Thursday, March 15, 2007

Winter Rerun: 2005 Human Power Challenge

The first time the road race at PIR didn't devolve into a time trial. -ed.

OHPV’s 2005 Human Power Challenge started with the stock/superstock time trial, 5 laps (roughly 9.6 miles). Joe Kochanowski, rehabilitating from a bad accident and major leg surgery, was actually nuts enough to do this event on his home-brew lowracer, and didn't do half bad, either. Well, about half bad, I guess. Understandable, as he had half as many legs to use as the rest of us. I had the best time overall, 21:02, which was my best time ever for anything close to 10 miles. Works out to around 27.25 mph, which I'm quite pleased with (and which I may improve upon if I get a disc rear wheel). I knew I had done well when I nearly caught Chris Sandmel (who took 3rd at Wasco) at the finish. To be fair, he started a few minutes behind me, but the point was that I clearly made up some time on him. Chris was on his Aero, while I rode my M5 CLR through the whole weekend.

We did the drag race on the infield this year, which worked out well, because it let us keep having events the whole day, and gave us Monday off. The field was about 14 or so racers, double elimination. I got beat by John Climaldi on his Bacchetta Corsa in the first round. It's hard drag racing with a 12-21 cassette, because it's so much better to be able to just stay in one ring up front, and the 12-21 simply doesn't have the breadth you need to be useful from both a standing start and at the top end. Chris Sandmel walked away from everyone he was matched with. John and Keith Kohan had an incredibly tight finish later on, with Keith just barely edging John. Chris steamrolled over Keith. That set up a loser's bracket final between me and John, with him edging me again. Then it was Chris and John C in the final, and Chris got him pretty decisively.

For the streamer/superstreet road race, we only had 4 entrants. With Joe allegedly sidelined, and Todd and Lonnie riding across the country, we didn't have the mojo to entice the Rotator crew to come up this year. We hope to be restored to full streamliner glory again next year. So the streamer race was a group of folks on socked bikes. The winner was tbonesk8, up from Medford, on a very handsome Volae Club with a sock. He did the whole hour at an impressive 23-24 mph rate. Bruce Parker and Dave "Slug" Van Gundy came across the line together hand in hand as the spectators booed and screamed for blood (just kidding about the booing). Rick Valbuena made a valiant go of it, but succumbed to cramps about halfway in.

The next morning we started with the 200. I don't know what my deal was; if I was sick, or was putting on the juice too early, or putting on the juice too late, or what, but I did 2 runs and got a mediocre mid 33 mph both times. I saw that my main competition, Chris S., did a 32 on his first try, and figured it was just a breezy day, so everyone would be slow, and decided to let it lie. I watched John Williams get within a breath of 40 mph on his Quest and John Climaldi get up to 38.5 in his second run ever in the Varnowski, and then went over to sit down and relax. I was chatting with my dad when Keith and Alex Kohan came over on their tandem-linked Kettweisels and told me Sandmel had just put together a 36 mph run. Crap. I sighed heavily and figured I had to give it a third go -- for honor's sake, this aggression would not stand. I gave it my all even though I wanted to save something for the road race that afternoon, but still only managed to push my score up to 34.4. Meanwhile Chris put in another 36 mph run.

Then we had the fully faired TT. John Williams joined us for that one, along with Joe K in the Varnowski. For a guy who isn't supposed to be riding he sure does a lot of riding. Edna Van Gundy and Rick Valbuena rounded out the field. Joe K had another gutty performance, and pulled out the win, though there was a moment when we thought John Williams had bested him by a second. Then we realized Joe and John were 30 seconds apart at the start, not 60 -- Joe's time was actually 29 seconds faster than John's. Simply amazing for a guy with a bunch of screws in his knee. Well, I guess they are titanium, and everyone knows titanium is fast.

Bill S. set up the autocross, and it looked like a really fun course. I sat out, being equiped with naught but my completely inappropriate for the event lowracer, but it was sure great to watch. Keith and Alex Kohan were incredibly competitive, and went head-to-head several times. Kelsey Wood from Seattle handled Joe K's weird articulated trike quite skillfully to capture the men's multitrack title. But there was also a certain amount of carnage, as you might expect when folks are pushing the limits of adhesion. Chris S. nicked his knee on his chainring, and Cindy Licuanian agravated an old leg or thigh injury. I hope everyone who took a fall feels better soon. In the end, young Alex was strong and skillful enough to have the best time overall in an incredibly tight field.

