On Saturday night, Dov called me and told me how excited he was to see me at the road race the next day…at which point I broke the news to him that I had forgotten to register.
“I have the zipcar, I’ll just swing by your house at 7:30 and pick you up!”
As if that somehow solved the problem…”OK, see you then!”
Day of registration cost me an extra 10 bucks (a 40% increase in registration fee) but I had never been in a road race before, so I figured “why not?”
I forked over my $40 (I was promised $5 later when they had change. Apparently, they never got change…) and went back to the car to finish getting ready – we were to go off at 9:30 and it was 8:45 by the time we pulled up. I saw RJ, Rami, Jorge, Juan, William, Tomi, Joe Grgec – it was looking like it was to be a good day.
Looking is the operative word here.
As we all gathered around in the “staging area” we were told (by an enthusiastic volunteer) that seeing as how this was the last of 3 stages, and not everyone was racing all 3 stages, we were being separated into GC-contenders and non-GC-contenders. This means there were now two 4/5 fields and two 3 fields, all going off at the same time.
Which would be fine, except for the fact that the enthusiastic volunteer had no megaphone. So 20 or 30 of the 200 or so racers gathered heard her. That wasn’t such a problem though – the women were still racing as we mulled about, and those who heard the message passed it on to their friends who didn’t.
But not everyone was there yet and as more racers pulled up, questions which should have been obvious were being asked over and over. “Where do we put our wheels? Is there only one follow truck for all 4 races?” “Where do I stand if I’m a 4?…Did I race where yesterday? No, yesterday was an off day for me, what does that have to do with where I stand?” Out of breath, “did I miss my field? It’s 9:45.”
Those were a few of the confused voices I heard, but I was only surrounded by 10 racers or so – the rest were spread out throughout the converted barn-parking-lot. Eventually and seemingly painfully, it was finally communicated to the entire group of racers that we would be splitting up, that we would have multiple wheel trucks, multiple lead vehicles, that we just had to wait patiently.
Then, we were split up. GC stay where you are, non-GC cross the road. This was a smart move on the directors’ parts because of the sheer number of racers. The center line rule was in effect, meaning it would be dangerous coming into some turns – turns 2 and 3 in particular.
The women finished their race and the 4/5 GC-contenders were told to “rollout”. They went. They kind of just clipped in and went. It didn’t start off too fast as there was a small climb just after the start line. We non-contenders were then ushered back across the street into the staging area, where we were yelled at again by the same enthusiastic volunteer and then were told to rollout. So we did. I took the lead, with my crit mindset. I had no idea how to play this one out, but figured it was less than 30 miles, so I’d use my tried and trued methodology – attack now, attack often.
I was the first one out of the corral and set the pace pretty lightly. I was respectful of the undulations in the road and didn’t want to set out too hot. It was weird – we were told we would have a lead vehicle, but it was just me in the front. No car.
As I got to the first turn, a man stood up out of his chair and waved us to the right with his orange flag – we turned right. The road went up, and we went up with it. The road dipped, and we dipped as well. We sped up and slowed down with the terrain. This was cool. Up ahead, we could see the road was coming to an end. Right or left?
Luckily, whoever assumed the position of lead rider looked over the course map and knew it was right. Right we went….and ended up in an open field with strong crosswinds. Note to self: attack here next lap. It will stick. The wide-open fields finished with a short, steep climb, where I made up a few positions and moved up towards the front. As we crest the hill, I, still relaxed, look back and see some separation. I didn’t think we were going to do anything, but I look back in front of me, take 16 pedal strokes out of my saddle and finish firing up my legs.
Which is all it was – an attempt to warm up my legs. Which is all it took – an attempt to warm up my legs.
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the gap. I was sure I would be brought back in a second, so I resolved to pedal at the same pace as the field until I was absorbed. 30 seconds later or so, a VeloOrigin racer passes me at speed and I latch onto his wheel. Looking back, I see Juan’s green jersey at the front and know it’s on. Similar to Donkey Kong.
He pulls, I pull, we rotate. This goes on for a little while. At some point I glance back just after a pull as I rotate back and see no field. Out of sight, out of mind. We pass a police officer car parked on the opposite side of the road (important detail) and don’t pay it much mind. We reach a traffic light. We can go left, straight or right. I remember looking at the course map and there are only right turns…so I turn right.
Then we hear the screaming. Mike Nyby had attempted to bridge up to us and was just reaching us, 1.24km off course. “WE MISSED THE TURN, TURN BACK!” Apparently, just as we passed the cop car, the police officer thought it prudent to get out of his car and direct the remaining racers the correct way – right. It was a sharp turn, and we almost didn’t see the left hand turn when we got back to it, almost 5 minutes later.
We resolved to ride together waaaay off the back of the pack until we reached the staging area when we would seek out an official and ask for a free lap – it seemed only fair in our minds. As such, we coasted through the start-line area upon reaching it, each of us yelling for an official, a director, someone who worked there – anyone who had the authority to work there.
We were met with blank stares and stutters. “Where’s Brueche?! Mark brueche – where is he!” I screamed at an official who finally acknowledged us. “He’s on the course – something about no lead car for the 4/5 field and no marshal at the turn.”
Dumfounded, we continued onwards and decided that when the 3 field caught us, we would just sit at the back so we could at least enjoy the day a little bit. The 3 field DID catch us, about a half lap later, and we caught on. I was met with flack from various riders (rightfully so – what I did was both illegal and bad form.) for being there, but I was beyond annoyed and enraged at the events of the day that I merely didn’t care. I tried to stay as far back as I could, but zoned out and ended up in the middle of the 120 man field twice.
I rode around the course 3.5 times with 3 field to complete my 5 lap day and then pulled off. I sought out officials and told them how crummy of an unorganized event they were putting on. Other racers were gathering around me and voicing their distaste as well. The response I got is the reason I will not be going to another event put on by these clowns.
“It was completely unfair – there was no lead car (as the race manual said there would be: “There will be lead and follow vehicles for each event. Riders may place wheels…”), there was no marshal (as would be the next-best option, directing us where to go) and there was no flag telling us to turn (which would be the most cost-effective solution for these cheapskates.)”
“I know, Eli. I was with the official in the car and I saw it happening. I said, ‘what do we do, should we chase them down?’ He said, ‘it’s the racer’s responsibility to know the turns.'”
If road race organizers think that they can attract racers who live 2 hours away to their races and expect them to know the course and use that excuse to absolve them of responsibility….they’re wrong on one count – i’m not attracted.
The only positive aspect was the cold creek I was able to put my feet in after what is now the most miserable experience I have had at any race.