2008 Race Report #5: Winfield Master's National Championships

2008: Race Report #5: Winfield Master’s National Championships (ABR)

 

Sunday, June 1. ABR Masters’ National Championships, Winfield, IL. Category: Masters 30+/40+ combined. Weather: 78 degrees, 9 mph winds. Course: 4 corners, large (80 ft vertical) hill, 22 miles, 58 riders, average speed – 26.5mph, average pulse 171 bpm, max pulse 192 bpm. Sprint speed 36mph.

 

So… now there are three ‘national championships’… – ABR (American Bicycle Racing) decided to run their version of master’s nationals this last weekend in Winfield, IL. For the USCF (United States Cycling Federation) their version of Masters’ nationals will be in late June in Kentucky, and then Category 1/2/3 and Pro (ageless) will be in Downer’s Grove, August 17/18th (my favorite race.)

 

I didn’t really care about it being ‘nationals’ or not (except for the cool jersey you get to wear for a year as ‘national champion’) and just showed up for this race only 15 miles from my home, more excited about being able to race with my friend and 2nd season racer, Matt Dula.

 

I was chagrined to find that it was a course I’ve done before with a significant hill – and that every lap I would be forced to go up it. Matt was diligently warming up on his rollers in the parking lot by the train station when I arrived – his daughter Rosemary had taken second in the teen girls group earlier, medal dangling proudly from her neck.

 

I took a warmup lap, climbing the hill, following the sharp left at the top.

 

It hurt. I hate going up.

 

The race began. I was conservative. I focused on my strengths: drafting, tucking in on the downhill, pedaling some corners and cutting up the inside on others. Mostly I followed Walden Rule #2 (shift, dammit!) and shifted down for the climb. Each lap as we approached the daunting hill, I clicked my left shifter down from the big ring to the little ring, while double clicking with my right hand to bring my gearing on the rear cog into a relatively appropriate range, spinning over the top.

 

Early in the race I told Matt to do the same, and for the next 15 laps or so we both were amazed by the glaciating masses drifting backward on the uphill, calving riders trapped in their big ring, struggling to adjust to the steep incline – as we both buzzed around these riders, finding opportunities to sling forward 5 or 10 spots each lap. I had mounted the camera to my bike but totally forgot to use it except for recording one lap behind Matt to capture his technique.

 

Suddenly it was 2 laps to go: ‘my time’ and I’m sad to share that I was a terrible helper to Matt in his first Cat 1/2/3 race, (and he was staying the pack without any difficulties). I should have had him follow my wheel as I set up for the sprint, but suddenly I was in the zone, instinctively following those race eddies and slotting up into the front – and all I could do was say “hey – time to move up” as I passed by on my way into the top 12. Meanwhile a breakaway of 2 bided their time out front.

 

Unlike last year’s races, I felt complete control over my placement – not too far up – but not too far back. I could have easily shot to the front of the pack (and then some) up the hill with 1 ½ laps, but I refrained and saved my strength. I felt that roiling, powerful energy of my sprint legs ready to be let loose and merely sidled up to 10th over the top and then followed a wheel down the hill to the finish line as they rang the bell indicating one lap to go.

 

Lots of movement took place in the first two corners, but I just ping ponged forward to maintain my position as other riders shot forward and others fell back. I maintained 10th place at the base of the hill sliding to 8th halfway up, and then 6th at the top – but still I had not used much. As we headed for the final long downhill corridor, preceded by a hard and tight left turn, I stayed on the inside, knowing that the outside curb on this downhill corner was a death trap (I had warned Matt earlier).

 

The field spread wide around the corner, and a just to my left a rider accelerated hard coming off the corner. I accelerated and followed his lead. He was fast, and the wind on the downhill section must have had a downdraft to it – I didn’t really feel much protection from my leadout man as we sped down the hill, heads down against the wind, and running first and second, we surged away from the mustering field.

 

I waited and waited and as we neared 100m to go, accelerated up the inside – but my leadout man had some in reserve and matched my move and I only made up a half a wheel on him before the line, finishing in second in the sprint, fourth overall.

 

Still – I felt good. This was a tough course and I really had no true difficulties. Matt and I chatted and then returned to the finish area for the awards ceremony. This is where things got a bit funny. I was not familiar with the rules of this ‘other’ cycling federation, so when I filled out my forms in a rush, I didn’t bother to ponder a potentially important question: “age?”. I had written 39.

