Monday, April 16, 2012

Carondelet, Forest Park, and Hillsboro 2012 (p/1/2s)

Blogging has gone by the wayside this year.  I guess traveling a bunch does that.  Bike racing has started, so here’s a little update on that front.

Carondelet Crit
The Carondelet crit could not have gone better in 2011, I won the race out of a 3 man break.  My companions in the break were no slouches either.  We’re all still on speaking terms, though I (rightly) get called a wheel sucker now and again.  For 2012 I’m no longer racing with the cat 3’s but riding with the big boys.  My expectations were quite low for this crit: don’t get dropped from the field.  Seriously, such were my goals for the first race of the year.  I could enumerate all my excuses, but I’ll spare you (generous reader) the list.  

During warmup, riding with my teammate BJ, we noted the numerous Dogfishes warming up.  Also of note was IN boy Drew (NUVO).  While BJ opened it up on Holly Hills Rd I struggled to go fast.  I warned him as we approached the line a few minutes later that I probably wasn’t going to be a fast guy today.  Turns out my rear brake was rubbing pretty badly.  A quick trip to the pit and presto – feeling great.  The race went well with BJ and I covering moves in turn.  I was surprised to find myself in the selection at the end of the race but a little too tuckered out to do much in the finale!  I came away with 8th place which is a nice start to the season and got to see how the race was won by Dr. Mark (Gateway).  “He’s gone too early.”  Oh wait, he just won.

Forest Park Crit
This crit is bitter to recall from 2011 as I was so close yet so far from a solo victory.  This year an intermittent rain made many riders think better of paying money to ride in the park.  BJ and I lined up but with the thought that the season is long and it’s not worth dying in March in the rain.  Again we covered moves in turn and with the confidence from Saturday’s race I made it into the break/selection of the day.  I’m still learning how the racing game is played at this next level, so winding up in the selection both days is prize enough for me.  Coming into the finish I sat on the back of the group as one turn had a paint stripe on it and when wet I’m deathly afraid of them.  So I entered the sprint last, knowingly handicapping my position and moved up a little to finish 11th.  Another good day out considering the training I’ve had this spring.

Hillsboro Roubiax
If the contrast between the ’11 and ’12 crits above was stark, Hillsboro was another world of racing.  After being the big fish in the small pond of the cat 3’s last year, 2012 showed me what racing with the big boys was really like in my first P/1/2 Hillsboro Roubaix.  The conditions were harsh with a steady rain and some gusty winds throughout the day.  The point of relief was the temperature.  Starting in the high 50’s and going up into the high 60’s, being soaking wet wasn’t all that bad.  Had the shift gone the other way I’m pretty sure I would have DNF’d.  Or at least held on to my rain cape. 

The constant rain and rough country roads did take their toll, as many riders experienced punctures.  The frequency of mechanicals and crashes thinned the field down during our three laps.  There were some wild moments that really got the adrenaline going – seeing cat1’s sliding out in turns, rolling through a ditch, or just plain hitting the deck is sobering.  I have less fitness and experience, so I better stay on my toes (figuratively speaking, one would not wish to dramatically alter one’s pedal stroke mid-race.  Of course.)

One thrill to share was the accomplishment of feeding myself in situ.  Gels are easy to coax down, especially with the heavy spray from the pack providing a nice earthy electrolyte chaser should you accept it.  But I managed to inhale a stinger waffle (my new favorite/Achilles Heel) in one giant chomp.  Shoving that thing in while trying to breath and not crash must have made me a sight.  I will treasure that memory.  Thanks Hillsboro.

Another moment comes courtesy of one Jelly Belly PRO who animated the race.  The PRO consistently took digs at the front, while we amateurs played “follow the pro.”  I guess there was a tet a tet with the moto ref (who was the most dangerous rider to be near in the field) regarding forward progress and imaginary yet enforceable lines.  So the PRO attacked up the right side of the field.  No big deal right?  Well, yes, it was a big deal when “going up the right side” meant first traversing a drainage ditch, sprinting through some grass, crossing a driveway, and then re-entering the roadway via another drainage ditch.  It was a pretty sweet move.  I let out a hearty “whoop” of approval (not of the “please somebody chase that down for me” sort though.  Of course.)

So the race was fast, wet, and tiring.  The garmin computer says I burned 5k+ calories.  Strava says I burned 4k+ calories.  Regardless, I rode my bike, stayed upright, and had fun crossing the line 38/100 (77 finishers).

Oh, and it was good fun to see lots of people I don't see so often.  I do enjoy seeing you all.  Yes, even you.

Next Up:
Tour of Hermann Road Race (a.k.a. Frenchy climbs to his death atop the Gutenberg Wall - and you should too!)
Tour de CU!!!!! (if the current work schedule holds!)