Monday, July 26, 2010

Nobody’s fault but mine

Saturday was the Chalk Creek Road race. I’ve never done this race before, so I decided earlier in the week that I’d take a quick drive to Coalville and familiarize myself with the course. Especially since it has an uphill finish, and I’m more of a survive the climbs than win on them kind of racer. The one thing I couldn’t check out before hand was finish line location, because race promoters aren’t usually keen on setting up their finish line stuff and leaving it there for days at a time.

Turns out they’re not so keen on leaving it there for a couple hours, because when I drove by on Saturday at 7:30 before the 9:00 a.m. race start, it wasn’t set up yet. What I should have done is go back and check it out after I got my race number and was all dressed and waiting to stage. But I didn’t. Because I’m absent-minded, and it didn’t occur to me.

We started at the slowest of slow parade paces. Even with my computer set to kilometers per hour, the nominal speed still looked slow. Like 13 or something. Which was fine by me. I don’t really like to start racing until the end anyway, so the fresher I am, the better.

I suspected, however, that this race would be won in a breakaway. And against my wishes, I’d have to race well before the end. So my strategy was to try to be in any breaks that looked like they would stick.

Chris M. from Cole Sport is not afraid of solo breaks. He soloed for three of five laps at Little Mountain but got caught at the end. When he made a move, alone, we kept him in sight but didn’t chase him down. This cooperation lasted a little while, then Mike P. from Canyon decided to attack. I bridged. Then the two of us got chased down. So it went a few times, with the moves either being chased down, or the people in the moves sitting up because they didn’t like who else was there or didn’t think it would stick.

Once we got onto Chalk Creek Rd, though, and the hills started, Will got a gap with Eric and Roger from Bikefix*. I didn’t like the looks of two on one for Will, so when a few more guys tried to bridge, I followed. Ended up being nine of us in the break, with Bikefix and Revolution the only teams with more than one. I liked that mix.

*My loyalty to Revolution notwithstanding, Bikefix is a great shop in Bountiful. If you’re in Davis County and looking for a quality bike, capable service, or a highly-precise fitting, check them out.

The pace over the rollers was pretty relentless*, as we were trying to establish our gap and catch Chris, who was still up the road alone. My asthma kicked in, and it was all I could do to keep breathing, let alone rotate through and take a pull. But I didn’t want to be “that guy,” so I did my duty on the front and tried to hide that I was suffering so they wouldn’t try to drop me.

*For me, at least. I imagine for some, it was an easy stroll.

After the turnaround, we had both the wind and gradient in our favor. By this time I was breathing normally, and I also knew it would be harder for anyone who attacked the group to get away. We eventually caught Chris, and though we tried to go as fast as possible to catch and drop him all at once, he got on. And immediately started attacking each time we went up a hill. I don’t know where he found the legs for that.

The group was still 10 strong with about 2k to go when Cam from Ski Utah attacked. We were quickly on his wheel, and it seemed evident it would come down to a bunch sprint.

Coming around the final corner, I had no idea how far we had to the finish line. Jonny from Biker’s Edge attacked right away. My quads had been cramping, and I didn’t think I could sustain that pace for any amount of time so let him go, but tried to follow James from Simply Mac with the intent of coming around him at the line. I was looking for the 200 to go sign and figured I’d make the move then. I didn’t see it (went back, and it was there—some people were just standing in front of it as we rode past).

I figured one of the two tents I saw ahead was the finish line. I should have known it was the first one on the right since we had numbers on the right side, but I wasn’t thinking that clearly. I passed James between the tents and kept going but realized I had in fact passed the finish line based on all the other racers milling about. Can’t be too disappointed about getting third, but I think I had legs for better. Then again, maybe not, because I was never catching Jonny, and James is a fast racer who’s put the wood to me before. Will came in seventh, so it was a good day for Revolution - Cafe Rio.

I quite enjoyed the course and appreciated the volunteers, especially those who provided neutral support at the turnaround. The prizes weren’t the greatest, but I don’t race for monetary rewards anyway*—if I get anything at all, it’s a bonus. The city of Coalville was pretty specific about what was and was not allowed in terms of marking the course (no paint whatsoever), and Mike from Porcupine (the promoter) did as well as he could have within those constraints.

