Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fall Challenge Road Race - 2005

Summit Freewheelers

September 25, 2005

This is it.... the last road race of the season. This being one of my first road races, it's the only race I've done three years running. In 2003 I raced on Saturday before the challenge on Sunday, and popped off the group on the first climb up Quick road. In 2004, I did much better coming in fourth. So hopes were high with a strong team this year, I could crack the elusive podium...

The weather looked reasonable with 70 degrees and overcast skies. Discussion at the start about the chance of rain. The high cloud deck had me convinced we could get the 41 miles in before the rains came though.

The course is rolling with a long descent into the Cuyahoga River Valley on Wetmore road, and the only significant climb right as we turn onto Quick road. The B race was doing 5 laps for about 41 miles.

A huge B field this time around. In fact so large, the first scare of the day came as 2 of my teammates were nearly closed out of registration. A quick check with the official, and we were clear to race all 6 of the SnakeBite contingient. Brett, Jeff, Tom, Jason, Brian and myself were representing the blue team today in a field estimated to be between 52 and 58. StarkVelo, Trizilla, PDQ and Summit also had numbers, so it looked like the team game may play out today. There were also a bunch of smaller teams and single guys... including Phil Hines from Team Hollyloft... and a frequent antagonist of my writings. The guy comes in for Cleveland races from Sharon, PA.

Before the race, Brett was again suggesting an attacking strategy. With 6 riders in the field and the last two running of the B field ending in a sprint finish, we hoped to force the pace a bit at the beginning, then maybe spring someone for a break to win. If not, we wanted to setup a nice sprint train to deliver a few to the front for the finish.

The Race

Lap 1:

At the start Brett threatens the "go as soon as you're clipped in" move again. We all laugh, not with the way my legs felt during the 2 mile warmup I've had... fortunately Brett has had less, and he pulls onto the front to start us off. I get "comfortable" sitting about 20 people back as Brett winds it up. I think he's trying to reduce the size of the field single handed. OK by me, that'll give me some time to loosen up some.

As we enter the turn off of Steels Corners for the first time, I think we caught the marshal a bit off guard. That turn jumped up at me before I knew it. Crazy stuff as we all try to figure out how this is going to go. Brett does a long turn at the front, through about half the backside, then starts waving others to take over... no takers, until Jason goes by me. I jumped on his wheel, and the two of us take it down the hill. I took over from Jason about half way down, then a Summit guy gets in front of me on the final approach to River. At the bottom, Doug from Summit offers some "advice" about the tar getting slick if there's any dampness today. I don't think many liked the way we descended that hill.

Making the turn onto Quick road, we hit the first climb of the day... come on legs, I've got to loosen up or I'm going to be off the back before this thing is over.

Quick road is pretty interesting. There is the steep climb, followed by a false flat. The road then crests for a flat section, then you hit some rollers about 3 miles from the finish. The last roller climbs to crest about 200-300 meters from the line. The last mile is a total mess of pot holes. You either want to be on the outside on the yellow line, or on the inside near the edge. First time through I'm on the inside. As the group hits the first roller, it stalls, and I'm forced onto the gravel on the edge... a little cyclocross practice, but it takes me up into the group. I'm sitting in about half way back as we make the first approach to the start finish. Brett is planning the finish already, where do we need to start to string this out and do something good?

I actually hit the lap button as we cross the line: Lap time 21:04 for an average close to 23.1 mph.

Lap 2:

These may blend together. Mostly the field seemed to stay together here until we hit the climb on Quick road where a StarkVelo guy got a nice gap. The field basically sat back and watched. I was starting to feel better on the climb... not front of the field better, but I was coming around.

Time: 21:25:0 for an average of 22.7 mph.

Lap 3:

The Stark guy held the field off pretty much through the lap. As we climbed Quick road again, Brett was talking to another Stark rider, asking if he could hold it for the rest of the race... mmmm I don't think so. He was impressive though. At the top of the climb, it was pretty obvious he was coming back.

Third time coming in, Brett is talking about tactics with Tom. I'm on his wheel. Looking around, we've still got everyone in the field, even though it looks like the field is down in the 30's now. We decide we want to be near the front at the top of the hill... then we can organize the train for the finish.

