Tag Archives: Tuesday Night World Championships

Are you willing to do what it takes?

The title of my Strava activity for Tuesday’s World Championships was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I’m not getting ready to go back on that by discussing it here. However, its time to use the blog as a catharsis to get rid of some bad mojo. So, bear with me!

irf_gear

Here is the deal. I’m riding pretty well for early in this year. I’m seeing my functional threshold power increase and I’m sure I’m ready to take it to some long charity rides. However, I have an Achilles heel.

When it comes to racing (whether on the real road TNWC or Zwift’s virtual one), my FTP isn’t helping me much. Why? Well, you see, in racing no one just gets in a rhythm and rides that way to the end. Racing really is all about surges.

So, here I am trying to stay protected from the wind, but still stay up front in a race. The field begins to thin into a long line as the pace picks up. A break of three goes off the front. I wait. One by one the riders ahead of me move off like we are on a rotating pace line. Now I am on the front.

Suddenly, there is an attack of one rider, then two, and a third joins in an attempt to bridge over to the three already up the road. I have a choice to make. Do I rotate off the front and let the field pull me up to the forming break, or do I take matters into my own hands and follow?

For the sake of illustration, lets say I decide to jump on the wheel of the third rider and allow those attackers to help bring me up to the riders ahead. Well, two things are going to happen… 1) we are going to make it up to the break and then another scenario presents itself, or 2) as I grab the wheel going past me the field recognizes the threat and accelerates to neutralize the attack.

Either way, none of this takes place at a constant power output. Now, suppose I make it up to the break, but it becomes disorganized. After being away for a few minutes, the field behind gets organized to bring us back, or a new batch of riders attacks from the field to bridge up to us.

I’ve put out an effort to get up in the break. Just as I’m starting to get my heart rate under control, I’m faced with a new threat and a new need to ratchet up the power. This happens multiple times within the race.

Even if you make the decision to sit in the field (which I find it very hard to do), you can’t totally escape these surges. Often the field is like a rubber band. A movement starts at the front and everyone surges to release the tension being created as the front stretches away from the back. Then the front slows as the threat is neutralized or allowed to break away. The rear then collapses into the center. Only to have this happen again and again until a result is determined.

So, how do you prepare for this? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen by just going out and riding your bike for hours and hours on end. It doesn’t happen by going out and doing 20 minute time trials at your functional threshold power.

PowerInterval Chart

90 min. 2 x [3 x 3 min. @ PI (3 min. RBI)(5 min RBS)] with chain falling off

How do you prepare? Intervals. You go out and do short bursts of power for one to five minutes. You rest for a minute or two and then engage in the next burst of pain. You do this until you are sick of them.

That is my problem. I’m loving riding my bicycle right now. I’m feeling strong. I could go out and do a time trial and possibly get a personal best. However, put me in a criterium, or even a road race, and I am toast.

However, I have not done a single interval training session. The result is that early in a race I can ride like I’m going to rule the field, but when the surges begin and I have to react to one or two attacks… I get ruled by the field!

Yes, a little bit of patience and correct reading of the tactics around me would definitely allow me to last longer, but I would only end up being field fodder when it really mattered. Yes, I need those things, but ultimately I’m going to have to face the training demons — intervals.

But here is the question… Do I care? Do I care enough about finishing well in what amounts to be a glorified shop ride that I am willing to put myself through that discomfort? Why can’t I just gain that ability by participating? Why can’t I just ride laps on Watopia going for jersey’s every now and again?

Oh, you’re still reading? I told you that this was a catharsis for me. This blog is more me talking to myself than to you. However, if you are new to cycling — especially competitive amateur cycling — I hope you will understand the truth of my words.

Intervals aren’t sexy. They are only fun for the cross fit riders of bicycles. However, if you want to be competitive and not just be field fodder, you are going to have to do intervals.

The question remains, “Are you willing to do what it takes?”

Pleasantly surprised

I am halfway through the Time-Crunched Cyclist plan. While riding in Cleveland Park Monday I came upon Hank McCullough and we talked a bit about riding bikes with a busy lifestyle. My comment was that I didn’t know why I was doing the plan because I was never getting a chance to benefit from it in a race. Hank’s response was, “Yes, but you are staying in shape.”

He is right — on a foundational level. I am staying in shape. Most likely my fitness is better than most 44 year old males. However, that wasn’t my goal for the plan. I can stay in good enough shape to be healthy with a lot less pain! My desire is to be able to mix it up again in the Greenville racing scene.

