Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tour of the Battenkill Roubaix - A Retrospective

First, I realize this is late - incredibly late. Sometimes riding gets in the way of blogging about riding - that or modeling world oil demand for the government of Abu Dhabi. Needless to say, last weekend marked my first experience with New England's own hell of the north - Battenkill Roubaix.

I opted to sleep at home and drive up with Nick the morning off. Even at 7:00 am as we rolled out of Cambridge the temperature was noticeably mild. It made for an enjoyable drive, but would turn out to be a key factor in the days race.

By the time we were kitted up and warmed up the temperature was well above 75. With no leaves on the northern New York trees, there was little shade to be found. RMM, Savona, Nick, and I gathered for a warm up ride to discuss the day's strategy. I was feeling strong and cocky, so it was decided I was going to be the early man; any break that went off the front I would cover.

The race got off and tension was high. From the start my mouth was dry and I was incredibly parched. There's so much hype surrounding Battenkill - for months stories of 18% dirt hills were abound. When we hit the first hill, I have to say, I was disappointed. Already I was getting boxed out by guys moving backwards in the pack. We got past the first hill with the pack together, and looped back through Salem. Very quickly I realized that we had yet to tackle the first real hill. When we hit it, all hell broke lose.

First off, these dirt roads had been recently graded leaving behind an inch or two of loose dirt combined with golf ball sized rocks. The first hill kicked up above 15%. For the first time I was riding 39x27 and I was struggling. Staying in the saddle meant a trip down lactic acid lane, standing meant a total loss of traction as your back wheel slid washed out. The pack was reeling, weaving back and forth, searching for a clean line. I was making progress, walking that thin line of sustainable power and death march, when the guy in front of me went down. I pulled hard to the right, throwing my back wheel around in a skid that would've made my 7 year old self incredibly proud. I thought I was done. I scrambled through the sand the best I could, my head pounding, the dust suffocating me, but somehow I made it over. The pack had splintered, and left a breakaway of about 8 guys up ahead. I quickly fell into a chase group and repelled into the pain cave. The leaders had about 10 seconds on us and were working together realy well. That was where I needed to be. On a short 150 foot rise I put it in the big ring and made my move, peeling away from the chase. My solo break took me into the covered bridge, leaving me blind for 2 seconds. As I came out the pack was there, and I was on, and I was bloody tired.

For the next hour or so I worked in the most incredible cat 4 breakaway ever. Perfect pulls, incredible cooperation, holding a pace of about 24 mph. A few stragglers joined on and the pack grew to about 15 guys. The only trouble now was the heat. I had started with three water bottles, and I was quickly draining them. Luckily in the first feed zone there was a neutral that was I was able to grab. As I sat up to take a swig and pass it on to another guy a rider in the front of the pack dropped a water bottle, which of course I hit, with one hand on the bar, spilling water all over myself and the guy next to me, but luckily staying upright.

We cruised on. Hitting hills, nailing descents. About 1:55 into the race something went wrong. Even now, a week later, I couldn't tell you, but suddenly I was off the back. And that was it. I was in no man's land. The breakaway ahead, and some semblance of the peloton behind me. This climbing road race had become a time trial. It had officially become epic. I settled into the drops, and found a gear I could stay on top of, and I went. The sun beat down, the pavement flew by, and I ground it out. Everytime I felt good with a gear I'd tell myself, "this is easy, you can move down" So I'd shift down. "Ok, this is too much, 10 strokes and go back down." This continued, through the false dirt flat, through the final climbs, for 55 minutes of solo hell I worked to hold off anyone who was behind me. It was incredible. I came across stragglers from the masters race, and picked them off one at a time. In the end I came through the line about 4 minutes behind the lead group to secure a 15th place finish, well inside my goal of a top 20.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Turtle Pond Circuit Race

It's 5:17 AM and I'm awake before my alarm. Oh yes, I'm a bike racer again. Time for the morning routine, stuffing as many carbohydrates as my half awake stomach can take, and double checking the weather report for the day. Yep, still cold.

I met RMM and Nick at the shop for a 6:15 departure to the Turtle Pond Circuit Race. At 46 miles the race marks my first official road race. My legs ache a bit, protesting the early hour, but they mean well. Its anticipation.

We arrive with ample time - and its bloody cold. I opt for the wool, the R2, the short sleeve, and finally long sleeve jersey. Down below its embrocation and leg warmers. I roll out with Nick to check out the start of the course.

The course jumps right into the only real climb, about 1.5 km in length, right out of the start. A once over reveals its definitely a small ring climb, but I'm finding no trouble keeping myself in control in the saddle. Four laps, five times over the hill, with the finish at the top of the hill.

The race rolls off and there's an immediate attack off the front. We had already decided to let any early break go, as there was a solid 2 miles of downhill after the climb, and it wasn't worth killing it early on to pull in a failed break. The first lap is uneventful - the three sharp right hand corners come as big surprises and cause little sprints but the pack stays together. I spent most of the lap sitting about 35 back from the front of the group. As we come through to climb the hill for the second time I settle into a reasonable rhythm in the saddle, and quickly find myself up in the top 10 guys in the peleton. At this point the break has about 30 seconds on the field and I'm getting concerned. The group is taking the downhills a little too easy and the break is gaining more time on the descents and rollers than anything else. I move to the front and with the help of RMM try to get a chase group formed. Oh wait, cat 4 racing, no one knows how to work together. It became painfully obvious that this wasn't going to work, so we peeled back into the shelter of the group and let it ride out.