 

As the announcer was beginning to separate the 30+ masters results from the 40+ masters, Matt and I had the same thought simultaneously: are you a masters 30+ or a masters 40+ according to ABR rules? (under USCF rules, my racing age - set on Dec 31st of the coming year - is 40.)  So I wandered over and asked the officials whether I should be a masters 30+ (the category they had me registered in) or a masters 40+. They consulted the referee and then decided that my ‘racing age’ was 40 and hence they had me in the wrong group. I was unsure whether this would help or hurt my results.

 

After some deliberation one of the refs motioned to me and let me know, “you probably should have just let sleeping dogs lie – you were just about to be crowned the masters 30+ national champion, but instead you came in fourth in the masters 40+ - the top 5 places were all masters 40+…”

 

I laughed and then joined my fellow racers on the podium for the awards ceremony as Mike Dienhart took some film with the helmet cam. Again I walk away from the race with confidence – my sprint was there, I was able to make it up a significant hill, and I was able to move into position for the sprint exactly where I wanted to be.

 

 

 

podium 1

 

podium 2 

My next race will be back with the Pro I/II’s – in Sherman Park on the 14th. We’ll see how my fitness lasts for the longer, faster races…

2006 Race Report #11: Elk Grove - crashing

Race Report Elk Grove Masters Challenge, August 13, 2006. 75 degrees, 45 minutes timed.  In prep for the $25,000 Pro/Am event later in the day on Sunday I decided to race the short Master’s event earlier in the day – it also happened to have a decent purse of $5000. The race was fairly early for me (9am) and arriving at 8am in the relative cool of the day brought back memories of racing when I was younger – when all our racers were the first of the day – seemingly so that our parents could get back to their yardwork or other activities. 

Warming up at 8:30 am I bumped into a number of my Wolverine Sports Club teammates or ex-teammates including Ben and Jamie, Jan and Todd. I felt tired and sluggish for the first half of the race and hung out in the rear of the pack. However about mid-way through the race they rang a bell for a prime sprint and I decided to test out the course and the sprint. I started moving up on the backstretch where the pack was wall to wall and felt like I was playing a video game – much like frogger – anticipate movement and then move into the evacuated space.  

In such a manner I moved halfway through the pack and then on the far side of the course made an easy move up to the top 20 riders.  As we headed into the last mile, the pace picked up and small packs of riders went shooting up the inside and outside. I picked a promising group and followed it into the last corner and the last 500m. I exited the corner in 3rd and noticed that I didn’t have much draft. As we headed down the final stretch some riders came up the outside and eventually I moved up the inside, only to be blocked near the finish by the leadout man (déjà vu from yesterday) and ended up second.

I drifted back into the pack and when asked by Jamie how it went I used my fingers (still tired) to indicate 2nd or 3rd. He indicated that it was a 3 place prime – that made me happy. The rest of the race proceeded without notable circumstance and with one to go, I began moving up (it was a long course after all…)

As we left the first U-turn, I moved up to top 50, and then into the backstretch I jumped all the way into the front – the pace was quite low.  We finally entered the last two straights, the pace picked up significantly and we hummed into the last turn, with the speed falling just shy of the corner.  My “spidey senses” tingled: sure enough, even though I was in 6th position in a single file leadout, the lowering pace had created the ultimate “race killer” – a slow entry into the final corner.

At the last second I considered trying to move up on the outside, but I remembered how widely everyone had been coming out of the corner and held my position anxiously. I entered the corner at 25 mph, following the wheel ahead of me, but even as I began to lean, I saw something or rather several “somethings” out of the corner of my eye. It was a full-on charge up the inside, with 4 riders trying to enter the corner together.  

Even as I heard the inevitable shouts, and the first of those loud “pops” and the screeching of metal on concrete indicating the first tire being blown and the first bike sliding on bare metal and torsioned tires, I began to throw my body backward, and my bike forward hoping against the odds to “scoot” my bike past the wreckage coming from behind. 

