Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, July 19, 2010

Washington State Senior Stage Race Championships

I probably should have paid attention to the signs and NOT raced this weekend. I was still suffering from my crash a couple of weeks ago. It still hurt to take deep breaths from the cracked ribs and my separated shoulder still bothered me after riding long distances or when really pulling hard on the bars. On top of that an f'ing bee found it's way into my helmet the day before the race. It got pissed and stung me in the temple. It hurt, but I didn't think much of it. When I got home I found that the left side of my face had swelled up so bad that I could barely see out of my left eye. I figured I could do the time trial, but how the hell I could do a crit with one eye? Not only would my peripheral be messed up but I might scare the hell out of some of the other racers. I iced it for a good part of Friday night but when I got up Saturday morning it was still pretty bad. I might have made the decision to skip out but it was a BARR race and I am currently sitting third so I wanted tot least give it a shot.

On the WSBA site they call this the Bellingham Senior Stage Race State Championships. I'm not really sure why because only the road race was held in Bellingham. The TT was at Bayshore State Park between Anacortes and Burlington and the Crit was held in the redneck capital of Washington, Sedro-Wooley. If I am offending anyone from there I'm sorry but Holy Crap!! Based on the locations of the races and the start time I chose a motel a few blocks from the crit. It got interesting from there.

Bayview TT:

My start time was at 10:16:30 so I didn't have to get up too early which was nice. I was a little anxious because I was Alex R.'s 30 second guy and he can really fly in tt's. It wasn't if he would catch me but when. I decided it was stupid to focus on that and tried to use it as a positive. If/when he passed me I would try to use him as my rabbit and hopefully it would propel me to a decent finish time. The course was just under 8 miles with one good short grinder of a hill near the end. The wind wasn't too bad and the overcast sky made for comfortable racing. I took off and decided to not push too hard at the beginning. It was really hard to see out of my left eye but it didn't bother me much. When I was about two miles into the race I realized that I was feeling great and got into a really nice groove. I was closing in on my 30 second guy but didn't obsess about getting past him. I just stayed focused and went around him at about the mile 7 mark. When I passed him it finally occurred to me that Alex hadn't caught me yet. Maybe I was doing OK? I had a good turn around and I was able to see Alex coming up when I got back into the aero position. I picked up the pace slightly but not too much. I wanted to save my big effort for the climb and finish. I was at about the 6 mile mark and was still feeling really good. Alex still hadn't come around. I got to the hill and that is when shit went wrong. I went to downshift a couple of gears and my chain skipped. I'm not sure what happened but I probably did something stupid. While I was trying to pedal it back on it jumped completely off my front rings. I had to jump off the bike and put it back on. Right when I was getting ready to jump back on I hear "insert your favorite curse word here" and Alex almost plowed right into me. Later, he told me he'd seen me as he started the climb but didn't want to go too hard and blow up trying to go by so he was going to wait until he could power by on top. He put his head down to dig up the climb and just noticed me in the road at the last second. Besides practically needing a heart defibrillator, all was good. Since I was on a hill it took me a few pedal strokes to get up to speed but I still powered hard to the finish. Crap, I was having the best tt of my life and that happens?! At least it didn't flat. I figured I ended up losing about 30 to 40 seconds and ended up a 1:27 down. I was pretty much out of contention for GC now. I am installing a chain catcher on the tt bike next week. I quit pouting and we drove into lovely Sedro-Wooley and checked into our hotel.

Sedro-Wooley Crit:

I was able to get in a nice nap and got up in time to watch our guys in the cat 4/5 race. This is when I started noticing the upstanding souls of this town. Many store owners had hidden the no parking signs so there were cars trapped withing the course. I guess they really needed to get downtown by 10:00am, to get their drink on. By the time the first race started at 2:30 they started staggering out of the bars to see what all the commotion was about. I heard everything in the book coming out of their mouths and most of it wasn't cheering. I even saw one guy throw something at the riders in turn four. He walked right in front of the racers just to be a nuisance. During one of the woman's races, cars drove onto the course. I heard later that during our race a drunk biker stumbled out of a bar, grabbed the caution tape that marked the course, ripped it off and walked into the middle of the street, yelling all kinds of crap. He stumbled off just before we got to the start/finish. I have never seen so many losers at a crit. Anyway, on to the race. BTW...our 4/5 team represented well and Bill took 4th.

