Monday, July 21, 2008

Blinger & Gabe @ Sisquoc

My depression has finally worn off enough to do a race report. As some of you know, I had trained and focused on doing well at Sisquoc. The idea of the top 6 guys splitting $300 worth of merchandise motivated me beyond my imagination.

This weekend Gabe allowed me to set the schedule. Thus instead of arriving 4 hours before the start of the race, we arrived 1 1/2 hours before the start so we could have a relaxing warm up and pin our numbers. Gabe took offense to my last write up so this weekend he arrived with one small bag, one cooler, and no extra wheels. He left all his lubrication, extra food, pillow, and extra chamois cream at home. I think he was trying to starve me so that I would realize how good I had it at La Mirada. It worked.

While warming up I felt I was on a great day. You know the feeling when the cranks turn over really easy. I felt for sure I would win the race and take the first place prize (floor pump) home. To digress, it was this race a couple of years ago where Pops Larsen and Flood came riding into the finish together. They were teammates and coming in for 6th place with no one around them. Seated and dribbling in, at the last minute Pops jumps out of the saddle and beats his teammate Flood. Now granted, this is not the TDF, but still? Nipping your teammate at the line?

In the 4,000 emails that went out about this after the race, someone asked Pops if he really needed the 6th place prize which was a multi-tool.

In one of the great email comebacks of all time, Flood wrote, "Pops is a multi-tool."

Anyhow, we line up for the race and I think there were 70+ guys in the 3's. I also heard the 4's sold out and the other fields seemed larger than usual. Randy decided to upgrade to CAT I that morning so it was only Gabe and I. I love the staging area. The stuff you hear is unreal. First Gabe spots a guy on a 2009 Specialized. I ask Gabe how he knows it's a 2009 and not a 2008. Gabe says, "Because the Specialized sticker on the seat tube is filled in instead of being outlined." Holy shit. I had $5,000 Lasik surgery and I couldn't see that. Clearly we were outgunned as people were already on 2009 equipment.

Then each guy who is fit and tanned must go through the litany of medical conditions currently afflicting him. It's amazing how many people are either: (i) sick; (ii) just coming back from being sick; (iii) planning on getting sick; or (iv) haven't trained for this race.

The race started and it's a 6 lap affair over an 11 mile course. There's only one real climb on the course but some nice rollers. We put my 13 year old son Charlie in the feed zone with bottles for all. For those of you who have never received a "feed" from Charlie, you're missing out. He's a boy-scout and he loves bike racing. There is no one more serious and customer service oriented in the entire feed zone than Charlie. Grabbing a bottle from him is like a lifeline. He was wearing a Little Fred Leprechaun Bike Jersey just to top things off.

On the first time up the climb, it felt pretty hard. There were lots of strong guys and I thought uh-oh, this might be harder than I imagined. I then started thinking about last year when I had a lot of trouble finishing CAT 3 road races due to my fitness. I decided I better be mellow and conserve energy if I wanted to finish. Great state of mind for a bike race.

Couple of laps later, we get to the base of the climb and I shift down to my small ring and drop my chain. I probably could have predicted this. It's never happened to me before in a race so you might ask how I could predict this? Well, I was looking at pictures of Cadel Evans' bike from the TDF and he has one of those third eye jobs on his seat tube. So I've been cruising the web looking for one but not wanting to spend $3.95 on the wrong part, I held off ordering it so I didn't have one on my bike. Plus I probably should hold off for the 2009 model. I hear the plastic is .05 grams lighter.

So now I find myself at the bottom of the climb, chain off, dismounted, and unable to put the chain back on. As the peloton rides away from me, I think to myself this would really suck to not finish. So I jam the chain back on and remount. By now the peloton is quite a ways up the road and I see Gabe drift to the back and look back at me. I throw it in the big ring and begin the chase. However this is CAT 3 racing and not the TDF so as I start to bridge up, I get behind the follow vehicle carrying the spare wheels. Instead of helping me bridge up, the guy pulls across the double yellow and into on-coming traffic in order to deny me any draft. It was one of the safest driving maneuvers I've ever seen in a race.

Anyhow after a bit of a chase I got onto the back of the peloton. In reality, it didn't take that much effort and guys were blowing out the back and getting dropped. It was kind of like playing Frogger as I weaved my way through the carnage. In retrospect, instead of being bummed and dejected for having to do that effort, I should have taken solace in knowing I had enough form to chase the pack down even as guys were getting dropped. Gabe then paced me back to the front of the pack where I had been riding pre-chain incident. After a couple of more laps, I was all recovered and ready to go for a mediocre finishing spot.

With 1 1/2 laps to go, Seth from Platinum snuck off the front with another guy. Going up the climb the 2nd to last time, I expected the race to explode with a chase. It didn't happen. I was just sitting in spinning up the climb. Very little effort needed. Another 3 guys bridged up to Seth so now the break had 5 guys. I still sat there spinning using little effort. This was the point I should have made my move. However fear, mediocrity, and uncertainty took over the day.

As we went through the start finish line with 1 lap to go, Gabe rode up to me and said he was going to try to bring the break back. I was unsure of how much effort he had left in him as he was only on a 2008 model frame and I expected guys up front to be on the 2009 models.

All kidding aside, Gabe rode straight to the front (at this point we were probably down to 45 guys) and hit it. We were drilled single file. Gabe continued to hit it. He completely sacrificed his chances in order to try to bring the break back so I could contest the sprint. We started to nudge closer to the break and a couple of miles later Gabe was still on the front! Drilling it! It was awesome to see.

Gabe dropped back and as he slid past the peloton, numerous guys congratulated him on an enormous pull and a huge effort. But wait, it wasn't over. As we twiddled along on the flats before the climb, Gabe went up to the front again! Now we're something like 60 miles into the race and he's gunning it a second time. Again we nudged closer to the break. I started to think that Gabe's efforts would pay off as at the bottom of the climb, the break was in site.

Gabe dropped off as his work was done for the day and I prepared myself for the explosion that would take place on the final climb. I moved towards the front and waited...and waited...and waited. No explosion, not even a ripple. I made it up the climb with no effort. Again, had I been using my head, I would have ridden hard, attacked, at least broke a sweat. I kept waiting for others to take the initiative as I thought they were stronger than me. It turns out they were just mentally stronger.

From there it was more mediocrity as the 5 guys stayed away and I rolled in for 12th place. No floor pump. Not even a multi too.

We drove home and I swam with the kids, jumped on the trampoline, went to dinner, and saw a movie. You may ask why I give this much detail? Well, after a 66 mile road race, one should be wasted. However, if one rides like a scared pansy, then one is not tired and has a full night's activities. Woke up Sunday morning fresh as a daisy but skipped SLO. No one else was going to be riding in my race so racing alone did not appeal. Instead I went to World's where I actually rode harder than in the Sisquoc race. Go figure.

Thanks to Gabe for his Herculean effort and to my son Charlie for always being there in the feed zone. I am convinced more than ever that it is better to use your full effort and not finish, then to sit and claim 12th...



Greg Knowles said...

Gabe, great effort! It must be frustrating to have little or no help pulling the break back.

Blinger, I loved the trash talk. Just what a good team needs.

Charlie had better get ready to start charging for all the feed zone requests he is going to get.

Anonymous said...

Gabe, great effort! It must be frustrating to have done all that work and then have Blinger soft pedal the the race! I think you now have freedom to bring your pillow, extra chamois cream, blankie and whatever else you want to carry to races...