Photo: Tony Allen-Mills

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

10th Annual Reston Town Center Grand Prix: Or How I Learned to Relax and Loath the Dive-Bomb

RTC GP Category 5 Criterium
June 26, 2011

Duration: 42:26
Avg Speed: 23 mph
Laps: 22.8 / 23
Successful Turns: 182/184
Speed of impact with asphalt: 22.5mph
Place: From 8th of 50 to done with 200m to go
Units of Frustration: ∞

So you want to win an eight-turn technical crit in grand fashion? With √©lan and class? Here's an idea: haul ass up the inside of the seventh turn just as the race is poised to unleash itself in the final turn and finishing sprint. See the leaders gnashing their teeth in a single line, countersteering and banking. Fix now upon the seventh wheel, leaned over nicely.  Sprint, as hard as you can. Say not a word, but stuff your front wheel into the gutter just inches from the curb and try to outgun number seven and the line of riders in his wake through the apex that is rapidly closing. Go ahead, dive bomber, squeeze in there, see what happens.  I'll wait.

What?

Rather not?

"Inside suicide," you say? What a catchy phrase.

Well, then. Congratulations. Your capacity for reason and for measuring risk against reward seems to be in order. But this is exactly the strategy chosen by the ["overenthusiastic" racer] who took out an NCVC rider in the penultimate turn of the Cat 5 race. And, as I happened to be following that particular wheel and holding more than 22 mph through that turn, I rapidly found myself in NCVC's wheel, or maybe it was his spine, then over the bars and sliding on my back and face on the asphalt. The collateral damage didn't end with me; two others, an Evo and an unaffiliated fan of AC/DC, were doomed as well, one sliding out his rear and the other pile-driving into a pole as they sought to avoid flying bikes and bodies.

Reston was the big one on my calendar. It was my final race as a Cat 5. It was my first race following a month and a half during which I was unable to race and had fixated on this one. It was likely my final race this season, a result of outside obligations beginning in July. And it was the first race in which I was able to ride into a position from which I might have achieve a season-long goal of a top 10 finish.

I put in a fairly good race. I made mistakes, but for the most part I managed well. It didn't take long to realize that the backside, from off of 2 and into 5, offered a respite and ability to recover. I worked the race accordingly.  I went off the front twice or maybe three times, including lap one, but only for brief spells, and after each foray was able to get back on and recover within a lap or two. By the time the count had dwindled to 3 to go, I was feeling my limits, but many others around me appeared to be taxed and faring no better. It was relatively easy to advance positions along the back side, where the field typically coasted a bit, and turns 3 and 4, two wide-open turns that mark the end of the back side of the course, made for an easy place to generate speed. So I took advantage there, and from 3 laps to go to the final I gained position until I was sitting 8th wheel out of turn 5 as we began the uphill into the rapid-fire series of turns 6, 7, and 8.  I know I was 8th wheel because I was feeling solid enough to be able to quickly count the riders between me and Chris Rabadi of Raw Talent Ranch -- the winner of every prime, and ultimately the winner of the race. But I made one whopper mistake. I followed the paceline into the inside of turn 7. I should have come outside, because I would have set myself up for the quicker inside line of turn 8 and the better sprint position. I also would have avoided my fate as road kill to the dive-bomber who toasted the guy I followed into the turn.

In the aftermath, I assessed the damage. Five riders with road rash, some worse than others. A set of Zipp 404s, property of NCVC dude, shattered. My powertap rear and a Campy Eurus front both wildly out of true, but hopefully correctable -- we'll see. A few stitches in my arm from the teeth of someone's chainring. Five bikes scratched up.  And the worst part, 40 something minutes of exceedingly hard and careful effort, up in smoke. All the result of an indefensibly misguided and reckless calculation.

Yeah, that's racing, it's a frustrating sport, whatever, get over it. Perhaps. Hard pill to swallow when the cause is so needless and avoidable. The funny part in this, though, was the comment of the guilty party when confronted: "I held my line."  Too rich. Maybe it's karma after all.

On the bright side, what a venue. I really enjoyed the racing, the crowds, the Joeisms. The course was incredible. And it was another big day for my teammates in the cat 4 field, who took 1, 3, and 4, and who I will be joining just as soon as I can get my upgrade in, my bike fixed, and my schedule ironed out.  Until then, stay classy MABRA.

Yay, pictures:

Leading the field, first or second lap.

Finish sprint, seconds after the collision.

5 comments:

  1. Glad that you are ok and looking forward to race as cat 4. I was lucky to be in front of that crash, but buy the sound of it, I knew it was bad. My Evo team mate, which went down, told us exactly the same story as you described in this blog. Heal up soon. Will see you at the next race.

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  2. Hey, you crashed out of the entire category! Not so bad really.

    Looking forward to seeing you in action with the ever-so-stylish DVR Cat 4 crew.

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  3. Great blog post! You and I met at the medic station post-race. I was the Evo racer who joined the crash pack. After reading your post, seeing as how this was planned as your final race of the season, I'm real sorry that you got caught up in the mess. Your thought of coming outside on Turn 7 was my execution but unfortunately, the "overenthusiastic" racer and his inside suicide-pass effort created havoc for all of us.

    For me, I had planned to be apart of this race all along but had been off the bike for almost 2 1/2 weeks. It was a game time decision on whether to race based on where I felt my fitness level was that day but aside from the crash, I'm glad that I did.

    As a member of Evolution Cycling, it was our big race of the year and it has certainly turned into a race and venue that everyone looks forward to racing every year.

    Anyhow, thanks again for sharing your side of the story and I'll see you out there soon!

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  4. Thanks for commenting, all.

    Anon Evo1: you Evo guys were super strong in that race. Although Ribadi was unstoppable, it was no surpise at all to see that something like 5 of you made the top 10. Impressive!

    Tom: hopefully I will be able to elevate myself to your level both in riding and in styling. No promises though.

    Anon Evo2: good meeting you too. I was very impressed that you seemed much less grumpy than I was about the whole thing. Reston was a fantastically well run race, and I really enjoyed the whole scene. Sorry to see your race cut short as well, but I look forward to seeing you and the other Evo guys out there again soon.

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  5. Glad that you're fine!
    Always remember:
    We all are always here to support you!

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