After nearly two years, the Over the Hump Tuesday-night races are back on the calendar. Instead of two six-week blocks with a hiatus in between, it's a single eight-week series. I'd love to see more racing, and a longer season, but after 22 months of waiting, I'll take what I can get.
My goals were super-simple: stay with the leaders as long as I could, and race smart. I've been watching a lot race tactics videos on YouTube this year, so I like to think I'm a smarter racer than I was two years ago.
Because of some delays at the venue, organizers shortened the race from three laps to two, which I was slightly bummed about. The last lap is usually where I'm able to pick up a few places. And a short race means a brutal pace I wasn't sure I could hang with.
I got off the line clean, and everyone seemed to take their time getting up to speed. I was with the leaders into the first turn, and felt really solid. As we crested the top of the hill & headed down to the road along Irvine Lake, gaps were forming and I was crosseyed, but I had the leaders in sight & felt okay about my position.
I did my best to breathe & conserve energy on the flats, but the pace was still super-high, and as we came through the park & onto the "back 40" section, I'd been gapped pretty good. I figured with just two laps in the race this was the best time to do whatever passing I was going to manage, and started to work my way up through the traffic.
It was amazing to push along the flats solo at 280W, then tuck in behind someone and watch that number drop to 170W without losing any speed.
The flat finished with that hard left up the nose & into the CX section. I decided not to burn my matches there, and I feel like that's the smart move there. It's maybe a 30-second climb, so going into the red just gains you maybe 5 seconds, which can be made up with minimal fuss later.
My trail skills are rusty after so much fire road riding in my training, and the course was really loose & dusty. So I feel like the back section took more out of me than it should have. (Or at least, more than it used to.)
I headed into lap 2 with no clue what position I was in. I just tried to remind myself that there was no point saving any matches, and that I really had maybe 15 minutes of racing left.
I managed to pick up a place coming through the park, and as I headed into the "Back 40", I spotted a huge train motoring along about 40m ahead. I've learned my lesson from so many crit videos, and I know that I've gotta catch that.
So catch it I did. I kept myself just shy of redlining, but managed to join the back of that train & get into that sweet, sweet suction. I took a minute to rest, but realized that I had one competitor just ahead, and another behind.
The train started to split apart, so I jumped on my competitor's wheel & went with him for the rest of the flat section. A glance back showed a nice gap, so I stopped looking for the guy behind, and just focused on moving up.
The guy I was following attacked up the nose climb, and I just couldn't go. I hoped that if I could stay in striking distance I could make up the time later in the lap, but after that he was gone.
I had a nice gap after the final climb, but didn't want to take that for granted. And I'm glad I didn't. A guy in my division wearing all black managed to sneak up & passed me going into the second-to-last corner. Very fortunately, there was a guy in another division just ahead of us and we all hit that corner at the same time. Mr. All-Black was forced to go outside of the other guy, but I had space to pull inside & get past them both. I spun up the hill as fast as I could & held on for 9th place.
(My GPS says I hit 130+ RPM there, which seems unlikely, but matches my experience at the time of just spinning as fast as I could.)
I had high hopes for this race. I spent several months at the beginning of 2020 building muscle, and I've been pushing hard on the bike to build my fitness.
Unfortunately, it looks like I've mostly just maintained, rather than improved. That's... disappointing.
On the other hand, I'll get to do eight races this year instead of just four back in 2019, and I improved significantly during those four races back then. I'm hoping I can do likewise this year.
So, goals for next week:
- start harder- stay with the leaders. I'm not 100% convinced this will get me my best possible results, but I really do feel like at this race the top finishers pull away quickly & stay away.
- more burning matches, more coasting. I spent a lot of time just above FTP, and that meant I had nothing when I needed to push harder. I want to see what happens when I, for example, start hard, then coast & draft along the flats, then attack up the nose, then recover in the CX section, then attack up the longer climb, then coast through the start/finish, etc. Might be a terrible idea. Dunno. I want to find out.