Mineral Wells Stage Race 2010

Well, the helmet kept me warm, at least...

Okay – it’s been a few weeks since the race ended, and honestly, it took about that long and then some for me freakin’ dry out, since it rained the entire weekend out in Palo Pinto County. But honestly, the rain was not a problem. This had to be one of the most fun events I’ve ever done on a bicycle in my 18 years of racing.

The Mineral Wells Stage Race was actually held in and around Graford, Texas, population 570 or so. Palo Pinto county has got to be one of North Texas’ best areas in which to ride a bike, with great roads, wonderful scenery, varied terrain, and proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth. The racing loop is about 24 miles, and the TT was held on the highway between Graford and Mineral Wells itself. The race itself was unique in that it was not just a stage race, but it paid out based on a points system, and emphasized the money on the TEAM results, with the Top 3 riders of each team getting scored from first place down to 25th or something, like a Cross Country running event. This changed the tactics completely, since time didn’t matter – place did.

The Mirage Cycle Club Cat 3’s showed up to win, and Sean Daurelio, Jason Jacobs, and myself felt confident that we could go for individual wins as well as a high placing overall. For the effort and the challenge, we weren’t disappointed.

Andy Hollinger, the Race Promoter and Director, put the Cat 3’s in Center Stage, giving us the first start of the day. Unfortunately, mother nature added to the challenge, as it rained the entire weekend (reports were later confirmed that the county received between 5 and 9 inches of rain in 48 hours, and that all the floodgates at Possum Kingdom Lake had to be opened at some point on the Brazos). Several dozen riders elected not to attend. However, Andy’s payout remained the same, so we took full advantage of that opportunity and raced hard for just over 2 hours, finally earning 8th, 9th, and 10th in the sprint finish. While we didn’t take home individual Palmares, this tight grouping gave us an incredible advantage in the Team event, and after the first stage, we were well on our way to First Place/Team.

The second event, a Time Trial, was just over six miles long, and it had three distinct hills, which removed a lot of the advantages of aerodynamics, and placed more emphasis on strength, especially on the last hill, which was a little over half a mile long and grew to about 6 percent slope. I used some knowledge of the duration of the event, and what my expected power should be, given that it was the second event of the day, and was also mostly done in the aero position, and finished a respectable Top 10, with my teammates once again performing well enough to continue to vault us in to the lead via points for the Team Overall. However, the time spent napping on the floor of the gym in Graford, along with the continued rain and a growing chill, meant that I was getting more fatigued, and I ended up relying on friends in Ft. Worth to bed down for the evening.

Cat 3 Peloton in the Rain

On Sunday, the rain continued unabated, and numerous athletes with Smart Phones were variously playing a game of “Will It or Won’t It” with the predictions of rain cessation or continuation, but we suited up nonetheless and decided to get out there for one more hard ride out on the course. The course itself is epic, with about 650 feet of climbing per lap, and one great hill with a LOOONG false-flat afterward, so there’s no chance of easy recovery. To add to that, the wind was pretty much coming down our throats after the right hand turn at the end of the Big Hill. The rain all weekend led to poor visibility conditions, which made things ripe for a breakaway attempt. However, this time, my own goals were secondary to the teams goals, especially since Shawn Daurelio was sitting in Second Place overall, and we wanted to either preserve his place, or have him challenge for the overall win. To do so would have required that he topple the winner of the previous two stages, though, so the goal was pretty ambitious.

Early on, there was a two-man break with contenders who were no serious threat to the overall, and my own efforts were muted as we kept the group mostly within sight. The moto ref kept signaling gaps of between 2.5 and 3 minutes, which grew and shrank as time went on. But no serious moves were made until the last lap, when teammate Jason Jacobs launched a solo effort early, before the hill, only to get caught about 2/3 of the way up. Then, Shawn Daurelio launched, and two riders went with him. Unfortunately, one of them was 1st place in the GC. Teammate Jacobs and I blocked and foiled numerous efforts to bridge to the pair of 2 and 3 up the road, and in the end, it was enough for us that while Shawn didn’t defeat his rival and take over the GC (in fact, we made a mistake and let one cyclist in the first breakaway steal a spot from him, thus earning him 3rd overall), we did ride strong enough and consistently enough to win the Team GC title by well over half the other team totals!

Unfortunately, as the rain continued, the temperatures finally started to drop, and by the end, my mid-pack finish was brought on by blurred vision, moderate nausea, and a heavy bonk that left my words blurred and my head hard to keep upright. Teeth chattering, I realized that my overnight stay in Ft. Worth had left me unprepared for my post-ride recovery, and furthermore, that my only weatherproof jacket was at my friends’ home. With the energy I had left, I loaded my bike in the car and headed out to Mineral Wells for coffee and a hot meal (Graford, while nice, is too small to support a Burger King or even a 7-11). I received the reports of the finish from my teammates, and drove home satisfied, but ready for a hot shower and bed.

Boulle Climbs the Wall at MWSR 2010

The Mineral Wells Stage Race revealed a part of bike racing that has been completely underserved in recent years, but with it’s growing popularity, ought to be considered by more promoters. Team Racing and a Points Race is the perfect melding of individual effort and team function. Riders can decide on going after the win, and the higher points, or going after the lesser points in greater numbers. It helped that Jason, Shawn and I knew each others’ strengths, had worked together before, and were interested in a common goal. At 40, I also realize that, despite my own goals, the restrictions I face for training, and the fact that, let’s face it, youth eventually DOES outpace wisdom, leaves me accepting my role as a teammate, and not that of a captain. I did that in Copperas Cove in January, and I missed it in several of the other races that occurred in the Spring. Mineral Wells gives everyone on a club or team a chance to participate, engage, and work together towards a common goal. It made the racing that much more fun, and when combined with the challenges of terrain and weather, made for a weekend of racing that I am both proud of, and will never forget.


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