The course was a typical 4-corner with no "turtles" and not much else on the road to slow you down. Turn two had a little dip and a groove that could cause problems if you were not paying attention. We were going for 40 minutes with three primes. We rolled out at 6:10 and the wind was blowing quite a bit. We would have to battle it on the straight away between turn 4 and 1. The attacks started right away with Erik from NWCC going of the front hard. He stayed out there for quite a while but when we eventually caught him more guys took off. I decided to go and see what would happen. When up front you could pedal through every corner easily and it was, as usual, the best place to be. I worked hard to stay up there but everyone else wanted to be there too so it wasn't easy. If you could stick you nose into the wind past the start/finish you could move up anytime you wanted so I just settled in and cruised. I doubted too many guys would get dropped since it was flat and we were only going 40 minutes and no time bonuses were being awarded to the winners. Placings would look basically the same as after the tt. I was feeling good so I decided I would wait until about 7 laps to go and then jump up front and possibly make a move. The race was really clean until about three to go. We were all together and everyone was jockeying for position. Some guys were making sketchy moves and someone dove into my wheel. I almost decided to sit up and just make sure to get the same finish time but I was still feeling good. With 1 1/2 laps to go guys were starting to yell out that they were coming though and that they wanted a certain spot and expected guys to let them in. F that. I held my position and as we went into turn one on the final lap I was sitting 5th wheel. If I couldn't pick up any time, maybe I could at least get a few more upgrade points. I was ready to hit turn 2 full stride and go as hard as I could to the finish. Right as we were going into turn 2 the guy in front of me clipped his pedal and his wheel skipped over about a foot. I thought, "here we go again!" I was prepared to go down if he hit the deck. Somehow he stayed up but did unclip. I was pushed toward the curb but got buy. I instantly dropped about 15 places and completely lost my momentum. I got back up to speed but only managed to finish mid pack. I was a little bummed but I was still standing and hadn't lost any time. Time for a beer and some grub. We drove over to Mt. Vernon and hit the Skagit River Brewery for dinner and left Sedro for the locals.

Northshore Circuit Race:

