Sunday, June 12, 2011

Where's The Podium? # 11: Crystal Cup - Pulled

As far a results go for another race I was pulled from, they don't much matter. I am upset to say the least, but I know it wasn't necessarily my fault this time. Luck ran out for our team and and I that's just how it goes.

Today's race was different than any others I have raced for one simple reason: teamwork. I had a role today and I was doing my best to hold up my end.

The course was an interesting one. With a few quick, off-camber, pot-hole and man-hole cover ridden turns, the course had a decent 180 degree turn leading to the finishing stretch of 600-800 meters in a headwind. It was a pure crit course, though somewhere on the left-hand turn just before the 180 my front wheel went over something that poked an unwelcome hole through that tire and tube.
Yes, I do need new socks.
I have never had a flat in a race, let alone ridden a far as I had to to get to that pit. It is not fun to try and maneuver a bike around corners with a flat front. Next to actually going down, the last thing I wanted to do was have to run my bike and I to "the pit." As a newbie to "the pit," all the guy could tell me was to keep calm, keep breathing, and to hop on my bike to wait for my relaunch into the field. I can't say I was on the front of the peloton, but I surely wasn't as far back as I was released. No complaints though. It happens, and being off the back trying to regain my developing rhythm after a second restart to my race was just a bit too much to ask.

The first restart came after 6 and a half minutes due to a rough crash in the second turn. I do not know how many went down but I heard the cyclist behind me touch the barrier. Though that rider didn't go down, he took a lot of the field out and unfortunately caused what felt like at least a 10 minute wait for medical and some course clean-up. I haven't ever had a stoppage like that before and in a 45 minute race, it was a tough thing to deal with. I topped off my water with the bottled water they were passing out and was as eager as everyone else to get the race hustling again.

Thus, the race was out as it had begun with a junior rider off the front and chasers looking to possibly establish a break from the peloton. This is where I was to fit in team tactics. With riders on the team looking to be there for a possible field sprint, strong rider, Andrew Shelby and I were to be the yo-yos off the front making our presence felt in moves and counter-moves that would possibly put other teams into difficulty chasing. My short stints off the front were just that. They weren't all that impressive, but I was doing the best I could to put myself into moves and where my team hoped I could be.

Before my flat, I was in one move with two other riders and though it did not last long, I was back in the pack trying to recover as the aforementioned flat front hit me and there I would lose my position, developing rhythm, and connection to the race. I was pulled two laps later having gone into the red trying to grab teammate Jason Acuna's (who did well to stick it to the end) wheel and I was back to that all too familiar feeling of being dropped. I gave my handle bars a good smack or two out of pathetic frustration, but the end was inevitable and I'm not about to beat myself up for things out of my control.

I know this was some unfortunate luck that I hit rather than my own poor legs, but it is for that reason and a few others that I am, at this moment a bit bummed about. Firstly, sure, it wasn't my fault, but I was feeling relatively good. I was ready to stick with my given job for the race as best I could. Therein lies another reason for a bit of frustration. I have never been given the opportunity to have a role in a race with team goals in mind. I wanted to keep up my part and the cards would fall as they may. I would rather be a sprinter for the end, but my time for that will come. You all know how I am about learning as much as I can and patience in this all. I really am kicking myself a bit (I know I may sound too hard on myself here) that I have not had any results for this great team and being dropped in every race for the past month does not sit with me well. Yes, not my fault today, but it makes me feel sick - just how it is.

Another reason for a touch of disappointment though overall happiness can be found in that my family actually watched me race for the first time ever today. Until now, they have simply seen pictures, heard me talk about it all, and read through this blog a bit to understand this sport I've gotten myself into. I very much appreciate their support of my pursuits here and I am glad they saw a bit of my efforts. I, of course wish I could have been there longer, but it happens. I am honored they came out to watch me and I hope to have them see me race again.

That's that. Bad luck and I live to fight another weekend. I am lucky that I was not caught in the wreck and our team is hoping for a quick recovery for our rider, Chris "Derf" Doerfler who unfortunately hit the pavement in that early wreck. A few of our other riders faced the same fate I did off the back and those who were able to stick in did their best to finish strong.
What is eating at me is simply that i felt I had more in the tank. Though I went into the red when I was dropped off the back, the "rest" that you might think I would have gained from waiting in the pit for my launch back into the field worked against my legs. That rhythm I keep talking about is something I have never had so severely interrupted. In a 45 minute race, I knew things would happen fast and e last place I wanted to be was on the back (no pun intended). You all should know that it is often easier and more safe to be near the front. A criterium in a downtown setting will have sketchy corners, road ornaments, and enough unpredictability that will behoove riders to keep their nose to the front. Of course, not everyone can be there and the fast pace set by those on the front will aim to string things out and slim down the numbers of riders able to be there. It's a survival of the fittest type of environment. My role to be on and off the front was a welcomed by me and I was eager to give it all a try as I am usually one to work my self through the pack and into a good position for the sprint finish.

Reading updates from teammates in the race tell me that Andrew Shelby finished 10th and in the money with Ed Patrick slipping in 16th (after an apparent touch with the pavement of his own). I am proud of those guys and their hard work. I really wish I could have been there grinning with Tony Barsi with a mind to have a go at the final sprint. Well done to those guys and a heartfelt "we'll get'em next time" to the others that dropped some significant water-weight on today's course. Bad luck here and there won't keep us from coming back for more.

I will be updating this as I see fit (pictures, garmin details etc.) and as always... thanks for reading. I need sleep.

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