Leading up to the race, I'm going to post a few thoughts on sections of the course. Take these for what they're worth. I intend for them mostly to have to do with trying to keep people safe. At Lost River, you will be racing against the course as often as you are racing against your competitors. It's no surprise that there are times when you're going to have to go deep to stay on terms (that's an inside joke, btw - I'm not reaching into my suitcase of courage to live out a Phil and Paul fantasy here) - everyone knows that bike racing is often hard. There are other times when competing with the course will mean that you could be creating a nice gap but not leaving enough in the tank to handle one of the big climbs, or even leaving yourself vulnerable to getting knee-capped by the rollers on Crab Run or Cullers. At other times, it will mean that you are going to keep it in your pants a bit in order to not have the course reach out and give you a big old smack in the head (or leg, or collarbone). Of course at times the course be flavored by what's happening in the race, as in the case with turn 1.
Turn 1 is actually the last turn you'll do on the course. It is the turn off of Howards Lick onto Dispanet. The Howards Lick section follows the descent down Jenkins Hollow, which follows a tough ass climb. The turn itself is tough. It's a sharp right, off camber, onto a narrow bridge. You are coming off of a shallow descent where the pace could easily be nuts, and riders are likely to be fighting for position into the turn. The bridge is flanked on either side by a metal guard rail. We plan to have hay bales at this turn, on both the inside of the far rail and the outside of the near rail. In its normal day to day state, this turn is a mess of dust and sand and gravel - it is, after all, at the bottom of a huge hill. We'll keep it nice and swept.
Turn one is a technical turn.
In absence of other racers, you'd probably take your set up into it way wide to the left and try to keep some momentum onto the bridge. You enter the bridge having gone up slightly (it's off camber for sure), but the bridge itself is flat. Immediately following the bridge, you make a left right chicane and start climbing. No doubt, there are some bike handling superstars out there who could set it up, rail the turn and keep an decent amount of momentum onto the very bottom of the climb. This is someone with mad skeelz on a perfect day, corner perfectly swept off, it rained three days ago and sunny since, tires with 300 miles on them and inflated perfectly - assuming that's all the ideal situation to just nail a corner. In the real world, and I've been through this corner with people who rip me to shreds on bike handling, it doesn't work so well. You basically follow that line and run out of momentum in the chicane.
The big point to be made there is that that isn't such a big deal. You're going to be climbing - hard - for the next three or four minutes.
The thing is, I imagine that everyone who's feeling strong will want to enter that corner ahead of absolutely everyone possible. The land mines are going to blow on Dispanet, and no one wants to get stuck behind one of them, which leads me to think that the entry into this turn is going to be an absolute shit fight. Which makes me a bit nervous - hence the hay bales plan.
It's often said of the turn into the dirt at Poolesville that you can't win the race in that turn, but you sure can lose it. The same is true in spades of Lost River turn one. It's the turn on the course where an abundance of aggression or a lack of skill can have the most dire consequences. Miss turn six (Jenkins onto Howards) and you wind up in someone's front yard, no sweat. Screw up turn four (Crab onto Cullers) and you hit a bridge guard rail (also hay bale covered) but with nowhere near the prejudice with which you'll be treated at turn one. Turn three is wicked easy and turn five is as much a veer as an actual turn, no sweat. No, turn one is going to be the one that gets you. If I'm standing 100 yards up Howards from turn one and I hear someone scream "inside," I'm radioing the ambulance that instant because we're about to have an incident.
Hopefully everyone appreciates that this course is fun as hell but that it also has some teeth. I'll try and give the best heads up I can about which teeth are sharpest, but most of you are better racers than I...