Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grant Park Pain

60+ Ready to hammer for the crowd at Grant Park, Atlanta
I've found a new way to torcher myself on a bike...it's called the Grant Park Criterium. Held every year at Historic Grant Park in Atlanta Georgia this race is a little bit later on the calender and brings out the best riders who by this time are in the best shape of the season. I'll tell you first hand how I saw the event and why I'll be back every year.
Star Bridges pins on his number in the shade.

As is my custom I began early last week trying to talk people into going to the crit with me. It was easy to talk Sean Philyaw into it because he's infected with the cycling bug. More on that another time. When I told Star Bridges about it he actually offered to pick me up. Yes! You see Mr. Bridges is a veteran of the Georgia cycling community and has done this crit several times. He knows right where to park and likes to arrive really early. This is why I like him. We arrived with almost two hours till race time and headed to registration. As we walked, Star began laying out the course for me and we talked strategy. I was really excited and then I wasn't. The course was on some pretty terrible pavement. There were patches of sand where someone tried to save our lives by filling in the pot holes. As this area of Atlanta was very old there were a lot of trees close to the road with branches hanging right where you don't want them to be. During the race if you're not paying attention you'll be doing a little pruning with your head. The back side of the course was... bumpy. Like our own personal Paris Roubaix. The top half of the course where the finish was is up hill and the bottom half is down hill. Basically you have about 20 seconds to recover on each lap. That's the bad.

The Start; see notes in picture.
 The good is relative to your fitness and your attitude. I'll just tell you the good from my point of view and it could be better or worse depending on who your friends are. I felt pretty good after pre-riding the course. At the start I got clipped in nicely and was able to hold my position near the front. Attacks started from the start and continued all during the race with special thanks to our sponsors and their prime lap prizes. Within the first three laps I watched Mr. Bridges take a flyer off the front and I thought "Cool, I'll play the team mate and try to slow the chase." Then I saw him stand up and look back with that "this was a bad idea" face. So as we came through the Start/Finish I tried a little dig of my own. Chad was strong, Chad was powerful. I flew away from the field and bombed the back side. I was in the drops, off the front, bouncing over the "cobble stones". The fences were whizzing by as I focused on putting as much distance as I could on my competitors. Then a familiar voice spoke to me from behind the spectator fence. It said, "Get off the front, Chad!".

That's me on the right in a combo kit from two different years.

It was Dustin Mealor. I hadn't looked back since my attack began but after the voice spoke I turned to see the peloton, in their drops, right behind me in a long thin line. Crap! I began to re-think my tactics. Perhaps I wasn't the strongest man here. Perhaps many others felt good today as well. I had just wasted several bullets and needed to recover so I backed off. Recovering was a good idea but it wasn't to be. The pace was high if you wanted to remain near the front. To fully recover I'd have lost the front and been at risk of being pulled by the USA Cycling Officials on the motos. That's what happened to Sean and more than half the field. Once the head of the race begins to reach riders off the back they get pulled. It's safer and I'm ok with it but if I just paid $40 for a DNF I can see why guys get mad. So, there I was, heart racing, looking for some help from God, then I saw my friends Robert Loomis and Star Bridges. They were all around me. I had new life. Robert is a young 21 year old punk kid. He's super strong because he plays soccer for a college but it was his first race. Here's how strong he is; Robert tried several attacks off the front to no avail, Robert wouldn't stay in the draft because he wasn't comfortable in a pack so he raced almost the whole time out in the wind, Robert still ended up 13th. At one point Star actually grabbed Roberts jersey and pulled him over behind the riders in front of us. The kid is green but the kid is powerful. Like all people who are half my age he could recover in half the time and kick again. He just didn't know how to race.
Robert Loomis...in the wind...attacking again!
I basically survived the remainder of the race by watching the Star and Robert show. I've raced enough to know that with 2 laps to go you must move to the front because the pace in a crit gets wicked fast on the last lap and advancing is impossible by then if you want anything left for the sprint. We got separated on a turn and I had planned to advance during the hard uphill section before the last lap began. Before I could swing out there was a line of riders flying up the side where I wanted to be. All I could do was get behind them. By then the race was on and I was stuck. If I weren't so skinny I could have powered my way to a better finish but the men left were strong and all I could do was hold my place. Star and Robert were very well placed for the final lap and did great.

The field is strung out. Robert is there again. In the wind.
I was happy to have survived. I'm sure as usual no ones plan worked out. Over half the field were dropped. If you look closely at the picture above, right behind Robert, that's a Junior racer. Probably 14 years old. Maybe the next big star? Anyway, the race ended and we rode around the course releasing excess testosterone and expounding about blown tactics. Dustin scolded me some more as he rolled toward his car to prepare for his race.

One to go!

Sprint Finish! Look at the size of those guys!
We met up with Sean and everyone else again and began telling "fish stories". The race that got away. Star and I left our perfect parking spot to some other lucky rider and headed for Chipotle! Nothing like a burrito crammed with beans and rice to make you feel warm all over. And a Coke. And some home made cookies from his wife. Thanks Mrs. Bridges!

I can't remember every little thing we all talked about. I wish I could because there are moments when men are together that need recording. Spontaneous stuff you can't recreate. Every guy needs times like these to just relax and be a guy. It was a great time with friends at a well organized event. I wish the hills were steeper or that I was bigger and 20 years younger but you can't have it all. Next up is the Chainbuster Tribble Mill Mountain Bike race in Grayson, Georgia. This time I'm taking the whole family for a day of fun in the sun!

Thanks for reading! Get out and exercise! Ride in groups! Be safe and I'll see you out there soon!



  1. Awesome write up. Very accurate. How did you find time to take all those pictures? Did you STOP and take one, then jump back in the race??

  2. Notice in the sprint picture that Kid beat Robert and I by 2 bike lengths. I was sucking that 14 yr old's wheel all day!