Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, June 13, 2011

2011 Capital Stage Race

It was finally time to see what this brand new stage race was all about. It was set as a three day, four stage event and on paper it looked to be a good one. I just upgraded recently and had only one Pro/1/2 race under my belt. My plan was to ramp up in single day races so I could get used to the the longer distances, faster pace and my new competition. I had no plans of doing a stage race this year in that field but......
I decided to get to the start early for stage 1 because I wasn't sure what the parking situation was and I was driving the RV. When I got there the lot was full but thankfully my teammate Justin, who just finished a great race in the 4/5 field, let me have his spot. All was good.......for now.

I had signed up for the Masters 1/2/3 field. I had noticed the night before that the numbers for all the fields were not big. It may have to do with it being new or that is was sandwhicked in between two big Oregon stage races. I also know many who didn't or couldn't take Friday off. The numbers in my field were realy low. I heard talk that they might combine us with another field but score us separately. I figured we would be racing with the 3's but I hadn't heard anything. I asked the officials but they had no new info to give. I also started hearing that guys were jumping back into their categorized fields so now I wasn't sure how many we had left. The 1/2's were staged and only a couple of minutes away from starting when I heard Erik yell, "Hold the race!!" He came running back and started yelling out names and mine was one of them. Since our numbers were low, we would need to hurry up and jump in with the pro Pro/1/2 field. I didn't have time to think. I literally pedaled to the back of the field as they were rolling out. WTF!! I wasn't sure if we were just racing with them but scored separately or if we were now racing in that field. No time to think. The race was on!!

Stage 1 - Capital Forest Road Race:
10 mile loop with 300 ft. of climbing on each lap. We were racing 6 laps for a total of 61.5 miles...or so I thought. It took a while before I realized I had no idea how far we were racing in this Pro/1/2 field. I hadn't really looked to see what the other fields were doing. I looked over at Brad(Farestart) and he told me 80 miles. Good to know. Crap!!! I had enough fuel for a 60 mile race, not 80. I told teammates I would not need anything at the feed zone. I wasn't sure if I could make it to the finish with I had. The attacks started right away and I chose a few attacks to go with. They were brought back quickly and I had to rest a few before I could go again. Another group shot off the front and quickly got a gap on the field. This was the one to be in. The only tricky section on the couse was on turn 2 which was after a long downhill section. It was a sharp right hand turn at the bottom of a descent. During the first lap we all came into this thing HOT and before you knew it brakes were squealing and you could smell the carbon. I thought there was going to be a big pile up but lucky for us only one guy went down. We took that turn at a lot slower pace the next time around.

When you are the only guy on your team in the field you have to rely on some luck and unfortunately I missed the break that was now way up the road. All I could do now was either sit in and watch or try to attack on my own. I still wasn't sure if I was even racing with these guys or if any Masters were in the break. Did it matter if I let them go? I talked to some of the other guys that moved over and none of them were sure what we were doing. We decided to race like we were in the Pro/1/2 field.
We came through the feed zone during lap three and I heard people screaming out my name. It was Tom and Jeff. Lucky for me my wife and teammates realized I was now in a longer race. Denise had given them some of my spare bottles and they were ready for me. I waved them off and told them I would grab stuff on the next lap. It soon became evident that the break of ten up the road would survive. Their gap kept grown and the eventual GC winner was going to come from that group. The course wasn't that exiting and since all of the big teams had someone in the break there was nothing much that was happening. Once guys knew the group out front would not be caught indiduals started shooting off the front.
Near the end of lap three John(Garage) was pulling through and got a slight gap on the field. He then decided to keep going and no one went with him. About 30 seconds later I decided to give it a shot. I got a small gap well and decided I would try to hook up with John. Things were looking good for a while but soon I noticed I wasn't moving away as fast as I wanted and I decided to sit up and wait. I guess I don't have the confidence at this level yet. I would not have attempted that and sat up in the Cat 3 field. Why make the effort if I wasn't going to commit? I slotted back in near the front and pressed on.
A few more guys jumped and now there were several guys somewhere between the main pack and the leaders. I moved back up to the front and started rotating with a few guys so we could limit our time loss. I might as well race hard the rest of the way. With about David(Bikesale) jumped and when no one else went I decided to give it a shot. I almost made it to the finish but blew up with about 25m to go and got passed by about 12 guys. I ended up 31st with the main pack. I still wasn't sure if I was still racing in the Masters field. I soon found out that our Masters race was completely cancelled and we were racing in the Pro/1/2 field. Most of us were already 6:27 down. The race was over for us. Since I didn't have anyone racing with me on my team I didn't really care.

