Cleburne and TMS RR Reviews, April 2009 – BREAKTHROUGH!

A solo attack on Lap 2 of 10

A solo attack on Lap 2 of 10

Things seem to be really turning around, and there are a lot of reasons behind it, but mostly, it has to do with the fact that for the first time I’ve seen all year, the Mirage 3’s rode as a TEAM, and we now have the numbers, and talent, to make successful weekends like this one happen more regularly.

It started out on Saturday with a windy, wet, sort of cold day for so late in the year, and things didn’t go off well when I heard that my star female athlete had gone down in a turn, and broken her collarbone. This really, really, really stinks, and it saddens me for a lot of reasons, mainly that this was a crash that she was not responsible for, and that she was on her way to a strong spring campaign. Heal quickly, Cindy, and know that this setback is only temporary. You will rise like a Phoenix and soar again soon!

I drove out to the course with Ben Sewell, a clubmate and long-time friend, and we arrived in time to warm up, look at the course a bit, and talk with people who had ridden it already. The course was STILL slick in places, though it hadn’t rained for several hours. The hairpin turn was the worst, with milky water right at the beginning of the turn, and again later at the exit of the turn. Ben’s wife also fell at this location, and injured her thumb, so we knew we were going to have to be extra cautious.

Several Mirage teammates showed up for this, and there were over 75 starters as the 3’s rolled out. Our strategy was simple – to communicate, and attempt to send people off the front in 1’s and 2’s, in an effort to get a breakaway set up. Then the others would either block, or counter-attack as soon as the breaks were reeled in. There were some more specifics, but we agreed to try and play defense in the first half, and really try to activate the race in the second half. It was just a one-hour event, but the turns and hills, along with the threat of rain, were going to make it challenging.

It almost worked.

Immediately when the gun went off, Jason Butler was forced to chase down a solo breakaway, but by mid-lap they’d been caught, and another rider went off the front. He got maybe 20-30 seconds up on us – no one wanted to really chase since the rain had actually started and the course was slicker ‘n snot – but when we got to lap 2, we saw him on his feet, spinning his wheels right after the hairpin turn… He’d fallen hard, and was making sure his bike was in working condition. I don’t know if he finished or not.

Over the course of the hour, the Mirage group communicated well, and I launched 2 or 3 solo or paired attacks, to try and break up the pack or string it out. It sort of worked. We did drop a good number of riders, but towards the end, right after I’d been reeled in on the last lap, instead of counter-punching, the pack sat up, including my teammates. As a result, the last 500m was pretty crowded and sketchy, and while we did get some Top 10 finishes, and a few primes, we didn’t get a Top 3 like I’d thought or wanted. Still, it was a great effort, and I was proud of the group for communicating and pushing the pace, and for the attacks.

There was more to come on Sunday.

The second day of racing was held at the Texas Motor Speedway, a venue that was MUCH closer, and is infamous for its’ never-ending wind. Ben and Katie picked me up, and we drove out for a morning start. When I got there, there were several more Mirage cyclists, including some guys I’ve been riding with for about 14 years now, and I was REALLY excited about our prospects.

We warmed up in 2’s and 3’s, but about 20 minutes before the start, we gathered together in a group in a remote part of the parking lot, and made a plan. Chase was going to be the ‘sit in’ guy, I was good for an early break attempt, and Jason would also try to go early as well. The theme of counter-attack was prevalent, and there were two or three guys who said they weren’t going to be able to contribute, but that they’d block if someone got away. I think we had about 7 riders in a pack of almost 75 starters.

We went off for our 10 laps, about 5 minutes after the 1/2 field went out, and it was immediately apparent that there was a LOT of wind. The wind out there is persistent, but it’s the squirrelly way that it deflects off of the actual Speedway itself that makes for such a challenge. For instance, the Start/Finish was on an East-West line, but it seemed like the winds were coming from Due West, right down our throats. I quickly ended up calling this 1k section, the “Dragon’s Breath”, as it was fierce and consistent, and you had to use a lot of power to simply cut through it. However, once on the inside track of the course, right under the stadium, the wind still beat on us, all the way around until we reached the outside loop, and started our descent. THEN the speed would pick up, and you finally got a tailwind on the southernmost part of the 5 miles.

Action was hot pretty early. On the first lap, about halfway through, I found myself covering a break of two PACC riders who slipped away and got a 10 second lead. I didn’t do much work, and we were caught close to the end of the first lap. Right after that, three Mirage cyclists, Andy Kutach, Jason Butler, and I think Sean,  took off from the front, and actually had a gap going for about a full lap. They stayed out, about 20 seconds ahead, with one PACC rider. Jordan and I were at roughly positions 7-10, not doing any work, and just forcing other teams, like McKinney Velo, to bring the riders back. This happened at just the right moment out on the course, right as we were transitioning for the fast, long, shallow descent in the crosswind. I saw that the pack had settled down, I saw a complete lane open up, and I shot off the left hand side as absolutely fast as I could. The three Mirage riders saw this and went in to coast mode, and within a minute, I had a full 20 seconds on the field.

