Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mystic Velo Crit - Ninigret, RI

Mystic Velo Criterium, June 20th, 2009 Ninigret, RI

The third “real race” of the season at Ninigret, not counting Wednesday weekly training races, was held under surprisingly good weather. It was even sunny for the first few moments of the first race of the day. Then the fog rolled in. Despite the thick weather, it never rained until the final race was over despite the forecasts and the reputation. Anyone who has been there knows to expect rain and wind no matter what time of year it is.

Cat 5, 34 years of age and less
A pack of ten started in the warm morning sunshine but during the first lap, the temperature dropped 10 degrees as the Ninigret fog rolled in. Eight of them stayed together to the end despite a couple of attacks by Connor Walsh (NEBC). Harris Navelski (Lindscott) lead out the sprint from a couple hundred yards and barely held on to beat Walsh by a couple of tire widths. It was close enough that we had to check the camera. George Lowe was third but not by much.

When Connor lined up for the Cat 4 race a little bit later in the day, the officials realized that something was wrong. He couldn’t have gotten an upgrade that fast without Diane Fortini being around. They checked the USCF via wireless web thingy and found that Connor is indeed a Cat 4. They let him finish the Cat 4 race, but DQed him from the Cat 5 race. He told me later that he thought it was a combined 4/5 race when he registered on-line. The DQ put Lowe into second and moved Matt Appleby into third. Connor gladly returned his 2nd place trophy when informed of the error.

Cat 5 35 plus
14 men and one brave woman started the 17 lap race in dense fog. By 11 to go, a lead group of 5 formed with Tim Curley, Chris Darling, Todd Samuelson, Mark Schleinitz and Vinny Defrancesca. As the remainder of the field exploded behind them, they became the biggest single group on the road. So does that make them a breakaway, or just a depleted field? I guess it’s a judgment call. If I was in the group of 5, I would prefer to think of it as the field. There’s too much pressure in being a breakaway.

Rebecca Lowe, the only woman in the group, held her own just behind the leaders. She spins a small gear. If she can develop the strength to push a bigger gear yet maintain the “suplesse” of a spinner, she might have potential to be a pretty good bike racer despite starting later in life than most.

The group of 5 stayed away and built a 25 second lead over the nearest straggler. A chase of three closed it some, but there wasn’t enough time left to get back up to the lead. Todd Samuelson narrowly won the long sprint over Chris Darling with Vinnie DeFrancesco third.

Cat 4
An escape of 4 riders got a 10 second lead in the first half of the race but it was caught. From that point on the field stayed together. Gary Birkamshaw lead out the sprint from the final corner and powered away from them sitting down. He got a 20 yard lead and held it without even standing up despite a furious out of the saddle sprint behind him.

Junior 10-12, 13-14
The cub juniors started under a controlled pace for the first 5 of 9 laps with coach/mentors from the Cyclonauts and CCB clubs riding along. They taught the kids to ride in a paceline and get used to being adjacent to other riders. I am sure they helped the kids with cornering also since the Ninigret course has 6 corners, some of them more than 90 degrees. This was the first time I had seen the kids start a race with a controlled pace and coaching. It seems like a great idea and can only lead to a better experience for all the kids and quicker development of their skills. Let’s do this at more races! The alternative is to have the 2 or three most experienced kids (i.e. those with parents or older siblings in the sport) take off and leave the rest behind to ride their own solo rides just to complete the distance. When that happens, they probably aren’t be too inspired to try again.

Once the gloves came off and the coaches moved aside for the final four laps, a lead group formed with Ian Keough, Peter Goguen, Ryan Walsh, and Brian Wolfe. The sprint came down to Wolfe and Goguen with Goguen taking it by just a few feet. Walsh rolled through a couple of seconds later, then Keough. Kara Mullaly won the girls race just seconds behind the lead group of boys.

