Tag Archives: POA Cycling

In the race, but not on the bike

It hit me Tuesday that on that day it was a month since my racing accident. It has been a month with very little time associated with the bike. I’ve had several times on the trainer, but I can definitely tell I’ve lost some muscle and stamina. However, that isn’t all I’ve lost.

Racing your bike means more than just going fast on two wheels. There are relationships and connections with people and with events. When you are unable to participate, your connections to these people and activities grow weaker. I really feel like someone on the outside looking in.

I haven’t shown up for any of the races. Who wants to see someone in a neck brace and hand cast when they are getting ready to put their bodies on the line in a high-speed crit? Someone did joke that during the recent Domestique race I should have gotten a chair and set it up by the spot where I crashed and wave at the guys as they went by.

Be sure to race tonight for the Low Cadence primes!

So, then I got to thinking… how could I participate and be there even if I was not there physically? Enter that element of the criterium that everyone loves… the prime (pronounced “preem”).

In the criterium there are mini-races within the overall race. As the racers go around the course, the announcer will call for various races to the line. So, as the field completes a lap he will call out, “Cash prime on the next lap! Cash prime on the next lap!” Then those who are interested in getting that prize will put out an effort to finish first for that lap. Depending on the primes, it is possible you could collect a total value of prizes that exceeds the overall winner’s payout.

Of course, there is strategy involved. First, there is the announcer. He will often use the primes to get a race organized and moving. Let’s say that the race is starting to get a little boring because one rider has built a big gap on the field. The spectators would like to see that closed up — or at least see some other riders bridge up to him.

The announcer will call for a “field prime” for something really good… cash is always nice. A field prime means that the guy off in the break is not participating in the “race within a race.” Only those chasing him in the field can win it. Of course, that means they start picking up speed to race each other. Their acceleration to win the prime brings them closer to the break and sometimes initiates a catch by the entire field or those who hold the speed once the prime is awarded.

There is also some strategy with the racers. A most common one is to use the prime as a mask for starting an attack. Let’s say there is a field prime. The group is all together and no break is up the road. Suddenly three riders spurt for the line that happens to be set up just before a corner. Now is the time.

The field reacts in different ways. Some sit up because they don’t feel like exerting the effort to sprint for a prime that they know they won’t win. Others will go for it but not be able to stay in contact. The field is what we would call “strung out.”

The third rider has no intention of going for the prime. His goal is to start an attack. He is riding the wheel of the two riders in front of him. They are exerting to race each other to the line to win the prize. He is tucking in behind them conserving energy while forming a gap on the field.

When they cross the line, the winner of the prime slows to celebrate. The second place finisher pauses to rue what could have been. The third rider accelerates into the corner and works to build a gap. The whole dynamics of the race just changed.

So, primes are an important and exciting part of racing. Besides, when you pay your entry fee, spend time training, and spend money on your equipment; it is nice to get a little return for your investment. I know what it is like and that is why I’ve been happy to provide some primes for local races during the time I’ve been laid up.

Want to see it all in action? Show up tonight to race or spectate at the 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series. Also known as the POA Summer Series at the BMW performance test track. It is a great place to spectate because you can basically see the entire course and get a better feel for the flow of the race.

Sometime, show up at a race with an extra $20. Go up to the announcer and tell him you have some cash for a prime. It is quite the rush to hear him call it and then see the racer digging for the line to win your Jackson. Really want to see them turn themselves inside out? Introduce them to a Benjamin!

As for tonight, keep your ear open for the Low Cadence primes! There will be a $20 cash prime in all four races. Of course, there will also be Low Cadence Coffee primes in those races as well.

I won’t be there, but the good news for me is I will be there for the July POA Summer Series Race! Don’t know if I’ll have the fitness to get out there, but I’ll be there without neck or hand brace. I can’t wait! Until then… enjoy the primes!

