Butane in my Veins
The good clean natural kind.
Yesterday: The Elite US Road National Championship.
Before the report...a little background. My racing leans more toward the "quantity" than "quality" part of the performance spectrum. I race often. I don't play that "peak" game. I aim to get some form, and keep it going for a good long while, and my results often reflect that. I have "peaks" but it's never for a single event. I plateau. That's it. Yesterday's Elite US Road Race happened to fall into a bloc of that good form. I've been on it for a good while now, and any opportunity to exploit it I'm going to take. This is why I decided to race this thing...didn't hurt that it was a 40 minute drive from home, either.
After paying the procrastinator's special $ ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY $ at the registration tent, I got my numbers on. This would be my third national championship race. The previous two being: '04 Collegiate Nats RR (12th) and '05 Collegiate TTT (1st). I usually nail these things. I've never had a coach, but in the buildup to races like these, there's something inside that makes everything click a certain way so as to send the legs and energy levels soaring.
-Butane in my veins-
So. The lineup. Cal-Giant Strawberries had the biggest team out there. All their guys are either old or ex pros or both. So they know how to race. Karl Bordine and the vegetables lined up. Full complement. Lots of assorted locals whom I had no idea were cat 1s...and of course the guys that actually flew out to do this thing. Bummer for them. The course.....ahhh the course....if they said "Aram, we want to make a Road course tailor made to fit your riding style" this would have been it. Perfect stuff. Six 31km laps for 186 total K's. Some complications at the start: if any break gained 3 or more minutes, the remaining riders would be pulled. Whoa! So no TdF style 20 minute TV-time breakaways on this day. I'm sure the sponsors were upset with that one.
Well....this report can get unnecessarily long. I'm gonna blast through it as efficiently/quickly as possible. First lap, my first around this course, I just felt everything out. So did the peleton. No break got more than 100 meters. It was definitely tense out there. People with some serious game faces and all that. There are 2 U turns on the course. At the first one, there were two girls, clothed, cheering like mad on both ends of this turn. Hey, good on them. See you in 31 kilometers. We passed through the start finish. Got my feed nice and smooth. We came up on the aforementioned U: same two girls, alot less clothing, even more cheering! HEY. Yes! Loosened the peleton up a bit for a change. DEFINITELY see you on the next lap. [really, there is nothing else noteworthy here...sagged climbed the climbs, no attacks, pack together mostly, eh.] So the only logical progression here is even MORE cheering and, well...can't really undress further I think. So we get there. The place is completely barren. I can only assume they were arressted. And I never did get a gooood look, but they were undoubtedly the grandest daughters of the land on that day. GRAND. So, serious time started again. It was around this point that a break got up the road. A break too big to take seriously, and we could see them up the road the whole time. No cohesion...they weren't even single file. I was unalarmed, but it was here that I saw the front for the first time -a couple times. They remained as they were...not too threatening. Bordine was there...a couple Cal-Giants, of course, with teammates shutting things down in the peleton...
[picture here if i get one]
On the next lap, with 90k still to go, I foudn myself next to Thurlow Rogers. "Thurlow, how are the legs today?" "Eh, they're good, but the race is riding away from us." I mentioned that they were just a few hundred meters up the road...and shortly after this moment, I never saw Thurlow again. He attacked. I saw the attack, but.....
The next few laps were frustrating. I told myself, "hey, whatev, you'll be in the next move and every other move thereafter. legs are swell and good. no sweat." There was no next move. Those guys just stayed a steady minute ahead. The strawberry team shut it down, the elastic broke, and we went into the last lap barely inside the 3 minute DNF window. I didn't think I'd sprint. I was tired and upset. More upset, however. I had exxxxxxxxxcellent feedzone support, and for the first time ever, was adequetely hydrated throughout a RR. I put away a good 1500 calories on the bike in addition to a gallon and a half of water. For this, my stomach is completely out of whack at the moment...but anyhow...The elastic was broke. 3 minutes turned to 6 real fast. There were 15 up the road. 13 in the break, 2 snuck off on the last climb and no one cared, so a sprint for 16th. I guess a top 20 in a National RR is good resume filler (not that I still care for those things), and 16th paid the same as 1st. We're all suckers. Pardon the cynicism...so the good legs come around, even if the mind wasn't too stoked on it. Once the peleton [pretty large still @ 50-60] starts jockeying, the legs just take over. Reflexively. You know this. Allright...Ken Hanson was the guy to mark. Random Trivia: He won the Cat 2 san dimas RR the year before I did. And I can't forget him completely coming off his line to take a measley $20 prime at superweek '06. That was when I learned that "hey, officials don't care about sprint rules during primes. anything goes." There's a pearl for the aspiring crit-monsters out there. Anyhow, the guy can ride...and had 44 fresh Stawberry teammates who also cared enough for that minor placing that they started an early leadout. I took his wheel with 4k to go. In a little bunch up, I lost it to an older fellow, and kindly, simply, said "guy, you can't even sprint." I'm a jerk, I know. It's probably better if blog readers stayed ignorant of this facet, but hey...he can't. I've seen this guy. Whatev, at the end of 186km, one rider between me and another isn't gonna make a difference, and I gave up the wheel. In a kind karmic twist, he gave it back to me with about 500m to go. Tip of the hat, big-wheel. It was an easy, though unfulfilling sprint. Hanson timed it perfectly and took it by a bike or two, I jumped at 300 and came around a little blob of riders and had a bike or two on the guys behind me. 17th. A total waste of great legs...but not entirely disappointing.