Juniors 15-18
The host club, Mystic Velo, has had strong racers in the masters age groups for years, but last season they put together a team of juniors from the southeast Connecticut region. Unlike some of the powerhouse junior development teams, the Mystic Velo team is made of local kids without prior experience. It is a truly regional grassroots team. They didn’t seem to get a lot of results last year, but this season they have been on fire lead by Evan Kirk and David Gilchrist among others. They had four riders on the line for this one with Evan Kirk sitting it out waiting for the Cat 3 and Cat 1, 2, 3 races later in the day.

Connor Walsh (in his third race of the day) kept trying to attack at the front of the field but he appeared to be just having some fun as he knew he was greatly outnumbered by the Mystic boys and they were right on him every time he tried. Emily Curley (Gearworks) and the Mullaly sisters, Kelsea and Katy (Capital Velo Club) were able to stay with the boys and it was all together through 8 laps to go. David Gilchrist (Mystic) launched with 6 to go and bagged a $5 prime. He stayed away with a 22 second lead that shrunk to 8 seconds when Tommy Goguen (Minuteman) attacked. But John Harris (Mystic) stuck with Tommy and Tommy diverted his energy and added a lot of extra feet to his race trying to shake him when he should have been focused on his pursuit of Gilchrist. Gilchrist stayed away and Tommy got out sprinted for second by Harris, then Ian McFarland (Mystic) came in fourth solo. After almost losing her lead by refusing to pull through with Nate Etchells who was also trying to do the shake and bake like Tommy Goguen, Kelsea Mulally took the girls race ahead of Emily Curley. Emily had a chance while Kelsea slowed down. Emily told me to shush and not tip Kelsea off that she was sneaking up as they passed through the start/finish line. I was shushed by a fourteen year old!!

Cat 3
Little breaks rolled off the front but nobody was really getting away. This race had lots of masters racers in it getting a warm up before the age graded races start, maybe more than there were young guys who are trying to make it up the scale to Cat 1. The Gearworks team (Paul Curley, Tom Stevens, Bill Sawyer) took turns keeping the pace high. It all stayed together to the end with Mike Maloney (Cyclonauts) launching but getting caught with a lap and a half to go. Nice try, but it wasn’t for nothing as he did soften the field for his team mates by making the other teams chase. Ben Wolfe (Mystic) went to the front with Evan Kirk (Mystic) on his wheel a lap and a half before the finish but it was too early. Wolfe buried himself trying to keep Kirk at the front but they got swarmed with 1/3 of a lap to go. As they came out from behind the trees heading into the final corner the field was spread across the road with a few yellow and black Cyclonauts jerseys forming a new lead out train at the front. Two of them held on including Mike Norton who took the win followed by team mate Douglas McKeon. Paul Curley was third.

Masters 55/65
These races started with separate fields on the course at hte same time. The 55s stayed together despite some attacks from Mark Hagen (CCB). The 65s saw Richard Martin and MCRA champ David Burnett (Mystic) roll away early on. After a couple of primes, the 55s caught the 65 field with 12 to go and they raced together from then on.

Martin and Burnett sprinted like gentlemen drag racing from the final corner, no drafting, no games. Martin couldn't quite match the speed and Burnett won the sprint by a half bike length.

In the 55s, world champion track racer Chip Berezny (Bike Line) narrowly took the sprint with, I got to talk to Chip for a few minutes after the race and found out that he won his rainbow jersey in the scratch race for his age group last year in Australia after a couple of near misses the previous years.

Masters 45
This race stayed all together until 12 to go when a group of 5 rolled away. The group included Dave Solobreak Foley (BOB), Mike Norton (Cyclonauts), Todd Buckley (arc en Ciel), Sam Morse (Corner Cycle), and Gary Dalton. They worked well together until about 5 to go when they stopped cooperating. Mike Norton appeared to be the first to turn off the groupthink as he pulled out of the pace line from second place and dropped to the back of the group. Meanwhile, a chase of three formed from the front of the remaining field. When Norton dropped back, that left a gap behind Todd Buckley that Dalton would have to close. However, Buckley took off and extended his lead. He finished it solo while the remaining break of four fell apart completely. Meanwhile, the Gearworks train moved to the front of the field and started grabbing back time on the 4 scattered breakaways. Buckley finished strongly but exhausted to take the win solo by several seconds. Then Foley took second alone, with Morse a couple of bike lengths behind. Norton barely avoided getting caught by the hard charging field to take 5th.

