We stumbled across this here at HQ. Great piece on local Charlotte legend Bill Fehr.
Here it is folks. The little calendar on the right says it’s time. Race weekend, 2013. A long time in the making, and certainly several shoulders that helped shove this baby across the line. Thanks to EVERYONE that has offered input, ideas, assistance and a shoulder to cry on. Seriously well done by the lot of you.
A special thanks to Chris Wooten and the Modry Evergreen Partners race team. Kerry Humphrey and the Carolina Cycling Team. Neal Boyd at Charlotte Sports Cycling. Hollis, Chad and the Noda Neighborhood Association, CDOT, CMPD, Charlotte Fire Dept, and Joe Kuhlmann and the Noda Business Association. We couldn’t have done it without their support.
And we would be remiss in not thanking the race sponsors. Mission critical, and they each came through in fun, creative ways. With such high production costs, their financial support is the foundation of the race: OrthoCarolina, East Charlotte Nissan, Charlotte Pediatric Dentistry, Tumult Bike Clothing, The Charlotte Knights, Le Couer D’or Belgian Chocolates, Alpha 1 Village Foundation, Rx Textiles, Noda Brewing, Birdsong Brewing, Heist Brewery, King of Pops Charlotte, Growlers Pourhouse, Party Pedaler, Activate Drinks, Oak Realty, Aprille Shaffer/State Farm Insurance, Action Plus Ideas, Uptown Cycles, Interactive Knowledge, Jack Kane Bicycles, Weeklyrides.com, and Bikelaw.com.
Lastly, to everyone at 36th Street Racing. A simple thank you. This is a herculean effort, and you’ve all stepped up yet again.
By now you should all have your volunteer schedules and assigned positions. Thanks to Matt and Jeff for herding those cats. And thank you to Jeff Montgomerie for leading the charge on our sponsor rows.
It’s a fun weekend folks. LOTS GOING ON. Meet and Greets, kids races, bounce castles, live bands, and tons of racing. Check it out:
FRIDAY APRIL 12
Tailwind Cycles Bike Demo Fort Mill, SC
Smart Stop/MK Total Cyclist meet and greet at TotalCyclist
Uptown Cycles hosts the No Opportunity Wasted Women’s Pro Cycling Team/Now and Novartis for MS FREE
Primal Pro Women’s Team. $10 at Trysport
$50 VIP dinner at Bechtler
Charlotte Knights. Home Game vs Durham Bulls at Knights Castle Fort Mill, SC
SATURDAY APRIL 13
Dilworth Crit. The 40th year of this legendary race. Good luck to everyone on Presbyterian Sports Medicine/Energy Cafe that are racing this weekend.
NoDa Community Garden, Johnston Presbyterian Church
Trans Jam BMX Contest. “2013 Trans Jam BMX Contest Series: The Trans Jam BMX Contest Series is hosting its first stop for the fourth consecutive year in Charlotte
Paint Your Pet, Dog Bar in Noda. Benefitting Great Dane Friends
NoDa All Arts Market. Hart Witzen Gallery
Presby Crit. Pro Women.
Presby Crit. Pro Men.
TransJam BMX After Party Hickory Tavern Metropolitan
SUNDAY APRIL 14
- 36th Street Racing Sunday Ride CANCELLED due to Noda GP.
Noda Grand Prix. Best of luck to everyone on Presby Sports Medicine/Energy Cafe and Classic Cycling/Dolce Vita racing this weekend. The course is technical. Ride safe, don’t take too many chances (we need you healthy for tear down).
Johnston YMCA “Noda GP Spring Day”. Bounce castle, sprinklers, temporary tattoos and more!
Noda Brewing, Heist Brewery, and Birdsong Brewing. Tours and specials. Free shuttle courtesy the Party Pedaler! $1 of every pint sold to Trips For Kids Charlotte.
Charlotte Knights Home Game. Knights Castle Fort Mill, SC
Free kids music! Juicebox Live at Jack Beagles!
Noda GP After Party at Heist Brewery
As you may know, a few of 36th Street Racing’s finest made their way to Belgium to pre-ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen course. Wim, Joe “Crazy Joe Davola” Davant, and Darren left Charlotte to meet up with David Hay – flying in from Switzerland – in Flanders. for cobbles, freezing weather, more cobbles and Belgian beers. Here is how it happened.
