A race report by Team Low Cadence member, Matt Jaeggli.
“As the rain pours down and all but the most devoted stay indoors, we pull on extra clothing and submit into the deluge.” – Frank from Velominati
I’ve regained enough feeling in my fingers to type out the race report Jonathan asked of me. Here is a recap of Saturday’s Hincapie “Spring” Series Category 5 road race – the second race of my “career”.
On Friday evening the forecast for Saturday morning’s 9am Cat 5 start time was looking to be cold and rainy. The conditions upon arrival at George Hincapie’s newly purchased La Bastide hotel fully lived up to the forecast. Rain was coming down steadily, making the 38 degree temp feel much colder. “This is Greenville, SC, not Ghent, Belgium”, I thought.
As I was sitting in my car steeling myself to “warm up”, the chief judge announced that the Cat 5 34- and 35+ fields would be combined and one lap would be taken off the women’s race. “Misery loves company,” as my friend Neil Browne likes to say when he shows up for our winter, Wednesday lunch rides over Paris Mountain. The Cat 5’s were slated to do 3 laps of an 8 miles course.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve suffered from Crohn’s disease since middle school. Lately, my legs have been feeling like jello and my heart rate has been elevated. The fatigue was severe enough that I had my blood tested this week to check for low iron. Anyway, given my recent decline in fitness the plan for the day was to stay upright and not finish last.
Just before the start whistle blew, we were instructed to ride neutral for about 1.5 miles until we reached the turn onto Highway 11. As we descended Chinquapin Rd headed toward Highway 11, swearing could be heard above the rain. By the time we got onto Highway 11 I couldn’t feel my shift levers.
Our group was staying together pretty well considering the conditions. I tried to stay just off of center from the guy in front of me as that kept the road spray from his tires out of my mouth. Halfway through the first lap, after some rolling hills, we reached River Rd, which is a flat road (for Greenville) that runs alongside a golf course. Immediately after that turn folks on the front launched an attack. People everywhere, including myself, were shooting off the back.
The race became very strung out with several small groups of riders. Two guys broke away from the field on the 1.1 mile climb back up to La Bastide. They would stay away the rest of the race, culminating in a two man sprint and wheel-width victory by Chris Mathis. Chris has won a couple other of the Hincapie Spring Series races this season and is a very strong rider. Congratulations, Chris!
Back to my race. Someone pulled himself from the race on the first lap followed by similar complete disrespect of The Rules by a few more guys on the second lap. My goal for the next two laps was to try to beat at least one of the remaining riders to the line. The second lap was basically an individual time trial. At the beginning of the last lap I caught up with someone on the Greenville Spinners Race Team and we took turns sharing the work of bridging up to 3 others ahead. When we reached the final climb, we had closed the distance considerably, but not enough to pass them before the finish. About half-way up the hill I could hear his breathing get labored and I knew I would beat him to the line. Rounding the turn 200 meters from the uphill finish, I looked back to see I had put a lot of distance between him and me and was close to catching one of the guys we were chasing.
All-in-all, it was a good race. I kept the rubber side down and didn’t finish last. Never has a post-ride shower felt so good! And for all the talk of how bad the weather was, cyclists are masochists; deep down when you are suffering in inclement weather, you smile from ear to ear. Bring it, weather. Cycling in the worst weather is better than most everything else in the best conditions.