VeloWorks-SpokesETC is excited to announce some new developments for the 2019 MABRA road and cyclocross season. Stay tuned!
Archive for category: Uncategorized
The Tour de Tysons circuit race is always a favorite on the MABRA calendar. The VWS crew brought skeleton squads to the Women’s 1/2/3, 3 and 4/5 fields as well as Men’s 3/4, 45+ and 1/2/3. In the Men’s 4 race, however, they full was in force with an attitude to do damage. Andrew brought home a 2nd place finish to polish off a well-controlled race. His report is below:
Men’s Category 4
Great showing by the team, we’ve really improved communicating and knowing what needs to be done over the course of racing together. Thanks to Pat and Pete who had tight schedules and weren’t even sure if they’d have room on the start line. Also thanks to Beth and Chelsea for setting me up with ice and to Beth again for magically having watermelon juice afterwords.
The plan was to split into two groups: Pete, Pat, Clay, Zac, Jason in the first group; Brian and myself in the second. The first group’s job was to wreak havoc on the 75ish person field right from the gun. Clay and the boys did just that, promptly thinning the heard and shredding everything. Brian and I were hiding in the pack, waiting to unleash something useful in the end. Throughout the race the first group stayed near the front and kept the pace up. I couldn’t see quite everything, but I’m pretty sure I saw everyone make a dig at the front or to get up to the front at some point. I recall Zac chasing a few things down, and then launching his own attack that got around 20 seconds on the field at one point. The group tried to control the front, I recall Pat flying up to do a little good natured blocking that bought Zac a few more seconds. He eventually came back, but I think if he could have extended it a little more he might have hit that downhill again and really put serious time on the peleton.
The course had plenty of room to maneuver, despite some odd juts and narrow areas (how bout that 18-wheeler on lap 1?). I used the space to start positioning myself a little higher up with around 5 to go, chasing down little gaps that formed so I could stay near the front. Around the bell lap I inadvertently floated up to the front. Despite my lack of pedaling, no one wanted to come around. I knew pretty much everyone had to be on my wheel, so I put in a hard dig right at the base of the hill and then tried to even out the effort. My memory gets very hazy here (it was hot), I recall there being bikes around me, possibly someone got in front for a second, Zac made a valiant effort to lead me out but had to come from too far back and had already done a tone of work. I kept going hard just because that seemed better than overthinking things. I recall hearing Zac (possibly someone else) saying something like “go ” or “you got a gap” – anyway someone said something that made me dig in hard. When I looked up I was first coming into the final turn. I felt pretty spent, but promised myself 10 good seconds of sprint. Felt like 10 hours. I felt some bikes coming up on my outside, I heard Sean yell “dig!” and so I did. I held on for second, as the winner got half a wheel or so on me across the line. I wanted to feel spiteful toward him, but he joined in the podium shenanigans so he was cool.
Throughout the race, Joe Jefferson called out Veloworks as being the first or second riders at the front. Whether its Clay shelling the field, Pat blocking the field for Zac, or Zac telling me to slide over to the left so he doesn’t have to fight a rando for my wheel, people are noticing how we race. 2nd is my best finish, and the way the team herded a 75-ish man field like sheep dogs was by far the best teamwork out there.
After a few years hiatus the Chantilly Criterium returned in 2017 with some fast, flat racing. The VeloWorks-Spokes Etc team took full squads into the Men’s 4s, 3/4, Women’s 4 and 123 races. The men worked hard. The women dominated with Kim taking her first career win (and earning her category upgrade) and Kaitlyn lapping the field to take 2nd place. See their excellent race reports below.
Category 1-2-3 Women
Robin, Chelsea, and I lined up for a small but mighty women’s 1/2/3 race at Chantilly. Our plan was pretty straightforward–we had numbers, so make the field work. I was especially motivated to race hard because my coach was in town to see me race for the first time 3 years!
All the kudos go to Robin and Chelsea for masterfully managing the field throughout the entire race in a clean and positive way. I hope that everyone who shared kudos for you to me also shared them with you! You gals were AWESOME!!
At the whistle, we all clipped in and I launched the first attack. I pedaled hard through the first corner and looked back to see a sizable gap back to the field, so I just kept it going. After 2.5 solo laps off the front (for Sean: approx 6 min at VO2), an Artemis rider pulled the field back up to me right before the last corner, so I shut it down and grabbed a wheel.
Then, during the next lap and a half, Robin and Chelsea traded off attacks and counter attacks. Coming through the final corner I was about 4th wheel and was asked to pull through to close a small gap that the rider in front of me couldn’t close. No big deal. Coming through start/finish, I noticed that Robin was still on the front and that I was pretty well recovered from the first effort. As we rounded turn one, I got up and launched again from about 3rd-4th wheel.
