Sunday, October 29, 2006

Georgia Cyclocross Race #3: Fort Yargo

This was our club's race weekend. Our club president designed a very hard course that included 3 forced runs: a log, a long beach, and a double barrier section. The course was around 1.7 miles long and ended on an uphill paved road. In fact, the beach, barrier and paved road section of the course may be the hardest 1/2 mile in the whole series of races.

I did not know it, but we had at least 2 ex-professional mountain bike riders (Dave Irving and Chris Wiley) in the race today. Our field was really large and with my teammate Gerard racing down from the 45+ category and Brady Rodgers racing down from the A's it would end up being a very competitive race.

From the start it was a grind. My power meter registered 900W at the start and 1000W at the top of the paved hill, so that initial push from the start was intense. I was hoping that Brady would do what he did and push the pace in order to force a break. During the first lap a small gap opened up between Chris, Brady and I with Gerard and Dave being about 10-20 seconds behind. Gerard had a small problem at the start so he really did well to make up for that and get in a good position.

After the initial hill there was a downhill which I averaged 28mph on each lap. From this you barrel into a rooted dirt section that twists and turns and eventually dumped you out onto another paved section leading to a sharp right dirt off-camber on wood chips (very soft) and over a large log. Many could bunnyhop the log but not me.

A small paved section led to a right hand turn through some more muddy dirt sections then it was onto grass, down a gravel road to the two sharp, off camber turns that led into the beach. These turns gave me fits each lap and I think my front tire washed out 2-3 times.

The beach itself was not that bad since you could ride almost all the way across. But, if you had your gears pre-set, you could ride the hill out of the beach. Shortly after the hill was a short downhill that had a crazy entrance to the two barriers. I found no good way to dismount but the A guys later made it look easy. From here is was a remount on a hill and then the paved hill, grinding back up to the finish.

We three did not race very smart in hindsight. Well, Chris did, he won. Brady decided to attack us on the hill after the first lap but his gap eventually closed. I was hoping we would work together to distance ourselves from Gerard and Dave (who I was told had a great sprint). Instead it was a series of small attacks until Chris and Brady pulled away from me and I could not close. They did not get very far away, but in cyclocross 40 seconds is a lot.

What happened next also did not make me happy. Gerard and Dave were gaining. At this point I had third place, but as Gerard came, so did Dave. I don't really know what to think of this now, but at the time I was not happy with Gerard for chasing me down and bringing dave with him. Dave eventually dropped Gerard and passed Brady for second on an incredible last lap ride! I think Dave would have caught me anyway, but I was hoping Gerard could have blocked a bit to lessen that chance. In the end neither gerard nor I made the podium which sucks. I understand Gerard's point of view better now so I know how to race in that situation better next time.

So, Dave eventually pips Brady at the line for second. If Chris, Brady and I would have worked together we all would have been on the podium. But, Chris won and it was to his advantage that things worked the way he did. My wife said he did not look like he was hurting a bit which is not what you want to hear.

I think the race came out like it should have. Chris and Dave are ex-pros and even though I have beated Chris once, he will be hard to beat in the future because he will just get better. Dave is new to me and when he passed me I was tired so I don't know, but he is strong and is last lap push was awesome. Brady and I have raced together many time before in cyclocross and he is always strong and unpredictable. He attacks a lot which I like, but I think he he and I cooperated better we could have beaten Chris (maybe). Gerard dominates most of the races he enters. He is capable of making up 1 minute easy on the group if there is confusion.

It should be a wonderful next 4 races and I can expect that wins will be hard to come by now.

For my efforts today I only get a Miller Lite. But I did get to carve a pumpkin with my daughter!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

GA Cyclocross Race #2: Augusta

Last year the rain waited until the last race weekend of the season but this year we were treated to rain on the seocnd race! It was in the 50's and raining a nice drizzle up until the start of the 10 o'clock race.

The course was the same as last year except that they added a nice little two barrier run near the expo area that was much better than the barrier section last year. There was another flat barrier section near the start and a fun grassy steep hill that I managed to ride up each lap without any problems.

There was only about 40 yards from the start line to a plywood ramp over a curb and the first barrier section. I wanted to be first to the plywood since it was wet and slippery. I managed to get a good start and was first through. I was using the Tufo tubular clinchers that I normally use but decided to only use around 45psi since it was rainy and muddy. For this course at least, this was the proverbial sweet spot for pressure and the tires gripped fantastically. I was a little worried bout this during warm-ups especially on the steep grassy hill.

Most of the course was grass but there was a lot of challenging off-camber stuff as well and one section near the second set of barriers which were on a hill so you had to run. I learned in warm-ups that clipping out coasting down the off camber hill and gliding into the right side of the barriers gave me momentum and an easy dismount. These were not troublesome during the race.

The most challenging part was the little muddy off-camber section on the backside of the course. The lead up to this secion was a grassy downhill in which you could carry speed. But, the off camber section was hidden by some bushes and a left turn so (as I learned) you had to go wide right and then shoot into the mud left and through the turn or else you ran the risk of sliding right through the course marking tape and off the course.

I was able to win this race by about 1 minute but it was hard and challenging. I could not use the Powertap because of the rain so here is a boring HR file instead:

All in all Ross composed a very challenging course and did a fantastic job marketing and getting the word out. The Waffle House food was great!

