So I ended up bailing on the last RATL because of the rain threat. I don't like racing crits in the rain because of all the corners, and sketchy handling. Next up is Chippewa Creek Road Race... but it fell on my anniversary. "Good Monring, Honey. Happy Anniversary. I'm leaving for a bike race." Didn't seem like a good way to start the day, so I decided to drive to Lucas Ohio to do the PowerMan road race put on by Ohio Valley Racing on Saturday instead.
The race starts at 9, so we had to leave my house no later than 6:30 to get there with any time to spare. I went with Dave Steiner, a cat 3 I've trained with for the past 2 years. We arrived at 8:15, and immediately got into the registration line.
The Powerman course is a 17.75 mile course. The cat 4 race is 2 laps, the cat 3 race is 3. Since Dave is racing the 3 race, I figure either I'm going to be sitting around for 45 minutes or so until his race is complete or I could ask to race up to get into the cat 3 race. I waffled on the idea up until registration. I got into line and was sure I'd be racing with the 4's until I handed the guy my license. He looked at it, then asked me if I was racing in the 4 race. Since he asked first, I asked if he'd let me race up. His response was "Just don't cause any problems. I like to split the fields up to keep them smaller." So I entered my first cat 3 race. The worst that could happen is that I'll be doing a 54 mile training ride that cost $25, and I might just see how I stack up with the 3's.
So this is a two way street. I now have no expectations except to do my best to stay with the field. It also relieves me of pressure of having to get a result in the 4 field. I may be passing up points to my upgrade, but hey, if I want to cat up, it's a good test, and the course is not supposed to be that hard. Just rollers with a couple of hills that are reported to not effect the race.
Because they use chip timing devices, the registration line was moving slow. They had to get everyone in the computer and hand out the devices... so we didn't get through everything until almost 9:00.... so they pushed the start time back to 9:30. Well, this is going to change my day planning, but I'm paid and here so let's get to work.
Rolling around, there are a lot of cat 1/2's I know and a fair number of 4's. Rumor has it they're combining the cat 4 field with the cat 5's. So now I'm kind of glad that I'm racing up. As we line up though, it's announced they are also combining the cat 3 with the 1/2/3 race. There were only 6 registered for the 1/2/3 race and they are paying 9 deep in a field of 25, so everyone has a chance.... they say. That changes everything. My confidence and expectations have changed a bit, but since I've ridden with cat 2's in the past, I'm hoping to be alright. My only problem is I haven't been riding with 2's recently, so I'm not real sure how this will go. Looking around the field, there are lots of single riders including myself. There are 2 A&F cat 2's, and 2 WV Healthcare that I know. One is a 2 and the other a 3. The only team with numbers is Echelon with at least 6 guys. A warning about a bridge with fresh concrete and we're off!
3 laps for 54 miles, I'm not expecting much to happen on the first lap. Actually, we roll out and are looking for that bridge. We find it soon as it's close to the parking lot. We are routed into the left lane under some construction hardware, then back to the road. Shortly after that, the first guy goes off the front. We're less than 2 miles into a 54 mile race, and someone is taking off already. My strategy is to chase nothing, stay in the middle of the field and follow wheels. The guy gets about 100 meters, and someone chases him down. Then the field slows and we're back to a leasurly pace. A little while later, another guy goes, everyone looks at each other... then one or two guys bridge up, someone gets nervouse and it's all pulled back together again. Then again,,, and again.... and we haven't finished one lap yet.
Two interesting moves. First an Echolon guy goes, and gets a couple of other guys in a little move. The other Echelon guys mass at the front to block to help the gap. As soon as Roadhouse's Braumberger jumps, the A&F guys go, and then everyone goes around the block and its all back together.
The other move was Chris Riccardi from WV went.. His team mate Nick then just looked back and shrugged, then marked every move to bring him back by moving to second wheel. As soon as the guy at the fron pulled over, Nick pulled over with him and it killed the chase instantly. It's much more effective than the Echelon blocking tactic and something I'm hoping to use in the future.
I'm doing well at just sitting in. I'll just watch Nick, and follow wheels close to him. I figure Nick will not miss any decisive moves, and I don't expect anything huge yet anyway. So no energy wasted. About 10 miles in Todd Shaker is talking to Braumberger about how this is a really slow pace.... I'm not complaining, I figure we'll be racing soon enough.
At about mile 12, we come to the climb. It's well marked on the pavement. "Small chainring", "climb ahead".... and I notice everyone shifting to the small ring. So I do also. We make the right turn, and we climb... a serious climb! This is bigger than the Chippewa hill! From the topo, this was a 100+ foot climb that should not have been decisive, but it's pretty steep. Almost immediately I'm loosing contact as the field stretches out. One guy shifts near the start of the climb and breaks his rear derailler off... it's a mangled mess.
I'm probably about 20th over the top, and I'm not far behind, maybe 20 meters, but the pressure is on. There's a short decent, and I see Dave is on the back of the field... If I can reattach before they get over the next climb, I'll be fine. I'm almost there at the base of the climb, and I can see Dave has nothing left. I catch him and shout some encouragement. I'm hoping we can work together to get back on. We crest that climb close together, and the field is totally splintered!
