Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rocket City Omnium Race Report

Jessica, Shelly, me, and Megan after the circuit race

Huntsville is fairly close to us, and either I’d never realized it before or I’d just never cared. Maybe it was a little of both. We went to Huntsville this weekend to race, just Shelly and me from Team Belladium, and I did a TT, two crits, and a circuit race. Saturday was an early morning for me because I didn’t stay over night. Since my TT start time was around 8:45 and I wanted to be there around 7:30, I set my alarm for my normal time (4:44) and got up like it was a week day. There was little traffic on the road that early on a weekend, so I made good time and got there plenty early.

I got in a good warm up but didn’t pre-ride the 1.8-mile course. We drove up one road, so I thought I had a good idea of what it was going to be like—basically a 1.3-mile climb and a final 0.5-mile flat stretch. It turned out that the climb wasn’t as steep or as hard as I’d expected; that’s not to say I didn’t work hard, but I didn’t even go into my easiest gear like I normally do in climbs. I think I stayed in the middle of the cassette block on the back and the little ring on the front. I had a 2-minute gap between me and girl in front of me and I knew that on such a short course I definitely wouldn’t get passed, but it was kind of boring to not see anyone (except the volunteer pointing out the sinkhole and the couple walking on the path) the entire climb.

TT Results - in alphabetical order by last name...WHAT?!?!

The course was heavily shaded and not a driving road; it was more of a paved hiking path used like the road through Radnor Lake. I don’t think the path had been swept at all, and there was a good bit of debris throughout. I though I was working very hard, but my HR data shows that I wasn’t working nearly as hard here as I was during the final 3 races of the weekend.

View from Monte Sano State Park

The TT was so early that I had a few hours before my next race. So I stayed for a while at Monte Sano State Park, which is absolutely beautiful. From where I was reading in the parking lot, I could see a playground, part of a disc golf course, a picnic shelter, the main road, a view of the mountains and valleys, and at least two different hiking trails. This is definitely a park I want to come back to for hiking purposes—it looks like it would be similar to or perhaps more challenging than Percy Warner (which I hiked on Friday) and just as fun.

TT Course through Monte Sano State Park

As a Cat 3 racer, I can sometimes do two crit races: the Cat 3/4 race and the Cat 1/2/3 race. Not every promoter offers both races, but when they do I like to do them both. Saturday I was allowed to do both, so I did. These crits were the Alabama State Crit races, so I expected there to be more women than the 5 in the 3/4 race and the 8 in the 1/2/3 race. Even more sad is the fact that none of the 5 women in the 3/4 race were from Alabama—which means they don’t have a champion in either category! (Four of us were from TN and the fifth was from Washington DC.) I knew Amy P from Mystique as well as Kathy and Leah from SVMIC and knew how they raced. I didn’t know Christina but decided I could figure her out. Thirty minutes is a long time to be patient, but I was. I think I attacked 3 times (maybe 2), but with only 5 of us it was hard for 1 or 2 to get away; plus they never called any primes for our race—if they had, I think Amy and I could have gone off the front together and stayed away. Instead we ended up all together for most of the race. I had picked a place to attack on the last lap to hopefully get away from the rest of the group (with a strong enough attack to get away and not have everyone else jump on my wheel and use me to lead them out). Unfortunately, Amy had picked pretty much the same spot only one light post sooner, so she jumped first halfway through the last lap. I reacted what I thought was pretty much right away, but it wasn’t enough to get on Amy’s wheel and finish with or ahead of her—I think she had about 4 bike lengths on me by the time we crossed the finish line.

