Monday, June 12, 2006

Race Reports: LMPD Foundation Crit and Cherokee Park

LMPD Foundation Crit:

This race was living proof that if you promote something well, the turnout will be fantastic. Even for amateur bike racing.

The fields for every category were enormous, with some really quality racers turning up from out of town for the Pro/1/2 crit at the end of the day.
Our crit, the lowly 4/5, started first, early in the morning at 9:30. This was actually a benefit, though, since a lot of the runners from the 5K event that started at dawn were still milling about and the weather was still relatively sunny and cool. Our race had the biggest, loudest crowd by far. Our field was big, too. More than 50 guys lined up at the start, with the usual suspects from Team Louisville, Pedal Power, Humana and of course the jokers from Bolla (us).

As planned, we hammered straight from the gun and strung everything out right away. Within one lap, 20 of us had formed a strong lead group and dropped the rest of the field.
The course was a winding 8-corner loop with some seriously rough pavement and dangerous obstacles in places. A couple of manhole covers nearly killed me. In general, though, the streets were in decent enough condition that our group could build serious momentum and maintain a 26 mph average. Not bad, considering that's the same average as the Cat 3s later in the day.

Lap after lap went by for a half hour with just a few serious attacks including a stupid one from me that nearly destroyed my legs. I always think attacking through the start/finish is a good idea and always live to regret it. At least I got the announcer to say something about Bolla (I'm a corporate shill) and say my name (I'm an arrogant jerk). Though the group caught me in about two seconds, it was worth it I suppose.

Fast forward to the last lap. The lead group was still together for the most part (we dropped one or two) and heading into the back side of the course. Around one of the last turns, a couple of guys suddenly forgot how to ride their bikes and decided instead to run into each other. Three or four guys hit the deck, including the unluckiest man in the world, Joe of Humana/Cycler's Cafe along with another guy that did a face plant on the sidewalk. Ouch.
The rest of us made it through and sprinted for the finish, with my teammate Larry and I bringing up the rear in 9th and 10th place respectively. A Pedal Power guy took the top spot with Matt S. from Team Louisville in an impressive third. Bolla finished outside of the money (again), but made a great showing for the most part. At least the race had a huge crowd and people cheering every time we came through the start/finish!

Cherokee Park "Road Race":

Almost every single day that I ride my bike, I ride through the Cherokee Park Scenic Loop. It's got fast flats, good hills and great overall scenery. When I heard they were having a circuit race on the same Scenic Loop this year, I specifically built my training around it. It paid off, as my fitness was perfect. In bike racing, though, having the legs is not always enough.

Our race was Cat 4s only with the Women's field starting directly behind us. Our pack was actually much smaller than yesterday, with no more than 25 guys altogether. We had five Bolla riders in the pack, but right from the start our teammate Jeff had a mechanical mishap and hit the deck hard, leaving four of us.

The course was run backwards from the usual right-of-way, making it a little more interesting for those familiar with the park. Run the usual way, the course includes a left hairpin at the bottom of a super-fast descent. Run the way we raced it, the hairpin becomes a tough uphill big-ringer that really taxes the legs.
The pace was fast from the start again, but for the most part we didn't lose anybody except for a couple of guys (including two of my teammates).

The pack stayed together for all six laps, with only the occasional attack that didn't go anywhere. Luckily, despite the fast pace, the hard turns and the twists in the course, nobody went down. A true miracle.
As always, I started the race at the back of the pack to get my bearings and assess the field. By three laps in, I was on the front leading the group up the hills with Larry and trying to set a pace at least a couple of guys couldn't hold. Surprisingly I didn't blow up, and for the most part wasn't even breathing hard. Unfortunately, by the final lap I had lost my good position and was stuck again near the back of the field. Up the final climb to the finish, my legs were there and my sprint was strong, but being so far back I didn't have a chance in hell. I passed at least six or seven guys, including my teammate Larry, but couldn't get close enough to get a decent result. I had to settle for lucky 13th*. The good news is that my little buddy Andrew, a strong rider still only 15 years old, won the sprint for his first ever victory! Congrats to him!

Overall, Larry and I rode really well this weekend in both races and at least made a good showing. As long as Bolla plays an active part in every race and is visible to spectators and announcers, I'm happy. Hopefully we can score a win at some point this season---but we're just getting started and the sky's the limit.

Thanks to all the sponsors who made the races possible this weekend, and thanks to Sean and Matt S. from Team Louisville for being amazing guys to race against. It's always a pleasure.

*The results online are now saying I finished 14th, which is strange considering the posted results at the race course yesterday had me in 13th and I finished ahead of the rider now in my place...hmmmm...oh well.