Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yarmouth Clam Festival

This was the 29th annual bike race at the Yarmouth Clam Festival (although the Clam Festival started 44 years ago based on the banner above). By my rough calculation, that means the first race was held in 1981. A lot has changed in bike racing since then. The sound at the start of a race is dominated by the clunk of cleats locking into pedals instead of the sound of riders muttering and cursing as they reach down to tighten toe straps. Entry fees have tripled but prize lists haven't. The USCF is now USA Cycling. Bikes are made of crabon fiber, not many are made of steel anymore. And pre-registration is more often done by computer now than by envelope. Fortunately, in this crazy world where constant change is the one thing you can rely on, the Yarmouth Clam Festival Bike Race has hardly changed at all. It is still a barn burner of a race and it's still supported by the locals like no other race around.
This year's event started on a somber note with a memorial lap for a member of the local cycling community, Carrie Girod. She was killed by a motor vehicle while cycling on vacation in Seattle just a week before the race. She had been a member of the Portland Velo Club, the host club of the race, and a friend of many of those in attendance. I don't know more details of the accident beyond that, but it should serve as reminder of the dangers cyclists encounter each time we ride on the roads with the big steel boxes. Soap box time: If I were king, I would make it illegal to send or read text messages while driving. It's probably to late to keep people from talking on the phone while driving, that's just too ingrained in people now to stop, but maybe it isn't too late to put an end to the unnecessary and extremely selfish act of typing while driving. And I would also make it illegal to where headphones/earbuds while cycling. That is just dumb too. Anyway, back to the race -
After one complete 3.6-mile memorial lap around Yarmouth, the racing began for both the men's and the women's fields. The men's field (Pro 1,2,3) was nearly full at close to 100 riders while the women's field was considerably smaller at about 25. But the race promoter still pays the women's prize list 10 deep and $750, just like the men's race. Last year's men's winner,Justin Spinelli was not present to defend, but Rebecca Wellons (NEBC) returned to try to make it back to back wins.

Once the racing was underway, there were primes every lap for both races thanks to the incredible support that the local residents and businesses have for this race. The crowds were 3 and 4 people deep through the center of town on both sides of the road and plenty of those people donated for primes. There was never less than $40 on a lap for each race and typically well over $100.

Dick Ring, "The Voice of New England Bike Racing" , was in the crowd but it didn't take much coaxing to get him to grab a microphone and join me on the stage. He hasn't lost a step even though he doesn't see as much of the racers as he did before his "retirement" from race announcing a few years ago. It was a great privilege for me to once again trade stories and banter with the master as the race progressed. The unfortunate thing is that I barely got to pay attention to the race while I was trying to keep up with him.
I remember that every lap was won by a solo break or a small group off the front but that the attacks didn't seem to last very long until Peter Bradshaw (Embrocation Cycling) took off in the men's race around half way through the ten lap race and Rebecca Wellons did the same in the women's race. Peter got some company soon after but Rebecca did not. She went on to bag the primes for several laps earning a couple hundred extra dollars and then soloed in for the win a minute ahead of the rest of the field. Her victory salute included a letter C for Carrie with her right hand. Maybe she could teach young Mr. Cavendish a thing or two about appropriate and respectful victory salutes. Anna McLoon (Alturum Cycling) was second and Danielle Ruane (Sunapee) was third more than half a minute in front of the rest of the field which sprinted down the finishing strait to claim the rest of the prize money.

In the men's race, Bradshaw, who was the world champion bike messenger a few years ago, got some company when Damien Colfer, Ryan Fleming (Met Life), Morgan MacLeod (Bowdoin College), and Dan Vallaincourt (Colavita) pulled up alongside. They rode together as temporary team mates and established a solid but not insurmountable lead by working well together. Vallaincourt was on the front more often than not when they came through the start/finish area and was awarded most of the primes.

Bradshaw was the only one with much support behind in the field so blocking was not as much of a factor as it might have been. Instead, it was the power of the only full professional in the break, Vallaincourt, that drove the train and kept the break away. On the final lap, Bradshaw attacked the group and dropped most of them. But Vallaincourt caught back on and passed Bradshaw just before the finish line to take first prize by half a bike length (see picture below). Colfer crossed just seconds later followed by Fleming. The field charged down the final hill at well over 40 mph after already swarming MacLeod (who would finish 27th). Adam Myerson (Mountain Khakis) would taked the field sprint for 6th. Of note, Luke Keough (CLNoonan), winner of the previous day's race at Claremont (see previous post) would wind up his sprint on junior gears (45x12) and finish 9th. The downhill sprint and restricted gears put him at a big disadvantage, but he still pulled off a result in the money. Just wait until next year when the training wheels come off.

After the race, the top three women showed up promptly for the podium which is a big deal in Yarmouth because there actually are spectators who care there, but Bradshaw and Colfer apparently decided to take a warm down lap after the men's race and missed the whole thing. Vallaincourt is a pro on and off the bike and knew where to be and when to be there. For a short time the officials considered DQ'ing Bradshaw and Colfer for their transgression. Based on the picture of Bradshaw with a wad of cash at the Embrocation Cycling blog, I guess they didn't follow through on the threat. It sure does suck to be the announcer at a big race and have to plead over the PA for the podium to show up, but I wouldn't want to see them DQed after a great race either.

In addition to the prize list and primes, the winners also received an original painting from Joe Cousins, a local artist and one of the coordinators of the Clam Festival art show. Rebecca is going to need a bigger home if she wins another one. I am not sure, but I think it was Dan's first win at Yarmouth despite being from just down the road in Saco.

Here's a picture with Kristen Fortini (aka Mills), me, Dick Ring, and Joe Cousins at the finish line:

Thanks to Rose for snapping the pictures. After the race and some fried clams, Rose and I did a little sea kayaking nearby and had a great trip. I can't wait to go back next year for the racing and more fried clams.

You can find more pictures of the event at

No comments: