Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hard Core Apple Core!

Mixed feelings
by Csaba Kormendy

as I headed to the race.
I arrived expecting a relatively
small turnout vs. Cross Crusade (GOOD)
relatively flat, straight course(BAD).

I arrived with time to scout the course during the C/Clydesdale race. I watched
as the C field was dominated by a lone rider way off the front of the pack.
Some part of my brain took notice and filed that away as my own race later
ended up taking a similar form.

The venue was in line with what I was expecting, flat with some minor/gradual
elevation changes like Kruger Farm, but with apple orchards rather than corn
fields, and more grass than dirt/mud. Besides a single U-turn near the middle
of the course, just about everything else was straightaways and 90 degree turns.
I was expecting I was going to need my big chain ring.

After warming up, I went to hang out at the start line while the course was
opened for a pre-ride right before my race was to start. Comfortable with my
scouting mission, I felt it was more important to get a good front-row starting
position than to pre-ride the course. Shane Sipe joined me on the line and
eventually the rest of our competitors joined us. It was a nice small group
that I learned after the race numbered 22.

At the start, Shane got the hole shot while I fumbled with one of my pedals.
Not sure what happened with the pedal, but it worked out for the best. I
slotted into the pace line that formed up behind Shane in about 4th or 5th
place. I was able to get up to speed with the protection of the pace line and
not start out too hot, blowing up, etc.

About 1/4 of the way
around the course, the pace line has shuffled a bit, but is
still holding together. We're moving at a decent speed, but I'm starting to
feel like I'm sitting in. So, on one of the orchard straightaways, I shift off
the main line of the course to the deeper grass and attack, passing the riders
in front of me to take the lead. A few turns later, I am on the first hard pack
dirt road section and pushing hard. This was the first section that I was
expecting to use my big chain ring on, but I'm not spun out, so I don't bother.
A glance back reveals that my effort has been rewarded with a gap on the pack.

I'd been
in a similar situation once before at Kruger Farm race where I had the
lead for most of the first lap. After getting the lead, I'd gone all out to
establish a gap and then didn't know what to do with it once I had it. I
continued going as hard as I could and didn't recover, started fading and then
couldn't stay with the people that ended up catching me. On this occasion, I
resolved not to repeat the Kruger Farm blowup and started watching my heart rate
display on my handlebars to help manage my effort.

Somewhere in the next orchard section with the sketchy U-turn, a rider caught up
with me. After the race I learned it was a WebCyclery rider named Drew Holmes.
He'd caught me by himself and we still had a gap on the rest of the pack. He
accepted my offer to work together and increase our gap. So it went as we took
turns pulling on the next lap.

From here, the race for me was about riding smooth, watching my heart rate, and
focusing on my breathing. On that second lap, I followed Drew's line through
the sketchy left-hand turn before the barriers. While the line worked for Drew,
it did not for me and my front wheel went out from under me. I popped back up
quickly and but still had to work hard to catch Drew, even though he eased his
pace a bit to let me catch up. We fell into a good rhythm working our way
around the course and very soon it felt like it was just the two of us out

Crossing the finish line with two laps to go, we discovered a solo rider working
hard to catch us. After the race, I learned it was Orthopedic & FX Clinic
rider McPherson Beall. Drew and I picked up our pace and as we crossed the
finish line with one lap to go, I could see that we'd increased our lead
on McPherson. McPherson was not about to give up and caught us by surprise as
we hit the U-turn in the orchards. After a moment or two of panic/confusion,
Drew and I got our wits about us and we accelerated to drop McPherson before he
could recover from what I expect was a huge effort to catch us.

While on the previous lap I'd already been plotting where/how I'd make my move
on Drew, McPherson threw a wrench into that thought process. In hindsight, even
though Drew and I had dropped McPherson, my brain at the time was more worried
about getting me and Drew away from McPherson than it was on paying attention to
how much of the course was left before the finish line. As a result, I pulled
Drew to the last sharp turn, which was a tactical error. Drew carried more
speed through the turn than I did and then was able to accelerate away from me
down the final stretch toward the finish line. I was feeling ok, but I didn't
react quickly enough and have the legs to hammer and catch him after he started
pulling away. Still, my effort was good enough for a solid 2nd place finish...
my first podium in quite some time.

After the race, I learned from Drew that there were a couple of places where he
was barely hanging on to my wheel. He indicated that I could have dropped him
on a couple of occasions. To be honest, I was oblivious to that as I wasn't
really paying attention to him when he was behind me. Lesson learned for next

Thank you Mielle for cheering for me and for the photos! Thank you JB and NickM
for coaching me on my breathing!

1 comment:

Major Greg said...

Congrats on the Podium!