Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How I got the scrape

Nicole asked how the scrape
came to be.... well.... here's the story.

I wanted to win at Joe Martin, but knew the uphill time trial and the extra short crit wouldn't play to my strengths, so I had to make the most of the road race, which was also shorter than I'd hoped.

I consider my greatest strength right now to be an ability to wind it up and hammer for a long time. Thus, I had to get away as soon as possible in the RR and build as big a time cushion as I could because I knew there would be at least 1-4 other women who wanted a win as bad as me.

The biggest uphill was right at the start of the race pretty much and that was the first pack split and I think about 8 of us came off the front. After some discussion about was there a split and how many were there me, Anne, and AnnaJean stayed at the front of the group and started pulling. Pretty soon, it was just us three, and we hammered. This gave me a chance to observe how strong my companions were and how well both, esp. AnnaJean, climbed. I didn't think I could get away from them on an uphill jump and wasn't pulling away on the flats. Thus, when a long fast decent with a sharp corner presented itself and some apprehension was expressed along with recommendations for considerable slowing, I perceived an opportunity.

Maybe, just maybe, if I descend fast enough and sweep the corner I can get out of the line of sight, hammer like hell, and get away. Speed doesn't bother me and everything seemed a-ok speed and distance wise. The gap was opening as planned and I was perfectly comfortable UNTIL I began to feather my brakes.

You see, our race start was 10 miles from the finish. Thus, we'd taken a shuttle to get there and just before I got on the shuttle, my rear tire popped and I'd had to quickly change a flat. Then, after I got off the shuttle, POW! another flat. I borrowed a tube from my good friend Jen and quickly changed the tire again. This time I asked her to double-check my tire and rim in case I'd missed something. Totally smooth, but I was really twitchy about that rear wheel.

Five minutes before the race started, I got off my bike and inspected the rear tire again and found the problem. There was a crack in the tire and a tiny bubble of tube was beginning to show. Crap. I quickly ran to the wheel truck and grabbed my carbon rear wheel, swapped 'em out, and hoped for the best.

Now, you have to keep in mind that I'd only used the carbon wheels once so far and that was a time trial in 40 mph wind, so there weren't high speeds involved and little cause for brake usage. So, when I began to feather the brakes on my breakaway descent, the rubber pads weren't smooth. Instead, they grabbed at the carbon surface and there was a small skid. Yikes! I released my grip and tried to feather again. The bike shuddered and the corner was coming up way too fast and I noticed that if I missed the turn lotsa rock was my fate. I applied pressure as gently as I could but pretty soon I locked it down. The back end started fishtailing like crazy and I so nearly kept it upright, but just at the last I went down on the right side then slid on my behind to a stop while the other two women went round the corner and began to disappear down the road.

I jumped up and snatched up the bike, gave it a quick check to see if the bars were lined up, jumped on and chased up to the other women. My leg and arm burned and I was missing chunks of skin off the knuckles closest to my nails on the left hand, but there wasn't much blood and after AnnaJean sort of gave me a "told you so" we took off again. Anna Jean was probably right, but I remain convinced I would have made that turn just fine if I'd had my other wheels. Consequently, I'm going to spend some extra time on these carbon sew-ups so I feel as comfortable with their behavior as I do my clinchers.

9 comments:

munsoned said...

As cool as those carbon wheels are, the braking performance is exactly why I sold them. It was partially my own fault since I was too lazy to swap out brake pads to dual compound pads that work on both aluminum and carbon. When I would brake with my aluminum specific pads on my carbon wheels, it was real grabby and not confidence inspiring. I asked around how the dual compound pads worked and most said they work ok, albeit not as good as rubber on aluminum. That was a deal breaker for me.

I like to stop. Call me crazy, but if people are going down in front of me, I'd rather have less aero, heavier wheels that I know will allow a better chance of avoiding the disaster.

Now if I could get some lite weight aluminum brake surface, carbon flanged rims, I'd be sold. I know Hed makes some, but I'm just fine on my Bontys anyway. Better training would put me miles ahead performance wise than a fancier wheelset.

By the way, awesome job overall, and congrats on your upgrade. It's impressive to read your writeup and how analytical you can be while racing. Smarts and strength are a lethal combo.

oldmanandhisbike said...

Wow. That is all I can say. How cool would that have been if your strategy had worked, right? But you are tough as nails for jumping right back in there after that.
Better luck next race! :^)

Neve_r_est said...

I'll take tree bites and bruises over road rash anyday. I'm happy to hear thats all you came away with.

Alloy pads on carbon rims is no good. If you have to swap rim materials you would be better off starting on the carbon wheels with carbon pads, and using the alloys as backup. The carbon pads on alloy rims won't equal alloy pads on allow rims, but at least it wont buck you.

Nice move BTW, when you can't out power them, outhandle them .

DG

sydney_b said...

dennis, thx for the brake pad advice. I'll check into that.

oldman, yeah. it would have been way cool if it had worked, but both other women were really strong and may have been able to catch me working together. There was hardly any wind tho, so I thought it was worth a try.

mtb05girl said...

sydney- good job at joe martin! wish i could have been there...stupid finals anyway! so you are coming over for memorial day weekend afterall? how'd you pull that one off?? see you at the end of the month then!

Marc said...

Always ride new equipment ahead of time before a race to get the feel. I've used the rubber pads on carbon forever. Sure they grab if you brake hard but you should hardly ever have to do that. When you get experienced, ride your equipment to understand it, you should be able to anticipate braking and feather the braking. For example, anticipate your speed into a corner. If it's to high you brake before the corner ever so slightly. Being eradic with the brakes will cause you to cause others to wreck. Alls it takes in a crit, or road race, is one guy/girl in front of you to brake and that causes that yo yo effect. Then bam.

If you're in a break you want the others to be as efficient as possible to help you get to the finish. That's why being as smooth as possible on your bike such as braking, holding a straight line, a calm upper body, ect... is what will get you to the finish line the fastest.

Don't think of this as a mtn bike race where at times hard braking is necessary.

I took that same corner at Joe Martin on a front carbon wheel and powertap aluminum wheel on the back at 35 mph with rubber pads. Gender had nothing to do with it by the way:)

Chris said...

Wow. I had no idea that you wrecked and still finished with the group of 3.

sydney_b said...

"Always ride new equipment ahead of time before a race to get the feel."

This is the key point right here.

nicol said...

Chris...+1.