October 17, 2012
On the Sunday morning, towards the end, I met this chap.
He turned out to be a young Frenchman and a very nice guy. He rode with me from Kincardine back to Queensferry. I was happy to have the company and he was a real help for a tired old cyclist.
During that time we talked about how his childhood passion was always to be a pro bike racer. He talked about how hard he had worked towards that dream. And he told me of the bitter disappointment of being told, as he was negotiating his first job on a pro team, that he would have to use PEDs.
He may look happy in this photo but he was emotional as he told the story. It is really very sad, tragic almost, that a child and then youth should follow his dream, working very hard and with great discipline to achieve it, only to discover when he arrives that he doesn’t want it any more because it involves a sacrifice he is unwilling to make.
So he moved to Scotland to be with his Scottish girlfriend and rides his bike as an amateur.
Now we know that two men, Lance Armstrong and Hein Verbruggen, were responsible for this. Armstrong could have chosen to race clean in 1999 and Verbruggen could have chosen not to cover up Armstrong’s doping. Those personal choices were decisive. From then on for the next 7 years Armstrong was the lead for doping in his team and of the code of silence throughout the peloton while Verbruggen co-ordinated the cover-ups from the regulatory side of things.
Clearly a lot of other people were complicit in the cheating, lies, deception and bullying. But, to me, these two men stand out because they were in fact in a position to change everything while almost no other individual was. When I think about all the young cyclists, like the one pictured here, who have faced the same choice as a result of what Armstrong and Verbruggen chose to do, (not to mention all the other harm done) I am very sad and angry.
We started with 30, the biggest field of the day. 20 km, 60 laps, 10 sprints. Kurt and I looked at the start list before the race and agreed that my objective should be to finish on-lap. These are the best racers in the country and it’s a big country with former national champions, olympians, world champions, etc.
The race was interrupted by rain right after the half-way sprint so, like (foreign) football, it was a game of two halves. In the first my biggest obstacle was confidence, I was fighting the thought that I shouldn’t be here, that I wasn’t up to it and didn’t belong: a try-hard wannabe play-pretending among seriously good athletes. But I kept with the bunch, riding on the back a lot.
In the second half I felt much better. I felt well within my physical limits although the pace was faster (31.0mph average versus 29.6) and didn’t let up. I could see I was stronger than several others, having to move up to make sure I didn’t get stuck behind other riders’ gaps. There were 6 DNFs, more than any other race. I really enjoyed it. I felt in control and capable. I didn’t attempt to get any points but in the end I should have ridden hard for the last two laps to get higher up the order of finish of the 8 no-point finishers, I didn’t think of it at the time and just slowed down like the others did on the last lap.
So while I was annoyed by the rain interruption, specifically I was looking forward to my beer during the first half and it was delayed, it worked out for me. I now have some objective evidence that boosts confidence: I raced the points race at the masters national level and I wasn’t out of my depth; peloton padding, maybe, but able to stay with it when others were not. And I wasn’t just hanging on because I would not have finished on lap—when the peloton is shattered by the speed it’s too dangerous to just hang on.
It gives me a baseline to work from, and one that I can have some faith in.
May 9, 2011
I never raced Kissena before but friends convinced me that opening weekend at Kissena is loads of fun and worth the trip down from Boston. It’s true. It’s really quite a production and a scene, with canopies up on the infield, rollers lined out on the apron, officials everywhere and large number of racers, many of whom are very good.
I registered for both the Cat 4 and Masters 40+ omniums. My goal was upgrade points so Cat 4 was my priority. The omnium format this weekend was not favorable for me:
- 1 km time trial
- Team sprint
- Points race
- Match sprints tournament
- Scratch race
- Miss and out (elimination race)
I do a mediocre kilo and I can’t sprint for peanuts. In the bunch races I stand a chance but I’m hit and miss in the miss and out.
Kissena is 400 m and a moderately banked, very bumpy tarmac track. Turns 3 and 4 re particularly bumpy and it’s perfectly normal to bounce around (airborne) a lot, especially coming out of turn 4. It made the kilo interesting. It’s a sprint event–don’t pace yourself, go all out– and I used aero bars. Plus it was The Pollinator’s first outing (besides two weekends at Forrest City Velodrome where the track’s extreme weirdness dominates the experience).