Read this one because it is the last one

First, let me say thank you to the DeMaine Cycling Team for putting on a good race yesterday. The only problem with the day was that not more local riders took advantage of the event. There will be another one on June 19. So, make your plans to be there.

Unfortunately, I won’t be there… at least not on my bike. Even if I  could be on a bike, it wouldn’t be the bike I raced yesterday.  It has now seen better days.

The aftermath

Now I am attempting to write this blog during periods of consciousness. I’m sitting here in bed with my left hand in a cast and a brace on my neck. Seems that I have a fractured C1 vertebra and a matching fracture on the base of my skull. I also have two broken molars on the right side of my mouth. Other than a busted lip that is it for my head.

I have what is called Skiers Thumb and a fracture at the tip of my ring finger on my left hand. Skiers Thumb is when you chip the bone that connects the tendon that allows you to close your thumb. Right now, I can’t grab anything.

It was my first ever Category 3 race. About 20 of us lined up on the smooth nontechnical course. I wondered what would happen. I was a little perturbed because one of my teammates came down on me for riding the Cat. 3 race over the Masters 35+. “I was told to race the 3 race,” I told him. “By whom?” He asked. “By Jim (my coach),” I replied. He came back with, “Jim’s not on our team.”

Well, that made me angry, so I just closed my mouth and rode off. I carried a bit of that anger to the line and it made for some initial motivation when the racers rolled off. When they did, I knew right off that it was going to be a different ball game.

There were attacks right away. A couple of the teams had more than one rider. I was the only POA rider in the field. My strategy was to move from chase to  chase. I wanted to stay of the front, but I did want to be in position to make it into any break that looked strong.

Barley’s Taproom and DeMaine had the numbers in the field. Barley’s was very active in the beginning with DeMaine chasing them down. Thankfully, that meant I didn’t have to do much chasing on my own.

I kept an eye mainly on Eric Peterson and Jon Nutting. Along with their other teammates they were rolling a pretty good race. They were trading off testing one attack after another. Of course, Adam Britton and Jake Strasser with the Metro Team were playing a similar game to mine and I figured they would factor into the finish.

Then came a call for a prime. It was a cash prime. Hmmmm, I could use an extra $20. As we came up to the sprint zone it was me and Eric. As I slowly pulled up beside him during the sprint, I thought to myself, “He is probably laughing at you because he knows you are wearing yourself out early.” Still, I got my $20.

Eric and one other rider that is only a fuzzy memory kept the pressure on after I let up a little to recover from my effort. We started down the hill that made up the sweeping turn on one side of the course. I had a decision to make… 1) go back into the field, or 2) go after them.

I don’t recall everything clearly from that point on. I think I realized that those guys could not stay out there for the entire time remaining. I should get in the field and live to fight another day. The last thing I remember from the race was moving to the right in order to be out of the way of the field.

The next thing I remember was looking up at an EMT. I’ve heard varying stories of what happened, but I think the most plausible one (based on my last recollections and witnesses) is… I moved right to make room. I probably dropped my head to relieve tension in my neck. At that point, the road straightened out back to the left which caused me to slip over the curb.

I believe what happened then was my bike hit a drainage hole cover — those solid concrete blocks with a manhole cover in the middle. Witnesses said I then extended up in the air from the handlebars. I came down on my head, neck, and back and then bounced into the air again to come to rest on my back.

That is it. The good news is that I know I can race Category 3. The bad news is that I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again.

I am thankful to my God that He protected me. I was just a few movements away from being paralyzed. I was also way too close to having to wear one of those halos! The doctors were discussing the possibility, but decided to hold off.

Whatever the case, this is the one and only article about this crash. So, read this one because it is the last one. From here, I look ahead. I still have plans to finish my 2010 Ride For Mike. We’ll see what happens after that.

Upstate Winter Bicycle League won’t miss a beat

Even the local cycling scene has it’s silly season.  It is that time when team realign and riders will move from one to another. This go around we have a major change in one of the larger teams in our peloton. However, the silliness is settling down and things are looking good.

