Tag Archives: Joseph Reis

Green Mountain Stage Race – Race Report – Cat 2 Men – September 3-5, 2011

Submitted by Joseph Reis

Stage 1- TT

The prologue TT of the Green Mountain Stage Race was interesting. Having not seen it before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that there was a hill for the first few miles. After a lengthy warmup, I shifted into my desired starting gear, rolled up to the start, and before I knew it, I was off on the climb.

Not knowing the course really hurt me. I pushed far too hard on the climb and didn’t know about the flat section on the top. I had almost caught my 30-second man at the top of the climb and I suddenly realized that the signs on the road were km markers. I still had a few kilometers left and I was hurting. I put my head down and dug in for the rest of the ride. I was not able to pass my target, but I was able to keep him within striking distance.

Once again, having not seen the course beforehand really hurt as I found out that rest of the course was downhill. I spun my gears out pretty fast and just tried to keep the cadence high. Not much else to report until I hit the final climb where I unloaded the tank and gave it my all across the line.

I finished about a minute and a half down and in 66th place. I didn’t really think too much about this result as I knew that I was going into the course without knowing it and that there were still more days of racing ahead that could suit me well.

Stage 2- Circuit Race

The circuit race was moved and shortened due to the devastating effects of hurricane Irene. Although disappointed that the race had to be shortened (64miles), I was happy that it was still being held. I was also lucky enough to see most of the course ahead of time and I knew where the climbs and other points of interest were. It was actually a pretty interesting course that twisted through some picturesque Vermont villages and valleys, climbed up some rolling hills and the back side of baby gap (KOM located at the crest), and after descending down, finished on route 116.

The goal for the race was to try to get in a break right away. I knew that there was a good possibility that this would not happen so the backup plan was to just sit in and stay near the front, saving the legs for the next few days. I didn’t think that I would have much of a chance to contest the finish sprint as it was a long straightaway with a good tailwind. I thought that I would spin my gears out too quickly.

The neutral start began and I positioned myself in the middle of the pack. I wasn’t positive as to where the neutral start ended, but I could tell that it had ended when the pace picked up. Apparently a break went off here, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. So I just sat in and started taking in the experience that was my first Cat 2 circuit race. The pace of the Cat 2 field wasn’t much different than I had seen in past categories, but it was much more consistent and there were a lot less surges. Riders could actually hold their lines and were much more comfortable together. All these factors led to much more efficient racing.
Anyway, the first lap came and went with out much action. The hills really weren’t much trouble. Descending baby gap was pretty smooth and route 116 was fast just as I thought. The break was soon back and we started the 2nd and final lap. The pace didn’t change much until we hit the final climb for the KOM. There were a few surges to get points and then the downhill started again. There was a lot of movement this time down the hill as everyone was trying to stay out of trouble before the fast finish. As we hit the bottom and turned onto 116, the pace picked up. Before I knew it, we were climbing over the last few small hills and the finish was within a couple kilometers. I started working my way to the front after a rider went off the road. Luckily not too many people were effected by this, but it did cause a good group of us to have to sprint back on. I was sitting about 30 wheels back and I could see the finish. I knew that I was in a good and safe place and I just tried to keep my cadence as high as possible. I was quickly out of gears and my cadence steadily rose all the way to the line. I rolled in for 28th. Not much changing in my GC placing, but I did move up a few places.

I was happy that I was able to keep near the front when it mattered, but even happier that we would be able to do some climbing the next day.

Stage 3- Road Race

Just like the circuit race, the road race had to be modified and shortened significantly (~61miles). The promoters were able to have it finish on App. gap though which I was glad about. I knew that this final climb up the gap would be the deciding factor in the GC.

We began the day with a nice neutral start from the base of Mt. Ellen. This was an interesting neutral start as it was all downhill for quite a ways. As we started the race, I moved up near the front so as to see the better climbers on the KOM at Duxbury hill. I made it to the head of the peloton before the descent which turned out to be a good plan as we were soon on the flats and flying over some loose dirt roads. We crossed over one very loose section where many people had difficulty navigating a safe path. I just picked a line and went for it, passing a few people and staying with the guys at the front. Not a whole lot of action through the sprint bonus. I missed my feed a few minutes later, but luckily I was carrying a spare bottle in my jersey.

The race started to get interesting about mid-race as a few guys slipped off the front. The pace picked up and they were caught a few miles down the road as we turned onto route 116. We rolled down 116 with little trouble. There was a good cross-wind, but I was able to stay sheltered until the turn onto Baby Gap.

