sábado, 8 de febrero de 2014

My fist race at Longcross

Tuesday commuted on the bicycle but when I got home I knew I was ill. Wednesday in bed. Thursday didn't feel that great but decided to go to the office. Ended up very tired and going early to bed. Friday was feeling ok but decided to work from home to save me the commuting time and effort.

With these precedents it is normal that I did not have great hopes for today's race. The weather forecast was windy but it seemed it would not rain during the race. My cough and my "manager" said it was not a good idea to race but I decided to give it a go. I was honestly feeling well and I was really was looking forward for this race.

This race is a 4th cat 45km race which means is almost double the distance of any other 4th cat race I have raced. I had the feeling that would be good for me, I tend to think the longer the race the more chances I have to do well on it.

Met 5 other Wheelers at Bushy Park, the plan was to ride together to Longcross. No more than 5 minutes into the ride and I found myself hiding from the wind behind the wheel of a big rider (a friend of one of the Wheelers) and dropped from the others. The pace was simply too strong to me; don't get me wrong it is not that I didn't have the legs to bridge to the group, it is that I just didn't want to. That would have put me into the red zone and I just wanted a gentle ride. So I continued wheel sucking.

Everyone looked so easy with the pace that at some point a thought crossed my mind "You better don't race today. Get there cheer the guys and get back home, there will be better days". It was a second, because a second later my thought was "no way, you got up 6am and you are riding there, you are racing".

So we got there, signed up and got a bit of a warmup. Enough to realize there was a strong head wind approaching the line. I divided the home straight in two sections, the first one, had head wind but somehow it was filtered by the trees on our left had side so I took note that keeping left on that part would be the best option. The second section was the final home straight, no secret here. Strong head wind, nowhere to hide, better have a good wheel here and don't sprint too early.

They sent us off for a first neutralized lap so everyone got the chance to recognize the circuit and there we went. I hide in the bunch for the first laps. Nothing really happened anyway, easy pace only a bit harder on the tiny "climbs".

With 8 laps to go I saw at the end of the home straight the women peloton. I remembered Gareth posted that to be out of sight you would have to have 90 secs. Not sure the gap they gave them at the start but I figured we probably would lap them soon, better to be on the top positions when that happen so I moved up in the next climb.

I'm glad I did because as we were passing the women a TCC and a rider in no club jersey jumped from the group. They got a small gap. Joe jumped as well from the group and so I did holding to his wheel. We also got a small gap from the peloton, but we were gaining terrain to those two riders very slowly. It was not until we passed the "hills" (there are no hills in this circuit, just to small kicks, the second a bit steeper, but nothing challenging) and we entered the home straight when we caught them. The moment we arrived the TCC rider shouted "lets work together". "Sounds great to me", but the moment he said that they moved out of the line and left Joe in front of the head wind and me at his wheel.

That was not going to work out. Joe looked exhausted, I was on my limit, looked back and saw the peloton not that far back. I guessed we had no chance so I decided I was not pushing it. And that was it. We were brought back.

But that movement changed everything. We were 5 to go, the pace relaxed a bit, but it was never that easy as in the first half. I was feeling all right so decided it was the moment to keep my position at the top, specially at the "hills" as that seemed like the right place for anything to happen (I had Jim's advice, "watch out for guys in front of you who forgot to change gear and are at about 30rpm stalled" in mind all race and made sure I always had a clear line in the second "climb").

The TCC rider was trying to organize a pace line. He was asking everyone to work and complaining because only two or three riders were willing to collaborate. I didn't follow his game. He looked and behaved like a strong rider. A hard paceline is what he needs to make the race harder to everyone, I kept an eye on his wheel but decided I was no game. At some point another TCC rider asked him if there was another rider up the road. He answered "yes, yes, there is another rider", but I didn't bite it, I thought it was a trick to get everyone to work.

I'm glad I had decided to be towards the first positions of the peloton, because with three to go as I was hitting the top of the second "climb" I heard a crash in the peloton. Not sure what happened there but sounded nasty (I later learnt RichardD got caught and he was out of the race, at least not serious damage for him).

When the bell was ringing I saw a woman on the right shouting times to the TCC rider. Come on Javier, there was a rider up the road!!!! How could you have missed him??? One of your objectives is to be aware of what is going on and you missed a guy jumping out of the peloton??? When was that? it had to be in the first have of the race. Man, if he was alone for half a race with all that wind, I don't know how big is the gap but he deserves to win.

Didn't matter anyway. The rider on the front of the peloton put a step on the gas and alea iacta est. I was second in the top of the "second" climb and second I was when we turned towards the home straight.  Kept left as planned and waited. I was going for the win.

I knew in these sprints are two possible outcomes. You either sprint when you think it is the right time but everyone else knows is too early and the peloton passes you as you run out of gas or you sprint when everyone think is a bit too late and you know it is the right moment.

I waited. I was now 5th or 6th, well hidden from the wind, feeling I still had a big push in my legs. Waited a bit more.

And went for it, all out, as hard as I could.

Inevitably in a few seconds the feeling of "man. how come the line is that far" invaded me; a quick look back to see how is the peloton doing.

They're coming, they're coming; Push, push. I push it again but I see they are passing me. ¡Mierda!

I ended up being the guy that thought it was the right time when everyone knew it was too early...

Not sure about my position, someone said around 10th, but it doesn't matter, I screwed it. It is the closest I ever felt from winning a race and I blew it. I knew I had to wait and went too early, what a silly mistake!

Last 2 minutes
I'm very easy on myself anyway. It took me about three seconds to remember that I was thinking about not racing on the way to the circuit. I had to be happy with how well I felt and how hard I tried. By the time I arrived to the club house I had a smile in my face.

20s sprint
Still, looking now at the numbers and graphs I realized another big mistake. When I sprinted I was spinning at about 117 rpm, but when I looked back my cadence dropped to 103 rpm to go up again to 113 rpm when I gave the last push. Not that it could have any influence in the result, but another lesson to learn is: "Never look back when you sprint; if you go all out it doesn't matter what the bunch is doing, don't look back and keep pushing until you cross the line".

The race in strava

btw. Big kudos to the guy that won the race. I don't know who he is, I was told he crossed the line in pieces, but I'm not surprise. Hard windy day for such a superb solo effort. Hats off!!

Take care
Javier Arias González



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