Monday, August 25, 2008

Cue the chase scene music.....

Saco Bay Criterium and Car Chase
Aug 23, 2008

The day started off bright and early with the Masters 55/65 race at 0720. As Robin Williams says in Good Morning Vietnam, the oh in ohseventwenty stands for “Oh my God, it’s early”. Seven riders took the line for what I believe must be the earliest bike race on the New England calendar. The only reason I can think of for the early start is to ensure that a few racers stay in the local hotels and stimulate the economy. Mieczyslaus Burzynski (aka Mickey B) (BOB/Stonyfield Farms) and Graydon Stevens (Portland Velo) took off early and led through the rest of the race by over 30 seconds. Mickey B took the sprint victory to claim the win before the clock even struck 8:00 AM. Ray Marchessault took a field-only prime just a few laps before the end of the race and stayed away to take third.

The Masters Cat 4/5 race stayed mostly together with a few dropping off the back when the pace picked up. Then a crash in the technical part of the course took a few more off the back. (Note to Cat 5’s – You can get a free lap if you crash in a crit, take it) The field sprint among the survivors was won by Jim Breen (BOB/Stonyfield Farms) ahead of Steve McGrath (Noreast) and Alfred Bissell (Essex Velo).

In the Masters 45, four riders took off the front of a big field right off the bat. That soon became six and the break looked set to take the prize list and a few primes along the way. They got the lion’s share of the primes and with just 4 laps to go they looked clear with more than a 20 second lead. But within the next two laps the field caught them. I wish I could tell you who put in the big effort but it mostly happened on the back side of the course. It would be a good bet to guess that it was the BOB team, but they had two guys in the break. It came down to a field sprint. Duane Scofield of the BOB team led it out through the last few corners and turned it over to his team’s designated sprinter, John Grenier. Grenier took over right after the last corner before the finish line 400 yards away and stayed in the lead across the finish line to give the BOB/Stonyfield Farms team their third consecutive win for the day

Next up were the Juniors 15-18 years of age. Half the 8 man field consisted of the orange and blue of the Mystic Velo club. With them were four kids less than 15 years of age racing above their own age category. 14 year old Tommy Goguen (Minuteman Road Club) managed to stay with the older guys until the last lap but the other 10-14 year olds couldn't keep up the pace. Tommy even took a prime sprinting against the four older guys. But somewhere on the back side during the last lap Tommy dropped off the lead group and let the four Mystic Velo guys take the race. Ian McFarland took the sprint for first place with his older brother, Reed, right behind. The fans had been looking forward to seeing what Tommy could do against four older guys, but he decided to save a little leg power for his own age group’s race which was due to start just moments after the finish of this race. Tommy cruised in for 5th place and turned around to line up for the 10-14 year old’s race.

Junior 10-14 was half girls and half boys. Nate Morse (Coast to Coast/KAM), who also used the 15-18 year old’s race to warm up, took the field sprint to claim first place for the boys followed by Tommy Goguen. Ellen Noble was the first of the girls to cross the line.

The Master 35 race saw some attacks go up the road but nothing stuck so it all stayed together for the finish despite 3 back to back to back primes intended to crack the field. Mark McCormack (TEAM Fuji) took the sprint ahead of Ciaran Mangan and Paul Richard (both CCB). Power outages during race led to no camera for the finish so it had to be picked manually. It was unfortunate that the power outage, caused by too much load on the circuit when organizers of the nearby charity ride tried to inflate a bouncy house for the kids, was one of the few races that came down to a mass field sprint.

Women 1/2/3 and 4s were scheduled to have separate races but because the number of riders was low, they were combined into one field with separate prize lists. The 1/2/3 women stayed together with two of the four category 4s. Cody Harris (National Capital Velo Club) won the race to take the 1/2/3 title. It was her third win in one week after winning two races last Sunday at Fall River. Natalia Gardiol (MIT Cycling) was the first of the Cat 4s.

Next up was a series of kid’s races for kids up to 11 years of age who are not USCF licensed racers. The youngest kids (5 and under) did a 100 yard sprint to the line, the oldest did one lap of the course. They were fun races to watch with great kids. Only one kid was too shy to come and collect his medal at the awards ceremony.

The charity Ride for Autism, a 28 mile bike tour through the scenic Maine countryside to raise funds and awareness for those with autism, took off from the start/finish line. It was nice to see the racing community and a charity ride come together. It doesn’t happen often enough.

