An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Gonna reminisce a little today, since I can't run yet...

Bike racing is a pretty social sport. I'd say more so than any other I've participated in. Sure, in running and triathlon, you see the same group of people, plus or minus, at most of the events throughout the season. But bike racing throws in the team aspect as well.

I remember a particular season on my team, we had a pretty good group of guys with varied enough talents that we could go into just about any race and be able to podium some one. We had a pure climber, a couple good sprinters, a climber/TTer, and some people who could just motor all day. In most criteriums and flat road races, I was the first lead-out guy. What that meant is that I'd get two team mates behind me, and when we had about a mile to go, I'd thread my way to the front and just push as hard as I could for as long as I could until the real sprint started. At that point, the second lead-out man took over and took our sprinter up to speed, and then ho would do the drag race to the line. I'd usually end up finishing near the back of the pack as it streamed by, me totally spent and just happy to be able to roll across the line under my own power.

I did a LOT of events. Weekends were usually a small stage race, or road race and criterium, Tuesday was the "practice" races at the local car track, Wednesdays were at the velodrome, and Thursdays were the evening criterium series.

Riding the track is a whole new schooling on race tactics. In road races and crtieriums, you ride a lot, make one huge sprint, and the day (or night) is done. On the track, you get to do 4-5 races a night, and some of those can involve multiple sprints within them. Tempo races, miss-n-outs, points races...

Okay, so I mentioned we had a couple good sprinters. Well, when the district criterium championships rolled around, it was on the same course that we used for our Thursday night series. A tear-drop shaped loop with a decent hill coming up to the finish. One of our sprinters, the guy who was the pure speed demon, couldn't make it that night, so our power sprinter (Brian) was our point man. For most of the hour of our race, I'd watched the pack bunch up on the inside of the last right hand curve leading up to the finish, setting up for the sharp left that followed. I could make up half the pack each lap just by going up the inside and slipping into the group as they leaned in for the turn. I can't even say how much energy I saved doing this each lap. It was at a point where the road transitioned from uphill to flat to uphill again, and the lull in speed and the bunching combined to let me motor on up.

With two laps to go, I was beside Brian at the back of the pack, and he was getting very nervous and thinking that the race was over for him. I told him to relax, and get on my wheel. When we approached the finish, I motored up the side of the pack again and we heard the one-to-go bell. I told him we'd do the same thing on the next lap and he'd have a clear path to the finish line.

Sure enough, when the pack go to that point again on the next lap, it bunched up to the inside, and we motored up to the front, me pulling with everything I had to get him there. Once we cleared the leader, he took off like a shot, and finished with a full bike length on second. He came up to me about a half-hour later and thanked me, and told me he was especially appreciative because his parents were there to see the race. It was definitely a team victory.

Also in this particular season, I was sitting close to the top of the season standings for the Wednesday night track races, just a few points behind first. I was pretty good at the miss-n-outs, and sometimes did well at the tempo races... Mostly I could take a flyer and stay out there for a while. Brian had come out a few times and dabbled on the track, but hadn't done a lot, so he was well down in the standings.

On the final night of track racing, Brian showed up and asked what he could do to help me take the series. Our plan became to have him lead me out on a few key sprints, him sweeping up the track in the last turn and forcing any one coming up to go well up track to get around him. As long as he didn't directly impede any one, it was perfectly legal. Brian did beautiful lead-outs, and just crept up the track at the right moment for me to put everything I had into getting to the line in first. I managed to take the series by 10 points due to those finishes. I couldn't have done it without him.

There's something about slogging through horrid winter weather with a bunch of team mates on a group ride. It builds a camaraderie that goes past just being good buds, well past the guys you work with, even on a daily basis. Sacrificing for each other, and helping your team mate make something happen. Reciprocating.

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