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Report2002-05-04

Turkey Hill Classic & Memorial Hall

Date: 2002-05-04
By: Joe K

Hey guys,

Results from this weekend in my part of the world:

  • 2002/05/04 Turkey Hill Classic(Cat 5, 33 starters)
    • 9th - Joe Kopena
  • 2002/05/05 QCW Memorial Hall Crit (Cat 4/5, 71 starters)
    • 31st - Joe Kopena

In both races I lost places at the end through poor strategizing, I letmyself get boxed out in the final stretches and couldn't move up. Still,a good weekend. I even felt prett competent at Memorial Hall, a definitestep up from last year. Turkey Hill is a definite must-do for next year,that's a really good event.

Traveling

Like Darco said, it took about an hour and 40 minutes to get from campus to the Turkey Hill race. Since the races start relatively late in the day, that's an easy trip to make. You just head up the turnpike and then come back down south a bit. At 7 in the morning you don't have to worry at all about traffic.

Notes

QCW definitely did a better job on registration this year. Last year it was a nightmare and we stood in line for a long time. True, this year I was preregistered and I did show up at 7:53 for an 8 o'clock race to grab my number, but I didn't see any huge lines all day so I think they really improved it.

Lou definitely missed out not coming to Turkey Hill. Free ice cream, sodas, hot dogs, etc. It was pretty cool. They had a lot of events throughout the day. I don't know that I actually care that much, but it is relatively rare to find an actual Cat 5 race instead of 4/5. There were also a variety of running events and kid's races which were kind of fun to watch. Also neat was the handcycle race. Those guys are real badass, they did the same course as us and it was pretty cool to watch them cranking up the hill at the start line.

I must admit to being a little confused by the speeds of the races (noting that I'm riding without a cyclometer). According to the official times, the 30k of Turkey Hill took about 46 minutes while the 32k of Memorial Hall took about 52. I could believe one of the times is off, but by that much? I have trouble believing that Turkey Hill, a cat 5 race with hills, would be faster than the 4/5 on the perfectly flat Memorial Hall course. Maybe it's the corners, or maybe everybody was snowballing it on Sunday, but I was pretty confused by that.

Racing

Turkey Hill is definitely the sort of course that would have Lou complaining the whole day about stupid hills. They tone it down for the Cat 5 race, but he would still complain. I actually wish we did go up Gamber Wall like the other races. I didn't get a real good look at it, but I'm definitely in favor of hillier courses.

The Cat 5 course is brain dead simple. There's a couple corners, but nothing serious. They make a big deal out of the one being dangerous because it goes into a yellow-line-rule section so it narrows up quite a bit, but it's not too bad. You can't take it full bore, but the people in my race were slowing far too much around each corner. There are some climbs and I was glad I went with the 27 casette, but I don't think they're actually that bad. It was a little hard to tell because I've been sick all week and went into the race exhausted so I felt worse than these hills should have made me. The first part of the lap is a gradual incline for maybe a couple K that pretty much everybody just sat and spun up, except for the people that kept trying to jump from there. The back side is a winding downhill leading to the base of a set of three hills. Once you crest these there's a shallow downhill to the finish. The three hills were a little steeper, a lot of people were up out of the saddle for them. Except for that one section going through a couple houses, the course is closed so you can use the whole road. That made things pretty spacious, some of these country road races can get pretty tight if you have to obey yellow lines (like easterns last week). I found it amusing to see that there appeared to be a permanent road sign marking 1 kilometer to the Turkey Hill Classic finish line.

There's not a whole lot to say about the race. I pretty much spent the whole time sitting on people's wheels, moving out only to mark people trying to jump off the hills. The only attack I couldn't mark ended up being the winning one, the guy went form that first hill and held it off until the end. On the backside I thought we were going to reel him in but I couldn't quite do it and apparently no one else could.

Going around the whole final lap I kept telling myself "Joe, you have to on the left side when we get past the last hill, you have to be on the left side when we get past the last hill..." Sadly, for whatever reason, even though I came up the last hill first in the field, I completely forgot to move over to the left side. As a couple people went by as expected, I got totally boxed in against the right side of the road. There was a wall of guys in front of me and a wall of guys next to and I just had nothing to except sit there, even though I felt like I could have beaten at least a couple more of those guys.

