Posts Tagged ‘Time Trial

12
Oct
12

2012 Texas Time Trials – 12 Hour review.

ImageOh kay. Where to begin?

I know it’s been a while, and I know I have a lot to write up and discuss, but the three or four main events in my life this year have left me sort of scrambling around, trying to work, live, love, train, coach, and race. I think I’m doing okay now, but it was a serious summer, nonetheless.

I’m going to start at the end, because while there’s a lot to fill in, and my memory will hopefully remain sharp, a complete writeup that  I did on a significant race in Wisconsin, was erased when it wouldn’t save, and I didn’t have the energy to re-write it. I will, hopefully this weekend, but right now, I’ll focus on an event that was so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding, that it merits my attention.

Two weekends ago, now I guess three, I participated in the 12-Hour Texas Time Trial Challenge, run by veteran Randonneurs Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright. Earlier in the year, I had coached Michelle Beckley on a crazy 384-mile effort through the Hill Country, and she convinced me to try a 12 hour myself way out in Amarillo. Unfortunately, we were literally rained out right before it started, when a flash flood destroyed the State Park where the event was going to be held. This time, though, we weren’t going to let a little rain get in our way.

Michelle and her boyfriend convinced me to sign up for the State 12-hour Championships, held down in Glen Rose. Now, I need to tell you – I am NOT in prime shape right now. I won that race in late June, rode in July a few times, did maybe one rally (the Goatneck), and basically rode and mountain biked while I figured out how best to handle my midlife crisis, my divorce, and my new relationship. But here it was, September already, and  I am about 5 to 7 lbs overweight, I’m maybe riding about 3 to 5 hours a week, and I’m going to compete in the 12-hour Time Trials. Good Lord!!!

I prepped my bike and car with all the wheelsets I could find, brought cold weather and wet weather gear so that I wouldn’t be unprepared, carried lights and reflective vests, etc., brought along my TT bike and aero helmets just in case, and bought a  box of Bonk Breakers and Stinger Waffles so that I could try and stay on top of my calories. Oh, and I brought 16 ounces of Fish Oil concoction, which I’ll explain about later. I arrived late in the day, got my bag and numbers and instructions, and went to the hotel. Dinner was Sonic – 800 Kcals of crap. I went to bed, slept a few hours, and woke up to a steady drizzle. This was NOT the ideal way to break myself in to Ultra-Marathon Racing!!

So, the alarm goes off at 4am, I eat more bad hotel food, along with some egg concoctions left over from last night’s dinner, and get to the parking area, which is wet, muddy, and about 60 degrees. I have no flashlight other than the lights on the bike, which I put in my mouth, which then subsequently heat up and burn my mouth, so I’m stuck using the reflected light from the hotel parking lot. In the process, my numbers get soaked, I don’t drink enough coffee, and I lose track of Michelle and Martin, who is providing us with SAG support. I basically run in to them about 10 minutes before the start, and we agree that every lap, I’ll stop at the tent for 2 minutes, where I’ll drop off my water bottles, take on two new ones, and get three Bonk Breakers or four Waffle Stingers. Then the horn goes off, and we’re off!

Michelle and I ride together for about seven miles before we somehow get split up. My lights are a Dinotte 400L up front, and I’m using some CRAPPY Serfas 30lumen  lights in the rear. I think they may have lasted about 4 hours, while the Dinotte lasted the entire freaking race. But in the dark, it’s impossible to see who has a blue ribbon on their helmet, denoting the 12 hour racers, and I quickly realize that my own blue ribbon has flown off in the rain that just won’t stop falling. We have to squeegee our brakes a lot earlier because of the weather, and while I know the roads out there pretty well, it’s a completely different feeling to ride, in the rain, with limited visibility, in the pitch dark, with about 100 yards of visibility ahead. Seeing the red blinkies ahead of me is helpful, but at about mile 6 I do miss the only left hand turn, and that happens to be the one turn that is most poorly marked and manned by volunteers direction traffic.

When I was a kid, maybe 10, we got our first real PC, an Apple 2 with a cassette tape for a drive. There was one game that we played over and over, and it was a night driving simulation, where you had to keep your ‘car’ between the advancing white dots. The course would twist and turn and as you got faster, you would outrun your ability to predict which direction the event horizon would slide in from , left, right, or straight. At the end, you were given a score and a title based on your time and number of crashes, and I was always called “Parnelli Jones” after a historical race character I knew nothing about. Racing in the dark, in the rain, on a bicycle, on empty roads, was similar. The light would show the county road reflectors in the center and left edge, and the white fog line on the right edge, with some periodic reflectors on the right, along with road signs that stood out rather well. That, and the odd blinkies ahead, were my only companions. It was sort of like racing in space. It was surreal. There was just the sound of the rain hitting my aero helmet, my own breathing,  the tires making their way along the chip-seal, and the odd rider passing me or me passing them. There were minutes and even hours when I spoke or saw no one.

