31 May 2009

Is it cross season yet?

I've had dreams about racing cyclocross two of the last three nights. I don't think this is sad. If you do, let's not be friends anymore.

I know it's still road season, but if anyone is interested in doing a little "group ride" and dusting off your cross bikes at Fort Reno Park in the next week or two, let me know in the comments and we'll put something together.

Listening to Das Racist's Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. "I've got that pizza butt, I'm at the Pizza Hut."

Also, I stole my new picture from the Gwadzilla blog sometime last year.

26 May 2009

There's a race in my neighborhood!!!

When I got the email last week about Murad being postponed, I was pretty bummed. It was the last race on my schedule for quite a while, and I'm going to be in the Outer Banks the weekend it'll be run. In order to salvage my Fri-Sun three day weekend, I made the executive decision to go to the family condo in Ocean City. That town's so redneck and I love it. So I'm on the beach Saturday morning, reading my book, getting gawked at by the beach rentals girl (yes, my legs are smoother than yours, what of it?), and my phone rings. Apparently just about everybody in the Men's 5 for the RFK Crit canceled, and a spot opened up for me, so I knocked the sand out of my ears and drove back to DC.

The first thing I'll say about the RFK Crit is I loved being able to ride to a race. It was awesome. I knew my body might not be in tip-top, given my Friday beach beer consumption, so I wasn't expecting a big result. The 5 race was smallish—I think 37 starters. Having ridden in the RFK parking lot a few times before, I knew that the wind might be strong enough to allow gaps to develop and/or stick. If it's sunny and still everywhere else in DC, it's windy by RFK. If it's overcast and windy everywhere else in DC, it's a damn typhoon at RFK.

Around five miles in, I decided to give it a go at creating a break—or at least string the group out enough to drop some riders. I spread it out, but I missed two great opportunities to break away from the group because of some sketchy cornering on my part. Apparently, I was going through the turns faster than my level of focus really allowed. In any case, I stayed at the front for about another mile and a half before I was ready to peel off. The guy on second wheel took my move to the side of the course as another breakaway attempt and jumped over to the gutter with me. Another half a mile later, I popped and was swarmed by Evolution guys. I tried to hang on to the back of the group and eventually dropped off. Many thanks to the unattached guy in the yellow jersey (bib 611 I think) for trying to pull me back in.

I'm glad to have pulled for a couple miles, and I can cross leading a race off my list, but I need to work on my recovery time and creating space for myself when I'm trying to break away from the field. It's a good thing my legs still have a lot of races left in them. I came back to RFK for the Pro/1/2 race in the afternoon. Those guys are fast (and maybe more importantly) mostly way older than I am. Maybe some day I'll be able to pull with the big boys. The picture is of one of the back-to-back-to-back primes in the second half of the race.

Listening to everything on Tally Hall's myspace page—saw them last week at DC9 and they put on a solid show, reading hipsternascar.com, and watching every stage of the Giro for free on universalsports.com.

18 May 2009

A warning to DC folks & BikeJam

First, a quick word: it seems to be gang initiation week in DC. There's been a lot more shady shit with teenagers waving guns around on the metro and beating up reasonably big dudes in reasonably safe neighborhoods in the last few days than usual. So for all of you in DC this week, keep your wits about you. Bike racing is a lot more fun if you haven't been mugged in a while.

All that aside, BikeJam this weekend was a pretty good show. I raced the Men's 5. The morning was a little bit of a mess—I set my alarm for 6 pm, only 12 hours after I really wanted to get up. I woke up refreshed and without an alarm, which is rarely a good sign. I rolled out of bed at 6:40 in a huff, and managed to get out the door by 7. By the time I got into Baltimore, I made the executive decision not to set up my trainer, but to just try to get a quick warmup in on the course. I had time to get in two laps before staging began. In the last 4 or so races, I've been diligent about getting at least 30 minutes on the trainer to warm up, so I was nervous about my legs still being cold and tight.

I hadn't noticed that there were race announcers until just after the race started. “Watch out kid—here come the big boys” was (I think) directed at me. I had a little trouble clipping in, and I got swarmed. This would only be the first time the announcers would talk about me during the race. I made my way up to the front third of the group after the first roundabout and just stayed in the mix for the first three and a half laps. A Kelly Benefit Strategies guy was about 10 or 15 seconds up the road, and I was getting bored, so I took off, bringing just about everybody with me. It felt good to be at the front of the group pushing the pace, and it was nice not to get a face full of road grit for about a lap. Apparently as I was coming through the start/finish the announcers saw me and decided to do a little color commentary on my situation. So as we're rolling through at the turn of the next lap (and I'm screaming at someone going Theo Bos on me), I hear the announcers saying “...and here's Richard, a classic category 5 racer, not affiliated with any team, just riding...” I can get down with that.