Through the corner of my eye, I could feel the inertia of the mayhem tumbling my way.  The dominoes began to fall, with the inside, #2, #3, and #4 riders piling on top of one another, limbs and bikes flipping and sliding, their looming presence entering the corner of my eye. Even as I threw my bike forward, I could see the body and bike of the rider behind me sliding toward my rear wheel… 

And then, with perfectly predictable precision, my bike began to go sideways – with the mass of the bike and body of the fallen rider plowing into the rear triangle of my bike causing the back end to pass to the right of my adjusting front wheel and I started the “mud track slide” more familiar in dirt bike racing.  For a half second I thought I might hang onto it – I was still balanced overtop my increasingly sideways bike, and my inertia was slowing dramatically via the sliding of my tires and the emergency braking I had resorted to.  Then my rear wheel clipped the curb and I flopped oddly overtop the bike and slapped shoulder first onto the pavement still attached to my bike, covering my face with my hands to avoid the teeth of the 114 remaining chainrings headed at my face as the riders behind tried to navigate the corner through the pileup. 

Eventually the traffic lessened and I grabbed my bike, hopped on, and headed for the finish, only then noticing the “flump, flump, flump” of an out of true wheel – or so I thought. As I finished the 100meter stretch to the wheel pit and mechanics, and climbed off my bike, suddenly my frayed and bubbled rear tire blew loudly like a gunshot, causing the mechanic to wince. “At least you made it here” he said.

 As it turned out it was just my tire that was destroyed, not my wheel and they replaced it with a well worn spare so that I could warm down.  

------------------------------------------------  Fast forward for a moment – Saturday, August 26th, 2006 and I’m heading out for a 50 mile training ride in the rain – out and back to Janesville. It was dry, but threatening as I started, but not long after the air turned to mist, then drizzle, then light rain, and then a steady downpour that did not let up until I returned home almost 3 hours later. 

So, why did I do it? Why did I ride in the rain? I hate the rain for some reason.  I’m a racer, not a trainer. Generally speaking I don’t “get off” on training – I don’t, generally speaking even really enjoy training – rather it is a necessarily evil to prep for racing, and a necessary balancing factor in a busy personal and professional life full of unpredictable stresses. 

I’m not an endurance athlete, and I’ve never seemed to have had much of the “control” over my body that more traditional distance athletes seem to enjoy over theirs. My body is a somewhat unwilling participant – grudgingly providing a rather inconsistent level of fitness that seems to vary according to its own whim, and a somewhat more predictable reserve of short term speed and power to be drawn on assuming I find myself in a position to use it. 

But Saturday just happened to be one of those magic times where, despite seemingly adverse conditions, my body decided it was ready to ride. So after an initial hour of warmup I suddenly found my legs to be smoothly turning circles, my seat feeling comfortable, my breathing regular, my pulse steady at about 150 beats per minute, and my speed steady at about 22 mph – despite the rooster tails of water thrown off by the standing puddles on the road.

Lance would have said, “no chain man – no chain…” I assume that this feeling is something endurance athletes feel all the time – I’m lucky to have it a couple times a year… I marveled at the “scratching their heads” expressions portrayed by the farmers I passed along the way and enjoyed the cleansing effect of the incessant downpour on the roads, my bike and even my skin as all the silt, tar, and exhaust were removed from the road, my bike frame and my mind.

Life became squeaky clean. During the last hour I had an analytically detached sense of glycogen depletion (better known as “bonking”) occurring as I could feel the lethargic muscle responses to my mental demands, and the occasional disassociation from reality where the normal real time monitoring of road noise, direction, and balance were replaced by gaps of blank space – of “nothing.” 

These momentary “grey-outs” were followed by quick “snaps” of compressed processing shunting all the visceral feedback into a “spike of  time” leaving my brain “startled” with the updated reality.  Sometimes the snap of sensory overload would trigger a minor “fight or flight” synaptic reaction releasing adrenaline and resulting in momentary vertigo. This would then be followed by a return to reality until the next “greyout.”. 

Ride, rain, pedal, think… greyness… “Ah! Almost off the road”. Jolt of adrenaline, return to status quo – ride, rain, pedal, think… “Car headlights – move right!” and so on… All of this occurred with no pain, and little anxiety. I knew that I was running out of muscle fuel and I also knew that my body was responding imperfectly, but I was somewhat pre-emptive in my ability to predict the symptoms and was still able to keep on pace and force my body to comply and I experienced a clear sense of flow for the latter 2 hours of the ride before coasting back into my driveway, parking my bike, and heading in for a snack of everything in the fridge that was edible, and a  nice long hot shower. 

