Sunday, February 28, 2010
Before I get into that, I have to give a huge shout out to Rich Hincapie, Papa, Joey and everyone else that puts forth so much effort to make this spring series happen. It has been an incredible experience and for the most part things have gone very well. I haven't been aware of any real hitches in the program.
More shouts out to my Greenville Spinners Team-mates. Great results from Robert in the morning's first race - the Cat 5, 34-. He rode a really smart race that he capped off with a win! Great result for him today. Allen finished in ninth position and Bo Z rode in his first race wheels up with a handful of experience to carry into the next race.
In the ominum for the Cat 5, 34-, Robert is sitting 2nd, 18 points down from the current leader. Allen sits in 8th with 9 points. Great showing to have 2 Spinners sitting in the top 10.
I have to give a shout out to my lady friends. In her very first race, my friend Courtney pulled a 2nd place! Congrats to her on a great ride. Bo's wife Nikki came in 6th and Jenn pulled 8th place and Jeni pulled a 9th. Excellent results for all of them this weekend!
In the Cat 4 race, four Spinners lined up for the battle. Kadien was well placed in the ominum (overall series results) and he was racing with Robert, Chris and Bo. The cat 4 race got a little confusing as the Pro, 1, 2 race actually caught the Cat 4 riders. When this happens, the officials 'neutralize' the cat 4 riders. What this really means is the officials make the Cat 4 guys sit up and pedal easy as the faster Pro 1, 2 riders overtake them. Unfortunately this occurred on the last lap of the Cat 4 race with less than 2 miles to go to the finish. Out on the course, the official told the group they were done, but when the group approached the start / finish line Papa sent them off for one more lap. In a sense this was a good thing as it allowed them to race for the finish, but in another sense, it was a little frustrating for them to have that mis-communication between the officials.
When it came to the finish, Spinner Brian Kadien pulled an 11th place for the day. This gives him an overall (ominum) placing of 7th with 12 points. This is 12 points behind the ominum leader Jonathan Pait with 24 points. In the cat 4 ominum, the Spinner's have a second rider in the top 10 - Clark Galivan sits in 10th overall with two top 10 finishes.
So, what's this about meeting goals? A few weeks ago, the Spinners Co-captains asked each of us to post up a bio on the site to let our teammates know who we are and what our goals are for this year. Among my goals was to learn something about racing strategy in this incredible sport of bicycle racing. While there is plenty more for me to learn, I have learned a few things over the course of the last couple of weeks (4 races now). Another of my goals was to participate in enough races to gain some real experience. As noted above, the learning curve is steep - it's a good thing I like climbing!!
The third goal I stated for this racing season was to stand on the podium at least once this season. There is still a long way to go in the season, but let me tell you about today's race.
The race was out at Donaldson today. After yesterday's race, I wasn't sure what to expect. Mostly because I worked a lot harder than I should have yesterday. I burned a lot of matches in lighting my candle for the sprint to the finish. I had a great finish yesterday (9th), but it cost me a lot.
After yesterday's race Kadien gave me the advice 'Patience'. It proved to be my mantra for today.
Like yesterday, the Spirited Cyclist Team started sending peeps off the front from the outset. There was four of them today. I was expecting them to really push the pace and they didn't disappoint - at least for the early part of the first lap.
Their first attack produced nothing for them except one burnt match. Nobody from the peloton fell for it. The guy got a pretty good lead, but he never got out of our sight and we caught him on or at the top of the Golf course hill. There were a few minor attacks today, most of them led by the same team. Several other guys put forth some good effort to push the pace, but honestly, I thought we weren't really racing, just out for a spirited group ride.
Since my mantra was 'Patience' for the day, I hung back in the pack. Several times on the opening lap I found myself in the very back of the pack. This was quite difficult for me - watching those guys launch off the front had me jonesing for the chase. Each time I saw the attack, I heard Kadien say 'Patience'. I restrained myself and just sat back and watched.
Riding in the back of the pack allowed me to watch Abhay as he worked the pack near the front. He did well - reacting when necessary, sitting in when called for. Overall, with only 2 of us out there, the race was controlled by these Spirited Cyclist guys. No problem, they wanted it, the rest of us just paced them.
In the position I had taken near the back of the pack, I found my outlook on the race completely different. Instead of thinking constantly about responding to the attacks, I found myself thinking about where I would be able to move easily towards the front when it became necessary.
From the back, you can see these opportunities. As we came around to finish the first lap, I had spotted a number of spots where I would be able to advance should it become necessary later in the race. Another important lesson learned from that first lap was about the wind. Although the wind was not strong for our early races, it was there. My objective for that first lap was to understand where it was coming from on the different parts of the course so I could make sure and position myself for maximum protection.
For fun, as I crossed the start / finish line at the end of the first lap, I played to the crowd a little. I was in the very back of the pack, so I came across the line completely sitting up on my seat with my best parade wave going. I also had a huge smile on my face. I was having fun, partly because I wasn't really working hard at that point.
Although I wasn't working hard, I was feeling the effects of yesterday's race. Each time the road turned up, my legs let me know how hard I worked at fork shoals. I did have some internal battles on that first lap - my mind trying to convince my legs that they weren't really tired at all.
The second lap was similar to the first, except I worked on implementing the 'move up' strategies I tried to envision during the first lap. This lap I took a more active role in the race. While I still did my best to pay attention to my positioning and stay out of the wind, I did work the peloton more aggressively.
Surprisingly, the attacks by the Spirited Cyclist team didn't continue at the same intensity as they started with. Nobody was falling for it, so it ended up that their guys spent a lot of time out in the wind. Even when they were caught by the peloton, the peloton simply pulled in behind them and let them do the work. This resulted in a pace that didn't really seem that fast - especially for me as I was sitting in the back and avoiding any work. We actually averaged over 21mph for the race, but it really didn't feel that fast to me.
Sometime during the 2nd lap, Abhay and I found ourselves riding side by side. We didn't talk much, but Abhay must have been reading my mind. He said to me 'Patience'. I commented something about how difficult that concept was.
As we came through the country route turn off on the second lap, I was really surprised how slow the pace seemed. We were heading into the wind so that slowed us down further. I worked the peloton for protection while I watched Abhay working it from closer to the front.
As we approached the last of the hangers before the end of runway dip, Abhay had had enough of the slow pace. He pushed ahead with a strong effort. He pulled 10 bike lengths before peeps started reacting. The peloton caught him as we began the climb up the opposite side of that end of runway dip. As with previous attacks, the peloton simply pulled in behind Abhay and let him set the pace until another guy decided to get out front.
At the end of the 2nd lap, I was still riding near the back of the pack, but I had ideas about how I would be able to implement my move up strategy and had practiced it a little. Despite the fact my legs were feeling the effects of the previous day, I felt pretty confident I would be able to implement my strategy.
Although Abhay and I didn't really talk strategy today, I think he did a great job up front covering what needed to be covered. He gave a strong effort when necessary to keep a break from running away from us (more than once). When he rode up next to me and said 'Patience', I felt he understood where I was coming from. He knew I was sitting in for the bulk of the race. I think he knew what I was working towards. I felt a lot more confident knowing he was up there working the front.
At the end of the 2nd lap, I had worked my way up into the top 10 and was back in serious race mode (contrary to my 'parade' mode at the end of the 1st lap). Through the rollers on the north end of the course I maintained close to the top 10. A few guys may have sneaked past me, but I felt ok with that.
As we started up the golf course hill for the final time, I was watching closely to see if we would have anything happening. As I expected, one of the Spirited cyclist guys attacked on the hill. I found myself in that purgatory between a breakaway pack and the peloton. I had the power to reel in the break, but I argued with myself for too long.
You might imagine what was going through my head - think of the scene in Animal House - the guy has his devil and angel consciences on his shoulders and they are arguing about what he should do. It was a little like that, but without the language.
On one hand, my natural tendency is to reel in the breakaway. On the other hand, I kept hearing Kadien and Abhay saying 'Patience'. The result was I ended up sitting in this purgatory a lot longer than I should have. What I should have done was to simply pull up and let the peloton absorb me. That way, I could have continued to conserve. I don't think it hurt me too much, but lesson learned I think.
The peloton did indeed re-absorb this small break as we crested the hill and began into the rollers. however, the pace had picked up again. There was some jockeying through those rollers, but as we approached 3M hill, the pace slowed once more.
I was working towards moving up to the front, and the pack was a little strung out. The lead riders - who were tired of doing all the work, were actually swerving back and forth across the road. I thought this was pretty stupid and quite dangerous. I was far enough back to not let it worry me, but any crash in front of you has potential to end your race.
Coming through the country loop intersection for the final time, I was only in the top 20. We turned into a head wind and some guys went to the front. These guys pushed the pace a little, which strung out the pack. I latched on to a guy here and there to move myself up on the left side of the pack.
As we passed the hangers on the right, before the end of runway dip, I found myself right about where I wanted to be. On the left side, with a relatively clear path in front of me and in the top 15.
We came through the dip, and I allowed my momentum to carry me a little further up the hill on the other side. I was now in the top 10 riders, right where I wanted to be. The pace was not too hard up the hill, so I just stayed on the wheel in front of me.
Ironically, this wheel belonged to the les amis guy Bobby who spent a good part of the day near the front reacting to the attacks. A couple of times throughout the race I found myself riding beside him. Funny how racing friendships work - when I pulled next to him, I would say something along the lines of 'what up Bobby?'. He would reply in a similar fashion and we would continue racing.
He had put himself in a pretty good position on the final climb - he was on the left side, three abreast with two other guys. These three were leading the pack up the hill. I knew Bobby is a pretty strong rider, so I just attached myself to his wheel.
The hill climbs up through a right curve, uphill on a slightly less grade to a left curve. Just before this left curve is the '1000m to sprint' sign. I kept hearing Kadien say 'Patience'. I held Bobby's wheel through this left curve and along the now flattening straight before the final right hand curve. As we approached the 200m mark, things started to get interesting.
I was still behind Bobby, but it was obvious that pressure was building behind me. It was not something I saw, but rather something I felt. I moved to come around Bobby and started hammering. It wasn't a full blown hammer, but it was definitely an increase in intensity.
About this time, I saw and heard a guy go down on the far right of the road. He got forced off the road and hit a pretty major pothole. I saw him faceplant and lose his helmet. The last I saw, his bike was catapulting into the lane.
There was nothing I could do for him, so I kept hammering. One of the spirited Cyclist guys came across the course, drifting towards me, forcing me slightly further to the left. I reacted with a slight move to the left, but more importantly, I reacted with a harder effort and pulled passed him.
As we crossed the 200m mark, I was leading the pack and was still not in full sprint mode. I knew there would be guys coming. Once again, I felt the pressure of those behind me bearing down on me, so I kicked it up into full sprint mode. I could see my goal in front of me and kept my focus on reaching that goal.
It was a bit surreal for me. There was nobody in front of me and I was less than 100m from the finish. I felt certain that the crash had taken out a huge part of the pack. This is that little insecure kid that resides inside each of us. I didn't feel worthy to be in this position this close to the end. After all, I didn't really do any work today. I sat in the back, in parade mode for parts of the race.
