Monday, March 2, 2009

Southern Nevada Stage Race, 2-28/3-1 2009

By Richard Pollack

In previous years this race has been run earlier in the year and at a different location. However this year, running the end of February and at the Callville Marina on Lake Mead, we had the good luck of beautiful courses and superb weather! Neither aspect could have been better.

The Marina and all of Lake Mead are within a huge National Park. The first thing I noticed was the distinct lack of California style litter and debris by the roadsides. This place was spotless and driving/riding the course remind one of a drive through the Grand Canyon or perhaps on the moon. The wind was pretty strong on Friday afternoon, the day before the race as we drove the RR course. Initial impression? Man, there's gonna be a lot of climbing!

The race format was fairly simple. Saturday morning would start with a 3.8 mile uphill TT. After lunch, a 44 mile RR. Sunday morning would conclude with a 45 minute Crit in a circuit laid out in the uphill Marina parking lot.

Paul Springer and I did the trip together and stayed at the host hotel, The "Railroad Pass" Casino. This was about 30 miles more or less form the race start location. There were also house boats available at the marina for about 3 times the price, but without the drive. The drive was no big deal.

Saturday AM. All the 55/60 riders would start at 10:00 with riders going off every :30 secs. The route was immediately uphill followed by a short downhill. Then a short uphill and a big downhill. After that it was a gradual climb with a couple harder sections, but nothing too difficult. Pacing seemed to be the area of major mis-calculation for most riders. Now after driving down the hill to the start, I thought it was going to be a bitch! At 3.8 miles, I figgered a time comparable to the San Dimas hillclimb TT was the order of the day. That would be 16:00-18:00.I had my computer set on time display and at 10 minutes, began to turn up the heat. Then I rolled over the crest and could see the finish. My time was 11:27. Holy crap, this course was way easier than I had counted on. All the 55/60 times ranged from 10:40-12:01. I guess pre-riding the course would have revealed this fact. As pointed out later by John Rubcic, Whenever you have a stage race this short starting with a Hillclimb TT, that pretty much establishes the finishing order as it can be very hard to make up time in the RR and almost impossible in the Crit. This time there would be some surprises at the finish, but for the most part it was true.

TT Results-55+

1. Warren Wicks- 10:43
2. Kal Szkalak- 10:51
3. Bill Tippetts- 10:59
4.John Wagnon- 11:02
5. Steve Horine- 11:08
6. Richard Pollock- 11:27
7. Peter Rupert- 11:49
8. Raphael Gomez- 14:02

TT Results 60+

1. Kenny Fuler 10:40
2. Benji Maciel 11:13
3. Jim Morehouse 11: 22
4. John Rubcic 11:27
5. Bruce Steele 11:48
6. Paul Springer 11:53
7. Steve Close 12:00
8. Paul Rachat 13:22
9. Vicente Gomez 13:33
10. Gary Powers 14:57

Side notes: The flyer advertized food before the TT, sandwiches for lunch and spaghetti after the RR. Well they had bagels, OJ and milk and there was a store with limited supplies next to the parking lot. There were no sandwiches after the TT and the spaghetti dinner was at 6:00 although after the RR we were dying for food and bailed out. The store was out of sodas and had almost none the next day. None of this would’ve been a problem, except you were 25 miles from any other food!

Roadrace! The course seemed a little odd in the description at first. Go up the TT hill. Hang a right and go out 9.1 more miles. Turn around at the top of the climb and then go about 20 miles, passing the turnoff to the TT course and marina. After the 20 mile “Rolling” section, do another turn around and head back to the turnoff for the TT course. Turn right, go 500 meters and then you’re finished. We rolled out 40 minutes late with a HUGE group! It contained the 45+, 55, 60, 3-4 women and the 35+ 4-5 men. The number I heard was 108 for a headcount. I think it was more like 75.

