Race Recap: Tour De Dung, 3/11-12

Phil Kearns invites the O Blog into his race weekend, start to finish. Read on to get in on the action.

“This past weekend marked the start of my domestic racing season. I did a weekend of collegiate racing the weekend before, but this was the first chance to fly the Team Oregon flag. I raced the Tour de Dung in Sequim, WA on Saturday, and the Ridge Circuit Race in Shelton, WA on Sunday. I spent a lot of time in the car, a lot of time on the bike, and majority of both in strong wind, heavy rain, or both. Mostly both. If you want a short, sweet, summary of the racing, think Belgian.

Strong coastal crosswinds (and some rain, which eventually let up) caused lots of echelon action during the TDD road race on Saturday, and every time we entered the exposed sections of road, the bigger teams like Audi, Metier, and Hedrick would take turns sending riders up the road and then chasing them down. Being the solo Team O rider, I spent most of the first 2 laps watching these questionable tactics while trying to stay out of trouble, the next two laps joining every attack that went, and then the final two laps rotating through on the front after missing the move that stuck (in my defense, I was wolfing down a Clif bar and didn’t see it go).

On the bright side, I got some excellent training in for the day (103 miles with pre-ride, warmup and cool-down!) and a few lessons in tactics. The big takeaways were as follows:

  1. If you are racing on a circuit course and you know the race blows up at a certain point every lap, be in a good position (i.e. not the back) before you get to that point, and do so by playing to your strengths (I moved up every lap on the short, rolling climbs before descents into the crosswind turns).
  2. If you think you have successfully covered the dangerous attacks for a while and you’re tired and you think it’s a good time to drift back and eat, so does everyone else and you’re probably about to miss the critical break.
  3. If you do miss the critical beak and it becomes apparent that nobody else is really chasing and the race becomes a group training ride, maximize your workout by still pulling through on the front. Don’t be part of the group that sits on and saves your legs for the sprint for the minor placings. It’s March.

The Ridge Circuit Race on Sunday had a shamefully small turnout (6 riders, to be exact) but was no less Belgian than the day before. Wind and rain (though the latter would abate) on a punchy, twisty racetrack reminiscent of the Flandrien bergs. Unlike Saturday, I had a teammate in this race in Marek, so now it was my turn to launch attack after attack. Before the race, I told Marek I would work for him and cover any moves to keep things together, so that’s what I did for the first 50 minutes or so: covered any move that went, rode the front and kept the pace up, and attacked sometimes just for fun.

It became clear that we were two strongest rider in the race, so with about 70 minutes remaining, I attacked on the steepest part of the course, Marek came with me, and after swapping a few big pulls, we had daylight over the chasers. A couple laps later, one rider bridged up, but we attacked him again on the hills, and then rode a two-man TTT for the next hour (which was pretty fun).

On the last lap, I attacked Marek a couple times on the hills, but they weren’t long enough for me to open up any significant gaps (and my legs were rather tired). The course ended with a steep, twisting downhill into a long, flat headwind run to the line, and I went into the descent first, gapping Marek through the turns. I knew going long was my only option, but I wasn’t able to get enough separation to hold off a sprint down the straightaway, and I think it goes without saying who won that contest. Still, a Team O 1-2 feels pretty good.

If you’re interested in more than just the racing, and what a typical early-season race weekend looks like for a Cat. 1 college kid living in North Idaho, here’s a brief itinerary of my past (and a typical) weekend:

Friday:

  • Morning leg openers ride, generally 1:00-1:30.
  • Skip afternoon classes to spend 8 hours driving to the weekend homestay!

Saturday:

  • Morning leg openers ride again (1:00-1:30). This time I pre-rode the TDD course in reverse to cheer on my friend Albert in the 3’s (though I’ll likely be working for him in the 1’s in a very short time).
  • Afternoon road race (3:00 – 3:30), with a short warmup (15 minutes) and extended cooldown (30-45 minutes with some sprint efforts).
  • Hopefully not much driving!

Sunday:

  • (Surprise!) morning leg openers (1:00-1:30). I rode with Albert, explored the Sequim area and the amazing roads, and moved newts off the tarmac while he hammered out intervals.
  • Drive 2 hours from the homestay to the race course.
  • Circuit/crit race (1:00-2:00), with a short warmup (15 minutes) and extended cool-down (30-40 minutes with some sprint efforts).
  • Get in the car and drive home (4-8 hours)!

That’s it! On to the next.”