The Corsa Brutale Road Race – Something Old, Something New

11 05 2010

The Corsa Brutale Course

All fueled up and going nowhere. At least that’s what the wind made it feel like. I had about 50 minutes before B-pack rolled on their neutral start. I had to warm up.

Today was Tuesday and my wife Barb had decided to volunteer as the wheel-car driver for this race. While she prepared for race duties, I prepared for racing. I was familiar with this course from the year before, and from having ridden on it from time to time. It has some good course elements.

Course Elevation

There’s rolling hills, some flats, a nice downhill section (doesn’t let you go fast enough IMHO), and a decent climb about five miles from the start/finish line. Tactically, at about 5.5 miles in, a breakaway will usually take place just after reaching the false crest. Last year, this false crest is where I imagined I saw some racers attack, which triggered my attack in order to bridge to them.

It felt cold, it was cold. The temperature was around 38F and that didn’t include wind chill. I had to get moving. Pre-race fueling and gear preparation was finished; I turned onto the course, right into the uncompromising wind. “This is what the start and lead-in to the finish will feel like,” I thought. Right away I knew that drafting would be especially essential during this race. Even with head down and hands in the drops, it seems I can’t move with any decent speed. My H/R edges into the 150s, crap.

I decide that leg warmers are going on, but option against full-fingered gloves. I want the feel of the brake/shifter levers unaffected. I turn around near the 3.5 mile point and head back to the staging area. The tailwind is nice and I’m flying. It will feel good to get warm again. I drink from my water bottle a bit more. I remember how much I drank during the race before and have no desire to carry any extra weight up that hill.

I lean into the last turn before the staging area, my Continentals feel bit coarse today. I wonder if I’m carrying too much pressure.

10 minutes to go and I’m waiting near the start line. Eric R. and I chat about the course, its layout and where attacks may take place. Monte M. rolls up. I think this is great because last season I was by myself as the lone member from Spokane Rocket Velo in the C-pack. I actually get to race with some team members this time around. Nearby, the race officials provide their required briefing to the A-pack racers and emphasize to us that straying over the center-line in order to take advantage will be dealt with quickly and with undesirable consequences. No problem…I don’t want to be DQ’d. A-pack seems big this season.

We finish our briefing and get another look at the electronic loudspeaker that we’ll be blasted with should we err in our ways. Eric R. is rubbing-down his quads trying to keep them warm. I’ve already cooled-down and I’m thinking that the warmup was frivolous under these conditions. The lead car pulls up and I hear pedal cleats sounding throughout the pack. We’re rolling.

The double-honk start signal bleats and the race is on. Right away a single-pace line forms, snaking out of the peloton, trying to wedge into the wind. Eric R. positions right near the front and Monte and I quickly do the same. Getting caught in the wind by yourself spells for a quick burnout. We churn the pedals on. The lead rider soft-pedals into the wind and the next in line takes his place, a rotation has started. Eric R. finishes his pull, about 45 seconds I think. A second column starts to form and then dissipates as riders abandon that effort.

I take my pull on the front and fade into the wind about 2 miles into the race. I start to soft pedal and drift back looking for a spot to jump back into the line. I drift more to rear…I sense that this was a big mistake and find a gap that opens. I’m too far back from the front. Back here the accordion effect will drain your energy faster than the  effort at the “sweet spot” towards the front. Additionally, positioning in this location allows you to observe who is doing what. Tactically, this is a good place to be.

I’m not in the draft.

We roll into the base of the climb, chains start to click up cassettes and shoulders are starting to rock. We haven’t slowed much. At the 5.5 mile mark stronger riders have made their way to the front and a breakaway forms. I’m fading. I know I need to crush it extra hard to stay with them but I just don’t have the steam. I’m dropping. Some racers pass by and I hop onto their wheel in an effort to stay in the game. I make it with them pass the crest and onto the naked plateau. I feel like I’m breathing through a couple of McDonald’s straws.

I count four racers in our group. I think I hear Scott M. of NW Velo Sport say, “We need four.”

