2007 Cox Charities Cycling Classic Race Report

Jun 24 2007

I am hilariously frail right now. Yesterday, I bumped my elbow with me knee and it hurt for like, 10 minutes. Most of my wounds have healed/scabbed, but now huge bruises are rising on my forearms and shins. I’m hoping they’re from Monday’s dust-up with the car, but the way I feel right now, they might very well be from scurvy. Even as I type this (lying prone on a blanket alongside the Cox Criterium course), I have to be careful what parts of my body I lean on. I’m essentially disabled without a bicycle underneath me.

So obviously this is the perfect time to start racing again. Especially in a 3/4 criterium with 125 riders on a non-selective course with a fast, bumpy downhill, like the one I was upended on at Great Falls. To be fair, the Cox Criterium course is kinda fun, but it’s not exactly kid gloves for coming back from a hard crash. Plus I drove down with Darcy, who promised that if I crashed again, she’d beat the living $&!t out of me. And Lord know, I don’t need that.

The INTERNATIONAL BICYCLE CENTERS team had more than 10 registrants, so we were officially a “VIT” (very important team), meaning a special warm-up tent, with its own bathroom, trainers, free Accelerade, Endurox, Poland Spring and underripe bananas, was ours to use. But I hate the trainer so much that even this wasn’t enough incentive to get me warmed up properly. At any rate, they kept us on the line for 10 minutes, and there was a neutral quarter lap or so, making warm-up essentially irrelevant.

Finally we got to race, and immediately teammates Greg and Mike went on the front. I’m really no good at these criteriums with corners and what not, so I just kept having gaps open in front of me. Not such a bad thing with teammates on the front, but still, something I need to work on. After about a lap of floating around on the front, I tried an attack, which was a bad idea, since I wasn’t really warm, and the pace was pretty high. It failed (obvs) and I shot backward like a leaf in a storm drain, right into the DEATH ZONE of the field.

See, the Cox course manages the trick of having a fast downhill without a correspondingly huge uphill. Not only that, but it follows up the fast downhill with a long, long, long straight away – of course, with a tailwind. So it was not a fitness-intensive event, with lots and lots of riders feeling good enough to ride stupid. I think I was around 185 bpm or so when I got caught, but then I was down to 180, then 175, then 170, then even lower. At one point, I looked down on the backstretch and saw 148, with every out-of-shape wannabe Cipollini driving past me like mad to get to the front.

I think the organizers tried to thin things out, putting five primes in seven laps between 20 and 13 to go, but I didn’t really wear anyone out. I felt like I must have been at the tail of the field at certain points, but eyewitnesses said I never made it all that far back. For me, it was mostly an exercise of chipping spots away, trying not to be terrified, and focusing on getting forward. Being “that guy” on the inside worked a little, but I really managed to recycle to the front by (shock!) by getting outside and following other riders through a good line.

So by 8 to go, I was back up near the front. While I was touring the cheap seats, Greg had gotten in with a little group, but nothing had come of it. By now, however, I think there was a VeloEuropa guy up the road. No one really seemed interested in pulling, and lord knows I wasn’t going to do it, so I just hung around, taking a single soft-pedal pull, and waiting for the inevitable swarm of potbellies to swing my motivational barometer back from “want to win” to “want to live”.

At three to go, they arrived right on cue, swerving and gasping like a horde of drunken mules. Fortunately by this point I had re-numbed to the twitch-and-quiver of low-level pack racing, and I was able to slide backward in a far more dignified fashion, finishing well down in the field with other riders intent on not killing themselves for that coveted top-30 placing. This relaxed attitude was proved wonderfully apropos as we passed a pair of crash victims still down on the outer edges of the finishing straightaway.

So yeah, a good bit of training before Fitchburg and a nice way to get used to people making moves they shouldn’t. I really prefer Cat 3-only fields on this sort of course, because I ride to the level of my competition. In my P/1/2/3 races, I hit hard, distinct lines, and only occasionally correct. Here I was breaking, holding up my pedals and dodging all over the place. I’m hoping the parcours and tempo at Fitchburg will take care of a few of the Sunday hackers.

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