Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

East Valley Team Crit versus Reno Wheelman - came 2rd in the Cs

At the start of the race a number of us Alta Alpina crowd were keen to work out a s-tragedy (strategy) before the race other than the usual, 'ride fast and don't fall off' thing. We had some ideas but basically, if they shot some guy off the front, we planned to fire one off to in order to catch them, or 'cover them' in appropriate parlence.

It was really nice to see so many people out there and so many Reno Wheelmen who had made the hour long drive to be here. There were a lot of them and some looked very strong, though I've learned it is hard to judge by appearances.

Things started slow and thick. There were a lot of riders out there, perhaps 20+. We rode pretty close at times to stay out of the wind - it was a pretty windy afternoon but as usual the wind dropped ready for the As and Bs to race.

So, everything started seeming slow. Jeff gravitated towards the front to wear everyone down but stayed there the whole race. I tried to take a lead from Scott and hung back, nearly at the back - things were pretty easy going back there. A couple of times the Reno guys made a little break but nothing major. Each time a shout went up from our team to alert us to someone pushing on suddenly.

After a while I pulled out of the pack and made a little dash to the front myself. I wanted to fein a break and a couple of times I think it worked, unsettling the Reno lot and letting me stretch my legs a bit. Sometimes this left me at the front of the pack but I eased right up when that happened and was surprised the pack stayed behind me. It felt slow.

One slow lap, the pack was close, drafting into the wind when I heard a shout and that cringe-making sound of bike hitting road. We slowed up at the front and wondered if we should stop but it was a race. I saw an orange shirt and I thought it was Rick but then I saw him in the pack, then I realized I hadn't seen Scott for a while but he was ok too. Turns out it was the other Scott (? I think - not remembering all the names) and he was ok. Christine stopped to check on things, and with her new svelt cyclist form (achieved by not eating) she managed to rejoin the race.

Things started gettig a little jumpy at the front of the pack. A Reno guy in a yellow shirt tried to make a break but we soon had him reeled in. Whether by accident or design there was soon a counter attack from a lean, young looking wheelman. I was in the right place at the right time and feeling ok so I jumped on his wheel and flew after him. I was quite surprised when I looked back to see we had broken from the pack. We didn't seem to be riding very hard. In fact, I wasn't! I mainly took a pull from the Wheelman's wheel and when I took my turn at the front I pushed a moderate pace and tried to conserve. Basically I was doing my job. I hadn't planned to win the race only to cover breaks that occured. The break was covered so I didn't need to work.

After a while the guy turned to me and said, "are you going to pull or sit up and wait for the pack". I vaguely responded that I hadn't figured that out yet (which I actually hadn't, though I had realized he looked lean and strong and that played on my thinking a bit). On that note he got out of the saddle and raced off. Ever the sheep dog I chased him. After the turn I played ball and did my bit, though still not pushing ultra hard (nothing like as hard as I worked with Jeff at Blue Lakes the week before).

I was pretty staggered to look back and see the pack getting even further behind us.

We rode on for the next 10 minutes working together, then the '3 laps' sign came up and we continued working together. I was a bit disappointed at having to shout several times at the same people warming up for the next race, totally in the way of our race. I've learned that a lot of cycle racing is about being super observant - you can lose if you miss something. So having other people on the track is not just an obstacle, it's confusing.

As we got stuck in with only 2 laps to go I saw a red shirt move out from the pack and start to close on us. My Wheelman buddy saw it too. At first I thought it was Jeff, he is certainly strong enough for such stunts but it wasn't. It was someone I didn't recognize so I assumed it was a Wheelman. The Wheelman riding with me seemed quite distracted by it and I thought he was working to some team orders and was hoping to slow me down enough to let this guy through, thereby getting the Wheelmen more points. It transpired that he didn't know who it was either. We later found out it was an Aussie guy from the As warming up - not very helpful. He even said he thought he'd helped us by motivating us.

When the last lap came around the pack still looked too far to worry us (despite the red shirt guy and he hadn't closed enough to worry us). So the race was on between me and the Wheelman and the front. He took a pull but let me take the final drag into the wind. I perhaps should have raced smarter and not done so. He hit the gas bigtime 2 corners from the finish, which was far too early but he made quite a break on me. As I made the last turn I was convinced I'd lost it but could see I was creeping back. I just couldn't find a decent sprint to catch the guy and he won by a bike length or two.

A good ride but I don't feel that I worked hard. It was a team event so me getting 2nd was really just because I did my job in the team not because I was faster than the rest. There was some real work going on in the pack to contest the other places, and I think Reno got 3rd, 4th and 5th. As a team we snatched 2nd place. Again, the cerebral part of the sport is what we are losing on. We have a great bunch of variously talented riders but don't have a good way to make it work for us.

For the first time in ages I had a camera at the race so here are a few random shots.


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