Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race

I've had some hard races over the past several weeks and the Wenatchee Omnium left me feeling a little wasted. I promised myself I would not push it too hard last week but Tuesday night I was out at Pacific Raceways going full out and was pretty tired Wednesday morning. By Friday I was still feeling tired. It didn't matter, I was amped up for Enumclaw. I won the road race last year and finished 4th in GC and there was no way I was sitting this one out. I had 20 other teammates racing and most fields looked like they would be at capacity. After several weeks of nice weather for racing, mother nature decided that it was time to set the clock back a bit. We rolled into the parking lot and the temp was below 50 degrees and it had rained most of Friday night. I was hoping it wouldn't start raining again anytime soon. It didn't look promising.
We had a strong, 80 person field so I knew it was going to be hard weekend of racing.

Time Trial:
6.5 mile u-shaped course with one short out of the saddle "kicker" with three turns.

My TT start time was at 10:27 and since it is a short course I wanted to get a really good warm up. When I rolled up for my start I was feeling pretty good. 3,2,1 GO!! I stayed out of the saddle and got up to speed fast. I was planning on going full on from the start since it was only a 6.5 mile course. Was this a good idea? Who knows. I still don't really know what I'm doing in time trials. The road just had a lot of patch work done and it took me a minute or so to figure out what the best part of the road was. I settled in and caught my 30 second man before the first turn and felt I was doing well. My breathing was in control, legs felt good and my heart rate was not yet going through the roof. The road was still a little wet and I wasn't sure how I wanted to take the first turn. I wanted to stay on the aero bars the whole way but didn't want to take the chance of going down in the turn. I decided to sit up for the turn but got right back down as I was coming out. I then hit the fun, curvy section of the course and kept the pressure on. I was still feeling good. I took turn two while staying down on the aero bars and everything went well. As I got back up to speed going down the straight away I heard a noise on the bike. What the hell was that? I was still doing well but something didn't feel right. I felt like I was working a little harder but not going any faster. With about 1k to go I was really feeling the pain and was trying not to let up. I did have to down shift for a few pedal strokes before the final turn. I came through the turn a little hot and had to briefly get out of the aero position. I couldn't figure out what was wrong and just powered through the finish. I ended up in 21st place with a 14.29 and was 47 seconds off the lead. Besides a couple of guys that posted sub 14 minute times many of us in the top 35 were only 10 to 20 seconds apart. Our field was tight going into the crit. As I was rolling back to to the lot another rider caught up to noticed my very angled seat position. I looked back and saw that my seat had shifted down about three inches and I think that is why I had a difficult time in that last 2K. I don't think it cost me too much time but who knows. I could have been worse. On to the crit.

40 minutes on a .9 mile downtown course with 8 turns (and a lot of stuff that would be slippery when wet)

