Friday, January 23, 2015

Tuesday Night Worlds

The Tuesday night scene has started up, and we're two races in. I much preferred the conditions last week to this week; slightly slower snow meant more skiing, but it was still fast enough to get in some good drafting.  Tuesday night ski races are a special breed of race; hyper-aggressive masters on fluoroed skis letting off steam after a long day at work, it can be fun or terrifying, depending on how you look at it.  That said, there's no better way to get good at riding a high-speed ski in a pack than these races, and learning to glide comfortably on crummy "snow" while being jostled is actually a useful skill.  Last week the conditions were more snow-like, this week, after the rain, we had plenty of death cookies, and a solid base of ice under the foot of sugar slush on the hills.  Great conditions considering the amount of rain that we got, but definitely not your perfect corduroy.

Race #1
This was a good fun re-introduction to aggressive pack skiing. I felt like everyone was super hyped up, and I got pushed back in the start line-up behind my "usual" pack of guys, and quite a few new folks that I didn't know. Maybe mid-pack start. The NASCAR start, as usual, didn't really spread things out at all, and I kept double poling most of the way up the first hill, trying to keep out of trouble. The first hill was pretty soft, since the snow guns were pointed at it, but I can usually float on top of that stuff pretty well. I spent the most of the first lap in heavy traffic, doing a lot of passing, but I got to near the front of my pack by the end of lap one. At this point the chase pack had gapped us, and though I felt like I had the energy to go with them, I didn't have it after burning matches to get to where I was in my current pack. Moving around people is tough on skis. So I hung out for a little bit, maybe a minute of recovery, and then jumped a gap to get up with Bob and Drew, who were trying to ski away from us. I slipped by them on the middle hill, and as they say, it's do or die - staying put and breaking the wind for everyone else was not an option, so I put in an attack on the flats and got a gap. I should also mention that skiing at Weston has DEFINITELY improved my ability to do V2-alternate at high speeds. That's my attack stride now!

On lap 2 I slowly started to reel in Ari, who was skiing in no-man's land, and I got him by the end of the lap. Drafted for a wee bit, then looked back and saw that Bob was pulling the pack up to me, with Maddy sitting in second. Oops. I pushed the pace a bit, but by the short punchy climb it looked like they were actually closing, so I sat up and waited. Bob and Drew came around first, but Ari responded to that by going faster, so I jumped behind on the final climb, out-gliding Dres, which got me ahead and into Ari's draft. He's a skinny dude, but it still makes a difference heading into the final downhill, and we stayed away as I tried to slingshot around to win the sprint. Tough to say who won it, probably Ari, but that was some good fast racing.

Results - 8th overall is about where I'd expect to be, with the usual names showing up.  Certainly had to fight for it, though!

Race #2
Well, the rain didn't wipe out the snow, but it also didn't do it any favors, so things were pretty icy this week. Icy under a coating of sugar slush, just to throw you off.  My plan was to start a little further forward this week, so that I could use my energy to hang on to the lead pack, rather than jump gaps being opened by weaker skiers in the chase pack who found themselves in front. I lined up behind Rob, because I trust that he'll thread his way through the pack effortlessly, and I was right. Such a smooth start from up there.

The lead pack was not going very fast up the middle hill, and things were starting to bunch, but I figured if I stayed behind Rob I could just stay out of trouble and let things play out.  But, he was going too slowly; I got impatient and pulled to the side, watching the front of the race play itself out ahead of me. There was a guy in a black suit skiing way too aggressively, and he was bumping into Andy a few times. This is where I made two mistakes - First, I thought Andy was staying upright, because it looked like he'd saved it from the bump, but he fell. Then, I thought I had room to go around, but I didn't, and caught my left ski (right ski was in the air, so I didn't step on Andy) on something, probably his arm or his pole, and I went down with a jerk. Damn!

It felt like most of the pack got by me by the time I was up, but it probably wasn't that many. Andy came ripping by, pretty pissed to have gotten tripped, and I tried to hop in his draft, as we clawed our way back up through the pack. Essentially, falling down put me back where I'd started last week, only even further back, and I couldn't hang on to Andy's furious pace, so had to back off and jump the gaps under my own steam.  I was near the back of my usual pack by the end of lap 1, but, disappointingly, I could see Maddy with a solid 30-45s lead near the front of the pack, with a gap between her pack and mine.  I was still passing stragglers off the back of the second chase pack, but the efforts were getting harder, so when Terry came through, I just hopped in his draft, totally gassed.

Luckily, Terry was moving pretty fast, having hit the deck earlier as well, and anxious to make up ground.  By the end of the third lap, he'd pulled me up to Bob, and though Bob valiantly tried to defend his place, I fought back, no cutting me off, and stayed in Terry's draft down the hill.  Terry legitimately won the sprint, and I discovered I had put in an effort even harder than the week before.  The post-race hack, augmented by breathing heavily at the junction of two major interstates during rush hour, took a few days to fade.

Results - much further back, and quite a ways behind Maddy, which puts us 1-1 in the coach competition.

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