11
Oct
09

2009 Cat 3 State Road Race Championships – Ft. Hood, TX

Several Mirage C3's after the race

Several Mirage C3's after the race

I thought I’d switch directions here, step back from politics and policy, and blog a bit about today’s Cat 3 State Championships,which were held this weekend. It was a great race, and the Mirage Cycling Team delivered a good, strong finish.

Earlier in the week, I hosted a conference call for all Cat 3 Mirage racers, and we had about 7 show up for most or all of it. We talked about how each of us was feeling, how we felt our chances were on this new and extremely tough course, who the competition was, and how we might improve our chances to win, place, or show. At the starting line, there were over 85 riders, 11 of whom were Mirage racers. However, instead of acting like a bunch of independent hacks and sophomores, this race was a beautiful example of just how well a team can actually affect the outcome of a race through tactics.

The tactics and plan were simple:

  1. Jordan Chaney would launch an attack first, and would try to get up the road to go for a ‘hotspot’ prize, and also to try and affect the tempo as well as try to shatter the peloton.
  2. Mirage would do everything possible to put a man in every breakaway. Other Mirage riders at the front would either NOT work in a paceline attempting to bridge, or they would serve to actively block progress up to the break.
  3. Every break that was reeled in should be followed by a counter-attack.
  4. Our planned winner was Shawn Hodges. He had been riding well, and our impression of the hills was that he would be fastest up them. The go-to guy, for second leader was Robert Snedden, who was also riding strong, and actually was in the lead for the TXBRA cup. Third guy was myself, with Chase McKinney placing himself in the mix for a sprint finish if it came to that.
  5. Workhorses were to be Shawn Daurelio, Jason Jacobs, myself, and Bill Shirer. Unknowns were David Richardson (always a strong cyclist), Mark Ashton, and a cyclist named McGhee whom the group of regulars didn’t know very well.

I’ll fill in the details shortly as to how it all went down, but we left excited about our prospects, and more devoted than ever to make sure that there was a rider from MIRAGE in the mix at the end.

Now, let me detour just a bit and describe the course as well as the weather…

The course was placed right smack dab in the middle of Ft. Hood Army Base, rumored to be the largest Army base in the world. Home of the 4th Infantry Division, as well as some other famous brigades and units, the base is the size of New England and then some. They have tank ranges, howitzer ranges, places for infantry exercises, and they just completed an urban warfare village that is eerily reminiscent of some of the villages you see in the Middle East. In order to handle all the heavy equipment, the roads are built to a pretty solid standard, and what we got to ride was perhaps the smoothest 33 miles of paved loop ever seen in Texas. There were almost no seams, only a few potholes, and the rolling, twisting terrain made for a completely challenging course. ZERO chip-seal. It was almost as if someone had dropped a white ribbon from altitude, and after fluttering down, it became this road. Furthermore, it was COMPLETELY VOID OF TRAFFIC! We could use the whole road! Awesome! Like our own 33 mile playground!

David Richardson Post Race

David Richardson Post Race

As good as the course itself was, the weather was unexpectedly poor. It didn’t directly rain, but a Norther had blown through the night before, and temps were hovering around 48 when we started the race. In almost every race we’ve had in Copperas Cove (on another course about 6 miles West of the base), we’ve had either Blue Norther wind from the North, or incredibly humid Gulf Wind up from the South. Saturday, however, the breeze was less than 4 knots out of the North. Everyone who had pre-ridden the course had been expecting the Southerly phenomenon, but on Saturday the light breeze kept things just cold enough to have us shivering as we clipped in to our pedals.

There were well over 80 riders who started, 11 of them Mirage. The first four miles were slightly downhill, but our nerves, combined with our inability to cope with the sudden change in temps, had the pack pretty jittery. Before Jordan could actually make his move, a group of two got off the front, and held pace for about 8 miles. They took the Prime by no more than 20 seconds on the pack, and the first real hill, which we expected to shell some of the heavier riders, failed to do so. Then, the attacks began!

