Archive for March, 2014

My favorite mid-week bicycle race, the El Dorado Park Twilight Race Series, has a new name, Park2Park Race Series, and some significant changes. Some of it falls into the category of “what’s old is new.” Starting from the top, I knew that the race organizers, BIKEable Communities, were going back to racing every Tuesday evening from March through August. (Full disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for BIKEable Communities, a non-profit bicycle advocacy organization, but I am not involved with planning, promoting, or organizing the series.) Last year the races at El Dorado Park were every other Tuesday, March through June, and then every week in July and August with a somewhat contrived arrangement of having a separate points series. I am okay with what happened last year as the organizers were figuring things out after a somewhat hostile takeover of the series from the former promoter. (I was less happy about that.)

The first race of the series always starts earlier in the evening — really late afternoon — because Daylight Savings doesn’t kick in until the second Saturday of March. Despite the early start time, I was able to get to the race relatively early. It was a good thing because the lines(!) were long. They were long because of a pretty good turnout of racers and because of a big, new feature: timing chips! I won’t get into the details, but the last line was for the organizers to attached the timing chip to your fork with zip ties. Also, prices were on the high side for a mid-week race. With one-time fees for permanent numbers and a 2-year timing chip “lease,” I ended up shelling out $50. Subsequent weeks will be a maximum of $15 but I hope that price will go down for a club discount. Because of the lines, the 4:45p start time turned into 5:00p. A 1-hour race with sunset at 5:50p meant that the end of the race would be in less than ideal lighting as the park doesn’t have street lights.

The race breakdown was also back to “normal” with Pro/1/2/3, Masters 40+ (instead of 35+), and Category 4/5. I don’t have the official numbers, but the turnout looked almost as good as in the old days — a far cry from the recent paltry fields that were partly due to the less than amicable transition between promoters.

I had five teammates in the field though only one was in reasonable racing shape. I had been off my bike for eight days after doing a 3-day stage race and then coming down with a mild case of bronchitis. I figured that I’d be very conservative until I figured out how I felt. The other Long Beach club had at least 10 racers and two other clubs had about that many so my team was definitely at a disadvantage. Fortunately, it’s JUST a mid-week training race.

The race started reasonably but the pace soon picked up as there were regular attacks and chases. No one got away and the first and second primes didn’t cause any breaks or splits as can happen at times. I was drifting around from near the front of the pack to the back. The pack had its usual “I want to be near the front but not at the front” majority which made for a few close calls, but everyone stayed upright. After the second prime I felt pretty reasonable so after my teammate attacked and got reeled back into the fold, I counter-attacked. No one came with me so I settled into a pace just to see how I felt. I got caught and had no trouble getting back into the pack. So far, so good.

Just after we got the two-to-go sign, I tried another attack. Again, I got a gap but still no one else was interested. This time I worked a little harder to get back into the pack near the front and when we got the bell I was in a good position. Unfortunately, a lot of people who weren’t in a good position were trying to get into one. Also I watched three teammates almost take each other out. The lead teammate brake-checked the second for unknown reasons and a third teammate almost hit both of them. At that point with all of the argy-bargy going on for the glory of winning the first mid-week race of the year and the quickly fading light, I figured skin was the better part of valor and I slowly filtered to back and off the back. Fortunately, everyone stayed upright and I was happy to roll in after the pack.

The promoters have also added some time trials to the series so there is a lot of racing available between the two venues (El Dorado Park in Long Beach and the Great Park in Irvine). I may go back to my mantra of racing is the best training after doing a bit less racing last year.