Bouncing laterally halfway across the sprint lane is interesting, especially on aero bars, but The Pollinator was great. Absolutely solid and predictable. I just accepted that’s what racing at Kissena is like and nothing’s going to go wrong if I don’t freak out. The bike’s going to land somewhere and keep going in roughly the right direction so just keep pedaling as hard as possible. In bunch racing I assumed that anyone coming around me will make allowances for these effects and I would have to do the same.
I did two team sprints, Cat 4 and 40+, taking second wheel in both. We were third in both contests which is bad for omnium points as they are allocated 7, 4, 2 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Next the Cat 4 points race with a field of 11. We were up at the rail in turn 1 when the start whistle went off. I led off down to the pole line and brought the speed up to tempo. Before turn 3 I looked back and was astonished to see everyone else dawdling up track in turn 2. Odd. But good. 12 laps is 4 km and I know how to pace myself for that distance so I started a pursuit effort. The gap grew nicely so I kept it up. But the fast guys, Brean and Mark, timed the chase right and got me on the first sprint, bringing me back to the field. I had another go when things got slow, dropping down track from the rear in turn 2, and getting a gap. Same procedure, I got a big gap and was caught but still got 3rd or 4th on sprint 2. And so it went also for the final sprint. I got third overall which I’m pleased with. It was a huge effort. I was on my own for over half the race. I did a lot of training for recovery at tempo after an effort and I wanted to use it. If one other racer had worked with me we could have lapped the field but Brean and Mark were marking each other closely and I was completely unknown so that wasn’t going to happen.
By the time I rolled onto the apron after that race the masters were already at the rail for their miss and out. I was hacking up a lung and couldn’t consider joining them. It was like someone had been cleaning my windpipe with an abrasive bottle brush. There was a lot of pollen around.
Sunday started with the Cat 4 scratch race. Again I rode hard to set a high tempo because I knew there were sprinters who could easily gap me. I didn’t contest the prime but attacked shortly after it while those that did were in oxygen debt. Like in the points race, I got a gap and then got caught, but sooner. In the back straight I was 4th and managed to come around Steve for third. Again I was pleased with that.
At this stage Brean and Mark were well ahead in the Omnium and I was tied with someone for 4/5th. All I needed to do was do better than Steve in the last two races to get 3rd in the Omnium.
In the match sprints I was dismal in the 4s but I won one 2-up sprint against Joe in 40+, my first ever sprint heat in which I didn’t finish last. I rode a steadily increasing speed up to threshold and kicked entering turn 4 on the second lap. Given how he did in the 40+ points race, I think maybe he could have got past if he’d tried. I didn’t ask.
Steve made it to the sprint finals and I did not. This was not looking good. My last chance was the miss and out.
It’s a very difficult race tactically and I screwed up. I chose to race tempo on the front but the speed was high and there’s a sprint on each lap so it was a fast race. On the second sprint I was first wheel with about 20 meters to go but got eliminated because I looked back, figured I had it and backed off. I slowed while the group was still accelerating. Stupid error. That blew my chance for upgrade points. Phooey.
Steve went on to get 2nd in the sprints which got him 3rd overall, Siraaj won the sprints which vaulted him past me and because I got nothing in the miss and out I was pushed down to 6th. I really only stood a chance in three of the races and I did was well as I could in two of them and screwed the third one up with a stupid blunder.
Meanwhile, in 40+ there was a points race. Oddly only 4 were present. 9 laps, 3 sprints. Three times I tried to drop Joe with a lap and a half or more to the sprint and three times he caught back on and got me by half a wheel or less.
Throughout, the bike was great. It never entered my consciousness during racing. That means it behaves exactly the way it should, otherwise I would have noticed something, and that it fits. I’m not a powerful rider but I didn’t notice it budge in the slightest under any condition. The 404s are clearly good strong, stiff general purpose wheels.
April 4, 2011
Presented by Arc en Ceil Racing Team, NBX/Narragansett Beer p/b Apex Technology
Ninigret Park, Charlestown, RI Saturday, April 02, 2011 12:45pm
This was my first race at Ninigret and my first masters crit. They have a race track on a disused airfield on the south coast of Rhode Island. Folk down there crash a lot. The fire brigade were hosing a dramatically igneous car on Rt 4, the paramedics were stretching someone from another car on 95 near Cranston, the cops were sorting out a crumpled pair of cars a little north of Providence. And that was just the ride home. The Ninigret race track, otoh, is safe. No cars, curbs, railings, drains or potholes. In a pinch you can safely ride off the track and on the grass.
