Saturday, 18 June 2011


So full disclosure, we didn't do the ToWC for reasons which included those other than a visit to the in-laws at the beach. We thought the whole coercion to leave work early on Friday to fight traffic on 270 and do Hagerstown and blow a pile of money on hotels or spend ridiculous time in the car all weekend and the prologue bit and the whole thing took what had generally been a darn near perfect race and painted a moustache on it. So we bailed and planned a visit to the beach and while we were here we might as well do a race. Called the Zeppelin Criterium.

Where even to begin...

The flyer had the ultra annoying "immediately after preceding race" note on each race's start time. Which kind of f's with you when the race preceding yours is cancelled. Without any notice. No sweat we were there in time. Where are the portajohns? THE portajohn was on a far corner of the course, a hefty walk away. It was beyond beyond. I'll just leave it at... full. Full. Back to reg table, which was self-serve. Weird. No license check, nothing. I was doing the 3 and then the 35 - immediately after. Fortunately they let us pre-ride. The tight corner was indeed tight and I thought maybe a bunch of guys I didn't know might have an issue with this section - 90 degree right, 90 degree left, 150 degree right. Then before the last turn you go through an intersection that had a corner to corner mogul at each end. Nasty - like easily crashing in a straight line nasty.

The gun goes and I go to the front to set up for the corner, and take it at pace. Some guy in the field bites it - a scene which would repeat itself many many times. In fact I was batting .10000, so I decided that my last lap strategy would be to lead through that corner, fast, and see what happened. It was too far too hold under normal circumstances, but the way people were cornering, who knows? Long story short I made my plan happen and wouldn't you know it no one went down. I got swarmed badly, fought back some, and got a reasonably lame finish. The big moral of the story from this race was that when you are the guy from out of town, you don't want to show any strength early. People were letting ANYTHING go, except anything that I was a part of. Got a couple of laps out of it with three guys once, until one went down in the corner (the other guy from that break would also DNF, bleeding, from that corner), but the race situation was weird. A kid from UMD won, good for him, he raced well.

Immediately, we lined up for 35+. I was a bit tired so decided to hang in a bit. No one crashed in the first lap so hooray! Next lap, the guy in front of me freaks himself out so bad in the corner that he coasts instead of sprints out of it. I get up beside him to be like "you let that HUGE gap open, now go close it.". He looks at me with dinner plate sized eyes and says "go on ahead.". WTF? The front of the field is in full cry, like 6 seconds ahead. I close the gap way down and give the wag to the guy behind. Nothing. And again. Nothing. So I loom back and say "come on, guy.". So he goes full attack and I'm on my own once again. He gets to the group soon enough but is exploded and pulls out. I hit the crazy crossing at Mach and ride a full scary nose wheelie kind of a long way and come down with a thud. Good thing I did a good glue job on the old tires, but I lose a step in the experience. The field is hauling. I'm catching slowly but it's not good. I close a lot through the zig zag, and am so nearly there when WHAM the stupid intersection gets me again. My rear wheel was about two feet in the air and even with my bars. I landed and bailed. I don't think I've ever dnf'd a crit before. Uggh.

The whiff lines up for the W123 and is riding great through a bunch of laps. There's one team with 5 ladies and another with 2. The rest is singles, so the race dynamic is WEIRD. Maybe 15 laps in, I'm near the critical corner watching, and boom a crash I can't see. A girl near the front overcooked the turn, the Mrs jumped onto the curb to miss it (pretty hot move, right?) and then jumps back onto the road. Her wheels must rule to take all that guff. But her front tire explodes so she drifts left with her hand up (she's like 2' from the curb to start) and a girl plows into her bars from behind. Down she goes. 2 seconds later I'm there and she's picking herself up. At first she thinks she's done but soon decides to take my front wheel and jump back in. Despite there still being two laps before free lap is over, they don't let her back in. She took too long. I've never taken a free lap so search me what the normal deal is but this seemed BS to me.

So after all was said and done we were thinking how lucky we are to race in MABRA with the racers, teams, officials, and promoters that we know and love. We all love to bitch and moan now and again, but we've got it so so good.

And Reston next week. Awww yeah. I f'ing love that race.


chris said...

The tour of Wash. Co. Did indeed go a step too far..too much packed in for a night and two days. One time trial would have sufficed thus a rider could sleep in one morning some. I think you chose wisely even if that crit was disorganized and a zany course. The evening twilight was cool but the overall event was too compacted together. My two cents.

Chuck Wagon said...

A bunch of people are echoing your comments. There were also a lot of people who felt like they wasted most of Saturday sitting in a HS parking lot.

In the big picture, I'd rather have promoters trying to do too much than too little. These guys in NJ were just unprepared. But every year before, everyone's left the ToWC absolutely raving about what a great time they had, and I haven't heard much of that this year.

Sigberto Garcia said...

I think everyone came out of the twilight crit with a really great impression of "this is how bike racing should be." It was cool, real cool, and I was just a spectator.

That good mood was totally overshadowed by four races looming in the next 48 hours. It's definitely too much in too little time. I'll echo Chris' comment that having two time trials is kinda in a 4-stage race. The Smithsburg RR at ToWC is always cool, though. It makes me imagine, though: if they have that much cool terrain in 6 miles, what do they have around the neighboring roads?

My suggestion to Joe was to make the twilight crit a separate event on a different Saturday evening and apply for the MABRA crit championships. There was a crowd and they were into it. Sure beats "tacktown," which obviously is not a welcoming community or a popular event among MABRA racers (and it shares the weekend with Poolesville).

When you mentioned THE portajohn, well, that was the situation on Sunday morning before the 7 a.m. TT. Yeah, 7 a.m. start the day after a TT and RR. And after constant calls from the 1/2/3 field to NOT have the first TT start and last Crit time, they do it again anyway. WTF.

Yeah, promoters are the pedestals for the races we compete in, and it's a faux pas to criticize their efforts. But at some point they need to remember what it's like to be a racer with a full-time job and/or family, which is most of us, and cater to that base. It's pretty obvious when people lose that connection and worry more about other things: perhaps profit, spectacle, money for the community (two nights in a hotel or 3:30 a.m. wake-up?), or just trying to be too cool for its own good.

Lastly, I'd rather see a fantastically planned, spread-out 3-day event and take leave for it on Friday (Wilmington, anyone?) than suffer on Monday morning for burning it at both ends all weekend.