Sunday, September 18, 2016

Coming Unglued

Party of Five
photo: Rebecca Joy Lewandowski
"Rolling a tubular". A phrase I'd heard many times before -- though not quite as often as "burping a [tubeless] tire"--, but always thought was something that wouldn't happen to me. Still relatively new to racing cyclocross at a relatively high level, tubulars are still pretty new to me. Respecting this newness, I've been very meticulous about gluing up my own or pretty particular in whom I'll have glue them up for me. Today, I rolled a tubular. It was second lap. I was rolling with the top 5 racers in the 45+ race and feeling good. A couple times on some of the faster corners I could hear that now familiar sound of the tire not quite folding, but rather complying and conforming to the shape of the earth, tearing the grass, digging in. Just last night, I had been telling a non-CX friend about tubulars and why many CX'ers prefer them, and was enjoying living out those reasons. And then I came unglued. Literally. And not literally the way every millennial and younger likes to misuse the word. I mean literally. The tire literally came unglued from the wheel. The resulting loss of traction and the fact that the displaced tire jammed between the fork and the tire caused me to hit floor pretty quick. Apparently, the rider behind me went down as well. Not sure if anyone else was taken out. This could have been a much worse safety issue. According to Strava, I was about 0.6 miles from the pit. I knew I was far, but wasn't sure how far. Knowing any shot at a podium was gone, I was at a crossroads; cut my loses and DNF, or use the experience as a great training exercise and see how many places I could fight back for. Fresh in my mind was the story I'd relayed to my son from yesterday's race about hearing the announcer mention that someone was running only 200-300 yards into that race. I'd said I wouldn't have blamed that guy for choosing to DNF. It was almost like deja vu. But, despite my frustration, I couldn't quit. I still don't know where I finished. I was so angry that I didn't stick around for the results to be posted on site. They still are not posted online. I only know I wasn't quite DFL.

Running with rolled front tubular
Photo: Tom Burrows
One of the things that makes the situation sting all the more is that I felt like I was making not only a physical breakthrough, but a mental one. Yesterday, I put in a good race. Not a great race, but a good one. And, I ended up sixth. It was a race in which there was a lead group of five, and I was a solo chaser in sixth. I would almost get to their wheels and then something would happen to create a gap. As I deconstructed the race on the drive home, I began to question why the gaps kept opening up. I started to wonder if I was sabotaging myself because I didn't really think I was strong enough to ride with these guys who've dominated this age group in this area for so long. Today was going to be the day that I was going to prove that I could ride with these guys. Maybe next time.

Note the smoothness of the
center strip of the rim bed
Back to rolling, or, more importantly, not rolling tires. In an effort to be even more educated, prepared and diligent, today's mechanical failure has led me to many questions. I invite you to share your thoughts and solutions in the comments section or by sending me an email or facebook message. Here they are:

  • Do you glue your own tubulars, or have someone do it for you?
  • If using someone else, whom do you use, i.e. a shop, friend, etc.?
  • Do you use glue only, tape only, glue and tape?
  • Why are tubular rim beds not more circular/arc shaped in cross-section? In the pics included in this post, you can see that the glue in the center well of the rim bed is essentially untouched and was never in contact with or adhered to the tire which is essentially round in cross-section.
Thanks in advance! Keep the rubber side down. 

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