Stage 2 - Deschutes Parkway Time Trial
It was a 3.6 mile out and back prologue type time trial. It was on a nice stretch of road along the lake with a view of the state capital. There were a couple of railroad tracks on the course but they were covered with carpet. I didn't really expect a lot here. I have done well at time trials in the Cat 3 field but knew I would finish somewhere mid pack in the Pro/1/2 field. That is what happened. Some might think just racing for 3.6 miles would be easy..... Not after doing 80 miles the day before and not when you have to go all out from the start. I got off to a good start but my legs didn't feel great. I felt sluggish most of the way and finished with a time of 7:45. I was hoping for a time around 7:30 so I was a little bummed. My time would have put me near the top ten in the 3's but was just good enough for a mid pack finish with the big hitters. I'm just giving a perspective on the level of competition here. I was sitting 31st overall and was pretty happy with how things were going so far. On to the crit!!

I finally realized that instead of the 30 minute crit I was scheduled to do I was now going to have to race for 70 minutes! I think I've done one crit that was as long as 50 minutes and this was also going to be my first crit as a 2. Fun was not the first word that came to mind. How far would I make it? Would I get popped off the back early? I think I was in a weird mood all day and Mark started calling me Eeyor because I was acting so glum. I apologize for that. My wife told me that all I had to do was make it a third of the way before being pulled by the officials and I could still race on Sunday. I could make it 25 minutes....Right?

Stage 3 - Capital Criterium:
I was familiar with the course. It had been a single day race for years and I did well in it last year. It is a .69 mile loop. The start is on a long slightly uphill straight away. It then takes a sharp right hand turn which is pretty easy due to the speed you come into it. It then runs through a round-a-bout followed by quick right and left turns that can be tricky due to the road surface. After that there was a fast right turn which runs slightly downhill and into the finally right turn to the finish. This last corner seemed to be where all the carnage took place in the other fields.

It was an incredible evening for racing. Cool weather gear was not needed at all. I lined up and took notice of all the bad asses around me. Crits are not my specialty and I have to admit I was more nervous than usual and a little intimidated. If you haven't heard it from me enough yet, the race was 70 minutes long and you had to make it 1/3 of the way through before getting pulled by an official and still be able to race on Sunday. If you didn't make it that long or dropped out on your own you were done for the weekend. My goal....Hang on for 25 minutes. Anything after that would be gravy.
Off we went and after a few laps I settled in and quickly noticed how much more fluid these guys are. The 3's are fast but there was just a different flow in this field. It is hard to describe. It was hard but in a whole new way. I told myself that I was not going to even think about primes and just concentrate on NOT moving backwards. I was also going to pay NO attention to the clock. I was feeling good and settled in somewhere mid pack. Early on Logan Owen did a superman thing and shot off the front and slowly developed a big lead. The pack did not chase him down and he eventual go a big gap. Equally impressive was the fact that his teammate Colin was able to bridge and the two of them took the whole thing by 11 seconds!!

