Monday, March 16, 2009

New Adventures on the Old New Jersey Turnpike

With two weeks of racing under my belt, I don't even know where to begin. After some quick research, I now believe that I am legally married to the NJ Turnpike. This is unwelcome news to my fiancé, pictured above modeling the enormous metal statue of the Princeton tiger. Now off to the races!

Rutgers / Princeton

It all began with the ITT. I practically soiled my new skinsuit (pictured left) when I saw Mark A. pick up the microphone near registration. Over the past few years, I've become an easy target for ECCC announcers who wish to remind everyone of how difficult I make this stuff look. I actually arrived in time to pre-ride the course and get on the trainer for a while. One soaked skinsuit later, thanks in large part to what can only be described as global warming, I was off! For wattage nerds, my goal was to keep it above 370 and meter my effort out while I kept a low profile. Well, turns out that this was woefully inadequate considering the lack of any wind and the near-perfect conditions. I finished with way too much in the tank, after pushing an average of 374 Watts. Lesson #1: Nothing can or should replace perceived effort. Leave it all on the road regardless. Natan put over 10 seconds into me, finishing 15th. How 'bout them apples?

Next, the crit. Awesome course. Took some getting used to riding in a group again at speed, but I was comfortable and was actually enjoying myself. Unfortunately, we dropped very few riders, and I couldn't find the right lane to open up a sprint. Lesson #2: Pack finishes are meaningless if you don't have to legs for the top 20. A slight disappointed, but nobody died and it was awesome seeing how comfortable Brian and Natan were riding with the A field. Natan cramped up hard, but this only seemed to light a fire under his saddle for the next day in the circuit. Not only was he involved in a significant break, but also jockeyed for a great position in the finish and held on to sprint into the top 20. I was a total waste of legs that day. Hanging around the back, basically forgetting how to race my bike. Legs felt fine, but I was mentally unprepared for the race. Lesson #3: Fitness is no substitute for mental toughness. While my legs would recover after a few hours, the disappointment in my performance lasted for all of spring break...

Spring break was busy, but not very bike-relevant. Drove down to DC to apartment search for a few days, jammed my finger in a metal door, and then spent a few days riding around Philly. Got to do the points race with all of the local hammers, including Andy and Johann from Penn, and Joe, Brett, Timmy, Dan, and Ryan from Drexel. All were intent on blowing the doors off of the locals. The gear restriction was 53-16, which felt downright weird after spinning out my 53-12 the weekend before. Moving on!

Columbia / Stevens

Just like the weekend before, this race consisted of day-trips from my parents house in PA due to family visits. Lesson #4: The ECCC is way more fun when you sleep over. I missed out on hanging w/ my teammates, and pre- and post-race discussions. Great way to feel like an outsider. With Rutgers fresh in mind, I actually raced my bike at Columbia. Attacked hard at least once, hit the front a few times, and gave it my all in the end. At the end, I got caught behind a group content to sit up - my fault for choosing the wrong wheels. Brian rocketed to the end, easily finishing in the top 20 in front of his fam, including his brother (who immediately answers the question, "what would Brian look like if he ate a sandwich?"). Nice.

Stevens was the nail in the coffin for me. After arriving late, struggling to find parking, and warming up for all of 5 minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief at the start line. Everything had worked out. After the not-so neutral lap (weren't we supposed to stop at the bottom?), I found myself lying on the ground after Drew from Rochester took a bad turn and hit the curb in front of me. Not even thinking twice, I untangled my bicycle and hopped back on. I was too interested in downshifting to realize that I was passing the wheel pit and completely forgot about a possible free lap. Rookie mistake. I was soon pulled, forced to watch as Brian absolutely threw down the gauntlet on the course. Taking some sprint points, and finishing 6th in A's! What of Natan? 8th! They can absolutely smell the sweet air of Ft. Lewis, but I need to get my act together and get some results. Delaware and Philly are up next, and I'm giving it full gas.

Thanks for reading, and see you in Delaware!


Joe Kopena said...

We weren't really going to stop at the bottom, just slow down enough for everyone to be in a big group.

Tons of credit to Natan and Brian though. I especially enjoyed Natan beautifully working Lipka's wheel to get dragged back to the group and then steal some places in the sprint!

Matt Griswold said...

Could I possibly persuade you to race with one of those orange flags that they have on recumbent bikes? It would really help with getting more of those sweet action shots to decorate your blog with... just a thought.