Sometimes you get lucky!
The weather forecast for today was anything but confidence inspiring but it was dry in the AM so I snuck in a quick ride and then the rain held off in the PM for our race. Nice. To top it off I managed to get in the break at Pacific Raceways and this time (unlike last week) I had company in the form of Nikos M who was very willing to work. Even nicer. Lastly I had lots of teammates at the race! For a change my van was packed and seven of us in the Masters field - holy cow.
As I was getting ready to head out this morning I checked the weather online and it said 60 degrees! That was all I needed to start (for the first time this year?) my ride with no knee or arm warmers. One thin undershirt and a wind vest in my pocket and I was out the door.
I met the usual crowd on the Mercer Island lid including Jim K and Charlie D who are always great to hook up with. Last week the pace was relatively sedate on this ride but this week I had very little confidence that it was going to stay dry (meaning I would not race in the evening) so I decided to go a little harder. I kept the pace high on the first hill and upped the tempo a little each time I got to the front.
As we approached the 'hill' I passed the group and got on the front and pulled into it. Jim came by me strongly on the climb and kept right on going over the top so I had to scramble a bit for wheels and ended up fourth in line breathing pretty darn hard!
I put in one more good pull and then tried to lead out the sprint but a car pulled out right in front of us so we all had to slow way down and opted to roll across the line easy in the interest of safety. Oh well, someday they will finally close Mercer Island to cars. :)
This Time Charlie and one other guy were up for riding back around the island instead of heading straight back so we chatted and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular morning. Charlie told me about a mini vacation he had taken in Glacier National Park and he had gone there on the train! It sounded really, really fun. It has been along time since I took a train any significant distance…
While at work I kept getting calls from teammates who wanted to race tonight and since the weather held it was a big, fat go! This is exactly what I got this massive, ridiculous van for - to carpool to events. I always feel like a total idiot when I end up driving it alone. So in attendance we had Dave H, Greg K, Steve O, Ryan D, Dean J, Gabe T and Jeff D. Fantastic.
ASIDE - I was warming up with Gabe before the start and he still seems pretty intimidated by criteriums/circuit races. I tried to give him some advice but then never saw him during the race itself. It's too bad as he has such incredible enthusiasm for cycling and racing and training but you just can't spoon feed the experience, the light needs to go on for that stuff to stick. And I'm NOT saying Gabe is dumb or anything… [Martin may have just gotten himself into trouble here] I just wish my teammates would not get so intimidated by the pack and ride with confidence.
Other riders of note also in attendance were the wonder twins from Starbucks (Sean P and Mark M), Matt H, Nikos M and Brian G (Garage Racing), Erik O (Cucina Fresca) and Tom H (Old Town Bicycle) who is one of the nicest, smartest and fittest 50+ guys you will ever meet. Today was favorite course down here - down the switchback. I was very much looking forward to this. With this many teammates in the field our only 'plan' was to try and place two riders in each move and to stack any break as much as possible. Go.
Ryan took off 200 m from the start and lasted 3/4 of a lap and then we rode two of the slowest laps I have done here in ages. Perhaps it was a good thing because on lap two I was not concentrating and totally dorked up my line on the descent practically running myself of the road on the first tight corner! :( That got my heart beating quite a bit quicker.
ANOTHER ASIDE - it seems that - to the promoter's chagrin - there is a wreck on this course almost every year. I do not want to be part of that statistic. And it's too bad really as this descent is not that technical. The only problem is people trying to go down at a speed that is too much for them which is what happens when you are in a race and trying to keep up unfortunately. Too bad for me as this statistic prevents the promoter from using this course very often and I love it.
After those three initial laps the pace picked up and the attacks started to fly. I went once, Greg went once, Dean went once, Dave went once, I went again and this time about eight riders came along including Greg, the two from Starbucks and Nikos; I was stoked! This, I thought, was THE move. With all this power how could it not be?
But… like in so many cases half of the break did not commit to the move and the pack chased hard and the result was the back of the break was reeled in by the front of the pack just as we started the climb after being away for just 3/4 of a lap.
I looked back and although the pack was catching us it was also pretty strung out. Knowing that you don't get as much of a draft on the climb and that the pack would (hopefully) be tired from chasing and that you sometimes just need to go again I carried on and went hard on the uphill. Nikos was the only one to come with me and by the top we were away.
I put in a good effort right away to hopefully establish a gap and then we swapped pulls. Small groups are super in terms of smoothness and it was great riding with Nikos. He knew to always pull off to the outside of the corner and to do so before he blew himself up so we kept our pace pretty high for the next two laps to and solidify our advantage.
Then we got the prime bell. I turned to Nikos and told him I had no interest in contesting the sprint and would rather keep working to try and stay away and he agreed. Nice. As it turns out I was in front for the prime.
Primes can either make the bunch speed up if the break appears catchable or slow down if it's obvious that no points or prizes are up for grabs. Lucky for us today was the later. We pushed through this lap and dramatically extended our gap.
From here it was three laps to go. I was a little stronger on the flats but even though Nikos appeared to be tiring some he was always able to ride up next to me on the hill. For the most part I felt pretty good, maybe it was just because I was trying to use the smallest gear possible (53x23) on the hill and still go fast. With about 3/4 of a lap to go I thanked Nikos for his efforts and he reciprocated. He even offered to let me take the win in return for my work in the break. What a classy move. We rode the last hill side-by-side and then I eased ahead for the win. I think Rory M said something like, "What, no sprint?" Thanks you Nikos! Thank you teammates!
That's two good rides here in two weeks. A nice confidence booster.
Ryan also posted a write-up of tonight.
|Body Weight||8:00 AM - 176|
|Breakfast||4:30 AM - cereal|
|Workout Food||ride - water|
race - small bottle with half tablet of Nuun
|Time of Day||ride - 6:30 AM|
race - 7:00 PM
|Weather||race - upper 60s, partly sunny, dry, wind at the start fading towards the end|
|Course||race - counter-clockwise down the 'S' turn|
|Clothing||race - bib shorts, Craft short sleeve undershirt, short sleeve jersey, cap|