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Report2002-04-28

Easterns @ State College

Date: 2002-04-28
By: Joe K

Hey guys, Long story short about easterns out at State College thisweekend:

Saturday, April 27 --- Eastern Championship Road Race

  • Men's C
    • 14th - Joe Kopena (40 starters)
  • Men's D
    • 23rd - Mike Castellan (36 starters)

Sunday, April 28th --- Eastern Championship Criterium

  • Men's C
    • 14th - Joe Kopena (39 starters)
  • Men's D
    • 9th - Mike Castellan (33 starters)

It was a pretty good weekend. A little subdued in many ways, but stilla good outing and a nice end to the season.

Mike really had an excellent weekend. He correctly determined that I'dnever let him live it down if he didn't finish the road race, so hedid me proud by buckling down and working up the monster finalhill. That hill really killed a lot of guys, you could see it in theirslightly wobbly walk and vacant stares that day and how much many ofthem seemed to be struggling the next day, but Mike actually came outof it in not too bad shape. In the crit Mike did even better andreally put out 100% to just wear guys down and work his way up apretty strung out field in a suprisingly hilly race. It was coolbecause this was Mike's last collegiate racing weekend and doubly coolbecause his parents came up to watch and they saw a pretty good race.

I have to admit to being a little subdued about my races over theweekend. Not quite disappointed, but something like that. Part of itmight be because entering the C races pretty much meant giving awaythe overall D-class season trophy to become just another face in thepack and I'm not quite big enough to fully feel that it was morefulfilling to do well up a category than to pound on the D guys. Ithink I'm also a little upset from the road race. Going into theweekend I was thinking I'd finish 3 to 5 places higher up in the roadrace than I did. On the other hand, I thought I was going to finish 6to 9 places farther back in the crit so I guess it all works out. Inboth cases I finished in what amounted to the back end of the leadgroups and didn't have even a trace of feeling that I wasn't ready forthe C races, so I am mostly pleased, just a little subdued.

Long story longer:

People

We had a fair bit of people out to this weekend, even though only Mike and I raced. Dan Heinaman was there for the whole weekend and Jared came out to watch Sunday's crit. Mike's parents also made the trip out for Sunday and they're both really cool. It was neat to have a little team contingent out for the weekend.

Traveling

Major props go to Dan for a navigational tour de force---no turnarounds and a really painless, stressless trip all around. When we said we'd made no turn arounds last week we were employing a really strict definition of a turnaround, namely that only strict 180 degree turns counted... That left out all the county-wide excursions we went on all around upstate New York. Sure, part of it was exploring trying to find food and such, but still, this weekend we did a much better job of getting from point A to point B without visiting point C, D, L and Z.

As mentioned we rented out a minivan for this weekend. That worked out real nice, it was super sweet to actually have some decent speakers in the car. An added bonus was not only having space for four people and gear, but having each of those four people not very cramped either. The bench seats sucked, so avoid buying a Dodge Caravan, but it was fine for the weekend. Having a rental also meant not having to deal with that terrifying vibrating Mike's Civic does every time you brake a little... bad rotor or something like that. However, we probably ruined the Caravan's brakes. We drove up to watch the end of some of the road races and for a long while after coming down the very steep, long downhill off the mountain there was a *real* strong burning-brake smell eminating from the car.

Notes

Dan also gets major credit for taking care of all the little things like grabbing warm up vests at the start line, making sure wheels get into the wheel van and then back to our van, etc. I definitely appreciated it a lot and it made the start of each race a bit less stressful and rushed.

