Thursday, April 23, 2009

Myles Standish Circuit Race April 19th 2009

If any of you out there in the blogosphere have any influence with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), please use it to make them re-pave the roads in Myles Standish State Forest. If there was ever a more shovel ready project, I don’t know what it might be. The roads in MSSF are now, after this long winter, a complete disgrace. As a result, race promoter Bill Sykes made the difficult decision to move the race off of what was left of the traditional loop around the forest and move the race to the training race course around Charge Pond. It’s a 1.3 mile loop surrounded on one side by the pond and on the other by a camping area that is not yet open for the season. In short, it’s a great place for a training race, but kind of lackluster for one of the early season New England classics. It just isn’t the same without the possibility of someone taking a plunge into a recently thawed lake (yeah, it’s happened). But there really is no choice until the DCR paves the main loop around the forest.

It went pretty much like this:

Juniors 10-14 - Peter Goguen (Minuteman Road Club) won it in a break with Nate Morse (CLNoonan), Chris Worden and Peter Vollers Jr (Starthouse). All four young men have fathers who are either active or retired racers so it’s no surprise they formed the winning break. Peter has the extra benefit of having at least 3 older brothers who race as well (I’ve lost count of exactly how many bike racers that family has spawned).

Cat 5 – The 50 rider field limit suddenly looked like a good idea on the narrow roads and a full Cat 5 field this early in the season is a good sign for the future of the sport. Not much of note happened in the first 18 miles as the less experienced riders dropped off the back. Too bad they couldn’t stay in and finish, but this ain’t the marathon and the stragglers were pulled out by the officials. Anyone can ride 20 miles so there isn’t much pride to be had in simply finishing. About 36 riders finished in the field. As they passed through the start finish area to begin the last lap you could see the two BikeBarn guys, Andy Legan and Bill Kinney, making their way to the front with Bill keeping Andy out of the wind. Bill led Andy to the front and kept him there through most of the final lap but got slammed by the headwind on the backside of the course. Andy fended for himself from there and came around the final corner in second spot. He was gradually coming around the guy in first, Devin Riley, and had almost completed the pass when he inexplicably stopped pedaling with 30 yards to go. This allowed Riley to maintain his lead by just inches to the second cross walk which was the real finish line, not the first one that had been used during all four training races earlier in the season. Legan took home second prize and a valuable lesson – ALWAYS KNOW WHERE THE FINISH LINE IS.

Pro 1,2 – Mark McCormack (Team Fuji) and Jeff Craddock (CCB) took off early and worked smoothly together for several laps. They collected two $10 primes for their efforts, then they dropped back rather suddenly to the field losing a 30 second gap in just two laps. That’s weird, Markie and Craddock don’t just suddenly blow up like that. The field had split behind them but came back together as Frank McCormack pulled the field up. It was later theorized that Shawn McCormack (youngest of the three racing McCormack brothers) was the team leader for the day and since he didn’t make the break, Mark dropped back and Frankie pulled Shawn’s group up to the chase group. At the finish Shawn won after getting the best lead out in history from Mark, Craddock was second, and Frankie was third. Peter Vollers would later tell me how Frank and Mark can control a race so well that that their designated sprinter doesn’t have to do much in the race but sprint for the finish. Peter said they did it for him many times when they were together on the IME team in the 90s. Not to take anything away from Shawn who is obviously coming back into form after years off the bike, but apparently today was meant to be his day from the start.

Mas 45 – This one stayed together through the first half despite turning in the fastest lap times of the day including the previous Pro-1-2 race. The speed was due in large part to the very active Gearworks team that seemed to be constantly sending riders off the front. First to go was Tom (the Steamboat) Stevens. He went twice before Bob Bisson went twice. At the finish it was all together and Paul Curley (Gearworks) took the win from the final corner followed by Joe Rano (Bike Alley).

Juniors 15-18 Mystic Velo and CLNoonan made up half the field so they looked like favorites to win on the starting line. The field of 10 stayed together to the end. David Gilchrist (Mystic) led it out from the final corner and hung on to win with his team mate Ben Wolfe right behind in second. Chris Esposito, who came all the way from Maine, took home third place.
Masters 55- Mark Hagen (CCB), Dusty Adams (Mosaic Smalti) and a few other strong men took the line with a couple of first timers to make a field of 12. It didn’t take long to sort things out. One time heading up the strait to the start finish area Dusty had to shoo a turkey off the course as it almost got hit by the field trying to cross the road. They seem to be all of the forest these days, it must be mating season. After a bunch of accelerations and attacks mostly by Hagen, the top few came in together with Hagen taking the win followed right behind by Dusty Adams and Richard Cullen (Corner Cycle).

Cat 4 – The Cat 4 field was filled to the 50 rider limit but it didn’t take long to start shelling some off the back as the front of the field worked hard all race with some fast lap splits (around 3 minutes). Ryan Littlefield (Base 36) came to the front at the finish and stayed in the saddle to power up the slight hill for a win with the field unable to come around. On his wheel was Brett Walker (Hammer), then Greg Brown (Cape Cod Cyclists).

Mas 35 – This was another race that stayed together despite riding very hard. Ray Botelho (the One Man Wrecking Crew) and Eric Jensen (Bike Barn) always seemed to be at or near the front when the field came through the start finish. With 2.5 laps to go, Botelho took off from the front of the field and no one went with him. Jensen seemed to help him by sitting on whatever chase developed and then it got to the point where no one wanted to sacrifice their chance at second place so Botelho was gone to stay. He won by about 15 seconds followed by Paul Curley at the front of the field sprint, then Todd Rowell (NEBC).

Women – A field of about 13 started but they were of all different ability levels and ages ranging from Emily Curley (Gearworks) to Julie Lokhart (NEBC). After about 5 laps more or less together, 4 rolled off the front. Kristen Gohr and Lydia Mathger (both Colavita) along with Cathy Rowell (NEBC) and Carola Berger (Webcor) rode the remaining 12 laps together while the rest of the women formed small groups behind. Kristen Gohr won the halfway prime– she can sprint. At the finish Kristen led it out and took the win with her teammate Lydia right behind her, then Rowell and Berger followed right behind.

Cat 3 – This one was a barn burner because 17 Cat 3s decided to ride hard, really hard. They consistently rode the fastest laps of the day, even faster than the Pro -1-2 field. The Pros were turning in 3:00 minute laps. The Cat 3 field, dominated by the CLNoonan and NEBC teams with four riders each, was always below 3 minutes and commonly around 2:50 per lap. Somehow, Colin Huston (CLNoonan) and Kyle Smith (Cambridge Bike) went even faster and broke clear off the front. David Chiu (NEBC) didn’t wait long to jump on the train and leave the pack behind. With the two biggest teams in the race up front, Tom Middleton, the only rider in the race from the host Mass Bay/Bicycle Link Team, decided his best chance was to join the break. He later said it almost did him in making the bridge across, but he made it and recovered well enough to start taking his pulls. Meanwhile, the six NEBC and CLNoonan riders controlled the field for their team mates in the break. After a few laps Smith couldn’t maintain the pace of the break with only limited opportunities to rest and dropped back to the field. The remaining three stayed away and Huston led out the sprint all the way up the finishing strait and dropped Chiu and Middleton. Chiu managed to hold off Middleton then 30 seconds or so later, Paul Lynch (CLNoonan) won the field sprint for fourth.

David Potter was kind enough to be the in-race camera man for the day during the Masters 35 race. I’ll have some race video posted as soon as I figure out how to edit it down to a reasonable length. Check back soon.

Rick Newhouse Memorial Criterium Ninigret, RI, April 18th 2009

For four years now, the Arc en Ciel racing team has hosted a race at Ninigret State Park in early April to honor the memory of Rick Newhouse, a teammate who died of brain cancer a few years ago. This year they got unusually good weather for the event and reasonably good turnout despite being in direct competition with the now famous Tour of the Battenkill.
Other than occurring on the same day, the two races don’t have much in common. Ninigret is a perfectly flat 0.9 mile course purpose made for bike riding. There are lots of corners but no real technical challenges unless it is windy. With no vehicle traffic, the pavement stays in great shape. Could Battenkill and Ninigret be any more different?

Here’s what happened:

Cat 5 – A motley looking crew (not Crue) lined up at the start finish line. One guy had a blue skateboarding helmet on (but apparently ANSI approved). One guy had on layers of threadbare ripped t shirts that looked like a costume from the midnite showing of Rocky Horror. As Mimi the USCF official said, “Cat 5s, there so cute”. Once we got them going, the race stayed together until the half way prime. Cat 5s aren’t allowed to have primes of any value according to the rules, but we found some water bottles to give away. Skateboard helmet guy (Richard Woodland) won both primes, but the field came back together both times. After winning two primes he was the odds on favorite to win, but he didn’t factor in the sprint. Greg Louro (Bike Works) won it followed by Jay Zengobot (in the worn out t-shirts). He was informed by the officials after the race that his attire did not meet the USCF standards. If he keeps placing in the races, he should be picked up by a club before too long and be able to retire his t shirts for a club jersey before they get any thinner.

