A good friend used to say, "Bike racing is a simple game. You just get on the bike and pedal. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains and.......... sometimes you have a shit load of frikin' mechanicals! Think about that for a while?"
OK, I stole the guts of that quote from Bull Durham but it pretty much sums up my weekend at the MoE Stage Race.
I decided to race in the Masters 1/2 field and the team showed up Saturday morning with high hopes. Everyone had been riding super strong in races leading up to this weekend and we have a couple of guys who can really throw down in time trials. The goal for the weekend (as is with any team) was to finish the weekend with someone on the podium in the GC. We thought we were going to have a great weather weekend for racing but as we got closer to race day the forecast started to change. It looked like we could get rain for the road race on Sunday but as long as it stayed dry for the crit Saturday night I didn't care.
Stage 1 - Time Trial:
10K point to point course that is basically flat.
I'm not usually at the top of the list after a time trial but I usually finish in the top third of the field. Last year we had a staging SNAFU and I, along with a handful of others got cheated out of 30 seconds. That is a big deal in a short course like this. I was sure that wouldn't be an issue this year. The weather was incredible and I got in a really good warm up on the trainer before taking the rig out on the road to make sure everything was good to go. I made my way to the staging area and got ready to go. Off I went! I jumped out of the saddle and got up to speed. All of a sudden I heard a loud rubbing sound coming from the back end. Before I got in my aero position I reached back and completely released the brake. That didn't help. I got in position and just started pedaling. I soon became obsessed with the noise. I was so engulfed in trying to figure it out that I completely blew through turn one. I heard a bunch of yelling and when I snapped back into reality I quickly turned and got back on course. I probably only lost 10 seconds or so but a few seconds later I was passed by the guy that started 30 seconds back. How did he catch me so fast? Back on course and I finally couldn't take it anymore and decided I needed to dismount and try to fix the problem, which wasn't easy when in full panic mode. I have horizontal track style dropouts on my BMC TT bike and somehow the torque deployed at the start of the race caused the wheel to shift and it had became jammed against serious time. I jumped back on, got back up to speed and it felt like I was doing 100MPH. I started catching back up to my 30 second guy and was feeling good. All of a sudden it slammed back over and even though I was doing the same effort I was not moving. I had already lost and I couldn't decide if I should stop again or just press on. I decided to press on. There goes my one minute guy, 1.5 minute guy and finally, just before the finish, I was passed by the rider that started two minutes behind me. I didn't even try to sprint to the finish. As soon as I crossed the line I jumped off the bike and gave the rear wheel a spin. It didn't even move. One of the officials asked me if I rode the whole race like that. "Yeah, except for about 300 meters!" Someone offered me a ride back to the start area and I took it. I never had an issue with my TT bike and I'd love to hear from others who have horizontal dropouts if they have had issues like that before. To give you a perspective on how bad it was, I only averaged 22.9 MPH this year and last year I averaged 29MPH. I finished three minutes slower. NOT fun!!
I didn't stick around to talk to fiends and teammates. I just packed up the RV and headed into town. I soon found out that I indeed was sitting DFL in GC. Wow! On a good note, my teammate Alex finished in third and Morgan 5th. Oddly enough I was not that upset. Sometimes shit happens that is out of your control and there is nothing you can do about it. I think that if I would have finished mid pack I would have been more pissed.
I grabbed lunch with some friends and headed over to watch some of the early crits. Clouds were starting to head in but it looked like we might have a dry crit for a change......Fingers crossed.
Stage II - Downtown Crit:
.92 mile figure-eight course in the heart of downtown Enumclaw.
I actually like this course.......when it is dry. I finished 5th last year and I really needed a pick-me-up after the bad luck morning I had. I figured I'd still be in DFL after this stage since no one really loses time in the crit. The big issue we had was that Alex was sitting third in GC but by only 2/10 of a second over Jeff Dunn (KR). We were only going for 30 minutes which I think is way too short for a crit so things were going to happen fast. We were probably going to average about one prime for every two laps. Mixed in with the merchandise primes there were going to be several time bonus primes and we really needed to stay focused for those. If Jeff went for any of them we needed to make sure Alex finished at least one place in front of him. The gun sounded, Erik took off in front of us in a brand new, bright red, convertible corvette.