It's always nice to have people spectating. I mean, in the crit on Sunday there were people yelling at me from pretty much every corner, what with Mike, Mike's mom and dad, Dan, Jared, and our buddy Simon all staked out around the course. It was definitely helpful. Admittedly, I don't know if you can call what Mike's dad does "cheering." Every other time around it'd be something like "Go Joe, get up there!" in a barely audible conversational voice, but it was still cool. I also liked Mike running back and forth across the center of the course so he could yell from both the front and back straightaways. However, I was momentarily confused when he started yelling "Come on Joe, two laps to go, leave it all on the road!!!" and I'd been trying real hard the whole race to battle the anti- traction demons in each corner and keep the shiny side up, precisely so I wouldn't leave it all on the road. It was also a lot of fun yelling at Mike and Simon in their race, although I think I overdid it. My voice was hoarse all day and my throat hurt trying to breathe in my race. A high point was yelling at Simon "What are you doing?!?! You're not pedaling!!!!!!" as he came coasting down the one hill. I felt really bad later when he eventually got pulled from the race (he was real dead from the road race), but we think he got such a kick out of having people cheering for him that he didn't mind (they're like us, real small and usually without people outside the race). Another nice thing about Mike's parents coming is that they are major photo-fanatics, especially his mom. So, at some point we should get a bunch of pictures from them of the crit. His dad also had a DV camera with him, so we're hoping to try and get some good video action as well.

This was a majorly awesome moment in the weekend: Mike's been hanging out with this guy from Boston U. the past couple races. He's a little weird but seems alright. After Mike's crit we're hanging around with a bunch of guys when Mike's parents come over. The Boston guy, realizing these are Mike's parents, walks over and shakes their hands, saying "I'm so sorry for you... I'm so sorry you had to raise Mike..." Later he told them Mike must have been some sort of spawn of Satan. He gets two points in my book.

A major focus of discussion over the weekend was bike chicks. I blame Dan and Jared. You bring a couple mountain bikers along, you lose your focus, you forgot why you're there, and you end up spending the whole weekend ogling the girls. For example, Tyler Wren from Princeton, last year's road race champion at nationals, was a prominent figure over the weekend because he won both Men's A races. But, what did anyone talk about? How skinny he is? The neat gear he had? How he came up the hill way ahead of anyone and didn't even look like he was sweating? Nope. All anyone talked about was how he's dating one of the racers from Boston. Not just us, either, you could hear other clusters of people talking about that too... Sadly though, we all totally failed to get the name of the cute chick racing for UPenn. I was very disappointed in all of us. (Nobody tells Gina about that!)

During the road races on Saturday somebody distributed chalk to mark up the final hill. I didn't know that and was sort of suprised when I came up on the first couple signs, a bunch of giant 'H's. Much later on I would figure out they had to be for Harvard, but at first I kept thinking "What the hell does that mean? Hill??? Thanks alot, Captain Obvious!" as I ground up the hill, too tired to look anywhere but at the ground directly under me. Yeah, my brain wasn't getting enough oxygen...

It was neat starting the crit later because I got to work on my bike and warmup more, as well as taking a more relaxed approach to getting ready. It was raining fairly hard most of the morning, so it was also real nice to have the minivan so I could work in the back putting on wet weather brake pads and swapping casettes instead of having to stand in the rain and do it.

Saturday's road race was the only race except the endurance race in Fair Hills that was actually long enough to have to eat something. Coming around to start the third and final lap of the course it was funny to reach into my pocket to dig out my bar-thing only to look around and see everyone doing the same thing. Great minds think alike and all that.

Like I said, it was raining on Sunday and the course was pretty wet. The back two corners were pretty murderous, people were going down like crazy all day. In Mike's race the one guy from UNH crashed four times! (yeah, stay away from him). Saturday's race was pretty harmless, but I did see one awesome crash-type-thing in my race. At some point the course wound around the bottom of a hill through some woods. There was a little 4 foot grassy downhill on the right side of the road leading into the woods. Going through there on the second lap, a guy from PennState riding next to me must have just lost it for a moment or something because he totally didn't even try to take the one corner. He just kept going straight, down the hill and off the road. As he headed into the woods I just looked at him thinking "Goodbye dude!" and debating whether or not to wave. He turned around with some of the biggest eyes I have ever seen and this look on his face like "Oh my god, what have I done!?!?" It was exactly like that clip of Jan Ullrich going off course in the tour last year. I think the guy got eaten by a bear 'cause I didn't see him again that weekend...

Right before the start of the crit on Sunday Dan came over to grab the vest I'd been wearing while warming up. When he comes over he's got this giant donut he got from the bakery along the course that did major business that day. I was tempted to take some when he offered me a bite because I was a little hungry, but it was just oozing sooo much Bavarian creme that I just couldn't do it. Lou would have been very disappointed in me.