Clearly most contestants race that track a lot and the racing style is interesting. Frequent very short-lived attacks. Just as frequent, the speed drops to a crawl. Nobody cooperates with anyone, it seemed. As though there’s a repeating 15-way match sprint going on at the front. Intriguing and good fun. Keep your eyes on the front to save energy. Skills were generally very good so I felt safe despite a lot of hard, close racing. And it was very windy which made it particularly interesting.
I’m no sprinter and never will be so opportunism is my only hope in a race like this. On (maybe) the 3rd bell lap I got near the front. The attack went in the usual place, after the 2nd last turn, and I found a good wheel. Three guys got well clear and then I found myself in 4th with the gap ahead of me. I started slowing thinking the sprinters would finish the job and then we regroup. The guy behind me said something to me, either encouraging or exasperated at my slowing, I’m not sure which, and I responded with my best shot. Meanwhile, three sprinters ahead were side-by-side looking at each other deciding who would lead it out, and I sailed past. That felt nice.
Later, pretty much the same thing happened again, I got past a small group of stalling sprinters. But I couldn’t believe the situation and decided something was wrong. It must be a straight prime and there’s a break down the road and I’m sprinting for nothing and everyone will think I’m foolish. So I sat up. I was passed close to the line by one of the Fuji chaps, whom I asked, to confirm, is there anyone ahead of us? He said yes, those two (pointing). I said, so that was for nothing? He said, no, we were racing for the field sprint. Fooey!
At that point I was miffed and directed my anger at the two ahead so I led for nearly a lap to bring them in. They weren’t going to confuse me again. Actually, it was so windy that I couldn’t hear the prime announcements, only the bell.
That tired me out a bit. But there were still a few laps to the finish. It looked like the race would stay together. What to do? The way it was working meant I didn’t want to attack, because I knew I’d get no help and with that wind would need it. So I wanted to go with a late attack. But nothing stuck and in the drag race to the finish I sat up when I saw I couldn’t make top 10.
Won some Fuji handlebar tape on that prime.
March 28, 2011
Presented by CCB International
Marblehead, MA Sunday, March 27, 2011 8:35am
I had a small mechanical just before the start so I was at the back at the start. But I got to the front quickly and after the hill, drove it fairly hard for a lap or so, hoping for an attack to hop on or see team colors in. Thereafter I kept close to the front, trying to keep the pressure on when I could. The mantra being: split the field, shed riders, maybe a break goes one of us can join. Above all, thinking of Cav’s great remark, no racing like juniors.
One guy soloed off. I can’t recall if I was too gassed to go with or didn’t believe he was worth it or what. The pack let him go and so did I. Later a couple of others went, I have the same lack of memory as to why I didn’t go with. I regard these as lost opportunities and mistakes to be learned from, see below. All other attempts were shut down real fast.
A bit later, on lap 5, I attempted to bridge. I jumped on the downhill after the yacht club and had a good gap after I was around the turn from Harbor onto Ocean. I backed off to threshold to climb the hill. But I was hurting bad. I had gone too hard — unnecessarily hard! — to get the gap. The PT file shows I was over 700W for about 15sec before attempting the hill at hi-Threshold. Then, seeing the big gap to the break, I lost courage, faltered, looked back, found a but more pluck and hit it anew, but again anaerobically, for about another 25sec, enough to get me half way to the top. Riding that hard hurt so much all my beliefs evaporated and I sat up.
After that I made some efforts to pull in the break with the pack. I don’t recall the catches clearly or when Gerald Harris of Team Harris (I’m guessing unrelated to the Cyclery in Newton) got away. I remember him coming up and being at the front a while and then he wound up the winner on a solo break. Awesome riding!
Last chance. I tried to rest on the 2nd last lap and get position on the last. I was 2nd wheel behind Brier going into the last turn and it stayed that way to the bottom of the hill. But going up it I got passed by 15 to 20 riders and won a couple of places back after the top. Slaughtered.
While I’m sure the wheel suckers who made top 10 are more pleased with themselves than me, I’ll take it. I did most of what I set out to do.
But my skills of the break are lacking. I screwed up in two ways and learned good lessons. 1: Don’t drain myself with an unnecessarily hard jump, especially if what I really need a solid VO2max effort to get properly away. 2: Sometimes soloists win. Why not go with? I didn’t have anything better to do.
I feel some satisfaction from being active rather than passive but being smart sure would be a bonus. Driving the speed of the race up is a pretty stupid strategy and is unlikely to serve you or your team.