I finally decided to look up at the clock......11:45 left. Holy Shit!! That was way beyond my expectations. I was going to finish this thing. I was definitely starting to feel the effects and I just focused on where I was in the pack. They officials finally started counting down the laps. I was good to go. All of a sudden with about 3 or 4 to go someone roled a tubie right in front of me in the final turn and went down. I had to slow down and swing wide to avoid him. I, along with a few others were now slightly off the back. I figured I could get a free lap out of it but when I rode by the official he twirled his finger at me to told me keep going. No more free laps..... Shit!!! I knew I would make it to the finish but wanted to finish strong. There were a couple of others that were caught out as well. I saw Zach(Garage) behind me and I slowed up a bit so I would have someone to work with. He pulled me around for the last lap and I didn't contest him at the line. We finished just off the back. I was happy as hell!! I just finished my first Pro/1/2 crit and a 70 minute one at that. Eeyor had left the building!! It was great watching the 3's race. Vern finished 3rd with Mark not too far behind. The only bad thing was seeing my friend Dave(Farestart) crash into the barriers at the finish. It looked horrible (I have video to prove it) but I found out that he is doing OK. Get back soon Dave! I was pretty cooked at this point and we still had a hilly 90 miler on Sunday!!

Stage 4 - Queen Stage Road Race:
90+ mile Road Race that used segments of courses we have used in the past. Even though we were on part of the Vance Creek and Independence Valley race courses they seemed unfamiliar since we were riding them in reverse. There were several climbs that weren't insane but with 90 miles and tired old legs from the previous stages it was going to be a hard stage. When we got to Rochester it was sunny and quite warm. We didn't do much of a warm up. I figured I'd have plenty of time for that. We mostly just sat inside the RV to stay out of the sun. We heard someone over a race radio telling other officials that the Cat 3/4 woman were 1K out. I rushed over just in time to see Mirna take the stage and Theresa take 3rd. That is how they finished in the GC as well. Awesome job ladies!!

My legs were definitely feeling it as I rolled to the start. I noticed that our numbers were a lot smaller then the 50 we started with on Friday. I was pretty happy to still be racing. It had been a challenging couple of days to say the least. I was hoping since we were going to be pushing four hours on the bike that we would roll slow for a while....Not so much!! Guys launched off the front right away and the race was on. There were constant, quick accelerations all the way until the first climb. We reached the first climb around the 16 mile mark and normally I would be one of the guys leading the charge but I was sitting near the back of the pack and wasn't paying attention when we accelerated. When I finally got going I found myself dangling off the back with a few others. Pay attention dumb ass!! I was feeling pretty good but as we crested and started heading downhill we were not able to grab the wheels. Greg(Farestart) and I got together and started working hard together to get back but it wasn't going to happen. We were only 18 miles into a 90 mile race and I was already off the back....NOT FUN! After a few miles of trying we sat up to wait for Greg's teammate James. We discussed quitting but decided we would at least get a workout and work together until the feeds zone at mile 43. This totally sucked!! We actually had a pretty good rotation going and we were still working pretty hard.....for what?? A few miles later I spotted my wife on the course taking pictures. I smiled at her and shrugged my shoulders. She was going to be working the feed zone later on. Now she just had to work for our Cat 3 guys. We motored on and a few miles later we came around a bend and WTF!! We saw the flashing lights of the cars following our race. We looked at each other and James said that if we worked hard for 7 to 10 minutes we could hood back on. This was not going to be easy but here we go!! We gave it all we had and somehow we managed to catch back on. It took us about 10 miles of work to get there. Matches were burned but we were back in the race!! It was nice to just settle in and do nothing for a while. We still had about 15 miles to go until the climb up to the feed zone. I'm sure Denise told the crew that I was off the back. I was hoping they would spot me and be ready.