Racing

The road race on Sunday was so slow, so slow. Nobody wanted to do anything, they were all just waiting for the hill at the end. I have to believe that at least 30 of the 40 starters came around to the final hill as one pack. The course wound around the countryside for something like 13 miles. It was a reasonable course, but not very exciting. Part of that comes from doing it so slowly, but it didn't really have many defining features. It was neither hellish nor excellent. There were some small hills, but it was mostly flattish. There were a lot of corners, but nothing severe. There were some potholes, but nothing you couldn't get by easily. Some of the road was pretty narrow, but it didn't matter at that pace.

The final hill was, however, badass. It was just under three miles long and pretty tough. I guess it was similar to Ridge Avenue main hill if you stretched that out over three miles and made it twist around a lot. That was maybe the worst part of it, it kept curving out of sight with some extra little dips and levels thrown in so you kept thinking you had to be almost done but it just kept going. Worse, there were little clumps of people watching so whenever I saw one in the distance I thought "Well, they've got to be hanging out around the finish line, right?" but I just kept being wrong.

I must admit that I spent a lot of time in the race directly up front. I'm sure it tired me out a little more than was neccesary, but I don't know how much it would have mattered. The first lap I played it smart and just hung in the group sucking wheels, but we went so slow that I was really cooling off by the end so I came up for a bit to spin a little. Then I tucked back in for most of the second lap, but it just got annoying dealing with being surrounded by people at real slow speeds so I let myself work up to the front again.

Towards the middle of the third lap I was sitting a little back from the front when I realized "Oh wow, there's a lot of UVM up front there..." I thought they were going to try and break away so I moved up to be around them, but they really let me down. They just sat there, even after a UNH guy took off down the one hill. Right as he took off and the UVM guys didn't respond I tried to make the gap before it got too big, but I couldn't do it by myself. He was really moving. As I watched him get farther and farther off, the UVM guys just kept debating whether to really go after him or not. It was real disappointing. They lost the championship to UNH this year, and if their other racers were anything like these guys they really deserved to lose the title. They had four or five guys up there, all arguing about whether to go or not as I'm trying to tell them he's getting real far away and I can't do it by myself but I'd help. Eventually he just built up an insurmountable lead and won the race.

So, this guy hit the hill way ahead of us and was gone by the time we got there with me riding something like third in the paceline. I'd caught enough C guys in the previous road races to figure I had half a chance of doing real well, so I was looking forward to the hill. When we got there though, it was just too steep. I ran out of gears real damn quick, even with my 39x27, and got swarmed. On the first section I think I dropped from third to just under twentieth. Once the hill leveled out a little I was able to pick my cadence up and that helped a lot, I recovered faster than most of the guys and moved up to start jockeying for just over tenth place. In the end the steepness got me, as it kicked up a bit at the last corner just before the summit I fell back to fourteenth. Reaching the summit and the line I was really working my cadence as it leveled out for the crest to beat fifteenth, who'd caught me on the last steep bit, by a couple bike lengths, and to come within a couple lengths of thirteenth and twelfth.

It would have been nice to grab at least twelfth and earn a couple points, but it wasn't a bad finish. I think I gave pretty much everything I had to try and catch 12th at the end, afterwards I felt ok spinning around for a while to cool off and watch the other races, but I definitely didn't have any zip left. I finished a minute fifty down on the winner, which I guess isn't so bad. The top lead pretty much totally out-muscled me on the first, steep part of the hill, but I thought I did a reasonable job of recovering and moving up when the climb let up a little, so the more I think about it the more pleased I am.

Waking up Sunday morning it was a little discouraging to see all the rain coming down. As we drove over it was really pouring at times. Still, it was a real good crit course and not the most treacherous I've seen, even with how wet it was. There were a few potholes but they were real easy to avoid, although I did nail one on one lap when I couldn't see it through the guys in front of me (I learned not to do it again, it was a pretty severe hit and I lost a lot of momentum). The corners were mostly wide enough to really sail through, the main concerns going into them were "Is the guy in front of me going to go down?" and "Is he going to brake or take a weird line?"

