26 April, 2010

Mansfield O-Cup #1 Race Report

Yesterday was my first race in Sr. Expert, and generally went better than expected. My result was better than expected (27/31) and I didn't bonk on lap 4 like I thought I might. I did manage to drop my chain 2 times that I had to get off and replace it, and wash out in a sandy corner on a doubletrack descent, surprisingly not hurting myself or my bike.

The race morning prep was quite a different routine of course, racing at 1:30 instead of 11:30. I couldn't just eat breakfast and race on that, so it meant preparing and eating a lunch type meal around 10:30-11:00. The in-race nutrition is also a little different - I knew drinking would be very important and I mixed myself a bottle per lap and arranged to have someone in the feed zone. Because I'd only drank a half bottle on the first lap I skipped my first feed but probably should have ditched my half bottle for a full one, as I may have paid for this later.

The start was not as furious as I had anticipated, and even from the back row I found myself solidly in the middle of the group on top of the climb and into the singletrack. I found a train of riders to go with for the first lap, though the faster ones were already riding away from me with no ability to respond.

On the tech climb I ran into traffic, catching a lot of the riders that had rode away from me - this provided a nice rest while waiting to walk up and put me in a good position for the rest of the lap. Lap 2 was similarly uneventful, losing a few positions still but riding well. When Justin came up to me I hopped on his wheel knowing he should generally be faster than I would pace myself alone. Overall that seemed like a pace I could hold, but he washed out on a couple loose sections and repeatedly had to chase back. The latter part of the lap he was riding smoothly and was great to pace behind. Up the start climb for lap 3 however, I could not hold his wheel any longer and let him go.

Lap 3 I found myself feeling the verge of cramping on the steep singletrack so I knew I would have to back off and count on riding smoothly and mostly in the saddle the rest of the race. I could climb all but the one rooty climb in the saddle, and did so choosing to run the last bit of that one to save my legs. The rest of lap 3 and 4 were spent trying to ride with good leg speed to keep the pace high enough, and simply trying not to cramp whenever things pointed up.

I managed to hold off Zoltan, my category-mate from Sport last year, by just over a minute which I was happy with.

There's definitely some lessons to be taken from this race, and overall I'm happy to be racing Expert. There was a brief consideration that if I went back to sport I could be quite competitive, but I am not really racing mtb for results, and these expert races will be far better training. Plus, should I get a little faster to stay in the mix, everyone I know seems to be in expert so I'll have some good folks to ride with as long as I can hold their wheels.

Next up, Albion...

19 April, 2010

Paris to Ancaster 2010

First, the week before the race: busy with final exams, and then I got a stomach flu monday night. This meant no food for ~24h and no energy until about Thursday. Wrote exams Wednesday and Thursday and generally just tried to get my body back to functioning. It wasn't clear until Friday that I would even start the race.

Rode my bike for about 10 minutes on Saturday to ensure it wouldn't fall apart, since I built it on Friday.

On to race morning, I did the usual milling about the start area, stand in the washroom line etc. Got a solid 10 minutes of warmup... not a big deal as I'd be stuck in traffic for the first 30 minutes of the race anyway.

I got a good start from about 4th row of the non-top 100 1st wave, and moved up quickly. Soon on the rail trail I realized I was seeing a lot of top 100 folk, so moving up nicely. The loose right hander was sketchy as usual... had to change lines a few times while running due to slower runners/bike pushers (come on, shoulder your bike! Dermont gets off on that one for riding a tandem, which I ran past on the hill).

I kind of missed the group that formed on top, so I chased and made contact right around the first section of "singletrack" and continued to pass in there when possible. On the next road section I again missed the train, so it was chase time again. Got a good group which I stayed with into the next off-road part beside hwy 24.

From here it was the usual bridging from group to group. I figure I made it somewhere near top 50-60 by the 40-50km mark on the rail trail. I mostly conserved energy at this point, sitting on until it was time to leave that group behind. I made sure to lead down the chutes and mostly left people behind there, although I did get caught in some traffic.

Finally, the climbs at the end - the first one didn't feel too good in the legs and I knew I had to be careful of cramping so I spun a pretty small gear, losing a couple spots, gaining maybe 1 or 2. Down the descent was good, then up the final climb on mineral springs. Things were going ok in damage control mode until it kicks up for the first time. I had to unclip really fast to avoid falling off my bike, and the cramping almost prevented me from walking. It flattens out after that so I spun the legs out and thought I might be ok... as things pointed up again I definitely was not. Off the bike and kneeling in the ditch, legs seized. Awesome. I finished the walk of shame around the corner and got back on the bike for the last few hundred metres, only to watch Pierre Perrin ride by and beat me by 9 seconds, just to put another nail in the coffin.

All things considered, I'll take it. 108th, so as long as a few people ahead don't do the race next year I should get to start in the front part of the 1st wave. Given who I was riding with around 40-50k and where they finished, I should be able to make a large improvement in next year's result.