On the first two laps, I was thinking of helping out the team when possible. On the third lap I decided to try and watch two guys and see if I could just keep tabs on them, since I expected them to be in at the finish. Mehul from PDQ... I knew he could sprint, but wasn't sure of his climbing. The other guy was Phil Hines. At Blossom, Brett had put me on a man to man with Phil.... and I'd seen him jump away from the master's field at Valley City with three to five miles to go and hold them off for a second place. Phil was playing an interesting game. He'd sit at the back of the field... I mean total back with no one behind him for the whole lap. Then on the climb, he'd jump to the front and set the pace to the rollers. Then drop back through the field and repeat. I was reminded that he had done the same thing at Zoar... and almost jumped the field there for the win... he still ended up fourth there. Definitely someone to watch.

Time: 21.21.1 for an average of 22.8 mph.

Lap 4:

When we caught the StarkVelo rider, another break went. This time it was about 6 guys including Jason! The break looked good with just about every major team represented. We've got a free ride now, as we don't have to chase. Very nice! Brett and I drop back to conserve and talk the final tactics. I dropped back further to give Brain the story....and Phil is back there. I have a few words with him, he's really concerned about this break. I'm happy with it, cause I need the rest before the finish. I'd really like to do something good today.

Funny how fast the race face can change... at River road the break came back. Then another StarkVelo rider goes off the front before the climb and gets a nice gap. In the middle of the climb, a Trizilla rider jumps and joins him... easy as you please. The field watches them connect, and then they work together to the start finish.

Lap 5:

As we cross the start finish, someone calls out 30 seconds to the front two. 30 seconds... now I'm getting concerned. So much for the free ride. I'm near the front, a Trizilla and a StarkVelo rider are also up front... and no one cares. I start moving up... I may not have legs for the finish, but if we don't bring these guys back, it won't matter.

As I'm moving to the front, I hear a guy call the Summit riders to the front to start working to bring this back. Nothing against Summit, but I've never seen them work as a team before... inside, I don't expect to see many up here helping.

So, I start to pull. I look back, and Doug from Summit is there. OK, pull through. On his wheel is a Trizilla... nope, you are not welcome here. I fall in behind Doug. It looks like it's just the two of us. Doug pulls off, and I let him know it's just me and him right now. Brett shows up and takes us onto Steels Corners. As we make the turn, the field does it's roll, and a Trizilla guy tries to insert himself again. The three of us organize, and shut him out. We work well, and make the turn onto the back, again a Trizilla tries to muscle in, and I move him out of the working line.

Then Tom comes up to help, but it's tough to organize a smooth chase. We're all getting nervous, so we tend to pull a little to hard as we get to the front. Brett, Tom, Jason and I all end up doing our work... but it seems we're not getting much help from the other teams. Granted StarkVelo and Trizilla are now in the best seat in the house, they decide to let us do what we will... which doesn't seem to be making much of a dent. We can still see the break, but they do not seem to be getting much closer.

On the decent, it's Jason and I again... and I don't care about the turn at the bottom this time, we've got to bring those two back, and I know I've got the control to rail that turn. As I hit River, I open a gap to the field. Not huge, but they aren't on my wheel anymore. I see the two make the turn onto Quick, and I start counting... they are still 30 seconds up on me, and I've got about 10+ to the field. I decide I'm not going to sit up, because I'm sure they'll bring me back on the climb. I need the gap so I don't pop off the back before the top.

Sure enough, I hit the hill, and it's time to just survive.... and I'm not doing a very good job. Fortunately, it looks like the field is pulling the two back in also. I'm fading through the whole field when I see a split up ahead of me... uh oh. Not good. Then it opens more... there goes the race! And I'm back here! A couple of guys get to the front, and we start to work to bring it back... Damn if I didn't have to work so hard chasing... I wouldn't be here! Come on, we can bring this back. Then I'm pulling, and Summit Doug is behind me... giving encouragement. I have him pull through, and I sit on his wheel for a minute giving encouragement... and we're almost there... and I pull through... and we're back. with about 4 miles to the finish. I've got to recover! WHAT In about 4 miles! Not good!

Brett is there, also pretty peaked... fortunately the field is again slightly stalled. There are two guys up the road though. Are they still away? It turns out to be a different two, but it doesn't matter to me. I just want to get to the finish.