Finally, on lap two or three, the sunrise behind the clouds ended up making roads more distinguishable, and sight lines better, and I ended up picking up some steam, and getting in to a good, solid rhythm. I had a great conversation with one of my earliest coaching mentors, and Ultra-Cycling enthusiast, Paul Skilbeck, about a week before the race, and he made some recommendations on my caloric intake per hour, and my estimated power output intensity. Now, here’s where things get pretty interesting.

Based on  conversation with Paul, I was prepared to hold about 60% of my estimated Threshold Wattage, which I’m still calculating to be about 290w/60min, even though I haven’t been training much at all. Call it empirical assumptions, but my FTP really only changes when I either take time off completely, or train at high volumes. I know where it could go, but the status quo is about 290w, plus or minus 2%. So, to be conservative, and focus on lower Kcal consumption and hold off while ingesting as many Kcals as possible, I looked for a Pnorm of about 175w.

Boy, was I wrong….

The first lap showed a PNorm of 209, or about 70% of FTP. Skiba’s xPower score, which I can’t see on a Garmin, was a 196. I burned about 884 Kilojoules, and the lap time was a 1hr26min effort.  I’ll put all of this in the chart below, along with the Kcals I consumed each lap. It’s pretty revealing!

Lap Time Normalized Power Kilojoules Expended Kilocalories Consumed Bottles of Osmo consumed (120Kcals/bottle)
1:26:11 209w 884 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:23:43 208w 932 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:20:43 218w 927 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:22:43 212w 911 640 (4 Waffle Stingers) 1.5
1:28:41 199w 889 500 (2 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:26:21 198w 887 480 (3 Waffle  Stingers) 1
1:28:18 204w 912 8oz Fish Oil and a 5hr Energy. 1
1:42:00 148w 743 8oz Fish Oil and one Waffle Stinger 1

The result???? Well, I won. I won by over an hour, and I did it averaging .702 IF!!!! Had that last lap been a consistent lap with the other seven, I would have set the record on the course! 211 miles, averaging 18.1 miles per hour, burning 7089 KiloJoules. I think if I had trained somewhat, and done a few 12 hour efforts prior to this, I might have been able to hold that 200w Pnorm or better for that last lap, and maybe kicked it up a bit. But it was the fueling and hydration strategy that really worked to my advantage. For five laps, I was able to eat 750 Kcals per 80 minutes, and drink Osmo at the rate that Osmo inventor Stacy Sims recommends in her chart on their website. I followed her mantra of “Food in the pocket (in this case, it was tucked inside my skinsuit, against my leg, to stay warm and soft), sports drink in the bottle. I was surprised at my higher wattage, but it had to be some combination of the temperature and my own determination to make this as scientific an expedition as I possibly could. It wasn’t until lap five that my food consumption, which I had previously timed at about 3 minutes per bar, began to slow down, and I was eating more slowly, reacting more slowly, and breathing through my nose more. The last bar I ate on Lap 6 ended up taking me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was yo-yoing with a recumbent 12 hour rider who kept me on my toes, feeding the competitor in me.

ImageSome other notes: I think this is the PERFECT race to study aerodynamics. I rode as aero as I dared, while trying to hold on to some safety. Every lap, almost, I ended up switching wheels out, before finally settling on a rear HED disc lenticular wheel in the rear, and an Aeolus D3 50mm up front. I tried my 90mm wheel, but it was too twitchy in the light but gusty winds, and on the areas that were not chip-sealed. In fact, the chip-seal road was the safest part of the course. The area that was not chip-sealed, maybe four miles total out of a 26.2 mile route, was not safe, and I ended up losing time to the recumbent rider on that section, only to gain on him during the ensuing climb. The wheel setup, plus the KED track-style solid helmet, my skinsuit, and the S5, probably made me about 2-4% more efficient, which I’m calculating probably saved me about, oh, idunno, 50-100Kcals per lap? I think it was enough to make a difference, though, because that’s one less Waffle Stinger you need to eat.

Here’s a shocker – I learned to relieve myself, multiple times, while riding. The rain washed it away, but I’m afraid my shoes may never be the same. I intentionally used old shoes for this reason.

