domingo, 28 de septiembre de 2014

Surrey League Road Race (VC Meudon) 3rds - Cutmill

[a quick/short one because I was watching the world champs]

A complicated week at work meant I couldn't ride until Friday. That, added to my crash in last week, meaning only 45 km ride on Sunday, meant my TSS sank from 108 to 96 in just a week.

I should not complain though. Had a hard ride on Friday and an easy one on Saturday and today I definitively felt really fresh.

Cutmill is supposed to be a challenging course so my objective for today was to hang on and try to finish on the bunch. As I said driving there "I would be happy finishing in the bunch".

I was expecting a hard first few laps. But it didn't happen. We were riding fast up the hill, but nothing mad.

Half way through the race I was trying to put the bottle back in the bottle cage and somehow it slippered off my fingers. "F**** stupid" shouted a rider. Half way through the race and I only had a quarter of a bottle of water. I couldn't agree more with him.

When we crossed the line and I saw 5 to go I got that weird feeling of this can't be possible, it seems we have been riding for ages!!!

With three to go I was drinking small sips to make the most out of the water I had. Got a get a gel and had it in my mouth when I had to get the handle bar with two hands, somehow I managed to drop it. I took a laugh of myself, but only because I had another gel!!!!

With two to go I was "comfortably" in the top five climbing the hill. I was happy because I figured I was going to be able to finish on the bunch.

At the bell I was again well positioned in the bunch, but looking at the numbers now I see I was hitting the max HR of the race so far.

At the final climb I positioned myself very well, I was even thinking about placing. Kept my position in the flat part of the climb and when the last bit of climb came I tried to keep up with the pace.

I managed for about 250m, a shame there were another 250m to the finish line!!!

The definition of being a crap rider
250m that I rode full of disappointment. What a crap rider was the nicest thought I was having.

But hey! as soon as I crossed the line and had a second to think I realized that finishing in the bunch was what I was happy with before the race. I know, I'm to easy on myself, but that thought made me forget my anger.

And here I am, thinking about next race. 

Take care
Javier Arias González

domingo, 21 de septiembre de 2014

Surrey League Handicap Championship (Norwood Paragon)

This is a E/1/2/3/4 handicap race. My first handicap race.

I'm not sure about the criteria the organizers followed to create the groups and the order in which they were sent. But I was a bit surprised so see a few Kingston Wheelers definitively stronger than me way before my group was called.

Still I was happy with my group out of about 10 riders 5 were Kingston Wheelers and that meant we had good chances of ride in good order taking proper turns.

Well that lasted for about 1:30 minutes (and I'm actually looking my power profile). That was the time that took my turn to come and at that time I already was at my limit. 4:40 into the race, only 2.8 kilometers and I was thinking "there is no way I can keep with this pace, I'm not finishing this race".

And here is the thing, we were not riding that fast. It wasn't a mental pace. I think I still need to work a bit more in my warmup. Because after the first 5 or 6 minutes we entered in a phase of 50 minutes where the pace was totally fine for me. Yes, we had a few pushes but nothing that took me close to the limit. It is just the first push that I need to be better prepared for.

With about an hour into the race we were caught by a faster group and that was the signal to jump on their group and stop taking any turns. The game was now a matter of survival.

A bit messy at the beginning, a couple of Wheelers went away with a third rider and the peloton looked all spattered in small groups. I knew there were still one or two groups ahead because I was missing a few Wheelers, but at some point it was impossible to know how many people had ridden away from the group. A feeling I don't like because it leaves me not knowing what to do. Should I try to bridge to the next group? sit and wait?

About 10 minutes later the scratch group caught us. I knew because I saw a Wheeler that is 1st cat. That was a good signal because now I knew to which group I had to try to stick to.

And honestly it didn't felt that difficult. I could even move up a few positions to be better positioned for the "climb" that was coming. Funny enough when I look at the numbers those were my peak 10 minutes in terms of average power. But the point is I passed the climb without a problem and by that point I was already feeling that I was going to finish in the bunch.

Well that was until 5 minutes later the guy riding ahead of me lost the grip on his front wheel and went down. Without any hope I went down as well and the guy behind me. And that was it. My heart rate jumped 10bpm in one second, my speed went from 40km/h to 0 in the same second and the race was over.

Luckily I didn't hurt myself, just a few scratches, my helmet got an impact (I'm in the market for a new helmet, again) and my front wheel twisted a couple of spokes. Time to call it a day and head to the finish line. 1:18:55, 52.5km, not exactly the kind of workout I was expecting (Is it too geek if I mention that I was worried about not hitting my target TSS for the week?).

