Lessons Learned! Or my first season racing.

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by quenya, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    With my newly printed authorization to race I drove to Fremont Sunday the 9th to ride in the Early Bird Crit. After the mentoring session I raced in the cat 5 30-44 yo race. I've wondered how I would do in these early crits because so much of my training has been steady state, I haven't really moved out of my base period to incorporate high intensity (vo2max, anaerobic, or neuromuscular). That said I was confident, I warmed up, had a good pee and set off for the starting line. I was at the front and on the far left of the four R corners course. At the start I was on the front and within the first lap myself and four other guys who would be setting the pace the whole time were sharing time in the wind. I was feeling really good, I drove the pace up several times to gauge my legs but never really went 'all in'. Finally watching the laps count down from 5-1 to go, on the last lap I pulled out of the wind and the guy behind me didn't want to work either, the pace slowed and for the first time I was in the pack rather than at the front! With 3 corners to go watching a 2 man break pulling away fast! That break is where I was supposed to be! I had to rip myself out of the pack and go 'all in' to get away, another guy grabbed my wheel and he and I traded pulls around the last 2 corners finally overtaking the break 100 yards from the line only to be at the front of a bunch sprint I had no sprint in me after a kilometer of pushin 30 mph in pursuit and saw a few jerseys in front of me at the line. The 40 min crit averaged 24.5 mph. The lessons I'm taking away are: never stop fighting to stay at the front if, I had joined the break it would have been the winning move always position yourself where you can react, pedal through corners it prevents that little gap and keeps you in your saddle when you come out of the turn.
     
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  2. Rych

    Rych New Member

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    Thanks for sharing, sound like a lot of fun though! I'm joining the local club and getting my license shortly and will be doing these on Tuesday's will be good fun and awesome for my bunch experience. Sounds like you did really well for not doing specific crit/tt/sprint type training. Do that and you will be up a cat in no time.
     
  3. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Thanks Rych. I told myself before the crit that my goal is simply to get the experience, upgrade points, and stay off the deck. But once we were out there I couldn't help but want to see it through and place as highly as I could. My team has a strong sprinter who is a cat 4, and I can't wait to race crits supporting him. With the understanding that he'll support me in road races with big selective hills.
     
  4. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    The second early bird crit 1/16 started out much the same as the first. Again I was sticking my nose out in the wind a fair bit but I bridged to a couple of attacks and felt really strong on the bike. The first attack that looked good was one of the stronger guys from the week before, I was on the front when he attacked, I speed up a bit but I wanted to join him so I came off the front and got back in the line 4 or 5 positions back took one more corner and sprinted out of the corner and drilled it until I caught his wheel; just in time for him to sit up! Moments later two guys on the same team broke away, and I was in 3rd position so I watched to see if the group was going to catch them, neither of the guys in front of me was picking up the pace so I let my wheel get a bike length or so back and again sprinted up to the break. I really thought the guys would keep attacking me, one after the other and we would either fight for top three or they would drop me, nope. They sat up! I should have put my head down and drilled the last 5 1/2 laps but we hadn't been told how many laps were left and one lap later with 5 to go, about 30 minutes into the race a big pile up caused the race to be neutralized and after 20 minutes of slowly spinning around the course the race was ended. I took away one important lesson: getting away from the pack requires a violent surge, that it's called an attack is very appropriate. When I went after the two breaks it was a sprint followed by an anaerobic interval just to get across the gap without dragging the pack with me.
     
  5. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    That's a good observation of what you need to do to respond to a break without towing the field up, especially if you're riding right at the front when the move goes. But there are good ways to get away without so dramatic an effort if you launch your moves from five to eight riders back and if you can capitalize on the best opportunities.

    For instance I'd bet that the pair that counterattacked your first break got away with a lot less effort than your bridging move. It's not unusual for the peloton to take a collective sigh of relief when a break is caught and that's the perfect time to launch a counterattack without a huge effort. It's one of the reasons that letting some breaks establish while keeping them in sight can be a good tactical move, setting up for the counterattack when the field chases down an early move can be a lot smarter than simply sitting on the front and making big efforts to go with the early attacks. It depends a lot on the mood and capabilities of the field and how feisty vs. defensive the strong riders are riding.

