Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where's The Podium? #2: Hollidaysburg Canoe Creek 1 - 9th

I am going to try and keep my policy of no regrets alive through this one. This race was another animal for me compared to my Morgantown race. Sure Morgantown was a climbing race, but this one was more of hill repeat race. I am running through my mind what I could have done differently to have come out with a better result, but what happens, happens and overall this is still a learning experience.
Terrible fog on the way there and back.
This morning was a rush. I woke up at 6am for the 8:30ish race start and there were a lot of things I wish I had taken care of either the night before or with more patience that would have kept my focus at least intact. For example, the gps system I have for my car is a real pain. The past two weekends it has not been able to find the parks or destinations I need to get to to park and begin my pre-race warm-ups. I have had to rely on either a friend's gps or, like today, guessing a bit and utilizing some rather ambiguous verbal directions from the kind driver next to me. on top of that, I should have gotten gas the night before. Not only was the possibility of missing the sign-in due to not knowing where I was going haunting me, I was on "E" and below that last dial mark for way longer than I felt comfortable. Those two factors alone were enough to unnerve me even before we rolled into the assigned parking lot in a rush to sign in.
David hustling after sign-in.
After my sign-in I rushed back to my car and did what I could to get myself right before the start of the race. After slapping that trust warming gel on the legs and making sure my number race "6" wasn't a number "9," I rolled out with David to the port-a-potty and then off to the start line. The race was to be 5 laps around the hilly course with two 90 degree turns to keep everyone alert. There wasn't a flat spot on the road until the finishing stretch. It was a cold race and I was one, of only two, to have a go at this race again with no leg or knee warmers (How much are tickets to Belgium?)

They combined all of the fields into a single roll out. The Cat 4/5 field was certainly the largest with about 30 or so racers. With us, we had a small women's field and an even smaller Cat 1/2/3 field of four racers leading us out on the course. The 1/2/3s pulled away as we began our race with a brisk spin and it didn't take long for the race to get to business with the rush of a Pitt University rider taking the front on the first hill. The course was up and down the whole way and these hills would become very familiar to our stretching legs. There was some real accordion action going on with the peloton throughout the race with efforts really picking up on the harder sections and down the other sides, while calmer portions allowed for enough recovery to settle in to those behind.

This is where the race began complications for me. I was feeling strong, motivated and confident about this morning's race. It was not a terribly long race and in my mind, there is no reason why I couldn't have gone for the win. The length might just be that deciding factor however. Had this race been longer I doubt there would have been so much chaos on the finishing stretch because those who were continually  sagging on the tougher ascents would have cracked and a truly strong group would have decided the winner.

The race really erupted with 2 laps to go when that aforementioned University of Pitt racer thought the sign said 1 to go and he put a real dig attack at the front and opened up a gap on one of the tougher hills. Most were scrambling to keep up with that attack and I quickly moved past a lot of the racers finding myself one of the chasers of his short-lived break away. I was with maybe 5-6 racers and we worked well together to reel him and any other break away attempts back in. Note: I did not shy away from taking any pulls to close a gap as I knew nothing would stick and there would be time for recovery. Unfortunately, after our select group reeled in those attacks, we didn't keep the gas flowing as hard and were caught by a large chase group. I won't say at the time I minded so much as I knew I wasn't losing the race being part of a larger group, but in hindsight it would have been nice for us to continue to act with a sense of urgency. With either 2 or 1 to go we caught a straggler from the 1/2/3 race and he was of the "Spokes n Skis" team. They are the hosting bicycle club of the Hollidaysburg Spring Classics series and they certainly had strength in numbers for this race. I was happy to encourage us working together to catch any escapees, but the race was back together with 1 lap to go and no one was about to try to be a hero at this point.

The pace was still hard and my legs were feeling the efforts. I didn't have doubts about my ability and I was paying attention to wheels I wanted to follow when the finish was upon us. The problem was, there were so many to choose from.

Expectations: I listened to my gut. That Cat 1/2/3 rider we picked up, though he may have been on the same team as many of the contenders in our field, would prove the best wheel for me to follow when we it this finishing stretch. Certainly he knows the finish and would have a lot left in his tank for either a lead-out or just a good dig to the front. He goes - I follow, and whether I drop the hammer hard enough in a jump from his wheel to take the sprint or someone else just pips me at the line, I made the right move going to the front and not hesitating. No matter how many people are in the final field sprint, his wheel was mine and I took advantage of it in the best way

