2011 Tyler Cat 3/4 Road Race

Richard Taking a Pull to start Lap 4 of the Tyler RR

WOW, it’s HOT!

It’s beginning to look like this summer will be the second-hottest on record in North Texas. I remember moving to Dallas in June of 1980, from Jackson, MS. We were 21 days in to what would become 90 or more days above 100 degrees. It was a RUDE awakening to the Texas Heat. That, combined with some pre-adolescent homesickness, a dearth of friends, and the inability to actually play outside, made me pretty miserable. Heck, we didn’t even enjoy riding our bikes, since there weren’t too many places to go…. I was glad when school started!

The Tyler Road Race, held on July 9th, was actually hosted by the town of Whitehouse, just south of Tyler. The course was a beautiful 17+ mile loop around Lake Tyler, and the East Texas ecology of actual trees, dense pine woods, and much more rolling terrain, combined with  THAT HEAT, made for a great morning of racing. I just felt sorry for my friends who STARTED the event at 11:30!!!

After dithering about actually attending, I decided at the last moment to go ahead and drive out there, and I arrived in time to go over the course twice in my car, and find a hotel. Tyler is usually famous for its’ barbecue, but it’s actually a really nice place to ride your bike as well. The roads are wide, traffic is a fraction of that found in larger cities, and the folks are generally all getalong types. I won’t remark on the quality of the food or service at the hotel, but it was fine for a Friday night. I woke up early, per my usual strategy, found an open IHOP, and had a good breakfast of pancakes & eggs, with a shot of coffee and glass of milk. I just like having a full stomach, y’know? Two coolers that I had filled the night before with ice were drained and re-filled with close to 20lbs of ice, and I headed out to Whitehouse thinking about strategy and how I felt after a solid 8 hours of sleep.

When I got to the parking lot, it was already hot. Just walking to registration made me sweaty. I looked around as I unloaded the bike and prepped my jersey with numbers, and found two local Tyler teammates, Andy Kutach and Darwin Darr, parked not far away. Client Will Jaudes was also there, and I later learned that Mirage President Gary Dutschman and two John’s were also attending. Finally, my friend from rallying, Curt Palmer, also showed up and signed up to ride in my category. The officials were amazed – we had well over 60 racers, and the Cat 1,2,3 race was also pretty full! I think the expected tally was about 150, and over 250 actually showed up. I think that says something about the desire to race new and challenging venues, and the health of the sport in general.

Just prior to the start, I loaded up a 72oz Camelbak, with hose this time, and two 25oz bottles of “Secretdrinkmix”. I am really loving this stuff, and I think the sodium concentration and light taste have helped me survive the insufferable heat. It is low on calories, but for a 3 hour ride, I’m starting to learn that they’re either in you already, or you should eat a clif bar during the ride, to satiate hunger. As one of the inventors said… “Food in the pocket, hydration in the bottle.” That said, I was loaded with about 125oz of fluids. In the end, I ended up drinking about 110.

The race was set at four laps, and early on, it looks like, from my power meter files, that my plan to lay low for at least 90 minutes sort of worked. In fact, the whole race was really low-paced. Average Relative Intensity for the ENTIRE 3 hours was just about 65-70%. The whole peloton was sluggish. What I thought might reduce the number of viable contenders, just didn’t happen. Right at the 50 minute mark, I worked up the one longest hill, but it really didn’t shatter anyone. Then, when there was a break, it only got about 30 seconds up the road. My attacks throughout lap 3 and 4 were intentionally shorter, so that I could try and get people to go with me, while my teammates blocked, but instead they just pulled the pack back up to me. I think I lasted maybe 3 minutes on my longest solo effort. Will once again showed some true guts as he launched a good two or three attacks, but by the end of lap 3, it was slowly becoming obvious that no one was going to let me go. Frustrated, as I went through the S/F, where the photo was taken, I yelled out to anyone that would listen “Just don’t let this be another FREAKING TEXAS FINISH!” When someone said, ‘What?”, I replied, “You know, 40 Heroes Wide and a Crash!” The sporadic nervous laughter basically confirmed to me that my words were prescient.

