Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm back. And almost back.

Sorry. I was sleeping.
It's been awhile since my last post. I'd say any blogger who has any semblance of balance in his/her life should write those words now and again, unless the blog pays the bills. There are some very good bloggers out there who write very bad blog entries, just to feed the beast that doesn't feed back.
I don't claim to be one of those very good bloggers, any more than I claim to be a good bike racer.
But I've had my moments in this forum. And I've been having my moments on the bike lately -- paradoxically.
I spent the first one-third of the 2008 racing season performing like an okapi at Churchill Downs.
The pattern: Too much fat, too many flats, a wreck and a lot of DNFs.
I undertrained all winter and maybe started to overtrain in the spring. It wasn't fun. And I finally gave up on the season about a month ago.
But if results from the last three weeks are any clue, it seems I've suddenly become stronger than I've been all year.
Not sure why. One obvious reason is that all my recent races have been at Westlake, which is flatter than flat. And it's somewhat obvious that the inconsistent level of competition there has been markedly lower than at RATL, Mid-Ohio etc. (although the 24- to 25-mph average speeds of the last few B races has been nothing to sneeze at).
But whatever the reasons, this is the upshot:
I have been able to do almost anything and everything I want to do in the last three races.
If there's a prime sprint and I choose to contest it, I win it. I've even won primes with attacks from 350 or even 1,000 meters out -- the kind of sprints that would typically blow me up and cause me to get swallowed and shit back out long before the finish line.
If a break goes up the road, I can run it down at will, if I need to. If I want to gap the field to wear down some chasers and spring a teammate for a counterattack, I can roll off the front so quickly that I surprise myself, and everyone else, it seems.
I think I've contested 11 primes in the last three weeks. As I recall, I won eight or nine of them (although I somehow didn't get credited for one of last Tuesday's three sprint wins). It could've been 10: I rode a teammate's wheel to 150 meters out on Tuesday and backed off to let him win, instead of coming around for the sprint, when we rode away from all the other sprinters.
Of course, all of this is relatively meaningless because I still haven't won -- or even placed or showed. That's because my sprinting, power and endurance have all come around, but my recovery hasn't. I wound up dropping out after 30 or so miles on Tues. because after the third prime win (and fourth sprint, counting my teammate's win), I couldn't rev it up fast enough to grab on to the peloton again.
I had plenty in the tank to contest the previous week's 40-mile race, but there wasn't really a race to contest: Two of my teammates rode away in a 3-man break, leaving me and a few other SBRs to control the front behind them. At least I finished: The week before that, I got dropped (again) after burning myself up chasing primes.
So I'm still out of shape -- way out of shape, perhaps. But these balls-out sprints have been giving me the workout I want. I maybe could sit on and wheelsuck and hope to sprint for a win or whatever at the end, but riding along at a below-threshold steady state isn't going to get me much stronger.
And the way my teammates have been racing, the races aren't going to come down to bunch sprints anyway; someone will break away more often than not, I'm betting.
If you're betting, don't put your money on me. But damn if I'm not enjoying myself a bit more lately.

- JN

P.S.: I still have given up the ghost on this season. But maybe I'll reconsider Troy and Tour d'Burg ...

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