sábado, 22 de febrero de 2014

My fourth race at Preston Park

The only moment I leaded the race
Amazingly sunny day in Brighton. So many riders showed up the organizers had to split the field in two races. Three Wheelers (Tom, Barry and myself) all taking part in the first race. Because there were going to be two races they reduced the time; 35 minutes in total, including the 3 last laps.

Tom was the first opening the fire, very early in the race. He went away and very quickly he got a decent gap. Barry was fast moving to the front of the bunch and trying to slow the pace. I followed suit and very quickly we found ourselves riding two abreast and keeping a moderate pace. It wasn't long until we heard loud complains that we were slowing the peloton. A couple of riders took the lead and we sat on their wheels and as soon as they slowed down we moved up again. This lasted a good while. Tom's lead was not increasing but was not decreasing either.

A UK Army (or was it UK Navy, not sure now [Alex Snow confirmed it was a UK Navy rider ;-)]) rider took the lead and pushed very hard reducing Tom's gap. We were on his wheel and behind us the rest of the peloton. I told Barry, let him go, if they are two they'll have more chances;  and we eased a bit letting him go. Not sure if that was the right decision but my point was, if we were to continue sitting on his wheel he would probably lead the whole peloton to catch Tom. I figured that if we let him go he would catch Tom and both would have the chance to work together while we were trying to control the bunch.

Anyway, away he went and ended up catching Tom. They managed to work together and keep away for a few more laps, but around 15 mins into the race they both were brought back.

I knew that was a good moment for an attack so I got myself in a good position. It was a good call, very soon I felt a rider passing us on my right. He was going really fast so had I to push hard to jump after him. I had time to hear a rider exhaling like meaning "oh no, another attack". I was working hard trying to close the gap with the rider that was away. The shame is I couldn't. After what seemed like an eternity, and the numbers revealed to be a mere 45 seconds, it was clear the bunch was closing the gap quickly so I soft-pedalled. When they caught us I hid in the middle of the peloton ashamed with my futile attack and hoping the attacks stop for a little while so I could get my breath back.

I was lucky because nothing really happened from there. A few pushes, Tom tried again, but the peloton kept together until the last laps.

I am convinced the trick on this track is to be well positioned in the last two laps. Fourth or fifth wheel, towards the centre/right side of the track.

And there I was. And the final push after the bell felt manageable. I was fourth in the final straight and I was happy with it.

Unfortunately I saw a TCC rider passing me on the line on my right. He was Rob, the TCC rider that got our sprint for the twenty-something position last week in Longcross.

Bitter sweet feeling. Happy because I placed again in a race and circuit that I honestly think does not suit me but, again, with the feeling that I could have done better both sprinting and defending the 4th position.

Next thing I have to try when I race is to imagine the line 20 meters further than where it really is. That should help me first to avoid jumping to early and second to easing too early.

To add to this feeling Strava Whore 4.0 congratulated me and said "you are a good wheel to follow". I took it as a compliment but couldn't help but thinking "if I'm a good wheel to follow that means I'm probably too predictable. I have to change that as well"

Good learning day.

The race in Strava (btw Strava says today I did my PR in the last 200m but that is not relevant because today was not as windy as the other occasions I raced in Preston Park)

Jasmijn's comment on her today's great win gave me a clue of what I might have been doing wrong. "I went early for the 'sprint' but forgot to get out of the saddle...[still she took the win]". I just realized that this feeling of "I could have done more" is because I'm not getting out of the saddle which, I think, leads me to feel it was not really a sprint. Sprint practice this week to test this theory :-)

Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 15 de febrero de 2014

My second race at Longcross

The alarm went off at 6:30 am. I jumped out of bed as shouting "Gooooood mooorning Vietnam!!!!"

As crazy as it sounds I was happy to be up. I was looking forward for today's race. Looking at my reflection in the mirror and acting as a rock start I said "The name of this song is wait and win, wait and win". After last week's race I had it clear. I wanted to win and being as windy as last Saturday I knew the key was waiting.

7:30 and no one shows up at Bushy park's gate. I know Phil is driving, but where are Harry and Tom?