It was, however, suprisingly hilly. It was only a little more than half a mile long but the finish line was at the top of a non-trivial little hill and the back had a complementary deep V shape to it. Over 20, 25 laps it started to add up.

The D race was pretty cool to watch. It splintered right away and lots of guys got pulled as the lead really took off and started catching people---real easy to do on a half mile course. He wouldn't have gotten pulled because he was up pretty high the whole time, but Mike held a good pace by himself most of the race and the winner was still a little more than a quarter lap behind him at the end. It would have taken another five laps or so for Mike to get lapped, so he was probably moving just over a mile an hour slower than the winner, who really put the hurt on even second place.

Mike spent most of the race cruising around, slowly gobbling up people who'd fallen off the lead group. It was real cool to see him pick it up at the end as I started yelling at him that 10th and 9th were just around the corner and he might be able to get him. With a couple laps to go he really reeled them in and then left them behind, snagging 9th place and a couple points for the effort (D races place 9 deep as opposed to 12 in C). I hope his dad can get us video of the finish, he was definitely showboating as he came across the line what with the tongue hanging out KISS-style and giant smile on his face (I give him two style points).

Watching the D and Women's B races I had a pretty good idea what to expect in my race. In particular I knew which corners were going to be deadly. Surprisingly, they weren't really the ones you'd think. I'd have though the one at the bottom of the start hill and its successor along a relatively flat, fast side stretch would be the issue. However, the rear corner at the *top* of the back hill and the bottom of the starting hill turned out to be the issue. In the start of my race I put a lot of effort towards hanging nearish to the front of the lead group to try and avoid back-crashes and getting gapped.

In the end it paid off because a ton of people who were behind me in the start either crashed or got gapped and then pulled when they were about to be lapped. Eventually I got gapped too when the lead group broke in two, partly because of attacks on the hills in the team points sprint laps and partly because of a biggish 4 man pileup in that rear corner. It sucked to watch as my friend Dan from UPenn, the only guy in these races that I really know, got swallowed up by that crash as the people in front and to his side went down. The theme for the day was avoiding the people laying on the ground in that corner.

After that things were a little splintered for a while, then I caught back on to a little group of guys. We just rolled around the course for a while, never quite able to catch the lead group up ahead of us. As we went on the group got smaller and smaller as people wiped out in the corners and couldn't get back on in time. It was definitely pretty high stress in some of the corners, trying to avoid people even as I could feel my own rear wheel sliding out from under me. I think it would have helped to have some thicker tires. I usually run 20 millimeter (this time without tread, no less) tires but should maybe pick up some 23s. The 20s definitely have some zip and are great in the road races, but in tight corners even in dry conditions they tend to slip out, I had similar issues even in the Thursday night rides. I guess it's probably something I'm doing wrong, but it might not hurt to think about as it took major effort to not slide totally out on Sunday. Even when I was riding around on the outskirts of town cooling down I almost wiped out when the tires slipped out even at low speed.

The cornering was definitely hurting me. When I was by myself I was fine, but people were going every which way through the corners so even if they didn't crash you couldn't count on them to hold their line. Going past people in the corners was a real sketchy proposition, even though it should have been fine because they were so wide, so you were forced to brake and lose some momentum. I kept regaining ground on the climbs because they were shallow enough to really spin up, but it was definitely harder than it had to be coming out of the corners.

In the end I finished with that little group, which finished a little ways behind the lead group. The winner was off by himself(probably an especially smart move with people going down everywhere) and probably would have lapped us in another five laps or so, so we were probably going just under a mile an hour slower than him. Of course the C races are a little longer and faster than the D races, and I think it showed in my legs. I should have been able to spin up the last hill to the finish to beat at least a couple guys in my group to claim some points, but I just couldn't summon up the energy. The same as on Saturday I still had energy to spin around for a long time, which is good I guess, but I don't think I had anything left over high-speed wise, which means I spent everything in the race, which always feels good.

Anyway, that was our weekend more or less. All in all it was a prettygood trip.

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