Friday, June 4, 2010

THE CLAW - a reality check

I had a fun if somewhat unsuccessful stage race in Enumclaw aka "The Claw".  This race has been around for a long time, but this year was the first time it was being run as a stage race rather than an omnium.  In an omnium, riders receive points based on their placing for each stage and the rider with the most points at the end of all the stages wins.  In a stage race, the overall winner is the rider who finishes all of the stages in the least total amount of time.  Stage races favor time trailists and climbers.  TT's and mountaintop finishes generate the biggest time gaps between racers since drafting is taken out of the equation.  I was stoked about the switch from omnium to stage race given my recent Coburg TT results.  I was hoping to put time into my competitors in the TT, and then do my best to finish with the same time as the winners of the crit and road race, resulting in a solid overall placing.  That was the plan anyway.

The first stage was the TT.  I arrived at the course somewhat late and spent several minutes struggling to get my power meter working.  I finally managed to fix it and got a bit of a trainer warmup, only to break the valve extender on my new super deep aero front wheel right before my start requiring a frantic wheel change.  I fortunately didn't miss my start time, sprinted out of the gate, and felt pretty good during the first leg of the TT. After the first turn, the course got pretty twisty and I found myself having to look up quite a bit to avoid crashing.  Looking up in a TT annoys me because I really have to strain to do so and it totally screws up my aero tuck.  Despite all of the craning of my neck, I kept the watts high and kept my effort steady up the short climb on the course.  I eventually reached what I thought was the final stretch of road and began wondering where the hell the finish line was.  I passed a couple of people on the side of the road who I thought might be race officials in my TT-induced delirium.  I sat up after passing them, and then noticed a corner marshal who was gesturing that I needed to turn onto another road.  I made the turn, saw the real finish line, and made a sprint for it, pissed that I had lost a few seconds because of my confusion.  I didn't come close to vomiting during the ride and was therefore disappointed with my performance, until I looked at my power data which was actually solid.  Sure enough, when the results came out I was happy to have taken 3rd in the TT, missing 2nd place by only one freakin' second.

Next up was the crit.  Bourcier had warned me ahead of time about the technical nature of the course, and he wasn't kidding.  There were 8 corners and each one of them had crosswalk paint, manhole covers and sewer grates galore.  On top of that, there were a few potholes and gobs of rough pavement.  I got to line up in front because they called up the GC leaders at the start, but once the race began I was quickly shouldered aside by more aggressive riders and ended up near the back of the pack on the first lap.  The pace was high from the start and never let up, making it pretty hard to move up especially since the straightaways were fairly short.  About 15 minutes in to the race, the rain began.  A few drops here and there rapidly turned in to an all-out downpour and the course went from "technical" to "dangerous" in my opinion.  Not surprisingly, there were several big pileups as riders lost traction on the numerous ice-like paint and metal features in the corners.  As the course got progressively wetter and more slippery, the field became even more strung out and my position remained just as crappy near the back.  Eventually the rider in front of me lost the wheel in front of him, and I was unable to come around and close the gap.  It turned into another TT for me, only this time much more miserable and sketchy.  When it was all said and done, I had lost 40 seconds and dropped to 12th on GC.  As if to drive home the insanity of the course, a rider crashed in the warm down lap as we were all rolling around the course at an easy pace.

After the crit, Lisa and I took advantage of a coupon that we found at race registration for a free buffet dinner at the nearby Muckleshoot casino.  Of course there was the usual broad selection of greasy stuff, but there was also a limitless bounty of smoked salmon, shrimp, and crab legs.  With some bread and veggies, we had a fantastic dinner and were stupefied by the fact that we didn't see any other bike racers there.  We went back to our hotel and slept well with full bellies.

 Mmmmmm crab legs!

With Sunday came the road race.  The weather had not improved much since the crit so I piled on the layers.  We got underway, and shortly after the neutral roll out ended, I noticed that my bike was feeling a bit more cushy than normal.  As I feared, a minute later my rear tire had gone totally flat and I pulled to the side of the road for a wheel change. The car pulled right up and the change was quick, but the field had still pulled pretty far away.  I got back on the bike and began a frantic chase.  I probably would not have made it, but I was able to draft behind the wheel car, and then the official car once I got reasonably close to the pack.  Once I was back in the fold, I realized that it wasn't going to be a good day for me.  I was pretty exhausted from the few minute chase after my flat, and was having trouble moving up through the strung out field of riders.  I started feeling even worse when we hit the climb. The hill on the course is pretty similar to McBeth.  It starts off steep, then levels off, then gets steep again.  I felt like crap on all of the steep bits, and didn't feel much better on the more gradual parts.  It was nothing like Cherry Blossom or even Silverton where I have been able to use the climbs to move up through the pack.  I was hanging on for dear life every time up that damn thing.  I managed to stay in the fold until the 3rd time up.  The strong guys at the front really turned the screws that time and the field shattered into 3 different groups.  I was in the 3rd one.  I was somewhat reassured that I didn't totally suck when I saw the skinny climber kid from Cherry Blossom ride up next to me on the climb.  He and I began working to bridge up to the second group on the road, trading pulls. Unfortunately, he was able to summon up a final kick at the summit and join them, while I just didn't have the horsepower to do the same.  I dangled in no-man's land for a while and was shortly caught by the group behind me.

We got a hard rotating paceline going, but we simply could not close the gap.  We had the lead group within sight for the first half of the final lap, but they eventually pulled away when we approached the climb for the final time.  Everyone was pretty dejected, and to add insult to injury, it began pouring rain on us at the top of the climb.  We kept a decent tempo going, and rolled across the finish line several minutes after the lead group.

Overall, this race was a bit of a reality check for me.  Sure I can TT pretty well for a cat 3, but I am certainly not a fantastic crit rider or climber.  I guess it is good to know what I need to work on to be a better all around road racer.  Then again, if the weather ever improves I think I would like to start spending a lot more time on my mountain bike.  The creampuff is coming up soon.  Enough of this road bike stuff.  I really need to get in some epic MTB rides!

1 comment:

  1. Doug, I here you. The Claw sounds a lot like the Connecticut Stage Race for me. Crappy and painful. I here you on Dirt over Road. I just signed up for my first solo 24 hour race in August. I will do a 12 hour solo in July to warm up. I cant wait for you to write about the Puff. You will rock it Doug.