Monday, February 18, 2008

Huh. New England still has snow. Weird.

So we're back! Unfortunately, my plan of updating via Blackberry with photos fell apart. I think it had something to do with the tubes. Or the gigs. RAM maybe? I'm not sure.

All in all, though, I felt that it was a successful weekend. The drive down was fun, as we had warmth to look forward to. The drive back...not so much.

Saturday was a 74 mile Pro/1/2/3 road race. NorEast was represented by myself (Ryan Kelly), Josh Austin and Ryan Carney. The field was filled with many riders who were apparently soft, by New England standards - they had on tights, booties, winter hats and winter riding jackets. The three of us were wearing arm warmers and knee warmers.

Pansy North Carolinians. But they have also been riding outside for...the majority of the winter. My last outdoor ride was about two weeks ago. And there were also three or four teams with more than five riders. So, before the race started, we knew it was probably going to be interesting.

The race started off at a moderate pace, and eventually some action started happening up front. For once, I stayed out of the mix - what with having no idea how my legs were at this insanely early point in the season - but Josh Austin made his way into a break that eventually gained four minutes on the field. Which was pretty fantastic.

I spent a good part of his time off of the front, hanging around and keeping the pace to a medium pace, hoping he would stay away, and hopping on the wheels of people who tried to motivate the field to chase. Eventually Austin fell back to the field, realizing that if had hoped to finish the remaining 36 miles in the break, his legs would have simply detached themselves from his body and walked away, fed up with what he was putting them through.

Then us boys in red and white hung around in the field, trying to be active on the front and keeping up with the pace. I had the lovely opportunity to spend some time at the front chasing down a guy from team Black Sheep, only to think to myself "Doing this is stupid." But when I tried to pull off, I realized that four of his teammates were behind me...and they weren't about to pull through. Yay.

But I eventually found my way back into field, and the natural pace of the race started picking up the shattered remnants of the break Austin was in. All that remained up the road was a Harley-Davidson rider who went off the front very early in the race.

Coming through the finish with one lap to go, I realized that my crankset was loose! Go figure! I knew that there was about only 19ish miles left, I thought that I could stick it out. But then I tried to shift into my big ring. And it didn't shift. Meaning that my loose non-driveside crank loosened enough to allow my driveside crank to slip out about a centimeter. Not safe. After asking Carney if he happened to have an 8mm on him that I could use to tighten my crank (to which an eavesdropping racer said "If your crankset is that should stop racing. Like NOW."), I dropped back to the support car - which did not have an 8mm.

That was the end of my race!

I headed back to Corey Masson's car (a fellow New Englander who went down with us), "fixed" my bike a bit, and got up to the finish to see Austin come in 14th, followed by Carney in 35th or so. Not a bad showing.

After some food and Coke, we rode the course backwards, taking advantage of the ample sunshine, and cheered on our hostess in the collegiate Women's B race.

Saturday night was spent lounging around, eating leftover pizza from the previous night (after going to Cook-Out, of course) and watching the National Geographic channel while interneting.

Sunday was the crit. NC State was also putting on collegiate events, so our hostess (Caitlin Trahan) asked Josh and I if we would mind announcing the earlier races, as their announcer wouldn't be able to show up until 10:30. Naturally we said yes - who are we to pass up an opportunity to make fools of ourselves in front of dozens of people we don't know? What do we care? We're from New Hampshire!

Josh and I got to the venue at a tad before 8 a.m. to begin making up stories about C riders and try to get the cold crowd motivated with an interesting playlist.

Josh had the greatest metaphor of all time, though, about a Pfeiffer University C rider who won every prime: "Some say that a cyclist gauges his energy in a book of matches - and they burn a match as they put out effort in the race. It appears that this rider, instead of a book of matches, has an unending Zippo lighter that just won't go out!"

After making fools of ourselves until about 11 a.m., we headed back to Caitlin's to eat and change for the hour-long crit we had at 1:50 p.m.

The course was very short - perhaps just over one kilometer? - with a slightly downhill start finish into a left turn up a short hill, winding to a slight downhill into a chicane and left back onto the start finish. We had checked it out with Caitlin Friday afternoon, and got some good laps in before the race started. Once again, the field was populated with 12 guys from the DLP Team as well as three other well-represented clubs. But we knew these DLP guys were going to set the pace and tone of the race.

Josh and Ryan were on the front row, and I was behind them. From the whistle blow, a DLP guy hit it off the front. I - amazingly! - had a good start, and managed to jump on his wheel, hoping to just follow him in the early high-pace of the race. The two of us took a few turns at the front for the first few laps. After that, I realized that I should probably sit back in the field in order to rest my legs up - because at this point I hadn't even seen a lap count yet. When I poked my head back to see where the field was...all I saw was six other riders.

Great. An eight-man break. From the gun. In February. This should feel good.

So the break continued, and my heart rate continued to stay above 180 for the majority of my time in it, and we continued to hit between 31 and 33 mph on the finish straight.

In February. Apparently these guys didn't get the memo that I've been riding the rollers for the last month and am not excited about such a pace. But this continued for about 20 or 25 laps, until we gained half a lap on the field - a mere 30 seconds. The break had two DLP riders, the Harley-Davidson rider who won the road race, and a few other strong riders from various teams.

But then the DLP guys decided to start attacking the break in an attempt to get away. WIth 35 laps to go. I was able to keep up with the increased pace for a few laps...but then my legs said "No way. Stop this," and I fell off the break and back into the group.

As soon as I was in sight of the group, I heard an exasperated Austin shout "RYAN! WHAT THE HELL!", as he rode by me and I found my way back into the field.

It wasn't much longer before the rest of the DLP team got to the front and upped the pace, slowly gobbling up the remnants of the shattered break, leaving one of their rider off the front. He eventually lapped the field.

Meanwhile, back in the race, the pace of the final few laps increased even more, and I was fighting for position as riders were continuing to pop off the back. I was in the magical position of "tailgunning", which is not necessarily recommended, but sometimes necessary. Josh, also, was starting to slide back as the pace of the final few laps continued to increase as DLP sat on the front with a ten-man leadout train. A train whose only cargo was pain for the rest of the field.

SO. Josh and I rolled through the finish in the field - with no significant results to show. Other than finishing what was one of the fastest crits I have ever done.

Then what did we do?

Showered. Had fried chicken. Drove 14 hours back to New Hampshire, only to remember that it is still covered in snow, ice, and seems to be perpetually raining.

I mean, I got sunburned in NC! This is garbage, New England!

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