Feb 11, 2013

Pinned

I've talked about this to so many racers over the few years, that it finally dawned on me that perhaps if I blog about it, I can stop regurgitating sentences and just regurgitate one — "yeah, I've got a blog on that." Or maybe it will actually help to somewhat alleviate the problem. Either seems like a good cause to continue typing.

So what am I talking about? The horrible, awful, offensive way in which many racers pin their numbers. And I'm not necessarily talking about alignment (full disclosure: I did once manage to pin my number upside-down, but I was extremely sleep deprived), however, I will talk about it briefly below, but rather pinning technique itself. Flapping numbers that don't hold, or blow up like sails aren't only annoying to the rest of the field due to noise they make, but aren't much help to the racer either.

Here are some tips on how to properly pin a number to your jersey for a bicycle race (or any other race, so pay attention runners and triathletes!):

1. Stretch the jersey. Typically at the race site, I stretch it over my knees, zip it, and turn the side where the number goes toward me. If I'm pinning to a skinsuit, I'll put it over the steering wheel of the car and zip it. You have to zip it! If you happen to carry a big pillow around, that works well also. (PRO tip: don't pin the jersey to your pants)

2. Position the number on the correct side. For most races here in NorCal, the number goes either on the right or on the left, so whatever side of the road the camera is on, it can capture your number as you cross the finish line. Keep that in mind when pinning! Your jersey has a middle panel on each side, most of the botton half of your number, should be on that pannel. But no more, otherwise the number will be too far down. Go too far in the other direction, and the number will lie flat on your back. (PRO tip: don't position your number in such a way as to seal off your back pocket — in a longer race, you might need it)

3. Forget the holes. I wish number manufacturers would just stop putting holes in numbers altogether. They are useless for cycling. Do not put pins through the pre-made holes in the numbers. When you pin, make holes in the number with the pin. (PRO tip: read number 3 again)

4. Use 8 pins for each number. The math is easy, 4 corners + 4 sides = 8 pins. (PRO tip: bring the same pins to the races each time — it saves resources)

5. Twice through with each pin. Start with the corners by pinning through the corner, going twice through the number and the jersey. Then pin each side of the number in the same way with the pins going parallel with the side of the number on which you're pinning. Wow, that came out sounding way more complicated than intended. Just look at the picture below. (PRO tip: fold the corner of the number over and pin parallel to the fold for stronger hold — works especially well for stage races, where you have to reuse the same number several times)

6. Check it out. Put your jersey on, lean forward to simulate your cycling position and see how the number looks — I typically use my car windows to do that. It took me quite some time to be able to get all the pins correctly on first go. Usually at least one would be a bit out of place and make a strange fold in the number. But after a few times, I just learned where the numbers go.
This is how it's done. 

Feb 2, 2013

Knights Ferry Road Race

It was my first race of the season and I was curious to see what my legs can do and what we could do as a team. Knights Ferry is a 60-mile, rolling race on an out and back, and out and back course that finishes on a hill just shy of a kilometer in length. Representing Squadra SF on the line were Alex, Brian, Graham, Mario and I. We had several alternative strategies worked out, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a doctor and two lawyers racing together.

The whistle blew and we headed north into a mild NW wind, with the temperatures in the low sixties. The plan for the first lap was to sit in and see what the field was going to do. I got to the start late, staged near the back and spent the first couple of miles slowly getting myself to the front. Graham got on the nose, I pulled up next to him and said I wanted to test the field and see how much they wanted to race, so I attacked (we’re at mile 4 here) and immediately got separation. I kept going at a steady pace, looking back periodically to see if there was a bridge attempt (no one that crazy in the field today), or a chase.

The field looked wide and not interested in chasing for a while, and I thought that perhaps if I got over the hill solo, it could get interesting, but as I began approaching what would be the climb to the finish, I saw the field narrow and start to get close. Given that it was still early in the race and I had oxygen in my brain, I figured at this pace I’d get caught before the climb, and that’s the last place I want a charging peloton to pass me. So I eased off and got reabsorbed into the group with about 2km to the top of the climb. I got in fifth wheel and we all crested together. However, after the catch, the pace never quieted down. We drilled it hard up the hill, fast down the other side and the race stayed really fast and on for the first 35 miles. While we didn’t drop anyone, it ate up a lot of legs in the field.