The pace started out fairly brisk with a couple short lived attacks. We all made the turn at the top and began a very series of up and down rollers with the emphasis on up. A break formed, but was reeled in after a mile or so. On the final climb to the turn around with about a mile to go, Fuller stands up, throws his bike side to side and takes out Warren Wicks’ front wheel. The DVD alternate ending was that someone moved over on him and he took evasive action. The result was the same either way. Warren (The 55+ leader) was on the ground and Kal (in 2nd), ran over him although I think he unclipped coming to a stop and stayed off the ground. I was 2 feet behind them and nearly got gathered up myself. After a time, Kal was back with the group and just before the summit, Warren was with us too! Warren told me later that his chain got all wound up in the bottom bracket behind the chainring. Also, he pranged his rear wheel and had to release the brake to continue.

Within a few seconds we were at the turnaround and in the blink of an eye, Keith Ketterer(KK) and Steve Peterson jumped hard on the downhill and before they had a gap, Kal was attempting to join them. There were a couple other 45+ riders with them as well. I knew this was the decisive move, but was not in a position to respond quickly enough. They got a 50 meter gap in the blink of eye which quickly grew. I was trying to stay as near the front as I could on the climbs leading to the turnaround and I really wasn’t sure how many were left in our group from front to back. But for me, Kal was gone and gaining time with Warren back in our group. Bill Tippetts and John Wagnon from Reno were still there in the 55’s as well. In the 60’s, we had Fuller, Rubcic, Benji, Morehouse and 2 others I believe. There was one very lean woman(3-4), a few 35+ 4-5’s and a few 45’s. Steve Horine (55) and Paul Springer (60) had lost contact.

For about the next 8 miles or so we swapped off drafting and flying down the rollers we had just gone up with interspersed power accelerations over the rises. Pedaling downhill takes a toll for sure and if you left a gap you were gone. The group shrunk a little more. Fuller began trying to get away with several attacks and finally one stuck. He was gone the way only he can be “Gone”! Rubcic went to the point several times and tried to coax his 55 and 45 teammates(Tippetts and Robert Wilcox), to take up the chase. He wanted to get back in touch with Fuller and lose the other 60’s(2?), including Benji who was 16 seconds GC ahead of him. Finally, with about maybe 1.5-2 miles to go to the turn around, Steve Gonyer (State 45+ TT Champion) takes off and Warren goes with him. They just sort of rolled away, sorta fast. When it looked serious, I started the pursuit and when I was within about 15 feet, well clear of the group, we hit a good riser. They stood up and accelerated hard. I stood up. The brain said, “YO!”, but the legs said, “NO!” I was swallowed by the group. Warren and Steve were disappearing up the road. At this point we fly down a 50mph downhill followed by a sharp climb to the second and final turnaround. We were maybe 75 meters from the turnaround as the break was heading down the hill. They were not that far ahead. Maybe 35-40 seconds. But the group contained Kal, Fuller, Wicks, Gonyer, KK and Peterson!

We’re now on the 11 miles stretch to the finish. I had commented to our young lady breakmate on the way to the second turnaround that we had been going 28-32mph with a side/tailwind for a REALLY long time! Payment was now due! There began much jockeying to find shelter from the wind and many small, meaningless attacks as we did a steady climb to the finish. Total mileage was to be 44 miles.

I’m sure everyone had some sort of strategy, but I can only comment on my own. Here goes. Kal and Warren are ahead of me on the road and GC by now just over a minute and a half. The others ahead of me are Tippetts and Wagnon by about 30 seconds and they are riding near me in the group. Wagnon shadowing me fairly close every time I went fore or aft. Horine is dropped and is now 9 minutes back. We are on a climb to the finish and have about 3 miles to go. If I attack like a madman and try to get away from Tip and Wag, I may get some(?) seconds and they may chase me down before the summit as I explode into flames. I sit in. Then there is a sign that says, “2K”. I wait a bit longer and then Benji rolls by up the centerline and pulls into line in the group. I attack! for maybe 150m and then I see people waving as I approach the last turn and charge to the line. I sail through the corner and my mental bubble explodes with the sign…. “500m”! Shit! That’s a long way to stay out there and it dips downhill with a short rise to the finish. I hold on as long as I can. Brad House thrashes by before the line as do 2 other 45’s and John Wagnon by about a foot. Tippetts was behind me by I don’t know how much, but we were all given the same time. That would be 44 miles in 1:56:01. Kal beat Warren to the line ahead of us by 36 seconds and was given a 1 second advantage over Warren. I was later told by an official that if there wasn’t a 3 second gap, it was considered the same time!? Kal and Warren were now :06 apart heading into tomorrow’s Crit. Rubcic, Benji, Morehouse, etc were all given the ST and Fuller was ahead now by almost 2 minutes. Bruce Steele in his 09 return to racing was about 8-10 minutes back and Paul Springer (towing 2 women for 30 miles) was about another 3-4 minutes further back. It goes without saying in these conditions (Hills and wind) and on this desolate course (Hills and wind), if you were by yourself, it would be a long grind. In all with maybe 6 riders up the road and maybe 15-18 in our group, we shelled 45-50 riders?