Anyway, I had fun. I love racing. What’s up next? Ninigret on Sat or Myles on Sun or both?
December 27, 2009
First, the four main kinds of flat:
1 – Pinch
Ride over a pot-hole, stone or something with sufficient force to compress the tire all the way to the rim and the tube gets pinched hard between tire and rim. This often leads to two holes in the tube. It’s not uncommon to get a pinch flat in both front and rear if one rides fast over a serious hazard.
Only clinchers with inner tubes are susceptible. Tubulars and tubeless tires don’t get pinch flats.
Pinch flats are the most serious threat when racing on rough roads, such as unpaved roads, cobbles, or bad pavement. You can’t avoid all the hazards when racing and you can’t hop over them all either. Hence on spring classics like Paris-Roubaix, standard equipment is tubulars on traditional strong alloy rims. In 2009, the Zipp 303 was revised to be stronger and much wider making it an aero carbon wheel suitable for these races.
Tough, armored, low-thread count tires (e.g. Specialized Armadillo, Continental Gatorskin or Bontrager Hardcase) are no better against pinch flats than other tires. The only protection against a pinch flat is the air in the tire. A 28 mm tire at 100 psi has the same resistance to pinch flats as a 23 mm tire at 120 psi but the 28 mm tire will be more comfy on those bumpy races.
2 – Cut
When a sharp edged piece of metal, stone or glass makes a cut across the tire it can also cut the tube or it can make a large enough hole in the tire for the tube to protrude and rupture. A cut is not the same as a puncture.
Tires that better resist cuts have low per-inch thread count in the carcass, which allows the threads to be made tougher, and they include armor layers. However, low thread count makes a tire less flexible and thus less resistant to punctures while increasing rolling resistance. These tires are also relatively heavy.
So in relation to high thread-count racing tires, the trade-off is good cut resistance in return for a speed reduction (due to both weight and rolling resistance) and reduced puncture resistance.
When repairing a big cut in the field, a tire boot is a temporary repair that will let you finish your ride. For boots, I carry with my patch kit pieces of old tire cut to about 20 mm square. The boot goes between the tube and the hole in the tire to prevent the tube from protruding when inflated. Folded-up currency works too. If the tire needs a boot then it should be replaced when convenient.
3 – Puncture
A puncture is when a sharp-pointed spike pierces the tire and tube. Culprits can be thorns, sharp-pointed nails or screws, etc. Think of the difference between a cut and a puncture as the difference between slicing a baguette with a knife versus sticking it with a needle.
Flexible, high thread-count tires are more resistant to punctures because they can deform around the object better than a stiff tire. The stiff tire presents a relatively rigid surface to the spike ,which is more likely to push through than it is with the soft tire. That’s why the substantial armor layers (e.g. Kevlar belt) are important in low thread-count tires, although they add to weight and rolling resistance.
4 – Tube failure
This is sadly a very common cause of a flat. The tube simply fails. Professional bike mechanics know how frequently new inner tubes fail. But a tube can fail at any time during its working life and its failure rate increases with age. A flat that seems to have no cause may be for this reason — just a bad tube. Tubular and tubeless riders are free of this problem.
Like any rubber product, tubes decay with time so it’s best to have fresh tubes around rather than old stock. Read Lennard Zinn on aging rubber. I once got two pinch flats on the Tandem and found that two of the three spare tubes I had with me had gone crusty with age.
One way that tubes often fail is where the value stem attaches to the rubber. A smooth rather than threaded valve stem reduces the stress on this joint when using a Silca pump head (or similar).
What kind of tire to use?
Naturally, that depends on the application. Here are my personal opinions. I use clinchers with tubes.
Training: I use a wide, low thread-count, well armored tire because cuts seem to be more common that punctures around where I live in New England. They are slow but that doesn’t matter in training. When training in a group, I’m working harder than those using their racing equipment and get a better workout. Come race day when I use the racing gear, I have a nice boost that they won’t get.
I’ve had good luck with Bontrager “Race Lite Hardcase”. They are neither race nor light tires but they sure have a hard case. Gatorskin and Armadillo are similar. I use these on traditional wheels with plenty of spokes throughout the long New England winter.
