When you race in a criterium, you’re supposed to keep up with the main pack. You save energy drafting off the guy in front of you, and the farther toward the front, the less energy you spend yo-yoing after everyone. If you fall behind and are about to be lapped, the race officials will pull you. You become a hazard, the slow guy poking along in the fast lane.
Now, if you’re like me and are way the hell behind, it’s easy for the refs to make the call. Someone tweets a whistle and points the side of the road, and you’re done. There’s no question that I’ve been pulled. However, once you get clusters of racers, things get a little tricky, which is what happened at Ventura, and is what will be solved by The Smart Future.
In the Category 4 crit, Jamie was holding his own about two groups behind the race leader. He wasn’t in danger of being lapped, though his bunch was slowly passing other guys who had fallen behind. As he passed the refs, there was a whistle, but no clear indication of who should go, just a blanket “You’re all out.” Jamie kept going, only to get yanked a few laps later.
Now, I can appreciate how tough a judge’s job is. You’ve got all these guys zipping by, and you’ve got to make quick calls to people who a) may not hear you or b) may be too tired to attention to detailed instructions. Bike racing tries to be as budget conscious as possible, and it’s cheaper just to point at a bunch of guys and relegate them than it is to, say, give everyone a timing chip that talks to racers and lets them know, so sorry, but you’re done, either by a piped electronic voice or electric shock.
Or is it?
After reading this post about a 90% drop in the price of RFIDs, I have your Smart Future solution.
Every year, I renew my USCF racing license. When I get my card in the mail, it comes with a bunch of RFID tags that I can stick to my bottom bracket. Every time I go to a race, I sign in, get a race number, and roll my bike over the Magic Cheap-Ass Timing Mat, which reads my RFID tag and ties it to my race number. Now, when we race, one judge can watch the race number while another can watch the screen that’s showing RFID results as we roll over the finish line, which is made of incredibly thin and durable Smart Tape, which is just reading the RFIDs rolling overhead. The screen judge will have a simple display of who’s in the lead, who’s lagging, and who’s about to get lapped. When it comes time to relegate someone, the magical software will spit out a list with race number, rider name and rider team for the announcer to say, before the rider approaches the line so he can actually hear his instructions, “Rider number 445, Adam Rakunas, please pull to the side.” If I’m in a pack with other guys, and I’m the only one getting pulled, the other guys can continue while I drift to the side, filled with equal parts shame and rage, an emotion that I will now call shrage.
I know there are RFID timing systems already available, but these rely on chips you wear on your ankle. They are also pretty expensive to rent and have long setup times and all sorts of other things that won’t work for a cheap-ass cycling race. But if NEC is talking about being able to print ten thousand RFID tags for a hundred bucks, then bracket tags could become an easy option. Hell, a race promoter could hand out his own tags in the race number packet, cutting USCF out of the equation completely. If the reader technology drops in price, then, dude.
Right. Let’s get to it!
I want everyone to know: I love bees. Bees are our buddies. When the thyme in Anne’s and my backyard and the rosemary in our front yard are full of bees, I am ecstatic, because it means our plants are healthy and pollinated and thriving. Without bees, we would be doomed.
That said, if I ever meet the citrus farmers who decided that this weekend was the right time to hire some beekeepers to come and pollinate their crops, I’m gonna kick ‘em right in the oranges.
Tags: piru, piru tt, race report, time trial, triathletix
Tags: piru, piru tt, race report, time trial, triathletix Tweet
Last year, after my triumph* in New Zealand, I was all hot to try my new-found fitness on the bike racing circuit. I was a bit stymied because the one race I wanted to do, Conquer the Canyons, was canceled, and it seemed like everyone else from Triathletix had taken a quantum leap in skill. Next year, I said. 2009 will be the year of the bike.
This morning, the year of the bike got its official start. I took my new rig, Vita (named after that first ride because she has vitesse and vitality), down to Long Beach for the first in a series of criteriums, and I got spanked. Not as badly as in the first two crits I did, but enough to get pulled after sixteen minutes in a thirty minute race.
