Sunday, October 07, 2007

How to make 20 gears into 4

Traveled up to Biddeford on Saturday for the Casco Bay Cross race. No bay to be seen, but a pretty fun cross course. Having to leave at 5:45am was painful, but having raced tris all summer, I'm used to the early hours. Poor roadies were suffering though.

Wanted to arrive before the Cat 4 race to preview the course. Good thing, because it was a course that you could cook through if you knew what to expect and where to go. This would be my second Cat 3/4 35+ race, and I was hoping to stay competitive after Bedford. After riding the course with my Minuteman teammates, I felt pretty comfortable. A nice uphill start into a section with tight turns, followed by a barrier run-up into a steep descent with a tight sandy corner. More downhill into a hairpin uphill (proper gearing essential). A nice and fast twisty downhill into a flatish section where you could carry a lot of speed. More flat with some turning into a beach section. Rideable, but also runable. More turns, a barrier log, and then a tough uphill grind on a dirt road. Repeat.

Got to the start line in plenty of time to get a prime spot. I wanted a hole shot and to be in good position to be with the leaders. At the whistle, I was able to hit about 7th, which wasn't too bad since my starts are typically awful. Things were looking good was we went through the barriers and the downhill. I wasn't hitting the brakes much, trying to put into racing what I practiced during the week. Hitting the brakes has been costing me time and effort, so this was what I wanted to focus on. The fast downhill section was where I was going to make up some time and stay with the leaders.

Going into a left-hand turn I overcooked the corner a little. Nothing major, just went off course a touch into some tall grass and weeds. As I peddled out of it, I noticed my chain starting to skip and would catch the cassette. I looked down to see my entire cassette engulfed in weeds that had become wrapped around the cassette. I was starting to lose spots as I tried to figure out what to do. Some guy goes by me and says "You're all wrapped up." Thanks for pointing that out.

Decision time. If I stop and try to fix it, game over. Might as well turn this into a training ride. If I keep going, might still be game over. I figure people ride single speeds all the time. I was able to find two gears (21 and 23) that seemed to work. Coupled with my big and small chain ring, this gave me four speeds. Alright!! Here we go. I started to catch back up to the end of my group as I worked these gears. I also noticed that if I worked the gears that were skipping, the teeth of the cassette would eventually chew through the weeds. This was a promising development. So, if I was behind some people and "coasting" a little, I would work a gear that would skip, hoping to break it free.

This was the strategy throughout the race, and I started to get some more gears back. By the end of the race, I had about 8 gears to run (out of 20). Not too bad. I started to pass people, and found myself in 7th overall (4th in age group, not counting the two juniors that were ahead. By 3/4 of the way through the race, shifted from offense to defense to preserve my position.

This worked, as I held off two guys that I had passed that were working together to chase me down. Finished 4th in the 3/4 35+, which is an improvement over Bedford. Happy with the way I rode, not having gone done at any point, and working the corners aggressively. During practice, I was able to ride the sand, but opted for running during the race, which was as effective. I was cooked at the end in the heat, but happy with the result.

Overall, a nice race with a lot of potential. Parking was a tad out of the way, but not bad. Pit location was brutal. Even though I had pit wheels, getting to them would have lost too much time. Plenty of port-a-johns in the area. Nice features on the course. Perhaps next year the family can make it a cross weekend by camping or something. Definitely worth considering.

Made it a good training weekend by running 13 relatively easy on Sunday. Looking forward to logging some time on the bike this week working on some technique, and then onto Gloucester.

1 comment:

CCC said...

Congrats on your solid finishes as of late! Kickin' ass!