Saturday was the beginning of the 2011 season for me. Alex and I headed down to Suffolk VA for the Sleepy Hole Smackdown. The course was about a 0.7 mile loop. Only one turn that might be a little tricky with a full field but other than that, flat and gonna be fast. The field stated with about 36 racers, most notable was the VA Beach Wheelmen who had come out in force, but it is their race and always good to see a team well represented. Also noticed that there was a Potomac Velo female racer that was amongst us, I figured that she was a Women’s 3 doubling up for the day.
As I expected, the race started out very fast, after the first turn, we were basically pace lining it. I did not have an ideal start but was sitting mid-pack just figuring out the course and the racers. About the fifth lap, the field was dividing, do to a pretty good head wind at the far end of the course and one corner that was a little greater than 90 degrees, the lesser experienced rides moved toward the back. I was still sitting toward the middle and found a couple of riders that were braking in the corners then sprinting to to get back on, basically doing some sketchy riding. Too much wasted energy, too dangerous for me, so I moved up to the top five, well sort of.
By this time, two guys had gone off the front, so I was actually sitting around seventh. After a few more laps, we were approaching the 14 minute mark, had about 22 laps to go, I heard a godawful sound. Yes, the sound of carbon and asphalt, but it was far enough behind that it had little effect on the front. I was pretty concerned, hoping my teammate Alex was not involved. As we came back around, the USAC official was directing us to the left, I noticed that the Potomac Velo rider, later identified as Lindsay Honaker, had got tied up with another rider and she was laying in the middle of the course, obvious that they were not going to move her. On the back side of the course, I saw Alex with a flat, so I was relieved that he had not been mixed up in the crash. We did about two more laps and finally the USAC Officials stopped us at the line. He stated that they had called an ambulance, once they had moved her we would restart the race. Several of the riders that had been behind her stated that she had just sprinted into the back of Andrew Steele from Bike Lane, basically she had got sucked into the back of the pack. Her recollection can be read on her blog.
After a quick view of USA CYCLING website, road-results.com, and reading her blog, she self admits to have never been in a road race, I am not sure why she (CAT 4 Woman) was in the CAT4 Men’s race. I am really glad to hear that she was not hurt too bad, but the whole point of Women’s 4s and Men’s 5s is to get use to pack racing. She states on her blog that she is registered for Black Hills and Richmond, I hope it is in the Women’s 4 race (bikereg.com Womens 4 for Blackhills and Mens 3/4s at Richmond). Okay off my soap box, enough of that.
(NOTE ADDED ON MONDAY)
(After reading Lindsay’s response at http://thedirtfield.com/?p=1871. I did a little more research I just could not figure out HOW she was in the field, not WHY but HOW. I was not questioning her pedigree because I knew that she was a pro mountain biker. I knew that women could race one category lower than there license but could they race a category equal too? The answer, according to the USAC Rulebook, states that women can enter any men’s race that is equal in category or age. So in fact, she is allowed to compete as a CAT 4 Women in a CAT 4 Men’s race. )
After about a 5-10 minute delay, they took about 7 laps off of our race and restarted us with 15 laps to go. They gave the two breakaway riders a 30 second headstart and then released the hounds. I knew this would be an all out sprint, so in good cyclocross style, I decided to hit the first turn like it was a holeshot. This I executed well, following a rider from American Pride into the corner. I really had no desire to hit that turn with the other 30 or so riders.
The American Pride rider, along with myself and an VA Beach Wheelmen, took turns pulling for the next 8 laps or so trying to pull back the two off the front, but this was all done in vain, no chance. With 5 laps to go they gave us our first preme, this would continue for the next two laps. On the second to last lap, they throw the last preme so I made my decision, there was no way I was going to be able to out sprint the American Pride rider, so I would go for the last preme and carry the velocity in a break way. I came up toward the line and about 200 m out came out of the saddle and easily got the preme, I think the field thought that I would take it and sit back, but I just carried the momentum through the 90 degree turn and kept going. Today, it worked out, I crossed the finish line in third with about 8 bike lengths on the field.
For me, it was a good day and a good race.