Monday, May 31, 2010

Wapello-Burlington Road Race 2010

This past Friday, I departed, along with teammate Trent, for a weekend of racing in Iowa. I am originally from Iowa and would be staying at my parents house all weekend. I was excited for three races (two of which are quite unique) in one weekend.

The first of the three races was the Wapello-Burlington Road Race. The race was a point-to-point 33 mile road race. Point-to-point road races are fairly uncommon for Cat 5's in the Midwest, so I was excited to be participating in something different. The course was fairly simple, 33 miles of rolling hills with a downhill sprint into downtown Burlington.

I was nervous because this was my first road race. I was coming off of a tough week of work and my head was nowhere near where it needed to be for me to be competitive for 33 miles of racing. My biggest concern was staying hydrated and eating enough. Being a big guy, I tend to sweat more and burn more calories than my competitors. In 30-45 minute crits, this isn't a big deal. But 33 miles in 90 degree heat is a different story. I decided to race with 3 bottles, all filled with Gu Brew and a couple of Gu Energy Gels in my jersey. This ended up not being the right choice, but an ok choice in the end.

They lined us up early and made us stand in the sun for quite a while, but the race went off pretty close to on-time. The race started out so slow that I thought we had a neutral roll-out. There was no neutral roll-out, but we nonetheless rode at 16 mph for almost a mile. Finally a Bike Burlington who was right in front of me moved to the front. I followed him and ended up sitting second wheel for the 4 miles he pulled. We were mostly riding with crosswinds so I was not too concerned about sitting second wheel.

Between miles 5 and 30, nothing too exciting happened. People tried to attack but were always pulled back. Trent and I spent a fair amount of time working on the front trying to keep the pace up and drop some riders off the back but I think our efforts (along with the efforts of others at the front) were generally unsuccessful. The problem we had to deal with was farm equipment on the rode. Such an Iowa problem! The course officials would not let us pass the vehicles by ourselves, so when we came upon one, we would have to slow down, giving everyone time to catch up, and then pass when the course officials let us go around. This was frustrating, but probably did not have much of an effect on the outcome of the race.

Around mile 22, I was moving up on left side of the pack. At the same time, another rider, who was in the middle of the pack decided to move over to the left for no reason, pushing the rider next to me and myself into the other lane. I got a warning from the course official for crossing the line but fortunately he did not pull me. Little did I know how foretelling this incident would be.

The officials had told us at the start that when we saw the Case plant, we were a mile and half from the finish and the finish was downhill. I took this to mean that the course was downhill from the Case plant. Oops. I guess it would have been beneficial to have driven the course before, oh well. I attacked right after the Case plant and was actually able to get some separation. However, after I turned the corner, I realized that there was an uphill before the downhill (there were actually two). So I slowed down and came back into the pack.

After cresting the hill, we were working down the descent when someone on the front tried another attack. I was sitting a bike length behind Trent with no one in between. The rider next to him, the same rider that had swerved earlier, decided to try and cut across two people horizontally (I have no idea why) and clipped the rider next to me's wheel. The rider next to me made a valiant attempt to save it, but he ended up going down hard. The last thing I saw was a carbon wheel near my head, but luckily I escaped unscathed. I looked back and no one had made it past the crash after me. I looked forward to see about 15 riders in front of me. Mentally, I was completely fried and let a gap grow. The lead riders went crested the final hill before the finish and I was a couple bike lengths behind everyone. As I saw the finish about 500m ahead, I got in the drops and gave it all I had. I passed two people and finished a satisfying 14th. Trent rolled in ahead of me picking up 7th. Sprinting at 40 mph on a downhill was an exhilarating experience!

Reflecting on the race, I was quite happy with how well I rode. I was active on the front and finished well considering the circumstances. I will make sure to never try and drink 3 bottles of Gu Brew in a race as I ended up giving myself terrible cottonmouth. I am really not a believer in blaming people for crashes, but the rider error I witnessed in the race was disappointing. I took it as a lesson on what racing in the 5's could be like.

After the race, Trent and I took a quick ride up the Snake (see the next blog entry) and rode the bus back to Burlington. We headed back to Iowa City for some food and quick rest before attempting to conquer one of the toughest crits in the U.S.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, thanks for the great blog post. It's entirely possible that I'm the rider who "decided to try and cut across two people horizontally" right before the crash. If I am, it was a little more of a chain reaction than that: The rider next to me took that corner very sharply, and ended up contacting my shoulder and pushing me over to the left where my rear wheel contacted someone just a few moments before the crash. A part of the blame is surely mine, but there were a lot of squirrelly things going on after the case plant, and I'm sure the rider who contacted me was responding so some other thing that caused him to turn so sharply. I sure wish a speedy recovery to those injured in the crash.

    In any case, thanks again for the great post!