Thursday, April 5, 2012

Virginia Tech Recap

While most of my Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder teammates were getting their seasons started at the first set of ABRA Training races, I was away continuing the collegiate season for WVU Cycling. March 24-25th marked the 6th weekend of racing (5th week for me), and the races that week were hosted by Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg VA. Of all the cities and schools the WVU Cycling team travels to in the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference, Virginia Tech, and Blacksburg is without a doubt my favorite place to go. Blacksburg is a great college town, and the riding, both mountain and road don't disappoint. Great rural roads, little to no traffic and plenty of climbing. Needless to say, I was very excited for this weekend.

Saturday, March 24th, consisted of a road race and individual time trial, located in extremely rural roads within the Jefferson National Forest. The road race was a 15 mile loop within a valley in the Jefferson National Forest, consisting of some rollers for the first 8 or so miles, followed by a 2-3 miles of climbing and a fast descent back to the start. The time trial followed the road race, and would separate the strong from the weak, as it was an uphill time trial, with an average gradient of 6.5% over 2.5 miles. Certainly not equal to the pain of the sugarlands climb at Tour of Tucker County, but enough to put a good hurt in.

The team arrived early, only to be greeted by fog, cloudy skies, and rain approaching. As we started unpacking, the rain started, and held steady for the early Men's D, C and Women's C, and B races. The forecast had called for a break around noon, when my race was to start, but as I started to warm up, and proceed to the start line, no such break came.

It was a wet, wet, morning.

As my race started it felt as if the rain was pouring down. It wasn't long before the jersey and shoes were completely soaked, and sitting behind a wheel meant getting water spit right into your eyes. It made the first few miles of rolling and twisting roads interesting as it was extremely difficult to see. I put myself in the upper third of the field, in order to be in good position for any attacks, but also to stay ahead of the slinky which would be no fun in the rain. As we approached the climbs in the first lap, I felt ready to jump in any break that might form. Although the pace was quick, it wasn't too rough. I found it interesting that the same climbs that ate me alive the last time I did this race in 2010 now seemed so easy, while the field seemed to be hurting. This gave me a lot of confidence for the next time around, as talk was made in the field to make the break on lap two. When we hit the descent, all of a sudden I noticed the rain had stopped and the skies turned blue. It was fantastic to be able to see the road ahead, and even dry out some. At the start of the second lap, the attacks started coming. I focused on keeping good position for the climb. As we approached the turn leading to the climbs, someone two bike lengths up halfwheeled, and lost control of their bike, turning sideways and crashed hard. The rider in front of me then colliding into him.

Unfortunately for me, I was not able to navigate a bail line quickly enough and I ran into one of the down riders, initiating a full on endo. Somehow, I managed to land on top of somebody, avoiding direct contact with the pavement. Getting up, I tried to remain calm, and made sure to collect myself and begin the process of inspecting the bike for damage. With the frame still in one piece, chain unbroken, and wheels in true, I was relieved and set forth to try and chase. After hopping on the bike however, I noticed the connection holding my right brake lever in place had broken, and I was down a rear brake. Since it was a SRAM shifter, there wasn't total shifting loss, but any shifting I could get out of it was pretty inconsistent. I wasn't ready to quit, so I decided to ride at least to the finish and decide from there. With the time trial later in the day, I didn't want to waste energy, but I didn't want to put off the miles I should be doing either. When I approached the fi nish, I decided to do another lap and finish the race, not wanting to waste the day. As it turns out, I'm glad I did, since soon after the race was over, thunderstorms were moving into the area and the time trial was canceled.

With the race over, I turned my attention to trying to fix my bike. With some help from Sean Hilty from Pathfinder, we were able to jury-rig my shifter back into place with some electrical tape, which we hoped would hold together long enough to function for the crit the next day.

Nothing to see here. Only electrical tape holding the shifter in place.

The crit on Sunday was a fast, 0.75 mile loop with three 90 degree turns, a steep little riser into the finish, followed by a steady descent into one of the turns. A very fun course. However, like Saturday, Sunday was again a rain filled day. Only this time, it was a much less tolerable 50 degrees, meaning with the rain, it felt very cold.

Sore from the crash, and unmotivated from the rain, I wasn't really sure how I would do in the race, but once it got going I started feeling great. The pace was pretty quick from the start, but some of the other racers were taking the corners slow in fear of the rain. Feeling confident in my bike handling, I launched an attack trying to drive the pace up through some of these corners to really get things going. As I was sliding back into the field to take a breather, another hard attack went, which didn't get immediately countered. Thinking nothing was going to get away, and/or presuming another school would chase, I recovered while a small gap started to open up. Upon hearing the gap had opened up to 10 seconds, I made a hard effort to get up front and start chasing. After pulling hard for a lap, and bringing the gap down, I slowed up anticipating someone else would help chase. Instead, the riders who came around were VT and NC State, the teams represented in the break, and they proceeded to slow the pace down. From there on, the field couldn't cooperate well enough to prevent VT and NC State from blocking and we had to settle for a field sprint for 3rd. Field sprints aren't my strong point, but I was able to get myself in decent position for it. I ended up 10th / 25. Would have liked to have done better, but I was just happy to warm up and leave with a still functional bike.

Yep. It was a little wet for the crit.

Next up is the Morgantown Road Race, which is the opener to the ABRA road series. This season I'll be moving up into the 3/4 field, which will no doubt be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it. It will be the first time I get to race with my Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling powered by Pathfinder teammates! Very excited for that!