Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The head first dive into bike racing - Oak Ridge Velo Omnium RR

It's been a long weekend. One filled with satisfaction, disappointment, fun and most of all knowledge. Saturday I took my first true step into the world of bike racing. Oh sure, I've messed around in a few local training crits and do plenty of group riding with my LBS, but as far as actually signing up and racing an omnium (or road race for that matter) I was going to be getting my feet wet for the first time. The event is put on by the guys at Knoxvelo, who are all awesome... so it seemed only fitting that it be my first event. Without further mussing up things, on to the report.

Pre Gaming
Friday afternoon I was able to quickly drive the road race course, a 27.6 mile course that skimped on very much climbing (1555ft climbing total) and was on the whole not terrible technical.  The finish was a 1k straight shot uphill to the finish line. I marked off a couple of places in my mind that might be good to test everyones legs and headed in for the night. Our group (CAT5's) started at 8:30a.m. so I was quick to bed and early to rise as usual. Last check over the bike and off to race site. I warmed up (a little) and killed some time until it was time for business.

I'm soo blue...

Road Race - 13th Place

The start... I wanna go first!

The road race was a pretty uneventful race... sort of what I expected in some was, but somewhat frustrating in others. I had soaked up a bit of knowledge / advice from guys much smarter than me when it comes to road racing and the general consensus was to stay out of trouble and not work too hard while covering attacks that looked like they might go somewhere. The first few miles (after the neutral zone) weren't terribly fast or intense... it was basically just a fast group ride, complete with jokes and friendly bantering. At mile 9 is the only real climb on the course, and almost immediately the tone changed and the attacks started. A group of locals (CBC jerseys, who had been doing most of the pacemaking) makes a move, as does another group of 3 wearing Volkswagen jerseys. At least two people's chains drop in the rush to find a gear and the pace on the climb is high. I stay in contact to the top and drop back just a hair on the decent (that had a few tricky spots) just to give myself some extra room. At this point the 8 (or so) of us have a fairly nice gap opening up, and plenty of guys strong enough to keep it going. However everyone seems to be ok with sitting up and coasting so before long we are again all together (even the guys who dropped their chains manage to bridge) This annoys me a bit, but what can you do. At one point I do some pace making when things get into a lull, but basically the next 16 miles is totally unremarkable. We stay as a group for the most part. As we make the second to last turn things start heating up again. The pace noticeably increases and at this point I get my first (and only) warning from the road ref. I am traveling on the outside of the lane (3rd row) with a rider in front and behind me. As the road narrows I'm pushed outside the double yellow line... and when I say outside I mean straddling the middle.  The motoref lets me know that is not ok and I suppose he didn't like my shrug and nod. Sorry man, I didn't have anywhere to go until somebody moved. I was trying to keep it in. I move forward (and off the line) as soon as possible and decide I might has well try to catch everyone with their pants down. I shoot off and sit by myself for 300m or so before seeing that it isn't working, then sit up and back into the group. We make the turn onto the last road with 1k to go together. At 500m the road pitches fairly steeply... As I remember from the drive before it somewhat flattens out for the finish. I jump. Nobody responds. I press on and crest. The road flattens and I've got a good gap. 250m. The road pitches again... steeply. I'm in the wrong gear for this. I try to push through... finish line is in sight... another pitch. I drop gears like you can only do when you know you're screwed... the sprint starts. A flush of wheels go by me as I'm sitting on the hoods gasping for air. 13th at the back of the bunch. I went just a little too soon. I try not to beat myself up over it too much, but still... I should have paid more attention to the last 500m the day before. Things feel a little different in a car :)


Omnium Points - 3

I pick up a nonzero amount of points, but it's still a far cry from the top placing. I'm disappointed, but the Time Trial is later so I have a chance to do a little bit more work before the day is done. With almost 5 hours to kill between races though I go with the family to get some refueling (Cracker Barrel!) in and stay out of the heat. My start time is 4:22p.m. so around 3:45 I begin my warmup. (for those of interest it was 12' spinning, 5' of spinups, 5' of spinning, 5' hard, easy spin up til the lineup.)

Warming up... as if it weren't warm enough already

Time Trial - 2nd Place

I come out of the gate in slightly too big of a gear... rookie mistake on the new (oysmetric) chainrings. I get up to speed and immediately into aero, which I never came back out of. I know the second half of the course very well, and even on a fairly tricky turn I am able to stay tucked and hammer through. It pays off. I passed 3 or 4 people on the road and felt like I paced it almost perfectly besides the mistake at the beginning. Time was good enough to win the CAT4 race and place well in the Cat3's, so I was happy with it. Unfortunately the Time Trial isn't doesn't give out nearly enough points to make up for my road race results... I need a good Crit finish to have any shot of being on the podium for the Omnium.

Job well done and coasting home.

Omnium Points - 9 (12 total)

Then it's a long drive home, a quick dinner and some foam rolling/stretching before passing out. CAT5's start the Crit Sunday morning

I arrive early(ish) Sunday morning and try to get in a few "hot laps" before the start. The course is "P" shaped, with all the turns being fast and easy except for the 180 turnaround. Our race is 30' + 8 *no free* laps (although we had a mud/blood only rule for free laps anyways... intense right..) Our group isn't terribly large and everyone seems to be at least fairly confident in their riding. We line up and wait for the start.

Taking an easy lap around the course

Criterium - 4th Place

Not really making a move... just killing time toward the back

Although the course was set up to be fairly fast on the whole, with the 180 at the beginning of each lap (and the amount of speed shaving required to get around it in a group) there really wasn't much way to "lose contact" with the group. I rode lazily and almost at the very back for the first 30 minutes without much worry. A few guys seemed to be fighting for the mid pack every lap and I didn't really want any part of that, so I just hung at the back confident that I was strong enough to respond if the pace really picked up.  With 8 laps to go I decided to test the water and slowly made my way to the front... towards the only "incline" of the course I jumped and put a little distance between myself and the field. Taking some advice from a friend to heart, I looked back, saw that I wasn't getting chased too hard, and kept up the gap. A younger guy started attempting to bridge and so I let up the pace a bit to see if he could catch on. With 4 laps to go he tells me he's done when I flick for him to pull and he drops back. I see that the group is still looming not so far away and so I sit up and do the same. I again sit around towards the rear until the bell lap. Things have heated up (pace wise) since 2 laps to go, and so I start making my way back toward the front again a bit early in the final lap. On the second to last turn I am on the far inside (hugging the curb almost) when somebody comes cutting in on me. We are shoulder to shoulder and somehow make it through (he completely cut into my line) despite scaring the crap out of me. I see the move happen with 4 guys making a surge. I jump on the back wheel and hold on through the final turn in 5th position. The group is right behind us and the first three riders start the sprint. The guy I'm locked in on doesn't respond immediately and so despite coming around him I'm unable to surge to the front guys. I finish fairly happily in 4th position.

Are you guys coming or not?

Omnium Points - 14 (26 total)

Omnium Finish - 3rd Place

Huzzah! I managed to sneak onto the podium! I learned a TON in my first omnium and most importantly I had a great time. Next time I'll be a little smarter (and hopefully a little quicker too) and try to improve my placing.

That's the story. This weekend it's back to triathlons with a short sprint and after that it's a short list of races until the end of the season. Not having a "big" race at the end of the season is kind of odd for me, but I think it's the right choice. I need a good long block of run volume to help me suck a little less and being uninjured and not mentally burnt out both bode well for a good bit of training.

Thanks Everyone for reading! I really appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock

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