Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A Taste For The Wind

First off, I have some new links on the side. The uppermost one, Baseline Scenario, is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants a better understanding of what in the hell is happening in the financial world. There is a great primer page that gives concise and easily understood (well, you have to pay some pretty serious attention and it's not exactly light beach reading) definitions and examples of the principles you need to get in order to become a better consumer of the information out there. The authors all have outstanding credentials and for what it's worth I find their take to be pragmatic and non-partisan. Information Arbitrage is the next one, which is less grounded but the guy goes on some good flyers and has a bunch of good thoughts. On both, it's often instructive to read the comments, because there is often deeper explanation there and also because it's interesting to see what questions people have.

As an economics question, undercard or novice racing is an interesting study. The standard text of rules and reasons kind of goes out the window. There is a lack of universal knowledge of the textbook rules, and an inconsistency of ability to execute according to those rules. Unlike in elite racing, you are functionally competing against your team mates for upgrade points. Everyone says they aren't but whether you know it or like it or admit to it, you are, and that flavors the bejeesus out of things. People's abilities and inclinations are more marked by their shortcomings ("I can't sprint," "hills kill me," etc) than by their strengths. There is an integral selfishness that is so inherent as to be completely blameless. You might as well yell at a baby for crying when he's hungry.

Some teams do a good job of getting themselves organized and at least pursuing coherent strategies. One of the most popular of these is one I don't understand, that of "covering" breaks. As I understand it, the art of covering breaks is about trying to make sure that your team is in breaks that get established, and working toward the establishment of those breaks such that your team mates in the field are provided free passage during the race. Sure there needs to be some jumping on anything that leaves the field done by your team, which can be taxing as hell, but once the break has achieved a critical gap, that requirement goes away.

What happens most frequently in my experience is that people assume covering to mean getting to and sitting on every break, which works in the opposite direction of what I understand covering to mean. Getting into a break is a simple risk and reward scenario. You risk blowing all your energy and still getting caught, but the payoff is a heightened likelihood of your getting a high result and also the benefit you provide for your team mates in the field. There seems to be no percentage in sitting on breaks, except for teams with exceptional sprinters. The only team with an exceptional sprinter in MABRA novice racing is Artemis, and they seem not to have a lot of guys in the race.

If you get into a break and don't do any work, that break will be still born. No question. There have been numerous instances when I have started or gotten into a break, done a turn (and usually a pretty healthy one, as I assume the first pulls should be long and hard - almost crushing - if the break wants to get anywhere) and then watched who pulls through. You can pretty well instantly read who's going to work and who isn't. Even a brief turn at the front signals some willingness, while there's an easily recognized pattern created by someone who's allergic to the wind. The most baffling thing is why anyone wants to spend the energy doing all of these short hard jumps with no expectation of payoff. It's more of an academic pondering on my part because unless someone has some great suggestion I'm more or less powerless to change it. During Saturday's 4 race there was always someone ready to work, but the balance was always in favor of the kling-ons. If people are thinking of me as a tremendous breakaway threat and I'm being marked, then MABRA needs to do a lot more drug testing. Anyone who thinks that is on the good stuff. The really good stuff.

That said, I did get another great whiff of the open road on Saturday afternoon in the aged and infirm race, and I loved it. There are some ways I'd like to tune my effort to perhaps be more effective in future forays, but I've got the taste. My sense of timing for when to go is improving, my ability to do the hard jump and then the quick settle in and keep the gas on is getting better and I find myself thinking about the jump all the time.



chuck hutch said...

Personally, a majority of the time I will commit to the break and pull or even drive it. That said, I'm pretty sure that when a team has a guy or two 'covering breaks', that simply means 'have one of us in it in case that break succeeds'. Covering breaks doesn't nescessarily mean working with them. It is silly (in a real race) to help someone get to the line who can crush you when you have a teammate in the field with a better chance of winning, or if you don't have the right number of teamates in the break - like 1 in 3 or something.

Chuck Wagon said...

Says the serial attacker. I'm with you. You were my argument in a discussion we had the other day if it was cool to bridge to team mates or not. Everyone was talking about crap you'd see on tv and textbook moves, then I said "yeah but Chuck would undoubtedly bridge to his team mate. Then probably drop him."

It sucks when the February and March 10am rides are the funnest part of your season, as has been the case for me this year.

I will take this under advisement.


Chuck Wagon said...

ps - I still make the point that the greatest threat to all MABRA 4 racers and teams at present is arriving to the line with DJ Brew in the mix. He also seems to ride sans team quite often. If I was his team mate and got in a good break, I'd definitely let the other guys know the advantage of having me with them. And then probably still work since I'm at my relative best when everyone's vision is fading to black.

chuck hutch said...

For sure. DJ is a rocket. When he upgrades soon (he will I am sure), and if he makes it to the finish in a 123 event he has a legit chance of winning. I hope that happens soon so I can trash talk all the 1's and 2's and say "ha ha!, you got beat by a 3!". I know he will have beat me too, but I have never seen a 3 win a 1,2,3 event and if anyone can do it, he is the guy.

Jesse said...

Win one race and you become a superstar, eh?? ;)

How about "covering moves" and not working at all in the break because you want it to come down to a sprint? Say you have 10 guys in a race, 4 of them are dedicated to the leadout of your 1 sprinter, and 5 of them are dedicated to make sure that nothing goes up the road at all (jumping to breaks and sitting on). Once you get your leadout train organized, you'd be unbeatable...especially in the undercategories (3/4/5). We need to work on ours, but it seems to be a pretty effective strategy (albeit a little anoying for other teams) for increasing the odds of a win.

Chuck Wagon said...

To point #1: it's sure looking that way.

To point #2: if that's what you're looking for, then yes it is effective and yes it is annoying. Your 4s did that all last year from what I heard. Annoying but effective. There aren't any teams that have shown that organization or sprinting prowess this year, so I don't see the facility in that strategy. Unattached guys sitting on a break? Teams with 2 guys sitting on? What's the point? If a guy from a believable (key word there) sprinter's team is sitting on, you have a definable choice to make versus that scenario. That's about the only scenario I can see for sitting on, and there's no team that has put up sprinting performances to justify that strategy.

Anonymous said...

Only one time I have sat on any break without working in the last two years, and that was when I had two teammates that had lapped the field. I was not going to let one of the other guys that lapped the field get off the front. Sitting on a break just makes sure it won't get away, it doesn't let you get away and feel fresh.

Keep fighting. Eventually you'll be the guy that gets away in a Mabra 4 race.

Greg said...

yeah I don't really get that strategy either. It's not like it's really that great to see your team mate win all the time, it's way better to win yourself. Just like you said, when you get in a break it increases your own chances of getting a good result and reduces the effort your team mates have to do in the pack. Why you would just sit in like a tool in a cat-4 race so your homeboy in the pack can get all the glory is totally retarded. And like you said, when there's a shark lurking in the pack, it's twice as pointless.