Saturday, July 18, 2009

another unfinished symphony

The Working Mans Stage Race July 14,15,16, 2009 -

The Ironically* named Working Mans Stage Race (wmsr) is the only weeknight stage race in the entire country, and possibly the world.

Stage 1 is a 6.7 mile time trial, slightly rolling with one big hill.

Stage two is an 8.8 mile circuit race, using most of the time trial course and incorporating another smaller hill in addition to the big hill on the TT course. There is a KOM on the big hill on the CR awarding points for the top three on each lap, plus a prize for the total top three.

Stage three is a points race at star speedway in epping new hampshire, racing under the lights for later categories.

The irony of the race is that if you have a full time job (i.e. a 'working' man, no offense to the female participants), it's kind of hard to do this race unless you live/work very close by or take time off from work This year they didn't have enough riders for a separate 30+ field, so they combined the 30+ and 40+ for a total of 43 riders. We were to race together on the course anyways, but they were going to score us separately.

Stage one - what's to say. It's a TT, and I generally suck at TTs. I rode a 16:53 for 25th place, but the 14th 40+ rider. I don't think I could have ridden any faster, except that I _may_ have not ridden the middle stretch as hard as I could have. I caught my 30 second man well before the halfway point, and I may have backed off because I thought I was riding fast. My 30 second man ended up 3rd from last.

Stage two - This circuit race is fun, but the course really can't accommodate fields much more than 50. The roads are narrow, twisty, and rolling, with rough pavement in spots. My plan was to try and get into a break that had representatives from the two big teams that were there, sunapee and CCB. A few attempts went off early, and I joined two of them that had the right mix. One break looked really good, and we had a gap with seven riders. I just managed to hang on the back of it over the big climb, my lack of fitness was evident. However, the winner of the TT who had no teammates brought it back on his own. I got into another break of four that looked good and had the right mix, but we didn't have enough of a gap before the big downhill. The winning break formed with two laps to go. Tyler Monroe of CCB rolled off the front and no one chased. When he had a good 20 seconds I took a hard pull, but sunapee wouldn't come through. This made no sense. Here they had 12 riders in a 43 rider field, most of them could have ridden away in a break, and they were letting one of the most successful local riders pull away. For some reason, this team that had been working as the best _team_ all year had no coordination. After one of my pulls that closed the gap a bit, eric pearce of Bethel Cycles took off and again, sunapee let him go. Eric is one of the better solo riders in new england, He's scored numerous solo victories and letting him get a gap is always a big mistake. He soon hooked up with tyler and they started working together. On the second to last time up the big hill, Bruce Diehl of Sunapee shot off the front like a rocket. I was in a position to chase, but I know bruce.He's a very good time trialer as well as a great hill climber. Even if I started to chase he would have dropped my going up the hill, and that's even if I came close enough to say he dropped me. Well, since there was an established break with CCB and sunapee, the blocking began. It came down to trying to scratch out a decent sprint from the field. We were all together on the last corner, which is at the bottom of the big downhill. I jumped out in front and took it at high speed in 2nd spot. This was still about a mile from the finish and too far to go with the field right behind. The lead rider sat up, and we were swarmed on both sides very quickly. I found myself in the middle of a pack riding close to 30 mph on poor pavement on a road that got progressively narrower. By the time I managed to break out of the pack, I was already a good 100 feet behind the leaders who had begun sprinting.I just gave it all I could, passed more than ten riders, and ended up14th, but the 9th 40+ rider. Again, too bad they weren't scoring us separately.

Stage three - Star speedway points race. I bailed. I was already on the fence, but hadn't committed either way.
The pavement at the speedway is harsh. Lots of divots and small scrapes from car crashes that will toss a bike if caught the wrong way. If there's any moisture at all the oil, brake fluid, and coolant that leaks from car crashes come right up. But that isn't why I didn't go.
Our race starts late - 9:30. Again, if you're a 'working man' and have to get up for work in the morning, it's generally likely that you won't get to sleep before midnight, and it won't be a restful sleep coming off the adrenaline rush of a riding 80 laps around a 1/4 mile circuit and sprinting every 5 laps. But that isn't why I didn't go.
The track is in epping, NH, a very rural forested and swampy little town, population less than 7000. New hampshires state bird is the mosquito. Every year I've gone the mosquitoes have been brutal, attracted throughout the night by the 150+ sweaty riders and the lights of the track. The New Hampshire department of something issued a report expecting a 4 fold increase in the mosquito population over last year. But that isn't why I didn't go.
I got home from work thursday, intent on packing up for the race, an my wino neighbor was sitting on the front porch with my wife having a glass of chilled chardonnay. OK, She's not a wino. But every time she comes over after work she brings her own glass of wine and usually the bottle it came from. They were happy, chatting, relaxed, I decided to join them. That's why I didn't go.
hmmm, go to a race where I'm required to sprint every 1 1/4 miles, that doesn't end until 10:15 at the latest, on harsh pavement, in a mosquito swarm, where I really had little chance of placing, or sit and relax with a chilled glass of wine with friends and family...wasn't a hard decision. If I had a position to defend, I would have gone, but there's no way I was going to break into the top 5 on GC in that type of race and the types of riders that would be competitive.

I don't feel bad about bailing on it, in fact I feel pretty good about my performance, considering the lack of training.

The next event I'm committed to is the bike leg of the top notch triathlon as part of a team from work. We won't win, the two guys I'm in it with aren't exactly at the pinnacle of running or swimming, but it should be fun.

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