Castroville Alsatian Classic, TT and Crit reviews

You know, sometimes you wonder why you beat your head against a wall. I think the Spartans had a term called “F***ing the Tree”, where their warriors-in-training would be punished by pushing against a tree in some vain effort to make it yield. Later, if the effort was not considered adequate, entire teams would be employed to basically crush each other in some fraternal display of homoerotic love as they lined up, chin to back, and pushed until the tree fell over, the young men next to the tree were crushed to death, or the leaders called a halt to the display, either feeling that the young men had learned their lessons, or the future of Sparta was at stake for lack of a continuing bloodline.

That’s how this sport feels sometimes. We certainly court a cruel mistress who demands much, and returns few extrinsic rewards. Yet we return to the tree… and push with all our might.

Ben and I awoke at a regular hour, had breakfast, and headed out to Castroville, rested, fed, watered, and ready for the day’s events. Katie had left at 5am to do her early events, and we got a report from her that the Time Trial was an out-with-the-wind, back-in-to-the-wind affair, complete with an ascent of a couple hundred feet. Warmup went well, the bike was set up as aero as possible, and I elected, based on some research I’d done on the HED website, to go with the Aeolus disc wheel, and my Nimble trispoke up front. I looked aero, I felt aero, and I felt pretty strong, so I was hoping for a strong placing in the 10 mile event.

When you transition from a more upright position on a road bike, to an aero position, a rule of thumb is to subtract maybe 10% from your threshold power. I figured a 261, and wanted to try and get as close to 265-270w Pnorm as possible. Well, I nailed that, averaging a 267 Pnorm over 23:45, but it wasn’t nearly strong enough, or fast enough, for a strong placing. Winning time was over 2 minutes faster, and while I passed 3 cyclists, I got passed by my 30 second man. Looking at my results, it’s clear that I paced this completely wrong… I went out too hot, even in the descending tailwind, and on my way back, while I did have a strong 10 minutes, it wasn’t where it should’ve been. Peak 20 was the first 20, not the last 20. Peak 10 was the 10 after the turnaround, but most of that is attributable to the climb out after the TT. Peak 5, 2,  and 1 were again, right after the turnaround… So, I basically lost power on the return leg, and my chart shows it, below. Perhaps a better strategy would’ve been to keep the HR and wattage down on the out bound leg, leg the wind help, and then turned it in to a 2-part TT, doing everything to let the legs grow my PNorm over the course of the 5 miles (8k) back.

Descending Watts

Descending Watts

This is one of the advantages of the Ergomo, despite its’ other limitations due to quality control and weight, and complexity. No one else does Pnorm, and if we can ever get the code, it’d be nice throw in Skiba’s calculations as well. But you live and you learn, and you don’t worry about it much, because it’s still early in the season, and honestly, I haven’t ridden the TT bike as much as I’ve wanted to or should. I’ll make a sincere effort to pull it out every Tuesday and Thursday, and at least ride tempo. My forearms still get numb, and I’m beginning to question my entire fit process for the thing. However, I still need to give this thing time and learn to adapt.

The results were equivocal – 18th place, and zero points towards the Omnium. I’ll comment about Omniums later, but it’d be nice if they required 2 of 3 or even 3 of 3 finishes or starts to score the overall. As it was, well, after three races, I earned maybe 1 point (it said 5, but I don’t know where it came from, other than the road race), and like the allegory above, it was sort of like “F***ing the tree”. You get nowhere.

Katie was done with both her TT and Crit by the time we finished our “ContraTiempo”, so we met up with her, ate lunch, and scouted out the crit course. We didn’t go off until at least 3:30 in the afternoon. Plenty of time to recover, and relax. I watched some of “Iron Man”, changed out my wheels to the Shimano Tubeless (the course was rough and narrow, so I needed as much contact patch and cornering capabilities as possible), and we actually scouted out the final miles of the road race course we’d be doing on Sunday.

For the Crit, we had over 45 racers, on a .8 mile course. There were two 90-degree turns, one a little dusty, the other patched with asphalt and pretty rough. The final turn before the last 200m, was a bit of a hairpin, which was also a little sketchy on the outside. More than once, even with the tires at 90psi, I slid out or rear-wheel-hopped and put myself at risk of a perpendicular ride, both in terms of direction and vertical position.

I need to interject and talk about some stuff that we learned over the course of the ride. There’s a new rider in the 3’s, a really young, talented, fit Spaniard who moved to the N. Texas area last year or maybe two years ago. David was a professional rollerblader who fell in love with cycling, and caught the bug. However, he doesn’t know the boundaries of his bike. He’s used to the small area around his blades and body, not around the 1 meter + that is a bike, plus shoulders. So his lateral moves to either get out of the way or to launch an attack were more sudden than most riders are used to, and while not unsafe, were risky, especially in the “Gruppo Compacto”. He got some verbal warnings, and honestly, he’s a great kid, but there were some warnings and pushing that only made the situation worse. I tried to talk to him in Spanish, and he understood, but it sort of soured people a bit. More on him later. Call him my latest WIP.

Remember – part of my agenda for these past few weeks and weekends has been to race my brains out, race hard, and not necessarily consider the extrinsic results, in the hope that I’ll be as fit as possible for the April Ft. Davis race, and maybe later. But when you’re in the moment, you not only want to race, you also want to win. You get sick of being an “also-ran”. So I raced, and I raced my brains out. I took pulls, I took moderate flyers (still need to work hard on my escapes and attacks and repeat attacks, and my pulls through the corners when I was in the lead were strong and consistent. We shelled over 20 riders. But in the end, when it really counted, I got swallowed like Jonah by the Whale, and ended up 16th to a bunch of nobodies who did ZERO work the entire time. Instead of a big red “S” on my jersey that made me feel like Superman, I was silently labeling myself “Sucker”.

I don’t HAVE a sprint. I don’t HAVE 10 more years. I raced well, I raced hard, I probably didn’t race smart, but again, when you get in there, and the adrenalin is rushing, you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, this time will be the time that you break through, that you leave the others beyond your wake, that you can and you will have no one ahead of you when you cross that finish line. So you work. And you push, and you pedal, and you bump, and you dig in to the corners, and you dig in to your soul, and you work with people, and you forge alliances, but every single time that you think you’re going to pull it off, fate intervenes, in terms of another rider speeding up, one slowing down, your heart rate going through the roof of your skull, your lungs bursting as they try to vainly purge the Co2 from your acidic system, and you end up…. 16th.

God only knows I can’t pursue a Cat 2 upgrade on merit. Slaps on the back and “attaboys” won’t get you scoreboard. Harvey Keitel said in “Thelma and Louise”… “Skill will only take you so far, and luck always runs out.” My skills are there, my fitness is there, but I haven’t created my own luck. Still, it was a hard race, and the moment was pretty fun, but I did pitch a small fit about half an hour afterward, when I realized that, once again, I had zero points to show for my effort. Upgrade remains elusive. But I won’t quit trying, and I know that the fitness is there. More on that in Part 3.


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