After 4 solo laps out front and many people shouting time gaps at me (all I ever heard was ……SECONDS!), I looked back to see that a rider in black and red had cleanly bridged up to me. Once she was on my wheel, I glanced back to see her shaking her head. I immediately said, “don’t shake your head, we have to pedal!” 🙂 And that we did! We traded half-lap pulls for the next 11 laps.
With about 13 to go, the moto rolled up to us and said we were 1:30 in front of the field. I immediately looked down to get a time check on how long each lap was. The next time around, I looked down again to realize that we were doing approximately 2 minute laps. That meant we were only a quarter lap behind the field! Lapping the field was definitely possible. A few laps later when I was on the front, the motor rolled up and said, “look around this corner (final corner) and you’ll see the field!” I think my breakaway companion and I both breathed a sigh of relief and then kicked it up a notch! As we rounded the corner, I flicked my elbow and said, “bring it home, momma!” She pulled us up to within a wheel of the field and we both rolled up and sat up. The lap counter read 7 laps to go–plenty of time to recover.
At this point, I relaxed for a sip or two and realized that I was plenty uncomfortable sitting at the back of the pack on some highly questionable wheels. As we rounded the first corner, I glanced back to my breakaway companion, tapped my left hip to signal for her to get on my wheel and I pulled us both to the front. Once we got up there, I let her know that it is safer for us to ride up in the front.
Robin was comfortably controlling pace at the front, but with me back in the field I thought it made sense for us to not be on the front and let someone else sit in the wind. So I rolled up next to her and said, ‘get off the front,’ which proved to be a difficult task—no one (literally NO ONE) would pull through. And in reality, the front was really the safest place to be.
There was a prime lap at some point, for which a single racer sprinted. My breakaway companion expressed confusion about what was going on (a bell ringing with 4 to go?), so I explained to her the situation and let her know not to chase the single rider going for the prime for she wasn’t going to go anywhere. The prime was complete and the rider rolled back to the pack.
With 2 to go, Chelsea got up front and picked up the pace. Still no one else wanted to work. As we came around for bell lap, Chelsea was still on the front until about half-way around the back side (someone actually asked me, ‘is this your lead out train, Kaitlyn?’ I said, ‘ha! no.” because Chelsea was working for Robin at that point!) Then a bit of a swarm happened and I lost my placement at 3rd wheel. My breakaway companion was right next to me, so I attempted to get on her wheel. Unfortunately she was on a less than steady wheel through the last corner, so I opted to go wide to feel a bit more comfortable. This caused me to get gapped just enough that I caught a bit of wind and couldn’t straighten it out in time to out-sprint her. I completely lost sight of where Robin and Chelsea were. 🙁
Like I said at the top, all of this was possible because of the incredible race management by Chelsea and Robin!
Women’s Category 4
This is quite possibly the best race report and video for 7th place finish we’ve ever published. Sean‘s report of the last lap of his Race Avenue Crit.
2017 Race Avenue – Men’s Masters 45+ last lap
I did an attack on the backside of the course about 90 seconds from the finish. Got up to 40mph vs about 31mph for the pack. I had swung far right to the curb after corner 2 and was alone with the rest of the pack on the usual left side of the wide residential road. I waited a few seconds hoping to get eyes off of me. Then stayed seated and tried not to show the 1000w effort to accelerate to avoid followers.
There had been a guy solo off the front and out of sight for most of the race. We all assumed we were racing for 2nd place. Once I fly through corners 3 and 4 I can see the leader. OMG he is right in front of me. I had not seen him in half an hour. I thought I was doing a late race attack for 2nd place and now I actually had a shot at the win.
From the final corner to the line was 45 looooooooooong seconds. I averaged 600w but only about 24mph. 2% grade and slight headwind and I had already done a big effort on the backside to get 5 seconds on the pack.
The pack did 31mph up the final straight. The Masters 45+ pack was the fastest from the final corner to the line of all races all day long according to Strava. I saw the winner and tasted blood. They saw BOTH the winner and me and tasted blood and flew hard.
I am unable to catch the winner and neither is the pack but it was very close. They caught me 2 seconds from the line and were within a bike length of the winner at the line. Only 5 guys from the charge got by me though so I ended up in 7th. I missed 2nd place by 2 seconds.
I had spoken to my coach a couple days before the race and said I was not confident yet racing in the Masters Open against Cat 1s. I said I might try to aim for making the payout and maybe a podium spot if I time it right instead of racing for the win. It is much safer to race for a Top 10.
His response …. You always race for the win.
With the chance to race on the newly awarded US Nationals road race course, the VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. took a full squad to Clear Spring, Maryland. The women raced a combined Category 1-4 field, the men split the squad among the 35+ 3/4, the open 3/4 and the 1/2/3 races. Jason came away with a solid 6th in the 35+ race and Jamie took the win in a controversial women’s race. See her report below.