In contrast, there are days where even though “fresh” and rested, with proper training and perfect conditions, I’m just completely unable to produce significant power, and the relative levels of pain, and just plain awkwardness are incredibly frustrating. Heavy, irregular breathing, sloppy pedaling, with my feet squeaking in the pedals, knees mis-aligned, “pedaling squares”, tense back – one might swear that it was a completely different bike – or more aptly, a different body pedaling it. 

Once, years ago, at a practice race at the Ciaccaro Club in Windsor Canada, I had forgotten to eat and experienced an in-race bonk scenario second to none. My “greyout” phases started becoming 1/10th  seconds and then ½ seconds and then nearly a second. At one point I overlapped the wheel in front of me and almost went down. A little later, and I just plain forgot to turn and wound up on the grass. I ended up pulling out of a race with only 2 laps to go because I could no longer see any color other than yellow and I was losing awareness for seconds at a time. 

My memory of what came next is vague, but I have a vague sense of shame as I’m quite certain that I wandered the sidelines of the race dragging my bike asking if anyone had “a cracker, a fig Newton – any food at all?”  This all culminated in the worst food binge in history – I spent over $13.00 at Taco Bell AND ATE IT ALL. I believe that this was about 16 items. I do remember clearly sitting in my car, with my belly hitting the steering wheel, realizing I couldn’t possibly drive. I then slept fitfully in the parking lot for a couple of hours before finally heading across the border toward home.

2007 Race Report #12: Mochi-Dado

Race Report #12, Thursday, July 26th, Superweek Stage 14 Pro/Am  Criterium, Sheboygan, WI, 100K. 

Waking in the RV Thursday morning it is a glorious dawn – sunny, warm but not hot. The creaking of the trees and fanning of the leaves have kept us company all night. After lolling around in the feather bed in the back of the RV playing with Katelina’s “lu lu’s” (her tiny little feet) I finally get up and  westart our day.

 

I fire up the propane burners of the stove in the RV and spread our little white and green tablecloth over the picnic table outside the RV in the green drapery of the 100 year old forest canopy, and we make eggs and bacon to accompany our cereal, juice and yogurt, sitting outside to eat under the swaying trees.

 

Katelina wanted desperately to go ride her bike, so we mounted our bikes, Katelina straddling her little pink bike with the white tires and 16” wheels and we headed off around the damp, pine needle covered lanes tracing through the grounds.

 

Like her father, the tow headed 6 yr old appears to have an achievement orientation and asked me, “what’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden my bike Papa?” I told her she had ridden about 7 miles the night we got stranded in Elgin – the night of the fireflies.

 

“I want to do 7 and ONE-HALF miles!” she exclaimed and so we wandered the beachfront in order to put on the mileage she hoped to accumulate. There was a very light breeze off the lake, and we observed the oddest phenomenon when we traversed the dunes to the shore – the cool air off the lake meeting the warm damp sands of the shores was creating a golden fog – the condensation rising from the sands must have had minute sand particles in it – and for miles down the beachfront there were these sparkling billowy golden mushrooms forming and glowing in the distance.

 

Katelina: Katelina is my daughter and by that lineage alone is endowed with special consideration by her father. Of course she is the most beautiful little girl in the world – her blue green eyes, with those glints of yellow in the sunlight. Those mischievous wrinkles forming her underlids, the beauty mark on her upper lip, and the long golden tresses of brilliant white blond hair. Of course what she says has just that little special lilt of music, her laughter like chimes – can’t you hear it? Of course when she rides her bike, it is with style and panache, her pedaling rhythm suggesting all kinds of vaguely conceived future accomplishments (though without the accompanying realities of the long sweat-baked travels and am-radio-only loneliness on the Midwestern plains my father and I suffered through.)