15 minutes later, THE MOVE was made, and fortunately, it was made by teammate Andy Kutach. I had gone to the front again, to try and snap the elastic on the pack, but as soon as I was reeled in, (or never let go), Kutach launched a very powerful, yet not overly aggressive, move to my left, and two other contenders went with him. I immediately backed off, and began playing defense. It was a BEAUTIFUL move. In one fell swoop, Andy got 15 seconds, with two other good, strong riders, and they hit it at a point in the course where the sight lines prevented people from knowing where the break really was, in terms of position. When the gap hit 30 seconds, the chase car passed, and by the time we made it through the last neutral water hand up, they were out of sight. Knowing that first-third was wrapped up, I went back and talked with a couple of other Mirage mates to see if we couldn’t get them a Top 10 finish.

I need to give a side note here. I’ve commented in past posts about communication between teammates. I mean, God knows I’m not the smartest or strongest racer out there, but every once in a while, especially when you’ve got teammates, you have the POTENTIAL to shake up the race and DICTATE THE TERMS. But the whole plan goes sideways when one of your own teammates either has their own agenda, or doesn’t know how to adequately share information. One rider, whom will remain nameless, is VERY strong, and VERY savvy, but he can’t seem to communicate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ass, or maybe I’m too much of a Field Marshall, but seriously – just tell me what you want to do, and I’ll work with you or for you to do it. Instead, I got silence from one or two of the guys, and ended up having no idea about how or what they were thinking. One even went to the front to put some power in, and I had to tell him, ‘Dude, we’ve got a guy in the break….” They seem to have no situational awareness, or what I call “whipadilling”. I think it sucks, and it’s not sporting. But the real sporting screwup happened at the end, which I’ll discuss next.

So, with one guy successfully off the front, and me hoping that we can take a few more spots, we made the final turn for home. The pack settled down even more, and Will Jaudes launched a couple of attacks to try and get off the front, which I LOVED. I also tried maybe one, but I was waiting for the final Kilometer, so I could try and escape that dreaded “Texas Finish”. I HATE sprint finishes, especially after three hours of fruitless breakup attempts. I mean, in a race like that, with PACC riders and Party Time Riders and other teams all represented and all over the place, ONE WOULD THINK that they could organize something and blow up the peloton. But I guess there were too many Cat 4’s, or everyone was worried about the heat, or whatever, but I just didn’t want this to end up with a sprint.

Well, guess what. :/

The finish line was at the top of a gentle rise. The final mile or so was on the shoulder and right lane of what ends up becoming a FIVE LANE WIDE ROAD. Now, if you know me, you know HOW ANGRY I GET WHEN PEOPLE CHEAT IN RACES! Even if it’s unintentional, CHEATING is CHEATING. You’re denying people the chance to advance, get points for upgrades, get TXBRA points, and get cash. Some people have family who have waited for HOURS in the HEAT to watch you come across the line, and you want to impress them. But this event, which I mentioned before was expecting maybe 150 riders, had underfunded their officials budget, and was not working with adequate equipment to score a pack finish, OR, conversely, CONTROL THE YELLOW LINE RULE AT THE FINISH. You see, the YELLOW LINE RULE means that when racing, you can’t pass, advance, or cross, the line on the left, real or imaginary, that dictates the center of the road, or another lane. Cyclists in races are guests of the county and city where the event is held. Other traffic has to be allowed to pass, and God knows you don’t want a head-on accident. BUT, at 200 meters, the course is small enough that it can and should be controlled by officials and local authorities, so that the course can open up wider, and let the sprint spread itself out. I think in the past the 200m value was arbitrarily set, and I’ve argued for a decade now that a 400,500, or even kilometer sprint should be made available, especially since pack sizes have grown so much, but I haven’t had much luck. As a result, you get a jet hose effect, where 50 riders are usually bottled up in an 11’ wide lane, and when the 200m section opens up, they spray out and go in all directions. Those in front usually fatigue out, and in the lower category races, there’s just zero organization, bad sprint form, and general hectic mayhem as faster riders try to find open spots to get to. Some riders try and then quit early, further making trouble as they sit up. It’s sort of like a scene from a zoo escape or one of the “Naked Gun” films.

