Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yale Race Recap: Men's A

Hills! Finally!

Yale Cycling, in particular, Chris "Taco" Rittacco (sp?) put on a great race weekend as always. I'm fond of the races to the top of east rock. My best results of each of my 3 seasons as an A rider have come there, and this year was no exception. I picked up 3rd in the time trial by riding hard enough to power about three and one third light bulbs for 14.5 minutes. I was bested by 2 amazingly strong guys from Harvard, one of whom, Jordan, only just upgraded after dominating B's all season, and one of whom hasn't lost a TT he's done this season, and, based on his times at Yale & Boston, probably also ever in the history of time trials. No shame in losing 15 seconds to those studs. I felt confident going into the road race. After all, Lee beat me last year by 20 seconds, and I got him at the end of the road race on the steepest slopes of East Rock. Hopefully this year would be no different.

And, it turns out, it wasn't. About three laps in I had a small gap toward the top of the climb, and by following a falconesque (falcolnian? falconlike?) descender from VCU, we stretched the gap. Jordan from Harvard was also in tow, and he was great to have pulling on the flats. It was an ideal situation. The course had three parts: the twisty descent, a windy flat section, and the climb. (The climb really also had two parts, shallow, steady, straight, and steep, variable, twisty, but I digress.) And the break du jour was an amazing descender, a brilliant, 6'5"-ish time trialist with a diesel engine, and me, punchy grimpeur. Also, one of the better climbers in the conference is the teammate of Jordan, so he was a bit handcuffed, unwilling to work too hard to chase down his teammate, lest he bring other people with him.

We worked well together for a few laps until the VCU fellow got popped toward the top of the climb. It was me and Jordan. I needed just 16 seconds to claim the KOM prize again. I worked just hard enough to maintain the gap over a 3-man chase group, saving what I could for the finish. I may have exaggerated the toll the break was taking on me, breathing hard, panting, etc., while also encouraging him to work really hard, which he surely did. Unfortunately for him, a small break is a bit like a poker match. Bluffing and deception are part of it. I felt very comfortable on his wheel just as we approached the steepest part of the climb, two switchbacks at 1200 meters from the finish. I attacked right where it pitched up, and gave everything I had for the next 2.5 minutes, which turned out to be many more lightbulbs than I expected to be able to power after 2 hours of racing.

Jordan actually ended up getting 4th. About 300 meters to the line he punctured. This allowed 2/3s of the chase group to catch him. It's a shame. He deserved a podium for his efforts. Here is the finish line picture. I'm pointing to the logo of our primary sposnor, Breakaway Bikes, because they are awesome and had my bike in perfect running order and weighing in at sub-16 pounds for the race. Thanks to the mechanics there, Shawn & Richie, who built my tubeless powertap wheel and installed my Gore shifting cables on short notice! Those guys rule.

Hopefully I'll see some photos of me the next day sporting the KOM jersey on facebook or something and be able to post a link later.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beanpot Men's A report

It's been a while since I've written a personal race report--mostly because I haven't had a lot to report about. My results have been mostly ho-hum, middle of the field. That's to be expected when the races I've done have been mostly short, flat and windy, two conditions that do not suit my strengths.

I had fairly high expectations going into the ITT at Boston. The profile looked fairly rolling, which I like, and it was a bit longer of an effort than the Rutgers TT. I haven't done much intensity training outside of races yet, but I thought a 6.7 (advertised as 6.3, but several cycling computers beg to differ) rolling TT fell closer to my wheelhouse than anything we've done thus far. I ended up 15th, which isn't bad, but I was a good 20 seconds behind the group of the top 10 or so guys, and I even skipped the TTT that morning. I had a powermeter to help with pacing, but overestimated what I was capable of doing. I started off catching my 20-second man too eagerly, averaging well over what I knew deep down I was capable of. Wishful thinking. Average power was right where I should have been from the start by the turnaround, but aiming 20 watts over that killed me. Averaged 35 watts lower on the return trip, got passed back by the 20-second guy, and went straight back to the truck for a sulky beer and a jar of peanutbutter.

A fun dinner with the team, especially ever-entertaining Joe D picked my spirits up, as did the sauna and hot tub at the swank-yet-deeply-discounted Westin Hotel. (Two shower heads! Robes! Mini bar! Slippers on demand! Keurig machine!)