No need to go into all the details, but the GlobalBike team here in the Upstate has changed it’s focus away from the Master’s level and is trying to move into a higher level race team.  That meant that a number of the better known riders on the team were looking for new rides.  Some other riders who were going to move to the master’s team were scrambling to get back with their previous team or a new one.

None of this affected me directly, except I did know that Steve Sperry was one of those guys who raced with the masters riders.  He and his teammates headed up the Upstate Winter Bicycle League. While I wasn’t too concerned that the ride would disappear, I was wondering if it might be a little less organized if things moved to a new team or Steve wasn’t involved.

I met up with him at the Hincapie Sports Warehouse Sale and asked him about it.  He assured me that UWBL was on and would be as good as ever.  He himself was staying on with GlobalBike to help with the realignment and he would be organizing the winter rides once again.  The difference will probably be that the ride leading duties will be spread around among riders on various teams.

My own team – POA Cycling Team – has managed to come through all of this with only one loss.  We had a scare there for a bit as we thought we would lose a mate to GlobalBike and some other prospects to that team as well.  However, with the realignment we with that organization we have been able to hang onto him and pick up some other incredible riders.  Our masters team is going to be smokin!

We were sad to lose Sam Smith, but she is moving to a new team that is forming that will have more ladies on it.  I wish her well and hope she will still consider letting me ride with her crew during next year’s 12 Hours of Tsali.  Hope I don’t regret saying that!

The new team appears to be a creation that will include a number of riders from the Hincapie Development Team.  I have not received an official announcement, but I believe that team will not be fielding riders next season.  Don’t worry though, we’ll still have to deal with the same riders!

Right now, I’m ready to put some of this silliness behind me and focus on my Ride For Mike.  Right now I am at $1815 raised toward my $5000 goal.  I’m thankful to those who have continued to give.  My drop dead date for having donations in is October 17 at 2:30.  That goal isn’t silliness!

Anatomy of a crash

Les Amis racer, Jake Strasser, was on hand at the POA Cycling Team Fall Extravaganza last Saturday just in time to get some pictures of the final turn of the race in the Masters 35+ race.  In this sequence of shots you will see my teammate, Reece Jackson, going down.  He demonstrates for us how it happens.

Reece is on third wheel going into the final turn... a little too hot.

Reece is on third wheel going into the final turn... a little too hot.

After the race I talked with Reece and he told me what happened.  He felt he was in a very good position – the third rider back.  This is a good place to be because you are not on the front exploding, but not too far back to make up ground.

He was wanting to accelerate out of the turn to maintain momentum.  Throughout the race he had been able to pedal through this corner.  However, at those times he probably was not quite as aggressive in his lean.  This time his pedal hit the ground.

Its a pedal in the asphalt that lifts the rear wheel for the slide.

Its a pedal in the asphalt that lifts the rear wheel for the slide.

When that happens, you lose grip on your rear tire.  Consider that cyclists basically have a total of three square inches in contact with the tarmac.  That ain’t a lot and it doesn’t take much to make it even less.  When that happens you’re going for a ride!

Down he goes with Bill and Rodney taking evasive action.

Down he goes with Bill and Rodney taking evasive action.

Thankfully, you can see Reece’s momentum was forward.  So his slide continued primarily in that direction rather than out toward the outside of the turn.  In the above picture you can see Bill Short barely avoiding him on the outside while Rodney Dender is having to take an aggressive inside line to avoid the fallen rider.

Ouch, Reece was easily over 20 mph when he went down.

Ouch, Reece was easily over 20 mph when he went down.

Yep, it could have been a lot worse.  Mostly Reece is hating that he didn’t get to see where that third wheel position would take him.  Going down is bad, but knowing you had a good finish in you and not seeing it happen is even worse.

No cyclists or bicycles were permanently damaged in the taking of these photos.  Reece will be up to ride again!  Thanks, Jake, for letting me post the photos here.  Keep up the good work behind the lens and on the bike.

