Wheel-Surfing in Cajun Country

I was looking forward to the annual Vuelta d’ Acadiana over in Lafayette last weekend.  For a change, I wouldn’t have any officiating or promoting responsibilities and could just be a bike racer.  Well, almost.  I did need to get the LAMBRA race clock and generator over there in time for registration, and since I couldn’t leave until Saturday morning that meant a 4 am wake-up in order to be on the road arount 4:30.  Turnout from the club was going to be a little low.  The women’s team had fI was looking forward to the annual Vuelta d’ Acadiana over in Lafayette last weekend.  For a change, I wouldn’t have any officiating or promoting responsibilities and could just be a bike racer.  Well, almost.  I did need to get the LAMBRA race clock and generator over there in time for registration, and since I couldn’t leave until Saturday morning that meant a 4 am wake-up in order to be on the road arount 4:30.  Turnout from the club was going to be a little low.  The women’s team had four riders registered, but there were only two of us in the master’s race and Steve was only a possibility for the Cat. 4 race. The first stage was a 3.8 mile time trial on a new course. The night before I’d decided to snap on the larger of the two fairings that fit onto the back of my Giro time trial helmet.  This generally termed “grasping at straws.”  Riding a regular road bike with just clip-on aero bars and a TT helmet doesn’t provide a lot of confidence when you’re standing there in line between guys with expensive time trial bikes, especially when you’re not exactly in top shape anyway.  So the first thing I discovered was that the fairing made it nearly impossible to lift my head enough to see where I was going.  The second thing I discovered was that I felt faster when I wasn’t looking where I was going.  So I did the TT mostly looking at the white line on the edge of the road. I’d been expecting the headwind to be a major factor, but it turned out to be only a minor issue.  I got a good start, rolled it up to about 25 mph, and wasn’t really willing to push it much past that.  Since this was a points-based omnium I’d need to be in the top ten to get any points, and I didn’t really think that was very likely.  I placed 13th with an average speed of 25.0, but on the plus side, it hadn’t taken much out of me and I felt kind of good about it despite the relatively slow time. The second stage on Saturday was the criterium, which was just around the corner from the hotel where I was staying with Bob and the women’s team.  We stopped for lunch, checked into the hotel, and I went over to the criterium course to set up the club’s tent.  Since it was still quite early, I got a spot under a tree right across from the finish line.  The women’s race was one of the first.  Within a lap or two the race was already coming apart with Stephanie Smith and Amy Floyd hammering off the front and Mignon and Mary stuck in-between them and the disintegrating pack.  Pretty quickly, Stephanie dropped Amy and Mignon and Mary got together.  Behind them, Sherri and another rider got together.  Stephanie then proceeded to lap everyone except Amy.  Migon finished 4th and Sherri 5th with Roberta 7th and Alison 8th.  The Masters field was once again rather small with only 16 riders on the line. There were about six riders from Texas, so I figured the Acadiana team would have a harder time than usual. I quickly saw that there were a number of guys who were willing and able to chase down the breaks, so I figured my best (probably only) bet was to surf wheels at the back and plan on a pack sprint.  The Acadiana guys were still working the front and there were two breaks that looked like they might stick, but fortunately everything was pulled back as we neared the end of the 50 minute race.  With three laps to go I decided to get back into the race and worked my way up to second or third wheel with two laps to go.  Things got a little shuffled at the beginning of the bell lap and I was maybe sixth wheel coming into the final turn. Although I couldn’t quite come around the guy in 3rd before the line, I was happy to feel my sprint legs starting to come around. The average speed was a bit over 24 mph with the sprint topping out at 34.2. You can watch the video of the whole criterium, but you won’t see all that much of me in it! Sunday was a 50-mile, 3-lap road race on the same course we’ve used for the past few years.  The points for my 4th place in the criterium had me around 7th, I think, in the omnium.  I thought that the road race would probably go down sort of like the criterium had and that if a break went off the front it would be more because they were really fast than because they had a lot of teammates blocking in the pack.  Even better, Kenny had decided to do the Masters road race rather than the Cat. 1/2/3 race.  I knew he wouldn’t sit around while a break rolled off the front.  So once again my convenient strategy was to surf wheels at the back and roll the dice on another pack finish.  The first lap, and especially the second lap, were actually pretty fast with a number of attacks. The last really serious attempt at a break came just after the feed zone and the right-hand turn where I crashed two years ago.  That attack very nearly did the trick, but fortunately there were enough riders willing to work that it was reeled in.  After that one I think the Acadiana guys figured a pack sprint was inevitable and the pace eased up a bit. All this time I had been way at the back of the pack. When we got to the feed zone about three miles from the finish things started to get a little messy as everybody wanted to get up near the front.  I should have been a little more assertive here but I never got close enough to the front before the sprint started.  I had relatively fresh legs but ended up kind of stuck in traffic without ever really standing up and sprinting.  So I ended up 7th in the Road Race and 7th overall.  Not great, but it was a fun weekend anyway and it did provide a bit of a confidence boost after my disappointing result at the Harbor Master race.

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