Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011 Frozen Flatlands Omnium

It was a big weekend of racing around the PWN. The Frozen Flatlands Omnium in Cheney, The Cherry Blossom Classic in the Dalles, Or., and the first Carnation TT in, well, Carnation. Unfortunately the TT was cancelled due to flooding on the road. Vern, Charles and I loaded up the RV and headed over to Cheney Friday afternoon and met up with Cameron, Theresa and Rhett. When we left Bellevue at 12:15 is was downright nasty out. As soon as we got over the pass the rain stopped and it cleared up. When we arrived in Chaney at 4:15 is was sunny and 65 degrees. That didn't last long.

We woke up to a cold, rainy, WINDY Saturday. It was a little warmer and a lot wetter than last year but that was about it. It kind of drained my enthusiasm for killing myself in a time trial. We grabbed breakfast and headed over to the staging area. We tried to park the RV in a strategic location that would allow us a safe haven from the wind.....No such luck. Our tent did protect us from the rain but it almost blew down several times. I think we spent more time re-setting the tent then we did warming up. Frozen Flatlands still uses the Omnium format which I'm not s huge fan of. It is based on points instead of time and people can still qualify for the overall GC even if they don't race in all three races. I do think they should allow people to race in 1, 2 or all three races but not qualify for the GC if they don't do all three. That is for another discussion. Stage 1: Saturday morning was the Time Trial. They changed the distance from 20K to 10K and only "Mass Start" bikes were allowed. We could use everything "Aero" except a dedicated TT bike or clip on aero bars. I was a little bummed because my brand new TT bike had just arrived and I wasn't able to use it. Vern and I were only 30 seconds apart for our start times so rolled over together with five minutes to go. It was still cold and WINDY but the rain has let up. I still decided to go with my 808/1080 wheel combo but no disc. Vern took off fast and gave me a really good rabbit to follow. We blew by our 30 and 1:00 minute guys right away. With only 10K of racing there isn't much time to ramp up. It's an all out assault. Since everyone would be flying on the way back into town with the tailwind, my goal was to go as hard as I could on the way out. Trying to stay aero on my road bike was not easy with the wind. Gust of maybe 40mph whipped up and just staying on the road was a major goal. The noise the wind made was almost deafening. The turnaround point came up fast and I was feeling great. It was a weird sensation at the turn around. It went from sounding like a freight train in your head to almost complete silence. As I got back up to speed I felt like Cancellara. I was flying, hitting speeds over 35mph. I was in my 53X11 and went as I could. In no time at all the 3K marker came and went. It seemed like seconds later the 1K marker came up. Time to put the hammer down. I crossed the line with a time of 13:43. I felt pretty good. To get an idea of how hard the wind was blowing, it took me just over 8 minutes on the way out and just over 5 minutes on the way back. Time trialing isn't my specialty so I was just hoping for a top 7 or so. We saw Phil(Audi) in the lot afterwards and when I told him my time he said it was faster than his ......Not possible!!(He was having drive train issues) Vern and I finally walked over to see the results and I found out I finished 1st!!! Holy Crap! I've never won a TT before. Vern slotted in at 4th and we were both happy campers. We also found out that Theresa finished 4th in her first ever TT. We didn't have a lot of time until the next race so we quickly headed back to the hotel to rest up.

