12 Feb Louisville Master’s World Championship Qualifying Heat
After watching John’s son Louis play indoor lacrosse, I was on my way to Louisville. Arriving at the race course about 2:00 the weather was warm 45 F. Bill Elliston (Elliston Coaching) was working on the course as I was riding the perimeter, they had blocked people from riding on it. This was fine, I just wanted to see the layout before the rain moved into the region. Rain was predicted for the next couple of days followed by below freezing temps. Seem like this has happened in Louisville once before!
I am less than excited about the course layout, not that it is the designers fault, we have been given a flat golf course to race on. I understand saving Eva Bandman for the Elites which makes perfect sense. This idea may have not worked, looking back in time, because of the flood that followed the event, but at least a consideration. The idea if having the master’s races on the Eva Bandman course after the Elite weekend of racing, simplifying the entire process. One course set up instead of two, saving a massive amount of work, man/women power, and money. I realize the UCI is not capable of this out of the box thinking, adding common sense into the picking the event date process.
Example of the UCI planning committee meeting, lets have the first US held World Championship Elite races on the same day as the super bowl. What is a super bowl? Never mind, I move to enforce strict penalties for removal of lawyer tabs, second that. Wait, we are supposed to be picking a date for CX worlds, laughter. You are correct, more wine and who has the dice cup. Okay, enough of the arm chair quarterbacking. The fact is, the master’s course was as boring a course that I have ever ridden with the exception of two small sections, about 25 seconds worth per lap.
Off to the Galt house to register and pick my starting number for the heat race. I see Chris Black and we talk the entire time which made the line seem non existent. First Chris picks his number 15, front row for heat number one. I follow and pick number 47, great. Cut this in half because the even numbers are heat two and the odds are heat one. I will be third row for the heat. I find out later that heat one has almost all the fastest guys, so I am not excited about the amount of energy required to finish 7th or 8th. I will say this is the best system to determine a fair starting grid for the main event.
Monday I did my pre ride early, the forecast was rain late morning. I rode the last 30 minutes in heavy rain which started about 10:30 am with the course quickly turning very soft. Having a few hundred bikes ride over it is also helping create the start of a real Southern style mud hole. My goal is to finish 7th or 8th in the heat. Multiply this by 2 and that would be my starting position, giving me second row. This will put me close enough to the front of the race to have a chance to stay in contact with the leaders. My fitness being nil, has my confidence low so a top 10 which would be a great ride. It is not to often I have this weak mind going into a race. I rode the course with my B bike keeping the A bike clean and after clean up, I am ready for an early turn in, unfortunately my room mate had different plans, keeping both of us up way to late!
Tuesday morning we have the cars packed and leave early, Dave is racing first heat of the day, in the 50-54 group. Curtis Tolson is taking care of the pit for me which is awesome. If you do not have a second bike, you will be giving up valuable energy needed for the main event. The mud is perfect, a little slippery early but after 2 heats, it is going tack up in many places, in other words fast conditions for soft ground. The temps are about 50 F already with wind about 15-20 mph.
One half lap test ride, I am positive about my tire pressure. I am feeling fair and will not really know what I have until we are racing. I am called up 3rd row with only one really fast guy behind me, Henry Kramer, who is in the 4th row. Chris Black has offered to sell me his starting position in the 1st row, and I laugh it off, thanking him for the kind, pre race heckle. The whistle blows, I nail my clip, grab a few gears and am up to speed. A hole opens on the right and have to fight for the position against Norm Kress. My crit skills are working as I keep my bars in front of Norm’s, forcing him to yield. I am sixth going into the first turn. Later I would hear from Chris that I had passed him before the first corner. I am happy, having advanced without much effort, sitting on Bob Downs. Going by the pit area, there is a HUGE swamp, 25 meters of 5 inch deep standing water, eating the roost from Bob’s wheel. I am not giving any positions to anyone behind easily. Into the next 180 corner Henry and 1 other pass us and take off. I stay put thinking Bob will go harder in the second lap, so I will draft him into the long headwind section. After all he is the reigning National Champion.
We are a group of 4, having about 10 seconds on the next chase group, 7th seems like a done deal. I am actually 6th, Bob 5th so I tell him we are alone, about 3 seconds gap. Bob is riding quite slow, he is really holding back, I feel a dangerous game. I can see 4th and 3rd only 10 seconds up and decide to bridge before the long headwind section. As I remount, my saddle pops off my seat post!!! Keeping the bike upright I have to stop and negotiate this dangerous ass spear sticking out of my frame. I carefully clip in starting to ride, standing. I look back to see a 10 seconds gap to the next racer. I am now 8th place. I can hear people on the sidelines making comment about the guy who is riding while standing, until they see my pass by, saying things like holy shit, that sucks.
My B bike is ready thanks Curtis, making the swap, I barely stay in front of the lone chaser. Remounting I think, dude your gone, and attack hard after the barriers. I need to bridge the 15 seconds I lost to Bob and the other rider in order to save a second row spot. I connect with them at the top of the nasty mud run up and attack. Bob answers 10 meters before the technical downhill, there will be no passing here, a perfect move. I do not allow the other rider to pass as he forces me to sprint. I finish 7th, 1 second behind B. Downs and a second row spot.
It turns out we have the fastest heat time of the day, faster that both heats from the 50-54 boys. This was about 7:10 minute laps. I think I would have done lap two under 7:00 without the seat post shenanigans.
Soon, the report I do not want to write, reliving in detail, the most painful race ever.