I had no cramps whatsoever. I credit this to a ton of magnesium, and the hydration strategy, which I think kept me out of the red zone for cramps. I also, of course, ended up avoiding Vo2 and Anaerobic  Capacity zones, climbing with force and then cruising in the 180’s and 200’s. A snapshot of my wattage chart shows about 9-10 hours of good wattage, followed by a steady drop. Eventually, Paul was correct – I lost my ability to eat. Drinking the fish oil DID work on the seventh lap, but on that last lap, I ended up dealing with a sour stomach and wretching, while not quite puking.

It turns out, I missed the record (set in fair weather), by maybe 5 minutes. Rest assured that had I been able to pull out the TT bike, it would’ve fallen. But those who rode their TT bikes almost inevitably ended riding up on their aero pads, thus negating any benefits. I also know how to eat and what to eat, and I think I’ll actually work and train for this better next year, and will focus on those last three critical hours.

ImageMichelle won her overall 3 race GC, and I need to send a special shout out to her boyfriend, Martin, who was simply awesome. He was prepared every lap, he measured my splits, and counted my food intake precisely. He had wheels ready, and ruined a pair of shoes in the process of standing out in that awful weather for the whole day. I am really grateful for his contribution, and though he’s a non-meat eater, I’m going to buy him some EXPENSIVE wine soon!

That’s it – let me get back to the blog for a recount of June’s race in Wisconsin, and I’ll try to do that this weekend, while I’m away. Lots to report. I’m living the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.”

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04
Mar
12

Mineral Wells Crit 2012

Honestly, there isn’t much to report here. Several years ago, when the Team Points Race out at Mineral Wells had just begun, I ended up riding over 2-3 days in constant, constant, constant rain, almost 9 inches of rain, and I ended up with all sorts of rusty bike parts, a cold, and exhaustion that lasted over a week. I was just young enough to enjoy it, and I did have two or three or four good teammates who made it fun. We won a lot of money, and had a great time relating the experience. Heck, it may be in this blog somewhere.

But this time, well, it rained all the way down to Mineral Wells, I had the dog with me, the course was flooded, it was dangerous in places, and to cap it all off, as I was racing, I was gaining about 8-12lbs in water down in the ‘socks’ I had decided to wear. It totally threw off my balance, it messed up my cadence, like riding with filled galoshes, and with one lap to go I actually pulled myself out of the race.

I keep swearing to myself that I’ll never be so dumb as to race in the rain again, especially now that I’m older, heavier, and my insurance is in question. But I did start, and I was hoping maybe I could get some upgrade points. Instead I just threw away my money. Oh, and they canceled the TT I was going to do later in the day. I went home soaked, though home was about to become a temporary, fast-ending, thing.

14
Jun
10

2%.

A poor head-on shot of my TT position.

The world of Time Trials is really, really complex. In many ways, it’s “The Race of Truth”, but in many ways, it’s also a race of technology. The pursuit of an aerodynamic edge, be it wheels, frames, helmets, or skinsuits, really can mean the difference between hitting the podium, and missing it.

This weekend, I raced an awesome looped course, complete with rolling terrain, different types of pavement, and an increasing wind. It was incredibly fun and challenging, but when the results were posted, I had missed the money by ONE second, and I had missed the win in my category by just about a minute. Let’s play around with some numbers here and there, look at wattage values, and see if we can figure out a way for me to increase my speed and reduce my time, just by using technology.

Over the years, I’ve tried to use technology to influence my positioning on the Time Trial bike, and also to influence my purchasing decisions, so everything tends to be tilted towards that which will produce the lowest amount of drag, while still allowing me to generate adequate power to the pedals. For this event: here’s my equipment list:

  • Aluminum Cervelo P3.
  • Aerobars
  • Oval TT fork
  • Nimble Trispoke up front.
  • Bontrager Aeolus Disc Wheel in rear (2007 model?)
  • TIGHT skinsuit
  • Louis Garneau aero helmet.
  • Pearl Izumi Booties

I opted to not bring a water bottle, though honestly, I should have considered wearing my camelback with a couple of ice cubes inside, but I don’t think my performance suffered from dehydration. I drank adequately prior to the effort, knowing I would lose fluids through perspiration and respiration from the stress and the environmental conditions.

Using Golden Cheetah’s experimental “AeroLab” and also a tried-and-true program from “Analyticcycling.com”, I took a section of road that was smooth and steady in its’ slope, where I knew I was in my aero position as consistently as I could remember, and I tried to determine my Coefficient of Aerodynamics, or CdA.