    Anyway good on ya for getting an early start to the season and riding up front in fast early season races. Now that you know you can stay right on point when you need to why don't you experiment with taking enough pulls to keep you in the front half dozen riders but trying to stay in positions 4 through 6 as much as you can. If you do that well you'll be in a much better position to wind up attacks that let you get clear of the field at speed without huge efforts and be in a much better position to see other attacks as they wind up so that you can jump immediately on a wheel without having to do the big bridging effort.

    Good luck,
    -Dave
     
  6. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Thanks for pointing out that distinction... Hey I'm cat 5 for a reason, still LOTS to learn. I will try to sit in and not spend too much time on the front but... It takes discipline to let others ride up front especially when I'm feeling strong.
     
  7. oldschool Scott

    oldschool Scott New Member

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    I enjoyed reading your post very much...I was at the first Early Bird Crit on the 9th as well. I'm 46, perhaps going through a mid-life crisis, and have always been interested in racing. I heard about this series and thought I'd give it a try.

    My experience was a little different than yours. The mentoring session was really worthwhile. Nice to learn actually what happens in a race without having to learn while racing. After the mentoring session, I was going to have to wait around another hour for the 45+ CAT 5 race, so I figured I'd save time and go with the 30+ CAT 5 race which was right after the mentoring session. I have two kids 2 and 6, and I travel for work, so I really had not been on my bike except for a few rides in the last three months. I knew I was going to suffer, and I was right!

    I suppose I was the "lantern rouge" of the bunch, basically looking for any wheel to suck, and trying to hold on as long as I could. I found I was thinking of all of the things they were talking about in the mentoring sessions - "you are responsible for the area around your front wheel", "don't swerve, just go straight over the dots", "keep pedaling in the corners", and "stay in the drops", while trying to stay with the peleton. My neck was killing me, as I'm not use to riding around in the drops, always on the hoods. The pace was pretty high, not outrageous, I am out of shape, so my lungs were on fire as were my legs. I kept looking at my computer for the time, and the minutes were moving so slowly!

    In the end, I only lasted 22 minutes of the 40 minute race, falling off the back. For the last two laps, I was thinking about stopping as I was starting to get dizzy and contemplated how mad my wife would be if I crashed. Brains won out over pride, as I glided to a stop.

    I had a pretty good time actually. I didn't make it to any of the other sessions, too many family commitments, but since then I have been trying to get out on two/three rides a week up here in Marin. I figure I'll give a race a shot later on this spring as I get stronger. We'll see what happens. I suppose my next goal is to finish a race, then I'll work from there.
     
  8. frankiemuniz01

    frankiemuniz01 New Member

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    The group is separating which makes it insanely more difficult to draft. coming thought the final turn, I stood up and laid in the acceleration, sprinting. One guy next to me was doing the same, and he was just a hair faster than I, but he couldn't hold it for the duration and I edged out in front. I passed two other riders who had were not sprinting. It doesn't really mean anything since I am no where near the top 20 among this 105 riders present. Yeah, there was quite the turnout for the first race of the season. End result, I am happy with my performance today. And as I said earlier, I still have all my skin.
     
  9. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Another EBC today! Wait, back up, yesterday I rolled out from home did the pine flat course, kind of, I hit the big climb and the finish first and ended up suffering through a self supported century. Today, I didn't have much hope for the crit, the field was split in to 2 groups separating myself and a teammate to race without one another, until we rolled from the line. I slipped into the front 5 or so guys then made a few moves as the guys sorted themselves out. Just a few laps in I was feeling frisky. Well going in I was planning to launch an attack solo when the group slows around 3 laps to go. I was told once "if you're going to stick your nose in the wind, you might as well do it off the front" so I took a doomed solo flyer. I jumped away and drilled it for 15-20 seconds then settled in to a 25 mph pace and let the group catch me, which took a lap. I was really excited to have the group lull after catching a break or around 3 laps to go because I felt sure that I could drill it for a lap or more and still TT it ahead of the group. Except that it never happened, 6 laps to go and a spoke snapped. I didn't put wheels in to the pit and didn't know if I could race the wheel and I really didn't like hearing that spoke scrape my lovely frame. I pulled out and watched my teammate win his groups sprint.
     
