Thursday, April 26, 2012

Notre Damn

Jared (Crit):

Today was my first real day of racing in C's. The road race the day prior I dropped out of halfway through after bonking and deciding to save my legs for a race much more manageable in duration, considering my very limited mileage recently. Turns and handling were pretty good minus a few squirrels frolicking in the pack. Alex from UIC fell on a turn but wasn't hurt or run over; I don't know how the fall happened. 
Jared looking strong with 1 lap to go in the crit.
The wind was pretty nasty out on the long stretch headed to the final two turns. It was a really heavy sidewind, and I should have thought about that more, since leading would probably be A-ok to do at that point because of the sideways nature. Instead, I led on the earlier part of the final lap, into the wind, and by the time we were on that long stretch, I was boxed out. We finished in a huge pack sprint and I got an estimated 14th place.

This crit had more than 4 corners.

Zack (Road Race):

Photo evidence of Zack on the start line.
It was a nippy morning down in South Bend during the Men’s C Road Race. However, the sun was shining and was looking to be a great day for racing. The course was three laps of a double loop about 15 miles long that was mostly flat with some early and late rollers but a few straight sections that gave a nice tail-wind. Sitting on the line, I remember J-Grace telling me that he wanted no photographic evidence of me coming off the back and finishing separately from the field. 

Trying to pull back a break in the RR.
As the race started, I sat off the back. Not the position I wanted to be in as too much energy is expended with having to accelerate after the caterpillar effect. Luckily, within the first half mile, the pace car and most of the field – sans Notre Dame and TTT riders -- took an early right turn that took them off the course. Taking advantage of this, I could get up to the front where it was mostly Notre Dame, some Michigan State, and myself sitting at the front waiting for the field to catch up (after the false turn it was neutralized).

Jared at the front again.
There I sat as a loyal 3rd wheel – never doing any of the work, never dropping back into the mayhem that is the middle of the field. A Notre Dame guy, taking a page out of the Tommy Peng playbook, shot off the front. There was a slight hesitation from the field to chase after him which resulted in a very weak acceleration – not enough to really do anything. Two riders from Notre Dame then took over the effort at the front and blocked for their rider down their road. Exquisite teamwork.  Shouts were heard, especially from Michigan State and UIC, to get the Notre Dame riders off the front and some riders attacked to bring the speed up but Notre Dame would eventually get back up there after a brief effort. This repeated itself over the entire first lap as the lone rider off the front was able to gain about 45 seconds on the field. Despite passing a D-rider, which made absolutely no sense considering that they started after us, the first lap was a nice group ride.

From the T. Peng playbook.  This attack didn't work out.
The beginning of the second lap looked to be as boring as the first lap until there was a huge attack during a particularly nasty crosswind. I lost my spot as 3rd wheel during this attack and was just holding onto the field during the 27 MPH attack (keep in mind we had been averaging about 21 before this point). I said to myself “No photographic evidence,” and from there, it was no longer difficult to catch back on and hold onto the field. The attack lasted for about 4 minutes on the 2 mile stretch of cross winds. We dropped quite a few people from the field at this point but the size of the pack must have been in the low 30s – a tight race still.

Zack looking good in the field (and not at the back!).
At this point, the Notre Dame-r that was off the front had only about a 5” lead and you could see he was putting everything he could into keeping that small slice of time.  Then, as we were approaching a bumpy section of the course, an attack by two Wisconsin riders ended the Dame-r’s yellow jersey aspirations and he dropped like a rock through the field. Near the end of the attack, a lone D-racer was found straggling along. He insisted to use the middle of the road rather than pull over, effectively pissing off the entire field and prompting vulgarity. After this attack, the rest of the lap was once again a nice little group ride through the country side of Indiana.

Jared wears these sunglasses because his future's so bright.
Not too much happened on the beginning or the middle of the third lap, but you could tell there was a lot of tension in the field. Riders were getting squirrelly. Trash talking briefly erupted. The pace slowly rose to a steady 25 MPH. With about 15 minutes to go, two attackers come when we make the corner towards a ‘hilly section.’ One was an Illinois Tech while the other a Lindsay Wilson. The Illinois Tech guy was a self-proclaimed amazing Tri-Athlete, so it wasn’t too surprising when he got dropped as soon as the field caught him about 4 minutes later. At this point, I’m sitting in a good position – probably about 6th or 7th wheel. As we make our way through the last of the hilly section, a wild D-rider appears! This time, he politely pulls to the side but the wheel I’m following decides to take an awkward line forcing me to adjust. I adjust accordingly and all is fine for 2 seconds until that same wheel then decides to get into my new line and brake – and then there I go, into the back with only a few miles remaining and very little chance to move up through the field of about 30.

This attack didn't work either.
The final stretch of road into the finish is a long straight away, about 2 miles maybe, with a slight downhill at the beginning. This made for a fast approach into the sprint where the yellow line rule was no longer in effect. Knowing that if I don’t make an early sprint and take advantage of the yellow line IMMEDIEATLY, I could be completely out of contention. My friend from Wisconsin decides to take a very early sprint – probably about 1 kilometer out and before the yellow line rule is over. This prompts the field to start moving. With about 600 meters to go, there is a flurry of early sprints but no one seems to be separating from the field. Then, at about 400 meters to go, I make my move off the back as soon as the yellow line is gone. I had to spin my little compact crank as fast as I could to get through the field – and I did just that. There was no more giant field in front of me, no squirrelly riders, and no self-proclaimed super tri-athlete – just a few riders all within an arm’s reach. Despite the leader only being half a second off the front and taking 17th, it was a good race and a good end to collegiate road racing for the year.  For next year, I will keep in mind “No photographic evidence.”
Oh yeah.

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