Sunday, July 08, 2007

Well, bike racing is a mixed bag. Yesterday I lined up for the Faulkner Honda Criterium in lovely Hummelsville PA. The course was super sweet; very technical with 8 corners and 2 chicanes in each lap of a little less than a mile. Not being the absolute best of cornerers, I was a little bit apprehensive as I started the first race of the day, the Category Pro-1-2-3 race which included a couple of elite level riders from Massachusetts and a number of other local strong men. I had lined up with a couple of teammates and our basic plan was just to stick like glue to the fast guys and see how the rest of it went. I was doing all right, but the pace through the corners was fast enough that I got gapped at pretty much every turn, meaning that I had to accelerate eight times per lap and then try to make up for lost ground on the two straight sections. It was challenging to say the least, though I was able to handle myself pretty well despite it all. After about 10 or 15 laps ( it was a 41 lap race) I started pedaling too soon while coming out of a corner and hit the edge of my pedal on the asphalt, bouncing my rear wheel up and sideways. When it came down I must have dislodged the tire from the rim because I felt a "whump whump whump BANG" as my tire blew. Since I had not brought a spare set of wheels, I was kind of out of luck, no chance for me to get back in with the group. Fortunately for me, Art Miller of the International Christian Cycling Club had also found himself out of the race and gave me a tube and loaned me a spoke wrench to get my wheel back in order. I guess he didn't notice the Flying Spaghetti Monster logo on the back of my jersey.

Fortunately enough, I had registered for both the Category 3-4 race as well, and lined up about an hour later with a larger, but hopefully less intimidating group of riders. The pace was very much the same as the first race, attacks out of each corner, with accelerations and crazy bike handling through the sharp turns and the chicanes. I knew with a group as large as this that I'd have to stay in the front if I wanted a chance at a good result. With three laps to go, things started to get a little crazy as everyone tried to jockey for position among the final 20 or so guys who managed to stay on the main group out of the initial 60. Coming through the last lap I knew that I had to make a move to the front or be doomed in the single-file turns and corners of the rest of the course, so I sprinted quickly up to third place as one of the riders from the hometown team hammered it home, thinking that I was one of his teammates. This worked out PERFECTLY for me as I was able to keep a constant 3rd wheel throughout the final lap. I heard crashes behind me, always an ugly sound, but fortunately I was able to maintain my ideal position through the whole lap, until the final corner when my "lead out guy" peeled off and I gunned it for home. Somehow, due to the complexity of the course and the result of my frustrating and abbreviated first race, I was able to sprint in for the win. This is by far the best win I've had in cycling, I played it smart and I beat a large field on a challenging course, which went a long way to erasing the doubts about shelling out $30 per race every weekend.

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