Finally, we got to what in my opinion was the main event (at least, this year): the unfaired road race. At this point, Chris S had 2 firsts and a second to my 1 first, 1 second, and 1 show. If I won here, I'd have a pretty good claim on the overall title. If Chris won, his claim would be pretty indisputable. Also, Joe K, lowracer partisan that he is, would personally kill me if I lost to a guy on a highracer. I'd had low-level butterflies about this race all day.

So, the stage was set, when at the last minute Rand Milam agreed to join the field on his newly rehabilitated VK2. That made me feel a bit better, as I felt that made me a little safer from getting Kochanowskilled.

We lined up, and at the gun, I took off. I knew I'd TT'd at around 1.5 mph faster than Chris, and I wanted to see if I could open up enough of a gap to turn it back into a TT. I didn't work too hard to do so, however, because I figured Rand, John, and Chris would be able to put together paceline and reel me in. Plus, I wasn't really all that enthusiastic about the prospect of a 1 hour TT. So it didn't take too long for the three of them to catch me. Dave Neilson latched on before too long, too, on his tailfaired Optima Baron.

We settled into a nice, 24 mph groove in the paceline. Now in that situation, I had to balance a couple of conflicting goals. I wanted to sit on someone else's wheel as much as possible, but at the same time, I had to make sure that the pace didn't flag too much. Chris Sandmel's obvious strength in sprint events was quite fresh in my mind. So I was agressive in attacking, but also opportunistic about it. I attacked on the right, as most people had mirrors on the left sides of their bikes, and I figured I might get an extra half second of surprise on that side. I attacked when the wind was behind us, and got back on a wheel when the wind was in front. I attacked on the turns, when we already had a natural tendency to get a little more spaced out. And when they were reeling me back in, I weaved around the long notches in the crappy pavement on PIR's straightaway. Dave Neilson fell off the back after about 4 laps of this.

Chris was also aggressive. Once, I let John C. into the paceline to sit on Chris's wheel, and when Chris made a break later that lap, I admonished John, "If you're gonna be on his wheel, you've gotta keep on it!" But really, I must say, John C. had the gutsiest, bravest strategy in the race. He spent more time than any of us out in front, which I thought was odd, because he didn't have as much of an aero advantage as Rand or I, and Wasco showed that Chris had the edge in strength. When I called him on it later, he said that he basically had to stay up there because there wasn't enough of a draft from Rand or I for him to hang on at the speeds we did, so unless he was on Chris's wheel, he had to be up front so that he could dictate a pace that was manageable for him, and hope he could hang around until the end when it was anyone's game.

That succeeded in keeping him in the race until the last lap. I managed to get enough information out of Jeff Wills as we zoomed by to figure out when we had 2 laps to go, and started turning up the heat with 1.5 laps left. We came around and got the white flag with me leading the paceline, and at that point I really turned on the afterburners. Our little pack stretched way out, and I saw that the two highracers had dropped well back by around turn 3 or so. But Rand was about halfway back there and closing as we got into the back stretch. Before we got to turn 7, he was on my wheel again.

I took turns 7, 8, and 9 as close to the redline as I could, and stuck them pretty well. I think I threw Rand off my wheel a little bit as we came through turn 9. Heading down the straight, Rand got out of my draft and started putting the hammer down. It was deja vu all over again. I could see his cranks in my peripheral vision as he started to pull alongside me. I reached down deep for more, and shifted into 9th gear. I pulled a little bit ahead. He found more power and started inching up on me again. I found what I had left and gave the pedals everything. His cranks were even with my thigh. Then they were at my shoulder. Then my rear wheel. Then, with maybe two dozen feet to the finish line, I couldn't see him anymore. I punched the air as Jeff gave me the first checkered flag of the race. Rand, Chris, John and I did a cooldown lap and blew kisses as we came across the finish line one last time, 4 abreast, together.


Blogger Vik said...

Hi Michael,

What's your feeling about using a lowracer for brevets? You have both a highracer and lowracer - what would you use the lowracer for besides track races?

3:23 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Vik,

Well, I use the lowracer for track races, and closed course races, and, um... closed course time trials....

Hmm. You detect a theme. I pretty much just ride the lowracer on the track. The M5 has SEVERE chain overlap with the front wheel, and so the low speed maneuvering is crap.

I wouldn't even dream of running the bike on a brevet of any length. Maybe a 100k populaire on the right course. But traffic is unnerving on the thing, and riding it at night would feel suicidal.

The taifun was a good compromise, and it'd make a pretty nice brevet bike, but I absolutely would not want to be any lower or more laid back. I'd say I have more peace of mind on the Aero.

3:31 PM  

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