Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Super Duper Crit

Race blogs, lol. I'm so 2008. May as well put one in the ledger for 2013:

No 50 mile CX races this offseason, just some good old fashioned roller time (a lot of it), rounded off with a little Florida vakay to get some sun and dust off the pack skills. Enter race kickoff day 2013, Burnham's Super Crit, on a killer motorcycle/midget car race track called Blackhawk Farms.

Race 1: 30+ 4/5
They said 40 minutes at the start, but I should have known better. They rang the bell at 30, and I assumed it was a prime, and by the time I figured out otherwise, I recovered for 12th. whatev.

Race 2: 30+ Open
This was a big boy race, and I planned to play it safe and not be lunchmeat for the 1s and 2s. Teammie JFerg followed Zens on an early solo flyer so I sat around at the front. A couple guys went off to bridge, and I let them, though I remember thinking, dammit, I should be up there, he's the sprinter between us, and I go long. Soon enough, I saw him get dropped, and took it up. A couple guys used me up, then jumped to join the other bridgers, who formed a six man break for good.

I chased and chased and chased. A Wisco masters' rider (that's code for 'older than me') couldn't put in much, nor could Zens, who'd initiated the break, and been dropped from it. Nate from Burnham sat on our wheels as we would expect, since he had two guys up ahead.

I was doing the big turns after a while, so I knew I had to thin the group of four before the finish. I attacked after Zens' turn and only Nate could follow. I figured I'd just hold off those two to the finish, and get pipped by Nate in the end. Lo and behold, I was surprised to see the leaders in sight with half a lap to go. Nate had to finally take it up if he wanted to be any use to his guys up there, so I got a break and sucked wheel.

We approached them and two guys had just taken off at blitzkrieg speed to contest the win, leaving these guys eyeballing one another for 3rd. They weren't happy to see two more faces in the mix, so somebody jumped and the drag race was on. I was toast but happy to say I technically completed the bridge, then I noticed Nate fading slightly.
Final turn: me in the back, in our new low profile kit. Photo sorta borrowed from Ali Engin.
It's a deceptively long stretch after the turn, so I had time to run through his sprint and get him in the end. 8th of 31, just behind Chad Hartley, HAAAAY. Not bad for a cat 4 for lyfe. Other than wussing out on establishing the break, and just missing the move that became the break, I was pretty happy with the legs.

Race 3: cat 4
I was toast. I tried to protect teammies when I saw them exposed in the windy section, or drag them to the front, or just put in a hard turn on point when I got tired of the sketchfest in the pack. Somehow finished 18th/65, and Roadhouse got 2nd. Squirelliest race ever. MUST UPGRADE. At least I know I won't be the slowest cat 3.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Track Cycling Primer

(This was written in response to a friend asking me to explain Track Racing during the Olympics.)

About a hundred years ago, bike racing was bigger than unsliced bread. Since every race widow knows that nothing is worse than watching an outdoor bike race pass by once every 45 minutes, people decided to hold these races indoors. It also had the benefit of exposing racers to second hand cigar smoke, which improved their constitutions. Gravity had recently been discovered, and to offset its effects, the banked track was developed.

Dr. Jonas Salk invented amphetamines, primarily used to fuel "six day" bike races, in which competitors rode in circles until nearly all of them died. If spectators got bored, they could watch a 45 round bare-knuckle prizefight on the infield. It was the Golden Age of American Sport.

At some point, civilized people decided that was not a very effective way to kill people, so they invented World Wars, and Six Day Races declined in popularity. Race promoters decided to complicate Track Racing so people could bet on it in new ways.

Before we get much further, it's very important to understand there are two primal types of Track racer: Sprinters and Endurance riders.

Pure Sprinters are actually just weightlifters that have learned to stay upright on two wheels. If you believe the scientists, it's because they have a high number of fast-twitch fibers. Creationists believe they were just born with the legs of a mule.

Everyone else is an Endurance rider. They hate Sprinters because Sprint training consists of hanging around the weight room, eating slabs of chocolate cake, and taking a nap. Then they go to the track and ride for 30 seconds, and rest for an hour. They repeat this 3-5 times.

Endurance riders are not to be confused with your typical Tour de France road racer. A track Enduro - as they call themselves because it sounds tough - goes much faster than their road counterpart. However, it's largely a result of the fact that their bikes that cost about as much as a year of college. Only in Track racing does four minutes count as lasting a long time.

