Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Team Akron Covered Bridge Race 1 - 2004

March 28, 2004

This was the first race of the four race Team Akron Covered Bridge series. Covered bridge because the tightest turn is at a covered bridge, not because the race crosses a bridge. This is a crit race with some rolling hills in it. It started near Hale Farm near Peninsula.

The race consisted of 5 laps of about 5.5 miles, with some technical turns on one decent. Including one that was about 150* near the covered bridge. The course was made more technical by the pot holes. There was a prime at the end of lap 2. The weather was beautiful. I was able to just ride with arm and knee warmers, and I was ready to shed them at the end of the 3rd lap.


As the first race of the year approaches, I decide it's time to do the bike overhaul. The weekend before the race, I tore everything down, and did the FrameSaver treatment. I had some DA 9 speed levers and a new cassette, so when I re-cabled, I did the upgrade to 9 speed. I got the bike back together on Thursday, with the intent on riding it Friday and Saturday to shake out the mechanicals before race day. Rain and a hard Thursday killed the Friday ride, so Saturday morning I did the test ride on wet roads. As I was getting ready to go I noticed my left pedal was extremely stiff. Poking it a bit, I found the bearings were shot... better to find it before I went out than have something bad happen on the road. Saturday I rode mountain pedals. Saturday afternoon I purchased a set of Speedplay pedals.

Bottom line... I was pretty much riding a new bike for the race. Speedplay pedals have a ton of float. Much more than I had before with my SPD pedals. But, first race of the year, it can only get better from here.

The Race

So the race started wicked fast. There were about 60 riders in the B race (cat 4-5). I was nervous because I was pretty far back, and it looked like the front was forever far away. I was afraid something would go up the road, and I'd never see the front again. It took about the first full lap for me to settle down and start to move to a better (more comfortable) position. Besides the squirrelly riders... crazy stuff the first race of the season. Turns out I had lots of riding buddies in the group, one guy just told me relax and work my way up slowly... so that's what I was working on doing. I was also closing any gaps that opened within a couple of guys in front of me. I was really nervous about getting gapped that early.

Knowing people at the race was really helpful. Though there were a lot of people to watch. One of the guys I ride with in the Shaker group, Dan, won the Westlake points series last year. Super nice guy, and has a wicked sprint. Plus he just knows how to position himself well. So he was the main guy I tried to shadow... when I could find him. I was watching other people I knew also, but I knew Dan's potential to win, so I figured his wheel could be helpful.

Bell at the end of the first lap indicating the prime, so I want to use the lap to see if I can get into position for a shot at something. Plus I was really afraid that a group would go off the prime lap. It's a favorite trick at the Westlake crits. At the last turn I started to move up on the outside of the road. It was pretty cool, sitting at about 20 when they front started to wind up. I probably ended up about 20th on the prime also... From then on I just worked on staying out of the wind, and near the front. I probably did good to stay in the top 20 or so, since I wasn't as worried about someone letting a gap go.. and then having to close it up.

The really good news for me was Dan took 2nd on the prime. That just told me his condition was good, so I should be close to him for the finish.

It was pretty uneventful for me after the prime. At the end of the third lap, one guy at the front came out of his pedal going over the hills. I guess he hit a hole wrong. He managed to stay up, but bumped another guy off the road. I don't think anyone went down. Just a nasty bang, some yelling, and a huge adrenalin rush for about half the group.

As we came in for the final, I kept my eye on Dan. Always looking for his seat stays.

The group wound up at the school parking lot about 1K out. Pretty far from the finish, but it managed to string it out a little. I ended up on the outside of the road near the shoulder. At one point the group started coming over almost pinching me off the road. I was hollering to the guy squeezing me, and eventually he eased back over. He apologized as I went by, saying he was being pressed also. No harm, no foul in my book. Just some minor scares on the ditch side of the road, though I'm more comfortable coming up there than thinking about crossing the yellow.

At about 500 meters the group over took a couple of slow riders puttering along the edge of the road. I think the final group was between 30 and 50 riders (OK now I hear it was 25), so it was across most of the road. I was coming up from that edge still also, but managed OK. May have given them a good scare though.

At about 100 meters, I started to count my position... I was still picking up places, but I wanted to know where I was. I ended up about 8th, which I'm really happy with. My goal for the day was a top 10, but that before I knew there would be so many riders there.


The only regret I've got is I spent too much time counting where I was. I should have put my head down and gone all out... but I didn't even realize I was doing it until I crossed the line. I don't think I could have picked off first, but I may have gotten another pace or two. Oh well, they're all learning experiences.

Dan ended up winning the race, so I did pick a good wheel to follow, another Shaker riding buddy came in at 12th.

Here's an interesting observation... I have no idea how the group was going behind me. There could have been 2 or 200 riders back there, but I was always only concerned about the guys in front, or right beside me. I have no idea if the group split, or if people were just shed off as the race went on. I also have no real idea how big the main group was at the finish.

After the race Dan, Scott, Brett Davis, another guy I don't know and myself pacelined back to the finish to catch the A sprint. A group of 6-8 broke from the group before the final lap and held off the field by more than a minute (maybe 2 minutes) at the finish.

I forgot to bring my hrm transmitter. So I am without HRM data... I'm really disappointed in that. It would be nice to know what I finished at, if I had more in the tank that I didn't use. It sure felt like it. I also would be interested in lap times and general race pace output. Maybe next time.

I did another lap after the A's finish and toodled around a bit. I had about 27.5 miles for the race. After adding the 11 miles of extra laps, I had an average of 20.8. I've heard the race average was about 23.7.

Serendipity moment of the day came during the fourth lap on the Riverview stretch. At some point in the second lap of the A race, this M&M rider popped off. We picked him up before the prime, and I felt like he was blocking me in until I got around him when we wound out the sprint. We made it through the hills and as we made the turn on the backside, I see him left of center, as someone calls out "Your pedal is off!". I looked down as the guy puts the pedal back on his spindle (it was still attached to his shoe). He was riding the same Ritchey Pro Logic Road pedals that I had just replaced. It made me very glad I was riding Speedplays at the moment. Even if I was upset about having to spend the money on Saturday.