Category 1-4 Women
Robin and I took the start line with a group of about 25 women. After a neutral start, the race proceeded at a conversational pace until the first little set of climbs, where a few riders drove the pace up before relaxing on the downhill. A woman from Colavita attacked the downhill and I countered briefly, mostly to have open road in front of me for the descent. I kept the effort level low because I didn’t want to get away with 45 miles to go. There were a few surges, but nothing serious until a Sweetspot-Cutaway rider got a gap about halfway through the race. She stayed away for most of a lap with a lead that varied between 20 and 30 seconds. A few riders tried to bridge up to her, and the racing got tough. She was eventually brought back and the pack stayed together for a bit.
I was sitting second wheel through the rollers on the second half of the course when the rider in front of me accelerated hard up a hill. I matched her pedal stroke for pedal stroke and it didn’t hurt too bad, so I figured I’d try my luck off the front. I dug hard on the next roller and got a gap. I was getting time splits from the officials, so I know the gap fluctuated between 20 and 30 seconds. I got to come through on the bell lap with a 30-second gap, which was cool. My goal was to stay away at least until we got over the main hill, because I figured I’d be blown out the peloton’s butthole if I got caught there. I managed to stay away with a steadily-closing gap until after the descent and the hard right turn on the other side. Shortly after that, the race came back together and I got a little rest.
At that point, there were about 10 miles left in the race. Women who had teammates started coming together and moving towards the front. Robin and I found each other and talked about who had the better legs. I told her I felt like I could still sprint a little, so we decided to do what we could in the final sprint with her leading me out. Sweetspot-Cutaway and Haymarket were keeping a steady but fairly easy pace at the front. I was on Robin’s wheel.
Coming into the final significant climb (where the road narrows), Robin and a rider from ABRT ended up on the front. Robin drove the pace hard up the hill and I managed to stay on her wheel, although it took an effort because she’s STRONG! Neither of us was sure how far up the finish line was, so we didn’t know when to go. We tried to keep our heads up and respond to the movements of the pack. We made the final turn. At some point, the pace got harder and Robin’s legs were done. My legs felt pretty done, too, but I tried to stay near the front and jump on the tail of someone else’s leadout. ABRT jumped and I tried to follow, but I was sinking rapidly through the pack. Legs had too much in the breakaway, I guess, and I sat up, figuring it might be good enough for a top 10.
But as we came across the line, I noticed that there were no officials. And no camera. And no spectators. Then I remembered that one of the race e-mails mentioned that the finish line would be up the road near the school, and I realized that everyone had sprinted to the wrong line! One of the motos pulled up alongside us and told us that we’d gone too soon; the line was still ahead. I accelerated, and yelled that the finish line was still ahead. No one else had enough time to respond, though, and I already had the winning gap. I came across the line, fist raised in victory.
And then things got less fun. Naturally, the women who had sprinted to the wrong line were angry. We were all summoned to talk with the officials. Robin and I rolled up as they were listing out the people who should have (in their opinion) won. Robin and I mostly stayed quiet and listened, keeping in mind the first rule of Veloworks-Spokes Etc. The crux of the argument was that the women’s field hadn’t been told that there would be two lines and two tents, but some neutral observers had reported that that fact was included in the pre-race briefing. The head judge took me aside and asked me if I had known that the finish line was still farther ahead. I was upfront about the fact that no, I hadn’t known exactly where the finish line was and I had sprinted along with everyone else for the first line. But I also said that I had figured out what was going on and acted upon it. “I think everyone should race heads up,” I said, and left it at that.
The officials decided to take the results from the actual finish line, rather than the line that everyone sprinted to. The third place woman declined to stand on the podium; she would have won if the decision had gone the other way.
So I won, and I think I deserved the win. I don’t think it would be reasonable to say, “Well, none of us knew where the finish line was, so we’ve all decided that there should be a different finish line for our race than for everyone else’s races.” And I think Robin and I (and Beth, who was also around) represented VWS well in a difficult situation. There were women from other teams who came up to me and told me to be proud. But it still wasn’t a very enjoyable win.
We all at VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. take our oath very seriously. “Don’t be a jerk.” Robin and Jamie represented VWS with grace, honesty and class amid the swirling controversy, regardless of where the officials chose to place them. Chapeau, ladies!
VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. team continued it’s hot streak with great performances at the cool, damp, sloppy Poolesville Road Race.
Category 4/5 Women
First of all, major kudos for the tough VWS cat 4 women, who all showed up to race Poolesville. I don’t think any of us were especially excited about riding in the rain and in the mud (except maybe Jamie, who must be part Belgian), but we did it anyway! Our race plan was to keep it hard from the start, with Jamie, Sarah and me doing pacemaking and attacking, and Beth and Kim looking after Cinnamon as our A.
