Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic 2011

Day 1 was the prologue.   3 miles: A short, steep climb for about a minute and a half, then a gradual downhill into a headwind, then a short steep uphill for about a minute and a half.  I felt fine, good
about pacing.  Avg power was 375 for the whole thing, but the hills were closer to 500, when a relative rest in between.  I suffered on the downhill due to my inability to produce good power at high cadences.

My time was 7:11, winning time was 6:30.  I'm 85th out of 150 and I'm ok with that.  This isn't my sort of thing, and 40 seconds will mean nothing by the end of the race.

Day 2: Stage 1.  Check out the course: first little hump was the first indicator that this could get bad.  We went up that thing ridiculously fast.  No power data, but I'm sure that I was over 400 for 5ish mins.  It hurt, but I was ok with it, and I don't think we dropped anyone that didn't regroup on the descent.

The second hump wasn't that noticeable. The first big spike was fucking pain.  The feedzone was at the very beginning, so if I wanted water, that meant starting the hill at the back of the pack.  I didn't know when it was going to end, so I told myself that every corner was the last.  Eventually I saw the KOM 1km sign, and made it over the top.  I had been dropped, but was in a small group that managed to surf the cars in the caravan and make it back to the peloton by the end of the descent.  It felt like that video of Cancellara descending in the yellow jersey to try to keep it for another day.

The hump in between the spikes wasn't noticeable on the way up, but the descent was super fast and fun.  Our field had 150 guys and we got the entire road, swooshing through both lanes was pretty cool.  I tried to get myself to the front before the second big spike, but I got swarmed just before the feedzone, so again had to start from the back.  Putting a feedzone at the beginning of the climb is pretty shitty, also since the big teams can just get fed from their cars at the top, they don't have to carry full bottles uphill like I do.

Well, I got dropped again.  This time, there was a group of 4 just 10 seconds up the road at the crest.  I chased hard alone, but by the bottom,  the group had become 10, then 15, then 20, the whole time I'm just dangling 1 minute off the back.  I held the 1 minute gap until the final descent.  I never saw them again, but in the last 5k, I just fell apart, and managed to lose another 4 minutes to the group.  I came in alone, 4 mins behind that group, and 15ish minutes behind the lead pack.  I finished 75th, but I'll need to lose or gain a few minutes to move up or down in placing.  I'll hate myself for awhile for not being able to catch that lead group in the final km of the climb.  2 minutes of digging just a little deeper would have bought me 4 minutes on GC, and made my trip to the finish line much less miserable.

Day 3a:  A mostly flat 11 mile TT with slight winds.  It's roughly a long rectangle  that goes North, East, South, West, then North.  On the way out I felt like I had a tailwind, but on the south leg, my avg speed was hovering at 30mph.  Once I made the final right turn back to the start, I got hit with a headwind and the speed went to 20 pretty quick.  I wish I would have saved more for that final leg.  During that leg, my avg power was increasing, so I wasn't fading; I just wish I had more to give at the end.  If I ignore coasting, my avg power was probably 350 or higher for the 24 mins it took me to ride, which is super rad for me on a flat course.  All inclusive however, it was 340 and I'm happy with the result.  I don't know where my time places me among the field.  I highly doubt that I put 4 minutes into anybody that was ahead of me on GC.
Afterward, I learned that I got 65th.  A former teammate who's now a great TTer beat me by 1.5 seconds.  I'm still 75th, but now I need to gain 37 seconds or lose 43 seconds in order to change places.  Tomorrow's gaps will be huge compared to that.   Here's me TTing and Michelle yelling.
For what it's worth, that guy behind me started 1 minute before I did.