Then I see Phil make a move up the outside... and I don't think, I just jump onto his wheel. He pulls me all the way to the front of the pack, and pulls a gap. And I still haven't thought, I just went. Phil knows I'm here, and I think he wants me to pull through... just as we're coming into the rollers before the finish. THEN I started to think. 2 miles to the finish... Phil can do this... I'm sucking wind! I just said "I've got nothing left man... I can't help. You can make it but you've got to go now. I'll let you go!"

So he goes! Pulls by the front two before the top of the first roller. Now he just needs to hold off the field over the second rise and he's got it. I am move backwards to the field. I'm on the front, but not for long. We wind up a bit going down the roller, and again imake up some space at the bottom of the last rise... only to get swarmed before the top. Cresting the top I'm on Brett's wheel and let him know, but we're both spent... we both rolled through somewhere at the back of the main field. I'm over the top in time to see Phil raise his arms for the V though.


I didn't hit the computer button until after we'd done a mile at some very slow pace... but I got a 22.3 average for 42 miles. I figure it was much closer to 23 though considering how the first three laps went, and how slow I was on that last mile.

Turns out Jeff was in a position to help Tom out in the finish... not enough, though Tom did end up 8th. Jeff and Brian were behind Brett and I at the end though, and I'm not sure where Jason was. So, again the team worked hard for the race, though our results are a bit thin. Props to Tom for again working the race hard and still having enough left for a top 10.

I'm mixed on my performance. I'm glad that I was on the winning move. It seems I can see who to follow on the group rides, because I know the riders. But come the weekend, I don't have the right people to follow... this time, I was there. If I wouldn't have "thought", I may have been able to go further... probably not though. This time I followed the right move, but didn't have the legs to finish it. Lot's of excuses... "if only I hadn't..." whatever. I guess it's always better to have worked and have an effect on how the race plays out then to sit in all day saving it for the end, and still not get the V. It's a bit frustrating, but we came out to race... and race we did!

With the road season over, time to hang up the road wheels... or convert them because now it's time for Cyclocross... I've got an intro/shameless plug for the SBR Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge on October 16th. My first cross race will be the BioWheels UCI race at Harbin Park, Cincinatti on October 9th. So my first 'cross race of the year will be the biggest 'cross event I've attended... should be fun.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Chaos Blossom Cycling Challenge

September 11, 2005

Blossom... a 9/10th mile close circuit race. Unlike most races, this one is time based. The cat IV field was going to do 45 minutes plus 3 laps. The masters field would be 60 minutes plus 3 laps. Sounds like a cyclocross race.

About a month before the race Brett started talking about a plan to lap the cat IV field. Pretty audacious, if it could be done. I figured, if we couldn't get away, we could make it an extremely hard race. We started planning how it could be done. We figured get a large group of motors off the front, and drive it... we were planning on fielding 6 of our own, and bringing in anyone that would get across to us.


Since I raced with Chaos team last year, and I ride with some of these guys regularly, I offered to help out while I could hang around before my races. Since this seemed like cyclocross, I planned on racing both the cat IV and the masters races. It's only about 2 hours of racing, I can do that.

I arrived early, and rode around a bit. I did some traffic direction, then was given some warmup time. I hooked up with Phil Hines from PA, and we did a light spin around the roads near Blossom while the cat 5 field did it's work. I probably should have invited him into our plans... he's got a big motor. Oh well, hindsight.

I knew a lot of guys in the 5 field, including a couple of sleepers. These guys should have been either in the 4 or 1/2/3 fields but aren't licensed. I chatted with them before the start, and they were planning on lapping the field. I kept tabs on the race, and they never got away... that did not bode well for our plans. These guys are clearly stronger than the field, but couldn't do what we were planning to do to an evenly matched field.

So, we've got 4 in the IV field. Brett, Tom, Brian and myself. Brett's the boss, so he teams Tom and Brian together, then Brett and I. Brett and I will attack from the whistle. As soon as we're brought back, Brian and Tom will have a go. We'll keep it up until we get away, or it's obvious that it's not going to work. If we're not away at the finish, we're supposed to try to save something, and we'll get a train working to get someone the win. We'll worry about the Master's race when the time comes.

Looking around, there are a bunch of StarkVelo and Summit Freewheelers. Orrville also has some numbers. Let's see if they want to join the fun!

The Race

Cat IV

Brett and I line up on the line, Tom and Brian are close behind. The instruction was Brett and I would go as soon as we were clipped in. The whistle blows, I clip in... Brett hasn't gone yet, so I jump! We're off!

