Matt Donahue

Friday, July 29, 2005

First Podium - Michaux II Curse of Dark Hollow

Another late race blog... but here is my report for the second race of the Michaux Mega Series, The Curse of Dark Hollow from July 24th. After a sweltering week of mid 90s and high humidity (heat index in the 100s) Sunday dawned dry and cool, perfect upper 70s low 80s. Katie came to the race as well which was totally cool. She gave me great support, took some photos of me and enjoyed the venue.

Not to ruin the punch-line, but this race was the first time I've ever made the podium in a mountain bike race. I got second. The interesting part was that the race was surprisingly uneventful. The real action was in the first 5 minutes during the mass start up a long, slightly uphill dirt road. 3 riders from the sport class one SrI, a SrII, and a Vet led a sprint right off the start line. I jumped in on their wheel(s) and the four of us promptly dropped the rest of the pack, very much dropped them. Around the top of the start hill as the course wrapped its way through the camp area these 3 guys dropped me. I figured I should avoid blowing up during the first mile so I decided to dial it down a notch, after all there were at least 19 more miles to go during which I could try catching these guys.

Strangely, I kept thinking I would catch up with the sport leaders as I couldn't imagine they would be continue to lengthen their lead by so much. I was also slightly worried that I would be caught by the guys behind me, as that was what happened to me at the last Michaux race. But I rode the remaining 18 miles essentially alone, with no other sport racers in sight. I only caught some lagging experts who were probably recovering from crashes or flats. I saw Pooch, our team captain, up the trail a bit, but was unable to catch him.

The course was awesome, some super technical sections with lots of big sharp rocks that demanded balance and careful riding. I dabbed a bit on some sections but was able to ride nearly everything. No falls either!

Throughout the race I was continually worried that I would be caught. At one point I was on a forest road that afforded long views forward and back, maybe about a mile or so- not a soul in sight the entire mile. I think I ended up about 7 minutes behind the winner - he won sport and was in my class, SrI. 7 minutes is a big margin, but the next closest rider to me was a Sr. II, 3 minutes behind. The next SrI appears to be over 9 minutes behind me. So there was no dramatic sprint or battle through the woods with other riders making a similar pace to me. A fall or a flat tire would have changed things for sure.

I gave my prize to Katie - I let her pick what she wanted, a hydration pack (sweet prizes at this race), as a thank you for coming all the way up there to watch and support me!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Girro di Coppi - First Road Race

I was a bit nervous about this race, it being my first road race. I had also ridden the course the weekend before and been pretty surprised at how hilly it was. You can check out the course and it's profile here. Advice from my road-racing friends was to stay near the front at all costs, "If a group leads out, follow a wheel." I took it seriously and staying focused on that advice; it is probably what kept me in the game on Saturday. I thank Curry and his fellow Coppi teamate Joe? for that advice, it worked.

The rolling start was nice- always a good way to start a race, no sitting at the line worrying about who's going to get into the single track first... oh, yeah and no single track. It was neat to have a group of CBers in the peleton, it gave the opportunity to follow someone I knew, and share a few words with here and there.

The first lap was surprisingly slow, lots of braking, and general confusion. It seemed like no one was willing to take a chance and lead out (I certainly was not). Fellow teamates Mike and Brian were putting in solid efforts, even leading the pack at times. I was content to watch from always more than 4 riders off the front.

Lap two changed things up pretty drastically. On the long uphill following the downhill start, the group started breaking up. It seemed as if every wheel I followed continued to slow down on the climb, while a lead group kept putting distance into the rest of us. Finally toward the top I just gave up on following anyone and struck out after the lead group. It was a rolling section and it took some time, but eventually I merged into the back of this group just before the second turn in the course. Ezra was there as well. Once in it, I was able to stay with this group. About 5(?) miles and a turn later Ezra remarked that it looked as if we had dropped a lot of people, I turned around, and there was no one in sight behind us. My reaction was a combination of fear and excitement, fear that I may be next off the back, but excitement that somehow I'd managed to hang on to the lead pack for almost 2 laps.

Lap 3 proved much faster, as the group of about 18 or 20 did a lot less braking and occupied less space on the road. It seemed like folks were less sketchy about position. As we approached the final climb the pace started to ramp up and people got in position to sprint the uphill to the finish. At the approach, the group was still tight- and after some bumping into another rider the sprint was suddenly on. It started with just less than 200m to go. Ezra aptly described it as a tunnel vision, only seeing the finish line and the lane that you were taking to get there. I don't remember much of the sprint; I do recall seeing Ezra cross the line a few riders in front of me, I was just hammering up that hill. As I regained the ability to think, I wondered, “was I in the top 10?” nah, must have been at least 10 guys in front of me… I ended up in 8th.

I like the road racing. It’s pretty damned cool. I’ll do that again.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

T to the B (Tour de Burg)

This is a quickie- my DSL is down at home and I feel guilty writing long entries at work, so here it is.

I rode stage 1 of the Tour de Burg on Saturday (see this for a description of the MTB stage race).

Joe, who wrote a great report, and I headed out there and rode it together. The most remarkable thing about the weekend was getting my butt kicked by Joe. I don't know that I've ever seen someone improve so much over one season. While he may be humble and slow to admit it, he's made huge strides.

A solid rider last year, Joe was still someone I would typically drop and not expect to see again until after I'd finished. This season we've both ratcheted up our training, significantly. On the first timed section of the day 5 mile climb? I started off several riders in front of him, and opened up a good gap. He quickly caught up, passed me and left me behind. I had to fight very hard to get back on his wheel, but there was no way I was passing him. Way to go Joe!

Another added coolness factor was the presence of some pros- Jeremiah Bishop and Chris Eatough from the Trek MTB team. They were out in front most of the time, obviously, but they also hung with the group during the parade sections and rest periods. Good times had all around.

Bishop was interviewed in Cycling News regarding the race. Check it out!