Last night I had the first opportunity to put my stamina to the test. True, it wasn’t an organized race, but as I overheard someone say during the ride, “People here are going harder than they would in a race!” Yep, it was time for the Tuesday Night World Championships. April 3rd was our first of the season (take a look at the course).

When I heard the call that we were doing four laps, I knew I had better cinch my shoes. While some of us out there were riding in these group conditions for the first time of the season, others had already completed a number of races. I was figuring those later ones would light it up early and make us former ones suffer. There wouldn’t be a lot of warming up tonight.

Sure enough, we had hardly gotten halfway around the course when the pace started picking up. At least at this point I settled in about midway to see what would happen. As we finished the first lap a break had already been established.

I won’t go into the blow-by-blow details of the next two laps. My focus was to get a good solid workout. The plan called for two minute power intervals. Since I was cheating by doing a group ride, the only way to pull that off was to attack and then recover. So, my behavior during that period didn’t make a lot of tactical sense, but it was the best way to get some efforts in.

During each of those laps I moved into a chase group that cut into or eliminated the advantage of the breakaway. A break would form. Some of us would move forward to chase. The field would come together. I would fade back to recover and then the next break would be off.

That brings us to the final lap. There was a break ahead as we passed the start-finish line. A slightly disorganized pace line formed and we began to chase. David Curran pulled us for a long solid pull and then as we neared the golf course climb I was on the front.

I was pulling the group closer and closer to the break, but then I realized I was in too big a gear. My legs had that sudden feeling that they were swelling up like balloons filled with bricks and I was losing momentum. My brain was saying “Spin!” and my legs were saying “We are!”, but nothing was happening.

Shifting to an easier gear caused me to lose that much more momentum and about that time my heart rate caught up to my effort. Swooosh! I was done and the field came around me. It kept coming around me as I tried to gather myself. I knew the last rider was coming past when I heard him urge, “Get back on!” I glanced back and saw empty road.

Now, I will say (not to my credit) that there have been times when I would have just sat up. I would listen to the negative talk so my mind saying I couldn’t hang in there to the finish. On these final laps of the TNWC we’re talking speed!

This Tuesday was different. 1) I wasn’t worried about blowing up. I had no team to support or embarrass. I had nothing to prove. 2) Experience told me that riding the rest of the course alone would be worse than if I could get into the field.

First, I had to get there. I was only about 10 meters off the back of the field, but it seemed like I couldn’t close the gap. There was some acceleration on the front so I had to keep pushing a bit. I just kept telling myself, “If you can just reconnect, you’ll make it!” I gave it one last effort and made contact.

It was after this that I was pleasantly surprised. Once I rejoined the group I found myself moving with renewed power to the front of the field. Once we got over the railroad tracks, I was able to continue moving into a position at the front of the field.

I knew we had a break, but wasn’t sure if there was more than one. It was hard to know since the situation formed while I was moving up from the back. What I could see was a small group beginning the climb and a lone rider trying to bridge across as we dipped down into the depression that would start the climb to the finish.

As my group began the climb, I started to move up toward the front. I would grab the wheels of various riders who would accelerate from positions near me. We caught the lone rider and with a kilometer to go it appeared we started swallowing up some of the break.

Suddenly, I found myself sitting third wheel on the point of the field. I’m not aware if any of the break survived or not. All I know is that at that moment I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I am here!”

I realized I was in the perfect spot for the sprint if we kept the pace up. The first rider appeared unattached. The rider whose wheel I was enjoying was a VeloShine rider — I didn’t think it was Jae Bowen or Bruce Humphries. His legs definitely looked like he could handle a sprint!

Then the first rider faltered and the VeloShine rider lifted his pace as well. I was caught in a moment of indecision. I had banked so much on coming out of their draft and now the draft dissipated with about 500 meters to go. I hesitated just a moment staying on the wheel in front of me. Then we were swarmed by riders coming around us.

I could have jumped into the fray, but with 200 meters to go my favored wheel had now moved around the first rider and I had to slow to keep from running up his wheel as riders went around both sides of me. There would be other rides. No need to cause an accident on my first one back!

I finished elated! Not because I had ridden a smart “race”, but because I had whipped myself like a dog and still had something left at the end. For the very first time since my broken neck in 2010, I felt that feeling. Finally, my body is starting to feel like it belongs to me and I can make it do what my brain tells it to.