After turn two I decided to take a dig off the front to get things going. I stayed out front for a couple of laps before dropping back to let someone else do some work. After a couple of merchandise prime we finally heard the call for a two deep time bonus prime. I looked around and saw that Jeff was right next to me. A second later Tom came up fast with Alex in tow. Alex took off and got the jump on Jeff. I soon realized that Jeff was probably going to get 2nd so I jumped hard(a little too late) and tried to get him at the line.
He stayed out for a while this time and it allowed us to keep an eye on Jeff. After Tom was brought back a couple of guys jumped and I worked to help bring them back. I was a little gassed and when the pack caught up I slipped back further than I wanted. With only a few laps to go the field started to get wound up for the finish sprint and I knew that if I wanted to finish well I needed to be up front for the last sharp left turn that leads to the finish. It took the full two laps of pain to work my way back to the front. As we made our way through the final two turns I was right where I wanted to be and was hoping that Alex was right on my wheel. All of a sudden someone (I'll keep him nameless) shot in hard from the outside and cut my wheel. Winning a crit over crashing out is NOT something I am going to do so I tapped the brakes to avoid going into the curb. I lost a couple of spots but was still able to sprint it out and grab 9th. It made up for the mess of a TT I had. Alex finished right behind me and both he and Morgan kept their spots in GC. Time for a beer....or three and some grub. After hanging out with Denise and some friends I didn't get home until 11:45PM. Thank goodness I wasn't racing until 1:00PM on Sunday.
I woke up Sunday morning and looked out the window. It looked like it could rain any second......Wait for it....Wait for it.....BAM, full on downpour. I didn't actually care since I knew the penalty for selling my soul for good weather for the crit meant that we would have to have rain for the road race. Oh, did I mention I was still DFL on the GC! No one was going to pay a damn bit of attention to me. I probably could have free reign to do anything I wanted. I arrived back in RainingClaw and got the team tent setup. As soon as we were all there we met to discuss the day's tactics. Many options were thrown out but it was finally decided that Tom and I would stay with Alex all day and make sure we could get him though any situation that might arise. If he had a flat we would drop back to haul him back to the pack. If Jeff or anyone that could steal a podium spot shot up the road we would chase them down. Basically anything to either keep is 3rd place spot or move him up. Morgan who was in fifth had the option of going up the road if it was the right situation. If he could get away and move up the ladder that would be good as well. Kevin could also attack or go with attacks and hopefully it could make GC guys with no teammates have to work to chase him down. We had a plan and now it was time to work as a team to execute it.
Stage III - Road Race:
The course is about 15 mile loop that starts and ends in downtown Enumclaw. It starts off flat through the farm roads before the big 3K climb up Mud Mt. Dam Rd. After a long false flat section at the top there is a long downhill section back into town. Easy...right?
Kenny Williams was sitting 1st overall with Todd Gallaher only 15 seconds back.
All Kenny needed to do was watch Todd. We mainly needed to watch Jeff Dunn and Aaron Levin but there were a few others that could steel a podium spot if they got up the road. I knew guys that were down on GC that had nothing to lose would try to shoot off the front early and that is exactly what happened. Ryan Pearlman was the first to go and we just let him. After a while someone else shot off the front to bridge. Then another. Todd finally couldn't take it and started the chase. When he went, everyone got on his wheel. He got mad that no one was helping him but......After more games Alex finally told me to get up front and ride tempo so the break didn't get too far away. I'm not sure if it was Matt Oseto who was already off the front (he eventually did get away) but after the climb I jumped to the front again and led us down the hill. I told Alex to just get in behind so he could save his energy.
As we started lap two I think Matt and Shane (Mighty Riders) were off the front. Both could get out a good distance before it would matter to the GC guys. We just kept things in check and as we started up the hill for the second time things were still looking good. That would end soon for me.
Just after taking the left turn onto the false flat section I moved back to the front to keep and eye on Jeff and Aaron. All of a sudden I heard that awful sound of a tire blowing. Who was the unlucky sap. I looked around and realized that unlucky sap was me. This was actually the best possible place (if there is one) to flat. I pulled over and the official car pulled up. They took their time getting out and grabbing a wheel. I started to panic. Then they just threw the tires on the ground and looked at me. They said that they were an officials car and not the actual wheel car and they weren't really allowed to help me. Changing a rear tire when you're in panic mode doesn't always go to well and it took longer than it should. And, because it was the race officials I had NO chance of getting a free tow back the field. The just took off and left me in the dust.
