Bicycling Blog - Long Run Bicycle Race

Don't be surprised if a Tri-State area cyclist you know has had March 12, 2011 circled on their calendar. For most cyclists this day was the unoffical start of cycling season because it was the day we moved our clock ahead to Daylight Savings Time which allows for time in the evening to head out on the bike. So now that is here it's time to dust off and lube the bike, inflate the tires, and start riding. But for some area cyclist March 12 also kicked off the bicycle road racing season with the Long Run Circuit Race in Louisville, KY.

Since I joined the Evansville based Team Guitar Lab cycling club this winter I targeted the Long Run race as my first race of the season as did most of my Guitar Lab teammates. This race came so early in the the year I didn't expect it to be a very full field. I knew I wouldn't be fully up to speed for the season and I assumed that other riders would similarly be using this race as an early season training session. Also, the way the organizers set up the race most riders would have the opportunity to do two races if they wanted to and for training purposes this seem like a reasonable thing to do.

As it turns out most of my assumptions going in were false. I had entered the Category 4/5 race and also the Masters 40/50 race. By the time online registration closed the 4/5 race had a full field of 75 racers and the Masters had more than 30. And as it turns out many of the riders were in race shape already. It was a sunny day that started out cool but warmed throught the event. However, wind would factor into the day's event. There was a steady 20+ mph wind with gusts as high as 35 mph that cut across the open course. Also, the course itself would prove to be a challenge.

For most of the racers the day started early. I left my house before 4 a.m. to ride over to Louisville with Kent and Pam Ziegler. We arrived at Long Run Park about an hour and a half before the first race start time of 8 a.m. CST. The other racers were also rolling in at this time. We registered, suited up, and headed out to preview the couse. The start/finish line was on an uphill stretch. About 100 meters past the line was a lefthand turn that started a long sweeping decent down to the back side of the park. Riders would have the wind at their backs for this downhill and speeds would exceed 40 mph.

At the very bottom of the hill was a tricky little lefthand turn that would send the riders back up hill. This stretch was not too steep but was desceptively long and the wind would switch from a tail wind to a cross wind. At the top was another lefthander that started a series twists and turns first losing altitude and then ultimately setting up the final climb back up to the start/finish all while battling a powerful headwind. Bottom line — this 1.7 mile course was tricky all the way around with no place for recovery.

My first race of the day was the Cat 4/5 race. According to the race sheet, 78 riders took the start. I had 5 teammates in this race and my plan was to stick with them as close to the front of the pack as we could position ourselves. Things went bad for me from the start. I had trouble clipping into my pedal, as a result of nerves I'm sure, and by the time I was clipped in I was at the back of the bunch with the front of the bunch already around the corner and zooming down the hill.

I chased at the back the whole first lap and finally the second time up the hill at the back I as able to move up in the group some but not enough to get in with teammates. Through the twisty part of the course the group began to split up in front of me. Soon I found myself chasing on my own trying to make contact with a larger group just ahead. After a lap with no success I eased a bit and another rider came by me. I stayed on his wheel and recognized him as a local rider, Kurt Maxberry, from Team Bikes and Moore. On the climb of the hill in the back of the course I went in front of Kurt and as I passed him I told him that I would work with him to try to reach the group in front. We continued to trade pulls and eventually picked up a third rider but the gap to the group ahead was not coming down.

With 2 ½ laps to go Kurt said that we needed to get rid of the third rider because he wasn't taking a turn on the front. When I came off the front the next time I intentionally when to the back wheel of the other rider. When Kurt rotated off the front he came behind me forcing the other rider to the front. The other rider lead us accross the line with 2 laps to go. As we started down the long fast hill, I gave Kurt the nod and then went to the front and started hammering. We swept through the corner at the bottom and as Kurt went back to the front he said the guy was gone.

Three quarters of the way up the hill I looked back and it looked like the guy was coming back to us. I went to the front and told Kurt the guy was coming back. I picked up the pace and drove hard up the remainder of the climb. Just before the top Kurt said he was blown and sat up behind me. I rode on and took the bell for one lap to go all alone. At this point I knew I wouldn't catch the group in front so all I really had to do was protect my position by not letting any riders pass from the back. I took a good look back and was surprised to see that there was a fairly large group of rides bunched up behind.

I knew they would be riding hard the last lap so I had to do the same to keep them from catching me. I was able to hold them off and ended up crossing the line 43rd. I was farther back in the field than I had hoped to be, but considering the rocky start I got it was not a terrible result.

An hour later I lined up again for the Masters race. This would be a smaller field but was made up of riders with years and years more exerience than me. The front group went away fast and I ended up in a smaller group with my teammate, Jim Hinchliffe. Jim set me up for the finish and I came across the line second in the group and 21st overall with some very tired legs. Not bad when you consider that the first three spots went to Cat 1 racers and that there were several Cat 3s and 4s that finished behind me.

That was a fun day of hard racing and Team Guitar Lab got some good results. My next weekend of racing will be totally different as we are lining up for a three-man Team Time Trial in Owensboro the on March 26. More about that later.