I kept looking at the forecast hoping to see something different but rain was coming, a ton of it. I saw my teammate Charlie V. had preregged for both days and didn’t want to leave him hanging. Racing in the rain sucks, doing it by yourself is close to intolerable.
Land Park Criterium | E3 | 3/12/16
Charlie’s been looking for another win in the 3’s and he’s got the motor to always be a threat. Charlie has the biggest 5 minute power of any athlete I’ve coached and we hoped to send him with two or three laps to go. Once he gets off the front of a race he’s scary fast.
As I’m pinning my number in the warmth of my car I’m thinking about how dumb it is that people pay good money to race their bikes in terrible weather. It’s not tough, it’s not heroic, it’s not epic, it’s just dumb. Whatever, I already paid for my race; let’s do this.
It’s a small field of dumb bike racers but we’re all here because we’re addicted. Addicted to possibility; every bike race is an opportunity for something cool to happen. Today that possibility is Charlie winning, it’s why I preregged for this race in the first place, it’s going to happen.
The race starts off with a few attacks, mostly to try and get warm. After a few laps a Rio rider attacks for a prime with Charlie close behind. As I’m watching Charlie make the connection I’m thinking to myself, “Damn it Charlie, too early, don’t mess with that move, let things settle in a bit”. As that thought goes through my mind Charlie rips through the Rio rider and goes maverick off the front. Not the move I would have made but then again I don’t have Charlie’s motor.
There’s a pause in the field and Charlie immediately has 30s. I settle in near the front riding hard enough to make it more difficult to organize a chase but still under the pace I know Charlie is tapping out off the front. In this situation the weather is playing to our advantage. The rain is driving so hard it’s impossible to see him up the road. From our perspective in the pack he’s pretty much vanished.
Rider after rider makes an attempt to bridge to Charlie but I’ve got enough to sit on each move while doing my best to deflate interest in bringing him back. “Charlie’s gone, the race is over, might as well save your energy and race for second”, I try to tell everyone within earshot. I’m not 100% confident in my statement but it’s my job to sow doubt and frustration.
Lap after lap he’s smashing solo off the front until at one point he increases his gap to 80s. It’s in the bag and I couldn’t be more excited for him. Charlie crosses the line solo and picks up another win in the 3’s. Time to get home, get dry, and start thinking about Bariani tomorrow.
Bariani Road Race | E3 | 3/13/16
What kind of teammate does a day-of reg for a rainy road race? Chris F. does. Inspired and guilt ridden by missing out on Charlie’s performance at Land Park, Chris committed to the early start time in Zamora.
When the porta-crapper is the most comfortable place to hang out before a race you know you might have a problem. Driving rain, howling winds, nothing “epic”, just dumb bike racing weather two days in a row. Whatever, let’s do this.
Up the Road
With three laps to go, a Sunpower (Thomas Lane) and BBC (Ben Knipe) rider go up the road after the S/F. With a driving head-cross the pair immediately gets a sizable gap on our main group. At this point it looks like it’s just Chris and I near the front as Charlie is having a rough day OTB.
I want to get in the move up the road but there’s no way I can make the bridge solo. Better to wait for another motivated rider to attempt to jump across together.
Christopher Beall from LOW//Factory Racing (LOW) is twitching to get across and I figure he might be my best shot. After jumping with him a few times it’s obvious the remaining SunPower teammates aren’t interested in letting anyone get across to their teammate up the road.
I start up a conversation at the front of the group trying to convince Sunpower it’s in their best interest to let a few other dudes join their rider up the road. With five Dolce riders in the pack, Chris and I from DDA, and several motivated solo riders, it’s not likely the two up the road are going to stick the next 40 miles solo.
As we’re approaching a right hand turn into a cross/tail section, a Dolce rider (Erik Vangsness) jumps hard over the overpass. I attach immediately thinking his wheel might be the ticket to finally breaking the Sunpower embargo at the front. Sure enough, we’ve got some daylight from the main group as we head out. Checking behind I see the LOW rider trying to connect. Dolce and I quickly decide it’s best to wait for LOW before we take off. Once he connects it’s game on.
The three of us immediately lock in. We’re a pretty evenly matched chase but by my estimation LOW is the strongest, then Dolce, then me. I’m not falling apart with each pull but I’m riding harder than I want. I’m doing calculations in my head skipping 40 miles to the finish.
Two things have to happen if I’m going to be there at the end. 1. I have to force myself to continue eating every 15 minutes. With the finish coming at the 3 hour mark a bit of extra glycogen could make the difference. 2. Don’t waste energy being in the wrong spot in the wind.
Our group of three is making progress toward the two up the road but we’re still having to work for every second through the gap. LOW and Dolce seem to have more snap every time they pull through at the front. I’m already planning “quit” conversations in my head. “Sorry, I can’t pull through at this pace. You can either attack me or let me hang on and skip a few pulls”. I’ve got the line ready if I start feeling the quits coming on.
It helps having Chris as my teammate back in the pack. His presence provides some insurance and leverage in the event I punk out of this break. The worst thing that could happen would be to get dropped so I’m constantly trying to assess when to shift from contributing to surviving. I’m not there yet but I’m getting close.
As we begin to approach the right hander onto the frontage road Dolce and I yell to get the attention of the Sunpower and BBC riders up the road. The sooner they come back to us, the quicker we can consolidate our gap to the main group. After about 10 miles of riding together, we finally make the connection. In all likelihood the race is now down to us five. Two laps and 30 miles to go.
The head/cross from left to right is so strong we’re only averaging 18mph echeloned across the road. The moment we make another right we’re up to 28mph. This tail wind section is the time to eat. It feels like the only place your bike isn’t in danger of blowing over.
With one lap to go there’s no doubt our break will stick. There’s a collective pause as we commit to going coffee shop pace to the finish. I stand up on the back to stretch my legs a bit and immediately my quads cramp up. Now’s the perfect time to let everyone know I’m the least of their concerns in the finish. “Man you guys are looking good, I’m just here to try and hang on”. “Getting cramps, man, can’t even stand up”.
As we make the final right hander into the finish we’re all committed to cat and mouse. I figure my best position in the lineup is to sit about 4th wheel. Out of sight, but close enough to quickly connect to any attacks.
With a little less than a 1k to go Dolce launches the first bomb shaking the BBC rider. Soon after, the LOW rider gives it a big dig shaking Dolce. For each attack I’m spinning furiously not trusting my ability to stand without cramping. Before long it’s just me and Sunpower heading to the line.
With 200 to go Sunpower jumps hard but my gutter spot is giving me just enough protection from the head/cross to match his pace. As we’re barreling to the line I’m trying to wait as long as possible before getting exposed in the wind. With about 70 meters I give it everything from the saddle to come around the gutter and take the win.
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