Still, I improved in a few small ways. First, I actually worked with a group of guys for the first time in a race, which is really the best part of bicycle racing. I dig time trials, yes, but getting into a paceline and hanging on for dear life is fun. I think I did my share up front, too, though I’ll have to look at what my Powertap recorded to confirm that.
Second, I didn’t feel all that freaked out in the mass start. In fact, I should have just got to the front of the line and let the rest of the peloton overtake me rather than spend sixteen minutes trying to catch up. It wasn’t as much a matter of fitness as it was nerves, and I’m working on tamping those down.
Third, and this is going to sound so incredibly stupid to everyone who’s ever raced, but, dammit, it’s not like you get a manual with your USAC license (and, if you do, where the hell did mine go?) that says, “Hey, if you want to corner more efficiently, start on the outside of the lane, cut across the inside, and pop back out on the outside.” After watching the Masters and Cat 4 races and seeing how their peloton lines made these beautiful arcs instead of hugging the curb all the way around and tapping on the brakes, I get it. Stay loose, stay in control, and let physics do its thing.
Dominguez Hills is in two weeks, and Valley of the Sun is right after that. Let’s see if I can get it together before then.
* By triumph, I mean that I finished under seventeen hours, and without throwing up.
Tags: cycling triathletix criterium LBC CBR BMF
Tags: cycling triathletix criterium LBC CBR BMF Tweet
I’ve only done two crosses, and neither of them had mud. I think I’ve been missing something.
I didn’t know Barbara Warren, but I rode past her on Saturday. The ambulances had just arrived, and there were two people on the pavement, one upright and dazed, the other flat on the ground. Both were bloody. I’m assuming she was the one lying down.
Triathlons are supposed to be tough, but there are plenty of ways to mitigate the risks. Choosing a bike course free of traffic and hazards is paramount, and I think the race directors dropped the ball. In between the messy corner where outbound bikes went left across the inbound ones with a lone volunteer trying to stop the more aggro riders (and you assholes know who you are) and the potholed hairpin descent down Toro Canyon (where the crash happened), there was a course begging for trouble. When designing a race, you’ve got to balance toughness and safety, but safety has to win every time.
The current description of the SB bike course calls it “deceptively challenging.” Every time I think about that, I start to get pissed off. Which is why I’m going to stop writing and just keep Barbara Warren’s family in the light.
I know that the world is burning down around me, and the sky looks like Pompeii on a bad day, and that work will likely be a royal pain in the ass of clients and shit-eating, but you know what? I just ran ten miles, and the iPod was nice enough to put on Guns ‘n’ Roses playing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” The live version from the Freddie Mercury Concert. The one where Axl cries, “Gimme some reggae!” and the world is burst of joyous, riotous dance. And I know it’s a little thing, a wee synchronicity that might have happened on any day during any run, but I’ll take it. Good God, yes, I’ll take it.
Tags: gimme some reggae, running, synchronicity, the end of the world
Tags: gimme some reggae, running, synchronicity, the end of the world Tweet
Good gravy, but that hurt.
I only managed four (or maybe three?) laps before my legs and pride completely gave out. I just couldn’t hack the pace (at least 28 mph, the highest my computer got) and dropped behind after the second turn.
But Paul, one of my teammates (and a triathlon coach), told me he crapped out on his first race, and I didn’t feel so bad. It’s a different feeling than a triathlon, where my only concern was my own time. In a crit, you’ve got to suck it up and muscle in with the peloton and hold your spot. All that jostling still scares me, but, dammit, I’m not going to let it get to me.
Plus, I had waffles Benedict for breakfast. Any activity that allows me to suck down that much food and still have room for a chocolate croissant, fish tacos and big bowl of pasta for dinner and still feel hungry is eight kinds of good. We’ll see how Friday’s ride with La Grange goes.
No dropping out. No whining. Ironmen show up.