domingo, 6 de julio de 2014

Sotonia Summer (chopper's first road race report)


How can I be so arrogant? Signed up for the race, my first road race and my first race as 3rd cat, without knowing anything about it, just thought 96km, yeah, that should be fine.

I arrived to the HQ with only time to ride half of the circuit lap, not a big deal, but the very first humps got me to the conclusion the race was going to be hard but manageable.

In the briefing the BC commissar defined the circuit as "testing" and I didn't even blink.

Well arrogance in cycling  is something you end up paying if you don't have the legs to back it up and I certainly did (I mean paid for it, not that I had the legs to back my arrogance).

The race started neutralized until we reached the circuit. It started with a hump and there I was surprised with at the pace we attacked it. You know this idea of being a box of matches and each time you hit certain power you burn a match? That hump was my first match.

There were more surprises for me. A road lane is not that wide and 60 riders trying to get to the front of the bunch fills every gap. Suddenly someone shouted "car" and I realized cars would be coming in the other lane as everyone got closer, the bunch got longer and I found myself at the back and braking, only to sprint all out five seconds later because the first hump was immediately followed by a second one; and there it went another match. Descending that nipple I hit 70km/h and at the same time I heard a crash behind me. Looked back briefly in time to see a guy hitting the tarmac really hard.

Didn't even had time to assimilate all that was happening when a third hump came only to be followed by a forth one and a left turn, all riding at sprint.

As we turned left the climb that would take us to the finish line started and the bunch slowed down! A lot!!

Great, that's what I needed a moment to catch my breath. 6 minutes into the race and I was already exhausted. I'm sure I have hit half a dozen power PB's by now.

The slow down in the climb was a mirage, it lasted only one minute, and finished with a sprint that didn't have any point in my opinion but took us to cross the finish line for the first time at 35km/h. I found a match in my back pocket to cover that sprint.

Second climb came and surprisingly this time we attacked it full speed and half way through it everyone slowed down. I took the opportunity to move up; as I was making myself room around the tenth position I realized there was already a four men break away.

It is great to know that you should be in the front of the group, if only so when they sprint without notice you can be passed by everyone and be back to the tail of the peloton. This is the moment I started to think this whole idea of road racing was a bit too crazy.

This was only the first lap. The second lap started and we hit the first hump again, in the descend my saddle moves and I'm grateful I have found an honourable excuse to finish this nonsense. Surprisingly when I sit again in the saddle, after the second hump, it seems stable so the excuse vanishes.

Second, third and fourth hump; left turn and here we are again in the climb to the finish line. I'm afraid that I don't have any matches left to cover this last sprint and I lose contact with the peloton. It moves away painfully slow, like asking me to not give up.

Nah, that would have been a fairy tale! I give up and now the peloton moves away much faster. The commissar car passes me and I'm out of "the bubble" as he defined it during the briefing.

I easy it a bit and to my surprise so does the peloton. Maybe I can catch them again. Should I try?

Of course I should try! I pushed it a bit (it can't even count as a match), passed the commissar car and joined at the back of the peloton. Five seconds later someone decided to sprint and there I was in trouble again.

Hopefully this time was fast. The peloton flew away, the car passed me again and I was left on my own in no time. Crossed the line for the second time, got the cheers for the people that was there, turn left, got a gel. I was 20km into the race, I had only crossed the finish line twice, I still had six laps to go. What am I doing here?

I consider myself a positive person, always trying to see the positive side of everything. Well, I have to admit that I failed for a couple of minutes during this race. I regretted not have started with something "easier" (if such thing exists in road racing), I regretted not have had a proper rest for the race, I regretted the lack of preparation and all the improvisation. I regretted not have done more anaerobic intervals. I regretted I had entered the race and the whole idea of racing. I wanted to stop, but stopping was nonsense because I was in the middle of nowhere so I would have to ride to the HQ anyway. It was only a couple of minutes but I felt bad.

The good thing about being alone is that after a couple of minutes you get your breath back, you find your own pace and the positive feelings come again. Going home with 30km in the legs is wasting a lovely Sunday morning, lets finish the race and get the kilometres in your legs.