You try to get the lines to mesh as much as possible.

For the second image, take Frontal Area and multiply it by the Coefficient of Wind Drag. Both numbers come up close to a .265m^2, which is better known as the “HOLE” you cut through the air when you’re in a certain position. Remember, I lost 3rd place by 1 second, and I lost the victory by one minute exactly. The difference then, between 4th, which I got, and first, which we want, is about 1.8%. Thus the title of this post – a 2% improvement in my time would have earned me the win. I may have been able to pedal faster, but honestly, from what I know about aerodynamics, my .265m^2 is probably a little high. I’d like to see if I can lower that CdA down to a .25 or a .24 without losing power, and see what that would achieve.

Here are the results of some Analytic Cycling calculations. Notice the DROP in watts required to travel at the same speed. We’ll go back to my original power average on the last image….

Wattage required at .25m^2

Wattage Required at .24m^2

The savings on watts at the same speed, 10.2 meters per second, goes from 252w to 243w to 237w, or a savings of 3.5% and then 2.4%, or a total of 6% decrease in the amount of power required to hold that speed. So, you’re doing less work, using less energy, to get down the road at the same speed. Now, let’s show the final chart, and reveal just what speed I would have held on that section, had I been able to hold a .24m^2 aero position, and still generate 250w…

250w at a CdA of .24m^2

My speed goes up from 10.2m/sec to 10.44 m/s, or….

2.2%.

Now, this is never a perfect science, but let’s just say that I was able to mostly hold that position, stay at a perfect .24m^2 CdA, and generate 250w, which is about what I pushed on Sunday.

I averaged 25.3 miles per hour, or 11.3 m/s.

a 2% improvement would have yielded an average speed of 25.8mph, or 11.53m/s.

Covering the distance of the TT route, a 2% improvement would have yielded a 55:07, which would have put me 2 seconds out of 2nd place. Raising my power to 252w would have put me down in the 54 minute range, which would have led to a a win in my category.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, as much as I love power, let’s face it – time trials are almost always won by mere seconds. Never let up, push as hard as you can as long as you can, but remember the little stuff that can, and does, make a difference.

Now – if I can just find a way to shed that drag, ever so slightly! Stay tuned!!!

02
May
10

Mineral Wells Stage Race 2010

Well, the helmet kept me warm, at least...

Okay – it’s been a few weeks since the race ended, and honestly, it took about that long and then some for me freakin’ dry out, since it rained the entire weekend out in Palo Pinto County. But honestly, the rain was not a problem. This had to be one of the most fun events I’ve ever done on a bicycle in my 18 years of racing.

The Mineral Wells Stage Race was actually held in and around Graford, Texas, population 570 or so. Palo Pinto county has got to be one of North Texas’ best areas in which to ride a bike, with great roads, wonderful scenery, varied terrain, and proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth. The racing loop is about 24 miles, and the TT was held on the highway between Graford and Mineral Wells itself. The race itself was unique in that it was not just a stage race, but it paid out based on a points system, and emphasized the money on the TEAM results, with the Top 3 riders of each team getting scored from first place down to 25th or something, like a Cross Country running event. This changed the tactics completely, since time didn’t matter – place did.

The Mirage Cycle Club Cat 3’s showed up to win, and Sean Daurelio, Jason Jacobs, and myself felt confident that we could go for individual wins as well as a high placing overall. For the effort and the challenge, we weren’t disappointed.

Andy Hollinger, the Race Promoter and Director, put the Cat 3’s in Center Stage, giving us the first start of the day. Unfortunately, mother nature added to the challenge, as it rained the entire weekend (reports were later confirmed that the county received between 5 and 9 inches of rain in 48 hours, and that all the floodgates at Possum Kingdom Lake had to be opened at some point on the Brazos). Several dozen riders elected not to attend. However, Andy’s payout remained the same, so we took full advantage of that opportunity and raced hard for just over 2 hours, finally earning 8th, 9th, and 10th in the sprint finish. While we didn’t take home individual Palmares, this tight grouping gave us an incredible advantage in the Team event, and after the first stage, we were well on our way to First Place/Team.

The second event, a Time Trial, was just over six miles long, and it had three distinct hills, which removed a lot of the advantages of aerodynamics, and placed more emphasis on strength, especially on the last hill, which was a little over half a mile long and grew to about 6 percent slope. I used some knowledge of the duration of the event, and what my expected power should be, given that it was the second event of the day, and was also mostly done in the aero position, and finished a respectable Top 10, with my teammates once again performing well enough to continue to vault us in to the lead via points for the Team Overall. However, the time spent napping on the floor of the gym in Graford, along with the continued rain and a growing chill, meant that I was getting more fatigued, and I ended up relying on friends in Ft. Worth to bed down for the evening.

