Sunday 4/19, Salinas, California - 55+ Road Race: Unlucky 313
By Jim Langley
Someone please post a better Sea Otter report soon. I don't have much to offer except that it was a tough day out there. Maybe it was fatique from the circuit race on Friday (report below), maybe it was the stellar field including Mark Caldwell who won again (he won on Friday too) or maybe it was the 98-degree temperature that did in such champions as Jim Fox and Jack Kelso.
Whatever, I fared about as well as a scoop of Ben & Jerry's on the sidewalk in July. I drank more than ever and still lost 6 pounds in the race, and that's over only 4 laps since I got dropped on the 3rd and the official wouldn't let anyone off the back of the main field ride the 5th lap. We got credit for finishing on the same lap as the leaders anyway, but there wasn't any satisfaction in it.
I'm not any more superstitious than the next guy, but I had a bad feeling when I picked up my road race number at registration. It was 313. And, it sure seems to have jinxed me. What's funny is that I was delighted with my circuit race number, 714, and I had a great race. Go figure.
Friday 4/17 Circuit Race: On The Podium Again
By Jim Langley
Well, barely on the podium - but any time you can get on the Otter steps, it should make you happy because this season kickoff event attracts many of the top riders in the country. And, I'm pleased to have finished 4th - and excited about my result, because the way I got 4th was something new for me.
Up & Down, Repeat 10 Times
In case you haven't tried it, the circuit race is held on the Laguna Seca track. It's a simple course with a pretty good climb on the front side of the track and a thrilling descent down the corkscrew (top speed for me 45mph), before riding around the track and under the finish line and back up the hill again. It takes about 6 minutes a lap and our race was for 60 minutes or 10 laps.
Still Making Mistakes
Little by little we whittled the field of 30 down to about 10 guys with 5 to go. With 3 to go a guy attacked on the climb and opened a gap, and no one chased so I made the brilliant decision to singlehandedly chase him down. Don't ask me why. I just went brain dead or something. I'm sure it pleased the guys behind no end.
Mark Caldwell Shows His Stuff
So, after making that dumb mistake, I was wasted and had to do my best to sit in and recover, and naturally, when Mark Caldwell attacked with 2 to go, I couldn't chase. No one else could either. I should have at least been watching Mark, but I didn't even get that part right. And, when he went, it was pretty impressive. Also, it seemed to me that the group I was with would be strong enough to work together and chase him down - if we would just work together.
But, that was a mistake too. We never got organized at all and by the time we hit the climb for the last time, it was every man for himself. My legs were still fried and when Jim Fox attacked near the top only Mac Carey could go with him. I was only 20 feet off over the top but they bombed the corkscrew and opened a big gap. Worse, 3 guys we dropped caught me on the descent. So now I was facing the possibility of coming in in 7th place. Not what I was hoping for.
4-Up To The Line
You have to ride about 2/3rds of the way around the track to get to the finish line. I was discouraged and pissed that I'd gotten dropped on the last climb. And, really annoyed that 3 guys had caught me. But, something pretty cool happened. As the 3 guys came storming past me on the last little roller, one of them patted me on the back and encouraged me. Nice. It helped me focus a little and I fought to grab the last guy's wheel and sat in for a short distance before they slowed a bit. Because of the draft, without even trying, I found myself on the front again.
Bad Position, But I Have A Plan
Not wanting to lead out the field sprint, I tried to get them to come around but it was clear the only reason I was in front was because they wanted me there. Here, I need to take a quick detour and remind you of how I hit the wall 20 feet from the line last week at Copperopolis. I had all week to think about that and a light bulb finally went off over my head, and I had a new plan for Sea Otter if a sprint was involved. Read on if you're interested/go to the next paragraph if not: I realized I've always sprinted like a climber, just standing and kind of bouncing on the pedals with my body weight and legs doing all the work trying to get my legs going as fast as possible - and going nowhere. It finally dawned on me how inefficient that was. In order to sprint, I figured I needed to use my arms as much as my legs, pulling hard on the right drop as I push hard with my left foot and the same on the other side.
So, with 3 guys sitting on me and no way to get off the front, I somewhat amazingly had this positive thought pop into my cooked brain that I was stronger than these guys (after all, I dropped them on the climb), and I would just have to prove it one more time. But, I sure as shi* wasn't going to sprint the way I had at Copperopolis. I was REALLY going to sprint, using my upper and lower body.
Unbelievable: A Field Sprint Win
And, that's what I did. The 3 guys sat on until the last second and fanned out to my left trying to take me on the line. It was very close, but with the new sprint technique (I worked on it all week), I brought much more power into and across the line, and actually won the field sprint, a big first for me.
It was only good for 4th, and I'm disappointed about coming off on the last climb - but it's exciting to discover that my sprinting woes in recent races have been all about technique not lack of power or speed. And it was really nice to get on the podium.
1. Mark Caldwell
2. Mac Carey
3. Jim Fox