Waited 5 minutes and decided to go. I didn't know the route but I'm a sighted man I had the route in my gps. Problem was Strava didn't know about the floods and very soon I found myself in a closed road.

What could I have done? I didn't know any other route to Longcross so decided to go ahead. When it was not safe to ride, I dismounted and just walked. Since walking on water is not in my magic tricks pocket I ended up with water up to my knees. Luckily no one was there to see that crazy cyclist (not in Kingston Wheeler jersey).

Riding to Longcross I was imagining myself sprinting for the win. Or as part of a break away of three riders (I don't know why three) working all together. Or sprinting up the "hills" in the last lap and opening a gap with the bunch. I don't know how I found myself quoting "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning... Smells like victory". It is amazing what imagination can do because I looked at my heart rate and saw it in 150 which was pretty high for the pace I has riding on. I even got scared of getting tired just using my imagination so forced myself to think about something non-cycling/racing. Something more boring obviously.

How can I be so crazy? I don't know but luckily I'm not dangerous.

It was a (very) windy morning. So by the time I arrived Loncross my clothes were dry. My feet not completely dry but still ok.

Sign in, get ready, say hello to fellow wheelers, some minutes warming up and there I went first line waiting for the go.

What a silly thing to do!! The gave us some advices, and then they did the same with the women that were starting their race just behind us; and all the time I was there in first line with the wind blowing all for me. Freezing!! Lesson learned for next time. You can start the race from the second or third line.

The race started and all went as planned. I hidden in the bunch with an eye on the front to make sure I don't miss any break.

Short after we crossed the line for second time, just after the first left turn, when the wind eased a bit, I saw the rider two places ahead of me moving right and left too unexpectedly and I knew he was going to fall and that we were all going to fall with him. Not that being aware helped me to prepare for it because everything happened just too fast. The guy fell, the guy behind him rolled over him and fell and I rolled over them both and also fell.

It was a pretty hard fall. I flew over my handle bar. It would have been cool if I shouted "To the infinity and beyond..." but I'm afraid I said nothing. I guess in this cases the normal is to land on your face or collarbone but I don't know how I landed on the top of my head. I'm in the market for a new helmet...

Woke up. Quick check on myself and I felt ok; a pain in the back but nothing serious. There were at least three more guys down and one of them was moaning. Very calmly I look for my bike, unhooked it from two other bikes, checked it, and since it looked ok, I jumped on it and pedalled away. Not a single thought for the guys that were down. I know it doesn't speak very well of me but that was the fact. No excuses.

First thought was how far is the bunch. Well it was very far away because I couldn't see it. Anyway I pushed it as hard as I could.

I was stopped about 35 seconds. Interesting to see how my heart rate raised after the fall
I realized the two bottle cages were broken. The one on the saddle tube was not a problem because it was empty but the one in the front tube was rubbing against my left leg so I had to force it back to its position. The bottle didn't look very safe there but that was as good as it could be. I'm in the market for two bottle cages...

Very soon I saw a wheeler ahead of me. I'm not sure about his name (Will?) but when I was passing him we joined forces. Very quickly we started to pass riders and they were joining us. RichardD was the third wheeler in this small peloton.

We kind of worked well all together. It was very clear that we were riders at different levels and not everyone knew how to ride in a paceline but I think everyone tried their best. I was super excited and that translated on me cheering my companions and taking turns as soon as I felt I was recovery and trying to keep them as long as possible. RichardD did great telling me when I was pushing too hard or asking me to move out when I was too tired and still in the front. We were talking to each other and I was having fun. I knew we were not going to catch the main bunch but I was happy trying as hard as I could. We passed a lot of riders and we even lapped the women's race.

With three or four laps to go we caught a TCC rider. A big guy that as soon as he got some air joined in the work. His turns were not very long but he was strong and he also talked to the rest helping to keep some organization in the peloton.

With one to go he took a big push in the home straight and when we crossed the line everyone was clapping as if were had finished. By the club house there were a few riders in the parking. We were not lapped so we stopped thinking we had finished. But the rest of the rider came and told us we still had another lap to go.