 

I don’t have a son, so I can’t really speak directly to what the feeling of having a male offspring is like. But a daughter – who knew that it would be like this? I am certain – quite certain, that until now I never knew the meaning of courage. Not until her…

 

Sometimes at night after gazing at her delicate profile in the half light of our reading lights (yes she sleeps with us far too often) I will, move a stray lock of golden hair from her cheek and then lean back into my own pillow and after switching off the light contemplate just how precious that tiny form is next to me, and just how aggressive my response would be if her safety were ever in question…

 The “movie sequence” goes like this: we are safely in bed – at home, camping, or in the RV – doesn’t matter. And then in the grainy half-light of night the intruder comes into this little screenplay. As always he’s faceless and nameless, black in the chiaroscuro of the dim backlight of the entrance. As always, there is malice in the air, and he threatens my family somehow. Prior to Katelina, responses would have been about strategy, about bargaining,, but not any longer.Something about having flesh and blood of Eve’s line begets a kind of clarity that eliminates choices. The scenario always plays out the same. Without fear, without doubt, without vacillation I edge to the edge of the bed, and then in one fluid, swift motion, I accelerate and launch my body full on into the intruder – I can feel the spring and speed in my strides and my leg muscles involuntarily clench. Surprised, the attacker reaches – but, regardless of weapon, there is nothing he can do that inertia won’t override – and even as the gunshot explodes, or the knife enters my flesh, I can always hear my voice shouting with clear authority, “Run!, out the door! NOW!” as I bowl the attacker over and begin to ransack his limbs with my face, elbows, hands and legs – anything to buy time – without a single care to myself.  Of course, I do hope this never happens and believe that it probably never will. But this clarity – this ability to have this one confidence in my own courage… it provides me some semblance of understanding of my place in the scheme of things.  I used to wonder about war… I’d sometimes imagine myself sweating in muddy khakis, crawling along the jungle floor, wet leaves brushing my face as I wriggled uphill in the rain. Then, when the bullets started to rip, wet leaves and mud spraying my face, and  my commanding officer shouting “TAKE THE BUNKER!”… I’d have to really think about it… “What are the odds? “What’s in it for me? “Why do I need to die NOW? “Seriously – isn’t this whole thing stupid anyway? “Why are we shooting at each other anyway?” It wasn’t until I had a daughter that this same screenplay runs differently – and… isn’t it the same for all men?  Deep down, isn’t it that the men (and women) that throw themselves in front of bullets for some cause or another – isn’t it because they can somehow characterize the other side as capable of my previous delusion: of malicious intent toward a tiny, precious child? 

Katelina rides in front of me down the hill – until I see a car coming at us, and then I ride up outside her. It is usually a simple transaction – just protective cover. But once in a while I conceive that the oncoming car may not provide ample space and I consider just how hard I will hit that windshield in order to get the driver to veer away from Kat. For this one thing - courage.

 

We continue on our way, investigating the dunes, stopping so she can take pictures of the beach. Then we turn to head back to our camping spot in order to pack up and head for the beach. Suddenly I hear the bells of her little voice – “papa! Papa! – come look!”

 

I stop and see her crouched next to the road. Even from the distance I can see that she’s observing yet another insect in a long parade that day. But something about this one catches my attention – even from 50 feet away I can see that its figure is unusual.

 

“What is it?” I ask as I get closer. “Not sure,” she answers and then casually extends the finger that the brightly colored caterpillar with the odd tooth shaped white bristles on its back has marched its bristly little legs right up and onto. She was very excited, and immediately named him/her Mocho Dado (female version is Mochi Dado).

 

Weeks later, during U.S. Cellular®’s “Bring your child to work day,” Tyler Carroll graciously helped Katelina figure out that the extremely odd caterpillar was that of the “Whitemarked Tussock Moth”

 

The morning turns to noon, and then mid-day to afternoon, and I do the thing I usually do – wait until the last possible minute to leave behind the paradise of the beach, the golden fog, the sand, and playtime with Kat to travel to the race. Thunderheads are building to the north and that makes it easier to finally clear the beach. As we head out of the state park, the sky grows darker, and I begin to remember what it is like to race in the rain with Category 3’s or Masters and realize that the Pros will be oh-so-worse.

 

After a short warmup I lineup on the same start/finish where I finished 2nd last year in the “Cat 3” category – to the teammate of the rider who had died the day before at the Tour of Holy Hill – and I began to consider the course, and the downhill corner – turn 3, and how it might be with 100+ pro riders in the rain… I wasn’t afraid – I was full of dread…

 

We set off – 80 laps, 62 miles. The pace was high, but the course was dry – for about 10 laps. Then the light drizzle set in and it started getting slippery. Every corner a rider or two went down but mostly by themselves. The pack began to string out, and riders started abandoning and I had to close gaps – which I did – but my own motivation was dwindling as the sky continued to darken and thunder boomed in the distance.

