Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Wheel Around The Hub - close but no gold watch this year

Actually I wasn't close at all.

Location: Smethport, PA

Every year they hold this race (since 1890!) , the winner gets a gold pocketwatch and a nice cash payout as well. It's a "citizen's race" (yeah - right) , meaning the USCF is not involved. However, each lap of seven carries a 50$ prime and the overall winner gets $300 plus the watch.

Pros show up. 1s and 2s show up. Everyone shows up. It's a tough race. Lots of surges. Lots of attacks.

The first couple of laps were absolute purgatory for me, just holding wheels. I prayed that the pace would either slow or my endorphins would kick in (preferably both!) by lap three. Whether that happened or not, I don't really know. What I do know is that laps three, four and five seemed to go by in a daze. Maybe I am really going to hang in there!

Lap six was a different story. There was a break of three off the front who had gotten 90 seconds on us and apparently some of the real hammerheads in the front had decided it was time to put an end to it. This was done by a series of brutal surges having us doing 31mph into a flat headwind. (holy shit)

The break was swallowed up before we finished the lap. I felt like my legs had been placed gently into a meat grinder and slowly pureed.

But I was still in the race. Maybe half the field had been dropped at this point.

Sometimes I judge a race by how many times I feel like getting off the bike and walking back to the parking lot. I felt like that more times during this race than I usually do, even a few times after crossing the endorphin threshold. But once we got to the seventh and final lap, I felt a relieved happiness. I am going to make it!

Um. no.

There is a wooden bridge on this course. It has been there since they started running the race in 1890 and we still have to traverse it. It's bumpy. It's narrow. It has planks going the direction of travel. You can slip in to the crevice. I did once.

From that point on I only rode in the middle of the bridge, where the planks are perpendicular to our travel. It was, on every lap, the toughest section of the race. The guys in the front, having been instructed at the beginning of the race that this was a neutral section and attacks were not allowed, attacked




as it turned out, the 7th time was one time too many for me. I found myself near the back as we hit the bridge, and just didn't have enough sprint left in my legs to catch back on for one last time. I watched them go up the road.


Anyway, it was fast. They set a new record. Blah blah blah.

I lost two minutes in half a lap and still matched the previous record, blah blah. 31st place. yay.

I'm still not over this, obviously, but I rode again today and made my peace with God, sorta.

Maybe next year.

Montrose Apple Fest

Yeah, it's been a while since I posted anything to this blog. In all honesty I haven't really felt like reporting my lack of form in the past month or so (precipitated by and following the Millersburg fiasco).

So I might as well just get it over with. I've gone through all sorts of unexpected setbacks to my form since then and haven't really wanted to race much. I did the Tour de Loop in Oswego last month and it was pretty disastrous. Don't expect a report. I basically concluded that my season was most likely over and cancelled my plans to do the Green Mtn Stage Race.

At the last minute I signed up for the Apple Fest. This is a race I have done several times before and managed to finish just out of the money in the Masters 35+. They run all the fields at the same time so it's kind of bizarre racing with the possibility of maybe "winning" the race even if you are not the first person over the line.

It's short and not sweet. 26 miles of endlessly hilly terrain, but no climb is longer than three minutes until you hit the final of three KOMs which is closer to five minutes. Essentially these hills are maximal efforts, not threshold grinds. There is also ample opportunity for less-than-awesome climbers to catch back on if they hammer the downhills.

The course record was set by our own Mike Jones the year he turned professional (1:05 even).

Every year since then they have offered a cash prize to the man who beats it. Every year they have kept the money as nobody has beaten it yet. Every year the money gets a bit bigger. Every year the race gets a bit faster. You get the idea.

This year the prize was a cool $525 to whomever dethrones MJ.

You could tell there was big money on the line as we went full gas as soon as the pace car pulled away out of town. Immediately the pack split in two and I was in the second group. We did some hellish chasing for about three miles until turn one where we made contact finally. I suspect that much of the field was gone for good at this point, but I made the cut.

Shortly after this is the first KOM. Hurty. I really don't know what the power was like, but it was enough to make my want to puke. I stayed in contact again and crested the hill in the back of the principal group. Not a whole lot of respite was to follow, as the guys in the front were still clearly dreaming of pay day and we had to pedal downhill to keep it together.

The second KOM in this race was my nemesis last year. It's just a bit longer than the first and has a few steeper sections. I kept in contact until about 500m to go when I started to feel the legs fade. Eventually I had to capitulate and just let them go. After the top I was staring at a distant group of 15 or so who remained. I was more or less alone, although there was one rider in front of me, within range. Looking over my shoulder often, I could never see anyone back there, so I decided to put my head down and TT my way up to this guy.

Once contact was made we decided to go as hard as we could and try to hold off anyone who might be behind us. This worked for a few miles but eventually we were joined by a group of three (including Chuck, my teammate who descends like a stone but sometimes gets popped on the uphills). He is strong as heck this year and it was tough to just hold on to him as we rotated through.

No other riders were forthcoming from either direction so we "worked" together in a somewhat cat-fiveish fashion for the rest of the race. I decided to try and push the issue on KOM #3, but was not successful in dropping anyone from our little club, although Chuck lost contact and had to catch up on the descent.

Once we got close to town, the pace slowed and we were clearly thinking about resting up for the line. I was feeling pretty much toasted so I didn't force the issue (although it would have been a better move to make an attempt here).

No. I sat in and waited for the steep uphill sprint. Pfft. No snap at all. Last of our group, I should have just gone for it with half a mile to go as it would not have made a difference if I had failed. I guess I am still lacking confidence and not feeling physically well.

As it turned out I was fifth in the M35+, worth ten bucks and a few upgrade points. Not a bad result considering the condition I have been in lately.

The record was not broken. David Novak missed it by 10 (ten) TEN