I get the "hole shot" (it's exactly like 'cross) and Brett is on my wheel. Brett and I rotate through together quickly for a lap and a half. It's pretty obvious that we're not getting away, so we back it off. I need to get some recovery! Instantly Tom jumps hard and he's got a gap! Phase 2 in effect. Brett and I sit about 5 back catching our breath.

Tom's off the front alone for about a lap, before being dragged back. I'm staying close to the front and try to follow a bridge up to him. Oh, it hurts, and I hear Brett say "let him go". Don't need to tell me twice. So I sit, and block a little, until some others take the front. They bring Tom back, and then Brian digs hard on the inside! Beautiful! Brian gets a helper, and they work up front for a while. When they come back, Brett and I go again! So far, we've had the front for about 5 laps. We're pulled back, and shortly afterwards Tom has another go. As he pulls through the start finish, they ring the bell for a prime lap. Phil Hines attacks the group and gets a nice gap. Pulls by Tom and picks up the prime in front of a couple of others.

Everything pulls back together, and we're kind of cruising along the backside. Brett and I are near the front when he says "The pace is too slow, someone attack." Some other guys says "Someone will soon enough". So I did! Oh, this is good 'cross training. I work the pace up again. Nothing is getting away though. As I drift back through Brett tells me to stick by Phil. Ok by me... I'm just following orders, cause the brain oxygen level is not high enough for coherent thoughts.

I drift back to Phil, and we have a little chat. PH: "They aren't letting anything go". ME "Seems like they think every move will be the one that wins, want to have a go? I'll work with you." PH: "OK, but I need to rest a bit first, I was thinking after a prime." ME: "OK". Sure enough, they ring the prime on the next lap... oh for a bit more recovery!

Coming through the line, Phil and I move to the front. As we hit the rise, he goes a bit harder... and I can just barely hang on... he's got about a bike length on me, and there is a guy in front of him. Phil keeps looking back, I think he's waiting for me, but I can't close that gap... just not enough recovery time. Someone else picks up the prime, and I drift back to try and get some rest.

As tunnel vision becomes the norm, my race converges to high (low) lights. I'm sure I was on the front a few more times. The bell rings for the last prime, and I figure I'll try something... so I again attack hard right before the top of the rise, and try to get a gap. It works! As I'm coming around I see a big gap and it doesn't look to be closing. But something is not right, why am I alone, with such a large gap on a prime. I'm really nervous about no one between me and the field, so I keep looking back, and don't see anyone. As I make the final corner, I'm dying, but I still don't see anyone. I figure I've got the prime! At 200 meters, a guy from Stark comes by me! and then a guy in red (Orrville?)! Where were they! I can't match the acceleration, because I buried myself and I wasn't aware they were there until the guy was next to me! DAMN! That one hurt and nothing to show for it. Back into the field to try to recover again.

At 5 to go, it's pretty obvious that nothing is going to get away. Tom is at the front driving the pace again. Brett and I are sitting in. Brett says we should put together a train at the end. I'm game... just tell me what to do, Boss. Brett figures we can get Tom to the front for a result. Tom pulls off the front, and we pull around him to give him the plan. I'm sitting in around 5 back.

At the line with 2 to go, one guy takes off and gets about 100 meters on the group. I'm reminded of last years attack that actually worked. A couple of guys on the front have him pegged at 100 meters though, and this guy is not getting any more ground. I guess there was a crash on the last prime lap... I didn't know about it or hear anything. We catch this Summit guy sporting a rash on the backside. Brett gives him the current situation.

Through the line, and the guy still has 100 meters. We're lined up with me at third wheel, Brett on my wheel and Tom sitting on his. As we hit the rise the guy starts coming back. Close to the top of the rise, Brett gives me the command... "Give it all you have!" We're off. I punch it over the rise, and line it out at 30+ going down the hill and pull the guy back with plenty of space. On the front... digging in. I'm hoping Brett comes around me on the inside so I can fade off the outside... but I'm going to bury it for as long as I can. Down the hill and around the second to last corner... oh anytime now! Brett comes around on the outside.... and I'm done. I tried to pick it up for a result, but the pack goes by. I rolled past the guy that tried to make the last break, and came in somewhere near the back of the field. Game over, gave it all for the team.

