Tuesday Night at the Oval

Large field tonight–33 racers. Lots of newcomers, too. This translated to a bit of sketchy race, and there was a wreck. But more on that later.

I started at the front, and ended up taking a flyer with three other riders for the lap and half. This effort wasn’t too taxing, but, then again, I didn’t work much, either. I sat in for awhile, got boxed inside, then when the group went high (because everyone was following either Ted or Rob, who were, you know, pulling off so someone would pull through) I’d accelerate through. This happened several times, including once solo, but nothing stuck. It was a bit frustrating, as most people were content to sit in and let a few CMU and Iron City guys do all the work. This has the effect of causing the pace to yo-yo pretty radically, too, as when the stronger guys pull off to rest, no one actually pulls through. I feel like I spent a lot of time in the wind, and I realized I don’t have the legs to pull off the sort of efforts required for a long turn at the front.

The wreck happened with about 15 laps to go. There was quite a bit of sketchiness in the corners, and even in the straights (side note: thanks for Chris Mayhew’s contact drills a few weeks ago–I made contact (hips to my bars) at one point but managed to stay relaxed and neither us thought much about it). Coming out of the final corner, someone went down just behind me, and I heard the clatter of plastic and metal pavement, meaning at least a few other people went down too. This led to a serious conundrum within the group. Everyone immediately sat up, which is one of those conflicting things–you need to keep racing, since there are 30 other people who are expecting to go fast (well, maybe not that many) but you feel like a jerk for racing when someone could be hurt. Coming back around, the group was literally doing 19mph on the back straight.

Heading into the last lap, I wasn’t in a bad position, maybe middle of the pack, but I couldn’t get far enough outside to have a clear shot up the finishing straight. Two guys sat up in the front of me, and knowing that a full sprint would only mean 13th place instead of 18th, I was content to pull slowly around when I was sure it was clear, rather than jamming over and sprinting hard.

A few takeaways:

* I’d really prefer to be more active at the front during the race. Sitting in and sucking wheels (and then accelerating at the finish) may feel good for placing higher, but it’s much interesting (and safer, it would seem) to be off the front during the race.
* In order to do this, I need to be a bit stronger. Any sustained efforts (like my nearly lap long solo effort) are just too slow to stay away.
* I’ve been trying to play the position game during the last lap, and I’ve been failing miserably. I’m not sure if the pace is higher than the weeks I’ve done well (doubt it) or if I’m just over-thinking things. I vote for the latter.