35 plus
Mike Rowell (NEBC) took off from the gun and got a 25 second lead. He stayed out for several laps alone and took a $10 prime before being caught. Johnny Bold (Corner Cycle) took off into the lead from a small breakaway group that included Scott Giles (Velo Brew), David Potter (Arc en Ciel), Ciaran Mangan (CCB), Rick Kotch (Union Velo) and William Mark. Bold and Giles time trialed away and lapped the field with 3. They mixed into the field and for the most part stayed near the front. Mike Rowell took a dig for third off the front but got caught. Bold and Giles remained mixed in the field for a couple of laps and with 1.5 laps to go bold caught Giles napping. Giles was stuck in the middle of the field a few places behind Bold. Bold used the opportunity to attack and got an immediate gap over Giles. Giles took most of the next to last lap to pick his way through the field then turned on the after burners for the final half lap. He closed the gap on Bold on the finishing stretch but could not finish it off. He lost by just ½ a bike length after spotting Johnny Bold a couple of hundred yard lead with 1.5 laps to go.

Cat 1,2,3
This race went 41 laps for 35 miles. CLNoonan, CCB, and Indy Fab were represented along with regional micro-celebrity in the making Adam Myerson from the Mountain Khakis professional team. Since Adam was alone without team mates, it can be assumed that this race was not a priority of the Mountain Khakis team and Adam was primarily interested in getting in some training at race pace.

Emerson Oronte (Independent Fabrication), Amos Brumble (CCB), Alec Donahue (Spooky), and Tautkus (Exodus) formed a break early on. Ben Wolfe, a Cat 3 junior from Mystic Velo, tried to bridge but got caught by the field that wasn’t ready to let anything else go, especially a Cat 3 junior. The break stayed away thanks to cooperation between the breakaways and also the blocking of the Spooky team who still had several riders in the field. The lead was big enough that when splits were taken, it was from the back of the field to the front of the break. And the gap kept closing. With 4 laps to go Oronte crashed out of the break on the third corner. It happened at the worst possible time – one lap sooner and he could have gotten a free lap, one lap later and he would have only had 3 to go and it can be guessed that he would have finished solo in fourth since the chase group of 7 didn’t catch him until the last half lap. But he lost precious time as he circled his bike a couple of times and collected his thoughts before remounting and trying to hang on to his 4th place.

The chase caught him on the last half lap so a crash a lap later would probably have left him in fourth. Also, the remaining three riders in the break caught the back of the field in the half lap following his crash so presumably, if he hadn’t crashed when he did, he would have been riding in the field. When the break got close to the back of the field, Donahue’s Spooky team mates conspicuously dropped to the back of the pack ready to escort their “Dear Leader” anywhere he wanted to go. And he wanted to go to the front so they set up the train and led Donahue out for the win which he took by half a bike length over Tautkus followed by Brumble.

Luke Keough took the furious downwind sprint for fourth using junior gears amongst older riders in the chase group. He had noticed that other riders were in their 11 cogs for the sprint but he was restricted to junior gears which I think max out somewhere around a 46x12. Oronte rolled in at the back of the chase group to take 11th place. The prize money went to ten places so he probably had to go to the ATM to buy first aid gear for his road rash.

I found out later that he clipped his inside pedal on the pavement as he rounded the third corner on the course. His former team mates on the CLNoonan team said the abrasions on his hip looked very deep, but the results of Sundays Hoosatonic race indicate that he did pretty well there despite his injuries.

Luke Keough was the camera man for my in-race video camera. I will post excerpts when I get a chance to edit it down to a reasonable length (but I have said that before and still there are no race videos on the blog yet).

No comments: