Thursday, April 27, 2006

Race Day

Saturday is race day on the Potomac River in Georgetown and on Lake Carnegie in Princeton. Number 3 Wisconsin faces #4 Georgetown and Ohio State and #1 Radcliffe faces #2 Princeton. This is the time of year when coaches tell their crews that they are peaking for Sprints and IRAs and a dual race now is not that important. Sure, they want to have a good race and it would be nice to beat that other crew, but if we lose here it's not that big of a deal because we'll see them again. Then a new day dawns and the coach is back driving her rowers to think only of victory and all is right with the world again. These Saturday races are the last chance to create an impression before Sprints, and no one wants to waste it.

Wisconsin visits Georgetown at a bad time - for Wisconsin. The Hoyas have gained some confidence from their Princeton race and think that if they only had a stronger sprint they could have beaten the Tigers. They are out to prove they're no fluke, and what better way to do it than by beating Wisconsin. They did it two years ago so they know it can be done.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has really only had one race of significance - the Knecht Cup - and they were third. The Badgers don't believe for a moment that they are the nation's third place boat and they aim to begin proving it now. They know they are notoriously slow starters and this year is no different. A resounding win over Georgetown tells the rest of the world that they're back and won't be denied.

For Wisco to win this race, they need to come out strong and never let Georgetown believe they have a chance. They need to open the gap with Georgetown with every stroke. Twenty strokes without moving is too much. They need to beat Georgetown mentally early and then watch them wallow in self pity for 1000 meters. Georgetown, on the other hand, needs to stay with Wisconsin early. If they're in contact at 1000 meters, the confidence will be there and they'll know they can win. Wisconsin will be begin to doubt themselves and realize that yes, the Hoyas did get a lot faster, and no, it might not be such a bad thing to just end the pain here, let them win, and get them again at Sprints. Georgetown is faster than they were at Knecht, and if they believe in themselves, they can win. Problem is, Wisconsin believes in themselves too.

Radcliffe and Princeton race for the Class of 1999 Cup, which currently resides at Princeton. Radcliffe won the Cup for the first time in 2004 (this is its 8th year) and plans to take it back to Cambridge on Saturday. It's not really that these two crews don't like each other, it's that they really like to beat each other. Princeton comes into the race as serious underdogs, particularly given their performance last week against Georgetown. No one knows if Princeton is slowing or if Georgetwon is getting faster, but the lightweight world is hoping for the former. This is the Tigers chance to prove otherwise. Radcliffe meanwhile, wants to head into Sprints having stamped their dominance on Princeton. They want to make it clear to the world that they are getting faster and anyone who plans to beat them has a long row to hoe.

This race is about the third 500. At Windermere Princeton led after 1000, only to lose it in the second 1k. Last weekend, Princeton opened a gap in the first 1000, only to see it close in the second. Knecht was a bit different, as I think Radcliffe opened gradually throughout the race, but it wasn't over by 1000 meters.

For Radcliffe to win this race, they want to have open water on Princeton at 1000 meters, and drop the hammer in the third 500. That will put it away. All the pressure is on Radcliffe, and they need to show they are dominant. They need to show they deserve to be number one. They need Wisconsin to see the race results and think there's no way they can ever catch Radcliffe. The way to do that is to open at the start and blow the race out in the third 500.

Princeton, on the other hand, must make the third 500 their own. The Tigers have shown they can have good speed in the first 1000 and last week they finally proved they have some speed in the last 500 - it's the third 500 that's suspect. If Princeton is in contact with Radcliffe at 1000, not to mention ahead, and can dominate the third 500, they can win. They simply cannot let Radcliffe get away early.

The way Princeton wins the third 500 is with technique. There are at least two times in each race when you think, "I can't finish this race." The first comes after the start, as your body tries to switch from anaerobic to aerobic. The second comes soon after the 1000 meter mark. You fight to push that doubt out of your mind but if a crew starts to move on you then, if you're not strong, the doubt takes over. It's at this point the Tigers have to think about staying long, quick catches, smooth slides, and legs like steel springs. Yeah, that's too many things to think about in the middle of a race, so I pick stay long and steel springs.

I talked about Wisconsin/Georgetown and didn't mention Ohio State. Realistically, I don't see OSU beating either of these crews, but I'm anxious to see what they can do. Coming to this race is great move by the Buckeyes. After skipping the Knecht Cup, they're trying to show that they're not afraid to play with the big girls and they're about to put their money where their mouth is. OSU, while I thought a bit suspect early in the year, is having a fine season and this race will give them a good idea of where they stand nationally. They might even pull a big upset - wouldn't that be great for lightweight rowing.


Anonymous said...

What about the fours?

Anonymous said...

after reading your last post i think you need to reassess what you write in your blog and leave some things for people to be surprised about. telling crews how to win against other crews seems to be crossing the line and takes the magic out of racing.
dont get me wrong, i really enjoy reading your blog, but please leave the racing to those in the boats.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, I think that this type of commentary is great. that's what sportscasters do all of the time! princeton, georgetown, radcliffe, wisco, and osu are clearly not going base their race plan on what's here...there's plenty of magic still out there.