Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fat and Skinny Tire Festival (Part 1 - RR)

This year it was all about the skinny tires for me, but that's the theme for 2011, not just Winona Lake. After enjoying the festival this year, I think I'll try for the triple next year (XC, Road, Crit in two days)!

We arrived Friday evening to cloudy skies but no rain, checked in and Rachel got all dolled up at the hotel. I was travelling with Erik, Rachel and their two kids under the condition that I babysit Saturday evening (poor kids - right?). After a four plus hour car ride, I wanted to stretch my legs so on the bike and out the door I went for a spin south of town, and back into downtown where Rachel was announcing. I got changed and enjoyed a form of pizza at Mad Anthony's as well as a slide show and welcoming festivities.

The mountain bike races were Saturday morning, so we got to sleep in and still get another spin in before heading out for Erik's start around noon. I was registered for the Cat 4 road race Saturday and crit on Sunday and looking for upgrade points. My start was about 2 hours after Erik's so I arranged for wheel return (thanks Barb!) and got warmed up only to learn that two Louisville women had gone down in a pretty nasty crash, one of which got transported by ambulance to the hospital. Amanda had a broken collarbone and some road rash on the brow, but we'll say all in all she was pretty lucky!

Winona RR Start Line (Photo by John Eric Hawkins)

Once those races wrapped up, it was time to clear the mind and hit the line. I lead it out for a bit, then sat back and evaluated the competition. We were racing four, seven mile laps and I knew Louisville's David Whitney would be strong as well as a couple other familiar faces. I quickly picked out the welder's in the group as people half heartedly tried to escape and just after finishing the first lap David and I tried an escape but didn't get far so we rejoined the field. It was more of a "test the waters" than a true attempt at freedom. A couple other guys tried to go away solo, but never got more than a handful of seconds, I was always confident I could jump across the gap if they really looked threatening. In lap three of four, David attacked hard and caught me a bit off guard. I stayed with the field for a minute or so before realizing they weren't chasing so I dropped back and then attacked and joined up with Whitney. We traded pulls for a few minutes slowly pulling away, but not killing ourselves quite yet until one of the officials pulled along side telling us the 5's were coming and to neutralize. They were riding one less lap than us and were nearing their finish, that's fine, but what about our gap? Yeah, the official just ignored it and let the field catch back on. Ah well.

Two turns after being passed by the 5's, the road is blocked by... you guessed it! A crash, in a straight stretch of slightly uphill pavement. So again, we stopped and waited about a minute for the road to clear (one guy was in the ditch and got hauled to the hospital for cracked vertebrae) and we were off for our last 9 miles of racing. At this point I decided to wait for a field sprint, knowing the welders were still near the front and had just gotten two recovery sessions. The last lap was fairly boring, very few attacks mostly a little cat and mouse for the last few miles with everyone on edge waiting for an attack that never happened. Whitney hung himself out on the front for a good part of the last mile and went into the last turn (250m) on the front. I had fought to keep my fifth wheel spot, and expected someone to jump around Whitney immediately and open up the sprint. It didn't happen and I was still coasting, so click, click, stand and off I went. The rest was downhill for 70 or so meters followed by a slight rise to the finishing arch. I put my head down, and stood on the pedals to the line to take the WIN! I have no idea how close it was, I was told a few bike lengths, but I wasn't going to sit up to celebrate until I saw finish line under my front wheel.

Not a bad pay day for a day of play! Part two including paying my gas money via babysitting a 2 and 4 year old and Sunday's criterium to follow soon.... CLICK HERE

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