A few race pics from POA Extravaganza

My brother-in-law enjoys taking pictures.  He does a pretty good job.  Thankfully, he also likes to show up at some of my races and I sometimes end up with some nice shots.

I liked some of the camera adjustments he made this time.  It really seems to capture the flow of the event.  Here are a few of the pictures that tell the story of my POA Cycling Team Fall Extravaganza Category 4 race.

Rolling off the line on a beautiful day!

Rolling off the line on a beautiful day!

It was nice to start up front, but with only about 20 riders signed up for the race, it wasn’t that hard.  It was nice to be near the front going into the first entrance of the chicane.  Thumbs up! It was an accident free race.

Between the only two turns in the race.

Between the only two turns in the race.

Okay, there were actually more than two turns.  However, the other turns were so large they didn’t seem like turns.  It was alike a large oval race track with one chicane near the end.

Final turn and heading for the start - finish line

Final turn and heading for the start - finish line

Here we are coming out of the scary turn.  If you entered this turn too hot, it was possible to swing wide and hit a curb.  If you tried to cut it inside too fast, it was easy to clip a pedal and go down… which did happen in an earlier race.

Getting ready to get caught.

Getting ready to get caught.

This one is a sad picture.  This is near the end of our break.  You can see the field in the chicane behind us as we were heading up for the start – finish.  It was worth a try and we got a 20 second gap or so.  At least we got some TV time!

Here are my favorite pictures of the day…

Thing Three after a successful race!

Thing Three after a successful race!

There was a kids race between a couple of the races and Thing Two and Thing Three wanted to take part.  Because of the number of kids involved, both guys ended up in the same race.  I thought the little guy would be upset getting outrun by older kids.  Nope.  He got his participation ribbon and he was stoked!

Thing Two - aka Low Cadence, Jr.

Thing Two - aka Low Cadence, Jr.

Honest, he is excited!  He just doesn’t show it very much. While Thing Three was the smallest in the group, Thing Two was the oldest.  He never looked back.  He set sail for the finish line and took care of business!  Yep, he’s Low Cadence, Jr.

Really, it was a great day and I hope that the POA Team will be allowed back to the Brookwood Church campus for next year.  I’ll tell you, it was the best surface I raced on the entire season!  You wouldn’t regret it if you came out.

You can see a few more of the pictures at my Facebook page.  Thanks, David!

Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

This has been a fun year.  There have been a number of challenges and a few successes. I’ve got one more challenge to go, but as for racing… I’m done.

Saturday was my last race of the year at the POA Cycling Fall Extravaganza.  I’d like to say it was one of my best performances of the year, but I’m afraid it was just a repeat of most all my other attempts in 2009.  I finished with a 14th place out of 20 riders.

The venue was Brookwood Church in Simpsonville.  I loved the course.  Each of the 26 laps we raced were just under .7 miles long. It was more like a large oval with one tricky section – a chicane just before a long climb to the finish.  That quick left – right combination constituted the only turns on the course.

We averaged around 23.5 mph for the 45 minute race.  Our highest average speed was around 25 on one of the early laps.  Really, it wasn’t that bad IF you just got in the peloton and behaved yourself.

I did for quite a while.  20 minutes to be exact.  Starting out I was a little nervous about the chicane.  I kept making sure I was near the front as we entered that section.  Finally, about 5 laps in I was feeling more comfortable and started trying to see how I could use the turns to my advantage.

Then a rider went off the front.  He formed a pretty good gap.  You could see him start up the climb to the finish as we were nearing the turns.  I could tell the group was being controlled by a masters rider who was mixed in with us.  He didn’t seem to want to do anything and I wondered if the two were together.

There was a contingent of Virginia riders on hand.  The masters guy was one of them and he did pretty well in his group – as a matter of fact, all the Virginia riders did well.  We local riders were hoping to buck the trend.