A few groups try to pull off the front, and a separate chase group manages to break away and dangle about 20 seconds ahead until they are finally caught. By the last half of the final lap I'm feeling antsy, so I quickly move from midpack up the yellow line and take a jump off the front, in hopes of picking up the pace and stringing out the group. A few guys follow and our pace picks up - finally. Now RMM and I are maneuvering within the counter attacks, each of us covering anything off the front. We manage to drop 30 seconds off of the lead group in a few miles. Coming to the turn before the final climb I'm sitting at the head of the pack. I settle into my rhythm and get prepped for the climb. About halfway through a group makes a jump and comes around my left hand side. I drop a few gears and stand to sprint after them. I'm immediately in a world of pain. No acceleration at all. I actually start to fall back. I settle back into the saddle and spend about 15 seconds recovering from my effort. Another group gets past me and I make it to the line somewhere in the top 25 (I haven't seen the results yet).

Still, it was a solid performance. I'm still in my base miles period (I do have to race well into December remember) and this was not a priority race. Mainly I wanted to some distance under my belt before I tackled the insanity that will no doubt be Battenkill next weekend.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Fever

This week has wound up with some phenomenal weather despite the crummy forecasts. We got out to the Fells and spent some time just soaking up the sun... and throwing Madison in the reservoir.

Tomorrow is the Turtle Pond Circuit Race up in Loudon, NH. First long road race of the season at 46 miles. I got a little bit under rested this past week but I should be ready to at least be a contender tomorrow - hopefully the uphill finish will work to my advantage. Mainly I just want a longer race to get me prepped for Battenkill which is next week. Its now officially the largest one day race in America - and features 5 unpaved sections with hills in excess of 15%. That one is gonna hurt. I'm out to spin the legs up and enjoy this weather - GO OUTSIDE!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boston Boldsprints

Of course all the hill intervals and training crits you can do don't amount to jack if you don't get yourself down to the Boston Boldsprints - All out beer fueled roller-races at All Asia in Cambridge. Despite being a Monday night there was a decent turnout, and of course DJ Mayhem spinning tunes. Last time my qualifying run was well out of the top 8, but this time I was able to clock a roughly 45 second time that stood in the third for most of the night. That was until Nick knocked me into 4th with his beer chugging no hands effort. On to the quarter finals where I edged out Mur by a mere .25 seconds.

I couldn't hold it against the MIT kids in the semi finals (these kids are fast), though I'm pretty content with racing 3 times. Josh from MIT finished on top pushing a 51x13 - well over 100 gear inches! The next sprint in the series is on April 20th, 6:30 pm at All Asia, come on out and feel the pain.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekend wrap up

After wiping myself out early in the week from a all too cold and snowy ride I picked myself up for the weekend. Saturday, Dan Watts and I got out for a seemingly gorgeous ride. That was until Dan found himself flatting twice, exhausting our rather limited supply of tubes, patches and Co2 cartridges, and effectively stranding us by Walden Pond. Thankfully we had one cell phone, with limited battery of course, and two women to call. Girlfriends: 1 Wifes: 0.

Sunday morning I rocked Wells Ave for my first official road race. For the uninitiated, Wells has gone on for a long time, history, blah blah blah, you don't care. The real question is, can you make a race report about a race where you ride in a circle (there's only one real corner, but its not that real since you can pedal through it) as exciting as a cross race report?

Probably not. At least not Wells. Granted, the massive pile up that destroyed fellow CB teammate Erik Peterson's wheels and custom IF fork was exciting in that nauseating sort of way, its still not quite the epic battle that is every cross race.

The B race went off pretty quick, and fell into a serious yo-yo rhythm. Someone knocked my front wheel and sent me careening into the other lane. I held it upright, with a one-leg-flailing-off-the-bike balancing act. I took about 20 minutes of breakaways, that were totally unnecessary for race strategy, but fun for testing my fitness. Ultimately it was a pack finish, and a killer workout.

Team CB setting the pace

Thursday, April 3, 2008

moving forward

I suppose I've left that incredibly depressing post up long enough.

With just over 2 weeks until the Battenkill-Roubaix, its time to publicly announce my fledgling road season. Training bloggery aside, I've hit the roads with some amount of regularity for the past 6 weeks. Some days its escapism, some days its therapy, other days it just is.

I've yet to settle on season goals, mostly I want to see this through till cross season, and ultimately not get too caught up in the hype. I'm planning on being ready for Fitchburg, again for Green Mountain Stage Race, and ultimately strong for when it counts - cross season.

I have some epics in mind. The Gaps for sure - and perhaps a Vermont North to South Ride, which due to limited interest may be a solo venture.

For now, my legs hurt, and thats all I need.