Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Spring Classic

Rain, rain and more rain. That pretty much sums up Sunday's day of racing. After early morning showers the rain relented a bit as I made my way over to Gateway for the Carl Dolan race. It's so nice living 5 minutes from a bike race, almost too convenient as I was a bit late getting out the door.

I was registered for both the 30+ and the the 1/2/3 races not quite sure what kind of legs I was going to have. My only road race so far this season was Walkersville where I got shelled at the start of the 4th lap. I was coming off a decent race at Fairhill so I did have some confidence in my fitness despite the prolonged sickness.

As we lined up for the start of the 30/40 Masters race, the skies grew dark and drops of rain began to hit our faces forewarning us of the impending deluge. The first couple of laps we actually pretty mellow for some reason, that would all change. By about the 3rd or 4th lap the scattered drops of rain turned into a torrential downpour. It was so bad you couldn't see the wheel in front of you. On the fast downhill after the only turn on the course, there was a river of water an inch deep and as you made the transition to start the uphill through the start finish, a river of water was flowing down the road at you. Incredibly we were bombing 35+ mph through this inch of steadily moving water.
We had a solid 40+ squad in the race while Chip and I held up the 30+ end of things. I made a few attempts to escape and for some reason it always turned out to be Craig Snydal from LSV. The first go at it we had a small gap and were working together along the backside of the course. When we were finally caught Chip rode up and apologized for putting Ryan on the front to reel us in not knowing I was up the road. Oh well.
The rain kept pounding us and at one point it felt like needles sticking me in the face and my left hand was so numb I thought I broke my shifter off because I couldn't feel it, not even the pressure from squeezing the brakes. I ended up in another short lived move with Craig then spent the rest of the time trying to keep the pace high as Ramon and Fuentes had gotten themselves a nice gap. We never caught them so the race was on for second in both fields since Ramon had the 40+ while Dave had the 30+.

I was in decent position through the final turn and starting up the hill but with about 300m to go it happened. Just in front of me to my left I see some bozo jump right and into the handlebars of some Artemis rider. If he went down I had no where to go so I reached for the brakes. For a split second it looked like he might save it but his unweighted rear end finally gave in to the slippery pavement and fishtailed out from him, as he landed he somehow managed to skid from left to right. At that point I had to jam on the brakes as hard as I could hoping to not hit him or have to try and ride over him. I watched as he skid in front of me and then in a horrific ending to to an already bad crash, his teammate who was sprinting for something like last place rides square into him, ejecting him from his bike and apparently taking out several other riders.

Chip pulled off an impressive sprint to take 2nd in the field sprint and 3rd overall in the 30+. After waiting around an extra 45 minutes on top of the hour and a half wait between races as the EMTs scrapped up a bunch of 3/4s off the pavement from a 20+ rider crash which required a restart of the race, we finally started the 1/2/3 race. Just like the previous race, as soon as we line up the skies turned black and the rain drops start. The legs were heavy and water logged and the first couple laps hurt pretty bad. About 3 or 4 laps in I see the moto ref pull off at the officials tent, I assume to talk about whether or not they were going to call the race. I was raining almost as hard as the earlier race and a lap later as we come up the hill I see lightening in the sky, that's a definite show stopper. Next lap some juniors struggling on the climb let a huge gap open up, Chip, Ryan and I were sitting on the back snoozing and had to jump across the gap to the back of the pack. At that point I decided it wasn't worth the effort since this race was going to be called. I pulled off and headed for the warmth of a dry car. After a quick change I was already rolling out of the parking lot as the rest of the pack was riding in, the officials had called the race at the end of the next lap.

I really enjoy racing in the rain, I'd prefer it to be a road race than a crit, although Dolan is technically a road race but raced like a crit. The rain washes the suffering away, makes the hurt feel good.

*Photos courtesy of Jim Wilson