At that point I realized that there were just over 20 minutes left.  If I could get away from the group and hook up with the rider away, then maybe the peloton would be disorganized enough to let us get away.  It would be tough, but if it didn’t work out there might be time to recover and hang in to the end.

It took me a lap to catch him.  We started to work together a little – though I was doing more of the work.  Then Blair called for a prime.  We stayed together until we were nearing the line for the prize.  I was in no mood to expend any energy I didn’t have to, so I let him have it.

We tried to stay up there, but the prime had ratcheted up the field and we couldn’t hold the gap in the wind that had started up.  We were doomed to get pulled back into the field.  However, there was still time.

I settled back in and attempted to recover.  My heart just wasn’t in it.  It wasn’t that I felt bad.  It wasn’t that I was in a bad position.  I just didn’t have the fire.  I seemed detached from myself and the bike.  I was ready for the race to end.

Then with five laps to go there were three riders away from us.  We started to work to bring them back.  I figured we would catch them and the group of 10 or so riders I was with would be the finishing group.  I tried to stay out of the wind and use the least amount of energy possible.

The group grew disorganized as no one seemed to want to take the front.  I wasn’t going to.  I had done my time earlier.  If I went up front I would be crispy toast!

Then with three laps to go it happened – something that has never happened to me before. My contact shifted in my eye.  Best I can figure, my eye was drying out from the wind and then the wind bubbled my contact and I couldn’t see out of my right eye.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the contact had come out completely.  My eyes aren’t that bad and I can get along fine with just one contact in.  However, in this case the contact was obstructing my vision and I couldn’t see anything to the right of me.

This got kind of scary when we entered the chicane.  For the next lap I was trying to roll my eyes around in hopes that I could move the contact back into position.  However, my eyes were dry and it was stuck.

Finally I gave up.  I looked up and realized that I got caught out of the chase.  There were now two riders away and a small chase group after them.  Then there was my larger group.  If I stood any chance at all, I was going to have to get in that chase group.

All I knew to do was to put the pedal down and go.  I actually made some headway and thought I might make it onto the rear of the chase group before the finish.  However, they must have picked it up for the final lap and I was stuck out there pretty much by myself.

One last time through the chicane and two riders moved up to me and past me.  I got on their wheels and tried to conserve with hopes of getting at least one of them at the line.  Unfortunately, that is how we finished.

I got off the course and rode over to my family.  As I did so I reached up to adjust my contact, but before I could get to it it fell out.  Why couldn’t it have done that sooner!

As usual, looking back I realize that my bridge up to the lone rider halfway through the race was probably not wise.  I was grateful that even after that attempt I was able to get back in the field and be in a position to finish.  Had I not gotten caught out on the chase, I might have gotten a top ten.

All I know is that right now, I don’t want to race anymore.  No, not that I don’t ever want to race again.  I’m just ready for a break.  I’m sure before next season rolls around I’ll be ready to get back at it.

For now, stick a fork in me.  I’m done.

Hey, Mr. Spandex Man!

Last night I met for our last formal meeting before the Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer teams head out on October 18 to ride from Greenville, South Carolina to Austin, Texas where we will participate in the LiveSTRONG Challenge there.  It was a good meeting and I’m starting to feel a bit more excitement about the trip.  It brought back some good memories of last year… I’m ready to make some more.

Ron (our fearless organizer) handed me my jerseys that I will be wearing during the ride.  A couple of t-shirts were included along with some arm warmers and a windbreaker vest.  Laying it all out on my bed brought a radio show I heard recently to my mind.

It was a conversation between some morning show guys about cyclists.  They were mentioning the normal complaints about cyclists.  Then they started going off on cyclists about what we wear.

Their impression is that we wear our spandex outfits because we want people to see how “fit” we are.  In their words, “Okay, I get it.  You’re more in shape than I am.  But why do you have to wear all that spandex? Why can’t you just wear regular clothes?  You don’t have to look like a racer.”