The rest of this write up is really about a one man race as I can't really comment on what was going on up the f'ing road. I quickly decided that I would go above my lactic threshold until I got to town and if I couldn't see the pack I was just going to just pack it in. As I flew down the hill I started to pick off riders that had been dropped on the climb. I worked in with several guys but when it was my turn to pull I kept dropping them so I forged on solo. It would have been nice to have help but I wasn't going to slow down for anyone. This happened three or four more times before we reached town. I was actually feeling pretty good (would have loved to have this as my TT) and was going at a pretty good clip. I was actually liking the rain. It was keeping me from overheating. I made it to the point on the course where I was going to make my go/no go decision. I looked up and there they were. I was burning matches at a high rate but this gave me some serious motivation. Even though I could see them I still had a lot of work to do to make contact. I caught up with another rider and really needed to take a breather so I actually traded pulls with him for a few minutes even though he wasn't going as hard as I wanted. A few minutes later I was back on my own. I looked down and I was doing 28 mph on the flats. Could I actually do this? I needed to catch them before the climb or I might not have the legs to get over on my own. I decided to dig really deep for a couple of minutes. I reached the point on the flats where there are several turns. It was hard to judge where I was since I would lose track of them. The corner marshalls were great. They all told me I was almost there so I kept pounding. I was running out of time though so I kept pushing the pace. Just as we reached the woods (about 2K from the climb) I made contact. I was elated. The guys in the wheel car couldn't believe I made it back...Neither did I for that matter. My plan was to just sit on the back, cruise up the climb and do no work until we reached the farm roads again. At that point I would move up and let the guys know I was back. I was going to be able to recover and keep helping my teammates. This felt good.......NOT!!!
We came around the last corner and started heading up the hill. Mother F$*K'n, Shit, Crap, Piss, Hell. Not two minutes into my personal victory my front went flat. Really, Two F'ing flats in one race. I got a quick change and I was assured by the wheel car that I'd easily catch back on. I actually flew up the hill and started feeling good about it myself. I was just off the back and knew I could easily catch back on before the descent. The only problem was that someone must have attacked and they were flying on the false flat. I got in a big gear and started hammering again. I remember thinking to myself that there was no F'ing way I was going to do this again. I needed to catch them by the time they headed downhill. That didn't happen. I took the turn and they were out of sight. I decided to get in a tuck and push the effort all the way down. I took the turn back onto 410 and they were further up the road then I thought. Should I quit? I was ready to but then I caught Ian Balwin (HB) from the Pro/1/2 field. He also had tire issues and was trying to catch back on. We decided to work together. We rode hard, taking 30 or so second pulls. Once again it looked like we were going to make contact sometime before the climb. I was now in the hurt locker and was wondering why the hell I was doing this to myself. We kept going but when we finally made it to the climb I hadn't caught back on. I was on the last lap but Ian still had two to go. I wasn't sure of his plans but I told him I was done. Since I was on the far side of the course I decided I would finish the race. I sat up and thanked him and watched as he disappeared up the road. I was back to racing on my own. This time up the hill I rode a comfortable pace. I was actually still feeling OK but every ounce of motivation had left my body. I coasted down the hill and headed back to the finish.
I was actually amazed that I only finished five minutes back and moved up from being in last place on day one to 17th. Not a big accomplishment but I'll take what I can get after the effort I put in. The big news came when I found out the rest of the team was able to help Alex hold on to third in the GC. It was another great result for the team.
Oh, and to add insult to injury I changed and headed to the finish to pick up my wheels. They were no where to be found. I started to panic. Did someone take off with them? Even though I was tired and wanted to go home I wasn't going to leave with out them. It turned out the guy took off with the wheels still in the back of his rig. He finally returned with them. Now I can go home!
They say things happen in 3's so I guess with a major mechanical and two flats I should be good to go.
if you look at the performance tab of the road race you can see the two points where I flatted.
photos by denise phillips
last photo by Kevin Tu