Sunday, July 5, 2009

While the Rest of You Were Racing Fitchburg...Domnarski Farm MTB Race Report 2009

I have caught lots of shit about my decision not to race Fitchburg this year. From teammates who would have liked support, to friends who feared that I was leaving road racing, to competitors who were deprived of an another opportunity to thrash me; I found myself explainng my reasons for not stage racing repeatedly. For the record here are the reasons:

1. Money- I am broke and stage racing costs. $160 registration fee, gas to and from F-burg 5 times (annoyingly, you have to drive out and pick up you numbers the night before), TT gear (I don't own a TT bike), food (obviously with the time commitment of daily racing and travel you eat out more). I made the choice to compete in 6 races over 6 weekends instead of blowing all my money on this one race. If I raced Longjo, I'd be staying home for the rest of July and most of August.

2. It is not a race I excel in. I don't ever TT well (literally, I pull out the clip ons and wing it) and once your TT time is slow, you are out. I can climb with a pack, but this RR always kills me and leaves me dropped, losing minutes. The circuit is basically a climber's sprint, again, not for me. So the crit. $160 for a crit, no thanks.

3. Fitness. I have been mtb biking lots, which has left me strong, but without a sprint. So $160 for a crit that I am sure to lose since I left my sprint in the Fells.

4. The promoter. I have had run ins with him before (as in he jerked me around for a couple of months and then refused to allow a teammate to take my prereg spot even though I gave him 3 months notice and was super polite. He suggested that my teammate pay for a 2nd spot instead, leaving me holding a $150 spot that I couldn't use. The team mate actually told the guy off). Obviously, this isn't a reason not to do a race, but I need to point it out.

So what was I doing? On Thursday, while everyone dorked up in TT gear in the rain, mist, fog and stickiness, I rested. I read books, cleaned bikes, watched a video, cooked some food. Very relaxed, very civilized.

Friday while the real racers were hitting potholes and repeatedly sprinting into the hairpin turn on John Fitch Highway, I went for a 3 hour mtb ride with Rosey and Natasha in the Fells. Rosey showed me much I have to learn about off road bike handling. He is loving his new Ibex full suspension hoopty.

On Saturday, Rosey, Bramhall, Wilcox, Yash and various HUPsters, rode to Harvard and then the R, B and W and I continued on to Fitchburg and back.

Bramhall and I attacked each other at every town line...I contested KOM's until Harvard center.
Seriously, this was a hard 110. While I am able to sprint repeatedly, I am not able to attack hills forever. I was slain when we passed through Harvard the first time and that was only 40 miles in! I am not sure who got the Sprint jersey, but I know that Bramhall got the combo climber's/sprint points.
The incessant rain has left me without any long endurance. I am able to do a 2 hour ride in the rain or on the trainer, but the 4+ hour endurance rides have been off the schedule for almost a month.
When we got to road race finish, Richard Fries gave us shout outs and big compliments over the mic. He seemed to be the only guy not giving me shit for not racing (other than my ride companions). More than one person on the sidelines asked me how my race was or if I had been pulled for not making the time cut.
I am sure that I will catch some flack for this, but I think that our ride was as hard as the Fitchburg Road Race, if not harder. Though I did hear a vicious rumor that Rapha/Embrocation hardman PVB was reduced to walking in the cat 3 road race.

Sunday. Criterium day. I raced my mountain bike at Domnarski Farm. I heard a rumor that Rooter and Parsons don't like this race. I did, though I actually wish that it had been longer.

Race Report:

I woke up so dehydrated that I my mouth tasted salty and felt crystallized. I swear that there were solid chunks of salt in my urine...It was bad enough that I drained 5 24 oz water bottles in 2 hours and only then emitted a thin, short, neon yellow dribble at a rest stop. Seriously, I thought that I that it may be a medical emergency.
Obviously my legs were cooked from the 110 miles and the Rosey mtb ride Friday.
But I am using none of these as excuses, since my race was about what it would have been even if I was well rested, well fed and properly hydrated: mediocre. In mtb, I kill myself to achieve mediocrity.
The course is gnarly. Seasoned pros were saying that it was hard. Stories of waist deep mud and lots of "walking" abounded. Not my strong suit.
The race flyer had suggested inflating tires with extra pressure to avoid pinch flats and bringing two tubes just in case. Luckily for me, I had left my only inflation devise at home, so I put 32 psi in the front/34 in back and gambled, hoping for the best.
On the starting line, people who had pre-ridden the course were discussing which of the many stream crossings were ridable, ridable if you took the correct line and which would swallow your whole front wheel.
Also, I was told that there was a technical climb right away, so I made sure that I was in the big ring and ready to take the whole shot. Then they stacked the men 19-29 in front of my front row spot and started us all at the same time. Thanks.
I didn't get the hole shot. Instead, I spent the first 1.5 miles trading blows with other riders. It was like the back of the sprint in a cat 5 crit. We were all changing our line, chopping each other's front wheels and generally acting like dildos. Testosterone yelled at unhearing testosterone.
Once it was sorted out, I got a gap on the climb, then a line 0f 6-7 dudes stacked up behind me and came around me when I bobbled.
I was able to get on the back of the train and use the other rider's lines and judgement to keep me moving. I find that if I see someone railing a hard corner in front of me, I am more likely to stay off the brakes.
There were lots of places that running was faster than riding. It was especially faster if you dismounted while you still had momentum instead of flailing around in a mud pit or spinning out on a tech climb. From the back of the line of riders, I was able to pass multiple riders when they tried to ride stuff that I ran through at full running speed. I laid down my best cyclocross remounts for good measure. In my mind, my demonstrated skills deflated my rivals, causing them to give up. Sure enough, I didn't see most of them again.
Mud. It was deep. I routinely found my tall socks fully submerged, twice to my knee and once I put my foot in a bog deeper than my knee. It was like a crap shoot, I'd see a bog, puddle or stream and if there was no one riding going through, you'd have no way of knowing if it was inches or feet deep. I risked riding a few, luckily, I only lost my front wheel once.
I had a few persistent rivals. About 7 miles into the 10 mile race. I was hoofing it up a technical climb. I could have ridden it, but I am convinced that running/walking was faster. Then I saw Maison Chen closing the gap behind me. Last week he had nearly beat me on the final climb at Putney; I was only able to hold him off with a full on track sprint for the line. Out sprinting him wasn't going to do the job today.
Instead I kept my walking pace high, but remained rested. When the climb became manageable, I remounted and finished accelerated, digging deep. I felt strong and reopened the gap, eventually widening it to over a minute.
There was some descending, my weak point. I figured that the thrashing and rustling behind me was Maison, but it was Richard Person, who shared the podium with me at Stering's Baystate Cyclocross last year. I had passed him early on when I was picking off the line of riders who had passed me. He held my wheel for a bit, until I allowed him to come around. It was obvious that I was hindering him and besides, I figured that he'd help me hold Maison off.
Richard gapped me, but I kept him on sight. The gnarly sharp rock studded descent gave way to rutted, but smooth double track with puddles and occasional rocks. I slowly reeled Richard in and then followed his line. He was on a 29er, which presented problems when I had to roll my puny 26 inch wheels over the occasional obstacle that he had cleared easily.
I knew that we were near the end. If I was going to attack, it had to be soon. The race ends on a descent into a sweeping corner. I wanted to be in front for this so that Richard couldn't gap me here.
I saw the bog before he did. Or maybe he saw it but was unconcerned. I had been running all of the questionable mud bogs. I unclipped well before the bog, Richard hit it and came to a clumsy and ungraceful stopped. I entered the bog in full stride with all of my momentum. It was a small victory and an even smaller gap.
There was some winding single track with some logs, which I took well, hopping everything and staying off the brakes, since I could feel Person bearing down. When I saw the staging/finish, Person was on my wheel. I threw caution to the wind and bombed the descent. Luckily, I was already in the big ring.
After coming out of the corner, I sprinted so hard, my rig was bobbing and creaking. I thought that I made have broken something or that a quick release was loose. I held him off. People love a sprint and I could hear them cheering, probably for Person, since no one likes a road dick and everyone especially hates me.
I hosed off the bike, had a cursory shower under the bike wash and left without checking results.
Turns out I got second. I was probably in line for some swag. The winner put over 6 minutes into me...sandbagger.

Immediately to Fitchburg to watch the pro crit. Those pros rode their bikes in circles lots of times. Holmes is shilling Spooky shirts. Buy one.


trackrich said...

I was already trying to set up the finish and forgot about that last mud hole so I was horribly overgeared. I had you back on the final downhill and then discovered the way-left line I tried to take around you had a huge rock at the end of it which would have been my demise. They were cheering because they wanted the guy who looked like a bike racer to beat the tall freak who was chasing him... Nice race.

Yash Katsumi said...

What a cool ride.

MetaCyclist said...

Yo, sorry I tried to grab your right out your hand at the road race... I see someone I know at the side of the road with a bottle and figure they're trying to give it to me. My bad.

MTB race sounds like a good time.

Matt said...

I liked reading your report. If you didn't collect your prize I can send it to you PayPal or mail you a check. You have at least $25 coming to you...and anyone who does not DNF my course earns it! One philosophical question I have is, "When a racer dreads a particular race course but then places or wins, does it affect his judgement on what a good race course is?" Its not a trick question...just one I've asked myself many times. I've gone to races where I thought the course layout was horrible, but then struggled with my conscience after winning. I guess the ultimate answer is if the racer returns? Glad you had a good race.

Matthew J. Domnarski or

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