5 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1135 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!

Well, for those of you who do not ride – or only ride on your cruiser, etc., let me explain to you why we wear what we wear.  We’ll start with the shorts.  We don’t wear them to show off our legs.  At least I don’t!  Here are some of the main purposes behind them.

1) The most important part of the shorts is the chammie.  This is a pad made into the shorts that protects your more sensitive areas.  Unlike your typical shorts, there are no seams in that area.  Riding in typical shorts would be extremely uncomfortable on a road bike!  Chaffing, loss of circulation, and blisters would be the result of “wearing regular clothes.”

2) I mentioned there are no seams on the shorts.  Actually, there are, but they are strategically placed so as not to cut into your skin or rub in areas that have lots of movement.  The compression aspect of the spandex also helps with circulation.

3) We don’t like to think of crashing, but it does happen.  It is more likely to happen with racers, but recreational cyclists are not immune to a fall here or there.  Cycling gear helps protect the skin by serving as a second skin as you are sliding across the pavement.  Regular shorts would just slide up exposing more raw flesh for destruction!

What about those jerseys?  Well, for a recreational cyclist it is true a cycling jersey would not be as needful as the shorts, but there are a couple good reasons for them that I would like to mention.  Also, many times they have another sentimental purpose as well.

1) Most cycling jerseys are cut specifically for the positions you hold while riding a road bike.  They are also form fitting.  Go 20 mph down a road with a loose t-shirt on and you will find that doing so for any amount of time will start to beat you up.  The flapping can become quite uncomfortable.  Not to mention the chaffing in some sensitive chest areas!

2) One of the main reasons I use a cycling jersey is for the pockets.  One of the down sides to the shorts is they don’t have pockets — not that you would want something heavy knocking around on your legs while you ride!  A good cycling jersey will have three expandable pockets on the back lower portion.  It is amazing how much you can stuff in there!

3) Many times cycling jerseys represent something important to the rider.  Take my P3C3 jersey that I received last night.  It represents something important to me.  I also treasure my Assault on Mount Mitchell jersey and some of the charity ride jerseys I have.  You probably have that favorite t-shirt.  Well, cyclist often have that jersey.

It is true that some of us ride around in true racing kits.  These are normally outfits where the shorts and jerseys match with logos of sponsors all over them.  I wear my POA Cycling Team kit – or uniform – every time I am on the bike.  It isn’t because I am trying to show off that I am a big time racer either.

Most teams have rules that you are supposed to wear the kit while on the bike.  This is for the purpose of honoring the arrangement with the sponsors who help us enjoy our habit.  Sure, we’re rolling billboards, but it is worth it as a way to show thanks to those supporting us — especially when our kits are as cool as the POA Cycling Team ones!

What can get kind of messy is when you have two competing purposes.  Until the final race of the year, I’m wearing the POA kit… even when doing P3C3 events.  Then when I’m done, I’ll shift over to the P3C3 jersey.  Once I’m back from Austin… I don’t know… maybe I’ll get one of those black and yellow LiveSTRONG kits.

Thank goodness for Matt’s helmet!

It is Thursday night as I type this.  I just got back in from a trip to Columbia where I spent some time with my sisters. The only thing that kept it from being an absolute best day was that I missed the last POA Cycling Summer Series race of the year. Perhaps for my safety, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

My friend and teammate, Matt Tebbetts, was in the front killing it going into the final turn on the final lap.  No doubt he would have taken the final Cat. 4 race with the POA colors flying proudly.

John James told me what happened then.  Matt came in so hot that he started skipping his rear wheel. He was not able to gather it in and went down hard into the curb.  “He hit so hard there were pieces of helmet laying around,” John said.  He went on to tell me that it didn’t appear that Matt was knocked out. He was certainly in pain.

Matt ended up with three broken ribs and a collapsed lung.  I’ve got to think that he had some concussion.  I am certainly concerned about him.

