Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is there a Doctor in the house? - Bike Jam race

BikeJam 2011 Cat 3 - 1 lap to go attack
Photo Credit - Jim Wilson Images

Today was Kelly Benefit Strategies BikeJam in Baltimore. I have great memories of this race back in 2002-2003 when the course was on the west side of Patterson Park and even though it was moved a few years later, I still like it. It has its fair share of craziness, one tight corner, a little uphill to burn the legs and the occasional couple of kids that think it is fun to throw rocks and sticks at the pack and BLAM you have BikeJam. The weather was in the high 80's with a pretty good headwind going down the backstretch. With it being a little warmer I wanted to make sure a cramp didn't limit me and drank a ton of water before and during the races. I was also hitting a couple of capsules of Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes every hour.

Well the last month has been great for Bike Doctor, we have been winning races everywhere and even though the team was light a few guys today we were still confident that we could bring home another victory. During the week I was starting to feel that the legs and lungs were responding to the training I have been knocking out lately and I thought I could play a decisive role in bringing home the top prize.

For the Category 3/4 race it was Todd "Doc" Bickling, Robb "Wrob" Hampton, Cliff Chamberlain and myself (a.k.a. "Sobe"). Prerace we decided to just sit near the front and stay out of trouble but not to put ourselves in the wind too much unless we saw a break that looked dangerous. We lined up with 80+ other guys and the gun fired and we were off. For the first half of the race things were going smoothly, we were near the front but not terribly active off the front. Nothing significant ever went up the rode.

Going into 1 corner after round about.
Photo Credit: Jim Wilson Images
At 10 to go the bell rung for a preme and I decided it was time to test the legs and as we came through the start/finish I moved up a little to see what was going on. Well a couple of guys were dangling off the front so I upped the pace down the left side after the downhill and shot up to those guys before the roundabout. I went around the last guy and continued on the gas through the chicane. I came out of the chicane with lots of speed (thanks to my Mavic Griplink tires), stood on it for a couple of strokes, looked back and saw I had a good 10 bike lengths. I continued up the hill and sailed through the start/finish with an easy preme.

I sat up after the preme because I wanted to save my matches and start my recovery time as soon as possible. It has been taking me a good 2-3 laps to recover. Today, I will say, my recovery time is much improved over the last month and I didn't have any trouble latching back onto the front when the pack came by.

The team started to get a little more active towards the end and with 5 to go, Todd went with a little move but came back a lap later. I continued to ride close to the front and my plan was to do something similar as the preme but with 2 to go I saw a guy go that looked pretty strong and felt like the pack might lull enough that I should give it a shot now. I took off down the right side on the backstretch and flew up to the guy and came around him before the chicane, this time I wanted to make sure he was with me after the chicane so I kept on it but not quite as quick as the preme. I continued cranking up the start/finish hill and when I got to the top and rounded the roundabout and cruised through the first turn I flicked the elbow but my breakaway companion was gone. I saw then that the pack was in full cry to make sure I didn't get away and I relaxed.

I was ready to hang the hat when the first couple guys came by but then I saw Doc and decided to gut it out for another minute. We were about 6-7 guys back going down the back stretch and it was nice and fast. We entered the backstretch roundabout in the same position and as we came out of the chicane safely, Todd yelled out to go along the left side and I acknowledged. Right then I got on the gas and started passing guys along the left and just as we came out of the bend with 200 meters to go, Doc lit it up down the left side, passed a couple more guys and got a well deserved spot on the podium with 3rd place!! I continued moving the pedals and finished 8th.

Well another podium in a race with 85+ guys and only 4 of us is pretty sweet in my book.

Race one done and I still had a few matches left to join the team for the 35+ combined race.
This race had a good 60+ riders, with good representation from Battley/Harley, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Clean Currents, NCVC and us. Toeing the line for Bike Doctor was Steve Fife, Wrob, Cliff, Jim Weinstein and myself. We didn't really discuss much prerace but I was going into this with a similar strategy as the 3/4 race. Stay close to the front and watch for dangerous stuff. With some solid team's represented we knew the chance of a break staying away was a little higher in this race.

Early on we were pretty active on the front. About 5 laps into the race, I got a bug up my butt and decided to make a move off the front. I was solo for a half lap and then a group of 4 guys caught up and we started working together pretty well. We got a decent gap and I am sure the fellas back in the pack were frustrating the field by disrupting efforts to organize a train to pull things back. We stayed away for 3 laps or so and then a couple of the guys started missing pulls. I dropped back to the back of the break and saw the pack closing in so I sat up to give me a little more time to recover.

Around 8 to go a pretty good sized group was off the front and looked dangerous. Luckily Harley wasn't represented and they strung things out enough to bring things back and soften the entire group. Nima had been in the front group and right when we made contact he took off with two other guys and quickly got 25 seconds on us. At first it looked like the race was over but things started to get organized around 5 to go. Cliff put in a good effort to nail back some time on the break. Then I went to the front shortly after and got back a few more seconds. With 2 to go we came up the hill to lots of shouting and arm waving by the EMS staff. Turns out someone in the break clipped the inside barrier after the start/finish. All we saw was Nima and the Haymarket guy walking around looking at their bikes.

My recollection of the final 2 laps is a little fuzzy and I can't recall if the last guy in the break came back. I know he wasn't that far off the front when we came out of the first turn. Right then I heard a very nice sound in Jim saying "Bike Doctor" and that was all that needed to be said. I knew it was lead out time, yeehaw!! We started moving up going down the left side of the back stretch and maintained decent position. We were probably 15 riders back coming out of the backside chicane. I should have moved up a little more but I was trying to save some gas to propel Jim out of the chicane on the final lap. Right as we came through the start/finish, I saw Jim come up my left side and I stood up to move up with him but right then an unfortunate and familiar sound started coming from his tire, "pssst, psssst, psssst, pssst". Flat tire!

That certainly deflated my spirit and I am not usually one for a field sprint but I decided to keep with it and see if I could find my Mark Cavendish legs. It was fast on the back stretch and I tried to maintain position coming out of the chicane but as the hill started I was pretty gassed from the full day of racing and lost a few positions. Still managed 11th place, which I can't be to upset about. 

All in all a great day of racing! Go Bike Doctor, next week Ride Sally Ride!

Post race the family switched from cheering section to future Bike Doctor racers. My oldest son, Jackson, entered the under 10 race and while he started at the back he made short work of the field and passed just about every kid up the right hand side. He was very psyched and got a well deserved medal and slurpee to go with his sweaty post race self.

My Cheeseburger
We were also a little on the starving side and decided to stand in a very long line for what had to be the best BBQ ever. Based on the line of course. Well after a 20 minute wait my cheeseburger was handed to me and I couldn't wait to chomp into what had to be a nicest juiciest cheddar cheese melted medium rare slab of the finest beef between two pieces of sesame seed buns. Well it turns out I should have lowered my expectations considerably. Upon opening the wrapper I could see a fairly charred item that sort of resembled a product of the meat family. After biting into it I still wasn't sure if it was hamburger or steel belted tire tread. Well I was too hungry to care and left my stomach in charge of processing that sorry excuse for a cheese burger.

The one saving grace from the tire tread cheese burger was having a flying dog beer tent right next door. Bring on the suds.

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