Sunday, May 15, 2011

On This Spot In 2011, Nothing Happened

I finally got some racing under my legs this weekend, and lets just say it didn't exactly go as well as I had hoped.....or as well as anyone hoped, for that matter.

The Wayne Elliot Memorial Circuit Race is run in the sleepy little bedroom/rural community of Merrimac Massachusetts.....ten miles from my house. Since it's a short 6+ mile circuit and the promoter only has the roads for half the day, they limited the fields - only one masters field, a 50+, so I had to go play with the senior 2/3 for 7 laps.

The weather forecast was completely wrong. Instead of a partly cloudy day with temps reaching the mid 60's, it stayed cloudy and cool, actually never getting out of the 50's. The temperature was only 52 by the time the race was over.

I love the roads in this area, and I train on them often. Winding, narrow, light traffic, bucolic forests and farmland sprinkled with newer developments here and there. Merrimac is far enough from boston to dissuade large scale sub-urban sprawl. However, between the rough winter and the poor financial state of the town, the roads are in rough shape. Fine for training on, or even small group rides, but not good for an 80+ rider field. 

As such, the pack was squirrly from people trying to avoid wheel-eating potholes and broken pavement. The host club (BOB cycling) did as well as they could with coldpatching and marking. The marshaling was excellent, with plenty of communications and traffic control, but the size of the field and the road conditions made it nearly impossible for the riders to not consistently ride over the center line as well as make sudden line changes. 

And, as such, I was taken out by a crash 5 miles into the race. 

It could have been worse. I went down as part of an unavoidable chain reaction. A rider did a sudden swerve, and hooked the rider in front of me. He went down, and I managed to avoid him by swerving to the right and off the road, into a hedge in some ones front yard. I went over the bars but the landing was soft.

I was riding near the front, and managed to get back on the bike before the rest of the pack went by, but the front wheel had skewed, the bars were twisted, and the right shifter was pointing at the left shifter. By the time I got everything re-oriented, the pack was long gone. I figured, what the hell, they'll be around again in about 20 minutes, I'll just wait for them and hop back in - it isn't like I was riding well enough to affect the race anyways.

The rider that went down in front of me is one of the better known and respected riders in new england. He had slammed the pavement pretty hard on his left hip. He was writhing in pain on the group as the EMTs tended to him. By the time the pack came around again, he was being placed on a back board. I hopped back into the field to finish the race.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "hey, you can't jump back in the race like that, you'll get disqualified".

You would be right. 

As it turned out, I did three more laps, and dropped out. When I bailed the average speed was 24.5 mph. I was having trouble accelerating out of one of the corners that drops you onto the base of one of the hills on the course. It's a pure fitness issue. I called it quits at the top of that climb, looked behind me and saw riders in ones and twos all the way down. 

Back at the finish, I was informed that the officials had actually stopped the race at one point and warned the entire field that they would be DQd if the yellow line violations continued. I watched them come by with one to go then, and they weren't exactly hammering. It's one of those cases where, if I had just stayed in on that lap I bailed (I was actually in the pack when I decided to quit), it would have slowed down and I could have finished with the field, most likely. The early fast pace though had taken it's toll. Spectators were commenting that easily half the field had dropped.

The finish was good, it's a 40+ mph downhill that flattens out about 1/4 mile from the finish. A 53x11 is handy. The riders came across the line holding that speed, and was the winner was some dude covered in tattoos. I don't know his name.

Oh, wait, I _do_ know who won.

No one.

That's right, there was no winner.

It turns out, the field didn't quite get the message when the officials forced the riders to stop and scolded them. Evidently, they started taking over the whole road again on the last lap. In the beginning of the race, I could see why we were all over the road. I did my best to stay on the right side if the road, but even I ended up getting beeped at my the moto official. 

What I don't get was why they kept doing it on the last lap. The field had been whittled down to around 40 riders. After 7 laps they should have become familiar enough with the rough spots on the course so that there was no need to spread out. I'm not surprised they DQd the whole field, and I don't blame them. So, unfortunately for the guy that crossed the line first, he won a race that wasn't.

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