Cat 3 Peloton in the Rain

On Sunday, the rain continued unabated, and numerous athletes with Smart Phones were variously playing a game of “Will It or Won’t It” with the predictions of rain cessation or continuation, but we suited up nonetheless and decided to get out there for one more hard ride out on the course. The course itself is epic, with about 650 feet of climbing per lap, and one great hill with a LOOONG false-flat afterward, so there’s no chance of easy recovery. To add to that, the wind was pretty much coming down our throats after the right hand turn at the end of the Big Hill. The rain all weekend led to poor visibility conditions, which made things ripe for a breakaway attempt. However, this time, my own goals were secondary to the teams goals, especially since Shawn Daurelio was sitting in Second Place overall, and we wanted to either preserve his place, or have him challenge for the overall win. To do so would have required that he topple the winner of the previous two stages, though, so the goal was pretty ambitious.

Early on, there was a two-man break with contenders who were no serious threat to the overall, and my own efforts were muted as we kept the group mostly within sight. The moto ref kept signaling gaps of between 2.5 and 3 minutes, which grew and shrank as time went on. But no serious moves were made until the last lap, when teammate Jason Jacobs launched a solo effort early, before the hill, only to get caught about 2/3 of the way up. Then, Shawn Daurelio launched, and two riders went with him. Unfortunately, one of them was 1st place in the GC. Teammate Jacobs and I blocked and foiled numerous efforts to bridge to the pair of 2 and 3 up the road, and in the end, it was enough for us that while Shawn didn’t defeat his rival and take over the GC (in fact, we made a mistake and let one cyclist in the first breakaway steal a spot from him, thus earning him 3rd overall), we did ride strong enough and consistently enough to win the Team GC title by well over half the other team totals!

Unfortunately, as the rain continued, the temperatures finally started to drop, and by the end, my mid-pack finish was brought on by blurred vision, moderate nausea, and a heavy bonk that left my words blurred and my head hard to keep upright. Teeth chattering, I realized that my overnight stay in Ft. Worth had left me unprepared for my post-ride recovery, and furthermore, that my only weatherproof jacket was at my friends’ home. With the energy I had left, I loaded my bike in the car and headed out to Mineral Wells for coffee and a hot meal (Graford, while nice, is too small to support a Burger King or even a 7-11). I received the reports of the finish from my teammates, and drove home satisfied, but ready for a hot shower and bed.

Boulle Climbs the Wall at MWSR 2010

The Mineral Wells Stage Race revealed a part of bike racing that has been completely underserved in recent years, but with it’s growing popularity, ought to be considered by more promoters. Team Racing and a Points Race is the perfect melding of individual effort and team function. Riders can decide on going after the win, and the higher points, or going after the lesser points in greater numbers. It helped that Jason, Shawn and I knew each others’ strengths, had worked together before, and were interested in a common goal. At 40, I also realize that, despite my own goals, the restrictions I face for training, and the fact that, let’s face it, youth eventually DOES outpace wisdom, leaves me accepting my role as a teammate, and not that of a captain. I did that in Copperas Cove in January, and I missed it in several of the other races that occurred in the Spring. Mineral Wells gives everyone on a club or team a chance to participate, engage, and work together towards a common goal. It made the racing that much more fun, and when combined with the challenges of terrain and weather, made for a weekend of racing that I am both proud of, and will never forget.

25
Aug
09

More pics of my TT profile position

Sorry if they’re a little dark. They were shot on my iphone.

TT position from Castroville

TT position from Castroville

Head-on

Head-on

20
Jun
09

Elkhorn Classic, Stage 2, 11.3 mile TT

Ready to Roll

Ready to Roll

Well, I gave it everything I had. I think I’ve got one of the most aero positions possible, with a back that is as flat as can be, and a helmet that merges with it perfectly. Power was down today, though I know that’s a combination of the position, elevation, and fatigue. I never caught my 30-second man, but I kept him close, and he caught his 30-second man, so I have some hope that I didn’t lose time. I was never passed, and at the turnaround, I know I had a large gap. I hope I kept that. Wattage was in the 250’s. The wheels were perfect, and the 55 chainring worked well. Spencer rode a 23:20, and the other two guys were probably faster. This is just something I need to work on. The saddle largely worked. It’s better out on the road than indoors. I’ll tweak it a little bit, but I’m going to have to go out to the Motor Speedway more often.

