Monday, March 5, 2012

Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference season opener

This past weekend was the ECCC ("E tri-C") season opener! The Pitt team caravan got home close to midnight last night, so I'm feeling a bit tired and achey. But, it was a blast!

The team report:
Our team did well overall, with a few guys in upper categories (A & B) making massive breaks off of the front of the peleton. The break in A was a 45 second gap for half of an hour long criterium, with three points Primes (sprint laps with points awarded)picked up. The breaks in B were in both the road and crit, with close to a full minute gap on the pack and overall top ten placements in both rides. In women's our team got 6th place time trial and 7th place womens A/B crit places. MIT cleaned house in the road and crits in men and womens, with a number of pro team members in the race (the men's A road winner is a Garmin development team member).

Sadly, we had one teamate crash in the D category, and one get caught in a major pileup in the C road race. They are both ok, but sore.

My report:
I went into this weekend not fully expecting to finish either the road or criterium, having only ridden a few times since spraining my ankle. And, I did pull myself from both the road and crit because my ankle was hurting in a bad way. It wouldn't be worth throwing away a whole season on the first weekend.

I did start in C category (the categories are A, B, C, D, and Intro) despite this being my first season racing with a team. And, after some initial intimidation and aprehension, it felt like a good place to be!

What I will say is that the collegiate categories are overall more way aggressive than the local categories. The guys are fit, fast, and not afraid of bumping in the pack. There was significant overlap in the time trial results for the A,B and C men's categories, and the C men's road and crit races were FAST! As the announcer said, "C men's: kinda fast, kinda dangerous". As opposed to B mens which is fast, and A men's which is blazingly fast and more stategic as a race.

Saturday: The road race
Prior to pulling myself in the road race, I learned lessons about not getting boxed in on a narrow road, about strategic placement on corners (don't get squeezed out to the curb!) and about when it is appropriate to start yelling at people. My teamates said I should have yelled more when two Penn State races tried to push me over the yellow line on a steady ascent (automatic disqualification for crossing the yellow line). But, it was also the first time i got to do some elbowing back in a road race. Three times! I've never honestly elbowed somebody with the intent of pushing them over before! It was a good learning experience. I still couldnt get out of the middle of the pack and move up until I was at the point where my ankle was twinging and I let myself drift out the back. luckily, I pulled myself just before the entire back of the pack wrecked. It looked like a landmine went off under the pack! Bodies and bikes flying through the air. A few major injuries with loss of conciousness resulted.

Sunday: The criterium
I was feeling more confident, despite starting with a bad right ankle and a mechanical issue with my left cleat (couldn't get muddy crud out of my finicky Speedplay cleat, despite lots of banging and resorting to putting it under a sink.

1 minute prior to staging, as my coach was holding me up on the bike while I was trying and failing to force it to click - which would have forced me to start on the wrong leg- he said "you're going to have to do a Lance on this one... don't push it too far if the stress is too much on your bad ankle".
I was consistantly able to move up towards the front of the pack on the 1/4 mile climb (atypical crit course!), and realized that I'm a much more aggressive descender than most others in C. But, doing most of the work with my right leg because my left was unclipped was too much stress on my ankle. One lap under half way through, I let myself fall off the pack on the climb. If I hadn't had to take myself out of the race, I might have stuck with the front group for the crit and gotten a top 20 finish. It was a confidence booster, but also a good lesson in what I have to work on before the next race!

Two top priorities for things to work on:
1. Finding my most efficient climbing gears for a race pace.
2. And, I desperately need to improve my nutritional status and get more sleep on a regular basis.

I was definately feeling the effects of anemia from recently diagnosed iron deficiency - it feels kind of like drowning and desperately trying to stay afloat on hard efforts. Not a fun feeling. And, the nagging cough I've had since strep throat came around my office a couple of weeks ago. I've always found that I got sick more often and more intensely than my non-autoimmune disease friends. This is yet another example of how much harder it can be to recover from illness when you are starting with any other nutritional deficits, or on immune suppresant medications (which, for the moment, I am not).

I can't wait for the race in a couple of weeks! Hopefully my ankle will behave better and I'll be back with a vengance as the only gutless cyclist in the ECCC, and maybe all of collegiate cycling history!

No comments:

Post a Comment