Racing, for me (and John, Patrick and Bob), started with racing at the velodrome on Saturday night. Great weather, and decent competition – due to the fact that it was the special Bike Wave/Lightspeed night – were on tap for the evening. Tortuga was represented well in all of the races in both categories. Bob continued to show his strength and was a force to be reckoned with as the lone Tortugan in the Cat. 3’s. In the Pro, 1, 2 events, our plan for the (world’s worst track event) 12-lap snowball race worked out perfectly. I covered the early shit, Patrick went hard around 5 laps into it, setting up John for a handful of solo laps off the front to earn him plenty of points for the victory. Although neither John nor I did Patrick complete justice in the miss-n-out – he sat at the front and dragged us around for more than half of the race, keeping us out of harms way – I was able to squeek out 4th place (however I got screwed by some questionable riding by the winner of the race and even more questionable calls from the officiating crew.) And last, but certainly not least, the final event of the evening, the 42-lap points race, went Tortuga’s way as well. Although John and I planned on riding for Patrick (who more than deserves it), I found myself in a break for a while gaining points. After we were caught, I couldn’t just pull out early (as I intended to do), so I continued sprinting for points and ended up 2nd – John was 3rd and Patrick was 5th.
Not much to say about the Cat 1-2-3 Bloomington race (Ren-Jay Shei impressively won the 4-5 race, though!) Perhaps our expectations were too high. We certainly had the numbers and the right set of circumstances to do much better than we did. We did score 5 people in the top-20 for series points, but we still wound up in 3rd place overall. Oh well. We may not have won the war, but I think there are still quite a few other battles that we will win this season.
My weekend of racing culminated with the 82.5-mile Indiana State Road Race Championships. The race was supposed to be somewhere around 92-96 miles, but last minute course changes and a smaller-than-expected field size pared the race down to a slightly-more managable distance. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that I scored the victory for the 1-2-3 field in the race. And while I immediately called my right-hand man in the peleton (Karim) to gloat a bit about my good fortunes, my emotional high has worn off a bit and I need to qualify the victory by saying that there are several factors that enabled me to do well enough in the one event of my 3-day weekend of racing where I least expected a good performance. First, the field size was small. I think there were less than a dozen 1-2’s signed up. This was no doubt because the original distance of the race probably turned a lot of people off from coming – that coupled with a hard race the night before in Bloomington and a modest prize list. Second, the promoter wisely decided to combine the 3’s field with our 1-2-3 field and shorten the race by one lap. At least we were able to spend 4 hours in the saddle in a decent sized group. Third, by altering the orginal course (I understand that Hamilton County didn’t want the race to come through a blind corner in a particular intersection), all but one of the hills were effectively eliminated from the race. The race was looking better and better for me as the morning went on. Fourth, the first 41 miles of the race were, in my opinion, basically a warm-up. We weren’t going too hard, as we were passed by the 4-5’s field on their last lap. There were some fruitless attacks here and there, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that this thing was going to come down to a field sprint. The course was just too flat, and a majority of the guys in the race still had enough left in their reserves to let anything go away permentently. I sensed this, so besides one hard effort to jump up to a small break, I was mostly sitting in and letting the other teams do all of the work – and when I was on the front, I was just floating. Prior to the race, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to play survival. I hadn’t done more than 80-miles since my preseason training in Texas, so I wasn’t even expecting to finish the race. The pace picked up during the second half of the race, and still nothing was getting away. With 2-3 laps to go, I was happy to see Tom Cox drop out of the race – because of a couple of wheel mishaps he had no choice but to retire. He was going to be one of the few that I was going to keep an eye on in the finish. Everything was looking up for me and my chances now. Morris Trucking and the 3 Zipp guys had the numbers, so I figured I be looking for their lead-out trains in the drag race to the line. The home stretch was almost a mile long, and from the last corner, you could practically see the finish. I’ve ridding these types of finishes enough to know that there would be plenty of riders going way too early and losing steam long before they got close to the line. The pace was pretty frantic once we came out of the last turn. I made sure I was in the top-5 coming out of that turn so I wouldn’t be caught up in the melee that ensued behind. I jumped from one expected surge to another, careful not to show my face to the wind until we got close enough to the line. I think I heard a few shouts from behind for me (specifically) to “go now!” Not sure what that was all about – I’ll go when I’m good and ready. I couldn’t wait any longer, and by the looks of it (maybe 300-400 meters?), I figured I could hold a sprint for the rest of the way. I jumped hard to my left and gapped the field pretty well and was able to hold off a late charge by one of the Morris Trucking guys. Had the line been about 10 meters further, I probaly would have been pipped (I won by less than a 1/2 wheel length.) On the other hand, had I waited any longer, there’s probably a good chance someone else would have gotten the jump on the field and I may have been hard pressed to come from behind. Anyhow, a “trackie” won the State Road Race Championships – ALL of the cards fell into place for that. On another positive note, if you weren’t already aware, we (Tortuga) won the 4-5 and masters race as well.
Looking forward to the Fast Crit this coming weekend. Smooth and flat, no corners and 1-hour long – some “purists” don’t call it much of a race – but I say to heck with them. These same haters are the ones who aren’t man enough to show up at the track to prove their mettle. No matter what the course is, you still have to prove who’s the fastest and the most savvy to score the “V.” I’ll see you there.