GP Beverly 2018

I could see the Spin Arts rider to my right bobble, then start to tilt, then his bike was sliding out from underneath him, sliding down the road and to the left, sliding into my path and eventually beneath my front wheel, while I tried to manage my speed, while I constructed an exit strategy, trying to float my front wheel over the obstacle, with the hopes that the rest of my bike and body would follow unscathed, then trying to slow down without going down, then abandoning all options as the crashed rider’s bike wedged beneath my wheel and I started to pivot forward. 

There was the moment when I realized I was going over, the moment when first my elbow hit the pavement hard, and then my knee, even harder; the moment I figured my front wheel would crumple; the moment when I realized the wheel would be ok; then the moment when I thought it was all over, and the moment I realized it wasn’t and the rest of me completed the flip, landing on my back or the back of my head, or perhaps in the other order, it was hard to tell, but the tail of the helmet caught the pavement and forced the helmet down and foward into my glasses so that they bit into my nose, splayed the nosepads, then came lose. Somewhere in there I felt a hard smack but couldn’t tell if it was my head on pavement or helmet on glasses, or perhaps one of the other riders who had followed and crashed in kind, sending his own shock waves that I absorbed as my own. My right pinky finger was already bleeding, the knuckle sliced clean and dripping dark, red blood onto the pavement and soaking into my glove. I surveyed the damage, waiting for the various body parts to report their damage, waiting for systems to come on-line so I could determine what next to do. 

“How do you crash on a straightaway?” I asked of no one in particular.

Then somebody on the side of the road was yelling, “Free lap! Cut the course, take the free lap!”

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Exeter Criterium 2018

 

Photo by Katie Busick

Open with a calm, sunny New England evening. The town slowing to crawl, streets clearing and shops closing so that several dozen cyclists may perform feets of speed and agility before the gracious onlookers.

Women and men in skin tight racing suits, assembled before the town hall. 

The calm before the storm.

Then a pop, and the pellicule starts to skip. 

Ninety-six racers sprint into the first sweeping turns. Immediate mayhem.

The pace not fast enough to string it things out. Riders clot and clump together. Constantly in motion, moving up or losing positions. Dive bombing the corners. Cut or get cut. 

Pedals and derrailleurs clink against my front wheel no fewer than three times. No damage done.  Riders hook and swerve, elbows out, shoulders leaning on hips. The most contact I’ve seen in a race in decades, compounded by the mix of pros, comfortable in the closest of quarters, the younger, inxperienced riders, the older, slower riders, the older faster riders who don’t want to get crashed, the 3’s riding in perhaps their first pro-level race. What a race of all races to choose. 

My front wheel is chopped and sliced, no fewer than three times. I ride each one out, reacting on instinct, drifting with the rider’s back wheel, counterbalanced, not overcorrecting. Staying upright. Barely. That alone is a victory. 

The laps are melting away. Half-way, a blistering pace for the big money prime, then it all comes back together. I’m punching holes and taking lines I didn’t think were possible. Turn three, I get swept all the way to curb, lock up brakes, lose position, and start it all over again. I know I’m in the danger zone when I pull up behind certain riders, question their faulty lines and make an effort to get in front of them. There are crashes, but not nearly as many as the combat would suggest.

Then there are 6 laps to go and I’m wondering where the race went. Time to get into position. Every other rider has the same idea, so it’s more shoulder to shoulder, taking risks, hoping for a split or a break, hoping to be on the business end of it. 

I’m flat out the last three laps. A blur of wheels, multicolored jerseys, finding a line, then another one, locking up, sprinting back to speed.

Last lap, I’m reasonably well positioned within the top-15 or 20. Into turn three, about to punch through it and instead there’s a rider down, a sprawl of blue Hot Tubes, the sickly scrape of skin and carbon, and I’m hesitating, just a second to see which way he tumbles, and then it’s over.

Overgeared, struggling to get back up to speed, I give up 10 or 15 spots, sprint full on into mediocrity.

And it’s over. 

Across the line, I hear Myerson has won, and that makes me smile. 

Stats:

  • Average speed: 42.8 kph
  • Normalized power: 258 w
  • Max HR: 175
  • Final placing: 30th
  • Attrition rate: 25%
  • Post-race Ice cream flavor: Jake’s Maple Bacon

Greenfield Criterium 2018

Photo by @cc.reuter

It had started to sprinkle on the starting line before the final call-up for the first race of the New England Crit series.  On the drive out Route 2 west from Boston, the clouds had built and so had my angst. Thunderstorms forecast for early afternoon. Percentages building as we approached race time. It was only a matter of time.

At least the warm-up had been dry. Even if my legs had felt sore and blocked.

Five laps into the hour race, it was already raining. Fresh moisture on dry pavement. I tried to remember the last time it had rained. How long since the grease of the streets had been washed clean? It didn’t matter. The pace was fast enough, there would be risks in the corners. The bike felt solid and balanced. The tires gripped. I avoided paint stripes and manholes, best I could. The rain eased up a bit. The course was even starting to dry out.

Boys were putting their hammers down.  I was playing smart, or so I thought, my legs feeling better with each lap. Holding between 10th and 15th position. Staying out of the wind. Following the accelerations but never going on the attack. Sticking to my plan of keeping my powder dry until the finale.

It didn’t last long.

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Race Day

I’ve been meticulously constructing my season around the next 8 days: New England Crit Week. Five pro-1/2 races from this Sunday to next Sunday.  I’ve been following a structured training program, measuring and assessing, week to week, refining, looking for signs in the numbers and analysis that will prove out progress.

I’ve been chasing fitness all season, with little to show for it, despite the time and distance. I will submit that there is little measurable progress. Sure, I’ve lost about 5-6 pounds that I didn’t really need to lose. My power numbers are stable, if not declining a bit. My mediocre results reveal little of the efforts I’ve made during the races. The numbers lie. The results are misleading. The changes are subtle, as much a shift in perspective as improvement of a few watts here and heartbeats there.

The first tourney of the season was to have been Marblehead. Thirty-six miles of a seashore loop at a race I won once many years ago. It was to have been my triumphant return. Instead it was cancelled due to inclement weather forecasts — a strange thing to cancel a bike race because of bad weather — so I raced Palmer Koerse the day before. In a lapse of good judgment, I enrolled in the Pro race rather than my Masters age group because I didn’t want to wake up that early, I wanted the extra distance, and I incorrectly assumed that the other riders would be in my same boat of having done precious little intensity at this point in mid-April.

I was wrong.

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