The race really began at the foot of this two part climb. Riders either moved forward or dropped back here. A small break was able to move up the road, but the tempo stayed controlled for the most part on the climb. I realized about halfway up that my legs were feeling very fresh and I was looking forward to the finish on App. Gap. As we crested Baby, the break was brought back, but the tempo stayed up. The peloton had really been shredded by this point, but it was only going to split more from here. I stayed about 10 wheels back as we made the small descent to the base of App. gap and as the climb began, I moved closer to the front.

App gap, is a fun climb. It’s not terribly steep until the end, but it certainly goes on for a ways. It also features a good number of switchbacks that lead to a very fun feel. I was able to stay with the leaders until about halfway up the climb. Things just really split apart here and it was every man for himself to the top. I focused on keeping the leaders within sight which I was able to do until the final switchback. I worked with a few other riders, but I was grinding too big a gear and did not anticipate the steep grade of the final pitch. My rhythm was off and I just worked my way up to the finish. I finished in 20th place. This moved my GC placing up to 21st in the 90 man field.

Stage 4- Crit

Unfortunately, poor weather caused the promoters to have to cancel the crit for many of the fields that were racing in the afternoon. Since the cat 2s were racing later in the day, we didn’t get to race. Bummer.

Overall, I had a great time at GMSR. Although the race had to be changed, I was very impressed that the race organizers were able to pull off this classic. I am eager to race on the original course and I will certainly be racing this again next season to do so. As far as my racing goes, I am pretty happy with my overall performance in my first race as a cat 2. The first day was interesting, but the final stage on app gap was very fun and helped me move up many places in the GC. Great race.

Tour of Catskills – Cat 3 Mens – Race Report – August 5-7, 2011

Submitted by Joseph Reis

The Tour of Catskills is an event that can only be described as epic. Anthem Sports and Dieter Drake do a fantastic job with these events. The tour consisted of three days of racing based around the Tannersville, NY area and featured a 12 mile out and back prologue TT, a 65 mile road race, and a 60 mile road race on the third day. The highlight of these three days was certainly the two road races as they each featured a number of scenic back roads and lots of epic climbs. The first road race had close to 5000ft of climbing and the second one had over 5000ft. I raced in the Category 3 field which had about 80 riders in it.

Stage 1 – Time Trial, August 5, 2011

I arrived in Tannersville, NY on 8/5 for the TT with plenty of time to spare as my start time wasn’t until 5:41pm. The spare time allowed me to drive the TT course and the first road course. It was good to see the first road course as it featured the famed “Devil’s Kitchen” climb towards the end, but more to come on this climb later.

After a 20 minute warm-up, I rolled down the Hunter mountain resort access road to the start of the TT. I shook out my legs, did my junior gearing roll-out, shifted into my starting gear, and was off on the course before I knew it. The course was slightly downhill on the way out with a bit of a headwind. There was enough of a downhill grade to spin my gears out pretty quickly though so I just focused on keeping my cadence as high as possible. By the turnaround, I had caught one person and had spotted my next targets up the road. Even though the way back was almost all uphill, I still ended up spending most of the time with maxed-out gearing due to the wind which was now to my back. As I edged closer to the finish, I couldn’t see anyone else for a ways so I just dug and kept pushing. I hit the town of Hunter and went through the few turns that brought riders up to the access road. As I hit the final couple hundred meters and the finishing hill, I unloaded the tank and gave everything to get across the line. I finished feeling that I had given everything, but my legs still had more power for the days to come. My finish was good enough for 19th place, which I thought was a good starting place for the tour.

Stage 2 – Tannersvill Road Race, August 6, 2011

Stage two was the Tannersville Road Race. This race was to begin in the village of Tannersville with a neutral start for about a mile. There was a slight delay in start times, but other than that, the race started problem-free. The attacks commenced once the flag was dropped with two riders getting a couple of seconds on the downhill coming into the first climb of the day. The peloton made the turn onto Scribner Hollow Road a few minutes later and the break was brought back about halfway up the ~500ft climb. I may have burnt a few matches on this climb to stay towards the front, but I was glad I had as the descent afterwards was very steep and fast. As everything regrouped on the flats after, a break of a few riders slipped off the front for the first KOM that was roughly 10 miles away now. Everyone seemed quite content with letting this move go as there was a 5 mile downhill after the KOM climb and things would more than likely regroup.