So how was the ride? It was a lot of things – a ton of fun, bitterly cold, hard, beautiful, fast, slow, cobbly (my new word), incredibly challenging (mentally and physically), extremely long, sunny, dark (truly dark), brutal, hilly, ridiculously steep, painful, international, full of friends, really, really tiring and a lot more. Did I say it was freaking hard and unbelievably long?????
The ride is also huge – there were about 4,000 people doing the 259 kilometer (155 mile) ride, so they have a rolling start from 7:00 to 8:00. We started with the later group at about 8:00 Saturday morning. The first part of the ride headed south from Bruges over very flat roads for the first 75 or so miles. We had a tailwind as we headed south, but when we turned east at mile 40 we had a nasty crosswind that made us work.
I was feeling good and everything was going fine until I heard and felt big CARUNK as I tried to change gears at mile 50. I looked down to find out what the hell was going on and saw my rear derailleur hanging off the bottom of my bike. When I pulled over to check it out I saw the bike was toast. You just have to love rental bikes. We quickly realized there was nothing we could do to fix the bike, so we called the number provided by the ride organization to get me and my bike picked up. I was pretty bummed to have flown 3,000 miles only to have my bike break after only 50 miles. In addition to calling the ride organizers, I also called my Belgian friend, Rik Pappijn, to tell him that we would not be meeting him later in the ride. When I told him I was out of commission, he said he was coming to pick me up. While I waited for Rik, a bunch of amateur riders came by me, and then a group in black and blue came by – it was team Sky with the team car right behind! Boassen Hagen was in his Norwegian Champion’s jersey and Ian Stannard was in his UK champion’s jersey. It was cool to see them out on a training ride, mixing in with the amateurs. The Sky riders looked at me as they passed and hesitated for a moment. I thought they were going to stop, but they didn’t.
After waiting about 45 minutes in the freezing cold wind on the side of the road, Rik came to pick me up. We went to his local bike shop, but they could not fix my bike, so Rik decided that I should ride his road bike and that he would ride his mountain bike on the short route that cuts out a bunch of the climbs. What an unbelievably nice, unselfish guy! I was incredibly lucky to 1) know someone close by who could pick me up, 2) know someone who had a bike that would fit me, 3) that Rik’s bike had peddles that worked with my shoes, and 4) that Rik was willing to give up his bike and let me do the ride. It was SO lucky!!
Rik estimated the point in the route where we thought we could meet up with Wim, Darren and David, and drove to that point. On the way there, we passed a Katusha rider motor pacing behind the team car. I guess that kind of thing is an everyday occurrence in Belgium, but it was pretty cool for me to see. About 10 minutes after we got to the point where we thought we’d see Darren, Wim, and David, the guys showed up. Amazing!! By re-starting my ride at that point, I had to skip about 25 miles of the total route, but I only missed one of the “bergs” (read big hill/climb). About 2 miles after starting to ride again, we hit the Koppenberg. It’s only 1/3rd of a mile long, but it averages 12% and it maxes out at 22%. And don’t forget that it’s paved with cobbles. The cobbles add a whole new element to climbing. In addition to getting bounced around you have to stay seated on the steep parts to keep from slipping. Riding those steep short cobbled hills is hard! My legs were cold when I started up the Koppenberg, but they were plenty warm by the time I got to the top. After the Koppenberg, the route takes you over a relentless series of cobbled hills and cobbled roads for about 65 miles. Thankfully, there were some fantastic winding one lane paved roads mixed in between the cobbled roads.
I felt good as we started this hard section of the ride, but as we continued, the wind, cold and cobbles just wore me down. Climbing the 17 named bergs and the numerous unnamed bergs that were mixed in probably had a little to do with wearing me down too. The roads went up and down and right back up, then down again, so you could never get in a rhythm. Some of the descents were paved with cobbles, and those were crazy. You’d try to hold on and brake while bouncing all around. It felt kind of like trying to control a rogue jackhammer while screaming downhill. Of course going up was no better. There was a sign at the bottom of each berg that showed the length of the climb, the average grade, and the max grade. After a while, I did not want to read the signs because they all sucked. They might as well have just read “Severe Pain Ahead”. It seemed like every sign of them said the max grade on the next berg was at least 13%, but some of them were even worse – between 18 and 22%. Of course, David Hay would go screaming up the bergs, with Wim following close behind, and then I’d come straggling up, weaving back and forth, looking like a drunk. If you want to see us coming up some of the bergs, click on the following link and then type in Wim’s number 3365. You’ll see David come by first in his white 36SR vest, then Wim in a black jacket with his new 36SR shorts and leg warmers, and then if you wait long enough, you’ll see me in a black and blue jacket with long black bibs. Sorry Shawn – it was just too cold for me to sport the 36SR gear. In the video, the cobbles don’t look bad at all, but I promise that riding them is a different story. http://chronorace-web.cloudapp.net/rvv/tracking.aspx?lng=EN
One of the really cool aspects of riding up the bergs was going between the barriers that were set up for the pro race. The barriers had the advertising signs on them and you could see the big tents and viewing areas that were set up next to the road. There were even a number of Belgian fans staying in campers along the route, drinking and cheering for us as we came by. I have to admit, I was very tempted to stop and grab a beer.