  10. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    It's taken me a while to reflect on last weekend and get enough distance that I could write about it without too many sour grapes...

    Sat. 2-19-2011 Cantua Creek RR. It had been raining for days when I got up and got ready to drive out to Coalinga, about an hour away from my home in Fresno. It was rainy and cold when I left but clear and chilly (but warm enough for short fingered gloves) at the staging area. I had pre-registered for the race so I got my number pretty quickly put it on my jersey got into my kit had a warm up and a quick 'nature break" then rolled to the start line. I didn't have any teammates in the Cat 5 group but some cat 4s, 3s, and one of our Cat 2 riders were out there as well and we chatted and joked until game time.

    The start was neutral for about a mile and then the race begins with a little descent, its an out and back course so that descent is also the finishing hill. The group was rolling along smoothly and I was tucked in line a few places back doing no work at all. I had heard guys talking about attacking early and riding the whole race in a breakaway, which I thought was pretty silly but a few miles in one guy flew off the front. I really was not worried as A. this is not a high priority race for me and B. its a windy course on a really windy day. It would take a huge effort to stay off the front all day especially alone. The group was rolling along at 20-21 miles an hour and I was a little underwhelmed so even though the guy off the front was way ahead I decided to bridge over there and see if some racers wanted to join me, as I pushed out a few others took off so we rotated through and off and caught the solo guy , then no one wanted to keep working so we were caught by the pack. At least now we were moving around 23 mph. and this is pretty much where my day ended. A puddle caused the group to slow and the guy in front of me grabbed 3 fistfuls of brake and swerved about 2 feet to the right. I know it's my responsibility to keep my front wheel safe but WTF! I stayed up but was pushed off the road into a slick wet clay mud concoction that clogged my brakes and was so slippery that I was rolling along at a crawl with a 60 yard long puddle that was 4 feet wide between me and the road and an ever increasing gap between me and the pack. By the time I jumped off my bike, over the puddle, cleared away enough mud that my wheels would spin and my cleats would engage my pedals, flipping up the release on both brakes and getting back up to speed I was minutes behind. This was at mile 11 of a 13 mile 'out' portion. The Cat 5s did the out and back twice making 52 miles, I ended up time trialling 15 miles after the group and ended up watching them descending the start/finish hill while I was a little less than a kilometer from the top. My goals for Saturday wee to avoid hitting the deck and get my legs heated up for Sunday's Pine Flat RR, I decided that Id accomplished that and further solo miles were not in my best interest so I abandoned at the turn around.

    Sunday 2-20-2011
    Pine Flat RR. This is one of my A races a 62 mile loop that features a big climb WildCat at about 50-52 miles followed by almost ten miles of gentle rolling to flat terrain leading up to a sharp 1km climb. I have had a lot of success on wildcat and figured that I could drop the group on the climb recover on the descent and TT solo or with 1-2 others and beat them up the finishing hill. This race really suits me and my skill set/racing style. I had to fix a flat 30 minutes from the base of wildcat and I think every cat 5 I passed there after took the broom wagon in, so I finished dead last. It still kills me because I was feeling so strong and so calm, the guy who won shredded the field up the climb and solo'd to victory 5 minutes ahead of the 2nd place rider and I am pretty sure I could have held onto him but it'll be a year before I get another chance at that race.
     
  11. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Bummer about your tough weekend of racing. Good reminder of how the unexpected can influence things so much in this sport. Definite bummer about flatting out of Pine Flat, that's a fantastic course. Flats happen and they suck, sounds like they're not running wheel vehicles behind the Cat 5 race. We rarely had wheel support back in NorCal when I raced there even for higher category races but every field up here in the Washington seems to get one or more follow vehicles filled with wheels. Still doesn't help if your wheels are up the road following the break but it's nice to have a chance at a quick wheel change.