Stage 2: We raced at 12:15. When we lined up the official gave us our briefing and then told us all to be really careful since many guys were doing their first road race of the season. I guess the Eastern Washington and Idaho guys were just coming out of hibernation. I already had five road races under my belt. Hopefully they had their race legs on. The weekend provided many WTF moments that I will try to share with you. There were only a few small rollers on the course and the finish line was on a short uphill "kicker". One lap, 25 miles. It should be a fast race!......Hold that thought!! The clouds had mainly moved on but the wind was still blowing hard. The four of us moved up near the front so we could stay out of trouble early on. Our neutral roll out only lasted a few seconds before we were given the signal to race. We pointed our wheels into the wind and kept the pace down to see if any anxious guys would attack. Initially no one wanted to stick their nose into this brutal head wind to attack. It felt like a club ride. It took a while before someone wanted to push the pace. Finally a solo rider jumped but we just let him dangle for a while. I had no ambition to try to chase anyone down this early. I was pretty sure no one could hold a solo lead for too long in this wind. The early attacks were all quickly brought back. The first solid attack was by Travis(Emde) who didn't do the morning tt. He looked like he had fresh legs. He quickly got a small gap. We let him go and I waited for someone else to come forward and try to bridge. No one did. When I thought he was getting a little too far out there I finally jumped out of the saddle and took off. Sure enough, everyone jumped on. I guess since Vern and I both finished well in the TT everyone was watching us. As we were coming up on Travis we saw our lead car pull over to the side of the road. He motioned for Travis to ride by. We were all wondering what was going on. Then, right as we came up on the car he pulled out right in front of us and we had to hit the brakes. WTF was that all about? A minute or so later we brought Travis back. I think that acceleration popped a bunch of guys off the back. A little over a 1/3 of the way into the race we crossed over I-90 and got to play in race with a tailwind for a while. A couple of guys hit the gas and one of the Badlands guys came to the front. He went hard and his effort actually but some guys in the hurt locker. He didn't seem to want any help and just kept grinding away. Vern and I slotted in about 4th or 5th wheel and just enjoyed the ride. There were two guys that kept sprinting to the front to get on the leader's wheel. We let them move into the pace line and then a second later they would move out and get in between the two pace lines that had developed. They were half wheeling everyone which I thought was dangerous considering the super strong gusts of wind we were dealing with. One of them told me he was trying to setup and echelon to get out of the wind. Unfortunately he was doing this on the side where the wind was coming from...WTF!!! He kept doing this wondering why no one was following suit. With about 12K to go we hit the one dicey corner on the course. We got strung out in a long line as the leader lined up for the turn. All of a sudden he slammed on his brakes and everyone behind had to do the same. WTF!! I can't believe there wasn't s huge pileup. I had setup wide over the yellow line and flew by all of them and missed the mess. When we were all back I heard someone say they were worried about getting DQ'd for crossing the yellow line. He didn't know that the yellow line rule wasn't strictly enforced in a turn. Jeeeeeze! We were mainly in a crosswind for the rest of the race and there were a couple of gust that almost blew us completely off the road. It was hard to keep the bike steady at times. The attacks started once again and one guy managed to get off the front and I saw guys looking over to see what I was going to do. I just sat there. He dangled out there for a while. Vern made a move that surprised the field. He had a gap before anyone could react. A couple of guys surged but after they realized they couldn't grab his wheel they sat up. He quickly moved up on the leader. I was sitting first wheel and a guy finally came up and asked me when I was going to try to bridge. I just looked at him and didn't even say a word. I was starting to get excited because it looked like no one was going to go unless Travis or I did. Finally some of the Badlands guys realized what was going on and jumped to the front and forced the pace. I jumped onto the back of their train. It took a while but they eventually pulled Vern in. The other guy was still out there. We hit the 3K mark and Vern slotted into the front row and looked back. He yelled that we had a gap on the field and we should go hard now. His acceleration completely obliterated the field. (See photos) I was right on his wheel. We came up on the 1K mark and there were only a few of us left. The wind was directly behind us and we were flying. I saw the 200m mark coming up and the uphill climb to the finish. The guy in the lead still had a gap but I could tell he was faltering. If I didn't go now he might be able to limp across the line for the win. With about 250m to go I took off. Travis(Emde) was the only one that could respond. We came up on the leader fast. I moved around him on the left and Travis swung around on the right. As we came up on the finish Travis was basically right beside me. I didn't panic. I knew I had more left in the tank and gassed it one more time, threw my arms up and coasted across the line for win #2. Travis and I were still moving pretty fast after we crossed the line and I looked up just in time to see our lead car had hit the brakes right after he crossed the finish line. I had to swerve hard right into the shoulder and almost over the curb to avoid doing a Davis Phinney right into the back window of this SUV....Once again....WTF!!! Vern really helped to get rid of almost everyone that was left in the pack and gave me plenty of room to make my move. Even with all his effort he was still able to finish 6th!

We decided to hang out and go to the finish line to watch the end of Theresa's race. We were told they were still about 3 miles out when it started hailing something fierce. I was a little worried about their safety. A few minutes later we saw their lead car and only two women following. With the tailwind it looked like they were easily doing over 30mph. I squinted and could finally tell that Theresa wasn't one of them. We looked back to see where the rest of the field was. There was one other woman hauling ass by herself in hot pursuit. Was it her? We finally saw green but couldn't tell if it was a Group Health or SCCA/Starbucks kit. A second later we were yelling our lungs out. Theresa had gapped the rest of the field to take the 3rd spot.