After going up 3 or 4 bergs, I got a little tired of David Hay and Wim being the first guys to the top of each berg, so I attacked on a downhill and went as hard as I could up the next berg. I had a good jump on Wim and Hay, but I had picked the wrong berg to attack on. It was a long one, so they eventually reeled me in and passed me just before we got to the top. Dammit!
I found that I was better on the cobbled sections that did not include climbs, and I managed to be the first of our group to reach the end of a couple cobbled sections, so at least I got some satisfaction in that.
One thing that was different about this ride from other rides I’ve done is that we stopped at every single rest stop. You could tell your body needed food and water as often as you could get it, but you did not want to stay long at the rest stops because as soon as you stopped, you’d realize just how brutally cold it was.
All those stops made the ride take longer than we expected. At the second to last stop, we realized we’d be finishing in the dark, and none of us had lights. After coming over the Paterberg (the last berg where Cancellara dropped the hammer on Sagan on Sunday), we cruised down and into Oudenarde, finally crossing the pro finish line just before 8:00 at night in complete darkness. I was SO glad to be done! The computer picked up your chip and flashed your name and time on the screen. It was a cool experience to ride through the pro finish line! We certainly had not planned to be out there for 12 hours, but we were. There were a number of other riders who came in behind us, so at least we were not last.
The next day we got up early to tour through the pro buses and to watch the start of the race in Brugge. When we got up, we saw the team buses driving past our hotel and parking in the square just in front of the hotel. We had not realized that they were going to park in front of our hotel, so that was a great surprise. Wim’s friend had arranged for us to get passes into the bus area, so we walked through the bus area and saw a bunch of the riders come out to get on their bikes. After cruising around the buses, we walked into the center of town to watch the riders sign in, get interviewed and then start the race. If you have eagle eyes, you’ll be able to find us in the attached photo between the stage and the road near the barriers. After the race rolled out of Brugge, we drove back down to Oudenarde and then to a huge tent at the base of the Oude Kwaremont (one of the bergs) that was to be our home for the race. The tent had big screens, food and all the Belgian beer you could handle. Our Wim and our other Belgian hosts made sure we had plenty of everything, especially beer. We watched most of the race on TV and then saw the riders go past us 3 times as they did circuits that took them over the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg 3 times. Each time the riders came by, the tent would empty out to watch them fly by, and then we’d rush back inside to see them on TV. The crowd in our tent cheered like mad when Cancellara dropped Sagan and then cheered again when he crossed the finish line.
I remember thinking that we’d probably leave after the race ended, but I clearly underestimated the Belgians. As soon as the race ended, the band started playing and the beer really started flowing. Then the Belgians started dancing, singing with the band, and eventually doing conga lines through the crowd. They know how to have a good time! It was around this time that Darren met Liz Hatch, who turned out to be a pro racer from the US. She used to be one of the Vanderkitten racers but now she races in Europe. You may be surprised what you find if you Google her.
The post race tent party was a great way to cap off a fantastic weekend of riding and watching the pros race. (Bill – the post race party would have been the perfect place for a team meeting.) The whole trip was an awesome experience, and I’d love to go back and do it again – although I think I’d opt for the 135k route that cuts out a lot of the flat riding but includes almost all the bergs. Apparently Hincapie came over and rode the 135k route, so he must have known that was the best part of the ride.
A HUGE thanks goes to Wim for all the work he did to arrange the trip, riding, rental bikes, race passes, hotels, rental car, and all the crazy logistics that went into the weekend. If he ever decides to get out of the textile/waffle/chocolate business, he can definitely have a career in cycle-tourism! Thanks Wim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Joe pretty much covered things as we kind of talked about this on the flight back from Paris, but there are a few things I’d like to add. One that is killing me and it was a struggle for about 50 miles for me. I was not able to complete the ride. I made it to about 110 to 120 miles somewhere in that range. Ironic because I was the one who pushed for the full distance…
A few details about the ride. I was cold, really fXXXXXg cold. 28 degrees at the start and it was humid. Up north in Brugge the wind comes in off the North Sea and it has a lot of moisture in it. Now if you know about humidity, you’ll know that it’s relative to the temperature. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold can, so in order for it to be moist as it was, there was a lot of moisture in the air and it went right through you. It was cold and the sun only came out at about 4:00pm, the rest of the day it was mostly grey and overcast. Did I say it was cold?
Anyway, as we were heading south on the flats I noticed a weird feeling of being fuzzy, or dizzy. Like my vision was blurry. It was strange and I just chalked it up to the cold, figured that I’d be fine if I just rode through it. About this time, Joe had his issue with his derailleur exploding on a flat by the way (Rental bikes…). We stopped for about 15 minutes and once we established a plan we headed off again south, Wim, David and I. David would get in front and stand for 1/2 hour, 45 minutes at a time. (No Shit, and we’re on the flats!) But that’s Dave. When we got to the southern part of the ride we turned east and guess what, wind. (Though there was no forecast for Wind today, but it is Belgium). At least it was a cross wind though.
It just wears on you as you fight it, then comes the Bergs, cobbles and the Berg/Cobble combos. What a bitch! Honestly the TV does not do them justice. They suck speed from your bike like riding in sand. If you are rolling at say 25 mph and you hit them, you will immediately slow to 15 mph and it will feel like Joe said a rogue Jackhammer. You cannot grab the bars, only rest your hands on top and hope to guide them in the correct direction. Some are better than others and some are just damn bad. Your vision is blurred, it’s a wonder they ride over the damn things! But I can’t wait to do it again! As we were covering the miles and the Bergs, I noticed that there was just nothing in the legs. They didn’t hurt, my back was fine, but there was just nothing in the legs to get me up the Bergs. It was as you can imagine, very frustrating. The thought of quitting after all the cost and logistics was not an option. But I realized that about half way through the bergs the difficulty was increasing and the legs were empty. I was now holding up the guys and they were having to wait at the top of the bergs, not long, but waiting nonetheless and I hate that.
It was now 4:30pm and we’d been on the road 8.5 hours, and the finish line closes at 8:00pm. So with about 40/45 miles to go, I decided to end the ride as my body was now having a tough time staying warm. I stayed hydrated, ate what I think was enough and just felt miserable and frustrated. If you know me, I don’t like to quit. I did BSG a couple years ago with a severely sore back that at only 7 miles into the ride, told me to get off the bike. For the next 97 miles, there was a severe argument between my heart and my head. My heart won that day and I finished all 104 miles in spite of the pain. It was the slowest century I’d ever done, but probably the most rewarding. So having to call it at the Ronde, was as you can imagine, not what I had planned. So guess who comes to my rescue… Rik, the same friend who lent Joe his bike. The guy who when I met the first time pushed me the last 15 miles of Tour de Lure two years ago when I was cramping really badly. I think Rik is my Belgian saviour. I cannot say enough about Wim, Rik and the rest of the Belgians and their hospitality, friendliness and willingness to help the two crazed americans have a very memorable once in a lifetime experience. Thank you Wim and Rik, you guys ROCK!
Funny story now… Since we left kind of late in the day, we were usually the last to roll through the refueling stations. I called it at the second to last station and looking for warmth, I noticed that everyone was packing up. There was no place warm to stay and remember it is bitter cold now and the wind is blowing, not good. I thought about asking the Shimano guy if I could sit in the Van, but he was packing up all kinds of tools and in and out of all doors so I ruled that out. Looking around I noticed a little Chapel across the road and found refuge in it. It wasn’t much warmer in the Chapel as this was no heat, (you could actually see your breath) the heater was broken I found out later. What I did notice were candles burning up near the front. So I found a comfortable position standing over the candles so my upper body and face could feel the heat. I stayed in this position for an hour and a half until Rik made his way to retrieve me. I tried to sit down on the pews for a bit as my legs were toast and could have really used the rest of sitting, but it was too damn cold! So back to the candles and there I hovered. Amazing what you can do when trying to stay warm…
So now all the people have packed up and left the rest stop, save for but a few. I hear a car pull up and figure that since were way the hell out of the way, it has to be Rik. I look outside and I see Rik pull up to the few folks left and after a couple of exchanges, I see them point towards me and hear laughing. Rik told me later that he pulled up and asked if they’d seem a lost American, to which they replied, no, no Americans here. Then “Hey look, over in the Chapel, he’s hiding in the Chapel…” So Rik gathered me up, put the rental bike on his bike rack and we went for a drive on the rest of the course. Yes, we drove up Oude Kwaremont in the car amongst the last remaining cyclist, Rik slipping his clutch the whole way as it’s very steep! You could smell it, I’m sure the cyclists behind us were not very happy.