Normal Road Racing or group rides when I need competitive speed: I use the softest, most flexible tires. They are fastest and, for a given width, the most comfortable. Vittoria Evo Open Corsa CX and Veloflex Pavé, which both use of cotton in the carcass threads, are my favorites. (Specialized’s “Open Tubular” tires are similar, being made by Vittoria.) Conti, Michelin and Hutchinson tires are stiff in comparison.
Rough and unsurfaced road racing: Using armored, low thread-count tires like the Armadillo or Gatorskin affords no extra protection against pinch flats, which are the biggest threat on these races. So the trade-off between these and flexy high thread-count tires is cut resistance (armored) versus speed and puncture resistance (flexy). I choose the latter.
On rough and bumpy surfaces, tire flexibility is important for speed. Every time a tire bounces off the road surface the bicycle loses forwards momentum when it lands. So a flexible tire will be faster than a stiff tire that’s more inclined to bounce. And a wider tire at lower pressure can be faster than a skinny at higher pressure since the wider tire won’t bounce around so much. 27 mm race tubulars exist for a reason.
I’d like to use Vittoria Pavé Evo CG 27 mm tubulars on Zipp 303 rims but I have neither the money nor the team support car to help me if I flat. So I use instead flexible high thread-count clinchers. It’s unfortunate there aren’t many with substantial width. Vittoria has the Evo Open Corsa CX in 25 mm and the Vittoria Pavé in 24 mm. There’s also the 25 mm Diamante Pro Light which is significantly lighter than the Corsa CX or Pavé though it’s less flexible.
Some people talk about reducing tire pressure on these races. This improves comfort while seriously increasing the pinch-flat risk. I wouldn’t do it unless also switching to a wider tire. I use the same inflation I do on normal roads.
July 26, 2009
I got a disappointing result of 5th place and 344 miles (my goal was 400) while noting several excuses including weather delays, a slow wheel change after flatting a tubular, a slow cassette replacement, a slow spoke repair and replacement of a faulty tail light that together kept me off the course for a lot of time. And for the first 10 hours or so I didn’t seem to be properly fit.
The 12- and 24-hour races both started at 8am on Saturday July 11th and finished respectively 12 and 24 hours later. The course is a 32.5 mile loop with one significant climb up Beacon Hill and otherwise flat to rolling. Drafting is not allowed. You keep riding around and around the loop and the rider to cover the most miles wins.
Beacon Hill seems no big deal at the start. It’s one mile of about 4-5% average, including about a quarter mile of 8-10%, followed by another mile of gentle climbing. After about 10 runs up it is a much bigger deal than it was.
The 12-hour race
And in the 12-hour race the hill was decisive. The climb starts 2 miles after the start/finish checkpoint, where many people set up the supplies and have a helper. At close to 8pm, 2-time solo RAAM finisher Rob Morlock led ultra-marathon neophyte Sven Stoltz through the start/finish. From there, Sven chased over the first 2 miles and positioned himself about 50 yards behind Rob on the climb. Then Sven attacked on the gentle second mile of the climb, passed Rob who couldn’t match speed and was soon recorded at 1 mile ahead by the end at 8pm. You don’t always get a close finish in these kinds of races.
Not to detract from Rob’s result (in a race like this it was equivalent to a photo finish in a sprint), it was a brilliant debut from my friend Sven, whom you might meet sometimes on the Quad rides. 236.50 miles in 12 hours is 19.71 mph! Remember that’s not drafting and not stopping the clock when the bike is stopped like a cycle computer usually does. I wonder if, with less adverse weather and more experience in these events, Sven could better Sandy Whittlesey’s course record of 250.3 miles.
Also of note is that another well know Boston-area rider David Lafferty came in third with 227.5 miles, course record for a fixed-gear bicycle. (Boston’s messenger-wannabe fyxomatosis sufferers can suck on that!)
My 24-hour race
But I was in the 24-hour race which started at the same time as the 12-hour but finished 12 hours after at 8am. I started close to last because I was absolutely determined to ride relatively slowly for the first lap and not get caught up in the excitement and exuberant speed that characterizes the start. I had been warned over and over by Melinda Lyon, 24-hour women’s course record holder, to pace it gently early on. Nevertheless I expected to pass more of riders during the first 3 laps. The first clue that I was not fit was that I didn’t.
After 3 laps I was in terrible shape and needed to rest. I don’t know what was wrong though I have hypothesis — it’s a long story but, in short, my guess is chronic dehydration since the weather warmed up around the end of June and possibly related to some remaining diabetes insipidus (i.e. my kidneys aren’t working as well as they should) from my problems in 2007-8.