Of course, as racing often goes, our plan changed almost immediately on Lap 1. Cinnamon lost touch with the group in the gravel, which we didn’t realize until later, and Beth got a flat in it. (The gravel also claimed Jamie’s tire on lap 2). Gah! The peloton rode on, and I put in a couple attacks after the short steep hill on Elmer School. I got a small gap of maybe 5 or 10 seconds, but was gradually floating back to the field when a rider from Bike Rack rode past me. I knew from past races that she was pretty strong, so I followed her wheel to not let her get away.
The Bike Rack rider and I worked together a little while, but those attacks had me tired and struggling to keep up the pace. I ended up dropping back a bit, and spent several miles trying to close a small gap between us. Eventually I caught up to her again and we started working, but I didn’t think we’d be able to stay away for 2 more laps together. However, the moto came by at several points to give us time gaps, and they were steadily increasing. Midway through the final lap he told us we were up to 2 minutes, which is when we knew the break going to stick.
I had no doubt this was the result of VWS women doing work to manage the pack, and knowing the rest of the women were now essentially putting their race on the line for me gave me the extra motivation I needed to keep pushing those last few miles. I wasn’t sure, though, how I should try and lose my breakaway companion… my legs were feeling a little heavy, so I didn’t want to leave it down to a sprint.
Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself after the final turn onto Westerly. I saw she was starting to fall behind, so I decided to take off. When I was gasping for air and thinking I was almost done, though, I saw the 1K to go sign, ahhhhh!! Thankfully, I managed to not die before getting across the line. I then watched Sarah take 3rd in an incredible sprint, and Kim finish seconds later in a reduced group of 5 or 6 women. Cinnamon cheerfully joined the finishers not long thereafter.
I was stunned by the result, and cannot thank the Cat 4 women enough for making it happen. Even though any one of them could have been on the top step, they made a choice to race selflessly in support of a teammate — a teammate who was not even supposed to be on the podium that day! That. Is. AWESOME. I look forward to repaying that goodwill, and to getting all the VWS women the results they have earned and deserve this season.
Category 3 Men
Sean, Eric, MT and I lined up in a field of about 40 along with the 1/2/3 women. NCVC was well represented in the group as well as District Velocity and District Taco. With the long stretch of gravel for each of the six laps, we took a wait and see approach given the unpredictability of the course, with the potential of setting up Sean on the flat to slightly downhill finish.
The pace was tame from the start with a measured push through the gravel as riders were getting their confidence on the surface. After this stretch and a series of rollers, two riders went off the front. With about two miles left in the first lap I put in a modest chase effort to keep the riders in sight while letting them dangle a bit on their own. I’m guessing I had pulled for two minutes or so when another rider came around me. I took a glance back and saw the peloton had given us 200 feet or so. At this point, I decided to bridge to the riders off the front to see if we could establish a four man break. As we started the second lap, the other rider and I really drilled the downhill of Willard road until we caught the two of the front. I immediately began pushing the pace to ensure we consolidated our lead. The moto then informed us we had 25 seconds on the chase. Looking back there was nobody in sight.
With 45 or so miles to go and 5 more passes through the gravel, I figured our chances were slim to be able to stay away. On the bright side, I knew MT, Sean and Eric would use their abilities to try and break up coordination of a chase. Additionally, both District Taco and District Velocity were represented in the break, cutting down the number of teams that would be willing to drive the peloton. My main goal at this point was to increase the gap quickly in hopes of sinking the morale of the chase group. Over the course of the next couple laps, I put in work on a good portion of the flat and downhill sections to ensure we didn’t lose time. On the flip side, the other three riders did a great job leading the way on the gravel as I did not feel particularly comfortable on the slick stuff. Somewhere on the third lap the moto told us we had a fifty second gap. I knew this wasn’t enough and just kept driving the break as hard as I could. Everyone appeared to be tired at this point but we all took our turns at the front. On the fourth lap I flagged the moto down to get an idea of the gap and he said he wasn’t getting radio communication at this point. While I felt this was a good sign, I knew we still had a lot of work to do.
By the sixth lap everyone in the break was running on fumes but continued to do their part. The last time through the gravel seemed like it would never end as the other riders did their best at the front. I kept looking back thinking we were going to be caught. As we hit the last couple of miles of the race with no chase in sight, the truce faded as everyone was posturing for the final push. This was very similar to the Turkey Hill finish last week where I pulled a tempo pace towards the end with riders on my wheel, who proceeded to come me around me in the last 100m. I knew I had to do something differently this time. I was able to shed two of the riders with a hard pace up the false flat into the last kilometer, with one rider still on my wheel. I put in a quick attack at this point with the rider still directly behind me. Knowing I had to create a gap before the finish, I put in another attack with about 400m left. This time I was able to get some separation and as I began my sprint with 200m left, the other rider sat up and I was able to cross the finish line with a smile rather than having to fight the last few meters. In the end we had gapped the peloton by over four minutes.