In the featured men’s race of the day (Pro 1/2), a group of three including home town hero Dan Vaillancourt (Toshiba) got away early on. With him were Kevin Wolfson (FT/Indy Fab) and Ryan Fleming (MetLife). They kept increasing their lead while taking cash primes every few laps. The trio caught the back of the field before the half way prime bell was rung. By that time a chase group of 4 with Mark McCormack formed but they remained within site of the field, sometimes off the front by just 10 seconds. The chase group of four sprinted first to decide 4th though 7th places before the sprint for 1st through 3rd. Tim Mitchell (Flatbread Otter Creek) took that sprint for 4th.

Although the hometown crowd was pulling for Dan to take the big prize, Kevin Wolfson took the sprint victory at the front of the field for the win with Dan Vaillancourt in second and Fleming third. The rest of the field mixed in with the winning sprint for places 8 through 13 to complete the prize list. Mayor Emeritus Bill Johnson presented the Saco Bay Criterium Mayor’s Cup to Kevin Wolfson after the race as per local tradition. He probably would have loved to have given it to Vaillancourt who lives only two miles away from the race course in Saco, but it was not to be. By the time the day was over, Dan’s thoughts were already turning to his next race for the professional Toshiba cycling team, the US Professional Championships.

Seventeen year old Manny Goguen (Minuteman Road Club) was the youngest rider in the Category 3 race but that didn’t stop him from getting into a breakaway with 4 others early on. They built up lead of 41 seconds by the half way point and kept rolling. David Chiu (NEBC), Ben Forbes (Base 36/SMCC), Christian Eager (Quad Cycles), and Ron Bourgoin (Portland Velo) and Goguen stayed away to the finish which Goguen won, on junior gears, in a fast sprint to the line.

After all that racing there was still one event left, the Category 4/5 men. And it turned out to contain the most excitement of the day. Unfortunately, it was not from the racing. So far this season I have witnessed a tornado at a race (Claremont Crit) (albeit a small one), a fist fight 300 yards from the finish (Nutmeg State Games Pro1/2/3), and a couple of very close lightning storms, but nothing will probably ever top this and I hope nothing ever does because except for the fast thinking of the Saco Police Department and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), we could have had a tragedy on our hands.
Two laps into the race we got word from CERT that the police were involved in a high speed pursuit and it was heading our way. CERT, who were stationed at the race for the day, alerted the race officials who in turn had the pace car stop the racers on the back side of the course. We cleared the start finish line and got everybody back from the edge of the road as it was confirmed that the police were chasing a motorist and heading our way. Just a couple of minutes later a grey Saturn sedan, driven by a women came roaring through the start/finish area going at least 60 miles per hour. She probably would have been going faster except that she had just gotten flat tires on both front wheels from the puncture strip that the police had laid out on the road just before she reached the race course. Who could hear the empty tires thumping wildly but the engine still revved to the max as she passed through and gave us all the finger (like she had nothing else to worry about!!). Here is a picture of the chase from the Portland Press Herald:

But far more interesting is this shot of the leader and her chase group taken by the finish line camera (thanks to Brian Johnson of Speed Sport Timing):

You can clearly see Valerie Mainguy’s left hand flipping us off as she narrowly beats the Saco Police department across the finish line, a premature victory salute that might have cost her the race. These images are composited with the blank spaces in between taken out so it looks like it was a closer sprint than it actually was. You can also see the flat front tire that caused her to crash in the next corner when the tire rolled off. She was relegated by the local officials for rolling the tire, apparently it was not glued on adequately. Thus the Saco Police Department won the contest. Of course, they had the advantage of having more players on their team than did Ms. Mainguy, who, according to the local newspaper, was a tourist visiting from France. Now she is a customer of the local hospital for some psychiatric evaluations and will probably have her international racing license revoked. She was most certainly also asked to provide a sample for doping control and likely faces a long suspension because there is no way her performance could have been “real”. If she is deported back to France she might be able to do her jail time alongside Riccardo Ricco.
Seriously, it is nice to be able to joke around about this incident now. If not for the Saco Police Department and CERT, this could have been a real tragedy, not unlike the race earlier this year in Mexico when a drunk driver went right through a race and killed riders. I don’t think this woman was going to stop for anything and the worst case scenario could easily have happened. Thanks especially to the first police officer who thought “She is heading right for the bike race, we had better get them off the road.” That one thought may have saved several lives.
After all the excitement, there was still a real race to finish. Ryan Littlefield and Collin Huston, who had gained a lead before the interruption, were restarted with their lead while the field was held before taking off for 11 more laps to finish the race. The duo stayed away to the end with Huston (Coast to Coast/KAM) winning by two bike lengths.

No comments: