Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wheels of Thunder Race report- "Inconceivable"

Well, this past Saturday I lined up for my first ever 35+ mens open race and first criterium (or "cotillion" as my mother in law says) of the season. My goals were modest- stay with the pack as long as possible an get some speedwork. After all, there are plenty of guys who have and still race P 1,2 in this field. I hadn't ridden since Wednesday when I rode for 5.5 hours and hit a TSS of 308 for the day (time to update my FTP) so I was surprised to discover good legs during the race.

I did my usual crappy warm-up 15 minutes too easy on the rollers. I then headed over to the start area. I ran into Mike D who told me the bad news about Kevin A getting crashed out in the 3's race. We rode 200 yards from the start, turned back, and already saw 60 guys at the start. We lined up near the back of a field of 92- oh, well.

We are off. I feel ok and below threshold during the first several laps. I glance at the time board-39 minutes left. OK, it's not the 30 minutes I was hoping for but I'm comfortable and realize that I can hang with these guys no problem as long as I ride smart and stay out of the wind. These guys are fast but I'm rapidly gaining confidence. I spend most of the race surfing the back half of the pack, which is not ideal but I felt that I could still move up when I needed to as long as I rode my race and avoided unnecessary big accelerations until needed. I saw Mike D also surfing the pack a few times. Occasionally, I would ride up to the front but didn't try too hard to stay there. I was feeling good enough to join or initiate one of the many break attempts, but wisely decided to save my energy because several break attempts were getting swallowed quickly by this large fast field on an open course.

I actually found it easier to grab desired wheels in this field compared to a cat 4 race because the speeds were significantly higher and the race was more fluid. I felt completely comfortable riding with this crew. It was great to see actual team tactics at play. While there was still too much slowing in turns 1 and 2, everything was much smoother within the pack. I've never had so much fun racing without worrying about the next spaz move. The high speeds and stringing out snake of the 35+ race was fun to experience. As long as you avoided too much wind, it was fine. The only time I had any concern about possibly getting dropped is when some cones were knocked over into the road causing the back end of the field to slow considerably- this required burning a small match to get back on.

The laps counted down 5,4,4,3,2 (that's right it felt like I did lap 4 twice in my head as the speeds were picking up). I was about 45th to 50th with 2 laps to go. I asked an Excel guy if it was indeed two laps to go he said "yeah". I said out loud "well, then what am I doing back here?"- laughing to myself since this is exactly where I thought I would be before the race.

I began to put in some bigger efforts now to work my way up to about 30 th with 1 lap to go. Then I picked it up and accelerated hard out of turns 1 and 2. I slotted in about 8th single file up front. Surprisingly, this held with the higher speed thru the final turn. Nobody else came up until after the final turn which the first 10 took single file. I took up the inside behind an Excel guy (probably, Bob Dahl). I got boxed in a little. I yelled "Excel let's hit it " hoping that he would give me a leadout but he was searching for his own leadout. I made my way out. I rubbed elbows with some guy briefly, no biggie, and accelerated in a mass sprint to the line which appeared sooner than expected. I realized that top 10, maybe top 5 was mine. I moved from about 10 th to finish 6th in the last 50-100 meters. What a blast! I was right there with the front guys in the sprint finish and didn't even feel spent after the race. A crash further back took out some of the field. I'm glad I stayed away from that one.

If you would have told me that I would have finished 6th out of 92 guys in the 35+ open mass sprint, let alone finish with the front pack, my reaction would have been "inconceivable"

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