BUT YOU DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER cross the yellow line until you’re allowed to. GOT IT, you PRICKS?!!!

Ha! Holding the left side at 500, then 400, then 300 meters, as the road gently curved left and up toward the finish, which was clear as day, I sensed something on my left. It was not a car. It was a rider. Then another. And another. And as the complaints began to spew from my own mouth and from the mouths of others, the “Texas Finish” mayhem ensued. The sprint came out WAYYYYYYYYY too early, and numerous people quit with 50m to go, and I gave it everything I had, but by that point I had been passed by AT LEAST A DOZEN FREAKING PEOPLE, INCLUDING SOME OF MY OWN FREAKING TEAMMATES!!!!! I finished in the middle of the sprint pack, dejected, but resigned to the fact that, ONCE AGAIN, I had ridden 99,999% of a great race, only to have it come down to ZERO, NADA, NOTHING at the finish. No points, no cash, no primes, no glory, no satisfaction in the extrinsic result…. NOTHING.


You Cheated.

It makes me sick. It makes me ill. It makes me angry and upset. It makes me want to quit. It’s wrong, and you know it.

Instead of bitching and moaning about it on-site, and honestly, being too exhausted at that point to put up much of a fight, and knowing that there was no way the actions could or would ever be corrected, due to lack of oversight, I said nothing and instead congratulated Andy on his race, and my teammates to some degree on a good race. Will especially stuck in my mind, since he wasn’t one of the cheaters, and he’s developing in to a fine competitor. But when a member of PACC approached me and asked if I would join the protest of the results, I agreed. I know these officials. Heck, I am one. I called it out in that moment when it happened, but the racer didn’t care. They were in it for the cashola or some skewed sense of progress. I knew the protest would go nowhere, however, and I focused on my own recovery, and then going over to the Cat 4 racers, who were just getting started, to offer strategy on the course and see them off. I wasn’t going to stick around to watch their finish. It was already 100 degrees, and I really did feel sorry for them.

There was one other really bright spot. Michael Brown, a teammate, client, a neighbor, a friend, and a Pirate of the Peloton, is married to the cutest and most creative gal on the planet. Brandy also rides, and if she’d let me enter her in some races, I just know she’d win, place, or show, but if it’s not her thing, I won’t hold it against her – she’s still a great athlete. Well, in honor of the Tour de France, she showed up wearing THIS:

Mirage takes the Polka Dot Jersey in the 2011 Tyler Road Race!

So, despite what could have been a grumpy ending to the day, I got to race at a new venue, challenge myself and others, support teammates who did voice their appreciation, and watch clients compete in the sun and hills of East Texas. It really was a great day, and I just hope that one of these days, my number will come up, and my aggressive strategy will pay off.

I may or may not post about Paris, TX tomorrow. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll go or not. The Heat Advisories are just not going away.


1 Response to “2011 Tyler Cat 3/4 Road Race”

  1. 1 Will
    2011/07/16 at 2:36 pm

    Nice race summary Richard. For a lowly Cat 4, it was fun getting to ride with the Cat 3’s in the Cat 3/4 combo. I’ll be back to Tyler, I thought the course was fun.

    Team coordination can always be better, but I can say without a doubt it is really lacking in the Cat 4 races. It’s crazy. It ranges from being able to just ride away on an attack because no one cares to looking back to see your own “teammate” bringing the Peloton back to you when you’re off the front. I chalk it up to not getting to ride with everyone together very often and sometimes people show up in the same kit and you’ve never seen before (this is probably more common in the less experienced Cats).

    However, one other Mirage guy and I have been working well together over the summer. He’s got a bigger motor than me so his wins are much more than mine, but I enjoy attacking to loosen up the field and controlling the front when he takes off. He should be a Cat 3 with you soon, I’ll introduce you when the upgrade goes through.

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