I must admit that I did almost crash going around that dangerous corner. The guy in front of me was working his brakes more than I wanted to, so I ended up directly on his left. He didn't see me as he cut left a little to run the corner wider and he bumped into me. He stayed pretty upright, but I ended up doing a little cyclocross action in the gravelly grass next to the road and missing the corner. Fortunately I didn't go down, for no apparent reason at all, and made up the ground I'd lost pretty quickly to catch the lead again, but it was a little scary for a moment. I guess it was my fault, I should have backed off more in the corner. A lesson learned I guess.

Memorial Hall is the most basic course you can imagine, you basically do a bunch of laps around a square probably less than 6 city blocks long. The corners are all pretty wide, except that they have curbs along the side so you don't get a grassy margin for error, and there's usually debri in them, twigs and branches and such. In my race there was this one stupid chunk of wood in the second corner that you had to constantly be aware of. The defining characteristic of the race seems to be how large the field is. This weekend there were 71 people in my race, which I think was slightly smaller than last year. That's far and above any collegiate race except maybe nationals. Our conference is the biggest in the nation, I think, and still the largest races top out around 50 people. Even then, that's usually on a larger course.

If you wind up near the back that size becomes an issue, but if you work at keeping up near the front it's not that different. Plus, with a field that big it's real easy to just tuck in and cruise around. Admittedly, I could only pull that pace in the lead for about 3/4 of a lap before really feeling it and having to slow down to force people to go around and take a pull, but hanging in the middle was real easy.

So, that's what I did most of the race, just tucked in and cruised around. I made sure to lineup in the front before the race started and consciously worked at staying in the top third or so throughout the race. Whenever I thought I was slipping back too far I'd move up on the front or back section, take a pull, and then slip back into the top of the field.

Once you got a little too far back, things started getting real sketchy. Lots of annoying people yelling, taking weird lines through corners, and generally making me uncomfortable. For example, towards the end when things picked up a little there were a lot of people banging cleats trying to pedal through corners, and a lot of people popping out of their pedals so it felt a little dangerous.

Which is not to say that the front wasn't, either. With 9 laps to go I was sitting up in the top 20 or so when the guy in front of me took the first corner a little wide and nailed the curb. He went flying into the grass, but his bike came up, destabilizing the guy next to him. That guy in turn destabilized the guy next to him. Meanwhile, I'm right behind them. As the one guy fell out and back he clipped my left shoulder pretty good and his buddy fell right on top of my leg, knocking my foot out of the pedal and sending me all over the road. Of course, the first guy's bike is still flopping around on the ground just ahead and to my left. I was pretty sure I was going down and came real close to doing so, enough so that as he passed me the guy who'd been right behind me said it was a great save.

At first I was worried that I'd broken a cleat because I couldn't get my foot back in, but I think I was just rattled. Something up front made a weird noise for a couple laps, but it settled down. When we came around next time I think there were four guys in the grass, so they must have gotten someone else in the crash as well. After a lap or two when my heart rate came back down and I refocused, I realized there was only a couple laps to go and I'd lost a lot of places. Thankfully I'd been far enough up when it happenned that I had been able to just tuck back into the field once I got clipped in, but I was much farther back than I wanted to be at the end of the race.

Trying to move up, I found everybody else had the same idea and the left side was totally blocked off. There was no way of getting through there. After another couple laps I gave up on that and tried to work up the right side. That worked a little bit and got me up to basically where I finished, but I had to give it up. Going down the right side meant coming up on people's inside going into the corners. A couple of times the line came down on me pretty hard and I was getting pretty concerned about being forced into the curb on the inside. Especially as the end came up, trying to get through the top 30 guys that way sounded real dangerous so I gave it up and just sat back for the last two laps, hoping soemthing would open up. Of course nothing did, so I ended the race stuck in the middle of this clump of people. That was unfortunate, but it was a good experience and I definitely fared much better than last year so I was pretty pleased.

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