You probably have picked up on this by now, but our mighty Team Two Wheel has a fair amount of bike racing experience. Rider 2 and I perhaps have a bit more, but all of us have been around the proverbial block.
So given this, the past weekend was somewhat bizarre. Rider 2 probably put it best when he said something to the effect that we all should have paid attention to the omens when they first started showing up.
- Just prior to the start of his time trial, Rider 2 clipped his foot out of his pedal while rolling to a stop, placing it on the sidewalk. In doing so he tripped the race's chief official, who yard-saled, crashing to the pavement. She evidently wasn't terribly pleased with him.
- Feeling crappy during his time trial, Rider 2 realized at the finish that his rear brake had rubbed on the rim his entire ride. Seriously rookie error. From a guy with 25 years of racing under his chamois? And he still finished in 4th place.
- Rider 3 meanwhile realized the night before his race that his tubular tires were threadbare. The night before the race he realized this?
- But if you think that's bad, check this out. Somehow, even though I spent the morning scrambling to get ready for an afternoon road race, I FORGOT TO EAT LUNCH. Also forgot to bring any food with me to the race. Seriously? How old am I?
- And then there was this bonehead move: I was sick for 3 weeks in March, during which I rode a total of two times. Then the week before Frozen Flatlands I went on a family vacation where exercise was limited to walking from one restaurant to another. So I went into a hard race with at best one match to burn. And what did I do early in the road race? Yep, I followed a series of ill-timed attacks, and once our break was caught I blew up and got dropped. So much for using my head, which is typically the one and only thing that gets me through hard races.
- Then on Sunday, 20 minutes before the start I realized I had left my jersey at home in the dryer. I seem to remember fining riders for stuff like this back in the day. Another rookie mistake.
OK, so it was a weird weekend. Now that those excuses are out of the way, here's a brief report on the weekend's racing.
As you know by now, Frozen Flatlands is the kickoff to eastern Washington's race season. The kids might say that the flatlands part of the race's name is a bit ironic. For once they'd be right. (By the way, I blame Alanis Morisette for the public's apparent total ignorance of the definition of irony. "It's like rain on your wedding day," isn't ironic. It's unfortunate. Anyway...) There's not a lot flat about the race. OK, it's not mountainous, but constantly up and down. And this weekend was hellawindy.
Like 30 mph windy.
And more wind.
Nope, not a terribly flat course profile.
Nasty. In fact it's the kind of weather all of us (well, at least Rider 2 and I) love to ride and race in. As long as we're feeling strong. The thing is, racing in hail and nastiness is
miserable when you're 100 meters behind the caravan for mile after mile.
FF starts with a 20K time trial. It's followed a couple of hours later by a 50ish mile road race. Tough first day, no? Sunday features a somewhat less hilly, but definitely not flat, 25 mile road stage.
I opted to skip the TT for a number of reasons. First, I was still less than healthy, so starting a TT in sub-freezing weather with 35 mph wind didn't sound like a great idea. I've also been scrambling to get our house on the market. Finally, my wife was hankering for a morning yoga class. So I did my family duty and nodded out of the TT.
Saturday's road race:
Going into the road race I didn't really know what to expect of myself. I certainly wasn't anticipating a win, but thought I'd at least finish with the front group. Like I already mentioned though, this didn't happen. I followed a couple of moves in the first big crosswind sections, but our little group was reeled in just before we made a right turn into a brutal headwind. Then I got dropped.
The one silver lining was that I was gapped with two very nice guys, Ted and Alex. They're also two typically strong guys, but my guess is after finishing second and fourth in the TT were blown.
My conversation with Ted, in fact, was limited to something to the effect of his comment of "bad legs." Short and sweet, and enough said.
We actually worked well together, and for four or five miles kept the main group close. One of the more frustrating things in cycling is getting dropped, only to put yourself on the rivet while riding 50 meters (or whatever) behind the main group. Totally unsustainable in a nasty headwind and we worked a hell of a lot harder than the riders in the main group.
In the end, Alex and I ended up riding in together. There was so much collateral damage in the main group that somehow I scored a handful of points at the finish, but I was tired, disappointed and demoralized. And I own Alex an energy bar. My stomach started growling about an hour from the finish, and thankfully he helped me out.
Rider 2 did us proud though, finishing third in the Master A category and among the top riders overall in the combined Cat 3/Master A field. In fact Masters riders were first and second overall in Saturday's road race.
The energy was light ahead of Sunday's short, 25-mile road race. Most comments I overheard involved the word "tired" somewhere in the sentence, but that said, I wasn't sure how the race would go. Balls to the wall? Sit and sprint? Early break rolling off the front and staying there? My plan was to not be stupid. This is hard for me though.
In the end, it was one of the most negative races I've ever done. If you're not familiar with this expression here's how things go down in a negative race. The group rolls along at 20 mph. Someone attacks. The group then goes 30 mph until the attacker is caught. Then the group goes 18 mph until someone attacks.
Hat's off though to Eric Schuman from the Lenovo team. He attacked alone, over and again until the group got bored of chasing him. In the end he was joined with another rider. Eric ended up in second for the day, so kudos to him. Thanks for not being a pansy like the rest of us, and being willing to actually attack the race.
To tell you the truth, I didn't expect the break to make it. Even at 3K to go the main peloton was fresh, and maybe 10 seconds down on the attackers. It's a fast finish and I expected someone to get aggressive. But like I wrote earlier, it was one of those super-negative days.
This race has a tricky final kilometer. The road is narrow--three abreast at best--and we weren't exactly moving quickly, so position was everything. I was a few rows back from the front, where I could see Rider 2, who I wanted to try and help in the finish. But there was no moving around. My bad.
In the end Rider 2 went on a flyer with about 800 meters to go, immediately opening a big gap. But there was a headwind and eventually the group decided to finally start racing. Somehow I popped through a hole, and for some strange reason the boys sat up for a second with 200 meters to go, just as we caught Rider 2. Even though it was early (the finish is uphill), I started my sprint then, almost closing the gap to one final rider.
So second in the field sprint, second in my official racing category and fourth overall among all riders. Ordinarily maybe a result to be disappointed about, but after my "performance" the day before I was more than OK with it.
And thanks to Chad for loaning me a jersey!
OK, tomorrow is another day for battle: Ronde van Palouse. I'm wildly underprepared for a day of hell. Wish me luck.