That little nagging feeling wouldn't leave me though - there was that pressure from behind. So, I kept at it. If I learned anything from yesterday's race, it was to race to the finish. I had open road and I was in full sprint mode and there was pressure from behind. I wasn't going to give up without a fight.
As my goal got closer, the pressure from behind increased. Finally, in the closing meters of the race, a wheel appeared to my left. I pushed hard, and surged at the line. It was going to be a close call.
We crossed the line, too close for me to call. I thought I had it, but he came on me strong and it was really close. The camera would tell the tale. At worst I had pulled a 2nd place on the day.
You can imagine how stoked I was! I saw my friend April from The Living Pixel taking photos at the finish and hoped she got that one - it's one for the personal record books!
My Cat 5, 34- friends were at the start / finish line along with a number of other friends when I came back from a short cool down loop. They had had a great race and were just coming back to play spectator when I was launching my final sprint. We shared some great comradery before I went back to my car to change.
There was still the question whether I pulled the win or got 2nd, so I was excited to hear Bo scream 'YEAH JD!!!!' shortly after Papa announced the posting of the 35+ results. I DID IT! I pulled the win! Even better, the guy who I just beat was the guy who had won both of last weekend's races! That quieted that insecure kid - the competition was not eliminated when the crash occurred.
I was concerned though about Abhay. I asked if any of the Spinners had gotten wrapped up in the crash and how many went down. Apparently there was about 6 guys who went down. It was only after I had changed that I found Abhay and he told me that he went down on the fringes of the crash. Thankfully, he wasn't hurt.
So, with today's win, I am now ranked 5th in the ominum with 12 points. That is 17 points out of 1st overall. The only way I could pass the leader is for me to win both of the next two races and for him to do poorly or not show. I am planning on racing the River Falls race, but next Sunday is the Clemson off - road triathlon, so I wouldn't be racing in the spring series. Perhaps a 1st overall is not in the cards for this series, but at least I can check off my goal of standing on the podium. When I set that goal, I wasn't thinking I would be making that check from the top step of that podium!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Cat 5, 34-
Not the best day for our younger cat 5 guys. Allen had a good finish, but Robert, who won at last week's BMW race crashed and didn't finish. I don't know how it really played out, but Allen ended up 11th or so. I'd say that was a good finish, but he wasn't satisfied when I spoke to him after his race.
The Cat 4 guys had a great race. Early in the race Tim Granger was out with 3 other guys on a breakaway that lasted for definately an entire lap, and perhaps more before they got reeled in by the pack. Randy, Kirk and Brian stayed with the pack throughout the race. Randy and Kirk did a lot of work near the front to help control the race - especially when Tim was out on the breakaway. When it came to the end, Brian, who has a pretty good placement in the ominum rocked it in for 6th place. Listening to those guys talk about it, it was a really strong effort by Brian coming from 20 something position up to 6th in the last 1000 meters (or so).
Cat 5, 35+
This of course is the race in which I participated. We had a relatively small field for this race - something on the order of 20 - 25 riders (guessing here - it wasn't huge). There were three Spinners guys out there today. Abhay, Dave and I lined up to see what we could make happen.
As in the previous races, I lined up on the front. Something about being in the back doesn't sit well with me. Abhay was on the front with me and we enjoyed listening to Glenn give us the pre-race low-down (Glenn has worked as the announcer in each of the Spring Series races so far). He's got a good sense of humour and we all shared some laughs as he spoke. Dave pulled in to the back as Glenn was wrapping up his spiel.
Today's race started off with an immediate attack. We weren't 2 miles down the road before a couple of guys tried to go off the front. Me and one other guy latched on to their wheels. There was a small chance of a breakaway, but despite the fact that each of us pulled through for at least one rotation, we weren't really getting anywhere. At best, we might have pulled about a dozen bike lengths, but it was relatively short lived. Perhaps our little breakaway was out there for about 3-5 miles. Good effort, but it just didn't happen that early in the race.
In fact, when I latched on to those guys, I even thought it was too early. I knew I should not be working so hard so early in the race. However, since they did pull a little gap, I felt it was important that a Spinner was out there to cover it. And, because I'm arguably an idoit, I like to be near the front to cover these kinds of things.
There were a lot of attacks today. There was two teams that seemed to be making their attempts at controlling the pace. I have to say they succeeded. The teams were the Harris Teeter team and the 'spirited cycling cycling club' team. It seemed they were swapping attacks. None of them really ever got away, but both those teams had a strategy.
What was I doing when these guys were attacking? Well, I was up there near the front reacting. For the first lap, I was there with them, responding to their attacks. I spent a lot of time (too much really) being reactive. My team-mates were much smarter than I was - they recognized that none of these attacks were going to amount to enough to be concerned about. They sat in and conserved. Meanwhile, I'm being stupid out there.
Some interesting things happened with these teams - more than once, one of the team-mates of the attacker pulled us up to the breakaway group. I have made that mistake before, but it happened probably 5 or 6 times today. That's a lot of mistakes being made by those guys. Whatever, it saved me and my Spinners team-mates (and everyone else) from having to work to make the bridge.
Speaking of making the bridge, one of the guys who I have mentioned in my previous race reports - the les amis guy Bobby - did his share of work today. He got out front and pulled, and he was involved in the early breakaway attempt as well. He worked hard. I don't know how he ended up, but he was there for pretty much the entire race.
