Monday, March 30, 2009

I think we just missed the bunny ranch...

This weekend we went up to Reno for the University of Nevada-Reno road race and crit. We left Berkeley at about 330 in order to catch all the Friday Tahoe/commute traffic and we were spot on. I was in a car with two law students and an engineering grad student so convo ranged from vigilant tenantship to the distinctly American preference for drafty air while flying transcontinental (don't ask).

Earlier in the week I had experimented with various facial hair patterns in hopes of achieving a more aero front
end. Eventually I decided on this but will debut it at a future race.

Around 9 we arrived at the Cal Lodge at Donner Summit and were greeted by two very hospitible hosts.

The one on the right was full of great stories, like the time when he had to "like, turn off, like, all the lights, dude, in the whole cabin, man." I also learned a few techniques for adding medicinal properties to crumb cake to cure "the most boring job on earth, man."

The pre-race jitters kept me up until midnight so I only got about 6 hours of sleep. By 8 we were at the
course with plenty of time to warm up.

The race was 70 miles with climbing so we did the first 20 at a nice erectile disfunctioned, 50+ group ride pace. At the first turn around I politely behooved the group into stopping so I could relieve myself. Next thing I know we've got a tour-esque pee break.

As we headed back up the hill Niv attacked and a Davis guy went with him. I sat on the front with another Davis guy for a few minutes until Humbolt and Stanford attacked. I stayed on their wheels until they caught them. Then we kept going and eventually whittled down to about 4 Davis, 2 Stanford, 1 Humbolt, and me.

At first I began politicing with Stanford to let Davis pull us but then I realized he had a teammate in the break so I used the same line on Humbolt and we sat in for the next 15 miles or so. Some days you just get a good hand.

The second time out there was a brief attack from Davis. We caught it quickly and I stayed on the front so I could set the line on the descent. This paid off big when I came to the turnaround. I looked back and I had gained at least 30 ft on the pack. I attacked as hard as I could back up the hill.

One Stanford guy bridged but was so tired he nudged my back wheel and had to slow. Lesson 1: when you hear your opponent really hurting, ATTACK! In hindsight I should have attacked again at this point because I knew he was weak. He caught back up and then led for a bit up the hill. By the time we descended the rest of the pack was out of sight.

We worked together on the descent for a few miles until the end was near. I began to bluff a bit about how tired I was and took shorter pulls.

Finally, the last hill came before the rising finish. I attacked briefly just to test his legs. Sure enough, he stayed on. I began soft-pedaling and looking back at him. I kept imagining Stage 18 of last year's Tour. I had little confidence in my sprint but it was all that was left.

With less than 200 m to go I jumped and went as hard as I could. Stanford flew past me and by the time I caught his wheel we had crossed the line.

All the planning of my first win went away. I had blown it. I replayed it over and over again trying to think of other ways I could have got him. It was good, but not good enough.

I warmed down and eventually we landed on the Reno strip at the Los Gallos Taqueria!

Later we ended up at Tuneel's house where I dreamt of having a place with amenities such as a walk-in bathroom and dishwasher.

The next day we woke to super strong winds. (Note of qualification: I grew up in Oklahoma; remember Twister?) I was hoping this would deter some of the other racers and make for an easier crit.

At the course I put on my aero wheels and rode the course. The crosswinds were tough but they flew in the tailwind so I decided to race with them.

Finally the race began. I told Humbolt I was going off the front hard from the start and he should come with me. I thought with the crosswinds so bad there wouldn't be much of a chance to work together. I also wanted to tear the pack apart from the start because I thought they would all be sore from Saturday.


I go hard and no one comes. I found out later that Humbolt couldn't get his cleat in. I stayed away for a good two laps until a Davis guy bridged up. He sat on me with the rest of the pack and shortly after two Davis guys attacked.

By this point I was weak from being on my own and couldn't get on their wheels. Stanford came up and asked what I thought about them. "They're weak, they won't stay away" I said.

He and I pulled for another couple of laps until he wisened up and attacked. I was left pulling the Davis paceline.

A few laps later another Davis guy attacked. Wow, these guys really had their teamwork down. First the blown breakaway on Sat, then this. I was just bitter about having missed the only two worthwhile breaks.

Eventually Humbolt attacked as well. With three to go I sat up as we crossed the line.
"You guys okay with this?" I asked. One of the Davis guys, Anthony, "Not today man, you're strong as rocks." I appreciated his teamwork, and at least being halfway honest. That was all the encouragement I needed though and I attacked again.

I went hard until two to go and then began sizing him up for the sprint. I slowed a bit in the last two turns, eying him. All of the sudden Stanford blew past with the win. He had bridged and then passed the Davis guys.

Some days you get a good hand, and then you blow it. Lesson 2: Don't go off the front in a crit unless you have company, or you can TT for 45 minutes. I should have stuck with my Saturday tactic of sucking wheels.

Which brings me to the third lesson: if you've got enough energy for a shit-eating grin, you're not riding hard enough...

Here are the rest of the pics.

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