I couldn’t help but think what if I had been there?  Most likely I would have been a bit farther back in the pack.  However, Matt and I do sometime try to hook up together.  Perhaps it was Providence that I missed my first Summer Series race of the year.

Get well, Matt.  Your Giant frame is on the way.

7 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1115 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!

Do style points count?

Last night was the final POA Cycling Team Summer Series criterium.  It is a good thing too.  By 8:30 the darkness was settling in making it hard to see.  Thankfully all the racers were off the course by then.  However, it wasn’t the darkness that caused the wreck… it was the rain.

Perhaps it was because I knew the SC Championship Road Race is Saturday, but I had a hard time getting up for this crit.  The facts that it was a race sponsored by my team and that my in-laws decided to come see me race had me cinching up shoes and climbing on the bike.  My plan was to just stay with the pack and keep my effort to a minimum.  The result was an almost best finish for the series.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Of course, taking it easy in a crit is a relative thing!  By the halfway point I felt like pulling off.  I was slipping off the back in the turns with a small gap forming and then working my way back onto the wheels in front.  It was taking a bit of work to do that.  Just a little after that, the rains came.

I did not want to be back there on a slick course, so I moved to the front.  During the brief shower I stayed on the front or in the top five or so.  This allowed me chose a better line going into turn four.  The first time I went through my wheels hit a pavement patch that was pretty slick.  It broke my rear end loose and I had to chase the bike out to the edge of the road.  I avoided that spot for the rest of the night!

The rain eased and so did I.  Suddenly, I was sitting in and feeling really good.  “Don’t do anything stupid,” I told myself.  “Saturday is more important than tonight.”  I started to think about how I was positioning myself in the pack.  This race could be a good learning experience.

I remembered something Jim Cunningham said at his criterium seminar.  Stay on the wheel.  If you ease off the wheel in front of you going into the turn, you are going to have to exert energy to catch back on once you are out of the turn.  I started to concentrate on staying right there on the wheel in front through the corners.

Just that little adjustment made a huge difference!  Rather than coming out of the turns dreading the work of trying to cover the 5 foot gap in front of me, I found myself being sucked through the corners.  The only downside is that it takes an element of trust to do that.  You are counting on the rider in front of you to hold his line and not go down.

The rains had moved through and the course was drying in spots, but turn four was still a little wet.  At three laps to go, I started to move my way up toward the top five riders in the field.  David Bright from Anderson and Peter Mathern had broke away and we weren’t going to catch them at this point.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Things were looking very good for me to have a top 10 finish.  I was marking Jae Bowen – the winner of the omnium – as we moved around the final lap.  As we neared turn four Jae and I lined up to come around the outside.  My idea was to keep as much momentum through the turn as possible.  That would give me a jump for the sprint to the finish.

Some riders came flying up to our inside.  I eased just a bit to adjust my line and a gap formed between Jae and myself.  Then I leaned into the turn.  The riders to my left moved slightly in front of me.  Then just as they were reaching the first part of the apex of the turn and I was still somewhat upright, one of the riders went down.  He split between Jae and me.

Immediately the rider beside him went down as well.  They were skidding across the wet pavement toward the outside of the turn.  Jae barely escaped while I adjusted my line slightly and eased my brakes hoping to squeeze through the shrinking gap before they closed it off.  However, the combination of changing my line and braking caused my rear wheel to break loose once again.

It was like slow motion.  I wasn’t fearful – until it was over – and I was seeing everything that was happening in a matter of seconds, but my brain was analyzing it in detail.  I knew if I kept trying to shoot the gap I was either 1) going to get taken out by the sliding rider, or 2) slide out myself.

Instead I gathered the bike and straightened up.  This put me headed for the curb and the water retention area where a rider a couple of weeks ago went down and got messed up pretty badly.  Thankfully, I had slowed enough so that after bunny hopping the curb, I was able to grab my brakes and keep from sliding down the embankment – or hit the stump I realized for the first time was there.

