Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gate City Cyclone

Gate City Cyclone, Nashua, NH
August 9th, 2008

The BOB (Bunch of Bikers) team and Goodale’s Bike Shop hosted the 2nd annual Gate City Cyclone around Holman Stadium in Nashua, NH. A combination of public roads, parking lot and driveways around the minor league baseball stadium made an interesting and somewhat technical course with one rise and a couple of tricky corners.

The day started with kid’s races for ages groups up to 15 years of age. Some of the potential future champions of the sport were on hand with as many as 16 kids in some of the age groups. Nate Morse won the 12-13 year olds’ race easily riding away from the others. Of course, he has the advantage of also being a category 4 USCF racer while the others didn’t have the same level of experience. He later raced the Cat 4/5 event as well. The two 14-15 year old racers , Sean Suprenant and Keith Vaillancourt, took the line and watched each other like two match sprinters on the track waiting for the other guy to flinch and start the race for real. As they came within site of the finish line, a distance of about 400 meters, they were still together and barely starting to increase the pace. Vaillancourt pulled ahead, leading out the sprint, and managed to hold on to a 10 meter lead at the finish.

The Cat 4/5 race started with a three place prime right out of the blocks, no warm up. That was just the first of many with a total value of $1,500 in the Cat 4/5 race alone. A two-man break of Northeast Bike Club (NEBC) riders got a 15 second lead and took the top two places in the next 3 place prime then it all came back together and finished, after several more primes, with a curb to curb sprint finish. Chris Gagne of Boston Road Club, who had been keeping a low profile throughout the race, never contesting a prime, came through the middle of the charging field when it counted. As the only BRC rider in race you can’t blame him for keeping a low profile given the numbers some of the other clubs, NEBC in particular, had in the race.

The Womens Pro1/2/3 race was also loaded with the red and white jerseys of the NEBC team. With 16 riders in the field at the start, more than half were NEBC including Rebecca Wellons and Sally Annis who were 1st and 2nd at Yarmouth two weeks previous. The race split in two about half way through with 8 in the front and 8 in the chase. From the lead group, Sally Annis (who is from Nashua) and Mary Zider (also NEBC) got away and stayed away while the rest of the field, powered by the few not on the NEBC squad, caught the rest of the break. Annis and Zider built a lead of over 20 seconds while closing in on the finish and the gap only got bigger in the final laps as the riders on the other teams decided to quit the chase and save something for the sprint. Annis and Zider crossed the line together while completing a quick index-finger-touch salute (like ET and Elliot) with Sally (the hometown rider) slightly ahead for the win. The field sprint was taken by the Sunapee team duo of Eve McNeil and Samantha Newman with another six places in the money right behind them. You won’t often see a race with 10 paying places for a 16 man or woman field. The 16 riders raced for a $500 prize list and merchandise primes with a total value of almost $1500. Thanks to race promoter Ron Bingham for providing prize list parity for the ladies, but if a few more don’t make it to the race next year, it might be hard to continue that way.

The host club, BOB, was well represented in the Masters35+ race with 7 riders on the start line. The field limit of 75 was almost reached ensuring a barn burner of a race with lots of horsepower to burn for 45 minutes plus 5 laps. And if the presence of some of the best bike racers in New England wasn’t enough, there were once again lots of merchandise primes to keep things moving briskly. The announcer (me) and Primemaster Bill Dempster found some unique ways to give away the goods. They decided to make some of the primes two lap “races within the race” instead of the customary 1 lap affair. That means that the riders were given a 1 lap warning before the bell was rung for the actual prime lap. That provided a little more time for strategies to develop and at the half way prime, it led to a group of 5 going up the road to contest the prime. But with just 3 laps to go, Bill Yarbrody (NBX/Narragansett Beer) was the only one still away. He tried to hold on for the solo victory but his escape ended within site of the line when he got swarmed by the field which was working up to full speed for the sprint. At the front of the field, Paul Richard (CCB), Mike Norton (Cyclonauts) and Gary Steinberg of Cnetury Road Club charged to the front of the sprint. Norton was in the middle and seemed to get squished from both sides as the three fought elbow to elbow down the center of the road toward the finish line. Norton had to hold back for a pedal stroke or two and lost a little ground to the others. Steinberg took the sprint while Norton made his way through the roadblock to claim second. As riders crossed the line, several were yelling the same race number to the attention of the officials and when it was over a protest against Paul Richard was made and upheld after several riders corroborated the same story about him sweeping riders to the outside going through the final corner. He was relegated from 3rd to 11th place (one place out of the money) for dangerous riding. That change put Sam Morse (Corner Cycle), Nate's father, into third place. Yarbrody, the last of the foxes to be caught, ended up in 15th place but deserves credit for giving it a go solo.

The Pro1/2/3 race also started with a near full field of almost 75 riders. A break of 7 got away a few laps in and developed a lead of up to 30 seconds by the halfway prime which included a pair of wheels for first prize. Chase groups formed and got re-caught as the field tried to figure out who was going to chase the lead group. The 7 riders away saw their lead chipped down to a low of 14 seconds and it looked like the foxes would be caught by the hounds. The foxes included Alec Donohue (NERAC), Jason Beerman and Eric Tremble (both Kenda/Raleigh), Tim Unkhert (Stolen Underground), Josh Dillon (Fiordifrutta), Todd Yezefski (Fitness Together) and J Allain Ferry (Met Life). But either the hounds lost interest or the foxes decided their best hope was to work a little harder and stay away. With 3 laps to go (2.3 miles) the field finally gave up the chase and settled in for the sprint for the remaining 8 places. With two men in the break, we expected to see the Kenda guys use their advantage and either send one up the road in a solo effort or, or if neither guy was up for the solo effort, set up a lead out for the sprint. Instead, they followed the wheels and Eric Tremble took a very respectable second place behind race winner Todd Yezefski. When asked about the strategy after the race, Tremble admitted that they should probably have tried to work their advantage more effectively. He even said that he heard the announcer (me) describing the possible strategies over the PA system and thought “yeah, that would be a good idea, we should try that: but we didn’t do it”.

Randon thoughts:
The Gate City Cyclone was the first race I have ever seen use a Vespa scooter as a pace vehicle. It did just fine and probably saved 2 or 3 gallons of gas compared to the typical sports car pace vehicle. This makes too much sense. Can we do it this way a little more often and "green" the sport a little?

Dick Ring, “the Voice of New England Bicycle Racing”, was on hand to receive the Gate City Cyclone’s Humanitarian Award for all he has done for the sport of bike racing. The award was presented to Mr. Ring in front of the Pro1/2/3 field. Many of the riders remember hearing Dick at races all across New England but it has been long enough now since Dick last traveled the race circuit that quite a few riders on the line had never heard him announce a race. They got their chance as Dick remained on stage and grabbed a microphone to help me call the featured men's race of the day. Despite having been retired for 6 or 7 years now, he has not lost a step. We didn't get any of the classic lines out of him ("Lord love a duck", "groove in on that one", etc.) but he kept the talk going throughout the entire race. It was exhausting keeping up with him as we tag teamed the dialogue for over an hour TdF style. I was spent by the end of the race, but Dick sounded like he could have carried on for a couple more hours. But, the racing for the day was over and it was time to pack up and head home. I hope I get a chance to work with Dick Ring again soon, I’ll always have an extra microphone ready for him. If you have never heard him call a race, or if you have and you miss the Voice of New England Bike Racing, stop by the New England Velodrome in Londonderry, New Hampshire (

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