Saturday, February 6, 2010

Race Practice with the team

WOW! Finally, a day to get out on the bike and get a ride outside! It has been a while I have to admit. Today was not the best day for an outdoor ride, but there was a window of opportunity from maybe 830am till about noon. The plan was for the Greenville Spinner's Racing Team to meet at Donaldson Center for some race practice.

We had a good turnout - At least 15 folks showed up (although there is only 12 in the image above). Randy broke us into 3 teams - the black team (about 5 guys were wearing black jerseys / vests / jackets), the polka dot team (I brought some of my polka dot ribbon from the Austin Ride) and the Everyone else team (Easy to distinguish actually, because they weren't wearing black, and didn't have a polka dot ribbon on their seat).

The plan was to do 5 laps on Perimeter Road.
1. Warmup
2. Race pace and team tactics
3. Tempo
4. Race
pace and team tactics
5. Cool down

For the warmup lap, Randy got us working on a double paceline. With as many peeps as we had, basically, the fast lane just maintains the pace and as soon as the lead rider clears the front rider in the 'slow' lane, he pulls right over and lets up his pace a little. This makes for a constantly changing double line of riders. It was my first time to actually participate in this type of pace line when it was actually working (not super efficiently, but it was working). It was a little difficult to get used to. With the 'fast' lane moving quite quickly past the 'slow' lane, it is easy to get a little confused on your speed. It takes a lot more concentration than a single pace line. As we practiced, we did begin to improve.

As the warmup lap came to a close, the teams broke up a little and talked strategy for the next lap. For the polka dot team, our strategy was going to be ATTACK! We talked about how every time one of our riders was caught, another should take off. Initially, we talked about going two at a time, Randy and I were going to go first, then to be followed by two others.

Randy and I did attack as we passed the National Guard / Marine Buildings. We got a little gap, but it didn't take long before they reeled us back in. Other attacks were launched and each time, the peloton reeled them back in.

Randy made another attack a little ways past the Golf Course clubhouse. He pulled a good little gap, and I sat in trying to cover whoever might give chase. He managed to hold that gap until we started up the 3m Hill. As it became evident that we were going to catch him, I made a big rookie mistake, although I thought I was being smart.

What I did was put myself in a position to block a move that Kirk may have been thinking about. Essentially, I trapped him behind Randy. I had a little speed on Randy, so I ended up beside him. He pointed out my rookie mistake by telling me "Attack or get off the front". I understood quickly I had made a mistake, so I tried to attack. It was a bit of a feeble attempt as we were pushing up the 3m hill.

However, another one of our Polka Dot guys - Jake, made a strong attack just about the time I was swallowed up by the peloton. He was going strong and got a really long pull out of that attack. We (I should say they as the Polka Dot team was not doing any pulling at that point) didn't reel him in as quickly as we had the earlier attacks. I think people were feeling the pace. As we rolled past the Michelin plant, it started to become apparent that we would catch him, but he gave a heck of a ride out front for a while.

The peloton swallowed him up and as we approached the dip at the end of the airstrip, I made another rookie mistake - I attacked on the downhill. It didn't last long before I was swallowed up by the rapidly disintegrating peloton. As we hit the bottom of the hill, Randy attacked again and took Brian K with him. I stayed back to watch one of the other guys - Robert (I think is his name). He looked like he wanted to chase those guys, so I stayed on his wheel. As we rode up the hill, Robert and I were in our own little chase group behind Randy and Brian.

As I watched the two in front of us, I kicked up my own pace a little. I'm always concerned about a sprint, so I wanted to wear Robert down as much as I could as we went up that hill (which is deceptively difficult when you're pushing the pace). I was surprised to see Brian attack Randy with a strong effort as they approached the 'finish' line. I was even more surprised to see that I was beginning to reel Randy in. I didn't want to bridge and put Randy's 2nd place in jeopardy, but at the same time, I had to push the pace to keep Robert at bay. Thankfully, the finish line came up quickly and Randy's 2nd place was confirmed.

Meanwhile, I was expecting Robert to jump off my wheel and take me at the sprint, so I pushed myself a little harder. Either he wasn't into the sprint, or I really did wear him down a bit as he did not attack and I rolled over the line for a 3rd place for that lap.

For the tempo lap, we again worked on our paceline. We were getting better at it, but I now have a much better appreciation for the skill that the pro teams have with this type of paceline. Randy passed the word that the 'race' would start at the Golf Course Clubhouse for the next lap.

As we approached the clubhouse, I was trying to stay near the front. I wanted to be able to react as things played out at the beginning. The pace did pick up as we passed the clubhouse, but there was not an immediate attack.

It wasn't long though before an attack was launched. I'm not sure who made the first move, but everyone reacted quickly and it seemed like it was a bit more of a surge than a real attack. All the teams were covering, and I was up there near the front.

Since I was up there, when the originator of the attack seemed to peter out, I decided to keep up my pace. It wasn't an attack with a quick burst of speed so much as it was a moderately fast ramp up to a faster pace. I know I can hold a strong pace for a good distance, it's when I try to go straight to 100% that I blow up rather quickly.

I held my strong pace as we rolled past the intersection of Ashmore Bridge Road. Since I was trying to set a strong pace, and I was feeling good, I kept at it. As I started up the 3m hill, I looked back to see Brian and Abhay and I had a little gap on the peloton. I immediately pulled up to let those guys do some of the work.

We got into a little paceline and was working together as much as three guys from different 'teams' could. As we came around the turn (where the Donaldson country routes typically turn off of Perimeter road), I checked behind us. We had a gap and it was surprisingly big. We continued to work together, and I actually told those guys that we had a gap and we should continue to work together - it would come to the three of us at the end, but for the time being, let's work it together.

As we passed the Lockheed Martin buildings, I checked to our rear again, and I then saw a small chase group. I was coming up for the next pull, so I told those guys we had a chase group, we needed to turn it up a bit. I pulled for a short distance then pulled out to let someone else work for a few minutes. Brian was up next and he pulled us down the hill into the dip at the end of the runway.

As we started up the other side, Abhay attacked. It was very tempting to push hard to follow him, but I thought he went too early, so I only put on a little speed to keep him from getting too far away. He gave a strong effort, but Brian and I did catch him as we came to the false flat.

I was in front of Brian at that point so like I did on the previous race lap, I turned up my pace a little. I pulled strong, but as we neared the finish line, Brian sprinted past me to take the win. We had dropped Abhay so I rolled across for a 2nd place.

As we gathered for the post lap debriefing, we began to feel a little sprinkling. Although the plan was to do a cool down lap, most everyone decided to call it a day. About 5 or 6 of us decided to take that cool down lap, then, Brian K and I did an extra lap on top of it. Although it was raining as we finished the 5th lap, and all throughout the 6th lap, it felt so good to be riding outside that I really didn't mind. It was a really great time. I definitely learned a few things. I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity!

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