As my basement had a mere 13 frames in it this week, I decided it was time to acquire more. My primary motivation for getting a road bike was the disturbing realization that my cross bike with TRP's absolutely cannot stop in the rain, and I'm also inexplicably slow relative to my wattage on the road. Was buying a Spooky Skeletor the most cost-efficient solution to these two problems? Probably not, but damned if it wasn't fun.
I bought a Spooky because they sponsored a team my friends rode on last year. Had they not done this, I would never have even heard of the Skeletor, and thus never compared it to my other options and found that it graded out pretty favorably. Plus it has the added cachet of being a small, local brand, which should endear me to the bike snob community. Right?
I ordered the bike 11 days before Lake Auburn and took delivery of it 10 days later, which was awesome and troubling at the same time. I started building it at 7:30 PM Friday night -- and by midnight, I had a functioning race bike. And 3 freshly cannibalized cx bikes next to it... but that's beside the point. Racin' time!
The forecast for Lake Auburn was ugly, and the drive up was miserable. The downpour around Portland had we expecting a Sterling redux and contemplating skipping the race entirely, since I did tell the entire internet I would never race in the rain again. Miraculously, the rain stopped 15 miles before the venue, and never started again. Everyone who stayed home: you blew it.
I can't tell why, but the Lake Auburn course is really good. Wide roads, mostly smooth, low traffic, reasonably selective course? Anyway, in my minimal road racing experience it's the most fun I've had. I guess a 40-rider Cat 4 field contributes to "having fun" instead of "riding your brakes" out there, too.
After Sterling I was committed to riding at the front, so I rolled out from the second row and led up the first wall, a mile in. Bike racing!! I was super excited to be on a new bike and winning a race (whoever rides on the front the longest is the winner, right?) so I ignored the fact that I hadn't warmed up and hammered up the hill.
On the downhill some guys came around, some random attacks started flying, and holy crap was I excited. We were 2 miles in so every single person with sight of the front of the race tried to cover every single move. After a while I realized I could let attacks go, ramp it up seated, and with 8 guys jumping on each attack I'd never even have to get in the wind. EXCITING!
Near the end of lap one an attack actually stuck for more than 10 seconds, a Dartmouth guy was solo with 2 dudes chasing. I realized that I really want to play bikes too, so I went after it. The 2 guys chasing were doing a piss-poor job of closing the gap, so my bridge effort went straight through them and up to the leader. Yeah! Bike racing! We rode a 60-second 2-man TT to the base of the stair-step climb back to the finish, looked at each other and went..."whoops."
Then I tried not to go all the way to the back of the pack as they jumped all over us.
End result after one lap and a whole ton of matches burned: everyone riding together. Wait a minute, this is why smart guys just sit in, isn't it?
I noticed the next time up the wall that I was not actually feeling super awesome at all, like maybe I had been riding hard with no warmup on a brand new bike with a different position than I'm used to? My stomach advised that we slow down and my calves agreed. But then another break went up the road! Arghh so tempting.
Graham convinced me that one of the guys in the break was fat and we'd catch them on the climb, anyway. Oh. Well I didn't want to be in a break with a fat guy, anyway.
Sure enough they took the gap out as far as 30 seconds, only to be reeled back in on the stair step climb. Then again, we were not going exactly slow, using the patented Cat 4 chase technique of alternating between 22 and 27 mph until you catch the break.
Over the top of the climb on lap two I figured would be a great place to launch a winning break, with 11 miles to go and everyone hurting. One guy accelerated at the bottom of the climb and opened the gap the whole way up the hill. I thought to myself, "that is a strong man making a well-timed move," so I tried to bridge to the move over the top. My legs scoffed heartily at this effort, but I did manage to separate myself along with 3 others off the front.
Oh crap, I thought, this is totally going to be the winning move! We'll pick up that guy and have a 5-man break going! This will be glorious!
Soon after that I was skipping pulls, trying not to throw up. I DON'T LIKE ROAD RACING ANYMORE. SLOW DOWN, GUYS.
We were mysteriously unable to close the gap to the solo leader, and predictably terrible at getting organized. After a few minutes, the fat men in the field had recovered enough to bring the pelican back to us. Worst of all, much of the field didn't know there was another guy off the front.
Slowly word got around that there was a guy still up the road, and his gap was going up to hard-to-see range. No one seemed to understand the difference between attacking and chasing, so we spent the lap alternately coasting and single-file. After my most recent breakaway failure, my plan had been reduced to drafting 'til the the last hill and hoping "stuff worked out," so I wasn't exactly part of the solution.
On the run in to the final climb, I got caught napping during one of our random slowdowns and overran the wheel in the front of me. My inattentiveness was rewarded with a trip onto the sandy shoulder, jeering from the pack, and new position at the absolute rear of the field.
I did some work to get back into something resembling for the contention, only to finally pay the price for late-night bike work and drop my chain going into the crucial final pitch. I pedaled slowly while cursing and pleading, but my chain refused to pick up. Unbelievable! Come on Colin, you have been dropping poorly-maintained chains for 10 years and pedaling them back on... you can do this! Finally, at 5mph my chain hooked up with the rings, and I was "only" 20 yards off the back.
I managed to panic-climb back into the rear of the field over the top and then tap into some hidden, adrenaline-fueled Sprinter Della Casa skills I didn't know I had to start moving up inside the pack in the last mile. I was a gap-eating machine, every time I saw a hole I leapt into it. Next thing I know, I'm at the 2nd row with 600m to go. Stuff worked out!
Jeff Bramhall encouraged me to move in front of him, (nice? evil? I'm not sure) and at 200m I had a clear view of the finish line as the sprint opened up. Oh man! I'm gonna win! I launched, and for five pedal strokes I was the king of the world. Then I started cramping, (me, cramping? How novel!) and a wave of carbon-wheeled mofos came up on my left side. I thrashed awkwardly across the line for 4th in the field sprint, with our solo escapee hanging onto a 7 second victory ahead.
Post-race I played the powertap-comparison game with Bramhall and determined that we had almost the same average wattage for the race despite him outweighing me by 35 lbs. Which is to say, I was riding really stupidly, on average. And it was fun!
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