The Tale of Two Chains
Two races, two formats, two chains, two decent outcomes (for the team).
Chooch #6 - Lap Points Night
Nick always has interesting ideas. This race was set up to award points on specific laps as part of the run up to the finale. Cumulative points would decide the winner. In the past, this has made the race fast and hard as no one wanted the break to go and suck up all the points. That was the plan going in as well.
As with most plans, they fail when they meet reality. The reality on this night was that the weather, as usual, sucked. The forecast had shown the weather letting up around 5 or 6 pm. That’s how I convinced Marty and Craig into driving down. The special Chooch weather system was in full effect though, bringing the rain most heavily during the final race of the night. There’s nothing quite like a cold, wet, warm-up and then shivering on the start line. Really gets the racing desire flowing.
We joked on the line about each team just picking a rider and the rest of us going into the restaurant and waiting for the finish. That might have been a good idea! My pick was Josh anyways, that mustache is still on point.
The race started mostly easy, I was out front trying to stay out of trouble (and extra spray). Dean decided to pip me for the first lap point and after the next prime the race was on. Hinkel went for the prime, I saw Dan start checking behind him to see who was sitting on the wheel. I was 5 wheels back, and anticipated his jump.
And jump he did. He went out, Josh hopped on and so did Carlo Capaldi, another strong TT threat. I accelerated to Carlo’s wheel, closing the gap quickly as we headed into the first right hand turn. I went to punch it and get the gap we needed and all I heard was “CRUNCH”. Josh is yelling at me to get in. I try to shift and pedal. “CRUNCH — GRIND — CRUNCH”. I look down as the bunch closes in. The chain is off on the outside of the front chain ring. I have to dismount and get it back on. Such a pain to remount it. The bunch passes by. I get it back onto the chain ring and I push to catch up.
I’m not successful. The next 60 minutes is basically a painful, wet, dirty, time trial. I get a good workout in and I’m lapped by the time I see the finish. Josh gives up the sprint to Dan, ends up third behind Carlo but still a good result. I’m drenched, dirty, tired and pissed. I assumed that since this type of mechanical was due to me not replacing my chain after an appropriate service life, I just had to ride it out. After the race Nick tells me he would have let me take a lap and get back in. Well shit.
Before the next race, I replace my chain.
Chooch #7 - Double Race Night
Double race night is always good times. It’s the night I will always remember because it is where I totaled my first ever carbon road bike.
Thankfully, we would not go down that road again. The Double Race format has two shorter races (35 mins each) with the overall winner being determined by a points ranking within those two. There are a few bonus points primes thrown in for fun as well.
The weather was decent for once, and the team was in full force at the Chooch! Notably, Dan Doddy was absent, which left the door a bit wider open to shake things up. As the race started, Carlo dropped back to sit on my wheel. Better mine than Brad’s, I guess. A few laps went by and not much was happening. A high pace was being sustained which kept most attacking to a minimum. The moment the pace slowed down to under 40kph I launched an attack.
The guys did a good job of holding the field back and not allowing too much of a reaction. I looked back to predictably see Carlo on my wheel, but the good thing was that I know he would be motivated to work. Much like myself, he is not a sprinter and if he is going to have a chance at winning it will be from a breakaway. We take turns pulling through, averaging about 43kph per lap which is enough to let a gap grow. Within 3 laps, I look back to see Brad and Sean Ryan from Tower almost across. The odds are even, maybe even slightly slanted to our side with Brad, so we let them get on. The gap continues to grow to over 40 seconds.
Primes come and go, we agree not to disrupt the break to take the cash or points (the later would become useful later), allowing Carlo to take the lead on both. Soon the lap counter appears an we are down to three, then two laps remaining. In my head, I was already building the last lap plan. We had been rotating well, but always in the same spots where Brad and I had a set of back-to-back pulls up and down the little ramp at the back of the course. I let Brad know that I was going to go on the last lap as he finished his last pull.
And go I went. I put in my fastest lap time at the Chooch @ 48.8kph. From what I understand, there was a bit of confusion when I attacked. Brad was on my wheel and Carlo had just pulled off, which made a bit of a staring contest and a few seconds of hesitation. At this point, regardless of the situation it was going to turn out to be good for Southpoint. Sean eventually launched to chase and Brad jumped on to his wheel for the free ride. Carlo, who was already in the red, just rode it out. I was caught with 200m to go, but Brad was fresh and completely took Sean in the sprint. First and third, not a bad start to the night!
We lined it back up. Shook out the legs and got ready to wind it up again after a few easier laps… errr what? There’s a break up the road already? 8 guys? WTF?
Yeah, so that happened. Thankfully we had two guys in the break - Marty and Josh - both of which are dangerous when it comes down to a sprint finish. Both of which could take on any of the other riders in the break and win. Again, great odds. To top it off, Josh had come in first in the field sprint in Race #1, making him the only one in the group with serious points. Russ, the road boss, basically tells us to cool it and let this go, so we don’t allow someone with points (e.g. Sean Ryan) to get up the road. The US U19 CX Champ was in this race and he bridged up on the following lap. In hindsight, I might have been able to follow but I would have received a lashing from Russ.
We let the gap stabilize around 40 seconds and just cruised. Eventually someone in the front got a flat which ruined their rhythm and the gap came down a bit to 35. We were instructed to let it inch back up to a minute and then start tearing the field apart. So we did. Russ, Dean, Brad and I went to work in the last 5 laps just attacking and tearing up the field. We went from 20 guys to 6 opponents fairly quickly. By the last lap, Tower put their guys - Tony and Adam on the front, with Sean slotted a few wheels back behind Brad and I jumped in front of Brad to give him a strong leadout. It would have topped my previously set best time.
Tony and Adam both pulled hard for Sean but I knew that Brad was the stronger sprinter and was well rested by now. With two points up for grabs, that would give him a great podium position. As we came out of the corner, I went to ramp up the power from 400W to 800W+ to launch Brad into the last 100m. But then disaster.
CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!
My new chain had fallen off the front chainring… AGAIN.
Worse, I almost took out Brad as I pulled off into the wind and he tried to get around me in the same direction. Lead out train ruined. Brad finished a heartbreaking second because that extra point tied him three ways and ultimately ended up in 4th instead of 2nd overall. I’ll be honest - I was freaking hauling it and felt awesome. Brad was going to be delivered to the line in a most beautiful manner. On the plus side, Marty snuck away from the break and went solo for first and Josh went second, getting first overall.
Still kicking myself over that finish and probably will for the rest of the season.
It’s time for a new chainrings? Wheelset? Bike? I’m open to any or all of these.