Saturday, January 5, 2008

The trouble with leadouts (Burlingame Crit) (20070625)

Ah Burlingame.

So fresh after a completely relieving victory at the Pacific State Grand
Prix over an admittedly not-as-strong field as the guys that showed up
in Burlingame, I'm looking to work for the team and launch someone else
to success in what would be my last cat 4 race.

Something about the work I did the day before (warmup, the race, then 3
hours of trainer afterwards), celebrating the victory (read: drinking a
bit, and getting a solid 5 hours of sleep), then setting up the Team
Oakland campgrounds the morning of the race should have told me that the
"unpleasant sensations" I was feeling in my legs should be listened to,
but no, I signed up to be the last lead-out guy for Ian Swinson starting
at the Start/Finish line on the last lap.

Given that long list of reasons why I had no power today, you'd think I
would play it cool until my job came up, but that wouldn't be any fun,
so I found myself off the front a couple of times and chasing a couple
times. Now I'm definitely tired.

You can see where I'm going - basically the leadout plan we had was
working pretty well, it was planned to be a disconnected thing and both
Andrew Hardardt and Anthony Eng did very very well in their designated
roles as "pack discipline". It would have been awesome if they could
have pulled forever, but the pack was together and there weren't any
attacks after they did their work. So great job there.

Unfortunately, when it got to my turn, the last part was supposed to be
connected, and while Ian was right on my wheel this is where the trouble
with leadouts comes in. Basically, I went to turn on the gas and I just
had no gas. I was able to string it out reasonably enough but only until
there was half the lap remaining and then I was done for good. Now with
the last part of the train being connected, there's Ian, and now he's in
the wind. 600 meters with no gap or room to accelerate and make one is
too much to ask of most people and he predictably didn't make it.

Not quite the ending to my cat 4 career that I was looking for but I
take two lessons out of it - either of which would have worked. First -
a disconnected lead-out, where the sprint doesn't assume that being on
the teammates' wheel is the right place to be, is a safer plan than
trusting the person to make it to the spot every time. We're just not
that good at judging fitness and leadout speeds at the cat 4 and cat 3
level so that trust is misplaced too often. Second - if I stall a
leadout, I need to remember the guys behind me and pull over enough for
one line to get through, but still shelter my designated sprinter while
he gets back in line.

So that was my Burlingame race in a nutshell - a great plan on behalf of
the E4 team, mostly great execution, but then not quite enough goods to
carry the day. On the bright side, if you're going to bungle a race,
Burlingame is a good one to screw up. Apparently even winning the E3
race is only good enough for an ill-fitting, not-good-looking helmet
since all the prizes were merchandise

Up next for me, Leesville Gap as a 3 (and I'm not nervous about it at
all, nope, not a bit...)

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