a right hand turn from the start/finish line, then 2km @ 3% average grade, after which you get another 3km of rolling terrain. After this there are two right hand turns and the rest of the course goes mostly downhill, with multiple steep pitches hitting 14-15% along the way, and a couple little risers as well. Running into the start finish there is a fast downhill, and a steep upwards pitch. Sunday is exactly backwards, a number of steep sharp pitches on the way out and then a steady fast descent back down.

Lago was going to be different from the last couple of races I had done, in that we were starting with only 2 guys. Kevin would be racing with the big boys in the P12 and Grant was in college station crushing souls at his collegiate race weekend. This left Alec and I, and naturally changed our tactics a bit. We no longer had strength in numbers and both needed to race to put ourselves into positions to win, Alec is great at positioning and timing in a sprint, so if it came down to a sprint he would be the guy to go.Me being a skinny rail, and having a skillset more suited to a breakaway would try to get into a break that would get away.

On the start line, Dark horse racing had 9 guys, all on the front as they had just finished posing for a nice team picture. As soon as we hit the first pitch two of their guys went up the road, two others went with and then the collect mass of darkhorse guys sat up, effectively creating a huge road block. The break took time out of us very very quickly. By the end of the first climb, I think they had a minute. I knew based on the make up of the group, with the sheer force of numbers darkhorse had in our race that the move was a dangerous one. I got myself up front to watch for things that would go. On the descent, however, I found myself quickly losing places. I'm not the best bike handler or descender, but even more so I don't trust others to do it well. I move backwards very quickly as I avoided getting close to people while going 50mph downhill. Each time I was able to get back up front before turning onto the climb again. During our 4th of 11 laps, I was sitting top 15 or so when we hit the base of the steady climb. This time it really strung out, we were starting to hit it hard to try and pull back the break. At times I could see the break for brief periods of time. When we hit the flat rolling section Kevin Kimbell of Blur racing was a little ways of the front, I looked around saw people were gassed and sensed the opportunity for a bridge. I put in a dig and quickly made it across. I sat on Kevin's wheel for a second and then pulled through to try and lift the pace and get us up to the leader. I'm not exactly sure how long I spent on the front other than "too long at too high of an effort." I was making headway on the group ahead quickly and then boom... Mason Quintana and Carla Villareal bolted past me. Kevin was quick to jump on their wheel... but I didn't have enough at that moment left for a hard jump. I tried but did not grap the wheel. I sat down and kept digging. Maybe I could claw my way back onto their wheel, but the power was starting to fade.... but I was still making headway on the break. Keep digging. I look over my shoulder and see the field gaining on me, I'm gaining on the break... look over again. It looked like the field was gaining on me faster than me on the break, I decided to sit up.

Bad move. As soon as I sat up the whole field did two, and the break never came back. My mistake here was putting in so much effort that I had no jump left. I should have pulled off earlier, worked with Kevin and kept and eye on activity behind us so I could have reacted to the move. If I had done less work, I would have made the break of the day... but I hadn't. Back in the field I sat in, I still had something left in the tank, and was going to need to use it at some time if I wanted to get back into that lead move. A half lap later, near the start finish I heard the moto say that the lead group had 2 minutes on us. On the steady climb, we hit it at a decent effort but not hard enough, I decided to go again. I got off and looked back, no reaction at all from the field. I decided to keep going, see what kind of headway I could make and perhaps someone else would decide to come play. A couple minutes later I looked over my shoulder and the field was out of sight. At this point I became antiquated with pain in my legs, and kept an eye on the power meter to make sure I didn't over cook anything, still lots of racing to be done, I kept it pegged at 260w, 2 minutes was going to take a while to bridge. When I hit the highest point I got a time report from the moto: 1 minute to each group. Making progress, and quicker than I had expected to. I decided that for the descent the best approach would be to go fast, but not try and make up any gaps. I wanted to keep those gaps steady, save a little bit of energy if I could and pull it back when we got back to the uphill where I had an advantage. Unfortunately, I eased off too much. When I hit to bottom it was 30 seconds back and 1:15 up the road. I didn't think I had the legs left for another 1.5 laps (looking at 20+ minutes) of bridge attempt. I kept it threshold as I hit the climb again but was caught by the field. Time to sit in till other people came out to play again.

Somewhere along the lines I had either used too much energy or not taken on enough food. I was fading fast. (probably the latter, as I'm getting better with food but still have a long ways to go. Not very comfortable taking in food on the group when going hard, like when we were climbing, or on flying fast descents) I sank back towards the back of the field. And the next couple laps were a blur, at 3 laps to go there was a split in the field and I was on the wrong side of it. Now racing for something like 25th, not something I was happy with. at 2 to go, I decided I needed to either get the two groups to come back together or to get across to the other group. I put in a 'all or nothing' type of effort. Trying to get every last ounce out of my legs and hopefully get across. The legs died far, far to quickly and I was done at that point. I finished up the lap and then my race was over.

While Saturday was a gorgeous, sunny day with 80 degree temperatures, Sunday was 36 with scattered rain on the start line. On the way up to the race I had watched the temperature fall from 72 to 45, pretty incredible. I had seen a race start and finish with many, many people pulling out due to ttemperature issues (cold everything, shivering, inability to brake or shift). I lined up in a mish mash of winter gear, trying to stay away from flappy raing jackets while keeping myself warm and dry. Clothing all set to go, it was time to race. They shortened our race a whole lap due to the conditions (which I thought was really numb, make the race significantly shorter or don't). Anyways, without further ado we took off. The first lap was (thankfully) pretty tame, giving us all a lap to warm up, and for many to take off rain jackets once they had.

The next lap is when racing started to really happen. I saw Brendan Sharpe, a strong climber roll off the front along with three others (a dark horse and a DNA racing guy) on the steepest pitch of the day. I was positioned poorly, I could see things happening but not get out and go with it. I knew this was a dangerous move, 4 guys had just gone who were all clearly strong climbers (based on Brendan's strava hero status I had him picked as a guy to seriously watch), as well as guys from the three biggest teams in the race. My teammate Alec must have known too, without us talking he had gone to the front and drilled it on the descent. When we started to hit the climbs again, right as he peeled off I came out with some efforts at about 60% to see how the field reacted and who followed. I'd sit up and then go again... then the race really lit up. Attack after attack after attack. I followed 1, 2 ,3 moves. None of them went and then the 4th one that came was big, and I didn't have enough left to follow it. On the steepest slope of the course I did 12w/kg for 20seconds, and barely couldn't grasp to the move. 1/3 of the field was up the road, 1/3 turned around and said "some other day" which left a third of us just sitting at the back, 15 or so guys at first, with all but 3 of us with multiple teammates up the road. Race was over. I rode a couple more laps and worked the the other guys up the road... but really we just kept attacking each other and not working together which was getting us nowhere. Then a nice hard rainstorm hit us while we were headed downhill, I started to get really cold. 1/3 of the way up the climb, still cold, I turned around and headed down. I made it 5 laps in before calling it.

Both days I put in good strong efforts, but not when I needed to and it counted. Goal for future races: go hard less often, go harder when I go hard. Make each effort count for something.

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