The Crit was inconsequential.  The cat 3's sent someone to the hospital, so our 75 minutes got cut to 60.  Fine with me.  It was all uphill or down, with a long back straight mostly down that was good for drafting/resting before the climb to the finish.  I started near the front. It took about 3 laps to get pushed to the back, and another 5 or so to find a rhythm.  After that I just hung out in the final few spots and sprinted around people who were getting dropped.  The first corner was a decreasing radius off camber turn directly into the setting sun.  All I could see were the shadows of bikes in front of me.  I participated in one near miss, witnessed a few more, and navigated around a few crashes.  I know that being in the back is supposed to be dumb, but it was nice & smooth, and I had enough in reserve to sprint around people and close gaps as necessary.  I could have used that effort to sprint up to the middle of the pack, but I felt like I would have just gotten pushed back again.     Pack time.   Check out the gap that Olhauser had like 10 laps in.  Guy is insane.

And I'm just happy to have survived.  Blurry picture because it's actually pretty dark out.

Day 4: Road Race.  First look at the profile:  I noticed the night before that my rear race tubular tire had worn down to the casing, so I had to race my backup rear wheel.  I also forgot to put a magnet on it, so I have zero telemetry for the race.  It might be a good thing that I never knew how slow I was going uphill or how fast I was going down.
  The race started at a hotel, went around a bunch of hilly roads, then climbed back up and finished 2 miles past the hotel.  That means the first thing we had to do was descend what would be most of our final climb.  I thought it would be a nice rollout to stretch the legs and get ready for the day.  I was super wrong.




From the gun, we were flying down that thing single file, sprinting out of every corner just to hang on.  We took the entire road, and avoided potholes etc. while railing corners.  There were more than a few crashes, and once we got out of the woods, we were still descending on straight roads, and it just bunched up like it should have at the beginning.  I don't know who's idea it was to attack from the gun on a day with that much climbing, but it didn't work, and it just pissed a lot of people off, and injured a bunch of others....


The first KOM was fast but not unspeakable.  The climb was mostly on 1 lane forest service roads and was strikingly beautiful.  A lot of people were getting flats for reasons I don't quite understand.  I crested the hill near the back of the group (being in the back is turning into a trend I don't much appreciate).  The feed zone was at the top of the hill this time, which made it much easier to latch back onto the group after getting my bottles etc. 

On the first descent, I started at the back, and managed to work my way up through the pack.  I was happy about this until I got to the front of my group and noticed the rest of the peloton 30 seconds ahead of us.   Somehow a split had formed during the descent, and I was on the wrong side of it.  Not knowing what was in store, I worked with a few people to try to close the gap.  I wish I would have known this because the second we got to the bottom, we just turned around and went up the exact same hill we had just climbed.  A handful of guys managed to bridge up to the lead group, but I had been working on the descent and they were already climbing at what would have been my limit had I been resting that whole time.  I checked out and started doing my best to hang on to the group I was in.

That ended up working alright.  The ascent was still super painful, and I did get dropped from my group a few times, but their surges always let up, and I always managed to claw my way back on.  A few people caught us from behind, but we mostly scooped up riders from the lead group what had been dropped or gotten flats.  By the time we started climbing the third hill, it was quite apparent that we weren't going to catch the lead group.  Perhaps the others knew this all along, but I had been hopeful until this point.  The third climb still hurt immensely, but knowing we were on our own made it manageable.  We still managed to drop some of our group, and picked up more stragglers from the main field.  The climb seemed to go on forever, and even after the KOM, the rollers at the top made it impossible to rest.  The descent was super fun.  By the bottom we had all succumbed to the groupetto, and just lazily rolled up the first half of the final climb.

Looking at the profile, the final climb just looks like a steady climb, but the first half was on perfectly straight roads while the second half wound its way up the mountain.  The mountainy part was just as steep as the straight part, but it felt a lot more like a climb, so a small group of us took off.  I figured that since I'd shown up, I might as well ride, rather than sit in and meander home.  Of the 25 person groupetto, about 8 were interested in going faster than "dentist on a century" pace.  I think I finished about 5th, about 1 minute after the "winners" of our groupetto, and a whopping 26 minutes after the winners.  I was 58th out of 128 starters.

Overall Impression:
This was without a doubt the hardest and most populated race I have ever done.  It felt like a professional tour de whatever.  There were lots of full teams, we had full use of the road (until I got dropped), and we started with 150 riders. 

