Lake Auburn Mens Cat 5

Kyle Welch – Lake Auburn RR: 3rd place Cat 5

In the week heading up to the race, there never seemed to be much doubt that this was going to be a wet race.� It’s a pretty far drive, and with only $30 invested, it was tempting to bail, but I don’t mind riding in the rain, and figured it would be a good learning experience.� Besides, once you get soaked you can’t get any wetter…(although it turns out you can get colder).

The course was 3 11.5 mile laps.� It starts with a fast ~2 mile downhill right into “The Wall”, a ~200 yd climb that is fairly steep.� On laps 2 and 3, they would take the top 3 and the “King of the Wall” would get $50…a king’s ransom in the Cat 5 world.� Since it was not contested on the first lap, I figured the first lap would be pretty social.� Wrong.� At the whistle, there was pretty much the sound of burning rubber as people sprinted apparently to get a good position for the descent.� I was about 20 people back and could see that a couple of people were pretty launched by the time we got to the wall.� This had the effect of everyone hammering up “The Wall”.� In my vast previous experience in Cat 5, I’ve been able to move up pretty easily on the first hill.� Not today…even with the hammer down in quasi-panic “oh crap don’t let a 5 or 6 person break happen right here” mode I was barely gaining on the guys on the front ~50 yds ahead, and not making much ground on the people around me either.� Fortunately, over the top everyone sat up for long enough that everyone got back together.� Still, notice had been given that there was a lot of horsepower on the road today.

The rest of the lap was fairly uneventful.� There was no shortage of people willing to set a righteous pace and I managed to sit around 5-10 spot the whole way and stay off the front.� As we hit the final climb, people started to ramp it up so they could contest the “KOW”.� I figured this was going to be a pretty good indication of who the people to watch were.� A big guy in a “Kung Fu Panda” kit went hard, followed by a smaller guy who looked like a climber, and then a 3rd bigger guy in a Base 36 kit went flying past everyone to take the 1st KOW.� I decided that the KOW wasn’t going to happen for me today and would save my matches, and rode the hill at 95% so I’d at least be close enough to catch on if they decided to keep going over the top.� They all sat up at the top, but I was definitely worried at how fast the 2 bigger guys had gone up the hill.� Also troubling was that even though we’d gone up pretty quick, the entire pack was still together within 30 seconds of going over the top.� There didn’t seem to be any weak links out there.

We kind of noodled for a while, at which point I started getting pretty chilly.� Started the 3rd lap and hit the KOW climb.� A couple of people attacked the climb, and again the Base36 guy exploded past about half way up to take the climb and the $50.� This was not good, both Base36 and Kung Fu dude were solid.� About half way through the final lap, fellow NEBC’er Russ Holden and another rider got off on a break.� Kung Fu dude put in a decent pull to try and bring them back with me on his wheel.� He eventually pulled over and waved me through but I kind of rode along next to him for a while.� He got kind of angry and told me I’d been riding his wheel all race without pulling at all.� I told him I was sorry but didn’t he think it would be poor form for me to pull when I had a teammate up the road?� He didn’t share his opinion.� It turns out, in Cat 5 races, there is a decent percentage of the field which feels that it’s lame to hide in the pack all day and let other people do the work.� They tend to get pretty frustrated at the amount of work they are doing compared to everyone else.� I’ve been called out for being a slacker in each of the 3 races I’ve done so far…

At this point, a group went by pretty quick with the other NEBCer Arnost Lobel near the front, and it wasn’t too long before Russ’s break was reeled back in and we were one big happy family heading into the final few miles.� All 3 NEBC’ers were up near the front.� The wind-up to the finish starts with a ~400m climb, and then a long, straight, 1 mile false flat up to the finish.� Everyone went all out when we hit the climb, and when we got to the top it was Kung Fu dude in front, Base36 guy in 2nd, and me in third, and everyone else right on my wheel it seemed.� Kung Fu guy dropped the hammer at that point, and I was a little slow in responding…which resulted in an agonizing ~30s of me dangling about 15 yds back from the wheel of Base36 guy, who was on the wheel of Kung Fu guy, giving it everything I had.� I was neither gaining ground or losing it, and at that point I made the mistake of looking back to see that I’d opened up about a 40 yd gap on the pack behind me, and I eased up a bit.� Mentally, I think that at that point I’d decided that the two guys in front of me were stronger than I was, and kind of resigned myself to third place.� In reality, I should have been thinking that if I could have just gotten back on the wheel of Base36 guy, I’d have been in a sweet position, third wheel with 200m to go and a guy in front who had just gassed himself.� If a hungry lion had been chasing me could I have caught back on?� That’s what I’ve been wondering…I’m not sure if even then I’d have been able to beat either of them, but I’d have at least been able to ride a wheel into the final 50m.

Instead, as I eased up a bit and watched them pull away and Base36 guy come around to take the win, I took another look behind and realized that a big group was barreling down on me and that the final 200m is a lot longer than you think.� I had to re-drop the hammer and “where the hell is that damn line on the pavement”, and had just enough oomph to stave off people on both sides of me by maybe a foot to take 3rd with cursing in stereo from both sides.

Pretty happy with the result as this seemed by far to be the deepest field I’d ridden in yet, and it was my first field sprint.� Looking forward to my next race at Purgatory on Sunday, hope to see a bunch of you out there!

