Jan 20, 2011

Smell of racing in the air

The new season of cycling is well under way and my race season is about a month away. In fact, it’s a month, minus a day away. I know that for some, the race season has already begun with Early Bird Crits and the San Bruno Hill Climb, but I will patiently wait until the end of February to try my legs at Cantua Creek and then the next day at Pine Flat.

I frankly don’t see the point of jumping the gun and starting to race in January. We have an incredibly long season in California – it starts on January 1, and ends in the middle of October. However, my last race of the season will be Everest Challenge (again), which is typically one of the last weekends of September. So while I’m somewhat tempted to jump the guy and do one of these early races – the Early Bird Road Race looked very tempting – I’m going to stick to my plan and wait until Cantua Creek. It was my first race last year as well. In fact, it was my first mass start road race ever, and I’m very excited to go back and see how I’ve progressed. I do feel very flattered that as compared to the Masters 35+ 1/2/3 group’s 52 miles, the Elite 4s will be doing 78 miles; however,  I can’t help but scratch my head and think, “What the hell are the organizers thinking?” But it doesn’t really matter, it’s a C priority race for me, with many of the registered racers doing Pine Flat the next day, so I can’t imagine it being too much of a hammerfest, but if it is, just so much more fun to be had. I’m also very excited to test myself against other racers. I’ve been tracking my own progress, which has been substantial, but the only way to determine how much work remains to be done is to see where I measure up against the rest of the field. It is all relative, after all.

I think everyone to whom I’ve spoken about racing knows about my reluctance to do criteriums and my preference for road races and time trials. There are several reasons, the primary one is that crits typically end in a high speed, wind it up type of sprint that often results in nasty crashes. I just really don’t feel like sliding on asphalt with bikers riding over me. A trustworthy source reported that at last week’s Early Bird Crit, there were seven crashes and four ambulance trips and that’s not really a trip I’d like to be taking this early in the season (or ever, for that matter), not to mention the equipment damage. Of course, there are also crashes in road races, but the ones I’ve seen, were mainly due to someone taking a corner way hotter than advisable. Unlike crits, road races are not won and lost in fast downhill corners, the climbs typically dictate the winner. I will say that I was involved in one crash during a hill climb last year, but it was too ridiculous to be dangerous and the only thing that was damaged was my mojo.

My second reason for not doing crits is probably someone else’s for not doing road races. Forty minutes of racing is not enough for me. Not that it’s not tough, not that it doesn’t hurt, but I like a long effort in the saddle, two to three hours, and more in some extreme cases. In addition to road races, I like long distance endurance events and I think the two complement each other way better. If I were older, or a Cat. 3, that would be a different story, because then I could just jump into two races in one day: an Elite and a Masters race or an Elite 3/4 and an Elite 1/2/3 race.

Somewhere toward the middle or end of the season, I might jump into a crit - once everyone has their kinks worked out and everyone prone to crashing has already crashed - but until then, I’ll stick to road races – there’s one almost every weekend. I’ve also discovered that road races make much better blog entries than crits (at least the ones I’ve read), which typically go like this: draft, draft, draft, pull, draft, pull, sprint/crash, finish.

Now, for something completely unrelated, but only because I have the time and might forget about it later.  RadioShack came out with their casual clothing line today. I’m a Lance fan, and a Levi fan, and a McEwen fan, but I just can’t bring myself to buy any of that gear (or wear it if given to me for free). Not that money is necessarily an issue, it’s the branding. When you wear a Garmin-Cervélo item, people know you support a cycling team, or have no clue what the hell it is. Same with Robobank, or Liquigas, or even BMC. But when I see someone wearing a RadioShack cap, I can’t help but wonder if they’re about to try to sell me some batteries or a phone. I think the marketing folks over at RadioShack need to make an effort to separate the store brand from the team brand, at least on the clothing line. Told you this was completely unrelated.

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