Joe Martin Stage Race review, 2009

Hey gang,

It perpetually takes me a few days to comment about weekend events, and it was worse this week because Amy and I had a trip planned for L.A. this upcoming weekend, so that squeezed the available days for clients, marketing, etc. Now, however, I’m sitting in the airport at DFW, waiting on multiple flight delays due to weather, and we may not get out at all now. Amy’s not happy about it – we were looking forward to doing nothing today but resting up. Now, we’re tense and at the airport, watching CNN, which is perpetually annoying.

I was also waiting for some photos, but they seem to be pretty hard to find. Oh well. 

I continue to be impressed with this group of Cat 3 Mirage riders, and I think it’s creating a team bonding that will allow us all to grow and develop together. This past weekend, Jason Butler drove Chase McKinney and myself out to Fayetteville, AR, for the Joe Martin Stage Race, a 3-stage event that I hadn’t attempted in 5 years. Last time, I remembered an okay TT, a horrific crash in the final kilometer in stage 2, and getting pulled with 3 laps to go in the crit. It was kind of a wasted weekend. This time, I was determined to give it a better shot.

Looking at last year’s TT efforts, I modestly decided that I could ride about a 10:30 on this uphill, steep, stale air effort. I looked at all of my wattage data, including the information I had acquired 5 years ago, and decided that if I held between a 304 and a 318 for 10:30, it would put me smack-dab in the middle of the pack. It was also achievable and realistic, but it would set a PR for my wattage over that period of time.

Jason and Chase went before me, and when my turn came up, I was well-warmed up and prepared for the task. The air was thick, but cool, in the Devil’s Den State Park, and in the first .4 miles, I really tried to gain as many seconds as possible via the flat section, before getting in to an uphill rhythm. But the transition soon occurred, and I was left to finish the final 2 miles at a sustainable pace. Unfortunately, just like 5 years ago, I went out too hard, too early, and in the first mile, I was at roughly 327w for 5 minutes. I knew I couldn’t sustain that, so I actually gradually worked it down, holding between 300 and 310w for the final 5:30, to hit a 314w and finish in a 10:39. Jason finished in 10:30, and Chase, riding my backup bike, rode a 10:50. I honestly think that had I been able to pace myself better, and shoot for positive wattage splits over the minutes, that a 10:30 might have been possible. As it was, though, the freakin’ winning time was something like a 9:30. Good Lord. 

Still, I was satisfied with my PR peformance, both in time, and wattage, and I felt like maybe I could do something in the road race, even though we were definitely going to be riding for Jason.

We went back to the hotel, ate, napped, and got ready for our departure, which was late in the afternoon, around 3:30, even later. We watched some of the racing, and I got to say hello to Steve Tilford, a hero of mine from my mountain biking days, as well as Pat McCarty and Floyd Landis from team OUCH. OUCH had the GC, so they were a little preoccupied, but it was good to see Floyd. He looked good. Relaxed. Ready. 

Upon departure, Jason and I were quickly at or near the front, but the pace was REALLY SLOW. We picked up a little speed when we got to the start of the lap from the outbound leg, but the course was pretty narrow, and most of the riders just did not seem interested in getting a break going. We DID have one guy off the front, maybe 30 seconds at most, for a good chunk of the first lap, but my efforts to either bridge to him, or pull the group up to him, were fruitless. Jason kept telling me to come back to the pack a few riders and save my energy, and I would – for a while. But I inevitably found myself back at the front a few minutes later, and once or twice, I actually rolled off the front with one or two other guys, only to get swallowed again maybe a minute later. I was active over the entire first lap, trying desperately to get a break going, but it ended up to no avail, and honestly, I did burn too much juice in the effort.

Right about the beginning of the second lap, Chase showed up. He’d been on the back, sick from a spoiled gu pack he’d taken, and had been desperately swallowing water to try and dilute the gut bomb. It finally worked through him, and he came up, relaxed, refreshed, and ready to rumble. He immediately went to the front and did some work, but by then I was sort of spent. It wasn’t a bonk at all, but more of a lack of response to the hills or accelerations from the younger guys. I got sort-of dropped on a sharp short hill, rallied back on, but then got SERIOUSLY dropped on the longer climb up to what I’ll call the Plateau, midway through the course second lap. The pack just rolled away, and I was forced to rely on self-pacing for the remainder of the climb. 