So then we drove over to the Paterberg and did the same thing! Too funny, that damn thing is so steep at the top, that when you look straight out over the hood, all you see the top of the hood and then just blue sky!!! And it’s so damn bumpy it jars you in the car and it has a suspension!!! Belgians are just damn crazy (but in a good way). When we get to the top of the Paterberg, Rik parks the car and we get out to watch the last remaining cyclists with a bunch of by now drink belgian cycling fans. Rik manages to sweet talk a couple beers for us from a cute young Belgian woman. I think he used “the poor American tried to ride the full 269km excuse” Anyway, she gladly obliged and opened the cooler, but her boyfriend was giving us the evil eye. Fxxk him, two Jupiler’s for us. We wait for about a half hour it is now getting dark. We figure that Dave, Wim and Joe should be by anytime. It is now about 7:40pm. When we don’t see them, we figure they have already past us so we head for the finish in Oudenaarde.
The finish was closed off to Autos so Rik had to figure out a way to get there in the car. Fortunately he did as he lives near there and was familiar with the back roads in and around Oudenaarde. We actually see the boys just after the finish yet still rolling to the gathering point in town where you turn in your chip and catch rides back to Brugge for some. Remember Brugge where the start is is about 60 miles north. Our hotel is there, so after collecting our stuff and turning in our timers, we pack the bikes up, Wim’s brother Filip drove up to pick up our car in Brugge Friday night and then came to Oudenaarde to pick us up and drive us up back north to Brugge. He was so helpful and so willing to do so, We can’t say thank you Filip for making the logistics seem easy, I knew they weren’t.
We were expecting to be in Oudenaarde at 5:00pm, so he had to change his schedule a few times to be there at 8:30pm instead. Selfless. In order to get Dave to his hotel and Wim’s brother home, we split up. Filip takes Wim and Dave and Joe and I head to Rik’s where his wife had spaghetti and wine waiting for us at 10:00pm!!! Did I say that Belgians are crazy? So Joe and I both take showers at Rik’s and he try’s to cloth us with all kinds of warm stuff, but after taking the shower, we through on our outer garments which were dry and we just needed to ride home in the car. Wim finally shows up at 11:00pm and he’s fed by Rik’s wife too. So we all have some wine and finally get leave Rik’s at about 11:30 and head for Brugge.
I’ll skip the breakfast, and watching the start as Joe covered that in depth. Also the crazy partying that started at the end of the race and the constant beer drinking foisted upon us by Wim’s friends, and craziness that ensued, but I will tell the tale of one Liz Hatch.
So were in this big VIP tent and this woman in Brown knee high boots, tight jeans and what looks like a white cashmere sweater that has a big soft, turned down collar walks by our table and all the heads turn. Then as we run out to watch the racers come by, I see that she is sitting alone and not really talking to anyone. Poor girl must of been cold too as you can see from the below photo.
So being the kind hearted gentleman that I am, I decide to see if needs to be kept warm in some fashion or another. Wim says anything goes in Belgium, so I was ready. Anyway, I walk up to her and ask, “By any chance do you speak english?” Then she starts laughing and says “Well I hope so, I’m from Texas!” We both laugh and then spend some time talking and I find out that she’s a racer and now lives in Belgium. She was sweet and asked if I was staying in Belgium, but told her we were just here for the ride and were heading for Paris for a couple days. I asked her of she wanted to go to a Party in Ronse that night, but she said that she had a race the next day and had to be in bed early, to which I replied OK, but I don’t think she got my gist. Anyway, it was a nice encounter and she said “look me up if you’re back in Belgium” So I got that going for me…
All in all, it was an amazing trip. Literally a trip of a lifetime. Made new friends, rode with them, got drunk with them, pee’d on Oude Kwaremont with them, (OK, Only I did that…), but it was amazing, in spite of my not completing what I planned to do.