We hit the climb and I was feeling pretty good. I managed stay mid pack all the way up. I'm sure the feed zone crew was surprised to see. Denise jumped into the crowd and gave me my musette bag and and off I went. I had just grabbed a water bottle out when I looked up and saw an empty bag flying in the air right towards me. What the hell!! I'm laughing as I'm writing this but it was not funny at the time....unless you happened to be watching. The bag bounced off my chest, dropped down and wedged itself between my front wheel and brake. I thought it would just bounce out but it didn't. I reached down to pull it out but when I did my bag moved off my back, swung around and started bouncing off my front wheel. This just went from bad to shitty!! I went into panic mode. I had only fished out one bottle but decided that I had to get this thing off me before I could grab the other back. It may have bee qucker to just stop and deal with it but..... I removed my bag I was then quickly able to get the other one out of my wheel without stopping. I had been focusing on this so much that I didn't realized how much I'd slowed down. I looked up and noticed I was dangling off the back...Again! I thought we were heading downhill right away but that wasn't the case. We rapped around the Nuke site first. Great!! Now I've been dropped for the 2nd time in one day. I only had so many matches to burn but I gave it what I had to try to catch on. Ian(KR), who was working on a podium spot in the GC, flatted at the base of the climb. His teammate Karl went back to help him out. A few minutes later Ian was on my wheel and we caught a few more guys . I hung on for a bit, but finally fell of the back. Now I had no one to work with. I was done. I started to soft pedal when all of a sudden here comes Karl. I thought he had abandoned the race after helping Ian. I told him I didn't think I could do this for 5o+ more miles. He convinced me to work with him and pretty soon we were trading pulls and moving down the road. A few minutes later we caught Kevin(Garage) and he started working with us. I was actually feeling pretty good so we just kept motoring. A few minutes later we saw something going on up ahead. Two of follow cars were stopped in the middle of the road. I thought it was a crash but it turned out that Colin(HB) who was sitting 2nd in the GC had a mechanical. One of his teammates had dropped back to help but I guess there was nothing he could do. Colin had to abandon the race. His teammate caught up to us and lets just say the four of us made it back to the pack!! I was back in the race...AGAIN!! We still had a couple of climbs left but the farther we went in the race the better I felt. I settled back in and refueled. We still had 20+ miles to go. We reached the next climb and I was ready to go. I went to shift down and I dropped my f'ing chain. WTF was going on today?! I don't think I've ever had this much bad luck in a race! I jumped off the bike and a guy from one of our trailing cars there really fast to help me. We got things situated and he gave me a good push to get moving up the hill. I was now off the back of the pack for the third time today. This was definitely a new experience for me. I pushed hard up the hill and wasn't losing anymore time. Maybe I could catch back on again??? I was flying down the hill when I noticed there were other guys having mechanicals. I think there were three guys with flats. Most of them were already moving up the road before I reached them. I passed Brian(Garage) as he was getting under way. I slowed a bit but when he came buy I could tell he had way better legs then I did and I was not going to be able to help him get back. I was racing now on my own for the first time in my career. It totally sucked. I was still feeling pretty good started time trialing down the road as hard as I could. Before I knew it I was catching other guys that had fallen off. Right when we got to the final climb up Michigan Hill Rd I caught Greg(Farestart) who I had worked with to get back earlier in the day. He was having issues with his knee. He told me to keep going but when we crested he was with me so we started working together again. I guess that was the hill that blew up the field and I'm assuming that even if I wouldn't have dropped my chain on the last climb I probably would have cracked on this one. We caught Greg's teammate Brad and he told me to just keep going. Greg decided to hang with Brad and I was on my own again. I went as hard as I could for the last 5K to the finish. It was the craziest day I'd ever had on the bike. 90 tough miles in 3:44. I was done.

Three days,4 stages, 207 miles in 8+hours. I ended up 30th in the GC in my first ever Pro/1/2 stage race. I was really happy....tired, but happy.

photos by: Denise Phillips &
David Longdon
Velocity: The Seattle Area Cycling Blog

1 comment:

  1. Nice job Sean! It has been a long time since I have had to chase back on that many times and I honestly wonder if I would be able to do it like you were able to. Great work.