Topsport SR Redux

The end of the Topsport SR didn't go so well for me. I hit a wheel and
did a face plant on lap 2 of 4 at 30 MPH. I managed to get back up and
(with the help of some Metromint guys) catch the field. For a number
of reasons - improper crank installation causing about 5 W of drag,
loose bar tape from the crash, loss of some gearing from the crash,
being gassed from the chase, not being able to eat and drink properly
after the crash, some blood loss, not wanting to stress my wrist - I
didn't make the selection that dropped half the field. I chased, rode
solo for the last 80 minutes, and finished about 10 minutes behind the
field. I finished "not last" in the GC, but well out of the points.
(Jane got a flat and DNF'd despite getting 2nd in the TT, so it was a
miserable day for both of us.)

Crash damage: six stitches on my chin. Swollen lower lip. Sore thumb
and wrist. Scraped, swollen knee. Broken helmet. Derailleur needs half
of a new cage, frame needs a new hanger. Disappointment and shame.
Fortunately, the frame and wheels seem fine.

I have some photos of the chin that I'll post at some point.


Topsport Stage Race: Time Trial (Stage 2)

UPDATE: 13th GC. http://www.ncncaracing.com/images/2010/TopsportStageRaceCopperResults.pdf

Just 2 hours after the end of my 90 minute circuit race, I did the time trial. The course leaves Copperopolis after route 4, and heads north and back south for 11 miles of rolling hills and bumpy terrain. I rode my Cervelo P3 with a 100mm front wheel and a disc rear. I was tired after the circuit race, and there was a fierce wind.

My time was about 25m30s, +- 2 seconds. I passed one person. I hear that the winning time was around 24 minutes (from Roman, mentioned above). Now, I passed someone, and there were a bunch of guys out there on road bikes without disc wheels, so there must have been some serious range in times!

Suggestion for next year: tune the bonuses and/or the TT course to make it actually competitive. San Dimas did this perfectly. If I'm a minute down, it is *impossible* for me to make this up unless I manage to be in a major break.

Jane did well! She got 2nd in the women's Pro-1-2-3 time trial, and a pack finish in the circuit race. She's well on her way to Cat 2! She may get her 2 before I get my 1. We'll throw a big party if one of us upgrades; hopefully we'll have one big party for both of us! The party will have cake.

Topsport Stage Race: Circuit (Stage 1)

This weekend, Topsport is hosting a brand new stage race in Copperopolis, CA. I'm in the Pro-1-2 field, which means I'm once again racing for upgrade points against those who have already upgraded.

The circuit race start was at a chilly and early 8am, which meant a bleary eyed 4:30am departure from Menlo Park. Things wree delayed, so I only had time for a short warmup.

The course featured rolling hills, one turnaround, and a few corners through town. My goals were to gain some time bonuses, and place in the top 6 for upgrade points. Although I managed to win a 5-second time bonus, I finished a disappointing 13th out of 51 starters.

For the middle third of the race, a break of about six riders with good team representation took off. They launched the attack after the corners through town, and Metromint and Webcor worked hard to block. We eventually reeled them back, but I made some enemies in the process. After the race, Roman (pro rider, Health Net) explained that I need to learn chasing skills: no cutting in line, smooth even pulls, and fewer heroics. He's right - I'm lacking a number of skills that are expected in the Pro-1-2 field, on account of my fast upgrade (4 to 2 in 4 months). Hopefully more of my teammates will attend future races.

I raced with a brand-used (i.e. not new, but new to me) wired SRM on my SL3. It took a week and a half to sort out a broken sensor cable. I was forced to install it at the last minute. In extreme haste, I left out a critical spacer. I can still race, but the crank is loose, and has about 1-2 watts of drag. Perhaps I can blame any mediocre finish on the crank...


San Dimas Stage Race: Criterium (Stage 3)

The crit went better than I had hoped. After yesterday's stages, I was 12th in the GC. My goal for today was to contend as many time bonus sprints as I could. These were at 20 and 40 minutes into the 55 minute race. I felt strong early in the race, so I managed to solo off and get a 10 second time bonus! A break stuck for the second time bonus, so I was only able to manage third. By the time the finish rolled around, I was exhausted and in a poor position, so I finished with the pack.

My efforts were not for naught. The 13 additional seconds managed to put me 9th overall, netting me 7 more lucrative Cat 1 upgrade points. Furthermore, I got enough points to win the green sprinter's jersey! Very cool.


Race Report: San Dimas Stage Race - Stage 2: San Dimas Hospital Road Race

UPDATE: 12th in GC at 41 seconds. I can still win this! Race data is online at Plus 3 Network. Check it out - you can raise money for charity by just riding your bike. Seriously. It's great.