I cannot say thank you enough to Wim for all that he did to make this happen, it would have been nearly impossible without his sorting everything out for us. Thank you Wim for sharing your home country, for acting as a tour guide, for sharing your friends, showing us around, for taking me to meet your parents and letting me meet to two that created the “Wim” for letting me meet your Dad’s Pigeons, showing us the incredibly beautiful city of Ghent, for showing us where you wrapped your A3 around a light pole, where you grew up, your schools and all that means so much to you. It was a grand adventure that Joe and I will never forget!
So, I have to go back next year to finish what I planned to do, any takers?
Ed. Note. Devin made his way solo to the Clemson area for the Upstate Cycling Classic. What follows can only be described as one man’s will to win versus a tiny electric car.
DAY ONE – WOODY & THE ROAD RACE
“The aggregation of marginal gains, we are told, is enough to turn small, individual improvements into a quantifiable performance advantage. If you’ve gotten to that point, where you’re ripping along on the bike like stroke of a finely tuned doctor’s signature, looking to save those precious seconds, then all I can do is applaud your metrenome-like efficiency. The reality for the rest of us, though, is that most of the time we’re constantly fumbling around just to find the damn pen in the first place. Major losses, not marginal gains, is what defines our preparation.
Today started out like most bicycle racing days for me. Wake up early, pack car, rock the french press, cup of raisin-maple syrup-coconut-flax seed-egg oatmeal, cue some tunes, point google maps to the destination, an let ‘er rip. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, though. You see, in my infinite wisdom, after not driving my car for the last week due to 12v battery issues that popped up on the way back from Blythewood, I though it would be a great idea to wrestle with the electrical gremlins on Friday night. When 11pm rolls around and there is a 40ft extension cord running from the inside of your house to the battery pack of your electric-ish car, IV dripping that sweet, magic voltage straight from the grid, you should probably reevaluate your vehicle of choice for tomorrow’s grand depart.
So, there I am a little over halfway there, trouble-free car going down I-85 towards Clemson, tunes going into the ears, oatmeal going into the stomach, coffee going into the veins, and lights going out on the dash… wait, WHAT?! Cue panic-mode. Being a veteran of this issue, I know I have less than 5min of severely reduced power (the car only makes 60hp to begin with) to float my way off the interstate and towards an auto parts store. Luckily for me, the next exit is loaded with trucker travel stations, so I figure I’ll coast to a gas station and either hitch a ride to an autoparts store or get my battery charged at one of the zillion service centers off of the exit. No worries, this is why I plan a travel buffer: 2.5 hrs until race time with 50mins left to drive, and I’m now sans electrical go-juice in a gas station parking lot outside Gaffney, SC.
My first move is to attempt to fix the issue as I know the 12v battery isn’t being charged by the car’s DC-DC converter (alternator for electric cars). Initially promising result, but my hopes are dashed when the car whimpers to a stop while very precariously straddling the lip of the exit to the gas station onto a busy highway. High sided and completely out of power, I somehow summon the upper body strength, of which I have none, to push my car over this lip and back into the gas station lot.
Okay, plan B it is then, hitch a ride. 30 minutes of being denied a 20min round trip ride to the Advanced Auto down the road, has left me with little faith in good samaritans as well as an 1hr 45min until the gun.
Plan C is absolutely the worst. This plan involves me Atlas-Stone carrying my heavy battery from one 18 wheeler service center to the next. I didn’t exactly Garmin this workout, but I had to have walked a solid mile and a half between these places only to either be flat-out denied help or told that they only had chargers for 18 wheeler batteries, which would probably destroy my battery within seconds of being placed on the charger. Fine, that I understand, but still, no one would give me a ride. Dejected and slightly bemused by my recent luck, I started my own trail of tears back to the car, knowing that most likely not only would I miss the race, but I still was stranded and my best option was walking to the Advance Auto.
It’s at this point which, Woody, my possibly-reformed but probably only semi-reformed methhead guardian angel tailed me back to my car to offer some assistance. He tailed me back to my car because when he whistled at me between his 2 remaining teeth behind his mottled hair whilst adorned with a very ragged camo jacket and tattered jeans, I thought the last thing I needed today was a proper shank to the gut and subsequent mugging. Woody was quite a fine fellow, as it turns out. Still definitely/probably a methhead as he was hanging on the side of a truck stop and had to go borrow a car to transport me to the store, but a fine guy none the less. We chatted about bike racing, a Bianchi he bought at a garage sale for 25$, South Carolina industry, Lance, PEDs, and Greg Lemond, of whom, he professed he was a huge fan and wished the media would reaffirm his image and company which Lance destroyed. Kudos and 10$ to you Woody, you’re the man.
