"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


My HTFU bracelet is black

Last night was my second Soldier Field Cycling Series race - overall the third in the eight race series.

I've already submitted my upgrade to the 3s, so I arrived at ten to 7pm with no expectations other than to win a couple burrito primes for Maggie's and my dinner, and to have a ton of fun.

With Superweek running concurrently there were lots of no-shows and the wait list group of more than 25 all got in. The field was still short the 75 rider limit but not by much. The west wind was blocked by the embankment, the weather was beautiful - 70 and sunny - and we were primed for a fast race.

Christian's Vande Velde's father was there at the start line to talk a little 2016, and be the ceremonial starter. The officials added an additional 5 minutes to our 30 scheduled, even though were a bit late, and John VV blew the whistle - we were off.

An immediate gap opened up off the front as an apparently unattached rider (or a kit I didn't recognize) was going for it all right away. I sucked wheel for the first tour turns, seeing if it would come together, but on the back stretch it really started opening up. No XXX jersey up there among four other riders so it was up to me.

Bang. Bridge.

I assume as we complete the lap I've brought the pack up with me. I'm on a wheel, yet there's still a bit of a gap to the solo rider. But when we come back to the straight away, I look back, and we have a pretty decent gap. Seven or eight seconds I'd guess.

Shit. In a break less than two laps in? I was here to have some fun dammit, not put myself immediately in a painful, boring paceline. But we'd stolen it, however early. It was time to run.

It started with 6 of us, then immediately 5. Unattached didn't want to work first, so we pulled around him the first 2 laps off. When finally did pull through, it was more of an attack. I was gapped, had to burn a match to close, and we were down to 4. He did it again, dropping Scott, a Bicycle Heaven rider, and we were 3.

I was chastising him now, assuming he was a super strong newb, (little did I know - more later) who thought he had to show us all up or was just trying to go it alone. "Four is stronger than three" I yelled. We'd put at more than a 1/2 lap gap on the field and now he was squandering it by constantly attacking the break. If he kept surging like that he'd soon crack and we'd all be fucked.

I pulled another lap, and he attacked again. Fatally gapped, I was stuck out in no-man's land, only 15 minutes into a 35 minute race. I cursed, blew a snot rocket, shifted up, and closed the door on the hurt locker, nice and tight.

Nothing else to tell. The gap closed down but I stayed off. The tunnel vision got deeper and deeper, and even though Tom Briney and Maggie were both yelling the split to me, I couldn't tell who was who. They just sounded like voices to me. The blackness was creeping in on the sides, like the color of my HTFU bracelet.

I guess I should be grateful that what really happened was that I found myself in a break with a couple of sandbaggers. Unattached was a Cat 1 cyclocross, and the other was Lou, the owner Pony Shop in Evanston, and a top level mountain biker. Grateful because our gap had grown so large by the time I was dropped that I was able to hold on for third after 20 minutes on my own, albiet with just a 9 second gap.

I guess I don't really mind sandbaggers. Rules are rules, and you need races and experience to move up. But being a Cat 1 allows you the flexibility to race down a category in road or track, and you are definitely strong enough to race in the P/1/2/3 field. You should ask yourself, is it really sporting to take a win if your only strategy is just ride away from the field, and you can do it? Lou was willing to work. Unattached just rode away whenever he could and dropped us all.

That's what I have the problem with. If you're a Cat 1 in anything, you shouldn't need the ego boost that riding away from a bunch of 4 and 5s will supposedly give you. I had a legitimate shot at winning that race. At least he could have worked with us until the end. Who knows, I could've won in a three or four up sprint. And doesn't the audience deserve better as well? And finally, what about yourself? If you really only race one road event a year, shouldn't you make the most of it? Instead of stepping on 50 other guys who are below your abilities?

It's basically the equivalent of going hunting with a machine gun.

Since I was stuck out in the middle, I missed out on every prime. Kenny announced cash and burrito laps for those two at the front, and the pack behind me, but all I got was salt in eyes and cramps later that night.

Okay, okay. I'll relent. I also came away with some pretty solid satisfaction for sticking that third place solo:

In any event, I was over it by the end of the race. I did look pretty pissed up there, I admit:

But I tried to be a good sport about it:

Seriously, though. Race up to your abilities. You're not only cheating yourself, you're cheating everyone else behind you.


Anonymous said...

Don't feel too bad. That dood did the same thing to Hillsboro 4's 2 or 3 years ago. At least you didn't have to drive 4 hours to get sandbagged.

can said...

I was waaay back in the group and working too hard to notice the 5-4-3 men break. I can't agree with you more about the higher Cat. rider riding in a lower. BUT I know some of these 'Courage' guys, mainly a cyclocross team, and apparently his motivation was to show off in his team jersey. Good for him bad for the remaining 50+ riders !!!

The Car Whisperer said...

Is that what his kit was?? "Courage"??

As if. Ironic.

Julian said...

"But we'd stolen it, however early. It was time to run."

lovely... a breakaway perfectly summed up.

R. Zach Thomas said...

What's with the sour grapes? You did exceedingly well.

I'm good friends with Mike, so maybe I'm a little biased, but seeing as how the guy's only entered two road races in his life, it's not like he's sandbagging. And it's not like he's making a habit of it.

Hell, I had to tell him where to line up -- I just told him to pretend it was a cyclocross race and go from the gun and see what happened.

Anyway, you can't sandbag as a Cat. 5 if you haven't done all ten of your races. Even if you're a Cat. 1 somewhere else. Check the USAC rules.

Lou told me after the race that he'd only done four road races in his life.

And Courage is a team sponsored by Courage Cycles. Unattached it is not.