Nonetheless, all of Track racing is set up to make the Sprinter-types face off against the Enduros, in a variety of schemes to keep race officials employed:

Match Sprint
Strictly for the pure Sprinters. It's a three lap race, which about two laps longer than they'd like, so they slow it down and eyeball each other. It's like a game of Chess, which is what people say about a really boring boxing match where neither guy throws any punches until the third round. They all know each other's weaknesses pretty well, so they play games, trying to jam up the other racer, or slow down the race, or escape, etc.

Pursuit (Individual or Team)
Strictly for the pure Enduros. Racers start at opposite points on the track, and try to catch one another, or just finish with the best time. It's more or less a time trial, but since those are about as exciting as watching paint dry, they double the fun and run two at once. It's still pretty boring, unless you're the type who owns multiple skinsuits, and you can tell which one makes you faster.

Keep in mind that only a handful of people are pure Sprinters or Endurance riders, most everyone else is somewhere in between, but they have their natural tendencies that the others want to exploit. The Sprinter types will drop out of any race longer than six laps, but on the way out, they will casually mention their other accomplishments like "I guess I shouldn't have squatted 800 pounds this morning." The Endurance riders are like "lol ur so fat."

The Scratch race
First one to the finish line wins. This sounds straightforward, but it gets complicated. The Sprinters think "let's keep this friendly until the last lap or so" while the Enduros are like "hey look, free cheeseburgers" and they try to escape and get a lap ahead.

Every other race is contrived to get them all to beat the crap out of each other, mostly by putting lots of sprints in races of various lengths. Sometimes the Sprint types can hang in and keep the group together, usually the Enduros try to escape so they only have to sprint against each other. The ones that can't sprint at all try to run off solo, but if they have to sprint, at least it's only against some other racer with arms like sticks of spaghetti. Not all of these events are in the Olympics, but they include, among others:

Points Race
A generally long race, with points awarded four places deep, usually every 10 laps. The losers can go home and brag "yeah, but at least I won the third sprint in the second race."

Like a mini points race. This is one of the races where you can suck 65% of the time, finish a lap down, but somehow win.

Like the Point-a-lap, but the first racer across the line every lap gets two points, the second racer gets one, and nobody else gets squat. Rewards racers that can keep an eye on who's winning while their heart rate is in cardiac arrest territory. Another race where you can lose every sprint and still win.

The Madison
A race in which two riders take turns racing, while the other slow rolls it around the track. They replace one another in the racing action by swooping down from the banked turns and hand-slinging one another up to speed. Half the time, even the officials don't know what's going on, but, like NASCAR, everyone loves it because it looks like there will be a deadly crash at any moment.

Someone got the idea to use a motorbike to get the Sprinters going pretty fast, since they would never work hard enough to do that on their own.

Miss 'n Out
Last one across the line every lap gets pulled. The Olympics calls this the Elimination race, probably because its other name, "Devil takes the hindmost" just sounds dirty.

The Omnium
Some combination of events, for people that can't do any one thing well.

It all adds to a bit of mayhem sometimes, but for the most part, it makes for amazing racing because everyone is trying to take everyone else apart all the time, and it's brutal, and fast. Every once in a while, you get to see a little exasperated hand waving, which is a Track racer's way of saying to the official "I was about to uncork my big move but that guy cost me the race." In reality it means they were pretty much beaten at that point, but sometimes it works.

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 rebounds

Not much action here anymore, but I figured, what the hell, a little summer wrap-up:

2011 didn't look to be too promising, what with a torn rotator cuff and surgery keeping me untrained for 10 weeks. I played it by ear this year, doing long solo rides, hella intervals, fartlek-on-a-bike, some swimming, and a new one for me: rest and recovery between hard workouts. I guess it worked: I only raced 8 times this year, but the results were pretty good:

-Gravel Metric - win (tie)

-Glencoe - Cat 4 sprint points competition (yeah, it was only a couple of primes, but damn it's a fancy watch)

-Cat 4 State Champ - Points race. That's *my race* and I wanted it more than anything since the SSCX in 2009. I was marked but I took the last 3 sprints FTW. I won both cat 4 races that night, and was the top 4 in the 3/4s race. That's when I started to notice my form was coming on...

-Cat 3 State Champ - Scratch. My first night as a 3 and I won both 3s races! I came looking to work for Jeff, but he ordered me to go for the win myself. He worked them over and made it look easy for me. No disrespect to my fellow racers but the 3s field isn't too deep right now. A couple big dogs have upgraded, and one of the strongest 3s doesn't have a teammate, so Jeff's attacks were particularly effective. Just to bring me down to earth: In the 1/2/3s Points race, I thought I was the baller, getting on Moyer/JT/Whiteman as they established their break...I lasted about 20 seconds.

