Monday, September 8, 2008

The Sprint: Lotoja 2008 race report, part 2

If you didn't read yesterday's post, you may want to go back and do so before reading on.

My conditional goal for the race was to finish in under 11 hours. This goal was conditional because I know that the weather (Snotoja '05, for instance) or a mechanical can have a much bigger impact on my finish time than my preparation ever would. So I wasn't going to beat myself up if I came close and didn't get it due to circumstances beyond my control, including just plain old feeling like crap (which is how I felt for the three days leading up to the race).

By the time we were approaching Jackson, I knew we would finish well under 11 hours unless there was an absolute disaster. I also figured we were towards the front of our start group but knew there were at least two people and probably more already ahead of us that we would never catch.

When the group with Fast Friday in it caught us, I suspected by the way he was riding that he thought he was going to place higher than he was. Being pretty competitive myself, I didn't want him to beat me either. Besides, I was really hoping it would finish in a bunch sprint just because sprinting is fun.

For the first few miles that we rode together, Fast Friday and I both just played it pretty easy. We took our turns at the front, but neither of us went all out. When we turned the corner towards Teton Village, I could sense the nervousness. His pulls got shorter and shorter, so I kept mine short as well. While I was pulling, we caught another group with a tandem team in it, so I just pulled in behind them and figured I'd sit in the slipstream until Fast Friday made his move.

I knew he was going to make a move because he was riding with a friend who was part of a relay team, and they were chattering quite a bit (I don't think they knew I could hear them). I knew they didn't like their chances in a sprint. What they didn't think about was that Fast Friday was a good 10-20 pounds lighter than me, and yet I made it over the climbs ahead of him, so you do the math as to who would struggle to stay with whom on a flat breakaway.

I was secretly hoping that Fast Friday would try and break off the front and try to win it in a solo move, because I knew I could go with him and that it would wear him out and make it easier for me at the end. With about 3K to go, that's exactly what he did. Frankly, it was a disappointing effort. He took it from 21 or 22 mph all the way up to 26 or so. Like that was going to be hard to cover. I was right on his wheel the whole way--I think he peaked with maybe a four foot gap on me. He soon shut it down, so I did too.

Then he starts yelling at me to take a turn pulling. Um, you just attacked me, and now you want me to pull for you? No thanks, I'll just sit here on your wheel. So we waited: him frustrated with me; me, smug, knowing that winning this sprint was way more important to him than it was to me. It was going to be that much more fun to beat him.

With just less than 1K to go, all of a sudden I see a white jersey fly past me. It was Steve. I heard Fast Friday say "too early." I should have said "you're right" and let Steve win it. But I increased the pace. We caught Steve. Then with about 250 meters to go, Fast Friday starts to accelerate. I hit it and went for all I was worth. I have no idea how fast I was going, but at 50x13, I was spun out and wished I had grabbed my final two gears. I just kept going, hoping I would hold him off. I crossed the finish line without ever seeing him.

It was a fun way to finish the race with most of our group sprinting for the line. At the end, we were all smiles and high-fiving. All of us except Fast Friday, that is. I went up to shake his hand, and he refused, telling me I was a p__sy for refusing to pull and that the last eight miles I wasn't doing any work. I couldn't believe it. Neither of us was on the podium; we finished 9th and 10th in our group. And here he was all bitter as if I'd taken something that was rightfully his.

So I guess I'm a p__sy, and in a fair fight, Fast Friday would have won. Or maybe he's just bitter because even though he had the exact same bike team CSC rode to the yellow jersey, it wasn't enough to deliver him the Cat 5 tour-of-the-least-populated-state-in-the-nation result he was hoping for. He traveled a long way to do the race, so his ambitions must have been high. Perhaps next year, in addition to the Pro Tour bike, he can hire Cadel Evans to help him come up with excuses for losing to a clinically overweight asthmatic in mismatched team kit on an enthusiast-level bike.

As for me, finishing 49 minutes ahead of my goal and in the top 10 for my group was a dream. Last year, 10:11 would have been a winning time for Cat 5's. I was on top of the world and wanted to pinch myself to make sure the race really had gone that well. Had you told me earlier in the week that I would finish within an hour of the winner, I would have been ecstatic. Now that I've done it, I'm even more thrilled to know it happened. Having fun while doing it, spending time with my brother, and enjoying the rest of the weekend with the family just made it that much better.


  1. What a sore loser. If he wanted you to pull, he should have just slowed down to let you pass, and then latched on. That's tactics, not being a p***y.

    Congrats on beating your goal!

  2. He slowed down, but I wouldn't pass. Not after he attacked me. After the race, I told him it was called tactics, not being a p___y, but he insisted on acting like a seven year old who decides to take his bat and ball and go home after striking out.

  3. i had the same thing happen in a race which will not be named. But the said rider attacked lots well before the finish and i sat on for miles after that. After killing myself to really just finish (get home). I debated the last 10 miles whether to sprint at the end. In the end I did because i was pissed that he tried to drop me. You don't see Robbie McEwen at the front of the race till the last 100 meters do you????? What is the object of the do the most work or to get the highest placing? Pretty funny story.

  4. SBJ. Hope all is well with you. You may remember me as the co-worker, homewinemaker.

    Not much has changes since you left, although "Ryan Howard", did end up landing back on his feet.

    My Blogger name is MrSleep.

  5. Good story - ah, the drama.

    Some cyclists get pretty wrapped around the axle about how others should ride. My guess is he's mostly pissed his tactic with the relay buddy didn't work ("too soon"). Sometimes a tricky tactic works, but usually the faster/stronger racer works, IF that racer doesn't waste energy - which you did not. Bottom line: if he had the juice to beat you, he would have beat you.

  6. Taking a pull? In the final mile or two? Seriously?

    Dude must have never been in a bike race before.

    Of course, I usually cross the line solo after being dropped on the first hill. So I wouldn't know what a sprint finish is like. :)

  7. Nice Story. I'm glad you stuck it to Fast Freddy.

    This year was my first Lotoja (and only second ride over 100 miles) and I had a blast. I had a sub 11 hour goal but missed that by 29 minutes but it was definitely and epic experience.