For the next several miles, one Mirage rider after another made efforts to force a break. Shawn Hodges went on one. Jordan got his in.  Jason Jacobs was either in a break, or covering, and was at or near the front for the entire 3 hours. And where were the #1 and #2 captains? They were nowhere to be seen, which was exactly what we wanted – them sitting back, eating cheeseburgers and drinking milkshakes, until the moment was right, and the rest of us had either done or jobs or emptied our magazines. I even went on an attack on the back side, and it lasted for about 8 miles, through the start/finish, and well in to the first climb.

However, as soon as I was reeled in, Shawn Daurelio, our #1 rider, got antsy and launched a decisive solo attack that ended up making it almost to the turnaround at the 18 mile mark. He got away, and since I was at the front, I turned off my power and coasted, and everyone else just sat in. Shawn got about 1:30 up the road before some other teams decided to try and reel him in. However, they never got more than 40 seconds from him, and it looked like he might actually make it, when we got word from the officials that the race would be neutralized due to a tremendous crash on the course just ahead of us. We all rolled to a stop about 15′ feet before the ambulance and three other officials’ and promoters’ trucks, and were stalled for 18 minutes while they sorted out the carnage.

We learned after the race that there were an incredibly high number of crashes out on this course, which really mystifies me. The road was smooth as a baby’s butt, the hills kept the speeds variable but controlled, there was very little wind, and the course was dry. Yet there was apparently a 20-bike pileup in the P12’s, there were three wrecks in the 3’s, one or two in the 4’s, and other categories. It’s unfortunate, because this was a REALLY clean course!

But the forced rest ended up breaking up the race for the 3’s, making it a ’43’ mile rally with one rider off the front, and then a 25 mile race going home. At the restart, Shawn was given a 40 second lead, but he was caught just before the descent to the turn to go home. Then Chase McKinney went off the front, taking two other riders with him. However, it was quickly reeled in. Then, out of nowhere, David Richardson took off, and got a good gap as we rolled through the feed zone and neared the 20k mark. Once he was reeled in, I think Shawn Daurelio went again, and when he was finally reeled in, Robert Snedden, who had been completely quiet up to that point, ROCKETED out from the left, and got a gap. It stuck, and it grew. We were on plan, and now our job was to see to it that his solo effort stayed away.

Bill Shirer showing his war wound. Les Terrill in background.

Bill Shirer showing his war wound. Les Terrill in background.

By this point in the race, I had been feeling some weird sensations and pre-cramps in my quads. Cramping for me is pretty rare, though it’s much more likely in hot and humid conditions than it is in the cool for me. In previous races at Copperas Cove, I’d suffered a heatstroke and ended up having visions on the bike. In a conversation with a woman that I spoke to later that day, she’d said that she had also suffered from cramps and heatstroke in previous races at Copperas Cove. The place is just completely full of challenges, be it weather or terrain or other teams or what have you! But I didn’t expect them on Saturday, and certainly not in my quads, but they definitely began to affect me in the last 30 minutes, and sadly, I was unable to do much more to contribute. My arrows had been shot, my quiver was empty, and for all of our efforts, except for Robert still being off the front, the pack was still together.

I got to the middle of the pack, and told Chase and Jason that if the pack caught up to Robert, it was their opportunity to go for the win. Then, we began the last turn, with just over a mile to go. Right in front of me, a San Jose rider slipped in the gravel and went down. The sound of his crash must have caused the pack to back off for a few seconds, because I had been counting Robert’s shrinking lead at no more than 12 seconds, down from 40, and as we climbed the final hill to the finish line, I counted again and it was back up to 25. But the rest of it I saw from the back. I couldn’t hang on, and while I passed Shaun Hodges and praised him for his efforts, I was also cramping so bad that I couldn’t keep up with the group.

I fell off the pace at roughly the half mile mark, and watched the fireworks from there. Unfortunately, at what turned out to be the 400m mark, I saw two riders go down on the right side of the road, and when they stopped, I saw the distinctive red and blue shorts of a Mirage rider. Rolling up, I saw that it was Jason Jacobs, the Mirage rider from Tyler who had been the consummate teammate all day long, and had still been fresh enough to challenge for the finish line. He was on his back, but when I asked if he was okay, he and the other rider both raised their hands and gave some sort of acknowledgement that at least they were conscious. I rode in as several people ran back up the course to the downed riders, told them of their condition, and then went to the gathering cyclists to find out what had happened.