Cat 4 – This was a very active race with little breakaways heading off the front constantly. Rich Persons (Minuteman Road Club) was especially active early on. He must be the tallest rider in New England on his 65 cm Seven Cycles bike. He and Cicero got a 5-6 second gap before the first prime but junior Evan Kirk (Mystic Velo) bridged across the gap on the last half lap and kept going passing the break just before the long finishing strait. He rode away for the prime. Too bad the prize was a six pack of beer from race sponsor Newport Storm and he’s only 18 years old so it was given to his chaperone. He then won another prime as did his team mate David Gilchrist. His mom picked up his prime. Four guys from Bikeworks including the Phenix brothers set up the lead out train with 2 to go, but number three in the train couldn’t hold the wheel of his team mate and the lead out fell apart before the finishing strait. They got swarmed and Marshall Johnson (B rumble Bikes) took the win in a field sprint.

Masters 55 – Mark Hagen (CCB) split it apart early on with a starting group of about 10 riders dividing into two like a horny amoeba (I am not normally prone to such simile, but I like that one). Hagen took the primes but Richard Martin (Masters Racing) and Michael Miller (Masters Racing) hung with him. Miller mashed a huge gear while Hagen and Martin are spinners. At the finish Hagen took the win in a sprint. 67 year old Martin hung right on to the end. He already has 5,000 miles in his legs from a long winter in Florida. Even for a retiree, that doesn’t sound possible, but you have to believe his wife – she’s a USCF official.

Mas 45 – The feature of this race was the Gentlemen’s Vitality Prime, a prize package put together by Arc en Ciel rider Randy Rusk. As the story goes, Randy’s wife has insisted that he get rid of his collection of Playboy magazines so he donates a few from his collection every year to be part of a prime that also includes a 12-pack of Mountain Dew and a DVD of a bike race. It has been dubbed the Gentlemen’s Vitality Prime because that should be all you need to stay horny and alert through middle age. Hence, the prime is award only for the 45 and 35 plus races. By the way, the DVD in the 45 plus GVP was Tyler Hamilton’s winning ride at Liege Bastogne Liege. I guess Randy isn’t planning on watching Tyler anytime soon, the race being just one day after Tyler’s final exit from the sport due to doping charges (see previous post). Anyway, the prime was won by Duane Scofield (BOB). The sprint broke the pack up after they let the break of Eric Morro (BOB) and Todd Buckley (Arc en Ciel) go as they counter attacked after the prime. They had just a slight advantage when the third placed rider slipped out in a corner slowing the rest of the field momentarily. Officials put him back in after a free lap, but he succumbed to road rash and dropped out of the break, then out of the race completely. The gap for the two leaders went to 30 plus seconds with several Arc en Ciel riders in the field blocking the chase. Skip Foley saw the writing on the wall and tried to bridge with 3 laps to go but Paul Curley (GearWorks) and David Kellogg (Arc en Ciel) got on him. Foley gave up in frustration when they wouldn’t come around to take a pull but the effort broke the chase group down to 5 riders. Foley even rode off into the grass to force Curley to take the lead. Buckley took first with Morro right behind. About 30 seconds later the sprint for third went to Curley narrowly over Scofield after Scofield led it out. Foley didn’t even try.

Mas 35 – This one started to break up right away with groups all over the course. The lead group had nine including three from Arc en Ciel. It included Mathew Kressy (Millwork), Bill Yarbroudy (NBX), Bill Mark (NBX) , Michael Shireman (Union Velo), Peter Voller (Vollers Law), Todd Buckley (Arc en Ciel), Tobi Schultze (Fuji), and David Potter (Arc en Ciel) and Jason ?Hurd (Arc en Ciel). Yarbrody took off with about 8 laps to go and built up a 30 second lead on the break. He stayed away and lapped the remnants of the field (about 8 riders). He then went straight through them to finish solo. Kressey won the field sprint for second. Murat Altimbasak (Millwork) took the second gentlemens prime which had been put on the field earlier in the race. Thanks to Jason Hurd I will have some in-race footage from my handlebar mounted camera posted soon. I need to do some editing first. Check back soon.