I did a 60-80 mile fastish ride most weekends in the winter and that picked up to 100-130 mile rides since April. Being clapped out after 3 laps at a moderate speed showed something was really wrong.
Diet and recovery
I switched food at that point from high-tech overpriced sports drinks and gels to real food and drink. Potato chips and coca-cola helped greatly. It was silly of me to not follow my own advice from the start. (Sven eventually relied on the same formula in his ride too.)
After a rest, change of clothes and a turkey sandwich I began lap 4 feeling pretty good and started to enjoy the ride a bit. But in the last few miles of that lap the same abject grottiness came over me again. So I took another slightly shorter food rest.
A few miles into the 4th lap I crossed 100 miles at exactly 2pm which gave me an average speed that would get me to my goal of 400 miles if I maintained it. That was disappointing since lap times don’t generally get any faster over the course of a 24-hour race. Towards the end of the 3rd lap I had noted a very satisfactory average speed so I must have stopped for a long time at that first rest.
I lost count of laps after the 5th so I don’t know which of the following events happened when. But with the change of diet, more cola, water, chips and sandwiches I was feeling stronger and ride more comfortably. Then the technical problems began.
I flatted about 2 miles from the start/finish. A big fat rusty sheet metal screw with washer all the way in my nearly new Vittoria CX tubular front tire (those things aren’t cheap!). I had to unscrew it to get it out. There was sealant in the tire so I tried inflating it but it held pressure for only a few seconds. (Now that I think of it, if I had left the screw in perhaps the sealant would have worked.) Being so close to base, it wasn’t worth putting on the spare tire so I called Eva, my beloved wife and support crew, to get my spare wheels ready and rode very slowly back to the car.
Next problem was that, as the rain started, the SRAM Open Glide cassette started to malfunction. I had noted intermittent problems with it in the past and I had though about swapping this cassette with a Shimano while preparing for the race but didn’t (rats!). I rode two laps using only the biggest 4 cogs, the others performing so bad that I was afraid the chain wouldn’t take it. After that I swapped the cassette with the Shimano from the tubular wheels I started the race on. A big delay.
Another problem was a broken spoke on the rear non-drive side. Thankfully I didn’t notice it out on the road or I might have tried to fix it out in the dark and rain. It took ages to get the tire, tube and tape off, replace the nipple and spoke and reassemble/adjust everything. The hubs and rims on these Neuvation wheels seem solid but this event confirmed my doubts about their no-name spokes and dubious-looking aluminum (i.e. not brass) nipples.
Next failure was the Planet Bike Superflash I had on the back. It’s a great performer when it works but it started to turn itself on and off at will, apparently cycling through its modes. (I had another rear light on, a Cateye, so I wasn’t in grave danger.) While I tried to fix it at the start/finish check, John, the race official, mentioned he had some of the same model available for sale. I bought one.
And my Polar CS200 computer/HRM failed owing to the rain. (It has since recovered.)
Considering the result
Here’s the most annoying thing in all this: as the rain started in the evening I was starting to ride well and really enjoy myself out on the bike. I continued to get better through night and, while I was on the bike, I was having a really good time, feeling good and soaking up all the unfamiliar sights and sounds of overnight riding in the countryside. I picked up speed relative to the first hundred miles and could probably have made my goal of 400 miles if I hadn’t had so many technical problems. But they just kept on coming.
The last lap and a half were hard going. On the previous evening I had steeled myself to do the best I could despite the problems and I paced myself to ride to my limit at 8am. I paced it about right and gave it my all on the last half lap so I was really ragged at the very end. It was a relief when John picked me up in his van and drove the last 7 or 8 miles.
So I have to address the question: why was I riding on racing equipment rather than something more conservative? That’s a very good question that I’ll maybe answer in full in another blog post. In short, it was just a fancy, a whim, though one I’ve harbored for two years, and I’ve learned my lesson: a broken bike is not a fast bike and support vehicles are a necessary part of cycle racing because racing equipment is delicate. Unsupported long distance riders, even many of the fastest in the world, e.g. Sandy Whittlesey and Melinda Lyon, both course record holders as I already mentioned, use more conservative, heavier gear.
It was very hot and humid for most of the day with a stiff southerly wind which offered little advantage going north on the way out but slowed me down to 10-15 mph coming south along the Hudson on the return. The wind let up somewhat as the rain came in the evening. There were two big downpours and I was lucky to be fixing some problem under the canopy at the start/finish for one of them. The other downpour was much more fun.
