Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sterling Road Race Report

Alright, I'm gonna change things up and go with the insta-report. This one finished just over two hours ago. As you might've noticed from the lack of vacation reporting, the whole "wait a long time before you blog" thing doesn't work. Shocking, I know.

So the Sterling Cat 4 field was full, but for some dumb reason I really wanted to do the race. Thus, when the forecast started calling for rain and thunder, I headed out to Sterling to take a number from one of the inevitable no shows. I also emailed Rosey and Mark about borrowing a HUP United jersey, so I could pretend that I wasn't a privateer. At least that way, only 95 guys would chase me instead of 99.

Getting into the race was no problem, because it was raining, so I was psyched... until I realized I was about to do a rainy road race. I put on every piece of clothing I had and rolled out near the back, getting nice and cool during the neutral start.

The plan was to get a look at the course on lap one, and then do some stupid stuff starting on lap two, and play the "LOL I'm a mountain biker doing this for training" card if the aforementioned stupid stuff ended up torpedoing my final placing.

One thing I am gradually finding out about road racing is that "having a plan" and "enacting the plan" are totally different things. It was raining steadily, I was hanging out near the back (I was going to move up after a lap, I swear!), and we were descending some narrow roads I've never ridden. Ok, whatever. Some gaps opened, other guys panicked and closed them, and then we'd ride right into everyone's back wheel on the next roller anyway. During this there were a few flashes of light in the sky, which was a little disconcerting.

Then there was a deafening BOOM right above us. The rain picked up a little.

Five seconds later, the heavens opened. It was like I was standing in my shower, wearing sunglasses, facing the shower head. I could barely seen the road through my glasses as the water sheeted off them, and no matter how hard I pressed them into my face a torrent of water came over the top and into my eyes.

At first, I was like, "wow, this is pretty extreme!"

Then I was like, "Everyone else is still pedaling. I assume they can't see either. I guess I'll keep pedaling, too."

Then my right eye lost the battle against the stream of water hitting it.

"I'm pretty sure I can't see anything," I thought.

"Don't be silly, you're riding your bike 30 mph downhill, on a road you've never seen, at the back of a Cat 4 peloton," another part of my brain answered, "of course you can see, this would be insane if you couldn't."

"Oh, phew," I thought.

It wasn't until we hit the turn onto Rt 12 that the absurd level of danger became apparent to me, when I hit the brakes and basically nothing happened. When wet TRP's don't stop me in a cross race, it's funny and I ride into the tape, or crash on the grass. This was not funny like that.

I got around the turn and the field, or at least the 4 guys I can still see, is sprinting like crazy. Recognizing the danger of getting shelled, I start sprinting, too. But I still can't see out of one eye, and there's an inch of water on the road, and it's sheeting down rain. The inevitable happens -- my other eye gets blasted with spray and HOLY FUCK I AM ACTUALLY BLIND.

I hold my line, blinking frantically until I can make out enough of the road to get the hell off it. Blink, there's the white line. Blink again, more water, the line's gone. Oh wait, I see something green now, that must be the edge of the road. Blink. Nothing. Blink.

And then I rode into the curb at 5mph, and decided I was done.

I cleaned my eyes out, started riding again, and noticed a car with flashers on about a quarter mile ahead. Wait, is the follow car? Maybe I'm not done!

So I chased like I meant it for a few minutes, just long enough to realize that the car was following all of 3 guys, and the field was no where to be seen. Was there even still a field? I had no idea. Then I remembered I didn't care, I was just a mountain biker doing this for training, and rode back to my car before I could get hypothermia.

My hat's off to anyone who finished that race, and my condolences to MRC, who actually had a small army of volunteers trying to run the race during the storm. Between this and Wrentham last year, they must've done something to really piss of Mother Nature.

Lessons from my first Cat 4 road race?

I really need to lower the straddle cable on my brakes, or get an actual road bike, because I cannot stop my bike in the wet to save my life right now.

Next time it rains, I'm gonna kill people to get to the front.

Next time it rains, I'm bringing some damn ski goggles.

No, wait. Next time it rains, I'm staying home.

Edit: It was just brought to my attention that this "rain over the top of your glasses" problem is totally stopped by wearing a cycling cap under your helmet. Me and my wool hat never stood a chance.

9 comments:

solobreak 5/08/2010 7:46 PM  

See, if you had upgraded to Cat 3, you could have raced in the afternoon wave, at the back with me, enjoying the light mist and occasional drizzle. Then after getting back to the car, cleaning up, packing, stretching, and getting in to enjoy a sandwich, laughing at the timing of the sudden downpour and flash flood that was happening as you drove away. It must be the good karma I've accumulated for being such a swell guy. I never got near the front though...

rosey 5/08/2010 10:26 PM  

I kept thinking Colin will be up here any minute now. He's just scouting out the peleton, getting some sense of the 4 field. Then I asked graham and mark and neither knew where you were.

So a cycling cap totally would have helped. I had no issues with my cap and glasses, though it was blinding at times. Also, having tried to road race my cx bike, I agree it is scary even when roads are dry. Drop some coin on a road bike, you'll be happier next time.

solobreak 5/09/2010 7:55 AM  

I thought you mountain bikers all had visors on your helmets? Or am I behind the times - again?

I ended up flipping my cap up anyway because I spent 80% of the race in the drops and I'm too old to crane my neck like that for two hours.

Soups 5/09/2010 1:55 PM  

That down pour was extreme. I thought I was drowning! In the 45 race it was hammer down with attacks! You couldn't see the road ahead it was covered in splashing. I think if I was in a car I would have stopped.

trackrich 5/10/2010 7:06 AM  

Fortunately the cat 4 field didn't realize that the follow cars couldn't see shit either or they all would have dropped. If the entire field had gone down in a massive pile up, we simply would have run you over before we ever saw anything.

mkr 5/10/2010 8:55 AM  

Yep, pretty extreme race. In the 35+ we had 2 crashes in the 1st lap then a couple more before the day was over. We kept it fast and strung it out on the descents though so they were safe. It was mainly RT12 that was sketchy.

Oh yea, road brakes didn't make a whole lot of difference. My spiffy new DuraAce on aluminum brake surface didn't work much better than my wet cross brakes on carbon.

RMM 5/10/2010 9:30 AM  

Hats off to all of you. I heard the rain from my bed and texted my ride that I would not be racing and went back to sleep.

zencycle 5/10/2010 2:43 PM  

@ RMM - yeah, me too. I've been racing too long to get excited about a race in <50 degree rain. I actually love racing in the rain, as long as it's over 60 out. Less than that and I say fuck it.

Toby 5/10/2010 4:09 PM  

Perhaps it should say "New Ridley Fund" instead of "New Tubluar Fund"?

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