I had an amazing time with the other three riders in the break. As tired as everyone looked and felt, even with forty miles left, I was so impressed that they all put in the necessary work when it was their turn. Equally important, however, was the effort that was put in to break up the chase. While being in the break was an incredibly hard, we were not going so fast that we were uncatchable. Without the help of teammates putting in this critical work, I’m am sure we would have been reeled in at some point. After the race, riders from other teams told me the nice job they did in this and I thank you all so much for being willing to do this for me. Additionally, I really appreciate all of you in the VWS cheering section by the finish line. While I could only hear you all for a couple of seconds each lap, it really kept me in good spirits to know you were there.
Firsthand account of the “controversial” Cat 3 race of the Tidewater Road Race from 2nd place finisher, Justin Markunas:
VWS was represented by Mike, Thom, Adam and me. There were roughly 30-35 riders at the line with NCVC bringing at least seven and Cheerbacks with five or so. Given the fact that the field was dominated by three teams, and there was some rolling terrain, our strategy was to get numbers in a break with the remaining teammates hanging back to control the field and disrupt any chases. If the break was swallowed up or never formed, we would shift to leading out either Thom or me for the sprint finish.
After a relatively long neutral start, we finally began the race. Adam, Mike and Thom positioned themselves well early while I lagged a bit for the first two miles as the field was bunched due to soft pace. As I made my way up to the front, the attacks started coming in. Each of our guys did a great job controlling these making sure we were represented if anything got away. I was beginning to think we would be hunkering down for a field sprint until midway through the second lap. A group of six or seven riders, including Thom, established a bit of a gap on the pack. Both NCVC and Cheerbacks had multiple people in this group and I decided to join to give us some numbers. In the end, a total of twelve ended up in the break, with NCVC having four riders there. The organization of the break was not great as a good number of people decided against taking pulls at the front. Thom did a great job driving the pace to ensure we stayed away and encourage me several times (at least five, conservatively speaking) to sit back a bit and not see any wind. I absolutely appreciated his input as I tend to be overly aggressive in certain race settings.
Early in the fourth lap it became a bit more clear that the break was going to stick and Thom‘s pacesetting at the front played an important role in this. Just as important were the efforts of Mike and Adam for controlling the chasing given the lack of gusto in the break. At this point we were down to nine riders, with NCVC still having four there. With roughly seven miles to go, one of their riders attacked and got off the front. Sensing his lead was getting a little dangerous I decided to chase him back, calculating I had enough time to recover for the final push. As soon as we reeled him in another NCVC rider shot off the front. I felt very little impetus to go on another chase and a 10-15 second gap ensued. Eventually, a couple other riders put in some work to ensure the gap did not grow.
As we finished the fourth lap onto a left turn roughly 150 seconds from the finish, serious confusion ensued. The pace car went straight along with the solo rider. The other riders and I sat up, slowed and took the left not knowing what to do. After a few seconds of blank stares at one another we picked up the pace and started playing the positioning game for the final sprint. This consisted of a downhill section followed by 30s uphill at a 4% grade. I got on the wheel of a powerful rider from Evolution at the bottom of the hill as he made the initial attack. He began to fade a little and I made my move around him mid way up. Here’s the link to the final sprint (thanks Sean for making me famous;)
Admittedly it was a weird feeling crossing the line first with the confusion that happened. I decided to double up and do the next race, and the results and payout were not available in the 40 minute gap between races. After completing the second race, I made my way to the officials to grab the earning for the hard earned team win and was told there was a reshuffling of the final results. The race director decided to give the win to the NCVC solo rider as it was determined he would not be caught, bumping me to second place. I was briefly stunned by this but quickly collected myself and told the volunteers I respected the decision as long as one of them would take a picture of me. There was no podium but this was the best I could do, see attached.
While I was a bit disappointed with the race director’s decision, I 100% respect it and understand that mistakes happen in a fast-paced sport. Regardless, our team executed perfectly on our strategy and did everything in our control to get a rider across the finish line first. I was totally impressed by Adam, who coming back to racing after years off, did a great job being a factor at the front of the field early in the race rather than sitting back to get comfortable. Mike did well to cover early breaks as I was making my way up the field as well as maintaining control of the chase. Thom was absolutely awesome drilling the pace in the break. All these things added up to a great team result that we can be proud of it, even if the books say we finished second.
After a practice crit or two, and some gravel shenanigans, a small group of the VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. team made a trip down to Durham, NC, for the Bull City Road Race and Criterium on 2/25 and 2/26. Justin raced solo in both Cat 3 races whiles Brian, Andrew and Zach teamed up on Sunday for the 4/5 crit. Their reports are below:
Cat 4/5 Criterium
From Andrew McLaren
Veloworks made a strong showing down in NC this past weekend. The team executed really well throughout the race, navigating a new, challenging crit course with a two-step hill for where the start finish was, along with some short, quick left-right corners making a figure eight. Between coffee and burritos, we scouted the course a bit on Saturday. Between beers Saturday night we created a broad gameplan based on on what we imagined would happen with the quick turns hills and descents.