The crit
Long story short, I got 4th, continuing my streak of finishing last out of the winning move (cf Lower Providence, Bloomsburg, Green Mountain, Nanticoke, Turkey Hill) to just miss the podium. Still, I rode a strong race and am happy. Much respect for Evan Murphy, Ross Marklein, & Matthew Buckley, the top 3. They were the better riders on the day.

Now, for the long story long. I did very well to win the race before the race before the race by being crafty. (I've gotten plenty of experience.) Before the first race of the day, I set up the trainer at the start of staging. I was a bit thrown when they decided to have every field do a practice lap first though. Still, I got a front row start on the practice lap, and held my position through the lap to start on the front line--severely out of breath--with the MIT, BU & Tufts folks. Funny stats on the practice lap:
Time: 1:33
Power: 388 watts
Max Power: 856
Speed: 22.2 mph

I would top that max wattage only once more the entire rest of the day.

The race started fast and stayed that way. People were very aggressively moving up. Those who cornered poorly or who got shuffled to the back were doomed. About 3 laps in I was able to move up in the headwind section to be right near the front. I saw Evan & a UVM rider up the road, and saw several other UVM guys near the front set to disrupt the chase. Evan + anybody off the front is cause for concern, so I swung right and hammered it as hard as I could go for the next five minutes or so. I think my solo chase lasted two or three laps. All I know is it hurt a lot for a while, but I was gaining slowly but surely. I hit my best in-race, non-climbing 5-minute wattage number since September when I had much better form. Suffice to say I was pleased with it, being well over 6w/kg, and even higher than my rutgers ITT target # (which I failed to hit as it was). When I was about 3 seconds back and at my breaking point, I hear looked back and saw the green shades of our new green jersey. He'd gotten 2nd in the TT, and had just come out of the pits after cracking his brand new HED S6 (major bummer!) so I was unembarrassed or unrepentant about sitting on his wheel and letting him tow me teh remaining 30 meters. He came by so fast though, it took everything I had to sit there, and I continued to just sit there for about the next 6-8 laps.

I usually try to work in breaks as long as I have the legs. I know bike racing is about doing what it takes to get the W (legally!), and sitting on is not disallowed or anything, but I am not the sort to sit on all day then come around on fresher legs at the last moment. I wanted to work, but I had just TT'd well outside myself for a long time, and "sitting" on wasn't exactly easy anyway. I still was averaging right around 300w, with my running normalized power for the race 30 minutes in still sitting above 330. (My new Joule is so handy!), so I was at my limit for sure. When I finally felt ready, I started taking my turns for the last 20-25 laps.

I was not the strongest in the break. Not even close. The wind was brutal, and especially as Ross and Evan pulled through the homestretch, I was doing over 400w just to suck wheel. Hence the pain-face I was pulling each time I went by our friendly announcers, usually toward the back of the group.

With 8 to go, as we were starting to lap stragglers, Ross attacked hard through the start finish. I was in back, and Evan was able to follow. Matt was a bit late to respond, and I had to choose between helping him chase, sprinting around him (both which might cause me to blow up), or forcing him to do the work and hoping. I opted for the last option, which in retrospect was the wrong move. How Pozzato of me. My legs were starting to return by that point, and if I had gone before hitting the headwind, I think I would have made it. But we rounded the corner just as a big gust came through. I could see the gap go from about 3 to about 10 seconds just through that stretch. The front two caught the field and that was it for our chances at the W. Having worked all day amiably with Matt, I didn't see reason behind attacking him early, and he seemed of the same mind. With 3 to go we caught Matt's teammate, which I had hoped to avoid. Still, it was nice to just have an extra guy rotating through. Race for the W was over, and I was guaranteed a top 5, and 3rd vs. 4th made little difference to me. I felt as strongly about this sprint as a town line sprint. Wanted to take it for pride, but wasn't super motivated. I sat in back while Derrick pulled for a lap, then with 1 to go attacked across the headwind. Matt matched it, and thus I was stuck in front for the remainder of the lap. I led out the sprint, almost held on, but lost it by half a wheel. So it goes.

All in all a good day. Awesome course, well-run weekend in spite of the weather, game effort from the teams with the road race setback. And I'm especially pleased with how sore I feel today--means good training this weekend. And the numbers were some of the best I've seen. 327 normalized for 67 minutes, best hour average was 300 even and normalized was 330. Looking forward to some hills next week!