Maybe we have enough. My teammate Monte M. survived the climb too. The cross-wind is from our left side. I yell out, “We can make it if we work together! Form a pace line!”

Pic of a single cycling pace lineWe four racers form a new team. It’s work together or face solitary efforts to the finish line. The wind is cold and un-relenting. We start to pull and fade off in turn. Having only four doesn’t allow much recovery in the small draft we have created, but we make it work.

We’re trying…trying hard. A racer succumbs to the effort and a gap opens. We’re such a small group that any lapse in focus, any pause or hesitation will dissolve our cohesion. I hear Scott M. yell, “Hold the line!”

We’ve lost Monte, he’s burned his last match. It’s just Scott M. another racer, and myself. We return to the pace line. A turn east on Wood road follows. We’ve gained 15 seconds on the lead riders.

At mile 9 we approach two small hills and even with the tailwind we’re still trying to hammer a bridge towards the break. They’re nowhere in sight. I anticipate the rise and click down a gear to increase my cadence. We crest and are soon flying past Davis Lake, hands in the drops, and approaching the southern turn on Four Mounds road. Tactically and historically, there’s an attack at this corner. We’re just trying to survive.

Mile 13. Too many rotations. We’re down one from our initial count and it’s effect is telling and I’m starting to fade again. “Shit,” briefly hisses from my rasping breath.

Scott hears me and tells me to throttle back. I don’t have to be told twice and soft-pedal, drifting to the rear. I’ve got to get my wind back. I spend a couple of rotations “sitting-in,” trying to get my heart rate down to a manageable level. It works. In a couple of minutes I’m able to press hard again.

I’m feeling a heck of a lot better. To my relief I sight a rider to our front who has dropped off the back of the break. “That’s our number four rider if we can recruit him,” I thought. He’s not that far in front and I know I can bridge that gap. I get back into the drops, pass my group on the left saying, “lets go.” I pull the other riders with me closing the gap.

To my surprise the rider ahead is an old teammate of mine, Brian H. As we pass I say to him, “Brian fall in!” He immediately clues in and drops into our pace line. We’re back to four. We’re going to make it.

We make the crest to a short downhill section at about mile 17.5. I like downhills because I can always regain and recover. Plus, I don’t mind the free speed. I suppose my aero drag is pretty low when I’m tucked-in tight because I’m always over-taking other riders comparatively. I have to feather the brakes just to stay with the guys. I hear Brian H. grumble, “…everybody passes me on the downhill.”

“It’s about aerodynamics (and potential energy),” I respond. I moderate my descent by popping in and out of the draft. To try to breakaway now wouldn’t make a lot of sense. We are all out of the point standing and just trying to make it back. We’re about 1.5 miles from the staging area and the turn towards the finish line, four miles away. At some point we lose the other rider leaving Scott M., Brian H. and myself. We’re back to three now.

Ragged. We’re not holding much of a good form in the pace line. We’re all tired and struggle forward. The miles drift away. There’s the 1k marker I think.

Around the last two right-hand curves and the finish line staff is in sight. What a relief. I sit up. I told Scott M. earlier that I wouldn’t contest the line with him. He’s a wheel ahead when we pass the line. The finish official clicks the camera shutter as we pass…that would be a nice copy to have.

Scott and I turn around separately. He mentions that he needs to track down his brother who was also racing. I acknowledge and respond that I’m going to wait-up for my teammate Monte who is now approaching the finish. While we didn’t place for any points this time around, I thought that we worked well in our impromptu team.

Monte and I chit-chat on our way back to the staging area. C-pack rolls by on their way to the finish. There’s the car for the following official and Barb driving the wheel car afterward. We wave to each other. Monte and I see Scott and another rider forward of us and increase the pace to catch-up. What follows is a spirited surge and chase or so it seems. Our race has finished and we’re riding for fun now. I feel refreshed. Near the staging area I stomp on it and watch the road fly beneath me as I lean into the last turn.

It feels good to be warm again.




One response

11 05 2010

Very greatful for the information presented. I have a great time reading your content. Keep it up.

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