Crit is at 5:30 local time. It should be dry, so I’m going to go for a top 6 in this one and see if I can garner some upgrade points.

The DeSalvo Team with Mark from Landshark and myself post TT

The DeSalvo Team with Mark from Landshark and myself post TT

14
Apr
09

Ft. Davis 2009 Review – 7th Place GC!

You know, sometimes things fall in to place. Sometimes, the right combination of racing, tactics, and fitness combine to give you a small edge. A small advantage that you can exploit to your fullest. I did it. I put together something I’m proud of. It wasn’t perfect, and I’ll explain why later, but overall, I am extremely content with this weekend’s efforts.

This economic climate has created something really challenging for a lot of people, and a trip out to the “Middle of Nowhere” for a bike race presents true discussions about “wants vs. needs”. As a result, several cyclists opted out of the trip, including the two people with whom I was going to drive. Knowing that a trip out there on my own would be pretty stressful, I sprung for a ticket to Midland/Odessa airport via Southwest Airlines, packed up my two bikes, and rented a minivan for the 2.5 hour drive out to Fort Davis, Texas, and the 2009 Hammerfest.

The race is a 3-stage event, with a 16 mile hill climb, a 16 mile Time Trial, and a 76 mile Road Race, separated out over 2 days. In previous years, I’ve had mixed results here. The stage race is so vexing, because you have to be a strong climber, a good time-trialer, and you have to have the stamina and strength to make it over 4 passes on the road race. All of this is at a minimum of 5000′ of elevation. In 2007, I had a good enough road race to help force a break, and finish 8th on the day, 14th overall. But the next year was a disaster, with a good TT, a bad hillclimb, and a RR start that was so cold that I was unprepared, and I DNF’d. I think one year earlier, in 2006, I suffered from food poisoning. So the remoteness, the altitude, and the terrain make for a serious challenge.

But this year, this was my “A” race. From November through March, I laid out my intervals and plans for just this event. Everything else was loblolly. Sure, I wanted to be strong enough to earn some points and try desperately for that upgrade, but despite my strong finishes, they weren’t strong enough to get the points needed, 25 in a 12-month rolling year. My results so far had been maybe 1 point. Geez. But back to the training. I used a combination of TrainingPeaks WKO+ and their TSB chart, as well as Philip Skiba’s RaceDay Form predictor, to come up with a combination of volume and intensity that would be right for me. The race requires a LOT of 4-6 minute Vo2 efforts, but it also requires a good bit of stamina for the TT, especially the outbound leg, which I’ll describe later.

Looking back, I think there were a couple of things that I could have done to better prepare, though, again, some of these things are hamstrung by time commitments, coaching, work, and weather. As a result, I was only getting maybe 7 hours a week in on average, about 60% of that on the CompuTrainer. The form predictors all pointed towards weeks T-9 to T-3 (18 days) as being the weeks where I really needed to pump up the overall volume, and sadly, besides racing and maybe one or two rallies, I didn’t get to do that. However, following my 20MMP as the predictor, my taper was just about perfect, and right before I left, I did a 20-minute Threshold test, throwing out a 305 at 66.9kg, my highest form for the year. I got a good couple of nights of rest, made sure I was hydrated, took all my supplements, and showed up in the frontier town completely rested and confident in my ability to perform as necessary.

A few anecdotes about the trip…

  • The minivan was a Toyota, with fold-down seats. It was PERFECT for the bike box, and it got pretty good gas mileage.
  • Since 2006, when I got food poisoning, I’ve been religious about buying frozen food at the local grocery store. That, a microwave and a mini-fridge, made things survivable. I think there are maybe 5 restaurants in town, anyway.
  • There was no coffee maker in the hotel room. Geez!
  • There was no TV in the hotel room – I started and finished two books in my ‘off’ time.

In recent years, the stage race has been run in this order: Time Trial, then Hill Climb, then Road Race the next day. This year, however, the race was switched around a bit, with the Hill Climb in the morning, and the Time Trial held in the afternoon on Saturday. I personally like this setup, since you can do the Hill Climb when it’s cooler, and the Time Trial is more greatly affected by the afternoon breeze. Well, it was hardly a breeze – more like a gale force wind, but more on that later.

