Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fayetteville Stage Race

I woke up at 4am on Saturday to drive to Fayetteville (TX) for the Fayetteville Stage Race. For the Masters 35+ Cat 4/5 group I was in, this consisted of a 46-mile road race Saturday morning, a 6.6-mile time trial Saturday afternoon, and a 49-mile road race Sunday morning. I arrived at the race venue much earlier than I had expected, so I grabbed about 20 minutes of snooze.

I pinned on my numbers, warmed up on my rollers, and headed over to the starting line, where I found Richie. We discussed whether or not the Tegaderm wound dressings in our goody bags were an omen.

Stage 1

This morning's race was 2 laps of a 22-mile circuit. There was only one hill of any significance; its grade maxed out at 10%, but it wasn't very long. The first lap was pretty uneventful. There were about 70 in our group, and the roads along the rear of the course were pretty narrow, so I tried to stay near the front of the pack. At one point on this narrow section, I was struggling to stay to the right of the centerline of the road, to avoid getting penalized. The winds were coming from the right, so people were trying to stay to the left of each other, to hide from the wind. The guy on my right was just about on the centerline (which meant I was just about over the centerline), and there was no one to his right. I also noticed that the right side of the road was pretty clear, so I slowed a bit, moved over to the right side of the road, and was able to gain several positions before nestling back into the safety of the pack.

Going up the hill at the beginning of the second lap, Richie is to my left. I notice that he and I are the only riders still seated, everyone else is out of the saddle. I tell him that Robert would be proud of us. Just at that point, the guy in front of me slows suddenly, and I have to pretty much go off the right side of the road to get around him. I had to get out of the saddle to manage this maneuver (sorry, Robert), but don't have a problem. The pace picks up right after the top of the hill, as a group attempts to break away. I'm able to stay with them, as is the rest of the pack.

Or so I think. It's really hard to see what's going on behind, so if 20 guys get shelled off by this acceleration, I don't know it. The important thing is that I am not one of them. :-)

Things soon settle down, and Richie is again to my left. Just for fun, I tell him, in a voice loud enough for others to hear, "Hey! I haven't crashed,yet! This may be a record for me!" I'm hoping that this will convince the other riders to give me some room. Heh.

Then I consider that may have jinxed myself...

Not too long after this thought, the two guys I'm riding between veer in toward each other, pinching me off. I make contact with one of them, but we all stay upright. Not too long after that, I get tangled up with a rider on my right, and we lean into each other for a while before we are able to separate. Again, no damage.

We get into a headwind section, about 15 miles from the end, and two Team TBi guys are on the front of the pack, and I'm in third position. They keep looking back, for someone to get in front on front of them, but I had better things to do at the time, like enjoy their draft. We were going less than 14 mph at the time. A third TBi guy comes to the front, and the three of them are pulling us along for a bit. Then the third TBi guy heads up the road, gapping us by about 20 yards. The original two TBi guys stay on the front, still going slow.

Although it seems early for someone to be trying a move like this, I think that maybe the two TBi guys are blocking for their teammate, so that he can attempt a breakaway. I wonder if they'll also be block for the two of us, so I take off and bridge up to their buddy, before he gets too far away. When I catch him, I look over my shoulder and see that his buddies suck at blocking. :-D I had just pulled the entire peloton up to him. Oh, well...

I did get stuck pulling the pack for a short while after that, but I certainly wasn't working hard.

About 4 miles from the finish, we hit another hill, which I didn't remember from the first lap. This isn't as big as the earlier hill, but my legs may beg to differ that point, as they decided that they had had enough. I quickly got spit out the back of the pack, and I also had to dodge a guy whose chain had come off. After cresting the hill, I did all I could to catch the disappearing pack, but we were still heading into the wind, and my heartrate is in the red. After a couple of times of almost running off the road, I decide to just let them go, figuring that at least I'll beat the chain-dropping guy.

Or maybe not, as the chain-dropping guy soon catches me, suggesting that we work together so that the other guy behind us doesn't catch up. I tell him that we're only about a half mile from the finish, and he heads on. I then see that the other guy is gaining on me, and decide to not let him, so I go as hard as I can to the finish, my legs cramping about a hundred yards from the line.
I'm able to hold him off, finishing in 46th place, about 2 minutes behind the pack.

I have lunch with Richie and his wife Emily, then hang out with Tom (who was racing in a different category) while we wait for...

