The wacky misadventures of the SF->Google/south-bay bike commuter gang
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Lina's race report
No I sucked. :(
Ok here comes the race report. Menlo Park crit, a 1.4 mile course with
six turns, one pretty treacherous bit with first a sharp left turn,
then a sharp right just after. This was my first race, so women's
cat4. I would guess there were maybe 60 participants in the race.
I was pulled from the race 26 minutes into it. :( I got a bad start
standing at the back already at the start line, and soon found myself
being the last person in the pack with the mentor, with a few people
already dropped behind us. Damnit! It was cool to see that even though
I usually struggle to hang on to someone's wheel at 26 mph, it was a
lot easier in a pack even though I wasn't even close to anyone's
wheel! But, the corners got me, and after a couple of laps I was
falling behind. A couple of other women were falling behind at the
same time and we took up the chase together. I was convinced we'd make
it and we were getting closer, but after a lap or two the pack wasn't
visible at the corners anymore. Damnit!
The three of us pedaled on though, working hard together, and I admit
that I was kind of relieved that I only had two people to worry about
in the corners (in addition to myself, a big worry indeed ;). I
learned a whole lot during the race though and was doing significantly
better at them towards the end (and it's FUN to take corners at a
speed where you're pushing your mental boundaries ;). We had a mentor
going alongside us for quite some time, encouraging us to continue and
collaborate. Every time we went past the audience we got lots of
encouraging cheers. :D We must have been high on the list of cheers
per capita. I was so disappointed when we got pulled! The three of us
hung around for a bit and talked. We definitely could have been more
organized in our chase, we took way too long pulls each time, often
half of the lap. It somewhat broke down in the corners too, whenever I
tried to take a pull close to a corner it always broke down because
the other women would get out of it faster than me so I tried to take
many of my pulls on the long straight bit with headwind (fuck
conserving energy! we just need to catch up no matter how!) since that
seemed more efficient for the group.
I didn't really know what to expect from my first race but when we got
pulled my average speed was 21.6, not a speed I had expected to be
pulled out of the race for... But, apparently this happens a lot, and
I'm going to try to work on my cornering and being comfortable riding
in a pack 'til the next race. I've signed up for a circuit race in
Brisbane at the end of the month, and am on the waitlist for the
Bariani road race in a couple of weeks (not that I know how to get
there - is anyone with a car an extra space going? :D).
Despite the disappointment at being pulled, it was a lot of fun and I
can't really dwell over the disappointment too much since I'm busy
thinking about how to improve and hopefully I'll do better next time.
And thanks to SF2G for being awesome and getting me into biking! :)
> No I sucked. :(
You didn't crash. That's step 1. Next is finishing with the pack.
> I was pulled from the race 26 minutes into it. :( I got a bad start
> standing at the back already at the start line, and soon found myself
> being the last person in the pack with the mentor, with a few people
> already dropped behind us. Damnit!
Been there, done that. I had done a bunch of the EB Crits where things
out more mellow, and road races where things start out
super mellow, then showed up for the Merced Crit. By the time I
fiddling around with clipping in I was trying to close a gap and
riders already off the back, and was dropped. 10 of us chased the
amazingly we caught the pack with 1 lap to go when the pack started
Never happened again though - in short races you need to be ready to
fly at the gun.
> It was cool to see that even though
> I usually struggle to hang on to someone's wheel at 26 mph, it was a
> lot easier in a pack even though I wasn't even close to anyone's
> wheel! But, the corners got me, and after a couple of laps I was
> falling behind.
Not surprising. I thought about saying something on Friday but I
that filling your head with a bunch of information the day before the
would just screw you up. A large part will be experience and
a lot of that comes from taking the corners correctly from a
standpoint. I'm not the best at taking corners in the world (that
Paolo Salvoldelli) but I'm not the worst.
When you make that turn you should be riding on the white line as you
approach - the white line
between the two turn lanes! Not the shoulder! (this assumes we are
taking it at speed without
pesky cars/etc...). Stay on that line, at speed, all the way to
pretty much the stop line, then
turn very hard to the right, aiming at just to the left of the stop
sign. This drives your line right into
the roadway you want to be in.
Sounds like I am recommending a really sharp turn, but if you are on
the shoulder at speed, you try
to make the same sharp turn except you are in the wrong spot, and the
same angle shoots you into the
opposite travel lane on Oyster Point. Since you don't want to do that,
your only alternative is to make an even
sharper turn (not possible) or to reduce speed before your turn - at a
lower speed you can make a turn with a shorter radius.
There are several right handers on bayway you can practice on that
don't have disastrous
consequences if you screw up. The last right hander before we get to
Coyote Point (we turn
right then go about 150 yards to the rotary-ish left hander) is pretty
good. I'd wait a while before
really testing your chops on the left hander on the bike path just
after we go under the San Mateo
Bridge - ask Scott :)
In a crit it's a little different because you can't dive inside into
the line of the person inside you, but the
whole pack needs to take the turn wide - set up the line and then hold
it through the turn. It turns out
to not be that hard at the non-expert levels and most of the crashes
aren't actually in the corners - they
are in the sprint when someone doesn't hold their line there. Really
good riders can corner at a level I
cannot comprehend - there is a group ride Tues/Thurs at lunch at Great
America, that runs as a parking
lot criterium. I never make it past 2-3 quarter mile laps because I
just can't accellerate into and through the
corners like those guys (mostly Cat 1/2) do. Amazing.
Learning this on fast flat corners will eventually filter into your
descending skills as well.
I think cornering has almost as much to do with trusting your bike and understanding what it can do as with your technical skill.
I remember maybe 6 months back I did a reverse alpine-dam loop with a couple ex-CAT-2's, and decided to try my best to stay on their wheels descending the long fast bo-fax descent into fairfax. I was convinced in every single turn that I was either going to fly off the side of the road into a ditch or into oncoming traffic, but I held my form and managed to fly through each corner without dying and got a better feel for how many g's it's possible to generate while still holding a turn. Since then I've been much more comfortable on descents, and yesterday while doing the same ride managed to average about 35+ down that hill, while passing I think 3 cars.
Indeed, I heard it was a crashfest out there. Good job keeping the
rubber side down. And good job making it across the star line to begin
with. That's one of the hardest steps.
A couple of points to add to Murph's excellent technical advice. I
can't reinforce how much confidence and comfort matters to your racing
ability and the only way to improve that is more racing (and group
riding). Even if you start up front at the gun, if you let yourself be
bossed around or shy away when people get too close you'll be out the
back just as if you'd lined up late (it's a good idea to line up 5 or
so minutes before the start, btw, to avoid a bad placement).
On turning, when you get your line right as Murph prescribed you'll
end up describing a perfect, constant-radius arc. This means that once
you start the corner you don't adjust your line at all which is why he
took such pains to describe the setup. Your upper body should remain
relatively still (but not stiff!) with your weight subtly shifted to
the arm on the inside of the corner. Keep pedaling if at all possible.
I've clipped my pedals on the ground more times than I care to
remember but I don't think I've ever crashed because of it (well, not
in a race anyway). Usually it'll just scare the crap out of you and
remind you where the limits are. Having to sprint out of every corner
to catch the rider ahead of you who doesn't coast will very rapidly
wear you down.
Keep it upright,
Thanks for all the advice and encouragement! :) I will definitely try
to find as many corners as possible to practice on, and building
confidence is at least as important as the technique for me right now.
Feel free to give me hints as we ride - I want to get better at this.