I was able to relax a bit before the climb and latched onto the wheel of the yellow jersey on the early foothills. The break was suddenly in sight and the yellow jersey took off up the climb with a group of about four or five of us. We crested the climb to find that the break was bigger than expected and there were no more points to be taken. Unexpectedly, the break was allowed to go once more. It wasn’t until about 10 miles down the road that the peloton regrouped. The pace seemed to drop here as I think everyone wanted to conserve for the upcoming Devil’s Kitchen climb. A few flyers went and gained time before the climbing began, but as soon as the base of the Kitchen was in sight they were brought back almost instantly.

The race picked up at the bottom of this epic climb. Having driven it the day before, I knew it was nothing to joke about. It was incredibly steep with pitches reaching 22%. I did the only thing that I could have and got to the front where a group of the fresher riders was forming. I stayed with this group for a few minutes until the grade really ramped up and then it felt like I hit the wall. I was just barely able to turn over my gears and didn’t have anything to stay up with the leaders. As I started to fall back, I noticed riders coming past me spinning their gears at a nice cadence while I was grinding in the 40rpm range (hit 34rpm at one point). I suddenly looked down in agony to realize that I was still in my 19! I was trying to crank a 39×19 up a 20% grade! I shifted to my 25 quickly, but by that point my rhythm was gone and all I could do was suffer up the remainder of the climb. By the top, I was sitting in the top 30 somewhere, but my legs and rhythm were starting to come back. The climb flattened out momentarily and I was able to get on top of my gearing and clawed my way back into the top 20s somewhere.

As the road flattened for good, a group of us formed a paceline and started to bring riders back. I gave everything I had to keep the group together and pull back time. Luckily, we managed to work well and the group now held about 15 riders. Instead of pushing through the line and taking back a few more seconds, riders in our chase group decided to attack with 1km to go. It pretty much turned into a bunch sprint by this point and I had done all the work I was going to for one day so I sat in and didn’t worry about placing. I finished same time with this group for another 19th place. This bumped me up to 14th in the GC. I wish that I had realized my gearing situation sooner, but I am glad that I got back into the race by the top of the climb. After a short post-race spin, the mind was thinking about the next day.

Stage 3 – Windham Road Race, August 5, 2011

Stage three was the Windham Mountain road race. I decided that I couldn’t hold anything back on this last race as I needed to make a serious move if I wanted to get any time back. I thought that a break would go early for the first KOM, but I was planning on sitting in and waiting until the yellow jersey made his move. With even more climbing than the day prior, I knew that the group would likely be shattered. Sure enough, a break with the KOM jersey holder was off the front and gaining time on the roughly 7 mile descent that started the day. A few attempts to bring this break back were tried, but nobody made any serious progress. I stayed close to the front leading up to the first climb of the day and focused on minimizing my surges and conserving my energy. With a few miles to the climb, I accidentally dropped one of my bottles. I knew that this might be a problem later in the race, but I wasn’t going to worry about it. By the time the base of the 4.5-mile climb was within reaching distance, a few of the stronger riders moved to the front. I followed the yellow jersey who soon joined them and before I knew it, we were on the climb. This was a beast of a climb. It was much more gradual than the Devil’s Kitchen, but it seemed to go on and on. I was sitting third wheel pretty much the entire climb and after about 10 minutes, I looked back to see that the 80 man peloton was out of sight and there was only one more guy with us. Our group of four caught riders falling from the break and soon had the two remaining riders in sight after going through the KOM line. I was happy with the position I was in at the moment, but I knew that there was a lot of work to be done as there were still 30 miles to go and another extremely steep climb.

After the mid-race feedzone, our group was able to catch the two remaining breakaway riders and we all started to work together. I was lucky enough to have my father in the feedzone with a bottle for me and was also able to pick up a neutral bottle to replace the one dropped earlier. After a few more hills, we were on the flats and working in a paceline. The moto-ref kept giving reassuring time gaps and my hopes of staying away were now becoming a reality. Before I knew it, we were on the final KOM climb. I shifted fast and watched one of our six breakaway companions drop off on the first section of the climb. I was able to stay in it and the legs were starting to feel pretty good as the road flattened momentarily. The next section was brutal however as the road kicked up to 25% (I have heard some reports saying that it was higher than this). I hung on for as long as I could, but I needed a 27 or 29 instead of my 25 in order to turn over the pedals quick enough. Once again, I was dropped on the steep part. I did my best to fight my way up the hill, but I realized I would not be rejoining the four riders ahead of me.