Mark and I drove back home after the TT and I thought I would get some rest. I really only had time to take a nice long shower, eat and then get ready and packed up to leave again. I wanted to get there to watch some of the earlier races and Denise wanted to get there to take pictures. We had some teammates in those fields that were sitting high in the GC after the TT. When we got to the lot the sun was out and it felt warm. It was still cool for this time of year but it would be a good night for racing.....Yeah Right!!
80 strong, we rolled up to the start and for some reason, like last year, I found myself sitting about 6oth wheel with Wes, Mark and Jordan right beside me. Oh well. We had 40 minutes to try to move up. Just as we were getting ready to roll out everyone noticed the darkest rain cloud ever coming right at us. Some jokes were made and everyone was saying were going to get hit soon. It was still dry at the start and I didn't think much about it. They called out the top 10 finishers from the morning's TT and after some instruction from the officials we were sent off. By the time I hit the start line guys were already flying around turn one. Game on! The pace was fast right out of the gate. Mark just told us to get on his wheel and we would slowly move up. Jordan and I lined right up behind him. I think Wes was right there too. After a couple of laps of settling in Mark slowly started to move up. Jordan and I took turns riding his wheel and all was going well. The pack was pretty strung out but we had plenty of time after turn two on the long straight away and on the run into the finish to move up. Things were going as planned and then.....depression set in. About 15 minutes into the race it felt like someone turned out the lites. The sky went dark and it started to sprinkle. I wasn't too concerned because the road was not getting wet. Wait for it, wait for it.....BAM!! The heavens opened up and it started pouring. It went from good to bad in a matter of minutes. I'm not sure when it was but out of nowhere I looked up and saw Wes out driving the pack. He is a stealthy guy in crits. I don't know how he can move up that fast. You only had to make it though 1/3 of the race w/out getting pulled and you would live to race again on Sunday. I looked down and we were about half way through so no matter what, I would be racing on Sunday.....unless I went down, which wasn't out of the realm of possibility. After a couple of laps in the down pour guys started to sit up and were waiting to get pulled. I thought about it but I was feeling good and we were still slowly moving up. Right about that time we were flying down the straight away on the backstretch and as we hit turn three I started to hear that horrible, familiar sound of carbon hitting the pavement. It was a pretty big pile up and we were right on it. It flowed to my right and I knew I would miss it but the confusion and panic that followed had guys grabbing their brakes and swerving all over the place. I almost went into the back of one guy and had to brake hard to miss him. This sucked because now there was a separation from the guys that got through with out incident. I was a little freaked as I'm sure many were and thought again about packing it in. I was still feeling good so I decided to keep it going. Mark was able to get by and he was in a group just off the main field with Wes. Jordan and I were with a group of about eight that were a couple of seconds back, pushing hard to get back on. 10 minutes of this shit to go. Jordan was leading our group and on every turn it seemed a course marshall was yelling that there was someone down. I had never raced in conditions like this. My tires were over pressured for a wet course and had my rear end slip out multiple times and a couple of times I thought I was going down. They finally started counting down laps and we only had about five minutes to go. It was still pretty crazy. Standing water was forming in places and every painted and metal surface on the road was like ice. I would be right on someones wheel in a corner and for some reason they would grab their brakes, slide out a bit and I would have to use evasive action to avoid going down. With a couple laps left I was happy to be where I was. We were strung out in a long line and it felt pretty safe. As we came around turn eight there was another "Rider Down" call yelled out. As we came around the turn there was Mark, down on the pavement. I yelled, asking if he was OK and his looked said it all. He was pissed off but not hurt. He quickly jumped back on and got going again. We came around for the last lap and I just wanted to make it to the finish upright. By now I couldn't feel my fingers or toes and couldn't wait to be done with this one. I finished mid pack, rubber side down and went straight to the car to get into dry gear. I was not going hang out and watch the Pro/1/2 race. I was now a 1:30:00 back on GC. I was still in the top 20 after the crit and not far off the lead. I want to thank all my teammates, wife and friends who stayed out there in that mess to cheer us on. It really helped. Time for a beer or two. I hope all those that went down don't have any serious injuries.

Road Race:
Four laps on a about a 15 mile loop with a 3k climb up Mud Mountain Road on each lap.

