Monday, May 11, 2009

Joe Martin Stage Race. Stages 3 and 4.

JMSR has come and gone for 2009 and I learned a few things, as always. For many in the mid-west this is the first “real race.” This is the first chance to test themselves in a bigger pond than the local events. For some, it’s a rude wake up call. Mid- May is here and all the early season would-have, could-have, should-have days of training and missed training have accumulated in this race. Some aren’t fit and should be in order to hit his/her goals for the season. No more excuses. At the amateur level this race is very difficult in so many ways. There’s no hiding in Time Trials, Climbing or tough technical criteriums. Joe Martin has all the above. Also, you’ll see a wide range of abilities in the amateur ranks, especially over a 3 day period. Riders that are strong will show it and riders who should have been training instead of worrying about the cold and chilly air will be making excuses.

The Pro riders make the race whatever they want, as evidenced by the stark contrast between Stage 2 and 3. Mostly, you have to get up the hill fast to avoid the time cut and then you have to not get dropped for the road stages, and survive the hardest criterium in the world. I wish that the team limits were 6 at the Pro level. I’m positive it would make for a much more competitive and wide open event. 8 guys can control a 3 day race (no, the TT does not count as a “full stage”) although Ouch was pushed to the breaking point this weekend. 6 can’t. Also, why do you need 1 less guy than the team size for a Grand Tour for 3 stages? That being the case, the criterium was more fun to watch than the previous few, which saw the crowd size dwindle from a few thousand to a few hundred. I guess people want to be entertained by fireworks. On to our race.

Stage 3- The wall and the climb that sucks.

As per the previous day, Mercy decided it best to put the pressure on the other riders and teams by placing guys in all the moves and making others chase. However, we did burn a few guys and needed a few miles to “loosen up.” When the race went hot, it was approximately 500 meters until Bill Marshall was in a two man move that rolled out a 1:05 advantage nearly instantly before being chased hard by a combination of a few teams. They were caught at the bottom of the 3 tiered climb we would ride 3 times on the day. Immediately afterward, I’m on the move in a powerful group that I thought looked good. Another 45+ mile break? Why not…. But it was not to be as we were brought back quickly. Then goes Brian Dweiza in a 4 man move that would roll for nearly an entire lap. That would bring about the beginning of what I thought was the most impressive ride of the day.

Christian Helmig. Apparently, a few of his teammates, himself included, wanted to do the Pro, 1 race. For whatever reason it was not to be and so they came into the 1,2 race with guns blazing. Helmig rode at the front of the race, setting tempo and controlling a field of 82 guys nearly 100% solo while also marking the dangerous moves himself and thus nullifying them. For you see, Christian himself was sitting in 4th place overall and having him in a move to “gain time” doesn’t really help if 4th place is sitting right behind you.

Following Dweiza’s move, I found myself in an excellent move with a number of riders that were “out” of contention and powerful enough to roll away. Indeed if I would have worked with the move, it probably stood a good chance of working. Instead, my sitting on resulted in others following suit. But I was merely there to protect Mercy’s GC rider. And it wasn’t going to happen considering Helmig was sitting on my wheel riding tail gunner of the move. Crap.

Helmig did have plenty of help returning the “dangerous” moves to the field. That’s not saying he got lucky. He was smart enough to know what he could not do by himself. Props to him. Meanwhile, anything dangerous was chased by everyone else who was afraid of missing the move. The right mix never happened that would force Helmig to really have to pull himself to pieces and thus Metro was able to hang onto the top rung of the overall. Impressive… at least I won’t have to worry about him in the amateur ranks next year. He should be riding with a pro contract by then.

Stage 4. Hardest Criterium EVER!

I’ve never prayed for rain in a criterium, especially a technical one with two fast brick corners, because wet brick + fast corners = sliding, band- aids, shredded clothes. However, I think that Mercy has some of the better poor conditions riders in the 1,2 field. 4 riders all experienced in Cyclocross typically will do well in crappy conditions. But it was not to be.

Instead, I got to race the super fast, super technical criterium in dry conditions. With time gaps very close one thing was sure. It was going to be a knock down drag out dogfight. This would be the day where the accumulation of the pressure that Mercy placed on the field throughout the weekend would really show. Hopefully, everyone was a little tired and the “edge” would be taken off the legs enough to let Joe, Chris, and Kolt isolate the GC contenders and really turn the screws.

One small detail…. I was having a horrible day. I guess the cumulative 80+ miles of break away riding had taken its toll. I didn’t have any ability to match any accelerations on the hill and I had to use my entire repertoire of tricks just to stay on the lead lap and in the field. Basically, I took hot routes through corners and drifted front to back on the hill just to stay in the race.

Meanwhile, Kolt, Joe and Chris were covering moves and on the full offensive. Joe had been protected all weekend and his fresh legs were showing as he covered every threatening move all day. By the halfway point of the race, it was the same 8 guys throwing everything and the kitchen sink at each other. And that’s the way it ended. Everyone on same time with Joe finishing in 6th place and Chris at 19th. Not bad for a couple of Young Guns who last year were on junior gears.

The aftermath…..

Chris was hungry. Here’s his post race dinner at Wendy’s:

Spiced Chicken Sandwich. 440 calories, 1320mg sodium

Double Stack Cheeseburger. 700 calories, 1500mg sodium

Spicy Chicken “Go Wrap.” 360 calories, 730mg sodium.

Medium Fry. 330kcal. 340mg Na.

5 Piece nugget. 190kcal. 420mgNa

32 oz Strawberry Soda. 370kcal. 0mgNa.

Small Frosty. 160kcal. 75mgNa.

Total: 2550kcal. 4385mg Sodium.

He could have kept going, but we had to get on the road. When I showed him the numbers, he responded with, “that’s a good amount.”

PS. As I was writing this in the van, an early 1990’s Ford Ranger with no muffler, one taillight, and NO DOORS blew by us on the highway going at least 100mph. We were driving 75 and got passed like were standing still. I’ve never seen that in my life. But we ARE in MissourA.....