At the top, I found a pack of 3, then we merged with 2 more, to make a group of 5, and we picked up or were picked up ourselves over the next 2 miles to create a pretty good paceline of about 12. We didn’t really think we could merge back with the pack, who were now 3 minutes or more ahead of us, but it didn’t stop us from wanting to try. 

Now, here’s where it gets a little interesting. This team, team “Mesa”, had the leader of the GC after the TT, and he was up the road with the leaders. I had at least two of them in this little pack of 12, and they were both juniors. I love juniors. I coached almost a dozen of them in the 90’s in Bozeman, MT, with Team “Dazed and Confused”. It’s always awesome to see them, learn from them, and perhaps help if it’s appropriate. But one of these kids was absolutely one of the most dangerous cyclists I’d come across in a pack in a LONG time. 

This kid and his buddy didn’t want us to catch back on, that much was obvious. But the way to go about it is by not doing any work, and instead, taking what I’ll call ‘fake pulls’, or ‘glass pedaling’. That way, you get pulled, but don’t do nearly as much work, and you sort of sabotoge the paceline effort. Well, this kid, who had a REALLY choppy stroke, and tended to ride with his upper body gyrating all the time, pulled up to second position, and then repeatedly stopped pedaling, and sat up, quickly drifting backward through the pack. It definitely worked the first time or two, but honestly, it was a very dangerous move. Everyone was on the rivet, pedaling fast, pedaling smooth, and expecting the other 11 riders to come through the paceline when their turn came up. But this kid was actively blocking by ‘almost-braking’, and several times, riders almost hit the kid, which would’ve caused a wreck. I told the kid repeatedly to just come through and then come over, without doing any work, OR, alternatively, to just stay on the back and let us pull him and his teammate back to the pack (which was actually drawing nearer – we could see the trail vehicles). But he continually pulled up next to me and then quit. One time he even stood up, which is a BIG no no when you’re traveling at speed. FINALLY, his teammate convinced him to sit on the back. We caught the pack roughly 2/3 of the way through the lap, got back in the middle, and I sat in for a bit to recover from the bridging effort. 

After assessing the situation, I learned that there were two riders off the front, again by about 30 seconds, and that no one was doing anything about it. Time was of the essense, though, and I wasn’t done yet. I went back to the front and this time, I started pulling. I launched 4 to 5 separate attacks, each one countered by another team or two, and while the attacks didn’t break up the pack, they did serve to bring us closer. We finally caught the kids in the last four miles, and once again, I launched several more attacks to try and either break it up, or get away myself. 

Nothing worked. 

With about 2k to go, we were cruising along at roughly 17mph, and I just knew there was going to be a wreck in the final kilometer. I had been the only one to really communicate with everyone in the pack, so I announced that if the group would let me through, I’d do everything I could in the last kilometer to stretch it out and avoid the obvious. They let me through, and for about 500m, everything looked like smooth sailing, but at about 600m, WAYYYYY too early, I got swarmed by some sprinters, and at 500m, some dingdong decided to freakin’ WIGGLE his bike as he sprinted, and it threw everyone else in to all directions EXCEPT forward, this at the exact moment on the course where the barrels started squeezing everyone in to a tighter space slightly. It was a recipe for disaster, and I heard a tire explode, then the ubiquitous sound of derailleurs and skewers scraping pavement, and the accompanying thuds of bodies hitting the tarmac, LOTS of colorful metaphors, and the proverbial yard sale of bikes, kit, and kids looking around to see what was happening instead of paying attention to the road or the race. I saw Chase bunny-hop a bike that was skittering like a chainsaw blade from left to right, but by the time we regrouped, the top 7 were already across the line, and we were sprinting for the teens and 20’s. We all 3 came in within 3 or 4 places of each other, and lost 11 seconds due to the gap. I later protested that, but to no avail. Six kids ended up going to the hospital. I don’t know how they fared. I moved ‘up’ from 29th to something like 23rd, but it was a hollow victory, since I KNOW I could have done better in that race. 

Food for thought: I am loving the races this year, but I’m absolutely despising the Finishes. Why can’t the 3’s ride like teams? Why can’t the 3’s finish a race without a crash and the accompanying agony that goes with it? CRAP!

I’m going to post this now, and edit it later with Stage 3’s crit, because the battery on the tablet is running low, and I need to leave for lunch, since we’re delayed yet again. It’s times like this when I wish I had money, so I could charter a plane. ugh. 


More later.


2 Responses to “Joe Martin Stage Race review, 2009”

  1. 2009/05/14 at 4:13 pm

    Hy whareagle glad you finally let us in on TJMSR!!Thanks!!!


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