*Seriously, racing for money is absurd even if someone is paying your race fees and transportation costs. My team doesn’t, so I’ve dropped several hundred dollars on race fees this season**. My results haven’t been bad—top ten most of the time and top five about a third of the time. For those results, I’ve made all of $45 in cash, a little over $100 worth of gift certificates, and probably that much again more in merchandise. I didn’t need to go to business school to tell you that’s an exceedingly bad rate of return except when you consider that it’s still cheaper than a shrink.

**No, I don’t make enough money that several hundred bucks is no big deal. My bike has Ultegra on it and I brown bag pretty much every day because I like racing and sacrifice where I can to make it work. When I come home from a race with anything of value, it’s a bonus that did not factor into my motivation for a good result.

After the race, however, some riders—who apparently couldn’t take five minutes to read the race flyer and look at the maps that were posted online—complained pretty vocally via the UCA email list about the job the promoters did. Apparently reading the one-page flyer was too much to ask, and these racers, who got off course, expected someone would lead them by the hand.

Guess what, guys, even in the Tour de frickin’ France, the racers ride around with course maps in their pockets. You know, so they know where they’re going. Even though the roads are closed and lined with fans. If you make a wrong turn, that sucks. You might get DQ’d. But don’t go acting all mamby pamby because you turned where you weren’t supposed to, and then complain because there wasn’t a course marshal to tell you not to turn there. Knowing the course is your responsibility.

I realize there are some races that are better organized than others. That’s fantastic. It creates a free market for racing. If you don’t like a particular race or promoter, you don’t have to do the race. I also realize that in some locales, the prize lists are better than they are here. That’s great too. If the prizes are good enough to be worth the travel, by all means, go enter those races.

But the reality is that here in Utah, we have between three and five opportunities to race midweek from April to September and another race almost every weekend. In Boise, which is a cycling-mad town, they have five weekend races in the spring, a six-week midweek crit series, and a couple of mid-summer crits and road races. That’s it for the year until ‘cross season. So I’d say we’ve got it pretty good by comparison.

None of these promoters is getting rich organizing events. They do it because they want to create chances for people to race. It’s hard work. Some are better than others. But at least they’re doing it.

The volunteers are giving their time so you can have a race. They’re called VOLUNTEERS for a reason. Did you thank them? Probably not. One of you yelled at my wife for not doing it right when she was offering neutral handups at Little Mountain. Did you realize nobody asked her to do that and she was just grabbing empties and refilling them because it was a hot day, and she thought people might appreciate it? Did you realize she had three kids with her that she needed to keep safe and out of traffic while she was giving you handups? Unless you or your wife/girlfriend/mom/dad/brother spent Saturday morning sitting in the sun handing up water, driving a wheel car, or waving an orange flag to try and keep riders on course and vehicle traffic moving through, then shut your pie hole about the volunteers and just be glad they were there at all.

I’ve been guilty of complaining to promoters in the past—usually it’s because what they described in the race flyer/bible wasn’t what happened on course, not because of a mistake I made because I failed to read the race flyer/bible. Next time, if I have constructive criticism, I’ll be sure to whisper it to the promoter quietly, and publicly thank him for giving me a chance to race at all.

As for last Saturday, thanks Mike and Porcupine Cycling for a great event. Well done.


  1. I once did an extra lap in an indoor track meet. It was a long race, the 5,000 meters I think, on a short track, one of those 200m things. So I lost count pretty quickly. I was sort of pissed, as I saved my kick for that last lap. Not that it made a huge difference in the results. But still.

    Nice result. I think if I raced on the road, I'd just get impatient and go on solo breakaways every week. They'd never stick.

  2. I can't tell you how many times I have over lapped my races. Sometimes upwards of a 5k loop. In a sport where seconds count, a 9 minute loop sucks. I know it is our responsibility but man, when it happens you just feel like lashing out.

  3. Great work. That finish is just a mean, mean climb. 3rd is awesome.

  4. "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know that so-called volunteers don't even get paid?"

    -Homer Simpson

  5. 360: What's worse is when they're counting laps for you (you don't get to decide) and make you do one twice.

    Watcher: they were doing construction at the top of the hill, so the finish climb was shortened quite a bit. Finish line was about 400 meters past the right turn at the cemetery, so it wasn't that bad at all.