Racing in the Cat 2 field is very different from racing with the pros, or with the local P123 field. The former is completely team dominated, whereas the latter has such a wide range of talent that the field splits quickly. The Cat 2 field today was much closer in age, experience, and strength than some other fields. I think I did well, but could have done better.

My goal for the race was to win every single "hot spot" sprint. These sprints, on laps 3, 5, and 7, were worth 10, 6, or 3 seconds in the GC. Being 42 seconds back, those seconds are very precious! I did not want to contend KOM as I'm no climber. The conditions were hot and sunny, with some shifting winds.

After the first sprint, I learned that I should do a better job of being toward the front if I was going to contend these. I won the second sprint, and placed third in the final sprint, winning me 13 seconds. If nothing changed, I'm now 17th in the GC. The correct strategy was to attack the KOM climb, blast downhill, and hold the lead to the line.

I made a serious error in waiting for the pack after the last sprint, with one to go. The pack was tired and dehydrated after two hours. The winner soloed off the front and gained a ton of time. Had I not waited for the pack, I could have held off the pack, gained 20 seconds, and won. The pack finish was disappointing.


Race Report: San Dimas Stage Race - Stage 1: Glendora Hill Climb Time Trial

15m06.03s, 25/114 @ 43.24 s.

The Sam Dimas HCTT featured about 1350 feet of climbing over the course of just under four miles. This meant 5 to 8 percent grades, many switchbacks, and winning times of about 14 minutes in the Cat 2 field. I did a pre-ride of the course this morning, in order to watch Jane finish, and I'm glad I did. I discovered, quickly, that a good choice of line would be crucial to performing well on the course.

I need to work on my pacing. Due to a number of colluding factors, I did not have a power meter for this race. I used heart rate and RPE for pacing. My heart rate was pinned at 175 BPM for almost the entire climb. I thought I paced myself well, but that I could have pushed just a tiny bit harder, especially at the end.

My time was just over 15 minutes and 6 seconds. My guess was that the winning time would be 14m20s - and I was right! Unfortunately, there are plenty of people up top. I'm currently in 25th place out of 115 riders, and 41 seconds behind. There are some opportunities to gain time in primes tomorrow and Sunday. I need to work very hard, as I won't get any points at all unless I'm in 15th place or higher! I want to place in the road race and crit, and take a few primes if possible.


Race Report: Monterey CCCX #2

The Monterey CCCX was a windy circuit race in Monterey, CA. It was the same weekend as the Madera stage race. Knowing that most of the local strong riders would be at Madera, I knew this would be a valuable opportunity to scrape some upgrade points to Cat 1. I was right! About 25 riders appeared for the Pro-1-2-3 field. The course was a roughly 4 mile loop on rolling hills, with a fierce wind. Early in the race, the top 10 or so riders broke away from the pack. There were numerous attacks, including a four man super-break that stuck for a while, but a lack of teamwork and strong wind brought everything back together. The last two miles of the race were a long match sprint. No one wanted to work, or attack into the wind. I found a strong wheel on a Cal Giant rider (who?), and managed to contest a field sprint for third place. All of that specific sprint work seems to have paid off! The SL3 was the perfect bike for the race - light, stiff, and comfortable.


Jane's Blog

Many of you know my girlfriend, Jane. Well, she recently started bicycle racing, and has just upgraded to Category 3 (!). You can follow along on her new blog: http://cyclingchronicles.blogspot.com/ .


SRM Wired ANT+Sport Adapter (proposal)

The last page of the SRM manual gives a brief overview of how the thing works. The older, wired SRM used a really simple PWM encoding over an analog coil to transmit the power. The frequency was proportional to the power, and the duty cycle was proportional to the cadence. (Read elsewhere on this topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse_width_modulation)

Seems to me like making an ANT+Sport adapter is "trivial" apart from all the licensing BS. I foresee a small sensor that mounts on the bottom bracket, near where the SRM's magnet attaches. It would read the power data in real time, demodulate the signal to get a useful speed and cadence, and re-transmit over ANT+Sport to any computer able to read it. This would let anyone with a wired SRM use their Edge 705 or whatnot.

Here's the problem. I have all the know-how to take on this project (it's a perfect 6.115 Microcontroller Lab final project, in fact), but not the hardware (at least a nice oscilloscope and bench setup), or the ANT+Sport tech data, or the time really. Does anyone out there want to help? There's always MetriGear, the friendly local power meter company. Clearly by developing the Vector they have the resources that I'd need for this project - wireless testing tools, tech data, etc.


Race Report: Merco Foothills Road Race, 2010-03-07

One bit summary: 0. One word summary: “meh”.

