Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yarmouth Clam Festival Race Report

This is the first time I've ever won money racing a road bike, so I figured I should talk about it.

It came a week after the Stewart 6-pack, which went like a worse version of last year:  more mechanicals, more fueling issues, and more poison ivy.  Which is why I don't feel compelled to talk about that.

Yarmouth Clam Fest is billed as the "biggest little race in the world"  if not officially, at least colloquially, as I heard this phrase from multiple bike racers when describing it.  The finish line is right in the middle of a sea of tents, food booths, art booths, and janky carnival rides, so the race becomes just another sideshow at the Festival.  Do the spectators really care about bike racing?  No, but they'll look up from their fried clams once every eight minutes to see a hundred guys ride by (usually sprinting for a prime) at 30 mph.  It works.

The course is effectively dead flat except for the last two minutes, which are very interesting.  You come down a hill at 40+ mph, take a 110-degree right turn into a 25-second, 8% climb, then it's 500m of flat to the finish line from there.

As you might imagine, 100 guys freewheeling a descent at 40 miles per hour pack into a tight corner reaaaaaall good.  The feeling of riding your brakes all the way down to 16 mph while you can see at least sixty guys already sprinting up the hill ahead of you is not a good one.  This is why we don't ride at the back, kids...

After that experience on lap one, I decided to try a different tactic on lap two, of eating a bunch of wind to move up to the front for the hill.  I went around the corner in sixth wheel or so, SMASHED climb in the big ring, and then Tim Mitchell attacked at the top and I was like "oh dear god I should not be here" and I sagged roughly seventy wheels while recovering from the effort.

So that was not the way to do that, either.

The good news was that that effort sobered me up and I started racing my bike smart, because getting shelled seemed entirely plausible for a good ten minutes after that positioning experiment.

I eventually settled on the strategy of taking the sharp turn on the far outside, which at least gave you the opportunity for sweet outside-dive-bombs up the shoulder under braking and seemed to carry a lot more speed into the hill (albeit on a much longer route) than going inside.

That reminds me, is there a phrase for the outside-dive-bomb?  Is it just a dive bomb?  You'd have guys swinging outside to set up the turn getting blocked by dudes coming up the shoulder at forty, who were in turn getting blocked by dudes going by THEM deeper on the shoulder at forty, while some other dude would just end up in the dirt off the shoulder trying to reverse-dive-bomb THEM.

Clearly we have a terminology failure here.  But anway, it was fun.  "Fun."  On lap five everyone randomly decided that the white line on the shoulder was suddenly a forcefield, and I literally passed fifty people by just NOT BRAKING as everyone stacked up for the turn on the inside.  It was delicious.  Then on lap six, everyone was all over the shoulder once more.  Funny how that works.

The other fun thing was the rounded curb on the exit of that corner.  Lap one it had spectators on it.  Lap two, the spectators had backed up from the edge of it.  Lap three the spectators went running when Ford got squeezed and had to hop up it... only getting his front wheel up and dragging his back wheel along it for a good two or three pedal strokes.  Lap four and every lap after that... no spectators.

You might notice I'm not talking about the race action.... because I had no idea what was going on.  We averaged almost 28mph and I spent most of the race in the back half of the field thinking about how I really needed to take a rest week.  So I dunno, clearly something was happening up there, but I couldn't tell you what.  There were primes, and breaks, and dudes trying to win, but other dudes trying to not let them win.

At the other end of the field, though, I got to spectate the back-half-of-a-road-race-train-tracks-big-air-contest every lap.  There was a set of tracks on a slight downhill that we'd roll into pretty fast, and when you have a carbon bike and carbon wheels there's no way you're letting your bike hit those tracks, right?  That kind of impact could be devastating to your eight thousand dollar race bike.  The only solution, clearly, is to huck yourself (in traffic) as hard as you can, clearing both tracks in one bunny hop.  Make sure to land with absolutely no finesse, so your bike makes a cracking sound that suggests you might have snapped your fork.  Repeat each lap, regardless of fatigue, smoothness of tracks, or proximity of other racers.  You gotta protect that bike!  By jumping on it!

(I think my position on this issue is clear)

Anyway, after nine trips around the lap and up the wall with varying degrees of success, it was time to GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.  As Back Bay had four cat 3's in a P/1/2/3 race, we had absolutely no team strategy other than "surf the wheels of stronger men than yourselves," which was good in that at least there was no way we could let each other down.

Before we could get to the really important surfing, though, we had to have the required scary-crash where you are going 30 mph and the pressure lets up at the front a bit and everyone coasts in...nice and tight...and then someone touches wheels and it's collarbone roulette time.

The wheel touch happened just ahead of me, to the left, and the only reason I didn't go down in the crash was that the guys crashing stayed upright while crashing for a conveniently long time.  I got past smoothly, and a lot of people behind me didn't... cutting the 90-racer field to maybe sixty?  guys still in contention for the sprint.  But I'm sure none of those thirty guys behind me could have placed ahead of me, right?

Then we HAULED ASS some more.  The last lap was done at 29.1 mph.  I kept telling myself to get forward, get forward, but if moving up on the last lap was easy, everyone would do it.  Some semi-decent surfing got me up to mid-pack coming into the downhill, and with some actual leadout trains up front we were flying.  I got into the general vicinity of the Green Line Velo leadout train, which was unfortunately not able to pull ahead of the Dealer.com leadout train, so when a Dealer guy pulled off into the last corner he totally ruined the GLV train and Cole from GLV basically rode off into the ocean.

(As a cat 3 who is just surfing for table scraps, this sort of nonsense is PERFECT for me)

AJ from GLV followed this up by skipping his pedal on the corner and sliding his back wheel sideways (while still pedaling, because nbd), and right when I was going for the brakes to not die in the crash that was happening, his back wheel hit the curb, popped his bike upright, and everything was cool.

Then we had a 20-second peak power contest.  It was definitely the first time I've gone up an 8% climb at 26.4 mph.  Somehow Jake Hollenbach (the dude Dealer was leading out) managed to open a two or three second gap on EVERYONE in these twenty seconds, which I guess is what happens when a good athlete gets a good leadout.  Then he held it solo over the top and won the race with a second to spare, in a manner that pretty much anyone to ever race a bike dreams of.  So that was nice for him.

Much to my surprise I went by quite a few guys on the hill and crested in fifteenth or so.  Due to the miracle of adrenaline, I no longer was thinking about how I needed a rest week.  Preston was right behind me, and if we had been something other than two hypoxic cat 3's we maybe could have done something with this.  But probably not.  At about 250m to go, the guy ahead of me was losing the wheel (I can't imagine why) so I launched my "sprint" which consisted of about eight standing pedal strokes and then sitting down and gnawing on my handlebar for an excruciatingly long time.

It looked like this.  I am the tenth blur to go across the line there, purely because AJ Moran is much better than I am and thus, not that interested in a field sprint when he's way back in 10th... so he started coasting a bit early and I was VERY INTERESTED STILL so I kept eating my handlebar and snuck past him for the last paying spot right at the line.

And that is the story of how I got paid to race a road bike.  This will not be a common story around here.

3 comments:

G-ride 7/24/2014 3:48 PM  

That's sounds terrifying. Well done, sir.

Trey Jackson 7/24/2014 3:57 PM  

Once you get a taste of money...

I wish I had the balls to race a crit.

Julia 7/24/2014 6:24 PM  

You scaring yo mama, but pleased for you!

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