So before I tell the story of the day let me tell you who the players are:
|Preparing for battle at the State Crit Championships|
|CAT5 Start - Robert Loomis|
I was able to make some video of the CAT5 start, the middle, and the finish. Before you watch it I'll tell you what happened. Robert was great! He was all over the front without a problem. He even attacked them one time to see if he could get away. We cheered him on every time the field came by. Then on the final lap Star and I went to the finish line to watch the sprint. Two pictures above you're looking at the final turn and then there's a slight uphill to the finish of about 150 meters. We fully anticipated Robert to be sprinting for the win. Sean was back at the van and said Robert was leading into the final corner. He stood up and hammered down on the pedals. His weight was too far forward and it caused his back wheel to hop up and shift over. The whole action caused him to loose control and crash. His second crash in as many races. The equivalent of being two inches short of the game winning touch down. Can you say "character building experience"? Robert can.
We started getting ready for the CAT4 race. I gave Robert the cameras and he did so much better at taking photos than I did. We warmed up by riding around the Mercer campus a little. When we got back to the van Robert was missing. I didn't see him again until the race was over.
The three of us rode up to the starting line just in time and took great positions at the front. Then we were surrounded by, according to Robert, about 58 fellow cyclists. The largest field that day. I have to tell you that I don't remember anything after that. It was a strange race when I think back on it. I don't remember anything that didn't happen within 10 feet of me. I never looked around. I never heard any noises, not the announcer, not the music, not anything. I was very focused because basically I had no choice. We were moving so fast and it took big effort to stay near the front.
I followed Star's lead and we kept ourselves near the front. I never saw Sean but as you can see in the pictures he was right there with us.
I tried to focus on my breathing and making the best gear choices. Each lap I tried to think about how to attack the last one. Especially the sprint.
There were attacks all during the race but the pace was so high that none of them lasted even an entire lap. We hammered around the course as if it were the State Championship or something.
With about 5 laps to go the cycling gods struck a blow to my veteran friend. A rider avoiding another rider steered into Star's back wheel and broke Star's derailleur along with about 4 spokes in his rear wheel.
Miraculously he held on and didn't crash. He slowly dropped back through the field and got safely stopped. Star's race was over.
But I had 5 more laps to go. And now the field ahead were energized by what they must have thought was a crash and possibly a resulting gap in the field. The pace increased. When we swung around to the climb again I heard Star call my name. He was standing on the side walk holding his bike in the air and yelling something. It was the first time I remember anything happening outside my 10 foot radius. It started my mind spinning about tactics for the remaining laps. I was sitting in the top 20 and needed to be closer to the front before the last lap.
So I listened for Sean to call out my name. When I didn't hear it on the final stretch I knew it was all mine to sprint for.
The last turn came really fast and we were sprinting like mad. My plan was to start one gear lower than I'd been in for that section. If I needed more gear I could pop it down during the sprint. But I didn't need it. Or maybe it's more correct to say I couldn't have pushed a bigger gear. My sprint maxed out at 1300 watts. That's really good for me because I'm skinny. I managed to hold my place and took 15th out of the 54 guys that finished the race. 25.6 MPH Average Speed and 320 Watt Average (I don't know how to do "normalized power"). Not bad for a 40 year old in the State Championships.
Here's a video Robert took during the race:
We all met back at the van to calm down and talk about the race. It took me the entire cool down lap to get my bearings. That sprint really hurt! I found my friends all smiling and jovial even after the mornings events. The stress of the race took some time to get over.
We sat and recovered for a while. Talking about the race and watching the Master's race. We talked about the crashes and near misses and lack of oxygen in the Mercer University air.
After changing clothes I walked up to the finish line to see the official results. I watched with much envy as the CAT4 podium was awarded. It would be so cool to win a State Championship. I probably never will but it won't keep me from trying again. The Road Race Championship is coming up so I'll get another crack at it.
I'm not saying it works every time. I'm not saying they always appreciate the effort. But you have to always look to show them you are thinking of them. You even get points for trying. Oh yeah. And that's better than no points at all.
Well...that's my weekend. Better than some, worse than others. Like I said, I wish I could record every moment so you could hear all the great stuff that went on. Guess you'll have to make your own super cool memories. And maybe next time you can join me on one of these trips.
Oh, and here's the progress on my new Ritchey Ti Cross bike. I'm just waiting on a new front derailleur. I hope to be riding it next week!