    Copperopolis must be coming up soon. That should be a great race for you. Definitely pre ride or drive the course at least once before the race if you haven't raced it before. In particular memorize the section after climbing up onto the plateau where you cross a cattle guard and there's a Y in the road and a big hacienda looking ranch house. For a moment it looks like you're headed into a private driveway which often caused a big pileup in the lower category races back in the day. Know that section, be at or off the front there and it's a killer place to open up a gap before the predictable confusion. Similarly ride that descent a couple of times. It's totally no brakes even in a torrential downpour (raced it that way a couple of times) but it sure doesn't look that way on the narrow twisting descent with barbed wire fences lining the ditches. You can kill that descent with a little confidence and some good skills but a lot of folks grab their brakes and go really slow there and since the bottom of the descent is only a kilometer or two from the finish it pays to be really confident and fast there.

    Too bad about last weekend, but as I'm sure you know that's bike racing.

    -Dave
     
  12. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Hey thanks Dave. As you say 'that's bike racing' and you're right that Pine Flat is a FANTASTIC course. But the weekend wasn't a total loss, a couple of bad races have helped me refocus and train harder/smarter. I had been letting the weather, short daylight hours, and a busy schedule 'talk' me out of some mid week rides that I now realize I have to prioritize.

    On Monday 2-21-2011 there was the Dinuba crit, and as luck would have it I was in the 4/5 field, Momentum (the team I ride for) had 4 cat 4s and 2 cat 5s in that field. I finally got to race with teammates. Before the race with a few of our Cat 2s and 3s we discussed our desired results. We all agreed as our DS had suggested that Nathan be our Sprinter and his win our top priority, but with our numbers and strength we thought we could also put Tomas on the podium, both Nathan and Tomas are 4s. As the race around the L shaped course progressed I was feeling strong and confident. The group was slowing a little too much at some of the turns (3,4,5) and was taking turn 6 way too wide but we were rolling fast and smooth for the most part. One of our most experienced riders, Bill, who wasn't racing Monday was calling out encouragement and tips, as well as pre-arranged codes. we had a code for 'pull back a break', 'attack', and 'mass at the front to lead out Tomas and Nathan'. Someone said that Cats below 2 can't work team tactics, I know this is total BS. Momentum executed flawlessly. In the 10 laps of the 30 lap crit, another team was pulling back all the breaks and setting the pace up front so our guys sat in near the front and watched, eventually a break went off that Bill told a couple of guys to pull back in and just as the catch was made told me to attack, I was 6-7 spots back and took off around turn 1, and was clear without much trouble. Something else we talked about was attacking, because we had more than a dozen laps to go when I attacked and there is not much chance of me (or any one person) staying away from a motivated chase for 15 laps we were told to get a 60 or so yard gap, something that is bridgable and match speed with the pack and dangle there to draw out some help, once I saw 3 guys off the front chasing I started ramping up the speed and by the time they caught me we had a big lead on the field but only one of them was willing to work so I rode hard a few times trying to shake out the 2 wheelsuckers as did the one other guy but eventually we shut it down and got caught. I ended up getting stuck in the middle of the pack and sat there for a few laps recovering until with five laps to go I made my way the the left of the pack so I could move up on the outside and get ready to deliver my sprinters. It was then I heard Tomas yell to me "you have to get me back up there", I found out later he'd hit the deck and was just catching on the back of the pack. Anyway with Tomas on my wheel I went out side on 2 right turns and put him in the line about five spots back. With 3 laps to go we got the signal for Momentum to mass at the front, we got collected and I hammered for a lap with my nose in the wind, Chris and Jason split the last lap and I finished mid pack with Chris, watching Nathan take the win with bike lengths to spare. Tomas got cut off and didn't factor into the sprint but I think we all felt pride in our race and Nathan ended up winning 1st in the 4/5s and the 35+ 4/5s. Momentum also got 4th and 6th in the 35+ 1,2,3 race and a 2nd in the Elite 3s
     
  13. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Great race report. Nice when team tactics come together like that.

    Well played,

    -Dave
     
  14. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Have a big weekend coming up. MERCO TT on friday, the GP (crit) saturday, and road race on sunday. The TT is 12 miles an out and back course and I 'should' have some borrowed aero wheels for that race as well as the TT prtion of the Madera stage race the following weekend. Crit is only 20 mi 25 laps, but the course is looking to be brutal. and then a 48 mi road race which should be my last race as a lowly cat 5.

