Back a little late. Or early. Depending on how you look at it. I’ll get to this soon.
One of the strangest parts of the sport of bicycle racing is the fact that the strongest rider doesn’t necessarily win the race. I love this aspect. It keeps everyone on their toes. It adds strategy. Tactics. I’ve ridden both these races lots and lots of times. It was easy to identify the most likely outcome.
I didn’t ride in the morning with all the guys. I had hardly recovered at all from Snake Alley the day before. We had moved up to Quad Cities and were staying with Jeff Bradley once again. (There was going to be a lot of meat consumed the next two days for sure.) Driving to Muscatine, just leaving Davenport, we saw a guy with his spare wheels in bags, riding to the race. It is 30 miles. I thought we should ask him if he wanted us to take his wheels. It turned out to be Eric Marcotte, 3rd from Snake Alley the day before. He’d won or finished 2nd in Muscatine the previous two years. He said, “hey, give me a ride!” Dead battery issue with his ride. He paniced and decided to ride. With his spare wheels. We had room.
Muscatine’s course is a mile loop in Weed Park. It has a longish climb and the finish is tricky with nearly a U-turn 100 meters from the finish. It was hot again of course. I held to my statement of not warming up. I rode from the car to the start line and sat in the shade. It didn’t work that great because I felt bad right from the start. I got better, but not better enough to actively participate in the race. Well, that isn’t quite true. I was good enough to get to the front when my team mate, Brian Jensen got into the winning move. And good enough to stay there until the end of the race. But, not without some major efforts. There were originally 10 guys in the break. It got down to 7 through attrition and Chris Uberti, Panther, making, according to him, a “bonehead move” around a corner. He glanced back coming out of a corner and drifted into the curb and high sided. He was thrilled to find out there were no free laps at this race. Brian attacked up the climb going into the bell lap. It turns out none other than Eric Marcotte was glued to his wheel. Brian missed judged the effort and Eric ended up winning solo. Brian was caught by Adam Bergman, Texas Road House, and Chad Burdzilauskas, Kenda Pro Team, so he ended up 4th. He was having a good day riding, so that was fine. I’d rather be riding great and finish fourth than be riding bad and finish 2nd. 1st is a different deal.
I ended up 4th in the field sprint. Emile Abraham, AreoCat, did his best to make sure that no one was going to get by him to contest the sprint with his team mate, Andrew Crater. This would be the first of two times that occurred in the next two days.
Quad Cities is a flat 3/4 mile criterium with 8 corners. Kind of a figure 8. It was going to be a field sprint. Almost for sure. There was no wind and it wasn’t hot enough to weaken the field. Lots of small moves got off the front. The most dangerous was when Paul Martin, Panther and Eric Marcotte took off 5 or so laps to go. I couldn’t figure out why Eric would make such a move when he, in theory, has the fastest sprint of anyone in the race. He’s won the race twice before. But, he did make the move and it didn’t work out. They were caught in the last 1/2 lap. Texas Road House had two guys at the front pulling, with 3 guys from AeorCat behind them. I was too far back in 15th or so with a 1/2 lap to go and ended up at the very front at the wrong time. In retrospect, I should just jumped from here. I ended up being in the wind the whole way to the finish anyway. But, I decided to ease up and try to slot back in. Crater was getting a leadout from Juan Pablo Dotti. Emile was on Crater. I ended up drifting back to around 6th, but by then I realized I needed to be in the lead so, jumped again. Coming by Emile, I had my 2nd encounter in two days. He was “protecting” Crater’s wheel once again. It wasn’t anything dangerous, just bothersome and effective. I got to Crater’s wheel on the 2nd to last corner, but wasn’t at the correct angle. I ended up behind Chad Burdzilauskas for the final corner. I was going under him when he hit his pedal in the corner. He didn’t come close to falling, but it was enough for me to grab a handfull of brake and I ended up scrubbing so much speed I ended up 6th. I lost 3 places in 75 meters. I was not going to win so it didn’t really matter. I’ve won the field sprint for 3rd the last two years, so I had it in the back of my mind that maybe I could win the race. I am not going well enough to overcome tactical mistakes.
So, Tulsa Tough NRC starts on Friday night at 9:15 pm. Two night time criteriums and then a hard race on the river with a pretty big climb. It is supposed to be over a 100 degrees all three days. Should be fun as usual.
Prediction – Lance doesn’t ride his bicycle in France in July this year. (I hope I am wrong here.)
One down, two to go. My computer is down so I have to post these on a iPhone. Super hot. Not a deep field. 3 Jelly Belly guys contolled the field last night the last 10 laps and they finished 1st and 3rd. Brad Huff won. I got caught up in the last lap leadout carnage and went from 5th to 25th in a blink of an eye with 1/2 a lap to go. Finished 19th. Not good. Racing tonight at 8:30pm. Hopefully it goes better.
Catherine’s tire after the morning ride.
Not much to report here. The race started at 8:30 pm. It was much more humid than the night before. The course is a little less than a mile with a small climb on the backside. The Sound Pony bar is here and it is a fun part of the course- dark, a bunch of loud, drunk fans. Plus, they have a jumbotron(sp?) TV set up to watch the whole lap. It is pretty cool having cameras on every corner. Every race is available for watching at Tulsatough.com.
Like I said, not much to report. Only one move stayed away for any duration. 10 guys that seemed like the right mix. We had Nick Coil. Brad Huff from Jelly Belly was driving it. But, Hotel San Jose didn’t think their two riders there were right. So, they put all their guys up front and chased. I don’t get it. They have been at the front at both races so far, driving it. And for what? I have had real mediocre places here and only 1 rider on their team has placed ahead of me on either day. That should be embarrassing for them. Especially when taking their tactics into consideration.