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day with mostly calm winds for my first every Pro-1-2 road race. Though the course was mostly flat with some rolling hills and a few climbs, the CF2 still felt too slow and heavy. Our race was 5 24-mile laps, giving 120 miles in about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

After a relatively slow first lap, things really picked up in the second lap. Team tactics played a role as teams sent one person up the road and used the other five to block. I was in a good position to latch on to one of the chase groups, but just didn’t have the legs to bridge. At that point, I knew the race was over: the break would stick and it would be a pack finish. I was right.
The remainder of the race varied from medium to fast pace, and we managed to whittle down the lead group’s gap to 60 seconds, from 115. My usual fueling strategy worked perfectly. I felt strong at the end of the ride. A few rolling hills split the pack in the last 5km. I hung on with the group and finished 33rd, out of probably 120 starters.

Racing in the Pro-1-2 field is very different from collegiate racing. The field is much bigger and the races are longer and faster. The average age and experience level is much higher. National and World champion, and Olympians, comprise much of the field. There were the usual Pro field road race antics, too. Teams sent a representative to the feed zone to get a musette bag full of goodies for other riders. Teams conspired to control the pack and send people off the front. There was chatting when the pace was low. Some guys took a, er, “break” while riding, often with the help of a teammate pushing them along. It was fun to see. It was also frustrating: without any teammates present, I had no help in the pack.

It will be very hard to impossible for me to get any Cat 1 upgrade points in races like this. I need to target races with less decorated pro riders, and I need teammates. For these reasons, I’ve decided to skip the Madera stage race next week in favor of local races.

Compared to collegiate, the personality of the field is different. There was shoving and elbowing as people pushed their way through the field. At one point, I was at the front of the pack trying to help catch the break, admittedly not doing a perfect job of pulling through. Someone told me to “pull through and get the f*** out”. I’m sure my relative lack of experience played a role, but I certainly wasn’t making many friends today. Collegiate racers, in comparison, are usually gentlemen.

In any event, it’s good to know that I can hang with some of the fastest fields out there in cycling today. This weekend provided valuable data and experience that I will use to calibrate my racing routines. This is all a learning experience, after all.

Jane got 2nd in her Cat 4 women’s race. That was her last race as a 4. Congratulations, Jane!

One of the pro riders this weekend – Rashaan Bahati – has an eponymous team and foundation that helps kids in need get scholarships and racing help. It sounds like a good deal, so make sure to check out their Web site: http://www.bahatifoundation.org/

Race Report: Merco Downtown Criterium, 2010-03-06

One bit summary: 0. One word summary: “grumble”.

This was the second Pro-1-2 crit that I managed to finish. The course was similar to last week’s Merced crit course: flat with multiple challenging technical corners. Prior to the start of the race, the announcers called forward team representatives and other noteworthy figures to the start line. One was Will Dugan, of East Coast fame (notoriety?). I cheered, “ECCC!” when he rolled forward.

A good start is important in a Pro-1-2 crit, as it is hard to move through the pack on a technical course. After about 15 laps (of 50), I was able to learn good lines through the turns, and learn where to move up in the pack. It took a conscious effort, but I was able to gain about 4 spots every lap. The Pro-1-2 men are pretty good pack handlers, better than any field I’ve seen before.

Unfortunately, I had a mechanical issue. I decided to race my Fuji Aloha CF2 this weekend, as its Quarq power meter would give interesting data for the weekend. I also decided to race my Zipp 808 clincher wheels, as they are slightly faster than my 404 tubulars in good conditions. I kept the 12-25 cassette that was on the 808s. These were all mistakes. Whenever I sprinted, I could feel the heavy bike and wheels resisting my effort. Sure, once I got the whole consist up to speed, everything was fine, but it wasn’t as awe-inspiringly fast as my SL3. Furthermore, I realized that I could gain a few additional positions every lap by sprinting out of the last turn in the chicane. Unfortunately, I was usually in the 53-13 or 53-12 while doing this (it was a fast race), so I threw my chain several times. I swear – I’ve NEVER had good front shifting with the CF2-Quarq setup. Either the CF2 is not stiff under load, or the Quarq is not laterally stiff. I’ve used several different chain rings and always have some trouble.

The mechanical issues meant that I was afraid to put any power into the pedals. Dropping a chain meant having 10 people pass me and losing several laps of progress. So, despite moving from near the very back of a 120-person pack to a top 30 position, lack of faith in my equipment kept me from trying any harder. I finished with the pack.

Jane won her Cat 4 race, and an impressive trophy to go with it. She’ll upgrade to Cat 3 for the Madera Stage Race, and use her new Fuji Aloha TT bike. It was a cheap eBay frame built with my spare TT bike parts.

Needless to say, the CF2 is now a training-only bike, and I’m debating selling the Quarq. I need to get power on that SL3. The MetriGear Vector is the top choice, once it becomes available. The other option – SRM – is still too finicky for my taste.