Sunday, 15 April
Happy birthday, Doug!
Brakes, round one: Saturday was the Kings Valley road race, one of Oregon's two classic one-day races. After taking the bouquet here last year (and the engraved vase that proves it), I figured there was no pressure on me this year because there was no way I was going to repeat. And no, I did not. The weather forecast was grim--and wrong. Scattered clouds and sunshine all day. We had a big women's field (more than 40), so I started at the front in order to not get gapped off behind some beginner cat 4s on the first roller (which comes 150 meters into the race). On the first descent, though, I noticed my rear brake was making a horrific screech, and when I tried to feather it, it would just make the brake hop on the rim. Nice. While assessing this, I quickly went backward through the pack. So, for the rest of the race, everyone around me knew every time I touched the brakes. I thought about dropping back to get another wheel from the support car, but odds were that any replacement would've been worse than what I had.
Riding with 40 women is a little different from the usual 10-12, and there weren't many opportunities to move up. Fortunately, there also weren't many sustained attacks. I did manage to work my way forward before the stairstep climb to the finish on the first lap--and then we were neutralized all the way up so that the cat 4-5 men could pass us. The men passed us at the bottom, and the lead car kept us neutral for the next kilometer; I think the follow official was just trying to be nice to the cat 4 women and keep some of them in the race a bit longer.
There was a pretty strong, long attack after we passed the finish line the first time. It was the same team that attacked on all the little descents at Banana Belt #3, and this again was a descent. Maybe this maneuver works in Bend (where the team is from), but all it did was string things out a bit and keep the pace up. But no one got dropped.
A few women got popped on the second lap, and things were totally disorganized in the mile-long crosswind section--which made it easy to move wherever I wanted. We dropped some more on rollers on the third lap, but the attacks were short. This time, the crosswind section was pretty hard and demonstrated the minimal grasp of the echelon concept. There's a steep pitch about 3 miles from the finish and then we settled down to a snail's pace. 13 mph at one stage. A couple of Washington women were effectively blocking on the front (nobody was up the road) and holding down the tempo. Why, I don't know. The race totally came apart in the last kilometer (which is all uphill), also predictable, but I did not get boxed in and was happy enough to finish seventh.
After the race, O.A.D. and I did one more (20-mile) lap on the tandem. It was fun to be able to look up and enjoy the scenery (covered bridge and all), although our legs were pretty tired.
Brakes, round two: Sunday's plan was to ride part of one of the stages of the Co-Motion Classic tandem stage race. O.A.D. wanted a good look at the descents in particular. We got the local FRM guy and race organizer, Sal, to come with us. It was a beautiful morning, if a little chilly, and we pretty much had the roads to ourselves. Sal, predictably, let us do all the work on the flats and then attacked us on the climb. We were able to keep the gap to just a couple hundred meters which, on a 2.5-mile climb, isn't too bad. But oh, I was a bad stoker. I begged and pleaded for brakes going into corners on the first long descent (okay, and on some of the short twisty descents before it, too). This bike feels soooo much different from Martin's: the bike is lighter and the captain is lighter too. The combo was....um...unnerving. At the bottom of the 2-mile descent, O.A.D. said HE had no problems on the descent except that the stoker was freaking out and making the bike all twitchy. So we towed Sal up the next 5 miles of false flat, he attacked us for the sprint at some unknown-to-us road sign at the top, and took off down the next descent. This time I vowed to shut up and just relax (or at least pretend like I was relaxed) and lean with the bike. I did, and we had almost caught Sal by the bottom--and, as he observed, he was pedaling like mad and we were not.
A phone conversation with KMF this afternoon made me realize that maybe part of my descending problem today was that I can see around O.A.D., whereas with Martin, I could not see much for about 50 feet in front of the bike. All I focus on is that turn coming up, rather than where the road is going. I think we're going to get this worked out--one way or another!--coming down Bakeoven Road in two weeks.
Finally, a request for a break. You may notice that the results and rider ranking pages of the WSBA website have gone live. Be kind if you send me corrections. We are counting on our users and readers to let us know about bugs, glitches, and snafus; when we think those are worked out, we'll announce the new pages.