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Why it pays to know the course, or, in my case, the opposite.

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Why it pays to know the course, or, in my case, the opposite.

Old 07-16-07, 11:08 PM
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Duke of Kent
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Why it pays to know the course, or, in my case, the opposite.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, approximately 80 young and not-so-young men set out on an epic 60 mile road race. Having done the previous two days races with modest success, I was dreading what I was told was the hardest road race course of SuperWeek: The Point Beer Tour of Alpine Valley RR. The course is basically a 10 mile rectangle that descends into and climbs out of a river valley twice each lap.

The race begins every year from the parking lot of the famous Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI. As stated before, the race was somewhat large, but not a huge field. It being a Monday, and the previous two days of racing throwing a HOT 50 and 45 mile crit at the Cat 3's, some were probably scared off by the thought of draft-less climbing on bad legs. I was not thrilled by the prospects myself, to be perfectly honest.

The only way to get out of the parking lot of the Alpine Valley Music Theatre/Resort is by taking the access road out to the main county highways, following our state police escort. We had a sheriff, a race official in a car, and then a follow vehicle in case a break got off. Anyways, said access road, when you're looking out from the parking lot, looks to be flat to false flat, but it gradually steepens to what is reported as an 18% gradient near the top. Oddly enough, this was probably the easiest climb of the day, as we were under neutral until we were guided onto the main race course loop, about a mile and a half away.

So, the race starts, and for once, I find myself at the front as we begin the neutralized roll out. I find myself near some guys from the college season as well as some guys that I race with and against almost every weekend of the summer. So, we all do our best to pretend that this doesn't hurt, and shoot the ***** for the minute and a half it takes to get up the damn thing. We get to the race start, and I'm still in the top 10. All systems, check. Then, as soon as we get to the first downhill, all hell breaks loose and people start bombing down the hill like their lives depend on it. I'm laying onto the brakes pretty hard and still going 45mph on what could affectionately be described as "textured" pavement.

Eventually, the race slows down again, and about a mile and a half in, the first big uphill section comes, and I'm sitting in about 20th wheel. Well, as they say in Cell Block D, "The ***** popped off, homey." 1, 2, 5, 10 people accelerate up the hill. HARD. I'm left with a choice; do I go with this incredibly early move, or let it go and see what develops later on. I was told previously to expect a field sprint despite the hard course. As I'm not prone to rational thought whilst racing, I decided what the hell, let's boogey. I get up the road, and am the 14th guy in the break. I have a teammate with me, we're the only team with that situation, which is a completely new experience. We pull away rapidly from the field, as they probably had the exact same thought process I did: this race always ends up with 2 guys off the front and a 60 man field sprint (one quarter attrition rate).

Soon enough, we catch the Pro/1/2 field, which had started 5 minutes ahead of us. Granted, they weren't really awake yet, and had 100 miles to race for the day. Well, we helped wake them up, and gradually we moved to the front to avoid being called out for "integrating" into their field to catch a free ride. However, at some point, my teammate got boxed in by those damn slow Pro's ( ), and wasn't able to extricate himself before the officials neutralized the P/1/2 boys to help us make our way up the road. I had the same problem, but a polite tap on the shoulder and a pointed finger at my number gave me a smile and a free pass to the outside from a SouthAustralia.com rider.

So, as we made our merry way up the hill and out of the valley, there were only 9 of us. Apparently several were dropped and or boxed on the way up and out. I was flying solo now, but at least I was still in the break. The gap to the main field, as far as I could tell by looking backwards and downhill (there must not be a single straight road in the entire state of WI, by the way), was stable, but the time gap wasn't readily available, as the officials refused to give us times, despite having race radios.

The P/1/2 field eventually came back around us, and the motorcycle official almost got me killed in the process. Two members of the Hong Kong National team apparently though we were part of their field and refused to let me through between them and the motorcycle official at the back of their field (a sizeable gap when I TRIED to enter) as they wanted us to pace them up to the P/1/2. After almost getting chopped by the moto around a slight bend, a slight gap opened, and I gunned it to the front of the break, and the race official, finally seeing the differences in our jersey numbers, ordered them to either pull ahead, or back the hell off.

Eventually, we re-caught a large portion of the P/1/2 guys that had been left behind by the real players in the race, catching them in 1s, 2s, and a group of 15 or so guys once. And, soon enough, there were two laps to go, and I was lacking a bit in terms of water. Luckily, on that single lap, the club mate I had given a water bottle to hand up to me was standing in the feed zone, and we executed a pretty clutch exchange of an empty for a full bottle. Thank the Lord, because shortly thereafter, the fireworks started, as three guys had rolled through the feed zone pretty hard, and covering that without water afterwards would have been the end of me.