I was committed to redeeming myself after last year, which has been charitably called “shameful”. I became the A rider, Brian the B, and Zac(h) the enforcer.
As a team, we slayed it. Anticipating clipping-in issues, I outfoxed everyone by going immediately to the start line rather than take a recon lap. Fortunately, I clipped in right away and settled into the first few riders. Two riders sprinted off right away, and I made the reasonable decision to let them go (they ended up lapping the field in 5 laps, and have since received a mandatory double upgrade for that behavior).
As the race sped down a decent and through a quick right left, Zac pushed right in front of me, and led the way for the next 20 or so minutes. I followed his wheel through the pack in soft areas, and followed his line around the course. It was great to have a confident rider to sit behind, and even maneuver through the pack with, which I’m typically afraid to do. He went all out until he popped, keeping me in the top 5-10 wheels.
Mere moments later Brian replace him, filling the same role. On occasion the pack would get really soft, and we thought about jumping, but stayed conservative. With a lap or two remaining Brian put in a hard effort to push the pace, and placed me right in the first 5 wheels with half a lap left. I felt good and thought I had a plan of attack, but got surprised by a group that jumped on a soft corner. I hoped they’d gone to early and waited a second. This proved to be a mistake; I got boxed-in at the start of the final climb, and though I eventually pulled away from the rest, I couldn’t make up the distance in time. 7th place overall. The team executed really well, and it was fun to be a part of it, where we all had a role, communicated well, and ended playing a major role and blowing up the majority of the field.
Special thanks to my parents, who showed greater endurance than anyone in tolerating this lycra-clad bunch. Also thanks to Jack at Spokes etc, who found me the most visually impressive ride, to Anna tweaked my fit just right, and to Garrett who managed me and my various mechanicals like a pro.
Brian leading me up the second half of the hill, and toward Bull City Brewing.
Cat 3 Road Race and Criterium
From Justin Markunas
This ended up being a really fun racel. After struggling to clip in and almost missing the train, I got into the rhythm of the race which had 8 corners and a pretty good climb at the start/finish. Things got pretty soft and a guy went off the front about 15 minutes in. He was a really strong rider that animated Saturday’s race so I decided to bridge up to him. A third guy, a Cat 1 mountain biker who I’ve raced with in the past joined shortly thereafter (here’s a Strava segment this dude hit that left me speechless for the people who geek out on this stuff: ). This ended up being a great trio. Over the next few laps we opened the gap up above 30 seconds and were out of sight. As we hit the last lap, the truce ended and the other two guys began trying to play games to set up the finish. In the end, it didn’t really matter for me. I had cramping issues on Saturday night and my left calf balled up as we made the final climb to the finish. I decided not to contest it, and soft pedaled across for a somewhat anticlimactic 3rd place finish.
Looking back on the weekend, I had an absolute blast. It was totally exhilarating to be back out racing after grinding away so many hours at Z2 over the winter. Additionally, I was happy to do well at a relatively technical crit so early in the season. This was the kind of course I would have struggled on last year due to my lack of cornering skills. More importantly, I had a lot of fun outside the racing in hanging out with the other VWS people that came along. I totally want to thank Andrew and Robin for being our tour guides for the RTP area. I enjoyed every minute, minus the moping I did over my mechanical issue Saturday afternoon;)
Unofficial podium pic is attached for posterity.
The VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. team came out to play at Schooley Mill this year. VWS represented in almost every field until the early afternoon with Kim (9th in the 4s), Jamie (6th in the 4s and the 18th in the3/4s), Brian (16th in the 5s), Sean (1st in the Masters B), Dan (DNF with a rolled tire in the Masters B), Beth (3rd in the 3/4s), Chris (36th in the 3/4s), Eric (1st in the 45+) and Eric‘s son, Allen (9-10) all hitting the start line on a gorgeous October day.
A lot of great racing, so this week we’ll let the racers give some firsthand reports.
Sean‘s report from the Masters (35+) B :
Second race of the Super8 series. Dan had 4th in the series points and I was 9th. He gets front row by Super8 rules and I am at the mercy of Crossresults. Luck was with me and I got the last front row spot. Second week in row 1. I have lucked out on that one.
I enter the grass around 4th or so I think which is where I want to be and we are off. My goal is to end my long reign of Bonzai attacks on lap 1 and actually ride with more brains than brawn. While I am not the Lap 1 Hero I do end up settling into a good group of 3 after 2 laps.
One guy won Hyattsville last weekend and has ridden away from be at 2 other races for solo wins. The other guy is an unknown huge Cat 4 with a diesel engine. The Diesel (TD) pulls us for over a lap while Solo Artist (SA) and Lap 1 Hero (L1H, me) right his tail. When he is starting to obviously fade L1H calls up for SA to help him out. A few turns later they start the 35 minute trades. Each gives about a third to half a lap before pulling off.
