Monday, June 15, 2009

Ohio State Cat 3 Road Race Championships: The View From The Passenger Seat

It wasn’t quite Africa hot, but maybe a Disney Orlando type hot, humid and nearing 80. It looked like about another 15 signed up day of, adding to the 65 prereg’d riders. A fat field of 80 lined up on the Cat 3 start line at the Ohio State Road Race Championship Sunday at Caesars Creek State Park. I guess I ducked into the bathroom a little too late and hit the start line three quarters back in the enormous field, lining up with BioWheels/Reece-Campbell teammates Andy P & TJ. 80 guys mean lots of teams with lots of riders. Seeing that, I decided to call shotgun. I was going to plop my spandex rump in the passenger seat and wasn’t going to take a driving role at the front until absolutely necessary, that’s if I could even get to the front. Picking your way through an 80 person field is like navigating your way through the US Bank Arena concessions area at intermission with a sell-out crowd. Wedge a shoulder in her, stick a foot in there. If a handle bar wide gap opened up you had to take it. Running that many riders at once through the single lane farm roads that made up the downhill and back sections of the course was the cycling equivalent of draining a gallon of Gatorade through a pixie stick. No doubt as the first riders sprinted through the right hand bend at the bottom of the hill, the last riders were still on top. For many the race was over on the downhill, even before they hit the 1st climb. I never saw my teammates again after the 3rd or 4th turn.

The Clank-Lap 1

Just in time for the downhill, I had managed to work my way to the front of the field, at least within the first 20 or so guys. As the front of the group smoothly drizzled like olive oil down the right-left-right chicane that lead into the big bomber downhill, I concentrated hard keeping speed while still maintaining enough wiggle room to account for people checking up on the brakes or misjudging the corners. I remember squinting as it was hard to discern how much room was between the riders in front of me and whether I could split the hairs at speed so I wouldn’t have to touch the brakes on the softer corners. The front guys bombed around the final steep dropping left hander. KAH-LANK!! Within a second I rounded the corner and saw a Bianchi on the right side of the road by the guardrail and a bottle rolling down the road. No rider. Crap! He must’ve gone into the woods either over or under the guardrail. Maybe’s it’s a heightened sense of awareness brought on by the focus that racing demands, but I’m still amazed at my ability to recognize a bike’s brand laying on the ground as I pass it at well over 40mph. Bianchi!

Jesus With The Handoff

Lap by lap the tight corners, downhill and climb cut the pack. There were attacks going off the front, but nothing got past dangle-ville without being swept up by one team or another that wasn’t represented. At the top of the 4th time up the climb, my number was up. Wheezing like I was just caught by an axe murderer who was about to bury the hatchet, I couldn’t hang on to the wheel in front of me, that guy couldn’t hold the wheel in front of him and so on. Yada yada yada, I ended up with six or so desperately hoping that the front group rolling away would hesitate. 10 meters turned to 50 and we were done. It wasn’t a very big front group rolling away, maybe 25 riders. The five I was with abandoned at the start finish. I did the math. Heck if I stick this out, I might still finish better than two-thirds of the field. I got in the drops, hunkered down, and grabbed my bottle, a half-full bathwater warm lemon-lime Gatorade. With two laps still to go, up the dam, I thought about grabbing someone else’s handoff. Then, like a personal Jesus, my teammate Jaden appeared on the sidelines in the feed zone. There to support his wife in the women’s race, Jaden saw me and handed me an ice cold bottle of water. I downed half of it within the next half mile, and finished it before the downhill. Only later did I learn that I got the last bottle of cold water and Jaden’s wife got a warm bottle meant for the dogs. Sorry Bridgie.

