Photo: Tony Allen-Mills

Photo: Tony Allen-Mills
The Charge: First Race, First Climb

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Greenbelt Runs White and Blue

Well, that was serious fun.  The Greenbelt annual weekly evening come-as-you-are training series commenced, rain-free, Wednesday night.  I pre-registered for a 4-pack of racing goodness, and picked the "C" race because, well, this is my first season racing.  As is not atypical, I arrived at the venue about 60 seconds too late.  The motley crew of Cs had been unleashed.  So I scratched my head and, after some quick down and dirty negotiations, the good organizer permitted me to upgrade my 4 punches to the B race instead, at the cost of one extra punch.  Sold. It worked out well -- for the first time yet, I was able to race with members of the team in the same field.  I was filled with anxiety that I would get blown out the back within a lap or two, but I figured I might as well give it a try.

The field took off at a relatively mellow pace, somewhere around 22 or 23 mph avg I suspect.  I had never laid rubber to the course before, so that was fine by me.  Concerning the course: the only complication on the whole circuit is the single right hand 90 degree, which is not much of an obstacle.  I was able to find a line every lap that allowed aggressive pedaling through the apex without any sense that I was near to scraping asphalt.  The rest of the course couldn't be a more straightforward training venue.  A slight false flat rose out of the sole corner, leading through a few curves to a very minor uptick into the start/finish area, maybe 3 percent or so, that didn't impose much of a hurt, and which in turn was followed by a long, gradual downhill around to the sole corner again, during which a rider hardly has to turn the pedals and can easily recover.

My set of goals for the night were simple: (a) not to get dropped; (b) to stay the hell out of the way of my teammates who had ideas about capturing glory; (c) to try to assist if I could do so without running afoul of goal (b); and (d) if I was able to do something in furtherance of (c) without tripping over (b) that caused me to fail to accomplish (a), that would be acceptable as well.  I am a good soldier/domestique and ready to answer the call of duty when it comes.

So, as I was saying ... the field took off at a relatively mellow pace, permitting me to get a feel for the course during the first couple laps.  After that, the only significant exertions would occur immediately after the corner, where, inevitably, it was out of saddle sprint-fest for position, then sit up and join the pack for a trip up the ramp through the start/finish and the beginning of the downhill refresh.  Repeat that at 23-25mph another 10 times, and we arrive in the vicinity of the bell lap.  Meanwhile, the team was doing a great service to the concept of riding as a team.  For a change, I enjoyed a position that allowed me to witness the work unfold first hand.  What I recall is a very early break by Matt that drew out another rider, then a counter-attack by Corey immediately after Matt was brought back that drew out more.  A couple other breaks went off, but almost always teammates were sitting with them and not letting them get anywhere.  Then a strong break by a couple AABC riders (or maybe ABRT, I really can't recall) formed near the penultimate lap which showed some promise, but that too was brought back (Edit: by KARSTEN [happy now?]), and the peloton was together going into the final lap.  Two of our guys were positioned to go for it as we approached the last 200 meters of road before the line.  Unfortunately, there was a congress of riders surging for position, and John got bumped and shunted off course and into the woods, where I watched as he negotiated a 3' tall dirt berm that I would have loved to have discovered when I was twelve on my sweet Redline BMX bike -- back then, I would have tried for a cross-up and maybe a crappy effort at a table-top.  At any rate, John was fine, if done and frustrated, so I kept going, and watched with pleasure as Nate walked away from the field and took first and the right to the first B race jersey of the season.  In total, six of us rode the B, and 4 were in the top 11.  I was mid-pack the entire raced, until in the final approach I slipped to the back, but I made no effort at all to join the sprint at the line, content simply to finish with the group in satisfaction of goals (a) and (b), netting 18th of 30 or so starters for the night.  Besides John's bad luck in getting bumped off course, the only big alarm came when someone tried the ever-regrettable inside line on the corner in an effort to cut his way up the field on the turn; as expected, the riders coming across the turn cut off his inside position, where he was going way too hard anyway, causing him to hit the brakes, lose his rear tire sideways, and careen across the deck.  It really was a text book inside-suicide maneuver.  Hate to see anyone crash, of course, but it was kind of interesting to watch it unfold in real time right next to me.

Someday I'll be fast enough to fit in the frame of Nate's camera phone.
So, the "A" race.  We had two riders plus an honorary third.  Honorary member and Martin took top-5 places, while Dennis, who was away on a solo break for 5 laps, continued to hang tough and came through 14th.  Great night in Greenbelt for the team all the way around.

Hard to imagine a better way to spend a few hours Wednesday night in the middle of the work week than riding to Greenbelt and back, with an 18 mile road race tossed in the middle.  By the time I do the 16th of these things, if I'm not in shape I don't know that I can be in shape.


  1. Red and white brought back those breaks you were talking about! Haha, good riding with you guys.

  2. Thanks dude. We'll take all the help we can get. Good luck at Jeff Cup this weekend!