Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Chippewa Creek - 2004

May 23, 2004

The Chippewa Creek road race is a well run circuit race. The course is closed to traffic in the race direction. The cool part about this race is it has some real topology with 400+ feet of climbing on a 4 mile loop. I was looking forward to this race, as I hoped it had less to do with tactics and more to do with ability. Of course, tactics make the race, they're just different in the climbing and descending.


I guess I could talk about another big training block during this week, including a heavy ride on Thursday night with Square Wheels. My intent after that ride, was to take an easy commute ride on Friday, unfortunately I got caught in the worst thunder storm of the year on the way home, so that became a 7 mile time trial to beat the storm. I lost, got drenched, and still put in way to much effort to get home.

I've been looking forward to this race for a while. Geoff is targeting the cat 5 for the win, and that gives me hope for my cat 4 race. We drove out to the course on Saturday for some preriding. The storm left debris everywhere. Leaves, sticks and even tree parts at one point. We were both concerned about the course conditions for the race. We did 2 loops, to check out both the decent and the climbs. Then rode another little climb to the park entrance and called it a day. I didn't feel great on the climb, but hoped to mostly rest on Saturday, aside from some work on the yard. That didn't quite work out, but it was the plan.

The course rises through some rollers along rt 21, mostly decends along 82, then climbs up to a false flat through the start/finish line. The climb is very similar to the Euclid Creek climb. It has the ramp at the bottom, it's not quite as steep, but is has a similar length and elevation from the start of the climb to the park exit.

The only complaint I heard about the race is the start time. The Cat 5 race starts at 7:00, so to get any warmup, you really need to get there at 6:00. Cat 4's started at 8:30, so I was planning on a 6:30-7:00 arrival.

The Race

Cat 5 and Womens race

I arrived at about 6:45 and got signed in, and ready to go. My plan was to watch the 4's and Women's race start and do a warm up loop. Then spectate a bit, chat with the other 4's to get info, and spinning around to get ready to go.

I knew a few of the 5's and 1 of the women in the field. I ended up catching the starts and hollering for the people I knew, then tooled around the lot looking for some warmup partners. I guess I need more warmup time than some, cause no one was really ready.

Caught the end of the first lap, with Geoff sitting on the front, so it looked like his plan was working well. I took off for my loop between the mens and womens fields.

They did a great job of cleaning the course up. There wasn't anything I could see except for damp roads from the evening rains. I did notice my rear wheel slipping on the tar sealing cracks on the climbs, and made a note to stay away from the right edge of the road while climbing.

Back at the top, I caught the women coming through at the end of lap 3. I rode next to Anna for a few hundred meters giving her encouragement, then waited for the 5's. I caught them at the end of lap 4. Geoff was still at the front, but looked to be breathing hard from the work on the climb. It turns out he was climbing in the 21 because he couldn't get into his 23.

More spinning, and I missed the finish of both races. Geoff ended up 4th overall. Extremely good considering his gearing. They did split the 5's by age grouping under 35 and over 35. I'm not sure where he ended up there. Anna finished the entire course, which is a great finish. She was the only cat 5/citizen in a field of 1 through 4's.

After the 5's race, I rode a bit with Geoff and got a run down on his view of the course. When to consider the 39, when to shift into the big ring. Any tidbit of info I could use, and I did use it.

Cat 4

I lined up with a guy I met through Square Wheels. His plan was to lead into the climb, so he could stay with the group for as long as possible. Lead in, and fade on the climb, then work his way back up through the lap. My plan was to survive, and stay with the lead group. Talking with a Lake Effect guy before the race, I described myself as being a reasonable climber and reasonable power rider. Pretty much OK at everything.

Through lap 1, I felt pretty good. It was interesting how the group compacted even on the little rollers on the back side. I was braking more than I wanted. I'm also very concerned about little gaps opening. I'd push to close, then the group would slow... and I'd be thinking about wasted energy. On the decent also, I expected to have people letting it go, but I was feathering the brakes, to maintain a small gap between myself and the next guy. Through the first climb, and I stayed about 10th wheel.

OK, 6 more, and I'd be fine. The second lap was pretty much carbon copy of the first. I'm comfortable, though pushing through some gaps. It's OK. up the second climb and around the for the third lap. Our average speed was 21.6 through the first 2. I think our pace picked up a bit here, as I noticed more guys struggling, including myself. Relax... nice and easy, save it for the climb.

Down the 3rd decent, I noticed Todd Bolgrin from Snake Bite sitting in the nice point at the sharp end of the pack. I marked him for the day then wondering if Snake Bite was going to try to spring him for the win. Third time up the hill, Brett Davis (Snake Bite) goes off the front, and leads up the climb. At the steep section of the climb, he shoots straight through the middle of the pack, and out the back. I made a "lead and fade" comment as I went by him. It was interesting to watch how the group flowed around him.

