Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

Since it's fairly rare that our members do a cycling race, the crack NETT news crew gathered up some detailed accounts of the great success three of our members had at the recent Quabbin Reservoir Race. Here's a few notes:

Here's a report from Paul Miller, winner of the category 4 race:

So much more goes on in a bike race than a triathlon: here are just a few of my memories of the event.

On the major downhill heading out of the start, I was uncomfortable so sat near the back and had a great view first of one guy shaking/vibrating so much as his bike picked up speed, then 30 secs later, of two guys going over the wall. One skidded out on a turn and took out the guy behind him. Not sure which one was the worst off, but one was totally motionless on the ground. Freaked me out, so I stayed out of the middle of the pack, hanging at the back (then the front) thereafter.

First 9 miles was kind of jolty from the back: when the front hit an uphill and we were going down we had to brake hard. When the front hit the downhill while we were still going up, we had to work hard.

Overall I found the early pace moderate, not easy, so thought our idea of picking up the pace at mile 9, the first big hill, to break up the field, maybe unnecessary. However I gradually started moving up when we hit the hill and noticed the pace was picking up. I looked ahead and saw a few guys off the front and noticed the guy leading was NETT. Probably hit my highest power in the race closing that gap as 75 riders makes for a big distance to close --- and at times spread across the road so I'd have to brake on the uphill.

Group of 5 or 6 away, including Joe and Jerry, but we got pulled back fairly easily, so I figured no chance of breaking away at this stage. However, next hill Jerry pushes it again so I go with him and by the end of the next hill there are 6 or 7 of us away. Some confusion in my mind as our break passes the peleton in front of us (M55+ but gaining 5mins in about 30-40mins of riding shows the early pace was not idle) and looking back I did not know who was in our race, who in the other, and felt like one of them had joined our break for a while (he had gray hair so I asked him if he was 55 -- he did not respond :-) ).

The break increased to 9 for a while and we just ticked along moderately for 30 miles, but basically Jerry, Erik and me doing the work. Always hard to tell how it feels to others when you're on the front, but as a control, when I was drafting it was always easy, except when Jerry was on the front :-)

A few times on uphills I tried to drop some of the hangers-on who were not working, but they always managed to stick back on.

I heard some comments on "Track and Trail" and that one team had decided to "leave us alone" whatever that means (they figured we did not know what we were doing maybe when we jumped off the front?)

My biggest worry from half-way through the race onwards was that my crank arm would come off. The creaking got louder and louder, giving dangerous sounds, especially if I got out of my saddle -- made me stay in a low gear and spin more, but gave me concerns about a possible hard finish :-) Luckily the support car was right behind us and I was trying to figure out if there was an optimal time I could stop off the back, quickly use a wrench to tighten the crank shaft then regroup (and who knows, if Jerry was on the lead he might hold the pace up for me :-) ) There never seemed a good time, and luckily it made it through (a couple of guys said they were keeping well clear of me on the finish hill).

By 15miles to go I decided the race was between the group of us for sure, so went easy when I knew a "nice" hill was ahead and only went hard if I thought there was no draft advantage for those on my wheel and I might lose some other riders.

Almost did this at mile 47-8, gaining a bit of a gap with one then two others, but an accident on the road held us up. Both Erik and I were inexperienced, Matt yelling to keep going, but when I saw the motorbike ahead of us stop I thought we had to stay behind it ... Jerry was first to regroup, which makes me wonder if without that incident it would just have been 4 of us on the final stretch. However the other caught back on too.

Jerry led much of the first mile of the final 2.5miles of uphill, I did a break early and lost nobody to my worry. Returned to the rear of the group for a gentle downhill stretch, then went again --- down to 3 -- thought I saw the line, so went again for the finish, got away but it wasn't the finish, just a photographer and parking spot. No choice but to keep going and stayed ahead.

Overall it's probably the most fun road race I've done -- would have been happier with no bike issues and especially if Joe was in the break -- I'm sure he would have been stronger than the 3 hangers-on."

Thanks Paul. Now, we'll hear from Jerry:

We started downhill out of the park and within 1 mile garmin had me at 38mph! Just ahead and off to my right two guys overcooked a hard left turn and slammed into some big boulders lining the road on their way completely over the embankment, hope they are OK and what a crappy way to start/finish a race. Oh, did I mention that was part of the "neutral" start?! Guess I learned something in that first two neutral miles!

We got out on Rt9 to start the racing and promptly slowed down as the road rose. After working my way into the top or so of the field for a few miles I went up and joined Erik on a steady uphill (gee do you think Erik was pulling?) and took a pull myself just to see how the legs felt. Matt Mitchell (switched out of 4/5 to our race just before start), Ray, Paul and Joe were also close by. Then by mile 8 or so ~8 of us had a gap on a good sized uphill. I looked around and was pleased to see at least Matt, Paul and of course Erik in our bunch.

By ~mile 15, I heard a familiar voice in my ear, Joe had helped lead a group of ~30 (?) riders back to us, I think Ray was in this group too. For a while the groups yo-yo'ed back/forth up and down the hills. I think it was about mile 27 or so a final selection was made with Erik, Paul, Matt and myself as well as a few guys who seemed mostly interested in just trying to hang on.

From here on we rode strongly and did our best to make the break stick. Kind of cool when I looked back to see the SRAM car just behind. A fair amount of suffering and some banter (basically politicking by the random dudes hanging on ("... please take the pace down, I'm not a threat, we're not going to make it to the finish like this!" Ya! Right!) over the next 30 miles or so and finally we were screaming downhill and heading into the park, 3.5 miles to go.

While I had good energy the quadriceps were cramping when I tried full gas. I could do nothing but ride a decent tempo to the finish and watched as Paul had a few digs, finally moving ahead to take the win followed pretty closely by Matt (2nd) and Erik (3rd in his very first race!). Our hangers-on finished ahead of me (big surprise.) and I finished last (7th) of our breakaway group. Not too much time passed and Joe (8th)led the first chase group across and Ray (10th) was right there too.

What a great race! I'm fairly new to the road racing scene and I enjoyed myself tremendously, from the tactics to the banter to the terrain and oh yes, riding the bike is fun too, it's all good!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Was that Matt Mitchell from Pelham,NH?

If so, he is a co-worker of mine here at S & N.