Monday, April 4, 2011

San Dimas Stage 2: Murphy's Law

Stage 2 was a circuit race on a hilly course of about 7 miles.  The roads have been destroyed by the heavy rains of late, with potholes and huge cracks littering the course.  We rode the loop multiple times as a team, not only to get familiar with the big climb, but to remember where the most dangerous holes and traffic islands (road furniture) were located.

I was in an awesome mood that morning.  My legs felt fantastic and I was confident in my ability to hold on to the U25 leader's jersey with the help of my teammates.  We made note of the racers closest to me in the competition, but were mainly concerned with Joe from Elbowz racing, who was only 9 seconds behind in the overall standings and was intent on taking the lead.

The race started quickly, and I immediately sprinted to the front of the field before we reached the narrow part of the course.  We were flying up the King of the Mountains climb each lap around, a moderately steep pitch that takes a couple minutes to get over if you big-ring it.  It hurt, but I was never put in any significant pain.  My teammates did a good job of keeping me out of the wind when we reached the crosswinds, and helping me move to the front before tricky or hard parts of the course.

Not in a spot of bother
Lap 5 of 12.  None of us were surprised to see the Cat. 2 field just ahead, as the promoters had made the poor decision to start them 5 minutes ahead of us.  It only took us 30-some miles to catch them.  Okay, shouldn't be too much trouble, we've all passed other fields many times before.  Oh, how wrong I was....

We caught the back end of the 2 field right as we reached a bottleneck where we all had to squeeze between some park gates while making a turn at the top of a hill.  I was near the front with 2 teammates around me, but by the time we got through the gates I had been separated from them.  No problem, just need to get by the 2's quickly.

Unfortunately, the officials for the 2's race failed to slow them down so that we could get by safely.  So we had two fields racing all-out down a narrow and very twisty portion of the course next to each other.  By the time our race was finally getting by the 2's, it was a half-mile after we'd caught them.  We made the dodgey chicane to cross the dam, and I was going hard to make sure I didn't get split off in all the chaos.

Then  the officials decided to slow the 2 field down, just as we were alongside them.  They slowed so fast that the 2 field accordioned and a crash carried to the left into the path of our field.  The guy ahead of me was fighting to stay upright, and I had to lay down a crazy skid to avoid the crash at well over 30mph.

Finally the road ahead of me was clear and I was good to resume the chase, but I heard the unmistakable sound of broken spokes.  Just need a quick wheel change and then chase back on!  Ah, but I was mistaken; the sound was that of my derailleur broken off and pinging against the spokes.  I needed another bike.  I had slowed too quickly for the guy behind me, and his bike rammed mine and broke the derailleur off.

Something is not where it should be....
My teammates John, Scott, and Chris rolled up to me, ready to help in any way possible.  I needed one of their bikes...and shoes.  I have not yet had my new shoes set up properly, so I'm currently riding my old shoes and pedals that aren't compatible with my teammates' pedals.  So I took Scott's shoes, John's bike, and set off with Chris in pursuit of a field that was now at least 2 minutes ahead and not slowing down.  Scott and John were now out of the race.

Chris and I gave chase and picked up Drew, who was waiting on me.  Drew and Chris killed themselves for me, but to no avail.  We had the help of other chasers, but they were blown off the back of the field and were not of much help.  I was giving everything I had, but it became clear that we would not catch up.  Now the goal was to finish within the time limit so that we could race the next day.  Drew and Chris had given everything, though, and would not make the cut.  I would be close.

As our luck would have it, I finished just a few minutes too late.  Ian was our only rider left in the race because of that single incident, and he was too injured to race the following day because of a separate crash later in the race!

To make matters worse, Adam, our Cat. 2 racer who was in 3rd overall at the start of the day, was eliminated from the race in the same crash that caused my troubles when his cleat broke off his shoe.

So there you have it, the entire team eliminated from the race in a single stage. I'll be hanging my white jersey on my bedroom wall to help me stay angry and motivated.

To make the most of our time in California, we spent the beginning of the next week doing a mini-camp. On Monday, we did Stage 7 of the Tour of California.

The stage has 10,000 feet of climbing in 76 miles
Ever the overachiever, and needing to work out some frustration, I flogged myself and my teammates on the climbs, and then repeated the last bit of the climbs as we waited for everyone to regroup.  At the end of the day, I was the only one with enough energy and gall to take on the final ascent to Mt. Baldy, an additional 1500 feet of climbing in a couple miles.  It was steep enough in the switchbacks to spin my tire on a little bit of sand.  At the end of the day, I had done 12-13 thousand feet of climbing, and was thoroughly destroyed.

I've been longwinded as always, so I'll just leave you with pics of the ride.
Drew taking a pic as we climbed through the clouds into sunny skies

Say cheese, John

The descent down Glendora ridge was so much fun, I just wish we had closed roads!