The last lap. We haven't seen anyone besides our break in quite some time. I'm getting a little bored and antsy. So is every one else, it seems. People are starting to test each other up the climbs, throwing in a little kick over the top to open up gaps, and its hurting a bit to close them down. Still, we all roll through in the paceline, some taking harder or easier pulls than others, but still making it look like they're working at least. We get to the last tough uphill, and two guys open it up hard. All I have to do is survive this last climb and I'm golden. 39x21, grinding seated, standing on the steeper portions. One guy is gone. Damn, that's all? So, we'll take it to the line with eight guys.

We all start looking around at each other with what looks to be about a mile and a half to go. I decide to pull through, just for the sake of getting it over with. And then my friend pulls through, and another guy. We take a couple of turns like this. This pace is better for me, as I find easier to close gaps at high speed than really accelerating up to speed. Well, I think we have another mile to go before we take a right hand turn to the finish, which is supposed to be 250m after the turn. Turns out, it's just over the gradual rise that I'm pulling the break over. F*** me and call me Sally. I'm not gassed, but I'm not exactly ready to jump, either. But, as I should have expected, as soon as I look to my right to see who will pull through before the turn, they launch on the left. Not only do they catch me weak, and off guard, but I'm trapped on the inside on what should be a FAST corner. What results is me sprinting, then locking up the brakes, taking the turn with my rear wheel skipping through the corner, and looking up to see a long false flat of about 400m staring at me, with 5 guys ahead of me, gradually pulling away. I do my best to get up to them, but the engine room is not cooperating with the control tower. To add insult to (not really) injury, my friend comes around me to take 6th, the last upgrade point. I end up in 7th.

We end up beating the main field home by about 7-10 minutes. I don't have an exact time, but it was enough for me to roll around the finish line for a minute or two, and then my computer to shut off (4min) after I stopped, and then another minute or two to pass before the field got to the line in a bunch sprint for 10th-20th, the rest of the money.

I'm kind of bummed about missing out on points again, but the upgrade official knows the quality of the field, and given our break, this will probably be viewed as the equivalent of a podium finish when I apply for my upgrade.
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Old 07-16-07, 11:26 PM
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7th gets you 1 upgrade point homie. Congrats on a hard fought race...and yeah, it can suck when organizers misrepresent the finish. That's cost me a few upgrade points this season fo' sho.
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Old 07-16-07, 11:30 PM
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RR:
RR 10-7-5-3-2-1 1st-6th



http://usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=580
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Old 07-16-07, 11:32 PM
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lol, okay, I suck.

which is why I bike and don't teach math.

Last edited by TheKillerPenguin; 07-16-07 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:05 AM
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excellent report. see if more ppl wrote race reports like this i would actually bother reading. i could care less about the guy who won his very first race because of his superhuman efforts. id rather read about actual hard man racing. good job.
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Old 07-17-07, 11:47 AM
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As I stated in another thread, I really wonder how things would have panned out if I had taken a friends offer to use his 404s.

I realize hindsight is 20/20, but damn. That really could have been an advantage, or at least level the playing field against some of the guys in the break. Being a small little *****, taking 2lbs off my bike weight would have helped, not to mention the deep dish vs. box section gains.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Duke of Kent
As I stated in another thread, I really wonder how things would have panned out if I had taken a friends offer to use his 404s.

I realize hindsight is 20/20, but damn. That really could have been an advantage, or at least level the playing field against some of the guys in the break. Being a small little *****, taking 2lbs off my bike weight would have helped, not to mention the deep dish vs. box section gains.
Reads like a tricky race with an early move going, fields getting mixed up, tough course, and I assume a finish that you only go through at the actual finish and not a few times with the last being for the money. Good decision to cover the early move and good job on what sounds like a hard race. Sounds like knowing the finish and more optimal positioning in your break would have been more beneficial than 404s ... cheaper too.
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Old 07-17-07, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by MDcatV
Reads like a tricky race with an early move going, fields getting mixed up, tough course, and I assume a finish that you only go through at the actual finish and not a few times with the last being for the money. Good decision to cover the early move and good job on what sounds like a hard race. Sounds like knowing the finish and more optimal positioning in your break would have been more beneficial than 404s ... cheaper too.
True, but they were available from a friend, to be borrowed. If the finish had been another half mile down the road, who knows how it could have turned out. It basically came down to the race official telling us before the start of the race that the turn-off was further than it was. Not blaming her per say, but I might have started cat-and-mouse-ing it a bit earlier had I known we were that close.

