Blasting out onto the flat surface of the 'car'walk, it's big power time and high speed all the way to the finish line. Get aero! I can feel at this moment just how much I am losing over a TT bike, headwind pushing against my shoulders. Head ducked down and tucked in to clean up my frontal area, eyes burning out the tops of their eye sockets...just like tucking in a ski race. Oh the good old days....HEY...FOCUS....this is the hard part.. PEDAL and GET OUT OF THE HEADWIND SECTION! But my legs hurt today...ya well you are a professional so you pedal no matter how you feel. The two tight changes of direction at the final bridge crossing included trips from sidewalk to sidewalk, lightly kissing orange traffic cones along the way.
|Neon socks! I want some!|
Deuxieme Plus! I'll take it! After a disappointing ride in the thundershowers of 2011, I was happy with my strong ride today. Some teams chose to run TT bikes or various combinations of aerodynamic equipment but I decided to stay with my criterium setup and race it Eddy Merkx style as the tight corners and bumpy cobblestones demanded fast cornering and powerful pedaling.
The 5km course sent us in a counter clockwise fashion around Brandywine Park, just north of downtown Wilmington, DE. Delaware, home of the DuPont family, once featured as the home of the Tour Du Pont in the mid 1990's. At that time it was the biggest race in the United States (1991-96) and it's final edition included 12 stages. Here is a quite look at some of the stages...check out those downtube shifters! Link.
Okay, back to the course...well it was a bit crazy but it is safe to say that I favor the dry version. Out of the gate, the winding descent quickly opened up to a tight downhill 90 degree corner onto single lane cobblestones. Luckily they didn't barrier off the other side of the cobbled road this year (it is also the final 150 metres) and used haybales instead; that way it was just a matter of checking for oncoming riders and dodging fans before skimming across the 20 ft. wide and 90 year old road for a 'softer' grassy exit if you blew the entrance speed; much preferred to picking up one's broken frame, tangled up in metal barriers. I guess Tino decided to check out the grassy option. The officials were also very worried about our safety; in 2011 I threw out the backend in the rain-soaked braking zone encouraging one spectator to scream as loud as she could (thankfully I pulled it off, thank you cyclocross); this year the official was screaming at me to slow down as I went into the corner...awesome. But it wasn't really that trickly, especially if you hit the apex properly. At the apex the cobblestones were bubbled and actually created a banked surface = fast. As a zoomed away and heard the quiet 'holy crap' from the spectators behind, the inner six year old in me smiled, ya...i pulled it off..no biggie. The straight run down the remainder of the hill on the cobbles was a 53.11 affair; entire body tense, it felt like a rigid bar extended from my jostling hands to my squirming feet...I don't know how those ProTour guys do it at Paris Roubaix. Their dentists must love them! Can anyone say clenched.
|Prologue Course (Zoom)|
The back side of the course featured a shallow winding climb devoid of spectators; with full lane closure I hugged the outer sides of the road. What is that sensation in the rear wheel? I pause and look to see if I have a flat knowing that I am about to rail some very fast downhill corners. It looks fine... PEDAL! I pause again, sure that something is wrong; but it looks okay again so I guess I'll just have to power through it. Back up to speed over the top, the long crest doesn't provide any rest until just before the tight and downhill left/right chicane. Having spun out my gears I take a second to compose myself for the second half of the course. This corner is also the location of my second slide in last year's rain event. Do I have a flat? Am I going to go sideways again this year? Hidden apex, slightly offcamber and totally blind on the exit, I hope that there nothing is in my way as I drop my chest low and inside towards my handlebars, driving my left knee towards the apex. The first corner isn't that much fun, just a long waiting period on the exit as the bike slowly returns under the body due to the off-camber; but the second part, a sharply downhill and banked on-ramp flowing onto the river-side promenade is a bomb sensation. Blasting out onto the flat surface of the 'car'walk, it's big power time and high speed all the way to the finish line. Get aero! I can feel at this moment just how much I am losing over a TT bike, headwind pushing against my shoulders. Head ducked down and tucked in to clean up my frontal area, eyes burning out the tops of their eye sockets...just like tucking in a ski race. Oh the good old days....HEY...FOCUS....this is the hard part.. PEDAL and GET OUT OF THE HEADWIND SECTION! But my legs hurt today...ya well you are a professional so you pedal no matter how you feel. The two tight changes of direction at the final bridge crossing included trips from sidewalk to sidewalk, lightly kissing orange traffic cones along the way.
Rolling back up towards the final 150 metre cobbled ascent to the finish line, a tiny respite was possible into the awkward final corner, a steep and tight onramp off to the right. Shifting down out of the big ring just before turning in, it was difficult to chose the apex. With the smoothest and fastest line on the right hand side of the 10% Monkey Hill it was important to get back to the right as fast as possible, but if I belly the corner and apex to early, I'd slide out on the dusty concrete. Option 2...run deep, would stick me out on the left and I'd risk bogging down in a big gear. Screaming into the corner, the offical tells me to slow down again but this time I do slide the back wheel as I hit the apex...is it actually going flat? Pedal hard up those cobbles. There is a large crowd here, lining the grassy hillside on either side of the street, the finish banner just out of sight around the corner. Teeth gritted, the line approaches and finally in the last thirty meters my rear tyre fails, its all rim baby! To the line and then a quick jab at my Joule Powertap computer; a provisional time of 6.25ish....30 seconds faster than last year. Last year's winning time was 6.10 so although I don't think it will hold up over the course of the day, I do slot into the hot seat for the time being. Good one!
With all but one rider finished, I still had the hot seat. Kevin and Conor were also strong today and finished only 10-12 seconds behind, taking places inside the top ten. But zooming into view, former fellow collegiate competitor Dan Harm of Astellas Oncology Cycling Team is looking strong. He blasts through a sets a new course record at 6 minutes 8 seconds; two seconds faster than 2011 record held by Adrian Hegyvary (United HealthCare). This was a great win for Dan who has been searching hard for some good results and today was a great boost to his confidence. When I told him the news of his victory, he was one of the happiest and relieved bike racers I have seen in a long time. It was a pretty awesome experience to be a part of his victory.
So I was happy with my ride. The form is coming along and tomorrow is a big opportunity.
Labels: Road Report