Friday, December 15, 2006

Riding the Rubber Band

First Day Natz Norcal Wrap-Up

Providence, RI

Dec. 15, 2006

Actually, I'm pretty happy about getting 6th at 35+ Nationals, which may come as a surprise to some of my friends considering how frustrated I was after finishing in roughly the same position in 2003 and 2004.

First of all, the course was frickin' awesome and I would have loved to race it at 100%. No, actually, it was PERFECT. Fast, wide open, tacky, but still techy if you were going fast enough. 3 runups per lap and one set of (very tall) doubles, plus lots of little short climbs on the bike. The ground was moist but just firm enough to hold except for a couple of marginally slipery corners. Three good long road sections. Some great up-and-downs. It was a VERY fair course, lots of passing lanes.

Anyhow, on to the racing. I'll get to my condition and race later but first I'll wrap-up the earlier races.

Noble, Black, Hoefer

Got to the course and saw Lauren out racing already (Women 35-39) - I cheered her on and she looked great, but because her group was racing the same time as the 30-34 group I couldn't tell what place she was in. I was tempted to ask her as she went by - would that have been bad? ;-) Anyhow, she finished 3rd which is great considering this is not a Costantini-style (i.e. slathered in mud) course, and 2nd place was only a few seconds up on her. If Lauren ever gets her starts down she should be ready for jersey fitting, she never saw winner Wendy Williams who did a great ride for a comfortable victory.

At the same time the 30-34 group was out there including the recovering Josie Beggs and former champ Sarah Kerlin - both were solid in 6th and 7th, respectively.

I got a re-cap of the 50-54 race from Mr. Kramer himself - it sounded like he had quite a nice little ride with Ned Overend. At about 2 to go Ned managed to kill it on a couple of the windy road sections to get a buffer over Henry and stretched it out for the win. Great job Henry...remember that guy's a legend!

Tilford crushed the 45-49 field.

Also heard that John Elgart killed it earlier in the 60-64 group with a convincing win. John's wife Linda got 2nd in the Women's 50-54 race

On to the nailbiter of the day, the 40-44 race. Damn, that was some fine racing. I saw Gannon Myall before the race and was amazed how stoic he was about his #99 starting position - he had his work cut out for him. Gun goes off and Todd Hoefer drills it and immediately the decisive break forms - Todd, Mark Noble, Will Black, and Dale Knapp - a star-studded break to say the least. These four basically stayed together the whole dang race. Alan Coates was just behind but seemed to be having some problems (back problems?). Meanwhile, Gannon had managed to move up to about 20th in about 1/2 lap, and continued tearing through the field even while the lead four opened their gap. By lap 2 I think Gannon had passed everyone but had a sizeable deficit to the leaders. It was sooo thrilling watching the lead four come thru and then watch Gannon just gobble up ground and seconds in pursuit. Todd was aware of the situation and was sitting in the group, hoping that Gannon could close the gap. He was so tantalizingly close but never quite made the juncture, and the lead four were destined to finish it off. Todd attacked the run-up before the finish but Mark Noble somehow managed to get by him on the descent to the pavement, and sprinted in for a tight victory over Will and Todd - announcer Richard Fries was going CRAZY! Congrats to Mark, but I still have to give the ride of the day to Gannon. Great ride by Todd, too, who proved he's not just a "mudder".

Fast forward past my race (save the fluff for the end, right?), and on to the 30-34 race - defending champ Justin Robinson put on a valiant effort, leading for the first 1/4 lap and then tenaciously hanging tough for a number of laps in the 2nd group behind a fast-starting Grant Berry. Justin eventually faded, though, and started losing spots finally ending up 8th, just a couple of spots ahead of Simon Vickers, who also had a solid race. The finish of the race saw the remnants of Justin's group - Ryan Leech and former Nor-Cal rider Chris Pietrzak catching Berry and then sprinting it out with Leech taking the spectacular win by 1/2 a bike length over Chris.

Now on to my own personal account and the 35-39 race rpt.

I've been riding some fine lines lately...

Fine line #1 - somewhere between in-and-out of the doghouse - my wife is super-busy as a full-time mom and trying to promote her amazing children's CD (no more plugs I promise), and my racing has been a series of compromises and my training a few stolen sessions in the dark in Golden Gate Park after Liam is snug in bed. Occasional bike maintenance in the wee hours of the morning, and then up at the crack of dawn with Liam until I'm off to work. Sleep be damned.