12 April, 2010

Tour of Bronte

After my poor ride at Good Friday, I wanted to get back on track, but training these days is limited due to school commitments. As such it was some club rides with the SCCC and a couple tune-up rides the week before to get ready for the the Tour of Bronte the following Sunday.

Going into this race I was much more optimistic. Cooler temperatures with equally nice weather made for a comfortable body, and the course couldn't suit me better: nearly pancake flat with 70% on dirt/gravel roads. The plan was to drive the race from the front and see what happens - a break would be favourable since I don't feel I have much of a sprint these days.

The rollout was calm, and for a minute it seemed as if the pack would take things gently for awhile but before we hit dirt the first time Tyler Holtzman of SCCC attacked, feeling out the pack no doubt. It was quickly shut down, and hitting the gravel it was Speed River's duo of Tim and Bayden to the front. Bayden got off solo for a few km, but this move too was shut down. From there we had a more relaxed couple of laps with some hard accelerations to keep people on their toes. I maintained a position in the top 5-10 finding it safer to navigate the loose corners there, and allowing me to follow or chase attacks if needed.

Coming around the start/finish I saw that I'd lost my teammate Shaw, who was now riding off the back. I later found out he went in the ditch on the first gravel corner, as many others did throughout the day. Realizing I was alone I knew I had to watch for the decisive attack and follow it.

The intermediate laps saw pairs getting away occasionally, but they were quickly reeled in. The Speed River boys would put one off the front and counter when caught. Very smart - that's how you drive a race. Catching up with my buddy Tim (MBRC.org - Gears) I knew he was good for a hard effort so I followed him off the front a couple times but we never really got clear. Still too early.

With 2 to go Tyler and Max put in a big SCCC attack, and Tim (SRCC) was the only one to follow. I knew this was a good move so I gave it everything to bridge. This was probably the nail in my coffin for the day, but it was my only hope. I was able to pull through a couple times but was clearly the weak link in this break and we'd eventually be caught since Tim was also not working 100% given the 2 on 1 situation.

It was on the bell lap that Tyler made the decisive move and again Tim followed. All we could do was chase from there - first Mark Palma (Sweet Petes) and I, then lapdogs on the front. With Tim in the break, Bayden interrupted our rotation in the chase, so Mark tried to go for it. I couldn't follow but a Handlebars CC rider did go with him so it was 2 groups of 2 up the road and the rest of us chasing. We closed down the gap nicely but ran out of road as this was the final lap - Mark and the Hbars rider would be caught about 1k out and the Tyler/Tim move stayed clear by 3 seconds at the line. I got interrupted by a rider who sat up after their pull in the leadout, and thus rolled in at the back of the pack - such is life.

I was happy to take this race from the front and ultimately I didn't pick my moves well - too many too early, and I wasn't there when it mattered. If the composition of the second last break was a little different it might have stuck, but we really needed another strong rider in there and me to be taking stronger pulls. Good experience racing from the front of a strong pack, and learning when to follow and when to sit in.

Look for photos at www.cyclingphotos.ca in the next days, as I know Mr. Safka was out there shooting.

edit: here is one of a couple that he sent me

I'll probably be taking a break from the road for now, focussing on mtb for the summer, but I am going to work a few crits into the schedule later on.

For now, back to studying and punching out these last few projects so I can actually start training again in a week or so.

09 April, 2010

Good Friday

Time to take a short break from studying to catch up on the last couple weeks of racing here.

First, the season opener Good Friday RR. This year was unseasonably hot and sunny, and saw a huge number of participants. The day began with the huge S4/M3 field and a number of crashes - some more serious than others. One fellow was still in the hospital as of the last news article, and we're all hoping he comes out ok.

This, I think, set the tone for our S3/Junior field and everyone seemed to be racing safely. Unfortunately, with the delayed start and generally busy start area I was at the back of the staging area. I was in the wind and fighting my way up from the start as a result. The heat was also getting to my stomach, at 28° and humid. As such, when we hit the hills the first time I promptly went backwards, and by the 3rd one turing on to Safari road, I was losing contact.

From there, I looked for other dropped riders to chase with but nobody would cooperate. Finally, toward the beginning of lap 2 I worked with a junior to get up to Rob Wilson of SRS and Jay Menard. The 4 of us rotated nicely until the junior fell off, and we continued to paceline the rest of the lap, losing Rob somewhere near the end of Brock Rd. With just Jay and I coming through the start, cramping all around, we decided that was enough and pulled out. It was simply a bad day on the bike, and my stomach was the main factor.

Next up on my racing schedule is the Tour of Bronte.

01 April, 2010

this time, really long time no blog!

The reason for this is school. School that is about to end (for the foreseeable future). Being that this is the eve of race season the reports will start to flow, and within a month I should be back to regular blogging when my life returns to normal.

So for now, some thoughts on tomorrow:
  • It's the first race of the season for me (minus Frostbike, which I think of as part of my '09 season, periodization wise)
  • It's the first race for most Ontarians
  • Legs feel ok, numbers are looking good for April
  • I'm racing in a new category - looking forward to that for many reasons
  • Time to see where things really stack up!
So with that, see many of you tomorrow. It should be a great day for racing.

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