Matt weighs in on his Masters 3/4 race at the East Troy stage of Tour of America’s Dairyland. Below is a 6 minute “highlight” video of the race, followed by the overly dramatized highlights as replayed from Matt’s faulty memory.
This is going to be fun!
I knew East Troy was going to be awesome from the minute I got there. Before even finding registration I walked by a house on the outside of the second-turn. As I walked by, a fat kid who had no shirt on but did have a rockin’ mohawk was shouting at cyclists warming up. That wasn’t the Awesome part, though. On his porch was, among other random things, a gigantic, empty aquarium. You know who has gigantic aquariums sitting empty outside? No, no… not people who keep fish. They have aquariums inside. And, they’re filled with fish. The only reason I could think for such a gigantic aquarium to be sitting outside is that mohawk-kid used it for his pet alligator… and the alligator escaped. I’m just about to call my guys at PhotoFax to get some surveillance going and see if we can’t find this thing.
So, with an alligator on the loose I made my way to the town center (which was actually quite nice… plenty of decent looking places to eat right on the course), and back to the car. I got back to the car just in time for it to start pouring rain. I mean pouring. As in, “are those tornado sirens I hear in the distance. Yes. Yes, they are.” Sadly, it did not dry in time for our race. I was a little concerned that 6 turns over one kilometer might be a little tough. I didn’t die at Galena, though, so I figured I would manage. Plus, my day-of registration number was 625… meaning we’d have a small field. Nothing to worry about, right?
Never, EVER take anything for granted in a bike race.
Wrong. As I rolled up to the start line with barely a warm-up, it became obvious that their numbering system wasn’t working like that today. There were 25 riders… there were also 40 others. Over 60 riders on a 6 turn, one kilometer course? This wasn’t going to be easy.
Before you even think to yourself, “get a good start spot and stay up front… it won’t be bad,” just kill that thought. All them other dudes beat me to the line. So, I line up 55th, or so, and think to myself “this is really going to hurt.” Apparently I was too busy thinking to remember how to clip into my bike, because the race started but my clip-in did not. Now I’m DFL before I even cross the start line for the first time. “Hurt” doesn’t even begin to describe how it’s going to feel.
Get on your horse, kid.
Thus begins one of the most painful times I’ve ever had on a bike. I’m riding like mad looking to move up wherever I can. With only one straight of more than a block long and constant turning, the pack was completely strung out. Moving up was next to impossible. If I was lucky I would pick up one guy going into a turn and maybe another coming out. Of course, everybody stuck back where I was had the same idea, and if I passed two guys at one time, there was surely a guy who was whizzing by us all at the same time.
20 minutes in, I was cramping up, it seemed to be starting to rain again, and I kept having to tell myself “just one more lap. They’re going to slow down next lap. Then I’ll catch back on, right?“
Not so lucky. There was a sizeable wreck taking down 5 or 6 riders in the only right hand turn on the course. Because I was towards the back, it caused huge gaps. I tried to chase, but I had nothing. Riders flew by, a huge gap opened, and I was trying to think of what excuse I’d be telling Rob Kelley to justify a disappointing finish.
We’re all just hack, amateurs, man.
Then a funny thing happened. With the gap between me and the pack growing, riders were flying by me. One of them decided to get snotty. He yelled at me to “stay to the outside” at a point when I was just trying to inhale enough oxygen to live for the next 20 seconds.
Wait just a cotton-picking minute there, partner.
Some dude rolling around the very back of the slow-and-old guy race is going to be barking orders at people like he’s Schwinn F’n Armstrong? I don’t know what that dude’s deal was. I’m not sure how his 59th placing in the Masters 3/4 race made him an authority on anything. So, I got on his wheel determined that, even if I got dropped and pulled I was going to beat him. If I finish 58th and he finishes 59th, then next time I can tell him how to ride his bike, right?
Look, don’t try to follow the logic. I know it’s dumb. If you’ve ever raced a bike, you know what it’s like. It kept me in the race when I was really thinking about quitting and eating cheeseburgers. For that, I’m thankful.
Don’t call it a comeback
Anyhow, I manage to force enough air into the lungs to get on Schwinn F’n Armstrong’s wheel. Much to my surprise, and his detriment, he and a couple other dudes pulled me around for a few laps until we caught the back of the field.
Now I’m back where I was before- at the back of the field, out of gas, and scheming how to get closer to the front. But at least I’m back in the race. And, now that I’m here, I’m not getting dropped again. I’m just not.
Over the next few laps, several interesting things happened: People were crashing left and right (seriously… one dude even went through the barriers on the start/finish straight it was nuts), and the pack would briefly sit up for a breather once every 2 laps or so. I used both of these to move up wherever I could. With 8 laps to go (laps took just over a minute per lap), I’d managed to muscle my way to about 9th or 10th.
But, I was gassed. Like, really gassed. As in, “Hey! Is that a hammock out front of that house?” All the chasing and avoiding wrecks had taken their toll. I struggled to maintain my top 10, but as the pace picked up in the last few laps, I was pushed back to the mid 20′s.
TT’s are for “go” sprinting is for dough
With a couple laps to go, I tried to move up. The pace was too hot and the lungs weren’t there, though. I’m no stranger to sprinting from pretty far back. It’s not fun, but just because I’m pinned in the back doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.
When I pre-rode the course and watched the earlier races, it seemed nearly impossible to pass coming out of the last turn. So, I’d planned to do everything I could to fire it up out of turn two. That would be in the second-longest straight on the course, and we’d then go through a right-left-left-left in very quick succession. I thought that if I could get a gap into the right, I could limp in for a podium spot at worst.
But, now I’m not launching from 5th (as planned). I’m going from 25th… and who knows how many guys in front of me had the same plan?
Very few, thankfully. I came out of turn 2 and told myself I had to sell-out. I gave it everything I could, and managed to get around a bunch of guys. I was probably about 9th at the time. Going through the right hand turn I had a decent bit of momentum and got a few more. In the left, I tucked in. A couple riders flew by, and I tried to get on one of them.
Completely gassed, unable to breathe and with screaming legs I found myself going towards the final turn right in the mix. Granted, I was a bit farther back than I wanted, but I had a punchers chance.
But, that was it. There was nothing left. Where I’d normally try to bang it through the gears, grit my teeth and tell myself I could worry about breathing later, I was already seeing stars. I couldn’t even stand for the duration of the short sprint, and one guy got me at the line. The earlier efforts had taken their toll.
Always respect the sport.
Not getting a decent starting spot killed me. I burned up a ton of energy having to chase and getting caught behind wrecks, and it showed. My peak wattage was a good 200 watts below what I’d normally do.
If 6th place is what I get for not being a little more cognizant of field size, and getting a good start spot, I’ll take it. I’m happy with the result. It burns a little bit knowing that the mistakes I made in lining up and clipping in might have cost me a better spot. Man, did I want to get on the podium. I wanted a picture of me flying the BH colors, standing on that TOAD podium with sponsors logos proudly displayed. I wanted to send that picture to the guys from PhotoFax and Guaranteed Rate because they’ve been so incredibly supportive of our team and they deserve to be on the podium.
That’s not going to happen, though. Every mistake in this sport is punished. Today I lined up late and didn’t clip in. I’m o.k. with my 6th. I wanted better. Thankfully there’s another race next week. I’ll be there. And I’ll be lining up early.
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