There we went. Three more kilometres. When we were back in the finish straight he was pushing hard. I was on his wheel, looked back and we had a big gap with the rest. Moved to position myself parallel to him and we both knew that was going to be a disputed a sprint.

It was a close one but I think he took it. We smiled and congratulated each other.

And the same happened when I saw the rest of the group, specially when I saw RichardD. There is a great camaraderie feeling when you have worked hard with someone.

We joined Tom, Harris and Phil and learnt that Tom was 6th. Great work!!!

I was still euphoric when I arrived to the club house so I took a few minutes to myself and calm down. Ate something and had a relaxed conversation with the rest of the wheelers before we decided it was time to ride back home.

Oh, oh, oh. The moment I started to pedal muscles I didn't know I had were aching. Nothing from the fall though, and that was a good signal.

Looking now at the numbers I found I did today my best power ever for the durations from 1:13:31 to 1:29:22

It was not what I was expecting when I woke up, still very, very happy with today's race.

The race in strava.

Take care
Javier Arias González

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

sábado, 1 de febrero de 2014

Poniéndome un objetivo vital-ciclista

Hoy he leído esta noticia que cuenta que Robert Marchand acaba de batir el record de la hora en bicicleta para mayores de 100 años. El anterior record, 24,251 km, que también era suyo, ha quedado pulverizado con la nueva marca, 26,927 km.

El caso es que la noticia me ha inspirado y acabo de decidir que voy a intentar completar 10 París-Brest-París en mi vida.

Si esto no te suena a locura será porque no sabes que una París-Brest-París es un evento ciclista en el que hay que recorrer 1.200km, los que hay en el recorrido que va de París a Brest y vuelta; en menos de 90 horas.

Lo que hace el objetivo interesante es que la París-Brest-París sólo se celebra cada cuatro años. Y como yo hice mi primera París-Brest-París con 42 años; eso significa que, en el mejor de los casos, completaría mi décima París-Brest-París con 78 años.

Desde la tranquilidad de un sábado por la noche en el sofá he llegado a la conclusión que una París-Brest-París cada cuatro años es una excelente forma de asegurarme de que mantengo una buena forma física (¿y mental?); requisito que creo imprescindible para cumplir con mi objetivo de intentar vivir 150 años.

2011 (42 años) - Hecha
2015 (46) - Este año ha costado, pero objetivo conseguido. (Hay que leer esto para entender porqué este año ha costado)
2019 (50) - Hecha
2027 (58)
2031 (62)
2035 (66)
2039 (70)
2043 (74)
2047 (78)

Y, por supuesto, el record de Robert Marchand ya puede esperar 55 años que también intentaré batirlo.

A cuidarse
Javier Arias González

My Third Race at Preston Park

One guy in a white jersey went away from the gun. That meant sit and wait for me.

He never had more than half of a lap and that meant the speed was not that high in the peloton. And that went on for about 15 minutes until Richard D did a turn in the front that woke up everybody and the guy in white was caught.

The moment he was caught the pace slowed considerably. At times so much that riders in the bunch where shouting and asking the ones in the front to push on. Something that I honestly don't understand, if you want the race to go faster just get in the front and work it hard.

In previous races they were putting a signal with 5 laps to go, not sure why they decided to make it 3 in this race. In my opinion that is a mistake. In a course that is flat, the breakaway is always in sight and there are no primes, in a windy day like today everyone tends to conserve as much as possible until the last few laps. And exactly that was what happened. We slowed down, all in a bunch and cruised until the 3 laps to go was visible. And then the race started. Three laps all out, not a single drop in the whole race but in the last lap it began to hail to give it an epic touch. Anyway, a clear sprint.

I thought I was doing great sprinting for the top 5 but I missed a full speed train on my right and ended up 11th I think.

Still very, very happy with the race. These short efforts are not my favourite part of cycling but I'm getting better at it. Today's last two minutes were better than last week's in all metrics; power, cadence and speed (I guess sprinting against the wind helps).

A bit more practising, my form that is coming back and eventually I'll get it right and, I'm sure, I'll win my race. Just not today.

The race in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias González