(Ok, this is another long post. Seems to be feast or famine around here these days. Of course, it's ALL well worth reading, but you may wanna dose your effort and break it up. For your convenience, I've split it in thirds)
It's been another nice post-session week. I love this time of year. After the crazy work schedule of the last few months, it's nice to catch up with some stuff around the house, throttle back a little bit, and enjoy the summer. At least until special session starts this Thursday (long story why - you either know already, or you don't wanna know). And it's been a very rainy summer so far - not great for the training - so ya gotta enjoy the nice days when you can!
First Commute of 2011
Last Monday and Tuesday were two such days. Monday's forecast was for "Top Ten-ness" so that finally got me motivated to do my first bike commute of the season:
Long-time readers will recognize the route and the elevation profile. If you want more info, check this out for links, stats and photos. But the skinny is that it's 42 miles one-way along some of the best looking scenery in Southern New England (at least until you get to the craziness that is Hartford traffic).
The morning ride was made all the better by happening to meet friend ShawnM for part of the way up. After he peeled of at his place, I saw a doe and two fawns along the road. There were so stone still I thought they were statutes at first. Then one of the fawns blinked. Also met with friend LauraM for the Cromwell to Hartford portion. Having friends on these long rides is especially nice.
On the way home, I rode solo, and of course there was the inevitable afternoon headwind (and insane Hartford city traffic - ugh!), but I was treated to a little "feed zone" in Wethersfield. Laura couldn't join me on my southbound ride, but her son Kevin gave me a great baggie of Fig Newtons (and it was a clear ziploc - not a white lunch bag). The extra snack was certainly nice and appreciated!
Being Monday evening, and it being on my way, I also happened by the Monday Night Group Ride out of Pedal Power in Middletown. The timing was perfect, since I got there about 10 minutes before the start. But, despite the HUGE turnout, I didn't see any familiar faces and, not sure whether their route would be on my way, I went ahead and turned my wheels toward home.
Rentschler Field Tuesday Night Crit
So with 84 miles in on Monday (and the most miles in one day for me so far this year), my legs were pretty tired the next day. But you know what Tuesday is - RENT RACE!
Yes, every Tuesday night during the summer - weather permitting - one of the local race teams sponsors a "training crit" at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. These races are a regular staple of the season and are "training" in name only. The "A" race includes some pretty serious throwin' down.
My team EXPO/Superior Energy has pretty solid representation in both B and A races, as you can see from this pic of the start of the A race. And whether "just training" or not, it's always fun to race with teammates. I didn't know how I'd do with all those miles in my legs from the previous day, but a training race is the perfect time to experiment.
And one of the other things I like about this race series is how safe it is. There's nothing but sodas and energy drink on the line, so you don't have generally to worry about any craziness or sketchy riding.
Unfortunately, three laps into the race last week, there was a crash in corner 1 resulting in a broken collarbone for one very promising junior. The guy in front of him went down, and then over the handlebars Junior went. Very lousy thing to have happen in any race to anybody, but this was especially tough. I didn't see first hand what happened, so I don't know what caused the crash. And as part of my professional training, I know that even when you see something, things may not be what they at first appear. Suffice it to say that folks shouldn't speculate about what happened - or, worse, spread those speculations - unless they saw it firsthand. The cameraderie of the Tuesday Night Crit community is too important to have anybody's reputation undeservedly undermined. Best to concentrate thoughts, prayers, and energy to the two guys hurt and hope they heal quickly and can rejoin us soon.
Ok. 'nuff said. Where was I? Oh, well, after they cleared the track of bikes and ambulances and stuff, the race was restarted. As is usual this time of year, the weather, and the racing, was hot and fast. But - surprisingly - my tired legs were able to hang on, though I suspect that wouldn't have been the case if the track was anything but pancake flat.
As I mentioned, we had a bunch of EXPO in the race and we made sure just about every break had one of us in it. Most of the breaks got chased down, with so many teams willing to just race and race hard.
When one of the prime laps was announced, I was about half-way back and started working my way up. But it was evident by the back stretch that I wasn't going to make it to the front in time, so I just continued working my way up slowly.
Coincidentally, as the sprint crossed the line, ANOTHER prime bell rang and this time, I was only about 10 guys back - with a lot of folks tired from having just sprinted. This time, after we passed corner 3, I noticed AC moving up the left side. I started moving hard up the right side and by the time we got to the sweeping turn 4, he and I were off the front - with him just a bit ahead of me. I gave it all I had, got him at the line, and went immediately into recovery mode. He looked over at me with what I thought might have been a look of disgust, but hopefully it was just the look of realization that no way was I going to now initiate a break with him.
It was all I could do at that point to keep from getting dropped.
But I was able to latch back on to the pack and stay in. At some point around that time, a break got up the road and got a bit of a gap. I noticed that one - but only one - of our guys was in the break so, after going a bunch of laps and noticing that they weren't gaining too much time, I thought it high time to give my teammate a hand. Or at least try.
