Friday, June 18, 2010

Banff Bike Fest - Updated

Thursday (PM) - Surprise Corner Prologue (Hill Climb) - details

Forecast: Periods of rain. Amount 5 to 10 mm. Snow level 2200 metres rising to 2700 metres this afternoon. High 13.
Yeesh, this should be interesting...
Well, no snow, but did rain all day, in fact all week, so I only rode in Monday. Less than ideal, but that's how it goes.

No matter how well you go over preparations in your mind, it doesn't take much to completely derail your plans on race day.

The Plan:
  1. Rent a car to drive to/from Banff Thursday night, picking me up at home at 8:00.
  2. Borrow sweet wheelset from Scott on Thursday.
  3. Borrow Scott's bike trainer for a thorough, and consistent warm-up, combined with a pre-ride of the hill to both learn the course, and elevate the heart rate.
  4. Leave my office at 1:45, arrive in Banff by 3:30, leaving 40 minutes to warmup and register before my race start at 4:10:30 pm.
How it actually unfolded:
  1. My car rental pickup was 2 hours late in the morning, halfway to the rental place I realized I forgot my wallet, and at the rental shop they "upgraded" me to another car, so I had to swap the bike rack to the next car.
  2. Due to starting work so late, I had very limited time at the office to remove my cassette from my wheel and place it on a sweet, ultra-light Mavic Ksyrium set on loan from Scott.
  3. Left my office 15 minutes behind my planned time.
  4. Once in Banff, spent 10 minutes driving around trying to find the start line/registration/parking. It was not obvious, so I parked "close".
  5. After installing my new wheels, and inflating them, and getting dressed, I realize I have no time to use the trainer, and should probably make sure I find the registration table.
  6. Biked to the table, which ended up being only a block away. There they start panicking that I'm about to start, and should hurry and sign here, initial there, sign here, and oh, by the way, the license plate/numbers are not the same as the ABA numbers I got last race, BBF has their own set, so remove the pinned number from my back and replace with the new one. Find Darcy who kindly pins me up, and I end up pinning up someone else who's pins have come out.
  7. Quick bio break; rushed, but sufficient. Nutritional intake plan was flawless.
  8. Name is called for bike weighing, and standby for start.
  9. Looking at the first 500m, it's flat, if not downhill a bit. I realize that my plan of staying in my small ring is not going to work. I gear up and hammer it. Some odd rattling going on in the rear derailleur though... don't like it.
  10. Surprise corner. Aptly named. I round the bend and shift to my small ring. I said, shift to my SMALL ring... argh. It doesn't go. I shift back up to eliminate dreadful grinding noise.
  11. 20 seconds later, while ascending, I try again. This time it pops down! Phew. Just in time for the real hill. I get my gearing right and push up the hill. Not 100% power though because I still feel the RD wobbling.
  12. I crest the summit, but do not realize it. There are a few people watching about 50m away, then I realize they are standing at the finish line. I sprint the last section, probably faster than anyone else there, as I had been holding back on the hill, not anticipating the finish.
Finished the race in about 3 1/2 minutes, which I KNOW I could've done better, under different circumstances.
I did really feel the lightness of the wheels though as the climbing itself was "almost" easy. No idea how the field did, I suspect Darcy did it in about 3 flat, and others within 30 seconds of that.
Missed opportunity, as there were several DNS's, making the field size relatively small, and some older and some bigger guys that I'm sure I could've beaten.
Oh well. Off to Banff again this afternoon for tomorrow's two races!

Wish me luck!! (apparently I could use some!)

Saturday (AM) - Individual Time Trial - details

Well, the best thing that you can hope for after a bad race is a short time to wait for the next one. Well, I guess you could hope for 11 disqualifications (found out that I came in 12th - doesn't sound bad, but there were only 16 riders that started in my cat) for doping or something, but either way, less than 48 hours after my dissappointing Prologue, I was completely fired up and in desperate need of some personal vengeance.