By this point, I knew that I had two options. I could either sit up and wait for the rider behind me or I could put everything on the line and solo the last 12 miles to the finish. I suddenly realized that I had not driven all that way to sit up and wait so I shifted down and started to lay down some watts. This was a very painful 12 miles as it never really flattened out, but as the finish came closer, I was starting to see that I had a shot at a fifth place finish. The moto-ref gave me my final time gap with a few miles to go and told me that there was a solo rider about half a minute back with a chase group about 2 minutes back. I was now suffering, but I knew I had to keep pushing all the way. I made the final descent through a little town and rounded the corner onto the Windham mountain access road and knew I had put enough effort out to maintain my place. I would finish a few minutes later in fifth place. This bumped me up to eighth place overall in the GC.

Overall, I am very happy with my Tour of Catskills experience. I had made mistakes with gear selections that had cost me, but I am glad that my legs were there for the third day when I needed them. I had a great time and will definitely make the trip out to the Catskills again next summer. A new challenge will be present though as I have now gained enough points for my Category 2 upgrade.

Norwell Circuit Race Report – Pro/1/2/3 & 3/4 – July 31, 2011

Submitted by Joseph Reis

I raced both the Cat 3/4 and Pro/1/2/3 races at the Norwell Circuit race on 7/31. This is an interesting event as it is somewhere between a long crit and an extremely short circuit race. Whatever you want to call it, it is a fun 2.3 mile course featuring a finish perched atop a pretty decent wall and a fast downhill on the backside. The race speeds are generally high due to these characteristics. The goal for these events was mainly to see how the mid-summer legs were.

I arrived at the venue a little late only to find that I had a flat. I had just enough time to change the flat and jump into the staging area so I was discombobulated and not exactly ready for this first race (the 3/4). I decided that I was going to try my best and use the race as a warm-up for the Pro/1/2/3 later in the afternoon. This was a good plan as I soon found that the legs were a bit blocked and didn’t have any pop. I just sat in and basically watched a typical 3/4 race unfold- the pace was high at first, there were lots of surges, the pace slowed down to next to nothing, a few attacks went with nothing getting away, and finally the pace picked up for the last lap with a number of crashes. There was a crash on the last corner that I narrowly missed, but unfortunately I had to take the inside line and lost all of my momentum coming into the final hill. I dug my best and finished 18th. I wasn’t too worried though since I would be racing again in about 2hrs.

The time gap between the races gave me a chance to go for a spin and get my legs opened. By the time I got back from my ride, the staging for the second race was starting. I jumped in and before I knew it, the neutral start had begun. The first few laps seemed harder than they should have been as my legs were still coming back, but after about five laps into the 13 lap race, the legs started to feel better. I moved towards the front and started to look for the stronger riders to follow and my legs seemed to feel stronger on the hill each lap. About three laps from the finish, I found myself at the back getting one last rest and realized that a large number of the riders had been dropped as the peloton was much smaller. I knew that I had to get back to the front and did so as the tempo started to go up.

Next thing I knew, I was latching onto wheels for the last lap. I tried following some sketchy moves on the downhill and almost got into good position, but the pack ballooned on the flats and I was pushed back. I had one more chance to get to the front about a kilometer out and I put everything I had to getting up front. I was sitting in pretty good position, but I had moved too soon and the pack ballooned once again. It was too late to move up again as the final turn was within seconds. I hit the corner on the inside once again and came in with the pack for 29th. The legs were there, but the positioning was not.

The results weren’t necessarily there this weekend, but the goal was to see how the legs would respond to repeated efforts. The heat had been a bit of an issue as it was in the mid-nineties, but after a couple of hours of riding and getting my legs opened, the body was feeling pretty good. Overall, I had a great time racing and I found that my legs were still there after roughly 75 miles of riding throughout the afternoon so I was happy.

31st Annual Yarmouth Clam Festival Race Report – July 17, 2011

Submitted by Joseph Reis

Portland Velo Club hosted the annual Yarmouth Clam Festival race on July 18th this summer. There couldn’t have been a better day to hold this mid-summer classic as it was beautiful with warm temps and a clear sky. This was my first time racing in the clammer so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I was extremely excited as this is probably the closest thing I have to a “home race.”

