Monday, February 20, 2006

Cherry Pie Road Race 2/19

Cherry Pie is the season opener for everyone. With it being all the way down in Harrisburg (~2 hrs driving), few people from my team chose to make the trip. Those of us that went were those that were eager to get our feet wet and scope out the competition before the upcoming local RR series- the Banana Belt series out near Forest Grove. In my category, Men's 3, it was only myself and climber Jess Graden who went.
As far as the rest of Oregon goes, tho, it's a popular race. There were probably 70-80 guys in my race; and with the rumored ubiquity of early season jitters, tons of new bikes (oh my there were some beauties) and lots of new off-season upgrades (such as, ahem, myself and Jess)... my number one plan was to be careful. I didn't need a first race crash. I was to get right to the front, never drift too far back, and if I didn't feel like I had a shot at top 6 going into the sprint, I planned to abandon and avoid the carnage. The lead in (last stretch before the finish) was fast and narrow, and there had already been a mid-pack crash in the earlier Cat 4 sprint.
I followed the plan to the letter, staying near the front, but only working whenever attackers would try to escape. I would pull the pack back to them and then get back in a draft. In a race like this one, you can't count on other teams to pull breakaways back, so it's best to not let them go to begin with. When one guy did escape, very early, nobody thought he could stay away, and we were all wrong. There were too many guys like myself in the pack. My only team mate had faded and dropped away the second time up the climb, and I was racing only for myself. To work to pull back a soloist would only tire me out and keep me from having a shot at sprinting for second place. So, of the many who tried it, the one that got away indeed did get away.
Upgrade points are distributed on a sliding scale down through six places, and racing for second sounded good to me.
By the third of three laps, many had faded and dropped away. With the wind as strong as it was, and with the pack so nervous, I'm sure the accordion was pretty bad in the back (slowing down and speeding back up over and over and over), and rear pack dwellers like Jess were ground down and ejected out the back. The last time over the hill, I was really really pleased to find myself (a notoriously mediocre climber) riding 6th wheel at the top, with all but about 20 of us panting out the back. We roared down the other side of the butte, rotating efficiently to keep the speed too high for anyone to battle back. We fought to keep some late attackers with us, and selectively let others go, only to shortly thereafter see them crack and come drifting back through us. We finally came into the finishing 2 mile stretch.
Time for my mistake.
At the 1 km sign, a pretty strong guy flew. I took a moment to think, and then decided that yes, it was too early for him to sprint, but if I could get his wheel, and if he lasted until at least 500 meters, then I could hold off the long sprint and maybe take it. I sprinted to him, taking no one with me, and looked down quickly to see my ticker was already doing 203 bpm (don't look down!). Now the problem: right as I get to him, he blows up and drops about 5 mph. No help whatsoever. Now I'm 30 m in front of an angry swarm of sprinters with like 600 m to go. Sigh. I decide to sit up (slow down) and try to get back and get a wheel as it starts to accelerate. If the sprint goes by with 50 m behind you to speed up, you have no. Chance. Whatsoever. I drift into the fray, accelerate to their speed and force possession of a wheel. I have time for one good, long breath, and then it goes. Sprinting twice is hard. I get the strongest wheel and we're off. I quickly lose him as he rides off into the sunset. I hold my line and try to get whatever is left of his draft 10 m behind him. I'm dying but almost there, almost there, and then, sigh, three more come around me on the line. Sprinting twice is hard.
So, that's it. 5th in the sprint for 6th in the race. No flats, no crashes, no injuries. Just the loss of a glove that I dropped. 6th got me on the board with upgrade points: I got 1. I need 25 to be a Cat 2. It also got me a ribbon and a tasty Cherry Pie. The namesake of the race, they're awarded down through 6th place.
What I really got from the race, though, is the knowledge that I'm fit enough to race this category. I was worried about it. Now I know that if things were to play out differently in a another race, I would have a shot at winning it. Stay tuned.


Blogger Chris DuBois said...

Mark is slow.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

More Sauvie Pain will make Mark a fast boy!!!

6:05 PM  
Blogger YODE said...

Bike race spectating is more action packed when it is in text.

2:59 PM  

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