Fine-line #2 - not surprisingly I've been teetering between health and sickness for about 1 1/2 weeks, and I think the early flight out Thursday AM after about 2 hrs sleep the night before did me in, and this morning I awoke completely congested and my head was in a fog, hacking cough, the whole nine yards. Warming up, I actually felt dizzy. Julie Barrot told me I looked like shit. Not good.

But there I was, 3000 miles from home and sitting on the 3rd row behind a strong field of riders, no choice but to race. My first goal was to put myself in the lead group, and thankfully the course allowed me to make up ground pretty handily and by 1/2 lap I was with '05 champ Shannon Skerrit and Brandon Dwight. Chris Peck (I think) hit the pavement hard in a corner which helped open the gap to Matt Kraus (who was absolutely drilling it off the front) and Richard Feldman ahead. By the end of the lap Brent Prenzlow bridged up from his 5th row spot and rode right thru us in pursuit of Richard and Matt. I was absolutely on the rivet from there on out, and basically just switched from holding Brandon's wheel to Shannon's - I felt a little guilty NEVER putting my nose in the wind but the only thing holding me there was my pride and that invisible rubber band that I have always been adept at clinging to. Shannon and Brandon hauled back Brent and were on the heels of Feldman with Matt a little ways up the road. Curt Davis joined our group and the race was still very much up in the air. The leaders were so tantalizingly close - always 10-15 seconds - yet I was completely unable to do anything but suck wheel, occasionally even getting gapped off as I started getting sloppier as the race progressed and my power faded. Up ahead Matt's carbon chainguard (and hence, his lead) was deteriorating and his gears started skipping - he started an unfortunate slide backwards as we passed him while he did his best to get to the pit. Feldman pounced on the opportunity and opened a gap, though Brent made a super effort to catch him. Inside 2 to go Shannon stands up and puts in his final bid leaving me, Curt, and Brandon behind. Shannon charged and caught and then outsprinted Brent for 2nd, but he was too late to catch Richard, who stormed to another National Championship. Shannon's attack put me in difficulty and just inside 1 to go I flubbed a re-mount and the rubber band broke - I was suddenly painfully aware of the snot pouring from my nose, and the burning in my lungs and legs, and though I tried to stay focused on catching Curt for 5th, the gap wouldn't come down. I could not sit up, though, because Matt was charging back from his mechanical just behind.

I was a little bummed for Matt because I think he may have pulled it off if his bike hadn't failed - he's a friend-of-a-friend of mine from Boston and has been really turning it up the past couple of years, narrowly losing last year's 30+ race to our own Justin Robinson.

I was actually pretty happy to finish where I did, I definitely rode over my head today even to be in the hunt and only 40 secs off the win. I would have loved to race this course on a better day - this was my ideal course and that was probably what saved me from losing the front group altogether - throw in some mud, snow, or a long hill and I would have been 30-something...easily.

Anyhow, I want to say a huge thanks to Mr. Paul (Rock Lobster) Sadoff for being my (happily unnecessary) pit crew - it took a major load off my mind pre-race that I could count on you if anything went wrong.

There's no more racing for me this weekend (or this season, for that matter), my cold is worsening and my thoughts are back home with the family - I changed my flight plans and I'm heading home tomorrow. I really wanted to see the Elite race and jump in the Sunday race but Fran is flying solo with the boys so I'd best get home and get started on working my way out of the dog house.

Anyhow, it just started raining here in Boston, so perhaps a few changes are afoot for tomorrow's Elite race.


PS Full results are here.


Morgan said...

Good job John! That was an impressive finish. Thanks for the reportage.


velogirl said...

Congratulations on an impressive finish.....and for a great comeback season....all the while holding it together as dad, husband, and cx mentor to many!

maleonardphi said...

Nice finish John. If your wife hassles you, just tell her the weekend doubled as a business trip for promoting her cd!

Dustin said...

Congrats John!
And thanks for putting on those GGP CX practices way back in September - those got me hooked on the idea of racing cross this year for this first time, and it was a real blast!

Anonymous said...

Great job John. You are an inspiration. A good example.... Happy Holidays and have a good year.
Thanks for the email (that I failed to respond to :( ....)