Monday, June 29, 2009

Turns of Death II

Saturday Night

We all took a little ride before dark and then Kyle and I headed over to Mi Casita while Wick waited on this kid Tyler to show up.

When we got back to the house Wick and Tyler were putting Tyler’s rebuilt Scott Addict together (Tyler wrecked the previous one). Apparently a few of the kids on his Hincapie Development Team got their pubes so by USCF ruling they were required to remove the training wheels. Tyler’s been crashing ever since…

Wick shows the proper way to remove a bottom bracket, with a hammer.

Tyler “I’m 17 but I race with PROs” Karnes stayed the night with us but I kept forgetting his name. Luckily it was on his tag…

Tyler asked what I was doing now that I’ve graduated. I went into my spiel about visiting my grandparents in Florida, then Chris in Boston, then—“So you’re like a gypsy now?” Yes, essentially.

Sunday 528 AM

“Yo, Jarbear, time to get up…”

I rolled over, finished my dream, and then got up. I went into the kitchen to find the guys up eating breakfast. Wick said he had gone out last night and didn’t get home until 2. He mentioned something about hoochies, an after-hours bar, and a little of the ol’ Tom Boonen. He said sleep is irrelevant so long as you’re awake for the race.

We were on the road by 6.

The first stop was at Pit Stop in King’s Dominion. While taking in the horizon I happened to notice Tyler’s bike on top of the car.

I guess they hadn’t got to the grip tape last night. Fortunately that didn’t stop Wick from positioning the bars against my frame. The clear coating is made to be scratched.

Along the way there was a toll road to Dulles. The kicker was that it was a 75 cent toll! Are they kidding? We literally stopped for a minute to pay a 75 cent toll, and THEN, there was another for 50 cents when we left the road! How insane is that? A toll road, with total collections of $1.25 per vehicle. Not only that, I believe toll roads are strictly legal loopholes to additional funding. So forget energy efficiency, or anything logical like that, we’re going to stop cars twice for $1.25 because LEGALLY that’s the only way we can get money for this road. What a system. That’s the east coast for you. Cali, you at least get to cross a large body of water for your toll. And, if you cross it with passengers, you get to do it for free via the HOV lane! No, not here, oh no you don’t! My apologies, I digest.

930 AM

We arrived in Reston to a crowded downtown with a nice course. It was essentially a figure 8 on a hill. The sky was a bit overcast though.

Wick and Tyler set up shop back at the car and finished putting together the bike.

1230 PM

An hour before the start of our race it begins raining. The course already has three turns of death without the rain. (I’d show the pics but they make it look decidedly undeadly.)


I roll up to the line on a soaked course. There’s a guy racing with one arm and he has two electronic Dura Ace shifters on the left side. He was wounded in Iraq.


The race begins. I try and get near the front in the line-up but there are too many guys. I get a good start but am still about 20th wheel. We ride 100m before the descent begins.

The first turn on the descent is probably the sketchiest so I go easy into it. The second and third turns are also tough because of the rain but we make it through unscathed.

On the second lap the wrecks begin. I’m caught behind the first wreck into this turn.

I know it looks really benign but this was taken when it dried up and doesn’t really show the grade. On the third lap there’s a crash in this turn.

After both crashes I get a bit excited by the prospects of moving up (without doing any work). I’m also happy to still be on two wheels. It’s like I’m always waiting for the crash and so when it comes, and I stay up, there’s a sense of relief.

However, these also split the pack up a lot. By the fifth lap or so I’m not even in “fodder hell,” I’m dangling off the back. I keep losing time on the descents and not making up enough on the ascents.

A few laps later it’s just me and another guy. We work together for about a lap, let me rephrase that, we ride in the same vicinity for about a lap. We were both hurting too much for any real concerted effort.

Eventually I’m off on my own. I start to give up once for a few seconds but then I get a grip on myself. I put my head down and pedal on.

I’m on my own for the next few laps. I hear the announcer when I come through the start/finish, “All the way from Berkeley, California...” I go a bit harder after that. I don’t want these good ol’ boys thinkin’ Cali is weak.

I go through the start/finish one last time and they blow the whistle. Done. I ride off the course and begin to catch my breath.

In the end I wasn’t too disappointed with the way it went. I went as hard as I could for as long as I could and when I got done I knew I had raced. I feel that more than anything it was the course that beat me. I definitely have a lot to learn skill wise but it’s okay because I really love racing. It takes years to be a good bike racer and I’ve only been racing a few months.

I rode around for a bit then got changed. An hour later I started asking around about burritos and found a Chipotle a mile from the course. The PRO race had begun but there were still like 3000 laps to go so I had plenty of time.

When I got back Tyler was still rocking near the front of the pack. By this point the pace had really picked up and he was spinning at about 120 rpm to keep up. Unfortunately, due to USCF rules he still has to ride junior gearing until he goes off to college. I called it "the Jank-set."

Toward the end the pack had gone from about 100 to maybe 25 and Tyler was still in there. Legit!

Dave Fuentes ended up sprinting for the win. I've seen him race twice now and he's won both races.

I think Tyler was happy to be done with this one.

The ride home was a lot of fun. Wick drove for a while, then attempted to Full Throttle it but couldn’t stay awake so I drove. Somewhere around King’s Dominion I got in the draft of a semi and he pulled us for the next hour. I think the fact that I was going 75 within 20 feet of the semi kind of irked Kyle. My b! (colloquial Jim/Wick-ism for “my bad” or “my fault” or "pardon monsieur")

We saw another Exploder on the way home so Wick got a pic.

Toward the end of the trip I got really happy. It’s fun to be able to race my bike, nap, eat, and race some more. It’s also been a lot of fun here in Virginia. It’s very down home, if you will. Kids actually play in the front lawns here! Imagine that! Although we did see a couple of kids outside sitting on their skateboards as they played with a PSP (portable video game, crack for teens).

There have also been lots of reminders of growing up in Oklahoma, like this industrial size bottle of A1 sauce:

All in all, I’ve had a great time. Hanging out with Kyle and Wick has been a blast. It's great to be around people as crazy about cycling as I am. I'm definitely sad to be leaving soon and hope to come out again. Plus, thanks to about a million miles in Wick's Exploder I now have every bad rap song from the last four years stuck in my head (Thanks Jim and Wick, oh and Tyler. I'll really miss another Akon-esque song about al-al-al-alcohol babay.)

The accommodations have been great as well. I’ve had my own room, plenty of food, and lots of hospitality. Mrs. Knott keeps trying different veggie dishes for me and Mr. Knott hasn’t kicked me out yet. Thanks!

My stay here has really made me consider being a professional non-professional bike racer. You know, just wander the US staying in host housing and doing Cat 4 races. What a life!

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