Crit course in downtown Huntsville

The second crit had a slightly larger field (8) and some Alabama women (2)! However, only two ladies were on the same team, and one of them dropped out on the 2nd or 3rd lap. So again, there was a small group and no team dynamics to help. There was one prime in this race, and I think I decided to not go for it because I didn’t know what it was and I wanted to make sure I had something left for the finish (after 2 previous races and this one, I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel). At one point in the race, Sonja from Sticky Fingers (who had won the TT in 6:40, beating me by 45 seconds) Amy, and I had a slight gap on the field. I thought we had a very strong chance at staying away, but it seemed to me that Sonja gave up or sat up to allow the field to catch up; that said, they might have caught up regardless because Stephanie from Frazier Cycling was trying to bridge up or bring us back in. It was still kind of disappointing, because I really thought we had a chance and I was working hard to try to stay away. Someone went early again on the last lap, but everyone reacted; immediately after we caught her (maybe it was Sonja?), Amy went. It was a brilliant move, in close to the same place as the previous race, and everyone was trying to catch their breath from the first move. My problem in this race is that I was in the worst position all race. I didn’t want to do any work and I wanted to be able to see Sonja, Amy, and Stephanie (I’d determined they would be strong and aggressive). That meant that I was 6th or 7th most of the race until I moved up slightly on the last lap. But it was too little too late, even in that small a field. I ended up 5th in what was definitely not a bunch sprint.

Kathy, Amy, Christina, and me in the 1st crit
Source for all 3 photos

1st crit

2nd crit...pretty much my position all race :-( 

The circuit was the final race, on Sunday, and it was a 5K loop on a closed, flat course. We made only 3 real turns, and at least one was a very wide open and the rest weren’t tough, so it felt more like a road race than a crit from that perspective. Today, finally, we had some teams out to play: 2 from Team Belladium, 2 from Sticky Fingers, 3 from a team in Birmingham, and 2 others. Although this race was only 50 minutes (and I think we did 7 laps), a lot happened—there were attacks from nearly everyone, there was some bridging, there were some team tactics for recovery, and it was fun. Again in this race, I knew who I had to watch and where I wanted to be positioned coming into the finish. It went pretty much as I’d hoped except for Stephanie crashing in the final corner about 600 meters from the finish line. This left me and Sonja, and I was too far behind Sonja to catch her but far enough ahead of everyone else for them to catch me (especially after they had to avoid the crash). I learned from Saturday’s second crit that I’d have to be in a better position if I wanted to have a chance at winning.

Circuit Race in an industrial/business district

  • TT: 4/6; 7:25, 1.85 miles, 14.9 mph (30.3 max), 161 bpm (188 max)
  • Crit #1: 2/5; 31:47, 11.08 miles, 20.9 mph (33 max), 159 bpm (192 max)
  • Crit #2: 5/8; 41:19, 14.23 miles, 20.7 mph (33 max), 163 bpm (190 max)
  • Circuit: 2/9; 49:35, 18.25 miles, 22.1 mph (30 max), 167 bpm (191 max)
I came home to this rainbow!

I kind of felt that all weekend, any of the attacks by others (and maybe a few of my own) were just attacks for attacks’ sake—the girl who attacked really didn’t intend to stay away. Every time I attacked, I wanted to stay away; there were a couple times I sat up because no one had come with me and I knew I couldn’t stay away by myself and it would be silly to try for too long and wear myself out, but there were also a couple times where I’d been with two others in what felt like it could have been a break that stayed away but one of the girls decided that she didn’t want to be in a break anymore. And it wasn’t that she just dropped off—it was that she was on the front and just didn’t work as hard as she had been, thus allowing the pack to catch up. Maybe I need to make my attacks even more aggressive so that only those who are really interested in staying away will come with me, and/or maybe I need to be more choosey in who I decide to go with when someone else attacks.

I am happy with my mindset in all these races. I went into each one thinking, If someone is off the front and I am not with her, I cannot win the race. Either I have to be off the front with her, or I have to bring her back in. So I definitely did some work, especially in the circuit, to keep everyone together or to stay at the front.

  • The TT course felt more like a false flat than a climb for 1.3 miles, then it was pretty much flat for the final 0.5 miles. There were no switchbacks, and it was beautiful.
  • The crit course was 0.85 miles around with a short, fairly easy climb, right turn into a headwind, right turn still into the wind, right turn into a nice sweeping descent, right turn again, and then right turn toward the finish, still descending. This was nothing like Tuscaloosa’s crit course and maybe similar to Oak Ridge’s (although the pace felt significantly slower here, so it felt much easier.
  • The circuit was a 5K loop that was mostly flat with a long stretch that kind of wound around to a right turn into a headwind, right turn to another shorter left-hand sweep to the final right turn. The final turn is about 600 meters from the flat finish, but you can see the finish line and it looks deceptively close.

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