Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lincoln Road Race, Arkansas

I've got a beautiful baby girl sleeping in my arms right now. While it makes for a wonderful daddy moment, it cramps one's typing style in a major way. This race report might be short.

My first couple of category 3 races have been fun, and interesting in a new sensation sort of way. A couple of Wednesday nights ago was my first, a category 1/2/3 criterium here in the good ole Oklahoma City. My goal was to hang on to the pack and not get dropped. Yes, that was my goal.

This was to be a 35-45 minute crit, so I expected the pace to be quick. Almost from the gun we had Erin off the front with Jeremy Miller the behemoth from Team Undiscovered. Either I was in a fog of fatigue or I just wasn't paying enough attention to notice, but Jeremy somehow shook off Erin 1-2 laps into it and was off the front solo. Mark, Phillip and I needed to pull Jer back. After twice on the front I realized that one more pull would pop me off the back, so I sat in and tried to just hold on. Mark did quite a bit of work on his own, and God bless him, he was already hurt from a fall he had taken earlier in the race. In the end, Jeremy soloed for the win while we had approximately an 8-9 man sprint up Fire Hill for the finish. I'm not sure on the exact placing, but I passed a few and did not finish last in the sprint. I settled for satisfied with the top 10 finish.

Unfortunately Mark ended up with a broken collarbone from the earlier crash in the race and finished 4th with that injury, which is pretty amazing.

This past Sunday marked my first road race as a 3 and I wanted to do well. I knew that if I could race smart I figured a top 5 wasn't out of the question. Boy was I wrong. About 3 miles into the race we drop a 56 mph technical descent into a bottom, followed by a 1/2 mile climb that all but popped me for the day. You know when you are in trouble when you are scrambling to catch the field after the first climb. Well, I caught back on. By that time there was a break up the road and DNA wanted to bring it back. We all moved to the front and proceeded to reel it back. We swallowed the break up about 1/4 mile before the second climb of the day. Wow. I was popped again. So was Chad. And if my mind wasn't playing tricks on me, so was Zach. Again, the stragglers form a group on my wheel and we promptly (a mile up the road) catch the pack.

First lap done. I realize that I've done way too much work in the first lap and the second will be reserved to sit in and recover. Here is where I'll sound like a broken record. First climb of the second lap. I get dropped. I take a mile to catch back on. I sit in and recover. Second climb of the second lap. I get dropped. This time it's more serious. The pack is well up the road and has picked up the pace. Looks like someone attacked at the top of the climb. I swallow up Chad and a guy from BOT named Raton Parmain. I yell them to get on my wheel, we're gonna catch them again. I'm burning match after match trying to catch the pack, and Raton is taking pulls with me. We pass through the start/finish and I realize Chad's not on my wheel anymore. Raton and I still have quite a bit of ground to make up and we finally do somewhere 2-3 miles into the 3rd lap. We are back at the huge, technical descent. Then the first climb of the 3rd lap. I'm dropped. Many are dropped. Many quit. Some walk their bikes up the climb.

The lead pack is small, maybe 8 guys. At this point Raton and I are working together just trying to make it through the 3rd lap. We swallow many stragglers who have been dropped in the lead pack. Some suck our wheels, some can't hang on. I "hang on" for 13th on a day when almost half the field DNF'd. Not being satisfied with that finish, I take solace in the fact that I am no climber. I could also use to lose 10 lbs.

All in all it was a good day for DNA Racing. Erin Elliott took on 2 guys working together against him and came in 2nd place. Zach Perkins climbed well, and took home 8th, I nabbed 13th and Chad Hodges right behind me in 15th.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Northwest Arkansas Classic Road Race

I had been hearing for a couple weeks from those in the know that this was a good course for me. So even though I'm a new daddy and responsibilities at home are heightened, momma gave me the go ahead to make the 3.5 hour one-way day trip to northwest Arkansas to try my hand at another win.

Erin, Chad and Zach met me at my place at 4:30 am. Yes, 4:30 am. We figured out how to fit 4 bikes, pit wheels, and gear into the FJ Cruiser and we were headed east. I was looking forward to this trip cause I wanted to fellowship with the guys. It's much more fun when you can carpool with the team (or at least part of it) and chat it up on the drive.

The weather in Ark was bad as we headed north from I-40 towards Fayetteville. Rain. Fog. Wind. Cold. Luckily for us all, when go time came around the rain and fog was gone. Only the wind remained.

This was my first race with Aaron. Aaron Highfill had joined the team some time back, however we really hadn't had the chance to ride or race together. Aaron has a triathlon background, and is a strong rider so I was excited to see what we could do together.

We would pedal two laps, giving us a total of around 49 miles on the race. Uneventful would be a good word to describe most of the race. There would be a a few attacks, solo's, and surges as the day went on. The course included two hills, neither of much distance. However the last hill was doozy of a grade. It was steep and seemed to stretch forever, even though it didn't.

Aaron stayed near the front all day. He would sit 3rd to 4th wheel, sometimes sitting on the front, and always keeping the pace high, or helped chase down a break. I sat mostly in the back, relaxing, checking the scene, and plotting my attacks. The first lap unfolded and as we crested that last steep hill I moved my way nearer to the front of the pack. My plan was to try to get away near the end of the lap, hoping that I would have a couple of dudes go with me. With 1-2 miles left in the first lap, I attack. No go. They're on me like stink on dookie. So I sit on the front for a bit keeping the pace high. Not sure of my strategy, I attack again......from the front of the pack. 20 seconds later I look back and I have a 50 yard gap on the group. The bad news is I burned a match getting away and couldn't hold it long enough. I sat up and let the pack swallow me. One more attack near the end of the first lap and I settle back into the pack to recover and lick my wounds.

Second lap sees a couple of attempted breaks with no success. My goal is to do the exact same thing I did the first lap. We near the top of that second brutal hill and the small guys attack. I engage the burners and fire my 220 lb frame up the hill and get into the attack. The lead pack is now around 20 deep. I now fire off a series of 3-4 attacks. One attack gets off, and I find myself with another rider about 50-70 yards off the front. He can't pull through, and I can't hold it solo. We get swallowed again.

A mile from the finish and the pace is high. Riders jockeying for position. I find out later from Aaron that they have all conspired to prevent me from getting off the front the entire race. Looks like it'll be a field sprint. I have no idea if I'm a good sprinter. I've never really had the opportunity to pit my strength against anyone else.

So I find myself in a sprint with a guy named Tanner Culbreath. We have gapped the pack and it's him and I. 200 meters to the finish. I make a move and I'm off in front. He's on my wheel. My mistake. He sits in and with less than 50 meters left he's made a counter move and is gaining my position fast. We cross the line and I am not fully sure who won. I think I edged him, but it was CLOSE!

A quick trip back to the finish line. I win. It will be my last category 4 race.

A huge thanks to Aaron for keeping the pace up, covering for me, and racing huge for the team. He's strong, and will soon be a 3 as well. As for me, I'm excited about joining Erin, Zach, and Chad in the 3's. Race!