Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jacksonville Cycling Classic NRC (4/14/07 - 4/15/07)

This weekend was a race in our home town of Jacksonville, Florida.

Friday - Trek Concept Store Grand Opening...

On Friday night we attended the grand opening of our main sponsors new Trek Concept store. The place is big...over 7,000 sqft of Trek/Lemond/Bontrager/Nike heaven! Jeff was a bit nervous opening his second bike shop, especially when the featured guest, Bob Roll, couldn't attend after being hit by a blizzard in Colorado. The plan was to have a question and answer session with Bob Roll and Sam Kouvaris, who is a local sports news anchor. On short notice, Jeff was able to have 3 riders from the Rite Aid pro cycling team attend (Bill Elliston, Michael Norton, Ryan Dewald). I raced with these 3 guys down in the Bahamas, and they were all super cool.

With catastrophe averted, the evening was awesome...with food provided by Native Sun, bike demo's, and a few beers. Everyone had a great time.

Saturday - Jacksonville Cycling Classic NRC Criterium

Last year this race was epic, with rain and wind like I've never seen. Florida is currently in drought conditions, and hasn't rained in weeks...until 1/2 hour before the scheduled start time! Our race began at 8:00 pm, so it was dark, rainy, and very slippery. The race took off quickly, with the guys in front trying to split the field up from the start...well, it seemed to work. Combined with the speed and slick surfaces, there were many crashes. I had a great starting spot, so was safe from most of the early lap melee...but the rest of the team wasn't. Andy decided not to wreck his pro mountain bike career, and smartly dropped out. Curtis crashed once, and Jeff crashed twice before calling it a day. Victor also got caught up in the crash fest, and pulled out. The worst of the lot was Clint, who crashed on lap 2 and dislocated his shoulder. Luckily, once he stood up it popped back into place.

Considering I was sliding on 3 of the 4 turns, I decided to stay in but be very cautious and not take any risks. Towards the end of the race it stopped raining, but I remained true to myself, and didn't take any risks. I rolled in for 31st, and all of my skin in tact. Out of the 140+ starters, 44 finished...a pretty rough night.

Sunday - Jacksonville Cycling Classic Road Race

Curtis called me earlier in the week and told me to look at the forecast for Sunday. High winds, with gusts between 30-40 mph...during our 100 mile race...you've gotta be kidding me! Anyhow, he suggested that we group together on the crosswind sections, and form our own echelon. This means that if the wind is coming from the right hand side, the next rider will be behind and slightly to the left of the rider in front of them...to get the best possible draft. The road is only so wide, so if there are 10 riders staggered across the road, then the other 130 are all lined up at the very edge with little or no draft...this is one of the ways a race breaks apart into smaller groups. The best way to conserve energy, at least for a couple riders, is for the team to form it's own echelon, and that way at least some members of the team are getting a little draft. This turned out to be a good strategy that for some strange reason was not used by any of the other teams. I would rather do some work and get a little draft, than be in the gutter all day! It took a couple laps, but we were finally able to dial in our team echelon in both of the long crosswind sections. We stuck to the strategy, and the team worked to keep me out of the wind...so if it came down to a sprint, I could give it a shot.

On the 2nd or 3rd lap of the race, we were battling in the crosswind section that leads to the start/finish area...and a rider crossed wheels with another rider and went down. He wasn't too far in front of me, and I had nowhere to go, but right into his back. Once on the ground I scrambled for my water bottles, and realized my rear derailleur was bent into my spokes...so I gave it a good yank back over to get it close. I didn't take time to make it perfect considering the peloton was speeding away. Luckily, the follow cars had to stop and weren't too far ahead, so I sprinted after them. I made it onto the back of one of them, and they let me pace back to the pack (Thanks guys!!). Curtis, Jeff, and Andy had dropped to the back of the pack and made sure I made it back on.

With 2-3 laps to go Curtis was in a VERY promising move with riders from Rite Aid, Aerospace Engineering, and Preferred Alliance. The Preferred Alliance rider didn't seem as interested in staying away for a podium finish, so didn't do a lot of work...which, along with a chase by the Kelly Benefits team, spelled the demise of this breakaway. Then with 1-2 laps to go a break of 8 riders got away...Curtis tried to make it across, but after just returning from his previous efforts, didn't make it. By the last lap Curtis, Jeff and I were all starting to cramp up. I rode as conservatively as possible to save some for the finish. A Pro triathlete friend of ours, Danny Domingo, was still in the race near the end...and he helped pull me closer to the front of the pack. Andy covered a late breakaway that was just off the front. Then Victor came by and took me near to the front going into the last 600-700 meters. A rider from Herbalife attacked up the right hand side of the road about 400 meters out, and Chris Scott from Locos had a go up the left side. I decided to go now instead of getting swarmed by the remaining riders and jumped about 300 meters to go...I passed Chris, but didn't catch the Herbalife rider. I ended up second in the field sprint, and 10th overall.

This placing was an incredible team effort by each ABRT rider. We stuck to the game plan by forming our own echelon on every crosswind section, and kept me out of the wind as much as possible. This enabled me to sprint to a top 10 finish against a very high quality field. Everyone should be proud, not bad for a bunch of guys with real jobs...