I'm not 100% sure what happened next. We crested the hill, and hit the false flat, and I noticed a small gap opening in front. I don't know if I got caught behind someone, of if they just accelerated away, but I knew I had to close it up. I heard Geoff coaching from sides "Close the gap". And that's what I tried to do, but it wasn't closing and I was blowing, and there was no one behind me to help. Not good. Brett recovered and made my wheel at the first turn, and we both tried to close, with no luck. We were not working together very well, probably because we were trying to figure out the next step of the race. I think we both were panicing a bit also. On the decent, we both gave it up when we couldn't see them, knowing that even if we did catch, they'd just blow us off on the climb again. All alone up the climb.

I followed Brett up the climb, and noticed a huge gear. I was looking for a 25 then, and he says he's running a 27. At the top of the hill, I suggest just trading pulls. He says he's thinking of sitting up and waiting for the group to come around. No Way! I off on my own. I made a time trial comment to Geoff as I go around, and find out the Square Wheels guy at the front, has punctured out.

I make it about half way around, and I keep hearing Brett behind me. He might not have been sitting on, but he's not far back. Then he tells me 2 more are gain. So I sat up a bit and let Brett work the front, while an Orrville, and an AGR rider pull up. It's the same Orrville guy I chased with at the second Covered Bridge race Once they connected, I organized us into a nice 4 man rotating pace line. Good thing I rode with Square Wheels on Thursday night, cause I applied everything I learned to get the chase going. These guys knew how to do it, once I said what we'd do, and we were off.

The AGR guy took the lead down the decent, with me next, and he dropped like a rock. I did tap the brakes once, but was pretty happy with were I was. Then I came around and pulled into the corner and up the hill. Every man for himself going up, with the intent of regrouping at the top. Orrville and I at the front, Brett and AGR somewhere behind. We crested, regrouped and started working again. Orrville dropped off somewhere, and then there were three. We picked up Chris from Lake effect and a leech he had on his wheel, and tried to get them to join up. They each took a pull or two, then dropped off alone somewhere. I told AGR I wanted him on the front for the decent, and we played the same game through the climb. This time, I was on my own.

Click to enlarge (Thanks for the pic, Don)

Regrouped at the top again, and started the last lap. We're still working well together, but the games are starting... and I didn't see it. On the back side, Brett didn't pull through before the decent. AGR pushed to the front to decend, and I again was tapping the brakes. I guess I should have just hammered it instead.

We hit the bottom of the climb, and AGR popped off. I looked through and Brett was on my wheel. There was a couple of guys ahead on the climb, so my goal was to catch one of them. Then Brett laid down a big attack. Again, I probably should have just buried myself here. He got about 50 meters before the top, so I was chasing hard from there. He was also gaging his effort by where I was. Neither of us caught the guy ahead, and Brett got me by that distance. Half in jest, I cussed him out, saying I worked my butt off for him, he could have given me the place.


Turns out I was right about Bolgrin. It ended in a sprint between him and the Time Trial champion that I've raced with at RATL. We were about 4 minutes down, if the time keepers were accurate.

I was 20/38 with about 10 non-finishers. 1:20 and some change over 28.3 miles for an average of 21.3 mph. Not bad, but I'm still pretty disappointed. I really think I could have done much better, if I wasn't so stupid in my week preparation. Too many miles, especially with Square Wheels, too much work on my Storage Barn, not enough recovery. I guess I need more down time right before an event. Better to learn it now, than when I get to the A events. The worst part is I seem to do this pretty regularly, the good thing, is I tend to get into nice chase groups that give me practice at other skills.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Race At the Lake 4 - 2004

May 8, 2004

This was my second RATL put on by the Summit FreeWheelers club. The first one was a little crazy, but I was hoping people had settled down and figured out how to race this thing.

I had some plans going into the race. Last time I was told to approach the second last turn on the outside. That would then force you onto the inside for the final turn, then if you held position through the finish, you'd be outside, then inside through each of the next two 90* turns. I'd been thinking about that setup, and decided to try the other way. That would put me on the outside heading into the finish, which I hoped would let me carry more speed into the final straight. I'd also been doing some cadence work for the final sprint, getting up to 130 rpm, so I wanted to try that out too.


The weather was nice, sunny and around 60-65 degrees. I arrived at 8:00 for a 9:40 start. I had time to take a few warm up laps before the cat 5 race, and did some nice efforts. I also rode around and did the normal chatting before the start.

I hooked up with Chaos again for some road warm ups during the cat 5 race. Then I did some spins around the course before we got called up.

The Race - Craziness...

You'd think with an hour and a half to get ready, I would be all set at the start. I don't know if I was too busy socializing or what, but I was a mess at the start. The course is so short, there is no sense in carry a tool bag... I realized mine was still on at some point during the race. I like to reset my computer before the start and set it to show average speed. I also want to setup the HRM so I can't see the numbers... what I don't know, won't play with my mind. I did that on the back stretch before the first hill of the race... argh!

So we're racing! And I eventually realized it sometime in the middle of the first lap. I managed to get close to the front, around 10th wheel or so, which I'm hoping will be safer than where I was last time, and around we go.

49 racers, and there were a lot of teams again. Summit had a big group out, maybe 10 riders. Chaos had 4, Snakebite had 4, Orrville had 3 or 4, Stark Velo had 2, Lake Effect had 3. Then there were the assorted riders attached and unattached.

I'm pretty happy with my setups for the corners, and am liking the lines through the finish. Taking the outside line into the finish line sets me up nicely for the outside into the back straight. Maybe it's all in my head, but I felt like I could carry more speed, so have to chase back on with a bit less effort.

I'm counting the laps... and feeling pretty good. Fourth lap, up over the rise and down to the corners... and I hear the crash, right on my wheel. I didn't see anything, I just heard a shout, the bump, and the yell and scrapping of bikes going down. What a nasty sound. I looked over my shoulder and saw Dan Guggenheim off the the left. He says "That happens every time, that guy is so squirrelly."

With the laps being so short, we came around before anything had really been straightened up. One guy was laying on his back... pretty bloody face, and two other guys were getting up and moving. Next lap around, the bloody guy still isn't moving. This doesn't look good. It's John Reade from Honey-Stinger. I was just introduced to this guy at the start. I knew him from 'cross racing, and he placed himself well in the covered bridge race before the lead guys let him blow himself up.

Some where in here, I hit my pedal on the pavement while pedaling through the outside of the final turn... woah, just what I need... send myself to the pavement while they're working on the other guy. I stayed up fine, I thought the clearance would be fine with Speedplays.

Next lap around, the official is heading to the accident, and calls for the race to neutralize. So everyone sits up. We start just riding the course real easy. Everyone is trying to figure out what happened. They called in the EMT's and loaded the guy up. In the mean time, we've done about 9 or 10 laps at an easy pace. Well, most of us have. Dan got a flat around the second or third parade lap, and pulled off to change it. A lot of guys just pulled off to wait, or get water or whatever. I just turned it into a Sunday morning group ride until they figured out what to do next.

Once the ambulance had left and the official had filled out all the park accident report paperwork, we were ready to get back to the race. Well, some of us were ready.

They restarted us with 5 laps to go. Since we hadn't done any primes yet, they threw them into the final. The finish would go 10 deep with all the prizes divided from there.

A cautionary word, and we're off again. 5 laps, and boy were they crazy. I wanted to get to the same position I was in before the wreck, but that was about impossible. Everyone wanted the same thing. It was like a 5 lap sprint.

At one point, coming down the back hill, I though I was going to get into the second wreck at the same location. A PVR rider wanted the outside line at the corner, and effectively just pushed over. Another guy and I were both screaming at him.

Setting up for the hill on the final lap, I got pinched out of position, I hit the brakes as one guy just came over into my space... I probably lost 5-7 positions there. Then on the hill, I saw the same thing happen to Scott from Chaos, only he held his space. With some leaning they all managed OK. Pretty much pinball on bikes.

I ended up setting up the way I wanted into the final, and pulled a decent sprint, but I started from too far back. I picked up 5 places in the last straight, but I still ended up probably around 20th or so. You need to be in the top 5 into the last 2 turns in order to be there at the finish... and I was nowhere near there.


Since I screwed up the start, I'm not sure about the stats. I know I did one extra lap and even with the neutral stuff, I ended up with an average speed of 20.5 mph.

What a crazy race. I don't know why these races are this nuts, but I've got some theories. I don't think the course is selective enough, though it is harder than Westlake. As the group sets up for the the hill, the pace stalls. This causes everyone to bunch up. Guys coming up from the back, swing to the outside, and pinch everyone in. Then once over the hill, guy at the back, chase to get into a decent position for the turns, and then the final.

I think that's what caused the wreck. One or two guys were trying to come up around the group to setup for the inside corner (the same one I wanted), when bikes bumped. John somehow got his bars tangled with another guy, and hit the pavement hard. He knocked out a couple of teeth, and has some pretty bad facial road rash. The other two guys walked away from the crash, I still don't know exactly what caused it. I've got no real word on how's he's doing yet. Though I'm checking into it.

I know crits are the backbone of American biking racing. I just like something a little more selective. More hills, or fewer turns... or a combination of both. This race was REALLY crazy, I had thought the front would be a bit safer, but not according to the StarkVelo guys

Rick Parr and Mike Gorman raced in the cat. 4 field at RATL. A bad crash reportedly neutralized the race with 4 laps remaining. When the race resumed, Rick and Mike were working well near the front on the final lap. But an altercation with another rider in the fight for position cost the duo a shot at the field sprint.

Mike Gorman was the Cat4 road race champion last year and he took 2nd in the 'cross series.. He was at the front the whole race. Some Lake Effect guy got first, and Dan from Chaos got second. The rest of the results should be posted soon... http://www.summitfreewheelers.org/ratl_frame.html.

I don't mind Westlake Crits, but the RATL are really crazy. I think they need a strong team or 2 to take control of the race. Someone to push the pace through the hill to make it selective. That should cut down the traffic bumping, and dissuade guys from chasing up on the descents... for what my opinion is. I'm hoping that next year, I'll either be confident (strong) enough to stay at the front, or I'll just try to jump into the Masters race. The guys that race Masters are cat 2-4, and some guys race both races. It's a thought.