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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tour of Bloomington Day 2: Road Race (42 miles)

TOB Day 2: Road Race (42mi)
Second Place

The Cat 3/4 race was a three lap, 14 mile loop including a final climb involving peak gradients of 18%.  Leading up to the weekend, there was a lot of buzz about this final climb, and to prepare, I spent a good amount of time at the Crown Hill Cemetery to work on my climbing technique.
Map of the Bloomington RR course.  It's 14 miles,
but the deciding factor was the last mile.
One of the disadvantages of being a solo rider is getting the race number on, especially when every rider needed two numbers, one on the side and one on the back.  When I saw a team passing by, I asked them if they could press my number on my jersey (I had already applied glue), but to my surprise, they rejected me and told me to go to registration.  I had to wait another 10 minutes until I luckily found a spectator walking by to press my number on.

To make matters worse, the start/finish line was literally about four miles away from registration and thanks to the delay, I was running late- so I had to time trial my way to the start/finish.  I was sort of irritated that none of the guys stopped to help me with something that would have only taken seconds to do.  As I rode to the start/ finish line, I thought I had missed the start of the race because I was already five minutes late.  I just kept riding at a ~170bpm heart rate thinking about how much energy I was wasting and whether or not it was worth rushing to the start line.

Out of breath with my legs still burning from the hard effort I just put in, I finally made it to the start/finish line and luckily, they hadn't released the Cat 3/4 group yet.

While we were still waiting to be released, the race officials really drilled in the "Center Line Rule."  Basically, if any rider crosses the center line, he/she would be immediately disqualified.  I'm not sure if everyone else shared the same thoughts, but I visualized many situations where a crash or domino effect would push the riders past the centerline and in the direct path of an oncoming car.  That was a greater motivating factor than simply being disqualified!

LAP 1 OF 3:
The center line rule made for a very uneventful first lap.  With about 50 riders, it was a very tight squeeze to have four abreast.  With every single line moving at the same speed, it was impossible to pass.  Riders at the front were stuck at the front, so after a few miles, the pace of the entire group turned casual- many of us were just having conversation!  My heart rate hovered around 115 bpm!  This continued for the first ~13 miles until we finally reached the climb.  Unexpectedly, my heart rate jumped from 115bpm to 181bpm!  Also, where it first appeared impossible to pass, the climb reduced the group into debris- I had to weave through riders as they popped off the back.

LAP 2 OF 3:
The group had gotten split pretty drastically by the attacks during the final climb, and I had to chase back to reach the main group.  After I bridged the gap along with a several other riders, two Cutters riders attacked into a breakaway.  They managed to stay away going into the last lap.  I was feeling great going into the final climb, but forced myself to hold back.  The other good climbers couldn't resist and proceeded to show off their abilities by attacking up the climb again.  I could have matched the attacks, but decided to tempo the climb instead.

It took about 3/4 of the final lap to catch the rest of the Cutters who broke away earlier.  They seemed to have lost their steam up the smaller hills.  As we approached the final climb, there were a few surges, but nothing serious enough to split the group up.  Unfortunately, right before we started the final climb, a bunch of riders broke the center line rule which caused me to lose a lot of positions.  I had already mentally prepared myself to put in a serious effort, so I forced myself to hold a fast tempo and pass anyone who was in my way- slowing down was not an option.  It almost felt like I was driving a car through slalom cones.  After I made it up the first serious section, I had caught the same team who rejected to help me earlier in the day.  I held their wheel for a few seconds and once I pulled up right next to them, they stared at me as if they expected me to take a pull.  In my head I said "heck no!" and right when they eased off the pedals to force me to lead, I attacked and held the hardest tempo I could hold all the way to the line.  I blew past third and second place and was probably going 5-6 mph faster than the rider who was in first position.  Unfortunately, I was too far back to catch first place before the line, so I ended up with second place.  While I wish I had first place, it was comforting to know that the team who rejected to help me earlier didn't reach the podium.  The prize money I received helped me break even, and the Scholar's Inn Bakehouse Granola was a nice additional prize too!  I'm about halfway through the bag- I've been topping my cereal with some of the granola.  They weren't kidding when they said that it's the best granola in the world!

A week before the Tour of Bloomington, the nipple in my rear wheel snapped, so I almost had to ride my stupidly heavy OEM wheel for the weekend, but luckily my sponsors at Velocity USA and The Wheel Department saved me!  As soon as they received my wheel, they rebuilt it and sent it back to me on the same day!  If they start selling sandwiches, I think they can beat Jimmy John's!  I wouldn't have been able to perform well in the climbs without their help.  Thanks guys!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tour of Bloomington Day 1: Criterium

Day 1: Criterium
Almost DNF to 6th Place

The course was a 0.7 mile, clockwise, 6 corner circuit with a gradual climb out of the final corner, reaching its steepest grade between corners one and two.  The start/finish was located near the intersections of Kirkwood and Lincoln Streets.
The entire course itself was riddled with all sorts of road hazards like potholes, uneven bricks, untapered sidewalks and incomplete pavement.  The most dangerous corner was the final corner.  The apex of the final corner had bricks about a half inch above the pavement which would cause the tire to bounce during hard cornering.  I was just glad that they remembered to at least sweep the corners to remove as much loose dirt as possible.

The 3/4 race I signed up for was 45 minutes long and had about 57 starters.

The First Half: Riding Through a Mechanical
I unfortunately started towards the back of the pack and only gained a few positions before the first corner.  Since someone had planned to attack right away and hold a very fast tempo, so it was almost impossible to move up in position for the first several laps.  As the initial laps progressed, gaps would frequently form.  As soon as the rider in front of me showed some weakness, I had to jump out of the draft and begin my bridge.  While I was still bridging gaps, I encountered a mechanical mishap that I've never experienced with before- my rear shifter seized up forcing me to ride on the 11 tooth ring!

At the moment the shifter seized, the group was still strung out in a single file.  I tried squeezing the brakes and shifting up/down to release the shifter, but it wouldn't budge.  Since I had already wasted time and lost positions, the thought of forfeiting started to go through my mind, especially since I was still in the process of catching the main group.  I ended up chasing for four laps stuck in my 11 tooth ring until I finally bridged every gap up to the main group.  While drafting and trying to catch my breath, I was able to take a closer look at my shifter where I noticed that the internal lever within the shifter had slipped out.  As soon as I fixed my rear shifter, I sat in the group to recover for a few laps- I was flat out exhausted.

The Last Lap: Moving Up
Based on what I noticed from chasing the main group, I learned that the two easiest places to pass were the straightaways located between corners #1-2 and #4-5.  It took everything I had to force myself to accelerate in these planned locations, but it paid off because I managed to move up about 20-25 positions before the final corner, but I still sat about 15 positions before the final corner.  I started my sprint as soon as I exited the corner which allowed me to pass several riders.  I unfortunately missed the "payout" position of fifth place by a tire and rim!  Although I wasn't able to pull off a podium, I was still happy with my result, especially after the mechanical mishap.
The finishing picture, the parallel green lines represent the finish line.
Almost had it!