It was nice to see so many riders show up for the men’s P/1/2/3 race, but it was even nicer to see so many fellow PVC and OA/Cyclemania riders come out to drop some watts. Definitely a great feeling to be among so many supportive and familiar faces.

For those who don’t know, the course is a short (under 4 miles) circuit starting and finishing on Main Street in Yarmouth. Interesting features include: rail road/ bridge crossings, five turns ranging from those that you can pedal through to fast and sharp corners on hills, a slight uphill on the back stretch, an interesting downhill, and finally a final wall-type climb before a slight downhill finish. Certainly a fun course for racers and spectators alike.

The race started out at a decent tempo. Being able to start towards the front was a nice change as it allowed me to spend less energy jockeying for position in the first part of the race. There were a few attacks early on, but since the event was so short, nobody was willing to allow any major gaps to form. I took a few digs at the head, but for the most part I just stayed tucked away safely about 15 wheels back. Each lap I tried out different lines coming through the last corner leading to the final climb and finally decided that an outside line was necessary to hit the final wall with enough momentum for a strong sprint.

The action picked up a few laps into the race after a couple local riders made it off the front. This was a dangerous break as a few other very strong riders made the move as well. Team tactics came into full swing here as the blocking began from CCB. It seemed that everyone was content with letting the riders in blue and pink control the race. There were a few attempts to bridge up to the group of 5 (or 6?), but nothing was successful and nobody was willing to work together. For a while, it seemed that this break would stick, but as the finishing lap came closer, a couple riders were dropped from the break. Unfortunately, two of these dropped riders were local. Much credit goes out to those boys who put in that dig; it took a lot of guts.

The pace really picked up on the last lap as the break was within reaching distance. By this point, the adrenaline was pumping and I was looking for wheels to follow. I found my mark and went for it. I put everything I had into following a very strong Team Mountain Khakis rider and was almost able to get to the front while riding his wheel, but the last couple kilometers of a circuit or crit can be so chaotic sometimes and plans don’t always work. I lost his wheel on the downhill leading into the final turn and put my focus towards giving everything left on the hill. I did just this and moved up a few more wheels, but there was still a long downhill sprint to come. I quickly hit my 53×15 junior gearing limit and my cadence sky-rocketed. I was able to move up even closer to the front, but I was too far back for anything special. I rolled across the line for a 15th place finish.

I had been looking for a better finish for my first home race, but I had so much fun just being at such a great local venue that my placing didn’t matter. Hard to be upset when you get to race your bike, especially on such a beautiful day!

Thanks Portland Velo Club for putting on such a spectacular event!

29th Annual Exeter Hospital Criterium – June 29, 2011 – Pro1/2/3

Race Report by Joseph Reis

On the 30th of June I traveled down to Exeter, NH for the 29th annual Hospital Crit. I had heard a lot about this race and was very excited to test my legs against some of the best names in the east. After watching an OA podium finish in the preceding masters race, I jumped on the road to claim my spot in the start pack for the Pro/1/2/3 race.

The call-ups were quick and before I knew it, I was digging in to the pack on the first corner. The course was a fast and technical crit course featuring three 90 degree turns, one more gradual bend on a fast downhill section, and a little climb through the finish and up through the first corner. With some big primes and strong riders, I had a hard time moving towards the front in the first part of the race. Racing from the back of the pack always seems kind of strange. I could hear what was going on from the announcer, but by the time I would hear about the early attacks, it seemed they would already be back. Luckily, besides a few small crashes, the first half of the race was relatively uneventful.

Eventually I fought my way towards the front where I could finally relax. I stayed up in the first quarter of the pack and maintained good position until about 8 laps to go when I was hit by a rider on what seemed to be the crash corner. Fortunately, neither of us went down, but the rider casually mentioned as he went by that my back wheel looked a little “wobbly.” Frustrated, I drifted back a few wheels to see if I could further asses the situation. After asking around about the condition of my rear wheel (the best answer being “yes, but I didn’t really look. Ask someone else.”), I decided that I would stay in the race.
The race seemed more difficult at this point. I was pretty close to the back of the pack and there were about 5 laps left. I dug as hard as I could and made it about halfway up the peloton. The legs started to hurt with about 3 laps to go as a crash split the field and forced those who missed it to chase back on. This, combined with the high pace and the fight for position caused my legs to really hurt. It felt like someone was holding me back and my power wasn’t translating into speed as it had been. I realized that something with my bike was up, but it was too late to do anything about it. 1 lap to go and I was digging with all I had.

