Race nLog June 15, 2007

Race nLog

Welcome to the second installment of my Race nLog (pronounced Racein Log). It’s been an exciting month to race, with many new events and experiences now under my belt. I hope that this nLog will encourage you to give racing a try and to join the Rapid Wheelmen Race Team.

There are perks (free stuff!) to joining the Race Team. Join or find out more by calling me at 616-633-8601, join our yahoogroup at RWRace@Yahoogroups.com , or email me at race@rapidwheelmen.com . I know some of you are racing as Rapid Wheelmen who aren’t on the team. If you’re one of them, join the team by contacting me. There’s no downside, only camaraderie and free stuff!

Grattan (May 16/23/30, June 6/13, 2007)

Race Team Racers (RTRs) (May 16): Joel Bierling (pack fodder)

Crashes galore. That pretty much sums it up. Everyone complains about how the Bs ride, but tonight it was the As doing the crashing. They may be more experienced and better riders, but they’re also probably more aggressive. The first crash was on the straight and occurred in front of me. Luckily I was able to peel off into the grass and get around the riders scraping themselves off the ground. I asked if anyone was hurt, no one said they were, so I took off in pursuit of the peloton. After a ¾ lap chase I finally caught up again. The chances of that happening are usually pretty slim, since once you lose the group, you usually lose it for good. That was accomplishment enough for me that night. The sun in our eyes on the backstretch didn’t help and may have had a role in the second crash. I was able to get around that one without losing the group that time.

RTRs (May 23): Joel Bierling (As: 4th)

If it comes down to the sprint, I’ve already lost. I don’t think I’m a great sprinter, and so I’m likely soft pedaling the last lap because the final sprint still scares me. So the trick for me to do well is to get ahead before the final sprint. How? Good question.

Here’s my best recollection of what happened, seeing as my brain was somewhat oxygen deprived much of the race. The peloton goes through phases of slowing down and then suddenly accelerating. During one of the slowdowns I just decided to keep pedaling at the same speed and somehow found myself ahead of the group. Usually at this point, I say to myself, “What am I doing out front?” and slow down, but this time I sped up a little. The gap kept growing for some reason but shortly after I was thankfully joined by a WM Coast rider who I’d later figure out was the big kahuna Scott Riddle (#67) who wins or is in the lead group for many of the races and whom I’d been looking out for the whole race.

I’d been looking for #67 since I’d been getting a little frustrated not knowing which breaks were going to work and which weren’t. I figured that if #67 was doing something I should do it too, and then hopefully I’d finally get myself into a break. It was sort of funny that I ended up being the one who instigated the break involving #67.

So anyway, we worked for a bit together and picked up another rider wearing Ada Bike kit. The three of us kept working, trying to catch up to another group of 3 riders ahead of us. Keep in mind that at this point, I had no idea who these other three riders were. Were they the leaders?, just another group in front of us?, lapped riders behind us?, who knows... I really need a race radio to keep myself informed it seems. We slowly started catching up to the group of three and just before we got there the Ada bike guy disappeared. I’m not sure what happened to him (I heard that he may have broken his chain). When the two of us caught up to the group of three, my companion gave me a big thumbs up, which really made me feel really good (it was at this point I realized that he was #67 – I hadn’t actually looked before).

The group of five kept going for another 10 laps or so. Stupidly, I didn’t bring enough water and I was bone dry with about 6 laps to go. Luckily, my dad was there watching and got me another bottle, which after our second try passing it off, I was able to grab. I downed that bottle and was still thirsty, but I knew I’d be able to make it to the finish. I went from practically not drinking at all so far this year to needing three bottles in the span of one race.

Our break was working together pretty well, and then with 2 laps to go Scott and a Priority guy shot off. At that point, I was just trying to hold things together, as my left calf was threatening to spasm. #42 with WM Coast (who I later found out was Nathan Williams) kept looking at me like I was going to take off too. That was really the last thing I wanted to do, and I was actually a little afraid he would take off on me. I told him I was perfectly happy with 5th place and wasn’t going to contest the sprint. There was one other Priority guy still with us who held Nathan’s and my wheel for the final two laps. Nearing the finish I could see the peloton coming up and thought I heard someone yell something like “there they are, get ‘em!”. That worried me a bit so I just TT’d to the line for all I was worth and, as I promised Nathan, didn’t sprint. He went around me at the end with the Priority guy still behind us (which was nice since he didn’t pull those last two laps).