Arnošt Löbel – Lake Auburn RR: Cat 5 20th

I did not have the greatest preparation week prior the Lake Auburn race, I must say. My daughter was graduating from a university in Florida, so that was where we went a week ago. No training for me, and you can imagine I ate and drank what I probably should not have. On top of that, my daughter and son in-law were moving from their place and my wife and I were their only helpers. I got more strength training in two days than in the last 5 months. We returned on Wednesday more tired than the day we left, but that is not untypical for our vacations anyway.

With that introduction to my race report, you’ve probably already guessed where I am heading with this, but read on; as it turned out that one week off wasn’t probably the biggest contributor (if at all) to my not scoring at that race.

I’ve said it on many occasions and say it again – I do not mind riding in rain. I like it, actually; unless it is cold. It was around 55 Fahrenheit in Auburn on Saturday. At first, I did not find it particularly cold. I warmed up in a short-sleeve jersey and a rain jacket and I felt fine. I contemplated changing to a long-sleeve, but I did not change, since if there is anything I dislike more than cold rain, it is overheating. So I started with just the short-sleeve jersey over my tank-top base. A BIG mistake, as it turned out!

The first lap was quite uneventful, comparing with other races. Once we got over the first hill, the stronger half of riders established itself and rode at very comfortable pace with no attacks. All of us NEBC members were in that group. The first lap passed almost without me noticing it. I was watching other riders, particularly my fellow NEBC-ers. I am ever impressed with the way Russ rides. He is clearly one of the strongest racers in the Cat5 group. It looks like no kind of accelerating or jumping costs him any effort whatsoever. It’s amazing. Kyle, the third member of our “team” is a slightly different story. I have already read his report so I know he tries to be modest in his description, but let me tell you something – next race, I want to be where Kyle is; I mean – all the time! I do not know how he does it, but Kyle was either exactly where he wanted and needed to be, or he was on his way getting there. He rode constantly at the front, and if he was not one of the top 5, he probably had a reason for it. I have so much to learn from them, both Russ and Kyle.

The second lap started pretty much the same way the first lap went. The bunch quickly regrouped after the hill-wall and continued at unexciting pace. In fact, we started riding a little too slowly for my taste. For my taste and for my attire particularly, to be precise. I started to shiver badly. My hands were shaking and I felt my legs turning into two wooden stumps. A quick look at the computer confirmed that we were indeed going rather slowly. My HR was in zone 1. That does not work very well for me. I do not do well when the speed changes abruptly from too slow to too fast; I need some constant effort. Fortunately, we picked it up a little after a while. I made my way through to the front and rode behind Kyle and Russ. That was how we finished the second lap – us three in 3rd, 4th, and 6th position, or about. Our mothers would be so proud!

I expected a break to happen after the hill-wall going into the third and last lap. To avoid getting dropped, I made sure to start climbing the hill among the first. I let it go on the hill down, and I do not know if it was me just being dumb or brave, but I seemed to descent faster than everyone else. I was second on the bottom before we started climbing. I had no aspiration for the KOM, so I just controlled not getting dropped. The pace picked up a bit from that point on, which I welcomed, for I still was feeling cold. I noticed Russ broke away with another rider. I actually did not see it happening – the group was 20-rider strong and I was not with the front at that time. With Russ was riding away at about 300 yards, I advanced closer the front in case some would try to chase him down. It did not take too long, and my friend Paul, the Zipp guy from the Sterling race started to peel off the front too. I got on his wheel (it was not Zipp this time), but I did not plan to do any work whatsoever. After a couple of minutes it looked like Paul could use some help, but with Russ still well ahead of us, I was very shy of contributing. Another guy would finally jump in front of Paul and gave him some rest which he look like appreciating.

We continued like that for another 2 or 3 minutes, but – without much realizing it – we were slowing down. I curse the moment I did not pay more attention what was happening behind me. Because when I noticed it was almost too late. Suddenly (it felt suddenly), all the remaining 15 guys in our top group started passing me on my left at speed that felt overwhelming. They were riding very tight; I did not know how to squeeze myself in. I had to wait dutifully for the end of the pack. The difference in speed was so great that I almost failed to jump on the end. But I did. I was behind some guy in a Cofidis team jersey. He started to slow down after a while. I passed him, but could not do anything more at that point. I believe it was me gotten so cold from the two previous laps, but it could also be that the pace was simply too fast for me. We were rolling 27 to 30 mph at times. When we reached the last hilly section, the group caught Russ and his companion. Too bad, because he probably had only 2 miles left. On the first of the last 3 hills, the Cofidis guy passed me again and I did not react. At that moment I realized the race was over for me that day. The peloton started spreading out in preparation for the last mile sprint. I did not see anyone behind me, and slowed down. Once again I noticed I was still shaking and was really looking forward to changing from the wet clothes and getting something warm to drink or eat.

I finished 20th out of 35 or so. I was the last one from the fast group, but I am not really disappointed. If I was a little disappointed anyway, it would be for my wrong bet on the light jersey. I am not sure if it would have made any difference, but it might. I was still shivering one hour after that race, in my car with the heating cranked all the way up. I was very tired for the rest of Saturday, and on Sunday it almost looked like I might get sick. I got over it with a few shots of Bourbon and a lot of vitamin C, but it was a close call 🙂

Lesson learned from this race:

– Dress accordingly (that takes experience)

– Do what Kyle and Russ do

– Pay attention what’s going on behind me, not just in front of me

– Incorporate some quick jumps into my training

Arnošt Löbel

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