Tuesday, November 17, 2009

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Race Report

Despite a DNF after 25 minutes of racing on Saturday, I was loving life Sunday morning. Why? Super-nice housing, thanks to my crossresults uploader-friend Jess and her husband Vinnie. They have no internet presence, and even if they did, THEY'RE ALL MINE, so no links for you. 15 minutes from the venue, full bike shop in the basement, gas-powered pressure washer (!!), overzealous hosting. Between this and last weekend with Meg and JD, I am irreparably softened on race housing. I will never be able to get up at 6am or sleep on a floor again. Alas.

But anyway! I was STOKED Sunday morning, unlike my competitors, who had poured their souls out onto the course Saturday and were but shells of men. Skipping a muddy Saturday is practically cheating... it's right up there with good start position on the "secrets to a breakout race" checklist.

I sure didn't have the good start position thing going, though. We were milling around during callups, as always, when out of the blue the officials decided that staging everyone correctly was too hard, so after 3 rows of UCI callups they gave us the old "everyone else line up" dismissal and all hell broke loose as 50 guys charged the line. Seriously? The biggest race on the East Coast just tried to "mob rule" stage us?

The racers took matters into their own hands and started bitching, with a ferocity ordinarily reserved for RMM's blog. At first the officials tried to ignore us. Then they tried to placate us by moving the guy with a 70 number out of the 4th row, into the 9th. They were unsuccessful! We whined pathetically (you oughta hear me whinge) and eventually they caved, backed everyone off the line and re-staged us the right way. Victory!

I ended up in the exact same place as I had been before, but it's the principle of the matter, dammit.

Go time! This time my tires stayed inflated for the entire start straight, which was pretty awesome, and I got off the pavement solidly in the top three quarters of the field. It sounds bad, but you gotta remember, the predictor told me I would only beat six people.

I had such a good start, you still can't see me in this picture! [ dave august ]

Even better, I have been hanging out with Adam "I've forgotten more about cross than you'll ever know" Myerson and he's helped me get my head around the style of cutthroat racing that is appropriate and required for something as big-time as a USGP. So every time I could beat someone to the good line on lap one, I did it. It was not a contact-free experience, and I did get the door closed on me more than once, but damned if I wasn't having the most fun of anyone out there. Riding aggressively creates adrenaline, which makes you ride aggressively! It's a vicious cycle, like blogging and coffee.

On the straightaway past the fried food tent I was going really, really fast for someone with my wattage riding through stiff mud. I remember thinking, "I have no idea why I am not in extreme pain yet." Then we got out of earshot of the crowd and I was like "oh, there it is." Pain time!

The course was basically the same experience as the day before, albeit a lot warmer and sunnier. Still covered in thick mud, still mainly a wattage contest. But I after only racing 50% of Saturday, I was actually halfway competitive in a wattage contest, for the first time ever!

They had attempted to add some technical features to the barren plain we were racing on, but the only trick in their book seemed to be the super-tight double 180. It was not fun to ride, at all, but at least it was a mandatory 5 second rest -- another thing that went a long way to keeping me competitive.

Near the end of lap one I was still riding a wave of adrenaline, in the low 50s, and surprisingly happy about that. So then I decided to fold (not roll) my rear tire in a corner, and fail to clip out in time, and bounce my face off the ground while getting stuck under my bike. The only good thing was yet another crash on camera -- look for that tomorrow.

Now that I was worried about my pedal release tension and my softish rear tire, it was time to do the PRO thing and come in for the B bike. This time I'd waiting long enough that Linnea could make it to the pit, and I let her know how seriousbusiness I was feeling by yelling "plus three rear" during the bike change.

With lap two finishing up, that could only mean one thing: Wilcox time. Right on cue, the cheers for Geekhouse picked up and Dave came storming past on a straightaway. Well, I rode that wheel to "victory" last weekend, might as well try again. I found that extra level of suffering that only exists when chasing your #1 nemesis and got down to business.

Unfortunately we were going about half the speed of Northampton so there was no "sit on his wheel and win the sprint" strategy to be had... we just rode as hard as we could in the same general vicinity to one another. The only exception was on the pavement, where I put in a couple huge efforts to close the gap for a brief draft.

After four laps it seemed like I'd gained the upper hand, as I'd established an insurmountable five-second lead.

But Dave does not feel pain like normal men. After a particularly tough uphill section in mud, I tried to back off for a mere 20 seconds before going back to KILLKILLKILL mode. Bad idea. He closed the gap and went right by, and just like that I was chasing again.

Make no mistake, the course was littered with other racers, but the only one I was paying attention to was Dave. I was dimly aware that I kept having to pass guys to stay with him, which was getting kind of annoying, because I wanted to rest on their wheels, but stupid Dave kept going around. So I'd chase after him, yet again.

The other guy in the race worth worrying about was Tim Johnson, because he was slaying it -- 50 seconds over Trebon, last I heard on the PA -- and when he's putting that kind of time into Ryan you better believe I'm getting lapped. Starting my sixth lap Linnea gave me a heads up that I was down to a 60 second lead on him -- so that's the bell, right there.

I was all over Dave's rear wheel, because hey, bike racing! And eventually I paid for it -- lapping wheels when he slowed and took a line I didn't like, foot down, off into the deepest, stiffest mud that no one was riding. And there's the gap.

We weren't alone, either, a Canadian guy was up there with Dave and they were pushing each other hard. My chase was briefly interrupted to let Tim pass (he declined the high five, of course) and I when I got back on the gas I was pretty much resigned to not catching them. They hit the loooong finish stretch a good five or more seconds ahead of me and Dave opened the sprint up.

I will assume his opponent was too PRO to try hard after being lapped, because he had zero response -- either that or he totally failed to hear them explain how it works when you're lapped each day. In any case, he pedaled like he was glad to be done, 200m from the line. I recognized an opportunity for a ninja attack.

I gassed it as hard as I dared while looking casual and staying seated until he looked back. As soon as he looked ahead, GO TIME! I got a good six seconds of full out-of-the-saddle afterburners in before he looked back again. He tried to sprint, but I had a solid 15 mph head start. It was like I was a hawk diving out of the sky on a rabbit. He never had a chance. I went smoking past and pulled off 39th place at a USGP. Holy crap!
The final sprint. [ artist's rendition ]

3 comments:

Christine 11/17/2009 10:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave 11/17/2009 10:34 PM  

you may not be visible, but I can definitely see Wilcox in all that fluo glory

Big Bikes 11/18/2009 10:20 AM  

"then I decided to fold (not roll) my rear tire."

Not roll...not roll, phew! Not roll.

Stop making me nervous, I'm living vicariously through your tires.


-t

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