Jun 27, 2011

Three-race weekend: CCCX and Burlingame race reports

This was a hard week of training and racing, as I decided to return to my three-day-block system of training and finish the week off with three races in two days. On Saturday, I raced twice at CCCX #5 and less than 24 hours later at the Burlingame crit. Here’s how it all went down.

CCCX #5 – the E4 race

I’ve heard much about how hard and fun this course is, so I decided to try it out for myself, even if it meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning and driving two hours to Monterey.

The course is a 4.3-mile loop that goes flat for approximately one mile, then starts to gradually climb and turns into stair-step rollers that eventually lead to a bombing descent. The descent is followed by a sweeping turn and after the turn, there are about 200 meters to the finish.

We had about 23 riders in the E4 field and the pace started off brisk, but subsided by the second lap and we were all moving at a pretty constant speed. I never felt under any pressure on any of the climbs and was usually toward the front. My goal for the first few of the five laps was to figure out the best position in the field for the finish. Cresting the final roller among the first few riders wasn’t proving to be too productive as the group would swarm on the descent and then swell wide before the turn, creating a mess leading to the ultimate finish line.

There were a couple solo attacks that never ended up going anywhere. Then, there was a 4-man break up the road and I thought that in this field, a 4-man break could stay away. I attacked from about three or four wheels back and made a very fast 200 meter bridge. I looked back once and noticed I had about 20 yards, the next time I looked back there was a guy on my wheel, who brought the entire peloton with him, and I then brought them to the break. There were no serious attacks for the remainder of the race.

As the bell rang for last lap, I still had no clue what to do as far as that descent and the final turn to position myself well for the final sprint. I knew that being the first on the descent didn’t pay, so I decided to sit about 5th wheel out over the last roller and see what happens. As on previous laps, people were bombing on all sides and there was a bunch of us in the final turn and then all of a sudden we were on the finishing straight headed for the line. Already, in the sweeper turn, I knew I was out of position for the win, but was in good position for a high placing in the top ten. That is until one of the riders who was sprinting alongside me and clearly hasn’t read my last blog post decided to body-check me into the cones on the left (they were set up so riders who finish could go back to the staging area). No one went down, but maneuvering myself through the cones and back to the race and across the finish definitely cost me a few places. Ended up 13th.

I did have a few choice words for that rider after we crossed the finish line. His excuse for almost running me into the gutter was that there was someone in front of him and he needed to go around. I hope he doesn’t drive the same way.

CCCX #5 – E3/4 race

This one will be short. During the warmup for this race, which was 4.5 hour after the first one, I already felt that my legs were exhausted from spending too much time in the wind earlier in the day. I lined up with a mixed field of another 25 riders or so and we were off at a blazing speed. We were going so fast on lap one that before I could even understand how much pain my legs were in, we were all bombing it down the descent. The brief recovery is all I would have as we picked it up once again for lap two of seven.

On lap two there was a 5 man break and I figured that in this race, it might survive, so I bridged. But alas, so did the rest of the field. At that point, I went to the back of the field and decided to hang out for a few and recover. At the end of two laps, we were moving almost two miles per hour faster than in the E4 race earlier. Lap three comes around and Metromint working with Spokesman riders set up a very masterful break. I’m usually very diligent about monitoring the front of the field, but I got distracted by something (probably the pain in my legs) and when I looked up, there were probably 50 yards separating us from the front of the group with Metromint and Spokesman riders blocking.

The field began to chase, but the group was split in two with the stronger riders in the front of the field. As the pace picked up, I got popped about two-thirds of the way through lap three. Under normal circumstances, I would have finished the race, but I had to be on the bike and in a race at 7 a.m. the next morning, and decided to wrap things up on that lap. I wasn’t alone, as the field was getting shattered, and by the end of it, I think only about 10 riders stayed in the game.

Burlingame Crit

Despite getting into compression tights immediately after my last CCCX race, stretching, Ibuprophen and a massage, my legs still felt barely functional at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday when I got up for the Burlingame Crit. For a second there, I seriously considered staying in bed, but I didn’t.

The course was very technical with some varying degrees of pavement quality. None of it was horrible, but there were definitely places to pinch a tire if you weren’t paying attention and riding light. It was a six-corner crit, with the first four corners being sharp 90-degree turns and corners five and six were sweepers that you could sprint through if you felt like sprinting for the line from 500 meters out – the map doesn’t do them justice.

I had only time for a short (sub 20-minute) warmup, but I did spend about 10 minutes keeping my legs loose by going around the course – the only benefit of being the first field on the road at 7:00 a.m. By the time I finished the last lap, the nearly empty start line was now full of riders and I took a place near the back of the field.

After the regular instructions, we were off. The pace started off really high and I was super lactic – my legs were in absolute agony right from the whistle. After what seemed like quite a few times around the course, I was starting to wonder when those lap cards are going to start turning, as I was ready to be done with this thing. I looked down at my Garmin to be disappointed by the fact that we were only 14 minutes into the crit. The only delight I took in that information was that I could continue hanging out in the back for a bit before starting to move up for a potential move. Five to seven minutes later, my legs started feeling much better and I started to crawl my way through the field. The turns came too quickly to make any real progress in the field in the first four corners, but I was gaining a lot of room in the last two corners and was soon near the front.

At some point, I got pinched in corner three and narrowly escaped a crash as guys behind me were not so lucky and I heard people hitting the ground and then the railing. Luckily, I don’t believe anyone was seriously injured. With six laps to go, I found myself about 15 back on the finishing straight with a clear path on the left and a solo rider in the break. “What the hell,” I thought. I attacked, got a gap and bridged to the solo San Jose Bike Club rider. We stayed away for an entire four-fifth of a lap as the field came around on the next lap and I was getting swarmed, and I found myself about 30 back from the front.

Now I had about 5 laps to recover, crawl through the field and put myself in position to make a move. With three laps to go, I was still in the recovery phase of that plan and figured I’d just have a crappy back-of-the-pack finish. As the second lap drew to a close, I found a straight line in the sweeper turns and made up quite a bit of ground. The luck would turn once more as the inside line opened up on the bell lap and I made up a ton of ground in the finishing straight. As we sprinted for the line, there were probably at least five or six of us across, so I wasn’t sure where I placed, but I thought I was in the top 10. When the results were posted, I saw that I was 11th, grrrr. I also realized that from my point of view in the race, I had misjudged the location of the sprint line by about 10 yards (I thought it was farther out), so my timing was probably not at its best. However, I was happy with 11th, considering how my legs felt the first few laps.

With family in town and Death Ride on the horizon, no racing for me until Colavita Grand Prix on July 16, but there will be other interesting things to write about, I'm sure.

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