Aug 2, 2011

CCCX 7 and Foothill Circuit race recap

Another weekend, another set of races for me to recap. This weekend involved a return to CCCX on Saturday and Foothill Circuit (crit) race on Sunday.

CCCX # 7 E4 and E3/4

The two races on Saturday came on the heels of two weeks of intense training, with only one day per week off the bike, so I knew my legs weren’t fresh, but they didn’t feel bad either. I figured I’d ride both races for fitness and see where the legs take me.

The E4 race got started and after the first lap was coming to a close, I knew that we’d be looking at a five-lap race. Sure enough, it was four to go after once around. The attacks were flying left and right, which meant the field kept surging and stopping, surging and stopping – this became particularly annoying when we hit the rollers, but I didn’t feel under any significant pressure. I did, however, feel that my body wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

My legs felt okay, but it could have been something I ate, or drank the night before, or something I didn’t eat that morning – I don’t really know. I know that I felt off and didn’t know where that was coming from. The field never split (other than a couple of guys we dropped along the way) so we came all together into the final lap. Of course as we were clearing the last of the rollers, the fight for position began and I got squeezed out of a corner right before the super fast part of the descent and no amount of spinning my cranks or tucking in was enough to bridge me to the field. Once the road leveled off, I could have bridged to the back of the field, but by then the front would have been almost at the finish line, so I sat up and finished off a hundred yards off the back or so. I think the official placing was 33/39.

Now it was time to spin, eat, recover and wait for the next race in four hours.

The E3/4 race was very large, much larger than the prior week with 44 guys starting, most of them E3s. If you recall, last time I tried this field, I got popped on lap 3, so this time, anything above that would be an improvement.

The pace started off fast, much faster than the last time. After the first lap, we had six to go, which I expected. After lap 3 we were averaging 24 mph and I was still very much with the field, which made me happy. Laps 4 and 5 were slightly slower, but only brought our average down by about .3 mph.

I felt that my legs were strong, but only strong enough to hang on, so I tried to position myself well in the peloton before any big rollers, so there would be room for error in case the peloton decided to swarm or charge.

I must admit that the wind played to my advantage in this race. On the way out, we had a tailwind and the climbers were hitting the first (and longest) climb very hard and stringing out the field. Then came the first short descent and a right-hand turn into the first roller. I was usually in the middle of the field for this first short descent and as the front of the field hit the head wind on the first roller, all I had to do was soft pedal to move up before the remaining rollers. Once we hit the rollers, it was a head wind all the way back until the sweeper turn into the finish. I made sure to stay hidden and the guys at the front of the field obviously didn’t enjoy the headwind much, so this worked in my favor as far as staying attached to the field.

By lap six, the effort began to take toll as I started to sense my calves were on the verge of seizing up in cramps. I did what I could: changed my cadence, stretched on the descents and parts where I coasted, ate and drank whatever I had on me, and by the time we plunged downhill for the penultimate time, I thought the cramps had gone away. And so around we go with one to go, the bell is ringing and it looks like I’m going to finish this E3/4 race with the field, this is making me very happy and very motivated. In fact, I get this sensation that my legs feel great, and then the attack comes and I have to surge up that first long hill, and that’s where my muscles cramped up completely. All I could do was through my arm up in the air to signal everyone to go around me as I ended up spinning it in for the finish. Didn’t quite finish with the bunch, but didn’t get dropped on lap three either.

Interestingly, I actually did marginally better in the E3/4 race with a 31/44 overall and 11th in E4s.

No great performances were had by me at CCCX that day, but both races were fun and both were great fitness rides. Now I just had to focus on recovering in time for Sunday’s race.

Foothill Circuit Race

This race is actually a misnomer, as it was run just like a crit, neutral wheels and all. The course, however, was a bit longer than a normal crit – about 1.1 miles around with two hills. The start finish line was at the top of the second hill and from the start there was a fast, twisty (but not too technical) plunge down. The road pinched a bit as we all bypassed the fountain and began to climb up the first climb, which was pretty long for a crit, but nothing that ever put me under pressure having just done CCCX the day before. After the first climb came a bit of straight road going into a fast downhill and a very quick upswing to the finish. Even though the finish was uphill, the speed I was carrying easily let me spin a 53x11 to the top.

I took one lap to pre-ride the course and lined up with the rest – there were 60 people in our race. Some of these people I’ve raced with many times before. Others I’ve never seen in my entire life and so many fell into the latter category that I didn’t quite feel comfortable around most of them. It seemed most haven’t raced for a while and pack-riding skills weren’t all there. The only thing that saved us all was the fact that there was not a single technical corner in the whole race (actually no corners at all), so it turned into a 40-minute drag race.

The whistle blew and we were off. On the first lap, first time up the climb some guy next to me rides into a ditch. We keep going. Another couple of laps and a prime is called. I see 3 guys in a break for the prime and have a clear line through the field. I attacked in an effort to bridge and no one chased. I figured that I jumped a bit too late to catch them before the prime, but perhaps we could form a break. As I bridged, the third guy sat up,  so did another, and I was chasing the third to see if we could work together. When I caught him, I saw he was as gassed as I was. Which was also about the time that I realized that my legs had no break in them and I better gently fold myself into the field.

I was caught as we were about to go up the climb and took it easy, letting almost the entire field pass me before I jumped back in. As we crested the climb, the KOM prime bell rung at the top, and if you’ve been reading my blog, you know how much I “love” back-to-back primes, especially after just trying to chase one down. There would be no break from pain on that lap as the pace pressed on.

No breaks were tried, no one got away and we moved as one amorphous blob around the course. With three to go, I started moving myself up, which for me was the easiest on the climb, as people were dropping back right and left. The key was not getting stuck behind someone losing his fight with gravity.

The bell rang as the front of the field saw one to go, and the pace picked up, I was sitting in the top quarter of the field waiting for the hill, as it came, a few more places up I went and then it was strung out line to the finish with a really fast effort upswing. From where I was, it seemed I had top 10, but turned out to be 12/60, which isn’t bad considering I didn’t really feel the groove of that race at any given point. It never got strung out, no one really got dropped, and no one team dominated in any way shape or form. It was a very fast 40-minute ride with a sprint finish and a lot of elbow bumping. I’m not sure I’ll do this race again if I’m still a 4 same time next year. In E3s it would probably be a lot more comfortable, perhaps. 

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