This turned out to be a pretty dang good weekend. It had its ups and downs, its ying and yangs, its sweet and sour. And in the end, I think everything turned out pretty even. It started out Friday afternoon with a train ride from Eugene to Salem to meet Becka Hartkop from Veloforma for the long drive up to Washington on Saturday morning. So finally finding a ride to the race was a good thing. But in order to balance that out, my new frame never showed up so I had to use Tony’s bike for racing. And the shifting is very sketchy, which caused me to derail the chain a few times during the races. So there’s a little bit of bad to even out the convenient car pool.
Some more bad found me when I got to the Amtrak train station and found out that the “fancy” train doesn’t take bikes unless they’re in bike boxes, which Amtrak sells for $15. But there was no time to get the bike in a box because the train was arriving in 10 minutes, plus the allen bolt holding on Tony’s bars and headset is stripped out and cannot be budged. The bad.
But then immediately the good: I could take an Amtrak bus instead of the train, and the charge for putting the bike in the cargo area was only $5. I’m getting tired of writing like this, so you can just take my word that the good and bad evened out throughout the rest of the trip.
Becka, Jen Aekeroyd, and I drove up to the Glenwood road race in a down pour. I figured the bad weather was over by May and we’d be rewarded with warm sunny conditions until October, but not so was the case in Warshington. That cursed state is even worse than Oregon. I looked up their average precipitation and Seattle gets over 350 inches a year. That’s quite a bit, and also explains all the water-ways and sounds and junk they have there. Just look at a map, half their state is covered in water.
The race started out with a big celebration out of the giant metropolis of Glenwood. We waved to fans and caught flower bouquets and kissed blushing young women on the cheek as we paraded through the crowded streets on our bicycles. Hundreds of thousands of adoring spectators cheered as multiple squads of marching bands pushed their way through the crowded streets ahead of us. Under millions of glittering strands of ticker tape, scattered about the sky by trained doves, we waved and smiled, soaking in the love and admiration from a city, and country, that is truly bike crazy. A rainbow magically appeared directly in front of us on the road, and a heard of wild unicorn came stampeding by to give us a lead out of town, directly under the rainbow where jelly beans and skittles were raining down on us, filling our jersey pockets for the long race ahead.
As we turned out of the middle school parking lot, the rain seemed to intensify and I was glad that I left my rain cape on. 100 miles to go, and every minute of it was raining. Sometimes just slightly, but most of the time torrential. It was AWESOME.
A break of three was established within the first couple miles, and I wanted to be up there. I attacked on one of the many small but steep climbs of the day, and got away by myself. I steadily increased my lead, but didn’t have the confidence that I could bridge all the way to the break by myself, which was now a couple minutes up the road. But after 10 minutes of waiting for help to bridge up to me, I decided to just go for it.
I was one minute from the break and over a minute on the peleton when a flagger didn’t specify which way to go and I missed a turn. I was very pissed when I looked down the other road and saw a lead car waiting there. I turned around and got on course again, dropped my chain, and started my pursuit, which had just taken a 45 second blow.
I gave up a few miles later when I saw the peleton getting close. Twenty-five minutes of wasted energy, but I felt fine.
I rode the rest of the race aggressively, but smart at the same time. I followed a ton of attacks, stayed close to the front, and felt strong the entire time. I thought for sure I was going to win even though there were at least five strong teams and I was team-less. I kept thinking of how I was going to trounce everyone up the last climb at the finish, a 200 meter 14% bump that I had rolled over in the top three for all previous six times up it.
Now I’m not sure if this is what happened, but it’s what I heard went down. The break got pulled back on the last lap, but one guy got off the front after they got reeled in, right before we were neutralized for a good 10 or 15 minutes behind the women’s field, which we weren’t allowed to pass because they were finishing. So the eventual winner, James Stangeland, stayed away with mere FEET on the last lap to take the victory. I didn’t know anyone was off the front on the last lap, and I thought that we all finished at the same time, but I guess not.
I was just out of this picture, finishing fifth. The lead out to the hill was tricky. I did the best I could to be in the top 10 going into the hill. The is 200 meters give or take, but on this last time up, our speed was so high (due to the downhill leading into the 200 meter climb and also the speed of the lead out trains) that it was really only a 100 meter climb. I was a little under geared going into it, but managed to do fairly well given my position going into the sprint and came around three or four people. I wish it had been more like a 500 meter finish climb instead, but fifth wasn’t too bad.
I got lost riding back in the pouring rain to the staging area, riding an extra 5 miles than I had to. In the parking lot, I took off my soaking wet clothes in the rain and put on some dry ones, then we said goodbye to Jen and Becka and I got in the car to go get some food. Becka ended up not finishing her race because she was feeling sick (yesterday she just found out she had mono). After raiding the pizza samples at Safeway (we literally raided all of them, grabbing about 3 slizes worth of pizza and running out of the store as quickly as possible), we started the drive to our host house–the parents of a friend of mine.
The rain continued to pelt down while we drove, and the windows continued to be completley fogged up no matter what we did. There’s something wrong with her car. So we sat hunched forward the entire time, squinting through the least foggy patches on the lower portions of the windshield, crossing our fingers that we weren’t driving on the left side of the road.
We took the ferry across the Puget Sound and eventually found our way to Annie’s parent’s house, who live in a secret underground lair beneath the Space Needle. Her parents, George and Georgiana, had dinner and cookies waiting for us. And breakfast the next morning too! And a whole ‘nother bag of cookies!
The sun gods came out today and dished out our vitamin D intake by the dump truck load. It felt good.