Once over the climbs, there is about a five mile descent to the finish. Dave and I start rotating through to get back on. Ahead is a single guy, then a pair, then it looks like the main field has split into two groups. Now we've got some work to do. We bring back the single Echolon guy pretty quickly. He sits on and then starts working with us. We bring back the next two before the start finish, so we're three Echolon's, Dave and myself. It looks like one of the pair has been working while the other isn't doing anything... like they were working for his result or something. We catch them and start rotating through.
The two new guys went straight to the back. When they got to the front for their pull, the guy that was doing the work, does his turn. Then there is a little conversation between the three, and the worker is gone. I never saw a gap open, but I think he just pulled into the parking lot as we went by. So we're down to 2 Echelon, Dave and Myself. We picked up one more single guy shortly before we started the second lap. Pulling around the back side, I'm averaging about 20.5 or so. Dave is doing pulls a little faster, but the other guys all seem to be pulling a little slower. We picked up another Echelon on the backside, and we're back up to 6. Shortly after we catch the guy we hit a little rise that shed the first Echelon that we caught. He's not far back, and the other single guy says we should wait for him. "no sence dropping anyone now." Dave is not happy about waiting, but the little bit of hesitation is enough for the guy to get back on and we're rolling again. By now we can see no one in front of us and we have no idea of the gaps.
Second time up the climb, and Dave and I are about 20 meters or so behind the other 4. Dave makes a comment about them trying to drop us on the climb, and I suspect that they'll wait until the last lap to do that since Dave and I are the motors on the flatter sections. We regroup over the top easily, and again go to work. As we're doing the desent, the front end of the 4 race starts to gain on us. We continue to work it, but don't want to effect their finish, so when it's obvious they are coming around, we sit up for a bit to let them by. Now we've got real disorganization. The other single and I start working to keep a gap on the 4 race, but we end up drafting this big cadilac. The other guy is sittng 10feet off the bumper, and I'm nervous...
As the 4's finish, we come through shortly behind, and start to figure out if we'll keep going. Dave and I are in and it ends up the three Echelon are also... so we've got 5 for the third lap. What a mess that was. Dave and I are still pulling in the 20-22 range, but they're only pulling at 18 or so. They're chatting like it's a club ride. I'm not sure if we would have made it back to anything, but it didn't seem we would get much help from the others at this rate.
I totally expected the three of them to attack Dave and I on the last climb up the hill, then try to work together to get away. Instead, Dave and I were at the front on the hill waiting for their move, and we left one of the Echelon's behind. When we crested, the other two said they'd wait for their buddy. Dave and I were riding along, and I asked him if he wanted to work the end of the race.... it's not like we really had done that much during the third lap.... he agrees and we start trading pulls. This is training and at least it would be a little work. We're doing about 30-35 on this section, and it feels pretty good.
After about a mile, Dave notices that the other three are working together and are coming back to us. So I suggest that we don't burry ourselves to keep them from catching us. Instead, we'll try to work them over. At the catch, one guy goes to the front. I had to give a little kick to make sure he didn't open a gap. Then another guy goes off the front, and does get a gap... so Dave starts to bring it back. Dave and I start trading pulls to just keep the gap constant. With what I think is about a mile to go, I get to the front and just sit on a gap of about 50 meters. I'm just leave the guy hanging there. He keeps looking back for us, but I don't want to close to soon. If I do, another Echelon will jump and I'll have to chases that. I want to leave him out there and jump just before the line.
It turns out, it's much shorter than a mile, as we round a corner, I see the line. So I start to ramp up the speed to reel the guy in, I see another guy coming up on my left, so I start my sprint, leaving the guy behind and catch the first guy by a length at the line. So I sprinted for some crazy low placing, but at least it was something like a race for the last 5 miles. Dave ended up not wanting to pull the third Echelon in, so he came across fourth of the 5 and we were the tail of the 1/2/3 race finishers.
I ended up in 13th place. From another report, it turns out a group of 9 got away on the first hill, including all 6 cat 1/2's, John Lorson from Orrville, Chris Riccardi from WVH, and Blair Fraley from Echelon. Then there was a chase group of 7 which shed the last two guys that we picked up. They dropped two more on the second climb that pulled off, so that set the final placing. We were just over 13 minutes down on the cat 1/2 group and 5 on the cat 3 group.
Distance: 53.3 miles
So our group was about 2 mph slower than the 1/2 group, and just under 1 mph slower than the cat 3 group.
So that was educational. Aside from learning some nice blocking technique on the first lap, I learned I've got some work to do before I upgrade. I guess it's time to get some structured training going. Hill repeats and intervals here I come.
I like the chip timing, this is the second time I;ve raced with this type of system. It can't sort out a sprint the way this one worked, but it did tell me how far we were behind. The race was organized all right, though they could have used more registration help. The intersections were all manned by Sherrif's so there were no traffic problems except for the last intersection that I think we surprised the Sherrif since we were so far back. The course was nice, though the description of the hill was a little off as it was much more work than I was lead to believe. I guess that's what I get for listening to the promoter.... and for racing up.