Anyway, it was a pretty good race and probably my best workout of the year so far. Good enough for 4th place in the As. That’s the first time I haven’t been peloton fodder in the As.

RTRs (May 30): Joel Bierling (Pack fodder)

I tried a repeat of last week. Coming up the hill to the straightaway I attacked and gapped the field. That was good. The bad was that I gapped the whole field. No one followed me. I needed someone to follow because there was no way I was going to be able to stay in front all by myself. Well, I kept my gap going for almost a full lap, and with no one coming to play I finally decided that the effort was for naught and fell back into the pack. I’ll try again next time.

RTRs (June 6): Joel Bierling (As: 2nd)

Wow, what a ride. I decided to approach this race a little differently than previous ones. Usually I start near the back of the pack and take some time to warm up before starting to look for breaks. This time I started right at the front and stayed 2-4th wheel. Already at the 3rd or 4th lap, a Priority Health (PH) rider flew off the front. Immediately Tom Burke (West Michigan Coast Riders) followed him. I knew this was the break, but I hesitated for a fraction of a second too long, at which point it was too late to follow.

Luckily a short time later I somehow found myself in another break of about 5 guys. I’m not sure how it happened, I just happened to look back at one point (normally you need to keep your eyes pointed straight ahead or you’ll almost for sure run into something) and the peloton was nowhere to be seen. In any case, the 5 of us were now in hot pursuit of the 2 in front. I have a feeling that the 2 allowed us to eventually catch them (so they could benefit from our pulls) because when we finally caught up to them, they kept saying we needed to speed up and took some huge pulls. The pace was brutal, and we dropped one or two out of our break. Then disaster struck when the PH rider got a flat. The problem was that he was our break’s main engine. Without him I feared we wouldn’t stay in front of the peloton. But we tried our best, and finally our break was down to just myself and Tom.

This was a 28 lap (about 1.75 miles per lap) points race where every fifth lap the top 10 riders got a number of points corresponding to their placement. The nice thing was that Tom and I had been soaking up the points and I knew that even if we were caught, we would still get #1 and #2. I had told Tom that I wouldn’t contest the points laps because frankly I was afraid he’d try to drop me, and if that happened I’d get caught by the peloton even sooner. 2nd place was just fine with me. But getting caught was inevitable and that indeed was what happened with 3 laps to go when we finally were caught by a chase group of around 7-8 guys. I finally cruised in across the finish line in 7th, finishing overall 2nd for the night. I was pretty happy and absolutely fried. Best workout of the year by far.

(June 13)

Resting for the National 24 Hour Challenge (N24HC).

Rapid Wheelmen Time Trails (May 21, June 4/11, 2007)

RTRs (May 21): Joel Bierling (34:52)

Others: Well everyone there is a Rapid Wheelmen member, so how come they’re not all on the race team? Hint hint hint…

I misjudged the wind today. For some reason I thought the wind was coming more from the southwest, so as I started the TT I couldn’t figure out why I was having so much trouble getting up to speed. I lost a bit of motivation by the turnaround, which meant I probably didn’t go as fast as I could have gone. Once I turned around I quickly discovered my error, as my average speed started increasing. It was too late to hit a PR for the week. There’s always next time. This is one case where it would have been nice to have a power meter. That way it would have been obvious that I was headed into the wind rather than with it, which would have left me in better spirits (and hopefully speed) for half of the ride.

RTRs (June 4): Joel Bierling (35:28)

Not much to report. By my start time, I was cold (cold temps) so I was feeling a bit off and my time showed.

RTRs (June 11): Joel Bierling (36:07)

Tired, tired, slow, slow. I’ve been spending too much time on the bike. I figured I’d get some saddle time for the N24HC but take it easy during the TT to rest up a bit.

Tour de Gaslight (May 28, 2007)

RTRs: Joel Bierling (Pack fodder)

Too many goals. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach the race and so didn’t do much of anything. The Tour de Gaslight is a criterium, which means that it’s a short loop (under a mile) that is both a timed and lapped event. You race around the loop for a set period of time and then when that time has elapsed you generally race for two more laps. Also, during the race there are sometimes intermediate sprints in which prizes are given out. These sprints are called primes (pronounced preeme). Blame the French?