And boy did I try. I launched and got an immediate gap (a little surprisingly - maybe the pack thought I'd soon blow up) and then, once I made sure I wasn't going to tow anybody, I TT'd to try and catch the break.
One lap and I was still gaining. Two laps and through the start/finish they were within probably 50-75 meters.
THEN I blew up. I just couldn't catch them, so I sat up. But fortunately I had some time to recover since there was still some distance back to the pack. I don't know if my attack had anything to do with it (I"d like to think it did), but the rest of the field seemed content to let the break go - or at least realized they weren't gonna be caught.
And they weren't. In fact, they eventually lapped us.
I needn't have worried about my teammate being alone though. He attacked the break and got the win. The rest of us had to content ourselves with a field sprint for 4th place:
So BIG PROPS to Cliff for his overall win, and to DaveH for winning the field sprint (seen in the video above). A great night of racing for EXPO.
Ahhhhh..... Another beautiful summer sunset on a Tuesday night at the Rent'...
Keith Berger Criterium - CT State Crit Championships
After Tuesday's experiment seeing how I'd race with tired legs, I decided next to see how I'd race on (overly?) fresh legs. The weather most of the rest of the week was crappy, so I didn't touch a pedal from Tuesday night until yesterday afternoon - at the Keith Berger Memorial Crit/CT State Crit Championships.
Figuring I was in no shape to contend for the State Crit Champ title (and, frankly, if by some stroke of luck I actually did get it, considering my so-called training and form, I wouldn't feel worthy of it), and knowing that friend SDC could only do the Pro1/2/3 race, I decided to jump in the deep end of the bike-racing-pool and mix it up with the big guys, if only to see how long it'd be before they dropped me.
Blame this guy.
As I was getting things ready and warming up, they announced that the race was closed - the Berger crit hit a record having filled the PRO field with 100 racers. One HUNDRED?! This would be the largest field I'd ever raced in. And in a little 4 corner crit, no less.
Unfortunately, we were spread all over the start-up so Mrs. SOC could only get a shot of Dave. Of course, as you can see, he's hard to miss.
We did miss him part way through the race though. After the whistle blew and we went full gas, I decided it'd be best for me to try and at least finish rather than try anything heroic. So I practiced my pack racing skills and sought as much shelter as possible. Dave, having raced in the Masters race earlier (and coming in 1st in CT!), and gotten in his "hard training miles" for the day, bowed out early.
I though SDC may have bowed out at some point too, since I didn't see him for much of the race - I was too busy concentrating on making sure the number of guys in front of me didn't grow too large. I didn't dare look over my shoulder at those speeds to see whether I was at the back. I couldn't turn my head much anyway - my neck was getting stiff from doing such a long race.
Not only was this the largest race I've been in, but I think - at over 40 miles - it's one of the longest. THE longest crit, for me for sure. 90 minutes, just about full gas.
I was feeling ok though. And despite worrying a bit about getting dropped, I *did* chase down a break and was at or near the front a few times. Once I even got on a train that was launching off the front and we got a little gap, but were quickly pulled back in.
That was the way it was for the entire race. Breaks would try to get away, but they'd eventually be pulled back. About 1/2 way through the race, I got a pretty bad cramp in my stomach (rookie mistake: I downed a packet of sport beans right before the race, rather than my usual GU. NEVER do something new on race day) and went back to survival mode.
37 laps down, 8 to go and I see a familar sight go up the right side. Yup - SDC was still in the race, channeling Robbie McEwan, and started moving up. I did my best to keep folks off his wheel, but in the argy bargy of the final laps, this was getting more and more difficult. In fact, with 3 laps left, I was right near the only crash I saw heard. Of course, it happened in corner 2 (almost all of them do here), but fortunately it was behind me.
The pace continued to ramp up and on the bell lap, heading into corner 2 again, I see SDC shoot up the side. I figured "that's his Big Move" and that he'd be able to contend the sprint. Unfortunately, coming down the back stretch, I saw him going backwards, the bazillion hour drive back from Wisconsin the previous day and that morning(!!) finally taking its toll.
I hung in there, and after I made it through the final two corners safely, I figured my mission was accomplished. I'd made it to the end of my largest & longest race - a P123 race to boot - at the height of the season, and - being the State Championships - with something much more than bottles of water at stake.
Here's what it looked like at the front:
I noticed I just coasted in. No use sprinting for anything less than 20th place (or even top 10). As it turned out, even the coasting didn't prevent me from getting a PR in average speed too: 27.7 mph. That's for over 40 miles of racing. Whew!
After doing some post-race recap and seeing some other friends, the curtain closed on the 2011 Berger crit and families SDC and SOC went out for some much-needed post-race nutrition.
The best time of the season is when you can race to train and with so many races falling off the calendar (CT Stage Race, Fitchburg, and - the latest I heard - New London), we need to support as many of these races as we can. I'm not even taking my bike out of the car. Since tomorrow's forecast is looking good, you'll know where I'll be.