Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Dark Side Of The Force

Blocking the wind for the 40+ field in the crit.

Not a whole lot of excitement to report from last weekend. It was a typical road race for me in the Cat. 1/2 field, keep it rubber side down, don’t get dropped and get a good workout in. Mission accomplished. Same deal for the criterium…mission accomplished.
For the road race, I think that it was raining everywhere in Iowa except at N41.54, W91.67. On the way to Iowa City, it rained on and off and I wasn’t planning to race if it looked like it would rain during my race. It was a pretty atypical race for the Iowa City road race, very light wind and somewhat decent temps for this time of the year. Good fixin’s for a ‘no break away’ race.
Julie and I got off to late start in the morning and I knew that I’d be cutting it kinda close. I do this every year for this race, I get up in the morning, fix a pot of coffee, pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc. and sit down for a leisurely breakfast. Next thing I know, it’s 2+ hours until race time and I’m still sitting around the house in my drawers. Then the mad scramble ensues to get my carcass to Iowa City in time for the start. So I chamiox’d up in the car while Julie was driving. We arrived about 15 minutes before the start and I managed to get in a ‘good’ 5 minute warm up before the ref blew the start whistle. I saw Steve Tilford and the Tilfordettes warming up as we pulled into the parking lot. They always put on a clinic in road race strategy and it’s always fun to watch their strategy unfold from my ‘front row seat’.
The pace at the start was fairly calm, however the attacks throughout the race were pretty thick and fast with none of them succeeding until the last lap. I even threw in a half hearted attack that was quickly reeled in. As mentioned above, I kept it rubber side down, didn’t get shelled and I got a good workout in. We also had a couple of incidents with motorists, that were fortunately of no consequence, that reinforced the fact that there are some amazingly stupid people in this world.
After the race, Julie and I headed to the QC to pay a visit to the fam. We had dinner with Julie’s folks and then headed to my folks where we were greeted with offers for some French silk pie. Julie and I reluctantly declined as we were both still in the midst of a food coma from dinner.
We headed out the next day for Iowa City with thoughts of doing the Old Capital Crit if the weather was good. Once again, it rained on the way to Iowa City, however it cleared off when we arrived. About an hour before the 40+ race, the temps were in the mid 70’s and the skies looked pretty good. So it was game on for the old man’s race. It was only a 15 lap race that lasted about 30 minutes, so the race strategy was pretty simple. Go hard and get a good, high intensity workout in.
I started near the back of the field and gradually worked my way to the front. I made a few attempts to get away, however each attempt was quickly reeled in. There were a few other attempts by Clarke Priebe as well as a few others that were equally unsuccessful. On the penultimate lap, Dewey Dickey took a flyer going up the hill and managed to stay away for a well executed win. Clarke got away shortly after Dewey, but came up short in the end and held on for 2nd. I tried to bring it all back on the last lap, however about midway through the last lap, I looked back only to see the remnants of the peloton firmly attached to my wheel. I could tell that I wasn’t going to have enough gas in the tank to finish well, so I pulled the plug and opted to keep myself out of the melee that typically ensues at the conclusion of a crit. Despite my futile efforts, I still had a lot of fun, so it was all good.

Downhill racin' roadie style.

The dynamics of criterium racing have always been somewhat of an enigma to me. I suppose that is largely because I am a mountain bike racer and spend little to no time thinking about criterium race tactics. Guys like Dewey and Clarke were clearly the favorites and should have been marked men. However when they chose to go near the end of the race, nobody really put the effort in to chase. I would have sooner than I did, however bad positioning at the time of their escape prevented that from happening when it should have. When I did go after them, I was followed closely by the remainder of the peloton. Maybe it was because I was also a marked man, or maybe it was because my flyer didn’t contain the same sting that Dewey or Clarke had inflicted on the peloton. I’m going to chalk it up to the latter because I didn’t really have the punch in my legs that would have been required to get away from a field as strong as this was. Yes, there is such a thing as a strong 40+ field when have guys like Dewey, Clarke, Cochran, Moraniec, Thompson and the Diesel toein’ the line!
I’ve had my new 2009 Orbea Orca for about a month now and have had enough riding and racing to convey my thoughts. Orbea claims that the 2009 frame is a substantial 20 percent stiffer and, by losing nearly 90 grams, also 10 percent lighter than its’ 2008 predecessor. After several rides and some racing, I believe them.
According to Orbea, improvements were primarily made by fine-tuning the carbon lay-up schedule as well as the mix of high modulus Toray M40J and high-strength M30S fibers that was used. Previous Orcas used a 50/50 mix of M40J and M30S; the 2009 model now uses a stiffer 70/30 blend.
The significant increase in stiffness was noticeable on my first few rides yet still remaining was the same comfortable ride, light and maneuverable handling, and reassuring high-speed stability that I was accustomed to with the 2008 version. The increased stiffness was even more apparent during the road race and criterium, especially when powering up the hill in the criterium. The 2009 Orca is a frame with the stiff, fast and light ride of a Formula One car plus the eye-catching good looks to match!

Next up, if the weather holds this week, is the first Psycowpath race of the season at Swanson Park in Omahole. The last few races that I’ve done there have resulted in some pretty epic battles with Nebraska’s top dog, Kent McNeil. This weekend will be no different I’m sure!

Thanks for reading,