Photo: Tony Allen-Mills

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poolesville Road Race, or Slaughterhouse Category Five

Duration: 1:05
Distance: 22.5 miles (for me)
Result: 29/50 (with a big freaking asterisk)

This week I was fortunate to ride for a little while in what is widely considered one of the classics of the MABRA racing calendar, the 2011 edition of the annual Poolesville Road Race.  There are a whole collection of elements that make it a terrific venue -- rolling hills, chicanes, steep pitches, picturesque tree-lined country roads -- but all of that tends to be overshadowed in the lore surrounding the race by the nearly 2 mile stretch of dirt and gravel that transitions out of a ludicrous 90 degree turn tacked onto the bottom of a relatively short but sharp descent.

The perilous turn, photo credit NCVC
So I've tried to write this review about six times now.  Really there isn't much of redeeming value to say about the matter.  I lined up in absolutely terrible position, about 48th of the 50 person field, and couldn't find any real opportunities to change that before we hit the turn into the dirt. Entering the transition I saw it was already littered with two or three riders recovering from some mishap or other. I went through easily, locking on a safe line, nothing aggressive at all, and completed the turn.  Everything looked good, and I was ready to launch into the inevitable sprint back into position that follows every turn in these things when you're sitting in the back. But almost immediately things choked up. We had cleared the turn, I remind you.  Nonetheless, an "unaffiliated" rider toward my front left side suddenly veered to his right toward my wheel, while an NCVC rider on my right shifted left.  Stuck in the pincer, with about a dozen bikes behind me at this point, I had nowhere to go. The guy on the left took out my wheel, and I hit the deck.  I was back on the bike and chasing within about 21 seconds according to my GPS file.  But it was not to be.  By the time I was out of the dirt and had hit the short, steep incline that follows it, the field was maybe 75 meters out.  But the chase cost too much, and I picked a stupid tall gear up the climb that I couldn't push.  Race over.  The next 15 miles or so I spent solo-ing around at threshold or else in a quasi-but-not-really paceline of about 5 of us -- a nice group of guys -- that was as unorganized as it was futile.  The officials pulled us after the second lap, but placed us anyway.  So on paper I managed 29th of 32 scored riders, despite crashing and dropping.  Gives you an idea of the amount of attrition in the Cat 5 race, which started with a full field of 50.

Salted with Poolesville dirt.
So I'm really irritated with myself about this one. I felt strong going in, and was hopeful that I would be in at the end and able to contend for a spot in the top 10.  But I was entirely apathetic about grabbing a place at the start; instead I was off piddling around while the peloton lined up in front of me.  I knew better, in this race of all Cat 5 races, than to let myself get in that corner at the back of the field -- in fact I wrote up a little list of pre-race goals, the leading one of which was to hit the turn between 5th-15th wheel.  I also wish I had video of that crash, as I wonder if there was anything I could have done to avoid it. I suppose I could have gone into the gravel even slower, or failing that, not tried to surf out the choke point and instead hit the brakes hard and hoped no one behind me took me out instead.

On the bright side, I guess, I got to take a few pictures of my own race's finish -- not a good thing but interesting nonetheless.  So the guy who won it did so on a break he launched \after lap 1 and which finished thirty miles later with a 45 second gap on the group of 4 or 5 behind him, two of whom were his teammates.  He seriously destroyed the field -- not a surprise, really, considering that his time from the Wintergreen Ascent a few weeks ago not only was good enough to take the Cat 5 by nearly a minute and a half, but would have won the Cat 4 race and placed him 2d in the Cat 3s.

Chris Rabadi (Raw Talent Ranch) decisively takes the win on a lengthy solo break.
More Cat5 finish photos here.

The balance of my team had no better luck at Poolesville than did I.  Our rider in the 35+ field flatted out, and a crash, a flat, and a cramp ended the hopes of 3 of our 4 riders in the Cat 4 race.  Onward and upward, I guess.


  1. Got here via GamJams, Dan - word is getting out !

  2. Yep, holy cow the traffic today. Guess I've been outed.