Monday, October 01, 2007

I'll always have Lilypons

Ed Sander Memorial 'Cross
Masters cat 3/4

First off, I'm lucky to be on such a fun and supportive team.

Second, I actually won a friggin' bike race. It may never happen again so please indulge me and my ego while I put my thoughts down and post some photos. When I'm old(er) I want to be able to look back and remember this most rare event.

Bernie, fatMarc, and I were all on the front row for the Masters 3/4 race. We wanted to get a good start to control the pace around the ponds first lap and then open it up once onto the gravel roads. A couple of weeks ago I put shims under my cleats to make pedal engagement a little easier. That has helped my starts as I have been able to get clipped in faster. Before the shimming the tread on my shoes was interfering with the pedal/cleat interface.

Anyway, I got into the pedals first try and took the hole shot. I gave it a little bit of gas to make sure that I had the lead into the first narrow spot of the prologue loop. From there I was able to back it off and actually recover until we hit the barriers.

After the barriers I gave a quick glance back and saw that Marc and Bernie were right near the front of the line of riders. Perfect. I led around the ponds riding a solid tempo, but not pushing too hard. The narrow line made passing difficult so I knew that I could just focus on riding smoothly.

Of course, a few turns in I take one too wide and end up off a ledge into a deep rut! D'oh! Marc very calmly told me I was fine, helping me to avoid a complete panic. I got back on course and stayed on the front.

By the pit the first time we made the tricky left onto the fast gravel road section. Immediately the German diesel Michael "Jan" Kolb passed me and started riding fast, really fast. Marc got his wheel and I followed with Bernie right behind me. I don't think the group split here, but it certainly got strung out. We rolled it top speed on Jan's wheel all the way to the technical backside of the course.

Marc led through here and we made it pretty much without incident (just some friendly elbow rubbing). Coming down the fast downhill leading to the start finish we still had a long line of riders, but small gaps were opening.

As we approached the pea gravel pit (soon to be renamed the Endo Zone) I had decided to dismount and run through the obstacle. Jan and Marc gambled and tried to ride it. However, the gravel crew had raked the gravel up higher than expected into a contrived, but effective obstacle. They didn't make it far before their front wheels stopped and they simultaneously endo'd spectacularly, synchronized swimming style.

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Remarkably both guys got right back up and into the action. The next lap was more of the same (minus the crashing) as we rode a solid, but controlled pace around the ponds, drilled it on the gravel roads, finessed the technical "back nine", and sprinted up the backside climb.

The next time around a leading trio had developed with me, Marc, and Jan. Marc and Jan are training partners and fellow members of the DCCofD. We had a friendly breakaway group. This was good for all of us. We rode really smoothly together to establish a gap to the chasers behind. We each took pulls and offered words of encouragement.

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Once we had a decent gap Marc and I took turns putting in accelerations in hopes of getting one of us free. Jan was too strong. He covered each one immediately. Though we couldn't shake him perhaps we were able to soften him up a little. Aside from covering us he also put in a lot of work early to get us away. I was really impressed by his riding. He had plenty of power and he was also smooth driving his bike.

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With 2 laps to go Jan led around the ponds at a strong pace with Marc on his wheel and me on the back. When we got onto the gravel I jumped up the left side and gave-er what I had. I didn't look back, but I think Jan covered me pretty quickly. I kept driving it in hopes of setting Marc up.

After we crested the little rise that leads to the entrance to the technical "Back Nine" Marc countered jumping to the front. I slowed up in an effort to open a gap. Jan saw the danger immediately and made a nice pass in a tight spot to get around me. We bumped shoulders and he apologized but it was just good racing on his part...there was no need for an apology! 8-)

So Marc led through the tricky stuff with a small gap, but he flatted as he was really trying to open it up. We got back up to his wheel on the stair-step grass climb. We didn't know he had flatted and he hid his cards well to lead us down the fast downhill without any sign that his tire was flat.