I have a few more that I shouldn't post pictures of
Not much more to add. Made it to the finish line and relaxed there in the sun watching the rest racing and taking a video of each time they crossed the line.

The ride in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias González

domingo, 7 de septiembre de 2014

John and Dulcie Walker Trophy 3/4 Race (my second road race)

I was in the waiting list for this race but I was so eager to get back to try myself after my holidays that I took my chances and I decided to drive about an hour to get to the HQ early enough to make sure I was the first in the reserve list.

The race had 80 entries so I was quite sure I was going to get a place. So I decided to go for an early warmup; I wanted to ride the final straight, it wasn't clear in the profile if the finish line would be just at the top of the hill or if there were going to be a flat section leading to the line. The later was the case, in fact about 300m mostly flat from where the climb eased to the line. I rode the climb once and finalized my plan. Sit on near the front the whole race, try to get to the top climb in the top 10, hold a wheel until the last 150m and sprint.

With that plan in mind headed the HQ to get my number and there is where I met Paul, a fellow Kingston Wheeler. We chat a bit and he went for a warmup while I headed the car to get ready for the race.

After the usual words from the commissar off we went.. and first surprise of the day. I was expecting a super fast pace from the gun and it was not. True the road was mostly flat or downhill, there were not that many bends and only one turn in the first few kilometres (this circuit is an almost perfect square of 24 kilometres, only 4 left turns per lap!!!) but it was a clear contrast with my first road race experience where I was in the red zone from minute one.

In this one the pace was quite pedestrian, I averaged 189 watts in the first 15 minutes. Yes, part of it was that I was well hidden near the head of the peloton, Paul a few bikes ahead, but still not challenging at all.

It was about 15 minutes into the race when Paul gave it the first go. There was a rider ahead and he tried to bridge. Got a gap with the peloton but very soon a steep nipple appeared and the bunch caught Paul as we were riding over the top.

The pace was still quite manageable but that changed as soon as crossed the line for the first time. Up to 8 surges I can count in my power file in the following 10 minutes. I took mental note that was probably going to be a mined terrain in the last lap, too away from the line to attack, too easy to push it hard to drop whoever is caught in bad position.

The attacks stopped as soon as we started the main "climb" (2km uphill) but very soon Paul jumped again. There were two riders away with a gap between them. Paul managed to bridge the gap to the first one, from my position it seemed like they were starting to work together so I moved to the front of the peloton and eased a bit. As soon as someone passed me I jumped on his wheel and when he moved right I eased again. It was not long until I took some verbal abuse, but hey, seven years in the Spanish air force gave me a thick skin for verbal abuse and, honestly, I couldn't understand half of what they were saying (advantages of having a terrible English), so I didn't care.

Unfortunately the peloton ended up catching Paul and his companion and very soon the rider that was ahead. Back to square one and the pace eased again.

A few kilometres before the bell a rider jumped, put himself in TT position and got a decent gap. Part of it was that the pace in the peloton was not that fast but at some point Paul moved to the front had a look at the two riders that were leading and he came to the conclusion they were blocking and so he said out loud. A pace line formed and a chase began. I took a few turns in the pace line but at some point I changed my mind. The rider was not that far away, say 15 secs. he was alone and still had a few kilometres to go with three "climbs". I got to the conclusion he had no chance to make it so I moved out of the pace line and sat.

Eventually we caught the guy and we were all together again. I had a quick look back and saw a lot of riders. The pace was not that high but I was still surprised of how many riders were still in the game.

I was very concious of the importance of positioning at this point and be assured I managed to stay in the top 10 most of the time. Funny enough Paul was doing the same and we ended up riding two abreast quite often in the final kilometres.

The final climb came I moved towards the central part of the road. Half of the climb is gone and I feel I am well positioned with legs not feeling that bad. And suddenly, about 250 metres to the top of the climb, 500 metres from the line, the guy in front of me raises his hand and moves slowly to the right. My front wheel touched his rear wheel once, twice and thrice as I was easing up trying to keep myself on the bike and slow down. When I looked at the race again half of the peloton had passed me so eased up and soft-pedalled to the line. I think I was last in the main group, which very easily still had 40 riders (update 8/Sept/2014 it turns out I did 27th, not that good at guessing bunch numbers).

The no sprint
Camera in the line, at 00:57 you'll see me (Paul at 00:31)

Anyway I finished very, very happy.

I think I did a good race from the positioning and strategic point of view and I felt in great from. More importantly I had a great time not only riding but also thinking during the race. I want more.

Also this is a great event, very well organized and marshalled. The course is easy to navigate and most of the roads are wide enough. I'll try to be back next year.

The ride in Strava

10/9/2014 It seems there was a cause for the punctures during the race.

Take care
Javier Arias González