Felt ok on my first CX race, but I haven't touched the CX bike in 8 months and apparently I've forgotten how to corner in the dirt. I blame all those laps on 20 mm tires at 145 psi.


Friday, August 12, 2011

This one time...

I was on this xxx ride on a single speed and this cat rolls in with no helmet and a track bike and he pretty much killed it, riding solo in the wind alongside a thundering pack the whole time. I was like, uh yeah, he's good people, I gotta hang out with this guy.

I ran into this same guy wearing legwarmers at a ChiCrossCup race, a skirt too, because the year before they awarded double points for crossdressing, but I don't think they did that year, but I don't think he cared anyway. He told me to come out for the Tour da Chicago, and that whole thing happened, and I got on a team with this guy.

And one day I leaned on him to race with me at the track and help me out. He hadn't planned on it, and didn't feel like it, but I hassled him and offered to bring him Zipps and give him my prize money. And he came out to race, and it was fun and I won a lot. Andrew Nordyke rules.

Monday, June 13, 2011

da Tour

I'm easing out of my self-imposed embargo on race blogging, on account of all the thoughts swimming in my head. There's only so much you can explain to a patient wife; the rest has to go somewhere. Why not here?

It only took a few years longer than expected, but we finally got around to doing a proper stage race, the first Tour of Galena. My fitness is off this year on account of my off season injury and surgery, but I managed to get some miles in, so I was looking forward to it. I fancy myself more of an all rounder, so I thought it would be interesting to see how I stacked up in the omnium. Plus, Brian's white hot right now, so we had a real contender to look after.

Things that went right:
I headed out early, pre-rode the TT course, drove the RR course, and built up a tent for the bus dwellers, since I had a feeling they would surface well after dark. My aero wheels were undergeared for the climb, so I was happy to find that out ahead of time and rolled with a mixed pair.

First thing to go wrong:
I drilled the first half of the TT, but at the turnaround, I made a mistake (apparently the kind that triathletes rake each other for!) I came around the barrel nicely, and using every inch of the road, I bore down for a standing start at the edge. A little sandy gravel was hidden on the surface and my rear wheel went sideways under the power stroke. I hit the dirt, and recovered quickly, but it killed my time. I finished 24th of 42. Not too bad considering, but about 23 seconds out of the top ten (and the points that came with it). I have a surprisingly bleedy scalped knee.

An Iron Cycles guy noted the irony that that a couple weeks ago I did 65 miles flawlessly in the gravel (and won), and this weekend, I did a couple seconds and hit the deck. C'est la vie.

Brian killed it and Al Pearson, fresh off a year of grad school, finished with him in 4th and 5th. A genetically gifted Toftoy brother killed us all, but I take some solace in the fact that he beat all of the P/1/2s field as well.

I didn't have high hopes for the RR, but I hoped to hang on to the main field longer than I did. The kickers were ok but the steep climbs got me. To think I used to sprint up rollers all day on a 53x16 back in Atlanta. That was 25 pounds ago (on a good day) but hey, I probably couldn't crack 600 watts back then, right? I fell in with a strong dude from Bellum and before long, two teammates in Al and Josh. The four of us hit lap two with a few xxx'ers and independents chasing.

We had a solid rotation going with Bellum outclassing us a bit in the power department, but we all worked our asses off. We spent a little too much time re-carbing and got caught by 4-5 chasers. This killed the collegial vibe, as not one of the newcomers would take a quality pull.

For some reason, I had discovered that I could hold a solid pace in the 27 on the steep hills, then miraculously around the midpoint, just take off. Great, NOW I find climbing power? I did this once to see if we could shed the wheelsuckers, but no one came with me. I went with it and solo'ed for a few miles, but got caught. I did it again on another hill and got caught after a few miles. My teammate joked about me going for a solo breakaway and I replied "I have to do what the legs tell me to do." I'm not settling in for comfy ride to the line.

I decided to make the last attack count, and just past the vineyard, I found my magical climbing power halfway up the hill. My breakmates inadvertently fueled it, as they settled into 'this sucks, are we there yet' kind of chatter. That shit makes me crazy in races, when people get into a group ride 'just get home' mentality. Frankly it makes me want to attack, so I did, and it stuck for a good long time.

A few miles later I was caught by a xxx'er and a Rhythm guy. 2-3 miles from the finish, I just decided to take soft pulls and watch the distance. xxx was in front and as soon as he figured out that no one was pulling through, we came to a little hill. He motioned for someone to pull through and I attacked. A little digger and I look back to see Rhythm on my wheel and no one else.