That was a hard race! And how. The road was smooth and beautiful and the group rode really hard. When it was over, Bill Tippetts said, “That was the hardest 2 hour ride I can remember!” I don’t know what went on in the break because I wasn’t there, but I heard that Fuller attacked and split it up a bit with 4 miles to go. For me, after I sat down and had something to drink, it was the kind of race you’re glad you were a part of and I was on the ragged edge several times. Great training for…..other races!

The spaghetti dinner was to be at 6:00, we had minimal lunch and were starving. We packed it up and hauled ass to eat. After dinner and adult beverages at the Claim Jumper, sleep would be the only thing on my mind! Well, maybe war, world hunger and the economy, but mainly sleep!

Sunday, Sunday!! The parking lot Crit. I was sort of dreading the thought of a chopped up, rutted, bumpy parking lot race, but boy, was I impressed! The course was very interesting, technical and fast. We’d race for 45 minutes with $50.00 and $100.00 cash Primes. This would be 45/55/60’s only!

The race was a blur of corners and hard charges up the short climb. The last turn was about 28-30mph around the whole thing with little or no pedaling and then a fairly short sprint. KK went off the front for most of the race with 3 Paul Tracey riders from Vegas doing the bulk of the chasing. I have to say I’m a little confused on the finish, because KK got either second or third. Meaning, there were other riders away with him (could be as we were also lapping riders) or we caught him and he didn’t win the sprint. I’m not a good reporter I guess, but I was sorta busy trying to stay in the top 6-8 in a single file race. With all the turns a short hill, the average was over 25mph and there were a number of pretty fast surges.

What needed to happen and what DID happen. In the 55’s, Warren was :06 secs ahead of Kal on GC, Tippetts, Wagnon and myself would not change positions unless the group split apart with a big time spread.

In The 60’s Fuller had only to finish with the group. Not his style, but that’s all that was necessary. Benji was :09 ahead of Morehouse with Rubcic :14 seconds back. There would be :10, :08, :03 time bonus’s on the final finish sprint.

So after a blistering pace for 45 minutes and several riders dropped, Kal won the sprint, Warren was second, I was third, Tippetts 4th and Wagnon 5th. In the 60’s, Rubcic won, Fuller was 2nd and Springer was 3rd. I guess, not thinking, Benji sat up and rolled in………but was given a :06 time gap. Combined with John’s :10 sprint bonus, Benji moved from 2nd to 3rd GC with John overtaking Benji and Morehouse, who was dropped and finished a minute or so back.

In the 55’s, Kal was very disappointed as I was supposed to get second and cut Warren out of the :08 time bonus wherein Kal would have won by :01 GC ! In fact he was already back at his van “Counting his chickens” as said! But in my book, I couldn’t move up in the Crit really GC wise, but Kal received 28 So-Cal cup points instead of 35. For those keeping track, that matters.

So, one last thing. For all the weenies that would rather not do a roadrace for fear of getting dropped, like Bakersfield last year, you missed a great 3-race weekend. Was it easy? Hell no. You had to work, which for most of us is why we ride and race. And on that note, I would like to recognize the Gomez brothers who although they are rarely on the podium, are at every race, givin em Hell! And they did all three races this weekend!! Just off the pace, but out there doin it! They finished, they got points and they had fun. That’s why we do this. For fun!

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