 

Meanwhile that odd facet of human existence that seems to occur during repetitive but mundane suffering (like having the flu) began – a word, or in this case, a pair of words got stuck in my head. This happens often in races. The word starts playing in a repetitive loop in my head – I analyze it, turn it upside, down, backwards, just the vowels, just the consonants – and then just the picture of the word itself, and then – as always – it suddenly loses all meaning.

 

One race a long time ago in New Jersey, the word was a long one “anthropomorphism” – I quickly lost the meaning of the word and then began to be frustrated by this long set of vowels and consonants. I remember the long drive back to Michigan and being annoyed the whole way that I couldn’t remember what the word meant. I even broke it down to the latin roots and while knowing it had something to do with “change” and “man” I had no memory of what the word actually meant (it means the attribution of human traits to non-humans).

 

Another, really, really bad day, and the word was “the” and as I mulled it over and over and over, by the end of the race I no longer recognized the word, had no idea how to use it in a sentence, and was pronouncing it in my own internal dialogue just like Jeff Daniels in “Dumb and Dumber” according to its visual spelling: “ta, heh… ta teh”. What the hell does “ta heh mean? What a stupid stupid word – I hate it.”

 

For 25 laps in Sheboygan, as the rain began, every pedal stroke was either a “Mochi” or a “Mocho”, and then the corresponding downstroke was “Dado.”

 “Mochi-Dado, mochi-dado, mochi-dado, mochi-dado, mochi-dado…. (pause, turn left…), “Mocho-dado, mocho-dado, mocho-dado, mocho-dado, mocho-dado.” 

I officially reserve and trademark this name for some future product or service – 2 months later, and they are still sticky…(I wonder how long I’m going to have these words going in my head today.)

 

20 laps in, 60 to go, the big drops start and now it is pouring – I begin to hope they’ll call off the race. Surely with these gusts of wind, these flashes splintering the sky? The pace escalates and I’m running full out in the rain, with hardly anything to see. Why am I doing this? Who am I trying to impress? It all doesn’t matter… I have a family, a job, I’m ‘important’… all the thoughts of a quitter begin to enter my brain. Now, left turn and “mochi-dado, mochi-dado…”

 

I continue on, pressing the pedals smoothly to keep traction, braking gingerly, accelerating hard, and closing the gaps as rider after rider abandons in front of me, next to me, behind me.

 

Turn 1, 30 laps down, 60 to go. Two riders go down just after the turn, their tires suddenly losing grip on the ¼ inch of water on the road surface, their wheels swooping up, torsos bouncing down. They slide on their backs - almost accelerating like as if they were on black ice, their bikes up in the air, hands slapping at the pavement to try and stop their velocity as skin and skinsuits give way and rent, skin taking on that black burn of wet pavement.(Road rash in the rain is actually quite minor – mostly dirt and that light zinging sting of a minor abrasion.) I pick my way through and then another rider gives up right in front of me and yet another gap opens that I’ll need to close to stay connected to the pack and the protective cover off the draft.

 

Suddenly I stop attacking – and the release of that pressure on my legs and lungs creates instantaneous relief. It is not a conscious decision, but by the time my rational mind connects to what my body has done, there is no time left to reconnect to the pack. My mind berates my body briefly and then shrugs its shoulders. “Mocho…..”

 

the “dado” never comes.

 

The wind stops roaring through my ears and the rain decreases its rattling on my helmet. I coast through turn two and sit up. A few riders sprint by me, and a few more coast up near me and sit up themselves. 6 or 7 of us drift, pedals motionless, down the backstretch into the coming storm, the huge drops bouncing off the pavement, the grey of rain replacing the green of the suburban landscape surrounding us.

 

We all abandon the course halfway and split up, making our way back to our cars and loved ones. In my case I’m luckier than just about all and return to the large well lit warm interior of the RV.

 

I coast up and dismount shaking my head. I mount my bike to the back of the RV as they duck back into the calm of the RV interior. Nothing is said. I drive off, and the storm gets worse, thunder booming close by. The road is so dark I turn on the headlights. It turns out that only 33 of the 108 starters actually finish the race.

 

Courage? Maybe I have it, maybe I don’t. What is it anyway?

2007 Race Report #8: Crashing...

Race Report #8, Thursday, July19th, Superweek Stage 7 Pro/Am Criterium, Shorewood, WI, 100K. 

The best thing about the race in Shorewood was that I didn’t have a single incident on the way to and from the race. It helped that I drove the new car.