Newly purchased battery in car, 1hr and 10min until race time, 52min to the race venue via Google Maps, and probably at most 1hr of charge on the new battery before it is completely drained…
After some liberal interpretation of the 65mph speed limit, I made it to the venue with exactly 18min until the published race time… damn you Google for always being right. The subsequent unpacking of my car and assembly of my bike must have been a spectacular sight to behold from a far because when I was done, my bike was perfectly assembled by my car looked like it took a direct hit from an F5 tornado. All that’s left to do is sign the waver, get my number, and pin it on. 8 minutes left, plenty of time, right? Sure, that’s if I had the start time correct because as I’m signing myself in (noone’s at registration now) and selecting a number (301 sounds logical for a Cat 3, right? WRONG, they were all in the 200′s), they release the Cat 3/4 field… SUPER. So as I watch the field ride away, I’m frantically attaching my number to my jersey, having a piss, and realizing that with the 15+ mph wind and unknown course, I’m in a bit of a situation now. Finally, I’m on my bike pedaling hopping a curb, riding across the front lawn of the school where the race starts, and joining the up with the same road that the field is ~3min ahead of me on.
I spent almost the entire first lap of the race chasing at pretty much full-gas. It took exactly 18mins to catch onto the back of the peloton, and I was shattered. The stress of the day coupled with the lack of any bit of warm up into pretty much a full-on power test on unfamiliar roads, put me squarely into the pain cave for the next lap of the race as the course was anything but flat. Sure, it was only ~500ft of climbing per lap (as opposed to the published 250ft) but it was all rolling and all into head or cross winds, which meant that I really didn’t get to rest when I latched back onto the group. With this much wind and rolling terrain, I clawed up into the top-10 over that second lap in order to be well positioned for a potential race split. Hell, I even tried to split the race on the climb to the finish on the second lap, but the legs started to protest pretty heavily, and I couldn’t get anyone to commit to working with me to get a gap. It was suicide anyway with that much wind and a pack determined to not let anything get out of sight up the road.
So, for the next 2 laps, I played it a bit more tactical knowing that the climb to the finish would be the decisive point of the race on the last lap. I followed surges when I needed to and sat in when non-threatening moves went off the front. In the end, a group of 5 had 15sec, in the last half lap of the race, but that got closed down like it didn’t exist into an uphill headwind section. The final part of the race played out as I thought it would with attacks going on the final climb. The climb was a stair step with the section section being steeper than the first but shorter and followed by a 1.5k twisty, tight run in to the finish through neighborhood roads. So when the attacks when on the second kick of the climb, I followed them, and when they slowed, I punched it over the top of the climb and drilled it as hard as I could through the corners knowing that I could open a decent gap there going through unimpeded by other riders. In the end, it worked, and I sailed across the line a couple seconds clear for the win! Sweet redemption from last weekend’s blunder and a delicious cherry on top of a melted-ice-cream-sunday kind of day.
DAY TWO – SUNBURNS & CRITS
A morning shower quickly brings about a stunning revelation: I’m sunburned! The meat of that exclamation point is out of excitement but it’s certainly dotted by pain, the source of which is becoming increasingly difficult to pin point. Is it my still-healing wounds from using the asphalt to zest myself the previous weekend, my legs from spending another enjoyable 2hrs after yesterday’s race pounding away in the wind along memory lane of my undergrad alma mater while my batteries were charging at the local Advanced Auto, or maybe it’s just the sunburn. While contemplating, a wily stream of Head and Shoulder’s laced water finds its way under my eyelid quickly snapping me back into the present and delivering a timely reminder in its quest to blind me: The only pain that matters is that which is currently present; the rest is a distraction.
Bike racing lessons delivered by shampoo, what a way to start the morning, and not just any morning, it’s Milan-SanRemo. I scuttle on down to the continental breakfast as to assemble a hearty bowl of Raisin Bran accompanied by what I’m assuming is egg, but really I’m just basing that off its yellow color, circular shape, and proximity to the sausage. Toss in some coffee, an apple, a banana, and a stream of the race, and I’m set for a glorious Sunday morning with my race not being until 1:55pm. At this point, I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures and read reports from the race that try to do it justice, but certainly fall far short of it’s brutality. I can say though, as I glanced from my medium-rare arms to the alien planet being broadcast to me in the standard HD pixelation indicative of internet streams, the stark contrast of conditions elicited a slightly bemused smile some would describe as wry. With that race on hold, I finished my breakfast, checked out, and moved on to some more much needed face-in-book lounging around time at the SC Botanical Gardens before my race was set to begin.