In my race there were two primes. I decided I would try for them but not kill myself to win them since I wanted to place overall. So in both cases I got second on the prime. No prize for second place. I think I could have won either or both of them had I tried my hardest, but as I said I wanted to save some energy for the finish. Specifically, I wanted to save some energy to try to make a breakaway before the inevitable mass sprint to the finish.

Just when I was about to try my breakaway, someone else got the jump on the field first. I sprinted after him to catch up, and we had the beginning of a two person breakaway. Unfortunately, a little kid on a bike darted across the road just before the main sharp corner, causing the guy in the lead to lock his back brake to slow down. That pretty much did it for our break. The race finished in a mass sprint. I soft pedaled it in.

Next time I need to decide what my goals are—win a prime or try to win the race, just don’t try to do both. If I’m in a good position to win a prime, win it! Don’t save energy for something that may not work out.

The locale (downtown East Grand Rapids) was wonderful. The race was well run. Really nice glass mug. Snagged a couple bananas for my ride back home.

Milk Jug (May 29, 2007)

RTRs: Joel Bierling (2nd)

Coming off of the Tour de Gaslight and with Grattan the next day, there wasn’t much of a gas/energy allowance for the day. Even so, it was the last day of racing for Milk Jug, so I was determined to make it out. I’m glad I did because Ada Bike Shop had their demo trailer there and there was a picnic of sorts. As usual I came back with more than I brought. A gift certificate, 2 pairs of biking socks, 3 water bottles (one of which I gave away), and lots of sports food.

Oh, the racing was fine too, although I was not a big fan of the new section of the trail along the creek. It was very narrow (there was one section where my handlebars literally would not fit between the trees) and I think I could have walked through it faster than I rode it (of course that’s mostly my fault, not the trails). The Michigan Mountain Biking Association (MMBA) is doing a great job adding trails at Cannonsburg, I just wish they were a little wider! Once the race started, I held the lead through the first lap and then, errantly as it turned out, slowed down to conserve energy. I got passed by a guy going downhill (I’m terrible at technical sections especially technical downhills) and I never really saw him again. If I had pushed it the whole race, I might have been able to stay ahead, but 2nd was good enough for me.

See you there next year!

Tour de Cedar Creek (June 10, 2007)

RTRs: Joel Bierling (Pack fodder)

Two words: Mass sprint That about sums it up. I soft pedaled in for 5th to last (or something close). I suppose I should really start contesting the sprints, but I sometimes feel that the 16.75 mile pretense of a race should be discarded and everyone should just see how fast they can pedal for a quarter mile. This sort of mirrors my opinion of basketball. Just shorten the game to 1 minute and do away with the rest of the game. ;-) I pre-drove the course that morning, and the last hill where I thought I might be able to get away from the group was around the 10.5 mile mark. So I did my best to break from the group on that hill, but I got followed up. After that I pretty much lost hope, as the rest of the course was pancake flat.

Other thoughts:

  • One lane to race in is really narrow. I'm used to Grattan and a full two lanes for crits (criteriums). It made passing almost impossible, so I just stayed 2nd-4th wheel for most of the race.
  • The road for about half of the course was in bad shape.
  • There was one crash behind me. Sara (my wife) said that an ambulance took off and the announcers asked a woman to come to the stand and told her that the victim (presumably her husband) was being taken to the hospital. That's not fun. He had a broken femur apparently.
  • The pace was slow, but every time someone tried to break, it got chased down.
  • I was a little disappointed that there weren't any souvenirs (for example, the Tour de Gaslight had a nice glass mug) or any post race food. I guess I expected a little more for my $30.
  • Getting up at 4:30 am isn't much fun for me or the family.
  • Few spectators and not much going on at the start/finish. I suppose it was early and there really wasn't much to watch, but I expected more for a "Michigan Road Race Championship". I think the location (out at the edge of town) could have been better so there would be more for spectators to do while waiting between laps. For example the downtowns of EGR, Rockford, or Ada would all have been better locations. We didn't stay long after the race so I'm not sure how the other races went. We were taking my wife’s parents out to lunch, and I wanted time to ride the 35 miles to their house. All in all I'm happy I went. It was a good experience even though I didn't do as well as I had hoped.

Stay tuned for more next month!! I’m doing the National 24 Hour Challenge in a few days and will have (I hope) a report of the event.