It was awesome to watch! At the end of the day I was sitting in 1st in GC, Vern was in 5th and Theresa was in third. Not a bad first day of racing. We headed back to the hotel to shower up and then Charles, Vern, Cameron and Phil(Audi) headed over to the Northern Lights Brewing Co. for some carbo loading.

Here is a link to pictures from Saturday’s road race. You can see the damage that Vern caused at the end of our race and Theresa motoring in for 3rd.

Stage 3:
The first two stages were great and I was totally happy to take both wins but this was the stage I was looking forward to. It was single 50 mile loop with tons of rollers and one steep "wall" about 10 miles from the finish. It was right in my wheel house. Compared to what we woke up to the day before Sunday was perfect. By the time we started at 10:50 it was above 40 degrees, partly sunny and almost NO wind. After we staged and the official gave us our race instructions a guy asked him if anyone dropped a water bottle when we crossed the railroad tracks in town would our lead car and the rest of the field wait for them to go back and retrieve the bottle. Are you kidding me? WTF! All four of us lined up in the front row as we rolled neutral through town. I know that the rest of the field was really going to be watching our every move throughout the race. We rolled over the railroad tracks and no one lost a bottle....Thank God! We were signaled to race and we kept the pace down and waited to see which guys were motivated. We picked up the pace just to get the pack's attention but didn't make any serious noise. I was happy to just sit there and control the pace. After a few miles one finally made a move. We made no attempt to chase him down. He was out there for a while and a couple other guys finally responded. We still did nothing. Then, Travis came to the front and jumped out of the saddle. He still looked fresh and also looked like a guy that could climb. He was someone to keep an eye on. I decided to go with him. Once we bridged we started working with two other guys to see if we could get a gap but they just sat up. That was that. We started hitting the rollers and at every one of them Vern and I got near the front and kept the pace up. It seemed a good handful of guys were feeling pretty good and the field stayed together. There were a few small attacks but most guys didn't really want to commit. Finally we moved across hwy 195 and Travis jumped hard. He also had several teammates and I figured this might be a good opportunity so I decided to go with him up a short hill and we quickly got a gap. One guy worked really hard to bridge. We waited for him and I tried to get them organized into a pace line. I told them we should take short pulls and then move over to the left to drift back. I moved through, drifted left and the next guy pulled through and then moved right into the shoulder. Let's try this again. Once we finally got moving I found that Travis and I were doing all the work. The other guy wouldn't pull through. I told him to at least pull through for a couple of pedal strokes. He did several times but soon quit. I looked back and saw we were still pulling away. I kind of wanted to drop the guy that wasn't working so during my next pull and accelerated hard. We still were not organized. I finally noticed a bunch of black and yellow at the front of the main pack. Badlands had finally organized and were chasing hard. I was feeling really good so I hammered it once again. When I finally dropped off Travis told me that had trouble accelerating to hold my wheel. I knew we were done. We were out for a while and there was a brief moment that I thought we could get away. When the pack caught us I looked back and saw that we had shredded the pack. At least it did something. Vern then told me that no one on Travis' team did anything to help us stay away. I was not going to initiate another big attack until we reached the wall. Vern and I just matched accelerations and stayed right at the front. A few minutes later I witnessed the most stupid crash I'd ever seen in a bike race. We were going up a short hill of maybe 2%. We were going about 14 mph or so. No one was attacking. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy coming up fast on the right. The road at this point was pretty narrow and there was only an inch or so of pavement to the right of the fog line. It turned to gravel and then dropped off into a pretty steep irrigation ditch. I looked over and saw Vern motion to the guy and then yell something like, "What are you doing? You are going to run out of road!" Just then he hit the gravel and in a split second he lost his front end and was sent to the pavement. He took two or three other guys down with him. WTF!! Once the pack saw/heard this we quickly accelerated to see if we could drop anyone that might have been caught behind. We dropped a few more guys but then it was back to business as usual. After a while of pack riding I think it was Brian(Grand Forks Cycling) that decided to make a move. He is a strong tt racer so we paid attention. I knew the big climb was coming up so I didn't make a move to bridge. I was still feeling really good and was planning to attack right at the base. The "Wall" finally showed itself and I was