Monday, August 27, 2012

Racing - Aug 24, 2012 CCNS Kermis Cat 3

Ever since CCNS announced they'd be holding a kermis race at Rentschler Field I wanted to do the race. I've done the real thing before, but only in races where I was way, way, way over my head. A kermis differs from a typical criterium in a few ways:

1. Longer course. In Belgium a kermis typically went around a 5-7 km course, or 3-4 miles. The CCNS kermis would do a 1.6 mile loop, so a good compromise between a crit and a semi-unmanageable circuit.

2. Longer straights. A Belgian kermis might have 5 or 6 turns in 5-7 km. This meant a lot of fast riding between the turns. In a crit there are some courses where you can barely take a few pedal strokes before hitting the next turn. In a kermis you bang the throttle to the floor, hold it there, and ease off just before everything blows up.

3. Narrow roads. A Belgian kermis would start and finish in a town setting but usually meandered into single lane farm roads next to fields and pastures.

A real Belgian kermis (I spelled it "kermesse" in my posts).
Yes, that's a hairnet on the 4th rider in the picture.

4. If you fall 3 minutes behind you get pulled. In my first real kermis I got unceremoniously yanked in one lap. My maximum speed was over 70 kph that day, on a flat course. For us Americans that translates to about 44 mph. And I got shelled so bad they pulled me.

5. In northern Belgium the courses tended to be flat with a decent amount of wind. You almost always end up in some kind of a crosswind situation. There's a reason the Belgians and Dutch are so good at holding position in massive crosswinds - they grew up racing like that.

The CCNS course seemed to me to be a great compromise between the races I normally do and what I'd call a "kermis". The longer course was fine, okay, but it also had some extended straights. In fact, in those 1.6 miles, I'd consider there to be only four real turns - a left at the end of the start/finish stretch, a U turn at the far end of the course, and a quick right-left leading into the finishing bit of road.

It also had some narrow, one lane roads. Well, technically they're bike paths, but they're brand new, they're a lane wide, and we'd follow them for a bit. Significantly the U-turn preceded the narrow roads so positioning could be critical for that section of the course.

Rentschler Field normally has a good amount of wind, just like the low lands of the Benelux countries. This would add proper feel to the race.

I took on additional responsibility for the race - I'd be doing the finish line camera stuff, picking numbers. With two helpers to take my place during the Cat 3 race (which I wanted to do), my biggest worry was dealing with the late finish of the P123 race. I expected it to finish at about 8 PM, by which time it'd be quite dark.

After a poor test on Thursday, where I couldn't pick out any numbers using a 100w flood light, I called in the reinforcements and showed up with 1700w worth of lights - a 500w light I already had and a new set of 1200w lights.

Jeff setting up 1200w of lights.

I figured the first three races would be fine, the last one would be tricky. The promoter had a light trailer thing too, one of those trailers with a generator inside and a tall pole with four lights. It certainly beat my 1700w setup but it sat too far from the line to offer significant help.

The first races went well. The promoter had decent fields, the races seemed quite interesting, and even in the Cat 4-5 race there were some serious attempts to break away from the field.

The kermis formula seemed to be working.

Like a springtime Bethel I got changed and ready to race while doing camera stuff. I knew I wouldn't have a warm up but with the long straights and a reasonable field I thought I'd be okay. After a lap or two I'd be plenty warmed up.

I lined up with the 3s with three teammates - SOC, Joel, and Mike. The latter was back from school - I hadn't raced with him since 2010, with maybe a Rent thrown in there. Joel and SOC were both riding well so we had a good group.

Personally I had no expectations. I'd take getting shelled but I'd also take being in contention.

We started off normally, no "at the gun" attacks. However, for the first few laps, two guys from the same team set a strong pace, one strong enough that no one wanted to dispute it. In fact, on the second lap, I'd moved up, and found myself a couple wheels behind one of the teammates. He resembled Cancellara (at least in my oxygen deprived state) and so that's what I labeled him.

"Cancellara" examining the damage.
I'm suffering at third wheel and we're strung out single file.

This is my view of the shot above. I'm not on the wheel and taking a lot of wind.
Heavy D, the photog, is on the right edge of the picture above.

The other teammate was more of a Ryder Hesjedal, tall and lanky, and he'd do some huge turns at the front too. He rolled up to the front before the hairpin at the back end of the course.

"Ryder" hitting the front, "Cancellara" sitting two wheels back.

With the two guys pulling like mad the first three laps went by very quickly. After my stint near the front I realized pretty quickly that if they kept up this pace and I tried to stay up there, well, frankly, I'd get shelled.

I drifted back.

The other Expo boys made moves, Mike making enough moves to count for the whole team. We didn't have a plan for the day - I was too focused on the finish line stuff to worry about racing stuff. I wish we worked together a bit because we'd have done better had we combined our strengths to get one rider up there.

Mike and SOC both made efforts in the last lap. I turned down assistance from Mike because I felt like I may not be there; in retrospect I think working for him or SOC would have been more productive than just riding.

Joel hung out near me during the race. He said a few things to me but I couldn't respond as I was absolutely redlined.

Each time we went by the start finish area I'd look over at Lance and Jeff (they were helping) in case they had looks of panic on their face. None, so that was good, and the Missus also looked pretty calm.

I kept racing.

With a 1.6 mile lap and the smallish field I figured I could wait until the last lap, push really hard just before the hairpin, and battle it out in the top 6 or so (i.e. from about 6th).

When we started down the corridor to the hairpin the pace went up, as expected.

What I didn't expect was a total lack of desire to push. I sat in the middle of the group, boxed in, and stayed there. I made no attempt to move out, no attempt to shoot through any gaps.

I just sat there.

We got around the hairpin safely and the front guys really punched it, stringing out the group.

I sort of started thinking about moving up, especially when SOC rocketed up the side, but I felt almost disconnected from my legs. I was thinking all sorts of tactical stuff but my legs were going just hard enough to keep me in the field.

Last real corner before the finish, about 500m away.

I made it through the last real corner, a left, then a right bend, and realized the front of the field was basically out of reach. I sat up, my brain accepting my legs' preference.

I stopped quickly and headed back to the tent. The Missus gave me my spot back and I started reviewing the finish line footage. At some point I headed to the car to get rid of my jersey and pull on a t-shirt. I slipped into my jeans too but I don't know when.

Pins. The number didn't flap.

The P123s had a fast and furious race, the largest field, the most aggressive racing. A crash marred the final lap but overall the race ended up hard fought and quite competitive. For me the scoring turned into a nightmare with the cameras ill suited for low light conditions. This is something to fix for the future - I'm thinking of a super high density of LED lights but I'm not sure how viable that would be. As it was the power cord to the 1200w lights got really, really hot, and I remember reading somewhere that most of the energy goes toward generating heat. If I could get the cooler LEDs to emit as much or more light (I remember one of the bike light companies had a bar of LED headlights, resembling a nunchaku handle, which had some insane amount of power, 100,000 lumens or something).

After everything finished it took a while to get things squared away. Without the big van it wasn't quite so straight forward to pack everything, and I had some extra gear (lighting, ladder) to haul. Even though I pawned off some large stuff onto others the car ended up packed to the gills. I need to get more efficient at doing this stuff.

The Missus had headed home with Junior shortly after the P123s finished. I followed an hour or three later. Once home I took my bike off the roof rack, brought in the bare minimum of stuff (dirty kit and electronics), and called it a night. It would be Monday morning before the exhaustion left my body.

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