Since I didn't race until 1:40 we didn't need to get up at the crack of dawn. The Masters and 4/5's were racing at 8:30...No thanks. Denise and I decided to drive to Bellingham for breakfast instead of doing anymore time in "Schlug-ville". After a good breakfast in Fairhaven we drove up to the lot. I soon found out that our 4/5 guys had again raced well and two finished in the top 10 in GC and Francis finished 7th in the road race. I had two hours to get ready. I had no one else racing with me from my team so I hung out the the Garage guys. They were all really cool and it was fun hanging with them. I'm not sure why they called ours and the 1/2 race a circuit. We were doing 7 laps for a total of 58 miles and they were doing 66. The course is 8 miles long and had a couple really good climbs and one steep descent. When you look at the profile it doesn't seem bad but the total amount of climbing we did was over 4000 ft. We took off at 1:40 and it was starting to get hot. The wind wasn't blowing too hard but could be a factor. We rolled out neutral until we got to the top of the first climb and then game on. Right away one guy jumped hard. He got a nice little gap and we just let him dangle in the wind. We hit the 2nd climb on the backstretch and I noticed that I was not feeling that great and struggled up. I did manage to stay on. The descent is pretty long so there was plenty of time to recover. Erik, who was out front, really put the hammer down and started to get a bigger gap. Alex from IJM took control, got in front and eventually caught Eric. I think on the climb they were joined by a Recycled guy and the three went up the hill together. I'm not sure how well Alex was doing as he was riding injured. He was racing with a broken wrist and it had be hurting. I think a couple of others joined them and I thought they could have the numbers to get away . I am usually one to go on several attacks and/or try to bring breakaways back but I was content to wait for the GC guys to get motivated. I know we were already losing guys and I was happy to still be with the main pack. I think it was lap three where we had a funny thing happen. We took the hill really fast and I saw more guys dropping off. I was just able to hang on again and as I got near the top our trailing official started honking and came up beside us. We had caught the 1/2 race so you know we were pushing a nice tempo. He told us to neutralize...Wait, you want us to neutralize? You must mean the 1/2's?? The officials decided that instead of letting us go around the 1/2's he would neutralize us and tell them to speed it up...WTF!!! I have never seen this. They figured if we went around them, at some point they would put the hammer down and we would have to get neutralized later on. It was weird and they held us for quite a while at about 5 mph while they got far enough ahead of us. This kind of sucked because I had worked my ass off to keep contact with the main group and then a bunch of guys that got dropped were able to hook back on. During this time Brian from HB didn't want to deal with it and just turned around and headed back to the lot. I'm not sure why because he had been riding strong. He was sitting one place ahead of me so I had just moved up in GC. We were finally allowed to race again and as we got up to speed I had noticed that I was now feeling good. Hey, whatever works. This time when we hit the climb on the backstretch I was able to power up near the front and stayed there during the long descent and again on the next climb. Guys kept attacking but nothing was sticking. If there was a most aggressive rider award given it would have gone to Erik from Recycled. I'm not sure where he finished but man, it seemed like every time there was an attack he was either involved with it or made a strong move to bring it back. We headed into lap 5 and I was realizing that I was running low on fluids. It was really hurting me to breath and I was starting to get shooting pain up my shoulder when climbing. I was riding OK but was starting to fall apart physically and mentally. Denise had asked me if I wanted her at the feed zone and I never gave her a solid answer. I did have bottles ready to go in the car but she was out on the course taking pictures at different points on each lap. I thought I was out of luck. I was thinking I might just try to poach a bottle from someone handing out bottles for another team on lap 5. I didn't want to conserve anything. I powered up near the front and was happy as hell to see Denise standing there ready for the hand off. She had never done this before and I'm sure she was nervous as hell but she got right up there and fought for position with the others. I moved over and got near the edge. We only had one shot at this. It went perfectly and I was set. I think that was the one time I smiled during this torture fest. We came through the start and had 1 1/2 laps to go. I was still feeling pretty good but not great. We had lost about 1/3 of our field and now two guys were off the front with a pretty decent lead. As we hit the climb the pack decided that if we had any chance of bringing them back it was now or never. I think I went for my bottle at just the wrong time. When I went to put it back in the cage the surge went hard. It was only a split second from when it went until the time when I reacted but it was enough to put me a couple wheel lengths back. I was still feeling good and was able to keep from losing any more distance but I couldn't hook back on. As they crested and started downhill the strength of the pack made it too hard for me to catch on. I was flying but the effort it took was just too much. I went into the red a couple of times and held my position but couldn't close. I've missed out on breaks before but I can't remember ever getting dropped from a lead pack in a road race. It was the first time that a wheel car had gone around me. It was not a good feeling. I was left for dead but unless I had a mechanical I knew I would finish. I kept digging and finally caught up to another rider that had been dropped. To my surprise it was Tom from Garage. It was weird because he and I were in the winning break a couple of weeks ago and now we were together again but in the opposite situation. We talked for a bit and traded pulls and were still going hard. We went up the hill on the backstretch and we could still see the main pack up ahead. Maybe if they took it easy on the downhill we could jump back on. As we crested we caught another guy. I settled in behind him and Tom was on my wheel. We came to a right turn and a marshal was standing there but said nothing. The guy in front took the turn and I just followed his wheel. After we'd gone throuhg the turn, the marshall yelled at us that we are going the wrong way. I don't think he realized how tapped we were. Tom was able to keep going straight but I had to waste time turning around to get back on course. It was just another piece of bad luck. Tom kept going and I went hard to make up time. I dropped the other guy on the descent. I looked at my computer and we had just over three miles to go. There was now no way I was catching back on. I still went hard up the hill and kept kicking to the finish. I came across in 23rd. I was not happy at all but that is the way it goes sometimes. One race you're leading the breakaway and the next you are struggling to hang on. 1/3 of our field did not finish. It was not my best stage race of the year, actually it was my worst. Hindsight says that the wise thing to do was to rest up and heal but then I would have been pissed that I missed out on this stage race.

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