Tour of America’s Dairyland Giro d’ Grafton 2011 Masters 35+ 3/4

I’ll start with, ToAD is pro. Primes galore from excellent sponsors. Swiss timed schedule. Huge turnout from racers and fans. Next Grafton is a great little community that throws a great big race. The town, the crowds, and the spirit is incredible. And in case you were wondering how it feels to don the cow print jersey and chug chocolate milk out of your new trophy, it’s great! Perfect! Highly recommended!

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a race I thought I should write about. But this race is a nice little pint of chocolate milk for me. It represents completion of another lesson of my trial by fire method of racing. Since I became a cat3 road racer I quickly recognized that the breakaway was an “art” or “way” that required attention and discipline in order to become a successful student of bicycle racing. My first race as a cat3 was at Sherman Park where I endured the surging pace brought on by the continuous attacks until a break was established. I eventually bridged across only to find that “The Guillotine” was not accepting applications for breakmates. Searing lungs sent me backwards as I pondered lesson #1, chemistry. Thus, I turned that chapter for awhile and went to lesson #2, how to establish, block, and protect the gap for my teammates up ahead. This second lesson in the book of Luke has many points of interest and can be quite rewarding.

Lesson 3 might have be the hardest to me to learn and understand. I have been working on this lesson for the last couple of seasons. Granted I don’t train with power, I hardly ever wear a heart rate monitor, sometimes I even put my computer in my back pocket. I forgot to even bring it for this race. I have been fine tuning my RPE (real perceived effort) scale, and now I better understand my body’s “signs”. Learning how to measure the energy expended towards a break and calculating how breakmates do the same is crucial to success. More than a couple races I have spent some time dangling of the front. Some of those races, the tank emptied too early or the mind filled too quickly. Pressure relief came in the form of despair. However, after this Grafton Masters 3/4 crit, I feel as if I passed the test.

Sure this race is a combined field of stinky old dudes in spandex, but many have already learned these lessons and are quick to take anyone to school. With 90+ old dudes in our field, that I really didn’t know too well, it was surely not an easy way to spend the afternoon. After sitting mid pack 40 something wheels back and watching the obligatory crash, I figured my best chance of getting points was to go forward off the front. After what seemed like incredible prime after incredible prime for every other lap, I moved to the front at about 6 laps to go. Instantly, some NYC dude jets ahead. Two more jump. One is Chip P from Velocause*, he has plenty of strong teamates in this race and a couple are very near the front. So the chemistry is forming. Good elements are in the mixing bowl. I was sitting on the front at this point and gave them a little space to see what would happen. I’m pretty sure that it is another prime lap. Just before the sharp turn into the headwind stretch I lit a match and crossed the bridge. Bingo, call the gap and Chip’s motor turned on. By the middle of the next lap the NYC and other guy were shredded. Just Chip and I with 5 to go. I was in this situation before with Julian from Burnham at Glencoe 2009 where he ripped my legs off, and he pushed on for the solo win. I sat up, no, more like moped backwards and contested Liam in a sprint for next to last place. So when Chip said he was tired, I took note and didn’t push him too hard. I needed his help. We got out of sight together, I didn’t want him to drift backwards to a frothy crowd of old coyotes and angry teammates. Some not so gentle coaxing kept him rolling pretty smooth, and we traded pretty even pulls through the last couple of laps. But after the last set of inclines, I left nothing to chance and lit the last match. I took a peek, it was clear, post up. Moooo!!!!

Cat 2/3

As soon as I finished a cool down lap, it was time to go again. Thankfully, Andrea Briney, all pro support was right there for the number switch and another water bottle. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much help to Mr. Briney. I barely had enough juice to get up to where Tom was 10 wheels back from the front, much less attack or leadout. Even the laps that didn’t have primes felt like people were sprinting to make sure they didn’t miss something. Ouch. Time for chocolate milk.

*Team Velocause is hosting the Bay View Classic Superweek race on Saturday July 23rd. If you go to you can pre-reg with a code and some of your race fees will go towards supporting one of the great causes for which they ride. Nice group of guys that would make good use of your support.