I did my share of making bridges today. My tendancy is to not let anyone get too far ahead. With these two teams out there, they were actually blocking when their guys were out front. I saw it happening, as I'm sure others did. More than once, I pulled the peloton up to the breakaway group. I tried to moderate myself - keeping in my best aero position and doing my best to minimize the work I had to do. Still, I was out there actively participating in that race. I enjoyed it - every minute of it. Even when I was out front making the bridge or pulling the peloton - working much harder than I really needed to. As it turned out, none of the breakaways ever amounted to anything. Would it have been any different if I had sat in? Probably not, I'm sure there is someone else out there who would have made the bridge if it wasn't me or one of the several others who put forth the effort.
The pace was fast today. I didn't see my computer to get an actual average pace, but we (all of us) worked hard. Even the guys sitting in had to work to keep with the pack. The hills were definately a factor today. There are two significant hills on the Fork Shoals course. One of them is just past the half-way point on the course. It leads up to Dunklin Bridge Road. There was an attack on this hill on each of our two laps. Again, nothing really came of these attacks, but they were excellent efforts from the attackers.
The other hill leads up to the left turn and the final 1500 meters (or so). This was a hill that could make a difference in this race. Randy had warned me about this hill and given me some advice on how to handle it in the closing stages of the race. This course and this hill is well suited for those who are climbers. While it was not a horrendus distance to climb, at full race pace it would prove to be a deciding factor.
As we made the final climb up to Dunklin Bridge road, there was two off the front. One of them was from the Spirited Cycling club. I'm don't recall who the other rider was. We kept them in sight, and I was near the front.
I like climbing, and I feel I have a pretty strong motor for making those climbs. It didn't surprise me when I found myself at the front of the peloton as we finished the climb and turned on to Dunklin bridge road.
Dunklin Bridge road is not a difficult road to ride, but it is uphill more than the casual cyclist would recognize. I tried to put my climbing skills to work to bring the peloton back up to the two riders on their breakaway. Mostly what I mean is I tried to let my legs do the work while not stressing my heart and / or lungs too much. I was reasonably successful - we caught them just after we made the turn onto Cedar Falls road.
After making that turn, I dropped back in the pack a little to see about making some recovery. I didn't drop back too far - still within the top 10. We had less than 5 miles to go and I wanted to be in striking position if it came to that.
Abhay and Dave rode a really smart race. They covered my back as I was out there doing my best to cover the attacks. I felt good knowing they were there with me. I was hoping to give a leadout for one of them to get a good placing in the race and through that some points in the ominum.
The final 4 miles of this course is through rolling hills along this Cedar Falls Road. At one point (a very critical point), you get an incredible view of 'Fork Shoals' - or at least I think it is fork shoals. It's cool, no matter what it is called. I think that is the Reedy River we are riding along.
As we caught the two riders who had a small breakaway since before the hill leading up to Dunklin Bridge road, I tried to stay near the front. I was hoping that Abhay was working his way up as that is what we had discussed prior to the race. The plan was that he and I would get together after the turn and I would give him a leadout as we approached and went through the final turn.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out as we had planned. As we rolled through Cedar Falls road I found myself near the front of the peloton. Not a major problem, but unfortunatly, I mis-timed my attack.
There are actually two hills leading up to the last left turn. The first hill is relatively short, but certainly can begin to break the pack apart. As we approached this hill, I lost track of where I was on the course. While I didn't go full out on this hill, I did find myself pushing pretty hard. In fact, as we crested this hill, I found myself at the front of the pack. This is not really where I wanted to be at this point. I was hoping to have some peeps to draft off of as we made the descent to the final hill.
Without those peeps, I did what I could - I tucked in and did my best to find opportunity to recover. As you make this descent, you have the awesome view of the shoals off to your right. As I coasted down towards the bridge, I found myself looking over at these shoals and I really felt a sense of peace. Funny how you find these moments in life, especially when I realized the mistake I made by pushing so hard up that first hill.
As I approached the bridge, I started spinning again to make sure I was in the appropriate gear for the final hill before the turn. I crossed that bridge leading the peloton and started pulling them up the hill on the other side. I felt pretty good, but I questioned my own sanity. What was I thinking pushing so hard up that first little rise???
I continued my climb up the last significant hill on the course. Perhaps half way up, I was passed by an unknown rider and my team-mate Abhay. He was killing it! I picked up my pace and tried to stay on his wheel. At least one or two others got passed me as we made the final approach to the last left turn.
Abhay had a strong pace up the hill, which I was not able to completely match. There was one or two guys between us, and one guy in front of him. As they made the left turn, Abhay had the advantage and was first through the turn.
While there was still a couple of riders between us, I still felt strong and those guys faded quickly. Abhay was out in front by himself and I felt it important to get up to him. I thought if I could get in front of him, perhaps I could give him the leadout we had discussed prior to the race.
It's amazing how the wind can affect your efforts on the bike. There was only about 2 bike lengths between Abhay and I, and we had just under a mile to go. I had to do my best aero tuck to gain advantage on him. I was really hoping I could help him to the finish.
As we passed the 1000m to sprint sign, I saw that I was gaining on him. We were still leading the pack, so I felt pretty good about what was happening. I wasn't sure how Abhay was feeling, but I knew where I was - I was feeling it for sure. One thing is different today from last week - I was going to 'play to the bell'.
Perhaps it is obvious, but that phrase 'play to the bell' really means that you go as hard as you can until the race (or game in the case of this phrase) is over. I was determined to go as hard as I could today.
In my post-race analysis from last week, I realized that I really didn't give it everything I had. On saturday I let up when the sprinters started to pass me. On sunday, I let up about the time the peloton caught me. Today I wasn't going to give up.
