Project 5 Racing

Whitewater Road Race Report – Cat 4/5 – 40 miles

Greg Nash and I carpooled up to the road race today.  Greg suggested I write the race report because he is too “grumpy.”  In other words, the Cat 4 field at Wood Dale tomorrow better watch out because Greg has some unfinished business.  In my humble opinion, though, Greg has nothing to be grumpy or ashamed about.

Anyway, it took significantly longer to get to the race start than we had estimated.  Road closures for construction seemed to stymie us at every turn.  It turns out that two geeks with smart phones do not a Viking expedition make.  Somehow we forgot that the Whitewater Road Race wasn’t actually located in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  Eventually, Greg’s Motorola device routed us around a 4th of July parade, past an Army National Guard Base, through an office park, and to the registration tent.

Well, after a very abbreviated warm-up (no complaints there; we both expected the race to start gently and it did), we rolled to the line and received a bone-rattling harangue from the head official who, like one of those creepy things in Minority Report, had advance knowledge that someone would cross the centerline and asked how that someone could live with himself.  After a little neutral roll-out across two sets of railroad tracks, we were on our way for 7 laps of 5.5 miles each, with one big hill and long sections of downhill and tailwind which kept the average speed very high.

The first lap was sedate.  The pace up the one dominant hill on the course (maybe a half mile at 6-7% average grade?) was under 14 mph and I was turning my 53-25 slowly for fear of dropping my chain by changing to the small ring.  The whole field stayed together for the first lap, which took about 15 minutes.  The second lap was a little faster, with some of climbers showing off and the field beginning to string out, but still nothing Greg or I couldn’t handle.

On the third lap, I went to the front on the big hill and pulled hard, going above my anaerobic threshold for sure.  Greg yelled perhaps the most encouraging words I’ve ever heard during a race, something to the effect of, “you’re really hurting them.”  Of course, I was also really hurting myself, but it felt good to know that I was determining the race right there.  Looking around a minute later, as I slid back and caught onto the back of the lead group, I saw the race had essentially split in half, with the front group down to 25 riders or less.  Nothing much happened for the next two laps, but the group whittled down to about 20.  Somewhere around here we caught the Masters 30+ 3/4 race which had started about 2 minutes before us.  Their pace was slow as some GT-sponsored team with 7 guys in the race was blocking for their man up the road.  I’m sure Andy can give you the full details on that, as well as his stellar result.  But for a minute or two I was able to race with a legend, the Titanium Man.  Then the head official came along in a minivan and tried to separate the fields without much success.

On the last lap, the pace increased noticeably, as we had expected.  A few of the climber types pushed up the hill, but nothing with enough jump to really be considered an attack.  I think everyone was a little worn out by an hour and a half of racing when we’re used to crits under 45 minutes.  Greg and I were close to each other near the back of the lead group approaching the final short kicker before a steep decent, sweeping turn, and run-in to the finish.  I figured we wouldn’t have much opportunity to gain position during the 30+ mph run-in to the sprint, so I told Greg I would try to take him to the front on the short hill.  I rode up the right side feeling strong and made it to the very front of the race, but looking back I saw Greg got stuck in traffic.  On the 40 mph decent, I got swarmed and all was for nought.  After the sweeping turn, I again tried to take Greg up.  A gap formed on the right side, but just as I moved to ride through, it closed slightly and I said to myself, “remember priorities: first, stay safe.  second, race for a result.”  A few seconds later, with about 500 meters to go, two riders got tangled up in the middle of the pack, right in front of Greg.  Amazingly, he rode through the carnage unscathed.  I had to do a little bushwhacking off-road on the right side to avoid the crash.  I got a wreath of weeds as a reward for my efforts, but stayed upright. We both rolled in a little shell-shocked, cursing our luck.  We were among the last of the lead group to finish.  We stuck around to chat with Lord Henry and the Titanium Man, but not long enough to see the official results.  I suspect we were both top 20, possibly top 15.  We did just under 40 miles in 1:38.

 We had an equally egregious time navigating home, but two mega, half-price calzones later we made it.  It felt like a road trip and it was fun.  The weather was perfect, in my opinion.  We didn’t achieve our most optimistic goals, but Matt Nichols had good sensations on the bike (please note use of two über-euro rules: 1) refer to self in third person, 2) employ phrase “good sensations”).  I felt strong despite it being almost a month since my last race or structured interval workout.  I think today bodes well for my upcoming races.  It also confirmed my preference for long, hilly road races over short, flat crits.  Up next: Elgin Road Race.

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