World Cup Shuffle: Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

2010 UCI Paracycling Road World Cup
Segovia, Spain
June 9-14

Pre Race Report:

Usually, I start these posts by saying, “we arrived in (insert destination) without incident on (insert date)…” However, this time around it’s not the case. About half way from Annapolis to Dulles, I realized I forgot to put the wheel safe with our road race wheels into the truck. The wheel safe was of course sitting right where I left it, by the front door. This was brilliant planning on my part – the type of foresight that could only be shattered by the fact that instead of leaving via the front door we exited through the garage. But wait, it gets better! On a Frontier flight from Tucson to Denver, Dave had to gate-check the time trial wheels he was carrying on. When he got them back in Denver, the front wheel was damaged beyond repair. So, instead of going into this World Cup with a set of training, road race and time trial wheels, we now have training/road race wheels and a rear disk. Other than the front time trial wheel being destroyed, this isn’t as terrible as it may seem. The training wheels we’ll now use in the road race are a stout pair of wheels from Velocity. We’ve used these wheels in various road races before, and we’re confident that they’ll hold up. That, and at least the road race wheels are safe and undamaged…at my house…in Annapolis…where I left them…perfect.

We spent the third day of our trip to Segovia, Spain, resting up for our 88km (four laps of a 22km course) road race later that evening. The super neat-o road race course is flat with one short incline just past the start/finish line. About half way through the loop, the course runs through a little town with legitimate cobblestone roads. Especially if it’s raining which it seems to do each day in Spain, the cobbles and speed bumps should make things…interesting. We’re unsure of our field size and all the countries present. At minimum, it looks like we’ll be racing against most of the same bikes from our last trip in addition to the Canadians. We expect the wind to play a major part in how this race turns out. And, I’m eager to know where on the course the attacks will come since there’s no decisive hill. Commence pre-race jitters and anxiety!

Hands down, the highlight of the trip thus far was Friday’s recovery ride into the historical center of Segovia. Running through the heart of the city is a Roman aqueduct standing nearly 100ft tall…it’s amazing how well something can be constructed when labor and money are not an object.

Post Race Report:

Not too long ago, I was asked how Dave and I would handle defeat with the killer tear we’ve been on over the past eight months. Well, by finishing 17th and off the pace in yesterday’s road race and 12th in today’s time trial we’ll now have the opportunity to find out.

The heavens parted and the rain stopped moments before the start of our 88km road race. Typical of the races we’ve done so far this year, everyone was full of piss and vinegar for the first lap. Dave and I worked harder than we probably should have to attack, chase and bridge up to breaks. In the field of 25 or so bikes, Canada, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands were represented with three bikes each. So, when an attack would go with three or more of those countries represented, we’d go with it since that meant there team mates in the main field would stop working. Unfortunately, none of these breaks stuck. The tempo settled down a bit after lap one, but we still found ourselves attacking and chasing at the front of the group a couple times each lap. Towards the end of lap three, we attacked hard when the main field’s pace slowed. The field came with us and counter attacked just as hard if not harder. We stayed with the group but definitely burned a few matches to do it. With about 18km to go on lap four, a strong counter attack separated us from the chase group (there were a couple riders up the road at this point). We fought hard, chasing the peloton for several kilometers and caught back on just before the cobbles. After the cobbles, we were separated from the field by renewed attacks. Again, we dangled tantalizingly close to the field and held the gap steady for another 3-5km. With 10km to the finish, the field began to steadily pull away. As we made the final turn with 5km to go, our tanks were empty and we struggled but managed to get the bike across the line.

We were definitely frustrated by Saturday’s results. Each of the five tandem road races we’ve done this year (six total if you count the World Championship race from last Sept.) has played out differently. This was by far a stronger field than we faced racing in May. And, although we believe we’re just as strong and capable as any bike out there, we need to figure out this whole thing…and fast, I’m impatient.

Sunday’s time trial was all about avenging our lack-luster performance from the road race. We rode as hard as we could considering the sprinting and chasing we did the day before. We were always on top of the gear and spinning a good cadence. My three goals going into the time trial were: win; catch the Dutch tandem starting in front of us (one of the Dutch bikes said some things to us that were none too nice during the road race); and, be the fastest U.S. male bike on standard (our National team standards are how we determine who makes the team at Nationals when competing against each other across Paracycling classifications). We accomplished exactly zero of these goals.

“In “Confessions of a Winning Poker Player,” Jack King said, “Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.”” (Mike McDermott, Rounders, 1998). At present, this is sounding truer than ever. As of right now, our performances from the races in May and at Worlds last year mean jack squat. Did we waste energy early in the road race? Should we have shut it down after getting gapped on the final lap? Were we undergeared in the time trial? Was our race prep inadequate? I don’t know. It would be too much of a cliche to quote Tim Tebow here, but needless to say I’m doing a fair bit of soul searching trying to figure out where we went wrong this weekend and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We have two weeks until Road Nationals in Bend, OR, to answer these questions. I’ll spend next week training with Dave down in Tucson before we head up there. And, as depressed as I may feel right now, Harvey Dent, from 2008’s the Dark Knight, put it best: “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”

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