Sunday’s race was a Cat3/4 50min + 2 lap criterium around Pendleton Elementary School in Pendleton, SC. Initial satellite recon of the course during the week had shown it to be a standard crit 4-corner affair, but the actual ground recon of the course revealed that it was going to be an entertaining venue. The course (course profile) featured two reasonable grades with the following downhill sections peppered by a reasonable headwind. Officials also informed us that we would have the whole road for the race, which I thought was implied since the course blazed through two stop signs in a neighborhood would have made for some interesting tactics that more or less revolved around avoiding an impromptu crash integrity test of the ubiquitous southern-truck brush guard.
The field size was down from 30+ in the road race to just 14 toeing the line for the crit, but those 14 were all contenders that I recognized from Blythewood and the previous day’s road race. Be that as it may, such a small field and the lack of any team with more than 2 riders meant a simplification of tactics: blow it up. Which is good because after yesterday’s late race attack, I planned on attempting the long-con for today either solo or with one or two other guys whom I had identified as good breakmates.
“Prime prime prime! Next lap GU prime!” This phrase entered my ear and was processed by my brain as quietly and speedily as an oak tree trying to be forced through a wood chipper. It has been months since I’d heard that tell-tale criterium phrase signalling the schwag-race with a race for money to buy schwag, but after a bit of cross-eye’d super computing and some internal asking of the Jeeves, it came back to me like, well, riding a bike. With primes comes a whole series of secondary bike racing tactics, but this time I tried the first one that came to mind. Sitting fourth wheel I let the front three sprint it out for the GU, making no attempt to sprint myself. This opened a gap which the subsequent shouting behind me indicated that most people were not happy with, but I was because one of the guys whom I had identified as a breakmate had sprinted for the prime… and then kept on going up the hill after the start finish. Perfect. So, I punch it across the gap with two others and we set about the work of a breakaway, less than 10 minutes into the race.
After some solid work, we’ve established a 20sec gap on the field and been joined by 2 more in a bridge, stacking the odds in our favor. Fifteen more minutes of work and our breakaway group is whittled down to myself and a Hincapie Devo rider with the chase group 20sec back and falling and the field 1min back on a 2min lap course. The grinding away continues in earnest.
5 to go and we’re closing down on the back of the field which has swallowed the chasing group. I start to plan how I’m going to attack these next couple laps as I start to notice that my breakaway companion is taking shorter pulls, not pulling as strongly, and appears to be hurting every time we hit the hill. While not feeling fresh as a daisy, I feel decent enough that I’m not going to wait until the final straight away to make a move, so with three to go, I roll the dice as we hit the hill and punch it…. but it doesn’t work. Not only does the kid have a kick, but he’s also not as tired as I read him to be.
So now I’m in a really bad spot as he is certainly not going to pull through anymore, he’s got my wheel, and he’s got a better kick than I do, which is to say that he’s actually got a kick. I try the first thing that comes to mind, more attacks!!!!!… but he matches every one of them and we’ve now caught the back of the field with one to go. I swing us around to the front of the field, and prepare to attempt to pull a rabbit out of my hat in the final dash to the line. Approaching the final corner, I ease the pace on the straight and try to catch him off-guard by opening an initial burst before the corner, railing the corner, and holding on for dear life to the line. This tactic doesn’t work either as I give him a nice sling shot through the corner and he immediately puts his rear tire past my front. I’m very slowly clawing back inches to the line, but it’s not enough, I run out of road, and finish second, but damn if that wasn’t some fun bike racing in the process. In the process of finishing second, I did nab a Smith Optics prime, drastically upping my sunglass-game to previously unforeseen levels of bike racer style, which is to say, over-the-top.
In case you forgot, I still have to make the 2hr drive home without a working alternator. So, an hour more of riding around Clemson while my batteries we being charged, let me take in some more of the great roads in the area. Thankfully, or more to the point, mercifully, the drive home was uneventful, and like that sweet cherry on top of a melted ice cream sundae win in the road race, Sunday delivered its own sweetly comedic finish as my battery completely died as I pulled into my driveway. No joke; I’m glad this weekend is over.”