P123 – Tim Unkert is the man. He might not always finish first, but he is always trying and always rides harder than anyone else (except maybe Yarbroudy). He started his first solo attack on the first lap and got a 20 second lead before getting some company. Buckley and Rusk, both in their second races of the day , caught up, then Skip Foley (360/Landry’s) and a few others bridged up. But it all came back together with 25 to go. Unkert went again solo again but got company from Buckley again and Adam Sullivan (Spooky). With 16 to go, it was all back together again. But Unkert was still shooting off the front every time the pace slowed a little. A break of 5 finally stayed away – Rusk, Unkert, Kressey, Vollers, while Jim Thomas (NEBC) bridged up last. Kressey led out the sprint from the last corner 500 meters out and held on aided by a tail-cross wind. Thomas was close behind, then Unkert, Vollers and Rusk all drag racing in the saddle to the finish, not really sprinting. Unkert, for all his efforts won primes for a stay at a bed and breakfast in Newport and 60 bucks, some beer, and third place in the race.

Juniors – Four junior racers showed up which is two more than last year. Ian McFarland (Mystic Velo), Peter Vollers Jr. (Vollers Law), Emily Curley (Gear Works), and Grace Vollers (Vollers Law) all raced for 30 minutes and it finished in that order.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Et tu Tyler?

I always wanted to believe Tyler was one of the good guys. The guy finished the Giro with a broken collarbone and then had to get caps on all his back teeth because he was constantly grinding them while trying to manage the pain in his shoulder for two weeks. That's one bad ass bike racer. Plus, he is one of our own being a Massachusetts native. I remember seeing him for the first time in his new Coors Light kit at the start line of the crit stage at Killington. He was just a wide eyed local kid lining up with the country's best. I don't have the team roster in front of me, but if memory serves he was riding in the same kit that race as Phinney (the elder), Moninger, and Knickman among others.

I kind of accepted his assertions that blood cell tests were fallible and since he was the first to get popped under a new test, I wanted to cut him some slack. In my real job (no, I'm not a full time bike race announcer or blogger) we do lots of lab analyses on water and soil samples and it isn't uncommon for there to be a mistake once in a while. Contaminants get detected in places that you know they can't be, why wouldn't it happen with blood too? And if someone had an axe to grind, it wouldn't be hard at all to put the proverbial thumb on the proverbial scale and make the test come out how they wanted it to.

But I had forgotten about the laundry list of doping related offenses and suspicions going back to 2003 or 04 until I read today's stories in Velonews and elsewhere. Each one had a list that would make Floyd Landis blush. Yeah, I'm gullible, I still kind of hope he is actually innocent too. The worst of it has got to be Tyler involving his ex-wife in the Operacion Puerto doping scheme. I guess that is what you have to do when everyone knows your dog's name (RIP Tugboat).

But, as it turns out, the offense that finally does Tyler in is the least offensive of them all. According to Tyler, he took an over the counter remedy for depression that includes a steroid with a very long name that I don't want to try to spell as a minor ingredient. Doctors quoted in the news articles say the stuff is banned in cycling, but of little to no use for either performance enhancement in sports or for alleviating depression. Tyler's story sounds plausible, but like I said, I'm gullible. I also think Lance might have beaten all the dopers in the peloton 7 times without resorting to the stuff himself.

My dad had a serious bout with depression for a while and it was triggered by some of the same things that seem to have gotten to Tyler. First, it runs in the family. Second, when your self identity is tied up with your career, you take a big hit when someone takes that career away. A layoff after 30 years of service to the company or a suspension imposed by the authorities have the same effect. I can't guess whether or not Tyler feels guilt about the things he has or has not done outside the rules of cycling, but feeling guilt probably doesn't help with depression any either.

The right medication can make a huge difference, I've seen that. I don't know what happens when you suddenly take the medication away but it sounds like trouble to me. I guy might make some bad decisions in order to feel better. But the best thing for my dad was to get back to work. He got a new job that he loved and his outlook changed dramatically for the better. He was himself again.

So, my recommendation to Tyler is to get back to work. But they aren't going to let him race again. That puts him in the perfect position to be the guy that cleans up cycling. We know there are still dopers out there and Tyler knows who they are. Much more importantly, he knows how they got that way and who got them that way. Assuming Tyler still has enough cash on hand that he doesn't need a paycheck for a while, he should make it his life's mission to strip away the drug culture from cycling and help to educate young riders coming up. Maybe this will give him enough sense of purpose and self-worth that the depression issues will get better. At the very least he owes it to all those fans that he apparently duped into financially supporting his legal fight during the hearings over the doping charges.

So, if you know Tyler, punch him in the arm real hard. You know, in the hurtz donut spot. He deserves it for being a schmuck and knowingly taking stuff that is banned and pulling our glorious sport through the ringer again. Then, try to convince him to do something productive with himself and start naming names. Then give him every opportunity to teach the kids coming up what will be in store for them if they dope.

Tyler can save the sport while he saves himself.