Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oak Ridge Velo Cat 5 Omnium Race Report

Tough weekend in the books, and fortunately it was a fun, safe and exciting one as well. Since I've got three races to talk about let's skip the fluff and get right to it.

Sharp dressed man
Cat 5 road race

The Omnium started off with a 27 mile road race. Thirty(ish... not sure exact #) riders hit the line, including myself and Matt, who I knew was likely the strongest man in the field. I figured he would attack on the single climb and my goal was to turn myself inside out to make the split with him.

The first few miles were sketchy. I was milling around mid pack when we hit the first set of train tracks... the guy in front of me locked up his brakes and I only very narrowly managed to dodge him. I gave him some (rather harsh) tips on how to ride predictably. At that point I decided I needed to quit messing around and get to the front.  Our pace for the first few miles was abysmally slow... everyone content to just hang out. Just to spice it up I throw in a spirited move which raises the pace and starts putting people in the "racing" mindset. Unfortunately once up front nobody is willing to pull through. I'm fine with that for a mile or so but eventually simply sit up and soft pedal until finally someone has to pull through. (*or we all stop) Once that goes down the pace stays fairly high up until the first (and really only) climb. As it pitches I see Matt make his move and I jump on. When the road flattens back out for a second there are 6 of us. When the road pitches again I'm caught by surprise by another acceleration and can only watch as the others ride over the crest without me. The descent is not a tricky one, no brakes needed, but nonetheless I come out of it with a sizeable gap between myself and the others. Another gentleman catches me (I'm in the red) and we do what we can to erase the gap. We catch another guy a mile or so up the road and eventually catch two more a little further again. That puts three guys who stuck in the break. Our pace must slow as we're caught by another group not long after and eventually we regroup as a fairly big pack. We most certainly *could* have caught three riders in the miles we had left, but disorganization in the pack and the "out of sight out of mind" effect eventually put us far enough back that we're no longer racing for podiums. I had overestimated my fitness (or underestimated the others) and didn't have much to say or do other than sit in and count off the miles. On the last straight stretch there are a few attacks launched, but they are quickly reigned in and we make the final turn together.  The finish is devious on this course, as at 500m you see a hill that looks perfect to launch an attack on. I made this mistake two years ago. What you don't see is that as soon as you crest that hill the entire remaining shot to the finish line is also uphill... so burn yourself out powering that steep section and then you have to coast into the finish. I have the advantage to know that so when I see a couple of guys gun it I don't sweat it. Actually at this point I have no interest getting tangled up in a sprint for...well... not podium... so I am happy to sit on the wheel I've been on all day. At 200m the rules allow for the use of the whole road instead of one lane, however nobody seems to have noticed that sign... everyone is fighting in the right lane still. At the last second I pull hard to the left and sprint into open space. I cross the line in 7th, nothing special but I did pick up some omnium points I would have otherwise foregone. Matt ended up beating the other two guys in the breakaway up that final incline and won the race.

Taking the left lane
Afterwards it was a lot of downtime avoiding the sun and waiting for the 3:30 time trial start. By the time I was ready to start warming up it was well above 90° and I was already boiling. Somehow in all of this I manage to be "late" (actually they were calling me to line up early... I still had 3 minutes to sit in the start house when I got there) to my start, so I scramble to get my Bodypaint skinsuit on (not easy...) and end up in the small chainring at the start house. Not my smoothest warmup or setup for the start.

Cat 5 Time Trial

waiting in the shade
I get out of the start tent and immediately jump to the big chainring.  Once there I get into aero and start grinding away. My goal was to hold 250 watts for the 8 miles, but as the road starts it's gradual incline I realize that's probably optimistic. I hammer the flats and try to keep a steady power on the uphill and downhill sections but I definitely didn't feel like I was staying smooth. I am the first man out so there is no minute (or 30") man to catch, so I am just looking for the end of the road. Eventually I find it and cruise through in 18 minutes and some change. Last year I hit the course in 17:3x, so I was a bit off... however at 30 watts less avg power that's to be expected. I still managed to nab third place, a distant third behind Matt (who again won) and another boy who had been in the road race breakaway. All damage said and done I was a distant third in the Omnium, about 15 points down, and only a few points ahead of 4th place. After the TT it was a quick trip back home to shower and get dinner and turn in... the crit was still ahead.

Off to mediocre results :)

Cat 5 Criterium (TN State Championship)

Crit's are something I have grown to love. No other race has the same kind of anxiety hanging over it, and no other race requires the same amount of concentration for the distance. Our race was 30 minutes with two prime laps. Both Matt and the other guy had proven they were stronger than I was, so the only thing in my favor was that I had done crit's before. (both of them first timers) The course for the ORV race is very tricky for a crit. The "P" shaped course has two defining points... the final turn before the straightaway to the finish line and the U-turn at the end of the P, which heavily favored the first person in (and out) of it.

We line up, get our instructions and the start. I attack from the first pedal stroke for two reasons. First, I wanted to be the first person into the U-turn on that first lap, and second I wanted to try to immediately remove some of the riders so there would be less jumble. My gap sticks however and nobody is interested in chasing, so I string out for a few minutes considering my options. Obviously staying out is impossible with two stronger guys not far behind me, so my plan is to get one or both of them to bridge up to me.
Best laid plans don't count for much as the next time around it's announced to be a prime lap. Probably at the worst time, I get hit hard with an attack from behind right before the U turn. I come out of it and a sizeable gap has opened between myself and Matt/2nd. My ride was likely over if another rider hadn't meant to catch them. I hang on for dear life and we do eventually re-connect, along with another guy, putting us at 5 guys who had a shot. At this point I'm pretty gassed, and fortunate that nobody put any hard accelerations in for a couple of laps. I even got to coast for a few seconds here and there. At 5 laps to go Matt has been on the front for likely 70% of the 30 minutes, with the guy in second probably making up most of the other 30%. I'm locked on his wheel like a magnet though, and as the laps start ticking down I can tell they both would prefer someone else took a pull. Sorry... not this close to the finish. On the final lap we head into the U-turn in the same order, and I'm praying for a sprint. Matt must have read my mind because as he comes out of the U he jumps...hard. The fellow in second doesn't immediately respond and right then and there Matt wins the race, quickly gapping the rest of us. For a split second I imagine trying to bridge up to him, but reality quickly returns me to earth and I have to watch him ride to an uncontested finish. As for the rest of us, the race is still very much on. The final corner comes and I'm still on second places wheel. As the road straightens up he catches me by surprise by slinging hard to the left and starting his sprint. I'm in absolutely too small of a gear so the start of my acceleration is lacking and he pulls a little. I find a real gear quickly and start doing my best Cavendish, making up the gap and then putting some distance in.  Despite a poor start to it, I still managed to avg over 800 watts for the sprint... not near my best in training, but an average I was very happy with. So I finished 2nd in the Crit. Matt was immediately upgraded to Cat4, and put back in the (immediately starting) 4's race. WHICH HE FINISHED 2nd IN! (Seriously...beast power)

The U-turn
Despite finishing second I couldn't quite squeek out the difference in points to boost myself to second in the omnium, so I had to settle with third. Nonetheless, it was a good weekend for me, and a much needed confidence booster for where I am in my recovery. As I've said in previous posts, where all this will end up is still in the air, but the road back is at least the road I'm on again.

Podium shot with the mayor

Thanks so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

Coming soon, pictures of the new TT bike being built!

-Christopher Morelock

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