Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fickle or What?

If you've ever gone by yourself to a bike race weekend, or a stage race, or even a single-day race with a long drive to and from, then you know that you have a lot of time to think. And think some more...

That is not always a good thing.

So here I am, down in San Diego all by myself, while my family enjoys yet another wonderful Santa Barbara weekend, and my bike-racing teammates are mostly up in Monterey at Sea Otter, probably happy as clams with all their podiums and what not. I'm very happy for them too, and where does that "Happy as clams" saying come from anyway?

But I digress, so let's get back to me...

Yesterday I rode an 8.2 mile time trial which was the first stage of the San Diego Omnium. I was one of only 20 riders to do the tt in the p/1/2 race. I got 16th, and was over two minutes behind winner Karl Bordine. I got a single omnium point.

And the rest of the day gave me lots of time to think.

Why am I down here? Why am I not doing the Masters race, either 35+ or 45+ where I belong? Jeez, with my tt time, I still would have been buried in those races! But at least I'd be with my peers and guys I know. Am I freakin delusional or what? I almost checked out and went home.

Your basic self-pitying baby.

So I got myself busy and went shopping, hunted for food, explored, napped, yapped on the phone and the computer, and went to bed early.

Fortunately, everything looks brighter in the morning. Today was a road race. Or in other words, a real race ...with tactics and drafting and alliances and terrain. Three laps on the brutal Boulevard course, for a total of 67 miles. Nice... anything longer and I'd be hurting lacking a feeder and too shy to ask people for help.

So I had an hour-long drive to get out there, again, lots of time to think. Only now I was back in control. What to do today? What would happen? How can I exploit? Two big teams: 5-Star Fish, basically the SoCal all-star team with Bordine and lots of other motors, and CyclingScience, a San Diego team with plenty of wattage themselves. And then some lone rangers like Thurlow and Luis Zamudio. My option seemed clear to me... go with the inevitable early break.

Upon arriving at the race course, I noticed two key differences from yesterday. One, it was very, very windy. And two, there were lots more guys racing today--we had maybe 50 or 60 in the p/1/2 and more teams were now in the hunt. Perfect.

So we roll out and on cue Matthew Johnson of 5-Star fish goes off the front with three others, including guys from AFP and LaGrange, each with teammates in the field. Right on, time to go. So I scoot on up there with LaGrange's Adrian Gerrits attached. Even better, as Adrian is a horse who always works.

We really drill it the first ten miles or so, flat and downhill with strong cross-winds, and first word from the motor official is that we've already pulled out two minutes. Right on! The strongest team in the race is marking everything behind us, and I just imagine how frustrated Thurlow must be getting.

Then as we start to climb back up, the early effort cracks half our group and soon we are three--Johnson (5-Star), Adrian, and me. I was concerned about dropping the other guys with teammates back in the field, but oh well...

Now it got really fun. It's been a long time since I was in a break that worked this smoothly. We were a unified machine, each doing our share, and all on the same page. How long each turn, where to be in the road, which side to pull off, who pulls up-hill and who pulls downhill. Unspoken... just business. Bike racin' business. And now we are allies, we survive or die together. When Johnson's rear derailleur got temprorarily hosed, we waited. When my fluid was running low, Adrian offered.

Oh yeah, it was nice to have constant company from the motor official, but best of all, he gave us regular updates on our gap. And get this, going into the last lap, we had nine (9:00) minutes on the field!! Only in an omnium babay!!

So it was pretty clear one of us would win this sucka. I was beginning to think that I was going best on the uphills, and as luck would have it, this course finishes on the uphill. I was worried about Adrian's sprint and figured we should try to drop him before the end. I figured I could out-sprint 5-Star uphill. I started putting more pressure on the climbs, just to see what happened. Not attacks, just pressure.

It's always an interesting transition when break-mates go from allies to competitors. I have to give Johnson credit, because he made that transition in a cold and calculated heartbeat. With about 8 miles to go, just after I pulled off near the crest of a longish roller, he launched a wicked attack and went over the top with a gap. This was bad news because he's a big guy and he flew down the other side with a couple of mph more than I could muster in the wind. Adrian detonated and was nowhere to be seen behind.

That's how we finished--Matthew Johnson (5-Star Fish All-Stars) won; yours truly got 2nd; and Adrian got 3rd. Then the big boys rolled in many minutes behind... Bordine, Thurlow, Zamudio, Vinson, etc.

So now I am happy again. I didn't win--that would have been too perfect--but today there was a bike race. With multiple dimensions, and tactics and terrain, and all those things that make bike racing special, and like no other sport.

And sometimes the early break succeeds!

So the omnium standings are: Johnson 1st, Bordine 2nd, Thurlow 3rd, me 4th, and Zamudio 5th.

Here's a blurry pic of today's point getters, and those in the gc with points. Of course, tomorrow's crit will jumble it all up again.

Time to go find a burrito to go with the beer I have on ice!


Anonymous said...

Good work Markelli and good luck tomorrow. Looks like your teammates have been holding you back-Cook

funai said...

Nice ride today. FYI, Thurlow was frustrated in the field when nobody would work with him to chase... such is bike racing!

Aram Dellalian said...

Fanelli: nice report, nicer result! Classic.

Marco Fanelli said...

Cookie Monster - Thanks, and don't be silly.

Brian (funai) - yeah, I talked to Thurlow afterward and he said it was as bad as Masters racing! Gasp! Also, I felt bad for your teammate... he took some hard pulls early but didn't seem to like it so much when the road tilted up.

Bonjour Aram! I hope all is well in France. Like Ralph Elliot always says, keep the rubber side down!

Henri said...

I have replaced velonews with this blog. travelin' to a race alone can be a binding experience,... throw in a foreign language and maybe get lost at sunset on your bike, then you'll pray you still have your job/company when ya get home. keep pedalin hard!!

funai said...

Yeah, we send the "fat" kid up the road early to see what he can do. He's great on the flats, but unfortunatley, he doesn't like the hills so much. Personally, I hit the deck on the turn into the climb on the second lap (thanks to an official in a bad spot in the turn - or so I'd like to say!). Minimal damage to me , but broken bars put me out of the race.

Congrats on the RR and nice omnium finish!


Jason said...

Awesome report and great job!

rocks said...

Way to go Marco - that's a sweet result! The whole cycle of angst is oh so familiar to the bike racer. Gila Gila Gila

Marco Fanelli said...

> Gila Gila Gila

Despite generous and flattering offers from both sides, this mercenary domestique cannot take six days away from family time, especially given the every weekend racing thing from here through, what, July? Besides, can kill two birds by going to Barrio Logan/San Luis Rey WITH family!