We covered just under 29 miles and averaged 25 mph. My peak wattage was 1045 watts for 2 seconds. Several times in the ride I put out two minute intervals from 320 to 470 watts. The average power for the entire event was 218 watts. Yep, it’s coming back!

Most of all, it was fun again.

Listen to your wife

Yesterday I was given a choice by my coach – a) race in the Tuesday Night World Championships, or b) do repeats on Paris Mountain. With the heat index heading upward to 110 degrees, I was kind of hoping for a third option! Thankfully, I listened to the Beautiful Redhead.

“Shouldn’t you go out to Donaldson tonight,” she asked. “It would be probably be good for you to ride in a group like that since you have a road race coming up.” It is true that I have been mentioning that while I have been able to see some progress in my fitness, I am struggling once I get into a race. Training and racing are two different things. The TNWC give you a perfect opportunity to train in race like conditions.

As I waited for the ride to start while leaning on my bike in the shade with two of my teammates, I took a look at the temperature reading on my computer. 106 degrees Fahrenheit. You could feel the heat on the road coming up like tentacles trying to grab at your legs to pull away their strength.

Thankfully, the field started out with a pace to conducive to the conditions. As we progressed I stayed back toward the rear of the field. I figured I would see what would happen for the first couple of laps and give it an effort here or there and then pull out after three completions of the 7 mile circuit.

That first lap was uneventful. On the second lap I slowly began to work my way up toward the front. I knew that the field wouldn’t keep this pace the whole night. Soon, someone was going to make a move. Even though I wasn’t planning on doing all five laps, I did want to participate in the process.

Until that time I concentrated on watching the indications of the wind as we progressed. With that knowledge, I looked to position myself so that other riders were taking the wind. So, on the second lap when I saw a dangerous group of riders begin to test the field as we crossed rail road tracks, I was trapped against the white line. This kept me out of the wind, but also made it a challenge to make a move.

Well, that is why I was out there. I began to work my way toward the yellow line. This was accomplished by looking for small gaps and slowly moving my bike into them. While avoiding any sudden moves, I was “prying” my way through the pack to make my way over to where I could see Eric Christophersen begin to make a move along the left side of the field.

I was there shortly before we reached the “smooth pavement” section of the course. I settled in behind Eric’s wheel and worked across the gap. He was following the wheel of another rider in front of him. As we neared the riders ahead, Eric slowed. It threw me for a moment, but I accelerated around him and caught the tail. At that point there was a good sized pace line going.

From that point on through the third lap I was in the front dozen or so.  A couple of times I closed some gaps and by the time we were heading toward 3M hill, I was hitting my red line. This means I was registering over 183 bpm on my heart monitor. If I kept this up I would be hating life in a few minutes. I had to slip back a bit to recover.

The good news is that by the time we reached the top of 3M hill and turning onto the rail road track portion of the course, I was recovered. That is exciting. Success is not so much measured by how long you can ride on the limit. It is more important to be able to recovery quickly from an effort. Of course, ideally you can ride for long periods on the limit and still recover quickly.

At this point, I wasn’t really focusing on my placement. I was mentally starting to wind down for my predetermined finish. Up ahead I saw my teammate, Thomas, begin to accelerate. He had mentioned before that he was only going to do three laps as well. If that was the case, I felt kind of sorry for the two other riders who hooked up with him. It would be a surprise if when they passed the start/finish line that they suddenly lost that power house. Of course, Thomas might not could have helped himself and pushed on to the finish.

I continued along with the group directly surrounding me until we started into the dip. It was then that my mind shifted to the position I was in. I glanced behind expecting to see the field bearing down on me. There was no one.

Hmmm, it crossed my mind to try to close up the gap and catch back on for the remainder. No. I had pushed myself the last couple of training rides – including an all out effort on Paris Mountain the day before. I was going to stick with my plan. So, I pulled off the road and headed home.

I’m glad I did the TNWC. I was feeling more comfortable in the pack. I also was feeling much better with my fitness – surprisingly so. Now, I just have to turn my focus to this weekend. I wonder what advice my wife will have for me then.

All hail the echelon

My weather app was telling me it was going to be a rough night on the bike. The temperature was perfect, but the severe weather warning for lake wind advisories filled me with a mix of dread and anticipation. It was time for the Tuesday Night World Championships.

As I neared the course I could see the huge oak trees dance waving their limbs back and forth. My little Honda Fit almost felt like it was going to turn over as the crosswinds caught the bike on top. Almost I decided to call it off.