Shorewood is a relatively new course to Superweek and hence does not quite have the crowds of the famous Downer Avenue race to come later in the tour. However it did share that upscale neighborhood, the large homes lining the course, and the sense that the spectators were as analytically involved with the races as they were emotionally.

I ran into Eddy Van Guyse – the announcer of “Breaking Away” fame prior to the race and he asked me to remind him of my athletic credentials. I gave him the details, got in a decent warmup and then lined up a bit far back in the crowd gathered at the start/finish line as Eddy began introducing the race leaders and riders of notable fame.

Again I was surprised to hear some of my own credentials as Eddy related my background and introduced me along with the top 5, but it was a bit embarrassing – I had lined up so far back in the peleton that I couldn’t make my way through the 130+ riders – so I just stayed in position and waved to the crowd.

I won’t bother to describe the first 40 laps of the 58 lap, 100 kilometer race except to say it was quite similar to Bensenville – a lot of “barely hanging on” going on. Considerable suffering. I was quite uncertain whether I was going to finish and spent my mental efforts focusing on the lies required to keep me in the race.

Finally, the lap cards read 10 laps to go and I knew I would finish, and I knew I had a little bit of juice left in the tanks. From a low point where the world was a single focal point of the wheel in front of me, my consciousness began to expand and I began to register the complicated machinery of the race, the riders. I began to gather that low thrumming energy from the crowd and the wheels around me.

I heard my name around turn 4 of the four corner course and looked up to see my old friend Kent Savit – giving me a hard time about being dead last with 7 laps to go. Next lap I grinned and held up 4 fingers – indicating when I intended to move up.

When the lap cards read 5 to go, I did my thing and used the gutters on straightaway 2, and then the inside line on turn 3 to shoot through the pack and as I came out of turn 4 with 4 laps to go I nodded to Kent as I hovered in about 10th position – having moved up through over 100 riders in the space of a lap. Then, head down, I began to watch the race patterns unfold and the setup of a big sprint finish.

Three laps to go and I’m still holding my position in the top 15. Things bunch up a bit as we enter the second straightaway, and a surge goes through on the inside.

I’ve been favoring the outside line in turn two the whole race and ride my usual line entering the corner, only to be suddenly, and immediately confronted by the bodies and bikes and that awful train wreck noise of the 4 or 5 riders who crash right in my path: I’m heading right at them while leaning hard into the deepest part of the corner going 25mph.

There is no way out – I’m blocked to the left by riders, and to the right is only a dead-on run into a curb. I know immediately that I’m going down and hard, but still use my brakes to reduce the impact.

With the lean and the speed, my rear wheel breaks tension with the concrete first and begins to slide and even as the riders and bikes blocking my way loom, I begin a sideways slide to the left – like I’m in a full out sprint sliding in to second base – but on concrete. My left side hits the pavement just shy of my bike hitting the rider in front of me and I feel that burning heat – that roasting, tearing sensation of skin sliding, grinding against concrete as I skid sideways 15, 20 feet on my left hip and my bike then hits the bike and rider blocking my path with only a minor impact.

I’m up in a flash as hundreds of riders veer around us, and I try to disentangle my bike from the rider in front of me. My front wheel’s spokes are scissored into the front hub of another rider and only by aggressive shaking do I release my bike and can finally mount it.

By then, the peleton is gone – the tail end 200 yards away and receding quickly and there is no chance of catching. Worse still – the “free lap” rule is now over – only in effect until 5 laps to go, I can no longer go into the pits and jump back into the pack with no penalty.

So… my only option is to withdraw… or… is it? My stubborn side comes through and I get angry thinking that I suffered for more than two hours and won’t even get to do the one thing I do well – sprint. So after quick consideration I resolve to let the referees know of my illegal maneuver if I actually gain anything out of it, and I cut the course diagonally, and jump right back into the rear of the peleton – dead last, (again), with two laps to go. Illegal for sure, but not really unethical…

The sprint to just catch on took its toll, but I worked my way as best as I could through the pack, and finished 67th – about halfway through the field when we came around again.

It was with some gritty resolve that I spoke to Jose after the race as I examined the football sized patch of raw meat on my left thigh… “I could have done well today…” shaking my head and then limped my way back to the car for the two hour drive home, dreading that first shower, looking forward to Advil…