    This week though I'm most concerned about keeping the tires on the road in the GP, there is a long straightaway leading to turn 6 which is a 180 on to the finishing straight. The 180 is described as 2 traffic lanes and a parking lane... In the cat 5 race I think it's going to be a blood bath. I'm thinking I have to stay up front for safeties sake more than ever and it may be a good course for a breakaway so... we'll see how it plays out.
     
  15. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    So the MERCO TT was today. I got out there with plenty of time. Chatted up some teammates and eventually started warming up. The course was a 12 mile out and back. There was a bit of a hill climb that peaked maybe 4 miles in to the out portion a great descent over the next 2 miles. I caught my 'minute man' on the first climb though I never did catch my 30 second guy, and I was caught by the rider who started 30 seconds after me and watched him finish just up the road. I knew the return would have the steepest climb and the fastest section with a long descent and a tailwind once I crested the hill section I never got below 30 mph. I ended up in 13th place which is a fine result in my eyes as I was only 13 seconds behind a teammate and really excellent TTer, he has about 50 lbs on me so the climb was not his friend, BUT I was using heavy not aero at all training wheels. Right now I'm feeling very confident that next week when my TT at the Madera SR counts for something, and when I'll be on a disc and deep section front wheel, I'll be in great shape!

    MERCO GP, very possibly a bloodbath, is tomorrow! Woo Hoo!
     
  16. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    MERCO GP

    yesterday was my last crit in cat 5 and hopefully my last crit without teammates.

    Because of the shape of the course I was VERY determined to stay up front. I
    was hoping to get in a working break, as my sprint is utterly untrained.

    I started near the back of the pack, and took the first few laps making my way
    up, when I got near the front the pace was still slow so instead of getting in
    line to be swamped at the 180 I attacked, right around the starting line/turn 1
    and held a 60ish yard gap for most of that lap. I was joined by two more riders
    on the finish straight. Both guys took hard turns but stayed on the front for
    most of a lap, I would have rather them taken shorter pulls and told them to
    rotate faster, to no effect.

    Eventually I tried to push the pace as our gap, which we had pushed out to maybe
    10 seconds after one pretty smooth 180 turn, dwindled to less than 60 yards. I
    didn't want to get back into the group so I counter attacked my own break
    getting caught on the wheels of three new riders. As we speed around turn 1 our
    front rider slid to the ground (I have no idea why, he just went down) coming
    around turn 4 I think I jammed a pedal while leaning over too far and I also
    slid in. I took a free lap and got back in the race. I still had hopes of a
    good finish and ended up at the front with my nose in the wind. My idea was to
    sit on the front a little below the pace the group should be going 22-23 mph and
    'encourage' a break I could bridge to. Well the best laid plans I drove the
    pace, slowly, for several laps until the pack splintered with groups blowing by
    me, and I was too gassed respond right away I ended up chasing back several guys
    before slipping out on the 180, no crashing just got a little squirrley.

    I ended up sprinting, and winning, for 22nd.

    Bah, I'm tired of crappy results, today I have a RR to 24 mile laps with no serious climbing but lots of rollers and so called 'power climbs' I'm sore and scrapped up but at least this should be a good race for me.
     