I was helped by Jeff Welp in the first few laps by being a great teammate and keeping the second place guy in check. Jeff ended up 4th but rode a great race and I was hoping that he could get on the podium and hopefully next week he, Gerard and I can work together to make that happen.

Next week might be stressful with putting together the club race, but there are a lot of willing volunteers so I hope it will run smoothly.

This week for my efforts I get a Duvel and some cookies!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Series Leader Jersey by Verge (sneak preview)

Verge came on board earlier this summer as the official leader's jersey sponsor. The design is a peach motif with the GA cyclocross series man and sponsors. I think it came out very nice.

All you have to do to get one is become series leader by accumulating the most points in one of the categories.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

GA Series Race #1: Conyers

The International Horse Park in Conyers was the place for the first race of the 2006 cyclocross season here in Georgia. It was around 43 degrees when I got to the venue but it warmed up to at least 65 by the C race which was around 12pm; beautiful weather.

The course was unique in that there was no pavement and most of the level surfaces were grass. There was a nice sandy climb and decent that led into a stair stepped sequence of short power climbs. That effort took about a minute and it would be the decisive place for a lot of riders. From there it was a nice recovery downhill to a left hand turn and up another hill to the 1st barrier section. At the top there was little momentum and you had to basically step over the boards. Another downhill section, back through the pits and a twisty wooded section (dirt) and a wide grassy turn that carried a lot of speed, into a left hand bend to a forced run-up which had a nice log in place. The run up was short and this was my favorite part since I could unclip and coast the bike to the log, dismount at speed and then run up the hill--very fluid. From here you went out on the level parade grounds and another barrier section and a wide open area with a slight headwind, around to the start/finish.

Our race (masters 35+) had around 25 people in it and started quickly since many folks wanted to get to the steep sand section first. I was 3rd in line but after the sand was able to get a small gap with another rider. We were together for the first lap, trading and then he slowed down a bit on the parade grounds and about 5 guys were catching up. Into the sand hill again I was able to gap the rest and continue along unmolested for the remainder of the race. I felt smooth and in control. In think I ended up with a 30-45 second gap.

I really wanted to win this race for Dave Abney. I was not able to make the funeral or the wake and wanted to do something cycling related for him. I was thinking about him during the race, sitting in his hospital room joking about what he would eat after his treatment, looking sick but optimistic, and it made me feel committed and strong.

in terms of power, my CPU took a break at the start as the referee was talking to us so I missed the first 10 minutes. For the 40 minutes I did get, I had an average power of 289 W which corresponds to the predictions. I still have a bit to work on like power after 30 minutes, but all in all it was a fun race and I was lucky enough to win.

Now a little time to speak to the Three Philosophers and wait for my daughter to wake up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last Sunday Practice for Awhile

Today we had our last tune-up practice at Freeman-Brock ES and it consisted of 4 race paced blocks of 2-3 laps depending on what category you were racing. The course was a mix of grass, dirt, and pavement and the lap times for the A racers were around 4 minutes and on the last block we changed the course and the lap times were around a 5:44 average. Each block had around 10 minutes of rest in between. It was very nice, overcast and in the 60's.

My first block was sabotaged by a poor line choice that sent me and my new Cannondale crashing into the dirt. I had rolled a tire so I continued on my other bike for a lap and then waited for the others.

My bike repaired, I then did 3 more blocks of 8:08, 12:05 and 16.20 minutes, the last two being 3 laps. Below are my average power numbers with and without zeros. Without zeros is "power while pedaling" and is seen as a better measure of power for cyclocross since there are a lot of power changes and times when you are not pedaling.

These laps felt comfortable and my only concern are my narrow handlebars on the new bike which made the front end a little jittery. The carbon fork makes a big difference.

I was happy to be able to keep up with the A riders, but I know that a 16 minute block by no means would reflect what a 60 minute A-block would be, so I am ever impressed that those guys can hold that power for an hour.

Of course, the numbers above cannot be used very well to predict functional threshold power since they are under 20 minutes. But, if I add last Sunday's workout into the fancy prediction device, my average predicted power for 45 minutes would be 290 watts, which is about 97% of my threshold. It is clear that my power decreases as the time lengthens and so that may be the only trend to take from this with the exception that based on percieved exertion, my performance was good.

Next Sunday is the first race and I am cautiously egar to get started.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

GTC 30 Minute Race

So today we had a nice little 30 minute race at Freeman-Brock. I think everyone had a nice workout and had a good time. It was good to do a longer block of race paced effort in light of what will be coming our way in 2 weeks. I saw many of us drinking before the race block and that is good since we will have little time for fluids during the races.

Anyway, the Powertap does not usually lie and here were my numbers for the 30 minute race:

The 5 laps came in at 31.06 minutes for me.

Avg Power (including zeros): 253.66
Avg Power Pedaling (not including zeros): 296.87 (98.9% of FT power (300W))
Avg. Power to Weight for the Block: 3.8 w/kg
Avg. HR = 171.5 bpm
Avg. Cadence: 80rpm
Max Power= 984 W (at the start); Attack Power= 690W initially, 500W avg for the 30 seconds at the attack and after.

Below is an Excel graph of power during the block.