In any case, I stuck with the strung out group for the remainder of the race, most of the time in the top 10. With about a lap and a half to go, I decided I would go with the next move. So I waited. And I waited. And waited. No one went, I got boxed in, and then I remembered my finish line sprint is about as good as my Urdu. I rolled in at the back of the group for a 17th place finish. Not terrible by any means. I feel like I'm starting to get a better grasp of what kind of racer I am. I'm interested to see how the race in Poolesville goes this weekend. I think it suits me, but we'll only know for sure when (if?) I cross the finish line Saturday morning.

In any case, chapeaux to Kelly Benefit Strategies for putting on a good race and for taking the Men's 5 race with an actual leadout.

Have a good week and be safe.

Listening to Someone Great by LCD Soundsystem.

13 May 2009

Tomato Head Omnium

The last week has been hectic. I thought when I finished school last Monday, I would have a break for a while. Turns out that break may not happen until July. More on that later.

I spent the weekend back in the old 'hood, Oak Ridge and Knoxville, Tennessee, for Mom's day and a crit omnium. I had planned for the trip to be a surprise for my mom because that's how we get down in my family. She was suspicious when I told her I came home to surprise her for Mother's Day, and she gave me an “I knew it” when I told her I'd also be doing three races over the weekend. Whatever. She still got to spend Mother's Day with her baby. In any case...

I did a three-race crit omnium in Knoxville over the weekend, the Tomato Head Omnium. I was expecting to a difference in field sizes between MABRA and TBRA and maybe a difference between the quality of the racers, but I wasn't expecting to see a criterium course that looked fundamentally different from any I'd seen up here. Of the three courses in the omnium, I raced on two with six corners and one with eight corners. The first race—the eight corner T—was on a .5 mile loop. Crazy. I don't know if I was still tight from the 9 hour drive a couple of days before, or if I just made a huge rookie mistake and didn't eat enough in the morning, but I started to bonk about 15 minutes into the race. Totally unacceptable. I got dropped and finished somewhere in the back half of the field of 17.

After about three bowls of cereal, an avocado, a can of Pepsi, and a nap, I was ready for the Saturday afternoon race. This one was cool because it was three blocks away from my old apartment in Old City Knoxville. The course had six turns spread out over about .7 miles and a 300m 4-5% grade climb to the finish. Aside from all the turns, racing in a small field also completely changes the dynamic of the race. We almost immediately lined up instead of riding in a bunch. I was able to take advantage of the downhill on the backside of the course to move up in the paceline when riders started to get dropped, and stayed with the lead group for the duration of the race. I finished 7th in a SUPER close finish. Don't believe me? Check out the picture. The two black lines at our front tires represent the gap by which the guy in bib 502 beat me, bib 500. Boils down to about .04 seconds. It's a cool picture, just kinda sucks that my wheel isn't the one in the front. See how my bike is more condensed than 502's? That's because I was going faster across the line. Dammit.

Sunday morning's course was another six-turner through downtown Maryville, Tn. “Downtown” is a funny word to use for a courthouse, two churches, a gas station, and a neighborhood. This was another course with a sustained uphill portion. I was determined this time to take advantage of the hill, and I gained about two positions each lap for the first two-thirds of the race. With about 10 minutes to go, I got stuck in 7th wheel behind a guy who got dropped, and I just didn't react quickly enough to catch the lead group. I soloed the last 10 minutes to coast into an easy 6th. My sister brought her two little ones to the race, and lemme tell ya, nothing makes you want to kick it into an extra gear like hearing "go uncle Dickie!"

I still don't know my overall results from the weekend, but I imagine I finished 8th or 9th of 17. I can't say I'm upset with my results, and I definitely learned a little bit more about how to race all kinds of crits. Also, big up to the Bike Zoo guys, racing for a shop on Kingston Pike (or Copperhead Road, for you Steve Earle fans). They could definitely hold their own racing on the MABRA circuit.

A couple more pictures from the weekend taken by Bart Nave, TBRA photog. Fair warning--the website plays music, so mind your speaker volume.

So school's out for now, getting my legs ready for BikeJam this weekend, and my mind ready to be on vacation. I'm thinking about registering for a summer class that starts Monday (ick). I just can't say no to a class called War & Conflict in Africa. Could you? Didn't think so.

Listening to Daylight by Matt & Kim, because I can finally bask in it.

02 May 2009

Bunny Flop

You can't be mad at your bike mechanic for not having your bike ready to go when he's left town because of a death in the family. Or you can, but then you'd just be an asshole.

So I'm not racing the Bunny Hop tomorrow, so any of you who were planning to come with me on my 22 min break will just have to go it alone. But I'm taking what the boys from Monty Python always say and looking at the bright side of life. Now I can a) nap before I go to PB&J tonight, b) drink beers at PB&J tonight, and c) take my time finishing my paper tomorrow.

To those of you who are racing: good luck and you'll finish better if you stay upright. Allez.

Oh well. Just need to bust my ass to be ready for the Big 'Mater Omnium next weekend.

Listening to Amsterdam by Peter Bjorn & John to get my mind right.