I finished in the pack at 44th place. I looked at my back wheel after the race and the late race pain made sense. My back wheel was pretty badly out of true and I couldn’t make it spin a full revolution by hand due to the fact that the warped rim couldn’t pass by the rear brake. I was happy that I was able to finish in the pack with this problem.

Exeter was an awesome race. The course and crowds were amazing. It was definitely one of the most fun crits I have raced in. A big thank you goes out to the event organizers for a great event. I will certainly be back again next year.

USAC Junior Nationals, June 2011, Race Report

Race Report by Joseph Reis

During the week of 6/20 I competed at the USAC Junior Nationals. Nationals took place in Georgia starting on 6/23 and ran until 6/26. The racing consisted of a 30km Time Trial, a 50km Criterium, and a 96km Road Race on the last day. My Dad and I made the long haul down to the peach state a few days prior as to have a little time to settle in. I knew that the heat would be a major factor in the way I raced, but when I stepped out of the air-conditioned car after two days of driving, the heat hit me like never before. I knew this was going to be a challenge yet I couldn’t have been more ready to race. In these next few paragraphs I will give detailed reports of the new experiences each day had to offer.

6/23- Time Trial
The TT course was a pretty basic 30km out-and-back route that started and ended on a long dam. The terrain was relatively flat with a few small rollers. I wasn’t exactly sure of my abilities going into this race though. My body had been responding well to the heat so far and my legs were feeling snappy after spinning them out and doing some openers the day before, but this would be my first real TT of the season. Besides this, I had to change my riding position the night before so as to comply with UCI regulations. The bike fit was radically different now and my riding style had to be tweaked. To say I had the pre-race jitters would be an understatement. I tried to focus on the task at hand though and I just focused on positive energy and getting a good warmup.

When I rolled into the start ramp, my body took over. I watched the starter’s fingers slowly fold as she counted down the final seconds on her hand and then it was go time. There was nothing to hold back now and it was up to my training to decide how I fared.
I slowly settled into a groove and tried to stay as aero as possible while keeping a high cadence. This was the longest TT I had ever done so I wanted to make sure not to burn myself up in the first half of the course. I kept the competitor ahead in sight and slowly worked my way up to him. There was a bit of head-wind so I was sure that many of the kids would go out to hard and not be able to take advantage of the wind on the way back. I just kept my effort steady and powered through the hills.

A few minutes into the race I was powering past the competitor from earlier and the confidence was rising. I used this confidence to my advantage and kept up the positive thoughts as I approached more and more riders. By the 15km turn-around, I had passed a few riders and was now ready for the fast return. With the tail-wind, I easily spun out my 52×14 junior gearing and my cadence was sky-rocketed. The race was no longer about who could turn over the biggest gear, but about who could sustain the highest cadence. The legs were feeling fast and I let them run. I passed more and more riders who were slowly fading and before I knew it I was back to the dam. With 1km to go I pushed until I could push no longer and it was full throttle to the line.

I finished with a time of 41:30 which put me in 37th for the day. Overall, the race went well. I gave everything I had and I finished well into the top 3rd of the 122 rider field. I was excited, but the second I finished, I knew it was time to forget about the day’s results and focus on the racing ahead.

6/24- Criterium
The criterium at nationals was a simple 1km course with four corners in downtown Augusta. Having the race at 4:30pm on one of the hottest days of the trip was brutal, but I certainly learned a lot. The legs were feeling alright after the previous day’s effort, but the body was not responding well to the 101 degree heat. Hydration was key and I managed to drink a lot leading up to the race, but a lot was not enough on a day like this.

I got my warmup in on a trainer in the shade and I was already overheating. As I made my way to the staging area, I could tell that the field was bigger than yesterdays race. There were 130 riders all crammed into the staging chute and I was in the back. I could tell that getting to the front would be an all-race event on this short, tight course. The sun was also brutal and the tall buildings of the city didn’t seem to provide the shade many wished for. I knew this was going to be tough.

Call-ups started and I was able to edge into the 2nd or 3rd to last row of the pack before we took off, but this hardly made a difference because the pack was instantly strung into single file. All of the sudden, the late afternoon affair had turned into a matter of survival. As each lap passed, I became hotter and hotter. The pace never really died down and we were all spinning out our junior gearing. About half way through the race, I managed to move up towards the middle of the pack and missed a crash, but I wasn’t able to get into a position closer to the front before the pace picked up. By this point I had nothing left. I was overheating to the point of chills and moving up was not an option. So I hung on for life and hoped to finish. With each corner I had to dig deeper and deeper to stay with it. I was suffering. Everyone was still fighting for position and I was just happy to not be at the very back of the field.

