Monday, 12 July 2010

Urban Legends

The fourth installment of my urban legends series came ahead of schedule this weekend. It wasn't due for at least 9 months or so. Hagerstown is an interesting place, with some really beautiful old houses and some other stuff. Whenever we go to new places like this, I always try to figure out why the town came into being. As well as being a railroad hub, Hagerstown was the home of Fairchild aircraft. The street on the backstretch was a really nice neighborhood, and a lot of the area surrounding the course was really nice, with some frayed edges. I love going to new places.

The AVC did their usual excellent job with all of the event planning and execution.

I really hate warming up, so instead of having some quality time on the trainer I jumped into the 1-2-3 race on Saturday. How long I was going to stay in for was anyone's guess, I just wanted to have a looksee at what it was like and wake the systems up in a more fun way than other alternatives. After a while, I decided to stay in until 25 to go, but it was fun so I decided on 20 to go. With around 23 to go, I decided on 15 to go. At 18 to go, I said "screw it, I'll just stay in for the finish," but realized I'd be completely tapped for the 3 race if I did that, so I bailed at 15 to go. You definitely learn a lot racing with the best guys. Turn 2 claimed a victim with about 20 to go, but some sick bike handling prevented more victims. The Kelly guy pictured above (sorry, no idea what his name is) pulled a stunning Oscar Friere-esque sideways bunny hop, over the curb and the little lawn strip between the curb and the sidewalk, onto the sidewalk. He then raced on the sidewalk for a few hundred yards before pulling the inverse move back into the road. I was just slack jawed in wonder. Holy cool.

The one thing I seem to really get about crits is when the pre-finale slowdown is going to happen. The 3 race, to that point, had been quick. Quick enough that getting off the front was really tough. My best shot at it was with Ian M, but it was so hard to get the gap that when he took the front and started pounding it, I was on the back foot pretty hard. He soft-pedaled me back onto his wheel, then I took one more pull down the back side before we got caught between turns 3 and 4. Earlier in the race I'd been in a slightly longer but even more doomed thing by myself. What can you do but try?

At the end, I tried to bury myself for as long as possible to string it out and give our guys a chance to work together for a good setup into the final sprint. As the slowdown hit, I had good timing and went straight off the front. Through the first two turns, we got a tiny gap. Down the backstretch, maybe the group was all attached to us but based on what happened later maybe it wasn't. The guy on my wheel had to have had the same game plan as me, since he had two guys in the field who could make hay out of what we were doing. He took the front through turn three, and then things got really, really strange - the stuff of urban legends. Let me just say that the sounds, well, I wish I hadn't heard them. There was really no time even to process what was happening before I was past it and pedaling again. I hope that there's no permanent damage.

Having to re-accelerate when the pack had all of its momentum from the downhill into turn four meant whatever buffer had been was gone, and I didn't have the gas to jump again. Two of our guys got paid, but the CycleLife guys got Josh Flexman into position and he gets a jersey. Congrats to them.

With 75 or so jumps up that little rise between turns one and two at Hagerstown in my legs, Sunday was always going to be dicey at best, but I rode downtown and put my game face on as best I could. Crap staging, crap legs, crap hill out of turn 1, crap 180 at the bottom of the course. The very first time up the hill, my legs had the sort of pain where you know it ain't happening. There was not an instant of that race when I felt anything other than completely spanked and frazzled, so I made like a Catholic and pulled out about 6 laps in. There were already a dozen or more guys riding in small groups behind the field, but what's the point? I rode home and we rode the Mount Weather loop from the Marshall Park and Ride, during which we both nearly bonked and toyed with the concept of heat exhaustion. Old school hard guy training.

How to play the next couple of weeks is a challenge that can only be answered with good strategery. In my ideal world, Coppi would follow Lost River. Coppi's a better course for me (my horrorshow outing there a few years ago notwithstanding) and obviously we'd like to help Greg put more points on the board. In any case, we have a knot of really good racing coming up and I'm psyched for it.

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