It wasn’t the work that I wanted to avoid. It was the danger. When riding in high winds amongst dozens of other riders at speed, a strong gust of wind can take a  front wheel and send a bike out of control. You don’t want to be around when that happens!

I did start. I rolled off very near the front figuring that I was safest there. By the time we reached the golf course hill, a Globalbike rider went off the front. As he did so his teammates consolidated their positions on the front. There was also a lone Hincapie rider with them followed by the rest of us.

No way was I going now! Maybe last time I would have tried it, but not today. I waited. Only, I didn’t have to wait very long. The Hincapie rider made a move and the Globalbike riders reacted to cover. Things were starting to pick up now. I followed along with them.

I’m not sure exactly what was happening behind me on that first lap. I was just trying to maintain a position near the front and be in striking distance for any move that started to take shape. Soon I was joined by my teammate Paul Mills.

This continued the whole first lap. We were crossing the railroad track and I was starting to feel it. I decided to ease up and recover in the field. It was at that point I looked back and realized there was no field! The peloton had pretty much split in two with a group of about 16 to 20 riders in a break and the remaining riders in a second larger group.

Well, there was nothing to do but dig back in and close the gap back up to the break. I managed it, but once I got there I realized that a number of riders had attacked and now there were three main groups. The break, the chase, and the peloton. I was hanging on to the rear of the chase group.

For the whole of the second lap we chased. For a good bit of that time we could look ahead and see the racers we were trying to overtake. Then I wasn’t even looking for the break ahead. I was just trying to hang on with the chase group.

All during this time the wind was brutal. Since the course basically has four corners, you were in a crosswind or headwind most of the time. There were times when I was almost stood up by a huge gust.

Which ever group I was in would form an echelon to counter the wind. This is where one rider will take the point and the following riders would fan out slightly overlapping his bike to stay out of the wind – picture geese flying in a V, but with only one leg of the V. That first rider would then fall back to the rear tail of the fan while the second rider in line would take his place to push through the wind.

The problem comes when the road isn’t wide enough to handle that large of a fan. Often you will see an echelon followed by a line of racers pinned up against the edge of the road furthest from the wind. However, that defeats the purpose of the formation for those following riders.

What has to be done is a new echelon needs to form behind the first one. This was one of the lessons I tried to learn. When and how do you effectively start a new formation? Also, how do you gracefully move off the front to let people know your time on the point is done.

It didn’t matter as we started through the third lap. I found myself chasing the tail of the echelon. I knew if I lost contact it was going to be disaster! I would be stuck in the wind alone. It was a big motivator to get back on.

Finally though, a small gap formed and as I worked to catch back on, it just didn’t happen. The combined work of the group ahead to counter the wind was too much. At first I tried to push all the harder and it was wearing me down without progress.

I then decided to find a pace I could handle and still keep the group in sight. Perhaps they would slow or I could gain when we reached a downhill or tailwind. There was still hope until we turned onto the part of the course leading to 3M hill. It was at that point that I lost sight of them.

It was also at that time I got overtaken by some racers who had gotten dropped from the chase group earlier. There were now five of us to fight the wind. We formed our echelon and kept driving. I was even starting to feel better – not good, but better.

Then as we neared the end of the third lap the pace quickened. “What are they doing?” I asked myself. We weren’t anywhere near the guys in front of us and we were rolling like this was the fourth lap! Then it hit me. The rider pushing the pace probably wasn’t planning on doing the last lap of the night.

Sure enough, two of our group called it a night. The other three of us kept going, but now a little winded due to the pace of the last kilometer or so. However, we kept going.

We started taking pulls. My time came as we climbed the golf course hill. I could tell there was a rider on my wheel and when I was done I let him move up for his turn and I planned to slot in behind the third rider in our group. Problem is, he wasn’t there.

Now there were only two of us fighting the wind. Our pulls grew shorter as we shared the load. Ahead I recognized the kit of a rider from the chase group. He became my carrot. We caught him and once again there were three of us.

The new member of our group was willing to work and we started a quick rotating pace line. This had a positive effect on my stamina. I started feeling stronger as we made the turn headed toward the train track. It was at this point we lost our third rider. However, the more recently overtaken mate was still with me.

The wind on this portion of the course was horrible. At one point I was coming around my partner to take my turn on the front. As I got beside him we both were slowed by a sudden gust of wind. We weren’t racing each other now. We were racing together against the wind!

We started picking up riders who were dropped from the chase group. That spurred me on to continue to push. As we climbed toward the fire station, we could see a larger gathering of chasers ahead. I put my head down and we caught and passed them before the finish line.