I saw that Abhay was starting to drop off the pace, so I pulled harder and as I passed him, I said (if you can imagine my effort, I was completely out of breath, so the fact that I could say anything to him amazes me) "C'mon Abhay". I was hoping he would still have some reserves.
I kept pulling as the road continued uphill slightly. As we passed the 200m mark, I was still in front, and I was hoping he was still on my wheel. Shortly after that, the sprinters started to show their wheels. I redoubled my efforts and tried to maintain my position. I didn't see Abhay pass me, but I was pretty occupied at that particular moment.
Several riders got passed me. Determined not to repeat the performance of last week, I kicked it up a couple of gears and started standing up. As I approached the finish line, I was wheel to wheel with another guy. I feel good about my effort - I didn't give up, I pushed until we crossed the line.
In the aftermath, I finished in ninth position for the day. I am really stoked about this finish as it came after a lot of effort throughout the race. In chatting with my Cat 4 team-mate Kadiens after the race, I realize what I now need to learn - Patience. Had I spent less time pulling the peloton I might have had a better finishing position.
The other important part of today's race is the obvious strength of my team-mates. I think both Dave and Abhay are very accomplished riders. However, I think they are more conservative than they need to be. I think with the three of us, we can respond to any attack, and still put someone in the top 10 for every race. The only thing we need to do is continue to learn each other's strengths and begin to work those strengths to the team advantage.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
News as I know it for the different classes today:
Cat 5, 34-: Robert Donavan turns in a strong performance to take the sprint and win the top spot on the podium. A big crash in the 3rd or so lap from the finish of this race took out about 8 riders. One of the riders is the son of a former Spinners Race team member. Taylor is Perry Lyles son. He was injured pretty badly and had to be helped back to the Metro tent. After a trip to the hospital, it turns out that his left hip has some pretty serious bruising, but thankfully no breaks. He hopes to be riding next week.
Cat4: Spinners gave a great showing with Robert lining up for his second race of the day. Early in the race, he found himself on a solo breakaway that lasted about a lap before being reabsorbed into the peloton. Randy gave a great show by getting up front towards the end of the race in an effort to reel in a breakaway. I was not able to stick around to get the final results.
That's really the news as I know it, of course except for the Cat 5, 35+ race in which I participated. There were 3 spinners lined up for the start. Prior to the race start, Abhay, John Hudson and I had collaborated with John Frame (Team Metro who was out there by himself again). We planned to initiate a breakaway at about 20 minutes into the 30 minute (plus 2 laps) race. You'll see how this turned out.
In the aftermath of the crash that took Taylor out, I approached the line with more nervous energy than I had yesterday. I think this was partly because although I didn't see the crash, I did see the aftermath and the pain in Taylor's face. This is a bit sobering after the discussions Hudson, Abhay, Frame and I had. We were so confident that we could make a breakaway stick. Well, we had to survive in order to do anything.
Hudson, Frame and I were lined up on the front while Abhay was on the second row directly behind us. When the flag dropped, I was surprised to see Mike (a les amis guy) go out and set a strong pace. I pulled in second position behind him, and as I was working to get up there, I heard Frame say 'Not yet'. He was really pushing, and I was torn between holding his wheel, and letting him go. The answer came to me with a couple of guys coming up on my right. I grabbed their wheels and the peloton started to take shape.
It's difficult to keep track of one's teammates out on the track. I was doing the same thing today as I did yesterday - staying near the front and trying to stay out of the wind. Hudson was up there with me, so I knew where he was. I caught occasional glimpses of Abhay and Frame as we rolled through the laps.
There were a lot of attacks in the early stages of the race. It kept the pace high and every attack was answered. Bobby, the les amis guy who I mentioned yesterday, was doing the same thing today as he did yesterday. At one point, someone yelled up to him something about doing his share of pulling. Today he did get out and pull for a while.
Quite early in the race, Hudson got out front and gave a strong pull. A full lap I think he stayed out there. When he finally came off the front, he and I chatted a little, and neither of us thought a breakaway was going to be possible. At one point, Frame was near the front. I called out to him "I don't think so". I don't know if he got the message or not, but he wasn't in serious attack mode.
The race today was much more sketchy than yesterday. The wind was a factor in this. Each time we came out of a head (or tail) wind and into a crosswind, people would have to make adjustments. Usually, this meant getting squirrely for a moment. There was a few guys who were much worse than others. One particular guy was a strong rider, but I would say he is an accident waiting to happen. I do not know the guy, and I don't know where he comes from. However, I do know his number, so if I can figure out what his name is, I'll know to watch out for him in the future. He spent a fair amount of time in the top 5, and had a few attacks that didn't stick.
As the race began to wind down, I was trying to figure out a new strategy since our breakaway dreams were not being realized. Hudson and I rode side by side for part of a lap. I offered to give him a leadout if he felt up to the sprint. Unfortunately, he said he wasn't feeling it, so it was back to the drawing board as far as strategy goes.
With just over 2 laps to go, Abhay launched an attack. Not just an attack, but perhaps the strongest attack of the day. Three or four others grabbed his wheel and I snagged the tail end of it. It was so strong, that our little group had started to pull a very small gap. I yelled 'ROTATE' and Abhay gave up his lead position to be taken by another. I yelled 'ROTATE' again and we repeated this. Each of the 5 or 6 riders in this little breakaway did a very short pull before being replaced by another. As we approached the start / finish line (to mark 2 laps to go), we had pulled maybe 2-3 bike lengths. We had it! This breakaway could work if we could just stay organized!