And to that task I set myself. Luckily a rider passed me and I jumped on his wheel for a while. Then I passed him and took a turn in the front. He followed suit. Great, riding together we will push each other.

I had to wait for him in the humps but he was a great wheel to sit in the flats. We kept a reasonable pace overall, given the circumstances. It only lasted about two laps though. As we had in sight a Sotonia rider and we were turning left to start the climb to the finish line he said something and stopped. I think it was something related with a pain at his back but couldn't understanding him clearly.

There I was alone again. Well not really alone, I knew the Sotonia rider was about 30 seconds ahead of me so I set myself to catch him.

It took me a whole lap, but as we crossed the finish line with 3 to go I was on his wheel. Took the first part of the descend to get another gel and drink a bit and as the road started to climb passed him shouting words of encouragement hoping he would jump on my wheel and we could work together.

He jumped on my wheel but he didn't show intention of taking any turn. A whole lap went with him sitting on my wheel. It didn't bother me really, just kept my own pace aiming to finish the ride.

During the briefing the commissar had said that if with two to go we were more than seven minutes behind the bunch the bell would be rang for us and we would finish one lap earlier. That was exactly what happened.

So there I found myself riding the last lap with a rider on my wheel and I couldn't help but starting to question myself about what would happen at the time of crossing the finish line. Was he going to outsprint me? did I care?

Well I decided I didn't care and kept my own pace.

With 3/4 of lap to go the motorbikes and the car passed us. Very soon we were passed by four riders, not sure if they were the four riders I saw in the break, not that I did care to be honest. I remember myself thinking they were not riding that fast. Still very soon they were away.

With 1/2 lap to go the Sotonia rider passed my. I, obviously, jumped on his wheel.

Now it is the peloton passing us. Again the thought that they were not riding that fast crossed my mind but, again, very soon they were away.

Two humps before the left turn to the final climb the Sotonia rider slowed down quite a bit. That kind of movement that makes you think "this guy can ride a bit faster but wants to sit on my wheel". I didn't care, I passed him trying to keep the pace, which, believe me, by this time was a rather pathetic pace.

Left turn and we were in the final climb. You know when you are going uphill but the gradient is not that steep but you keep going slower and slower as you are moving to a bigger and bigger cog? That was me in the final climb.

At least until I heard the Sotonia rider playing with his gears. As soon as I heard him changing gears I started to care about him outsprinting me in the line. It was an instinctive reaction, I didn't even thought about it, I just changed gears as well and stood on the bike and sprinted.

We were too far away for me to be able to sustain this sprint so when I felt I was losing steam I looked back to see where he was. I felt relieved when I saw he was like three bikes back. I knew I was going to "win" the sprint for the fifty something position. I wouldn't be honest if I wouldn't confess that, internally, I celebrated this "victory". We shook hands, he thanked me for the work and I congratulated him. The sun was shining.

My sprint
After a few minutes sitting in the grass to rest I jumped on the bicycle again to ride back to the HQ. It was then when I realized the saddle was not in its position. I didn't notice it during the race but it was way too back.
Racing with a saddle bag like a proper chopper (I don't about "the rules")
Got to the HQ, ate a piece of cake, drank a bit of water and what I was thinking? "I should find a race for next weekend". I'm sick.

The race in Strava http://www.strava.com/activities/162441360/

It turns out that after looking at my power numbers during the race they were not all that great, even for my standards. That's good and bad. Bad because it means I did a terrible race good because it means I can do better.

By the way I forgot to mention the Sotonians did a great work organizing the event, all going well I'll be back next year.

Update 7/7/2014. It turns out the Sotonia rider is Paul Ransom. Somehow he found this blog and left a comment.

Update 9/7/2014. I found the results in the Sotonia website. It turns out I show up as last in the classification (38th out of 60 that were signed for the race). I don't know why but Paul Ransom, the Sotonia rider, was given 37th. I almost prefer it that way so I can say that I was officially last in one race (so far).




Take care
Javier Arias González
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