Graham was doing an amazing job rotating with a few others in the front and keeping the pace really high. At mile 25, I started to cramp. I’ve never cramped this early in a race, but I went to the back to rest, dumped some water on my thighs [read: crotch] (thank you, black kit!) and kept going. After the first turnaround, we come back through the start and were now heading south to the second turnaround. The pace is still very high and shortly after we cross the start line again, a Suffolk-SunPower (f.k.a. Webcor) rider attacks solo off the front and gets separation.

I get myself from the very back of the field to about fifth wheel, when in a matter of 200 meters, the four guys in front of me disappear. So instead of just eating wind and pulling everyone along, I attack off the front and try to bridge. Incidentally, that’s almost exactly the same place I attacked the last time. I was slowly but steadily getting closer to him, but the guy never looked back. “Does he not want to know if anyone is bridging or chasing?” – I thought to myself. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “slow the f**k down! Let’s work together!” And while I was gaining on him, the field was gaining on me, and the catch was also going to be made at the base of the climb. Now in addition to not being a climber, I have cramps to deal with, so I sit up.

Within a minute I’m caught, and Mario does exactly as we planned, attacks immediately as I rejoin the field. No one answers and he makes the bridge. The field, however, would not be held back and they get caught near the top or shortly after we crest. At this point I’m fading through the back of the field as we go up the climb, but still completely in control of the situation. We hit the north turnaround the second time and the guy front of me takes a horrible line, forcing me to unclip to avoid going in the gutter. The twisting motion of pulling my foot out causes my calf to cramp and I end up pedaling one legged around the cones. I clip in and catch the field on the downhill.

At this point I need to decide how we are going to end the race. One of our plans was for me to attack from about 3-4km out and hope to hold it to the finish (or be the carrot and have the field be the leadout for my teammates) if I felt good. So that clearly went out the window. The second option was for me to get on the front at 2km to go and drill it with all I have to the base of the climb and let Graham, Mario and Brian sort it out – climbing being their forte.  So that’s what I commit to. Lucky for me, the attacks and the efforts put in by Graham on the front completely destroyed the field and we went into a complete lull after the abovementioned turnaround.

I ride off the back for a while, then pull up to Alex and tell him to pass on to Brian and the rest the plan for the remainder of the rest. Now my main focus is to get my cramps under control and have something to aid the finish. We were going so slowly, that after the second southbound turnaround, the Cat 5 field, which started a few minutes after us, caught us and passed us. As they passed us, I heard an unpleasant noise in the back – not a crash, but I knew something wasn’t right. Soon after, Tam Bikes guy, Dean, pulled up to me and said, one of our guys broke a spoke. I looked up and saw Mario, Brian and Alex up the road. “F**k! Graham is out!”

At this point, Alex was covering anything that moved on the front and putting in attacks to further hurt the field. I kept my nose out of the wind, spinning as easy as I could and not spinning at all if possible. We’re approaching the 2km mark. Alex did his job and is now toast.

I come up to Brian and tell him what’s going to happen. I see the maker, but I’m slightly boxed in, and Dean is to my right. I ask him to let me out, and being the gentleman, he obliged. I got on the nose and drilled it to 27mph into a headwind until I couldn’t do anything else. But by that point, we were at the base of the climb and my job was done; I pull to the side. Mario and Brian were sitting great, about eight-tenth wheel and as I faded back, attacks went flying and I saw Mario following wheels up the climb. The guys who attacked after I pulled off quickly faded back.

My race was done, I dropped my chain into the small ring and rolled to the finish for the lanterne rouge. Mario is the first guy I see, “Second place!” I’m ecstatic – it worked! Then a minute later, Brian rolls up, “I got third!” Now I’m elated through the roof! I’m so overcome with joy for a great team performance that I almost forgot I just rode for 35 miles with cramps.

Next up, Cantua Creek!