Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm cranky; payback is coming...Madera style!

This was my first time racing in the Madera SR. I was looking forward to the TT as it would be a good test against some of the solid TT'ers in the district. On to the details:

First race of the day and pretty uneventful. I was expecting a 50 minute race, but at the line the officials said 40 minutes. Works for me...more energy saved for the TT later in the day. Pre-race strategy for us was to just conserve and let things play out. I rode in the back half of the pack most of the time and watched as several attacks would go from time to time. The only thing of interest was how I got pushed wide in turn #3 and had to navigate the orange cones to get back on course (afterwards I was irritated that the guy next to me didn't hold his line through the corner and drifted wide). No attacks stuck and we all picked up the pace a bit with one lap remaining. Coming out of the last turn Chris was 3rd wheel and I knew he'd have a great result for the team.

My goal was to go sub-23 on this course. The head wind was pretty significant on the last half of the course. My 30" man was Chris Lyman (who ended up winning the TT with a mid-21 time); he was so fast that I didn't see him until later in the evening at the hotel.

I focused real hard on not going out too hard during the first 4 mile stretch of road before the first turn; this was my downfall at BtC and I didn't want to repeat that mistake. This goal was accomplished, but the road was bumpy enough that it was difficult to get into a solid rhythm.

With the wind at my back on the second leg I ramped it up a bit and averaged 31.5mph. By this time my HR was settling in around 175bpm and things were starting to hurt. Turning into the wind and onto the 3rd leg proved to be hard. In retrospect, having a little bit of headwind made it easier for me to put in a more constant effort, but the legs were dying a slow death. Watts were slowly creeping down...

Through the last turn and on to the finish. With 1km to go I buried myself and check the watch. I knew I'd break 23 minutes, but didn't know so by how much. I came across the line at 22:36, good for 8th on the GC.

At dinner Saturday night the rest of the team gave me some very sound advice given I was our top GC guy. Stay near the front, let Morgan Stanley and Specialized do all the hard work, and just try to maintain your GC position. This figured to be interesting...

We rolled out and I was in the top 10 for the first 10 miles. I noticed that those around me in the GC placings were riding either in front or immediately behind me. I figured it would be like this for the entire 68 miles.

As we made our first turn onto the bumpy section of road one of my large water bottles ejected from the seat tube cage. Luckily I had a spare bottle in my back jersey pocket for just this type of problem (again, another point of sage advice from the experienced teammates). The road was bad, then it got worse.

I have a new appreciation for those European classic one-day events. There is so much truth when you realize the fight for the front before the cobbles (or bad road in our case) is so important. Important in the sense that you can actually see what's coming in front of you and be prepared. I found myself slipping back a bit when we hit the bad road (which is fully closed, so you can use the entire road). I had to trust the wheels in front of me and that was not ideal. At least I could look over people and see what was coming.

About a third of the way through this nasty section a small group of 4-5 riders got a gap of 50 yards. Hernandez comes motoring by me on my left and for some reason I was really fascinated by his rear tire. Probably because it looked to be 30mm+ wide and under-inflated. Man, that would have been a comfortable tire to be on given the condition of the road.

Immediately after he goes by I put down a bit of power to get a free ride from him to the front. As I'm doing this I notice a little play in my left cleat. Uh-oh! It's the same feeling I had in the cleat when I was climbing Mt. Figueroa at training camp. At camp I had to dismount and tighten the cleat. It didn't feel as bad, so I thought maybe I'd get lucky and make it around the course without having to stop.

No sooner had I finished that thought and something else went wrong! My chain suddenly shifted from the big to small front chainring. I tried to slam it back into the big ring and it wouldn't go. This wouldn't be good if I had to small ring it the rest of the day.

At this point I have a loose cleat, a bike that can't shift into the big ring. I'll survive.

I went to double check on the loose cleat just to see if I could unclip. This is where disaster struck. As I'm twisting my foot out of the pedal, the entire left crank arm disengages from the bottom bracket and comes off the bike! Now I have a broken crank, I've just lost contact with the pack, and my 8th place on the GC just went up in smoke. Oh how I rue you Madera RR.

Standing at the side of the road with my crank arm in my hands was not the site I imagined earlier in the morning. I was completely at a loss for what had just happened. I've never heard of something like this happening to anybody...ever! I'll admit it was pretty amusing, yet frustrating.

To make matters worse, here come the E4's down the road. Some unattached guy in a black kit leading the pack yells to me, "Hey, go pick up the bottle back in the road." Really?!? Do you not see the crank arm in my hand? I felt like hucking it like a boomerang up against his head. That was not what I wanted to hear from him.

So after that group passed I got back on the broken steed and pedaled one-legged all the way back to the finish line, through the feed zone (got applause from the crowd) and back to the car.

Madera will have a big target on its' back next year. I will go sub-22 at the TT and be prepared to get top 5. You can count on it!


Gianni said...

Bummer to hear about that- we lost 2 out of three of out GC guys and almost lost the third in those bumps- that's Madera!

Sounds like a good TT- I went too hard early and paid for it later- easy to do with the wind.

Manley Man said...

That rough bumpy section has seriously made me think of getting some wheels specifically laced up to deal with bad conditions.

chatterbox said...

When I did it in 2007, one of the girls' seat post broke and seat flew off in the cobbles. She was in good position on the GC - I guess she could have finished the race standing the whole way, but we still had 2 laps to go. Bummer for her.

I'm sure you will get your revenge next year.

phipps said...

Todd, nice report. Sorry to hear about your mechanical problems. I hate rough roads like that. Since I was using clinchers I ran real high pressure to avoid pinch flatting and I was bouncing all over the road. I've cracked too many carbon tubulars to trust them on those kinds of roads though. I think tubeless may be the answer for this type of road.

phipps said...

I was just thinking about when we were on the starting line our guys were talking about who on the team would give up a wheel and who rode the same pedals as Lyman in case he had a problem and needed a bike switch, and I thought about you switching bikes with Daryl. That would be fun to watch. =)

Manley Man said...

Somebody once made the comment to me that they thought my bikes would never get stolen because the thief wouldn't be able to reach the pedals. Might be true, but I still keep a very close eye on my "babies".

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

Yeah--that road was something else! I rode strong tubulars (aluminum rims) and bounced around but didn't flat.

I have seen two people lose cranks like you did. What kind was it? Both of the ones that I saw fall off were FSA. When I ran an FSA compact, my mechanic actually told me to carry around a 8mm wrench in case it came loose...he had seen it a few times. However, I will say that I carred around that 8mm for awhile...mine never came loose.

Great TT, though! :-)