Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Walburg and Pace Bend

I was really excited heading into this weekend, first race on the new team bike, and first time at one of the longest running race weekends. Overall the weekend pretty well for the Cat 2's as a team, but not without it's flaws, and I definitely have some improvements to make myself.

The day of the Walburg Road Race has a mythic ability to attract high winds and terrible weather. Fortunately this year, we missed out on it's terrible weather abilities but the winds were dialed up by the end of the first lap. Going into this race, I wasn't really sure what to expect from the course or the racing. I've heard so many things about the race over the years "hardest race in texas" "centerline rule ruins the race" "rough pavement" "windy" but never raced it myself. I went into the race, not expecting much from myself in terms of results, but with a teammate mentality. I wanted to race aggressive, and make sure I was in early moves so that Grant and Kevin could save their matches for when it would matter.

During our extra long and slow neutral roll out I worked my way up into top 5, and as soon as attacks started flying, I started marking them. Over the first half of the first lap not much of anything went away, wind was almost completely dead, but not entirely, and I floated around the front 20 in the field. After our first right turn into a headwind, my teammate Alec launched a little attack. After he floated out there for a little while, I saw Paul Carty start to make a move to go across and jumped on his wheel. We went right across and aAec sat up once we came past. Paul too seemed to sit up a bit, and then I put in a dig of my own. I road off the front, but not hard. Going hard solo was a recipe for disaster. I wanted to see who would react and come across. Carlo Villarreal came across looked at me and we non-verbally agreed, game on. The field seemed to be giving us some room, so we decided to see how much we could take.

We weren't out front for all that long, but it sapped my legs pretty well. When we were brought back into the fray 5-10 minutes later I was able to get a spot top 10, but all "snap" had gone from the legs. At the next jump I went hurtling backwards and barely caught onto the back of the field. A mile or so later we took a right hand turn and people went down. I had to chase again to catch back on (and honestly wouldn't have made it without a . I was mad at myself at this point, I had wanted to be up front for the new more technical, narrow section of the course to make a move. Instead I was at the back, closing gaps at every turn.

When we turned back onto the main road, I had been gapped and closed the gap probably 6 times at least. Wasted a ton of energy. I moved up in the tailwind section as quickly as I could. I needed to not be at the back. When we hit the crosswinds the shit really hit the fan. Most of the field decided "to hell with the centerline rule" and the moto hardly protested. Fortunately my teammates Grant and Alec had made their way up to a break up the road, unfortunately I was in a world of hurt. I refused to cross the centerline which left me with little to no draft with a very strung out pack. I eventually decided to forgo my place in the gutter and try to form a second echelon. No one followed me suit... so I decided to drill it and try and get up to the front echelon. Next thing I knew I was out the back.

Alec rode his heart out for Grant up the road, which paid off with a second place for Grant. Made me feel like a worse teammate knowing and seeing just how much Alec had given everything to make it happen for him. I need to get more out of myself in the future.

Things I did well: eating and hydrating, for a change, being agressive. Things I did poorly: too aggressive when it didn't matter, not able to be aggressive when it did.

Pace Bend

A good race on Sunday can make up for a bad one on Saturday. It was hot and gorgeous outside. Plan for Pace Bend was to again make sure the team was represented in the early move, but to this time be more selective in what I followed and to not sell myself out into any move I went into. First lap, I again situated myself near the front and watched a couple moves go and come back. Nothing dangerous, not worth spending our efforts on. Next lap, for reasons unknown to me or my teammates at the time, Kevin Fish slow rolled off the front and took out a nice little gap on the field. A couple guys bridged up to him, but nothing insane. The gap went out to a max of about 30 seconds and came back a lap later, when I made sure to get myself up front to follow any counters. To my surprise nothing really started flying right away, as we hit the steepest climb on the backside of the course, the pace stayed pretty high. When we got over the steep part and onto the last, shallow pitches of the climb I put in a little kick. Next thing I knew there were 4 of us off the front. We worked well together in a good solid quick rotation with 30 second pulls. We dug in hard for one lap to open up the gap, and one lap in had a 55 second gap. At this point we slowed up a bit, and some disfunction started showing in our group. One of the riders (a think finance guy) was incapable of keeping a steady pace on the front. It was HARD uphill and soft pedalling down it.

Pulling our early break around a corner on a beautiful Texas day.

After two laps the gap was down to 45 seconds. At this point there was a question which wasn't really addressed within the group, did we want to try to maintain a gap or not. In accordenance with my pre-race strategy, I wasn't driving the group at all. I knew I had strong (resting) teammates behind me, and that if we came back one of them would be able to make something happen. half a lap later, 25 seconds. At this point we moved through the now open feedzone for the first time, this caused some nice disorder in our small breakaway. On the other side of the feed we heard 20 seconds. Group was not yet visible but we knew a catch was coming. Then we saw the group come over and a counter come across to us, Grant in tow. I had been largely expecting to try and fall into the top couple riders but immediately put in a dig to get up to their speed. If the 8 of us had started working together kept the pace up, it could have been awesome, but it wasn't meant to be. We kinda looked around for someone to set pace and then 1, 2, 5, 10 riders came across. Next thing we know whole field is back together.

I had made a big mistake off the front, not enough fluid intake. It was 85 degrees and sunny, hot when you consider how our winter has gone thus far this year. My mouth was dry, and as a teammate informed me I had crusty salt all over my jersey and bibs. I drank some from the bottles I had on my bike, but they were warm, and had a drink mix in them which at this point just made my mouth sticky. Next lap I looked for Ian who was feeding us, but didn't see where he was situated until it was too late. Next lap (7 laps in) I grabbed a bottle, I was in recovery mode/ hang on mode at this point. Grant had been lobbing attacks up front and gotten off with a group of 8 or so, I needed to be up front covering moves but I just felt like I was turning into a raisin.

It took some water over the head, back, hands, and lots of intake over the next couple laps for me to start to feel ok. Finally with 2 laps to go I was starting to feel like I was alive again. I saw attacks start to fly, but was too far back. I needed to get up there and match moves in case anything got across to Grant. I got up front too late though. A group of 20 ended up making it across and we had no teammates in it. By the time I got upfront the move had gone and anything else that attempted to go was getting shut down. At this point, Alec and I started discussing our end strategy. Alec said if he smelled the opportunity for a flyer he was going to go for it, I told him I though I could do well in the uphill sprint finish. At 3k to go, Alec made a move with two other which stuck until the line. I positioned myself terribly for the sprint (dead last wheel going into it out of the remenants of our field), but when I kicked at about 500m to go, the base of the finishing climb I quickly got up to the pointy end of affairs. I had to hit the brakes to get around someone who had gone early and died and then surged again and ended up 5th out of our field. Grant ended up getting 5th.

At the end of the race, I was happy with the win, extremely happy with my legs, but dissapointed in my execution. I had raced tactically smart early on, but failed to set myself up for success with my hydration and nutrition. Played catch up, not put myself in the moves that went across to a teammate up the road, and placed myself poorly for a finishing sprint which I could/should have won. I need to not be my own worst enemy. On the bright side: it was my first race finish in a race field with no one lower than a cat 2 in it, but I expect more of myself.

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