The Car Whisperer said...

Thanks for comment Zach. I'm sure Mike is a great guy, but I would still argue he raced down, below his abilities. A Cat 1 in any discipline shouldn't be in a Cat 4/5 race. US Cycling lets you race as a Cat 3 on the track if you are a 2 on the road, and I'd bet there is a similar allowance in this case. He was by far and away stronger than anyone else there. There just wasn't much sporting about dropping the field as a Cat 1. He certainly knew what he was doing.

I'd just never seen that kit before. Thanks for the clarification.

The Car Whisperer said...

PS. I would've had no problem with it if he'd been willing to work with us, as Lou was, and at keep it sporting until the end.

Pankonin said...

The pain cave is open to all. Step inside and take the risk. Congrats.

benlikesbikes said...

Alright, let us please clarify some things based on the facts here.

One: Usually, when you are riding a branded bike, and you are wearing a kit with the same branding and register as a rider riding for said brand, you are usually not unattached.

Two: Mike is a Category 2 cross racer.

Three: Regardless of someones cyclocross category, your road racing category is dictated by the upgrade rules for road racing. You have obviously been through the upgrade procedure and understand the rules, right? I am in the same boat, I race as a Cat 1 cross racer, but if I line up for a road race, I MUST ride as a Category 5 racer as my license stipulates until I have met the requirements for upgrade. Mike is in the same boat. I have even requested an upgrade without the road mass starts and have been denied. I know I can race at the ability of the higher categories, but I am NOT allowed to. I would be more apt to racing the road, if this was not the case, but for me it isn't worth the effort and money for me to work through the lower categories and get with the group my abilities dictate. Dave Fowlks has made it pretty clear to both Mike and I that in order to upgrade our road licenses, we MUST complete the road racing upgrade requirements.

Four: What benefit does Mike receive from riding under his ability with slower riders. He isn't on your team, he doesn't need to "risk" getting pipped on the line, he doesn't need to risk getting tangled up in some crash that may or may not have been able to be avoided.

Five: What right do any of you have to judge what his motivations may have been to race. Personally, and I don't think I am the only one here, I feel Mike doesn't have much of an ego that needs to be stoked. Not all of us are racing bike, motivated only by the win. Some of us just like racing bikes, some of us just enjoy that the race atmoshere brings together all aour friends in one place. Did you ever think he could have been there just to have fun, get a workout and ride bikes?

Six: Typically a sandbagger is someone able to upgrade but refuses, so stop calling him one. As we learned above, Mike CAN NOT upgrade until he has 10 mass starts on the road. So, while he does probably belong in a higher category, this is where he is stuck, probably indefinitely as I don't see him racing the road 15 or 20 times in a summer in order to make it to the 3's.

Seven: My take on road racing is that the guys who typically are winning road races are not doing a whole lot of work throughout the entire race. I am pretty sure that is why there are domestiques and lead out trains. But then again, I am not a road racer. So why not just sit on his wheel the entire race if it had become obvious that he was a stronger rider?

Eight and I think most importantly: If I click back a few posts, you were actually eligible for YOUR upgrade some time ago, but didn't submit it. And then you did submit it, but decided to race yesterday with the 4's with the intent to go out and WIN! Who is the sandbagger in this situation. The dude with a 5 on his license or the guy who has requested his upgrade to the 3's group already and feels he can go out and clean up?

And nine: Word is you were were not a good sport about it after the race when he gave his best wishes.

I think the bracelet should change, less HTFU and more CTFO or chill the fuck out, this is just bike racing.

Kyle Hilgendorf said...

Bad for the 50+ in the pack? The Pack wasn't chasing! I stuck myself in the front and pushed the tempo for laps on end, essentially pulling most of the group along and what happened when I let off the pace making? We'd slow down.

Good on them for getting in the break and having it stick. And who the hell cares they should be racing CAT 1 or 3 or 5. They had balls and everyone else was settling for a pack sprint for 4th, not willing to work to bridge.

For I.D.: I was the unattached wearing all red and lying on the ground with 2 to go after getting tagged in turn 2/3. That pavement is harsh, so try to stay off it.

The Car Whisperer said...

Surely at least 2 or 3 of the - what, 15-20 XXXers in the field blocking had something to do with my not getting caught, solo and dropped from the original break?

Glad you are ok!

Ted said...

It is unsporting to ride away from the field? Haha, it's a bike race, I thought that is what you are supposed to do.

I am against sandbagging in all it's forms but Mike and Lou are definitely not sandbaggers in this case. Ben laid out all the facts very clearly in his comments above.

Also given the fact you mention that you had multiple teammates in the pack behind you, it sounds like they used a good strategy to hold off the chase pack. Heck, if you were trying to tell me how to ride, I would do my damndest to ride you off my wheel as well.

If you didn't dangle in between, you probably could have worked with the pack to push the pace and sucked them up. Then you would have had your revenge.

You may want to take issue with USAC and their rules, not the riders who are strong and yet stuck in the 4/5 cats. There is no recipricocity for being a highly categorized off roader and getting an equivalent road cat.

I'm a cat 1 mtb and cx and I have been denied my upgrade to 3 road multiple times.

Dave Fawkes simply enforces the upgrade rules, and the rules state that if you want to move up in road, you have to earn it.

The Car Whisperer said...

Yawn. I already apologized and it's over.

I may have heard from a little bird that if Mike would email Fowkes and explain to him that he is dropping entire Cat 4 and 5 fields he would get that Cat 3 upgrade. I understand rules are rules but it was explained to me that adjustments will be made were needed.

The Car Whisperer said...

when needed, excuse me.