I was a bit worried about the shifting as I got ready for the race. The front deraileur was being sluggish, and the chain had rusted a little bit overnight from the rain (sorry Tony. It’s fine now though). But I didn’t have any time to worry about it after the race started. Immediately, attacks went off within the first few minutes of the race on a gradual climb. At first I didn’t think anything of it and stayed where I was, waiting for the rest of the field to bridge up there. But no one came around me. At least 15 guys were up the road, so in the end I did it myself and bridged the gap pretty easily. But then more surges came from behind and the pace got hard at the top of the hill as guys started popping off the back. Within the first mile of the race, the winning break was established. We had 9 guys in it, although not all were working and it was apparent that some dead weight needed to be dropped.
On the major climb of the course, which was a circuit by the way, we dropped two guys. For the rest of that lap, we just killed it. I had to skip out on pulls at times because I was hurtin’ something fierce, but I eventually got in the groove of things. Over the next four laps, we worked together smoothly (except for Todd Herriot and Adam Thuss who didn’t pull at all). Thuss had a teammate in the break with him, who did all the work for him and Herriot was being….lazy??) Or smart. I guess I should have just sat in the back of the break all day long too if I had wanted to win, but I thought that the other four guys pulling needed my help so I did my fair share (although I did try to skip as many turns as I felt was safe, in order to conserve some of my energy for the end). All I wanted was third place (what I thought I needed to win the overall omnium since none of the guys who placed ahead of me yesterday were in the break). But it turned out that in order for me to win the overall, I would have had to win today also since the winner on Saturday, James Sangeland, placed 10th at this race and got some good points for that.
With a lap and a half to go, on the steep ass climb, the fresh Red Truck Racing guy (Thuss) attacked and only Herriot and I could hold on. He attacked again at the top of the hill and we were still there. The three of us didn’t work together though (I sure didn’t want to take a pull and have them come sprinting around) and the rest of the guys came back to us. Attacks like this went on for a few more minutes until things settled down. One guy was dropped, so our break was down to six. We called a temporary truce until the steep climb again on the next lap (the truce didn’t last that long though).
With two laps to go, we had had almost four minutes on the field. But now, with one lap to go, we had like 2.5 minutes on the field and a chase group of two guys was only 1.5 minutes behind. For the non bike people: when a breakaway works together, meaning all or some of the riders are taking turns breaking the wind at the front, the break has a good chance of making time on the peleton (depending on a lot of variables of course). But when the break starts attacking itself, the overall pace dies down and the peleton will start to eat back time on the break. Luckily, there were two Red Truck guys in the break today and the one who had been working for his teammate (Thuss) kept the pace going in between the attacks. But it wasn’t fast enough, because one of the guys in the chase group caught us with half a lap to go (he ended up beating me by about 6 inches).
The last attack happened roughly three miles from the finish on the last steep climb. Herriot and Thuss accelarated so quickly that none of us even tried to go with them.
We came into the finish stretch 20 seconds or so behind them. I was sitting second wheel behind Phill, who was giving me a lead out. I waited too long to start my sprint though, and two guys got the jump on me and came around as I continued to sit on. I jumped as I saw them start their moves, but it was too late. They didn’t make any more progress on me than what they already had when I started my sprint, and the three of us pretty much held our positions to the end. Dumb mistake on my part. Should have started sprinting at 200 meters, not 150. Fifth place again, out of the 7 man break. And fifth place in the omnium GC. Not what I wanted, but not bad considering it was probably one of the most competitive fields I’ve raced against this year. Oh, and by the way the winner of the omnium gets a spot on the Nature Valley Pro ride team to race in the Nature Valley Grand Prix. I didn’t win, but the good news: I got a call yesterday saying I was second on the list of qualifiers. First place might or might not go, second place guy isn’t eligible because he’s from Canada, third place guy is a former pro and is ineligible because of that, and the fourth place guy can’t make it. So there’s a chance!!!!
(I at least have the best placed and most readable number: 2085. And by the way, in case you didn’t know, the two guys in front are spliced together with the other three of us. They were actually much farther up the road than it looks like.)
After leaving the course, Becka was speeding (as usual) and we passed a cop car going the other direction. In the rear mirror, we saw its turn signal start blinking as it planned on turning around. Becka freaked out. “I can’t get another ticket!! They’ll tow the car!” She pulled off as fast as she could onto a dirt road and drove out of sight into some junkyard/redneck property with a bunch of broken car parts. I suggested I get in the driver seat, so we switched places and waited to see if the cop car had seen us. SUCCESS!! We were free!
We drove home to Salem discussing many important issues, such as one of my favorite hypotheticals:
Imagine you were enjoying the BEST barbecued meat sandwich you’d ever eaten. The meat is super tender and delicious, the sauce is sweet and tangy, the bread is fresh and just perfect. Hands down, the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten, plus you’re really hungry. SUPER hungry even. You get to the last bite of the sandwich (with tears welling up in your eyes because of the absolute amazing deliciousness), put it in your mouth and start chewing and right before you’re about to swallow that last little piece, someone tells you that the meat is made out of human flesh. Somehow you know they’re telling the truth. Do you spit the last mouth-full out, make yourself vomit, or do you just swallow it–considering the fact that you’ve already eaten just about the whole sandwich? I for one would just swallow the last bite. And only one other person has agreed with me on that (my brother who is equally demented and weird as me). But Becka completely caught me off guard when she too admitted that she would just swallow it. Amazing!!!! I’ve asked probably 50 people this question, maybe 500, and every one of them said they’d probably throw up or at least spit the last bite out.
I asked her the only logical follow up question that I also ask everyone else: what if it was infant flesh? Laughing, she said, “there wouldn’t be a difference!” And I just found my new best friend.