The fields that had the dry crit courses on Saturday afternoon got the cold and rain for their morning road race. As Mark and I drove out it was still raining but I didn't care. It couldn't be worse that what we went though in our crit. We got a call from Wes that he wasn't going to be able to make it so we were down to three guys. We got to the lot and it was still drizzling a little but it looked like it could stop...maybe.....hopefully!! It was still quite cool so arm and leg warmers, along with warm gloves and possibly a rain cape were the order for the day. I got cold just getting dressed so my warm up consisted of sitting in my warm car until 15 minutes before the race. I would warm up on the flats leading up too the first climb. As we lined up I noticed that our field had dwindle a little and we were no longer 80 strong. I'm not sure if guys were injured from crashes, fed up or just didn't feel like climbing Mud Mountain in the cold rain. This year's course was the same as '08 and the start/finish was in downtown and not out at the fair grounds. We took off and I wanted to stay up front until the climb so I didn't have to fight through the non climbers and possibly miss a breakaway before the race even got started. Jordan and I were leading the way. No one made any attempt to go and we just forged on to Mud Mountain. Once we hit the climb the pace went crazy. It was out of the saddle acceleration right at the start. I settled in around 10th wheel and just kept a steady pace to the top. A few guys were already getting shelled off the back but as we crested it looked like most everyone was able to get back on as we headed down the flat section to the downhill. The down hill section of this course is pretty fun and fast. I heard that there were a lot of crashes in the early races near the bottom and the road was not yet dried out. I wasn't sure where they were talking about but I wanted to be up front. I jumped out and led the group down the hill. Nothing seemed sketchy except maybe if you went over the fog line or yellow where instead of "turtles" they had deep grooves cut out and if you went over them in wet conditions it could be disastrous. At the bottom we all regrouped and headed back into the wind for lap two. As we went by the fair grounds, Peter from Apex jumped. I knew he would do it at some point and wanted to go with him. He is strong and can solo well. We were on a narrow section of road and I couldn't move up. No one went with him. Jordan was up front and I was yelling at him to go but he couldn't hear me. After he got about a 30 second gap I saw two more guys jump to try to bridge. No others went. I was pissed that I missed the opportunity but we still had well over half the race and three trips up Mud Mountain to try to catch them. The second time up was the same. Some more guys got shelled but most managed to keep with the main field. As we cruised through the flats and guys were trying to recover we saw our only crash of the day. I have no idea what or how it happened but all of a sudden an HB guy a couple of rows up went tumbling in the ditch. No one else went down. He looked OK but I don't know if he got back on. As we hit the downhill sections I jumped up front and picked up the pace. We got to the bottom and I could see the guys in the break up ahead and I decided to give it a shot. I jumped and no one came with me. I put my head down and went as hard as I could. It was hard going in the wind. I didn't figure I'd catch them but the field couldn't let too many guys go and at least I would bring us a little closer to the guys in the break. Once we hit the farm roads again I realized if I kept it up my whole matchbook would be burned and I get spit off the back on the climb. I sat up and waited for the pack to catch up. The third trip up Mud Mountain seemed to be the most brutal. The pace was fast and the field really got strung out. Some of the "gazelles" sprinted up and I was not able to hang with them. I decided to keep a good rhythm going and make sure I didn't blow up. As I got close to the top I was by myself. There was a group of about six ahead of me and another of about 10 behind me. The rest of the guys were now far off the back. I started to slow up to wait but then decided to really dig an catch the group in front of me. This was the right move because when we hit the flats the guys behind us didn't catch on. It was hard but we took turns pulling and powered after the main group. I thought we would catch them by the time we got to the bottom of the hill but we didn't. Crap, they were going to stay away. Right before we got off the highway and back onto the farm roads for the last time the group behind us hooked on. We had a big train now and we did catch the main group right before the climb. I was hard and I wasn't sure how I would do on the final climb but at least I was there. About 200m before we started up and raced to the front so if I did fall of some I wouldn't be off the back. Once again, the gazelles went out hard and I jumped out of the saddle and hung on for dear life. There are some areas on the climb where it flattens out and I was hoping the pace would slow and I could hang on. No such luck. I started falling back but was still in with a bunch of guys. I was not going to get completely shelled off the back. We crested and I recovered pretty fast but a group did get off the front. We had a good crew and we took turns pulling all the way through the flats and down the hill. As we hit the highway and headed to the finish I thought we had a good chance to catch the guys off the front but about half way it seemed that some guys didn't have the legs to pull and our pace line would stall or guys were starting to think about positioning for the finish. This was dumb. We were not racing for first place and now it was all about GC time. We just needed to work together until the last 200m and then go for it. It didn't go that way and as we hit the turn to go back into town I realized we were not going to catch them. Guys kept monkeying around for position and we were losing time. With 1k to go a few of us just took off. I didn't care about my stage finish and just wanted to get some time back, not that it would help much but...I ended up 20th and finished 1:39:00 after the leaders. I raced for a total of
03:34:56.3 and out of our initial field of 80 I ended up 23rd overall, 3:09.0 back. It was a fun weekend of racing.

1 comment:

  1. I ended up 22nd in my race, so we're pretty close!