The biggest difference I noticed from racing in a field this large was that being in the back put me quite far away (in time and distance) from the front of the race.  This got me in big trouble on both of the RR days.  On Friday, starting from the back of the climb was just a recipe for getting dropped.  On Sunday I didn't even get dropped due to poor fitness (although I'm sure I would have).  Of course better fitness is always the answer; but on Sunday especially, I got dropped because of bad position in the race.  I don't know how I'm supposed to move up when I'm gasping for air and bleeding out of my ears, but the 50 guys ahead of me managed to do it.  I think course knowledge is key, as well as knowing when it's worth the effort to move up, and when it's okay to sit in.  I REALLY need to work on sitting in while maintaining position.  I was either in the top 5-10 guys, or the last 5-10 guys for 99% of the time I was in the main pack.   Any other time, I was just in the process of getting pushed from the front to the back.

Things I did well:
On Friday I didn't eat enough (6 scoops and 2 gels = not enough), and sort of fell apart in the last 5k.  On Sunday, I forced myself to eat so much (8 scoops and 6 or 7 gels) that I was nauseous at times, but I still felt okay all they way through to the end.  That many gels ends up being 280mg of Caffiene, which is a lot for me, so that could have been related to the nausea.  Or it could have been the heat + humidity + RIDICULOUS AMOUNTS OF CYCLING I did that day... I dunno...  Either way, I learned that I need to eat more than even I thought I needed to in order to have anything at the end of a race as long/hard as that.

I actually descended quite well.  This may be a "best of the worst" sort of thing, but I was always the fastest descender out of whatever group I was in.  When I was in the main field, I managed to not get passed, and when I was in any of the small groups, I'd always gap everyone behind me.

I spun (believe it fuckers).  I think racing at sea level had something to do with it, but I found that spinning was a great way to not get dropped.  Unfortunately, I only remembered this on the last day, and I only got to use it on the first climb.  Nevertheless, I'm counting it.

I hung on (sort of).  This is the toughest group I've ever raced with, and although nobody there was impressed by me, I thing I raced like I belonged.  I was in the top half of the finishers whenever it mattered, and I did it mostly alone.

Things I don't quite understand:
Why was everyone in the groupetto so bitter?   I know it sucks to get dropped, but you have nobody to blame but yourself, and it's fucking beautiful out here.  We're racing bikes.  Come on.   Related:  When me and a few others took off on the final climb, a few people gave us shit for "attacking the groupetto."  Funny enough, one of those guys had just bridged to my attack when he started complaining...  It's a hill... if you don't want to go fast you don't have to... but why do you care that i want to?

Why was I SOOO dirty? 
There were a few wet spots on the road from melting snow, but I finished the race covered in a thick crust of black dirt.  Nobody else did.  Maybe I wore too much sunscreen?  It was wierd.  Not so much that I was dirty, but that everyone else wasn't.

Why did we have to go so fast at the beginning of the last stage?

Things I need to get better at:
Overall fitness.  I'm overweight, plain and simple.  It sucks that the time to lose weight was back in December, but eating brownies and bacon now isn't going to help at all.  I'm not going to do anything drastic, but I need to lose at least 5 pounds asap.  My numbers are higher than ever, but I'm racing against people faster than I've raced against in the past, and I'm overweight.
This is why I'm fat.

It's the last one I swear.

PACK POSITIONING!  I guess up until this point, I've never had to worry about positioning.  I had the fitness to just ride at or near the front whenever I thought it was necessary.  I need to figure something out soon, because starting every climb from the back of the pack is no way to win a race, and a very sure way to get dropped when I might have been able to hang on otherwise.  Honestly, this probably won't be a problem unless I do another race as attended at Hood, but if/when I do, I need to be ready.

Sorry for the lengthy blabbering.  This is as much for my reflection as it is for anything else.  Please comment or question if you feel moved.


1 comment:

  1. I don't give a shit where you think you're "lacking" or need to're a bad ass mofo in my book. PERIOD. Nice job man.