Despite a sleepless night (kids were too excited about their "sleepover with daddy!"), and several last minute equipment adjustments, I was fired up to redeem myself.
I began the 21km ITT from Banff Ave, up to and looping around Lake Minnewanka at 8:12, about 24th to start (30 second gaps.)
I suspected a speed of 40 kmph would be required to win a cat 5 TT, and although I had no delusions of grandeur, I wanted to keep my speed as close to that as possible.
Out of the gate, there was a slight breeze from behind, and I managed to average about 43 for the first 3 or 4 km, until I got to the first set of hills.
By the 2nd or 3rd hill I noticed my heart rate around the mid 180s, much to high to endure, and was having trouble catching my breath. I had to settle it down a bit on a small descent, but then saw my 30 second man in front of me, so sucked it up and pressed on, this time staying cognizant of my HR, ensuring it not get much higher than 175.
I neared the crest and midway point of the race as my 1 minute behind me guy passed me. I recognized him as the winner of the Prologue (Justin Warsylewicz - Bicisport), and figured, if this guy only beats me by one minute, I'll be in good shape. I also discovered something very encouraging; he was riding a regular (albeit full carbon + top of the line components) road bike. No TT bike, aero helmet, skin suit. Not even aerobars! Sure, he was only 17 or 18, but still...! There is hope for me.
Anyway, with Scott and his family hootin' and hollerin' at the top I pushed hard on the descents and kept Justin in sight.
I pushed hard, with no intention of preserving anything for the next race.

Across the finish line in 34:12, out of breath, legs pulsating, I felt that sought-after sensation, of needing to puke! Yes... never managed to get that during the hill climb! I had achieved one of my goals for the weekend!
My other goal was to break my previous speed of 34 kmph in Austin.
I finished with a final speed of 36.8, for which I was elated. Considering how hilly the course was, I was very happy, regardless of where I ended up in the standings.

Going back to the Speed Theory tent, I heard Chris Hooper say he finshed in about 31 minutes, and other guys mentioning they did it in 32 minutes, I suddenly figured, ok, that's just from our team, and I'm already about 4 back.
Turns out that Hooper won the event, Bicisport Justin came in 2nd, 6, 8, and 9 were other teammates, and I came in 10th!
Well, when Scott told me that I was ecstatic.
Considering how many riders were in this event (44 on start list, not sure how many DNS'd), I was thrilled to have achieved my first ever ABA top 10 finish.

Saturday (PM) - Lezyne Criterium - details

Well, having not slept, combined with all out effort in the morning's ITT, I was getting nervous about the evening's criterium.
Met up with Scott's family for breakfast, followed by some Banff town strolling, and a ride up to Lake Minnewanka, to show Bev & the kids the course. Saw tons of Mountain Goats, had lunch at the lake, and my nervousness increased as the clouds rolled in and it began to rain.
By 3pm it was pouring hard, but it magically stopped at 4:30. I managed to warmup outside the ST tent, and took off arm & leg warmers as the sun came out again. The roads were still all wet, but at least they were in the process of drying up.

After a solid 30 minute warmup, I rolled out to the parcours. Very cool how the streets are all fenced off, with hundreds of spectators lining up the fences!
Got in a couple of laps to test out the corners, look for potholes, etc, and then went to line up. Well, my timing wasn't perfect as I got to the start line at the back of the ~30 man pack. My number was not on properly, so I couldn't advance and thankfully my teammate Rob fixed the number. Then I found out there would be no neutral lap, and I was all the way on the left (first turn is the 180 hairpin turn left, so I didn't want to be on the inside).
With local celebrity Gord Gilles MCing the race and another racing expert calling the out the play-by-play on the loud speakers, the race began, the lead motorcycle revved and we all took off.
Decent pace to the wet u-turn, as 30 amateurs cautiously maneuvered through the bend, and then it was race on!
The pack was lead by a large contingent of Bicisport riders, and they took off in fine form. Between me and them were 10 or 15 decent riders, but they could not keep up with the Bici-train, so gaps opened up immediately.
I dodged and weaved for the next 2 or 3 laps, sprinting on the "long" straight stretch, before the hairpin, and found myself about half a block behind the bici-train (there were others in there, including Eric Johnstone, winner of Pigeon Lake, and one other teammate, Hooper.)
I was gaining on the lead group of about 10; every time going into the hairpin they would be closer, until about 5 or 6 laps later when I just couldn't maintain that pace anymore.
Luckily, my teammates showed up behind me, and I pulled in behind them for a few laps of "rest".
The pace settled in a bit at that point, as we were not gaining nor losing time on the lead pack, which was starting to drop people off the back.
I soon realized there were only 2 packs remaining now, with about 7 or 8 up front, and the same in my pack.
I was always 1st or 2nd in my group and didn't know how many were still with me. Witnessed (and in a couple occasions dodged) some minor crashes but was never in a uncomfortable predicament.
I did notice that very often during that hairpin, I would begin to pedal before being completely upright, causing my pedal to smack the pavement, causing my bike to "skip", which looked more uncontrolled than it felt.
Nearing the final few laps, I jostled with a couple other riders and managed to pass a few before the final turn.
I crossed the finish-line in 8th place overall, exhausted, but very content.
My first ever top-8 ABA finish! (yes, I intend to say that everytime!)
Looking at the results, I can see how many good riders got lapped (and thus eliminated), so I'm very happy with that placing.

