As I try to prepare for the beatdown my legs are bound to receive at the Tour of the Hilltowns on saturday, I sit at work reflecting on the last few races I've done.
I've come to realize that I peaked for about 3 weeks in june and did really well. Since then, no matter what I try doing, I can't get to the front of a race. That's ironic since the earlier season races were most people's target races, and my form was there. I wish I just had someone tell me what I was doing wrong with positioning. Some tactical blunders were made, and I rode with my nose in the wind a bunch, but no matter what I seem to have lost my uncanny ability to just find myself at the front. Ironically, that was around the same time that I swapped saddles and stopped using the old school flite saddles. As much as I might want to blame the saddle swap, I don't think that can be the issue. In any event, I certainly wouldn't go back to the flite. Even after 1k miles of riding it, I still had issues that would pop up more often than they should. I'll leave you and your imagination to figure out what those could have been.
I think I need some visual training, and I know just where to find it. There really is no substitute for good helmet cam footage as pre-race prep.
Thanks to Sprinterdellacasa (aka carpediemracing) for all his footage that is just awesome to watch.
In any event, I raced at Naugatuck this past sunday. I hadn't really been feeling well for the past few days with a bit of a fever, and hadn't ridden in the 2 days leading up to the race so my expectations weren't terribly high.
I drove down to the race with teammate Paul in his fly new car. We listened to some good tunes to pump ourselves up pre race. I need some heavy music to get me a little angry before a race, else I don't ride aggressively enough. Go figure.
We get down to the race, register, and start to warm up. I bump into a racer named Benjamin, whom I've raced with a few times. He's the one who heckled me before the Keith Burger crit and tried to psyche me out for the race. I haven't placed since. Go figure.
The race was delayed due to some cars on the course, so we kept on warming up. I was riding next to Ben when he sped ahead for a second. From the left another racer came flying onto his wheel, and I was behind him. A few moments later, I was on the ground. It turns out that Ben had bunny hopped a pothole and the guy behind him freaked and locked up his brakes.
My choices were:
a) Run into his cassette
b) Try gunning for the back of his tire and try moving left away from him
I went for b, and ended up on the ground. Some road rash on my knee, and the bike's bar tape was a little torn. Live and learn, no big deal. What really sucked was that the race officials didn't have a first aid kit on hand. I had to get paper towels, throw water on them and then use those to clean the dirt out of my wounds. I had wet wipes in the car, maybe I should have just gone and used those instead, but I wasn't really that concerned. The blood dried up soon enough, and I found myself lining up to race.
The course layout is interesting. The first turn is a sharp left turn into a downhill riddled with potholes. The second turn is another left where the apex is lined with potholes. This leads to a 2 hill ascent into another sharp left before the start finish line. That's a lap at Naugatuck. The course is a triangle littered with potholes.
As usual, Paul got bored with the race early and went on a few attacks. He picked up a prime and stayed away for another lap or two before he was caught.
My strategy was pretty stupid. I couldn't move up well, so I hit the gas on the uphill and tried to move up the windy stretch every few laps. I guess I was bored as well, and since I wasn't well, I didn't really have any illusions of grandeur. Needless to say, my legs started complaining towards the end of the race.
Somewhere with about 10 to go, a CCNS guy attacked and got away for a little bit. No one wanted to work together, so he was reeled in rather quickly.
With 2 to go, he attacked again, right next to me. I jumped on his wheel hoping that we could stay away for a bit. We gapped the field a bit and he sat up.
Why he sat up is beyond me, maybe he wanted to thin the herd down for a cleaner sprint?
I kept at it, with 2 'blue' teammates in front of me. Coming around the hills, one of them sat up to give his 'leader' a gap. That was a dumb idea. He would have been better served working. I shot around them both only to be by myself, where I quickly faded and got gobbled up by the pack.
I had barely reintegrated myself when Paul shot another attack. It was a well timed catch and release, and he had a good gap going till he blew up with about half a lap to go, his early attacks and prime hunting being his undoing.
As the pack caught him, I tried to move up on the hills once more. No dice. I blew up and sat up. I was too far back to do anything noteworthy, and there's never any point sprinting for a place out of the top 10.
I tried a real attack for the first time in a race. It was awesome. I went too early, but I think I can do well with a better timed attack. Lets see what the future holds.
I came home after that race feeling pretty exhausted and wiped out, which is unusual for me since I normally do 2 of these back to back without issue. Riding while sick, heh.
I'm hoping I can hang out with the lead group on saturday, but skinny climber I am no longer. I guess I might have to settle for the gruppetto.
That's bike racing.
It'll be the first real road race I've ever done, and I'm excited for it, hills and all.