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Saturday, March 13, 2004

I coulda been a contender!

Well, good and bad bike stuff today. The good was the weather, and a worthwhile stop at my secret spot, which turned up three serviceable mountain bike rear wheels. The other good was a really nice half of a race. More than anything else, I went out and had a lot of fun!

The 68 km C race got off to an interesting start: there were a bunch of riders from Western Washington University, up to see what they could do. And do they did. Before many in the pack had even clipped in, two of their riders went up the road to establish break. Oookaayy...

Surprisingly, they stayed up the road for a long time, though never much more than 30 seconds away. I sat in for a while, trying to drive the pack a little, accidentally snotted a WWU rider because he misinterpreted my move to the side as a breakaway attempt, and at one point getting well and truly hung out to dry on the front by some moderately clever tactics by WWU rider still in the pack. Finally, it was down to one WWU rider up front, and I got bored of the pack's inability to establish a pace. So I broke off the front in something barely more active than a "triathlete attack" (That's what happens when triathletes go to the front of the pack: they don't sprint, so they just sit up there, breaking the wind for everyone at some impressive pace). But when I looked back, I hadn't dragged the pack with me.

I was so annoyed that after getting halfway to the breakaway rider, I pulled out the T&T cocktail bun I had in my pocket, took a bite, showed it to the pack as I looked back, took a few more bites, then tucked it in and took off.

Hm. That rider up front was going harder than I thought. It took me another half a lap to catch him, and I was aided by being much better at cornering. When I caught up, I told him he had been caught by a guy with a bell (ding, ding), and that I only caught him to tell him his breakaway sucked. Since I had teammates in the pack and didn't like our chances out in the wind for so long (there was still over half a race to go), I let him do most of the work. He had teammates too, so he didn't want to do much more work.

We were caught in less than a lap. As soon we got back, attacks started coming out of the pack. I grabbed a passing wheel and stayed with the bunch, and basically nothing established itself usefully, and I just sat in for a while.

Not long after, it all went pear-shaped. A pair of the WWU riders near the front crossed bars, and took each other down. And then took more riders down. I stopped without trouble before hitting the pile, but got rammed from the rear. The resulting mess didn't even knock me off my bike (I sort of hopped off as it became part of the tangle behind me), but I lost four spokes in the rear wheel.

In retrospect, I might have continued. But I probably did the right thing. One of the WWU riders broke a beautiful Zipp carbon tubular rim worth rather more than my bike, and another suffered numerous scrapes, but there were no serious injuries. Word to the wise: don't race anything you can't afford to break.

I watched the race after that. Once the crash split the pack, A group of 6 (including three surviving WWU riders, but no EV people) pulled away. I left just as the race was ending; I think the breakaway stayed away. Good tactics for the WWU team. Well, except maybe for the crashing. As it was, that eliminated around half their team.

Overall, a good day out. I wanted to be there at the end, but the race made me feel good about my fitness and my prospects for the season. It's time to do some serious interval training anyways, so it probably helped me to work hard in this kind of race, at least while I had the chance. I was working, but I wasn't overstraining myself. It felt great.

And, The Lovely One won a contest, so drinks are on her! A good day all around. Now, I have a wheel to fix for tomorrow's race. I'm ready.

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