As we approached the pit he called out for a bike change. With that Jan attacked through the finishing straight as we got the bell for the last lap. I made it up to his wheel and sat there hoping that Marc would make it back up. He got a smooth bike change, but Ron Huebner was able to get his wheel as he re-entered the course.

Being a teammate to me and friend of Jan he didn't want to drag Ron up to us so he sat on his wheel. Likewise, I was able to sit on Jan's wheel since Marc was just behind. It would have been better if Marc hadn't flatted but we were still in a pretty good position.

If Ron closed the gap Marc and I would hopefully be a little fresher since we had been drafting. If Jan and I stayed away it would be because he put in a strong pull to keep us away. Well...Jan put in a MONSTER pull around the ponds and the gravel roads. I was suffering just holding his wheel and didn't think I'd be able to pass him.

I knew my only chance to win was to get in front before the "Back Nine". Just before we got to the downhill approach to the run-up I stood up and made the pass. At that point I got a surge of adrenaline. I had to force myself to calm down and focus on riding the next section cleanly.

Everything went well and as I made the tight turn to climb up by the announcer I gave it everything sprinting over the top and down the double-track leading to the off-camber drop. I took the drop faster than I had all race and hoped that my tires would stick at the bottom.

They did putting me right on track with a lot of momentum. Already in a big gear I dug deep to put in another sprint up the steep kickers and all the way along the false flat at the top.

When I reached the downhill I snuck a glance back and saw that I had a gap. Now all I had to do was to keep from puking and not mess up the downhill. In my head I had to scream at my fingers not to touch the brakes on the gravelly little S-turn. I made it cleanly and tried to stay calm down the last stretch of double-track.

Through the pea gravel Auer yelled at me to stay smooth and not to slow down! Coming up the finishing straight I couldn't believe it. I was going to win a bike race. I zipped up the skinsuit, held back the puke, and for the first time ever raised my arms across the finish line.

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Jan rolled across a few seconds later for a hard-earned 2nd. Marc was able to attack Ron on the run-up to grab 3rd. Bernie was right up front too until a crash slowed him down. He still finished a very respectable 12th out of 63 starters. It was another big day for our squad. The rest of the team kicked ass too with Wes taking the win in the Elite race and numerous other podiums.

Melanie had rearranged all of her weekend plans so that I could race and I didn't want to ask her to cancel anything so I had to head out before the podium. Mark Russell generously offered up a stroller as a fitting stand-in for the podium.

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It was a hard race.
It was a fun race.
It felt great to win, but honestly it felt just as good riding a smart team race for the second week in a row.

I think that actually winning a race will help me push my limits a bit more, but I don't expect to win. I'm more of grind it out in the trenches kind of bike racer. I get a lot out of racing my bike and doing what I can to help my teammates.

If I never win another bike race I'll be happy as long as I ride hard, race smart, and have fun. In any event, I'll always have Lilypons.

All photos courtesy of super-photog Dennis Smith.

9 comments:

DB said...

Congratulations. Great win, great race and great post...

DB - Squadra Coppi

El Dolor said...

Congrats on a great race--and congrats on the kid! It was really cool seeing you leave on the last lap in the group and come through the last corner solo.

MRussell said...

Great Post, Great Win, keep 'em coming. And you can borrow the jogger anytime, Parker won't mind.

riderx said...

Nice race report. Congats again!

fatmarc said...

so sweet.
great working with you, and Jan for that matter.

a good day for sure.

fatmarc said...

chris, you are a teammate, but also a friend, you are a big reason I wanted to ride for C3.

We just ride to close to each other and i figured that if we worked together versus trying to kill each other we'd do well.

if nothing else the first two weeks of the season have worked out nicely!

respect
fm

John said...

Congrats on the win. I take it that Bernie is up next? ;-)

gwadzilla said...

awesome job out there!

I bet your kids are proud
now thor is going to ask you if you won next weekend

that is not pressure
that is inspiration

great race!

StevenCX said...

w00t! Nice write-up!