Today was an interesting day for me at the Copperopolis Circuit Race.
This event was too far from my house (105 miles or so) but it offered a separate Men's 2 category, which is something I almost never get - I almost always have to race with the Pros and Category 1 riders, and as mentioned previously, I typically get my butt kicked when I do that.
I'm not saying I don't like racing P12 races, I'm just saying that I don't think I am strong enough yet to be a protagonist in those races yet - I'm still just the chorus. I don't think that's surprising either - any of you 4s out there want to race a 234 race? How do you think you'll do? It'll probably hurt...
Contrariwise, oh I love the E2 field by itself. This is racing - I can try breakaways, I can do real tactics, and if it comes down to a sprint I can sprint with these guys. I'll skip to the punchline and say that I got 2nd today, and I'll mention that the guy who beat me also just got enough points that he's upgrading to 1. So I'm basically at the top end of the 2 range in crits at least. Doesn't mean much in P12 races but does make these E2 races fun.
The course was a Zamboni-smooth out-n-back essentially, with rolling hills. The race itself had one prominent strategic feature, that being a 15ish person field, with 4 folks on the same (Sierra Nevada) team, and they were dedicated to making it a field sprint. The other racers kept attacking, but there was always someone willing to chase, and there was always a Sierra Nevada rider marking the break by being in it but not working.
Near the end, I went off on a break attempt with two other folks and a Sierra Nevada rider, but true to form Mr Nevada didn't work. I proceeded to alternate pulling hard and then gapping him off the back of the break to make him work to close the gap. I tried to explain it to my breakmates but it's hard to talk in that situation so they didn't get it and he was basically getting a free ride. That doesn't make for a fast breakaway and sure enough we were pulled back (likely by Hendrik Pohl who apparently only knows one effort level - hard) and we were set up for an all-the-marbles sprint with 2 miles to go.
Sierra Nevada at least lined up a decent lead-out at this point, and I started touching the wind a bit to move on to 5th wheel. This was a downhill tailwind sprint, with a 75m rise at the end of it. I'd timed the sprint the last couple of times through and was set to jump around 225m to go. Unfortunately the Sierra Nevada rider doing the last leadout stint (36mph, nice) moved over when he was done instead of riding straight, sending me towards the cones and making me check up a bit when I should have been pedaling, but more importantly the guy that beat me jumped about 1 second before I did and held it. I rolled it up to 40mph and held my own against him but I never got that gap back.
I'll take 2nd though, my best placing since the Madera Stage Race road stage in the M35+123s. Here's the loot and dorky grin, including that t-shirt - ooo I'm rich
That gives me 3 more cat 1 upgrade points, for a 13 point total (out of 30 needed, in a 12-month window), so I'm still chipping away at the cat 1 upgrade and who knows, I might make it. I might even be ready for it when it happens at this rate!
I hung around for the second race of the day, my loved/hated P12 race, and this one was definitely a learning exercise. I was looking for the workout mostly, and I got that in spades, but what I learned is that a) Rand Miller has some sort of incredible anti-draft vortex immediately behind him, and b) I need to follow someone else's wheel if I'm looking to make it into moves, because Rand's a bit too much for me.
I learned all this in once of those decisive moments where you can either make or break a result - a possible result or no result. We were 10 minutes in, the race had already been pretty active, and after some reshuffling there were a few riders up the road. They were the right mix of teams and it looked set to go, with a 35 second gap already. After a U-turn, Rand accelerated and I thought "this is it - if I'm going to get there, now's the time". We were on a false flat up, into a headwind, and I'll let the annotated data tell the story:
That was a 20W/Kg jump! Then a full sprint, with 60ish minutes left. Damn. I blew up huge on the right side of that graph there - I had to sit up for 10-15 seconds, and after about a half minute when the pack finally came back up to me (yes, it took them twice as long to cover the same distance from the attack, shee-it) I was starting to feel a bit normal again, but ouch.
I'll mention for completeness that Rand made it to the break, then won the race. All I can say is dang.