All the riders in the field were doing relatively well together. We were communicating and hanging together, but the combination of the heat, the high pace, and the short, fast course made things difficult for many of the riders. About 50 ended up coming off the back for one reason or another. I managed to stay with it and rolled in with the pack for a 57th place finish. This was perhaps the most difficult race I had ever done and I was happy to not be part of the long DNF list. Had I started at the front of the pack, the race might have gone differently as I wouldn’t have over-exerted and over-heated by mid-race, but the way the course was, moving up was extremely difficult. This is one experience that I will make sure to learn from and never forget. Next time I am in a race like this I have to find ways to keep cool. I witnessed many southern racers’ methods of keeping cool and I will know what to do in the future.

6/26- Road Race
The road race went pretty well. The race was held on an army base which made for a very interesting morning of going through security checkpoints and listening to machine-gun fire while warming up. I was feeling much better about the race than I had about the past two races. For one, the race was being held in the morning so heat wouldn’t be an issue. The course also had some nice hills in it that I knew I would be able to fare well on. Unfortunately the hills were not big enough to split the pack, but they were enough to sort out the group.

As I warmed up I could tell the legs were back. I made sure to get to the staging area well ahead of time in order to get a decent spot and was lucky enough to start towards the front. The race started at a pretty good pace, but like most junior fields, the first few minutes were a little sketchy. The first climb of the 24km loop came faster than I thought it would. The 140 rider field stretched out, crested the hill, and descended the back side at a good click. I’m pretty sure there were a few attacks at the beginning too, but they were all brought back in a matter of minutes. The course didn’t really favor a breakaway though. With its long straightaways it was just too difficult to get out of sight.

Things stayed pretty calm for the first lap, but then the crashes began. I am not sure how it is possible, but there were close to 10 crashes in this race. Not just small crashes though. These crashes were nasty. Kids were going off the road into signs and were crashing in feed zones and taking multiple people out. The first crash happened before the finishing climb. From what I saw it was pretty bad and took out a number of kids. I was lucky to miss this one and hammered up the finishing climb and through the feedzone in order to get to the front and stay out of trouble.

The attacks continued, but never amounted to anything. A few teams put riders on the front to try in an attempt to control things, but there was never much organization and besides the crashes, not much really happened until the hammer dropped on the fourth and final lap. The legs were still feeling fresh and I was ready. I positioned myself in the top 20 and kept moving into better positions. About 15km out and a group of two go off the front. There are a flurry of attacks to try and bridge up to this group, but only one more rider would make the gap. I was trying to decide whether or not to go for it and decided against it based on the fact that nothing else was able to stick. I positioned myself 5th wheel and waited. I watched as the break was brought back to 10 or 20 seconds and then the team driving the train let go and the pack ballooned. I realized I was in trouble as I was suddenly blocked in on both sides with 3km left to the finish. I tried my best to get to the outside, but the more I moved, the further back I was forced by the swarm of riders edging for a wheel. We hit the final climb at speed. I had finally made it to the far left of the group and I was attempting to get to the front again. All of the sudden, the front of the group exploded. Riders started dropping left and right. It was ridiculous. I could barely move up the road because it was so congested. I had to slam on my brakes a number of times to wait for holes to open and then I would shoot through them to have to wait on another hole. By the top of the climb I had only managed to take back around 10 spots and had missed the lead group. I finished just behind in 33rd.

This was a pretty frustrating way to end a race that I felt confident about, but I guess that is just the nature of bike racing. The race was definitely a fun one though and although I didn’t place where I wanted, I know the legs are there now. It was also a new experience as I had never raced in a field of 140 riders. I didn’t realize how crazy the final kilometers could be, but next time I am in a field of that size, I will know what to do.

Going into nationals I knew that I was in for a wild experience. It is true that each race could have been different for better or worse, but the things I learned from these races were invaluable and overcome the feeling of “what if.” I know I gave it my all and I had a fun time. That’s all the matters.

As a final note, I would like to thank PVC for all the support! I can’t express how great it feels to be part of such a wonderful and supportive club as a junior.