They are slowly growing a gap to 4th but it is still a bit too close for comfort. SA had tried a couple digs checking over his shoulder but nothing seems to phase The Diesel or Lap 1 Hero. When they get to the low point of the course near a pond about to start 3 laps to go, SA launches a hard charge which will go on for several minutes. TD winds up the engine to drag him back and L1H follows. Mostly a free tow but L1H pulled around to finish it off. At least that is how he remembers it.
This attack gives the group of 3 about 10-15 seconds which holds to the end of the race. A truce is reached without words and they finish the last 3 laps passing traffic and staying safe while holding the pace.
Last time up the backside climb TD is on the front fading pretty hard and SA tastes blood. He does an attack which L1H follows. A couple pedal strokes into it just as we pass TD and SA hesitates, probably shifting gears. L1H was following too close and when the hesitation happens he carries speed crossing wheels at the same time. Luckily not a lot of speed so the shoe gets unclipped for a dab just as SA pushes on with the attack. 6 bike lengths open and there is a bit of a chase. Luckily SA did not look back to realize what had happened. By the barriers SA and L1H are back together with TD off the back.
Neither party knows the other’s sprint prowess but L1H is pretty confident he never saw a sprint situation he did not savor. The turn up from the pond the final time on the finish hill winds up to 17mph up the grass and we hit the road. Side by side they go with L1H finally getting to raise his arms at the Cat 3 level. SA’s head drops.
Victory for L1H!>
I’ll preface this with sheer admiration for those of you who remember so much detail from your race!
I had a second row start and lined up behind a strong BBC rider on the far left by the curb. Whistle goes off and she misses her pedal so I have to go around her. Uphill starts hurt. I thought I hit the grass around 6th wheel but just watched Cyclboredom’s video of our race and it was more like 9th wheel (minor details, ha!). I was behind a few riders that started to let the gap open up from the front of the race so I knew I had to get around as soon as I could. I made a few passes before it got all turny but was stuck behind one rider whose skills weren’t great and the gap grew bigger.
Once we got to the long downhill I hammered along the grass since most were riding the dirt singletrack; I passed at least one rider in my race and one or two Masters racers. Had to scrub a lot of speed in the corner since it was super dicey but made it around clean. Made up some more time climbing the hill and don’t remember a whole lot from there. In the third lap a BBC rider zipped past me at the barriers and I laid it on to get that place back before the off camber turny part and just rode as hard as I could til coming back onto the pavement to start the last lap. She never caught back up. I wasn’t sure what position I was in so I just tried to keep it clean and fast. I almost went down when a masters rider washed out on a turn in front of me but saved myself and got past her. Unfortunately, even though I announced I wasn’t in her race and wanted to pass before we got to that turn, she didn’t seem to want to let me pass and kinda blocked me on the part that would have been a cleaner place to pass. In future races I will have to remember her and be careful when passing.
When I came around the rocky, sandy turn to climb the hill I saw the little RCV phenom about halfway up the hill. I figured either she was further back than she usually is or I was farther up than I thought I was. Either way, I kinda wanted to pass her. I dug deep to climb that hill as fast as I could and closed the gap a lot. She was just a few bike lengths away at the turn after the top of the hill and she was looking back at me. Alas, I was pooped from the climb and had to recover before hitting the barriers. I know that if I am redlined going into something technical I just don’t perform well. I didn’t want to flub the last barrier crossing! In retrospect, I probably should have been more conservative on the climb to allow me to keep the pace up til the end. I knew I probably couldn’t get any closer until the last section before the finishing paved climb. I put in as much speed as I could without being too risky and got closer on the last grass section before the pavement but lost my mojo once she turned onto the road. I only finished 12 seconds off of her but it seemed like so much further away! If we had one more lap I know I could have passed her…I don’t think I have ever wished for one more lap!
Lessons learned: If I have a crappy start, get around as many riders as possible in the first lap. It’s damn hard to close the gap to the lead rider/group once it opens up too far. It’s so helpful having teammates on the sidelines yelling out stuff. Eric definitely helped me keep my head together during part of the race. Also, I’m learning who the good, consistent wheels are in this field and hope to be in, and able to hold onto, the lead group in future races.
My main goal for the race was to improve my Super 8 series standing, and DCCX starting position, after my 10th place result at Hyattsville. Fortunately, my 3rd place finish at Schooley Mill secured a 3rd place overall in the Super 8 series so I have a first row start for a tough field at DCCX! Yeehaw!!