Stage 2

I was going to warm up on my rollers, as I did in the morning, but the rear roller seems to have warped as it sat in the bed of my truck, so I readied the time trial bike and hit the road. I'm still pretty tired from the morning's race, and I can't get my heartrate up into the 173-175 range, where I'll want it in the time trial. After about 20 minutes, I head to the start line.

The guy who's supposed to start 30 seconds in front of me doesn't show up, so I don't have anyone to chase. I'll just have to try to stay ahead of the guy who starts 30 seconds (and 60 seconds, and 90 seconds...) behind me. Last year, I was passed by the time I got to the turn at 2.5 miles, and later by one or two other riders. My goal for this time trial is to not let Richie beat me like he did last year (by almost 2 minutes!), since he's on his road bike, and I'm on my "lo-tech" time trial bike.

My time comes up, and I start. My heartrate goes right up to 175 and stays there:

I get to the first turn, and I haven't been passed yet! I look behind me and don't even see anyone gaining, so I'm feeling pretty good. I'm probably geared a bit too high for the hills, but I manage to get up them okay. I get to the 4.5-mile turn, still having not been passed. Only two more miles to go, and the end won't come fast enough. Under a half mile to go, and I look behind, and see someone approaching! He does pass me, but doesn't get to the line too far ahead of me, so he only beat me by 32 seconds. My average speed for this time trial is 21.1mph, which was also my average for the morning's road race.

Richie completed the course 12 seconds faster than I did.


Stage 3

Sunday's 49-mile road race isn't until 11:20am, so I can sleep in until 7am. I wake up, still tired, and re-check the schedule, halfway hoping that I misread the schedule and it's an 8:30am start, and I can then go back to bed, but no such luck.

I get to Fayetteville at about 10:30am, unload the bike, and go out on the road to warm up. I get to the starting line, and the group is much smaller than yesterday (about 20 fewer). The wind is blowing hard, and I'm not looking forward to it.

The race starts, and it's not too bad at the beginning. I've decided to stay farther in the back of the pack today, to better stay out of the wind. This works for awhile, and I have a chance to chat with the guy who started behind me (and passed me) in yesterday's time trial. Nice guy.

We get to the hill at 5 miles. Last year, after cresting this hill, I had difficulty in getting my chain back onto the big ring, and could not keep the pace as the pack accelerated, and watched them go off into the wind. I was in no mood to chase them in the wind for 45 miles, so I just turned around and went home.

Today, however, the front derailleur works fine, and I'm able to stay with the pack after the hill. It's still hard work, though, going into the wind, and we eventually get strung out, making it more difficult to find solace from the wind. Finally, after about 8 miles, I can no longer hold on, and I drift back from the front half of the pack. Eventually, the rest of the pack comes around me to catch back up.

Well, I lasted a little bit longer this year, but now my plan is to ride to the feed zone, to see if Richie needs my bottle when he comes around on his second lap. The pack is much smaller as they come by on their second lap, and Richie is still there, looking pretty good. He waves off the bottle. I head to the finish line to watch the end of the race.

As the pack nears the finish line, a couple of riders on the left side go down as the sprint begins. The winner has a couple of seconds on the pack. I can't see Richie. Wait! There he is! Can he do it? Oh, he just misses out on getting 3rd place, but 4th is still quite impressive, and it goes well with his 8th-place finish from Saturday's road race.

It wasn't a great weekend for me, results-wise, but I improved over last year, in every event, so I was happy with that.

Next up: Fort Davis Stage race.


Daisy said...

Hi Frank! Just stopping in for a visit at your blog.

Up at 4:00 on a Saturday--Yikes! That's EARLY! You must be dedicated to your sport.

What does warm up on your rollers mean?--does that mean roller blades?

This was fun to read. I was cheering you on from here. :D

Daniel Norton said...

I think he meant that he was warming up his hair rollers. (I don't think that it's naturally curly.)

Frank Irwin said...

No, Daniel, I rolled my hair the night before.

Yeah, Daisy, I usually wake up earlier on the weekends than during the week. :-(

Rollers are a way to ride a bike in place, kind of like a treadmill.

Thanks for stopping by!

Daisy said...

Daniel, HA HA! :D

Frank, thanks for the youtube link. I never heard of rollers for a bike before, so I learned something new. Cool! :)