There were 38 starters on the Hill Climb, and surprisingly, this time, there were no efforts at a breakaway. Everyone knew that it would be a risk, but usually, some riders will take the chance that they can break away and get up the hill ahead of everyone else. But that was an afternoon trick, and this year, no one was up for it. We  made it over the first of the three major ascents as a pack, but it’s always the second climb that separates the men from the boys. In September of last year, I’d finished second in this competition, at the CycleFest, and I was determined to NOT lose contact with the leaders or the pack this year. And sure enough – for a good chunk of the 7 minutes we were climbing, I was in the front 8. I did have one small performance hiccup right at the top, and I lost contact with the leaders, but it was no more than 100 feet, and surprisingly, at the top of the second hill, everyone slowed, and I was able to rejoin. We made the steady ascent to the “Lower” parking lot of the McDonald Observatory, in a group of maybe 15, maybe 12. But with half a mile to go, we approached “The Monster” 12-19% grade climb, as a pack.

dsc_45851

After that, it became a fight for survival. One by one, the stronger riders separated themselves from the pack, and with about 500 meters to go, I was in maybe 12th place. Finishers were already up at the top, but I was in a group of maybe four, all people that I knew. But with about 100 meters to the finish, the slope changed and became a bit easier, and by golly, I ended up with a Top 10 finish, just 50 odd seconds out of first. I couldn’t believe it. I’d basically passed my first test of Ft. Davis!!

At the finish line on Stage 1's Hillclimb

At the finish line on Stage 1's Hillclimb

We stayed at the top for a while to let our legs and lungs recover, and to discuss things, tactics, strategies, other riders, etc. The day  was beautiful and the winds hadn’t yet picked up, and while it was cool, it wasn’t cold, and the sun on the back side of the observatory was warming us up. We made the descent as a group, and I rode back in to town with David Orteaga, the young rider from Duncanville who has impressed us all with his performance all year.  I headed back to the room, peeled off my jersey, took a shower, and rested up to prepare for the afternoon TT.

Now here’s where it gets good.

I woke up around noon to the sound of wind howling around the building. On Friday, I had driven out to the TT course and had ridden with two different types of front wheels, to make sure that I would be fast, but also be able to keep the bike under control. As much as I love the Nimble Crosswind (the name says it all), I opted to go with the Aeolus 6.5’s, simply because it felt like I had more control. But that was on Friday, when the winds were coming out of a slightly more southerly direction, which made it a crosswind on the outbound leg. On Saturday, before the race, I checked Weather Underground, and the report made me shudder. SUSTAINED winds at 35mph, at 252 degrees on the compass needle. Checking the road’s direction via Google Earth, the road ended up pointing at, guess what, 252 degrees. So I was going to be racing a 1% grade uphill 9-mile out leg in a 35kt headwind.

I took a look at Hed Cycling’s site, since they have a pretty good set of pages that describe the forces on the rider in different given headwind/crosswind conditions, and with the wind roaring right down my throat, apparent wind speeds were something like 50-60 mph. So I decided to stay with the Aeolus, and try to keep my body as small as possible in the frontal surface area department.

Around 3 o’clock, maybe just after, I clipped in, got my hold, and took off. The P3 I time trial with is an aluminum version, and it has an Ergomo power meter plugged in to it, and I’ve calibrated it pretty well, so I think the data on it is sound. Last year, I’d had a good TT, but there are a few things to consider when looking at pacing a TT. The first is that your position alone will drop your Functional Threshold by about 10% if you’re not used to it. Secondly, at altitude, you can expect your FT to drop another 5-8%. So that 304w/20 yields a 289w Threshold – at sea level. Drop that by 10% for the TT position, and you get a 260. Drop it by another 7%, and you come up with a 241. So I SHOULD have known that I could theoretically hold 240-245w for 60 minutes in the aero tuck position, and maybe a 250w-255w for 20 minutes.

It didn’t quite turn out that way. I misled myself in to thinking that I was going to be the wattage-pacing king, and my first 4 minutes I was averaging a 268. It went down hill, even while pedaling uphill, all the way.

Uh, it's certainly not supposed to look like THAT!

Uh, it's certainly not supposed to look like THAT!

Wattage dropped, speed dropped, cadence dropped, ambition dropped. I got dropped (passed) by my 30 and 60 second men, and my outbound leg average speed was, kaboom! 14mph! Wow. OUCH. The crazy part was, on the way back, Everyone spun out their gears at 120 and 140rpm, hitting 45-50mph. One guy had a big old honking 58-tooth gear, and he spun out at 58mph! WOW!

This HAD to be on a return leg, because I'm in the big chainring!

This HAD to be on a return leg, because I'm in the big chainring!

