Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Race Report from Hank - Guest post

Hank tearing it up at Starcrossed in 2009

My teammate Hank, sent me this great race report that seemed so realistic I was pitted out just reading it. With his permission here it is:

Forty four souls lined up for the 50+ start, including Kerry Farrell - a guy who often races Masters 1-2, last year’s 50+ WA BARR winner- Tom Potter, Steve Holland - a strong guy from Oregon, Tom Hackleman, Alistair Lockett - multiple 50+ BARR winner, Roy and Kevin - our Wines ‘cross buddies, Chuck who knows Tom B and Kevin from VM and who went to Provence with the guys, and a lot of the guys you see at the 50+ races.

I recall John saying that neither the first or second hill were any big deal, so I was having a hard time understanding why I was seeing cross eyed 5 miles into a 40 mile race. At that point I knew it was going to be a long, hard day in the saddle. The laps were a bit more than 19 miles. Two of those plus a 1.5 mile neutral start brought the total to around 40. I’d say 4-8 riders were separated the first time up the first hill. I managed to latch back on, but had gone seriously into the red and started riding defensively, which led to some tactical errors later on.

The descents were fast and fun with no braking needed as long as you weren’t coming up on a wheel. The group stayed more or less together on the flats en route to the second hill, which was maybe .8 mile and not as steep as the first. Maybe another one or two were spit out the back the first time up hill 2. I should know since more often than not I was among those at the back.

Shortly after the 2nd hill, Farrell, Potter, Alistair and a couple of others got a gap. The bunch was pretty lackadaisical in chasing. Turns out those with teammates up the road were rotating to the front and just sitting. Being at the back of a 30 rider field on narrow roads with a strict center line rule in force made it really difficult to move up and there wasn’t much I could do – supposing I wanted to do something. A group of another five at the front got frustrated and just slowly rode off the front. I think Roy was in this group.

Eventually I got to the front and with 3 or 4 others started working to try close the gap, having to work around the teammate blockers. It was super frustrating watching the second group go. Had I been in position, I think I could have bridged early on. So lesson number 1 was not being more aggressive staying towards the front, even if riding defensively.

I was taking my third turn at the front. I knew we were getting close to the second time up the first hill. This baby was around 1.25 miles and an average of 5% - similar to Madrona without the flat. We finally had a decent rotation, which I wanted to keep going. A First Rate, who’d been sitting on, jumped on the hill. I think most of the bunch came by as I struggled to recover. The field exploded on the hill with guys strewn all over it. By the top I think I’d made my way back through about half of them. On the descent I hooked up with an Apex, an Old Town and Chuck. The four of us worked like dogs trying to catch the main field, which we could see just up the road. To no avail. So lesson 2 was not knowing exactly where we were, pulling into the hill, and being at a deficit at the start of the climb. I think this was the main reason I didn’t finish with the main group. Lesson 3 may have been doing too much work; after getting the rotation started I probably should have not spent so much time on the front. Turns out the second grupetto and part of the first were reabsorbed on the hill. Lesson 4 – I don’t know if this was in the cards, I was pretty spent at the top of the climb – was not finding some secret reserve on the hill in a last ditch effort to catch the main group.

The four of us kept plowing on. Several times I was thinking of calling mama, but I could tell by the look on the others’ faces that the feeling was mutual. Not far after the second hill I was amazed to see that Roy and an Apex had caught us. Roy looked surprisingly strong, but the Apex looked shattered. So now we were 6. The 1K to go sign came, the Apex was first wheel and I was second. Roy came around and I jumped on his wheel. Shortly after 200m I jumped again, looked around and saw I had 10-15 yards. At the time I felt that Roy had come around to spell the Apex. I was feeling guilty and sat up just before the line. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of blue and white. It was the Old Town, who pipped me at the line. For 20th to my 21st. LOL. Lesson, let’s see, oh yeah, 5 - if you’re going to sprint, regardless of circumstances, you’re not done until you cross the line.

This was the hardest I’d worked all year. I had an average speed of almost 23 mph, which is more like what I’m used to in a crit. And this is off the back. And early season. With hills. And wind. My second half of the race might have been better than the first. In my grupetto a couple of times a small gap grew unintentionally when I was leading. The first hill came as a shock to the system and I probably over reacted –in retrospect there probably were others hurting as much as I. So lesson 6 – be patient; if one has not so good legs early on, they just might get better; and don’t panic, others might be hurting as much as you.

Kevin our Wines buddy finished in the main group at 15th. Roy our other Wines buddy finished just behind me in 22nd. The First Rate who jumped on the hill finished 17th. Chuck who was solid throughout the slog finished 25th. Farrell, who was off the front with a few others, won the race in what was reputedly a photo finish.

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