We didn’t race to the line. We clasped hands for a moment in solidarity and rolled across the line.  Ahead of us it turns out the chase had caught the break and then two riders counter attacked and took the win. The group we had passed was made up of those who couldn’t take the pace of the final push to the finish.

I came home safe and sound and learned a few things in the process. The wind didn’t win. All hail the echelon!

Getting in the break

After reading yesterday’s blog post about the Tuesday Night World Championships, some may question why I was attempting to bridge up to the breaks. Didn’t the entire race end with a field sprint? Wouldn’t it have been better tactically to sit in and have more power for the end? That is a valid observation, but isn’t what I was trying to learn. Been there. Done that. What I don’t have much experience with is making it into the break.

Yes, I have been in breaks before. The first race I ever won was a solo break. I still remember the evening out at the BMW Performance Test Track when I got in my first ever winning break. However, most times I have been in a break it has been times when I “made the break.”

Making the break is when during the course of attacks and counter-attacks you manage to land yourself in a group that gets a gap on the field. You are really working in concert with other riders to get away. When this happens to me now days it is a matter of luck. For more experienced racers it is a science and they know how to force the break to their advantage. Knowing who is who and when is when is the key.

What I mean by “getting in the break” is to bridge from the field into an already established break. This takes timing, guts, and a little luck. I’ve never done it in a race.

It is made up of three challenges. 1) getting away from the field. 2) crossing the gap between the field and the break. 3) integrating into the break when you catch them.

Getting away:

I’m learning the mechanics of attacking the field. You must be positioned in such a place that you can react to the riders in front of you while at the same time causing confusion to those behind. If you are too close to the front then you are giving away your intentions immediately. If you are further back then there could be a split second of indecision by the following riders as to what you are attempting. Are you attacking or are you just improving your position in the field?

In my second attempt Tuesday, I waited for a number of riders to come around me. I watched them until I could tell they were settled in to a pace on the front. I first made a move as though I would slowly move to the point, but then punched it. I formed an immediate gap and the field let me go.

Now, what I still need to learn is to know which breaks to go after. What would be a winning break? The first break I chased had power in it, but I knew it was a little early in the evening. The second break didn’t seem to have the power, but it was later in the race. Again, knowing who is who and when is when is so important — and only comes with experience.

Getting across:

Oh, the pain! This is what I was trying to experience during this TNWC. Exactly what kind of effort does it take to bridge the gap? Knowing the course is an important part of this. For me it is best to do this where there is some elevation involved. That plays to my strength (what there is).

Other than knowing the course, it is a matter of slipping into that zone of being just on the edge. You’ve got to go fast enough to leave the field behind while gaining on the group in front of you, but at the same time you must not totally explode. Where is that edge for me in a race scenario? Knowing my limitations and abilities, what is the proper distance to try to bridge?

On my first attempt I made it to the break. Granted, it appeared to me that they had slowed somewhat making it possible. I knew I had given a lot of effort because I had to will myself to close the last 30 meters or so. On the second attempt, I just didn’t make it. The distance was a little farther and I may have gone out too hard in the beginning.

Getting in:

So, what do you do when you get there? My intention was to get to the break and latch myself onto the last wheel. The next step was to recover from the effort to get there. This would mean that I would not pull through the pace line until my heart rate went down a bit. Once I was recovered enough, I would then begin to work to help the break stay away.

Granted, in this instance I was bridging up to a break of four riders from the same team. Proper tactics would dictate that I shouldn’t be helping them. Being outnumbered I should let them do the bulk of the work.

Problem is, I never got the chance. Almost immediately after getting on the last wheel the four Hincapie riders spread across the road. Part of this was due to the fact that my “Getting across” was more of a pull of the field. Very soon after I got across we were joined by two other riders. Then the field swallowed us up.

Who knows what might have happened had the break swelled to seven riders and we made a more concerted effort to stay away. Perhaps we could have lasted for another lap or so. More importantly, I would have had an opportunity to practice working in the break.

Now, if you are reading this as a new racer, understand that I am not an expert! What you have just read is MY take on all of this. That does not mean it is the proper one!

If you are an experienced racer, I’m VERY interested in what you think about this aspect of racing. Where am I going wrong? Can you fill in the gaps where us less experienced riders are lacking?

One thing is for sure, you can count on me watching how you work at getting into the break — and maybe someday I’ll join you.

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…