I'm proud of how I raced, though. And at the end of the day, that's just as good as any cash or upgrade reward.
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Old 07-17-07, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Duke of Kent
True, but they were available from a friend, to be borrowed. If the finish had been another half mile down the road, who knows how it could have turned out. It basically came down to the race official telling us before the start of the race that the turn-off was further than it was. Not blaming her per say, but I might have started cat-and-mouse-ing it a bit earlier had I known we were that close.

I'm proud of how I raced, though. And at the end of the day, that's just as good as any cash or upgrade reward.
Agreed. Some of the races I'm most proud of have resulted in finishes where I knew I had no reason to wait around and check the results page.
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Old 07-18-07, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
Agreed. Some of the races I'm most proud of have resulted in finishes where I knew I had no reason to wait around and check the results page.
so true
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Old 07-18-07, 10:22 AM
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Well done, Sally.
That's a pretty good result on that course. Lesson learned: always try to ride the last mile of a course in advance, but as I recall, it's not very easy to do that at Alpine Valley.
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Old 07-18-07, 01:24 PM
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You racing on Friday at greenlake?
I should be down for the 4/5 race
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Old 07-18-07, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by EventServices View Post
Well done, Sally.
That's a pretty good result on that course. Lesson learned: always try to ride the last mile of a course in advance, but as I recall, it's not very easy to do that at Alpine Valley.
I'm personally taking this result as being the equivalent to a top 3 finish at any other race I've ever done. Hard, hard day on the bike with some pretty fast dudes. Catching the Pro/1/2 field and seeing the looks on their faces was absolutely priceless.

I actually drove in to Alpine Valley on the finishing stretch, but they didn't have the banner or tape for the finishing line put down when I was there so there was nothing to look at besides a good long stretch of barriers. I also had no clue where I was in relation to the main loop at the time so that was kind of useless, even if I had known the length of the finishing straight (NOT the 250m as described by the official).

@ Frunkin: I'm doing Saturday and Sunday this weekend; Sunday is our "home" race as our shop is one of the main sponsors for it and is inside the loop of the course. I'm going to try to do Fri/Sat/Sun next weekend and get a decent overall finish in the standings. I suck balls at sprinting so if you're around, look for me up the road in a break. I've been in one every race so far, with one degree of success or another.
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Old 07-18-07, 08:37 PM
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@ Event Services:

I recall you saying a while back that you were coming to either race or announce the race at Holy Hill? That still happening?
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Old 07-19-07, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Frunkin View Post
You racing on Friday at greenlake?
I should be down for the 4/5 race
See you there.
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Old 07-19-07, 04:01 PM
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That was a great write up man, I love breakaways.
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Old 07-19-07, 07:47 PM
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Old 07-20-07, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Duke of Kent View Post
True, but they were available from a friend, to be borrowed. If the finish had been another half mile down the road, who knows how it could have turned out. It basically came down to the race official telling us before the start of the race that the turn-off was further than it was. Not blaming her per say, but I might have started cat-and-mouse-ing it a bit earlier had I known we were that close.
Typically race-organizers place a cone or flag at 1km to go from the finish. Otherwise, like EventServices said, I walk backwards from the finish and pace out the distance I can go all out in a sprint at 35-40mph and place a little flag by the side of the road. Sprinting into the last corner at the last possible second also works great for crits too!
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Old 07-20-07, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
Typically race-organizers place a cone or flag at 1km to go from the finish. Otherwise, like EventServices said, I walk backwards from the finish and pace out the distance I can go all out in a sprint at 35-40mph and place a little flag by the side of the road. Sprinting into the last corner at the last possible second also works great for crits too!
They hadn't put anything up about an hour and a half before the start of the race on the road leading into it, and the finishing straight had the barriers up but no finishing line was taped down nor was there a camera to be seen. It wasn't on the main loop of the race course, and was on a road that we hadn't seen beforehand. I had driven on it, as stated in the original post, but didn't even know which direction I would be coming at it from.

Normally SuperWeek is run in the most professional way of just about any bike race out there, but I was disappointed by the lack of signs telling me how far to go from 1k out.
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