Schooley Mill Cyclocross was my first chance to defend a leader’s jersey in the Super 8 series. This was a position I had never been in, so I was nervous leading into it. I usually race better without the burden of expectations, so I focused on just racing as it was any other day. Maybe it helped that the jersey that I was given 2 weeks earlier after Hyattsville was too small (seriously) and, without the keeper-of-the-jerseys at the race with whom I might swap, series director Bill Shieken gave me special dispensation to wear the VWS kit.
It was also a very special day for me to race as it was my son Ryker’s 5th birthday. The only bad part of his birthday, however, was that my family was in town and watching. In the past this has coincided with a series of mechanical misfortunes over the last few years. 2 years ago, at DCCX when they were here, I pulled the rear derailleur off it’s hanger, flatted a tire on my pit bike, and snapped a chain ….in one race. Last year, I imploded my rear wheel hopping a small log here at Schooley Mill. So I was a little wary of the family curse.
My last 3 races, I have had challenges getting clipped in smoothly on the start, so I had taken extra time practicing during the week. I also ran through 6 or 7 starts just before the call-up and felt like I had it pretty dialed. Practice paid off and I got away smoothly, despite being pinched on both sides by slightly swerving riders. Hitting the grass in 7 or 8th was a win for me, with my main competition directly in front of me.
I rode patiently for the first lap staying with a lead group of 7 or 8. At the start of the 2nd lap, I moved up on the pavement to a position from which I could attack. On a long stretch just after the pits, I did just that and went to the front. Unfortunately, as I hit a quick left/right, I carried a little too much speed and my back wheel washed out as I exited the turn. No big deal as it was a painless fall and I was able to remount right at the back of the lead group. My shoe’s BOA buckle had come loose in the fall, and when I went to tighten it back down, I realized that the knob had come completely off and was dangling. Was this the return of the family curse? I hoped not.
Over the next couple barriers, I was very conservative to see if the shoe would stay on or even just slip. While it was annoyingly loose, I really didn’t give me any problems then or for the rest of the race. In fact, afterward, I was able to easily pop the buckle back in, though not something I would have tried mid-race.
As we approached the end of the second lap, it was time to go again. I put in a hard dig up the grass and then pavement to the finish line and unhitched all but two riders. On the grass straight after the pits, I attacked again and I had my gap. From there, I rode the obstacles and turns as smooth as possible and drilled it on the exit of each to maintain separation.
With a half lap to go, I realized that the only thing that was going to screw up my race was a fall or a puncture, so I rode conservatively through the gravelly descent and the off-camber turns and stayed upright. Rolling out from the grass to the pavement, I was able to look and see a enough margin to cruise in and wave to the family. If the curse is real, it was pretty tame this year.
Also, see Jamie’s report from her races on her blog.
On to DCCX which is always and awesome atmosphere and awesome competition.
Hyattsville CX marked the beginning of the BikeReg.com Super 8 Cyclocross Series. Being just outside of Washington, DC and a short drive for many racers, this race is always well attended. After several days of heavy rains, race day was cloudy but no rain. The course, however, would be heavily soaked, including a veritable mud pit in one section. As the day wore one, the course would firm up some and become less treacherous, though still challenging.
The VeloWorks – Spokes, Etc. represented well with Beth, Jaimie, Kim, Dan, Sean, Clay and Eric all taking to their respective starting grids. Hyattsville also marked the first race for Eric‘s son Allen in the 9-10 year old race.
Kim got the day started for VWS in the Cat 4 race. She got to enjoy the course at one of the sloppiest times of the day and placed 6th out of 28 women. While not on the Top 5 podium, 6th place did win her a pie from Acme Pie Company, so BONUS! Thom said that the pie did not last long once it made it home!
In the Masters’s 3/4/5 race Sean got out to a fast start with Dan in a solid top 10 position. As the race progressed, Dan steadily moved up into a top 5 position with two laps to go. He was able to maintain a gap over his chasers — maybe with a little help from Sean in the woods….. — and came home a strong 4th place out of 102 racers. Sean slid back a little, but still held on for 10th. Clay finished in 40th reminding everyone how much he LOVES mud.
In the Women’s 3/4 race Beth overcame some slipping and sliding around to finish in 10th. Jamie lined up about 3 or 4 rows deep and got shuffled back in the early traffic. Once things opened up she was able to move up and finished 15th out of 24. Her first really muddy race earned her plenty of lessons to be used the next time. See her blog about her race HERE.
In the Open 45+ race, Eric started a little too far back — which seems to becoming the norm for him! — but made a charge at the start of the 3rd lap. One big difference for him was changing from the mud tires (Specialized Terra Pro) to the dry (Specialized Tracer Pro) just before the start of the race. So as the course started to dry out and get sticky instead of slippery, he was able to pull away for the win and earned his first Super 8 leader’s jersey.
Special “thank you” to Ben Kristy at Dominion Cycling Photography for sharing his awesome pics with us. Check out his site for all his cool work.
Look for the VWS crew at Charm City in Baltimore and then Schooley Mill CX the following week.