I crawled back in to my hotel room, sore and dejected. CURSE THIS STAGE RACE! YOU CRUEL ELEMENTS! It took another shower, some stretching, some lotion in the saddle area, a meal and actually some beer to move on and start thinking about Sunday morning. Late that night, around 10pm, I gathered at the results sheet in front of the Limpia Hotel, sure that I was out of the running. Surprisingly, however, I was still in 10th place in the GC! I’d only lost one position! Wow! I still have a chance at this thing!

Then I remembered – the wind was there for EVERYONE. That’s why they call it the “Race of Truth”. Some people had jumped ahead, others had fallen behind, but overall, we’d suffered equally, and because I had not given up, I was still in the running. THAT was a relief! I went to bed knowing that I could certainly pull off a strong finish tomorrow, and take something home in the overall.

Interestingly, the Cat 3’s were the last to go off on Sunday morning, so we had a few more minutes to sleep in, get some breakfast, warm up, and, well, warm up. It was pretty cold! Around 9 o’clock, I was still shivering, so I went up to a lady and asked her if she had any tape. When she said yes, I had her duct tape my arm warmers to my jersey. I was NOT going to let them drop down on me!

Before the race, I’d spoken with several friendly competitors whom I admire, and since I had no teammates on the roster, I made some side deals to see if we could make something work. I was in it to preserve and possibly improve upon my final standings. I still harbored some hope that I could actually score some upgrade points. But I also wanted to help them out. One erstwhile buddy mentioned that he was going to go on an early break, and that there was one team we needed to watch out for. Sure enough, he went, and took one of those riders with him, but myself and a couple of other cyclists worked together on the outbound leg, and somewhere around 40 minutes in to the race, we merged with those two, and formed a break of about 10, and BAM, we were gone.

Some of the usual suspects were left behind, while others were in the break. There were teammates who were blocking and trying to bring us back in to the fold, but the horsepower was still present, and we winnowed it down to 7 riders as we climbed the first true obstacle, “Bear Mountain”. After that, it was like needlework. We pushed, pulled, worked together, and made gains on the pack, as we climbed and descended our way out the back road to the Observatory. It was beautiful. It was fun. But about 500m from the last feed zone, it became momentarily tragic for me.

I’m known for my solid pulls, my communications skills, and my ability to hold strong tempo, and hopefully, I’m known for holding my own on the climbs. However, today, on the second-to-last climb, which is a particularly steep 5.4% grade, lasting just about a mile, I lost contact with the lead. They just…. waltzed away. I pedaled as hard as I could, but by the time we’d gotten to the feed, they were about a minute ahead of me. And once you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. I unconsciously backed off to set my own pace, and dithered a bit at the feed, trying to take the time to consume about 400 calories, and not remembering if I had water in my water bottle, or sports drink. Looking back, I should have had an extra 400 calories at breakfast, and an extra 400 calories earlier in the race, but once again, you live and you learn, and bingo, if you run out of fuel, even just temporarily, it’ll doom you.

Google Earth image of the final climb at Ft. Davis.

Google Earth image of the final climb at Ft. Davis.

One of the guys later said that if he’d known I was off the back, he would’ve told everyone to slow down and wait for me, but by the time he figured it out, it was too late. I appreciate that. I know I did my share of the work, maybe more, to set the break and hold the pace high, and shell some of the other riders in the break, but I didn’t know how much it meant to the others who were there, at least some of them.

Refreshed with calories, but alone, I made the final climb up to the Observatory, descended as absolutely fast as I felt I safely could, and finished in 7th overall, several minutes back of the lead 6. David Orteaga won the race – on my borrowed Nimble Crosswind! But still, I’m not disappointed. I proved that I could hold my own in a Cat 3 race, and finish strong, if not at the top, well, darned near it.

Rolling across the tape after 73 miles.

First and Second in the race moved on to Cat 2 status after the event. So did 9th and some other finishers. They’d had enough. They earned their positions, and were going where their talent and determination had taken them. Me? I’m about 22 points shy of that, and there are no real big stage races or climbing events in my future for the rest of the year. Ft. Davis beckons again next year, but if not as a ‘2’, then possibly as a 40+, though I’m not ready to call it just yet. I know that I came up just short, but I also know where I stand, where my strengths and weaknesses are, and where I need to go to improve upon this year’s result. Physically and physiologically, I know I can get there. Between the ears, however… that’s going to take more practice.

Thanks for reading – I’ll try to update you on the Lancaster Rally sooner than 10 days out from the event passing.




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