Chis Hall, Tradewind Energy, won the $500 crowd prime, which was surprising. He made a good move going into the final corner and soloed to the line.
I missed the carnage at the top of the hill with a half lap to go. The road goes from a super wide street to a narrow two lane. I felt the guys coming around my right and knew they were going to hit the curb. So I moved over to the slow inside and avoided a huge pile up. Adam Bergman destroyed his bike. I had to scrub a ton of speed. So, I chased all the way down the hill into the final corner and decided to just keep going. I took it on the outside and just dieseled to the finish. I passed 5 or 6 guys and ended up 10th. I was in the wind the whole was the lady 60 meters I can’t win this stage in a field sprint. But, I can finish way better than 10th. But, not under those circumstances, riding like I am.
Today we race at 4:30 over on a bluff by the river. It is the hardest race of the weekend. A hard climb and a tricky , off camber downhill corner 200 meters from the finish. And it us windy today. Should be a race for the strong guys. I don’t know if I qualify for that today. I guess I’ll see.
Talking to Josh, co-owner of the Sound Pony, with big TV in the background.
The final and hardest race was this afternoon. We ended up needing a harder race I guess. Brian Jensen, Tradewind Energy/The Trek Stores, soloed away from a 5 rider group and won alone. Driving back now. Better post later.
Obviously things went better the final day at Tulsa. No one on our team really has a good sprint. Everyone sprints okay. I do pretty well when I’m going good, but that is usually just a position deal. So we need harder courses to allow the natural selection to occur. And Sunday in Tulsa is a hard course. The climb isn’t necessarily the deciding factor. It’s the roller after the climb and the acceleration out of the final, off-camber corner that does the damage to the field. The “Slinkey” effect out of the final turn is amazingly hard if you’re more than 30 guys back. You are just reattached back when you have to start the climb. It allows no recovery.
We, the TradeWind Energy Team always try to ride offensively. I’m not too much into defensive riding. It makes for a boring race that isn’t fun. We don’t chase. If we miss the break, we missed the break. That is when the racing occurs, when the break is forming. Ride at the front and race when it is hard. That is what bike racing should be in my opinion.
That is why I couldn’t understand the Hotel San Jose’s Team tactics the previous two days. They had the biggest team in the race, by numbers, and they were controlling the race for a field sprint each night. Josh Carter from their team has an awesome sprint, obviously, but sprinting at night, in a criterium, is sometimes a crap shoot. Usually. Why not race offensively when you have so many good riders on your team?
Anyway, the course on Sunday, being so hard, suited us better. I was/am still just mediocre. Brian had “energy” building from the previous two nights. He placed the night before, but that didn’t alleviate much of his frustrations. Brian has won this race two previous times. The course is nearly perfect for him. The hill isn’t crazy steep and if you have a lot of power that you can use on the rest of the course, it is super advantageous.
The temperature was hot, upper 80’s, but not suffocating. The race started out pretty quickly. The crowd on the hill was crazy. Crazy by numbers. Crazy fun. It seemed appropriate that it was the same time as the Philly Race. I think it was better than riding up Manayunk Wall. There were no barriers and the crowds were right there in your face. That, with the music and water spraying made it super fun. For the riders and the spectators.
We were all riding at the front most of the time. Brian was not going to miss a break. I’m pretty sure he didn’t. Every break until he rode away solo. He even bridged up to a 4 man break I had initiated. I rode a lap with him and told him, “I’m going back to the field, good luck.” I wasn’t feeling good for one, and for two, didn’t want to have to ride around that course at Brian’s pace.
So, Brian finally got away with Adam Bergman, Texas Roadhouse and Stefan Rothe, Hotel San Jose. We got to the front pretty instantly. It is a very easy course to slow the field down. I stayed there until the remaining Hotel San Jose guys left in the field showed up a couple laps later.
Brian won the $500 prime, so with Chris winning the night before, that was 2 out of the 3 days, which was nice. A couple guys attacked out of the field and eventually made it up to the break. But, it was too late. Brian put in a little tester surge with 3 laps to go and Stefan said something to him like, “you don’t need to do that, you’re going to win.” And a little later Adam said something like “it has been nice riding with you, congratulations.” Maybe not exactly those words, but it was obvious what was going to happen. Brian took off with two laps to go and finished alone.
Jelly Belly put all its guys up front with 3 laps to go and took an amazing amount of time out of the break. I was positive it wasn’t going to be caught, but they went really fast the last two laps. They had set up the field sprint great, but got swarmed going down the hill to the final tricky corner. I was one of those swarming. I followed Chad Cagle, who is pretty quick, down the hill, but ended up having a bad line over a manhole cover. I went around the corner 3rd or 4th in the field, but lost so much speed that another 4 guys passed me in the last 200 meters. So, I finished 13th. Jelly Belly got so swarmed that they finished 14th and 15th on the day. But, it didn’t matter. They had the overall already locked up. Chris Hall was riding at the front all day and finished 19th.
The race was good. There was just about the right mix of good riders on enough good teams to make it interesting. It was nice to only have 3 or 4 guys from Jelly Belly, Bahati, Kelly Benefits, etc. so the racing stayed active, even thought the first two races ended up field sprints.
I’m not sure Brian has raced 15 races this season. But winning Battenkill and now the final, tough-guy, stage at Tulsa Tough NRC, he should feel pretty good about his form.
Tulsa is a super fun town. I like staying in downtown areas of cities like this. All three races were at awesome settings and the crowds are very knowledgeable about the sport. The prize money is good. If I could spend every weekend like this, bike racing would be more fun than it already is.