Monday, February 22, 2010

Ronde van Brisbeen 2010

What a beautiful day for racing! Except, you know, for the whole rainy windy thing on a technical half-mile course. Seriously, that was some horrible weather.

But it was the weather we had, and it was my team's race so I got a free entry for course marshaling. Might as well give it a try, right?

I'd been checking the forecast and saw well in advance that it was going to be crappy on Sunday (race day) but Saturday was going to be beautiful. So I went for the long fast ride (HOP) on Saturday and didn't shy away from getting a good workout. I specifically did this so that I had a great excuse for not taking silly chances on Sunday - if something was sketchy, I could bail on the race, and I'd at least gotten a workout for the weekend.

Given all that I really only had one goal for the day, which was to marshal the course ;-). A secondary goal was to not crash if I did race, or get cold enough that I got sick. I had no performance goals.

The rain let up a bit for the Master 35+ 123, so I went ahead and lined up. There were only 12 of us but I recognized two at least that I knew to pay attention to - Steve Reaney from CalGiant and Chris Phipps from MorganStanley. Had I recognized the ridiculously strong Chad Gerlach I would have done a bit better in the race but more on that later. I linked their results because they're worth checking out. These are extremely strong dudes.

Everyone is moaning about the rain on the start line, but good naturedly - seemed like we all had the right "be nice enough to each other so we don't crash" attitude. And off we went.

I remembered how quickly things went from the Cherry Pie so I was prepared to hammer. Reaney wound it up right from the gun, with Jess Raphael (who solo'd to a lap-the-field 45+ win just prior) on his wheel, and me on Jess's wheel. One thing about Reaney, he can just blow you up while you're drafting him on a course with this many corners. There just isn't enough rest - you're working almost as hard as him since it's constant accelerations. So Jess blew up, and I worked across the gap to sit directly on Reaney.

A couple of laps went by and now I think the pack was already broken into two pieces. Maybe more. We're still hitting 30mph on parts of the course. Reaney eases off the throttle for a second and looks back at me to see if I want to work. I think I either said "sorry" or just sort of gurgled in the drizzle I'm not sure, it's all a bit fuzzy. I certainly didn't throw down with a respectable pull or anything - I skulked. Sorry Steve. Maybe in March?

Somewhere around this point, Chad Gerlach, who I did not recognize at the time (major error) zips by and Reaney hooks on to him. Had I realized it was those two, I would have tried to latch on right away, but I was gassed and let the gap go just a the two strongest guys in the race. At this point, I'm looking around to see if there's a pack left I can hide in and it turns out there's only around 5 of us, with only one person looking like they're still alive.

I'm unclear how Phipps and one other person got ahead (did I mention it was raining? I could barely see) but they either went with Chad and Reaney and then were dropped, or they attacked the remnants before I noticed.

Either way, I was definitely "remnants". I rode with Steve Pelaez and one other guy (who then dropped), and we were basically a group of 2, behind a group of 2, behind a group of 2. Sounds like a recipe for pain, doesn't it?

So Steve P and I were busy lapping everyone else, holding the Phipps group of 2 at around the same distance, while Chad and Reaney were ripping around the course eventually putting a lap into us.

Steve and I managed to hang on to Chad and Reaney when they came around but the other lapped riders we had absorbed blew off again, so we were a mixed-lap group of 4 with 2 up, and other lapped riders suffering around the course by themselves.

We never caught Phipps unfortunately and Chad and Reaney didn't want Steve P and I pulling (can't blame them) so Steve P and I were in a non-sprint for 5th and 6th. Not that I would have beaten him anyway, Steve P did wind it up a bit and I didn't have anything to stand up to that. So I got 6th, sweet.

Here's a photo of Steve Reaney and Chad Gerlach in the break. Looks like fun?

So there you have it - a race that had it all. An encouraging result in that I got 6th place and was only beaten by folks that were clearly stronger than I was. A discouraging result in that I was only in the top half ;-). Miserable conditions but I handled them okay - no crashing, and I don't feel sick.

It started raining harder before the P12 race and most of Team Yahoo was going to be there (all of which are likely stronger than me) so I didn't pin up for that one. Turns out it cleared up for the race itself, went hard from the gun, spit people out the back regularly then outright broke into a front group of 17 or so and a back group of 16 or so that was pulled before it got lapped. Using the transitive property of race results, the guys I was with made it to the second group in the race so I could have gotten 20 something probably, and maybe held the first group for a 16th or something, but I probably made the right call not starting. It wasn't a DNF though - they listed it as that and I think a DNS is a different sort of failure and worth mentioning ;-)

There were only a few other brave Team Oakland souls that braved the muck, so I'll call out Anthony and Christopher - nice work out there, no crashes for you guys either and that's the most important thing on a day like that.

Here's the graph o' pain. You can see this is not a "steady state" course, it's all easing up into corners and motoring out of them, again and again and again. The two yellow lines are my threshold power and my 5-minute power, which explains why my heart rate was so high...

Other interesting stories - John Wilk did some He-Man work bringing back the #3 Time Trialist in the nation (#2 after Zirbel was popped for doping?) on the closing laps of the P12. Samaan bridged to the front group then won it, both impressive.

Lessons learned...well, I was prepared for the course and the early break this time, mostly, but I didn't understand my opponents well enough and I didn't realize how quickly it would get nitty-gritty with such a small field. I'll get better at knowing who's who as the season goes on and also hopefully get stronger.

Gear notes...I used my rain/commuter bike complete with fenders. Not fouling the race bike up with this junk. Worked well, 90psi was grippy in the wet per Gunderson's advice. With that much work and that much rain, Oakley half-jackets fog up.


Anonymous said...

Great to hear that Chad is back racing. Heard he had gotten himself into trouble again last fall and was afraid he was done for. It's nice to know that he's been riding enough to rip your legs off!

Mike Hardy said...

Roger that - he's fit enough that for one of the prime sprints, he went just fast enough to get clear and make obvious you shouldn't challenge him, took it, then when he eased up and Reaney came alongside he just looked over and chuckled.

Not sure if Reaney was really contesting or anything but I was cross-eyed, *not* chuckling. Where's the training regimen that results in chuckling after winning the prime in the winning break? Sign me up!

Anonymous said...

The faithful want race reports....