Unfortunately, the rotation broke down. Abhay found himself out front and the rider behind him couldn't or wouldn't pull through. Suddenly, from my right, I saw a rider from the pack making another attack.
His attack was strong, but when he was past Abhay (who was still rocking it!), he pulled up . (it is important to note that I think his actions were safe, he didn't jam on the brakes or anything, I could just see that he let off the gas) I saw this as an attempt to arrest this breakaway, so I attacked. This was just as we entered the chicane past the start / finish line. I was really hoping someone would come with me. In fact, I expected to see the les amis guy Bobby on my wheel. By the time I looked back, I had pulled almost a dozen bike lengths! I was dissappointed to see that I was out there by myself.
I now had a decision to make - with less than 2 laps to go, do I keep on the gas and see if I can make it stick, or do I let off and save myself for the finish?
How do you make this kind of decision? I mean, this is my second road race ever. I don't have any experience in this kind of situation. I didn't have a lot of time to think about it really, a dozen or so bike lengths isn't that much.
Here's the real facts. We were in the closing laps of the race, I was out front on a solo breakaway and I had two teammates and a 'friendly' in the pack behind me. I know can lay down some power over the course of a long burn. I was in my best aero position and I was feeling pretty good. If you can tell anything from the title of this blog, you'll know what I did (or if you were there watching the race ;).
I went for it. I put it all on the line with about 1 and 3/4 laps to go, I picked up my biggest hammer and started swinging. I tried not to think about the peloton behind me. I knew they were back there and I knew there would be peeps trying to counter my attack. I had no clue how long I could hold them off, but as the title says, no guts, no glory. I was going for it.
As I came around to the entrance of the back straight, It seemed like I was increasing the gap. I'm sure there was some jockeying in the peloton as they tried to get organized, but I was pulling hard and felt pretty confident.
The wind along the back straight was coming from my left and there was nothing I could do about it except keep my best aero position. As I neared the turn on the opposite end of the track (which is the last turn before the start / finish), I kept to the very inside of the track to minimize the distance I would have to travel. I was looking for any advantage I could think of.
Coming through that turn you are heading directly into the wind. I still felt pretty good, and when I looked back, maybe I had pulled perhaps as much as 200 meters (it was somewhere between 100 and 200 meters for sure) but when you're swinging your biggest hammer calculating distances is not the top priority!
I crossed the start / finish with a big gap and one lap to go. As I approached the point where I made my attack (the chicane), I looked back and realized that they were gaining ground. I was also starting to feel the effects of my efforts. How I wished that someone (a strong someone) would have come with me when I attacked.
As I entered the back straight, I could hear the peloton behind me. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold the break. I kept pushing as hard as I could, but I had put myself on the inside of the track. About half way along the back straight, I was caught.
I did my best to hold pace with the peloton, but without that advantage of catching someone’s draft, I just didn’t have the power. My candle was flickering badly and as we entered the final turn, I found myself at the back. I also found myself in the wind with no chance of taking advantage of the peloton’s draft.
Having a bit of pride that wouldn’t accept last place, I pushed hard to re-take as many positions as I could. I managed to pass 3 or 4 others to give me a final finish of 24th out of a field of 28 or 29.
I am quite certain that had someone else followed me when I attacked, we could have made that break stick. We had the break with the 5 or 6 guys when Abhay attacked, unfortunately, for whatever reason there was no teamwork to make that one stick.
All in all, it was a great weekend of racing. To say I’m hooked would be an understatement. I’ll be back next weekend and for the River falls race. The biggest thing we need to do as a team is continue to work together. By doing this, we’ll better understand each other’s strengths. Once we find that understanding, we’ll be putting the Spinners on the podium in the cat5, 35+ group.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Cat4: Brian Kadiens takes 3rd place in the Cat 4 race. Tim Granger, Randy Hutchinson and Peter Mathern did an excellent job keeping the guys in contention. Peter started a long slow burn somewhere coming up the hill at the end of the runway. Randy took over from him and burned his match until Brian rocketed past to take 3rd by a wheel.
Cat5 (34-): Good race by the guys. Robert went down with some bike damage, but no damage to body or spirit. Tom had a good race and gained some great experience. He was gapped a little in the aftermath of the wreck that took Robert out, but managed to finish with the peloton.
Cat 5 (35+): Good race by the guys (see below for my personal perspective and specifics of how Dave and Ed did). Bryant had a good race as well. I believe he met his goal of sticking with the peloton. I think he only lost ground on the two significant hills. Otherwise, I think the pace (about 21mph) was totally doable for him.
Great Job to everyone who raced today. Now, here's my perspective of the Cat5, 35+ race.
There it is, in the history books, my first ever bicycle road race. I was pretty stoked about this race, and last night my crew from the P3C3 Ride to Austin and I met up for some fellowship at Carrabas Italian Grill. Knowing I had a race today, I held myself to only a dozen beers (kidding - I know how much of a foolish move that would have been ;). It was great to see my buddy Ed, who I have not seen in quite some time - perhaps since the Austin trip. He would be racing in the same race as me - Cat 5, 35+ age group.
The plan was to meet at Donaldson (aka SCTAC) at about 7am so we would have time to pick up our registration and do some warmup. We hoped to get a full lap, alas, we only had a chance to ride the course backward to the base of 3M hill. It was enough as I was able to talk strategy with Ed a little as we rode back. We also rode with one of our team-mates Tom who would be racing in the Cat 5, 34- group.
As we were riding back in from our warm up, the announcers were calling the first groups to line up. Perfect timing really - it allowed me to remove a layer of clothing as it was really starting to warm up out there.