So...what happened at the finish! I'm really hoping I didn't kill myself for nothing. Brett pulled Tom around to about 300 meters when Mehul from PDQ came around. From there Tom played catch up, and was nipped for second on the line. Nice job finishing it up, even with the work he did.

Actually Considering the work we all did, I'll take a team podium. If we could have had a few more guys working this, I think we could have pulled off the win as well as making everyone else work hard. The tactics didn't play out perfectly, but we had a plan and worked the plan and we ended up with a podium out of it. SnakeBite came out to race, not follow wheels... and we did a fine job of that.

Master's 35+

So, now I've got about 10 minutes to get ready for my next race. I beat feet over to Brett's car to grab another bottle, some water, and a bar before the Master's race rolls off. No time to spare, as they are blowing the whistle to line up as I'm trying to change my race numbers. I am cooked... this is going to hurt. We've got Brett, Tom, Pat and I in the field, but this is the second race for three of us, so I tell Pat not to expect much help from me.

As the whistle blows I feel like I'm going to puke Accelerade! Brett's family is here, so told the announcer he wanted to hear his name. Brett then takes off and pulls the field through the first lap. His name is announced... mission accomplished.

Hard Man award goes to the guy that crashed in the Cat IV race... he's racing the master's race also with rash and a ripped up jersey.

I spend about the first 15 minutes at the back just trying to recover from the last race. Oh please, don't let these guys race like we did, or I'll be off the back in no time. Instead, breaks get let go, and the field goes at a civil pace. Larry is announcing splits to the breaks as we come through the start finish... which I think is cool. It helps the pack know where we are. Probably doesn't help the break much though.

Breaks go, get pulled back, and others go. First prime is won in a break. The second is a field sprint. I'm concerned about that one, as we could get moving after that. Somehow Phil Hines gets into one of the breaks and does a decent turn. Man, he's killing me.

So, high point of my master's race was the fourth prime lap. I'm starting to feel a little better. I have no idea what's really going on in the race, but I'm able to move to something near the front of the field. As we come through the line, they are ringing the bell. OK, we'll see what happens. As we get close to the rise, Brett is on the front pulling the group with me on his wheel. Over the rise, and one guy goes, then Phil, so I follow him. Coming down the other side, I'm Phil has a small gap on me, and the other guy is way over to the right... so at 200 meters, I give it a go! I pass both of them, Phil is shouting encouragement to me... and I hit the line first!

I drift back through the field, and Pat says "Nice job." That made the whole day worth it, but now I have to get onto the back of the field. Then an October Hill guy tells me there is a break of four up the road. So my effort was for nothing. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

At the back, Phil and I agree we are both moving to survival mode. Just get me to the finish. When I did this in 'cross, it came down to the same thing. I could go hard in the first race, but the second was a different story, and hurt to just move! I hear one guy say we're 35 minutes in, and then I start watching for the lap cards. Let it end, please let it end soon. Get off the bike and take a DNF... no way.

Brett is having a blast... every lap, he's waving to the family. I'm feeling better, but not enough to pretend to be happy. As we get closer to then end, either people are getting tired, or it's just normal craziness... Mike Gorman ends up on the grass on the outside heading into the last corner of the lap. We're never that close to the outside on any of the laps in either race before! Then next lap, a couple of guys are in the grass on the inside, close to the same place. Wacky!

With 5 to go, Brett thinks we should try to set something up for Pat. So I drop back to pick him up. Unfortunately, he's on the inside, and I'm on the outside.... and we don't connect. He must either be used to racing alone, or be taking me at my word of being useless.

Final lap, finally! I wind up for a sprint, but basically have nothing. I think I rolled through about 20th again. Only this time, I didn't do anything to reduce the field. So I actually came through ahead of people in the field.


It is interesting to note how almost all cat 4 racers are more concerned with their own results than the teams... which is why we don't see lead outs in our races. Brett and I laid ourselves out for Tom to get a result after all three of us worked that race at every opportunity. With one or two more motors, the guys that beat Tom wouldn't have been able to attack. We could have started the lead out earlier, and maybe gotten more than one guy a decent finish.

Not much else to say, except I was spent. I drove home half asleep... and felt like trash. Dinner and a short nap helped... Like Brett says, I guess I need to do more 7 minute intervals.


Getting ready for the next move.

Tom digging hard.

Leading through the start finish.

Pics courtesy of Jim Karlovec, Chaos Cycling. Thanks Jim, and nice race organization.

More pics to come...