As I was hopping the curb, I could hear the sound of entangling bikes behind me.  I’m still not sure how many racers were involved.  I was just trying to get my bike stopped, back onto the course, and under power again.  As I moved back on I got my feet on the pedals and started to go.  Ugggghhhh.  I had too much gear.  However, I just pushed it up until I crossed the line.

Jae finished seventh.  Based on where he was in relation to me as we entered the turn I am pretty sure I was on my way to a top ten – my best finish of the series.  Still, as I crossed the line I was elated with whatever place I got.  For once I was right there in an obvious crashing situation and I avoided it.  What made me happy was that it wasn’t just luck.  Each move I made had an intention and I was able to react to avoid the crash.

I imagine it looked pretty cool when I came out of the field and hopped that curb.  Sure, I didn’t win – or even place that well, but I figured I get a few points for style.  Even better than that, I didn’t break a shifter!

A race in pictures

I have the pleasure of having my own photographer for my races at the POA Cycling Summer Series.  My wife’s brother, David, has shown up for nearly every race and sometimes brings his camera.  He has a pretty good eye for good shots, so I look forward to what he comes up with.  Here are just a few of the shots that help tell the story of the race from July 30, 2009.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

Talking with Luis during warm up.

One of the best things about being on the POA Cycling Team is that it allows me to race with some guys that I have been riding with for years.  Luis is one of the guys in my category that I have ridden with the longest.  We go back some time on the Saturday morning Hour of Power rides.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

Getting down a gel just before the start.

I’ve learned that you need to have some calories in the old tank if you want to have the power toward the end.  Taking a gel just before the start allows it to start kicking in during the second half of the race.  Now, if I could just figure out how to put extra oxygen in a gel pack…

In the scrum at the start.

In the scrum at the start.

I got to the line a little late and ended up with nearly 20 riders in front of me as we left the line.  There were a good number of teams represented with only a couple of unattached riders.  My teammate Sam was one of the three ladies in the race.  The ladies and the Juniors were mixed in with us 4’s and 5’s.

Four POA teammates all together.

Four POA teammates all together.

The above picture is one of my favorites from the night.  You can see Matt coming into the center of the picture.  Luis is behind him and to his left.  I am coming up on his inside.  Between Matt and me you can see Billy in the background.  We just needed Sam in there and all of us would have been in this one shot.

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

Matt in the start of what would become the winning break

That is Jae on the front.  He ended up winning the race.  Matt is right behind him and he took second.  Third in line is Peter.  He was in the break for a bit, but ended up sliding back.  I don’t know what his finish ended up being, but I know it was in front of me!

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Not dead yet... working to control the front

Part of the fun of the night was helping to control the front of the chasing field while the break built up a lead.  Of course, we were hoping that Matt would be able to take care of himself.  This was a pretty hot corner.  Later in the Pro 1/2/3  race a GlobalBike rider went in too hot and realized if he tried to hold it, he would take out most of the field.

He straightened up and bunny hopped the curb.  The only problem was that there was a water retention area on the other side.  He went over the curb, hit a root, and then slid down in the hole.  Thankfully, he missed the rocks at the bottom, but his back and knee got pretty skinned up.  Wonder how he has been sleeping lately?

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

So much for controlling the front... dropping back

If you click on the above image, it will enlarge.  If you look closer at me, you can see I am blowing out.  I’m trying to pull as much air into my lungs as I can.  Unfortunately, this night it was almost as though I had asthma.  I just couldn’t seem to get enough air into my lungs.  That is why I look like a blow fish.

A picture of me blowing up

A picture of me blowing up

Speaking of blowing.  This is where I blew up.  This would be in the last five minutes of the race.  I’m trying to hang on.  It seemed like every time I thought I might be recovering, it was time to climb that dratted hill again.

Well, I have one more chance at this course this year.  I need a new picture.  I need one of me coming across the line celebrating a win.  That is a picture I like to see in my mind.