In the last few weeks, everyone I had spoken to about racing had offered me the same advice - stay near the front for as much of the race as you can - it's safer up there. So, I made sure that Ed and Dave were near me, and I lined up on the front row for our group. The younger Cat 5 riders took off first, and we followed about 4 - 5 minutes later.
I was really expecting this group to lay down a serious hammer for the first lap. I felt it really important to be up there at the front so I could respond to any attacks. I had to trust that Ed and Dave would be there.
I ended up in the top 3 coming past the stop sign and the lead rider was setting a good pace, but it wasn't killing anyone. I was ok with that. It seemed like a smart way to ride a race that typically comes to a sprint anyway - be safe, keep the pace reasonable - hard enough to kick out the riders who are going to get kicked out, but not so hard that people make mistakes.
As we came around to the base of the golf course hill, I expected to see an attack. I was surprised when nothing substantive took place. As I was the lead rider for the spinners (meaning simply I was the guy closest to the front), I felt it was my job to respond to any attacks off the front. There was some harder riding up the hill, but the attack I expected never materialized. I stuck with the lead group and maintained a top 5 position.
Through the rollers on the back side, again, no real strong attacks. Yes, a rider or two would put on a little show, but I and the others around me responded and nobody ever got away.
As we came up 3M hill for the first time, a couple of guys from team Metro came to the front. It was good to see my buddy Dan up there on the wheel of his team-mate Mel. I held pace with them and the peloton started to take a recognizable shape.
As we rounded the turn at the country route turn-off, I started to recognize a couple of guys who were taking the same conservative approach we (Spinners) were taking. One constant at the front with me was a Les Amis guy - Bobby. He was riding solo, but really being smart about it. Even with as much attention I was paying to the draft and the amount of time I spent in the wind, I think he was even better at it than I was.
I wasn't sure how things were shaking out behind me, in the front, we were mostly no more than 2 abreast and often had a single rider leading a pair (often me and the les amis guy Bobby), followed by usually another pair before the peloton spread across the road.
As we came up out of the dip at the end of the runway, a guy attacked and I responded. After most of a lap that was quite civilized, I thought this might be it. Of course, he burned his match and backed off the pace. I was quite content to sit on his wheel as we were re-absorbed by the peloton.
At the end of lap 1, I was still in the front 5, and had not spent any real time out in the wind. Perhaps Lap 2 would be different.
Surprisingly, it really wasn't. There was an occasional burst off the front, but always a quick response by the guys in the front. Bobby and I simply matched anything that came past us, while sticking like glue to whoever happened to be punching a hole in the wind. It was as we went up 3M hill for the second time that I had a brief chat with him and found out he was by himself out there.
Just before 3M hill, on the rollers, Dave rode up next to me and we had a little chat. He asked how I was, I asked how he was. I was in total agreement with his response - "I'm feeling good - not breakaway good, but good". Summed it up quite well for me. We chatted briefly about a end-race strategy. I asked him to be the first lead out guy after the right curve on the hill at the end of the runway. I would follow, and Ed would be there for the sprint. His confidence may not have been 100% when he responded, but I asked him to sit in and be ready for it.
The attacks started coming as we rounded turn at the country route intersection. A guy in Green attacked and I went with him. We pulled a little gap, and had I jumped up when he started to fade, there may have been a chance for a breakaway. I didn't think that was a good idea, so again, I stayed on his wheel until the peloton caught us.
The second lap ended with John Frame pulling us through the start / finish line and around the corner. He had attacked on the flat after the runway hill, but the peloton was starting to get antsy and responded quickly.
As we rolled through on the approach to and up the golf course hill, you could feel the energy in the group had risen to a higher frequency. Peeps were starting to go off the front more, and a time or two a small group would get a small gap. I was in with most of this, doing my best to keep a spinner's kit near the front. I trusted that Ed and Dave were keeping things in check behind me.
Despite the attacks, the peloton was coherent as we rolled past the golf course hill. I was still near the front with the Les Amis guy, and we were letting everyone else do the work. And there were guys who were not afraid to get out there and pull. Thanks to them - they kept the pace up at a solid 21mph.
As we rolled down the other side of golf course hill, and into the rollers, the energy of the group had pushed me back a couple of positions. I was still in the top 10, but the group was starting to surge. Somewhere on that back side of the course, I heard what everyone hates to hear the most - the sound of a bicycle hitting pavement. I have no idea how that affected the integrity of the peloton, but I knew that at least one guy was out of it. It was only after the finish line that I realized how many and who had gone down.
The pace picked up for a little while with more attacks off the front. As we went up 3M hill, we were working hard to keep those attacks from making a real dent in us. Once again, after the country route intersection (at the top of 3M hill), the same guy in green kit attacked. I caught his wheel and I think Bobby from Les Amis was there with us. We pulled a little gap - we might have been able to make something stick if we had really pushed it and worked together. However, I had spoken with Ed and Dave and we had a strategy. I wasn't going to do anything that would disrupt that strategy - we were so close.
Somewhere in there, as I got blocked in against the yellow line, I started to get a bad feeling - not about my position, but about my fellow Spinners. I was worried that I was out there by myself. Worse, I was blocked in, outside the top 10 with the surging peloton to my right and the yellow line to my left. I managed to squeeze a position here and there by riding right on the yellow line. Things were starting to get squirrely out there, and I didn't like it.
As we passed the hangers (on the right side, before the downhill into the dip), the lead rider pulled off to the right. I think he wanted to get out of the wind, but everyone else followed him. I found myself with a clear lane in front of me. It was too early to go, but I used that opportunity to get back up towards the top 5.
