Friday, March 20, 2015

Corsicana Stage Race - Riding for the team, TT success, and an inability to turn my bicycle.

With a bit of a shakeup in the racing calendar this year, the Corsicana stage race was the first stage race of the year. It was also the first big P12 instead of Cat 2 only race I have done this year. I love stage races, and the way it opened with a TT meant you got to see exactly how everyone was riding before moving on to the other races.

I used to not like time trials, it seems kinda natural being a small lightweight guy that I shouldn't be good at them. I took that for granted and just didn't like them. At one point though I decided to see how I could do if I worked on improving them and improve I did. A large part of it is that I sucked at time trials because I wasn't actually anything that resembled fit before, having fitness helps a lot. I also worked on my position and other stuff to improve my time trialing and wrote about it a while back. I became a decent TT rider. Now I really look forward to and enjoy time trials. It is the one race discipline there is that is almost no tactics all about your preparation. Over the off-season as part of my preperation for stage races and time trials I had my teammate, and bike fit expert, David Wenger work on my bike fit. I have been changing saddles and such on the TT bike I bought last year ever since I got it, and always changing something. I decided it would best to have the best person I know to look at it, get it dialed and let it be. Something I'm really bad at with bike fits, something about always feeling like maybe it could be a bit better. So I went and worked with Dave, and focussed on the whole thing. We widened my elbows allowing to to shrug my shoulders more, worked on my posture on the bike and moved the saddle up and forward a bit. I was super excited about it, but riding TT bikes is rarely fun on the road so I just didn't. I rode it once the next week and then broke it out maybe 2 other times up until the week before Corsicana. I was nervous about it, took it out on the Tuesday before the race and the bike just didn't feel right at all. When I got home I measured everything compared against measurements taken when I got the fit and found that the seat post had slipped a bit. Carbon paste and a torque wrench fixed that, and when I spun on friday I felt great and pumped again.

The TT at Corsicana is a net downhill ~5 mile race. Last year I did the course in 9:51 IIRC. I hit the start line thinking about trying to do 270w, but mainly just focused on not blowing up the first 3 minutes and then going hard. I had spent all of my spin out friday and most of my warmup working on posturing on the bike in order to ensure I could get into the right position with the helmet and everything. When I heard go I took off sprinting and settled into the aerobars as soon as I got on top of the gear. ~20seconds in, I took a look at the power meter as saw something like 450w.... don't blow up. Pulled it back and kept going. Racing a short TT like the one at Corsicana is funny, I never really settle in. That race adrenaline, crazy go hard feeling stuck with my the whole way. Everytime I would look down at the powermeter I would pull things back a hair so as to not blow up. At one point, straining my eyeballs to see the road while keeping my head down I though I saw a tent up near the top of the hill and started pushing harder. It wasn't a tent, just a mirage caused my the blurry double vision of seeing half your eyelid while going hard. Eventually I did see 1k to go and picked it up a bit. Pushed hard over the last hill and crossed the line thinking I had done pretty well but could have gone maybe a hair harder. Better that than blowing up in short effort like that.  When I looked at the file I saw that I had gone faster than last year and done something very surprising, I matched the effort from the Joe Martin uphill road bike TT last year on a net downhill course on my TT bike. My time was good for 14th/71 which I was very happy with. Even more important is that my teammate Grant had destroyed the race, finished just under a minute faster than me and 23 seconds faster than 2nd place.
Shrugging shoulders and straining eyeballs to go fast.
Next up was a eight corner, figure eight night crit with lots of bricks and some very rough ones. I was looking to race my bike. With Grant in the lead and myself in 14th it would have been great if I could have eaten up some of the bonus seconds on offer, but in order to do that I would have had to not sucked and ridden A+. Crits are not my favorite races generally, partially because I don't do well racing them. That part of my brain that doesn't like crashing and values my life functions too well. For the same reason I used to chicken out of riding off ramps, I don't do well with fast corners and sprint finishes. This is a short coming I have been working on, but it is very much there, and came out to haunt me on this night, but really the crit went wrong for me before the start. While warming up, riding alongside the crit course slowly on a dark street I rode into a massive pothole, flatted my front tubie and flipped over the bars. I got a wheel from a teammate, let some air out to accomodate for my lack of size, and rolled straight over to the start line. Front wheel now sporting carbon only pads on aluminum rims on a wheel and tire I had not ridden further than the block to the start line. Great setup for confidence rolling into a hard crit on a demading course with wet brick corners that you had just watched at least 10 people slide out on. I proceeded to ride myself straight out the back in three laps. I spent 5 or 6 laps off the back before being pulled. Thanks to some bobble of the rules by officials I then had 37 minutes added to my time (it seems as the though the time left in the race was added to the winners times to get my time for the stage). Fortunately, Grant doesn't suck at Crits he rode really freaking hard since both myself and Jake my other teammate in the race got dropped, he pulled back splits and rode like the monster he is to maintain his 1st overall by 20seconds over 2nd and third, both of which were on the same team. 

RR time. Always good to be in the lead as a team, but it meant it was time to ride hard to protect Grant. We did this in perhaps not the brightest way, but spoiler alert, were successful. Start of the race goal was to cover moves and not do anything, and try to keep the group going at some speed when they weren't. I did a lot of pulling of the group at 22-25 mph early on. This wasn't the brightest move, I ended up getting tired chased some moves down and then found myself mid pack when attacks that mattered started going. A strong group ended up forming on our 2nd lap that had one of the guys 20 seconds down. Thankfully for us, other teams GC interests were at stake and so people rode hard up front to keep the gap pretty close, while I was stuck floudering around mid pack trying to get up front to do some work. I had a number of riders inform me that Grant was putting in work himself to pull it back and I should do something about it. I was really trying to move up, I was but when there is 14 feet of pavement and guys 5-6 abreast it can be hard to move up. Eventually we hit the crosswind section leading to the start/finish on the third lap I saw daylight and high tailed it to the front. The gap had already been starting to shrink to the group ahead and so when I got up, I just pulled as hard as I could until I couldn't anymore, fell back to 2nd or third wheel and then took over again. Right around the start of the 4th lap we caught the group. It was hard. By my count the biggest the gap was was about a minute, when I got to the front it was 45 seconds and when I fell back into the pack it was 10-15 seconds and people were starting to fire off early counter attacks. I managed to stay near the front for most of that last lap. Gave grant some of my super calorie bottle (by my math I have managed to put 800 calories into one water bottle, so that when I'm terrified of eating I can still get it in), pulled back some small splits and then drifted back further again. On that last lap in the crosswind section I had pulled on before fireworks started to go again as people hoped to get a little split leading into the finish. Succeed they did. Thankfully, Grant was in it. Lost some bonus seconds, but took 5th on the day and won the overall. I finished in the field for the first time in a P12 race.

All in all a good weekend, but I really need to get back into a groove for crits. That was the difference between in the money and dead last on GC for me, I'm particularly bad and rusty right now. I bailed on a corner and rode through the grass at the Driveway 2 weeks ago, riding myself out of the winning break. This most recent driveway with some faster corners seemed to help some, but I'm simply not trusting my tires to adhere to the pavement ever since skidding across the road on Red Bud during a training ride in November. Suppose the only way to build that back is to go rail some corners on purpose, and maybe grow a pair.

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