So there I was standing at the service counter of Brick Wheels in Traverse City, MI staring at my rig sitting in a stand. I had just spent the last 9 miles of my ride doing single leg drills; but they weren’t by choice. The tech was inspecting the crank to see just how bad the damage was. “Looks like its stripped pretty bad. Did you recently have some bottom bracket work done?” I took a second to respond with a sigh “yeah, I just had a new one installed about a month ago.” He looked at the BB and then back at the crank arm. “Well, my guess is that it’s not the right one. I think the splines are too long.”
“Great” was all I could think to myself. Here I was almost 300 miles away from home on Memorial Day weekend and it looked like part of my trip was about to go up in flames. I was scheduled to head to Frankenmuth, MI in about 16 hours to do a road race and my bike was just about inoperable. Thankfully, if Chicago is the capitol of Midwest cycling culture, Traverse City is a very close Second City. Pristine pavement, rolling hills, scenic vistas and bluffs – this place is Bicycle Heaven if there ever was one. So if a mishap were to happen enroute to another local, this was the place for it to occur.
Another mechanic looked up from the bike he was working on and said, “if he’s racing tomorrow and the bike is shot we can give him a rental.” “Our rentals are pretty nice, all carbon and race ready” was the response from the guy who was looking at mine. Now I’ve never riden carbon because I was afraid of breaking it. But if I was going to race tomorrow, I really had no choice but to take it and pray that I didn’t get in a freak accident. So what would I be riding? A swank [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaredrogers/5784539445/in/photostream/]Trek 5.2 Madone[/url] outfitted with some Zipp 404’s.
Fast-forward to Saturday; the drive down was pretty uneventful except that I had to get up at 3AM to get to Das Tour De Frankenmuth by my 8:10 AM start time AND I left my Garmin on the charger at my parents. Luckily the Madone came with a computer, but I somehow changed the readout to kph when I was pairing it with my HR strap. Weather? Light winds and just enough rain falling to get you and the course wet, but nothing that would make the race miserable. Ran into teammate Jim Patti while getting my numbers and wished him luck in the 37+ 5’s. Me? I was headed into a pack of 71 Cat 4’s with just me, myself and I. Let the fireworks begin!
[b]Lap 1 – You Should Have Been At The Front[/b]
Course is a 25 kilo (15.5 mi) “relatively flat” loop (on tight roads) with about 10 turns, some of which are in close succession. Apparently I did not get the memo that this was a TT disguised as a road race. The first 3 miles (which involved three turns on wet pavement) were being hammered by Ann Arbor Velo Club (AAVC). Nothing got away, but the tone had been set that this was not going to be a cakewalk. Despite the decent speed, the narrow roads/crosswinds made it hard to move up to the front. Then as we came around one of the right-handers, there was a small group of people sitting in the road from the M55+ group that was just ahead of us (apparently they had crashed). This caused those at the front to push the pace to shed riders at the back. This would lead us to catch the M55+ group and then continue our tear around town. On a turn coming back into town, a trailer was parked in one of the turns which caused a minor freak out. “Get that thing out of the road” one rider yelled to the course marshal as we stormed towards town. And with that, we finished the first loop in 37 minutes at an average of 40.5kph (25.1mph).
[b]Lap 2 – Are You A Man or A Mouse? [/b]
So after fighting traffic for a while I finally made it up towards the front. This was a good thing because I did not feel comfortable in this group. There was too much side-to-side action, people bumping/advancing over the center line, breaking for no reason, trying to avoid the wind, etc. So once I was at the front, I was finally able to get down to the business of looking for the strong riders and try getting into a good move. And it didn’t take long for me to peg who I needed to watch; there were the Racing Greyhounds, Tri City Cyclist (TCC), Jade/Whisper and a host of unattached riders. Somewhere around the first third of this lap the attacks started to come. Most of them weren’t too dangerous, but it felt good to put in some digs and shake the race up a little. Then somewhere about the half-way point a rider from Racing Greyhounds kept hitting us with attacks. Did I come here to race or just hang out? Was I a man or a mouse?
I was feeling pretty good so I motored across the gap to him on one of his trips off the front. As I pulled up to him I said “so will they block for you?” He looked over at me and responded “I’m just here to work.” Not necessarily the response I was looking for so I decided that it’d be best to bide my time in the group once we got caught. But there were some riders from TCC and No Limit Cycling U25 that were looking to keep the pace up. So the attacks continued to come and I continued to roll with them. At one point I wanted to see what the Madone could do and I shot past the front of the peloton at like 52 kph without a problem (okay, it hurt, but I wasn’t dying). Heart rate was at 174 so I just stayed out there for a second (it was probably only like 1 min max), but no one bridged and the group eventually responded and came back up to me. All I could think was “I guess this is not going to come down to a break?”
The three eventful items on this lap were a rider over cooking a turn and endoing into the ditch, a TCC rider getting pushed off course and me yelling for him to get back in before he ran into a mailbox (hey he looked strong so I wanted him around) and a 700 series Masters rider who repeatedly kept passing us (by crossing the yellow line) each time we caught him and was then heckled by the group for this unsafe and unnecessary move.
[b]Lap 3 – How Slow Can Ya Go? [/b]
This last lap turned into a disaster of cat and mouse. The one thing about a flat course is that it allows all the sprinters to be there in the end. The bad thing is that everyone then thinks they are a sprinter. So with this is mind, everyone just moped around the course trying to save it for the final sprint. On top of that, the rain started to fall steadily which meant that the final sprint was going to be a wet one.
I stayed mostly up front, but it became a little crazy towards the last 2.5 miles. Coming up to the final turn I was able to make up some spots on this hill which probably put me around 10th wheel. I then gingerly made my way through the last turn (there were faux bricks and painted crosswalks) and into the downhill 300M+ sprint. I lost some ground to the train running up the left, but wasn’t too concerned as I continued to push up the right.
It was at that time that I noticed a rider walking his bike on the right side of the road. “Hey Buddy, do you not see a sprint going on here?” I started to move to my left (I was totally clear) but the two guys two wheels in front of me over reacted. So as would happen, they bumped, they went down, I slowed down, I saw sparks fly across the pavement and the race went up the road. I contemplated whether I’d continue digging, but with it not being my bike and the road pretty much blocked with a wall of riders I decided it was a wrap and my chance of a decent result was gone. Rolled in for 23rd out of 59 finishers and a long 3 hour ride back to my parents.
Back during one of our winter trainer sessions, Diddy told me that when I finally decide to ride carbon that I would say what the heck was I waiting for. He was right! That bike was a beast on the road and now my chops are salivating for a new addition to my stable. Too bad I don’t have an extra $3K laying around.
Despite me being annoyed at times, it was a pretty good race. Special thanks to Brick Wheels for the sweet bike and Zehnders/TCC for hosting a nice race. Wish it hadn’t rained so I could have been a little more aggressive in the turns, but oh well, that’s racing.
If there was one good thing that came out of this trip it was the fact that this was the first RR that I actually managed to finish with the lead group. In all previous episodes either the course destroyed me or I destroyed myself working for team mates (under the premise that I don’t do well in RR). However, I have a feeling that Greenbush won’t be so kind to me in the not so distant future…