I had that clear space in front of me as we went through the dip, and as we rode up towards the right hand curve in the middle of that hill. At this point, I should have looked around to make sure Dave and Ed were with me so we could implement our sprint strategy. I take the blame for not doing so, and thus putting Dave behind me when the plan was for him to lead out. I was hoping that those guys were ready to improvise.
As we came around that right hand curve, I still had this very clear lane in front of me. Something was telling me that Ed was not near the front. I don't know what it was - I just had this bad feeling that had persisted since shortly after hearing that crash on the back side of the course.
Regardless, I had to implement our strategy. I didn't want to burn my match (or maybe I can call this a candle...), without someone to benefit from it. John Frame was in about 2nd position or so and I was coming up on his left side. I struck my match and told John "Lets go John". I know he has a good sprint, and that feeling about Ed just wouldn't leave. I thought I could at least help someone that I know.
I put the match to my candle and got down in my best aero position. We were still more than 1000 meters out, but I get a pretty good long burn from that candle of mine. I passed the lead riders and put everything I had into it. I was surprised that another leadout train didn't pass me until after we were within the 200m mark. In fact, we were well within the 200m mark when my candle began to dim and people started to come around. I did my best to keep that flame going, but I knew I was not destined for the top 5. I didn't see any Spinners jerseys coming past me either, so I was a little bummed that our efforts wouldn't put anyone in the top 5.
I crossed the line and figured I would be lucky to be in the top 20, maybe top 15. I looked around for Spinners Jerseys and found Dave right behind me. No sign of Ed. It turns out that he had his front wheel taken out by a rider who rode right across it - he was the one guy who went down in our race. I was concerned about him (note: After getting checked out by the Medics, it turns out he stressed his shoulder ligaments - no breaks or serious seperations)
Lessons learned and / or items I need to brush up on:
1. Everyone who said to stay in the front of the pack was right. Until the last half lap, it was very smooth up front. Only when I got blocked against the yellow line, and lose position did it feel really squirelly.
2. I need to pay more attention to the positions of my team-mates. I'm not sure how to do this when I am in front of them. I'll take any advice. Although my efforts did pay off for John (he got 4th after being blocked in briefly as the first riders started to come around), I need to know if there is one of my team-mates who will be able to take advantage of me burning my candle. If not, I need to save it to try for my own win.
3. I went a little too early today. I was out in front of that group pushing the wind for about 1000m - and I stayed out in front until my candle started to flicker (and peeps started coming around). If I had waited another 300 meters, I might have gotten a podium or a win - certainly better than my 13th place (which I am actually quite satisfied with).
4. There is possibility for a breakaway in a cat 5 race. The problem is in the confidence of the riders to pull it off. The other problem is the experience of the peloton - nobody wants to let anyone get too far out front because team tactics are still a little foreign to the Cat 5 racers. The concern is that the peloton would not be organized to catch a break.
So, how do I feel after my very first road race? AWESOME!!!!.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The Greenville Spinners Racing team had their first team meeting of the year the other night. I was pretty excited to meet some more of the team. We had the meeting in Bob Kramer's Cycling shop and studio below Greenville's Great Escape bicycle shop.
There was about a dozen guys or so, some I had met, others I had not. What was very cool was the breakdown of riders. There was a group of Cat 4 riders (or cat 3 riders who were planning on catting down), a group of Cat 5, 34- (age group) and a group of Cat 5 35+. About four of each. Three little sub-teams within the larger team.
The discussion centered mostly around the upcoming 2010 Greenville Spring Training Series. This series is comprised of 6 races over 3 weekends. One day of each weekend, the races are conducted on Perimeter Road at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center (this is still referred to as Donaldson in cycling circles, but SCTAC is the current name for the area). The other day of each weekend, is spent at a different location. These locations are the BMW performance center, The Fork Shoals road race course and the River Falls road race course.
At the start of the meeting, I was planning on only racing in two of the 6 races. This was due in part to my recent budgeting efforts that has pinched my wallet a bit lately. However, after the meeting, I went ahead and signed up for all 6 of them.
What got me so stoked up? I think it was a combination of several things. First, just meeting three or four other guys who would also be racing in the same (Cat 5 35+) group as I will. A few of these guys I rode with on our practice day. That's a cool thing to hear everyone talking about how they are interested in working together as a team and learning team tactics.
Some of the guys have real experience with racing, some of the guys are similar to me - that is new to road racing. Most have participated in races of some type - triathlons or marathons, mountain biking or other races. All are very excited about the upcoming season.
The bulk of the meeting was spent talking about strategy. Specifically, strategy on the donaldson course. Randy lead the group with input from several others and lots of questions from those of us who are less experienced.
It was all this talk about racing and racing strategy that got my adrenaline pumping. I'm serious when I say my adrenaline was pumping - I was actually vibrating in my chair. My breath was coming a little short - seriously, I was stoked!
I stayed at the meeting as long as I could. About the time I was leaving, Randy had switched over to the BMW course. It took me a couple hours to come down from that buzz - I'm glad I had French homework to do.
Between translating and summarizing for my homework assignment, I logged on and started checking out the registration for the spring series. When I realized there was a $30 savings if I pre-register for all 6 races, I decided to pull the trigger.
So, I'll do five of the six races (still saving $5 over registering for 5 races). The last race of the series falls on the same day as the clemson off-road triathlon that I had already signed up for. So, there you have it, an adrenaline junkies dream month - 3 consecutive weekends of racing. I'm stoked!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
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.
2. Race pace and team tactics
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!