Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cantua Creek Road Race

Yesterday I blogged about my latest 1 second max power, and luckily for me I didn't have to sprint towards any finish today...

Matt and I hit the road early around 4:15am to get down to the race. We found ourselves arriving way early so we went down another exit to Harris Ranch. No luck for finding an established coffee spot, so I had to get my coffee from McDonald's. It served it's purpose and got me on track for the rest of the morning. Upon getting back on the freeway the coffee forgot to trigger my GPS capabilities because I gave Matt the wrong directions and we continued too far north. Oh well, it was like doing a course recon from the freeway.

Upon arriving there were quite a few cars lined the road and it was easy to pick out Casa Farinha. Daniel's orange bike has a certain glow that I could see from a quarter mile away as we arrived. The pre-reg process was smooth, and I think Velo Promo has done themselves a tremendous service using a more automated online system. I was in and out of registration in just a couple of minutes.

Today's warm-up was liberating; liberating since I left the trainer at home. This was done on purpose since I felt the first few miles of the race would serve as my warm up. The highlight up to this point was seeing two things: 1) the largest rack on an Audi that I've ever seen. The women's Team High Road Audi station wagon must have had a rack that could carry a dozen bikes. Our sponsor Rack'n'Road would be jealous. 2) the large turnout of SJBC riders across different categories. I met a few guys for the first time and provided a bit of encouragement to others.

Our group was split into two groups, but luckily Matt, Chris and I were lumped into the first group of 50. I don't know why they didn't combine us, since the B group only had 6 riders. We were given our final instructions and sent on our way. After the half mile rollout to the finish line/turnaround cones, we started to speed downhill.

On the bike today I put on the 606's thinking that it would come in useful as there wasn't much climbing on this course. These kicked in and sped me down the hill almost too fast. I was on the brakes constantly and I started to smell something. Oh yeah, that was from the cows over the ridge at Harris Ranch.

Several teams were very well represented. We felt they would dictate most of the action on the first lap. Things were pretty darn boring during the first 4 miles, so I decided to attack. No, I didn't slap down 1,500 watts like yesterday, but just wanted to put in a couple seconds of attacking to see who would follow. The best represented team, Now Direct, had one guy hop on my wheel. However, this rider was overweight and had extremely hairy legs. Needless to say, I knew he wasn't the right guy to stick w/ me on any sort of effort. So back to the group I slowly retreated.

Chris attacked next and nobody wanted to mark or chase him down. So he just dangled out there for a while. It was pretty apparent to see that SJBC had come out with an aggressive mindset and were willing to mix it up. Matt then got to the front and put in some pulls (I later found out that he did so because he was getting cold riding behind folks...he needed to get his blood pumping).

No more excitement while rolling out to the turnaround. On the whole way out there was a slight headwind that was at our back on the way back to the start/finish. The pace didn't really pick up at all and I found myself in a paceline of 5 that was working on the front. We were only pulling around 240 watts which just happens to be pretty darn easy for me.

Everybody had the same idea about the upcoming climb. Folks were saving their energy for the climb, but as we started to climb the pace wasn't that hard. Probably around a 7.5 on a 10-point scale. Knowing that I didn't want to burn through my brake pads going down the hill again due to people afraid to 'ride' their bikes, I made my way to the front with 50 meters to go to the turnaround and was first around the cones.

I jumped out of the saddle and decided to hammer a bit to string things out. The rider behind me yelled, "Hey, slow down, we don't have enough people in our break!" What?!? Did I just hear that? I have a natural advantage going down hills and I wanted to put it to use. So what's a racer to must race!

I threw down the hammer and kept the pace high on the small rolling hills that broke up the hill as it dropped onto the valley floor. I was on the rivet and looked back; nobody was chasing and I was slowly pulling away. 23 miles to go and I throw out a half-brain solo attack off the front!

My heartrate was at threshold and so was my power. I was glad at this point to have the 606's on the bike. I was able to rest my forearms on my bars ala-TT mode and got aero. I kept looking back every 20 seconds and there was no action at the front of the chasers. In fact the group looked like one large blob, which I knew was good because nobody was stringing out the peleton to chase me down.

At this point I was hoping that Matt and Chris were doing what they could to discourage any chasing (found out all the details post-race, which were very interesting...). Just as I was starting to feel some pretty heavy lactic acid building up in the legs I saw stragglers from other categories were coming into site. Just like our Winter Series TT, these folks were like my carrots in front of me. One by one I would slowly gobble them up and pass.

Upon reaching the turnaround point for the second time, I felt that with the wind at my back I might get lucky. I quickly glanced at the chase group as I passed them and heard them yell something out in my direction, but who knows what it was. Probably like, "Ah, so now we know why he's got those wheels on today...".

Miles and miles passed under me and I focused less on looking back and more on what was ahead. Kept the cadence high and forged on. Upon reaching the base of the hill I looked back and knew I could make it to the top if I went into idiot mode. What's idiot mode you ask? It's how I describe my ability to turn off my pain receptors and just put out an effort that makes people think you're doing something completely idiotic.

The hill to the finish is stair-stepped. Up the first stair and upon glancing back, nobody in site. Out of site...out of mind. One stair down, two more to go. I went really hard on the second; there's a nice short downhill section after this crests and I was able to get my speed up to around 35mph. This launched me up onto the final climb. As I was halfway up the climb I looked back and realized nobody would catch me. With 200 meters to go I glanced back again and saw Matt killing people on the climb. Nobody was on his tail!!!

I let up with 150 meters to go and savored my attack. I think I was more stoked to see Matt coming up on me than my own win. I crossed the line and a flood of emotions came over me. The joy of winning, a feeling of accomplishment from recovering after my L4/5 back injury last summer and knowing that hard work really can pay off.

This was a great team win and the work Matt and Chris did were great. Their stories of how chaos ensued in the peleton are priceless (Racine would be proud)! By the way, the next road race I do I'm going to map out the route myself to double check the length. Velo Promo said this was 52 miles, but I clocked off 47.5 miles.


Wonder said...


Janet said...

Congratulations! Did you watch the prologue this weekend?

Tall & Manley said...

Yup, watched the prologue with the family and 50,000 of my closest friends. BTW, I wonder how many people actually came out to watch?

Anonymous said...

You must still be on cloud nine buddy. I am so happy for your success.