Wapalo - Burlington Cat 4/5 Race
This is the first race of the Memorial Day Weekend races in Iowa.
I was going to kiss this one off since it is such a crash festival, but one of my racing buddies twisted my arm real hard and double dared me to race.
Since I did not pre-register I lined up 105th out of 140 riders. It is a 33 mile FLAT course, mild wind and (I thought) nothing to break up the pack.
It's amazing how doing well changes your perspective and opinion of a race. I come to realize the secret to this race is to assume there will be crashes and work the massive crash pileups to improve position. This race is not a test of physical ability, it is a test of nerve.
A quarter mile into the race the peloton got funneled down to a couple of rows of bikes due to a large piece of oncoming farm machinery that was blocking the bridge. The folks in front used this as an oportunity to break up the field. I had to pedal for all I was worth for the next couple of minutes to catch on to the lead group.
In the first few miles Crash #1 occured. It was a massive pile up well in front of me. I took a wide left path and again pedaled for all I was worth to catch back onto the lead group. Again the front runners attacked and picked up the pace to further split up the field.
The front group was packed tight 3-6 bikes abreast in a single lane of a county road and 20 rows deep. Non stop attacks on the front which resulted in the Peloton sprinting and then slamming on the brakes when the attack colapsed. Fortunately most were yelling out "brake" so you had some notice what was coming and could slow down smoothly.
Then about 7 miles in, the 2nd big pileup. It occured a few rows in front of me. Same spot as last year. This year I did not freak out and go in the ditch. I just braked, kept my line and then unclipped and tip toed through the Carnage. It took longer to get through this time since I had to go through instead of around the wreck. Again. I pedalled for all I was worth and passed a lot of riders. I started to run out of steam going solo and started to slow down. Then from behide, I heard the train and caught onto the tail of it. After 4-5 minutes of hard work we rejoined the lead pack.
I worked my way to the center of the pack by working the attacks. Everytime they sped up, I sprinted and improved my position by a row or two. I settled in about 20-30 yards from the front and maintained position in the group for the next 20 miles. The less skilled riders must of fallen off plus the group had settled down a bit. It was still shoulder to shoulder riding at high speeds, but it was smooth. It was a test of skill, nerves and focus.
At about 20 miles a third wreck occured about two bikes to my left. I was in front of it and the group sprinted again to bust it up.
Another moment of excitement was a blow out up in front. The rider maintained his line and raised his hand and the group flowed smoothly around both sides. Then another blowout with the same result. About 7 miles from the end some large object was bouncing around through the peloton, again no mishaps.
Now things started to pack together tighter as folks started to attempt to make their way to the front. I quit being Mr nice guy. Earlier I had a few taps on the rump with a request for passing on the right and I let them. Now the requests were answered with an extended elbow and a held line.
The yellow line rule seemed to be optional to a large chunk of riders. I was riding the white line on the right, but these folk just blatently crossed back and forth across the yellow on the left, improving possition. Finally the line cops showed up on a motorcycle and started to DQ a few of the offenders. The peloton cheered.
With 3-4 miles to go the peloton slowed. There were 2-3 teams controlling the front. I was sure they were resting up for the sprint, but there was no way to work through the tight field to get in a position to attack.
Two miles to go and the course openned up from 1 lane to four and the race was on. I hit it hard and followed a group and rode 3 wheels from the front. Up a small rise and then a modest down hill sprint for the finish.
I crossed the hill in good shape and started sprinting for all I was worth. I improved position well but got stuck behind a wheel that ran out of steam before the line, worked my way around but it cost me some momentum. I was fairly sure I had a top 20 finish. My computer showed I had a 44 MPH sprint!
50-60 bikes crossed the line in a few seconds. It took the judges about an hour to look through the photos to fiqure out the top 20 finishers.
While I waited for the results to be posted we watched the pro/1/2/3 race finish. Their sprint speeds were in the mid 50's.
While piddling around after the race talking to some buddies, I bragged about my top 20 finish and waiting for the results. While wasting time we over hear a Healthnet rider talking to his Grandmother. My friend said, hey that's Jason McCartney. He was this little guy with thighs the size of his waist. When he was done talking to his Grandmother we went over and talked to him. I shook his hand and congradulated him for winning a mountain stage in the Tour de Georgia over Mr. Lance & Company. Next time I'm going to carry a Sharpie with me.
Finally after over an hour wait they posted the results. Whoo Hoo! 18th. I was very happy with a top 20 finish. I was 3 places out of the money but it still felt good. My buddy kidded my about getting my head into the car and that I would need to buy a new helmet to fit my head. I thanked him for twisting my are and prodding me to race.
I like this race now.
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Thread: Crashfest 2004 - Race Report
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