Got to watch some of the Invited Men racing later that evening, and WOW are they ever fast!! Get a sense of the smoke monster from LOST flying by, as 80-100 cyclists buzz past, tightly maneuvering those corners in a giant mass of precision and intensity.

Final Thoughts
  • Be sure to allow enough time for check-in, numbering and thorough warmup.
  • Be more thorough with equipment check. Reliant on note above.
  • Continue to add high intensity workouts to my routine. Previous week's hill and sprint intervals definitely aided my performance this weekend.
  • Get me some wheels like Scotts (Mavic Ksyriums) and a trainer!
  • No more excuses about equipment (other than wheels and a trainer of course)!
  • Start-line positioning is utmost importance, especially in a crit. Less important in a TT.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pigeon Lake RR

Well, TomK pretty much summarized the race for everyone on the ST Blogspot, but here goes a little personal perspective.

As stated, much of the race consisted of extremely tight quarters, elbow rubbing, plenty of "whoahs", and a bit of cycling.
I wanted, as everyone did, to stay as close to the front for when the breakaway attack was going to happen.
The problem was that there were no consistent, repeated attacks.
The surges were distanced enough for the majority of the peloton to regroup and recover.
On the southbound stretch of the Sundance loop I found myself barrelling along the left edge of the group all the way to the front, where I figured I would test the old legs out a bit. I gunned off the front, Mike on my tail, "you going for it?"
"No" was the answer, and it came in the form of me realizing how nice it had been, staying sheltered from a significant headwind, and subsequently backing off. Within minutes, I was all the way at the back again!
Interestingly, I tried the same thing at the exact same place the 2nd time around that loop, but this time with a little more gusto.
Mike, again, was on my tail hollerin' something. Could've been something like, "with ya", or, "idyat"...
Anyway, this time we literally propelled past the pack... but there was that friggin wind again!
And instead of a small, ambitious group of wanna-be heroes, it was 40 not-wanna-let-anyone-get-away party poopers.
Anyway, like last time, I ended up and the very back again within minutes as the surges on both left and right continually engulfed the middle of the pack.
I had to stay near the top third. I realized that no breakaway was going to succeed, and I knew I had easily enough gas left in the tank to keep up with any surges, but that probably most people did.
I knew the finish line was at the crest of a slight hill, and I didn't wanna end up behind someone struggling on the ascent, so I began to claw my way up.
At about 7km from the finish, Mike initiated a couple of attacks that were both reeled in, but caused minor havoc in the group, with people stepping up to accelerate. I heard an ear-shattering clash of carbon and aluminum smashing on the ground not far behind me as several riders went down, including, that I know of, one cranky and one really tall guy, whom I was told was a favorite to watch for in this race.
That put even more tension on the already jittery group, and by the time we rounded the corner and saw the 1000m sign, I found myself surprised that the pace was not faster. I began to speed up, cautiously, being careful to a) not repeat that horrific scene minutes earlier, and b) not burn my last match too soon.
I passed Mike around this point, and several others until I saw the 400m sign and then went all out.
I caught a couple other guys, and ended up finishing a hair behind another ST rider, somewhere around 15th (I think?)

The race was won by this kid from Synergy, couldn't have been more than 18, 5 foot nothing.
Very interesting experience, no less.
I guess what I could've done better is time my advancement to the front  to be in a better position for the final sprint.
The limiting factor was the large number of bodies in front of me that I could not get around on time.