Happy legs!

I really enjoy the Tuesday Night World Championships. This Tuesday I had the opportunity to ride in my first one of the year. It was only about 30 miles – or four laps around Perimeter Road, but it was a good 30.

Why do I enjoy the ride? 1) it is a chance to ride with racers you don’t typically get to meet in actual races. 2) while it is very much like a race, you can try different things and there isn’t so much pressure to make sure each move is correct. 3) when you combine 1 and 2, you really have the opportunity to learn.

This time I went out after a very stressful couple of days. You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven’t blogged recently. That is because last week had me working a conference that kept me busy from around 8 AM until 10 PM each day. I did manage to get on the bike (trainer) twice, but it wasn’t much.

Then I got hit with some unexpected expenses — we’re talking thousands of dollars. I also had two cars in for service and needless to say, I was popping a few Tums for my tummy! By the time 5 o’clock rolled around, I was ready to leave it all behind and burn off the stress with some hot laps around Donaldson!

Lap One:

Thankfully, we started off slow. I never make it there in time to warm up. So, I have to get my legs sorted out during the first lap.

As we made the right turn to head up to the 3M hill, I noticed that a group of Hincapie riders had quietly rolled off the front and were starting to form a gap. Others noticed as well and the pace picked up.

Lap Two:

We were into the second lap and the riders were still off the front. It was at that point I decided to try something. I was going to see if I could bridge up to them. I went after them and a couple of other riders came with me.

I didn’t pay any attention to what was happening around me. I just dug to try to connect onto the back of their four-man break. I caught them right near the top of the golf course hill. Unfortunately, once I got there they sat up.

The only consolation I had from that was overhearing them talking after we got swallowed up by the pack. “Who was that who chased us down?” They probably didn’t recognize me on my new bike and in my new kit. It made me grin.

Match one burned.

Lap Three:

For a bit I tried to sit in and recover. However, another break started off after we crossed the bridge below the plastics plant.  The riders on the front started soft pedaling. I don’t know why because none of them had a rider in the break. I really didn’t want to be the one who did the work to bring them back.

I slowly rolled off the front and moved over. Someone else would need to do this one. About that time my teammate Mark came speeding past me. As he came by he twirled his finger in a circle. “Let’s get this thing going,” he was saying.

Okay, I picked up the pace to follow him and we became the tip of the arrow going up 3M hill aiming for the bull’s eye on the break. Thankfully, it got the rest of the field motivated and I was able to slip in to recover some more.

Second match burned.

A counter had formed and yet another break was getting up the road. As we neared the turn that would put us on the train track straight, I was about third wheel in the field. The break was tempting, but I knew I couldn’t attack from this point. Then several other riders moved around me. As soon as they settled in, I attacked around them and by the time I reached the tracks I had formed a gap.

Ahead I could see the break. If I could just get on the back of the group perhaps I could recover and then work with them. With one lap to go, who knows….

I was having to dig deep by this time. Then the cramp started forming in my right leg. I did my best to work it out and stretch when I could, but the momentum was lost and before I could bridge over, I was caught. Now it was all about trying to sort out my leg and not get caught behind any gaps.

My third match went up in smoke.

Lap Four:

We caught the break on the climb up to the fire station. For the rest of the ride no one got away from the field. I guess it is possible that there was someone up there who had sneaked away, but it was hard to tell because the road was peppered with riders coming in from the country route. It made reading the race – and the racing difficult.

It was obvious that everyone had decided the day would end with a field sprint. I was okay with that. My calf muscle was still balling up on occasion, but otherwise I was feeling pretty good. My goal was to sit in until we crossed the tracks and then it would be time to sort things out.

As we neared the tracks, Wilmar Vargas came around me. I figured in this field, his wheel was a good one to learn from. I stayed there as we moved around the yellow line side of the field to get closer to the front. It was obvious to me that he was moving up, but had no intentions of getting too close.

We started down into the dip and field began to string out. We were moving from a slight crosswind from our left into a tailwind as we turned right. Everyone pinned it to the white line as the field swept into the turn. That opened the door to the left. I found it easy to cross the threshold and move several spots up into the top 15 riders.

I wasn’t paying attention to Wilmar at this point. It was enough to keep my eyes on what was happening right around me and avoiding trouble. We were nearing the sprint point and I knew things would start going crazy.

As we got closer, I got closer to the front. I had not intended to sprint. My plan was just to finish toward the front of the field. However, 100 meters out I realized that while still seated I was starting to overtake some of the people who had started to sprint earlier. I also noticed one of my teammates had moved in behind Wilmar and they were leading the sprint.

Do I go or not? Too late I decided to actually stand and turn the pedals for the sprint. It still wasn’t an all out effort, but even so other riders started dropping off to my left as I came down the white line. With the final match strike, I rolled across fifth about 10 meters behind the winner.

I left the night pretty pleased. It wasn’t so much with my technical approach to the race. I was pleasantly surprised that I had been able to be as involved as I was early on and still had some juice for the finish. That was totally unexpected and unplanned. That is also part of the reason I didn’t give full gas at the end.

As I drove home, I enjoyed the feeling in my legs. The thought was also crossing my mind… “What if I had actually ‘turned my pedals in anger’ on that final sprint?” Maybe next time…