  17. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Report: Madera Stage Race For me the crit was torture, the pace slowed to mid to high teens at the corners, 2 and 3 especially. Staying in position up front and together was very difficult with all the bunching up happening. I participated in a brief bit of work pulling back a break that included a Davis rider because another Davis guy was happily sitting at the front slowing us down. On the last lap I ended up behind Tomas (teammate and sprinter) and couldn't get around to lead him out. He sprinted into 13th and I finished with the group a few seconds back. The TT was... not what I'd hoped for. In the first couple of miles my left aero bar slipped down so that my forearm couldn't rest on the cradle but on my basebar (luckily I had ridden like that on my old bike so I never felt out of control just annoyed and uncomfortable.)  I'd already passed my minute man and was watching as my 30-sec guy was about to pass his minute man and anticipating overtaking them both when they both went straight through the turn 2 intersection, with me pursuing, we all had to turn around and for my part had to settle back into a tt frame of mind and fight a head wind. A couple of mechanical issues (aero bar and my brakes were not working well) and a HUGE mental error cost me big. I expected to go under or around 22 minutes and instead rode the slowest 10 mile TT I've ever done, by more than a minute, despite what should have been a faster course and WAY faster wheels, Zipp 1080 front and disc in back. But, I nullified the 20 second bonus given to the winner of the crit and finished the TT in 5th (31 seconds behind 2nd place and about 2 minutes behind first), 7th in the GC. In the road race I planned to get into a break and move up in the GC. Tomas introduced me to a guy from Young's Comm. Trans./Yokhol racing, who was a minute behind me in the GC, we planned to get in a break together with the deal that if we could work well enough together I would be happy moving up in the GC and wouldn't contest the stage win. Since a gap of anything over 30 seconds would put me in 2nd, and 1st was 2 minutes out I really thought it would be possible to have a great result, even if not the overall win. the best laid schemes of mice and men... Towards the end of the 'rough section' on the first lap I broke a spoke in me rear wheel. Being a generous and extremely cool teammate Tomas swapped me rear wheels and I started to chase the group, on the rollers I made progress and then blew down the wide open descent.  The straight away after that had a head wind and through there progress was slow, I was gaining but really working, luckily several guys had to pee and the group actually waited for them and I was able to catch on at the start of the rough stuff (it would have taken me until the rollers on the other side about 2-3 miles if the group had pushed on). I tried to move up the field and recover a bit, when I did make it up to the front I saw Steven maybe 100 meters off the front with one other guy as the race was almost half over and we had arranged to work together I jumped from about 10 places back and across the road from the guys working on the front, I looked back to make sure I was clear then I really had to nail it to catch the break but I did. I tried to get the guys to rotate quicker and pick up the speed but the pack was bearing down on us and our 3rd guy was not being cooperative, so we shut it down and let the pack catch us. Steven and I stayed near the front hoping to jump the counter attack that never came.  I didn't know it then but, that was the end of my race, once we got around to the flats I was falling back and couldn't hold any wheels. By the next patch of rough stuff Tomas was back in the group with my spare rear wheel encouraging me. I was pushing as hard as I could but while my effort felt like a high tempo/TT pace my speed was recovery, and the muscles from my neck to my hamstrings were on fire. I know it was frustrating for my friend/uber teammate Tomas because he had great legs on the last lap but stayed back babysitting my sorry butt.  I finished 10-12 minutes back, plummeting through the GC from 7th to 30th. Lessons learned, I am time trialist!  Any doubt about that ended when my worst TT ever netted me 5th in a stage race where the TT means 'everything'
     
  18. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like you're having lots of fun. Nice work.

    Are you happier now that you're out of Cat5 and into the much more civilised world of Cat4? Don't you love it when riders just seemingly fall off infront of you for no reason? LOL Hope the Parlee is unscathed. Flesh heals :p
     
  19. gman0482

    gman0482 Member

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    Sweet reports Quenya !! Great to hear you're into your racing season already. I'm also a Cat5, with 3 crits under my belt from last year. I'll be doing the usual Sunday local crits and Wednesday local TT's this year for sure, and plan on booking some RR's up north. I'm hoping to get into a Cat4 license by this year, and stay there for a good long while, lol, (7 events away from that). I know that any Cat4's and up races will be tougher and faster, but safer and more benefitial IMO,

    Good luck on your upcoming events and keep the reports coming.

    -Greg
     
  20. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Swampy, I can't believe I was that guy! The Parlee is perfect, it's a really tough bike. luckily I was at the back of the break so I didn't ruin anyone else's day. So far the 4s have been a little sketchy but it was a big race and guys were nervous. Gman, so far IME faster races, crits especially, are not 'tougher' per se. Yes you have to ride faster but what I noticed in the 4/5 field a few weeks ago, and when watching teammates in the 2s,3s, and masters races, is that the race is faster but smoother. What I really need to practice is staying up front and out of the wind.
     
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