1 solo lap off the front - about to be joined by a Sun & Ski rider.

1 solo lap off the front - about to be joined by a Sun & Ski rider.

I raced as hard as I could for a complete lap, and when I reached the same point where I’d made my break the previous lap, I chanced a look over my shoulder. The pack was at least 30 seconds back, but a young Sun & Ski rider named Cody was attempting to bridge to me. I had to make a decision. Let him join me so we could ride together and push harder, or continue to try to go it alone for another 7 laps. It was a no-brainer. I slightly eased up, and when Cody caught me, we looked back, and I said to him, “I think this can work!” His reply was, “Yeah, I feel strong. Let’s go!” Within seconds, we were taking strong, steady, even pulls together, and the official’s moto began calling out our splits.

Joined by Cody of Sun & Ski on Lap 3.

Joined by Cody of Sun & Ski on Lap 3.

Over the next 7 laps, we pushed, pedaled, and tried to stay aero as much as possible. Talking a little, looking for each other’s ‘chicken wing’ signals to come around, and trying to gauge our efforts in the wind, the terrain, and against the rest of the raceers. The moto kept coming up to us, at least once a lap, and his shouts across to us were filled with information that only pushed us harder.


“ONE TWELVE!”…………….

“ONE TWENTY ONE!”……………..




Cody and I off the front.

Cody and I off the front.

They were the sweetest words I’d heard in my road cycling career up to that point. Wow. I was guaranteed at least 2nd place. Cody pulled up to me and said, “I think if we just stay steady, we’ll be fine.”

I tried to strike a deal with him, citing my age, the fact that I’d never won a race before, and that I’d done most of the work, but he said, “Let’s just take it to the final turn.” I knew then, based on how I felt, in terms of my legs, lungs, and feet, that this was going to be long shot for the win. I told him it was his race then, that I knew his coach, that he’d be proud, and that I’d really enjoyed the work he’d done, that we couldn’t have done it without each other. We bumped fists, and then I said I was going to turn wide, so he could push on the right. It worked. I still tried to give it everything I had, but in the end, it amounted to little over Seven seconds at 500w, and he took me by a good three seconds. But the crowd absolutely loved it, and I remember hearing tons of cheers and shouts of encouragement every lap, and also at the end. I had done it. I had hit the podium, the first time since, well, gosh, I can’t remember.

Gotta hit that 'lap' button at the finish, now, don't forget!

Gotta hit that 'lap' button at the finish, now, don't forget!

I almost fell off my bike, and the announcer, who was AWESOME, came over to interview me. I don’t remember much, but I know I credited Cody for his efforts, thanked the crowd and promoters, and then went over to give Cody a big hug. His coach, Tim Redus, also got a hug, and Andy Hollinger, the race official, got one as well. He said the kindest thing to me. “SEE? Good things happen!”

Interview with the announcer, who was awesome the whole day.

Interview with the announcer, who was awesome the whole day.

He was sooo right.

To add to the awesomeness of the day, Jason Butler took 3rd, and Sean, another Mirage cyclist, took 10th, so we got 3 finishers in the Top 10. Cody, in his interview, credited my teammates for blocking throughout the race, and they confirmed that, saying that several other teams ended up arguing with themselves about who was going to try and chase down the break, wasting precious time, as Mirage just sat on the front and corked it, or ran down attempts to bridge. So, they were really fresh and invigorated for the finale. On top of that, roughly 1/3 of the peloton pulled out of the race, citing the pace and the wind.

I’m going to credit this strong finish to my teammates. This is what I had wanted for so, so very long, and there were many times, I’ll admit, when I thought it would never happen. But in one short weekend, with this group of riders, we ended up gelling, communicating, attempting things, taking risks, and pulling off a strong finish and showing for the club. Once a couple of years ago, a teammate told me, “You make me proud to wear this jersey.” As of Sunday, I say it to those who raced and helped with the strategy.

Gentlemen, you make me VERY proud to wear this jersey.

Cody and Richard Wharton on the last lap

Cody and Richard Wharton on the last lap

So now I see myself with about half the points I need for an upgrade. The races being held will be smaller, tighter affairs, but I’m not afraid to race, and I know that I can contribute to the success of others, just like they did for me. I’d still like to have the option to upgrade, but mostly, I’m just glad that I have some solid teammates with which to work and develop as amateurs in North Texas.

Chapeau Mirage!

Special thanks to Katie and Ben for driving me both days and relieving me of that worry, and to Andy for his counseling. For those not expecting hugs but getting them anyway, well, sorry, but I’m kind of an emotional guy, and I never hesitate to show my gratitude with a man-hug. It’s all good.

Cody and I pulling in to the wind.

Cody and I pulling in to the wind.


1 Response to “Cleburne and TMS RR Reviews, April 2009 – BREAKTHROUGH!”

  1. 2009/10/22 at 8:19 am

    Not sure I know you… Can you comment further?

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