Zip & Kick (rewritten since orginal post, and my appologies to my group companions for seemingly being a tool at the finish line)

I spent about a lap and a half riding solo in the drops just keeping it steady. Headed into my last lap, I saw at 4-5 guys on the sidelines or noodling in the opposite direction who I know were in the group up the road only minutes earlier. Well if there were 25ish riders in the lead bunch, and now there’s at least five who dropped out, I could be looking at eeking a top 20 or so out of this. Just before the downhill, I was caught by 3 others and got on the train. One rider joked, “We’re not going to attack each other up this last climb?” I said, “Naw, no use in clawing it out for 30th place.” We rode tempo up. At the top, the guy in front of me zipped up his jersey. As the cool breeze hit me, I did too. A third rider joked that we were getting ready for the finish line photo. Really we were at that point where being too hot was turning into the chills. I wondered if we’d just paceline it in or sprint it out for the scraps. Within the last 300 yards, the Walker Homes rider that was with us got up on his pedals. Well that answers the question, I thought. In the third spot, I held out till just past the 200m mark and let it rip to the line. I’m sure it looked pathetic. I pipped the three rides I was with at the line and kept rolling straight to my car, no doubt avoiding being chastised for sprinting for a top 25 spot. Afterward, I heard that no on sprinted but me. Guess that guy who got up on the pedals was just stretching his legs or getting the tingle out of the taint. Needless to say, I ended up looking like a total tool to my companions. Appologies boys, even with the low stakes, someone appeared to flip an ace on the table. It’s nice to have stories of attacks, counters, great teamwork, and pack sprints, but sometimes attrition is a tactic that works. Within a few minutes my teammate Andy rolled up to the car, no doubt he finished a few guys behind me. Getting dropped sucks, but finishing a tough race seems to make up for it.

Look for photos here:

Results here:


shannon said...

nice report, Joe, and way to hang in there in a tough situation -- I felt like the downhill was crowded with 40 riders. I can't imagine what it was like for your field.

lunasphere said...

what up?...I was the dude that joked about the group of us just rolling in at the tempo we were at...and I quote myself..."we gonna roll this or sprint it out?"...and you said..."yeah, what for 30th spot"...and if I could have found you after the race I would have told you then, so I will say it now, that was kinda sketchy you sprinting us after we picked you up, pulled you up the hill, and took you to the line...oh, and we all agreed not to...and we were not exactly noodling...I will say it again...WE picked you up...nobody sprinted but you...just the other side of the story for the "best bike blog ever"...

lunasphere said...

oh, one more is a very nice looking blog by the way.

Joe Biker said...


We need to share a beer. Didn't intend to pull a boner move, but totally can see what ya mean rolling with those guys for a lap and a half or so.

I'm all about honoring the gentleman's agreements. That's good stuff and one of the things I love about the road. Been racing a long time, and I hope most of the guys in the 3 pack know I'm a stand up racer.

Pretty sure the quote was "we gonna roll this hill" and not attack each other on it. Regardless, honestly, I was totally prepared to just paceline it in. Like I said who wants to duke it out for 25-30th. Bottom line the race was up the road and we were just rolling it in. Maybe noodling wasn't the best term. Appologies, it was a good tempo and everybody was cooperating great.

However, no one picked me up, pulled me up the hill or towed me anywhere. We rode side by side up the hill and I pulled my weight on the front and rotated through like everyone else. I was on the front for a section of the false flat before the last corner. That's how I ended up 4th or 5th spot in the final stretch.

Then, with the finish line in sight, the guy in front of me got up on his pedals and moved to the left. You gotta admit, that's like announcing, "I'm gonna sprint." So I reacted and sprinted.

Looking back, he was probably just stretching the legs and glad to be done. But, at the time, I was like, "oh we go."

Just know that at the time it appeared to me as if someone else was breaking the gentlemens agreement.

Dufusly yours,


Joe Biker said...


Took your words to heart and rewrote part of the original post. Hope that makes it good for ya. Appologies if I got under your skin. It was a hot day of racing bikes. :)

lunasphere said...

it's all good and i was not implying you were sucking any wheel on the last half lap...but we did "pick you up", or you caught on to us when we went by you...i can not really remember who was on the front was a tough day all around...and would love to share a beer at some point...Cross season in Cinncy??...:-)

Joe Biker said...

you got it!