Friday, April 23, 2010

Cherry Blossom: Stage 1

Today was the first stage of my first stage race in several years - the Cherry Blossom Classic.  This is only the second time it has been put on, so I am not sure how it is already a "classic", but I suppose that isn't important.  Anyway, my cat. 4 field was more than full with 78 competitors, so I was a touch concerned with the prospect of gobs of semi to uber sketchy riders packed tightly across the road like sardines.  It turns out that my concern was warranted.

After rolling out of the parking lot, the pace stayed conversational for a few miles before the guys at the front decided to pick it up on a few rollers.  There is a team called "Ten Guys Named Alex", and their riders always seem to be at the front pulling during races this year.  As usual, they seemed content to tow the field around for the first circuit of the course.  I stayed tucked in behind a heavily muscled Life Cycle guy who won King's Valley since I figured his would be a good wheel on the climb.  When we did hit the long climb the pace picked up nicely and I ended up abandoning Mr. Life Cycle and weaseled my way up through the pack, which was finally beginning to string out.  I slotted in around 4th wheel at the summit and we began the descent.  Shortly afterward, a couple of Hagens Berman guys came up beside us and squeezed into the line of riders.  These two HB fellows then proceeded to rub bars and shoulders with each other and it quickly became apparent to me (I was 2 wheels behind them in the line) that they were going down.  Sure enough, CRUNCH - down they went effectively blocking the entire lane of the road.  Perhaps because I saw it coming it seemed like the crash happened in Matrix-style slow motion and I managed to steer my way around the carnage.  I sprinted back up to the leaders and we kept riding along.  A few miles later I realized two things:
1. We were going much faster than on the first lap
2. There were only about 15 of us

I felt a bit cheesy being in a breakaway that was caused by a crash, but wasn't about to sit up and rejoin the field because of it.  We ended up getting a decent rotating paceline going, although it was nowhere near as fast as ghetto ride pacelines.  We kept the pace high around the rest of the course, and went quite hard up the climb the second time which popped a few people out the back.  I crested the climb at the front and the descent went smoothly.  I was at the front with 1 k to go, which was apparently when both lanes of the road became open to us because a big load of riders came around me in the left lane.  I realized that I wasn't going to contend for the sprint and stayed tucked in and rolled across the line in 10th, happy to have finished with the same time as the winner.

I hung around the line to wait for the field to finish, and was pretty surprised when they didn't come in until over 3 minutes after us.  It turns out that the crash got much worse after I darted around it and lots of guys went down.  There were stories of broken frames and taco-ed carbon wheels, and apparently at least one guy went to the hospital.  I snapped a couple of pictures what I think was aftermath of the crash, a Hagens Berman Ridley with a front wheel with fewer spokes than the new Rolf TT models:

Something is not quite right with this bike...

 Ummmm thats probably not fixable with a few turns of a spoke wrench

I am really hoping I don't get caught behind a crash tomorrow.  I'm learning that there is quite a bit of luck involved in bike racing.  Had I been a little closer or a little further away from the first guys that crashed, I would have either went down or at least have missed the winning break.  Provided things go alright tomorrow, I like my chances on GC with the time trial coming up.

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a squirrel didn't make it across the road. Keep on turning those pedals Doug.