We slow rolled it a bit, sizing up the match sprint plan, and passed inside the 1000m mark. He coasted a bit and started stretching his glutes and calves out of the saddle. It was a little earlier than I wanted to jump but I couldn't let the opportunity pass. I went full gas and caught him off guard. It wasn't a huge gap, but it was enough. Up, down, left, right, and held it to the line.

Man I miss road racing. Battling for 30th feels great, until you realize...that it was a battle for 30th.

Brian got a flat, found no Campy 10 speed in the neutral wheel truck, and ended up taking Andrew's shoes and bike. He held on for 25th, his shot at the W and the Omnium were gone. Mike held on for 13th and Max for 18th or so.

My legs were trashed for the crit but I kept telling myself 'so are everyone else's.' Apparently that was not too true as the pace was a solid 27-28 in both stretches for most of the race. My long slow training plan showed and I was out of jumps after a dozen laps. I managed to stay in the pack and dodged crashes to finish 21st. Meh. Brian got second and after being in the top ten all race, Josh went down and killed his frame in the process. Double Meh.

I figure I finished around 31/42 in the Omnium but if I pretend I didn't crash in the TT I could have finished 26th if I'd gotten a single omnium point. Not too bad considering my fitness, but man, exhausting and taxing to say the least.

The ladies pretty much rocked it. Daph got 2nd in the TT, did the road race on a frickin' 23 toother in the back, and then she and Marie pushed the pace relentlessly in the crit to hurt the field. Daph got 3rd in the crit and 3rd in the omnium. I almost forgot that they were doing their 2nd and 3rd road races, but they have a lot of track experience. Jannette wasn't feeling it, but she's still sort of recovering from last year's crash, having just gotten a dental implant last week. She felt like her body was trying to generate bone, not race bikes.

The crew was in prime heckling mode, we didn't get ticketed for open containers, Jeff killed it in a Karaoke duet with Newt (then raced the crit the next day), and in general, a good time was had by all. Can't wait to do it again, just not any time soon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Twenty Eleven

There are enough blogs out there about bike racing, and I just don't feel compelled to add to them at the moment. However, I need a place to put the picture above (courtesy of Amy Dykema) to capture the day that I finally won a goddamned road race. Even if it was sort of an alleycat cyclocross type of road race. Blogged to death on the team site here with pictures here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

one door closes, another one opens

Jaysus what a weekend. The basics:

Masters' Track State Champs. I was targeting the kilo, but not enough to actually try out different gear inches or get some quality advice. I spun out and got second place. arg. Normally I wouldn't be too upset about not winning, but the field was thin and I had lots more in the tank. So I went into the 3k pursuit with a little fire in my belly, but no pacing strategy. Somehow I pulled a 3:59, about a half second up on Chuck Judy. I was convinced he had it in the bag. I would have thought the officials would've grouped us a little more on account of the small field, but hey, 40-44 was almost the same field that 40-49 would have been. Good thing they didn't go totally by the rulebook, or the day would have possibly been rounded to 30+ and Jeff Whiteman would have won everything. It seemed like the big boys stayed home to rest for Nats, and somehow "Masters' 40-44 3k State Champ" just doesn't exactly blow your hair back, but I'll take it.

Meanwhile back in Gotham city, Ella got 2nd in the Chicago Triathlon, out of 152 in her division! Woot! Nearly last out of the water (they really ought to call the kids' ChiTri swim "water-jogging"). 3rd after a killer T1, then grabbed one spot in the run. The winner was even in sight, but with a little too much ground to make up.

Lang did his first 'real' soccer games, and man, trial by fire: 4 games in two days, in the heat, and up against some psycho suburban teams. He got a hefty plaque. I'm proud of him. He was working hard and having fun, and just givin' er. Soccer gets so little ink in this family, and he had a couple of great moves, a header or two, a couple reverses. Awesome.

Relay cross: I was slated to partner with Jannette, but after her crash, I got a shot at racing with Ella for the first time. She was a little spooked by the triple-bend/harbor drop/couch madness, but started to shine mid-first lap. The whirlpool taught her how to lean into the turns more than I'd been able to. We somehow finished 35th of 50, but more importantly, I had the best time ever at a cross race, and that's saying something. She was slightly shell shocked for a while, but she's definitely down for doing more cross. Hup! Hup!

Mom was domestique to the stars. Gotta go serve her up a vacation.