I left the sort/finish some time after midnight with light, on-and-off rain, distant lightning lighting the sky and landscape but no thunder. The storm came gradually closer. Eventually I became a bit anxious. Around mile 15, shortly before the half-way checkpoint and exactly as I got to the traffic light at 32 and Bluebird, the clouds opened and I headed for cover at the gas station there. The roof of the Stewarts Shop there provided cover under which there was a bench for me to sit and watch the storm. Perfect timing! And thanks for the accommodations, Stewart. The sky put on quite a show, one of the best I’ve every seen, with several ground lightning strikes within a quarter mile, shattering thunder and rain so heavy I’d be scared to drive a car in it, let alone cycle. As the storm moved off to the east I set off and met up with the unlucky official at the half-way checkpoint who had stood under a modest canopy through the storm. (He shared some coffee with me. Thanks! I’m sorry I can’t remember your name.)
The freight train passing through Gansevoort blowing it’s whistle, narrowly avoiding some critter on the road that turned out to be a skunk, intrepid frogs (it was a very wet night), slugs in sufficient number to clog my rear brake caliper, several high-performance cats sprinting across the landscape, swirling fog around dawn, the sun appearing suddenly through the fog perfectly framed straight ahead just above the horizon, watching my first shadow of the morning riding beside me along the Hudson River.
Would I do it again? Hard to say. Part of me wants to go back and get my 400 miles, which I’m now sure I can do. Another part says there are many ways to have more fun on a bicycle. Repeating the loop is less fun than doing one long loop or out-and-back. That part of New York is very nice but not so nice I want to do it 11, 12 or 13 times.
No drafting is really antisocial. The rules say you’re not even allowed to ride side-by-side during daylight. And the 10 meter separation rule makes riding near people with about the same average speed really annoying — you keep passing one-another since people’s instantaneous speeds vary in individual ways and that makes it hard to keep a steady effort.
So while this particular cycling discipline is not my favorite, I did enjoy the evening, night and morning riding and I hanker to do better after this disappointing result.
April 26, 2009
i was in the 4/5 35+ race. the pace was pretty strong and i’m glad there were downhill stretches between the ups. it’s 63 miles with very little flat. nice course with good quality surfaces and safe wide downhills.
by 25 miles in there were only about a dozen riders left in the group i was in. having kept close the the front, i was under impression it was the lead group. at 35 miles i got a flat and pulled over to wait for the support vehicle. it never came.
eventually the support for the 4/5 open race drove by without acknowledging me. later the women came by and a vehicle stopped. an official said she had no support with her but took my number and said the wheel truck is only a minute behind. it too blew past me.
it seems that the error i made was to misconstrue the organizers’ promise of support, as stated in the flyer and then explained to us before the start of the race. i spoke to an official after the race and he explained that the support vehicle only supports the race leaders and vehicles aren’t supposed to help riders in other races.
so there must have been a break ahead of us that i was unaware of. though i rode near the front (i thought) until i flatted i didn’t see them go and i didn’t see the support vehicle pass. i guess it must have been a small number of riders in the lead group.
thus in a relentlessly hilly race like quabbin, in which the field necessarily gets strung out, it seems that when they say that support is provided, this has to be construed as meaning that no support is provided to 95% of the riders. unless confident of being in the money, you must assume that you’re on your own.
i wish i had known that in advance.
anyway, i chased the women’s support truck for 8 miles on a flat without catching it. i stopped to talk to the policeman at the turn in hardwick and asked if there was a way to contact the support crews. he said he had no idea and bemoaned that he had been completely unprepared, that nothing had been explained to him.
a back-marker from the 4/5 open race came past then and offered me co2. i remembered that i had sealant in my tires so i accepted and it worked. the tire stayed inflated to the finish. i’m very grateful for that. i rode on my own except for about the last 8 miles with one of women from the group i passed.
my other error was: forgetting to get the 3-hour bottle of perpetuem out of the cooler box before going to the start line. with spending half an hour waiting for imagined support i was out of water with more than an hour of hot riding to go and very thirsty. 3 bottles was not enough. i was getting bonkers towards the end. i have only myself to blame for that dumb error.
astonishingly, the results put me 60th out of 70 starters and 67 finishers, 45 minutes behind the winner. i though my ride was bad enough; i’d love to hear the stories of the 6 behind me.