CHASE MCKINNEY, who had been present and active the whole race, but especially in the second half, finished 3rd, sprinting for the line. Robert Snedden, who had been on the solo break, ALMOST made it stick, making it to the 300 meter mark before being overtaken by the pack. It was awesome. We hadn’t won, but we had certainly made every effort to have Mirage front and present in the competition and at the end.

EPILOGUE

This was one of my proudest moments as a member of the Mirage Cat 3 squad. Saturday, we rode as a TEAM. We communicated before, during, and after the race, and gave almost everyone a role to play (those who didn’t participate, or signed up too late in the week for us to know that they would be racing, weren’t able to get in on the plan). But it’s also been like this for a great chunk of the season. In January, you may remember, I complained about the lack of teamwork and communication, and I commented about it again in March. But from that point forward, I think we really gelled as a team, recognized each others’ strengths, and worked together to accomplish a team goal. Bike racing is full of individual winners, but in most cases, especially in races that are of higher caliber and intensity, the finalists get there on the shoulders of their teammates. I think Saturday, it almost worked, and I can’t wait to get the comments from all of the other teammates who participated. So “Hats Off” to Mirage – several riders and teams came up afterward and said that we had “Made” the race. I’ll take that as a compliment!

Jordan Chaney suffered from a flat tire and then a terrible wheel exchange, and DNF’d, which sucks, because he’s the ultimate good guy, and I wanted him there, involved in the race for a longer period of time.

Jason Jacobs and Bill Shirer both went down. I’m unsure of Bill’s status, but I know he was showing us some blood from the bridge of his nose after the race. Jason thought he was okay, but while he was intending to race with me on Sunday in the 35-39 age-group State Championships, he suffered from lots of road rash, a cracked helmet, a sore hand, and a poor night’s rest. Upon returning to Tyler, he was feeling nauseous and dizzy, and went in to the ER for a check up, where it was revealed that he’d suffered a minor concussion and a broken hand. Fortunately, this was the last race of the season for him, so on behalf of myself and the whole team, I want to wish him a speedy recovery, and also a heartfelt WELCOME and THANK YOU, since this was his first race as a ‘3’, and he was a solid contributor all day.

Finally, I want to let everyone who reads this know, especially my teammates, that I want YOU to comment about mistakes I made or impressions you had from your point of view in the race. This was your race as well, and I apologize in advance for any inadvertent sleights of breakaway efforts, attacks, counter-attacks, etc. Post up while your memories are still fresh, and let’s start dreaming about next year!

I am so proud to be a member of the Mirage Cat 3’s. I count you all as friends, and I look forward to many miles of intense racing in the future. And may you ALL cat up together in the near future!!! ALLEZ MIRAGE!

PS – for all the wattage junkies, I’ll post my ride file to ridewithgps.com and trainingpeaks.com, and I’ll also post my summary numbers in a comment section below this post.

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2 Responses to “2009 Cat 3 State Road Race Championships – Ft. Hood, TX”


  1. 1 Ed Scardavile
    2009/10/11 at 10:18 pm

    Great account of the race! I typically race Master’s 40+ because I like the team vs team tactics that develop throughout the season so this was a rare Cat 3 race appearance for me. You guys were coordinated and active the whole race and it was great to see, a real rarity in the Cat 3’s – kudos. I went defensive in this race because I saw a lot of thoughtless behavior punctuated by all of those crashes the last 24 miles. Two were in front of me including the one with your guy and Kevin Schroder (GCCA) near the finish.

    I hope Bill is okay, I enjoyed racing with him last year at Fort Davis.

    Ed Scardaville
    NWCC

    • 2009/10/12 at 7:39 am

      Yeah, there were some definite panic moves, and I think Jason and Kevin got squeezed off the road as they were just coming around. We tried like heck to get the pack split up, but somehow, I don’t think other teams would ever let more than one team member of every team get away in a break. Perhaps making deals with other teams might help. Either way, we have got such large groups, they have to break up, or we’ll suffer more crashes.

      I’d love to see this course done with a killer south wind. THAT would hurt.


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