Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Race in New Territory, and a Whole Lotta Standing in the Rain

Today was my last race for this season. Of course, it is, by no means, the last race. It's just the last race that I will be doing. 

For my final 2014 race, I got to be on roads I have not ridden before. Yes, even though it was less than an hour's drive from home, I had never been on these roads. How is that possible, you ask? I don't really have an answer for that.

The race was Vance Creek. This is one of the Team's sponsored races. That means we provide the volunteers to run the race (in return for our service, we get free entry into our race). My race was in the morning, so I volunteered in the afternoon. The afternoon racers covered the morning races. Some volunteer, but don't race, like Jean (more on that later).

Part 1--The Race

There were 29 Cat 4 Women starting today. Debbie and I represented OOA. As seems to be usual, Bike Sale had the most women, at six. Starbucks and Group Health each had around four. It was good to see that Emma, from Group Health, was back racing (she was another one who had to go to the hospital after the crash at Mason Lake). 

The start was between the two Satsop Cooling Towers. Here's a photo of Tessa and one of the towers.
I did take the plastic bag off Tessa's saddle before the race.

Once we were out on the main road, we were racing. The first section, almost to Corner 1, is mostly downhill. It was raining a little bit, so we were all pretty cautious going down the hill the first time. At Corner 1 we turned onto "the farm road". It is a one-lane road. Funny thing, the "Center Line Rule" was in effect, even though there was no center line. Actually, since it was really a one-lane road, we were just instructed to leave a path on the left side. We did have a couple of oncoming cars, but they, wisely, pulled over. Apparently, we could have encountered farm equipment! Fortunately, no one had to holler, "Tractor up!"

The farm road, and a good chunk of the next road were pancake-flat. However, the rough chipseal, and tons of gravelly rocks made for a vibrating, noisy ride (rocks shooting right and left off people's wheels). 

After Corner 3, the road was mostly uphill back to the beginning (I suppose, what goes down, must go back up). As usual, I am quite the turtle going uphill. Still, I managed to stay close...for awhile. Then, the dreaded follow-car went around me. I only hoped I could get back in the race on the downhill. 

Into lap 2 after gaining some ground on the the intial section of downhill, I managed to pedal my way back in front of the follow-car. I caught up to a group that had also dropped on the hill, just not as badly as me. We weren't really that far off the lead group, but this is where strategy comes into play. In our little group of 7, we had 3 Bike Sale gals. Remember, there were 6 of them in the race. The other three were all up in the lead group. Therefore, the three with us had no reason to work hard to catch the lead group. The follow-car had passed us again. Two of the Bike Sale gals were on the front of our group. Emma and I were sitting behind them. They were going pretty slow. Emma asked me if I wanted to go with her out front. I was fine with that (I certainly didn't have a teammate in the lead group, and neither did Emma). So, off we went. I heard the other gals say, "Let them do the work if they want to." The other two gals in our group were Hagens-Berman. They also had a teammate in the lead group, so no need for them to work either. 

Emma and I took turns pulling. The others were staying just far enough back to let me or Emma back in. Finally, maybe they felt guilty or something, because they came up to us. With some fits and starts, we managed to get a rotating paceline going. That was fine until we came back to the hills. The gals who I had caught up to, once again, went up faster than me. I was the last one of our group of 7, but near the top, I managed to pass one of the Bike Sale gals. I pushed hard to the finish, and then it was all done. I came in 16th again (but, at least this was a bigger field). It was mostly the same group finishing top 10. Malia and Gina from Este Racing took 1st and 2nd. Both are strong racers and do more than their share of the work. They definitely deserve their wins! 
Cat 4 Women's podium

Part 2--Corner Marshalling

After getting out of my soaking wet kit, and into dry clothes (5 layers on the top), I moved all my stuff to Jean's car. Jean and I would be in charge of Corner 1--The Red Barn Corner. We had until 12:45 before the Corner Marshall's meeting. I grabbed vests, my stop sign paddle, and a walkie-talkie. Ron had rigged a stop sign paddle on a broomstick for Jean since she still has a splint (immobilizing her thumb, and covering up two very serious-looking metal pins holding it together) on one hand, and can't reach above her head with the other arm (the broken collarbone). We had signed up to Corner Marshall before the Mason Lake crash, so props go to Jean for still Corner Marshalling with me!
The Red Barn

After the meeting, we drove to our corner. Corner 1 was the turn onto the infamous "farm road". Jean would stop traffic on the main road, while I would stop any farm road traffic.
Jean in the distance at the corner (notice no center line on the farm road).

We could see the racers coming from a long way away. I would walk over to Jean, then walk back when we could see a lead car coming. There were 5 groups racing. They all raced 4 laps, with the Pro/1/2 Men doing 5 laps (laps were 13 miles each). The Pro/1/2/3 Women were one of the groups. Maria was racing as a Cat 3. Jen (now on Starbucks) was racing Cat 1. 

The guys' groups all went by. The women started last. On their first lap by us, Maria was doing great. There was a one-woman break, but that wouldn't last. After all the women went by, two more stragglers made the corner. It was Jen, and one of her teammates. Jen had had a flat (ironically, Tim, Jen's husband also flatted--actually, there were tons of flats today--rough roads and lots of rocks).

Between the groups, we stood in the ever-increasing rain showers. I was thankful for my 5 layers, but my lower legs were still soaked. 

Lap 2 had breaks in most all the groups. As the women came around, there was still a one-woman break. Maria was still hanging in there, and Jen had caught up to the main group. Amongst the men, it was getting a little confusing as to which car was lead for who, and what follow-car was for what group. There was a huge group (can't remember which it was) that had no lead or follow-car as they had been dropped (even though that group was larger than the "main" peleton). Finally, they brought in another car, which may or may not have added to the confusion. The radio chatter was pretty interesting. This is a whole side of racing that I don't hear or see when I'm in the race.

The laps continued. I actually got to stop a few cars as the racers came around the corner. The scariest part was when the stragglers would hit the corner. If they were out of the the rolling enclosure (lead and follow-cars), they were, technically, no longer racing, and must abide by the rules of the road. We do not close the corners for them. Since Corner 1 was going from a regular road to a narrow road, the riders (many still trying to catch up) would still take the corner pretty fast, and end up swinging wide. If a car was coming from the other direction on the farm road, there wasn't a lot of room at the corner. Fortunately, one car saw the rider and pulled way over to the side and stopped. If possible, I would try to stop the cars anyway. Thankfully, it didn't happen often.

On the last lap for everyone, except the Pro/1/2 Men, most of the breaks were holding. One exception was the women. On their last lap, who should be substantially off the front in a one-woman breakaway? Well, Jen, of course! Yes, she flatted on the first lap, caught back on, and went on to win by...a lot! Amazing! As for Maria, she did great. As she flew by me on the last lap, she threw me her sunglasses. The rain was making it impossible to see with them.

The Pro/1/2 Men went by us for the last time. Whew! We could finally get out of the rain and go home. Of course, first, we had to return our Corner Marshall equipment (and I had to get Maria's glasses back to her). That task complete, we headed home. 

So, in my 8 races this season, I managed one win, two top 10s, and 5 in the "teens" (well, the TT was 11th--a "tween"). Oh, and one crash. Okay, I guess, for a short race season. Now, I will shift gears (no pun intended) to touring. I'm taking Betsy on the train next week to Vancouver and Eugene. If I do any interesting rides, I may blog about them. We'll see...

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