Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lanterne Rouge

Lanterne Rouge
Lanterne Rouge.  The phrase comes from the French words for "Red Lantern", as in the lantern that was once hung on the caboose of a train.  Or as in the distinction given to the last guy that finishes a bike race.  That, tonight, was me.

Though coming in last place sucks, I must admit I  like the phrase.  "Lan-taern Roowje" - that's a pretty close phonetic spelling of how it would sound as it rolled off the lips of a cute Parisian mademoiselle I think.  Like Audrey Tautou from Amelie, for example.  She's definitely on my freebie list.

The race results actually place me as 7th out of 9.  But unless two guys ahead of me abandoned, the results are wrong.  Either way I was the last man on the road.

The good news is I know where I messed up.  Since there's usually at least 25 guys in the race, typically things are a lot easier.  You can tuck yourself into the pack and just ride.  But when it's only nine, the game changes.  You have to work more, and there is a lot less margin for error.

I found myself on the front of the race halfway through the second lap.  I was there because I had been in second position at the end of the neutral lap (which was a mistake), and the guy first on the front had just dropped off leaving me to start my pull at the bottom of a false flat and into the wind.  I pulled for a mile, and then dropped off and started to drift back.  I was looking for Craig because I wanted to move in front of him on the pace line, so he could avoid doing as much work as possible.  On the Out-spoke-n Cycling team, Craig is the team leader.  My job is to work for him whenever and wherever I can.

And that's what I did - I slipped in just ahead of him and we all kept going.  But then the pace slowed down.  And when this happened, for some reason I drifted out of the pace line and headed back up to the front.  This was dumb.  True, we were on a prime lap, so technically I should be leading Craig up towards the front to set him up for the sprint.  But in this race you don't need to set up for the sprint more than a mile from the line, so I really had no good reason to be there.  Craig, not being at all tactically challenged, was no where near my rear wheel at any point during this stupid move.  When we came around to the false flat and headwind again, someone accelerated.  I tried to jump back in the line, but I was caught out and still a little blown up.  I got dropped.

I rode the rest of the race alone.  Craig went on to get 2nd on the first prime, 3rd on the second prime and 3rd overall.  Congratulations, man.

Anyway, I had about 45 minutes to kill and at least 15 miles to go.  Tuesdays are now cycling interval days, and  Criteriums are great for intervals.  But since I was out of the race, I now had to do them on my own.  I ended up doing 8 more laps.  About half of this was into the wind.  So for the next 45 minutes I hammered into the wind and then recovered for the balance of each lap.

Getting dropped sucks.  It can also be a little embarrassing - especially when the owner of the shop you ride for shows up.  "Hey Derick, what's up? You've been promising to come for weeks and finally chose tonight - awesome.  Nah, nah, nah...I'm actually so far off the front that I've slowed down because I felt bad."  Yeah, that doesn't work.

When you ride your bike in a triathlon, there are 4 main things to remember:
  • Do not mount your bike until you are past the mount line.
  • Go as fast as you can without using all your energy.  You still have to run.
  • Do not draft.
  • Dismount your bike prior to the dismount line.
But when you are road racing, you have to remember WAY more stuff.  You have to size up your competition and know when to strike.  Or when not to strike.  You have to time every move and constantly reposition yourself in a way that makes the guys around you push the extra watts.  And there is more stuff I can't even think of right now.  You don't have to be one of the strongest riders in the field to win a bike race, but you have to be one of  the smartest.  The problem is that I'm neither of those things at the moment.

But I could have beat anyone there in a 5K right about then.


Jennifer said...

Sounds like challenging strategy! But no matter you ARE out there doing it and that is the most important thing. Kudos to you!

misszippy said...

Tough day but lessons learned. That's what counts!

Ransick said...

Sounds complicated. Great workout even though you got dropped.

KovasP said...

Way to show Craig how not to do it! Still, some guys will purposefully sandbag to earn the lanterne rouge, so it's not all bad.

TRI714 said...

lol !! 9 man fields SUCK !! Plain and simple. how the hell do 9 guys ride competitively against each other in the wind averaging 24 mph constantly attacking each other ? Better question is why ? You did fine, and as I said last night, I already learned that lesson of doing early work. It's o.k. to do, but get tucked back in and hold on to recover for close to a lap. And so we don't have contradicting stories.
It was 3rd,2nd, 2nd o/a.
Thanks for the support and your right you would have killed everyone in a 5k, before and after.

NattyBumpo said...

I'll stick to brussle sprouts.

Tri4Success said...

Shoot, I got dropped on my 9-man group ride last weekend! At least you were in a race. It's true what you say about a small pack though, especially if there is a prevalent wind. One little mistake and you're done.

Kate Geisen said...

I love reading you guys' posts about racing and strategy. I'm learning a lot.

Emz said...

Do not draft?

why are you farting?

bean sprouts

XLMIC said...

Yeah, I think Audrey would prefer a loser over a quitter any day.

You know I'm kidding!

Let's call this one a "learning moment" shall we?

Caratunk Girl said...

I am still so impressed you are doing crits, that I don't know what to say. I love reading about the tactics of the pack. I for one, learn from making mistakes, so I bet you learned a lot from that.

Anonymous said...

I like the 'lantern rouge' concept - very slick.

Do people ever (consciously) do a rotating pace line at your races? Are they ever that long or organized? Nine riders is a pretty good number for a rotating line - 30 to 60 seconds at the front and then 4 to 8 minutes behind...Just curious.

Chris K said...

Can't say I really understood it, but for some reason it was an entertaining read nonetheless.

Sounds like you went to school and now have a lesson under your belt.

It's not like you came in last out of hundreds. I mean it was only 9.

nat said...

exciting report, yeah.. being a newbie in the cycle racing world sux, you get few of those odd days where you do dumb things. Makes me wanna do some cycle racing this year. LOL


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