ready to pounce. Brian still had a small gap when we started the climb. One guy jumped and I decided to wait a few seconds to see who had the legs. One more went with him but no one else jumped. I then got out of the saddle but didn't really have to hit it hard to move by them. I was now out in front with only a few guys on me. We were dropping guys like flies. I put a little more pressure on and then when we hit the false summit and kicked it into overdrive and pedaled hard all to the top and into the way downhill section. I got a small gap. I approached the h90 degree right turn at the bottom of the hill and looked for a good line. WTF! No one had swept the all. It was completely covered with gravel. I had to slow down fast to make sure I didn't slide out. I made it through with my HR shooting through the roof. I quickly calmed down, accelerated again and then took a quick look back. There were about seven guys, including Vern just a short distance back. I then saw that there was another small group a ways behind them. The rest of the field was gone. I decided to wait for Vern's group. When we were back together Vern yelled out that we had a good size gap on the next group and we needed to push the pace. He tried to get us organized. He pulled through and moved left. I followed suit and so did one other guy. Then, it was the same shit as before. No one wanted to pull through. We had a tail wind for Pete's sake. All you had to do was pull through for a couple of seconds, pull off and then recover. I asked them if they wanted to sprint with eight guys or 20. They just looked at me. I didn't get it. Sure enough, a few minutes later the 2nd group caught us. We were now a lead pack of about 20. I saw guys shaking their legs out and stretching. I knew some of them were fatigued. I was still feeling super great so I was ready for anything. Brian finally went to the front again and hit it hard. I could tell everyone was keying on me and Vern so we just stayed near the front but didn't try to bridge. With about 5k left I could tell that guys were trying to position themselves around me and Vern. Vern was watching them and kept disrupting their plans. We finally forced Travis and Bruce(Two Wheeled/Specialized) to move in front of us. Paul(GS) kept trying to move in but Vern wouldn't let him We were right where we wanted to be. I was confident that if things stayed like this I was going to be able to take the sprint. We were coming up on the 3K mark. I looked over at Vern and we were ready for the finish. I was about as confident as I've ever been.......WTF!! I thought we hit a bad section of road but depression soon set in. My rear tubie was going flat. I hopped on it a couple of times to make sure. Dammit! I told Vern that I was flatting. He offered to switch bikes with me (which would have ended up been a funny since we have different pedals) or rear wheels. Since we were only 3K from the finish and he was still sitting high in the GC I told him no. If I put my hand up and waited for the wheel car I wouldn't not be able to get back on. There were about 20 of us in the group and I would end up with no points and completely fall off the podium. I decided to move to the back of the field so if I did fold my tire and go down I wouldn't take anyone with me. I was just going to hang on as long as I could. Thank God for tubulars!! It was still holding about 30-40 psi and I wasn't quite bottoming out. When I reached back of the field I decided test out what I might be able to do. I got out of the saddle to see if I would be able to sprint. Nope. This was going to be the longest 3K ever. The field slowed as we hit the 1K mark, which was great for me. It was funny that some guys were moving backward in the pack to get on my wheel. Within 1K to go one guy even asked me why I wasn't in front. I just pointed at my rear wheel. We hit 200m and the sprint I thought. I figured I would be off the back and just be coasting in to finish. The guys in front either didn't go hard or couldn't. Guys like Travis got caught behind these guys and couldn't seem move around. Hmmmmm. What the hell. I got in the drops and leaned as far forward as I could to take weight off my rear wheel. I jumped on Vern's wheel as he moved up on the left. To my surprise I was passing guys...WTF! How was I passing guys in a sprint with a flat tire? I couldn't believe it. I was ready to settle for about a 20th place finish. Vern stayed right with me and I rode his wheel into a 9th place finish. It was the slowest sprint I'd ever been in. After looking at the photos I couldn't believe how close I was to the front.......with a flat????

After crossing the line I was a little disappointed. I felt strong all day and really thought I had a great at taking the sprint. Oh well, that's racing. After taking the first two stages I ended up finishing 2nd overall in the GC by 1 point. John Siok had a solid, consistent weekend and took first. I didn't mind getting 2nd to him. We found out a little later that Theresa finished 2nd overall in her first ever multi day race!!

Here are photos from Sunday's race:

1 comment:

  1. Sean, nice work buddy...great start to your season. I guess you should start planning for those longer races as you'll soon be taking on Cat 1/2 guys.