Reality: We swing onto the final stretch (that we did not ride through on any of the laps except for the roll out and the line hadn't even been drawn yet) and it's anyone's game. I see the Cat 1/2/3 racer right in front of me make dig to the front and put a little gap on everyone - no one takes his wheel. My hesitation is that it's just too far from the line and maybe someone else will follow this move that I can grab a wheel from. I don't know this finishing stretch and I have no clue where the finish line really is. I had been paying attention to the other strong riders throughout the race and there were any I could have taken. I know who had done long hard pulls on the front and who didn't suffer as bad as everyone else on the continuous hills. I am bobbing over the yellow line (center-line rule nulled) trying to pick a wheel that will take me to the line. The group is moving fast and everyone seems to have enough for the win. A surge on my right goes away and I am left dodging some of the riders now cracking from the sprint. I continue to accelerate and I see he line is now maybe 75 yards ahead with at least 5-8 riders still ahead of me. I believe I still pass more before I cross it and I am not happy with myself.

I played my cards right up until that finishing stretch. I should have gone with my gut instinct rather than left it to chance. I am mad I didn't go with that rider while I had the chance. He may not have had enough to take me to the line, but I certainly would have been better off to catch someone else's wheel up front rather than swinging around behind working for a lessor position. I may not have known the finish, but he did and a sharper mind would have told me to go with him. I had him and maybe two other racers I was looking to follow at the finish and I failed to really utilize any of them.

I am hard on myself and that is that. I am still learning lessons and I will take these and hopefully apply them to my next endeavors. On a more positive note, one of the Team Spokes N Skis racers told me at the start line that had read my post about Morgantown and mentioned that he actually picked up a tip from it that I unfortunately forgot to remember in my rush to get ready for this morning's start. He then whipped it out and dropped some liquid race-weight - when you gotta go.... I always appreciate readers and he is telling me I should race the Hollidaysburg Telpower race coming up in a few weeks that sounds a lot like another nice climbing race like Morgantown.  Anyway, it was nice to see and hear his kids cheering us all on marshaling a corner with his wife. On the last lap I definitely heard a "Go Daddy!" coming from those excited fans. It sounds like another serious climbing race like Morgantown! (Note: Today's race was not a climbing on in my opinion, but a punchy-hill one. Climbing races make you push and suffer much more than today.) We'll see how I feel after my next week of crits. The Team SNS riders are a good bunch and I do hope to see them in future races.

At this point, I am guessing as to my official race result. I could have ended up worse than 6th, but I don't think I was any further down than 8th. I will post up the official result when I can. Either way I am certainly happy that I did the race. It was a very well run and organized race and post -race soup and sandwiches was a very much appreciated touch! I made a joke this race when I saw a rider toss one of his unnecessary bottles from his bike a the start of the final lap. I yelled out "Like a Pro!" and no one else seemed to find this too funny as I guess things were supposed to get serious. I like to keep things light especially when I can tell others are suffering more than me (though none of that matter when I don't come out with a good result). I took off my extra cage last night knowing that carrying a second bottle in a race that would hover around an hour would be extra weight. Beyond garnering no laughs from my little exclamation, a hard effort was what I needed and a real check on my mental edge within the race is good to have.
By the numbers, I remembered to start my garmin at the race start and today's was about 24(.01) miles exactly with a max speed of 36.7 pmh and an average of 20.8 mph. I have a recorded time of 1 hour 9 minutes with a max hr of 189 bpm and an average of 159 bpm. Only 1703 ft of climbing with a max speed of 36.7 mph.
Pretty house I believe a friend may have been telling me about the other day that I was happy to see - back in Indiana.
Thanks for reading and I hope these climbing legs and lessons I'm acquiring will help me in the future. This racing is what I love and I'm excited to begin crit racing at the Bud harris Cycling Oval on Tuesday (on Wednesday nights I have class which has it's pluses and minuses) and the Steel City Showdown on Sunday. Oh baby!

OFFICIAL RESULTS: I took 9th not 6th. Not happy about that result at all, but I'm really prepping for this weekend.

Tomorrow is the infamous "Hell of The North," Paris-Roubaix race. This Queen of the Classics is a true test of a strong-man's will. I am excited to watch it live tomorrow morning from some live feeds presented by Cycling Fans. If you don't know about Paris-Roubaix, get familiar. This race makes legends out of cyclings very best and solidifies them in cycling history. I am entirely humbled by the true passion of everyone involved in this, the most difficult one-day race of the year. It will also be showing in prime time on Versus starting at 7pm for a 3 hour exclusive coverage of the race tomorrow evening. Oh baby baby!


  1. No need to beat yourself up over tactics. Don't worry too much about what would have happened by taking an earlier wheel, the only person you can be sure of is yourself. Sounds like you raced hard and did a commendable amount of work rather than suck wheels. Nice Job, and exciting post to read.

  2. Thanks, man! I appreciate the read and comment!