Sunday, September 2, 2007

9/2/07 Santa Fe Trail Stage Race (Stage 3) - Horacio

Stage 3- The bizarre freakish mechanical failure that almost sent me into a parked car going near 30 mph.

I felt great today- maybe I have a second peak coming because I've felt stronger each day during this stage race (not my usual recent recovery of an 80 yr old man). I was a little nervous about the crit because my 2 other crits this year (Niwot and Longmont) resulted in me being the last pulled rider with a few minutes to go but I can't say I was really psychologically ready for them. "Not today. Nobody was going to drop me" is what I told myself before the crit. I knew the top 2 guys within 11seconds and the sprinter crit guys would be going for it.

I got a great start. First during the initial 1/2 lap (rectangle course)- but going easy. I finally started taking some of the great advice that Kevin et al. gave me. I stayed near the front. Any time I fell to 7th or 8th, I easily moved back into the top 3-5. Truthfully, it was just easy today (vastly different from prior experiences). The surges were no big deal. I knew throughout the first 30+ minutes that I finally had it today. I felt that top 5 was realistically mine- top 3 unlikely because I still can't sprint well. The plan was to take 2nd or 3rd wheel and hold it to the final turn or even launch my own solo attack with 3/4 a lap to go (probably wouldn't have worked but I felt good enough).

Then it happened. I came out of a turn accelerated and felt a subtle pop sensation. I reached for my rear brake lever to scrub a tiny bit of speed before the next turn. Nothing. So I squeezed harder- nothing. It didn't look like I would make the turn at this speed (maybe if I had set up without expecting to use the brake but I had just accelerated and was expecting the option of some braking power). Fortunately, I was on the outside so I wouldn't take anybody down. I flew thru the intersection between 2 parked cars blocking the corner. The field turned and I went straight. I had no rear brake and the front wasn't doing much. I came to a stop by dragging my feet. OK, I didn't soil myself but crap I'm out of the race. I check my rear zero gravity brake and the right pad is missing and my brake calipers are popped open. I make my way back around to the start but the mechanic guy can't help me. I ride around again. I find the pad and throw it on and re-engage the locking mechanism- it's broken (open wide) but at least I can brake some (I can't wait to have the guys at the shop tell me what's broken). I go around again and ask if I can get back in. I tell them I won't contest the sprint. They have me wait and I jump back in at the back of the pack. It's easy but I'm obviously rested and can't do anything but sit at the back.

I finish thinking I got the pack time- free lap rule. But, after the race I learn I was penalized 2 laps( 3minutes)- dropping me from an easy GC 4th today to 10th. Bummer, but it could have been worse (crash). I guess if you race enough, bad luck will happen. Apparently, the free lap rule only counts for flats, crashes and broken chains (how a broken brake is any more my fault than a broken chain or chain derail, I don't know. But-FYI, don't expect to go to the pit for any other unstated mechanical reasons and get a free lap). Even, other racers and BPN guys campaigned for me (they saw it) but no luck. I am happy though with how I raced and performed though. It was pretty much out of my control.

Jose looked strong in his crit (but, too much front time Jose). He finished with the pack avoided a crash and held onto a great 7th GC finish.

I had a great race and met some great guys. Fun weekend. I plan to be back next year. I highly recommend this race. I think Jose will agree.

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